Wednesday, December 30, 2009

will wonders never cease?

It's snowing again today, for the second time in a week, and the second time already this winter. I can't begin to express how unusual this is for us. It's not that we don't ever get snow - we do. We get it once or twice a year, and almost always in January or February. This area had its first white Christmas in something like thirty years. For a girl raised in the north, I can tell you it was quite a thrill!

This strange weather feels like a harbinger. I have the feeling, deep in my gut, that the coming year will be different. I'm not sure quite how, but I get the sense that it will be a pivotal year, not just for us, but for the world. Perhaps it's because it is the start of a new decade or because our world seems perched on a precipice, as if we're all collectively holding our breath waiting for something to happen. Don't get me wrong. I don't think the world will end, or civilization as we know it will fall apart - nothing as dramatic as all that. I just think that this time next year, when we close the doors on 2010, we'll all have seen things we never thought we'd see. We'll experience a fundamental (if ever so slight) shift in our perspective. We'll all come out the other side just a little bit changed.

* Disclaimer: I don't make predictions or claim to know what the future will hold. This is simply one woman's opinion, based on instinct and nothing more.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

how to open a feed sack

We're here all night, folks. Don't forget we play for tips. ;-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas!


Oh, who am I kidding? Cluck cluck CLUCK! You think this is a joke? I'm funny to you? Well, guess what you're getting in your stocking? Droppings! That's right, droppings! Now put me down before I leave you a present!

I'm keeping the hat, though. It's jaunty and it makes me feel pretty.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

chicken coop update

Between all the rain, our day jobs and the holidays, this has been a very slow project. We had a breakthrough last weekend, though - it actually finally started to look like something!

The walls are up and all the roof trusses are on. This weekend the actual roof will go on, and it will be something of an open-air pavilion. When the walls go up, things might get difficult, psychologically. It will look done, but there will still be so much more to do. Once the walls are in place, we'll need to paint it, install roosts and nest boxes (LOTS), put in windows and hatch doors and frame in the interior walls. This building will be divided into three parts. The door is slightly offset from the center, and will open into a storage area, where we'll keep feed, pine shavings, supplies, etc. Immediately to the left will be another door that opens into the chickens' living quarters, which comprise slightly less than 2/3 of the total area. To the right of the storage area will be the brooder. This side will be enclosed floor to ceiling with wire (most likely with some solid reinforcement across the bottom) and will be used for brooding chicks, raising meat birds, segregating broody moms, newcomers, or anyone else that might need separate quarters. Since we don't plan on getting new chicks anytime soon, it's likely that we'll put newborn goat kids in that area when the nights are cold. It will be something of an all-purpose space.

The coop sits between our two barns, and in front of the goat pen. We'll fence in the area between them, connecting the barns, and that will be the poultry yard. This way Caspian will not have access to the birds (bad dog!) but he'll be close enough to afford them some protection. They'll certainly be much better off than they are now. They'll have access to their fenced yard all the time, and will be let out to free range at our discretion. Part of the motivation for building this coop was not only the need for larger accommodations, but also the need to take back OUR yard. Free ranging poultry is awesome, but it does come at a price. Our front stoop, sidewalk, back stoop and patio (including the chairs and tables) are covered with poop. ALL THE TIME. When you go out to have a nice glass of wine on the patio, and there are pullets roosted in rows on the backs of all the chairs, you know it's time to set some limits. If I can just figure out what to do with the ducks*, we might have a nice place to hang out again, like civilized people.

* Duck poop is grosser, smellier and far, FAR more copious than chicken poop. There's nothing quite like it. I adore the ducks, but four of them make a bigger mess than forty chickens - I kid you not.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

seeing my way to the end

The holidays always bring a flurry of activity around here. In addition to the usual cooking, decorating and gifting that everyone does this time of year, we also find ourselves prepping the farm for winter. We're laying in firewood, fortifying the animal shelters, stocking up on hay and straw, putting the garden to bed. We've been at it for a good six or eight weeks now, trying to get things zipped up for the year.

We probably don't need to do this. Our winter "down time" really only lasts for about six or eight weeks. But here's the thing - we like the down time. We need it, really. It would be easy in a place like this to just plug along all year and never take a break. But the holidays wear us out a bit, and we know that come mid-February the real work will start, so we relish the dark days when we can hole up in the house to plot and plan.

