My plan for yesterday was to plant a little garden with a water feature in the decorative well in the front yard. I got all my supplies together, toted up the wheelbarrow from the barn to cart the dirt I would need and started arranging the water feature to be surrounded by the soil. Then I noticed the ground beneath my feet wasn't quite right and there appeared to be a hole next to the well wall. So, I moved a big handfull of dirt and found this gaping hole.
About two feet of the ground around the visible hole is spongy and is just being held in place by roots. It can easily be pulled away or, if stepped on, would cave right in. At first, I thought it was a hole dug by some animal, or maybe Harry had tried to dig out a mole, but when a bit of dirt fell down, I heard tiny splashes of water. So I tossed a rock down there and heard a big splash. Definitely not a mole hole.
We had previously speculated as to whether this well was the original well on the property. I confirmed that it was, indeed, at one time a working well when I shone a light down into the hole. Directly underneath that round brick structure, which is capped by a slab of concrete, is a large cavern with pipes coming up out of the middle of it and water at the bottom of it. It is quite scary. An adult person would be able to fit through that hole. I told Tom that if he can't find me when he gets home, to look under the well 'cause I might have fallen in.
One of the great things about this car is that it has run flat tires. Apparently, I have been neglecting my tires because I had a blow-out on Sunday. Having a blow-out in run flat tires is pretty much a non-event. I heard a "whoosh" and said to Meagan, "What was that?" A few moments later my flat tire alarm went off. I drove the rest of the way home. That was it.
One of the bad things about my car and the run flat tires is that they are expensive. Price paid for not being stuck on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere. So Tom spent most of Monday finding a place that carried tires for my car (there's no BMW service center or Discount Tire shop within 30 miles) and going to have them replaced. Thank goodness for good husbands.
After spending a boat load of money replacing my tires, I had another flat last night. By myself. In the middle of nowhere and Tom is out of town. Thank goodness for run flat tires.
This afternoon will be spent getting the tire fixed.
One of the differences between Venus and Mars is that Venus loves beauty. Venus gets satisfaction from working to make something pleasing to the eye. Mars gets satisfaction from hard labor, a job well done, or just a job done no matter what it looks like. Sometimes Venus does something for the sole reason of being able to look at something pleasant. And they say that Mars is visually stimulated...hmph.
Tom is away on a business trip and here is how I have amused myself this first day. First, since my potted petunias just don't want to grow and overflow their pot, I replaced them with a bougainvillea that most definitely is happy in it's pot.
Now if I can just keep it alive.
And, a fairy's view of the herb garden. I added a bit of thyme and some chives. I couldn't resist a miniature lavender to add to my tall lavender.
On the right is the cilantro, which I need to harvest before it bolts.
A bird's eye view of the herb garden. When I brought the tiny little clay pots out (right at the foot of the garden gate - not much bigger than a thimble) I set them down beside the garden tub and walked out to my vegetable garden to set some tomato plants down. As soon as I turned my back, Harry snatched one of the pots and, presumably, ate it. Why he would want to eat a tiny clay pot, I'll never know, but I'm pretty sure he did because I had three and when I got back, there were only two. Harry was nearby and the pot didn't just blow away. I hope it gives him constipation.
My sister thinks it's hilarious that I still use this old relic of a sewing machine. It's my mother's Singer Featherweight. She got it early in her marriage before I was born, I think. So it's over 50 years old. She sewed all kinds of things on it - clothes for me, children's coats, drapes for our house in Memphis. I have all the parts, all the attachments and I've used them on occasion.
Now, we're a pretty technologically advanced family. We have the iPods, the flat screen TVs, the cell phones with blue tooths and texting, the microwave drawer, and computers out the whazoo. Tom is an inventor and, chances are, if you are using a computer to read this blog, you are probably using one of Tom's inventions. So...it's not like I don't appreciate new technology. It's just that, well, all I need to do on these drapes is sew a straight even stitch. This little machine does exactly that. It's a dependable little workhorse and I like it.
