Friday, April 27, 2018

The End Of An Era...

Why, yes! It has been several years...

 I'm not going to bring this up to date. It would take far too long. But I would like to refer you back to an entry in May of 2010. I was talking about our new chickens.

Two of the chickens were white Auracanas. We picked them specifically because they laid green eggs. Thank you, Dr Seuss. We started out with six hens, and over time have cycled through several sets. But we had one grand old lady, one of our white auracanas.

 She is dying, I think. She didn't make it back into the coop on her own tonight, and I don't expect her to survive the night. What a run she has had! She's over 8 years old. So this isn't a surprise, just sad.

Good night, mother hen. Sleep well.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Goodnight, Sadie

I've lost my best friend.

Sadie was probably born in December 2001, a Shepherd-Lab mutt. She was found beside the road in August 2002 by a family who took her to the Annapolis SPCA, where they evaluated her to be 8 months old.

In October 2002, my wife and I separated after 13 years. She took the kids and moved to UT, leaving me with an empty house and an empty heart.

On January 8, 2003, I went to the SPCA, where I met Sadie. On January 11, 2003, I brought her home.

Sadie gave me a reason to come home. She gave me someone to love, someone who needed me to be there. And for the next six years, she was the center of my life. Everyone who met her, loved her. And she returned that love, with interest.

We walked together, morning and night. I figure that together we have walked nearly 6,000 miles. We backpacked, camped, romped, and slept together. I loved the feel of her fur, the sound of her breath, the joy in her bark.

In 2009, we started into a new chapter together. I married a woman named Debbie, and Sadie was my best man. Together we moved into a new home on 6 acres. Debbie brought her Sheltie, Annie, and over the next 4 years we added Jake the Lab and Beau Bloodhound.

Some time ago, Sadie went through kidney failure. We nursed her through, put her on a prescription, low-protein diet, and worried. The vets gave her about six months.

Sadie laughed at them for over two years.

When the end came, it was quick. Last Friday, she was normal; but as the week passed, her energy waned, she had trouble moving, her appetite disappeared. By Thursday her breathing was labored and her heartbeat was fast. I worked from home that day, and spent a lot of time with and near her.

I spent the last three hours watching with her. Finally, that great heart failed, her proud head bowed, her bright eyes dimmed and closed, and she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I hope she'll wait for me.

Goodbye, you beautiful, glorious bitch. You were my first, and I doubt I'll ever have a dog as special as you again. You filled my life when it was empty, lit it up with joy when it was black and dark. You carried me until I could stand, then walked beside me through 11 years. Now you've run ahead, and you can't hear me whistle.

But I know where you are.

Four dogs seemed like too many. Without you, three will never be enough.

Sadie, my first dog. December 2001 - 8 November 2013, 2:50 AM. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And Then There Were Three...

As you recall, we were planning on re-queening our surviving hive.

And then it died.

And on Easter Sunday, we repopulated both our hives with new packages.

But that left us with a spare queen bee. We had already ordered her--what were we going to DO with her?

But we had a spare hive body.

So we talked to an acquaintance from BUMBA, who was able to provide us some bees from a crowded and queen-less colony. Yesterday, we drove from Baltimore to Columbia to Frederick to Columbia to Clinton and finally back home, collecting bees. The bees that escaped in the car found our virgin queen in her little cage and were trying to get to her, even before we got them all out of the car!

We put the queen and the bees in the empty hive. It's something of a long shot, but it's worth a try! We'll post updates.

Tonight, we have three hives. Tomorrow, who knows?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ancient Buried Treasure!

Well, there's not much of it. And it's not gold, it's rock. And it really isn't worth all that much. But it WAS buried! And we dug it up as we were putting in the furrows to plant the garden.

It's a stone point, about 2.5" long, bifacially worked in what looks like quartz. There's no way to date it, since it was in the top 6 inches of the soil. It has probably been disturbed many times.

But it is a neat reminder that we are not the first ones on this land. There is history here, going back hundreds of years. And now we can hold a little bit of it in our hands.

Monday, April 30, 2012

And The Garden Is IN!

We planted all our trees: 3 pear, 3 cherry, 2 apple, and a fig. Fig? Fig.

We have yet to stake them, but they're all more or less upright, and we have the stakes.

We put up a fence around the garden plot: 150' of green plastic mesh on 3 sides, and the existing boundary fence on the 4th. The mesh is stapled to 5' oak stakes.

Lesson #1: Don't skimp on the staples.

Lesson #2: Put the fence on the UPWIND side of the stakes.

Lesson #3: Wrap the fencing AROUND the end stakes.

Lesson #4: Don't put up the ends first, then the middle. The fence WILL sag. Put up one end, and work toward the other, pulling the fencing taut as you go.

Lesson #5: It won't stop the deer. It might discourage them a bit, but they'll walk right through. That's why I'm using more staples. I hope they learn to walk around.

On Sunday, we opened furrows and dropped in seeds. I did the first 5 by hand, then gave up and Debbie's son, David, brought down the rototiller and re-tilled the rows before I opened the furrow. MUCH easier.

