Monday, August 31, 2009

Our first big tomato and I am sore.

Not from picking the tomato. It wasn't that big (and it wasn't even fully red yet, but that wasn't going to stop my girls - it didn't even make it out of the garden area, much less back to the house).

I pitchforked and shoveled out all of the manure that was caked seven inches deep in the shed that I'm going to use as our winter chicken coop. There are no upsides that I've found yet to moving onto a property that was previously occupied by slobs.

Who leaves baling twine wherever they cut it? I've been picking up baling twine from all around the property since we moved in here and I'm still finding it every time I go out in the feedlot or garden area.

Tonight was a real revelation. I'm digging out all of this compressed manure from an old shed and none of it can be used in the garden - I'm hauling all of it to the dump. Want to know what I found in it? Every three shovel loads would twinkle sweetly - crushed glass. Lots of it. No windows in sight. I have no clue. Also, there was lots of crumbly pink insulation from the walls that the shed's previous inhabitants - horses - had exposed by pulling off the walls. Even in jeans and boots, my legs were prickling by the time I was done. But the clincher was the shiny envelope stuck on my pitchfork after dumping one of the loads. Why on earth would there be a condom wrapper in that shed?

Don't answer that.

I just want more ripe tomatoes, and soon.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Do you pray?

Hannah came tearing into the house the other day from riding her bike. "A praying mantis, Mother! I saw a praying mantis!!!" This little guy was fast. I finally caught him by sticking a plastic container on top of him.
(This would be one of those times that I wish my up-close photography was better.)

We studied him for a few minutes.

We tried to measure him.

Some of us even let him walk on us.

Then we stuck him in the zinnia patch to eat bugs for us.

I was excited that she found him - I didn't know we had mantises around here. They're a boon for chemical-free gardens.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Faux tomatoes.

Have you ever seen this type of plant?

I don't know what it is. I'm calling it the 'faux-tomato'. These are the best pictures that I could get.
It smells like a tomato plant and it has a tiny seed pod that is just like a tiny green tomato.

The plants don't get anywhere near as large or as bushy as tomato plants.

The reason I ask about this plant is that wherever it is, there be Colorado Potato Beetles or their larvae (in fact, in the first picture, you can see a blurry beetle). I have also noticed that if this plant is beside a tomato plant, I rarely find any of the bugs on the tomatoes.

I have also noticed that I didn't have any of these by my potato plants and my potato plants were slaughtered by these beetles.

So my questions are - What is it? Is it a trap plant (in which case I *want* it by my tomatoes and peppers) or is it simply drawing more beetles in?

Do you know?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Finding chickens.

I got a tip about a family who had raised too many broilers this year and had some to sell, so I called them and today (after filling up pockets with flower petals for 'snacks') we headed over to check out their operation.

They've already harvested all of the broilers, but they showed me their property and how they'd raised the chickens. It was fantastic - windfall apples, pasture pens, and fresh feed from a local granary.

The price seemed fair at $10 per bird. When you know what goes into raising them and then you figure in the slaughter cost, it's what you expect to pay for healthy, well-raised poultry. When we have chicken in the freezer, we usually go through one chicken a week using a method I learned about from Trapper Creek which spreads the chicken over several meals. I'm excited about this - we were going to have to be chicken-free for the winter. My husband, who could happily go the rest of his life without any meat besides beef and lamb is not as excited.

After our outing, we went to the feed store to pick up some essentials - lineman pliers, a pitchfork, and a mane comb. Hannah asked to carry the pitchfork and when I was looking at the pliers I heard her ask "Do I look like the devil?"* and turned around to see this:


* Please note that her only concept of 'the devil' comes from watching Simpsons shows with her daddy. *sigh*

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Orange is so yesterday.

I know I've mentioned on here that we somehow ended up with many, many splashes of orange around our garden.

Today, we had brand new white flowers that made their appearance.

Remember the plants that shot up over a foot in one day? They've been sitting at that height for over a month. I barely do more than glance at them when I weed around them - I'd completely forgotten what I planted there. Today when we were weeding, Hannah pointed this out to me.

A new white wildflower.

The sweet peas that I'd given up on made a surprise showing today. They smell amazing!

That gives me more hope for planting them next year - if I plant them earlier, I just might get lots of beautiful sweet pea blooms!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Settling in.

