Updates aka Where the Heck Have I Been

It’s been awhile. 

Fate keeps saying “you should write a blog post!” He’s right,  I should. That’s what I keep thinking anyway. Then I just don’t. 

I have a whole back log of things I want to write about.   Some successes, some failures,  some modifications made.  The reality is,  I don’t know if I will get around to writing about all of them before something else comes along and bumps it off the list. 

It’s been a hard year. 

I’ve been suffering from some pretty major depression in the last several months. There are a lot of things I’ve been wanting to do that have gone undone due to that this summer.  Which is just shitty since we’ve had some pretty amazing weather this summer (with the exception of the heat warnings this last week.)

My dad,  since my grandma died last November,  had been sick quite a lot.  He has been off and on having this pretty serious rash pop up over his body for the last year us as well.  It seemed like since last November he’s caught every little thing that has gone around:  cold,  flu,  you name it,  he got it.

Then in April he started peeing blood.

Not in the red tinged pee category either,  he was peeing straight up blood,  with clots even.

He’s been to multiple doctors at this point,  had just about every test under the sun,  and everything comes back clear of cancer and everything else they test for.  The only thing they are seeing is that he has some irritation in the tubes that lead from the kidneys to the bladder.  There is nothing physically wrong that they can find. 

Recently he went back to his primary physician for a recheck on his blood work to see how his cholesterol levels are doing.  In that blood work came the news that his kidney levels are poor. 

In fact,  so poor that they have diagnosed him with stage 3 kidney failure. 

And they don’t know why his kidneys are failing. 

He has yet another specialist appointment to go to soon,  another different one.  I guess we will see what happens with that one.  In the mean time he went to see a naturopath in Springfield, MO.   She did some testing and was able to come up with the issues he’s been having with out him telling her at all.  She recommended some diet changes and supplements for him,  which he’s been taking,  and it seems like it’s helping.  It is amusing to me that he’s now a believer in the things I’ve been saying for so long just because he heard a “professional”  say them,  but hey,  I’ll take it.  Anything,  along as my dad gets better. 

My dad and I are very close.  We do a lot of things together,  both at my house and at his.  Gardening,  canning,  estate sales,  tons of stuff.  This summer we haven’t done any of that,  since he’s been sick.  We’ve done a bit of canning here lately since he seems to be having some good days,  but everything else is still on hold.  I really miss it,  and him.

I really hope he is on the mend and they can figure out what the hell is going on with him.  Don’t get me wrong,  I’m extremely grateful it’s not some sort of cancer,  however I wish they could pin down what it is.  That’s been one of the scariest parts,  just not knowing why.  

There have been other shitty things this year that have added stress,  but that’s the biggest one.  I sincerely hope the end of 2014 is better then the beginning. 

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I’m not going to say that I will get back to posting on a regular schedule again,  however,  I am going to try to be better about it,  especially as I’m trying to force myself out of my depression.   I’ve figured out how to get my pictures easily shared between my phone and my tablet finally,  so that should help.   Part of my frustration before was the fact that my phone,  which takes decent photos,  wouldn’t play nice with my tablet,  which takes terrible photos, but I use to write blog posts.   It always turned into a frustrating process that was easier to just not do,  and therefore,  I just ended up not posting anything. 

I’m planning on starting a posting series on the blog about nail polish.   This isn’t something that will take over the content,  just something that will fairly regularly appear.  There are tons of really awesome blogs out there about all the different kinds of nail polish,  and this will not turn into one of them.  I’m planning to do nail polish “wear testing” reviews.  I haven’t been able to find anyone out there blogging about doing all the physical things I do talking about how good or bad all the different nail polishs preform under…. Stress testing,  if you will.  Maybe I can save someone who is as hard on their nails as I am some money on polish that just wears off in the first day you use it.

I will make an introductory post soon detailing why I started wearing nail polish again after all these years and some of the things I’ve learned to save time but still get nice polished nails. 

There’s no reason you can’t hold down a very physical job while still being a bit girly. 

-Fin

Some Yard Modifications

I put in the first fence to cross fence the yard in for the animals:

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I even built my own gate!  This basically fences in the yard that is attached to the gate in the garden, so now I have to go through 2 gates to get into the garden.  It’s a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it to give the chickens their own part of the yard, a rather large part, as well as keep the dogs from running up and down the fence line barking at the neighbor dogs on that side.

