Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Friday, May 28, 2010

Yet Another Garden Pest

Potato advice that I've read says to not harvest all of the potatoes at once and that they would keep well in the ground for awhile.  I went to dig up a few more potatoes and discovered that the fire ants were eating them, so I had to dig up most of them before they were all destroyed.  Several of the plants are not ready, as evidenced by the tiny potatoes about the size of marbles.  I thought ants were pretty harmless in the garden; other than biting me, I thought they pretty much left the plants alone, but I guess I was wrong.  I had to throw several potatoes into the compost pile because there were little holes drilled all over them and ants coming and going.  Grrr.

Patio, Phase IV

I finished laying all the stones this morning and swept the first layer of decomposed granite into the cracks.  I'll let that settle, then sweep more in.

This is off the covered existing patio.  I got that hydrangea at Costco...cheap!

Rounding the corner going towards the newly installed patio.  Flower bed to be planted  soon.

Another angle.  The man that we bought the stone from called us and offered us some free St. Augustine sod.  It was sod that he couldn't sell because it was too old, so he just gave it to us.  It's greening up nicely.

Yay!  I put that flower pot in the corner right over a tall sprinkler head so that it can get watered regularly.  I don't know, yet, what I'm going to plant in it, but can't wait to fill it up.

Another Costco hydrangea in that corner.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Easter Egg Hunt, Anyone?

We thought we were so clever training the chickens to lay their eggs in the nesting boxes in the coop.  It worked for nearly a year.  Then, all of a sudden a couple of months ago we weren't getting so many eggs.  I thought the chickens were getting ready to molt and had stopped laying eggs.  Then Tom, well, actually Harry discovered a stash of eggs in a corner of the barn.  The chickens, all but one or two of them, had abandoned the nesting boxes and decided the barn was a better place to lay eggs.  So, for about a week I made the chickens stay in their yard all day until they were done laying their eggs.  I thought it would get them back into the habit of laying in the coop and give them time to forget that the barn was a fun place to hide their eggs.

It worked for a while.  I occasionally saw a chicken eyeing the corner of the barn with longing, but we had blocked off that corner so they couldn't readily get to it, so we were back to Chicken Palace egg gathering.

Until about two weeks ago.  Production started to dwindle.  We searched high and low but could not find any eggs out of place.  I, again, confined the hens to the coop and yard for several days and at the end of their sentence, I set them free.  Right away, egg production dwindled back down to three or four eggs a day. 

After a hen lays an egg, she will squawk loud and long, "Look at me!  Look what I did!  I laid and egg!  Come and see!  This is a great place to lay eggs!"  If Tom or I heard the egg laying call, we would run to see where the chicken was in hopes of finding her secret hideout, but we were always too late. 

But, today!  Today I tore down to the barn when I heard the call and sure enough, I saw the little sneak coming out from a hole in the hay.  We have a stall in the barn stacked high with hay bales and we keep the cat's food bowl in there so that Harry can't get it.  The chickens discovered the cat food and they love to eat it. 

Apparently, they thought it was a cozy place to lay a few eggs, too.

Then, I heard another chicken calling...not from the barn, but from Tom's implementport where he parks his tractor attachments.  I ran over there and out popped a chicken from the hay baler.

Sure enough, there was a stash of eggs in there as well.  And Tom was planning to bale hay today.

I gathered 31 eggs in all. 

We're going to clean out the baler so that there won't be any cushy hay to sit on (we didn't do it yet because there was a hen sitting when Tom went to do it), but we're not going to try to discourage the laying in the barn this time.  Until we find out how to get them to go back to the coop again, we'd rather not have to hunt them down every day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blackberry Season

I spent a little under an hour this morning picking the wild blackberries along the fence line across the road.  I barely made a dent in them.  This basket could be filled many times over.  I need some little kids here who don't mind bending, stooping, squatting and getting their hands scratched up and stained.


Now...what to do with them...jam?  I've never made jam before.

