Saturday, May 30, 2015

5 People You Need To Know If You Live on A Farm

Farming seems like such a solitary lifestyle.  In fact, many people get into it to leave the "rat race" of urban life.  You imagine yourself hunkered down in front of the wood stove, eating organic, non GMO rabbit/vegetable stew raised, grown and harvested on your property.  There is no sound of the evening news; just the occasional howl of a coyote.  And you did all this with your own two hands, with nary another person in the picture.

Um, okay, I'm going to pop, smash and blow your bubble out of the water.

While you can do all those things with wild abandon, keep this in mind:

You didn't get there all by your lonesome.

I like to watch shows like "Wild Alaska" and "Alaskan Railroad"  (knowing full well there is no way on God's Green Earth that I could do that, but intensely engrossed anyway) and see how they do things.  But even they rely on the railroad, other people and supplies from town to live their lives.  So keep your independence, but get over the fact that you have to do it alone, else you are a failure.  There are at least five people you need to know - or someone who knows these people - to live on a farm (and survive).

1.  Veterinarian - If you are going to raise animals, you need someone on speed dial who knows animals.  That thing hanging out of the cow (that's not poo or offspring) is a prolapsed uterus and needs to be solved by someone with the letters "DVM" after their name.  Another one that is helpful to know is someone who works with the vet and has some of the vet training.  I have a friend that I know I can call to see if the dog's recent diarrhea bout is worthy of a vet visit (and cost) or if I can try something at home. She'll come out and check things out if I offer alcoholic refreshments.  Bonus!

2.  Small Engine Mechanic - Ours was here until midnight last night trying to wrestle a new tire onto the rim of our riding lawn mower.  Last week he came out to the farm within 4 hours of us snapping the doohickey bracket that holds the rototiller to the tractor (another reason I need this guy - I don't even remember what the name of the part was that broke in two).  He knew a guy who knew a guy who welded it back together for $200.  It would have cost $700 and two weeks to replace the sucker.  He will come by again today to replace the belt and sharpen the blades to both our riding lawn mowers.  We feed him cinnamon rolls and he just keeps coming back.

No way in hell was this going to be me.
We called the neighbor!
3.  Neighbor - Preferably nice ones, but even cranky ones will do.  Last night the neighbor's cow ate the string of somebody's birthday mylar balloon, so every time she moved, the balloon went with her.  Looking out the window we just thought she was playing.  It wasn't until we called the neighbor and went over to help that we realized what had happened.  It took one of us distracting the cow for the other one to step on the string and then another one to scare the cow.  The string came out, the cow took off, we burned the mylar balloon in the burn barrel.  Note to Everyone:  Don't let balloons float into the air - you never know where they will come down.

4.  Old Farmer -  This doesn't mean some crudgety 90 year old (although it can, seriously it can be a riot.  Especially when they go home).  This means someone who has been around this farming block far longer than you. We went to put on the auger to the back of the tractor, and even though we'd done it before (almost a decade prior), we could not figure out how the heck to extend the shaft.  We pulled, tugged, twisted, hit, everything, but we were still a good 12 inches off.  So we called out the "damn near 90" year old neighbor.  He got into his tool kit, pulled out a hammer and chisel, hit it in two spots and it slid completely apart like it was supposed to do.  It took him four minutes to do what had taken the Hubs and I forty minutes to not do.

Another farmer told us about this fencing.  Be
gone with the barbed wire!!
5.  Other Farmers - I love going to the feed store and seeing the baby chicks in the galvanized feeding troughs as much as the next guy/gal/person.  They are too stinking cute.  Then I remember the farm down the road that has a broody hen and eggs due to hatch any day.  I would much rather support my neighbor than big companies any day.  Also other farmers are a plethora of information.  Wanna know which type of corn grows best in the area?  Ask them, because the seed catalogs you order from aren't going to know.  Wanna know the trick to getting the biggest tomato?  Ask another farmer because they will tell you to put eggshells in the dirt prior to planting, and pinch off the suckers when they show up.


6.  Yourself -  Yes, really.  I know for a fact that I like planting and weeding the garden much more than I like harvesting (go figure).  I know that I cannot weedeat to save my soul (well, I could, but I would have shoulder pain for a week until I had to weedeat again and we'd be in some cyclical bitchy session all growing season).  I know that I can paint far better than my husband (he knows it too - probably from me telling him every six seconds).  I know that my Teenager is a better chicken whisperer than I am.  How she gets those suckers in the pen without saying a word or using a stick, I'll never know.

