Tag Archives: homesteading

What a Difference a [Year] Makes

Holy crap, it’s been forever since I posted. I miss it so much. Quick synopsis of the past ten months:

  • In January, chef left his job of six years because it was unsustainable from a “putting up with shitbags” standpoint,
  • We lived off our preps and in limbo for the next four months while chef looked for a bigger, better gig.
  • We wasted a month in Post, TX. Never go to Post, TX. Result: Psychopaths learn your phone number. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
  • Battled long and hard with unemployment and ultimately lost.
  • Several promising interviews later, we decided upon Klamath Falls, OR, where he’s Executive Chef/Food & Beverage Manager for the Running Y Ranch
  • We’ve kept the farm! It is experiencing the worst drought since 2011, which was the worst Texas drought in a hundred years.
  • My husband lost his mom to cancer a few weeks ago; it happened pretty quickly and we’re still a little shell-shocked.
  • In July, we moved a household across six states in a UHaul truck with a car-hauler attached. Four cats in the back of the truck. The dogs rode in the pickup on a trailer. Never.never again. Five days.

It has been a HARD (almost) ten months. I didn’t get a garden in because we couldn’t afford it. No farming. My gander flew away right before the goose laid her 18 eggs, and her being abandoned and an inexperienced layer meant a freeze killed all the eggs. We ended up selling all the chickens because we couldn’t move them across country, and adopted out the goose to a good home. That was hard. I killed a copperhead with a shovel, on a day where my husband had been gone at the new job for three weeks already, the ignition shot craps in the truck, and it was 106 degrees. That was a special day. We struggled with money to the point where my awesome neighbor actually showed up with groceries because he was so worried about us. Unannounced, unasked for or even hinted at by us, he just showed up. It still makes me tear up with humbleness and gratitude. We found out A’s mom had cancer, and it was so advanced that the future looked grim. That proved true.

We kept pretty quiet about it all, which is mostly why I haven’t been blogging. Waking up worried four months in a row in a hot house with two depressed adults and a bunch of heat-struggling animals isn’t something to share.

But! When A landed this gig, we also scored the most awesome house ever, and the ability to still own the farmhouse. He loves his job. We’re living on an amazing 52,000 acre ranch with landlords who have turned into VERY good friends. We’re laying in stores for the winter, are making plans for the future, and could.not.be.happier. The view from our front door is breathtaking. We are 45 minutes from Crater Lake. I got what I call my Freedom Mobile.

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My depression about having no farm this spring turned into a blessing. The drought would have killed it and me. My worries about the future have turned around so much that I am thoroughly excited about our futures. The husband is healthy and happy, as are my friends and family. We are sad that A’s mom is lost, but believe that she is at peace.

We live in what we call Little House in the Big Piney. We meet interesting people every day. I’ve got 15 pullets in the garage, waiting to be moved into a coop that I’m constructing this week. The dogs are being trained on a wireless electric fence, because if they keep chasing the cattle, they’ll be shot (hey, that’s how it rolls on a working cattle ranch). We are preparing for winter, and are completely stoked about having a fireplace in the living room.

We are endeavoring to be better children/friends/partners to our loved ones. We’re excited about our one/three/five years plans. And know now, thoroughly, that planning only takes you so far.

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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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Not There. Here, Now

So, where am I not right now? On a scheduled flight to Chicago. One flight got cancelled today by Southwest Airlines, and it was mine. No other flights today than one that gets in at 9:45 p.m., and no flights available tomorrow that don’t land smack-dab in the middle of the funeral (or after, which is pointless). So thanks a pant-load, Southwest. My heart is broken. But one cousin (my cousins are AWESOME, btw) said, “Uncle Don knows you tried” and another said, “You must have to stay home for some reason or this would not have happened.” So, maybe it’s okay.

I think I’m going to do some art today. I’ve been wanting to do a series of rough pen & ink drawings of farm stuff, like chickens, trees, outbuildings, all from our farm. Way less intensive than the work I normally do, which is pointillism (one of my pieces, below).

Monet’s Lilies

Maybe the Universe is telling me to get out of my own head and make something this weekend. I just found out someone I care about has cancer. I’m going to send good energy her way, do something creative, and maybe can some more tomatoes. Maybe vacuum. Play with the kitten. Talk to the family by phone. Hug my husband when he gets home. Nesting and creativity seem to be the order of the day.

I made breakfast this morning (3 small pullet eggs, scrambled; flour tortilla; 2 Roma tomatoes) and realized that two of the three things on my plate were made on this farm, with help from me and my husband. That made me feel good.

