Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heat & Meat

With a quick cold front destroying my cucumbers, green beans and the last of the tomatoes things have been slow lately, but there are other things I have been trying to get done. This is an old beech tree I have finally gotten around to sawing up for fire wood.  I have two of these and a Walnut tree to get to, but I should have cut them up much sooner and we will end up buying at least some firewood.  This might be ok, later in the winter if I can get it split and put up.  I used a cheap electric chainsaw and a generator to cut this thing up.  The key with a cheap saw is to keep the file close at hand and sharpen it often.

The main happing around here is that I finally got my first deer.  A little doe.  I was just happy to hit what I was shooting at.  I had fired a few practice shots, and they were about four inches low so the first thing I shot at I aimed a little high, but not enough and I put a slug into the leg of tripod stand that holds up the corn feeder.   My practice shots had only been about seventy yards and the feeder is about a hundred and twenty yards from the house.  So I had to aim even higher and I finally hit it.  It went straight through, but didn't drop it so I had to wait an hour and track it into the woods.  It hadn't got very far before it collapsed.

I carried it back to house and strung it up so Luci and I could skin it.  Since I had no idea what I was doing and since Luci hadn't done it since she was a teenager we had to get mom's to tell us how to get started.  I thought getting the skin off was the most disgusting thing I had ever done until I had to reach in to get some of the guts out and I lost my lunch all over the place.  Luckily I managed not to barf on the meat.  I have now come to have a new Indian name.  Puking Bear.  We got it skinned and cut up.  Tonight we ate some of the loin which was fantastic.  Nothing tastes better than death. Even though I will probably puke my way through gutting the next one I will probably try again this weekend.  If I can't bring myself to do at least do some of the killing and cleaning I should become a vegetarian.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blood on the Corn

Yesterday morning as drove the girls to school I thought I saw a little black shadow inside the trap so I checked on my way back home after dropping the girls off at school.  This guy perked right up when he heard the car door slam, and by the time I got up to the cage he was slamming from side to side trying to get out.  I was going to go in the house and grab the .410 to shuffle him off this mortal coil, but decided to wait so the girls could see him when they got back from school. 

By the time they got home one of the other guys who hunts out here had solved the pig problem and the girls were very disappointed.  I wanted to show them the black pig because these come from the truly wild pigs that have been here for ages.  The pink pig that was killed a while back came from domestic pigs that have been released.  Apparently at one time here people would trap the hogs, notch there ears to claim them and then let them go again.    I guess it was common courtesy not to kill a hog someone else had notched. 

When me and the girls walked out there all that was left was a splattering of blood on the corn which the pig had been continuing to eat even as I watched it try to bang it's way out.  They didn't seem to be bothered by the blood although I wouldn't shoot one when they are around I don't think they are ready for that yet, but death is just part of country life.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

my home amongst the trees

With rifle season opening up in a week I have been thinking a lot about what I can do  to get a better chance at taking at least one deer this year and improving my odds for next year.  Looking around the back porch I had a little bit of left over 2x4s so I decided to take a walk around to see if I could find a good spot to put up a small tree stand.  Behind our house there is an acre or so of very dense pine trees and then behind that it opens up into larger more spaced out trees and I found a couple of trees that were clumped together. After hacking off the inch thick poison ivy vines that work there way up the trees I started building. This may even be too late for me to use it  this year.  With all my tromping around and banging the deer may stay clear of this area, but by next year they will be used to it and pay no attention.  The stand itself is about ten or eleven feet off the ground and goes from 16 inches wide to three feet.  I still have to put on the deck and build some sort of railing.  I will probably buy a ten dollar hunk of camo burlap to use to cover the stand so I will have a good hiding spot.  If I get lucky and take one early next to the feeders on the highline then I think I need a second spot to switch to because I am not sure if they will come to the place where a deer was just killed.  I think they might avoid that area for a while.  If that happens I will bait this area with corn, but otherwise I will wait until next year to bait this spot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting for bacon

With bow season started and rifle season coming up in a few weeks sacks of corn are flying off the pallets at the feed store as hunters try to create  place where the deer will come for a snack and stay for dinner. The problem is that everything loves to snack on a nice pile of dirty corn.  The area by the house I have squirrels, rabbits, crows, deer, and my own chickens stopping by and getting their fill.  The problem is the hogs.  The hogs are large in number, large in size and eat a ton.  They love to eat the corn that is put out to attract the deer and they are making the rounds from feeder to feeder.  I would imagine the same hogs are also visiting the feeders on the hunting lease land next to us.  I have a very small feeder that takes on sack of corn at a time, but the more serious hunters have large tripod feeders that take eight to ten bags to fill up. No one wants to see the hogs eat seventy bucks worth of corn. 

Unlike deer, hogs can be killed year round by with either bow or rifle and anything else that would do the job.  This is one of the most common ways to get some hogs.  The wife's cousin put this hog trap out near the spot where he normally bow hunts because they are costing him to much cash in corn and not leaving enough for the deer.  The trap has been out for about a week and has been tripped once, but so far hasn't caught anything.  The same trap was used down the road and they trapped ten or twelve hogs, so it's really just a matter of time.  With lots of corn on the ground it will take a while before they get hungry enough to go inside.  If the ground was bare it would take less to get them inside. 

Checking the trap has become part of my morning routine.  Yesterday I clear some brush with the machete so that I could get a clear look from the road as I take the kids to school.  For now anything trapped in here will just get one in the back of the head and trip into the woods to be coyote food. When it's hot outside it is hard to butcher the hogs because the meat will spoil so fast, but a little further into winter and these will be put on the menu.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Disney Land for Bambi

This morning I went wandering around the property looking for a place to build a little tree stand to have a second spot to deer hunt.  Everything here is dry.  The grass is dying and none of the small branches that flow through our property have any water in them.  I guess this is going to be more and more common if the summers have longer dry spells.  When we used to just come here to visit they were never completely dry.  At this point they aren't even mud holes just dry sand.  When I went to the branch that flows along the south side I heard the deer making their weird noises to warn each other as they took of through the woods. I know they are close which made me wonder how far they have to go to find a pond or creek that still has water.  The creek that flows into my wife's grandmothers place has water, but its a couple miles from here. I thought they might like a little drink along the way.  So I filled this plastic turtle that used to be the girls sandbox when they were little with about thirty five gallons of water.

