Reflections on April, 2014

This month, I thought I’d do the blog a little differently.  There is a monthly magazine that comes to the in-law’s house called Farm and Ranch Living.  It is a quaint and nostalgic compilation of stories from people who live on and with their land.  Each month features a diary of a particular family and their experiences with their farm life.  I will give that format a try for April, 2014.  Give me a break, I wasn’t able to keep track of every single day, but I got most of them.  Here goes:

April 1st: Tuesday. I wrote the Reflections on March blog.  Checking e-mails brought me to the Seed Saver’s Exchange April Fool’s video on how to grow M&M’s.  Pretty humorous.

April 2nd: Wednesday. Ordered casement windows for the west room and set up forms for the archway between the domes and the front door.

April 3rd: Thursday. Aaron broadcast his unique pasture plant seed mix onto our contour swales.  We’re hoping the birds don’t eat all the seeds.  Made up our minds to get guinea keets.  We also sewed a few bag ends so they’d be ready for filling.

April 5th: Saturday. My parents came from Illinois for a visit and brought a couple of raspberry plants (my favorite fruit).  Black and Red varieties.  The p’s helped with pounding the last couple of tires and laying some barbed wire.  We also planted onion sets in the keyhole bed and on some small swales.  After a hard day’s work we went out to a Chinese buffet restaurant.

Slamming dirt into tires for foundation of earthbag home

P’s Packing Tires

Mmmm... Black Raspberries

Mmmm… Black Raspberries

April 6th: Sunday. Misty rain off and on all day.  Saw some potatoes popping up.  I like planting in this weather, so I planted some Elephant Ear bulbs and morning glories, and transplanted the nasturtiums into their permanent (for this year) homes.

April 7th: Monday. We worked on the earthbag dome for a little while today, leveling the inside of the bedroom dome and laying and tamping  a bag.  A box turtle came to visit us for a brief amount of time.  I think it was enjoying the shade of the wheelbarrow as it passed through.  We checked the farm store for guineas but they were sold out.  It rained with thunder in the afternoon and watered the surface of the soil a bit.  We’re hoping for more rain for the plants sake.

April 8th: Tuesday. I took a walk with Aaron over to the larger pasture to help him move cows and fence and look for mushrooms.  No luck on the mushrooms.  I think we need more rain.  There was a pretty distinguishable difference between the old paddock and the new.  He’s working on an intensive rotational grazing operation with his dad’s cattle, by the way.  A huge wind came blowing through in the afternoon and flipped the chicken coop entirely over!  Fortunatley it wasn’t damaged and no chickens were harmed.  We laid and tamped a long row of bag and set up a door form for the kitchen pantry.  I made tacos for dinner after a gorgeous sunset.

Obvious Benefits of Intensive Rotational Grazing

Obvious Benefits of Intensive Rotational Grazing

April 9th: Wednesday. We awoke and had gourmet campfire apple and banana pancakes.  Then we got to work and laid and tamped another row of bag on the house.  You absolutley must mulch here to keep any kind of moisture in the soil.  10 minutes after watering, the soil surface is totally dried by the sun and wind.  I planted some Asian greens, some cilantro, parsley, arugula and okra.  In an attempt to keep the hay mulch from blowing away, I stuck sticks in the garden bed around the freshly planted seeds, but the wind kept blowing the hay right off.  After attempting to get the hay mulch to stay for about a half hour, I threw my hands in the air and decided to wait for a less windy day.  Some of those precious seeds have likely blown away.  I felt overwhelmingly frustrated by the wind and wondered whether we’d be able to get anything to grow here.

April 10th: Thursday. Today we got a lot of bags filled and tamped.  My feet are starting to swell after a long day of work.  After cleaning up, I headed to Duncan, Oklahoma to the Southwest Oklahoma Beekeepers Association meeting.  We don’t have bees yet, but have a top bar hive and are ready to get started.  At the meetings, I have learned a lot and made some connections with other local beekeepers.

April 13th: Sunday. The chicken coop was blown over twice today!  There was supposed to be rain today and we could see the big anvil-shaped cumulonimbus clouds on the horizon, but the wind must have blown them away because we never got a drop.

April 14th:  Monday. Just when I thought the frosts were over, there was a hard freeze overnight.  In the morning the temperature was 27 and we noticed the potato leaves were all shriveled.  I think they’ll survive though.  All the plants in the cold frame are fine, so Aaron must have done a pretty good job building it.  I picked up the glass for our windows from City Glass in Oklahoma City after seeing my midwife.  We got 4 3×5 pieces of fixed glass and 1 2×5.  The glass is not low-e and doesn’t have any argon in it, but it is double-paned.  We want the sun’s rays to penetrate through the glass to heat up the home in winter.

Fixed Pains of Glass

Fixed Pains of Glass

April 16th: Wednesday. Another incredulously blustery day.  Got screws from the hardware store to set up the window forms.  Wind died down around sunset and it was beautiful.  We simply sat and soaked in the home, our vision of simple and sustainable living growing right before our eyes.

