Tag Archives: soilent greens

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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Open Letter to Roger Cohen, NYT Moron

I’m pissed. I was pissed when I read this bullshit piece from Stanford, then got even MORE pissed when this jackass, Roger Cohen from the New York Times came along and insulted organics, the people who grow them, the people who eat them, the people who sell them.  Fuck you, man.

OPEN LETTER TO AN ELITIST HALF-WIT

Mr. Cohen:

Regarding your piece, “The Organic Fable,” of September 6, 2012, you were so busy patting yourself on the back for being a “trend”-bucker that you forgot to do any research.  Your cynical statement that, “… the organic ideology is an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype” speaks volumes about the path used to come to the self-serving, dubious conclusions you reach in this hit piece.  Namely a path which was not sullied by science or peer-reviewed studies which very clearly demonstrate the hazards of GMOs and the chemicals that love them.

You relied upon the Times’ rehash of a Stanford Systemic Review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Perhaps you thought, “Hey, my employer published it…It must be close enough to true for me.” Little heads-up; it’s not.

“… the study completely fails to account for key factors such as the presence of GMOs, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, mercury (such as that admittedly contained in high-fructose corn syrup), BPA, and much more. It also does not even properly address the two topics it seeks to address concerning the presence [sic] antibiotics and chemical residue. The researchers fail first of all to reveal the difference between the organic food and conventional food pesticides, and then go on to state that organic food actually does have lower pesticide levels.”

Here too is another excellent piece about the junk science used to come to those erroneous conclusions. This is yet another piece blasting the associations between Stanford and BigAgra, namely Cargill.

Your ignorance on this topic is astounding, but I’m going to help you. Here’s the skinny on GMOs:

-Start with this video called “The World According to Monsanto.” It’s two hours long, so you might want to cozy up with some GMO popcorn that you microwave-irradiated in a BPA-laden bag. Bon appétit!

-Perhaps follow that up with reading about the work of Dr. Vandana Shiva, who is trying desperately to save India’s seeds from total obliteration at the hands of Monsanto.

-Maybe then engage in a little light reading about the plight of the Indian farmer, where extraordinarily high suicide rates are being blamed on Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant GMO cotton.

-Here’s a piece regarding how and why Monsanto was named the Worst Company of the Year for 2011. In part, it states:

  • An analysis of 19 animal studies revealed that nearly 10 percent of blood, urine, organ and other parameters tested were significantly influenced by GMOs, with the livers and kidneys faring the worst.
  • A 2009 Brazilian study discovered that female rats fed GM soy for 15 months showed significant changes in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy.
  • A study performed by Irina Ermakova with the Russian National Academy of Sciences reported that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, while the death rate in the non-GM soy group was only 10 percent. Additionally, the babies in the GM group were smaller, and, worst of all, could not reproduce. In a telling coincidence, after Ermakova’s feeding trials were completed, her laboratory started feeding all the rats in the facility a commercial rat chow using GM soy. Within two months, the infant mortality facility-wide reached 55 percent.
  • Milk treated with the Monsanto-developed genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) contains higher levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a hormone linked to breast, prostate and colon cancers in humans.

A study that finds glyphosate-based herbicide induces necrosis and apoptosis in mature rat testicular cells in vitro, and testosterone decrease at lower levels. (Maybe you can ignore this too. It’s from the NIH…those dummies.)

-A whole mess of peer-reviewed links and studies about the grand genocidal failure that is glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup, which is sucked up by your GMO corn, soybeans, cotton, etcetera and then ingested by you. Lucky you!)

You even manage to get it wrong about organic yields versus conventional (ouch). “Yield is not the same as efficiency” and “Producing more grain is not the same as feeding the world.”

To speak to your assertion that (I’m paraphrasing) we’re “affluent narcissists,” know this:  Organic farmers like me gladly sell our products to restaurants and grocery stores. We have to make a living, too. The slightly higher prices offset the admittedly higher labor hours needed to not poison ourselves, our customers, and the planet. Spraying Roundup is easy. Mulching and hoeing in the hot Texas sun on this little patch of organic acreage is way freaking harder. But we find it worth the extra work to not develop tumors, disease, genetic defects, or the sense that we’re above it all, out here in the actual dirt…You know, where food comes from.

