And, it seems to me, the only way to really know that, is to have known how very low you can go, when you’re really not, hot.
Mamas and babies are all doing great and our semi-feral cat, Skittles, has just had TicTacs, though we can only hear them so far, somewhere, under the floorboards of the old tractor barn where she’s taken up semi-permanent residence .
And . … We just got our first swarm! I’m extra excited because it’s off our ‘Ninja’ hive, our strongest colony. And a bit of an odd story about that. I ‘sensed’ it, before I saw it. I know, sounds crazy! I did suspect they’d swarm this season, because they didn’t last year, as far as I know.
I call them the Ninja hive because they are right by the house, always very active, regularly fighting off robbers and just generally busy, but never aggressive toward us. We can even mow right around them with no problem.
Because I like their temperament so much I have taken splits from them in the past hoping to spread their lineage far and wide. Funny thing is, they were the brand new hive that got flipped over during the tornado several years ago and they were so weak I thought they wouldn’t even make it through the summer.
This afternoon I had a sense, all of the sudden, that they’d swarmed, and I looked out the window, and there was their swarm!
Mama Chop went for an excursion and I figured she’d go right to her daughter’s place, which she did. Virginia was nursing at that moment and one piglet had strayed through the fence into the orchard and couldn’t figure her way back in and was NOT AT ALL happy to be missing her breakfast! (Actually, it could very well be a ’he’ and probably more likely since the boys are typically first to venture off).
We traded a couple piglets once again with a farming friend for our next breeding ram. We named him ‘Terdeau’, HeHe, can you guess why?!
We have some happy snaps, one minute of piglets’ bliss and a couple garden successes to share today.
Mamas and piglets are venturing out already and enjoyed their first spa day. Unfortunately, Mama Chop did still squish two of her wee ones despite Hubby’s extra efforts, so both Mamas are now with seven. Virginia has proven to be the better mother, but we prefer Mama Chop’s personality. But, it’s not about us. Sadly this will probably be Mama Chop’s last hurrah.
Moving on to the garden I’m pleased to report good news. The alliums are looking amazing, the best ever at this time of year., I expect that is due to our very mild winter and an extra helping of sheep poop. I love this time of year when chopped green onion can top every savory dish. Also, unlimited lettuces, for a limited time only. Once the heat sets in there are only a few varieties that survive, arugula and oak leaf primarily, and even those still have a tendency to get too hot or bitter and bolt quickly.
Here we’ve got garlic, elephant and a few varieties of hard neck, plus white, red and yellow storage onions, shallots, and a pearl onion perennial that I highly recommend for hot climates (Bianca di Maggio). I’ve tried every type of popular perennial onion and this is the first time I’ve gotten them to last, relatively carefree, for two full years. Normally they do not last the summer. That could also be because these I grew from seed instead of getting sets.
Seed saving and propagation are big on my garden plans lately, not only because of the high costs we’re seeing. Some seeds naturalize very quickly to their environment and I’m regularly impressed at all the volunteers that have found their way into the garden over the years—including tomatoes, wild carrot, datura, tomatillos, jumping jacks, Malabar spinach and collards/kale. In some cases I’m planting these purchased seeds and they don’t do that great the first year, but the volunteers that come back thrive with no care and even competing with some of our very pernicious grasses. Nature is so amazing!
Tis the season for pokeweed, a new and reliable favorite—that poor maligned and misunderstood plant I wrote about last year. We ate the greens all summer, the berries all fall and winter . … and we’re still alive . … go figure! So much mis-and dis-information out there on this delicious, nutritious and versatile, once upon a time Southern staple, that ‘science’ has tried to steal from us.
Two more such successes are strawberries and chayote squash. These are definite testaments to the old adage: “If you don’t succeed, try, and try, again!”
Why, oh why do you let weeds grow in your garden!? Oh let me count the ways . … the bees, the seeds, and, seriously how much time do you think I have?! Actually though, there’s a very good short answer for that—when you allow the deeply-rooted ’weeds’ to work among your short-rooted annual crops you have a magnificent force of nature at your fingertipes—those long tap-roots bring nutrients up from the depths in order to feed your fancy annual crops their otherwise lacking essential minerals.
