Friday, May 30, 2008

What's Growing Now?

The gardens are doing pretty well so far. Our tomotoes started turning yellow and we thought they were just too wet from all the rain but finally Bryon bought some plant food/fertilizer and put on them and they greened right up! They only have a few yellow leaves left on the bottom of the plants. Bryon thought they might have some terrible plant virus but we finally decided it was just nutrients they needed. The soilless mix only has coffee ground compost and peat moss in it and we have to keep adding stuff to it until we have what the plants need. We are learing.

Right now we have tomatoes, eggplant, squash (spaghetti, zucchinni and yellow), radishes, beets, carrots, potatos, onions, strawberries, blackberries, garlic and hopefully corn (but the coons will get most of it if it ever takes off). Wow that seems like a lot when I type it all out!

We googled last night and figured out our potatoes are being consumed by Potatoe Fleas so we are going to make up a concoction of garlic and hot pepper to spray on them. It's hard not to just spray them with Sevens Dust of something off the shelf at Wal-Mart but we are resisting and trying to keep things as organic as we can and still have some food.

I want to plant some grapes and fruit trees next. We have one little mangy apple tree Bryon planted last year but the deer keep rubbing it. Of course it is right by his food plot. Our elderly neighbor (in his 80's) has a wonderful pear and apple orchard and he shared some with us last year. We'll have to go visit him again around harvest time this year. And another neighbor I just met lives 1 mile outside of Niangua and has a nice big orchard too.

My friend Tammy turned me onto to a farm just about 15 miles from the house (a nice Sunday drive) that I'm wanting to check out. They have milk, beef, chicken, pork, lamb, soap, jams, eggs and more. I'm excited to visit them. You can see their operation at

This book I'm reading by Barbara Kingsolver has really gotten me excited about trying to be more of a Locavore and eat more local foods. I realized a few weeks ago that the grapes I've been buying are from Chile. That's nuts. Bryon said, "So what you're going to stop eating grapes?" Well for now I am. I've been buying us some dried fruits that are grown in the USA and trying to pay attention to where things come from. Let me tell you, there are not many choice at Wal-Mart that are Made In The USA. Don't we make anything anymore? When there are more than one kind of something I need I've been looking at the origins and trying to choose the USA choice, but they are few and far between. Even the little patriotic shirt I just bought yesterday was made in China. Ain't that patriotic?

I don't know, it's sort of fun searching for things that are local, organic, American, natural but it ain't easy and it ain't cheap. Wal-Mart has spoiled us to the fast and easy. When we moved to Marshfield 5 years ago we had the old Wal-Mart with no grocery side and I was disgusted because I had to go three places to complete my shopping AND they never had the size or color or whatever I needed. Now we have every possible convenience and I'm purposely making it hard for myself. Go figure. Life is funny sometimes. I guess I just like a project too much.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Free Range Chickens?

Bryon finally convinced me to let the chickens out to peck around the yard this weekend for the first time. I had fully intended to let them free range around when we were home but I wasn't ready to let them go yet. They are still my babies! They are only 8 weeks old! Would you let your 8 week old play around unsupervised in the yard, no I say!

They LOVED it but I was stressed out! I couldn't just leave them alone out there because I didn't know how far they would wander, if they would get hurt or plucked up by a hawk. I just knew they were going to peck their way into the woods and be lost forever! They actually went about 10 feet straight to the giant cedar tree at the end of our driveway. Those chickens were really enjoying themselves but I couldn't hardly enjoy it for them because I was so worried they would never go back to the coop. Bryon left and went to a BBQ, and Mom and Grace and I stayed out and tried to corral the chickens back into the yard for my peace of mind. Let me tell you, chicken's do not corral easily. Finally Mom got the hose out and sprayed them out of the tree and all three of us herded them into the chicken yard and closed the door. I was pretty determined that was going to be their last outing because I was not a happy camper. But, sucker that I am I was convinced again on Sunday to let them out for a while. They were all hovering around the door in the event of just such an outing and eyeing the cedar tree hopefully. I let them out. They pecked around a couple of hours and then went back into the coop to water and I shut the door on them. Monday was a similar story. So they are getting tiny tastes of freedom. I think they are like teenagers though, once they've tasted that freedom they won't be reigned in easily. It's hard letting them go and learn about the world and all it's dangers! I know my day is coming with Grace too, but at least her brain is bigger than a chicken's! You can't say "Here chicky, chicky" and wait for them to come running for a pat on the head or a treat like a puppy or say "Hey little girl, want some candy?" and have Grace come running for a treat. Chicken's just do whatever the lead chicken does and if that one is walking over a cliff, I think they will all do the same! Lemmings you know.

One chicken would find a little tasty morsel of clover or grass and pluck it up and all the rest would flock over to see what she had! They entertained themselves all weekend climbing and bouncing on those low hanging cedar limbs (the limbs go all the way around the bottom and they lay right on the ground). I know they felt safe it there. A cardinal flew in there once and they sort of freaked out but recovered quickly.

Those have been some happy chicken's the past few days, now if Mama can just get happy too, all will be well.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Home to Roost

Well all my chicks are back under the same roof again. Bryon and Grace got home about 5:30 last night and had lots of stories to share about their trip. Sounds like they had a good time. Grace was TIRED and a little cranky but no worse for the wear. She was a little sassy at first, I could tell she'd spent the weekend with older girls, ha! Thankfully, I think that most of it has already worn off with a good night's rest. She didn't want to get up this morning for Daddy so I let her sleep a little longer. I think she was excited to get back to school to see her friends. We are going to skip gymnastics tonight so she can catch up on her rest a bit. Bryon said she probably jumped on the Corder's trampoline for six hours during the trip so I think that should do it for this week!

I've really got it bad to go out West. Bryon mentioned planning a trip with Kelly before he left and it turned on my travel trigger again. I'm not sure how we are going to get daycare for Grace worked out since Mom has to work but hopefully we can work something else. If not, I'm just going to take her. We'll have to figure it out because I'm ready to GO! I feel like if I don't get out there soon, I'll NEVER make it out there again. We had been out west 8 years in a row before she was born. A lot of the things I used to do have sort of fallen by the wayside or changed but I miss those mountains a lot.

Now of course I also have to pay someone to check on the chickens while we are gone. I'm hopeful Austin Huggler will help with that. Now to figure out a week to go and start planning! Bryon wants to fish the Snake River and camp in the Tetons. Kelly wants to go to the fabled fourth meadow of the Slough Creek in Yellowstone. We've never gone that far. I'm not even sure I can. Third meadow was 9 miles. I've been a slug too long for that I'm afraid. Hmmm. More to come on that adventure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Big 4 0

Today is my 40th birthday. Bryon gave me the best possible birthday gift this year. A weekend of peace and quiet alone on the farm. A vacation in my own house. It has been perfect. Friday I went into work just long enough for the morning meeting then vacated the premises. I'd saved up some comp time from awarding scholarships after work hours and on the weekend and reclaimed my time after our meeting. I shopped a bit, had lunch with Leslie at Cafe Roswitha, had a wonderful 1 1/2 hour massage with Dawn's therapist, went to see Prince Caspian, ate sushi and then had a Seattle's Best Grande at Borders and perused books and magazines until my brain got foggy. I went home and watched my DVR'd Moonlight and went to bed at midnight. That was about all I could squeeze into one day!

Saturday was another perfect day weather and activity wise. I slept in until 9 am!!!! Woohoo!!! It was swell. I got up and let the chickens out into the sunshine, picked and ate the first strawberry of the season and headed to the Marshfield fairgrounds for the Fiber Fair. I spent about 2 hours there and learned a lot. I watched a lady spin wool into yarn right off a live angora bunny! It was bad for the crafty side of me because now I want an angora bunny and a spinning wheel...and maybe sheep...and a goat...okay, I already wanted those things but now I really do!

