Saturday, June 1, 2019

It's been three years since our last... supersaturated spring, but that's what we're facing this year.  In the month of May, we received over 30" of rain, most of it in 3"+ downpours.  I think it's so funny that people bemoan the water like it's never happened like this, but I know it has.  I remember when James had to race home from work to fish out chicken coops from our lowlands, which were dramatically flooded.  We've learned not to move the chickens down there until later in the summer.

My labors to lay down mulch last summer and fall have been washed away, as you can see in the background of my blackberries.  These are on higher ground so they look great.  I'm finally getting them cleaned up and trellised properly.
 We planted some extra potatoes in with the mint in our one raised bed, and they may be the only potato harvest we have this year since the other potatoes are probably rotting.
 The weeds are taking over, as it has been too wet for us to get in and weed.  This week we began laying slabs of soaked straw in the walkways so that in the next week of rain, we can still get to the plants to pull weeds.
 The pond is bursting its banks, and I can only imagine the mosquito spawn breeding right now.
 And here are the garlic rows and onions.  This was a week or two ago, so the weeds are bigger, but we're beginning to get them cleaned up.
Our driveway has washed out twice, despite new gravel and repairs.  I think James has found a way to keep the water from destroying the entire drive now, so it will be safe to drive in and out.

I've made a big list of chores for the summer, and we are trying to plow through them now while it's cool.  I have no doubt that, come July, it will be so hot we will miss the rain.  Farming is not about calm weather, but about making the best of the weather we get.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Fall is, in general, a less exciting time for blog posts.  I haul water and feed to the three coops each morning before dawn, Daughter #2 feeds and gathers eggs in the afternoon, and we move the one moveable coop three times a week, weather permitting.  The chicken tweens are in a permanent chicken yard for now, until spring comes.  We keep the yard and coop filled with straw and feed the, scraps for interest.

I am dreaming about what I will plant next spring.  Almost all of our seeds are old enough that I’m starting over, and I’m trying hard to be realistic about what we can and will care for.

Fall is a time for using up.  We have sweet potatoes to sell or eat, and I’m on a mission to use up all the odds and ends in the pantry and freezers.  It makes me sad to waste food through neglect, so before we raise chickens and turkeys again, I’d like to use all the meat in the freezers.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It’s Purgatory Ranch.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Classic Fall Days

Today, it's 34 F and raining slowly, an unpleasant combination for any outdoor work.  It's a good thing we watch the weather and worked hard yesterday to be ready for today!

Our smaller coop of chickens has been moved to the old strawberry bed.  We made the decision to pull all the drip hose, mow down the patch, and return it to grass/pasture.  Too many strawberries were lost when I couldn't weed this spring, and we need to move the patch somewhere else.  James finished driving Tposts last night as well as dragging the coop up the hill from the "bowl," where Spunky and I had been moving them every other day by hand.  I'll put up the fence in the next week so we can let the chickens have the range of the entire area, for the winter.  They can scratch, eat weed seeds, and fertilize all winter.  Next year, we'll plant seeds.

Inside, I've been busy as well.  I cooked up the last bag of last year's tomatoes into a sauce for lasagna, moved straw into the chick run, moved the other chicken coop, made soap, rearranged the storage room, found myriad uses for the damaged sweet potatoes that can't be stored for long, and generally washed and washed laundry.

I need to learn more about pasture growth.  I see henbit and dandelions taking over the property, and I think it's because we need to reseed.  Reseed with what, and fertilize with what?  I have research to do!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Hello, it’s me...

... I was wondering if after all these (months) you’d like to meet... (Adele, “Hello”)

I apologize.  It honestly has only occured to me once or twice that I’ve neglected this little space of the blogosphere.  The week after my last post, we had a stupid, life-altering accident.  Here’s what I wrote on my quilting blog:

I struggled to write this blog post: if I should post, what I should post.  Last Saturday morning, a few hours after my green post, I was working outside with my husband, building a compost bin.  At one point, the tractor bucket slipped off a Tpost, collided with my hand (which I already know should not have been where it was), and was quickly raised by my husband.

Unfortunately, three bones broke in my left (dominant) hand.  My third metacarpal broke, shifted, was pushed down and out of joint.  My first two thoughts?  No more quilting!  How am I going to write?

An ER visit Saturday, a visit to the hand specialist Tuesday, and surgery Wednesday all together mean I’m a threadless, fabric-deprived woman right now.  My hand is so swollen, and moving the fingers is so painful, that at this moment, it’s hard to imagine I’ll ever sew again.

It has been a long, slow, steadily improving recovery.  I don’t think my hand will ever be normal, but I light-years from the writing of that post.  The initial struggles of loss of motion and immense loss of stamina and strength has yielding to smaller, but more humbling struggles.  Writing is painful after a line or two, and what feels like a bone spur in my palm means hoeing, driving t-posts, and cutting with a knife are all troublingly difficult.  There is occasional swelling (minor compared to six months ago), particularly when I overdo.  I am only 7 months out, so another 5 months should bring further progress.