The chayote squash, pictured left, I’ve tried to get established a minimum of five times. Even this time, the one I expected to live has died and the one I expected to die has come back with impressive gusto. This is why the plants I really want to work I place in different spots of the garden, just to see, as extra insurance, even though this is often inconvenient and seemingly counter-intuitive.
Same thing with the strawberries. Texas gardeners don’t have an easy time with strawberries or blueberries, they both prefer cooler climates. Most gardeners here who are serious about strawberries either buy new plugs each fall for the spring crop or dig up their crop and store them in the fridge all summer until the fall planting. This is too much work and/or expense for us here, yet I’d love to have at least a small, but reliable, crop of strawberries. This time did the trick so far, but only time will tell. At least I’ve got them not only surviving the summer, but also spreading. I used a couple of folk tricks I heard over the decades. One is from Finland—put them with the asparagus, I was told. But alone that did not do the trick. So, I tried them where the asparagus had been, but also where the Indian strawberries had been growing wild. Success! So far . …
Huge days on the wee homestead! The pigs and sheep have all had successful births without a single hitch. Mama Chop did lose a couple, but she has such large litters that’s not such a bad thing. We were very concerned about her as she crushed her last two litters, literally, not in the new way of the term—She crushed it! Nope, in the old way, as in she smooshed them all.
Hubby was able to prevent that sad ending this time by clearing out her corral space of every last twig. She was in the habit of building huge nests, full of branches and twigs and so steep the piglets would roll right off it, falling between branches and getting pinned whenever she moved around. We were worried with another total loss we’d have to get rid of her because we like her so much, she’s so gentle and good-natured. She loves company and will even go on walks with us. It is truly amazing how graceful these huge creatures are around those tiny, squirmy little things!
Virginia had a similar setup to Momma Chop, but she wanted nothing of it. She went off into the woods to build her own nest, her way. Luckily she doesn’t have such a penchant for branches and twigs. She’s got more of the wild side in her attitude as well as her nesting preferences. And she certainly does not appreciate prying eyes and will come after anyone who gets too close to her brood!
Watching the little lambs play, and sleep, is so cute. But I expect when the kids come next month we’ll really be in for a comic treat! It will be our first experience with goat births and I hope it goes as smoothly as the sheep did this time.
We have a new visitor to the garden which surprised us.
It’s been there every day now for about a week and I’ve never seen one like it around here before. It flies just like a hummingbird and had us quite confused. It was darting all around so fast and so far that it took me about 10 minutes and 30 attempts to get one decent shot of it. After some searching we learned it is some kind of hawk moth. Fastest moth in the west? Sometimes I undervalue the usefulness of the Internet, I might’ve been left baffled on that simple identification for a lifetime!
Not to mention the joy of sharing these simple pleasures with y’all!
Not bound to exploit. Not obsessed with production. No concern for profit extraction. Not driven by expansion. Treatment-free. Liaisez-faire. Non-industrial, anti-commercial beekeeping practices.
Beauty. Synergy. Cooperation. Respect. Reverence.
If you guessed these unconventional methods are far from popular around here, you’d be correct.
I don’t even have a bee yard. I do have 5 strong, sustained colonies (aiming for 7) scattered around several acres, which is the best beekeeping decision I’ve made in about 5 years.
It is the intense crowding of many colonies into one space that is so unnatural that it then commands chemical treatments for bee health. Artificial solutions are never the best solutions. I rarely even feed my bees, I consider that a treatment. On those rare occasions I do, because my observations have led me to suspect they are without reserves, sometimes I’ve been wrong, and the bees aren’t remotely interested in my offerings. They prefer to forage over taking my junk food.
By observing intently over time and looking to mimic nature in every way possible, I’ve come to realize how hopeless is commercial-style beekeeping for the small holder, just like all our industrial ‘solutions’ are a never-ending Ferris wheel of problems and solutions, all the way around. Industry comes to drive the entire tradition-turned-enterprise right into the ground.
Well, no thank you! And I haven’t had to buy bees for several years now, thanks to my new-old methods, which is certainly another motivator for commercial beekeeper’s scorn, considering they often make a good chuck of their profits from returning customers—that is beekeepers who follow commercial methods even for their handful of hives—buying nucs and packages and queens from the ‘Big Guys’ who sell themselves as the experts on all things bees.
