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

Safety Dance?

I observed unusual behavior in one of our hives yesterday afternoon. Lots of activity at the entrance, too late in the day to be food-related, in my opinion, but clearly demonstrating communication efforts.

I’ve only read studies and opinions from scientists and beekeepers about the bees’ waggle dance as a communication for food sources. Lots and lots of opinions and studies about that! That may be all that trickles down to the layman, however, so I keep searching the books. Here’s a new one, once again, about food.

“Social communication systems are predominantly multimodal and can combine modulatory and information-bearing signals. The honey bee waggle dance, one of the most elaborate forms of social communication in animals, activates nestmates to search for food and communicates symbolic information about the location of the food source. Previous studies on the dance behaviour in diverse honey bee species demonstrated distinct differences in the concurrence of visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile signals produced by the dancer.”
“Similarities in dance follower behaviour across honey bee species suggest a conserved mechanism of dance communication” Elsevier, Science Direct, Animal Behavior, Volume 169 Nov. 2020 https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/animal-behaviour

But, non-expert that I am, my hunch tells me this bee behavior was not about food at all, but rather about warning the forager bees that a storm is coming and to not go back out. Shortly after this observation, where the weather front moving in from the north is visible in the distance, all bee activity at the entrance stopped.

I believe I lost a hive early last spring due to either a quick-moving storm, or pesticide poisoning. This new observed behavior tilts my pondering toward the latter. In that particular colony, which was quite large, I checked on them because their entrance activity suddenly slowed to almost nothing. When I opened up the hive I found loads of drawn comb, a healthy number of nurse bees and even larvae, no disease or infestation to speak of, but bars of activity as if flash-frozen in time. Loads of nurse bees in the process of working, heads in cells, dead. My assumption is their foragers never made it home. So, when the temperatures dropped that evening, they hive didn’t have enough thermal mass for their survival.

I apologize for my lack of video skills, still, it’s on the to-do list. And, that whimper at the end is because I got stung by a fire ant, not a bee! Then the dogs came over to check out what I was doing in the grass, which to them always means playtime. Impromptu mission aborted due to attack. 🙂

True Sustainability

As the United Nations, Club of Rome, World Health Organization and various other international ‘public-private’ partnerships try to propagandize the world into their vision of “Global Sustainability” there are a number of crucial variables they’ve left out, which localities could capitalize on, if they were made aware of this potential.

For example, did you know there are salt mines all over place in this country? Salt was the basis of our first ‘trade markets’ — long before exotic spices of the Orient — salt was King of the World.

Salt was, well, worth its weight in gold, as the saying goes. Why do we import tea, the ‘native Americans’ might have queried of the mostly British expats settling here? There’s perfectly good tea all around you, can’t you see? And they might have made a few good jokes about that.

But salt? You’re going to import salt, too? What the bleep for?! That’s not even joke-worthy, that’s just a dumb-ass death sentence! You know it’s everywhere around here, right? And the gold y’all so covet, what’s that for, exactly? Y’all are really so very attached to your adornments, eh? Good choices there, give over your salt, so you starve, for gold, so you can pay your taxes. Brilliant system!

Here on the wee homestead we came inspired to see how long and far a road it is to self and community sustainability. We were thinking like most homesteaders, survivalists, etc., are thinking—food, water, energy. Obvious, these are crucial.

But what about the salt? That, along with the water, was the very first thing either robbed, buried, or tainted by the industrialist-minded settlers. Not the ones who came for a better life more aligned with their God and purpose, the ones who came expressly to profiteer for the pay-masters back home.

Long before our water and air were compromised, our people enslaved to the State and our ranges overrun with slave labor, our salt was “buried” by the Global Regulators. There are salt mines and primal (renewable, sub-surface geysers, essentially) water available all over this country.

That was known centuries ago! But go ahead and demonstrate your loyalty to the State, that tricked and enslaved your Great, Great Grandparents and before, by wearing that muzzle of submission and voting for your next tyrant.

Don’t care where your salt comes from? Next you don’t care where your water comes from, or your food comes from, or your energy, or anything else.

Line up, bend over, take your shot.

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/texas/salt-mine-tx/

Homestead Happy Snaps

We mustn’t let the tyrants and clowns get us down
Joy and laughter can still abound
Mantras and cliches can spout the latest crazes
But it’s Nature that always amazes!

Praying Mantis living on Wandering Jew, seems somehow apropos, no? He really does live there and he’s pretty good company. 🙂
I’ve heard of bats in the belfry, but in the umbrella?!
How about a cuteness contest—goats or sheep? I know my opinion! Share yours below?
It’s very zen to watch the bees, I find. Next time I’ll figure out how to add sound—I love that soothing buzz of what appears to be such well-ordered chaos—Such miracles in nature!

Homestead Happenings

Just a wee update on the wee homestead during our current Sweltering Season—that runs from about mid-July to October here—where you thank Man every damn day, and especially every night, for inventing A/C, and refrigeration.  As miserable as it is, especially when the weather makers continue to steal our rain, this has been the best one yet for me.

When we first came here I swore I’d travel every summer at this time.  HA!  After that plan failed, I’d give up on the garden by this time, because who really cares about okra and eggplant anyway?  I’d ritually whine to Hubby we are over-producing.

Recently pulling out a hot sauce from 5 years ago, with pickles and marinara still left from 2 years ago, Hubby made an astute (yet annoying) observation.   “Aren’t you glad now we were over-producing?”

Yes, indeed I am.  I haven’t had to don a face diaper yet, and I’ve no intention to.  I’ve got a freezer full of grapes and tomatoes to process, a fridge full of peppers and a living room full of pears awaiting the same fate, fall seedlings started, a pack of dogs at my feet, and the plan to take a serious ‘home vacation’ very soon.  More details on that forthcoming.

In the meantime, look how the girls have grown!

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We’ve established a favorite snack station!

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Not for sure if all the sheep are pregnant, but clearly the majority are, fingers crossed.

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The hummingbirds and bees are happy with my offerings and don’t even notice the heat, it seems.  6 colonies going strong so far, or so it seems from their activity at the entrance, because I never mess with them in the Sweltering Season.

The old piglets are getting fat while Mamma & Papa Chop are getting reacquainted in the Back 40, planning for more piglets soon on the way, we hope.

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I’ll leave out the part where friends and I are complaining about the mysterious lack of butterflies this year.