Archive for March, 2012

While at the grocery store, I purchased onion sets and seed potatoes.  I decided to try growing vidalia onions this year.  I’ve tried yellow and white onion sets before with little success.  Last year, I started white onions from seed and managed to grow onion sets for this year.  In the fall, I planted white onion seeds in hopes of getting an early start this spring.  However, because of the mild winter and the freeze & thaw cycles that occurred, the seeds did not germinate and sprout.  They may have germinated on a mild day only to freeze later.  Anyway, like I said, I’ve never tried growing vidalia onions.  Our local grocery store had one hundred starts in a bundle for a very good price.  So, I will plant them and give updates as the gardening season progresses.

The seed potatoes that we got are standard, everyday potatoes.  Janine, my best friend, told me that large seed potatoes produce large baby potatoes.  We’ll be testing that theory since we got some large, some medium, and some small seed potatoes.  I will gladly let the results of the grand potato experiment be known when we dig potatoes in the fall.

The other experiment that we are running this year involves tomatoes.  We know for a fact that we love yellow pear and stupice tomatoes.  As part of my recent seed swapping activities, I have been introduced to about nine different varieties of tomatoes that I’ve never planted before.  So, we will be growing yellow pear, stupice, principe, yellow brandywine, roma, creole, mortgage lifter, bonnie best, Cherokee purple, cherry, grape, better boy, and red brandywine tomatoes.  This will allow us to decide which we like best, which keep and can the best, and which grow best up here on our mountain.  Normally, I would save seeds.  This year, because of the number and variety of tomatoes that will be grown in close proximity, I will not be saving seeds.  I will, however, post the results of our tomato experiment.

The final experiment we are running has to do with corn.  We have laying hens.  They give us wonderful eggs.  We have been purchasing their feed at the local farm store.  It has come to our attention that the majority of commercially available chicken feed is not only GMO, but also has unlisted herbicides and pesticides in them.  As a result, we will be growing field corn for the purpose of grinding up our own chicken feed.  At least then, we will know for sure that they are getting non-GMO, heirloom variety corn without herbicides or pesticides.  Hopefully, we will be able to produce enough to see them through until next year’s garden comes in.  We’ll see.  If we don’t, then I guess we’ll just have to make the corn field a bit bigger or supplement it with other garden produce.  This is something we do anyway.  For example, when I’m harvesting tomatoes, the chickens always get the partially rotten, bug or deer eaten tomatoes, squash, and etc.  They love it when the garden adds to their diet.

So, those are this year’s garden plans,…well, for the most part.  There are other new plants we will be trying as well.  One of particular interest is asparagus beans which are yard long beans.  They will have to be grown on a trellis or on the garden’s fence.  Should be an interesting gardening season.

I hope everyone out there who has a garden enjoys many successful harvests.


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Last summer, we enjoyed our inflated-ring swimming pool.  We did have a few problems with it after one of the cats fell in and used it’s claws on the ring to get out.  We never did find all the holes.

At the end of the season, we let what was left of the air out of the ring and removed the pump and hoses.  We left the pool in the sunken area created specifically for the pool.  The pool now has about two or so inches of water in it.  This water is not clean.  It has algae growth and various insect larvae, along with grass thrown by the lawn mower.

About three weeks ago, my son and I heard an unusual sound outside.  At first, it sounded like a bug of some kind.  Several days later, it dawned on me that it was probably a frog or toad calling a mate to our pool.  The critter’s sound changed over time.  It changed from buggish to toadish.

I went out about four days ago to feed the chickens.  I noticed what looked like spirals out of a standard one-subject notebook, but they were much longer.  I asked Frank about them.  After some scrutiny, he told me they were biological.  I looked closer also.  I could see the individual dot of each egg in the strand.  Cool!

So, I looked up frog and toad egg photos.  What we have are definitely toad eggs.  Frog eggs tend to be laid in mass.  Toad eggs are laid in strands.  Who knew?

After some discussion, we’ve decided to move the eggs to the swampy area between us and the mailbox.  I’ve also offered them to local homeschool families.  I figured the children would love to watch them become tadpoles and then toads.  I’ve even considered bringing a few eggs inside to watch them for a while myself.  I’ve always found such things to be fascinating.

How about you?

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Dog Types

There are three kinds of dogs: ornamental, alarm, and security.  Ornamental dogs are fashion accessories for overnight-sensation-media-attention-seeking-starlet-poptarts and for those who choose to emulate them.  You know what I mean.  These dogs are kept in purses.  They are dolled up.  They even dress similarly to their owners.  Nails painted the same color, and such.  These poor things forget they are dogs because they are never allow to experience the fullness of doghood.  When the poptart tires of the dog or the dog misbehaves enough (as in, I’m tired of this crap…leave me alone), then the dog is no longer cute.  The poor thing gets replaced with a newer or different model as quickly as the poptart can change lipstick.  I always feel for these dogs.  They deserve much better than they get.  Hopefully, once they are out of the spotlight, they get adopted by a much better family who will treat with the respect a dog deserves.

