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Viewing the 'Gardening Organically' Category

Initial Stages of Garden Planning

January 11th, 2017 at 05:48 pm

I am trying to plan my garden for the spring. Right now I am just in the initial stages of deciding what I want to grow. For the last couple of years I have based my garden around how many peppers and tomatoes I needed to grow. Now that I know I am allergic to peppers and can react badly to tomatoes as well, I won't be growing either of those things. I'm having to shift my whole gardening paradigm.

I think this year I am going to focus on squash. I know that I want to grow sweet meat and acorn. I think butternut might be a good third. Because squash stores for a long time, I won't have to worry about processing it during the height of canning season. Some squash will store until summer starts, like sweet meat. Others will store until about now, and some only 8 weeks or so, at which point we either eat it or can it.

Of course we will grow other things as well. Zucchini and summer squash, lettuce, chard, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, broccoli, purple cauliflower, snow peas for fresh eating and maybe some freezing.

We will grow green beans, turnips, parsnips, and carrots for canning. Maybe rutabagas, too. I think I will do potatoes in grow bags. One of the determinate types that doesn't need hilling. Indeterminate potatoes do not do well in grow bags the same way determinate potatoes do not do well in towers. You have to have the right type of potato for the growing method. I want to try sweet potatoes again this year. I had limited success last year, but I started them way too late. If I start much earlier then I think they will do better.

I will likely be starting everything from seed myself except I will buy a few herbs that don't do well from seed. Those ones I can easily clone, though, so one or two plants will become many more. I often buy starts, but we won't be able to afford the outlay for that this year if DH doesn't find a job. I'll make slips for the sweet potato and of course I'll have to buy seed potatoes for the potatoes, but they tend to be inexpensive.

I am somewhat concerned about chicken and duck feed costs. I really don't want to have to take them off their current feed and buy a cheaper feed. But what I can do to reduce feed costs is to grow fodder. That's a simple enough method of sprouting seeds for 4 to 7 days depending on which animal will be eating it. A 50 pound bag of barley can be turned into 250 pounds of feed that way. It's just a little tedious if you don't have it set up to be automated, which is expensive so I never did it that way. Watering by hand 3 times a day and dumping the catch tray is time-consuming.

There is also the produce barrel, a 55 gallon drum of produce past the sell by date, but still in decent enough shape for animal feed. It's $15. We've done that twice now and it last about 2 weeks, usually because half of it is squash or brassicas. That has actually allowed us to cut back on grain costs as well.

I have been considering selling our chickens and ducks. I'd still want to keep the turkey pair. I can purchase organic duck eggs from another farmer for less than the amount it takes to feed the ducks each month. We all prefer duck eggs over chicken eggs now anyway. I don't really care much about the chickens, but I love having ducks so I don't know. I guess if it comes down to it, they'll have to go, though. The turkeys are not feed hogs and don't eat all that much despite their larger size, though I think they'd miss the other birds if we sold them. Well, they wouldn't miss the chickens much, but they would miss the ducks.

I guess we'll see. Things should start to improve in the oil industry after the inauguration and maybe I won't have to worry about any of it anymore. But maybe not.

September Run Down

October 3rd, 2016 at 08:42 pm

DH has been unemployed for 6 weeks now with not a lot of progress, unfortunately. He did have his resume accepted by a local refinery and was contacted to say he had been placed into the pool of candidates to be considered for upcoming jobs starting November through February. And that's pretty much what we've been hearing. Most jobs in his field won't be hiring for a few months.

A short term (4 to 6 month) job listing came up today here in town for a job he is qualified for, probably over-qualified for, so he sent a resume in for that. Even if there is no prospect for a job before the refineries start hiring again, we will be okay for a while. But I do hope he finds a good job soon. I am trying hard not to put pressure on him, since he is working hard at looking. These lulls happen. He's just never been caught in one before, and shouldn't have gotten caught in this one, but you've heard that rant already.

I made the second withdrawal from our Emergency Fund today, $3,500. We should be able to get through most of October on that, plus the unemployment when it comes again. That brings the EF down to $13,500, but remember we still have $45,000 in the House Down Payment Fund we can tap if we need to. And a few hundred in the Moving Fund.

The reason why we won't make it through the whole month on the $3,500 is that we will have to make an insurance premium payment and that is somewhere between $1100 and $1200. Ouch. I'm just not sure when. We will likely charge it to get the cash back points. We finally got approved and our acceptance letter came today with a paper we can use temporarily until our cards come which should be later on this week. That will put our prescriptions at $10 each and regular doctor visits at $20 each and specialist visits at $45, period, without the deductible kicking in. It is a $5000 deductible for everything else for the family.. No vision or dental for anyone but DS, since it is law to require it for anyone under 18, but they don't care about adults (even though 75% of the population in the US wears glasses or contacts).

