Category Archives: Homestead


I wound up with a puzzle today.

Now what, you ask, is so puzzling? These are eggs. There are three of them. Big deal.

Says you.

Let’s back up for a moment, to last night. Yours truly, in the midst of working as usual, completely forgot to lock up the chickens. Until about 2 in the morning, when I woke up and remembered that I hadn’t locked up the girls – two now, as the third literally flew the coop last week and either got herself run over by a car or eaten. But they’re good about going into their house, and I figured by then either something would have gotten them or they’d still be alive when the sun came up.

Sun came up, and they were still alive. Victory! And an egg. I dutifully collected it, marked it with the date, and put it in the fridge.

This evening, I did remember to go lock them up for the night. And what did I find? Not one egg, as I expected. Three.

Now, this could mean several things. It could mean that they both popped out two eggs today, something I find unlikely. It could mean that one laid an egg late yesterday that I didn’t find until this morning, and they both laid one today. Or, it could mean that I totally missed a second egg from yesterday when I picked up the first one this morning, meaning they both put out an egg yesterday and again today. But I swear I didn’t see a second egg this morning.

Unfortunately, the girls aren’t talking (in our language, anyway), so there is no telling what the real story is here. But I know that all four eggs will be treated with the utmost suspicion when we reach that date in our consumption (currently the oldest eggs in the fridge are from 10/1).

Keeping time

Sometimes, you just have to sit back for a bit.

And to answer your questions: that’s just what I did. I spent a couple of months away from blogging, away from the gardening blogs, fighting the good fight against bugs, trying to figure out what was best to grow here and how to grow it, making plans for the winter garden. Oh, and also having Mom’s 60th birthday party – a smashing success. Starting synthroid to take up processing what my own thyroid cannot, thanks to treatment. And dealing with what seem to be neverending medical crap from that whole cancer thing, which lately means trip after trip after trip to the dentist to try to save my teeth as they continue to crack off pieces like glaciers calving, the result of those daily doses of radiation that should have made my jaws glow in the dark but which I still to this day cannot use to read while lying in bed at night. Bummer.

There you have it.

My garlic came yesterday: four varieties that I hope I can coax to survive to the point where they can be harvested. Yesterday afternoon, the first sprout from the seed sown on Sep 27th.

Unfortunately, that is a lima bean sprout. I can’t stand limas…

Farewell to summer

The garden in late summer.

As you can tell, we’ve pulled most of the tomatoes. It wasn’t exactly as large a bumper crop as we expected. The problem? Bugs. Lots of them. Leaffooted bugs and stinkbugs, to be precise, sucking on the stems of the plants, weakening and slowly poisoning them. I had been squishing the bugs with my hands, but there were far too many of them and only one of me. So, we ceded the remainders to them. They got a lot of the tomatoes, all the squash and zucchini, and some of the peppers. Destructive little varmints.

And decided, after Fay gave us 20 inches of rain, to relocate the gardens to the front of the property while we worked over the winter to do something about the slope and drainage in the rear.

Given a rather severe case of both weeds/grass and mole crickets in the rear, a little prep was in order.

We blocked out the two areas with black plastic (and some clear, when we ran out) to do a bit of solarizing: kill the grass, any damn grasshoppers we managed to catch under it, and so on. I punched drainage holes in the plastic after about a week, and then the fun stuff began: moving the frames.

The silver pole and implements in front of the frames is the outdoor portion of my nifty new toy: a weather station.

The work to move the frames continues. Several of these frames – previously they held the back forty corn – have been smoothed, topped, and best of all, replanted.

Current new seeds put in the frames:

  • Cauliflower, orange cheddar
  • Cauliflower, snowball
  • Carrot, chantenay
  • Carrot, little finger
  • Carrot, mokum
  • Carrot, Nantes half long
  • Limas, bush
  • Peas, sugar snap
  • Peas, Oregon sugar snow
  • Broccoli, goliath
  • Broccoli, di Cicco
  • Broccoli, arcadia
  • Parsnips

Three varieties of the potatoes out back seem to have come through the overly wet weather brought by Fay without any problems, even though the water was three to four inches up the sides of the frames at one point – if they’d been directly in the ground, it would have been over. Still out back, and as you can see in the top photo, the paprika peppers were very productive. Another round of cowpeas (black eyed peas) is going out back while we work our way through the frames. Those are flowering, and will not have a long second sowing, most likely, because the temperatures are starting to drop – and if there’s one thing they seem to like, it’s the heat.

I’m going to experiment with growing tomatoes and peppers through the winter months with some framing and agribon to hold some heat in, since they are heat loving vegetables. We don’t have that many actual freeze days around here, and it would really be nice to have a homegrown tomato in, say, the middle of January rather than settling for those rocks at the grocery store.

It’s a conspiracy

I tell, ya, it is!

That begs the question of whether a conspiracy can consist of only one person/entity, though. In my case, it’s Mother Nature. I swear, she’s trying to tell us that growing silver queen corn is out of the question.

