Dead Giants & Illegal Owls

What to do with giants’ bones you find in the garden?

You call the Authorities, who ‘donate’ them to the Smithsonian, where they disappear forever.

What to do with a dead owl found in your yard?

You call the Authorities, who tell you to throw it in the trash, and pretend it never happened.

Electrocuted on your perfectly safe electrical wires? Impossible. Just like a duck the year before? Impossible.

Just like you, your own-human-self, jolted with permanent shoulder injury by our perfectly safe electricity? Nonsense.

That’s impossible. That never happens. That’s why we never record it or offer any way for any one to document it, because that proves it never happened.

The duck, the owl, your shoulder, NEVER happened. Report that, and that only, #6, to the Proper Authorities.

Yes Sir, that never happened. I have no electrocuted owl in my freezer. I have never been hurt personally by your Superior methods. I adore your system. I bow to your Eternal Authority.

Thank you, sir, may I have another?

Birds, Bees & Weeds

Exciting times on the wee homestead!

We had a Foraging Walk that was well worth the two years waiting. The first postponement was after a tornado leveled their property during one of their tribal ceremonies, the Caddo Mounds in Weeping Mary, which I wrote about here and here.

The second time was during the initial stages of the Plandemic, when I cancelled due to mask mandates.

On this fun foray, 3rd time was a charm, no storms, no masks and a very educational afternoon. Top 3 things I learned:

1. Medicinal weeds should never be dehydrated in a machine, something about chemistry. Two ubiquitous weeds I thought had no other redeeming qualities besides bee food: Goldenrod and Carolina geranium, are in fact beneficial medicinals.

2. There’s a compound in red cedar that inhibits the breakdown of alcohol for 18 hours. So, a common practice is to soak some branch tips in strong spirits for a month. The final product becomes kind of like Absinthe in that it’s potent enough to cause hallucinations, which can lead to great art, says me, or, a cheap date, says Hubby.

3. Foraging in areas where there was once iron mining operations, quite common around here apparently, unbeknownst to me, should be avoided due to potential mercury contamination.

A super exciting swarm event is next on the Fun list!

I’ve been wanting to populate a couple of re-furbished TopBar hives, but the dimensions are not the same as those Hubby’s crafted, so splits would prove very challenging.

Bearding in summer, not too unusual in our hot climate. But, bearding in spring, probably a sign they’re really cramped.

I was hoping for swarms, and got one off the ‘bearding’ hive I recently wrote about (pictured above). They stationed themselves about 75 feet away in a young cedar tree and I got lucky to find them there immediately, while I was nearby harvesting mulberries. This is our first plentiful mulberry crop and I’m not sure what to make with them. Any suggestions?

I did recently learn from the Deep Green Permaculture site that it’s possible to get a 2nd crop of mulberries by cutting the branches back after the 1st harvest.

As far as the swarm goes, my first attempt was dismal, in the ‘Don’t do this!’ category of the pathetic novice, which I should know better by now, which I post so y’all can laugh at me, as I well deserve.

I don’t know what I was thinking! I wasn’t even good at holding a tray like that as a cocktail waitress. Spontaneous blasphemy makes this quick clip RATED R—For Mature Audiences Acting Immaturely Only. (Bet you didn’t know in a past life I was a sailor!)

Cringe-worthy

The 2nd attempt was successful, thanks to Hubby, who sawed the branch off into my waiting hands so I could gently walked them over to their new hive. They seem to be adjusting nicely! These thoughtful bees saved me lots of messy work.

The Ninja* colony has attracted a gorgeous bird, which I’m pretty sure after consulting my field guide, is a Summer Tanager. Though I don’t approve of his hunting live bees, he does also forage dead bees under the hive, so he gets a pass.

*Ninja colony, so named due to their constant battling yet relatively calm nature. I believe this is at least partly due to their position right next to the house, where they get constant traffic, but seem unperturbed by it, unlike the more remote colonies at the far end of the orchard, who are just plain abusive.

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee update with some happy snaps because we’ve been keeping as busy as bees around here!

The bees are busy indeed and multiplying like rabbits. Time to expand their chambers or to do some splits.