We ended up going with a silver plan, because when we plugged in all the numbers it was going to be cheaper for us to do a silver plan than a bronze plan. And while the gold plan has a $2000 family deductible, it wasn't worth the difference in costs since doctors visits and prescriptions were so reasonable outside the deductible.

Both DD and I had to buy glasses in September out of pocket as we both had severe prescription changes in just one year. Out of pocket costs were close to $1000 (including her eye exam which happened after losing our insurance). But seeing is necessary, and it has made a tremendous difference for me. My headaches are gone and they were getting quite bad.

I didn't post much in September. I pulled that muscle in my back again and was in a lot of pain. Still am in some, but it is starting to improve. I have to budget what I can do, though. I have to make choices. If I need to go grocery shopping, that is all I will be doing that day. If I need to can tomatoes, they get chopped up one day and canned the next. I finally made dinner tonight for the first time in a while, but had to have help with chopping things. And it was exhausting.

DH has had to take over my rabbit duties. I miss them and have only managed to go out twice in three weeks to do general health checks. Good thing I did, as Ruby had an abscess. DD (vet tech student) was able to drain it and treat it, but if I hadn't checked on them no one would have known to do so.

I didn't get too much of a fall crop in, as the time I should have been planting was when the muscle pull happened and I went down really hard. I can still plant some carrots and turnips and put some greenhouse plastic on the supports that normally hold netting to keep out the birds and squirrels. I can put in radishes, green onions, and kohlrabi as well. I just have to have the energy to do it. I worry about bending over the garden bed, too, even from a chair, as I don't want the muscles to spasm again. I have another month until I need to plant my garlic.

We are getting kale, lettuce, broccoli, kohlrabi, peppers, tomatoes, basil, and sage still. Chard will be ready to start harvesting in another week or so. No sign of the first frost yet, but that usually doesn't happen until Halloween at the soonest, sometimes not until well into November. Last year it was December before we got a frost hard enough to kill anything except the tomatoes and we overwintered kale and chard.

Tomorrow I need to chop and freeze peppers. I have serrano, ancho, jalapeno, Anaheim, and sweet bells. And we need to start chopping and freezing onions, too, though they will last a lot longer than the peppers without it. I'll have to take it in steps with DH helping me. Fortunately peppers are easy to do, just have to wear gloves.

Not much else to talk about, though I'm sure I'm missing all kinds of things.

One Thing or Another

August 31st, 2016 at 11:01 am

Have you ever heard of any government office starting their work week on a Sunday? Every government office starts their work week on a Monday. And ends it on Friday, but they definitely start on Mondays, so the corollary ought to be that if they did for some unknown reason work on weekends, their work week would end on Sunday. Logical, yes?

DH's work week started on Monday and ended on Sunday, also, logical. Every job he's ever worked, every job I've ever worked, Monday has been considered the first day of the work week and Sunday the last. The only place Sunday is the first day of the week is on the calendar.

So why, then, does unemployment consider the work week to start on Sunday and end on Saturday, instead of starting on Monday like the rest of the country?

DH's last day of work was on a Sunday. So that means his first week of being unemployed does not count, since he got paid for that Sunday and his wages that day are more than a week's unemployment. If he'd made less than that amount he'd have gotten the difference up to the max, but he did, so nothing for that week. He won't get anything for that week at all. *sighs*

I guess he didn't have qualifying job applications for that week anyway according to them, so it wouldn't even matter, but the hoops they special little qualifications they make you jump through here are ridiculous. He's been paying in without fail for 32 years. It should not be this hard to get a tiny little bit of it back.

Well, he's got properly qualifying and documented applications for this current week so it should start then, but won't arrive for a couple weeks after that. I want to tear my hair out. Actually, no, strike that. I want to tear someone else's hair out. Preferably one of the lawmakers who came up with some of these hoops. Or maybe they can just get stuck inside a giant stack of hoops conveniently dropped by a formerly unemployed fork lift driver with no hope of rescue for 24 hours and only 2 bottles of water and no bathroom. Actually make that 6 bottles of water and no bathroom.

I am actually thinking maybe there isn't much point in going after the gold plan. We might do bronze and pay far less out of pocket. In adding up our prescriptions and office visits at out of pocket cost, with the lowest cost plan that is still good insurance in a catastrophe, we'd be paying less than $1000 a month. With the gold plan we'd be paying about $1600 to $1700 a month out of pocket once we hit the deductible. Turns out the gold plan only has vision and dental for kids under 18, not adults, so that is all out of pocket anyway and is a game changer.

