Thursday, April 27, 2017

"They're back..." ("Poltergeist*" reference intended)...


Yes, just like the ghosts in the movie, squirrels are haunting my garden.  It seems they did not learn their lesson last time and they've tried to restart the construction project.  Unlike in the movie though, a pile of rocks was again used as a weapon to foil their plans.  I stuffed and stuffed and filled the darned hole. AGAIN!  I hope this is their last try and that they've figured out that this housing project will not result in a cozy home.



Steve was feeling up to a little work on Tuesday so he fixed the sliding pathway around the upper beds.  Between coughs and nose-blowing, he anchored a wall next to the beds for me to walk on.  Corrugated tin, 5 posts, tons of dirt and it's done. We really stomped it down so I hope it lasts.  



My job while he did that was to get compost into the raised beds so he can turn it over when he feels up to it.  Wind made it hard to breathe and I covered my face so as not to get a lungfull in. Getting that chicken waste into the lungs sounds bad.  I've watched Steve after these winds did their number on him, so took NO chances.  Dumped several trugs in.



Wednesday, I worked on the upper beds and troughs which he'd turned over before he really got sick.  I straightened and watered and they are looking good. The broccoli and Brussels Sprouts go into the upper block beds and the squashes go into the troughs.  I just need to get tulle around the upper beds so I can get the plants in soon, as they are a tad late.  They like it cool and cool we've had.



This was yesterday.  Steve went stir-crazy in the house so he turned this bed. It was a smaller job as the strawberries are taking up most of it.  I still need to take the straw off the strawberries so they can get their fertilizer and then get the hose in.



I turned over the small raised bed after adding the compost (notice the oregano that's come back; top corner).  It'll hold the tomato plants.  I put the hoops on the beds and sent Steve back inside to stay well.  Watered everything in and the place is almost ready for planting.  Only one long raised bed still to go.

Now, we need to talk about the summer blog schedule.  I usually go back to 3 times a week about now.  After thinking it over, I've decided that this twice-a-week schedule is working out well.  The posts are longer and there isn't as much new stuff to discuss so I think Monday and Thursday will continue. Hopefully you're ok with that.... thanks...


*“I have not received, nor expect to receive, any compensation for items mentioned in the blog that I like, or may suggest to the viewers.  The items are just something that works/worked for me.  The Irish Lady.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

Wind, wind, go away... come again some other... NEVER!...

I finally decided that Spring is really here as there has been some doubt with all the wind and freezes still at night.  I got to work on the chicken coop...


... by switching out the heated water fount and replacing it with the summer one.  Steve'll be happy with that as he was my "water replacer" during the winter.  I CAN lift the winter one when full, but I CAN'T seem to get to the coop with any water still in it.  It's so HEAVY when full.  This smaller one can hang from a chain even while full, which frees-up coop space, too.  I removed the block support, cleaned the old waterer, added apple cider vinegar and installed the replacement.  Water done... check!

The insulation was removed from the door and windows so now warm spring air can blow through.  Ha!  Right now it's blowing through alright.  We're having what I call "hurricane force" winds (3 DAYS, ugg!), which probably aren't anywhere near hurricane force, but sure seems like it to this former valley dweller.  I STILL blame these winds for Steve's illness.  Anyway, the place was smelling fresher in no time.  Raked out the winter litter and put just a tad new straw in.  I don't think the girls will need extra insulation on the floor for awhile.


Before heading out to the garden I had an epiphany in the kitchen.  I still give the girls scrambled eggs (their's) in the morning to use up a few since Steve and I don't eat anywhere near what they produce.  Sure, I give some away, but trying to free-up space in my Egg Skelters* is still needed.  

Anyway, I would stand there breaking them up after they cooled by using a spatula and stab, stab, stabbing them into smaller pieces.  Then I noticed my hamburger breaker-upper (?) and DING!  It works so well and that made me feel a little sad as it probably means my brain is not getting all the stimulation it needs or I'd have thought if it earlier.


Todays breakfast-of-champions.  Kale, eggs, carrots, lettuce (going brown), sunflower seeds (slightly stale) and a half piece of bread.  I hope they love me.
  

