The Deer Have Eaten All The Tomatoes!

We have been watching about a dozen tomatoes getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  I couldn’t wait to pick them and have our first home-grown tomatoes of the season, but they were still very green so hadn’t yet picked any.

Now I wish I would have picked them to ripen indoors, because when I checked them again after the rain, they were gone.  Every one of them!  No evidence of the thief.  No juicy tomato trail leading away from bent-over vines.  No bear scat lying about.  No mole or ground hog holes.  No turtles sequestered under the vines, waiting for the cover of darkness to come out and get on with their life of tomato-eating crime.

I was left to believe it was the big green caterpillars I keep seeing on the vines.  You know, those tomato-hornworm things that get covered with white parasitic wasp pupae, rendering them living zombies with not enough strength to eat their way out of a tomatoe blossom? 

Never saw one eat an entire tomato before.  They usually just take bites here and there and spoil the whole crop.  Not even the biggest of them are capable of walking out of the garden carrying an 8oz tomato on their backs. 

So it remained a mystery until CG came home later than normal a few nights ago and discovered a full-grown deer standing under the peach tree, calmly eating her fill of un-ripe peaches. 

The peach tree is only a few feet from the garden. 

So we’re pretty sure we’ve finally been able to figure out the mystery of the disappearing tomatoes….only thing is, other than building a 10 foot tall deer fence around the garden, there isn’t much we can do about it. 

I’m not about to sit outside all night on an overturned bucket, cap-gun in hand, waiting to scare that deer away next time she comes round.  I guess I really don’t want a home-grown tomato as bad as I thougt I did.


Getting Rid of Snakes and Other Homesteading Advice

There are all sorts of old wives tales for keeping snakes away and scaring them away once they are on your property.  I’ve found that the best way to get rid of them is to corner them right after they have eaten a meal of chicks or eggs, when they are a little sluggish, and is the only time I see them anyway, and then catch them!

I can usually handle them just enough to get them into a feed bag and then tie the top up tight, after which they go into a five gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid, and then it’s into the back of the pick up and they are re-homed in an isolated area with no houses or chickens.  They will always manage to get out of the bag while in the bucket, so be prepared for that when removing the lid.  They won’t be happy either!

Don’t ever put a snake in a bag in your car without it being in a bucket with a lid…unless you really WANT to run your car off the road into a ditch.  There are better ways of turning snakes loose.

As far as other homesteading advice……

Always cover your outdoor-stored hay, even if the sun is shinning brightly when you leave in the morning.  If you don’t it will surely pour down rain before you get home in the afternoon.  On the other hand, if you WANT it to rain, leave your hay uncovered.  It worked nicely for us yesterday.  We probably got a good 3 inches before I got the hay bales covered.

If you stop on the way home at a fast food restaurant and eat, and then feel like you are suddenly covered with ticks from head to toe, don’t panic.  Calmly pull the car over to the side of the road and examine your itches.  My itches yesterday were simply a really bad case of hives…..caused by something I ate at an Arby’s restaurant I am assuming.  A Benadryl tablet and a nap cured them without incident.

If you have baby birds living in the pillars on your front porch, don’t stick your face up too close to try and see the babies.  You quite likely with have your face badoozled by a mad mother or father bird as they exit their nest in a panic.

Don’t try to fix your electric fence in a thunderstorm.

If the goats wake you up in the morning by knocking at your front door for milking, don’t make it a habit to give in to their manipulation or you will soon be milking them in your living room on THEIR schedule, which is probably more than twice a day, and those times will certainly be most inconvenient, like at  4am, or just as you’re getting ready to leave for work, or right after your evening shower, just as you are getting into bed… matter if they were milked just 2 hours ago. 

If it’s over 90 degrees outside, the inside air temperature in your house will likely rise about 20 degrees over that right after 4pm, so if you plan to spend a restful evening in your living room watching tv or reading, you really will need to put an air conditioner unit in….and preferrably BEFORE July or August rolls around…after that, the sheer effort of getting the thing in the window will cause you to sweat so much that you will likely short it out before it ever gets plugged in. 

Clothes hung on the line outdoors DO NOT dry quickly when the humidity is high. In fact, they often do not dry at all, and will begin to sour in a matter of hours.  However, the sourness does not bother black ants or other bugs which will quickly make homes in your line-dried clothing.