So back to the drawing board I guess. We have to do what will make our savings last the longest.

On the bright side, and I promise it has not all been doom and gloom around here, I sold a rabbit on Saturday for $83. That will pay for 3 to 4 month's of rabbit feed. We haven't sold any duck eggs because we are eating them all, but they have picked up production again, so between the ducks and the chickens we are getting enough eggs to eat daily again.

I am preserving food left and right from the garden. I have put up plums (canned, frozen, and dehydrated, made fruit leather, canned potatoes, green beans, and corn. I have frozen poblano, Anaheim, and bell peppers and am working on chopping up onions to freeze. The tomatoes are starting to produce. I might have enough to can two pints. That's not much, but they should start exploding in about 2 weeks.

The second crop of broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and lettuce is coming along nicely. The third crop of kohlrabi and radishes is too. My first crop of chard planted this year is struggling a bit, but with the weather turn and some real rain for the first time this summer it is perking up. I will be planting carrots, radishes, and turnips today. And possibly spinach if I can find starts or seeds. The last frost has been mid-November lately so I should get it in under the wire. Carrots are 60 days, turnips are 50 days, and radishes are 24 to 40 days depending on variety. And I can use frost cloths if we get an early frost.

All right, well, I better get back to the garden as there is a break in the rain.

Well, I Wasn't Lazy

August 15th, 2016 at 12:38 pm

I definitely wasn't lazy this weekend, but I didn't do the canning. It was in the 90's and I just couldn't face making the house even hotter. And honestly, being on my feet that much when my ankles and knees were still swollen had no appeal.

I did work in the garden though. It had to be early in the morning and 7 p.m. to dark, though. I managed to get in about 4 hours of garden work each day, though. Having 2 foot tall raised beds and a chair meant I didn't have to put any pressure on my knees or ankles. Building those beds was the best thing we ever did for gardening.

I harvested 2 feet by 16 feet worth of yellow onions. I had already harvested half that earlier in the week in yellow onions and shallots. I still have 2 feet by 8 feet worth of red onions to harvest.

I harvested my purple potatoes. I was disappointed, but that's what I get for growing in containers. They always do much better in the ground. I got about 3 times what I planted. If I plant in the ground I get 5 to 6 times what I plant. There are still some volunteers in last years potato patch to dig. I don't know if they are reds or golds, though.

Some of the apples got picked--5 5 gallon buckets worth and then about 1 gallon of Italian plum/prunes. There was about a quart of strawberries and a handful of raspberries as well.

I've built the beds back up with compost and I've gotten some replanting for fall crops done. I've put in more kale, broccoli, radishes, kohlrabi, chard, and cauliflower. I am debating on whether or not I should put in another sowing of snow peas. I will be planting carrot and turnip seeds, probably tonight.

This morning, before it got too hot, I went out and gave everything in the back yard garden a deep watering and then spent about an hour taking the branches off the bottom foot of each tomato plant and then taking off all the suckers to thin out the foliage. This helps allow light and air circulation to the interior of the plant and lets the pollinators get into the flowers more freely. It also helps prevent disease from water splashing up onto the lower leaves and causing blight.

I had removed lower branches early on, but needed to do it again as some more had grown. I also removed any leaves or branches that had yellowed badly. It's important to stay on top of that stuff if you don't want to end up with blight.

I didn't go to my exercise class this morning. The swelling has gone down in my knees and ankles. They still hurt, though not as bad, but I didn't want to risk doing something to make them swell again. Even water exercise. I'll go to Wednesday's class though. I have been doing strengthening exercises this week and that seems to be helping.

Hopefully I can get some potatoes canned tomorrow morning. I have a dentist appointment at 2 p.m., but I should be able to get a batch done before that. I have 50 pounds to can. That should be 2 full canner batches and then close to another half of one. I should have around 21 quarts when I finish.

A Lot of Pain and A Lot of Canning Coming Up

August 13th, 2016 at 02:19 am

I've been in a lot of pain this month, hence me not posting much, and it is making it really hard for me to function at full capacity. Right now both of my knees and ankles are swollen up. I have no idea why my ankles are getting in on the action. I am alternating heat and ice and taking hydrocodone and Valerian root at night. I should be taking painkillers during the day right now as well, but I've got too much to do and I also need to be able to drive.

My neck is still really bad and giving me these awful headaches. I've got one of those joys of being a woman, a yeast infection. And my back is aching over my kidneys so much that I think I might have a kidney infection, too. There are some other symptoms as well. Ugh. I don't have time to go back to the doctor next week. But I'll have to because kidney infections don't go away on their own.

