5.30.2014

Getting Mentally Prepared for Fall and Winter

Yeah, you read that right. Even though summer hasn't even officially hit, I'm already planning for the upcoming seasons. This fall will bring a whole round of challenges:

1. School will be insane. I won't get home until 7-9 PM 3 nights per week, and I will have lots of papers, lesson plans, research, and licensure stuff to complete.

2. Produce from the farm. I am expecting to harvest the squash the last weekend in September. I will be in the midst of my practicum. I will have to process hundreds and hundreds of pounds of squash. I am NOT letting it all go to waste like last year. Last year was an epic fail in terms of squash.

3. Just typical yarden stuff. Cleaning up for fall, dissasembling the chicken run/coop, etc... Yeah, this batch of chickens is going to be retired after the garden walk. They are too curious for their own good (never getting barred rocks or RI reds again), and they aren't producing anymore. We get MAYBE 1 egg per day from 4 hens. I guess this isn't really a fall chore, just a regular pain-the-butt chore. They are staying until after the garden walk though, because I registered under the "attraction" of laying hens. I can't let down the adoring public!

So here is how I plan on dealing with some of this junk... This summer I am going to focus a LOT of energy on creating a frezzer full of goodies so that we aren't driven to eating chinese takeout and pizza 5 days a week. I found on Amazon these containers and these containers which I plan on making lots of soups, stews, chilis, curries, side dishes, sauces, stocks, and whatever else that can be frozen for later consumption.

I plan on making a TON of tomato sauce this summer. I usually can diced tomtoes or just freeze the cherry tomatoes for making into sauce later, but this year will be different. I do NOT want to end up with a freezer full of "ingredients," but rather a freezer full of ready-to-go goodness. All I want to have to do is make rice/noodles/potatoes to go with our dinners. Even hubby can handle making pasta for pete's sake!

I also plan on making a bunch of ready-to-go slow cooker meals like I have done in the past. I have learned which meals work and which one's dont, so I will be updating that link for everyone also.

Another tactic I plan on enacting is prepping on Sunday. You guy's don't know this, but I am really trying to get serious about running. (Ok, this week hasn't been so good, but hey, it happens) I have my training schedule planed out through December. Sundays are my rest days (from running!) so I plan on using that extra time to do my shopping if needed and to prep for the week. I want to be able to just pull out a smoothie pack for breakfast (freezer upstairs) and a big mason jar salad to take with me for lunch (which doesn't have to be in a mason jar.. afterall I will have 150 plastic containers at my disposal). And then before I leave for afternoon classes, I want to toss in a crock pot meal or pull out a dinner to thaw and heat up (freezer) right before I walk out the door.

Chelsea is another issue, albeit a tiny one. I will have to prep her week's worth of food on Sundays also. Not a big deal, I will just have to get my rhythm and grover down early. Again, I will do whatever I have to in order to take care of my furbabies.

I think I have everything covered, but if you guys have any tips for me, please share! I know I won't be the only crazy busy one out there, so I know everyone can benefit from help!

5.27.2014

Farm Planting

This past weekend we went down to my Momma's to hang out for the holiday and get some farm work in. Luckily for us, Hubby's dad did most of the work, but we still had to till over the plot again. No biggy though, Hubby tilled and I planted behind him. We got just over 100 mounds of squash planted - 6 rows of butternut, 4 rows of pumpkin, 4 rows of acorn, and 1 row of buttercup acorn. Here is the tour of the farm:
View from the barn towards the road

View from the road towards the barn
Part of the squash patch, only about 1/4 of it

My father-in-law's bean trellis

FIL's melons

FIL's corn rows - he likes to plant these in small sections about 3 weeks apart so he isn't harvesting barrels of corn all at once. 

Top part of the garden, we tilled this up and put 2 rows of squash at the very end. 
And no farm post is complete with some pictures of the most awesome farm dog!




5.21.2014

A Girl and Her Mulch

First off, thank you so much everyone for your kind words, encouragement, and tips about Chelsea Belle's diet! I am a very happy dog momma and proud to report that after 5 full days on a homemade diet, she is having the poops of a champion! Great color, consistency, frequency! (TMI? Overshare?)

