Blooms Amidst the Ice

The rosemary is blooming like gangbusters, despite the freezing overnight temps and recent ice. Must be the liberal applications of soiled goose-pool water it receives on a semi-weekly basis. ["Mmm, goose poop."]

Am hoping the other perennials I've plans to plant will do as well. Currently in queue once the weather warms up:

  • Hops rhizomes/vines to provide porch shade, some animal fodder, and perhaps beer making.
  • Passionfruit vines - fantastic fruit, and very hard to get fresh/local. We're at the colder edge of its year 'round outdoor tolerance, but am taking a chance.
  • Goji berry bushes, which will probably be easier to grow here in TX than carrots, and more beta-carotene.
  • Two different types of lavender, which I know grows well here.

Upcoming trees: two bay laurels.

It's been a long week. Off to get more coffee, and counting down the minutes until my shift is over. Have a great weekend, everyone!


My Newest Helper

Yep, it's a high-pressure spray nozzle. We purchased it from a local Harbor Freight Tools, which is like a dollar store for the frugal do-it-yourself-tool-geek. I've used other nozzles and sprayers in the past to clean "the poop deck"* (a.k.a. the wrap-around porch) that the geese like to frequent, but those nozzles always required at least some bending over and extra effort. Even with the extra effort, oftentimes the spray would never quite get the concrete clean. I was considering purchasing a low-end pressure washer until I saw this item and decided to try one last time. This brass beauty, set to "stun", can darn near peel paint off a board with no more help than me directing its flow.

Hooray for inexpensive working solutions!

P.S. Oh yeah, and the dogs can't easily eat it.

[*phrase courtesy of Natalie at http://www.chickenblog.com ]


Our Property Looks Like a Glazed Donut

As I type, the morning sun is melting the glaze of ice off the metal roof of our house, and the water is coming down like a Spring rain. When I found out yesterday that the Hill Country was supposed to get a light coating of ice overnight, I told work I'd have to forgo the overnight shift and the 45 minute drive on icy roads. I'm glad I did.

The dustpan atop the goose kennel:

One of the bushes:

And something near & dear to Spouse's heart: the smoker/barbecue.

Stay warm, y'all.


Owie Owie Owie!

Godzilla was just doing his job. I was trying to herd Billy-Bob out of the gaggle (for reasons I'll get into below), and Billy-Bob was using the females as cover... which led Godzilla to mistakenly believe I was hassling the females. Uh-oh.

Godzilla got a good beak-hold on the back of my knee (through the jeans, no less), and wing-beat the living sh*t outta my leg. He remained latched on until my attention was directed towards him, and then gave me a couple more beats for good measure. Once it was clear I was no longer going after "his girls", he let go. I'm really proud of him, despite the hurtin' he put on my leg. He's doing his job: full-force offense when needed, then letting go when danger is over. Good boy!

On the other hand, Billy-Bob's personality has recently gone from charmingly cranky to down-right mean. He's getting rough with the ladies, and is bullying and interrupting Godzilla's wooing as well. We've enough ladies for them both, so it shouldn't be a matter of competing for scarce females. The past few mornings we've taken to isolating Billy-Bob from the group until they've had a chance to eat some greens in peace, then let him out when they come over to the pen to "see" him. I realize it's getting to be mating season, but mean poultry/fowl get eaten, and if he doesn't calm his crotchety-@ss down soon, he's going to become Sunday dinner. Seriously. The only question will be the method in which to do so.

[pics: back of my knee (do you know how hard it is to take a pic at that angle?), and Godzilla in the Mist.]


A Duck in a Truck

Crashed the whole weekend. While I attempt to get back on track, enjoy this cute video recommended by @virgotex about a trucker and his pet duck. The cuteness, it burns!!


Small Farm Livestock Owners - Comment on NAIS

This entry is for those of us who raise and maintain our own small population of livestock, whether as pets, for milk and eggs, or for meat. Those of us who also like to eat local and purchase such things from small sustainable farms, please read as well. Many thanks!

