Thursday, October 1, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

Change in Plans

Oh, the predictably unpredictable life of farming.

We won't be selling our (delicious) chicken at the farmer's market this year due to licensing requirements.  It's long and complicated, and I see the reason behind it, but we aren't big enough farmers to eat the cost of the license right now.  Maybe in a year or two.

Our onion crop is nearly a total loss.  Between the baby, the warm spring, the wet May, and our other projects, we don't have much to show for all the onions we planted.  Hey, it happens.

The potato crop currently stands at 240 pounds, split equally between red and white potatoes.  This may be our best crop ever, despite the weeds.  I spent two early, early mornings digging on my own, as the wee ones can't be trusted out at Purgatory Ranch yet.

Purgatory Ranch will probably be allowed to lie fallow next year.  Getting out there to weed has been nearly impossible this year, and we must spend our time as best we can.  Maybe, when the babies are bigger, we will return, but for now we must reduce.

Strawberries are growing, but slowly.  The heat has slowed down the formation of berries.  The new strawberry bed is planted, drip hose laid, and mulched.

All our long term projects have taken serious time away from the current garden.  The above new strawberry bed as well as 50 new grape vines will pay off in the future, but this year, we are simply behind.

I also forget that no matter how lovely our baby is, between her mobility and needs and her brother's developmental issues (a story for another day), we are behind.  I can't tackle my usual projects, which leaves more for James, and he can only do so much, as heroic as he is.

Garlic leaves are browning, so it's time to gather in that harvest as well.  I hope it does not disappoint.

This probably reads as a long, drawn out complaint, but I don't mean to complain.  We have been blessed abundantly by our Creator this year, as in past years.  There will be plenty of produce to gather; and we are all healthy; and our farm is just changing!

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015


The first harvest of any food is always so exciting to me.  With the rain and my other work these past two weeks, I haven't been in the rows looking for food.  This morning, it struck me that harvest would arrive soon, so I moseyed along and discovered these beauties!  Called Eight Ball Zucchinis, these small round zucchini are perfect for one or in a vegetable medley.  There are many more to come.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Farm Life

When the rain stopped, the heat rolled in.  After days of sweltering 90+ degree highs, the deep cracks have already reappeared.  I am not made for the heat.  My face turns bright red, I sweat profusely, and I can't drink enough water.

The June-bearing strawberries have pretty well concluded their season.  We had a successful first year offering pick-your-own, which was lovely.  Another 400 plants have been planted and hooked up to the watering system on a plot of the neighbor's land.

James managed to plant 50 grape vines, and only five show no signs of grown.  That's fabulous, given that we planted in the worst of the clay mess and days of rain.  Now most of the posts are up and only a few still need cement.  Next will be the wire and strings.  All in good time.

James has also tackled the weeding of the main bed and refilled where the corn didn't come up.  Thanks a lot, pantry moths.  I despise pantry moths.  We'll plant sorghum for the chickena and see if we can provide some winter snacks for them.

I think we'll skip radishes and beet next year.  We don't eat them, and we're not ready for market in June. We might skip the greens too, as I'm the only salad eater.

I can't remember if I mentioned our bush sweet cherry harvest was over in one day.  The cherries were small, probably due to the dry, unusually warm spring.  Our kids and friends picked all the cherries and enjoyed every last one of them.  It was beautiful!

Our chickens have really ramped up egg production.  We gathered 25 eggs, including one from Soup in her new coop.  The pullers should begin laying in late June or early July.

The meat chickens arrived a week late back in April, so they weren't big enough by the butcher date of June 2.  This reality makes me slightly sick to my stomach, as the massive amount of feed required each day clogs up the barn and is hard to obtain.  What's up with no chicken feed in the stores?  The meat chicks will be gone on Tuesday, so not much longer.

Laundry, spilled milk, books, and chaos fill our days.  The weeds are growing to race the crops, but we're up for the challenge!

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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Rainy Farm Life

The blessing of moisture in the form of rain frequently, for this farmer, becomes a moment to practice humility.  The weeds and volunteer sunflowers have turned our lovely garden/field into an untidy disaster, but there's not a thing I can do to change it.  Even if I pull weeds, I'll probably get stuck and lose a boot or two.  The areas vacated by the chicken tractors are a wee bit smelly as old bits of food and dried manure have turned into a slimy mess.  I can't do a thing to change that either.  Nor can I change the "off" smell in the office after the kids stepped on a drain (again) and diverted the run off directly into the corner of the house.

