Monday, March 31, 2008
It was a perfect day for planting, except for the wind. The temperature was in the 50's. The ground is very soft from all the rain/snow we've had and it was easy to get the seedlings planted. I made very good use of all that wonderful pine mulch we made in February, too. Every single tree is mulched with a good layer of finely textured pine mulch. The first photo shows the trees separated according to their planting destinations. I used the measuring wheel to get the trees the right distance apart, according to my diagrams. When planning your landscape, always measure the area and draw a diagram of where things will get planted!
I got half of the order planted today and the other half will have to wait until tomorrow. I simply ran out of daylight today or I'd probably still be out there. I am pleased with the way my plans all came together. They sent me two extra Hazelnuts which was a nice surprise. I am planting a mixture of hardwood deciduous trees with several species of conifers. I ordered some species I've never tried before because I am bored with the same old Norway Spruce/Austrian Pine/Colorado Blue Spruce/White Pine combination most people stick to around here. I also designed a two-stage windbreak for the back yard which will help slow the southern winds in winter, my goal being to reduce heating costs. Of course, it will take time for the trees to grow and fill in in order for that to happen, but I've got plenty of time out here on the Twelve Acres.
I specifically chose some of the trees based on their ability to provide food for birds. The Serviceberries, Hazelnuts, Oaks and conifers all provide food for many bird species, and the Hazelnuts will also provide a tasty crop of nuts for us. All of the trees will provide shelter and nest sites for the birds as well.
If you are a tree lover but aren't a member of the Arbor Day Foundation, I suggest you consider joining. The membership fee is $10 for a 6 month membership and $15 for a year membership. The incentive to join is the 10 free trees you get for joining. I planted my 10 free trees last fall along with a small initial order I placed. They are still dormant so I don't know if I lost any this winter yet.
Tomorrow I will plant the trees I ordered for the windbreak and the trees that will fill in the gaps in the fence row. I think we're due for even more rain tomorrow so I might have to plant in the rain. I've planted trees in all kinds of weather though, including during a heavy snow storm! Tree planting, Stage II comes in two weeks when the 50 evergreens I ordered from our county's Soil and Water Conservation District arrive. Phew!
This last photo shows a typical order from the Arbor Day Foundation. They always do an excellent job of packaging the trees for shipment.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
My hamstrings are incredibly sore from all the squatting I did yesterday while planting. I have to work tonight but will have the rest of the week off to recover. I must be a glutton for punishment because I ordered more plants last night. Somebody stop me.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Notice the protective packaging they put the hydrangeas and butterfly bushes in. Pretty clever, eh? I inspected each of the plants last night as I separated them into boxes according to their final location. I found that they all survived shipping very well, even the very long stick-like Beauty Berry shrub. The bags contain the various lily bulbs, hostas and bare-root plants I ordered. If you've never ordered from any of the above companies, I highly recommend that you do.
This is only about a third of the plants and trees I ordered. There are many more to come...sigh. Although I complain about the planting work, I am thrilled to be working with such a large landscaping palette for the first time this year. I get to plant the plants I like and put them where I want them. I am not limited by size either, which is a big change for me. Moving from a tiny city lot to a huge country home is almost a shock to this gardener's system!
It's going to be a nice sunny spring day here at the Twelve Acres, just perfect for digging in the dirt. There is still a bit of snow on the ground from the last storm that passed through. But the sun will quickly melt it and then I can get out there and start planting. We are predicted to have rain tomorrow evening which will be perfect for watering in all the new transplants. I love it when the weather cooperates with my plans.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
When we lived in Fremont I talked to Jim about homesteading. I wanted to have a few chickens and some rabbits in the backyard. But it just wasn't feasible for us. Our neighbors were jerks and it would have been impossible to keep the peace with them having a snit over some birds and bunnies in our yard. Things are vastly and hugely different now, though. Now I can raise all the critters I can feed and no one can stop me. The freedom I feel out here is AWESOME. Homesteading is about taking tiny steps toward freedom and self-reliance.
