Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Playing Catch-up

I really don't have the amount of time on my hands that I used to. Writing on the blog is harder now than ever with so many obligations. I think it is funny how striving for a simpler life can get so complicated. Progress on the new house is a bit slow, but we did get the concrete poured in the garage over the weekend. Our plans to rent backhoe and dig in the geothermal and septic will be held off because of permitting. My husband has to take a class on septic systems in order to be allowed to install it himself.  the class is not offered until late October, which really sets our schedule back. So in order to not lose too much time, we will have to concentrate on other projects that also need addressing before the weather breaks, and turns bitter cold. I have been praying for fall to set in, the weather is so lovely to work in, but now I feel like maybe it will come too soon. It is not that we have to have any of it done by a certain date, but we are all in a hurry to get it done, for the sake of sanity and simplicity. we all just want to move to the country!
Yesterday, as I sat on the back porch I saw two pairs of mating hawks, circling and diving with each other and calling out...it was really nice to watch them. I then decided that perhaps I could get a better view of the back field from my upstairs bedroom window, and instead I saw a flock of 10 turkeys, walking around, heads down.  searching for food. There are a lot of Oak trees in the small area and they were munching acorns and grains and oblivious that I was following them....well, until I had to make a scene swatting mosquitoes! They were so viscous!
I really enjoyed the experience, and the quiet...but it made me feel discontent with our situation. The helpless feeling of being on a schedule that is not your own. I am willing to set to any task, if it leads to my goals, and at present, I don't feel like I have a task!
In town, there is much to do. Much that I should be doing right now, too. There are dishes, and laundry, as usual...there is bread to toast into crumbs, dinner to plan for tonight, and the budget to go over and over, how to save a dime here, pinch a penny there, to make it all work. there is that lingering guilt that I should have a job, even though I don't have the time, and would likely not have the energy. But I will be working soon! Not only have I recently become manager to our new property and a landlord, but I also have some budding business schemes to help us to pay the rent. We are rolling over the ideas in our heads and trying to decide the best ways to make a profit that will sustain us. We can't make back enough on renting out our house to pay all the bills. And Mick can work in town for now, but eventually we will need to make a decision on what is going to be the end product, what is the end result, what is the clear career choice for us both?
Farming is obviously still my goal. Sustainability is a HUGE word and a goal that is hard to attain in modern times. Is it really possible to grow and gather all that a family needs to survive? I feel like that could become stressful, very quickly. But what are the best ways of slowly implementing this into our daily lives? How can we slowly creep towards self sufficient life??? It takes more than reading a few books on the topic, and planning spring, summer, and fall gardens. It takes more than buying canning supplies and a dehydrator to save food for an entire winter. And can it be done in today's modern age? Can I do it, with my limited time? And resources? What are the best first crops to try, that will work well on the land I already have?  Will my failures on the small scale equate to lessons that will hold valuable in the long run? Will it help me become a real farmer???

I know I have outlined and re-outlined, in daydream fashion the steps I would take if I acquired a farm. And now I have. So what is next?
This is what I hope for:

  1. Build a coop and raise some chickens for egg laying. Learn as much as possible about raising poultry and taking care of them well, organically
  2. build or buy a beehive (skip). Learn as much as possible about raising bees, and harvesting honey. Learn how best to store the honey and beeswax.
  3. Plant crops that are good forage for both bees and chickens. Plan rotational grazing for the chickens, and develop a plan to encourage nectar in all cropping plans. Plan for weather considerations for both.
  4. Begin cover cropping new ground. Plant green manures or compost on fresh sites, and begin first, a vegetable garden for us, and also some field crops for sale, or storage on a larger scale than in our personal plot. Hops, Strawberries and Asparagus I think are obvious first choices, as well as brambles like black berries, raspberries, loganberries, dew berries, and some natives like gooseberries and elderberries. Begin laying out a vineyard. Learn as much as possible about harvest and storage of small fruits. Learn to make wine (for personal consumption), juice, jam and jelly (for storage).
  5. Learn more about field grains. Incorporate their growth into crop rotation, green manuring practice but also, try harvesting the grain, if even just by hand with a scythe. Our property is not so large that we can't do it manually, if divided well.
  6. Begin to coppice existing trees, and begin to plant more. Hardwoods, nuts and fruit trees. Plan to involve natural conditions for later spawning mushrooms in the shade of the "woods". Harvest, cut and stack fallen tree limbs for fire wood. Use a woodburning stove, and keep harvests small and sustainable.
  7. continue to plan for more planting each year until we are able to grow more than enough food for seasonal eating and storage. ( I feel this one will take some time to master)
The best I can figure, I can start on a few tiny projects at the new place, but in all honesty, I feel it is better to continue to grow as much here in town as possible. I would rather not have to transport my harvests, or to further complicate outdoor activity at the new place, for now.....but there are a few things I could get a head start on, for now...

more soon, I hope! :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Carpenter ants

Well, I am back again today! After my update post, I had some research to do because I found that there were swarms of flying ants hovering around some of the windows of the new house. I knew that wasn't a good thing, but didn't know what to do.

