Sunday, March 31, 2013

New Day

All my daffodils have actually faded away at this point but nothing as showy has taken their place so these are going to be my default Easter flowers.  So, Happy Easter! to those of you who celebrate it and I hope my Jewish friends had an enjoyable Passover and all.  We've had a wonderfully sunny and warm week but today is gloomy and rainy again, darn it.  I truly hate to complain about getting rain but I think most of us in this area of the world are still operating on a sunshine "deficit"!  Such a miserable winter we had; I think it's going to take many, many sunny, warm days to get everybody caught up.

Today's post isn't about much of anything, as many of my posts have fallen into the habit of lately.  Really, I just wanted to welcome a couple of new followers and to thank all of you that continue to read and comment here.  Don't anybody let the number of followers there fool ya though.  Half the people listed there never read anymore.  And yes, yes, I know all the 'just write for yourself' adages and all, and I do....write for myself that is, but I still enjoy the interaction with folks and comments.  I think one reason I have blogged for so long is the blogs being such a great avenue to talk to people from so many different places and see how other people live and think.  I really love to hear how things are for you in your part of the world and learn about people that live in a different environment than me.  I know my writing style may suggest that I am just presenting info for you and don't want feedback but that's not true by any means.  So, thank you for hanging in with me.  I know this blog is not as interesting since I retired from construction and got married, my falling statistics tell me that, but I have been wanting to kinda revamp things here anyway and I am considering some new stuff.  Nothing drastic, just maybe adding some pages with new info and stuff and maybe a new weekly listing such as the ol' Friday Food or Wordless Wednesday thing.  Anybody have any suggestions there??

And as I've mentioned a little before, the gloom, sickness and sadness of this winter has really done a number on me these past few months and I have struggled to maintain an optimistic and cheerful attitude at times.  But ya'll know that I've always had a little bit of an issue with that anyway.  I have made some progress on feeling better lately though, probably through no small coincidence of more sunny days, and plan on writing a little about that.  Some of you maybe feeling the same way and my experiences and solutions  might help a little.
So, I hope everybody is hanging in there and enjoying some better weather lately.  Hopefully Spring will be upon us all very quickly and we will all be soaking up the light and warmth of the sun and good times in no time!!  Happy Easter or just Happy Sunday!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Doggone It!

Even though I don't write about it very often I think most of you that have read my blog for very long know pretty much how I feel about pets and livestock versus this "furkid" mentality.  I love all my animals, even my chickens, but they all have their duties here and that's the way it has to be.  We don't have the money or time to have slackers around here; everybody works in some way.  And, because I love all my animals, even my chickens, and the fact that they work and produce for me, I am very determined to give them the best life I can under the safest conditions.  Which leads me to the real subject of this post.  I have known for some time that many people do not share my attitude towards animals, preferring to look at them as 4-legged children, and this is something I have learned can turn into a very dangerous situation for all involved.  A lot of people have apparently lost all common sense also, when it comes to animals, so I felt it necessary to post a bit of explanation or cautionary tale to those not familiar with farm or country life.  Of course, I know full well that all of MY kind readers already understand all this and would never do such a's just so you can warn your friends about it.

The basic premise it this:  Do NOT, under any circumstances, bring your pets (of any species) out to someone's farm or land unless you have specifically been told it is okay.  Apparently many people believe that if a friend or acquaintance has a large tract of land that it is a free call to bring Rover out for a "play date".  We don't do play dates.  It astounds me to no end that there are people in this world who would not understand this but I have had people actually show up at my house with a car load of dogs, pet birds and other creatures.  Do not do this.  EVER.  I can assure you, just as nobody can stand a little brat kid, no one is going to think your little Spot or Snookums is anywhere as cute, smart or funny as you do and if it gets loose (or God forbid you turn it loose) on my property and it chases one of my animals, you will not be happy with the results.  My chickens provide me with food, fertilizer and companionship.  They are very valuable to me.  If your dog kills or maims one of them you have taken money from my hand.  It is not cute or funny (as I have actually heard it described by one pet owner) to see my chickens terrorized by some @#$$%#^&%& stupid dog and their owner that can't control them.  If your dog gets loose, and I catch it in the act of killing any of my animals, I WILL stop it by any means necessary. 
Secondly, my dog has a job too.  I know if you meet Chigger she is all playful and cute but she is trained to protect the other animals and she does her best.  She understands to alert us of strange animals on the property and she has been specifically trained NOT to play with other dogs so she does not see strays or neighbor dogs as "friends".  She does not need a play date either.  She has her cat to play with and we play catch and frisbee and various things with her and that's enough.  Even if you do not let your pets out of your vehicle she knows they are there and is going to be very upset.  I do not like this and she does not like it either.  Speaking of Callie Cat, who is our resident mouser and vole catcher, Chigger protects her too, just like the chickens.  If your dog tries to chase my cat, like many dogs are prone too, Chigger is not going to like this and I can just about bet you the situation is not going to end well for somebody.  It better not be me or my animals.
Your pets can also bring disease to my animals, especially bird to bird, or your animal could contract something from mine.  It's best to not even give this an opportunity to start.  If a virus is brought in that runs through my flock and kills them, you just cost me a WHOLE lot of money and heartache. 

