Monday, May 30, 2011

Peaceable Kingdom

I hope everyone is having/ has a nice, peaceful holiday weekend. Yet may we remember those who shed their blood for our freedom.

May peace eventually settle on this nation and this world like snow drifting down on a winter's evening.

May our government come to care enough about it's citizens to stop sending them into wars based on lies and false pretenses. May our young men and women live to see all the seasons of their lives and not be cut down in mid-bloom.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Not Quite Silent Sunday

The iris have had their day and been replaced by the lilies. These are some of my favorites. And my memory being as bad as it is allows a surprise every summer when they come up.

The new, old Italian heirloom zucchini I'm trying this year. I suspect these can get quite large.

A rare honey bee visitor. I hope she stays under the dragonfly's radar.

Little chick trying to stay cool. Yes, I know there is poop all over the sill. Their bedding is clean though.

There is some cool to be had in the shade however and a nice breeze is active today. I love these wild hydrangeas. Their little white linen buds always make me feel good to see them. What's even better is that I never have to buy any; they grow so prolifically in my woods I just transplant some where I want new ones.
There are many beautiful things already around us if we just stop and look. No need to always run to the store.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Be My Guest

Today I have a different treat for ya'll; I have a guest blogger!!! I've never done a guest post before but was contacted by a fellar that was interested and I liked his article, so I thought we'd give it a go.
This was written by Matt West who describes himself this way: "I am an aspiring writer with a strong interest in the more traditional homestead and self-sufficient ways of living."



Sustainable living becoming more appealing.
Today’s world is flush with a number of rising cost areas including rent, gas prices, and food. With the inflating prices, living a sustainable and self sufficient life is becoming a more attractive option to many people out there. Living a simple and more sustainable is not something that must be undertaken at once, while they take advantage of the multiple benefits to be had.
Self sufficiency and sustainability is about cutting down the level of importance designated to rather unnecessary areas of life. The important aspect of living a more simple life is to take value in the right areas such as love and family, while pushing out the need for material objects and possessions. This core feeling of need being designated to other aspects of life helps to push a sustainable lifestyle.
Along with the adjustment of need in life, a sustainable way of living allows for anxiety and stress to be driven down. Another aspect of living simpler is the ability to not sweat the small stuff, so to say. This is about not letting the common stress of everyday life to get to you. The stress of work problems, bills, and products are toned down, while more important aspects of life like family are given more value. This type of adjustment allows for a cut in overall stress and anxiety.
Taking part in a more sustainable and sufficient lifestyle is also about improving your health. Growing your own produce at home can make for a great way to have an impact on physical health. First and foremost, growing produce eliminates the chances of chemicals or toxins getting into the food you consume. There have been plenty of cases with toxins in food like melamine, Bisphenol A, pesticides, and asbestos exposure. Growing your own foods at home allow for full observation and cuts out the risk of any chemicals getting into your foods. Also, growth of your own produce at home allows for the freshest and best taste possible. It will cut out the time that is usually wasted between when a fruit or vegetable is grown and how long it takes to get to the grocery store. Having plants in the backyard allows the grower to pick the time of consumption.
Along with the physical health benefits of avoiding toxins, sustainable living also helps to cut down on health problems that are often a result of stress and bad choices. With a decrease in stress and anxiety, people run less risk of health problems like heart attacks and respiratory issues. Also, transportation use is a major part of living a more sustainable life. Using public transportation or riding a bike can have an excellent effect on your physical health as a source of exercise.
In the end, the benefits of living a sustainable lifestyle are endless. They extend beyond just the taste of food and all the way to mental aspects and lowered risk of health problems. As prices continue to rise throughout the world over time, the prospect of living a more simple and sufficient life becomes even more appealing.


So, I think Mr. West makes some valid points. Now, I know a self-sufficient lifestyle does have it's own type of stress. For instance, chickens can make you want to pull all your hair out, but to me, it is a far better type stress than the highly consumptive lifestyle and constantly worrying about being able to pay all your bills etc.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pretty Legs And Great Big Knockers

I'll spare ya'll from any more chicken posts; for awhile anyway. Well, I did want to do one more on the runs we have built for them, but I thought I'd take a break from that and give a little status update on the garden. Okay, Chigger wanted her picture taken one day too and posed for me and everything. Not sure about the sprawled legs but anyway....she has lost her little cute puppy looks but she's still a sweetie.

