Saturday, September 13, 2008

Busy Weekend

Today is over, and it's been non stop since I got up. This weekend is the big move for my stepkids. H is 22 and bought a house 10 minutes away. She played it smart and bought rather than rent, and got herself into a 6% fixed rate on a 30 year kid. Her 22 year old brother A is going with her for a year or so. So today was the first of the moving process.

I got up, read my usual forums with coffee and we headed out the door. I borrowed my uncles truck since all we have is my work van, Lisa's Saturn Vue and H's Scion XB, none of which have much cargo space. (my van is loaded to the hilt with tools) We first went to Butch's to get the truck and visited for an hour or so, then went to mom & dads to deliver a bag of fresh peppers and a bathtub grab bar I found for him at Goodwill. (gotta love a $25 item for $3!) We left there, took back a pile of library books and went to lunch. We don't go out very often, and we just decided to go so we wouldn't have to take the time to make something when we got home.

The first load was easy since I had a huge pile of boxes ready in the shed. I loaded 'em up and we took 'em to the new house. The place looks great. The owner put down sod, finished the painting, and made the few required repairs per the agreement. Ahhh the smell of fresh paint and carpet....kinda like that new car smell. We got that unloaded, and came back for more. I backed the tractor and trailer up to the back door, loaded it, and drove it around to the truck and got it all in. I cant get the truck back there since it's so damn tall, plus the ground is awfully soft to drive that beast back there. The other side is now blocked with clotheslines and strawberry beds, so acess that way won't happen....the tractor & trailer just made the most sense.

We got 2 more loads over there, and I have the bed frame and matresses in the truck ready for a first load tomorrow. Her couch is in the trailer, covered in plastic, ready for the load after the bed. After that,all thats left of her stuff is a dresser and exercise machine. Then we get to start A's stuff.....and he has a LOT of stuff lol. I have to get her drier over there too, and then a buffet and china cabinet we saved for her, but that can wait till later in the week. We still gotta find her a washing machine soon, but for now she can just come home to do laundry.

H's room will be scrubbed, repainted, and turned back into Lisa's sewing & craft room like it was before H came back home. I'll have to build her a new sewing table, and another to cut material on, but that's easy stuff. It's gonna take a week or more to get it all put back together since Lisa has so much stuff, but she'll finally get her own little space back. The other room that A was in was at one time our bedroom, but we're going to turn it into another living room kinda space for us. All of our homesteading books will go in the shelves, and we'll put all of our emergency & camping gear down there that's now stored in the garage. We'll put a chair and couch down there, and I'll move this desk and computer there as well. I'll also be FINALLY bringing in all of my hunting and fishing gear from the garage to put in there, and use this desk for a gun cleaning/work station for all my goodies.....reel cleaning, reloading, etc. I've really been wanting to get all that stuff back somewhere I can get it all neat and organized, now I finally can.

More than likely, I wont start that room till sometime next month. There is just too much to do here to prep for winter. I need to get the big stuff out of the garage and stored in the canopy shed, clean and grease everything, remove the belly mower from the LowBoy, mount the snowplow, move the rabbits into the garage, build the bigger chicken coop for winter, finish the garden and canning, clean the garden and plant a cover crop, get the generator into the mud room, clean and oil all the garden & yard tools, get and mount the woodstove in the garage, get the cold frame ready for some winter crops.....and I'm sure more than I can think of right now. Sometimes it amazes me how busy one acre can get. At times I really wonder if I could handle more and still work full time. I'm not worrying about it for now, unless I hit that ever-elusive lottery, we're here on our acre till I get Butches place....and that's quite a way down the road. He's 73 and active every day, hell he just decided to finally retire last year after working 40 years with the county, retiring from that, and working 50 hours a week as a greenskeeper at a golf course and doing the same for 2 churches, he's a busy guy, always has been. I really hope I still have his drive at 73 years old! He makes me laugh every time I visit. He keeps giving me things he thinks we can use, than comments that he's only "loaning" it to me since it will be coming back when he dies. Funny, but still sad to think about. Sure, I want the place, but the idea of waiting till he dies makes me feel somewhat guilty and sad.

All for today.....I could keep writing, but I need to jump in the shower and head to bed.....another busy day tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

September 8th 2008

Considering I am more and more searching for old ways to do things, a few new things came to mind recently in the bath area. We want to start making soap soon, but that will be after Lisa's new cheesemaking kit gets started. I started thinking about shaving and what I could do other than keep buying the overpriced disposable refills for my razor. I hate paying $15 every time I need fresh blades, especially that much for 3 of them. I considered a straight razor, but I just can't help get past the fact that those things scare the hell outta me. I then remembered one dad had years ago, the top opened and it took the old double edged blades....THATS what I want!!!!!!! The search was on. I know Lehmans carries them, but we aren't going back there for a few more weeks, SURELY someone local carries these things......or so I thought.
I started off by checking at the closest drugstore.......lemme see......there's the cup....there's the brush......there's the lather soap.......there's the blades. They have to carry the razor if they have all this, don't they??? I gave up staring at the same 4 feet of isle space over and over, and asked a sales clerk. She looked at me like I was insane...."a what??". "I want the razor these blades fit in." again........a blind stare and "what?". She asked the pharmacist and he said "no we don't carry those" to another drug store only to get the same response. Someone told me that Wallyworld carried them, so I called rather than drive, only to be on hold at one store for 5 minutes with no pickup. I called another one, only to end up asking someone obviously too young to remember the days before XBOX, let alone what I was looking for, I hung up and didnt bother trying to explain more. I may as well have been talking physics to my bloodhound. I even called a beauty supply and a %^$#@ barber college, and got the same response. I went so far as to call mom and asked what happened to dads old one, only to find out she threw it away since "no one will use that old thing again".....GRRRRRRRRR. Looks like I have to bite the bullet and wait till the next Lehmans trip. I go visit my uncle and ask about borrowing his truck to help the kids move this weekend. We're talking general BS as we always do about what we are doing at home. He's the only one that really understands us and he's always supportive. I tell him the somewhat funny yet annoying story of my search for a razor, and he gets up and walks away. He comes back with a box in hand, and tosses me the razor I was looking for. I had to laugh, all that time calling and looking and Butch had one laying in a drawer lol. He tells me he got it years ago and just didnt like it. Of course I'm pretty ecstatic over my find, he just laughs at me. He tells me he has other things for me that he dug out that he thinks I may want. We walk to the garage, and there is an old hand crank-canvas bag seeder, a rug beater (lol), and a corn planter. YAY....I wanted a corn planter too! lol Butch has the best stuff laying around. That stuff is out in the van, and will be cleaned and (of course) played with later this afternoon. THe rug beater will just go on the wall, and maybe the corn planter till spring too. The seeder I'll clean up and probably use to plant a cover crop over the garden when everything is done.
I can't wait to try out my razor later tonight.......I'm like a kid with a new toy LOL

August 27th 2008

Well I had plans on doing things outside, but it's raining, so I'll do a bit online then read till I go to bed.
I've discovered recently that I just can't seem to read enough. I've purchased so many books on so many subjects that I'm having a hard time keeping up. Homesteading, self reliance, self sufficiency, herbal medicine, natural healing, livestock, chickens, small scale farming, paganism, candle making, bread making, organic gardening....the list goes on and on. Most evenings now are spent with a good book, which has taken the television time down to maybe 4 hours a week. ( not counting movie nights when my friend bill visits) I honestly can't remember the last time I read anything fiction.
I just thrive on learning now. I want to know it ALL. Every single book I have read has given me as least one idea, one path to follow, one thing to do, a recipe,or something to discuss with Lisa. Our library grows every week, as does our list of magazine subscriptions. We get Mother Earth News, Grit, Backyard Poultry, Backwoods Home,and Countryside. We keep every issue of every magazine, all put away for future reference. That's the joy of getting magazines like that, they're educational. They don't discuss the latest celebrity gossip, the latest tv show or movie, the newest sports figures, they discuss and somewhat teach a better way of life.
We've chosen this way of life for many reasons, which I've said much about in previous posts. It's all coming easily for us, kinda like the "meant to be" saying. It just seems natural. It just seems right to get up at 5am and feed chickens and rabbits before I go to work, I actually enjoy it. It feels right to light the house with oil lamps and candles, and it may sound strange coming from a guy, but it has a nice charm to it over the dead glow of a light must be the almost hypnotizing flicker of a burning wick. We're both happy on taking this journey together, we're proud of our accomplishments, and look forward to each new task and challenge. We have a list started of ideas and tasks for the rest of this year, as well as things to start in the spring. For example, we're looking for a good used wringer washer and us crazy, but it's something we've been talking about all summer. In the spring we're also getting more chickens, maybe another layer or 2, but mainly meat birds. We have many garden plans, which is too much to list now, so I'll save that for a later post. We just want to do MORE.
The only thing that's hard about the way we are living is the lack of support we get. 99% of the people we know and talk to think we're insane. They think it's insane to want a wringer washer, we think it's insane they buy an $1100 each his own I guess. We get so many comments that some we just brush off anymore, the best of course being "are you turning amish?"...that one just makes me laugh. We're called hillbillies, survivalists, green freaks, modern hippies, amish wannabe's...we've heard it all from those who simply don't understand or see our views. If you don't get it, then you don't get it, plain and simple. We aren't forcing anyone to live with us the way we do, we just want people to understand our choices and support us as much as they can.