But we need the rain.  Never, ever forget that we need it.  The pond is finally full, Six Penny Pond out at Purgatory Ranch is again full, our plants are growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the rain.  Irrigating our crops has nothing on the beautiful of rain on the fields.  We hear a giant bull frog most nights, and he would vacate if our pond dried up.  The cats, strange beings that they are, prefer to drink rainwater out of puddles over bowls of clean well water.  Our dirt roads are temporarily not dusty!

We've opened out strawberry patches for pick-your-own by appointment, and so far we are keeping the patches well picked.  I think tomorrow, as a treat, I'll pick a bowl or two of remaining berries for the family.  Tonight, I cut three large bowls full of damaged berries, and every single one was eaten.  Our strawberries can finally keep up with demand!

The meat chickens and turkeys are rapidly growing, although the balance between feeding enough and too much for the meat chicks is on my mind.  We haven't yet lost a chicken in late stages to heart or bone problems, and I'd like to keep it that way if possible.  Part of the impetus behind growing our own meat is to treat the animals well while they live, and starving or over feeding don't seem like good management.

We celebrated our tenth anniversary this week, and James built me a new coop as a gift.  He even painted it blue!  We intend to paint our others, but time, paint, and weather haven't coincided lately.  Today we moved Soup and her brood into the coop, and they really love the fresh grass.  The fixed yard will have a chance to recover before the next birds arrive.

James is currently mowing.  He has three yards to mow and an area to till here before the next rain arrives, and we have 400 strawberry plants waiting for a bed.  We're behind, and that's the story of a farmer!

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


I am grateful for the rain.  I have been discouraged by the water in the basement, the weeds I can't pull, and the mud, but I am grateful.  We have had too many years of dry summers and dry winters that the soil 12" has been so dry that watering plants is challenging when the deep, dry soil sucks away the moisture.

Our turkeys have doubled in size with the return of the warm weather.  They're also experts at scoping out the flaws of their coop.  The first day we released them into the fenced and covered yard, we discovered them several hours later in the strawberries.  For the record, the strawberry bed is NOT part of the fenced and covered yard.

Our meat chicks, due to a delay in the original shipping date, coupled with wet and cool weather, have not gained weight the way we would like, so the new butchering date is June 16.  We lost two chicks in the last two days to illness and deformity.  I'm not good at ending the suffering of a wounded animal, but I did bury the chick James had to kill.  Death is not my favorite part of homesteading.

The weeds... Oh, my goodness!  The weeds.  If only my tomatoes could grow as much!  We are ankle deep in mud in the garden since the soil is pretty soft, so the weeds have a reprieve as we experience day after day of (eventually needed) rain.  I can't even tell you what the onions and potatoes look like as it's too muddy to venture down the road and onto the field.

Strawberries are ripening in less fantastic fashion, but they are enough to keep us busy.

James is busy completing another coop.  Soup's brood needs to be in a tractor so they can get to fresh grass.  The mud in the fixed yard is smelly after days and days of damp.

Thank God for the rain!  (And bring on the sun!!)

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

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Week in Review

Planting... Peppers and sweet potatoes.  I sprouted the sweet potatoes myself this year, for the first time, and am pleased I made the effort.  The starts are much better than the slimy starts I've received in the mail in the past.

Harvesting... Strawberries!  Tonight, we picked a gallon bucket full.  I see jam and jelly making in our future.  The asparagus is about done.  Eggs are steady, but we're fighting a few egg-eaters in both coops.  Grr!

Growing... The garlic is gigantic, and the bulbs are shaping up nicely.  Our corn didn't come up, so it looks like no sweet corn this year.  The meat chicks are in the ugly stage and are nearly ready to split into two coops to give everyone more room.

New... Turkeys!  We picked up six turkeys last night.  So far, they all look good.

The rain has been glorious.  Mucky, but glorious.  A downpour this morning delivered another .25."

