Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Typical Fall Day in Pictures





I finally got the garden completely taken down this morning. All the trellis and wire has been stored, taken down or stacked. All the sheet metal walkways were removed and neatly stacked up off the ground on concrete blocks. The hoses were all rolled up and tied. Stakes gathered up and tied.

I even remembered to save some more Tobacco seeds for SF!!!

Since I wasn't about to yank all those still very much alive Tomato vines out of there along with the Sunflower stalks the size of small trees I got the tractor out to brush hog. My plan is to fence the garden in this Winter and either buy a couple of piglets or let some of the yearling Sheep in there to nibble but you all know the Tomato plant argument so I needed to get rid of them. Personally I think it would make some good fodder but not totally my call.

Here's where the typical Fall part comes into play. My trusty old "best tractor ever made" Ford 8N wouldn't start. This is completely unheard of I have managed to start that tractor in sub-zero temps. It always starts. Then I looked inside the fuel tank and it was out of gas. Last time I used her was to rake some hay just a few weeks ago and I know I left her with at least half a tank then.




After piddling around and putting in some more gas I finally found the problem. The gasket along the top of the fuel bowl has disintegrated and it was leaking fuel. Luckily it was an easy fix but I had to run into town and take the bowl with me to get a new gasket.

Then I start brush hogging and I get done with the garden and then hit the spot where I want to plant Pumpkins next year and I hear this gawd awful clunk.

 
I knew I had cut the damned PTO shaft too short and when I put the brush hog down to it's lowest level I guess I just didn't have enough grip there and it split the female side of the shaft. Luckily I have a spare but I am going to have to shorten the spare and then replace it. Ouch.

So I didn't get to brush hog down the lovely Bluestem grass the State highway department has been blessing me with.




See all that tall brown stuff? That's the Big Bluestem Grass they been seeding along the roads now because of this enviro-freak back to native crap. It actually makes so so hay but the sheep won't eat it unless there is nothing else to eat. You can see how it is encroaching on my Fescue and Brome/Orchard grass hayfield. My plan was to brush hog this edge down today and hope the cooler growing stuff might make some headway against it until Winter sets in. Well the broken PTO shaft kinda put an end to that plan this afternoon.




Of course by this time Sandwich was out. AGAIN.

The Other sheep were busy browsing and paying me no mind though. 




115 who is absolutely no trouble at all was quite content as long as she wasn't in the Bluestem.




Seven was ignoring me. While my supervisor had beat feet for the nearest tree the minute I started up the tractor.




Piglet or Penelope doesn't like machinery at all. She will climb a tree to keep an eye on me and once I shut the evil load thing off come back down to make sure I am not slacking off.

Like I said it's been three steps forward and then a  step or two back all the time this Fall. And the damned grass is still growing believe it or not. I just mowed a few days ago (and broke my garden tractor which I fixed yesterday) and it looks like I am going to have to do it again soon. They are predicting temps into the 80's again this weekend.

On the plus side it looks like I am going to get yet another cutting off the Alfalfa this year. Five cutting in one season is almost unheard of.




As the sun was going down and I was putting my tools away I saw this little tree frog hiding on my tool shop door. Still warm enough for tree frogs I see.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October Tomatoes and Tobacco Blooms





I am just about finished tearing the garden down now. I finally got all the wire and line removed from the Tomato section and started pulling up all the stakes from other rows and such. I still need to take up the bean and cucumber trellis and fish all the sheet metal covers out and then brush hog the entire thing and burn the remaining stalks and vines.

I never have gotten a straight 100% answer from anyone about Tomato vines being poisonous or not. For every reference or person who says they are there are just as many who say they are not. I guess I just won't risk it though.

The Tobacco is still blooming and I went around to collect some seeds from them today. I will occasionally see a bee working the Tobacco blooms but for the most part only the Hummingbirds really went to town on them and they are long gone now.




The blooms dry up into these little pods that I think look a lot like rosebuds, only brown of course. You then can just pick a "bud" and roll it between your fingers and let the little seeds fall into a packet. There are hundreds of the seeds in each bud.

Pretty much one bud full of seeds would last me years what few plants I grow. I am not sure how long they stay viable though so I try and collect a couple of buds worth each year.



The Tobacco plants do a  good job of keeping a number of pests, including the dreaded Hornworms, off my Tomatoes and seem to attract hummingbirds so well I just keep planting them.

Hard to believe it but I am still getting Tomatoes.




They are barely kymber sized but edible. Someday I should actually look into doing something with all the green tomatoes we have left over in the Fall but I never seem to get around to it. There is just always too much else to do this time of year.

