Friday, July 27, 2012

24 Hours Late is Better Than Never

My spouse took a glance at my bending table yesterday and said that it would be a lot easier to work on if some of the monster Chinese elm branches were trimmed away from it. So that's what he and I did today with the help of the Banshees. Chinese elms are river trees as best as I can tell and if there's a water source nearby they will grow quick and they will grow big. The one we partially trimmed today was one we tried to cut down four or five years ago. Not that you'd be able to tell. It takes a lot to kill these trees and this one thumbed its nose at us and grew back. I used to despair at the thought of ever being able to get rid of these trees for once and for all, since both poison and nitroglycerin are out as potential tree-removers. However, I did find through trial and error a method that will probably work for us. It goes a little like: A. Remove as much of the tree as possible, B. Move a flock of ducks and geese into the area for a year or two. Our flock loves to eat Chinese elm leaves and so far I have seen no evidence that the tree can go without leaves for very long without giving up the ghost. It takes patience but I'm just happy I've found a method I can live with.

I haven't gotten to bracing the hoop jig quite yet. I'm still puttering about cutting up whippy long branches so we can stuff them into the trash cans without a shade of remorse. However, that should be done in about an hour and the jig table won't take too much trouble. Yayy! By this evening or tomorrow morning I can start bending hoops again and driving stakes and setting up for the next big push at the Goose. Or rather, the next two major projects; poultry pens and the first phase of the enclosed garden. We have a massive population of ground squirrels in the back yard, so rather than deal with them using poison, traps, or pellet guns, I've opted to remove their food source. They're fat and sassy and here because it's so easy for them to access the ducks' food and water. I'm going to make that access less easy (I'm hoping for something closer to impossible) and hopefully they'll move on. Even if they don't I will no longer be spending money to feed the extra maws. So that's good.

A friend who got into ducks at the same time I did (but who actually kept her head about it) is down to the last duck of the original trio. Since her life is moving widdershins to keeping ducks, I have offered to adopt her duck and she has graciously agreed. Now you know why, although I have needed to get the hoops up and running for the last eternity or so, suddenly it has gotten sort of urgent. The extra duck is being provided with an extra drake I happen to have but they're going to need their own place. Hey presto, I happen to have the means to so provide, but it means getting up off of my duff and actually getting some of the plans I've been twitching with done.

So I guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Plans for the Day

Finish bracing the hoop jig table.

Bend hoops.

Soak ground so I can drive the hoop house's rebar anchors without feeling like I'm trying to hammer a fence post into a solid block of concrete.

Possibly settle a couple of hoops and their bracing into place.

Manage Banshees without losing what's left of my sanity.

Remember that #5 is pretty much a lost cause.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Goose Starts Planning Again

Once again I find myself among the non-paycheck-earning population. It's a long, bad news/good news sort of story and I've told it far too often lately for it to be of much interest anymore. The stories I'm actually looking forward to ruminating on as follows:

Bad news: I didn't earn enough to get us out of debt, much less get seed money for my manifold projects.

Good news: I'm home with renewed enthusiasm for the sweat-equity portion of those manifold projects.

I didn't get to play with my newly-acquired soil blockers before I was spirited away to my tower realm, so there's something to look forward to. I lost all of my potatoes and all but two of my tomatoes (and those survivors aren't looking too happy right now) but there's autumn planning and planting to look forward to. I still have to weed, but look at all of the ground I can now put to use.

I'm down one duck. There is no upside to that one: She was my most favorite quacker and I'm going to miss her horrendously. R.I.P. Sir Edmund, my blue-eyed, white-feathered, web-toed, small quacking siren.

No good word on the Trout hatching eggs; the one source I could find this year reports spotting laying and even spottier fertility. Importing from England is beginning to look very good, if not at all logical or feasible.

My friend and local source for Buckeyes has a trio of pullets waiting for me. I just have to go get them some time in the next week or two.

The next few posts are probably going to be stream-of-consciousness ruminations on what I'm thinking about doing, what I should be doing, and why it's really important to get off of the computer long enough to get it done.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Short Contemplations While Eating Too Much Yogurt

Teeb's eggs didn't make it. I suspect it was because I didn't have the ventilation hole opened up on the incubator and they just didn't get enough fresh air to be viable. They hatched...but they didn't make it. Yes, I'm heartbroken about that. I let my beloved little Trout drake down again.

One of the reasons I didn't catch the ventilation goof-up was because I am once again in the realm of them employed. Said employment takes me out of town during the week. The Banshees and my poor beleaguered spouse are taking care of our birds and doing a fair job on taking care of the established plants. The only casualties so far are most of my tomatoes and the rosemary that had been thriving outside the front door. Well, such things can be replaced and I'm not going to get crazy or I'll never quit being crazy.