This means that in this little area is a mineral lick, a feeder full of corn and this smiling turtle full of water. This starts about sixty yards from the house at the feeder and extends about another twenty yards,  just beyond that is one of the dry branches.  This tripod feeder that my wife's cousin put out is about another twenty yards and puts out like ten times as much corn as mine.  He is going to put a chair up one of the nearby trees and go bow hunting in this spot.  If Bambi doesn't like all this something will.  So far I have seen lots of squirrels and rabbits visiting both feeders, but haven't seen a deer stopping to munch a little corn.  I was hoping they might apperciate the water, but of course as I write this I can hear the thunder coming so we will probably have an epic rainstorm tonight that fills everything up.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall Chores

The unbearable heat has finally lifted in East Texas and we will hopefully have nice fall days for at least a month or two before it starts to be freezing all day long.  The weather here is unpredictable and last year all of December was cold with a very small amount of snow. Since that was the first winter I spent here since we moved out here five years ago I thought it would be warmer.  Sometimes is it 72 degrees on Christmas day.  During this short time of pleasant weather I have a big list of things I want to get done.  I have another couple of weeks before rifle hunting season starts, but my shooting lane is pretty well cleared out.

In the next four weeks I need to:
Clear all the down limbs from around the pump house:
        These have been down since Huricane Ike and this will make the third time I have cleared this area                 because both times before were followed by Huricanes that knocked down a bunch more tree limbs.

Clean out the cistern and the pump house.
      The concrete cistern  holds about three hundred gallons and gets  a layer of silt that comes up out of the         ground with the water and needs to be cleaned out from time to time.

Clear the area next to the old garage for a goat area.
      Around Easter it looks like we are going to be adding a rabbit because our youngest is not gonna let up,          but I want to get a couple goats in the early spring.  It should cost around three to four hundred bucks and       I need a good spot to put them in.

Build some type of green house.
     This will probably be a 4x4's framing out a base, a metal canopy that we already have and some plastic           sheeting.  Hopefully, it will be enough to let us have tomatoes in the winter.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

This little piggy

I had intended to write about our trip to the county fair this afternoon, but on our way home this evening we came across my wife's cousin who was just about to head home from his evening bow hunt.  Archery season opened on Friday so we expected he would be out here hunting.  When we pulled up we asked the typical did you get anything question and he said he had a killed a pig so we had to have a look.

This area is right on the fence line of a fifty acre track that the owner doesn't use.  Since it is one of the few places that is total secluded and has not been logged tons of wildlife uses that land for their home base.  On his trail cam he has seen up to forty of these at once so it really is time to thin out the ranks.  pigs can be dangerous as well as  using  up resources and space that could be taken up by more deer. We are hoping to take a pig or two this winter and butcher them, but right now it is warm enough this little thing would be spoiled before we got it cut up.  Tonight it will be food for the coyotes that have been howling like crazy the last couple nights.  I thought I was going to have to load up the shotgun and hangout on the porch last night because they were so close, but I think tonight at least some of them will be munching on this little piggy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The New and Screwed up HughesNet

I just paid five bucks to have my internet service turned back on.  Why is that you might be wondering?  Well, because some dill hole came up with a new way in which our service works.  Living in the middle of nowhere you have pretty limited internet options.  Dial-up blows even in a city with good phones and out here with lines put in in 1962 it blows even harder.  Cable and DSL are not going to come this way.  There is just no way they are ever going to bother running lines just so the four of us who live on this particular dirt road can have service so pretty much your stuck with HughesNet Satellite service if you want your pages to load when your try to open them.  There use to be one competitor AgriStar which oddly enough had exactly the same pricing and services as HughesNet, but they were recently  purchased by HughesNet.

For a long time I was pretty happy with the service.  The dish is pretty tough and didn't even need to realigned after either hurricane Rita or Ike.  We pay the minimum of sixty bucks for their base level of service and the speed has always been sufficent. They have always had what they call a "fair access policy" which is a download limit of 200MB which doesn't sound like much, but  I am online quite a bit blogging, selling on Ebay, using Quirky, surfing around etc and my wife finished her college degree by taking classes online through Lamar University. Basicly we have always found that we could do anything online except watch videos. Which of course means that I have missed out on all the great joys YouTube has to offer. If you download software you can do it at two in the moring when they give you a free time. If all the years we have had this service we had maybe gone over this limit five times, about once a year. 

It used to be that when you went over they would slow your service down so much that you could maybe get your email to open, but that was it.  If you called they would sometimes let it go and reset it and other times you just had to wait twenty four hours.  Recently they came up with a new system where if you go over you could pay five bucks and bingo your speed has been restored or you can wait twenty four hours.  Since they started two months ago we have somehow gone over our limit around ten times. A few days ago I spent an hour on the phone trying to get the tech support guy to tell me what the hell they had changed so that I could avoid this. He of course assured my that nothing had changed and as a sign of good faith reset my service without charge, but I know they messed with something.  Somehow they changed the way they count the megabytes in order to get customers to pay  a little more.  Right now I have no options because they have a monoploy on the market.  I don't really miss living in the city, but I can't explain how much I miss my cable modem right now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walnut Harvesting in East Texas

Inspired by a post on the Homegrown.org social network about walnuts I decided to go to the walnut tree outside our  yard and gather as many as I could find.  Rarely does anyone go to this part of our property except for my occasional mowing which keeps if from turning into mess of thorny vines and small trees.  I also wander past once and while to a check a section of the branch to see if it has flowing water.  I have seen a fair amount of snakes right under the tree and when I got under the cover of the tree I scanned the open area  for fallen walnuts and snakes.  Being so vigilant about these things I failed to notice that I was standing in a pile of ants. The worst part of standing in a ant pile is that your boots will be covered in ants before you feel the first bite. East Texas is full of bugs that bite or sting.  Growing up in California I never appreciated the lack of fire ants. 

I have no idea what kinda of bug this is in my picture.  I had reached up and grabbed a branch to pull it close enough to get at the walnuts and when I pulled it in front of my eyes I saw this guy.  Not paying attention I had almost wrapped my hand around it.  I guessing some type of caterpillar and I don't think it would have a bite, but around here everything else does.  It was while I was trying to take his picture when I felt the first ant bite and saw them crawling all over my boots.   I had to go the kids from school in a minute so brushed off as many as I could and finished filling my bucket.  I will have to back tomorrow to fill another bucket.  Since they are black walnuts they will take a good deal of work to get the nuts out, but like most things out here it is worth the a couple ant bites and a little extra effort.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My first Mulch

