Sunday, March 30, 2008


i really wanted to get some fencing completed this weekend. the rain has saturated the ground. when i tried to dig the corner post holes they filled with water faster than i could dig them out.

i tried to work on the root cellar. flooded..

i set up the solar pump and started to pump it low enough so i could work on the door area. it started to rain in earnest. i fled.

i moved some gravel to the bathtub drain overflow. it was making a muddy ditch. the rain had saturated the little leach field that is under the yard. the bees were drinking from there and i'd prefer them to get better quality water that is available just a few feet further from them.

my kombucha addiction has infused into my soul. i can't believe that i'd never had the stuff before my recent discovery. i drink at least a pint of the stuff everyday--i would drink more if i had it. i have three gallons brewing at any given time. sometimes i get a little anxious and pour a glass a little before it is finished brewing. too sweet. i like a dry dry strong kombucha. i have to start another gallon so i can start bottling it for those hot summer days where i'll need a few pints to keep me going.

i tried to brew some from a bottle from the health food store. it was a dismal failure. i really need to split another scoby and start another gallon i figure it i have five gallons going at any time i might be able to bottle some for long term carbonation. i have only ever filled six grolsch bottles at a time. by the sixth day and the last bottle they were really tasty--effervescent.

tristan got a guitar from the goodwill yesterday. he loves it. he had been writing songs. drawing the little notes on paper. where did he learn that? one of them titled horrible song. the other on is called jack into a box. such a fun boy.

toly is down to prevacid every other day. he smells a little acidic every now and then. we have aloe juice which seems to help. we are trying to wean him from the strong drugs--taking our time. he is mostly happy. luckily nothing has come back from all the tests so we want to try to deal with this via diet.

i really hope our carrot experiment works out. it was a ridiculous amount of work getting the beds ready. i guess it can take up to two weeks for carrots to germinate. we planted two separate heirloom short-carrot varieties. we eat lots of carrots.

we feel very lucky to have squeezed our spring garden planting in. the rain intervals have been relentless. the list goes:
    beets a big wide row
    swiss chard another big row
    half a row of broccoli
    half a row of cabbage
    a row and a half of onions
    half a row of mixed greens, beets, chard
    two raised beds of carrots
    jerusalem artichokes
    the garlic has been in since fall
    the asparagus is perennial

stuff left to plant at a later date
    pole beans
    sweet potatoes
    more greens

seedlings started
    hot peppers

Friday, March 28, 2008

help in the garden

toly loves to run the tiller. tristan was giving his expert opinion. toly would have none of it--he has to do it his way.

toly was convinced that i needed this hammer. his method of taking a soil sample was to taste it--yummy.

this is the second row of onions with some mixed greens and beets.

here is a nice wide row of beets.

here is our over-wintered swiss chard. the arugula already went to seed.

here is the carrot bed. i dug out down to the sub soil and piled the dirt on a tarp. the soil from the 17 by 3 area amounted to about three wheelbarrow loads. i built some frames from some rough sawed wood. we then mixed in a load of compost and a load of sand. we pulled the edges of the tarp and folded the soil over and over. i set the frames about 1/2 half way into the earth. we added the carrot mix and soakers. if this method doesn't produce decent carrots then we'll cross them off our list.

i moved the bale ring form the cows mostly eaten bale. it becomes an instant bed.

my bees are happy with the peach blossoms. they are such wonderful creatures.

their activity is amazing.

the asparagus is about to start coming on. there are two tiny spear heads in this photo can you see them?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

easter egg hunt

all these photos click through to larger photos if you'd like.

such a flurry of activity. the kids had a blast. did you notice that many of the pictures were of them in mid run? they traversed papa-nancy's yard many times. kassi was also very excited when we got easter presents from my parents (gandme and grampa). she'd really like to meet them.

garden map update

as is always the case we didn't stick to the map. so i just changed the map.

i tilled the lower part of the garden and added four wheel barrow loads of compost. the lower part is the left side of the map. i'll try to get a soaker hoses ready so tabitha can plant the appropriate things (beets). we have been known to eat tons of beets. last year our fall beets failed dismally and we suffered. mostly we couldn't get into the garden in time.

