...and the dogs shall share a meal with the chickens.

Good tidings to you this holiday season! May the returning Sun/Son bring you joy this coming New Year.


A Wee Bit Early

Last time, it didn't start until February 2009. This time, it starts today, December 20 2009. What's the occasion? The first goose egg of the season!


Battling Ganders

Or, "it's waaay too early for this sh*t, guys." Godzilla and Billy-Bob had been growing more & more agitated whenever I was around the girls these past few weeks. Princess and Duchess started wooing each other two days ago. This morning there was a three-some in the Pool of Woo when Duchess got annoyed that Billy-Bob was on top of Princess, and decided she should be on top of them both. Then tonight, the first of what will be many fights as Billy-Bob and Godzilla battled for the alpha male position.

The lead gander can change between battles. Billy-Bob was lead for about a month last year, with Godzilla taking over for the remainder of the breeding season after one huge Battle Royale. This year, Billy-Bob is once again taking the top spot early on, but one can't count out Godzilla. If the boys duke it out when the gals are around, the gals will circle and cheer on the fight. Tonight, the boys ended up half-flying, half-rolling downhill while they both had beak-holds, trying to wingbeat the other into submission.

Egg-laying season should be starting around the end of January. Huh, I guess it isn't that early after all...


Which Smells the Worst?

Alrighty, pop quiz: which smells the worst?
  1. chicken feces
  2. goose feces
  3. peafowl feces
  4. dogs who've been rolling in carrion

e. whichever is plastered all over you at the moment.

Last night was peafowl feces. We moved the girls out of quarantine, as after five days there were no signs of obvious diseases, coughs, sneezes or feather loss. They weren't going voluntarily from the larger quarantine quarters into the smaller carrying cage we'd positioned at the quarantine door, so I had to crawl into the quarantine quarters and herd them out while Spouse held the carrying cage. By the time they had been scooted out, my jeans, arms & hands had managed to squish into every fresh pile of poo that was available on the straw bedding. Peafowl poo alot when they're concerned, it seems.

The Muses are now housed in a brand-spankin' new 10'x10'x6' chain-link kennel. Once they've been in there a few weeks and have acclimated to our property and its rhythms, they'll be released into the general population. Then the kennel will be used to corral the (currently stinky) dogs and keep them out of the way whenever we have contractors or the propane delivery guy on the site.

The girls settled in well. Personally, I had to wash my hands before taking a shower afterward.

[pic: one of the girls... Euterpe?]


Flies, Mailboxes, and Rescued Peahens

Flies: We just had a cold snap, and the plague of flies are now (fingers crossed, hopefully, please-gawd-please) dead, dead, DEAD! They'd been horrid this Fall, hanging out on the screen doors in swarms, and getting into the house constantly. We don't use bug spray (we're "catch & release" folks whenever possible, even with scorpions), so were swatting throughout the days and into the evenings. I would have preferred to shoo them out, but you can't shoo out a fly. It's like trying to herd cats: just ain't gonna happen. One night, I killed over two dozen flies just in the kitchen alone. On the upside, all this swatting really improved my hand/eye coordination, so I'm hoping to parlay these skills into whatever next PC game I pick up.

Mailboxes: our mailbox must have really pissed off someone. I was bringing home the peahens, and decided to check the mail on the way in. Usually have to lean over the passenger side to get to the mailbox, but couldn't quite lean far enough over to get to it this time. Not only was it beaten flat, but it had been knocked completely off its post. No getting the dents out this time, the box is toast. Next question: should I go the thrifty-yet-time-consuming route and make a cement-lined mailbox (you know, for the surprise factor next time the Mailbox Baseball team takes a slug at it), or go the lazy/expensive route and buy a Veeders Carbon Steel mailbox? Decisions, decisions...

Oh, and those rescued peahens mentioned: yep, got three of them this afternoon. A local breeder was hoping the feed store I work at would sell them, but the store only sells chicks. These poor adolescent girls were wet, cold, and huddled together in a way-too-small cage that was being hauled around in the back of the breeder's pickup truck. In the rain. The neon "SUCKER" sign on my forehead started to flash and overheat. The breeder really wanted to be rid of them - "we've got too many females" - so I said "I'll take them off your hands, since the store isn't willing to buy them." "You got'em." Free. [Although there's really no such thing as a free pet, is there?] Brought the girls home, and set them up in a quarantined area. They appear to be settling in just fine. Have named them after three of the Nine Muses: Calliope (poetry), Euterpe (music), and Thalia (comedy). They're just now getting some of their colored feathers. Should be beautiful green ladies by Spring. Bonus: they like to eat scorpions! Perhaps they can keep the population around here down enough so we won't find scorpions in the house anymore, as in: on our clothes... on the bed... in the bathtub...


