Saturday, May 31, 2014

Music To My Ears

When I lived in our previous home I would often play my favorite CD in the mornings. It was instrumental music set with birds singing in the background. I don't feel the need now since all I have to do is open my windows. The birds sing a fuller song here, more notes with a happier pitch. There is little vehicle or distracting sounds. This morning it is just glorious birds.
On a sad note, our Mountain Bluebirds have left. I didn't get to see the babies. The parents always went out of their bird house at the crack of dawn and then stayed in for the day until sunset. I suppose now that the snow is leaving the mountains that that is where they have disappeared to. I'm sure I was just to busy to slow down and notice. Then again I just might have been gone to the other place working when the little ones made their first flights. Next year, I'm not missing out.
 Barn swallows have taken up the nests. My husband isn't too happy. They fly about in the barn too and of course poop all over things. They are completely different. The male flies around the yard and sits on the post above their home most of the day. With them here most of the other birds have left. Wonder if this is a pattern each year? 
Another visitor in the yard this morning was this doe. I'm waiting to see some fawns arrive. She is eyeing the apple tree. They are in full bloom right now and the bees are loving it.
This week I started letting the girls run the yard. Oh my they are a sorry sight. They are laying really well but oh are they ugly. It is what happens when you have too many chickens in a coop. I'll have to do something about that eventually but for now I'll just keep sprouting wheat for them and letting them graze. It should help with the chicken feed bill between that and the scraps from the kitchen.
I only let them loose when I'm around to keep guard and then at night I holler, "Here chick, chick, chick" to call them back to the coop. It works great as long as you always feed a treat in the chicken coop. Kirk laughs at the sight of the girls for they are rather attached to me. I'm yummy. And when I mow the lawn, it isn't unusual to see a few trailing after. 
 There is so.... much work to be done right now. I've moved rocks and rocks and rocks and cut out dead and half dead bushes from around the house. I still have the trees to do. I've trimmed apple tree sprouts and started digging trenches around the line of evergreen trees by the barn so I can put the hose in one end and it run the length of the trees. Eleven trees to individually water is busy work and I've not time for it. My brain has been working overtime trying to figure out how to simplify and beautify this place. One biggy will have to be a wind break. People don't understand the importance of them. The siding on the north side of the house and garage are rotting because there wasn't one to protect the house from the winter weather. The inspector didn't catch it before we bought the house. Now we have to use an oil base primer and repaint the house THIS summer. That should hold it for a few years until we can reside it. And here I thought we were only going to have to do the trim this year. Not what I had in mind but oh well, life goes on. Good thing I like to work. For sure we will be putting in a wind break but they take years to grow. Remember deciduous on the south to shade the house from the beating sun and evergreen trees on the north if that is where your winter winds comes from. Insulation isn't the only protection a house needs.

As for gardens, I'm working on the old one and will be all summer trying to pull it around. I haven't touched the raspberry patch. It needs wire run to hold up the canes, old ones trimmed out, and a new patch started. The strawberries need moved. There is a mound of something. I'm hoping it isn't wood ashes because it is large, that is in the garden and I need the whole garden in production. I need to put in mulch piles and, and, and.

 I'll finish putting chicken wire around the base of the shed today and rebuild the garden gate the wind demolished. The neighbors roof came off the other night. Yup, the wind can howl. The airport 20 miles away said they got 70 mph gusts. Don't know what we had but it wasn't nice.

Our five year old and I worked on putting in more garden area the other day. I'm determined to save seed this year and that means a pea patch to eat from and one to save seed from etc. for all the rest of the crops too or a bunch of them at least. Kirk brought an old plow and early one morning we went to work. Never plowed before but I just kept moving levers on the tractor until I found one that worked the plow up and down and away we went.
Made me think of the pioneers as we plowed through the sod and tore up the sagebrush. Glad I wasn't doing it with a mule or horse and instead had my beloved tractor. Wish the flip side of the plow worked so we could tear of the soil better but that will have to be a project for Kirk for another time. As it was he had to do some work on the plow and buy a part to get it to function. 
 Meanwhile, I appreciated the ride as I got in some cuddles and kisses with my sweet little girl who LOVES this place. The garden is going to be huge but then how else can you be self-sufficient? Kirk had tore up the ground earlier the previous week and we did it again and then I began the long process of rototilling. I tried just rototilling and it would have taken forever and ever. The ground is really hard and packed. It is at least brown. Our old soil was void of color, nutrients and hard packed.
The tractor leaves big clots that about beat you to death to rototill but the job has to be done and only once so I've buckled down and got to work building shoulder and arm muscles. Who needs a gym when there is old fashion work to be done? 
Just a touch more of rototilling to do for I had to quit as the lighting last night sent me running for cover. Now the new area awaits fencing and planting. That is what I plan on starting on next week.  I've got some tomatoes in the house that are about to topple over, they are so... tall in their pots but they will have to wait a week. I can only go so fast. This ole body isn't young like it once was and as the week grow to a close it is needing some rest.
It will indeed be exciting to see what this garden year brings. My onions are up and the garlic. A few peas are just poking through the ground and that is why I had better hurry and get the garden gate up and the chicken wire around the bottom of the garden shed. Pea shoots are so... yummy.
Sir Reginald here has been taking care of the little rabbits and Kirk has been busy with the larger ones. I swear we had a whole herd of them living under the garden shed. Do rabbits form a herd? I don't know but there was only Mindy and then all of a sudden the yard was full of bouncing gray fur. Twelve will not threaten the garden any more and I think I can button up around the bottom of the garden shed without leaving any underneath to starve to death because they can't get out. Yes, indeed life has changed. I'd better go build that compost heap, and fix the gate, and button up the shed, and, and, and. Wish you could be here with me. And I'm not just talking about putting you to work. I LOVE being outside. The sounds and views are amazing. I'd love to share them with you.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day!!

