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!