Bearding in summer, not too unusual in our hot climate. But, bearding in spring, probably a sign they’re really cramped and fixing to swarm.

I did end up losing one colony, the only one I have in the conventional Langstroth model hive. I’m going to blame myself for that though, I left a super on over winter and we had a really bad winter. They made it through alright from the looks of things, but left about a month ago, probably because their numbers were still too small to keep a mansion clean while trying to nurse babies to build up the colony again. There was no evidence of freezing or starving, so I suspect they left as a small swarm. That’s my story anyway.

Construction continues on the best project so far. Handy Hubby is building an addition to our house and I’m over the moon excited about it! This place was never meant to be a year-round residence, it was initially used as a weekend cottage and hadn’t been used for many years by the time we moved in.

We’ve been cramped for quite a while, but now we’ll have a new, very necessary and very functional, climate-controlled Utility room. Thank you, my love, better late than never! 😉

We aren’t cat people but we adopted a barn kitten last year to try to help with our mouse, vole, mole, gopher, snake problems. Apparently she didn’t get the memo, or realized the problem was so bad she needed a crew.

Skittles, our frisky barn kitten having kittens.

Our piglet population is back down to a manageable size since trading 2 piglets for a milking goat to be delivered next month and 2 others for a breeding ram after a friend has freshened her flock. We also traded a beehive for some bantam hens because they are known for their strong broody behavior, and sure enough, here’s one tightly tucked on her clutch. It’s one of my favorite things to trade with folks and leave Uncle Sam with his funny money out of our pockets for a change.

You can’t see me! Bantam hens, known for tucking up in tiny corners to brood.

As for garden developments, I continue my efforts incorporating permaculture features. I keep experimenting with good companion plants; I’m planting more perennials amongst the annuals; I’m doing more succession planting; I’m getting lots of comfrey growing for ‘chop and drop’ composting.

My latest addition is a ‘poison garden’ including such toxic beauties as datura, belladonna and castor bean. I’m testing a few tricks like ‘spooning’ the onions, which is to remove the dirt from the bulb tops to encourage larger storing onions. I’m watering weekly with ‘poop soup’ that is, watered down cow manure I’ve gathered from the stray cows sometimes wandering our property.

It’s a dirty job, but anything for my plants!

As always, I let the herbs and greens go to seed, but this year I’m going to get better about seed-saving. The price of seeds is going through the roof! Another new project I’m dedicating time to is more propagating, but not just the easy stuff anymore, like figs and roses and mulberries.

I’m going for the big time—‘native’ trees! Wild cherry (because they taste so amazing), Osage orange (because they are so useful) and prickly ash (because they look so cool) are at the top of my current list.

As for foraging, a favorite spring activity for me, in addition to pokeweed and dandelions, I’ve got another new favorite: greenbrier tips—taste just like asparagus. The root, along with sassafras root, were once the main ingredients of root beer, which I plan to try soon. Yum!

Ciao for now, thanks for stopping by!

Celebrate Small

Some things are better small, even in Texas. Small markets, small steps, small farms, small solutions.

Get big or get out! That was the slogan of the last century that surely haunts loads of old farmers to this day.

“Many who got big to stay in are now being driven out by those who got bigger. The aim of bigness implies not one aim that is not socially and culturally destructive.”
The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture by Wendell Berry (1977)

“We have always had to have ‘a good reason’ for doing away with small operators, and in modern times the good reason has often been sanitation, for which there is apparently no small or cheap technology. Future historians will no doubt remark upon the inevitable association, with us, between sanitation and filthy lucre. And it is one of the miracles of science and hygiene that the germs that used to be in our food have been replaced by poisons.”

That book was written when I wasn’t yet 10 years old. And it’s only gotten worse.

I ask myself regularly how this is possible. Now it’s not just small farmers, the attacks are against small business, in general.

But, then as now, the attacks are primarily psychological. Folks are lured by promises from thieves and liars, and that’s the better part of the story. Other times, and certainly increasing in our more modern times, they are lead senselessly, through fear and desperation, because they have medical bills, or student loans, or mortgage payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they see no other way to go on but to sell their souls to the State.

