Homestead Update

The garden is growing. Radishes have been up for a while – long enough in fact that I will probably plant another row within the next few days. Beans and cucumbers popped up within the last few days. Carrots, habanero peppers and tomatoes appear to be poking through but not far enough to tell if the little green sprigs are what they are supposed to be or if they are weeds. Drip irrigation is going in later this week, connected to the rainwater collection system. I’ll just have to keep an eye on the water level to be sure that I don’t burn out the pump by running it dry.

The chickens are devouring about four pounds of food per day and producing an average of eight eggs in exchange. That’s about fifteen cents per egg, capital expenditures excluded. I can live with that. A few still insist on laying eggs in front of the nest boxes instead of inside them, but most seem to have figured it out. No predator issues since the pit bull incident. I did trap the opossum after it returned for a second night in a row. I intended to release it a few miles away, but it tried to chew its way out and got its teeth stuck in the bars of the cage. I couldn’t get it loose and after several minutes of torment trying, I decided that a quick death would be the kinder option.

Cat Morella consistently visits for an hour every night for food and water. I’ve never seen her during the day or in person, but I’m happy that she has stuck around. I haven’t seen Cat Clara in almost two weeks. I expected the opposite, assuming that both didn’t choose to stay. I still have the bully cat and another gray cat showing up intermittently. If either would visit more consistently schedule-wise I’d trap and relocate them as I did the first feral gray one a few weeks ago. For now, I am stuck cursing them as I catch them on video after the fact.

It has been so very dry here for the past month or more. I definitely chose the wrong time to seed the front lawn. I hadn’t captured enough rainwater to water the area as long as is necessary absent any rainfall when I put the seed down, but I was hoping for a little cooperation from Mother Nature. No way I can afford to use county water for that large of an area. The bitch had other ideas and refused to provide any precipitation. So now I still have a brown front yard and most of the straw has blown away. A few seeds sprouted (less than ten percent) just to brown out a few days later when I ran out of irrigation water. I’m holding out hope that we’ll start to get regular rain soon and that some of the seeds/sprouts survived.

I finished the last of the major grading on the yard. I’ll have to make some minor to moderate repairs to areas that get high runoff, but I plan to wait until as much vegetation as possible has established itself so I’m not just pissing in the wind. We also put in a gravel and paver stone front walkway. It butts up against the house, making less area to edge/trim. I’ve lined the tractor implements and the trailer along the edge of the back yard to keep them out of the way. Except for occasional smoothing of the driveway, my tractor use is going to be largely limited to mowing going forward. I have almost 410 hours on the little Kubota, though. I do pick up the occasional side job with it, so I doubt that I’ll sell any of the implements any time soon.

We upgraded internet service this week. The cable company changed its distance-to-tap rules recently, allowing us to get service. It’s a solid 200Mbps, compared to barely 10Mbps from our DSL connection that we’d had since deciding that satellite internet bandwidth limits weren’t worth the hassle. $50 per month for a year, then whatever the normal price is after that (currently $75). We’d been paying just over $70 for DSL, so I decided that we might as well have the extra speed even if we don’t need it. When I called the phone company to cancel, they miraculously found a plan that comes out to $30 per month including taxes with a guarantee that the price will never go up as long as there is no interruption in service. I really hate when companies do shit like that. They could’ve saved me almost sixty percent, but chose not to offer to do so until a different option became available. I wish companies would just charge a fair price for a given service instead of playing stupid games. I agreed to the change, which delayed my cancellation by a month. I’ll probably cancel the service through the cable company after the first or second month. Like shopping at Walmart, I hate the phone company but significant savings is significant savings.

I bought a cast iron skillet after discovering that the one I was sure that I had was nowhere to be found. It came pre-seasoned, but I’m doing a couple more seasoning cycles on it as I type this. I seldom cooked things in skillets the last few years, but now there are eggs… In the same order, I bought a splash screen. Because sausage and bacon. As I was unpacking it this afternoon, Wife informed me that we already have one. Oh, well. Amazon offers free returns on this particular item, so off I went. When I initiated the return, they offered a “returnless refund” allowing me to keep it while still giving me my money back. I guess the cost of the return and restocking was more than the eleven dollars that I paid for it. I’ll take it, and keep the new one as a backup. Two is one, as they say.

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Controlling Your Food Supply

I like eggs. I also like fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and green beans. But I’m not fond enough of any or all of these for it to make economical sense to acquire a flock of ten chickens or spend the time and money required to build a large raised garden bed. But I’ve recently done both.

