Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Really Big Chainsaw

Hubby has two helpers - Rusty the Red Dog and 
Little Penny Poo Poo 

This is Hubby's new pride and joy.  It is a really big chainsaw.  He is cleaning it up.  He traded one of the neighbors for it. Hubby had a big block Chevy intake manifold and the neighbor had this saw Hubby was eye balling so one day they swapped.  Junk for junk :)   Actually, they both think they got a good deal.

Hubby now has three saws.  All Husquevarna which he seems to have taken a shine to.  He has been ordering all kinds of bits and pieces to put on the saws.  A fuel line here and an air filter there.  He said something about pistons rings and a piston borer not too long ago.  I tried to look fascinated.

What else to do on the day off?  I burned a little brush.  I cut it down yesterday and raked it into piles.  Always risky since, if the wind comes up, all that hard work of raking is for naught.  I checked the weather forecast before raking yesterday.  Fortunately, it all worked out fine.

The dogs, and the cat,were a little behind on shots.  We do the animal shots ourselves since we save a bunch of money doing it that way.  I don't like needles at all.  Hubby doesn't mind poking the animals so I hold them and he pokes them.  We will have to give the goats their shots when we get to the feed store in a few weeks.

The cat, the dogs and the goats got wormed last week.  Penny likes to eat bunnies and so does the cat.  The rabbits have tapeworms and that means the other animals can get tapeworms from eating the bunnies.  I don't even know if the goats have worms.  You are supposed to worm them every so often, just  as a precaution, I guess.

Hubby has gone over to the neighbor's house.  They are probably telling bad jokes and Hubby is telling him all about how he got that saw running.  All in all, a nice relaxing day off.

I can't help but be impatient that we aren't getting the fencing done.  The new reason is because he wants to make sure the four foot gates we are buying will really fit in a four foot hole.  I told him that they specifically said they do fit in a four foot hole including hardware.  Oh, well, maybe we will get this moving next week.  I am searching for a driving pony and I need to get this done!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

So, what does a fellow do for his wife on Valentine's Day when he lives in the middle of nowhere?  Why, he traditionally stops at the Smith's Food and Drug store on his way home from work.  He buys a sweet card, gets a dozen roses and buys various chocolates and throws in some Red Vines for good measure.

He is a good worker who has managed to keep his little family fed.  He works on our cars and trucks to save us lots of money.  He builds fence and he trims goat feet.  He cuts wood to keep us warm in the winter.  He is rarely critical and tends to notice when the house looks clean.  He seems to manage to focus on what I have gotten done rather than what I haven't gotten done.

He thinks I am the most stunning creature that ever walked the planet.  I adore being adored!

Tonight we are going to cook up a big T-bone steak, a small lobster tail and some asparagus with butter, salt and pepper.  A very satisfying and romantic meal.  We cook better than most of the restaurants in the area and we eat great at less than half the price of going out.  Of course, we do have to do dishes but, hey, at least we have a dishwasher:)

I told him I was going to write about him on my blog today.  So, there you have it.  My ode to my handsome Hubby whom I love with all my heart.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Burning Brush - Photo Opportunity!

You can see all the brush I have lined up in the driveway to burn.  I am burning dried grass, purple smoke bushes [I call them spindle plants]and lots of greasewood.  Within moments of starting the fire, woosh, the first pile goes up in super hot flames.  That's why it is called greasewood - because it burns like pouring grease on a fire.

The flames don't last long so I shoved the camera in my back pocket and started throwing on the rest of the brush one big armful at a time.

I have been using my new [used] gas powered hedge trimmer to cut back brush, lop off spindle plants and dried grass tops.  Sure is a time saver.  I have also used it to trim back the sand cherries and the silver buffalo berries to make sure the stay neat and tidy.

