We are home

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Have I mentioned that I love this place? There is so much to catch up on, that I’m not sure where to begin. I guess I’ll do a quick recap of the last few weeks, then I can go into more detail later.

We have wonderful neighbors. They came over and tilled our garden for us! The garden is much bigger than our last garden. If I had to guess, I would say it is about 1500 – 2000 square feet. The barn in the picture is 3000 square feet, so that should give you an idea of how big the garden area is. We put the garden next to the barn, so we could have easy access to water, once we set up our water catchment system. If you look at the left hand side of the barn, you can see that we started implementing our water catchment, we just need to find a water barrel or tote that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (at the feed store, they are $180 for 275 gallons, yikes!).

I planted a ton of things, lots of herbs, spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, onions, strawberries, collard greens, and everything else I had seeds for. I used all of the Spring/Fall seeds that I had. Every single one of them. And I still have 1 row that’s completely empty. How do you like the flour I used to mark my rows?  I couldn’t find the string and nails I usually use, so I had to improvise. I think it worked out rather well.

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The neighbors are older than my parents, and it’s hard for them to plant their garden, so after they tilled our garden with their tractor, I offered our knees and backs and volunteered to plant all of their seeds in their fall garden. It took the kids and I about 2.5 hours to plant their seeds. It was SO worth it. We were treated with homemade ice cream and stories about what this place looked like before we moved in. It’s nice to feel like our neighbors are also going to be great friends. It’s also nice to know that we have other people living out here that are looking out for us and rooting for us.

We planted six fruit trees. Two red delicious apple, two yellow delicious apple, and two Bartlett pears. The red and yellow delicious will pollinate each other. We had to buy two 150′ water hoses in order to keep them watered. We spent about two days trying to tote water to them before we decided that the hoses would be a good investment. Right now, there is a trash bag with holes poked at the bottom, filled with water and attached to each tree. The 4 year old and I spend about 15 minutes each morning filling up the trash bags with water and they slow release all day long. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but the trees are all 25′ apart from each other. Eventually, I’d like an entire fruit tree orchard. I’ll be very happy if we can plant another 6 trees this fall, then 12 more in the spring. We’ll see how that goes. I’m sorry for the cruddy picture, I’ll get some better ones at some point.

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I found some free goats on Craigslist, and DH and the teens went to round them up and bring them home.  They are very skittish around people. One of them went into our freezer. The other three are starting to become friendlier. We now have a 2 year old nanny, and a 7 month old (unrelated) buckling and doeling. Yes, we are crazy and brought them home tied up in the bed of DH’s truck. Luckily, we didn’t have to drive very far with them like this.

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The main problem with free goats is that we were not prepared for them at all. We have a metal barn, and a cattle pen that is meant for loading and unloading cattle. We adapted what we had to what we needed by using things we found. We had 42 pallets and we used metal hangers to tie them around our cattle pen. It’s pretty ugly, but it works for now.

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Here are the goaties trying to figure out how to escape. Uh, I mean, enjoying their new home.

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This is the friendly one of the bunch. She is a sweetie.

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We got our barn cats last weekend, they have to spend two weeks in a holding cell before we can let them wander around. Their names are Marla and Monty and they were found wandering around Moore, OK after the tornado that devastated the town back in May. They seem to be very timid and fearful. I’m bribing them with cat treats and canned food. I hope they decide to stick around once they are released. I don’t have a picture of them yet, they keep hiding whenever they hear the click of my camera. Silly kitties. I’m getting another batch of water kefir and another batch of composting worms next week. We should also have a litter of rabbits next Wednesday. There is always more to do, we just have to pace ourselves so we don’t get overwhelmed. My farm chores take about 30 minutes a day right now, once the garden starts growing, it will increase by an hour or two each day. It’s manageable right now, but I could see how it could easily get out of control. It really is worth it though – we are home!

 

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Fish food

The weather was warm enough last week to harvest some worm casings and do a quick check on my red wigglers.  I thought I would share how easy this is for anyone who might be tempted to get started vermicomposting (composting with the help of worms).

Step 1: Dump out worms and compost in an area where the worms won’t all escape. I dumped them out on my small back porch. I would advise against dumping them out on your kitchen table.

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Step 2: Wait untilthe worms all crawl to the bottom of the pile. While you are waiting, check out the compost bucket you are using and make sure that the holes are all clear. (I used a free 5 gallon bucket that I picked up from the Sam’s bakery. I had to clean out a little bit of frosting, but it was worth it!)

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Step 3:  After the worms crawl to the bottom of your pile, scoop off the top layer of compost and put the worms and everything else back in their bucket. Give them some food. My worms love to eat bananas peels, coffee grounds, garden weeds, and rabbit poop. On this day, I fed them a nice big scoop of rabbit poo.

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Step 4: Mist the remaining dirt with a little water. You want the soil to be nice and moist, but not waterlogged, and not too dry. I put cardboard on top of our worms, to help block out the light, to absorb extra water, and to give them extra food if I forget to feed them one day.

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Step 5: Put the lid back on. I usually just stomp on it to get it back into place. See all the lovely boot prints?