First, I wanted to put up a picture of my transplanted rhubarb.

It's doing well. The leaves are all strong, thick-stemmed, and look vibrant. When I first transplanted the rhubarb, I divided the root into four pieces. The transplant shock killed most of the leaves that were on the plants and a rogue buck goat ate the rest (that were brown by the time he got to them). I wasn't worried because when I'd given rhubarb plants to my cousin, they'd gone through the same process (minus the goat) and the roots had pushed up new growth immediately. These did the same, right on cue.

I really wanted to bring rhubarb with me from 'the old house' since it's an older rhubarb variety with a *lot* of flavor, is very hardy, and produces throughout the summer if you water it well. I'm really tickled that it appears to be settling in here just fine.

Tonight I finally got my husband to help me build new nesting boxes for the chickens - they've needed them desperately. We had to leave our old set-up at the other house and the chickens have never quite settled into options I've given them here while I've waited for my husband to have the time to help me out. I don't know enough about woodworking.

So we got busy building.

The girls helped out where they could.

(Eating cookies on the tailgate while cheering for "The best mother and father ever in the world who make nest boxes! YAAAAYYYY!!!" was their contribution. Gray was asleep on my back.)

Matt gave them scraps of wood to play with.

Hannah worked very hard on hers, etching with nails and using a hammer and nail to make 'circle designs' on her wood. She didn't tell us what she was making - it's a secret.

Ainsley disdained the scrap wood and used the pieces Matt was cutting for the boxes to make 'little bird feeders' with chicken feed.

Gray, who was awake by this time, carried around scraps of wood and giggled every time the saw started up.

The nest boxes are done. Next project? New roosts. I'm not giving a time frame. I'll only disappoint you.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How hot was it today?

101 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hot enough that the baby barn swallows sat with their mouths open. And they weren't waiting for food.
Hot enough that the momma cat brought all of her baby kittens (three days old) to the door and begged to be let in.

She's our best mouser and has never been a house cat, which brings up ... litter box issues. I moved her kittens to a cozy little cave made up just for her in a quiet corner of the garage. She brought them back to the door. I moved them to a cozy little cave made up just for her near the shed. She brought them back to the door. I shoved the cozy little cave under the porch. She brought them back to the door. I gave up and stuck her in the laundry room with a (purchased today) litterbox and a cozy little cave made up just for her to keep the kids from bothering them and closed the door. I'll take her outside several times a day for a break and some cuddles. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The tiniest tomato.

That sounds like it should be the title of a children's book.

We found the tiniest cherry tomato.

Hannah, who likes the taste of tomatoes, but not the 'squirty juice' has declared that she gets all future fruits off of that plant.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

An arrival.

Our caterpillar has changed. Head over to my other blog for the story.

Today I took only a few pictures outside - and those were of my girls in their flower garden (I'll post them soon) - even though we were outside most of the day.

Today I -

-washed the patio furniture
-watered the gardens
-checked on my goats (an ordeal all its own with a buck goat that must be not only kept separate from the girls but out of smelling distance of the house)
-cobbled together a new home for my chickens (A never-ending source of frustration since we moved here. I almost sold all of my chickens two days ago just to end the saga.)
-listened to my children playing around me while I worked. Grayson chasing the chickens with a kazoo, Hannah cuddling the teenaged chickens, Ainsley trying to climb straight up a tree. It was ... it was beyond lovely. Why don't we have a word for deeply-blissfully-happy? (You know, when you're not stressing about your chickens.)
-learned how to move big water pipes in the field (and got to watch my two little girls talking to each other through a fifty foot long pipe)

Tomorrow I need to make new nesting boxes and roosts. I'm crossing my fingers that next year I can afford to get electrified poultry netting for my girls. My poultry girls, not my little human girls. Though ...



Yeah. Kidding.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Do you think she's gotten it yet?

I sent a package to my friend a few days ago - she should have gotten it now. She reads my blog, so I couldn't show these off before today.

Aren't they cute? Two more sundresses for her two girls. I hope they fit. I've never made clothes for kids I didn't have right in front of me.

Also, I thought I'd show you a few other things that I've made out of that almost-duck fabric.

