Thursday, March 28, 2013

Companion Planting

I am by no means an expert on companion planting. In fact this is my first attempt. I have been doing a lot of research into the subject and thought that I would share a little of the insight I have found. So, I made you a table.

Well, actually I made me a table because I'm a little tweaked like that, but I'm sharing it with you because I have found so much conflicting information!

Please keep in mind that these are just suggestions that I have found online and in books. I have no experience with them yet, but I will certainly keep you posted!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Growing Babies

Well, the seedlings are off to a great start. They're already outgrowing their starting bed!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

They're alive!

The newspaper pots are working wonderfully!

Now I just have to remember what is what.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Barnyard Tales Chapter 3. Cow Propping 101

“Don’t rock the cow. Don’t rock the cow baby. Don’t rock the cow. You’ll knock the cow over!”

That was the song mom was singing as I tried to roll Bessie into a kneeling position so that I could pull the sling under her again for the fifth time. The bits that I could see of the bright yellow material stood in stark contrast with her black hide. Bessie was uncooperative. She refused to help me by shifting her bulky cow body. The dense bones of her legs were nearly impenetrable barriers to my progress. They were almost as bad as the rest of her. Sprawled out on top of the sling like a sunbather. She simply stared at me, contentedly chewing her cud as I struggled with the most important one sided game of tug of war I have yet played.

My muttered curses melded in unholy harmony with mom’s music. “You could help me, you know? I can’t get this God forsaken thing to move!” Well, then Bess moved, but only to try to butt my leg out from under me with her raspy black nose. Cows have it out for me. First Buttercup, now Bessie. Maybe I should be more specific; ancient semi-paralyzed cows have it out for me.

Secretly, I believe they feel that killing me will extend their considerable life spans. That is the only possible explanation. Well, that and I keep giving the cute names. And they are pretty much left alone except when they are being fed, rounded up, or are on their deathbeds. So they’re wild cows of the plains! And maybe I try to pet them. Maybe I get some sort of thrill after facing a cow and living. It’s exhilarating.

Or at least it is when the cow is responsive. Bessie had not responded to all of the petting, coaxing, begging that mom and I could come up with except to begin licking and rubbing on my mom like a lovesick puppy. And the repeated head butts at me, but at least she wasn’t as hateful as Buttercup. After two weeks of vet checks, meds, and repeated bouts in the sling being carried by tractor from delectable grazing patch to delectable grazing patch she seemed to have decided that she either didn’t care to try to live anywhere except that spot anymore, or that her personal attendants would figure it out and she needn’t bother herself with such pesky details as standing on her own.

To be fair she had done very well in the early weeks of her decline. Dad had found her alone and stuck in the lake three times, having to wade into the recently swollen waters himself to try to pull her close enough to shore to use the tractor. It was a drought that year, and the first good rain brought all of the dust and debris with it into the quagmire of the lake bottom. He sludged forth valiantly fighting the muck with every step. Feeling it slide up his pant legs and through his socks. After several agonizing strides he met the cow face to face. She mooed at him plaintively. Her big brown eyes reflecting her distress. He maneuvered to her side, hoping to rock her free of the sludge clinging to her quickly cooling limbs. Slosh, slosh, slosh, he was nearly in position when the next step had no purchase. He slipped into a unknown hole up to his chest and was faced with a big black cow side of doom. The cow thrashed and the weight of his position sank in. If she fell over he would drown, pinned under a cow in the murky depths. With fear induced, God given strength he pushed the cow free of her muddy prison. The next two times were a repeat of the same, save that he knew the wily cow’s tricks and avoided the pit trap. Finally when we found her down outside of the lake we knew enough was enough.

She was down near the electric fence, which was working well. It was my parent’s anniversary. Time was short. Dad and I worked in haste to get her maneuvered into the sling. We worked too fast, because I nearly electrocuted myself on the fence while I was dragging the chain into position. Despite my near death experience, it wasn’t too bad. She worked with us, presumably trying to attack dad with her face so her body wasn’t actually impeding the movement of the sling most of the time as she repeatedly launched herself at him. We debated setting her free again when we saw she could stand of her own accord, but decided given her past history that we had to bring her up because the end was near and cow hospice had to commence.

That was how I found myself pulling for life and death on a tiny green strap, begging Bessie to help me to help her get the bright yellow sling in position. Mom stopped her song and added her strength to the fight. By our combined effort we got the sling under her. We quickly secured it with baling twine so it could not fall off again and raised her up with the front end loader so blood could flow to her feet. She seemed content; nosing through grass, hay, and cracked corn with reckless abandon. So we left her once more semi suspended with enough weight on her legs so that she could stand, but enough support that she couldn’t fall. It seemed an idyllic solution until the inevitable happened: I needed to use the tractor for something else.

