Tag Archives: chickens

Back when…

One upon a time, I had a girl-sack. Last couple of years, I let it be drained…Haven’t talked to my mom or older brother in two and a half years because I divulged a memory and shared that I was suicidal. Somehow, they’ve come to resent and hate me. I know, it sounds like a Springer episode. Nestled within this “drama” is my flailing relationship with my younger brother, who lives in mom’s basement.

I’m all done with menopause symptoms and not-getting-enough sleep and over-sleeping and over-reactiing and hot flashes and night sweats and no one retuning phone calls, feeling useless and despairing of ever having a best friend again and knowing that that was always a baseless construct and getting fat and not wanting to write or create. Fuck them.

We live in a truly amazing place now. We are not physically moving until a medical examiner says OK. Ten acres, 15 minutes from Spokane, raised beds, 2 dogs, 3 cats, 12 chickens. 2/2 with an open concept.

We just accepted an offer on our Texas farm yesterday. We’ve had really good renters there for two years; lucky.

I think that was the log-break, selling Texas. I’m sick of shutting up because of my family. I’m sick of shutting up because I’m a 5 year-old, inside. It’s made me scared, fat, silent, occasionally abusive, and someone I hate.

Those asshats don’t win. I do. From here on out, I speak my mind again.  I have an awesome husband, animals, farm, land, food truck, life. Here’s *FUCK YOU* to all you jealous bitches.

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Year In Review

A year has passed since we got the farm. One whole year. We celebrated by hosting the chef’s parents for Thanksgiving, and eating off some 1930’s English china* we found at our local antique store, while watching the Texans almost lose to the Detroit Lions.

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(*Total freaking score, btw. Alfred Meakin service for six, with six serving pieces for $60.)

One year. I’ve dealt with deaths, large and small. I’ve made some important friendships, and lost a few relationships I thought were important. I’ve learned that I’m tougher than I thought, and to take better care of myself by standing up for myself. I’ve realized that it’s a lot better for me to drop poisonous people than to put up with their bullshit and let it leak onto me.

I’ve learned a LOT about organic gardening and sustainability this year, just by doing. I’ve learned that books are only a pathway to the reality out here, and I’m thankful for our inventiveness and outside-the-box thinking. I’ve learned to can, and how to do household, yard, and pool maintenance. I’ve gotten to be a much better shot.

I’ve learned to not dream so big and to manage my expectations, for myself, my husband, this farm, my friends, my family. For every minus here, there seem to be pluses.

My plans for the big, bad-ass garden were too ambitious, and I could not keep up. My dreams of a huge flock of chickens didn’t work400197_10151483437318368_1546550247_n out, because they just kept dying this summer. One of my geese literally flew away and never came back. But two have stayed, a mated pair that will give us eggs and babies  this spring. We got four more pullets, and we’ll have six layers by spring.

Despite all the set-backs our first spring and summer, we managed to produce so much veg that we have an over-filled freezer and about 40 jars of product.  The greenhouse didn’t happen because the winds blew the covering off and mangled the frame, but we’ll try it again in the spring. We’re doing two beefsteak tomato plants in our indoor greenhouse, so winter tomatoes!!

The pool never seemed to get quite right until the very end of the season, when we finally figured out the necessary chemical brew. We still haven’t had the money to buy a lawn mower, but it’s kind of okay, because we learned that our neighbor is a super-nice guy and brings his tractor over to drag the grass and keep it looking tight. We had two trees felled that didn’t make it through last year’s drought. Pine tree for the burn pile, and pecan tree for the smoker. (Oh yeah, we got a smoker!) I’ve learned to deal with scorpions and coyotes, and last evening while putting up the chickens for the night, a rattlesnake struck my boot. I’ve learned that I can run pretty fucking fast.

We’re installing raised beds in 2013, and that will help with the manageability for me. The beds will be closer to the house, closer to a water source, and we’ll be installing irrigation. I won’t have to deal with constant weeding, and the Bermuda grass can have its way with the big garden area, where we’re getting many ducks and geese to eat it.

IMG_1915We adopted a puppy (Mongo) and found a Siamese kitten (Mr. Peabody). I went through my first-ever dog-in-heat experience (she’s since been fixed). Doggy diapers = nobody wins. Total count: five male cats, two dogs. We’re stopping there.

This is my birthday week, and we’ll be going next weekend to cut down our Christmas tree and put it up in the great room. It looks magical when it’s all lit up, set against the backdrop of this 1930 Texas farmhouse. We’ve fixed up the house so it’s comfortable and nice for us and anyone who visits, and 2013 will see some painting and power-washing, to get it even nicer.

We got married here, and it was a magical day. I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else in the world. We’ve been able to share this place with friends and family, and that’s pretty freaking sweet. A few parties, a pig buried and eaten, our first deep-fried turkey (kick-ass, btw), music, dancing, laughter, tears.

Can’t wait to see what the next year here brings.

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Transitioning

After my last post about the horrifying rate of chicken attrition (Note to self, new band name: Chicken Attrition), we lost two more, bringing our total number of hens down to two. (One had her neck broken by the geese; one died of general failure to thrive…Chickens now have their own separate sleeping area, because geese are assholes and their time is limited*.) We’re getting more hens in a couple of days. Makes me happy!!! My little Rhodie and her buddy CM are doing their job, but two eggs a day just ain’t cuttin’ it.

Up yours, Bitch Grass.

Future home of raised beds

Garden transition from summer to fall has been slightly painful. See all that grass? That’s my garden, overtaken by Bermuda grass, or as we call it, Bitch grass. It started to seriously make a move about two months ago, I didn’t get on it fast enough and now I have watermelons, winter squash, bush beans, and carrots all competing for life. I have weeded around them, but I just don’t care anymore because they’re thriving anyway AND! Transitions. We’re moving to a raised bed system**, and giving that yard over to ducks.

Seriously. *Ducks in the big garden area, geese in the back two acres, because DUNH DUNH DUNNNNH…We’re starting an ethical foie gras business. I’m not jinxing it by giving it a name yet (I have several AWESOME candidates in a spreadsheet, awaiting availability checks and a Facebook popularity poll) or describing all of our proposed production methods. But I will say that we’d be the only ones doing it in this country (based on a model by this badass, Eduardo Sousa of La Pateria de Sousa), we’ll have around 100 birds, and the Texas A&M Poultry Sciences Department has expressed an interest in helping us develop the concept. So booyah! Come on, grant money!! (Maybe. Hopefully.) No gavage, no cruelty. Just a bunch of chattering, happy buttheads eating whatever they want for 18 weeks, then eating as much corn and yellow lupine that their little faces can gorge on for four weeks in the fall. Then, a truck ride to their final reward and the Brazos Valley and Houston suddenly become a lot more delicious!

Come spring, this is going to be one noisy joint. This winter: planning, cross fencing, building of shelters, repair of existing outbuildings, installation of Nite Guards, and dreaming of creamy foie gras on toast and duck confit next fall.

Diaper of Shame

In other news, Ursa the puppy has attained her majority. So to speak. Two weeks shy of her big operation, she jumped the shark. Again, so to speak. Anyway, lots of cleaning, lots of Doggy Depends, lots of worrying about coyotes trying to break through our windows to get at the lovely Miss Ursa. (Not really, but that’s where my brain goes when I hear them in the surrounding fields.) We have three weeks to wait until she gets to see the vet again. Yay. *sigh*

Scorpions are back with a vengeance. We’re hitting the perimeter with spray and a borax/DE mixture because it’s gotten so bad that the husband literally hallucinated one in our bed last night. He screamed, “Holy shit! Look at that!” and I was looking and looking and said, “I don’t see anything!” and he started flipping the blanket around and there was nothing there. Well played, scorpions.