Steve is still under the weather and talking like a frog, but he did push the wheelbarrow full of wine bottles over to the garden for the next stretch of "edging" to be put in.  He dug the trench with a pick blade and we stuffed bottles in quickly so he could go back inside.  You can see that a lot of the cinders for the French drain had been removed by the hens.  I hope they aren't ambitious enough to remove any more once we're done.

Afterwards, he left to take his nap... and recover his voice...


... and I pulled up a box and sifted cinders from pine needles and chicken "compost" and got most of them back over the new fence.  It will take me days to find all of the cinders the girls have spread throughout the garden. Already the place is looking neater.

Did a last check of the garden and noticed another problem the girls caused. I thought I'd just head in and cry (not) but I do think this latest problem will deserve some heavy thinking and maybe some watching of a "Harry Potter"* movie marathon....

... more on that next time...



 *“I have not received, nor expect to receive, any compensation for items mentioned in the blog that I like, or may suggest to the viewers.  The items are just something that works/worked for me.  The Irish Lady.”


Thursday, April 20, 2017

4... 2... buckle my shoe...

This week we finally had hummingbirds show up.  I was beginning to wonder what was happening to delay them as they usually show up by April 1st. Maybe there were more flowers out this year and that delayed their travels?   They do come up from Mexico and southern Arizona, so meandering to enjoy the flowers seemed a possibility.  Anyway, we have two here and they've each appropriated a feeder as its own territory and it seems we have two guys as the aerial fighting is in full swing.

Blue birds have occupied nearly every bird box we have.  They seem to have taken all the wood-colored houses first.  The brightly painted ones the grandkids painted are slowly filling up.  I've only seen one box with Pygmy Nuthatches setting up house.

Our hens are defying nature.  They all laid eggs through the winter which is not ordinary.  Now that it's warm, someone is letting me down as I'm only finding 5 eggs a day.  It's one of the black sex-link girls as the missing egg would be a cream one.  If they aren't destroying stuff, they're holding out on me.  Hens!

We had our 42nd wedding anniversary yesterday.  It kinda seems like our 100th since I've known him FOREVER, but no, it's only 42.  I have to say that I'm so glad I married a farmer's kid as he's been the backbone of this homestead operation.  He inherited a strong back and disposition, but it works.  He's the yin to my yang.  I plan and he brings to fruition. 

... he's raising the guide wires over the beds for me...

... turning compost and manure into the troughs...

I told him I didn't want anything after all he's done, so he decided on just a nice dinner out some time later. He's been under the weather for a few days, so maybe I did wear him out with the spring work?  He's lost his voice so I can't tell if he's swearing about all the work the garden still needs.  Ha!

In talking with him while out and about, he stated his wish that we not replace the hens we have now (when it's their turn to go) so we can travel a bit. Sounded like a plan to me even though that's probably 4 years away.  I'd love to travel the country and see interesting things in every state.  I wouldn't mind time off from the garden either.

... she was probably an inch and a half long...

These bee-type insects have shown up this week, too.  It looks like there's a swarm of drones and a queen.  They really love the space between the garden beds making me nervous, though they don't seem like stingers.  They ignore me, but I'm afraid of them.  She seemed to want to burrow into the dirt in the garden (are there ground dwelling bees?) so I used a shovel to move her outside the garden.  I definitely DON'T want a bee hive in my garden.

The rest of the day the drones kept searching for her.  I thought sure they'd seen me move her.  Then I felt bad that maybe she'd die alone and they wouldn't find her.  I'd hate that.  There aren't enough bees in the world. There were a bunch back today, so either it's her or another queen has shown up.

I tried finding out what they are on the internet, but nothing matched the pattern on her.  If anyone knows what they are, please let me know.

Hopefully we're back to work on the garden soon... and by "we" I mean Steve.  Letting him sleep and eat and "veg" will make him well, I hope...



Monday, April 17, 2017

Good fences make good... chickens?... NAH!...

Things need to be started on the garden beds so it's made getting them "chicken proofed" that much more vital.  Plans were made and construction started...

... and... we're off with the new fence... making it level...

... support poles in...

... and we thought we were done...

I say "we thought we were done" because the chickens immediately felt the need to prove we didn't know much.  After the fence was "done" we went in to eat a simple dinner. (see story, below next story, for results)...



