Saturday, April 25, 2015

Seedling Fail

Since it rained heavily last night and this afternoon I mostly worked in the greenhouse today. As it turns out, that is where I needed to focus my attention anyway. I failed to pay attention to the fact that the ground the greenhouse is standing on isn't flat. It didn't seem like a big deal. Failure on my part. Water pooled in the dips, which happened to be where my flats of peppers were sitting. The poor little seedlings couldn't take overabundance of water. Very few germinated at all and the ones that did aren't looking too hot. That paired with the fact that I think there is some kind of plant eating insect in there topping the smallest seedlings. Shelves really need to be figured out for the next round of seedlings to keep them off of the ground and allow them to drain properly. Probably in the fall.

I replanted all of the peppers. Mostly, I scattered seeds in large pots rather than planting in the flats again. We'll see if it works better. We use so many peppers that if they don't turn out it will hurt us. The tomatoes are doing well at least. I transplanted quite a few that were seeded too heavily. I'm afraid to put the number of each type in writing for fear that they will be smited for being too sure of myself.

To make room in the higher spots on the greenhouse floor I cleared a bunch of stuff out. I planted the pomegranate trees in larger pots and placed them and the "Hawaiian Lei"  tree on the back porch. All of the "Clearance rack" flowers and ornamental plants went into flower beds. Finally. And I repotted the herbs to hold them over until I can get the herb garden turned over.

I spoke to the lady I am getting piglets from. She said they are weaned and ready to go! I plan to get them this coming week. The pig waterer, feeder, and hog ring need to be prepared. I expect issues with the waterer. There always are. Waterers are evil.

Allergies are also evil. We are all suffering from seasonal allergies. Liam included. He is snotty and wheezy. Not sleeping. Neither are the rest of us as a result. The poor guy has also been dealing with another, more serious allergy. His ear infection was being treated with penicillin, which he apparently is allergic too, like his big brother. He broke out in polka dots. Luckily, I was paranoid about it after Keegan having such a bad reaction when he was little, so as soon as I saw spots I stopped giving it to him and called the doctor. The reaction wasn't very severe. I caught it ridiculously early. His ears aren't better yet, though. I think they are playing a role in the lack of sleep too. We go back to the doctor on Friday. I think I will probably take him sooner if he doesn't act like he is feeling better soon. Even sick, he is such a happy baby. And smart! He learned to crawl and sit on his butt from his belly this week. Walking while holding onto furniture, pulling up by himself, and crawling. Things are about to get real.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Foiled Again

My plans for yesterday were to try to get as much done in the big garden as possible before it starts raining tonight since Brad was home to keep the baby while I worked. That was until my mother in-law showed up with a new wading pool for Liam, filled with plants! She is cleaning out her flower beds to make room for rose bushes and asked if I wanted the flowers she pulled out. Of course! There is no way I can pass up free plants. She is a plant-addict like I am and she has amassed a beautiful collection of flowers. I didn't expect them yesterday though. I suppose that beggars can't be choosers.

So my day was spent planting flowers before they withered up. Of course, I really have no idea what it was that I planted. Most of them she said were lilies. I have no idea what kind. There were a lot of what appeared to be gladiolus and then a bunch of monkey grass. I hope I got everything planted in places that they will be happy. I mostly just tucked them in where every I could find space in my flower beds, a lot of which are pretty shady. That sounds easier than it is since the soil here is rock hard and compacts immediately when water is added. My vegetable garden beds have had a massive amount of work done to them to prevent this, but the flower beds don't usually get the same kind of love. Not enough time or resources. We will see how they do.

While I was finishing up planting the last of the plants, completely exhausted, itchy from mosquitoes, and rushing because Brad couldn't finish his homework while on baby duty, I was watching the chickens scratching around my newly planted beds and thinking about how lucky they were that I couldn't shoot lightening bolts from my eyes right at that moment. Red the rooster ran by to have his way with a hen, getting a pine cone stuck on his toe in the process. He hopped around trying to pull it off his toe with his beak and avoiding the area that was sprinkled with cones from the towering pine trees above and I had an epiphany. The chickens always seem to avoid pine cone strewn areas. They are prickly and unpleasant. Perhaps if I put them places I don't want them scratching they will avoid those places too! So I did. It is just an experiment, but as of this afternoon all of the mulch, plants, and pine cones are still in place. That. Never. Happens... Ever. Anything I plant seems to be the most amazing thing in the world and the chickens just MUST eat it, scratch it up, and destroy it. Immediately. If this works I will be on the hunt for loads of pine cones in the future. Good thing I live in south Mississippi.

