Thursday, October 31, 2013

Brains are A-Buzzin'

I am so tired this morning.  It's one of those mornings when you wake up and your body feels so weary that it's as if you are oozing with every movement instead of actually moving.  The idea of being out and digging holes, or pulling logs, gathering rocks just doesn't seem feasible.  I'm a lump!

Despite that my brains don't seem to want to stay still.  The brains are making up for the inabilities of the body.    One of the things that I keep thinking about is a comment made by a small holdings farmer in South America that I ran into via the internet.  He is a purveyor of bananas and he has developed a market for dried bananas to have more year round income.  He has stressed to me the importance of having a crop that isn't seasonal... a steady income.  Actually I had been counting on seasonality and making it work for me.  After all, when you haven't had something for nine months, you tend to snatch it up when it hits the shelves.  I have wanted to have about five good seasonal crops so I could shift from one to another and hopefully have a bit of a break in between.  This apparently successful man's thought gave me pause.  Then I thought, "Snap out of it!  You live in Iowa.  We have seasons here!"

Then I started to think about something else.

Mums.  There is a little farm outside of Winterset, IA. and their only crop is mums.  They have big mums and little mums.   Yellow, red. purple mums.  Mums in pots and mums in rows out surrounding their barn.  Then for a month or so every fall they sell their mums.  Then I started to think that 's a fairly low overhead product...... maybe I should sell mums too.

Then I started to think about something else.

I have been following the wild horse issue for quite a few years now.  I was getting worried that just a month or so ago the round ups were escalating and at that time there were no auctions planned for the winter months.  It has become public that the wild horses have been getting shipped to Mexican slaughter houses.  New slaughter houses are being approved  here in the States at pretty frequent intervals.  It has been looking like genocide for the american horse.  I was stressing as well that I hadn't been able to get onto the BLM site, so what was happening!!!!    I checked with a friend and she said it was just my browser (whew!) and the site was still up.  I was able to check it out last night, finally, and it looks like they have actually stepped up the internet adoptions.  One ended Oct. 30 and another will start Nov. 5.    That's a relief too.

Then I started to think about something else...... but I came right back to ..... I WANT A MUSTANG!
But first I need a BLM approved corral and shelter.  I can't get that unless I go out and dig some holes.  Oh God!  more holes.  If I adopt this time of year getting more hay might be an issue.  Then there will be transportation costs.  Geez,  I haven't even been able to come up with the money to pay the September property taxes.  I'll just have to get creative.

I'll just have to think of something else.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Holes Continued

Holes Continue.... holes always continue, or so it seems.  I tell myself that there can be no more changes.  I just can't take anymore, I don't think.  Things are catching up to me.  Just a few days ago I noticed a clump of hair, hanging at the side of my face, streaked with shiny bright white hair.  Two thoughts zipped through my head.  The first was that I'm running out of time.  The second was that I am getting used up.  Then there was a moment of alarm, and the feeling that I can't run out of time or get used up yet.... the fence isn't done.

I just feel so much pressure.  Well, not that I didn't before, but now it has doubled, because my own mortality has added so much weight.  On top of that, I really need to have some fun before I die.  Seems I spent the first leg of my life's journey working so hard to be a good student... the good child.  The second leg being an industrious adult.  Work and pay bills.  We were always saying we could do something as soon as the bills were paid off.  The third leg of my life has been spent dealing with illness, both mine and my husband's.  So, when does the fun start?

I don't know.  I guess I just have to keep digging my holes and I'm going to have to believe that the fun will start just as soon as the fence is done.    Yup... that's what I'll keep telling myself.


Monday, October 28, 2013


Mac had a long, three day weekend.  That essentially means, I didn't get anything done.  He has this mystical property of sucking all of the motivation right out of me.  I don't know why that it is, but it's a damn nuisance!  Luckily, I set up some time with the neighbor to help me out with some posts before Mac had his weekend.  I was committed and there was no backing out.

I had decided that he, the neighbor, should just help me in two hour increments.  That way I wouldn't be using up his entire weekend and my tasks could be fitted around his other plans.  First, we had to get the auger attached to the tractor.  It felt like it took forever! Eating precious minutes out of my two hour allotment.  Eventually, we did get over here and got the two biggest posts pulled out of the stack.  These were the posts that I had already dug the holes for by hand.  The bases were a good 18-20 inches across, but I'm trying really hard to waste nothing.  Though huge, they would still get used.  Getting the posts to the holes went smoother then I anticipated.  Getting them tipped up was another matter.  I had gotten the holes big enough, but just barely.  The posts stood in the holes but had dropped only about ten inches.  It was a bit nerve racking to see the jumbo size posts barely up.  Finally the tractor got positioned to where it could get it's forks on top of the posts and press them down. There was some moments of worry on the second post as it looked like it might be catching on the tractors hydraulic lines.  Then a little more wrangling and positioning and a bit of finger crossing for luck. The front wheels were completely off the ground as the post "thunked" into position.

