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marlingardener's Blog

Farm living and laughing


Goin' fishin' with a checkbook

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:28 pm

Last Saturday the pond stocking fish folk were at the feed store. With last year's drought, a lot of ponds (aka "stock tanks") went dry and therefore are fishless, even though we have had good rains lately.
Now, the Pondstockers came down from Arkansas, and they didn't arrive with a few buckets and a net. NO, this was a full diesel truck (Peterbuilt for you truck aficianados) towing a huge flatbed.
On the flatbed were steel bins that looked like small dumpsters--the ones with the lift-up lid that you see behind fast-food places. There were four air cylinders on the back of the flatbed, and aerator pumps attached to each of the bins. On the sides of the bins were signs advertising the fish available--Channel Catfish, Coppernose bluegills (colorful little guys, copper and blue, too), bass, minnows (more about that later), grass carp, and red ears.
I had called Arkansas and ordered 50 fingerling bass. Between my Texas/midwest/allergy accent and her Arkansas accent, we still managed to communicate. The truck was to be at the feed store at 8 a.m. Figuring nothing was ever on time, we arrived at 8:15 and were at the back of a lo-o-o-ng line.
We were sandwiched between a farmer and a rancher. If you ever have to stand in line, try to get between a farmer and a rancher. We found out the current price of feeder calves, who bought a new tractor, the schedule for the agricultural agent's inspection of fields, where there was going to be a good farm auction, and whose wife just had a baby.
We got our three bags of fish--heavy-weight plastic bags filled with treated water and pumped full of air (that's why they had the compressors on the back of the flatbed). We walked off carrying three big see-through balloons with tiny fish swimming about in them.
When we got home we had a cup of coffee and thought it over. We had 50 bass, 200 coppernose, and five pounds of minnows. Locally minnows are called "minners". We even see signs "Bait--worms and minners". I can't bring myself to call them "minners". Maybe that was why the lady in Arkansas had difficulty understanding me when I phoned. Anyway, we knew we could just dump the "minners" in the pond, but we had to acclimate the bass and coppernoses.
So, the two of us, with three bags of fish, two buckets of appropriate sizes, and high hopes, trekked down to our pond. We put the minnows in the pond, put the coppernoses in the large bucket, and then filled the small bucket with pond water (did I mention we were wearing knee high boots and hoping that we didn't get stuck in the mud?). We added about a quart of pond water to the treated water the coppernoses were in, then another quart after about five minutes, then another quart. Well, you get the idea. After we did the coppernoses and released them into the pond, we did the same with the bass. It was a novel way to spend most of a Saturday morning.
The upshot is that, in about two years, with luck and rain, we will have bass that are of a size to be caught and eaten. At this point I'm so fond of the little guys I don't think I'd be able to swallow a bite of bass.
We wouldn't have had any luck fishing if we had left the checkbook at home!

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Bread baking

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sun Oct 30, 2011 6:52 pm

I dearly love to bake bread. I like to measure out the ingredients, use herbs from our garden, knead, shape the loaves, and especially I like to smell the freshly baked bread scent throughout the house. I always have several kinds of bread in the freezer, and we have homemade bread with most of our dinners.
Here are some of the breads I've baked recently:


Homemade breads ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )
Starting from the 12 o'clock position, there is rye, Cuban, roasted sweet red pepper bread, pesto bread, parsley/onion bread, and French, with rosemary bread in the center.
There is something very satisfying about chopping herbs, mixing the yeast and flour, kneading, and setting the dough to rise. I have a large wooden cutting board that I use for kneading, and usually leave the dough on the well-floured board with a damp cotton dish towel over it for the first rise.
When it's cold outside, or when you are at loose ends and need something to do, or if you are feeling a trifle blue, there is nothing like cutting loose in the kitchen with a good bread recipe! It warms you up, gives a tangible result, and makes you feel better. Not to mention the great workout you get for your biceps!
If you want any of the recipes, I'll gladly send it to you by private message. I just don't want to bore everyone with all the details of making these breads!
With the holidays coming up I'll be making even more breads to give as Christmas presents. I've found that people are inundated with sweets at this time of year, but a good loaf of bread that they can pop in the freezer if they don't need it immediately, is always most welcome!


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Cackleberry harvest

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:53 am




eggs galore ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )

Despite drought, heat, and adjusting to each other, my ladies are laying fine eggs! The young ones haven't quite got the hang of using the nest boxes, so I have to be careful where I step when I go into the coop. Right now behind the water station is a favorite spot for one of the girls. I keep showing them the lovely, well-decorated nest boxes, but they are being perverse.
The older ladies, however, have abandoned their old nest boxes for the newer ones. I cleaned out the old ones and put in new shavings, but they prefer the view from the new boxes.
The girls' eggs are smaller and lighter colored, so I can tell who is using nest boxes and who is playing "hide and seek" with eggs.

egg size comparison ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )The center egg is one of the young hen's. It is smaller and slightly lighter in color. When they lay an egg it's practically white, but it starts to darken a bit immediately. As they mature their eggs will become a rich brown.
The ladies are actually getting protective of the girls (or my dominant hen sees an opportunity to enlarge her sphere of influence). Two of the girls wandered out into the barn aisle while I was cleaning the coop, and Ruby Begonia went after them, flapped her wings and shooed them back into the coop! Ruby didn't want to lose any of her constituents, I suppose. However, when it comes to catching grasshoppers, it's every hen for herself!