I'm not done with Christmas yet. I'm close - I can taste victory - and the tasks I have left are all ones I enjoy. I have a bit of cooking, a bit of crafting, quite a bit of wrapping (I love wrapping) and I'm there. I'm on the home stretch. I can see those dark days of January in my sights. I'll finish up in the next couple of days, and spend the last week before Christmas just being. I'll drink hot chocolate and watch movies. I'll nap with my dogs. I'll browse the pages of seed and poultry catalogs with big dreams. We'll spend Christmas with the family eating pate and sausage balls and cookies. We'll drink too much wine and play charades. We'll build a bonfire and talk to distant relatives on the phone. The week after Christmas will be more of the same. We'll drink champagne on New Year's Eve in our pj's, watch James Bond films and eat brisket for days. And when we rouse ourselves from our party-heads, the dark days - the down time - will be upon us. We'll sit together with notepads and pens on the sofa (still in our pj's) and plot the next step of our takeover - our farm domination. We'll be the overlords of this place. We'll decide who stays, who goes and who gets hired, what gets built and what gets torn down. We'll look across our property with grand designs in our heads and make plans.

At least until mid-February, when the shackles go back on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

how did I ever live without...

Steel-toe cowboy boots? Hooves don't scare me.

Bellows? Essential for keeping the home fire burning.

A good bedding fork? Two-day chore turned into a two-hour chore. 'Nuff said.

Super-mega-candlepower spotlight? Because sometimes you really need to light up the barn...from the house.

Welded wire fencing? Makes an instant garden fence, instant chicken corral, instant tomato support, or, y'know - fencing.

Leather work gloves? Get YOUR OWN. Get as many as possible.

Insulated bibs? They will change your life. Farm chores in freezing rain and 30 mph winds? No problem.

Friday, December 4, 2009

for all the climate change naysayers...

We were supposed to get snow today. That is pretty unusual in itself. We seldom get snow at all around here, and when we do, it typically doesn't arrive until January, or even February. I was all psyched for a nice, snowy Friday at home working by the wood stove, only to get up this morning and find that all calls for snow had been rescinded. I was so sad. Why would the powers that be cheat me in this way? All that snow that was supposed to ours surely didn't just vanish. Surely it turned tail and went elsewhere. Someplace more deserving of its charms. Someplace like Nebraska or Colorado or...


That's right. It is apparently snowing in Houston. So put that in your climate pipe and smoke it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

shameless plug!

Can't get enough chicken in your day? Need to see more dog nose? The 2010 farm calendar is now available! (See link at right) Makes a great gift for all of your would-be homesteader loved ones. Or, y'know, for yourself. ;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

every day is a mixed bag

I'm learning that there's no such thing as a good day or a bad day on the farm. Well, they're rare, in any case. Every day seems to bring with it a (mostly) balanced mix of little successes and failures, catastrophes and strokes of brilliance, pleasures and annoyances.

We've started letting the Margenes out to free range. They're about four months old now, and nearly as big as the big girls. It was time for them to taste freedom, to make their own way in the world. Time to kick them out of the nest, as it were. When I opened the door for them for the first time, it was quite a show. A couple of them tentatively stuck their heads out to peck at the green grass just across the threshold. Suddenly there was a rumbling from the back of the house...a few over-eager girls started flapping their wings madly, annoyed by the slow progression forward. Finally their pent-up enthusiasm could no longer be contained, and they all came bursting out through the door in twos and threes, semi-airborne, wings fluttering, as if shot from a cannon. They looked like Fourth of July artilery shells with feathers and beaks.

When you first let young pullets out to free range, you can expect some losses early on. They're novices at this, you see. No street smarts. It takes some time and a few misfortunes for them to get the hang of things. We lost one overnight last night*. It seems she didn't make it back in before we closed the door, and went unnoticed behind the house in the waning daylight. I discovered a sad pile of feathers up against the back wall, where she must have tried to settle for the night. This is what I mean. You can expect some of this in the beginning. At least one or two will unwittingly venture into the dogs' yard and not make it out. Another will wander off alone, never to be seen again. As badly as I feel for these poor early casualties, they serve as a warning to the others. Chickens aren't stupid. They learn what to do and what not to do.

