Friday, May 30, 2014

This Rain is Crazy!

There haven't been dangerous storms or anything. It just keeps coming! Total downpours. Repeatedly. It will barely stop for a few minutes and then the sky opens up again. I managed to take a quick walk about during one of the brief lapses earlier. No pictures because I didn't trust the rain to stay away for long enough... it was a good thing too. The big garden walkways are ankle deep in water. Luckily, they are raised beds so the actual plants are safe from the flood. They all seem to be enjoying it and are growing well. The beans in the little garden are beginning to twine up the bottom of the arbors. I was amazed to see the butternut squash plants that had been broken off by the chickens and I had thrown to the side looking perfectly green and healthy. I picked them up and realized that, because it has been so wet, they had started sprouting new roots instead of dying. I replanted them. I'm excited to see if they make it.

The animals look positively miserable. There are few things that looks more pathetic than waterlogged poultry. The turkeys especially. They don't have enough sense to get in out of the rain most of the time. They do better than the guineas though. Whenever it starts raining the guineas just stop. Where ever they may be. They stand as still as statues until the strange wet stuff falling from the sky stops hitting them in the head. I don't remember if I mentioned before, but we lost a guinea the other day to a car. Two others have rarely been seen in a while. I think they they are a mated pair. Hopefully they will show back up soon followed by a bunch of little keets. If nothing else, I hope nothing eats them while they are nesting. The chickens at least have enough sense to get in out of the rain when it is really coming down, but since it has barely stopped they still get soaked in order to eat. Have you heard the saying " as mad as a wet hen"? Yeah... they don't enjoy the rain much.

Keegan and I had to make an emergency repair to the babies' hoop coop tractor. The rain had waterlogged the untreated boards and the weight of the water bucket pulled the "spine" of the coop loose from the front. It will hold for the time being but when the wood dries out we need to do a better job. The babies are getting big and are managing to stay remarkably dry.

The bottom half of the driveway (near the road) has washed out again. It has a bigger gully than it did before it was fixed last time. The top half looks great though. The water has been running down the road like a river. I had to stop on my way out of the driveway earlier to move a water turtle out of the road. Poor fella must have washed out of the swamp down the road. He seemed perfectly happy until I picked him up though. The flow may wash our mailbox away if it speeds up anymore or gets much deeper. The ravine in the woods on the north side of our property sounds like rushing rapids. It is normally empty except for when it rains heavily. I wish I could see it without climbing through thick brush. Its relaxing to listen to though. The frogs also seem to be happy. The water is difficult to hear between the chorus of frogs when they really get going.

Being stuck inside is making us all a bit stir crazy. I have been passing the time by cooking and baking. A lot. Probably too much. Not even the bottomless pits that I live with have been able to keep up. I need to be washing windows and wiping down walls instead. Alas, it doesn't seem nearly as pleasant. The guys have been cleaning a bit in preparation for carpet shampooing soon. As soon as the rain ends. We may float away first. The 10 day forecast is calling for rain every day. Good thing it is usually wrong. :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

And the Green Grass Grows

Rainy Day 
all around, all around. And the green grass grows all around. I remember singing that song often in Girl Scouts as a child. While I have been focused on getting things done around here, that is precisely what the grass has been doing. When we are working on making forward progress mowing tends to fall off of the list of immediate to-do items because other things, like caring for the animals, can't be put aside. Well, I finally got the mowing done! It took a couple of days for me to mow the immediate yard area and then I bush hogged the back and south side sections of the property. I started on the front, but being the novice tractor driver than I am, I knocked the pin out of the bush hog attachment and had to park it long enough for Brad to fix it. Of course, even though he got to it immediately, it took just one enough for me to get distracted watering the garden. Brad is going to finish up the front and get in the more difficult areas soon. We are using the "Big Tractor" which has a bucket attachment on the front and I'm still a little scared to do more than the easy stuff with it. I love having a freshly mowed yard. It makes it so much easier for me to enjoy all of the hard work I put into this place. It is hard for me to focus on the beautiful things when everything looks scruffy.

Brad also fixed the driveway! Yay! We can finally drive up and down it without having to straddle the huge gully that the rain had washed in the middle of it. He tried to route the water to the ditch line. Hopefully the rain will do what it is supposed to and not wash the driveway right back out.

