Category Archives: Homestead

Dining on the terrace

The first in a series of reposts, now that the technical issues have been handled. Nothing like trying to recreate whatever was in your head at the time you wrote something.

We’re in the kitchen, hanging out, talking, probably cooking, and mom says, “What’s that?”, pointing out toward the road. “Is that the big black dog taking a dump?”

I looked, and surely enough, a huge black shape is doing something out there. Then, suddenly, there were two. “Not a dog,” I said, and grabbed my camera for some long range shots to see what was going on.

Buzzards

Ah, buzzards. Part of nature’s cleanup crew. We couldn’t quite make out what it was they were eating, so I walked out to the road. They promptly showed their displeasure with me for interrupting their lunch.

Aloof

Since they’d cleared out, it gave me a chance to see what they were eating.

Lunch

Rabbit. Hopefully one that was munching through my garden beds not too long ago. Curiosity satisfied, I left them to finish.

Eat up

Life in the country.

Surivival of the seedlings

That might make a good title for a b-grade horror/sci-fi flick.

The seed flats that were blown over and crashed on the ground appear to be surviving, and even thriving. I did not get any photos today since I spent the bulk of the early part of the day in bed wishing away the nastiness that has infected me. Tomorrow, though, some pictures and hopes of sorting out what is where in one seed flat, given that my layout doesn’t match any longer. It wouldn’t be bad to be surprised by any or all of it, but it would help to know what’s what when we prep them to move to the frames. Also on th list: order more chicken and worm poop – our worms are about ready for their next tray, it seems, so eventually, we should be self-sufficient on that. I’m not sure how much poop three chickens will put out, but whatever they give will be cured and then added to the outside compost pile to add to the party. Heather tells us that our chicks will be ready probably the first week o March – only a couple of weeks away, so we need to get cracking (ha – get it?) on a coop for those critters.

Super Sunday

Superbowl day (and what the hell with this stupid pregame crap on Fox, anyway, reading the Declaration of Independence? This household polls 100% WTF.), but also a very fine Sunday to do various things around the homestead: a test mix of soil to go in one frame, to see how we liked it. The answer: we liked it very much indeed, and will be mixing up a huge batch in the coming week or so to fill a lot more frames to hold the seedlings we’ve started – and a whole lot more that will be directly sowed.

I finalized the area for the chickens and their coop,¬† spread some hay, put out another flat of seedlings, supervised my sister’s preparation of the guacamole, and let others put the kebobs on the grill. If I could drink alcohol at all, I’d be kicking back with a nice cold beer, noshing on chips and guac, waiting for the food. Alas, none for me. Guess I’ll round up some chips, though, and give those a go while I get some more work stuff done.

Enjoy the game, everyone. For the record, I picked the Patriots.

Birthdays, we got birthdays

Three, to be precise. We combined them into a single dinner to keep our (my) sanity intact, since I am also cooking for tomorrow’s superbowl dinner and next Saturday’s baby shower for Gabs.

But first, to the humor impaired fuckwit who took some weird offense at my “sarcasm” based on my being funny about the length of an error message presented by an application: it takes a certain arrogance to think that the entire world revolves around you and that every comment is directed at you personally. It does not, and it is not. Get over yourself. And thanks for the reminder about why it’s a complete waste of energy to try to respond with anything other than “Fixed.” when people like you open a ticket. Pity we didn’t know you’d be such an ass before we replied – but we certainly know now, don’t we?

The Boy turned 22 yesterday, and requested steak for dinner. We had ordered some bison ribeyes, so we had those, with baked potatoes, rice with shallots and parm (mom’s request), and roasted vegetables (red onion, zucchini, tomatoes). I also made a fresh batch of vanilla ice cream to go along with the cake.

Seven (and a half) for dinner.

Table for seven

Roasted vegetables. All gone.

Roasted veg

Burning down the house.

Lighting

A cake afire.

Fiery cake

The lights begin to dim.

Blown out

Quite a nice evening, altogether, but yet another in a series of very long days today for me. Today, in addition to work and the cooking, we also finally got some seeds started and I prepped an area – by hand, no less – about 56′ by 15′ to lay some seed¬† (a pasturegrass mix, no endophytes). This will be the area we’re planning to keep the chickens and their coop when they graduate from chickhood. I still need to clear a space and some kind of cage for them when they arrive later this month, as I’m definitely not allowing them to take over my bathtub for three weeks. Whatever I come up with will also have to be cat-proof, since without that, their lifespan will be quite short indeed.

Worm porn

How often do you get a headline like that?

We had actually received the worm can before receiving the worms.

