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Monday, August 24, 2015

State of the Homestead

During the height of summer, there's not much going on outside. We've been lucky this year. So far we've had only one month of triple digits. The bad news is we've had very little rain.

Garden: Water is always on my mind. Since I can't talk Greg into moving where we get a little more rain, we have to devise ways to water more efficiently.

We've tried it all. Sprinklers. Hand watering. Soaker hoses. Timed watering. Each has pros and cons. Greg is now piping the water directly at the plant roots. It's like a soaker hose but the pipe is more rigid. He punched holes at six inch intervals to spray water at the base of the plants.

We've already tested it out on a couple of beds and it's working beautifully. I can put more water on plants in three minutes than 15 minutes worth of sprinkler water. Less waste and more direct watering. I wish the soaker hoses would've worked but they never last, and those suckers are expensive to replace.

Our project for next summer is to hang shade cloth to see if it will help some of our plants make it through the brutal summer. Pepper and okra do fine, but the rest wilt away under a blistering sun.

I've started a few seeds for a fall garden. It won't be a big garden, just a few veggies for the winter table.

Update on plant fails: All my squash failed. Zucchini, yellow squash, butternut, and spaghetti squash. Lots of flowers but few fruit. When it did fruit, they withered away before they could mature. It could be a calcium deficiency, but it seems unlikely since I crush eggshells around most of my plants. Still researching.

Update on plant successes. The asparagus bed is looking great. I'm hoping to pick asparagus next spring. The sun was killing my blueberry plants so I dug them up and put them in pots. I'm pleased to say they came back to life within weeks and sprouted new leaves.

Isn't he handsome?
Goats: I have one buckling left. I'd like to sell him this year. We'll have only one breedable doe for next year, but that's okay. We want to downsize for a couple of years so we can travel.

Rabbits: The summer is always hard on them. I'm running a fan 24/7 and bring them frozen bottles of ice three times a day. They lay next to the ice bottles and it keeps them cool.

Chickens: We've been hatching chicks left and right. I'm half thinking about raising all of them and selling the hens in the spring. They'll be ready to lay by April and people will be clamoring for laying hens--especially with the price of eggs lately. It won't cost much to feed them for a few months and I should get a pretty good return. We'll see.

We have had some terrible luck with a few older chicks. I had a nice habitat inside an existing chicken coop, but somehow a few always got out. Big mistake. Birds in general, and chickens in particular are ruthless killers of other birds. 

The chicks that escaped were quickly decapitated by the resident hens. I finally moved them to a safer location, but not before I lost four of them.

Indoors...and out: My house has three living areas. Two of them are in the front of the house. The previous owner painted murals in both these rooms. It's not that she didn't do a good job, but it's not to my taste. It's been on my to do list to repaint it for quite a while. 

I finished one room and it looks quite nice. It's a soft neutral. I had planned on painting the other room the same taupe color but now Greg thinks I should repaint it the existing color (sage green). I'm okay with that except for the fact that I already bought the paint.

Generally, poor Greg doesn't get a vote on how I paint/decorate the house, but I'm not opposed to the green. As long as the mural goes bye-bye, I'm open minded. 

Over the weekend we hit a few garage sales (as usual) and found a couple of estate sales in a high end area. The homes were gorgeous and so beautifully decorated. 

Most of my wood furniture came from garage sales and antique auctions. I get a kick out of transforming ratty antiques back to glory. 

Curio cabinet with my boys.
But my one piece of high end furniture came from a store. It's a curio cabinet and I spent an obscene amount of money on it. Still, it's my favorite piece of furniture. (It was also the piece that destroyed my knee when we were moving.) 

Much as I dislike spending big bucks, this is one of those cases where I simply loved the piece too much. Even after all these years, it's still my favorite. That makes it a good buy in my book.

Do you have a favorite piece of furniture? Ever spend a lot of money on something you love to bits? 

The only bad news around the home front is that our water heater went out. (We just replaced the other one this year!) That's another 600 bucks out the window. At least Greg can install it himself. The hard part is getting it up to the attic.

I get so aggravated that things break down after only a few years. It's nothing short of planned obsolescence. I'm old enough to remember when things lasted much longer. Our old water heater at our other house was over 35 years old before we replaced it. This one is only ten.

My mom is coming to visit for an extended stay in October so I've got a lot to get done before then. My house is never cleaner than when company comes over. How about you?


Stacy McKitrick said...

Sometimes I think my house doesn't get clean unless someone is coming over. Okay, that makes me sound like I live in a dump. I don't. Actually, it gets uncluttered when company is due. Wish I could keep it that way, but we're both on the lazy side and don't always put everything away (or throw it away when we don't need it).

Example: The stack of 4 laptops on the table. My husband SAYS he uses them, but I don't remember that stack moving lately. Hmmm... :)

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

Hard to travel with ANY animals.