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

Friday, May 8, 2015


Farm chores always change with the weather.  This week, we have been blessed with an abundance of rain, which means weeding is non-existent.  With the total above 4" for the week and more expected this evening, we are well-watered!

What's sprouting?  Nasturtiums, sunflowers, summer squash.  We've eaten the first strawberries.  I found a few plums on our wee plum tree, and radishes are ready for thinning (once I won't sink in ankle deep!).

What are we planting?  Tomatoes and peppers.  Sweet potatoes soon.  Flower seeds.

What are we harvesting?  Strawberries and asparagus.  Eggs.  Our sheep were parted out this week, so we should hear from the butcher soon to pick up our meat.  The meat chicks are busy growing and are messy.  Due to the rain, they were left on the same ground for two days, and we had to rescue one from manure balls on its toes.  We decided to use pliers to break up the clots around the toe so as not to damage the nail.

Where are we lacking?  This week, when picking up chicken feed, I got the van stuck in the mud, making us miss JoJo's speech therapy. I'm still beating myself up about it.  (Don't get me started on our insurance issues!). I'm still grateful for the rain; we need more!  JoJo, and therefore James and I, are not sleeping well, so we have many meltdowns and I am not as kind a person as I ought to be.

We are blessed with rain, shelter, food, friends, and our children.  What are your blessings?

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

Friday, May 1, 2015

Weekly Recap

Maybe if I make an effort to recap our week, I can get back into the habit of blogging.

There's always (always) weeding to be done.  And lest you think our property is perfect and we've got it all together, behold just one rock...  The kids decided to decorate the top with pulled weeds, but there are still plenty more to tackle.  We have come a long way, but, please, don't be too impressed.  I don't take many pictures of our messes.
What's sprouting?  Radishes and summer squash are sprouted.  Strawberries and cherries are forming.  The garlic is now waist high.  I didn't even know garlic could grow so tall!  I certainly hope this means we'll have splendidly large bulbs in a few months.  The rhubarb is finally looking healthy, although watering it regularly remains a challenge.

What are we planting?  Tomatoes are two rows down, a million to go.  (Not literally.  There are still eight flats sitting on the deck awaiting my attention.)  I've also planted herbs and flowers.  The basil seeds are high on my list for some soil and water.

What are we harvesting?  Asparagus and eggs are keeping us hopping.  We're trying new laying boxes to foil our egg eaters.  Thus far, I'm disappointed in the lousy boxes, but our efforts are to make them work.  Our two sheep are at the butcher, so I've cleaned out two of our deep freezes while they're empty.  Soon enough, with sheep and chicken, we'll be full again!

What about those chickens?  The layers are now moving to fresh grass each evening, meaning the yolks are during the delicious, deep, orangey-gold that no store egg can match.  The layers-to-be remain in our stationary pen until James has time to build a new tractor for them (and who has time in the spring?!).  Our meat chicks are busy growing too, and while on grass, don't get moved every day (yet) until they can tolerate less heat.

 We are moving along with the business of living and growing!

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

Friday, April 24, 2015


We are ever threatened with tornadoes and high winds, but this has been a spring mainly devoid of such excitement.  Despite 2"+ of rain, the ground is still thirsty.

The parade of the chicken tractors has begun, with the layers being moved once a day.  They are so thrilled to see new grass that they will avoid their feed until the grass is cropped.  This is, of course, what we want, and we look forward to the deep gold/orange yolks of our well-pastured eggs.

Meat chicks (114) arrived Monday and are safely installed in their tractor.  Once the weather warms up and the chicks get bigger, we'll divide them into two coops.  For now, they are easier to warm in one coop.  We've lost several to "pre-existing" conditions, but if last year was a good teacher, we should be done with those losses soon.  With our order arrived one exotic breed chick, almost certainly a male.  I think he was a crevecoeur, a created breed.  The deck was stacked against his survival, being half the size of meat chicks and with curled toes that made his balance terrible.  We tried to create a boot for his toes and sequestered him inside, but he wouldn't eat and I think he was too frightened too survive.  That, my friends, is the difficult part of raising animals.

Our asparagus is fat and delicious.  We've been enjoying an okay harvest, eating it every few days, and clearly need to fertilize and stay on top of the weeds better this year.  Roasted with salt is the way to go!