Everyone has different natural resources on their homestead and one of the resources we have is a forest covered with a thick blank of pine straw that keeps everything, but the trees from growing.  I finally decided to take advantage of this and do my first mulching on the cucumbers I just planted.  I know now that if  I am watering it this small dead spot it will quickly come back to life and be covered with five foot tall grass shoots.
If this works well I imagine I will end up doing this in my regular garden because weeding has to be the worst part of gardening.  I would never buy mulch.  I just don't think I could bring myself to fork over the money to buy something to cover the dirt, but I will definintly wander out back and grab a load.  I don't own a wheel barrow, so I had to adjust and used the girls radio flyer to haul my loads from the dark forest out back to the spot where I have my cucumbers planted. 
After spreading it out I sprayed the whole thing down so that the mulch wouldn't blow away in the massive windstorm which is been ready to fire up all day.  I am not sure how close to the plants you are supposed to get so I left a good bit of space for watering.  I have enough I might try to dig up a left over bubbler valve from my sprinklers in vegas.  Then I can bury everything except the actual plant under the mulch and it will still get water.  I was hoping that this would start to make my garden beds look better, but when I uploaded this picture I realized that I am going for practical, not pretty.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Magic Beans

I don't think I really understood where the story for Jack and the Bean Stalk came from until I actually planted some beans.  Last night I went out to see how everything looked because we were about to get hit with nasty thunderstorms and pounding rain.  I thought everything would be smooshed or washed away, but was very pleased to see that the rest of the cucumbers had come up and the beans are two and half inches tall!!!! From a half inch yesterday.  They grew two inches over night.  It would be easy to see how that quick growth would work its way into your stories when your life was in the fields.  Nothing else I have planted grows even close to that fast.  I wish could have a time lapse film of it, but probably it has been recorded for jr. high science classes films many a time. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Small Town Entertainment

When we lived in Las Vegas we lived right down town about five minutes from the strip on the West side right off Valley View.  We both worked for casino's and didn't want the long drive into town just to go to work so we picked a smaller house in a old neighborhood instead of going for the cookie cutter house out in north Las Vegas. With both us working in the entertainment business we got a fair amount of free tickets to shows, at some point or another went to most of the casino attractions, we liked to go out to dinner, on rare occasion we went gambling and never drove more than twenty minutes.  I love the movies and Vegas has great theaters with huge screens, great new seats, and amazing sound systems.  It is pretty hard to find a foreign film or independent movie because people in Vegas don't like much  culture in their entertainment, but that can be said for this place too.  Besides the occasional fair or rodeo, a night out with the kids is most often a trip to the movies.  Normally we go to the Jasper twin cinema, but since they were playing the Last exorcist and no one wanted to watch the kids freak out for a week we settled for Nanny Mcphee at their sworn enemy the Fain Theater in Livingston.  This was my first trip to the Fain so I had to take a picture of the fantastic sign which I could just imagine looking all super shiny back when it first opened.  I do miss the super comfy seats and selection of the Las Vegas movie theaters but when I  can take two adults and three kids to the movies on a Saturday night, load up on popcorn and drinks for only forty bucks I feel a little less deprived.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

WD-40 contest and fanclub

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of WD-40. All opinions are 100% mine.

WD-40 has created a new fan club section on their website and to kick if off they are having contest to give away three awesome prize packs each consisting of  the Now & Then WD-40 twin pack, a Smart Straw can wall clock and a Nostalgic can wall clock.  WD-40 has been around for fifty years and the classic WD-40 can is an american Icon, but the new with the new smart straw you lift the straw up to aim it or you flip it down to use a wider spray so that you never lose the straw.  I use to take  the straws and chuck em in the top of my tool box in case I lost the next one, but I guess I will have to use those to stir my coffee now.

Wd40logofinal3By joining the fan club you will get exclusive promotions and you can share your uses for WD-40 and check what others are doing with WD-40.  It's free and you can get the WD-40 badge which looks great on your blog, myspace page or as a sweet tattoo.  Ok, maybe you think twice about the last one, but you should definitely sign up for the fanclub. Follow the link below to join the fan club.
Join the fun in the WD-40 Fan Club

When I started my blog I was beginning my battle with my tiller and my ten year old craftsman mower which hadn't been touched for five years.  WD-40 was high on the list of tools to get them running again.  When I first changed the back tires they were locked tight and I use it to get everything unstuck. East Texas is humid and every thing metal rusts so  fast  I have come to rely on WD-40 to keep everything  around the homestead clean and protected. There are thousands of projects that can use some WD-40 and it tastes great on pancakes.  Ok, please don't put WD-40 on your pancakes, but let em know how you do use WD-40. Need some inspiration check out the latest video release from WD-40: Watch the latest WD-40 video release

To enter this contest you have to leave a comment on this post and tell us what you do to save time and money on your DIY projects. I know anyone could use the WD-40 around the house and two count em, two WD-40 wall clocks that would be a great addition to any shop, office, or home. For anyone who is a stickler for details you can find the contest rules right here: contest rules

Visit my sponsor: The WD-40 Fan Club

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fall Planting

Here in east Texas there doesn't seem to be much of a fall because it is just as hot now as it has been for the last four months.  I know carrots will grow because I tried them last year and even though they didn't get huge they did produce.  If it was slightly cooler I would try a bunch of salad greens, but I think I have to wait a little while.

Today I got carrots, radish, turnips, and green beans in the ground.  Tomorrow I hope to get some cucumbers planted I think I can get some to grow before it gets to cold. Somehow we didn't get enough jars of pickles put up to last the girls until next summer so this is a big priority. I am pretty sure I might be able to get some Zucchini as well. With Garden in disrepair not nearly enough veggies are going from yard to table.  It surprises me how much I miss being able to just wander out and pick something to fix for dinner.  The availability helps with my cooking decisions as well.  Instead of having to decide what sounds good or what the family might want I just have to go see what we got.

I could see how if you were producing your own food for a long time how hard it would be stop and just go to buying all your food at the store. I know I really didn't think that there would be much difference in what I could grow and what I could buy.  I thought that modern agri-business with all it's years of experience and science would be able to get better produce to the store than a guy who had never planted anything before.

Monday, September 13, 2010


East Texas is covered in mushrooms.  These big boys were waiting in the yard this morning.  They were huge.  Enormous, bigger than the muffins you get at the nine dollar muffin shop.  The inside had the texture and the look of chocolate cake, but without the flavor.  Ok, I didn't try to eat one because I have no idea if is safe  or not.  About five or six of these were scattered across the yard.  If you knew for sure that these were safe to eat you would have quite a meal.           

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Free Lunch

So I decided to buy a sack of corn this morning and set up my feeder even though I have a full month and a half until rifle season opens, but I figured I see if they will come this close to the house or if I need to move my feeder a little further down the line.  The corn cost 5 bucks for a fifty pound sack and this year I am going to try to keep track of what I spend on hunting season so I can see if it is cost effective.  Bow season opens in a couple weeks and I am tempted to pick up a bow on Craigslist and give it a shot, but so far I haven't been able to bring myself to spend the money.  A new bow goes for a minimum of two hundred fifty bucks  with the average around four hundred and the top end around a thousand bucks.  You gotta put up a lot of meat to make a thousand dollar bow pay for itself.

