Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Outstanding in my field

No, that's not me. It's Aine (pronounced Awn-ya) our little Nigerian Dwarf doe.

I've been hard at work, though I haven't had much to say about it. Another year has passed and I've made 7 As in as many classes. It hasn't been easy. Last summer's drought took a lot out of me. I struggled through the fall semester, unable to concentrate and slowly sinking. By Christmas break I was in full PTSD mode. Yes, I have that. No, I haven't been dealing with it. To be honest, I thought I had it under control. It has been lurking just under the surface waiting for my stress level reach critical mass and blow it all up in my face.

Blow it did. No sleep, flashbacks, bad dreams, no appetite, and panic attacks all day and all night. Asking for help is scary, but the alternative was worse. So I looked around for some help. Whether we call it luck or the intervention of a Higher Power, I ended up with a counselor who is exactly what I needed. Probably needed it a loooong time ago but I have it now and I feel extraordinarily blessed.

The little farm keeps plugging along. Goats are spoiled beyond reason and the chickens are so tame they don't hesitate to trot right up and stand on top of my feet. 

The years of working this soil are paying off. I may live in a shabby little house but my soil is gorgeous! New photos to come. Maybe even a video. Maybe.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Cheapskates Guide to Building OR the Pallet Shed

So much to do here on the not-so-urban farm. Juggling school, single parenting, and farming is never easy but it's a little more difficult with all the rebuilding to do after this summer's drought. Technically, we're still in drought as the soil moisture is dangerously depleted. We calculated yesterday that it will take 15 inches of rainfall to get the soil back in good shape to grow food.

I want to share with you a project that was long overdue. We've needed another shed to store hay and feed but the expense kept delaying building it. Then a friend told me about building with pallets. I googled the phrase and found a wealth of information that I modified for my particular site. I decided to build this one right next to the one I built last spring. The plan is to let the back wall of the sheds function as part of the fence. That way I don't have to pony up for more fence than absolutely necessary and I make the most use of my small lot because I'm not wasting space between the shed and the fence.

Locals call this area Swampeast Missouri. Although we're in a drought right now, next year we could be flooded (like last year when the Corps dynamited a levee to save the town of Cairo). So I wanted my shed up off the ground with a floor of pressure treated wood.

I used pressure treated 2 X 4 to create a 4' X 8' frame on 16" centers. The cinder blocks were leveled before placing the flooring on them.

Then I placed the first course of pallets. I used 31" X 31" and 53" X 31" pallets that I picked up for free at a local business. Free is good, we like free.

The floor is exterior grade plywood. The first course was screwed into the joists with long deck screws. It looks a little wonky, doesn't it? At this point the chickens decided I'd built them a jungle gym so I couldn't leave it like this overnight.

Here's the second course. This course is attached to the previous one with carriage bolts. I drilled a hole, placed the carriage bolt in it and tapped it in with a mallet. If I had made this a freestanding shed with four walls it would have been more stable as I was building it bit I was trying to maximize my space and my materials.

Next time, third course, hanging the rafters and the final result.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Grateful for Issac

Today is our second day of rain. I'm sorry our relief had to come at such a high price for the people of the Gulf States.

We so desperately needed this long rain. Last night there were tornado warnings all down the length of the state which then progressed eastward into Illinois and Kentucky. There were some reports of  damage, I'm sorry for those families too.

How strange it is, this ambivalence. The rain that is our blessing has been a curse for others.

This rain is a godsend for us as now we'll be able to put in a fall garden. When it lets up I'll go out and put a shovel to the ground just to see how far down the water percolated. My fruit trees look happier already.

The animals handle rain in very different ways. Goats hate it. Just a few drops will send them scurrying into their shelter. They don't even like wet soil so after the rain stops they come out just long enough to check for tasty pecan leaves that might have fallen and then they head back to their dry shelter.

Chickens have a complex social order and are positively OCD when it comes to where they sleep. The pullets refuse to sleep in the hen house with the old ladies. Instead they roost on top of the wood pile. Even when rain is coming down in buckets they won't stay in the coop with the geezers. They sit hunched on the wood pile, making pitiful squeaking noises. They can look absolutely drenched but the down feathers next to their skin remain dry.