With the current dipshits running the country strongly suggesting (read dictating) that we reduce our red meat consumption to four pounds per year among other things, I feel a strong urge to rebuild my stock of staple and shelf-stable foods and start to produce as much of my own perishable food as possible. Diety only knows what other stupid shit they’re going to try to cram down our throats while they simultaneously destroy the economy and finish ruining the value of our fiat currency. I’m also back to considering goats after initially discarding that idea as too much work for a meat that I’ve learned that I’m not all that fond of. I can spice it or make it into a stew that will mitigate enough of the flavor to make it acceptable.

In about a decade, I’ll be retired and collecting social security as well as pulling funds from my retirement accounts – assuming that both still exist at that time. By then, I fear that my entire monthly payment won’t pay the rent (tax) on the home that I supposedly own, much less feed me. The more I can directly control, the better. I’m fat. I can stop eating for six months and will still be borderline overweight. But six months won’t be enough time for the country to unfuck itself unless I miss my guess. Plus, fuck .gov and their meddling.

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Eggs

I like eggs. But I’ve taken a few days off from eating them since Wife got home from a week with the new-ish grandkid up in Virginia and we’ve had normal meals. My chickens continue to shit them out at a rate of seven or eight per day. Exactly. Today there were eight. Yesterday seven. The day before yesterday, eight. You get the idea. I have no idea why I thought I needed ten birds.

While wife was away, I ate six eggs and a couple pieces of sausage every day. (Yes, I know that’s not the healthiest meal to have every day. I don’t care – I like it.) That, combined with the fact that she took all we had with her when she went to see the grandkid kept the on-hand inventory low. Until now. She’s been home four days. We have three dozen eggs sitting on the counter.

I could probably sell them, but that would require dealing with people. And I hate people with the intensity of a thousand suns. On a good day. Plus I don’t really want people to know that I have the ability to produce even a fraction of my own food. Something tells me that food is going to get scarce and expensive in the near future and I’m liable to have more than just renegade pit bulls to contend with if too many people know. So, I’ll be boiling a dozen tomorrow to make into egg salad. And I’ll be going back to my normal half-dozen scrambled with sausage per day.

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Chemical Warfare

Late last week I happened across a gallon sized freezer bag full of jalapeño peppers. I haven’t grown jalapeños for at least five years, maybe closer to ten. I figured they were probably freezer burnt and unusable, and then I had an idea.

I dug out my dehydrator and loaded them up in there. Two days later (several of the peppers were huge) they were all nice and mummified. Tonight I fed them to my coffee grinder a few at a time. I figure I’ll use the resulting powder in recipes or on foods that require a bit of extra heat. I already have ghost pepper powder and red savina habanero pepper powder, so some much tamer jalapeño pepper powder would be a good thing. Right?

The powder from the “tame” jalapeños could be used as a chemical weapon. I thought I was being careful when transferring the product from the coffee grinder to the small tupperware container where it will reside awaiting use. Well, I guess I wasn’t careful enough. I inhaled the tiniest amount of power that floated into the air. My sinuses and tear ducts emptied immediately. I’m still coughing, almost an hour later. Wife had already laid down, but was still awake. She came out to make sure I was going to live, then stood in the doorway of the bedroom laughing her ass off at me for five minutes.

I’ve taken a direct hit of OC spray before. That was child’s play compared to tonight. I guess I’ll have to break out the respirator from my hazardous chemical handling days the next time I try that trick.

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No Good Deed

You try to do the right thing. You try to follow the rules. But then life and the government team up to conspire against you.

Yesterday after work, I decided to load up some scrap gutter pieces leftover from my rainwater collection system installation and take them to the landfill. My taxes (and a $3.00 White Goods Fee collected on every appliance sold in the state) pay for disposal of household trash, used motor oil, batteries, electronics, and scrap metal at no additional fee to residents. There’s a “Convenience Center” five minutes from the house that takes most stuff, but metal isn’t on the list. It’s open until 1730.

The landfill proper, which is the only metal collection point in the county, is twenty minutes away. Okay, there is a place that buys scrap metal but when I stopped by there a few years ago to get rid of a busted radiator (wasn’t trying to get paid, just wanted it gone) they gave me an attitude from hell. They close for lunch (who even does that anymore?) but couldn’t be bothered to post that information anywhere, close the gate, or lock the office so people know. And the one motherfucker who eventually wandered through was rude as hell, informed me that they were closed for lunch, and told me I had to be wearing steel toe shoes to enter the office (also not posted anywhere). I kicked the radiator off the back of the truck, left it laying in the parking lot and hauled ass vowing to never return under any circumstances.

Anyway, back to the landfill. I didn’t know that it closes at 1600 and the co-located convenience center at 1630. I got there at 1620. I was mad about missing the cutoff time for the metal, but went to the convenience center side to get rid of the regular trash and recycling. I dropped the bags of trash into the dumpster and pulled around to the recycling collection station. Dude had locked it and was getting in his truck to drive away. Wasn’t even 1625 yet.

