Tag Archives: Homestead

The good ache, part two

When planning out the raised beds for the garden – since the soil is crap and will be for years while I work on it – we decided on 49 to 51 4×4 raised beds. Alone, that would be somewhere north of 800 square feet in planted beds just for things we intend to eat and provide to others.

That, my friends, is a lot of frames.

The frames themselves, though, are not the hard part. The hard part is filling them. Think about this: each frame is made of four foot sections of 1 x 6 x 8 lumber. Those of you who recall your volume measurement formulas can do the math. In our scenario, that equals 4 cu ft of peat moss, 50 pounds of chicken manure, 80 pounds of cow manure, and coarse vermiculite sufficient enough to give us the consistency we’re after – per two frames. That is quite a lot of mixing and more animal poo than most people will handle in their lifetime.

The other day, we went out and filled almost six frames (I say almost, as one of the vermiculite bags was fine rather than coarse, so the levels were a bit off).

Frames

A little out of alignment on the left, which will be fixed. The frames get knocked about a bit because of the weight of the dumping process. Which, by the way, means mixing half, dumping, mixing another half, dumping, and on and on. Heavy, sweaty, dirty work that leaves you sore and tired, but in the best possible way because you’ve spent some time working outside in the fresh air.

Dirty

That streak on my right leg? Chicken poop, from a bag that got wet.

It’s also a lot of each part of the mix, given the rather largescale plans we have. That’s ok, though, because this particular backbreaking part only has to be done once unless we decide to move the frames around. I don’t think that’s in the plans for any time in the foreseeable future.

Last fall, I threw down some seeds from a butterfly/bee mix in an area around one of the hoses, just to have something in the ground when spring came. Winter was so mild, with only a couple of severe freezes, that we’ve had flowers almost all winter.

Pretty flowers

They’ve been maintenance-free, too, chugging along on their own with nothing special from us.

Flowers

The good ache, part one

It had rained – a lot – but we had a break in the weather and it was time to do some layouts and cleanup, as well as check the progress of some of the things growing out in the beds.

Carrot tops are popping up, and the carrots will probably be ready to pull next month.

Carrots

The garlic continues to look robust, but I’m worried about it rotting in the ground because the rains decide to come in huge storms that dump a couple of inches at a time rather than something a bit more gentle.

Garlic

We managed to get a small burn pile going even though things were still fairly wet.

Fire

Some prep on the ground and the layout of (some) of the frames.

Frames

In the foreground by the chair is a frame with snow peas, thyme, rosemary, and catnip, along with another round of carrots. The snow peas are erupting and since we know how quickly they can get out of hand, my goal in the next day or so is to get the trellis in place. Shortly after we wrapped up for the day, the weather turned stormy once more, with another three and a half inches of rain before it subsided. Nice for our water shortage around here, but not so good for the remaining areas on the property that need to be filled and leveled.

Tastes like chicken

Mickey thinks so, anyway.

Tastes like chicken

The thing about chickens is that really (from a pet standpoint), they simply aren’t all that bright. Which is fine, really, when you think about it. They’re not like dogs, who need and crave attention, and not like cats with their “One day we will take over this planet, as soon as we hit our quota of naps.” mentality. No, chickens – or chicks in this case – spend much of their time peeping and cheeping, pecking away at anything that looks like food, sleeping, and pooping. Eventually, they’ll earn their keep by paying for their room and board in eggs. When Heather and Michael brought over our three on Saturday, a small moth got into the house and was flittering around, to and fro. He made the mistake of getting into the box where we’re holding the chicks until they are old enough to go outside. I waved it over toward the watering dish, and when it alit, one of the chicks snatched it and gobbled it down. Nifty. I can’t wait for them to be outside putting a hurt on the grasshopper population. They also got one worm apiece from our composting batch, but that’s it for those worms. Their future treats will be from the bait shop.

And when I said they weren’t particularly bright, I meant it. This, after all, is not what is generally thought of as chicken feed. But I suppose someone has to be the nonconformist.

Chicken feed

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.

Signs of life

Spring has sprung. Maybe not by the calendar, but there are signs. Tiny signs. Portents of things to come.

Broccoli, starting.

Seedling

A cuke (Beth Alpha), trying to unfold.

Beth Alpha cuke

I have a quarter flat started with sungold tomatoes, and the rest with other tomatoes, peppers, other cukes, and so on and on and on. I’m hoping that this week we’ll be able to get the mixes going and get some other frames in place. People like to remind us that it’s only February, and to that I say: it’s spring. Must be. Has to be.

Shake it up, baby

What do you do with extra heavy cream that you happen to have on hand?

Shake it.

Butter, step one

Then pour off.

Buttermilk

Shake and pour.

Butter, step three

Repeat.

Butter, step 4

Until you can’t shake no more.

Butter, step five

Pack it in, salt it down, chill it out. It’s butter, baby!

Butter, yay

For extra amusement, measure the length of your arm in Cheetos.

Cheetos

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.

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.

Best quote of the day (so far)

Stacy pointed me off to this story, and even though overall it’s rather cool that they built the thing (not so cool that they were planning on evading regulations and such), out of the entire story, this is the quote I love:

“I understand there is also a cannon.”

Hell, yeah. If you’re going to build a secret castle in the hopes of having no one find it for four years so regulators can’t do anything about it, by all means you should have at least one cannon. Maybe more.