In other words, the beekeeping industry strongly resembles the pharmaceutical industry, and pretty much every other global commercial industry. One model for all endeavors. One noose for all necks.
All but one of my hives is top-bar, another source for mocking by conventional beekeepers of all ages. But it does seem like alternative types are squeezing their way in through the cracks. And plenty of cracks there are. Not just top-bar fans.
I’m not on any of the popular social media sites, but I know there are treatment-free groups, full of curious kindred spirits, some with bee-loving pseudonyms instead of their real names, like poor, paranoid anti-vaxxers. Oh, lovely lurkers, come out of the shadows to stake your claim! You dare to brave the bees’ stings, surely some stings of misplaced criticism can’t scare you away?!
The bees are just one of many bustling with spring’s promises.
In other news, happy chicks are here, with no snakes in sight. (In the new, ultra-high security coop within coop, 100% snake-proof. Right?)
We are still waiting on the piglets, the rest of the lambs, and the kids, while trying not to let our anticipation get the best of us!
I LOVE cheese day and it’s been a very long while.
It’s been several months since I’ve been milking our ‘old’ goat, Summer, and it will be a few months more before I start milking her again, along with Phoebe and Chestnut, intending that all will go well with their first kidding, and I will be able to train them on the milkstand, which will be as new to me as it is for them. Big intentions!
I’m not too worried about Phoebe, she’s much more tame and mellow and loves to be petted. Chestnut darts off as soon as you try to touch her and is even skittish when hand feeding.
The first lamb of the season has just arrived! Now that Handy Hubby is ‘retired’ he gets to handle all the stressful parts while I pop in for the awes and photo ops. Big win for me! It’s not that things are constantly going wrong, but it does take preparation and attention and concern, because sometimes things do go wrong.
But not this time! While Hubby runs around, making sure the little lamb latches on in due time, gets the feed and stalls prepped and ready for a bunch more births, I make cheese.
It’s a very slow process, traditional mozzarella, it takes all day. Yesterday I experimented with a new cheese of my own invention, which is just about my favorite thing to do in the world. I would bore you with the details, but I fear you’d be really bored.*
Another new Hubby project has been the ultra-high security broody fortress. Walls within walls. He’d finished the Tajma-coop and hoped our predator problems were solved. He’d planned for practically every type of previous invader—raccoons, hawks, possums, coyotes—with the exception of snakes. He’d hoped between one cat, 4 dogs and constant hoof traffic the reptilian raiders would retreat. No such luck. We lost lots of chicks and Bantams to snakes.
Surely this will be the ultimate solution?
Hubby sporting his wild side, which I much prefer to his straight-laced pilot persona. Though of course I have deep gratitude for his professional efforts too, not just the relieving of them, or we’d never be where we are now. (Thanks, Brandon?! And, where else shall I send the thank-you notes??)
I used to have regular cheese days. I would drive four hours round-trip for the only raw milk available in the vicinity and get up to 20 gallons and have a cheese-making marathon for four days straight. It was perhaps a bit obsessive.
That was a few years ago, now it’s a real luxury. Since then the cost per gallon of raw milk at that farm has gone from $6 to $9. Add to that the cost of gas and time (and my personal waning energy), we really can’t afford it anymore.
Instead I’ll be milking goats and making mostly small batch cheeses, including all my favorites, which is pretty much all of them, especially Camembert, Muenster, and traditional styles of aged chèvre. I do believe I’ll be very satisfied with my new arrangement!
This time I got 10 gallons and a friend did the pick up, another win for me. She, like me, started making cheese and bread mostly out of snobbery—we are ‘foodies’ (I prefer the French term ‘gourmands’) and the selection of these staples in these parts was akin to an inner-city food desert. Industrially-produced, plastic-wrapped crap only, of the lowest quality.
Like I said, it’s a luxury at that cost, but from it we will get better cheeses, yogurt and buttermilk than money can buy.** Not only do we get the cheeses, but the whey goes to great use too, for ricotta, for soaking grains, and for the critters at just the time they are in need of extra nutrition.
