Friday, February 27, 2009

Hit By a Farm

After my post about butchering our pig, I realized I still was struggling with the issue surrounding the fine line between a pig and pork. When I find myself in a quandary, I head to the library, knowing that there will be a book that will help.

This book really helped me to answer the dilemma I was struggling with. So much so that I sent her a thanks via a blog comment. Yes, she blogs!

To start off, she is a carnivore. She gives background info on how she came to want to make better decisions about buying meat.

It's that mindfulness that I went through that caused me to switch from factory meat to local, farm produced meat. No Farm, No Food. However, I will choose local farm over factory any day.

The book provides good definitions between factory farms, conventional farms, organic farms and sustainable farms. She then goes on to point out why we need to know the difference. I felt she did a great job of going in depth on each one without boring the reader or providing so many stats that you never finish the book. She is witty, engaging and real.

I give it a 10 and it's on the buy-it list for my personal library.

I had read her earlier book, Hit by a Farm, and loved it, too. It's a novel that follows her family's entry into farming. Hilarious and touching but it also shows the hard reality of leaving a 9 to 5 job and becoming a 24/7 farmer. She shares so many funny animal stories in a way that you get a sense of exactly what it was look, good, bad and ugly. I read it non-stop and laughed, teared up and got mad right along with her. I wondered how they had come to terms with the farm and each other. The Compassionate Carnivore does wrap up some loose ends I felt were there. I was very happy to know they are still farming and still together.
I'm grateful for TCC and it's message. It's given me a lot to think about and I think I'm much better able to handle the future butcherings. Her writing style is what I liked the most. I tend to read mostly non-fiction because fiction can be so... elementary/juvenile sounding, in my opinion. I love it when a book increasing my vocabulary - she did with the word ganglia.
No matter if you're wanting to read more about being a mindful carnivore or if you'd like a humorous look at farming, both books are awesome!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Can't pick your neighbors

When we moved into this area several years ago, we noticed that the house to the east was nice, but junk everywhere in the backyard, including a lot of parked cars/lawn mowers/campers. Now, I'm not one to judge another's yard or lifestyle and hey, maybe they are into the three R's. (that'd be reduce, REUSE, recycle).

For the last 3+ years, we've done our best to be neighborly. We wave, we visit and we do our part to keep the neighborhood up. These neighbors don't wave back and in general, piss a lot of people off. I'm of the "live and let live" mindset, so I don't get my panties too twisted if they drive on the corner of my lawn repeatedly or they have inoperable cars on their driveway. As the HOA President, I field these type of complaints about them weekly, again, I assure people that life is too short to get high blood pressure over the bad apple of the neighborhood.

All of my laid back niceness has now been chucked out the window.

Their dog, a black lab, is an escape artist. She jumps the fence, walks thru open gates & sections of fence that were taken down. We have taken her back home numerous times. She barks, incessantly at nothing. I, too, have labs. They only bark if someone approaches our fence or if they see a dog on the road (lots of dog walkers here.)

I've put up with the escaping. Even have put her in our yard several times until they got home (didn't even get so much as a 'thanks for helping us out'). I've put up with the barking, even though it's outside my bedroom window day and night.

I love labradors. It's my favorite breed. A breed I understand and can deal with. The dog is bored. She isn't worked with. She isn't handled. She is smart and neglected.

Last Monday night, when she dug under the dividing fence and killed 3 of my free range chickens before we could stop her, that's when I got mad. Enough is enough. I held onto her collar until my husband could go and get the neighbor. All neighbor said was that he'd be out later to fix the fence. He didn't. Never offered to clean up the carnage. Never offered to pay for the replacement hens. No apologies. Nothing. He could hear my daughters and youngest son shrieking hysterically in the house. Never said a word.

A week has passed. Jerry decides to go over and talk to them again about the dog - barking, digging under the fence and the cost of the hens.

Mrs. Neighbor is the one who he spoke to. She is not a nice person. (I'm choosing my words carefully here.)

She said she doesn't like us having chickens (we have 10, totally within the legal limits and we don't have roosters. Hens are quiet, unless they are laying - then they tell the world. Our hen house is at the very back of our property. You have to be in the yard to even hear them as we all have 1 acre lots.) Her point is that people who have chickens are bad, poor and red neck. (Sorry, but when is poor or redneck a problem? Last time I checked, 21% of the world's population lives on less than $1.25 a day - that's poor.)

