Category Archives: Homestead

Adversity

As you, dear readers, know, I’ve had my share of adversity lo these 13 recent years. This morning, one of those annoyances made their appearance: a nasty headache. I managed to get up, then thought it would probably be better if I could get a little more sleep and not endure the worst of it.

Did not work out. Part of that was because I’m an insomniac even at the best of times, and it takes me forever to fall asleep anyway unless I am totally beat. The other part was because my brain wouldn’t shut up with scenes for the current novel, ideas for the next one or two or ten, snatches of dialogue, the things I needed to get done today, and the things I had planned to do today.

So I got back up and used tylenol and caffeine to deal with it. That has worked out okay, but it’s like a small piece of my brain noggin is on an acid trip (or what I imagine it would be, since I’m not into that sort of thing): a little out of myself. No hallucinations, thankfully. I almost  blew off today’s blog, because let’s face it, who is reading this? But I reminded myself that this is more me than anyone else, and it warms me up nicely for the other writing I need to do. Thanks, Brain!

One of the things I needed to get done was to feed the bees. We’re heading into the next nectar flow, and they’ll probably only need this week before they’ll be able to forage what’s blooming in the area. They’ll likely be able to fend for themselves through August and September, and perhaps (if this year is like last year) into October. It’s kind of a dicey time for a beekeeper: if  you get a swarm going in October, that’s probably a death sentence for the swarm and the hive it came from, even if October is warm, as it was last year (in fact, this is how I lost a hive last year: they thought it would be a good idea to swarm in October, when it was in the 80s, only to have October turn into fall and be substantially cooler). I captured the swarm, but they died and the original hive died as well. So, that’s going to take at least weekly inspections, during the muggiest, swampiest time of the year for us here. It was brutally nasty when I fed them today AND I got stung, twice, on my right quad while getting some rainwater out of one of the feed holders on a hive. Bitches.

Last night I went outside to get some audio of the peepers because they were SO LOUD. As I was coming in, i did the usual check for frogs, to try to keep them on the outside, where they belong, instead of the inside, where they sometimes die and mummify, leaving us to find them in the weirdest spots – and then yours truly has to clean those up, because no one else likes to. Sissies.

Here’s the video from last night: the Green Frog Rescue Follies. The two with hair on them were the ones I kicked out of the house as I went outside to get that audio.

Until next time, peeps: be well. And be on the lookout for tiny green frogs.

Chick prep week: day one

Today was going to be the buying all the chicken tractor things and building the chicken tractor for the meat birds. Off to the big box store we go:

Said big box store did not have two of the fittings necessary to build the frame. They claimed to have one of the parts at a “nearby” store, 90 miles away. Somehow, I think their definition of “nearby” is a tad different than my own. Fortunately, you can buy pretty much anything online these days, so I ordered those fittings plus a double wye connector to make my vertical feeder. The layers will have the vertical feeder. The meat birds will get fed in a trough. The reason I came up with a vertical feeder is simple: chickens are messy eaters, and will scratch food out of their feeders to the ground – where they will rarely touch it. It’s a space- and food-saving design.

All the birds, however, will have a nipple-accessible water supply, rather than an open one. There are a handful of reasons for this, but the most important one for the waterer AND the food can be boiled down to one word: poop.

Chickens will happily sit or stand on top of their waterers or feeders and just as happily poop all over them and their contents. Two of the waterers will be hanging, without enough room for them to sit on top. The third will be set on cinder blocks to keep it off the ground, and will have a cone-shaped top to make things uncomfortable for chicken butts.

No chicken butts atop the waterer

I have some giant boxes (thanks, amazon!) to use as brooders for the chicks. While the meat birds will grow quickly enough to be kicked out into their tractor after just a couple of weeks, the layers will need a bit more time before being put out to pasture. It is necessary to clean out the brood boxes pretty frequently, unless one enjoys the smell of chicken poop (nope!).  For that, I’ll line the bottom of the box with non-skid shelf liner, and then have some puppy pads on top of that. That way, when it’s cleaning time, the puppy pads can just be rolled up and tossed.

The flaps of the boxes I’ll stand upright and duct tape together, so the sides will be high enough they can’t fly out when they realize they have winds. On the top, some 1/8th inch hardware cloth for ventilation and to keep out snakes – as the chicks will likely be out back on the patio, this is necessary to keep the snakes from eating the tasty wee chicks – and then a heat lamp for each brooder, so the chicks can warm themselves if they get chilled.

The chicks are due next week, and I still have quite a bit to do to finish prepping for them. My brother is very handy, and he’s going to be building me a mobile coop when the guy who created it releases his plans for the 2.0 version, which is lighter and better balanced than his prototype. Half the layers will go into the mobile coop, and I’ll take them around the areas of the property that still need work. They’ll scratch, peck, and (most importantly) poop in these areas, which will help the building of the soil in those places. The other half will go into the chickenyard we used for the OG chickens. All the meat birds will go into the chicken tractor to live out their short but happy lives. They’ll get fresh grass and bugs and such, but they will not be ranging – they get large very quickly and they’re unable to run into a coop if a predator circles around. They also do not scratch and peck while foraging as the layers do. But – as always, the most important thing – they will be pooping, wherever they are, and that will be good for my soil.

