Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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Winter chores and a wildflower walk

Winter chores are nothing new.  While on the way home from town Friday, I noticed that the 36" culverts that carry the canal through my property were sort of getting overgrown and close to getting clogged up....

stoppedupculvertswebIt's way easier to clean out a culvert BEFORE it gets clogged with everything that culverts get clogged up with.  After chainsawing for about 30 minutes and piling everything up in between the culverts, I was able to get a small fire started to burn the debris....

fireatculvertswebOnce the fire went out I had a small bucket of glass bottles, a tractor bucket load of firewood, 2 clean culverts and a good workout!

I checked the beehive and was so happy to see that it was FULL of bees and they were BUSY!

After planting 6 flats of assorted greens; lettuce, kale, mustard, and braising mix in the large high tunnel, I threw several bags of leaves into the chicken pen to keep the girls out of the mud.  They love scratching in the leaves and will spread a pile of them in no time.

THEN I had promised the girls I would clean out their coop and put fresh leaves in there.  It's amazing how much quicker their coops get pooped out in the winter when they are stuck inside during cold weather.




I used hay last time for their bedding.  I won't do that again.  It turns into a solid mat that has to be chopped apart AND I had to put it in a separate compost area because I know how many weeds can germinate from hay--BUT it was all I could get at the time.  I refloored their coop with fresh dry leaves from my stash.   It smells wonderful.

Today was a gorgeous day so Hattie (the dog), Bandit (the girl kitty) and I decided to take a late afternoon wildflower walk.  There really are wild things to look at this time of year, and some are even starting to grow (I'm so excited!)  Here's a visual of our afternoon journey.

streamandbluffbehindhouse2.22.14webThis is a very cool bluff right behind the house.  The stream you see is it....it comes out from under the rocks where I was standing and goes back in where the black area is in the top of the picture.  Very cool spot.

tricklefromrocks2.22.14webThe rocks are leaking....look closely... maybe you can see.

moss2.22.14webBeautiful moss garden--it loves this weather!

columbine2.22.14webColumbine starting to show some life...

heuchera2.22.14webHeuchera showing its winter colors...

pachysandra2.22.14webNative pachysandra should be sending up white flowers before long.




and Walking Fern are still attractive through the winter.


The pond is full to overflowing with the recent rains.

Days like today give one that boost of sunshine desperately needed this time of year!



Open Farm day at Wild Things

I tried to capture the essence of the day in photos, but of course parts of it are blank :-)

Started out finishing up four CSA boxes for pickup today and the lettuce is still doing great



Some of the varieties are starting to bolt and taste bitter, but there is a new bed of seeds germinating, a bed of transplants, and several flats of plants ready to transplant in a couple of weeks, so we should be good on lettuce for a while longer.  One of the advantages of living "in a holler" is that it's cooler here so crops like lettuce, kale, and chard will continue to grow during the summer (most of the time).

Today was Open Farm day for the CSA members.  Several families were off on vacation and the threat for rain was REAL, like it thundered all around most of the time we were outside, but the rain held off.  One of the members and I set up a croquet court thinking maybe someone might play, but it was just too hot and humid to play.  BTW I found the croquet set at a yard sale for $3.00.  It was missing the red ball, which has been replaced, and today we discovered that one of the stakes and 2 wickets are missing--oh well, those are easily substituted.

Back to the farm.....we had good eats.  I love it when you say "pot luck" with no rules--well, the only rule I had was it had to be finger food and we cheated a little by scooping the beet and pea salad with chips, but all the food was great and the CSA members got to meet and visit with each other AND see where their food comes from.

inorchardWe worked our way from the house, through the orchard, down to the high tunnel



where I explained how the peppers are doing really well and the tomatoes are doing really crappy--well, tomatoes are doing crappy everywhere from what I here.  The awesome organic salad tomatoes are starting to make a showing though.....

The chickens showed everyone how much they love their new "chunnel" for "chunnelling" back and forth between their portable yard and their happy hen empire


and one of the members was explaining about how large the rose hips are on the rosa rugosa shrubs in the new border along the walkway to the chicken area.

Future plans are for an arbor to support the kiwi vines I purchased very very early in the spring.  I read somewhere that it is best to leave them in the pots the first year until they become established.  They were purchased from one of those catalogs where you can buy 10 plants and get 10 more for a penny or something like that.  Four female and one male plants made it to my place and are doing great in their gallon pots.  It will be in the area between the two beds in the photo below.....



I also explained to the group how I'm slowing killing all the lawn area in the yard by mulching with newspapers, cardboard, compost, rotating the chickens through an area for a time, and using bagged leaves from the enormous leaf pile.  I have sprayed a few really weedy areas prior to mulching, but I'd rather experiment more with sheet mulching and leave the spray for the fence rows.  So far I've planted rugosa roses, raspberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and Echium vulgare (bee plant) in these newly created beds.  Everything is doing really well, so I'm slowly expanding "the kill zone". 

One thing that we did collectively do was everyone brought a coffee cup or plastic drink cup to use  today and then leave them at the farm.  I'm going to keep the cups in a "party box" to use instead of throwaway cups.  We'll get to the plates next . 