And yet, the seeds of the solutions have always been lying dormant all around us, waiting for our nurturing care and attention.

“Just stop building it.” Catherine Austin Fitts

Brilliant woman who is walking her talk!

“Just move to a smaller community.” Curtis Stone

Homesteading – #SolutionsWatch : The Corbett Report

“Just try it, you never know, you might like it!” me 🙂

One minute of wee piglets being piglets just might seduce you!

A culture is not a collection of relics or ornaments, but a practical necessity, and its corruption invokes calamity. A healthy culture is a communal order of memory, insight, value, work, conviviality, reverence, aspiration. It reveals the human necessities and the human limits. It clarifies our inescapable bonds to the earth and to each other. It assures that the necessary restraints are observed, that the necessary work is done, and that it is done well. A healthy farm culture can be based only upon familiarity and can grow only among a people soundly established upon the land it nourishes and safeguards a human intelligence of the earth that no amount of technology can satisfactorily replace. The growth of such a culture was once a strong possibility in the farm communities of this country. We now have only the sad remanant of those communities. If we allow another generation to pass without doing what is necessary to enhance and embolden the possibility now perishing with them, we will lose it altogether. And then we will not only invoke calamity — we will deserve it.” WB

They Live!

If you’re needing a dose of good news from Texas you’ve come to the right post. I’m so pleased to report the snow and ice have been replaced with spring temperatures virtually overnight. One night with snow is already considered a lot here and we had it for a week.

Once I realized the piglets, sheep and goats were faring just fine, my worry was for the bees. We’d covered as much as possible in the garden but I had little hope anything would survive. It’s only the lightweight row cover, which in normal times would be enough here.

It’s certainly not rated for 4 inches of snow and ice, for a week, and for the second time this year. I expected rows of dead onions and lettuce but was pleasantly surprised.

Best news Today: All 6 colonies are alive and seemingly thriving! I couldn’t be more thrilled because, of course, I’d considered the worst, but prayed for the best.

I’m so glad now that my instinct in fall was to not take any honey, even though I waffled for weeks about it. I think sometimes procrastination is actually a 6th sense at play—an inner voice hinting to you that the time is not yet ripe. Or at least in hindsight that excuse is marvelous for reassuring youself of your keen judgement, which only works if it indeed did turn out to be keen, which with gardening in Texas these days is more like Russian Roulette than Old Maid. (Bad pun intended, if you can catch it!) 😉

Or, ignore my babbling (wiser choice) and offer yourself one full minute of BeeZen. That’s today’s happy bees, feasting on the Chinese cabbage I’d left to go to seed just for them, which survived our week-long ‘Arctic’ blast (meanwhile, the Arctic has Texas temps, go figure), now a welcome treat! Along with the henbit, which survived in bloom under the snow for a week. WOOHOO!!!

Now, deep breath, and . . .

Hubby camped with all 4 dogs in the living room so he could keep the wood stove burning, that’s our only heat source. And, unlike so much of the state, we only lost electricity for one night and had prepared the water pipes, kept the faucets running, which is the common hack around here, and hopefully also saved some perennials with tarping, but time will tell.

The best thing that could come from yet another weather disaster, not just here, but anywhere, is that folks get prepared. It’s not fun, it’s not comfortable. But without it the lesson is always the same and should be neon-level obvious by now: Self-reliance is FAR greater peace of mind than relying on collapsing structures. Food, water, energy, folks, time to get back to the basics!

Mattress moved to the living room in front of the wood stove, Handy Hubby managed to fit in there somewhere.
First time they’ve ever been inside, and they were SO good!

Polar Vortex Gaslighting

Yes, we are in the middle of unprecedented weather, once again, in East Texas, among many other places. This is not ‘climate change’ as insisted on by the various establishment mouthpieces. This is also not a ‘Grand Solar minimum’ as proposed by ‘science’ establishment mouthpieces, or the various shills of ‘alternative’ media.

