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Monday, October 31, 2011

Full day of work

Well the weather finally allowed us to work a full day without crumpling from heat exhaustion.  We  worked cutting down dead trees most of the day Saturday.  Here are a few pics of our progress:

This is the area we will most likely put a house.  Lots of dead trees, which is VERY unfortunate.  But by clearing them out, we will have a really nice homesite.

Dead tree before - I'm at the end of that rope, ready to encourage the tree to fall the direction we want it to:
Dead tree after - now we need a stump grinder...

After all that tree felling, I mowed down some weeds in the pasture because we're putting out some seed oats to hopefully grow over the winter and start a food plot for the deer.  We weren't out there early enough to see them moving on Saturday, but last weekend, we got there before sunrise and saw them moving across our pasture behind the tank (pond for any non-Texans) dam in the faint morning light (you had to really be looking for the movement).  There were half a dozen of them that took their time crossing our land.  It's been such a tough year for wildlife.  No water and no food.

Pasture before:

And pasture after (now this job did me in for the day - it was pretty warm and even though I had sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat on and drank lots of fluids, I started to overheat; good thing this was at the end of the day):

On Sunday, we did our part for the local economy and I got some coveralls and a pair of boots for working on the homestead!  Now that I've got the proper attire, watch out...I'll really be kicking some ranch work butt now.  :)

We enjoy being out there so much.  We even made a detour on the way home on Thursday, just to walk around a little and enjoy the peace and quiet and the setting sun. We feel so at home there.  Almost from the first time we saw this place it felt like home.  Once we walked the property the first time, we felt as though we belonged and could both totally visualize what it would become with us as it's stewards.  It seemed as though the decks were stacked against us, but in the end, we are so very, very fortunate to be allowed the privilege of becoming a part of this land.  My wonderful hubby likes to say that the health of a land is in direct proportion to the number of the owner's footsteps upon it.

Back at what is now termed the "temporary house", the little garden that could is chugging along.  I picked our very first tomato yesterday!  And some banana peppers and two zucchini.  There are some jalapenos getting close and several purple bell peppers.  I'm not sure how big those bell peppers are supposed to get, so I don't quite know when to pick them.

Aren't those just lovely? 

Well, I guess that's all for now.  I cannot believe that November starts tomorrow.  That means we're three weeks from Thanksgiving and less than two months from Christmas!  Holy cow!

Until next time...worms rule and bees are cool.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Furry funny farm

We have the craziest herd of furry kids on the planet!  Kind of like the chicken and the egg debate, we cannot decide if our furry kids come to us a little crazy and that's why they ended up with us, or if they become crazy after they've lived with us.  J

Ellie, the TOTAL middle child (like, I swear, she stole someone's birth order book and took it to heart!), has developed a new habit of taking a toy to bed with her every night.  Once we caught on to this new habit, of course we encourage it!  It's sweet and cute.  We recently got some new toys that are about the size of puppies and they really seem to like them.  I asked my wonderful hubby last night if he thought she was being a predator, bringing a "kill" to bed or if she was being maternal and nurturing.  Without hesitation, he said she was being maternal.  This girl had to survive on her own on the streets for a time before we adopted her.  She was not malnourished when we got her, so I have no doubt that she can hunt and fend for herself. 

But Ellie's also the most gentle and patient with her little sister, Gracie the cat that thinks she's a big dog.  Not that Maggie isn't gentle and patient...in any OTHER situation.  But when Gracie comes along and just rubs up against her, as cats are wont to do, Maggie shoots up and across the room, like the big bad eight pound kitty (she does think she's a big dog) is gonna put the hurt on a 75 pound dog.

We've also been finding a pile of toys at the back door every evening when we get home.  That's new, over that last couple of weeks.  What's that all about?

Then there's the shredded magazines when we get home - that's a very old habit.  If you leave an advertising flyer out or a magazine, it's guaranteed to be shredded when we get home.  Before we got Ellie, Maggie had a penchant for eating the covers (only the covers) of books left out.  She then graduated to magazines when we got smart and put all the books up before we leave.  Oh how I would love to install a nanny cam and watch what transpires when we're away.  I'd really like to see how that all plays out.  And make sure it's Maggie even.  She gets blames because of her priors...but who knows who the perp really is...

