Monday, December 17, 2012

It Keeps You Running

Life continues to throw stuff at me.  I'm not complaining.  This time around life threw me a new grandson.  Max Quilan Bascom.  He came early compared to his Dr. set due date but he was more then fully cooked.  Max was a very red baby.  He set a new standard for a nice glow in the dark red when he finally decided to cry.  Something he doesn't do much of.

I've also spent time at the neighbor's place.  We have been putting in fence.  He lost half of his land in a divorce and a dividing fence needs to be gotten in.  We figure one more good day and we will have it licked.  In the meantime, it seems that my own work is going wanting.  My time at home is being taken up by christmas preparation.  I don't seem to be making much headway though.  Nor am I feeling festive.  I just feel busy.

The weather has been consistently in the forties, which is very weird for winter weather in Iowa.  Because of this I will go ahead and plan on methods of drought gardening next summer.

Planning.  I'm very big on planning.  My kids like to plan, as well.  I have a daughter who wants me to get the little farm ready to sell.  She thinks we should be prepared for the worse and we should go ahead and get the little farm on the market.  Be proactive, she says.  I like being proactive.  I don't like giving up.  This is the life I have dreamt of for as long as I can remember.  It's too soon to let go.  Losing the farm.... I might as well go ahead and die myself.  The kids don't see that.  They think they are taking care of me.  That's not in my plan.

I am thinking of appealing for farm sponsorships.  I have to find a way for the farm to start paying.... and the sooner the better.  Because I just don't know what life is going to throw at me next.

Louie

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sorry, I've been away...

The latter half of November was far more eventful then I would ever like.  There was the usual stuff.  Deer have been thicker this year.  They have wiped out a number of trees.  They ran through the back pasture fence to get to the horse's salt lick.  So the back fence, which is electric, had no zap.  I got some quick repairs made to the front arrangement and moved the horses back up close to the house, which is where I would rather have them when it is hunting season.  Then there were issues with tracking down hay.  Neighbor saved me with one big bale.  The rest of winter remains uncertain.

But the real climax of the month was Mac managing to have not one, but two, heart attacks.  He is trying to get back to work.  Right now he is having a cold that seems to be the last straw for him.  I don't know if this will be the last school year that he can work.  I have spent a lot of time wondering if we will lose our home.

Then there was news that overshadowed everything..... well, maybe not the heart attacks, but it was close.  Last week while watching the PBS Newshour there was a lady being interviewed about global warming.  She said the predictions for the the amount of global warming were off.  The scientists had figured on an upward trend but not the accumulative effect.  She said it was possible that the polar ice caps could be gone by 2015-2020.  This would mean that many areas would be under water.  More extreme weather patterns.  Some areas would no longer be suitable for agriculture.  Oceanic die off due to rising temperatures.

I will continue to do my very best to take care of Mac, but I need to put my own problems on the back burner, because it is time to save the world.  If there is a concerted effort from the entire world, then we could be entering an era that is miraculous.  If people continue to be greedy, if people continue to be wasteful, if people continue to breed families too large to be able to find sufficient resources for, then we will be in for tragic times.  I will work for miraculous.  I will believe in miraculous.

Until the little farm is taken away from us, I will work to make it the best little farm that I can.  I will try to post additional resources so you can see where I am getting and evolving some of my ideas.  You can start here with Paul Wheaton's site.   www.permies.com   Specifically check out the hugel kultur link because there is going to be a lot of this going on here this next spring.


http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/80/2413#160695

I know I have mentioned this before, but please take a look.  It is the first segment of the BBC special titled "A Farm for the Future"  I don't have much streaming capability so I have to watch it in the ten minute segments.  Here's the first one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xShCEKL-mQ8

It's a start.  There will be more later... and it will be exciting.

Louie





Friday, November 16, 2012

A Couple of Things...

Two things that have changed recently.  First, I have gotten the horses moved back up to the pasture behind the house for the winter.  I hope it's for the winter anyway, cause dragging buckets of water out to the back pasture on a sled was a massive pain in my ass!  there are some concerns still with the front pasture.  I still need some type of shelter.  I have no idea why this is so hard to figure out.... but it is.  It became necessary to go ahead and move them when I found that a deer had gone through the back fence causing the electric fence to short out.  I have got the front fence with so many extra connections and jumps to additional areas that there doesn't seem to be a lot of juice running through it.   I REALLY hope the girls don't put it to the test!   More frustrations!  Will I ever overcome the fence dilemma?!!

Oh well, I am enjoying walking around the house and seeing their beautiful faces.  My first instinct is to make sure they are inside the fence instead of meandering around outside.  Then, I am filled with joy.

The other thing done is the chicken yard.  Woohoo!!!  It has been fun to watch them.  The extra space has brought out more chicken-y behavior.   I have now gotten to hear an egg song.  And the contented nest building song.  The "she's stealing eggs" warning and, also, the "Hey! there's food here" announcement.  I'm learning lots!

I wish I could say that I have also learned to overcome all of my fears with taking care of my animals.  I have not.  Maybe that's something that will happen next summer.  Maybe that should go on the to-do list now... fear eradication and possibly buying a chainsaw.

Louie

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

All kinds of stuff

My brains keep flitting over stuff.  Stuff that needs to get done.  Stuff I haven't worked on.  I should have worked on.... now winter is coming... now I am having panic attacks ....which keeps me from getting anything done.  So much stuff!!!

First I'll start with chicken stuff.  I spent some time building a four seater nesting box.  It did not look all that great, but I figured who cares?  The chickens won't complain, right?  I had measured the door on the wee coop and made sure that we could get in.  Spent an afternoon and part of the next morning knocking it together.  Then hauled it out to the coop.  Shoved it in there on it's side.  Then tried to tip it up into it's standing position.  Oops!  The center roof brace is in the way and after several attempts the nesting box is still not installed.  Best laid plans and all...

It occurred to me, after a fair amount of cussing, that I should have just gotten some five gallon buckets and cut them down.  I could slide them out of the way to get to the water and feeder and it would have just been so EASY!!!  With that in mind, I will walk around later and look for buckets, especially buckets that have gotten a crack in the bottom that can't do bucket duty anymore.

Today should hopefully (Please God!!) be a big day.  I have gotten some bird netting to help finish up my chicken yard.  The yard has the wee coop in it sitting on concrete blocks.  The structure is one of those cheap shade houses.  Just the frame, not the cover.  Put the cover on it and the wind will blow it into the next county, but so far with it standing as frame alone, we are doing okay.  Then the chicken wire went up.  I had two rolls.  The four foot tall roll went around the north side and the three foot roll went around the south.  It doesn't quite meet up so that is where I will install the door.  The bird mesh will go over the top today.... with luck.  That's the goal anyway.  Chicken yard door and bird mesh.

I also want to work on getting the horses moved.  I need to set some  steel rods set and string some temporary wire.  Ideally, I would also get two holes dug and set two posts that would be the basis for a lean-to run in shelter.  It isn't what I had hoped for, but it will get them onto fresh grass for a day or two.  I will immediately need to be concerned with what to do next and try to see if the neighbor guy will have hay for sale. (Please, God!)

And that brings me to money........

I have been toying a bit with farm math.  I have been looking at blurb.com for my book.... have I mentioned this before?  I do not remember, but anyway, it looks as if a six inch by nine inch hardcover book would sell for $4.95.  With that in mind...... if my book sold for $8.95 then I would have four dollars after paying for each book.  From that I would probably have to give half to the government for taxes.   I will figure two dollars pure profit from each book.  The goal (Please, God!) for the book is to pay off the mortgage so Mac could take early retirement and hopefully take care of himself, get some muscles back on his legs and with luck live in peace, etc.,etc.  Roughly we owe $168,000.00.  I will need to sell 84,000 books.  Shit!  That's a lot.  Well, you never know.  The world is a big place and surely there are 84,000 demented people out there that might not mind my ramblings so very much.  I have my outline and my forward written.  I am currently on my third start of chapter one.

That's my stuff for today.  First, chores.  Then, my chicken stuff.  Then, my horse stuff and then, if there is anything left of my day, I will start in on chapter one once again.  (Please, God! just let all of my stuff work out today!)

Louie

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sorry about that......

I have been gone again.  I'm terribly sorry.  It couldn't be helped.  A week ago, more or less, the family gathered together at my mother's for an annual dinner.  We came.  We ate.  We left with either a virus, or possibly, a bubbling morass of bacterial cultures, virulent enough to attack and take down every adult family member.  The little kids were unscathed, but they tend to just eat desserts and chase each other around the yard out in the fresh air.  A strategy I might adhere to in future.

The first night of illness was an epic onslaught.  Yes, I was onslaughting like crazy and I was reminded of my own mortality.  I clung to my bed for three days after.  Then began the battle for normalcy.  Well, normal for me.  As of yesterday, my stomach has stopped feeling like a huge heavy weight, tender to everything I swallow.  All that remains is that bit of depression that seems to follow an illness.  I have hopes of being back into the light completely tomorrow.

