Rancho Cabeza de Pollo

A Great Read

Excuse me while I clear my throat…

Now, excuse me while I get my Southern accent started here…

You wanna read a good book ? Scratch that. You wanna read a frigging great book ?
Then find a copy of The Desert Wanderer by Zane Grey. If you have even the slightest inkling of what great writing is, what dramatic scenery can be, how romance in literature can propel you and lift you, how the shocking and compelling contrast of life “back then” and life now can inspire you, then it is entirely certain that you will absolutely and without a doubt fall in complete and total infatuated love with this book.
Seriously !
Think of this : Arizona, the desert — mountain — forest — waterfall — cultural landmark capital of this very planet Earth, set in the days of yore (think “Old West” and cowboys and all of that stuff), put to the backdrop of Monument Valley, Rainbow Bridge, Mogollon Rim, Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and the Rockies rolled up in one, stretching over a man’s entire adulthood, pulling characters as evolved and deep as you can imagine, all culminating into what amounts to the best damned story you’ve ever heard.
That is this book. That is what I’m talking about !
Read it; read it again. Then understand how it varies the vastness of your soul, or whatever you prefer to call it.
This book will alter your life.
So, to wrap up, I’ve read a good book and I think you should read it also.

Wanna See Some Kiko Goats ?

Our last visit to Rock Creek Ranch down in Coalgate, Oklahoma was loaded with Kiko goats. Charlie Krebbs, the shepherd of this group, at last count had 58 of them and they were looking gorgeous.

If your first reaction is, “That grass is bright !” then you would be in the same boat of we were.

Back when we lived in that area we never really noticed it, but once we’d head north about a hundred miles we could tell a huge difference. The climate down in that part of Oklahoma is a great mix of Texas heat and Gulf Coast moisture (at times), so if you can imagine what Louisiana or Arkansas might feel like, that’s how it was there. It made for ultra-​green pastures but also loads of Copperhead snakes and scorpions.

Still, we wouldn’t trade the experience of living there for anything, and now that Charlie is down there with his herd, we’re tempted to buy some Kikos so we can raise them in our neck of the woods.

Making Silage (or Haylage)

I’m going to make this one as quick and easy as possible because I found that no amount of research on the internet yielded results.

First of all, Silage (also called Haylage, but let’s not get into that whole thing right now) is just another word for hay. Usually it goes into a…wait for it…silo !

Anyway, for the purposes of feeding your goats when there is no hay available in your area, this is what you do. It’s pretty easy so I’m warning you that it SHOULD be impossible to screw this up.

You’ve got land, right ? Good. You’re going to need it and there are a few things to keep in mind :

1DO NOT use any chemicals on your grass, pasture, lawn, or whatever you want to call it.

2DO NOT include trees of any size, bushes, etc. in your Silage or Haylage mix.

3DO NOT allow foreign objects (metal, plastic) into your mix.

Okay, now with that out of the way, you’re going to need to have a decent amount of grass to mow. Use whatever mower you like, bag or no bag, riding mower or push mower, gasoline or electric or even a reel mower. Just pick a way to cut your grass.

Now leave it to dry for a few days. You’ll know when it’s dry because your human body has the ability to touch things and determine if they are wet or dry. It doesn’t get much easier.

One option instead of letting it dry is to pile it all into one place, like on a tarp or concrete floor. It will take longer to dry if you don’t “stir it” or move it around, but it will still dry eventually.

Once the stuff is dry you have to put it into containers. Use big black garbage bags, especially the thick ones. Cram them as full as possible, then squeeze out as much air as you can. Tie them closed, stack them up off the ground.

Let them stay that way, out of the elements, out of the sun, for SIX (6) months.

Once time has passed, open up one of the bags. If there is any mold, and there probably will be, discard it. It’s usually just about an inch of moldy hay on top that you will remove.

Each bag is roughly a small square bale of hay, maybe even a little more.

If you feed your goats a bale per month, then just 6 bags of this stuff will get them through winter.

I hope you find this informative. It’s in many books, but there isn’t a lot about it in the typical spots online.

Finishing the Demolition

I don’t like to count myself as part of the population which over-​shares what amounts to insignificant aspects of my personal daily life, i.e. pictures of food I eat, annoying photos of myself, or any type of social networking. But hey, that’s just me. I learned a few years ago when I worked in the I.T. industry just how unsafe it was to do almost anything on the internet, which contradicts this website, but I digress…

Of course, today I’m going to defy myself and share something that is wholly unimportant to anyone but me.

It began as a massive undertaking involving the removal of not one, not two, not even three or four, but five structures ! First, there was the nice and clean shed which we had no use for, blocked half the driveway path, and served no purpose whatsoever. Then there was the disgusting wooden shed from an age long forgotten by society. It must have been constructed solely to house rodents and snakes. After that, there was the matter of several lean-​to structures, followed by another massive old shed and yet another massive shed.

It was a lot of garbage, to get to my point.

Now you can see in the picture above all that is left, minus a huge pile of scrap materials which I have successfully removed from the property in exchange for some tools and toys for myself. More on that in a few days.

What you can see in the picture above is the evidence of my attempts to burn this stuff in a fire…six different times ! No luck there.

When I reached my fire-​burning limit I decided I would just shovel the remaining debris into the bed of my truck. As you can see, there is metal, wood, concrete, shingles, rocks, fluorescent light bulbs, nails, screws, and so on.

Oh, how great it is to finally be rid of it all !

Field Mice

It’s inevitable that you’re going to have all sorts of rodents living in the country but in the past few months I’ve learned a few things.

First of all, I found that during my demolition of several old sheds, out-​buildings, barns, shops, or whatever you want to call them, that the simple act of demolition forced many of the rodents out into the open, at least long enough for me to take note of them and their number.

Second, I simply kept the debris or reclaimed materials (I hate that phrase due to it’s new association with all sorts of annoying things) stacked off the ground on platforms, or I got rid of the debris completely. There was so much junk for the rodents to use as their homes that it was no small wonder that the previous people who lived on this land had problems, so many problems that they littered the home and property with bait of all kinds.

A note on bait : Don’t use it. I’m not going to give you the typical, “It’s cruel.” treatment here. There is a reason that bait just doesn’t work and I think you’ll agree with me that it also doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Simply put, bait attracts whatever it is you’re trying to get rid of. It has to, right ? If it didn’t then it wouldn’t be called “bait” and it wouldn’t work. But ! Using bait for rodents is pointlessly unnecessary because of the short lifespans of those creatures in many cases. Think about it like this; if you have an adult mouse and it smells whatever bait you’re using then it will naturally check out the bait, eat it, get sick, and die. But before it dies it will either pass the poison down to it’s offspring or, as is often the case, it will simply show the offspring the bait’s location or the offspring will find the bait on their own. But not before they have a chance to reproduce. In essence, you are simply providing a food source that has the side effect of eventually killing your pest. You end up NEVER getting rid of the mice because, in the country, it’s impossible to come remotely close to removing every single rodent, especially with bait alone. The best thing you could do, right now, is get rid of that bait. It will help divert those rodents back to the outdoors, and wouldn’t you rather have them outside than in your house where you keep stockpiling spoiled food, a.k.a. bait ?

