Tuesday, July 28, 2015

They Are Getting Braver

The kittens have been hanging out on the patio more and more but tonight they slept in a big cat pile right outside the patio door.
After they woke up they had a grand old time wrestling, prancing, and climbing. They are so much fun to watch. The kittens are learning to eat in the cat carrier. We are hoping to be able to catch them in the cat carrier to take them to get neutered. Keeping our fingers crossed.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mid Summer Flowers in Bloom

Midsummer is great for flowers. Everything is going crazy, including the weeds.
I love the variegated blue and white of these morning glories I planted to grow up the sad fig tree skeletons. They just started blooming yesterday morning.
The Black-Eyed Susans have been going crazy for a few weeks. The blood red dahlias planted along side them are just beginning to bloom but the pictures weren't very nice.
These Diablo Cosmos are just hitting their stride.
The Purple Cone Flowers are glorious this year and I found Foxgloves blooming amidst them. I am so glad the foxglove came back since they are one of my favorites.
The regular Cosmos, volunteers from last year, are also blooming like mad.
But the phlox are simply riotous!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kitten Update

The kittens are almost three months old and they are quite a lot of fun to watch. After the multiple moves mama cat was no longer able to keep the kittens close to their hiding place. And they discovered kitten chow. They prance and play on the patio and in the backyard throughout most of the day but are most active in the evening. We have spent many delightful evenings watching their antics while we eat dinner on the patio.
They are quite hungry in the morning and come right up to the patio doors.
The local association I found that neuters feral cats is running a special for the month of August so I am hoping we can get something scheduled. We still don't know how many males vs females we have as the kittens haven't let us get any closer than six feet.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Harvest Time

The first of the Cherokee Purple tomatoes were ready this past week, some of the earliest I have ever had. These are the grafted tomatoes that were growing in gallon pots and were about 5 times bigger than the Amish Paste tomatoes I planted the same day.

Pickling cukes are also coming in. I started a crock of fermented half-sours from a recipe given to me by my friend Lynn. She makes the best pickles and I only hope mine turn out half as tasty as hers.

The last of the fall planted broccoli yielded a tasty broccoli salad. And I have been occasionally picking Chiogga beets and zucchini and yellow squash.
The berries are continuing to go crazy. So far I have picked 29 pounds of blueberries, most of that now residing in the freezer.  The blueberries are definitely on the downward side of picking.
The red raspberries are getting close to finishing, I hope; but the fall gold raspberries are starting to ripen for their first harvest.
Last year I preferred the flavor of the red raspberries over the gold but this year the taste of the golds is superior. Must be the weather since nothing else has changed.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Silly Sheep

The sheep gave us a little mystery last week. I moved them to a new paddock on Tuesday afternoon and had 8,000 volts when I tested the fencing. Tuesday evening, while feeding the goats, Clara and Leda decided to jump their fence since they were sure they belonged in their old paddock next to the goats. It took nearly 45 minutes to get them back into the new paddock with the rest of their flock. While in the barn Alan decided to check the voltage of the electric fence and found nothing. By now it was getting dark so we did a quick survey of all the fence lines but found nothing big. The voltage loss had to have been the result of something big since I had 8,000 volts 6 hours earlier in the day. Alan traced the fault to one line and disconnected it so at least the rest of the fencing had electricity.

The sheep were also acting weird. They did not want to go to the lower end of their new paddock, preferring to stay up closer to their old paddock. They didn't even come down for some grain. I also noticed the ice sled was near the wooded area, about 50 feet from where it was earlier in the day. I had it leaning up against the chicken run since we had been using it to give the ducks a spot to go swimming.

The next day I went out while Alan was at work and scythed all the fence lines but didn't see anything major affecting the fencing. All the insulators appeared to be fine, but the switch to disconnect the offending run of fencing broke off in my hand. Just as Alan was getting home I had connected the line with clip and figured that should do it. Of course it didn't but Alan found the problem. One of the insulators was spun around 180 degrees and the fence wire was resting up against the metal T-post. Once he spun the insulator around and reattached the wire we were back up to 8,000 volts.

So this is what we believe happened Tuesday afternoon. One of the sheep, while exploring their new digs, found the ice sled and became tangled up in the cord. The entangled sheep took off in a panic, pulling the ice sled behind them. The ice sled flung around and hit the insulator, spinning the insulator around and causing the electric wire to contact the metal post and discharge its charge into the ground, pulling down the whole system. The wire is a little bent right at the insulator like it was hit. The spooked sheep then ran as far away from the commotion as they could, back up to the area next to their last paddock and closest to the goats.