And then I cried for my own selfish reasons, because I can’t see my family this weekend.

Suck it up, you big baby. Uncle Don would say the same thing.

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Heat and Funerals

This super-informative piece on Mother Earth News says (page 3), “…remember that it’s unwise to do hard outdoor work when both the temperature and the humidity are high. When the two numbers added together equal more than 160, stay indoors during the middle of the day.”

I would edit that to add, “If you live in south central Texas, however, it is technically ALWAYS the middle of the day. Plan on building robots to do your gardening, because those two numbers will equal greater than 160 for the next four months.”

I just got in from an hour’s-worth of harvesting tomatoes, feeding and watering the chickens and geese, and watering the gardens. After standing in front of the window A/C, I’m at least not dripping sweat from every pore; only my hair is still soaked. The cats lasted about 10 minutes out there, and the dog looks at me like I’m slow in the head whenever I open the door to let her out.

The plants are all suffering. This year’s averages are already 10 degrees above normal and everything is browning. I water in the mornings and we’ll be constructing some shade dealies next week (when the chef’s on vacation…YAY!) to help at least the tomatoes. We’ll also be filling the indoor greenhouse with starts to go in next month. The only thing really thriving outside right now is a super-tall volunteer sunflower in the potager. (Not my garden; it’s too freaking hot and I’m too cooked to go out with a camera right now. Thanks, random blogger, Cheryl.)

While the husband’s home, we have a ton of outdoor chores to attend to for our party July 7th*. It’s going to be a blast! However, pool needs fixing up, gardens need cleaning, pit needs digging, lighting needs putting up, grass needs mowing, food and supplies need getting boughted. (Okay, that last one got away from me.)

Here’s an actual photo from our garden from Tuesday, June 26, 2012, or as I like to call it, “Family Shit Day.” Go ahead, click on the photo. It’s a black widow and her boyfriend, right under one of the tomato plants. I pulled back a big clump of stems to get at some ripe tomatoes underneath and THERE IT WAS. Oh, I ain’t proud to say I Sevin’d the shit out of her, but, I SEVIN’D THE SHIT OUT OF HER. Then that wasn’t enough, so I scootched her and her boyfriend out and smashed them under my rubber boot toe into the dirt until they were a whole mess of splat and legs.

Also on the “getting boughted” list for the party: Outdoor and indoor foggers, tiki torches, personal bodyguards, spider mace**.

*Send me an email if you’re local and come on out! (You’ll be required to answer a series of questions allowing me to judge whether or not you are a dangerous ax murderer, Obama supporter, or Romney supporter.)

**Is there such a thing? Because if there isn’t, I’m going to invent it and be a gajillionaire.

*************************
Friday a.m: Off to Chicago to attend a service for my uncle, and see my large family for the first time in a while. Way too long a while for some of them. Funeral Saturday. I’m looking forward to a lot of laughing and hugs and some cathartic tears. I know Uncle Don would be pissed if we didn’t laugh as much as we can at this thing.
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PRODUCT REVIEWS

Screen door on a submarine.

ORTHO BUG B GON MAX (Manufacturer, Scotts. Active ingredient, Bifenthrin [pyrethrin]): I sprayed this bullshit chemical cocktail over my entire yard. It’s supposed to work to kill grasshoppers a) on contact and b) later. How well does this work?

NOT AT ALL.

Eat a gigantic bag of dicks, Scotts. Yes, you were a cheap, well-marketed seeming solution to my problem. You are also made of balls. Big, hairy, useless balls. I spent an entire morning spreading your poisonous merde over grasshoppers and crickets and lawn and it turns out? YOU’RE MADE OF USELESSNESS AND DESPAIR. Thanks again, chemistry schmucks and marketing (“Bug B Gon”? Really?) lie-sacks of turd.

Price: $14.99 each x 2 (because I’m stupid) = $30.00

Rating: I hope you get genital warts

*********************************************************************

Ashtray on a motorcycle.

SEVIN BUG KILLER (Manufacturer, Bayer. Active ingredient, Carbaryl): Know what’s good about this product? Only its no-nonsense name. Know what it does to grasshoppers? Makes them genetically susceptible to the ability to LAUGH IN MY FACE. Nice work, Bayer. It’s not bad enough that I broke my No-Bayer-Products rule because you fuckers kill bees, but I also paid you money to buy a poison that DOES NOT WORK? Well played, assholes. You win this round.

Also, nice white crud left all over everything. That’s swell.