I made beanbags from scraps when I cut the shopping bags. I didn't get any pictures of them - and don't have the desire to go downstairs and take a picture of a pile of beanbags. I do have a picture of some of them that my cousin's daughter and I embroidered for my cousin's birthday. They're for her to throw to her kids when they haven't finished a chore. I don't even know if she's a 'chore' type of mom. They aren't something I'd use at this point, but if we were a chore type family, they would add a bit of fun to the process. Anyway, we had fun making them, and she loved getting some sweet embroidery work from her daughter.

Baby hammocks, made for some friends.

The first turned out lovely - I never heard any complaints - but the second one I made too long. I didn't realize it until the strings were already in and I couldn't fix it. You can see how it curls over on the manatee's head. I think it was useable ....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another County Fair.

This week was the last county fair in our area, and this fair came with a parade.

A parade that started forty-five minutes late on a hot day.

First through in any rural parade are the equine entrants.


Long-eared equines.
Rodeo queens and princesses, draft horses pulling covered wagons, drill teams, mounted police, lots and lots of horses.

And then came these big street cleaners.

Necessary so that the cheerleaders don't have to dance over horse poop.

Right before the street cleaners come, some women come behind the horses and paint circles around the poop. Later in the parade, this man comes along and records the location of all of the circles.

They've sold "Road Apple Roulette" tickets for the last few weeks. If your ticket matches where a 'road apple' fell, you win. They're not chintzy prizes either. ATVs, TVs, computers, saddles ... Not like the graduation party at my high school. I got a toaster. My friend got a keychain. A fluorescent yellow, plastic, springy keychain.

There was a big law enforcement presence, including this car for the D.A.R.E. program. It said "Donated by a convicted drug dealer." on the side of it.

Then there were the hundred and one dance teams/cheerleaders/flag squads. This filled my daughters hearts with joy.

And then the obligatory beauty queens. They had to be dying in those dresses.

But they could not have been as hot as Mr. Potato Head here.

And no rural parade would be complete without tractors.

This entry was a first for me - kids skateboarding behind a boat. It looked like fun.

After the fair, we headed over to the arena for a gymkhana. The girls got to see kids as young as they are handling their animals with ease.

Some even loping which was exciting for Hannah.

Then they told all of the kids to take their horses out of the arena so that they could start the little kid's competitions - stick horse musical chairs and the like - and the little kids crowded into the arena.

One of the teenagers didn't take his horse out when asked because he was busy showing off for his girlfriend. His horse got spooked and tore, bucking and kicking, through that group of kids and parents. Miraculously no-one was seriously hurt.

The musical chairs game played on horses for the little-bit-older kids was a lot of fun to watch.

After that, my kids got bored - really, really bored - and we left to go take a turn at the bouncy house. Much more exciting.

But we got some good ideas for games to play with Hannah to help her gain confidence on her pony, so that was worth it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wind storm fallout.

When you have sustained 55 mph winds, you have clean-up to do the next day.

Lots of branches fell out of trees. The girls helped me haul them over to the goats who, being goats, were happy to have the browse.

A pair of Swainsons Hawks had a nest in a tree near the shed and it didn't make it through the storm.

That was the bottom platform for the nest. We found several parts of the softer portion of the nest scattered in the field. The hawks were doing their first training flights a few weeks ago and by now are ready to be on their own, so they're not drastically affected by it.

This was an unusual - and mysterious - result of the wind, cold, and rain for the last few days.

The flower buds are black and the stems are falling over.

The leaves are black and dead.

My husband swears it didn't get cold enough for it to be freeze damage. Is it some sort of leaf rot as a result of the excess moisture and low temperatures? The perennials, sunflowers, and zinnias were affected.

It was a beautiful morning for a pony ride. Princess is a lovely pony. Wonderful ground manners that allow for a five-year-old girl to lead her little sister on the pony under an adult's watchful eye. The horse, while good under saddle, and calm on the ground, has just not earned that level of trust yet.

All saddled up and ready for a ride.

Until Ains realized she didn't have her cowboy hat. It was absolutely necessary - I repeat, absolutely necessary, that she get that hat before we went riding so that she wouldn't have 'funky hair'.

Problem solved.

I heard her giggling on the walk and turned around to see her sitting like this.

She stayed like that the whole ride.