**Raised beds, YES PLEASE! I just can’t keep on top of the weeding and mulching required to beat back Texas Bermuda grass. We had originally chosen that

Mulberry thinks it’s spring. What up, nature?

yard because it has 7′ deer fencing and we wanted the protection. Lessons learned? NO DEER IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD. The farmers shoot them, they got the memo…Whatever. They’re not here. I’ve seen two in a year. Also, Bitch grass will always win. Always.

So, eight 4×8′ cedar raised bed boxes will be built this winter, lasagna layering installed in each, and come spring? Let’s just say I’m really excited about not weeding, having the gardens closer to the house and the water supply, and the boom that is going to be our production. We’ll also have a large in-ground bed for the spreaders (melons, winter squash, etc.), but I at least can handle weeding one 4×12′ bed.

Jesus Christ, I just realized: That’s a busy fucking winter. What have I done?

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Double Down

We’ve had a rough few days at El Rancho Loco. First, on Saturday morning early (like 5:00 a.m.), we both woke up to start the day. Nice start to our weekend, yay! I reached to the floor, in the dark, for my kick-ass Dickie’s camo shorts and SHABBAP, got hit by a scorpion. I screamed on the top of my lungs, “Motherfuckingshitballsfuckingscorpion *breathe* AAAAAHHHHHFUCKYOU!!!!” The only scorpion in the entire house was sitting right where my thumb reached. We know because we spent the next 15 minutes looking around the carpet with a blacklight. What are the fucking odds? Why my bedroom? There’s no water there, there is only certain death. I think my friends and family are safe from scorpions though, because every one of those pieces of shit will come for me while my loved ones run away.

When Lovelace was the biggest lady in the yard.

So I iced my thumb and put NeoSporin with lidocaine on it and went out to let out the chickens/geese. I noticed my favorite (she’s my favorite now, despite this post where I called her Bitchface #2) is looking a little funky. She usually stands in front of the geese right at the door, waiting to be let out (she’s the alpha). That morning, she was on the ground, and when she got up, she was limping. Then I noticed that she had a little eye funk and was wheezing a little. So I did some research in my books and online, and we got some VetRX to help with possible respiratory infection and cider vinegar to add to the water, to help with her overall malaise and possible parasites. I spent Saturday and Sunday cleaning her butt and rubbing her with medicine and watering her. I put her in the jumbo cat carrier to isolate her. She spent the next two days sliding downhill.

Yesterday, I called a chicken pro who told me it might be Marek’s, might be CRD and to get Tylan or LS-50 to inject her with. I spent all day yesterday feeding her little sips of water with apple cider vinegar, and rubbing her head and talking to her. She fell asleep in my arms a few times. We’re a one-car family, so I waited till the chef got home to take me to Tractor Supply. I watched a couple of videos to see how to inject her. I went and checked on her before we went. We got home, I loaded up the syringe, took it out to the coop and she had died. Ants were already covering her face. I started bawling and brushing ants off her face while Allan went and got a garbage bag.

I know it’s stupid and it’s not really my fault, but I feel like a failure. I know it’s stupid to have gotten so attached after I said I wouldn’t, but I did anyway. I know it’s stupid to take this personally, but I am.

Body count since March:

3 dead goslings (pecked to death by Seka and Lovelace)
1 dead Cuckoo Maran (pecked to death by Seka and Lovelace)
1 dead Plymouth Barred Rock (Seka) decapitated by owl
1 dead sex-link (unknown reasons)
1 dead Gold-Laced Wyandotte (Lovelace) and I don’t know why

We have three geese left, plus one sex-link, a Rhode Island Red, and two Cuckoo Marans, only one of whom is laying because the other one has a failure-to-thrive syndrome where she has not properly developed her comb or wattle, and doesn’t have a proper vent size for laying. So at least we still have three layers.

More proof that I suck.

We talked to some friends and we’re going to keep doing it, even though I feel like the worst Mom ever. (Ursa got bit by what we’re afraid might be a brown recluse or a black widow spider. We have to keep an eye on it for necrosis. Researching how to treat it at home in the meantime. This picture looks like she’s in pain or is lethargic. This is actually her relaxing after tearing around the yard after toads, rabbits, grasshoppers, the wind, like she does every day, rain or shine.)

We’re going to get more chickens and a rooster, so I can start brooding chicks. We decided that the rate of attrition in a free-range Texas chicken yard is always going to be a little high, so let’s double-down on this effort.

I’m going to spend today and maybe part of tomorrow feeling like I’ve let the team down, then snap out of it and start looking at new hens.

They will not get names.

Here are some good things from the past few days…

Mr. Peabody. Scourge of all other animals in this house.

Surprise flowers. Lilies? Ideas? I didn’t plant them.

Seeds up: Broccoli, thyme, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, cilantro, Swiss chard.

Pool looks awesome.

Chef’s awesome.

My mom came through a cataract surgery totally great.

My dad’s still kickin’ it in his La-Z-Boy.

Weather’s getting cooler.

Getting my car fixed next month.

Party on October 6th.

Still breathing.

Big p.s.: Awesome friends and family. Thanks for making me feel a little better, y’all. Big love from me and Allan.

UPDATE: Ursa has histiocytosis, a common benign growth on her nose that is apparently kind of like a wart that will go away on its own. So, Huzzah! to both our vet, who didn’t charge anything, and to life, for not handing us another shit bouquet.

Also, those red flowers are Oxblood Lilies.

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Summer Shenanigans

I don’t know what happened to my writing muse but she needs a spanking, and not the fun kind. I think part of it is that I’ve been tits-deep in writing TWO business plans for some projects we’re hoping to get off the ground, and that kind of work is a muse-killer. She started crying about two days into it and just sort of limped off into a closet in my brain that has snacks (fudge Pop-Tarts), and Xanax. I’ll admit it here, too: I got sucked into DVR’d Olympic games for about two weeks (p.s.: Best way EVER to watch the games. Screw you volleyball, marathons, and speed walking. SPEED WALKING??).

Das Ladies.

Farm news: The chickens started laying!! I’ve waited for what seems like forever to have more than my faithful little Golden-laced Wyandotte put out her one egg a day, and BLAMMO. Went out there a few days ago to find four new eggs in one of the boxes. Sad news, however, as we lost one of the sex-links…I’d been coaxing her along to help heal an injured leg by isolating her to the smaller “chick” area of the coop, then came in to find she’d injured a wing overnight. That night, I put her in a huge cat carrier with food and water, and when I came in in the morning, I found she’d either broken her own neck or suffocated somehow. Anyway, I’ve got one lady with a cut on her leg that’s healing up nicely, and a goose that scared the crap out of me by pretending to have a broken leg for a day. Thank you, Trase of Serenity Acres Now for talking me off the ledge on that one!!

We got winter squash, cantaloupes, pumpkins, beans, corn, and carrots installed for the fall. Our peppers are still going monkey-shit from spring planting, so good news there. The tomatoes are all done, which means next year, all the heirlooms are going in the greenhouse. They just can’t take Texas.

We’ve been enjoying the pool, finally, after spending most of the spring and the early part of summer just trying to figure out how to stay on top of the algae situation. Pools are a gigantic pain in the ass, we’ve learned, but also TOTALLY WORTH IT when you’re floating around in a $2 inner-tube, listening to way loud classic rock on the shop radio, baking in the sun, and naming the clouds things like Nelson Rockefeller On a Unicycle.

Those eggs are not for you, Mr. Peabody.

Here is a gratuitous shot of our newest animal addition, Mr. Peabody. He found us outside our local grocery store, by loudly proclaiming his love from behind a row of carts. He has incredibly blue eyes, and is just now finding his Siamese voice, God help us all. The other cats are still pissed, but screw them. Mr. Peabody rules.

Thanks to everybody who emailed or commented looking to make sure I’m still alive. I’M ALIVE! And that was super sweet. I’ve been reading y’all, rest assured…SO MANY FELLOW SHENANIGANISTS!©

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Soul Asylum

Insert melon joke here.

Therapy weeding! Towards my goal of kicking depression in the nads, I’ve spent the past two and a half days out in the gardens TCB. I feel way better.