Monday, April 20, 2015

We've Made Garden Progress!

Like, actual, honest to goodness progress in the big garden! It rained for a week straight, and I have 4 (now 3) days before another week of rain so yesterday I decided to buckle down and get it done. The problem is, once I cut the weeds the soil will erode unless mulched. But before the mulch goes down compost has to be added. So it has to be all done at once before any rain or not done at all. It was a family affair. Brad and Liam spent the day inside. It was the longest continual period of time I have gotten to work on stuff outside since Liam has been born. Daddy fed him, and changed him, and even got him to sleep! I just popped in to nurse him a few times and snuck back out. It was amazing!

While Liam and Daddy were inside, Keegan and I were outside. In true teenage fashion, Keegan was forced, kicking and screaming... ok fine. Not actually kicking and screaming, but grumbling, and groaning, and whining, and telling me how mean I am for not letting him play video games and watch tv inside on one of only two days off he gets a week. It didn't last too long though. It seems to be a detox withdraw kind of thing when teenagers are extracted from their lair and placed in bright sun away from all manner of bright flashy mind controlling electronics. Luckily he had a "replacement patch" of sorts in the form of his ipod which he used to text his friends at every available moment. Usually having a shovel propped against him as he waved his fingers around on the screen, appearing to be casting some sort of spell on it. How do they type so fast with no keys?! I feel so old. I still refuse to get rid of my flip phone. I would really never accomplish anything if I could carry the internet around with me in my pocket!

Anyway, we finally got some stuff done. After the grumbling is over, I love working outside with Keegan. It is nice to be able to have decent conversations with him and laugh. He is a funny guy. Always making jokes and laughing. My favorite comedian and one of my very favorite people to spend the day with.

Before and after pictures make me happy too. Nothing makes me feel like I have accomplished more than when I have photographic evidence for comparison purposes. Unfortunately, I never remember to take the before picture until after I have started working. Just imagine all of the beds looking like the really grassy one on the left.


 Keegan shoveling the remainder of the dirt out of the paths that I had just hoe'd (is that a verb?) loose. All of the mulch and a lot of the dirt from the beds get scratched into the paths during the winter by interloping chickens looking for overwintering bugs.
 "You better not be taking a picture of me to put on your blog!"... ummm. No? Maybe? I was dead at the time!

Lots of weed eating, hoeing, shoveling, 12 gorilla carts of compost, countless armfuls of hay, and a gazillion ant bites later we have 2 completed and 2 partially completed garden rows. The two in the middle are going to be tomato rows. The trellis in the row to the right needs to be moved over and another one added. The old tomato row will host peppers this year. Still more work to get done in the next few days but this is definitely a good dent in it.

 Preparing the garden instills a strange kind of exhilaration and joy in my heart because I know it is truly that time of year again. Time to garden. To see my hard work and effort in physical form. To nurture and grow plants that in turn will nurture us and help us to grow. It is hard to describe and I feel a bit silly just seeing it written down. I guess you have to be one of the few that feel the same way to understand. It really is a kind of passion.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Baby Food

One of my favorite parts of having a baby to play with is feeding him. Yes, it is like I am a little girl with my own little baby doll. The cutest, most snuggly baby doll ever! His big brother being the exception... although he isn't quite as snuggly anymore. But he is still cute! Even 15 years ago (wow...), before I knew anything about processed food, pesticides, yada, yada, yada, I still felt guilty feeding Keegan that watery, nasty looking jarred baby food. I tasted everything before I gave it to him and only things I could handle eating made it to his little tummy. Even then, none of it was what I would call appetizing. I decided before even conceiving that not only would this little one be breast fed and cloth diapered, but I would be making his food too. He still gets a jar of food now and then. Primarily pears and applesauce.

Today Liam and I made carrots! I didn't manage to get carrots planted last fall so these are organic from the store. He helped by chewing on this carrot while I peeled and sliced the rest and got them ready to steam. I love that I can make it thicker and with more texture, you know, more like actual food instead of being so watery that it drips off the spoon on the way to his mouth.