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Step 6: Put your worms in an inconspicuous spot and leave them alone for a few days, or a week, or until you remember to check on them. They are pretty easy going. Our worms hang out under these chairs in the backyard. What do you think our neighbors would say if they knew we had a pile of worms in that bucket? Actually, I don’t think it would surprise them.

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After the worms are safetly back in their home, I take the compost that I harvested and put it around my favorite plants in the garden. Sometimes, I make compost tea out of it. I never get much, but the plants always seem to thrive when they get a little helping of it every now and then.

The worms have already quadrupled in numbers, so I hope that I can move them up to a larger container this time next year. I’m also hoping that we can use some of them as bait once they stock the local catfish pond. Trading a few pieces of rabbit poop for a giant catfish sounds like a good deal to me.

Bountiful Baskets 2/16/2013

Here is our Bountiful Basket order for Feb. 16, 2013.

We did not volunteer this morning, as one of the kids is sick. This week was vegetable heavy, so the tomatoes are actually counted as a fruit for once. Here is the fruit portion of our order. 12 bananas, 12 pink lady apples, 14 clementines, 2 containers of cherry tomatoes, and 2 pineapples that I donated to our local fire department (not shown).

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Here is the vegetable portion of our 2 baskets. As you can see, the baskets were filled with veggies today. In my two baskets, I got 2 five pound bags of white potatoes, 2 heads of brocolli, 10 green peppers, 3 avacado, 3 heads of iceberg lettuce, 2 bundles of spinach, and 4 large leeks.

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Here is the money shot – all of this (plus the 2 pineapples not shown) cost just $31.50. Tonight we had salad and baked potatoes for supper and I’m going to make a batch of potato leek soup another night this week. The avacados are going to become guac. and I might try a new stuffed bell pepper recipe as well.  It’s really easy to plan dinner around yummy produce.

 

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In rabbit news, we bred Polymorph and Pretty Boy at the end of January. I palpated Polymorph today and she is pregnant. Her due date is 2/28. I hope she doesn’t eat them this time! The other doe is not interested in our buck. I’m going to try to switch their hutches later this week to see if she is more interested in him after a night of hanging out in his pad. We’ll see…

All of the rabbits have ear mites, a common problem in outdoor rabbits. Ear mites are little bugs that nestle in warm comfy rabbit ears. It causes the inside of the ears to become red, crusty, and scaly. Luckily, there is an easy fix. Olive oil! I put just a few drops of olive oil in each ear tonight. I’ll have to repeat it daily for the next week, then weekly for the next month – but it should get rid of the mites without any problem. The rabbits hate it though – here is Pretty Boy trying to figure out if I have a yummy treat for him. Doesn’t the inside of his ear look painful? Poor guy.

 

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In worm news – I checked on the wormies this past week, and they are alive and kicking! I never expected them to make it through the winter, especially in my novice care, but not only did they make it – they seem to be thriving. Woohoo. I’ll post some pictures of the creepy crawlies as the weather warms up.  I hope they keep reproducing. I want to take some of them fishing with me this spring….. 🙂

 

Red Wigglers

We got our worms yesterday. The package was addressed to the 3yo, and he was very excited about it. There isn’t much to say about the worms yet, they are red wigglers. They are red. They wiggle. They are much smaller than the worms I usually see in the garden. These guys are about 2-4 inches long. There are 100 or so, and the kids like to look at them. We have them on the top shelf in the closet, so the 3yo can’t get to them without assistance.

They aren’t very interesting yet.

They just sort of.. squirm around.

We aren’t supposed to disturb them much, so we don’t even get to watch them squirm around.

They are very easy to care for, they get a 1/2 tsp of food everytime their food is gone. (Every 1-4 days) That will increase as they multiply. In about 2-3 months, they should have multiplied enough for me to move them from their current small tupperware home to a 5 gallon bucket.  It’s going to take an additional 2-3 months after that before I can harvest any worm casings.

I’ll be honest, every time I think about them I have a strong desire to go fishing; but, as long as they do their job and help me eventually create a great vermicomposting area, I might let them off the hook. (Get it?  Off the Hook… hahahaha…. I need some sleep.)

Wormies

I’ve been interested in vermicomposting (composting with worms) for awhile, but I haven’t been ready to make a full blown commitment. Yesterday, I stumbled upon a local worm farm that sells worm kits geared towards kids.  The worm bin is already set up, and placed in a small container. The kit comes with about 100 red wiggler worms, a notepad, some worm food, and some shredded paper. I ordered one today, and we should get it within a week. The 3 year old and I are going to study worms this week. It works out perfectly, since we are on the letter W in his preschool workbook.

I asked that the woman selling the worms address the package to my 3yo. He is going to flip out when it gets here. I’ve got a corner of the laundry room set aside to house our worms. It’s nice and cool and mostly dark. Worms don’t like to be bothered much, so I’m going to have to restrict our visits to once a day.

If the kids all maintain their interest and if we can keep the worms alive for longer than a month, I’ll set up a larger bin and order enough worms to make vermicomposting a regular part of our suburban homestead.