yesterday we set three big cedar corner posts. i cut them in the morning and they were very sappy. i also had to cut more of that huge red oak up. i had to get it out of our way for fencing.

we also moved sixteen wild raspberry plants to the upper yard. they are planted next to the strawberry raised bed.

i made a compost tea to amend them in. i hope they do well.

needless to say i am ruined muscle sore right now. it was carrying the huge fence posts and digging the holes (extremely rocky even for ozarks standards). forking the compost into the wheel barrow this morning did me in.

happy easter

Friday, March 21, 2008

spring farm report

hens are laying fourteen large eggs consistently.

onions are in and sending new shoots.

garlic is doing great.

some beets, chard and greens are planted--nothing up yet.

just planted tons of sun-chokes, thanks tansy.

seedlings are doing well.

winter garden stores are holding steady.

there is three and a half cord of oak cut and ready for next winter.

back fence is still in the queue. this weekend or bust, honest i swear..

full moon, we need to plant the rest of the beets this afternoon.

bees are an infectiously exciting flurry of activity.

both cows are still pregnant. no milk from the pile.

the cat is huge and pregnant. there will be kittens very soon.

the root cellar is very close to being closed up.

the bathroom is also very close to being done.

we went through three cord of wood this winter--including the wood still on the porch.

no progress on the milking barn for a while.

the milk shed still needs to be painted and trimmed.

the bean arches need to be moved and that area needs a good tilling.

yard garden beds need to be dug and prepared.

raspberries need to be transplanted.

solar water heater needs to be started.

there is still about three yards of compost waiting to go into the garden. two more yards are about 1/2 and 1/4 complete respectively. i have to set up two more compost bins. the cows are manure machines--i can barely keep up. when we get them on the back pasture that manure will get spread by the chickens. we'll start feeding the cows a small amount of whole grains. it passes through the cows and the chickens learn very quickly to spread out the manure in search of grain. a thin layer of manure will go a long way to fertilizing that back pasture. by the time we move the cows to the new pasture i should have a large queue of compost waiting.

the rest of the house is stirring--more later.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

bees arrive accompanied by spring

i know spring isn't officially here for a couple of days yet. today is a glorious.

the daffodils are blooming.

the fruit trees are budding up.

the willow is leafing out.

kassi thinks it is spring too.

the ice storm killed one of my "show" bamboo plants. argh..

clothes on the line are always a beautiful thing.

the bees have arrived. they are safe and seem to like the place. kassi is so excited. she greets them and stand back and admires their activities.

this is the busiest hive. the activity level is amazing.

this hive seems a little less robust. i might end up replacing this queen if they don't do well.

tristan lost his front top tooth. very important business for a five year old. the camera focused on kassi--too bad for the missed close-up.

toly is excited about the prospect of spring too.

this is the little wet weather brook that flows down the ravine. cute isn't it?

this is how much rain we got over the past thirty or so hours. the drain plug leaks so i'm sure that this isn't an accurate measure.

the garlic really liked the rain. we are guessing 8+ inches of rain. some of the garlic has to pierce the oak leaf mulch. i imagine i'll have to help it out a bit. the onions not-shown are rained in and should take off also.

i am very excited about the bees but a little scared. not scared of the bees but scared like "God, what have i gotten myself into?"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

we are home

we had a wonderful visit with tansy. our kids bonded with hers in a profound way. i finally got to walk around her farm and enjoy it a little. her kids have a fort. we desperately need a fort here at the pile. we had great food and conversation. tabitha enjoyed a class that tansy was teaching on making cough drops and syrups. i was still in decompress mode from the hospital and couldn't enjoy anything except mindlessly watching the kids play from a cozy chair. he older kids are enviously helpful around the farm.

the hospital was fine--no results yet. well, that is not true. we now know of a ton of awful things that it isn't. we are still waiting for biopsy results from the lab. if they can't find anything wrong then it will be good news--kinda. we will know it isn't a bunch more awful stuff. we are attempting an elimination diet. our first day was thwarted by another hospital visit--can you believe it?

