MY 7-DWARF’S STRIKE AGAIN!

Short, squatty, dumpy, frumpy, snarky, gimpy, and yuck.  Yep, those little buggers in me are at it again.  First, it was the extreme heat that got them rumbling.  Then came the smoke from the Colorado fires.  Next was the smoke from the California fires.   Roll them all together, and my seven dwarfs strike again!

It’s been hard enough trying to keep the gardens going with the sun trying to bake them to a crisp, but the lack of rain has made it worse.  We are lucky and have our own well (we had it tested when we moved in – great water and a very full stash – yea!), but we still try to collect all the rainwater we can get our hands-on.  This year the tank fills have been few-and-far-between.

If you have been following me, you know I am an old-ish fart that has had too many major surgeries for such a young age.  Getting around now is nothing like getting around in my twenties.  Simple things like oh say, breathing, can be a challenge on a regular hot day.  Throw in smoke clouds so thick they block out the sun to an orange type of glow, and it becomes a battle.

Everything is being “spot” watered now.  I only use the sprinkler once a week in select areas.  The spot (hand) watering takes me about 3-4 times longer than my regular watering system.  The normal system takes me about 4-5 hours.  Currently, I start at about 5:00 a.m. and do not finish until around noon.  It is also hard on our well-pump, and that baby is only six years old.  I can feel her pain!

The final straw was this morning.  Working about my regular watering routine, I reached the greenhouse area.  We still don’t have a roof (thank you Colorado winds from hell, oh, and the tornado of 2018), but the plots are doing great.  This is the one place I actually laid out drip lines, AND THEY WORK!  I turn on the water line to this area, make sure my splitters are watering all my beautiful veggies first, and then proceed to wander the plot rows to see how everyone is doing. (Yes – every ”one” as I talk to them all just like I talk to humans.) 

I watch closely for anybody starting to turn color.  My method is to clear them out a bit so I can keep an eye on them every day.  When they get to just the right color, I nab them for our dinner table.  (If tons are coming in at once, they become canned, dried, or frozen foods)  I had a beauty of a tomato coming in.  Yesterday it was just about ready, but nope, I waited one more day.  I squatted down to pluck my perfect tomato (oh, by the way, it is about the size of a softball), and my fingers were covered in tomato guts-YUCK!!  DAMN MICE!!! 

We have farm cats all over the place, and I have yet to see them catch a single mouse.  The greenhouse is wide open, so they can come and go as they please.  They please to take a dump in there on occasion, but can’t seem to catch a mouse?  So, I wandered back to the house and got a trap.  It is set with peanut butter (favorite mouse food, in case you didn’t know) and sitting right now just under my poor beautiful tomato.  I swear, if I catch that stinking mouse, I will dangle it by the cat’s noses then feed it to the dogs! 

Maybe I need to buy some rubber snakes to set in my tomato bushes?  Then I can scare off the mice and myself when my old-ish age makes me forget that I placed them there.

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ONE OF MY MOST FAVORITES!

Farm kids find the simplest ways to entertain themselves.  Making hay is hard work, but building forts while putting that hay up in our barn was tons of fun.  (There were only regular small bales back then and, sad to say, there are very few places that still make them today.)  Rolling down our steep hills was also a form of great joy, and then there was the Milkweed plant.

It is a weed, so, as such,  most farmers would destroy them in favor of their paying crop.  We played with ours, which, I think, made our father a bit mad.  If you broke open the stem, it produced a milky substance that was very sticky (just try to mess with the plant without getting sticky!?!  Can’t happen.), but our favorite part was the pods.

It is a strong and pretty plant that produces a heavy bushy type of flower during the summer and is best known as the perfect food for the Monarch butterflies.  Then as the summer ends and fall begins, they grow these pods.  The pods are filled with tons of little brown seeds, and each seed is attached to a very light and feathery stem.  This is where dad would get mad.

