Wednesday, December 28, 2011

... well, this is awkward.

This happens every time I start a blog.  Maybe you can relate?  I have so much to share, and say, and I look forward to getting feedback about what's going on and then... I stop writing it all down.  I stop taking the time to share.  And then the gap between posts gets just plain embarrassing.  Know the feeling?  So, here I am, attempting a blog resurrection!  Bear with me ;)

On my reading list right now is "You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide To Start & Succeed In A Farming Enterprise" by Joel Salatin, "Lasagna Gardening" by Patricia Lanza, "Living With Chickens" by Jay Rossier (with tons of great photos in it) and "Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food" by Pamela C. Ronald & Roul W. Adamchak.  Now I just need to stop watching mindless movies and sitcoms and actually spend my winter reading!

Here's 2011 in review in terms of homesteading:
I created 5 raised beds, filled 3 of them with dirt and have two more that I'll develop next year.
In my garden I had a great crop of melons, cukes, snow peas and corn, but didn't do well with edemame, tomatoes (heat), and squash (bugs).  Also, had TWO $150 water bills over the summer - yikes!
I planted 4 fruit trees (an apple, peach, cherry and plum) - the cherry tree didn't make it though.
I planted 4 seedless blackberry canes, which all survived, and even produced a few berries their first year!
I planted 4 raspberry canes and 4 blueberry plants which all died, but I think they just weren't very healthy to begin with.  That's what I get for buying plants at a big box store!
I planted a box hedge that's small, but doing well.
I built a chicken coop, got five chicks total, all of which died by the end of September (insert wah-wah here).
I started a compost pile
I built up a frame for a garden around a tree in the front yard.
I planted roses, rhodedendrons and hydrangeas around the house.  1/2 are still alive... so that's something...

So, lots of successes, and LOTS of failures, but that's the joy of getting to try new things.  Failing isn't failing so much as it is an opportunity to learn and try again :)

In 2012 I'm going to:
Get enough dirt for all of my beds
Grow only veggies I really really like
Replant raspberries, blueberries and add strawberries
Plant some attractive edibles in the front yard
Plant bulbs around the front yard trees
Try chickens again!
Replant my cherry tree
Build rain barrels
Start more seeds inside and start it earlier
Build solar panels
Refinish kitchen cabinets

So, that's what you have to look forward to in 2012 if I can keep up with it ;)  With my track record, I'll probably bomb about half of those, but I still plan on trying!

Happy New Year ALL!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

why i've been too busy to blog...

I've been very busy as of late.  I built a chicken coop and pen for my little chicks, who have now become miniature chickens.  I built 5 raised beds for my garden and have filled and planted 3 of them.  And I've been landscaping and mowing and trying to create some kind of order out of the chaos WITHIN my house.  That's probably been my least successful venture...  BUT!  The children are alive and well, John is fed and happy, so I'll live another day to figure that all out ;)

So, the chicken coop was MUCH more of an endeavor than I imagined.  I mean, I though it would be a challenge, but the coop itself wasn't the biggest hassle, it was the pen.  In fact, even though my chickens live in the coop and pen, there's still work to be done on it to keep out the millions of things that like to eat chickens.  Oh, and P.S. - turns out I hate chicken wire.  Ridiculous, like playing with blackberry brambles.  Eeesh.  I'd say I put 30 hours into the whole thing all said and done, and I'd really like to do more to 'pretty it up', but here it is!
jack pretending to help ;)

i finally figured out how to do the nesting boxes!

i got the outside done and it was a little crooked...

but the inside looked great and i used an extra piece of wood as a perch

the nesting box i'm so proud of

and the inside!

yikes, you can see the crookedness even better with paint, so i'll be adding some trim pieces to hide that!  but i really like how the color turned out.  a very pale robin's egg blue.

i painted the inside because it was floor and porch paint and i thought it would be easier to clean than plywood.

when working on my projects, my kids run a little wild....


finished and in position!

we had a grand ceremony of putting the chicks in

getting the kids OUT of the chicken pen is the hard part now!
three beds prepped and ready thanks to help from my friends Sally and Grant

then my friend Mel came over and helped me plant and make the pretty, and Jack... well, he played with cups

squash, beans, edamame and corn

lettuce and cukes

the middle bed is peas, corn and some things that i hope are squash that i started as seeds and made the mistake of marking with washable marker.

i planted hydrangeas in front of the rail there, and a rosemary, and prepped a site to plant something where the trellis is.

and i planted rhodedendrons along the north/back side of the house

then i found a beautiful white climbing rose to put up the trellis

and here's a sneak peek at my next project!  putting flower beds around the trees so that i don't have to keep mowing over their roots!  