Here’s something you probably didn’t know either (maybe because to know would have required you read or do research, or even listen to someone who isn’t just hanging out with you at expensive restaurants where you all laugh about the “little people” and how we’re better off eating chemicals and mutated genetic calories):

There’s an important piece of legislation on the table in California called Proposition 37. It’s an initiative that would mandate the labeling of GMOs in food. Information that we “pampered parts of the planet” want, I guess because we’re elitists. If BigFarm, BigAgra, and the chemical consortiums are so proud of their products, it follows that they should slather their names on the grocery store packaging. Yes, please!

Know what the rest of the world does with GMOs? THEY LABEL THEM or ban them outright. Do you even know who the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods is? It’s Michael Taylor, former lobbyist and executive at Monsanto.

Perhaps you can understand my frustration now. Maybe you can comprehend now how maddening it is to back an underdog like the “Just Label It” initiative, who has a relatively tiny budget to pit against $40 million dollars from Big Agra. Know where they could have put that money, while they’re crying, “It would just be too expensive to label!” That’s right: Labeling.

A hit piece like yours based on nothing but your personal bias against something a whole bunch of us are well-educated about and fighting for just makes you look and sound stupid. Please either shut up or wake up.

You’re cordially invited to come down to Texas and meet a real farmer, who can teach you a thing or two thousand about what GMO really means. To you, me, and the planet.

Donna DeViney
Soilent Greens

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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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Oh, GMO…

I cruise around the Internet all the time, as I’m sure you all do. Sometimes my occasional sidetracks take me to “alternative media” sources which y’all might not have seen yet, including a few I’ll focus on today while discussing another disgusting facet of the GMO industry: The incestuous relationship between GMO manufacturers and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Why you should care: Watch this video where another little kid explains the dangers of GMOs.

(I found this video a few months ago, and I can’t stop watching. If I wasn’t already certain he has AWESOME parents, I’d adopt him myself. He’s dreamy.) Maybe go check out Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, who is referenced in the video. He and Dr. Vandana Shiva are vocal proponents of sustainable agriculture, and big heroes of mine.

Watch The World According to Monsanto, if you’ve not already seen it. Tell your friends. It’s free. It’s important.

In my blog pieces, “Sustainability vs. Monsatan” and “Monsatan Lovers,” with videos and links to information about the scientifically-proven dangers of genetically modified organisms and their adjunct products, and the wholly evil business practices of their manufacturers*, I attempt to give a glimpse of the reality of GMOs in our food and agriculture systems. On sites like Seeds of Deception, they’re doing much more comprehensive work than I could ever attempt, and there’s a “Summary and Debate” page with 65 Health Risks of GM Foods. I already know a lot about this topic, but lately it’s like falling down a rabbit hole of more and more horrifying information.

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You might ask, “Who regulates GMOs in the United States? The answer is “nobody.” Click the link to read an awesome article that articulates the problem of GMOs running amok in America. If you don’t believe her, Google “how are gmos regulated in the usa?” And click any link.

Monsanto promises they’ll do research on their products and present the US governmental agencies with the results. The US government then says “Yea” or “Nay” based upon their “unbiased scientific review.” It’s essentially a system of mutual trust. Which is hilarious (if it weren’t so sickening).

“…Monsanto claims that its injection of foreign DNA into its GM crops is also automatically safe because, get this, DNA is present in natural crops as well. Never mind that the injected DNA is foreign and unnatural, and is used to alter the entire genetic structure of GM crops — according to Monsanto, its unnatural DNA is automatically non-toxic because every other plant also has DNA. Case closed.” Which is patently absurd to a normal, thinking human being. But apparently our government agencies are not manned by those types.

The Senate’s Agriculture and Water & Rural Economic Development committee chair, Democratic Sen. Brian Hatfield, and two Republicans, Sens. Jim Honeyford and Mark Schoesler, have all taken money from Monsanto, reports the Organic Consumers Assn.”

“Committee Chair Hatfield denies taking campaign cash from Monsanto, saying the Organic Consumers Fund is making ‘wild claims,’ even though anyone can see the public record of these contributions by entering ‘Monsanto’” at this search link in the Contributor Name box.