The time continued to whittle away and with just about a half hour left we managed to get  nine more holes dug.  No posts were drug out or set or tamped in.  We just went from spot to spot like a hole digging marathon.  But, I keep telling myself. the big posts are in..  the big posts... the ones that look like they mark the entrance to a village.  Posts so big that a hero could stand behind them quite safely while taking potshots at bad guys.  Yes, so big in fact, that I can stand behind them and you won't see my butt sticking out from one side or the other.  That's a big post!  And it's set, and I can move on now.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

One More Hurdle

Most of this month we have been without internet service.  It  becomes very apparent just how alone you can be when you don't have that pretense at conversation.  I did break down and write a real honest to goodness letter to one friend.  It made me feel better.  For awhile, like when I am here or on one of my horse friend forums, I write and I can pretend that they are speaking back to me in my head.  I'm not alone. And the good news is that this is an acceptable way of hearing voices in your head.  That's a good thing.

It's a hurdle that is overcome.  I am trying to think of things in that way right now.... one more hurdle. One hurdle, anyone can manage.  It's when you look at all of it, especially as you go in twenty different directions, that your world unravels.

One hurdle.

I found my farm journal while trying to find some dimensions that I was just sure I had written down some place where I wouldn't lose them.  I flipped through my journal.  I hadn't made an entry in over a year.  I should have been filled with guilt and remorse but I didn't have the energy for it.  I found myself getting sucked in though.  Overall there were two recurring themes, money and fencing.  I can't say that there is anything I can do about the money right now.  I always have thoughts.  I always make plans, but I don't want to muddy the waters or dilute my concentration.  I would really like to get the fencing finished.  One hurdle.  Get it done and move on.  Finally, please, get this worst battle over with!

I must take the blame to some extent.  I have changed my plans.  Made a new layout based on new information.  I've had emergency situations come up.  I've had plenty of times when Pip spent too much time breaking through the fence.  And never, ever, enough money to  do the job properly.  Some things I could help and some things I couldn't.  But now, while I have this bit of time before winter sets in, I want to make my fence into my "one more hurdle" least, sections of it.

I made the mistake, I suppose you could say, of reading up on the paddock paradise system for keeping horses.  It is also referred to as the "track system".  In it's most basic terms, you fence off the center of your pasture so the horses must walk around the perimeter to graze.  It does a number of things.  It naturally keeps the horses moving which is better for keeping their weight down, keeping them exercised and keeping their hooves properly worn, requiring fewer trimmings.  New plans have been made...FOR THE LAST TIME!!!!!  And I want my new hurdle to be this lower pasture section.  Do it! Do it right and move on.  Next year will be another section.  Do that one and be done.  Fencing has mired me down like quick sand and it's time to dislodge myself.  I have other things to do!

So...... one more hurdle.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Books, Books, Books

This summer as I was babysitting my darling Max, I tried to keep an oar in the water by refining my plan and educating myself further.  There were days I just couldn't bear the confines of the house and would pack up Max and we would head to the Half Price Book Store.  This is a national chain of bookstores selling gently used books.  They sometimes have new books as well so I think they must buy up end of runs and odd lots.  The good news is that I can typically afford the place.  The bad news is that they don't always have what I'm looking for.  I always find something of interest though, whether it's useful or not, could be debated.

So, here is what I have been reading....

The Joy of Hobby Farming by Michael and Audrey Levatino

I'd have to call it a good all-rounder.  It balances text to good photography and to be honest, sometimes I can learn as much from a photo.   There were a few points that I wouldn't agree with the authors on but nothing much more then a quibble.  I will keep this one.

Free Range Chicken Gardening by Jessi Bloom

Beautiful photographs!  Lighter on information.  It is geared more towards the urban chicken keeper but plenty of ideas for me to try out.  I'll probably keep this one too, just cause it's so darn pretty to look at.

A Practical Guide to Self Sufficiency by Terry Bridge

I like this book.  I'll keep it.  It is a bit harder to read cover to cover but laid out so I will always be able to find  the section on apples when I want to.  Or the section on home energy... or building your own privy.. or canning produce.. or dyeing yarn... you name it, and it seems to have some information on it.  Good photos as well.

Barnheart: the Incurable Longing for a Farm of One's Own.  by Jenna Woginrich

This one is for motivation.  If you like James Herriot books then you will like this one.  Jenna's experiences remind me to always, always build the best fences that you can, because I swear nothing seems to be able to stay penned up at her place!  She also has a blog if you want to try that out first.  Search for Cold Antler Farm.

I'm currently reading two books.  Wafting back and forth.  One is The Profitable Hobby Farm: How to Build a Sustainable Foods Business by Sarah Beth Aubrey.  No pictures to speak of and very heavy in much needed information.  Sometimes it is a bit painful to read.  It probably is a must have... but it won't be fun.  But I will have to admit that she writes it so I understand the stuff.  I have read other articles on the business side of farming and they were totally undigestible.  You should be able to get through this and understand what you read.

The other current book is...

The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka  This is about a man's learning curve  to become able to farm with nature.  Because it is geared toward the climate and crop rotation in Japan it might not be directly applicable.  But this is more about training your mind to see a way within your own dynamic setting.  And the perk is that if you find a way to work within nature, then you don't have to do near as much work.  The goal, I believe, is for me to look around and see what nature is wanting to provide here, and then gently guide it.  It's a principle more then an agricultural how-to.

