Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lucy's Story

I've been hibernating because there hasn't been alot to say lately, and I haven't felt like saying what there is to say until today.

I want to tell you the story of our Lucy.

Lucy came into our lives in 1994 as a wee kitten just after Nate and I started dating.  Her name started out as Lucifer because she used to attack our feet in the dead of night.  It would scare the bejeezus out of us.  While she mellowed over the years, she always retained her devilish nature.   

She tolerated Nate, but I was always her first choice.  She always greeted me when I got home, and she would often sit on the buffet by the dining room window watching and listening for my car.  She hated any visitor who took my attention away from her, and she could give them some vicious dirty looks.  Only she was allowed to sit in my lap, and usurpers of her throne (primarily my other cat, Onyx) were not tolerated and were dealt with severely.  She had a vicious punch and anyone who felt like they could just walk up and pet her were quickly put in their place.  We often called her Juicy Lucy because she was so flexible and flowing.  You could bend and twist her in anyway and she just contorted like a yoga master.  We also called her The Turkey Fiend because she took every opportunity to steal food and she didn't apologize for it.  Whatever punishment doled out was worth the prize.  Nate found her one day chewing away on his turkey sandwich and they literally had a tug of war with it.  As you can see from the photo, she loved high places, and whenever I lived in a place with cabinets that had a space above them, she found a way to get there. 

In December 2008, at the age of 14, she was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Failure.  The vet prescribed the typical low protein renal food.  This was around the same time I was learning more about the food industry and we were starting to change the way we ate at home and being more conscious of our food purchases.  I had never had a pet this old, so I had never dealt with any serious animal health issues.  I got online and started researching CRF in cats, and the more I read, the more I knew the prescribed renal food was not right for Lucy.  Animal by-products were the first ingredient, and my research indicated that it's not some much the protein quantity (low protein vs. high protein) as the quality.  While, the goal of this post is not the share my research and say my way should be your way, I will say "The Natural Cat" by Anitra Frazier is a great resource.  After 14 years with Lucy, I knew her better than anyone else, and the decisions I made at that time were as educated as I could make though they were a complete 180 from traditional veterinary medicine. 

After I did a bit of research, I called my vet with questions about his approach vs. what I had read online.  I told him I did not want to feed Lucy the low protein food for many reasons and that I had been reading about a more holistic approach to treating CRF.  He got angry and told me he was the vet, not me, and he didn't believe in that holistic poo poo (Yes, those are the words he used, holistic poo poo.), He also told me that if I chose to follow a holistic approach with Lucy then I was killing my cat.  He said the prescribed cat food was formulated with alot of research behind it, and I was a fool not to follow his advice.  Well, needless to say, after I had been insulted I never took her to him again.  I just thought, "What an ass!"

After that phone conversation, I decided to start with some suggested manufactured foods that were considered CRF friendly that were high quality protein based.  At the same time, I made up a batch of cat food based on a CRF recipe I found online.  Lucy wouldn't have anything to do with the canned cat food, but she did like my homemade food, so homemade cat food it was.  I also supplemented the food with a vitamin and a few herbal blends formulated for CRF cats.   

We bumped along for about a year and a half, and then she had a major crash from dehydration.  In nature, cats get the majority of their moisture from the food they eat, and they really do not rely on water to meet their hydration needs.  Domesticated cats are no different.  (Okay, this is me on my soap box.  Cats should not eat dry cat food as their only source of food.  In my opinion, they should never eat dry cat food period.  It does not have nearly the moisture it should for a healthy hydrated cat.)  CRF cats already have compromised and damaged kidneys, so they have a hard time maintaining their hydration from the moisture in their food.  They drink alot more water than a typical cat because they are trying to flush out the toxins that build up in their damaged kidneys.  As a result, the body is not receiving the hydration it needs resulting in dehydration.

At this point, Lucy was about 15 1/2 years old.  We decided to put her on sub-q fluids at home.  I learned how to monitor her hydration and to manage the fluids we gave her.  Many people thought we were crazy to spend so much money on a cat.  Our motto was if she still had a good quality of life, after 15 1/2 years of companionship and devotion, why wouldn't we?  Should we just desert her now that she's costing us a little more money and time?  I had already spent a year and a half making homemade cat food so what was adding another aspect to her care? 

Since her CRF diagnosis, Lucy would have a hard time transitioning to winter.  She seemed to have a slight decline in health, but she always bounced back.  She turned 18 this year, and I dreaded the approach of cold weather.  I knew she couldn't live forever, and after 4 years of managing her CRF, I knew she had already exceeded the average time a CRF cat lives.  Mid-October, I came home from work one day to find her face swollen.  This had never happened to her, so this was a new development that deep in my heart I knew wasn't good.  Fluid retention was the most likely cause, which can contribute to fluid in or around the lungs and/or congestive heart failure.  She was back to normal the next day and seemed like her old self though I noticed she was sleeping more than normal. 

At the end of October, I woke one night in a pool of urine.  Lucy had wet the bed, which was also new to us.  We got up, did what we could to soak up the urine, put towels down, remade the bed and I put her on top of the covers instead of under them with me.  When I got up to get ready for work, I noticed she had once again urinated while we were sleeping.  I really started to worry then.  I put a towel down and put her next to Nate while I took a shower.  When I came back into the room and checked on her, I noticed there was a pool of blood next to her.  We immediately took her to the emergency vet.  I suspected a urinary tract infection, which is common with CRF cats.  She was diagnosed with a UTI, and her bloodwork came back with high kidney values, neither of which surprised me.  Being an emergency vet, he had never seen Lucy before that day, and he said for a CRF cat, he was surprised she had lasted as long as she day and that we must be doing something right.  The vet gave her a dose of antibiotics and instructed us to increase her fluids to help flush out the infection and to give her kidneys a good flush. 

While I was worried, I had high hopes the antibx would kick in and she would once again bounce back.  We made a bed for her in front of the fire at home but I soon realized she could barely stand up.  She would just urinate where she was.  That night, we left her by the fire, which was the first time in years she did not sleep with us.  I got up throughout the night to check on her, but about 5:00 the next morning a thump woke me up.  I bolted out of bed and realized she had dragged herself into the doorway of our bedroom to get in the bed with us.  She would take two wobbly steps and fall over.  She had done this all the way to our bedroom.  To me, that was one of the most heart wrenching moments of my life.