Today is a half day, because (tip: don’t get old) I’m old. I was all gung-ho the past two days, saying “Fuck you” to the heat, work periods longer than break periods, drinking lots of water, taking my supplements, working seven hour shifts. Today, I’m ass-hammered. I got out to the watermelon patch all set to finish and yeeahhhh, there’s my back, telling me I’m 46, still 30 lbs. overweight (lost some on Atkins already), take an Aleve for your back and go back inside, you dork. So I weeded some, messed with the birds, and came back inside.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my recent gardening experiences:

  • Taking non-specific depression rage out on caterpillars feels nice. Almost as nice as the *pop* they make when I punch them right in the dirt, bright green ooze squishing out of both ends. I used to be squeamish about killing them. Now, I dig it. Eat my cabbages HOW, no face?
  • I’ve developed a peripheral vision superpower because of my hyper-vigilance for spiders. After the black widow scare and given the number of wolf and brown recluse spiders I’ve seen and killed over the past few months, I’m like a side-seeing ninja. I can’t think of all the applications, but I’m sure there are a million. Call me for rates.
  • Notwithstanding the above superpower, I did have a wolf spider jump on my tits while I was weeding by the pool. It sent me into a screaming fit that could probably be heard in town. Way after the spider had been sent sailing far away by my spastic hand movements, I was still screaming.
  • My formerly sweet geese are now kind of jerks. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the big garden lately, adjacent to the poultry yard, and not only do they challenge me in the mornings when I come let them out*, but they bully the chickens a little. Not enough to separate them, but enough for me to understand that my babies have grown up into delinquent jerks, and I’m kind of rethinking my position on having them as foie gras instead of long-time pets.
  • People who read my craigslist ad (invisible subtitle: Check Out My Melons!) are probably too stupid to deserve my melons anyway. That said, what the fuck am I going to do with all these melons?

One of the sex-link chickens (not quite ready for laying pullet) has a bum leg. It’s not bumblefoot and she’s not bleeding, so I’m hoping it’s just a sprain. I’m fortunate in that this is my first animal injury, and it’s a pretty easy one. Diagnosis: bum leg. Treatment: keep away from jerks, and give extra supplements. She seems to be hopping around okay, and two of the other hens are (shockingly) keeping an eye on her and making sure she gets food and water.

*Every morning between 6:15 and 6:30 I go and let the birds out of the coop. Every morning for the past few weeks, the geese kind of hang back and talk to me. *Bapbapbapbap* So I talk back, of course. Then they started flapping their wings, a few days later. Kind of experimental, one, then the other, then the third goose, flapping then settling. Then a few days later, it progressed to big flaps, and talking REALLY LOUDLY to me.

“I will be delicious!”

Then, and this was the last straw, they started spreading their wings, yelling at me, and RUSHING me. Ohhhh, that will not stand. So the first time they did it, I raised my arms like wings and said, “Oh, FUCK no,” and advanced on them and they backed down.

Then, they started the funniest thing ever and I hope I can catch it on video. I start to walk out of the yard, and I hear *flapflapflap* *shuffleshuffle* and turn around really quick, and they drop their wings, and resume scrounging in the grass. “What? Just eating some bugs. What up, mama lady? Doodly do.” Then I turn around to leave and it happens again. At least twice before I get out of the yard. Seriously cracks me up.

A week ago I was heaving tomatoes at their heads in consternation. Now it’s cracking me up. Baby steps.

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Good Day

I don’t normally write in the evenings; it’s just not my brain’s creative time. I’m usually tapped, mentally, by 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. Anyway, today is different because today was pretty freaking great. And nothing really happened.

Not mine, but close enough. So sad…

The heat has been bumming me out for a few reasons, mostly because it was hastening what I thought was the demise of all the garden vegetable plants. They’ve looked miserable and stopped producing.  I tried watering consistently (even doubled the schedule for about a month), Neem oil/baking soda/vinegar for potential disease and insects, compost side-dressing for nutrients. Then, I tore out a few dead tomatoes and kind of gave up on the rest of the gardens. Brown, sad, non-producing, cat-faced tomatoes, no fertility. I thought it was blight, but nope. It’s just been so fucking hot and dry that they were giving up. The  squash was dying; the green beans gave up weeks ago. Pepper plants looking droopy and sad, with no fruit or flowers. The only thing thriving is the watermelons. Nothing can stop them. They’re aliens.

Well, a few good rains and cloudy days last week changed everything. Real rain is simply unbeatable. The plants perked up and more miraculously, started coming back. The tomatoes and peppers have new blooms on them, they’ve set well, and we’ll be getting new tomatoes in a month. The squash (“”Prolific”…I can’t recommend this squash enough) has gone crazy again, after slowing down for a few weeks.

What happened today is I finally had enough of neglecting the gardens we worked so hard to establish, so I got to work outside. I started weeding at 7:00 a.m. I worked on and off all over our gardens and yard for almost six hours, with frequent breaks. I deadheaded flowers, Neemed everything, composted, hoed the beds, tore out big grass around the pool by hand, blew out the pool filter system, battled wolf spiders, put away tools that had been left out, cut down the spent sunflowers to harvest the seeds tomorrow, found the laying hen’s new hidden nest, stood down the geese when they charged me this morning.

It was a normal day on the farm. One I’ve not experienced in months, and haven’t even really wanted to, because the second effect of the heat for me is that it kind of saps my will to live. I get depressed, and that’s a fact. Lost interest in normal activities, fits of extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, erratic sleep, intermittent bouts of sadness, and even inappropriate anger. Money worries, sick and dying family, frustration over a couple of stalled projects…

This summer has been hard, but for unexpected reasons. I anticipated the bugs and heat and physical exertion to get the better of me, sooner rather than later. What has actually happened is my heart gave out, figuratively speaking. Texas summer tried to suck away my will and spirit. So I’m going to keep an eye on this tendency towards lethargy when faced with Texas douchebaggery. It’s a stupid cycle, and nobody I know or love deserves to be around it, least of all me.

So, suck it summer. You are not the boss of me.

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Texas Summer

Texas on fire: True story.

While it’s not as bad yet as it was last year, this summer has started with a vengeance, with very little rainfall and temps nearing 100 already. Yesterday’s first-of-the-season climb to near 100 had me hiding in the living room where the A/C works the best, and Googling things like, “Is it tacky to leave your new husband to move to Canada, but only for the summer?” Google had a lot of baffling responses, not the least of which involved Mounties and Bullwinkle.

So it looks like I’ll tough it out, because I’m not unlike a rock star who also has super powers (imminent). Because last night I got my first (AND ONLY UNTIL FOREVER) scorpion sting, and IT DIDN’T EVEN HURT THAT BAD. I don’t want another one to prove my point, mostly because I’m not a psychopath, but seriously? Manageable. Threw an ice cube on it, husband applied vinegar, got back into bed and went to sleep.  After cussing a lot and making sure that motherfucker was smashed to shit. Because come on, FUCKING RUDE. In my bed. Near my face. Oh yeah, the husband got stung too, but it was on his ankle so not nearly as terrifying as my near-face experience.

In other news, the grasshoppers have taken over the asylum. When one walks outside, one is surrounded by a cloud of flying grasshoppers, whose main job is (apparently) to try to get down my shirt, inside my boots, and onto my eyeball. I walk out to the gardens flapping my arms and making noises that I can’t properly articulate in print. I think they’re the noises that cause psychiatrists to prescribe lithium, stat.

My new summer missions: Kill all the things*, and save all the plants. Because the plants are really suffering already. I have an extremely frugal rig involving old sheets and bamboo poles, in order to shade some of my more delicate heirloom tomatoes. Because losing those would make me sad. Also getting researched for my database are extremely drought-tolerant varieties of everything else, because it’s Texas, y’all! I’ve got another planting season coming up here in a couple of weeks.

