Monday, August 18, 2014

Black Walnuts

We have been having weather that feels like fall, despite it just being mid August, which is typically the hottest part of our summers.  The nights have been cool and the air has been dry.  The edges of the leaves on the plants in the garden seem tired and are starting to yellow.  The nuts are starting to drop from the black walnut trees.

I have vowed that I would start picking up the nuts and try to get them husked and shelled and make an attempt to sell the nut meats.  It would be a little money anyway and every little bit helps.  I was watching a video on youtube and a guy was talking about the versatility of the black walnut and he said the husk could be used as a cloth dye and also as an insecticide.  He didn't give any details, just mentioned it in passing.  I will need to do some research and see what else I can come up with.

 I have a lot of black walnut trees and I need to find things to do with them.  It is my ready made crop.  so once again, getting an evaporator built to make black walnut syrup will become a priority this winter.  Next week I will start collecting nuts and we will have to see what all I can figure out to do with this tree.  Hopefully a lot


Neither Here Nor There

This last week Mac went back to school.  It was teacher prep week and no kids.  He was able to leave early and we didn't have any absolute schedule.  It stopped being summer for us but it wasn't quite the school year either.  That attitude corrupted  the rest of my existence as well.  I kind of worked at stuff... but not really.

It did not help that once again I managed to get into some poison ivy.  I did it up pretty well this time.  I think I must of gotten sprayed with the noxious weed as I mowed over a patch of the stuff.  It went all over as I tend to wear loose clothes while mowing.  I am covered in rash on my neck, part of my face, ears, arms, midriff and even my back.  It is miserable.  This is the third time round this summer and I have to say I am tired of it.  In a moment of itchy misery I told Mac it was time to make a change.  Because of my Reactive Airway Disease I cannot use a spray and I wouldn't want to anyway as sprays tend to not discriminate about what plants to kill.  So, I told him it was time for a goat.  I told him I don't want a nanny so there wouldn't be any temptation to breed her and I don't want a billy, but a wether would be perfect.  Preferably a dwarf breed so he could be fifty percent pet to the grand kids and fifty percent poison ivy terminator. ... and he wouldn't eat much.

I checked out the local exchange paper and there were no small livestock auctions coming up.  I'll keep checking but for once I feel like I'm a little bit prepared.  We have the new coop and it is about time for the last hens to get moved in with the quickly growing chicks and their nanny hen.  The old coop will work fine for a small goat..

The decision is made, we just have to get on with it.  Just another instance of being neither here nor there and just feeling like I'm in a state of limbo.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Home Made Rat Poison

There was a construction event on the highway close to our home this summer.  They dug down and made the roadbed deeper, so there was a lot of displaced dirt.  They must have made a deal with the land owners to the north of us.  Bulldozers went onto the land and recut the crooked little drainage ditch.  then that removed all of the top soil, set it back.  They brought in the clay from the road bed and shaped it.  The project is done now and the construction company has moved all of it's equipment away.  It is a gorgeous job.  Now it just needs erosion control before it is all washed away into a giant silt pool.

Unfortunately, all of the earthwork displaced some rats from the little creek.  My chicken coop seemed to be a good  all you can eat buffet for them.  I tried to get in the habit of putting out enough food for the day for the chickens but this just encouraged them to spread out to the garden right behind the house.  Time to take action.  I had read in several sources that rats could not process calcium and that it could wipe out an entire rat colony.  That's good information but they never gave any instructions on how to get the calcium into the rats.

Then one perfect night as I closed the girls up in their coop, I petted the hen that always nested by the door, gave the hanging feeder a shake to see how much feed was leftover, when  a rat scurried out of the coop, across my foot and into a burrow under the fence.  I was wearing flip flops that night and could feel the brush of fur and tiny rodent toenails.  It totally creeped me out and I jumped about a foot into the air.  Though I am proud to say that I did NOT pee myself.  Hooray!  But it was the push I needed to go ahead and try out making my own rat poison.