We tried to lower her, but her Majesty was in a mood. She would not be standing of her own accord today, thank you very much. No matter how much we pleaded and massaged as soon as her weight was her own burden she crumpled to the ground like a broken building. What could we do? She seemed happy. She seemed to have quality of life. Should we end it for her? One look into her eyes and we decided no. There had to be another solution.

But what? What could give her support and blood flow besides the tractor? Then inspiration stuck like a bolt of lightning across the clear blue sky. We wedged square bales between her legs so that she was straddling them. She reached down to take a bite of hay between from between her legs. The thought of, “This could work.” echoed though our minds.

Little did we know that nature’s duplicity was about to strike. As we unhooked her she seemed to steady for a moment. Was that nervousness in her eyes, or just a trick of the rapidly darkening light? Slowly she began sliding from her hay bale throne in a bizarre parody of a slowly sinking ship. “Mayday! Mayday!” I screamed. “B1 is down! Repeat B1 is down!” What could we do? I ran over and braced myself against her, but there was only so long I could hold her up. A thousand pounds of cow is a lot to wedge yourself against, even when physics is on your side. Mom came running up carrying a four by four post. We propped her up and studied the situation. It looked like it would hold.  We waited long minutes with baited breath. The low rumble of the tractor was a dramatic counterpoint to our thoughts. Finally we deemed it structurally sound.

I raced to the tractor and leapt into the water filled seat. Muttered curses and pissed off moos resounded through my ears. The other cows were not pleased with my tardiness. I moved hay quickly, a combination of the herd’s displeasure and knowing our stop gap solution wasn’t a permanent one motivating me to speed. Did I make it? No, I pulled up just in time to watch majestic queen Bessie sink from her throne and happily begin pulling up grass.  I parked the tractor and walked inside, defeated.

I had just failed Cow Propping 101.

Barnyard Tales Chapter 2. Buttercup the Killer Cow

I should have known as soon as I had to dive away from the skunk butt in the barn that my day had taken a turn for the worse. That I tripped over an old well as I made my dramatic escape from the potential gaseous explosion should have sealed it. But no. In my limping ignorance I thought that a bruised shin and a little bit of blood was as bad as it was going to be.

Ha. Like the fates ever miss a chance to kick someone while they are down. I limped around valiantly finishing my other chores. Buckets of grain were distributed. Hay was going to be moved. My dad waited patiently on the tractor while I dragged the hose from trough to the low bucket being used to water Buttercup, our semi-paralyzed cow.

We had discovered her several days earlier, separated from the herd and wondered why. When we watched her try to escape our attentions it had become apparent. She had limited feeling and mobility in her hind end. Now, before you feel too sorry for her keep in mind that this is a geriatric cow. I’m not sure of the conversion rate of cow to people years, but she is pushing thirty in human years which has to be something like 110 in cow years. We can’t be like normal farmers that ship the gals when they are past their prime. No, we have a cow retirement home. Old age and its delights is something we have grown used to. So, we try to herd this cow towards the gate so she can spend her last days grazing in the safety of the yard. She wants none of it. She falls down and can’t get up, even with a massive injection of steroids. We get the tractor, and the sling. Because we are prepared like that. We maneuver her into the sling and carry her home swinging side to side in a hypnotic blur of black and yellow.

Magically, she regains enough function to stand as soon as she is in the yard and promptly hits me in the leg with her head. It goes numb. The cow hates me. I get it. I would be hateful too. She begins grazing. Mom pets the cow and gets a “love nudge." I feel vindicated.

Two days later the cow is down again. She viscously attacks my arm as I am trying to get her up. It goes numb. She starts licking my mom, even as she is trying to give me a blood clot and kill me. Cow has issues. Mom takes her side. Our animosity grows. Mom says it is because I have named the cow Buttercup.

Day four, the cow is back down. After much prodding I am persuaded to go near the hellion only to narrowly miss a nose thrust to my shin. She has it out for me. The cow hates my life. Maybe I should stop trying to pet her when she is down and semi-paralyzed. She is nuzzling my mother and licking her. Mom glares at me when I say bad things about the cow. Buttercup appears smug.