Goose Pool, Version 2: Success!

We weren't sick. It wasn't raining. There was nowhere we had to be. At long last, time was made to finish the goose pool on the side yard. For those who haven't been following along: the original goose pool, built into the side of the hill, didn't take into account the fact that water runs downhill. Mud and mucky runoff would fill the pool after each rainstorm, which then required draining the pool and shoveling out the muck each time. This time:

More of the hillside was carved out, and a "retaining wall" of sorts put in the side facing the hill. In a four-inch wide, six-inch deep gap/trench between the hill and the wall, the pond liner was draped to line the gap, then filled with rocks and gravel. This will act as a French drain, and redirect water away from the pool. There's a lip over the drain, which will hopefully keep water from flowing over into the pool in case the drain isn't working as quickly as the runoff. Pic below is before we added the gravel & leveled...

The inside of the pool was lined with hard, corrugated plastic sheets cut to size, to keep the geese from gnawing holes in the pond liner like they did on the last one.

Cement and rocks were added to create steps for the entry and exit. We then filled the pond, and put a couple of wheelbarrow's worth of mulch down to help smooth out the surrounding area that had been churned up by the construction.

And the geese... well, they weren't too sure about Goose Pool Version 2 at first. Am thinking they'll probably give it a gander (ha! ha! humor!) in the morning.


Go for Two Outta Three?

The dogs thought it was time for human interaction. The ganders thought that the human ought to stop all that interaction. With one hand trying to set down a previously lost goose, the other hand trying to keep the dogs at bay, and one leg trying to keep the pissed-off protective ganders back (who thought I was manhandling one of their lady-loves), the human had only one leg to stand on, and lost. Miserably.

Pics of the bruises after I, uh, shave my legs.

[pic: Billy-Bob, one of the #@$!! protective ganders]


Sorta Like Daycare

Spouse brings home more than a paycheck from his Houston job. He also brings home various illnesses on a regular basis. Sorta like a little kid coming home from daycare, there seems to be something new every week. Last weekend he brought home a cold, getting sick the next day. I came down with it about 36 hours later.

The latest illness has meant lack of forward motion on Goose Pool ver. 2 (a.k.a. the New Pool of Woo). We've dug an area in front of the hillside pool that will act as a french drain, and have replacement pond liner that the geese shouldn't be able to chew through as easily. Delay on the revised goose pool means further delay on the new chicken coop. Nothing we can do about either except allow ourselves to rest and get better as soon as we can.

Hoping to find Spouse nearby employment soon so we can practice disease locavorism like everyone else.

[pic: Spouse with "attention-starved" Bandit]


Little Peeper: Still Indeterminate

It's been almost four months since Specklebutt Jr., aka "Little Peeper", was born. We still don't know if Peeper is a hen or a rooster. A crossbreed of an Ameraucana hen and a White Leghorn rooster, s/he's flighty and wary, made all the more nervous by the fact s/he's at the bottom of the pecking order. S/he usually sleeps away from the rest of the chickens, although the second-to-the-last chicken in the pecking order - one of the Sicilian Buttercups - will often roost with her/him.

Peeper hasn't crowed yet. The Leghorn roos were crowing at six weeks of age, but since we don't have an Ameraucana roo for comparison, it's hard to say if this is normal or not. Peeper does have some of the long-ish feathers like the Leghorn roo, but since I've not seen a Leghorn hen, can't say if this determines Peeper's gender or not either. All I know right now is that I'm gonna have to get a ladder into the tree to grab Peeper & the Sicilian companion tonight for a thorough head-lice powdering. Wish me luck.


Independence Days Challenge: November 11

Haven't done an Independence Days check-in for a few months now. Well, since I started the new job anyways! For those not familiar, Independence Days Challenge is an ongoing experiment in learning to live a less wasteful, more self-sufficient manner, started by my favorite "doomer", Sharon Astyk.