She said her dog is a lab, and labs attack birds, so too bad for us. I have labs too. 1 was a farm rescue (that caught his own food for months) and even he didn't attack them. The puppies are being trained, so far, so good. Our contention is that had our chickens flown into THEIR yard, yep, it was bound to happen and sucks to be us. But, her dog dug into OUR yard and that's where the problem lies.

She said it's ridiculous for anyone to pay to reimburse for the chickens and that $20 was asinine to pay. Uh, no, these were 6 month old, laying hens that were killed. 2 were leghorns (nearly daily layers) and the other was a Plymouth Rock. What if it had been a $1500 pure bred dog? Or doctor bills for an attacked child? Yeah, you're still responsible. You're the owner and what your animal does, has consequences.

He asked that they do something. There are options. Get rid of the dog. Train the dog. Install an electric fence or an underground fence so she stays away from our yard. Install a privacy fence she can't see thru - right now, it's chain link. Move. (yeah, I voted for that one.) Pay for us to move. (now we're into crazy-talk-territory.) Oh, and do something about the freakin non-stop barking. She said no to everything. Said her husband was sick and when he felt better, he may want to talk to us.

Jerry feels a fight is brewing. We've gotten a lot of advice - that we should've shot the dog (can't legally discharge a firearm inside city limits) and various ways of getting rid of their dog. Uh, NO, I'm an animal lover. It's not the dog's fault that it's doing this out of boredom and lack of interaction from it's owners.

I've reported it to the city - didn't get anywhere. Nobody showed up. Today, dog is indoors, but for how long?

Yesterday, it was nice - temps near 70 degrees. I let the chickens out to free range (what they're used to doing) only I had to stay outside with them the entire time as the dog was barking and digging like mad. Okay, I had some yard work and garden prep to do, but still, I can't be out there all the time. Because we raised them to be free rangers, they are used to it. They hang out in our backyard - it's almost half an acre. Plenty of room to run, scratch and do their chicken thing. Now, they can't free range without supervision. Correction, I don't supervise them, I'm supervising the dog. I tossed it's tennis ball multiple times and I talked to her. I petted her and worked on trying to get her to sit - kind of tough with a fence between us, but I do feel sorry for her. She doesn't deserve a life like that.

I guess there's no point to the post other than I'm frustrated. It's not the only thing going badly right now, but dammit, it's my yard and I ought to be able to enjoy it without fearing the neighbors domesticated "pet".

As a side note - if/when TSHTF, how much ya wanna bet they'll be lining up to buy my eggs?! Sheeple who buy into the "if it's not store bought, it's inferior" are never going to realize the incredible damage they do to themselves with all those store bought chemicals they ingest. I keep reading about how antibiotics are becoming less and less effective while virus are gaining strength. Did you know that 70% of the antibiotics despensed in this country are for animals?! That is shocking! I could go on and on about this as I'm very passionate about being mindful of what we consume and knowing what's in your food stream.

Enough for now. I've gotta go catch a wayward hen and put her back in the chicken run. Sorry sister, no free ranging for now. :(

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why I Love Summer

Doing a quick poll of a few friends revealed that most people like the season they were born in the best. I guess it's no surprise that summer is my favorite season with my birthday in August.

Okay, here's a few more reasons I love summer:

Socks - or lack thereof. Since 6 of us are anti-shoes in the summer the only socks I wash and hang out are Jerry's. During the winter, we fill an entire drying rack with them.

Sunshine and heat.

Going out to the garden to grab dinner fixins.

Eating ice cold watermelon on a hot day.

Braden's birthday on the 4th of July.

Spending entire days outside. Only coming in when we start falling asleep.

Hearing the distant sound of the ice cream truck.

Butterflies and bumble bees.

Birds splashing in the bird feeder.

Eating breakfast on our back patio.

Mowing the yard.

No school drop off and pick ups.

Summer seems a long way off ~ so until then, I'll enjoy spring.
We had our first daffodil on Sunday, spring can't be too far off.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Busy Weekend

I woke up this morning with such a deep sense of peace and I felt really refreshed and grateful. Why? I had a fantastic weekend.