We would break open the pods and purposefully pull out all the seeds on their feathers and throw them up into the air.  We would pretend they were little fairies floating all around us.  Pretty obvious why dad didn’t like it, but also pretty sure Mom Nature loved us for it.

Countryside.com just sent me this email:

Milkweed Plant: A Truly Remarkable Wild Vegetable

Discover the Many and Varied Milkweed Plant Uses, Including Sustenance for Butterflies

It is a perfect read, especially since I have never looked at them as a veggie, but they needed to add the joy that it can bring to little kids as one of its best benefits.

On a side note, I need to thank our neighbors.  They own big fields of paying crops (including crops that go into cow bellies) but have never stopped to ask us to get rid of them.  The plant was not originally on our farm.  The first one showed up in our front yard about five years ago, and my sister and I protected it.  No, we did not pop open the pod and watch the fairies dance (but it was a thought); it did that all on its own.  We just encouraged it to grow and enjoyed watching it feed our honeybees, butterflies, and other beneficial bugs.

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WHAT THE HECK IS IT MADE OF?

I know it is moth season (yes, we have a season for them), and I know that they help to feed the birds; but do they have to be so nasty?  And, what is there poop made of?

I hate that they get stuck in my hair AND CRUNCH when I try to get them out!  I hate that they fly right into my face over and over and over again (makes me think of a Coyote/Roadrunner cartoon), and it doesn’t phase them at all.

Wilie Coyote help

The worst thing of all is the poop they leave behind – EVERYWHERE!!  What the heck is that stuff made of?  I swear it is worse than tar to try to get off, and it ends up in the strangest places.  I found several yuckies on my DSL this morning, and the thing sits upright on a box (better air circulation since it gets kind of hot), and yet it has two trash marks from Millers on it.

Moth poo 6-3-20

Have you ever tried to clean that stuff off of something?

  • They are a bug and not a real smart one.
  • They are bird and bat food.
  • They don’t live very long.
  • They turn to dust in a heartbeat.
  • They squeeze into the smallest of places.
  • They pop out of the weirdest of spots.
  • THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!

I just don’t get how something so temporary can leave such a lasting mess.  With the large amount of them appearing this year, we will be trying to clean up after the little monsters until Christmas!

The other thing I hate about them is when they pop out by the dozens in the most unsuspecting spot.  I was cleaning up the gazebo and just shifted the chair cushions and got bombarded by a gang of them.  (Yes, I have decided that a group of more than one is called a “gang” because they are so destructive when gathered together.)

If any of you out there reading this has some great idea on how to get rid of these nasty leftovers easily, please share so I can tackle this mess.  Thank you!

miller-scary

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I SWEAR, SOMETHING’S LIVING IN THERE!

We recently lost the last of our chickens.  This is not something new, as farmers we know there will always be predators that attack all parts of a farm.

  • Prairie dogs making leg-breaking holes in animal pastures.
  • Gophers-from-hell eating the roots of our asparagus.
  • Snakes popping up when you least expect them (luckily, I only had a Rattler once -knock on wood!).
  • Skunks hiding in the cat barn to sleep with a warm, furry, bundle of cats and eat their food (yes, one of them crawled out from the cat bed box on a frigid winter day and scared the snot out of me. I calmly said: “Good Morning.” Then backed out of the barn rather fast.).
  • An opossum choosing to hang out in our barn to avoid bad storms (the little sucker hung around for over a week, and popped up in a variety of places.).

oppossum

I want to find out what monster is living in my chicken barn, but a big part of me is also afraid.  Just my luck, it will lunge at me when I discover it (eeek!!). My sister was so nice and brought up the option that it might be a badger – great?!?  Yes, we do have those out here, but we have not seen any on our property since we first bought the farm (2000).  We initially had one living on the side of the hill by the pond.  We left it alone, and it left us alone.  Roughly four years later, it disappeared.  We have not noticed any living signs on our property since (would like it to stay that way – mean critters!).

badger

During cold winter times, we purchase the critter foods and put them immediately into containers.  Then the empty bags are piled up until spring and then put into the trash.  We usually put bags into bags and simply leave them until the weather is warmer for dragging the empties to our trash.  Things have been so strange this year, that the bags have piled up.  My fear is my monster is hiding in that pile.