Day five dawns clear. It will be a good day. Then the skunk bit happens. I am paying too much attention to my shin and not enough to the cow as I drag the hose over to her bucket and begin to wait patiently for it to fill. It is my fault really. I know Buttercup hates me. She senses my weakness. My distraction is blood in the water. Maybe in cow logic if she kills me she can take my life force and live another hundred cow years. I can only guess that her motivation was strong, because she suddenly becomes un paralyzed and lunges, FROM LAYING DOWN MIND YOU, to execute a perfect uppercut with her head to my jaw.

Yes. I took a cow to the face. Be impressed.

I was stunned. There was something wrong. I couldn’t tell what it was. As I stumbled backwards (Yeah, I took a cow to the face and didn’t even fall. Boo yah!) I began doing a mental check of myself. I could move my jaw, but I didn’t want to talk. I could think. Was it clear? I thought so. Did I have a concussion? Had she damaged my neck? My thoughts seemed fuzzy.

Somewhere out of the haze I vaguely noticed dad climbing off of the waiting tractor to come over and kick Buttercup. Somewhere in my shaken brain I got very excited. “He’s standing up for me!” I thought with delight, even as I wondered why I was having a hard time saying the words aloud. Without missing a beat he came over to me and started laughing. “Can you do it again? I want to put it on YouTube.”

Gotta love my dad.

By the way, my jaw was dislocated. That’s why I didn’t want to talk.

Buttercup 4, Lauren 0.

Barnyard Tales Chapter 1. How stripping helps herd cows.

Everyone has great stories from when they were growing up. Mine just happen to revolve around animals.

It was a beautiful summer day when my world was shattered by the words no farm kid ever wants to hear, “The cows are on the road. Get home and round them up.” Cows are wily creatures; capable of ignoring shocks from highly electrified fences to get to that greener grass on the other side, and of dividing and running through terrain that ATVs stand no chance in. One does not simply round up cows alone.

Alone, save for the trusty four wheeler, I set out against the odds to try to capture the herd and drive it back to safety. I drove a sea of black before me, okay so maybe only thirty of them. So, I drove a pond of black before me. I made it nearly to the pasture by the barn before the unthinkable happened.

The four troublemakers splintered from the herd. They sprinted towards the safety of the woods like Olympians. From my position behind the wall of black I could only curse. This was what I had feared. I herded the rest of the herd towards the barn, but they did not wish to go to the catch pen. They were close, only 100 feet from it. Close enough, I thought. I returned to the hunt for the fearsome four.

Over ditches, and around trees they led me. The sun passed over head as I followed their ghostly black forms, wispy between the trees. A glimpse here or there and a fruitless search before finally cornering, driving them home. Only to have them splinter again. Three times we completed this dance. Three times I cursed and followed and chased. Three times I felt the futility of my actions, but on the sweet, sweet fourth? On that fortuitous trip I crested the hill only to see the four split like the four winds my soul cried out in frustrated agony. The four wheeler sputtered and died. And my dear, wonderful, life saving father was walking up the hill to relieve me like an avenging angel sent from heaven he would rescue me from the calves of hell and rain vengeance upon them. “Thank God.” I cried in glorious relief, only to be dismayed moments later as he motioned to the remainder of the herd and handed me the cattle prod.

It was clear that my task was not done. On foot now, with only my heart pumping in my ears and the faint sound of the four wheeler in the distance I approached the herd and surveyed my quarry. They lounged upon the hill opposite the barn; chewing cud in an effort to look amiable, to distract me from their dastardly ways.. The expanse of the lake between us and the hill was spanned by a small low water bridge. A chokepoint. An easy place to hold. A fence crossed the lake dam preventing them from merely circling and wearing me out. I could do this.

I coaxed, chased, cursed, and cajoled the cows across the low water bridge. Predictably they ran around the lake and faced the fence across from where they had been. Haha! I thought as I shut the slinky gate across the low water bridge. I have you now! I circled the lake, my pending victory sending strength to my exhausted limbs  and chased the herd back towards the barn. I could no longer hear the four wheeler for my labored breath as I jogged along after them. When they saw the gate, they did what I had not foreseen. They waded into the damned lake. Not a cow, or two, but the entire frigging herd. They stood there in the murky water and stared me down with their big brown eyes. “What now, B?” I could almost hear them laughing.

So, I did what any self respecting woman would do when faced with a muddy lake (lake mud smells horrid by the way). I threw rocks around them and screamed. Oh bloody hell I screamed. They finally waded out of the lake. On the side by the fence again. FML. I thought as I watched my mother standing up at the gate laughing. I glared and set out again, prod in hand.