“…why do the GMO giants seem to be ever-growing and encroaching on more and more farms and foods?  Through bullying, lobbying, and putting key figures into key positions of government. That’s how.”

Know who’s guarding the hen house? Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for the FDA. Why does that matter? He’s also a former lobbyist and vice president for Public Policy at Monsanto. This year alone, Monsanto spent over $6 million in lobbying dollars to keep their GMO madness safe from testing, regulation, and labeling by the US. Think that money’s going to orphans for kittens at Christmas time? Me either.

HOW DO WE FIGHT THIS BULLSHIT???

Sign Petitions:

Eat local and organic meat and produce. Buy from your local farmers’ markets. Buy heirloom and/or organic seeds and grow your own. Write your congressmen and women and demand GMO labeling, like every other major country already has. Join the sites above and get updated information through Twitter or Facebook. Watch the movie linked above.

I’m not exaggerating when I say these people are monsters.

*Topic for a whoooole other rant.

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In Between…

I never intended for this blog to be about the evils of GMOs, but more and more I’m inclined to devote at least a portion of my time (for now) to the subject. However, this post is about the farm and animals and gardens; GMOs will come later today.

Southern carnage ensues

This past weekend we made a road trip to Houston for a nephew’s first birthday party, where the fiance was the chef d’jour. He made vegetarian biryani, jambalaya, and laid out six or seven big batches of a crawdad boil. If you’re not from the southern United States, you might not know about this practice. It’s a Louisiana-based traditional meal, where crawdads (i.e., crayfish, crawfish, mudbugs) are thrown live into a gigantic pot of boiling water that contains super-hot spices, potatoes, corn, onions, garlic, and any host of other vegetables. The resultant soup is then strewn over a paper-covered table, and otherwise civilized people fall on it like it’s made of cocaine and birthday wishes. It’s full on carnage, elbowing your way to the next bit of crawdad or tidbit of artichoke. No plates, no forks, few napkins. Sucking the head of the crawdad is the favorite part of the feast. People put extra Zatarains on their food and walk away from the table saying things like, “I can’t feel my mouth.” (No, I don’t eat crawdads. That shit’s nasty. Heh.)

The part that’s farm-/animal-related is that Ursa the Puppy got her first pickup truck ride, got her first time in a city, got her first time meeting a big group of people, and got her first time hanging with another dog. She was a rock star! She dug being in the breeze; she was great getting in and out for potty breaks; she drank water from a cup; she charmed strangers. She still jumps up on people when she’s excited, and with her little razor-like baby claws, it’s a problem. But I’m still working with her and she’s getting better on the leash every day. Thank God, because before this weekend, when she seemed to have matured a little bit, every day was potentially a fresh new hell of scratches on my arms from the errant jump or three.

*sigh*

I’ll have time to blog twice today because the farm is under water again. Last Friday we were SUPER INDUSTRIOUS (chef was on spring break) and we got in all the seedlings and the majority of direct-sow seeds into the big garden and potager. I figure between the two, we’ve got a third of an acre planted, which is awesome. But not so awesome is the torrential downpour that happened last night and this morning, which considering how high the water table is already, might just drown the entire lot. We’ll just have to wait and see.  I’m a little scared about losing the crops. (Okay, a lot scared.) The high winds compromised the greenhouse structure again, and we’re going to have to get more tie-downs on that thing and multiply zip-tie it to the fence if we have any chance of saving it.

On a happier note, the animals are all doing great, we’re doing great, and we’re well underway with the wedding plans. I can’t wait to see our family and friends. It’s been way too long.

Here’s a bonus shot I like to call “Porch Hobos.”

Nice sack, Ranger. Next month, Mr. Snip-Snip!

If you haven’t seen this before, please allow me to share the text of a fundraising drive we’re having via a site called “GoFundMe.” Here is the text of our “About” page. If you can donate $ or a link, we could sure use the help. Maybe someone you forward it to or share with would like to be an angel investor in our goal to donate food this summer. Any little bit helps, and thank you for reading.

We bought an old farmhouse and four acres in Caldwell, TX in February of 2012, with dreams of starting an organic farm and microgreens/exotic vegetables business called Soilent Greens. We had moved into the house in November of 2011 as renters, and realized that 80 year old farmhouses need some love. That “love” turned out to be a) fixing a leaky roof; b) heating it through the winter (one only, until we get a wood-burning stove); and, c) repairing several plumbing and electrical issues. All of these issues of course came about after we closed on the house, as-is.