Not familiar with the government's proposed NAIS program? Please read this: http://nonais.org/but-what-is-nais/ Then if you feel moved, please read below on how to comment on the Federal Register during this window of allowed public input. Further below is one woman's submission.

Karen writes:

I submitted my comments to the Federal Register for the new proposed NAIS regulation. I will copy and paste them below as an example of what one might write. I encourage EVERYONE to comment on this proposed rule, even if you do not own the livestock currently proposed to be affected (this opens the door to the rest) AND even if you will never own any livestock. If you like to eat local foods, this WILL affect you. To comment, click on this link: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2007-0096
The first entry is the regulation itself. To comment, click on the yellow balloon next to that document:

I would also suggest taking the time to read the many other excellent comments for ideas. Remember that it sometimes takes a few days before your comments appear.

Go to this link to read Karen's (not related to Auntie Karen) comments to the proposal.


Goose Punditry

We're not sure which part of the political spectrum they fall upon, but they definitely have opinions:


"Can't They Do That At The Vet?"

Not specifically farm related, but...

Spouse and I were at the hematologist yesterday as part of pre-surgery preparations. I was told I'd need Spouse (or myself) to administer subcutaneous shots twice daily for a week, post-operation, to ensure there'd be no dangerous clotting issues. Blanching from being informed of his required help with my shots, Spouse blurted "isn't this something the nearby vet could do for you?"


I about fell over laughing.

[pic: Spouse with Red. And, uh, Spouse? "NO."]


Dude, Where's My Laptop?

Oh, that's right, I left it at home this evening. I didn't mean to leave it there. I met with friends "in town" in the late afternoon for dinner. Dinner turned into hanging out, hanging out turned into going over to someone's house, then a second glass of wine and one bowl of stupendously amazing ice-cream later, it was too late to go home and regroup for work. So I did what any self-respecting Gen-X slacker geek would do: crashed on the couch at work until it was time to punch in for the evening. A long explanation to say no laptop, no animal pics this post.

In the meantime, I'm reading (well, not tonight, because I left that at home as well) Temple Grandin's book "Animals in Translation" (thanks Mom K!). Only a few short chapters into the book, but already I understand why our geese think the color yellow is evil, and why Spouse and I see household dirt differently. More on the book, and the farm, once I get my @ss and head going in the same direction*.

Now, where's that coffee?

[*Don't hold your breath. This could take awhile.]


You'd Think We Were Killing Them

The past few evenings have seen temperatures in the mid- to low-20's F. The cold is nothing compared to what our compadres in the Northern and Eastern US are experiencing, but still cold enough to ice up the drinking bowls and Pools o' Woo by morning.

Earlier this week, before the worst of the evening cold temps hit, we received the coop heater and electric adapter that controls output by temperature sensing (it shuts off electricity when temps reach 45˚F). Got it rigged up in the coop, and then came the hard part: getting the girls INTO the coop at night.

You'd think we were trying to kill them.

They much prefer roosting in the cedar boughs. Can't say that I blame them; lots of room to spread out, and if they spread out far enough, nobody gets pooped on who might be roosting below. They roost pretty high up in the tree, however, so the trick is to get to them before they scoot up higher than our reach. It's a one-bird-at-a-time effort: grab one, shove into the coop, close the door quickly, all the while ignoring their scratching and squawking at the windows and doors while we attempt to grab the next one. They have no problem laying eggs in the coop during the day, mind you, but at night? Forgetaboutit. It's a veritable Chicken Chamber of Horrors! Not even chicken cryptonite - fresh corn on the cob - will lure them into that coop in the evening.

While doing the chicken grab, we also have to navigate around the geese. Godzilla does NOT like it when we manhandle the chickens, so he makes his displeasure known during the process. Once he starts squawking, the entire gaggle goes off, nipping at our heels and sounding like a pack of screaming chimpanzees. I wonder: is this why our new neighbors haven't introduced themselves yet?