This repeated two more times. I won’t bore you with the sordid details of scrambling around and lobbing rocks, solid dirt, anything I could find. Finally, as I stood facing off the herd yet again my mother joined me. I was alone in my battle no more. She threw rocks and screamed to, but to no avail. They were onto us, and though my mother is a good enough aim to actually hit a cow if she chose, as opposed to my ineffective flinging, the cows didn’t care. It was hot. They were wet, and they did not want to go up to the barn. Our stalemate lasted minutes, but they seemed like hours.

But with one risky move my mother ended it. I stared at her, confused, as she removed her shoes, pants, shirt and stood in her underwear. She grabbed a stick and marched toward the cows yelling admonishments at them and warnings at me. “Get your lazy asses up to the barn. You damned cows.” “Lauren, don’t you dare take any pictures. If this shows up on YouTube I'm going to kill you.” Like I could react fast enough anyway. My mind was blown. Such a simple solution. Why hadn’t I seen it?

Then the sound we had been awaiting. The four wheeler. My father burst triumphantly through the trees. The four stranglers pacing in front of him in a parody of chariots of old. The calves eagerly joined the herd in the lake as my father sped to a stop and stared a moment before he burst out laughing at the image of my mother wading into the lake, gesticulating wildly with the stick.

Even the cows were shocked at her bold move. They were one upped. They stared at her a few moments in utter stupor before turning and sloshing one by one out of the water and up towards the barn. They didn’t even try to run around again. No one wants to mess with a crazy lady with a stick, wading in her underwear; not even the cows were that insane.

Mom waded out, grimacing at the stinky lake mud caked to her manicured toes. Dad drove up asking aloud, “What will you do if the neighbors show up?” And I wondered at the magical power she wielded. The cows lowed placidly from their place by the gate not one of them tried to go anywhere else.

Apparently all it takes to cow a cow is to strip. I’m going to have to keep that one in mind.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Barnyard Exposure aka Games Farm Kids Play That Others Don't

One special thing about growing up on a farm is that you are exposed to a lot that most people in less rural areas don’t get the pleasure of experiencing.

Take for example the classic barnyard game of, “Find the mummified animal in the barn loft!” Maybe you want a rousing round of "Mommy what are those two horses doing?" Or perhaps you want to play “What did the dog drag into the yard now?”

Honestly, I don’t know how kids understand biological sciences without these great teaching experiences. There is nothing like tripping over the crusty remains of a raccoon or possum to teach you about the important part oxygen and heat play in decomposition. And there is nothing like the combination of spring on a farm and tripping over a mystery skull to learn about anatomy, and for bonus points figure out what animal the bones came from. Deer? Cow? What kind of femur is that anyway?

I. Am. So. Lucky. <- trace amounts of sarcasm mixed with actual gratitude

The really strange thing is that growing up with this you become used to it. It doesn’t seem strange. You walk around the dog knawing on some sort of hide. You learn to not panic seeing a dried snake baled into the straw. I  honestly never thought anything of it until I brought my city born and raised best friend and roommate home with me for the first time about six years ago.

I will never forget the look of horror on her face the first time she stepped out of the car.

J, horrified: “Lauren, what is that?”  The look of revulsion in her eyes startled me. I followed her pointing finger expecting to see a decapitated kitten, or something similarly tragic. Instead I saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Me, blasé: “Oh, that? That’s a spine. Looks like a deer I think. Come on in.”

Honestly, it is a miracle that she ever came back.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why choose a rural life?

Why garden? Why farm? Why create a life for yourself that is full of work?

It isn’t for everyone. God, I know that one. Heck, there are many times that I recall having to cancel my plans to get hay up and off the field or get up early after a night on the town that I wondered my about sanity and if this lifestyle was for me! I am a pretty intelligent girl. I have the kind of resume that could get me a job in the city with all the posh accoutrements I could desire. So why limit myself? Why restrain myself to one geographic area when the world is at my fingertips? Why choose a life of non-stop work over a life of relatively easy reward?

Love. I love the farm. I love the land. I love the animals. The joy I get from watching a bud pop up out of the ground, a kitten’s first faltering footsteps as he begins venturing out under their mama’s watchful eye, or a newborn calf romp and play in the sun is unparalleled by anything else I have witnessed. A walk in the woods after a spring rain puts all of the art in the Louvre to shame. There is something special about that brilliant sunlight scintillating off of deep green moss that pops off the water stained wood. Everything is in stark golden contrast and the colors are so vivid that they sing to your soul. Oil paint can’t capture it, and digital cameras don’t even come close. It grounds me in ways that are more than just the mud covering my boots. It connects me to my world in a way that I have not been able to experience in any concrete haven. Every day is a reminder that there is joy to be found in life; and life is meant to be enjoyed, experienced, lived.