Friday night, we went to Blessed Nation Ranch to pick up our pig. My hubby had helped their family and Phelan's family to butcher their pigs and now it was our turn. Our pig turned out to be bigger than we expected ~ 260 pounds. We didn't know how to load her in the horse trailer (which sits higher than livestock trailers so she had to step up to get in.) It was really hard to get her corralled and into the trailer. She didn't like it at all. Near the end, the pig was so upset, I told Jerry to hold on, give her a minute to calm down. Once she was loaded, she rode just fine up to Phelan's place.

Saturday the boys had a chess tournament. Usually, these are l-o-n-g affairs and it can be very tiring on the parents to hang out all day. I got there midday and was very happy to have several awesome moms to chat with. I don't often get chit chat time with these folks and it was just nice to be able to sit and enjoy each other's company.

Then, we dashed home to put on our layered clothes for the night of butchering. **Note to self: Get warmer clothes and BOOTS before next winter**

Jerry had already gotten there with a load of wood. We got there just as her hubby arrived home from work with a barrel. I don't know if I would've volunteered to help with butchering after I'd worked a full day, but I so appreciate that he did!!

As the barrel hadn't been used before, it needed to be scrubbed and prepped and it took some time. Time well spent. My kids got to help milk a cow. Jerry got to see a farm in action (he grew up on a corn and soybean farm ~ no livestock.) We enjoyed meeting the horse neighbors and borrowing their Ford tractor (yep, I have tractor envy. lol). Oh, and we got to hang out with the new triplets. Have you ever noticed how goats always seem to be smiling? Even the babies smile early on.

Now here's where I'm going to insert my opinion on the subject of butchering.

I was raised by a Vietnam veteran who believed all killing was wrong. He didn't hunt and he didn't fish. He rarely talked about his time in the service, but I can remember the terrible nightmares he suffered from ~ screaming and fighting in his sleep. I remember my parents talking about PTSD and he didn't get help for that but worked thru it on his own. I did ask him why he didn't go hunting - he said that once you look into another man's eyes and then have to shoot or be shot, it changes you. I felt so bad that he had to serve his country and to be put in the position to kill or be killed when he strongly believed that it is wrong. In his mind, he had no other choice and so he did it.

Fast forward to meeting my hubby. Jerry does hunt and fish and he believes that it's okay as long as it feeds your family. He does not belive in hunting for sport. He rarely hunts but when he did, he never got anything, which was a relief to me.

I've been pro-farm for as long as I can remember. I prefer shopping at Farmer's markets and roadside veggie stands. I want to know where my food comes from and how it's been raised. I want to ensure that my family isn't getting hormone laden meat or veggies with salmonella. Then I read Micheal Pollan's books and I tried to became a vegetarian, until 4 days later when the intense beef craving caused me to nearly inhale raw hamburger. lol I'm not quite cut out for a 100% plant based diet.

I put in an order for a pig to be processed at the meat locker in May. I've been saving up because it'll be several hundred dollars. But, when my path crossed with these two ladies, the talk of home butchering seemed a better solution. We could do it ourself and save quite a bit of money. A few weeks ago, I found myself saying, "yes, we'll buy your pig and butcher it ourselves." Jerry helped them in exchange for them helping us. Part of the deal was that I had to help with our pig.

So, standing in Phelan's backyard about midnight, 22 degrees, I find myself completely shaking. Not just from the cold, but from what I'm about to do. The guys had worked quickly to get the pig ready for evisceration - which is when I was to help. Phelan hops to it and I kind of freak out just a little. Once she got past removing the anus (please, visit her blog to read all about it - she is MUCH more technical and has awesome photos) it was my turn to help. I stepped up to the pig and helped to remove some connective tissue and then, following her instructions, stuck my hand inside the pig, feeling for the lungs, trying to pull the organs forward. The first few seconds were okay - I was freezing and it was warm inside that pig - but then, my brain freaked out and I just about lost my lunch. So, I remove my arm, shake my head and say, " I can't do it" and step back. Even now, as I'm typing this, tears are welling up.

I know where this pig came from. I know it was raised well and had a good life. The meat from the pig is going to feed my family for a very long time. It's just that I want meat without having to have an animal die. I know how strange that must sound, but it's how I feel. And, yes, I know that it's not possible.

Okay, so they keep working and I rinse my arm off and put my jacket back on. They make quick work of the rest of the butchering and we go home with 6 huge sections of pork needing to be processed.

