Monday, May 30, 2016

How to Set Your House on Fire

Or to put a more positive spin on it:  How to Keep from Setting Your House on Fire.

This is where the exhaust pipe from my clothes dryer comes out of the house.  There is a hardware cloth wire over it to keep critters from entering the pipe, crawling up it, jumping out and scaring the bejeebers out of me when I open the dryer door. 

The first of every month, my dear husband takes off the screen and removes a bit of lint that has collected on the screen.

Today he walked by it and since it was almost the first of the month, decided to do that little task and have it done with.

Before he put the screen back on, something made him take out the handy-dandy little flashlight he always carries in his pocket and shine it back into the exhaust pipe.

What did he see?  Lint.  Lots of lint.

He made this little tool thingie by attaching a piece of metal onto the end of a 2" x 2" which he pushed into the pipe.

Then he slowly and carefully started pulling out gobs of lint. 

All this was extracted from the pipe before it looked clear.

Omigosh, if he hadn't thought to look into the exhaust pipe, there's a good chance it would have become so plugged up that a fire could have started when I was using the dryer.  Double omigosh.

Needless to say, we will now keep a close eye on this situation.  Even though I regularly clean out the lint filter on the front of the dryer and even put that pointy tool attachment on my vacuum cleaner and reach down into the space below the lint filter, a lot of potentially dangerous lint collected in the exhaust pipe.

So just be aware that lint can and apparently does collect in your dryer exhaust pipe.  You might want to check it from time to time.  I'm sure glad we did.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Not Good, So Disappointing . . .

We received our last shipment of waterfowl yesterday morning.  Fifteen assorted Muscovy ducklings.

Upon eagerly opening the box, we found ten of them dead, five alive.

We nursed the remaining frail five ducklings as best we could throughout the day, but lost one after another until by night time, only one was left.  So to give him (her?) some chance of survival overnight, we put him in with the five goslings who arrived this past Wednesday.

As the saying goes, one is not like the other.

Lo and behold, "The Lone Ranger" (as we've dubbed him) made it through the night and is happily running around with his new brooder buddies this morning.

Needless to say, it's been a rocky start, in many ways, to our season of building our own breeding stock of geese and ducks.  Here's hoping the sailing gets a little smoother from here on out.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chicks First Glimpse of the Big World

The chicks we got on the 4th of May left the brooder in the garage . . . 

. . . and went to live in their new chicken tractor home yesterday.

They had their first encounter with real, live, green grass.  And I think were a little perplexed at first.  But a couple of hours later, all seemed to be well.  There are provisions to lock them up each night safely in their little chicken house (complete with roosts) which is the right hand part of the chicken tractor.

I thought I'd include a picture of our teen-aged goslings, hatched the very end of March.  From left to right, that's Will, Curly, Annie and Skidmore.  Sad to say, Curly has a severely deformed upper beak.  It's twisted far to the left and I've been surprised he can eat and drink in any kind of a normal manner.  But he's growing as fast as Will, Skidmore still being a bit of a giant, so he's doing okay.  He will be destined for freezer camp this coming fall, because the deformity could be a genetic thing that we don't want to take a chance of passing on.

In the meantime, all four are good buddies and are living a very good life eating and pooping.  A lot. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

More Fuzzy Babies

Received another phone call from our local post office early this morning saying our chicks had arrived.

Well, we knew we had no more chicks coming, but we were expecting another shipment of goslings.  So in to town went my husband (the soon-to-be waterfowl magnate of the north woods) to pick up the last of the ordered goslings for this year.

Upon opening the box, we found five of them rarin' and ready to be out and settled in their new surroundings.  Unfortunately, one of them (a female, of course -- drat!) didn't make it. 

Boy howdy, did they have a thirst!  Which was soon remedied by a guzzle or two of delicious, clean water.

* * * * * * * *

I don't think I ever updated you all on the outcome of our older Mama Goose who had been sitting on a clutch of eggs.  We let her go a few days beyond what should have been the longest gestation period of the eggs.  

Then one morning when she went down to the pond for her morning stretch, Papa Pea uncovered the nest which she always covered when she left for her brief outside excursions morning and afternoon.  He was fairly sure he had at one time seen a clutch of 4-5 eggs, but found only one . . . and some egg shells.  What happened to the other eggs?  Had she eaten them?

Upon taking the remaining egg out, he found it to be very, very rotten.  So that was the end of homestead-hatched goslings for this year.