After we had removed the bait from everywhere on the property, which was before I started my demolition projects, we almost immediately noticed that we not only had a rodent-​free home, but that there was more evidence of them outdoors, in those various piles of debris. The removal of their future homes helped.

Now that I am almost finished with this demolition project I have encountered more rodents than ever before but here’s the great part — my dog, Bayla, has been systematically destroying every one she can find. She smells them or their home, goes nuts trying to dig her way into it and when, after much effort, the rodent gives up and darts out into the light, she immediately kills it. Just a few minutes ago she annihilated a field mouse which happened to be carrying two of its offspring with it. It was kind of sad to see but at the same time, that’s two potential new mothers that could birth a total of four more females that could birth a total of eight more, plus the original two mothers’ four and their mother’s two…you get the point.

There are very few places for these rodents to hide now and there are no more food sources apart from whatever they find outside, AWAY from the house.

The greatest part of all is perhaps the fact that, thanks to our dog, even if one wanders into the house, she will end it’s journey before it can fully comprehend the fact that it was only a few feet away from our pantry, the fridge, or any number of potentially mind-​blowing food sources.

So, the lesson here ?

Don’t use bait. Remove any potential homes for the critters. Remove food sources for them. Take an animal out hunting for them if you can.

Seed Planting Today

Today marks the day that I planted out seeds for our secondary garden, the one that I thought might be too horrible to be of any use, but ended up working into a usable plot of soil. I decided that I would only plant our older seeds, from last year, and only things like melons and squash.

Here’s what I managed to put into the ground so far :

Imperial 45 Canteloupe

Jack O’ Lantern Pumpkin

Dark Green Zucchini Squash

Table Queen Squash

Waltham Butternut Squash

Saffron Prolific Straightneck Summer Squash

Vegetable Spaghetti Winter Squash

I’m sure a lot of them will end up being poor seeds for germination and obviously a few of them have been planted slightly out of season but from my experience these seeds all do fairly well in this area if they get the proper attention. Plus, buying squash seedlings for transplant rarely seems to work out for me. They have such tender root systems that they tend to wilt and die within a few days of being set out into the garden.

I figure planting them from seeds is my best option.

Here’s to the future bounty !

I’m Calling This One

Mark the time and date because I am officially calling this as THE day that snakes have decided to come out for the year. I’m guessing it was the recent rains, especially that rain last night when the coolest nighttime temperature was only 70 degrees. Add to that the fact that we had a gusher of a rain shower for about 30 minutes around 10am this morning and I think it’s safe to say that the reason the snakes are out was at least somewhat motivated by the weather.

I was walking out to my potato hills to test for dampness when I was startled by a quickly moving black snake. Before that my wife had called and alerted me to seeing a strange new color and pattern on a black snake and directly following she spotted yet another black snake crossing the road.

Luckily for us, our amazing dog, Bayla, has been trying to get at these snakes as early as she could smell them this year and within 5 minutes of having her outside while I poked around with my hoe she had obliterated this snake. Check it out ! It used to be a black snake and almost 4 feet long. Screw you, snake !

Seeds and Seedlings

Being Spring and the time to start setting out gardens, planting trees, and so forth, I realized how utterly enamored I was of the seed catalogs that have been coming daily in the mail. Little did I know just how many seed companies there were, and let’s face it, by seed companies I mean seed brokers. Most of them sell identical items which they purchase or distribute from only a small handful of seed companies. That fact has made it much easier for me to throw out most of the catalogs I receive and opt only for the ones with the absolute cheapest prices. After all, why would I willingly pay more for the same seeds from a different broker or distributor if I can get them cheaper elsewhere ?

After the garden plots were tilled and ready for seeds I went through all of the unused or barely used seed packets from last year. To my surprise I had enough left over to plant at least two gardens, or to plant twice this season. This fact dawned on me moments before I finalized a large purchase from a bulk seed distributor and it ended up saving me about \$40.

So, with an abundance of seeds from last year, which only cost me a few dollars since I got them toward the end of the planting season, I decided that I won’t be growing those fancy items with the bright and colorful pictures anymore. From now on I’ll grow what’s cheapest or what’s on sale.

I know it might sound like I’m going to be missing out on those fabulous imported onion seeds or perhaps the interesting eggplant from the Middle East, but in the end I’ll have a massive couple of food plots for only a couple of bucks each.

New Study Findings No Big Deal

Yesterday I read a headline that stated something along the lines of, “New study finds that doctors are prescribing medications left by pharmaceutical reps, sample packages, etc.” or whatever. You now those annoying blister packs or bulky boxes covered in bright graphics for the latest drug being pushed into the market ? The ones your doctor inevitably has hundreds of stacked in each of his patient rooms ? The ones he/she always seems to send you home with because, surprise ! they just happen to be the right ones for you at that time ! Well, it turns out that doctors tend to prescribe those more often than generic meds. And we are all supposed to be shocked and surprised, but are we ?

This is yet another one of those stories that has me questioning the sanity or stupidity of the general public because it begs the question, “Did anyone seriously NOT already pretty much know it ?” I mean, for years when I’ve visited the doctor it seemed that those stupid boxes of sampler meds were always what I went home with and while I was happy not to have to pay for anything at the already overpriced pharmacy I was still always a little annoyed with the fact that it was obvious he was just giving them out to satisfy his pharmaceutical sales rep., pay him back for that great game of golf, or line his pockets to squash his crushing guilt over that steak and seafood dinner he ate for free…on the dime of that rep.

All too often we hear about these studies or stories and we have to act as if they are fresh and new, as if our previous assumptions were wrong because they were just that — assumptions. But once a study says it’s true then, by golly, it’s freaking true.

So I started thinking.

Think back on all of those things you already believe and know about whatever it might be : airlines, banks, the government, corporations, and so on. Is it really that big of a surprise to find out that cereal manufacturers purposely make the cartoon characters’ eyes on the box look down at children ? Or that they are usually placed at eye level for small children so that they might nag their parents into buying them ? Of course it isn’t a surprise. But damn you if you say something about it out loud before a scientific study proves it to be true. You don’t want to be that crazy conspiracy theorist, do you ?

I’m of the mindset that you should just go with your gut. If you feel like something is up, then it probably is. For instance, I hate commercials and any form of advertising because it’s such an invasion, such an insult, and such an annoying concept; to flash shiny pictures at us while a celebrity says how great something is, as if that’s enough to force us into believing we NEED whatever they’re selling us.

There is a commercial airing now for a bank, Wells Fargo, and it’s all about how they can help you realize your dreams by sitting down and talking with you in their office, then loaning you money at whatever interest rate so you can buy a bunch of stuff which will somehow help you accomplish that dream. How is it possible ? I have no idea. The irritating thing is at the end of the commercial when they show a husband and wife sitting down having listened to the banker tell them how he’s helped some girl become a famous musician with a loan. The husband mimics a motorcycle and the wife says something about wanting a new dishwasher (I didn’t pay attention to what she wanted because I was already so angry, but it was not a motorcycle). Essentially, this married couple went to a bank to get a loan, that way they could buy something that they couldn’t already afford and then make payments with interest in order to have whatever it was they wanted NOW rather than later. I was immediately confused because this couple apparently didn’t even talk to each other prior to applying for a loan. They had no clue what they were going to buy together but, dammit, they were getting a loan !