Last year, even though I worked my ass off on the soil prep, the soil just wasn’t suitable for growing corn (or anything else for that matter). This year, we tried again after amending the soil yet again, but tilled that under and put the frames in to hold the corn.

Came right up. Looked really nice.

Corn Jul 3 2008

The orange netting? Guides for the corn. The plan is to raise the netting to support the corn as it grows, to a height of about three feet. Clever, eh?

Then, the bugs came: worms on the corn. Looking down into the whorls, it’s easy to see the worm shit and the damage the critters have done. Personally, I think the neighbors behind us are to blame for that, as they sprayed something rather horrific on the corn they planted along the fenceline, and I think that drove the moths over to ours – and by horrific, I mean so bad that it killed the blackberries vines growing along the fenceline where the stuff came down. The first spray I did on our corn was with an organic solution meant to smother the damn worm larvae when they hatched and started munching. But…

Then the rains came. We’ve had five inches of rain this week, and who knows how much more prior to that. Not only did this make it impossible to start rigging the netting and raising it to support the corn, which continued to grow very well indeed, it also washed away the spraying.

Last night, a Big One rolled through. Incredibly heavy rain (adding enough to our total that the pool crested at the edge of the coping), lightning that turned the edges of our vision red and blue when it flashed, and high winds.

Which, as you might imagine, blew over fragile things like young cornstalks.

At this point, I’m wondering if Mother Nature isn’t trying to tell us something here: grow stuff. Just not corn.

I went out anyway, since we’re only at 30% of a chance of rain today, and sprayed with neem oil all over the back forty corn. There’s standing water everywhere, so right now I’m unable to get out there and pound some rebar to set the rigging for the netting and get the corn righted once more – and this is important to do, as otherwise, it will happily continue to grow lying over and twist itself into strange shapes, and to try to get some kind of harvest at all in September.

Here’s hoping for a break from the rains to give the neem oil a chance to work and give me a chance to work as well. Here’s also hoping that the corn can be salvaged, because most of it looks awful from the worm damage. Bad case, it will just be another 90 day experiment that went awry and we’ll need to find a different place to put these frames. Worst case, it will just mean finding a source for organic corn somewhere around here, although with our own attempts, it’s fairly clear why few people grow corn and fewer still try to do so organically.

Oh, and the first round of corn, also blown over, that I managed to salvage? We’ve harvested about ten pounds from the stalks that survived. Not bad. For a rookie attempt at corn in frames.

A meeting of the minds

Dogs July 7 2008

Twice, Einstein figured a way into the chicken pen. Both times, I went out to find him cornering one of the poor chickens, who are too docile to peck at him. The first time, a couple of weeks ago, we thought he’d actually killed one of them. She was playing dead, though, trying to get him to go away. I can’t blame him for it, of course: he’s a puppy, curious, and thinks that any creature that moves – a person, another dog, a cat, a toad, a chicken – is something that has the ability to be a playmate. He’s right, everything does have that ability. Whether they have the inclination is another story altogether. These little bouts have not put the chickens off their feed or stopped them from popping out eggs. We’re getting two a day now, which means that either the girls are on a longer than 24 hour cycle, or someone isn’t putting out. If it’s the latter, we may be having fresh chicken dinner sooner than expected.

One thing we did find when making some brownies was a double yolked egg.

Double yolk July 10 2008

Unexpected, but we don’t candle the eggs around here to sort them. We just eat them in one form or another.


I know, it’s been awhile. But the summer months are filled top to bottom with work, both on the ranch and at the company.

A typical day begins at around 5:30. The dogs, all of whom sleep with me, start rustling around, and Newton – a creature of habit – has to go out. So, we all get up, I let the dogs out, check their food and water, check Gandalf’s food and water, grab some tea, and sit down to look over what’s going on: sort some helpdesk tickets, kill off spam, pull up the weather report, see if we have any servers inbound that will need to be set up, and so on.

Then, it’s outside to check on everything that’s growing out there: harvest whatever is ready, watch for bugs and damage that might indicate there are critters to deal with, pull weeds, see if any of the existing plants have given everything they have and need to be pulled, plan out the next rotation of seedlings, get everything watered and/or fertilized (seabird guano for the corn – very high in nitrogen).

Inside, it’s now about time for lunch and a review of what’s going on with the business again: most tickets, a bite to eat, some coffee, and a cooldown from outside. The NOC is a good place to be during the heat of the day if there’s something that needs to be done there. Otherwise, more work, then…

Back outside for more weed pulling, more watering for the things that really need it (cukes, watermelons in particular), making trellises for anything that needs it, planning for the things that will need support down the road, checking the flats to see what has popped up.

