Monday, August 18, 2014

Black Walnuts

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

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

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


Neither Here Nor There

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

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

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

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


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Home Made Rat Poison

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, August 3, 2014


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

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

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


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Of Teeth and Dollars

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, July 26, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, July 25, 2014

Ideas and Efforts

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

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

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

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

I will leave you on that happy thought.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

This Week

I just love the author Garrison Keillor.  Each week, on his radio show, Prairie Home Companion, he begins his monologue, "It's been a quiet week in my home town......"  I suppose the same could be said here.  It has been a quiet week.  The rain stopped finally. The sun has shown.  The clouds have been huge and fluffy.  The goldfinches have been at the feeder along with the purple finch and my tiny wrens.  The green pf the summer has been spectacular

But that has just been on the surface.

This week we finally had the hay put up.  We have it baled in large bales which isn't ideal for me, but we make it work.  We bale on shares so that, so far, the hay guy takes fifty percent and I take fifty percent.  But this last year has been different.  The hay guy was positive that I should lay down composted manure.  He ran some numbers for me and he said we would split the cost.  He pushed it so aggressively  and was so sure that this would be the ticket to increasing my yield that he would float the part that I owed until we brought in hay.  So, now we have baled.  Last years yield was forty bales of hay.  This year after spending money that I did not have, I have the grand total of forty two bales.  Which gives us each twenty one bales.  But Arlyn the hay guy wants an extra bale as he feels there should have been more yield around the edges.  Plus, he threw on an extra hundred dollars charge as after spreading the manure, he had to come over and harrow it.  He had to harrow as he waited to spread the manure after it had partially frozen.... his mismanagement, not mine.    Then to add insult to injury, he wants me to sell any excess bales to him so he can funnel them to a friend of his at forty dollars per bale, so I make a  profit of  almost nothing.  Actually, I don't make a profit.

To recap.....

I owe Arlyn $930 for exceptionally poor quality manure which he got from a buddy.  My land is not improved.  And I am being set up to sell hay for  a price that will only make me $400 and I still cannot come up with cash to pay my taxes.  Selling ten bales and keeping ten cuts me close on my own needs for my horses for the year.  I still need posts.... I still need wire... I still need more hay.

Floating  over all of my farm drama has been the legal issues with the credit cards that defaulted when Mac's leukemia returned.  I am always glad that we were not as reliant on them as other people but still it looks like a ten thousand dollar lien is going to be unavoidable..... I do not have ten thousand dollars.  Apparently we have a court date for August the eighth to address this problem.

But to the casual observer, it has been a quiet week here on my little farm.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Making Me Crazy

All the rain we have been having is starting to get to me.  I keep looking at my hay field that is waiting  to get cut.  On one hand I am really frustrated and want my hay!  On the other, as long as it is still standing then it isn't cut, laying on the ground and getting ruined.   It doesn't pay to think about it  Actually I have been putting forth an effort to think about other stuff.  I have been trying to look at the tiny house videos that are on youtube.  But it seems that I have seen most of those.  I have looked at some more organic farming videos but a great deal of those seem like they are too long for me to stream or I have seen them.  It adds to my general poor mood.

I was beating myself up about being generally useless.  Then I decided I just need something new to think about.  I need a puzzle.  I have to have my mind engaged.  I don't know why I tried to look up my great grandparents on census files, but I did.  It was something to do  I have found a little information.  Not much.  But I haven't had much to go on.  There are few family stories.  Some census records were destroyed by fire  The biggest hurdle is that I really don't know what I am doing.

There is one thing that strikes me.  We were poor.  We were always poor  It is like a stench that won't wash off.  I am not sure how much of this family research is fascinating and how much is depressing  but I suppose it beats getting driven nuts by watching it rain.  I'll keep at it for awhile though.  I have great hopes for finding a horse thief somewhere in my family tree.  Then, perhaps, I will find out where my horse crazy gene comes from.

But for now, I am just looking out my window.  It is sunny right now.  Birds are singing.  And soon a low pressure front will be sweeping through.  Thunderstorms are forecast for the afternoon  It really is enough to make you crazy.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I remember as  a child having those little seasonal sayings.  For March it was "in like a lion and out like a lamb".... also "April showers bring May flowers"  In general, the weather of spring has seemed to overflow it's boundaries  All around us the weather has been excessive.  There has been a lot of rain.  Some areas are getting in one rain fall the amount of rain expected for a whole month.  Last week we got one storm that brought down three inches.  That isn't so bad.  While we were at Mac's Dr. appointment I heard a woman say they had a two day storm that resulted in six inches of rain.