I have left the barn door open the last several nights (since the loss of our last chicken) in hopes that whatever got stuck in the barn has now made its way out.  Today is the day of discovery.  My task, since the winds-from-hell have subsided, is to get in there and pull everything out.  We stored large dog kennels, that we used for various reasons, in there.  I have peeked into those already and no monsters.  I do want to drag them out so I can get back in the corner behind them.   Wish me luck that all meanies are gone!

Here’s to spring cleaning – eeek!

spring cleaning

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I’m Mad As Hell, And I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

We are so tired of theft we could just scream!  It is not because of virus issues; it is something that has been building up over multitudes of years.

I am not talking about money – I am talking about our critters.

Two more of our hens were killed in the last two nights.  It took me until today to figure out how the monster(s) is getting in.  The white hen disappeared, leaving just feathers – the first clue of the perpetrator.  This morning it was our red Hennie, and I found her gutted under some sheet metal in the back corner of the chicken barn.

We have gone through great lengths to make sure our chickens are safe from the monsters in the night.  It had been working reasonably well for the last year or so.  Apparently, they have created a new gap in a far corner that I would not have found had it not been for the corpse.

We try very hard to follow the live-and-let-live motto.  However, when we are down (sorry – were down) to only four birds, it’s just wrong for the beasties to attack them.  We have prairie dogs, rabbits, mice, and various other critters very near our barn on which they could have feasted.  That would not have bothered me at all.

So, today, to try to bring our thief to justice, we are sharing photos in hopes that someone will spot this thug (and its gang) and put an end to our injustice!  Here is the criminal:

Don’t be fooled by that innocent, cute look on its face – it is a natural-born killer!  You might even find it hanging around with this murdering mob:

coyotes

(Ragged bunch of gangsters if ever I saw one.)

If you happen into their local watering hole, you may find them with the lesser thieves who only nab eggs and babies:

Notice that one even wears a mask to try to hide its identity – but I know who it is.

Please, keep an eye out for these dangerous killers and help to bring them to justice.  In the meantime, we will be having a memorial this Friday to morn the loss of our dear Hennies (beers and Yahtzee will be provided – HOWEVER no more than one at a time in the porch please.).

Stay Safe!

(Yes, I did get stilly in here, and we did lose two chickens, but it is live and let live for us, so we will forge onward with humor wherever I can find or provide it.  My wish is that I put a little smile on your face for just a moment today.)

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DO YOU LOVE YOUR BUGS?

No, this has nothing to do with the virus.  Today, I am back to talking about chemical-free gardening stuff.  We are officially into the spring season, which for us means prepping, planting, and planning.

Our home has started this season as it should:

  • Flies and spiders sneaking into the house.
  • Little bunnies hopping all over to test our predator defenses.
  • Rhubarb, tulips, iris, and several other things, popping out of the ground.
  • Like every year – we have the Odd Thomas poking up out of the ground. Later it will be determined friend or foe and dealt with accordingly.

baby bunny

These are the standard spring bits of proof.  Then we have the oddballs:

  • I spotted my old nemesis – A WASP (Yellow Jacket) – grr!
  • A skunk has already invaded our chicken barn for the barn cat food, pee-u.
  • What would spring be without Miller moths (stay out of my hair!). It just seems a bit too early for them, but they are here.

skunk

We cut the cord a couple of years ago, so I rely heavily on the internet for my valuable data.  My email box receives tons of information – daily – that I have specifically requested (vs. T.V. which bombards with junk I did not ever want to see).  One such request is from my Joe Gardener.com, which originated on our local PBS channel while we still had satellite T.V.  His name is Joe Lamp’l, and he is just full of excellent gardening stuff.  The best part of his shows is the guests.  If he doesn’t know a lot about a specific subject, he is not afraid to go to a guest source for the nuts-and-bolts of the issue.  This email was about the Monarch Butterfly (one of my favorite good bugs – also endangered species.).

