Sunday, January 29, 2012

Obnoxious Roosters, Planting, Mulch and Crazy Miss Izzy

Saturday started out pretty normal, load up the truck, and head to the Compound.  Along the way we filled up the truck.  Has anyone noticed the price of gas lately?  We live in Orange County, FL, gas was $3.61/gal on the way out, and the Compound is in Brevard County, where we paid $3.47/gal.  Makes you wonder what Orange County does with the extra tax we pay in our home county.  Doesn't look like things will get better anytime soon, as some oil refineries are filing for bankruptcy, and then throw in the threat by Iran to block the Straits of Hormuz.  We're in for some high priced gas.  There's already been a run on the pumps in Europe.  Here's the article.

Things are all ready tough, this won't make it any easier. 

We did get some more seeds planted in the garden;  cucumber, squash, spinach, lettuce, carrots and swiss chard.  I tried to pick my strawberries, but they had holes drilled in and through them.  I'll need to do some extra research to see what this could be, so I can stop the little devils from eating my favorite fruit. 

 For those of you who have followed along for the past year or so;  remember the tiny fish in our pond, the ones that mysteriously appeared all on their own?  Well, the Moose decided to feed them some dog food along the way.  They really like the stuff, and Miss Izzy can't eat this particular brand any longer.  But, she's determined not to share it with the little fish.

This is a dog that doesn't like a bath, won't get near a hose, and refuses to go outside in a sprinkle.

We did finish putting mulch around the outside of the garden fence, to help keep the weeds back.  The Moose did his quarterly cleaning of the fresh water container.

The Hooligan's enjoyed their day outside the chicken run.  We're up to around 4 dozen eggs a week, from the 9 layers.  The eggs are so big, I can hardly put the lid on the egg carton.

The roosters are still obnoxious. I avoid them, but each time we're there, they seem to take their aggression out on the Moose. He just rolls them over until they're too tired to keep it up. Then typically they leave him alone, but not yesterday. It happened more than once from each of the two roosters. We're thinking maybe only one rooster would be better. I would like the one we're thinking of getting rid of, to go to a good clean home. Not for fighting, and one where the owners care for their animals.

Looks like raccoons are again trying to get into the chicken run.  They have been biting off some plastic zip ties we used to keep the fabric roofing material in place.  We just replaced it again.  I'll keep my eye on it, and if it happens again I'll find metal ties.  Even if they get past the fabric material, they would still need to get through the chicken wire.  One of these days, I'll do an article to show what seems to work for us to keep the critters and snakes out of their coop and run.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Basics of Transplanting Tomato Seedlings

Planting tomato seedlings is not as simple as digging a hole, plopping them in, covering them with dirt and watering.  There's a little more art to the science.

You are not supposed to plant seedlings until at least 2 sets of leaves have formed.  Then when transplanting, you should plant the tomato up to the bottom of the 2nd set of leaves.  This goes against the "norm".  I always thought you planted in the same root base as in the container, but with tomatoes that is not the case.  The entire stalk up to the 2nd set of leaves is burried.

We had a cold snap, so we waited an extra couple of weeks before transplanting, and we actually had a third set of leaves form.  Those needed to be pinched off, disgarded in the hole (they'll just compost), and then plant up to the 2nd set of leaves.  This third set of leaves will actually become additional roots.  Pulling in more nutrition, and stablizing the plant as it grows taller.  Here's a picture of the third set of leaves, I removed before planting.

I've planted heirloom Brandywine, Beefstake and Speckled Roman, I've had good success with seeds from  Botanical Interests.   I still want to plant some cherry tomatoes.  I have 30 holes in the ground, and have 2-3 plants per hole.  After planting, mulch was put around them, and they were watered.  I'll keep you posted on their progress.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Trap Door, Shooting and Planting

Well, here it is!  Brought to you by my Padre'.  My Dad (Padre) worked on the trap door over the past couple of weeks, and here is the final product.

He and the Moose put a smelly concoction of old beer, wild hog food and chicken scratch as the bait.  Well, it worked on a raccoon, brought him out in daylight!  We'll see if we can draw in any wild hogs.

Daughter Number 1 got to shoot her 9mm today.  For someone who only handled a gun once before and for a very short period of time, she was a great shot today!  Annie get your gun!!  We'll make a redneck out of this city girl yet!

She took turns on the orange targets, and then she was on to hitting door hinges that hang on a cord.  Not sure if you can tell, but that shiny blur in the middle is the hinge she had just hit.