*As for killing all the things, here are some genius suggestions for killing adult grasshoppers (we’re dumb and didn’t take care of this shit in the spring, when they’re WAY easier to kill):

I hate you. In your faces. With a hammer.

  1. Plant flowers. Really, ask.com? REALLY? That’s almost as helpful as the time I looked for “recipes for leftover turkey” and you suggested “Sandwiches.”
  2. Weed control. Seriously. Double Ew Tee Eff. I live surrounded by working cattle fields, some of which contain weeds that could block out the sun. Should I call my ranching neighbors and request they organically spray several thousand acres for grasshopper control, because dinosaur-looking asshole grasshoppers are scaring me and eating my cabbages? That sounds reasonable.
  3. Get chickens! We live on four acres. Maybe 100 chickens per acre should do the trick. Think the husband will notice?
  4. Wait for cold weather. I swear to God, the Internet is just begging for me to come to its house and kick it in the scrote.

In reality, we’re going to have to broadcast EcoBan Semaspore bait and maybe Nosema locustae bait, and play the waiting game.

In other farmhouse news, FRONTLINE SUCKS. You heard me. Useless. It vaguely works on the cats, but the puppy is miserable. I bombed the house, vacuumed everything within an inch of its life, washed everything that is washable, gave her a bath, applied Frontline, and waited for the magic to happen. The fleas laughed at all of us, reattached themselves to my baby puppy’s body, and have never been happier. So now we get to wait for the month to pass before we apply Advantage, which is even MORE expensive. Congratulations, fleas. You win this round.

In awesome news, we’re having a pig bury/pool party on July 7th! The chef/husband is digging a hole, then filling it with lava rocks and a burlap/chicken wire-wrapped 50 lb. pig. We’re expecting around 40 people, debauching the pool and braving the heat. If you’re a vegetarian, I recommend a 20-mile safety buffer. It’s going to be epic. We’ll have misters on the front porch, a party tent on the pool deck, a keg of Lone Star, and rock music as loud as we can stand it.

PS: We’re going to cover all the vegetables and do a yard-wide application of Ortho Home Defense spray a few days before the party. Suck poison, you dinosaur freaks.

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EEeeee(p)!!

Lovelace, FTW!

Remember the awful things I said about my chickens in this post? Well, I take some of it back, because look what I found today in our overgrown chicken yard!

Thanks, sister!

Now if dummy-head would just discover the awesome nesting boxes that are in the much cooler, safer chicken coop, this would be much easier. Does a single hen roost in more than one spot? I have ten eggs here; have to test them to see if the eight I took are any good. Then perhaps wander around the yard tomorrow and see if there are any more surprises…

So excited! Ten eggs! That means she a) can lay in the heat and b) wasn’t just being obstinate! Heh…

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Chicken Lies

Assholes.

I’m blogging angry: You’ve been warned.

I’m going to share what from what I can tell no one else will: Chickens suck. I don’t mean, “Oh, they really get on my nerves and I wish they were sweeter!” No, I mean, they suck and I sometimes wish they’d spontaneously combust into a fine blood mist punctuated with feathers.

“Oh, get chickens! They’re so sweet! They bond with the first human they see! They’ll eat out of your hand and scamper about your feet and play cards with you and be your best buds and give you eggs and when it comes time to decide if you’re going to eat them, you’ll think, ‘I couldn’t POSSIBLY eat my best friend!'”

Bullshit. Vile lies and terrible deception.

Here’s a picture of them from a few months ago. They’re not even worth busting the camera out to take a more recent shot, one that would show they’re much bigger and more slathered in evil than before. They don’t have names anymore. They are Bitchface 1 and Bitchface 2; don’t care which is which.

See, a few months ago, we bought six pullets. We raised them inside for a month or so, then divided the chicken coop into two areas, one for the grown ladies, and one for the pullets (as advised by all the forums and books). We’ve had about a months’-worth of get-to-know-you time, and I’ve been letting everybody out together for supervised yard time and while there’s some pecking, mostly they just run around and ignore each other. Then we got six goslings. We raised them inside for a few weeks, and they just got so big so fast (and are SHIT MACHINES) that it was time for them to go outside into the pullet pen (like they suggest in all the lying forums and bullshit books). They got along great! The geese are actually already bigger than the pullets, run around like happy little idiots, eating bugs and grass and playing in their water pool. The pullets ignore them, and the big ladies couldn’t get to them, one way or another.

Keep in mind we spent three weekends building these birds a secure, deluxe coop with a great big yard. I feed and water them twice a day. I talk to them and try to pet them all and give them treats and scraps. They get let out of their coop first thing in the morning, checked on several times a day, then secured in their coop at night. It’s not as if I threw a bunch of day-old chicks into a thistle yard and yelled, “Good luck, bitches! I’d better find some eggs tomorrow!”

Then about a week ago, I found one of the adult ladies in with the geese; she had flown over the barrier. They all seemed to be doing fine, so I started letting the geese hang with everybody else. Two nights ago, I decided to let them all sleep in the coop as a group. BIG MISTAKE. I got up in the morning yesterday, and there were two dead goslings, their throats pecked out.  I cried and cried and put them in a garbage bag and said things like, “I’m so sorry!” and cried some more. Because I’ve really gotten attached to the geese! The chickens are kind of mechanical, dead-eyed eating and pooping machines. They’d just as soon I was a robot food and water dispenser rather than a human, for all the warmth they’ve shared since day one. The geese, however, are sweet and cuddly and inquisitive and fun-loving.

So last night, we reinforced the gosling/pullet area with chicken wire from top to bottom, and beefed up the joins. This morning, I came in to another dead gosling on the babies’ side, and a dead Cuckoo Maran pullet on the big girl side. The pullets had pecked the gosling to death. The CM had found a break in the fence and got in with the big girls, and got pecked to death.

So the plan now, until we can figure out another solution, is to put the big pecking slut-sacks outside, the murderous asshole pullets on the big girl side (inside the coop), and the geese in their regular spot in the coop. Those jerk-faced grown-up chickens can deal with raccoons or whatever until we can afford to make another run and permanently segregate everybody’s lives into Chicken vs. Goose. Because I am NOT waking up to another dead gosling.

It’s not even like those whores are giving me eggs! Six months old and no eggs. And from what I understand, with the upcoming heat of summer, I can expect few or no eggs until fall. They are looking more and more like dinner, every time I walk out to that yard.

 

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The Larch (But Not Really)

The puppy and I spent the last week at my best friend’s house, hanging with her and her husband, making wedding plans and being lazy. It was a “farm hiatus,” the only one I’ll get for quite a while. So many awesome purchases and plans for our little wedding soirée that I can hardly stand how cool we are.

A week away from the farm with the partner in charge (who works more than full time) went okay. Nobody died. However, SO MANY WEEDS. But honestly, our seeds/seedlings are so new that it’s only been in the past week that we can tell the difference between them and weeds. The YAY thing is that the seeds I thought had failed AGAIN have germinated and are thriving, both in the big garden and the potager. We have:

  • Corn
  • Beans (purple and green pole)
  • Squash
  • Broccoli Raab
  • Carrots
  • Six different types of tomatoes
  • Four different types of hot peppers
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Scallions, chives, onions
  • Cabbage
  • Cilantro, lavender, rosemary, thyme, basil

Still to go in (late): garlic, peas.  We got some weeding done yesterday and installed home-made tomato cages. We also got some herbs and extra tomato and pepper varieties installed. This week, I’m building bean teepees out of saplings and twigs, weeding, mulching, and cleaning out the chicken yard.

THE NETTLE IS DEAD!!! But to be honest, I don’t think me and my vinegar jihad made any difference (I don’t think the vinegar was strong enough). I think nettle is just super stupid and committed suicide. Either way, I’m clearing that crap out of the chickens’ yard this week, because it’s almost time to introduce the new chickens! They’re almost fully feathered out and will have a little get-to-know-you week, segregated behind a defensive line of chicken wire. Then it’s on! Give me some eggs you ingrates!!!