There is something about spending long periods of time swaddled in that suspended animation known as illness that does something to your mind.  You tell God that you will be good from now on.  You'll be kind to animals and small children, and possibly even strangers..... on occasion and if they don't smell funny.  You tell yourself that when you are strong again, you will do great things.

I've gotten past that stage.  My promises to God have been chalked up to feverish dementia and I'm feeling kind of sorry about that too.  Something that did bubble up while ill was the memory of promising myself that I would someday try to write a book.  I try to keep my promises, even ones to myself.  So, I am going to  write a book.... probably a really sucky book.  Isn't that exciting!?  I will add my name to the extensive list of two bit, second rate, less then necessary authors.  To compensate, I will do my best to have a real nifty cover.

Then I need to try and reconsider all of those God promises.

Louie

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tired....

We are having a full moon.  I love the full moon.  I sleep harder, sounder.  I think I am calmer.  This morning I watched the full moon slip away and the sun show itself in shades of pink and violet.  So now, I sit here and try to decide what today will be good for.  What can I accomplish?  I had heard it was suppose to be a sunny 65 degrees out today, but I think I have been lied to.  I am trying to gain the courage to tackle the chill in the air.  I have a load of clothes washed and ready to go out onto the line.  Chores need to be done.

I think that ripeness of the full moon has made me feel decadent and lazy.  I can't seem to get myself going.  In my head I'm busy, like always.  Ideas are perking away, but my body continues to say "No.... no, thank you anyway.  Not today."  I almost feel like it would be a good decision to go back to bed and then start over again.  Maybe I would get a better start.  Maybe then I would get something done.

We'll see if that works.

Louie

Thursday, October 25, 2012

There will be SYRUP!

As usual, it takes very little to make me jazzed.  I finally made it out to grade some of my black walnut trees.  I have chosen ten to start with.  They are on the fringe of the woods, so they will get good sun exposure and they are at least ten inches in diameter.  Each of these trees has had an orange length of baling twine tied around their trunks so I will be able to find them next spring.  This is step one for making black walnut syrup next spring.

Step two was ordering a book from the library via the interlibrary exchange.  The book is called "Backyard Sugarin" by Rink Mann.  A slender volume that touts it can teach me everything I need to know to collect sap, build an evaporator, both temporary and permanent, then boil down to a first class syrup.  I hope Mr Mann truly does have the power to convert me into a syrup mavin.

I have found an internet source for tree taps and other sugaring supplies.  As soon as I get some allowance I will be putting in an order to Ok Hardware in Wisconsin.  I've also found several sources for  steam table pans that will be my first evaporator pans.  Might move on to something else later, but if Mr. Mann doesn't have any objections then I will start with those.

I have not built a sugaring shack.  I will just have to figure out some sort of temporary shelter to start with.  In the meantime, I need to start getting firewood cut and stacked.  I look forward to this chore.  Being out in the woods is restorative, like when I spend time with the horses.  My spirit could use more time in the woods.

When next spring rolls around, my little farm will officially have two crops..... hay and black walnut syrup.  Granted they are teeny, tiny crops, but it is a start and I feel like I am finally on my way.  My goal has been for a very long time now to have at least five products from the farm and each should net around four thousand dollars.  That would be the minimum that I need to support myself.  It's a goal and it seems like it takes me forever to reach my goals, but I feel so good!  I feel like I can honestly say that there is going to be SYRUP!!!!

Louie

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking Back

Sometimes I like to take some time and look back.  I never realize how much I do accomplish until I take the time to look back.   We are getting there.  Slowly and surely.  I have been trying to weigh my success and failures.  Last year I tried perpetuating my tomatoes through cuttings.  It seemed like it was going so well!  The cuttings set roots very well.  I think I had less then five cuttings that failed at this step.  I had experimented with putting washed egg shell in the jars to help the rooting.  I didn't take notes.  I should have taken notes, but my feeble memory tells me that the jars with egg shell set root faster.  Overall, the cuttings with no egg shell eventually did catch up.  The cuttings did so well they set leaves and some even blossomed.  Where I ran into trouble was when I bought the potting soil.  After the very well rooted cuttings went into the soil they died as if hit by a plague.

I have read a few articles, nothing with data or any of those pesky facts, but articles that said the government allows a certain amount of industrial waste to be discarded through products like potting soil.  They say it acts as a fertilizer.  I will no longer buy potting soil.  Any seed I plant in the stuff will no longer do well.  Most won't germinate.  Those that do die in pretty short order.  I talked to a lady that used to run a green house business and she said she would not use american potting soil.  All of hers came from Canada. So, I have been debating whether or not the tomato cutting experiment was a success or not.  I "think" if I had put my cuttings into good garden soil and wintered them over in the green house with some heat that they would have done very well.  As it is, I can't really say that.  After the green house is finished and I am properly set up, then I will try again.  The project was definitely worth the effort.

Another of my experiments was "winter sowing".  The premise was that you always have dropped fruit or veg that leaves a seed and it comes up the next spring as a "volunteer".  So go ahead and get seeds out, let them experience the winter and they will come up when the time is right all on their own and without all of the coddling, mess and the general havoc that comes with seed starting kits.  Again this was kind of a success/failure venture.  I had plants come up.  Not all of them.  I think I probably made some mistakes.  I couldn't keep the tops on my containers.  The tops were suppose to offer some protection like a cloche would.  My friend, Suz, who used milk jugs, had germinated seeds in each container. I didn't.  What I did get started was the best crop of kale I have ever had.  Granted kale is a cold loving plant but still, I will take it.  This is one I will try again.  I am thinking I will go ahead and buy seed now and set it back.  I always get the cold crops in too late, so this might be a good alternative to waiting for greenhouses to open.  Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, brussel sprouts, so I think these are the ones that will go into the winter sowing experiment again.... oh yes and kale!

The garden was better this year.  But we had the drought.  We had wicked high temperatures.  We had an invasion of munching bugs.  I didn't get enough put up.  I have some bread and butter pickles.  I have some frozen tomatoes for soups.  No where near what I had hoped for.  So I am trying to come up with strategies to overcome these problems.  For the drought, I am looking at some other methods of watering.  Mr. Hillel of Israel won the World Food Prize this year for a method of irrigating that uses far less water.... wick irrigation.  I will look into it.  To battle the high temperatures I will also be looking at buying some shade cloth.  I will try to protect my plants from sun burn from about 1:00 -4:00 in the afternoon.  I'll try... it will be another experiment and I will have to have enough money to buy supplies.  As far as the bugs go, well I will be spacing out my plants .... A LOT!  Then I want to put in bird houses in fairly low locations.  Put bird baths on the ground.  Anything to get those natural predators in low where I need them.

I tend to beat myself up with things that I perceive as failures.  Actually, they aren't failures, I just couldn't get to them.  There was either no time, or no money or the heat was so extreme that it would have been dangerous to be outside for very long.  The project isn't a failure, perhaps I am, but not the project.  I still have a great deal of winter prep to accomplish.  I have to review my farm plan, and try to knock down into steps, the things I want to accomplish next year.  The next time that I look back, I want to see so much more.

Louie

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Weather Wise

Yesterday started with so many good intentions.  The chores were done.  Bits of trash picked up.  Pots were stashed and I was starting to burn off the garden.  It didn't really want to burn, but we were making headway regardless.  Then the skies opened.  It didn't take long to get soaked and a bit chilled.  So, once in the house, I wrapped up and as I became warm, I feel asleep.  The day was lost.

I should pay closer attention to the weather.  But it has become more difficult to tell when it is serious or just teasing me.  Last night on the news a stock analyst was second guessing oil futures.  Wall Street thinks it will be a mild winter.  This might help people like me who are walking into winter with no hay.  I will keep working on getting pasture fenced and accessible and rotate the horses onto new ground.  I wonder if Wall Street has their own weather men.....

I'm watching the clouds this morning.  The sun is not fully up yet.  There is an almost solid cover of clouds.  This morning they look like inverted rolling hills.  Nothing jagged or menacing, no gashes of bright colors.  I have no idea if this is good news or not.  Like always, we shall start and see where we end up when the day is over.

The next three days I will be attending a horse clinic.  It will be featuring the Parelli instructor, Dave Ellis.  I should be excited, but I am getting bogged down with how to manage my chores and Mac.  While other people at the clinic will be hanging out, having a bonfire, listening to guitar playing, I shall be driving over an hour to get back home and make sure everyone has eaten. Making sure that meds are taken and in general be distracted by everything at home.  It is better then nothing and I will take it.  I know that once there, I will feel better.  I will feel hopeful.  I will have a better idea of what I want to do.  I will feel better because I will get to talk to people and not spend all of my time with in my own head.  I think my brains are getting a bit of cabin fever and getting out will be a good thing.

