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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Today's Work

Last summer, we planted corn for cornmeal, since I (sadly) used up the last of our previous harvest over the summer.  The Assistant helped me with the harvest, right before rain was due to arrive, and we quickly shucked and sorted the ears.
Then, the ears sat on my kitchen desk in two ice cream buckets.  Finally, today, I determined to clean off the ears, get rid of as much chaff as possible, and get the corn ready to store properly.

It only took an hour or two, between cleaning, stripping by hand, and sifting.  Now I have that white container in the back full of corn for cornmeal.  My hands are a little sore, which is partly why I'd delayed this task, but I'm proud of supplying our needs for our cornbread for another year or two!

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

I Miss This Place

It's been a long time since we've spent any time out at Purgatory Ranch.  A gun-toting, senile old neighbor (not Uncle Bruce) made it too dangerous for us to have much energy for working out here.  Also, six small kids, 3 acres at home, and all our animals at YJ Acres made our energy resources low anyhow.
 Six Penny Pond has water, which is awesome, but some cedars need chopping.
 We did chop down a few cedars, with the naive idea that we might be able to use one for a Christmas tree. Yeah, no.  I had so many splinters in my hands from cutting three trees and hauling them to the car, that this idea was quickly abandoned.  But it's three less trees for James to brush hog.
 (How did she get to be so old and grown up?)

 I have missed being out here.  Half the kids and I trekked around the acreage, exploring the boundaries and seeing what there was to see.  I could have happily spent all day.
James spent the morning brush hogging and much of the front 20 acres as possible.  We don't currently have the man power, ability, or supplies to burn the front 20, and the cedars MUST be kept down.  We had the entire field cleared last year and are determined to keep the area clear and usable.

On another day, James will have to come back and finish.  At least we made progress.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fall Labor

Abruptly, after weeks of “abnormally” warm weather with a few sighs of cool days, we are faced with a freeze.  Such is the changing of the seasons in Kansas.  It is never a gentle slide into winter, but a series of puffs and gasps before a sudden collapse into a freeze.

The gathering in of the seasons is upon us.  Now is the time to move in the potted plants, harvest the sweet potatoes, and thank our birds for their lives before they are butchered and frozen.  We have planted cover crop in two places and it grows better than I feared (oh, birds eating seeds!).  Garlic cloves of many kinds and sizes have been planted, watered, and watched for signs of new life.  Soon, chicken coops will move closer to the barn for the more frequent attention needed in winter, and when we butcher the turkeys, we will butcher a flock of our older laying hens, as we have determined  we need to tighten up the operation.

I find autumn thoroughly rewarding: the harvest is collected, the labor of the summer slackens, all the projects begun in the spring now are fulfilled.  As the days grow shorter, there is finally time for me to sit on the porch and enjoy a cool breeze.  Oh, yes, and there is no better excuse to go to bed earlier and sleep later!

The light of the sun only now brightens the tops of the tallest trees, so I am blessed with a few more minutes of quiet before I must up and away for the day.

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fall Work

Last weekend, we cleared all of the garden except for the sweet potatoes.  James did some welding, which is pretty impressive, so he could mow, mow again, and till.  The wind picked up in the afternoon, so despite my original plan to plan a cover crop immediately, I had to wait a few days.

Our hope is to help eliminate some of the weed growth we have in the fall and spring, as well as to enrich our soil with nitrogen fixing legumes.
 I planted a fall manure mix that included hair vetch, winter rye, ryegrass, peas, and clover, and then overplanted with mustard.  I read (which means I have a good chance of being wrong) that mustard roots grow deep, even in clay, so they may help break up our hard soil.  The recommended tool was a seed drill, but I had to stick to the seed spreader, which is what I have.  I can live with uneven seed distribution.
In the end, the challenge was keeping the pesky guineas out of the seed.  I finally set up a hose to spray/mist all over the area, and that worked.  Now we've had a few days of rain, and I can already see sprouting!

In the coming week, I'll try to lay out the drip hose again in an unplanted area for the garlic crop!

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