Step one was to go and buy a bottle of Oyster Shell Calcium.  I chose that one as I believe from what I have read that it is the hardest to digest and least absorbed.  Then I popped a hand full of them into a plastic bag and gently smashed them into powder.  Then I stirred it all into a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter.  Then I shaped it into balls.  Sometimes I rolled them in oatmeal just to make it easier to handle.  Then I would toss some down all of the burrows.  It worked!  I found one ratty corpse but typically they died in the burrows and I was aware of them only because of the fly infestation.

What made me feel  better about the process is that though I had to cause the demise of the little furballs, at least I used a poison that would not kill any other creature that might feed off the dead rat.  I was especially worried about any of my lovely owls.  So that was it.  It's done and sorted.


Sunday, August 3, 2014


There are few things that dampen my disposition.  But I have to admit that the two that do are weather and finances.  There are things you can do about both, but in truth, you can't control either.  You can mitigate, but you can't control.

I can go into details but I'm sure you know what I mean.  All it takes is a lay off or a broken down automobile and a family's finances can be thrown totally off track, never mind the effects of a disease or recession.

But today my attitude is pretty good.  The truck is paid off.... finally!  This spring we went through rain storms and deluges.  Then the last three weeks there hasn't been a drop of rain.  Every thing was drying up.  The ground was cracking.  Then this morning we had a nice little shower.  Not enough but it made everything look brighter, more alive.  All of the tired looking squash blossoms opened up and tipped to the sky.  The grass looks greener.  The sky is bluer.  You have to have a good attitude on a morning like this.  You just have to.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Of Teeth and Dollars

It's always just amazing to me that things that get a person down have to come in groups.  It isn't enough that a cloud should rain on your parade, but it has to turn into a monsoon season.  Yes, I feel like I have been flushed.

Bad enough, that my hay guy sold me manure that apparently had zero potency.  Bad enough he tacked on a charge that was not discussed or agreed to for harrowing, but now he has also added a forty dollar charge to drive his tractor to my place and a five dollar charge per bale to haul them off.  It seem that I will make no money this year.  I also had counted my chickens before they had hatched.  In my optimistic mindset I had pretend spent the money.  In the dark recesses of my mind, I had paid my Parelli dues, bought fence posts, fence wire and, in general, made my world a brighter place.

Let's add to the mayhem.....

Mac has had a lot of chemo and radiation.  He has had a good deal of oral wounds from the graft vs. host after the transplant.  Severe dry mouth which also is not healthy.  Not to mention enough nausea that even brushing his teeth posed problems some days.  Now he is reaping the results.  His teeth are literally falling out.  Another one dropped out of his head yesterday.  This makes the fourth one.  He is depressed.  We haven't the money to fix it.

The horse clinic that I volunteer at has changed locations this year.  It may be too far away for me to attend..  Depressing because this is where I went each year to recharge my batteries.  Renew my vigor.

Don't know what to do today.   I need to get my problem solving skills working.  Do something!!  I don't know what, but I know that standing still terrifies me.  If you stand still, you'll just get sucked backwards.  Gotta keep moving.


Saturday, July 26, 2014


God knows that everyone has their days when nothing goes right.... when things just don't meet expectations, so when you get those successful moments, it's worth sitting back and savoring.  That's me this morning.  While technically the chicken coop is not finished on the outside, it is finished on the inside.  The nesting box is in.  Two sets of perches are installed.  And yesterday we took the chicks out to the new coop and installed them too.

They are beautiful little things.  As their feathers are starting you can see the development of their pattern.  They are brown and they are getting white patches under their wings and dots along their wing feathers.  Tail feathers are just now starting to sprout so we have yet to see how they will turn out.

I was torn between running to town and buying more extension cords to reach the coop so I could install the heat lamp for the chicks.  Frankly they have not been needing it in the house as our summer temperatures spiked and it was more then warm enough, but I was worried about the overnight drop in temperatures out in the coop.  The other option was to get my terminally broody hen out of the other small coop and put her in with the chicks and see if she would turn into their mother.  I opted for the latter as it required no money.

