Saturday, May 23, 2015

When your cat brings you a tree rodent......

You make Enchiladas!

Ok.  So that was a pretty bad take on the, "If life gives you lemons" adage.  But it's still true.

A few weeks ago, Manboob, I mean, Outside Kitty brought me a gift.  A gift of a freshly deceased squirrel.  It's skull, just moments before, being pierced by my feline companion's pointy teeth.  Normally, Outside Kitty will show off his kill and then refuse to give it to me, but this time he laid his quarry down at my feet.  How could I not accept this gift without upsetting him?

So I got my handy-dandy squirrel skinning knife (a fancy pants knife brought back from Italy as a gift from a good friend of mine) and proceeded to relieve the tree rodent of it's coat, gets, feet, head and tail.  Outside Kitty was keenly interested in the happenings so since he was generous enough to provide me with his bounty, I made him a little plate of the choicest parts of the squirrel:
Livers, heart with a catnip garnish.
Outside Kitty wants to know what wine pairs best
with squirrel.
A single squirrel isn't much of a meal, let alone a meal for three, so it went into the freezer until we could plink a few more.  Over the next two weeks either Paul or I managed to fill the squirrel bag up with another five so it was time to do something with them before they were lost to the abyss of the deep freezer.  There was also enough to invite company over for supper.

Not surprisingly, Mom didn't want to come to supper.  Not sure if my sister and her husband had been here if they would have joined us.  So the only other couple that I know who would enjoy - or at least not yack at the prospect of - a homemade squirrel supper was Adrian and Aaron.

They brought the chips and homemade salsa and I made the main course; squirrel & goat cheese enchiladas.  Which I failed to take a picture of, but honestly, it's difficult to make enchiladas, rice and re-fried beans look good on a plate no matter how hard you try.  But it didn't have to look good, it just had to taste good.  Which, if I do say so myself, was more than good.  In fact, Rhiannon had leftovers for breakfast this morning.

Outside Kitty brought a baby bunny yesterday as I was pressure cooking the squirrels, but I let him and Charlie have it.  Now that I think about it, I should have taken it from him and we could have had rabbit and dumplings......

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cedar Apple Rust

Several years ago, six to be exact, we planted our mini orchard in the front yard.  With the exception of the Golden Delicious apples and pear trees, we bought semi-dwarf fruit trees with the intent that we would prune them to keep them small and manageable.

Besides the Golden Delicious, we have Fuji, Gala, Arkansas Black, Honeycrisp and some now-forgotten variety, as well as another what-was-it variety that died.  Last year was the first time we harvested apples, all from the Arkansas Black trees.  Not much to crow about, but it was the first twenty or so apples we grew ourselves.  It seems that the Arkansas Blacks may be the ONLY type of apple that we can get to grow around here.  Why?  Because of these stupid things:
Cedar Apple Rust overwintering gall.
The rains come & it turns into this creepy
looking mass of gelatinous tendrils.
Cedar tree "decorated" with the Cedar Apple
Rust globs.  The trees have since been cut down
and burned, but the damage is already done.
I've read somewhere that you can protect your apple trees from Cedar Apple Rust by eliminating all cedars within a mile radius of your apple orchard.  Although we've been slowly removing trees around the property, there's really no way to rid our 30 acres of forest of all the cedars, let alone a mile radius of them.  So yeah.  We're pretty much stuck with spraying them with a fungicide.  And apparently we didn't do it early enough this year to do any good, because here is what most of the leaves on my apple trees look like:

And soon, they will die and fall off.  Oh, there will be some replacement leaves growing back (which will probably also be infected), but there is no way that the tree can support itself with no leaves, let alone put on fruit.

The Arkansas Black trees seem to be resistant to the Cedar Apple Rust.  Good thing too, otherwise we wouldn't have a single apple in our 10-apple-tree orchard.
Arkansas Black apples from the Fall of 2014.
No Cedar Apple Rust on any of the fruit or leaves.
I hate to have to rely on a chemical spray to deter this type of fungus on the apple trees, so I think the best thing we can do is eventually cull the others and replace them with resistant varieties of apples.  It seems a shame, but there's nothing really sustainable about having to spray your fruit trees with fungicide several times a year.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Living on the Edge

Ever since we've moved here in 2005, there's been a resident phoebe that makes a nest underneath our porch roof.  And every year I watch her sit on her eggs, feed her hatchlings and say goodbye to her fledglings.

