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Friday, March 28, 2014

Just your normal March stuff

I know I for one have fussed all winter about being cold, about the snow, up and down temperature changes and such. But I remember that when I was a child a long long time ago (ha ha) this was pretty normal for March weather. Very unpredictable at best. It might snow one day and be 60 the next. I can take all that as long as it is above 50. Not that we get much choice in the weather. It has been nice enough today to have the windows and doors open all day and even this late at night. Tomorrow night we are forecast to get snow showers. Go figure! Kentucky weather at its best.

It is still quite wet in the fields to work yet and a bit early too I guess. But my dad would have had potatoes planted by now. We might try to plant some next week unless we actually get all the rain we are suppose to get. With the cooler weather, cooler than in past springs, things are not getting enough sunlight to grow well even in the greenhouse. Actually the only plants I have in there right now are things in the cabbage family but they are not doing as good as I would like. I have a big pile of rotted chicken manure way far out back and I think tomorrow I will collect some of it and get it in a bucket and make some manure tea to water with in the greenhouse. Would prefer goat manure but since I have chickens and not goats, chicken manure it will be. The one season I use manure tea in the greenhouse I had the best seedlings ever. Nice hardy stems, good healthy foliage, just super sturdy healthy plants. So it is worth another try. My other seed flats are still in the summer kitchen to warm up and hopefully sprout soon. I know it is hard to get peppers of any kind to sprout without the flats being extra warm. In talking to a friend last night the subject of water bed heaters came up and I remembered I had one that I used years ago. So I got it out today and put it under the seed flats that had peppers in them to give them extra heat and encourage them along a bit. If you decide to use one I learned in my research a long time ago to set the temp on the heater to between 80 and 90 degrees. Any warm can damage the seeds. I did use this same water bed heater several years ago and the peppers sprouted in just a few days. Then we can hope for a warm up so they can move on over the the greenhouse and have good light.

Our meat birds are coming right along nicely. So far have not lost any this time around. And they are eating really well too. The feeder is made from a 4 gallon bucket and yesterday I filled it almost full. I had probably 31/2 gallons of feed in there. And in about 12 hours they ate near half of that. This is at about 3 and a half weeks old. They go thru feed rather quickly at this age. And they are getting big. Maybe tomorrow I can get some pictures to give you an idea of their size. I was expecting to be using more straw than I have been to keep their bedding dry by now. But seems to me with it not being hot they are not producing wet droppings like I have seen in the past. I know in past years when the temps went up the chickens always had runny poop. Not this time. So I have to wonder if may high temperatures cause them to have diarrhea to some extent. I will learn more about my theory here as time progresses and it gets warmer outside. Hopefully I can remember to update you all on my findings. You learn new things every year on the farm. And some days life is tougher.

Speaking of tough. A friend that is a Texan thru and thru just got her book published a week or so ago," A Widows Walk Off-Grid". If you are working toward a life of independence and self sufficiency her book will for sure tell you "you can do it" and survive doing well. She was widowed with nothing left, having to leave her home with just a few possessions in her vehicle and follow her dream of living off grid and depending on God and her will to sustain her and heal her broken heart. And she did it beautifully. I personally loved the book and if you are still in the seeking information and learning stage, as we all are, then this should be on your must read list. You can purchase Anne's book here on Amazon for your Kindle reader or in paperback also. Trust me, you wont be disappointed. It is very encouraging. If you decide to buy the book, please leave a review on Amazon.

Not much else happening here on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Yep, I think spring is here..........maybe

The weather the past couple days says spring has sprung. But the weatherman seems to want to play games. He says we are suppose to get snow showers tonight into the early morning and thru Monday. I hope he is full o crap. I am ready for spring to get into full swing.

I spent most of yesterday outside cleaning up around the yard. Got the left over firewood off the front porch, took the rack down and today Rodger helped me move the wood on around back to use when we butcher chickens to heat scalding water. I have said for several years that the front porch has to be pressure washed and the sealer put on. This year it is an absolute must. It is still solid and not damaged and I sure would like to keep it that way. That was my main reason for getting the wood rack off the porch. But it also will make extra room to put my plants when I move those outside too. See, an ulterior motive. But it is nice to sit on the porch without sitting behind the wood pile too. And this weather is perfect for porch sitting.

We did some clean up in the backyard too this afternoon. I took the fence down that surrounded the beds that we had built back there several years ago. I have an abundance of weeds starting to grow in there already with the past few warm days. We are gonna move the ties out tomorrow and then Rodger can take the tractor an smooth the dirt out into the low spots back there. I developed a drainage problem in that area. When we get lots of rain it runs down the slope an cuts its way thru the beds as well as washing out around one end. Just not a good spot, a bit too much shade as well. Not to mention with them gone it will give us more room back there to park the farm equipment. If we can keep the chickens from scratching the loose soil all over into the woods it will be all good.