Incidentally, mozzarella is not a raw milk cheese. Still, the flavor of the traditional home-made style is far superior to those which are industrially-produced, including the ‘fast mozzarella’ that most home cheese-makers prefer, since it takes about an hour versus all day. That version is also delicious, and I make it sometimes too, but the flavor and texture between the two is very different.
Our semi-feral cat, Skittles, comes around regularly now that our house dogs are no longer a constant threat. She’s getting her day in the sun at last, enjoying her curds and whey.
As there is a lot of kitchen downtime with traditional cheese-making methods, I make sourdough bread and pizza dough between steps.*** Or sometimes pestos, or condiments, or Kombucha (my latest fantastic flavor is pine needle), or soups and salads. Before I know it, an entire day in the kitchen has swooped by, me barefoot and content, and still in my pajamas.
And very happily not pregnant!
*Actually, I’d be happy to bore you in the comments section if you have any cheesey comments or questions.
**Sorry to say, but the raw milk cheeses you think you are buying at the grocery store are actually semi-pasteurized, they just changed the definition. As per usual.
***While listening to podcasts, usually. Richie Allen was on the list today, a good choice as it was a call-in show on the subject of prepping. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-richie-allen-show/id1090284266?i=1000553479020 I don’t identify as a prepper myself, necessarily, even though pretty much any American who looked at our lifestyle would say we are. The third caller on the show is a self-identified ‘doomsday prepper’ in Alaska. She was great, shared lots of good info and talked about how she grew up that way, as did her parents. I don’t really consider that ‘doomsday prepping’ either. This is a lifestyle to me, one that deserves to be continued through the generations, not just during precarious times, and I’m sure she would agree. Being prepared is important and I think everyone should make a concerted effort on that front, especially in times such as these. But I see this lifestyle is a special sort of calling and it’s not going to appeal to many folks, and it doesn’t have to. It’s enough for those so inclined to preserve it and to treasure it and to keep that flame of living intimately with nature alive. It sets an example that is much needed these days as it is not in the modern Western way of a recreational relationship with nature or the profit-driven exploitive relationship with it, but a real, old-fashioned, hands-in-the-dirt sort of cooperation. You’ve gotta really love it, really want it, or it will never work for you.
Busy days on the wee homestead as spring moves in. The seasons change, alas the chemtrails do not. The weather whiplash as well. But I must admit, I take quite a bit of hope and satisfaction that in the many years I’ve been bitchin’ about this, folks seem to finally be taking some serious notice. Either that, or my scope is conveniently narrowing. No matter. However the media tries to distract us, what’s truly important is happening in and all around us, not out there somewhere.
Handy Hubby has been busy in the back 40 clearing more pasture and getting the various spaces ready for the soon-to-be coming babies—piglets and lambs and kids and chicks. I’ll be posting lots of those pics when the time comes!
I’ve been busy in the garden and the bees are just starting to get busy, too. Only one colony failed over the winter, so that’s looking promising. We have loads of henbit blooming, but the bees seem to be preferring the chickweed so far. I have seen them enjoying the henbit on other occasions, so I keep plenty of it around. Such fickle little fairies. 😇
The perfect pesto can be created from those three ’weeds’—henbit, chickweed and violets. It takes some patience, but it’s well worth it.
I’m pleased that the avocado and mirliton squash I over-wintered inside did really well. Of course, I’m not counting my fruits before they hatch! I’m also trying sweet corn inside under lights for the first time. We often go so quickly from frost to 90 F degrees that it’s a ’beat the clock’ situation. In the middle photo are the sweet potatoes, ginger, tumeric and another mirliton warming up on a heat mat before putting them in soil to warm some more under lights before transplanting.
Garlic, shallots and a few types of onions going strong! That’s row cover on the right of the photo, for the weather whiplash. On the right you can see the garden from a distance, completely fenced, with a makeshift green house (the cover destroyed during the tornado a couple years ago) that will soon make it to the top of Hubby’s to-do list, I hope! 😏
Quoted from the book Old Age Deferred by Arnold Lorand, M.D., 3rd edition, 1912 Carlsbad, Austria
He is considered to be a pioneer of modern geriatric medicine.