Diogenes was a Greek philosopher that chose to live in a barrel in the equivalent of a city park. In essence he believed that the gods had given man a simple life, but man complicated it by itching for luxuries. I certainly don’t want to give up my home, but I believe that Diogenes had it a little bit right. People are notorious for distracting themselves with the pursuit of luxuries, rather than enjoying the bounty that they have been given. I saw a sign once that said, “Don’t be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” I take that to heart.

Farming, gardening, living. They are synonymous in my personal dictionary. By choosing a rural lifestyle I am choosing to live a life of appreciation rather than a life of yearning, a life of action rather than distraction, a life of hard work and peaceful reward.

And for me, that makes the work worth it.

(Please remind me of that the next time it is freezing rain and I am sick, and still have to get up and feed the cows! ;) )

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I don't think you're ready for this jelly...

Would jelly by any other name still taste as sweet?

Yes. Yes it would. So jelly, conserve, or jam are all freaking delicious and they are insanely easy to make. Seriously, boil some fruit with sugar and pectin and you have jam. So freaking easy! I was intimidated for far too long by this simple art.

I have made this recipe a few times, and I like it to be more of a jam consistancy. I have included instructions if you prefer either conserve or jelly. This recipe has a delightfully sweet strawberry flavor with just a hint of mint in the finish. It is great on fresh bread, like what I made here, topping pancakes, or spooned over french vanilla ice cream. It is also a terrific way to use up mint if you happen to have an overabundance of it in your garden like I do. I normally buy strawberries when I see them on sale and clean and freeze them to make this when I have the chance!

Let's get started!

From these humble beginnings, awesome ensues.

To actually can your jam you are going to need: one boiling water canner (big pot with some sort of raised bottom, I use canning rings held together with twisty ties), soup pot, spoon, jars, lids, and canning rings. You could feasibly skip the canning step and use this like freezer jam, but I am not sure how long it will keep.

Sterilize your jars and lids. Wait for the jam.

For the Jam:
1 1/2 lb Strawberries, hulled and cut if large
2 1/2 C Sugar
2 handfuls of fresh mint give a rough chop (about 3/4 C dried)
1 1/2 TBS lemon juice
1 packet liquid pectin (use 0 if you prefer conserve, or 2 if you prefer jelly)

Mix the berries and sugar in your soup pot and let it set several hours or overnight at room temperature.
Set that baby on the stove and add your mint and lemon juice. Bring it up to a rolling boil for about ten minutes.

Boil, boil, boil the stuff. Until you want to scream. Merrily, merrily, merrily. Until it is done you deem.
At this point add your pectin if you're using it and return the pot to heat for one to two minutes. It will set up very quickly, so be sure to watch it for a distinct change to a very glossy, non juicy, gel-like finish.
(There are several ways to test for set, like keeping a plate in the freezer and seeing if the jam runs down it or gels, but noting the change between juice to gloss has worked very well for me.)

I use a measuring cup to pour the molten hot jam into the sterilized jars, but you can use a ladle and funnel if you prefer. Leave a one inch gap at the top of the jar. Cover with sterilized lids.

You can use tongs, but for about ten dollars they sell canning sets with nifty tools like these!

Then finger tighten the canning rings. Careful! It will be hot! Process the jars for ten minutes under boiling water.

Remove and cool. Make sure that your lids are depressed. If they aren't return the jars to the boiling water and process again, or store them in the fridge and use quickly. This jam will keep for about nine months unopened in a dark place. Like all jam, make sure to shove it in the fridge after you've opened it.

Well, that is if you don't eat the entire jar with a spoon. Which I may or may not have done. No witnesses!

Monday, March 18, 2013

You too can achieve your dreams!

I am sorry for being away for so long. It was a pretty long weekend full of the kind of personal stuff that I don't really feel comfortable sharing, so I have pulled over an applicable blog from my other location, Rants by Lauren. Enjoy! And come back soon! We're making jelly!

