Thursday, July 21

I surprised a mama turkey and her two little babies yesterday while I was taking a walk in the back field by the fledgling orchard. They raced into the tall grass next to the creek bed when they noticed me which is completely dry. Normally flowing at about 4 feet deep in some places, we can now walk on the bottom and it is not even the least bit mucky. 

A slightly rare classification of "severe drought" has been announced for our area and we have not ad a substantial rainfall in almost a month. The passing thunderstorms that rolled through the area a few days ago gave us a very small bit of much needed rain, but it was not nearly enough. We need a day of good, steady, soaking rain but each day I scan the weather websites looking for a big green blob to float over our area of the state, seeing nothing but a radar map void of anything resembling precipitation. Days and days of no rain to come.

We have been watering the fruit trees every other day in hopes of getting them through this drought so they can survive and become productive next season. Such new trees being stressed is not something I like and losing trees is not an option after all the time and money put into this venture. With no running water in the back field and the creek completely dry I decided to put two, 50 gallon plastic barrels on my smaller wooden trailer and install a hose hose attachment with a shut off valve on the bottom of each barrel. I them bought two 25' garden hoses and attached them, knowing that the pressure would not be much, but it would have to do.

I secured the full barrels to the trailer with some tie-down straps and bungee cords and away I went out to the field, towing the trailer with the 4 wheeler. Turns out that it takes upwards of 4 hours to hand water 250 fruit trees and the pumpkins and squash plants between each tree. The four of us, myself and Roy hauling heavy buckets and the kids with their sandbox pails, went through 4 refills of both barrels before we got everything watered sufficiently. We are currently doing this every two to three days after work and chores. 

The embarrassingly weedy center portion of the orchard where the
drainage ditch project has dragged into its 3rd month.

Ironically, the drainage ditch that we have not needed at all this season is still a project that is yet to be completed, and that is turning out to be one of the most annoying homestead projects I have ever done. At this point, we have the trench completely ready for the gravel and pipe. There was a great deal more hand digging with the shovels and pick axe than should have been required given that Roy spent so much time out there with the backhoe. 

My frustration level with this project has almost boiled over in that it is taking so much time away from other projects that need to be completed. This past weekend we managed to put the first layer in the trench - the black landscaping fabric. This sits in the bottom of the trench in a "U" shape with the sides secured temporarily to the sides of the trench. The next step is to shovel in about 2 inches of small gravel and to lay the black drainage pipe, wrapped in a fabric protector sleeve, on top of the gravel. 

The landscape fabric in the trench, "U" shaped to allow both sides to be folded over the top of the pipe
 and gravel before the dirt is piled back on.
hard to see, but the black wrapped pipe is in there with the gravel on the bottom and the top.
This has required hand shoveling of all the gravel and trying to maneuver around tall and prickly weeds which have grown up around the trench. Mowing has been impossible even with the large bush mower since the dirt piled up from the original trench digging has made the ground drastically uneven.

As of this date, we have 100 feet of fabric and pipe installed with the 2" of gravel under the pipe. This weekend will hopefully result in the rest of that 100 feet of pipe being covered with the gravel and the rest of the pipe being put in. This depends on both undependable weather and labor (a 7 year old and a 4 your old).

The never ending list of homestead projects continues......

Wednesday, July 13

Apparently it is worse if you get it as an adult. Especially if you ave never had it before, and if you have a weakened immune system. It will get better in 10 days but it will take longer to shake the 'after-effects'. There is nothing we can do, you just have to let it run its course.

It started on June 25th and it was 10 days of one of the most painful things I have ever had in my life. Sparing all the gross details of hand, foot and mouth disease, it was constant, intense burning in my hands and feet accompanied by tremendous itching and general pain. The blisters came after a few days as did the red rash spots. Try to imagine a million needles jabbing you in your fingers and toes all day and night. You can not grip anything since even the slightest pressure on your fingers or hands is extremely painful. Same for the feet and toes - no walking for 2 days - and after those two days only a very slow pace wearing very thick socks.

I would not wish this on my worst enemy, except maybe that mean lady who doesn't like my dog.

Trying to accomplish homesteading, farming, or general housekeeping during the past few weeks have been a challenge at best. My husband did his best to help and so did the kids to some extent, but mostly I was left to wait it out and try my best. As I type this now, with my fingers functioning and just the slightest bit of numbness left in my fingertips, I am almost back to normal. When I went to the doctor on June 26th, I was in so much pain that I could hardly drive the car or walk into the doctors office. I sat there listening to them tell me the things I wrote in the first paragraph of this blog post and I was getting pretty upset. What do you mean there is nothing you can do? You are the doctor! There must be a pill. A lotion. A medically induced coma. Anything to make this go away.

Let me just say that I am very disappointed in the fragility of the human body. Maybe I have been jaded by too much star trek but I feel that in this time of technological advances, there should at least be a known cure for such medieval diseases like hand, foot and mouth. To me it ranks right up there with plague, scurvy and the black death.

Gross content alert  -- the peeling is awful. Every inch of skin that was effected on my hands and my feet has died and has been peeling off for about a week. It feels like I am shedding which should indicate a rebirth - strong and powerful. I don't feel like a survivor however. I feel like someone who still finds it painful to wear flipflops in July.

These past few weeks have been about me trying to do the best with what I have. The animals still need care. The garden still needs to be watered and tended. The beginning orchard needs to be fussed over and watered as well because of this horrible drought we are in. This involved hauling much water to the back field since we do not have irrigation lines. Add in the kids, the household and regular every-day chores and you really pay much more attention to how you treat your hands and feet.

A horrible way to end a blog post - be nice to your hands and feet! - but I can't think of anything more needed on a homestead than a strong pair of hands and sturdy feet on which to stand.

Saturday, July 2

Animal Happenings

Never a dull moment here as we plan, plant and restore the property. The animals, both wild and livestock, are a corner stone of production, protection and entertainment. As we have been working on certain parts of the land to get the orchard going, we have also been noticing how many different types of wildlife are making their homes in the areas of the property we are letting go back to nature. The deer and turkeys are more frequent, the ducks and heron are coming to the creek and there is so much noise and life in the woods now, even though we have not cleared any of the tree tops left by the loggers or repaired any of the damage done in the past.

This guy was checking out part of the orchard field where I also have my pumpkins. Took a quick picture and moved along, leaving him to his business. I know better than to mess with him!

The 12 new Isa Brown's have been moved into the coop and run with my existing flock. Since the existing flock is down to 8 hens and Cornwallis the rooster, it was time to add soe new egg layers to the production team. Hopefully these new girls will be keeping us and our customers happy with eggs in a few months.

Murphy, my baby boy and farm security system. He does his job well - guards the property, is great with the kids and the chickens, patrols the fields and loves to cuddle.