“Most of the evils that befall us in this world, including premature old age and early death, are, in our opinion, as we have often repeated, solely due to our own negligence; and to avoid such a fate we recommend the following precepts:
1. To be as much as possible in the open air, and especially in the sunshine; and to take plenty of exercise, taking special care to breathe deeply and regularly.
2. To live on a diet consisting of: meat once a day, eggs, cereals, green vegetables, fruit, and raw milk of healthy cows (as much as the stomach will permit); and to masticate properly.
3. To take a bath daily; and in addition, once a week or once every two weeks, to take a sweat bath (if the heart can stand it).
4. To have a daily action of the bowels; and in addition to take a purgative once a week if there is any tendency to constipation.
5. To wear very porous underwear, preferably cotton; porous clothing, loose collars, light hat (if any), and low shoes.
6. To go to be early, and to rise early.
7. To sleep in a very dark and very quiet room, and with a window open; and not to sleep less than six to six and one-half hours, or more than seven and one-half, and for women eight and one-half hours.
8. To have one complete day’s rest in each week, without even reading or writing.
9. To avoid mental emotions, and also worries about things that have happened and cannot be altered, as well as about things that may happen. Never to say unpleasant things, and to avoid listening to such, if possible.
10. To get married; and if a widow or widower, to marry again, and to avoid sexual activity beyond the physiological limit, as also to avoid a total suppression of the functions of these organs.
11. To be temperate in the use of alcohol and tobacco, and also in the use of coffee or tea.
12. To avoid places that are overheated, especially by steam, and badly ventilated. To replace or reinforce the functions of the organs which may have become changed by age or disease, by means of the extracts from the corresponding organs of healthy animals; but only to do this under the strict supervision of medical men who are thoroughly familiar with the functions of the ductless glands.”
This doctor’s Wikipedia page directly contradicts what I have just taken from his book—not simply distorting his assertions, or cherry-picking quotes—by saying that this doctor promoted a vegetarian diet.
I remember well the first time I heard the expression ‘learned helplessness’. My mom used the term and I didn’t understand it. I asked her to explain, which went something like, “As if a man is actually incapable of doing the laundry.”
Some time later I heard it used again, only this time in reference to a woman who wouldn’t dream of changing a tire because she might break a freshly manicured nail.
These are benign examples of a much more serious issue. A little co-dependency amongst family and friends can be a very good thing. It reminds us we need each other, and it’s nice to be needed, as long as it’s not too needy. 🙂
But there is a much more nefarious kind of learned helplessness that is proliferating in our society and because it’s being sold by some very slick salesmen it goes on, continually championed by those who should know better. US.
This is the kind of dependency that fosters anxiety and dis-ease, because it promotes frustration, alienation, victimhood, powerlessness. Under the guise of convenience, comfort, safety, and even fun, we have allowed ourselves to become dependent on criminals, sociopaths, martyrs, tyrants dressed up as experts and beneficent leaders and stars.
Food, water, shelter, health, energy, entertainment, protection. These are all crucial aspects of human life we’ve willingly outsourced to others. Gone are the days for the vast majority who cooked from their own gardens, played and sang tunes around the fire pit, cared for their own ill, built their own homes. How many generations must we go back to know a time before politicians were household names and stock markets dealt only in livestock?
How many folks believe we have it so much better in our ultra-civilized modern world because they’ve bought the propaganda of their oppressors, those who actively promote and celebrate our dependency as progress?
There is a wellspring of peace of mind knowing that if you ever dare say “Take this job and shove it” you won’t end up homeless and hungry.
If you could do one thing in the new year to release the yoke of dependency just a bit, or a bit more, what would you do?
No politics or unpleasant ponderings this post, I promise!
Just some homesteady happy snaps and a well wishing for a wonderful weekend. 🙂
Drum roll, please, for this next rare shot . . . A Skittles sighting!
Mystifying mushrooms! These are quite common, honies (armillaria tabescens) claimed to be good by a good many foragers, but we haven’t tried them yet, because my mushrooming buddy and her husband got wretchedly ill on them once. Oops, I promised no unpleasantries. 😉
I suppose these next snaps might be unpleasant to some, sorry! I do get that, I felt that at first too, but I was gradually desensitized as I realized how much economic sense it makes, what an amazing skill it is, and especially how magically delicious it is.