Of course, that brings a number of problems.  Flash flooding.  Flooding that doesn't "flash" and just stands there killing out the lower sections of corn fields.  And with the flooding we will have more issues with chemical run off into creeks, rivers and lakes.  The lake in the state park to the south of us has caused swimmers to break out in a skin rash.  Some are saying e-coli.  but since no one is mentioning a life threatening version of diarrhea, I'm thinking chemical run off.

Along with the rain, has come the wind.  A couple of tornadoes, but nothing bad there.  That is, as far as tornadoes go, they are pretty much non-events, but the straight line winds have been impressive.  Many communities have gone to the practice of sounding the tornado alarm for straight line winds just as they do for tornadoes.  Day before yesterday when a front moved through with straight line winds, trees were uprooted.  Barns blown down and fields of corn were laid completely flat.

We have been lucky.  Here on our little farm, we are built into the hill, protected and above the turmoil.  Our trees are still standing.  We just haven't been able to get enough clear sunny days in a row to allow for cutting hay.  That is a pretty small problem compared to what other people are going through..... but I really need some hay.  I also need to sell some hay so I can pay some bills.  Here it is July and we are still getting those April showers.  These days we might as well just call it "monsoon season" in Iowa.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Wood Stonehenge

These are the giant posts that were set last fall.  I thought I would bust a gut!  They are actually two gate posts with brace posts that are overlapping, But for now, I am enjoying my little "mystical " place.  Later, I will be enjoying my amazing gates and fences.  And when I have that done... I'll be posting pictures!


Always Keep Your Promises

I have tried to make it a goal to always , always keep my promises.  If there is no chance of doing it then don't promise it..  So, finally,I'm  learning  how to post pictures with the new format.  Now you can see some of the girls.  My Buff Orpington hens, which I can highly recommend.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Funk Prevention

Sometimes it is inevitable that a person get in a bit of a funk.  It has been a personal problem for the last couple of weeks for me.  But I don;t like feeling depressed.  Some people are wallowers, who just relish their tragedies.  I can't go there.  I try to discuss it, then make a plan, then pummel the problem to death.

First I take vitamins.  Not multi-vitamins.  They make me vomit and I don't like that.  So, I try to take some decent vitamins that keep my immune system working.  Then I move on with making plans.  I have all kinds of plans.  Some as simple as my many to-do lists.  Some are more fantastical, like how would I go about spending my lotto winnings.  Lotto plans are broken up by amount.  For instance, should I win the five thousand dollar amount... I would just be stuck paying bills.  That's sad so I go ahead and figure out what I would do if I won twenty thousand.  Now I have something to work with!  All bills would be paid off.  Hooray!  Then I could buy the extra stuff I would need to build all my little outbuildings, like the little barn, the chicken coop, hopefully the garage.  And I would buy my little tractor.  The little Huskvarna garden tractor with a cart, rake, box grader and an aerator for the hay field.  Ahhh!  Luxury!

If I won the one hundred thousand dollar lotto, I would do all of the above.  I would also have a savings account.  I would be able to give money to my kids.  I would fill the L.P. tank....FULL!  I would hire some help putting in my orchard and fencing.  Then I would probably top that off by putting up a hoop house to guarantee my ability to garden over a longer season.  What fun!

If I won a million?  All of the above plus pay off my mortgage.  Pay off my kids' mortgages.  I could give money away.

But sometimes I can't make it into town to buy a lotto ticket to cheer myself up with, so I make other plans.  On the practical side, I plan more horse fencing.  On the impractical side, I plan zombie proof fencing.  I draw more floor plans for  my tiny houses.  Little houses that I will never build..... but for some reason, they make me incredibly happy, and they only cost me paper and pencil.  No lotto winnings required for that.