Several years ago, we were lucky to be witness to a Monarch migration.  They came in the hundreds and landed on our trees, bushes, fences, house – you name it, they were on it.  IT WAS OUTSTANDING!  They did not stay long, but we felt gifted that they chose our little piece of heaven to stop for a rest.

That one-time massive visit threw me into a frenzy to find out more about them and ways to help them survive.  I was not the only one that was enthralled by them.  Dr. Agrawal is a professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Department of Entomology at Cornell University, was one of his guests, and spent time learning all he can about the Monarch.

This recent post by Joe shares a ton of great information, and EVERY gardener should learn.  It doesn’t matter if you grow for beauty, for food, or both; you need to learn to save our nature’s helpers.

147-Monarchs and Milkweed: A Precarious Struggle Between Life and Death

MARCH 12, 2020 | GROWPODCAST

(Please feel free to join me in the Monarch Watch group to help monitor the migration and population.)

The big thing that caught my eye was “monarchs and milkweed,” of which I had forgotten how much the two are connected.

milkweed and monarch

A couple of years ago, a milkweed plant sprouted in our front yard – all on its own.  I took that as a sign and saved the pods.  Remembering back to my childhood, we used to love popping the pods and watching the feathery seeds fly everywhere (F.Y.I. Dad hated it when we did that because they are a weed, and as such, he did not want them in his food fields.  Nothing worse than having to walk a field and handpick weeds – wait – picking rock was worse.).

The milkweed is crucial to Monarch survival.  Knowing this, I cherished the newbies on our property and encouraged them to continue.  We do have hay and corn farmers around us, not for human food but animal food.  We also have bees and a Beekeeper, that has our blessing to use our place as needed to allocate his 600+ colonies of honeybees every year.  The bees love the milkweed just as much as the Monarch, but for a different reason.  The article goes on to explain this in more detail was some fantastic pictures.  I hope that all of you read his article – gardener or not.

HAPPY SPRING – HAPPY GARDENING!

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I COME FROM A FAMILY OF BULLHEADS.

No, I am not talking about the fish (although they are one of my favs when they are in-season).  I am talking about being stubborn.  Stubborn to the point of sinking your heels into the dirt, and not giving up till hell freezes over.

bullhead fish

We finally had a couple of days of true February weather – but not enough.  This has brought out my bullhead side.  I am determined to have good gardens this year (not great, just good, and I will be happy) no matter what life throws at us.

I have given myself three main goals for this year:

  1. Continue to take my online learning classes and write more (and better, I hope).
  2. Get the gardens all back in order again.
  3. BE HAPPY.

I have a passion for a lot of things, crafting, writing, gardening, to name a few, but do not feel as if I am a professional at any one thing.  I hope that by the end of this year, I will feel like a pro at least one of my passions.

OCD crafting

The gardens have been a mess since the year of the fire (2014).  When the fire happened, I also had a severe infection in my left-hand index finger (from a cut on the job), which became Mersa.  In the course of taking care of the finger, my Surgeon discovered I have severe osteoarthritis (why is it never just “1” thing with me?).  The gardens got neglected because of all that mess, and my depression (yep that has been severe since the fire also) just took over and made me feel defeated before I even began on all our gardens.  Well, baby, my bullhead is back and in full force!

The last of my three is be happy, which has seemed to elude me.  I have moments of happiness, it’s just not been an on-going feeling of joy until now.  Not sure what has changed (except my new moon according to my Astrological sign), but I am feeling more empowered.  This is a great thing for me because it has been sorely missed over that last five years.

So, gardens beware!  I am on my bullheadedness (is this a word?) and plan on using it – grr!

HAPPY GARDENING!