Our favorite foraging expert who we forayed with nearby this past spring has a great new website all about medicinals. Here’s a short podcast about it, and reminding me that now is the time I should be collecting some goldenrod before winter! Medicine Man Plant Co
We’ve been at this about a decade now, learning by trial and error. Because of a major health crisis in the family, I’ve been introspecting even more than usual these days. That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately.
I thought it high time to deeply consider what our own health futures might hold, Hubby and I, while we are not under the immediate duress of old age and poor health. Health is one of the main reasons why we committed to this homesteading lifestyle. Other reasons are political, esthetic, quality of life and, for me at least, a sense of urgency to hold on to something precious for future generations—nature—before it slips completely from our lives.
Watching the impact of the Scamdemic not only on the economy, but also on our ‘health care’ system has demonstrated unequivocally that, despite the challenges and hardships, we’ve made the right choice.
Our ‘health care’ system, which is actually a disease promoting system, is beyond hope, in my estimation. (This one’s surely gone viral by now, but in case you haven’t seen it yet, it’s brilliant!) The DEVOLUTION of covid vaccine efficacy
I truly believe the only way out of the mess this country has become is by reclaiming our natural rights back from the government.
However, that first means reclaiming our natural responsibilities—those ‘unpleasant’ aspects of life we’ve come to outsource to the government (and their corporate partners in crime) in the first place, which has made it ridiculously powerful, as all governments (and their co-conspirators) are wont to be.
We are trying to accomplish that by first demonstrating to ourselves, and then hopefully to others, that such a thing is possible, and also desirable.
But what if, due to our increasing age, we had to choose? Limited strength, mobility issues, cognitive decline, all are serious potential threats to our continued lifestyle here.
Considering this I’ve made a few lists, ranking our current activities against future realities based on: Required inputs, health impact, pleasure principle, and bang for the buck.
It isn’t pleasant. I don’t want to give up any of it, ever! Bees, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, veggie garden, fruit orchard . . . . But, here goes.
Kombucha, no caveats, it stands alone. If you can make tea you can make kombucha. It’s healthy, it’s fun, it’s delicious. Hubby no longer drinks beer or soda thanks to this amazing beverage, better for health and finances for us, and far better for the environment too, with almost no waste.
Sourdough bread, and already we have caveats. I know loads of folks think they are gluten intolerant; I used to think I was too. Grains properly prepared are nothing like most store-bought breads, for health and taste. Around these parts you can’t even find good bread. In other locales you may be able to find it, but I’d guess the prices are scary. Making your own sourdough bread is time consuming, but it’s not difficult. Same goes for sourdough cookies, brownies, pizza crusts, etc. And, let’s face it, gluten-free products are not tasty, so there’s some extra incentive.
Raised garden beds, and more caveats. Starting to garden at an advanced age is probably not going to be too successful. Of all we do here it claims the prize of Most: most expensive, most labor intensive, most greatest learning curve, most unreliable results. Still, I love it! So, continuing to garden with some foresight and adjustments is perfectly doable. I insist!
That short list makes me sad. It’s the bare bones and I hope such sacrifices will never be required of us—no more chickens, goats, big dogs, great big garden?!
I don’t even want to consider it, but there it is.
There are also many projects still on my list to successfully accomplish, which are in trial and error mode now. Like making all our own body care and household cleaning products and herbal medicines. Hubby has future hopes of making furniture, if his current to-do list will ever allow it. No time for poor health here!
So, another short list is in order. The three things, in addition to those above, that I hope and pray we never get too old for: 1. Bees — not even for the honey necessarily 2. Chickens — they are easy enough to manage, but they attract predators 3. Goats — mostly for the cheese making, but they’re pretty good company too
And the three things we would most likely not be able to continue into old age: 1. Slaughtering — tough work, no doubt about it 2. Orchard — even established ones are a lot of work 3. Pigs — high maintenance, yes, but so delicious
We have no intention of ever rejoining urban life. And as far as intentions go, avoiding nursing homes and hospitals is right at the top of that list as well.
I’d love to read any comments on how you’ll be avoiding the hospitals and nursing homes too! And, are you sick of ‘civilization’ yet?!