Now, I know this is a very stern and maybe even acrimonious post but I would bet money that most all homesteaders and country folk would agree with me and ya'll know that I'm not one to really mince words anyway.  Also, from what I see around me, many people nowadays are so far removed from country life and dynamics of having livestock, poultry etc. that they can't even comprehend that their pets may not be welcome at everyone's house.  To people like this it would literally be like telling them not to bring their kids.  Well, I'm not too keen on those little ankle biters either, but I guess most of them can be tolerated to some extent. As long as they leave my animals alone.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Family Trees

Things are basically back to normal here, although we are going through yet another bad thunderstorm as I type this, so I thought I'd show ya'll a few photos of the damage from my Mom's house.  We really didn't have many trees down in our area but downed trees took out large swaths of power to the north and west of us.  My Mom's area was much harder hit although they actually had their power restored a day earlier than us.  As you can see from the photo above this very, very large oak tree just barely missed Mama's house.  I hate to say but, I secretly wished it had taken out that awful screened-in porch so I could build her a new one and let the insurance pick up the tab.  As it is I don't believe enough damage was done to warrant anything like that.  At any rate, it was heartbreaking to me to see that this old tree had gone down.  We estimate it was easily 100 years old and was a constant source of play for us when we were kids.  We had an ol' rope swing on it that we literally wore out until the rope just disintegrated.  It shaded many a family picnic, badminton game and countless hours of play for countless kids, family or not.

This is just a slightly closer view and no, that is not an actual grave by the root ball.  Well, there's a cat buried there but not a human grave.  My Mom is a little eccentric maybe and when she found this headstone of some of her kin discarded, after a new stone had been purchased for a double plot, she deemed to rescue it from the trash pile.  Since it was marble and recorded his military service she had the cemetery workers load it in her car and then coerced one of us to erect this thing in the yard.  It gets a lot of second glances and comments at any rate.

Mama spent months, literally, searching for just the right concrete bench she wanted to go under the old tree.  I personally thought she should have turned the old headstone into a bench but she didn't cotton to my idea.  So, it's mashed to pieces now.  That one end support is okay but I couldn't see the other one.  It's probably rammed about 2 feet down into the ground.

The family consensus is to try to find someone with the proper equipment, who would be willing also, to mill this trunk into slabs suitable for making tables.  The trunk is so large it would take a small crane to move it if it had to be transported, but I was hoping to find someone with portable equipment that could come to us.  I don't know if that is even possible but I'm going to check.  I hate that it had to die but I would love to commemorate the tree with a new dining room table; just to keep a part of it around as long as I could..

This is a large cedar in her front yard that also succumbed to the storm.  It was a double trunk and the other half is still standing but we'll take all of it down now.  We also wanted to save the trunks of both for some possible building project.  Cedar that large is just too nice to discard or burn.
My sister actually planted this tree about 40 years ago.  She was pretty small but dug up a teeny cedar sprout and transplanted it here, declaring as she did that "it was going to grow!"  And it did.  Quite well actually and provided a very safe and secretive home for baby birds of various species.  The birds continue to flit all around and in it even now, chirping their distress at the death of their old friend.

So, we have much work to do at Mama's now to get things back in order and cleaned up.  Need to put her in a new sidewalk too, as you can see form the photo.  Seems like it never ends but at least we are all safe tonight and unharmed.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hopeless Wanderer

No, I'm not headed back out on the road or anything; I've just been thinking a lot lately about my wandering and traveling days.  See, I've been a bit surprised that this past year of working at home and doing as I please hasn't been a little more satisfying at times.  Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy it immensely.  I love to be here and work on my art and pottery and dig in the garden when I get the urge.  But sometimes I find myself walking down to the end of the driveway and aimlessly peering into the horizon.