So, one of them says he’s getting a motorcycle and the other says she’s getting something completely different. Then they look at each other as well as the banker with confused faces. “Oh no ! What a silly predicament !”

I can’t imagine being in that same situation and I certainly can’t imagine simply getting a loan because a stupid commercial told me that I could. Pointless advertising.

So, my point; do I really need to wait for a study to find that this commercial was almost a bullying tactic, or taking advantage of the instant gratification that we are so insistent upon nowadays ? No. I can be outraged and talk openly about how stupid it is right now, just like I’m doing.

Think about it. You know that oil is bad, right ? I mean, you know you can’t drink it, rub it into your eye sockets, put it in any other hole in your body, and you certainly can’t burn it and expect to breathe the fumes without harm, don’t you ? Then why didn’t we immediately and angrily point fingers and start yelling after that insane BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ? We waited for biased studies to be done so that the issue could be spun into any number of unrelated issues, throwing blame onto whatever we were told by anyone of “authority” in the matter. In the end, we all know that stuff is awful and dumping it out of the earth into the ocean certainly can’t be good. But let’s wait for the study, right ?

Monsanto ? Same.

Animal testing ? The media ? Global warming ? Rape ? Just pick something you already have an opinion about and I’m assuming you’re probably already right. Hell, I don’t agree with the death penalty and I certainly don’t agree with sending innocent people to prison but I feel confident that I could tell someone was truly guilty of a crime without having to provide a mountain of evidence. It might sound bad but it’s true. These studies make us doubt our instinct, intuition, or GUT. We could get by so much easier without having to rely on them for our own validation, couldn’t we ?

New Furniture

This past December I made some furniture for my wife that we plan on enjoying outside this summer. Here’s a picture of the two tables and chair. Many people call these Adirondack chairs but I prefer to call it, simply, “chair.”

Our Newest Addition

This is our newest addition to the flock. He/she has a sister/brother which you can slightly see in the left. This is what some people call a “Frizzy” or a “Frizzle” and they are cute. I can’t quite figure out why they look the way they do but I like it. Now over two months old he/she is going to join the rest of the flock permanently outside.

Common Sense Builds Up

It all started when I realized after much back-​breaking labor that I had a massive food plot laid out that simply couldn’t easily grow the food I intended for it. There was nothing but clay, hard red clay, and it seemed to start right at the surface and travel deep down into what I can only assume became bedrock. I gave up after my frustration boiled out in the form of hoe-​breaking rage. Luckily, the hoe survived.

On my next venture out to this barren and seemingly useless plot of earth I leaned on my hoe for a long time thinking of what I could do. Add compost ? Manure ? Spend money on pointless fertilizers and gypsum to break up the soil ? Wait years for results ? It was all so needless and wasteful. I couldn’t stand the idea of giving up but more than that I thought the idea of going renegade “buy more stuff and that might work !” was a bad idea. So, I just went at it with the hoe and let common sense dictate what I should do next.

Having cultivated the holy crap out of this soil, as deep as I could, I realized that I had about 2 – 3″ of workable, friable soil which I could do something with. I decided to “hill it up” in long rows. This created long, wide, smooth paths in between each row for walking and drainage as well as the space needed for what I intended to do next.

I’m going to plant potatoes and sweet potatoes now. How perfect ! They’ll help break up the rest of that horrible hard clay and when I turn it over in the fall I stand to gain a whole new decent food plot for next spring.

It took simply going with my gut, or common sense, to realize that doing something myself was far better than leaving it to the store shelves of a big-​box home improvement store, and the sole act of doing something accomplished the acquisition of an idea, which saved the garden.

I’ll have about 10 rows, each about 100′ long and 12″ high, planted with hundreds of potatoes, sweet potatoes, melons, gourds, squash, you name it. By harvest time I’ll be able to stand back and pat myself on the back for a well-​established food plot and a bounty of fresh food for the table.

I put our little compost thing smack in the middle. I figured that I could throw all the stuff in there once the season is over and let it sit through winter in order to use next spring.

Learning from Chickens

It all ends up becoming common knowledge for you and your homestead but there are things you learn from your livestock that will truly save you time and grief if you pay attention.

One of these things I recently learned was from my chickens and it all revolved around predatory animals, specifically predatory birds like hawks and vultures, buzzards and falcons.

I spent a good deal of time outside waving wildly with my hat and cawing like a crow at virtually every flying creature I could see, thinking all the while that they were after my chickens. Turns out they weren’t necessarily at all.

Once I paid attention to the reactions from my chickens I realized that they knew the difference between the birds in the sky. They would run and hide at first sight of a chicken hawk but stay out and continue foraging for food in the presence of some of the largest vultures or buzzards I have ever seen.

I decided to research this just to be safe and it turns out that the chickens…gasp !…were right, always had been and, presumably always would be.

They can tell the difference and they aren’t going to waste their time running and hiding from every little bird they see.

So in the end I learned that I don’t have to worry if the chickens aren’t worrying. Good to know !

5 Preparations for Fall

1. Save your compost and all of those dying or dead plants !

You’ll want to pile them all into your garden once the harvest season is gone so that you can put all of those nutrients back into the soil. Use your rototiller or do it by hand. Just get that stuff back into the soil before the ground freezes, that way you’ll have rich soil for next Spring.

2. Service your small engines and equipment.

You’re going to need to plan for at least one final cultivation or tilling of your soil for the coming garden, so make sure your tiller is in running order, and if you want to get in one last cutting of the grass, chopping of the weeds, and so on, make sure all of your other small engines are running well. It’s always a good idea to keep them in good condition but we use them so infrequently at times that we tend to forget this. And when Winter comes we put them all in storage (if we’re smart and don’t leave them outside to suffer the harsh weather). So put some time and energy into those items now, while the weather is nice, and you’ll be on your way to a great Spring next year.

3. Beef up your livestock enclosures.

I can’t stress this one enough. Once the cold temps hit you’re going to look outside and suddenly feel guilty that your chickens might be freezing to death in a drafty old wooden box for a coop, or that your goats are standing in mighty winds trying to not to succumb to the cold.

It’s a great time now to go ahead and tighten up those enclosures, insulate those walls, patch and repair your fences, and generally just do a solid for your animals by giving them the best you can so that once Winter hits they’ll be safe and secure.

I always have to remind myself to install the heat lamp in the chicken coop for the coming Winter because we get some pretty harsh cold nights where I live, and those chickens really do appreciate the added warmth.

