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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

State of the Homestead

It's spring! That means weeds, warm breezes, and mosquitoes. We've been hard at work cleaning the land, dragging brush to be burned, starting gardens and planting trees.

Garden: In the main garden, we now have raised beds. It's still a work in progress. While I have weed barrier cloth on the walkways, I'm biding my time trying to find free brick on Craigslist so I can line them. I have brick-envy bad. Everywhere I go I look for someone giving away their bricks.

It'll probably take a long time. I'm looking specifically for old brick. The good solid ones.

Not much to see yet. The tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and okra are in. The onions and garlic are in the back, and in the middle are the strawberries, full of flowers.

My friend, Mel, gifted me with a three grape vines for my birthday. I love my friend! If you're ever in doubt about what to get me for a birthday or Christmas gift, you can't go wrong with plants. I'll always find some place to put them.

Next month, that garden should be entirely full. We'll also start the back garden with the tall plants like sunflowers and corn. I should plant soybeans too. I hadn't done them in a while.

Rabbits: We put the last litters in the freezer. I normally don't talk about killing and butchering our farm animals on this blog, but I have to mention the device Greg forged to make the deed less cruel. 

He made a cervical dislocator which makes the process of dispatching our rabbits much quicker and more humane. Anything that makes this difficult procedure less brutal is a blessing.

Goats: The girls still haven't delivered. This means they didn't get pregnant when the boys escaped last fall. Unfortunately, I still don't know when they did mate. I'm speculating they'll be April births, so I'm checking them several times a day to make sure no one is in labor.

Ray Charles: Does anyone remember my little goat who was born blind last year? (He was so big he'd gotten stuck in the birth canal and damaged his spinal cord, resulting in temporary blindness.)

Ray Charles is a sweetheart. Because I spent so much time with him, he thinks I'm his second mother. But things aren't turning out the way I had hoped.

Even though he regained his sight, Ray Charles continues to have health issues. Nothing terrible, but you can tell he's not the studly goat his cousin is. He's smaller and less thrifty looking. I've made the difficult decision that Ray is going to have to go in the freezer. The job of stud will go to his cousin, Moe. 

Moe is superb looking, but I can tell he's just like his father, BBQ. Remember him? Meanest goat that ever lived. (But very tasty.) Moe is manageable right now, but every so often you can see shades of BBQ in him. 

Here's a picture of him getting tangled in a tarp. I tack up tarps during the winter to give them a wind break, but lately, he's been using it for goring practice, and this was the result. (Just like his father!) 

If we have any boys from this delivery, it won't bother me to put Moe in the freezer too. Our plan right now is to sell or freeze all but two goats so that we'll be able to travel. We'll have a caretaker while we're gone and I don't want it to be an overwhelming task to whoever gets the job.

Chickens: I need to put a For Sale sign at my local feed store and sell my black Australorps. I hate to see them go because they're such nice birds, but I really need to downsize.

Greg has plans to build a new and improved Chicken/Rabbit Condo. We're going to build it inside the goat pen so we can have all the animals in one area.

I really want to raise a couple of geese, but Greg thinks they need a pool/pond and I don't have one. I'll have to ask around to see what their requirements are.

Dogs: Here is where I admit I was a bad mom. Maggie, our white lab, hadn't been feeling well. I was afraid she'd had a stroke because she was panting heavily and her right side looked droopy. We took her to the vet and she confirmed it was Horner's Syndrome. 

It's a good news/bad news situation because most dogs recover within four months--UNLESS--the damage is near the brain stem. If it is near the brain stem, she'll only get worse. All I can do is wait and see. I'm glad at least Maggie is in good spirits.

While we were at the vet's office, we did find out one other thing. She had gained weight and it was my fault. 

After Tank died, I lowered the ratio of cooked food to their kibble. More kibble, less meat. The reason I cooked for Tank was to keep his protein intake high (because of his tumors). Kibble has too many carbs. 

When he passed away, I started feeding the others more kibble thinking it would save me money since these guys had no health issues. What I didn't realize is that I was giving them too much kibble. I never read the instructions on the bag. It turned out I was feeding almost twice their normal requirements. 

Bad dog mama!

Now it doesn't matter with Nana, the border collie. That dog expends more energy than a tornado, but the other two are couch potatoes.

I feel bad for getting them used to so many extra calories but hopefully they'll drop the pounds soon so I can give them treats again. In the meantime, it's lots of belly rubs and walks.

I should have better pictures next month when the gardens are full and we have babies on the ground.