After I have been cutting for awhile, I then have to rake and/or carry the yard debris into a pile where it is safe to burn, get my shovel and rake at the ready for safety and light it up!  It has been so dry this winter that you have to be extra careful.  I sure wouldn't want to have to tell the neighbors I started the famous fire of 2012 in our neighborhood.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Woodpile that Took Over the Hayshed

Left side

Right side

We got the idea that we needed a wood stove in October of 2011.  So, the hay shed/shade cover is now filled to the gills with wood.  You can see some straw in the center of the shed and there are a few bales of hay hiding underneath or in the back but ... the wood pile has taken over.

The shed is fifteen feet wide and 8 feet sloping to 6 feet in the back.  One row of wood on the right side and two rows of wood on the left side.  We probably have 4 cords of wood in there, or pretty close to it.

Cutting wood honestly wasn't a bad job to have last fall and early winter.  The weather was lovely and we were in the golden hills.  However, the road up to the tree cutting area is so rocky.  You just have to creep along and bump and bump for most of the trip.

I relied on Hubby to cut down the trees.  He then cut them to length [about 18 or 20 inches].  I stacked a lot of it in the trailer but Hubby helped me out on that part of the job as well.  The whole thing took quite a bit of time as we had to drive 40 minutes to get on the dirt road and then an hour up the dirt road to where the wood was.

Once we had some practice, it only took about 3 hours to cut and load our 3/4 of a cord into the trailer.  It then took us an hour and a half to get back down that rocky, bumpy dirt road and another 40 minutes to get home.  Hubby then starts to unload the wood while I make sure the animals and ourselves get some food.

Hubby unloads and splits logs for several days.  We have designed the back area so that he can back the truck and trailer in and unload right where we are splitting and storing the wood.

We didn't know how much wood we would need so we decided on two cords but then we said we better have 4 cords just in case we needed more.  After all, burning wood is supposed to save us $800-900 in propane so that means we will be paying for the stove within three or four years.  If we run out of wood, we aren't making our money back on this deal.

We have had a very mild winter.  The lows are sometimes 10 degrees but usually not as cold as that and the highs have been forties and fifties.  So, we haven't even used a cord of wood so far this year.

Bottom line:  We have a huge amount of the wood pile left for next year.  Of course, it is only February and we thought that it will be nice to heat the house in the spring by firing up the stove for a bit in the mornings.  In the spring, if it is going to be sunny, we often just skip heating the house and hope the sun will heat us up by late afternoon.  It is a bit chilly and I hate taking a shower in the morning when it is cold in the house.  With the woodstove firing up in the morning for an hour or so,  we will start out warmer and the sun will give us a nicely heated house by evening.

One minor drawback to having a woodstove:  The homeowner's insurance went up by $80 per year.  Yep, it eats into the profits a bit but we are still ahead.

One of the reasons to have a woodstove and not a pellet stove is:  We have had a couple of power outages. Once  we were without electricity for three days.  Without the woodstove we are at the mercy of the weather. The pellet stove needs a battery back up to keep working during a power outage.  Another reason to have a woodstove instead of a pellet stove is that we can cut wood ourselves and don't have to buy bags of pellets.  Definitely a money saver.  One more reason to have a woodstove vs. a pellet stove is the cost.  A good woodstove that is EPA rated at 80% efficiency is less costly to buy initially than a pellet stove.

The house has been heating up to such a high temperature with the woodstove that we are often opening a window in the living room and the office to let a bit of the heat out.  Honestly, this is the warmest I have ever been in the winter and it is wonderful.  We think that even if we have a  pogo nip winter [grey, no sun for days or even weeks, freezing cold with frozen fog]  like we have for  two bad winters, that woodstove will keep us toasty and warm.  Best investment we ever made.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Photos and Goats

Spot and Taffy


I am trying to put photos on my blog.  This is a whole new deal for me so we shall see how it turns out.  These are my adorable goats having dinner after a snow storm a few weeks ago.  As you can see, they are the cutest goats in the whole world.

They have individual personalities.  Obi is really quite large and is very sweet.  He is a Boer/Nubian cross.

Spot and Taffy are Nigerian dwarfs.  Spot doesn't like to be touched although he is coming around a little.  Taffy is a butterball, definitely so cute I could write a children's book using him as a character and is okay with being petted.