 I did the wrong thing! I should have googled it, before taking action. I instead, went to CHC Do it Best home center and bought a gallon of insecticide.  I had seen some ants in the house before but on Wednesday and Thursday we had torrential downpours and the sheer number of winged ants was dismaying and scary. One even bit me, when trying to crank open the window! :(
So I hosed them, good old american overindulgence...I sprayed every damn ant I saw!!! I don't want them to eat my home from the inside out before I even have a chance to move in! Dumb Bunny! I should have followed my gut instinct that there was a better way and better tool for the job.
Diotamaceous earth is an organic substance comprised of a fossilized coral or something and acts as a dessicant, drying the insects bodies out, or in the case of soft bodied insects such as slugs or aphids, it will tear holes in their crawly little bodies and kill them.  (thank God I am not a Buddhist, eh?)
Anyways....folly of my thinking, now I have no clue where the main nest is, and if the poison acts as a deterrent, I may never find out....Baits are the way to go...and some homespun concoctions of sugar/borax water will suffice, but any combination of sweets and protein should draw them in, although many things would suffice, now that I have read a bit, I am confident in my new approach....
Carpenter Ants like sweets, even when it is not real sugar. I have been telling friends and family since I was 9 that nutrasweet and Fake sugars are BAD FOR YOU. And cause cancer, and God didn't want you to put it in your tea! I don't even like splenda, to be quite honest, but perhaps if I had a weight problem I would feel differently...but I don't like the fizzle it makes when it hits my coffee, as if I added baking soda or pop rocks to it. So I came across the information to back it up, and I didn't really read it all, because I guess I was smart enough to know from the git go that I prefer to eat the fruit of the earth and not that of a test tube or petri dish...but to each his own....some folks just trust that the soda pop companies and manufacturers have their best interest at heart. I on the other hand have always been leary of anything that sounds to good to be true....there is a reason that phrase is so catchy! ;)
I only read enough to know that I will continue to not use the products for my consumption, or my families...and I would sure love to try killing something with it to prove my point! LOL :)
Now that I have screwed it up for myself {ah, what was I saying in the last post about learning from utter failure? As Always! :)} I will have to see if they reestablish themselves in the house, and follow them to their nest so I can find the main colony.
From what I read (I really didn't expect anyone to read all those links, now!) These winged swarms are essentially new kings and queens of mayhem and destruction, and come from a parent colony...their job and destiny, as will all living things, is to get laid, and to find a new home...or maybe find a new home, and then get laid....EITHER WAY....Both male and female can have wings, the males, as always seems to be their misfortune, are expendable, and die shortly after mating....the female, however, is broken free from her wings, and doomed to domestic life...when her wings fall off, she turns into a house wife, burrows a hole into my pretty little house, and closes the "door" with a pile of sawdust, to lay and hatch a BAGILLION eggs inside the comfort of my slightly moist, but still sound joists and rafters (little *&^%$#@#$%^^%%^$%^&*ers)
She will make all flavors of babies, including more queens to colonize some more, but the heirarchy was pretty interesting. Two types of workers and differing sizes of winged creatures, and great drawings (as if I care to know this, but now I do) of the body types, one hump or two.
It was pretty cut and dry for me at this point that this is a serious very naughty problem, and only God knows how long they have been at it here......Just another one of those lovely little presents left behind by the former owner, who obviously was "on top of their game" in the respect of taking care of their business, bless their hearts, I hope they figure it out someday....but now,it is my burden, and so help me if I will allow them to do any more damage to my dreams! I will sort it out just like any other hurdle, obstacle or obstruction to my path to happy! A colony of house eating insects will not ruin my plans! Never! Not so long as I can fight!
I hope you are enjoying my narrative, here, because I am having fun, but suffice to say, my solution is to put away the nuclear holocaust for a moment, and resort to an easier method...I will offer both moistened sugar/borax paste, which is the old school poison...then also I would like to try to kill them with equal....In many sites I visited today, it said to give them a choice between the commercial varieties offered, and they will develop a preference. So I will do the same from home-made. I may incorporate honey and borax as well, seeing how they may prefer the more organic choice as much as a modern human would....But the concept of killing them with something that is supposed to be fit for human consumption is intriguing because I know that my inlaws use it all the time, and I have wished for them to stop. I am unsure that even if this works as well as the website proclaims, that they will stop their habit of fake sugar,and instead take up jogging ....and drinking plain water...but it is worth the proof to myself in any case, and if effective, it is just good to know!

Anyways, if it works, I will try to post again....as proof!