All anyone ever talks about anymore is how expensive things are--from gas to groceries. I've had enough! It's time to start homesteading and producing some of our own food. I can't justify spending $2.59 for a carton of bland factory-made chicken eggs when I know I can produce a dozen free-range chicken eggs for $1.29. Not only that, I can eat some of the chickens too, which is the whole point of homesteading: raise more of your own food and stop relying on the grocery store as much. Any extra eggs will be sold for $1.75 a dozen. It is my hope that the chickens will pay for their own feed.
When I got home this morning I immediately got online and ordered 9 raspberry starts (3 each of yellow, black and red), 5 asparagus plants and 3 blueberry bushes. These perennial plants only have to be planted once and I can count on them to produce more each year. I can fertilize them with aged chicken manure and bedding cleaned out of the coop. They can be incorporated into the landscaping around the house, or better yet, in the windbreak. Nine raspberry bushes would fit nicely into a particular empty area I've got in mind. I would also like to plant a small "postage stamp" orchard in the yard but the area I want to use is currently occupied by the leach bed. Here's hoping the township will install sewers in the near future! In the meantime, I can pick dropped apples in the orchards, free of charge.
After the chickens are established and producing we plan to install three large rabbit hutches so that I can begin raising meat rabbits. I raised rabbits on the Twelve Acres when I was growing up and involved in 4-H, so I know I can do it again. There's nothing to rabbits, really. They're a great source of inexpensive and nutritious meat and the breeders can be treated as pets, so why not?
I can't forget the pond. There are hundreds of blue gill and large mouth bass for the taking as well as the recently stocked yellow perch, red-ear sunfish and channel cats that were added last fall. This source of delicious protein is absolutely FREE for us. Jim and the boys caught lots of blue gill and bass last year and at the end of the summer we had a wonderful fish fry! YUM-O! Jim is anxious to get out there and start fishing again. I told him if they catch all the fish they can, I will gladly fry them up for a feast.
We are installing a wood burning stove this year to save on heating costs. I'm also going to put a collapsible clothes line behind the shop so that I can leave the dryer off during the warm months and let nature dry the clothes instead. After forking over $529 for propane last month, you can be sure I am determined to use far less! How do families making minimum wage survive in this horrible economy?
Almost everyone I know is already a gardener or is putting in a garden this year. With all this land around me, I'd be foolish not to use it. I cannot allow myself to take the Twelve Acres for granted. Not only is it my childhood home (and it's a dream come true to be living here once again), but it's the perfect place for us to provide more for ourselves so that we can rely less on the grocery store. I thank God above every day for being able to grow old out here on my family property. I feel sorry for folks who live in tiny apartments in big cities and never know the freedom of running barefoot in a huge lawn, swimming in a large farm pond, or resting their weary bones under the shade of an ancient tree. How truly blessed I am!
Friday, March 21, 2008
General — walterj 3:13 pm
The National Animal ID program was originally designed to give the big beef producers help in getting export markets which required disease controls. The idea is that every single livestock animal in the United States will be identified and tagged. All livestock animal movements will be tracked, logged and reported to the government. The benefit is to the big factory farms who probably do need this type of regulation. They get to do single ID’s for large groups of animals. Small farmers, pet owners and homesteaders will have to tag and track every single animal.
There are no exceptions - even small farms that sell direct to local consumers will be required to pay the fees and file all the paper work on all their animals. Even horse, llama and other pet owners will be required to participate in NAIS. Homesteaders who raise their own meat and grandma with her one egg hen will also have to register their homes as ‘farm premises’ and obtain a Premise ID, tag all their animals and submit all the paperwork and fees. Absurd? Yes - There are no exceptions under the current NAIS plan. The USDA has slipped this plan in the back door without any legislation. This is going to be very expensive and guess who is going to pay for it in higher food prices… You!
Beginning in 2002 - Using the 9/11 terrorist scare and the threat of BSE (mad cow disease) the USDA lobbied for more control and power.