My dismay over this finding was tempered by another. This:

I swear I looked at these plants yesterday, and...nothing. But we have broccoli! Well, we have itty bitty broccoli, but...still. Broccoli seeds are incredibly tiny. Broccoli plants are enormous. This never ceases to amaze me. It's just incredible that something so small can contain so much. I've never attempted to grow broccoli before, so this discovery thrills me. Such are the endless tiny dramas of farm life.

See? Mixed bag.

* Tara's Law of Poultry Attrition : Whichever breed of chicken you own the fewest of, or whichever is most rare will be the first to perish, virtually without exception. If you have 50 Barred Rocks and ONE Silver Spangled Hamburg, guess which one will be the first to meet an untimely end? This rule also applies to whichever particular bird is your favorite. The one I lost last night was a Buff Orpington, and while they are not rare, I had only two (out of 50-some-odd total chickens). Now I have one.

Monday, November 9, 2009

in case you were wondering...

This is why I don't post more pictures of the goats....

the chicken coop is started!

Finally after many weeks of rain and mud, we were able to start the coop! We got the concrete poured and with the help of my brother and his girlfriend, the floor is in place. Once we were able to get started, this part went rather quickly. We got this far in just a couple of hours, and it was a huge relief to just finally get started - to have something to point to.

I asked the goats if they would mind giving us a hand, but they declined.

I suspect they're annoyed that the chickens (!) will have nicer digs than theirs.

Construction continues this weekend, so stay tuned.

Friday, November 6, 2009

when the bread don't rise

Apparently I tried to make bread with some dud yeast. Not one to waste things, I decided I'd try to salvage it by rolling it into thin rounds and baking it as pita bread.

Much to my delight, it worked! I had saved the "almost became chicken food" dough and turned it into something useful. Word.

P. S. - I ground the wheat flour for these by hand with my birthday grain mill. Fresh flour on demand!


Just a small one, but still...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


See, we have this...structure...that we built. Or rather, that my husband built. It's been around for a couple of years now. It's nothing fancy, and in fact you might say it's rather crude, but it is a chameleon of a thing. It seems to have an uncanny knack for serving whatever purpose we need it to serve in the moment. Here it is at its birth, when it was a rabbit hutch:

After awhile, we moved the rabbit cages into the barn, and when the ducks arrived, we converted this into a house for them. We cut the legs off, knocked out the solid sides, extended the front by several feet, hung a door and enclosed the whole thing with welded wire. Here they are, not enjoying it:

Shortly thereafter, the ducks turned up their bills at the accommodations and moved out. Conveniently, we had new tenants waiting to take up residence:

All it took was the addition of some roosts and some smaller-weave poultry netting to transform it from DuxHostel to Casa de Pollo. The chickens like it just fine, thank you very much.

Ah, but they'll be moving out soon too. Pretty soon their dee-luxe accommodations will be complete, and they will all be moving into the poultry penthouse, leaving the structure empty once more. Around that time, the goat barn will no longer be co-ed. The boys will be needing their own dorm. As we sat on the porch over the weekend, planning their shelter, we looked over at the rabbit-duck-chicken-hutch-coop...

"I think the goats' shelter could be about that size. The height is fine. It's plenty deep and wide enough too."'

"Okay, then. I'll use that as a guide and build their shelter more or less to those dimensions."

"Wait...why don't we just use that?"

"Hmmm...yeah...the chickens will be moved out. I'll need to fortify it a bit."

"...and put a roof over the whole thing, and pull off the wire and add on some solid walls."


Ouila! Maison de Chevres! I can't wait to see what it turns into next.


This is the first food eaten (by me!) from the fall garden. A simple salad of collards, kale, chard and pak choi, and one tiny turnip. It was lovely, and it means bigger and better things to come.

Monday, November 2, 2009

going for broke

I now have a thorough understanding of the expression "make hay while the sun shines". We've been hit hard by rain for so many weeks that it has crippled any effort we might have made in the name of progress. So when the sky cleared and the forecast called for sun all week long (!) it became an all-out push to get as much done as humanly possible.