Breaking Ground

Normally on new construction you "break ground", but because the new house is already framed in, the ground is "broke" BUT.....this week marks the beginning of construction for us. We are starting our work in the garage now. We have our gravel delivered already, and are planning to have it spread by the end of this weekend. By next weekend we hope to have the concrete poured and the floor finished, then the doors delivered and installed.  I am hoping to be able to clear out all the materials from inside the house and have them neatly organized in the garage for our base of operations, and be better able to move about the house, when the time comes.
Now we are trying to line up and plan for the outside work with the backhoe and installing our geothermal HVAC system. I am very excited about going green in that respect, and hope it pays for itself over the years, as promised.  I really would love to be net zero someday, and this is our first step in that direction.  As soon as the garage is complete, we are renting the machines to dig trenches and holes for the geo, the septic, and the water lines and gas lines ....and installing the thousands of feet of pipe to make it all function properly. The plan is to get all this outside work complete before the weather shifts, usually in October, but sometimes earlier.
The Ozarks is very prone to flooding, as we have found out over the last few days! The highway coming in to our place is completely flooded and is an "at your own risk" situation coming in. I have found at least one road to the east that is on higher ground, but have yet to find the southern path in that is above the water table in times like these. I must cross 2-3 flooded roads to get my daughter to Pre-K, and I think I see a bus in her future! :)

As for the property itself, the water seems to really only collect a lot at the bottom of left field...which is GREAT! In comparison to our current house, that is literally underwater during flash floods, this will be a huge relief from that. We can hole up in our house, without much worry of being washed away or constantly worrying about the sump pump and if it is on or not. (speaking of, I better go start it!)

My garden here in town is still in full production. The kentucky wonder pole beans were so tough for eating green I have decided to let them go, and shell them.  My tomatoes are still producing, and ripening, but many have shown signs of blossom end rot, and I have to throw them in the compost.  I planted some more bush beans, not too long ago, and we will see if they make it....with the weather staying like it is, which means, changing everyday, it is hard to say if I will harvest anything from that sowing, but I figure it was worth the effort, since the seeds are still fresh, and it is yet another opportunity to see what works or why it doesn't. Funny how failures become so valuable...but let's hope that I get SOME harvest before the cold weather.

Trapping season will be starting soon, for my falconry. So keep a watch in October for my other blog, Dust of Snow, to see if I catch a Redtail, and if it catches any bunnies!

I have been hard at work both in Springfield and Rogersville, trying to keep up with 3 houses is a real chore. But with my split schedule, I am able to prioritize and use my time more wisely than before, and have been spending much less time being idle, and getting things done. It is so exciting for my daughter to have started school this year, and I am so proud of her for her efforts. My son, too, is excelling and becoming more responsible now that he is an upper level elementary student, I hope that he values the goal setting and uses his new skills to his advantage. I may be transerring him soon, if work continues to progress at a fast pace...and I truly hope that it does. I would love nothing more than to move by Christmas, but if not, I would love to be in before spring!  I can hope for it, but not bank on it, as there is so much to do!

We WILL do all we can as fast as we can and get this project going at a steady pace. Our first month's labor is fully planned I believe and can be accomplished in the time frame we are setting. I am very very very excited to be starting. It is funny how much hard labor can get you excited, and how all the little sacrifices, like skimping on the food budget and all extras can really pay in the end. how little I miss the extra channels on TV, and would be just as happy to be out of contract with "Dish" than to watch tv at all! I could care less about entertainment, because I can't wait to sit on my porch swing and watch the birds and listen to the cows moo...and boy do they!

In other news, the Hedgpeth's have put the roof back on their barn, and I am excited for them, even though I have ever met them! I had hoped that I would have a chance to stop in, and introduce myself as a new neighbor....They named my street, after all, and probably used to own my land, and everyone's around us.
We are also nearby neighbors to people that work for the  Rocking Z ranch, who often supplies fresh farm raised beef for the restaurant that my FIL works for. I think their ranch is located elsewhere, but I see their trailer, and think they must be in association with them. That is exciting, because I hope to someday be able to afford to buy a full cow's worth of beef and grind my own burgers, etc.  I love the idea of local foods, as we know from my previous posts, and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be moving right into the heart of farmland, and in the area of so many old time farmers that have been in the industry of raising food for generations. I only hope that some one will adopt me as their apprentice and mentor me in the ways of doing it the old fashioned way.
As most rural families will attest, the simple life is pretty complicated, but all that sweat of the brow pays dividends in character and the warm fuzzy feeling of taking care of yourself. I really am in love with my life today.  As I drive to the new place, my eyes fill with happy tears of gratitude and love. Appreciation and thankfulness...I am blessed. So very blessed. Thank you lord for allowing me the opportunity to live my dream. Thank you lord for the strength to make this happen for us, the chance to try, the gift that has been granted to us, to do this, the life that is ever changing because of it....I am in awe of life. And some days I tell myself, that I have never been so happy to be alive as I am now. Even on a bad day, I think to myself...you now have everything you have ever wanted, you are the luckiest person in the world...don't let anything change that. Don't let your attitude be the cause of your demise....instead, change your outlook about a drawback, learn what you can, and plan better in the future...and I promise, Lord, that is what I will try to do. Everyday for the rest of my life...I will make the best of each minute of each day, and try to appreciate all you have afforded me, and all that we have created for ourselves. I have to give us a little credit, too....as none of this would be possible while sitting idly by watching life happen.

Carpe Diem!