Three out of the 4 bean/squash arbors are put together and placed between beds in the small garden. Brad took over the job of assembling the arbors and putting the fencing on them for me. It has been slow going, but it is definitely worth the effort. It is looking great! I need to take pictures soon. Both types of beans and the butternut squash have been planted at the bases of all of the arbors. Of course, the birds (probably chickens but I can't rule the turkey hens out) proceeded to scratch the squash plants up and break the stems off of many of them. I replanted seeds last night in the bare spots, but fear it might be too late in the season for them to do well. I put a piece of wood down to try to block them from doing it again.

 I planted the watermelon seedlings in place of the cantaloupe, which never came up even after the second planting. That leaves nothing but a few fairytale pumpkins and some flowers growing in pots in the hoop coop tractor. I had to replant the cucumbers again. They started to come up but an armadillo has been doing damage to my big garden. It (they) have been digging cone shaped holes in random places. Some are harmless and others are directly in the middle of my garden beds. I'm trying to figure out what to do about that situation. While I was seed planting, I planted some sunflowers and jack-o-lantern pumpkins in the strawberry patch. I am hoping that they will do double duty and loosen the compacted soil while shading out some of the weeds that have been taking over. I didn't amend the soil or turn it over well so how well they come up will be a surprise.

I am in some serious need of mulch material! I have been mulching and filling the turkey coop run with leaves for bedding. It is that time of the year, though, that I am running out of leaves. I am going to have to see if I can get a large round bale of old hay soon. The weeds will take over the garden if I don't get more mulch down soon. I still have enough leaves to fill the turkey run one more time and I need to do it soon.

It is a rainy day today and the next few days are supposed to be much the same. We really needed it. I am looking forward to not having to water the gardens for a few days. It has been taking me over an hour every other day just to water them. And the plants are still tiny! Once they get bigger it will take considerably longer. I also still need to get the last of the corn and pumpkins planted. It makes me long for soaker hoses. It was obvious how dry it was when I was mowing. A cloud of dust enveloped me every time I slowed down. I had to keep moving to try to out run it. It was really surprising considering how lush and green the grass was. I was really grateful for ordering my new neti-pot when I was done! That thing is amazing. After mowing all day in the sun, taking a good long shower, and having the feeling of water still surging through my sinuses I felt like I had been at a pool all day and could have slept for a week.

Today was Keegan's last day of school. I felt bad for asking too much of him before he was done because he still had tests to take and symphonic tryouts to practice for. Now we can get some serious deep cleaning done in preparation for shampooing the carpets. May as well put these rainy days to good use!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Walk About

Just some photos to show how the weekend on Sunflower Hill went.

I love hanging clothes on the line! It is one of the best things about summer. In my opinion, anyway. I don't hang clothes in the winter because the dryer helps to heat the house. In the summer, hanging clothes drastically helps to reduce electricity usage and from undue heat entering the house. I even hate to use the oven in the heat of the summer.  I can't wait to get to hang little cloth diapers soon!

I cut all of the wood for the bean/squash arbors on Friday evening and put them all in stacks to make assembly easier.

  The big garden is hiding behind the clothes line.

Of course, where ever I am, the boys are not far behind.

 It doesn't look like much at the moment, but I have high hopes for my garden! I'm already excited just thinking about it.

One of the first little tomato flowers! MmMmM Fresh heirloom tomatoes are in my future.

 I tied all of the tomato plants up to the trellis this morning before I watered the garden. I just used ripped up pieces of some old t-shirts Keegan had outgrown. I tried two ways of tying them. Some I made a loose loop around the plant under a sturdy branch and attached it to the fence. On some of the taller ones I attached the tie to a lower part of the stalk, looped it around the plant a few times up the stalk and then attached the tie to a higher part of the fence. I'm curious to see if one way works better than the other. Some of the lower leaves, especially on the smaller plants, are still showing signs of flea beetle damage. I hand killed all that I saw on the plants while tying them. I didn't see anymore caterpillars or damage from them.

A new little sunflower peeking through the soil.