The usual check-in outline goes something like this:

Plant something:
We planted our Fall garden, and the mesclun-mix lettuces are going gangbusters. The brassicas are thriving with regular applications of organically-approved Bt. Two weeks ago I planted shallots, and once it gets a good ten-degrees cooler during the days, I'll get the garlic in. Onion slips should be arriving in December. Am running out of room in the garden!

Harvest something: As always, eggs from the girls, and now lettuces from the garden. There's a "volunteer" cherry tomato plant at the nursery I've been harvesting the past few days, leaving the harvested tomatoes on the employee kitchen table. Hated to see those gorgeous tomatoes just sit and rot on the vine... oh, and they're tasty, too.

Preserve something: Have been pressure-canning jars of Spouse's homemade pasta sauce and just last Sunday, chicken stock. From one of our butchered roosters, we'll get at least 12 broth-based meals: risotto, donburi, soups, stews, pilafs. I think stretching cuts of meat is not only prudent, but also respectful of the animal's life.

Reduce waste: Coming up with a plan to re-use old wood pallets to create an open-air chicken coop. The chewed-up goose-pond liner will be re-used to make a cover for the smoker/griller and to cover the current chicken coop's leaky roof.

Preparation & Storage: Purchased 3 cases of Mrs. Leepers gluten-free dinner kits that go well with tinned meats - one for chicken, one for tuna, and one for beef. Also bought a case of Annie's gluten-free mac & cheese. We are also finally, FINALLY moving forward on getting the emergency propane generator in place! A contractor gave us an estimate on moving the electric and water pipes (long story), we've an estimate on the transfer switch install, and we've got a line on a generator we want.

Build Community Food Systems: Continuing to sell the eggs through the co-op, and doing more shopping at the local Farmer's Market. If I need the packaged stuff, I'll hit Austin and go to Central Market for Udi's bread (not exactly local, but OMFG gluten-free bread and muffins to die for!) or Wheatsville Co-Op for raw nuts, dehydrated organic fruits, goat's milk, etc. Yes, I am still avoiding Whole Foods, and believe you me the budget is thanking me for it.

Eat the Food: You betcha. All of the above.

[pic: butterfly on a shrimp plant, taken at the nursery]


10-point-5 Cans of Pasta Sauce

I tried to make a deal with Spouse: I'll can his cooking if he can get it done on a Friday or Saturday night, when I don't have to worry about a long day of work the next day (Sundays are short workdays), or have to mess with a load of dishes by myself afterward when he's gone away on business. This weekend's schedule being what it was, we tried a compromise this (Sunday) evening: he gets the pasta sauce cooked early, so I can get it canned and cleaned up early.

So why is it 10:00PM on a Sunday night, and I've still a pile of big pots to clean? Not Spouse's fault, he followed his end of the deal. Pasta sauce was ready to jar at 4:30PM when I got home from work (see, dear? A public proclamation that It's Not Your Fault). After cleaning the chicken coop and spraying down the chickens (that's another post), I started reading email, Twitter, RSS feeds, blogs, and... sorta lost track of time. Yeah. *sigh*

Still, it's worth the effort. Ten pints (and one tiny half-pint) of pasta sauce, pressure-canned and preserved for those evenings when even defrosting something seems like too much effort. Grab a jar off the shelf, plop the contents into a saucepan, heat & serve. Hoping I can bribe Spouse into cooking a big pot of chicken stock next weekend to can. Unfortunately, it's looking like Sunday night will be the best night yet again to can... perhaps this time I can stay away from the computer, and get the job done in decent time!


Adventures With Electricity

Spouse writes: Ben Franklin ain’t got nothing on me, at least in the electricity test-subject arena. I don’t even have to fly a kite in a thunderstorm to test electricity. I just need to walk out to the side yard where we keep the electric poultry netting/fence. The electric poultry netting is 4 feet high and surrounds the chicken/goose night-time pen in a rough circle 250 feet in circumference. The fence is battery powered and solar charged. The energizer (marketing-speak for the thing that zaps the hat off your head) is made specifically for securing chickens from predators. Of course this means it costs twice as much as your garden-variety cow/horse/stupid-nephew fence zapper. [Yes, Uncle Lynn – I am looking at you. I will NOT test a fence for you ever again.]

