State of the Homestead: September 2019

State of the Homestead

We’ve had a good year in the garden. It could’ve been better if I’d been more vigilant with garden pests, but all in all, not bad.

The spring garden is pretty much finished. Only the okra and the loofahs are still going strong. We plant the loofahs more for the bees and the hummingbirds than anything else. They are remarkably attractive to pollinators, and one of the few plants that will bloom in sweltering heat. It’s a pleasure to go out there and see all the different pollinators.

I started a fall garden. Just a small one: Six 4 x 8 beds. I’m hoping I’ll have enough time for the yellow squash to produce. The rest are cool season vegetables. We generally don’t have our first frost until December so I should be safe.

Goats: It finally happened. We sold all the Boer (except for little Red) who is destined for the freezer. What a production it was to sell these guys. We had two extra Nubians we had to sell too and they went fast, but selling the Boer was like pulling teeth.

The worst part about selling them is that we had to deal with so many idiots who were either trying to scam us or else they sent us crank texts. Honestly, I have never seen this many weirdos online before. One guy emailed me and started harassing me that I was illegally selling livestock.

I scratched my head on that one because he was almost hysterical with his diatribe. Normally I would delete emails like this but I was curious as to why he felt I was doing something illegal, so I asked him, with a warning that he needed to respond to me without profanity.

He was a little more sober the next time and rattled off some apocryphal rule on Craigslist. Since there’s a specific heading for farm products, I copied it and sent it back to him, assuring him that everything was on the up and up. He returned with another diatribe that I was obviously a commercial operation and not a real farm. At that point, I hit delete.

Craigslist used to be a good place for selling my animals, but not anymore. Never in my whole life have I seen so many unstable people. That’s the trouble with being online. People get stupid because they think they’re anonymous.

At least that’s over.

Quail and Chickens: Our quail experiment has done well this year. I put a couple dozen in the freezer early on, but I have another thirty+ newly born. They also will go in the freezer in a couple of months.

Quail are easy to harvest and dress. Chickens, many of which I will need to cull soon, take longer to get to size. I don’t mind plucking quail, but my fingers fatigue too quickly trying to pluck chickens, so I skin them. I miss the crispy skin though.

The Ameracauna chickens have been very nice birds. They’ve got good manners, pretty eggs, and they hatched without any problems. I’m glad I spent the extra money on my breeding stock.

Around the homestead: BOTH our HVAC units died within weeks of each other. I couldn’t believe it! They were twenty-one years old and I’m told that’s a good run for these machines. But when you have to replace them one after another it feels like a punch in the gut. It cost 21 thousand dollars to replace, my friends. I was sick.

Much as it hurt to write those checks, the new ACs have been wonderful. We bought upgraded systems that cool the house much more efficiently. We don’t have to run them all day long like we used to with the old system. With luck, they’ll be good until we’re too old to live here.

One new thing is that we’ve switched to 4 inch filters. I never knew such things existed, but apparently they’re much more efficient.

You might remember we were having trouble with our old work truck, the one we use to pull our trailers. Greg was feeling his age and decided to take it into an auto shop rather than climbing into the truck to diagnose it. After many days, the shop called us and said it’s a head gasket job, which surprisingly, they don’t do.

We think they were trying to dismiss us because they didn’t want to be responsible for a truck this old. They changed one small part but the truck still wouldn’t start when it was hot.

By this time we had learned we were now 21K in the hole because of the AC, so Greg felt he had no choice but to go in himself and find the problem. He didn’t believe them when they said it was the head gasket.

And guess what? It wasn’t. If this is the quality of auto service people now, I weep for the future. Greg meticulously sussed it out and decided it was the distributor and coil. He was right.

We need a new truck. This one has over 300,000 miles on it. But we’ll have to baby it until we can recover.

The cistern is finally up! Greg has been promising this cistern for two years, and he finally made good on his promise. It took some doing. We cleared the area of small trees and brush, relocated our existing septic sprinkler 30 feet away (a much bigger job than we anticipated), then we added gutters to my garden shed and attached connecting pipe to four 300 gallon totes. We don’t get a lot of rain in the summer, but come spring we’ll easily fill those totes. Our water bill is extreme so any help is welcome.

A new compost bin in our future: Greg built our old compost bins when we first bought this house, but now it’s in a cramped and inconvenient place. (My, how we grow into our spaces!) We agreed on a new location, but the price tag for the new compost bins was prohibitive.

Because it’s going to be in open view, it needed to be 1) not an eyesore, and 2) easily last 15 years without maintenance. That’s when I recommended making it out of cinder blocks. It turned out to be nearly half the price of what it would’ve cost if we’d built it with wood and wire and it’d be sturdier too. Greg’s going to build it so he can get in with the tractor to turn the compost. No more shoveling and turning by hand. Way-hey!

It’s the next project on the list, so I hope we can get that realized by November.

We burned another brush pile. Not our biggest one, but in the top five in size. I much prefer the more manageable sized fire Mike Keyton did at his place.

There are a few more projects for the fall, big and small. Greg still wants to build me a greenhouse. It’s a lovely idea, but there are so many other things more pressing, not to mention we’ve busted our budget with necessary, but expensive replacements and repairs. It’ll have to be a dream for another year.

Nana and Jammy: Nana really needs to go on a diet. I had her slimmed down to her ideal weight, but since losing our poor Iko, Nana gets “snacks” all to herself now. I won’t say who, but a certain husband has been instrumental in giving her too many treats.