We still have a Cayuga duck sitting on a nest.  Her eggs are supposed to hatch this coming Sunday or Monday.  Our fingers are crossed she's more successful than the goose was.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Real Treat

A whole big bunch of thanks to the very sweet person who sent me this bag of wonderful Vidalia onions which arrived in the mail today.

Papa Pea and I each had one roasted as the veggie with our dinner tonight.  Were they good?


Thanks, dear friend!

Friday, May 20, 2016

BIG Project Done

No, this wasn't a big outside project, although there are plenty of those on our summer's list that we would be happy to have done already.  This particular project was a quilted one that I worked on (off and on) for about a year.

As I was tidying up our bedroom yesterday morning, it occurred to me that I'd never posted a picture of the king-sized quilt I made for our bed.

I had a chance later in the morning to corral my tall husband and tall daughter for a couple of minutes and asked them to hold the quilt up outside on the deck so you could get the full view of it.

This is another shot of it on the bed.

And this last picture I snapped last night in dim lighting shows the beautiful job of quilting on it.  I had it done on a long-arm quilting machine at our local quilt shop by a talented gal.

The quilt is what is known as a "scrap" quilt.  All of the fabric used was from bits and pieces in my stash.  The backing fabric was purchased (one huge piece) and I was lucky enough to get that on sale for 35% off the original price.

I'm very happy with the way it turned out.  And very happy to have it done.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Muscle Moving Day

Lawdy, did I work hard yesterday.  Lawdy, did I sleep hard last night.  But as you all know, it was a deserved, good sleep, and I'd probably still be sawin' 'em off it my bladder hadn't insisted I get up at six bells.

I got my loverly cauliflower baby seedlings (teen-aged they were, really) planted in their raised bed and covered with the cold frame for the night.  They suffered a smidge from transplant shock, but already this morning they look much better than they did last night.

This is a new (to me) cauliflower I'm trying this year.  An old heirloom from Sustainable Seed Company which supposedly has "self-wrapping leaves which shield the snow-white heads from the sun."  This eliminates the need to tie the leaves up over the heads as they mature.  The name?  Self-Blanching Cauliflower.  How's that for originality?

I edged the asparagus/Everbearing strawberry patch (all the time muttering bad words about the dang quack grass which never gives up trying to sneak into the garden soil), and then cross-creeping along on hands and knees, I weeded the asparagus and strawberries, then mulched the asparagus with straw.

After getting the asparagus mulched, the last wheelbarrow was still nearly full so I used that to mulch the raised bed containing our rhubarb and comfrey.

Helped (grunt-groan, puff-puff) Papa Pea move our two ancient, but still usable, snowmobiles from one storage spot to another.  (This would have been oh-so-much easier if it had been done when snow was on the ground and they could have been started and driven to their new home.  But I'm not pointing fingers.  There are multitudinous tasks I never get done in a timely manner.  'Magine that.)

More eradicating encroaching quack grass around the whole perimeter of the field garden.  Took a wander over to the shell peas and potatoes, both planted last week on the 10th, but nothing showing there yet.  I did notice in my meanderings of the day that the raised bed of yellow storage onions I planted on the 6th are just starting to poke through.  I plant two 4' x 8' beds of yellow and one of red onions each year.  Usually I don't plant any of them this early, but decided to give one bed a try since onions are a bit frost hardy . . . should they have to be.

I replanted two varieties of lettuce in the bed I put in on the sixth.  Most varieties (I always do a mixture of red and green lettuces) are sprouted and doing very well, but one of the varieties (I replanted) had sprouted very sparsely and the other was a complete no-show.

I'll end with this picture.  On Monday, Papa Pea replaced these two raised bed frames with new ones he constructed.  Looks as though we got our money's worth out of these, doesn't it?  I'm thinking they were at least twenty years old.   

Monday, May 16, 2016

Checking In

Not a lot happening garden-wise (or outside at all) over this past weekend.  We've been having on and off rain showers which have been good for both the dusty garden soil and surrounding forests.  Our fire danger is down this morning to "Moderate."  Always good to see the readings go in that direction.

We had frost both Friday and Saturday mornings.  Close to it yesterday, but a few degrees warmer.  (Can 35 degrees be "warmer?")

Our water fowl don't seem to mind the chilly, gray weather at all.

The adult geese and ducks love to take cleansing baths in the pond.