My mom got Liam the best Christmas present! These little freezer trays are amazing! They freeze everything in little cubes. It takes 4-5 cubes for a serving, but it makes reheating it much easier than if they were in one big hunk of ice. It is also fun to combine cubes. Liam's favorite combos at the moment are 2 green bean + 3 butternut squash and 2 strawberry + 3 banana + oatmeal. I also cook with minimal ingredients and low salt/sugar so I can puree what we eat for him. He has been enjoying the turkey soup from scratch I made for us to help kick that cold we have had. He had that and a bowl of sweets and beets (sweet potatoes, beets, and onions baked until caramelized. Yum) that only he and I enjoy. Not all of his food is premade and pureed. We share a bowl of fresh avocado dip or yogurt most every morning. But this helps me make sure he gets a good variety of healthy food on a regular schedule. I'm not always good at making meals at specific times and sometimes I'm busy or exhausted and make fast easy stuff that isn't always so healthy. Yes... guilty. But Liam doesn't feel the effects. Yet. At the moment his freezer stores include, bananas, strawberries, butternut squash, green beans, sweets and beets, turkey soup, pear juice, sweet potatoes, and now carrots. Liam says YUM! Joker style.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Watch Out! He's Mobile!

 Little Man has been cruising. He is very happy with himself. Mobility isn't restricted to places he can pull up. While on his belly Liam has started scooting himself forward and backward. This usually results in him being stuck after a short period of time though. Clearing surfaces of anything he can get his little hands on (aka babyproofing) has moved up on the to-do list. Brad and I already put locks on the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen and bathroom. If he is anything like Keegan they will just slow him down initially.

We are feeling much better. Not 100% yet, but much better than we were. I finally got to put my contacts in this morning instead of having to live in glasses. I have a strange issue with feeling constricted with anything clinging to me. I can't wear scarves, watches, or anything similar because of it. Glasses make me feel like I am trying to work with a mask on. I'm so glad that my eyes are getting better.

Liam was feeling so much better that he took a good nap today. He hasn't been sleeping much since he hasn't been feeling well. I took the opportunity to plant the kale from the greenhouse into one of the small garden beds, mulch more heavily around the zucchini bed now that the plants are up, replant green beans in sparse areas, and plant butternut squash seeds under the trellis.

The guineas stopped by to check things out. They are, by far, my favorite homestead animals. There is next to no work involved in caring for them, but they do an amazing job keeping insects at bay. The guineas are also the least destructive of all of the homestead animals. And they don't hang out on the porches (poo-diculous)! Those two thing alone automatically puts them at the top of my list! I am down to 6, one of which has been limping and is missing some wing feathers. I assume it was trying to sit on a nest, which is always a dangerous thing to do. It is a trouper though and looks like it is going to make it. It can't fly with missing flight feathers so it sleeps somewhere on the ground at night. I tried putting it in the chicken coop at night but guineas don't dela well with any kind of human contact. At least mine don't. They like to be wild and free! I'm surprised every time I see the group and all are accounted for. Tough creatures.

The chickens got a nice big bag of pine shavings added to their coop and the roosts fixed. All of this rain makes for a stinky situation in a chicken coop if not kept up with. Happy chickens make lots (and lots and lots and lots... and lots) of eggs! Which are currently overflowing onto my counter. I need to remedy that and find something to use them in.

As much as I was hoping to get away with not moving chicken tractors all summer and processing birds later this year, the realization that I am down to my last jar of turkey broth brought me to my senses. Chicken and turkey will be sorely missed if we don't have it. Figuring out where to brood babies needs to commence. The tank was retired last year. The wood is rotten and broken in places and the run has been detached from the brooder. Must think on that.

I found the turkey nest a few days ago with 9 eggs in it. I decided to leave them until she had laid enough to incubate. Taking eggs from the nest results in tabby finding a new nest location, which I then have to find... again. The next day they were gone. What could have run off with 9 huge turkey eggs without leaving a single egg shell? Yesterday I found her new nest with a single turkey egg nestled up beside a guinea egg. Score! A twofer! Today, gone. Lesson learned. Every egg I find needs to be collected immediately.

My largest accumulation of azaleas appears to bloom twice every year. The huge bush is covered with light pink blooms, which die after about 2 weeks, only to be covered in light pink blooms again about a week later. An old fashioned rose has entwined itself through the azaleas and created a canopy on top of the bush. A remnant of someone else who once loved this property.

Monday, April 13, 2015

We're Just a Mess

We have all succumbed to the evil sickness. Even Keegan who has a nearly in-conquerable immune system. It is now in our chests. Coughing all night. Ugh. On top of that, poor little Liam has a double ear infection. I have a double case of viral pink-eye, apparently another symptom of this plague. Who knew that even existed? Back that up with the seasonal allergies that kick my butt this time every year all on its own. I'm afraid to take anything that helps much while breastfeeding. We are just a mess around here.

On the plus side, it has been raining here almost constantly, so sitting around inside not doing anything productive isn't quite as painful when I couldn't be outside working anyway.

