• Bonanza!

    New puppy named Bonanza!

    bo·nan·za /bəˈnanzə/ noun

    1. a situation or event that creates a sudden increase in wealth, good fortune, or profits.

    On Friday, a friend tagged me in a post that the local shelter put up. PUPPIES! 8 week old puppies.

    I have had dogs. Three very good dogs: Murphy, Moose and Sydney (all Labradors/lab mixes). They each had 14-16 years of love from me. I have had a smattering of other peoples dogs for long periods of time. I love dogs. But when my Sydney passed in February of 2021, I never wanted to feel the pain of losing a best friend ever again.

    But. The puppies were so cute!

    I emailed the animal shelter and got an immediate email back. An appointment was set up for 3:30 for an interview on Friday along with a meet and greet. I drove the 40 minutes into the city, tears streaming down my face. Nervous, happy, contemplative. If I adopted a puppy, this would be the last dog I will ever have. I am 60 years young. If this puppy lived to be 12-14-16 years of age, I would have his ashes on my mantle along with the others when I was 72-76 years old. Tears. At 4:00 I walked out with the cutest waddle of a black lab Australian shepherd mix that I promptly named Bonanza, my bonus dog.

  • A new affliction

    I blame my parents for everything.

    My dad…arrowhead hunting, pinion nut hunting. Fishing. Tying lies for fishing. Making velveta cheese and worm sandwiches for catching fish. He owned and used a metal detector. He had a knob and tube radio and on a clear night we could hear Japan. He made a “gaaa-rooga” horn for his truck. He knew things. He was killed when I was nine…I would have learned so much.

    My mom…crochet, softball, painting fabrics with little tubes of paint. Church and catechism (much to my chagrin then and now). Reading. She held her own against my dad’s hobbies, arrowheads were easy to find and she caught her fair share of fish and cooked them up in aluminum foil with butter with deliciously crispy skin, while we waited around the fire with starving tummies. She knew her own things. And I learned so much.

    I really had no choice but to have a billion hobbies, a billion micro lives rolled up into a human, based on my parent’s genetics and predilections. No choice at all.

    My latest addiction is soap making.

    Oh my.

    Soap heaven

    Any addiction sets itself up in a tiny neuron and soon the brain is afire with that addiction. I cannot tell you exactly how much of my brain is afire because there is so much smoke, and the flames are too hot. It is bad. I have told my friends I may need an intervention. Soon.

    I read about soaping every day. I look at beautiful pictures of beautiful soaps. I am curtailing making a billion soaps a day. I limit myself to four individual soaps or a small loaf.

    A day.

    That is it.

    I want more.

    Tins for lotion bars

    Cellophane wraps for soaps

  • Baby chick cuteness

  • Transforming clay to soil

    Clay. Supposedly god made Adam from clay. Seems like clay should be some pretty magical stuff right? Then why won’t my clay garden grow vegetables?

    It seems that clay is heavy, thick and it is seems impermeable to those tiny little vegetable roots. My clay won a blue ribbon in impermeability.

    I had lived aboard a sailboat for 8 years…I did not know anything about soil. But after I bought my little plot of land, I started learning. When I purchased the property, the topsoil had all been pushed to the edges of the property or taken away, leaving clay. I have spent the last several years trying to get some of that clay to be fertile soil.

    I rented a bobcat and brought back as much soil from the piles surrounding the property as I could. I had two dump trucks full of horse manure brought in. I tilled that in. Then I tilled it again. Then I planted buckwheat. Then I tilled that in.

    Then I got chickens. And every 3-4 months when I clean out the coop bedding (which is sometimes straw, sometimes pine shavings) that material goes into a quick compost pile and is then used throughout the garden. This composting process helps give it tilth. “Soil tilth is a physical condition of soil, especially in relation to its suitability for planting or growing a crop. Factors that determine tilth include the formation and stability of aggregated soil particles, moisture content, degree of aeration, soil biota, rate of water infiltration and drainage”. Thank you Wikipedia. Yay for tilth!

    So my garden is certainly much better but still needs work. I have expanded my garden several times, so it is a constant work in progress adding tilth. This year I am going to be planting some plants that drive deep roots to help bust up the clay, and in doing so, releasing some of the nutrients that clay holds onto so tightly, and improve the soil again.

    So what am I going to plant?

    Artichokes. I love artichokes. My grandmother made stuffed artichokes. I love the heart of artichokes. I make a killer artichoke and spinach dip. I planted artichokes last year—but I was late getting them in and I did not get to harvest one globe of deliciousness. This year I have six plants that I started a month ago under grow lights that are waiting for the last expect frost (still a month away). I bought Artichoke Colorado Red Star seeds last year and they germinated just fine this year.