Gracie loves to "share" mama's pillows.  And I SWEAR to you that she started that the same day I shared a cartoon from Mutts with my hubby where the cat slept on the dad's head.   I accused him of showing her that cartoon!  If she's not there, she's spooning with me...except, like sleeping with any child, she has the tendency to turn crossways rather than laying vertical in line with everyone else.  I told my husband we need a king size bed now just to fit one cat in with us.

In a blast from the past, Gracie jumped up and into one of the bathroom sinks while I was getting ready for work yesterday morning.  She used to lay in them all the time when we lived in Colorado.  Thank goodness there were two sinks so that we still had a functioning one.  In the apartment we were in here, we had a nice sized counter, but only one sink, so she had to adapt to lounging on the counter.  Now we have very little counter, but two sinks again.  She didn't do it again this morning, so we'll see.  She does have to be in the bathroom lying on one of the rugs every morning while we're getting ready for work.  And the dogs all pile up in right outside the bathroom door.

See why I say worms make such wonderful pets?!  They don't hog the bed; they do shred newspaper, but only the stuff we give them; they don't have to go for walks; they're SUPER quiet (although our snow dogs are pretty darn quiet dogs); they don't shed; they don't have to be brushed; and they eat our garbage, not $45/bag food.   There was a great article in Texas Gardener about vermicomposting.  The guy referred to himself as a "worm rancher" because it had a great "Texas" ring to it.  We really like that!  After all, we've always referred to our worms as "The Herd".  We refer to all our kids like that.

I can only imagine what our future chicken are going to act like! 

And OH!  Exciting news - for us anyway!  We advanced ordered our first hive of bees.  They'll be here in April.  That gives us plenty of time to keep attending the Williamson County Beekeepers Association meetings to learn all we can and get our equipment lined up.  Good thing we have Bee Hollow all cleared out at the Homestead.   Before we know it, we'll have a Bee Herd too.  We've been looking at designs for our hive.  Hubby's going to build it of course.  Maybe we can add those to our line of fabulous worm condos.

Here's our crazy cast of characters:




Until next time, our kids are nuts (but we wouldn't have it any other way) and worms still rule.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The days are getting shorter

Well, the days are definitely getting shorter...but not much cooler this past week!  It was 90 yesterday and going to be 92 again today.  Ugh!  But a cool front is coming tonight, I think, and tomorrow's high is only supposed to be in the mid 70s.  YAY!!

I am grateful for the long lasting warm weather where the Little Garden That Could is concerned though.  Here's a pic of a few baby tomatoes coming along:

And one of the banana peppers from a week or so ago...they're much bigger now:

Hopefully we'll have enough time to at least enjoy a few fresh grown tomatoes before it gets too cool for them.  The yellow squash are dying off, but there are two zucchini plants still churning out zukes.  One of the plants even came back from the brink of death, and you'd never know it to look at that plant now.

We pretty much finished everything we could on the front fence at the homestead on Saturday.  There were two patches of poison ivy that we couldn't just hack away, so we cleared everything we could and then busted out the sprayer to poison that horrible stuff.   Now we really, really need a chainsaw.  There are so many trees that died this year.  But because of where a big group of them died, once they're cleared out we'll have a really good homesite.  And we need to hook up with someone that wants to cut, chop and haul off some firewood - no sense letting that go to waste.  Somebody we know (or will soon) can use that.

We want SO badly to live out there permanently.  There are so many options that it's overwhelming to figure out how to go about that!  The easiest and fastest solution would be to buy a manufactured house and we're done.  Then we start focusing on barns, chicken coops, greenhouses, etc.  But my wonderful hubby would rather not go that route for a permanent house.  He would really like to build our own.  Don't get me wrong, I would love to do that too.  And I have no doubt whatsoever that we can do that.  We would enjoy the hard work and find intense satisfaction in making that happen - no matter how long it took.  But it becomes really tricky trying to figure out temporary housing in order to be out there and able to work on a permanent house and paying for it all.  What to do, what to do.