Most of the last 2 of 12 rows is our leftover seeds from years past. We put them in THICK, and we don't really expect much to grow. Some of the seeds are 2009! I figure that 1 in 10 might germinate. If anything grows, it's a plus.

We are growing lettuce, okra, beans, peas, turnips, parsnips, carrots, salsify, cornsalad, arugula, parsley, tomatoes in beefsteak, roma, and cherry varieties, some peppers, collards, kale, winter squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin, and who knows what else. We tried for heirloom varieties this year, but some of the older seeds may have been hybrids. I think we planted the squashes too close together, so if we save seeds and replant, we're going to get some interesting hybrids ourselves. Of course, in a 50'x50' plot, we weren't going to get them far enough apart, no matter what we did.

Then we pulled the hoses down from the house, about 300 feet, and put out a sprinkler. It's not much, but it will help. Now I need more hoses to replace them on other parts of the property.

This is my third garden. It's about 100x bigger than the first. My success rate has been--disappointing--so far. It's a learning process.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Did I say the parts would soak in the oil for two days? I MUST have meant SIX.

Nothing this week went precisely as hoped.

Tuesday evening, I started mounting the auger on the tractor. The Leinbach L7100Jr model seems to be too big on a Cub Cadet 7275. Or maybe the hydraulic arms just aren't lifting high enough...

Wednesday, I fiddled more with the auger. This is one HEAVY tool. Never did get the thing to rise high enough. Debbie made a suggestion that saved the day--how about an assist? Ratchet and strap webbing, from the end of the boom, over the ROPS, and hooked on...Now that I had it vertical, I was finally able to oil and grease it.

Friday I continued trying to get the auger lifted off the ground. Hydraulic oil level was low, so I added hydraulic oil, but NOW I couldn't get the tractor started. Online to do research...

Saturday, I bled the air out of the fuel lines. Don't forget to open the fuel valve when you run the tractor! It's a nuisance. Then the tractor started right up. The added hydro oil made NO difference at all. I put Debbie's idea to work...

I was worried about the ROPS. It's the roll bar, and I wasn't sure it was going to take the weight. Then I realized that it had BETTER be able to take the static weight of the auger--it was supposed to take the DYNAMIC forces of a ROLLING TRACTOR. It did, just fine.

Suitably jury-rigged, I dug my holes. Attach strap. Lift auger. Move to new hole. Remove strap. Start drilling. Lower hydraulics, auger drills into ground. When deep enough, raise auger (this works fine--it's not too heavy for the hydraulics, it's too long). Stop the drill. Repeat.

Then it was OFF with the auger (I need to come up with a good way to store it...), and ON with the tiller! The PTO coupling has been soaking in old motor oil now for six days, and it's messy. Add grease to both halves of the telescoping shaft, slide them together, and...

Slide them together, and...

Why is nothing ever simple?

Fiddle and push, scrape and slather. Previous experience (see the entry about the crowbar...) has taught me that if it is hard to put on, it will be HARD to get off. More fiddling, and suddenly it's free! It slides in, slides out--it FALLS out, if you let it.

Back the tractor up. Put in the pins. Attach the PTO. THIS time, it's easy. Hook up the top bar. Lift and lower--hydraulics are fine for this. While it is up, engage the PTO and see it spin. Nice and quiet!

And now to till!

First, the raspberry patch.

We had bushhogged a batch of brambles, which we intend to replace with berry-bearing brambles.

Then, the garden!

I tilled our 50x50 space in about 10 minutes. So I went over it again for good measure, UNTIL...

THUNK! Whangity-whang-whang...

I stopped quickly. The top bar had vibrated loose at BOTH ends. The turnbuckle was missing, but easily found on top of the tiller. I took everything off the tractor and reassembled it. I apparently had not adequately engaged the lock nut. I'll remember that.

Finish the tilling, drive into the barn, and head for the showers. It's NICE when things finally WORK.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Now, this is what our property looks like:

You can see, we have a LONG (1/4 mile!), skinny driveway. Based on the markers we've been able to find, and the description of the lot on the deed, we have about 10' by 750' on the west side of the driveway. That's 250 YARDS.

We decided that the best use of that space would be as a linear orchard. That way, we have trees along the drive, and we start growing our own fruit. Since most trees want to be planted about 10 yards apart, we can put in TWENTY FIVE fruit and nut trees.

We ordered our first 9 trees from Miller Nurseries. They include apples, cherries, pears and figs. Figs? Figs.

Now I have to start digging holes--which is why we bought the auger for the tractor. So this evening, I am going to fill the gearbox with oil, put grease in all the joints, and mount it on the tractor. Hopefully, I will be able to dig the holes tomorrow, plant the trees Thursday, and get the auger OFF and the tiller ON the tractor Friday, so we can actually TILL on Saturday.

Plus, I need more peat and compost for the potato barrels--the potato plants are several inches high, and we need to raise the soil level to encourage MORE POTATOES to develop.