Towards the end of May, we started planting our little garden. Normally we plant in this quarter acre section, but with M3 being in EMT class this summer, we decided to do a tiny garden in the berry patch. We fenced out the chickens, who grumbled greatly at being excluded.
We planted strawberries and raspberries (thanks M&R) in this place last year. This year we added blueberries (thanks J&D&N). Our soil is too basic for blueberries, so we added this brightly colored stuff from a plastic bag that should acidify the soil enough to please the blueberries. First, we planted several tomatoes in planters and placed them up against the rock wall. We had a few nights where we flipped this tarp over them to keep the frost over and this has worked really well. M3 bought this fancy Montreal tomato that was created for the short Canadian growing season. Poor thing couldn’t take the full NM sun, so M3 put this white T-shirt screen on the tomato cage. Little plant perked up within a day.
We also decided to do a potato bucket this year. Yep, we took a plastic trashcan and placed it in servitude to the All Mighty Potato! Take any tub you like, or exceptionally strong large canvas bag. then make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. Throw in some soil and some questionable potatoes, cover with soil and water. Then allow your potatoes to grow. Once the stems have reached, 4-6 inches tall, cover with more soil so that only ~2 inches of green is sticking out. The potatoes continue to grow and that green stem you covered with soil turns into roots which grow more potatoes. Basically, repeat this all summer until fall. Then simply tip the bucket over and collect pounds of potatoes.
We finally planted the garlic! I know. It’s suppose to be planted in October and harvested in July. Last September, we bought fancy red garlic, 3 types, to plant. I also set aside some garlic I had from the neighbor (thanks B&C). Then I badly injured the blasted ankle in October. So, months and months later, I’m planting my veggie garden and figured, What the Hell, plant the damn garlic. I had left it in a box in the sunroom and it was getting pretty odoriferous. More of it came up than I expected. I plan to let it sit in the ground until I get significant garlic scapes or October – whichever happens first.
We also planted some squash that I had started inside. They seemed pretty miffed about being exiled to the great outdoors, but I think most of them will make it. We also planted gourd seeds, minipumpkin seeds, 2 types of winter squash, beans, peas, carrots, and onions. My parents gave me a lot of seeds as they won’t be planting a garden this year with their slow move from one house to another. Some of the seeds were pretty old….think 1990s. So, we’ll see if any of those seeds come up.
My parents gave us a 420 gallon water tank that had been kicking around their place for a few years. When it is our turn for the irrigation water, we use the small pump to fill it. Then, since it is placed higher than the garden, we simply attach a house and let gravity water our little garden. The tank holds enough water to keep the garden happy in between our irrigation days.
Did you know that Tanuki has a very pink butt? Yep, under all that fuzz, he really is a pink guy.
Tan-tan needs a shave 2-3 times a year. We use to take him to the vet, who had a groomer in once a week, and for $60 he would get a bath and shave. But that groomer moved on, and we had to find a new one. The cheapest I could find in a 60 mile radius was $100. Now, I don’t need anything fancy, just utilitarian. We don’t take out muts to dog shows, or the dog park, or even on walks around the neighborhood. We live in the country, where there are no parks, no sidewalks, and no foofoo dogs.
So, we looked at prices and for just over $100 we could get a quality shaver, replacement blades, shaver oil, and cooling/cleaning shaver spray. Tanuki has simply been panting most of the day, even inside. He is just too fuzzy to go without a shave here in the desert southwest.
M3 took the initiative this morning and gave Tan-tan a good brush. I wrapped up a few chores and was just grabbing a quick snack of cheese and crackers in the kitchen when I heard the shavers. Yep, M3 had started shaving Tan-tan….in the living room. Where there is carpet and a large floor rug. Sigh….We have rooms with tile, linoleum, and wood.