The second kind of dog is alarm. These are little, yappy dogs.  You know the ones.  They are sometimes referred to as “ankle-biters.”  These dogs are excellent early warning devices.  They do, however, require some training to prevent them from being nuisance alarms.  After all, they will bark at anything and everything without proper training.  Furnace turns on, don’t bark; stranger trying to get in, do bark.  When properly trained, alarm dogs are an invaluable asset to their people.  They make excellent companions and provide a great service.

The last kind of dog is security.  There is little doubt that my dog, Thor, is security.  He is a mutt of many large breeds.  He is very nicely muscled.  And, best of all, he’s black.  Black dogs are seen by many people as being more intimidating than dogs of other colors.  My blond dog, Freya, doesn’t garner nearly as much instant respect as Thor.  When out in public with Freya, everyone wants to pet her.  They ask her name and her age.  She’s sixteen and is starting to show it.  When out in public with Thor, people tend to back away.  Or they will stand at a respectful distance when talking.  Very, very few people will approach Thor without invitation and explanation that he is a wonderful and friendly dog.  While at a rabies clinic, my son, Joshua, and I had the dogs on their leashes.  He had Freya; I had Thor.  The Great Dane mix backed away when we walked by.  The boxers hid behind their owners.  Other people stood back with their dogs kept close (some by at least fifteen feet).   One alarm dog and her owner where right in front of us.  The little dog approached, and the owner looked alarmed.  I explained that Thor is a gentle dog.  He just looks mean.  The two dogs met and discovered an instant friendship.  The little dog was very happy and stayed close to my security dog.

Size of the dog is no guarantee as to the kind of dog.  Some small dogs are great for security.  Some large dogs make wonderful alarms.  Almost any “cute” breed can become ornamental.  So, decide what kind of dog you want and select well.  Remember, even ornamental dogs need training.

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I have many snake plants.  Two of them are more than thirty years old.  I follow a year long watering pattern with them.  In the summer, I give them little water.  The humidity in the Virginia air is more than enough to take care of their needs.  In the winter and spring, I overwater slightly.  They have trays under them.  During the heavy watering seasons, the trays usually have water in them.  This pattern mimics the watering pattern that snake plants would get in nature.  By following this pattern, I encourage the plants to flower.  When they do, the smell of the blossoms is very sweet, almost sickeningly sweet.  The flowers are very delicate looking.  They also produce a sweet syrup to entice insects to pollinate the flowers.  Here’s some photos of the last time my snake plant flowered.  Enjoy!


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Crochet projects

As some of you know, I like to crochet.  Here are photos of some of my completed projects.  The first three are of a table cloth that I crocheted for my dad.  It’s made of #10 thread.  The last three photos are of an afghan that I made for a friend.


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Young Pullets

The other day, we added seven Cornish Rock to our number of chickens.  This breed is an excellent meat bird.  Usually, they are harvested at about twelve weeks of age.  Right now, they are very cute, very fluffy little yellow peepers.

Yesterday, we were gifted six pullets.  These will be added to our laying hen flock.  Right now they are only a few weeks old.  They are getting their wing feathers.  Our dogs, once again, immediately took a liking to these little birds.  The Cornish Rock are in one large bin with the pullets in a bin beside them.

Yesterday, I wrote about my dogs protecting the chicks.  Well, let me add another protective dog story.

Thor was in beside the Cornish Rock (the pullets were still in route).  He was sleeping, I think.  Anyway, the one year old kittens, Callie and Salem, were playing.  They were wrestling and running.  Anyway, one of them took off through the living room and kitchen…and right into the end room.  Thor barked loudly!  The cats ran!  The chicks got all scared and excited.  Thor lifted up to check on the chicks.  Then, he laid back down beside them.

I had to laugh and pet Thor.  He’s a good guard dog.  The cats won’t have a chance to get a chick snack.

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New Arrivals

We have seven new chicks.  They are fluffy, little, peeping creatures!  The dogs, Freya and Thor, like to guard them from the ever curious (and hungry) cats.

Yesterday, I was sitting at my computer desk when I heard Freya growl.  I turned to look at her.  She was standing in the doorway of the end room where the chicks are being temporarily housed until they are bigger.  She growled a second time and a third.  So, I got up to investigate.

Crouched down, my gray cat, Puff, was staying very still.  The chicks started  peeping.  Puff moved to look.  Freya growled.  Puff got low again.  I giggled.  I watched as this happened again.  I thanked Freya for being a good dog as I moved her out of the way so that I could rescue Puff.  I put Puff outside and gave Freya a treat for protecting the chicks.

Puff goes no further than the kitchen to go outside, and the other cats must have gotten his memo.  They also stay away from the chicks.  As I write this, Thor is taking his turn on guard duty.

*Good Dogs*

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