We got the concrete poured (finally) for the chicken coop we're building. Now we can actually start the construction in earnest. I made a huge trip to the feed store, and got stocked up on everything. We cleaned a pickup-load of trash out of the barn and hung new fly traps (the previous ones filled up in a matter of DAYS - we have mega-flies). I gathered dry kindling and installed solar outdoor lights around the barn and yard. I planted more veggies in the garden and we set up a makeshift greenhouse in the hopes of getting a little more out of our tomatoes and peppers. I mucked all the wet straw and hay out of the goat barn and put down dry. The goats had to spend the better part of the day shut out in the yard while I did it, but since they've been holed up inside the barn for weeks, I don't think they minded too much. They even played with that dog. That's how happy they were to be outside.

And then there were other things. Some things the rain forced us to do - having all the water pumped out of our septic tank, for instance. Other things the rain is still preventing me from doing. I have winter rye to plant, but the ground is still too wet to till. I only hope it will stay dry long enough for me to get that seed in the ground. There was even a little time to do some indoor things as well. I planned meals for the next couple of weeks, ordered my honeybees for spring and got my birthday present set up for use - a Country Living grain mill to grind my own fresh flour for baking.

And even after all the work, in honor of Halloween, we spent our evenings watching a long string of scary movies, with a bowl full of popcorn and a jack-o-lantern providing our only light.

This may have been the most satisfying weekend ever. There's something wonderful about checking loads of things off your to do list in a short time, and without exhausting yourself. It makes you feel unstoppable.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

spells of nothing

I know I've been rather remiss in posting lately, and I would love to tell you it's because there have been loads of really exciting things happening. I would love to fill pages and pages of this blog with stories about our beautiful autumn weather, my bumper crop of fall greens, poultry antics, adorable pictures of the goats...but I can't.

I'm afraid that sometimes...nothing happens. Oh, it's not that nothing at all happens, just nothing worth telling about. Every day I do chores, I work, I do laundry and cook dinner, I run errands. It rains. It rains some more. The dogs sleep. And that's all. I don't even have any earth-shatteringly deep musings. It just is what it is. We ruralites, living the dream as it were, have our share of ho-hum, ordinary, run-of-the-mill days too. And there's simply no way I can blog about vacuuming and make it sound interesting. I'm just not that good.

Please be patient. Exciting times are always just around the corner here. Only this time, it's a very broad, sweeping curve, and not so much a hairpin turn.

P. S. Did you know that dogs can suffer from tonsillitis? It's true. No, it does not mean they get to eat ice cream. It does mean, however, that crunchy kibble is painful to swallow, so I get to cook TWO dinners every night for awhile.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fancy says:

"Hey thanks, lady. That's better."

"My babies need privacy. Plus, all that sideways rain was really starting to bring me down. It's still coming in from the top a bit, though. Maybe you could send someone 'round to look into that?"

Poor Fancy. She's so determined. So devoted. How can I tell her that she's sitting on a wooden egg?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

ladies and gentlemen, I look like sh*t

Let's be clear: I could never be described as being "beauty conscious". Far from it, in fact. Of all the things in life that weigh heavily (or even lightly) on my mind, the acceptability of my appearance is rarely among them. Think of the least beauty conscious person you know, and know that I am even less beauty conscious than that. (Unless you know me, and the person you were thinking of was me, in which case, you're spot on.)


After a full year plus a bit of manure, dirt, blood, mud, manure, dog hair, rain, manure, grass, feathers, manure, sun, wind, grit, manure, vomit, hooves, food splatter and manure, I evidently JUST NOW decided to look in a mirror. And let me tell you, I have really gone to the dogs. I haven't had a haircut in a year. I have permanent eye-baggage. All my clothes have holes or stains. My nails are usually ragged, broken and dirty, never mind polished. Let's not even discuss shaving. How my wonderful husband finds the fortitude just to come home every night, I'll never know.

I am taking my hot mess of a self to the S-P-A. Ladies with phony cosmetic faces will come at me from all sides with scissors and files and potions and creams. They'll peel off my exoskeleton of crud, and I will emerge fresh and new. I will bravely go forth among the denizens of Botox and collagen I will prevail*. No, it's most certainly not a permanent solution - merely a boot to the fanny which will hopefully kick me back into the human race.