April 2005 - USDA issued “Draft Strategic Plan and Draft Program Standards” for public comment. The public comment period for those documents ended in early July 2005. Virtually nobody in the “public” knew about the comment period or NAIS at this point. The USDA and its big stakeholders (Big Agri-Biz) have kept it all very hush-hush so that people would not resist this usurpation of private property and rights.
January 2006 - NAIS based rules implemented in Texas and Wisconsin. no exceptions. Later Texas backs down due to strong grass roots opposition.
April 2006 - USDA releases updated document saying NAIS will be voluntary for now if we are good and all signup. See Mafia Style “Voluntary” article. Required compliance level looks to be 100% - see page 3 of April 2006 USDA document.
June 2006 - USDA releases “Guide to Small Non-Commercial Producers” which appears to be an attempt to reassure homesteaders. I feel ill.
July 2006 - USDA to issue rules setting forth the requirements for NAIS premises registration, animal identification, and animal tracking. This is a crucial time for consumers, homesteaders, pet owners and small farmers who will be harmed by NAIS. There will be a limited public comment period after publication of the rules, and objections expressed in the public comments may persuade the USDA to modify, or abandon, some requirements. Mark your calendars and start taking action now! Cancelled by the USDA - See this article.
July 1, 2006 - Premises registration will be compulsory in Texas Postponed by Texas due to strong opposition by small farmers and homesteaders at TAHC meetings.
Fall 2007 - USDA to publish final rules of mandatory NAIS.
January 2008 - Premise ID and Animal ID become mandatory nationwide. It is already mandatory in some states, including Wisconsin and Texas starting January 2006.
January 1st, 2009 - Animal tracking, logging and reporting components of NAIS become mandatory. Strict enforcement, fines, inspections of properties and confiscation of livestock can be done by the USDA or state government without trial or legal hearings.
January 2nd, 2009 - U.S.A. christens the rise of the new Nazi era because Republicans, Democrats and Independents failed to stand up for their rights while they still could. All food production is controlled by the Govi-Corp conglomerate and pets are outlawed. Our Bill of Rights is retired and burned for kindling. The US Constitution is rewritten giving hereditary power to the Presidency under the Patriot Act. Voting is abolished and Congress is disbanded.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
"Is this so-and-so and such-and-such a place at Twelve Acres of pure heaven?" (OK she didn't quite say it like that but it's my story and I'm tellin' it how I want.)
"Uh-huh," says I.
I took the package from her and thanked her and immediately put it on the back deck. No sense in letting dormant plants get used to room temperature, right? I had fully intended to stay in my PJs all day and not go out once but that didn't pan out because now I had 60-some holes to dig and put plant pieces into!
I donned my work clothes, grabbed a garden trowel and my notebook containing the instructions and diagrams as to where all these plants are going to go. Thank God I had the foresight to plan that way or I'd still be out there tonight trying to decide where to plant everything! But since everything was all planned out down to the layout and all, all that needed to be done was to dig the holes and plant. The gray sky was holding back the rain just for me, so I figured I better not waste any time.
I threw on my muddy old sneaks and gloves and out the door I went. Everything went really well but I was surprised to find some still-frozen spots in some of the areas where I planted the Liatris bulbs! I had to pound the soil loose to plant them.
I planted today:
- 2 Mock Orange
- 2 Pink Weigela
- 1 Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'
- 2 Royal Blue Hostas
- 50 purple Liatris bulbs
I purposely paced myself at a leisurely rate. Normally I go into panic mode when I have so much to plant but I've already decided that I'm not going to allow that to happen. I've simply got a lot of trees, shrubs, and perennials heading my way and it's likely they'll now start showing up regularly. As long as I can pace myself and focus on planting each one correctly without rushing I will be just fine. If I let myself get overwhelmed and panicked it will not go together at all. It went well today I must say and I even had energy leftover to spread some more of my fabulous homemade pine bark mulch where it was needed. Now all the planted areas will smell like lovely pine trees. Aaaah! Won't it be refreshing?
