Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chickens 2013

The chickens are huge.

They used to look like this.

We used to hand feed them.

We don't do that anymore.  It hurts.  And there is one - a Red - that purposefully bites fingers to make us drop all the feed.

We try and keep the feed to the feeder so they will churn up the dirt and the greens from the garden I throw in their enclosure.  This is one of the benefits/reasons for raising chickens - compost.  Or I should say - compostors.  I throw weeds, trimmings, fallen tomatoes, the plants I pull out as I rotate crops into their enclosure.  They LOVE it.  They eat the worms and snails and bugs on the plants and in the roots and scratch around.  And poop.  They poop a lot.

Then I throw some hay on that and they scratch some more.  This turns all the veggie matter over and over and mixes it with the dirt and the poop.  I throw on some dirt and then start the layers again.  In no time we should have lovely, well-turned compost.  Free, high in nitrogen fertilizer.

It's a win all around - the chickens get to scratch and eat veggies and bugs.  They don't poop as much in their coop.  They are eating all organic stuff that will improve their health and the quality of their eggs and we get super compost in much less time than if I was in charge of turning the stuff.  Pretty cool, huh?

South Texas Gardening Seasons

I am super lucky to live in South Texas for about 8 months of the year. The end of September ‘til May I can plant almost anything because whenever really get very cold. If we do have a freeze it doesn't last long here at my house. We live about 4 blocks from the water and that means we are always warmer than other parts of South Texas. I can literally plant and grow all fall, winter, and spring.
Summer? Summer is a whole different thing. It gets HOT here. Like days of 100 degree temps. Keeping the garden going means A LOT of water and that can get expensive and wasteful. So when I redid the garden I put in soaker hoses. I figured as hard and yucky as our water is I wouldn't get very far with a drip irrigation system. The soakers run for less than 15 minutes and do a fine job right now, in February, but I'm waiting to see how the summer goes.
Last year, in September, it was still super-hot. I wanted to get some peppers and tomatoes in so I tried something new - making shade. I used old sheers and lace curtains that were just taking up space in the cabinet and shaded the plants from about 3 o'clock until the shade from the garage hit them - about 5 or so. It seems to have worked great. This tear I'll be looking to put the material on frames or something to make it easier than trying to sort of drape the material over the cages.
We'll see. Half the fun of gardening is trying to figure out ways to work with Mother Nature. I love a challenge!


I planted pole beans and peas this year so I have to come up with trellising options. Last season I had some cucumbers in pots that grabbed the plastic fence that used to be around the garden so I want to trellis those. And I have some watermelon I might try it with as well.
Going vertical can save A LOT of room in the garden and because I sell at the market, more room for plants means more money. So vertical I go.
We replaced our old wooden windows this winter and I have a lot of the old windows stacked against the back fence. I wanted to do something with them that didn't involve just throwing them out, so I never had the construction guy take them to the dump. Turns out we used some on the chicken house, so that was cool. And I am thinking of attaching a couple to the fence to block where Winchester keeps trying to rendezvous with his Husky friend next door. I might paint the panes on those so they add art to the yard.
But I am definitely using several for the trellises I will need. I think it will look really cool in the garden to see these old windows there. Here is what they look like before I mess with them.
And here is what they look like when I take out the glass panes.
I plan to run garden twine in the openings because the plants will need that support, and I am also going to put them in with stakes that will let me make them two frames high. I think it will be awesome when the vines are wrapped around frames. I'll let you know!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fez is a Dog-Cat-Chicken

Fez thinks he's a dog. Always has. He hangs out with the dogs most of the day. If they are laying in the sun, so is Fez. I call the dogs in, Fez comes running. He grooms them and greets them with a shoulder block and rub. He thinks he's a dog.
So now I guess he wants to be a chicken. After the pitiful thing this morning he started trying to rub on the chickens. He followed one around and tried to scratch around on the ground. Again - weird. Really, really weird. Fez the Dog-Chicken-Cat. Jeez.

Fez and the Chickens

Fez is my cat.  He’s wonderful.  Fez is super independent most of the time. Unless he feels needy. Then he's super needy. He does this really pitiful thing where he meows and blinks really slow at the same time to add extra emphasis to how pitiful he is.
This morning he was sitting near the chickens again. But instead of stalking them or staring them down, he was doing the pitiful meow at them. He tried it on a couple of different hens. They just "bokked" at him and kept scratching and wondering around.
Pitiful. And weird. But that's Fez - weirdly pitiful.

