State of the Homestead: September 2018

Stae of the Homestead

It was a long, hot summer, but the homestead is finally getting a break from the heat.

Every year we try to do one thing that improves or makes our lives easier on the homestead. This year was the year I finished putting up weed barriers on the walkways between my raised beds. It’s helped immensely to keep the weeds down. Now I don’t waste so much time weeding.

I’m also in the very early stages of improving my soil. There’s a post coming up that’ll get into it more deeply. If you want to improve your soil, you’ll want to read that one!

Goats: The goat herd has grown, but I think this is definitely it. We’ll keep enough to keep us legal for our agricultural tax exemption, and we’ll downsize after the girls have their babies next year. The babies sell fast. People have even left their phone numbers with me asking to get first dibs on new babies next year.

I’m keeping at least one Nubian and one Boer doe, but I’m on the fence whether I’ll keep Captain Jack, our Nubian buck. He’s gorgeous, but kind of a pushy jerk. Ray Charles (our Boer buck) remains sweet and well mannered despite his massive size and horns.

It’s a conundrum though because even if we get rid of Jack, Ray will still need a friend in his pen. (It’s much easier to keep the boys separated from the girls until necessary.) Maybe I’ll buy a new Nubian boy and bring in fresh blood. We’ll see.

The girls have not come into heat yet, which is surprising since last year they came in early. It must be soon though because the boys reek to high heaven. They are in rut which makes them a tad unruly.

Quail: This was a failure. 🙁  It was incredibly hard to keep them safe. Even with extra protection, one raccoon still managed to get his hand inside the small diameter wire and pull out a quail piece by piece.

Chickens: Predators killed nearly all our chickens. Only two hens are left. We decided to change breeds and bought Americauna. Unfortunately one breeder sold us cross-breeds because those hens lay white eggs, not blue or blue tinted eggs.

I found another breeder who raised nothing but Americaunas. I bought two hens and a rooster and they are as show-quality as I’ve ever seen. They’re not old enough to lay yet. I have high hopes, especially since I took a leap of faith and paid more than I ever thought I would for chickens. LOL!

Wish me luck that these pay off!

                                                 Loofahs

Garden: It was a so-so year. Squash borers destroyed my squash AGAIN. I planted a few squash again later in the year, and they’re doing fine, but not producing any fruit. Next year I plan to cover them with fine mesh cloth and see if that helps. I am determined to prevail over those squash bugs.

The loofah plants are growing like crazy. If you don’t know what loofahs are, they’re the hoity-toity scrubbers you see in the cosmetic aisles.

I’m thinking I might sell packages of seeds this winter.

I planted them late in May and they’ve nearly taken over my entire fence. They were aggressive vines in SE Texas, but they’re much more manageable in north Texas.

I haven’t yet harvested sweet potatoes, but the three slips I planted have swelled beyond their 4 x 8 foot bed. That’s them in the picture on the right. I’m not a fan of sweet potatoes but Greg and the dogs love them.

The pepper plants are big and lush but did not start producing peppers until late in the season. I blame myself. I put them in a new area that had a little more shade than the rest of the beds. I won’t make that mistake again.

The new cherry tomatoes I planted (Sun Gold) were terrific! Not only did they produce through the worst of our heat, but they’re still producing. Recommended!

 

My other new trial has been a Persian cucumber. Like all cucumbers you can not let them sit on the vine long, but when they’re small, they are absolutely sweet and delicious! Another recommended variety. Of all the cucumbers I’ve tried, this has been my favorite for fresh eating.

I started a fall garden. A few tomatoes, some brassicas, and some chard.

The Home Guard: Iko turned nine this year. It’s hard to believe. He doesn’t look nine to me, though he has mellowed. He constantly gives us hugs. Iko is not too fond of jumpy kittens, but if Jazz doesn’t bother him, he won’t scream like a little girl.

Nana recovered from her knee surgery far faster than the last time. We’ve had a hard time slowing her down. She’s supposed to be recuperating for at least another month, but there’s no stopping her now.

Jazz got neutered 10 days ago. He is now free to go out if he wishes, but so far he prefers my lap. I feel bad that I can’t pet him as much as I’d like. Every time he rubs up against my face, I get welts. Apparently, I am allergic to cats. Oy.

Jazz is such a cuddle cat though. Our last cat liked sitting next to us, but this one wants to be hugged and loved on. He can’t get enough of us. It’s very weird in a sweet kind of way. He’s very vocal too. Constantly talking when we walk in the room, or purring the moment he’s on our laps.

Maybe he’s grateful he got saved.

I’m grateful for the cooler weather. In north Texas, fall is still hot, but there are pumpkins on people’s porches now. That’s how you know it’s fall.

How is it over by you?

