Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hiking in DeSoto National Forest-Bear Tracks

Look what was on the cover of Adventure!!! Havasu falls!

Monday Byron and I went hiking in De Soto National Forest in Mississippi to train for our hike to Havasu Falls. There are at least 60 miles of established hiking trails in the forest. Byron and I be-bopped along for about eight miles. Realizing that there is no destination to this trail, it just goes on and on and on over piney hill tops and low valleys cut through with chilly creeks. Little bright aqua dragonfly type bugs with solid black wings flitted about the water surface. Bugs were everywhere, buzzy flies, zooming bees, colorful butterflies. Little slithery things quickly slid off of the path as we came around the corners. We finally decided that we'd better start back before the dark caught us. So over the roads and across the bridges we went.

"Oh, Kristi, what kind of tracks are these?" "Hmm, Not sure. Look at the deep claw marks by the toes. That's a pretty deep track Byron, something heavy made that. Certainly not a hog or deer that's no hoof mark, it's a paw mark. It's almost as big as my boot. Look at the pattern. ....Byron.....I think that's a bear track" Amazingly the tiredness left my body completely and I was entirely re-motivated. Later on as I talked loudly of anything that came to mind to warn Mr. Supposedly timid Black Bear that we are coming down the track because we were downwind of the direction Mr. Bear was heading, right on the trail in the deep sand, more tracks. Sharp tracks. Tracks that wind hadn't softened the edge of, and they were heading right down the same trail we were. More loud talking and much faster walking. My eyes constantly scanned through the tall pine trees looking for Mr. Bear. I kept reminding myself. They're timid Kristi, don't make eye contact they take that as aggression, don't run, give them wide berth.

Mr. Bear probably climbed a tree and watched us make our noisy way through the deserted forest. He didn't greet us this time. Maybe next time. Maybe next time I'll remember to take a picture after my heart quits fluttering.

When I arrived home I looked up black bears in Mississippi. Sure enough there have been bear sightings right in the area where we were. I'm sure this is great news for Mr. Bear.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

29 Chicken Pile-up

I'm working on becoming an expert on chicken behavior, but I'm not there yet. Why do chickens try to pile up in the same exact spot. You wouldn't believe the amount of space they all can fit in. They squawk and jostle until they all nod away to sleep in the smallest area possible.
My large chickens have taken to flying to the top of the house and sleeping there. All of them except Cocktail the barred rock. She's too heavy to fly up there. After continually smacking her head against the side of the chicken house she gave up and walked into the house along with another little chicken who has taken up following Cocktail's every move (including banging her head against the chicken house as well). Now Cocktail is walking around the yard with a limp. I wonder if she injured it in her attempts to fly up with the other large chickens. I really don't know what to do to help her or if I should just wait and see if it gets better. None of the other chickens pick on her. She rules the roost.
Another strange thing happened the other day. We went out late to check on them. Byron grabbed the feeder to fill it up for the next day. It's a large one that you fill up and feed falls to the tray below. In the feeder were five chickens. A small one was peeking up from the bottom of the tray where her head was wedged. Byron panicking, tried to shake them out. Me-"Byron no! Just lift them out!" He lifted them out, and luckily none had any broken bones. Bobcat the Ancona did limp around for a few days. How did they even fit in there????
Every single one of our small chickens pile themselves into a corner of the small loft of the chicken house. Including the barred rock. So what you are witnessing is a 29 chicken pile-up. We do plan to build an additional yard and house this summer, and make use of a couple of chicken tractors.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Garden Update

Most of the tropicals survived the winter very well. They were put inside (my house..eek) when a freeze threatened. It was worth it. They are off to a wonderful start. This is the potted tropicals on my back porch. Sagos do well in the ground and are fairly frost hardy. I grew the one in the pot so that it could be moved to where ever I needed an anchor or impact in the garden. It is getting fairly large, so I might move it into the ground soon. I love the angel wing begonia in the front with the dark purplish green leaves and the hanging blossoms. Begonias root well in water from cuttings.
This is what started out as my jazz garden. There was a trumpet fountain, but it died so was removed. All the broken pots end up in this garden. The shards provide interest and also keep the weeds down in areas where there are no plants. Also I can't bear to part with my beautiful pots that usually met their demise in wind storms or were dropped when moving them (by me).
Here is a close up of the small pond. If you enlarge it you can see the goldfish peeping out. It is the only survivor of ten. It's actually fairly large now and has survived two winters, snakes, frogs, cats and birds. Smart cookie.
This is a small tropical bed I planted on the corner. In the left hand corner you can see an heirloom plant blooming. It's called crinums. The canna is a tropicanna. In another month the bed will be covered with lime green and purple sweet potato vines.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Imperfection is so charming!