 Liam and I have still been finding rain-free time to have a walk-about at least once a day. He loves being outside. He is such a happy boy even when he feels like poo. Here are some pictures I took a couple days ago.

I love this greenhouse! I'm so glad I finally got one and that I found this one for such a great deal. It has been through some pretty strong wind and thunderstorms and is holding tough so far with only tent stakes holding it down.
 I guess this could be caused by wind but all 3 pear trees are doing it but are leaning different directions even though they are only about 15 feet apart. Maybe they have gotten tall too fast and the leaves are weighing them down? This is the first time I have ever grown pear trees so I need to look this up and see if what I can find about it.
 Winter wasn't good to this faucet. I need to replace it if I can ever remember to go to the hardware store during normal store hours. I always remember on weekends or at night. I also need to find another tub of some kind to put under this hose to hold water for the animals. I keep putting plastic bins there and they keep dry rotting. I tried using a chicken waterer there last summer, but I preferred using a tub of some kind because the water didn't get as hot. Also, the waterer was putting more weight on the connectors than they could take causing me to fix it or the animals be without water regularly. A tub is just easier.
 The tomatoes came up a couple days ago and the peppers and eggplants are starting to poke through the soil too! Of all the fruits and veggies I grow tomatoes and peppers are by far my favorite. I need to get working on clearing the garden!

Half of the garden is going to be pigged and then be planted with corn, pumpkins, and melons. I have reserved 3 piglets already! A wonderful lady that has a CSA about 20 minutes south of us has offered some of her piglets. We met when she bought some of my turkey poults and we talked about my buying piglets last fall. She has kindly taken in some of my turkey babies since then when only 1 hatched or when my momma turkey was killed and left orphans. She is gifting us with these three because she said the momma is on the small side and they don't grow quite as fast, though they do end up being a good weight. I'm more than happy to take them on. Heritage and/or pastured pork doesn't usually grow quite as fast "Big Ag" would like anyway. I'm grateful for them. I want to get them young so I can hopefully do a better job training them to respect the electric fence this time around.
My Irises are blooming. Beauty abounds.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sweet Taste of Nature

A couple days ago Liam and I spent a bit of time checking out the strawberry patch. I weeded and checked things over while he played in the mulch. As close as I watched him he still managed to get a few mosquito bites and apparently snacked on a bit of a leaf or two.
 There were several little ripe berries. Liam taste tested one for me. He approves. They were really small though. I don't know if it is the type of plant or if they maybe need more water or fertilizer? The chickens never allowed a berry to ripen before so even though these plants have been here for probably 4-5 years, I only saw a berry maybe once... the first year. Before I had free ranging chickens running around everywhere.
 The green beans are doing fantastically! Already just about tall enough to reach the trellis and start climbing. I finally cleared out the rest of these beds, fenced around all but 1 (ran out of netting), and mulched them all including adding layers to the onions now that they are all up. I mowed for the first time this year yesterday so it looks a bit better out there now than it did when I took this.
I planted tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse about a week ago! None up yet, but I am anxiously waiting. I really need to start transplanting the stuff that is already growing in there outside to free up space. We are enjoying lots of salads from the beautiful greens in the back. MmMmM! No more store bought stuff!
Back in the small garden beds I planted cucumbers in this bed and zucchini in another. I have planted cucumbers in the big garden the last couple of years but they suffered "chicken damage" and got some kind of disease because of it. A few years ago I grew them in one of these small beds (before the big garden was there) and they did wonderfully. I had more than enough to make plenty of pickles with and some for slicing. That's all I need!
 "Hello little cucumber plant! I'm so excited to see you already! I have lots of plans for you."
 The blueberry bushes are LOADED with fruit. Even after Liam helping me to show it to the camera and the chickens clearing the bottom of the bushes of flowers when they were in bloom. They thought they were being so smart...
 Einstein(rooster) is leading his hens to try to find berries or flowers to eat now. Yellow (turkey) could care less about the blueberries. He just wants to show me how pretty he is.
 The Resurrection ferns think it is nice and moist outside. I love these!
It was such a beautiful day that even my camera was seeing sunshine and rainbows. It is very pretty out today too now that the rain has stopped for a bit. Perhaps Liam and I will go for a walk. He has been sleeping most of the day because his cold has gone to his chest and he(myself and Brad as well) is feeling pretty rough. He just woke up and is trying his best to type too. Time to get my butt back in gear, and my arm to wake up after having him sleeping on it for over an hour, too afraid to put him down lest I wake the poor sick baby. Alas, he woke in force and is ready to plunder. Arrrr!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Strawberry Pickin'

Saturday morning we packed into the car and headed to the you-pick. With it being Easter weekend things were a bit chaotic and I probably should have waited until this coming weekend, but Friday was my birthday and the only thing I wanted was to go pick strawberries. So that is what we did! We picked 4 gallons, one of them was for my in-laws. Liam didn't know what to think about all of those red things. I am still paranoid about him being exposed to pesticides so we brought soap and water to wash up right there at the field before touching him.