Sunday, Jerry decides that we'll do a side first. Ah, yes, bacon! He brings in a large slab of meat and looks at me and asks if I'm okay. Yes, I am. I really am.

I don't know how to explain it but this is the best I can come up with:

I don't like the killing or evisceration, but I'm totally fine with cutting the large slabs into usuable cuts of meat and obviously, I'm fine to eat meat. I don't know if I'll ever figure out how to be at peace with the killing part. How does one overcome a lifetime of deep seated beliefs?

I'm glad I didn't send the pig to the meat locker for processing. I wanted to be there, to be a part of it. It was a time to face my fear and move beyond. And, besides, I've got to get over this because soon, I'll be helping Jerry to process our chickens.

This morning I woke up at peace ~ because I did something that I didn't think I could do and I lived to tell about it. I got to spend 36+ hours with my husband ~ which is huge because we rarely get an hour or two together, and I really like him. He was kind and gentle with me when I was shaking. He even whispered that he was proud of me... I so needed to hear that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lighten the Load ~ Update

I knew that if I joined a challenge, the hardest part would be posting about it. This is an update for the past few weeks. Hopefully, I'll remember to update on Mondays.

Our first recycle pickup was almost 2 weeks ago. We have been hoarding stockpiling several months worth of material. According to the trash company, if your bin is full and you have more stuff, the driver should weigh the bin, empty it and then re-load it with the excess. Well, I happened to be home at the time of pick up. I watched the collector weigh the bin and just toss all the extra into the trash truck without weighing it. Meaning, we didn't get credit for the extra stuff. I was a little annoyed! He must have felt me glaring at him because he turned and grinned when he saw me in the window. Hmph. My husband works for the same company so I asked him later if it was worth pursuing. He said to let it go, so we did. ANYWAY, it was 72.5 pounds of items in that one pick up. So, that's awesome! I did see on the website, they limit you to a maximum point value you can earn in each month. With as much as we've been saving, we may have gone over the limit had he weighed it.

Here's the update:
  • 72.5 pounds into the recycle bin
  • 15 pounds to Goodwill & Paperback Swap dot com
  • 500 units of debt paid off
  • 3 pounds of weight loss for me
  • 350 pounds of stuff sold thru Craigslist (fireplace insert plus fencing)

So, drumroll please: 940.5 units gone!

The next project to tackle is to convert last year's office files from paper to pdf and save to Flash Memory stick. In prior years, I've saved copies to disk, but I'd prefer having 1 stick per year than the 35+ disks. I've been told I need to keep copies of the files for at least 7 years, maybe even 10. That's a LOT of paperwork taking up space in my basement. Every time I go into the storage room, I feel claustrophobic. I think I'll do a box at a time - each box is approx 25 pounds and there's over 15 boxes there, plus more at the office. Yikes!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Please Share Your Wisdom

I am bartering with a super nice lady. She has 3 flower beds to be maintained and in exchange for the weeding and mulching, I get free use of a garden bed, all the fruit and nuts I want from some trees and bushes plus free horse manure. It's an awesome swap! Found it on Craigslist. :)

She has 2 things that I've never taken care of before. Since wise people keep telling me that I can't learn it all thru just reading about it, I thought I'd ask for advice from the 'net.

The two things are: grape vine and blackberry bushes.

The grape vine is growing on a very sturdy fence and has 2 main branches going each direction. Off of each of these main branches are tons of smaller branches plus, one end has grown so long, it's now sticking up out of the top of a nearby apple tree. I'd estimate that it's about 15' past the end of the fencing structure.

Question: How much do I prune back? Can I take the prunings and dip it in root stimulator thereby propogating new grape vines? Does it need any other care?

The blackberry bushes appear to have been whacked accidentally with a weed whacker, causing some damage.

Question: Should those canes be pruned? If yes, what time of year are they pruned? Before fruiting or after?

I wish I had taken photos when I met with her, but it was an incredibly windy day. I will next time I'm out there. Oh, and there are pecan trees. What do you know about them? Thank you!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Seed Starting

I started 12 flats last Thursday. By Sunday, some of them had sprouted. I have broccoli, cabbage, onions and herbs going. A few tomatoes too but I think it's a bit early for them as I tend to wait until May to plant tomatoes and peppers.