This is the busiest time of the year for me. The weather is perfect too. We're even getting record amounts of rain which is great because we'd suffered four years of drought. If this continues our lake levels could be back to normal this year.

Is it Spring by you? Are you a gardener? What are you planting this year? I've got a helper this year so I plan to do a lot of canning this fall.

If you're not a gardener, what's your favorite Spring activity--or Fall if you're in the Southern Hemisphere?


Mike Keyton said...

You exhaust me reading this, Maria, but then it doesn't take much. My favourite Spring activity is making the Christmas plum wine from the remains of last year's crop (frozen) and walking the country lanes noting the first green buds of Spring

Angela Brown said...

It's getting a lot kore like spring where I'm at. Blue bonnets are sprouting like mad. So many cars pull over to the side of the road so families can take pictures in them.

I am not a gardener so I'll live vicariously through you.

And yes, I remember Ray Charles :-) Although you'll have to put him in the freezer soon, at least he's known love. BBQ junior looks too mischievous tangled up there.

Angela Brown said...

Instead of kore that should be more lol!

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: The first thing I want to do when I visit you is taste this famous wine. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I love seeing the bluebonnets bloom. And you're right. Families swarm onto those bluebonnets fields to take photos. They make lovely backdrops.

Re: Ray Charles
I did the best I could for him. I so wish he had been stronger. My goat friends warned me he'd probably always have problems and they were right.

Mike Keyton said...

I'm saving a bottle. I must warn you though, it is both strong and very dry. Makes a nice aperitif with ice, an even better long drink with lemonade and ice. You quaffe more than you realise and then it's too late. :)

Jackie Burris said...

Maria just like your way spring has sprung out all over in our neck of Texas.

Karl has his summer squash, cucumbers and now as of last night Okra and will set out 6 mild Jalapeno plants before weekend. We got a very late start as it had snap freezes here until 2 weeks ago.

I love your animals getting blog time, too bad about RC and Moe but at least they will not have had a bad life.

I am still crossing my fingers and hoping for the best for Maggie!

Diane Carlisle said...

My sister is migrating her garden from one side of her backyard to the other. Some of her new plants which are indoors have already started to sprout! Last year, all of her vegetables were amazing. You would never see such awesome veggies in a grocery store.

If you can grow your own, that is amazing.

Rebekah Loper said...

You should relocate to Oklahoma, seriously. Because then we can trade advice and animals (because Black Australorps are actually what I want to get next), and life will be so much more awesome. :D

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

so much going on...makes me tired looking at the pictures ;O)

Darke Conteur said...

I love hearing about your garden and animals. I don't think I could ever kill my food. I'll pay people to do that, thanks.

Gardens...ugh. Husband wants a garden at our home, but my mother wants to start one too. DId I mention we're moving in with her? I don't know if I'll have the energy to look after two of them. Not to mention work on her place during the week and our place on the weekend, and write, and look after Sithboy, and, of yeah, I'm 'supposed' to get a job too.

*mumbles incoherently*

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: I like dry, as long as it's also sweet.

I saw a recipe the other day called a plum-tini.

Basically it's one part plum wine with two parts vodka, add ice.

Though if yours is as strong as you say, I don't know that I'd add the vodka. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: I had such hopes for Ray Charles. I spent so much time nursing him back to health that I've grown very attached to him, but we simply can't afford to feed another mouth that doesn't earn his keep. We already have dogs for that. :)

Maggie has not improved, but the doc told us it would be a long recovery so not to expect a lot of changes too soon. I'm just glad she's a happy dog.

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: True. Grocery stores can't compete with home grown. That's why encourage people to try at least one favorite plant. The tomatoes at stores are flavorless compared to home grown.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: It took me 40 years to finally settle down and you want me to relocate? LOL!

Come down to Texas. We still have tornadoes, but not as many as you guys.

If you were closer, I'd give you the Australorps. They are the sweetest birds we ever raised. When I get tired of the Marans (which will probably be soon) I'll probably get Australorp again. They're great layers.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: Heck. We just got started. Once it gets too hot, we'll be scaling back though.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: Gardens are a lot of work. Unless they plan on helping you, I wouldn't do it. You've got enough on your plate, especially this year.

Were you planning on cloning yourself? Cuz I don't see how you can do it all in the same 24 hour period.

Rebekah Loper said...

I would happily relocate if it wouldn't break my grandmother's heart and make my mom resent me forever for leaving her to deal with her parents by herself, lol.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: And this is why I moved 1200 miles away from my family. LOL.