There is one downfall to this electric fence. Since it operates by shocking anything that completes the circuit (i.e. anything touching the ground), grass and weeds will short out the fence and reduce the hat-knocking-off effectiveness. So we need to mow or weed-whack the area under the fence regularly. To check the fence at the furthest point from the zapper to see how well it is working, I usually test with the back of my hand. Since I usually wear rubber soles shoes the zap is mostly harmless.

Last night, however, was a different story. We had come back from our neighbors’ wonderful Halloween party (D.A. can write that post) around midnight. While checking on the geese and chickens I noticed that the zapper was not turned on, so I flipped the switch. Bandit, our faithful yet attention-starved dog (from Bandit’s point of view anyway), came up next to me and nuzzled my hand for some scratchin’ behind the ears. As I obliged I guess I brushed up against the electric fence. I say "I guess" because all I remember is blinding pain and then loud yelping from Bandit. It appears that four dog paws on slightly wet ground is a good conductor. The shock went from my hand - that grazed the fence for testing - through to the other hand scratching poor Bandit. After yelping several times in surprise and pain, she took off running.

When I found her later she did not appear amused.

My dog glance translation is a bit rusty, but I think she said that if she ever finds my shoes without me in them, she will deposit a generous amount of processed dog food in them.


The Little Trailer That Could

It's been one of my favorite pieces of equipment around the homestead. This lightweight trailer - it's fold-able, believe it or not - has more than made up its purchase price. It hauls stuff to the junk yard. It hauls hardware and tanks. It hauls mulch, like you see in this photo. Coming soon, it will be hauling fruit & nut trees home from the nursery.

The wheels are tiny, and the railings were definitely a weekend warrior project, but it does the job we need it to do. The weight is just right for the car. I can even pick up an end - easily - and move it/attach it to the car. It's the Little Trailer That Could, and it is well loved. Of course, now there's this used truck I've got my eye on...

[pic top: Spouse loading up the trailer with mulch. Pic bottom: Bandit warming up the gravel pile while we offload the mulch. Don't worry about us, Bandit! You just stay right there and relax, okay?]


Moving via the Nailbiter Express

The stock tank: 8' in diameter.
The trailer: 8'x4', with 4' high rails.
The winds: coming out of the SouthWest at about 5-10 miles per hour.

A complete stranger came up to Spouse and asked "how far do you have to drive to get that thing home?" "Ten miles", Spouse replied. "Wow. Be careful."

Spouse drove the car and trailer, white-knuckled, all the way home. He probably would have bit his nails too if he didn't have to keep both hands on the steering wheel.

Average speed before the tank started tipping and pivoting: 40 MPH.

We - and the stock tank - made it home all in one piece.

[pic: Spouse recovering from the trip]


Holy Smokes, It Was A Busy Weekend!

So, what did we do this weekend?
  • We purchased an air compressor for power tools, and an impact hammer with a half-dozen chisels.
  • We purchased the 8-foot round stock tank for Phase One of "Goose-Landia".
  • We purchased a better pond liner and other materials for a re-do of the hillside goose pond (version 2).
  • We purchased 7 cubic yards of pea gravel.
  • We rented a backhoe/loader for the weekend.
And what did we do with all that stuff, pray tell?
  • We re-dug the hillside goose pool so that there will be a lip and "french drain" on the side of the pool that faces the hill. No more muddy water!
  • We leveled and lined the Goose-Landia stock-tank hole with the pea gravel. (Leftover pea gravel will be used to re-line our walkways).
  • We used that blessed, blessed impact hammer to chisel rocks out of the side of the 1st goose pool, so that we could better arrange the interior/exterior design.
  • We used the backhoe to
    • dig holes for two more pomegranate bushes,
    • level, load and dump gravel into the stock tank hole
    • push back soil around the newly installed stock tank, and then
    • load a massive amount of mulch onto the tow trailer so I can move it to & re-mulch the many areas in need around the house.

Spouse says he wants a backhoe/loader for Christmas, and I don't think he means the toy John Deere ones we have at the local feed store. Anyhow, there are a boatload of stories to go with each project, and I'm gathering the photos to back them up. More posts, soon!

