Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hoop house picture

Here you go Madcap...

For the record, this amount of snow in central North Carolina is headline news. They say this is the first "white Christmas" in decades.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Time off at last, and putting it to some good use

During the first half of this year, I didn't take many vacation days. Scattered days off here and there, but not much. Then I got a new job. The unused vacation turned into money, which was much needed. But with the new job I lost the ability to take time off for the first three months. That was tough, especially while trying to relocate, unpack, settle in, learn our way around, and generally adjust to a whole new life.

But now, at long last, I have some actual leisure time. These short days are a bit demotivating, but I still feel like I'm finally getting a chance to whittle away at various things. And with a milder climate, I'm appreciating the ability to make sporadic progress outside.

Because deer are so abundant on our property, I'm trying a different garden strategy. I don't have any pictures yet, but I'll try to get some at some point.

We put in a five-foot chain link fence in our back yard. That wouldn't stop a hungry deer by any means, but it's something. So, I dragged a cattle panel (yes I have an unnatural love for cattle panels) to one corner of the chain link fence. Using the fence as a brace, I bent the 16-foot panel so that it formed an arch about 6 feet tall, and 8 feet wide. Then I pinned the side away from the fence it into the ground. I arched another panel next to the first one. Then another, and another, essentially creating a welded steel tunnel. It's now about 36 feet long if I counted correctly.

I then went back with some fencing wire and tied the arches to each other, since many of the panels had their own ideas about what constitutes an arch. Tying them together made the tunnel somewhat uniform.

On top of the abundant unraked leaves, I'm putting a layer of packing paper from our moving boxes. Then the boxes themselves get deconstructed to make up the next layer. On top of that will go another layer of leaves. (I'm still in the stage where I see the leaves as a huge blessing, after spending years with barely any leaves.)

Anyway, leaving a narrow path down the center of the tunnel, that should give me at least a couple hundred deer-free square feet to work with.

Plus, I can cover it with plastic for an instant greenhouse, or cover it with shade cloth at the height of summer, or grow vining crops up it, like a trellis. Hmm, I could grow vining crops in the sections where I want summer shade and skip the shade cloth. And if I want to get a little creative, I can probably turn it into a winter chicken run to get some free weeding, tilling, and fertilizing.

Sometimes I think planning and plotting and scheming is half the fun of gardening...


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Monday, December 13, 2010


I need to cut down on my internet usage. I'm finding it has totally killed my attention span. I went from reading books to reading blogs to skimming blogs to skimming headlines.

It's not all the internet's fault. I know my life is full of distractions. With three kids, including one toddler, one high maintenance kid, and one non-verbal autistic kid with sleep issues, it's pretty rare for me to have five minutes in a row to concentrate on something, much less an hour or two. If all the kids are asleep before 9:30, it's a small miracle. And since I have to get up at 5:30am, that doesn't leave much "quiet time".

I miss being able to get really engrossed in a book. I miss movies too.

I know those days will come again, more or less. It's hard to "know" anything about the future with kids, especially special needs kids. But in any case, right now, I could really go for my own personal snow day.

No snow here, though it's been unseasonably cold. Nothing we can't handle for sure, but we're looking at sub-zero wind chills overnight.

I haven't seen much of the chickens. I get home in time to shut them up for the night and bring in their water to thaw it out. I'd like to make them a bigger pen if we happen to get a break in the weather.

I have a work of fiction in my head that I may try to get down on (metaphorical) paper. Getting published as a fiction writer seems unlikely, but sometimes I just like to write. It's another thing I find it hard to do with all the distractions about.

As long as I'm on the negative rant, there's something that fascinates me about this recession/depression thing we've got going on. First, every industry is affected. There are few safe havens outside of the boardrooms of financial institutions or the halls of Congress. Second, nobody is buying the "green shoots" talk. I don't mean nobody in the know. NOBODY. I've run into very few people who don't believe the books are cooked, the numbers are BS and the recovery is underway.

But third, people are almost rooting for it to get worse. It's like people sense that this thing is just broken. The system has been warped beyond repair, and they want to see it crumble. They crave the chance to live through something truly historic. I fear they are right about the first part, but that the second part will be much, much less fun than it sounds.

Anyway, let me turn the page on the negative and get to some positive. I've got some much needed time off over the next couple of weeks. With the job change and the move and everything else, there's been very little time to get some stuff done, blow some stuff off, sit around doing nothing, stay up late and sleep in, and wear slippers all day long.

I'm excited that we're getting a wood stove put in soon. It's a Lopi Republic 1750. We've got a surplus of wood around this place, and heating with electricity is just Not Good.

We're also putting a steel roof on the house, leaving no penny unturned. Hopefully the wood stove and the roof will last for many decades. And if these guys get their butts moving, we'll sneak in under the wire for tax rebates on both.

We've been doing some fun financial gymnastics lately involving my retirement funds among other things, and I'm dying to see how our income taxes turn out. We may be beyond the reach of Turbo Tax this year. I hope my amateur accounting guesswork isn't horribly wrong.

Can you tell it's wintertime by the tone of this post?

Well tonight I'm the last man standing. We're all sick. Everyone else has wisely gone to bed. I am foolishly staying up too late. But in the words of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette: "You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiam."



Saturday, December 04, 2010

Chooks, Take 2

We've been missing chickens ever since we sold our flock at the end of last summer. It's been more than a year since we've had the little cluckers around, but it seems like at least two.

That ended today. I drove to pick up half a dozen assorted chickens from a guy named Russ. He's got 70-80 chickens of almost every breed imaginable, on a small suburban lot. His setup was impressive, and despite the numbers, I think most of his birds had names.

At any rate, six was about all we have coop and pen space for at the moment. We'd love to add more, but then, some chickens are better than no chickens.

With six chickens and six different breeds, we are, for the first time, naming them. Previously, we had a lot of hens of only two different breeds. They were numerous and not really distinguishable. But we thought this time it would be more fun to name them.

So we now have: Sarah (Black Australorp), Emily (Blue Iowa), Sophie (Araucana), Diana (Welsummer), Clarissa (Barred Rock), and Brigid (Speckled Sussex)

(And a million bonus points to anybody who recognizes where those names came from...)