Saturday, March 20, 2010

The list continues...

Note: I didn't have time to proofread this or make it witty, concise or charming.

I've made some progress, but I keep thinking of new things I need to do. I Moved Treely and the pony to one of the smaller paddocks. They don't know it, but I'm using them to stop the grass from growing so I can have a dry lot this summer for their fat asses. That gave me the chance to start picking the big paddock. I don't think I'll actually get it all picked, but I'm trying to get as much as I can for the compost pile before the grass starts to grow, then I'll just mow over the rest.

I had the compost pile on a hillside by the pond, but no matter which way I came at it, the tractor tires slipped and I couldn't get enough traction to get a scoop. So I finally got fed up and decided to push it down the hill. Ha ha. I started at the top of the hill, put the loader down and pushed it down the hill as planned, but then my back tires were still on the slope and I had a huge mound of compost in front of me. The tires spun when in reverse, so I decided my only choice was to attempt to drive over the pile. Ha ha. This led to 45 minutes of digging the tractor out of the compost pile. I was a little discouraged, as this was my first day of working towards my checklist goals and I ended up wasting it for a stupid reason. I was absolutely not going to call my farmer neighbor, who while always willing to help, has such a condescending attitude toward this young city girl that it was totally worth the hour of back breaking work of shoveling soggy, rotting shit to avoid a minute of his smug expression.

I am happy to say that I am back on track now, even as the list still grows. I ordered my fly predators and should receive my first shipment at the end of the month. My wildflower seeds came in the mail. My veggie garden has a fresh layer of dark compost on it it and I've cleared all the leaves and weeds out of my flower beds. To add to the list:

1. My hydrangeas are coming back! I'm relieved that they made it through the winter. These are the everblooming variety and I had gotten some confusing advice on how to overwinter I just did nothing. I didn't cut them back or pile leaves around them or cradle them with pillowy clouds of satin...ok, no one actually recommended that, but they might as well have for all the weird suggestions I got. The cats even used the soil around them as a litter box and didn't kill them, so I'm giving the everbloomers two thumbs up for hardiness. But, by the end of last summer the blooms were pink and I want purple or blue, so I'm going to have to buy some of that stuff that I can't remember the name of for the soil to make them turn blue and I keep forgetting to look for it because I can never remember what it is I'm supposed to get. I'm too lazy to fix that run-on sentence.

2. I really really really want to fence in the pond so I can get the geese down there. The one goose is able to sort of hop/fly over their little fenced in area and she is reeking havoc on everything and everyone. Poor maddie had to fight her off the other day, she kept attacking her. A few weeks ago, she was in love with maddie and now she wants to kill her. haha. Those geese wouldn't last one night on the pond without protection, though. All it would take is one dog, coyote or fox and they'd be a pile of feathers in the breeze. I've been looking at the electric poultry fence. It's easy to put up, is solar powered and will keep out predators. It's really expensive, though, but maybe if they have babies I can pay for it with money from the goslings.

3. The riding lawnmower needs a new battery (also needs new tires, but I already bought new tires last year and they lasted about a week out here before getting a leak, so I just add air when needed.)

That's all I can think of right now, but I'm sure there's more. This weekend is my grandma's 80th birthday, so the whole family is getting together Saturday and Sunday, so no work this weekend. Things are really picking up at my day job, too. I'll be glad when the days get longer. Winter is all about killing time, but in the summer, there's never enough.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Getting Ready for Spring

I know I haven't posted in forever. Summer kept me busy outside and I just couldn't get back into it this winter. I was having my morning coffee, reading Mother Earth News and mentally racking up a to-do list when it hit me: I've got to write all this down! I started to open a word file, then thought, What the hell. Might as well put it on the blog and see if I get any suggestions. So here we go...

1. Order fly predators! My house is in the middle of three paddocks and every time I open a door, a handful of flies dart in. Then I turn into a mad woman hunting them down and making threats while waving around a dish towel. It scares my dogs, who run and hide. I've heard wonderful things about the predators, so this is the year I'm going to try them.

3. re-seed the chicken pen. If I do this, I'll need to move the chickens to what is now the goat pen for the summer. Then I'll have to move the goats to the back paddock (the horses' winter paddock). The pygmies can get through the wood slats in the fence, which means I'm going to have to plunk down some money and time and (sigh) effort on putting electric wire between the spaces. Or I could just get rid of the piggies and...