Byron's portrait of me taking down the laundry.

Somewhere in my early thirties I realized, Really I don't have to please anyone but, God, family and myself. Even then I don't have to please myself or my family all of the time.

There are so many ladies who feel incredible pressure from pop culture (which they are inundated with daily through T.V.) and society to be talented, fit, beautiful, great moms and wives, and have a successful career, or they shouldn't feel happy or good about themselves. Huh??? O.K. Then I want my husband to be a doctor and a C.E.O. of a moderately sized corporation as well as have six pack abs and a full head of hair. Yeah right. He probably would be married to Miss Louisiana instead of me. (and a lot less happy!!)

I love to watch the terrible American Idol tryout videos on the Internet. One participant was really giving Simon a talking too about how she, "can too sang..wunderful" and he couldn't tell her otherwise. Simon told her, "What is wrong with walking out of here and knowing that you can't sing?"

Excuse me but, "What's wrong with me living my life knowing I'm not perfect?" When I realized that, life became a lot more beautiful. I love all the unconventional things I do. Imperfection is so charming.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bright Blue and Hot Pink in the Garden

I guess I'm not the only one who likes hot pink and bright blue in a garden. Look what I just found on the cover of Garden Idea's magazine.
I am not a picky gardener and do not like to be tied to tedious chores such as edging and weed eating. Gardening should be fun. Not stress full. Overflowing and full of color is just perfect. Volunteers are always welcome in my garden and are not fastidiously weeded out. Misbehaving meandering vines thrill my soul. They are perfect for covering an ugly but necessary chain link fence. The muscadine vine and passion flower vine that has gobbled my fence is now a solid cool green living wall that provides privacy in the back yard from prying eyes walking the levee, nesting room for local birds and host plant for fritillary butterflies. Then in fall plump deep purple orbs are yummy to behold and eat.
I think a country cottage style garden is just perfect.
Here is the beginning of my herb wheel. A bay tree will go in the green pot. The bottom will be removed from the pot and then sunk into the herb garden.
Here are the creole tomatoes ripening. I am already seeing stink bugs. The battle will begin soon! Sorry I didn't post in so long my Internet service was broken.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Seed Saving and the Potager

Byron built two more beds for my dream potager. It is slowly taking shape. We are doing it in increments as Byron has the time and cash dictates. This is the first third of of the garden. It will have a six foot wide center axis, and two more sections going back as large as the first section with six foot paths dividing them. All other paths will be three feet wide. There will be a round herb garden where the black post is sticking up. Hopefully this week we will get the stone materials to build the herb bed. When all the beds are completed, we are going to put crushed limestone for the paths. In the future we would like to fence the entire area in so we can allow our chickens to patrol for pests at times. My dream is that this garden will supply all of our fresh vegetables and herbs. From left to right you can see a fig tree, a guava, and an olive tree. The guava and the olive are experimental. On the right side of the garden is the mini citrus orchard, on the left is going to be our permaculture experiment. We already have pecan, pear, persimmon, cypress, oak and mulberry trees planted. There also is a large purple muscadine (wild grape) vine growing on the fence that borders the permaculture garden. I am going to quit mowing the perimeter to allow wildlife to encroach. We have squirrels in our trees again. Our neighbor on the other side had shot them all to preserve his precious citrus. Now he is growing landscape palms. I guess squirrels don't bother them.
This book "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth goes into detail on saving seed. How far to grow certain crops from one another to keep them from cross pollinating, exactly when and how to gather seed etc.. Knowing how to preserve and use seed is essential in a sustainable lifestyle, and having books is an invaluable resourse to the sustainable lifestyle. My goal is to buy heirloom variety seeds. I bought these from Baker's Creek Heirloom Seeds. This ensures that the seed will produce offspring like the parent. Many of the modern seed varieties are crossed to get the good qualities of several varieties. When the seed is saved and planted, it may bear inferior fruit showing the lessor qualities of any of the parents used in producing the hybrid. Today in my new bed I planted a Southern heirloom "White Cushaw". It's an old squash very similar to pumpkin. I also planted a French heirloom called "Musquee De Provence". It is a beautiful light orange pumpkin that is short but broad with large deep ribs. It reminds me very much of the old drawings of the pumpkins used for Cinderella's carriage. In the top corner is a container of broccoli seeds I was picking to save. Here is the broccoli gone to seed.
This is Arugula gone to seed.
Here is a green onion allowed to go to seed. I will save all these seeds and use them in next year's garden.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday Farmer's Market

