Thursday, September 28, 2017

Loofahs and Chickens

 I've enjoyed my loofah plants so much, and they have reciprocated! I'm excited to report that I have about 25 loofahs. On the vine, they are dark green:

I wait until they are turning yellow before I pick them. Then I put them on the front porch to dry where it's quite warm.
 The first loofah I harvested eventually turned black. Then I cut the tip ends off and stripped all the husk and flesh off -- it's basically a very fibrous squash, and I'm trying to get down to just the fiber.
 That's the innards, the fiber, after I've let it dry for a couple of weeks. I shook its seeds out.
Seeds from one loofah are more than I received in the one seed packet I ordered. I'll never have to order seeds again!

 I then placed the dirty loofahs in a bowl with dish soap and bleach, and they soaked. See how they cleaned up?
Above is the middle section that had the most dark flesh from the "fruit" stuck to it, and there are a few specks left, but I'll get it cleaned out. I plan to sell the loofah sections at the market, perhaps with a slim rope attached. Or I'll put them into a soap batch, selling the soap with the loofah cut right into it. I've done that before, but not with loofah I've grown myself.
And now, a few chicken pictures. These are my young birds. The dark one is the rooster, Arthur.
 Aren't Sylvie's tail feathers pretty?
 This is Lady Grey. She's half silkie.
 Arthur is my friendliest bird ever. He comes quite close and seems to trust me.
 Each morning from about 8:00 till lunch, Adam is out in the big field, mowing the tall grasses down.
He's making compost, as usual.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The End of the Snake Story

Before I launch into scary stories, here are some cool things I picked up at the local thrift store on Monday. I go on Mondays because that's when they put out new items. A large doggie carrier!
This one is collapsible, and brand new it sold for about $100. It had a rip in one of the mesh windows, which I sewed up when I got home. See the repair?
The second item I found was this little crock -- well, not so little. It holds well over a quart, I think, and it has a tight seal. $4.
And this small plant stand -- $2.
Alright, on to the snake. I went in the coop later and found that he'd left! Yay! I took my foamy spray and proceeded to close up all the holes I could find. The inside of the coop now has big growths of yellow foam, especially in that snakey corner. Out of curiosity, I decided to look around the back of the barn and see if he was back there .... He was. (See some of the foam from inside the coop, below?)
He's a good sized rat snake, I think. Probably about three feet long.
Well, I went to look, didn't scare him this time, used my zoom (of course). The dogs came back there with me. But since Ned had been horrible at finding him in the coop, I didn't there was a chance he'd find him now. Well, I was wrong. Ned did notice him, and once Ned notices a snake, there's simply no getting him away from the snake until the snake says, "Uncle!" I hollered and screamed at Ned to come away. Snakey was reared up, curved up like a mountain road, mouth agape. It tried to strike Ned, but honestly -- that dog has a real skill with snakes. I finally screamed at Ned until he left with me and went around the front of the barn. The snake had spat something at him (not sure what). It was on his collar, kind of yellow, and Baby HAD to sniff it.
I was relieved Ned had left the snake. I began walking back to the house. Then Ned turned around. I don't know if he suddenly remembered, or if his ears (so acute) heard that snake rustling around. But he dashed back around to the rear of the barn. I watched from afar. Poor Snakey. Ned finally got it in his mouth, and then he violently shakes his big dog head back and forth, stunning the snake, and then he throws it on the ground. And he barks really big. Then he picks the stunned snake up and slaps it around again. He repeats this until the snake is immobile, and usually has some serious doggie teeth marks in him. 


It's ridiculous, but in the end I feel rather sorry for the snakes, although Ned has gotten a raw end of the deal a couple times, being bitten himself. This time he at last brought the snake out to show me, laying it on Adam's compost pile.

I thought at first he was dead. He had two good bites out of his rear area. I really didn't want the dogs to continue to mangle it and carry it around the pasture, leaving it for me to step on later. Thinking it was probably dead, I lifted it gingerly with a hoe (again, the hoe came in handy!). Then it did move a bit, but I knew it was no danger to me. I threw it over the back fence, which is where we throw all snakes. It hung over a big branch, and lay there, limp. A few hours I went back to see if it still hung there ... and it did not. It had slithered away. So, who won? Ned? The snake? I think it might be a draw this time. I hope he does NOT come back for round two!!

I gathered some rose pedals from our Knock-Out roses out front by the road, and put them in a bowl. They smell lovely.