2. Get a dairy goat. I still want to find a real dairy goat and maybe I'll get around to it this year. I gave up on the pygmies. Baby Bonnie, who is now full grown, still shoves her (horned) head under Bella to nurse. There's also the issue of quantity. I drink a LOT of two plus gallons a week. I'm also kind of lazy and I don't like mornings. It would be nice to have a dairy goat with a high enough production that I could milk once a day and still have enough.

3. I ordered Heirloom seeds this year. I hate starting seeds indoors. I just don't have the space, so I just got seeds that are direct sow this year, then maybe next year I'll develop a system for indoor sowing. I got corn, green beans, carrots, peas and some greens for the doggies.

4. I'm going to contact the local organic farm in my area. They have a CSA and I want to see if they'll let me take their greens/veggies that aren't fit for human consumption to feed my dogs. I make my own dog food by grinding veggies and raw chicken/bones. I would love to feed them organic, but it's just too damn expensive. Slimy, gross veggies are even better for dogs because they have already begun to break down, mimicking the stomach contents of foraging prey.

5. I'm so excited. I ordered bulk seeds from . I'm going to attempt the cottage garden of my dreams. Last summer I kept the ducks and geese in the back yard along the fence. They made a royal mess of the area making mud puddles and pooping everywhere. So this year I'm going to till it up and plant lupine, delphinium, foxglove, snapdragons, gladiolas, lobelia, hollyhocks and a few other wildflowers. The seed company specializes in species that naturalize and grow abundantly in meadows. So, if all goes well, I'll have a no fuss, bed of beautiful surprises. Some of the flowers, like foxgloves and hollyhocks, won't bloom until the next year, but even the annuals are apt to self-sow. It will be an experiment, but I hope it turns out well. It is certainly cheaper than buying individual plants. There's no way I could afford to do a mass planting of that scale, by buying individual plants.

7. Compost. This fall/winter has been too soggy to get the tractor out to turn the compost pile. The tires would leave muddy ditches in its' wake and it's just not worth tearing up the yard for that, so the manure has accumulated in the paddocks and I'm itching to get out there and start shoveling. Treely is a dear and likes to keep hers in neat piles...something I truly appreciate. Having the front loader on the tractor is going to make the process so much simpler. That and having the extra gate me and my dad installed on the side of the paddock near the compost pile should really streamline the process. I'm hoping for a large, hot pile of shit this year.

6. Firewood. After the ice storm last winter, I had plenty of branches to cut up for firewood. I had a pretty big stack against the garage...or so I thought. Turns out, it was only about a tenth of what I would need to run the wood stove, even for a few hours a day. If I was going to run the stove 12 hours a day, I would probably need 20 times that much. Holy shit, is all I have to say. Add to that fact that because I stacked the wood against the garage, it didn't have enough ventilation and a lot of the wood ended up rotting. Lesson learned. My romantic looking stack of wood piled neatly next to the garage was just that: nice to look at, not so useful. I ended up buying most of my firewood for about $180 a truckload. Not so romantic.

I now see that I would have to be cutting firewood every spare second of every day all year in order to have enough for the winter. Luckily, I don't use the wood stove to heat the entire house...just the poorly insulated back room. So, I'll probably focus my efforts on ripping out the cheap paneling and installing proper insulation and dry wall in that room.

So what have I done all winter? Obsess. Worry. Freeze. I had this weird smell in the house. I thought it was because I put mouse bait in the walls and I was smelling their dead carcasses (lovely, I know). The same thing happened last fall and it went away on it's own in a couple months. So I waited and waited for the damn things to decompose. I noticed the smell was worse when the furnace was going, so I decided that they must have died in the ducts (adorable!). I kept saying, "It smells like propane!" and the sole man in my life (my dad) said, "Not likely. Just wait it out. It will take a while for the mice to decompose."

Even with the gas turned off at the tank, the smell remained. That and the fact that I had candles lit, the wood stove going (since I couldn't stand to run the heater), and had used the burners/oven without exploding seemed to eliminate the gas leak theory. I toyed with the idea that it was a sewage smell...possibly a blocked septic vent. Well, My dad came over last week and said, "It smells like propane." So I called the gas company and lo and behold, the regulator in the gas range was out and was leaking gas...for months. on. end. I guess the furnace helped circulate the smell, making it impossible to pinpoint. I googled "long term health effects of propane exposure" and it seems I'm in the clear. I got a new stove out of the deal. Actually, the stove was the last of my appliances that worked properly, but since a gas leak is pretty serious I figured replacing it was more important than replacing the leaky fridge, the leaky washing machine or the dryer with the broken timer.