And I found myself wondering, "Why am I doing this when I could just go to the grocery store and buy anything blackberry that I want?"  I guess it's just because they're there, they're free, and maybe I just need to feel like I can in case someday I need to.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Meaganmobile

Meagan is going to try her hand at country living, so she's leaving the big D and her job at the Firm to come live on our farm and concentrate on art and quilting.  Maybe she can post her site with her quilts on it and someone will commission a quilt or painting from her.

Anyway, we bought this travel trailer for Meagan and Mochi to live in and a guest or two to stay in occasionally when the house is overflowing.  It's bright and roomy and surprisingly not too hot on a 90 degree, humid day with the windows open.  Thanks for Mom and Jim for their contribution.  Were it not for them, we would have had to buy a dumpy trailer.

The square with the large and small window contains an electric slide.  It contains the dinette and sofa and slides out the side to double the space in the living area/kitchen.  I was going to open it to take the pictures of the inside, but the trailer is sitting on a slope; we haven't leveled it yet and I was paranoid that it would topple over on it's side even though Tom said it wouldn't.

The bedroom has a queen sized bed with a tiny bit of space to walk around it and a lot of storage for such a tiny space.

The bathroom is not much bigger than an airplane bathroom with a mini tub/shower.  In fact, it was so tiny I had to stand outside of it to take a picture.

The dinette and sofa both fold out to make a bed about the size of a twin.  This is the part that slides out the side.

There's a tiny oven/stove and microwave and more storage along the wall in the rear.

And the fridge next to the stove.

Dill Destructor

A couple of days ago, I went to check on my fairy garden tub o' herbs and discovered that, overnight, some critter had eaten every single leaf off of my dill plant.  Every one.  This picture is from today and new leafs are sprouting, so I guess it will recover, but really, every leaf?  Some pig of a caterpillar, I suppose.

Friday, May 21, 2010


This was my first time to plant potatoes.  I planted some seed potatoes that I bought and also planted some old potatoes that were in my pantry starting to sprout.  I figured there was nothing to lose in experimenting with those, so I cut them up so that they each had one eye on them and stuck them in the ground.  All the potatoes came up, but the seed potatoes are maturing faster.  I dug up the potatoes from two plants today.  Yum.  I can't wait to eat them.

Also, picked two cherry tomatoes today.  I planted four kinds of tomatoes, cherry for the first time, and had one volunteer come up on the opposite side of the garden.  I left it to see if it would produce anything.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Harry, the Gardener. Not.

It's a wonder man has survived at all.  There's either too much rain, not enough rain, too much sun, not enough sun, plant eating varmints, too much wind, weeds...the list of obstacles to growing food is endless.  This is one of the six fruit trees that we planted last spring.  You may remember I was very excited to get one plum off of it last year.  There is just one branch on it this year because Harry decided to chew the rest of them off.

Oddly enough, despite Harry's pruning abilities, this is the only tree that has fruit on it.  At least 10-15 baby plums.  We've had fierce high winds for the past several days which blew about half the fruit off the tree.  The other plum tree that Harry didn't maul, has no fruit whatsoever. 

This sad pear tree is dying.  Harry pushed it over completely flat onto the ground.  The root ball appeared to still be intact, so Tom stood it upright and staked it.  We thought it was going to be OK because it bloomed and leafed out, but it is even deader now that when the picture was taken.

And this is what is left of the two apple trees that we planted.  Harry chewed them both off right at the base.  You can see the stub sticking out of the ground.  So, we're trying to decide if we should leave the little suckers that have grown up out of the base of the tree to grow into trees, or if we should just dig them up and start over.  I think we should dig them up.  It will be years, if ever, before these yield anything.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Taking the Day Off

Well, sorta.  My house is a wreck, my frigerator is empty.  I haven't cleaned it since starting the patio project and I haven't done a thorough grocery shop since Tom's family was here back at the beginning of April!  I didn't realize how long one could go without grocery shopping when one doesn't have to buy eggs or milk.  So today I'm taking the day off from outside work. 

