The last time I checked in I had just been accepted into the Mater Gardeners internship. Wow, was that an intimidating period of time! It was such an intense time of study and learning. The first few weeks I thought I had really gotten in over my head but as the time progressed I realized that either the weekly tests were getting easier or I was getting smarter, lol. The first thing I learned was the difference between dirt and soil. Dirt is what you sweep up off the floor and soil is what you grow your plants in. I have always loved gardening and when I lived in Idaho I had thought I was a great gardener. Then I moved to Oklahoma and quickly learned that I had been an average gardener that had been gardening in great soil. Down here in Oklahoma we have to make our soil. Taking that class was one of the best decisions that I have made. The people that are fellow gardeners are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. What I enjoy the most is the sincere desire of the O.S.U. extension office to help us learn to grow our food. No matter what the question is they will take the time to find an answer. You would be surprised how many younger people are calling or coming in to find out how to rediscover all the lost knowledge of growing food. In talking to them I discover that it is the economy that is driving them to do so. Then they taste the difference in flavor of home grown food compared to corporately grown food and they are hooked!
We got the chicks in late October. They have been a joy to raise. The kids and I have had so much fun watching them grow. I'm not quite sure how we are going to proceed in regards to butchering them and restocking. It would be easier to just buy them, raise them, get the eggs while you can and then butcher them and start all over again. You can't introduce chicks into a group of grown chickens or they will kill them. I guess we could have a hatchery area. I don't know... I'll have to put some more thought into that. They will be laying eggs by next month! I am excited for that to start. Once we can sell eggs we will be able to cover the cost of the feed. I'm sad to say that we lost our camera and have not been able to replace it yet so I will not be able to post any pictures of all the wonderful times that we have shared in this new adventure. I spent a lot of time yesterday reading up on all my chicken blogs and learned so much! I will be adding a couple of wheelbarrows full of our oak leaves to the run. It will accomplish several things. The first being to help keep their feet clean. Secondly, they love it and the bugs it brings. Thirdly, it will help slow down the erosion from all their dust baths and last but not least, it will break down into compost for the garden.
Speaking of composting, we added a new feature this year. While I was still in my MG classes I got the chance to pick Steve's brain. He's the compost guy. Until this year, we have always burned about 100 bags worth of oak leaves every fall. When Steve heard this his face got this flustered look and the first words out his mouth were, "Shame on you. Don't you know that oak leaves are like gold for your garden?". So, having been properly chastised and motivated, this year we created a 25' x 25' area to compost them. It was relatively easy and inexpensive. Wish I could show you what it looks like. Once we get another camera I will catch up everything. We bought a hundred foot section of the orange material they use on construction sites to keep the debris from blowing off the site. It's not the prettiest thing to look at but hey, this IS a working farm/homestead and it ain't always pretty. By next fall I'll be able to restock the soil in the raised beds and I won't be spending the money on having a load of soil brought in! Yep, I'm feeling pretty thrifty (and proud of myself, in case you couldn't tell) about it. Between that and the double-barreled tumbler composter we have I don't think we'll ever have to buy another load of soil.
We are going to start breeding the rabbits this week. We will be providing meat for our household and one of my brother's as well. They have been the easiest and the cheapest to raise. Were you aware that rabbits are only pregnant for thirty-one days? Lucky ducks, or rather rabbits, lol. Another cool fact is that you only raise them eight weeks before you butcher them. Easy! If I could find a butcher that could handle rabbits I could eventually sell the meat to local restaurants. That would be another stream of income for the farm.
We will be getting a bee hive this spring. Did you know that honey is the only food that never spoils? Not to mention how expensive it is. If there was enough honey produced we could sell that as well making yet another stream. It will also help revive the honey bee population in this area and help with the pollination of our own crops. I am allergic to bee stings but as I've gotten older I learned that if you don't freak out they pretty much leave you alone and if they don't then squirt them with the hose and they will. My new son Nate has agreed to harvest the honey for us and seeing how he has done it before I am more than happy to let him.
This spring we will be building a new stall (we turned the old one into a storage building) in preparation for getting two cows, one male and one female. Why? Meat and milk silly! Speaking of real food, here are a few sites you all should check out.
We are also trying to find some one to plow a few acres for us so that we can grow some wheat, hay and oats. Hay to feed the livestock in the winter. Wheat for the grains and for the straw that we use in the coop. Oats to feed the chickens and us. Haven't had much luck. If you know of anyone please let me know. Luckily, all three grow well in sandy soils. Another crop that likes sandy soils are potatoes. We will be doing the tire method this year. I learned it from "Mother Earth News". It is one of my all time favorite magazines. They have the scoop on everything we are doing here and can help you too. Here is the link for them. http://www.motherearthnews.com/ We will be starting them this month along with the rest of the crops that do well in colder weather.
MM has finished all but one rain barrel on our rain water system. I am really pleased with it. We get 1500 gallons off of our roof for every inch of rain we get. Amazing isn't it? If you are interested in finding out what your roof sheds here is the link. http://www.csgnetwork.com/rwcollectioncalc.html I am really hoping to make a dent in our water bill this year with the barrels we collect. I'll let you know how it goes.
The morning is foggy and I’m home alone, listening to Natalie Merchant and enjoying myself immensely! It's the perfect time to finish this post. The kids are at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. It’s a nice break from the homeschooling and I get to sort my seeds and get things ready for starting for the spring garden this year. We got the portable green house set up in front of my living room windows yesterday. I have the perfect windows for starting seeds. They get light from the time the sun comes up till it sets in the evening. It still surprises me how we live in such a small house, filled with six people, three dogs, five cats, a rat, snake, and a lizard. You’d think that it would be impossible that we could fit an area to start our seeds into the scene. Yet we do, every year. We, me and MM, always make the room, be it human, animal or vegetable, lol. I really like that about us. I get to live in a home of light and love, surrounded by the ones I love more than life itself, doing the things I love to do, living the life I never dreamed of yet can’t imagine doing anything else. It is all I could ever hope for or desire. It is so good to be me. It is my prayer that this finds you all feeling the same way. Till next time, God speed.