Turkeys are the least civilized of critters. They're kind of like the cave men of the poultry world. It can be raining cats and dogs with thunder and lightning and the turkeys are walking around the yard, calmly getting a drink from the waterers. They'll sit on the ground or roost on top of the coop but they have no interest in getting out of the rain. I have purposely let some mulberry trees grow up next to the oak tree so there is a place in the yard that is always sheltered and dry. Do the turkeys go there? Nope. They'd rather sit in the rain.

It's important to remember that, no matter how excited I may be about a good rain, I have to stay out of the garden until the soil and the leaves have a chance to dry. We humans are the primary means of transmission for many plant diseases. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi spores stick to our hands and our clothes. So many fungal spores need a fine layer of water to germinate so now is the time to hang out in the house with the kid and the pets. I hope your Sunday is as enjoyable as mine is so far.

Thanks Isaac.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Year Older

Yesterday was my birthday. I'm old enough to throw my own party now but not so old that I can't deal with technology. Or so I thought.

I signed up for a Tumblr account and set about creating my page, adjusting settings and uploading pictures. Suddenly I felt old. It took much longer than it should have and I struggled more than I have with any other social networking platform. Could it be that one year older is one year too old?

I don't know but I'm off to get my teenager to explain it to me. *sigh*

Monday, August 13, 2012

No Place I'd Rather Be

It's a beautiful night outside. Last night was beautiful, too. The heat has broken and there's a light, cool breeze.

Last night I lay on the hood of the truck with my back against the windshield, watching the Perseid meteor shower. Our skies here are so clear you can very clearly see the band of the Milky Way across the darkness of the night sky.

For many years I lived in Los Angeles. All day long I was surrounded by noise, soot, and a crush of humanity. I love people and I appreciate them as my brothers and sisters. But my time spent in the big city made me love them less and I longed for solitude. Maybe it's the sign of a true introvert, the need to spend time alone and recharging my batteries.

Today my friends posted beautiful pictures of tropical resorts. "Who wants to be here?" they asked. Not me. I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be than right here, on my little quarter acre full of life. There is less life on it these days, as we continue to do battle with drought. I cleaned out some of the growing beds today, acknowledging defeat. I can't keep them all alive. But I will not give in when it comes to my fruit trees. If I have to water my figs all night long I will.

It will rain again. I know it. Today's rains passed us by as did yesterday's storms. Not a drop fell. But this is still my little quarter acre and I defend it, one bucket of greywater at a time.

Thanks to everyone for their support and their prayers. We're almost to our first Indiegogo goal. As soon as we reach it I'll order the weed barrier and start preparing the ground for next year.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why Bad Things Happen

Last week I started an IndieGoGo campaign to rebuild the Not-So-Urban Farm after the worst drought in 60 years.

We're halfway to the first hurdle - ordering weed barrier. Once that is here, I can start clearing out the old beds and building some new ones from the repurposed parts of the old ones.

I received an email from a friend (which I'm sure was written with the best of intentions) outlining Good Agricultural Practices and how I had obviously got it wrong. It got me thinking about my perceptions and how I think the world works.

I like to think I have some control over what happens in my life. I do lots of research, I work very hard, and I seek out good advice. I do my best to prepare for every eventuality. I believe that if I do this, bad things won't happen to me. My face is in the dictionary next to the word "prudent".

Bad things happen. They happen for imprudent people as well as those who are prepared. They happen to smart people, and people who are not at all lazy. Bad things just happen and drought is no respecter of persons. My careful preparations and exhaustive research can't make it rain. All my water conservation measures don't mean much when there's no water at all.

I have to accept that my hard work may delay disaster but will only go so far to prevent it. I'm not in control. And all the Good Agricultural Practices in the world won't alleviate the need for this campaign to succeed. Please share it freely.  Thanks for your support.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Up with the Chickens

It's now 7:25 am on a Saturday. I've been up for a couple of hours. All the critters are fed with water and fresh hay.

If you had told me back in High School that I'd be up at dawn every day I'd have said you were nuts. But early morning has become my favorite time. It's quiet and peaceful. Maybe if I were on a farm with lots of acres I'd feel peaceful all day long.

Early morning here is damp. There's a heavy dew from the night's humidity. The sunlight is different, too. It's more white and clean. Later in the morning the sunlight is more yellow. Does that make sense? Can you tell I grew up in an artist household?

Early morning is just for the critters and me. It feels like a little private time before the racket of lawn mowers and pulp wood trucks begins.

I'm not anywhere close to where I expected to be. But I love it.