*************************************************************************************

FYI:  One of the Bloggers I follow is called Better Hens & Gardens, and they have been kind enough to post an easy-to-understand article about the difference between seed types (Heirloom vs. GMO vs. GE, etc.), and I found it a great read to share – she here it is if you would like clear-cut information:

GARDEN SEEDS – GE, GMO, HEIRLOOM – WHAT’S IT MEAN?

I hope that if you are planning a garden this year for feeding your family, you will take a moment and read their helpful information.

*************************************************************************************

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COLORADO WINDS SONG – humor.

PLEASE READ TO THE TUNE OF CAMP TOWN RACERS – DO DAH.

Colorado has some winds, do dah, do dah.

Never can tell just what’s comin in, oh da do da, do day.

Gonna blow all night.

Gonna blow all day.

One of these days it’ll take us away, oh da do da day.

Half the barn roof blew away, do dah, do da.

Flying birds can’t seem to stay, oh da do da, day.

Roofing gone at night.

Shingles gone at day.

Farm truck up and floats away, oh da do da day.

Coldest ones blow in a freeze, do dah, do dah.

Hottest won’t at a hundred degrees, oh da do da, day.

Ice is on my face.

Sweat is in my eyes.

Our chickens live in Kansas now. Oh, da do da day.

cow in twister windy lady

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Where Have All My Birds Gone?

We received a really great bird feeder from my sister and her husband just before she passed away in 2018.  The ends sat empty until last Christmas.  I began placing hardened, spoiled, or just unwanted bread pieces in those ends.  My feathered friends went crazy over the bread bits.  It seems they love that even more than birdseed (which is in the center of the feeder).

our-bird-feeder-w-bread.jpg

I find great enjoyment in watching them messing around with the feeders.  Fighting over who gets what first.  Scrambling to catch the snippets that fall to the ground.  I have even noticed them watching me, watching them.  One little beauty even tried to come to me through the kitchen window one day (darted at me as if to come and visit several times before realizing there was glass between us.

I never cared for birds in cages (even at the zoo), they just do not seem happy in there to me.  But I do love watching them in the wild.  On an average day here on the plains of Colorado, I can view a variety of birds doing all kinds of things:

  • Hawks catching snakes and prairie dogs
  • Owls catching rabbits, and
  • All my little buddies in the front yard looking for food, water, or just playing around.

The only time I remember not seeing any birds is when it is a bad storm.  It makes sense as they would be seeking shelter just as we do.  However, today is a day with NO BIRDS and it is freaking me out.

ABSOLUTELY NO BIRDS – NO SONGS – NO SOUNDS – NOTHING?

This has never happened before.  Usually, they are in our front yard, back yard, near the barns looking for left-over scraps from the chickens, or down in the hollow making tons of noise.  Every day I spot at least one hawk circling around or at least testing their wings in the blowing winds.  Today is very quiet and calm outside and personally, I find it very unsettling.

My birds let me know how things are doing on an “earthly” level.  They and animals can sense changes in our environment, unlike we oblivious humans.  I would love to have their sense of changes in the earth, sky, seas, or any earthly shifts.  Since we humans do not have this amazing sense, I watch the critters constantly to try to judge what’s going on around me.  A day with no birds is scary, to say the least.  Today (date of posting this 1/9/20) is actually day-2 of no birds and it is starting to really creep me out!

I checked the weather channel and know that we have a storm coming in, but it is not even supposed to start until about 11:00 p.m. tonight – so where are they and why?

I guess I am just going to have to wing it (pun intended – sorry) and try to watch for other local signs of what’s up.  Please let me know (if you have a moment) where you live and how your birds are doing.  This really has me spooked.

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IF IT ISN’T ONE THING, IT’S ANOTHER?

Just an FYI – this one is going to be silly. One of the reasons for the question mark after the title. Not sure which direction I took on this post. Hang on to your butts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
betty davis(I don’t have many idols, but she is one of mine.)

