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

“Seasonal Dissonance”

Related to the psychological term ‘cognitive dissonance’ this new Eco-socio-scientism-conspiracy term describes the thermometer and related mechanical device-reading temperatures that refuse to align with the visual and sensory data which would otherwise assure a concerned individual that the season is indeed changing.

A lunch of freshly foraged chanterelles and lactarius indigo—lucky for me, I chose wisely. These are not beginner’s mushrooms and I was really nervous! (Hubby didn’t dare, citing the obvious need that, just in case, someone must live to tell the story.)

”Hmmm, roast pork with spider sauce? Not sure I’m feelin’ ya . . .”

Persimmon seeds in the feral hog scat is a better indicator than that blazing 90 degrees Fahrenheit that’s frying the kohlrabi and beet seedlings before they’re a centimeter above the soil’s surface. Don’t fool yourselves, it’s not just ‘Mother Nature.’

This is that tricky New Micro-Season in East Texas, thanks mostly to weather engineering I’ve no doubt, where no crop, or handler, understands what’s actually happening.

Cardinal flower (lobelia cardinalis)
Big Elkhart Creek 

The days are far too hot for the cool season, the nights far too variable for any season. The hungriest and most prolific garden pests are still proliferating, long from dead from potential threat of frost, but the hungry chickens are unable to benefit because said voracious insects are conveniently barricaded with the young greens and seedlings they so covet within the garden gates where there‘s narry a predator to be found.

If the past few years of weather whiplash are an example, we’ll go from shade cloth over our boxes to in need of frost protection within a few days. Maybe this time we’ll be ready for it?

The bees are as excited as if it’s spring, which gets me worrying. I plan to do some honey harvesting very soon. I have a mean colony who I’ve been giving the benefit of the doubt for well over a year now but who might get the permanent boot very shortly. I got stung in the eyebrow, again, just trying to maneuver around their hive, gently. Just in order to weed!

There’s just no call for that level of aggression around here; they’re clearly asking for some serious retaliation. Sure, the golden rod they’re feasting on was not my doing, but that tree groundsel, excuse me, a meager toll is in order, considering I planted that expressly in that very position for their exclusive benefit.

2nd favorite thing I’ve planted this year: Thai Red Roselle, makes my favorite Kombucha, another favorite discovery of 2020!

First favorite, check back to summer posts, Trombetta squash. We are still eating it!

40 seconds of Zen, OR, as long as I was able to sit still before swatting another mosquito on my nose

Homestead Happy Snaps

Bullied in my own hammock! Apparently she’s one of a great many in this country who have taken a few lessons in tyranny.

Ok, so I let her win, this time. At least I got an egg out of it.

I love foraging for mushrooms! I just really wish they were easier to identify. Like good sourdough, it’s serious business, but some folks make it look so easy.

I’m a novice, still, after years, but getting there on the slow boat. A lunch of freshly foraged chanterelles sautéed in butter with a delicious sourdough I’m still trying to master. Along with a whole lot of mushrooms I can’t identify.

We can’t even buy bread like this in our area and I bet there’s a lot of folks in that boat. DIY! Here’s the expert to show you just how to do it: https://youtu.be/UF9dCkKhBnI

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!

Funny Friday

I hope y’all have a fabulous holiday weekend here in the States and if it’s not a holiday where you reside, I hope it feels like one anyway. I thought I’d share a bit of inspiration toward that end.

Rebel Hen: “I lay where I choose!”
Kids orders: “Plant more Mulberries!”
Handy Hubby’s handiwork makes me soo happy! Maybe my new grow light station is not that funny, but it sure is fun. (No illegal plants were tortured to capture this photo.)

And best of all for everyone, guess what, there’s a 99% chance you won’t die of the Covid cooties, yippie, let’s celebrate!

So funny, do yourself a favor because laughter is the best medicine! 🙂

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.

 

How to Grow, Prune and Propagate Raspberries — Deep Green Permaculture

I just wanted to share this fantastic site, here’s just one of their high-quality articles, but there are many more of great value for beginners and old green thumbs alike!  I’m learning so much from them, yippie!! 🙂

Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) belong to the genus Rubus, along with other cane berries such as blackberries, boysenberries, lawtonberries, loganberries, marionberries, silvanberries and tayberries. What’s quite interesting is that the whole Rubus genus is part of the Rosaceae (Rose) family, to which almonds, apples, apricots, cherries, hawthorns, loquats, peaches, pears, plums, quinces, raspberries and strawberries also […]

via How to Grow, Prune and Propagate Raspberries — Deep Green Permaculture

You’re Kidding Me

Oh my, I suck again.  Of course I already knew goats are notoriously mischievous.  And as a habitual novice, I expect mistakes and steep learning curves, but a nearly fatal accident before my new kids are here even a week?