Beautiful broccoli and peppers all in a row.
Happy little cucumber plant. This is one of the few that came up with the first planting. I have spied a couple smaller ones coming up from the second planting. No cantaloupe yet, though. I'm still hoping. I love melons and have been craving them!
This is where I planted the corn and pumpkins. I spotted a single corn leaf peeking through the soil this morning. Hopefully its friends will join it soon. The guineas like to check out what I'm doing when I take walk abouts. They always keep their distance and never bother anything in my garden though. I wish the turkeys would take some lessons in manners from them.

 Until the herbs I planted inside are ready to be transplanted outside, and I manage to get the herb bed turned and prepared, this is my little herb garden on my back steps. Complete with oregano, rosemary, and lavender. I also have a couple of flowers simply because they make me happy. Thankfully the chickens haven't eaten them yet. I sorely miss having fresh basil. I have lots started inside!

This is why I'm in such a hurry to get my bean/squash arbors built. These are the seedlings I am keeping safe in the spare hoop coop tractor. The beans are already looking for something to climb, and the squash will begin vining soon too. I'm worried that transplanting them will hurt their roots if I don't hurry.
 My serenity garden is starting to really come alive. The irises have gone, but the day lillies are blooming now, soon to be followed by the Easter lillies.

 And again, the boys are not far behind...

Meanwhile, in the other hoop coop tractor the babies are doing great. Always happy as long as they are fed and they love to be moved to fresh grass everyday. They make happy chirpy sounds and search feverishly for any bug that is in their new found area.

 My blueberry jungle. I don't think they have ever grown and taken over quite like this. I had to tie some of them up to train them to grow in the right direction this weekend. While I was at it I staked and tied up the peach and fig trees.

Yummy, yummy, blueberries! Not quite ready yet, but soon.

My little peach trees.
I'm so excited about my peaches! There are 20 or so on this tree. I waiting with bated breath to see if they make it long enough to ripen. I have found a couple smaller peaches on the ground under the tree. Apparently the tree couldn't handle that many and dropped a few. The blueberry bushes do the same thing.
The bean/squash arbors got their final coat of paint this morning. They have been drying for a while but the plan is to do the final assembly this afternoon. We shall see what happens. I had hoped to get them done by now and have been working on them for days. Keegan spent the weekend with a friend so he wasn't here to help me. I never realize how much I rely on his help until he isn't here. I was lost without him! Even going to the grocery store was more difficult without his help. He is back now. Presently, laying in the floor playing with the new chicks and turkey poults that have hatched over the last couple of day. They are promised to a friend and should be going home with her in the next couple of days. We love them while we have them though. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quick Garden Update

The Indian Flint Corn and Fairy Tale Pumpkins are planted in the big garden. I only planted as far as I managed to weedeat but ran out of both types of seeds. The weedeater batteries never last nearly as long as I need them to. It is very frustrating.  I also replanted cucumbers and cantaloupe. Very few of the cucumbers and none of the cantaloupe came up for some reason. They may have been planted too deep. I ran out of cantaloupe seeds last time so I had to use some seeds that I had left over from a year or two ago. I think they are hybrid, which I don't like, but I don't have time to order more heirloom. They are already late getting in the ground. We shall see if they come up. The sunflowers are starting to push through the soil. The peppers and broccoli look very happy. The tomato plants are getting bigger. I pinched the bottom sets of leaves back. They had little holes in them like flea beetles or something similar have been munching on them. I found a single, very little, caterpillar on one of them. I'm going to have to keep a close eye out for more. They can devour a plant very quickly and tend to cause massive damage before they are discovered. I have the Bt spray ready as well as some Dr. Bronners Magic Soap which I have read will kill them when a few drops are mixed with water. Some of them will need to be tied to the fence soon. The pole bean, butter bean, butternut squash, zucchini, watermelon, and marigold seeds that I planted in containers a while back have come up. No pumpkins have sprouted so far. I hope that the seed isn't bad (like so much of the seed I bought from that company last year was) and that they are just taking a bit longer. I'm really looking forward to the beautiful fairy tale pumpkins. The plants need to go into the ground soon! Garden arches need to be toward the front of the To-Do list, along with getting the sweet corn, watermelon, and potatoes planted in the big garden. It is supposed to rain tomorrow. The gardens will like that. Hopefully I will be able to get some deep cleaning done inside. Now for a long hot shower to ease my poor aching body.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Accomplishing Stuff

Little by little. Not as quickly as I would like, but it is getting done and that is the important part.