tabitha started having weird contractions. i was working at bobs trying to make up for some lost money. she called and said we need to go to the hospital. "what?" i dashed home and took a starving pile toward the hospital. we decided to drop tabitha off at the emergency room and i'd take the kids to get some food in them. drive through food never qualifies for anything except gastric distress.

when we got back to the hospital they sent us directly up to the maternity ward. three kids in tow we ventured to the third floor. the maternity nurse said she hasn't arrived yet and directed us to a little room. i said "there seems to be lots for my kids to get into in there." she said "they'll be fine." after scheming to surprise mommy like a birthday greeting. the nurses needed to be brought in to the fold.

the little surprise would have worked perfectly if the transferring nurse would have been in the fold also. the kids were so excited that the second the door latch started to turn they screamed "surprise." the nurse recoiled and didn't finish opening the door. foiled again.

tabitha is fine a little dehydration topped with stress of st. louis. they fed her and observed her for a while. we left thinking what a wonderful way to spend a fine saturday afternoon. at least everyone got fed..

today we plan to plant the second row that i tilled before we left for st. louis. we have had too much rain to really do much more. i also plan to dig a couple of fence post holes for the back paddock. i'll need to cut down a cedar tree to use as the corner posts.

oh crap, i just realized that i'll have to cut down a huge tree that is dying and will be looming over our new fence. this must be done before fencing can be finished.

i called the bee guy last night and left a message. i hope to hear from him today. i'll call again after all area church services let out.

things are really greening up around here. i'll post some photos this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


st. louis children's had a cancellation. they moved our appointment to tomorrow. we are leaving today for the "big city"--as tristan would say. if gardening weren't looming we'd have left early this morning and every attempt to go to the zoo would have been made. the zoo will have to wait until another time. we'll probably afford it better later anyway.

before we leave we must finish planting onions and some beets. i tilled part of the garden last night after work. unbelievably i ran into another huge "rock of gibraltar." i have a heavy steel rod that i use for these type of rock extractions--it weighs thirty pounds. when i struck the offending rock it didn't budge. the ground shook. i thought "crap i have finally hit ledge rock." after several spiraling probes if finally shot past it. i pried against the soil and the rock held steady. "crap i have really finally hit ledge rock." after working around it with many deep probing lunges i leveraged between two huge rocks and a point of leverage. the monster rock finally gave up the ghost. it took all of my effort to roll it from it's crater. over three hundred pounds of conglomerate flint rock. with great effort i rolled it to the edge of the garden--that is where it will live for now. i extracted it's much smaller friend and proceeded to deal with the wheel barrow sized hole they left. compost and top soil were shoveled and raked until normalcy finally returned to the garden plane.

the job of placing soaker hoses started. our collection of tattered soaker hoses makes this job difficult at best. we laid them so a quadruple double row of onions could make a single garden row.

reaching to weed the center of the row will be a bit tricky with a big pregnant belly but our garden space is at a premium. we'll finish planting the rest of the onions this morning. the moon signs are right for root crops. we'll plant some beets to finish out the rest of vacant space in this next row.

once again tristan was really helpful picking rocks from the garden after i tilled it. of course he and kassi played plenty. they invented a garden communication device from one of the old hoses. they were saying the cutest stuff to each other over the garden-O-phone. toly wasn't particularly tolerant of gardening but he'll get used to it--especially when he starts to feel better.

here is our surviving swiss chard sewn in the late fall. we have had several salads from here. just to the left is arugula also good salad fodder.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

hard to post

it has been hard to post since there has been so much turmoil around here. so far the tests have either not come back yet, waiting to take the test, came back inconclusive or came back negative. we have another big test on the twentieth of march in st. louis. toly's medicine seems to have kicked in. he is a happier boy. we just need to know what is causing this. whatever it is maybe we can stop it and take him off these powerful drugs.

we plan to stay with tansy again on the twentieth. what a wonderfully comforting and inviting home she has. this last time i brought some of my tools and intended to help her with any small jobs around her place. alas i was too overcome with stress to be of any use. i was mostly a zombie. thank you tansy for your warm welcome.