When getting rid of a wasp nest, the number of cans of spray you will need to do the job is directly related to the size of the nest.  I’d advise about 1 can of spray for every inch your nest is wide.  So, if you have a nest that measures approximately 10 inches wide, you will need about 10 cans of wasp spray.  And the spray will probably need to be repeated every night for 10 nights or so…after which either you or the wasps will be dead, and it doesn’t matter who goes first, without either one of you, the other party can live in peace.

All holes, tears, etc. in those big, long, orange, extension cords should be repaired immediately.  Don’t wait until you are using it, and get zapped when handling the thing.  It’s just not worth it. 

To get rid of ants…..well, I’m not sure the best way, we’ve tried all ways, but have settled on sevin dust sprinkled at the base of all the wall joints in the house.  It works, but I’m not sure how long we’ll live…..

And that’s about it for my homesteading advice for the day.  I’d love to hear your comments and if you have any advice I can include in a future post, please pass it along.

A Bee in a Tree

Have you ever wanted to get into bee keeping?
Have you ever dreamed of having your own hives, combs, and honey?
Have you ever called up your neighbor and requested that he let you know the very minute his bees swarmed so you could come and get your new hive, complete with queen and all her workers?
Me either, but I’ve been thinking about it. 
I was pretty ecstatic one day to see what I thought were honey bees floating in one of the water troughs.  I thought, “wow, I’ve got to find this hive.” 
I didn’t have much luck that day, but later that night I got out the spot light and was looking for bats and cicadas when I happened to shine the light up into a cedar tree right over the horses main path to their hay, water and shade spot.  This is what I saw.  And even a dummy knows this aint no “honey hive!”
"wasp nest in dead cedar tree in va."
Our wasp nest

I guess those weren’t honey bees floating in the water trough?

Killing them as quickly as  possible seemed like the next logical thing to do.  So I got out a couple of cans of wasp killer and sprayed the nest till it was soaking wet and sprayed inside the hole too, confident that by morning, they’d all be dead and I could knock the thing out of the tree and examine its insides.
The next morning wasps were still buzzing around the nest, and now, a month later, they have recolonized and the nest has grown even bigger than before.
At least one person recommended taking a shot gun to it.  I’m on the fence about that one.  I’d like to torch it, but that cedar tree it’s hanging from is sooo dry….and only about 20 feet from the house so that’s probably not the best idea either.
So for right now, we’re walking lightly around our “bee in a tree,” until we come upon a better method of eradication.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to throw a party for an enemy, I’ll be happy to supply the pinnata and sticks to hit it with….only thing is, I aint moving that nest so you gotta come here!

Meet Pearl, The Chicken Egg Setting Guinea Hen

I just got a new charger for my camera, so now I can take pictures again and the first thing I thought I’d do is introduce you to Pearl, our guinea hen that had been sitting on her clutch of unfertilized eggs for over 2 months, until one day she got off her nest and I decided to replace her dud eggs with a dozen fresh chicken eggs that had not yet found their way into refridgeration.

So far it’s been 11 days, and although she moved the nest about 10 inches from it’s original spot, she’s continued to set on the new eggs as if they were her own.  She’s got them in an old pickup canopy completely protected from the weather.  It’s under a stand of cedar trees so it’s nice and cool too.

"Guinea Hen, Homesteading"
This is Pearl. She was being visited by a couple of chickens, but stepped forward to say hi when I stuck my head in with the camera.
Pearl sitting on her chicken eggs. She's looking back to say "hi"!
"Homesteading, guinea fowl"
This is Pearl under her canopy. She's got a good view with windows all around. She can see right out over the horse pasture. Course, the windows are little dirty...

Only 10 more days and we’ll know if the new clutch of eggs was a success or bust.  She really deserves these chicks, no matter that they’re chickens, I think she’ll love them just the same!

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Organizing a Farm House

Have you ever decided to do a small, very simple project, like painting a living room, only to be paralyzed by the realization that BEFORE you can do something simple, like paint a wall, there are 4000 OTHER things that must be done first if the project is going to be done properly?

Getting the first wall painted in the living room was pretty easy and only required moving a stack of soap trays full of curing soap.

The next wall  though, is where all the problems start.  The computer must be moved.  We have a new desk set up in another room all ready to go so we can get the computer and my office, out of the living room…but first we needed to buy a long cord for the internet from lowes, which I did.  But, I actually needed two cords, and lowes is 40 miles away.