At the end of the gardening season, I plan to design a way to let the mobile layers into the gardens themselves, to clean up whatever is in the rows – and, of course, poop everywhere – as we head into winter. They can’t be trusted in a production garden, as they will peck at pretty much anything, including fruit still on the plants and stomp all over the plants themselves. This plan is still a work in progress.

Until next time, poops – I mean, peeps: be well.

 

Feeding before the storm

It’s been a vicious storm of a day for my great state. There were two things I absolutely had to get done: feed the girls, and get some grass knocked down back in the beeyard. Today, I’m pleased to say, I did both, ahead of the massive storm system that hammered down on us and knocked us offline twice (the latter is not especially difficult to do with our provider).

If you want a very quick glimpse at the beeyard, this is the video for you! As it was cloudy and nasty, most of the bees were at home, and some really did not appreciate the vibrations of the tractor as I mowed the yard (and even less so when I drove past their front doors).

Note: there is a fairly loud tractor noise here, so keep that in mind if you don’t want to make your eardrums explode from the sudden cacophony.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Chores

One of the most time consuming chores I have is mowing the property. We’re sitting on a bit over four acres, and probably one acre of that is taken up by the house, the gardens, and the well area (the pump, the aeration tank.  We also have about a quarter acre at the rear of the property that we left as is: it’s filled with trees, wild muscadine grapes, blackberry bushes, a small depression someone dug out at one point for reasons known only to them, and so forth. There is a small circular path at the front edge of it that I try to mow, but generally, that area is flooded when it rains, so I have to wait for dry weather on that.

We broke our streak of 15 straight days of rain – thanks, Mother Nature! – and I was able to get some mowing in today. I managed to get everything done except the beeyard done on one tank. This is what I had left in the tank as I finished up the chicken yard and the area behind the rear garden.

I was cutting (ha!) it close, but got back to the shed. As I neared the end of the mowing, I felt the breeze pick up, which was good, because it was another sweltering day at the ranch. I also saw the clouds starting to build up.

Now, I don’t mind meteorologists. I don’t. But it seems to be the only job you can be so wrong at and still keep your job. Let’s take my area as an example. When I was getting breakfast down the tube, our forecast said 20% chance of rain. When I came in after three hours of mowing, it had changed to 40%. I mention these two because this is what I saw on the radar when I made it back inside.

See that 90 about center, a little right? That’s my weather station. See all that angry red, orange, and green? That’s a front, across the entire northern part of this state. It does not take a meteorologist to get the wind direction (ours from the NNW as that was captured) and understand this thing was going to roll over us, bringing us more rain. And that’s what it did: pushed right over the ranch, with not a ton of lightning and thunder, but certainly with rain.

That big green/yellow blob at the NW part of that image is now coming our way, as the wind has shifted.

Our forecast – as it was raining – changed to 90% chance of rain. It is now back at 60%. I’m wondering if, in meteorology classes, they had lessons on changing your forecasts to get in tune with what was actually happening at the location for which you were doing forecasts. Do they have a Revisionist History class for the meteorological degree folks?

I’m just kidding, of course. It’s a tough job to really, accurately predict what Mother Nature is going to do with us mere humans on a daily basis. But I could save them some time, and they could copy pasta this forecast for Florida, then hit the pool or beach with a tasty beverage in hand: “Becoming partly cloudy, with afternoon thunderstorms. Highs in the low to mid-90s, lows in the 70s.”

On that note, it’s time for me to get some work work done. The life of a person whose business is in tech: the weekends, at least parts of them, have to be given over to work to get stuff done.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Chicken prep

It’s been years since we had chickens at the ranch. When we did, we only had layers (not meat) birds. My mom was quite fond of them, and rejected my suggestion of culling the layers who had passed their prime and were not giving much production as they aged.

We lost one to a hawk or other aerial hunter – all that was left was a pile of feathers. We had one killed by a raccoon – raccoons apparently love brains, just like zombies, and one had ripped the head off one of the chickens as they stuck their head through the fence. Did I mention chickens are not terribly bright?

Of the others, one was lost to a mystery ailment, and the rest to redneck neighbor guy’s dogs. I had to dispatch the ill one and one of the chickens that had been attacked by (but not killed) by said dogs. I buried all of them on the property. Since the last one died, we’ve not had chickens back.

Moving out of the past and to the now: we are going to have chickens once again! This time, however, we are going to have meat birds in addition to layers. I ordered 10 meat birds. Because members of my family are too squeamish to  participate in the actual butchering, that part of the process will be mine, alone. However, once the birds are dispatched, plucked, eviscerated, and washed, they’re perfectly willing to bag and weigh them before the dressed birds go into the freezer. That’s good enough for me.

I was making a list of all the things that need to be done, and there certainly are a lot of things on that list. But next week is clear of any appointments for me and the dogs, so we’ll be able to get it done, no doubt. And there will be pictures!

