Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fulfilling the Dreams of Long Ago.

Life is Good
Best Friends

     I know that I have shared with you all that when we moved out here ten years ago I was starting my recovery.  My folks had come to us with an idea.  There was forty acres for sale in the country.  They had the money, Michael had the know-how to build a house.  The rest, as they say, is history. We moved out to the middle of nowhere, I took my name off of our bank account and relinquished my keys.  I went into rehab.  When I was finished with that I came home and started to reclaim my life and to help build this home that we all love so much.  We built this duplex, which we share with my mom and dad, out of a big warehouse that was already built on the land.  It's funny, it took me and my mom years to stop calling it "the warehouse" instead of "the house".  This might sound a little strange but being homeless at different periods in my life had a much bigger impact on me then even drug addiction.  I didn't care if it was on old warehouse, it was my home.  Something I could leave to my kids, and them to theirs.  Like it used to be in a different time.  When men and women built their homes and carved out a life for themselves.   It then was passed from generation to generation.  A place where there would always be room for those who needed it.  That is what we have always pictured for this place. 

The Red Bud we transplanted for mom when we first moved out here.

     Once we got things done with the house I turned my attention to cooking.  After all, I was out in the middle of nowhere, and I had given up all my play mates.  Taking care of the kids and getting to know my folks again was a joy.  However, I needed something else.  In my recovery I really strove to not only stop the addictions, but to take it to the next level and really try to get healthy mentally, spiritually and physically.  
     The quest to eat healthier led us to the knowledge that so much of what we eat is garbage.  Not even the "fresh" produce in the stores is as healthy as it should be.  Hence, we built our gardens so that we could grow our own crops.  That is what led me to become a Master Gardener.  I struggled with growing food in Oklahoma and I needed help.  I needed a LOT of help.  I was so blessed that Fran and Brian and the board of the Tulsa Master Gardeners  saw fit to allow me to be a part of this wonderful organization.  I've been in churches that didn't have people as nice and welcoming as the gardeners here in Tulsa.

The best farm hands in the world!

     We came into our chickens about the same time I had learned that the Master Gardeners gave classes to become a Master Gardener.  I had come across them in my many attempts to learn how to garden here.  I had to wait a year till the class was open again.  In fact our first batch of chicks got here while I was still in class.  The coop and run had already been built for awhile.  If you've read any of this blog of mine at all you'll know we do everything in stages.  We decided to get them because I had watched a documentary on how they raise, feed and slaughter them and on everything that is injected to them or their feed over the short period of their lives.  It completely freaked me out!  I could not feed that to our kids!  "We've got the room!  If you (meaning dad and Michael) will build it then the kids and mom and I can take care of them" I begged and pleaded.  Long story short, that is how this whole farm thing started. 

Our babies.

     I tell you all that to lead up to this:  At our latest "Farm Meeting" as we were going over all of our thirteen projects that we have on the board right now, to get an assessment of where we were on each one, what it would take to finish them and to put an order to them I made the comment to my mom and dad that I was not worried about it.  "It's not like we're going to be on the Tulsa Master Gardeners Garden Tour for at least a couple of years" I said jokingly.  My parents both laughed and replied, "This is important and we need to get them off the board and in to operation."  Well I am all for that!  We went over the list and assigned responsibility for the next steps to the right person or persons and concluded the meeting. 
     After Michael had already left and dad and I were still going over some things he stopped and said, "One of these days, after your mom and I are gone, it's going to be the first Thanksgiving with out us.  All of you kids are going to be sitting around the table, with all your home grown and raised foods and you are going to look at each other and say, ''Remember when mom and dad were pushing us so hard to get all these crazy projects that mom and I dreamed up done?  It didn't matter how complicated they were, if mom and I could dream it up then dad and Michael could make it happen."  Yes, tears immediately sprang to my eyes.  It's a day I don't ever want to come.  My parents top priority, in their golden years, is to insure that all their children and all that have and will follow in the coming years will have a the ability to feed themselves healthy foods and have a beautiful place to live while they enjoy it. To look around and see so many projects completed and so many so close to completion is truly the realization of the dream we all started so many years ago.  Thank you mom and dad.  I love you so.  Now, on with the show! 

The love is palbable isn't it?

     Life on our little farm is moving right along.  We are even getting a real tractor!  Now if that doesn't make you feel like a real farmer then nothing will.  I'm running through my mental Rolodex and the first thing that comes to mind is WE GOT OUR GOATS!  Yes, it happened and we are the proud parents of Isabella and Pepper.  They are sill on one bottle a day and will be till the 11th of May.  Then they will be weened.  By the end of this year they will be ready to mate and we will be in fresh milk, and all the yummy stuff that comes with it, next spring! 