My saintly parents have certainly filled the gap this summer, helping plant tomatoes, peppers, and sweet potatoes, and assisting with harvest and cleanup this fall.  I am, this week, sorting sweet potatoes for storage that my mom planted and dug the bulk.

My strength is returning more quickly than my grip, and I continue to discover work arounds for my challenges.  I am forced to reorder priorities and to lean on the kids more for daily chores.  Our second, who I call Spunky, has taken over the afternoon chicken chores, and we’ve devised a way to move our chicken coops without the tractor!

It is hard to be forced to compromise on food choices because I can’t chop and cut as much, but I’m determined to fight my way through.

I don’t intend this to be a “woe is me” post, but an explanation for a long, unintended absence.  I have great faith that this accident won’t define me by what I can no longer do, but by how I grow.  I found a new favorite song, which I’ve quoted down below.  God has been with me, most particularly during the long, dark, sleepless nights of uncertainty.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It’s Purgatory Ranch.

I hear your whisper underneath your breath.  I hear you say that you have nothing left.  I will send out an army to find you in the middle of the night.  I will never stop marching to reach you in the middle of the hardest night.  It’s true, I will rescue you.  (Lauren Daigle, “Rescue”)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Birdhouse Barn

Any day now!
 When we ordered ouir new shed for the garden, JoJo was very excited.  He visited all the model barns, and upon arriving home, he began to collect sticks and scrap lumber to build his own (life-size) barn.  Yesterday, after all the equipment moving, he asked Daddy to help him build a barn.
 Since a real barn is going to take some saving and planning, JoJo and Daddy decided to build a "bird house barn."  JoJo said it needed a porch and a chimney, and he spray painted it all by himself.
 JoJo is very excited to see if birds move in this spring.  (I won't mention to him that the birdhouse is a little low and tempting for our bird-sniping cats.)  He already put in a few sticks to help the new birds get started with their home building.
He's so proud!

I love this adventure primarily because, not so long ago, JoJo would have nothing to do with adventures with Daddy, prefering the security of trains and hanging out with Mommy.  We've come a long way!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.
katie z.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

No Excuses

I intend to blog more, but more posts are not in my toolkit right now.  Let me update you...

Happy spring!
Our old "garden shed," a hand-me-down from friends, was slowly disassembling itself in the fierce Kansas winds.  We'd reached a stage where it was no longer water-tight, cobbled together with repair pieces more than original, and thoroughly repulsive with mouse feces.  Two weeks ago, the Assistant took it upon herself to begin the tear-down.  I helped her with the roof and finding tools, but she and Spunky removed screw after screw, requiring three different types of bits, and made a fine pile of plastic and metal.

We ordered a new one from Sturdi-Bilt, where the sheds are locally made by Mennonites.  Today, it was delivered.  We all marveled at the little but mighty machine that transported the shed into place.  We intend to paint the floor to aid in cleaning, but the current weather will be too cold and too wet for it to dry properly, so we moved in a few things and will adjust them later when we're ready to paint.
The girls (all three of them) painted the tool bench, which was evicted from our garage due to a space issue.

As part of the preparation for this (enormous) upgrade in a shed, the dead pine tree came down on Saturday, March 17.  The process was a comedy of errors, as the chainsaws didn't cooperate, the two-man saw operated by vastly different sizes of people (our oldest helped) meant the two cuts were very uneven, and James and I didn't do so well either.  It took both my parents as well as James and me to knock it down using large PVC pipe for leverage.  Hilarious.

Today, we burned our burn pile and as much of the pine tree as we could manage.  It's still smoldering now, and we're keeping a sharp watch on it.  We've been waiting for time and weather to coincide, so leaped at the chance this afternoon.

Also on the 17th, we planted this year's onions (red and white), scallions (that look inappropriately like onions), and three rows of potatoes.  Sadly, all the drip hose stored in the old shed had been nibbled by mice, probably for the residual water inside and so were set aside as garbage.  I immediately ordered another roll of drip hose, since we used up the last of the old roll, and will lay hose for the potatoes once it arrives.

We finally had an inch of rain the night of the 18th, so things are looking splendid!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Sunday, January 21, 2018


After weeks (and weeks) of illness alternated with bitter cold, health and pleasant weather coincided. I took advantage of this to clean up outside.  We cleared asparagus beds of woody fronds, cleared a raised bed to top it off with chicken bedding, moved multiple rolls of goat fencing, and began to clean hive frames.

Sadly, we are back to two hives.  One we lost to wax moths, as it was not strong enough to expel them, and another was too weak to survive the two weeks of below freezing temperatures.  We’ll be cleaning frames and preparing for new hives this summer!

Lately, I’ve been on a mission to use up stored food.  We’ve done so well stocking an extensive pantry with nonperishables and three freezers with beef, chicken, and other delicious food, but with all the last few years have brought, I’ve gotten lazy at planning and cooking with forethought.  No more!  I hope, by spring, to clear one large freezer.  Stewing hens are meeting the Instapot, and it’s a tasty match.  Once it’s warm and light enough to comfortably grill in the evening, I have some packages of steaks to enjoy.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It’s Puragtory Ranch.