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.