Until next time, peeps: be well.

The eyes are the window to the soul

Except when you’ve had something hit you in the eye. Then, the eye is a painful window to the soul – or should that be a “paneful” window? Yuk yuk.

Fortunately, it was just something that smacked me in the eye at some point that I don’t even remember. Went to the doc, and got some drops that cleared it right up. Protect your eyes, folks – wear your safety glasses when mowing or doing anything that has the potential to whack you in the eyes.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Habit

I’ve tried a couple of times this year to post to the blog daily. It hasn’t always worked out, mainly because I didn’t put it too high on the priority list. That goes for my writing, too. That’s changing, though. This stuff needs to become a habit in the same way the other things I do are habits, and like some upcoming things (that I’ll details later) will be.

So here we are, trailing toward the end of the day, and here’s a post. Maybe it will just be a picture.  Maybe it will just be text. Maybe it will be a combination of the two.

I’m editing a video of part of the hive inspections I did Friday and Saturday, and hopefully I’ll get that done before I completely run out of gas here tonight.

For now, I’ll sign off with this bit of brilliance, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Rainbow over the ranch, July 1, 2018.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Time

Where does the time go?

I’d like to think it takes itself off for a nice vacation, doing whatever it wants to do instead of being constrained by responsibility.

Whatever it does, it has the habit of leaving us – arbitrary timekeepers that we are – wondering how it could be almost x time since we last did y. Like almost three weeks since the last blog entry.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been feeling all that well since that sinus infection back in May. Feeling nauseated almost constantly is not conducive to doing a lot of the things you normally would do. Pain? Meh, you could work through that in some fashion. But nausea? Nope. I was also having hot flashes like crazy. Terribly annoying.

Which is a roundabout way of saying the gardens suffered tremendously: overrun with weeds, beaten down by both the heat and the rain. We got some tomatoes out, but none of the big guys, and we got some beans and peppers out, but not in the quantity we have had in years past.

Colorful tomatoes: sweet million, sungold, indigo drops.

The people who ate these tell me they tasted fantastic.

The rest: determinate and not, paste, slicing,and heirloom, gave us nothing. My sister has been helping me out while I figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and I had her go ahead and pull out all the first round tomatoes. I have some in the garden that were started after the big batch of transplants, and I have some more started in the barn – two more sets, actually, with one set ready to get hardened off and then transplanted.

We did get some good blueberry action this year.

I used them in my shakes, and everyone else just ate them like normal people do.

So how did I get back to myself? I realized I had stopped taking the gabapentin (neurontin) back in May during the sinus thing, along with some of my other meds, because the combination of the antibiotics and meds that already have some side effects (like nausea, and other gastro issues) was making everything worse. I added those back into my routine, and presto! The gabapentin was prescribed for the nerve issues from my left neck down through my hand (hey, fuck you, cancer!) but amazingly, it also takes care of hot flashes. Who knew? Not me, or I would have twigged on that sooner than the past couple of weeks. Derp.

With the meds situation back in order, I’m now able to once again do things I need to do, like turn this:

Into this:

And finally, into this:

That’s a good late afternoon’s work there.It has to be done later in the day, because it’s been hot like the sun here  for weeks now. In the afternoons, we get storms rolling through – even if they don’t touch us directly, we usually get some cloud cover, and sometimes even a cooler breeze, which is nice.

Tomorrow, it will be on to the next row that needs to be weeded – the one to the left of this final picture. I’ll also be starting new soil block flats for the broccoli, cauliflower, brussels (ew) and maybe a couple of other late-season items, so they can go in to the rows and get grown before the season ends. It’s a nice goal to have, anyway.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Excitement in River City

Some years ago, when the state and city were blowing up (well, technically, down) the pilings from the original Fuller Warren bridge here in town, I was standing on the roof of a building near the river, capturing it. Those pics are around here somewhere. It was the first (and only) implosion of any structure I’ve ever seen live, and it was pretty cool.

Yesterday, two giant cooling towers from a now-shuttered coal-fired plant were imploded. My brother played hooky a bit from his work to go up and try to see it. Alas, the general public was kept well away from the event, only getting to see the tops of the towers over some buildings and trees. The media and the company’s own cameras, though, got the full show. As always, it’s amazing how quickly something can be brought down, neatly, with proper placement of explosives and detonation timing. Clicking the arrow on the picture in this article will show the video of the towers coming down.

Today, I’ve finished mowing the beeyard and whacked around and under the hives. The new bees have also been fed. I was soaked when I came back in because it is simply hideous out there. It’s the time of the year that I wonder just how in the world the settlers to this place got anything done and made it through to the next season. Were they made of tougher stuff? Maybe. Did some of them give up and go back or move elsewhere? Almost positively, they did. I can’t say I would blame anyone who did on days like today. But there’s still work to be done here at the ranch, and I see out my southern facing window the clouds starting to build. Even if it’s just ten minutes at a time, it’s better to work on something versus nothing.

Until next time, peeps: be well. And if it’s broiling where you are, take care of yourselves and any people or animals for which you are responsible.