So, we could move on to the next wall, which looks easy to paint, except that it has a recliner chair up against it, wedged in between the wall and the sofa.  It’s new home will be where the computer now resides..but since the computer is not yet moved, we cannot move the chair for lack of space and it would be a real pain to move it.

The chair could go in the next room temporarily until the wall dries, but the next room is filled with a huge computer desk, plus about a million tools we need to work on all the stuff we are working on around here.

We could move the tools into the garage, but if anyone has ever seen how packed up and crowded our garage is…well, lets just say whatever goes in the garage is never found again.

And it could be found if there were lights in the garage….but before we light up the garage we have to rewire the house so we can tie it all in together with new wire….and we can’t rewire the house because we have too much stuff in here that either belongs in the garage or in the barn which has not yet been built….because we need new fences before we build a barn……

We did actually get a new front put on the house which looks really nice, only thing is we haven’t been able to finish it because we need to put up the batton strips, but can’t do that until we put up the pieces that run along the top and bottom, and we can’t put those up until we get the new cement laid over the old porch so we know where the top and bottom strips need to go.

We haven’t been able to do the porch for lack of time and too many feet wandering over it , plus the front door was the only way into the house!  We did finally get some steps moved up to the back porch so now we can use the back door and porch….which is falling down and needs work……………..

I’m tired just thinking about it all!

But, yesterday we think we did what we really needed to do all along to get a better start and be able to move things out of here so we’re not so crowded up and stressed.

We cleaned out the garage.

We have both pickups filled with stuff that goes to the dump or to goodwill or will be recycled.  And we can actually walk into our garage and not trip over stacks of stuff we need to go through someday.  Whewwwww!

I’m feeling better already!

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Casey Anthony Is Out Of Jail!

After watching much of the trial, especially the closing statements of the lawyers, I was shocked at the verdict of “not guilty”, as were most Americans, so when CG woke me up at midnight last night to watch Casey Anthony sashay out of the jail where she belongs, I really didn’t feel anything at all.  Except maybe surprise that she actually made it to the waiting car without someone in the crowd trying to make good on their death threat.

There really isn’t much to comment on because none of us have any control over what went on.  Casey Anthony, while acquitted by a jury of her peers, will NOT be acquitted in the universal flow of things.  She will get just what she deserves, although, like with OJ Simpson, it may take awhile and not be nearly as satisfying to us, the public.

I know most people are outraged by this case, and rightly so, especially when we keep hearing how much money she could possibly make by telling her story, selling pictures, etc.  It’s amazing.  I only hope and pray that some good will come out of all of this, maybe new laws will be made that can help protect more children.

In the meantime, we can hug our children and our grandchildren and our neighbors kids too and keep them close and safe with a watchful eye on them.

Our children are our future.

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Guinea Hen Switcheroo Update

It is now day EIGHT and Pearl, the Guinea, is still sitting on her new nest of chicken eggs!

Chicken eggs hatch after they’ve been incubated for 21 days, so hopefully in about 14 more days, Pearl will have her own set of chicks to tend too.

I hope she doesn’t consider them “ugly ducklings”.  Guinea keets and baby chicks look very similar and make similar little peeping noises, so I’m hoping she accepts them as her own.

She deserves them.  She’s tended that nest longer than any bird I’ve ever seen.  When the chicks hatch, it will be approx. 90 day that she’s sat on that nest.

Everyday when I look in under the canopy where she setting, I see her tucking in loose feathers and otherwise neatening her space.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chicken do that.

My one hope is that those chicks don’t grow up squawking like a flock of guineas!

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Southern Gardens

Since moving into a home we actually own and don’t plan to move away from any time soon, I’ve got the gardening bug a little more earnestly than in previous years….well, except the year before last when I actually had a neighbor with a tractor plow my garden, but unfortunately, it was taken over by bugs…and then last year CG spent an afternoon with a shovel, only to have a few turnips to show for it.

And they were for the goats!

We’ve got tomatoes this year.  Quite a few of them.  In red, yellow, plum, etc.  Not quiet the wide variety I’d envisioned, but the plants I planted are growing and actually thriving and DO have tomatoes on them!

We’ve also got some basil, thyme, pennyroyal and oregano, plus a really nice stand of highly fragranced lemon balm, which we accidentally rolled one of the water barrels over.  We were moving the water barrels from in front of the garage, to the garden area and decided we’d keep as much water in them as possible since they had filled up before we even put them in place.

