Saturday, June 22, 2013

Strawberries and Rosemary

We're getting about five strawberries everyday from my hydroponics. They usually don't last past breakfast. They go nicely with my Greek yogurt. I've also got some nice rosemary.


We were coming home from shopping the other day and drove past fields and fields of yellow sunflowers. It was such a pretty sight that I had to stop and take a few photos. 

Straight Rows

Neighbor used his tractor and moved all the hay bales dotted around our fields and formed two nice straight rows. Straight rows make me happy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Event

We've been preoccupied lately planning a big event here on our property. Daughter was planning to get married so we thought this would be a good place for the ceremony and would fit in nicely with our small budget. 

It was a small family event and the two families did most of the work, leaving Bride and Groom to concentrate on other more important things. We did it all, I might add, in about four weeks' time. The Daughters and I did all the decorations - tassels and pom poms. Groom's sister did all the flowers. Groom's mother made the cake. I made the food for the dinner. Guv'nor and Tevia hung our Christmas lights over the back deck. We borrowed tables from Neighbor. We rented chairs, tablecloths, and frames from the local rental place. We bought a few glass dishes from thrift stores. I used dishes, cutlery, napkins and goblets that I had. We hired a photographer.

We set up the chairs for the ceremony at the front of the house under the shade of an oak tree. The Factor performed the ceremony. The dinner was on the back deck under a canopy of lights. The weather was mild. The Bride and Groom were beautiful. It was a lovely event.

Thanks to Daughter and Factor for the extra photos, since I didn't have time to take many.

Guv'nor and Tevia hung the lights the day before.

The lights were strung from the house to the poles.

Groom's sister did all the flowers. These are at the reception dinner.

We made over 100 tassels for garlands around the house.

The ceremony was at the front of the house in the shade.

Daughter drew the menu on a chalkboard easel.

We suspended tissue paper pom poms from the lights.

Groom's mother made the cake. Groom's sister decorated it and added love birds.

Bride's bouquet

The dinner was on the back deck under a canopy of lights. Fairy-tale like.

The morning after - such a lot of work for one day.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

At my cousin's recommendation, I started using black oil sunflower seeds in my bird feeder. The cardinals seem to really love them and will peck through the regular bird seed and make a big mess just to get them. So I decided I might as well just use them. They cost about a $1 a pound.


Our chicks have been growing. At about 3 weeks old they had begun to flap their wings and jump enough to perch on the edge of the box. I pinned some plastic netting to the box to keep them from getting lose in the garage. They gradually lost their cuteness and their downy feathers and entered the awkward teen stage with real feathers and sharp claws. Boredom began to set in, and they started trying to peck their way out. So by 5 weeks, it was time to move them.

At the suggestion of my chicken book, we have bought ElectroNet fencing. We have started out by buying two 50-foot lengths, and one 100-foot length with a solar charger.  I asked Tevia to modify the coop slightly by removing the poop tray and adding another 6-8 inches height. He did this using some of the old deck boards since I wasn't fussy about what it looked like. I wanted the extra room for deep litter. Then Guv'nor added some hardware cloth to the bottom for added security to keep unwanted animals out.We chose a space behind the house to set the coop and the fencing.

We weren't sure how to move the chicks to their new home. So one evening, with the help of the whole family, we each grabbed a chick and walked it down to the coop. The guys even moved most of the litter from the box down to the coop. Amazingly, it didn't smell and is still good to use. The first few nights I was careful to make sure they were all inside the coop and locked up tight. But since then, I've just let them do their own thing in the safety of the fencing.

So far so good until this morning when I found one of the chicks dead, apparently electrocuted from the fencing. We are told the current isn't high enough to kill a chicken. So we think it got stuck and received repeated pulses of the current. So we're down to 15 chick-teens now. We're still not sure how many roosters and hens we have. Hopefully it will become obvious soon.

If you look carefully, you can see the removable poop tray at the bottom.

Have I mentioned lately how good this book is? Well worth the price and the time spent reading it.

Here are the chicks at 4 weeks under the netting. I had to get a bigger feeder.