I got my tomato, cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts in, but didn't get to the greens seeds.  I slipped and took a nice spill into the pond, then landed on my keister.  Between the spill, and the number of plants I put in, I was done for the day.  Thank goodness my Mom brought out lunch, so I didn't have to worry about that.

Weather was wonderful, again, and is supposed to remain that way for at least another week.  Our only concern this time of year is brush fires, due to the dry weather.  I'm praying for some rain.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seedling Plantings and Home Economics

I'll be busy this coming weekend planting my tomato, cabbage, and broccoli seedlings.  I'm hoping to also get some greens;  lettuce, spinach, and swiss chard, seeds in as well.  Weather should be in the lower 80's, and looks to stay there for the next week.  I'm hoping the garden will come in good this season, so we have enough to do some canning this year.  I'm planting heirloom tomatoes, and I'll update you on the varieties in another posting.  We'll be keeping tabs on how the Back to Eden program works for us in Central Florida.  So far, so good.

My parents are joining us, as my Dad finished the trap door for the wild hog pen, and wants to get it installed.  I'm hoping my Mom can help me figure out the ancient sewing machine she gave me over 20 years ago, that hasn't been used since.   It has been a great dust collector over the years, and hopefully it still functions.   I just can't seem to figure out how to run the thread down to the needle.  Since I started my personal "home economics" classes, of which I completed sewing 101 a couple of weeks ago, I would really like to get the machine up and running, and it's not anything like the one we used in class.  I'm not usually so inept, but this one has thrown me for a loop! 

Next month is Knitting 101 and Daughter Number 1 is braving the class with me.  She's smart as a whip, so she should keep me in line and on the right page throughout the class.   I'm trying to spread the classes out to one a month, for time and financial reasons.  That way too, I can come home and hone my skills before the next step. 

I'll be back with another episode after we're finished at the Compound this weekend.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bee Destruction

Here is a link to an article regarding the bee colony destruction that is occurring here in the states and in other parts of the world.  We are losing one-third of the bee population each year to what appears to be presumibly safe insecticides.  Our fruit and vegetable plants produce more when pollinated by bees.  So if we continue to lose our bee population, doesn't that directly correlate to us losing fruit and vegetable production?  FYI, I'm not a believer in the global warming movement, but I do believe we should be good stewards of our little part of the earth God has graced us with.

I'm doing my part by starting a back yard hive, and reducing if not eliminating the use of insecticides.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Soprano's

I just ordered my 3lb package of Italian Honey Bees, and their Queen!  They are shipping May 15th, and will arrive regular post within 2-3 days after. They were ordered from Gardner Apiaries, and they came highly recommended.  Cost including shipping $87.00.

There are approximately 10,000 of the little honey makers in 3lbs.  Their hive will increase to anywhere from 65,000 to 80,000 bees.  That's a lot of bees!   Since their Italian, and with that many humming bees, I'm going to call them the Soprano's. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock Anyone?!

OK, we had another great day today.  We were able to get quite a few little things done, along with a couple larger projects.  I did get to pruning the fruit trees and bushes.  The Moose mowed down the overgrown blackberry patch, and I mowed a section of the lawn.  I cleaned up the frost damaged plants in the garden, watered the strawberries, and cleaned up after the Hooligans.  The Moose replaced the hot water heater control panel, on the camper.  Now we can heat up the water with propane, rather than having to start up a generator.  A friend of ours helped us locate the problem last weekend, so now we're good to go.

The Moose and I set up another set of solar panels, this time on top of the camper.  This set of panels, will charge the camper batteries throughout the week.  We paid around $80 for the 45 watt system.  Its main purpose is to charge the batteries in the camper, but it also has an adapter for cell phones, laptops, and other plug-n-charge items.

The Moose had plenty of help today.  Everywhere he went, the Hooligan's went.

While we were taking a break, a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie appeared.  I can not begin to explain to you the number of birds that were flying by, up and around the Compound. I've never seen anything like it except in a horror flick.  There seemed to be no formation, other than swirling around like a twister.  It was an amazing site.   We came home and turned on the news to see if there was an earthquake or some other phenomenon:  nope, nothing to explain it.  I apologize for the rough video;  I need to work on my camcorder skills.

Now, what should we do next weekend?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pruning and Trimming

Well, I've got pruning on my mind.  My fruit trees;  apple, peach, plum, nectarine and pear trees and blueberry bushes need serious pruning.  I actually thought I was late in doing this, but what luck!, I actually need to do it now.  During their dormant cycle, late winter is when they should be pruned.  Since we're in central Florida, and we don't have a winter in the typical sense, I'm thinking my new pruning sheers need some use and soon.