I also caught the wrangly mouse that had been living under my kitchen sink and in my trash bin. Uggg! Why do I always have to catch those damn things when Bryon is gone?!? I picked up the repulsive thing and dropped it into the trash alive still stuck to the glue trap. I know that wasn't very humane but I was about to either throw up or fling it across the room. Maybe both. Yuck.

When I came home from the Fiber Fair I got out the ladder and drill and finally hung up the flower baskets on the front of the house and filled them with flowers and dirt. They look nice! I planted a few more flowers, thinned the beets and radishes a bit more and fixed my favorite crockpot dinner to cook the rest of the day: chicken and mushrooms over rice. I think I overdid it a bit outside because I ended up with a headache but I managed to get all my magazines looked at on the porch while dodging dive bombing humming birds. We have about a dozen right now. Those things are so noisy you can hardly think out there! I managed though :) I've been having to fill the feeders twice a day! They eat a lot!

I had rented Fast Food Nation (a bummer and stupid show) and watched it too. It's for city people who don't know where their hamburger comes from. It was lame. Really bad acting too. they were going for some sort of yuppie Upton Sinclair thing but it was bad. Don't watch it. I have Martian Child for tonight, I hope it's better.

I woke up this morning, my birthday with a bad headache still but mercifully it's completely gone away. I tried making soap this morning. The old fashioned lye kind. It failed. I blame it on my 3 1/2 year old lye. I thought it was going to work but it separated. The book says that happens when the lye fails or you measure wrong. I didn't measure wrong. I was disappointed but I'll order some new lye online and try again sometime. I did find it helps to read the Fahrenheit side of the thermometer and not the Celsius side. I couldn't figure out why the damn lye solution wouldn't heat up and kept trying to get it hotter when it finally occurred to me I was reading the wrong side and it was just fine. Doh! Sometimes I have to wonder about myself. On a brighter note the homemade baking mix I found online turned out some delicious drop biscuits so at least that was a success today!

I've gotten several birthday calls today and it sounds like Bryon, Grace, Emily and Norma Jean are having a great visit in Nebraska. I hope I get to meet the girls sometime. Well now I'm going to go out and spread my netting across the strawberry patch so I can try to claim the next ripening berries before the squirrels and other sundry critters then I'm going upstairs to scrapbook until the sun goes down.

Life is good.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I got it!

I ate the FIRST strawberry this morning. It was bright red and warm and delicious! Woohoo! I beat the squirrels :) You see it has friends so I'll be watching diligently for the next one. Grace will have to have the next one because I didn't think this one would last until Monday night when they return from Nebraska :) She was a little upset I ate it, but it's survival of the fittest and the fastest on the farm!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's it worth to you?

We have one 1/2 pink strawberry in the patch right now and several blossoms and little white berries just waiting for the sunshine to turn them red. Where is the dang sunshine? Good question. I spotted the berry yesterday when I was trying to pull some weeds out of the bed. Bryon said Grace spied it too and wanted to eat it on the spot! That one 1/2 pink strawberry is being watched by more than the humans on the farm I know, so today I went to Lowe's and bought some netting to put over the bed. I don't know if it will work but the game is ON! Bryon said one of his tomato plants is MISSING and there are raccoon tracks all around the raised beds in the mud. Bastards. Those pale strawberries are going to cost a fortune in my sanity and money before they ever touch my lips. This year, it's my MISSION to harvest those berries. Every. Single. One. I will win. I will be victorious. Failure is not an option. Now, if only the critters would cooperate.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Subscribing to Life

I've been thinking lately that the stages of my life can pretty much be summed up in the magazine subscriptions I've had through the years. I don't remember what my first subscription was but I think I first started choosing what magazines I wanted to read during my early teen years. I remember reading "Tiger Beat "and "Seventeen" getting the scoop on all the teen celebritites like Shaun Cassidy and all those other teen stars and reading about boyfriend problems (like I even had any hopes of having a boyfriend then) and makeup etc. I did collect all those rock posters out of the old heavy metal magazines too. Yes, I had a giant David Lee Roth in extremely tight spandex pants hanging on my wall. I shudder to think of it now, but I adored that nasty guy.

