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

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Farm After One Year

Holy smokes, it's been a year since we moved to the farm. A bit more, actually. I was thinking yesterday while hanging laundry (I do a lot of good thinking then) about what we've been through, how much has changed for us and what we have on the horizon for the coming year.

I'll be honest, our first year was hard. We really went full-throttle. We plowed forward through a swirling haze of excess enthusiasm, self-imposed deadlines, enabling co-conspirators, emergency repairs and do-or-die home improvements. We lived through the hottest, most miserable summer with essentially no air conditioning, and spent most of a cold, wet, windy winter with essentially no heat. Did I say "windy"? We learned that the wind blows steadily at about 30 mph from November to April. We learned that doing farm work in 30 mph sustained winds inspires foul language. Doing farm work in 30 mph sustained winds when it is ALSO COLD is positively soul-crushing. And I can't tell you how many times I've collected laundry from all over the yard after it was blown off the line.

All of that is balanced by the good, though. We've enjoyed cool evenings when folks in town were still cursing the heat, wildflowers in virtually every season of the year, and moons so large you can't help but stare, transfixed. Listening to coyotes singing in the nearby trees while the setting sun lights the pond on fire is unearthly. Watching a Blue Heron come in for a slow landing will take your breath away.

When we first moved to the place, it was wild. There were feral dogs running the property, the grass and brush were practically impassable and mud daubers were squatting all over the inside of the house. We found shed snake skins in the closet. It was a mess. Now, a year later, it's still a mess, but it is comfortably lived in. We have reclaimed a good portion of it and made it ours. The small barn that once was piled high with junk now houses actual animals. This time last year, we had thirteen chickens - today, we have something like sixty. Or eighty. I've actually lost count. Fourteen chicks and thirteen ducklings were hatched on our farm, and it was amazing every time. We've lost birds, too - enough now that it makes us annoyed rather than sad. We've put up fencing and more fencing. We've moved the same lumber pile two or three times. We planted a garden, harvested, moved it and planted it again. We've been slaves to the milking schedule. Two new dogs joined our little family and one left it, having done everything she could for us. We have gone to great lengths to protect our animals' lives so that we may later kill them for our own meat. We have wrestled with the irony of this. What a year.

I must be honest again - looking ahead, I fully expect the second year to be hard as well. It will be different, though, and I'm filled with hope and eager anticipation as we start the next leg of this journey. It was exhausting to do so much right away, but at the same time, we feel better knowing that those things are now behind us. We will be no less busy, but our projects now will be mostly chosen, and will hopefully provide more for our comfort than our survival. We rest more easily, though, knowing that if it does become a question of our survival, we can handle that too.

Last night at dinner we were discussing how different our life is now. If we still lived in town, we'd be sitting on the sofa watching TV all the time, wondering what to do with ourselves, and cursing the lousy traffic on the way home from work. We traded all that for lots of hard labor, tons of chores, acres of mowing, long commutes, no social life. We also traded all that for quiet, for letting the grass get as tall as we want, for goats that wag their tails when they see us and for chats with Very Old Men at the feed store about the weather. Would we go back? No way.

P. S. It would be unfair of me not to point out that this endeavor has belonged to my husband as much as to me. When I asked him to share his thoughts and experiences for this post, he simply stated the following:

"I'll deal with snakes, raccoons and coyotes the rest of my life before letting an HOA meddle in my business."

Bless him.