My Farmer's Market loot. Cheese tamales, whole and fat free milk, local honey, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, carrots and strawberries. Today we're going to have pan seared baked home grown chicken with carrots, mushrooms and my very own grown herbs. For a side I'm going to saute squash, zucchini, and onions. Mmmmmm

I love to shop at the Farmer's market. The idea of buying locally grown food from small farmers is so appealing. The prices are cheaper. The food is in season and fresher. The profits go into the little guy's pockets instead of corporate pockets. It's also just plain fun. You can ask a billion questions, and you get enthusiastic replies from people who are passionate about what they do. It's not simply about profit.
I asked a friend who worked as the produce buyer for a large grocery store chain, "What would a local farmer need to do to sell to your stores?" He replied with a smug little laugh, "Hmmpf, you can't even sell to us unless you have at least five million in insurance." That ended the conversation. Really I wasn't interested in them anymore. Now several years later, that chain has gone out of business and sold their stores to a local retail chain. Can't say I'm sad, except for the job hunting a lot of managers had to do. They tried to bill themselves as more local and friendly than Wal-mart. As one of their employees I know said, "We're for people who hate Wal-mart."
I don't hate Wal-mart. But I do love Farmer's markets.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Consider The Lilies

This past Sunday, Our Pastor spoke on some of my favorite scriptures. Matthew 6:28-30 "...Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: (29) And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (30) Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O' ye of little faith?"

He spoke on the stress that we cause ourselves when we worry. Worry is the enemy of faith, and stress is the enemy of good health. Make sure you are doing what you can about the things that you can. Everything else must be trusted to God. So slow down and be reminded of this when you see a flower.

Look at my beautiful Shell Ginger blooming. It looks like a cluster of pink grapes.
This is my heirloom miniature rose blooming it's little heart out.
Finally, I found a hot pink umbrella. I couldn't pass it up. I love bright blue and hot pink in the garden. The large leaf is a miniature banana tree I have planted in a pot.
Even my giant bird of paradise with its huge blackish purple, brown and cream blooms are beautiful. They look like giant prehistoric birds.

Monday, May 5, 2008

To Buy or Not to Buy?

I have a stove that is 14 years old. Byron and I got it when our house was completed a year after we were married. Byron's Mom gave us $1,000 as a wedding gift to buy our appliances. With that thousand dollars, I picked out and purchased a washing machine and dryer, a microwave, a dish washer, and a stove. The cheapest and the best quality I could afford. I think the Maytag stove cost around $250.00 at the time.

The washing machine, dryer, microwave and dish washer all died and had to be replaced. The fridge still worked but smelled like a dead dog after Katrina. It was given to the church camp to use until people moved into their homes. Now I believe someone is using it in their home. Maybe the smell doesn't offend them, or maybe they know how to clean a fridge better than me. The stove on the other hand is battered yet still chugging along.

Pride sometimes gets in the way and I get an urge to replace it. The porcelain is scratched, the logos are wearing off, and the clock still works but is lying on its back due to the mounting bracket breaking from constant fingers pushing at the timer. It doesn't have any of the fancy simmering burners or the booster burners for heating things quickly. When I hosted the monthly meeting for our garden club, the lady who brought the large pot of gumbo was fretting due to the long time it took for her gumbo to reheat.

