Monday, March 29, 2010

big day on the little farm

we accomplished so many things today. i don't know where to start. i know, first thing this morning we weeded the asparagus. chickweed has surprisingly vast root system. there was tons of chickweed and grass. it was a big chore. tristan helped a great deal. here it is finished and amended with compost.

we love asparagus.

the next thing we did was build the boys flowerbeds. tristan drilled all the holes for the screws. here they are on either end of these beds.

the dirt came from when we dug up the calf pen in preparation for deep bedding. the last little bit of it came from the old bathtub where we attempted cucumbers last summer.

here i am busy holding up that shovel.

this is my new hat. i love it. i forget that i am wearing it and the wind blows through keeping things cool.

this is tabitha's new hat. she loves it for similar reasons.

my beautiful wife.

the main reason we got so much done today is because the kids did this all day.

and this,

and this

and this

our next big thing we did was move the mailbox and make a bed around it and our sign.

we need a new mailbox. this one had seen better days when we moved here. i mortised that support beam with a hatchet and spade bit.

it is starting to look really cute, no? that was a ton of work. tristan hauled most of those rock in. i got the big ones, tabitha had to help on the really big one. the dirt came from our jerusalem artichoke bed. we need to re think where they are since they don't seem to thrive there.

tabithia transplanted lemon balm

to the root cellar.

while i raked leaves from the upper paddock and put them in the chicken coop as floor cover.

the cow is looking great these days.

this is the leftover rubble from the seed blocks yesterday.

they seem happy in their new diggs.

cute friendly happy little tomatoes grow now grow.

see what i mean by elegant?

these are just so aesthetically pleasing.

our little greenhouse is almost full. this is where you might find toly grazing.

spring is here in the ozarks.


gratuitous sleeping baby..

happy spring

Sunday, March 28, 2010

soap, kittens and soil blocks

having just promised three bars of soap to contest winners adjusted my queue for the day. we have been planning on making soap for several weeks now. today was the day. here it is curing in three inch pvc pipe as the mold. it then gets cut into thick wafers.

we set it next to the wood stove to cool slowly so it won't crack. i cut the pipe mold in half length wise to make getting the soap out more easy. it works great. thanks again tansy.

our spoken for kittens just lost their perspective home. an unstable economy makes for general instability. people don't want to make commitments when they don't know where they will be in the near future.

they are so cute and already feisty. they will be great hunters.
here they are waiting by the back door to play with the kids.

we are keeping the cutest one (not pictured) can you imagine a cuter kitten than these? well, i don't want to blow your cute socks off so i'll stop now. anybody want a great farm cat? they should start going off hunting with their mother very soon. she is such a great hunter and instills those skills in all of her offspring to date.

we transplanted our seedlings to larger soil blocks today. they look very kempt. our pendulum is swinging toward liking soil blocks again.

moving them from seedling soil blocks to larger blocks was really easy. it just seemed elegant. making the mix took a little time but doesn't everything?

tabitha and i worked together and made two hundred and forty blocks in short order. having those sturdy cedar trays makes things better. if we were putting them on plastic trays it wouldn't be nearly as pleasant. i need to install another shelf in the greenhouse because we are running out of room. having this green house is teaching me about what i want when i build greenhouse version 6.0. i am sure that version 6.0 will still be found wanting in some respects. i hope it's shortcomings are few. only time will tell.

tabitha pulled the bitter fall salad greens and we are planting more. fresh arugula will be in my near future. i love arugula. i know that most people find it slightly bitter, not me. tabitha added some of our swiss chard in dinner the other night mixed right into spaghetti sauce. all omelays here love it that way. toly sneaks into the green house and munches chard and kale raw. he has always liked leafy greens.

tristan got a kids' book of chess from the thrift store the other day. he has renewed his interest in chess. he has begun to see obvious threats but a little misdirection usually gets him, all in due course. he sees strategy in other areas of his life. a little practice will be good for him in this respect. he read the whole book and i think that he absorbed all of it. i look forward to playing him more frequently.