Anyway, we spent an hour wrestling with Tanuki as we shaved him. He had dreadlocks on his fetlocks. He had oily hair on top of those doggy oil glands that sit on the lower back of a dog. He had wooled up hair that took several tries to take off, taking layer off of layer. He hates to have his feet, tail, or butt patted, brushed, or shaved. His main trick was simply to sit down, which made it difficult to shave his backside. He is ~80 lbs. For the final few hairs, M3 held him and I leaned upside down to shave his butt and empty nutsack. Yes, all the time I was fervently praying Tan-tan wouldn’t flatulate or sit on my face. There are just some things that a person can’t get over easily.
We took several short breaks throughout to let Tan-tan squirm and us to rest. We also cleaned the blade and let it cool during these breaks.
With mission accomplished with nothing broken or any truly embarrassing antics to report, we were both exhausted. Tan-tan got treats and then we reunited him with Hannibal, who had been locked outside into the dogyard for this adventure. She was stunned by Tanuki’s transformation. But even more amusing, she wanted to be shaved too. Alas, her hair is so short we decided to give her belly rubs instead.
Then came the clean up. We filled a kitchen trash bag with Tan-tan’s hair. I will leave the vacuuming up to M3, as he chose a floor that doesn’t lend itself to sweeping.
Yes, indeed! If you don’t have seed balls, you are missing out. Why, you probably aren’t in tune with nature, and obviously haven’t played with mud lately.
Several weekends ago, we went to a little seed ball workshop in the nearby village of Vallecitos at the soon-to-be recreational center. It was mostly for the kids, but M3 and I sure had a lot of fun. Cici from a nearby farm lead the workshop. Essentially, seedballs are a mixture of wildflower seeds, clay, manure and/or compost, and water. You can make your balls round, or patted in discs so that they stay on hillsides when thrown. I know, you are already thinking like me. Walk by seedball bombing.
So, here is the mix:
1 part mixed flower seeds (with chaff and pods)
2 parts manure/compost
4 or 5 parts clay
enough water to bind it all together into little balls.
The clay holds the balls together until the monsoons come, and then does double duty holding moisture (from the rains) close to the seeds, along with the nutrients from the manure/compost, giving the seeds an extra chance or two of fully sprouting and throwing down roots. These clay seedballs, once dry, can be tossed out at any time into a barren patch of your yard, someone else’s yard, a public space, etc. We spread them around up by our house and in the dogyard. M3 even took a few to work.
As many of you know, M3 works at a small college and this college has a pottery class. Well, there are plenty of little bits of clay pieces left over and the pottery instructor gave us some of this clay. We have to smash it up, but then it was suggested by Cici that a cement mixer makes quick work of turning these ingredients into seedballs. And my dad has been wanting us to take his little cement mixer away for some time now. Hmm…..Seedballs for 4th of July anyone?
Remember Speckled Hen laying eggs in the freezer room? Yeah, special chicken. Well, we have been having a predator issue. We have lost most of our chickens to neighbor’s dogs, coyotes, and perhaps, a large feral dog. So we put up more fencing and started letting the chickens out later, when the predators should be sleeping.
On e Tuesday morning, as M3 was putting the donkeys to pasture (sun up over the mountain), he heard a loud, noisy chicken ruckus. As he looked up towards the house he saw a grey canine running across our yard along the irrigation ditch with Speckled Hen in it’s mouth. He startled the animal (coyote or feral dog?) and chased it off. When M3 returned to the area of the chicken ruckus, he found Speckled Hen under some weeds.
One leg was injured, but not broken and she had some tooth marks on her back side, in addition to having lost most of her tail feathers. However, she was well enough to evade M3 in his attempts to catch her. He gave up and went to work. When we returned, our white rooster, Griffin, was guarding her as she rested near the front porch. The other hens attacked her any chance they got, reacting to their ingrained instincts to kill the weak.
Together, with a round of chickenwire, we caught her and placed her in a large, straw-lined cat carrier. Provided with food and water, we placed her, carrier and all, in the freezer room up on the freezer so she could see out during her convalescence. She stayed in her little box for 3 nights. Then we released her during the day to be with the flock, or not, as she chose. Each night, she returned to the freezer room instead of the hen house. So, we put her in the carrier over night.