So go forth and prosper.  And take other people with you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Photos From The Farm

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. ~2 Peter 3:18

Quote found on:  Open Bible

These and other farm photos can be found on our portfolio page:  The Accidental Farmers Portfolio

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Raising Chickens - The Dirty Reality

I am ALLLLLL about being real with you people.  I will tell the truth when it doesn't warrant it and life would be easier without it.  But then I'd be lying you'd get all ticky-off to me because, "well, we did what you said, and, frankly, it stunk".  So I give you this whole farm thing without any sugar coating, even though there are some parts so sticky sweet that I wouldn't trade them for anything (and then there are those that need a shovel and a hole in the ground).

So here is my version (read that part carefully - my version) of Chicken Reality (yes it is now a proper noun and you can't do anything about it).

1.  Chicks are stinking cute!  Baby chickens that are under a heat lamp in the cow trough in the feed store are just about the cutest little things EVAH.  They peep and the run and they peep some more and they look up at you sideways (sometimes while peeping and running) and they are just so damn cute.  And when you purchase them they put them in these little boxes all crammed together and you wonder how they breathe.  But they do and they make it home to your kitchen counter.  Because that's where all the chicks end up even if you have their new home ready for them.  That or the coffee table.

2.  Chicken Math.  This is a real thing.  The Teenager and Hubs went out to a breeder to get four barred rock chicks.  See that - 4, four, FOUR, Quatro,  Somehow that meant thirteen.  I don't even know how, but they have been grounded from getting chicks.  Until I took the Teenager a year later and we went for three chicks - and came home with nine.  See chicken math.  I'm sure it's part of the Common Core.

3.  Egg usage and income.  You get chicks so they grow into chickens, who are hopefully hens, because you want eggs.  And because you came home with 12 chicks because somebody can't count, you now have 12 hens.  Who lay about 8 eggs a day (give or take, this math is wearing on me).  So you either need to use 8 eggs a day, or you need to sell them.  I've tried both and it can be too much work on some days.  Too much thought to try and find recipes that use lots of eggs.  Warm chocolate melting cake used to be my go-to recipe, but my family started wearing thin on that one (the nerve!).  So I started selling them at work.  I easily sell four dozen a week at work.  Somehow I still am not breaking even on the income vs expense.  As you can see I'm not so good at math.  Did I mention I teach math at the local elementary?  Pretty scary, eh?

4.  They are Landscape Terrorists.  I love seeing the little fellers roam my property just as much as anyone.  They are so cute digging into the dirt and beauty bark for grubs.  Until the beauty bark is spread all over the lawn.  We have to use 6 mil plastic in our flowerbeds because the dirt is so good, it grows the best damn weeds you've ever seen.  On top of the plastic is about four inches of bark.  Chickens have a blast flicking all that bark onto the grass and exposing the ugly plastic.  Dust baths?  They love 'em.  Especially under the hostas.  Then you have flowerbeds that mimic the movie "Holes".

5.  Chicken Coop Cleanliness.  If you house is clean and you don't have chickens, then your house is clean.  Once you have chickens. your house is a mess, but your chicken coop is really clean!  Just live with it.  Or move into the chicken coop.  You might not get the top rung on the ladder, though.

6.  Chicken TV.  Your cable can pretty much be turned off because watching the antics of chicks will take up all your time.  I won't even post the video of our little guys running from the worm because it will have you driving to the feed store so fast you won't have time to put your shoes on.

7.  Eggs in the Pocket.  Only another chicken owner will understand this one.  You put on a coat you haven't worn in a while.  Pre-chicken days, you would have felt something in your pocket and you'd pull out a $10 bill.  Post chicken days, you feel something in your pocket and you pull out an egg.  One that's been in there for three weeks that you forgot about.  If you are lucky (so, so, so lucky), you would have reached you hand in gently to see what was in the pocket.  Unlucky, I don't even want to go there, but the end results in a lot of laundry.

8.  Remembering Breed Names.  Seeing as how there are eight million (more chicken math) types and breeds of chickens, and you are only going off the little sign above the feed trough at the feed store, you gotta remember what you are getting.  I know we have Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds, but we have three other kinds that I don't have a clue.  One is Something-Golden and the other is Something-Silver.  Aren't I a responsible chicken owner?  Keep judging because I don't have a clue what the last one is because it is Austrian.  Or Switzerland.  Or Germany.  Hell, I don't know.  She's got a mohawk.

