Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Low Maintenance Perennials

I really wish I had more time to work around the homestead. There are so many things I need to get done and not enough hours in the day. Here are a few things I have planted that don't take a lot of maintenance.

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is so easy to grow. I mean it is almost effortless. The only catch is you have to let it establish a good root system before you can harvest from it. Most recommendations are to let it grow for 2-3 seasons before you harvest. I let ours go for three springs before I harvested. This plot has 10 crowns that I planted 4 years ago. I have 20 more crowns I just got in the mail. I need to find two more good spots, away from this one, so pests have a harder time moving around. Asparagus will produce for 30 years or so. Make sure you get yours in this year.

This is a Chicago Fig (Ficus carica). It is supposedly hardy to zone 5. I had another "cold hardy" fig that I lost over the harsh winter we just went through. I am pretty sure we just had a zone 5 winter. I hope this fig will do better than the one I lost.

Another plant and forget perennial is the Filbert (Corylus americana) or American Hazelnut. Pictured behind our puppy who was behaving in a rare moment of calm. I have 12 planted in the back yard and another hedge of 10 planted in the front yard. The trick is to get to the nuts before the critters do.

People tell me it is hard to grow blueberries (Vaccinium Cyanococcus) in a backyard setting. I say, look at this. Now, I do have a couple blueberries that are not producing as prolifically as this one, I just think it is a matter of finding the right variety that works well in your climate. Again the trick is to get to the fruit before the critters do.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Strawberries, Snakes And Puppies

In the words of the great George Takei; Oh my...

Our strawberries are going crazy this year. I have eaten a bunch out of hand and Dara has collected a couple bowls like this so far. There are still hundreds of strawberries that will be ripe in the next couple days. Plus, I just bought 75 more strawberry plants.

This is the Common Northern Water Snake or Nerodia sipedon. This guy was crossing my neighbors driveway, probably going to his backyard pond. It is non-venomous and will leave you alone if you leave it alone. Not all water snakes are poisonous. One easy way to tell them apart is; the heads of venomous water snakes are broad and distinctively larger than their neck. Also, venomous water snakes have vertical pupils, non-venomous water snakes have round pupils.

This is the Common Southwest Ohio Lake Pup. You can distinguish it from other species by its bright orange doggy life-vest, complete with carry handle.

Higgs only tried to jump into the lake a few times. We can't wait to take him backpacking!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Animal Rescue Experience

Let me just start off by saying, I am happy there are animal rescues. I'm happy there are people out there who devote their time protecting animals that can't easily survive without human accompaniment. I only wish they understood these animals better and could match the specific dogs' needs with the human applicants' needs to maximize the happiness of both (this statement is based solely on the experience I had with a select few rescues/shelters).

Before we got Higgs I did a lot of research to determine the best dog for us. Here is our list of needs:
• Medium sized
• Moderate energy
• Good with livestock (a puppy that we can raise with chickens)
• Double coat for cold winters
• Guardian
• Hiking companion and possibly a water dog

Initially, we planned to keep our dogs as outside only dogs. The plan was, at any given time we'd have 2–3 dogs in the yard. They would have an insulated doghouse and access to the entire backyard. I see no problem with this at all. They would have the companionship of their dog pack and then be with us in the evening and weekends for yard work, livestock care, hiking... They would have everything they need: leaders, a dog pack, shelter, and purpose.

I was denied by the first shelter I applied to because of this. Because these dogs "might be working breeds but they belong in the house with people".  I'm sorry, what?! I decided if we were going to adopt a rescue we'd have to put in a doggie door. I applied to another rescue stating that we would have the doggie door for the dogs and they would have access to the kitchen at all times as well as an outdoor doghouse. I was questioned profusely again. I was questioned over why they had a doghouse and a doggie door. First, we already built it and second... I'm pretty sure a double coated dog might actually enjoy the winter and prefer being outside. This time they stated the rejection was because we were out of state and they have problems with out of state adoptions when dogs need to be returned. I think there was more to it than that.

The overall experience has been annoying. I felt bad for wanting outdoor dogs... which is silly. Why can't a farm dog be happy? Why can't he also be a companion?

Instead of adopting a puppy from a rescue or shelter, I began to think I'd have to buy a puppy. Which would be fine, it's just, why increase demand for breeding when there are so many dogs without homes?

Fortunately, I heard of a family with a litter of pups they were trying to find homes for. I am so grateful to this family, and also to my friend, Jannelle, who connected us. Higgs is an amazing animal. I planned on having two puppies this summer but Higgs' sister died very young, before we even got Higgs, so I'm still looking for another pup. I think I am done dealing with rescues, however. I feel like I'm being interrogated, I have to agree to random drop-ins by volunteers, and I've found it can take weeks for a representative to contact me. I don't like feeling like a bad person for trying to do something good. This has just been my experience with a few rescues. Maybe I just had bad luck. And, for the record, I did correspond with a couple that I had no real problems with, except for the volunteers stating that if I planned on keeping a dog outside all the time I'd be denied.

If any of our readers have a litter, or you have a friend or even a friend of a friend with a litter, please let us know. We're still looking and I promise to give that pup a good home (indoor and outdoor).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cutest Post Ever!

After a long search and a ton of back and forth with shelters and rescues, we finally found the puppy we were looking for. We ended up getting him from a friend of a friend of a friend. He is a Border Collie / Australian Shepherd mix. 