A 50 gallon drum of water isn’t too easy to control, and we watched helplessly as our jumped off the dolly and smashed the loveliest patch of herb in the garden!

The whole garden smelled like lemon balm for quite a while, and even though it was crushed, it seems to have mended itself back together and is smiling in the sunshine just like before.

The thing I like about gardening in the south is that we have such a long season.  We’ve yet to plan our corn or cucumbers.  That was error on my part….not layering enough garden early enough to make suitable beds for either….there is ground ready now and we are about to plant it.

We’ve done the whole thing without tilling.  We’ve used tons of mulch and composted manure and rarely does it need water, except for the herbs and onions which were planted in hay on top of the ground. They get a little limpy now and then.

I was also hoping to avoid certain pests by making some planting later in the season.  Well, I didn’t initially plan it that way, but we’ll see if it works 🙂

Another thing about Southern Gardens is that you really do need to get in them either early in the morning or late in the evening unless you can stand sweating non-stop.  With little mid-day breeze and very high humidity, if you can survive your garden mid-day, you’re a whole lot tougher than me!

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The Old “Switcheroo”

Everyday this week has been so humid and hot that it’s impossible to keep the sweat out of my eyes, making me so miserable that I’m never sure whether I’m crying or not.

Being miserable is certainly something folks cry over every day, but it’s hard to stay focused on my own misery when there are  horses to take care of,  and loud-mouthed goats waiting to be fed and milked.

My own misery pales in comparison to loud-mouthed goats and my focus turns on quieting them as quickly as possible to relieve THAT misery.  They’ve been working hard at getting me trained and I think I’m almost there.  It’s what they call “natural goatmanship” and the girls are writing a book about it.

It’ll be a best-seller.

But in the quiet moments when they are not harassing me, I remember a few other things that need to get done, one of the more important being fixing the guinea problem we’ve been having.

Now, this is a problem I’ve actually welcomed because it has brought such peace and quiet to the farm…..if you factor out the loud-mouthed goats…it’s been very quiet around here for the last couple months.

Our pearl guinea, which I think I’ll name “Pearl” and from here on out refer to her by that name, our “Pearl,” a couple months ago, laid quite a nice clutch of eggs.  Twenty four to be exact.

Problem with that is, well, there are two problems really, the first being that we DO NOT want TWENTY FOUR more guineas running around here screaming at us.  We’d have to move or have them for dinner.  No way, no way, could we live with that noise.

But, the prospect of having 24 more guineas is really moot, because in order to have 24 more guineas, the eggs that Pearl is setting on would have to be fertile, which would have required at least one more guinea, the opposite sex of Pearl, and since we only have one guinea, I realized at some point that those eggs must not be fertilized and would never hatch.

But, try as I might, I could not convince Pearl of the fruitlessness of sitting on those eggs day after day.

Every day or so I’d see her streaking across the yard as fast as she could go, grabbing bugs as she was running past them, and then heading back to her nest under my son’s truck canopy that sits on the ground.

I didn’t have the heart to take her 24 eggs away, and was actually very happy she wasn’t roosting in the trees screaming at us every night while we fed the horses and milked the goats.

But, the truck canopy is not too far from the house, and with the temperatures we’ve been having, if one of those eggs happened to get broke, the smell would be unbearable.  If you want to know, without having to open an egg, whether it is rotten or not, see if they feel like glass or porcelain when touched lightly together.  If they clink like a fork on a wine glass, they are rotten beyond reason and if you have a dog like mine that loves opening rotten eggs… might need to get in your car and leave your property for a few hours.  It is THAT bad!

Pearls eggs vibrated together at a very high-pitched “ping” meaning, I’m assuming, that they were of the most rotten of the rottenest and something really needed to be done about them before the shells gave way.  I don’t know that even poor Pearl could survive that!

I had collected 12 chicken eggs and put them in a bowl on the counter.  They were fresh, fertilized eggs.  When Pearl left her nest this morning, quick as I could I switched out her “glass” eggs for the fresh chicken eggs.

I watched her go back in.

She sat on them!

She did look at them a little funny, but she’s back at work, setting on eggs, and hopefully they’ll hatch and we’ll have some more baby chicks!  I’m very curious what chickens raised by guineas will act like.  Will they scream and holler like a guinea?  Will the roosters crow?

Tune in next month when we’ll see if Pearl accepted her “switcheroo” and becomes a good chicken mama.

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