Our sweet pea is back visiting along with her Aunt, our oldest daughter, for Memorial Day weekend. Oh how they love this place. Me too!!  
 Right now the fields surrounding the house are full of wild flowers and new blossoms appear every week or two. Just the thing to make bees happy. One of the hives had a queen that died so I stuck all the worker bees in together. It makes for one humming hive. Next year, I think I'll order several more hives worth of bees with an extra queen just in case. This place so far is bee heaven.

In Eastern Wyoming on the plains we use to get wild flowers galore when I was in high school but then slowly things dried up. No more strip farming, no more profusion of wildflowers, and even the sagebrush shrunk to a mere six inches in height in lots of areas. The rains have finally come to the land and more so at our new home since it sits nestled against the Big Horn Mountains.

I got in BIG trouble this morning as I mowed the lawn in the back. Our sweat pea was yelling at me, "Grandma what are you doing? Your mowing my flowers." Indeed I was but they are everywhere. I'm mowing less and less of the lawn trying to figure out just how I want to cut it down to size. Twelve hours of push mowing is not my style. My practical brains screams, a waste of time (I could be gardening), and a waste of money on fuel and mowing equipment. But just how to do it in a eye pleasing way is the question? The rocks and wood trim are another nightmare as they are everywhere and require hours and hours of trimming. Haven't done that yet. Then there are the here and there trees scattered far apart around the yard. Clusters of trees are so much easier to water. Some trees are coming out and some are eventually going in. Where is the wind break? Sometimes I wonder if anyone is practical anymore.
But for now I think I'll just sit back for a few minutes and enjoy the wildflowers.

These are shooting stars and were the first to appear.
I wonder if any of these gems have medicinal qualities hmmm......? Have a wonderful Day!!

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Costs just keep going up on everything and I'm looking for ways to save. Right now our fuel bill is through the roof with the running back and forth between houses moving.  We have a couple loads left and were done. Then it is clean up and put it on the market while we finish doing the final touches. Then I'll be praying like crazy that the house sells quickly for mowing two places will be a nightmare. We mowed this last time we went and it took hours and hours. The grass ranged between 7 inches with the bluegrass and 1 1/2 feet with the native grass. Half a strip across the yard and the bag needed changed. Lots of rain this year. It means the Lark Buntings have returned. They only come to the prairie when their is an abundance of rain. The stubby little black bird has a white stripe across each wing and they were gone for years as the area suffered from a long drought. It is good to see them back.

Prices of fuel and food have skyrocketed and I hate going to the grocery store because it seems that each visit the costs are higher and higher. It has me thinking self sufficiency to survive with our income not rising. Onions and potatoes have always been poor folk food and we are growing them in abundance this year. I have three kinds of onions I'm growing and three kinds of potatoes.
With this backdrop, gardening takes on a whole new adventure. Who would want to stay inside?

My choice for potatoes is King Harry, Norkotah, and Red Norland. King Harry's I love. They are one tough potato as they were the only one of the three to make it through the hail last year and produced a small crop. We ate the small crop and saved the tiny ones to put back into the ground this year. I hope tiny ones make a good crop. We will find out. Just in case I ordered a small amount of new seed potatoes to compare production levels with. Then I'll know when it is really up to me whether I should have eaten the small ones and saved the larger ones. Like I said, nothing had much size on them. King Harry's will be my backbone though they aren't my favorite as far as flavor goes.

The Red Norlands I love for their flavor but the crop yield is about half of King Harry. As for the Norkotahs -- the vote is out. I put them in last year and lost the crop to the hail. I'm giving them another try for the state, North Dakota, where they come from is one cold place and is a neighbor.

I was planting and got to thinking, could I do this better? When you are thinking survival it changes things dramatically. Off to the Internet I went. I learned a bunch but I was left with questions unanswered that I'm going to research further. Potatoes are one of the eight major staple crops in the world and that tells you that if you like potatoes, they need to take a front seat in your survival preparations. The other reason is that they grow from 15000 feet down to below sea level.