Don’t worry, the story has a happy ending or I wouldn’t be writing it right now.  I’d still be sobbing, watching chick flicks, eating popcorn, and overindulging in kombucha cocktails, like I did all afternoon yesterday.

I don’t handle this kind of thing well at all.  In fact, even that expression ‘to handle it’ is too generous, because I barely do.  What actually happens is I panic, get hysterical, panic some more, act out of sheer desperation, and then sob, whether or not I was successful.  I have so much awe and admiration for real farm folk, the kind that grew up with livestock, so that all this life and death drama is second nature to them.  But I grew up like most Americans, very sheltered from death and the other common dramas of nature.

I woke up yesterday morning and went directly to the corral where I have the new kids penned up, for their safety, of course.  No, not at all of course.  Phoebe, once the tamer and more exuberant of the two, had wedged herself in the feeder, she was on the ground not moving, I thought she was dead.  Panic ensued immediately.  I left the gate open as I rushed to her, and out bolted Chestnut, who then also panicked as the dogs began pursuing her eagerly around the corral.

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Guard or chase, we’re getting mixed messages?!

Phoebe’s neck was twisted in a horrific way, but she was still breathing.  And I couldn’t get her out.  I struggled for what seemed like 20 minutes but was probably more like 2, absolutely beside myself.  I thought for sure if her neck wasn’t already broken, I was breaking it without a doubt.

I did at last get her out, she tried to stand, head and neck terribly deformed, and fell right back down again.  My mind was racing and whirling and the very thought that I was going to have to put her down had me collapse in a heap of sobbing.

She barely moved all day.  Miraculously though, she’s now recovering.  She doesn’t have her voice back at all, she’s more skittish, but she’s eating, and I am so grateful, and so lucky that my ineptitude and panic didn’t cause nearly as much pain as expected.

Something good in fact came out of it—I realized the wild grapes are ripe as I tore at the vines to bring the kids.  Today’s a new day and there’s no time to keep crying over milk not even spilled.

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Grapes for the adults and vines for the kids. Now get busy crushing, woman!

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2 huge tomato plants found dead, mysteriously, full of unripe fruit. No time to cry or wonder why!

Fact, Fiction, Fantasy

The only social media I follow are YouTube (which I’m happy to replace with D-Tube or whatever-comes-next-Tube) and this site where I post this blog.  That’s simply because, I’m not forced to spend time on any others. 

I don’t like it enough to spend many hours daily in cyberspace, but I know loads of folks are all over many social sites.  So, I rely on a few trusted channels to inform me on what’s informing our shared reality.

James Corbett is a major one, for a very long time. It’s been so long now that I’ve lost track of how many years I’ve been following his work.  James and I have a lot in common actually.  We both studied literature at university.  We both taught English in countries outside our own.  And where I’m something of a ‘word NAZI’ he’s something of a ‘fact NAZI’—something I adore about him.  (Do I even dare to make NAZI jokes these days?!)

Anyway, it’s clear in these ‘days of our virus’ (aka ‘Best Apocalypse Ever’) that facts have run amok, manufactured chaos has crowned himself king, and discernment is on death’s doorstep.

I can hear poor discernment knocking on this door, pounding actually and yelling at the top of his lungs, “Hey, anybody in there who wants to come out yet?”  He’s just found some extra room in his balloon and he’s rescuing yet-undead prisoners by the dozens.  

I expect that it’s a limited time only offer.

If you’re ready to join him, here’s a great lesson on facts.

James sparked a profound memory for me during this video: The first time I remember Mom saying to me: “Look it up!”

She was talking about the phone book, which from the moment when I pulled one of the enormous yellow volumes from the hall closet, it felt like the most fascinating book I’d ever seen.  I remember trying to figure out the phone book not long before I tried to figure out the dictionary, then the encyclopedia, then the Bible.

I remember my huge frustration at wanting to look up so many things, but I didn’t even know the words for them.  So, ‘look it up’ became my first seemingly insurmountable challenge as a child.  If I wanted to ‘look it up’ I had to first know what it’s called.

Lifetime mission begins.

Here’s going to be a great lesson on fiction.