It was better for all of us. :)

Jenny Schwartz said...

You sound awesomely busy!

On a different note: I hate having to calculate the amount of kibble (we call it dog biscuits, here, so kibble amuses me) to give a dog.

Autumn here is lovely. Finally, we have a little rain. I've scattered some wildflower seeds in the hopes of a spring display :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I only plant cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and sometimes watermelon. Last year I had so many cucumbers I was giving them to the neighbors by the buckets.
My bulbs are just pushing through so I have time to think about planting.

betty said...

I'm thinking the dog might not have minded getting a little bit extra of food (our corgi lived for food, LOL). Sorry to hear about the Horner syndrome; I hope she makes a full recovery! Wow, I stand amazed at what you do, plants, rabbits, goats, chickens, etc! That is neat to do!


Sandra Almazan said...

It's too early to plant anything by us. Beans and peas do well in our backyard, and we also grow tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in containers. I'd love to do squash or spinach, but I haven't had much luck with those. Hopefully we find more time to tend the garden this year before the weeds take over.

Raelyn Barclay said...

Grapes are awesome. We have ours on a north facing fence and green seedless really took off. It'll probably be three years before you see any fruit worth eating though.

That's a bummer about Ray Charles. I'd want to keep him as a pet but I see where you're coming from.

Spring has definitely come to Vegas. Spring means we don't need either the heat or the A/C and can stash that money into savings.

I've not planted anything though because I'm still hoping for that move to happen sooner rather than later. It's all on That Man at this point so we shall see.

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: And you call chickens--chooks. That always makes me smile.

I had some older wildflower seed stashed away. Greg found a bare spot near his shop and sprinkled them there. I hope they sprout.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I'm doing something wrong with my watermelon. They grow fine, but they never taste sweet enough. Maybe I'm picking them too soon??

Either way, for three years in a row, the chickens have feasted on them.

I usually try to limit my cucumbers, but I'm going to try pickling some this year.

Maria Zannini said...

Betty: LOL! No one had any complaints about the extra food. They're all chow hounds.

Re: homesteading
It's a nice life. Hard work but very rewarding.

Maria Zannini said...

Sandra: Squash really needs warm weather, but you also have to fight off any number of diseases and pests too.

I'm surprised you haven't been able to grow spinach though. My mom (also in Chicago) grows it easily. Maybe you're planting it too late in the year? It really prefers cool temps.

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: I didn't know it took three years for grapes. I had two other vines that were defoliated by the chickens last year. Fortunately, they came back this year.

I hope you can move soon so you can settle down for good.

Lynn Viehl said...

I'm with Mike; you are an awesome gardener. I don't have the time to devote to an outdoor garden this year, but I always do a little container gardening on the porch. Even when I'm just growing my own herbs and lavender for sachets it makes me happy.

So far things are looking pretty good:



Mike Keyton said...

A plumtini. Bless your heart! I'll try it.

It works with Gin as well. Damson Gin is the fuit soaked in Gin and sugar for 9 months and then strained. Another fine winter-warmer

Danielle L Zecher said...

It is spring here. And it seems like the warm weather is finally here to stay. I was all proud of garden until I saw yours. :-) I'm planning to plant tomatoes (Roma, Taxi, and Cherry), squash, zucchini, and peppers.

Maria Zannini said...

Lynn: This is my first year growing lavender. If it blooms well, I'm going to try doing sachets too.

It's said that lavender keeps scorpions away. If it's true, my whole house is going to smell like lavender.

Your plants always look lovely. I hope you do a tutorial on your blog on how you make sachets.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Glad to be of service in keeping you pickled. :D

Maria Zannini said...

Danielle: I'd never heard of Taxi. I'm going to look that up.

And you reminded me about cherry tomatoes. Hubby likes those on his salad. I might do one in a potted plant. Thanks!

LD Masterson said...

Busy time at the homestead. We're a little behind you on getting our gardens in. It's almost warm enough but the thunderstorms have been awful this week and would pound the heck out of any young plants. In the flower gardens, I have a bunch of tulips almost ready to open, if the storms haven't flattened them.

Sorry to hear about Ray Charles. It must have been have for you to let him go. I'm keeping positive thoughts for Maggie. Give that sweet girl a belly rub for me.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: I tried everything I could think of to get RC as robust as his cousin, but his immune system just isn't as strong. Everything takes a toll on him.

Re: Maggie
4 months is a long time to wait to see if things get better, but we'll keep an eye on her for any changes.