[Pic left: me with the impact hammer/chisel. Bless those air compressor tools! (Note to "Auntie" Jan: yes, those are safety glasses I'm wearing, I promise.) Pic right: the John Deere backhoe we can afford right now. Probably not much power at 1:50 scale, but it'd be a start, eh?]


New Front Porch Draperies

Spouse writes: The un-hemmed Ikea white curtains for $30 a pair were a great way to minimize the sun exposure on the front porch. We were able to use 6 sets to shade the southwestern exposure of the house. That was two years ago.

After two years, the curtains became a rainbow of color from the bottom (early colonial mud) to the top (white-ish brown). And the sun bleaching, plus the wind, and plus the geese/dogs/chickens produced rips, tears and all sorts of sundry holes.

We looked for outdoor fabric, but at $15 to $20 a yard times the 42 yards (at 54 inch widths) we needed required more money than I wanted to spend. We ended up going with Saddle Tan Sun Screen by Easy Gardener, which the hardware box stores carry in large rolls for less than $5 a yard, and at 72 inch widths which meant that we only needed 24 yards of the stuff.

It took one three-hour stint just to see how it would work. After I got the process worked out, I did the rest in an afternoon. I used jute webbing for the top and the side reinforcements. For me the longest part was putting the 13 grommets in each of the curtain panels. Nine grommets are inserted on top for the curtain rings and one grommet for each side to anchor the panel to the railing.

During the trial run I used an inexpensive hand punch that looked like a pair of pliers. After the first panel my hands were pretty much done. For the rest of the panels I used a nice heavy anvil and cutter, which made clean cuts and tight grommets.

The top of each panel is attached to the still-functional Ikea curtain rods using shower curtain rings with roller bearings. The old Ikea curtains hung from fabric loops, which caught on the rod and required some “persuasion” (a.k.a. a long stick) to shut or open. The new rings and roller bearing allow the curtains to open and close without the need for any “persuasion”.

D.A. says that the best part about the new curtains is that they are slightly see through so you can still make out the view from inside the house.

[And a "before" pic (complete with puppies)]

Bugs That Go Crunch in the Night

Here's a quick lesson in gardening: always watch your cabbages, broccolis and other tasty greens, else they'll end up looking as skeletal as mine do in this pic. Once again, I'm happy to be here as an example of what not to do. You're welcome!

Seriously, however, you can control those brassica-eating worms and no-see-'ems with an organically approved Bt or a spinosad-based spray. If you look closely at the picture (or click to enlarge), you can see the plant is starting to recover with new leaves in the middle, four days after the original treatment. I went ahead and planted additional broccoli, cabbage, collards and other greens alongside the recovering plants, just in case the original plants don't make it. And if they do survive? Well shucks, I'll just have to think of something to do with all those tasty greens!


Maggie Discovers Porcupines

She was crashed on the front porch dog bed this morning. Unusual, but I didn't think much about it as I set out to do the goose & chicken chores. A few minutes later she ambled gently out into the yard, where I then saw three porcupine quills sticking quite prominently out of her nose. Ahhh... so THAT'S what all the excited barking was about last night!

Put Maggie into a headlock, and yanked out the quills one by one. She was growling by the second quill. By the third quill, she was ready to take off. I let her go, whereupon she immediately attacked Bandit who was lolling innocently nearby. Perhaps she was blaming Bandit for last night's adventures?

[Pic: Maggie sniffing a chicken butt, probably much like she did with the porcupine last night, but with less trauma.]


Misshapen Bushes

Let my efforts be an example of what NOT to do:

[Sorry this took so long to post. As usual, so much to do, and so little tequila to support the effort.]



Uhh, I may have done something really stupid. In my haste to get the property quasi-cleaned up for a visitor, I trimmed our Texas Sage bushes... in the dark.

Okay, okay, I did have the outside lights on, but I'm now thinking that trimming at night might have been a mistake. Still, the bushes were growing so lopsided. Plus with the recent rains softening up the ground, they were all leaning at different angles, and covering up the view from the windows as well. (Dwarf Texas Sages, these are NOT. "Estimated three to five feet tall", puh-lease!).

Spouse and I have been trying to play catch up since the Summer of H3ll on Earth, and I've been carving out time where I can: between rain storms, or before/after work. Sometimes that means the only time I may have is after sunset. Anyhow, I'll post pics of what was done tomorrow - success or failure - when there's light enough to snap a photo. Perhaps that would be a good rule to keep in mind: only shape plants when there's enough light for photographs?