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mini Road Trip

I just have to get my fix in sometimes :)

So, John's Grandpa Jack had his 80th birthday party in Dallas last weekend!  We drove down on the scenic route - 540 to Fort Smith and 71 S to Texarkana then 30 W.  The drive was beautiful!  And so much more interesting than driving the interstate through Oklahoma!  It was cold and rainy when we left, and as the rain let up, we drove in fog for a few hours.  It was kind of eerie seeing all of the dilapidated rural Arkansas towns and homes on the back highway and bright purple buds all over the red bud trees all shrouded in fog.

As we drove further south I kept seeing wisteria growing.  Eventually I became convinced that it grew wild, because there was no way people were planting that much of it in the woods.  It was all in bloom and SO beautiful :)  Just north of Texarkana we drove through Freedom, AR, home of Tracy Lawrence.  We had no idea who that was - I guessed old movie star, John guessed country singer (saying that it's the only thing the south would be that proud of) and sure enough, he was right!  Lol, should I know who he is???

We got in JUST in time to drop off kids and head to the restaurant everything was being held at.  It was too short, but it was wonderful to see all of John's extended family (who I love and have adopted as my own very nicely!) and hear stories of Grandpa Jack from his friends and family.  It was adults only, so Niko was the only 'kid' around (well, besides John's brother, Adam, who is 12?) and he got passed around the whole time. I tell you what, that kid is C-U-T-E!  And gets more so every day!

That night in the hotel was a NIGHTMARE!  By the time we picked the kids up, they were so hopped up on adrenaline, we couldn't get them to crash.  I think we all got to sleep around midnight.  But, NOTHING is more frustrating than having two hyper kids playing off of each other in the dark while you're trying to sleep.  GAAAAHHHH!!  That must be the root of insanity.

The next day John went back with his folks, and I took Kristen, John's sister, with me.  We hung out with John's cousin, Jane, and her ADORABLE daughter, Georgia, who was born on Kate's 1st birthday.  The two girls professed that they were 'best friends' - SO stinking cute!  Jane picked kale out of her garden and made a batch of kale chips (kale sprinkled with olive oil and salt and then baked) for us.  They were really good - kind of tasted like popcorn?  But with the consistency of paper?  Strange, but good, I'll make them sometime :)

After we left, we went downtown in search of good coffee, and came up with just coffee.  Then drove to Frisco to go to Ikea.  Oh, big shiny Ikea, how I've missed you!  We were there WAY too long, and spent WAY too much money, but I got a guest bed/futon/play room couch out of the trip, so I'm super happy!  We got out of there later than we'd wanted to, and then I got on a highway going the wrong way for a long time, so it was a LONG trip back in the dark.  We got home at 1:30 :P

Since then, I've been assembling Ikea things, hanging shelves, pictures and what not and waiting ever so impatiently for the weather to get good again!!!  I tried to go outside to build my chicken coop today, but my fingers went numb pretty quickly and I didn't want to risk operating a circular saw like that...  probably a good move ;)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things I Like To Hug

Babies and trees.  Took me a while to think of what these two things had in common.

Today we went to my friend, Rochelle's house and I got pictures of Jasper, who is 5 weeks older than Niko, and Niko together :)  AND I got my mail order trees today.  I was so unsure of how they'd look and how healthy they'd be, so I thought I'd post pictures so you could see if maybe YOU wanted to risk mail order trees.  I got these from Stark Bros. in MO, I read reviews on a few places first, because I kept reading about some companies sending out dead trees :/  But these looked great!  Buds on some of them, and the roots were packed in shredded newspaper to keep damp!




This is to show the box they came in.

It was late when I got home tonight, so I packed them in water in the bag they came in and hid them in the shower so the kids won't mess with them!

Oh, also - I got a new camera!!  Enjoy the superior pictures it takes :D

Niko and Jasper



I took this picture as I was driving home tonight.  I <3 Arkansas!

Some friends of ours just opened a great coffee shop in Siloam Springs.  Today was their grand opening!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chickens and Children


So, yes, I got chickens for their eggs, but I also got them for days like today :)  


The kids chasing the chickens

Kate being 'mother hen'

Jack: I want THAT one!

Kate: Here, you can have THIS one

There's no escape, chickens, no escape

Kate, please stop poking the chickens

Jack: (insert baby talk here)

This is much more peaceful than most moments
of Jack holding chickens

Three of our four little guys

Jack: Chicken want a hug?

Heeeeere chickie, chickie chickie!

I took Niko out for a little bit, but he wasn't nearly as thrilled with the outdoors ;)

All in all we had a fantastic day!  Tomorrow we're inviting some friends over and we'll probably do it all over again.  Chasing chickens.  Playing in the Sprinkler.  Eating fake ice cream.
These are the things they'll remember :D

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ohhh, my back!