All of the raised beds in the big garden are cleared, mulched, and planted! I made a garden layout with Paint. It looks pretty juvenile, but I don't claim to be talented (or patient) with computer programs. It works for me and gives a basic idea, which is what I was aiming for anyway. All seeds are heirloom, as usual. It is also important to note that I don't know how many of each are planted in each row. They are just basic representations. I know that there are at least 40 tomato plants in the ground and I used a whole package each of cantaloupe, and both types of sunflower seeds.

West to East (Front of Garden to back)

- Row 1-  Titan Sunflowers, Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon, Mammoth Grey Striped Sunflowers, Table Queen Acorn Squash

- Row 2-   Assorted peppers perhaps eggplant. Types include pepperoncini peppers, Pepper Tam jalapenos, California Wonder peppers, and Ping Tung Eggplant. The seedling cups got mixed up so sadly I lost track of which is which and where things are planted. I know for sure that there are bell peppers near the broocoli and jalapenos in front of that. The rest is mixed. Broccoli ( type unknown plants gifts from father in-law)

-Row 3-   Delikatesse Cucumber, Sleeping Beauty Cantaloupe

- Row 4-  Assorted Tomatoes. Same thing here... seedling cups weren't marked well enough and got mixed up. The varieties are Egg Yolk, Pink Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Amish Paste, and Rutgers.
 In other news, the air conditioner is in! Brad did most of the work, with Keegan being the gopher and me making the store runs. He cut a port in the wall so that we could save valuable window space. It is high up near the ceiling, which I think will help cool the hotter air as it raises and circulate it. Of course, we kept finding things we had to have to finish the project. None of which we realized we needed before the project began. Being Saturday in the tiny town that we live in meant that I had to run to the next city over to get it (45 minutes away). And then to another store to get other tools later on. It was supposed to rain the following day so we had to finish once we started because we couldn't leave a gaping hole in the wall. Brad and I finally finished up at around 4am. He worked his little tooshie off. Of course it didn't rain the next day... figures. Poor Brad is still sore 2 days later from it all. Anyway. It is in! That is a HUGE project out of the way! I didn't even realize how miserable I really felt until we turned it on. It is so humid and that AC makes a world of difference. I feel human again.

Two other big things of note. My husband and my Mom are college graduates!!! My wonderful mom has been taking classes off and on for years while working full time. She now has her Associates Degree and is working on her Bachelors. She is my hero and I love her so much!  Brad is now the proud holder of not one, but two Bachelor of Science degrees. Math and Physics. I got mine first (Environmental Biology) so of course he had to show me up and get two. lol He got his final grades a couple hours ago. I am so proud! He plans to start grad school in the fall to work on a PhD in Physics. He is a smart arse and now has the papers to prove it. :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Another Row Down... and a few other accomplishments

Keegan and I got another above ground row in the big garden cleaned up, mulched, and planted. The row that contained tomatoes and peppers last year is planted with cucumbers and cantaloupe this year. I didn't get pictures because we didn't finish until after dark, even with me making holes and Keegan planting seeds behind me. The paths should be wide enough to be able to get the mower down them now. We don't need a repeat of the snake incident this year... I also planted the spare tomatoes in the bare spots where the other tomatoes didn't make it. The soil looks so much darker and more rich than it did last year! Maybe the no-till above ground method is working! The last of the above ground rows in the big garden have been cleared as well. Now I just have to get the other two cleaned up, mulched and planted. Then I can start on the flat rows where the corn, watermelons, pumpkins, and perhaps potatoes will be. I worked more on the planting layout of the garden. Things may still change but I think it will work out well how I have it planned now.

Since I haven't managed to get lumber brought over to build the bean/squash arches yet, I went ahead and started some seeds in pots. At least that way they will get a bit of a head start. They really needed to be planted last month, but they will be smashed if I try to place the arches over already growing plants. I kinda got a bit carried away and ended up planting zucchini, butternut squash, pole beans, butter beans, watermelon, and pumpkin. While I was at it I also transplanted some flowers and the lavender, rosemary, and oregano plants I  bought into pots to put on the back steps. The oregano is actually from last year but it needed a bit of love after the hard winter.