In other news, I've received permission to bring in my good camera to take photos at the plant nursery, and also to post here on the blog. I see some amazing things at work that would be lovely to share.

[pic: Butterfly on Plumbago flowers, taken at the nursery with cell phone camera]


State of Mind, State of the Farm

Our neighbor is getting ready to throw his Spouse a major blow-out birthday bash, and I'm prepping music for possible inclusion in the mix. It feels like my old I.T. days: Spouse playing music on his computer while doing his work, and I've several applications going at once. Laughing at #conservativebible jokes on Twitter (where folks are making fun of some fringe group who is taking out the "liberal" passages from the Christian Bible). Tweaking photos. Burning playlists to CD. Checking email and the RSS feed reader all at the same time... is there any wonder why I used to be so ADD? No, don't answer that, and don't even joke "what do you mean, past tense?"

This weekend we're trying to get the patio shade drapes completed, and then clean up the porch so we're not looking quite so white-trashy. [Nothing like the threat of an upcoming visit from a friend to kick our butts into gear.] We're replacing the formerly beautiful Ikea white cotton-cloth curtains - which have rotted & shredded within a scant two years - with a more utilitarian, UV-resistant poly shade cloth we can get by the roll at the hardware store. Price will be as inexpensive as the Ikea solution, but should last longer. Geese shouldn't be able to gnaw through this stuff as easily, either. Rotten geese. Pics forthcoming. Of the curtains, I mean.

Speaking of white-trashy, we desperately need an outside storage area so we can at least hide all our stuff, if not perhaps even - gasp! - organize it. We're getting our act together to finally lay down the concrete base for the garage/storage/pottery studio. Need to do some exploratory digging to find which direction all the pipes & electric from the pump house are going, and if we need to re-route all that stuff away from the planned garage area. The good news: all the rain has softened the ground considerably. Perhaps we won't need to rent a jackhammer like we did last Spring.

The Fall garden is doing all right. Cabbage is already being attacked, so I've purchased some Bt (approved for organic gardening) to spray. Will have to wait for a break in the weather. We've had another inch-and-a-half of rain since last night, not that I'm complaining, nosiree. Just hoping there'll be some cabbage left to save! Otherwise, the plants are all enjoying the cooler temps (80's F) and wet weather.

Off to finish up the playlist.

[Pic: my sweet boy, Godzilla, the lead gander.]



Fur in motion stays in motion:

Unless something catches it's attention:

Then it's back to motion again.


The Last Wildflower Hurrah

A couple of rains have taken the edge off the drought from this Summer of H3llacious Heat. Wildflowers are popping up all over the property, taking advantage of the moisture and "making hay while the sun shines". Looking forward to an explosion of color come Spring!

[Nothing is wrong with your eyes. The pics were taken with a camera phone, and are a little blurry.]

Say what you want about Texas, but the wildflowers here are amazing.


The Lone Rooster State

"Lucky", the lone rooster, shares food with the ladies now. Maybe he always did, but it was hard to tell with all the previous roosters running around. Lucky also is learning how to take "no" for an answer:

Lucky the rooster: does his come-hither dance next to Red.
Red the hen: Does not "assume the position". Stands upright and pecks at Lucky.
Lucky: "Wait, didn't she read me right?" Does come-hither dance next to Red again.
Red: "Didn't you get the hint?" Puts on aggressive stance, pecks at Lucky again.
Lucky: "This can't be right. I'm irresistible!" Does dance one more time.
Red: lunges at Lucky and chases him off.
Lucky: Stays away this time.

If he continues the good behavior, Lucky will stay "lucky" with the humans for a good long time. The hens, however, may have different ideas.

[pic: this is a picture of the late Spike, but Lucky is of the same Leghorn breed.]


A Day Off

I am in the midst of a "day off", courtesy of dear Spouse who is doing all the chores and errands today (bless you!). While I give myself a mani-pedi and enjoy the sunshine break between rains, here's the latest:

Last weekend's hole-digging with the rented backhoe/loader was an unqualified success. We'll rent that thing again for sure. Hole was dug for the new goose pool, water runoff swales on the side of the hill were enlarged, and we've found actual soil on different parts of the property! I didn't get a chance to run the backhoe this time - was too busy getting other things done in tandem with the hole digging - but will for sure next time.