The feeder has a light sensor which will set it off about a hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset.  The little metal plate spins around allowing the corn to flow out and be scattered around the feeder.  The black box holds the light sensor, a six volt battery and a controller that allows you to test the motor as well as set the amount of time the feeder spins.  I have it set to the minimum so that I won't have to fill the five gallon bucket as much. I know the deer are out there so really I am just trying to lure them a little bit closer and hopefully at a convenient time.  Apparently they have never gotten the message that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
The main reason I put it out now was to see if it draws the hogs into the area.  On the the east side of the creek where Luci's cousin bow hunts all he seen are hogs, at her grandmothers place a little ways down the road they have trapped ten or twelve this year.  If the hogs come I will have to take the hunting more seriously.  You can't have them to close. They tear up gardens and can be dangerous.

This feeder has to wait a full twenty four hours to set its internal timer for sun-up and sun-down so it wont be until the morning after next that I will hear the clinking of the corn and I can start watching to see how long it takes for them to go for the snack.

Face to Face with Bambi

Last night after moving the chicken tractors and making sure they had enough water I decided to go down my shooting lane to check on the little branch and see if it had any water flowing.  I walked around past the old garage and through the small gate that leads down the highline to where I have my DeerCane mineral site and where I just put up a pole to hang up my little deer feeder.  As soon as tromped around the corner I looked up and saw a doe come out of the tree line on the other side of the branch.  Apparently she was off to see if there was any water in branch too.

We both stopped moving and starred at each other.  There was no way the deer could miss me since I was wearing a bright orange shirt and light blue shorts.  I guess I must have stopped first because instead of bolting off into the woods she just starred at me.  Dripping with sweating and itching like crazy from the humidity  I tried to stand as still possible.  After about a minute the doe  shook it head and made a loud WHSSSSSST noise and then went back to staring at me.  Determined to see how long this would play out I kept as still as i could.  After waiting for a few seconds to see what I would do the deer did a combined foot stomp with the WHSSSSSSST.  Like it was trying to say "hey dumbass, move so I know what the hell is going on". I stayed put and the doe did this a couple more times until she finally turned her head and did it in the direction of the opposite tree line where she was answered back by several other deer.  Finally she got tired of this game and bolted back into the woods.

I didn't want to chase them out of the space that I am hopping to find them during hunting season so I headed back into the yard. I started to pull plants out of what had been the kids small garden so that I could mow the whole thing down. I realized that the tomato plants were still alive and decided to give them a little helping hand and see if we get any more tomatoes.  I took all the tomato vines and laid them up on the trellis separated them and gave them some room.  After picking off the few rotten tomatoes that had grown covered by weeds I started to clean out the beds.  First thing to go was the squash plants which stopped producing a while ago.  I had most of them out when I saw a medium sized patty pan squash that had probably been their for a month.

Figuring this thing had to be hard as a rock I picked it up and threw it as far as I could out into the woods.  As soon as the thing went into the woods I hear this really loud WHSSSSSSSST and something bolting through woods.  I have to wonder how close did I come to bouncing this squash off one of Bambi's relatives. I'd feel bad about it if I did, but since I am going to try to put a rifle slug in one these animals I guess my sympathies are ridiculous.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

my mower battle continues

For a while now the tire on my mower has had slow leak that has been getting faster every time.  It had gotten to the point where mowing was like racing and I would have to pull into the garage and air up the tire ever twenty minutes.  It takes a couple hours to mow the yard so it's a good five or six pit stops just to get the whole thing mowed.  This tire had to ten to years old.  When we first moved here it was messed up and I had tube put in it for ten bucks instead of going for a new tire.

It is a sad state of affairs when the highlight of my day is installing a new tire. I don't think I can equate that to country living, just my own  shift in personal interests. The low part of my day was forking over fifty bucks at the tire shop in Jasper to get a new one and have them put it on the rim.  It will be nice to be able to mow without having to turn on the air compressor.

Thankfully, changing a mower tire is a lot easier than changing a car tire.  If you have something stable enough to slide under the back you could simply lift the back end onto a block, but I use a car jack to lift it up.  The shaft goes through the rim of the tire and is then held on by retention ring.  The most important thing is that when you take the old tire off you don't lose the Key.  The Key is a square strip of metal that goes into that notch on the top of the rim.  The shaft has the same notch and when you slide the key in it connects the two.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Salty Dirt, YUMMM!!!!!

Nothing says snack time like salty dirt!!!!!!!  I went out to check my mineral spot this morning because it is supposed to rain off and on for the next couple of days.  Last time I went out they hadn't found the spot yet, but this time they have definitely  added it it their list of places to stop.  Some how when I reinserted the memory card in the camera it changed the settings so I didn't get any pictures, but the tracks are clear.  I sprinkled a little bit of corn that had laying around from last season and that may have brought them in, but they are definitely digging through the dirt for the minerals.  Last year they never dug up any of my corn sites.

The tracks are doe tracks, but since I am not really concerned with getting a big set antlers or a head to mount on the wall then a doe will do just fine.  It will be just as tasty.  Of course the website for Deer Cane says that bucks will want the minerals for "overall health and rack development".  Somewhere out here is a big ol buck with  good sized rack.  Last year we spotted his tracks and this year Luci caught a glimpse of him on the edge of the road.  Of course they have this rule about if you take a buck the antlers must have a width of at least thirteen inches which is pretty hard to determine.  The best advice on determining width I have found is from Wild Ed's Texas Outdoor Blog.  I will probably just stick to taking a doe for meat if I can get one.  Last year I never could get even a look at the buck while I had a gun in my hand let alone a good shot.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wish it was Bigfoot

The deer is hard to see behind the weeds, so a little mowing on the shooting lane is in order.  I know these guys will be out during the day time at least until hunting season starts and the bullets start flying.  Everyone tells me I gotta be ready when the season starts because the twenty or so guys that hunt the deer lease next to us will be shooting on opening day and whatever they don't kill will definitely have the Spidey sense kicked into over drive.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Deer Season 2010

Last year my few weeks of deer hunting effort did not go well. I was only able to get a clear shot once and clicked my safety off so loudly the damn things bolted off into the woods without my bullet lodged inside.  Last year I waited until deer season had already started before I did anything much, but this year I am going to try to up my odds by laying the ground work.  On the actual ground.  On my birthday I got a couple blocks of deer cane as a gift.  They are blocks, about the size of a brick, made of compacted salts and minerals that supposedly deer like to chew the dirt to get at. 