We've been happy to see a pair of wild Mallards on the pond for the past few days, too.  Here's hoping Mama Mallard will nest and raise a brood of ducklings in the weeds nearby.  You have to look closely to see her to the left of Mr. Mallard in this (fuzzy) picture.  Such good camouflage!

The goslings continue to grow by leaps and bounds.  I think it's kinda picturesque that after stuffing their bellies on lush, green grass, they prefer to take rest periods on the mulch underneath the apple trees.  (Yes, we now have goslings being rotated in moveable fencing on our front lawn.  You wouldn't believe the amount of "fertilizer" they're applying to the lawn.  We may not be able to walk out there without muck boots for months.  And at the rate they're eating the grass and being frequently moved, we might not have to do any lawn mowing this whole summer!  Who needs sheep [we were actually contemplating that] when you've got four eager-eater, growing goslings?)

This day started out sunny, but now is gray and gloomy again.  Temp is only 47 degrees . . . but that's better than 37, right?  I have weeding that still wants to be done around the new dwarf fruit trees, but don't know if it will be too wet out there today or not. 

Papa Pea is putting the finishing touches on another old cold frame that needed some help and support.  When that's done, I'm thinking of setting out my started cauliflower plants under it.

They are healthy and certainly look big enough to go out . . . with a little protection for a while yet.

Friday, May 13, 2016

End of the Week Update

After two nights of gentle rains, our area has been taken off the Very High danger fire alert and given the label of merely High.  This is a good thing.

However, the overnight rains have been enough to put a halt to my garden planting.  (I'm being very foolish gutsy this year and planting some things earlier than I usually would.)

Earlier this week I planted our three 20' rows of potatoes and 64' of shell peas.  They will be fine even if they sprout while frosty weather hangs around.  The peas won't mind a mild frost, and the potatoes can be hilled over with dirt should nippy weather threaten.

And the cold weather is currently threatening.  Frost and possible s-n-o-w (shhh!) is forecast for tonight and tomorrow night.  Fortunately, in our huge county containing many pockets of different climates, we probably won't get either the frost or the snow.  I'm predicting the temp could very well be close to 32 degrees and the precipitation falling could be very, very cold, but I think we will slip through this last (fingers crossed here) cold spell successfully.

I've managed to stay busy despite the soggy garden soil.  Lots of town errands have been taken care of.  Some necessary, some not so much.  Meals are less basic when I'm inside part of the day.  My desktop is actually clear getting close to visible.  And as my daughter commented last night when she popped in after work, "Oh, the bathroom is sparkly clean!"  I won't analyze that any further.

I've spent time preparing chives and freezing them for winter use.  About half the amount I need is done.

The 4' x 8' raised bed of lettuce covered with a cold frame has sprouted nicely as have the kale seeds I have in a bed with no cold frame  protection.

Our haskap berry plants (entering their fourth year now) are leafed out and already have plentiful blossom buds.  If we can outwit the robbing robins this year, we just might have a good crop.

Although the wind is making it a bit nippy outside this morning, we have sunshine so it will be full steam ahead on this lucky Friday, the 13th.  If all goes well, a dirt pile will get moved, two replacement garden bed frames will be built and put in place, the sprouting weeds among the dwarf fruit trees will be removed, and some progress will be made on new honey bee housing.

I hope you all have a good, good day, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Memories of a Tornado

Sandy over at Oklahoma Transient wrote, a day or so ago, about a tornado that occurred in her area recently.  It brought back memories for me of a couple of tornadoes we experienced when living in Illinois.

The worst one happened one year in early spring.  At the time, my husband and I had been married for only a couple of years and were living in a 14' x 16' cabin on twenty wooded acres we owned with his parents out in the middle of farmland.  We were also driving fifty miles morning and night each week day to and from the town where I worked and he was finishing his college degree.

We usually got home around six each evening and on this particular day, we were a couple of miles from home when we began noticing unusual things.

A farm house on the left side of the highway had all the singles torn off one side of the roof.  We commented that since the weather had been unsettled lately, it was risky business to start a re-roofing job.

The next structure down the road was missing its whole roof and the big barn was leaning at a precarious angle.

We looked at each other and without saying a word, realizing something bad had happened.