It has been pretty hot this past week and everybody is trying to acclimate to it. She pretty much does this during the day but is all wired and ready to go early in the morning and late in the afternoon. We bought her a pretty grown-up dog collar for her tags.

Oh, I said this was a garden update, didn't I? Things are going along well there. One of my zucchini plants has become so large Jack has taken to calling it Audry. I'll get some photos of that soon. Seems the cow manure is a big help. These are the first carrots I've ever grown!! They are "Little Finger" variety: I believe an old French heirloom type. I did pull some of them a bit small, as you can see, but they needed thinning anyway. Very tasty.

I have actually harvested all the cabbage now. This was taken a couple of weeks ago. That area behind me is now sprouting corn, green beans, okra and potatoes. This batch of cabbage did real well.



In fact, I got some really nice heads! They were all quite firm and robust. Jack kept wanting to mess with them though and squeeze them. I had to make him stop before he bruised them. Ugh!
I took two of the heads and made sauerkraut. Well, I'm making sauerkraut now. We'll see in a few weeks how it comes out and I will post the results, good or bad.
So, if the rest of the garden doesn't get beaten to death tomorrow in a hail storm I'll post some more about what's going on there. They are predicting some storms for us but maybe it won't get rough. We could use the rain though.


Oh...that really is an old song by Bette Midler.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eggs In A Briar Patch

Well, we continue to add to our little menagerie. Jack has got a bit of chicken fever and would have bought a truckload by now if I hadn't been watching him. I don't let him go near any chicken dealer without me! I have to admit I have been a little impatient myself, knowing that it would be fall before our little bitties start laying, so I agreed when he wanted to try to pick up 3 or 4 hens already laying. Finding them however, was easier said than done. You wouldn't believe how hard it is, in this region to find 1 year old hens or similar. We had to go all the way to Boaz, which is about 45 miles north of us to get these 3 and she didn't have many. Fortunately, they were reasonably priced, but the lady did admit she had heard laying hens were a hot commodity right now. So, we got 2 Barred Rocks, which I already like a lot and one Red Star, which we are okay with. The Red Star can be a little shit sometimes, so we call her Henny the Red.

The original bitties are growing like weeds! We have them in a little sectioned off area so the big hens don't take their food. I had heard you couldn't put little chicks any where near big chickens but we cautiously tried it and really didn't have any problems. However, due to the feed issue and the fact that Henny would occasionally pop one of the babies on the butt, we separated them. The Barred Rocks don't mind the chicks at all. They are very gentle and easy going.

Now, I can't really blame it all on Henny because this little crap right here in the front started the whole thing. We put Henny in first, just to see what would happen. Well, 4 or 5 of the little chicks ran up to her and formed a little line in front of her; they were checking her out. Henny bent down to their height and that's when Little Crap there rared back and nailed Henny just as hard as he could right between her eyes! I was shocked and even Henny was a little surprised but she promptly popped him a couple of times and they all ran off screaming. That was about the extent of the drama and the bitties steered clear of them from then on. But we separated them anyway and are making them a totally separate run.

This is Big Bertha. She's a sweet chicken and they have all given us 3 eggs every day since we got them. Only one of them has discovered the nesting boxes but I'm willing to give them a little time. They were not raised in a coop with actual boxes; just an outdoor pen with a pan on the ground. They have MUCH better accommodations now and I think they are enjoying it. Last night they slept up on their roosts. Probably the first time they ever had anything like that to get up on.

It's pretty dang cool to just walk out there and pick up the eggs. I think of it as kinda free food but of course, it's not. It's great anyway.
I know in a previous post I had mentioned the different breeds and that we were planning on eating many of them. I wasn't sure what breeds we would ultimately end up liking so we just got several and thought we would see what happened. Plus, if you buy them local, there is not a huge selection. So, I knew I wanted some light skinned birds for eating, because that is what we are so used to, and just a few others of whatever for eggs. I do like the brown eggs though. I had seen where McMurray offers Leghorns for meat even though they are a slimmer breed so we got some of those and some Buff Rocks. See, to me, if that chicken can't squirt and egg out it's behind, it's a meat chicken in my book. I'm not terribly picky about that. I just want them to have white or yellow skin and grow reasonably fast but not like those Cornish Rock things. I raised some of those once and they were bizarre.
I think now, after we go through these, the next batch I'm going to try Plymouth Rocks for meat. They are a heavier breed, white-skinned, reasonably calm and they are not as common as they once were, so I like the idea of producing more and helping to keep their breed going. But, I still have to get some and see how they do.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eight Easy Steps Part 2

Well, once again I did not mean to be away so long but things have really been busy around here, what with the new chicks and all and trying to get things finished up. Plus, my heart has been raking me over the coals again and I've just been too tired at times to be on the computer much.
So, anyway, back to the remaining program! Once I finished the framing for the walls I installed the sheathing/ siding. It's better if you go ahead and run your sheathing because it adds a huge amount of stability to the structure that you really need before you start trying to frame and deck the roof.