Good-bye for now, dears! Watch out for snakes!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Snake

I'm sorry to say the snake is not dead yet. I decided last night that I would address the snake situation first thing this morning. I put on farm boots, jacket, got a nice sharp shovel with a flat edge, plus a hoe. (Somebody said to get a hoe. There's no way on God's Green Earth that I could ever kill a snake with a little ol' hoe, but I brought it anyway.) Here's the coop, as of this morning:
Bernie, Punkin, and Ethel seem unconcerned about the snake they know is in their coop.
The snake is in that far corner, behind the cinder block. I proceeded to move everything out of the coop that I could, and I shooed the chickens out and shut their little door. The snake's body looked rather flat, but then my body might even look flat if I were lying on a cinder block. Hmm.
 You see we've previously used that foamy filler to stop up some holes.
 See him?
Don't worry. I was using my zoom.

Here's Ned, our resident snake-killer. Ned and I went around the back of the barn. You can clearly see the nice, big snake-hole where the snake went into the coop. 
I threw that stick-with-pinecones at the hole last night, hoping to scare the snake out of the coop.
 Yeah -- that's how I fight snakes! Throwing pinecones!
Sometimes, with this barn, I wonder why we bother with walls. 
No part of the snake's body was outside; I was hoping he was "on his way out," and maybe his head was outside? Nope. I went back in the coop. I moved the last cinder block he was hiding behind. Of course, I did this with the hoe -- it was useful after all!
Again - I used my zoom.
You see how he is draped over the corner cinder block. (I'm sure we wedged that one back in the corner to keep critters out. Ha.) His head is inside the cinder block hole.
I poked near him. He moved. He's alive.
 Besides Ned, and my husband with a shovel, the next best snake-killing device on this farm is black mesh. I kid you not. This meshy stuff, which is nearly useless as fence, catches on everything. I can't tell you how many times I've stood, impatiently patient, trying to untangle this stuff from around a button on my farm coat. It also, wonderfully, catches on snake skin. We've found two snakes at least, wound up in this mesh and dead. I suppose they starve to death.
Anyway, the coop is so full of gargantuan holes that I began stuffing black mesh into and along some holes. (Clearly - not enough.) This whole wall base is one big hole. I took a chicken-box-ladder and put it there, crying to keep intruders out. 
 You see in the photo below a fine, rat hole at the base of the wall. Ugh. I stuffed black mesh in there too. I think I ran out of black mesh.
Anyway, the hole the snake used is actually behind his body, between that post and the cinder block. I've known it was there. I was just hoping no critter would use it. Right.
So I brought Ned into the coop at last to be my valiant killer of snake. Ned charged in, bounding as he loves to bound, and sniffed and ran around the coop. He went right over to that corner, but apparently did not smell the snake. So much for dog noses! And then I couldn't bear to let him do it -- not for the snake's sake (I care nothing for snakes, being a good daughter of Eve), but for Ned's sake. The snake is apparently cornered and stuck, or it would've left already. It's probably tangled in some black mesh ... one can hope. But Ned always gets bitten when he dispatches a snake, usually in the face or throat, and that makes me nervous. He swells. What if he couldn't breathe? So I called Ned off.
And I let the chickens back in. They were distressed and nervous about all the coop changes. Plus both hens needed to lay this morning. How could they lay, with their boudoir so disheveled? 
(Aside: Is there a word "shevel"? Does that mean tidy? And if the root is "shevel," shouldn't the correct spelling for its opposite be "dissheveled"? Ugh. English!)
In the end, I left it all as it was, except for decluttering the coop. The snake, I left. The chickens are in the coop. Ned is relieved of his duties. The shovel remains nearby. This round, I think, the snake won.
(If any reader prefers for snakes to live and scare chickens, causing them not to lay, and steal the only two eggs we get per day, too bad. Ned and I agree on his Snake Philosophy: no snake lives on his farm. If they slither away and leave me alone, I let them. If they come in my chicken coop, all bets are off. Oh -- and the reason Adam is not handling the snake is that he's out of town today.)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Making Soil