i have managed to keep myself busy around here. i put some of the wall base around the bathroom floor and finished the trim around the bedroom door. after working with this wall base i have decided to change one little thing at the only exterior facing corner. i need to fabricate a matching piece of wooden trim then i can finish the back wall behind the bathtub. the completed sections look great. we are closing in on having this room finished.

the tomato seedlings are doing great. i set a timer for their light while we were away. tabitha transplanted the cabbage and broccoli into the cold and hot frame. we forgot to take the top off one cloudy day and almost killed them all--steamed. some will be stunted but hopefully we'll get a good harvest anyway.

my kombucha exploits are progressing far too slowly for my taste. i have a gallon going right now but will likely need three gallons going at any one point to keep up with my craving for the stuff. we'll split the scoby after this batch is done. i might try green tea this next time around. i have three bottles from the last batch that are getting bubbly. to be drank very soon...

i'll keep the tarps on the garden until the ides of march. hopefully sunday we'll get in there with the garden tiller and plant some beets and onions. i might get in a little sooner we'll have to see how the weather does.

the older kids are doing great. tristan and kassi have been wonderful. they have been playing and learning and keeping spirits bright around here. kassi is taking an interest in technology. i hope that she learns to use the computer very soon. learning reading will so much easier with the help of

after the test on the twentieth we plan to go on an extreme exclusion diet. we hope that toly will respond to one of the following: no gluten, no milk, no eggs, no nuts, no anything we can think of. it will be a family affair sine it will only be fair if we all have to do it. plus there won't be the possibility of sneaking any contraband food if it isn't available.

thank you for your thoughts and prayers. they are working. although we are still in this damnedable holding pattern.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

st. louis

we are off for testing to st. louis for toly. C.F. , celiac, and allergies among others. i am depressed about the possibility of C.F.

pray for us.


---- update ----

upper G.I. this morning--another one. fecal testing for the usual suspects, assuming we can get a stool sample. new doctor seems competent. in his preliminary opinion, he says C.F. doesn't seem likely. although we'll test for everything.

the biggest trouble is, toly's medicine is working full force. he isn't really presenting any of the bad symptoms. it's kinda like taking a car to the mechanic and it doesn't act up. there was some miscommunication and a weird diagnosis tangent. i think we are making some headway here.

tansy, our host, has been fabulous. when we arrived late there was a hot bowl if split pea soup and corn bread waiting for us. her warm relaxing home is a comfort in the midst of this storm.

children's hospital st. louis is great. everything has exceeded our expectations.

thanks for your prayers and good thoughts. they seem to be working.

Monday, March 03, 2008

pink dress

tabitha made kassi a new pink dress. it was a huge hit--so frilly. she lined it with surplus bed sheet material--very soft.

happy girl

so dancie

can you see the true love?

i put tarps down across the garden. we want to get in there with the tiller.

it has been so wet since spring like conditions started. that i stole the tarp from the root cellar to cover the garden. it rained four inches last night and today.

this water is about a foot deep. not suitable for a storm shelter.

i plan to cover the entire left gap adjacent to the pump house with infill. water should shed out and away from the root cellar. this is a worst case scenario. i'll manage the watershed once i have some more infill. the old tin is covering the poly bags from sundamage--kinda.

here is a view from the back of the root cellar--the bottle wall. this will all be covered by infill. just ahead on the right is going to be the solar storage tank. it will be made like a cinder block building--holding several hundred gallons. i'll insulate it and stucco hydraulic cement on the inside walls--think of a swimming pool. the solar panels will be just above on a rack. they'll cover both the tank and pump house facing south. it is going to be a drain back system--an attempt to manage the hot summer heat and freezing winters. the large thermal mass should last through several cloudy days.

saturday i hauled several wheel barrow loads of gravel into the infill area. i know where i can get some light weight aggregate. i'll need several truck loads but it'll be worth the trouble.

this little pile of wood is all that i have left for the winter--minus the filled wood box on the porch. i hope it will last. only a few loads are in the dry. did i mention that we are expecting over a foot of snow this evening?
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