Speaking of large machinery: learned how to drive a forklift at work. The turning is done by the back wheels, so making turns often felt like the lift was beginning to fishtail. Can't wait to drive it again, woo-hoo!

Lyn the permaculturist came by and took a look at the property. Will call to set up a time to discuss what kind of ideas she came up with (and bring her a few dozen eggs, too).

The Fall garden was installed in one fell swoop Thursday night. Broccoli, spinach, cabbage, green beans, mustard greens, collards, tomatoes, basils, and two beds of lettuces. Whew! We used up every single one of the raised beds.

Alrighty, nap time!

[pic: Spouse with the fresh-from-the-groomer dogs. Look long & hard, as that sort of cleanliness doesn't last long.]

p.s. Would you believe the nap lasted four hours? Holy smokes!


The End of Roosterville

This post is not for the squeamish. Those who choose not to eat meat will not want to read further, okay? Okay!!

We finally butchered the roosters Sunday night. I thought about documenting the process, but honestly, there's so many sites that already do a fine job on home butchering instruction that I'll leave it to them. I had expected to be freaked out by the process, but was surprised to find that I wasn't - just nervous that I'd screw something up or cause undue suffering. Our friends Joy & Robert led Spouse & I step-by-step through the process. I said prayers of thanks for the spirits of the roosters whose lives we were taking, and made sure that the cuts I made would take their lives quickly and cleanly. I feel like I've fulfilled a personal philosophy at long last: if I'm going to eat meat, I should take part in the process of taking the life of that animal, or at the very least, observe the process of doing so at least once.*

We did our best not to waste a single part. Feet will be used as part of soup stock. Edible organs were divided and saved for later meals. The heads were taken to a remote cow pasture and dropped off for the fox & raccoons. Guts & feathers... well, I had hoped to bury them in the compost pile, but the chickens and dogs have done a number on the mass of the pile, and I feared there wouldn't be enough matter to keep the stink down. I did, however, water the pile with the fouled processing water.

We gave our teachers two of the roosters (and all the livers they'd like) as thanks for their instruction. [I know I've said it a bazillion times, but Joy & Robert, you rawk. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!] We butchered ten roosters total. There's one rooster left - his name is "Lucky", of course - who I decided to keep around for now, as long as he doesn't get stupid. If he does, well, I now know how to adjust his attitude, permanently.

* That said, I don't think we're going to make a habit of raising our own roosters for meat, but never say never. If we do, I'll want to create a much more spacious enclosure and roost. What we had worked well, but I'd rather have something where I can stand upright & walk into for easier cleaning and care.


The Re-Use of Old Kiddie Pools

We've been using plastic kiddie pools for the geese and dogs for over a year now. We've gone through quite a few, as the dogs tend to punch holes into the pools with their nails. Never was able to throw the pools away, and tried a variety of methods to patch & re-use, to no avail. Now we've found an honorable way to re-use those pools... as raised garden beds!

First, I cut large holes out of the bottom to allow root & water penetration. Didn't cut away too much, however, as I wanted the pools to retain some strength and structure:

Then we filled the pools with soil. Renting the backhoe/loader saved us hours of labor:

The loader bucket was wider than the pools, so we still had to do some soil shoveling, but not too much:

End result: all of the pools re-used.

Final pic: Spouse having a good time on the rental unit.

We also filled in a longstanding hole, and Spouse found actual soil on the property. We were going to put the goose pool in that initial spot, but have decided to save it for orchard trees. New pool spot: in front of some young oaks. More updates later!


Would These Chickens Care?

I was tossing, turning, and gnawing on some stupid issue that had my panties in a twist the other night. For some reason, chickens came into mind (yeah, it gets pretty strange in there) and a question arose: would the chickens care about this issue? Really?

Answer: No, they would not.

I about busted a gut laughing.

See, here's the thing: Mother Nature does not give a flying leap about our human dramas. It doesn't matter your color, your wealth, your connections: if you're in the wrong place at the right time, you'll get attacked & eaten, or rained upon, or frozen regardless. The sun shines on the just and unjust alike. This fact is one of the few things in life that gives me a sense of peace and reassurance.