9.  (This ones yucky, sorry, but I did promise honesty).  Sometimes you lose one.  As in die.  Either a predator gets it, it gets sick, something happens and you come home to find a lifeless critter.  By this time they have wormed their way into your heart it can be like losing the dog or cat.  They are a pet, no two ways around it.  Unfortunately people (non-chicken people) don't see it as a big deal.  They think it's a big deal to lose the family dog, but they don't have the same reaction as losing the family chicken.  But losing a pet (any pet) means a part of your heart is ripped out and buried in the ground and chickens are no different.  It sucks.

10.  The Chicken Club.  There are people out there - blogs, websites, books - that get just as involved/obsessed in chickens as you do.  While chickens might be cheaper than golf (emphasis on might), they are a fun hobby.  That results in scrambled eggs, so who can complain?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Day In The Life - Grocery Shopping at Midnight

It's Saturday night and we're feeling alright... Okay, hang on.  It's Saturday night and we haven't been grocery shopping in, like, forever.  Or at least three weeks (see, forever).  Not that we don't have food.  We could live out of our three freezers and stockpiled foods for months, but it's just not always the food we want.

Grocery shopping needed to be put on the to-do list.  Well, the weather was going to be 75 degrees in Washington State - in May.  Early May.  No chance in haboota that we were wasting any time between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm on something as trivial as providing nourishment for our bodies.


So, after eating dinner (um, cereal) at 10:15 at night (doesn't everybody?), and sucking down the rest of the leftover coffee in the pot from the morning, we headed off to the grocery store.  Which is an hour away.

No, really, it's an hour away for the good deals.  Yes, we waste two gallons of gas to get there, but, what, are you Dave Ramsey all of a sudden?  Anyway, we were on an adventure.  The Teenager decided she didn't want to go (saywhat?), but she made her list (all fruit - saywhat?).

We arrived at the store at 11:00 pm.  You know how fast you can drive on a Saturday night at 11:00 pm?  There's no traffic!
Usually my wine of choice, but I made
him buy me the expensive stuff with it
being Mothers Day and all.

Anywho, grocery shopping at midnight is the bomb.  There are very few people there, the ones who are there are really entertaining to watch (maybe we were in that category too) and there was only one screaming child (which is a question mark all on it's own as to why a toddler was there).  The cashiers are a wee bit rummy because they are working the late shift (or third shift, or graveyard, or what-the-hell yard shift).  And the place is dead.

Now I am not a night owl.  I'm usually in bed by 9:00 if I've made it that far.  We have gone grocery shopping at 5:15 in the morning (had to drop the Teenager off at 4:30 am for some band event) and that was great too.  I just needed a nap afterwards.  I needed a nap after the midnight run, but at least it was nap time by 1:00 am.

So if the opportunity presents itself, head on out after primetime.  It's a whole new world out there.

By the by - this was the Saturday before Mothers Day, so technically the Hubs took me to Winco for Mother's Day.  I made him buy me the expensive wine.  $6.47.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why Mowing The Lawn is So Cathartic

I should amend that title to - some times.  Most times.  Maybe never if it's your most hated chore.  Around here, the cat box is the one everyone runs from (literally, I'm not sure what that cat eats to make that stink).  Mowing the lawn - that will be done before most every other chore (since "chore" does not mean catching up on re-runs of M*A*S*H* or reading interesting blogs about where dead celebrities are buried).

Our property is only five acres, but almost one of those acres is fully manicured.  As in park-like manicured.  When I first moved in with the Hubs, we had a Craftsman self-propelled push mower, complete with bagger.  It took FOUR HOURS to mow the place. In June, with allergies.  I went out that day and bought the first riding lawn mower I could find in our small town.  (And then wondered how I would get it home, but that's a whole 'nuther story.)

That rider has since been replaced - and replaced again (although the second one is still on the property despite going through the flood of '06 and a pre-teen driver.  Oh, and the lawn mower races, which of course, you need two to race.  Dur.

I am usually the one to mow.  Occasionally the Teenager chooses to do it (actually, we choose for her), but now that she's actually good at it, the novelty has waned.  No matter.  I actually love doing it, as long as it's not June when my allergies are at an all time combat zone despite pharmaceutical claims of "Claritan Clear".  Here's some of my reason for fighting for the right to mow the joint:

1.  Nobody bugs you.  No one comes out and asks when dinner will be ready.  Should it ever happen, the predicted outcome would sound something like this:  "Mom/Wife, what's for dinner?"  "I don't know.  Why don't you take over mowing and I'll think about it."  Nope, nobody bugs you.