Our new business cards arrived, and I'm excited to quit saying, "We haven't ordered any yet!"

Planting and weeding are, for once, not tasks sorely neglected.  Having the watering system in place has greatly facilitiated by planting in a timely manner.  I'm also trying to plant some of the many flower seed packets we've accumulated but never used!

Enough for tonight, as we are anticipating bad weather and I should sleep while I can!

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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Time moves so fast when it is full!  Planting, children, school, the house, life...
James had a team of volunteers over to catch up on our perennial weeding.  In exchanged for their labor, we'll be donating $5 to the Lord's Diner for every man hour they contributed.  They tackled our garlic, strawberries, and asparagus beds before breaking for a home cooked meal (including asparagus, chicken, and goat raised by us).  They also laid out our entire watering system for the main garden and moved some serious mulch.
Rain and lightning called a definitive end to the evening, but not before food, fun, fellowship, and prayer filled us all.

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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Onions, onions, onions...

We'v been dodging wind and lightning in an effort to get our onions planted.  So far, we've planted 6 bunches of Texas Super Sweet  in our north bed, 4 bunches of "not-Vidalia" and 9 bunches of Texas Super Sweet Red in our south bed.  Planting was interrupted by lightning and driving rain, so today is another effort to plant the approximately 1800 onions.

Zana and I planted 14 bunches of Red Candy and 5 bunches of Candy onions.  I was impressed in her diligence, since planting onions is pretty repetitive.

Now we need rain!

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring Time

50 pounds of potatoes in the ground by March 17.  In the south bed, 15 pounds of Red Norland and 10 of Dakota Pearl.  In the north bed, 25 pounds of Yukon Gold.  It took us about two hours, but we added mulch to the rows to keep down weeds.  Let's see how this year goes!
Horseradish is peeking out.
 The first daffodils are already a few days old.
and the cherry bushes are blooming.  Of course, we will probably have a late freeze (or even a regular one!) and kill any cherries, but these surely are beautiful.

Even a few crocus flowers are here and there.

I'm trying a new location for seedlings this year, and they sprouted in less than three days.  I think that means I finally found a good location!

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Chick Season!

Please forgive the sporadic pictures.  Jimmy helped with picture taking, so we have a little bit of everything.
Soup is a hot broody mess each February, apparently.  Last year, she successfully hatched out Chicken Little.
 This year, we ordered an incubator, had Soup in a much chick-friendlier location, and got busy on our dreams of hatching our own flock.

 All seven of our eggs inside successfully pipped and hatched out.

 They were successfully incorporated into Soup's own brood of seven of eight eggs hatched.

Sadly, this morning, I discovered one of Soup's chicks had fallen (been ejected?) from the nest and died.  Still, we stand at 14 chicks.

Now to see how many are roosters.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Clean up, pick up, put away

James and I are both clearly itching to get back to work in the garden.  Last night, on a whim, we raced out after dinner to tidy up as much of the garden as possible in preparation for tilling.  We still had drip hose lines, T-posts, and sunflower stalks to clean up.

Yesterday, I finally stripped the last of the Hopi blue corn from their cobs.  Next up, I'll grind it for blue cornmeal!

This morning, James is away, helping a friend move, but when I reviewed the quantity of things still to be done, I hustled outside as soon as Miss G went to sleep, leaving my trusty Assistant to watch her and JoJo.  I managed to construct a "found materials" compost bin of half a hog panel, a gate, and a pallet.  The winter's accumulation of leaves from the basement door is swept up and ready to decompose.

I also sorted out a pile of odds and ends that were abandoned at some urgent point in the winter.  Wood went to the scrap lumber pile, t posts to their own piles, metal to a pile, and the tipped over stone bench was righted.

The burn barrel needs to be lighted, but I'm exhausted, so that will wait for another day.  I need to finish my seed list, and I'm sure I'll find plenty of other garden-related tasks when Miss G goes back to sleep!

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Work in Progress

My bathroom is going from this...
 To this...
 To this...
 And finally it will turn "surf blue" when I have the walls washed, spakled, and sanded.

Meanwhile, Toeless (aka Princess) gave me a chuckle as she tried to raid the food bucket!

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