This year I picked a new shooting lane to focus my efforts on.  The place I laid my corn last year was right along side the road and we had to drive past it several times a day.  This year I am going to use an area beside the house down the powerline.  It is a big clear gap between a very thick grove of pasture pines and the area that was replanted a few years ago.  The area is rarely disturbed and I can get a decent view of it from the laundry room window so I can get an idea of the times the deer might be out there before I wait on the porch or in a blind a little bit closer.  I have two months now so the idea is to get them as comfortable as possible crossing that area and give them reasons to linger about so that I can get a shot. 

I know the deer come through here anyway because it is the path they follow in order to get to the peach and pear tree as well as to drink from the branch that runs across this area.  I haven't decided if I am going to hang my corn feeder back here or simply put corn out on the ground.

This is what the block looks like after sitting for a couple of days during the rain.  Your supposed to put it out and let it dissolve in the rain and soak into the dirt.  I will probably go out pour some water on it to get it to dissolve sooner.  I went out about a month ago when I first got it an laid out an old plastic green turtle sandbox that the kids have outgrown and let the grass under it die off.  Right now the deer tracks are about ten feet way from this spot, which is where the directions say to put it.  If they don't seem to notice I will pour out a little corn right around it because I know they will find that.  I may try going to buy some fertilizer which would make the grass in the area more interesting to the deer. 

I shall find out if this is a more effective strategy or not.  The only problem I see it that is puts me slightly closer to the Blue Bonnet Investment Group land that is leased out for hunting to a large group that come up to hunt every year.  These would be the very nice people that I frequently refer to as the dill holes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Got Salmonella?

Nope.  Thanks to Brewster the rooster and his flock of egg laying beauties we are salmonella free.  For now. I hope. I am not positive where the outbreaks and recalls have been because we don't buy eggs. The new flock has really started laying in the last few weeks and it won't be long before we are over run with eggs. Chickens are probably the easiest way of providing your own food that we have found so far.  You don't have to feed them much if you give them enough room to forage for bugs and such.  Throw a rooster in the mix and you will end up with chicks.  You also end up with fertilized eggs for breakfast which is nasty so I recommend keeping the rooster separate if you have one.

 If you were trying to get ready to hole up and wait out the next global disaster then a bunch of birds of one the first things you want.  If you look at stuff survivalist talk about you would think you need lots of ammo and some sort of concrete bunker, but really if you can't eat that doesn't do you much good so really you need a way to get water; either a way to pump from a well, a spring or stream although streams can easily be damned up by the a-hole with a ammo and the concrete bunker.  I would think the best thing you could have is a small flock of a chickens including at least one rooster, a couple of goats both boys and girls, and some seeds to start growing stuff from which you could save more seeds.

Twenty chickens provide a lot of food if they are all laying.  The eggs will be piling up soon even using the eggs for three households we will have way more than we want.  I may try to sell some, but selling is not my strong point.  That is one thing about any kind of farming; no matter what you grow in order to make money off it you have to have basic business skills like selling.  Almost all businesses live or die on the quality of salesman ship.  Even bad business can make money with a good salesman.  I am not a sales guy, just don't have those natural people skills.  That's probably also why I will end up in a feud with a a-hole who stocked up on ammo and I will find my self locked in a basement for food like those people in The Road.

Monday, August 16, 2010

the only thing left

After work, vacation, strep throat and the ridiculous heat a air of neglect has settled into the garden.  The majority of stuff is crispy toast either starved for water or choked out by other weeds. The peppers, however, seem to not only still be alive, but actually thriving.  The same goes for the two water melons which are twice the size we got last year.  The patty pan squash are the diameter of dinner plates and probably taste as good as a piece of 2x4 covered in garlic and olive oil. Bigger doesn't usually mean better in the squash/ zucchini family.

  That is the one problem with gardening or any other agricultural enterprise: There are no sick days. We have disscussed getting a milk cow, but you have to milk the dang things everyday.  Even the I feel like I am going to die days or the I have to work fourteen hour days, everyday.  I can deal with being sick and I can deal with it being freaking hot, but you put them both together and I am out. 

With convergence of my illness being over, my census work ending and the kids going back to school I am hoping to do some late summer planting next week along with getting ready for hunting season.  That's right large pallets piled high with 50lbs sacks of corn have begun popping up all over town.  From Wal-mart to the quickie mart there is few places you can't buy a sack o' corn as the season comes near.  I need to clear my spots and get set up so that I am not disturbing it when it gets closer to season open. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Mystery of the Missing Sunflower

This is what the most of the sunflowers in the garden look like right now. Beautiful bright yellow being explored be a swarm of big black  happy bees.  They are coming along nicely although not as huge as the ones that grew last year.  If all goes well I should be able to get a couple a bags of seeds out of these, but there is a problem.  The problem, besides me being able to take a properly focused photograph, is that something is eating or in some way destroying the freaking flowers.  Where are they going?  There is not a pile of flowers on the ground around these stems.  At least seven sunflower plants look the same way.  Right at where the flower would meet the stem it simply ends in a frayed mess.  Are they all going to disappear?  The only positive is that I think I could use these for make shift paint brushes for the kids to play with, but there gonna say "Hey Dad, where did the flowers go" and the best answer I got is maybe big foot at them.  Nature would be great if it wasn't for all the bugs and animals and stuff.

Friday, July 23, 2010

making a new chicken feeder

Not much going on around the farm these days except the unbearable heat.  In a few weeks I may try to get some goats, but for now it's just us and the chickens.  They should be getting ready to start laying, but lately they have been knocking over their food or standing on the feeder.  Luci had a great idea for some new feeders and despite the heat I managed to hang around outside long enough to get these made. 
I took some 4" PVC that Luci had picked up at the hardware store and cut out one quarter down the length of the pipe.  A couple screws hold the caps on each end and now the chickens have a new feeder that should keep out the rain. 

The chickens are much happier now that the feeder is long enough for them to all get to it at the same time.  We just noticed a few days ago that we had a rooster in one bunch of hens.  Still deciding what to do about this guy.   We don't want fertilized eggs, but it is tempting to just let things go and see if they make some chicks on their own.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rambler's Way, The Sustainable Way

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Ramblers Way Farm. All opinions are 100% mine.

The dude that founded the Tom's of Maine Toothpaste has a commitment to quality that I appreciate for a few minutes every morning and evening, but I didn't know that he lived in the country surrounded by sheep.