We used all of our Soilent Greens start-up money and most of the garden money to fix/maintain the house, all right before spring planting time. We can’t move forward until we somehow get funding. The following plan gives us six months-worth of operating expenses; we hope to be self-sufficient well before that.

  •  Seeds: 450
  • Trays: 100
  • Grow medium: 300
  • Nutrients: 200
  • Misting system: 200
  • Clamshell shipping containers: 150
  • Labels: 100
  • Boxes: 200
  • Blue Ice: 200
  • Licensing: 300

The dream here isn’t all that spendy, but it’s grand. We want to sell what we can, use what we can, and donate the remainder to Brazos Valley Food Bank. We want to work with the community and teach school kids how easy it is to grow your own food. We plan to work with our local CSA to sell our goods and spread the sustainability word. We have restaurant contacts to make a little return on the Soilent Greens concept.

The 7500 sf garden has been tilled and there’s an 11×22′ kitchen garden for us by the house. That’s a LOT of growing room. Plus, we have a greenhouse in place, awaiting Soilent Greens “seed” money.

If you can find it in your heart to help us with our dream, we’d be eternally grateful, including sending you greens and vegetables, and inviting you to come stay at the farm for a weekend, helping us feed the chickens and geese, and maybe wrangling a goat or three.

Even if you can’t send money, good vibes are sincerely welcome as well. Thank you!

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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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The Thorn in My Side…

Musk thistle, Sow thistle, Bull thistle, Variegated thistle, Prickly lettuce. They are the bane of my garden/yard existence. Remember my post where I referred to these offenders as the bristles in Satan’s asshole? I’m still going to call all of them that as a whole, but since I went and dug about a hundred of them out of our new big garden (pre-tiller) yesterday, I discovered that there is a FASCINATING ARRAY of them. (/end sarcasm font.) Behold the splendor of everything spiny:

Musk thistle a/k/a Musky asshole

Sow thistle a/k/a Bitchface

Bull thistle a/k/a Douche thistle

Variegated thistle a/k/a Ed

Here's a random Google image showing a dude growing thistle on purpose. I call him, "Variegated Dummy."

They are extremely invasive. They are hurty to step on or touch. They want to eat my puppy. They yearn to own my gardens.  They blow up to 10,000 seeds if left unchecked. We even mowed the lawn, and guess what popped back up and flipped us the thistly bird, all over the yard?

Tomorrow, they’re headed for the burn pile, every single spiny jerkface thistle I can lay my gloved hands on.

Speaking of burning, here’s a Facebook entry from yesterday: “I just accidentally/on purpose nuked a scorpion in the microwave. See, I smooshed a little one with a paper towel, went to throw it away, it tried to strike at me, so I flung it in the open microwave. While it was in there, I hit *Start*. For one minute. It burst into flames at about the 43 second mark. And I laughed. Don’t worry, A! I cleaned it up!!”

That was glorious.

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USDA: Great Balls of…Balls

Watch this AWESOME video where the cutest little girl explains the difference between a real potato (organic) and a Franken-potato (Satanic). Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I’ll start with why the USDA Organics Program is not a bad thing (sometimes).  It gives us a system by which we consumers may recognize products that are raised within strict organic guidelines. It allows us to make informed decisions when we’re at the grocery store and sometimes the farmers’ markets, being able to readily see the familiar green and white logo. In a nutshell, it guarantees that producers follow strict guidelines regarding production that uses neither chemical fertilizers or herbicides. In fact, I’m quite familiar with ALL the regulations and requirements to receive this vaunted seal of approval, and one of the coolest ones is that if you start an organic concern, you have to wait for three years for the USDA to even consider your land as free from chemical amendments.  You have to prove that no adjacent land has chemicals or GMOs drifting over to sully your crops; you have to prove that your seed and amendments are organically-sourced; you have to prove that your water supply is clean and that there is a sufficient barrier between your home (where you might use chemicals) and your grow-op.  All of this makes sense to me, even the reams of paperwork and visits from the USDA.  If you want the government’s seal of approval.