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Ice Cream Social

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Fri Aug 12, 2011 8:24 pm

Every August the church up the road holds a community Ice Cream Social. In the 1850's, a German baron sent a group of retainers here to populate and farm a land grant. Many of their descendants are still here, farming the "old home place." Even if you attend another church, or none at all, if you live in the vicinity of the church you belong to the community. You should meet some of the community members.
Margaret and Arthur are mainstays of the church. Arthur farms and runs some cattle, and their place is a model of neatness and efficiency. Margaret volunteers at the local hospital and at the elementary school, plays the organ at church, and bakes the best cookies in the world. Grown men faint over her tea cakes!
Eileen lives on her farm and dotes on her grandchildren. She makes the best kolache (a raised dough with a fruit filling) and cleans the church because she does it better than anyone else could.
Mary is famous for her dill pickles. When the bingo game gets going after the Social, her pickles are one of the best prizes. Fights don't exactly break out over her pickles, but that is only because the preacher is there.
Leona is tiny, beautiful, and just vague enough to be charming. When she won a basket of our hens' eggs with a note from "Rosie, Ruby Begonia, Bianca, Lucy, Eileen, and Slo-Poke" hoping the recipient would enjoy the fruit of their labors, Leona said, "I don't know these people!" Someone explained the "people" were hens--big black hens that had laid the eggs.
W.C. (in Texas a lot of men go by their initials) mows the church grounds and cemetery, sees after the building, and rings the bell at 10:30 on a Sunday morning. He and his wife Anna (who quilts and paints and cooks and is absolutely dear) are expert fisherpersons. They have won many fishing tournaments, and always supply the fish for the April Fish Fry at the church. W.C. fries a good fish!
Clark is a deacon, and does the readings. He has a beautiful speaking voice, and sings awfully well. He leads our pitiful attempts at singing (we are not the most melodious group) and if it weren't for Clark, we'd have to give up trying the hymns and just hum. He also paints beautifully, and has had several shows of his work.
So, those are a few of the members of the community who have welcomed us and made us feel part of the community. Who knew that moving out of a "community" of 16,000 people to a small farm would put us smack dab in the middle of a real community of kind people with good and giving souls?


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High IQ chickens

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:30 pm

I realize that the common perception of chickens is that they are pretty dumb. Chickens don't get invited to join Phi Beta Kappa and the Mensa Society doesn't recruit them. Chickens are the butt of a lot of "dumb as a chicken" jokes.
Our chickens are not dumb. Granted, they get all excited when their treat dish comes and run around in circles; the shadow of a passing cloud sends them squawking into the indoor coop; the little ones haven't discovered that they can fly up to both perches (one they try hopping up on, which doesn't work, and when they get frustrated with that, they fly up to the other perch which is exactly the same height off the ground); and generally they just don't look all that intelligent.
However, consider this--a college graduate arrives to clean their coop, freshen their water (filtered, of course), dish out meals (pasta primavera is a favorite), and stand guard while the chickens stroll around the gardens. Another college graduate has built a large coop for them, installed two perches, made a climbing ladder so they can get to their nest boxes, and spent time in the broiling heat making sawdust from scrap lumber so their nest boxes will be comfy.
So, who's dumb? The ones who are catered to, have body guards, and don't lift a finger (oops, forgot chickens don't have fingers), or the "staff" who clean, feed, provide entertainment, and do handyman work for the "dumb" ones?
I don't think the two-leggers will be invited to join a high IQ group, either.

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Welcome to the world!

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:39 pm

We introduced our chicks to the outside world this week. They have a portable outdoor playpen to keep them safe (and to keep me from having to chase them all over 10 acres).


Whole new world ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )

At first they huddled together, then they assumed the classic Western movie "circle the wagons" position in which all their little hind ends are together, and they stretch their necks and keep an eye out for predators.
They didn't seem to be enjoying the great outdoors much until one caught a grasshopper.


Protein! ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )

Protein on the hoof! One girl grabbed the grasshopper and started to run with it, which initiated a great game of keep-away. After they disposed of the grasshopper (it wasn't pretty, so I'll spare you the details) they all cuddled up and took a nap.
This morning was their second foray into the wide world, and they immediately started looking for grasshoppers. I think I'll make outdoor girls of them yet!





