Monday, May 25, 2015

Progress on the Homestead!

We've made a bit of progress towards getting the spring work caught up, but we didn't get competely there.

Friday evening:
A valiant attempt to come home from the day job early fell flat, but it was a beautiful evening even if it started late.  Friday is usually date night but De and I had several mini-dates through the week, and decided we'd had enough of eating out for the week.

The evening was spent getting some 2' tall chicken wire in place along the bottom of the woven wire cattle fence between us and the neighbor.  Some of the girls have been squeezing through the weave and roaming around the neighbor's yard.  They are wonderful neighbors (He's a cousin) and really don't care if the birds are there or not, but they have a relatively new young dog who is still very "puppy" and are not sure she is "chicken safe" yet.  Before I got home, one of the Red Stars had gotten stuck in the in fence and managed to rub off a patch of feathers under her wing, putting up a noisy fuss the whole time.  De and K (the neighbor lady) came to the aid of our avian damsel in distress.  Then somewhere along the line the puppy apparently got worked up with the chicken squawking and K's grandkids yelling, and took an obligatory nip at the bird.  We think she broke the skin, but there wasn't much damage.  De and K freed the bird, sprayed some Blu-Kote on her injuries, and held on to her until things quieted down.  The bird seems to be just fine, and K the neighbor is recovering nicely.  She felt so bad for the bird, we got texts over the weekend asked how the bird was doing.  In any case, we had the chicken wire and we got down to doing the job.

Saturday AM we cleaned out some more garden beds along with pitching the coop and starting another compost pile.  It was kind of one of 'those' mornings.  I had hoped to do a bit more mowing but the  tractor had a charging system warning light on and needed some 'love' it wasn't going to get that day.  I needed to do some tilling, but the tiller had a flat and I could not for the life of me find the tire inflation attachment for the compressor (I now have three and a desire to find a manual pump) so that section of the garden got worked up with the hoe.

Saturday afternoon we went into town to pick up chicken feed, a bale of pine shavings, and garden plants.  Sadly, late May is early for us to get the plants in.  Usually it's mid-June and finding just the varieties we want can be challenging, so we often settle for "that ought to be fine".  The good news is, at least this year, the other folks in the county are worse slackers than I am and we got all the varieties of all the plants we wanted.  We came home and got the plants in their newly 'made' beds, and also the opportunity to feel every last muscle we had that evening and the next morning.

That means we have in the ground:
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Egg Plant
  • Brocholli
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Green Beans
  • Strawberries
  • A bunch of herbs
To go are:
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beets
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow summer squash
  • Stripetti Squash
  • Butternut Squash
  • Cantelope
  • Maybe kale

Never seem to have a problem getting a team to fall out for bed clearing duty!!

Our first year for sweet potatoes.  We haven't a clue what we're doing.  Six starts (slips? plants?) in the ground.

Getting the tomatoes in!

The 'ol man taking a "breather"

An 'off' day spent worshiping in the morning and enjoying time with family.  No garden work got done, but we're both ok with that.  Family time is great and we need a day to 'heal' anyway.

Monday (today):
The tractor got fixed, the tiller got fixed, we got a few more seeds it the ground, and some of the garden tilled up before we got rained out.  We used the day to go a local Amish/Mennonite dry goods (and cheese and some produce) store where we stocked up on some need grocery items.  Then we went to an Amish/Mennonite hardware store and picked up a combined Mother's Day/ Father's Day gift to each other.  We bought a 'hand powered' reel mower.  Not real as is 'actually exists' (or the 'real' apposed to 'imaginary' for all you math and science folks).  Reel as in the blades are curved reel instead of flat.  We wanted something to mow a bit of the lawn near the house without having deal with a pull starting push mower or the tractor with the 60" deck.  Odd I know, but its a wonderful thing and we love it!

De with out new "Power Tool" - People power,  that is!