Rodger went out early this morning an tilled some in the big garden. He re-planted out peas as they had not made it up yet, got the onions planted an a long row of carrots. Next weekend maybe we can plant our potatoes if its dry enough. He said if it don't rain or snow tonight and tomorrow he is gonna bush hog the raspberries to get the dead canes off and the old corn field. Then if time permits he will start plowing for the corn. Yep, its spring, time to start all this stuff. But tell that to my sore hurty body after what little I have done the past 2 days.

Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Where is our spring?

What the heck happened to spring this year. Here it is mid March and our ice an snow just melted. It sure was nice out today. I even had the patio door open most of the day. So nice to air the house out an let fresh air in after being cooped up all winter. But by this time next week they are giving rain and snow showers again. Crap!! I am so ready for it to be warm and stay that way. Pretty sure things will do better in the greenhouse once it warms to a decent temperature. But I should not complain, my lil cabbages are coming up. I also had a huge flower pot that I filled with soil and sowed some lettuce, kale an spinach in. It has come up rather thick. Really pretty and green. I wanted to get an early start on tomatoes and peppers but I sure don't want to have to keep heat in the greenhouse for the weather we have had. That can get quite expensive after a while. Tomorrow I think I will go ahead an fill my seed starting trays and put them in the summer kitchen so the soil can warm up. Once it gets warm then seed to tomatoes, peppers and a few others things I need to get started early. Most likely those trays will stay in the summer kitchen till it warms a bit more outside and stays that way. Then they can be moved to the greenhouse. Peppers need really warm temps to sprout. My buddy Randy sent me some paprika pepper seeds and I hope to hell I can get them to come up and grow this season. No luck at all last year. 

This month has been abnormally cold I think for us. Normally I don't have a problem raising my Cornish cross meat birds in March and April. But dang it, this year has been different. I still have all of em, no losses yet. When our temps dropped down in the teens last week I was just afraid they would chill in their lil building so being the worrisome person I am I moved them into the summer kitchen. Yep you heard me right. I used an old quilt to put on the floor and up the cabinets on both sides of the kitchen, stapled it to the cabinets and pulled up the ends and tacked those down. Imagine a big 4 ft square basket made of a quilt. I put some stray on the quilt to help keep them dry and put them in their temporary home. The had their heat light, food an water and stayed toasty warm without me having to worry about them. Yesterday Rodger and I moved them back to their building where we used an old metal topless picnic table to suspend a quilt to help hold the heat in a smaller area to keep them warmer. All is well. You know chicks are warm enough when they don't huddle under the heat light. It was obvious from the droppings that they were warm enough to be able to move away from the heat. I won that round with mother nature. Depending on how cold it gets next week with the predicted rain and snow, they may be back in the summer kitchen. I don't care if I did spend a couple hours cleaning and sanitizing things in thee. I just cant afford to let those critters get sick or die.

I still don't have any hens setting this season so I finally gave up and loaded the incubator with eggs. So God willing, I should have baby chicks from the standard breeds about April 4th. I thought for a day or so that my incubator was dead. I could not for the life of me get the temperature up to where it needed to be. I kept turning the thermostat up, no luck. Then on closer inspection, being a dummy, I was turning the thermostat the wrong way. Aha! Once I figured that out and turned it up it warmed up to where it needed to be and I put the eggs in on the automatic egg turner. With the still air incubators the temp needs to be about 101 degrees. There are lil indention in the bottom of the incubator that need to always have water in them to keep the humidity up to mimic a setting hen. It is kinda tricky to add water and not pour it on the eggs. I have been using my plant water can that has a long skinny spout on it. Works like a charm. About 3 days before the eggs are due to hatch they get taken off the egg turner and placed directly on the mesh bottom. This is the incubation period where the chicks are turning in the shell and pressing outward with their beak to make a lid they can pop off and get out. Once they turn completely around in the egg they then break thru to the air pocket at the big end of the egg and start pushing till they are free. Once they are out of the shell you have an incubator full of lil critters that very much look like lil dinosaurs. Just another miracle of life.

This weather being first warm then getting cold has made my joints a miserable lot. I has been nice enough for a few days that I probably should have gotten out and finished pruning things in the yard. I got rose bushes that are going wild. Actually both the ones I have are old fashioned varieties and they have the best scent ever. But the smaller one near the cellar is crawling all over the place. I don't think it can be classified as a climbing rose at all. I crawls all over the place. Or maybe I should put up a taller stronger trellis for it. Maybe I can do that. Next nice day we have. I have 2 thornless blackberry plants that my friend Rosie had given me a few years back that are on the other side of the cellar door. They for sure need a trellis to climb on. One has a runner that is about 12 ft long or more. Just lots of lil things that make for a lot of work to care for around here. But I like my roses and blackberries. Thankful only one of em has thorns.