No longer "The Mysterious Larch"...it's actually a Mulberry.

The berries will stain your life purple.

The most exciting news is this: What I though was just a really pretty tree in our yard (of indeterminate lineage) turns out to be a Mulberry! I went out there to hang a birdhouse yesterday, and BLAMMO, 500 kajillion Mulberries!!! So we laid out plastic sheeting, whacked the crap out of that sucker and we now have about two gallons of the things, ready for me to clean this morning and throw into freezer bags.  How cool is that?? I’ve never eaten one, and it turns out they taste just like sweet tea! Weird and fantastic. I’m looking forward to peach/mulberry pie, mulberry ice cream, mulberry preserves. I learned how to make freezer jam, so that’s happening. We ought to have about six gallons before this thing runs its course. Yay team!

Also, I’m going on another full-blown rant later today. Gird your loins.

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Staying Ready

We got this farm for several reasons. One of those, that I’ll speak to today, is preparedness. We’re not avid “preppers,” nor are we over-the-top “survivalists,” but we do think things are getting worse before they get better (tanking economy, civil unrest, new wars), and feel like it’s smarter to be prepared than caught flat-footed. What it took was a tiny shift in paradigm, embracing a larger worldview while simultaneously focusing on our own backyard. I don’t even think of it as as “survivalism” so much as homesteading.

This farmhouse is over 80 years old. It was last remodeled in the late 80’s or early 90’s. The outbuildings are in disrepair and in need of some serious love. It’s kind of the perfect spot in which to learn how to REALLY reuse/reduce/recycle. That and the fact that we’re on an extremely regimented budget makes this way of life essential, rather than merely interesting and practical. And it IS interesting! Go look at any article on sites such as:

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me (and others who were fans of the book series, Little House on the Prairie as kids). I love the idea of making my own soap and candles, of canning and preserving, of someday having a root cellar.  Hell, I wish I had a reason to want muslin, or actually like saltwater taffy (for a penny). I’ve gone in for gardening and truly appreciating the earth and what it can provide for so long that if I didn’t get this farm, and soon, things were fixin’ to get really stabby in our previous urban loft. But that isn’t all this farm is intended to provide for us. It is intended to provide a sense of safety and security. That’s why we chose a relatively remote location. It’s intended to be as self-sufficient as possible, which is why we chose a place with a good well. It is intended to house animals, which will provide us with milk, meat, or eggs, which is why we went for as much acreage as we could afford. It is intended to go off the “grid” enough so that we can sever ties with the electric company, by eventually having solar and wind powered batteries and a generator.

All that takes money, to be sure. So for now, we’ve laid in our gardens, which was pretty expensive, but necessary ($100 to have tilled; seeds, $90; organic fertilizer, $25; compost tumbler, $300; assorted tools, $100; greenhouse, $800) to be at least off needing fruit and vegetables from the grocery store by the end of summer.  Not 100%, but close enough so we can feel like we’ve made progress and have enough to donate to the food bank, and still enough left over to put up some stewed tomatoes (or something). We have two mature laying hens and a mixed run of six chicks (who have gotten big enough that I had to build them a new “condo” out of large moving boxes and duct tape yesterday). We have a dog who is getting so big that we’re going to have to buy her a large crate sooner rather than later. Her job is to be my farm buddy, and protect me from predators, animal or human.

Alternative F: Sometimes for cooking.

The partner (who is a working chef) has this insane dream of replacing our propane stove with a wood-burning stove. A wood-burning stove. I told him I refuse to light a pile of logs to fry a couple of eggs, and if he’s hell-bent on cooking on a wood stove, he can get one of those stoves with a cooking surface, and it’s going in the living room because its primary duty will be to heat the house. Dude’s nuts. We NEED a stove to stay warm next winter; I don’t NEED to light one in the summer to cook a pork chop.

Every day is hands-on learning, learning, learning. Way different than theorizing in my head and education from my books. I wrote on Facebook yesterday, “I just accidentally punched my ear really hard, freaking out when what felt like a Pterodactyl flew into my head. It was a butterfly. I think I’m going to have kind of a difficult first spring/summer out here in the country.” And it’s true: The next six to eight months are going to be a trial. Will I survive the bugs? Will I survive the heat? Will I strangle the first rabbit I find in my cabbage patch? Will a hornet sting me in the eye? Will I shoot my first diamondback with the .410? Who knows.

There are a few blog sites I follow that are pretty hardcore from a prepper standpoint, but I really enjoy the posts. Two of them have semi-annual writing competitions, this one at survivalblog.com and one at thesurvivalistblog.net, both of which I had considered entering. (If one of y’all wants to enter, the prizes are freaking COOL.) But I’m going to hold off until I actually know what I’m taking about. I want to write about organic gardening and sustainability, but until I’ve actually weathered a couple more seasons with regard to both of those topics, I’d feel like a poseur.

So I’ll just keep pushing through, learning something new every day, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

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If you’ve not seen it before, we have a Soilent Greens fundraiser going on here, Organic Farm Business. As always, we hoping for either an “angel investor” or as little as a dollar, all towards the goal of self-sufficiency, making a little money, and helping to feed the Brazos Valley. (Our story is at the bottom of the page.)

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Gardening Waves

Beautiful SC Texas. I'll come back to this when the grass is dead this summer, and remember...

Behbeh chicks! Someday, they're going to love me. Right now, not so much...

Let’s kick this post off with a view of the farm, so freaking pretty that I had to share. The trees are all coming in, the grass was mowed on Friday, everything’s stowed, and the farm’s looking tight. Springtime in South-central Texas. Can’t beat it.

Plus, chicks!!! Under the red grow light, their eyes look Satanic. They peck at my rings and generally have a shit attack when I try to gently pick them up. I’m wearing them down with food and love, though…

Surprise bulb from the former owner. Thanks, garden present!

So far, the gardening comes in waves. We were *able* to plant three weeks ago, but probably shouldn’t have, because of the two bouts with torrential rainfall that drowned both seeds and seedlings. There was just no way to know that, though.

After the floods, we couldn’t work the gardens for days and days afterwards, which causes downtime even when it’s sunny, to allow the gardens to dry out. Which is super-frustrating.  Then we caught about a weeks’-worth of break with sunny weather, tried all the seeds again, and then got three days of non-stop rain. Gaaahhhh…

And although I’ve been a gardener for about 15 years, I’ve never had anything larger than roughly 40 s.f. to plant in. Now I have almost 2/3 of an acre that we’re devoting solely to crops, and this is the first time I’m going totally organic. In the past, I’ve cheated and relied on Miracle Gro and Sevin, when things just got too hairy. You’ll kind of try anything when your roses have all succumbed to black spot. Now it’s just us vs. nature’s nasties, armed with a garlic/dish soap concoction for the rust, a chili pepper/dish soap concoction for the bugs, and vinegar/hand-pulling for the weeds. The learning curve is pretty steep, but we’re getting there.

First up in the experimentation: Tomato rust vs. garlic stuff.  Garlic stuff wins!  I started with just a blended garlic/water deal, and have graduated to this (plus blended garlic):

2 tbsp. canola oil
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 tsp. Murphy’s Oil Soap
1/2 gallon tap water

Before chili pepper spray. Next week: "After" picture. Stupid bugs.

which super-extra works. I pulled all the blighted leaves off, have been spraying with this stuff for a week, and the tomatoes look awesome. My tomatoes, peppers, cukes, and cabbages have fallen prey to grasshoppers and caterpillars already, so I’m using a chili pepper/garlic water spray, which the jury is still out on. It’s only been two days of application, so we’ll see how we are in a week.

Today is remarkably beautiful. 79 degrees, slight wind, low humidity. I got in beans, corn, squash, and watermelon, replacing what was washed away, drowned, or moved to a new location. I’ve got what looks suspiciously looks like corn growing where we definitely did not put it. When the garden comes up fully, I’m going to tell people we did it that way on purpose because we’re non-conformists and eclectic.