The vet said it would take about 3 days for the antibx to really kick in, but it quickly became evident that the increased fluids were causing difficulty of breathing for her.  Without the fluids, she would dehydrate and die, but with fluids, she was most likely retaining fluid causing fluid to accumulate in or around her lungs and/or congestive heart failure.  She was not eating either, and I tried all of her favorite treats.  We couldn't watch her suffer, and it was evident she was not going to recover.  We made the decision that was best for her. 

18 years, 4 months and 2 days was not enough time. 

With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I want to say how thankful I am to have had such a loving, mischevious, stubborn, opinionated, loyal, beautiful companion in my life.  Nate often says that Lucy and I are just alike, and I consider that the ultimate compliment.  I learned so much from her.   

We love you Lucy, and we miss you terribly.  There is a huge hole in my heart now that will never be filled.



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Farm Name and Logo

A few years ago, Nate built me a bottle tree.  I wrote about it here, and it is by far this blog's most popular post.  I love my bottle tree for the structural beauty it adds to my garden and the love it represents.  I also love that I can't kill it. 

Since that time, I've had a farm name stuck in the back of my head.  I kept thinking one day when I have a farm, I'll have a name ready.  But, I realized one doesn't need acreage to have a farm.  To me, a farm can be anywhere.  My farm is on less than 1/2 an acre.  I raise food for our table and pantry in the form of vegetables, fruits, eggs, honey, and meat.  Farming is hard work, accomplishment, disappointment, satisfaction, sadness, fear, gratification and more.  It's slogging through ankle deep mud to feed and care for animals who depend on you, but it's also, opening your pantry and seeing the canning jars full of food ready to please the taste buds.  Farming is a mindset and a way of life.

We may never move to acreage, so I asked myself why am I waiting on giving our labor of love a name.  My answer was to contact a friend of mine and ask him to create a logo for me. 

I am so pleased to present my farm name and new logo.

Happy homesteading,

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Squash Blob!

"Well it's kind of a - kind of a mass. It keeps getting bigger and bigger."  The Blob, 1958

We planted Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash this year. It's supposed to be a good squash for the south and the fruits are only supposed to be 4-6 pounds, at least that's what I read. It is also supposed to do well in unfavorable conditions. So, with that in mind, how do you think it has responded in my environment?  You can click the photo for a better view.

This was taken from the roof of Nate's workshop, and believe it or not, there are two 4x10 raised beds under that jungle.  Okay, I really don't have alot of real estate to devote to something like this, but it just seemed to take on a life of its own, and I didn't have the heart to try to contain it.  I mean, could the blob be contained?  
"I think you should send us the biggest transport plane you have, and take this thing to the Arctic or somewhere and drop it where it will never thaw."  The Blob, 1958

These photos show one of the squashes before it ripened, but the perspective with Nate's hands is good.  They ripen to a light creamy orange and the flesh is about the color of a sweet potato.  I cut the first two ripened squashes off the vine last weekend, and they each weighed 40 pounds!  I just went outside and counted 9 more on the vine that are almost ripe.  The ones left are not as large as the first two, but pretty close to it. I would say probably 30 pounds each.  We did lose a few more to the chickens pecking them when they were very young and soft, and I found two this weekend that had become separated from the vine before they ripened and were starting to rot. 
This weekend I cut open one of the harvested squashes and managed to shred 19.5 lbs of squash for the freezer.  And, the first recipe I tried was one of my favorites for zucchini.  It turned out delicious.
So, even though I'm a failure with summer squash because of the vine borers, I have totally redeemed myself with this winter squash.  I'm super excited to try more recipes with it.
Happy homesteading,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No More!

Vanilli has abandoned the eggs, so I guess we will only have the one chick this go around, but that's okay because we're so excited to have it. 

This weekend I was watching Vanilli dig up little bugs and drop them in front of the chick to eat.  To me it was such a special moment watching a Mama interact with her baby.  Chicks don't get that under a brooding lamp.

And sometimes when Vanilli settles down, the chick hops up on her back and runs around checking things out from up high on Mama.

We have Vanilli and the chick separated from the flock, mainly because I knew the rest of the flock would eat all of the chick feed and the chick never have enough feed to eat.  My suspicions were confirmed when I put out feed for the chick and Vanilli, and everyone congregated around the run trying to figure out how to get to the chick feed.  Their feed isn't good enough, and I guess having full run of the backyard isn't good enough either.  Little greedy buggers! 

Vanilli talks to it constantly and whenever I come around she positions herself between me and the chick, even though she knows I'm not going to hurt it.  The chick just looks up at me from behind Mama with that one-eyed chicken look.  It's so cute!

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chickie! Chickie!

About three weeks ago, Laura, our black Australorp, went broody.  In the past, since we didn't have a rooster, we would do what we could to break the broody hen and would take the eggs from under her daily.  But since we now have a rooster, we decided to let her give it a go.  Having absolutely no experience with hatching eggs, we didn't know how often she could be off the nest and for how long.  Often we would see her running around the yard with the flock, but she was always back on the eggs at bedtime.  After about 10 days, Vanilli assumed the role of broody hen, and I'm thinking she did so during one of Laura's romps around the yard.  For a few days, they seemed to be taking turns.  Eventually, Vanilli took over for good and was pretty steadfast, an improvement over Laura's flightiness. 

Today, Nate threw some scratch out and Vanilli came flying out of the nest box and the coop.  Behind her, just as cute as could be, came a chick!  He said he just looked at that chick, and said, "Where did you come from?"  It was following Vanilli all over the yard, and then he gathered them both up and put them back in the nest box.  He did find a dead chick, and later in the evening, once I got home from work, we found an egg that looked like the chick was trying to get out, but didn't make it.  Vanilli is still sitting on about 9 eggs, and the little chick was nestled under her when I closed up the coop this evening.  I sure hope we get more!  This will be our first time raising a chick naturally with a mother hen and not under a brooding lamp.  

Here is our new cutie! 

And a trip around the yard with Mama Vanilli!

Happy homesteading,


Friday, July 20, 2012

Watermelon for Dummies and Blog Award

What do you do when you can never tell when a watermelon is ripe?  Grow Golden Midget.  It turns yellow when its ripe.  Don't believe me?  Check this out!

Now folks, this is my kind of watermelon. 

About a week or so again, Carolyn at Krazo Acres Farm honored me with the award above.  I am deeply touched that she would include me on her list.  Part of the deal is that I have to tell you seven things about me that you may not know and then pay this award forward to ten more blogs. 