All in all it was a great day.  As you can see, the dogs Hattie and Lucy are in most of the photos, and the newly rescued kitty cats "Smokey" and "Bandit" got their share of attention as well!


It's fun to share this little corner of the world with folks that appreciate knowing where their food comes from!  And thanks, Kim for being the photographer :-)


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.....


Dogs are the funniest people.......

Late this afternoon--make that "greatly sunny" afternoon I took a break in a porch swing on the west side of the house.  The 4 resident dogs decided to join me.  Me, Hattie and Reuben (the Catahoulas), Angus (the Boxer) and Cooper (the Bad-Haired Terrier) were soaking up some rays when Angus noticed a ball of stuffing (from a comforter someone shredded earlier this winter) about 3 feet from the edge of the porch.  There was a dead leaf barely caught in it so the leaf was waving back and forth in the breeze.  Angus stared at it, cocking his head from side to side when he suddenly decided to attack it. 

His jump sent the whole pack into "attack mode" and everyone jumped up and over the porch rail (it's only about a foot off the ground) and tumbled over each other because Angus was right there tending to the polyester invader.  I had to chuckle. 

Little episodes like this around the farm are better than buying tickets to a movie :)


Recycling--Country Style!

Any farmer knows that to make ends meet, you've got to get creative!  I'd like to share with you some of the ways items find new uses around this farm. 

The chicken coop is framed out of pallets that metal roofing is shipped on.  They are 9 feet long x 3-1/2 feet wide, they are very sturdy, and a few straight ones and a little imagination go a long way.  The house is now covered with board and batten siding salvaged from a dead tree.   Inside the chicken coop are a kitchen cabinet with 4 nest boxes in it and a chest of drawers with 6 boxes in it.  You could say the Happy Hens have a "furnished house", complete with floor covering made of rubber roofing salvaged from a roofing job. 

The shop attached to the greenhouse is also framed from pallets and the windows are from an old house.   The greenhouse was salvaged for the price of hauling it off on a trailer behind a pickup truck, but the real cost was in figuring out just how all the buckets of gasket materials, different size glass panes and different channels would all work out to make a greenhouse to attach to the shop (without instructions).  It leaks here and there but it's great!


An old laundry tub serves as a washing station down at the gardens.

The 3/4" solid oak paneling in the farmhouse was salvaged from a local restaurant being demolished.  The oak covers the bottom half of all the walls in the house, plus made some very usable kitchen cabinets.  The glass doors on the upper cabinets were salvaged from a bookcase that had been discarded.

The floor in the foyer is made of rosewood, salvaged from---you'll never guess---pallets made to ship copper coils.  It hasn't been sanded and finished yet, but it's really unique. 

One of the bathroom doors came from the same restaurant


and the other one came from an old house in town.  The kitchen sink (temporary) is an old service bar.  It has a really nice big tub and two side drain boards, but the hole is rather small for a kitchen sink.  I've got my eyes open........

The door under the stairs is a door from one of the Homestead Houses built about 75 years ago.  The backside is a "z" bar.  The wooden latch is handmade and the knob was found at an old house site in nearby Knoxville.   The hinges have been in a box for years and the entire ensemble was provided and orchestrated by my awesome significant other :)

Feed bags are utilized for trash, and mountains of leaves from a nearby community are recycled on the gardens each season. 

The chickens are the major recyclers of kitchen scraps and garden waste. 

It takes lots of imagination, storage space, and treasure piles here and there to hang on to items that "I'll use that someday".  You never know, that day just might be today!


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 :)


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!


Projects and Presidents

Anyone who lives on a farm knows about projects.  There's always something to build, tear down, fix, add-on to, move, clean up, or paint.  The latest project here on the farm is a greenhouse.  The greenhouse came from a dear friend who got it from someone else about 12 years ago, carefully stored it in their barn, and never could come up with a good place to reconstruct it until now--here on the farm.   It's like putting together a life-size puzzle with no directions and not all the pieces.  It should be ready for use in a few weeks, though--just in time for seed-starting for the year!

Now for Presidents.  I've never been one of those moms who would bore other people with "My kid did this" stories, but every President's day I recall what happened when my youngest son (now 21) was 4 years old.  He attended day care at the time, as I had an office job.  I went to pick him up at day care on President's Day and the day care worker told me to ask him what he had colored that day.  I asked him and he said very casual tone, "Everhead Naked".  I looked at the day care worker with a puzzled expression, and turned back to my son and said "Show me".  He pulled out a picture of Abraham Lincoln and proudly said "See, Everhead Naked"......priceless!



New Wintertime tradition

This past winter I celebrated the Winter Solstice with what I hope to be a new tradition:  canning tomatoes.  Yep, that's right.  I love December 21, just because to me it's hope during the dead of winter that warmer weather is on the way as the days begin to get a tad bit longer each day.  During the summer frenzy of picking and packing CSA shares, the extra tomatoes that aren't really pretty get thrown into big bags and tossed into the freezer.  When I have a few minutes to spare, such as in the winter, I take them out of the freezer, pop them into hot water for a few minutes, and the skin slips off really nice.  They are still too frozen to cut up into chunks, but a half hour or so in the sink will get them to a decent "mushy" stage so they can be chunked up, put in the pot, then canned.  It's kind of a "deja vu" of summer on a dreary winter day.
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