Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
[ Member listing ]

An "A-Maizing" Day

I went to visit a friend today and he said he had some "maize" seeds that he had been meaning to give me but just hadn't remembered until today......I thought maize was just corn--well maybe colored corn, tasteless corn....Indian corn.

I had no idea that it was a "precursor" for lack of a better term--to our modern day corn.  I don't even consider GMO crap modern day corn.  Look at these pictures and you'll understand my excitement!

maize1webHe gave me a small garbage bag full of assorted ears of corn and they varied from the normal Indian corn to an unrecognizable ear of corn-like grains of wheat on a cob with purple husks and dark silks.....oooohhh!!!  I had no idea this was what the original maize was like.

maize2webIsn't that the coolest thing!  I bet the native Indians were excited to get corn that didn't have husks around each kernel :-)

maize3webSee that little red corn seed on the lower ear of corn?  That is what is inside of each of those wheat-looking kernels on the ears.  I picked it out of an ear and put it on that ear to get it in the picture.

I hope they will germinate, cause I'm gonna have some serious FUN growing these babies!

BTW I've Googled it and can't find much info.....if you know more, please share!





A Tree Fell in the Woods

It was a sourwood, to be exact, in the woods, in the back yard.  Upon closer inspection I realized that there were multiple wild grape vines in the tree....mmmmmm I know exactly what to do with those!  Hang them in the foyer :)

There are more vines out there but this is as far as I've gotten so far....LED white lights behind the vines--for Christmas and the rest of the year!


Mr. Rooster, Sir

The Happy Hens at Wild Things Farm get a lot of attention.  One of the key players in the lives of the Happy Hens is Mr. Rooster Sir. 

Mr. Rooster Sir has been with the Happy Hens ever since the beginning.  He did have a partner to watch over the chickie chicks but his partner was mean to the girls so he went bye-bye. 

I've noticed that Mr. Rooster Sir watches over the girls constantly.  While they are busy pecking and scratching, he's watching out, looking, ready to sound an alarm if there's danger.

One day a hawk perched in a tree way too close to the chicken universe and Mr. Rooster Sir sounded an alarm.  All the girls scurried into their safe haven (aka chicken house) except one.  I didn't actually see what happened, but I think the hawk actually almost made contact with her because she was hiding underneath a corner of the coop.  I gathered her up and put her back in the house with her companions.  They were upset for a day or two after that incident. 

The next day after that encounter, I took fence wire and went across the pen in a zig-zag manner so birds of prey wouldn't be able to "swoop" down and grab one of the girls.  So far it's worked really well keeping critters from swooping.  It does take my hat off occasionally when I stand up too tall in the pen.

A few months ago one of the CSA members shared a sourdough starter with me.  I've been keeping it fed and tried a few bread recipes but they've all turned out to look and feel like one of those discus thingees they throw in the Olympics.  The chickens love testing my mess-ups!

Another observation:  Mr. Rooster Sir will stand there and wait until all the girls have gotten their piece of bread before he will even attempt to get one for himself--a true gentleman.  So appropriately named.

Back to the successful breadmaking experience.  The recipe I used makes a "sponge" from warm water, yeast, and the starter, then let it set for 10 minutes then add flour, sugar and salt, mix together and let rise for 2 hours then knead.  This is where I was messing up.  I wasn't kneading the dough enough. Kneading sufficiently gets the gluten broken down enough to hold the dough in shape while it's baking.  So knead, and knead, and knead until it's really pliable and holds it's shape.  I "googled" sourdough bread not rising and figured that out.  The bread turned out perfect.

Don't tell the girls!


Birds of prey

While relaxing this afternoon after getting the day's chores completed (completed, huh?) Anyway, I saw a couple of hawks circling an area of the property.  That reminded me of one of the first times I ever came to the property before I bought the place.  I was with an excavation contractor, picking his brain about where to put the driveway, and we were driving into the property and a hawk with a squirrel in its claws grazed the hood/windshield of the truck!  That was pretty amazing.  Since I've moved onto the place there was a juvenile hawk down near the pond.  I didn't notice it was there but one of the dogs was acting like something was awry so when I investigated, there was this juvenile hawk that would not fly off.  I was able to walk all the way up to the hawk, take this picture, then throw a jacket over it and take it to a local vet who cares for injured raptors.