I thought I did. In fact, all of our farming plans and efforts to date have been strictly adherent to their guidelines, even before we applied. It’s a VERY cool thing to have on your product if you plan on selling, which we do.  Here’s the rub: The USDA overall is balls. It is an invasive, big brother, bloated governmental clown circus which is only out for the dollar and is used as yet another yoke around the neck of the small farmer. It is used to bully the consumer, whether child or adult. It is another instance of the government being too big, too invasive, too invested in stealing Constitutionally-granted freedoms rather than servicing the public, for which is was originally intended.

I’m going to give you a few salient examples of the Gestapo-like powers that the USDA has been given, and gleefully exercises.

2010-2012: There is a war on raw milk producers, farmers, and holistic medicine manufacturers. It doesn’t matter that the producers adhere to the letter of the law and FDA/USDA regulations regarding food safety. Here’s a breakdown from the fine folks at NaturalNews (I heart Health Ranger Mike):

“(NaturalNews) The US Food and Drug Administration has a long history of conducting armed, SWAT-style raids on farmers, cancer treatment pioneers and dietary supplement manufacturers. This list, compiled by the editors of NaturalNews, reveals only some of the hundreds of armed FDA raids that have been conducted in the last twenty-five years. (Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/033280_FDA_raids_timeline.html#ixzz1mecpUky9“) (He doesn’t mention the USDA in that blurb, but they’re in the piece.)

Some more of my recent favorites:

10/12/11: State health officials in Utah shut down a private farm-to-table event for allegedly violating USDA regulations. The event was licensed, and the chef adhered to every food safety protocol. The farm owners were forced to pour bleach over the offending meat and produce, in front of one weasly little piece of shit assistant to the inspector. In front of guests, friends and family.

2/2/12: A four year-old preschooler had her home-made lunch taken away and replaced with chicken nuggets that the parent had to pay for. The offending items? A turkey and cheese sandwich and a banana.

I can’t make this shit up.

Given the fact that we’re very much trying to live our lives and grow our crops and raise our animals in an organic, sustainable fashion, and we’re endeavoring to every day get a little further “off the grid,” why on EARTH would we subject ourselves to the power-junkie Nazis of the US government? I am not willing to surrender the sanctity of our private property to any branch of the government, especially one that has shown so little restraint, so little adherence to common sense and decency, and so much willingness to trample our rights and take our money.

I’ll pay the federal and state and local taxes. I’ll pay the licensing fees, where required. I’ll take the food safety courses, if mandated. I’ll adhere to organic practices and perform strict sanitation maintenance. I’ll package our goods with “Organically Grown and Harvested” labeling and provide print-outs of detailed information on our farm practices and sourcing to anyone who wants them. I’ll explain in person at farmers’ markets and CSAs and to our restaurant customers how we come by these organic offerings. I’ll offer tours of our facilities by our customers and potential customers, if asked.

But I won’t give these irresponsible douchepoodles one iota of permission to step on to my property. If they do, it’s “Welcome to the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.”

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Seed Time and Anal Retention

I just happened to glance over at my work table (kitty-corner from the computer desk) and noticed this lovely vignette.  It’s a snapshot of part of my life here during the winter build-up to planting and greenhouse production. (If you look too closely, you’ll see some things that might offend you if you have delicate sensibilities. Tough potatoes.)

The process is this (these are not my first gardens, btw): In October and November, you start losing your mind and thinking that spring will never come. To console yourself, you make sure all your seed catalog subscriptions are up to date and add half a dozen more because you can (dreaming is free).  Then they start coming in.  You get them into a a stack in a quiet place where you have lots of room to spread out (floor works best). You grab a notebook and pen, but that’s for later, because you’ve already become entranced by say, “Moon and Stars” watermelons on several catalog covers and you HAVE TO SEE what else is inside like three representative catalogs.  Then, you start circling items, turning down page corners, and yelling out to your partner, “Are six varieties of radish too many?”  Then, when you’ve culled through each catalog, you start your lists (in my case this year: one for Soilent Greens outdoor production and one for greenhouse microgreens; one for personal use, outdoor gardens).

