April 29, 2009

Invasion of the blood-suckers!

Ticks!!! Need I say more?? It is an epidemic around here! This is by far the worst year for ticks I have experienced in my lifetime. And it is not just because I have two dogs now. I've had as many as three dogs at a time before and never dealt with anything remotely close to ticks on this scale. We don't even get a winter respite anymore. They go all winter long, and then spring comes... It is no exaggeration to say that at least 20-30 ticks are handled DAILY around here. We may have come up with a positive side however. Until now, our main mode of attack has been simply to collect and destroy the ticks, but it turns out that chickens will gladly eat them. So, we have decided instead to save them in a jar for chicken treats. I guess in some small way the dogs are now actually contributing something to the upkeep of this place by supplying free chicken feed. Seriously though, I'm not THAT thrifty, and we are resorting to chemicals to keep the ticks at bay. Which is the lesser of two evils: lacing your dog with poisons so they can in turn poison the pests or living with the rampant invasion of blood-sucking, disease-bearing parasites? I am so jaded now that I'm not sure even the chemicals will make a huge difference, but we are keeping our fingers crossed. Yet another reason to get a flock of guineas!! :)

One of my main pastimes these days has been greenhouse tending. I've been progressively moving seedlings to larger containers as they grow in a process I like to call "The Greenhouse Shuffle". The tomatoes have been very successful again this year, but I am most excited about the alpine strawberries that have sprouted. Since our greenhouse doubles as a shower, and is fairly small to begin with, it is always a tight squeeze to fight everything in. Joe has made some in-ground cold frames to give us extra seed starting space. The garden is doing good, although some rain would be great. It is hard to think that I would be saying that so soon. We had such a rainy streak this spring, but it only takes a week of hot, dry weather to make all that rain a distant memory. Our rain barrels had seemed endless, but now we are not letting a drop of water go to waste. Of course, the spring is still running good, but why spend time pumping it up the hill if we don't have to?

My camera has been found!! After being MIA for about a month in a half, it turns out it was hiding in Joe's "purse" all this time. Pictures to come soon!

April 20, 2009

April 20, 2009

Everyone is well! Joe has fully recovered from the flu and Lily's wound is almost completely healed. We got some heavy rains last night, and this morning I am noticing the poplar trees budding out. The air is crisp and clear and the world just keeps getting greener. This morning I happened to look out the front window just in time to see the first hummingbird visiting the feeder! Watching spring unfold never ceases to amaze me. The weather has been warm enough lately that we even put the hammocks back up. There is possibly no more delightful experience than lounging in the hammock on my front porch on a balmy evening, listening to the great horned owls calling to each other and the meadowlark singing its last song of the day. I think I will charge admission and make a fortune. :)

Of course, life wouldn't be the same without some drama in there somewhere, and we have had a small dose of it recently. Lily and the chickens have both been settling in nicely, but we didn't give much thought as to how they would interact with each other. Given the fact that Wilson wouldn't bother looking twice at a chicken, we were lulled into a false sense of security. About a week ago we returned home from a very brief absence to find Lily gleefully chasing down one of the hens in the woods. We were able to interrupt the hunt and narrowly save the poor hen, but it turned out that she would have been seconds. We found the remains of Lily's first course under the porch. We made our displeasure abundantly clear to Lily, but realized that it was going to take more than harsh words to erase the connection between chickens and yummy treats in her mind. The very next day we headed to PetSmart to purchase a shock collar and begin the process of teaching Lily that as delicious as chickens are, they can actually electrocute you. The goal is to have the unpleasantness of a shock be associated solely with the chickens, not with us, as far as Lily is concerned. This means a lot of creeping around and trying to act nonchalant on our parts, but it seems to be working. In fact, it may have worked much faster than we were expecting. After only a couple of shocks, Lily is now showing a much greater respect for the secret powers of chickens and is following Wilson's lead of ignoring them. We have plans to bait her with some highly tempting chickens situations just to double check that all is well. Luckily chickens don't seem prone to post-traumatic stress syndrome, nor do they hold grudges. The remaining five are calmly and contentedly carrying on with their free-ranging lives and even seem to flaunt themselves right in front of Lily without any fear.