It’s weather warfare and if you don’t believe me I challenge you right now to prove me wrong. Do it in whatever way you wish—curse me in the comments as a conspiracy theorist nut job, list the establishment excuses pretending I’ve not heard them already, recite the usual ‘statistics’ proving this is somewhat ‘normal’ since it happened once already (supposedly) in 1930.

And thank you deeply to those friends and family who have reached out with their concern for us and our critters. This is rare and extremely appreciated. Thank the heavens that Handy Hubby is here, and on task. He has reinforced the corrals with tarps and brings the critters hot water and we’ve got all 4 big dogs inside, which is quite a tight situation here in our wee cottage.

Freezing temperatures and snow and ice accumulating for a week sounds normal for much of the country, but in East and South Texas this is unprecedented in any living memory. Our homes, plumbing, barns, infrastructure, etc., are not designed to deal with such weather.

It seems we’ve now got the worst of crazy climate convergences in one state—Drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, freezes, snowstorms, hail, and whatever else the weather terrorists dream up for us.

Geoengineeringwatch, manufacturing winter.

Taj-Ma Coop Showcase

Third time’s a charm! Everyone knows that’s a mathematical fact. And when it comes to coops, so what if it takes three generations to recoup your costs in chickens and eggs? What matters more is the satisfaction of the Trifecta: form, function and plenty of time on our hands these days.

Coop needs are going to vary and the portable coops are really popular right now. They make a lot of sense for many reasons that are not of interest here. Mostly because we use our coop for poop.

We throw our compost in there, the chickens process through it, then we haul it to the garden. We also let them free range all day, but need the option to keep them excluded in the run from time to time. We’ve had 8 years of trial and error and here’s a sampling of the adjustments Handy Hubby has made to better suit our needs with coop 3.0. Most of them are for matters of hygiene and convenience.

Welcome to our Taj-Ma Coop! And move over Vanna White! 🙂
A custom entry gate

—No sloping run enclosures, but still fully enclosed with generous head room. Too much stooping and head clunking made this one highest priority.

—Fold-away perches, what a feature! This might be a Handy Hubby unique creation, I’ve never seen it before, nor has he. Necessity is the mother of invention! Snakes curled up in a corner are really hard to get at when you have to crawl under permanent perches. There’s invariably rogue hens who try to nest in the corners too. And for cleaning, of course, with a large back door for scooping poop directly into the tractor bucket.

—Gravity assisted flow-thru composting, impressive! Faster compost processing using scratching chickens. Tractor gates at both ends make it quick and easy to load the run up with leaves and grass, then on the downhill side rake it into the bucket and haul it to the garden after the chickens break it down. Our advancing age was the inspiration there, since we’ve been doing this with shovels and a wheelbarrow. A least favorite chore for sure.

—Storm shutters over extra large windows and an extra large feeder. We need lots of ventilation from all sides in summer, but also extra protection from crazy weather like high winds, hail and tornadoes that are apparently our ‘new normal’.

—A locking hatch, because safe chickens make happy owners.

Thanks for visiting!

Standing applause for our marvelous Handy Hubby!

Homestead Happy Snaps

It’s time again for some fun snaps. Apparently my ‘extremist’ opinions are not nearly as popular as far as posts go. What a mystery! 🙂

As usual, not suitable viewing for vegetarians.

But, our veggie of the year has definitely been the turnip. Not too sexy, I know. Personally I think the turnip is way under-rated. Lucky for us, they were so prolific this year we’ve been giving them away, feeding them to the pigs and eating them ourselves pretty much daily. Raw, baked, stewed, roasted, fermented—don’t knock ‘em ‘til you try ‘em! (And if you have any yummy suggestions for preparation, please do share.).

Hakurei F1 Turnip from Johnny’s Seeds—fantastic producer, delicious and nutritious

Our small asparagus bed was so over-packed we created 2 huge beds for them, had to go outside the garden fence and cut down a few trees to do it, and still had enough to give a big box away to a sister homesteader.

I also dug up the ‘naked lady’ lilies, day lilies and iris, replanted a bunch of them and still had loads to give away. I love to spread the wealth! It was A LOT of work, but hopefully worth it. Time will tell.

(Note to new gardeners: DO NOT crowd your asparagus, those crowns are a nightmare to separate once they get over-clumped. Lesson learned the hard way.)