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I’ll admit, I haven’t read it yet.  But, I’m about to start it today.  Since we’re on a James theme I figure, why not advertise it, just because I trust it’s going to be excellent?!

And here’s my life: a great lesson on making your fantasies into actual realities.  We did this, from scratch—raw land at first—mistaking our way to this point like the one-eyed man leading the blind lady.  

I can’t help but wonder sometimes if I would’ve had the courage to do it if Grandpa hadn’t thrown me in lake before I knew how to swim.

While I still mostly suck at it even after a decade, at least I can trust it’s real.

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Our newest addition to the wee homestead, next I learn to milk!

 

 

 

 

Boasting & Roasting

A warm thanks to those kind souls who click like on my weird poetry.  I really appreciate that, because I consider them like word salads. I love making salads, but I’m consistently better at the edible type. Both of these salad varieties I make from true love of craft, which is really the only way to go for me, because then failures become almost meaningless.  I can’t imagine what might stop me from always trying again.

But poetry is just fun for me.  What I really do for (a) living is create delicious beauty and abundance under pretty tough circumstances and often alone.

What I actually mean is:
I coax and nurture nature to feed our bodies, minds and souls!
What’s your super power?!!

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Welcome to my office!

I’ve had loads of failures already in the garden this year, and it’s still early. Under the constant attack of man in the way of weather warfare and in the terms of nature, who feels the assault as well, of course, but takes it out on me, personally.

Mexican sour gherkin
Mexican sour gherkin, normally a heat-lover and such a cute plant to grow, but showing stress already.

Just as the first crop of melons were coming ripe voles or moles took out 6 of 7 plants. I out-smart them this time by planting melons in a few locations, and at different times, but some sort of mite has just found the second patch and their population is exploding practically overnight.

Then they took over the cucumbers and are feasting on the eggplant leaves too! Greedy pests out to torture me vicariously.

I always avoid spraying any manufactured chemical in the garden. Sometimes I have to do something though, or it will all be dead in a fortnight, and right before harvest after so much hard work. The bees are all over these same plants too, which is why I tend to wait too long and hope the problem will just go away.

When I do finally cave, I go for an oil/dish soap mix that’s actually pretty effective on the mites but gentle on the bees. I do it early in the morning on an every other day schedule between overhead sprinkling. We do not (but will, I hope!) have a well, so that is treated water going all over the garden constantly, because the weather terrorists have stolen our rain, again.

Someday, when there are more folks growing their own food, weather will matter to them again, and they will realize it’s being manipulated and they will join me in finding this practice completely unacceptable. That’s my big dream anyway during this best Apocalypse ever.

My current nightmare is the drip irrigation and the grasses. We will be evolving our design, again. Boxes lined with heavy duty wire mesh everywhere. Probably no grass at all, eventually. Those damn rodents also got a bed full of jalapeños, the parsley and some lettuce. We’ve lost countless young fruit trees to them, too.

It’s a really good way to teach and learn strategy and problem solving, and it never ends. Gifts of Ba’al, as James True likes to say.

My current paradise is in the salads—growing them, crafting them, sharing them. I’m getting a bushel full of cucumbers every day. I got so sick of processing green beans I’m letting them go now for fresh and dried beans. That’s another reason I love these gorgeous ‘Blue Coco’ beans, they are so prolific and can be eaten for months as young, mature, or dried. Unfortunately they are also showing signs of great stress, which considering it’s in the 90s every day and there’s been no rain for about a month, it’s not surprising.

Blue Coco

I always let some of the greens and herbs go to seed. Not only do the bees love the flowers, but the tips have loads of flavor and add an attractive addition to salads and soups.

The blackberries are still coming in heavy, and, drum roll please, we’re days away from salsa season!

Trombetta squash flower

My new favorite garden addition is Trombetta squash and I haven’t even tried the fruit yet. I love it just because it’s so beautiful and it’s still flourishing, even though all the zucchini and yellow squash died before producing anything. I’m convinced after years of failure that they cannot be grown here organically without far too much headache than they’re worth. That makes it all the more thrilling to find a squash that just might make it into the rotation.

Trombetta squash vine

If you’ve never experienced going grocery shopping in your own garden, crafting it up your own unique way in your kitchen, and sharing it (even if it’s just with the pigs because it didn’t turn out that good) you’re missing out on what I consider the most satisfying work I’ve ever done.  I’d have to be dragged kicking and screaming back into the office, or the classroom, ever again.

And that’s another reason why this is the best Apocalypse ever!

For any of y’all who want to talk real weather, meet Mike Morales.