1.  I hate peas.

2.  I don't like dogs.

3.  My favorite bands are The Smiths, The Cure, and I wouldn't be an 80s girl without loving Duran Duran. 

4.  My favorite book is "Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell.

5.  I have read the LHOTP series more times than I can count.

6.  I'm addicted to ice cream.

7.  One of my favorite meals is a hamburger and onion rings. 

I have a dilemma when it comes to choosing ten blogs to highlight.  You see, I hate to say it, but I have not ventured into the blog world lately.  I stay so busy that I tend to read the same blogs without expanding my horizons.  I need your help.  Please, please, please comment and give me some good blogs to consider and I'll hold off naming my ten choices.  I hate to cop out on this, but I really need some help.  Of course, all of the blogs on my blog roll are great, but I need some new blood, and most of them have strong readerships.  Not that having a low readership is a requirement for getting this award, but I know there are some blogs out there that are just starting out that are worthy of some attention.  Please feel free to toot your own horn if you're a reader with a blog.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Happy homesteading,


Thursday, July 5, 2012


First and foremost, I wanted to take a moment to welcome the new members who have joined my blog recently.

Sometimes I contemplate ending my blog because there just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to do everything I would like, and writing posts fall to the bottom of the list of priorities more than anything else.  Well, maybe not more than anything else.  I mean cleaning my bathroom would hit rock bottom every time and only when I get the heeby jeebies do I actually clean it.  Seriously, the mosquito-infested creek bed at the back of my yard seems cleaner than my bathroom sometimes.  But I digress.  I think the heat, lack of rain, and the end of the week are getting to me.  I contemplate ending my blog.  Then, I pull it up and see new followers and I think there must be something I'm writing, however infrequently, that is resonating.  Seeing new followers gives me the energy to keep writing.  So, I would love to hear from you why you keep coming back.  With all of the great blogs out there, what about my blog resonates with you? 

Now, realizing I can't do it all, I am discontinuing my Harvest Tally.  A few weeks ago the battery on my scale ran out of juice and it was probably a week before I got to the store for a new one.  Not weighing everything that came through the door or never even made it to the door because I ate it was liberating.  I would like to try to keep up my preservation tally just because I don't can everyday and it will serve as an inventory for us to see how much of something we eat during the year.  To sum it up, we are getting about 5 eggs a day from 6 layers, and a good amount of veggies, enough to eat on during the week and some left over to preserve in various ways.  I'm happy about that and seeing the food on my plate each evening that I grew myself is proof enough I'm doing something right.  I don't need pounds and ounces to prove it. 

So, sound off if you will.

Until next post, happy homesteading,


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Protecting Your Animals and Human Error

Try as we might, we can't always protect our animals.  Weather and predators play a huge role, but at some point, human error comes into play as well.  Human error is the hardest to accept.

We are in the middle of a heat wave.  Yesterday at 5:00 p.m. my car thermometer registered 110.  At 9:00 p.m. the temperature was still 100, and the low last night I think was around 80.  Right now, at 1:35 p.m. it's 101, and the high is expected to be 105.  Tomorrow is expected to hit 103. 

At times like this, I am so thankful for the technology we have to predict the weather.  In anticipation of this week, I plucked Olivia and Blue Moon, my angora rabbits, and trimmed them down to the skin.  All of the rabbits got frozen 2 liter water bottles in their cages yesterday while I was at work.  The rabbit shed is in deep shade, so I know that helps.  They all made it through yesterday.  Today I am repeating the frozen water bottles, and I've brought Olivia and Blue Moon inside. 

The chickens seem to be holding their own against the weather; however, we lost our Pearl this week.  We are so sad because she was one of our original two chicks when we first started keeping chickens over 3 years ago.  She was the end of our beginning, and I love to say she was one tough bird.  She was our special needs chicken who hobbled around the animal yard on her deformed talon.  She got special preference from us.  She survived two night attacks when we were new to chicken keeping and a hawk attack.  We saved her about two weeks ago from drowning when the coop flooded.  She seemed to have as many lives as a cat.  So, to lose her because of our mistake is especially brutal to take.  We forgot to close the coop door last Sunday night and a night predator got her.  Only once before have we forgotten to lock them up at night, and that was at the beginning of our chicken keeping experience.  We could chalk that up to a beginner's mistake, but after three years, we have no excuse.  We just plain forgot.  And, because of her disability she would not have been able to run from it.  

RIP Pearl. We're sorry, and we love you.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Well, I Did It

Our little farm has raised its first meat.  Or rather, I should say I've raised our first meat.  No one thought I had it in me, including myself.  Nate said he didn't want to have anything to do with it.  And he didn't.  I reminded him that he spent hours fishing while growing up and that he cleaned and ate the fish he caught, but to him that isn't the same because he didn't know those fish.  True, but he still took life.  He didn't know the rabbits either.  He wasn't the one who fed, watered and petted them daily.  I don't blame him or think any less of him.  I certainly can't sit in judgement of him, because up until the moment, I didn't know if I could do it. 

Slaughtering an animal for food, especially one that you've raised, takes not only physical preparedness, but also mental preparedness.  The physical preparedness was no problem.  I knew I could assemble everything I needed to do the job.  The mental preparedness was a little more difficult to wrap my mind around.  To prepare myself, I watched videos online, I read the Rabbit chapter of Novella Carpenter's "Farm City," and I went and sat with the rabbits and thought long and hard about the task at hand.  I thought of my beekeeping too.  Some days when it's hot and sticky outside, like today, I really don't want to put on all of my equipment and go check the beehive.  I know I'm going to sweat and the potential is there for getting stung.  I hate getting stung.  But, I know I have to check the hive for several reasons, mainly the health and maintenance of the hive.  So, I do it.  I go outside, and I get the job done.  So, if I sometimes hate checking the hive, why keep bees?  For the pleasure and reward I get when I extract honey.  Several of my friends told me before I slaughtered the rabbits that they would only do something like that if they were starving and they had no other choice.  If it boils down to choice, I feel like I have no other choice.  I have grave concerns about the meat industry and how it treats its animals, and while I've been a vegetarian in the past, I enjoy eating meat.  So, the answer to my dilemma was to raise my own.

On the day at hand, Nate's friend, Aaron, came over with his two kids to help.  He has experience with rabbits, so I felt like he would be the best person for the job of helping me.  What amazed me was the reaction of his two kids, a son and daughter.  They were fascinated with the process.  I mentioned to Aaron my awe, and he said he had been talking to them all week about it.  I like to think they embraced it in their childhood innocence because they haven't been stigmatized yet by the void the meat industry and society have created with regard to how an animal is raised for the table.  We are so separated from this experience that all most of us knows is the packaged meat at the grocery store that looks nothing like the animal itself.  I'm honored and humbled to have had this experience, and just like when I eat a vegetable I've grown myself or an egg one of my chickens has laid, I felt equally so when we ate the first rabbit because I know what it took to raise it in a clean healthy environment, to show reverence for a life, and to dispatch it humanely and with thanks.