We chose behind the house as our first chicken location. The coop is small enough to move around.

We all grabbed a chick and carried it down to the coop.

The chicks love all their open space, but tend to cluster together.

The waterer is hanging from a saw horse.

Their favorite time of day seems to be at dusk when it's cooler.

I started giving them bigger food.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bees 2

Guv'nor and Son "opened" the hives last night to check on the bees. To do this they have to suit up in their white gear and gloves because they disturb the bees. They used their smoker for the first time to calm them down. They took off the lid and pulled out each bar to check on them.

It is a learning experience since they aren't quite sure what to look for. But it seems that both hives are doing well. Each bar was slightly different. The bees are busy making their wax combs and filling them up with larvae and honey. This is good because of the life span of the drone and worker bee might only be a couple of weeks and the hive needs to be replenished. The honey wasn't harvested because the bees still need it.

Since I didn't have the suit, I stood about 10 feet away to take a few photos.

Monday, June 3, 2013


The end of the school year snuck up on us and it was graduation the other day. Daughter wanted to go see some of her friends graduate, so I took her up to the school the other night. Graduation is another one of those events where it seems like the whole town is there.

Her school holds their graduation exercises in the gym. The band was set up at one end and played the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance". The stage was set up at the opposite end. School board members and administration sat on the stage. The 38 students sat in front of the stage with the teachers behind them.

I always seem to get melancholy (yes, even a bit weepy) when I hear Pomp and Circumstance, as I reminisce about my own graduation and that of my older children. And this time I didn't even know anyone graduating.

It was a typical graduation with invocation, class officer speeches, comments from the principal and superintendent, and presentation of diplomas. The part that most impressed me was the section when the scholarships were awarded. I would have counted and kept a mental record if I had known how many were going to be announced. 

The local clubs had scholarships. The agriculture clubs had scholarships. The local college had scholarships. The ex-student association had scholarships. A tiny community south of town had a scholarship. The little old lady former teacher had a scholarship. The man who died in a motorcycle accident had a scholarship. The valedictorian got a full scholarship to any state university. It went on and on.

We talked about it afterward and would guess that there were between 30-40 scholarships awarded with a monetary value of around $50,000. Wow. About half the students got a scholarship, so that's on average over $2000 per student.

This could be the motivation that some students need to finish high school and go to college. In a small rural community, it is difficult to keep the students focused on attendance and academics. The average class size starts out around 50, but drops off by the senior year. The superintendent pointed out that just by graduating from high school, they would earn on average $10K more per year over their lifetime than if they didn't graduate. 

I thought the scholarships were amazing for such a small community. I was very reassured about the community and their high level of interest in the local students.


Saturday, June 1, 2013


I find it amazing that we have been able to cut and bale hay on our property. If you had told me a year ago that we would be baling hay by now, I would have thought you were crazy. Our fields were full of weeds and mesquite trees, not to mention the trash and old farm equipment. But thanks to the hard work of Guv'nor and others, one field has been cleaned up enough to let the grass grow.

Part of our deal with Neighbor to graze his cows included having some of our fields mowed. He made arrangements with his friends who have all the equipment. They came one day and cut the grass. The equipment cuts the grass and lays it neatly on the ground. Then the next day they came and raked it into neat rows with one tractor and followed with another tractor that rolled the bales.

The whole process was new to us and we found ourselves just standing and watching as the equipment did all the work. We ended up with 28 bales. The hay isn't good enough to sell yet, but Neighbor's cows should like it anyway.

I was a bit sad to see all the wild flowers go.

This tractor cut the grass.

The rake attachment.

I thought the rake was very artistic.

This tractor pulled the rake equipment.

The raking gathered up the grass and made a nice row.

This tractor pulled the baling equipment.

The baling equipment compresses the grass, rolls it and pushes it out. It looked like a chicken laying an egg.

Each round bale was about 6 feet high and wrapped in plastic mesh.

Such a typical rural field dotted with bales of hay. This time last year it was full of mesquite trees.

We even managed to get 7 bales of hay from the field in front of the house.

More bales of hay.