4. Bust your knuckles and lift with your back. (But seriously, try not to.)

As a rule, it’s often best to go ahead and do all of the tedious and labor intensive activities when the weather is nice. The last thing you want to worry about is having to break open your knuckles or hurt your back lifting some heavy posts when the Winter weather makes it hurt all the more. So try to get that stuff done now, while the weather is beautiful, and you won’t have to worry about getting out and tending to the chores you should have done by now, only in the Winter.

5. Deal with debris and waste now.

Rodents can be an issue in the colder months because they seek refuge. What better place to build a new home than the massive pile of wood or debris you left outside ? Take the time this season to go ahead and either burn it, remove it, or otherwise haul it off, that way you eliminate hiding places for all the things you DON’T want living on site. An added benefit of this is the simple fact that you won’t have to worry about dealing with it all next year, plus your wife will thank you for the gorgeous view outside, rather than having to look at that awful monstrosity you call a “work in progress.”

More Spring Work To Do

So far this Spring has provided quite a few sizable chores, not the least of which have been carving out a large kitchen garden, setting up a new chicken pen, building a corral for goats, and so forth.

The most dreaded project ahead is the removal of a massive amount of steel pipe, like in this picture :

It’s thick enough to warrant use of a cutting torch, which I don’t possess, and there’s enough of it to take days to cut with my angle grinder. Either way, I’ll be glad to get it all removed so that I can begin using it for some very sturdy fence posts in the future.

Being outside more and more due to the nicer weather has allowed me to do things that have been piling up on my todo list all Winter but it has also focused my attention on some other things.

Like gawkers.

I don’t mean to rant or come off like a scrooge or something but I have to be honest that when I see vehicles driving by all day, I tend to get irritated at the volume of them who choose to stare, and stare as if their necks will break and their lives depend on it. I have no idea what it is in peoples’ minds that makes them feel that they must stare, obtrusively and constantly, but they do. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, the staring MUST occur !

For instance, if I’m outside watering the chickens I get stares and I guess I understand that, after all, a human man is in the act of movement, therefore it is subject to being looked at. Or if I’m running after the rooster I can understand the staring. But what really irks me is the unwarranted staring when I’m doing nothing important, minding my own business, and when I hear the vehicle driving by almost hit the ditch because they were too caught up in looking at my actions to pay attention to their own driving. I hear it all the time. There are “rumble strips” on the shoulder of the road that physically jar you if you hit them — kind of a warning that you’re either in automobile trouble or simply too stupid to be legally allowed to drive on the road — and people hit those strips every time, seriously EVERY TIME, they are too busy staring. So, as you can assume, I associate that sound with someone that I truly never want to have a conversation with. Usually, these same people are also driving really slow which isn’t all that bad except for the fact that it’s extremely obvious to me that they are hell-​bent on seeing just exactly what it is that I’m doing and that alone is enough to bug me.

I guess it’s not all that bad but after the hundredth person does it the whole thing just gets old.

I found that if I venture out toward the road that people have the same tendency, only worse. For whatever reason, when someone driving sees a human being next to the road and only inches away from where they are likely to travel and potentially hit said human being, they veer, dramatically, over toward where I’m standing. I don’t know if it’s magnetism or just some strange human habit when driving. I’ll have to look it up and find out. Anyway, they veer and I have to give a stern head shake AT them, and then I go back to whatever it was that I was doing previously.

All of this has led me to decide that I’m going to plant a fortress of trees in order to prevent people from staring. It’s such a strange thing to have to prepare for but in the end I think I’ll be less insane because of it.

Could you imagine ? Driving somewhere but being too caught up in staring at people to actually drive safely ? Seems counter-​productive to me. But maybe I’m the weird one for being outside doing stuff.

“Green” Gardening and Other Concerns

I’m sure you’ve noticed the surge in available “green” literature, “green” products, and “green” techniques for doing this, that, and the other.

But perhaps you aren’t yet aware of what exactly this whole “green” concept really is.

Green” is now a term meant to define literally anything that a company or a person deems to be environmentally safe, organic, recyclable, and so on. One can apply the term to a second-​hand pair of mittens bought at a thrift store or to the scraps of food they add to a compost pile in their kitchen or backyard.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to say that “going green” is necessarily bad, but I am about to completely disagree with its overuse, it’s annoying and grating affect on people like me, and most of all I’m going to state that the term itself makes a mockery out of people who are simply providing for themselves. We don’t need a new trendy term to define what we already do, regardless of you having just learned about it.

So, what are some ways people are going green ? Well, the biggest is making sure that everything they buy, use, or eat has a big and slightly faded green sticker on it declaring that it’s organic. That is to say, nothing they consume is manufactured with harmful chemicals, animal abuse, and so on. It’s completely idiotic, of course, as most people are too lazy to produce for themselves, let alone actually research the accuracy of a company’s “organic” labeling. In the end what we have are millions of people simply jumping on the bandwagon in order to appear as if they care. Remember, it’s too difficult to actually commit to action, so why not just buy your way into the lifestyle ?

One of the areas in which I see major intrusion is gardening. I find now that seeds are more than twice (and up to thrice) the price that they were just a few years ago. There are myriad new tools, techniques, and accessories that are completely ludicrous, if not just unnecessary, marketed toward the truly green “going green” person. It’s a mouthful, I know.

When a person could simply buy a few dozen packets of seeds for a few dollars it was great. No pressure, no insane exotic varieties promising some sort of false harvest. But now you receive a catalog in the mail and it’s like receiving a horticultural pornographic encyclopedia, geared specifically to further encourage your “green thinking” so that you might spend a few hundred dollars on things you don’t need but which you feel you must purchase in order to stick to your newly formed ideal lifestyle. You are, in all honesty, saving the entire planet by purchasing those Baghdad eggplant seeds, aren’t you ? Or does it still count as saving the planet when you offset your green purchases with more than one vehicle for your family ?

My point is that we need to move past this green movement, or whatever you want to call it. It’s ruining things that we love, and all in the name of capitalism and marketing.

When we allow a marketing campaign to be so completely overused we take away any sense of legitimacy from the real core issue of which the marketing is cleverly taking advantage, in this case the environment and your sense of guilt. By telling us that fast food isn’t as healthy as a home-​cooked meal, we are urged to go out and buy curiously colored produce from the supermarket, cook it with special “organic” cookware, and serve it with copious amounts of insane condiments shipped to us courtesy sea containers from another continent, all so that we can feel that we somehow supported our local farmers or helped to stop just a tiny bit of extra damage to our planet. You know, doing our part to create a better world.

The problem is that we’re going about it all wrong. Instead of thinking this stuff through we simply invest the minimum of energy and time, appeal to our inner sense of common good, and do the bidding of a company with a multibillion dollar advertising budget, so that we can feel some amount of relief from the crushing guilt that, in a truly honest world, would destroy us each from within if we ever chose to acknowledge it.

We go to the supermarket and buy the corn produced by commercial farms, grown from seeds that are PATENTED by a company like Monsanto, covered in chemicals in order to appear healthy at the time of purchase, harvested by huge machines capable of polluting more than your SUV, operated by underpaid laborers. We make sure there is some sort of healthy sticker or motto affixed to each ear of this corn so that we can show others, visibly, that we took the time to slightly care.