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Truck Rally Anyone?

We've been getting some good rain lately, and for that I've been very thankful.  It has taken the pressure off of me to keep everything watered and the garden is looking lush and green.  Until Sunday, the rain has been just enough but not too much.  The animal yard sits in the low part of our yard and a few days of rain makes it wet and somewhat muddy, but nothing too bad.  Well, Sunday was a nightmare.  It had already been raining throughout the week, but the bottom fell out on Sunday.  I'm talking serious flash flood rain.  I was putting everyone up for the evening when it really let go, and I mentioned to Nate that I saw some standing water in the coop, which I had never seen before.  At the point where our front ditch started flooding, I asked Nate to go out and check on everyone.  He was gone for longer than I expected, so I went outside to make sure he was okay.  He had been digging a drainage hole in the coop because it had filled with water.  The worst part is he found Pearl, our handicapped chicken, up to her neck in the water.  She can't get up high on the roost like the rest of the birds, so she stays on the bottom rung.  I guess the water overwhelmed her and she couldn't even get on the bottom rung.  She was close to drowning.  We brought her inside and put her in the bathtub  with a heat lamp over her.  She was soaking wet and shivering.  I thought if she makes it through the night, she's going to have some respiratory issues, so I went ahead and put some VetRx in some water for her.  The next morning I awoke to her clucking in the bathroom.  She is one tough bird!  So far she seems to be fine; however, the animal yard isn't.  It rained again most of Monday, and yesterday was clear, but it rained again last night.  Enough already!  The animal yard is a serious mud bog right now.  We could hold a major league truck rally.  Bigfoot?  You out there?  You want to have some fun, boy?  Since the yard is pretty shady, it's going to take several days to dry out.  Until then, I'll have to sink in the mud. 

Oh, and today is the day the meat rabbits will be harvested.  Stay tuned!

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, May 29, 2012


There was no rest for the weary this weekend.  Earlier this spring, we had seven trees taken down in my neighbor's yard.  Six of them were hardwoods, so we had the tree service leave them and only take the pine.  What they left was stacked fairly neatly along the retaining wall that runs between our yards.  Compared to the mess that is our neighbor's yard, they really didn't make it look any worse or any better.  We have been making an effort to tackle this pile of trees along with all of our other projects, but we had not made it a priority, mainly because our neighbor really didn't care when we did it and it seemed so overwhelming that knocking away at it piece by piece seemed the best strategy for us.  Well, the city cares.  Based on a call about another yard, a city employee was driving down our street and noticed the felled trees.  He knocked on my neighbor's door and told him he needed to clean up his yard, especially the backyard, which was overrun with poison ivy.  He also told him he needed to make some progress on the trees.  Our neighbor then received a letter giving him 10 days to get the job done. 

Not getting this project finished has really been bothering me.  I don't like to leave things undone.  So, I'm glad the city set a time limit for us; otherwise, we would have continued knocking away little bits of it and not making it the priority it should be.  So, this weekend, we tackled the remaining trees and got them all cut up and moved to our wood pile.  Our neighbor's yard looks much better as I knew it would, and I feel relief at having this project no longer hanging over my head.

When we started working yesterday, we knew we had probably a full day's work ahead of us.  The trees has all been cut to length for splitting, but we knew we still had to load the truck several times, pull into our driveway, and wheelbarrow this wood to the wood pile.  I had already filled and wheelbarrowed two truck loads of wood the day before while Nate was at work.  Our neighbor had told us someone was coming to take care of the yard, and as we were beginning work, the yard guy and his son pulled up.  He had been hired to take care of the front and back yards and been told to work around the wood.  While we were loading wood, we overheard him talking to our neighbor about the poison ivy and Roundup.  My heart skipped a beat.  Nate went over and told him we had honeybees and that we really didn't want him using Roundup.  Of course, we can't control what our neighbor does, and he would not back down on the use of Roundup.  This started a conversation with the yard guy about our bees and our urban farm.  They both took a tour of the place and offered to help us with the rest of the wood.  They didn't ask for any payment for helping, but Nate helped with the yard and I sent them home with some jams and honey.  After they finished, the man told me he sparingly used the Roundup and if he saw any type of flower in an area where he was spraying, he pinched it off just in case a bee might want to visit it.  I know he was being paid to spray Roundup, but I certainly appreciate the extra care he took to minimize any damage that might result.  He certainly wasn't obligated to us to take any special care. 

At one point, when his son was looking at the chickens and rabbits, he said, "Y'all are old-fashioned."  I smiled and said, "We are old-fashioned, and we like it that way."  I could tell he said it in awe and not like we were strange.  At one point, he also said our house and yard are his mother's dream.  We have a very humble house by most standards, but that comment made me feel blessed in so many ways. 

So, what to us looked to be a weekend worth of heavy labor ended up being laced with neighborly support and consideration.  They live in the neighborhood next to ours and know our across-the-street neighbor, so in our world, they are neighbors.  The best part is the project is DONE!  CROSS IT OFF MY LIST! 

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sugar, Sugar, Ahhh, Honey Honey, Ahh, Bunny Bunny, Ahh, Berry Berry

We're going into our third year of beekeeping.  The first year was a total failure for several reasons.  We didn't even make it to winter with the two hives.  Last spring we started over with one hive and while we had some honey at the end of summer, we left it for the bees to help them through the winter.  I am pleased to say that over the last two weekends we have extracted our first honey.  We've processed one full super consisting of ten frames and four frames from another super.  We still have six frames in the 2nd super that are almost capped so we expect to harvest them in the near future.  Additionally we have another 10 frame super that is full of honey but yet to be capped.  I cannot express how utterly excited and pleased I am about this.  All of our frustration, disappointment, sweat, bee stings and tears have come to fruition in the form of 28 pints of honey so far.  We are averaging two pints per frame, so if we harvest the six frames that are almost capped, we should get another 10-12 pints of honey.