I have had them for three or four years.

Goat pen with goat shed and goat toy

They live in this pen with a goat shed filled with straw this time of year and a goat toy that has a ramp, old mobile home stairs and a large platform.  They run over and leap on it whenever there is the least bit of "danger" like someone walking on the road or one of the dogs barking.

On the right side of the pen is the area I am clearing for a 30' x 40' [possibly a bit smaller once I get the shed built and fence out the mulberry tree] miniature horse paddock.  That way the little horse will have goat friends to talk to and I will be able to see the little horse from my dining room table.  I like to keep an eye on my critters.

Friday, February 10, 2012


We finally got new cell phones a couple of weeks ago.  We should have done this a lot sooner!!!!  My old flip style phone had a bad battery and would barely hold a charge.

We went to the phone store in town. 

I had no idea how much I would like being able to access my email by phone.  Really fun!   Although I went into sticker shock on the first bill - we had to  pay $18 each for changing up -  AT&T was really great. We git the new phones for 1 cent each plus we had to sign up for two years of service.  The guy helped us keep our old cheapy phone plan and just add the new data plan to it.  It is $30 dollars more [$15 each] per month but Hubby found out at his job that he gets a discount so the whole thing doesn't end up costing us that much more!

The new phones are called 3G.  Frankly, I'm not sure I understand what the G thing is about but I think it is great. 

The big question is:  Should I get rid of the home phone?  It is $25 per month to have a home phone and 90 percent of the calls are telemarketers.  We like being listed in the phone book so friends and neighbors can find our number but is it worth it.  Yes, we do not publish our address in the phone book!  Safety first.

I have 23,000 free books available and I am already using that feature to read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.  It is nice to know that when I am bored and waiting for Hubby to come out of the chainsaw shop or auto parts store I can sit there and read.

I can also access maps.  This is a pretty handy feature.  I have been doing this old school for too many years.  We were able to send the truck buyer a link to the casino we were meeting at and they found us no problem.  No trying to 'splain it over the phone.

I can also access Craigslist and keep up on the most recent sale items.  If you want a good deal you have to stay on top of that.  I am hoping the horse of my dreams will show up on there one day.  I found a deal on horse wire but I have to drive too far to make it worth it.

This phone holds a charge for a long time - like a couple of days.  If you use the phone a lot on line it seems like it uses a lot of batteries but I still don't have to charge it up everyday.

So, should the home phone stay or go?  What do you guys think?

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Hubby made progress on our fencing project today while I was gone.  Wonderful!  This is a project I would desperately like to finish.  We have several gates to build or buy and about 200 feet of wire to put up to finish this project up.  Maybe 400 if we refence the veggie garden area with something nicer than scraps.

I am going to try to include photos with my posts now that I have the new CoolPix camera.  I got a deal on it at Costco.  The old camera died during our hunting trip.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Real Day Off

We had to drive 40 miles to meet the guy who wanted to buy our old truck.  We ended up settling for $1000 but at least it is sold.  We went out to breakfast, stopped by the bank, got some gas and drove home.  I settled in for an early nap.  All in all, a real day off.  No garden, no goats, no fencing - just hanging out.  I really need the time off since I have been pushing so hard to get outside work done.

Yesterday, I did some more burning.  Who knew there were so many shrubs to be cleared and burned.  Cutting the grasses back, as well.  Looks like the veggie garden is down to digging up the roots of the shrubs.

I finished transplanting all the plants I was swapping around so that I would be able to safely have a horse in the back.  I still have to make sure it all the irrigation gets straightened out.  Back to loafing!