One year I caught a black snake eating her young.  I tried prying the snake off the last hatchling, but it was already dead.  I wanted to cry.  It was early enough in the season that she was able to hatch out another clutch, but evidently she no longer cared for that spot and moved her nest to the front porch.

So for the last three years she's been gracing our front porch with her presence (and her poop....all over the porch).  The only problem is that Outside Kitty is still an outside kitty, if even for only part of the day.  I figured that she would jump ship and build another nest where there wasn't a huge, sleek, 20-lb. feline with an appetite for small birds, but she has stayed put.  Not the smartest move, I thought.  Or isn't it?
Don't fall out....or you're supper!
Outside Kitty (aka Manboob Kitty), although still a force to be reckoned with, is much heavier than he once was.  In spite of this fact he somehow manages to haul his fatfelineass up the wooden banister from the basement to the back porch (a 10' climb) using his claws and fueled by Meow-Mix, but he cannot make the single leap from porch railing to the roof beam where the phoebe nest is located.
When not prowling the homestead, Manboob
Kitty makes sure the bed is held down.
The mother phoebe is also in tune with Outside Kitty's prowling routine, knows where he likes to sit (and stare, longingly up at the potential fledgling snackies) and waits until he is gone from the general area before she feeds her cheeping brood.  I suppose it's kind of like building your house next to a dragon's den....as long as YOU know where the dragon is, nobody else is likely to come around to your place looking for trouble.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Battle of the Bunny

Earlier this morning, I see Paul come up the porch steps with something cupped in his hands.  He says, "Come see this." and he uncups his hands a bit to reveal a little ball of long-eared fuzz.

He then asks me, "What should I do with it?"  To which I immediately reply, "Kill it".

He gives me a horrified look like I had just told him to kill a cute, fuzzy, harmless, baby animal.

Well.  Ok.  Technically I did tell him to do that.

So then he holds it up to me and I turn away.  The he moves it closer to me and says,
"Just look at it......

look at it....

come on LOOK at it!"

And I lost the battle of the bunny.

I sigh and say something like, "What the hell are we going to do with a baby rabbit?"   This rabbit that will, in mere weeks, decimate our garden, costing us lost produce and lost labor.  I just envision all the vegetables Paul put in the garden, sheared to the ground by rabbit incisors.

Paul brings the rabbit into the house to show Rhiannon, guaranteeing that there's now no way that I'll be able to kill this stupid rodent without getting a total guilt trip.

And that's why we have a baby rabbit in the garage.

There were two baby rabbits, but his/her sibling didn't fair as well as this one did.   Paul found them when he was out hula-hoeing the garden and apparently stepped on a nest, paralyzing one and eventually catching the other and getting it out of the garden.  Paul put the smooshed one out of it's misery (and subsequently provided Charlie with a morning snack) and brought this one to the house.

Rhiannon made it a comfy nest out of newspaper shreds, provided it with some greenery, and will now have to do a report on rabbits for her homeschooling assignment.  And hopefully in the very near future, "Hoppy" will be relocated to my Mother-in-law's house up the road.  Where it will eventually be eaten by a cat, coyote or hawk.

But the baby bunny blood won't be on my hands.

So you now have proof that I am not, in fact, a total meanie.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Freaky

Not much tends to freak me out.  I mean, being on a farm or in the country for any length of time, you see all sorts of things that most city / suburban folk don't and you tend to become numb to those things.

Dried goat afterbirth stuck to your ponytail.  Dried up remains of goat testicles being kicked around by your daughter.  Mummified remains of mice that jumped into, but unable to jump out of feed buckets that have been sitting on the shelf for say, five months.  Half eaten armadillos stinking up a square mile after sitting in the hot summer sun for three days.

But today.  Today I saw something that made me do an audible "Ewwww!" and step back.  I really thought about going back to find it and take a picture for all my blogging buddies, but I'm hoping that it has somehow moved, been eaten, buried, dragged away, or is otherwise no longer in the barnyard.