Jams is in fine shape, but we discovered early on that he had a weeping eye. At first I didn’t think much of it because it didn’t seem to bother him, but I mentioned it to the vet when I brought him in last, and she said it was cat herpes. Being feral, he probably got it from his mother.

I was so distraught, but she tells me that it’s incredibly common. According to one article on Google, 80-90% of cats have it but don’t always show symptoms. If they don’t show symptoms, how would you know? Other than one runny eye from time to time, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.

There’s a new young cat who makes regular rounds to our place. He’s a black cat and very pretty. One day I was in the next room and I heard this horrible hissing and spitting. I thought, oh, no! Jammy must’ve cornered Godzilla. I’d never seen him act so fierce.

Nope. It was this interloper cat who was taunting him from the other side of the window. Jammy told him in no uncertain terms to beat it. He had dibs on this house.

Oh, brother!

So how has life been treating you? Have the seasons changed by you yet? We’re still pretty hot, but I hope we can cool off in a few weeks. Are you allowed to burn brush and leaves or do you bag them for the landfill?

And have you ever sold something on Craigslist? What’s been your experience?

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  1. Fall in the mornings here Maria, nasty humid heat wave starts though as soon as sun shines in daylight so by the end of day we have normally been in the mid 100’s heat index and high 90’s to low 100 or so actual temperature.

    Typical Texas change of season for us but when it does change will probably go straight to Winter again this year so not complaining about being too warm, most of the time anyway. LOL

    You two had a very productive year and as far as the downsizing is going good to hear that despite some crazy episodes it worked out for everyone in the end.

    Glad you are back, stay away and off your golf cart for awhile yet! Ha Ha

  2. Busy lady. I’m so glad you’re back to feeling like yourself again. :hugs:

    Life’s been okay here. The trees are starting to turn, but the heat hasn’t let up yet. It’s supposed to get up to 90 today. Bleh. We can burn whatever we want out here. In fact, the guy across the street used to regularly burn garbage until he finally sucked it up and got someone to pick it up every week. The guy down the hill rakes all his leaves into his ditch and has a big burn every year. We rake everything into the woods and let nature deal with it. (Not garbage. We have trash service.) The big leaf piles we make in the fall are pretty much gone by spring – between regular decay, the deer walking through, and the turkeys shuffling everything around. (Nature’s little composters, they are.) Large sticks and limbs go into their own piles, which are breaking down more slowly, but those make good hiding spots for critters. =o)

    • BE: I’ve often wondered about burning our trash, but there is still too much plastic in our trash. We have lessened the amount of trash we make though. We compost what we can, or feed it to the animals. The only thing I can’t do anything about is the plastic containers things come in.

      I like your idea about leaving some branches for critters. I’ve left a few big logs here and there. There’s evidence of them being used so I’m glad I left them.

  3. Busy busy sounds pretty awesome and I’ve found it’s not just craigslist… We are among living zombies… Enough Said… I could add a LOL but it’s heart breaking to witness the self destruction and idiocracy that stands before us. On a brighter note the goats are gone I’m wondering if you noticed fire ants all over your luffa vines?

    • Carole: It didn’t used to be that way. We’ve actually made some good friends selling to people we met on Craigslist.
      re: fire ants
      Not really. We get more ants (not fire ants) on the okra. They love the okra for some reason. I love seeing the hummingbirds on the loofah flowers. It can be invasive though, at least down in our climate. My niece didn’t get a fraction of the vines we did but I think it’s because she has a shorter summer.

  4. We’re having a couple of warm humid days here but are expecting thuderstorms tonight and cooling off tomorrow….outside of Chicago.

    I’m sorry you had to invest so much into the HVAC units…holy cow! I’m sure it will reduce your electric bill though…so that’s a positive.

    It’s been a while since I’ve sold any livestock on Craigslist. The last few times hubby came with me and we met the prospective buyer in a public parking lot out in plain view of store security cameras. I’ve only sold poultry so it worked out okay. But I don’t think I will sell on Craigslist anymore and will just butcher any extras.

    Best wishes with the truck!

  5. Ref Craigslist and that nutter, have you thought it might be one of your goats channelling him in order to sabotage such a transaction? It would be a very goaty thing to do.

    Glad you’re up and about and hopefully settling down for a quieter winter homesteading wise. Our only task is to cull a few more trees. Bernadette is surprisingly blood thirsty and rake in all the leaves for next years compost. Oh, and plant some roses in the place where the shed used to be. Nothing on your scale

    • Mike: Fortunately, all the goats who got sold were greatly surprised. I don’t mind saying that we were very sad to lose a couple of them. We raised them from babies.

      re: leaves
      I’m hoping to convince Greg to let me have a little area where I could move the leaves. I’d really like to make some leaf mold. It makes the very best soil.

      PS Bernadette is not bloodthirsty. She’s efficient. 🙂


    Sounds like things continue to be very busy at the homestead.

    I’m in the throes of moving…again. Not sure if it’s a wanderer’s fever that makes it hard for me to settle in one place and just stay that for longer than a couple of years, or perhaps the feeling of newness, the sloughing off of whatever has accumulated. Anyhow, I hope to get settled back down in the next month or so.

    • Angela: I have to make a confession. If I weren’t married I’d probably be just like you and move every few years. I have wandering feet.

      Greg couldn’t stand it, so I’ve resigned myself to making this the best home I can. (le sigh)

    • Madeline: We were in the midst of a no-spend month when we found out we had to replace our HVAC systems. Sometimes I think the harder we try the behinder we get. 🙁

      You are very lucky that you have a good mechanic you can trust. They’re about as rare as honest politicians.

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