Sunday, April 27, 2014

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

That's what they say, anyway. That is how I have had to start doing things at any rate. It seems fitting because as the time goes by I am beginning to feel more and more like a giant backwards turtle. I am thankful that I have finally gotten past the debilitating 24 hour a day "morning" sickness and crazy constant fatigue. Now I feel productive! Which is great since I have OH SO MUCH to do! I have found that, so far, I can get quite a bit done as long as I take breaks. A LOT of breaks. Now if I could just stay focused on one thing long enough to complete it before I get sidetracked and get started on something else. Alas... that I can't blame on pregnancy. That is just a normal part of my brain function.

So far I checked a few things off of my To-Do List:

- I fixed the chicken waterer hose that was leaking. I had to cut the male end off and replace it. I also shoveled out the nasty mud that had accumulated  in the bottom of the chicken run because of the swampy conditions and put down some bedding.

- I cleared several of the small above ground garden beds and got them layered in newspaper and leaves. I then had to put up netting around them to keep the chickens from removing it. The others need to be done soon. My weedeater batteries don't last long enough to get much done at a time but my wonderful husband just informed me that he ordered me a speed charger so I don't have to wait 8 hours for each of the 3 batteries to charge! I also hate to cut down the beautiful clover growing in the others because there are lots of honey bees happily buzzing around them. I will give them a few more days.

- I cleared 2.5 of the 4 above ground rows in the big garden.

- I cleaned up (re-edged, leveled, and ammended) one of the cleared big garden rows and got all of the tomato plants out of my kitchen and into the garden. We even got the new trellising system for them up, put newspapers down, and mulched around them. I bought some spare heritage tomatoes today to replace a few that aren't going to make it through the transition.

- I patched up one of the hoop coops and got the babies moved out of the "Tank" and into it. The other hoop coop tractor is being used to protect my "to-be-planted" potted plants from the chickens who think that anything in a pot or planted by me must be a delicacy and leave me stubs. I don't think I will need both of them this year for chickens. I am going to be too big and pregnant to want to move two of them every day in the South Mississippi heat and humidity. I also don't think I will be up to processing any more than I already have either while pregnant or shortly after having the baby. Thankfully we still have some chickens in the freezer from last year.

- I started getting some spring cleaning done. Just bits here and there. Mainly I cleaned out all of the kitchen cabinets. Still lots to go on that front...

- Brad and I put new screens into almost all of the windows in the house! I don't think that was on our list but has been badly needed for years. My screens have been taken out of windows for various reasons and haven't found their way back in one piece. We were down to two pitiful excuses for screens in the whole house. I LOVE having the windows open when it is nice outside but the bugs around here are terrible. Now I can have windows open all night and not be eaten alive or carried away by mosquitoes. Oh I can't say how thankful I am!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

To-Do list

Only a few days left until the end of tax season. That means that I only have a few days left of work until I am off for the summer. I feel like a kid waiting til school is out! Well... Not quite. Instead of wanting to lay around and do nothing I am looking forward to getting things done! Keegan has already started taking care of some of my list. He has been on spring break all week. I don't like him sitting on his booty watching tv and playing games all day so he has a set limit and then he has to do chores to earn more time. He is plowing through things that I have been putting off for months! Must be nice to have all of that energy! Some things we need supplies for and I really need to do myself for one reason or another though. My list so far...

- Build bean arches to go between above ground beds
                 - this entails getting lumber, paint, and nails first

- Clear above ground beds, cover beds not being used immediately, plants others

- Clear big garden and get ready for planting

- Plant seedlings that are inside before they die!  Those are transplanted but more have been planted inside.

- Get big garden planted

- Buy staples and use them to fix the turkey teepees

- Figure out if we are getting pigs this year and deal with the pig fence accordingly.  Pig fence is down. 

- Repair small hoop tractors and their waterers in preparation for babies.

- Replace/fix chicken waterer  hose so it will stop leaking.

- Turn over soil in herb garden and get it planted. Herb seeds have been planted inside in preparation.

- Replace rotten logs in above ground garden.