Rambler's Way Farm produces high-quality sustainable wool apparel . They are having their business reviewed by CleanAir-CoolPlanet - which works with small and corporate businesses to help them develop and implement emissions reductions - to find more ways to cut down on their carbon footprint. In a tough ecomony for businesses, this is a decision that puts the long-term vision of global health square up against the balance sheet.  The idea that whatever resources being consumed now need to be available for a limitless future is concept that is really in its infancy, as most industries are based on the consuming resources at the lowest possible cost while reaping the greatest possible profit.

In fact, most of us live this way, without an eye on the future.  That's why Wal-Mart is so popular.

CleanAir-CoolPlanet is undertaking a review of all the components of Ramblers Way Farm, from sheep grazing in the fields, through the entire process of getting their end product to you (shearing, transportation, scouring, combing, spinning, knitting, sewing, ordering and distribution).
Choosing to support sustainable, energy-efficient, carbon-neutral businesses will allow them to grow and pass on the sustainability model to other businesses.  Rambler's Way Farm is making tough choices, and the more time I spend with the chickens or in the garden learning about agriculture production on my own little farm, the more I see the need to understand how these sustainable businesses can survive. We all know that a petroleum-based economy can't last forever. And really, we need programs and groups like CleanAir-CoolPlanet working in affiliation with households, small businesses, and corporations to figure out how we will survive when the days of cheap oil are over. 

One thing I have learned living in the country is that this type of work is undervalued in America.  Being a shepherd or farmer was left behind as large agribusiness made the family farm obsolete.  This is changing as more and more sustainable businesses are created, but those sustainable businesses are dependent on individuals making the same types of choices. We all have to do what we can now to ensure that our future, and that of our children, is secure.

Here on our little patch of earth, we teach our children to recycle, we drive fuel-efficient cars, and we try to work our farm with very little waste and few chemicals.  We utilize rainfall for watering our garden and orchard.  We use the animals to fertilize, and we feed them from our own garden. We are really big on using found, non-recyclable waste such as old tires to grow things in.  But there's always the question of, can we do more?

Rambler's Way Farm is in the process of answering that question for their business.

sustainable wool apparel

Visit my sponsor: Rambler's Way Farm

Friday, July 9, 2010

Horsing Around

Both girls have spent the week riding horses in the morning.  They have decided this is better than soccer, gymnastics, dance or any other activity we could throw at them. They have had a taste of life in the saddle and they want more.  I have always thought that if we live in the middle of nowhere and have the room then maybe some day the girls could have a horse, but that day is a long way away.  This was a week long horse camp where they ride every and learn about horses from eight to twelve each day.  They learn to groom, feed, ride and I believe even scoop up the horse stuff.  The stable is about ten miles outside of town and does a good job of teaching kids how to ride as well as the responsibility that it takes to care for a horse.  Somerset Stables will start lessons in September and I have a feeling these two will end up going.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pesto season starts today

Every year since we moved here we have grown basil to make pesto,  A food that once upon a time I wouldn't even eat.  I remember the first time I saw  it was at my friend Joe's house and at the time it did not sound good, but since then I have become a big fan.  Seriously big, I'm fat as a house for those who don't know me.  Anyway even when we didn't have the garden there has been containers growing on the front porch.  Being that we are up for saving a buck or two we buy our seeds at the Wal-mart for a a buck.  This year my friend Chris sent me some Basil seeds from Burpee.  They took a little longer to take off, but the pot in the middle is one planted with those seeds and the one's on each side are planted with Wal-mart seeds.  The Burpee seeds were planted a couple weeks after the others in the same soil.  They have have had exactly the same amount of water and sunlight as the others.  The Burpee plant is almost twice the size with larger leaves and a much darker green color.  Of course we haven't had the all important taste test, but I think I can guess how that will turn out.  This has sparked my interest in seed catalogs and I have been looking on-line all week.  I would never have guessed that there purple carrots and all sorts of freakish looking things to grow.  This year we have also grown the garlic for the pesto and bought nuts from a local grower. 

Luci's Pesto Recipe:
Basil, Garlic, Walnuts (we skip the pine nuts), Parmesan Cheese and Olive oil.  

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The first eggplant in the neglected garden

Working for the census bureau has been taking up my mornings which is the best time to work on the garden because by afternoon it is so unbelievably hot that it is hard to be in the sun for to long. People that came before me must have been a lot tougher because if I had to live here without air conditioning I would loose my mind.  After a just a second in the humidity it feels like shower time. It was hot in Las Vegas, but now I know what people meant when they said at least it is a dry heat.  That is my best advice for moving to the country and gardening, do it somewhere with nice weather.

 The garden is full of weeds and tomatoes.  One of the gardeners I know told me that as soon as I am done with the tomatoes I should use some roundup to cut down on the amount of grass growing in the garden, but I just bring myself to go with the roundup.  I would imagine that the tomatoes might grow better if they were not competing with the grass for water and nutrients, since there are growing anyway I don't plan on changing my weeding habits.  Normally I go around with sharpened hoe and hack down the grass in the rows and then attempt to hand pull what is growing directly at the base on the plants, but with the heat I haven't done as much weed control as possible.  We also have been having a hard time keeping up with processing the tomatoes into sauce  in time.  Next year I think we need to go down to 40 plants.

Among the weeds I found the first eggplant.  About time, I have had my fill of squash so it will be nice to give something else a try.  Last year we didn't grow eggplant so I am not sure what to expect as far as how fast it grows. According to Wikipedia 20 pounds of eggplant has the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette so I need to build a huge drying rack if I am ever gonna a get a smoke out of these things.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Buckets and cans

Now that the garden is cranking out the veggies we have more than we can possibly eat.  Not enough to set up a stand on the corner of the highway, but definitely more than a family of four can use in a couple days.   Luci has been busy in the kitchen putting everything in jars.  So far the stock of pickles is filling up with bread and butter pickles, green tomato dills, whole garlic dills, dill hamburger slices and pickled peppers there is salsa, tomato sauce and blackberry jelly and strawberry jam. We also picked plums and squeezed out a gallon or so of bright hot pink plum juice that's in  freezer until were ready.  These pickles got put up tonight and in the morning we sauce the tomatoes and use half for salsa half for pasta sauce. 

We use a lot of pasta sauce and salsa so if nothing else this will mean a whole bunch of jars will no longer end up in land fills. I tried to keep all the jars we buy when we are done so I could recycle them, but there is no where to take them with in an hour of us so I ended up pitching them out. I have wonder if it uses less resources to can at home or to have them centrally mass produced. For instance if everyone made pickles at home the vinegar has to travel to each house in small containers rather to one location in a huge container.  The cost of making it ourselves is definetly effective on the second round.  If you add in the cost of the jars, you are probably just barely under what it would cost to buy things like pickles at the store, but the second time around when you already have the jars you begin to save some money.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What's in your yard?