In other homestead news, Houdini (our escape artist) the Easter Egger has gone broody!  We're letting her set on three eggs, one of hers and two Red Star eggs, and will see how it all works out.  We haven't had a chance to candle them yet.  We see Fred (yes - he's still among the living) doing his rooster thing with the Red Stars and Orps, but not so much with the Easter Eggers.  I'm scrambling to get something around for her to hatch her eggs out in, since the nesting boxes sit about 18 inches off the floor of the coop.

Houdini all puffed out and doing the Mother Hen thing

With all the garden work and shopping and all, I still took a few quiet moments to remember friends from the Corps who never made it home, and all those gave all for the country and the rest of us who stood shoulder to shoulder with them.  Semper Fi, my Brothers and Sisters, from all branches!!

All in all it was a good weekend.  I'm looking forward to the time when the homestead can be my full time endeavor.

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Not gettin' it all done!

It's like this every year, but I just never get used to it.  I never get all (or most, or a respectable "also ran" amount) of the spring work done in the spring when it needs to be done.  This year is no exception, but some reason I feel worse about this year than most.

There are some excuses, which I'll share with you, but excuses or not there's a lot of work to do to get caught up with the season.
  1. Busy at the day job: I am very blessed to have a day job I enjoy, that pays well, and will leave me with a reasonable retirement, barring the economic fizzledown we all worry about.  (Being a geezer in training, I'm old enough, and blessed enough to work for a company that still has a pension plan.)  That being said I work 9 1/2 to 10 hour days plus a 45-50 minute commute each way.  All that takes a big chunk out of the day.
  2. Friday evening is date night where De and I usually go out, have dinner, and enjoy being a couple.  Takes an evening away from the homestead, but we're sure not giving that up.  
  3. Busy with the public service events.  Regular readers will know I run my county's Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).  In addition to training to provide disaster relief and emergency communications, we work a lot of public service events.  Most of them are benefit bike rides, runs, and that sort of thing that are spread out over large areas.  The organizers of those events like to run them in the spring when its not too hot and not too cold.  The result is that more that 1/2 of the Saturdays in April and May are committed to service events.  That takes a big chunk out of the weekends.  We just finished the last scheduled event for this spring yesterday.
  4. Lesson Planning for Church.  I teach classes at our Church about every other quarter.  I do my own lesson planning and generation rather than teach out of study guide one might buy at a Christian bookstore.  It makes for far better classes, but takes 3-4 hours per week, usually Saturday afternoon.  I've been on a spring and fall rotation lately.
  5. Haven't been the poster child for good health over the winter.  I'm much better now, but am still building up the endurance.
All that being said, it's not like nothing gets done.  The most important things get the attention they require - like the septic system in my last post - and everything else gets done later.  Usually.  Most of the time.  (Remember that 'later' is a relative term...)

Here's some of the good and the bad over the last few days:

Got the lawn mowed.  I've always considered the bulk of my lawn to be a pasture that doesn't have critters grazing on it yet, so it never looks pristine.  I do mow it though, and this week I got it done. We'll... most of it... part of it.... OK, maybe 20% of it... sorta.  I finally got the deck on the tractor this week but its slow going because the grass is a bit long.  Well... quite long...  Ok, at about 18 inches it's the envy of the friends who DO have critters on pasture.  I'll get it all done soon...  eventually... one day... yeah....
At least we can get around the coop, barn and gardens.
Some of the bad:  The garden still needs "a little work".  On the plus side, there are stinging nettles and dandelions that can be harvested for teas along the way.
Zyla the Dog finds a cool place amongst the beds to rest.

We did get a bit more of the garden planted this weekend!  Yes, yes... It was the lettuce, spinach, and strawberries that should have been in a month ago, but at least it's in.  Next weekend we should get the rest in.  And the lawn mowed...  And the trees worked up...  Yeah.....  (sigh....)
I have my usual crew of helpers as I work in some compost.