Second, the mulch was delivered on Monday! Now, let me just start off by saying that I ordered WAY too much. I ordered 2 yards (I nearly ordered 3, and I am soooo happy I did not!) and I have just under a yard left over. I solicited 2 neighbors to see if they wanted to buy it off me (its even organic!) but so far no takers.
The original delivery
At least I can use the driveway now. The pile is about half the size you see in that pic above, and I folded the tarp over it so it doesn't blow/wash away in the weather. I have a handful of other places I can put some mulch, I just don't know how much more will actually get used... EEK!

So in the process... The driver of the truck was really stupid... I had him dumb the mulch onto a tarp, and he had the truck right where I wanted it, but then insisted on backing up more. What do you get when you have a giant rear-wheel drive truck back up rapidly on a tarp? Oh yeah, a bunched up tarp and bright blue plastic ground into my driveway. REALLY attractive! Oh and he stepped right on one of my flower pots. So now I have too much mulch, a blue driveway, and a broken pot.
Kale Row, mulched

Baby Hydrangea, mulched

neighbor's back garden, mulched

more of the nighebor's yard, mulched

Front Yarden! Mulched! And the severely cut back hydrangea... At least it isn't dead!

Other side of my house you never EVER see... It is actually on the neighbor's property, but I mulched it anyways! (I CANNOT FREAKIN WAIT to get the brick foundation taken care of... It obviously needs some serious tuck pointing, a new coating of whatever that junk is, and we are also going to have glass block windows put in... Next summer.... Next summer will be epic)
I also took care of one other thing...
This is my rose bush... Well, at least it was. It also had a really hard time making it through the winter... 

So I tied it to the back of my car after about an hour of trying to dig it out... I love my beasty little car!
So then I was left with a big hole that I filled back in...

And then I mulched it of course! I am thinking I will fill up this pot with potting soil and put some flowers in it. It looks a little ghetto with just a pot sitting there empty. 
IN the process of mulching the back neighbor's "garden" area, I had to pull weeds. So pull I did. And while doing that, I inadvertently knelt right down into a little ant hill. I shot up after about 2 minutes of kneeling and pulling weeds to find about 50-100 little black ants biting my knee!! They don't hurt so much know as much as they freaking itch! (Ok, honestly, I got maybe 5 bites... I'm dramatic)

So lets recap... I know have too much mulch, a blue driveway, a broken flowerpot, one less rosebush, ant bites, a gorgeously mulched yard (everywhere), and oh yeah, a little bit of a sunburn. And a healthy and happy dog :) It's been a good week. 

5.17.2014

Chelsea Belle and Her Diet

This dog...

She is so cute, and so lovey, and the dog love of my life. She is ALSO the biggest pain in the butt! How can one little 21 pound dog be such a headache you ask? Well, let me sum it up... Diarrhea. This post might get gross, so either get over it and keep reading, or close your browser window RIGHT NOW!

She has good days and bad days. We were at my mom's for Mother's Day for 4 days and she had great poops. The days leading up to those 4 days, she had kinda OK poops. The minute we got home? Shooting water poops. UGH. She has medicine, but I honestly don't think it does anything worthwhile. She is on it for several days, poops get good again, she goes off of that prescribed round of medicine, and then BAM right back to terrible poops. Sometimes they are watery, sometimes they are mucusy. Sometimes they are rainbow colors. Sometimes they are all the same color.

My vet, who I really do like, doesn't ever really have an answer for her issues, and always gives us the same meds and recommends a bland diet of rice and boiled meat. Don't think I haven't consulted a vet on this issue, coz I have. A lot actually.

We recently moved her into sleeping in the bathroom attached to our room so that she would stop pooing in the dining room and on a hard surface for easier cleanup.

I have decided to just make her food and treats. She does seem to be more regular when she is on homemade food rather than dry bagged food. It should be noted that you should NEVER feed your dog grapes or raisins, onions, chocolate, or anything they seem to have an allergic reaction to. My plan is to make a big batch of food (maybe 1 or 2 weeks worth) and store it in the freezer in 3 day portions. The fresh food does not last very long. Homemade food should be 40-60% meat protein, 20-30% cooked starch, and 20-30% vegetables (raw or cooked). I will use cooked because Chelsea is so sensitive. Although today I learned she likes raw carrots.

Chelsea will get 3 meals per day, about 3/4-1 cup per meal. For a dog of 21 pounds, the recommended daily intake is approximately 6-10 ounces of food. You can calculate your dogs food intake by multiplying their weight in ounces by 2-3 percent. So for Chelsea:
21*16 = 336 ounces body weight
336 * .02 = 6.72 ounces food minimum
336 * .03 = 10.08 ounces maximum

The best way to ensure your dog is eating enough, and not too much, is to just monitor their weight. If they lose weight, feed more. Gain weight? Feed less. Chelsea rarely ever gains a pound, so I don't think this will be too much food. I will monitor her though to ensure health.

