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Monday, September 17, 2012

State of the Homestead

Update: No post for Thursday due to mounting technical difficulties. But do stop over at the Back to Basics blog Tuesday and Wednesday. And if you're not a Facebook follower of The Frugal Way/Back to Basics, whatcha waitin' for? I post freebies and blog updates, and I have a cute goat as a mascot. So, there.


The seasons are changing--even in Texas! It feels so nice to have cooler temps. We've had a little rain, but we could sure use some more.

I like the transition phase of each season. It gives me a chance to take stock and see what I could do better next time.

Gardens: Both gardens are pretty much done. I transplanted several pepper plants without a problem, but my tomato transplants didn't make it. Fortunately, I had a few standbys waiting in the wings. I don't want a lot of tomatoes this winter, just a few fresh-eating ones. I probably should've started them a few weeks earlier but time will tell. I've never grown tomatoes indoors before. It'll be a real test.

I started several new pots of potatoes. This was also a test, but they seem to be doing great. If I can keep them growing until they flower, we might get some fall potatoes out of this.

Loofahs in the raw

Loofahs did fine, even if I didn't get many. Next year, we plan to flood the row with water. They seemed to do better with a dump of water once a week than regular short-timed sprinklers. The important thing is we got lots of seeds for replanting next spring.

Seeds: I saved a lot of seeds this year. Aside from the loofah, I kept back some dwarf okra, pimento, and Brandywine tomato seeds.

Mangels were a huge disappointment. I got some, but not enough to feed the chickens through the winter. I'll try again next spring.

Volunteer tomatoes
Tomatoes were the prolific champions this year. They grew like crazy. There were even volunteers in the compost heap. The chickens used that as their buffet. I credit the extra crushed eggshells for that.

The asparagus survived our summer! Now if it can only survive the winter. It sent up a few shoots but I just let them grow and flower. You're not supposed to pick them until their second or third year.

I picked up a bunch of blackberries, blueberries, and small shrubs for 50 cents and a dollar at Walmart. They were getting rid of their stock and I got some great buys. I've been waiting for the weather to cool down so I can plant them. I would've done them this past week but I was burning brush and that's an all weekend affair.

Clearing Projects: Last year's drought and this year's triple digits killed several large trees. I've been clearing brush so Greg can get to them easier and cut them down. 

I got a lot done until I picked up an old log loaded with ants. You never saw someone get naked so fast. Fortunately, I only got a few stings. I'll survive.

...or so I thought. 

After clearing and burning brush, I decided to treat myself to an evening of writing. Because of my piriformis syndrome, the only place where I can sit comfortably is on a hammock. I brought my laptop out and let the dogs roam loose on my breezeway (a long, enclosed patio). I no sooner got situated when Iko jumped up on the hammock and snapped the bolt holding the hammock in place. I fall backwards and hit the back of my head on the windowsill. 

Oy. I had a headache all night. And now I don't even have a hammock. So much for best laid plans of homesteaders and giant lap dogs.

Chickens: I was a little worried about the Marans rooster. For the longest time he refused to mate with his hens. He finally made himself a stud, only now he tries to chase me out of his pen. He's a huge coward though. As soon as he realizes he can't bluff you, he takes off. (Greg must've tipped him off about me.)

It won't be long before I'll have to cull the majority of my older birds. One set has already lived a year longer than they should. They laid poorly this year and that was my fault for not dispatching them sooner. They'll have to go to chicken heaven in a few weeks.

The dogs: You know about Iko. He nearly murdered me. And Mama had her own post last week. Tank continues to worry me. He's elderly and doesn't snap back as quickly as he used to. Lately, he's been fighting allergies which is unusual for him. It's one thing to hear a dog sneeze, but Tank gags and sometimes it turns violent. Poor old guy. 

He doesn't gag a lot thanks to his meds, but I've resorted to giving him smaller, but more frequent meals so he doesn't inhale his food and restart the gagging. Once a day, I give him a little plain yogurt with honey. Nothing's too good for my boy.

And that's about it.

My only plans for the fall is to go to the State Fair this year. We haven't been in years and I miss it. Now if I can only convince Greg to fight the crowds.

Do you have a state fair near you? Have you ever been?