I did it. This weekend I achieved one of my lifelong dreams. You know those dreams that haunt you? Day after day? Night after night? Pushing you? Pursuing you like a hunted stag? Those dreams that motivate you on a core level?
I attained one of those. Yes. I did it. I fell through a barn. Again. What do you mean that isn’t a dream? You have never had that dream where you fall through a barn floor? What is that? Oh, a nightmare you say? Psh. Nightmares are dreams too. Don’t be a hater. You have your goals. I have mine.
You’re just jealous because I achieved something glamorous. Bruises are considered glamorous, right?
Saturday was supposed to be Farrier day at Prinrock Farms. Farrier day is a magical day from hell that involves gathering up every single horse and having a farrier give them the equivalent of an equine pedicure. For the most part this isn’t bad. Generally 23 horses out of 26 are good. They are catchable and they don’t fight too much, but oh when the hellions decide to fight it is a sight to see. Anyone who thinks people kicking or smacking their horse around is abusive should really observe what they will do to themselves and each other when they are in a pissy mood.
Let me tell you, a horse is a half cocked gun. Take Luna for example, she can be the most docile thing ever, but Heaven help us all if she is PMSing. She can clear a six foot tall fence from a standstill and cause concussions with the best of them. I watched Dreamer break two halters and her own face rather than allow herself to be tied. They’re nuts. They’re exquisitely beautiful creatures, but they are nuts. Anyways, between Luna trying to prove herself the world’s best jumper, Joey picking your pockets and wandering away with any tools that aren’t tied down, and Barbie being the wild mountain horse who will never be touched! Never!!!! Farrier day is one of the days that I look at with trepidation.
So, at 7:30 ON A SATURDAY I already knew the day would not be in my top ten. Then the farrier was late. Then he was an hour late. Then we realized he wasn’t coming, which made life suck for a variety of reasons.
1.       I had been up at 7am on a SATURDAY for nothing.
2.       I had a pen full of agitated horses that I somehow had to feed without them beating each other up too much. This pen would also get grosser and grosser with every passing moment. So I would have to wade through a foot of muck rather than six inches when I eventually tried to capture them. Lovely.
3.       I had made a big deal out of being busy all day the night before. Now I was no longer busy, and my entire argument that had been emotionally charged and ineffective to begin with was void. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
What to do with a free Saturday? Call and eat crow? Can? Winterize my yard? Clean house? Clean barn? Do laundry? Sleep? Relax?
None of the above. I got wrangled into helping my dad clean out my grandpa’s barn. Which is good because a good wind could knock it over, and my grandpa does not need to be wandering around in it, so I’m glad that I was there, but did I mention a good wind could knock this thing over? Danger! Danger!
Naturally I am selected for the job of retrieving items from across the loft floor. It only makes sense. I am the least useful of the group. It’s like in a horror movie. You know someone is going to die, and you know it is going to be the ditzy blond chick because she contributes the least to the well being of the party. I was cannon fodder. They said it was because I was the lightest, but I know the truth. So I was like, “Hey! Okay!” and “Is this a bad time to tell you guys I have been having dreams about falling through barn floors again?” Chirp, chirp went the crickets. “Hey, Lauren. Why don’t you start by gathering up all the jars and glass [from over there on the sketchy side of the barn]?” Seriously, take the flashlight. Go down the hall alone. It’ll be cool. There isn’t certain doom down there. That’s just bad lighting.
So I collect jars, crocks, and giant wooden things like the good girl that I am. I’m creeping from floor joist to floor joist, spreading my weight out the best that I can on the termite riddled wood. I was practically belly crawling along to reach some of these jars and other mystery objects. Most mystery objects being made of cast iron and appearing to be tools of some sort that I couldn’t identify. My grandpa has some cool stuff. Some cool, HEAVY stuff. A few hours pass. We uncover two glass display cases, because every barn has two antique glass display cases in it for grain and things, right? We found a cider press. Who doesn’t keep one of those laying around? There were also some old chairs, an engine, a steam engine, a tractor, a seed box, thousands of strawberry cartons (WHY?!?!?!?!), planters, enough canning jars to make me ache with jealousy (Really. They are about $10 a box. I have bought about $50 worth of them recently. When I could have just come rummaging…AGH!), and those are just the things I could identify. American Pickers would probably jizz all over themselves if they saw my grandpa’s barns. The point is, I got cocky.
At some point in the barn’s past someone had laid down plywood over the floor in places. This gave me a sense of security. Nothing could harm me. I couldn’t see the broken and decaying boards. They weren’t there! The floor was strong. It was plywood. I laughed in the face of decaying boards! Ahahahah-AHHHH! Yup. The plywood gave out. Dad and grandpa were nowhere around, and I was stuck with one leg through a barn floor sprawled out amongst a pile of shattered glass. ‘Cause of course I had been holding glass. It wouldn’t have been nearly intense enough if I hadn’t been holding glass.
So, I’m chilling there with one leg through the floor, wondering how on earth I’m going to extract myself, when the total absurdity of the situation hits. Seriously, how many people get to achieve a lifelong dream TWICE? TWICE!!?!?! And I’m still young. Think about it. At this rate I am falling through a barn once every ten years. Actually it is freakishly close to being exactly ten years. Assuming that my penchant for freakish accidents will continue, I will fall through barns an estimated six more times. This experience was significantly less traumatic than before, so theoretically I will survive all six falls and perish of more natural causes. That is achieving my dream an anticipated 8 times over the course of my life! Can you believe that? Talk about a goal! Man, I am so lucky!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