So, speaking of my sister and her hilarity...
take a good look at this picture. When April was little and just learning to write her name, she wrote it on everything. And I do mean everything. Not only did she write her name on everything, she etched her name on everything. I would arrive home from school (she's eight years younger than I) and walk into my room to discover that April had laid claim to my belongings by etching, scratching, and gouging her name onto things that clearly did not belong to "April". Along with all of my furniture, this sewing machine did not escape the branding. Look closely. You might need to enlarge the picture by double clicking on it and tilt your head to the right. See it? It's right beside the gold embellishment on the bed of the machine. It's all there. The "A" without the crossbar looking like an arrow head. She didn't quite get the loop on the "P", but the essence of it is there. It was probably difficult for her little hand, in the awkward position it must have been in to accomplish this task, to exert enough pressure to scratch the loop into the finish of the sewing machine, through the paint, down to the metal so that there was no chance of it ever being covered up. "R, I, and L" are clearly visible.
So, I ask you, how could I ever get rid of this little machine that has so much history and was so much a part of my childhood, that works perfectly, and that BELONGS TO APRIL!?
I have to tattoo Hyacinth's kid before his new owner comes to get him in a couple of weeks. Here are the implements of torture.
Tattoo pliers that punch tiny holes in his ear, ink, and a toothbrush to scrub the ink into the tiny holes. The tiny holes, in the shape of letters and numbers, heal up over the ink which is what makes the tattoo. It's a stupid requirement of the American Dairy Goat Association. Stupid because the tattoo is pretty much unreadable when the goat grows up. All it does is inflict more torture on the poor animals.
I'm sure that somewhere in the world people actually eat these things. If they came anywhere near my lips, I would commence projectile vomiting immediately.
These were the biggest grubs I've ever seen. The picture doesn't do them justice. They were at least three inches long if stretched out. They spilled out of this rotting tree when it was cut down and we fed them to the chickens who ate them in a frenzy of squawks.
There has been no further damage to garden plants since we gassed the moles a few days ago. The one potato plant that was showing signs being eaten from down under does not appear to have suffered further damage. I don't know if this means we actually killed the guilty moles or if they've moved out of the garden, or if they just haven't been particulary active lately.
This is what's going on at our place today. We have several trees that are dying, scraggly, and ugly; some threatening to fall on the house. So we hired a guy that was doing some tree trimming for the electric company and that trimmed a couple of our trees out by the road to keep them away from power lines. He's cutting down the trees that are closest to the house, but is leaving the logs and branches for us to clean up.
I am actually making progress on the drapes. I've finished the two narrow windows that flank the bed. Now I just have to make two panels about three to four times the width of these for the window wall.
One of the two finished.
I used pleater's tape and four pronged hooks (bought from this website http://www.draperysewingsupplies.com/ ) to make the pinch pleats. It's the first time I've made pinch pleats and the tape made it simple. You just sew the tape onto the back side of the flat drapery panel, then slide those prongs up into the channels of the tape, skipping channels to make the spaces between pleats.
I'm thinking the pleats aren't quite "pinched" enough. Using the prongs makes them kind of loosely pinched. I could remedy this by making a little stitch at the bottom of each pleat, but that's a time consuming task that may or may not ever get done.
On another note, Tom and I were discussing our bedroom area rug (which has been in our room for a least a year) the other night while driving somewhere. He insisted that the rug is "tan". Tan? Really? Granted, the rug has a lot of shades of brown in it - tan, chocolate, gold - but the basic color of this rug is blue/aqua (and even gray). When we got home and he looked at it, he finally conceded that it was not tan, but that it is green. I'm thinking that Tom doesn't see things the way I see them. What do you think?
I googled "harvesting asparagus" last night and discovered that I've messed up. All the sites I read said to harvest the asparagus in early spring, cutting ALL the stalks when they reach seven to nine inches. Letting the stalks grow tall and get fronds will inhibit the growth of new stalks. Harvest for about four weeks, then let the rest of the stalks grow throughout the summer.
And here I was thinking that I had to first let several grow up tall and get fronds before I could start cutting some. I thought that if I cut them too soon, I would be stunting the growth of the plant.
Sooo, I might have waited too long to harvest any this year because, as shown in my Critter Gitter post, the asparagus is all tall and frondy. Now my dilema is..should I cut the tall frondy ones off so that I get more shoots to harvest, or is it too late this year to do anything about it?
The Critter Gitter is basically...a hose. Heh. One end of the flexible hose is attached to the exhaust pipe of a vehicle - car, truck, tractor, whatever, with the clamp provided and tightened with a bolt.
The other end, which has a thick PVC-like pipe attached, goes directly into whatever mole hole that is discovered. I found several while trying to plant some onions this morning. I cleared away the dirt surrounding the hole and patted it down at the entrance to the tunnel so that it wouldn't cave in. Then I inserted the pipe as far as it would go and packed the dirt around it to keep the exhaust from backflowing.
Tom started the truck and then we waited. The most difficult thing about it was that the hose has to be kept almost perfectly straight. If it's not straight, it will flatten out and/or kink and the exhaust won't flow through. So we had to position the truck "just so" each time we moved to a new hole. Another thing is that it is very time consuming. Each tunnel that is found has to be treated for at least 15 minutes. Since I don't think the mole that Tom gassed yesterday was killed, we made it 20 minutes for good measure even though the instructions said no longer than 15 minutes. Since we couldn't go off and leave the Critter Gitter unattended and had to stand around waiting, a happy consequence of the waiting was that I got the rest of my onions, cannas, and sunflowers planted, plus to kill time, Tom helped weed the garden.
The verdict is still out. Supposedly, the moles have peacefully died in their sleep, but we won't know until we see more mole mounds, tunnels, or damaged veggies. Critter Gitter could possibly improve upon their design by using a hose like a vacuum house or dryer hose that can be bent but will still stay open and let the exhaust flow.
Maybe I'm just expecting too much too soon, but my garden seems to be hobbling along this year. I just planted tomato plants last week and one of them has already died. So far, moles have killed two of the five broccoli plants that grew. One or two of the plants died right away. I noticed tiny sprigs of carrot coming up just when I had decided that the carrots weren't going to come up at all.
When I was lamenting my lack of carrots to some other gardeners that we had just met, they told me that carrots don't grow here. Hmm. Tell that to my first season of carrots. Granted, I haven't been able to grow them since the first time, but I did have a pretty good crop of them. There are pictures on my blog to prove it.
This is a row of red cabbage and green cabbage. Several of them died after I planted them, but we don't eat a lot of cabbage, so I guess I don't mind so much. I would have liked to have more to give away, though.
This is the broccoli that I have left, except the plant in the lower left corner was taken out by a mole.
I decided to plant my herbs in a tub this year because of the invasive nature of some herbs. Besides, it's nice to have it closer to the house so I can just run out and pick some while cooking. I've got oregano, rosemary, sage, lavender, mint, dill, cilantro, and basil. Maybe I'll make a little fairy garden in there.
The previous owner of our property must have loved azaleas because he planted them everywhere. I haven't been able to do any landscaping or flower gardening of my own yet, so I'm enjoying what is already here.
They haven't been cared for in several years, so they are barely making it and some are dying. But this year must be a good year for azaleas because the ones that have survived are all blooming profusely.
There are several varieties/colors.
This pink one is lagging a bit behind the others and most of the blossoms have not opened. It looks very much like a Nelly Moser Clematis to me. I had a Clematis planted at my other house, so the new owners will be enjoying it this year. Oh, and my peonies! How I miss my peonies.
Don't buy this kind of sprinkler (above Vigoro brand, not to be mistaken for Viagra brand). We bought several and they barely lasted a season. Whatever it is that makes them go back and forth stops working and they get stuck in one position.
I got some new sprinklers and set them up yesterday. So far they are working well. Gilmour brand and the package says "lifetime replacement". Whatever that means. Perhaps they consider "lifetime" to be one season.
Instead of going back and forth, shooting the water up high over the tops of tall plants, they go 'round and 'round and don't shoot the water very high. That might be a problem when the plants get taller.
Tom got the Critter Gitter out yesterday morning to gas my garden moles, but he couldn't find their hole and I was leaving for Dallas, so he gave up. In the meantime, Mr. Dead Meat Mole has been busy.
This is a potato plant that was perfectly healthy the evening before. The roots have been eaten off and when I removed the plant I found the mole tunnel right under it and leading in the direction of the other potato plants. I guess the mole got tired of broccoli.
The potato plant in the middle of the picture shows some signs of damage also. This morning I showed Tom the tunnel and we put the Critter Gitter hose into it. Tom gassed it for 15 minutes. I had to go milk the goat, but Tom said that exhaust was coming out of the ground in other places, which must have been the mole's exits. Hopefully, the mole died down there and didn't sneak up out of the ground for fresh air.
OK, it's time to get serious about our mole problem.
When I was out in the garden this morning, I noticed one of my broccoli plants looking kind of wilted and sad. I thought maybe it wasn't getting enough water or something. Then when I went back to the garden this afternoon, the whole broccoli plant (and it even had a little head of broccoli started on it) was completely gone! Poof. Disappeared. So I dug around a little to see if there was even a root there and what did I find?! A mole tunnel. That stinkin' mole had pulled the entire plant down into it's tunnel.
Tom ordered a Critter Gitter ( http://www.crittergetteronline.com/ ) off the internet a week or so ago and it arrived last week, but is still sitting by the front door, unopened. I came across the Critter Gitter while surfing the net for mole solutions. It is a gadget that hooks up to the exhaust of a vehicle - truck, car, tractor, whatever. It has a hose and a probe thing that you poke down into the mound or tunnel. Theoretically, it gasses the mole and kills it under the ground...or, if it pops up out of another hole, we can have Harry and the cats ready to pounce.
I think mole extermination needs to be priority number one around here, or I won't have a garden left this year.
I'll post a review of the Critter Gitter after Tom uses it. Wish us luck.
Spaghetti for dinner tonight. Made from our homegrown tomatoes stewed and frozen from last season, homegrown goat, homegrown basil and oregano. I thought about running over to Grand Saline to the biggest salt mine ever and scratching up the salt for it, but it cost more money in fuel to get there than to just get my salt shaker out of the cabinet.
I got nearly a quart of milk from Hyacinth this morning, but spilled about half of it all over the kitchen counter and floor. I'm pretty sure Nubians are supposed to give more milk than Hyacinth does. Maybe she's not a good producer, or maybe I'm not doing something right. I only milk once a day, so that might have something to do with it. But milking twice a day is so much more difficult.
This is the milk pail that I squeeze the milk into. It has that lid with a cut out on one side that is very useful for keeping debris (like Hyacinth's foot) out of it while I'm milking. The lid is a bit tricky to put on and take off, so I usually just lay it on the top and let it rest there. While I was pouring the milk from the pail to the quart jar that I use for milk storage, the lid suddenly fell off onto the jar, knocking it over and the milk went everywhere.
I got my milking tips from a goat website called fiascofarms.com. It is an excellent site and most of the goat people that I come across know about and reference this site (not that I know a lot of goat people, I'm just sayin'). I've used her sterilizing and milking procedure since last year and it seems to be working OK. Except that last year, Hyacinth had a bad case of mastitis. Hmm. I don't know if it had to do with anything I did or didn't do or if it was just something that happened. Anyway, things are going well this year. The whole procedure, in detail, is here: http://fiascofarm.com/dairy/milking-sanitation-equipment.html
But, in short,
I use this yellow pail to carry a quart or two of water mixed with bleach (2 Tbs.) and Dawn dishwashing liquid (1 drop) down to the barn. I wash Hyacinth's udder with it before milking and I use a little Dixie cup filled with this solution as a teat dip afterwards. When the milking is done and Hyacinth gets off the stand, I pour the rest of the solution onto the milking stand to clean it.
The stainless steel funnel looking thing in the picture is the strainer. I have little round filters that go in the funnel part and I pour the milk into the strainer that I set on top of a mason jar that has also been sterilized in a bleach solution. Everything gets sterilized before and/or after they are used to keep the milk as pure as possible.
This is what is left of the milk I collected today after spilling. I write the date on the side of the jar with a Sharpie and then store the milk in the freezer until time to use it. The date washes off after going through the dishwasher so it can be used again without confusion. I've read that the milk will last up to a year in the freezer, so I just stock up as much as I can.