As I have been writing, the sun has gone.  The clouds have flattened out and the world looks gray.  I hope it doesn't stop me from getting things done, but I know it will make everything take longer and feel heavier.  I guess that means I had better get to it.  Chores do not do themselves.

Louie

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Something Done

We are having an indian summer.  The temperatures are holding.  As long as I have the weather, I will try to press on with getting all of the outdoors ready.  Yesterday was a big day.  I got a huge task accomplished.  I moved my extremely heavy greenhouse frame.  They look so light in catalogs.   Then you go and build a makeshift one for yourself, and the thing weighs a ton!  I had a scrap of 2x4 and I just kept levering it.  Cussing.  Walking away.  Coming back.  Then, levering it some more.  It was a job so big that I had managed to put it off until it could be put off no longer.  The weather man said today it was going to rain and I knew once that frame was wet, I would have no hope of sliding it.

As I worked on the project, I was telling myself that this was a Herculean task.  My mind kept returning to Hercules rerouting a river to wash out a stable.  Apparently an effort to keep from handling horse shit.  Oh well, to each his own.  Well, if this god/man could change the course of a river then I could get a greenhouse moved onto a makeshift foundation.

It is done.... whew!

Today will be light tasks.  My reward for being such a hard worker yesterday.  I want to burn off the garden.  Haul some water to the horses.  I want to tie some baling twine to some black walnut trees.  This will be to mark them so I know which trees to tap next spring.  Some trash has blown into the garden and there is a great deal of general housekeeping that needs to be done there.  Pots need to go into the greenhouse.  Old compost heaps need broken up and the compost spread over the garden.  Anything that doesn't burn needs to go to the new compost heap.  A couple of watermelons that didn't have time to ripen need to be given to the chickens. Pallets to stack.   Who knows, I might even get that makeshift chicken yard started.

It all looks easy today.  Everything looks easy compared to yesterday.  It has also caused me to reassess my difficult tasks.  Mainly getting my post holes and footing holes dug.  There are just too many to get done before winter.   My good neighbor could do a few but his back does not do well sitting twisted in the tractor cab, looking backwards to run the digging auger.  I need to make progress, which means that maybe it is time to check into hiring someone to come over and dig holes.  I will have to borrow the money to pay them, but it will be done!  Something done is a very big deal here.  I have to wonder how much faster can I go if I get this other Herculean task done?

There could be MIRACLES!!!!!  You just never know.

Louie

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

POSSESSED!!!!

I think my mind might work a little differently.  I'm not sure, but it seems that way.  Perhaps it is a bit obsessive.  Not compulsive.  If I were both obsessive and compulsive then my house would be cleaner and I would get more stuff done.  But I am fighting with ideas for the farm.  Either I can't let go of them or they can't let go of me.  Coming back to them, over and over.  Turning thoughts over.  Examining.  Questioning.  I think... maybe.... possibly I have found the direction I want to go.

After doing a bit of research, not a great deal but I have the concept down, on forest gardening, I believe I can make it work well for the little farm.  It falls in with my need to work with no big equipment.  It isn't labor intensive.  It can be diversified.  It can work with my ideas for enriching the soil and carbon sequestering.  After a great deal of walking around and staring at the ground, and thinking , and thinking, and a little more thinking..... I think it can work.

I need to start with the big trees.  They will form the backbone of the garden.  On the southern slope of the big hill I will start with  the tender trees. Nectarines and peaches.  They will be in an area where they will get more sun and less wind.  Above those but still forming the spine, will be the cherries.  Above the cherries and at the top of the hill where it is exposed will be the tough trees, the nuts.  As I go on over the hill onto the north side, again less wind, but the cold side of the hill, will be the apples.  Outside of the tree backbone, will be the shrubs or lower story trees.  I am leaning towards blueberries and currants.  Outside of those, possibly raspberries.  Maybe some gooseberries.  Outside of that, you go even lower, but I haven't made up my mind about all of the plants.  I will spend the winter studying the seed catalogs.  It is stressed that somewhere in all of those layers, you have to plant some nitrogen fixing plants.  It doesn't matter if everything is food producing.  Some plants will be there just to be good companion plants.  They will help the food producers do a better job.

I still want my wine vineyard.  I still want my black walnut syrup.  I still want my bees.  I still want the hazelnuts.  I even still want a few sheep.  But I think that all of these things tie in better now.  I see it all as becoming this lovely, gentle way of farming.  It all just flows together.

I have been gathering seeds.  I got a bag of seeds off of a couple of trees that are growing behind the bank parking lot.  I will be starting those in the greenhouse soon.  I found a really good oak that I like.  I want to stop by there and pick up acorns.  These will get divided into two groups.  I will start some in the greenhouse and some out in a swale that I fear might start wanting to erode.  I have some apple seeds to start.  I know they will not breed true, but I have been wanting to toy with starting them for  a graft.  They will make a good rootstock and when I come upon some apples that I like, I can get some scion cuttings.  I have been saving a wild grape vine.  I want to get it well rooted and graft good wine producing slips onto the hardier wild grape root.  I can't afford the vineyard any other way, so it is important that we begin soon.

I did get some bluegrass seed.  It was only a three pound bag.  It was all I could afford.  But it is a start and I shall be glad for that.  It was scattered in three different horse areas.  I fear that in the front horse lots, all I did was feed the birds.  Hopefully some will take root and begin the process.  I want to buy more bluegrass seed and start it in flats.  Then next spring, I will be tucking plugs  in to all of the pasture.  I would like to do the same for the buffalo grass.  I might even keep a section of buffalo grass so I can harvest my own seed off of it.  It is expensive.  I found some but it was eighteen dollars for a quarter of a pound.  Too precious to go anywhere other then a flat.

I have to start all of this soon because the thinking is beginning to hurt.  And I really can't stop thinking.  I've tried.  I must be meant to do this.

Louie

Friday, October 12, 2012

The New To-Do

Sometimes a person's mind just becomes a jumble of activity.  That seems to be me these days.  I try to find some clarity here and there, but it isn't very long lasting.  I got a task done yesterday. (Hooray for me!)  It wasn't on the list, but it needed to be seen to and I was in the mood.  So I got out the zero turn lawn mower, as I do not have any other "farm equipment", stacked my two bags of dolomitic lime onto the deck of the mower, found a small plastic flower pot and took off across the hay field to spread lime. I had been hoping to find a small walk behind spreader but even the cheapest one was beyond my budget.  My thought for the day became, "not quite right is still better then not at all".  I rode over the hills, well, more accurately I bounced over the hills, inspecting the ground.  Noting grass types, thickness, weed population, thatch and in what places do I have any bare ground.  The healthier areas, where the grass is fairly thick and seems to be coming along, I left alone for now.  It will get manure tea soon and that should be a help to it.  The lime went where the grass was thin or the weeds were overpopulating.  That soil needs all of the help I can give to it so the grass starts to crowd out the weeds.  I made a mental note of exactly which patches are the worse, then I decided that I shouldn't trust my mind.  Things change.  Appearances will alter.  So the areas that needed the most attention I simply mowed.

This will be my little secret as Mac does not want the mower used out in the rough.  The grass and weeds are really dry.  Everything mowed easily and I think I will get away with my misdemeanor.

I felt so good about my accomplishment that I had to do the inevitable.... I made a list.  It is titled "What I Must Get Done Before Winter".  It was suppose to be concise and give me the focus I needed to soldier through.  Soon there was a subsection called, "What I would Like To Get Done Before Winter".  Followed by a subsection called, "And Don't Forget".  Then there were some hurried scrawling in the margins that just kind of depressed me.  Now my winter list vaguely resembles my overall to-do list to complete the farm.

But yesterday felt so good!  It felt good to be out and touching my ground.  The smells were dry and intense.  Most of the fall color is gone and we are down to shades of tan and brown with a few stubborn burgundies hanging on.  It should have sent me into a panic over winter preparedness but it didn't.  It's my land and it was talking to me.  Telling me what it needed.  And I listened.

We'll start there.

Louie

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Holes

Digging holes is a gift.  It seems that no matter what I have planned for my little farm, the first thing that must be accomplished involves going to ground.... I must dig a hole.  If I want more fence, I start with post holes.  If I want to build a shed or a barn then I either have to dig holes or a trench.  Build a round pen.... holes!  

Everything seems to start with...How many holes will I need for this?  I want to have the chickens in a yard for the winter.  There has been a great deal of mental exercises done on this topic.  How permanent should the yard be?  Do I want to have the roosters in some sort of separate but equal section of the yard?  How big?  How close will the posts be?  How many holes?!

The same is true for my little barn.  I do mean little.  In order to get the structure built out of the old privacy fencing, the long section of sidewall can only be four foot tall.  If I try to go with the idea of roofing with sod then the roof cannot be too steep, so the center may only be about six and a half feet tall.  I keep looking at what I'm trying to do.  I keep second guessing the wisdom of my plan.  I keep coming up with nine holes.  To start the barn I will need nine holes.  At best, in this drought damaged, baked earth, that is two days worth of digging.