1 down, 2 to go!

Now If I could only keep the neighbor dogs from barking at me when I’m in the garden….

-Fin

My First Seed Swap

I went to my very first seed swap last weekend.  I ment to go to this one last year,  however,  I didn’t have any seeds to trade,  even tho they say you don’t need to bring anything,  and somehow I missed it.  I think it didn’t end up on the calendar somehow.  I almost missed it this year too… Somehow I managed to run across  it on Facebook.   I made sure I signed up for the group running it this time so I don’t miss it again next year.

It was AWESOME.

It was set up in a medium sized room,  probably 50 x 20, with tables set up around the perimeter.  There were a couple of vendors there sharing information   but they weren’t there selling as far as i could tell,  everything at the swap was free. All the tables were covered with seeds,  broken loosely into categories.  Fate and I arrived around noon (it ran 11-2) and the place was packed. I probably should have snapped some pictures but there was so many people it just didn’t occur to me,  next swap I will bring my phone instead of my tablet.  I will also leave my purse in the car,  easier to maneuver that way.   There was no real rhyme or reason to the flow of people,  you basically had to float from table to table and wait for there to be room,  then slide in.

I brought:

Black krim tomatoes
Purple Cherokee tomatoes
genovese basil
Green shisho (perilla)
Green tomitillo
Blanket flower
Tall snapdragon mix colors
Bachelors button
Cardinal creeper
Black Eyed Susan vine
Raw milk kefir grains

I just took my seeds in the coin envelopes I bought,  labeled what they were,  and as I went around getting the seeds I wanted I dropped them off at the appropriate tables. Some of the seeds were in envelopes that people had labeled and put out. Basically you pulled out a few seeds and put them in one of the envelopes you brought, then labeled it. Some people had their seeds in little packets:

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The idea being that you took one of the packets, like so. Others just put them in bulk and I put them in my own envelopes:

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I got: Pie Cherry, rice, hairy verbane, golden rod, Joe pye weed, feverfew, toothache plant, milkweed, Grey headed coneflower, orange watermelon, butternut squash-rogosa violina gloia, parsnip, Malabar spinach, redbor kale, aunt molly’s ground cherry, radish-saxa 2, Turks turban squash, box car Willie tomato, chocolate poblano, massive lumpy tomato, chervil, Fruita bianca squash, hibiscus, zebra hollyhock, red hollyhock, dill, mustard, cayenne, choke cherry, Tuscan kale, lime basil, yellow current tomato, blocky Asian cucumber, wahoo, giant blue hyssop, big long thick wall spicy pepper, winterberry, cheyanne spirit echinacea, passion vine, Mexican sour gherkin, and good winter leek.

So, just a few.

All of those are how they were called and spelled on the envelopes I got them from. A few of them I am going to have to do some research on to see how to get them started. My brother brought over some 4 bulb florescent lights for me today, I need to get something set up with them so I can get some plants started over here. Mostly my flowers and the new peppers and tomatoes I picked up this weekend for now, but soon cole crops need to be going in.

I’m really looking forward to the next seed swap in a couple weeks. I have some more seeds to take with me to that one, and I’m excited to see what other people will be bringing.

-Fin

Feeding Chickens

I’ve been changing the way I’m feeding my chickens over the last couple months.  While I was doing my research on fodder systems for the rabbits I realized that I could feed my chickens fodder as well.  It was a bit of a revelation to me, I just hadn’t thought about it before.  The reading I’ve been doing seems to say that they like sprouted feed a bit more then actual fodder, so that’s what I’ve been doing for them.

My system looks like this:

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It’s just shoe boxes stacked on top of each other.  Each one has holes drilled into the bottom on one side.  I water the top one and the water trickles down to the bottom, empty, box.  I alternate the side the holes are on in each box so the water has to flow the length of the box on the way down.  The lids have a hole in them so the water can flow through:

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Each box has 1/4 cup wheat, 1/4 cup barley, and 1/4 cup peas.  I have eliminated the peas starting today, since they don’t eat them.  I’m not sure why they don’t seem to like them, but they’ve been picking around them for a month now, so I don’t think they are going to start eating them any time soon.  I am feeding 5 chickens right now, 3 hens and 2 “hens” that started crowing today.  I will be feeding 3 chickens very soon….

