Monday, June 30, 2014

Year of Transition -- Shortened

When I decided last fall that "retirement" from my town job needed to happen, and started on the path of the Year of Transition, the "year" part of the timing seemed very right. It echoed the traditional "year and a day" and a change at the autumn equinox seemed appropriate timing for the commencement of the autumn season of life.

However, as often happens, it seems that the Fates and the Gods and the Universe at Large often have other ideas.

All I can say (perhaps only in hindsight justification) is that it only takes 9 months to make a baby human, and that is a heck of a transition, so it seems like that will be a reasonable length of time for this transition as well.  LOL

Several threads in the tapestry of my life have recently come together to indicate to me that I need to take leave of the town rat race, the chase for the cheese or however one chooses to think of the pursuit of the paycheck.

Yes, I am short -- WAY short -- of my intended goal to hit the official Senior Years free of debt. However, I shall survive and still have a reasonable expectation of being able to pay off those debts sooner rather than later. And yes, this post is deliberately somewhat vague. There is a situation in play, beyond my control, that may soon present me with what may be a good opportunity as well as a bit of stress/stretching in use of my time and talents. I am hoping to know more this week, but with the holiday coming, I fear that the decision may not be passed down until the following week.

Meanwhile, I have given notice to my part time employer, that the last Saturday of July will be my official end of employment. No, I don't often have to work Saturdays (the preceding Friday will likely be my final day of actual work) but that is the end of the pay period. They had asked for a month of lead time, if possible, to allow for finding and properly training my replacement. I have told them that, should the above mentioned opportunity actually present itself, I would like it if they could pull off replacing me in under a month, but I am not holding my breath.

Freedom Rangers, getting big enough to be supper!
Regardless of what happens on the potential opportunity, there is plenty to do here at Fussing Duck Farm and Dutch Hex Sign Dot Com. There are house projects that need completion, a garden to tend, wool and alpaca fiber to spin, and this week, meat to be put in the freezer. One of the Red Rangers has been heard trying to crow and the one we dressed out for Solstice supper proved to weigh in at over 4 pounds. Plus, I am expecting the new crop of meat birds for fall "harvest" to arrive in a couple of weeks... so we need to get these not-so-little gluttons off to freezer camp.

We were minus birds in the house for only a few days. Tractor Guy has been wanting to try guinea fowl, so when I found a good deal on 9 nearby day old keets, I took it. Then a friend ended up getting some broad breasted white turkey poults free -- she was at the right place at the right time -- and we cooked up a trade of some of the chicks she was hatching for me, from my eggs, for a couple of the turkeys. Then I discovered that another friend has an abundance of  heritage turkey hens, laying and wanting to set but is down a tom; we ended up with no hens just toms... so a trade will be made today once I get my truck back from the shop!

Yes, it's true... I WILL once again have my Artie truck... with new (rebuilt) engine and clutch! Today, with luck...

And with that note, I had better get going on the day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sweatin' With the Weeds

AAAAAND.... It's SUMMER!  In the blink of an eye, from a day that felt more like April to days that feel more like August within the same week.

the actual rows still need a first weeding but between is
getting under control thanks to Tractor Guy!
Pea trellises in place
So we are sweatin' with the weeds, trying to do as much in the garden in the early and late periods of less violent sunlight. Tractor Guy has set up the cultivator with all 6 blades on one side to work between the narrower rows (the tractor straddles a row of low growing crops and cultivates between that row and the one to the right).  IN the rows, with the seedlings finally big enough to see, weeding still needs doing. I attacked the spinach row today, hoping to actually coax them into not bolting, but with the temperatures, I am not holding my breath. I AM considering starting them in the house for a fall crop, if I can figure out the timing, and trying that in the spring next year.

You can see, in the picture above, a bit of the pea trellis that I finally got installed. Here is a better shot. There has been some very light predation, but one variety is beginning to bloom!  My trellis is make from several year old snow fence, cut in half lengthwise and some very fine black mesh bird netting that is on its last legs.

Double deer fence, along the front.
The first planting of lettuce is ready for market and eating; well started along just as we finished off the last of the accidentally over wintered stuff. And the second planting is in the gound. Now, I just need to make more tiny blocks and start the third round!

Double deer fence at the gate; outside is three strand electric, top
and bottom hot, middle ground.