It was a bit of challenge, but De kept the "help" away as she planted.
If you look close, you can see the bird netting we put over the beds to keep the girls from scarfing down the seed

And we got out first harvest of the year!  De grabbed some rhubarb and made us a rhubarb-apple custard desert.  She is a most excellent cook, especially when she has fresh ingredients to work with.  It was great!

I had about given up on the rhubarb plot, but we got just enough let it go another year where it is now.

Strawberries in but... Um...  Still more work to do in the field stone rock garden, too.  Herbs mostly.

Finally, A couple of detail shots of the decorations in the strawberry bed. They were Mother's day gifts from Daughter#2 and the granddaughters, are made of materials meant for outdoor use.

From Heaven at 6 years old

Harmony at 4 years old

All in all,  we are making progress and still feel blessed that we have a homestead to care for.  More to come soon.  Sooner than last time....  I hope...  Yeah...

Col. 1:9-12,


Monday, May 4, 2015

Not Really What I Had In Mind

Saturday morning broke through sunny, clear and beautiful.  An absolutely perfect day for gardening!  Just cool enough a long sleeve shirt felt good until you started working, then the short sleeves under it were just right. 

I had big plans! Get the whole garden cleared (two open patches and all the beds), and get the peas in, and the potatoes, and the lettuce and the spinach, and get the tree I took down worked up, and get the mower deck on, and clean out the barn, and get my fruit trees in, and solve the baryon asymmetry problem (oh, just look it up if you really care), and get my tower up, and extend the mission life of the Hubble, and translate the entire Bible into Minoan - including concordance (once again, you know the drill - Google it if you don't get it.), weed the strawberry bed, and have another cup of coffee.  It was one of those mornings!  I was feeling about as good as I've felt since December and was going to make the best of it. 

Fred and 'the girls' being somewhat helpful..


I was well on my way to actually accomplishing two or three of the things on my list (not the baryon, Hubble, and Minoan bits) when I got a text from De: "Water Emergency". Getting a text like that is never good.  It's especially not good on a beautiful spring day, and hugely not good when you know that likely means there is water where it does not belong in disturbing quantities, which is just what I found. 

2 minutes later the water to the downstairs toilet is shut off.  2 hours later the water, which had made its leisurely and meandering way some 20 feet into the living room, was up,  the small rugs were out, and the hardwood floors were being dried by a big fan.  2 minutes later I discovered the toilet was NOT clogged.  2 hours later I had come to the conclusion I was going to be using my shovel for something other than dandelions in the potato patch.  2 minutes later I had resigned myself to the task.  2 hours later it was pretty much done.

Step One:  Locate and dig out the clean-out.  Unfortunately, it did me no good.
Step Two:  Start digging up the tank.  Fortunately, more than 1/2 of this was done with the tractor.
I'll spare you, gentle readers, the indelicacies of a detailed description of what I found when I got the lid off the septic tank, but I was able to get it all working again.  (That was an especially wonderful thing 'cause by then I REALLY needed a shower.)   I will say however, based on a messy bit of forensic evidence and a somewhat more tidy bit of speculation, Granddaughter #2 may be getting a bit more supervision in the bathroom.

I was about as whooped as when I took down that tree, but Sunday was another day and after Church and lunch, with a bit of help from son Adam and De, we did get the peas in, the onions in, and the potatoes in.
Son Adam being very helpful with the peas.  Pics of the hog panel trellis later.

'Girls' being decidedly unhelpful with the potatoes.  Thief!  Thief!  Get back here with that!
 All in all, while it really wasn't what I had in mind, I suppose I have to count it as a productive weekend.  The garden can wait just a bit longer, I'll manage to work around the stuff in the barn, we'll all just have to wonder about the baryon asymmetry thing, the chainsaw will still be there when I'm ready, the Minoans (if you can still find any) will have to hold on for a more worthy translator, the tower can sit on the ground right where its been for two years, the Hubble will have to just hang in there until the James Webb shows up in 2018, the strawberry bed isn't that bad, and it's too late in the evening for more coffee.    

And tomorrow is another day.

Col. 1:9-12,