Price: $25.00 (1 gallon)

Rating: I hope mutant spiders lay eggs in your face

*********************************************************************

Tits on a bull.

FRONTLINE (Manufacturer, Merial. Active Ingredient, Fipronil (pyrethrin): Here’s how well your vaunted products work on my cats and dog: EXACTLY ZERO TIMES INFINITY. I spent almost $100 to get the dog and cats flea-free, unable to dose them with anything ELSE THAT WORKS for one month, because it would probably kill them. So we get to bomb the house (then wipe down every surface and vacuum every freaking nook and cranny), spread diatamaceous earth all over the carpet, repeatedly vacuum, use peppermint oil in the flea baths, spray the cats and dog with flea spray, and get flea bites ourselves, FOR ONE FUCKING MONTH. I hate you so much. If hate were people, I’d be China.

Your useless, over-priced poison products only served to make one cat foam at the mouth, and the rest be re-infested within three days. Your claims that it lasts a month make me want to drive to your homes and leave flaming bags of poo on your lying liar porches.

Price: $100 for cats and dog (six treatments in all)

Rating: Just die. You exhaust me.

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Grasshopper Ninja

Please work. Please work.

I am sorry to say it, but it’s true. I just went all ninja assassin on the grasshoppers and it felt awesome. I hate giving these jackholes money (Scott’s/Ortho), but I just sprayed the shit out of our lawn with Bug B Gone Max. We got two bottles. I’m going to reward myself for mopping the kitchen floor with a good spraying out by the pool. SUCK POISON, BITCHES! I did NOT spray it near our gardens. I’m going to go in and chase the grasshoppers out with flailing arms and a rake, and hope they get blasted in the poison part of the lawn. I’m also going to walk around my lawn smashing grasshopper corpses with my boots. Because that will make me happy.

In other news, here’s a picture of the latest harvest. The tomatoes are starting to wind down, so it’s time to start more seedlings in the (inside) greenhouse. We’re going to experiment with growing in our little outdoor greenhouse, because the heirloom varieties really struggle in the Texas sun. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Arkansas Traveler and Stupice heirlooms, however. They’ve been thriving out there (the little toms in the picture are Arkansas Traveler) and both are super-sweet and delicious. I will grow them again in a heartbeat. The pears in the picture got blown off our pear tree during the high winds the other day, and as they were our ONLY pears, I’m a little sad.

PS: If you’ve not seen this blog, please go over and show this little Scottish girl some love. (Start at the beginning and read all the entries…It’s only a few pages long.) She does school food reviews, and yesterday, her town council tried to shut her down. The Internet went MONKEY SHIT and the council reversed its decision. HER BLOG IS COVERED IN WIN.

PSS: This bit with Jack McBrayer and Triumph almost made me pee myself laughing. True story.

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Floodin’ Down in Texas

When Texas says a big ol’ storm is coming, it ain’t playin’.

Aftermath:

Extreme foreground: Ancient, blind Siamese (Louie)

Dang, that’s the fig tree…

So guess what I get to do today? Use the chainsaw!* Break up all those limbs into firebox-sized pieces, pretend I’m Jesse James Dupree from Jackyl…

*Oh wait, I only said that to scare the husband. I’M NOT ALLOWED TO USE THE CHAINSAW! Even I know that. I’m extremely uncoordinated, easily distracted**, and prone to flights of physical and mental fancy. Not what the safety direction writers had in mind when they were handing out wisdom on the use of death-dealing tools.

**Actual Facebook excerpts regarding my canning experiences yesterday:

“I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson here. No more canning for Donna. Because part of canning should never be the words, ‘OHJESUSGODMOTHERFUCKSHIT’ while running for ice, then burn salve.”

“‘Tomato concassé is fun to do!’ said no one, ever.”

PS: It only rained and blew so hard because I planted a wee baby olive tree in the potager. Thanks, Texas. Jackass.

PPS: In other news, my scorpion sting is extremely inflamed and itchy. I think I’m paying for my “I’m a badass” statement from yesterday by (perhaps) developing life-threatening shoulder tuberculosis. Pictures later!

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Fancy

So, faced with the awful prospect of any amount of our prodigious harvest going to waste (see Exhibit A), we sold some via Craigslist customers, canned and/or froze part of the first-of-June harvest, and gave the rest away to family and friends in Houston. We won’t be back to Houston for a little while, so now WHAT TO DO WITH HARVEST 2?

I’m going for the über fancy tomato concassé (which really just means peeled, seeded, and chopped). We go ahead and call it tomato concassé however, because the husband is a super snooty (about his food anyway) French chef, and that’s how we roll in the country.