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22 Comments

  1. Maria, it truly sounds like things have turned a corner and for the better in many areas for you folks and the animals.

    Our way. Let’s see: Karl bought a 20/38 Diesel John Deere to help him outside with the “heavy chores”. It was outfitted with a nice commercial tiller, a front loader and a box blade with teeth so he has plenty of extras to add to the tractors capabilities.

    My Mom and I watch him wishing we could participate but not able to unfortunately. Mom loves tractors so she is especially happy for the man, it was a long time coming but at almost 59 he is feeling the “miles”. LOL

    Our weather has been milder, yesterday evening as a matter of fact the breeze outside late in the day was actually kind of weirdly chilly before sunset.

    Now we too may have a fall garden, first time ever so the anticipation is out of bounds for Karl especially as he can now till the soil with his new machine.

  2. Ronda Tutt

    Life on the homestead is never a dull moment. We loved having our goats – two males Bronco and Billy. The were Australian Boar Goats. We had a nanny goat too. She was a half breed of boar goat and something else. She wasn’t tall. She was the sweetest thing. The male goats were very entertaining. Sorry to hear about your chickens. We had Reds and Naked Necks. Yes Naked Necks lay green eggs. They were great layers. We fought off and did everything that we could protect them. In the middle of the night though, the new neighbors dog came and wiped us out. Sounds like you did good on your small crop. You did awesome . I’m ready for fall, it’s a welcome change. Love all your babies. It’s so cool to see their lives entertaining too.

    • Ronda: I can tell we’re slowing down–age-wise. We raise enough for ourselves and that’s enough. If we have extra we give them away.

      Goats are the most colorful characters on the farm. They’re smart too. I like to see them figure things out, even if it’s more work for us.

      We never had such a bad year with predators. There is so much new building going on a couple of miles away. Maybe it’s pushing the wildlife population toward us.

    • Mac: The pups are always glad to return the hugs. Iko is a big hugger.

      The weather people say we might get into the 80s next week. We’re still in the 90s and with the rain we’ve had it’s muggy–but it’s not Florida muggy. My commiserations.

  3. You sound busy – we did an acre field of luffa at our farm man was it ever a lot of work but a good and positive experience for the most part.

    Sorry to hear you had so many issues with the quail. They do so much better in large spaces on the ground. I’m bringing in Bobwhites as soon as my chickens reach 2 lbs.

    They’re currently using the quail run during the day and in another week they should be able to be out there over night. This will be nice!

    Life on the homestead is full of good and misfortunes isn’t it? But I believe there is always something to learn through these experiences that helps us grow and become a better people.

    • Carole: An acre! That is a lot of work. I think the best thing I like about growing loofahs is that it’s a great pollinator. The best I’ve ever seen. It’s worth growing just for that.

      I dispatched four of the quail last night and I plan to serve them tonight. If Greg likes it, I might keep the last two pair as breeders. They were very easy to hatch.

  4. Okay, I want to know what loofahs look like on the vine and how they get turned into fancy scrubbies. Do you do that?
    And don’t be picking on my boy Iko. “Scream like a little girl” indeed. You know he’s a big brave boy.

  5. Squash borers lay gorgeous bronze eggs on the underside of the leaves (if you can find them and kill, that would help), but once they hatch they head straight for the base of the stem to bore in and eat. the best thing I’ve found to deter them is wrapping a few inches of the base of the stem in nylons. Alternatively, you can try using foil, but nylon will adapt to the size of the stem. Good luck!!

  6. Joy Federigo

    Well Bless you and Greg! How you take on the challenges of Homesteading. I’m a country girl at heart yet live in a penthouse floor of a 7 story building facing the shore line. And I’m so torn between the life styles. Love the barn yard animals and loving on them, I freak out when one is hurt. I’ve raised many a stray cat, turtle and hummingbird, Starling and parakeets. I’ve lived amongst farms. And I’m allergic to cats and almost anything I touch. I do admire your knowledge, your marriage and devotions. Wish I was your neighbor. You have me hooked on the knowing more. Your FB friend Joyia

    • Joyia: We are city kids and everything we learned, we learned the hard way. LOL! But it was fun too.

      re: cat allergies
      I hear ya! Right now I’m fighting yet another rash from the cat. I try to wash my hands before I touch my face, but sometimes I forget. I push my hair off my cheek or scratch my nose, and boom, cat rash.

      PS I wish we were neighbors too. 🙂 You’d like Greg. Loud and very Italian.

  7. Inspirational as usual for us armchair gardeners. One thing that stood out that will probably give me nightmares or seed into a story was this “one raccoon still managed to get his hand inside the small diameter wire and pull out a quail piece by piece.” Great stuff – but not for you or the quail

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