Okay! Off to check the fire ant mounds that I poisoned yesterday morning, and if that poison doesn’t work this time, it’s a boiling water enema first thing tomorrow morning…

Meet your foe: Vinegar, bitches!

Oh, and p.s.!!: Nettle update. I’m trying a full-on vinegar attack out in the chicken yard.  Here’s a “Before” picture. As soon as it starts dying, I’ll throw a party and post pictures of us dancing on nettle dirt.

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REALLY? Really.

I had intended to post this morning with some photos from the farm, depicting the bounty that spring is bestowing upon our valley and sharing how lucky I am to be given this opportunity to live where I do, and how cool my friends and partner are. I was going to post a thank you for being nominated for a blogging award.

Instead, I started reading (again) about Indian farmer suicides (one of my Facebook “Likes” linked to a 2008 article which halfway through, I realized I’ve already read), which lead to a Google search for “Past month” and “Indian farmer suicides.” Go ahead and Google it yourself. It’s mind-blowing. Pages and pages and pages of recent and old articles related to the subject. (I also got sidelined by a piece on Neotame, NutraSweet’s “answer to sugar” which is 13,000 times stronger than table sugar, is made up of “aspartame plus 3-di-methylbutyl, which can be found on the EPA’s list of most hazardous chemicals,” and doesn’t require labeling.) (p.s.: NutraSweet was formerly owned by Monsanto.)

Here’s how it works, for those of you who haven’t watched The World According to Monsanto.  Poverty in India (a largely agricultural society) is staggering, accounting for one-third of the world’s poor. Think about that number. Poor farmers, formerly growing “traditional” or non-GMO seed, have been led down the garden path repeatedly by Monsanto, sold the idea that signing a contract with them to use their proprietary (“Bollgard”) Bt Cotton seed, which promises higher yields, greatly reduced need for expensive pesticides, and lowered water consumption, will greatly improve their profits.

THE EXACT OPPOSITE IS TRUE. It requires up to four times more water to grow, which in India’s drought-stricken environment, means a devastating loss of crops. It no longer resists the insects it was genetically modified to resist, and in fact has created “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which have adapted to get around Monsanto’s biological controls and are far more destructive than the original bolls it was meant to thwart (and clears the path for further infestation by formerly non-threatening insects and weeds, because the plant is weakened). Further devastation to crops. Facing financial ruin, many Indian farmers turn to high-interest money-lenders, and then have another crop failure and can’t pay Monsanto for new seed, can’t afford pesticides to kill the super bugs, can’t afford to pay back the money-lenders, can’t afford to feed their kids, can’t afford to school their kids. On top of that, Monsanto says it’s because farmers don’t grow their crops correctly; it’s their fault. THEN, they prosecute any farmer who attempts to save seed, because their seeds are copyright-protected.

Sometimes, increasingly, Indian farmers see the only way out as suicide.

 

Winning!! (Except, not at all.)

Some Indian provinces are fighting back. The Punjab government has “refused to agree to US agrichemical giant Monsanto’s demands for intellectual property rights protection for its BT cotton seeds and has accused the company of a “monopolistic” plan to take over agriculture in Punjab.”

India is of course not the only country to come under attack by Monsanto. And make no mistake about it, IT IS AN ATTACK. Look at how heavily-planted those awesome crops are, here in America. The Indian plight strikes me personally because of the cultural reaction of suicides, but lives are being devastated all over the planet.

Despite the fact that the United States is leading the charge to push GMOs worldwide, the world (and yes, the US) is resisting. Check out the Community Alliance for Social Justice.

Spread the word; sign the petitions. Help stop the propaganda being spread by the GMO companies by seeding truth among your friends and families.

Just Label It (petition). Here’s the biggie. Almost one million signatures and comments…

This is exhausting. But! Gotta go feed the chickens, spray pepper spray on whatever is eating my cabbages, check the chicks, take some more photos, and perhaps blog happier thoughts later in the day.

 

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I Heart Chickens

What a fantastic weekend at El Rancho Loco. Chef had to work on Saturday till about 3:00, and I managed to get some house stuff done in that time, but after that, it was all hanging out and FARM.

Yesterday, we installed pampas grass out by the pool, and put in a grape vine and golden raspberry bush on the back fence.  We started gardening with the remaining Three Sisters beds, and installed tomato (three varieties), cucumber, and cabbage seedlings in the Big Garden and in the potager. He’s never ever planted even a seed. I am not exaggerating to share that my heart sang when he pushed his first seed into the dirt, covered it up, and moved on to the next little hole.  I showed him how to make rows with a 1×1″, and he put scallion and onion seeds in himself. He wanted to get the entire garden planted yesterday, even though it was too windy for some of the smaller seeds, and I needed a little time to plan for an unexpected surplus of corn and bean seeds. How awesome is that? That took up the bulk of our Sunday. Then he got to mess around with the air compressor, and figure out how to fill the Duraworx cart wheels, which were pretty spongy.Total guy activities…air compressor, a little time with the 12 gauge.  We talked to our neighbors’ cows, who were awesomely close to the fence. So many calves!!

We were due to meet friends in Brenham yesterday afternoon, which is very close to the (self-proclaimed) Crazy Chicken Lady, with whom I’ve been speaking for a couple of months. Plans kept changing and we could never seem to get out there to pick up our first hens, which has been pull-my-hair-out frustrating. Finally, we got to see her place!!!  It’s called Blue Star Ranch, and it was a booger to find, but oh man, was it worth it. She’s got over 2,000 birds!! She took us on a tour of the facility and I could not stop giggling after I saw about 200 chicks under lights in this little room. The cuteness. I could have died from the cuteness. She was describing the virtues of different breeds and ages and I was kind of turning around and around going (in my head), “Oh, the crack.” She advised us not to get two hens and a roo, which was the original plan. She said that a rooster with anything less than 10-12 hens would “rape them to death” and I believe her. I mean, dude, she’s been raising birds for 20 years and this operation was CRAZY cool. All the birds were healthy and inoculated and being kept in fresh bedding that didn’t smell at all.  She had this giant fishing net and when we decided on our hens, SHA-BAPPP, she’d nail them with the net and pick them out and hold them. It was vaguely ninja-like.

Seka and Lovelace. *sigh* Where are you, John Holmes?

We got two ladies (to start)!! They are Seka (Plymouth Barred Rock) and Lovelace (Golden Laced Wyandotte). We got them safely tucked into their coop last night, and so far this morning, they’re not availing themselves of the very large yard. I’ve been out to visit half a dozen times, and Seka is much more curious and while smaller, she’s the leader. They seem pretty happy with their food and water situation in the coop, and have plenty of shade and grass and weeds and bugs. I’d totally want to be a chicken here (until, um, they stop laying and just turn delicious). Yes, the first rooster will be named John Holmes. No, we won’t name all the chickens after 70’s porn stars.

Next payday the plan is two more, and so on and so on until we get a rooster. Then it’s hatching and baby chicks! Unless I can’t stand the wait and just order a mess of them online.

I ate some of the dozen eggs we bought from Crazy Chicken Lady this morning, and oh my shit, SO FREAKING GOOD. I keep asking the ladies, “Ready to make with the eggs? You look ready to make with the eggs. How come you’re not making with the eggs?”

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Real Farmer!!

Yesterday was the day I finally got to feel like a “farmer.” And frankly, it wasn’t even the “farming” that did it. I think I was part of the mainstream population who aren’t farmers, when I formerly pictured in my head what “farming” is. Some middle-aged dude on a huge John Deere combine tooling through a cornfield with a cuppa Joe in hand, looking a bit haggard and windblown, but relatively happy. Um, that’s not at ALL what it’s like, at least for me.