The following Tuesday, the unknown canine assailant returned and took Griffin. We added more fencing and now only allow chickens out of their chicken yard when we are home. The entire property is fenced, but that isn’t keeping the predators out. Even peeing on the fence posts is not dissuading the predators from trespassing. Sigh…..
After three weeks, Speckled Hen has started to grow out her feathers, her leg has completely recovered, and she is back to sleeping in the hen house. However, she is still laying her eggs in the freezer room.
Remember our little cat Streak, The Walking Anatomy Lesson? He had a massive abscess that burst open, leaving the flesh over his ribs exposed. So, we took him to the vet (that was abscess #2), got him cleaned up and on antibiotics. It healed up cleanly….or so we thought. Not too long passes before a third abscess in the same place makes itself known. Poor little dude. Again, the abscess bursts open the day of his vet appointment, thankfully leaving a mess in the outdoor cat yard and not on the carpet.
Good wittle kitty.
Streak was extremely difficult to get into a carrier, even biting and scratching. I think the little dude was in more pain than I initially thought. After all, his abscess had burst, so most of the pain and discomfort should have been relieved by that, right? Hell, no!
But 3 attempts and 2 towels later, I had him in the carrier and off to the vet’s. I don’t believe they had seen a pet with 3 abscesses in a row on the same location before. So, probably some foreign body still trapped in the flesh. Little Dude was going to have to go under the knife. So, I waggled my fingers at him through the carrier bars and left him in capable hands.
My vets office is great and they stayed late the next day to fit him into their surgery schedule. He had to stay a second night, had a tube and 10 stitches put in, and antibiotics. 7 days later, the tube came out, allowing the skin to heal closed. 12 days after surgery, M3 and I removed the stitches. Streak was so good about it.
So, what was the cause of all this fuss? Unknown. But the vet did find a puss pocket at the center of lots of scar tissue. The original foreign body (cactus spine? cat claw?) had dissolved and couldn’t be identified.
Now, Streak is back to his usual sweet self, letting us pick him up for snuggles and carry him around.
Here in northern New Mexico, we have Chinese Elm. These trees seed prolifically and also send up runners from their roots. Cut down the tree, tear up the stump, even remove the stump; if you left a root behind, you will have baby elm the next rainy season. As discussed in the post on firewood, many people find the smell of burning elm to be a mild irritant and don’t use it as firewood.
Here on the farm, this ‘weed’ grows in the both the dog yard and the cat yard. We usually harvest it twice a year for the goats and donkeys. Both will strip not only the leaves and bark, but will eat any tender little branches. M3 takes them out with his hedge trimmer or chain saw and we load them up in the truck and haul them down to the field, where we lay them out on top of two already existing rows of such branches. Once the beasties have had their way with them, we leave them in place to act as wind breaks, catching dirt, sand, seeds, and water, allowing plants to grow up among the branches, providing yet more goodness for the goats and donkeys to hunt around for.
We do this with any brush we can get our hands on, as long as we know pesticides and herbicides have not been used on the plants. We don’t need to poison all our barn animals in one fell swoop. We will even accept Christmas trees from friends and relatives in the winter provided there is not that tinsel stuff that could get balled up in the guts of a goat or donkey, causing a nasty painful death. So, just keep your local little farms in mind if you want to take out some brush or weedy trees. Both goats and donkeys are browsers, so they can handle a variety of plants.
People actually ask about my wood. I know, it sounds like some reverse come on. But really, folks hear that we heat our house with firewood and they pause to wonder if we have indoor plumbing. Yes we do, but if you still feel that a country farm visit would be lacking the je ne sais qua without relieving yourself in the woods, well then, we can supply you with a shovel and point you in the right direction.