* Don't worry - I'm not doing anything really weird. Just basic maintenance. ;-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

now, see here...

This might look like nice Autumn yard art to some of you, but make no mistake. This is a critical element of my goats' comfort. This is their mattress, their blanket and their pillow all rolled into one. It's their doormat, their sofa, and their towels. Sometimes it'll even do for a snack.

And they neeeeeeeeed it.

So before you run off to the feed store and buy it all up to set at the end of your driveway covered with cornstalks and gourds, please...think of the kids.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

sunny and cheerful

No inspirational birthday post today, just new boots! Happy Birthday to me.

Aren't they cheerful? I'll tell you, I'm not normally the neon-pink-stripe type, but when it comes to Wellies (or Wellie knock-offs), I find that really colorful ones make slogging through the muck a bit more pleasant. They really will brighten up the dreariest day. You just look down at your feet and you can't help but smile.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

new blog project needs your help!

I think we can all agree that things out in the world have been weird lately. The mainstream media has begun to ring the bells of recovery, but I think we can also agree that...what??? What recovery??? Right. No matter what they say, it still doesn't look, from most people's vantage points, like anything is really improving.

Let's tell the story like it really is. Visit The View From My Town to post stories from your locality. How are the economy, world affairs, resource depletion, climate change and politics affecting you and your community? I hope that through your dispatches we can create a truer picture of what is really going on in our world, and of where we're headed.

Please visit today, and consider contributing stories and events as you see them from where you are.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

bad dogs and the suckers who love them

Big Stan is a Bad Dog.

No, strike that. He's a good dog, with a Bad Habit. When he sees a chicken, he becomes The Terminator. He is a four-pawed, furry killing machine. Something deep in his brain clicks, and he will hunt down poultry wherever it hides and DESTROY IT.

You can imagine the conflict of interest.

After a particularly stressful day involving a lengthy plumber visit, and being shuffled back and forth between the bedroom and the backyard, Stan needed to blow off some steam. On one of my trips outside, he pushed past me out the door and went straight for the meat and potatoes - fifteen of our feathered finest, who were strutting their stuff all over the yard. Chaos ensued. He bore down on those birds and they scattered in every direction. I broke into a sprint and tried to head him off around the ccop, around the tree, around the patio - anywhere I could try to cut him off - but I'm out of shape, and he's a young, spry German Shepherd. I just couldn't catch him, and ultimately he chased a pullet into the underbrush and had her in his jaws, feathers flying.

Did I mention that he is a German Shepherd? The Achilles heel of every German Shepherd is his desire to be as close to his human as possible (he would be up your nose if he could find a way to fit). This effectively prevents them from running off. Once they have Destroyed The Threat, they will snap out of it, and look around for you, as if to say, "Look! Look what I did! Aren't you proud of me?" I seized this opportunity to take him to the ground and pry the pullet from his mouth. She fled - thankfully I got to her in time. I rewarded my most dedicated servant with the...ahem...most stern reprimand he's ever received in his life* and dragged him by the collar into the house.

I caught my breath. I took a headcount. I assessed the damage. One, two...six, seven... Slowly they reappeared in pairs and trios. After some time had passed, it was apparent that Winston, the rooster had a limp and two birds were still at large. The violated pullet turned up later, seemingly unharmed. The "rooster who is not Winston" was discovered in a tight corner outside the back door, behind a derelict refrigerator, literally playing dead. I myself was quite convinced. So much so that I cursed, went inside for some gloves and returned to remove his carcass but when I reached for him he bolted as if shot from a cannon, very much alive and in good health.

With everyone accounted for in the poultry yard, I went inside and implemented The Shaming. Stan was (temporarily) dead to me. He was not to be spoken to. He was not even to be looked at, except in a menacing manner. He became quite distressed by my attitude and slinked off to his fenced yard to make himself scarce. As I cooked dinner, every few minutes, he would poke just his face through the flap of the dog door...just a nose, and an eye looking at me tentatively. I'd flash him the biggest stinkeye I could muster. His big nose would disappear back out into the yard.

Repentant German Shepherds Who Know They Are In Deep S*** are adorable.