I am SO looking forward to warmer weather...

[pic: chicken crossing the grass patch, Godzilla the Manly]


Destructo Dogs

Aww, don't they look so sweet, laying there and snoozing like that? This picture was taken just a few scant hours after they ate a raspberry plant that was awaiting transplant into the front garden beds. I caught them as they were going back for the second potted raspberry plant. The plant was thorny, people! And yet they still chewed it down to the nub! What the @#$!!, dogs?!!!

[pic: Bandit and Maggie, sleeping it off.]


First, You Rent A Hydraulic Post-Hole Digger

Texas Hill Country "soil" - if you wanna call it that - is well known for its rocky constitution. Spouse and I thought we could bypass some of the effort of digging out holes for the new trees by renting a hydraulic post-hole digger. We could drill a couple of holes in tight relation to each other, scoop out the original soil, put in the good stuff ($31.00 a cubic yard - ouch!), then plop the tree in. Here's Spouse on the digger - looks like it could do the job, right?

Here's what the soil looked like, barely a foot into the dig. Where the post-hole digger's progress was stopped cold. Notice how the darker soil gives way to rocks?

Below is what a jackhammer looks like. This is what I ran into town to get after the post-hole digger stopped. Here's a tip on using a jackhammer: don't press the weight of your upper-body onto the top of the jackhammer to put more pressure on the hammering. It will rattle your skull like a baby with a shaker toy. Note to self: It's okay to let the jackhammer do the work, honest!

Ahhh, but the wonderful end result of our toils and troubles? Our first planted apricot tree:

We planted both apricot trees fairly close to the house. Apricots do well with a bit of sheltering, and they're in a good space - not too much Winter north wind (blocked by the house), and not too much Summer south-east wind (broken by the cedars). The trees will also provide some much needed shade for our side yard, which will be enjoyed by critters and humans alike. Further down the hill, we planted two plum trees (different types for cross-pollination) and the two pomegranates that had been waiting for transplant since, oh, May? Two more holes were dug: one for the third fruiting cactus, and the other for the third fig.

[Speaking of critters: we've surrounded each tree/bush with a goose/deer/dog-resistant wire cage. I've already a story about the Destructo Dogs and this weekend's efforts waiting in the wings...]

Spouse later took the post-hole digger down to the big flat area of the property where the bulk of the orchard will end up being planted. He was able to dig a whoppin' six inches deep in some areas, and only up to a foot in others - again, rock. Next weekend's digging strategy: skip the post-hole digger/jackhammer combination, and rent a 48" trencher instead.

[By the way, I highly recommend Sunbelt Rentals. Great prices, and if you rent on a Saturday, they let you keep the equipment until Monday with only one day's rent charged (well, they do here - don't know if they do in other locations). They also deliver the heavy stuff!]

We'll be ordering another truckload of soil, and planting more trees as we can afford to bring them in. It'll be a variety of fruits and nuts. I've discovered the term for the type of farming I want to do: Market Farming. But this post has gone on long enough... more on that later.

Dowsing for Eggs?

Can a person dowse for eggs? Cinnamon and Nutmeg have found another away-from-coop spot, and I've yet to discover it. They've been hiding their eggs going on four weeks now...

[I'm not serious about the dowsing. But then again... Oh, and Chance: I do plan to get those ceramic eggs from Hobby Lobby that you recommended. The dogs found the prior wooden decoy egg, and chewed it up. Dogs. *sigh*]

Post on weekend tree planting coming up, around 6:00AM-ish.


I Don't Know Why It Works

See the slight discoloration on the base of my palm, encircled? I had forgotten that I no longer had Kung-Fu skills*, and palm-struck a rootball to loosen it up. The knots of roots on the rootball did not budge. My meaty palm, however, did. A huge bruise was starting to develop, purple-red and oh-so painful. I took some homeopathic arnica montana, and as of this morning, the bruise is faded to the almost nothing you see in the pic.