Say hello to the newest addition to the homestead, Higgs B Hallene. Named after the theoretical physicist Peter Higgs.Why you ask? Because this little guy gives mass to all the cuteness in the universe...

I am glad we finally found the right dog for our homestead. I will let Dara blog about the ridiculous ignorance we ran into at almost ever turn with the rescues and shelters we talked to. Let me just say, a dog should have a purpose, like taking care of and protecting livestock. One of the main reasons dogs are on anti-depressants, yes I know it sounds ridiculous but some are, is the fact that they have been divorced from their evolutionary instincts. No dog is an "inside" dog exclusively. I will leave it there and let Dara go off on the real tangent.

Here are two of my favorite things in the world. Swings and properly framed photographs. ;)

Monday, May 12, 2014

We Have Been Adopted!

Normally when Dara says something like: "OMG, there is a giant spider in the tub!", I go into the bathroom to find a normal sized spider, minding its business. So when Dara told me there was a peacock in the driveway, naturally I thought, wild turkey, goose or maybe an obese pheasant. She had a picture, and what do you know; it really looked like a female peahen. But I still had my doubts.

Then I walked outside to take the dog out and what do I see? A large female peahen! This lady is very friendly and seemed to take an interest in our property. So we gave it a little chicken feed and checked it out for a while, then we went on with our day. The next day she was still hanging around, this time on our back deck.  

So what does Dara do? She names it Fergi of course and claims it as part of the homestead. Peafowl are the largest member of the pheasant family. They are closely related to chickens, quail, junglefowl and pheasants. They belong to the family Phasianidae. This particular species is the Indian Peafowl or Pavo cristatus. They are native to South Asia but have been introduced all over the world. People keep them as flock guardians, they are known to chase away hawks and other livestock pests. 

Here she is on top of the house. I think she has been roosting up there at night to avoid predators. Some people who keep peafowl have their wings clipped so they cannot fly. This one can definitely fly, she came down off the roof to greet me this morning. We need to ask around if any of our neighbors keep peafowl. But for now, she is welcome as long as she wants to stay.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

My Favorite Podcasts And Resources

I thought I would share some of my favorite podcasts and websites that I frequent to get information and entertainment. People often ask me how I know the things that I know about so many different topics. I don't do anything special, I just research what I am interested in. It's simple really, I read books, listen to a ton of podcasts and Google is a thing. Plus I mess up all the time, which I find is a great way to learn something new. The important thing is to know how to learn and do proper research, "knowing" the specific details about a topic is secondary.

Here are some of the informational podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. Some of these podcast are still going strong, some have stopped creating new content, but still have their episode archives up.

Homesteading - Permaculture - Survivalism

Guns - Hunting

Science - Space - History

 Health - Nutrition - Paleo

Brewing - Cooking

Interesting - Random

Here is a list of video sites I am subscribed to or watch often. Some are just funny, some are very informative. I want to Highlight two of the most interesting and useful video sites I frequent.
T.E.D stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED's mission is to bring scientist, entertainers and inspirational people together to speak in a video format about whatever topic they are passionate about. I have watched every TED video on this site that I am interested it, that is a lot. Check it out, you will find something you like.
Khan Academy is the direction I believe education, not only of children, but anyone who wants to further their education, is going now and into the future. The days of the modern education system are numbered. Before I go off on a long tangent about the systemic problems of the modern education system, let me just say, you should check out the Khan Academy. You would have to try not to learn something new.

YouTube is a great resource. The following are all channels I am subscribed to.

I know the above list is long, but it is only a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the information available to anyone who wants to look for it. All of these links and resources are free, some have voluntary yearly subscriptions, which I have a couple of.

These are just some of the things I am interested in. If you are into spinning wool, you would be amazed at how many resources are available for free online. Just Google it. ;)

The important thing is to know how to separate the bullshit from the well meaning uninformed writer, from the truly valuable information. Make sure to get your information from more than one source, three is a good start. If you come across something you are interested in, and there are links from the article to the source material, read it and make your own conclusions.

I could do a longer post on all the books I recommend, but one in particular comes to mind that will help you sift through the bullshit in life. It was written by my personal hero, Carl Sagan. Read this book before you die, the sooner the better.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Obviously Wikipedia is a great resource. Just remember, anyone can go in and change things. Most of the time, if there is incorrect information, it is corrected very quickly. The community is very good at self policing.

There is a specific survivalism wiki set up through The Survival Podcast community. Check it out here. TSP also has a great forum that I have been a member of since 2009, check it out here.

Google is such a great resource. If you really want to delve into something you can do a search on Google Scholar. This search will pull up any published scholarly articles on the subject you are interested in.

I hope this post helps some people find new and interesting sources of information and entertainment.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Red Light District

There is an eerie glow in our backyard these days. It's like a chicken aquarium!

I didn't properly ween the chicks off of the heat lamp. Any night that goes below 50 degrees I have been turning the light on. I know it is probably not needed, but I guess I would rather be safe than sorry. These birds are probably the most coddled birds in Warren county. 

Has anyone had an issue with their chickens being afraid of the ramp out of the coop? Only about half of our chickens will skittishly flop down the ramp, the other half will just stair down it and not leave the coop. The chickens that do leave the coop, never go back up the ramp. Any suggestions? I am going to change my ramp design and see if they like a longer, wider ramp.