Then, I’m making this recipe for salsa, and performing my first solo canning event! I’m excited and nervous, because who wants six quart jars of shit salsa? NOBODY. I do get to use the Cuisinart that my family drove down all the way from Missouri, so that’s cool.

Exhibit A: There are only two of us!

STOP IT ALREADY

 

Also today, I will attempt to freeze the summer squash, except for crap’s sake, not with this recipe! THAT’S HOW MUCH I HATE COMIC SANS. Phew, this lady makes me slightly less stabby.

To wrap this up, I’ll share that I’m feeling especially virtuous because I’ve already weeded the potager, planted an olive tree, built a shade shelter for the Purple Cherokee tomatoes, and have done two loads of laundry. I’m like a farm Marine. Without the overseas combat experience.

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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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Organic Gardening: The Lessons

I’m learning something new every day out in the gardens. Some big lessons, some smaller. All vital to having an even better garden next year.

For example:

  • Insect control: Cabbage loopers DECIMATED our cabbages; they were skeletonized within two days. We Neem-oiled the crap out of everything, but it was too late. There are still viable cabbages in the middles, but I doubt they’ll reach their full potential. NEXT PLANTING: Covers.

    (Borrowed from the IntraWebz.) Ours is even worse. It’s too sad to photograph.

  • Insect control: Flea beetles ate the SHIT out of our Rapini. NEXT PLANTING: No Rapini. Because not only is it susceptible to flea beetles, it doesn’t do well in the heat, it bolts, and is very low-producing.
  • Heat control: Plan for the heat earlier. It’s Texas, Donna the Dummy. Even “heat tolerant” varieties are melting in the sun. And it’s not even really hot for the region yet. NEXT PLANTING: Shade covers, more frequent watering, mulch.
  • Mulch: Put the mulch around the plants, Donna. It’s not doing any good in the bags, except as a perfect home for scorpions.
  • Tomatoes: Learn early on which are determinate (bush type) and which are indeterminate (sprawling monsters). That way, you’ll know which are coming out early and can be replaced (determinate) and which will continue to produce throughout the season (indeterminate), and plan your garden accordingly.  So your garden doesn’t look like ass because of big gaping holes you didn’t plan for.
  • Succession plant: Put beans in planned areas week after week, so you have continuous production. Same with tomatoes: Have seedlings going all the time in the greenhouse so you can replace what needs to come out.
  • Automate: Because standing out there watering in the 6:00 p.m. highs of 96 degrees (soon to be 106) is balls.
  • Packet/product labeling: Remember that labeling is not necessarily accurate for your conditions. We planned 3×6′ beds for our watermelon. The first plant that came up is now easily 15′ around. It is taking over the entire garden and will have to be pruned back (much to the horror of the husband, who is convinced it’s from another planet and wants to see how big it will actually get). Labeling also doesn’t necessarily know that we live in Texas, so “full sun” means plants probably won’t thrive here, which is actually the SURFACE of the sun.
  • Compost: Learn now to make compost tea and get it made, because that Jobe’s organic fertilizer just ain’t makin’ it. I have yellowing leaves (nitrogen deficiency), and a general malaise on some of the plants that just won’t do.

Nice tomato shot…Again, not ours. *sigh*

Some things you just can’t plan for. Like volunteers and what I call “wanderers”.  We have several of both in our gardens. The volunteers just kind of pop up in totally unexpected areas (a tomato in the cucumber patch, a sunflower in the cucumber patch, a bean plant in the tomatoes).  Wanderers happened from our torrential April rains shifting seeds from bed to bed. I refuse to pull either “mistake” up. If they have the temerity to live where they weren’t planned, then good for them, the little rebels.

I CAN, however, plan my garden better next year. We just kind of free-balled the plants this year, with only an eye on height (tall stuff in the backs of the rows). In the winter, my plans on paper were very elaborate and precise. By the time our seedlings were up, all that changed, only I didn’t account for it on paper. See, seedlings don’t all come up, and the ones that do don’t necessarily make it through the hardening-off stage. Plus we went and impulse-bought different seeds (for direct sowing) than what was accounted for, and changes didn’t get incorporated into the on-paper plans.

Which reminds me, NOTE TO SELF: Paper plans are pretty, but impossible to maintain. Find software for garden planning.

I DID make a database last night of our plants, so I can record what’s working and what’s not, planting and picking dates, and which tomatoes are which. Because if we want serious production (and we do), we can’t keep winging it out there.