In the wings I have, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson.  I know, I know, it has nothing to do with farming.  But someday I will have the construction done.  I'll have the fences up, the sheds built, the raised beds raised, and I'll have to come into the house.  At which point I have no doubt that I will look around and say...."Holy Shit!"  Someday, I will really, really have to clean my house.

Not to forget, every winter I spend a little time and re-read Sylvia's Farm by Sylvia Jorrin.  She reminds me to keep going.  It doesn't matter if the pipes are frozen, you have three feet of snow on the ground and ice so treacherous, you slide on your belly to get to the barn.  You keep going because what else can you do?  You keep going because somehow, in your heart, your a farmer.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Yesterday was day two at being back at home.  Weird!  I felt like a stranger.  My outdoors world felt much more intimate... more my own.  So I did my errands in the morning.  Recycled soda bottles.  Took excess grocery bags to the thrift shop so they could be used again.  I should have gone there first as I ended up spending my can money on odds and ends at the thrift shop.  Oh well, I'll forgive myself later in the day.  Then ran by the feed store and got some of my critter essentials and picked up the timothy grass seed that I had bought during the heat of the summer.

The afternoon was spent outdoors.  A little debris that had gotten blown around in the last storm was picked up.  Took a pan, purchased for $.25 at the thrift shop, out to the chicken coop , filled with grit.  Gave the horses a snack as they were begging terribly.  If they were women, they would be alfalfa pellet whores.  Where's your dignity, you, ponies, you!  But, I digress....

The highlight of my day was taking the fifty pound bag of timothy seed out to the hayfield in the back of the truck.  Opening the bag.  Marveling at what very tiny seed it was, then scooping it up in a plastic bowl, and walking through the hayfield looking for bare spots on the ground.  Where the grass was bare or thin, I broadcast the seed by hand.  It took a bit over two hours.  But it is the best tool to know your land is  to get out there and have your feet on the ground.  I can't stress that enough.  You miss a lot driving over it in the truck or on a tractor.  Walk it!

Things are looking better.  Last spring we hand sown a bag of orchard grass and also hand scattered five or six fifty pound bags of pelletized lime.  It's a bit shocking to see what a difference so little can make.  A year ago, I had big swaths of  bare ground with patches of moss.  A sure sign of acid soil.  This year I only spotted four or five chunks of moss, none of them bigger then the palm of my hand.  My hay guy told me that my efforts were in the right direction, but there was no way I had done enough to create a change.  He said it was probably the drought the year before that had caused nutrients to rise in the soil.  Maybe.  But I have to believe that small actions are capable of reaping great rewards.  Otherwise, we would all be helpless, and I can't be helpless.

And what's on for today?  Well, I should start by cleaning toilets.  Working towards a brighter, better world!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013


There is an old pop song....."Reunited and it feels so good....."  Well, I'm home and to be honest I don't know how to feel.  I'm missing Max terribly.  I'm not missing the drive at all.  I feel at a loss.  There is so much to do here and I'm so far behind that I don't really know which way to jump first.  I guess my tune would be, "Reunited and I'm dazed and confused...."

  I was putting in 12 hour days between watching Max and having to drive such a long commute, and it certainly shows on my house.  It  shows between doggy hairballs and giant dust bunnies.  My menagerie of filth.  I had to begin with house cleaning.   Not knowing where else to start, I fell back on the tried and true standards.  I began with washing the sheets and running the vacuum.  Moved on to getting a cardboard box by the door and everything that could possibly be burned was thrown into it.  Next stop was to try to clear every flat surface.  I have come to the conclusion that all surfaces in a house should have peaked tops so the household junk does not get stacked on it.  It'll make dining a little difficult, but what the hell?!

I couldn't keep from moving some furniture and then finished off the evening with filing bank statements.  While getting a couple of things accomplished was nice, it has been tempered with some problems.  It seems that a drainage line heaved and we had a pocket of moisture accumulation in the front corner of the house.  The rising damp rotted out a section of the living room floor.  Not hard to do in an earth sheltered house.  So somehow, someway, before the ground freezes, I need to get out there and dig up a tile line.  I need to finish clearing out some cabinetry and then I begin the deed of ripping up my floor.  That will have to keep until this weekend as I have no doubt that I will be needing some moral support.

That takes me back to the good news.  Mac, my husband type person, has finally started to feel better.  I have to admit that we were both wondering if that day would come.  Especially after last winter, when we both managed to spend most of it with flu or respiratory infection.  Throw on top of that, Mac's three heart attacks.  Right now though, he is walking up and down our hill.  Cavorting with grandkids and has even been spotted weeding the garden.  At this time, he is competent in the moral support department.  I am very much needing someone standing there and saying, "Atta Girl!  You can do it!"

For today... I have a to-do list, like always.  Nothing too rigorous as I still don't know what the hell I'm really doing.  A trip into town for gas and feed and I guess we'll just have to see where we end up.  Reunited?  yes, I think so, but I totally don't know how I feel.

Later, Kids,