Friday, April 30, 2010

Avocado Day

Ever since the land around us was logged and replanted I have felt that we made a mistake.  I understand that as a cash crop goes in East Texas it is pine timber, but I wish we would have set aside some space to plant a variety of trees.   If I had the cash I would have a couple of acres bulldozed and plant the whole thing with fruit, nut trees and a variety of hardwood trees to provide future firewood as well as an environment for more wildlife.  Not that we lack wildlife now.

   I am not sure if these will ever survive in the ground, but my other ones are almost two years old.  I am hoping that when they are a good size I can plant them and they will survive the couple of days a year that we have freezing temperatures.  I don't think we really have the climate for avocado's, but I am going to try anyway.  I am trying not to get to invested in these trees. If I start it myself and it dies all I am out is my time.  If they live great, if not no big deal.  I figure if I try enough different plants some of it is bound to do well.  Someone told me you can grow banana's around here so I may try to get a couple banana trees.

Since  a mass replant is not an option I am going to try to learn how to start my own trees instead of buying them from a nursery. I have a few more avocado seeds to try and I am going to try cuttings from our peach tree and then the pear tree.  I should have just dropped a couple hundred bucks and bought some from the nursery that we bought the fig trees, but I want to see if I can do it myself.  I am trying to take a more long term approach to thinking about the land around us.  Normally I am have a hard time thinking twenty years ahead of time because I always think that we will have moved by then, but with two kids I don't see us going anywhere.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A trip to the feed store

After dropping off 780 lbs of scrap metal pulled out of the brush this morning I decided to take my eighty three dollars and stop by the feed store.  I wanted to get a plastic barrel to make into a rain barrel.   Woodville has four stop lights and two feed stores Tolar's and Tyco.  I feel out of place in both of them.  In Tyco I always feel under dressed.  I am not sure why, but whenever I am in there I always feel like I should be wearing a neatly tucked button up shirt and bright clean pair of wranglers instead of my stitched up cargo shorts that most people would have thrown away and black T-shirt with paint all over.  It is the same feeling I get in whenever I have to go to church to see my daughter do something with her pre-school class.

  Tyco sells just about anything you could need for a farm.  I don't even know what half the stuff in there is for, but you can get parts to build an electric fence, irrigation supplies, saddles and tack.  Tack, really, people still buy tack. Tyco is one of the few places to take an out of towner to see when they visit the great city that is Woodville. If nothing else just to check out the wide variety of animal heads attached to wall as decor.

Tolar's is where I buy my chicken feed on a regular basis.  Mostly because it is closer to the school where I drop off and pick up my kids.  This is a totally different kinda of store with pallets of feed sacks all over and a steady stream of customers who seem to know exactly what they want while I waffle around trying to decide if I need anything besides a sack of laying pellets and chicken scratch. Tomorrow I have to stop by Tolar's and get some chicken food, but I have no idea if I should switch from hen starter to laying pellets.  That being the question on my mind is not something I would have planned on before we moved out here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Carbon Neutrality at last

Today when I checked my email, I opened one from a company called Kaufda. Now, let me tell you, I have gotten a bunch of scam emails, a couple of requests for link trade, and I even had one place write me and offer me the fat sack o' seed and another just sent me a bird feeder that they would like me to write about 'cause I love free junk, but this just plain silly.

The marketing campaign they have created goes like this: If you write a post about them, they will have a tree planted for you in the Plumas National Forest in northern California. This tree offsets the amount of carbon my blog creates, thereby making my blog carbon neutral. Kaufda's main business is creating websites that take the place of the little supermarket specials pages that are inside newspapers declaring the price of roast beef to the hot deal of the week. This company, theoretically, would save paper and trees. I am not sure how this marketing campaign helps them, but then again, now I know that they exist, so I guess they have check mark in box number one.

So, I figure since we live surrounded by trees we should be able to do stuff like set a pile truck tires on fire and feel perfectly green since we have enough trees to offset the carbon. The idea of carbon credits is like buying an indulgence from the Catholic Church.... "Well, we have this nasty factory, but we spent a bunch of money to make sure this patch of forest cannot be used by the people who live nearby." The money spent on the carbon credit will (of course) not go to the people who can't benefit from the forest resource around them.

I think I should kick it up a notch and ransom trees. Cuff their branches behind their trunks, slap a hood on 'em and hold a chainsaw to their ,uh, necks? "Five bucks or little Johnny Brownbark here ends up in the chipper by morning." Choke on that.

Now, I am all for using less paper, although I live in a community that is supported by the price of timber. If paper went out of style, this place would be abandoned in two weeks. I am not sure if Kaufda is really going to plant my tree or not after I send them my link to this, but with all the, er, STUFF grown in Nor Cal forests these days, I am not sure it's a safe place to raise a baby tree anyway.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

biology class lesson number 2

Every things got to eat.
This morning I was working around the yard when I decided to check on the bird eggs I found a few days ago.  The broadcaster that the nest is in sits on the top of some shelves on the back porch above my head.  I took it down to get a look at the eggs and realized that there was only one egg left.  So I am standing there thinking what the hell they couldn't have hatched, grown up and flown away, but the nest looks fine.  After thirty seconds or so of this internal dialog  I finally notice the tiny snake that is staring up at me looking well fed.