Still no water.  I know they've had lots of water line breaks to repair because of the intense drought conditions.  And obviously those must take priority.  But come on guys.  We really, really want/need access to water.  And we didn't just hand you thousands of dollars for nothing!

We may have a new family member soon!  I hate to get my hopes up too much...

Yes that's right, we're trying to bring home a kitten.  She lives out at the warehouse where hubby works.  There's four or more kitties that someone just dumped out there.  The guys in the warehouse pitch in and buy food for them.  They're even going in together to try and take them in to get fixed so they don't just keep creating more feral cats.  The one we want to bring home (we'd take them ALL if we could) is an itty bitty tiny thing.  She is probably the runt, like our dear sweet Sassy was, who passed at age 14 back in February.  Hubby sent me a picture of little Sweet Pea (not her permanent name) and I was head over heels in love!  Hopefully on Friday it will all work out.  It will be chaos for a little while in our house.  Hope spoiled rotten Gracie isn't too horrible!!!!  (Please, please, please)  She was a little kitten needing a home once upon a time.  And at least she started out in a house, not getting dumped at a warehouse and fending for herself until some ultra wonderful guys started trying to help take care of her and her friends.  Please, please, please Gracie Lyn, be sweet.  The dogs won't be a problem at all.  They'll just want to schnoz her for sure and make sure she's okay.  And little Pea will probably be scared to death of big dogs until she realizes they're big marshmallows.   I'll keep you posted on that situation.  Wish us luck!

Worm herd is expanding in fine fashion.  My goodness we are awesome worm parents!   J

Until next time...worms still rule (and so do kittens needing homes!).

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 10, 2011

And the work continues

Well, it was my birthday on Saturday, but we started out just like we have every Saturday since we bought our little homestead...clearing brush!  :)  But I wouldn't have it any other way.  There is nowhere we would rather be than on our little homestead.  And let me tell you - the plotting and scheming is beginning, to figure out how soon we can move out there permanently!!

Here's another look at the before pic:

Here's what we have left - we think we'll have it knocked out next weekend:

And here's what the front fence line looks like now:

We met another neighbor this weekend - the folks that own the Yegua Creek Farms pecan orchard across the road that we admire so much.  He complimented us on our progress on the fence line immediately.  It awesome when you don't have to explain why on earth you would expend all that effort to keep a fence clean...he just gets it!  He welcomed us to the neighborhood and invited us to check them out at the farmer's market in Elgin.  

We've only met two neighbors out there so far, but I tell you, we are already so blessed by their kindness and generosity!  Of course, it's that lifestyle we're seeking and why we're willing to live so far out in the country.

We finally got some rain, glorious rain!  I don't know know how much, but we had a little on Saturday evening and then some more Sunday.  It was so wonderful...it's all people can talk about.  It's kind of funny that it would stir up so much conversation, but we need it so desperately.  We're still about 16 to 20 inches behind for the year.

The little garden that could is doing well.  Three rows of little beets are up, two rows of green onions and three rows of lettuce.  The lettuce is so darn cute, the leaves are only about half an inch long, but they are already starting to take on the shape of loose leaf lettuce.  The banana pepper plants are prolific - will have tons of them ready very soon.  The bell peppers are doing well also.  One plant has peppers that have turned a deep purple.  We've never had those before.  Kind of cool.  The one big tomato plant has tons of blossoms and Saturday I found two baby tomatoes!!  YAY!  We also have one little straggler pepper plant that didn't get marked, so we didn't know what it was.  Turns out it's a jalapeno!  The little plant's got a lot of want to...it's less than a foot tall, but has at least eight jalapenos growing on it.

The worms are doing awesome, doing their thing eating our kitchen garbage.  :)  Won't be much longer before we have to remove some compost for the garden to make room for them.  At least the temperatures are getting nice in the evening so that we can sit out on the back patio and accomplish that task.