To-Do List This Week:

  • Find easy compost tea recipe, make and apply
  • Get down mulch (at least on tomatoes)
  • Buy row cover supplies for shade
  • Finish database
  • Start plan for summer planting
  • Weed (always)
  • Take out non-performers
  • New beans, cukes, corn, cilantro
  • Set out basil, yellow peppers
  • Plant olive tree in potager

Who said this was easy on a larger scale? I guess people who have never done it before…

p.s.: SUPER HELPFUL tomato list.

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Gardening: Crack and You

A friend on Facebook recently mentioned something about getting into gardening. I told him I’d do a Top Five list of what to know from a beginner’s perspective, but as I was just out weeding the watermelon patch (literally…friggin’ weeds took that thing over with a quickness), I realized my first foray into “Gardening Experience” should be about what gardening means to me, and what to expect.  I’m also going to do a post (hopefully) today on what I’ve learned recently about Seminis/Monsanto and their devil merger. Next week, a list of Top Ten Gardening Must-Haves.

The cocaine megastore.

Okay, baby gardener. First and foremost, you’re about to become an addict. Know that going in and everything will go smoother. Don’t fight the crack. Embrace the crack. It’s going to win anyway. It’s a crack habit with tendrils. It’s a gateway drug. It will have you learning words like “monocot” and “cabbage looper” and “vermiculite.” It will make you have Farmtek and Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds catalogs in your bathroom. It will make you curse the fact that you either a) don’t have a big enough yard to dig up, or b) you just dug up way too much yard and what the hell were you thinking? (Hint: You were thinking, “I can’t get enough of this crack!”) Also know that this gardening thing makes you vaguely insane.

If you start with just a tomato seedling, you are done.  You were thinking, “Man, some fresh tomatoes would be awesome this summer. Joe the Slow down the street grows them. How hard can this be?” You will pick up the adorable seedling with its sultry photo tag and realize you need dirt. But what kind of dirt? Topsoil or fill? You’ve heard of compost, but should you make it yourself or buy a bag at the store? This tomato seedling needs a pot; that little one looks pretty (it’s such a small plant, right?). You’re definitely going need a little shovel, because you’re not sure you want to get your hands all dirty. Speaking of which, you’re going to need gloves. Oh, and some fertilizer! But what kind? You’ve been hearing so much about organic, but should you go that route? You decide yes, because all the cool kids are doing it. But wait! Is my little seedling organic? Uh oh, better swap that out. Well, crap, now you’ve got this big bag of organic soil, another bag of organic compost, another bag of organic fertilizer, and it just seems RIDICULOUS to only have one seedling. Which is why you’re going to go back to the tomato seedling area and pick up three more plants, two different varieties. Now you’re going to have to return that pot, because you remember how big your neighbor’s tomatoes got, and realize you need to plan on digging out a section of your lawn. So, that means a big shovel! Pointed nose, right? And hell, a wheelbarrow to carry off all that stuff. Man, that’s some sweaty work. Better get a sun hat and while you’re in that aisle, some rubber clogs so you don’t junk up your tennies.  Okay, now you’re going to need more dirt, to replace what you’ll lose from so much grass going away. Well, shit. Now I need a book on tomatoes because this is getting a little complicated. HOLY CRAP, the book section. You’re going to buy at least two, so make sure one is all-encompassing, because now you’re remembering that you love potatoes, beans, cilantro, and FLOWERS…AW SHIT, FLOWERS. And sweet lord, what if you’re too late to get your babies into the ground and experience the tomato bounty?! That seems akin to setting the world to wobbling off its axis! So you get to the checkout aisle as fast as you can, because you need to get on those books asap. And check online to see when the planting season is in your region. Oh shit, what’s a region? Will your tomato plants live forever, or do they die (because somewhere you’ve heard of perennials and annuals, and know that there’s some kind of difference). MY GOD, I’D BETTER LEARN THE DIFFERENCE!

You haven’t even made it to the checkout lane yet, cracky. Ha!

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Follow-up: Organic Nightmare

Healthy Mammoth sunflower

Regarding my post yesterday, 2,4-D: Organic Nightmare, there has been some movement. And wow, I never ever thought I’d say this, but I think these sprayers did the right thing.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a return phone call from M*********, the leaseholder. He explained that he’d been out of town, and returned my call as soon as he got the message (which may or may not be true*), and asked what he could do for me.  I stated to him, “We have a problem,” and went on to explain how we have an organic garden here, and how 2,4-D may have contaminated our gardens. He listened to me very patiently while I ranted a little, and then said, “Well, I’ve been using the same sprayers for a long time, and I’m going to contact them right this minute and find out what happened. 2,4-D shouldn’t have been used near your property, for sure, and I’m going to find out what is going on. Is it okay if they contact you at this number?” And I said “yes.”