What I'm trying to show here is not the wiring but the bird's mouth cut in the rafter. This is the little divot you cut so that your rafter sits flush on the top plate. I really cut a notch because a true birdsmouth on that low an angle would be seen from the outside and I didn't want that. It's best if your bird's mouth is cut deep enough that the rafter sits all the way down over the top plate. In other words, 1 1/2" deep. This gives you plenty to nail and I toenailed mine from both sides. If you enlarge the photo you might be able to see one nail head.

I ran 2 x 6 rafters; partially because we already had some old ones (as you can see) and partially because you need a 2 x 6 for that span. Well, for this light roof, 2 x 4's might be okay. Anyway, we alternated the old 2 x's with the new, just in case. If you look close you can see one rafter marked 'PAT'. This is not somebody's name! It's best to always make one rafter, verify that it is correct and then mark all your other rafters from that one pattern, thus the 'PAT'. If you mark your rafters from other copies you risk multiplying any mistakes you may have made, and that can really add up. Always stick with your original.
Because we had the material in old stuff, we also ran bridging where each piece of plywood was going to break. The joints I mean. Now, this isn't necessary, you can just use those clips, but since we had plenty of old lumber than needed using up and this is only 1/2" plywood, what the heck! Now, some of you with a sharp eye might notice that one sheet of plywood is running opposite the others. I'm not going to say who did this while I was gone to the store but his initials are Jack. See, the grain of the plywood (roof decking) should always run perpendicular to the rafters. Do not run the grain with the rafters because it's weak when you stand on it. Now, if you run that crap OSB it doesn't matter, because that stuff has no grain but I only talk about real construction on this blog so, there you go.

Now, I wanted my roof to be 12 feet because that is a standard roofing metal length and it would work out with the overhangs I wanted. When I laid out my rafter I saw that wall to wall (the rake) was only something like 8' -1 3/4" because of such a low pitch roof. So, if I had a 12' rafter that would let me have somewhere around 1' overhang in the back and slightly less than 3' in the front. I took one inch off the length of the rafters to let my roof decking overhang just a tad, because I like the way that looks. And I might put up a little fascia board. We also cut the slight curve in the ends using the same pattern I used on my house rafters. I like that look too.

Here is Jack installing the wiring for one overhead light and one plug. To his right you can see the roosts for the chickens. They look close to the wall but they are not. To the left are the nesting boxes but I'll show that later.
Now, I mentioned in the last post how that I realize this is a lot of trouble and stout construction to go through for some chickens but here is my other reason: Where I live we have a surplus of predators that would love to eat my chickens before I could. We have coyotes, hawks, owls, crows, gopher rats, possum, raccoons, snakes, weasels, wild dogs, neighborhood dogs, bobcats and probably something else I've forgotten. I will not go to the expense of getting livestock, feeding it and caring for it only to let some other animal destroy it. I let the wild things be, but they ain't going to take food out of my mouth. I do not at all get into this pseudo hippie bucolic attitude of 'oh, we are going to be one with nature and just let the chickies roam and peck and if they happen to get eaten, well, that's nature. Bullshit. I paid $3 apiece for those f****ing birds, I'll be damned if some coyote, that isn't even native here, gets even a taste. I read the reviews for this book some dipshit wrote about this foray into urban homesteading. He built some little crap coop and it wasn't long before his chickens got ate by the neighbors dog or something and he was like, 'well, that was a learning experience for me and it's okay', blah, blah (I bet the chickens didn't think it was okay) and went on to quote some statistic that showed humans learned best by thinking about their mistakes. Well, no shit Brainiac. I guess we would have all died off by now if nobody could learn from their mistakes. I'll do you one better; I'll learn from that goober's mistake and build something no dog can get into.
It's basically like this; I feel that if I am going to confine an animal and take away it's ability to flee, and that's basically all a chicken has by way of defense, then I damn well better provide it a secure environment where it doesn't have to worry about protecting itself. If you don't you are basically providing the predator a sure fire way to catch and eat his meal and damning the chicken to a horrible death. I lost a few chicks once to a raccoon. It will not happen again.
So, the next post I'll show ya'll the run and a little more of what's been going on. If anybody has any questions about any of this construction framing etc. just let me know.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eight Easy Steps