Perhaps someday if this decline reverses itself I can buy a bit of retirement sand down South and just write about how I did it back in the day (or wish I had). Of course it will have to be on my own retirement money not the taxpayer's dime. Right now however I got to get the Winter preps done and all those little things that come up with a sustainable homestead. It seems like every step I get finished two more brush fires pop up before I can move on to the next project.

Anyway lunchtime is over back to work.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Worst Drop Off Year To Date





If you give any credit to my main indicator theory of Economic decline than the signs show the economy is getting worse.

What is this magical sign that accurately judges the economic health of at least the region around the Small-Hold you may ask?

Well it's simple really I just add up the number of stray animals that show up around here looking for a home. I find it is usually a pretty good indicator of just how bad things out there have gotten.

The Small-Hold has a lot of cats. Most are barn cats and a couple more think they are rough and tough outside cats until it gets cold anyway so we are not over run by the little vermin but it is to the point that I have stopped naming them and just assign them numbers. Thank the Lord for those little $25.00 Spay and Neuter vouchers the local cat lover associations give out. These groups are quick to demand no kill shelters and refuse to take any kittens off our hands but they do give out those vouchers pretty generously.

We also have some kind of symbiotic cat population going on with the neighbors too. Our last two barn cats left over from last year's dumping vacated the barn and moved next door when this years batch showed up. 

I am not even going to tell you what our yearly stray cat Vet bills run these days. In fact I am in complete denial and refuse to actually tell myself.

This year's total stray cat numbers came up to seven kittens and one mother cat. Two kittens showed up individually spaced a week or so apart but the other five showed up together and were safely hidden in the barn by the mother cat. I think they were there a good week or so before I discovered them and only came out after the mother cat got hit on the road and they were on their own. They were not born in the barn though because they were not feral, only shy and skittish. Within a few days three of the five were already purring and expecting to be petted while the two really shy ones couldn't help but be drawn to where ever people were even if they didn't want to be caught. They would always be within 20 feet or so playing in the open.

The two individual kittens were so happy to see a person they climbed up my pants legs and shirt all the way to my shoulder when they were discovered.

So far all but two of them (The really shy ones) have been captured and either delivered to their new homes or taken to a local shelter via a lucky family member who lives in town. The wife spends hours trapping and taming them so she can find them all homes or they have a good chance of being adopted.


Anyway this is the largest volume of strays we have had dumped on us to date. Last year was five but this year is really eight with one fatality. Considering kittens don't travel very far out here it really means someone is almost pulling up into the driveway and dumping these cats too. I am sure this last batch was dumped in my driveway and mom herded the entire brood to the first available building she could find which happened to be the barn. Small cats don't last long in the open fields here with all the hawks.

One of these days I am going to catch someone doing the deed and there are going to be dead bodies to take care of I swear. This constant stray issue is something that has really just developed since about 2008. I mean it has always happened out here but the numbers have ballooned drastically since 2008 to where it's a sure thing each Summer through Fall.

Whomever dumps these cats and dogs is about the lowest form of  life I can think of.  Rating only slightly better than cannibals, democrats and feminist in my book. I must admit though my buddies known as Sasha, Penelope and Pantheon wouldn't be here to follow me everywhere I go around the place if it hadn't been for the lowlife dumpers.

In a grid down situation population control will become a major issue I imagine but for right now we can still take the easy way out and use the adoption services. There is no more room at the inn I am afraid.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


Monday, October 20, 2014

A SO SO Product Review





Despite the fact that it is almost November and I am still having to mow my grass my little experiment with temporary fencing has had to come to an end. The Cutting crew ate everything in the areas I had them housed in and I finally had to put them out in the main pasture for these last few weeks until they get introduced to the rams. This is all just as well because the batteries on my Solar electric fence chargers both decided to die this week. Not even a full years worth of charging power in those things.

We went and picked up two replacement batteries which ran us $30.00 each btw. Seems a bit expensive to me and if the replacement batteries only last a year themselves well the entire thing just seems a bit too temporary for the money in my opinion.

That being said I have to admit the set up worked and worked well as long as I used the light nylon and foil fence wire. The charger really didn't have the ohms or whatever to kick solid wire into gear. Everything was fine except for those one or two Sheep that finally figured out their wool was thick enough they could ignore the wire. After that it still basically did it's job because the one or two trouble makers didn't have the courage to get too far from the others who wouldn't walk through the fence. The trouble makers (Looking at Sandwich and Molly) would stay close to where the other sheep were grazing and just be happy to be in the greener stuff. Eventually some loud truck or something would drive by and start a panic attack and they would jump back in with the others.