we are suspicious that toly can read. we don't have any solid proof since talking about it to him seems taboo. he spends an inordinate amount of time on starfall. then there is the fact that he knows stuff. an example of this is while driving he'll know what a sign says. does he remember this sign? he does have a huge memory. he does spend hidden moments looking at books. the books i've seen him with seem like something he could be reading. if he is not reading he will be very soon. he is very sensitive about this topic and clams up when prodded even in the most gentle fashion.

rome is cuteness incarnate and he knows it. we might really be in trouble with him.

and the winner is... well winners actually.

sheila was very close with only the original clues.
so close in fact that tabitha wanted me to call it over.
so sheila gets a bar of soap

christiana's ten year old also gets a bar of soap too. mostly correct still missing the chicken feeding part though.

stephanie got it almost exactly.

the idea:

we have a plague of japanese beetles here every year. they munch our fruit trees and other garden plants. tabitha took to holding a bucket with a little water under the fruit tree branches and shaking them into the bucket. then she would dump the bucket of hundreds of beetles into the chicken coop. the chickens would go crazy and munch them all up.

standard beetle traps clog and need to be cleaned regularly. i guess it can be scary since the pheromone lure can attract volumes of the beetles and if you don't kill them all in an overflowing trap you have just made your problem worse. all those extra attracted beetles eating more of your stuff than they did before.

so my idea is to hang this little hut in the chicken coop. it will hang completely within reach of the chickens. the bait will be protected from the elements and chickens within the cage and roof. it will be easy to load new bait and hang back on a screw for the chickens. hopefully the beetles won't be able to get to the lure/bait. i intend them to just try to get to it and swarm the little shed where my chickens will be poised for lunch.

this is completely untested and still a developing theory. testing will ensue once beetle season starts. i'll have an update regarding this topic at that time.

sheila, christiana and stephanie please email me your postal addresses and your packages will be on the way shortly. omelay (at) gmail (dot) com

happy spring

Saturday, March 27, 2010

first clue

japanese beetle bait

there are some very close guesses. these clues should clinch it...

little building projects and contest

at every opportunity i am building a few seedling trays.

we have finally started to win the battle against damping off. we had a turn in weather. is quite chilly outside today. i had planned on making large soil blocks and migrating the seedlings to larger opportunity. i hope it warms up so we can tie into that this afternoon.

yesterday in the afternoon i built a mineral feeder for the cow. i altered my original plan for several reasons. it was going to be round and mount to a stump in our field. now that we have decided to mostly keep the cow in a pen i decided to make it initially mount on her feeder. once she is confinement i will move it to her pen.

i put the final coat of paint on it this morning. i have a large piece of conveyor belt that will cover this like a heavy flap. she will be able to nose up the flap to get to the minerals.

the four compartments will contain; fertrell salt mix, fertrell conditioner, baking soda, and sea kelp. the flap will shed the elements to keep the minerals reasonably dry.

i also built this, is of my own invention and it's use is novel. it will hang from that hole against a post.

it opens like this:

here it is from the bottom.

the first person to guess what this is will win a bar of our lavender soap. i will continue to add clues until someone gets it. the winner must comment on the blog not at FB where my posts copy automatically.

most excellent guesses it is not:
suet feeder
thread feeder

Friday, March 26, 2010

van gogh

kassi has been expressing a serious interest in art for several months. she draws for a measurable percentage of her day--everyday. it touches my heart in a special place having supported myself for several years as a graphic artist. supported being a relative term. i was a starving artist in san diego california. my beachfront studio apartment rent was more than my last year monthly income. it is all relative.

kassi has been telling me very often that she wants to be an artist when she grows up. so yesterday i sat down with couple of my impressionist books and looked through them with her. she was blown away by van gogh. we spoke about how he created layers within his work using the pallet as texture.

later that evening she got out her tempura paints. after a while i heard her crying from the kitchen. she was upset that she couldn't paint like those paintings she saw earlier. i consoled her "not to worry, if she practices she will paint exactly how she desires someday." she already is expressing a confident voice and is very prolific.

she is undaunted and loves anything artistic. whatever she does in her life, i am sure that she will always love art. her world is filled with the beauty of a child's fresh lens. flowers have a special meaning in her mind that i cannot grasp. finding a simple violet brings her such glee. you can almost see her vibrate.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

i am unemployed and still can't get everything done..