I have to pull posts and re-dig the holes for the round pen.  Last year, I got in a hurry and my efforts were inadequate, so now I will pay the price.  I will have to start over.  The part that truly makes me shudder at the idea of starting this task is knowing that I need around 26 holes.  I don't just cringe physically.  I can feel the trepidation clear down to my soul.  How will I ever manage that Herculean task?

I  seem to have re-injured my back.  There could not have been a worse time.  The temperatures are dipping.  The sense of urgency is growing.  Fear is taking hold.  Every task is measured against the deadline of winter.  How much can still be gotten done?  It is hanging over my head like an ACME safe in a Roadrunner cartoon.

That's why every hole that gets dug is a gift.  And when someone comes along and digs one for me, that gift is accepted, the angels sing, there is rejoicing in my heart.  Then I tell myself that we are one hole closer to having the little farm built.  One hole closer to the dream.

Louie

Monday, October 8, 2012

If Only......

If only I had money today.  I would feel happier.  I would pay the insurance that is due on the house and the truck.  I would pay my taxes that were due in September.  I would fix the slow leak in the front passenger side tire.  I would buy a new battery for my truck.  Doing this would take the weight of the world off my shoulders.  I would breathe again and I would sleep at night.

If I only had a bit more money today, I would drive down to the MFA store and buy polyrope electric fencing while it was on sale and work on finishing the next horse lot.  I would buy tee posts.  As many as I could manage.  Maybe, just maybe, I would also buy five cattle panels.  Then I could build one of those temporary barns with the panels, like I have read so much about.  Then I would buy a heavy tarp and cover the  panels.

If only I had money, I would buy hay.  I would buy two large bales to make sure there was enough for over the holidays and I would buy a hundred small bales for the rest of the winter.  If only I had hay, I would take deep breaths, and I wouldn't sigh all of the time.

If only I had money, I would buy a piece of plexi and make my solar collector for the coop and the solar water tank.

If only I hadn't fallen down yesterday.  If my leg weren't banged up.  If my back didn't hurt so bad, then I would feel more optimistic about the other stuff.  But I know there must be a way to get these things managed.  It has to be done and I have to do it.  If only I could think of a solution.

Louie

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Some Seed With Your Tea?

Chores are done.  I need to get on the road.  I am stalling though.  My mom has requested my presence for caulking and squirting of foam insulation from a can.  I will drive for 45 minutes to do a 45 minute job, then drive 45 minutes to get back home.  I will wait a bit, before I leave, then I will stop at the Alco store in Leon on the way down and buy the bluegrass seed that I have been coveting.  It is my farm purchase for the month.  I am already feeling giddy with anticipation.  I am already feeling the guilt over the expenditure.

I have been pouring over how far I can make a five pound bag go.  The seed needs to start grass in the two pastures behind the house.  The middle pasture and the back wooded pasture.  On top of that, I should get some out on the yard.  On the break of the hill in front of the house.  If I were exceedingly decadent, I would buy two bags.  Fourteen dollars per bag.  Each bag is five pounds.  Delicious temptation.

I will also soon be feeding the soil.  I looked into the barrel of the manure tea this morning.  I had been kicking myself for not getting it out on the hay field already, but something interesting has happened.  The tea has evolved.  At the beginning, when I constructed my set up, there didn't seem to be much change.  Day one didn't even give me much as far as color change, so I decided that I would put more holes in the bucket holding the manure.  Second day was enough color change that I could easily make out the water line through the white vinyl barrel.  Day three I had something that was definitely "tea" looking.  I pulled out the manure bucket after two weeks.  The tea was very dark brown and that was when I started to tell myself that I needed to start getting it out on the soil.  I kicked around different ideas.  None of them seemed good.  How I wished I had some basic equipment!

The other day I noticed that the tea had a green cast to it.  I assumed it was just a tint from the grass that the horses had eaten and didn't think much more about it.... other then, I really need to get the manure tea out on the hayfield.  But today.... today I looked again.  Inside the barrel is GREEN!  It is a bubbling morass.  IT'S ALIVE!!  I kind of feel like Dr. Frankenstein.  Now it really is time to get the tea on the soil.  First I will get the molasses stirred in to feed and accelerate those yeasty cultures.  They will become the mycorrizae  (which I can't spell) that will allow plants to take up nutrients from the soil.  Without it even nitrogen fixing plants can't fix nitrogen.  I will get it out there even if I have to just carry it out by the bucket full.

That will be my task tomorrow.  Bringing life back to the little farm.  Hopefully, after that, I will lay out my little barn, too.  Where there is life, there's hope.  Where there is manure tea, there's life.

Louie

Monday, October 1, 2012

Frustrations and Hope

It's 7:45 in the morning.  So far, I have gotten Mac off to school, the bedding stripped, a load of laundry done and on the line.  The animal chores are done.  I will be helping my neighbor with a chore and he will be moving my chicken coop and a hedge post.  This afternoon I will do the most dreaded of all tasks in my life..... bill paying.  There is not a single time that I pick up the checkbook that I don't think about how important it is to have the mortgage paid off.  Our mortgage is killing us.  It is indeed a death pledge.

Which brings me to.....

Somehow this weekend, Mac and I got into talking about how agriculture functions.  What it must do to make the shift to more conscientious farming practices.  How the huge farms will become unsustainable.  How the shift will be from one farmer raising nine hundred feeder cattle to a hundred small farmers each putting out nine feeder cattle.  He was with me until I used our acreage size as an example.  Then he became kind of angry.  "And what's that going to earn you?"  I gave him a range and it should earn a minimum of ten thousand, more in good markets.  He responded with, "That's ten percent of the income you should be making!  How are you going to come up with the other ninety?!"

A hundred thousand  per year!

I suppose I deserved his ridiculousness by engaging in that conversation.

I work hard and there is so much to do.  There is so much hope!  There is such a future to be had and lurking in this morass, is a miracle that will someday allow me to pay off the mortgage, to fulfill that death pledge and for us to have a good life, but I think I should probably do it alone.  It couldn't happen  if he tried to "help".

Louie

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Muscles

I ponder how I can look so horrible.  I am a walking wreck.  Then I have a day like yesterday and I wonder why it is that I don't look incredibly hot.  Really!  I should be smokin'!!!

Okay, to start from the beginning... as you know, my good neighbor came over and used his post hole auger to dig fourteen fencepost holes.  However, the ground is so dry that even when the auger is at it's full depth of four foot, the hole is over half full of granulated fines.  All of that still has to be dug out with a post hole digger, sometimes called a jobber.  The fines often fall right back out of the digger and it gets to be a slow moving task.  I had already done two of the fourteen holes.  Yesterday the rest got dug out.  I feared the loose material falling back into the hole so I went ahead and set the posts.  It wasn't easy.  My posts tend to be oversized.  Luckily we had already pulled then out of the wooded area where they were cut and they were neatly in rows.  Even with being able to get to them more readily, it was a hard day to get them loaded and then dropped to where they were to be used.  All but the four corner posts are moved and set.

Anyway, the point is that it was one tiring, heavy lifting day yesterday!  I am still kind of tired.  Oddly enough the muscles that are sore are just a bit sore.  Mostly my biceps.  I have an achey bit in my abs, but that's pretty much it.  Calves and thighs are fine.  Lats are great.  Upper abdominals ...... nothing!  So, why don't I look like the Bowflex model/demonstrator/ hot chick?  Nope!... not me!  I have to look like some polynesian fertility goddess, ample for production.  This sucks!

Oh well, hopefully this thought will pass.  In the meantime, I will be borrowing the good neighbors chains and I will be dragging the corner posts out to their corners.  With great luck and care, I will try to tip them into the holes.  I may not be able to, but maybe.  Once that is done, I will tackle the greenhouse again.  I'll just keep at it, with my big, strong muscles.  Keep going... inch by inch.

Louie

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fence Posts and Other Maladys

I woke up tired today.  Busy day yesterday.  My good neighbor brought his tractor down with the post hole auger and cut fourteen post holes for me.  It was a relief to see the auger cut through the earth.  In about an hour to an hour and a half this machine did three days worth of manual labor for me.  While I watch it work it gives me a feeling of the miraculous.

These fourteen holes will take care of the corners and a walk through gate for a new pasture section.  I aspire to a couple of new fenced sections in the hope that I can keep rotating pasture more and be less reliant on hay.  The problem is that I don't have the money for the tee posts or the electric wire/line.  But strangely enough, lately, I have had such hope.  Things could happen.  Things could get better.  I have this split personality of emotions of being wildly hopeful and terrified about money.

I will try to not think about either.