August 26th 2008

Another 2 days of garage tinkering has paid off, and I finished Lisa's solar dehydrator. All it needs is a coat of paint and it's ready to go. I'd been planning on making this thing all summer, but there was always some other project ahead of it. But thanks to my awesome lumber find from craigslist, and the freecycle windows from late spring, I had all the materials to build it except the window screen on the lid and air vent. I'm hoping we get good weather this weekend so I can try it out...can't wait to see if it works as well as everything I read.
No other real news since I wrote here yesterday, other than Lisa's work. Apparantly the dr's are so impressed with all the new patients she has brought in this month (25 already), that there is talk of a $1000 bonus! Not a bad deal since you gotta figure each patient is roughly $5000 each for the dr's. She really likes it there; as much as she can love working at least; and the dr's are great people and treat the employees well. They regularly throw birthday parties for employees, picking up the tab for 25+ people each time at a nice bar or resturant. This check will help out with the homesteading supplies, and more than likely result in another Lehman's trip....YAY!
I gotta get off here, just wanted to make a quick post and put up the pic of the dehydrator. I need to get to bed soon since I have to be out the door at 5am, ick. We have to go to the shop, load up pipe and materials, and get it unloaded on the 9th floor of a building in Cleveland before 7am. Sounds fun eh????
Entry for August 25, 2008
Today I decided to take a break from it all and relax. I'll read my usual forums, write in here, and sit with a book that I've been meaning to start. I just needed a break lol.
This past weekend, Lisa didn't leave the kitchen at all, except Saturday night when our weekly Bill visit was going on. She canned more in 2 days than I could have ever imagined. She did another 18-20 pints of peach jam,10 more grape jelly, 8 more blackberry jam, pepper spread, pepper relish, and when I picked half of the corn for her, she froze 32 full ears, and canned another 12. We still have the tomatos to can, along with pickled peppers, salsa, and one more good batch of grape jelly. That's gonna be our 3 day weekend lol canning. I pulled close to 30 good sized onions, let them sun dry for a few days, and hung them in the pantry. I still need to dig & hill the potato's, that will probably be tomorrow. There's a literal TON of horseradish to dig and grind, so that'll be my job as well since no one else eats it. There are plenty of misc herbs to pull and dry, and that will leave the cold frame open for the yet undecided winter greens. It just never ends lol. Sometimes I'm still amazed at what we're able to do on one acre.
The chickens are doing really well, though 1 isn't laying quite yet. We both seem to think she's a bit younger than the other 2 and should come around to laying anytime now. I have to admit, my friend Tammie was right....chickens are addicting. We already have plans to build a coop behind the garage, wrapped in privacy fence, for next year. We'll slowly buy all the materials over the winter, so it will be ready in spring. We still gotta decide if we'll get peeps or just order pullets, but there's all winter to decide on that one. I did manage to pick up a big angle iron frame on wheels from a jobsite, and plan on turning it into a bigger chicken tractor with nest boxes. This thing is 9'4" long, 3' wide, and 4' tall, mounted on 6 caster wheels, and the sides hinge down on both sides. I'll flip it sideways,remount the wheels, bolt the bottom rigid, and the top hinge piece will be the entire roof. It will give them a lot more room, and will be easy to roll into the garage for the winter. I have to cut down the legs on the rabbit hutch before winter too, ooooooops, it's almost a foot taller than the garage door. lol guess I got a bit carried away.
This winter will be a bit different than most in the past. It will be spent reading for the most part, reading and making plans for next year.We have lots of ideas to take further steps in our journey toward self sufficiency,most of which will be started as the snow falls. Butter making, cheese making, and wine making will top he list. I'll have a good sized room back, and plan on using it to get my hunting and fishing gear back in order. I'm going to put a few new guns in layaway at the local shop for next year as well. I'm missing a few things that I sold and now need replaced, so that will be a priority. I need another good .22 mag rifle, 20 guage shotgun, and .22 revolver.I won't be missing season next year again due to being so unorganized. It's a bit late this year to start, so I'll just sit out this year and wait.....but next year, look out! lol

August 19th 2008

The more we delve into this lifestyle we have chosen, the more I think about how downright stupid people have become. What we do isn't hard, it isn't rocket science, it isn't brain surgery, it's simple. Nearly every day both of us get questions or comments (which we're still getting used to) about what we do. Sometimes their questions make sense, like asking how hard it is to use a pressure canner, but plain f'ing stupid. Let me list a few of the questions and comments we have gotten so that anyone reading this can understand where I am going.
1-how do you get eggs without a rooster?
2-what do you mean they lay colored eggs? (1 of ours lays green-the 2 lay brown)
3-Oh! the brown eggs are the low cholesterol eggs! Are the chickens lower in cholesterol too?
4-you made applesauce? with what?
5-you make your own laundry detergent? where do I get the mix? Do i just use the powdered stuff and add water?
6-aren't chickens noisy? They crow!
7-how do your clothes dry OUTSIDE??
8-What???? Potato's grow in the ground??? (same question with carrots) Plus-how can you eat those when they just had dirt all over them?
9-What do you mean you can eat rabbit meat??
10-Why did you make pickles from cucumbers? Don't you grow pickles?
11-(one of my favorites) Can you EAT the eggs your chickens lay???
12-What???You don't have a tv? what do you DO???????
Those are all serious questions we have been asked! Now I'm well aware that not everybody has taken their lives in the direction we have, and that this kind of life certainly isn't for everybody, but good god, people ARE just plain old stupid anymore. It wasn't that many generations ago that our families all did this, for myself and Lisa, (and many others)it was our parents. Even something as simple as replacing a button on a shirt is too much for some people to handle now. At times, I'm just amazed. My neighbor is a good expmple. Rick and I are good friends, we've gotten along since we bought the house from him, and normally we share vegetables with them. (WOW being neighborly! Speaking of things that are lost!) This spring when I was outside planting, he told me his wife and daugher (who's my age) were going to put out 2 or 3 containers of tomatos, maybe just 12" pots. Yea....that didn't happen...why? She said it was too much work.
I am a firm believer that knowledge is power, and I strive to learn everything I can on how to take care of myself and Lisa. I have hundreds of books now, all on farming, self sufficeincy, homesteading, log home building, hide tanning, chicken raising.....everything I can find in these areas, I read. THAT's what we do without tv, we LEARN. Unfortunately, while we and others learn old ways, others simply forget it, don't know a thing about it, or just plain don't want to learn. I made the comment to my stepkids once, about what if we had a massive blackout and didn't have power here for a month. Their answer? Go somewhere that had power. Sadly, most adults would answer the same. Me & Lisa? No problem! We have TONS of food canned in jars, grow our own, have the chickens and rabbits, have the ability to hunt and fish, can cook complete meals over a fire, can light the house with lamps and candles, and can certainly be entertained by each other or a good book.
I've touched on this before, but we have become a very lazy, greedy, I want it now society. When we want something, we simply go buy it, now knowing or caring where it came from or what it costs. Food is the main example of this, grocery stores pack full of people buying every single thing they need, day after day, making millions off of ignorance and convienence. Food has lost it's importance, it's simpleness, and it's charm. Food is a gift, food is what we need to survive, yet people hourd to the stores to buy boxed, pre-packaged, frozen, microwavable, instant, ready to eat, and even "fast" food. Meals are no longer enjoyable, they're no longer an event every day for the families to sit together and talk. Meals are "hurry up and go", and for what? So little Timmy can go to soccer practice? So little Emily can go to cheerleading? So dad can go golfing? So mom can go to PTA? Sad, just sad. We've let our busy hussle-bussle lives get so far out of hand that we have lost touch with the most simple, pleasureable things like meals and where that meal came from. Hell, some families don't even cook and eat out every day. I once worked with a guy whose wife never learned to cook, so they ate out every single night, 7 days a week. They both had cereal for breakfast, and fast food for lunch, again, every single day.
What happened to us? When did we become so lazy? When did we become so ignorant? When did we decide to toss out all of the knowledge of our ancestors and trade it for satellite tv and Olive Garden? When did we become so damn stupid that we don't know that applesauce comes from apples???????????????????????????????
Just some more food for thought...

August 17th 2008

Well....busy as usual here at home. The canning has gone into full-boar lately and that seems to be all we're doing. Aside from the usual green beans and corn, we've been working on applesauce, grape jelly, and peach jam & preserves. The grapes across the field have been hanging full, so thursday afternoon I picked four 5 gallon buckets full, which are now so far 16 jars of jelly with more to go tomorrow. We went to Ben's (Phoebus) yesterday and picked peaches, and came home with eight 5 gallon buckets full, 6 for us, 1 for mom, and 1 for tammie. There is still another tree to ripen that's hanging full, so we may make another trip in a few weeks. There are some cooking down on the stove as I type for jam, and still 4 bucketloads to go. Last weekend I picked through the apple orchard next door, and came back with 6 buckets full. We peeled, sliced, and cooked down half of that, and managed to get 14 quarts of applesauce. More than likely, we'll do more next weekend since the trees are producing even more. There are pear tree's back there that I am watching too, so hopefully we'll be able to get some of those as well.
With all of this canning going on, we're starting to buy more in bulk, especially sugar since we are using so much of it, but also wheat, oats, and flour.Starting this weekend, we're going to start buying 1 or 2 packages of canning lids per week. Canning supplies are short all over here, and from what I read on my normal online forums, are all over the country. I'll start gettting all the reasonably priced jars I see at Goodwill from now on, rather than pass them up. With the addition of the pressure canner, we can do more, so it just makes sense to have these things ready.
The chickens are laying on a really good basis now, 2-3 a day. Kind of a pain in the ass though since they've decided to be late layers, and lay eggs after we're both gone for work. But either way, fresh free eggs are fresh free eggs, regardless of the time they lay! The rabbits obviously arent ready to breed yet. I've put them together twice in the last week, and they just sniff around, play a bit, and nap together, lol. Silly rabbits, live up to that "f**k like rabbits" story we've all heard!!!
We decided next year to get more chickens, and put them behind the garage. This will require privacy fence, a decent coop, and more supplies, but we'll gather all of that slowly over the winter. We want maybe 2 more layers, but probably about a dozen meat birds. The neighbor behind me doesn't care, it's just the other nosey ones I want them hidden from. I'm already drawing enough attention to myself without adding 12-15 more chickens!
I gotta say, I'm really loving the way things go here now. Up at 5am, start coffee, get dressed, pack lunch, and go feed the animals. I have this wierd idea of how I'm going to love doing that in the fall at 6am, in the dark with an old railroad lantern, LOL.....I know, I'm wierd. But I do love the fact that we are taking care of more and more of our own food. Our grocery bill has gone down to close to $60 a month now, and will just get lower soon. It looks like Holly has bought her first house (one hell of an accomplishment at 22 in my book!!!!) and she's taking her brother with her. Our unility bills should drop to almost nothing then. We'll start getting rid of more things here, starting with the tv (other than dvd's-byebye cable), and probably give her the washer and get a wringer one. I'm always on the lookout for one, just havent had any luck YET. We're seriously considering an outdoor wood burning furnace, but have to check with local zoning nazis on that one, grrr.
All for now, off to bed......those chickens get up early ya know lol