Now what could be so bad that I, skinner of squirrels, butcherer of pigs, eviscerator of chickens, would be so revolted by?

A chicken toe.

Yes.  A chicken toe.  Not attached to the chicken.  And not an old, half rotten toe that looked like it was dug out of the compost heap or anything.  No.  It was more like a, "Shit, my toe just fell off!" kind of fresh chicken toe.

It wasn't the entire toe, but the claw (fingernail?  talon?  WTF do you call a chicken's toenail anyhow?) and up to the first joint / knuckle.  After the initial gag-reflex, I stared at it again.

And I hastily exited the general area.

Now a good farmer would have immediately gone around and assessed the feet of each chicken in his/her flock.  I am not a good farmer.  I haven't been back in the pen since I left, hoping that when I do finally have to go in there, that it will have disappeared and this will all be a distant and slightly disturbing memory.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Why? Eh. Why not.

I'm going to have to change my phone number.

Got a call from someone who got my number from an acquaintance.  Said that I might be able to take some birds off his hands.

So what did I do?

You know exactly what I did.  I took them.
Little chickens, giving me the ChickenEye already.
Unfortunately, it appears that three of the six smaller chickens are roosters.  I have nine roosters now (including the two new acquisitions).  I do not need, nor want nine freaking roosters.  The constant crowing is really beginning to get on my nerves.  And the fact that I don't incubate eggs anymore means that I'm feeding useless birds.

Not only that, but when I agreed to take the birds, one of those birds was supposed to be a turkey.  A turkey that I was looking forward to fattening up for a homegrown Thanksgiving supper.  The turkey never made it to the house for whatever reason.  The man said something about his wife wanting "to say goodbye".  It's been a week now since he was here.  I'm thinking my dreams of a homegrown turkey have been foiled.

So.  Now I have five more roosters.  None of which I really want, but will probably end up keeping the three fanciest and nicest ones.  The rest are going on the local livestock page and I don't care what happens to them because the only eventual outcome of them staying here is that they'd become soup, dog food or I'm going to have Paul strap them in the clay thrower and blow their brains out with the 12-gauge.

Depends on how cranky I am at the time.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Garden That Isn't, But Soon Will Be

I feel like a farming failure.  Paul just last week tore up the berry garden for planting...and I haven't planted a single new strawberry plant.  In fact, I don't think we'll have strawberries at all this year.

About a month ago I planted the asparagus in a huge tractor tire, filled with wonderful, loose, compost filled soil and not a single sprout has come up.  Although I'm pretty sure I know why; Charlie finds it to be the perfect sleeping spot.  This would account for the reason that not even a single weed seed has been able to germinate.  150 pounds of Giant Sloppy Dog would crush any chance of vegetation growth.
Can you guess which tire Charlie prefers to sleep in???
I also failed to plant a single seedling over the winter.  So I had to go to the nursery and buy the boring ol' standbys; Green, red, banana and hot peppers.  Roma and Arkansas Traveller tomatoes, pickling cucumbers (I don't think I've EVER bought cucumber starts).  Paul planted them over the weekend.  I did help water though.

I was tempted to buy even the squash, but the last time I bought squash starts they ended up being harvested the same time as the ones I grew in the ground.  So now I just have to dig a bunch of holes and start those zukes, yellow straightneck and patty pans and we'll be set for a mini-garden this year.

Seems as if I tend to go bonkers every year with the gardens and then it gets away from me.  Tomatoes rot on the vine, buried somewhere underneath the jungle of other tomato plants (started waaaaaay too close to each other), green bean get picked too late and become stringy, strawberries get eaten by the rolly pollies or slugs before I can get to them.  So I don't think I'm going to plant a single thing in our eventually-gonna-be permaculture garden.  Last year & the year before I planted and harvested quite a few squash, but that was about it.  The sweet potato vines were eaten by the darned deer before I got a single tater out of it.  And the fact that this garden are isn't fenced in attributes to the GSD laying in my asparagus tire, the deer eating the trees / vines and the chickens scratching up any other vegetable that I may have planted.   So with the exception of taking care of the four apple trees, horseradish plant (somewhere out there) and the seven still-living hazelnut bushes, this garden will sit fallow this year.

Which is a good thing to do once in a while....right?