Sunday, March 31, 2013

Demolition Day

We spent the day working at the new, but very old, house.  While Brandon made noise and dust and made dramatic changes by removing walls and floors, I spent hours crawling on the floor pulling carpet pad staples from the upstairs floors.  Every time I came downstairs to make sure none of the thumps I could hear had done him bodily harm, I could tell his progress by the piles of debris and the missing structure.  I'm sure when he came to check my progress with the staples he was just as impressed.  It's not like my job doesn't have it's own dangers, too.  A stray staple can do major damage - to your pants when scooting on the floor. 

I really hope he enjoys putting walls back up as much as he enjoys tearing them down.  We are considering some changes to the floor plan, and ripping off the old paneling and the crumbling plaster and lath is helpful to visualize how the rooms would look with some of the walls gone.  Hopefully the whole house doesn't fall down because of our "repairs."

We knew there were moldy places from the leaky roof, but today we found some wall joists that were severely damaged by termites.  It looked like termite damage from long ago, but we will be replacing the damaged wood.   So exciting!

The stuff that I've been calling plaster, that is plastered to the lath on the walls, looks more like concrete to me.  And it full of hair.  At least that's what it looks like.  Short hairs of all different colors.  I tried to take a photo of it, and maybe you can see the hairs sticking up from the top of the broken piece on top.  I don't know what kind of hairs these are, but it's sort of gross.  

We have a big dumpster that gets emptied once a week and we have filled it twice so far.  We are keeping most of the boards for other projects, I kept all the old carpet to use to kill grass in the future garden, and we will be able to have a great bonfire someday with all the lath that we have kept from the walls.  Even trying to reduce the amount of waste, we are definitely contributing to the landfill with this project, and we aren't finished with the demolition yet. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

R. I. P. Mole

Don't worry, I didn't kill the mole nor do plan on eating it!  Over the past days I've been noticing mole tunnels.  I guess the wet weather and wet soil must make ideal tunneling conditions.  Thinking about moles when I step on their tunnels made me remember these cool dead mole photos that Brandon took for me last year while he was taking a walk.   He's such a good husband. 

Look at the mitts on this guy!  Moles are supposed to have a second thumb, which is really a wrist bone that has evolved to stick up near the thumb and makes the front paws very wide and good for digging.  Apparently they squeeze earthworms between their front paws before eating them to squeeze out all the mud the worms have been eating.  The poor worms have the poo squeezed out them in their last moments.  If I were a worm, and I was captured by a creature this ugly, squeezing wouldn't be necessary.  

You can't see it's eyes at all, but I thought it was cool that in the photos you can still see mud stuck to the fur around it's nose.  The tunnels that you can see sticking up near the surface function as worm traps.  Somehow they can detect the worms falling into the tunnel and they run to quickly snatch them up.  They can paralyze the worms with an enzyme in their saliva and store them, alive, by the hundreds to be eaten later.  Who would have though worms face such nightmarish fates at the hands of cute little moles.  It's fascinating, but terrible to consider.  One more reason, to add to my growing list of reasons, that I'm glad I'm not a worm. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Panda Cows and Eagle Chickens

Doesn't this cow look like a panda bear?  I think this is a very pretty cow, and I wish it would let me give it a hug since I've always wanted to hug a real panda bear and this may be as close as I ever get.  Joe gave us a tour at his family farm this weekend so we could see the new calves that have been born this season.

What's even cuter than a panda cow?  A panda calf!  These two babies where near the fence but when I walked over to get a close look the mama cows came bellowing and running to rescue their babies from the scary strangers.  They made the babies run away from us before I could get some good pictures.  I blame Brandon's beard.  

Fortunately, we were able to drive right up to some other calves and mammas and as long as we stayed in the truck they didn't run away.  Probably because Brandon's window was tinted and they couldn't see his beard.  

Joe explained to us the breeding strategy that they are using to introduce the white faces into his nearly all black herd.  Managing the breeding schedule and the herd traits is quite complicated. 

On a farm like this, one of the traits that is important to breed for is good mothers.  Mothers that have an easy time giving birth and that willingly nurse their calves and have enough milk to grow strong calves.  I could tell these cows were taking motherhood seriously. 

We also stopped in to check out our joint chicken venture.  These guys are growing fast!  They look like full sized chickens to me, and the first feeble crows have been heard from some of the roosters.  I have plans to take some hens to mom soon, and we have a tentative rooster butchering date set for the second week in May.

Check out the crazy colors on the Easter egger roosters.  The look like some exotic bird of prey.  Unfortunately the hens are all variations of brown instead of the striking color patterns of the roosters which won't get to hang around to decorate the lawn. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Epic Kite Failure

Let me just say right away -the kite did not work.  At all.  It might have even been, as someone predicted,  and "epic fail."  I hate it when Brandon is right.  Even after I went to all the trouble sew a colorful tail and coax Brandon into painting on it, it still let me down. 

If I had decorated the kite, I probably would have chosen a butterfly or a bird, or something that made me think of flight.  Brandon decided to paint a snake.  I don't know why I ever doubted his choice.  It looked really great took him only a few minutes.

Maybe I put too much emphasis on form over function.  Or maybe we should have followed the directions.  Investing in some quality materials might have been the best thing we could have done.  Apparently pine dowels are not a strong as oak dowels, which is why they are cheaper.  Since both dowels snapped before I could even get it off the ground I never got to see if it was balanced or if the bridle needed adjustments.  I'm not defeated though.  I will try again.  Maybe. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Crafty Kite Night

This is my very first homemade kite!    Yes, it's made of wrapping paper.  Think it will fly?

It was easy to build.  It was easy for me anyway, since I mostly fetched things and took photos while I coaxed Jamie and Joe into building it.  I've being talking about building a kite for a long time, and finally assembled some components and found some easy to understand instructions.  Then all I had to do was lure the guys over with promises of beer and food.  No problems there. 

I'm implying that they were reluctant participants, but they were both more that willing to give it a try.  Show me a man who doesn't love craft night!  There are tools, measuring, and instructions to ignore, so it was right up their alley.  None of us had built kites before.  I have several old kite building books, which are surprisingly complicated, and because they are so old I wasn't familiar with much of the materials. We picked a basic design and ended up using a roll of wrapping paper.  My plan was to use Tyvek and Tyvek tape, but the roll of stuff I had turned out to be woven plastic and the tape wouldn't stick to it.  

We drilled some holes in the dowels (we used the wrong diameter dowels, and we forgot to cut to the right size so our kite is huge and flimsy), used wire and string to hold it together, then taped the wrapping paper to it.   

Next I'm going to make a tail and maybe paint a design on it.  If the weather is good this weekend, we're going to launch it.  Cross your fingers.  Brandon, who was at work while we built it, predicts that it will disintegrate before it gets in the sky.   What a doubter!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Juice'n It

Well, I wasn't sure I should blog about this because I didn't want to go on record as a wierdy, but it's what I've been thinking about and doing, so why not share!  It's probably too late to protect my reputation anyway.  Besides the photos are really colorful and I would like to see some color right now. 

For almost a week and half I have been making juice every morning and eating no foods all day, just drinking fresh vegetable and fruit juice.  This isn't the first time I've done a juice fast.  The first time Brandon and I did it together, and at the time we were working together out of town doing field work and feeling gross and fat from eating in restaurants for every meal for weeks on end.  I find it very hard to eat healthy when I'm on the road.  Particularly since we spend so much time in tiny out of the way places that don't offer a variety of options.  Sometimes the local grocery doesn't even sell vegetables, at least not any appetizing ones.  There's nothing like eating at a Huddle House every meal for a week or two to make a person entertain extremes in detoxifying. 

Several years ago we watched a documentary called "Sick, Fat, and Nearly Dead" on our netflix account and we were inspired.  The show is about a man who decides to change his life and his diet and heal his body.  He goes on the road with his juicer and gets other people to do it too.  So we tried it for ten days.  The first day is really hard and comes with headache and whining, but by day three you don't care about food anymore, and after that you feel great.  Lots of energy, deep sleep, blood pressure down, pink skin, synapses firing, and fat melting away.  Like Jamie said after he tried it, you wonder why you don't just do it forever, then you eat some real food and you remember why. 

Mmmm.... food...yummy hungry....  Sorry, I just lost focus - what was I saying? (joking!)

Making juice at home is much easier than doing it in a hotel room.  I'm sure hotel house keeping's staff see it all, but I wonder how many times they've had to clean celery pulp from the bathtub drain!  Hey, hotel sinks are small. 

Since there aren't many types of fruit in season right now, I've been using apples and oranges with carrots, celery, kale, Swiss chard, and ginger. During the summer I like to make juice out of all sorts of things. Believe it or not, but parsnip juice and sweet potato juice are both good, and a combo with cilantro, apple, cranberry is wonderful. Cucumbers make lots of juice, and you can even get juice from lettuce with the right kind of juicer.  I wouldn't recommend beet juice on it's own, it nearly paralyzes your vocal chords. Brandon has violent things to say about the juice I gave him that featured onions. ha he he...

We figured out pretty quick that the juices without many ingredients taste better.  In the beginning I was cramming a little of everything in the juicer and making what Brandon calls garbage juices.  I still think it's good to get lots of variety, but I like the taste better if I drink the different juices separately, or in combinations that work.   My lunch time green juice pictured at the top of the post is an entire celery bunch, and entire kale bunch, and two or three green apples.  It's like drinking sweet chlorophyll, and it makes me feel like I could run a marathon, or at least get up off the couch and do the dishes, which is good enough for me.  The orange colored juice is an entire bag of carrots, some apples, an orange, and about an inch of raw ginger.  So tasty, but super sweet.  I try to buy all organic produce if I can afford it.  Even though it seems like most of the produce comes out the end of the juicer in the pulp cup, I don't feel like it's wasted since the chickens eat most of it, and what they don't eat stays in the compost to make good soil amendments for my garden.  I might have the healthiest chickens in Kentucky!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Garden in a Cup

I have slowly weened myself from buying lots of live plants in the spring by starting my garden from seed.  I'm able to have more plants for a fraction of the cost.  A fraction of the cost and loads more work!  It's the good kind of work though.  The kind that gives you permission to skip badly needed housework and bring bags of dirt in the dinning room.  It also gives you permission to shop online, at beautifully designed websites that have wonderful pictures of tasty food, and buy things you don't have to have, and that you don't have to worry about returning because nothing fits.  It's shopping you can justify - in the long run it saves on groceries, makes healthy meals, encourages exercise and sunlight and vitamin D absorption, grounds your magnetic field with the earth while you touch the soil...  Maybe?  Of course, when most the garden goes to weeds and you are too lazy or hot to go pick anything for dinner it's harder to justify all those seeds, but that's hard to remember in February when you're dreaming of spring and the credit card needs some exercise. 

Last summer I started almost everything myself, and traded with friends for some variety.  I'm using the same technique this year that used I last, and I hope with addition of my mini greenhouse I can expand the number of plants I can start early.   My ultimate goal is to collect seed from the previous season, and save myself the expense of buying seed too.  I have saved seeds from basil, tomato, kale, coriander, zinnia, gourds, squash, and marigolds from last year.  Not everything yet, but it's a good start. 

These are the paper cups we have been making for little flower pots for the seeds.  I like that these are big enough that I don't have to transplant the seedlings, but the best thing about them is that they are free.  Most of these are from sales papers that come in the mail.  Instead of getting irritated by the free trash like I used to, now I get to be happy for something useful to be shipped to me so regularly and at no cost to me.  Thank you consumerism!

So this is what I have been doing in my spare moments and when someone is visiting that I can trick into helping.  "You want to see something cool?  Watch what happens if you roll this paper around a can of sweet peas.  Cool cup, huh?  Now you try... that's it, keep going... just a dozen more!" 

These plastic salad boxes will hold six cups, and they make it easy to keep the cups organized and movable.  I can put water in the salad box and the paper cups of soil soak it up, which makes it easier to water everybody when I don't have to worry about getting water in the top of the pot. 

It was dark outside when I took this picture, but there is a south facing window behind this shelving contraption, and more than three of the shelves have lights mounted to the bottom.  I put the plastic over the whole thing to hold in the heat from the lights and the moisture.

So far I have planted three types of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, basil, sage, okra, and dill.  More seeds to be planted soon!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Need a Hitching Post

Saturday was a work day at the new house, but it was also a day for company, one of which arrived on horseback!  A friend of mine who lives in the area rode his horse over for a visit and a tour of the new place. 

With a deep warning bark, Puck alerted us to a lone rider approaching over the horizon (I also got a text saying he was on his way, but that's not as cool).   

This is the first time anyone has ever come to visit us by riding a horse, and if this is going to be a reoccurring thing I really need to get a hitching post in the front yard.  The horse was tied up (hitched?) by the barn in the back while we toured inside the house.  It's nice to have a barn to tie a horse to.  I think I'm really going to like living in a place where hitching posts are a real thing!

The big job of the day was to remove all the drywall and insulation that was covering the floors after Brandon removed ceilings that had water damage. 

Is this a Star Wars character?  No, just Brandon in his safety gear. 

While Brandon was busy working, I spent a lot of time wondering the property and inspecting the trees, the pastures, the miscellaneous junk piles.  We had visits from family too, which meant that I got to explore with my nephew.   We found snails, preying mantis cases, black berry vines, and lots of sticks.  We also found out the driveway is great place to race, and we have plans to try kite flying.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Treasure in a Tree

Jamie and I were working in field and came across this hollow tree.  The tree is still alive, but the entire inside of the trunk is hollow and it has many irregularly shaped holes.  It evoked an irresistible desire to crawl inside the tree.  It's not often that you get to be inside a live tree like this as an adult.  Speaking from experience, most hollow trees are not of adult proportions and you can't get in no matter how hard you try.  

I was forcing Jamie to pose for a photo, when he found a pill bottle inside the tree with a note in it that said Dying Bridge,  I didn't recognize it, I looked it up on my phone and after a brief read we figured out it is a world wide treasure hunt that people play.  Apparently participants hide an object with a paper in it, and when you find one you sign it and log on to the website to report your find. 

The instructions said to sign the paper and you could take the treasure inside, if there was one, as long as you left a treasure of equal value.  This one didn't have a treasure, but I had been carrying a bunch of feathers in my clip board that we found and believe were from a northern flicker.  The feathers have bright neon yellow shafts, and are yellow with deep black markings.  We put a feather in the bottle so the next person can have a treasure.  I went to the website and was going to report our find when I got bogged down in sign in and realized we didn't take a gps location, so there wasn't going to be a way to locate the cache on the website anyway.  Regardless, it was fun to find a hidden treasure in a really awesome hollow tree. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Our Little Farm is Big News!

We have been searching for a long time for a house with some land that doesn't have restrictions on having livestock, that is private, and that's close enough to our jobs that the commute isn't unreasonable.  We finally found what we have been searching for!  It's a tiny old farm house that needs many repairs, but it has five acres of open land, no neighbors, and has that critical hard to find characteristic - it was in our price range (which didn't range very far).  A mini farm has been a long time dream of ours, so this is big news and feels like a new chapter in our lives.  This promises to be our most ambitious project yet.  

We closed on the property this week, so it is officially ours.  It's a fixer upper.  To give you an idea how much work it needs, just know that in some places tarps are the only thing keeping the elements out, and they haven't been doing a good job.  But, you get what you pay for, and we think we got a very good deal.  We plan to take our time doing most of the repairs ourselves. 

There are three barns on the property.  One is an open faced shed, one is a corn crib, and one is a typical barn shape.  When I look at the barns my imagination runs to cows, goats, turkeys, pigs, and every sort of furry or feathery critter.  I just need some serfs to take care of everything. 

This is the view from the front door.  Look, no neighbors!  All that sun light hitting the ground makes my garden genes get jittery.  I'm used to thinking about small spaces, but I'm sure it won't take me long to plan on a bigger scale. 

Brandon has already started pulling up carpets and tearing down ceilings and walls, but the first thing we did the day we signed the papers was to set up some lawn chairs and sit and absorb the new place.  We enjoy planning, building, and getting dirty so this farm project is going to be great fun!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

No Chickens Allowed!

I've been freezing working outside the past few days and can't believe it was just a few days ago when I was outside planting seeds in the garden.  As you can see in the photo above, one of the raised beds was cleaned up, planted with lettuce and spinach, chicken proofed with some chicken wire, and then posted with a visual aid for Helen and Mrs. Hall to let them know that this is a No Chicken zone. It had to be an image on the sign, you see, because I'm pretty sure they can't read. 

I don't mind their help when working up the soil.  I'm not sure that eating all the earthworms is the best thing for the garden, but I'm willing to sacrifice some worms in exchange for eggs.  I think that's an awesome conversion of protein, really.  But once the seeds are in the ground they need to stop the scratching.  I used to restrict them to the chicken tractor during the spring months, and move the tractor every day to fresh grass.  Lately, I've just been making chicken wire fortresses around each thing I don't want them to mess up so that they can roam free.  I realize that I'm now hostage to the desires of two chickens.  They rule the roost.  Ha!   
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