 One side of my family hails originally from Idaho, yes, we love our potatoes. That line goes back to Scotland and England. Ireland is not far off and when I think of potatoes I always think of the potato famine they had. The root of that problem was that one variety was grown almost exclusively and when that kind was plagued by disease, it left hunger in its wake. Lesson number one -- variety is best. I'm wanting three kinds of potatoes. I hope I've found them and that they are different enough from each other that disease won't be a problem with them.
Here is the trees that were and I emphasize were growing against the garden shed.

My Internet research revealed that flower sterility is common in potatoes, due to hundreds of years of hybridization. I'm not much into hybridization. In modern times it means uniform size, a long freshness date  and few vitamins. In the olden times it meant a hardier crop. That is why I stick with heirloom seeds. Some say the yields are lower but for sure the vitamin levels are higher. What good does that do you when you have to super size your meal to get the same nutrients in a smaller portion of heirloom.  I understand the farmers move to use the hybridized as they sell by the pound.

 My next step is to produce as much of my own seeds as possible. My seed bill is through the roof and that has to change. Potatoes are easy. Just reserve some potatoes of the right size from the year before. Easy that is as long as the weather cooperates. The surprising twist about potatoes is that pollination is carried out by "two bumble bee species, Bombus terricola and Bombus impatiens only. Honey bees and other bumble bees will not pollinate potatoes, as the male flower has no nectar to attract them. B. terricola and B. impatiens loosen the pollen from the stamen by a process called sonication, or buzzing the pollen, in which their vibrations release the pollen from its sacs. Because the potato flowers contain both male and female parts and are not wind-pollinated, plants do not cross-pollinate as readily in nature." Good news as you can plant different kinds fairly close together.

{Read more: Potatoes contain iron, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-1 and vitamin B-6, and they are low in calories unless of course you like butter and sour cream on yours like I do.}

This was new, "Potatoes should be rotated in the garden, never being grown in the same spot until there has been a 3-4 year absence." I've only given the plots a couple years break in the past. "Potatoes may be planted as soon as the ground can be worked in the early spring, but they will not begin to grow until the soil temperature has reached 45 degrees F. potatoes." I grow my potatoes in rows digging a hole and plopping in a spud that I've cut leaving an eye or two. They say dig the hole 6-8 inches but I'm not measuring. Do put the cut side down and space every 12-15 inches apart. I don't measure there either but it is approximately that. Your rows are suppose to be three feet apart and I definitely don't do that. I do a couple rows fairly close together and then a wider row between the next rows of potatoes. Most times I don't do more than the two rows in any one area. I prefer the method of planting your vegetables all over the garden. I went to a lecture once and it made perfect sense. They said to plant all over the place the same vegetable for the soil may be better in one area than another and the sun hits better in one area than another. Also if there is a large area planted in one crop, it attracts bugs to them more readily. Spread out the crop and won't likely all be hit as hard. In other words you are not putting all your eggs in one basket. One plot will definitely do better than another.
The round potatoes are King Harry's and the oblong ones are Norkotah. \
You are suppose to expose the potatoes a few days to light so that they begin to sprout before planting. It has never been a problem before since I've not had a really good place to store potatoes and usually they have long sprouts sticking out of them before and I'm worried about getting them planted in time before they rot. That was something new to me and someday when we have a root cellar it will come in handy.

For those with really small gardens you can limit potatoes space and harvest the potatoes small. Up north when we dig, we find big ones and little ones anyway because our season is so short. The watering info was good though. "Keep your potato vines well watered throughout the summer, especially during the period when the plants are flowering and immediately following the flowering stage. When the foliage turns yellow and begins to die back, discontinue watering."

What I didn't know was when you could harvest baby potatoes. Not that I've done that often in the past as I just didn't have that many potatoes but I might this year. You can harvest 2-3 weeks after the plants finishes flowering. As for storage you shouldn't dig until 2-3 weeks after the foliage dies. Nice thought but we have a tendency to freeze hard before then so we end up digging and letting our potatoes dry in the basement or garage. They should sit unwashed for 2-3 days to cure and harden the skins to form a protective covering. This curing is essential for storing.

The storage part has always been a challenge for us, well ventilated, dark, cool with the ideal temperature between 35 and 40 degrees F. Our garage is insulated in this new place and I'm planning on putting my potatoes out there for a while. My only question is during the below zero stretch we always have in December plus, my husband's shop will be out there and he will be running the wood stove. That means warm, cool, warm, cool unless one corner will stay better. We will have to see. The second option will be in the crawl space below the house. We haven't checked it out yet but I'm hoping it will work until we can build a cellar. I plan on putting some beets, brussel sprouts and the like in pots down there to try and create my own seeds next year. We need to scope it out today. The ultimate goal is to build a cellar into the hill here but that is years away.