When I started researching which plants to use in the landscape I decided to do something unconventional that's just starting to become trendy. I'm planting mostly native plants around the house and wildlife garden. I'm sticking to the tried-and-true shrubs that everyone's grandmothers had in their yard. I'm planting the back-to-the-basics, sturdy species of perennials, not frou-frou hybrids that don't look anything like their parents. Plants like that certainly won't fit in with my native species theme. It's back to Ohio natives for me as I proceed with my plans for living the simple life by homesteading and gardening.
While I was out planting I checked on the areas where I had planted my fall bulbs last year and sure enough, I could see tips of leaves emerging from beneath the heavy mulch. There are large tulips and daffodils on either side of the white Dogwood and I'm anxious to see and smell them. I desperately need a bouquet of fresh spring flowers on the table to remind me that winter is over and green things will once again come to life and I can go out there and nurture them again! Can I get a Hallelujah?
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Unable to contain my curiosity, I grabbed a pair of binocs and my digital camera and headed down the road. When I neared the nest box I entered the windbreak from the road, which made a bit of a crackling noise. I tried to be quiet and stealthy but sneaking up on owls is impossible, so instead I tried to be quick and as unintrusive as possible. I got within 100 feet and propped the binocs up on a tree branch to take some quick pictures through them. Then I put my camera in my pocket and indulged in a few moments of staring at Oscar through the binocs.
He's a lovely little gray phase Eastern screech owl and I am completely smitten with him! Just look at those cute little ear tufts as he stares at me with squinty eyes. I don't know how he can sleep with all the racket the blackbirds are making out there. They are pairing up for spring and all you can hear are various species of blackbird calling, whistling and trilling to each other! Poor Oscar, I hope he can get some rest when they go to bed.
I have no idea if there is a Missus Oscar yet but I feel certain there is. These owls are residents here year-round. I like to think that when they saw the lovely nest boxes we provided they decided to give them a try and liked them enough to stay. I've heard these little owls at all times of the night, as early as sundown and as late as 3 a.m. I hear them in the orchards and in the windbreak calling to each other. I've found their pellets and droppings in the windbreak. And now, finally, I've seen them! It's very likely I've walked past them many times without ever knowing because they are so perfectly camouflaged.
Updates on Oscar and his family will be posted regularly. And you can be certain that any owlets I can see will be photographed come hell or high water!
What a thrill!
Friday, March 14, 2008
I gave up on the owl photo shoot and went to bed. When I got up this afternoon I looked out the bedroom window to see if he was back in the nest box, but he wasn't. Rats! I looked down the length of the field at the wood duck box mounted in an ash tree 650 feet away in the fence row to see if anything was going on and, lo and behold, a little gray owl face was poking out of the entrance hole! So...he left the box with the pesky neighbor (me) and opted for the larger condo with no neighbors at all. Smart owl! The photo shows him in the first box. Below is the wood duck box. I wonder which one will become the nest site?
We all grabbed binocs and took turns looking at the owl, who we named "Oscar". He was enjoying a nap in the duck box and seemed quite pleased with his choice of domicile. I'm beside myself with glee knowing that with all the choices of nest sites in our trees, Oscar chose one of the boxes we hung!
We are looking forward to seeing Oscar's mate, and with any luck we'll be able to watch them raise a family. And of course we are happy to have nature's best rodent control nesting here on the Twelve Acres!
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Along the way we stopped to admire the apple trees. At the end of this row an ancient oak can be seen. It stands as a lone sentinel.
When we got there, we stopped to say hello the Haflingers. They were unimpressed to say the least. As we stood by the horses we looked up to see two beautiful white swans zoom overhead. I couldn't tell if there was a knob on the bill or not, but Derek said he saw the knob which would mean Mute Swan. My gut is telling me Tundra Swan though.
But the kittens in the hay loft were thrilled to see us and they mewed enthusiastically. I climbed the ladder halfway so I could give each one a nice ear scratching. They were grateful.
Then we visited a newborn Angus calf. His mother let us know in no uncertain terms that we were not welcome and that if we knew what was good for us we would leave immediately. Good thing there were two gates between us. I've been around cows a lot and this one meant business!
