Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Trip to the Big City

I almost never venture far from the farm, however, this past weekend, I went to Arlington, Texas.  It was my son's 25th birthday.  He's a software engineer and he lives in the suburbs.
Whenever I hear the Travis Tritt song Country Ain't Country, I think about Paul.  He was raised on a tractor, he's been to college, and he left in a Ford F150 pick-up truck.  Well, it's been a while since he's been on a tractor, but he graduated from college and found his present job three years ago.  Ray and I have no idea what exactly he does, but apparently he does it pretty well.  On the rare occasion that he does say something about his work; Ray and I look at each other, shake our heads, and shrug our shoulders.  He's noticed.  Paul doesn't say much about his work any more, other than; "It's fine."
In the song, the son comes home in a Lexus.  Paul still comes home in the Ford F150.  He's too frugal to trade in the Ford for the Lexus, although he could afford to.  So I guess a little bit of the micro farm philosophy rubbed off on him, after all.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Make Yours a Land of Nut and Fruit Trees

You don't have to live in California to have nuts and fruits.  This is something that I wish I had started sooner.  It takes a while for nut and fruit trees to produce.  So far, I have eaten two plums and one apricot.
In addition to the fact that they produce food, there are other compelling reasons to plant nut and fruit trees.  Fruit trees are just plain pretty when they are in bloom.  They are quite ornamental, therefore good for landscaping as well.  Both nut and fruit trees are deciduous.  This, of course, means that they provide shade in the summer and let the light through in the winter.
So, if you are just starting out, or even if you have to find space, consider making your place a land of nuts and fruits.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When Weather Refuses to Cooperate

With the advent of summer, bringing with it drought and wildfires, the weather report plays a major role in the micro farmers life.  Our micro farm is just under nine acres, carved out of the piney woods of East Texas, twelve years ago.  The nearest fire hydrant is two miles away.  Most years, we have some degree of drought, but this year has been a record breaker, for both heat and drought.  We have been more fortunate than many in Texas.  So far, there have been no wildfires in our immediate area.  But, the fear, that there could be, remains.  We did get a half inch of rain yesterday, the most significant rain we have had in four months.
So, what do we do for our crops?  Water as much as we can afford to.  Water is an essential and limited natural resource, as such, it will always have a cost.  You have to make a decision about cost versus benefit when deciding just how much to spend on watering.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When Critters Refuse to Cooperate

Life is full of obstacles.  Just when you have things going your way, some little problems are liable to pop up and some big ones too. 
Little critters in the garden have created quite the mess.  First, there's the moles and then, there's the rabbit.  We have moles, mole holes and mole trails.  While they do not eat plants, they certainly do disturb their roots and deprive them of water.  They must go!  We tried trapping them.  That works somewhat, but they are many.  We tried a beeper thing; but it has, at best, a very limited range.  (Like a few feet.)  We have animals, six dogs, three cats, and one goat.  While the dogs and cats catch moles occasionally, they must be outnumbered, outwitted, or out dug.  (I suspect the latter.)  The goat has yet to catch a mole; nor show much interest in doing so.  I am now trying coffee grounds as a deterrent and I may even try castor oil.  Obviously, it is an ongoing problem.  
Then there was the rabbit.  We had a nice little row of corn growing until the rabbit came along.  He loved corn.  We got about eight ears, he got the rest.  Well, we decided to start over.  He ate the corn plants before they even had ears.  We hated to shoot him at a time of the year that he can't be eaten, but he had to go.  It seems that in the heat of the summer, wild rabbits get wolves.  (We are talking parasites, not wild dogs.)  Well, after much delay, Ray finally went out and shot him.  The rabbit was down, apparently deceased.  Ray went out a while later and the rabbit was sitting up, so he shot him again.  The rabbit was down, apparently deceased.  The next morning comes.  Ray comes in and says, "That ****ed thing is still alive.  It's sitting up."  Well, the third time was the charm.  Of course, a couple of days later, we found one of our eggplants eaten to the ground with rabbit tracks next to it.  He must have had a mate.  Poor Ray! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

What Makes Vegetable Gardening Fun

Personally, I like the seasonal growth of vegetables.  If you see something that you like to eat, you can attempt to grow it.  If it grows great, if it doesn't, it just leaves room for something else.  There is no big upfront investment in plants and no serious thought about where to plant.  It all goes in the garden.
On the other hand, there is landscaping.  I tend to landscape like I vegetable garden.  I see a plant that looks good; I buy it; then, and only then, I try to figure out where to put it so that it might grow.  This is not good.  Landscaping is supposed to be designed and planned, not a hodgepodge of plants here, there, and yonder.  All this planning is just too much commitment for me.
So, I like vegetable gardening.  If I'm overrun with tomatoes, I can them.  If I have too much okra, I give it away.  So far, the only ways I like okra, are fried and in gumbo.  I am going to try pickling a little okra this year.  We'll see!  Suggestions are always welcome.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Getting There

Under almost any circumstances, we can produce at least some of our own food.  To put in last years 20' x 20' garden, we used a small gas powered walk behind tiller.  To put in this years enlarged 30' x30', we used a bigger small gas powered tiller.  When I say we, I mean Poor Ray.  Our micro farm is almost 9 acres.  If you have a suburban home, investing in a tiller doesn't make much sense.  A 10' x10' garden will grow enough vegetables to feed a family.  This can be easily accomplished by building a frame with 2" x 12"s with plastic underneath and then filling in with soil.  Even if you live in an apartment with just a balcony, porch, or patio; you can still container grow enough tomatoes for your family. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Goal Reached?

You can make money with a microfarm and, after we retire, we probably will.  Right now, for us, the micro farm is more about quality, health, and self-sufficiency.  
Yesterday afternoon, when I began to think about dinner, I went into the kitchen to see what was available.  We had fried catfish, fried okra, boiled red new potatoes, and zucchini and yellow crookneck squash steamed in butter (margarine actually).  The meal was excellent and it was healthy from a nutrition standpoint, except for the frying and butter (margarine actually).  Oh, well.  I try to use a lot of garlic; its supposed to help with cholesterol.   
As I was eating the meal, it struck me that everything on my plate had been produced right here at home!  Yea!  Of course, I don't think that I want to eat catfish every evening, so we need to get some chickens and a bull and a heifer and a few pigs...  Maybe when we retire.