On days like today, I might have some bread dough going, which needs to be kneaded, risen, shaped, proofed, and then baked – that will bring me in and out during the day. At times, there’s a special request (cookies, my brother asks, as they head out to my aunt’s place). Usually, I’m also planning and making dinner at the tail end of the day as well. On any given day, there may also be a trip to the doctor or dentist in there somewhere. I’ve been visiting the dentist quite a bit, as oral cancer and the associated treatments are hellish on the teeth. That’s one of the reasons many oral cancer patients simply have their teeth pulled before they start treatment. The aftereffects are horrid, and when you consider that people like me can barely open their mouths afterwards, you can imagine having a dentist and an assistant trying to do anything inside that limited space. So far, I’ve had several root canals, replaced fillings, filled new cavities, already have a couple of crowns with a couple more on the way, and in general should probably just set up a cot at the dentist’s office to save time.

In the evening, more work: maintenance items, handling the occasional ticket, heading off to the NOC for setups if I didn’t get to them during the day. If mom happens to be gone, at dusk it’s also time to round up the chickens and make sure they’re in the coop, ready to bed down for the night.

My days ends somewhere between midnight and 3 AM, at which time it’s off for a nap. Then we start all over again a few hours later.

Most days, I’d say, are fairly normal, happy days, and no douchebags puncture things by being…well, douchebags. The worst are those who take zero responsibility for anything: like the ass who requested that we transfer a domain in. We told him it would have to be unlocked, and never received a followup from him that he’d unlocked it and it was ready to transfer. Fast forward a year: now he’s bitching at us because the domain is expired. Well, we tell him – nicely, I might add – you need to go renew it at the existing location because it was never transferred. He quotes our own ticket responses to us, for some reason, as if a) we don’t have access to them already or b) it says anything other than it says, and then follows up a couple of days later with a pompous directive that we are “hereby informed” that their account is terminated effective immediately, when a simple “please cancel” will do. The topper? We’re apparently nasty and have poor service because we didn’t read his mind, and we’re not to “grace” him with any further replies. No problem: into the filters you go, just to make sure that no mail ever is received from you (and sets off the autoack for the helpdesk) and that no mail ever goes out from here to you. But we’d like to thank you for demonstrating why techs everywhere wind up despising people.

I don’t recall people being total jackasses when I was younger, and I certainly don’t recall the sheer level of ducking responsibility that seems to invade just about every human being these days. When we screw up, at least we have the decency to say so, and then fix whatever it is. When it’s something as stupid as a domain that you didn’t bother to follow through on that you’re being idiotic about now, I’m going to have a hard time finding any sympathy and I’m certainly not shouldering your failure for you. I try not to rant about work on ye olde blog here, but it slips out from time to time. Apologies to my handful of readers.

As long as I’m ranting though, I have to make a comment about one of these Nutrisystem commercials that annoys me to no end. It’s the one with Jillian Barberie, the one wearing so much eye makeup she looks like a raccoon. She’s blathering on about the things she loves, like football. A football is tossed to her, and she catches it. “Football,” she says, tucking the ball under her arm. “How many girls could do that?

That little piece pisses me off. Every girl I know could catch a softly tossed football. A lot of them can catch one that’s being thrown at them while running a pattern and while being defended by the other team. This ties in with Nutrisystem’s pimping out of all those retired football players, I suppose, and is apparently supposed to appeal to some rundown housewife in Podunk, IA, who never played sports at all when she was younger, but damn, could they be more condescending about the implication that girls just can’t do that stuff?

Pictures of stuff coming, promise. Food, garden, chickens. For real.

I spy

Something that starts with an E.

First egg June 30 2008

Would you look at that.

First egg June 30 2008

My money would have been on the fattest one to start laying first, but Quiche beat her to it and gave us this perfect little egg this evening.

Because it was the first, of course we had to take a look at it.

First egg June 30 2008

Perfect yolk.

First egg June 30 2008

And thankfully, no aliens or other weirdness inside.

First egg June 30 2008

Unfortunately, the three of us here had all just finished eating a couple of bowls each of some hearty stew, and the thought of frying this up right now was a bit nauseating. We’re hoping to con….vince Aubrey to eat it when she gets here.

One not so fine day

Timing, I like to say, is everything.

Corn AM, June 12 2008

During my morning rounds, I’d mentioned to mom that I should put together some kind of bracing for the corn, to keep it upright as it started to bear. I’d not noticed any tiny ears forming as yet on that morning, but the time was approaching.

Corn AM June 12 2008

I put that task on my list, then headed off for the rest of my rounds and all the other assorted things that already populated that list.

I suppose I should have moved it up the list a little.

Corn blowdown June 12 2008

Yes, that is my lovely corn, blown down by a fairly severe storm that rolled through. I was of two minds about saving it: on one hand, we were about a month away from actual corn. On another – well, would it be too damaged to stand, or something that couldn’t be replanted, and how much of my time would it take to try to recover it instead of replanting it?

What fool tries to save blowdown corn? One who sees this when they’re looking over the damage.

Corn ears June 12 2008

Closer inspection done while I was crawling through the frames showed quite a number of tiny ears forming. The decision at that point became a simple one: figure out a way to save it, if at all possible.

Besides, there were others who needed their homes.

Frog in the corn June 13 2008