2.  You can have your own playlist.  I have a second edition (I think) iPod Shuffle.  Remember those?  I think they went the way of the eight-track, but I love mine.  It has no technologically challenging buttons or apps or scroll-throughs or any of that stuff.  Straight, simple, volume up, volume down, skip and repeat.  It's gone through the washing machine (twice) and keeps on ticking playing.  I have everything downloaded on it from Kenny Chesney to Steven Curtis Chapman to Michael Jackson to Journey (and some Guns and Roses for good measure).  Mowing is really one the only times I get to listen to MY music.

3.  You get to see the place cleaned up.  You have to pick up all the hoses, abandoned tools, abandoned toys, branches, whatever is in the path that will ruin the blade.  Cleaner already.  In line with "cleaned up", mowing is fantastic because you mow a path, look behind, and, look, it's shorter.  Two swipes and the place goes from scraggly to first class.

4.  You get to be outside.  Face it.  If you can mow, it means the weather is decent.  You can't/shouldn't mow in the rain because it wrecks the blades.  Which means great weather.  Which means smiley face.

5.  Best way to get some color in your cheeks.  I am not one of those gals who can lay in a chair, read a book and get a tan.  One, I know tans, no matter how healthy they make you look, aren't all that good for you.  Two, I'm too ADHD to even contemplate an hour on my stomach with the bikini top untied, reading a book.  Instead, I lather up on the sunscreen and then go outside in my tank top and short shorts (that no one outside the property line will ever get to see) for some color.

See how relaxing it is?

6.  It's exercise.  Push mower (which is the definition of exercise) or rider (which is pretty lazy), you do burn some calories.  Yes, even the riding lawn mower constitutes as a calorie burner.  And I'm sticking to that.  With no evidence.  Wanna fight about it?

7.  There's nothing else you can be doing.  Since there are no distractions, your mind can go places it wouldn't otherwise.  In the house I might be making dinner, but I'm also doing laundry and fielding phone calls at the same time.  Not so with mowing.  You can only be mowing.  Almost every bright idea I've had (and they are limited) has come to me when I was on the mower.  This blog came about when I was hair-cropping the front yard.  The layout of our new kitchen popped into my head while circling a fruit tree.  Our photography company name came to while I was trying to get the dog out of the way by the chicken coops.  Really, why I do not have a notebook attached to the dash, I'm not sure.

After all, our model has a cell phone holder.  You know, so you can have a phone conversation while you are mowing.  That is not #8 because that is just impossible.

So even if I mowed on Wednesday, if the weather's nice, you will find me out on the mower on Friday.  Trust me, no one dares to come ask me, "Um what ARE you doing?"

Sunday, May 10, 2015

An Unconventional Mother's Day

Not that much of my life is conventional in the first place, Mother's Day is where I really step out of the box.

While most moms want chocolates or coffee or breakfast in bed or will-someone-else just-cook-once-this-year-dammit-darn it, I face reality head-on (sometimes collision head-on).  While I know I could sit and relax and not do dishes or vacuum or make the bed (like I would any other day of the week - pfsh), then I would just have to do twice the amount on the Monday following Mother's Day.

Yeah, not interested.

So in the 16 years I have let my child live been a mother, I have come up with some not-so conventional Mother's Day requests.

1999 and 2000 - One and two years into the whole Motherhood thing - I wanted cash, and gas in the car to go shopping by myself.  For me.  Without a diaper bag.  With nothing and no one latched on to my ...anyways.  For HOURS.  I stayed out until dinner, which I came home and it was cooked for me.  Bliss.

2001 - 2004 - I wanted the kid and the husband to leave the house.  Without me.  For HOURS. I got the TV and the remote and the CD Changer (remember those?) and I could start a project and come back to it four hours later to finish it without having to move it out of the reach of little hands FOUR TIMES in an hour.  And the requirement was still to bring dinner home with them when they came back (hours later).

2005 - This is where things really started off the convention train - I wanted to mow the pasture.  By myself.  On the big tractor that intimidated me.  The Hubs was required to do the perimeter stuff because I sort of manage to miscalculate the angle of the 5 foot mower behind the tractor and the fence.  In case you are not an experienced pasture-mower, that is one hell of a mess and requires most of the tools in the tool box, a chain saw and a come-along.  This way I could put in ear buds and mow for hours and no one is going to bug me!  More Bliss.