All of the angora babies have new homes.  I'm always sad to see them go, but I'm happy with the people who bought them so that makes the letting go easier.  Both of the does went to the same home, so they get to be sisters together.  The new owner emailed me a few days ago with photos and told me they have personalities plus.  She has named them Lucy and Ethel because of their craziness.  She said they have already been to show and tell for three different classes at school. 

the blue tort doe


the blue-pointed white doe (She was our absolute favorite, and I almost kept her.  I mean, look at that pose.  She knows she's cute.)

the blue-pointed white buck

This mess of bunnies is my first meat rabbit litter.  They just hit six weeks old and are growing well.  It's time to wean them from mama. 

Yesterday, I was given a huge bucket of organic strawberries, so canning season started early this year.  I put up (12) 12 oz. and (7) 8 oz. jars of Strawberry Ginger Jam today.  It is so freakin' delicious!  It has been ages since we had strawberry jam mainly because my strawberry growing skills are less than ideal, and I don't buy strawberries because I worry about the chemicals that have been used on them. 

That's it for now, folks!

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Garden Hits and Misses

My last post was full of disappointment and discouragement.  I'm back to say I'm down not out.  I made a decision several days ago to not fight the vine borers at the moment.  My plants were covered with eggs and having fought a losing battle last year, I decided to pull up everything and maybe start fresh later in the season.  Any eggs that may have fallen in the soil when I removed the plants should hatch out soon and since they won't have anything to eat, their life cycle should end.  I did manage to trap and kill one borer, which is always a thrill for me.  Though I did see another one hovering over my Upper Ground Sweet Potato plant yesterday.  I wanted to try to catch her as well, but she didn't really show any interest in the plant and didn't land.  I'm not really finding any eggs on it, so I'm assuming it's safe.  The Zucchino Rampicante that I was so excited about and that is supposed to be vine borer resistant is not resistant to the borers in my neck of the woods.  I do still have several watermelon and Charentais melon plants that are so far safe.  I'll go with these for now.  I really need some row cover material but haven't been able to find any locally so I may have to go online.  I would be willing to hand-pollinate a few squash plants for the reward of finally having squash.  Since we have a pretty long growing season, I still have time to work on my squash issues. 

Last year, I also had a huge problem with flea beetles.  They did some damage to my tomatoes but devoured my eggplants to the point where I had to go buy transplants from the nursery.  This year I noticed damage early on my seedlings, so I moved them to my upper deck table instead of leaving them on the lower part of my deck.  This definitely helped as I didn't see any new damage once I moved them.  Also, I let them get a little larger before I put them out.  I'm happy to say this year the flea beetles seem to be in check, and while I've seen some new damage since planting, my tomatoes and eggplants are doing well.  I also suspect the additional sunlight is helping everything grow faster and making it easier to sustain and overcome what damage there is.

I had a terrible time last year with pepper plants being chewed off at the base.  I think it was due to grasshoppers, but whatever it was caused me to lose all of my pepper starts just as I was about to harvest my first peppers.  That really set me back time-wise since I had to start over with nursery transplants.  So far everything is fine this year.  I've seen some grasshoppers, but not as many as last year. 

I had a hard time getting peppers to sprout this year, so I had to buy transplants.  But with the exception of the peppers, everything else in the garden was started from seed.  That's quite an accomplishment for me.   

Two varieties I grew last year but decided not to bring forward into 2012 are garden huckleberries and ground cherries.  The garden huckleberries were very productive and easy to grow; however, we don't really like them.  The ground cherries, on the other hand, are a different story.  We loved them, but so did the cardinals.  I had to fight the cardinals for the pleasure of eating them.  Plus, they spread like ground cover and if I decided to grow them in the future, I would need some good ground space and bird protection. 

Overall, I think my garden is off to a great start, and I'm looking forward to a plentiful harvest.  Now if I can just overcome those vine borers.

Happy homesteading,


Friday, April 27, 2012

The Bane of My Existence

Do you see the three dark brown sesame seed looking dots on this squash leaf? You can click on the photo for a better look.

Those would be squash vine borer eggs. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know I hate them. Last year, I fought viciously and daily to rid my plants of them with no success. I picked them off, tried to bury the vines above the damage to stimulate new root growth, tried to catch the vine borers themselves, used DE, and probably some other tactics I can't remember. I think I got one zucchini and that was it. It is said that in the South you have to lock your car doors in the summer; otherwise, you'll come back and find a bag of squash in the front seat.  Well, my car doors are wide open!  If you can grow organic summer squash near me, bring it on.  Hell, you can load up my trunk if you want to.  I don't see how anyone grows organic squash here.  I

Today I found eggs on my melon plants, winter squash, and my Zucchino Rampicante.  I have always read they don't touch winter squash, cucumbers or melons.  It is the summer squash they gravitate towards.  I chose to try the Zucchino Rampicante this year, rather than zucchini or yellow squash, because I read that even though it's a summer/winter squash, it is resistant to vine borers.  Apparently the vine borers in my neighborhood didn't read the same stuff I did. 

I just picked eight eggs off one of the Zucchino Rampicante plants.  I didn't even walk up front to check the cucumbers.  I'm afraid to.  I think I'm seriously going to cry.


Saturday, April 21, 2012


One thing that is important to me is giving the rabbits an opportunity to exercise and play.  The old chicken run is the perfect arena for playtime.  Jack always has the best time when I put him in the run.  He frisks about and bucks like a little rodeo broncho.  He ricochets himself off the wall, and runs laps of utter joy.  But, his favorite activity by far is digging holes.  He never digs too deep, but even if he did, the whole run is surrounded by buried chicken wire and bricks.  He's not going anywhere, so I let him dig to his heart's content.  He is such a wonderful rabbit with the best personality.  Here are some photos I snapped yesterday.  If you want to see a close-up of a photo, just click on it and a slideshow will pop up.  Enjoy!

Happy homesteading,


Monday, April 16, 2012

Rooster Count

One:  Napoleon, aka Nappy, bantam, Old English

Two:  Big Boy, silver laced Wyandotte, huge next to Nappy

Three:  Sir Elton, a bantam, mostly Cochin

Four:  no name, mostly Old English

Of the five chicks we bought this year, three are roosters!  We gave number four away last week, and now we are down to three.  Nappy, whom we've had the longest, is by far the loudest and crows the most often.  Of the three, he is the one that is most annoying to me.  Sir Elton has a very soft crow, and he only crows a few times a day.  Big Boy just started crowing and while his crow is definitly loud, he also only crows a few times a day max and normally in the morning.  Fortunately, none of them crow early in the morning, at least so far.  Nappy doesn't get revved up until about 7:30, and on a few occasions, around 6:30. 