I thought we'd wind down, with two senior pups...then Sissy came along. (But we adore her to death)

Rebekah Loper said...

If your squash is withering away when it's still small, it's usually a pollination problem. Hand pollination is your solution in that case. If it's happening when they're larger? I have no idea, lol.

Yay baby chickies! Boo decapitation, eesh. Although my grown hens don't kill other birds that get in their pen (which is a shame, really, because my feed costs would be nearly half of what they are if I wasn't feeding the sparrows and starlings TOO.

It seems like things are breaking down faster and faster these days. My power steering went out a few weeks ago. It had been replaced THREE YEARS before that. Despite the fact that my brand new washing machine cost $700+, I'm not expecting it to last more than 15 years (it has a 10-yr warranty on the drum, which was part of why I decided to get it, because the manufacturer at least made it to last THAT long). Which considering the washing machine that we had been using was at least 20-30 years old... yeah. Things are made more cheaply these days, and yet cost so much more, and they don't last. It's very, very frustrating.

Angela Brown said...

Things around the homestead sound like they are keeping a steady pace. Gardening wins and woes, chicken runs and decapitations. Only on your blog do I get a diversified amount of entertainment, education and enlightenment.

As for things not lasting as long as they used to, I must agree. That seems to be the case with many things that used to last a long time.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I don't think I've ever had a favorite piece of furniture. Birds are evil things when it comes to each other aren't they? And yes, lol, my house is always really clean when company is expected.
Susan Says

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: I'm the same way. Worse now that Greg is with me 24/7. He is getting better at helping out though.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: Sissy is just too cute. She knew she had found home when she found you.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: The squash baffle me. It's only the squash family so I'm wondering if it might be an insect. All the other veggies were fine.

re: wild birds
I've had a few small birds get in but for the most part we get few visitors. Older chickens will not tolerate new chickens though. I usually try to introduce them at night so they wake up together or else let them get to know each other when they free range and then lock them up at night. But I never put chicks in with older birds. They're just too mean.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I wish there was a way to make manufacturers toe the line but we're at their mercy and that's just wrong.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I can clean an entire house in 20 minutes when company comes over. Any other time and it takes me all day.

betty said...

I never heard of a water heater in the attic, that would be a nightmare to get it up there! You are so right about planned obsolescence. What is really sad for people who buy new homes and all the appliances are approximately the same age and then they all go out together a few years later. Good idea with the chickens and perhaps selling them down the road for those who want laying hens. Hubby was telling me there is probably no end is sight for the price of eggs here.

Sounds like you have been busy! How fun with the upcoming visit of your mom's too! Something to look forward to and prepare for!


Mike Keyton said...

I enjoyed reading about your farming plans, successes and failures, and like you, when it comes to house cleaning we trend to let things slide for a bit then invite someone to dinner or something, in order to kickstart a frenzed bout of cleaning. It's a nice rhythm. We have nice food, good company and a clean house - until the next time.

However one thing you said struck me Since I can't talk Greg into moving where we get a little more rain, Are you for real, Maria ---> after the trouble you're having selling your other house? : )

Jackie Burris said...

Maria we need more rain here too but during our growing season the yellow summer squash did produce beautifully as those months we never watered due to tremendous rain showers.

Favorite piece of furniture for me was a dark walnut colored wooden rocking chair bought before getting married. It had the bicentennial memorial on the top of the headrest and was just my size to sit in as could actually reach the floor rather than it being so high my short legs would dangle.

I of course no longer have it as lost in 2011 fire but even though it was not expensive compared to all the other furniture we have bought and replaced over the years that one rocker was very much near and dear to me.

Good idea with the chicks, you are right laying hens should sell well as eggs have gotten to be priced too high (like so many other things) to where they are higher than eating some cuts of meat.

Maria Zannini said...

Betty: This is what we're finding with our home. All the appliances seem to go out within a couple of years of each other. Others are looking their age.

The only one still behaving superbly is our Viking stove. I've never seen such a workhorse.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: I said I wanted to move. Didn't say it would ever happen.

Besides, you can't judge real estate from one end of the state to the other. My other house outside of Dallas went fast--too fast. I almost didn't have a place to move to.

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: We found a rocking chair at a garage sale the other day. Greg said it was so comfortable. We didn't get it but I'm sure someone snapped it up if they were in the market for a rocking chair. It had that well-made look that made you feel it would last another 50 years.

Diane Carlisle said...

OMG! I've only ever seen yellow chicks in my entire life. How gorgeous are those! :)

Rebekah Loper said...

Is your entire squash plant wilting? You might look up squash bugs. They basically live on the undersides of the leaves, and literally suck the life out of the vegetation/fruit of the squash plants.

Chicks are moving outside tonight, but we built a chicken tractor yesterday precisely to keep them in the same vicinity as the big girls (so they will get used to each other) while still keeping them completely separate so that there won't be injuries. And after that, I'll be able to rotate them all out two at a time for some foraging time in the yard. Pretty excited about that, honestly.