Plans, plans, plans

Today was actually pretty decent around here. We've all been feeling a bit under the weather, so chores have been piling up (the dead dryer didn't help) and the house feels out of sorts. So I went outside to work. Ha. That's me.
I've decided to clean up the patio and backyard. Getting the garden in and then expanding it, getting the chickens into a house and the house in the right place, growing stuff . . . well, let's just say it's a mess out there. Since I spend do much of my time out there - I want my comfy, welcoming patio back!
Here's a picture of the mess.
Here's another.
You see what I mean?
Pretty bad. It doesn't help that this winter we had our old windows replaced and that means there's chips of old paint and little pieces of wood and masonry everywhere.
So I started with scrubbing off the patio and rearranging things. Here's a picture. Better already, no?
I have some plans for this space, some projects to make/do. I'll post my progress as I move through them, but for now my focus is figuring out who needs a new pot and dividing and repotting my plants.
Here's the list of the rest of what I have in mind:
1. Finish painting the furniture bright blue.
2. Repaint the posts and framing on the patio cover.
3. Replace cushions on loveseat and chairs.
4. Add lighting - maybe string lights?
5. Make planters and shelves for the plants.
6. Install rods to hold hanging plants.
7. Paint back porch and steps - maybe a funky color?
I'll think of more, but that's what I will be up to for a while!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Booots :)

I FINALLY got garden boots.

Well, if you're form Corpus, they're shrimper boots.  Because shrimpers wear knee-high rubber boots.

And I notice that lots of girls on the campus wear them.  Which I do not understand because rubber boots are HOT and they have to get stinky.

But that won't matter for my boots. They are intended to get stinky.  I am going to wear them in the garden as much as possible.  I think they will really help when it's time to weed-eat.  I spend 10 months of every year in shorts and weed-eating is a dangerous issue to say the least.  The boots should protect the tender bits on my lower legs.  

For now, they are really warm, and really dry, and really easy to wash various kinds of poop off of.

Which is the biggest bonus.

Well, no, the biggest bonus is that they are blue.  And really cute.

Hey - priorities!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 13th and 16th Markets

Little Tree will have lots of lovely broccoli, some really nice salad mixes with dandelionspinachred & green leaf lettuce, and romaineheads of romaine and green leaf lettuce as well as fresh celery.  I will also have kale and samples of kale chips with recipes.  Of course the radishes are so yummy and pretty, so a lot of those as well.

I will also have our sugar scrubs so many of you love as well as lotions for face and body.  The new face cream is especially rich to pamper winter skin. The liquid soaps in Lemon, Pomegranate, and Coconut (exfoliating) are really nice for showers or face and I also have an Emollient Peppermint Soap designed to hydrate and moisturize winter skin.

There will be a brand new batch of Chamomile & Nettle toner for that really deep clean and to help control blemishes as well as Nourishing Lip Balms and Lavish Body Butters in Lemon, Mint, and Warm Vanilla Sugar.    

Want something in particular?  Maybe a certain scent?  Send me an email and I can whip it up for you!  littletreefarmcreations@gmail.com or like me on Face Book at Little Tree Farm and send me a message!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


a secret ingredient makes hamburgers taste like steakburgers

Thank You for Helping . . . Sort Of

I work from home and I do the majority of the chores.  The kids did most of them, but I'm back to taking care of the daily bits like the dishes.  And so when every once in a while my family helps, I appreciate it, I really do.  Sort of.

It starts when I open the dishwasher.  I have to say last night wasn't too bad.  I mean I didn't have to re-wash anything.  But the system used to load the thing boggles the mind.  I just stared.

Do they have no sense of how the machine operates?  There is a reason tall stuff goes on the outside and the utensils go pointy parts up.  Sigh.  We've had this conversation before.  In fact, I held a workshop - How to Load the Dishwasher and Why.

Opening the cabinets to put the stuff away I just stopped - and stared - again.  All I could think was, "Are they new here?"

My cabinets have been arranged the same way for 14 years.  A lot of thought and planning went into how my dishes and other cabinet dwellers are arranged.  14 years ago most of the house from about counter height down was ripped out to repair the sub-floor.  I'll tell you all about that nightmare in another post.  Suffice it to say that my contractor came to me one day and said, "You know, if you wanted to make any changes in the kitchen, right now is your only shot."

Joy!  Cartwheels!  Gasp!  Every woman's (and man's?) dream!  A new kitchen lay out.  Well, not so much.  I couldn't change where any of the services like electricity, gas, or water was - too expensive.  But I could decide what the lower cabinets would look like.  I moved the fridge and the oven around and installed pot drawers instead of cabinets.  I designed cabinets for food storage stuff, baking stuff, small appliances - you see where I'm going here.

In other words, for 14 years everything has been in its very carefully considered and built to accommodate place.  Yet not another soul in this house can mange to empty the dishwasher without randomly cramming stuff into the first available place they see.  Even my husband.  It's as if they have never opened a cabinet and gotten out the exact item they were looking for.  And because they can all cook, and often do, I know they know where stuff is.  The logical - I think - conclusion is that they also know where it goes BACK.

The evidence in the cabinets suggests a different conclusion.  I don't say a word - I already learned that lesson - and quietly start to rearrange, just glad for the help and the helpers who wanted to give it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Fly Trap

On my latest feed store run for chicken feed, I decided to grab a fly trap.  So I did what I usually do - I asked the nice lady that usually helps me if they had fly traps.  "Sure," she says.  Real talker she is.