That very same week I was driving down the road about 4 miles from the house and I saw an owl on the side of the road.  I thought it was strange because it was the middle of the day, so I stopped.  I was able to get out of the truck, walk up to the owl, say "hi", go back and get my camera and walk back over and take this picture....

I phoned a friend who was behind me on the road and told him what I had seen.  An hour or so later he came to my house and the owl had died on the side of the road.  It had obviously been in a fight with something else and it lost. 

 Last night I heard the "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all" call of the barred owl.  Although the farm is little more than a mile from I-40, there are still sounds and appearances of wild things.....


It's OK to Play with your Food

Since I'm the one in the family that has chickens, one of the dishes I was to take to the family Thanksgiving dinner was deviled eggs.  Anyone who has tried to boil and peel a fresh egg knows that it's nearly impossible to cleanly peel them.  So, in anticipation of being the designated deviled egg maker, I held 2 dozen eggs in my fridge for 6 months...no, just kidding!  2 weeks is more like it.  They peeled pretty good--I put them in a pot of cold water, brought it to a slow boil and set the timer for 10 minutes.  I put ice cubes in a big bowl with water and when the timer went off I put the eggs into the ice water for a few minutes, then peeled them.  The shells came off pretty easily.  A couple were a little testy, but not too bad. 

I wanted to use some olives stuffed with peppers as a garnish on some of the eggs, just for something a little different.  I took 2 capers and placed on each deviled egg (eyes) and sliced the olives to make a mouth that was open like it was hot.  I scattered the peppers around the plate to let everyone know they were hot so I wouldn't scorch the family members who don't appreciate hot!

 Remember Mr. Bill?  These reminded me of Mr. Bill---"Oh Noooooo!"

See, it's okay to play with your food!  These were a hit at the table :)



Am I losing it?

Today was one of those days when you wake up, know that you've got at least a million things to do, and the weather is cooperating.  I started out by grabbing the weedeater and the mixed gas can, which had only about 1/2 cup in it, and I headed for the blackberry patch.  For some reason, the distance between the three rows of thornless blackberries I have ended up being less than 5 feet, which is how wide the mower is that I pull behind my tractor.  Trying to squeeze as many plants in as I could, I guess. 

Anyway, this is the first time the weedeater has been started this year and I did empty the tank last year and run all the fuel out of the carburetor like a good girl, but when I primed, flipped switches, and pulled the rope, nothing happened----over and over-----you know the sound.  Not even a hit. 

Well, being the non-mechanically-oriented person that I am, I immediately started looking for stuff I thought could be wrong.  I took one cover off and there was a filter, so I put that back on.  The other cover took a really weird looking screwdriver to open it, so I abandoned that option.  Then I saw a really obvious looking rubber plug thingee on the front of the cover and I started picking at that with my pocket knife and voila'---it came off and there was the spark plug.  Well, it looked like a spark plug but I didn't have the appropriate socket to remove it, so I blessed it, put the rubber thingee back on, pulled the rope, and it started!  I don't know why, but I did a happy dance.

While weedeating (before I had to stop and go to the local store to buy more gas) I saw a really big toad flop out on it's back right in front of me.  I felt so bad that I had injured the little guy (this is where I thought I might be losing it).  I stopped the weedeater, stooped down and flipped it over.  The toad was still breathing and I kind of nudged it and it kind of moved, so I felt better and thought maybe I had just addled it.  I noticed on the next pass nearby that it was gone so I felt better about the whole situation. 

Anyway, the thought crossed my mind to kiss it to see if I would get my handsome prince, but I wasn't sure if it was of the "princitonian" type so I didn't want to chance getting a wart on my lip for nothing :)


Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all?