Then we browse for that container of butter that has all of the crucial information we need before we consume it — non-​fat, soy based, whipped, separated, etc. It’s twice the price but it’s worth it because it will be better for our health. This, of course, is regardless of the fact that it is manufactured by the same company, in the same facility, as the butter we specifically did NOT choose, for those same health reasons. We fail to notice this concerning issue, as we have already rationalized and justified our good intentions as being an end unto themselves and not just the means to a good life.

Further down our shopping list we have a group of products that qualifies for the “I care most” award and as we enjoy the immense general good we are doing we fail to understand what our purchases indicate about our view of the world and our intentions within it.

Our conscience is feeling good now as we throw some healthy snacks into the buggy while ignoring the fact that just the list of companies represented in the products we’ve bought is an outline for all that is corrupt in the world, and we gladly support those empires financially.

We don’t see that we have supported ever decreasing wages for laborers who pick our produce while simultaneously supporting issues that television tells us are concerning. For instance, we say we do not like illegal immigration yet we support it so long as it keeps the price of our organic produce low, and so long as we don’t have to see those immigrants acknowledged.

We demand quality at low prices and are able to justify without consideration the purchase of textiles assembled by child or slave labor while still complaining that things aren’t made like they used to be.

We even make comments on the increasing price of fuel as we go to fill up our vehicle upon leaving the market, while denying death in other countries as exclusively the result of said fuel.

Before we get home we manage to stop at a Starbucks or a little gas station so that we can buy the fair-​trade, etc., etc. coffee/tea/herbal tonic that will give us that metabolic boost to further enjoy our life of well-​doing and good intentions.

This happens all day and every day. It happens with everything in our lives, from the hair dryers and toilet bowl cleaners we buy, all the way to the worm shit and mulch we buy for our garden beds. We look for an easy way to feel good about ourselves in the process of consumption so that we don’t have to admit to the fact that we as individuals and, more importantly, as a collective, are actually increasing the speed at which we do damage.

What does this all amount to, anyway ?

This is just a way to balance our sense of self (wasteful, greedy, ignorant) with the deterioration of the world (which we are all too responsible for) in such a way that we don’t have to actually admit to any wrong-​doing.

By “going green” we are, in effect, taking a step back from the problems we are aware of facing the planet and we are saying that we would like to do as little as possible while still being entitled to feelings of accomplishment and pride while at the same time adding to the destruction, the evil, the corruption, the misuse, and blatant ignorance of the world.

It’s tricky.

On one hand, you have the public knowledge of what is and what isn’t. On the other hand, you have your part in it all, your actions and decisions by which you are at fault. Reconciling the two is not easy, in fact, it’s nearly impossible. But choosing to buy things that appeal to our inner sense of right allows us to continue on our current path without feeling truly guilty for our crimes.

To see this green stuff leak into every aspect of life now is, to me, further evidence that things are not getting better but are actually getting worse. When I start receiving the advertising and messaging in the activities that I engage in daily, like building, growing, and so forth, I realize that the problems that once faced lives like mine are increasing to the point that only something so inherently negative as “going green” could figure out a way to negotiate conscience for the appearance of action.

Removing Another Shed

Now that the weather is starting to warm up it’s time to begin removing this monstrosity so that we can make room for a garden and fence in a corral for our future goats.

I started tearing this shed down several weeks ago when the weather was still a bit cold, so I ended up making more work for myself. Luckily, over the past week I’ve managed to make progress.

First, I removed half of the roof so that I could expose the top of a wooden workshop that’s actually, get this, INSIDE of the freaking shed !

With that done, I went ahead and started removing hundreds and hundreds of ring shank nails, or roofing nails, which are the toughest things I’ve ever had to remove. I hate them, I really do.

I’ll keep posting updates with photos so you can see how truly remarkable this feat of strength and brute force really is.

Spring is Coming

Here it is, February, and already the beginning of Spring is noticeable, with green grass coming up through the dead matting of last year’s ground cover and birds moving North and stopping by to munch on the bugs that have started their preparations for the warmer weather.

This winter seemed short although it was also extremely harsh while it was here. Violent winds cutting like razors and ice accumulating so fast it was nearly impossible to navigate outside for days at a time, cabin fever had started to set in just when we thought there was no end in sight. Luckily, we managed to keep pipes from freezing, animals from dying, and our sanity from bending to the weather.

This Spring we have more planned and more to do than any previous year. With plans for a permanent garden bed, livestock corrals, fencing, loafing sheds, and even the seemingly bizarre creation of a dry creek bed to help control our flooding rain waters due to be here in several weeks, we are sure to be busy but the transition of our property from a once barren flat-​bottomed bowl of Earth into a valley filled with abundant forage, food, scenery, and animal life will be enough of a reward to make this whole trial of endurance worth it.

We started removing a nasty old shed a couple of months ago, smack in the middle of winter no less. It proved to be a mistake as we are still working on cleaning up the remaining debris. We also managed to sell a shed which sat at the top of our little hill at the entry point to our property. This has given us quite a bit more space with which we can grow food, contain some feathered friends, and hopefully build a small produce stand for passersby.

This week we continue to removal of the largest and most atrocious of all the out buildings on site, a massive drafty barn made entirely of sharp jagged metal. The thing is truly monstrous, so large that inside of it sits another shed, a smaller wooden one, which will remain as our primary workshop and storage area. We managed to remove enough of the metal panels on the roof to allow for easy access on and off the roof while we work tediously at what will definitely be the most difficult part of the process, and then we progress to the sides, then the solid steel frame. Once it’s all gone we’ll have a nice little building leftover and a great little concrete pad that will come in handy for servicing machinery and livestock.

All in all, I’m excited about how the new season is shaping up already and can’t wait to tell you about our next projects.

Noticing Some Changes

I’ve noticed recently, and I’m sure this is extremely late, that there seems to be a fascination with the purchase and sale of things like cell phones, tablets, laptops, and general electronic devices. So much, in fact, is this fascination that the prices and level of interest trump things like animals or livestock, ACTUALLY HAND-​MADE METALLIC OBJECTS, vehicles, and even surrogate pregnancy !

It just blows my mind.

Recently, I was searching for a small tractor, trying to find a used one from a reputable farmer at a decent price, when I saw one for around \$1200 next to someone’s cell phone collection (3 total) and the asking price was the same. That doesn’t seem quite right. A piece of equipment older than I am or a few cell phones that will do what, exactly, when it comes to growing food or raising livestock ? Nothing. Well, I say that, but I’m sure I’m wrong. There’s probably an app that you can download on those phones which will tell you such convenient things as the temperature, the time, even the date. Wow ! Maybe I missed out on a cell phone bargain !

The Shed is Gone Now

This shed was on the land when we moved here but we opted to remove it so that we could make room for some better things, and since we already have plenty of building space we thought this would be a great chance to start our Spring cleaning a little early.

Meeting New People Part 2 

Okay, I’m going to talk again about something that came about due to Craigslist. I have some odd luck with that site in general and yesterday was just another perfect example.