Since moving here I found all kinds of crap in the yard as I am clearing brush, digging or mowing.  The most common is broken glass and spent shotgun shells, but I have also found bottles from the forties, a tractor spedometer, tools, baseballs, coffee tins and bones. We have a really old metal detector that I Luci and I used around the front once just to see what we would find, but instead of coins we pulled up a good size pile of bottle caps, shell caseing, and sockets before we called it quits.

Today as I began to clear an area near the garden I came across this little skull.  Not sure what it is, but I am sure it made a fine meal for something.  Before I moved here I would definitely been grossed out by this type of thing,  especially the wavy part where the two halves of the skull meet in the back,  but now I just regard it with a mild curiosity. When I started cleaning out the old garage it had two or three deer skulls with antlers sort of hanging in the rafters that had not been completely stripped of flesh and had bits of leathery hide clinging to the cheeks and scalp. That was way nasty and all I could imagine was what it would be like to touch the skin of a mummy which I have seen people do on TV a thousand times. I never gave it much thought, but that is seriously disgusting.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A New Hunt

When we moved here, I had no idea that one of my neighbors would be Bigfoot. Like most people, I foolishly believed that Bigfoot only existed in the Pacific Northwest or in Yeti form somewhere in the Himalayas.

 Apparently the nearest and most recent Bigfoot sighting in our area was in 2008, about ten miles away.  Ten miles is nothing for Bigfoot.  If he can survive for a few hundred years in North America without someone dining on his flesh and not taking a picture of it first, then a ten mile hike over to my neck of the woods should be a piece of whatever Bigfoot eats. 

I just finished checking out the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy's map to see where he has been sighted. My first thought is to call them up right now and get some of these guys out to my house in the middle of the night to listen to my tale of an angry Bigfoot shaking his fist at me as wanders out of the yard while ripping his sharp teeth into one of our chickens, but that would be rude. Hilarious, but rude. My other thought is how could I get one of my neighbors convinced that they had just seen Bigfoot.  I'd make a big Ape suit, but I think I would end up taking a bullet to the head.

This comes just a few days after the game wardens told the kids at the library that the black bear population is rising in East Texas.  Now, they were very clear that one is not allowed to shoot a bear unless it is about to eat your face and you better have some claw marks to prove it was about to eat your face.  They never mentioned Bigfoot, but I figure that if he's out there it's open season on any tall hairy things that come within range.  Much like Bigfoot, if you see a bear or bear tracks or bear poop you're supposed to give them a call so they can track them to estimate population and their movements.  I have never seen a bear that wasn't going through a dumpster looking for Cheetos and discarded Bar-B-Que chicken, so it would be kinda cool to see one roaming wild (except I suspect they are just looking for a reliable source of Cheetos). The Black Bear Conservation Committee is trying to help provide education for the public who might encounter these bears in order to keep them alive.  I would love to see both the bear and the Bigfoot population skyrocket so that we can once again dine on these magnificent creatures.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Purple Wall

Although I have spent  a good deal of time sweating to death in the nasty hot weather trying to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, our real crop grows silently and unattended on the rest of the property that we own with my wife's sister.  The property is actually a tree farm or timber plantation.  This gives us the tax status of Agricultural land without having to do much.  The trees really grow without much help and what help they did get came from the timber management company that planted them for us.  Recently I have been wondering if there is anything else we should do to encourage this long term investment to pay off so I have been looking through forestry and timber websites.

Since our property was logged three years ago I have learned a bit about the subject and was aware that timber is marked with paint to indicate which trees are to be harvested and which are off limits to the logging crew.  Accidentally harvesting a tree on the wrong property can cost a logger quite a bit so they often avoid taking the trees on property lines to prevent problems.  When trees are marked they should put a mark around eye level and then one on the base so after the tree has been cut you can be sure it was a tree that was supposed to be harvested.  What I didn't know is that purple marks mean stay out.  The old fences on our property have been down in some areas for so long that you can barely find them in the underbrush even when you know that they are there somewhere, but often large tracts of forested land are impossible or unnecessary to fence so they created the purple paint law.  You can mark your property against trespassers with signs, fences, or purple paint.

(2)  "Notice" means:

(D)  the placement of identifying purple paint 
marks on trees or posts on the property, provided that the marks 
    (i)  vertical lines of not less than eight 
inches in length and not less than one inch in width;
    (ii)  placed so that the bottom of the mark 
is not less than three feet from the ground or more than five feet 
from the ground;  and
    (iii)  placed at locations that are readily 
visible to any person approaching the property and no more than:
     (a)  100 feet apart on forest land;  or                                    
     (b)  1,000 feet apart on land other 
than forest land; 30.05.           

In some areas this is how  land owners mark the line between national forests and bordering private land.  I am curious to know how much paint I would have to buy in order to mark our property, but if I was going to do it I would use a can of Design Master Loganberry.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not even enough to make pancakes

This is the result of four years of growth for our blueberry bushes.  This is the second handful of berries the girls have eaten this year.  Last year the birds got most of the berries, but for some reason they have left them alone so far.   To be fair, this is only the second year that we really watered them, we have never used fertilizer on them and only once a year do I pull the weeds out that surround them.   Now each bush has around two hundred berries.  Luckily there is great pick-your-own blueberry orchard about fifteen minutes away where it costs $1.50 a pound if you pick, so we will going there for a few more years. If I could wind it back and have a do over we would have planted differently.

First, I would have at least  planted another ten to twenty bushes, possibly as many as forty.

Second,  I would plant them close together instead of spread out around the yard like decorations.  There location makes them take more time to water and harvest.

Third, I would plant all them on the slope instead of on level ground.  The bushes at the bottom of a slope are so much easier to water using a rain barrel and gravity to move the water.

I am thinking about ordering some pecan trees from Willis Orchard Company, but I am trying to figure out what regrets I will have in four years.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Eating the Profits

We are eating something from the garden every day.  Cucumbers are probably the fastest-growing, most productive thing we grow and it is hard to pick them at the size we want because they grow so fast.  Most of these will end up as pickles which the kids will eat all year.  I don't get it personally.  A little pickle on a hamburger maybe, but I can't just eat a pickle by itself.  I am not sure if it is a southern thing or what, but people love pickles here.  You can buy pickles in the movie theater and in the elementary school they have a Pickle Day every week as a fund raiser. When we took the girls to the movies in California they were both upset that they couldn't get a pickle.  This year Luci has also put up a couple jars of pickled peppers.  Using both cherry peppers and banana peppers, these have also become a big hit with the kids.