The pig fence is finally down! Well... except for 2 or 3 stubborn t-posts that we couldn't get up. The tractor will take care of those. The important thing is now I can mow as soon as I manage to get the tractor. It was surprising that it took me so little time to disassemble the whole thing. I wound the wire around a plank of wood so hopefully it will be easier to use again later. It shouldn't take long to put back up when I need it later, whether it be this year or next. Having that done makes me feel much better!

Not much is going to get accomplished tomorrow. We have my niece's birthday party and a marching band bonfire to go to. I'm glad to have gotten so much done today! Keegan has been helping me quite a bit, which I have really appreciated. He keeps telling me that he doesn't think I should be doing so much and fussing at me. Trying to explain to him that women 100 years ago or more lived out of their gardens and worked much harder than I have been while pregnant. Eventually he just gives up fussing and helps me so that hopefully I will get done more quickly. I didn't expect him to be so protective over me. Its sweet! And I am definitely thankful for the help. As much as I want to do, my body doesn't tolerate quite as much as usual right now. Brad has been super helpful too! He doesn't fuss at me though. He trusts that I know my body and will only do what I can handle safely (which is true). He checks on me often and brings me water, but he is there to help when I ask him to. I am blessed! And maybe, between the 3 (and a half) of us, we will have a  flourishing garden this year! Maybe while I am growing a new little person, my brown thumb will turn green and I will be able to grow other things too!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

There's Nothing Quite as Beautiful as the Sunshine After the Rain

And OH the rain! The sheer amount was amazing! We nearly doubled the rainfall record in the area. Everything always feels so fresh and clean after a good hard rain. It is refreshing and beautiful when the sun come out. I feel kind of guilty saying that. Luckily, we escaped the really severe storms. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those effected by the damaging storms north of us. We just had flooding to deal with. Yet another moment when I am thankful to live on a hill! One of the few in the area. Our driveway needs some serious work though. It did already, but the ruts are now beginning to resemble the humble beginnings of the Grand Canyon in places. The work Keegan did a couple of weeks ago saved the top of the driveway (near the house), but the other side took in all of the water from the main road and now "the bottom" yard is full of what little gravel my driveway still had. Hopefully I can borrow the big bucket tractor from my in-laws soon to fix the driveway and bushhog.

We still have the small tractor. It overwintered here. A small bridge down the back road that separates our homes was torn down last spring (2013) so they could replace it. That was the only way to get the tractor from place to place without loading it on a truck. It hasn't been completed yet. Over a year later. Did I mention that it was just a small bridge on a country back road? Once the bridge was basically joining the two sides of the road and could hold the heavy road equipment, the locals just started moving the signs and driving across it. Eventually the road crew just stopped putting the signs back. I need to make sure that the water didn't wash the road out so we can trade tractors. The bushhog attachment on this one rusted through and broke at the end of last summer so I can't mow with it. I normally wait to bushhog until the dewberries have been picked but for some reason they don't seem to be doing as well this year. What are normally the best patches are pretty much bare this year. I will have to check on them again before I mow them down though. Maybe I will still find some. Maybe the addition of guineas is the reason I can't find any berries this year when there were TONS of flowers just a month or two ago? The blueberry bush look AMAZING though and are so full of little berries that I have had to prop them up in several places to keep them from collapsing under the weight. Hopefully they all make!

Yesterday I transplanted my peppers into larger pots. Since the tomatoes are no longer under the grow light in my kitchen I had lots of room to plant other things! Which, of course, I did. I planted herbs and flowers. Some of the herbs are from seed that bought from a company last year that I didn't have too much luck with. Hopefully they will come up. If not, I needed to use them anyway because I can't just throw seeds away. It breaks my heart. Inside I have planted mint, lavender, oregano, garlic chives, sweet basil, long leaf basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, sage, and phlox (flower). Also, outside I planted 5 larger containers of marigolds (seed my parents gave me when they visited for Christmas), and I transplanted a pineapple plant that I had rooted inside. I wish I had more space, pots, and potting soil! I have a seed starting addiction...