I know I have shown ya'll some of this framing before but I wanted to go back and do a little more detailed account of how we built the chicken coop, partially because I think my chronicling of it kinda meandered off course towards the end.
Of course, the first steps were to form and pour the floor, which I did show pretty well, and then lay the block. I laid one row of block because I wanted my wood framing elevated above grade to avoid rot and termites and to make washing out the coop easier. Now, if ya'll recall, I poured the slab on a 1/4" per foot slope, to facilitate water running off when cleaning. So, since I laid my block evenly on the slab, not accounting for this slope, they are out of level too. I could have just left it this way but that's 2" over 8 feet and that would have made my framing pretty dang wonky. So...since I was going to fill the block anyway, to accommodate anchor bolts, I simply formed a little top of the blocks that brought everything back up to level. You can see this in one of the following photos.
In the above photo you can see the I framed and stood the wall on the left first. This is the wall shared with the tool shed. I then mostly framed the front wall and stood it. I waited to frame in the window and door because I wasn't real sure what height I wanted these things at and it was easier for me to judge with the wall standing. Plus, it's easy to throw in that framing once you have basically, your wall outline. If you look closely you can see that we did use reclaimed lumber where possible.


Here you can see the anchor bolts that were set into the cells of the block as I filled them with Sackcrete. I used 1/2" x 5" bolts and they have the little crook on the end to keep the bolts from pulling out. I laid out their location before pouring to make sure they were not going to coincide with a stud location and I think I put about 3 per side. You don't need many; just about one every 4 or 5 feet and I put one about 16" out of each corner. Most of the walls are framed laying on the ground as this lets you nail your studs through the bottom plate, rather than toenailing, which is not as strong. The bottom plate, or rat seal as we call it, is then drilled to accept the anchor bolts, the wall stood up and set down over the bolts. I pop a chalk line on my concrete also and worm the wall to the line as I tighten down the bolts.

Now, if you click on this picture to enlarge it you can see at the base of this closest wall, where I leveled out the top of the blocks with additional concrete. If I were a real concrete finisher I could have formed the slab level and then just finished the interior of the slab on a slope, leaving the edges level where the block would go. But..I'm not a real good finisher.
So, after framing this front wall, which faces south by the way, I then framed the back wall. Since this structure will have a shed roof it was easier to frame the two straight walls and then connect the two with the one sloped.

Now, this wall I framed in place. I had the two walls on each side to determine my slope and I knew I wanted somewhere around a 2/12 slope or so. It's actually not a dead on 2/12 because I just used the drop off the 12 foot 2x4's to frame the lowest wall after I had cut off what I needed to frame the front wall. This way I used every bit of the 12 footers, rather than have a bunch of little drop and waste money. I mean, you can always find uses for short 2x4's but I like to use every bit I can in the original framing. The building is also 8' x 12' because plywood comes in 4' x 8' sheets and I didn't want any drop from that either. Of course, I did have some because the building is less than 8 feet tall, but that waste went towards nesting boxes etc.
Anyway, to frame this wall I just set in my bottom plate, which are all pressure treated since they contact masonry, and then figured the slope for my top plate, cut it and nailed it in place. After laying out my studs on the bottom plate, I then took my 6' foot level and transferred those marks to the top plate. This allowed me to accurately measure the length of each stud.

Which I then cut on the correct pitch and nailed in place. Easypeasy! And yes, I always mark the side of the line I want to set my stud on with an 'X' like that. You would be surprised how easy it is to get mixed up on that. Before I did my studs though, I laid out where I wanted the little window to go to make sure I wasn't putting a whole stud in the way. After framing all the walls I then ran my double top plate to tie the walls together. One note I forgot to mention earlier; I don't mind having such a low slope on this roof because it will get metal roofing to finish it. It's generally not a good idea to use shingles on any roof that is a 3/12 or less. In fact, you will void your warranty on most shingles if you do this. Metal roofing or roll roofing is the only stuff designed for flatter roofs. That I know of anyway.