DIY Newspaper Pots (otherwise known as Cat Bait)

Damn, I’m cheap, and I want to start some seedlings for my garden. What to do, what to do?
I should get one of those newspaper pot roller things. They’re great. I’m reusing old newspaper and I don’t have to transplant them. Plus all those damn plastic trays I bought last year didn’t hold up to the cat and dog laying on top of them, so I’m gonna have to do something for that anyway.

That thought process led me to getting an awesome little tool and losing about three hours of my life to making paper pots.

If you have read the rest of this blog you're going to know that I am not that big on measuring things, so it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I had no ruler and no idea of how long 3.5" actually was. So the first thing I did was cut my newspapers into fourths.

Okay, I lied. The first thing I did was wrestle the newspaper away from my cat and manage to miraculously not cut his feet off while I was trying to cut my newspaper. Such. A. Bad. Kitty. Seriously, if cats could take Adderall he would be on it.

Anyway, my lovely method of measuring yielded newspaper that was way too wide. Go figure. So rather than cutting it again I took the lazy way out and folded it. Wanna see how the cool little pot maker thing works? Yes? Awesome. Because I made you a montage. I hope you like it.

Quick! Go play Eye of the Tiger while you look at it!

Pretty sweet, yeah? I thought so too until I had to fill this. This being a big clear plastic tub that I had to buy and drill air holes in to protect all of my newly made pots, because someone, not going to mention any names *cough*MyGodDamnCats*cough, cough* decided to destroy all of them last time. Lets see them crush and shred them now! Yeah!

You might need to put it on loop for effect. That is three hours of Survivor right there.


My craptastic weekend...was great!

So why do I call it craptastic? If you read my second to last post you saw my gigantic to do list. On that list was an entry called “dig out Moon’s pen.” What does that mean exactly? Well, overwintering animals in smaller pens closer to the house for monitoring and pasture management reasons has some drawbacks. Like an overabundance of manure. When the animals don’t have as much room to roam it builds up pretty quickly. So digging out the pens means removing the animal and attacking the ground with a tractor. Ideally this happens two or three times a year, realistically (I mean did you see the rest of the to do list?) it happens once or twice.

And I shall call it Mt. Horse Apple.

Well, we got Moon’s pen all cleaned out (about five hours of work all told. I started it out, but my dad stepped in and finished it after it hit a tree with the bucket (front end) of the tractor as I was backing up. I don’t think he trusted me near the edges after that for some reason. I don’t know why! I have skillz damnit. You can tell they’re legit because the have a “z.”

Well, I started on cleaning out the milk house of doom while he was finishing up on that. I had no clue what I was getting into there. There are things in that tiny building that have no place being there. Like porcelain bears, old boots, knitted something or anothers. As I was hauling fruit basket after fruit basket of junk out, because for some reason we had dilapidated fruit baskets in there. ‘Cause, hey why the hell not. They go with the glass bears. I got to thinking that there are probably even snakes in there. *shudder* The things I do to try and get a potting shed. So, it still isn’t done, but I took a few loads out.

Then dad and I moved hay, and dad decided to dig out the cow’s winter enclosure. We live pretty close to the Cahokia Mounds, and dad has decided to create the “Cowpoopia” Mounds. He seems to think it’ll make a great attraction. I’m not convinced. (Actually, I told him it was a shitty idea. Then cackled like a fifth grader. Geez. I am too witty sometimes!)

One day archaeolgists are going to have a field day with this one.

While he was working on the cow pasture I walked around and located six trees down over the fence. Yet another good reason to keep the livestock close to the house for the winter months. Ice and wind are hell on trees, and trees are hell on fences. So, dad and I loaded up the chainsaw and he cut and I dragged until the perimeter fence was at least up again. I am not going to count it as cleared yet, but at least it should hold the horses and cows. It will be another weekend or two before we have another chance to work on it, but at least it is serviceable right?

Yeah. I’m going to tell myself that. Just wait for the post about the livestock in the neighbors field. I sense it coming.

Sunday found me trying out my carpentry skills, which are, uh, nonexistent. The good news is I now have a dog house, the bad news? Well, I’m not sure I should be allowed near a saws-all again anytime soon, but that deserves its own little how to. Check out my post on DIY Dog House out of Pallets for more of that story! I also started in on making pots for starting seedlings, but I will wait and fill you in on that one in its own post as well.

Hope ya’ll are surviving the daylight savings shift!

DIY Disaster, well it is a dog house made out of pallets!

I was inspired by all of the cool things that people have done with pallets lately. The projects look amazing, and pretty simple, right? I am very interested in repurposing because: 1. It is cool, and 2. I’m cheap. Dog houses retail for about $150.00 a piece at the local feed store, and though I love my dog, I did not want to spend that much when I knew I could build one. How hard could it be, right? If only I had known. This isn't an exact tutorial, because if I had it to do over again I would do things a little differently. Think of it more as an inspirational piece! Anyway, not knowing what I didn't know, I decided to get crafty.

I have taken three things away from this experience. Saws-alls are not as easy to use as I thought. I am capable of using power tools, sorta. Most importantly, always pre-drill your holes! Dear Lord in Heaven pre drill your holes. It sounds like a stupid extra step, but it isn't. Across the path of least resistance danger lies in giant wooden chasms!

Hyperbole aside, I am lucky enough to have free access to small shipping crates with collapsible sides at work. For this project I used one crate bottom, two sides, two pieces of scrap lumber, one 1x4 board, and one salvaged crate lid cut to size. I also used a band saw, a miter saw, saws-all, a drill, sand paper, hammer, and 1 ¼” screws. Oh, and all my PPE. Gotta be safe!

I started out by setting the sides on the crate. I haphazardly decided on a door size and cut my scrap lumber to even lengths before screwing it onto the crate and learning the importance of pre-drilling holes. Without planning on it one end of my scrap wood fit perfectly into the space I had made with a few taps of a hammer, so I screwed that on too. Then I tried to cut out a nice rectangle using a saws-all. It didn’t work so well. I then absently wondered if they made bondo for wood, but went along anyway. It might not be pretty, but it was my creation damnit!

I was not very good at taking pictures of this one. Sorry guys, but do make sure to note the splitting wood and my freaking awesome saws-all job! That's ergonomic, or aesthetically pleasing, or something?!? Maybe?

I used my awesome measuring skills, ie holding it up and marking it with a pencil to determine the length I needed (but you could use a measuring tape) for the roofline which I cut in two sections, one piece being the length across the front and one the length of the sides. I then attached my front board to the poor, splintering frame I had made for the door and proceeded to draw a diagonal line across the side board so that when I cut it I would have two identical pieces.

Which I pre-drilled (see, learning!) and screwed to the front board. I chopped a scrap piece of wood in half and screwed the back ends of my diagonal pieces down for stability. I then grabbed a lid and screwed it on top of my angled boards. I then tried to sand down the doorway so Susan wouldn’t get splinters. It needs a few coats of waterproof paint, but Susan loves it. That’s the main thing.

Kitten Season

I was just informed that the rest of the world doesn’t know what kitten season is; and that, dear reader, is flipping tragic.

How do you live without the knowledge that in the spring there will come a time of such joy (finding kittens) and pain (getting clawed up by momma)? Seriously, handfuls of kittens. Is there anything cuter? It is one furry, warm, mewing ball of awesome.

Well, except for the momma. If she is tame it’s cool, but the half feral barn cats don’t take so kindly to interlopers. For some reason tricking them into leading you to their kitten nest really makes them mad.

But it is so worth it.

That is an armful of cuddly goodness right there.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I see your deer, and I raise them one albino doe.

Yeah. Albino deer by my driveway. You'll have that. :)

And people wonder why I love living in the middle of nowhere?

Friday, March 8, 2013


Some people would say that this is oregano poking through straw. I prefer to call it SPRING! And it is about damned time!

Although, now instead of a to do list made up of cooking, eating, and catching up on my reading I have made a monster. My to do list looks like this:

Why am I excited it is spring again?

Oh yeah, BONFIRE!!!!!!