We've decided to keep Sir Elton (named after Elton John).  We love his flamboyant feathers and his feathered feet.  Since we separated him from the other Old English bantam rooster, he has kept to himself.  He is not aggressive to the other roosters, nor they to him for the most part.  The fact that he rarely crows is a plus for him too.

I actually don't like Nappy.  His crow is shrill, and he has started attacking me when I enter the animal yard.  It doesn't hurt because he is so small, it just startles me when he does it because he comes from behind while I'm walking.  It's terribly annoying.  Nate loves him.  He is very protective of the older hens around Big Boy.  My goal was to get two bantam girlfriends for Nappy, but since both turned out to be roosters, I didn't really meet that goal.

Big Boy is coming into maturity.  He has started crowing and also mounting the ladies, or trying to mount.  A few of them do submit, but Nappy usually runs over and puts a stop to it before anything happens.  Even though he is 5 times the size of Nappy, he runs.  I am curious to see how this plays out.  The other older hens give Big Boy what for when he tries anything, and they end up chasing him away.  His two sidekicks (the light Brahma and black Australorp) are still a bit young, but I suspect if he stays around, they will be his primary hens.  I would like to keep him, so we will wait to see how his crowing develops.  So far, he only crows about once or twice a day for about 5 minutes.  No early crowing either.  Of course, now that I've written that, he will start crowing at 5:30 a.m. 

This is my rooster saga.  If the neighbors have not complained about Nappy, they should have no reason to cmplain about the other tow, at least for the moment.  We shall see how it develops.

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bunny's Babies

Pardon my absence, but work has been a literal nightmare lately.  It has totally sapped my energy and desire to do anything other than the basics and vegetating on the sofa.  Plus, getting those beds filled on top of everything else almost killed me.  Hopefully things are settling down now, and I can get back on the right path.

A few weeks ago, Bunny, my American Chinchilla rabbit gave birth to five kits.  I wasn't sure if she was pregnant, but I placed the nest box on day 28 anyway.  She did look rounder in the belly, but my only experience with pregnant rabbits is Olivia, and her wool totally disguises any belly roundness.  I also noticed Bunny moving the hay around in the nest box, and she ate plenty of it as well, so that really didn't help me decide.  I found her toys in the nest box more than once, so I thought she was playing around.  Then, one evening, when I was returning the angora kits to their mama, I noticed Bunny had totally outfitted her nest box with enough fur to choke a mule, and it was moving.  She didn't play around.  Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.  Her nest box was not like that a few hours prior. 

I've had Bunny for several months now, and I bought her as an adult.  I don't really know her background, but she has never warmed up to me.  She's not mean, just very timid around me.  Jack, my AC buck, whom I bought from the same place, also as an adult, is as friendly as can be.  So, knowing Bunny's timidness and not really wanting to stress her out too much, I left the kits alone and decided to check on them the next morning.  They were all fine the next day, and each morning since, I've been peaking in the nest box without touching them. 

I have trusted Bunny to be a good mama, and she has risen to the occasion.  I have pretty much left them alone until I needed to make sure their eyes opened.  So, here are the first pictures.  I have to say, they were really ugly until a few days ago. 

You will notice the fat white one on top of its siblings.  So I have four babies that look just like mama and daddy and one albino. 

I was curious about how a white one ended up in the mix, and while I know it's based on genetics because of my angoras, I didn't realize Bunny and Jack could produce a white baby.  The other four are the spitting image of mama and daddy.  Here is an interesting article on ruby-eyed whites and the genetics behind them.

Technically, these are my first meat rabbits.  I haven't decided what I'm going to do with them yet.  I may sell this bunch to help recuperate some of the cost of the rabbitry or even pay for the rest of the cages I need.  So, we'll see. 

Happy homesteading,


Friday, April 6, 2012

Triple Threat of Cuteness

I have a longer post coming up, but for now, here is a quick peek at our 4 week old English Angora kits.  They are so cute at this age.  They are starting to show their personalities, and it's so interesting to see how each one is different.  Their wool is getting longer, so they are starting to look more like angoras, and it just amazes me how soft they are.  It looks like we have two blue pointed ruby-eyed whites and one blue tort.  Enjoy!

Triple Threat of Cuteness

Cutey patooty!

They would not sit still!

I love looking at them face on.  Are there eyes in there somewhere?

 Happy homesteading,


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Top 20 Tasks That Have Been Keeping Me Busy

1.  Shovel dirt to fill the four new raised beds in my kitchen garden section.
2.  Cover the strawberries with bird netting after realizing the berries I stepped outside to pick were gone!
3.  Shovel dirt.
4.  Move perennials from the kitchen garden section to other parts of the yard to create a clean slate and to clean up the mess created when one flower overtakes another.
5.  Shovel dirt.
6.  Spend five minutes staring at the cute baby bunnies.
7.  Shovel dirt.
8.  Inventory my seedlings and start to plan what is going where.
9.  Shovel dirt.
10.  Dehydrate dill for future pickle-making.  I'm actually proud of myself on this one.  My dill always goes to seed before the cucumbers are ready to pickle, and I have to resort to purchased dried dill to make them.  That is senseless and wasteful when I grow dill every year.  I'm stoked to have my homegrown dill dried and ready for pickling season.
11.  Shovel dirt.
12.  Spend five minutes staring at the cute baby bunnies.
13.  Sand and paint old windows for a trellis project.  Three down and three to go.
14.  Shovel dirt.
15.  Start to direct seed some veggies into the garden.  Normally I don't put any summer items out until the first week in April, but this year has been so warm that I'm taking a chance.  I don't see any frost potential in the next week or two, so I'm jumping the gun by a few weeks.
16.  Shovel dirt.
17.  Research irrigation ideas for the raised beds.  This is what I think I'm going to do.$8.16%20Do-It-Yourself%20Garden%20Irrigator.htm
18.  Spend five minutes staring at the cute baby bunnies.
19.  Shovel dirt.
20.  Wonder with all of the dirt shoveling going on why those blasted beds aren't full yet.

Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Freak Out

So, this morning, I went out to check on the kits, and I could only find two in the nest box.  I saw a small drop of blood in the hay and started to panic.  As crazy as it sounds, I thought Olivia had eaten one of her babies.  I know mother rabbits will eat their babies, but to my knowledge, that happens shortly after birth.  It was an irrational thought because they will be two weeks old on Thursday, their eyes are open, and they are fat and healthy babies.  My irrationality came from the night before.  Normally I pluck Olivia and not shear her, but she made such a mess of her wool while lining the nest, I had no choice.  Plus, it's getting really hot fast, and I knew she would be more comfortable if I relieved her of her wool.  So, I plucked most of it and sheared her down.  Fast forward to this morning and my panic-induced conclusion was that she was so shocked at being sheared, she ate one of her babies.  I know it makes no sense because she is used to being plucked, and though I've never sheared her since I got her, I'm sure she's been sheared in her life.  And she behaved perfectly normal last night; she didn't act traumatized.  If anything, she probably felt cooler and better.  But what else could I think?  There were no signs of a predator attack, but that little drop of blood threw me for a loop.  I pulled the nest box out of the cage and searched it top to bottom and front to back.  The missing baby was definitely not on the cage floor, and I knew it just didn't spontaneously cumbust.  Just before going into full panic mode, I saw the hay in her bowl slightly move.  The baby had somehow crawled out of the nest box, into the hay bowl and was burrowed at the bottom beneath the hay.  I have no idea how it got itself into that bowl.  The bowl has really high sides and while the kits are starting to move around, I marvel at this one's ability to hoist itself up over the rim of the bowl.  In hindsight, I don't know why I ever thought such a thing could happen.  How could a mother eat her baby and only leave one small hint of blood?  She would have to be pretty adept at it, and to my knowledge Olivia doesn't even have that history in her background.  I apologized profusely to Olivia and begged her forgiveness for thinking she ate her baby.  I then proceeded to go inside and put a shot of whiskey in my coffee.  Just joking, but it did cross my mind. 

To make myself feel like less of a freak, please tell me you've had an irrational thought or two about your animals. 

By the way, I have two ruby-eyed whites and either a blue tort or a lilac tort.  I'll post pictures in a few days.     

Monday, March 19, 2012


Well, we started working on the new section of the yard yesterday.  Nate built the first four beds, and since our yard slopes, he had to move quite a bit of dirt to get them level.  I worked on moving the flowers that were in the way.  Of course, every place I wanted to put a bed had a stand of flowers.  I gave some to friends and transplanted others.  I still have some to relocate but the bulk of the plants that were sitting in the middle of a bed have been moved, so I can work around the others for now. 

I had been trying to work out a plan for this area on paper, but because I don't have a perfect rectangle, it was difficult for me.  I decided to make the bottle tree the focal point of the garden and work off of that as far as bed placement and future projects.  So with a tentative plan in my head, I decided to build the first set of beds and go from there.  Now, I can see where I have more space and in other places not as much.  The next task is filling them with dirt.  I hope to have at least one or two full by the time I plant my summer garden so I can take advantage of this growing space. 

It seems like lately all I've been doing is shoveling dirt to fill beds.  These beds are the most recent ones.  We built these along the fence to help combat the neighbor's weeds that creep over and take over the veggies growing on and in front of the fence.  Hopefully that will solve that problem.

After yesterday, I am one tired girl today!

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, March 17, 2012

One Week

The babies turned a week old on Thursday, and they are staring to look like bunnies, not piglets.  It looks like I have one tort like last time, probably either a lilac tort or a blue tort.  I could potentially have two whites, but I think it's too soon to tell with them.  Once they open their eyes, that may help.  A ruby-eyed white one would be fabulous!  They should open their eyes in the next day or two.  Really, whatever color they are doesn't matter, as long as they are healthy and thriving.


Happy homesteading,


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Toot! Toot!, Angora Babies, and What Did I Get Myself Into?

That's me tooting my own horn.  Just joking.  I took my practical today for beekeeping and am now a certified beekeeper.  Believe me, there are no special privileges or awards.  It just shows I have hands-on practical knowledge of beekeeping.  I can point out certain elements of a hive and answer some "what-if" questions.  It doesn't mean I'm a successful beekeeper, if harvesting honey is the benchmark.  Though the hive is strong coming into spring, and I'm hopeful honey is in our future.  During the practical exam, we noted several queen cells as well as evidence of a productive queen.  We cut out the queen cells to prevent swarming.  They have plowed through the honey I noted a few weeks ago but are in the process of capping more.  I don't believe in feeding sugar water for the sake of harvesting honey.  I believe eating their own honey will do more for them than substituting a substandard food.  So, we will be patient for a honey harvest.  Spring has sprung around here, and everything is starting to bloom so they should have good nectar sources in the coming weeks.  They are doing a stellar job of collecting pollen.  The hive was loaded with pollen.  We didn't see anymore evidence of mites, so the powdered sugar may have done the trick.  I will check them in another 10-14 days for honey production progress and queen cells.

Olivia, my English Angora, gave birth to four kits last night/this morning.  I found them this morning at various places in the nest box.  They were cold to the touch, except one, so I rushed them into the house and placed them on a towel over a heating pad.  Three of them were really fat and healthy looking, and I could tell they had nursed because they looked like balloons about to pop.  I brought in Olivia and tried to get the runt to suckle, but it just didn't have the strength.  I also tried to nurse it with a dropper, but it didn't respond to that either.  It died shortly after that.  They are now snuggled together in the nest box covered with a layer of Olivia's wool.  Here's a picture of the four.  You can see how much smaller the runt is next to the other three.  They are the most vulnerable the first ten days, so please wish them, Olivia and me good luck. 



I opened my mouth and out popped, "Yes, I'll do it."  What is it that I agreed to do you may ask?  I agreed to speak this Saturday at a local health food store on the subject of Urban Homesteading.  The store is hosting an all day event with different speakers on subjects such as beekeeping and emergency preparedness.  What have I gotten myself into?  I'm going with an arsenal of photos, stories, and hard lessons learned.  Any advice or encouragement would be greatly appreciated right now!

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bantam Babies and Chicken Innards

For a while, I have been wanting to get some girlfriends for Nappy.  He's such a little fella, and the big girls won't submit to him for anything.  About six weeks ago, I bought two bantam chicks.  This one is mostly Cochin.

It is turning into the cutest little chicken.  OMG!  It is such a low rider, and its feathered feet make it look like it is constantly sitting.  Nate says it looks like it has bell-bottoms on. 

The other chick we got is part Old English Game and part Cochin.  It should be along the same size as Nappy.

This one is turning into a cute bird too.  It doesn't have the flair the Cochin has, but it should be just Nappy's size.  He'll appreciate that.