I'm featuring this dinner recipe take on Swedish meatballs.  I'd found 3 recipes on Pinterest* because I've always loved Swedish meatballs, but hated the amount of work it took to make them. I wanted a Crock Pot* recipe that took no more work than dumping stuff inside it.  This one was just what I'd ordered. 



Homestyle meatballs from the freezer section of the local grocery store. Cream of Mushroom soup, beef broth, A1 sauce, a packet of Lipton's* onion soup mix and sour cream (which went in after cooking all day).



Added some noodles and green beans and it was just what I was hoping for after slaving away in the garden all day. I think I have a winner and Steve also seconded that.

Now, AFTER that lovely dinner, I went to check on all that we'd done and... well, you guessed it.   THREE chickens were stuck INSIDE the new fence and panicking.  They'd walked up the berm at the back of the garden and just stepped over the new fence. Or jumped, I'm still not sure.  After setting them free (and getting no thank-yous) I've stuck some of my metal chicken decor on the berm to keep them away.  We'll add some more fencing later, 'cause just now... 

... well, I think we're ALL exhausted.....



*“I have not received, nor expect to receive, any compensation for items mentioned in the blog that I like, or may suggest to the viewers.  The items are just something that works/worked for me.  The Irish Lady.”


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Contracting without a license...

We've been working in other areas of the property these last few days.  So, other than letting the chickens out and putting them away, we hadn't really checked the garden.


Imagine my surprise when contractor's had moved in and had begun a condo right under a raised bed.  Steve tried to fill it with water but it never filled and all we heard was a hollow emptiness.  A shovel handle went in almost the whole length. Not sure what made this such a great place for a house, but it'd be pretty damp from the garden runoff.  Our next job was to cancel the project.


We filled the hole with rocks.   Many... many... rocks.  It took four trips to finally fill the hole.  Hopefully, nobody had moved in.



The potato bins were finally started... yes, I'm late.  They are smaller in diameter and made of rabbit fence.  I wrapped them in plastic bubble wrap. I'll add more when the dirt reaches the top of this course.  I hope to reuse the wrap for a few years to get my moneys worth.  The straw lining last year was too messy and seemed wasteful to me. 



I bought red potato starts for one bin and I'm using my own potatoes from last year for the other two.  I mixed acidic fertilizer with the soil to get them off to a good start.  



So, they are watered and ready to start growing... I hope.  Maybe the plastic will act a wind break and greenhouse to get them through the cold nights we're still having.

Ran to the store and bought the extra fencing we'll need to keep the hens at bay. That is probably the next major job to get done as I'll need to plant soon.



And speaking of the planting, I'm getting ready for that now.  I've got a good supply of ground eggshells for the plants going in.  A handful in each hole helps the plants get going, especially with tomatoes.  

Can't say I don't have enough shells around here.   The girls get some in their food, the compost pile gets its share and now the plants will get theirs.   
It's a nice circle of life on the homestead...



Monday, April 10, 2017

"Nailed" the need for more fencing....

Heard Steve yelling from the "pantry" in the living room.  He said to come see something.  He'd pulled out the potato crock that had ended up under a table and I saw this...


... and at first I thought of those awful pictures you see on the internet of women with long curly fingernails.  Scary!  Then I realized it was potato sprouts, but for a minute I was going to run.

It did make me decide that I needed to get the potato bins outside in the garden and get my seed potatoes in and growing. 



Sadly, this is what I found in the potato area.  The hens have pretty-much pulled the whole mountainside down.  I started raking rocks out of the area to make some flat ground, but it's going to take a while... unless I can get Steve to volunteer.


While contemplating this mess, I noticed that they've also done a lot of damage to the West side of the garden.  I don't have a walking ledge around the new beds anymore, which may make the blocks shift.  The area around the troughs has been destroyed, too.  Most of the cinders there have been removed.


I've decided that just bird netting isn't going to help with this mess, and besides, I don't have nearly enough netting to keep them out.  I'm thinking that a trip to the local hardware store is needed for more fencing.  

I picture it out about 4 feet from the troughs going back to the other fence. And I'll need to make some sort of gate as I'll also close off the front area. Then, we can... restore the ledge... add more cinders... get things going...

... have chicken for dinner...