Native American genius at work

Yesterday morning I didn’t even bother changing out of my PJ’s until around 1:00 p.m., and that’s only because I got too hot. I figured yoga pants and a T-shirt were fine for gardening, so I just threw on my rubber boots, tucked in my pants, leashed up the puppy and headed out to the big garden to start planting. I started by defining the beds with my feet, turning the 20×26′ portion of the 75×100′ garden into 3×4′ beds. In addition to everything else, we’re doing Three Sisters planting this year, the most awesome system of growing ever. Corn, beans, squash. The beans climb the corn, the big squash leaves help with weed suppression, the corn shades the beans and squash so they don’t get sun-burned. I composted and planted the seeds and banned the puppy from the garden, because she thinks it’s a gigantic dig site and was in danger of receiving a boot to the head.

Then I started multitasking, like what “real” farmers do. I put the puppy in her crate and turned a fan on over her. I got a jug of water because it was starting to get hot, and I threw that, stakes, spray paint, wire, hardware cloth, wire cutters, a new hose, my cell phone and an ECigarette into my cart (we quit smoking two months ago!!), and headed for the potager area. I fenced the potager with cinder blocks and hardware cloth to keep the puppy out. As I was moving cinder blocks, I noticed scorpions were STILL hiding under them, so I shifted gears, turning into a murderous pile of rage, smashing them with a trowel, smooshing them with my boots, yelling at them, “Just DIE, asshole fucks!” and then masked up and sprayed the entire perimeter of the house with Demon WP. CHRIST, I hate them. (As I was moving a pile of stakes, I noticed a little smear of something on one of them. It was the tiniest baby scorpion I’ve seen yet, with its body smooshed and its tail sticking up in the air…It was adorable, all dead like that.)

We're fancy!

Potager (French for kitchen garden)

Also, I noticed a gigantic fire ant mound in the freshly tilled potager, so I had to take some time out to douse the area with poison and water it in. Then I walked the grounds and poisoned about another dozen ant mounds and watered the poison in.  I dosed the pool with these little chlorine tablets, because while I was over there killing ants, I noticed the algae’s getting out of hand.

Then I spray painted some stakes silver to mark my Three Sisters beds. I staked and chicken-wired a secondary compost area next to the compost tumbler (after learning the night before that I’m composting wrong).  I installed four tomato plants in the potager, and got bottom-less containers around them to protect them from the 20 mph gusts that are headed our way right now*. I got my new hose hooked up at the back garden and sprayed in my seeds and then got the tomatoes watered in.

During this farmer-y day, I took several a/c breaks in my office, because I’m a heat-fainter from way back. While inside, I Sharpied “3 Sisters” on the painted stakes, then cleaned the kitchen and threw in a load of laundry.

Going back outside to admire my handiwork, I noticed that the ornamental pears are starting to bloom, as are all the trees that made it through the drought last year. My potted cucumbers have their first flower, and my strawberry plants have actual strawberries already. As I was watering Brad, the pear tree, I noticed new buds. The mower dude was out here and worked his magic and the property is looking tight.

Today, I’m putting in three more Three Sisters beds, and seeding in onions, scallions, beets, cilantro, chives, basil and purple snap beans. The fiance’s working till 2:30 today at his chef gig at A&M. Then we’ll go to Tractor Supply for more hardware cloth and chicken feed, because the ladies are coming tomorrow!!! I’ve got to finish laundry, and finish getting the wedding invitations addressed, go buy stamps, and finish a letter for Allan’s nephew. Still have to get the seedlings in the ground, and finalize the garden plan.

*A got off work early yesterday to help me stake down the greenhouse with proper ground ties.

The work here never ends, and I’ve figured out that’s what “farming” means. I could not be happier.

p.s.:  OOOOO, I saw my first snake the other day! A little brown guy who slithered away under some weeds when I tried to say, “Howdy.”

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If you’d like to help us with our Soilent Greens goal, would you consider either a $ donation or pimping this site out on either your blog or Facebook page? We’d sure appreciate it, and will pay it forward however we can. Organic Farm Business. Thank you!!

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Best Laid Plans…

So here’s the part where I admit that we might have bitten off more than we can chew, financially. We started trying for this house all the way back in June. We planned the gardens and dreamed of sustainability and looked at endless pictures of goats, chickens, horses, dogs, geese, and farmhouses. We looked at root cellar plans, and bought seeds and books on construction, plumbing, and electrical, before we even had a closing date.  We got practical and made a business plan and did some marketing research and budgets for the business and our home. Several appraisals and a whole lot of mortgage company shenanigans later (seven months later), we finally closed on the farm.  We had saved money and borrowed money and lived frugally and missed the holidays to keep expenses down. We thought we had done everything right, with an eye towards bringing in some profits as soon as the greens started coming in.

We found out there was a leak in the roof right before closing. We thought it would be simple enough to fix, so we closed anyway. Then the rains came, hard. The leak turned into a much bigger deal than we had anticipated, and while still all fixable by us alone, it ate into our Soilent Greens and family gardens money. Then we encountered electrical and plumbing issues, and found out what a black hole it is financially to keep this place warm in the winter.  Everything conspired to cost us more than we had anticipated.

Not nearly as fun as putting it up...watching it crash down.

Big weeds, goin' down

Behold the greenhouse disaster. While not super expensive to fix (it requires a “Tie Down Engineering High-Wind Load Kit” which we wished we had known about…but somehow we missed that part before 20 mph winds whipped through the field two days after the build) it still eats into our Soilent Greens money. (We DID tie it down with long lengths of rebar, but apparently that was not enough…duh.) To add to our money freakout is the fact that not only did Ranger (Walker, Texas) find us, but after I made the mistake of saying, “All we need is an orange one to complete the menagerie” it came true. What appears to be Ranger’s un-neutered brother is an orange tabby A named Jujube.  They love on each other, then tear each other up. We’re looking at some patching and vet bills until we can get them fixed.

So far we have the land tilled for the Soilent Greens vegetables and our personal gardens, 7500 sf plus our 11×22′ kitchen garden. We have some seeds started, and have one greenhouse, tables, tools, and willpower. What we’re lacking is everything else.

We are AGONIZINGLY close to our dream. Please consider helping us realize it? Further explanation is available at the site, Organic Farm Business.

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Big Doin’s

This was a super-big weekend for El Rancho Loco, when the partner had a rare two-day weekend off. Many lessons were learned. The biggest, most profound message  was that (1) some shit won’t go right, and (1a) unexpected shit will. (1b) Have alternate plans in place at all times. (1c) Prepare for disappointment and move on. (2) Old farms are weird. (3) Cats like Italian sausage.

It started with Friday late afternoon, when the fiancé went to town to the Post Office to pick up a box filled with wedding preparation goodness. That part went great. The part where he picked up the rented Rototiller went great, too. The part where we actually went to use the Rototiller at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, not so much. The belt kept falling off the spinny thingie and we got about one square yard out of the 75×100′ garden tilled before the rental dudes had to come out and pick this thing up. We had a five hour window on Saturday to get this thing done, since they close at noon on Saturday and are closed on Sunday, so no tilling.  DISAPPOINTING.

But, the fiancé says, “Well, let’s go get your chickens!” And my heart sang. For about five minutes. Because we realized if we wanted to eat actual food or drive the truck with enough gas in it, our budget says “No” to chickens until next weekend. So! I whimpered for a few minutes, then we decided to move all the compost (30 bags) over to the big garden, in preparation for tilling next weekend. And by “we” I mean the partner and the truck moved it all over and I unloaded a few bags, because I’m awesome. Oh, and we did have enough cash to buy our first fruit tree, a pear that I’ve named Brad. Yay! We got a few strawberry plants too, and I spray-painted a cinder block bright red in preparation for planting them in it. So crafty!! A said, “Wow, that’s a really red cinder block!” so I consider it an endorsement.