I finally had to relent and tell him it was okay to come inside. He's a smart boy. He was inside in a flash and found a place to take a nice, non-troublemaking nap.

* This is a nice way of saying that I pretty much threatened to beat him within an inch of his life. (Threats only - I don't beat my dogs.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

let this serve as a warning

When you have eggs in your jacket pocket, you'll want to pay attention to what you're doing. You'll want to especially think twice about, say, closing a door with your hip.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

under the weather

My apologies for the sparseness of posts lately. I'm under the weather, in more ways than one. I've felt pretty down and out for a week or two now - not quite sick, but not really well, either. On top of that, I'm staring down another solid week of rain. That is Not Supposed to Be. October is the one month out of the whole year that we have perfect weather, and I feel like I'm being cheated. We can't get anything done outside, either. We've literally been trying to pour some concrete for about three weeks now, and just can't catch a break.

I'm resigned to laying low tomorrow. I think I'll spend the whole day on the sofa in my pj's, under a blanket. I'm afraid there's not much left to do at this point.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Meet Winston.

Winston bears the honorable distinction of having survived two rounds of layoffs. He has, in fact, been promoted, and is carefully supervising his future underlings here.

When you find yourself with excess cockerels (and who doesn't, from time to time?), the process of choosing one to keep around is...interesting, and far from scientific. There are all sorts of considerations. You consider his looks - is he handsome? Big and Beefy? Tall and Slender? Short and Stocky? You consider the attractiveness of his feathering, and the overall robustness of his stature. Good health and longevity are important, after all. Being easy on the eyes also doesn't hurt.

You pay close attention to his behavior, too. Does he have a bad-to-the-bone attitude, or is he a gentle giant? Is he attentive to the ladies? Does he force himself on the poor girls? Does he keep a watchful eye over them and offer them the best tidbits? You want a caring rooster, don't you?

You'll find yourself studying all aspects of his personality, real and imagined. You'd swear that one seems to have a sense of humor. One thinks he's cock of the walk. Another is shy, and defers to the rest. You consider what sort of offspring they'd make, too. You think about whether they'd be a good match and if they'd give you a beautiful flock of purebreds, or a yard full of mongrels.

In the end, however, you wind up choosing the one that just fits. The one that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. The one you feel most attached to, even if the reasons are illogical and hard to justify. You choose the one you love best.


give peas a chance

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bobcat - DECEASED!!!

Hubby got a lucky break this evening, and a certain bobcat will not be bothering our flock anymore. He was a formidable foe, having taken roughly eight or nine of our birds (that we can confirm)*. Which makes his elimination all the more satisfying.

* The deaths mentioned here have all occurred within the past week. We now suspect that the bobcat was responsible for at least some of the earlier malfeasance that we attributed to raccoons and coyote.

things calm down

Our friend Bob(cat) is still with us, I'm afraid, even getting bold enough to come out during the day. The birds are all still in lockup but they no longer seem angry about it, just resigned. Yesterday we took about ten of them out of play, and sent them to our freezer. That was already in the plan, and it became a bit of a race to get to them (a) before Bob did and (b) before they killed each other from being locked up - quarters were a bit close, tensions high.

Some wonderful friends were brave and kind enough to come down and help us do the deed, which always makes such a huge difference. It does appear that we lost another small one to Bob, although I couldn't say when. Things are much more peaceful here today. We still have about ten or so more to dispatch at a later date, but at least now things aren't so crowded. The ones that remain have more room, and the ladies are definitely happier with fewer roosters around!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

mennonite ice cream and masonic barbecue

Twice a year, my area hosts a huge event called Antique Alley. It runs for three days in April and three days in September, and stretches for twenty-five miles down FM 4, beginning in Cleburne and ending in Maypearl. Twenty-five miles of antiques, flea market, yard sale, handcrafts, junk shopping and food. The local Masonic Lodge serves barbecue. The Mennonites sell baked goods, ice cream and preserves. Farmers drive their beautifull old tractors in a parade down the main street. Everyone along the route drags their old and unwanteds out onto the grass, and there truly is something for everyone. In the past, we've gotten kerosene lamps, canning jars, a livestock trailer, a chainsaw and I don't know how many hand tools. This year my husband got a beautiful antler pen that was handmade by a local wood turner. It's gorgeous. We both got pants and bibs from some folks selling secondhand work wear. As for my haul:

Stainless steel measuring cups (for making soap), a food dehydrator (for a dollar!!), an old nut and spice grinder, a rooster teapot and a set of old hen and rooster embroidery patterns.