Proceeding along and getting closer to home, we turned off the main highway onto a short gravel road which connected to our own country road.  Talk about feeling as if we'd entered the Twilight Zone.  At the junction of the highway and gravel road was Fredrickson's farm.  Or at least it was where Fredrickson's farm was supposed to be.  For a couple of seconds, we didn't know where we were.  The two-story farmhouse, the huge barn, the silos, all the various outbuildings, all the big old trees were . . . gone.  The land was perfectly flat.

As we neared the turnoff onto our road, we saw a very strange object in the field off to our left.  It looked like a huge piece of twisted metal.  As we got closer we saw the coloring was black and yellow.  It was what had been a school bus.  Our neighboring family had a five-year old son who rode that bus.

As we turned right onto our road, we felt some relief that the farm where the young boy lived looked as if it had sustained no damage.  A short mile down the road we turned into our own property, stopped in a hubby's parents' house and were updated on the storm that had passed through a few hours earlier. 

The tornado had gone down the opposite side of the road from our property which was so fortunate for us, not so much so for the farms and dwellings on that side.

The one most damaged was the farm of two elderly brothers and a sister who lived on and worked the old family farm.  The three of them made it into their root cellar but they lost most everything including many of their animals who had been out on pasture.

My father-in-law was coming home farther on down that same road when the tornado hit.  He was just ready to get out of his car and take shelter down under a concrete bridge over a small creek when he saw a farm tractor fly across the road a ways ahead of him.  Then, as quickly as that, the tornado was gone and he continued on home albeit with shaking hands on the steering wheel of the car.

Even though we personally suffered no damage from the tornado, needless to say there was a wide-spread area affected and much rebuilding to be done.

The wreckage of the school bus we had seen in the field?  Praises were heaped upon that bus driver.  He saw the funnel cloud coming and rather than trying to outrun it, he got all of the kids off the bus, down into the ditch beside the road, told the bigger kids to get on top of the little ones to protect them, and for them all to lie as flat as they could.  Only one child was hurt . . . a broken arm when hit by a piece of flying debris.

Tornadoes were one of the things we were glad to leave when we moved to northern Minnesota.  Even though we have plenty of strong winds up here that always make my nerves jumpy, we're very glad not to live in tornado country anymore.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Days of Moaning Muscles

Lots of work outside the past few days.

Moved piles of dirt from last fall's excavation for the grow house which will be built over dwarf fruit trees before the end of summer arrives.

Weeded all of the raised beds in preparation for planting. 

Planted out one raised bed with lettuce and covered with a cold frame to ward off chilblains these cold nights.  (Up until two nights ago, we were still getting frost over night.)

Experimented with planting one bed of onions earlier than usual.  No cold frame.  They're on their own.

Planted three rows of kale seed in the chive bed.  No cold frame, but good ol' kale is quite frost hardy.  If the seeds survive to sprout, that is.

Planted my Sweet Pea flower seeds.  They take forever to germinate and aren't bothered by light frost anyway.

Transplanted some comfrey plants.

Gave the blueberry bushes a slight pruning (after extensive pruning last year) and weeded their patch.

Moved four goslings and their house to new spot.  (Again.)  Can hardly keep them in grass.  They graze constantly favoring grass over any other food.

With Papa Pea's able assistance, pruned the raspberries and put new support ties in place for the coming season.

Edged the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, asparagus and field garden.  (That %&^* quack grass just loves garden soil and wants to move in!)

Got June bearing strawberries uncovered.  I made a big pile (two piles actually) of the winter mulch taken off the plants, and will use it in the garden in various spots.  Last night we had terrific winds which threatened to scatter the bigger pile to parts unknown so we ran out and put several cattle panels over the pile to hold it down.

Got the field garden completely tilled.

I hand-raked it level, and it's ready for planting.  Shell peas will be planted within the next couple of days.  Then the taters.

Weeded three long rows of strawberries.  Waiting for old growth from last year to wither and die off a bit more before cleaning up the debris and mulching for this season.  Probably should wait until it's a little warmer before mulching though.  Don't want to encourage the soil to stay cool.

No lack of things to do outside before the bugs make an appearance and I'll be forced to plan my time around their schedule.  When the bugs are too bothersome, I stay inside.  With my unfortunate trait of being the favorite food of any biting insect, I need to take advantage of this bug-less period and push, push, push on outside projects.  Regardless of whether my muscles are complaining a bit or not.

But bottom line, all the real progress being made feels very, very good!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Newest Arrivals

Yup, more new feathered critters flew in this morning.  Or rather, came by Pony Express, aka the U.S. Postal Service.