Marsh hawk hunting!!  Went out to empty the ash bin and feed the goats and what do I see?  A hawk swooping low, really low, over and through the brush in the neighbors back acreage.  I hear quail calling to one another and then the hawk rops down onto the earth.  He is up to something.  Must be chasing quail on the ground.  Then the hawk is back up into the air.  Nothing!  He is circling around for another go at the quail.  He swoops around and through the brsh again.  So low I can barely see him and then he drops down to the ground.  This time I don't see im come back up.  Maybe he got himself a meal

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For Sale Toyota Pickup

Don't bother to call,  I just put my old pickup on Craigs list and the phone is ringing off the hook even though we don't have to do smog in our county and I can't guarantee it will pass smog and even though it has 360,000 miles on it - some guy is driving out from Sacramento to buy it for $1200 bucks.  Go figure.  I put my phone on silent mode and I am hoping that we really do have it sold at nine am tomorrow morning.  It is a reasonably nice looking little truck with a few dings and a little minor rust and a nice enough interior.  It runs great and has a new windshield and plenty of other new stuff on it.  We have kept it in really good repair but, still, I can't believe people want it so badly they will drive 5 hours to buy it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Miniature Horse Can't Eat That????

Looks like I have to move a number of plants that the little horse will find toxic.

Yesterday I traded about 20 sand cherries from the back area for about 20 silver buffalo berries from the front area.    It seems that horses cannot eat any form of cherries.

I also moved two oak trees, although I left one in the corner where I figure it really won't be too near the new [purely imaginary, at this point] little horse.

I moved the thornless honey locust as well.  They are listed as toxic by some people.  I am trading them out with the hackberry trees in the front.  They are saying that horses should not eat Ponderosa pine trees.  I have a few small pines in the back pasture and I think I will simply move them and be done with it.

Oh, I also have a number of black locust which are very toxic so I am moving them to the front area.  I don't know if I will replace them or not.

For good measure I will be moving the purple robe locust from the back pasture.

I also have one sad looking black walnut that is getting moved again.  That poor thing has been in about three spots already.

That does leave me with the poplars, the staghorn sumacs, the Colorado spruce [which is really not doing that well.]  I started with 5 or 10 and I am down to one or two.  The Siberian elms and the one Chinese elm can stay.

My options are limited on trees with the idea of a pasture with a horse in it.  There will be a paddock with a shelter, too.  So, I think it is best to make sure all the toxic plants are well away from the new horse areas.

One other issue is the silver maples.  I am concerned that they are actually red maple or silver maple/red maple hybrids.  They never have looked right for silver maples.  Apparently red maple is extremely toxic to horses and wilted and dried leaves are especially toxic so those either have to get moved way up front or just taken out altogether.  They are probably seven feet tall so it is a shame to be messing with them but I just cannot take a chance on a super toxic tree being near the new little horse.

So, poisonous plants in my yard?  Plenty of them.  Yep, and most of them will be staying but they will all be moved to the front yard.  We will simply have a firm no letting the horse eat anything when he is out of his area rule.  He'll be tied up or on a lead or pulling a cart anyway since we have no plans to let the little goober wander around on his own.  It is simply impossible to get all the fruit trees, sand cherries, locusts and other toxic plants out of the yard.  We wouldn't have a yard left.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The New, Improved Veggie Garden

The seeds have been arriving in the mail and this has made my thoughts turn to the new, improved veggie garden.  Our old garden was about 125 feet by 50 feet or 6250 sq ft.  The new garden is about 100 feet by 40 feet AND another 100 feet by 40 feet or about 8,000 sq ft.

The old veggie garden was one big block of dirt.  The new veggie garden has a silver buffalo berry hedge around it.  I have allowed five feet on each side of the hedge to allow for growth.  Then, there is a 10 foot wide pathway, all the way around the garden and a 10 foot wide pathway up the middle.  That means I can use a wagon or a wheel barrow with ease!

The old veggie garden had left over bits of wire fence keeping the dogs out.  The new veggie garden has a nice looking 5 foot 2"x4"welded wire fence planned for across the front with a gate planned for entering the garden from the front.  Completing the make over will be a fourteen foot gate and a four foot man gate from the garden to the greenhouse to allow for easy access with a truck or even a truck with a trailer [filled with horse manure, one supposes].  We have gotten a start on that project by getting two posts into the ground.  We got sidetracked by spending an entire day off buying my new, used truck so - I am hoping - we will be working on this project again this week.  We bought a roll of wire, so we are well on our way to getting this job done.