Pepper and Isabella

     They are Nubian goats.  they really have the personalities of puppies.  It has really surprised me how intelligent and loving they are.  They are also very playful.  We are going to be building some ramps for them to climb in the middle of the pasture and they love to play with basket balls.  They have made the most wonderful addition to our farming family. 
     Getting all the fencing set up was quite the project and took several weeks.  We did ours just like the goat farmer that we got them from did his.  We keep buying 5-10 panels every time they go on sale at Tractor Supply just so we can keep enlarging their pasture. 

You can't see the goats, but the kids are feeding them.

Some more of the goats.

     We are on our second batch of meat chickens.  Boy did we learn a lot this time around.  It is much easier to get them at the first of September and butcher them mid November.  This spring has been so cold and we have lost a few to the extreme weather changes.  A few nights ago it was freezing and barely broke 45 degrees the next day and today was 90 degrees.    

Second batch of meat chicks.

     The very first night we got them we went out to dinner.  We had planned the dinner a few weeks ahead of time.  It was a Sunday.  Our chicks were not supposed to be here the next day, Monday.  So dinner time rolled around and we decided to bring the chicks out to Nate's trailer and put a heat lamp on them till we got home and could bring them back inside.  We have five cats that love to eat the heads of little birds.  When we got home and brought them in there were thirteen that were dead, or so we thought.  They had gotten wet and had slipped into hypothermia.  We noticed some of them moving and quickly grabbed the heating pad, turned it on and laid them across it with a towel over them.  One at a time we blew them dry with my hair dryer.  Sarah and I spent the entire night bending over them and flipping them and feeding them water with eye droppers every fifteen minutes.  We brought all but two of them back.  We were so excited. 
     Then slowly but surely, one here, two there, one there... we lost four more.  Two were Buff Orpingtons and one was the exotic we always get and one was a meat chick.  Then three more died once we got them out to the run.  Any way, after the four we are down because of today's heat it puts us at 39.  So basically all the ones we saved are dead now any way.  I think that going through something so extreme at two days of age is just too much for them. 
     I do need to share with you that at butchering time the whole famn damily is in on it and it is quite the experience.  The best things about raising your own meat chickens?  The chicken we raise blow the doors off the store bought chickens in both flavor and health.  I know what they have eaten, how they lived their lives, The cleanliness of the way they were butchered  and exactly what HAS NOT been injected into them or their food over the period of their lifetimes.

My girls and their boy.
As for my layers, they are wonderful and a joy to have.  We are selling eggs faster than my girls can lay them.  In fact, project number one on the board is expanding our layers coop and incorporating the goats pasture into their chicken run.  Yes, we will be selling pastured eggs instead of the free range we are now!  They will also do a great job of keeping all the ticks and fleas off of my goats.  We currently have 20 RIR's that lay for us.  (wait for it...)  We placed an order for four Buff Orphingtons with the meat chicks.  Three are left plus the exotic is also a hen.  That puts us up to 24 layers.  (wait for it...) We just placed an order for fifty, yes, you heard me right, 50 Leghorns this past Sunday that will be here the 20th of May!!!  This is very, very egg-citing, wacka, wacka, wacka.

The starts of our hoop house.

     The next big break through here on the farm is our 16' x 20' green house that will house a 300 gallon fish tank and 2 12' x 4' x 1'  beds that are raised three feet off of the ground.  This will house our aquaponics system.  For those of you who are not familiar with aquaponics I will do my best to explain.  It is the act of growing plants with out soil.  Instead you use a fired clay medium and the water from the fish tanks.  The fish provide all the nutrients that the plants need and the plants clean the water for the fish.   It is by far the biggest project on the board.  We will start with only one of the beds operational.  This will give us 48 cubic feet of space to grow.  However, once I get the kinks worked with the first one out we will get both beds  going and bring the total to 96 cubic feet  of growing space that only uses 10% of the water that traditional soil beds use.  The biggest help I've received in

The grow beds for the aquaponic system.
this effort is the book "Aquaponic Gardening" by Sylvia Bernstein.  I have wasted so much money on buying "programs" from people that do not offer everything you really need to know to do it right.  I even spent 25 -30 minutes on the phone with Sylvia herself who was kind enough to help me work out the final kinks.  If you are looking to do something like this you need to buy this book.  You don't have to start out with a system this big.  We did it because we have the room and we all believe in the cause.