Clean house.
Meet a friend for lunch.
Go grocery shopping.
Go look at an 1973 Airstream aluminum travel trailer for possible purchase.

Unfortunately, I think that 1973 is considered "vintage".  I was 13 yrs. old in 1973 and it was the year after my father died.  I was in the seventh grade and was still snaggle-toothed from losing a couple of my baby teeth.  Is that normal?  I remember that I was without those teeth for a long time.  Ugh.  Not a good year for school pictures...not a good year altogether.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Laying Flagstone Is Like...

Imagine that you're putting a jigsaw puzzle together.  You want it all level and smooth, of course, but this jigsaw puzzle is being put together on a bed of gravel, not on a smooth table.  Then imagine that each piece weighs at least 30 pounds, usually more.  In general, I can lift 50 pounds.  Some of these I can't lift and can barely scoot.  Then imagine that none of the pieces fit together.

"It's gonna be beautiful.  It's gonna be beautiful."

Oh, and then imagine that you have to put this puzzle together on your knees.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Bone Tired

I don't think I've worked so hard physically in all my life.  I've often thought that it's a good thing that, at this point in time, we don't really have to rely upon this farm and our efforts to survive.  I'm not all that confident that we could.  We still have so much to learn.

In the middle of this week's many projects, Tom decided it was time to bale the hay.  He cut, fluffed, and baled our largest field in three days.  At the end of baling day, which was Friday, I drove the truck around while Tom picked up the bales and stacked them on the trailer.  We discovered the first year that I'm useless at hauling hay bales, so I didn't even bother to help Tom stack them in the barn.  Thankfully, Larry came over on Saturday morning in time to help Tom put the second load (that we had picked up that morning) into the barn.  The hay is mostly weeds because it's the first cutting and we're not over the beginner's hump with the organic program.  They say after this year, we won't have as many weeds.  I'm a bit skeptical about that.  We've already had a call from a man who bought hay from us last year wanting to reserve our second cutting.  I sure hope it's better than this one or he's not going to want it.

I was very discouraged...and angry! on Friday when I discovered that a mole had taken out my biggest and best tomato plant.  I didn't plant as many tomatoes this year as I have previously so it's a big hit to take to lose one.  Maybe I should over plant so that it won't bother me so much when I lose a few.  Anyway, I stormed back to the house to get Tom and the Critter Gitter.  We blasted the mole hole for about 30 minutes, so hopefully, that mole had it's last meal.

Tom and I are achy all over and just fall into bed at the end of the day.  I think, finally, that I've reached the point in which I am expending more energy than the calories that I consume.  Of course, I probably won't sustain that.  Not every day here on the farm is as strenuous as the past week has been.

Yesterday, Larry also unstacked one of the pallets of flagstones, carrying them over and laying them next to my pathway so I don't have to go back and forth getting them.  That was a huge help.  Some of the stones are so large that I can't move them at all.  He also helped with the filling of the well.  We had a neighbor bring us a dump truck load of red clay.  He dumped it next to the well, Tom scooped it up with his tractor and dumped it in, while Larry and I shoveled what was spilled over.  So, the well is filled and ready for my planting.  Maybe tomorrow.  Today is Mother's Day and we're taking the day off.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Patio Phase III

Got all the brick edging finished yesterday.  Tom dug up, rerouted, and reburied the sprinkler system.  Of course, when we tested it (before burial) we discovered major leaks in other places which had to be fixed.  Whoever put in the sprinkler system must have been schizo.  It's the craziest bird's nest of pipes I've ever seen. and about 18 zones.

Started putting in the decomposed granit base today after leveling the walkway.  The granite looks really great.  I highly recommend it used as a pathway for someone who doesn't want to go to the trouble of putting in flagstone and who doesn't have a dog and/or chickens that will dig it up and scatter it all over the place.  See how sandy our soil is?  It's like walking on the beach.  I've been doing all this work barefoot because it gets in my shoes and feels awful and actually is quite nice under a bare foot.