My employment is termed "seasonal" which is a short way of saying that I'm always working myself out of a job. It's one of the charms of construction work, actually, or at least it is when you aren't starving to death because there isn't any work anywhere. I'm not doing too bad for a middle-aged out-of-shape lady who hasn't had formal employment for 14 years. This job looks to be fairly long-term -- it might last until Christmas -- and the only thing wrong with that is that it is so far away from home base. I miss my babies, I miss my home, I really miss my husband, but I also have to say that it's very nice to be no longer receiving collection calls. I'm going to ride this thing out until the end because I want to get into a position to at least have a reasonable chance of never having to listen to another collection agent again.

Part of that plan is using some of the construction money as seed  money for my various other projects. I want the Goose up and hopping. I want a welding machine -- although if I'm honest with myself I'm not really sure how I'm going to monetize that, I just know I want to play with metal. I want to fund the sources that have a decent chance of either earning us money or saving us money when I'm not on the road raising money. I want to get some decent wood-working hand tools going because I'd like to learn how to use them and MB shows every sign of wanting to be a hands-on creative building type. I want to show my Banshees that they don't have to be dependent on an employer, that when times are rough they have the wherewithal to figure out how to generate income. Nothing is perfect. Nothing can be done that will ensure that bad times won't ever come their way. It's just that I'm a firm believer that the more skills somebody has, the more likely they'll be able to create opportunities and/or capitalize on any lucky breaks that come their way. In other words, luck tends to favor the prepared.

Right now I have to prepare for another work-week. There is laundry to be done and lunches to be calculated and what-not that I'm trying to remember and wishing I didn't have to. On the other hand, I have a broody goose and I'm really hoping that a gosling comes out of this in about a month's time.

Friday, March 16, 2012

predators and other natural disasters

It will be a short post. I can't think too much about this without becoming a shivering wreck so typing a lot about it is pretty much out of the question. Sometime in the early morning hours on March 14, 2012 a predator, or several of them, got into our back yard and killed three of our ducks. They were Trout Runner ducks, the only three we had, and among the dead was probably my favorite drake in the whole wide world, TBA, also known as Teebs. He was one of two ducks from my first successful hatch and the younger by about 24 hours. He was my first Trout colored Indian Runner - his hatchmate is a white runner - and is the reason why I fell in love with this obscure (by American standards anyway) color. Of course with my luck the moment I decided I wanted to have more Trouties, Holderreads had discontinued breeding them. Persistence in the art of Google found others who could be persuaded to sell me hatching eggs from their existing flocks and that's how I ended up with Mistress Page and Beatrice (characters from Merry Wives of Windsor and Much Ado About Nothing for those of you who have the slightest interest). The rest of their hatchmates went to other homes since we are a suburban lot and can't have as large a flock as I might otherwise want. Because I was already stocked to the gills with as many birds as we are legally allowed to have, I wasn't saving any eggs for future hatches. And now they're gone. We think it was one or more coyotes who got over our fences but we'll never know for sure. There were three eggs I hadn't washed and put away for future omelets, one from the white runner, one from one of the Trout females, and one unknown so they've been popped into the incubator as a sort of last forlorn hope. It's too soon to really know for sure, but it looks like the Trout/white cross might be developing.

The geese made it through without harm. The two Saxony/Trout cross drakes (Teebs was an ambitious fellow!) are fine. My tiny chicken flock was in a tall dog run so they were all right. And Sir Edmund, TBA's hatchmate and despite the name very much a female, is my only surviving runner duck. She keeps looking for her flock. She keeps looking for Teebs.

I have a line on more hatching eggs. I'm about to spend money we don't have getting more secure runs in place. I keep moving and I keep planning because if I don't, I think about that gallant little bird and I dissolve into tears. He always tried to take such good care of his little flock and I let him down.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fits And Starts

Some days I go great blazing guns, and some days I putter around looking for my lost focus. This whole last week looks kind of fuzzy in the rear view mirror; I shoveled a few wheelbarrows of dirt, shifted a few old bales of straw to the compost heap and kept thinking that I really needed to get into a higher gear. The gear will get here eventually, sooner rather than later, and I have to keep reminding myself that my life is a 48-hour schedule crammed into the normal 24-hour day. Some things are going to get back-burnered, delayed, and rescheduled. Sometimes the Banshees need so much of my attention that everything else takes a lower priority. That's what happened to last week: The Banshees needed my attention more than shifting the backyard geography did.