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Why it takes me two hours to run a half-hour errand

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Mon May 16, 2011 7:32 pm

I try not to go into town more than once a week, and here's why--I spend two hours doing things that ought to take a half-hour at the most.
On my to-do list: get turn-buckles for new coop door, get gas for mowers, pick up more chicken feed. First stop the hardware store. One of the clerks asks me how the garden is doing, and we commiserate about the drought and discuss how high our corn is, and another customer chimes in with the amount of recent rain and whether it will do any good. The other clerk and I have an interesting discussion about hens, which we both keep.
As I'm paying for my turn-buckles, a neighbor walks in and asks if I saw the gazebo going down our road. Nope, I missed that one! Our new neighbors that are about two miles away had a gazebo built by the local Amish settlement, and it was delivered last week. Sorry I missed taking a picture of the gazebo passing by. However, my neighbor said the new couple are talking about throwing a big barbecue to introduce themselves and inaugurate the gazebo (deciding what to take to the barbecue will involve several phone calls and discussions with the other ladies on the road and there goes another hour).
Got to the filling station and have my cans filled, ready to put into the truck. Some gentleman who obviously thinks I am a delicate flower of Southern womanhood tells me he'll load them for me. Then we get into a discussion about how the grass is growing because of the rain, and he wants to know where our farm is, and when I tell him he remembers several folks who used to live up and down the road. I get a background on the neighbors, past and present. Useful knowledge!
I know that the feed store is a hotbed of information, rumor, and tall tales, so it's no surprise to me that it takes 45 minutes to get a sack of feed. But heavens, the things you learn! The local garden club's president is the mother of the man who runs the feed store, so you get town gossip and country gossip, all in one convenient location.
When my husband comes in from work and asks me what I did today, I can honestly tell him, "Nothing." But I sure had fun doing it!

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Good news/bad news in the chicken department

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 7:27 pm

I called our poultry supplier and found that no chicks would be available until June! Bad news! It seems that everone and his cousin wants backyard chickens and the supplier is swamped with orders. I'm so tired of being on the "cutting edge" of fads! So, all y'all that ordered your fancy chicks, your bantams, and your strange breeds, back off! I need eight Black Australorps and I don't want to wait for them.
Good news is that Niaomi (we are on first-name basis with chicken suppliers) called and they have my chicks reserved, and I can pick them up on June 1st! Picture two 60-ish people, driving 27 miles in a pick-up truck to get a small cardboard box of chicks. Picture 60-ish lady sitting in passenger seat, clutching cardboard box that peeps, and occasionally opening it to coo at the little yellow fluffballs in the box.
Then when we get home they go to their incubation box (small shallow waterer, special starter feed, shredded paper on the bottom that gets changed daily) in the guest bedroom. Two weeks later they move to the inside coop in the barn with a temporary barrier to contain them in a smaller area. Sixty-ish lady spending most of the day hovering over the coop, protectively!
Pictures of new arrivals will be posted later.

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Coop d' Grace

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:30 pm

Our dictionary defines "coup d' grace" as "any final stroke."
This weekend we built the new outside coop for the hens, and believe me, this is the final one. If the hens want another coop they can build it themselves. This is the "coop d' grace" on this farm!
We started early Saturday morning, assembling the frame (which I had already painted in the hens' chosen color). Struggling with 16' of frame in a nice Texas breeze will work up an appetite in no time! After a break for breakfast (eggs of course) we finished attaching the framework to the 4'x4's that I had trenched into the ground. Then we put in the cross members for strength (remembering the time Ruby Begonia put her fluffly little behind against the wire and pushed until it popped free and she spent some free time outside the coop).
By mid-afternoon we were pretty tuckered, and we still hadn't attached any chicken wire. The ladies were inside, watching the progress and supervising from their high perch. They do like to keep an eye on the help! We decided to do the wire the next day.
Sunday morning my husband fired up the compressor and got out the staple gun while I struggled to unwind new chicken wire. If you ever need something rolled up really, really tight, hire the guy that rolls chicken wire. We spent the morning stretching wire across the frames and stapling it really securely (fluffy behind proof) and bleeding. Did I mention that chicken wire is very prickly? Handling it without getting scratched or poked is not possible.
Shortly after noon we finished:

Coop de grace in progress ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )
and let the ladies inspect their new outside coop:

Oh, we have a new coop! ( photo / image / picture from marlingardener's Garden )
The ladies seem to like it, and in appreciation laid extra eggs on Monday. Who said chickens have no gratitude?





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Hens' new view

Category: Farm Doings | Posted: Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:46 pm

Yesterday was "finish preparing for spring" day, which involved taking down the tarp that keeps a cold wind from blowing into the hens' coop. The tarp is hung in the barn aisle, just outside the coop and effectively screens the inside coop.
After the tarp was down, all the ladies lined up on their lower perch and looked at the barn aisle. You could almost hear the conversation:
"Look at that, I've never seen that before!"
"Wonder when they built a barn out there?"
"Lucy, look! They have equipment!"
"Do you see anything to eat?"
Chickens are known for having short memories, and after all, they have only lived in the barn for three years. You really couldn't expect them to remember there was a barn attached to their coop!


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