Worm can

There are two more trays that go with this, to stack on top. This allows you to help the worms migrate up as they munch through whatever has been deposited in each tray. The spigot is to drain off the inevitable liquid that will accumulate: compost tea, not fit for direct human consumption unless you’re really brave and have no tastebuds. Lovely for plants, though.

The worms arrived via FedEx, and came with this helpful message.

Helpful message

Make a note of that: don’t freeze your worms.

The bedding material for the wrigglers is made of coconut fiber. It comes in a block, with an image of the happiest worm you’ll ever see.

Bedding

The block goes just as it is into a bucket of water. As it absorbs the water, it bursts out of the package and winds up looking a great deal like a bucket of poo.

Bucket o stuff

Once the bedding has soaked up most of the water and been broken up a bit, it still looks like a big bucket of poo. Fortunately, it doesn’t smell like one.

Ready

The bedding is spread into the bottom tray.

Bed's ready

All that’s needed now is the worms. They came bagged like this, and I was wondering just who got to count out a thousand of the critters.

Bag o worms

That’s a real pile o’ worms.

Pile o' worms

This lucky one was singled out for a closeup.

Singular

But they don’t seem to mind group shots.

Hand o' worms

Eventually, they tired of the papparazzi and made their way down into the bedding, happy as clams. Er, worms.

Tunnels

We’ve put some scraps in the can, to work out how much they’ll eat and how quickly, so we can gauge how much food they need and how productive they will be, in all senses of the word. These two had an early start on one aspect of that.

Worm sex

Worm poop

Mom had been out of town for the weekend, off gallivanting in another state. When she got back, she couldn’t resist opening one of the boxes of worm poop to take a look. It looks, I told her, as she held out two palms worth of the castings, just like worm poop: tiny balls of waste. I remember we used to see this a lot when I was a kid, in yards where the soil was rich and the temperatures not terribly extreme to kill off the worms. When I was much younger, we used to head out to Pirate’s Cove to go fishing. The adults would be fishing and drinking and the younger one would be poking at the fire, trying our hand at shrimping, and poking at the worms. You could be guaranteed to get worm poop on your hands at some point while playing with the worms before they met their grisly fate.

At the time, I didn’t really give much thought to the whole thing. After all, when you’re young, you’re indestructible and unconcerned most of the time with whatever is going on outside your own little planetary system. These days, my mind is awash with gardening and homesteading-related things. I’ve always had trouble sleeping because my brain won’t shut up, but it seems to be getting worse as time goes by. Sometimes I wish I could be like the cat curled up on my desk or the dogs curled up at my feet. They have that simple sleep and seem to know that when it is time to sleep, that’s just what you do. You don’t let your brain go off thinking about layouts for frames, how much soil needs to be mixed, whether to try a bunch of several kinds of tomatoes or several of a bunch of kinds of tomatoes – which naturally leads to the thought that the season can really be as long as you make it, so do you really have to choose? What about the trees, and where shall position the trellises for the climbing plants, like beans and cukes? If things go well, how much time will be devoted to canning and pickling, and who the heck will be eating all this stuff anyway?

I’m getting a bit sleepy now, and always think that those moments should be seized for a nap. Otherwise, the moment passes, and I’m off and running once more.

Frosty mornings

Our freeze/no-freeze/frost overnight betting pool – wouldn’t you love to be the weather person, where you really don’t need to get it right, ever? – turned out to be frost. I stepped outside with my sister as she was getting ready to head to classes: lock frozen, windows iced, clear and very cold. The veggies were covered in ice crystals, but not rock-hard frozen, and I suppose they’ll make it. The garlic is really the only thing that concerns me. I don’t eat collards, the broccoli, as I mentioned before, isn’t right, the brussels sprouts I don’t eat and are not doing anything from their transplanted states, and the lettuces/spinach seem to be just fine, although they also seem to be frozen in time, having not changed in size very much over the past couple of weeks. Looking across the road to our neighbors, I saw the western side of their roof covered in frost and glistening as the sun came up.

Standing outside for less than ten minutes made me appreciate even more having the ability to work from anywhere there is a connection to the internet. Even right at home, at my desk, with my heater going full blast under my desk to warm my feet after being outside.

Where’s the food, already?

I know, a real dearth of food and garden stuff lately. This morning when I got back up after my few hours of sleep, it was 35 degrees and rainy outside. Brrr. Where’s my spring?

It’s also that time of the year when the whirlpool of month end and previous year end paperwork/filings/activities are at full blast, which leaves only a little time for the other things I like to do. Since it’s still spitting rain and not going to warm up outside past 50 or so, and everyone is gone, leaving just me and the animals, it’s a perfect day to blast through as much of this stuff as humanly possible.