I also decided to take her treats into my own hands. I will be making a series of treats that I pinned HERE. Caesar (that guy who talks to dogs) says to store treats in the freezer and they can last up to 6 months. My plan is to take out a treat before our walks, then it should be defrosted enough by the time we get back for her to enjoy. Flax and wheat germ are good add ins for the treats.

Caesar also says that pumpkin mixed with plain yogurt is good daily treat to keep fiber flowing and keep the natural flora in the gut healthy (very important for a dog with digestive and poo issues). You can freeze this mixture in portions and then defrost in the fridge.

Perhaps I am putting too much thought and work into this. Actually, most definitely I am putting too much thought and work into this. But I don't have kids, I have animals. And one of my animals has rather special needs. And I will do what it takes to keep her healthy and happy.

I will post an update as to how Chelsea Belle is improving (or not?) with these dietary changes. 

5.16.2014

Its Cold...

...Again... End of the world? No, definitely not.

The sun is reported to show up later on this afternoon, we will see what happens. This is Cleveland after all!

I ordered 2 yards of mulch yesterday for delivery on Monday, and I am stoked! The front and side yardens are in desperate need of a little sprucing up, not to mention a little weed control.

I was going to plant the kale today, but it's too cold for my arthritic fingers, so they will have to wait for tomorrow. Next week the tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, basil, cucumber seeds, zucchini seeds, and beet seeds will all go in. The beets really could have gone in weeks ago, but uh, I forgot about them. It will be fine though.

I can't wait to get pics of the yarden all fancied up with new mulch for you guys to see. And my midget hydrangea... 

5.13.2014

Hydrangea HELP!

My beloved hydrangea bush is NOT looking good after this winter. What the heck should I do???
As you can see, there is no green growing except for at the bottom, and the long branches are just dead. This type is that regular mop head type that everyone has. I freakin LOVE this bush. It was always so hardy and tough. Apparently NOT anymore! Should I just cut it way back to the green parts? I guess the worst thing that happens is that I kill it and I have to replace it.

This second hydrangea bush, however, is doing great! It is not the same type as the one that looks like crap... This one is the "Invincible Spirit," which is the breast cancer awareness type. It's flowers are pink and, well, fluffy looking. I like it!

**Update** 5/14
I trimmed the bush back to the green... Ugh... It is so tiny now! The yard looks silly and lopsided, but I am happy it isn't dead. Bonus! Some of the branches had really branched out and there were 2 "new" hydrangea plants about 2 feet from the main plant, so I cut them off, dug them out, and replanted in a vacant corner of the yard. I will post pics as soon as the rain stops falling. 

5.12.2014

Life

Sometimes, my emotions get the better of me, and life intervenes, and this blog becomes somewhere for me to vent about other stuff than the garden (which is looking fabulous by the way!)

My life choices have sucked. OK, correction, I really love a few life choices including the wonderful man I am married to, the awesome animals we have, and I love my house. Other than that, I kind of suck at life choices.

I regret choosing to attend the university I attend. I regret my major. I regret leaving my fat paying job to be a student (even if it drove me insane.) I regret ever leaving college in the first place. I regret not being engaged in my education early on.

But you know what? Now I have to effing deal with it. And it sucks. I hate my major, I don't even know if I want to be a teacher anymore. I hate my university, but I am only 1 year away from graduating. I hate that I have to trudge on. I hate that I have spent so much money on a BS education where I haven't really learned that much. I hate that I no longer have control over my own destiny.

I hate it all. But I have to deal with it. Venting is how I do that I guess. 

5.05.2014

Gettin 'Er Done

I worked my friggin butt off in the yarden today. More about that in a minute.

I made a deal with my backyard neighbor that if he cut down the massive weed tree that shades my vegetables, I would take care of the mess that sits on my fence line. So he did. And, well, now I have to.

Which brings me to my work of the day. First I got the old steel mesh fence taken down. I know Hubby hates that, but it was old and rusty, and falling down, and had big holes in it anyways, PLUS since my old crotchety neighbor caddie corner to us built a new privacy fence I wouldn't have a way into the other neighbors yard to take of the mess. Did you follow that? Ok, so down came the fence. I will take it this week for scrap. Yay cash!

