Thursday, June 17, 2010


Looking out into the front yard, and what do I see? Three mischievious trespassing calves, all wreaking havoc on our landscaping, such that it is!

This little lady did the least amount of damage - just helping to keep the grass trimmed - she got a good snack.

Mr. Spotty did more damage. These red leaf cannas had a hard time coming back from last year's tough winter. From the looks of it, they're pretty tasty.

And he made a bit of a mess.
And then there was this heifer. By the time I dried my tears of laughter, Big John had had enough and made me chase them all out of the yard. You've got to admit, she's got talent! (That's her MEAN momma in the background. I'm convinced there was some coaching from the sidelines!)
Lining up for the approach ...
Now tilt the bird feeder a tad to the right ...

Proof of success ...

Who, me???? I'm just a sweet, beautiful, innocent heifer!

This is the Life!

Setting: Patio out back, in a beautiful new padded deck chair, George Strait on the speakers, big glass of iced tea on the table ... paradise!

If I close my eyes and try real hard, I can pretend that this is my real, everyday, all year long life. But then the phone rings or the dogs get in the chicken coop or I wake up, and I realize it's just a summer fantasy. I'll enjoy it while it lasts!

Today is just one of those wonderful, amazing days! I'm sitting, as described above, with my laptop in my lap working on the blog. The birds and katydids are singing along with George, with Tribett piping in every so often. I can't imagine a better way to spend a summer afternoon!

 Big John is working nights for the next little bit, so he put in a good day's work on the farm this morning. We had big plans: up early to start pickles and tomato sauce, then out to graze Ranger and Roxy and do garden work while it was still cool. We did the "up early" part. We're putting off kitchen duty until tomorrow. Ranger and Roxy were allowed some grass time (and Roxy got to run like the wind for a bit), and we made a good dent in garden chores before we stopped to eat lunch. Unfortunately, it was already warm and muggy when I stepped outstide at 6:15 this morning. I've discovered that if you just suck it up and get out early, you can get on top of the heat issue. If you wait until after lunch to start your outside chores, you might as well wait until the next day. It's only June, but it's really HOT. I guess it's like this every year - you'd think I'd remember after 45 years, but it just seems hotter than it used to be. I thank God every day for the rain we've had this month - and hope there's more in store. Of course, it's also hurricane season. They're predicting it will be a busy one - they say that almost every year. If I were in that business, I'd probably want to cover my rear, too. There's been one little disturbance in the tropics already, but it went away or went somewhere else. I'll be pushing to get those working shutters done here in the next couple of weeks. They're still on the "to-do" list, but I'm afraid they've moved down a couple of slots!

The sunflowers have started to do their thing! They had a few "nibbles" early on from Brown, Gary, and Roxy. Brown and Gary were relegated back to the pasture in front of the house - a short-lived vacation in the trap. Roxy is now stalled, in order to calm Ranger, but she seems to have lost interest in sunflower leaves when she does get out. I think it was just a way to get me riled up!

I've also gotten the pumpkins planted. They may be a little too late for Halloween, but we'll keep our fingers crossed. This morning, Big John fenced them off, which is also protecting the sunflowers. It seems like a lot of empty space - space that could be used to plant more pumpkins! That kind of thinking is what's made a mess of our squash rows, too. They're so close together that I can hardly make my way around. Maybe we'll leave well enough alone this year and see how much more room we'll have next year. (I've noticed that this sure
looks like "extra" garden space. I wonder if Big John has noticed that, too?)

And we finally have our first eggplant! Having never tried our hand at eggplant, I was sure something had gone wrong. A friend and eggplant-expert assured me it was a little too early for eggplants. She was right - patience paid off, and we've got one almost ready to pick, another on the way, and lots of blooms! Maybe this will be the year for tomatoes and eggplant! Get out those cookbooks!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Garden Odds and Ends

Just a quick update on the garden:

Did I tell you that I planted sunflowers? That was another of those brilliant farmers' market ideas! I've got to tell you the farmers' market story at some point, but it's a long one, so we'll save it for another time. The west garden fence is now lined with sunflowers. They're doing well, and we should have some blooms pretty soon.