My Main Man (M3) doesn’t enjoy chainsaw work. And firewood hunting and gathering, while a manly endeavor, is one of those chores that can leave you badly injured if you have a chainsaw accident. So, we buy from a local family each year. We prefer to get a mix of pinon, pine, cedar, and oak. The firewood arrives in the back of a pickup and is tossed into piles, which I then stack while M3 is at work. He then feels that my symmetry was off and spends half a day restacking it. Hmm….well, he is burning calories and he often removes his shirt for this task, so I won’t be complaining .
Cedar makes great kindling and starter wood for a fire. Pine is also nice, but doesn’t burn as hot as pinon and oak. Oak is way denser (and you definitely notice that after stacking a cord of it) and is great for piling on just before you tuck into bed as it will burn for several hours into the night, keeping the place warm. You can also burn cottonwood, which we do on occasion, though it is way harder to split than some of these other woods. We have burned elm too. Chinese elm sprouts up like a weed here and mostly we try to trim it back and feed it to the goats long before it gets large enough to be worthy of the fireplace. Some people find the smell of burning elm to be an irritant and they will sneeze all day as the burning elm heats the house. My mom suffers from this and won’t burn elm in her fireplace. It also creates a lot of ash, while other woods work just as well without creating the same amount of ash.
Lastly, let me tell you about sap-laden pine. Or, really, any wood that has more sap that usual. The local word for this is trementina. This makes excellent kindling to start a fire, splintering off little bits. However, if you put in a whole piece of it (as pictured here) you run the risk of burning your house down as it will burn so hot it may escape the confines of the fireplace, melting bits you don’t want melted. So, we always set these sap-laden logs aside so they won’t get confused with the regular firewood in the dark, snow, sleet, or on sleepy-eyed mornings.
After much sighing, debating, and chewing of lip, we have decided to go with a small garden this year, instead of the normal quarter acre that we have done for the past 4 years. As most of you know, I damaged my ankle back in October and finally had surgery in February. The recovery has been longer than expected, and is still not complete. Also, we are behind….well, in nearly everything this year. We haven’t done the normal spring cleaning where we go through the house and the property and get rid of stuff – donate, recycle, garbage. We haven’t cleared out the corrals of the winter poo (partly because it keeps freezing at least once a week) and spread said poo on the garden area to be tilled in. We haven’t fixed that busted outdoor water pipe (again freezing temperatures). I could go on about the list of stuff that needs to be done, but you would be bored. Who wants to read a boring post like that?
In addition to all that stuff, My Main Man will be taking the basic EMT course this summer at the college where he works. That course is 10 weeks long, and consists of 3 eight hour days a week (Th, F, & S). He’ll still be working 40 hours. He will still have the commute. So, I will get to see him Sundays. Sort of. He will need sleep, food, and study time for the EMT class. This is a very worthy goal, but also means that I will be handling all the housework and farm work for those 10 weeks.
And this brings us back to the garden. We have a berry patch, and this year I am going to add perhaps 5 squash plants, maybe some beans or peas, and some container tomatoes. Potatoes are still a possibility. This berry patch is watered, in part, by our laundry water. So, that makes it easy to keep the garden watered. Don’t frown, I use the 7th Generation earth friendly stuff, and yes, I will rinse my food before I eat it. Or serve it to you.
Before M3′s EMT class starts June 1st, we need to take care of a few things. Chicken coops will be cleaned, that arroyo will be fenced, and a chicken fence will be put around my berry garden. We also plan to set aside a weekend to take care of that broken water pipe. It may not take a whole weekend, but we won’t know until it is done and back in service. Hopefully, we will also get a good day in of helping my parents with their slow move from Espanola to Abiquiu. Lots of furniture and boxes of books and looms to haul up there.
While I will miss having my large garden to tend to daily, I had a great sense of relief once the decision was made. We can do the large garden next year and use that space this year for intermittent grazing by the goats and donkeys. We are also thinking about breeding the goats in the fall, as we decided to take this season off do to my semi-crippled state.