I have a lot to get done.  I want to drag posts out to the fourteen post holes. I have already made a start. Two posts were set yesterday.  I think I can set four more posts today.  After that I will need to find an alternative method for moving the incredibly large posts.  Not for the last time, I wish I had a large towing chain.  It is a matter of missing the small things that brings projects to a screeching halt.  I will do what I can and when I am done with that, I will start on something else.

Like the greenhouse.....

I finally picked up some flat concrete pavers to go under the block to make a temporary pier to set the greenhouse on.  The digging is done.  The piers are leveled.  And I have started tamping dirt around them to give them more stability.  Next will be a matter of emptying the partially constructed greenhouse of all the crap that has accumulated there.  Once empty we will lay wood scraps under the structure and start sliding it to it's new location.  Once I get it to the piers I will probably be reduced to levering it.  Inch by inch, it will be eased onto it's new feet.  Once set then I can finish up the roof, the door and the vent.  Then it will be time for the plastic.  I am giddy with anticipation.  As much for the feeling of having something done as anything else.

DONE!!  what a wonderful word! What a great feeling!  You become ethereal as the weight of the "thing", whatever it might be, falls from your shoulders. An aphrodisiac for the soul.  Oh yeah, Baby.  That's good.

Louie

Monday, September 24, 2012

Doubts and Disorganization

I'm not totally sure what is wrong with me.  The summer is over.  Mac is back to school and still, I cannot seem to get myself organized.  It just seems that I should be getting loads of stuff done.  But, it's just not happening. God knows I have the lists!

I am so torn between the indoor and the outdoor tasks.  I have christmas projects lined up that are starting to taunt me.  I have some shower presents that need to be made.  I would like to have some shelves made for the bathroom.  Instead I have a load of laundry started and I am looking at dishes from the weekend that need to be attended to.

I have some manure tea that needs to go out on the hayfield.  I think it should go on the hayfield.  I've been second guessing myself about that, which is foolish.  It doesn't take that long to make manure tea. I should be thinking... MANURE TEA FOR EVERYBODY!!!!  I have just been concentrating on what I don't have.  I want a spigot for the barrel that I make tea in.  That would make things so much easier.  I found a  three gallon sprayer that was on a pair of wheels so I could get the glorious mixture to where I need it far more easily, which probably wouldn't be an issue at all if I had a new battery in the truck.  Oh well, a worry for another day.

I still need to move the green house.  Then make final decisions on garden fence.  A decision on the new, bigger, better, bolder TV antenna!  Decisions on the outdoor kitchen!  Decisions would be wonderful!!  Decisions followed by action would be freakin' awesome!!

Maybe I need another list... an emergency, I have to get it done before winter, list.  I wonder if I could get that done..... I wonder.

Louie


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Motivation and Other Nutrients

I woke up with a headache this morning.  A sure sign of some sort of weather change.  Mac has just left for work and I have gone through the house turning off every single light that he feels the need to turn on.  Turned off the television.  Poured myself a cup of coffee, and it feels like the world has taken a minute to go, "Ahhhhhh"

Quiet.  Contentment.  The throbbing in my frontal lobes drops down in volume.

With any great luck, I will be digging fencepost holes again today.  Yesterday, only three were dug with posts placed and tamped back down.  Three more were measured out and started.  Not my most productive day.  Motivation has been a difficult commodity to come by.  I got out my oft read volume of Sylvia's Farm.  I usually save it for my winter read, but I need it now.  I need that reminder that it is all doable.  Sylvia did it and she did it to a great extent alone and without a drivers license.  At least, I have the truck.  I can get to town if I must.  I don't have any money once I get there, but what the hell... baby steps.

Come to think of it, almost all of the small, do it the hard way, farmers that I have read about had years when they wondered what the hell were they doing?  Why were they beating themselves up like this? And then the miraculous happens and the land unfolds for  them and shows all that is possible.

Last night, I read about Sylvia cleaning out her barn and getting some manure out on some bad pasture.  It wasn't much.  Between what was delivered and what her sheep donated, the pasture was coming back.  That speaks volumes to me.  I keep moving the chicken tractor around and the grass is a subdued patchwork.  It is especially evident after a rain.  Rectangles of dark green with the lighter greens surrounding them.  Several weeks ago, my good neighbor Dan brought down a scoop of composted cow manure.  We spread it out on a bad spot in my own pasture.  There have been several instances when I have gone down and visited.  I squat down and watch the patch of new soil, waiting for it's inevitable burst of new life.  Looking for the new green spears to erupt.  So far.... nothing.  But it did motivate me to get started with my manure tea project.  The 55 gallon barrel has had a hole cut in the top.  To get the hole exactly the way I wanted it, I inverted a plastic bucket and drew around it's rim.  Then drew a second line about a quarter of an inch inside the first circle, then cut out on the inside circle.  This way the bucket can sit in the hole without falling through.  Then I drilled a bunch of holes in the bucket.  After that I filled the barrel almost full with water.  Filled the bucket with manure.  Then set the bucket down in the barrel hole.  Finished filling the barrel with water by spraying the water over the manure.  It is basically a giant tea infuser.  After the manure has soaked for awhile it is dumped into the compost pile.  Then I add additional nutrients to the tea.  Epsom salts will be added.  Some fish emulsion.  Kelp if I can find it.  Lime as well. Can't forget the molasses.   Then the tea will get sprayed over the soil.  Well, it would if I had a sprayer.  I do not.  I will take an old coffee can and punch some holes and make it into a watering can.  Doing it as a ridiculously small job still gets more done then not doing anything at all

When I have all 55 gallons of the tea distributed, then we start again.  It will be a break from digging post holes.  It's all good.

Louie

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thinking Again

I'm tired today.   That's a bad thing.  I've already been out and done the chores.  Feeling a bit chilly and my feet are soaking wet.  I have no waterproof footwear.  I look at chore boots at the store.  Then I feel greedy and evil and after a bit, I become wholeheartedly ashamed.  Underneath all of the bad feelings, I still want the chore boots and some extra thick warm socks to wear underneath them.

Oh well.

I have been trying to immerse myself into new and amazing knowledge.  It seems to be working  I have been in a funk for some time now so keeping my mind busy, learning new stuff, is slowly pulling me back onto the high ground.  I had been reading a bit of Joel Salatin and he has some good stuff.  He also has some incredibly obnoxious advice.  He says that when you need something bigger accomplished just have the folks from your church out to help you.  Well, for one thing that seems like a very mercenary reason to be a member of a church and in many, if not most cases, when someone finally finds there little piece of heaven, it isn't amongst people they grew up with. Entire congregations don't usually show up to do a barn raising for a stranger.   Mr. Salatin is farming a farm that he got from his dad.  That is a huge advantage.  There is no reason why he should even have a mortgage.  There is so much I could accomplish if we weren't paying a rather large mortgage payment.  Regardless, a year or two ago, Mr. Salatin got my feet wet on what some of the possibilities for the micro farm can be.

Recently, I found a youtube video called, "A Farm of the Future".  The original program was broken down into five ten minute sections, which makes it easier to stream out here in the country.  It posed some problems that I hadn't thought about before. The show comes from the UK and I hadn't given thought to what it was like financially to farm there when they pay more for a liter of fuel then we do for a gallon.  They gave statistics of how much  fuel agriculture takes.... and it's a lot!  How long will the gas keep coming?  How will we feed people when it's gone?  Okay, so those are some of the problems.  We won't moan and groan about them because the solutions are much more interesting.

This program got me to looking at permaculture more closely.  It isn't all sinking in yet but it does seem as if there are different kinds.  The program  interviewed some people who specifically dealt with forest gardening.  You don't actually need a forest.  You create a plant "guild".  You start with the tall stuff.  Usually apple or nut trees.  They form your canopy.  Then you want to form your understory.  These can be dwarf fruit trees... cherries, peaches, etc.  Next to the understory will be the shrubs.  Blueberries for instance.   Next will be shorter still, herbs, possible annuals.  Then up under the canopy you can plant vines to climb the trees.  Pole beans for instance.  The variety is endless.  Not all of the plants need to be fruit bearing.  It is encouraged that some of the plants be pollinators, some should be good companion plants for the over all health of the garden, some should fix nitrogen.

I have a lot more to learn.  I have some books I want to look at.  One by Martin Crawford and he also has a number of youtube videos.  Lots to learn.  That's good... it keeps my mind busy while I am digging fencepost holes.  Which should be what I do, as soon as I get dry and warm again.

Louie

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Solutions

I have been adrift and I am having a bit of trouble finding my way back.  Odd how that works.  I can't quite seem to get in tune with anything I am trying to accomplish.  Mental roadblocks... money roadblocks.... that post is so damn heavy there is no way on earth I can move it roadblocks.

I have decided that frustration dulls the mind.  That seems to be the only decision I have been able to come to.  I thought things would be different and as we got into fall I would be able to get some things done.  Money that was suppose to appear, hasn't.  Cooler temperatures.... cool enough to allow me to work haven't  actually shown up.  Yesterday was 92 degrees, I believe and there was a wind from the south that about knocked me off my feet.  The ground is so baked hard even people with augers on tractors are waiting to get some rain before making post holes.