i am sure that my expectations are higher but still...

we intend to keep our cow in a pen during the evenings and rainy weather. she just tromps around and damages our little paddocks hunting for a blade of grass. we have so little pasture that we need exacting control to manage it effectively. we have good hay for her that she thrives on. she just needs to be exposed to the paddocks when they are ready.

we have started training her to lead on with a halter. today i built her a pen feeder. it will fit whole bale of hay. it seems cobbled together but that is only because it is made from recycled materials. it is sturdy and will offer shelter for her hay. i will be able to fill it and clean it out easily.

next thing to have ready will be her water source. i have to get a new stock tank and plan rain water collection from the barn and roof of the pen.

i worked until after lunch time on her pen then i needed to paint the shelves that i built last night. oh, did i mention that i built shelves?

i made them out of 3/4" plywood sanded both sides. one of them is simply a book shelf that needs to go over our bed. we have tons of books and never enough place to put them. the other one isn't really a shelf but a cabinet. i scored a locking door with keys and have been intending on making a cabinet for our bathroom for several months. creating a receiver for the latching mechanism was a little tricky. i think that it turned out well.

the door is metal so magnets can hold artwork and stuff.

there is even a shelf for the kids nintendos with an outlet for their charger. those chargers are very fragile and toly eats them--literally. a safe haven for nintentos and games is well appreciated.

our seedlings are having a rough time with damping-off. we have been diligently spraying them with the concoction without much success. i am beginning to blame the soil blocks. we'll see if the next batch with sterilized soil does any better. if not we'll have to make a big strike against the soil block maker. although we don't have a control group that is planted in a normal fashion.

the swiss chard seems to like the heated green house.

tristan ripped the net guard for the trampoline. i told him that he was on restriction from it until it got fixed. he convinced kassi to sew it for him so they could play.

i got the new trailer hitch for the van. i'll try to get to that tomorrow. it'll have to be in the afternoon assuming the rain stays away.

this evening i built two more cedar trays for soil blocks. i might be cursing them very soon.

we had rotisserie chicken for dinner. we got the grill to ease kitchen pressure during summer. having the ability to cook a chicken outside will be great. the stove is usually filled with canning stuff and grills are generally easier to clean up after.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

the dark underbelly of soil block making

soil block making although fun and gooey is real work. making the mix is not the real trouble it is coming up with the ingredients. we have jumped in both feet first. we already own two sizes of the makers. we have one seedling small and the other matching medium size. the medium block receives the small block like a puzzle piece. we have bought all the ingredients. not too pricey if you consider the cost of purchased seed starting stuff and it is easily paid for. most frugal people would just use their compost and call it good. this method is not for them.

our first batch of mix has revealed that my compost* this year has too many interloping weed seeds. compost is one of the ingredients of the mini block. this unsterilized compost is also likely the cause of our damping-off. so for this round we sterilized my compost in the oven. this batch was easier to make with better results. practice makes "better"..

so far we are happy with this method especially since we plan to sell seedlings this year. but, be warned this is no panacea. it takes some effort but the results seem elegant. we have had good germination. the tightly packed lightweight soil seems to have great capillary action and keeps the seedling properly moist if the block is kept properly watered.

another caveat is the blocks must be watered several times per day. we bought a mist sprayer and it has been instrumental in keeping up with watering. here is a pretty good video of the soil block maker.

* my compost is not scientific. i just pile the mix of manure and brown stuffs into some pallets. i let it decompose for six or more months. laboratory style composting might produce sterile enough compost but i already have too much going on. my garden really likes it and that is enough for me.

jack frost gives us little more

today potatoes got planted.

they are in that trench on the left. we'll cover them little by little as they sprout.

pear trees were also planted.

this is the bartlett.

we were a little late getting to the seedlings with chamomile tea. we lost a few to damping-off.

so we decided to start some more. here tabitha is making the tiny soil blocks.

it is kinda like the texture of peanut butter.

aren't they cute?

this will be a tray of spinach.

all in all it was a good day. i even got some plywood for more shelves. we are in need of places to put books. i also got some wood for the boys raised beds. they need to be like kassi's. the weather people are divining snow this evening.
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