That's the song I'm listening to as I relax after the first delivery of the season.  Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all? 

All went well; there were several cool weather crops ready for harvest; spinach, bibb lettuce, gourmet salad mix, radishes, beet greens, some swiss chard, and a little arugula. 

The critter singing the song is a Barred Owl.  I don't hear them often where I live, but this one was singing his way around the mountain behind me.  I love music, but I love hearing wildlife sing it best and its a perfect way to end a very busy day :)


Wild Things happening all at once!

Spring is really springing in full swing this year.  It seems like everything is blooming at once, although I know it's not.  I took a break from the rigors of springtime gardening to "smell the flowers" and I took my camera.  This is part of what I saw on the farm.....

The really cool bluff behind the house is alive with flowers....

As I was walking along the pathway along the backyard, I noticed a Trout Lily in bloom.  They are so cute....

The woods are literally carpeted with these tiny ephemerals (they come up, bloom, and go away before the leaves get on the trees).  Another beautiful ephemeral is the Virginia Bluebell. 

The native plant nursery I owned for several years was about 15 miles from the farm where I am now.  I had a Bluebell plant that I nurtured for several years, so when I left that place I naturally wanted to take a few of my favorite plants, so the Virginia Bluebell was on the list.  I carefully dug up the roots and replanted them in the woods behind where the house was to be built.  Needless to say, I was totally in shock when the next spring revealed the entire hillside behind the house cloaked in Virginia Bluebells!  I still know where the one I transplanted is though.....


There are also Redbuds in bloom, Columbine, Toothwort, Hepatica.... and on and on.  I love spring!


Easter Eggs: Brown vs. White

I've always loved Easter eggs.  I loved changing an ordinary object into one of colorful beauty.  I loved coloring eggs when I was little and trying my best to imagine what I was writing on the eggs with the wax crayon that came in those egg coloring kits.  It was also difficult to keep those transfers still enough to keep them from being blurry; but it didn't matter--by the time we got through hiding the eggs for a week (imagine that much time out of a fridge now!) you couldn't tell what it was anyway. 

My best friend Kim and I colored eggs.  She thought I was a lunatic because neither one of us has had kids at home for several years, but it was fun!  I was always curious how brown eggs would look when colored so we did a "scientifical" experiment.  Here are the results:


The eggs on the left side of the towel were white eggs (notice the blowout) and the ones on the right were the brown eggs.  Overall, I would vote for the brown eggs.

I called my Mom and Dad a while ago and asked the proverbial question "Whatchya doin?"  They were COLORING EGGS!  75+ years old and they've colored eggs every year--gotta love it :)

The best part of the whole thing is that at my age I don't have to beg an adult to hide my eggs for me; I can hide them myself!


Irrigation, please

With today being April Fool's Day I kept trying to come up with some kind of April Fool's joke, but was just too busy with springtime chores!  This weather has been so awesome for getting crops going that it's hard to stop.  I did play an April Fool's joke on myself, though.

Each fall I have to remove the irrigation pump from the pond to keep it from freezing, drain the lines, yadda, yadda, and each spring I reverse the cycle.  Today was the day.  Everything was going just great.  Got the pump reinstalled on the end of the little floating dock that it is attached to, got the wiring redone, plumbing reconnected, and even had to install a new breaker in the electrical panel.  Everything was working just great, but there was a small drip coming from the pipe that connected from the pump to the pressure tank that needed tightening up. 

Channel locks in hand, I proceeded to turn the fitting--ever so slowly and carefully, mind you, but evidently the clamp on the black pipe coming in wasn't real happy, so it let go and I got to see just how much water can be pushed from a well pump with nothing attached to it!  I was drenched from head to toe in seconds!  It sort of felt good though, once I caught my breath.  Then I had to run to the breaker box in soaking wet overalls to shut the pump off.

Clamp tightened, overalls eventually dried out, sprinklers ran for a little while, I think I survived April Fool's Day just fine!