April 17th through the 21st: Not sure of the exact details, but we made lots of progress on the house including setting up the window forms and setting our first short bags in between them.  The short bags require more sewing and more fiddling with chicken wire, so even though you’d think they’d be quicker, they are most certainly not.   We also transplanted the tomatoes into their keyhole bed.  Julius got to fly the kite his grandmother brought, and it flies great in the Oklahoma wind!

April 22nd: Tuesday.  Accompanied our 7 year old on his field trip to Orr Family Farms in Moore, Oklahoma.  It was not actually a farm at all, but a farm-themed amusement park.  If you’re looking to visit a farm for educational purposes, I’m sure you could find something closer to a real farm.  Perhaps in the future, you’ll be visiting our farm.  Nonetheless, it was a relaxing day away from work on the house.

April 24th: Thursday. The tamper we made broke.  I think it  just couldn’t take the beating that I was giving it.  Maybe we’ll buy one of those square ones.  The morning was windy, as usual, but the afternoon and evening were calm and the sunset was beautiful.  Sewed some more bags.

Broken Tamper

Broken Tamper

April 25th: Friday.  We got some guineas! 5 sweet little babies.  Aaron cut off a portion of one of the huge tires we collected and we stuffed some hay in there and called it a brooder.  We got our shipment from Oikos Tree crops and planted some of the things.  5 different varieties of sunchokes, applemint, 2 varieties of potatoes, manroot, horseradish, and 25 mulberry trees.  One of the potatoes is called the Ecos purple potato, which is supposed to overwinter in the ground.  We planted both varieties of potatoes on the crescent-shaped hugelkultur.  We also bought a square tamper.  I can’t decide if I like it better than the one we made.

Big Tire Makes a Great Brooder for Guinea Keets

Big Tire Makes a Great Brooder for Guinea Keets

New Tamper

New Tamper

April 26th: Saturday.  I definitely don’t like the square tamper.  If you don’t hit it at just the right angle (flat) it is very jarring on your hands.  It is better for tamping the bags against the forms though.  Maybe I’ll get used to it.   We were able to get 4 bags laid between the window forms.  One guinea has “pasty butt,” a nasty build up around the vent, often from being too chilled, or stressed.  One solution is to feed oatmeal and of course, keep the vent clean.  Julius is on veterinary duty.  There may be storms tonight.

April 27th: Sunday.  Last night, there was a very fierce storm with high winds and hail.  It is so loud inside the trailer, but I think it sounds worse than it is.  When we got up in the morning, everything was fine, despite my laying in bed imagining that hail had completely trashed the cold frame cover and the chicken coop roof.  In fact, the chicken coop didn’t even blow over!  The one guinea with pasty butt seems lethargic, but they all seem to perk up and peep peep normally when it gets to around 70 in their tire.  They are supposed to be kept at 90 degrees until they get their feathers.  I planted dill and pumpkins.

Guinea Keets     4 days old

Guinea Keets 4 days old

April 28th: Monday. Very ominous looking clouds but no expected rain in the forecast.  Today, we planted irises around the mulberry trees.  They are supposed to deter voles and moles and suppress grass growth around the trees.  They really stand out in the pasture throughout our 10 acres.  We laid 3 bags in between windows today.  We did get a very little bit of rain and a lot of thrashing wind and thunder, but by afternoon it cleared up and was another gorgeous evening, so we transplanted cucumbers onto the crescent hugelkultur and sunberries onto the big swale.  The pasty butt guinea did not make it.  The others seems stronger than ever though and I think I see some feathers on their wings.  All the potatoes that got frosted are growing back nicely.

Ominous Clouds

Ominous Clouds

April 29th: Tuesday.  I picked up 2 more windows from Oklahoma City.  These are Marvin casement windows and they look really nice!  I saw my midwife who told me that with all the work I do, I need to eat more calories.  That’s fine with me.

Pretty Marvin Casement Window 2x5

Pretty Marvin Casement Window 2×5

April 30th: Wednesday.  Today, we laid a 40 foot bag across the north side of the house.  We were told that the temps would drop to 37 degrees tonight, so I decided to bring the guineas to the in-laws for the night, because we don’t have any way to power a heat lamp at the farm.  I hope the car ride doesn’t cause them more stress than just staying at the farm and being cold.  I guess you’ll have to check back for the Reflections on May blog to find out more about our new guineas.

I feel like we made a lot of progress in the month of April.  I hope I didn’t get to too comfortable with the gorgeous evenings though because I think May will start bringing some really hot ones.  As usual, if you have any comments or questions, or you’re interested in coming to see our endeavors, leave a comment below or Contact Us.  Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

1 comment to Reflections on April, 2014

  • Makayla

    Love reading the monthly updates! The diary format is cool, too.
    Congrats on your progress!
    I imagine the iris will look lovely around the mulberry trees when they bloom.

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