I had an old storage building, or shed, that wasn’t needed anymore and that had quite a bit of value so I thought it would be smart to simply sell it to anyone willing to pay for it and take it down, haul it off, and reassemble it on their own property. Easy enough, right ?

Well, I had a very low price in mind when I offered it and there were several people asking to buy it for insulting amounts, embarrassing trades, or just flat out ridiculous reasons for their “urgent need of said shed.”

I settled on a guy who promised to come out and see it in person, having already told him what my asking price was. I figured that he was okay with the price, else he wouldn’t have wasted driving two hours simply to look at it. This is where my nightmare began.

First, he can’t find his way to my place and I have to guide him over the phone several times, so he doesn’t even arrive until after dark. There is no light in the shed so that’s going to hinder things. Then, when he finally gets here, he decides to be brutal in his assessment of the shed.
“That single piece of wood there is slightly damaged. This entire building is probably in horrible shape.”

I’m not quoting him directly, rather, I’m presenting to you, the reader, what he really means.

I had a distant relative that once had a problem with termites. She lives about an hour from here. You must have termites and they must have destroyed the wood in this building.”

Of course, I stand there, shining a light, responding with my much-​practiced, “Oh, neat. Hmm. Weird. Hmm. Yep. Uh-​huh.” And so on.

This ground holds moisture. I bet the bottom of the shed is rotted out.”

Let me take a moment to point out that this is a solid steel building and what he’s implying is that, due to the ground, the actual EARTH we stand on every day of our lives, that somehow this particular building, different from every other building on the same EARTH, is definitely rotting away due to the “moisture”, you know, the water content in the soil that is inescapable, all-​encompassing, and literally everywhere on this planet. Except for the oceans. Crap ! He might have me there.

Well, all I see is metal and it’s only been here a few years. My house and other buildings have been here for decades and, as you can see, none of them have rotted into the ground, decomposed, or returned to the Earth in any other way.” I say this calm and collected, suave like nobody’s business. I know I’m in the right here and he’s simply trying to build up his case before making an insulting low offer for the shed.

Is that bottom line price you gave me the bottom line price ?”

Of course it is, right ? I mean, come on. I told you the price on the phone, emailed you the same price. I even text messaged you that price. I told you it was the lowest I could go due simply to the fact that so many OTHER people were interested in the shed. Why would he even ask for a lower price ? Here is where I start to believe that he is bent on being rude, offensive, and insulting to me, because he looks at these negotiations as a chance to prove alpha-​male dominance over another of his species. In this scenario, I’m supposed to submit, bow down, and let him have his way with the women in my family. Not going to happen !

You know, I might be able to help you out and drop the price a few bucks, but there’s no way I can just give it to you for free simply because you made up a bunch of stuff about termites and moisture.”
“Well, I just don’t know. I’m going to have to talk it over with my wife. I’ll let you know before I leave if we want it or not.”

So, he goes through this process of trying to make me sweat. It doesn’t work because I have so many other interested parties in this shed. What’s odd is how he’s trying to play this weird dickering game.

After a short while he calls and says he’s leaving, that he’ll have an answer in about thirty minutes, on his drive home. Remember how he lives two hours away ? Obviously, he’s going to buy it. He just wants to try to jerk me around a little to prove he’s superior. Men. Am I right ladies ?

Eventually he calls and decides to pay what we’re asking but this doesn’t stop him from trying to get the thing for free. When he arrives to dismantle it the next day he waits to pay me, as if he’s holding the money hostage. When I go out to tell him to pay me he starts listing off all of the various pieces of wood (keep in mind he’s really buying the metal) that have damage. He keeps doing this hoping I’m going to suddenly throw my arms up and say, “Fine. It’s free ! I’m so sorry for ruining your day ! What a fool I am. You should have this for free and that for free and many other things that I own…all for free ! Forgive me !”

I get my money and leave him to continue working. But before I go he makes sure to inform me that he’s a cop and he does this over and over again. I start to realize that the way he’s talking to me, treating me, even from the night before when he came to first look at the shed, it’s all exactly as a cop treats you when he makes you get into his car so he can insult you and write you a ticket. He’s doing that thing where he won’t answer you or respond to any questions you have but instead insists that you give him your full attention because, you know…he has a gun and is legally given authority to use it “when he sees fit.”

I don’t care and I kind of hate this guy at this point. I feel like he’s being really rude and offensively off-​putting with his attitude and behavior.

I figure he’s going to have to come back to finish taking apart this shed the next day, today, but he insists on getting it all in one day/night.

The guy stayed here until after 3am slamming hammers and dismantling the thing with not a single care in the world that he might be over-​staying his welcome. On my side was the below freezing temperature, ensuring that his helpers would never work for him again. I simply sat and watched them out the window until they left, at which point I went to bed.

Today’s project ? I start building the fence that keeps people OUT and my animals IN.

I’m so glad that guy is gone and I think I’m done with Craigslist for a long long time.

Meeting New People Part 1 

I seem to encounter strange people. Don’t believe me ? Then let me enlighten you.

Recently I placed an ad on Craigslist to get rid of some old refrigerators. There wasn’t much to it aside from the few minutes I spent emailing various people (and by ‘various’ I mean dozens and dozens) and answering the same questions over and over again, promising to hold the items for inexplicably long amounts of time, reconfirming that I would not deliver the items to some god-​awful location a hundred miles from me, and so forth. You know how it can be with that site, right ? It’s like a great labyrinth of ridiculousness that you must ENDURE rather than a fun way to interact with human beings.

Aside from people professing their sincerest intentions and then completely failing to live up to them (I’m talking to you, guy that promises to show up every day for over a week then comes up with the worst excuse on Earth to skip out on me) and the people trying to obligate you to something completely OTHER than what you intended, you have to also deal with people asking for lots of unnecessary personal information.

For instance, “What is your exact physical address, since I have not yet expressed interest and have given you absolutely no information about myself ?” or even better, “Give me your address so I can drive by and see what you have. I won’t show up when I tell you. In fact, I’ll just stop communicating with you, giving you every impression that I might just rob you when you aren’t at home.”

Kidding aside, I finally snuffed out a viable option to unload these refrigerators. Apparently, people sell them for scrap metal or something. I have no clue and I do not care to find out. It’s none of my concern anymore.

So, this random guy shows up and I’m relieved. Not only is he seemingly nice and physically un-​noteworthy, I get the feeling that he’s honest. That’s what I like.

We started by exchanging greetings and then I showed him my merchandise, which I offered to help him load into his trailer. This was apparently a huge mistake because it gave the impression that I wanted a lengthy conversation. I’m a conversationalist by nature but rarely do I feel the need to indulge that aspect of my personality with strangers.

This guy starts unraveling his entire life story on me, flaws and all, and while I’m happy that he feels so comfortable around me I can’t shake the feeling that I’m in for a few hours of B.S. instead of five minutes of loading and then a quick wave with a short, “See ya. Get out of here.”

I got to listen to this guy tell me about elderly people and how their kids don’t love them, the entire history of the types of straps he intended on using to secure the refrigerators, previous jobs he held in other states, and then he dumped something on me that I never saw coming.