From what I have read, general chicken wisdom dictates that you move them at night, while they are asleep and they just wake up in their new situation and think that it is all normal.  I kind of wanted to do it that way, but was worried that she would wake up early and not like the new normal and peck, possibly kill the chicks.  I decided to amend procedure.  I moved her at dusk when the girls were just settling in for the night.  She was a bit upset over leaving the clutch of eggs she had been stealing from the other hens, but luckily we have a good relationship.  I cuddled her up and grabbed some extra feed and headed to the new coop.

The chicks, still not used to their new surroundings, let out with a chorus of concerned cheeping as we came in the door.  The hen perked up immediately.  In the dim light I could just barely make out where the chicks had decided to nest up for the night.  I grabbed a couple of handfuls of hay and built a quick nest next to the chicks and set the hen down.  There was much more concerned cheeping.  She responded with a noise I hadn't heard her make before.  It came from deep in her throat and sounded like a cross between a cluck and a gulp.  Apparently it meant something to the chicks.  They settled down.  Then they chirped a little and she would again respond with her gulping noise.  Then she started preening, something I hadn't seen her do in the month and a half she has been brooding.  After some additional fluffing she arched her wings and waited for them to scurry under.  They had no idea what she was offering, but it seemed like a good place to leave them for the night.

Chores are done this morning.  It was exciting to get to the coop and see how everybody made it through the night.  It was toasty warm and smelled of fresh straw.  The chicks were awake and taking advantage of all of their new space.  They had spread out everywhere.  Some were hiding behind the cross brace by the door.  Some were in a line in the deep hay  bed under the nesting boxes.  Some were sitting in a row on top of the feeder and some were encompassing the hen, who was all fluffed up and warning me to be careful of her chicks.  I changed out their water and stood for awhile and watched them all.  It was a moment of perfect contentment.  Happy me.  Happy hen.  Happy chicks.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Ideas and Efforts

It's been a busy week.  We have the chicken coop pretty much finished.  The roof is still tar paper.  shingles might take a back seat for a little while.  the sides are wrapped with Tyvek and we are still trying to figure out the best way to side the coop.  Yesterday we started with the interior "appointments".  The large nest box has been installed and I have yet to get any perches in.  It took me a day and a half to get in the little chicken door, the window and the larger person door.  I get a little frustrated at how slowly I seem to work.  I keep telling my broody hen...."Maybe today.  Maybe I will get you into the nice nest box today."  I am hoping that the change of scenery will bring her out of her broodiness.  She seems such a miserable, introverted soul right now.  Squatting there in the hay with a dull look in her eye.

On the other hand there are the chicks.  They are happy and healthy.  Very active and they have figured out that there is something attached to the hand that descends from the sky bringing water and crumbles and grass to kick around.  Now they stand and watch.  Tilt their wee heads to the side and give me a chicken style stare.  Today when I fed them I noticed they had started sprouting their tail feathers.  A reminder that I need to get them out of the house soon.

We now have a solid roof on the greenhouse.  I know that seems illogical.  We considered our weather conditions.  We have high winds.  We have brutal sun in the mid to late summer and I can't really afford to be replacing the plastic every six months as the result.  So we chose a solid roof.  We will put the Tyvek up on the ends.  I have one old window that I can fit into the center section of the back.  The rest of the back and front will get screened and will have a roll up cover.  This way we can go from greenhouse to shade house and hopefully be more practical and useful.  I need to get the tar paper up on that roof yet.

Then there is my hay situation.  It has been depressing me a bit lately.  I don't like being depressed.  So, it has left me thinking, what can I do to make this a catalyst for a positive outcome?  I am kicking around the idea of a kickstarter project.  I am formulating the ideas and the presentation.  I think I have it figured out.  My project is what it has always been... building soil.  But I haven't had much in the ways of tools or equipment.  I need to get the equipment.  When I have all of my ducks in a row, I shall post links here.  I suppose it is a situation of... when life gives you lemons, make a margarita.  In my case I shall be following up with manure tea.

I will leave you on that happy thought.