Now, a lot of people would look at this coop and think, that's a hell of a lot of trouble (and expense) to go through for some chickens. Well, this is just my way of doing things. See, as I build and finish each structure I don't want to ever have to go back and lay my hand on that building again, aside from regular maintenance. I've got way too much to do around here to be continually repairing other structures and as I get older I sure don't want to be out there when I'm damn 75 trying to fix the roof. Do it right the first time because if you don't, all you're doing is just barely keeping your head above water with the continual repair. I watched my father half-ass everything his whole life and I can honestly say very little of anything he built is still standing. And I realize not everyone, especially nowadays, has the funds to buy all new material but you can still build a structurally sound building with reclaimed or used material. Even completely unconventional building materials.
So, I will finish up this project in the next post. There were a few more little things I wanted to discuss.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dixie Chicken(s)

We've got bitties!!! Jack and I went on a little excursion yesterday to a neighboring town and bought our first batch of baby chickens. That was an adventure in itself, especially for Jack, as he has spent the majority of his life living in big cities.
We only got 16 chicks for now. The farmer didn't have as many of the meat chickens as we wanted and I didn't want to load up on too many layers, so we just got a few to get started. In the end we got 5 or 6 White Leghorns (meat birds), 4 or 5 Golden Comets, 4 Rhode Island Reds and a couple of "Blue" something or others. I'm not sure what they are but we said, what the hell! They are cute little buggers and very active.

Chigger has been mesmerized by them but has behaved herself very well. She likes to come in the coop every time we go to feed or water them but I watch her closely. I don't trust a dog around baby anything. However, she has acted well, like I said. She did slip in one time when Jack was just outside the door and he caught her sitting in there looking at them.

They have gotten active enough they were "flying" from one end of their tub to the other. Then they realized they could go up, so they enjoy sitting on the edge of the tub.

I've already had some people question the cedar chips I have in the tub so I have checked into that. When I was a kid we just put hay in the chicken houses, so I wasn't sure about anything else and the books I have don't say anything about not using cedar. I did some online reading and found quite a lot of conflicting info. Some said no pine or cedar shavings because of the strong odors each can put off. The phenols in the oils of such wood can cause respiratory stress in some animals. Some said use whatever kind of wood shavings you want. In fact, a lot of people said they use cedar and have for years with no problems. They like the cedar because it keeps the mites off the bitties. I think I may switch to something else on the next batch though. Or maybe only use a small handful and cover it with another bedding. Have any of you used cedar or prefer something else? The chicks seem fine with it.

They don't pay much attention to Chigger now. Jack has already decided there is one little runt chick that he wants to be a pet. I told him not to get too attached to them 'cause he is going to have to do the deed when the time comes. He assures me that since he is a former Marine that saw active fighting in a major war he can do in a few chickens. Hhm, we'll see.
So, since we couldn't get as many Leghorns as I wanted locally we will probably order a batch and then save the best of the layers out of these to keep.
I would like to get 2 or 3 mature hens also, so that we could have eggs now and not have to wait on these girlies to get started. But, we'll see.

Oh, I know I had more comments on that last post but since Blogger had it's maintenance issues (as many of you know) it must have deleted some of them. I think some might have even lost a post. At any rate, I did not delete them and was going to answer them but then couldn't. I appreciate the comments and since I had some new people comment I didn't want ya'll to think I was ignoring you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Same Feeling, Different Song

Well, actually, that peaceful, zen feeling that normally abides here has been kicked in the head a little today. I feel like crap and I am in a major piss off mood. My allergies have been real bad this spring and I guess the medicine is taking it's toll. It makes me groggy and grumpy sometimes. Plus, it's hotter than 700 hells and muggy. I have retreated down to my cave earlier today to glare out at any unsuspecting passerby's (mostly Chigger) and throw some clay around. At least having a basement studio means it's cool in the summer.
When I came up for lunch I saw quite a lot of critters out enjoying the heat of the day however. The little anole (I think) was not even making an attempt to camouflage himself. He was as bright a green as I've ever seen one.

This is one of the larger dragonfly species around here. They have a wingspan of 5 to 6 inches easy. I don't see a lot of these but every once in awhile one will come around. They are not as friendly as some of the others and won't stand for much picture taking. One reason it's blurry; he wouldn't let me get too close.