Then we decided to chainsaw the dead pecan trees into little pieces, with our brand new Husqvarna gas-powered chainsaw! With such a fancy name, it must rock. Would.not.start. A frustrated fiancé messed with that thing for an hour until his arm almost fell off. So! We decided to clean the pool, because the previous owner left us all the cleaning equipment and the water’s looking a little heinous. We turned on the pumps and filters and geegaws and dealie-jobs and I got out the brand new sweeper brush, and the Bill-engineered hose attachment doesn’t fit. Nothing in the world was going to make it fit.  Since our budget isn’t allowing pool parts this weekend, we moved on to Plan X. We have this Mule driveway alarm that we got on clearance at Lowes, It’s missing this attachment for the pole that brings it up to car height, so we had to rig some PVC piping to hold the sensor. We decided to use Great Stuff foam and Gorilla glue, which worked out great after we realized that all but one of our previously-used cans of Great Stuff were fused shut or foamed up solid. Ever actually read the back of one of those things? “Great Stuff can seal itself shut. One time use of can should be anticipated.” What a load of turds.

Burny Joe's pile of win

I think that’s the point where we decided, “Let’s just go burn stuff.” See, we had a gigantic pile of the previous owners’ detritus (mostly wood) on the back part of the acreage, just dying for the right conditions to be burned to the ground. And what a great use of the gasoline we were going to use in the tiller and chainsaw! We moved a few stacks of golf cart body parts (another story) and unearthed a complicated nest of fire ants. There was a short pause while I ran around the yard brushing ants off my neck and hair and freaking out and disrobing while running, but I digress. We used a lot of gasoline on that pile, and by “we,” I mean Burny Joe, the partner in crime. He poured that whole can around the pile, we stood fairly close while he lit it, and moved away über extra fast when the entire thing went up in a whoosh that probably could be seen from space. It was still burning right up through Sunday, the day when we actually achieved some goals.

Success! Huzzahs and glitter bombs!!

We got the greenhouse up! It’s a 10×20′ “commercial grade” greenhouse with windows and doors and we got that sucker up in record time!

Suck it, you nasty POS

Other Sunday successes include a stray tomcat adopting us. It’s not a “success” per se, but I’m putting it in the win column because he’s really sweet and has a bad-ass name. It’s Ranger (as in Walker, Texas). He’s un-neutered and harasses our four indoor cats mercilessly, so a snip is in his very near future. Also in the win column is the fact that we tore out the Worst Toilet in the History of Toilets, and will be replacing it sometime this week (we already have a cool-as-hell Jacuzzi toilet waiting in the wings…just need some parts).

We laughed a lot and there was dancing and singing, both nights. We figured out that power is not getting to the one barn that was supposed to have power, so we couldn’t plug in our super-cool shop radio, but we didn’t care; we’ll figure that out later. The grass and weeds are overgrown after only two weeks since mowing, and we’re okay with that, even though we don’t have a lawn mower and have to hire that service out for now. Not a huge deal. We got repeatedly mauled by stinging nettle, and we uncovered a whole new scorpion area that A quickly poisoned (as well as the entire house).

We mostly just kept wandering off and coming back to each other and going, “Holy shit! We OWN this!” A got to drive around the back 40 in his pick-up truck and lean out the window and yell, “I’m driving around my own land! That feels so cool!” Our puppy ran around with us and was super-unhelpful with the greenhouse build, running off with attachment cords and A’s gloves, but we were okay with it, because that’s what they do. We ate carnitas and mega hot pico de gallo, loved all over our wedding invitations and my wedding boots, A got to watch his Tank Battles shows last night for a few hours while I played Zynga games online.

Except for a stray million dollars to find us, I could not ask the universe for more.

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Farm-hole

Errrr...

One thing I’m just learning about an old farmhouse (and I’m embarrassed to admit this because generally, I’m a smart person) is that is it soul-crushingly expensive to heat in the winter.

Allow me to introduce y’all to what my fiance and I refer to as “Bill Engineering.” I do not think the previous owner and his wife ever met a inefficient system they didn’t love, because this house is basically held together with duct tape and prayer.  Yes, that’s a propane shop heater. It’s mounted on the ceiling in the dog run (large hallway in the center of the house) and blows straight to the thermostat. So it goes on and off and on and off all day and night. The air never seems to beeline to other areas of the house, but the dog run is awful comfy. Too bad we don’t actually live in that space.

Bedroom vent

Living room vent

The other heating system is a wood burning stove which is situated outside the house and has ducts running underneath the house to two vents cut into the floor. As you can see, they’re superbly placed to deter any furniture or common sense in the bedroom and living room. Until we remove them, they’re merely “decorative,” because we are never, not ever, going to use that janky-assed death box to heat our house. I’d rather die under a suffocating pile of blankets, thanks.

Anyway, the propane dude was just out here (we call him “Dang Ol’ Dang Ol'” because he sounds like Boomhauer), delivering half a tank (100 gallons). We get 100 gallons in our 200 gallon tank, because at $2.80 a gallon, we can’t afford any more than that at one time.

With electricity through the roof for this old house, too, this spring, summer, and fall will be spent finding and implementing other solutions to our heating (and forthcoming cooling) dilemmas (we have window A/C’s…I’m going to cry real tears when the first A/C electricity bill hits).  The cost of running this horrifically inefficient shop heater setup is over $150 a month in electricity alone (the total monthly nut for this old wiring is $300).

The math portion of the post: $280 (propane) + $150 (electric, approx.) = Stabby-Time Donna.

It’s egregious that we spend so much a month sucking off the grid’s teat.  So friggin’ over it already.

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Getting Situated

We moved into this farmhouse the day after Thanksgiving, so it’s been about what, almost ten weeks? We got the kitchen unpacked the first night, and being an experienced packer and mover and unpacker, I had the important bathroom stuff ready within an hour.  Soon after, I tackled the living room, and most of our bedroom. I set up the second bedroom as a “staging area,” intending for it to be where boxes sit as I tackle them one at a time. Haahahaaa!!!! That last part is rich! It’s actually where (I wish) boxes go to die, because they’ve only been pawed through/torn into since, when we absolutely HAVE TO get something out, like printer paper. (I swear, that was one of the panics.)

My bestie and her husband came about a month after we moved, when it was still (kind of) acceptable that I wasn’t more organized. Now we have other besties coming for the weekend, and they’re going to want to have a place to sleep, turns out.  So I’m getting it done, bitches!  Can’t have my buds thinking (knowing) I’m a hobo.

The mule I don't have to feed.

They are going to help us tackle part of our prodigious To-Do list, because they’re handy, and they volunteered. (*) are offered up to them as awesome helper monkeys (this is all stuff I want to accomplish before we have the wedding here on May 12):

  • Repair holes in chicken house roof*
  • Work on watering system*
  • Repair brooder box*
  • Get chickens(!)*
  • Build Duraworx cart*
  • Poison ant mounds*
  • Install garbage disposal
  • Install new toilet
  • Install new vanity
  • Replace a run of fencing
  • Repair old chicken house (repurposing for geese)*
  • Build 3-sided shelter for geese (by March 19)
  • Paint every single surface in this God-forsaken bastion to the glories of cheap wood paneling
  • Get tool shed set up and squared away
  • Move all compost to big garden/Roto-till that bitch
  • Roto-till potager
  • Set up greenhouse/irrigation system (after February 13)
  • Burn piles in back 40
  • Find roof leak/fix
  • Repair ceiling in living room

Even if we only get to one thing on the list we’ll have a blast, because they’re super fun to work with and will keep my spirits high. This list is gross, so I might kidnap one of them to helper-monkey me for the next month.

Puppy update: As of just last evening, she has stopped being a crate spastic. It’s been a rough transition for all of us, but she gets out to pee and poop and eat about every two hours, and sleeps through the night without crying. She’s figuring out that “Go outside” means “Pee and/or poop outside” and has learned the leash and collar really well! We’re giving her more time on-leash now indoors, and she’s learned that the cat box is off-limits.  While I’ll never get another puppy, I know how lucky I am that this one (while a gigantic pain in the ass) is super smart and anxious to please. She’s happier, the cats are happier, the humans are happier. Everybody wins!  She’s gonna lose her shit with two new people for the weekend…

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