I’ve got that virus that’s going around.”

He was talking about (brace yourself) H1-freaking-N1…the virus !

He not only had other ailments but he had ‘Swine Flu’ on top of it all. “Really ?”, I asked, not really believing a person could be that sick and still able to load appliances onto a trailer.

He continued to go on about this until he got on the subject of a former girlfriend and how she became addicted to crack/cocaine. This turned into talk about her inevitable descent as a human being into prostitution and other things. And then…death.

His father died of cancer immediately after the girl went to jail for drugs and sex crimes.

Of course, there was more. After missing his father’s funeral he managed to make it to his high school graduation. Yay ! He might be finished talking. Keep in mind that at this point all of the items were loaded and there was absolutely no reason for him to still be present in my reality, my universe, my supposed sanctuary away from ‘crazy.’

What really got me, what really threw me for a loop was this topper : He was very upset that his high school was going to change its name.

Why would that upset you ?”, I asked, bemused and pretending to care, hoping he’d leave sooner that way.

Because it was named after the founder of the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan.”

Okay, I’m dumbfounded now. Did he just say that ? To a stranger ? As if I felt the same way ? Out LOUD ! ?

What people don’t know is that this guy was a great guy. He was the first civil rights leader ! By God, he released ALL of his slaves…BEFORE Abraham Lincoln told him he HAD to !”


It went on and got worse from there but needless to say, I stopped caring about this guy immediately and instead starting looking for something, anything, that I could use to beat him off of my property.

More About Working at Home

If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time scouring the internet and newspapers in hopes of finding work you can do from home. The reasons are many, from being able to spend more time with your family to putting in the hours needed to provide for your livestock, and the benefits can be exceptional, that is, if you can find a legitimate job that pays well and don’t get yourself ripped off by a con-​artist or pyramid scheme.

For me, it was a long process, starting with years spent working in cubicles for various professions under all sorts of bosses and supervisory staff, but the end result was that I could finally do my work from home at least as efficiently as I could do in any office environment.

I thought I would share some insight and perhaps a few avenues worth checking out for those of you interested in working from home.

First, let me say that almost all of the opportunities out there are bogus. If you need references to back up that claim simply head over the Craigslist, or if you’re really daring, try opening your Junk mail folder online. It seems like there are countless job offers requiring that you invest your own money first, which we all have to admit is ludicrous, right ? I mean, have you ever started a job at an office or a warehouse where they made you pay them before you could start working ? Not likely.

Second, be realistic. As annoying as that phrase can be when you truly are serious about finding work you can do from home, it’s worth repeating…over and over again. There aren’t going to be any work-​at-​home jobs that pay you millions of dollars for doing relatively little actual work. You’re going to have to invest a lot of time and energy in order to receive the same sort of pay-​off as you might expect from a standard office job. That doesn’t mean it’s not rewarding. Just think of it as the Universe’s way of saying, “If you want an easy job you can do from home then I’m going to make you work a little harder for it.”

In being realistic, you’ll find that you can easily ignore those too-​good-​to-​be-​true scams out there which will prevent you from wasting LOTS of your precious time. You’ll also find that you tend to deal more with actual human beings that way. Remember, every single job that exists does so in order to either provide a product or a service to customers. There are no other jobs. Stuffing envelopes ? Nope. Never going to happen.

Now, let me tell you about some of the things I’ve found in my searches that actually yielded income.

1. Amazon Mechanical Turk (http ://aws.amazon.com/mturk/)

This is fairly new for me but I love what I’ve seen so far. I’ll be honest, most of what you’ll find pays relatively nothing, but with this service it’s all about volume — quantity over quality is the rule, not the exception here.

With the Mechanical Turk service you can choose from a multitude of tasks to complete for a few bucks each time. The highest paying are for audio transcription. From the few that I’ve done, they’re mainly recordings of sales meetings for call centers. You simply listen to the audio and type what you hear, word for word. Once you’re done you submit it online and then you’re usually paid between \$20 – 30. Not too shabby for those of us who can type pretty fast.

2. Freelance

There are too many of these websites to ever possibly list, but here are a quick few that I’ve had great luck with :

ODesk (https ://www.odesk.com/)

Guru (http ://www.guru.com/)

PeoplePerHour (http ://peopleperhour.com)

Free​lance​.com (http ://freelance.com)

There are a slew of others and if you’d like more info please let me know and I’ll be happy to provide more.

As with everything online nowadays, you first have to sign up for an account, providing a seemingly endless amount of data, over and over again, but once you’re done you can bid to complete anything from brief articles about products all the way to designing full-​blown pieces of architecture. People will pay to have someone else do just about anything, as I think we all know. Keep in mind that most people are also cheap, so you won’t find an infinite amount of high-​paying gigs on these sites, and a lot of the time you’ll find that people will offer to do the job for way less than you could, so there’s a bit of competition at some of these places. But, for the most part, you can find odds and ends that fit your skill-​set perfectly and in no time you can be raking in at least a little cash.

One of the easiest ways to make money freelancing is website design. It is fun, although intense at times, and involving. The only drawback is that it is so easy now. There isn’t as much of a need for it as there once was. Instead, it’s much better to go in the direction of designing mobile apps. Again, this will become increasingly easy in the next couple of years so the money will run out and you will have to move onto something else eventually. But I always recommend offering some sort of computer services because you can always find at least a few people in need of help that just don’t have the time to do it themselves.

Once you’ve signed up for a few of these things and started working you will probably start to notice that the cash flow isn’t large. That’s expected. This is when you must start thinking outside of the box, or rather, thinking more locally.

3. Work With What You’ve Got

If you have the space, by all means, grow food ! Turn your fruits into jellies and your veggies into baskets of sell-​able produce. If you have chickens, sell eggs by the half dozen, or if you have many try full dozens. Again, these things won’t add up to much individually but remember, it’s all about volume and quantity. And think of it this way — you might not make much on each of these small services but at the same time, you’re not confined to an office cubicle all day and you get to move around, have fun at home, and do the things you love, at least if you love raising food and livestock.

4. Always Keep Looking

Last, but not least, always keep your eyes open for any other opportunities. Remember what Carla Emery said about living life as a homesteader being an interesting combination of being poor and living rich ? Well, the point might be that you are constantly doing little things to make small amounts of money, but in the end it all adds up to paying the bills which is what the real goal is. After that, it’s about enjoying life, maybe putting some cash back in savings, and overall ensuring you’re having fun while you’re doing it.

Purple Sage

So, I’ve been obsessed with reading Westerns as of late, and one particular author, Zane Grey, has been at the top of my list. I’m reading one of his most popular novels, Riders of the Purple Sage, and I’m hooked. I’m only a few pages from the end and I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

If you’re like me, and you scour the internet for free books or public domain literature (a great way to get free books when you’re stuck inside), you’ll find this link handy : Gutenberg

Go there and you can download quite a few classics from Zane Grey, like Riders of the Purple Sage.

I highly recommend it !