I love my why did I want to leave?  I pondered on this for a while and then it just kinda hit me one day, "you're just an ol' gypsy Annie".  One of those souls that just likes to Go.  I don't know why I didn't understand this earlier.  I mean, I knew I liked to travel and such but I guess not to the extent that is now evident.  After thinking more about it I should have seen that 20 years in a business that required almost constant travel should have told me something.  I guess I didn't stay in that industry just because I like to pour concrete!  We often worked on jobs for years that were basically "in town" but the job itself was always something new.  A different project every day or sometimes you would get loaned out to another job for a day, week or month.  Always a change of scenery.  If you didn't like the project you were on then just wait until tomorrow, you'd probably be doing something different or at least moving to another section of the building.  Without that constant change and stimulus I find myself getting bored and gazing down the drive. We did travel to other states too.  I worked almost a year in North Carolina.  Had I not been married to my first husband I would have really enjoyed that!  I've worked in Tennessee too and literally all over Alabama.  I could have gone even more, even to Jamaica, but they didn't often want to pay for a single carpenter to stay in a room by themselves.  (You normally had to have a roomie).  The guys were my family and missing them is part of my desire to go also.  We're so spread out now the only way to keep in touch is on Facebook.

 I limit myself to just day trips unless I get the rare opportunity like the time I worked a weekend for Daddy Rabbit in south Alabama.  Considering my family and upbringing, I often find my wanderlust a curiosity.  I think the majority of my kin are homebodies.  Perhaps I take after my departed Uncle Howard.  He was in the Army (Bronze Star from WWII), an oil field worker in Oklahoma, a wanderer and finally settled in Oregon but was always prone to road trips if it was some where he had never been before.  As a child I envied his lifestyle so much when he would come to visit us about once a year.  See, we never got to go anywhere when I was growing up.  Maybe that still spurs me on today.  My father was basically a farmer, in his heart if nothing else, and home was where he would be unless forced to go out.  Plus, we just didn't have much money so that dictates a lot.  My father had been in the Army also (Korea) and went to places I can only dream of now but his stories always ended with distaste for where he was and longing to come home.  Standing in front of the Louvre and wishing you were at home???  How can that be??  And no, my father never actually set foot in Korea or any other Asian country.  They kept his company in France or Holland the whole time eating cheese and chasing women. 
So, I grew up gazing down the road, waiting for that day when I'd be seeing that driveway in my rear view mirror and when it came I didn't look back.  Haven't ever since. 

But, now I must make a living at home.  I thought about opening a public studio back up that that really is confining.  You always have to be there to be open for the public.  I thought about going back to doing the art/ craft show circuit, and I may one day, but for now I must finish the house.  I'd never have time to do that if I went back to doing shows.  Just way too much prep time involved.
So, I'm adjusting some I guess.    I may start taking some classes at the local gym a few times a week and/ or enroll in the Master Gardeners course offered by our county extension office.
I suppose wanting to be a semi-homesteader with my personality is about the stupidest thing somebody could come up with but I never claimed to be smart or reasonable.  I'm just me and I work it out as I go!

Monday, March 11, 2013

All My Rowdy Friends

I've had a few people ask me lately about the types of chickens I keep and what they are like so I thought I'd do a little synopsis of my current flock and which ones I like the best.  Well, I like them all and their crazy personalities so I guess I should say, which ones are the best utilitarian chickens.

The ones I've had the longest are my Barred Rocks, not to be confused with Dominiques (or Domineckers as they are called here in the South), which have a rose comb.  Several breeds look a lot like the Barred Rocks but they (Barred) have the large, single comb and large wattles.  The Barred Rocks are excellent layers of big brown eggs.  Bertha, in the picture, is around 5 years old but she still lays; not nearly like the young hens but she plugs along still.  They are not particularly excitable hens but do like to announce loudly when they do lay.  Other than, that they are fairly quiet and laid back but not overly friendly.  They are very hardy, rarely have health problems and seem very cautious about predators.  Their coloration is always very consistent and they basically all look quite similar in that regard.

This is the Speckled Sussex that usually gets everybody's attention and they are very pretty birds.  If you enlarge the photo you might can see the blue spots mixed in with all the white.  Their coloration can vary quite a bit from few white spots to almost covered in white.  Generally they all have the medium single comb but size varies on those too and they mostly all have a very large upright tail, making something of a U shape from the side.  I don't know that "friendly" is the right word for this breed; maybe "demanding" is better.  They are very vocal, all the time when around people, and become spoiled very easily.  If they want treats you will hear about it loudly and often.  Zuzu, pictured above, follows me everywhere, especially if I am planting or doing gardening work because she knows I will be digging and that means bugs and worms.  They lay good albeit slightly smaller, tinted eggs and they seem somewhat more delicate with their health.  They also seem to attract predator attention due to their colorful attire.  I love my Speckles but I suspect they might be better suited to a suburban, kinda pampered environment.

Now, these are just about on the other end of the spectrum.  These are the Single Comb Brown Leghorns.  They are an excellent free-range type bird because they are naturally scared of everything and extremely fast.  They lay very, very well also.  They were the first to start laying and almost every day we get 2 large white eggs (from 2 birds).  They are NOT friendly and get upset easily.  But they lay well and are very pretty.