Since I will be going down to 3 chickens in a couple days, I have started putting 1/4 cup wheat and 1/4 cup barley in to soak:

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I soak the grains anywhere from 6 to 12 hours, I haven’t noticed any difference in growth depending on time I’ve soaked them so I don’t worry about it too much.  I stick the grain in in the morning, and rinse it really well in a strainer in the evening:

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It rotates through the system and on day 7 it looks like this:

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This is when I feed it out to the chickens.  I have tried various days of sprouting up through fodder, and my chickens seem to eat day 7 sprouts the best. 

I also feed the chickens fermented feed:

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This is organic layer ration.  It is a mixed grain feed that I get from Thayer Feed and Seed.  I didn’t care for it too much when I was feeding it out dry to the chickens.  It seemed like it was ground too fine, and almost seemed to be dust to me.  Now that I am fermenting it it seems to work really well.

I started my fermented feed with kefir whey.   I have an ongoing milk kefir culture that I drink as well as feed to the animals so I strained out the whey and mixed it with some of the layer ration and water, then left it to ferment for two days.  Every day I feed out about 4 cups of the fermented feed, add 2 cups of dry layer ration, some water, and stir.  It seems that the two cups of layer ration I put in there turn into about 4 cups of fermented feed. 

The chickens really like the fermented feed.  They took right to it.  I have noticed a reduction in smell in the coop, not that it smelled to begin with, but it smells like nothing now.  They also get scraps from the house, occasional kefir, and alfalfa scraps from the rabbits.  They have a big area to free range in, as well as having access to the whole garden during the winter.  I’m not sure how much nutrition they are getting out of free ranging in the winter, but they sure do like to get out and scratch around.  I’m dumping all the rabbit cage stuff into the garden as well, and they like to pick out the grains and fallen alfalfa from there as well. 

I’ve been reading a thread on backyardchickens.com about feeding fermented feed to Cornish cross meat birds.  It is supposed to make them better able to absorb the nutrients in the feed and therefor grow better, move around better, and not sit around in a pile of their own poop, so there for reducing smell.  I am excited to try it, I refuse to ever again butcher meat chickens that smelled like our last batch of Cornish cross…..I couldn’t even eat them, I kept smelling that smell, even though no one else could.

After our dog died this year we got a female aussie.  She was fine with the chickens right up until she wasn’t…..she ended up killing all but three of my chickens.  We re-homed her,  I can’t have a dog that kills my stock.  Right now I have 2 Buckeye’s and 1 Black Marans…..as well as two “hens” we held back from our last heavy meat bird order, that turned out to be roosters.  I saw one of them crowing today.  So, today I ordered 5 female Buckeye’s and 10 Cornish cross meat birds, they will be delivered the week of March 17th, from Meyer Hatchery.  I will be raising my new girls in the house so I have pet laying birds, which I want, being just a backyard flock.  I like my super friendly birds, and I’m in love with the Buckeye’s.  The Cornish cross will be an experiment to see if I can raise them on fermented feed and get a better smelling free ranger with a heavy breast.  I don’t mind the Cornish cross as meat birds, but man I can’t stand the smell!!!!

-Fin

Seed Orders are Coming In

The seeds I ordered have started to come in!

First up:  Victory Seeds

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Great communication and Super Fast shipping.  They were the first seeds I got in by almost a week.  They also sent a very nice thank you for ordering email.  I’m excited to try their seeds, it’s the first time I’ve ordered from them.

Second:  Seeds from Italy

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Beautiful packaging and for the price the amount of seeds they give you is INSANE!  Hoping for good production on these, it’s my first time ordering from them as well. 

Third:  Baker Creek

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Love the art on the seed packets.  Baker Creek is one of the ones I either order from or pick up seeds locally every year.  They carry some of the more uncommon and fodder vegetables.  They sent me a free seed packet, you can see it in the picture (top right), however, it was completely empty.  Nice guesture, but kind of a fail on their part.  I sent an email about it, we will see what their response is.  Either way, it dosn’t matter, I’m just curious. 

Fourth:  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

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I also order from SESE every year, I love their catalog and selection.  I’ve had really good germination from their seeds every year, so I keep ordering. 