Not much else happening here on the homestead. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Monday, March 10, 2014

A few nice days outside

I tell you what, these past few days, 3 or 4 I think, of nice weather to be outside has sure been good for my soul. Not to mention the body an the yard. I have about had my fill of snow and winter this year. I had high hopes of getting to hibernate this winter an get some things done inside that needed to be done. but dang life happened. Time escaped me and here it is near spring. The weather has been beautiful this weekend and we managed to get a few things done around the place. The old greenhouse/hoop house that we built for near nothing that I no longer use, we finally got it taken down. Most all the materials can be reused somewhere else in time. When we get an evening free with no wind we do have a burn pile to burn. Other than that it is mostly done. It has dried well with the sunshine an breeze in the field so we got in there in the orchard and pruned fruit trees today. A perfect day for doing that too. Ya know you read stuff on how to plant trees, how to take care of em. Well even if you do it all just right you still hit snag. In our orchard the wind blows from west to east, the soil was softer than up here at the house. The breezes down there over the past few years have made most of the trees lean toward the east. IF we had staked them that would not have happened. But it did so ya make the best of it. The deer have done a good bit of damage to some of the trees as well. That meant some of them had to be pruned rather severely to say the least. But I have to say they all do look much nicer and healthier. In a few weeks when the temps stay above freezing we will spray with dormant oil spray to kill any bug eggs that may be hiding in the bark. It has to be warm so the oil disperses well and covers all the tree surfaces. This is done likely 3 times before the trees bud out this spring. The trees also need a good top dressing with compost or organic fertilizer at the same time. I know they get plenty of nutrients from the field but need a boost. At least I think they do. Pruning trees is not hard to do, just knowing how to prune different types of fruit and nut trees is the part to know. Trees that bear soft fruit like peaches, apricots and such need to be pruned so the middle of the tree is open to allow sunlight and air to circulate well and freely. This prevents disease and increases yield. Apple and nut trees, pears, cherries benefit from single or multiple leader system pruning. This is where you leave one main limb straight up or multiple limbs upward. Either way is suitable. I am so glad someone else took the time to figure all this stuff out so all I had to do was search online to find the info. It was interesting that they all said essentially the same thing too. Thas a first. No matter what you always take out damaged, diseased or crossing branches as you go. I think it best to take these out first in case these branches happen to be what you would like to leave as leaders.

Back at the house it was mostly piddling in the ornamental stuff to get it trimmed up and so the yard don't look so shaggy and out of sorts. My body didn't last long enough to get a lot done but at least some things. I got my monkey grass trimmed back, all the dead dried stuff cut off so it can come back nice, new and green in a few weeks. The herb bed will be my next project. I am hoping to get to that in the next 2 days. Dang they are giving a chance of snow for us on Wednesday this coming week. What the.......well its still March and it happens in Kentucky. I guess if it snows again I will be house bound again for a few days. Dang the snow and ice just melted off our deck Friday from the last snow and ice storm we had. I know Rodger is sure wanting it to warm up so we can shut the heat down and get it out of his pocket so to speak. We are thinking of trying to have a different and hopefully less expensive way to heat next winter. These electric bills will have a fellow going hungry in a short time.  But very thankful to be able to pay the bills and stay warm, dry and well fed.

Not much else happening here, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Loving this weather...for now

Oh gosh our weather has been so dang nice the past few days. I am so glad to be able to get outside and putter around and get a few minor things accomplished. On Friday I did finally get my cabbage and Brussels sprouts in the seed flats. Now to just hope they sprout an grow well. I had a big old flower pot that holds a lot of soil that I also filled and sowed some lettuces in it for early green stuff. I need to get in there in about a week and start some onion sets to have green onions about the same time. Yep, you know where I am going with this. I want my spring fix of wilted lettuce an green onions with lots of crisp bacon on top. I did sow a lil bit of spinach and kale also. I might, key word being might, get in the mood to make smoothies or green drinks. I do know they are very healthy for your body. And my body needs all the help it can get. Rodger spent most of his day today getting all the equipment running and ready for gardening. The tiller was not a problem. The big Ford tractor is being contrary again. Every thing else is good to go. Now he is itching to start plowing. He does have a lot of that to do. He wants to plant 2 kinds of field corn this year. The Reid's yellow dent for stock feed and the Boone County white for corn meal. I think he really needs to get some corn shelled really soon to have ground into cornmeal or we are gonna be in a fix and run out. My stash is really low. I might have 2 more bags of cornmeal in storage.

I got my baby chicks in the mail last Wednesday right in the middle of all that super cold nasty weather we had. I was very concerned that they might be in pretty weak shape on arrival. But they were great. It was so neat to see the box they were shipped in and that is really what makes all the difference in how well they survived.

This box is not more than a 1 ft square with a round nest made inside. There were 25 lil chicks in here standing shoulder to shoulder. They were warm and toasty and ready to eat an drink as soon as the opportunity presented itself. The first water they got was warm sugar water. They all started eating and drinking within minutes. As of right now they are out in their new building all nice and toasty with plenty of space to run around. We set up 2 heat lights just in case one happens to go out in the middle of the night so they don't freeze. But so far, so good. God willing we should have 25 nice meat birds that will meet their demise the weekend of Good Friday in April.

Not much else happening here on the farm right now. So till next time , blessings from the McGuire homestead.