Getting the sweet potato field plowed.
Russel, the wonderful friend who plowed our field.
     There is a couple of other things that I would like to wrap up with.  We are planting a field of sweet potatoes in the spring.  We already have the field plowed and are preparing the soil for planting next spring.  My dad's friend Russel was kind enough to bring his tractor over and plow it for us.  It's great having wonderful friends. There are two reasons that we are doing this.  1.  95% of all the corn on the planet now is genetically modified.  It is in 90% of all processed foods.   It is horrible for all of us.  We, as a family, are working towards not eating Frakenfoods any longer.  We do however eat our livestock and the things they produce.  Sweet potatoes are good for all of us.  We can replant them without Monsanto suing us, and most importantly it is real food!   2.  Our feed bill from the feed store will reduce drastically when we, our dogs, cats, goats, chickens and what ever else we end up getting are eating food we grow.  Thank God we have the room to do this too. 
     We have also planted a good variety of fruits this year.  As it stands right now we have three different kinds of apples, plums, peach, mulberry, raspberry, black berry, black raspberry and pomegranate, lemon, lime, and orange trees.  If I'd done it from seeds six years ago when I thought of it we'd already be getting fruits.  Oh well, we are doing it now. 

The field of dreams.
     These last two items I wish I had pictures of because they warm my heart so.  The first being my Master Gardener in training, sweet Sarah Anne and our future livestock manager, awesome Austin.  She's going with me to many of my MG events.  She'll be the first one to tell you why she's there.  I can't step out in the gardens or out to work with the farm with out her being by my side.  My grandson Austin is the first to step up with the livestock and the tough jobs that go with it.  By next spring he wants to be raising and selling his own goats.  They both do.  I hold high hopes for the future of

Poppa teaching Austin the ropes.
this farm with the generations that are coming up behind us.

     The second item is the field trip that we had out here this last Saturday.  A group of MG's from the new class came out to meet us and check out what we are doing here on the OSM Farm.  We've got another one scheduled with a very special group from Crossroads in Tulsa penciled in for September.  I am both blessed and honored to be able to pass an anything that can help others in their journey to living healthy.  You don't have to live on a farm to do it.  You just have to start where you are. 

God bless and God speed till we meet again.
One of the best investments of my time I've ever done.

Friday, December 7, 2012

     Nine months.  Seems a little bit hard to believe.  I could have had a baby since I last wrote anything.  I tried to keep this up quarterly.  You wouldn't think that writing something once every three months would have been all that difficult.  However, in the infamous words of my grandson, " Oh contraire butt hair."
Once the hole was dug we placed the tarp.

Then we weighted the edges down with dirt.
The finished product holds over 1000 gallons of water.


    In reviewing my last post I noticed that there are several things I need to catch you up on.  The "water hole" that we dug worked out great.  The deer love it too.  Every evening we can find them out there just after the sun has gone down.  It holds the water great and it's nice to have in case of emergency.  We did not get the bee hive.  The long and short of it is that we could not afford it.  Maybe one of these days we will but for now there was something else I wanted more.  We decided to put the money into fencing.  We did not plant any wheat or oats.  We discovered that we need to get rid of the sand burrs.  We also discovered that there are only two times of year that you can spray for them and only one product that you can use that is effective on them.  We will be spraying in January and again in April of 2013.  We will be doing that for two years before we will start to notice any progress in getting rid of them.  This year was HORRIBLE with them!  They even started creeping up into our yard.  It's hard not to bring them up though when we use the same mower on the yard and the fields.  What can you do though?  Buying a tractor with a bush whacker attachment comes to mind but the money is a problem.  Another thing goes on the "wish list".
     Also, we did not get the cows.  We met a goat farmer through my grandson's Scout Club.  We went over to his farm, picked his brain and checked out his fencing.  During the outing we learned several things.  The first being that it only takes 5-7 minutes to milk a goat.  Woot, woot!  This is much better than the 45 minutes it takes to milk a cow!  I can handle 5-7 minutes twice a day much easier than the other.  We also learned that we will get approximately a gallon of milk a day from one female.  We really need two gallons a day.  When you consider that there are eight people in our family and the kefir we make every day, not to mention the butter and cheese we will need you can see that the milk will go fast.  We're going to start with one female and one male, then mate them and go from there.  We'd like to get up to two females and one male.  Keep one male for mating and the rest will go to meat.  We've got all the fencing.  We will be setting that up in March when we get the goats.  I am very excited about it all!
My girls.
One days worth of eggs.
The meat chicks.
They are growing so fast!
The eggs are so beautiful!
The Cornish chickens at eight weeks.  They weighed 9 lbs.