I don't know why homeopathic remedies work for me. They don't work for everyone. My rational mind still thinks that the whole thing is a bunch of hooey despite years of healing with this modality. I will not argue, however, with positive results.

More posts coming up this week with pics of our tree-planting efforts.

[actually, I never had Kung-Fu skills. Shhh, don't tell my ego.]


The Calm Before The Storm (of Activity)

It has felt like the calm before a storm. The past few weeks have been quiet, and there's been not much to do other than looking over seed catalogs and daydreaming of all I'd like to plant. Okay, sure, there's housework, but who the heck wants to do THAT?

During this relatively calm time on the property, I've found out through a food-related listserv that the correct term for the type of farming I want to do is "Market Farming". Market Farming is where the person grows produce to sell at farmer's markets. Sounds like a reasonable term. I never planned to grow anything at a large scale, and between our family, friends, the farm market and our local eateries, that should be enough consumers and buyers for whatever we grow. And of course, there will be gleaning for the local food pantry.

Speaking of market farming: [rant] Amazon seems to hike up the price of farm-related books by an average of 30%. I understand the need to make a buck but jeeze, Market Farming Success and The Hoophouse Handbook were both $10.00 more than from the author/publisher's web site. Yikes! [end rant]

Between my Mom and Spouse's Mom & Dad, we've received an amazing array of gifts that will help with the farming and food preservation that's getting started (thank you all so much!!). Just waiting for the right time and circumstances to make use of that bounty. As such, I've been eyeing the budget and making plans for soil delivery, equipment rental, tree and cane purchases. The best moon-phase for transplanting is occurring right now and over the next five days. Looks like the storm is about to break. Better make sure we have a goodly stock of ibuprofen on hand. Have a great weekend, all!

[pic: storm cloud view from our porch]


The Chickens Are Not Amused [pic]

Rain! We finally had rain! Almost a half inch of that glorious wet stuff. The ground felt soft for the first time in I-don't-know-how-long. We live in a semi-arid region so cycles of drought are normal, but I'm still thrilled when we get some moisture here.

The chickens, on the other hand: not so amused.


Food Storage Class - follow along!

Sharon Astyk is starting the food storage class this week. If you're not up for taking the "official" on-line class (and there are still a few spots available if you are), you can follow along on her web site. The first food storage post is up now. Woohoo!

[Spouse and the kitchen are trembling with fear as I type]


Early Review - Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28S

Using just auto-focus, no flash, nothing but click and shoot (oh, and no cropping or retouching in iPhoto), here's two photos from the new camera:

Maggie being her photogenic self:

Miss Cecily taking a rest:

Here's an action shot - again, just point & shoot, no shutter speed adjustment - which has been cropped but is otherwise unretouched:

There might be some light/color differences between PCs and Macs in viewing JPG images on web sites, depending on the monitor being used. [Don't ask me how I know that, I'm still traumatized - see this link, and scroll down to Gamma.]

Quick and dirty verdict? I adore this camera already. The detail that doesn't come across in the web/image compression is a d@mn shame, but the photos printed straight off the drive will make some wonderful prints.

Problem? @#$!! presbyopia. I have to trust the auto-focus, or else start wearing my reading glasses to view the display.

I'll post review updates as I learn to use the camera more.


First Farm Natters Video

Made with the Flip video cam, edited in iMovie, and music clip added from my iTunes library. Despite pouring through the helpfiles, extracting audio, adjusting levels and the like, still couldn't get the animal sounds to play, even with the music turned all the way down, so I've got more studying to do. Regardless, this was a fun project. Looking forward to doing some Spring & Summer clips when the sun is shining, the dogs and geese swimming, bugs a'buzzin, and more. Enjoy!

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...