You never know what you can do until you try

This poster has been a source of inspiration to me for the 25+ years that I've carried it around.  For most of its life it hung on the back of my office door so when I had to "shut the door" whether it be to concentrate on something or coach an employee, I would always see this and remember to try really hard to excel in whatever I was doing.

One of the springtime projects on the farm is to build a combination chicken/garden house for the 20 chicks arriving in April, and I think that will be a fitting new home for my beloved poster.


All Cooped Up

Yesterday my friend Kim came over to help me install handrails on the house porches.  After we had been working for a while I noticed that only 3 dogs were around (I have 4).  Reuben, the catahoula, was no where to be seen.  I called several times, but still no Reuben, which is quite unusual.  About that time I noticed Angus, the boxer, racing around the shop toward where the chicken tractor was parked.  I ran over there to see a chicken flapping around the field, my really old Great Dane Buck, with a rare surge of energy, chasing the chicken, and Angus was double-teaming with Buck for fresh chicken for dinner.  That wasn't my plan for the bird, she just started laying eggs!

I was able to scream, stomp, and flail my arms enough to scare the dogs away. I scooped up the trembling chicken and headed back to the coop.  Inside the coop was Reuben.  His ears were down and his tail was way between his legs.  He was terrified of the roosters in there and he wanted OUT.  I had fed the chickens some bread earlier and Reuben decided he wanted to try some. 

After coaxing the very skittish pup out of the chicken coop, and securing the wire where he had gotten into the coop, my friend Kim shouted "Hey, an egg!"  That makes 4 eggs so far! 

 Each day on a farm is an adventure, and I wouldn't trade it for any other lifestyle.


Organic Matters

mountain of leaves

Weeds are a real issue to most gardeners..... well, all gardeners.  I've read that 60-80% of a gardener's time is spent weeding...what a waste!  Last year in a futile attempt to smother weeds that were taking over several beds during ALL THE RAIN, I used newspapers, feed sacks, whatever I could find to cover the ground when I couldn't keep up by pulling them.  It worked to keep the weeds down, but the papers are really hard to keep in place and they're not too attractive, either.

Last year I was able to obtain a large amount of leaves from a neighboring community to utilize in the gardens this year for weed control.  Like most of the soils in Cumberland County, the soil on the farm tends to contain more clay than loam.  Clay is good, as far as nutrient content and moisture retention, but it's tough for roots to breathe, so as "plant parents" it's a gardener's job to make the soil as perfect as we can for our "plant babies". 

Organic matter in soil corrects lots of problems.  Adding organic matter will loosen tight soils, help sandy soils hold moisture, and helps with pH balance also.  I know, I know, it takes years to boost the "organic content" of a soil as far as a soil test is concerned, but  I can tell the difference in a soil that has been mulched just in one season.  Wherever leaves are, earthworms are, and wherever earthworms are, the soil becomes wonderfully loose and rich.

Anyway, I'm really excited about using all these bags of leaves on the gardens this season; the blackberries have already gotten their mulch and they smile :)


Advice from an old farmer

I get lots of neat e-mails from friends and family, and most of them are just enjoyed for the moment then deleted to the Recycle Bin.  Once in a while there's one I simply have to share..........stay warm and keep those pets warm too!

Old Farmer's Advice:

Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.  

Keep skunks and bankers at a distance. 

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.. 

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled. 

Meanness don't jes' happen overnight. 

Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads. 

Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you. 

It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge. 

You cannot unsay a cruel word. 

Every path has a few puddles. 

When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty. 

The best sermons are lived, not preached.

Most of the stuff people worry about ain't never gonna happen anyway. 

Don 't judge folks by their relatives. 

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. 

Live a good, honorable life.. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time. 

Don't interfere with somethin' that ain't bothering you none. 

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a Rain dance. 

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'. 

Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got. 

The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin'. 

Always drink upstream from the herd. 

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment. 

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.. 

If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.. 

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. 
Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God. 
Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight,
he'll just kill you.

RSS feed for Wild Things Farm blog. Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader