Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Firefly Festival II

I still think it's appropriate to call our second annual firefly cookout the Firefly Festival since we had so many festivities.  Friends, family, games, good eats, cool drinks, kites, zip-line, volley ball, a camper, and tents sound like a festival to me.  Plus, the party lasted well into the next day.  Someone told me that a festival isn't really a festival unless you have some live music.  Now we know what to add for next year!  

Brandon and I made a list of things to get done before the party, and did our best to check them all off in the days before the big day.  Everything was cleaned, mowed, trimmed, and spruced up the best we could, and I was proud to show our place to the friends who had never seen it before, or hadn't been there since it was mostly a construction zone.  Even though the weatherman was threatening us with rain, the clouds cooperated with us, and the weather was perfect.

The backyard and designated parking area were filled with cars and trucks.  Only one van got stuck in the mud hole the pigs conveniently rooted out, and we had to round up a crew to push it out.  The mud made deciding where to park Byron's new camper easy too, since once it was stuck it got to stay right there!

I made giant batches of coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans, and folks brought enough delicious snacks, pies, cakes, cookies, and desserts to keep us all well fed.  We fired up the smoker with a beef brisket and chicken, and I baked a turkey in the oven.  All the meat came from Joe's farm, and the only thing left by the end was some turkey.  

I had a hard enough time keeping up with my beverage during the party, so I didn't even attempt to keep my phone camera at the ready.  Ashley shared this picture she took of me showing off the brisket.  

So many games of corn hole were played that there were bald spots in the grass!  

I never played a game the whole day, but no matter where I was I could hear the thumps of the corn bags on the wooden boards and hear the everyone's cheers and laughter as they played or watched the games.  Brandon tells me he needs to practice before the next party since there is some stiff competition.  

The zip line was lots of fun.  There were thirteen kids in attendance, and eleven of them were under the age of ten.  I get such a kick out of watching the kids run like wildlings around the place.  Between the zip-line, the climbing tree, chicken feeding, guinea chasing, volley ball playing, and walki-talki games, the kids stayed busy, and those that stayed overnight in tents had no trouble sleeping that night either.  I doled out a few band aids and an ice pack, but we only had one kid get temporarily "lost" from his parents.  One out of dozen isn't bad, right? 

We moved our campfire location for the party, and used the top of the metal barrel that we cut when we built the rocket mass stove to make a fire ring, like they have at campgrounds.   We enjoyed the evening hours with the fireflies and set up the tents and made sure everyone had a place to sleep.  Since I started the party with two, or maybe three, of mom's potent but delicious home made strawberry daiquiris, stayed hydrated through the day with a few cold beers, and if my memory serves me, was teased about my low quality tequila when dishing out shots, by the time I settled in around the campfire and took a sip of somebody's moonshine, I realized it was time for me to go to bed! 

Look at the size of that omelet!  Our family has this giant cast iron skillet that I've never seen in action, so I was excited to find that it fits over our new fire ring perfectly.  I asked my friend if he had ever seen a skillet that big and he said only in cartoons.  I was up early the next morning with some of the kids who had a wish to color.  You want to color?  At seven thirty in the morning?  No problem!  We breakfasted on milk, coffee, cake, and banana bread while we colored and everyone began to stir and break up camp.  For brunch we scrambled some onions, peppers, brats, hot dogs, and three dozen eggs from my parents chickens!  It was delicious, and the skillet worked like a charm.  

The fireflies did show up to the party, but they weren't as spectacular as they were last year and the year before.  After two years in a row of fantastic fireflies, I thought maybe they were always like that.  No one seemed disappointed in a normal amount of fireflies though.  I'm already looking forward to the next party!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Like Waves Washing the Shore

I've got things to tell you.  Projects that are advancing.  Chicken news, even.  The wiring in the workshop is underway (three cheers for lights!), the stone pathway from the back yard is looking good (five cheers for getting our feet out of the mud!), a hen is sitting on a nest of eggs, and the rest of the garden has chicken proof fencing now.  There's nothing stopping me from planting my store of seeds.  So many good things!  But, one of the most exciting things for me, at least on sunny days, is our new clothes line.