We will return to the goodies eventually – next week, we will be building more frames and mixing the soil to fill them, getting seeds started, and in general working on more prep for the garden. For some reason, I don’t give as much love to the winter garden as the summer. It may be because half the stuff I cannot/will not eat (lettuces for the former, brussels sprouts for the latter), and this year it may be because I hate the plants we picked up from Home Depot to transplant and get us kickstarted (that would be the broccoli, which has been a complete loser, in my opinion – we’ll be starting some anew from seed). The garlic is going gangbusters, though. I just hope it doesn’t rot in the ground from the weird rains we’ve been having.

The spring and summer gardens should be huge, given all the seed we have. In the past two days, we’ve received shipments of worm castings, chicken manure, and a batch of tomato and pepper seed varieties we’re going to try. We’re awaiting the arrival of some worms and a will have a bin for our wormy friends to do some composting in addition to the regular compost pile we have. There are also more seeds en route because – and there’s no other way to put it – I must be insane.

We still need to:

– find a permanent place for the asparagus.

– build a coop for the upcoming chick parade, with laying boxes.

– get the greenhouse up, but only after the latest five loads of topsoil that isn’t really topsoil is spread – it’s swamp muck more than topsoil, and completely unlike the nice loads we got last time from this very same place. Since they’re not entirely as consistent as we’d like, as they apparently do not go to the same pit on a load to load basis, we will simply find another supplier. Topsoil ain’t exactly cheap, and since we need a lot of it around here to top off our sand and fill various areas, it makes no sense to use a provider who cannot perform to the standards we need.

– figure out which trees we will plant where out front when it does warm up into spring.

– plant all these damn sagos my uncle keeps giving my mother and she keeps bringing in.

– edge off the driveway to keep the slag in place.

– figure out where we’ll put the fences around the huge garden area we’ll have to keep the bunnies from thinking it’s a free lunch around here.

– put up some solar-powered exterior lights on the corner of the barn.

– pick up some more coastal hay for mulching and moisture control as I continue my quest to extend our grassy area out front.

– get the pasturegrass started on the west side of the property, as a place for the rolling coop and an area where we can eventually cut our own hay.

– put together a menu that will help keep cholesterol ranges in the norm. Mom’s latest bloodwork came back with a sky high count, my sister’s is also high, and I’m sure now that I’m eating again, mine has gone back up to my BC levels. In our family’s case, it’s more hereditary than dietary (although diet of course contributes), so there are limits to what diet alone can do – that’s why there are drugs for that and why we’ll probably all be on them at some point. I was, until the first surgery, in fact.

– various other things too numerous to mention, but which all fit right in with our homestead theme.

Doing the funky chicken

Or maybe not.

Tonight’s dinner plan was to roast a chicken (salt, pepper, ginger, fresh orange, onion) for dinner. When I started peeling it out of its wrapper, it smelled like a three week old chicken left in hundred degree heat after a skunk had sprayed it. In other words: no chicken tonight. Fortunately, there was cheesy potato vegetable chowder to be had on this gloomy, rainy evening.

My seed packets are spread out on the table, with the exception of the packets of the sungold tomato seed, which I can’t lay my hands on this instant. I need to get some flats started in the garage under the heat and grow lights, in an area which will also house some special guests for several weeks: chicks. Yes, we will have a few chickens when all is said and done, and they’ll be here in mid February to take up residence with the rest of the zoo.

It’s going to be an interesting spring around the homestead…

It’s the thyyyymme…of the season…

Bad jokes. That’s why people come here, I know it.

The mini garden made it through the hard freezes without too much trouble (and some 4 mil plastic sheeting helped, too). I covered the garlic, the strawberries, and the snow peas, and left everything else to fend for itself.

The thyme, of course, made it through with nary a peep.

Thyme

I pulled one of the English pea pods, tried to feed a piece of it to the dogs, but neither of them were going for it. The peas themselves are not thriving, which is a little curious, but since several of them didn’t even germinate at all, not altogether surprising. The Italian replacements I dropped into the place of the duds not only germinated but made it through the serious freeze with no cover at all. If both sets come in, then we’ll have some tasty peas to shell.

Peas

I pulled the covers from the plants yesterday and they were a little limp, but perked up nicely after about 40 minutes of watering. It continues to bluff rain here, but we’ve not seen a drop. As we climb back into the 70s, maybe we’ll get a little luck in that area.

The next plan is to get the greenhouse up, or rig a test bed area with some hoops and plastic to try some hothouse items: sungold tomatoes – something you hardly find in the stores, as they are fragile and don’t ship well, but taste fantastic – peppers, and basil. This is Florida! It’s always the season to be growing.