On the way home, we got a good look at a Red-Tailed Hawk soaring over the orchard as well as a mature Bald Eagle lazily soaring over the Twelve Acres windbreak and field. It's raptor heaven out here and we love it!
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The week of April 14 I will get a call from the post office in town to let me know that my baby chicks from McMurray Hatchery have arrived. Here's what I ordered (minimum order of 25 chicks):
All three breeds are reputed to have gentle and calm dispositions, with the Barred Rocks being on the intelligent side. I chose heavy breeds because we have cold winters here in NW Ohio. I also wanted dual-purpose chickens that would be good layers (Black Australorps being the best of the breeds I chose) and good fryers.
Our biggest challenge is going to be keeping my cousins' dogs from trying to kill them. I plan to give them plenty of advance notice that there will be chickens out and about. Even though we are constructing a fenced run for them, I still want to be able to let them free range as much as possible during the warm months. It makes for healthier birds and tastier eggs. I'm already annoyed with my cousin's black lab as she comes over to our yard to poo. I've even found dog piles in my mulched beds. I hate to ask them to keep her confined to her kennel since this is the country, and they are my cousins. Yet I feel it is my right to have a poo-free yard and free-ranging chickens to boot. I thought I left problems like this behind when I left the city!
At any rate, we are all excited about the impending arrival of 25 chicks (plus one mystery!) next month. I can already hear the Peep! Peep! Peeping of fuzzy babies and the pitter-patter of tiny orange feet in the brooding box. You can be sure that pictures of said chicks and chicken coop project will be posted!
*Mystery chick is a freebie the hatchery throws in for fun. They place a chick from a rare breed in your order and you get to find out what it is when it's all grown up. Fun huh?
Monday, March 3, 2008
Building the right sized chicken coop is the biggest challenge. We went lumber scrapping where I work yesterday and were able to find lots of 2 x 4s and some nice plywood. We'd also need a door, nest boxes, electric light, a window or two and a roosting area. Plus I'd like to let them come out and free range in the yard to help keep the insect population under control using a biologically sound method--hungry hens!
Right now we are searching for the perfect chicken coop plan that we can build ourselves without too much expense. The scavenged wood will certainly help keep the cost low. And would it be too much to ask for a coop that actually had charming window shutters and some flower boxes beneath the window? It would be so cute if it resembled a little cottage!
Well, we'll see how ambitious Jim feels when we get started.
How about a lovely gold and black mixed color flock of Buff Orpingtons and Black Australorps? I think the color combo would be fantastic and a nice touch to the already sweet-tempered, quiet giants of the chicken group.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
- The Red-Winged Blackbirds have returned en masse. I have learned that the females look like large stripey sparrows. Not at all what I thought! Faaaaascinating! [Spock voice]
- There are more Bald Eagles in our area than you can shake a stick at. Last weekend we were lucky enough to get to watch a pair of them land in my cousin's field, face into the wind and soak up the warm sun. One would stretch its wings in the wind once in a while but didn't fly off. They stood on the ground for the longest time.
- I saw yet another Bald Eagle sitting in a tree along the road while on my way to work. Nice, big bird!
- A juvenile Bald Eagle flew over the house on his way toward Magee Marsh. Big bird, flying with a purpose.
- Bonnie and Clyde, our resident Red-Tailed Hawks are very active now. We get to see them regularly, soaring over the thermals created by the dark green windbreak. This means we can see them in their late afternoon routine as they make big circles in the sky.
- A group of four unknown swans flew over last night. They seemed to take an interest in the pond but were quickly followed by Bonnie and Clyde. The swans made a lazy U-turn and left. I could see a pale yellow neck band on one of them. Big, fast flyers!
Raptor migration is under way now and I am going to have to call the BSBO to set up some volunteer time so I can help count raptors. It's a sunny but cold day today. Maybe I can get out there today. One of the great things about living on the twelve acres is that I don't have to go anywhere to bird watch. I can just walk around in the yard or in the windbreak, or just step out on the back deck and look up! I'm amazed at the number of large birds that are flying over this time of the year.