What I noticed was a huge difference in the soil-less mixes. On the left is Bacto and on the right is the Miracle Grow Seed starting mix which appears to be just peat moss with vermiculite/perlite in it. Both of these flats are broccoli. As is recommended, I wet the mixes then put it in the flats. I put in seeds and covered with plastic. The Bacto held moisture while the peat moss didn't. I've had to spray the peat moss daily. I've even watered the holding tray hoping that the bottom wicking would help, but I don't see any improvement. It is a little early to tell, but I'm not convinced that the peat moss mix will do anything as it just doesn't retain moisture.

So, I'm going to re-use the peat moss and mix up a batch of Paul's recipe. This peat moss mix was something I had left over from last fall. It was a small bag that has a price of $6 on it. However, the large bags of peat moss are just $9 ~ that's about 3 cubic feet! Yowza! I'm glad I only bought that one small bag.

I found the Bacto at Valley Feed & Seed. They swear it's the best. The 50 pound bag filled 8 trays and I've got enough left to do at least 5 more.

For the basil and onions, I just sowed a tray with seeds. I'll transplant them into bigger pots later.
I've got these all on a 6' table in a south facing window. It's been pretty good so far, but I will either hang lights over them (to keep them from getting too leggy) or move them out to the cold frame when they're bigger. Since it's mostly cold weather stuff, I think it'll do okay outside.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Chris over at One Acre Homestead posted this new questionnaire. Visit his blog, leave a comment and play along on your blog.

Basic Questions About You
1-What is the biggest goal of your lifestyle? To be self sufficient

2-When did you start this lifestyle? Summer of '08

3-What was your main motivation? Michael Pollan's books and my need to do things myself.

4-Did you have any previous experience in anything you're doing now? I've grown a garden every year for about 18 years now. I was an avid Girl Scout earning nearly every badge they had.

5-Does your spouse/significant other (if you have one) share the same ideas? He could live in the woods by himself just fine. He isn't as far along in the need to prep as me, but he is much better at being a survivalist than me. He has an iron stomach whereas I wouldn't eat a bug unless I was starving. Also, I haven't been able to get involved in the butchering chores but I'm working up to it.

6-Do your friends and family understand and support these choices? What about your kids? Friends and family don't understand ~ they're asleep in my opinion. Kids, yes they do. All 5 of our kids wish we lived out in the country on a farm so we could keep more livestock.

7-How happy are you with your achievements so far? Absolutely! I have realized that I didn't can nearly enough food so I adjusted my garden plans to accommodate more production. Best choice that I've made so far: getting chickens. EASY and man, those eggs are delicious.

8-Are you more of a gardener, homesteader, prepper, health conscience, "green"' or a combination of several? I think I was a gardener first, moved to homesteader and am now a beginning prepper. I would say I try to make green choices (especially when it comes to utilities) but prepping is far more important to me right now.

9-Has this change of lifestyle affected your personality? We went to the grocery store today to grab some potatoes as our stockpile is gone. I realized that we have been shopping just the produce section. We make our own bread, buy milk fresh from a cow (thanks Phelan), have bought meat from local farmers, make all our own cleaners including laundry and dish soap. It's freed up money that we can put to paying off debt.

10-Has it changed your view of your life before? Well, I've always considered myself frugal, but now I'm hyper frugal.

11-What about how you view others that don't understand it or naysay? You can't convince people to see things your way when they're spenders. They'll come to the conclusion eventually. I have friends who are losing their home, but their car's payment gets paid every month. Hardly any food in the house, no garden plans but they eat out a lot. I don't get it, but to each his own.

12-If you could convince someone to live the way you do in ONE sentence, what would you say? That's a tough one.... Prep for a rainy day because the rain is on the way!

Other Questions-
1-How large is your vegetable garden? I actually have 4 gardens. One at my house which is 25' x 50'. I have 3 other gardens tucked in friend's yards since they don't garden. Total: I have over 1 acre in gardens.

2-Do you grow any fruits, and what and how many? Trees: apple, pear, plum. Bushes: raspberry, boysenberry. Plus strawberries, grapes and rhubarb.

3-Do you have any animals and what are they? (other than pets) 10 Egg laying hens and 25 meat chickens.

4-Do you can/dehydrate/freeze/store your own produce? Yes I do all of those. This summer will be our first summer to have an outdoor canning kitchen.