Hope you enjoy the gratuitous farm pictures.
It’s egg season on the farm and our two lady geese are doing a lovely job of laying for us. Also, some of our older ducks are starting to lay (I think many are still a tad too young), and of course the chickens already know what the egg laying is all about.
So here are some pictures of the the two lady geese. They decided to make a nest beside the actual goose house (which the muscovy ducks use for a perch) and they share the nest. I don’t know if that is usual or not, but these two ladies don’t seem to mind. Initially, we were collecting the eggs because we were still experiencing temperatures well below freezing. Then we decided to let them have the eggs and see if they could hatch out some goslings for the farm. Now geese need a certain number of eggs in the nest before they will actually sit on the nest. They like 10 or more eggs and it takes 29-31 days for the eggs to hatch. Within a weekend, the ladies were up to 4 eggs in the nest. Alas, the next day all the eggs were gone. We live amidst the Carson National Forest, so there are plenty of egg-thieving predators that I could point the finger at, and you all know which finger I would use too.
So we started collecting the eggs again, and giving a few away here and there. So far, we have collected 1 duck egg. I was lucky to find it among the dead and down willows, as the goats had run through that space 3 times in the space of 20 minutes, scaring the ducks out of that area. It is a perfectly white egg, a little smaller than out chicken eggs. Then a week later, I noticed a second duck egg, only this one was light green and had been broken into. There are plenty of magpies around and I know they love chicken eggs, so I assume they wouldn’t turn down a duck egg. So far our ducks are not making nests, but rather simply laying their eggs out on the grass and leaving them.
And the other day, just after letting the geese out of the pond pen, the two white ones went over to where the ducks sun themselves much of the day, scaring the away. The goose proceeded to eat something white from the ground as the gander stood guard. I was not at a good place to be sure, but I fear my geese are periodically eating duck eggs! Damn them! If anyone else has heard of this, please leave me a comment.
Anyway, we are contemplating building a duck house, like a larger one sort of like our chicken house, to give them a safe place to lay eggs and be in at night. But that is a larger project and not one that needs to be seen to immediately.
I leave you with lots of pictures to aid you in your questionable dreams of farm poultry eggs.
Last year, I went and helped my neighbor harvest his garlic during high summer, early int he morning, for 2 or 3 mornings. I was paid in garlic, which was more than a fair trade. There is nothing like fresh garlic, and fresh garlic freshly roasted and smeared on home made bread is enough to make your eyes roll up in taste bud ecstasy. So, of course we started thinking maybe we needed a little garlic patch ourselves. Our neighbor was kind enough to give us some advice and we marked out a little plot in the garden. Typically, garlic is planted in the fall and left to winter over and harvested from the ground in the summer.
Last summer, we learned about garlic scapes and garlic flower heads (allium) and how they turn into wee little garlic cloves, or garlic ‘seeds’. During the spring and summer, the garlic scapes can be harvested young and sauteed up for a light garlic flavor. The bees and butterflies seem to like the flower heads. However, it is best to cut these from the garlic and simply put in a vase of water to let them open.
Now, last October I badly sprained my ankle, and we simply ran out of time before winter set in. So, we have 4 kinds of fancy garlic (1 from my neighbor and 3 from a seed catalog). Most places sell garlic for the fall planting, but here is one place we often buy garden seeds from, if you want to book mark them: Seeds of Change.
Anyway, we missed the ideal planting time, but we can still plant our cloves now and harvest in the late summer. Our bulbs simply won’t be as big as if they had had all winter in the ground. The cloves are typically planted ~4-6 inches down and the same apart. They make great companion plants to asparagus and several fruit trees. In fact, our garlic patch was sporting a very happy volunteer wild asparagus plant last fall.
With my still recovering ankle, I think we will have a smaller garden this year, as we haven’t really gotten a start yet. But that is OK. As long as there is garlic.