This patch to the west of the sunflowes is set to be the pumpkin patch. In tribute to my very favorite uncle, Uncle Dick (Wine, to those who loved him) we're going to plant about 80 feet of pumpkins! They need to get in the ground soon to make their date with destiny. We've got a couple of varieties, one being a glowing white pumpkin! Spooky!

The garden is growing beautifully, and the herbs are outpacing even the squash and tomatoes. Seems I misjudged the world's love of fresh herbs and overplanted. I know that once I start canning tomato sauce, I'll be able to get a handle on their output. Big John is making a drying rack for now so that they don't go to waste.

 We're planning to hang it from the ceiling in the guest bedroom - same room we've stashed the 6 gallon crock of sauerkraut. Can you imagine the mingling of smells? I guess that's one way to cut down on the number of overnight guests!

Foxy Roxy

There's no story here - just pictures of a beautiful mare! Roxy is very modest (ornery) and never lets me take a good picture of her. For some reason, she let me get two today. Just thought you'd like to see a gorgeous bay roan. And yes, she's got the attitude to match!

Fishing Trip/Poultry Palace Expansion

Wouldn't you wonder how in the world these two things are related? A fishing trip and the expansion of the chicken coop - no visible connection. Remember how Big John so easily agreed to add on to the hen house? And remember how I was a little leary of that? Well, it turns out there was a secret plan on his part to take one of his two days off to go fishing. Yes, he had the nerve to actually plan a relaxing few hours on the water during one of the two days off he has for the next nine days. I know what you're thinking - I wasn't happy about that either! Hmph!

John's good friend and his youngest son came down with the intention that they would fish one day and build the forms for the new dog kennel the next day. Fishing was GREAT! Jeffrey even caught a shark!

During the wee morning hours of the concrete-work day, we got a little thunderstorm - 2 inches worth of thunderstorm. Now, you'll not hear me complain about the rain. It's just that all that rain put a damper on the form work. Here's as far as they got:
Looks great to me!

Here's what it looks like now, a day later:

No, you're not seeing things. Turns out, it was 3 inches out of square or level or plumb. Whatever. I'm more of a "good 'nough" kind of girl. Big John - not so much. This morning, we undid all the hard work he and James had done. Guess I'll be helping to build forms again. I hate concrete work. (Stay in school, kids. There are easier jobs to be had than pouring concrete.)

Once the form was un-built, Big John and I set our sights on starting the coop expansion. We needed to get those posts set so that we can butt the dog kennel slab up next to that - or so I'm told. I'm the chief gofer around here when it comes to construction. Thank goodness for Big John's skills. He's not only good looking, he's pretty handy, too!

The chicken coop will go from a 10' by 10' space to a grand 10' by 16' chicken mansion! Wow - lucky ladies! This extra room will allow me to expand my brood to about 30. Once the weather cools off, I'll order some chicks. At about 6 months, they'll start laying. If you do the math, that puts me at more eggs in about a year. I could take the shortcut and just buy some laying hens, but it's so much fun to raise chicks. (Remind me of that when I'm complaining in a few months!) I may order all Ameracaunas and Wellsummers - blue and chocolate brown egg layers. There are so many pretty birds to choose from. It will be like looking through the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Remember those days?

We'll set the coop posts in concrete tomorrow, then I imagine we'll start on that slab form again. I'll bet it comes out right this time around!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Carancahua Creek CSA???

Are you familiar with the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)? This allows a farmer to contract with local families, selling "shares" of produce, eggs, meat - whatever that particular farmer has - for weekly delivery. There are probably as many variations on the idea as there are farmers, but that's the gist of it. Through no planning on our part - definitley divine intervention - we may be in the beginning stages of our very own CSA!