August 4th 2008

Busy busy busy!
The garden's in full swing here, other than the $#^&! slow ripening tomatos, so we've been on our toes keeping up with it. Lisa's already canned up close to 30 quarts of beans, 20 something pints of pickles, plus beets and turnips. Today or tomorrow, we'll have to pick beans again, so that'll probably get us another 30 jars. Whenever the tomatos come on, I'm sure ALL of them will at once, so we gotta gear up for that too. We're down to 9 empty pint jars in the basement, plus the 10 or 12 I got from a yard sale, so this week I'll be scrounging thrift shops for more. We should be ok on quarts.........for now.
The chickens are close to laying now, maybe another 2 weeks or so. The rabbits need about another month and they're ready for the first breeding. I'm actually pretty excited about all of this. It may sound silly; but I like getting up early and going out to feed them all. It's a good feeling to be that much closer to self sufficiency. Lisa already said that she'll empty and save the first egg lol she's as excited as I am about it all.
We had a small party on Saturday for Lamas (sp?), with about 10 people coming over for a shrimp boil. Lisa cooked on the outdoor stove I built, in a 4 gallon stock pot. Shrimp, sausage, potatos, squash, sweet corn....all together, YUM! Those people whiped that out in no time lol I think when I dumped it, there was 2 pieces of corn, 1 chunk of squash, and 1 piddly piece of sausage left out of the whole thing. We had that, with a veggie tray from the garden, fresh chicken kabobs (via maureen), 4 loaves of homeade bread, key lime pie, and blackberry cobbler with ice cream. Not one person had less that 2 plates worth lol gotta love Lisa's cooking. We started at 2 in the afternoon, and the last of 'em left just after midnight.
Yesterday morning, I got up, fed the animals, and cleaned up from the party. I started moving things into the canopy/shed thingy for winter storage, making sure I had room for both tractors. Yep....more junk than I thought as always. Arrgh that $#@! packrat gene I got from my dad!
Friday night, I had dragged over another HUGE branch off one of the apple trees next door for firewood, it was more like half of a tree. After cleanup yesterday, I started cutting it up, all by hand. Branches were lopped off with a hatchet, logs tossed in the trailer, and I started cutting to length by crosscut saw and axe. My axe needs replaced badly, it's old, and I had sharpened it many years ago as a teen on a bench grinder. Obviously I ruined the temper, and it won't keep an edge now. I think I'll add that to my christmas list for this year lol. I'd say my birthday since it's less than 4 weeks away, but it's too expensive to ask for now. I'll make due with what I have for now. I like the feeling of cutting wood by hand, its relaxing and a good agression remover at the same time....sure beats the awful noise and vibration of a chainsaw! I like feeling the burn in my arms, the sweat on my forehead, and the satisfacion of looking at a pile of split firewood when I'm finished.
All in all, I'm becoming more comfortable with our choices. Cutting wood by hand, using the oil lamps, raising and growing our own food. Its so much more rewarding than the bland old life of watching tv and getting food at the grocery store. It's much more than being frugal, it's even more than trying to be self sufficient; it's a total lifestyle change. Watching Lisa cook on the outdoor stove Saturday made me smile. I made the stove, I laid every stone, I mixed the cement by hand, we picked the vegetables, I cut and split the firewood by hand, I lit the's an amazing feeling to watch all of that work go into something as simple as making a meal wthout any dependance on electricity at all. ( ok so not counting the Iron Maiden blasting in the background as I swung the splitting maul lol)

July 25th 2008

Its been a busy few weeks here at home! Last Saturday we went to Lehmans and took a friend of Lisa's from work. We started with lunch since we didnt leave till 11:00, then walked around the flea market and managed to score a really nice dutch oven for $30. Then came the Lehman's experience lol. Lisa's friend had ordered from their catalog for a long time but had never been there, so it was the whole "kid in a candy store" time. Of course she managed to find a few things, that was pretty much a gimme.
Our main goal of the visit was to get a pressure canner. We had our eyes on one from their catalog for quite a while, and Lisa's "stimulus" check gave us the means to finally get it. We decided after a lot of talk about bills to spend the money on it, since it was a one time investment that would get a LOT of use. We set out to get a 7 quart (jar count,overall capacity is 10 1/2 qts as a cooker) aluminum canner, but........SURPRISE!!!!!!! All of the aluminum canners were sold out and on backorder, all that was left was a stainless steel model of the same size, and there were only 3 of those left....period. No more in stock, no more in the warehouse, just THREE. I snagged one off the shelf and set it in the cart while Lisa talked to an employee. This woman said that they have sold more canners and canning supplies in the last month than they did ALL of last season. Gotta wonder what that's all about....hmmmmm. So anyway, this one was $120.0o, and the one we came for was $200. We budgeted a $225 limit for this trip to Lehmans (not counting lunch and our MUST stop at shisslers cheese house lol), so we had another $105 to spend openly, like that would be hard to do at Lehmans lol. We got a backstock of lamp wicks, jar rings and lids, 2 books, and some bar laundry soap for Lisa to make homeade detergent with. We didn't spend our alloted amount, so on the way home we made a detour and took the long way home, which was convienently passing a Tractor Supply store, how odd! lol We got a few things there, rabbit waterers and another book, and finally headed for home with a carload of goodies and mouthfulls of good cheese.....
Ah yes, the rabbits. I was thinking about them when we were at Tractor Supply pricing bigger bags of feed than the pet stores carry, I'll just wait, I have a week or 2. Besides, I have to paint the hutches.......WRONG again! lol I get home and check my email. There somewhere in the middle of my 70 odd Freecycle messages was one about the rabbits. "They're ready to go, can you come tomorrow?" AHHHHHHHHH shit shit shit I'm not ready yet! The hutches were complete, they just needed latches on the doors and a coat of paint. The paint had to wait. I got 'em Sunday morning and ended up stopping at a petsmart on the way back since it was close to his house. Holy Hell! 30 ^%#@! bucks later I walk out with bedding, timothy hay, and rabbit feed....there goes my last trip to a pet store for anything but dog food! Good ole feed stores here I come! Anyway.....they've been here almost a week and are doing good. They get fed every morning at 5:30 when I'm having my first cup of coffee, and love fresh greens from the garden. While they arent "pets", I'm trying to get them used to being handled as much as possible. Just because they are breeders for meat doesnt mean they have to be treated as such. I STILL haven't thought of names yet lol but I'm working on it.
One of the books we got at Lehmans was on backyard chickens. We've talked about having just 2 laying hens for a long time, and finally decided to go ahead and do it. We sat down with plenty of coffee and went through the book, picking a coop design and chicked breed possibilities. Of course, as always, I get the design on paper, engineers rule and t-square in hand lol. I love to play engineer sometimes. The next day I responded to yet another freecycle ad, and got a small rabbit hutch which got turned into my chicken coop. Its hard to describe really if you don't know chickens, but its a cross between a coop and a tractor. (portable chicken housing, not a John Deere lol) On Wednsday, I have the thing about 3/4 built and decide on my way back from getting lumber to stop and see my friend Tammie and talk about chickens since she has quite a few. Low and behold, she offers 3 chickens for nothing. I came home and told Lisa, and the chicken coop build went into high gear. I stayed out till dark, and left early on Thursday to get it finished and go get them. So as of yesterday, we are the proud owners of 2 Partridge Rocks and one Americana. They're only a few months old and havent started laying yet, so its going to be fun getting them to that stage in their lives. Lisa named them lilly, daisy, and willow. These girls are our first, and will be with us till their time is up rather than the normal stew pot after they stop laying.
I'm pretty impressed......two major steps for us in 2 weeks,things are going better and better.
The garden is just about in full swing now, pretty much everything but tomatos and peppers are producing like mad. On Tuesday, we picked about a dozen yellow squash, 15 or so cucumbers, around 6 good sized onions, LOTS of turnips and beets, and 3 1/2 five gallon buckets of green beans. Lisa got off work Wednsday at 11am, so when she got home, the canner got its first major workout.......19 quarts of beans, and 10 of pickles. (one of which didnt seal right, so I got to try them...WOW yummy!!!!) The Doyles backberries are producing like crazy too, these things are HUGE! Not seedy at all, and really sweet, awesome berries...hats off to the Doyles people.So far, not enough at once to make jam, so every day we pick what we can and get them into the freezer to make jam later. The other plant we got from the garden center is hanging full of berries too, they just havent ripened yet. But when they do, we'll have plenty for jam...yay again!
Speaking of jams & jellies, the neighbors came over to see my rabbits and told me about grapes on their property that are never used. We walked over, and there are grapes allllllllll over the place along their driveway on the opposite side of the field. These things must be 40-50 feet long and growing 15-20 feet into the trees. They told me that we can have all we want, so every other day I'm over there to see if they're ready. Looks like we better get on finding more jars in a big way.
I gotta head over there tomorrow and get more firewood, 2 more big limbs came off 2 of the old apple trees. One must be 20" in diameter and 20 feet long...cant wait till they all see me doing it with a bucksaw and one man crosscut lol. Cooking on the stove I made with all of this apple wood is just awesome. It brings a whole new flavor to food, especially when I toss in a few handfulls of apple leaves to get a good smoke on whatever is grilling.....mmmmmmm. Maybe next week we'll try canning on it for the first time since that was half of the reason for building it. We won't use the pressure canner out there, but the hot water ones should work just fine....can't wait to give it a run.
Gotta run for now and get in the shower, busy day tomorrow. Up early,feed the animals, go to the shop and get some materials and my check, go to the bank, get door latches, finish clean up, wait for Lisa to get home, then head for the county fair.........anyone remember what a day off actually is? LOL