How could anyone resist such charm?

It should also be noted that to do this event, one must have an iron-clad constitution. After our rather sensible egg-and-toast breakfast, everything sort of went to hell. Over the rest of the day, we had barbecue sandwiches, potato chips (twice), corn dogs, lemonade, root beer, ice cream (twice) and spiced pecans. How we survived it, I'll never know.

peppers of respectable size

Well, not quite, but they're getting there.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


We have a bobcat.

canning season

I've been canning like crazy this past week. Not veggies, I'm afraid - we're in that lull where nothing is coming out of the garden. The spring garden petered out long ago and the fall veggies are still tiny. No, this time of year I can soups, stews and sauces. I've made huge batches of spaghetti sauce, beef stew, chili and all kinds of soups. I also stew and can any chickens that might be lurking in the freezer around this time of year (and chicken stock, too). Since there are just two of us at home, I've learned that a quart jar of *whatever* is exactly the right size for one meal. There's nothing nicer than coming in on a freezing cold, windy winter evening after doing chores and splitting wood than popping open a jar of something hot, comforting and homemade.

It feels like money in the bank.

Monday, September 21, 2009

my first completed needlework project

This is a bag that I stitched for my sister's birthday. The letters are iron-on transfers. It was a small, super-quickie project, but I only had about a day to do it (oops). I was really pleased with how it turned out.

And did I mention that I made soap? Here it is curing on a shelf:

The lighter bars in the front are spearmint soap made from tallow, and the darker ones in back are goat's milk and oatmeal soap with lavender. It won't be ready to use for about five more weeks. I need to get all my supplies together first, but I can't wait to make more - it was really fun.

It's been a really busy week around here, with a lot going on and a lot to tell about. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

just like my nana's

I now have rhubarb orange jam, just like my Nana's, whenever I want it (or until I eat it all). Well, it's almost just like my Nana's. She packed hers in old quilted crystal jelly jars with tin lids and sealed them with paraffin. These days, we use the canner. Talk about a labor of love.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

kitchen frog

Sorry for the less than stellar pictures, but this little guy was too cute not to share. He was hanging out on the kitchen door glass tonight, after a rain. Smart guy - this buffet is open all night.

First from the inside:

Now from the outside:

good morning

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

practice piece

I used to do all sorts of needlework in my youth - cross stitch, needlepoint, latch hooking, embroidery - I was quite fond of all of that. When I came into my teens, it dawned on me that needlework was Not Cool, so it was swiftly and decisively jettisoned from my accumulated skill set. Recently, after twenty-five years of pretty much not thinking about it at all, I remembered how much I used to like it, and decided to try and make amends. I started on this piece today - nothing fancy, just a simple practice piece on white muslin, all in blue. It's not likely to ever become anything. This is simply a way to get my fingers used to the feel of it again, and assess my ability. Obviously, I need some practice. This piece is fairly rough so far, but not too shabby for my first attempt.

I also rather hastily traced the pattern directly onto the fabric with pencil, so it's not quite straight everywhere, and the pencil marks are hard for me to see in places. When I start on a real project, I'll do that part better. It feels good to come back to this long forgotten thing, to work at making something pretty. And frankly it feels good to have something to do with my hands where they stay clean.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sorghum Festival

We've just returned from the annual Sorghum Festival at Brazos de Dios. It was a nice way to spend the day, despite the oppressive heat. I realized that although I've been there many times, I've never taken any pictures, so I decided I would today. As the day wore on it got harder to get good shots, though - it was pretty crowded. We watched them press sorghum and make syrup, and ate brisket sandwiches and ice cream (they make really marvelous ice cream).

They also just opened their new fiber crafts workshop. It was packed full of people, but looked pretty neat.

Can't wait for the Thanksgiving Fair! It won't be 95 degrees, and there will be lots more going on. I'll be sure to take the camera for that!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009