Not more than a half hour later I got a call from a guy at an ag supply place in town with whom we’re fairly familiar. He asked if there were any questions he could answer about the spraying that occurred, and asked if he could come out and survey the property. He listened to me rail on as well, very patiently, and expressed his regret that 2,4-D was used anywhere near a working farm, especially an organic one. He shared that he has a home garden as well, and would not have been happy to have 2,4-D sprayed close to what his family eats. We set up a time this morning for him to come out.

He showed up this morning a little after 9:00 a.m. with the tractor operator, which, transparency-wise, impressed me. He shook my hand and thanked me for allowing him to come out. I showed him the gardens, and told him which way the wind had been blowing, how the gusts had been working, and how the tractor operator had been spraying. He told me about his company, how they do everything they can to be good neighbors, and how they consider themselves stewards of the land in this valley, even if they do use conventional agriculture methods. He told me about the organic options available at his company. He explained that the preparation of 2,4-D is the amine and not the ester, which greatly reduces wind drift. He explained how high the spray nozzles are, and how the ideal particulate (400 microns) disperses across a leaf, not bouncing off and not blowing away. He described how the tractor operator measures his boundaries (with foam), and how he ensures his own safety in the HEPA filtered cab.

I explained our stance on 2,4-D, on GMOs, and on anything non-organic. I told him I’m in contact with Texas A&M Ag Sciences, and how I’m a blogger who advocates organics. I showed him how much work we’ve done, and told him how heart-breaking it was that it might have all been undone by carelessness. I told him that we didn’t necessarily feel like there had been any malicious intent, but carelessness can have the same damaging effects.

Here’s the thing: I think we might be okay. We talked for a long time about how the effects would have manifested themselves if there had been significant spray drift. He showed me right across the fence similar weeds which were clearly toppled over or showing signs of distress, and feet away on my side, the same weed looking healthy as ever. I don’t know if we’re okay yet, because 2,4-D drift can take up to 14 days to show itself. I don’t know yet if our plants are going to show signs of damage or not, or if they do if the yields will be affected. I do know that I don’t feel like crying or throwing up anymore, and that my stomach has eased up on the knots.

Four days from now, he’ll be back out and we’ll look for signs of damage on the tomatoes and sunflowers (the two most sensitive barometers of damage). Then, a week after that, he’ll be back out. We’re not looking for a pay-day here. We’re not looking for a get-rich scheme. We’re only looking to be made whole if something is indeed wrong with our gardens.

Thanks for everybody’s kind words yesterday. It really helped, knowing that so many people understand how distressing this was, in our tiny little part of the organic world.

*If he’d called me back right away, I might not have contacted the Texas Department of Agriculture. I’m not out to get anybody into undue trouble here, but not calling me back asap was not a great move. Even if I think the “See Something, Say Something” campaign from the DHS is a bunch of alarmist, big-government, controlling bullshit, I DO believe in it in the garden.

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2,4-D Drift: Organic Nightmare

Tractor of death. The tree in the foreground is on our side of the property line.

Yesterday morning, I was all doodly-do, doing my morning stuffs, when I heard big machinery noise, closer than normal (they’re working on the county roads around us right now). I went outside and couldn’t see anything, and then all of a sudden there was a crop-spraying tractor, complete with two big white chemical tanks and two giant boom arms, spraying the shit out of our neighbor’s acreage. I called the husband and said, “Holy shit, they’re spraying chemicals on the front acreage” and he suggested I stop the guy and talk to him, so I did.  What follows made me later throw up my lunch.

Me: *Hailing tractor guy*
TG: *Stops tractor and comes over*
Me: Hi, are we neighbors?
Him: Nope, I'm working for the guy who leases this parcel, M*******.
Me: Whatcha sprayin'?
Him: 2,4-D, for goat weed.
Me: Oh. Um, we have an organic farm over here and it's drifting onto my 
property...
Him: Welllll, the wind's mostly blowing my way and it's a real light spray, 
so you oughtta be all right.
Me: You're kidding, right?
Him: *Goes right on spraying*