Maria Zannini said...

Rebekah: As long as both set of chickens are nearly the same size they'll eventually get used to each other. It's when they sense weakness that they attack.

re: squash
I've already pulled them up but the plant itself was beautiful. It was only the fruit that died once they appeared. My research seems to indicate calcium deficiency but I find that hard to believe because I top dress it with egg shells. Who knows?

Maria Zannini said...

Diane: Would you believe, they turn solid black when they're grown.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Planned obsolescence! Oh good grief, you've triggered the rant button :) I *hate* that things don't last.

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: I get that things wear down, but is it asking so much to please have a little pride in workmanship? Not only do things wear out faster but they're more cheaply made. It's not right.

Tyrean Martinson said...

My house definitely gets cleaner when company comes! I am not a big house-cleaner, but I have been trying to keep it nicer as a treat for myself and my family. I'll never be a fan of the duster or the mop, but I do like the results, as long as I can still have a teetering pile of books nearby.

I'm sorry about your chicks, your squash, and your rabbits - a hot summer is tough on everything. We didn't try to grow a garden this year, mainly out of our laziness, but we did get some good blackberries, which we let overgrow. Blackberries seem to thrive even in the midst of a drought around our area. We'll hack them back in a few weeks and they'll come back with more fruit next year.

Maria Zannini said...

Tyrean: Sometimes I invite people over just to get my house clean. :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't clean well until company is coming. I don't spend a lot of time feeling guilty about it either. I do keep things at a certain level of "clean" and I HATE clutter. Clutter is a constant and consistently lost battle around here. It's depressing, too. In fact, I'd probably clean more if there wasn't so much junk lying around. But it's not my junk and I don't have a right to move it...

Furniture: We have a buffet that I really like. We both saw it at the same time while wondering through a furniture store and we both knew immediately that we had to get it. The rest of our furniture is suburban boring, but the buffet has character. I like that.

Anne Gallagher said...

Sorry about the chicks, but that's a great idea to sell them next spring.

All of my "good" furniture I got from people who said, "Do you want this?" Oh yes. A beautiful 1940's tiger maple cabinet with original glass doors is my favorite. I wrapped it in three blankets when we moved.

And yes, I generally only do a "big" clean when people are coming over. However, this summer I've been cleaning because I'm trying to paint.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

With all our problems health-wise, we have someone come in to clean. It's an expense we've never regretted with two dogs and two cats living in the house.

As for splurging on furniture, if it's that nice and it lasts, I say go for it, especially if you're the kind of person who is very frugal otherwise, and I know that you are. I think the only time I really splurged on furniture was when I bought a gun case for R. I didn't want an ugly safe, and it's very nice looking, well made, and keeps the guns locked up so they stay out of the hands of younger visitors. :) And it matches the rest of the furniture!

Maria Zannini said...

Marlene: I love it when both people see the same object and know it's the one. That happened to us with a ceiling fan of all things. We use them a lot but we didn't want just any old ceiling fan for the bedroom. We were getting ready to settle when we saw the ONE.

Maria Zannini said...

Anne: I love antiques. They have so much more character than the stuff you see nowadays. I think that's why I love my curio cabinet so much. You can tell it will be somebody's antique when I'm long gone. I'll hope they'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: That's smart hiring cleaning help. We've talked about it ourselves, at least for in the future when I'm too old to climb ladders or scrub floors.

Lynn Viehl said...

I have an antique secretary/desk that I waited a very long time to buy. The dealer wanted way too much for it when I saw it for the first time at an antique mall, and I promised myself I would only buy it if the price ever dropped to a more reasonable amount. It took three years for that to happen, but boy, was it a great feeling to get it for what I wanted to pay.

Cleaning is how I self-medicate. :) Since I've gotten older the house isn't always sparkling, however, but I try to maintain it through the week and then do the bulk of the chores over the weekend. The nice thing is my guy is always willing to help. I think if your floors and surfaces are clean and uncluttered your house will feel tidy even when it's not.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Aww! He's super handsome!
Our garden was pretty much a wash this year, except for the garlic and rhubarb.
Things still may rally for the last month or so, but we've yet to get a single tomato, cuke, or zuke.

Maria Zannini said...

Lynn: I had a winter coat like that. I wanted it so much, but it was way too expensive. Fortunately, it doesn't get cold here until January and by then they were having their winter clearance. Hubby got it for me for a song.

re: cleaning as self-medication
Whoa, woman. We need to get you some different medication. LOL!

I have a sister like you!

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: That's sad. You guys always have a great garden. But these things happen. I've had years where despite my best efforts, I can grow squat.

Shelley Munro said...

I do the extra house clean thing when I know visitors are coming. Not to say that we live in a mess, but I don't always get to the dusting etc.
Those hens of yours are nasty murderers and the goat is a cutie.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: where we live there's always dust...and dog fur.