    Daikon Radishes. This year I am also going to grow Daikon radishes. From my research these are quite delicious, and are fairly magical for soil health if left in the ground. It sounds like my bees will love the flowers too. I bought a pound of seed daikon radish seeds, because I love my bees, and I plan on successive plantings of this vegetable!

    Purple hull pink eye cowpeas. I have grown purple cowpeas before and they give an abundant crop of long seed pods. You can harvest them right off the vine and eat them as you would string beans or the pea pods can be left on the vines and harvested when dried and the peas saved for soups. Purple hull pink eye peas are a garden favorite.

    Sunflowers. I have always loved sunflowers and this year I will love them even more. I had some ginormous sunflowers last year after buying types several seed. My favorite was the sky high (okay maybe 8 feet tall) Giant Mongolian sunflower seeds. They will be planted again this year.

    Ginormous sunflowers!

    What are you doing for tilth?

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  • Yay for solar!

    Solar was installed at my property last year— 8 kw grid tied panels. It took a while for the contractor to complete the project because of sourcing issues, but finally got up and running in December. Frankly, I love it. It is a ground mounted unit in the corner of my backyard. It looks fabulous. And my pocket book likes it too.


    Getting solar installed gave me a 26% tax credit for 2021 (based on the purchase price installation costs). And I finally sat down and finished my taxes yesterday. That tax credit made me feel warm and cozy too, just like my house!

  • Five years of Bee-ing

    I have been keeping bees for five years. I read about bees for 4 years before I decided to get them. I watched hundreds of beekeeping videos. Even today, I still read about bees at least weekly, and still watch beekeeping videos and listen to podcasts. One of the recurring themes in beekeeping is “if you ask four beekeepers about any bee topic, be prepared to get five different answers”.

    There are certainly ins and outs and the learning curve is steep. I highly recommend attending a local beekeeping class and joining a local beekeepers group. I did not do that and I might have been a better beekeeper sooner. I live in the boonies and worked a lot of evenings and weekends during the time I started beekeeping, so attending classes or group meetings wasn’t feasible. But now after watching and reading that much about beekeeping and having five years of experience, I have developed my own style of beekeeping, and I am going to share that with you during the next couple of posts.

    First of all, I don’t have hundreds and hundreds of hives. I am a backyard beekeeper. I had nine in November and it appears that eight of my nine hives have survived. We are not done with winter yet, and March is the the time when most hives starve to death so I have been feeding them to give them a little umph if they need it.

    I started with two packages of bees in late April 2017. One package left me after a week. Talk about ghosting… The second hive did well throughout the summer. In November 2017, that hive was then attacked by roving, rampaging, robber bees that devastated the hive leaving no queen, no eggs, no honey and broken honeycomb . It was like National Geographic in my yard everyday, as no bee cared that I was two feet away peering at them (most times without gear on) as the robbing and fighting was that intense. I tried wet sheets and robbing screens, I tried Bengay along the cracks in between boxes to disguise smell and drive the invaders off…to no avail and I lost that hive.

    I had bought two other packages after the first one absconded. Those hives did have some incursions of robbers but as they were in a different part of the property, they faired better. And I think they took in many refugees from the robbed hive.

    So from those three hives…I now have eight. I caught a swarm last year. But I also had a hive cast a swarm.

    So follow along with me! We will see what this spring brings!

    I am going to list some items that I have personally used in my beekeeping. The author that I return to time after time (and I also listen to his podcast) is Kim Flottum. His books can be found here: Kim Flottum book

    I have bought several sets of hives from Amazon and found them to be good quality. I paint them and put them together and let them air out for a few weeks before putting them into service. And it appears that I have bought them four times throughout those 5 years…I trust them with my bees! Honeykeeper hives

    I have also bought some really thick, protective bee suits on Amazon: Humble Bee Suit

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  • Chickens the gateway farm animal…

    Let me tell you the story about my first batch of chickens that was ordered. It was disastrous, and I am not sure how I ever thought about getting more. It was the spring of 2009. I had only been in my little farmstead house for six months or so. I had been dutifully doing chicken research, and my then live-in boyfriend and I decided to order 30 chicks. While waiting for delivery, we built a coop from pieces of plywood, and we built a “chicken tractor” that was to be moved around the yard; protecting the chickens inside the caged area. Of course we didn’t have any plans for said chicken tractor, or the coop for that matter, but we made plans and started building. The coop was easy; still standing today, and used for new chickies getting acclimated to the bigger girls, but protecting them too as the pecking order can sometimes be cruel. We had overbuilt it by about 500 pounds. It was ginormous and heavy. So we used it as wall coop at one end of the chicken yard. Oh, and it was painted bright PINK — an Lowes “oops” paint! The tractor has thankfully since deteriorated.