And, because I just couldn't wait a moment longer, I got all the smaller stones that I could carry and started laying the flagstone.  Most of the stones are huge slabs that I can't lift, so I'm going to need help.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Old Well Update

The well guys came today to fix our cave problem.  They enlarged the hole big enough for one of the men to get down in there to look around.

This guy got the upper half of his body into the hole and took some picture for me.

This is the view from the hole up to the concrete cap.  That's a pipe there in the middle that comes up from the middle of the well to ground level where the cap is.  That cap and the brick structure were pretty much resting on nothing but shifting sand.

The guys decided that it would be easier to fill the well without that concrete cap, so they broke through it and let it fall down into the water.  This is what we could see while looking down from the top.  The shiny bit at the bottom is the water.  They determined that the well was about 45 feet deep.  That's a long way to fall.  But if one did fall down there, at least one could shimmy up that pipe in the middle to get out.

The solution was to fill the well to the waterline with Bentonite clay.  It's a clay that's taken out of Wyoming and pelletized by Halliburton.  When the clay is put in water, it expands five times it's size and turns into a jelly-like clay that water can't pass through.

This is the Bentonite clay being poured into the well.  It looks like a gray gravel.

You can see the clay at the bottom, already it has absorbed the water and expanded.  Tomorrow, we'll have a couple of loads of regular Texas clay from down the road delivered and we'll use it to fill the well to ground level.  Then we'll be back to where I started - able to put my pond liner tub and topsoil in there with plants, a water lily and some goldfish.


Patio...Phase II

Tom is doing a great job with the excavation.  We had originally thought that someone else was going to do it for us, but when we found out his plan wasn't what we expected, we decided to do it our way.  We were told that all that digging out had to be done by hand, but that sounded crazy to me.  Tom has been able to do most of it with his tractor.

Here's the back where the patio will be.  Those doors lead into the dining room.

This is where the pathway will go around the back of the living room.  I've got these bricks just laid out so that I'll know the shape that I want the walkway to be.  They aren't set and leveled yet.

This is around the opposite side of the living room where the pathway will join up with our covered patio in the back.  I've set and leveled this row of bricks and am getting ready to round the corner and start on the bricks in the previous picture.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Duct Taping the Hen's Back...Fail

Um.  Putting the duct tape on the hen's featherless back was not such a grand idea after all.  A few days ago it finally got loose enough so that I could pull it the rest of the way off.  Underneath the tape, most of the feathers had not grown back.

So, the question is...why?  Did I implement it wrong?  Did the feathers not grow right because the hen wasn't able to pick them out or preen?  People who are familiar with birds and their feathers might know about how the feathers grow out encased in sort of a shell.  I don't know the terms for these things, but the bird picks away the shell and preens the feather so that it fans out.  I assume that chickens do that, too. 

Or, maybe I went a little overboard with the tape and made it stick on too long.  Or, maybe it stuck to the skin and somehow prevented the feather from growing out.  Maybe I should have doubled the tape over so that it wasn't sticky right over the bare spot and so that it would only stick for a little while to the sides.

I checked the blog of the reader who put the duct tape on her own chicken, but I didn't find an update, so I don't know if it worked for her.

Well, another lesson half learned.

Phase I

The Great Backyard Transformation has begun.  Tom got started on the prep for the patio.  He started digging out the sprinkler system because the ground around the house is going to have to be graded and leveled so that the water flows away so the sprinkler would get dug out by the tractor anyway.  Also, the topsoil is going to have to be scraped away so I have smooth surface for the stone.  That sprinkler system is a mess.  I don't know what the installer was thinking.  It's like they just tossed out PVC pipe helter skelter and glued them together where they landed.  There are pipes going every which way, crossing each other, making weird bends.  Some of the pipes are buried several inches, some just under the ground and some aren't even buried at all.

When Tom started digging it out, he discovered that the whole place is riddled with roots so he spent the day digging out roots and pipes, cutting roots and pipes, and pulling the bigger roots out with the tractor.  I think we're ready for a friend to come level out the area for us.  Then Tom will put the sprinkler system back in.  THEN I'll be able to start installing the patio.