This did not end well for the snake.  He met his fate at the beaks of our five full grown chickens.  Not only did they eat the snake they fought over which one gets to eat the snake.  I found it satisfying to watch birds eat  a snake full of bird eggs. Ah, the circle of life.  Gotta love it.

Oh, and they ate the egg, too.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The trash man don't come round here

The three things I miss about living in Las Vegas are having a cable modem, being able to do everything at three in the morning, and having a guy stop by the house one or twice a week an pick up the trash.  Today I went down to the scrap metal yard with 620lbs of junk in the back of my truck for which I was paid the sum of eighty five dollars and thirty two cents. This at least makes up for some of the money I spent hauling junk out of here over the years.  If could do it about 200 more times I might be close to breaking even.  I think I have enough scrap for one more mixed load and then I have an old metal cistern that will take up the whole bed of my little truck.  By the time the scrap is gone I figure I might make about $175.  At least I didn't have to pay for it.  In Las Vegas if you are a home owner the city will haul off almost anything because they don't want you to drive out into the desert in the middle of the night and dump it off.
Out here in the country you gotta get rid of your own junk.  We take bags of our regular trash every other day and pay $1.25 a bag and then when I bring a pickup load full of junk it cost about twenty bucks.  Some people choose the cheaper option. You can burn your trash here if you can believe that.  Where I grew up in California you can't even have a fire on the beach anymore let alone pile up a bunch a stinky diapers and set them on fire.  It also common for people to pick a spot on their own land and either fill in a hole with junk or simply make a pile off where no one will ever bother it.  This is one such pile at our house.  It's not really near the house and no one  except me would ever know it is there, but I can't let it sit there. I just can't it drives my nuts to think about it. Luckily this pile I got a few bucks for, but the other ones have not been so profitable.  I can't bring myself to pick a corner no one will ever see and pile up junk.  I figure I at least have to clear out the stuff that was left before us. Then maybe I could make my own pile, but I doubt it.

I do like junk.  That is one problem I couldn't quite bring myself to chuck everything.  I decided to keep these sprayers and this old gas can.  I have no idea what I am going to do with them.  Most likely they will sit around for a few months and then I will throw them out.  I am a binge and purge kind of pack rat.  At some point everything has to go.  I also kept the animal traps, like trapping for beaver pelt kinda traps, just in case I decide to become a mountain man.  The only other thing I kept was this base that is for a cast iron woodstove.  I am going to paint it and put a top on it and use it for a little outside stool or bench.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Kids Mini Garden

Our kids eat more types of veggies than most people we know.  They each have there favorites, but on the whole our kids like vegetables.  Partly this comes from being involved in the garden.  Last year we would tell them what we were having for dinner and if them fussed all we had to do was say that came from the garden and they would get excited. This year they wanted a patch just for themselves.

A few days ago we were playing in the yard and noticed that six tomato plants are coming up in a patch of dirt that had a chicken coop on it for six months or so.  With the girls help I cleaned out the rest of the weeds and planted the seeds they had picked.  They both wanted the squash mix seeds so that they wouldn't know which kind of squash would come up.  We also planted marigolds on the edges and giant pumpkin seeds at each corner.  Emma is convinced that she will grow a pumpkin large enough to make a into a play house.
 Tomorrow I am going to try to plant a row of cucumbers right down the middle.

Its fun to watch them digging and planting.  I know they are learning and having fun at the same time.  I figure if they are living in the country they should get the full benefits of living in the middle of nowhere.  That's what I didn't like about living in Las Vegas.  You get all the crap that comes with a big city, but none of the benefit.  Same reason I think we are going to try to get some livestock in the coming months.  Couple pigs, couple goats, nothing to crazy.  I have been thinking of getting a milk cow, but it will take some time before I am ready for that.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Chicktrac 3000

I got the new chicken tractor in the yard today and divided up the chickens.  This one is shorter and wider than the first with a door in the house part.  I gave this one a coat of verithane that I had left over from when I refinished the hardwood floors.  I couldn't bring myself to buy the kind of water seal that goes on decks when I had this almost full can rusting on the back porch.  I would have waited and added a piece to keep the food off the ground so that I didn't have to pick it up each time, but I thought it was about to rain.

I put the five road island reds and the five dominickers in the new one.  At first I just started grabbing the closest chicken, but then I remembered what happen last time.  I figure if I keep the numbers even maybe they won't attack each other.  Like prison gangs and nuclear weapons it's best if both sides are a even.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The birds and the bugs

Living here is like taking the biology class I almost never went to in high school.  I am not a fan of bugs, in fact one of the only things I liked about living in Las Vegas was the lack of bugs.   These guys were all over the back porch this morning.  The moth population changes constantly.  One month it will be big huge greenish white Luna moths, the next big brown moths that are the same color as the house.  This month I guess these guys will be all over the place.  When I was a kid I would have never touched one of these things, but my kids have no fear of bugs and asked if they could start a butterfly and moth collection.