It is a big garden but corn takes up a fair amount of room.  We do three sections of corn every year, planting them about two weeks apart so that we can have fresh corn for a couple of months.  Naturally, we freeze quite a bit of it as well.  We also give some away since you can't beat fresh corn and you can't buy it fresh picked around here.

Hubby also likes to grow a ton of melons.  We will have Lilly crenshaw, Swan lake, cantaloupes, Desert King and New Queen watermelons, French cantaloupes and a few more I can think of right now.  They grow in rows about 6 feet apart and they take up a lot of room.

That leaves plenty of room left over for the far too many beans we will plant again this year, carrots, rads, lettuce, peas.  I love garden peas but I sometimes wonder why I bother.  You can buy a bag of frozen  peas for almost nothing and they taste pretty good.  Garden peas take a fair amount of time to pick and then you have to sit and shell them for a fair amount of time.  Sometimes I sit on the couch with three bowls [one for unshelled peas, one for the shells and one for the plump green peas] and watch TV while I shell the darn things.

Looks like today will be another permissible burn day.  Every morning that you want to burn you have to check the weather and then call the burn line.  The county tells you "Today is a a permissible burn day.  You may burn daily from sunrise until 2pm.  You must have a burn permit to burn.  For information on obtaining a burn permit ...."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Burning, burning, burning

The last week or so has been all about catching up with cutting down the rice grass.  Rice grass is a very important component of my little ecosystem.  It has a very deep root system that holds the sand in place.  It is also a great green factor that helps keep the place feeling cooler in the summer time.

The rice grass goes to seed and then there is a dense tuft of golden brown dried grass left.  In the spring, this seems to shade out the new growth.  That seems to interfere with the grass growing thick and green.  The grass grows in clumps and is what is called a bunch grass.

Bear in mind that we have almost five acres and at least 3 of that is covered in rice grass.  We are finally starting to get rice grass in the orchard area.  The orchard area out front was pretty barren when we moved in. We have a lot of moving sand out there so I have been giving that area a little extra water in the spring by moving a sprinkler around for a  week or so.  It doesn't take much extra water to encourage the rice grass babies to really get going.

The first couple of years we lived here I cut the dead rice grass tops by hand and fed it to the goats.  I finally got a battery powered hedge trimmer but it was too big of a job for the little machine.  This year, we bought the gas hedge trimmer on line from ebay.  Wow, what a difference!

So, I am whacking down over grown antelope salt bush, smoke bushes and greasewood.  I cleared out the area where I want to put the miniature horse.  I whacked off the tops of the dried grasses.  Then, I have to start hauling and raking and piling it all up into a burn pile.  Since I don't want the burn pile to get too big, I stage a bunch of the brush and grasses off to the side.  I get a piece of newspaper into the middle of the small pile of brush and grasses and "Whoosh" it leaps into flames.  Those desert plants are really flammable.

I also used the hedge trimmer to clean out all the garden beds.  I cut the daylillies and irises, the silver sage and the yarrow off low near the ground.  I raked out the beds and burned all of that as well.  Sometimes I compost but this year I just want to be done with this phase so I can move on.

There is some transplanting I need to do.  More about that tomorrow.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Seed Order and Nused Truck

So. what does a gardener do when the weather sucks and it is still winter?  Order from the seed catalogs, of course.  I stopped myself  from buying "just a few trees" since I have plenty of trees that just need to grow and I will have the shade and wind protection I long for.

I did buy asparagus since my original asparagus is not doing well.  I put it in about 5 years ago and haven't had much luck with it.  The freeze comes along and gives it frost bite and then it doesn't want to produce.  I got a different variety that is hopefully later to come up in the spring.

We ordered corn and  peppers and tomatoes, cukes [but they don't have the Chinese cukes I ordered so I'll have to see what I can do about that].  We have Snap peas and snow peas and garden peas.We are growing 2 or maybe 3 kinds of radishes.  We always have fillet beans, purple beans, Italian flat beans and wax beans, all in the bush variety.  We just can't seem to get the tall vining kinds going.

