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!


Permaculture Adventure

The new job at the nursery is going great! The biggest challenge is to not spend my paycheck every day. My green thumb is glowing neon being around all these plants, and the new plants we get three days a week leave me drooling, "Ooooh, we could put THAT on the porch, and THAT in the side yard, and THAT in the flower beds..."

The main things that keep me level-headed is the realization that whatever I buy, #1 it has to be protected from the geese & chickens, and #2 it has to work in the overall scheme of the property. So, I'm in negotiations with a local permaculturist to come up with a sustainable design plan for the land. We have plenty of challenges at our place, but also much potential. I'd like to install a medicinal & kitchen herb garden, several raised beds for vegetables, and trellises for vining plants (grapes? Passion fruit? Or just flowers?) to help keep the house cool in the summer. Areas of pasture grass for the geese and hens. Then there's the fruit trees, too. I also want to keep a privacy buffer of trees & vegetation around the property, but also thin out the invasive cedars a bit. All in all, it's overwhelming, and therefor the desire for an actual plan. Another project, but with professional assistance this time. Nice!

P.S. pics of the completed goose pool will be up either Friday or Saturday, once we have the pump in & working.

[pic: almost "farm dirty" - feet after day of work at nursery]

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...