"Which one works?" I ask.

"All of 'em," says my feed store guru.  So NOT what I wanted to hear.  What I wanted to hear was some sort of run down of the best fly killers available and the most effective GUARANTEED way to use them.

Because we have flies.  Oh boy, do we have flies.  It's January in South Texas and I worry that the flies will get together and airlift some chickens, or maybe the basset hound, right out of the yard.  And they get in the house.  Drives my husband NUTS.  And the basset hound.  She spends a lot of time staring into a myopic, droopy eyed, middle distance waiting to track, and hopefully catch, a fly.  Gets weird after awhile.  She looks like she's having what my great aunt used to call "a spell."  Weird.  Not as weird as when one of the chickens decides to track a fly.  They look like they're having vertical grand mal seizures.  Absolutely bizarre.  I'm afraid they may hurt themselves.

So we really needed a fly trap.  Make that fly traps.  Ones that work.  A lot of them.  To save the hound, and the chickens.  And me from having to listen to my husband comment on the flies fourteen thousand times a day.

Anyway, armed with these sooper duper traps, I returned home and went about the day.  I fed the girls, harvested, cleaned up.  Then I decided to tackle the traps.  Some assembly required.  It doesn't really say that.  What it says is "Carefully cut along dotted line."

See, the premise here is that of a real trap.  You cut a small hole in the top, pull out part of this plastic funnel looking thing, "fill to the line" and hang "near the presence of flies or areas where flies tend to gather."  My feed store guru said the trap would smell and that, "You wouldn't want to hang it by your backdoor or anything."

Which is precisely what I proceeded to do.  Because I thought, "Flies coming in the back is the issue here."  And because smell is relative. I mean, I spend most of the day up to my ears - well knees, anyway - in chickens and their (ah-hmm) detritus, dogs, cats, manure, compost, rotting compost, etc.  So smell for me is WAY different than other people's smell definitions.  Maybe that's why I love my own body products so much . . .

Back to the trap.  It works - like a charm.  As the bag says it "an attractant in 2 - 6 hours and flies will climb in the funnel and become trapped."  It's the attractant that smells.  And I finally smelled it.  After two days of furious fridge cleaning, trashcan maintenance, and yelling at the kid to clean out his soccer bag, I finally realize the whiff of unpleasantness was the trap - working.  Sigh.

To Begin Again

2013.  I haven't written a thing in over two months.  That's because I need to re-conceive this blog.  Going forward I plan to speak truth (more on that concept in a minute).  I will write about life, things I notice, things I forget to notice, and stuff I find along the way.  I think you're gonna like it.

Truth.  If there is one thing I have learned in 42 years on the planet, it is that truth is hard.  Though it WILL set you free, the process is never without doubt, never without a little twinge of discomfort at the very least.  I have learned if you can live with the twinges you will find that there is simply MORE of YOU.  The anxieties and second guessing that come from NOT living truth tend to fade away and open you up to MOVE - move on, move away, move up . . .

So try it.  Find one small thing that is not true for you.  Maybe you don't really have the desire or the time to volunteer on that project.  Or maybe you really don't want to get together with that family member all the time because they are negative and you feel exhausted after every encounter.  Or whatever.  You don't have to make this a big confrontation thing.  Often, whoever we speak to can't here our truth - that's part of what makes speaking truth so hard.  You speak truth for YOU - not for others, and not in any hope of a standing ovation from the universe.  You will probably not feel remarkably free or joyful or whatever as a result, either.  There is almost always doubt.  After all, you are a smart person - there must be a reason you have been doing whatever it is that makes you unhappy for so long.  The point isn't to have fireworks of joy, but to get a little space, a little relief.

Tell them you can't keep doing what you are doing.  You don't have to be specific.  They either won't care or will question you incessantly   It WILL be uncomfortable.  You might think, "Why was I doing this if they don't really care after all?" Or, "I hate this third degree, if I say no, I mean no." Or the truth deadly, "Maybe I should just keep doing this and tell them I will keep going." Listen to YOUR truth - not theirs.  They are working from their priorities - NOT yours.

If it's family - I avoid confrontation I don't think will make a difference and lie.  That's right - in speaking my truth - the need for relief from a situation - if I have to - I lie.  Tell them I have a conflict, or whatever.  As I have gotten better at this I stopped lying.  It is a lovely side effect of keeping up with speaking truth.  But lie if you have to - its okay - what you need is space and practice.  You can work on the honesty part as you get better.  Just promise yourself that next time you try to be honest.  Although sometimes you just can't with family.

So speak YOUR truth, if you can, somewhere little.  Tell your kids you won't do their laundry.  Make a family event of it - teach them to use the machine.  Buy a bunch of paper plates, napkins, cups, and declare weekdays a low-to-no-dishes-that-need-washing zone.  Give away half your stuff.  Whatever might give you some relief.  Speak your truth.

Namaste, my friends.