I meant to show ya'll this the other day but kept forgetting. I had gone for a walkabout a couple of days after that bad storm and tornado to clean up some of the debris that had been scattered across my land. I showed ya'll some of that. Well, I went up the ridge behind the house and was scouring over the wooded areas. A lot of people had been finding personal items, photos etc. and if there was anything like that on my land I wanted to find it so it could be returned possibly to the owners. I didn't find anything besides house parts though. Anyway. I stopped on a deer trail to rest and set my basket down, blah, blah and just about walked over this. When I picked the basket up I saw these antlers underneath. I couldn't believe it. The whole time I've lived here I have looked for shed antlers and never found any. The one day I was looking for other stuff and stumbled right on these. And what a beautiful set! That's about the way it goes though, with everything in life. Stop looking and you'll find it!
I also found several large huckleberry bushes that were loaded with fruit. I tried to flag them so maybe I can go back later when the berries are ripe and get some before the critters.


Okay, now I'm going to tell ya'll how stupid I am sometimes. I cooked spaghetti last night using the baked spaghetti squash because I've been meaning to see if it would be a suitable substitute for pasta. Jack doesn't eat much pasta because he adheres to a great degree to the Zone diet. And considering his fitness level and build, I can't complain, so I try to accommodate his diet when I can. Now, all the time I was thinking about this squash I thought, if it's good I'll order some seed and grow some. It wasn't until I was picking the seeds out of the squash before baking it that I realized why I'm stupid sometimes.
*heeehhhhh* I'm going to blame it on the allergies.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dragon Days

One of my readers had asked if I could put up a panoramic view of my place so that ya'll could see the location of all these things I write about. I tried and tried to photograph the place from one or even two different locations that would give a good view of everything and have determined that it's about impossible. This shot was the best I could come up with and I've put it up many times before. At any rate, you can see the location of the garden in relation to the house and all. And to any new readers, if the house looks odd, like it's not finished, well, it's not. Ha! It's a long way off in some respects actually. There is a whole 'nuther half that should be on there. The house will eventually be a true Southern dogtrot, but that's another post.
If you look to the very far right you can see just the edge of the chicken coop. It shares a fence with the garden. This is to save material and allow the chickens into the garden at times.
Now, out of the frame and to the far left is where my metal shop and tractor shed will go. It will be hid from the house by woods. My land continues on down the valley in this direction until you come to a subdivision. If you keep walking through the woods to the right, past the chicken coop, you pass the pump house and eventually come to the spring where I get my water. Behind me, the driveway runs alongside a bubbly, clear creek as it makes it's way to the main road.

Many people have commented on the wonderful spirit that resides in this valley and it does have a very serene but lively feeling. There is something very comforting about this place to most people. I placed the house mainly by intuition, as the land was so overgrown you couldn't really see much, but it seems my intuition was correct. The following quote explains what I mean:

The ancient Chinese practice of Feng Shui has defined where to locate buildings in order to create a secure sense of place. They call this location the ‘belly of the dragon’. In an ideal world, this place is midway up the north slope of a hill overlooking water at the bottom of a valley. Here you have access to the sun. You are high enough to avoid flooding and pooling cool air and low enough to avoid the winds that blow over the top of the hill. You have a view for protection against invasion and yet reasonable access to water.

Locating a place in ‘the belly of the dragon’ will naturally attract people and give them a sense of security. Protection from the wind; exposure to the sun; a place to sit and get a view; and proximity to water appeal to us on a primordial level. It creates a space where events can take place - where life can take place. Buildings designed with this in mind offer their inhabitants an intangible quality that adds to their comfort.

The house is not completely midway up the foothill but it is elevated enough to fit the description I believe. I hope to clear a little bit more land in front of the house in order to make the creek a bit more accessible also.
Now, many people would scoff at such a philosophy and I have had some people come here that were very uncomfortable. In fact, some almost refuse to come back. And no, I didn't throw rocks at them or anything. Might have crossed my mind....However, those people are ones that I believe have willingly sacrificed their connection to the earth and live life mainly for the material gain. That philosophy does not fly here. I would not be so silly as to think that this location protects me from all storms though. However, the vast majority of bad weather approaches from over the foothill behind me, so it does offer some break from the strong winds.