After the lovely green moist grass began to dry up however the entire dynamic started to change. A third troublemaker joined the other two. The big Whether who is the size of a steer named Bob. He was a bottle baby and treated like a pet for so long he knows all the tricks and would head for the front side of the barn where he knew the grain was kept along with the treat bag and if all else failed the Alfalfa field.

All this was going on as the battery was dying and kicking out very little juice so the others began getting brave and I caught them all in the Alfalfa field last night. Not good. Green Alfalfa is not stuff you want the critters to graze on because it can cause bloat and other bad things unless it has been properly dried and baled. So I have been having to run em into the pasture now and then putting them all up at night. The cutting crew's days of browsing whenever they want has come to an end because of a little section of electric fence they wouldn't respect.

As I said the setup worked well most of the Summer but as a long term plan if the batteries die after less than a years use it wouldn't work too well. All in all when you count in the money I spent on wire, stakes, the charger and such I am not sure if I really saved money over the long run. I certainly did save some time and feed costs though.

I still think a permanent fence design will work better overall.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Reading - Osage Orange Tree






While I don't see many Osage Orange trees around the Small-Hold anymore these days, down South of us a bit where I been cutting firewood the last several weekends there are quite a few nearby. I counted several in a couple of cow pastures with the large green fruit scattered about and a few dozen cattle lounging under the canopy.

This ancient specie of tree that was once found only in a small pocket that encompassed parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas can now be found growing in many parts of the country although I see it a lot more out in Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas these days.





The wood from an Osage Orange tree is truly beautiful with a yellow color that is reported to make some of the best bows in the world. Some experts even claim it is a far better wood for bows than English Yew. Personally I don't know enough to argue either way but I can tell you that Osage Orange wood was known to bring a premium cost during the frontier days.

It is also extremely rot resistant and makes some of the best fence posts or any other use that requires contact with the ground or wet. Many categorize the Osage Orange tree as a shrub but I have seen them grow tall when hemmed in by other trees and when left to grow unmolested will branch out like a shrub but with branches two feet thick or more. These branches will grow horizontal a few feet off the ground and if you can find a large copse of them to clear out inside make some wonderful campsites with ready made benches inside a secluded shady area.




One sure fire way to identify an Osage Orange tree are the huge, round, green fruits they bear. They kinda look like a big plushy ball but are not exactly soft. The fruit is edible but I hear it has a chemical taste like eating bug spray or something although I have also heard like Persimmons it begins to sweeten after a good frost. Still in a survival situation it maybe all you can find and it is easily identifiable. As far as I know there is no imposter fruit out there.

If you ever resorted to burning Osage Orange as firewood, something I simply can't imagine doing unless it was fallen dead and had been laying a long while, it is reported as having the highest BTU heat output of all wood types. It is rated as a 30 on the MBTU chart with a density of 4845 pounds per cord. It's a dense heavy wood. I would also be very careful if I was burning Osage Orange in a wood stove as too much air flow could easily do damage to the stove.

Osage Orange is also reportedly a very quick growing tree as well. SO much so it was often used as a wind brake or field hedge to act a as fence. The younger trees will also often have thorns but these seem to disappear on the old specimens.

All in all if you access to it the Osage Orange tree is one of the most useful trees you can grow. Eventually I plan on introducing a few around the field edges here at the Small-Hold.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!




Friday, October 17, 2014

Permaculture





I have been a big advocate of permaculture for quite a while now. Every time I mention Permaculture someone has to ask me what I mean by that term. I didn't invent the term by any means but started seeing it used several years ago when gardeners and organic farmers/homesteaders began mentioning it when referring to fruit bearing perennials grown to give many years of production. Basically I always took it as mostly referring to trees and berries but could also include things like Asparagus and other self seeding plants as well.

Basically anything you could plant and not have to continuously replant and would eventually produce food.

Since reading about it some years ago I have been attempting to incorporate Permaculture into the food production of the Small-Hold as much as possible. From my Plum tree hedge idea to various nut trees (Hickory and Walnut so far) assorted fruits (including the PAw-Paw!!) etc. etc.

Anyway I came across this article this evening and it has some merit and good information.

Growing Fruit in a Nuthouse: Designing our orchards for economic collapse and Climate Destabilization 

Not sure I readily agree with everything the author has to say on the subject. I am certainly not a believer in the whole global warming/climate change religion but there is still some damned good advice and information in the article so I can put up with a little global warming jebberish.

One interesting point I found was the author claiming fruit trees grown from seed are more hardy, easier to care for etc. I have long been of the impression that the trouble with growing fruit trees, especially Apple but others as well, from seed is that you stand a high chance of getting barren or undesirable fruit from them. Especially with the more cross breeding tolerant varieties and that grafting was necessary for most fruit trees. Apparently this is not the case because I have begun seeing many articles that recommend growing fruit trees from seed and have even had local contact with a few people who do just that.