Having a sturdy clothes line that doesn't wobble in our intense wind is so much fun that I find myself sitting in the shade watching the clothes wave as they dry.  It's relaxing, like watching the waves wash the shore at the beach.  Plus, since I'm technically doing laundry, I deserve a tasty beverage while I work.  Whew, it's a rough life, right? 

To build the clothes line, we scavenged up some long landscaping poles and some short pressure treated square posts from our collection of building supply cast-offs, and Brandon showed me how to make lap joints.  He marked the square post where he wanted the pole to fit, and made a serious of cuts with the skill saw.  

These cuts went about half way into the piece of wood.  

Then he took a hammer and tapped them in several directions, which made them loose.  

A solid whack on the side, and they easily came flying away, leaving a nice square hole.  Aha...I wondered how he was going to do that!  What a neat trick.

He had to use a chisel to smooth some of the rough bits, but then the other pole slid easily into place. 

He cut some pieces at angles, to support the top, and wha-la, a clothes line is born!  

We can't do any project without making mud, so of course we had to dig some holes and put concrete around the base of the poles. 

Instead of mixing the concrete in a wheel barrow and pouring it in the hole, instead we put the dry concrete mix in the hole and then added water.  By using a stick we were able to mix the concrete in place.  

Before the poles had the rope, I thought they looked interesting, like sculptural symbols, or totems.  

But once I hung a basket of petunias and added clothes pins and colorful towels, the clothes line looks less like sculpture, and more like a clothes line.   I think I have less feet of clothes line length with this system, versus the collapsible umbrella type that I had before, but since those couldn't stand up to our strong winds and I found my clothes laying on the ground more than once, I'm happy to be only able to hang a few loads at a time if that means they will stay standing.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Visiting Other Peoples Places

A real cabbage patch!  As someone who was a six year old girl during the cabbage patch doll craze of 1983, there's no way I could visit my parents garden without taking a peak inside the cabbage plants, just to make sure there weren't any baby dolls growing in there.  

No babies yet, but this patch is still young.  The plants were so green and healthy, and growing in nice dark soil.  This garden is already an inspiration.  

And look - strawberries!  These are still green, but already perfectly shaped.   

My parents garden already has tomato plants, grape vines, a blue berry shrub, and various other tiny sprouts from seeds that have been planted.  I predict this to be a good year for their garden.  

Outside the garden fence, the ground near the bee hive is covered in these pretty purple flowers.  I believe this is lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata), which is a native perennial wild flower.  

It makes for a beautiful blue meadow for the bee hive to live in, although we never saw a honeybee drinking nectar from one of the blooms.  Maybe the entrance to the flower is too small for honey bees?  

While my parents place was inspiration for the garden, a recent visit to Joe's farm was an inspiration of animals!  Even on the drive there, this family of geese blocked our path as they moseyed down the middle of the road.  

Look at all those fuzzy animals!  Animals with babies even.  I told Joe that I wanted to run through his pasture petting all the animals and he said that if I could get any of them to hold still, I was welcome to it.  So tempting to try.   

I settled for calling to them from the fence, and managed to capture the attention of the donkeys.  

The donkeys seemed to like us back, unlike the cows and sheep which kept their distance.  

Even the baby donkey let us pet her long ears.  Donkey noses are the softest noses, I'm sure.  

Not that the sheep would bring their lambs close enough for me to compare noses.  

Once the donkeys had our attention, they weren't going to share it anyway.  They didn't even want to share with each other!

Joe has hundreds of ducks.  The day we visited he had just taken a whole batch of adult ducks (mamma ducks, as his little boy calls them), which had been out on pasture, to the processor.  He has four hundred more baby ducks in the barn, ready to go out on grass as soon as they are old enough.  Wow.  That's a lot of ducks!  

How many ducks does Rain have?  Zero.  Not fair!  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Moments of Chicken Zen

Sometimes I think I must write about chickens too often.  Because really, who wants to read about my chickens so much?  The answer must be - me!  Why think about work, or housework, or yard work, or any kind of work, when we can think about chickens, right?  Chickens keep it cool.  If my chickens have worries, I can't tell.  Their concerns in life, it seems to me, are mostly about food, and a little about sex.  When they have plenty of both, they seem content with life.  A visit with the chickens is good for a moment of zen during a busy life.  