What did happen? Well, I restrung the clothes line. It looks better and hangs more clothes. I still have to move it into its permanent position but right now it's functional and that's all to the good. I sorted out the garlic. Sure I'll be planting it three months late, but I will have a wonderful opportunity to find out which varieties will stand that sort of mucking about. I established the new location of the compost heap and am slowing moving more material into it. I've been keeping up on the egg gathering and even more importantly, improved my egg handling. The eggs go into the fridge as soon as they've been scrubbed and they get scrubbed as soon as they hit the house. Yorick has started laying again, so I'm getting a brand new 177 gram goose egg every two to three days. She's also gone very moody and has decided that under the clothes line is the perfect place to lay eggs, which means she's given to attacking Banshees if they're out doing laundry. Oh yes, it's time to get that girl a new living arrangement. I also finally got up the courage to get some different potting mixes so I can find out what's going to work with my soil blockers. So far I've only played with the mini 20 and I love it. My 3/4-inch by 3/4 inch squares are a little wobbly and possibly not as compacted as they should be, but they're holding shape and I can hardly wait until I can start planting a whole bunch of seeds. Of course I'm going to be doing that tomorrow, before I really have any place to handle all of the much bigger seedlings they're going to turn into. I really am going to have to work on this leap before looking problem I've got. Still, I'll probably get into various tomato varieties tomorrow and then I'll move on to the other crops that I've been thinking about putting into the garden. Broccoli, lettuces, cabbages, beans, peas, beets, carrots, onions, melons, pumpkins and other squashes, Serrano and Anaheim chilis, radishes, spinach, and probably half a dozen other things I can't remember off of the top of my head. Oh yeah, and the herb garden. I need a bunch of basil and oregano and savory and thyme and tarragon and other goodness. I have no idea where I'm going to put it all but that has never stopped me before.

This is why my husband's idea of completing Goal One (creating the farm) before Goal Two (planting edibles with hopes of an actual, gatherable crop) is never going to work. He could do it, but I'm the one who is doing the grunt work. And I am a hopeless, hopeless optimist.

So not a lot got done last week. At least I can say that some small things got started. And next week even more will get done. Fits and starts.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Isn't This Where I Came In?

I started a blog called The Ballad of Brown Thumb when this project was just going to be a hapless home gardener story. So far, it's still about as hapless as it is possible to get. However, with the crushingly high gas prices, followed by even more crushingly high food prices, compounded with my lack of employment and the woefully inelastic nature of my husband's paycheck, the back yard fiddlin' around gardening has taken on a much more serious tone. We don't have a lot, but one of things we do have is a fairly large suburban yard and absolutely no lawn. (Wild Bermuda grass doesn't count. It isn't a lawn, it's a scourge.)

Sort of like the homeschooling issue, my spouse was either vehemently against cultivating the yard or very vehemently against cultivating the yard (I think his choices were wide-spread herbicide or as much cement as the city would allow us to cover the place with). We achieved a sort of detente: He wouldn't grouse about what I did with the place as long as I didn't ask him to pick up so much as a stray dandelion. However, when push comes to shove (i.e. aforementioned sky-high gas prices combined with a perilously vacant bank account) spouse becomes extremely flexible. Growing as much of our food as possible doesn't sound quite as end-times-apocalyptic-nutjob or hippy-dippy-backwoods-counterculture as it used to. It sounds like a reasonable response to having little cash flow and three growing children to feed.

So, after a little discussion wherein he learned that I have been thinking about this a very, very long time and have some very, very firm opinions on how this cat should be saddled - and I learned that he's still the same stubborn quarter-Irish that I married all those years ago - he heard my goals and agreed with them. We're just going to have some lively discussions on how to meet those goals. I've never been threatened with a boring life.

Goal 1: Establish Hopping Goose Farm. This is going to take a lot of cleanup, digging, building, and general blood/sweat equity.

Goal 2: Replace as much of the grocery list with homegrown as is feasible. I'm not giving up dairy, the city won't let us run miniature sheep let alone miniature cattle, and the cost/benefit to me making my own laundry soap is dismal. However, I can see replacing a lot of staple goods in our fallow square footage.

Goal 3: Earn at least a little pin money by selling excess at farmers' markets.

Right now I'm struggling with the script that has followed me all of my life, to wit: I can learn how to fail at just about everything. Unfortunately for the script, I have a household to feed and it won't get fed on my curling up in a corner and refusing to even try. So the question isn't: Can I do this? It's more along the lines of: How do I get this done?

Welcome to Hopping Goose Farm. It ought to be an interesting ride.