Now the dilemma.  One of them is a rooster.  Even when we had them in the brood box, we could hear one of them trying to crow in the mornings.  A screeching noise that would stop when one of us would approach the box.  I have even heard it in the morning coming from the shed and run where we have them now.  I just can't figure out which one it is.  I think it's the black one because as a chick it would run up and peck my hand when I would reach in the box to change the food and water.  It has since stopped that behavior.  However, today, we put them into the animal yard to start getting to know everyone else, and Nappy made a beeline for them.  He flared up, and the Old English also flared back at Nappy.  So, now I don't know if it's the Cochin or the Old English.  Interestingly, the standard Wyandotte chick that I suspect is also a rooster also ran over and flared up.  Nappy flared up at the Wyandotte and made him back off.  The Wyandotte is now bigger than Nappy.  Nappy may be little, but he doesn't take any crap.    

Needless to say, it was an interesting dynamic to watch.  We potentially have 3 roosters on our hands, so we will have to decide what to do with the extras.  One that note, I attended a chicken processing class this weekend.  I learned so much and most importantly can now disembowel a chicken, just another thing to add to my farm repertoire. 

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Observations of a Bee Hive

The pedigree of honey Does not concern the bee; A clover, any time, to him Is aristocracy.
~ Emily Dickinson

I've had so much going on around here lately between work, which has been very stressful and getting the basics done around here that finding time to post has been difficult.  Not to mention I have also contracted a serious case of writer's block.  I'm going to attribute that to just being tuckered out.  Every time I sit down to write, I just can't get the words to flow.  Everything I write seems stilted and boring.  In any case, the best way to get over a hump is just to push yourself over it.  So, I'm going to start with our latest hive inspection and just start typing.  I hope you don't mind.

While we've been experiencing a cold snap the past week or so, we had the luxury of some spring-like weather a few weeks ago.  Sunny, in the 60s and little to no wind make for perfect condition to do an early spring check on our bee hive.  Deborah, who is my mentor, and I approached the hive and just observed the activity for a minute or two.  The bees were busy bringing in pollen, but Deborah also noted a dead larvae at the entrance.  Her first impression was mites, so we knew we had to pay close attention once in the hive.  Upon opening the hive, we noticed good activity in the top super.  I was extremely excited to note that several frames were filled top to bottom with capped honey, picture perfect I might add.  While I am itching to harvest my first honey, it's still too early in the season to start taking as we always get another cold snap around the first of April.  I want them to have good stores to eat between now and then.  The second box down was our first hive body.  It was full of capped and uncapped brood as well as capped honey and plentiful pollen.  The different colors of the pollen collected created a quilt effect, red, yellow, orange, white.  It was lovely.  The bottom hive body was not as full of brood, either capped or uncapped, and since bees travel upward, it was apparent the queen was spending most of her time in the top hive body.  We don't want them to feel crowding and start thinking about swarming, so we flipped the top and bottom hive bodies and put the full one on the bottom.  Now the queen can still stay in the top hive body and feel like she has plenty of space to lay eggs.  Since we have a partially full super of honey, we also added another super on the top.  Now the bees can continue storing honey upward.  We also did not find any swarm cells.  Members of my bee club are already dealing with swarms, so diligence is key right now. 

Okay, that was the good stuff.  Now for the bad stuff.  We have mites and a virus associated with mites called deformed wing virus.  We spotted one bee with deformed wing virus, which means the wings are shriveled up.  To treat the mites, we dusted all of the frames and bees with powdered sugar.  This is supposed to be a non-chemical, very effective treatment.  The bees start grooming themselves to get the sugar off, and in doing so, dislodge the mites.  The mites fall to the ground and die.  I imagine it's basically the same principle as a chicken taking a dust bath.  The hive beetles persist, but that is to be expected in almost any hive.  The way we handle hive beetles is based on a strategy given to us by a beekeeping with many years of beekeeping under his belt.  Instead of using an inner cover, he places a sheet of plastic over the top of the super and then places the outer cover.  The bees glue down the plastic with propolis (bee glue made from plant resins to seal cavities and keep out invaders).  They actually create little tunnels with the propolis and trap the hive beetles in the tunnel.  Once you take the outer cover off and expose the plastic, you can squash the hive beetles that are trapped at the top.  Once a hive beetles is dead, it is dragged down into the hive by a housekeeping bee and discarded.  It is so interesting to watch the bees pull the dead hive beetle away.  Of course, there are other methods to deal with hive beetles, but that's the one we have adopted. 

Another inspection is due, so hopefully the powdered sugar will have done some good.

Happy beekeeping,


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Trees Down

Boy have we had so much going on around here lately!  First off, I had seven trees taken down this week, one in my yard and six in my neighbor's yard to the east along our fence line.  They have been on my list for nine years, and I finally had the guts and money to take them down.  It is going to make a huge difference in my backyard and my front one as well.  Of the seven, six were hardwoods, so we kept those for fire wood.  I am happy we can recoup some of the cost back in firewood.  And I'm hoping this will eventually pay dividends in the veggie/fruit growing arena.  Needless to say, we have alot of cutting and clean up to do. 

This is how shady the east side of my backyard was before we took down trees even with no leaves on the trees.  In the summer, the canopy from this oak tree along with the pine tree to the immediate left kept this part of the yard in shade until early afternoon.

Now that the trees are gone we are already noticing a big difference in light in this area.


I know my neighbors are hating me.  They probably call me the crazy tree lady, and even one of the tree guys asked, "You don't like trees, do you?"  I love trees, just not ones that keep me from gardening.  Believe me, there are plenty more around my house.  There is no danger of running out of trees in my neighborhood. 

Now, I have a 14'x60' section to plan.  I would love to line the fence with espalier fruit trees, but my worry is when I put raised beds down the section, what I grow in the raised beds may grow too tall and block sun off the trees in the afternoon.  Because of the fence, the trees would not get morning sun immediately, so I would need to depend on the afternoon sun to provide enough sunlight.  Or I can still plant fruit trees along the fence but limit their height by multiple prunings each year.  This method takes more space horizontally, so I eat up some of my 14' when planning out my raised beds.  I definitely need raised beds because I am dealing with solid clay for the most part.  It is rock hard.  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to tackle this area.  I have a blank slate, and I want to plan it right. 

Shockingly, Nate has also offered to rework our sprinkler system in this area.  This whole area is one zone on our system, so I can configure it in any way I want and only use it when I think most necessary.  I generally water my raised beds from the rain barrels, but on occasion, I would like to have the sprinkler system as a backup.  I know I would like to have a connection to each raised bed and to each tree.  I need to research drip irrigation and sprinkler systems.  Any ideas from you on this?

This is definitely a long term project, but the biggest hurdle was the trees in my opinion.

Happy homesteading,