I have to admit that I've been kind of disappointed in how few of my friends ever check out my blog.  They seem to want to hear about our land, our gardening efforts and our canning adventures, yet they never take the time to read my posts and check out my pictures.  Not that I ever expected nationwide readership, but I really thought those closest to me would be interested in what's important to me.  My wonderful hubby says that many people aren't in to reading blogs.  I guess that's probably true.  I didn't understand the whole "blog thing" for a long time either.  But I know how much I enjoy and look forward to the blogs I read regularly.  They've in some ways, become like new friends, sharing similar experiences.  But even if I'm not sharing the exact same experiences, I still look forward to reading about their journeys.  Oh well.  I'll keep doing my thing.  It's become important to me and a great outlet to practice my writing/journaling.  And when I receive comments back, I feel like I've won a prize.  Silly I know.  But if something so simple makes me giggle, that's very all right!  And I knowmy wonderful hubby and I will really appreciate it years from now when we can look back at all the progress we've made in our choice to become more self-sufficient.

Until next time...worms still rule.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's hard work, but we wouldn't trade it for anything

Whew!  We're tired.  Recovering from sore muscles again after working on the homestead this weekend.  Holy cow that's hard work, but we wouldn't trade it for anything.  We worked on the front fence line on Saturday.  It was horribly overgrown! I don't think that fence had been maintained since it was installed.   There were a few small trees that will cause huge problems being right in the fence in the future, so they had to go.  And whatever that ultra-thorny vine crud is...my husband calls it Devil's Claw.  We don't know if that's the right name or not, however it is VERY appropriate.  It's everywhere and just rips you to shreds if you're not careful!  They should use that instead of razor wire!  Here are some before and after pics.



Here's a couple of pictures of our favorite trees - Texas pecans!

Still discovering muscles I didn't know I had each time we're out there.  J

Hopefully this week they'll start working on installing our water meter!  And if we could only get even a few drops of rain...

In the kitchen this weekend, I made up another batch of black bean, corn and avocado salsa for football watching.  It has become a favorite weekend staple.  My wonderful hubby loves it when I start throwing stuff together and making it up as I go.  It's good with chips, good on burgers, just plain good.  I really love eating potato skins when it's football season...but ever since I had the three week stomach virus this spring, I cannot each potatoes.  It's the weirdest darn thing.  They make me sick to my stomach.  I didn't realize home much I loved potatoes until I couldn't eat them.  That was always a quick standby meal too...pop a potato in the microwave and top it with whatever you can find.  Sigh.  I can eat sweet potatoes still.  Yay!  We found sweet potato fries at Costco, so they are now a staple in our freezer.

Yesterday I made a huge pasta salad for my lunches this week.  Those Lean Cuisine frozen meals are convenient and not very expensive, but I've just gotten burned out on them.  In my pasta salad, I use tri-colored rotini and whatever vegetables I have on hand.  This time it was yellow and zucchini squash fresh from the garden, carrots, baby spinach, artichoke hearts, fresh basil from the window sill and sun dried tomatoes.  Then I make my own Italian dressing - I have a dry mix that I make ahead of time that has garlic powder, onion salt, celery salt, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper (I think that's everything).  I add two tablespoons of that to 2/3 cup of oil (I used 1/3 olive oil and 1/3 walnut oil) and 1/4 cup of vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar).  I shake it together really well in my salad dressing bottle and toss it with the pasta and veggies.  Finally, I added some rotisserie chicken to my serving for lunch today.  YUM!  It's really good with some crackers.  For dessert I'm having some of our canned peaches.

I also made homemade tortilla soup last night.  It's so fast and easy, but we haven't had it in a long time for some reason.  We've started serving it over brown rice instead of tortilla chips.  It's really good, gives it some substance, works in good for us brown rice and cuts the fat that would be consumed with a bowl full of crushed tortilla chips.  It's so yummy topped with cheese, sliced avocado and sour cream.

And finally, last night I finished the loom-knitted scarf I made for one of my nieces for Christmas.  I even added some yarn fringe to the ends...that was quite an adventure with Gracie the total predator cat sitting in my lap.

Until next time, worms rule.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.