Not all is bad though. I've gotten two and a half garden beds replanted and the soil is ready for one and a half more garden beds. I've put in more broccoli, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard. When I pull the onions this weekend I will add the soil and then replant with carrots and turnips and maybe some more kohlrabi and radishes. I'm not going to put in anymore cabbage.

I've got enough garlic now for the year. My own braid, and then one I got from the no spray garden when I placed my order for 50 pounds of Yukon golds that I'll be getting tomorrow. I'll be canning those this week. I'll also be canning the purple potatoes I grew after I harvest them tomorrow. And I will be making some blueberry pie filling to can out of last year's blueberries, since they cannot survive another year in the freezer, and anyway, we have 15 new gallons in there (total picked was 17 gallons).

A large number of plums should be ripe tomorrow or the next day so those will need to get picked and I'll need to can some and dehydrate some. I'll also need to pick some more basil and sage for dehydrating and gather the last of the bee balm petals to dry for tea. I also need to gather the echinacea, yarrow, hyssop, and calendula for tea and comfrey for salve making. And deal with all the bundles of dried herbs that have been on the wall for a few weeks already.

I need to dice some of the onions and cut into strips some of the onions that I have pulled and have gone through the drying time and freeze them for future use. I also need to mince some for dehydrating and making onion powder. I need to dice or strip up my current batch of sweet peppers as well for the freezer and mince and dry my first red cayenne pepper and then grind that into powder. I need to make more garlic powder as well. It is going to really be a busy weekend and coming week.

As soon as DH gets home, whenever that will be, I want to go through all the meat in the freezers and pull anything that is old and thaw it and can it. If we catch it before freezer burn sets in, it can last several more years that way. Or get eaten quickly, which is more likely.

Since I'll be canning all day tomorrow I need to remember to put a roast in one crockpot and potatoes in the other one and have the zucchini cut up and all ready to go into the oven before getting started, because I never want to cook after a day spent canning. Which tends to lead to takeout and we are trying not to do that until DH gets a new job. The only time we have was on DD's 20th birthday, so I think we are doing pretty good.

Weight loss is going well. Things with my mother-in-law are improving. FIL is undergoing chemotherapy now. He is also being treated for 2 blood clots in his leg. They put him on one of the newer blood thinners.

DH still hasn't heard an offer for the company b job. They've hired about 8 to 10 of the 100 or so people they need to hire and are going very slow about it. No one's been hired for his department yet, though. They are supposed to fully take over in 2 days. I'm not sure how they can without a full staff. It's going to be crazy days up there for a while.

If they do ever offer him a position, I've gone through the budget and we can handle a $500 a month paycut further, but it will mean we won't be able to save for the house. And we can handle a $1000 a month paycut if we only pay Mom $500 a month instead of $1000 a month. That last scenario I do not want. Right now we have just under 3 years to go on that loan and I don't want to extend it any longer.

I guess if we do, I'll have to get serious about writing my book series. I have it outlined and the characters are all developed and the town is, too. I've got a couple friends that self-publish on Amazon and do well and say I should, too. Of course they are basing that off my old fanfiction and not original fiction. But if I can make anything with it, it can go into the farm down payment fund. Or into paying Mom off faster and freeing up that amount of money for good.

Well, this has rambled on enough and the painkillers are starting to take effect, so I'll wrap it up now and hope it all makes sense and my brain didn't wander off towards the end. If it did, I'll fix it in the morning. The post, not my brain.

Tired and Grumpy

July 22nd, 2016 at 06:03 pm

I am very out of sorts right now. I haven't been sleeping well. Most nights this last week I've gotten about 4 to 5 hours and it is really spilling over into my attitude. I walk around all day like I'm in a fog and I'm snappish and cynical and I keep repeating myself or forgetting things. I know sleep deprivation is bad, but I don't think I've ever gone so long without some decent night's sleep. I can see how I am, but it's a bit like I'm outside myself, too. I keep telling everyone I'm sorry preemptively.

Otherwise things are going well. My weight is going down again, though how, with such bad sleep, I do not know. Water Zumba continues to be so much fun. I finally dragged my daughter there Wednesday and she loved it. My husband already comes when he is home.

I think part of my problem is that my neck and my legs are so tight right now it affects how I sleep and how I walk and the woman who usually works on me when it gets like that has been cancelling appointments on me left and right, but waiting until the last minute to do it and then I can't get in to see anyone else. Like today, I had a 2:00 appointment and she cancelled at noon. She's really good, but she's turned into a real flake, and I think I'm going to have to start seeing someone else because this has become a habit and it is wrecking my body.