I didn't mention before, but a little over a week ago I had my first batch of turkey babies hatch! It was a poor hatch though. I'm not sure what could have been the problem unless the temperature was too high. It is set to stay steady at around 100F. Only 10 poults hatched. Several made it to the end but never absorbed the yolk completely and either pipped and never made it out, or just never even pipped. Only 1 guinea keet made it out but it wasn't doing well and the turkeys were being too rough with it. I put it under a broody silkie who took great care of it until she went for a potty break and another hen killed it. I feel terrible about it. In all honesty, I'm not sure if it would have made it anyway. I kept the poults for a few days to make sure they were thriving, but all have now been sold. I'm not sure if I am going to keep any babies this year. We have tweaked the temperature and will hopefully get a better hatch this time. I set turkey eggs a little over a week ago and then a couple of days ago I added Easter Egger eggs to all of the empty spots. Turkey eggs take 28 days to hatch while chicken eggs only take 21, so this way they should all hatch together. I have a friend who is wanting baby chickens so I am hatching her some out.

The baby chickens are loving their new freedom in the larger hoop coop tractor! They are still the friendliest chicks I have raised. They also seem to be more dependent on me to care for them. Or at least, they know if they need something to let me know. Loudly. The second they run out of feed, rather than foraging in the grass for bugs or plants to eat, they chirp (cry) constantly until I go feed them. I have been keeping them close to the house while they are still little so they are a bit more safe so there is no escape. Maybe it is that the "baby crying trigger" part of my brain is already more active than it has been in the recent past, but I can't stand for them to sit and cry like that. They actually got me out of bed at 6am the other morning because I could hear them crying through the window and I couldn't sleep until I knew they were fed and quieted. I was looking forward to a few more months before that happened! Oh well...

I need to work on the garden some more. The tomatoes made it through the storm. The mulch wasn't even disturbed. I am thrilled! I was worried about them. Having them in above ground beds helped the water drain off well. I did something a little different this year. Last year I used long sticks to stake the plants. The stakes kept falling over under the weight of the tomatoes. That, and the unending downpours we had, made them succumb to blight really early on in the year. The caterpillars, stink bugs, and aphids finished them off. This year, I decided to use a trellising system instead. Brad put in three 8ft posts at either end and the center of the tomato row. He also helped me stretch woven wire onto the fence. It is aligned with the top of the posts, leaving over a foot tall gap at the bottom. I will secure the plants to the fence as they grow. I let the plants get really tall and leggy this year and buried them on their sides in a ditch, only letting the upper leaves remain above ground. This should allow the plants to root along the entire length of stem underground.  I am also prepared to use several different organic pest control options this year. I really hope that we have tomatoes this year! I still need to transplant the spare tomatoes into the bare spots. Broccoli and peppers are also waiting in the spare hoop coop to be planted soon along with lots of seeds!

Brad is amazing and got me a speed charger for my weedeater and chainsaw batteries! Now instead of it taking 8 hours per battery it will only take about 1 hour each. I should be able to get much more accomplished now! The rest of the garden needs to be cleared. Also the azalea bushes in the front need to be pruned, which is much easier with my little chainsaw than shears. And the bigger stumps need to be cut down from the back so that I can bushhog the brush back there when I get the tractor. That surpasses the azaleas. The pig electric fence also needs to be taken down so I can mow that area. I'm not sure if I will have pigs this year or not. Unfortunately, the electric fence charger seems to have stopped working! Brad took it apart and fixed it, but it only worked for a few hours and stopped again. It is finals week so we will see if he can fix it again once he finishes the semester up and has time. I sure hope so! Regardless, the fence is fast and easy to put back if we need it later.

While Brad was being amazing, he also got me a new pneumatic door closer for my front storm door! I know.. it doesn't sound like much but it made me so happy! I only mentioned it in passing and then it appeared at my door. My front door no longer slams shut every time it closes like it has for years! I'm still getting used to it. Keegan keeps picking on me for needlessly trying to grab the door before it slams behind me. I guess it takes me a bit longer to adjust to change. Oh the little things that make me so happy! It was just one of those little things that I always wished would get fixed, but never made it to the actual list because it was so trivial. I can't help but smile every time I walk through the door and I open it from time to time just to watch it close slowly on its own.

Well... time to stop writing about getting things accomplished and actually accomplish things! Hope everyone has a beautiful sunshiny day!