The electric deer fence has been up for a few days, and appears to be working. We did have TWO places where the bottom line had been pushed up, so that the bottom and middle insulators were pushed right together, but I think the deer ended up shocking themselves as the middle is the ground. We fixed both of those places and have not seen any more issues. the inside fence that you can see better in the left picture is just a single strand of twine -- a visual barrier.

I have talked, I think, about the feed sack mulch strips that I made by taking paper feed sacks, opening them up along the sides and stapling them together to make a strip. Here are some broccoli plants that are happily using the home made weed block. In the end, it gets tilled in. Until then, it really does a great job of keeping the weeds away. I use this for any row crop that is an annual that will stand for most of the season (brassica, onions and kin, etc) and use cardboard for vine crops (pumpkins, cucumbers, etc) and perennials. Unfortunately for me, I have to weed the shorter season crops and those that get planted as seeds: lettuce, peas, beans, carrots...

On the hex sign front, I handed of a big custom sign recently to a local family that will mount it on their newly built camp! The robins represent the family's daughters, sitting on an olive branch for family harmony with love over all grounded in faith. The scalloped boarder represents smooth sailing through life.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer is a Comin' In

... and it arrived, overnight, with a rise to highs in the 80s.  whew.

I am hoping that on days when I can get into the garden early, that I will be able to continue through the day through the heat.  That's what happened, yesterday, when I was able to get the last of the tomatoes, all of the peppers and the herbs that had been languishing on the porch out into the garden.

Fence over cardboard mulch
As an aside, the tomatoes and peppers are planted through cardboard mulch, with old fence sections currently holding the cardboard in place. As the table tomato plants grow, I will raise the top of the fence and stake it in place at about a 60 degree angle, for the plants to continue to grow through. And I will use the fence as a support, tying plants as needed to keep the fruit off the ground. I lost a LOT last year to ground rot and ground dwelling bugs. 
Close-up of baby tomato plant
The sauce tomatoes don't grow nearly as tall, but also need some sort of support. I am plotting to just raise the fence sections a bit off the ground, using pieces of 4x4, blocks, bricks or whatever I have on hand... just enough for the plants to drape their branches over the slats and keep the fruit up and dry. 
Peppers just need cardboard for
weed control

The peppers don't need support, but I had the fences there and need something to hold the cardboard down, so they got the same treatment. 
Today, though, coming home from my stint in town a mid-day and having to dig through the garage to find boxes of shorts, summer dresses and tank tops while wearing my work attire (the previous single tank top, pair of shorts... now with extra cooling via a rip in the butt... and summer dress that I brought in for "unexpected" warm days were all on the line) kinda kicked my butt. So no garden for me today.

Hex painting was the order of the day, with a custom 4' sign on the table.

I have signed up with an online farmers market out of the nearby town of Dover-Foxcroft and will be attending their physical market on  Saturdays for a bit, at least. I hear through the grapevine that eggs have been lacking at the market, but unlike the previous sales venue -- a buyers club -- I can specify how many I have in the online stock page and can set aside ones for us to put by for winter.

Hopefully I will have some lettuce to bag for them this week as well.

I am frustrated by the lack of seedlings in my beet and carrot rows, but have stock to replant, which I shall after giving them all a good soaker watering and waiting a few days. Peas, spinach, potatoes are up, the onions and leeks are hanging on (need side dressing) and it's time to get some blood meal on the garlic. I will see about picking some up on Tues as we have been unable to find that which I thought I had.

Corn and beans and the vine crops are not showing yet, and I am frustrated by the cardboard in the vine area, which refused to stay put (to its credit I must say we did have some higher than typical winds) so will need to be replaced -- with the holes in the board matched up with the emerging seedlings -- once they show themselves. Puzzle time...

Physically, I am feeling more pain than usual. Cutting cardboard holes hurt, walking to and from the gardens hurts, etc. but it is still better than not. I do need to take times inside in between projects to rest the knees though.

Red rangers meat birds have been allowed to forage much of the day and have, thus far, stayed away from the garden. I have more coming early in July, so these guys will begin going to freezer camp in a couple of weeks. The few remaining layer babies should be going out into a chicken tractor soon. I just need to make them one then we will be minus indoor fowl for a few weeks.

Next project is a good cleaning of the bunny cages (including burning off the excess crud and hair that I cannot easily remove by other means) and moving them into the back room. this is the first stage of turning the current "living room" into a studio and the current computer room into the den.
And, of course, there is the front door project that we need to complete. Pix should follow at some point.

And, so, all is well as we approach summer solstice and the turn of the wheel to shorter days.