This year I’m working from a graph paper design because my layout is new. And I’m making several lists, because I’m working with three grow-ops and several vendors.  But it didn’t start off this organized, oh no! Because my initial circling, page turn-downs, wish lists, and doodlefests put the price tag at over $3000.  That’s three zeros.  Not including ornamentals, fruit trees, berry bushes, or amendments. Did I mention we just bought an 80 year-old farmhouse? Turns out, it’s kind of a pricey proposition and we’re not exactly the Rothschilds. So I had to whittle my choices down to common sense proportions, meaning sure-fire organic seeds on varieties that we love, and the least expensive organic options on the Soilent Greens purchases.

That part is painful to my soul. (It’s almost as hard as culling seedlings, where you thin out the weak ones to give the strong ones a better chance.)  The part of myself that reveled in the Sears Toy Catalog every year as a child (turning down every page corner and making elaborate demands of Santa Claus), the part that wants everything right now, with icing, gets a little chapped that she can’t buy every item in every catalog.

So now the anal-retentive grownup sits at a lovely table with a view of the neighbors’ cows, and makes very sensible choices from a plethora of seed catalogs and sites.  I mean come on, I’m using a calculator, ruler, dedicated notebook, graphed garden plots, and the Farmers’ Almanac. I should get a grown-up discount from…life.

By the way, this seed catalog madness process from beginning to end takes about three months. Three months of revisiting the pile,  finding new items (how is that POSSIBLE) where you say, “Holy crapple, how did I miss *this* little gem?  This is definitely going on the list!!” and driving your partner batshit.

The seed deliveries and in-store purchases starts a whole new level of crazy. And I haven’t started with the Farmtek catalog. A’s going to need cocktails.

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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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So Excited!

Just ordered the first greenhouse for the business.  It’s 9’x10’x20′, big enough for 6 tables, which will hold the trays and grow medium and seeds for the microgreens!  While it’s not very big, it’ll be big enough to experiment and to start the small orders rolling out.  We’re going with a soil-less system that is fairly proprietary in nature (i.e., I thought it up first, bitches, so back off) and I need to get some of those components ordered as well.

Microgreens are amazing for many reasons, but one of the great ones is that most seeds mature in 12-14 days, making order fulfillment super easy.  I’ll be rotating the propagation cycles so there’s always something coming up ready, and using the floors for our own seedlings which will go in the potager or big garden.

Some of the micros!

  • Lemon, licorice and lime basil
  • Radish
  • Chives
  • Pea tendrils
  • Carrot tops
  • Popcorn shoots
  • Onionette

Some of the exotics and edible flowers:

  • Szechuan Buttons
  • Chamomile
  • Mustard flowers
  • Miner’s lettuce
  • Buddha’s Hand (fingered citron)
  • Cucamelon
  • Watermelon radish

I’m also excited because I’ve found a local resource for tilling in the big garden (thank you, Craigslist!) with my HUGE order of compost that’s coming in Friday.  Planting is starting super-soon here in south Texas and I’m already behind on some things, like ordering my potato fingerlings and garlic starts!  I use this site a lot for planning: OrganicGardening.com (That’s a link to the zone-by-zone to-do list for February).

OTHER EXCITING NEWS is that my bestie and her husband are coming for a visit from the Hill Country this weekend, and we’re going on a chicken-buying spree!  I talked to the coolest (to me) lady yesterday for about half an hour, and picked her brain and giggled and was way too excited about chickens.  She’s got 2000 birds on her homestead and is starting her regular sale in two weeks, but she agreed to let us come by this weekend and get a jump-start, because we already have the hard structure in place (and I might have sounded like my head would explode if I don’t get my hands on some chickens soon).

So! I’m thinking we paint the “Friendship Chickens Unincorporated” sign while listening to loud punk rock, buy some hens, buy some feed, love on some chickens and maybe look at a few donkeys! In my life, that’s probably the most exciting weekend I could possibly imagine, unless Queens of the Stone Age came over and helped me weed the garden and I fed them carnitas.

Right now, I’ve got to go find my old Siamese cat, who’s been outside way too long. He probably thinks a super-shitty attitude will save him from coyotes.

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Soilent Greens, Plus, Plus

My partner and I are inextricably bound to the sustainability/homesteading way of life. It’s in our DNA. We both feel strongly that the mainstream “American way of life” is not sustainable, that looking out for your own is the only way to go, and preparing for the worst while enjoying the here and now is what wakes us up in the morning, and keeps us going through each day. It’s only since we both got into our 40’s that we were able to make the dreams a reality.