Every year I grow a different kind of corn.  This year it’s Daymon Morgan’s Kentucky Bloody Butcher:

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Isn’t that pretty?  I can’t wait to see what the ears look like!  I am looking to make my own Masa this year with the corn I grow. 

I recieved in the mail some seeds from someone on one of the email lists I am on:

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I’m excited to plant the Rosa Rugosa, the rabbits should LOVE it. 

I still have a couple orders left to come in from a couple new seed company’s I tried this year.  I just love to try new things. 

-Fin

Seeds for 2014

‘Tis the season for seeds!  I got my first seed catalog in the mail just last week:

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I am pretty sure that this is the same catalog I get first every year.  They seem to have the biggest variety of seeds from what I’ve seen and I always end up putting some kind of order in with them.  This year I ordered 4 different types of sweet potato slips for delivery this spring, some potato onions and perennial leeks for delivery this fall, and a few packets of seeds that I thought I needed. 

I really should learn to go through my seeds first before ordering new ones:

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Especially since it seems like I have a few seeds….

Today was go through your seeds day.  I tend to buy seeds that I find interesting all throughout the year, not just in the spring.  I haunt the seed sellers locally at the end of the year for their clearance sales, which is the reason I have so any different kinds of seeds.  I managed to get to Planters Seed and Feed as they put their seeds on clearance for $.50 a packet, then ended up at Habitat Restore several weeks later and found they had clearance seeds at $.25 a packet!  Of course I stocked up.  When seed packets run from $1.00 up to $5.00 a pack I just can’t see not stocking up when I get the chance.  I also ended up picking up some of the more unusual seeds from the Mother Earth News Fair this year,  mostly herbs.  There were quite a few seed companies there and they had their seeds priced under for various amounts under retail. 

I’ve been growing a garden long enough now to realize that seeds aren’t just good for the year that they’re sold in.  I have had excellent luck sprouting seeds that are many years old.  The only thing I buy fresh every year is Lettuce seeds.  I have had zero germination on lettuce that I’ve stored for more then one year. 

The order I put in for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange I ended up duplicating a few of the seeds I already had, both cucumbers.  I also put in a small order from Victory Seed Company, they give a discount to The Survival Podcast Members Support Brigade members, of which I am one.  I’ve been impressed so far with their communications and fast shipping, especially around the holiday season.  I will be ordering from them again, assuming their seeds have good germination….but I have no reason to believe they won’t.

I am sure I will be getting several more seed catalogs over the next month or so, and I’m sure I will put in at least one more order from one more company for seeds.  I just can’t help myself, I love to try new things.  It seems like every year there are a few more varieties on the market, some of which I just have to have!  I also realized as I was going through my seeds that I have only one kind of kale seed, Dinosaur Kale.  I want to pick up a few more kinds, and at least one that is super winter hardy.  I love having kale out in the garden all winter long to snack on.  I’m not exactly sure how I ended up with only one kind of kale, but you’d better belive I will be correcting that oversite!

I will be starting Tomato and Pepper seeds this week.  I have waited until the middle of February in the past and I just don’t feel like the peppers get a good enough start that late.  It seems like my peppers just aren’t quite getting ripe by the end of the season.  It could be that I am planting peppers that aren’t good for the region I’m in, however, I am going to try earlier seeding and see if that makes a difference.  I’m starting the tomatoes earlier as well because who dosn’t want earlier tomatoes??? 

We are going to be planting far more tomatoes then we ever have before because the tomatoes that we canned this year we’re So GOOD!!!  I just can’t get over the amazing flavor of the tomatoes.  I’ve used them in just about everything so far and haven’t come across anything that isn’t made better by the addition of home canned tomatoes.  My favorite so far is 1 qt tomatoes, 1/2 qt raw milk, in the crock pot.  Let it simmer on low most of the day then take a bit of fresh basil, I use about 2 fresh leaves (1/2 tsp or so dried), and mix it all until smooth with an immersion blender.  Amazing.  It looks a bit curdled before you whirl it together, but the flavor is amazing.  We’ve only canned tomatoes with salt this year, but if we have a bunch next year I want to try making some salsa and some rotel type tomatoes.  Maybe even some spaghetti sauce or ketchup.  It’s amazing what you can do with home canned tomatoes. 