On the bright side the garden is producing like gangbusters. My dehydrator is going daily now as I dry my culinary herbs, medicinal herbs, and herbal teas for the next year. Plus I've also got bundles of herbs hanging on the walls to dry as well. I have bought very little produce this summer. This week for example I bought celery and nectarines because I am not growing them, but no other produce. Well, I am growing celery, but it is on year 2 which is to collect seed and it is in the flowering stage so not edible.

My peppers are starting to produce now. I am getting zucchini or crookneck squash daily and cucumbers daily. I haven't bought lettuce since April. I made a huge batch of coleslaw today from my purple cabbage and some carrot thinnings. I'm picking berries almost daily, usually blueberries, but sometimes strawberries and raspberries. I've harvested 6 gallons of blueberries in the past two weeks.

I've got 9 packages of snow peas in the freezer and I might plant another sowing of them in August. I haven't decided yet. My tomatoes finally have little green tomatoes on them. The onions are getting big. I've planted a third sowing of kohlrabi and a 2nd sowing of broccoli, a 2nd sowing of lettuce and more radishes.

On the livestock front, the turkeys are doing well. Gina's feathers are almost grown completely back in after the hawk attack in February although she still hasn't started laying eggs again. Her limp has been gone for about 6 weeks now.

All of the ducks are doing pretty well, although there is one that keeps laying her egg either without a shell so it just comes out contained in the membrane or with a very thin, easy to break shell. I don't know why. Duck egg shells are usually hard to break, you really have to whack them normally. She has the same access to oyster shell as the other ducks. It's the blue Swedish duck and I don't know how old she is since she was given to me by someone who had lost most of her flock to predators. It might just be her age.

Two of the really old chickens have died in the last month, one silver-laced wing wyandotte and one auracauna. I was sad to see them go as they were real sweethearts, but they were no longer laying so were basically freeloaders, too. That only leaves one auracauna, one black australorp, and one white leghorn from the old guard and they will probably all die of old age in the next year. Of those 3 the black australorp still lays once a week and the leghorn lays 2 to 3 times a week. We will still have the 3 barnevelders, the 3 younger leghorns, and the 7 even younger red stars after that. The barnies are mine. All the rest of the chickens are my mom's.

The rabbits are doing well. The ones that had mites are finally mite free after getting the injected form of Ivomec. I will never use the paste or the pour on again. Direct under the skin injection into the scruff is the way to go. It works, the don't fuss, and it ends it quickly. They get 3 shots, each 10 days apart and that's the end of it.

I had to learn how to draw a shot into the syringe, how to tap out air bubbles, and shoot out a little medicine to be sure. Not a difficult thing, actually, at all. Neither is giving the injection. It is a good skill to know.

We are using a Simply Lemonade container for our sharps (used capped syringes) as it is extra thick plastic. Once we're done with the course of medication I'll have to find out where to take it for disposal as you can't put it in the trash. Possibly the hospital has a medical waste depository.

Still no new news on DH's job front or job search. I am trying not to think about it as in my sleep deprived state I will just go into anxiety mode and no one needs that.

Farm Down Payment Fund Update and Preparations

June 24th, 2016 at 01:17 pm

$44,000.00 Starting Balance
+__,500.00 Deposit Addded
----------------
$44,500.00 New Balance

I wasn't sure I was going to be able to add anything to this fund this month, but I was able to squeak out $500.00 as we spent most of the overtime money putting ourselves into a position to survive the next several months without having to purchase much and get ahead on some things.

We stocked up on staples like flour, sugar, brown sugar, oil, spices, toilet paper, soap (body, dish, laundry), shampoo, rice, reusable canning lids, pickling salt, freezer bags (so we can freeze garden veggies that don't can well), peanut butter, tuna fish, condiments, facial tissue, and OTC medications.

It'll be a close next two weeks, but not tight. All payments have gone out or been scheduled and nothing else is due until after next payday on the 8th. The garden is in full swing now with both fruits and vegetables, so I really should not need to set foot in a store for anything but dairy and vitamins.

I have PT today and next Friday, but the money is put aside for that, too. So really, it all should be good. I am hoping on the 8th to purchase a 30 pound box of ground beef from the farm. That is the only thing we are low on in the freezer. If not we will just have to make due with ground rabbit and ground pork, which actually make some pretty tasty burgers, tacos, meat loaves, and meatballs. They just don't provide much iron.

We also stocked up on animal feed so we will have that on hand for a good long while.