When I realized that the Farmers' Market was not going to open on June 5th, as I'd imagined, I began to go into survival mode - how to keep Big John from killing me for convincing him to expand the garden exponentially. Of course, I'd need to sell the extra, but how? When I emailed all those who'd shown interest in the market, to let them know it was still in progress, but moving more slowly than I'd expected, I got so many replies from people wanting to buy our surplus. As we worked out details and began to discuss the particulars, a couple of these customers brought up the concept of contracting with us and receiving weekly deliveries. Some had prior experience with CSAs in other locations, some had just heard of them and were interested. We now have 4 individuals/families in line, and 3 others interested. Big John and I are devouring all the information we can get. The current garden may become a dedicated herb garden - or test garden - or greenhouse. The main garden may go out front of the house. A new well is now more likely than not, which will allow us to irrigate a garden, as well as grass we've been waiting to plant - waiting on a 100% chance of rain! The new grass will enable me to feed calves, a dream I've had for many years. Big things are happening on the farm - or at least in our imaginations! The possibilities are endless - Carancahua Creek CSA. Who would've thunk it?

Want to know more about CSAs? Check out and There may be a CSA near you! Eat fresh, eat local.

Day Three

WOW! Where has the time gone? It's Day Three of summer break, and I've fallen more behind than when it started. At this rate, I'll get nothing from "THE LIST" done before school starts. Woe is me!

Much of each morning and evening has been devoted to caring for Ranger. His first week of stall rest has been full of change. Big John had to cut down Ranger's space - he just had too much room to roam. The only time he was still was when Roxy came in to eat in the stall beside him. The rest of his day was spent pacing. When I relayed this information to the vet, he asked if Roxy could be stalled as well. UH OH. Poor Rox. She's now on 5 weeks of stall rest - and she didn't do anything to deserve it! I will say, that has helped Ranger's disposition immensely. We're down to changing his dressing once every two days, and only one medication twice a day. He and Roxy both look forward to their 5 minutes of grazing in the trap - fresh grass never tasted so good! Ranger goes back for a checkup next Monday, so hopefully all is going as well as we think it is. I'll keep you "posted!"

After vet duty, I'm on garden duty. Things are coming on quickly, so I start off picking what's ready. The cukes need training, bugs need dusting, and weeds need pulling, and pulling, and pulling. Wonder if there's a market for weeds? We've had a little thunderstorm since the big rain, and watered in between. We're getting more disciplined with the fertilizer - once a week - and boy, does that make a difference!

It turns out that there are many people in town who love fresh vegetables but don't have the time or space or desire to tend a garden. Through some truly miraculous channels, those people and I have become acquainted! I sold out yesterday, of both eggs and vegetables, and will make another delivery on Friday. In a crafty move that came out of nowhere, I've convinced Big John that I need more hens. That wasn't the hard part. In order to house more hens, we need a larger coop. That's the clencher! Much too easily, he agreed that we'll put a 6' by 10' addition onto the henhouse. We'll pick up materials on Thursday, and put that project on the ever-growing list of things that must be done. Maybe by the time I'm ready for chicks (when it's cooler) we'll have an expanded Poultry Palace! Now I've got to figure out what Big John's up to ... is there another new fishing rod I don't know about?

I've also spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen during the past 3 days. Big John has become addicted to making - and devouring - bread and butter pickles. I must say, they are pretty delicious! We did a better job of packing the jars the second time around, so they present a bit better. Either way, they taste great. Everywhere you look, we've stashed pickles!

Big John did some errands the other day, and came home with a surprise for me - a big pressure cooker! It's kind of like buying your wife a vacuum cleaner for your anniversary, except that I was really excited about this. I'm easy to impress! We made it through last year with a smaller version, and Big John figured we needed to upgrade. Being the independent woman that I am, I decided to can our surplus of green beans while Big John was at work - all by myself. That involved unpacking the cooker, assembling it, and reading the instructions. I am a teacher, after all. How hard could that be? Well, 5 quarts of ruined green beans later, Big John shows up from work, screws the bottom part of the pressure release valve on, and "fixes" it. DUH. I wondered where that extra piece went. (I'm not usually "allowed" to assemble important items on the farm. No wonder.) I had run out of "want to" for the day, but had trimmed the whole mess of beans. I took part of the next morning to can the remaining 2 quarts. Came out fine. I'm now the self-proclaimed expert on pressure cooking low acid foods. Bring on the beans! I will admit that I still have moments of panic where I imagine Big John coming home to the house blown to smithereens by an exploding pressure cooker. Maybe "expert" is going too far!