No more than one-third of their new growth, and anything dead, broken or heading in the wrong direction.  This is the only way fruit trees will actually produce more, and better quality fruits.   Did you know there's a science to this art?  Removing large branches need three cuts;  out about 6-8 inches from the trunk of the tree you need to cut the branch  from the bottom going about half way up, then down from the top of the branch.  The last cut, just slightly out, about 2" or so from the trunk, one single cut from the top down, at a slight angle.  There are plenty of videos and articles out on the web for review.  I won't bore you with posting them here.

Basically it's the same function for the blueberry bushes.  Once I get the trees and bushes pruned, we hope to build a fence around the blueberries, since the Hooligan's seem to like to eat their leaves.  Not a good thing.

Something is eating my strawberries!  Mice?  Not sure.  We tried that bird netting last year.  What a mess!  Would not recommend the stuff to anyone.  It only seems able to catch snakes!  We had 3 or 4 of those wiggly creatures stuck in the stuff!  Impossible to get them out they get so snarled.  We just end their misery.  It's disgusting.  Of course, what ever is taking bites out of my strawberries waits until they are just ripe to be picked.  Figures.  I need a solution, any ideas?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lazy Good For Nothings!

We had a lazy weekend.  Met a couple of friends for breakfast, and then spent the rest of the day showing them the Compound, along with a LOT of conversation.  It's nice spending time with folks you have so much in common with.  They had an interest in the Back to Eden program, for a back yard raised bed.  They also got to meet the Hooligans, and when they left they were trying to figure out how they might be able to get some chickens of their own.  We shared some of our eggs with them earlier, and they were surprised at the size and taste of fresh eggs.

One major topic we discussed (among hundreds and one I've been thinking on a lot lately) was getting children and family members to understand the difference between "wants" and "needs".   How immediate gratification seems to be the only formula for making a financial decision, and how quickly the feeling of having something new and fun fades and then they're on to something else.  It takes some of us longer than others to figure this part of life out, and I know some who never seemed to grow out of it.  I only hope that my children can learn this lesson earlier in life.  There are many more rewarding things in life than stuff can ever fill.

What have you wanted but passed by because you have responsibilities or spent the time to really think it through?

Mine, an English Bulldog,   we opted for adoption from a shelter;  Miss Izzy

Friday, January 6, 2012

Things are Heating Back Up

Well, the Hooligan's came out of the deep freeze doing just fine.  Still goofy as ever.  Here's a photo of how the Moose and I covered their windows;

Yes, it's covering the entrance for their ramp, but they have a back door as well, which they seem to go in and out of more often anyway.

The strawberries and cabbage did just fine.

But we did lose the tomato plants, all except one.  Which seems strange, it's the one right in the middle.  All three of these were covered together, and the only one to make it was the one in the middle.

Things will be heating back up this week, we'll be in the middle to upper 70's.  Now that I've said that, we'll get another cold snap later next week...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Deep Freeze in the Deep South

O.K., I guess I jinxed us!  Since I bragged about how wonderful the weather has been lately, Mother Nature decided to remind us we are never in control of the weather.  Here in central Florida we woke up to temperatures in the low 40's (wind chills below freezing), and highs of only around 48 degrees today.  Tomorrow will be even colder with temps below freezing to start the day.  The Moose and I covered our strawberry pyramid, and the other remaining plants in the garden, along with our citrus trees.  Growers are getting ready for tonight's big freeze and will start up the sprinklers to coat the precious citrus still in the groves. 

We also put up a hard clear plastic corrugated sheet over the Hooligan's coop windows to help create a wind break.  It's clear so it allows the sun to still shine through and heat up the inside of the coop, and keep them on normal daylight hours. It cost around $12 (that was last years price, it's at $14 now).

Since most of them sleep outside on the roof, we'll see if they figure out it's warmer in the coop than on the coop.  It's either that, or find a really close friend to snuggle up with overnight.  We'll be out to check on them Wed., after the deep freeze.  I'm interested to see how their combs and waddles fair.

Buckeyes have been bred so their combs and waddles are small and compact, so the influence of freeze is limited. 

My Red Stars have rather large combs and waddles (similar to the Rhode Island Reds), so their exposure will be greater. 

I'm sure they'll be just fine, but Mom's do something really well;  we worry!  So until I can see them, do a head count and make sure they are all accounted for and seem healthy, I'll continue to worry.

The cold weather makes you stop and really think about how prepared you are.  Do you have the proper items to cover your plants, and care for your animals?  We can get very lazy in Florida or other warm southern states, having wonderful weather, but we need to be prepared for all eventualities.

I'm off to make some hot chocolate, put on some warmer socks, and get my day started!   Have a good day...