It certainly isn't trendy looking or even nostalgically cute. While helping my mom and the church pick out appliances to replace their flooded ones, I couldn't help but notice all the cool large knobbed and heavy grated stoves out there. They look like they could hold up a cast iron number three tub. I ran my hands across the smooth unscratched undinged surfaces. When I asked the salesman, "How long does a gas stove last? I'm going to buy a new one when mine dies." The salesman replied, "Would you like me to tell you how to kill it?" He explained to me that simple stoves like mine would last well, "practically forever!"

Part of living a sustainable life is not being a slave to pride and fashion. Replacing a working item wouldn't adhere to this principle. There were times when Byron and I couldn't afford to fix our stove, much less buy another. Now we can purchase pretty much any stove I might want. The current dilemma is: Do I really want to buy a new stove when the one I have works perfectly well and provides all my needs? I'm going to keep it. Especially when I remember all the wonderful meals Byron and I have prepared on it, the jars of berries, pears and figs canned on it, and the soy candles made on it. It's sorta like part of the family now.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

New Hedge Fiasco and Baby Chick Pics

Today I went and spent way too much money on shrubs I didn't really want but now I need. My agrivat....idio....inconsi...anyway neighbor bulldozed all his beautiful citrus trees and put in a tree nursery complete with black plastic ground cover, pvc pipe and plastic green houses.

O.K. no problem. He makes more money growing trees to sell than fruit. If it isn't enough that he ruined my bee-uutiful sweet smelling view, he put in a road that is made out of crushed something another with the consistency of talcum powder. So when it is dry, great clouds of white dust drifts on the southern wind and settles all over my cars, garden and house. I really need to read the Deliberate Agrarian's recent blog post on forgiveness. I'm struggling.

The only solution I could think of other than punching him in the nose and spending jail time is to put up a hedge to block the view and the great dust bowl. I know that we are having an economic recession, but did my neighbor have to add effects?

Well, I bought 25 three gallon Russian Olive shrubs from Bantings Nursery (the bestest nursery in the area, that woman is so smart). They are not exactly native or what I might would have planted had I more time, but they grow fast, are extremely leafy and quit growing at 10 feet. All the perfect features for the space and needs. I'll have to do this in sections because we need one shrub every three feet. Yikes we have 600 feet to cover! We need 200 of them. Maybe I could swing a bargain on the rest of them.

Here's some pics of my newest baby chicks. I think I'll be able to let them in the yard in about two weeks. Hey, What's up?
I can see better since I got these glasses.
Look at the nerd with the glasses.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Around the House and Garden

Here it is! The front garden all cardboarded, newspapered and pine mulched!
Look how pretty the lantana is by the front door!
I'm going to put a bench in this area. I'd like to paint it bright blue.
This is one of six native mulberry trees that I planted. They look like blackberries but are longer. They also are sweeter when ripe and don't have any of the tartness of blackberries. Byron ate his fill on the Woodland trails path and just had to have some for the yard. This will help me keep my promise to use more natives and to create a permaculture environment.

Here's the baby figs peeking out!
Here is the beginning of the pears! These trees I am told, are over 70 years old. Our property used to be part of "The Old Star Plantation" as the elders call it. It was divided up and sold. The old plantation home (which I was told was beautiful) was torn down. All of the old plantation homes faced the river. If you ever travel in our area there is a wonderful plantation home that was turned into a bed and breakfast called "Woodland Plantation". It gives you an inkling of what it must have been like to live on the river back then. Woodland is also the plantation featured on the Southern Comfort bottle.
Look how big my girls are getting. They are 10 weeks old. This is Cocktail, Seleste's favorite chicken. I think its a Dominique. Although I have been wrong on most all of them, it is fun to guess.
This is Brownie, Talia's favorite chicken. Byron aggravated Talia while we were slaughtering the Cornish X Rocks with, "Brownie's next!!" Then an outcry from Talia, "You better not kill Brownie!!!" Talia then gave Byron a sound kick in the shin. Byron sent Talia to her room. Why do men get so mad when they get what they ask for? :)

This is Lu Lu now. I thought she was a brown leghorn. Now I'm not so sure. She's getting the side wisps of feathers on her face that resemble "Old Sailor Whiskers". Maybe she's an Araucana? We'll know when they start laying eggs. If any are blue we'll know it's little Miss Lu Lu.