By the next day the sheep had calmed down and were back into their usual grazing routine. But they still looked a little sheepish. And I moved the ice sled out of their paddock.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Rose of Sharon

Before we sold the old house I moved some of my favorite plants. The Rose of Sharon shrubs at the old house always bloomed by my birthday. The ones I moved have not bloomed until this year, on my birthday!
The original shrub I got came from my in-laws old property. It had many babies at our old house, some of them with the original purple flowers, some with more of a magenta flower, and these lovely white ones. I moved the white ones because they are my favorite and I figured some of their babies would have purple flowers. It's so nice to see an old friend on my birthday.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Back to Work on the Garage

Alan finally was able to get back to work on his garage/shop today. He got up early and bought drywall and was able to get the hardest pieces (under the mounts for the garage doors) on the ceiling up today.
His drywall lift was great. He was able to do all this without any help. That meant I could spend time in the garden and two hours picking berries. He says the rest of the drywall will go up much faster. I just can't wait to get his shop set up.

Friday, July 10, 2015

And Down Came the Tower

In our little valley there is very little reception for the radio, tv, and cell phone. There is no cable out here either. The prior owners of our house had a satellite dish but we just don't watch that much television. I wish we had better radio reception and you have to go outside to use your cell phone. Years ago, before satellite dishes and the internet, the prior owners put up an antenna tower in the side/front yard. We don't need/want/use it and it was in the way of the excavation for the garage end wall and expanded parking area. So down it came.
The tower was attached to a concrete pad by three bolts. Two of the bolts were hinged.
By unbolting the third bolt the tower could, theoretically, fold on the remaining two hinges. But we didn't want the tower to fall. So in came the winch (coming off the red Defender in the picture above.)
The Defender held the tower up, while Alan on his tractor pulled the tower out of the tree limb it was stuck in.
The tower unbolts into three sections. In total it is 28 feet tall. Anyone want to buy a tower? After all that work we had a nice roast turkey dinner with friends.

Monday, July 6, 2015

It's a Sheep Chair

Our sheep came with horrible hooves. The vet worked on them twice but they still needed a lot of work. Holding the sheep and trying to trim their hooves didn't work (they are still a little wild.) Enter Premier's "Deck Chair." This thing is great. It was easy to put together and held the sheep well. The only problem we had was due to the fact that our sheep are various sizes. The smaller the sheep, the more it was able to struggle in the chair. Our largest sheep, Mama Sadie, sat there just as calm as could be.
We were also better prepared for some serious hoof trimming. The spray bottle of soapy water and a good stiff brush made it so much easier to see what we needed to do. The second pair of hoof trimmers, bought when I couldn't find the others, made it possible for Alan to do their front hooves while I worked on their back hooves.
Before cleaning:
After cleaning:
After trimming
Their hooves still have a lot of cracking and flaking and some pockets. I have read about increasing the copper in their mineral to improve their hooves. Must do more reading about that. At least we have no more "elf hoof" sheep.
A quick injection of the second CDT and it was a tip out of the chair.
Definitely a good purchase.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Pruning for a Little Fruit Tree

My copy of Grow a Little Fruit Tree arrived just in time for the solstice pruning. Here is one apple tree before:
and after:
I have learned so much from this book and I'm excited to plant more fruit trees using this method. But the real proof will be in how these trees grow over the next few years.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Getting Better at Fencing Paddocks

I am finally feeling comfortable with my method for fencing the paddocks within the perimeter fence. These $1.99 step-in posts from Tractor Supply work well to create a "gate" at the end of a run. I can adjust the tension with the blue baling twine and untie the twine for a "gate" if I need to move the sheep.
These little gizmos are only 80 cents from Premier 1 but are worth their weight in gold when it comes to splicing two lengths of electric rope together or making a loop.
I also use these hooks to attach the rope to the electric wire and energize the rope. They add a little tension so if I have a short straight run I can use these to make a gate.
I need to get another spool to wind up rope as I am moving fencing. This stuff likes to get tangled. The spool is also nice to hold the longs ends left when I have a short run.
The sheep have totally adjusted to the paddock system and the electric rope.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Berries, Berries, and More Berries

We are in the height of berry season here. I was very late getting up my blueberry cage. We put it together two days ago and the blueberries are starting to ripen today. I am trying a different type of netting this year. Last fall I bought a 28x28ft piece of netting instead of piecing three foot rolls. It took three people to get the netting on but it seems to be working better. I am not sure how well it will survive the season as it is a lot flimsier than the old rolls. The netting feels like it will tear easily.
Every year when I put up the cage I can't remember which part goes where. Each joint is numbered but I forget where the numbering starts. NUMBER ONE POST GOES IN THE SOUTH WEST CORNER! Now I should be able to figure it out next year.

The raspberries are producing well this year. So far this season I have frozen 7 cups of red raspberries and eaten them on my cereal every morning. I have also frozen 6.75 cups of black raspberries. I'll make jelly when I have more time.

Today I picked 10 pounds of gooseberries and probably have nearly that much left on the two bushes. I made a gooseberry crisp and a gooseberry cake. Both were very tasty. The BBC has the best recipes for gooseberries. I still have too many gooseberries and will have to make up a compote to freeze. It will take forever to trim the "top and tail" from all those gooseberries.