My big plans for today?  I think I want to spend a little time and get out and take some pictures.  Then I need to weed the blueberries.  I have another blueberry plant to put in the ground and some purple leaf sand cherries that need to go into larger containers.  It'll be a good day.  At least, that's the plan.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cement Overshoes

I look back over what Mac and I have been through over the last fifteen years or so and wonder how we keep managing to bounce back.  It hasn't been easy, but when you give up, you just die, right?  We had been living with ever growing hope recently.  The truck would soon be paid off and that would free up a little money.  Then we could 1) be sure we have enough food over the course of the winter 2) build up a little savings account  3) have enough money to pay our taxes and insurance 4) make some improvements on the farm that would speed us along to having a farm income 5) pay off some other bills.  It seemed that we had a plan.  Well, a plan of sorts.  We hadn't crossed our t's or dotted our i's  but we thought we were on our way.  I had building supplies still laying in the yard from what I had purchased before Mac's leukemia had returned.  I had changed up most of our plans so that those supplies would take care of our building needs this year.  I had hoped that just a moderate amount of money would be needed for odds and ends to finish up   It seems you never have everything.  You always need odds and ends.

So, with the truck almost being paid off and the resources that I already had, how could I not be hopeful?  I guess I fell into the old cliche of counting my chickens before they hatched.  During the worst of Mac's illness his long term disability insurance only paid out enough to cover the mortgage and his health care insurance.  We lost the old house which we were trying to sell to make the down payment on the new one.  We were more or less supported by an old school friend of Mac's  We robbed Peter to pay Paul and got most of the bills taken care of.  There are still some medical bills that we are chipping away at.  We defaulted on two credit cards.  Thank God we aren't like most people and we didn't own a wallet full of the things.  We didn't carry as much debt as most Americans, but more then we were comfortable with.  The plan was to get the truck paid off and save up enough to contact the creditors and negotiate the debt settlement and pay them off.  But there wasn't enough time.  Our recovery was too slow.  One creditor has sent us paperwork and they say they intend to force us into foreclosure on our house if we do not pay them the balance  We are looking at getting a loan to get money to settle but since we have gone through financial difficulties we may not be eligible for a loan.  And there is the question of another payment.  That little cushion we had hoped for by having the truck paid off will be gone.

I try to not think about it.  I try to keep my spirits up, but there are days I feel like I have been thrown into the ocean with cement overshoes.  The waves keep lapping at my face and there is just no way to escape drowning.  Some how.... some way... there has to be a way we can be successful enough that we can pull our way out of this.  But you have to keep trying.  If you give up, you just die, right?


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Damage Assessment

I knew my back had been getting worse.  You'd have to be a moron to not notice something like that, right?  But the morning I woke up with sufficient pain to make me sit on the side of the bed and shake and to pretty much lack the ability to walk, then... apparently, only then, was I willing to acknowledge that my back really was getting worse.  Geez!  what an idiot!  Luckily, my neighbor also has trouble with his back.  Finally, I broke down and asked him for some help, and two days ago I gimped over there.  With some difficulty, he got me strapped onto his inversion table and hung me upside down a couple of times.  This caused some minor popping.  Then onto this odd shaped roly-poly kind of thing.  It's like a ball that got squeezed in the middle so it is narrow in the center.  Then  I sat on the floor carefully and  rolled backwards onto the thingy.  Rolling back and forth so it worked up and down my spine.  He finished by twisting me a little to see if I was flexing.  After all that I could stand straighter.  I could turn.

I continued to pop a bit through the day.  Pain was still bad next morning but nothing like it had been.  I could function again!  We spent the afternoon puttering around outside.  Mac and I measured and set stakes for where we would like the garage.  Then we had a discussion about dimensions and purposes.  He walked up and down simulating pulling into the measured opening.  We made it wider.  Then we measured the outdoor kitchen.  Made more plans.  Figured out where to put gravel and outlined where there should be grass.  Decided where we would plant a tree.  All the time I was bemoaning that I had lost a week's worth of work due to a back that refused to operate as engineered.

The floor project that I was scheduled for last week will just have to get scrapped for awhile.  We have to move on to leveling the area for the garage and I need to get a new chicken coop built before the new chicks come.  Today I need to finish raking some rock out of the area that is to become grass, but was parking.  The garden is in extreme need of weeding.  The horse fence that should have been finished a week ago isn't.  The birds have gotten the strawberries.  And the house is in a serious mess.

I am torn between feeling miserable about this state of affairs and feeling flippin' awesome that I can once again stand up.... bend over... why I can even cough and sneeze with out having shooting pains.  That's a wonderful thing.  I guess I will just have to buck up and then catch up.  This is going to be a year where we do great things...... no matter what!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oh My Aching Back!

Some time ago, I hurt my back.  I was working at a casino and through repetitive movement managed to herniate three discs.  I was given a lot of shots and drugs and told to walk a lot.  Eventually they said surgery could be considered  but I should also consider that it would do no good.  I was going to live in pain.  I was given a pat on the head, a stipend, and told to never work more then four hours a day and was given a five pound limit for further repetitive lifting.

I always told myself that it would hurt less if I had gotten the injury lifting my own money.

I decided it wouldn't stop me.  I would work around it.  I would kill myself in the effort before I let this become my wall.  I have learned tricks to managing this.  Limit sugar as much as you can stand to.  Sugar causes inflammation.  I also try to limit coffee and other caffeine drinks as they tend to dehydrate.  I drink as much water as I can,   Hydration keeps the disks spongy and working like the little shock absorbers they are suppose to be.  In fact, hydration caused a greater reduction in pain then the pain pills did.  Pain pills become ineffective after awhile.

Recently I have been pushing myself.  This is the big year!  Mac is feeling better.  Things are appearing more stable.  The hay field is looking great.  Now is the time for the big push.  So I have been doing more digging.  We have made a small start on the orchard.  The garden is better this year and it was all turned over by shovel and a digging fork.  Posts are being cut and set.  Soon we will be stringing wire.  And in the mornings when my feet touch the floor there is the moment where I feel like my back has suddenly been put into a vice.  Electricity shoots through my butt and down the backs of my legs.  I hold onto the side of the bed to move and for my first steps I am not sure I will stay standing.  Sometimes I can't lift my legs to put on my pants.  It becomes a mental exercise to figure out how to get all of your clothes on.  Then  I hold onto the wall while I make my way into the kitchen.  I get the bits of leftover and discarded trimmings and they go into the chicken can.  Then I walk outside.  Feed the horses and check water.  Walk out to the chicken coop, which perhaps, I put too far away.  Let the chickens out and give them their snack.  Then walk back to the house.

Most days, it is starting to ease by then.  The vise loosens.  The electricity in my legs is tingling and not surging.  By afternoon, unless I overdo, I will be pain free.  I will go to bed and sleep like a log.  though when I need to roll over I usually have to rouse enough that I can grab the edge of the headboard and pull myself into a new position with my arms.  If I am lucky, I have good dreams.

Then it's morning and time to get up.  Every morning, this is the moment I dread.  I swing my feet to the floor.  Instantly, my back goes into the vice.

It can't be helped.  It is what it is.  And there is no way that I am going to let this stop me from building the little farm.

It's going to be a beautiful day today.  We are going to finish up setting posts.  Edges of the garden need weed whipped and I should pick some strawberries.  Life is good.


Thursday, June 12, 2014


What a day I had yesterday!!!  My neighbor Dan and I worked so hard we thought we were going to drop in our tracks!  But we accomplished the miraculous..... we cut posts!  Not just a few posts.  Not just "good enough" posts.  We cut awesome, straight, eight foot posts.  It was amazing.

We didn't have any plans for the day and Dan just kind of showed up.  He wanted to know if I was in the mood to cut posts.  This is not a question that you answer "no" to!  Sure!  let's go cut posts!  First we headed back to the north side where I am trying to plant my orchard.  I showed him the big ol' hedge I had found while doing some other work back there.  We stood on the ground and counted several times over and we both thought we could get at least ten posts from the tree.  That is a lot!
  Dan made his first cut and got the chainsaw wedged.  But that was post one.  He went to the other side of the tree and cut down another section.  He wedged the chainsaw two more times.  The tree came up on a large trunk then split into four sections.  Each of those four sections were also pretty large trunks.  Dan cut down the largest of the four that had a good sized spur on it.  We kept clearing and limbing and standing back and saying things like, "I think if we make the cut here, this section will make a post."    From about half of the tree, we were able to cut sixteen posts.  The tree just seemed to keep giving.

All of the posts got drug out to where they will be used.  I had already started the holes in order to clear the grass and to mark their location.  So by each small hole there was now a post.  I should say most of the holes.  But we were painfully close to the goal.  We broke for lunch and afterward tried some trees that Dan had scouted out earlier.  In the afternoon the temperature went up and we were working in a pocket that was getting no breeze and the sun was  beating down on us.  Dan took out three more hedge trees.  These weren't so spreading and shot straight up, which is uncommon for a hedge tree.  Each tree was pulled out and limbing was pretty straight forward this time.    We got four to five posts from each tree.  By the time we were ready to drop from exhaustion, we had cut thirty-two or possibly more posts.

We had gotten the post hole digger on to Dan's tractor, but neither of us felt like we had any strength to go on.  We will save the hole digging for another day ... soon I hope.    We made giant strides forward but there is still so much to do and the grass is running low in both front horse lots.  So, I continue my existence living between  exultation and a panic attack.  Either way, yesterday was a really good day!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014


My mind has been running about today.  Jumping and hopping from one thought to another.  My own undoing I suppose.  We stayed up a bit late and watched "The Grapes of Wrath"  When I was younger the movie just seemed an interesting bit of fiction but these days it has become personal.  Now it seems to be about how much sadness a person can take before they give up and quit, or even give up and die.

In the past it was Tom Joad's speech about "I'll be there" that struck a chord with me.  Not so much now.  I think now what touches my heart the most is the last scene of the movie.  The family is driving out of the government camp to follow what will possibly be twenty days of picking.  Ma is explaining how a man lives his life in jerks.  But a woman is about her family and the farm is her boundary.  She lives her life like a stream.  Some one dies and a little "feller" comes along and the family continues.  You might lose your home but you start another one somewhere else and you just keep flowing.  There are eddies and waterfalls but you keep going.

I suppose so.  

Food, clothing, shelter and dignity.  That is probably my motivation now. Hopefully by the end of summer I'll be able to chuck on the pursuit of happiness as well.  We will see.

For the next few days I should probably stay away from movies that inflame my social consciousness and  expose myself to whatever motivation that causes me to build fence or finish up flooring projects.  For every project done there will be another to step up and take it's place on the to-do list.  But that will be alright too.  It's a part of my stream.  I just keep flowing.


P.S.  the variety of tomato called Husky Red has started setting blossoms.  Makes me happy considering how cool it has been lately.  Tomorrow I will go out and check to see if any of the squash or beans has germinated.  Looking forward to my own good food.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sometimes It All Comes Together

I didn't know exactly what I wanted when we came here.  But I had an idyllic picture in mind.  Rolling hills.  My cottage like little house.  Horses grazing peacefully.  So, there I sit with this charming little picture in my head and I start working on it.

Then I have an interruption.

During that interruption I learn something new and I come back to my idyllic picture with new ideas.  Part of what has already been done has to be changed or pulled out and started again.  I feel like I have a grasp on things.  On occasion, I actually even feel like I am picking up speed....

Then I have another interruption.

I learn something new.  I come back to my little farm with new ideas.....  now here I am five years later and feeling very much like I haven't made any progress whatsoever.  But this spring it seems to have all fallen into place.  What I have learned is now at the cutting edge of what small scale agriculture can be.  What I am learning now is refinement of my system and I don't think I will be tearing too much out anymore.  I think..... I hope....that I have arrived at what my idyllic home is going to be, with all of the details filled in.

My pasture areas have been enlarged, but I am not using them as a block of pasture, which is traditional.  I am making them as a track system so the horses graze  the outline  of the pasture.  The interior is fenced off so that you end up with what appears to be a large oddly shaped donut.  The interior of the front pasture/track system will be used for an additional hay field.  It will probably have to be hand cut and hand baled but that is okay, it's the only way that I am able to get small bales.  I can live with it.  The back track system goes around two areas, making something of a figure eight.  The farthest north area is becoming the orchard.  The southern section will become another hay production area and also a future site for a pond ( I hope, I hope!!)

The orchard area is the more interesting now.  In the orchard I am implementing a hugelkultur system of planting.  I have been working at dragging dead pieces of trees and branches up and forming them into lines running perpendicular to the slope.  This is going to add in erosion control and also catch more water that will get absorbed and held by the dead wood.  I am adding some aged manure to these wood piles.  Also pieces of char.  Some of it is charred wood that I have burnt down myself, some I cheated and bought hardwood charcoal from the store ( not the briquets!)  I still need to get in there and augment with  fish emulsion, bone meal, lime and some stuff that will break down, such as leaves and straw.  Good topsoil is layered in here and there and also covers the top.  As we progress we will be heavily mulching the top soil.  Since the hugels are not fully developed, I have been concerned that they will get broken down by deer and hard rains.  I have put out repeller ribbon  twisted to get full effect from reflective light and tied between two posts.  So far it is working.  The deer seem to be leaving things alone.  I do not have enough plant material to effectively mulch so I am planting pumpkins around the fruit trees to protect from evaporation.  The spiny vines should also give additional protection from deer and rodents.  Spring was late in coming this year, so we are still taking baby steps.  But I am already seeing good erosion control from the method.

The track system was what made it possible for me to bring it all together.  Each area does double duty.  The north area, the orchard, might even do triple duty.  I am still thinking of getting  the Old English Babydoll Southdown Sheep.  They are a small homestead size animal.  They are grazers, not browsers, so they won't be harming my trees.  They will be keeping down the grass in between the trees.  I can rotate the sheep from the orchard to one of the hay areas once the hay harvest is brought in so they will be enriching the soil.

It has all finally come together.  All of the methods  have interlaced and the plan is becoming  a working machine.  The only drawback is that you have to double fence.  Some people use temporary electric fence, but I am doing something a bit more substantial.  Mainly because I want to use what I can find on my property to keep costs down, which means cutting more hedge posts.  But I know where I'm going now and that's good news.


PS.  You might want to check into some articles on hugelkultur.  There is a good one on  Also, there is a wealth of information via Geoff Lawton.  Everyone really should watch his video "From Desert to Oasis in Four Years"  Amazing stuff!

Friday, June 6, 2014

For Marion

I have spent a great deal of time out in the garden.  I have been trying to develop my little orchard.  I have been turning over sod.  Pulling dead trees out of the woods.  Sliding in mud.  Sweating.  Sometimes it is hard to be where you are really at, there in the hot, humid still air.  Feeling sweat run down between my shoulder blades.  Sweat down my forehead, stinging my eyes.  I push the shovel in to the wet clay and lift it out only to have the mud adhere.  It weighs a ton, or so it feels and I start whacking it against the ground.  Eventually a portion of the sticky mass releases it's stubborn hold.

Recently, Mac again watched the movie "True Grit"  Not the horrible John Wayne version, but the amazing Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon version.  As always the language seeps into my brain.  It is melodic to me and disarming.  It pulls me out of my own troubles and makes me think of another time.  How did they manage?  How many days did they stand in the heat, cussing the mud?  So tired of bending that they felt that their backs would snap the next moment.

I have a friend named Marion.  She thinks I can write.  I think she is generous.  But sometimes, I slip away in my thoughts and pretend she is right.  Today I though of Marion and I thought of other times and the daily language of frontier people and I found myself transfixed by my own burdens in someone else's words.  I thought, if I were a frontier woman, what would I be telling my people back home?

This is what I thought......

Our winter was relentless this year.  Cutting fire wood was an endless task, or so it seemed.  The supply that should have got us to the spring was gone by February's end.  Of course the hens no longer lay and the cow is now dry.  We look forward to full on spring.  The cow has yet to calf and we are suffering with mud season.  We did realize a bit of a reprieve last week when we had a hard frost.  The mud was frozen underfoot.  It causes one to consider that to get to the promised land you have to suffer the journey.  The next day the mud was again just mud and it came nigh to pulling one's shoe off.

We have great hopes this spring.  We can envision the abundance.  One day our spirits soar and other  days we are made meek knowing the quantity of hard work that lay before us.  We can but continue.  There are times of sheer joy as well.  Last Sunday we  were glad to take part in a potluck after church.  It was good to be out amongst folks again.  There was food aplenty but the true joy came from the company.  Nice to hear voices again!  Constance Abernathy shared a solo.  She sang "What a Friend we Have in Jesus"  Her voice was so clear and sure.  There was no one in the congregation who did not have a knot in their throat or a tear in their eye.  But there will be no more shared sabbath for us for a time.  The horses will be hard worked soon and they will need their sabbath rest just as we will.

I do not mind the toil of the homestead.  I know that soon there will be blessings aplenty.  I particularly look forward to the fresh milk and to the peas.  I find great joy in small pleasures.  My only sorrow is in missing your dear sweet faces.  To hear your voices again would thrill my heart.  As I work I dream of the day when all is done here.  I shall be rocking on my porch and hope to see all of you that I love so dearly walking this path to my door.  Such gladness there will be!

Until such a day, I remain yours.

A person has to let their minds wonder sometimes.  Luckily I haven't been watching any Spike Lee movies, or this could have sounded TOTALLY different.  Ha!