The chickens communicate their contentment by lounging around with each other companionably fussing with their feathers and taking dirt baths. Since they love to eat vegetation and bugs, it's like the farm is a giant buffet which they can graze at will.  

I can always count on the chickens to do something blogtastic enough to inspire photos and a few words.  Like Poncho, displaying his lovely feathers on the door of the corn crib.   When I capture his flapping wings in photos like these, he reminds me of images of angels.  

I'm not sure if Poncho flaps his wings like this to impress me or to warm me off.  He has four white hens that are always in his vicinity.  He keeps them loyal by searching out tasty bits for them to eat, and keeps their attention by finding something elevated to stand on where he can serenade them with his crow, and impress us all with his flapping wings.  

Poncho looks cool from all angles, and I think he knows it.  My new young rooster, Cogburn, doesn't crow as classically, but his wing flapping display includes loud slapping noises as he smacks his wings together behind his back.  He can even make that noise when he's on the run.  

I'm so impressed with Poncho's tail, that I can only imagine how many pictures I would share with you should I ever get a peacock.  Something to look forward to!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Load of Chicken

Haha.  Get it?  A load of chicken... giggle... No?  

Why is everybody on top of the trailer?  

Because there's a giant mean turkey on the ground!  Like a shark in the water, all the chickens were staying out of his way.

I took these pictures of the flock before we butchered the roosters.  I have to say, having a big free range flock of thirty birds, plus Poncho and the white hens, guineas, and turkey, was really fun.  

The roosters were so pretty.  I enjoyed having them, even though I was warned that having so many roosters would be hard on the hens.  I think we butchered them at just the right age though, because they were just beginning to cause problems.  Well, maybe not just beginning, since I had two roosters with who were picked on so much that their tails were plucked out at a young age. While butchering, I noticed that one of the tailless roosters, who the entire flock picked on since it was a chick, had only one tiny testicle.  The other roosters had balls the size of big grapes, but the tailless one had only a single bean sized one.  I wonder, did the other chickens pick on him because he was under developed, or did getting picked on shrivel his balls?  Could it be that it's better to select a rooster for your flock that has a more dominant position, since being the lowest might indicate lack of fertility?  

Friday, May 6, 2016

In the Crib, Out of the Rain

I'm not sure this photo can accurately portray the sense of calm and organization I get when I enter the corn crib now.  I've finally sifted through the layers of stuff stashed away in here, moved all the old carpet rolls and stacks of lumber I've been hoarding, and raked up a giant pile of mouse generated debris.  Whew!  It feels good to know what's in here, and to make sure all my junk precious possessions are accessible.  

We are fortunate that this property came with enough outbuildings that Brandon and I could each claim one for our ourselves, and still have enough shared space that we don't feel put out by each others objects.  We don't always agree about what's important to hang on to, so having a space of my own to fill as I like is liberating.  Yes, Brandon, I do need an electric towel warmer, a busted bird feeder, a stack of cat litter pails, a broken patio heater, and a fireplace mantel!  Duh.  As an artist, he's an object lover too, but now that I have my very own building, my treasures don't overlap with his junk treasures.  If good fences make good neighbors, then separate junk piles treasure troves must make for happy marriages.  

My crib isn't rain proof during a big storm, since there are gaps in the walls, but it is a nice place to escape a normal rain.  When I'm there, the door is open and my chicken friends can wander in out of the rain too.   

Please, just make yourself at home.  

Cogburn, I think you look more awesome by the day!

The turkey and the guineas don't seem to the mind the rain.  

The chickens seek shelter in the coop, in the barn with the tractor, or under the trailer full of metal scraps we've been collecting as we clean up around the farm.  

I like to refer to this collection of metal as the tetanus pile.  We've tried to cordon off the tetanus pile by placing it between the tractor barn and the big trailer, and leaned some pieces of fencing that a friend gave in front of it, just to make sure any visiting kids can't easily climb on it.  A big pile of rusty metal with chickens perched on it is classic hillbilly, right? 

To celebrate the crib clean up, I opened a bottle of persimmon wine that was bottled in 2011.  I can't believe my wine is that old!  Where does the time go?  I remember collecting the persimmons from Brandon's uncles tree, and it doesn't seem like that was five whole years ago.  The wine tastes as good as it ever did - which isn't exactly a compliment.  Cheers, turkey!
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