We are growing orange hubbard, ebony acorn and a newer version of the Waltham butternut winter squashes.

I ordered 5 kinds of garlic and the usual red, white and yellow onions.

I have Russian finger potatoes that I will dig up and replant for the new crop and I ordered some seed potatoes so we would have a couple of more varieties.

I'll be moving the strawberry plants that we have instead of buying new ones.  I am rearranging the garden so this is my chance to move them.

We are planting the long cayenne peppers, as usual.  I am trying 2 new sweet peppers since I rarely have much luck with the bell peppers.

I finally got some cauliflower and broccoli last year so I am doing both of those plus Brussels sprouts!!

We are sticking with Fleet corn for another season.  It is tasty and it holds on the plant really well.  Good fresh and from the freezer.

I splurged and bought Wave petunia seeds at $5 for fifteen seeds.  Worth it because the Wave petunias really are fantastic and they cost about $5 for one plant at the home center.

I'll talk some more about the actual varieties being grown as I start getting these seeds started.

I have to go out to the wooden shed and see what seed starting supplies I can rustle up and I need to make sure the seed starting rack is put together and ready to come inside on March 15th.  We generally want to be planting in the veggie garden about May 15th.  Some years we can start a little earlier but last year it was May 30th.

Nused Truck

What is a nused truck?  It is a new used truck or new to me, as my friends say.  Hubby and I saw a pretty good deal on a '92 Toyota Forerunner.  It is a V-6 with rebuilt tranny, motor and transfer case.  The body is in great shape.  .  It is white with a blue stripe on it.

Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power sunroof.   Nice.  It has A/C but it needs to be recharged.  New tires.

The interior is in pretty good shape.

Sure, it is old so it has a couple of minor issues one of which is that it needs a new exhaust system.  The pipes are rotting but that is a pretty minor deal.  Hubby will be able to fix that no problem.

Did I mention four wheel drive?   Oh yeah, I need that living out here in the sand!!!  Manual transmission but really an easy vehicle to shift so I am quite happy.  And it has a trailer hitch receptacle and is wired for pulling a trailer.  I didn't know I would get that as well

It looks nicer than my old Toyota truck, which now has 350,000 miles on it and is getting a bit rusty.  Also, the sand storm before Thanksgiving ate the paint on the front end of the little Toyota truck which added to the tacky factor.

Some of you back east will be saying to themselves "Geez, it can't look good".  We don't have much snow out here and the roads don't get salted much.  We don't get a lot of rain either so a 20 year old truck can still look pretty good.  The best part is, no car payment.  That is why I drive older vehicles.  Car payments totally suck.

What's the damage to the pocketbook?  $2,500 - quite the deal, I think!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


We have valiantly been attempting to grow seedless table grapes here in the desert.  Technically, grapes should be in a climate zone here where they will survive.  A man coming down the hill on Ninth has a lot of wine grapes planted.  I heard through the grapevine that between the ground squirrels and the squirrelly weather, that he isn't having much success.  I know how he feels.

We have 7 grapevines, half of them replanted since the first ones didn't make it.  After the fall crop it has become quite apparent that six out of the seven have grown up from below the graft so now they are seedy Concord grapes.  I didn't think they were very tasty either.

So, I asked Hubby to find us some self rooted grapevines with no graft.  Thanks to the internet he was able to find what we wanted, no problems.  He ordered us a Mars - a blue grape; Venus and Einset - red grapes; Himrod - a white grape; Jupiter - blue-black?  All self rooted which means no graft to worry about.  If they freeze to the ground they will at least come up as what they were.

We think the one survivor is a Canadice.  They were tasty grapes, though a bit small.  He wants to try grafting a Canadice onto a Concorde rootstock.  I say have at it!!!  I don't think it will work but one always has to be trying new things.

I am moving the Concord crappy grapes onto the fences around the yard for extra gree and wind break material.  At least they won't go to waste.