This is the first and possibly the only crop of potatoes.  Something messed up the plants and we're not sure they are going to live.  A lot of homesteader/ farm blogs write about trying to produce 80% of their own food which means they grow a lot more and eat lot less than I do.  Not eating things in season or trying to store things like potatoes for months a time would be a huge shock for us.  We are, like most people, in the habit of buying tomatoes in December.  We are harvesting cucumbers, tomatoes, squash (which seems to grow second behind cucumbers), potatoes,  and peppers.  I am still waiting on the eggplant.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Crab before the storm

Right now the Texas coast is clear of oil, but we figure the first hurricane of the season should blow in a nice thick layer of death.  Before that happened Luci wanted to take the girls crabbing down at the coast.  We went down to bridge city with an ice chest full of chicken necks and got directions from a bait shop to a good place to go with the kids.  I felt bad for the guy running the bait shop because he knew his business was gonna get screwed and that it was just a matter of time.  We bought a couple of bait fish and were on our way.

We caught a dozen or so before we gave into the intense heat and headed home.  The girls had great time trying to scoop em up with net while they try to eat the chicken neck.  Emma learned the hard way not to try to play with crab in the cooler and got a pinch that drew blood.   This little fellow that Hannah caught got a free pass because he's not five inches wide.  Seems a shame since it'll just end up covered in black gold.  12 of these little guys doesn't give much food, but it was one of the best things I have ever eaten.  The girls can't wait to go back.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Finally, a real rain

I suppose I should get a rain gauge because whenever I talk to other gardeners they always seem to know how many inches of rain they have gotten lately, but I simple measure how much rain by weather or not I can fill up my rain barrel.  It has been much drier this year than last and I am glad I bought one rain barrel and I wish I had stopped by the feed store this morning and picked up another one like I had planned on doing.  Hopefully this will not be the last rain for a while, but I would hate to depend on the weather.  One of the gardeners I know pumps water out of a creek on his property but the creek has gotten so low he was going to have to give up the garden if we hadn't gotten this rain.  In Texas surface water belongs to the state, but as long as you are not interfering with the flow of water you are normally allowed to use water that flows through your property.  Of course if we suddenly had a loss of infrastructure and every property owner was pumping water for crops it would be a problem.

By the end of the summer I would like to have at least five rain barrels set up.  This way I could water everything outside the garden as well as have enough emergency water in case another hurricane comes this way.  After hurricane Rita we were out of power, and since we have our well, out of water for almost a month.  Luckily we have relatives in town to stay with who had water even if it was freezing cold.  A solar system for the well would cost around two grand, but would probably be well worth the investment. We can hook the generator to the well compressor and pump, but after the hurricane gas was impossible to get for a week or so.  The dirt roads will be tore up tomorrow, but I am always glad to see the rain.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Battle Racoon

There is a raccoon outside right now happily snacking on what was supposed to be the bait for the my trap.  If my wife didn't have to go to work at five in the morning I was try to slip out and take a shot at the little fellow, but that will have to wait until a Friday or Saturday night.  After he killed the chicken I moved the chicken tractors under the bedroom window and twice I saw him on top of those trying to pull open the corrugated plastic roofs, but he couldn't get in.  A few nights ago my youngest saw him hanging on the larger chicken coop, before every one went to sleep so I went out with the 20 gauge, but I he was moving and I missed.  I guess more target practice is in order. 

I have been trying to trap the creature for a couple days now, but of course I can't bring myself to drop the sixty bucks to buy a ready made metal trap from the hardware store.  Sadly our last Basset Hound died the Christmas before last and we have a couple of these old crate laying around the house.  I decided to try to make a trap out of it, but if it actually worked he might be able to chew his way out pretty quick.  At first I put eggs in it for a few days to get him comfortable going in and out and then I put peanut butter on some sticks attached to strings. This didn't work.  So tonight I used a chicken carcass, a delicious lemon pepper I must say, which the raccoon is currently enjoying out in the yard.  How,the hell, the little bastard got the damn thing off the string I can only guess at while I listen to his faint laughter and the jiggle of his full tummy.

Battle Raccoon Score
Blood thirsty homeowner: 0
Crafty little creature just asking to made into a hat: 3

Friday, May 28, 2010

A boom year for the garden

So far this is turning out to be a boom year for the garden.  Everything is growing like crazy.  In part this might be because we amended the soil by adding compost and manure before we planted while we were tilling the soil.  I think it may be either the weather or the amount of pollen that was in the air this year as well.  Even the fruit trees and blueberry bushes are putting out way more than they did last year and I don't really know why.  Last year the peach tree had maybe twenty to thirty peaches, most of which were eaten by deer, this year there is at least a hundred maybe a hundred and fifty.  The girls and I picked cucumbers and green beans for dinner tonight and they ate every bite. 
This is the first of the squash to grow in the girls little garden.  These are the biggest plants out of everything we planted.  This area that had a large chicken tractor over it for months is well fertilized and doesn't have to many weeds.  By planting everything close together the veggie plants have choked out a good portion of the weeds.  This seems to be working so well that I am planning on moving chicken tractors onto areas I want to garden and letting the chickens eat everything inside before using it as a growing area.
Last year our tomatoes were devastated by bugs.  The little bastards made me so mad I could scream.  So far I have only seen a few and I am trying to catch one so I can show it to the extension agent.  I am hoping she will have a good suggestion as to how to get rid of these things with out using to much DDT.  Watching a small crop get torn up blows big time.  This year we have eighty or so tomato plants so we have even more to lose.  Between some new tomato cages, the starter plants, and compost I figure we have about two hundred bucks invested in the tomatoes.  I never liked gambling in Vegas because after I lost a hundred bucks I wanted to kick myself.  I certainly don't want to lose money, time and hard work.  That is the real difference  between a farm and garden, accounting.  I am not a the point yet a which I am trying to make money, but I at least want to break even while providing healthy food for the kiddo's.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Two feet in sixteen inches

This is all that is left of one of our Dominickers.  A couple bones, a pile a feathers and two feet.  Last night we were out late and when we got home we had to try to get the kids to bed because it was already 11pm.  Since we were so late I forgot to  do my usual check on the chickens to make sure they have water.  In the morning I often leave the bungee cords that hold the roof down unhooked on one side because I know I am going to open it again.  When we went outside this morning we found this pile about fifteen feet from the chicken tractor.  Something had managed to get through the top or crawl under and drag this one out.  Raccoon, maybe a fox, I am not sure if possums will go after the chickens or just the eggs.  Whatever it is it will be back since it had nice chicken dinner.  I kinda feel bad for the chicken, but if I think of the amount of chickens I have eaten in my  life it would be silly to stress over this one.  Mostly I feel bad we didn't eat the little lady.