     Our chickens, or my girls as I affectionately refer to them, are doing fantastic!  They are giving us the best eggs I have ever tasted.  I learned quickly that some hens lay more than one egg a day.  We have 19 hens and one rooster.  All summer long we were getting two dozen eggs per day!  I think our highest daily production was twenty-eight.  It has been a real blessing because we have been selling the eggs and the money has helped pay for their food.  I sell a dozen eggs for $3.50 and eighteen for $5.00.  Even with winter here we are still getting an average of ten eggs a day.  I am very proud of my girls.
     We also raised and butchered 50 Cornish chickens.  The meat is delicious and even with the cost of the chicks, shipping and the food it is still cheaper then if we had bought it all from the store.  Once we get the goats going we will have chicken, rabbit, goat and deer meat in our fridge and freezer.  Once that happens we will no longer be buying any meat from the grocer.  I am thrilled about that because we will not be feeding our family any meats that have been pumped full of steroids, antibiotics or hormones.  That is a big deal worthy of celebrating!
You've got to love the full freezer!

     As to our new composting system with the leaves was a HUGE success!!  With what we saved up last year we kept the chicken run full all winter long (it helps to keep their feet clean and gives them lots of stuff to peck at instead of at each other, lol) and made enough soil to top off all of our eight raised beds, mom's flower beds, the flag pole garden bed and my herb bed as well.  We still have about two full trailers worth.  I'm donating them to a fellow gardener to top off her beds.  The way we figure it we will never have to buy a load of dirt again.  We are not growing anything this winter in order to give the beds a rest.  I'm calling it the "spa treatment". 
The soil we made with the oak leaves from last year.
The chipper shredder that we put all the leaves and compost through to make the soil.
Straw mulch in the beds.  Really helped with the water retention!
Installing the hoops and wires.

The first shade cloth up and operational.

Shade system opened up.
    The new things in the garden are quite exciting this year.  We designed and built a shade system that worked perfectly this year to help with the heat we had this summer.  We will need to replace the shade cloths with a better material but the concept worked just as we had hoped.  It kept the heat off the blooms enough to allow them to go to fruit as well as keeping the moisture from evaporating from the soil too quickly.  We also mulched every bed very heavily with straw.  That was also a great idea.  The straw kept the beds wet for three to four days after each watering.  It effectively cut our water bill by one third.  The rain barrels did great this year as well.  The ones in the garden need to be redone however.  They need to be raised up on cinder blocks and the pipes need to be taken apart and cleaned out.  That's not a big deal though.  With everything we do we learn something new or a better way to do things next time.
     The herbs did really well this year.  The heat never seems to affect them much at all.  I wish all the veggies we grow did as well.  I love the way harvest time makes our home smell.

Harvest of the herbs.
Rabbit hutch.

The new shed.

Building the new stall.

The new stall finished.
       We did get the new stall built.  We turned the old one into a shed and built the new one on the back of it.  We also built some new hutches for the rabbits and a new run for the meat chicks.  The next project we are planning for now is a good size green house.  We'd like to be able to grow our vegetables year round and get to eating seasonally.  
     Well, that's about all that has gone on here the last nine months.  I hope everyone else has had as productive a year as we have.  See you next year!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

 These are the seeds we have started for the cold weather plants.

 This is our little greenhouse.

This is the little freezer we picked up for fifty bucks!  We'll use it to freeze the 2 liters that we have saved up this winter.  What will we do with them?  We'll keep the chickens and rabbits cool this summer.  Last summer was brutal and this summer is expected to be the same.
 These are our chickens.  We are expecting eggs this month!

MM did a fantastic job on the coop and run.  Haven't had a predator get in yet! 

Potatoes ready for planting in the tires.

Potato tires.

This is our new compost area where we are making the most of all the oak leaves and used straw from the chicken coop.
It holds about 100 bags of leaves and straw with room to spare.

This is the huge hole we are digging to capture additional rain run-off.  Once completed we will build a form and pour cement in it.  We can then use our sump pump to water the back yard gardens.

I forgot to take pics of the rain barrel system that MM built me.  They work fantastic and inspired this hole.

This is my son Nate and my sweet Sarah Anne digging the hole.