So, today, I got up and just wanted to get SOMETHING done!  And, of course, as I hate housework and the weather has turned beautiful - I went outside!  I ordered some blocks for our firepit from Lowes.com so that i could take advantage of the 2% cashback at fatwallet.com.  Then went and picked that up.  I had to make two trips because the blocks weigh 25 lbs each!

I've been considering putting box hedges along our front walk as a barrier between kids playing in the front yard and the road.  So, I checked those out at Lowes - $7 each.  Yikes.  I needed 7 of them, so I called Home Depot and asked how much their were - $2.50 each.  Nice :)  So, I also got out the whole clan at Home Depot after two trips to Lowes.  Then, with fresh, new plants, and a van full of blocks, I set to work!

I dug up a 30' x 32" section of lawn.  Which was pretty back breaking!  I still haven't bought a wheelbarrow, so I hauled my gigantic city trash can along with me to put all my yard waste in.  What do people without compost piles usually do with yard waste?  I've been contemplating a compost pile, but I'm afraid it'll be more work and take up more space than it's worth.  Thoughts?

Anyways, I dug up the lawn, dug some holes, put down weed barrier and planted my mini-shrubs.  It'll be sometime before THESE prevent my children from running headlong into the road ;)


One really nice thing about working outside in the front yard is that I got to talk to all three neighbors on my street at one point in time during today!

After I finished up front, I was EXHAUSTED!  But... I had a van full of heavy blocks that needed to be unloaded.  So, instead of just piling them up, I figured I'd put them where they belonged!  So, I dug out a hole in the back yard, cleared the middle and laid down 48 twenty-five lb. blocks.  Yeeeeeesh!  Needless to say, I'm good and worn out.


Afterwards I hopped in the shower with Kate to rinse all the dirt off.  I didn't realize I'd been exclaiming until Kate started copying me.  "mmm.  oh, man, that feels so nice."  and whatnot.  Lol, after that I made a conscious effort to not sigh every time I thought about how in love I was with that hot shower.  When John put Kate to bed tonight she was telling him all about all the cool things I'd done and how hard I'd worked, and I could tell she was just beaming.  Who says being a mom is a thankless job :)

It felt so good to work outside, but now I think I'm going to go collapse.  Again.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Silkies!

So, cute won out.  Today I made a well thought through inpulsive decision.  I've been going back and forth about chickens.  And really, the only hang up is POOP.  But, that hang up won't go away, and I won't know how big of a deal it is unless I try it out!  So, I went on craigslist, found the cutest silkies on there and drove 5 hours round trip to go pick up four of them.  I know, I'm crazy.  Probably $50 in gas to go spend $12 on chickens.

But, these aren't just any chickens, these are silkie chickens.  Remember the pictures from a few posts ago?  Ridiculously cute, right?  Plus, these are considered the best 'pet' chicken breed out there, they're really good with kids and I keep hearing the word 'maternal' used in reference to them.  Um, okay.  Maternal chickens, that's got to be a good thing, right?



It was such a blah day today anyways.  Why not take a long drive into unknown territory?  The chickens were in  Waldron, AR, about 45 minutes south of Fort Smith.  I'd never been any further south in AR than Fort Smith, so it was new to me.  And it. was. beautiful.  I mean, you know that feeling you get when you're going home after a long absence?  It was like that.  It reminded me so much of Washington, like, in the rural areas east of Olympia.  There were evergreens, which aren't very common in my part of Arkansas, and beautiful fields lined around with beautiful trees, and rolling hills in a broad valley surrounded by the Ouachita 'Mountains' (growing up on the west coast makes it hard for me to actually call anything in the mid-west a mountain...)



Aren't they beautiful?  I wish I'd brought my camera so I could show you what I saw, not just what wikipedia was doling out...

So, we pull up to this 200 acre cattle ranch to get the chicks.  The wife, Elaine, runs a daycare out of her home and is so good with the kids.  In fact, the reason she HAS chickens is so that the kids she watches can see them hatch and play with them.  So cute.  She kept the chickens in her well house, which had walls lined with home canned foods covered in cobwebs.  When Kate saw the chicks, she started grabbing, one at a time, and putting each one in our box.  I had to stop her and explain that these were mommy's chickens too, and that I got to pick at least one AND that we weren't taking ALL of them.  We had practiced holding baby chicks at Tractor Supply earlier today, so I was faaaaairly certain that neither she, nor Jack, would squeeze the poor little buggers to death.

I let her pick one, and then I tried to get Jack to pick one, but he was too delighted with how they ran in a circle around the inside of the galvanized tub when he waved his hand at them.  So Kate grabbed on and told him that was his pick and plopped it in the box.  She let me pick my mottled chick out of a pile (okay, maybe not PILE) that had been set aside for someone else when I started going on about how cute they were.  The whole ride home, Kate sat with her nose on the edge of the box staring in and jostling them periodically to get them peeping again :)

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