Fava beans and lovely greens and my favorite herb, chervil.

Mama Chop, ready to pop! Papa Chop must be very proud, he got Virginia preggers too, her first time. Loads of piglets coming any day now.

We had to borrow another ram, apparently the last one was sleeping on the job. He’s been keeping very busy.

Handy Hubby’s Grand TajMa-Coop post coming up soon, it’s a beauty, so stay tuned!

Dare I say, it’s the classiest coop in the county?
Have a Great Dane of a day!

Fun in the Snow!

The last time we had a real snow here in rural East Texas was at Easter over a decade ago. That was fun, we were here camping at the time, so there was as yet no garden to be concerned about, because by Easter we’d have lost all our young crops.

Our light grade row cover is not suitable for snow, but since we have only cold season crops there now, they should be just fine.
Novel snowstorm brings the kid out of even us old gray-hairs here on the wee homestead!

I realize for much of the States right now this is nothing too remarkable. But for us, to celebrate this anomalous occasion we did what we could to make it as memorable as possible.

Running around in the nude seemed an effective way to do that, at least for one of us. Here are some of our shareable efforts. 🙂

Hip Hip Hooray!

Most of our cyber-only friends don’t know this, because we’ve been keeping it secret for security’s sake, but for the last nearly decade we’ve been establishing our wee homestead, I’ve been doing it alone for half the month.

I’ve wanted many times to talk about how hard this has been on this blog where I’ve shared so very many of our ups and downs, bad moods, worse ideas, unpopular philosophies and big defeats sporadically dotted with a few triumphs.

It’s been not only lonely and isolating, but also on more than a few occasions, terrifying, like when the tornado came through in the middle of the night, or the many times I’ve had to manage alone tasks like lambing—including their challenging life and death complications—all of which I have absolutely no previous experience with—having been raised in the burbs. We started with nothing, now we’ve got garden, orchard, dogs—started with chickens and now have poultry, sheep, goats, pigs. When I injured my shoulder about two years ago I was really at my wit’s end.

Of course, it was no picnic for Hubby either. He was offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, on platforms with all dudes, working long days far from home for weeks at a time for all those years. Then he’d come home and scarcely rest before diving in to the book-long homesteading to-do list and climbing learning curve after learning curve. He spent his vacations building coops and corrals and many acres worth of fencing.

Of course as well, he worried about me here alone, especially in the beginning. My learning to shoot gave him a bit of a respite, but considering I suck at it as well as abhor doing it leveled that relief mostly.

We stopped taking vacations, have almost no social life, rarely buy new anything. We both equally dreaded the inevitable moment one of our 4 big dogs died of old age or had a fatal accident while I was here alone. We lucked out there.

The physical challenges were hard enough, but the emotional ones have been exceptionally challenging for me.

Sundays off became a forced ritual after the first few years, a much needed one we’ve become reliant upon now in order to remind ourselves weekly that ultimately we came here for a better quality of life, not to recreate city-like schedules in the country and killing ourselves for some potentially unattainable goal.

So, after all that backstory, I’m beyond thrilled to announce a new chapter for us, one of those blessings in disguise that I hinted about a few posts ago . . .
Hubby’s been laid off!

We’ve rebranded it as early retirement and have already celebrated with champagne and verses of “For he’s a jolly good fellow!”

For he truly is—jolly good and my Great Hero—we’ve no idea what’s in store for us yet and that’s a fun place for us to be again.

Had we not been preparing for this potential outcome our disposition would be very different. And with this post I don’t want in any way to diminish the hardships of the very many families who’ve lost their income in this Plandemic, or those who surely still will.

We’ve been living low on the hog, as the saying goes. It’s been a lot of little sacrifices that are now paying off in peace of mind and time to reflect, rejoice and redesign.

We are not self-sustaining still, maybe we will never be, but we still hold out hopes and intentions toward that goal.

Thanks to the readers out there who’ve stuck with me during my foul tempers, moody rants—now you know mostly their underlying triggers and you can expect more positivity in future.

Or at least that’s the plan so far. 😉

Cheers