2006 - This train derailed a bit because I got stuck with the kid and an unlevel floor in the laundry room that had to be leveled and tiled before the Hubs and his dad brought home my new (read: it will work, now) washer and dryer.  I still required someone else to cook dinner.  And the kid fell asleep in the Lazy Boy.

2007 - 2014 - Some version of the leave-me-the-hell-alone in my own house, or give me cash to get away.  With coffee in the morning, and dinner made by someone else.

2015 - This one has to top them all (naturally).  No chocolates, no get aways, no going aways, I don't even care about dinner.  Okay, that last one is a crock.  Nope, this year I want the two butthole roosters and the yakkity female turkey - um - butchered.  (Sorry to those out there who don't know where your meat comes from:  At some point the saran wrapped boneless breasts for your cordon blue, has to be butchered.  I don't like, like it either, but I do like to eat.)  The roosters are absolute jerks to the hens and I'm tired of listening to the hens screeching all the live long day.  The turkey was born and bred as a meat turkey and is getting so big her legs are going to snap.  So they need to go.  But my family HATES this part of farming (not like I'm real fond of it either) but it has to be done.  We keep stalling. So what other way to show mom you love her than...  well, you know.

Feast at our house tonight.

For all of you who love the chocolates and cards and flowers, bless you.  You are perfect just the way God made you.  And I'm perfect the way God made me.

So there.

Have a great Mother's Day and celebrate however you want.  It's your day.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Day In The Life - The Bee Swarm

No rest for the weary.  After a long day at work, The Hubs and I were trying to relax on the East Deck (yes, they all have names because there is 4000 square feet of deck material around this joint, and just saying "I'll meet you on the deck" results in a scavenger hunt).  We were rehashing our day when I noticed a huge gathering of bugs.  I mean HUGE.  Right over by where the Hubs parked the truck.  And they were going in circles.

It was finally determined, by the Hubs, who just innately know this stuff, that they were honeybees.  (Because of this occurring in our area and the advent of social media, he put two and two together and came up with four).  Well, we thought four thousand (how little we knew).  One can only watch bees swarm for so long (and those of us with an attention span of a two year old, even less) so I went in the house.  Only to be called out ten minutes later to "come look at this".

How it all started.
Obediently, I did.

Holy, yeah, um, WOW.

These bees had made a swarm in the tree branch, which was really pretty stupid because it was windy and the thing was a roller coaster, but I'm assuming they know what they're doing.

We called up the family members that live in the area and they came to watch the "unplugged Television of our life".  Four of us watched as the entire group of bees left the branch and attached themselves to a small, lightweight pagoda that had blown down in the wind (leave my building skills alone - it was a mock-up for the real thing).  It took about ten minutes, but the tree-branch swarm slowly shrunk and the pagoda group, grew.  By this time we were on the phone to a neighbor we knew had a mess of hives, and a relative we knew had hives.  We couldn't get a hold of the neighbor, but we did get a  hold of the relative.

And then it went to the knocked down pagoda
While we contemplated just when he would show, he drove up the driveway.  Apparently he's showing now.


After small talk, he watched it for a while, said, "yeah, I've done this before" (which made him a professional to us bee-swarm idiots).  He commented that it was probably five or six pounds.  I asked how many bees that mean.  "Twenty thousand, give or take."

Say what?

Then he donned the white outfit (the technical term for I'm-not-getting-stung-for-you-people), grabbed his Rubbermaid container sans the lid, lifted the pagoda, banged it down and, quick, put the lid on the Rubbermaid.

That was it.  (We audience stood about as far back as we could and still see, and used a 70-200 lens on the camera)  He took off the white coat and hood and went on his merry way.

Only he left some.  We're not sure what's going to happen with these guys.  We have some neighbors who are going to come up tonight or tomorrow to see about getting them.  Yes, I will have the big lens on to capture the process for prosperity.

The "Leftovers"

Oh, as a side-note, afterwards we were recovering on the South Deck with a gourmet dinner of Doritos and Corona (oh, be quiet, you would too, if you'd thought of it), one particular bee was bugging us.  My husband batted it away at least eight times - until the ninth time when he batted it onto the dog.  Who promptly got stung in the leg.  Doritos and Corona got abandoned (for me to abandon the Corona for ANYTHING warrants something big-time), we Benadryled him, baking-soda-pasted him and gave him general lovings.  One bee down.  Dogs okay.


"Here, let me pose for you..."