It's kind of funny.  I met with my Entrepreneurs with Disabilities counselor the other day.  She thought I needed to see a mental health professional  for some anti-depressants.  No I don't need brain drugs... I actually need solutions.  Solutions would make me very happy.  Other people see solutions differently then I do.  They have a different mind set.  I have a survival mindset.  I spend a lot of time thinking about food, mostly for my animals, but also for us.  Window trim would be very nice, but we had a drought this year and I will be needing about 120 bales of hay to get through the winter.  At the price small square bales are going for right now, that would cost me over seven hundred dollars.  I don't have seven hundred dollars, so what I need is rain.  Putting me on pills and dulling me down to a mass of drooling dimwittedness will do nothing to change my truths.

My coping mechanism for being able to do nothing has been to learn.  I have been throwing myself into what ever I can find on the internet about agroforestry, forest gardening, nitrogen fixing plants, permaculture, absolutely anything about pasture management and good passive farming designs.

There are just sooo many things that I can't do right now and I really need to stop looking at that.  Okay, what CAN I do?  ( sigh..... I'm thinking.... I'm thinking)  What I can do is call the lumberyard and get some prices so I know what I need to budget for.  I can convert the chicken coop to skids since it doesn't look like I am going to have the money to  put wheels under it.  I can start cutting rebar into four foot lengths to use for temporary electric fence posts.  I can make manure tea.

You know the old saying.... how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Well, it's a start anyway.

Louie

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Plan your work, work your plan.

Yesterday was a terrible, horrible day.  It started with one of Mac's really bad nose bleeds.  Then he was storming the house and cussing.  Yelling that he can't get blood on his clothes.  He can't be dicking around with a bloody nose all day.    I told him I wished I could help.  Couldn't figure out anything other then what he was already doing.   He responded with, "That's right!  YOU can't help!"  So, I went out and did my chores.  They did not take long enough.  Came back into the house and tried to be as invisible as possible.  Finally, he left for school.  (thank you, Jesus!!!)

Then, I went around and picked up bloody tissues and threw them away.  A couple of bloody wash clothes went into the laundry.  Washed up the bathroom floor and the bathroom sink.  Cleaned up all of what seemed to be some sort of retaliatory mess.

My spirits sunk considerably.

I went out and I whacked weeds from under the electric wire on the back pasture.  Mike and Kate had helped me get the fallen dead elm off of the fence, so I decided that I needed to get at finishing the job.  Overhanging branches were trimmed away.   I did battle with a couple of wild roses.  While I did get them clear of the fence, they are still quite healthy.  I, on the other hand, came out fairly bloody and bruised.  I will concede the victory to the roses.

Wires were pulled tight.  Some repairs were made to both the long gate and the narrow walk through gate.  Solar charger was moved.  The horses were walked back.  Water tanks were dumped, hosed out and hauled back.  Then all available containers were found and water was also hauled back to fill the tanks.  It was a long hard day.

Usually hard labor goes a long way in exorcising any emotional demons I might have.  It did not work yesterday.  Luckily Mac came home in a very good mood, though that really did not help either.  Today I am trying to see the farm with fresh eyes.  Trying to see what the plan will look like.  I need to bury myself deep in that vision.  I do not consider myself a person who really gets depressed, but it seems that sometimes it attacks me.  Sinks in it's claws like some wild thing.  But it is foreign from myself and it needs to be pried lose.  I'm not sure what else to do but to keep my eyes on where I want to be.  I have a plan.  I just need to work it.

Louie

Friday, August 17, 2012

And Now, I Breathe.....

It has been a long, hot, emotional summer.  Occasionally touting bouts of extreme depression.  Perhaps I am feeling the martyr's part, but I feel like I am holding up my husband .. a lot.  And it has gotten to the point where I feel like I support a ton weight over my head all the time.  I am probably not being fair but Mac is emotional high maintenance at the best of times.  Lately, I have been feeling completely empty.

Then a miracle happened.... school started.

The kids aren't there yet.  These are the days of teacher meetings.  A seminar is going on this year to take the place of actual prep time.  Something the principal pulled out of his ass, that is completely opposite to what he pulled out of his ass last year.

Some things don't change.

We started our school year schedule.  We got  up.  I made coffee.  I packed up his day's prescriptions.  Fed him breakfast.  Made the bed.  Sent him out the door.  Then for some reason... I kept crying.  I don't know why.  I haven't been able to cry for years now.  It's not like I was sobbing or anything.  I just couldn't stop leaking. I tried to get some things done around the house.  I wasn't accomplishing much.  Just puttering about really.  Couldn't concentrate.

Then finally, I went to see the horses.

I took out a halter, rope and my stick.  We played.  I rubbed on them.  I scratched manes and ears.  They backed.  They turned.  Chloe circled but that wasn't what I wanted.  That's okay cause they cracked me up.  Which was another miracle, because now, I can breathe.

Louie

Monday, July 30, 2012

Raves About My Ranting

That was a line from an old M*A*S*H episode.  Hawkeye said that he got raves about his ranting.  It would be nice... to get raves that is, but today I don't feel like I can hold it in anymore and I have no doubt that my rant will not be rave worthy.

Last wednesday was yet another trip to Iowa City to see the oncologist/ transplant DR.  Mac is still on an every month schedule as a result of the flare up of the graft -vs-host a.k.a. rejection.  This time the physician's assistant mentioned that perhaps he needed to think about getting Social Security.  Said it like all you need to do is go out and pick it up like a sunday paper.  Irritated me!  Then because they are soooo fucking helpful, a social worker was sent down to talk to us.

When the Dr. came into the room, Mac asked her about her thoughts.  She wasn't going to say...asked him what he thought.  He said he didn't know.  Didn't know what to do until he knew what she thought.  Again the Dr asked, "Well, what do you think?"

This was not exactly helpful.

Finally she did cough up that the statin medicine that was started as a result of the heart attack could be causing the problem.  This seemed like a good thought as his other GVH symptoms had improved.  So, we are left hanging.  We do not have a diagnosis for what is happening in the liver.  Last month the paperwork that was sent home with us said they thought it was CMV (cytomegalovirus).  This month the Dr. was totally non committal and the PA said she thought it was GVH in the liver, which you really, really don't want.  In the meantime, social security  is hanging over our head like a toxic cloud.  We were told to just "go ahead and try for it and see what happens".  How's that for brilliant advice?  They have no definite diagnosis.  They didn't give us a form or letter stating medical necessity.  The social worker didn't know jack shit about social security.  All they gave us was dread.

Mac looked up some numbers.  Possible amounts.  We are currently running about $3500. short each year.  We make it by trying to wisely use our tax return, hay money and the kids help us out more then kids should have to.  If things are as bleak as some think, then we will be even further behind on Social Security.  If that is the direction we travel, then there is a good possibility that we will lose the little farm.

I keep thinking about my extreme survival measures... buying a lotto ticket.  It hasn't worked yet.  Dammit!  The other fall back plan was to beg help from Ellen Degeneres.  These are my ridiculous thoughts.  I am taking small comfort in them.  I don't know what else to do.  I am finding no hope, no plan based in reality.  There is nothing concrete to stand on.  My great hope has to rest in that the doctors know nothing, but my fears are also that the doctors know nothing.

For right now, we have decided to ignore them and to just continue.  We will put our heads down and push our shoulders to the load and do our damndest to keep living.

Louie

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Heat and Whining

I looked at the weather report last night.  I don't know which is more depressing, another week of near one hundred degree temperatures, or knowing there isn't a damn thing I can do about it.  There seems to be no rain in the forecast, well none in the midwest anyway.  I've been surprised at how well the garden is doing despite the heat.  We are getting tomatoes, cucumbers,  peppers and zucchini.  Later we will have brussels sprouts and kale.  It isn't enough to keep us alive this winter...... but it's a start.  The broiler crosses are ready to butcher, but it is just too hot.  We will be butchering out doors and I fear that we won't be able to get the meat iced fast enough.

This is terrible.  My mind rages on, but my body can't accomplish much in these temperatures.  We tried to get out the other day.  We are having cabin fever something awful.  We went to a lake and it was so nice.  So nice in fact, that Mac didn't want to leave.  We got too hot and now we are ill.  Nausea, lethargy, and a piss poor attitude.

This upcoming weekend I am supposed to be able to get away to a Parelli tour stop.  Some time to indulge my passion for horses.  I am trying to figure out if I can scare up enough money.  I'm sharing a room with a friend and I can pay her back on time, but I need to scrape together enough money for gas and food.  I keep turning it over in my mind, just how cheap can I eat?  As hot as it is, would it be safe to pack food to take up?  Then there is getting everything in order sufficiently that Mac can take care of creatures while I am gone.  I'm really worried about that.  If any chickens die, I'm going to beat him with the corpse!