5-Do you work with mainly power tools or hand tools in your gardens and others? (wood cutting, splitting, tiller vs. broadfork etc...) My husband has chainsaws that makes getting free wood easy. We use hand tools in the garden at home but did use a tiller to prep the new gardens at the other locations.

6-Do you compost? YES! We have rabbits and chickens which give great compost.

7-Do you recycle? Yes

8-Do you consider yourself energy conscience? (conserving to save $) Absolutely

9-Do you make any of your own household cleaners? Yes

10-Do you make your own bread? Yes

11- If in an emergency situation, are you able to not leave home for a week? How about a month? A year?? We easily can do it for a week and once we get the hand pump for our well water, we could do it for a month and even a year. We have a few other items to get done with on the prep list to ensure the one year plan but we'll have them within the month.

12-Are you tired of answering questions yet? Ha ha, um, yes. But this quiz is better than other ones I've done before. I'll really be interested to read other peoples answers too.

13-If you prep, what do you consider to be your most useful tool/items Water bath canner and pressure canner. Husband says his gun and a good knife (or two).

14-Are you able to heat your home without gas or fuel oil? Yes!

15-Are you able to cook without gas or electricity? Yes, inside and outside of the house.

16-Again, if in an emergency situation, could you live in the wild or out of a tent? ( camping,hunt/fish, cook,etc.) Only if husband was there. He is a necessity in my prep plan. LOL

17-Have you ever practiced your prep skills? (turning off main power for a day or 2) How did you do? (this can include a power outage due to weather as a test) We lost power a few years ago during an ice storm. That was the first challenge but we sailed right thru it for 5 days. Boredom and cabin fever set in though.

18-Do you have the knowledge & skills (plus tools) to hunt and fish for food? Yes, but fishing would be tough as we live in the middle of prairie land.

19-If you don't prep, why not? I think Depression era folks called this saving for a rainy day or "you'll never know when you might need it" mentality. Everybody should prep!

20-Do you or can you sew your own clothes and make your own bedding? Yes I can although hubby is a better hand sewer than I am.

21-Can you field dress a deer, drink a coffee, smoke a cigarette, make a cell phone call, light a fire, AND answer all of my annoying questions at the same time? No on the deer, coffee and cig. I don't drink coffee or smoke and um, see the first #9. But, yes on a cell phone and light a fire using flint (skill hubby taught me) and yep, I can answer questions all day long. :)

lol thanks for playing!

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's Spring Feeber I tell Ya

Kids have the cutest ways of saying things.

Yesterday, the afternoon high hit around 60. Okay, YIPPEEEEEE. When I picked the kids up after school, they started saying how HOT they were and they were THIRSTY. Oh puhleaze!! I casually mentioned that I wasn't hot or thirsty but that the fine weather gave me spring fever. The kids busted out with Mom has spring feeber. (Are we the only family that breaks out into made up sing-songs?)

This morning, all Emma could say was "mom, you got a feeber?" Over and over again. LOL Yes, I do have feeber... warm weather in Feb does that to me. In honor of my feeber, I hung the first load of wash out on the line today. I planted peas. I started more plants from seed (up to 450 now). Pots of lettuce and spinach I was growing in the house got moved to the cold frame (where it's nice and toasty inside.) I washed the patio table off so we can have dinner outside tonight. And, I shut off the furnace. Let me see what else I can come up with before we plunge back into winter.

Emma has been wanting to gather eggs. I put a lawn chair out for her to climb up and get to work. She will probably insist she is the new egg gatherer. There's always competition from everyone to see who can get to the coop first after school and retrieve the eggs. Funny, but when we cleaned the coop out, no one was running to help.

Speaking of coop clean outs, I snagged 10 bags of leaves off Craigslist. I'm experimenting with leaves as bedding in the coop. The hay just mats down really badly, forms a carpet like density which leaves all the dropping on top of it. I wanted something a little more compost ready than that. We'll see how the leaves do.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cold Frame Built

Ignore the bits of lunch clinging to her sweet face.
She was too busy to wash up ~ she wanted to get out into the snow.

Photos to follow: the dear, sweet, 2 year old resident "borrowed" the card reader. Ahem. She isn't sure what she did with it... but she usually remembers. If not, she's heading out to buy momma a new one later.
UPDATE: Big sis found it tucked into the sliding door on the front of the computer tower.