The land is also inundated with wonderful beneficial creatures such as the dragonflies I have named the valley after. Or snake doctors as the old people here used to call them. They are great. I love to watch them darting around, scooping up all the nasty bugs. Sometimes they will let me pick them up and get a closer look. They turn their big eyes towards me and nod. I try to encourage them with decorative likenesses. It seems to work. I have counted about 6 different types of dragonflies I think.
The plants here are also special. I find new flowers ever year and many medicinal types. I have also found about 5 or 6 different types of ferns. It seems that every type of my favorite creature or plants grow here. Many times I have thought that I wished this or that grew here only to find it's wild version the next spring. Often right outside my door. I often get a good look at the hawks and barred owls that live along the creek. I saw the owl just the other day on my morning walk and kicked myself for not having my camera. He sat up on a limb and we just stared at each other for a while. I waved to him and he cocked his head to the side as if to say, why would you do that?.

So, this is my land. I will try to get some more photos soon.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Old Homestead

I tell you, I just don't mean for this much time to go by between posts but I guess I've just been scatterbrained and unorganized lately. And very busy trying to get another large batch of pottery produced and out the door. Anyway, I'm going to try to be a little more consistent with my posting. I also keep forgetting that can write the posts anytime and schedule them to post later. DUH!! I wonder sometimes how I walk around talk at the same time. I have lots of projects going on that I want to show ya'll, so I have plenty to blog about.
At any rate, yesterday Jack and I went up to Mama's for Mother's Day and spent lots of time with her. We were the only ones that showed up but we spent the time doing some chores for her around the house and I cooked too and we had a nice lunch. This photo is taken in her back yard looking towards my grandmother's old house. Jack actually owns the property on this other side of my grandma's old place. Mama met him first see, and got him to go meet me. She tries to be slick sometimes! I guess it worked that time.
I love the enormous, ancient old oak trees between my Mom's place and Granny's. They have always been this big it seems. They have seen many a family reunion, back when we had family alive. Many games of badminton, horseshoes and lots of homemade ice cream.

DeeDee, Mama's ol' cat, found her a good spot to nap on one of the lower limbs. I used to sit in this same spot when I was a kid. In fact, I had a pretty rockin' tree house in this oak.

This is not a real good photo due to the position of the sun but you can see the cattle maybe. This is the pasture across the road from Mama and where the beef was raised that we recently bought. It's a mostly quite country road; pretty secure and comfortable. I wish Mama would move closer to me but she wants to stay here.
So, we had a good visit and Jack got some stuff done over on his land. We continue to work on the chicken coop and hopefully....we will have actual chickens in about a week!! I think we are going to try to just buy 2 or 3 laying hens, already mature and then order or buy little biddies or eggs to hatch for the rest. Jack is very excited about the chickens since he has never been around farm animals. It should be as much fun to watch him as the chickens.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Stormy Blues

This is a Monday I believe, that calls for Billie Holiday. I haven't felt too enthused about posting pictures of my stuff lately, what with all the destruction in so much of the state. It's kinda like, "yeah, your house got blown away but look at my cool chicken house!" Meh. But I know most of ya'll don't live anywhere near here so I thought I put up a few anyway. I can't do much but just continue to work on my stuff anyway. Things are pretty tight with me right now, financially. Trying to get this pottery stuff going and having expenses in that department along with the rest of life leaves me with virtually nothing to donate to the clean-up efforts. Heck, I can't even afford gas to go anywhere to help manually. I have called or emailed about everybody I know that might have been affected and offered assistance anyway. You know, even washing clothes for somebody that doesn't have power would help them some.

And now, I find out a few minutes ago that a lady who worked for my former company many, many years was killed in the storm along with her husband. She was a very sweet person and even though I wasn't around her a lot due to working in the field, she was always kind to me and willing to take some time to chat on the occasion that I came into the office.

So, not to be morose, but I'm a little sad. I am pleased with the progress of the chicken house though. Jack wasn't real sure about my idea to reuse deck boards for wall siding but I knew it would look cool and save us a little on lumber. We have bought a good bit of new but I have been trying to use every scrap of reclaimed lumber I can. The tool shed connects to the chicken house also, so letting them share a wall helps save lumber too, rather than have 2 free standing buildings. I'll come back and show ya'll some details on the actual framing.

The garden continues to do well and the strawberry harvest is gradually improving. I pick more and more every day. Some of the berries are small but the taste is about a thousand times better than store bought. I just enjoyed a small bowl of them with fresh vanilla yogurt. So, I'll be back with some better posts soon, hopefully.