Sorry, it's the heat talking.  I just need to , I don't know..... rehydrate?

Louie

Saturday, July 7, 2012

It Takes a Little Balance

I have been so incredibly stressed lately!  The heat wave continues.  There is so much work to be done, but it is dangerous to be out for very long periods of time.  In fact, we try to stay indoors from two o'clock in the afternoon until around four-thirty.  Then rounds are made.  Water levels are checked.  Then, drenched in sweat, we retire back inside until it is time to do evening chores for real.

I did my routine a little late tonight.  By the time the chores were done, I was well into dusk.  The sun had sunk below the horizon and everything breathed a sigh of relief.  The assault of heat was over for another day.  Sometimes Mac comes out and watches me do my chores.  He stands in the garden.  Watering plants, kind of power washing the tomatoes to rid them of buggy pests.  Sometimes he hollers at me.  "When are  you thinking of moving the greenhouse?"  I can never hear him, so what he hollers doesn't matter much.  I let him know that... "I  CAN'T HEAR YOU!!"  He responds, "I'll wait"  At least, that's what I think he is saying.

Evening is our time.  When things cool down and the world feels a bit kinder.  Mac isn't here tonight.  He is spending the night with my oldest daughter.  It is cooler there.  They have Netflix.  Here, the heat seems to be playing havoc with the antenna and we are down to three channels.  None of which seem that interesting.  Mac is getting away to have media time and I am getting away from Mac for a bit.  His large dose of prednisone has taken it's toll.  One day he wants to cry.  Another day, I want to cry and yesterday, well yesterday,  I wanted to bludgeon him.

Tonight I feel like I finally have a moment to think my own thoughts.   He is needy.  He seems to think I know everything that will happen next.... that I have a plan, and he needs to be comforted by that knowledge.  In reality, I don't know shit.  I'm following a feel and it's leading me to someplace new.  My only assurance is that I think at the last minute, something wonderful will happen and somehow, the debts will be paid, the farm will be safe.  I will no longer be tied to the railroad tracks watching the oncoming locomotive.  Mac doesn't have that feeling.  He thinks he will be dead within five years.

I just keep swimming, but it often feels like I have a drowning man clutching at me.  Sometimes it's hard.

I'll be glad when it cools down.  We'll be able to sit out in the evening.  We'll light a fire in the webber grill and watch the fire.  In the background are the fireflies, adding their own dimension to the moment. That's the thought I have tonight.  My calming thought.  Certainly not the thought I had yesterday.  Yesterday I went outside to have an onslaught of cussing that would make any sailor proud, regardless of nationality.

Tonight I have my calm.  I have a good book.  I'm trying to regain my composure... my balance.  right now, I love my husband again.... absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Louie

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Too Damn Hot!

If you ask yourself how hot is too hot, then the answer is 95 degrees fahrenheit.   That is 95 without humidity.  With humidity, the answer would be 88 degrees.  I have had too much time to think about this.  It seems like it has been hot for far too long and it seems that the weather is going to hold for now.  The heatwave will continue.  The worse of it is that the heat is keeping us indoors.  It couldn't have come at a worse time.  Mac had begun to go out.  Between the medications and the chemo, he had become very sun sensitive, but this summer he had been going out.  He had started doing things, puttering about in the yard.  The little farm had finally started to take hold of him.  I thought that maybe, all of the damage to his spirit caused by the leukemia and the medical treatment, would begin to heal.  But now we are having to take refuge from the heat.  Both of us longing to be outside... both of us wanting to dig in the soil and to build things.  But we are stuck in the house, avoiding the heat and getting cranky.

My less then stellar attitude at this point, makes me wonder about next year , and the year after that.  I think about  global warming.  Wonder if we are seeing the beginning of  our self induced apocalypse.  I want to plant as many trees and shrubs this next spring as I can manage.  I wonder if they will just burn up in the possible heat and drought, or maybe, just maybe, I will be doing something important to avert what seems to be an inescapable future.  I think I am the perfect person to face such problems.  Realistic enough to acknowledge that it exists, but optimistic enough to believe I can make a change.  Stupid enough to believe that I can even influence some other people to also put forth an effort to create a better world.  So, are you all listening?  Plant something!

I'm actually stupid enough to think I would like to make a double order of trees and shrubs from the Department of Natural Resources next spring.  I don't know how I would manage.  That would be a thousand trees and shrubs.  That would be a lot of work.  A lot of money.  Probably around four to five hundred dollars worth of planting material.   But wouldn't it be so incredibly amazing if I could pull it off?!    Makes me feel jazzed just to think about it.

Then I think about my physical limitations... then I get a bit depressed.  All  in all, I think too much.  I want to be outside.  I'm tired of being cooped up in the house!  Too many mood swings!  Too damn hot!  There is nothing for me to do but to go make pancakes for breakfast.  Pancakes always make a person feel better.  Pancakes!  food for the apocalypse!... or possibly, hopefully, not.

Louie

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Survival Strategies

It is so hot here.  Yesterday, according to channel 13 news, the high reached 111 degrees.  We made it through without air conditioning.  Maybe we are a little tough, but mostly we are cheap.  We have begun our survival strategies.  We begin with our morning coffee.  Coffee is brewed and then poured into an insulated carafe and the coffee maker is turned off.  One load of clothes per day, which is washed in the early hours, when the house is still cool or the washer is turned on just as we go to bed.  Then the clothes go out on the clothes line.  Same with the dish washer.  It is only used when full and it is turned on as we go to bed.

We open the windows at night when it is cool and close them up about eleven in the morning.  The only exception is the upstairs western window that has a fan placed to blow warm air to the outdoors.  Now to confess... we knuckled under today.  We put in the window air conditioner in our bedroom.   I wish that I had awnings over the western windows, but I don't.  So to help the air conditioner not work so hard we put aluminum foil in the upper portions of the windows.  Shiny side out to reflect the sun and heat from the house.  It looks terribly trashy but it works great.

We don't cook in the house if it can be avoided.  We now have an outlet in what will be the outdoor kitchen so we can move a crock pot out doors or the small counter top oven.  We grill a lot.  Even veg and breads.  The pre-made pizza crusts drizzled with olive oil and topped with italian seasonings and a little mozzarella cheese makes you forget that you are living with austerity measures.

Yesterday, while at the doctor's, Mac and I had a conversation.  One we should have had sooner.  With this latest set back, the heart attack and the flare up of the GVH, he is convinced that he will not survive until retirement.  He doesn't think he will survive another five years.  Not sure what to do.  I know that I need a survival strategy that I am not yet equipped with.  I think it will take more then aluminum foil and pizza crusts.  I guess we will play it by ear.

Louie

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

4:41

I haven't had a panic attack about money for several months, so apparently, I was due.  This morning at 4:41 I awoke with a great deal of acid reflux and a cold sweat and wondering how in the hell would I find $1200.00 by the end of September.  I still don't know how I will make that work, but things seem less frightening by the light of day.  Other things take precedence.  Weeding.  Feeding.  Facing down the heat wave we are in right now.  Making sure the chooks have enough water.  I'm worried about one of the broiler hens.  She has stopped walking.  This is an inherent problem with broilers.  They have been bred to grow so fast that their skeletons don't always maintain enough strength to hold up the weight.  I don't know if I should let her go for a bit or if going ahead and butchering her would be the greatest kindness.

My mind can't stay on any one worry for too long.  There are just too many of them crowding around, pushing for attention.  Sometimes I feel as if I am in a game of checkers with God.  I think I am moving along well.  I think I will make it to the end and be able to get my piece kinged.  I will acquire what I need to navigate the board more easily, the strength to overcome my obstacles.  But it doesn't happen that way.

I don't want to think about it.  It is far too depressing.

Tomorrow Mac goes to see the transplant oncologist in Iowa City.  He is being kept on a monthly schedule for now.  It is horrible.  Stressful.  Makes me wake up in the night.  Makes me angry.  I thought I had finally gotten past the rage.  It seems that it is just under the surface.  I did a fair amount of cussing today.  As always we will go to Iowa City and then crash for two days afterward.  Then I will shove myself back into my life.  Get back to worrying about weeding and feeding, and occasionally, I will wake up at 4:41  in the morning and wonder how in the hell am I going to make it all work?

Louie

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy,

There is a movie called "Four Weddings and a Funeral".  I relate to that degree of busyness, but I cannot come up with such a good title.  I could manage, "A Doctor Visit, a Funeral, a Wedding, a Weekend with Evelyn, a Birthday and now Another Damn Doctor Visit Coming Up".  Does not have a ring to it at all though it does capture the essence.

In between these events, I have done some laundry, washed some dishes, did precious little house cleaning, mowed the lawn, fed chickens, horses and the dog and the cat.  Even managed to get food into the husband though that really wasn't done with the same enthusiasm.  I have also gotten a larger chicken tractor built and gotten the chickens moved.  I continue to believe that chickens grow the minute you move them into a larger facility.  Then instantly, the facility is no longer large enough.