July 4th 2008

todays rant and bitch session lol
Well, today I've chosen to take some time to bitch a bit. Well....maybe not bitch, but just look at a problem I have seen in society and ponder a little. My rant for today is men in todays world and society.What? I'm a man! What can I possibly have to bitch about? Women? Wives?'s other men.
I work a LOT outside when I am home, there are always projects to work on. Granted, some I bring on myself, but others just plain have to be done. There are men on all sides of me, and unless it's lawn mowing time, I'm the lone husband outside. I often wonder what these other men are doing, are they inside working on some big remodel project? Umm...that would be a slim chance. They're inside watching tv, sports probably, or planning the next golf outing or trip to the gym.
And this is where my bitch session begins...... When did men lose sight of their roles in this world? We are the worker bee's, the hunter-gatherers. Sorry to break the news to ya guys, but we are, it's our place. always has been. But...somewhere along the line, men have forgotten that, tossed it aside, or just plain ignored it.
Even the simplest of tasks, like mowing the lawn, is too much of a "burden" for todays men to carry. They hire someone else to do it. This is by far my favorite. 1/4 acre of lawn (ugh I hate that word), and in comes Smilin' Joe's lawn service to do it for you. Why is Joe always smilin'? because he makes money off of you being lazy. Sorry again guys, but you are. Ole Joe smiles all the way to the bank on your behalf.
Sometimes I hear guys talking at work on a monday about what they did over the weekend. "I golfed all weekend", " I watched the game", " I took the jet ski out"....then I get the question...."hmm lemme see....I dug out a 48x8 strawberry bed by hand, built a stone and mortar fire pit, fixed the tractor, split some firewood, fixed the kitchen sink, repaired a window, and cleaned and oiled all my garden tools". The looks I get are sometimes funny,WOW you WORKED on your days off! Yes I did, and I do every weekend and day off. Lazy days for me are extremely rare. I have too much to do, and little time to do it.
When was it, at what point in time, did men become so lazy? When did they decide to set aside their duties as men, pass them along to others, and spend all their time lounging or playing?
As people became more drawn to city life, the need for things was met by merchants, by craftsmen, by grocers and resturants. We no longer HAD to provide for ourselves, we could simply BUY what we needed. The need to buy everything forced people to work, but not necessarily physical labor. With the ability to buy anything we wanted, we wanted more and more, we became more dependant on others, more greedy, and ultimately, more lazy. These people grew more accustomed to their lifestyle, chose not to go back, and bred more greedy and lazy children into the mix, creating the society we have today. These people don't have the simplest of skills, which brings me to the odd reason that got me thinking of this whole thing....
A few days ago, I was sitting here at 5am, drinking coffee and reading some online garden forums before I left for work. One post caught my eye and really made me think. This guy wanted to make a raised bed for his "organic" garden. He had purchased the lumber, but was wanting to hire someone to come cut and assemble it for him. At first I laughed....come on man, its four freakin' boards....a few cuts, a few nails or screws, and taaadaaa! raised bed! But this guy openly admitted to not having the skills or the tools to do something so simple. I'm not going to totally knock this guy, after all, he was wanting to make the effort to grow his own food,and I admire him for that, but its the no skills part that bothers me. Maybe its because I grew up different, but I can't understand a grown man without ANY tools or even the tiniest bit of knowledge. As a man, I would be embarrased to ask such a question, let alone ask to hire someone to assemble four damn boards. As I said, at first I laughed at this post, but the more I thought, the more I became dissapointed and disgusted at what has happened to men in todays society. And its not just a lazy issue, its an ignorance issue. Some people just never learned anything , and though its sad , its not really their fault, but others choose to be ignorant about these things by choice, they simply dont WANT to do anything physical, and these are the guys that piss me off the most. I simply have NO use for a man that doesnt know his way around a toolbox, I can't help it. I see them as weak, lazy, and a burden on society.
Suppose I better climb off my soapbox for a while....

Home again early today, thanks to no materials....great! I can catch up on a few projects! WRONG!!!!!!!! ^%$$#@#@@! rain, grrrr. Oh well, got some things I can do inside at least. Gotta fix a leaky sink, replace a window, and finish the shopping list for the rabbit hutches.
I have to get in a bit of a hurry on the hutches since I found a local breeder. He'll have kits ready in 3-4 weeks for $15 each, californians. I kinda had my heart set on NZ whites, but these will do just fine. More than likely, I'm going to sell my salmon fishing gear to pay for the whole project. I havent gone in a few years, and the stuff is just collecting dust, so why not. Dusty gear=dusty gear, and cash=rabbits and hutches, just makes sense to me.
Somehow I always manage to give myself more projects than I can handle, always been that way lol. Last week I kept sitting and staring at the fire pit, and talking to Lisa about using it to cook and can on, my mind kept running on the idea. Soooooo.....I drug that monster wood furnace out of the garage, (cracked firebox anyway), cut the top off, and fitted the grate/grill to fit on it. I set it where I wanted it, cased the whole thing in cement blocks, and started to wrap the whole thing in stone and cement. (partially done pic above) I was making good progress yesterday, but got cut short by the rain....AGAIN. When it's all done, I'll take the leftover block and stones, and make legs for a small table for a work area, and I have a small stainless steel sink I'll put out there too. We're always washing something out there with just a hose, and the sink was a freebie, so why not. It'll come in handy when I start with the rabbits too. Now to start scroungind firewood.....
Everything in the garden is doing GREAT. We've been eating greens and onions for a long time, and the strawberries, and Saturday we pulled some beets and turnips, yumm. The blackberries are hanging FULL of green berries, hopefully we'll see the sun again before August so I can pick them lol. The corn is almost knee high, so thats looking good, and the tomatos have blooms on most plants, same as the peppers. The cukes and squash are vining like mad, so it shouldnt be long there either. All in all, its looking like a really productive year.
Finally!!! I got the old loboy home!
Yesterday morning my friend Jim calls and tells me he just got a car hauler, and asks if I still needed to move a tractor. No hesitation there on an answer, LETS GO! We get to my folks, and its raining like mad the whole way out. All I could think of was the fun of loading this big thing in the rain, but as we got closer, the clouds parted, the sun poked out, and then came that lovely Ohio humidity. I'd rather have had the rain, but we were there.
We walk to the barn where the tractor was, and she's dead as a doornail. We had to push it out of the barn, and down the hill with the %$#! mowing deck down. (wont move since its hydraulic and we cant get it started) We pulled the deck off, hooked it up to a battery charger, primed the carb, and still nothing. After about 8-10 tries, we gave up and ended up PUSHING that beast onto a trailer. We carried the belly mower and snowplow to the trailer, and left for home.
We got it to our place, and pushed it off the trailer and down in front of the garage. After about an hour of tinkering and playing, I found the problems. One-the fuel fliter and glass bowl were clogged and full of sludge, cleaned that out and she started right up. It ran for a few minutes, then started chugging and stalled. Again, more sludge. I cleaned it out again, she fires right up......again. Still a bit of chugging, so I noticed the fuel line is copper and has 2 small kinks in it. As it was running, I gave the line a few taps with the handy old channel locks, right at the kinks, and she ran like a charm. Sometime soon, I'll tear off the gas tank and clean it, remove that in-tank filter, and replace the copper line with tubing, then install an inline filter...should be much more reliable.
I put the belly mower back on, and took it out to mow. Wow...just a bit of a wider cut than the john deere lol.It should cut the mowing time in half. I decided to try the snowblade, and it had no problem pushing a few high spots of gravel......impressive. Today I went to visit for fathers day, and grabbed the spare parts dad had laying in the shed. Some of them are the belt covers and body panels he took off and never replaced, but I'll get those later this week.
Other goodies this week too! Today I got Lisa an old tredle sewing machine from someone off freecycle. It seems to operate fine, I just have to replace the drive belt. The origional on is made from a thin leather strip, so I imagine I can make on of those from some scrap leather I have laying around. Earlier this week, my friend Jim gave me a reel mower and the little brother to the crosscut saw he gave me last week. The mower just needed cleaned and oiled, and it works great. The saw needed cleaned, oiled, and the handle replaced. Luckily I have a big backstock of misc piecy-parts,so I had a new handle for it. I stopped at the folks on the way home Monday, and mom gave me an old push-type cultivator that needed a lot of TLC. It got totally disassembled, sanded, rapainted, new redwood homemade handles, and put back together. My collection of future homestaed gear is growing every week, and I'm a happy camper with all these new toys.
Right now, the garden is doing GREAT. The potatos are standing close to 2 feet tall, peppers and tomatos look really good, and the corn is close to a foot. Greens and onions have been being eaten for a few weeks already, so no problems there at all. The strawberries are getting a good picking every day, and this morning I took about 2 qts to my dad in a tupperware container. He made me laugh as he ate 3 or 4, then just HAD to save the rest to eat in his cereal tomorrow morning. It might be a bit late, but I want to put out some celery and a few other greens. I love celery in my tuna, and I want to start taking a salad to work with me every day. (when I remember of course lol)
I decided to take on yet another project soon, and make a solar dehydrator. We tend to dehydrate a lot for storage, and I have read of a lot of people using one. I'll keep 1 or 2 of those old windows set aside for them, and set it up along the same fenceline as the cold frame and composter. I still have to collect more blocks and stone to make the fire pit/grill/smoker/outdoor canner that I have all designed, but I have all summer for that one. The rabbit hutch material gathering is going slow, but since money is tight, I'm not worried since I really cant spare the cash to buy the rabbits and supplies. Same as the others, I have all summer.
enough for now, gonna go finish a few things before I run out of daylight......

June 11 2008

good day........sorta
I only added the "sorta" part at the top because work absolutely sucked today. I drove the lovely 44 miles to this job in Cleveland, that takes an hour with traffic. I get there at just before 7am, waiting patiently for a pipe delivery. YAY I can finally start the 1st and 2nd floor! I sit in the truck, sip coffee and read some Reminiss magazines my mom sent for Lisa. Bored with that, I go inside and start walking...and sitting...and waiting. Five phone calls later, my pipe finally arrives, at 2:45. Yep....boring rotton day at work, but enough of that.
I get home from work, set my lunchbox on the counter, get a glass and open the fridge for some iced tea. There sitting on the top shelf was a large bowl full of fresh strawberries. Yep, after 2 days of rain and sun today, they came on like gangbusters. Lisa got home and went to check on them, and there they were....fresh berries in all their glory. It looks like there will be that much more tomorrow, and probably more Friday or over the weekend. Not quite enough to make any real quantity of jam, but definitly enough for some tasty treats from the garden. Now that poor mr chipmunk met an untimely death via the good old sheridan pellet rifle, things look good.
After seeing the new berries almost ready, I decided to get out that last 40 foot row of sweet corn. I just HAD to try out my new toy. I had stopped at my parents on the way home yesterday, and as I was leaving, mom mentioned this old cultivator the neighbor gave her...yanno, the old single wheel/single blade push type. She showed it to me, and its rusty and has a flat spot on the old iron wheel, but other than that and a cracked wooden handle, its in good shape. She told me she was going to paint it and stick it in the flowerbed....umm nope, I'll be taking that to USE,lol. The soil in our garden was tilled this spring, and is full of grass clippings and other organic matter, so its clean and easy to move. That old cultivator lopped a perfect line in the soil 2" deep for my corn seeds. I'm gonna like this thing! I think rather than try to straighten out the flat spot in the old iron wheel, I'll replace it with a 24 or 26" front bicycle rim and tire. I'll also remake the 2 handles from some redwood, sand them glass smooth, and seal it good. I'm not sure about paint yet, but what the hell, I dont see it getting much use this late in the season, so it may get dismantled and sanded piece by piece. One more item on my "return to the past" tool collection. It will look good next to the old crosscut saw and corn knife I got from my friend Jimmy. Still gotta work on the neighbor about that reel mower though......
The rest of the garden looks really good. All that needs replanted is broccoli, green chilis ( lisa mistakenly got the red super chilis again), and some celery. Other than that, nothing to plant till fall when I get some garlic. I think we'll be giving away some tomato plants, since there are close to 30 that popped up from last years tomatos laying on the ground, oops lol. Ah well, never can have too many tomato's. Especially when Lisa ends up making spagetti sauce, pizza sauce, tomato soup, stewed tomatos, and salsa.
The 2 blackberry plants that survived look great. One is full of blooms, the other has some open blooms and a lot of tiny little berries. Mmmmmmm blackberries, gotta get about 10 more of these babies, plus transplant probably 30 wild ones from moms this fall. The new strawberry bed looks good t00. I took some time to sink the timbers to ground level so its easier to mow, then picked off all the little blooms so the plants will grow strong for next year. If this one fills itself with runners like the small one did, next year we should have enough to make a lot of jam from our own pickings. I'll be very happy when we can get to that point where we dont have to pay for any produce at all, not even the pick and pay kind like we do with strawberries.
We got the new Countryside in the mail yesterday, and of course, I had to read it first. There's a great article in there on canning outdoors. It got me thinking, and now my grill/firepit plan has slightly changed to allow outdoor canning. It just makes sense. Generally its still pretty hot outside when its time to do a lot of canning, and having the stove going all day makes it even worse. Canning outdoors would keep things cooler, closer to the garden, closer to the compost, and be more enjoyable than being stuck in the house. All I need is about 10 more blocks, sand, and more mortar. I'd love to find a big piece of flat plate steel to make a removable door, but that can wait till it happens. For now, I'll just use blocks turned sideways to allow or stop airflow.
Another article in there was on drying foods. Either with oven, dehydrator, or fireside. Yep...another reason to build my giant grill thingy. I'm still going to make a solar dehydrator from a few of the other windows, and Lisa still has the electric dehydrator, but its me, I gotta try something different. Now to start scrounging for firewood.......gonna need a LOT.
Enough babbling for today, time to go sit and stare at the Lehmans catalog again...hmm, my birthday's coming in a few months.

Today I snuck outta work a bit early to try to get some things done. Before I went in to let out the hounds, I took a walk around the garden. GRR damn weeds took over with all this rain, I'll be busy this weekend!
Just as I was about to be in a really foul mood, I walked to the small strawberry patch that I started last year. To my surprise, I parted a few plants and there were the first ripe berries of the year! OK I TRIED to not eat one, I wanted to let Lisa have the 1st one, but I just couldnt resist. Yummy!!!! I only got 5 or 6 ripe ones, but the rest are just hanging full of green berries. It won't be long now and I should have quite a few. Hopefully at least enough for a few jars of jam, or at the least, a few great desserts.
The corn is popping up pretty good, the green beans are standing about 3" high, the potatos look great;standing close to a foot tall. The tomatos and peppers look decent, but I lost a few to the birds, and I'll probably replace those this weekend. We've already been picking some greens and onions (my weakness), the beets look great but need thinned. The squash and cucumbers are looking good too. All in all the whole thing is looking good, just a few things to re-plant, thin, or just plain old plant.....not to mention the ^%$#@! weeds. Hopefully I can mow this weekend and rake the grass to mulch around more plants. It's worked great around the ones I was able to get to. Sure beats buying straw! Plus I'm gonna talk to the neighbor and offer to mow the front acre of grass just so I can have the clippings for the garden. I did that a few weeks ago, and it managed to mulch 2 full a couple cuts of his and mine should do the job. After that, the rest will go to the pathways and then into compost for next year.
I'm still working on the rabbit hutch lumber-gathering. I had a good pile started, but ended up using a good amount of it to make a soil sifter. I had a LOT of sod to pull a few weeks ago, when I extended the garden a foot on 3 sides for walkways, plus when I wrapped the strawberry bed to a long curved edge so its easier to mow. I didnt have any more low spots in the yard to fill, so I decided to make this sifter. I put a large amount of the sod in the trailer, than one at a time, I grabbed a chunk of sod and knocked the soil out and into the wheelbarrow. When the pile was down to just soil, I ran it through the sifter to get out any remaining roots and stones. The sifter was pretty simple to make, it just sets on top of the trailer and is 3 feet wide. The screen is just 1/2 square fencing/netting from the hardware store. It worked GREAT. Nothing left but good topsoil, which went back into the strawberry bed that was extended. It will bet put away soon and saved for next year when I plan on extending the garden another 10 feet to the north.
Oh yea...the hutches, oops kinda got sidetracked. I'm still gathering lumber for that project. We're going to take down that playhouse this weekend, so that will be a decent amount. There are still quite a bit of bards laying around this job I am on, and the GC will finally be there tomorrow, so I'll ask about them. I'm going to ask about the leftover square duct too, it will make nice feeders and mangers.I have a nice plan from a place I found online, but I am going to make it a bit shorter. Not that height is a problem (anyone who knows me knows better lol) but I want to have it on wheels so I can move it into the garage in the winter. Rather than worry about the sides blocking out the cold air, it will be easier to just have the whole thing inside. I plan on building it close to the garage anyway, so it wont be far to move. On top of that whole project, I'm going to build another cold frame just to grow greens for the rabbits in the winter. If they'll work for people greens, they'll work for rabbit greens....and if the materials are free again, what the hell. I'll have to pay for feed pellets and hay, at least greens will be one thing I won't have to pay for. Still up in the air on chickens, I've asked the neighbor twice and he keeps forgetting to ask the landlord.
Well all for now, gonna go read the pages that Lisa printed off for me on tanning hides without chemicals.......just what I need, one more chore/hobby.

June 3rd 2008

Above I posted a picture of the cold frame I finally got completed a few weeks ago. It's set in place at the end of the dogs fence, facing south. The whole thing cost me a grand total of maybe $16, and thats only because I had to buy the hinges and the thermometer. Once it was set in place, I marked the location in the sod, pulled the frame back out, and removed the sod. I screened the soil from the sod, added a good mix of compost, put the frame back, and put the mix inside. I decided to give it a try just to see how it worked, so since it was nice and sunny, I closed the lid all the way. It didnt take an hour and the inside temp read 120 degrees. It could have been higher, but thats all the thermometer goes to. Yep, I think its gonna work just fine.
I got 12-13 more windows last night from someone else on Craigslist..more freebies! I'm going to use some of them to make another cold frame sometime this summer. It won't be quite as large, and will be strictly for greens for the future rabbits. I'm also going to use maybe 2 more of them to make a solar dehydrator. I've had plans for one for quite a while, but just didnt have the materials. The rest of them I'll offer to folks on the local homesteading group that I joined.
I've yet to get the "playhouse" that I was offered. I just havent had the time and the van's been pretty stuffed all the time. This lady brought in a picture of it to Lisa, and I gotta say I was disappointed. Its not a nice kit one, its made from 2x4's and OSB,grrrr using OSB outside. Ah well, I'll still take it for the materials. At least its a start.
As of now, the garden is ALMOST all in. All thats left is the last 40 foot row of sweet corn, ( I had more sod to pull for that), a few tomato plants, the melons, squash, and Lisa's birdhouse gourds. The new apple trees didn't skip a beat on the transplant, and are looking great. I lost one of the grapes and one of the blackberries in that last snap of frost we had, but they'll get replaced sometime soon. I've been out back picking the buds off the strawberries like mad. This years new 50, and the 40 cuts from runners are looking good and should produce well next year. Last years plantings are hanging full of green berries, woooohoooo, won't be long now!
We had friends in from out of state all weekend, and I made a kind-of rough grill/fire pit from cinder blocks and burned in it every night, thursday-saturday. I've been playing with the idea of a permanent one for over a year, and I finally settled on a plan. It will be a grill with 3 different height positions, and fire up into a chimney out of block and brick. At Lisa's request, I'll make something to hold & swing a dutch oven into it as well. It will have a ledge in the back like a normal chimney, and I'm seriously thinking about bringing it back out to a door in front for a smoker, though that idea isn't totally carved in stone as of yet. The whole thing will be made of cinder blocks, the blocks will be filled with sand to retain heat, covered inside with brick, then the whole thing will be wrapped in stone. I'm going to build it on the back patio area. Its a nice area to sit and lounge, and convienent to the backdoor for anything we're doing out there.
On another note, I have a friend that I just got back in contact with after almost a year. He moved and is buying a place not far from me, seventeen acres! Small brick house, but built really well, and the basement level walks right out into the back yard. The Tuscarawas river runs through the back, and makes about 8 or 10 turns on his property alone. There is a lot of nice old wood fencing he is tearing down that he offered me and I'll more than likely take. ARRGHH I'm happy for the guy, but on the other hand, I'm jealous as hell. Its my dream place. All he plans to do is level things out and keep it nice, and just put in a small 12x12 garden. ARRGGHHHH what I could do with all that space!!! It's obvious by all the wood, barbed wire, and electric fencing that one of the previous owners had quite a bit of livestock, and he is tearing it all down, grrrrrr. Nice big old barn in the front, all that land, yep, I'm jealous. Not to mention the river and allllllllllll the deer tracks back there. I did manage to get a few things from him though. He's one of those people who likes to live "in the country" and have all the "antiques" out for display. As soon as I pulled in, I saw some things hanging on the barn that I had been actually looking to buy, I just hadda laugh. After a bit of talk and swapping for some camping gear for his son, I came home with a cross cut saw, corn knife, splitting maul, and a nice railroad style lantern. As we were walking around, on the way back I almost tripped over something in the brush, it was a small cultivator for a lawn size tractor. He apologised and said he planned on taking it to the scrapyard....wrong lol it went in my van. I had to replace a few small parts, which I got for free from the handy mower-fixin' man next door. I hooked it up and gave it a whirl through the front bed thats set aside for the melons and gourds. That thing works pretty good! It needs a little adjustment and oil, but it'll be ready for use hopefully this week. I know, I have a tiller, but its just too cool to pass up. Plus, it'll hook to the International tractor whenever I can get someone with a trailer to bring it here. So what the hell, I have that now, and there is an old disc at dads that I'm gonna take too. Now all I have to find is a small plow and I'll be all set. I dont really "need" this stuff, but I want it. We don't plan on being here forever, so when the time comes we can make our move to our own dream place, I'll have more things ready....and these kinda freebie things I just can't turn down.
Entry for April 23, 2008
Yesterday was another productive day. I got home before noon, and started on the new strawberry bed. I used an old floor scraper that I sharpened, and used it to scallop the edges of the new bed along the timbers I had layed out, then started pulling up the sod. Again, the sod came in handy to fill in low spots, and the deep tracks where I almost buried the van in the front yard 2 months ago. What I didnt use, I piled behind the garage. By the end of summer, all the grass in the middle will be dead, and it will be usefull topsoil for elsewhere.
When all the sod was pulled, I took the tractor out front and mowed a section of the yard, raked up the new grass clippings and last years leaves, raked it on top of the soil, and tilled it all in. I planted the strawberrys,(we ordered 50 and recieved 54,woohoo), and watered them well. The forecast called for a chance of rain last night, but it doesnt look like that happened, so I'm glad I watered well. Hopefully by sunday, the first batch of compost will be nearly ready, and I'll spread that around the plants then cover them with more leaves and grass clippings. I still have to stake down the timbers, but thats a simple project I can do anytime.
When I was done with that, I weeded out the blueberries and the small strawberry bed. I may end up making the new bed a bit bigger and transplanting some from the old bed. Some of the runners found their way outside of the bed and started, plus it needs thinned out a bit, so they'll need a new home. I still have to make some kind of frame to hold netting over both beds to keep the birds out. I had one on the small bed last year, but the neighbor accidently ran it over with his 4 wheeler when he drove up to plow my drive the weekend we got the 2 feet of snow. I should have had it put away, but I didnt, lesson learned.
When I was done and putting away tools, I noticed the neighbor across the old orchard out tilling a new garden. I've wanted to talk to him about the fallen trees for firewood, so I walked over. He was fighting an OLD wards tiller on ground still covered with grass. I suggested pulling the sod to make it easier and help avoid weeds, but I'm not sure he will. Since he was getting ready to quit anyway, I told him to come over tomorrow after work and take my troy-bilt since it wont beat him up so bad.
We talked for quite a bit before his wife called him in for supper. They're a nice young couple with 3 kids under age 5, and the 2 older boys are hilarious, one had just learned to ride his bike without training wheels and just HAD to show me lol. I found out that he miscalculated the birth date on the goats, so they arent born yet. Maybe by the time they're weened, I'll be busy at work again and we can seriously think about one for ourselves. We also talked a bit about hunting. It turns out that he has been helping a local farmer with coyotes and fox. A fox had dug a big den in the pasture, and one of his cows fell in it and broke a leg, luckily its calf was old enough to survive without its momma. We ended up back talking about goats, and it turns out that goat meat is somewhat on the rise, and locally selling for $6 a pound. I would have never guessed that you could SELL goat meat. I've heard of people eating it, but not buying it. I guess the price of GOOD beef, and the growing awareness of everything in meat products has people looking at alternatives to beef. I looked up the price of rabbit meat since this made me curious, and its going for between $6 and $7 a pound. (Ardeng rabbit farm has fryers at 3lb x $5.70lb = $17.10 per rabbit) If I could find a market for it here, I would raise rabbits to sell, but I think it would be just too difficult. Hey....I copy and pasted that price and my font changed lol oh well. Anyway....I need to find some ideas and draw up plans for hutches since I may have enough lumber now, but that can wait till a rainy day when I cant work outside.
And speaking of work, I better get off here and head to Akron. Looks like I'll get full days the rest of the week! YAY! We get to work Friday night at a waste treatment plant where they dump the trucks. Its open and exposed, so the black steel pipe is of course rotting out and bent from trucks and tow motors. OOOOOOOOOO this should smell reeeeeeeealllllly good! 40+ year old sprinkler water and garbage, yumm

from April 21, 2008

Yesterday I mentioned that I had plans for the lumber I picked up on a jobsite,and that I would explain later.'s later, so here goes.
With the rising cost of food, the concern over growth hormones and other chemicals in our food, and other various reasons, I have been considering raising some form of meat animal for quite some time. I've looked into chickens, ducks, and a few others, and with only an acre to deal with, we are limited on room for animals. I have looked over what animal does not need a lot of space, upkeep, initial cost, feed costs, etc, and finally made a decision. That decision is rabbits.
I grew up hunting since I was old enough to walk, and our main hunting animal was rabbit, so I am no stranger to them. While raising rabbits is a lot different than hunting them, a rabbit is a rabbit. A few years ago, we had 3 inside that were rescues from the humane society, and had no problems caring for them. At that time, we found inexpensive feed, hay, and grew greens specifically for them, and there is no reason I can't do the same for meat production.
Now before anyone reads this and wonders "why the hell rabbits?", let me toss out some rabbit meat facts:
1-The office of home economics, state relations of the U S Department of Agriculture has made extensive test and have stated that domestic rabbit meat is the most nutritious meat known to man.
2-Rabbit meat is seasonal any month of the year and is especially recommended during the hot summer months, as it does not contain the heating properties of most all other meats.
3-Rabbit has 795 calories per pound. Chicken 810, Veal 840, Turkey 1190, Lamb 1420, Beef 1440, Pork 2050. ( U S D A circular # 549 )
4-A doe rabbit that weighs 10 pounds can produce 320 pounds of meat in a year. This is more than a cow and it takes 2 acres of land to raise a cow.
5-Rabbits will produce 6 pounds of meat on the same feed and water as a cow will produce 1 pound of meat on the same feed and water.
6-Baby rabbits feed of mothers milk so rich that they can double their weight in 6 short days as compared to a pig at 14 days, calves 47 days, and humans 160 days.
7-Rabbit meat is all white meat.
8-Rabbits are known to be used for meat as far back as 1500BC ,The first recorded rabbitry husbandry was in early Roman times, Where rabbits were kept in walled rabbit gardens for food. This saved waste over bigger animals because the rabbit was all eaten. there was no refrigeration.Sailing vessels distributed rabbits on islands in various sea lanes to be used as a source of food by sailors.In 1859 a single pair of rabbits was released in Victoria, Australia, and in 30 years gave rise to an estimated 20 million rabbits.
9-Rabbit meat compares very favorably to veal at half the price.
10-France is the world's largest producer and consumer of rabbit meat. In Hungary there are rabbitries with over 10,000 does producing rabbits for export to Italy.
11-As the worlds human population grows there will be less land to raise food. The rabbit will play a more increasing role in this supply.
Thats a lot of information to swallow (no pun intended) about rabbits and rabbit meat. I'm sure that someone reading this will disagree and question my idea, a few may argue with me, I know a vegetarian who is going to be appalled at it...and I'm sure that at least one here at home will refuse to eat any of the meat. It's a moral issue really. It's far easier in todays world to not actually associate an animal with our food. Meat is sold and marketed in stores and resturants under fancy names such as beef, pork, and veal; rather than what it really is, being cow, pig and lamb. People dont want to associate some pretty furry creature with the steaks on the grill, or the bacon frying next to the eggs, and rabbits being the cute furry critter we all see at Easter is one of the worst. We just can't seem anymore able to put a face on what we eat, let alone have the deed of raising and slaughtering for ourselves. Again, the same as with fruits or vegetables, we cant, and dont want, this burden. We leave it up to the farmers, the butchers, and ultimately, the grocers, all of which take a cut of what you pay, leaving the prices growing more and more every year. (and causing unkown amounts of long-haul shipping, plus handling and packaging of the meat over and over)
So.....this is my decision. Partly out of general cost, partly out of not wanting chemical filled/sprayed meat from the stores, and partly knowing that I am doing one more thing for myself and raising yet another finger to the grocery chains and big business.
I will make simple outdor hutches for my rabbits. They'll be above ground for the most part to stay warm and dry, but I do want to make something (yet undesigned) so they can get to the ground to run around and eat some grass. I'll make sure the hutches have roomy nesting boxes, and a good roof to keep them safe and dry. Even though I am raising them for meat production, I want them to have a good life and not just stuck in a wood and wire cage the whole time. I may keep the fur to use or sell, but thats undecided as of now.
I honestly dont know if anyone actually reads this blog, but I will expect a comment or 2, and I'm ready for them, good or bad. I have made a decision for myself, and for us at home. This surely isn't for everyone, and I am well aware of that. But when you read this (whoever you are) please consider the facts before you judge me on what I do. Read what I posted about nutrition, read my previous entries about what we as a society are eating, look up the growth hormones and chemicals that are in nearly every piece of food we put in our mouths. Think about it, just a little, before you call my bunny killer.
Entry for April 18, 2008
Of course, no work again today. I was supposed to go to this one jobsite today, but he called and asked if I could come on saturday instead. So, i'll be working tomorrow and getting more done here today. At least the weather is beautiful.
I got quite a bit done yesterday. I spent pretty much the entire day in the garden, and have the years first minor sunburn to prove it lol. I got the rest of the fugitive weeds pulled, and tilled the rest of the garden. Found some string, and cut up a bunch of small scrap lumber for stakes, and layed out the whole thing. Once it was all layed out with string, I grabbed a trusty rake and started making the raised beds in front. My Troy-Bilt tiller goes fairly deep, so it was easy raking, and let me get the beds 8-10 inches high. The first one is 2 feet wide, the second is 4 feet wide. After these were done, I was sitting on a bucket in the shade; taking a break and drinking some water, looking at the progress. It was then, I decided to go ahead and do the whole rest of the garden in raised beds. (except for the last 2 rows which will be corn) I think it will make it easier to harvest, and also easier to thin, mulch, and compost. I got the whole thing done except for 2 rows, and those will be done today. By the time 5:30 rolled around, I was just too tired to do anymore since I had started out there and went non-stop since 9am. (actually so tired that I fell asleep in the chair watching Greenovate, and woke up still in the chair at 7am lol oops) Hopefully today I can get that finished, and stake down the timbers for the strawberries, get that sod up, and get it tilled. I still have to decide what I am going to use on the pathways in the garden. I want something to cover it for weed prevention, and to keep the soil from drying out. I may for now get the giant pile of pine needles the neighbor had raked up. Weather permitting, I'll transplant most of the horseradish from the back of the garden to a section of the new raised bed in front too. I'm still thinking of making a small herb garden somewhere as well, but we arent sure of that one yet. I had to laugh at myself yesterday for a bit. I had planned on using landscape timbers to seperate each bed along the length, at the ends, and in between each small bed on the raised ones. How I didnt add this up before is beyond me, but when I did, I realized that I will need 972 feet, or roughly 121-8 foot timbers. OOPS lol don't think that one's going to happen anytime soon. Looks like just piled up soil beds for now!

April 17,2008

Well its 12:24 am, and as odd as it seems, I'm too worn out to sleep, both physically and mentally. Again today, I drove to Cleveland for work, and nothing on this building has changed in a week. Here I go, drive an hour home with nothing paid but drive time. Its getting worse every week here, and it not just the company I work for, its everywhere in construction around here. Its spring, construction should be booming, but its not. The neighbors son in law owns a siding business, and has so little work, he has to lay off some guys this week. Unless something changes in the next week or so, I'll be getting a part time job just to help ends meet. Hopefully I can get one at the garden center 5 drives up the! lol
Anyway.....enough of that for now.
Today on the way home I stopped to visit my parents. My dad's doing better luckily, and my mom's been trying to keep busy on things outside. She gets cabin fever as bad as I do lol.
I walked up to the old barn and noticed its getting even worse. I dont see it lasting thru the summer without falling down, so I have GOT to get someone with a trailer to haul that tractor out of there and to here. I may go there again tomorrow and get the rest of anything useful out of there since there isnt any work tomorrow either. I did get 3 of the old rolls of 4 foot chain link fence from behind the barn and toss 'em in the van, and found the old coleman heater I forgot dad had up there. It's a little rusty, but overall it doesnt really look bad. That'll be the next rainy day garage project. Of course dad had to ask what I was "stealing" this time lol
I left there and came home, let the dogs out and started working. I got out the post hole diggers and spud bar, and set the posts for the 32 foot trellis for wild blackberries. I didnt use any cement, just gravel and stones tamped in good and tight. I used that 4 foot fence to cover the whole area, so yayyyyyy thats done. I just have to start the transplants now, maybe that will happen tomorrow too since I might be over there.
I decided to start on the big garden, a little late, but better than never. There was some kind of wild ground cover all over where the soil wasnt covered, so I pulled all that up, tossed it in the wheelbarrow,and put it in the compost. I uncovered all the horseradish, and tomorrow or friday I will get most of that transplanted in the raised beds I am making in the front area. I found a few sections of tree root that were missed by the stump grinder last year, and arrrrghhhh I broke the handle on the mattock trying to cut them out. When it was all done......ok not quite ALL but most......I dug out the troy bilt and gave it its last good tilling.( I wont be tilling the main garden anymore after this year) I just loved that smell of fresh soil, it reminded me yet again that it was spring, and put a smile on my face, as well as a cramp or 2 in my back, lol. Tomorrow or Friday, I'll stake and string the whole thing out, and start laying out the beds and rows. When thats done, I have to pull the sod and till up the new strawberry bed too. I wont put those out till I know we're done with the last frost, but I want everything ready.
I raked up a bit more of last falls leaves and put them in the bin too, a little at a time I'll get them all in there. I pulled up the old flowerbed out front last year, and covered the whole thing with leaves, thats going to be lisa's gourds and pumpkins this year too. Sometime soon I'll rake up those leaves as well and give it a good tilling.
Probably when I get that bigger tractor here, I'll start the back patio area. I'm making a combo grill/fireplace/firepit out there. The main body will be cement block, sand filled, lined with brick, and covered in stone. I want to move the small pond I put in, then do the whole thing in cobblestone. I hate patio stone or paver bricks, they just look too commercial for my taste. It's going to involve tearing up a bit of old concrete, but I can bury that and use the soil elsewhere. We spent a lot of time out there in the summer, many friday and saturday nights sitting around a fire talking and looking at the stars, so I want it to be a place we both enjoy being in. And, same as the cobblestone, I want a certain look to that grill. I hate the look of an ugly, boxy propane grill, and the small round charcoal grill we have is just hideous. Works great, but its ugly. Looks like one of those bad old 50's movie spaceships on a tripod, lol.
While this time off really sucks on the checkbook, its giving me time to get more done around here. Think i'm gonna go try to sleep now, probably crash on the fouton so I dont wake up the dogs in our room.
Entry for April 14, 2008
I havent written here for a couple of days because there really isnt much going on. It was cold and rainy all weekend, so nothing outside got finished. (my hand really limited things anyway) I had to run outside sunday afternoon and cover the new fruit plants since the forecast called for lows in the 20's sunday and monday night. The weather is supposed to start changing again today, getting gradually warmer through the rest of the week, and reaching the upper 60's by the end of the week. YAYY I have to get out to the garden and get the raised beds layed out and ready. We decided to try raised beds this year in the front of the garden for all the greens and root crops so they would be all in one general area and easier to get at. For the first time at planting with this method, we aren't going to go TOO crazy with it until we see how it all works out.
I have the whole thing layed out on paper, graphed out in a square foot grid pattern.I've cut it down a bit and squared it out to make it easier to work with, the total being 40x50 feet. For now I'll use stakes and string to lay it out until I can get more timbers to seperate the beds. The first 10 feet of the garden will be layed out as follows: 2x8 feet for my horseradish, 2x8 for garlic, 2x6 broccoli, 2x4 turnips,2x4 parsnips, 2x6 carrots, 2x4 beets, 2x6 green onions, 2x2 spinach, and 2x2 leaf lettuce.....a 2 foot wide path, then 4x8 yellow squash, 4x10 cucumbers, 4x10 melons, 4x12 potatoes, and 4x6 feet cabbage....followed again by another 2 foot wide path. Behind that will be 2x14 feet green peppers, 2x12 jalepeno peppers, 2x12 hugarian hot wax peppers, and 2x12 feet for onions. The rest will be in simple rows, consisting of tomato's, green beans, and corn. There is still a 6 x 50 foot area yet uncalled for, but I'm sure it will fill up with something by they time we plant. I'm going to leave the paths at 2 feet wide for now and see how it goes. I hate to waste that much space, but also its nice not to try to cramp in a 12 inch row with a basket to pick.
A lot of this should have been in by now, but the unpredictable ohio weather keeps me from wanting to chance a frost and losing everything. We had a frost last night, and I noticed everything covered again this morning as I just looked out the kitchen window as I refilled my coffee. I'm going to have to check the new fruit plants when I get home to see if they're damaged. Hopefully I had them covered well enough...I'll soon find out.
I did manage to get one side of the composter finished yesterday. I had to get piano hinges for the doors, and forgot to get a second latch for the right side. I got the door complete, dumped the contents of one of the compost bins inside, and gave it a spin. It seems to work great, but I do need to add some kind of handles to grab when turning it. It was awkward for me to grab and spin, and I let lisa try it, and she could barely get a grip. I'll probably make something that mounts in the center between the two drums so its not putting stress more on one side than the other. These heavy platic drums are tough, but I want them and this rig to last a long time. I still have to add the rows of stainless screws that I want to, but those can be added anytime.
I'm hoping to get the arbors made for the wild blackberries made someday this week. I'm going to go pretty simple with these...pipe for posts, and chain link fence for the arbors. I figure I'll keep it at 5 feet tall, so I'll cut the pipe at 7 feet and drive them into the ground. I may end up doing the same for the grapes, but that one is undecided.
I find it kind of funny thinking of all the things to do outside. Last week when the weather was nice, the neighbor was outside dragging around the aeroater and spreader to make his lawn nice and green, as I'm sure a lot were around here. They're all plotting out what pretty flowers will go where, and how much mulch they need to prevent any weeding after all the planting is finished so they can spend the summer doing worthless things, and sitting inside with the air conditioning. Then here we sit...plotting out how much lawn space we have, figuring out what areas get the most sun, which ones don't, and what will grow in each particular area. I have yet to find lawn grass in the produce section of the grocery or at the farmers markets, but some people spend as much time on their lawns as we do preparing the gardens. Some don't even do this work themselves, and hire a lawn service to do these chores for them. I can't understand someone who doesnt enjoy the open air and the feel of the sun on their backs; the joy of doing things yourself, and the feeling at the end of the day that you have accomplished something other than sitting in the a/c and watching television.
Ever since we bought this house, we have been somewhat of the local outcasts. People drive by and stare as we work in the garden or hang out clothes on a line. They slow down and look, staring as if the amish or the Clampett's moved into the neighborhood. Who are these people? Why are they planting a garden when they can go buy that stuff? Why are they hanging clothes out to dry when they can use a drier? Why are they out there sweating when they can be inside sitting in the air conditioning? Why are they sitting outside around a fire when a new episode of "reality stars on ice" is on tonight? People around here just don't understand us. Some talk about gardening years ago, but most just dont want the "hassle" or claim to not have the time. The neighbor behind us does love the fact that we grow the garden. We bought the house from them as it was his wife's mothers place. Since we started growing here at home, we've gladly kept them in supply of tomatos, peppers, and leaf lettuce. We keep him in vegetables, and he plows our 100 yard drive in winter, seems a fair trade to me. Sadly, due to cancer in his jaw, he can't chew anything as of now, but his wife gladly accepts green goodies. Of course, she can't be bothered with even so much as growing one tomato plant herself.
It's a sad world when people who are trying to better themselves are looked at the way we are. Most people's idea of a "better life" means more money, and more accumulation of all things valuable. To me, they purchase of a push powered cultivator is a much wiser investment than a satellite tv system, but what do I know, I'm the outcast.
Entry for April 09, 2008
Yet again yesterday, work was a bust, so I came home and dove into more projects. I started to clean more odds & ends in the garage, and kept looking outside at the two emtpy 55 gallon plastic drums that were sitting in front of the trailer. Thats it, I decided, I'm making my compost tumblers. It actually went together pretty easy. I marked the center of the top and bottom of both drums, measured both end to end, and added 2". I threaded a piece of 2" pipe to that measurement, and slid it thru the drums, threading a floor flange at both ends, and bolting the flanges to the barrels. Then I added 4" to this measurement, and threaded a piece of 1-1/2" pipe to that one, then greased the whole outside of the pipe, and slid it thru the 2" piece. At either end, I threaded on a 90 degree elbow, and measured for the legs. I wanted it +/- 4 feet off the ground, so the total measurement was 7 feet. (with 3 feet buried in the ground) I didnt want to have to buy any cement, so I just stood the whole thing in place, stabled it with a ladder, and started hammering the pipe into the ground. The hammering part took a while, and my arms still feel every swing this morning as I am writing. I got it set in place, and made sure it was level and gave it a spin. Woooohaaaaaa this thing spins like it's on bearings! I had cut out the doors on the face of the drums before I set it, (12 x 24" each) and for a day or 2, I'm leaving them off so the drums can totally dry out inside. The forecast calls for rain for the next 3 days, so they'll get a good washing too. For some reason, though the axle is centered, it wants to lay with the doors straight up, that was an easy fix with 2 eyebolts and a short piece of chain to make a makeshift holder to keep the doors in front. Now, just unhook the chain and give it a spin. I'm also going to mark the top and back in a grid pattern, and screw in a bunch of stainless screws that will penetrate about an inch and a half inside the drum. Its my thought that these will help shred the compost material inside the drum with every spin, I guess I'll see how that works. I also drilled a series of holes along the bottom so any excess moisture can run out. I want the bins to stay moist, but not wet.
I dug out the last of the landscape timbers that were laying around, and layed them out at the top end of the tumbler (towards the street) and ran them to the top end of the leaf bin I made a few days ago. I'll fill this whole area with rakings from under the pine trees as mulch so I dont have to mow or trim under the thing. All thats left is to pick up a couple of piano hinges for the doors, and pop rivit them in place, and then some paint.
It was an all day project, but a really good one. If this rain hits today like we are expecting, I'll change the oil and tune up the tractor and tiller, and work on some more cleaning & organizing in the garage. Hopefully by the weekend, I can give the garden a good tilling and lay out the beds with stakes & string.

still more

Entry for April 08, 2008
Yesterday was a pretty productive day. I've got the garage almost totally cleaned out, YAY! I sorted thru most of the scrap lumber and decided that most of it will be cut up to be burned in the furnace. Speaking of furnace, I got the energy king uncovered and moved into the garage. Wow is that thing heavy, it took me every bit of 20 minutes to walk it insid 4" at a time. I decided that since its just going in the garage, I wont run the thermostat and will just hook the fan motor to a switch. I need to get some duct to run from it, and pipe the intake and flu, but at least its inside and where I want it. Ahhhhh finally, heat in the garage.
I made the leaf bin I talked about earlier as well. I wanted to put it by itself somewhere in the open, but I only had 16 feet of 4 foot fence. I didnt want to have to buy any more, so I put it against the dog kennel. This way I was able to use the kennel fence as the back, and made it 4 x 8 feet. Rather than fence posts, I used 1" pipe for posts and drove them into the ground and wired the fencing to those. I raked up a little bit of the leaves from in front of the garage and fence just to show a little something in there for my efforts. Next to it, to the west, I layed out the two drums I plan to make into compost tumblers, and the next 10 foot section (along the kennel posts) is where I'll make the first cold frame. At the very end I will keep the trash bins I am currently using for compost just to keep the shredded paper in, and possibly house waste if the tumblers are full. I dug out the last 55 gallon drum I had in the garage, and since the top was already cut off, I'll ise it as a rain barrel for garden water. I just need to check at work for 2 more drums now since I want 3 rain barrels total. All 3 will go at the bottom of downspouts. I have plans drawn for how I want to make these. They'll be off the ground just the height of a concrete block, and will have a hose attachment at the bottom, and a 2" overflow that will attach into the drain pipes where the downspouts were.
Hopefully today when I get home I can start in the garden. I'll just walk around and pull up any weeds that managed to get started and toss them in the bin I made yesterday. If this weather stays the way it is, by this weekend I can give it one last good tilling. I decided not to till it every spring anymore (after this one) since if all goes well, and I keep the ground covered, I wont have any weed problems and the ground can naturally take in anything I lay on top. After the tilling, I want to get some stakes and string, and lay out the raised beds I want to make in the front. I have the whole garden layed out on paper, every square foot is used. The entire length of the front (60 feet) will be raised beds. This will take all the greens and smaller root crops like carrots & beets. Behind that will be for potatos and then anything that vines like the squash and cucumbers. The rest, for now, will be in conventional rows. If I have enough timbers left over, I'm going to make a small seperate bed for my horseradish since it takes up so much garden space. (plus I am the only one that eats it) I still need to make spots in front for Lisa's gourds and pumpkins too, argh almost forgot about those.
I also found out yesterday that the baby goats were born a week and a half ago, so I have to get some things going for lisa's new critter. I need to build it a small house, and add a second gate at the kennel so there's no chance of it getting out when someone comes in. I also decided, whether it happens this year or not, I am going to build the rabbit hutches I want. Yes, rabbits. I won't go into this one quite yet, but I will soon.
Sometime this week I have to make some calls. I need to see if I can borrow my uncles truck for a few hours to get a good load of firewood from my sister in laws. She had her fireplace converted to gas so she doesnt need it anymore. It's really only lit twice a year on holidays, and god knows she cant be bothered with carrying in that much wood. Ah well, what did I expect from someone with less than 1/4 acre of lawn that pays a lawn service to mow it. Anyway....back to where I was. I also need to find someone with a trailer so I can get that lowboy home from mom and dads. There is finally almost enough room for it in the garage now. I hope to build a lean-to behind the garage or get a small shed kit someday, but with the way work has been lately, it won't happen this year. It figures now that I have made some room in the garage, I'll fill it back up with spare tractor parts, ah well. At least its useful clutter.
I suppose I better swallow this last bit of coffee and head to work. Blahhhh I hate driving an hour to a job, but its work and they pay for the gas....and at 3.39 a gallon now, thats a GOOD thing.

from April 6, 2008

YAY a good weather day!!!!!!
FINALLY!! A weekend of great weather! Yesterday was pretty much a bust since my sinuses we giving me hell and I was fighting a headache and slept most of the day. But today was a different story. Yayyyyyyyyyyy
I started out front, and raked up a big area of leaves on the north side. I laid out an area 24 x 2 feet for the grapes, and pulled up the sod. (It came in handy to fill the spot where I got the van stuck in the mud last month.) I wrapped the area in landscape timbers, then loosened up the soil by hand. I then shoveled about half into the wheelbarrow, mixed it with a heavy dose of compost, then shoveled it back in. I spaced the grape plants at 8 feet, with 4 feet on either end to the first and last one. After they were planted and watered, I covered the whole new bed with roughly 10" of leaves from the yard. I still have to put in posts and make some kind of arbor for them, but for now, at least they're in the ground.
I took inventory of the timbers I had left over, and laid out the new strawberry bed out back. It measures 24'x6'. For now, the timbers are just laying it out, I'll get the soil dug and cultivated later this week. I had enough timbers left to lay out the wild blackberry bed, and add onto the other blackberry bed in the back. The addition was an additional 8 feet, I got that one staked in, sod up, planted, composted, watered, and again covered with leaves. The new one out front covers the whole front of the parking area I made several years ago. I am going to use this one to transplant wild blackberries from mom & dads place. (there's hundreds of them behind the old shed) This one goes the entire 32 feet of the parking area, and I laid it out 12" wide. It needs cultivated and arbors set, but same as the grapes and strawberry bed, it will get done later this week.
I took some time to break up the pile of branches I had gathered in the front yard to good burning size and got them piled up. There's a LOT of dead branches stuck in the trees I'll have to get, plus trim down quite a few low hanging branches so I can mow under them. I cant wait for the first back patio fire of the season. I started to rake up last years dead leaves from the yard, but stopped since the wind was so strong and defeating the purpose. I decided that I am going to make a corral/wire bin near the garage for all of the leaves and grass clippings. This way its in one place, and easy to transfer to the garden for mulching, or to the compost bins for dry material. There's a pretty big pile of pine needles at the neighbors, and I'll get those out of his way and add them to the same pile.
When my back told me I had enough yard work for the day, I went into the garage and started the annual spring cleaning. Geeez I have a lot of junk out there. Ok its not junk, its treasure. lol I got all the yard & garden tools cleaned, oiled, and hung back in their proper place. I cleaned off one of the shelf units, and have set that one primarily for fishing and camping gear. So far, there are 3 lanterns, (1 propane and 2 white fuel), 3 cookstoves, (one 2 burner propane, one 3 burner white fuel, and one mini backack size single white fuel, 2 good cots, my 2 old tents, 2 sleeping bags, 2 sets of different size pots, pans, plates and bowls, extra tent stakes, a good set of sturdy plates, bowls, and flatware, a 5 and a 2 gallon water jug, and at least 8 large coolers. It's finally starting to look like enough. I just want to start back-stocking fuel and propane next.
I started to get all my paintball gear together, and made a decision. I'm going to stop playing and sell everything. I wont have a lot of time to play anymore with everything I want to accomplish here, plus it just too much money to spend. Besides the cost of everything I have now, I have to figure that every time I play, I have to pay for tank refills and paintballs. It averages out to about $45 every time I play. Playing every other weekend is roughly $90 that I can put towards other things that I want. More useful things. (most of which are circled in my Lehmans catalog like a kid at xmas with the toys r us book) What I can get out of all of it will go in the bank now anyway since work has been so slow. I'm also going to off the 2 gas weedeaters, one of the chainsaws, and that propane turbo heater. I'm thinking about posting them on craigslist to trade for things I want, but I'm not sure yet.
While I was outside doing what I can, Lisa was busy in the kitchen all day. She made 2 loaves of bread, and froze enough dough for 4 more, made a large batch of homeade noodles, and cooked 4 big casseroles, one for tonight, and 3 to go into the freezer. While things were baking or rising, she sat and shredded the bin of paper we keep next to the recycle in the house. Everything paper is saved, shredded, and added to the compost bin. Speaking of compost, I'm hoping to get the tumblers started this week too, and if I can, I'll set 2 rain barrels at the back downspouts for garden water. It depends on work though, hopefully I'll get a full week but I'm not gonna hold my breath.
I took a walk through the garden and found that something had eaten the tops off the last of the carrots. Whatever it was at the greens and about an inch down into the carrot itself. I'm not sure if its a squirrel or a chipmunk, but whatever it is will meet the pellet gun as soon as I catch it in the act.
Ah well, enough writing for today. I'm gonna go start a pot of coffee and sit to read till I go to bed. I started another book a few days ago, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover. Its yet another book of suburbanites who left it all and bought a place in the country to be self sufficient. I'm almost done reading "The Good Life", (that one stays in the van to read at lunch breaks), and read "Better Off" twice and loaned it to Ben. When I'm done with this one, I am going to concentrate on herb books since we've been talking off and on all winter about an herb garden. OK..........I seem to remember saying I was going to stop writing lol. I'll go more into books in the next post.

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