Saturday evening we celebrated Easter at Brad's parents with his brothers and their families. It was fun. I really enjoy us all getting together on the holidays. Sunday should have been reserved for processing strawberries, but alas, it was a lazy day and I was overwhelmed by the mess that had overtaken the house. That tends to happen if I'm not constantly on top of cleaning, like when doing a lot of baking and cooking for Easter.

Liam and I managed to catch some kind of sickness from the kids on Saturday. The last 2 night have been rough. No sleep at all. But the strawberries had to be dealt with regardless, so that is what I spent today doing. It went faster and easier than I had expected. I was dreading it because I really don't feel well and Liam needs lots of snuggle time when he doesn't feel well.

All done! With 3 gallons of berries I managed to freeze 2 trays of mashed berries for Liam to add to his oatmeal or bananas. I made 2 batches of jam. The first is pepper jam made with jalapenos I chopped and froze last summer. The second was a low sugar plain jam. I believe I got 6 pints and 3 half pints of the pepper jam and 5.5 pints of the plain. Why is it that jam recipes never have processing time for pints? Half pints just seem so... small. I have already tested the pepper jam with tortillas. MmMmMmM! I will have no problem making sure it gets eaten. I hope the plain jam gets eaten too. I still have somewhere around 10 pint and 10 half pints of blueberry jam left from last year that nobody seems interested in. I hate things going to waste! I need to find a recipe that I could use it for I guess. The blueberry pepper jam didn't have that problem. I love pepper jam! It helps that it clears my sinuses too. I hope Liam and I get rid of this crud soon.

Brad picking berries with rows and rows of little tomato plants in the background.

Even the cool teenager got in on the berry picking, although this year it was against his will
and he was just trying to get it done so we could go home. He will appreciate the memories

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

At a loss

I have read many blogs and seen many people with small children garden and tend to their farm. It seems so natural and wonderful to see kids alongside their parents working the land. I had visions of my beautiful gardens flourishing and the animals frolicking in the fields, all my doing, and all with my little guy at my side. Now that the time has come for these dreams to come to life, I am at a loss. How?

Maybe I just need advice and am missing something? Perhaps I just have a much more high needs child than most people I have seen? Is it possible that everything I have seen and read are lies? I have a hard time believing that is the case. I'm just at a loss. How do parents (breastfeeding mothers in particular) get farm chores and garden planting done with a little one in tow? Maybe it is because both parents actively work on the homestead? Around here it is just me unless I need help with something specific. I baby wear, but it is just too hot here for a full baby carrier outside and a sling just doesn't offer enough support to do vigorous things like digging or hoeing the garden. Fireants (and turkeys) prevent me from putting him on the ground to play for more than a minute or two while I garden. I have a playpen that I bought specifically to protect him from the fireants and turkeys but it takes more time to set up than he will sit in it. Little Liam likes mommy to hold him. All. The. Time. Which is fine because I am basking in the joy of having my sweet little blessing, but things still have to get done. Brad can amuse him for short periods, but not ever for long and he is gone a good amount of the time. I also don't understand what people do about all of the mosquitoes, gnats, no see-ums, and biting flies? I hate the thought of using insect repellent on his little body but wouldn't wish being eaten alive by the massive swarm of biting things that live here on anyone, let alone my sweet baby.

I guess I am kind of overwhelmed at the vast amount of things that need to be done and the complete inability to do them. I'm a "go out and get it done" kind of person. I love working hard and accomplishing things. Sitting around and looking at all of the stuff I need to do and not being able to do it is more than my brain can wrap itself around. Liam and I take a walk around the homestead at least once a day. He loves being outside. Just not enough to let me put him down and be productive. Just enough to let me carry him around to look at all of the pretty things that mommy needs to do. It has started really stressing me out. I know that there is a season for all things and this too shall pass, but it will pass too late for me to get the garden planted and we will have to go without this winter. I am at a complete loss. What am I doing wrong? I'm not even upset that everyone else makes it look so easy, because nothing about homesteading is actually as easy as it is made to look. I'm just confused how it is apparently possible for others and I can't figure it out. I need enlightenment.