They arrived exactly on the date expected and in seemingly very good shape.

We ordered 25 chicks split with our daughter so we each would have about a dozen new birds, all sexed . . . female, of course.

Straight out of the box and into the brooder they were oh-so-eager to eat and drink, drink, drink.

Then they all immediately went into a huddle under the heat lights to take away the chill from their journey.  (We had frost again this morning.)

A stamp on the outside of the box said, "Extra chicks included for warmth."  The actual number of chicks, counted as we placed them in the brooder, was 37!  Goodness, that means we've ended up with a dozen more chicks than we ordered and paid for.  You can't beat that for good will from the hatchery.

Now I'm wondering if the extra dozen are all . . . roosters?!  If so, it's not a terrible, awful, bad thing as my freezer has been devoid of chicken meat for a while now.

What varieties did we order?  We got a mixture of Speckled Sussex, Cuckoo Maran, and our favorites, Black Australorp.  Dear Daughter has her own different varieties, and tonight when she picks hers up, we may be scratching our heads as we try to identify each variety of little chick.  Plus, those extra twelve may add to the confusion.  It should be interesting!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Goslings Busted Out of the Garage

Not literally, although they're so darn big, it could have happened.

They never made it into the gosling/chick/duckling tractor.

The house of the tractor is 30" x 30".  That size would be adequate for the three goslings and giganto Skidmore, but the "outside" penned in run is 30" x 48", and for them to be in there and have access to fresh grass and room to run around, I think we would have had to move the tractor twice a day!

Yes, the goslings are that big.

Practically in desperation, we moved them outside to within the big poultry pasture, but in their own smallish fenced in area.  We had an old shed which is about 3' x 3', with a slanted roof (about 3-1/2 to 4' at the highest point) which we moved into their fenced in area.  The shed is tacky looking but still sound, with the addition of a new roof which Papa Pea whipped together.  We installed a heat lamp inside, and they get locked up safely in there each night while having access to the inside during the day, too.

They seem to be very happy in their new environment although our one adult male goose comes over to stand at the other side of the fence and hiss at them regularly.  The integration of the two batches of geese may take some finagling.

They are truly growing so fast and getting so big I'm not sure we shouldn't be afraid of them!  Especially Skidmore.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday, Day of Rest

Papa Pea spent the day and a lot of energy digging five holes for our new fruit trees that arrived day before yesterday.  

 The trees are dwarf and we're
experimenting with a new
intensive way of

 Unfortunately, much of the digging was through gravel and rock (at least that's what it felt like to him), and I guess it was proven to be mostly true by the two wheelbarrows full of big rocks he hauled away.

I worked on cutting down and hauling away the old asparagus ferns from last year and cleaning up the bed.

This is the plot in which I planted 2-1/2 rows of asparagus and 1-1/2 rows of Everbearing strawberries last year.  I got all the newly sprouted weeds pulled (or dug) out.

I also tilled up the perimeter of the whole area.  The blasted quack grass had started to grow into the planting area with a vengeance, in places thick already.  I swear that stuff starts to grow before the snow is even melted.

Two or three more tillings around the edge (I do love my Mantis tiller!), spaced a week or so apart, will be needed before the quack grass realizes I'm serious, and it doesn't have a chance of growing and taking over the garden space.

Now the asparagus is ready for Papa Pea to give it a good dose of compost which it likes in the spring.  Then I'll mulch the whole bed to keep down the weeds and hold in the moisture which the asparagus needs, also.  Not even one little spear is showing yet, but it's still early for us.

As I mentioned above, this is the area where I planted the Everbearing strawberries last year, too, although I know you can't see them in the picture.  (They're on the left side of the plot.)  There were 52 of them, and as of today I can find no more than 12 of them with any greenery showing.

This is the best looking one of the bunch.  They look nothing like the hale and hardy June bearing plants I put in the field garden.  Those are big and healthy, and it looks like I lost only one (out of the three 45 foot long rows) over winter. Both the June bearing and Everbearing were mulched and protected over winter, and our winter was not a severe one.  I can't figure out what's up with the Everbearing plants yet.  Time will tell if they rally and take a turn for the better.

Tomorrow I'll start weeding and cleaning the three long rows of strawberries in the field garden (many more weeds there to conquer), and Papa Pea will get the fruit trees planted . . . now that the back-breaking work of digging those holes is done.