Fuck that, fuck them, fuck the county and fuck their rules. I drove home, stomped and folded the gutter pieces into small enough pieces to fit in a trash bag, and took it and the recycle to the convenience center down the road from the house.

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Joys of Animal Ownership

There’s an intact male pit bull living across the street. I met him when the owner contracted me to till a garden patch for her a couple weeks ago, so neither of us is afraid of the other. He climbed the fence and came over when I got home today as I was checking the mail. I tried to run him off, but having met me before he wouldn’t run. I ignored him and backed the truck up to the under construction raised garden bed to unload the dirt I’d bought on the way home. As I was getting ready to climb up and start shoveling, the damn dog found my chickens.

It chased them from outside the run towards the coop, then jumped on top of the run near the coop and either it or some exposed wire yanked a couple feathers out of one of the birds. It couldn’t get through the wire to get inside the coop, and all the hens wisely hauled ass inside and up onto the roosts. Even so, it stretched and pulled down the wire that I had strung along the top of the run. I was pissed. I yelled and screamed and rushed it until it jumped off the run and went back out front. It still didn’t want to go home.

I came inside and got a pistol. (I usually have one on me when working outside, but I drove the truck today so I could get the dirt and I don’t keep one in the truck. And I’d just come home from work – a GFZ.) That fucking mutt was going home one way or another. I finally ran it across the street and yelled at it until the old cunt who owns it came outside. I told her what it did and that I didn’t want to hurt it but I did intend to protect my chickens. And I walked away.

She apologized to my back and mumbled something about not knowing how it got out. This is after telling me before I did the tractor job that it would probably climb the fence and come back to where I was preparing their garden plot. The fucking bitch knows. I mean, it’s only a three foot fence. Might reliably keep in a chihuahua. Definitely not a pittie.

This comes a day after a German Shepherd and what looked like a husky mix who wander through all too often found the balls to come up on the back porch and eat all the cat food. At least they didn’t fuck with the chickens.

And when I checked video from this morning I caught the fucking black and brown cat that ran Morella away from her food a few days ago eating the portion of cat food I put out before I went to work. I’m tired of feeding all the neighborhood animals except my own.

I just ordered a trap from TSC. I’ll be relocating the foreign cats. I hate to do it because cats can’t really be contained unless crated or inside and I don’t want anyone doing the same to my cats, but they come on my property, intimidate my cats and eat their food. Something has to be done. As for the dogs, I’ll try pellet gun first to deter, lethal if they’re attacking. Something tells me I’m not going to be very popular in the neighborhood soon. Especially if I have to dispatch a dog or ten.

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A Bit of an Update

The birds continue to produce eggs. Wife is taking 2+ dozen with her when she heads north to see the grandbaby and family tomorrow. I’ve held my appetite in check the last  few days in order to maximize the number of eggs available for her to take. They deserve fresh eggs.

I’ve switched water dispensing devices for them. Initially I had a traditional waterer, but they continually bumped against it and got water everywhere. This also depleted their water supply, leaving them thirsty by the time I got around to refilling it. So I bought a four gallon two-outlet waterer from Tractor Supply that is supposed to support twenty-four hens. They seem to be using it, although the level doesn’t drop quickly like before. They aren’t showing any signs of distress  so I assume that all is working as it should.

I repositioned the feeder, since I initially had the feeder and waterer on separate ends of a metal rod atop a section of 2×4. They are going through what is supposed to be a 7-pound feeder’s worth of feed in three days. I guess that’s not bad for ten laying hens. I have also made some grit and crushed oyster shells available, but they haven’t bothered it much.

They still lay the occasional egg in the middle of the coop floor, but most seem to have figured out the nest boxes and their purpose.  Eventually they will “get” it.

I’ve seen both the cats on video in the last forty-eight hours. Unfortunately, I also saw a foreign cat chase off one of our cats tonight. Looks like I need to buy more pellets for my pellet gun so I can run the fucker off. I wouldn’t mind if our cats had accepted it as a friend  but that’s obviously not the case.  Pellets ordered.

Today was a productive day. Camille got the rest of the wall done for the raised bed, leaving only one cinder block to cut to finish blocking the area around one of the foundation vents. Then it’ll be up to me to finish filling it with dirt and plant our garden for the year. I’m busy deciding our crops. Radishes, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes for sure, carrots and green beans probable. Depends on what is available.

I also rebuilt the shallow well jet pump for our rainwater collection and irrigation system and it finally works for the first time.  I had struggled to get it to prime when I first hooked it up, so I assume that I fucked something up during that process. I didn’t see any obvious problems with the original parts when I did the rebuild, but something was obviously wrong, as it worked perfectly after I replaced the components.  I was able to water the front yard with no problems. It might be too late for the seed that I put down two weeks ago, but I’m hopeful.  I gave them a good sip of water tonight, and plan to do the same every night for a week.