April 10, 2009

They say the sun will come out tomorrow, but it didn't, and I'm actually quite glad of that. Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day, and I worked long and hard; but today I rest. I seem to be the only one holding strong around here. Joe is slowly but steadily recovering from a week-long bout with the flu. Lily is slowly, but steadily, healing a nasty, gaping wound ripped open on her hind leg about a week ago (did I mention what a disaster prone dog she is?). Wilson came home the other day drenched in blood (looking like an axe murderer, as Joe's uncle aptly put it) from what turned out to be a small rip in his ear. (I think these dogs do far more damage to themselves than they do to any rabbits out there!) I guess Foxy hasn't had any incidents to speak of, thank goodness. Between working, maintaining daily life on my own farm, and nursing a household of invalids, I'm quite happy to have a rainy, unemployed day to drink some tea and listen to the wind blow. The sun can come out tomorrow.

*Note: Between writing this and publishing this, the sun DID come out, but I chose to ignore it anyway.

I was at a thrift store the other day when I came across a cookbook named simply the Potato Cookbook. I was thrilled! Potatoes have recently become a huge staple of our diet, and an entire book full of ways to use them was quite exciting. Our recent potato fervor is due to the fact that in order to grow potatoes, you have to plant seed potatoes, and seed potatoes generally come in a 50 lb bag. After you've planted your entire potato bed and STILL have approximately 35 lbs of seed potatoes left, you'll understand. Last year we said we were going to eat the left over potatoes, but we didn't do it fast enough and had to toss most of them out once they'd become shriveled and sprouty. (I think we ended up with a potato deficit as our harvest at the end of the year wasn't anywhere near the 50 lb bag we'd started out with.) In the old-fashioned thrifty spirit of "waste not, want not", we've determined to actually eat the leftover potatoes this year, and we are making good progress. Did you know that some European countries have a potato eating average of 420 lbs per person per year?!?! In the USA, we only eat about 120 lbs each a year, and that includes sweet potatoes, potato chips and fast food. :( The potato has been much maligned as a fattening food source with little nutritional value (is this maybe due to the fact that most of our potato eating in this country is made possible by such companies as Lays and McDonald's?), but potatoes are actually complex carbohydrates full of vitamins and minerals and containing a whopping 11-percent protein! Apparently, the USDA has even determined that it is possible to survive entirely on a diet of potatoes and whole milk, which is great, because I'm currently on that diet (minus the milk). If you have anything against potatoes, I would suggest you don't come visit for a couple of weeks. ;)

April 01, 2009

Here chick, chick, chick

Happy April Fools day! March certainly came in like a lion with all of that snow we got, but I don't know that it necessarily went out like a lamb. April has started off with showers, as the other saying goes, and the world just keeps getting greener. A few days ago we heard the owls calling in the woods and the turkeys are starting to gobble. I'm hearing more and more new bird songs every day.

Speaking of birds, we are officially in the chicken business. In between rainy spells, we managed to get our coop and pen finished up. Finding chickens proved a little harder. Apparently, the two things to invest in right now are chickens and gold! We scanned our local classifieds for chicken ads, but everyone we called was sold out, despite their outrageous prices ($20 for a hen!). I eventually tracked down what seemed to be the last three hens, all Rhode Island Reds, in the surrounding counties. The following day, however, we added two more hens, Redstars, to the pen. You'd think that after only one day, no one would have managed to even settle in, much less get territorial. But, as it goes with chickens, one of the "original" Rhodes decided to get all snippy about the "newcomers". I'm sure they'll have it sorted out soon enough though.

Our rooster is an Araucana rooster that was initially the head rooster of the flock we shared with Joe's aunt and uncle several years ago. He has since fathered a son and, as the young rooster matured, much fighting ensued. Two roosters is apparently one too many, so we got the old rooster as a hand-me-down. We were quite happy because we had always liked that rooster. I don't have pictures of the big chickens yet, but I do have pictures of sweet little baby chicks!! In an effort to diversify our flock, we got Buff Orpington and White Rock baby chicks from the local farm supply store. Because we don't have the space or the electric capacity to run a heat lamp around the clock, our chicks are living with friends. They were also raising chicks for themselves, and what's a few more?