2,4-D. Mother-humping goat fuckers. This devil juice makes (and I’m not exaggerating in the least) RoundUp look like harmless chemical Kool-Aid. Dow AgroSciences’ contribution to the weed-killing business is the main defoliant contained in Agent Orange. It’s been around since 1946.  It is under attack again (thank God) because Dow is trying to get approval for its 2,4-D Resistant Corn, to take the place of Monsanto’s failed RoundUp Resistant Corn, which created super bugs and super weeds, and is no longer able to withstand RoundUp bombardment because of genetic mutations. Genius! (It’s in the EPA’s lap right now; let’s all count on them to do the right thing, right?) It’s a DEFOLIANT, which means it kills plants dead. What it doesn’t kill, it mutates. It’s suspected as a cause of “…major health problems such as cancer, lowered sperm counts, liver toxicity and Parkinson’s disease. Lab studies show that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity, and immunosuppression.”

If you’ve followed my blog for even a short amount of time, you know how I feel about chemicals in our farms, ranches, food supply. Here, about Colony Collapse Disorder; here about pesticides and BPA; here about Monsatan, again, and again, and again.

We’re out here in a tiny patch of Texas, practicing only organic gardening, using compost, organic fertilizers, organic topsoil and mulch, Neem oil, blood, sweat, tears, dreams, and hand-weeding. Do y’all know how much EASIER it is to be conventional in a garden? Of course we could use RoundUp for the weeds; it’s an extremely effective, efficient killer! Of COURSE we could use Sevin insecticide! It’d be way easier than having to get up extra-early to apply Neem oil, or smooshing cabbage rollers by hand. We did ALL OF THIS SPECIFICALLY  TO KEEP CHEMICALS OUT OF OUR FOOD.

“Before” picture of the big garden.

Just writing this post is making me cry. I cried yesterday when I fully realized what had just happened to us. I pulled up my research on 2,4-D and found lots of new stuff, all horrifying. I learned about ground permeation, wind drift patterns, plant aspiration, and the life of 2,4-D. I contacted a professor/friend at Texas A&M’s Ag Sciences Department. He shared with me that tomatoes are especially sensitive to 2,4-D, and to keep an eye on them first. He told me to keep photo documentation of the plants in case the rancher might not do the right thing by us.

And of COURSE tomatoes are affected first and worst. They’re the crop we’ve most heavily planted, in the greatest variety. We were looking forward to canning, sharing, and perhaps selling a few to our chef friends.

I’m upset still, even after I learned the leaseholder’s name (who’s responsible for the spraying), contacted him (no response), found out the regulations he violated*, and reported him to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Tomatoes galore.

I’m upset for several reasons. We started this entire farm endeavor with one goal in mind: organic sustainability. That has been ruined. I can no longer bill these vegetables as organic, and we now have to decide if we even want to eat them ourselves. I’m upset because to get rid of this poison (assuming it doesn’t kill the crops outright), I’ll have to pay to have the site dozed, replace the topsoil and amendments, and start all over. All the little baby plants we started from organic seeds in our little greenhouse, misting and lighting and thinning for MONTHS, then lovingly potted to harden off, then transplanted and agonized over for months while they struggled to grow, all fucking ruined. A’s first gardens EVER, all ruined. Every hour we spent digging, weeding, fertilizing, watering, pruning, caging, and loving these gardens have been fucking RUINED by this dude’s careless disregard for anybody but himself.

*Prior Notification: Nope. None given.

Proper notification for use of methyl, ethyl, butyl, isopropyl, octylamyl and pentyl esters. Nope.

No use in winds higher than 10 mph? Fucked that up, too.

Amine-only 2,4-D? Don’t know. I doubt he even obtained a permit to do the spraying.

I’m going to use this blog as I do regularly, but now with the added feature of keeping record of what’s happening to our plants, and what’s happening about enforcing the regulations. If I didn’t have a place to vent, I might possibly go mad.

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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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Colony Collapse: More Awesome Pesticide News

I don’t know how familiar any readers of my blog are with “Colony Collapse Disorder” (or any other topic I write about), so I’ll treat this as a primer, and give y’all some breaking news.

Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) has been coined to describe the relatively recent phenomena where bee colonies are inexplicably dying off or being abandoned. Bees and their habitats have been observed to either disappear altogether, return to hives in drastically reduced numbers, or become sickened and die off.  Theories for CCD include pesticides, parasites, viruses, environmental stress, and even cell phone towers and cell phones.  There was a noticeable drop in feral bee populations between the early 70’s and 2006, but because of increased global domestic beekeeping operations, overall numbers stayed stable. However, beekeepers all over the world started noticing this new, devastating disorder only five or six years ago. “In 2010 the USDA reported that data on overall honey bee losses for 2010 indicated an estimated 34 percent loss, which is statistically similar to losses reported in 2007, 2008, and 2009.” Total losses of bee populations worldwide are estimated to between 30 and 90 percent.