Afterglow — Free Music Download

A few years ago I produced an album, titled Prelude under the moniker of Rounder for AtmoWorks Records, and I am happy to provide one of the tracks from the album for free download here.

You can also listen to the song by clicking to play below :

If you enjoy the song let me know by commenting, liking, sharing, or emailing me. I would be more than happy to provide even more from the album.

This particular track, entitled Afterglow, starts off eerie and proceeds to take on the characteristics of an elephant stampede, ending in an unusual calm which I’m sure you will find interesting, to say the very least about it.

Enjoy !

Lessons Learned

In my experiences living in the country I have learned several things and I thought it best to share some of the most valuable lessons as a way of maybe helping others avoid some of the annoyances and other issues that I have come to face.

1. Never leave a conversation without stating your full intent or your wishes.

Our first experience happened on about 260 acres of land. It was used primarily for grazing and baling of hay. We were given free access to use any and all of it as we saw fit and we certainly intended to. But during our very first conversation about the land we failed to state what our intentions were, and worse, we failed to give a solid and obvious ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in response to the queries of the original land owners.

They had asked us if we would mind them running cattle on the acreage. They didn’t specify exactly which part of the acreage and we naturally assumed that, given the 260 acres, they meant to run the cattle on some part other than the immediate ten acres upon which we would have our dwelling.

So, naturally, we said we didn’t mind. We didn’t want to seem rude from the onset of our dealings with these folks and we couldn’t see any harm in cattle grazing on land that vast.

Here comes trouble. Within a couple of weeks they started running their cattle, not on that wide open acreage outside of where we would be gardening and living in general, but right smack on top of the ten acres that we intended to be using for the duration of our stay. Now, it might seem a bit odd, to insist on the sole usage of those ten acres to be for us and our own animals, and it might seem a bit odd that cattle grazing upon that ten acres would bother us, but you can bet that it did, and for a primary reason — the cattle all but dominated us. We couldn’t have a proper garden, raise animals in a rightful way, or enjoy our time outside of the house without having to hear, see, smell, and move out of the way of about 100 head of cattle.

This problem could have easily been solved by us stating in the beginning that we didn’t want any livestock on those ten acres, that they were fine anywhere else, just not that close to our home. But we failed to foresee this and, as the lesson goes, we learned that trying to bring up the subject at a later date only caused resentment and anger between those folks and us. They saw it as us going back on our word and we saw it as a purposeful act, seeing how far they could infringe upon our privacy and just how far they were willing to go in order to show us disrespect.

In the end, we had to deal with the cattle. Sure, they eventually go them off of those ten acres, but not after the cattle had destroyed much of what we intended to be food crops and housing for our own animals.

2. Always count your chickens.

It never ceases to amaze me how many times I’ve went to let our chickens out in the morning only to realize that one or more of them managed to have to stay the night perched up in the rafters above the chicken coop or hidden under the porch, or some other crazy place.

When we first started raising chickens they spent their first weeks in a bathtub inside where we could monitor their every move, their growth, and learn who was who among them. Only when we turned them loose outdoors did we realize just how important it was to keep track of them. You never know when a hawk might be your flock from above, or when a coyote might be out in the sticks waiting for his chance to pounce.

We were already nervous about keeping the chickens outside after the many horror stories people felt compelled to tell us. We heard everything from snakes eating chicks alive to raccoons finding their clever way into the most impenetrable fortress to drag off chickens by the dozen for their nightly dinner. So, keeping those stories in mind, and never intending to fall victim to such events, we were diligent, and I mean really diligent. It was to the point that we were spending more time looking after their safety than we were spending actually enjoying the chickens and their eggs.

Well, over time we started to feel safer and we would let the chickens go about their days and evenings as they were meant to, free-​ranging on the open pasture and in the brush, eating all of the bugs we didn’t care to have crawling around the place. There were times when we’d lose a few of them for a few hours of the day only to find them inside of the coop at sunset waiting for us to close up the doors and secure them for the night so they could sleep.

Eventually, there would be nights when we’d be missing one or more chickens and we’d spend a good chunk of time scouting out their whereabouts, happy to find them tucked away somewhere safe, only to grab them and put them in their rightful place in the chicken coop.

We started getting lax on a lot of things because the chickens are great at taking care of themselves. But one thing that we found helpful was taking five minutes every evening and counting the chickens. We always knew exactly how many we had in our flock, so at bedtime we’d make sure the right number were in the coop and when morning came it made it a whole lot easier to count them as they came out of the coop to get their day started.

No more freaking out when only a few of the chickens came out of the coop. “The others have been killed in the night !”

Nope; turns out we didn’t do our job the night before and count them to make sure they were all inside. So, never forget to count your chickens.

3. Buy double.

When you live in the country it’s usually an all day affair to go to town, whether you’re grocery shopping or picking up feed. We’ve learned that the best bet is to always buy double what you need. It has come in handy during bad weather when we couldn’t get out on the back roads to stock up on chicken feed or other supplies.

I hope this little list is helpful to those of you out there making a go of it for yourselves. If you have any questions feel free to ask !

Make sure to check out my articles for Capper’s Farmer at www​.cap​pers​farmer​.com !

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds NEW CATALOG

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has made their new catalog available ! Check out the variety they have this year and request a copy before they run out here.

If you’re interested in something even cooler you should pay a few bucks and get their Whole Seed Catalog. It’s full of stuff that you’d never believe. I ordered my copy already and am waiting for it’s arrival in the mail. I’m sure that I’ll be stocking up on some great new varieties of seeds for Spring.

Capper’s Farmer

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write for a great publication’s website, Capper’s Farmer magazine. You’ll know them for their great DIY projects and homesteading tips and advice. Feel free to check out my articles at their website, www​.cap​pers​farmer​.com, or you can browse through the snippets I’ve posted on this website and you’ll be taken straight to where they reside at Capper’s.

Tuning Out and Turning Off

There are things that we must all learn when it comes to living the country life, homesteading, getting off the grid, and so on. Many of us find that there are innumerable resources, from books to websites and everything in between, detailing the intricacies and how-​to of daily life and we become overwhelmed. For a lot of us things don’t seem quite as simple as they eventually reveal themselves to be, whether it’s raising chickens or growing a garden. All of these things are easy enough but we are bogged down with information in our attempts to “get it right” and that’s where tuning out the noise comes in handy enough to be a literal lifesaver, if not for you, for your animals and plants…(Read the rest at Capper’s Farmer)

Finding Paradise Right Where You Left It

Seven years ago my wife had a chance to visit Santa Fe and she fell in love with what she saw — myriad creative minds living a lifestyle that she could only describe as pure bliss. I was interested in what she was able to witness and about a year later I had the opportunity to visit Arizona. I was blown away. It took only about a week for the two of us to decide that our life needed to start heading toward the Southwest. There was something about the beauty and solitude of the desert, the mountains, and the people, that we couldn’t shake. No matter what occupied our daily lives we always came back to this central idea of creating a life for ourselves and our future family in the rural spaces of this gorgeous piece of Earth…(Read the rest at Capper’s Farmer)