Then I got my pruners to work and trimmed up the neighbors HUGE bushes, or are they shrubs? I have no friggin idea. Then I rakes out all the old dead weeds, leaves, and random dead crap and had a nice little bonfire in the fire pit. It kind of stunk because there was some gross wet stuff, but oh well. I pray to the friggin heavens think the brush burning is done for the year.

After the brush cleanup, I was going to sift my old compost and the broken bed dirt pile so that I could refill one of the useful garden beds, but I can't find the darn thing! I still have some hardware mesh, so making a new sifter is on the agenda for tomorrow.

I tilled two beds today, and after I sift out the dirt, one will be filled and tilled again.

I also got the plastic pallets cleaned up and ready to go into the basement. They will hold the pellets next winter, and some other various junk. Hubby wants to store everything in the basement on pallets just in case water gets in there. Guess I can add a basement overhaul to my summer to-do list.

Tomorrow is also going to be weed tackling day. I need to take care of the weeds in the front yard, around the garage, backyard neighbors weeds, and the side neighbors weeds next to their garage. Oh yeah, gotta re-string the weed whacker before I get anywhere. Gotta trim the grass too... Again...

And while all that is going on, I need to set out some of the seedlings so they can begin hardening off for planting. That will be the kale, sprouts, and flowers. I will wait a week for the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants to go outside. I REALLY don't want them to die.

How bout y'all? Are you going garden-crazy with chores too?

5.04.2014

Pics!

Caution, this is very picture heavy!

I finally got around to taking some pictures, as per the request of Carolyn. First up is Fuzz... Last summer we had Opie for a few weeks, and this is Fuzz. She is all of 4 pounds, and tiny, and super sweet. She enjoys sleeping with the chickens and eating treats, cat food, and mice. 
She is actually squeaking her "hello food giver!" squeak/meow

Mmmmm foooood

Yum
Then there is the front yard. I surprised myself and have taken pictures every month since the last snow. Everything is coming along nicely. 
Beginning of March
April 1

May 1
Tulips are ALMOST all grown. I love these. They are a super dark purple and oh so lovely. 

Cherry blossoms!
Now for the back yarden. Things are slow going back there... 
May arial
Garlic bed... I think I will have to start with new garlic in the fall. The cloves and heads are getting smaller and smaller each year. 

Peas are coming along nicely as well. I can't wait until these really get going. They rarely even make it into the house because they are so damn good!
 And then there are the effing chickens.... 
The evil escape artist... 

Evil Blackie and my two good girls, Blondie and Little One
And then I can't forget all of the seedlings! I can't wait to get these babies into the ground!
All the tomatoes... I accidentally forgot to sow them on time because of my school crap, so they are just a little behind everything else

Kale, zinnias, and stuff

Brussel sprouts

Flat of flowers... I am really flower heavy this year. I want my back yarden patio to be nice and lush for the Garden Walk, and flowers are freakin expensive!!!
Thanks for putting up with me for so long without pics. I really hope to stop sucking at that part of the blog now that I have time. And I want to stop sucking at gardening, especially now that I don't have summer classes. Woo!!!!

5.03.2014

Tiny Gardener - 2, Chickens - 15

To be honest, that isn't a fair score... Even though each of the chickens got out today - Blackie 5 or 6 times, Lil Red 5 or 6 times, Little One only 1, and Blondie ZERO - I was able to capture the main culprits and clip wings.

I think my score of 2 wings clipped beats the chicken escapes for the day.

Ugh... This morning I had a chicken on the loose. I need to make the wing feathers shorter... I think I am getting sick of chickens. 

5.01.2014

Effing Chickens

Ugh... Blackie, who is very sweet and very cute, has a wild side... She really likes to explore the neighborhood. Well, at least she THINKS she does. Yesterday, I cam home to find her in the yarden, and when I called out to her, she trotted right up to me like, Ok Mom, I'm ready to go back in my pen.

Today, I was drying my hair and caught her on the fence bewteen my driveway and the neighbor's driveway... By the way, that fence is like 6 or 7 feet tall.

And Blackie is really being a bad influence on Little Red. She also has a wild side, but isn't so sweet. She will let you catch her, but she will peck you all the while.

Ugh... I think it is time to clip some wings... Or move the chickens to the country...