There are a HUGE number of links at this Wikipedia page: Colony Collapse Disorder.

Beeconomics

Why should you care? Besides honey, bees are the pollinators of the world’s crops. It is estimated that bees are responsible for over 70% of all pollination of the world’s food and animal crops. In other words, if you’re fond of eating, you should be fond of bees.  In world GDPs, bees play an important role in nations’ economies, adding $15 billion a year to America’s agricultural markets alone.

BREAKING NEWS (4/5/12): Here’s the part that has me marginally homicidal (the latest thing, anyway): The EPA told us all that Bayer CropScience’s main ingredient, imidacloprid (of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides), used as a pesticide in 90% of all US corn production (to name only one application) is safe. It turns out, it is not. “The likely culprit in sharp worldwide declines in honeybee colonies since 2006 is imidacloprid, one of the most widely used pesticides, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health(HSPH).”  This chemical is registered for use on over 140 crops in over 120 countries.  It is used in large agricultural applications as well as for homes and small gardens, for control of flies, cockroaches, grubs, borers, termites, ants, and over 40 other pests.

It is INFURIATING to me that the USDA has acknowledged since last year that,”…the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid contribute –at extremely low levels– to bee deaths and possibly colony collapse disorder (CCD), the widespread disappearance of honey bees that has killed off more than a third of commercial honey bees in the U.S.” and has DONE NOTHING ABOUT IT. In fact, look at all these papers and studies from all over the world that show what’s been known and what’s been done by the chemical companies and regulators. The short answer is: nothing. Here’s the EPA knowing what this shit does to bees as long ago as 2009, and again, the response? NOTHING.

Consumer products containing imidacloprid:

  • Merit insecticide
  • Merit 75
  • Invict
  • Dominion
  • GrubZ Out
  • Maxforce
  • Mallett
  • Bonide
  • Temprid
  • Criterion 75
  • Bed Bug Kit
  • Precise Foam
  • Adonis
  • Premise 2
  • CoreTect
  • ImiGold
  • Fertilome
  • Hi-Yield Grub Free Zone
  • Bayer Advanced
  • Bonanza
  • Maxx Pro
  • Pre-Empt
  • Quick Draw
  • Advantage (flea/tick control for cats and dogs…yes, even this)

What to do: First of all, and easy enough, don’t buy or use any of those products. Check any labels for “imidacloprid” and do.not.use.

Secondly, write the EPA and tell them what a bunch of flaming D-bags they are. EPA: Contact links. (Good God, look at all the social media outlets our tax dollars pay for and maintain. Wow, they’re pretty groovy for being a bunch of bureaucratic pukes who are being paid with our tax dollars and bribed by chemical companies to kill us all.)  While you’re at it, feel free to lob a flaming bag of (email) poo at the USDA: Contact links.

Think about starting your own bee colony! We are!  Here’s a link to a relatively inexpensive starter kit that looks super cool: Beekeepers Apiary Kit.

If you don’t want to do beekeeping (and I totally understand that) maybe plant your garden with species that attract bees (from TheDailyGreen):

Annuals: Asters, calliopsis, clover, marigolds, poppies, sunflowers, zinnias

Perennials: Buttercups, clematis, cosmos, crocuses, dahlias, echinacea, English ivy, foxglove, geraniums, germander, globe thistle, hollyhocks, hyacinth, rock cress, roses, sedum, snowdrops, squills, tansy, yellow hyssop (Edited To Add (4/10/12)): From solarbeez.com: Penstemon

Fruits & Veggies: Blackberries, cantaloupe, cucumbers, gourds, fruit trees, peppers, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, strawberries, watermelons

Herbs: Bee balm, borage, catnip, coriander/cilantro, fennel, lavender, mints, rosemary, sage, thyme

Shrubs: Blueberry, butterfly bush, button bush, honeysuckle, indigo, privet

Trees: Alder, American holly, basswood, black gum, black locust, buckeyes, catalpa, eastern redbud, golden rain, hawthorns, hazels, linden, magnolia, maples, mountain ash, poplar, sycamore, tulip, willows

IF YOU HAVE PLANTS OR FLOWERS TO ADD, PLEASE DO SO IN THE COMMENTS! Thank you!

Act local, think global, carry a big stick. That’s my motto.

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