Anyway like I said the article is well worth reading if you have plans or are already growing your own orchard or fruit trees.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!




Thursday, October 16, 2014

What? Rare Women Preppers?





So I get around to finally checking my email. Something I am notoriously bad about doing as many people know. Anyway I have the usual emails in there about adding advertising links, paying for guest posts and content yadda yadda...

Then I come across one advertising links to various Female or Women oriented survival and prepper websites and webcasts. The body of the message says something about how Women are not adequately represented on the web for outdoors, homesteading, survivalist and prepper oriented sites and we should rectify that situation...?

Ahhhh What?

Ok. Now I will admit they have a point. There are in fact few actual Prepper/Homesteading/Survivalist sites out there oriented towards or written by Women. I know of some that are worthwhile and useful because you will find them linked off my site either to the right or the left. I am sure there are more than a couple I don't know about too but I am always on the look out for them.

That important fact being pointed out however the number of sites claiming to be within that genre written by Women far outpaces the number of Male oriented sites by a huge amount. I even went on a little jaunt through the sites I don't directly link to to see how many claim to be self sufficient, prepper or Homesteading oriented and if they are Male or Female authored or written. I counted almost a 4 to 1 ratio of Women to Men oriented sites.

I got to read about their recipes and how they threaten innocent passersby with their carry pistols. I know all about their trips to the doctor or what drapes go with a statue of some amphibian they like. All useful stuff I guess but nothing that answered my question.

How can anyone proclaim Women are anything but over represented in the World Wide Web of survival, homesteading or prepping blogs and sites? I mean I see them everywhere.

Now let me repeat here I am NOT bashing this fact only questioning the premise of this email I received is all.

I simply do not understand it.

I did wonder if maybe the Women are only getting paid 75 cents for every dollar the Men Bloggers are getting? :)

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!

 

 

Just Junk Today





I loaded up two old refrigerator/freezer things this morning and a stack of metal sheet roofing that was so rusted up it was coming apart and tearing almost like paper.

The old fridge/freezers were the type that they started making I think back in the late 40's or 50's with the locking handles that are illegal to leave laying around these days because they would lock children inside. I am just guessing that these were used as feed storage or something, all I know is they have been in the barn rotting away since before I was born.

They also weighed at least 300 pounds each. In fact I would say closer to 400 pounds because the entire load weighed in at 850 pounds and I doubt that stack of rusted paper thin metal sheets amounted to even 100 pounds altogether. I know it took everything my step dad and I had to lift em up into the bed of the truck and neither one of us are exactly weaklings. Although I will say they were more awkward than anything else due to the rounded corners and the old style design that didn't leave much of any place to get a handhold on em.

One thing about this old farm is there was a lot of  junk laying around. Stuff like that tended to just accumulate since no one was living out here. I don't think anyone even knew the old used roofing sheets were out there until I started clearing the brush from behind the barn. I have removed piles of old fence wire, beaten up metal water troughs, and over 100 years of rusting hammer heads, pitchforks, you name it. I would say 75% of the junk has been in there well over 50 years as my mother only used part of the barn and never bothered to clean the stuff out that was there when they bought this place originally back in the early 60's.

What I have taken to doing now is loading up an old fridge/freezer and then as I clean out a section of the barn or outbuildings throwing all the metal parts into the already loaded freezer to hold it. Last trip I had over 100 four to six inch pulleys in an old wooden crate that fell apart when I touched it. These pulleys would have been great to have around except they were so rusted together they were almost one entire mass. I have also found fence stretchers, hay rake tines, buckets of lag bolts, an old wood stove, well the list is endless. Stuff that would have been worth something if it hadn't been allowed to rust away for decades.

A few items have made me down right mad or disappointed too. I found three bayonets and six magazines along with three oil bottles that I am almost sure were for Enfields. Was kinda hard to tell because of the rust and the bayonets wouldn't even come out of the metal scabbards but the magazine shape was pretty distinctive. They didn't come from anyone in my family because my Mother has been the only one to use this place before we bought it from her and no one but me has ever owned an Enfield.

Oh well I did get $70.00 bucks at the scrap yard for all that rust and I am damned glad to get rid of it. Why I would have paid to get rid of it so being able to scrap it is a bonus. This is like the fourth load I have hauled out of here and I can tell you scrap prices are way down. I think the first load I took out last year was only 650 pounds and I got more money for the trip. The big pile of scrap metal at the center is also much smaller than I remember it being. Not sure if that tells us anything but usually a booming economy pays better prices for scrap.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!