So the next time I'm fretting about something, I'll just bring to mind this picture of Nutmeg and ask myself: would these chickens care?


Weekend Ahead

[Still getting a schedule down to where I can write on a regular basis again. Almost there... ]

Last week's backhoe delivery was postponed due to rain and flash flood warnings. Permaculture consultation was postponed due to same. I'm off work tomorrow (Friday) and plan to rest up as much as possible, as this weekend will be wonderfully, hectically busy.

Saturday & Sunday, backhoe projects:
  • Fill in big hole where a former in-ground tub used to be.
  • Dig out second, bigger goose pond.
  • Fill raised veggie beds.
  • Test dig holes in various parts of property for next phase of fruit/nut tree installation.

Sunday evening, after work: Joy will be teaching me how to butcher roosters. My poor hens will be glad of their riddance. Still considering keeping one roo (they're good at warning when there's a raptor), but not sure yet. Guess I could keep one, and if That Lucky Roo acts too much a fool, I'll have the skills to dispatch him personally.

Monday at lunchtime: Lyn is tentatively scheduled to come by and look over the land to get an idea of layout for permaculture project. We had a great phone meeting last weekend, and am excited to see what kind of ideas her visit sparks!

I'm reading this and the words are starting to flow together, not making much sense. Time to hit the sack.

[Pic: Salt & Pepper shakers at Linda Allen's.]


Geese in Pool and Mother Nature

Not the greatest quality photo, as this was a taken a distance away with the cell phone, but here's the geese enjoying the new pool. Before the week of Noah & the Flood.

When I (or was it Spouse? Can I blame Spouse? No?) got the bright idea to put the pool on the side of the hill, neither of us took into account rain runoff. This week, we've had about 8 inches (or more) of that wet goodness, and the pool received about the same in quantity of muddy runoff from the hill. Oops. The filter just couldn't keep up. Spouse had to pump out the water twice: once to empty the pool so he could shovel out the mud, and once again after re-filling, as the mud hiding under the floor pavers came swirling out.

It looks like we've come to the end of this particular weather system, but we're all hoping for more rain in the weeks to come. Think I might need to invest in some sandbags to place a few feet in front of the pool to prevent more mud collection during the next bout of rain. It's either that or Spouse just might make me shovel next time.


Goose Pool - Somewhat Finished

There's a couple of things left needing doing: trim the pond liner, better rock/step setup, clean up the work site, and arrange the pumps/hoses/rocks in a more aesthetically-pleasing manner. Beautifying aside, the goose pool is complete.

Spouse came up with a three part system to keep the water clean. A large flat filter that lays on the floor of the pool, a pump that pulls water through the flat filter first, then pushes the pre-filtered water to an outside canister filter that has a UV purification light. Everything but the flat filter was from recycled equipment. The canister, for example, has a filtering system as well, but certain parts are busted. The UV light still works however, and should help keep the bacteria in check. The pump was another piece that we used to use, but often had to tweak because the goose feathers and such would clog it up. We must have burned out three pumps last year. With the flat filter as the first medium the water goes through, this pump shouldn't have any problems with large particles & clogging.

The bottom of the pool is lined with cement pavers to keep the dogs nails from punching through the liner when they dig in the water.

The water stays nice and cool in the shade. Geese and dogs love it alike. I don't have to replace water every day, saving a good chunk of time and effort. Win!

Lessons learned:

1. Need more surface area. It's a snug fit for the seven geese, and I still want to get a few more females for the harem this Spring. Our next goose pool will be much larger.

2. Pond liners are not impervious to gnawing. The geese have already chewed & frayed folds in the corners. Next goose pool will either be a metal stock tank set into the ground, or rebar mesh with concrete liner. I'm leaning more towards the latter, as we can create slopes and steps without having to buy & arrange pavers and rocks. Hmm, I wonder if we can rebar/concrete this pool as well?

We have a backhoe/loader rented for the upcoming weekend to start on the next pond, and to dig test holes around the property for the next installation of orchard trees. We've also a permaculture consult this Saturday as well. Another busy/exciting weekend coming up!

Of Mice and Various Snakes and new Duck Feed Station

As mentioned in the previous post, our region is experiencing a near-Biblical plague of mice. "It's due to all the moisture we had...