In college I bought "Interview" from the book store all the time. I was a huge tabloid sized magazine. No glossy pages but very New York, high fashion, culture watch stuff. Don't ask me why. I had lofty ambitions then and though I'd live in New York and be a journalist.

Next it was "Entertainment Tonight" a weekly magazine and "Rolling Stone". Wow how those piled up. That was the early 90's. Just married and teaching school. Like I had time to read then. I carried those over into the mid 90's. Then I found the outdoors and hiking so I moved on to "Backpacker", "Outside" and "National Geographic Adventure".

Another move to the farm in Niangua brought "Hobby Farm". Grace brought "Wonder Years", "Family Fun" and "Parents". Now I currently subscribe to "Hobby Farm", "Mother Earth News", "Mary Jane's Farm", "Real Simple" and "Oprah". I've fallen out of love with Oprah though so she's going to get dropped and I've decided I know everything there is to know about parenting that I can get from a magazine so that's going bye bye too.

Once I get interested in a topic or subject I basically submerge myself in periodicals for sustenance and encouragement. I'm feeling pretty farmy and green these days. There's a whole section on the wall at Borders for greenies now. I can feel a change a comin.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Flip Flops

Under the category of "everyone is doing it" I bought Grace some flip flops. Yes, I've already succumbed to the peer pressure of three year olds. Grace's little girl friends have all been wearing flip flops to school and she asked me for some pink flip flops. I got them. She walks better in them than I do that's for sure. Of course she wants to wear them every day and we can't very well do that. She wanted to wear them to bed the first night, but this morning they were under the kitchen table and she didn't even ask about them. So maybe the new has already worn off a bit.

She's such a girly girl sometimes and a tomboy others. She loves to have her toes painted but I told her I won't paint her fingernails again until the white part grows out. She's a biter, just like I used to be and still am sometimes. She's having some trouble getting the things on so I showed her to put her big toe on the princess so she'd know which flop went on which foot.

I'm sure this is the beginning of many requests that are going to be hard to resist and hard to decide which ones should be resisted. All I know is I'm glad I'm a grown up now, most of the time :)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

St. Louis Weekend

We spent the weekend in St. Louis for a family vacation. We took Grace to the zoo two summers ago, but we figured she'd really like it this year. She did. She was CONSUMED with riding the train so after trying to look at a few animals and constant questions about when she could ride the train, we got on and RODE! That girl loves here trains! She had fun running around the zoo and it was a perfect day. Cloudy and cool. We stayed at the Drury Inn at the Convention Center which was right on the Landing. Bryon had a free night because of a crummy stay last year and it only cost us $87 to stay. It was a GREAT hotel and probably the quietest nights I've ever spent in hotels. Bryon and Grace swam in the cold indoor pool while I read a magazine poolside. They had snacks every night and a great breakfast each morning. We ate at Cunnetto's on the Hill one night and on the Landing the next. We went to the Magic House on Friday which was pretty much like the Discovery Center in Springfield but Grace had fun. Then Saturday on the way home we stopped at Purina Farms.

We went to Whole Foods and I can't believe how awesome that store is. I wish we had one in Springfield. We have Mama Jeans which is probably a tenth the size but I suppose it's better than nothing. I had grocery envy. Of course that's probably one of the ONLY things I'd envy about St. Louis. I tried to imagine myself in those little brownstone row houses and I just couldn't conjure it up. Maybe a house swap for a week vacation, but otherwise I just could NOT live there. I guess it takes all kinds.

It was fun to get away but Grace was sure a tired mess! GRUMPY, GRUMPY! She and I went to Baker Seed's Garden Show in Mansfield today. It was fun. Lots of organic plants and seeds and products.

Back to the grind and the schedule tomorrow.

I worried about my chickens the whole time, but luckily they did fine and and are still growing great! They are enjoying getting to go out into their "yard" and scratch and frolic around. They are tussling a bit for pecking order. They can all pretty much fly at will now and the two little Araucanas are coming along well too. They don't seem to be getting picked on at all. I think I've been really lucky with them so far.

Life is good.