- Mulch around fruit trees

- Try to repair turkey hoop coop to best of my ability until it can be replaced.

I keep thinking of things I need to do but I will keep the list at a minimum and only include things that need to be done immediately. And then there is the list of things that need to be done inside that are equally important.

- Cut port in wall for air conditioner and get it set up before it gets unbearably hot.

- Spring cleaning before the windows get closed up for the season.

- Rent shampooer, move all furniture and clean carpets while they can still air dry in the breeze

Yeah.... that all needs to be done in the next month at the very most. Honestly, really it needs to be done in the next couple of weeks. I am even further behind this year than usual but I'm looking forward to getting busy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Feathered Friends Picture Post

While wandering about the homestead the other day I took
 some picture of my feathered family and thought I would share.
Tallow and Tabby with some of the buff Orpington gals

Handsome Mr. Franklin strutting his stuff

My buddy Yellow and a passing herd of chickens.
They gallop through periodically.

Chicken Flower!

Einstein being a gentleman and showing the guineas the food.
They really didn't need any help...

My favorite hen, Ms. Laverne, and her bad eye

Little Miss Mae: One of my blue silkie hens that seem to stay broody.
These girls are so little! They don't let their size get in their way though.
They do wonderfully in my mixed flock with much bigger gals and
 don't hesitate to stand up for themselves.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Strawberry Pickin'

Today we took a family trip to the local you-pick farm to pick strawberries. This is the first year that they have offered a spring you-pick crop. The only thing available to pick were strawberries, which was great luck because that is exactly what we went for! It was opening day and I couldn't resist.

Normally just Keegan and I go, but Brad tagged along this time. Neither of them admit to enjoying the fruit and veggie picking experience, but we always end up having a good time. I, personally, love it!

We came home with 3 gallons of beautiful strawberries! Now I need to make jam. I also picked up two fresh bunches of kale and turnip greens at the stand on our way out. I love gorgeous fresh picked fruits and veggies and it doesn't get any fresher than from the field.

Of course, since they were sitting there I couldn't resist throwing in a picture of my beautiful eggs. They look washed out in this picture, but I honestly think that every single one is a work of art. I have talented girls. :) Hope everyone is having a beautiful weekend as well!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Blooms Abound!

Beautiful Azalea Bush 

Bumblebee on a Blueberry Bloom
The blueberry bushes have been blooming for almost 2 weeks now. I love all of the delicate pink bell-shaped blooms! I heavily pruned them late last fall and, as always, it broke my heart and I worried that I had cut off too much. I know better, but it still bothers me to cut off what seems like perfectly good branches! The amount of blooms this spring is spectacular! Apparently the bushes really appreciated my work. I'm guessing that the fertilizer I gave them earlier this year when the buds barely started to appear, and the good dose of heavily used chicken bedding from when the coop was cleaned recently, helped a lot too. Despite the abundance of blooms, I was initially worried that we would still have no berries this year! Usually there is a steady hum emanating from the area near the bushes from the hundreds of bees busily buzzing back and forth. This year it was silent. Not a single bee was anywhere in sight. No bees means no berries, regardless of how many flowers we have. On top of that, we had a couple of hard freezes last week. Thankfully, the freezes seemed to have had no effect. Even better? There are now bees! Only a few at first, but now there are tons of them buzzing around everywhere along with a couple of hummingbirds that seem to be enjoying the blooms as well. I guess the cooler winter just made them a bit late this year. They are here in time and that is what is important!

Peach Tree in Bloom
My peach trees have also gotten me all excited. They are covered in pink blooms too! I know that it is probably a bit early to allow them to produce, having just planted them last year, but I can't help myself. I pruned them about two weeks ago so at least they aren't wasting as much energy on growing unneeded branches, but I can't bring myself to remove the blooms. I want to see what happens. While I was pruning the peach trees I also staked and pruned the pear trees. They are not blooming yet, but they are getting beautiful new spring leaves. I'm so happy that they made it through the winter! The grapefruit and key lime trees were not so fortunate. Most winters they would have managed, but this winter was the coldest on record for many, many years, and they just didn't have a chance. Perhaps cherry or plum trees would make a good replacement? My new goal is to find some of those for a good price this year. Maybe if I choose to get more citrus trees in the future I will plant them on the south side of the property or keep them in pots in a greenhouse. The fig trees are next on the list to be pruned and staked. They badly need staking! The figs grew an amazing amount last year! Leaf buds are starting to appear on those too! I am so excited about my little orchard!

Strawberry Blooms
If fruit bushes and fruit trees aren't enough, the ground berries are flowering like crazy too! There are big white dewberry blooms as far as the eye can see! They are everywhere! I can't wait for them to grow into big juicy blackberries. Fresh berries growing wild with basically no work other than picking them = Amazing! The strawberries are peeking through the mulch and starting to produce little white flowers too! Sadly, not as many are appearing as I had hoped this year. It may be early yet, though. Last fall I mulched them with shredded paper and hay and I fertilized them this spring, but I think the soil may be too compacted for them to grow well. It was my first garden when I moved here and I wasn't very experienced. I didn't make paths through it or make it narrow enough to reach from the sides, so the giant bed has to be walked through to get to the middle. I need to get a metal pole and loosen the soil a bit and see if that helps the plants do better. I really need to put a fence up around them or I won't get any strawberries before the chickens steal them all anyway (like every year). Regardless, strawberry picking season at the you-pick farm starts in less than 2 weeks and I definitely plan to go! We went through the strawberry and mixed berry (blue and dew) jam I made last year entirely too fast and I need to make much more this year.

 Frolicking with my Entourage 
I feel like I am in my own little Garden of Eden. I am so blessed! I know better than to count my chickens before they hatch and counting my berries before they are picked is equally as bad, but I am excited and looking forward to whatever may come. For now I will frolic happily through my fields of flowers. Closely followed by my herd of chickens and turkeys, I'm sure. :)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring, Spring, Beautiful Spring!

Can you tell I love spring? The grass is turning from brown to lush beautiful green. Flowers are blooming. Birds are singing. The sun is shining. What is not to love?!

Everyone here at SHH is loving spring. The chickens are happily clucking away as they forage on the fresh new grass that is peeking through the dead brown undergrowth. They are laying a dozen eggs a day as a result. Even Laverne has been spotted multiple times, foraging and dust bathing. Laverne is my Easter Egger that somehow injured one of her eyes last year, and is blind on one side as a result. She usually never leaves the chicken coop, but apparently the sunshine and warm weather lately has been too much for her to resist.

The chicks moved out of the indoor brooder and into the "Tank" a little over a week ago. Not only have they grown, but they have multiplied as well. I went to the feed store to get feed and left with 6 new chicks. In my defense, I went in with zero intention of getting more babies! As it turns out, talking myself out of buying more fluffy butts is much easier when Keegan isn't begging and giving me an amazing argument as to why I really need to bring them home. He really needs to be an attorney when he grows up... Well he now have 5 more baby Easter Eggers, 1 Barred Rock which I'm pretty sure is a rooster, and the 10 Speckled Sussex chicks that we started out with. While the days have been warm, the nights have been cold. The "Tank" has a brooder box that is closed up at night but we sealed the windows and put an extra light to make sure they stay extra warm. When I open the hatch in the morning the babies come hopping down the ramp. The way they hope around flapping their little wings and sparring with each other they remind me of the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. They are eating like pigs and seem to be thriving.

A couple of weeks ago (3/21 for my records) I put my first batch of turkey and guinea eggs in the incubator. The turkeys have been laying for about 3 weeks and I couldn't wait any longer. It is an addiction. I am using an egg turner for the first time with the turkey eggs. I usually turn them by hand. Working and other new developments going on around the homestead (to be announced soon) have me preoccupied enough for me to think that perhaps it would be best not to trust myself with that job this time around. Brad perfected the thermostat on the incubator (bypassed the one provided and built his own) so that it only varies by a fraction of degrees so I am hoping for a wonderful  hatch this time. They should hatch sometime around April 18th if all goes well.