All this information was straight forward. The part that says that home gardeners can save seed for several generations, save the very best potatoes for planting sounds good and made sense until--. it said that "after several years the size of the potatoes begins to decrease; this is typical." So the potatoes that the home gardener saves for generations eventually becomes really small or are they just referring to the non heirloom type? How are they getting the big potatoes commercially then if over the years they grow smaller?  When they say buy USDA Certified Seed Stock every year to prevent this then is it really a ploy? Sounds like a buy Angus beef commercial or the new Kosher hot dog commercial. It is amazing how gullible people are. I hate to tell the Angus beef people but most of the beef taste the same. There are a few exceptions like last year I discovered Corrientes. They've been around for ever but I haven't tasted them. The meat tastes better and is better for you.

I did have my carrots go woody after I had let them go to seed for about four years. I'm going to find out why. Saving seed is going to be a big deal in the future. Think about it. As times grow more challenging, more people will begin to grow a garden, the seed industry will not be able to keep up. Prices will rise until things stabilize between the suppliers and growers. That is as long as the weather cooperates. I'm not seeing any sign of that so far.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Photo card reader is broke and I have several blogs ready to download photos to grrrrrr. Hubby will pick one up today. I'll be working on the other place and going to a funeral so don't expect a blog until Saturday.

What is up with the rash of funerals? My mother-in-law went to three in one week. Granted, she is older and that means many in her age group are passing but I will have gone to two in two weeks. One for my step-dad and one for a friend our age. A lot of people are headed home. I swear heaven processes groups and lately there has been a large crowd from around the world.

This funeral was tied to the terrible accident on Hwy 59 where eight vehicles were stopped for construction, awaiting a pilot car, when a tour-size bus filled with coal miners headed home after a graveyard shift plowed into them going 65mph. I'm guessing the bus driver fell asleep with the cruise control on. What a tragic situation all around. My heart goes out to the family, friends, bus driver, construction workers who were involved, and those injured but not killed. It will be many difficult months ahead for them all.

On a happy note, hubby cut down the small trees snugged up against the garden shed so I could paint. I told him it looked like they were berry trees of some sort but I didn't want to know what kind. It would make me sadder to know what I had lost. Just cut them down because they would eventually destroy the siding on the shed and I couldn't keep it repaired or painted with them there. We have lots of those situations here. Why do people plant so close to buildings? They have got to know the things are going to grow.

Oh well, it is done and a fresh coat of white now covers the shed. It looks a whole heaping better than the peeled paint affair. It makes me smile when I go into the yard and see that bright note. While I was at it, I painted the bench for the mud room his father made us. It was with the white barn paint and eventually I'll need a glossy coat of white on the bench but it will do for now. I'm sure I'll be painting trim in the house and I can do it then.

Last night while Kirk and I were relaxing on the couch too tired to budge, we heard a racket coming from the garage. We stared at each other in bewilderment and slowly got up to see what was making it. Those crazy goats! I swear if the back door had been open, not just the garage door, then they would have let themselves in the house. Daisy was stuck on the back porch and couldn't figure out how to get back down the steps. She was knocking stuff off.

A corner of the fence wasn't attached to the garden shed. Hadn't been since before we moved in but my going in and out of it to paint the back of the shed must have alerted the goats to the opening. We've tried leaving the goats out to graze the lawn but they get into so.... much mischief. They spend more time checking things out than grazing.

I'll be back. I promise. Until then I hope you are getting your garden planted or for some of you harvested. I'm trying but right now I will have to let the ground dry a bit before I can do any more. So off to the other place I go. Not that there isn't enough to do here. Two places is stretching my brain wa...y too much and my energy just isn't matching the task. Adrenals not happy today. Can't wait until it is just here, not here and there. How ever do the rich do it? I know they have hired help but you have to manage the hired help at multiple locations. I guess I was never meant to be rich.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Pretty quiet last week I know, just one blog, but I was having a emotionally tough time. My oldest daughter told her dad that I was in a bad mood. I was hurt by her comment. Here I thought I was being nice. She clarified and said that I was being extremely polite or quiet and that spells bad mood.
In my book that is far better than lashing out at someone. I don't care how sick you are or how tough life feels. Lack of self-control always stems back to self-centeredness. We all have some. It is a part of our survival makeup but whether we give in to the beast, or not, is a choice. Choose it and I'll choose not to be around.
I really do try to figure out social circumstances but I'm Autistic. I can tell I miss the mark a lot by the expression on people's face. Emotional people are really difficult for me as I'm a fixer. They often don't want things fixed for it takes away the emotions. You might think that I don't have emotional friends, I do. They just never yell around me. I delight in their zealous exuberance and they call me the voice of reason. 
I once was a yeller like my mom a very, very long time ago. Funny thing was I never yelled at my husband as I was taught to. When our children were very small, I realized I was self-centered and they did not deserve the verbal abuse no matter the crime. In fact fewer crimes transpired the less I yelled. The other discovery was that people who yell say the dumbest things. Somehow the voice of reason never comes at that volume. I also learned this stimulus was too much. I came to realize Autistic people process far more information than the average person. They overload, shut down mentally, and often physically too. It is why the severely Autistic become almost catatonic in defense. Couple Addison's Disease which reacts to stress by shutting down the body's functions like oxygen, heart, temperature, and walking, and you can see I'm not getting over these situations any time soon. 
This happened to me the beginning of last week. I said ENOUGH firmly and rephrased what was said telling the verbal abuser that I heard the message. Too self-absorbed, they continued to tell me how they were singled out for persecution. Normally I would of ended the conversation. Instead I put down the phone and let them rant. Funny, it was the same problems others in the family had gone through that weekend too. This person choice to ignore the abundant outpouring of blessings. It was those blessings showered upon myself and others that made functioning possible. No worries. The person who did this was connected by a person who is no longer, very soon it will be the end of association.
 Last weekend was a case in point about blessings coming with trials. I had discovered Friday, while Kirk was at work, that from top to bottom on one whole side of the house and garage (of our new place) a number of spots that were swollen on the siding. We had not seen them before. Maybe the thawing of temperatures had something to do with this. When I pressed on one, it crumbled. I cried inside, 'Not one more thing Lord!, a break if you could.' I didn't know how to tell my husband. He's been stressed out too. While I thought on it, Saturday we left early for a barn sale with the intent to try and pick up a blade for the tractor. It was already sold when we arrived. Instead we came home with a super good deal on 11 boxes of solid wood flooring. Enough to do the entry room in oak and maybe the dining room or a smaller bedroom in maple.
Hubby wasn't thrilled with shoving one more thing into our already crowded garage that has stacks of belongings yet to be put away but how could we pass it up? --We were worried about how to come up with the money to do the necessary remodeling needed. Here was part of the answer. We are going to have to keep our eyes out this summer for more sales like this one. --When a friend later that day said he had a blade we could use as long as we owned our tractor. He hadn't used it in years -- BLESSING number two!
This was the same gentleman we went to help brand his calves after the barn sale. Sale at 7, branding at 8. It was fun, even though Kirk hurt so bad the next day that he spent most of it on the couch with a bottle of Advil. He was taking turns wrestling calves. I had the easy job. I helped sort calves from the cows and then guarded this opening to keep the calves in. Wasn't hard. I moved quietly and used the John Lyons approach of subtle body language to communicate, "I don't think so little ones." The ropers wandered in one or two at a time milling the calves about as they slung their ropes and caught the back two hind legs, dragging them out of the pen to the wranglers.
Note the light colored calf on the ground at the end of the rope. It is being pulled outside the pen. This bay gelding made me drool. Wow, did he have a pretty hip that extended down the leg. I said as much along with cheering the ropers on with thumbs ups and quiet comments as they exited the pen. There was a rodeo inside this enclosure and one cowboy ended up on the ground. Other times it got a bit scary with close calls. There were a few quiet, "Whew!" said as the ropers exited the pen, calf in tow.
One of the best ropers was a lady. In Wyoming, it doesn't matter if you are a male or female. All hands are expected to jump in to do the work. No men do this and women do that sort of thing. We women know men have more muscle but sometimes we can use brain over brawn and there is always a part we can play. It is not necessarily just in the kitchen for sometimes it is the men who cook while we work outdoor nursing a calf or calving a cow.
I was always better at roping hay bales than calves when I was young but I haven't had a lariat in my hands in years. I didn't rope though someone teasingly offered to let me. My job at the branding may not seem that important. I knew better. It is like the garbage man. He is sometimes only appreciated when he doesn't show up.
I know what it is like to have a calf or calves get out. It means finding that one or two calves amongst many the same color scattered about the field. There were over 130 calves handled that day. The loss of one always means herding in a number of cows and calves together, sorting the calves off once more before you can brand and vaccinate the one that got away. It means a big delay. It was the job I was assigned and by George I was going to do the best I could. No calves got out but a couple branded ones got back in behind my back. A gal suggested that it was on purpose to help keep the last calf in the pen content before it was their turn. I liked it. I went with it. 
This unique attitude of everyone pitching in may be why women in our state were first to be granted the right to vote. The mind set may of been derived because we are the least populated state, every man, women, and child, is needed.   
This day all took part. Each calf had to be branded.  An uncle of the cattle's owner took that honor. Branding is always a family and friends affair.

Each calf had to be given several vaccinations, horn nubs removed, and the male calves were made steers -- all but one. The hot pink bucket was reserved for the testicles, which in these parts is called Rocky Mountain oysters. We can be very inventive in Wyoming and restaurants serve these delicacies. We are after all a very long ways from the ocean. Never had them myself but my husband and son like them. What do they call them in your neck of the woods or do they even eat them where you come from? 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Propogating Grapes

You probably remember my telling you that I went and helped Kirk's dad trim his grapes. A few of the cuttings I brought home, trimmed, and placed in a bucket of water with the hopes that they would create roots and sprout leaves. I had no idea what I was doing. I still have no idea what I'm doing but so far I've had some success.

Some sites said put the cuttings in soil and other experts said a bucket of water. I chose water so I could pull the vines out, trim the ends each week, and examine them. I'm ever the curious one. I thought that since cut flowers need their stems trimmed to continue drawing up water that the grape vines might appreciate the same treatment.

I slid the bucket by our sliding glass door where they would get lots of light and waited and waited in suspense. This was not the amount of light my in-law's neighbor said I needed but the most I could offer. The neighbor said he went to a class at the college and they recommended putting the vines in a bucket of water under a 1000 watt bulb. Results would occur in a couple weeks. 

Others said to put vine cuttings in a bucket of soil or bend a vine down and stick it in the ground and when it has formed roots, then cut it, and replant it elsewhere. Those methods all likely work but what was available to me was a bucket and a glass door. Like I've said before, there is always more than one way to do things successfully. So if you at first don't succeed, try, try again.
I did change the water in the bucket weekly and trimmed the very ends off the vines that were down in the water. The sites I read said to put a bud node under the water and that is where the roots will form. Mine must be rebels like myself because that isn't what they did but oh well, as long as they form producing plants I don't care where they want to place their roots. Then again maybe that is where they will later form roots. What do I know except it took about a month for anything to happen.
A couple weeks later, after the first six formed buds, three more followed suite. The first six were now in a bucket of sandy soil from our garden so in went the next three also. Now I have nine grape plants. Many of them are forming grapes. Now what do I do? I decided that in strawberries and most other plants you pinch off the fruit to direct the attention and energies toward developing roots when the plants are very young and so that is what I did this morning with the grapes.

It would be nice to know what other kind of grape I have other than Reliance and Concord. Kirk's dad had a third he couldn't remember the name of. I don't even know if I got vines from all three kinds as his dad didn't know what grape plants were what. It happens when you are 88. What am I talking about. It happens when you are in your fifties too. It will just have to come as a surprise next year what grapes vines produce what grapes. If they produce grapes next year. I may have to trim off the grapes again if the plants aren't developed enough at that time.

As for my grape plants back at the other house. They are all Concord. All whopping three of them. I'll dig them up this next trip and hopefully they will like their new home. At this place I hope to have two long rows of grape plants. I've read that grapes like a soil on the acidic side so I will probably put in a little Miracid along with the manure I will hopefully start hauling today. I'll throw in some Kelp and probably a little fish emulsion too. I'm afraid the garden has been planted with few soil additions over the 17 years of existance.

The rest of the vines that have not yet sprouted, I trimmed, and put in new water once more. I'm hoping a few of those swollen bumps I'm seeing are indeed more vines taking off. Kirk's dad said he had heard that it can take up to two months for certain types of vines to root. I'll just have to be patient and keep hope alive.  

Thank you for your patience last week as the funeral, sorting and removal of belongings from the trailer, and the search through twelve years of paperwork took its toll. The five of us did an amazing amount of work in a short amount of time with the Lord's help. He spread numerous blessing softening our trials. I'm glad to be home and find myself more motivated than ever to set my house in order.

I truly believe that when we die, we do not stop learning. Some lessons will be harder for us in heaven as our bodies can humble us and make us more teachable. Mine has frequently brought me to my knees. For those who are bull headed the journey home can be especially long and difficult.  May my step-dad finally find peace. 

When Kirk is off next we can go get the rest of our belongings moved and our other house ready for the market. Will that truly happen on this next seven off cycle? We are leery as one thing after another over the past few months has slowed the progress. Yet I know that in the Lord's time all will be accomplished. I was hoping for the middle of April to be done but he had other ideas. Experience has taught me that the Lord knows best. Someday I might even catch on to this patience thing that He keeps trying to teach me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Everygreens and High PH


We have a row of pine trees along the east side of the barn and they look pitiful at best. They are a long, long ways from the water faucet and they are really yellow looking. Pine trees are EVERGREENS not, EVER YELLOWS like ours. Problem being that the soil is not acidic enough to allow the trees to utilize the iron in the soil. Even though we now know the soil is very sandy and typically sandy means acidic, it isn't acidic enough for the evergreens. Maybe it isn't acidic at all. I don't know where I tucked my ph meter in this move.
Nor is it acidic enough for the rose bush up front. I found some Miracid on sale and doused the lot good yesterday along with three other pine trees in the yard. Not a fan of commercial fertilizers but this yard is looking desperate and I'm afraid many of the plants will die if intervention doesn't happen very soon. In fact a number of bushes and trees have already died or are nearly dead.

Today it rained and that should help send the Miracid mixture deep into the roots. I'll do it again in a few weeks. In fact I have probably enough for the summer and that will give me time enough to work on research on how best to care for these trees and bring in some manure. I'm going to use commercial fertilizer for these trees and the other ones as well. Later I can go more natural. Couldn't tell until now when the buds are forming or rather not forming what we had to work with.  Lots of dead to cut out. I'm fearful for the plum tree. Not many blossoms forming and I'm hoping it is just slow not mostly dead.

The previous owners complained about the thin top soil. I think the problem is they asked for 17 years of growth and didn't add anything to the soil. The neighbor said they never saw in the eleven years they lived next to them any manure brought up here and he didn't think they fertilized. The amount of manure I need is staggering hence, the move to commercial fertilizers. If I don't act fast many more plants and trees will die.

Nearly every tree has the main trunk snipped off at the top when it was young and a side branch has become the main shoot upward. Some of the trees are really warped. Four will go bye, bye because they are dead or nearly dead and in this condition. Apparently people don't know that deer are browsers. That means they like to eat trees and brush, along with grass. Goats are also browsers so beware. That is why you always put fences around your trees. 

The apple trees are like this and the funniest looking things. They also haven't had their branches trimmed.  They can't be very productive in the condition they're in. I'll add a new tree by the worst one and then when it is up and going remove the one that looks really bad which is this one.

A number of bushes are dead. They put them at the base of the down spouts instead of putting extenders that ran the water from the roof away from the base of the house. That might of worked during the drought years but now that we are getting lots of moisture, the roots have drowned.

Too much water means no oxygen for the roots. I'm going to have to cut them out and remove all the rocks around the base of the house. Another couple bushes I think we'll remove also as they are placed randomly and in the way. From the one decent rose bush we will add starts to a crooked row they started out back. It has just two plants that are thrown into a spot and I want them in a row.  

The yard looks like someone took some dice and threw them into the air and where they land they put in trees and bushes. There is a row what I think are lilacs behind this going to be a row of roses for the rosehips and then trees that are in rows and not in rows beyond that. These are the really sick trees or dead trees. That area will need lots of cleaning out, then we will put in a row of evergreen trees, small ones because of the cost. This will form a three layered wind break and shrink the length to which we have to drag a hose to water for the here there and everywhere trees. We hope in the coming years with this layered effect and some snow fence to tame a bad snow drift that curls around the house and of course the wind that drives it. It will also give us room to drive a tractor or trailer into the fields beyond. They didn't use the fields so they didn't have a way to get into them as the garden fence and trees block a path. Don't get the idea that I love rows. In fact I like groupings but rows are needed for a wind break. The front I wish had been done in groupings but no such luck.

My fear is that the plum tree won't make it. Only one side shoot area is forming buds so far, the lower left shoots. The right top has dried up plums but shows no life so far. This tree will have to be replaced for sure if it is dead and then I'll have to wait years for plums. Here I thought I was getting a highly producing yard but alas, I'm afraid the yard got to be too much for the couple. Maybe they never did much but put in plants. There is a lot of money worth of bushes and trees. Nothing but the cottonwoods and one other unidentified tree look good though. Too many think the soil should do all the work. Take, take take, just doesn't work whether it is soil or the economy.  

The cherry trees I haven't looked at but they, I'm sure, need care. As for the raspberries, the previous owner tried putting in a snow fence by them this past winter to tame a drift and the huge snow drift it formed broke almost all the canes. Not sure we will get much from them because of that. It looks like the strawberries and raspberries are old plants and need the up shoots moved to new beds. Have any of you acidified the soil for strawberries and raspberries. I'm wondering if I need to? Do you know if your evergreens look yellow then you will need to add acid to some of your other plants like grapes too. I have some to put into the garden when it quits snowing. Looks like next week or so.

The garden has been tilled until the soil is packed.  Clay packs and so does sand. Surprised? Yes, tilling packs the soil instead of loosening it. I'm sure the owners did what Kirk's dad does and tilled, tilled, and tilled again trying to keep the soil loose but it just kills the micro-organisms and the worm holes that form tunnels through the soil naturally loosening it. I can see our garden was tilled last fall. That exposed the good guys to the cold causing many casualties. A large number of the micro-organisms that break down the soil and feed the plants were lost in all this tilling.  Ideally you don't till at all. The previous owners complained about their garden saying it had very little top soil. I'm seeing a wealth of opportunity in comparison to the soil we had to work with before. At least it is a grayish brown not a light tan. I can do something with that.

Sand I read looses calcium quickly but I'll add lots of egg shells and goat milk and that will be easily taken care of. Sand needs lots of humus because it looses nutrients, packs, and water runs right through it but I've talked to a rancher about getting some manure - I just need the time and the right weather. We had rain today and snow is in the forecast. Snow is always in the forecast this year.

 Kirk had only one day off of seven and we spent it putting away a small amount of the load we brought home last week and building fence. Two of the goats have figured out how to shimmy under the barbwire fence to the neighbors field. The goats are running out of grass to eat so we added a large new area. When I asked why they didn't eat hay they just looked at me like I was stupid. That large new area for the goats is full of all the things we brought home like the smoker, the fencing, the horse shed, the pig shed, the, the, the. Next chance we get we will move all that stuff to its permanent homes then extend the fence even further.  We want the goats to eat the grass down to the nubbins which includes the dead grass and such. That is why I part we are slow to move the fence. What springs up after it is allowed to rest is a much more healthy field. This is another area we will research as I don't think there is enough grass and too much of this one weed I'm not sure of what it is ---yet.

As things green up, I'm seeing a huge amount of yard work that needs done. I'm also seeing possibilities too. Kirk brought up the idea of putting some chokecherry trees and other wild berry and fruit trees into our draw at the bottom of the field. Fence them off from the deer and with a little babying the first few years they could really be an asset. The draw over the fence to the other side of us we think has chokecherry trees. We will watch and when they bud up we can tell. Then if so, we can ask for some starts for our own draw. My sister is going to try and bring me an elderberry tree start. They are used medicinally for many things. We figure the ginormous snow drift just up the draw from us and the rain that will flow down it should do the trick for watering once they get rooted.

Working with the land is our goal.That includes in the years to come a cellar dug into the side of the hill. So many plans, so little time, so little money, and so little energy.

That means prioritizing and this year our main focus will be clearing out the old and dead and revitalizing what we have before adding very much more.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Buzz, Buzz!

Yesterday as we were loaded our trailer with hay, our son-in-law's large trailer and flat bed set up with a small plow, hay spear, tin less horse shed, tractor, and old 1957 truck frame, I received a phone call - my step-father had died.  The old saying, "You can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink." comes to mind in thinking back at the past few years as we made countless phone calls, set up meetings, and researched trying to better our parents situation and prepare them and their finances for their death, which we knew was shortly to come. I'm sure a mess awaits us and I just pray for the strength and wisdom for my siblings and I to deal with it. We most definitely don't have the finances to. If things become a bit silent next week know that I'm thinking of you and I promise I'll be back. I do have wheat sprouting for the chickens that is going well, grape vines hopefully going to root, and more to share but it will have to wait until I deal with the challenges at hand.
 Right now moving sounds like a reprieve instead of the dreaded task we have been undertaking. Life is definitely a matter of perspective.  I will find the measuring tape and get the laundry room measured as requested and try and get caught up on other tasks pushed to the back ground.
 For today, I'm going to share with you photos taken by our oldest daughter of the arrival of our bees right before Easter.  
In the above photo the bees are in a box next to me and I'm placing sugar water at the entrance of the hives to drink though there is crystalized honey frames inside each of the hives. Crystalized honey must be rehydrated and so it is not a readily available food, hence, the sugar water. I am amazed how quickly they set to work to bring in pollen and set up house keeping. Not a moment to loose as spring will surely be here sometimes soon.
The four pounds of bees come in this box frame. The tin can blocking the entrance has holes in the bottom and was full of sugar water to sip for the long trip from California but is now nearly empty. 
Next to the can is a narrow slit with a metal tab attached to a tiny screened wood box that holds the queen inside. She is attended by her maidens who feed her sugar water through the screen. She has to be kept separated from the other bees as they adjust to the fact that she is the queen of their hive. Before this acceptance they will kill her. For three days you keep her protected before pulling out the cork plug that opens her cage.

The bees were taken from different hives and I can see mainly Italians but a few darker bees that could be Carolinians. The bees will communicate through the four pounds of them that their previous queen is no longer and that a new matriarch has taken the throne. The queen herself is very dark, unlike a Italian queen who is light and she will soon lay eggs and transfer the entire hive from Italians to Carolinian heritage bees.

Once I place the queen inside the hive, in her little protected box, I begin shaking in a forceful downward thrust to drop the bees into the hive.
I tip the box from side to side and continue thrusting downward until most of the bees are out flying or have crawled inside the hive. Then I stick the box a little ways away from the hive and close ;up the lid on each of the hive frames. The bees will want to return to their companions and by nightfall most all of them will be inside the hive. If you are wondering why I'm not suited up, it is because the bees are not as likely to sting at this time. They will crawl up your pants though and if pressed - sting. Hence, the pants tucked inside the boots. I am wearing a veil as bees have a tendency to go for your head and face especially if mad. I could tick one off doing this little shake, shake and in fact I heard one or two that weren't real happy with me. The gloves are because I use my hands to gently move bees off of areas. Plus, I'm a chicken. I may have been stung many a times and over forty at one time when I really ticked off a hive in the late fall but I try not to invite it.
The next day I went inside to release the queen. You can bet I suited up as they weren't nearly so amicable. They had a hive now to protect. The weather has been super windy, rainy, and occasional snow flurries and until yesterday I would not have been able to check inside the hives as to how they were doing. Of course I was moving yesterday so that didn't happen. Today I will suit up and make sure the queens are laying brood. I sure hope so because it isn't likely that I can get another queen at this date.

Note the chicken waterer beside the hive. It is a gallon size and two hives of bees empty it in two days. I'm going to have to pick up a larger waterer today when I go to town. I have placed rocks and a couple twigs in the red part for the bees to land on and sip. I read about using a chicken waterer and I'm pretty pleased with the results. It beats using an open feed dish filled with water and rocks. The water stays cleaner and less water evaporation. Kirk won't be able to tend the hives as he is gone for 16 hours a day or night depending on the shift. That leaves zilch time for chores. I've got to get the chickens and goats set up better too before I leave when ever that is.