The new chicken tractor seemed nice and roomy.  I had made some improvements on the design.  It was easier to manage the chickens into it.  It is easier to  grab feed and water containers out of it.  And, strangely enough the day after putting the chickens into it, they grew.  Over night, they grew!  They were bigger, had more feathers.  Their voices had deepened.  They have big scary feet like a hawk or something.  I figure by next week they will have gone gangsta' and be wearing bling.

At which point, they must die.

Though to be fair, the broiler crosses which have been fairly boring as far as chickens go, did something funny and a bit endearing since going into the bigger chicken tractor.  I tie a rope to the handle of the tractor and then tie that to the lawn mower and pull it onto fresh grass everyday.  They have been afraid of the sound of the mower and  have been running into the coop portion when I fire it up.  Now they have become more familiar.  When the mower starts they stand around.  As the tractor moves forward, they wait until the door of the coop moves to them.  Then they step on, like commuters stepping onto an escalator.

I have new plans for the ULTIMATE chicken tractor.  Somehow I will fit it in.  In between the laundry, the dishes, the meals and my critters... and the doctor visits.  I was even thinking that perhaps it was time to start thinking about a bridge.  I've been wanting a bridge.  I could use a bridge.  Today a chicken tractor....TOMORROW THE WORLD!  or possibly a bridge.




Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chicken Coops, Pictures and Other Experiments

My chicken coop made of old pallets was one of my great experiments this spring.  Parts of the process was easy and obvious, other parts were maddening.  There was no plan.  There was just the need that it used materials on hand.  Could not exceed the dimensions of the materials and hopefully, not turn out butt ugly.

Another experiment was the chicken tractor.  Again, there was no plan.  Possibly an insinuation, but no plan.  It had to be made of materials left over from the coop.  It was done to get the little buff orpingtons safely away from the broilers.  It also was to serve the purpose of getting me more comfortable, once again, of building farm stuff.  We always need farm stuff and the better I get at kicking it out, the smoother the little farm will run.

Today's experiment is posting pictures.  Finally!  the long promised pictures.  I told you that I had been taking them.  I'm sure no one believed me any longer, but at long last the day has arrived.  Cross your fingers and we will see how this goes.  With luck, this will be a progression of photos, showing the building the coop.

I did not do this in any sensible order.  I started with the sides because they were my first bit of inspiration.  Then I had to back track a bit and build the base.  The base size was mandated by the  size of the already built sides.  The hardest bit was the roof.  I would urge anyone who tries this to not do as I did.  First timers especially, please do not try to do the center weird angles and rafters with bird's beaks to catch the sides.  The coop is small enough that a plan and template for rafter trusses should be drawn out on an oversized cardboard box.  Make your project as easy as possible!  It is an easy thing to attach already built trusses.  It was lucky that I had an old sheet of plywood that I could cut for the floor and the roof sheeting. Sometimes buying the cheap plywood is the way to go.  Sometimes your time is worth more then money.

The first side

The base with foam remnants for insulation

Two sides on!!!

That pesky roof!

This end will get wheels.

The chicks arrive!
So, here we go.... hopefully these will post and I will be sooo happy!

Louie

Friday, June 8, 2012

Something Accomplished

It's been a busy day. I've gotten what little hay that I have, sold. There will be a check in the mail for $150.00 soon. It isn't much but it is something. The least little money usually sets my mind reeling with what could be done. Seed, fencing supplies. Various small gadgets that would hopefully make things run more smoothly around here. But it's just not enough money!! Or maybe my list is too long. I finally found some time to get a little cleaning done in the kitchen. It seems that when things become busy it is the kitchen the suffers the most. I don't like cooking in a messy kitchen but recently, we have again fallen into crisis management. The chicken tractor was finally finished. Done late in the day. It is so small but the buff orpingtons seemed well pleased with it. I have handled the chicks a good deal. They are used to being picked up and they respond when they hear me talk to them. I was afraid it would be an issue getting them moved over to the new housing. Only one flutter of wings. Then they settled into the coop section. They ate a little. Then stood in the small doorway reached out and pecked some grass. The braver ones hopped out, ate a little grass then quickly jumped back into the coop. After awhile, I began to think that they would not take to the small yard and that I might as well close them up for the night. But by dusk they were out and refusing to go back in. They were put in to the coop under force, like children being called in for baths and bedtime. I'm anxious to put them out in the morning and see if they remember all of tonight's lessons. Tomorrow, I will take a day off. I am tired. I need to re-prioritize my goals. What next? It is late and I can't even begin to organize my thoughts..... we will see what tomorrow brings. Louie

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chicken Tractor

It has been a frustration to me that I start a project and it takes FOREVER to get it done. The little chicken coop that should have taken several days took at least ten, not counting days where I simply couldn't get any work done on it at all. Now I am working on the chicken tractor. I had spent a great deal of time trying to make a decision on the size and style. Researched the internet. Read articles. Got really, really confused. Finally I became aware that I was just psyching myself out. I made the decision to down scale and make the project less intimidating. I am hoping to finish up tomorrow. That is, finish up on the worlds smallest chicken tractor. It measures just 32 inches across. 50 inches long and just 28 inches tall. It will be home to the buff orpingtons. No doubt they will outgrow it in a week or so. One of these days I will have to figure out a method for building something the exact size that I need. I have no idea how I will do that. The chickens have been fairly forgiving to my inadequacies. My shortsightedness. My inexperience. I am thankful. When I get them in the tractor and they get to feel real grass under their feet, I think they will be thankful as well. The little chicken tractor is built on an A-frame design. Looking at internet pictures, it seemed the simplest, most effective use of my materials. Then, came the harsh reality that to build to my diminutive scale, I would be cutting some weird angles. Some were weird angles with notches. It was a complete and massive pain in the ass. I finally did the smart thing and gave up... that is gave up on all the measuring and trying to use the speed square and all that crap. I finally just drew a picture of what the end piece should look like. Made a connecting line for the hypotenuse of my triangle, then got out a piece of cardboard and made a template. Since it was made of corrugated cardboard, the template was a bit weebly-wobbly, but it worked. Tomorrow with great luck, we will get the roof on then attach the chicken wire. Then make a door so I can reach into the yard portion of the tractor. Then I will just have to add the chickens. It will be a great moment. No doubt similar to walking the red carpet at the academy awards. Then I will have to figure out what to do next. Considering that chickens seem to be like certain species of fish and grow to the size of their enclosure, or so it seems, I will need to start on another chicken tractor right away.. something LARGER! I have not given up on a small hay barn. It will soon need to be started. I am working my way up to such an intimidating project, but first I have to finish my tiny little chicken tractor. There is a natural progression to these things. Like wading into a cold lake. You just can't rush these things. Louie

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chickens and Morality

Yesterday was the voting day for primary elections. A big day in Wisconsin as it was also the recall election for Scott Walker. I did not vote. For our area, most candidates were running uncontested in their parties. No reason to vote until we get to the general election this November. Despite this primary being such a non-event (except for Wisconsin) there is a great deal of talking in the press about party lines, extreme factions and strangely enough.... morality. I tend to get in arguments with republicans. I should admit that right from the start. I don't try to... they pretty much make me. I was talking to a republican a couple of years ago ( the name with held to keep my husband from getting mad at me) This person informed me that she was a christian and that her morals would not allow her to be a democrat. I don't care who you are... that's a gauntlet throwing moment, if ever I saw one. So, I asked her just which morals was she referring to. This pissed her off and she stormed away. But, I really wish she would have answered me. To this day I have no clue what the hell she was talking about. This event actually caused me to have a bit of a quest. When I come across a person who has a strong political ideology, I tend to ask them why. A lot of them do say it is their morals. Of the ones I talk to, the republicans moral argument tends to be about abortion but quickly turns into them not believing it is moral for them to have to give up their hard earned money to any cause that might support someone who isn't worthy of their money. That argument then falls down to , it isn't moral for other people to get their money..... period. I love moderates, democrats, independents, conservation voters, liberals. They have great gobs of morals. Morals that they are more then happy to discuss in detail. They cover the great realms of deficit, social responsibility, environment, political history, cause and effect, education and the role of the wealthy in our society. And that is just a start. My politics are also my moralities. I have chicken morals. It is my intention to eat the eggs of those chickens. It is my intention to someday take their lives to feed my family. My morals tell me that I need to treat them the best I can while they are still in my care. My morals tell me that I should be thankful for the lives I'm taking. My morals tell me that I should care for the least of these. Green grass, freedom and all the bugs they choose to eat. They do not seem to want much to make their happiness... what does it cost me? It baffles me why people can't treat other people as well as I want to treat my chickens. That's just immoral. It will be interesting to see what morality shows up in November. Louie