I saved as many seeds as I could this year.  It was one of my garden goals, and I managed to do pretty well.  I ordered some coin packets off amazon:

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Almost all of my saved seeds were put into those packets.  They work really well, you can even seal them if you want to.  I didn’t for most of the seeds, but I did a few because the seeds kept coming out, like okra.  I tried saving seeds in glass jars, but those are hard to store.  I tried plastic baggies, but like the glass jars, the seeds had a tendency to mold, even if I got them seemingly completely dry.  With these packets the seeds can breathe and I haven’t had any problems with mold, even when I put green nasturtium seeds in the packets.  I got something like 500 packets for $17, more then enough to last several years, though they are plenty sturdy to last several years each.

This year I tried a new labeling method out in the garden, with mixed results:

    
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Those are paint stirrer sticks like you get from the hardware store.  I took my wood burner and burned the names of everything I planted.  It went alot faster then I expected, however, when it came time to dig through the 100 or so labels I made it was a real pain in the ass to find what I was looking for.  Quite a few things didn’t get labeled because of it.  The other issue with this method was the fact that the black burned places faded in the sun, completely.   The etching part was still there, but it was really hard to read without the char.  I ended up using black crayons to write on the sticks as I was doing my fall planting this year, that was really awesome.  I just kept a black crayon in my seed box along with some blank sticks and wrote the name of whatever I was planting at the time.  Easy Peasy.  So far the crayon hasn’t faded, though it’s early to tell since the fall sun is so much gentler then the high summer sun.  I will update on the longevity of the crayon next fall, that’s how I plan on marking out my whole garden this year. 

The sticks seem to last a season in the dirt of the garden.  The do rot down, however, it’s easy to just break off the rotted part and stick the slightly shorter stick in the dirt.  I’d estimate that you would probably get several years of use out of each stick.  I got mine free from the hardware store….I just asked.  You could use the crayon to mark pretty much anything you would like to use as markers for your plantings.  I’ve thought about doing some really nice markers for my perennial herb plantings using some carved stakes made out of fallen branches.  I will wood burn the name of the plant into an area I’ve carved out, then go over it with crayon so it’s legible for, in theory, several years.  Maybe this winter while I’m stuck inside.

-Fin

Meat Rabbits

This year I  added meat rabbits to the mix.  It’s something I was intending on doing,  however, I mentioned it to a friend of mine and she said “Great! I was looking to get rid of a couple of my rabbits that I just can’t justify keeping.  Can you pick them up Monday???”

So, I got meat rabbits.

Isn’t that how things seem to go?  You decide to try somthhing, and no matter if you are going to go about it fast or slow, it always seems to immediatly plunge into high gear.

Or…….Maybe thats just me?

She gave me her best producer Mrs. Clause (getting older and she has replacements already out of her), her buck Jazid (she got a new one that she’s breeding to and couldn’t justify the cost of feed to keep him around) and then sold me an up and coming doe which I named Lucky (lucky to not be eaten).

Mrs. Clause (New Zeland):

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Jazid (Californian):

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Lucky (New Zeland x Californian):

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Now, Lucky is fat.  (Jazid is a bit “fluffy” as well.) Totally my fault.  Its hard to judge rabbits conditions when you are new to them and don’t have many to go by.  I was going to breed her last week when I rebred Mrs. Clause, but its not a good idea to breed fat rabbits.  They tend to have one large baby and that’s it, which isn’t good for them…..so I’ve been told anyway.  I have her on a diet and plan to breed her as soon as she looses some weight.

I also recently got another doe and I named her Percephone (New Zeland x Californian):

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I will probably get one more Doe and then be done.  I am looking to breed enough rabbits for meat for Fate and I, my bother, and my parents.  I really like rabbit meat so I’m looking forward to my first litter to grow out.

First Litter (Mrs. Clause x Jazid):

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Having meat rabbits has been a real learning experience.  I will be doing a few posts in the future about how I am feeding them, as well as how I am housing them.   I have plans for grow out pens this spring, the litters will be pasture raised.  That dosn’t make much sense right now though since everything is brown and the ground is super muddy.  These guys are growing out in cages, but are being fed fodder, I will be explaining my setup in my next post.

-Fin