By far, the most frustrating part of the day was replacing the wheels on my landscape rake.  It was shipped with wheels that came apart within weeks, so I replaced them with cheap Harbor Freight pneumatic tires and 5/8″ threaded rod (to replace the existing 1″ shaft wheels. Unfortunately, this required heavy modification. Even more unfortunately, the thin tires didn’t hold up and I had to replace them again today.

I bought solid wheels in order to eliminate the pneumatic issue. The problem was with the 5/8″ shaft size versus the original 1″ shaft. When I installed the pneumatic tires, I used scrap pieces of threaded 5/8″ rod along with a bushing and spacers. This worked, but the threads were destroyed where the wheel hub was, making the subsequent replacement a stone cold bitch. I eventually got got the new wheels/tires in place and operational without having to buy new rod or a proper shaft.

I didn’t really need to do the tires today, but a neighbor had stopped by a few days ago asking to rent the rake on an upcoming weekend, so since there was a problem anyway, I healed it.  Now it’s available for income production should he follow through

I also sold my road bicycle today. I paid over a thousand federal reserve notes for it, plus accessories, but I’m way too fat to ride a bike. So I accepted $750 for it. From a soldier stationed at a nearby base. Who brought what appeared to be his male partner along. God and goddess, what have they done to my military? Whatever. Faggot money spends as well as any other kind, and they aren’t hurting me.

I imbibed a bit after calling it a day. I should  have been in bed hours ago given my current work schedule, but I just wasn’t inclined to follow a proper schedule. Fuck ’em. Camille leaves tomorrow to visit the grandbaby for a week, so my sleep routine is flexible. But now my bed calls me.

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Cats

I haven’t seen Clara, the black and white cat, in several days. Morella shows up every evening between 1800 and 2000 to eat and hang out for a while – as long as I stay inside and only observe via camera. A foreign black cat has stopped by several times the past few days for a meal, too. I can’t tell from the video image if it’s the same black and brown one that I saw a couple weeks ago, or if it’s yet another one. I still put out the same amount of food as my two were eating while confined on the same schedule. Seldom is much eaten during the day, but often both the morning and evening portions are gone by the next morning.

I hope Clara is okay and I’m just not seeing her on camera. I don’t want foreign cats to clean out the dish before she gets around to stopping by for her meal and she leave the area because of no food. I mean, the goal was to have mousers in the area, but I’ve grown rather fond of my two and they are my priority.

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Damn Birds

So, I built this nice outdoor run for my new flock. They use the first ten feet of it. For about two hours a day. The rest of the time they are inside the coop making a straw storm. And shitting out eggs everywhere but in any of the nest boxes. I collected a dozen eggs from two places on the floor of the coop this afternoon when I got home. I put three fake eggs in each nest box in the hopes that they will get a clue. I’m not holding my breath, though.

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Farmer Grumpy – second attempt

Those who have been reading my rambling missives for a while know that I had chickens a few years ago. They did fine for about nine months, until a hawk found them and took them out in short order. I’ve wanted to try again, but I refused to get more without at least trying to build a safer environment for them first and I hadn’t gotten around to building an improved enclosure until now.

I toyed with several different ideas, but settled on a six-foot wide by two-foot tall run against the house. It goes along the entire far end and back third of the home. Total length is about sixty feet, for a rough total of a little more than three hundred square feet. The sides are 1/2-inch hardware cloth and the top is standard 2-inch poultry netting. I didn’t bury the hardware cloth, so it’s possible that something will dig underneath, but I hope that doesn’t happen. The house itself is the inner barrier, which saved money on fencing.

The coop is a generic 10’x8′ Arrow metal storage building on a plywood base with a one foot square hole cut in the side so they can get in and out of the run. (That was a bitch to assemble, by the way.) There are two eight-foot roosts, four nest boxes and a feeder/waterer station. I had one bale of wheat straw left from my grass seeding adventure last week, so I spread about half of that on the floor. I’ll switch to wood shavings once all the straw is gone.

I’ve chosen Rustic Rambler hens for this attempt, mostly due to availability. A nearby farm has some that are just starting to lay that they are willing to sell. I’m getting ten tomorrow. I have to pay a premium for birds this age, but I will benefit from not having to wait months for egg production. They are a cross between a Black Copper Maran male and a Barred Rock female. They’re supposed to have a quiet temperament and lay large dark brown eggs at an annual rate of 260-280.

I liked my Buff Orpingtons, and the same farm offered to get some and raise them from chicks for me. I declined, not wanting to wait six months for them to grow up and start laying. I put in four very long days getting the coop and run ready, and will have almost a thousand dollars invested by the time I get them home. I want to be eating that first egg by next weekend. When these start to drop off in egg production, I’ll probably refresh the flock with Buffs.

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