    We finally got the call from the post office that they had arrived, and I had taken the day off. The peep-peep-peep from the box was adorable. 30 little day-old babies tucked into a 8×10 cardboard box with holes in it. Adorable. Just so adorable. I had no idea that they were so tiny. The brooding cage that we had made, had too big of chicken wire cloth; and they were just able to walk out of it. I hastily put some cardboard around the sides, and all was good. For an hour or so. They took water, but they didn’t look good. And one by one they started dying. I was crying. Then there was just one chick left. He survived whatever it was. And I called him Jesus. A few days later, I got some baby bantam chicks from a lady in another nearby town, as I didn’t want Jesus to be lonely. And I called the six little white bantams Jesus’s disciples. Then Jesus died. All I had was disciples.

    So I called the hatchery. They sent me out 30 new chicks. A chicken’s average life span is around 8-10 years. My hen’s average life span is less due to chupacabras, hunting dogs, foxes, hawks and possums.

    One would think that with the lack of success, I might consider stopping. But they are so cute, and they do so much good in the garden. And what would I talk about if I wasn’t talking about chickens?

  • Chick days

    I was really trying to avoid Tractor Supply, but I needed basil seeds as my seeds were not germinating as planned. Tractor Supply started getting chicks in several weeks ago, and I managed to not peek, to plug my ears and get in and get out during my previous visits. 

    Every year I say to myself “no more chicks”. Every year my defenses fail. Today, I came home with two mystic marans and two americanas. I hurriedly got them home and pieced together their brooding area. Heat lamp-check, thermometer-check, feeder and waterer-check, big galvanized water tub-check. And there we were, happy as pigs in shit (or chicks in a warm tub).

    So some things you need to know about raising chicks: 

    1. You need to keep your chicks warm. For the first week of their lives, chicks should be kept in a brooding area that is 95 degrees, with space to get out of the heat if they get too warm. A heat lamp does this nicely and easily attainable at the local box store. In order to ensure you have the temperature just right for the Goldilock chicks you also need to have a thermometer. The brooding area should have a cooler area and a warmer area. If the chicks are peeping all the time, they are too cold. If they are panting, they are too hot. The temperature can be decreased as the chicks get older, simulating more time away from their momma hen. Moving the heat lamp farther away each week accomplishes this temperature reduction. The follow schedule is what is recommended and what I adhere to. By week 6, they are ready to go outside —depending on your climate.

    • Week 1: 95 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Week 2: 90 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Week 3: 85 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Week 4: 80 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Week 5: 75 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Week 6: 70 degrees Fahrenheit

    You can find the items to use for keeping you chicks warm and cozy here: Chick heating set up. This blog may contain links to affiliate websites, and I may receive an affiliate commission for any purchases made by you on the affiliate website using such links.

    2. Like all living creatures chicks need clean drinking water. They also need to have that water in a container that they cannot drown in. Farm stores sell these drinking trays and all that is needed is a mason jar that screws in and is gravity fed. Day old chicks need some encouragement to drink during the first hour in their new digs. You must dip their beaks in the water when you get them home to teach them not only how to drink but also where the water is found. Normally the mother hen would teach them to drink, but you are their momma now.

    3. Chicks need a specialized feed. They have tiny little beaks. So they need tiny little chick starter crumbles. Chick starter has 18% protein, along with vitamins and minerals that supports healthy chick growth. A chick’s natural instinct is to peck so just putting some on the floor near the feeder will show them where to fill their bellies. 

    4. The floor of their brooding area needs to NOT be slick. No newspaper, as this can cause a condition called splay leg. During the first couple of days I use an old towel which is nice and grippy and soft. After the first days, I use puppy pads with some covered with embossed paper towels. 

    As the chicks get older and bigger, they move through a couple of cages that give them more space; an enclosed dog kennel and then a large dog cage and finally outside to a sectioned off area in the fenced coop area with their own coop.

    Although it is terribly tempting to just cuddle them the first couple of days because they are sooooo cute, try to restrain so they can get acclimated and settle in. Cooing and talking to them is highly encouraged though to help socialize them. 

    Happy chick days!