This lovely assistant is showing how the venting portion works.

Reading over at Garden Desk, I was especially eager to get the book Marc recommended, The 12 Month Gardener, Simple Strategies for Extending Your Growing Season by Jeff Ashton, because that's where they got the plans for their wonderful greenhouse. I've wanted a greenhouse for a while, but more so since I started reading Fast Grow The Weeds blog.

I ordered the book and read it cover to cover as soon as it arrived last week. It certainly lives up to the great reviews. When you want to try to grow year 'round, you'll need season extenders. Some of them can be extremely pricey, and when hunting for DIY projects, there's just not a lot out there for sturdy greenhouses. Beyond the greenhouse, the book has plans for using basic floating row covers, constructing tunnels, stoop and hoop houses, plus info on using cloches and of course, building a cold frame. I had been saving old windows, but as the book points out, they might not be safe to use with pets, kids and even adults. We'll repurpose those for smaller cold frame projects (straw bales come to mind) that won't be in use where someone could get hurt.

Building the frame took about 4 hours from start to finish. I was really surprised at how big it turned out to be. For some reason, I have a terrible time picturing a completed size. I guess we could have marked out the frame before we built it but really, the book assures us that had we gone smaller, we'd have regretted it. Thankfully, we have lots of room in the yard. All that's left to do is staple the greenhouse wrap on it and start growing. Now that it's done, I'm not so sure that I need a greenhouse after all. I mostly wanted one to start seeds but this cold frame can do that and more. We laid out every flat we have and we only filled it halfway. That leaves plenty of room for moving plants into larger pots and even just growing directly in it.
The book does suggest painting the interior white, which will help to add extra light bouncing around in there.
I'm really excited to get started... and just in time for the weather to be predicted for mid 60's this weekend! Isn't it still February? That's Kansas weather for you.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Honey & Molasses ~ 6 Weeks Old

Meet the new additions to our family, Molasses (Mo for short) and Honey, 6 week old Labrador Retriever sisters. We got them from a neat urban homesteading family about 45 minutes east of us. Their mom is a 7th generation Chocolate Lab and dad is also a Choc lab. They were part of a litter of 10. Their home had dogs, chickens, cats, rabbits and kids - hmmm, sounds very familiar.

The boys decided on this ones name first ~ Honey. She is super sweet, but much more adventureous than Mo. Honey is the first to explore and she has an amazing vertical leap!

Since they had already decided on Honey's name, we needed a name for this sweet lady. I suggested Molasses, Mo for short. It seemed fitting. She is also very sweet, but a more laid back, slower temperment. She is the snuggler of the two and when you pet her, she sighs contentedly.

This is a photo of our 4th Lab, Bo and me. He was abandonned on a farm and rescued at 6 months old. He and his brother had to fend for themselves, so he was used to hunting up his own food. He hadn't had a lot of human interaction until we adopted him. He immediately fit right in with our crazy crew. The best part of adopting an older pet, is that they have moved beyond the chewing, not-housebroken, crying-at-night stage. If I remember correctly, it doesn't last long. (fingers crossed - I'm a bit tired right now from the midnight dashes out to potty.)

Bo was our first Choc lab. He was just the most happy-go-lucky, mellow and loving dog. He had the cutest face he'd make when he wanted to be extra loving ~ he'd scrunch up his nose and wiggle like crazy. It was his signature move! He did really well when we got the chickens last fall. I was a little concerned he'd resort to his hunting days, but after a few sniffs, he left them alone.

He was just 7 years old when his hips starting showing signs of giving out. (Labs have this common ailment - 3 of our 4 had their back hips give out.) Then, cancer took over. Just 10 days from the cancer diagnosis, we had to have him put down. His spirit was still strong and vibrant, but his body was so far gone that he had paralysis in his legs and he had stopped eating days earlier. It's never easy making the decision to let go, but part of pet ownership.

This picture was taken three years ago - he was just 4 years old. I have an entire series of shots with him not being a good model ~ i.e. licking, rolling, walking away, playing etc. He was already up for whatever we wanted to do. He loved going to the lake and swimming. He loved being off his leash to run and run and run. He loved doggy treats. He was easy to train and was like sunshine on four legs. He loved life so much and I'll miss him dearly.