Jennifer Shirk said...

Did your laptop survive the hammock fall?

No State Fair near us. :(

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: Yes! I saved the laptop, but in retrospect, I wish I had saved my head instead. Owie.

Angelina Rain said...

Wow, that's a lot of gardening. Thanks for sharing the pictures of the loofahs. I've never seen them except for in the shower isle in the supermarket. I know they are used to scrub the body while showering but I always thought those were manmade.

Are the ones you grow edible? And can they be used as a shower loofah?

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: Loofahs are entirely natural. It's a gourd that when allowed to mature, will turn fibrous. It makes a great scrubber for the body because it exfoliates without being harsh.

I'm told you can eat them when they're little, but I've always let them get big to use them as scrubbers.

E.J. Wesley said...

Maria, love your gardening articles. :-D Mostly because you hit on what I love about gardening--the experimentation. My wife is a medical professional/scientist, and doesn't always do well with uncertain outcomes. She's always asking why I like playing in the dirt so much, and I tell her it's because I enjoy the uncertain outcomes.

Soil type, watering schedules, volume of sunlight... all variables. There's a creativity in growing things that most people don't see. Sometimes you lose a plant, sometimes it flourishes.

Like writing, you kind of just have to do something first, and patiently wait for the results. Then, you repeat what worked, and cut out what didn't. :-) It's all very cyclical and awesome.

LD Masterson said...

Has anyone ever mentioned that you are very hard on your body? It's amazing you're still walking around much less tending the homestead.

I couldn't be a farmer. When my chickens got old, I'd be trying to building little nursing homes for them. :-)

Rebekah Loper said...

Can I pick your brain about feeding chickens? I'll take the free feed I'm getting with them (we're going to go pick them on Thursday! *bounces*), but I don't want to have to buy feed forever. Ideally, I'd like to grow my own and/or feed them scraps. I've got a big enough yard to let them free range quite a bit, but don't know that I'll have enough insects to feed them through the winter on just that.

And ouch with the hammock! I'm glad the computer is okay, but I can just imagine how much your head must have hurt.

Oh, and loofahs! I hadn't thought of growing those . . . *ponders*

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Growing up we lived quite close to the fairgrounds. We even had "Fair Day" at school where we got the day off to go with our folks. Strangely enough, the last time I went, I was too young to remember much now.

Maria Zannini said...

EJ: You hit it on the head, buddy. Writing and gardening are very much alike. We plant the seed, but there are so many variables involved and you don't always get the result you expected.

What a great analogy!


Linda: We all serve our purpose. Chickens, people, dogs. For example, I'm the life support system for several spoiled dogs. Do I complain?

Well...not much. :)

Stacy McKitrick said...

Ohio State Fair already came and went, but I didn't go. I've been to a couple of county fairs, but that's when the kids were little (they liked to ride the rides). I'm pretty much a city girl!

Hope your head is feeling better!

Maria Zannini said...

Rebecca: Free-ranging is best. My girls go out and they waddle back with their crops full to the brim. They know what's good to eat.

Even a good sized yard may not be enough for six chickens though. Chickens are omnivorous. They'll eat bugs, grass, and all manner of vegetables and fruits.

I wanted to raise mangels as a subsidiary to their grains. But you can raise all sorts of lettuces, cabbages, beans, etc.

When you have to subsidize, cracked corn is cheapest and most easily available. But when they lay, you'll want to keep them on a varied diet or on lay pellets.

Another one of my experiments this year is to create silage. I'll report on that in a few months. Silage is cutting grass and sealing it up in plastic bags while it still has all its moisture. It ferments for several weeks/months. Chickens LOVE this stuff. I discovered it accidentally, but I've always wanted to try it deliberately.

Email me if you have more specific questions. I'd love to help.

Ref: loofahs
They require a long growing season. Try it if you have the climate for it. It's gratifying to grow your own scrubbers. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Oh, it's time to go back. I love walking the grounds and seeing all the exhibits.


Stacy: We liked the rides when we were younger, but now we go for the rodeos and animals.

Gwen Gardner said...

Hi Maria! I haven't been here in a long time. I love the flashing sign at the top.