Adam loves making soil. Compost is his favorite farm job. This has been "Compost Central" for the last two years:
The bins in the back are not used now. He's moving his soil-making operations into the garden. He's been mowing and mowing! See?
He wanted to scythe all this tall-grassy area in June, but it was too wet. Now the grasses' stems are too thick and hard and damage his scythe, so he's mowing it all with the push mower. (sigh!)
He's saving the mown grass and putting it in piles in the garden.
Here's a cluster of loofahs developing:
Loofah vines from the outside of the garden. Hello there, Ned! (Ned is becoming SUCH a good dog.)
Loofah vines from the inside. So many dangling down. I'm quite excited!!
Horseradish, looking so healthy. I'm not a horseradish fan, myself, but Adam loves it.
Kale. I'll have more this week. It takes a LOT of kale to make one serving. It dwindles to nothing when you steam it for a minute. This doesn't look like my sister-in-law's kale, and I'm wondering if it really is ....
My blue lake beans that the rabbits have not yet found -- I think I do have some insect nibbling on them. Must keep a vigilant watch.
Adam put some nitrogen-fixing plants (just strewn around in the beds) to help our soil. You see them growing here, like weeds. Also in this bed are my garlic plants, coming up. I want lots of garlic and lots of onions, and I want to braid them and gaze at them next summer :)
Baby, posing proudly with one of her holes. Actually, Ned might have done this one too. Hard to say. They do not sign their work.
Remember Adam's many PVC lines, buried for his watering system? She's found it.
In addition, Baby and Beau got in a real dog fight today, near the barn. I had to scream and be quite domineering to make them stop. Beau has been rather subdued since. Baby's twice his size.
I noticed how pleasant it is to read PomPom's blog, because her photos are large and her text is large and easily readable. So I decided to enlarge both here also. Do you agree? With more time on my hands, I've looked around for new blogs to read. (Yay!! I'm able to stay ahead of blog reading now!) I find that blogs with little photos and tiny text are not appealing. Hmm. We will see. 
That's it from the old farm! A 30-second dog fight is about all the excitement we get around here!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

So Many Goings-On at the Farm!

 In front of this little building are two very neglected fig bushes. The one on the right had a big tree growing in the middle of it. That's been cut out:
 The one on the left was appalling, totally overgrown with thick vines. How was it even still alive? I rooted the vines out aggressively and cleared the area around the little bush. Hopefully next year I'll go a better job all through the summer.
Here's a side-by-side shot of the older chickens in the orchard (on the right), and if you look carefully, the newer chickens on the left, back behind that building in their new yard.
 (Those funny-looking contraptions are boat stands.) The seven chickens know each other quite well now. They spend most of the day on either side of the fence, taking dust baths and cooing at each other. The new hens aren't laying yet, so I'm lucky to get two eggs per day. Usually only one. Punkin and Ethel are slowing down a bit.
 The pecan hulls are beginning to turn, in the trees.

Baby and Ned both dig massive holes in the pasture. You could break a foot in them. We look down as we walk.
Adam's latest plan for willow trees is off and running! Here's our "mother willow tree," a pitiful, fallen-over plant, but with lots of new, soft branches.

Adam cuts them and soaks them in water until they sprout new root buds and some new leaves. This week he dug small holes (which had water in them, it's been so wet) and put them in the soil.
This is the wet corner where he's planting willow trees.


I've put two marjoram plants into my new tea bed. And I have four pots of spindly mint.
My lambs' ears are very bedraggled but still alive after the rains.
 I still have one tomato plant with pretty cherry tomatoes!
 And from one of those fig bushes, two deep purple figs.
 Here's my first loofah! I worried that I would not get any, then just one or two. Now? I counted yesterday, and I have at least 24 loofahs on the vine, and probably more coming. I suppose they come on later in the year?
 It's lovely weather for drying Adam's t-shirts on the line.
Here's what's on the loom:

 I bought a pumpkin at WalMart. I always do, each autumn. I'd love 50 pumpkins, all growing out in the field, and maybe some year we'll have success that way. But I must have at least one.
 And I painted it, for my Autumn Journal.
In addition, in the garden we have:
Sweet potatoes, looking lovely and blooming still, to be dug up in the month
White potatoes, not as prolific as we'd hoped, but new ones popping up
Asparagus, which we'll leave alone for now, quite healthy
Loofahs abundant, from which I'll save seeds
Lots of lovely kale
Some mixed greens, plus collards that aren't up yet
Peas, which we hope will come along soon
Garlic (5 heads divided) beginning to come up
About 75 onion sets, I think, just put into 2 beds
Blue Lake bush beans, just about ready to bloom

I'm pleased with our fall garden this year. I didn't know how much you could still grow in autumn, in the South!