This is probably one of my favorite breeds, the New Hampshire, which is often mistaken for a Rhode Island Red.  The Hamps have a large, single comb like a RIR but have a distinct, fan-like black tail.  Their main coloration is a reddish brown but can vary from very dark to almost strawberry blonde and they all have black markings around their neck.  They lay large brown eggs very consistently.  I like them because they are so personable.  The Hamps I have regularly come into my studio to visit (and look for treats) and one in particular loves to sit in my lap if I will pet her.  They enjoy being around people and will talk your head off (like Missy in the photo), so, they can be a little noisy at times but not annoying.  They seem very hardy also and don't mind cold weather.

This is Little Red, our one Rhode Island at the time and she is a very reliable layer of big brown eggs as most RIRs are.  They are a fairly quiet breed also and not overly friendly but don't mind being around people.  The distinct difference in looks from the Hamps is they have black tips on their body feathers and a sorta nondescript, frazzly tail.  They are sweet, hardy birds and some people say they can be more friendly if raised in close contact with people.

This is another of my favorite breeds, the Partridge Rock.  I've never known of anybody that raised these type birds before and just got them on a whim but I love them.  They are great layers of large brown eggs and are fairly quiet and laid back also.  They are very healthy and hardy and their coloration makes it easy for them to hide from predators in the woods and such.  As far as coloration also, there is very little variation and they are all practically identical to one another.  The only way I can tell mine apart is by their comb, which is a single but fairly small.  The thing I like about them, besides their laying etc, is they have a very funny, quirky personality.  They enjoy being around people and are friendly but they don't want you to actually touch them.  If you do pet them they will usually just stand there and scold you but they won't really run away.  Cracks me up.  They are also a little bossy with the other hens but not mean.

A few other breeds that I like but don't have at the moment are Delawares, Red Stars and Buff Orpingtons.
So, there's my 2 cents worth on chicken breeds in case anybody is looking to get chickens for the first time or add to their existing flock.  Of course, there are many, many types to choose from but these are a few of the more common (or just slightly uncommon) breeds that aren't too hard to acquire.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Waiting To Spring

A friend of mine said the other day that, even though February is the shortest month, it just seemed to be dragging on and on and on this year, and I had to agree.  I think a lot of people have felt that way.  Not sure what it is exactly but March took it's time about getting here it seems and still managed to haul the cold and gloominess of winter along with it.  We woke up to a light dusting of snow this morning but it has at least, turned into a beautiful sunny day and might even warm up a little more than what they are predicting.  Snow in March is not particularly unusual for the deep south, actually.  If I can find my old photos I'll show ya'll some good spring snows we have had in the past.
At any rate, I have been trying to prepare the garden for spring, in between trying to get caught up on my pottery.  I am making a little progress on both fronts.  A local store got some rhubarb roots in so I bought a pack of 3 to get a very early start with them.  So far it seems they are loving this cool, rainy weather we are having.  I know they won't make it through the summer but I thought if I planted them early enough I might could harvest enough to make it worthwhile.  One pack of roots was less than a package of stalks for cooking at the grocery store, so I figured what the heck?  I put one root in a pot and will transfer it to a very shaded area after it gets warmer, just as an experiment to see how long I can get it to last.

Most of the garden has pooped out or been harvested and we are waiting on a dry spell to till things up and get the potatoes in.  I hate to mention all the rain we have been getting because I know so many of you all are in drought.  If I could send some your way I certainly would!

I have a surplus of pine straw in the yard right now so I have been raking it up and remulching all the stuff that like an acidic environment, like the blueberries and strawberries.  I have pruned most of the raspberries but still need to remulch them and start getting them lines up on their fence.  I also need to refresh that stone path in the garden!

The blueberries are loaded with buds and ready to pop!  Hopefully this will be a good year for fruit.

I know this is a horrible photo but I was just trying to show some of the broccoli and onions I have started for spring.  This photo is about 2 weeks old so they are a bit bigger now and I also have a flat of new cabbage plants started.  This is my first time to try onions from seeds so I don't know how well that is going to go.  I'll probably order some starts shortly just to make sure something makes it!

Just more gratuitous daffodil shots.  I was afraid the snow and 20 degrees temps would kill the flowers back but they seemed okay this morning. 

I add to them each fall and would like to just have blankets of daffodils all over the front lawn.  I like all the colors and varieties.

The chickens have been getting lots of cabbage and broccoli stalks after I harvest what I want.  You can see many of the plant skeletons laying around there.  They are pretty thorough in their scavenging and eventually pick the stalks down to nothing.
I've also got a crop of new lettuce and carrots planted in the cold frame and am just waiting on that to come up.  I am very slowly getting over the bronchitis and catching up on pottery and getting a jump on some spring cleaning but this winter has left me with some severe wanderlust and cabin fever.  The sadness of this past winter still clings and leaves me with a chill that even the sunniest day or warmest fire has trouble dispelling.