I really miss gardening. We live at 9000 ft. now and our growing season is too short to grow much. I grew some awesome gourds one year.

We used to have chickens and had to go in with a trash can lid to hold the rooster off, lol!

Hope your laptop (and your head) is okay:)

Angela Brown said...

Every time I read one of your homesteader posts, I feel like I've stepped into a place of timelessness. What you do has been done for times past and will continue to be done in the future so it's not pegged to a moment.

Sorry to hear about the head-knock. And my thoughts are with Tank. He deserves that yogurt with honey :-)

Darke Conteur said...

OMG! You can grow loofahs! That's so cool! Is that second picture of seeds? Poor ol' Tank. He certainly is living up to his name. :) Allergies are bad this year. I'm even affected by them and that never happens. :(

Maria Zannini said...

Gwen: Ref: flashing sign?
Do you mean the animated banner? I should change it out but I really like it.

Ref: garbage can lid
We used to do that with a grumpy six foot rhea male. That beak would tear skin if he got you.


Angela: If only all my joints worked, the things I could do to this place. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: I should've captioned it. The second picture is the loofa with its shell on. The seeds are small, much like watermelon seeds.

I don't know that you can grow them up by you. They need a very long summer.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

In PA, we have county fairs. Some are huge and great fun. Then there's the PA Farm Show in January. It even has its very own humongous building near the capital.

Isis Rushdan said...

I simply don't have a green thumb no matter how hard I try. I admire all who love to garden and are good at it :).

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I've always wanted to visit the fairs in other states. I just never seem to be in town when they're running.


Isis: Believe me, I had NO green thumb when I started. It was simply trial and error. Lots of error. :)

Shelley Munro said...

I love reading your updates. We thought about growing some asparagus this year but decided to plant potatoes instead. We have several agricultural shows near us during the summer months, but I imagine your state fairs would be much bigger.

Sorry to hear about your head and the demise of the hammock. If you lived closer I'd send you the one in our cupboard. We don't have any suitable trees.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: I started a tiny patch of asparagus. Knowing my shortcomings when it comes to weeding, I wanted to put it someplace where I didn't have to work too hard.

Ref: potatoes
There is nothing like fresh potatoes out of the garden. They're amazing. I hope you do a garden post on your blog someday. I'd love to see an update.

Rula Sinara said...

You've been busy! Sorry about the hammock fall!

I've been to the TX state fair and we do have one here in VA too. Lot's of farm animals.

I love loofahs and never thought of growing them. I need to look into that!

We lost a few old trees too. Several oaks to gall infection and an ash to borers.

Good luck with your busy schedule!

Sarah Ahiers said...

Our garden is pretty much done too. Squash bugs got our zuke plants so we had a smaller crop. Though our tomatoes and cukes are still going strong. Our carrots too.

Mike Keyton said...

What's with the satanic goat!

Ref harvest I only got 5 IB of damsons this year, Pfft. Normally it's in the region of 60 IB...and weeks of stoning them, so look on the bright side.

Also what's with this West Nile fever in Texas? Bloody pyramids next

Maria Zannini said...

Rula: I hate it when we lose the big trees. They leave big holes in the sky when you cut them down.


Sarah: We had trouble with squash bugs too on the zucchini. I had to pick them off by hand and I still lost a lot.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Hey, he's a stand-in goat until I get my own. LOL. I think he's cute.

Wow. Why do you suppose that was? Trees take rests every other year don't they? Maybe it decided to go on holiday.

Ref: West Nile
Yes. Very bad. It always surprises me when young healthy people die from it. It just depends on the individual. To be fair, most people who get bit, don't die. It's the randomness of who makes it and who doesn't that gets people worried.

Where I live, we have few mosquitoes, but you still worry.

Ellie Garratt said...

Ouch. I hope you're feeling better today.

Love the goat!

Maria Zannini said...

Ellie: I had that headache for two days. Talk about the school of hard knocks. LOL.

Shirley Wells said...

You've been very productive. I especially love that you've grown loofahs. Gardeners in the UK are complaining about poor crops due to the awful summer we've had - or haven't had.

I hope Tank's doing okay. It's worrying when they get old. I know you'll be giving him the very best care and attention!