It started with the storms the other night and just kept me up thinking. I couldn’t turn off my head because there is so much that still needs to be done. Here is how it goes:
The fishpond pump blew (ok, take a few seconds and try to say that 5-times fast without falling into the word “plumb”). It was a couple of months ago, and it’s ok because we all know that nothing lasts forever. However, I was trying to save a few pennies and thought the one-size-smaller pump would work just fine for our fishes. Oh, stupid me! Yes, it works, but we now have to clean our all the filters at least once a week – grr. The old pump was strong enough that I just needed to shake off the outer filter bag to get all the dead leaves and slime off. Then just wrap it back up and drop it back in the water. Wait another month or two, and do it again. Save a penny, screw yourself out of time. In this case a penny saved is not a penny earned. It is hours lost (idiot move #1)
The greenhouse still looks like crap.

9-8 gr overgrn
It’s been over a year since the tornado ripped it up and we still have not decided on a roof cover. NO-it was not insured because no company would carry it just for the cover. They all said: “our winds and hail are too often out here to balance out the risk.” WHAT A CROCK!?! Isn’t that the whole point of insurance? Now I am also trying to find room in our budget stash (isn’t that a special word – stash – like there is such a thing?) the amount of a monthly insurance premium away for the next ugly storm. The cover decision has its ups-and-downs too:

  •  Go with our old-standby 6-mil or try to find something heavier?
    • If it is heavier, how will the plants react to it – less sunlight?
    •  Do the double, bubble 6-mil again or only a single layer.
    • Will that hold up as well as the bubble and what about tears?
    • The bubble worked on bouncing off most hailstones, would a single do that?
  •  Then I found some new stuff called “Solex” which is a flexible form of the harder end plastics we have on north and south sides. The current stuff does not bend, and cutting it is ugly. This new stuff comes on rolls. We would have to use scaffolding and ladders to lay the tracks for it over the top of each rib (oh, and my fear of heights works great at level).
    • It is heavier than the 6-mil, but how would it react to hailstones?
    • Worse, how will it react to the winds?
    • Will the thin tracks be strong enough to hold them in place?
    • There is no way to screw down the tracks along the top, so how can we be sure there will not be loose gaps that our winds will grab and rip the plastic off?
    • Yes, it would be nice to have to replace a section instead of the whole thing, but are the tracks sturdy enough for possible multiple switching’s.
  • This year without the constant monitoring and cooling, the weeds have gotten out of control. Oh, and let’s not forget the grasshoppers-from-hell that go along with more weeds (#1 on my top-ten hit list). I planted potatoes in there somewhere this last spring. Pretty sure they have been wiped out by the weed monsters. Either that or some have grown legs and eyes and are going to attack me in my sleep for neglecting them – eeek! (Ooo, great new “B” movie story: Attack of the Killer Potatoes – the “eyes” have it.)

Then we move on to the evil chickens. I thought (there I go thinking again – idiot!) since the two new back yard plots were empty, start some fall crops in there. Maybe we could get a bit of luck and at least have root veggies. I used my seed back from the spring and dumped the rest of the parsnips, carrots, beets, cabbage, lettuce, and broccoli seeds into the plots. Then, just for grins-and-giggles, I threw in some Roma tomato seeds on the west end and heirloom cucs on the east. My goal there was to put of wire trellis if they started to sprout.


I put everything in, weeded and watered as needed and hoped for the best. I forgot about the evil chickens. They have the WHOLE yard/farm to dig around in and where did they choose to go? Yep, my newly seeded plots. Granted, I was stupid and didn’t put a fence up around the plots first (another thing on my to-do-first list), but I foolishly believed that since we have piles of decomposing wood chips (filled with significant bugs now I assure you) that would be dinner of choice for the evil birds. We are only down to four now (thank you predators), so I encourage them to eat as naturally as possible. I never meant for them to pick my pretty plots (fewer bugs mind you) over the delectables in the compost piles – JERKS!


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