Immediately after showing the kids these moths they ran out into the yard and stepped into a pile of fire ants.  This is another nasty pain in the ass I was lucky enough to grow up with out.  Normally I would grab the jerry can full of diesel fuel and the mound would be dead in a few hours.  I'm not sure if it is any less harmful than ant poison, but I was going to spread some fire ant killer with this broadcaster, but instead I found a delicious breakfast.  No, I didn't eat them.  I just teased the kids with idea of serving them for breakfast.
Now I have to keep this on the shelf and  try not to disturb them so I went back to the diesel fuel.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chicken Tractor number 2

The twenty chicks we bought are growing quick.  They about five time the size they were when we brought them home from the feed store.  If I don't get the split up soon they will be pecking each other to death.  The last time we bought chickens the dominickers and road island reds tore the other kind to shreds even though they had plenty of room.  This is the second chicken tractor and I will probably build one more after this.  This time I went shorter and wider with a door in the middle of the back.  This took a couple hours this afternoon and I should have it finished tomorrow.
You don't really need much to build a chicken tractor.  Any saw will do,  a hammer comes in handy, and the most helpful thing would be to have two five foot pipe clamps which is about forty bucks including two fittings and two lengths of pipe.  Most people would reach for the cordless Makita or DeWalt, but being as cheap as I am when it come to buying junk I use this 1950's Porter-Cable Homemaster drill that I bought at a flea market for ten bucks.  I put the whole thing together with 3" screws, but If I had one I would use a finish nailer with 2 1/2" 16 gauge finish nails and it would take half the time.

My list of materials:

10     8' 2x2's  Get the straightest ones you can even if you have to make the guy get down a fresh bundle
         to pick through.
1       4' x 8' sheet of 1/4" plywood
2       26" x 8' sheets of corugated plastic (we were going to use salvaged tin, but didn't want sharp edges)
1       Box of 3" screws used about 1/2 box per chicken tractor.
6       1" lag eyes to use as hooks for bungee cords to hold top on.
1       Roll of poultry netting or chicken wire ( you could make a bunch  of these from the same roll since
         really only need about 15 feet) 

I have looked through plans for chicken coops and chicken tractors online and this is my attempt at making this as cheap and simple as possible.  The chickens seem to like it so far, but then again they like eating bugs so what do they know.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The garden begins

This is really the beginning of the 2010 garden.  After a trip to the store to buy poop, compost and plants the garden has been started.  We spent the morning spreading and tilling in the cow manure and compost.  Then in the afternoon we put the fence back up and planted the top half of the garden in peppers and tomatoes leaving a little space for Poblano peppers and eggplants when we can find them.  We left out the corn that we had in one corner last year.  It just didn't do well and after it was done it was hard to get in to till that section.  I think the chickens ended up eating more of the corn than we did.  I may try to find another spot to plant corn, but I don't know where I would put it yet.

Water is always an issue.  I hate to use a big sprinkler and have water going all over the garden instead of just to the plants, but the bubblers and little drip sprinklers would be a pretty big investment in time and materials.  We tried these sprinkler hoses but they just don't seem to be the trick, so they are getting moved over to the raised beds. I am always amazed at how powerful water feels in the heat of the day.  I remember thinking that in Vegas when I would water my lawn late in the day during one of the endless 190 degree days.  How quickly I felt better when that water is pouring out the hose.  Such an unimaginable waste to water a lawn in the middle of a desert when there are people in the world who don't have water to drink.  I always felt so American watering that lawn.

This guy came hopping along toward the end of the day as the sun was going down.  I am sure he was headed out to do his usual business. Since the fence was down he has been leaving his pellets right between where the cucumbers and squash will end up.  If I didn't think the girls would have freaked out I might of grabbed the .410 and had this guy for dinner, but  I think they would have freaked seeing the rabbit guts.  I need to get them to try eating it BEFORE they see it die.  On Man Vs. Wild the guy killed a rabbit buy throwing a stick at it.  I really want to try this, but I know it will just end up limping off in to the woods with a broken leg so that I feel like a A-hole for making it that much easier for a coyote to eat.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

back to work

After a week sick its time to get back to work if I am going to have four or five months of fresh grown veg.  I thought I would get the garden planted this week since I think all the cold snaps are over, but all  I could muster the energy for was planting these packs of seeds my friend Chris sent.  When someone from California sends tells you that they are sending seeds this is not what you expect, but the girls where excited to get some basil going since they love the pesto and Emma likes basil and saffron rice.  He also sent a pack of tomato seeds that I should have started a couple weeks ago, but I going to do this week when I replant my avacado seeds.

This coming week is when I really have to get busy.  I need to plant the bulk of the garden, build at least one more chicken tractor,  finish emptying the old garage, fence an area for the full grown chickens, build a couple rain barrels, get the mower running, and try to regrade a drive way into the pasture down the road.  The kids have spring break so I should be able to get most of this done plus some.