Soilent Greens is the name of our business.  We will be producing microgreens (in greenhouses) and exotic vegetables and edible flowers for high end restaurants in the Brazos Valley. Through A’s profession, we already have sales relationships in place, and an awesome resource in Texas A&M.  Organic certification by the USDA is planned to start in April or May, and we have software to purchase for record-keeping and fees to pay for registration with the County, State and Federal authorities. We’re looking into our CSA options, and will be donating excess to the Brazos Valley Food Bank. We’re working with some students at Texas A&M with irrigation, greenhouses, organic options and sourcing.

A large portion of the outdoor gardens and all of the potager will be given over to production for us, and this summer, fall and winter will be a learning process on how to freeze-dry, can, preserve, cure, and freeze.  We would very much like to have goats soon for milk, which will throw in the learning mix how to milk, make cheese and soap (and of course, how to take care of goats). We’re also planning on a rescue donkey (because my BFF wants one and because they’re AWESOME guard animals against coyotes, which seem to be really fond of our farm…assholes), and ten or so geese (for a business yet to be announced).

We started years ago by buying our produce and meat local and organic whenever possible, and by researching/planning planning planning our own organic concern so when the time was right, we’d be in place to start immediately.

That time is now, and we’re ready.  I have had a cache of organic seeds since September.  While limited, it was a reasonably-sized variety of plants that we really wanted to start with immediately.  We purchased an in-home greenhouse in December (right after we moved into the farmhouse) and while it was probably too early to start the seedlings, I did it anyway (because I occasionally exhibit low impulse control).  Based on previous experience with this type of greenhouse, we’ve had fantastic success with germination.  Since it’s Texas, we’ve built a cold-frame and will be moving the bulk of the babies outside beginning next week.  If I get a freeze warning, I’ll move them back in, but I think we’ll be okay.

We have a potager (or kitchen garden) right outside our side door, measuring 21’x24′. It will house tomatoes, beans, a hot pepper garden, an allium garden, and an extensive selection of herbs in four rectangles.  The larger back garden (50’x75′) has been planned for 1/3 devotion to us and 2/3 to the business.

SO! Busiest spring ever:

February:

  • Harden off seedlings outside in cold-frame
  • Order chicks/raise chicks
  • Order microgreens seeds
  • Purchase all microgreens equipment/set up
  • Cultivate first round of microgreens (harvest starting Day 12)
  • Finalize logo/packaging
  • Firm up sales relationships
  • Establish shipping relationships

March:

  • Raise chicks
  • Harden off seedlings in cold-frame (round 2)
  • Roto-till cardboard and compost in potager

    Potager start: Lasagne layering (4 rectangles with 2' walkways)

  • Plant seedlings
  • Register business/Get tax license
  • Harvest first greens – SELL
  • Roto-till big garden
  • Plant seedlings
  • Finalize CSA arrangements
  • Get goose pasture ready
  • Order Talouse geese (10)

April:

  • Put chicks in chicken yard
  • Raise goslings in brooder
  • Get USDA out to farm; start certification process
  • Continue greenhouse production
  • SELL
  • Take care of all gardens

May:

  • Raise goslings
  • Continue greenhouse production
  • SELL
  • Take care of all gardens
  • GET MARRIED!!!

The beauty part of all of this? I ain’t scared.  At all.  I’m excited that I learn new things every day, even if they’re not pleasant.  I’m hands-on, every single day.  I tear shit down, I build shit up, I take care of plants, animals and my partner.  I’ve got a firm plan in place and am meeting my goals, every day. If things get too hairy, we have plans to hire me some part-time help.  Also, the plans involve making as much of this process as possible automated with timers for watering, irrigation already in place for plants and animals, and a shotgun at the ready.  And, since it’s Texas, we’re planning on suspending greenhouse microgreens production for June, July and August.  Delicate plants just can’t make it in that weather (even in a greenhouse), and I might die.  We’re sincerely trying to avoid especially the latter.

By the time we have the wedding here, the gardens will be in place and there will be animals galore.  The trees will be greened out and there will be flowers.  The pool will be up and running.

I’ll be exhausted and happy. And married. And a “real” farmer.

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