Starting Over

I haven’t added to my blogs for a long time due to some health issues and family reasons. I just have not had the time to breathe much less make a thoughtful, meaningful post.

Hubby and I made a life-changing decision October of 2017. We bought a house with 5 acres in Maine. I know what you’re thinking: that’s a huge change and I have to agree. We needed a change in the worst way.

I’m going to share some personal information, something I rarely do but it all ties into this move and hopefully my ramblings can touch the heart of someone who can relate and hopefully offer some support in some way.

I had become more and more intolerant to the East Texas heat and I would be housebound more than six months a year. My nights and days would switch, sleeping during the heat of the day and working outside after the sun went down. I utilized one of those lights that clip onto the brim of a baseball cap to work the garden and other chores. It really took its toll on me and I found myself asking my doctor for help dealing with my depression.

PTSD is a real thing and hubby is unfortunate to be plagued with it since his return from Iraq. His job over there was to ride in the gun turret on the top of the truck and keep a watch out of IEDs which was often hidden in some discarded item sitting on the side of the road and marked with a pile of rocks neatly stacked on top of each other. Coming home, driving became dangerous as anything that happened unexpectedly caused an over-reaction and he finally come to realize that he just shouldn’t do it anymore.

Even though we lived on the outskirts of a small town there was still 12,000 people and crowds did not sit well with him. If we went to a restaurant and there were people around the front door waiting to be seated, he couldn’t do it. Medication helps but both of these issues combined makes him basically unemployable. The VA and SS stepped up and we finally got the financial relief we desperately needed. We had gotten to the point that we had to sell something every month just to make bills.

Don’t doubt someone because they say they have PTSD. The struggle is real and not all disabilities are visible. To add to his stress is my mother who lives next door and is an alcoholic with dementia.

My relationship with my mother is a love/hate thing. Maybe not “love” but a feeling of responsibility for her wellbeing. My sister and I had to procure a Power of Attorney and we moved her to an assisted living facility as her dementia worsened. She hated me for it and I don’t think she ever forgave me. She was angry with me one day, intoxicated as usual, and she spat out the most hateful thing; she said having me was the worst decision she had ever made. That cut me deep because I know alcohol allows you to say things that you really mean but under normal circumstances you wouldn’t say.

It took me a long time to come to terms with her hatred and I had to distance myself from her for my own health as well as my husbands’ and our marriage. So I went from visiting her several times a week to just a couple times a month. I even planned family events without her and I realized how much more pleasant it was without her. I had finally made peace with my decision to emotionally break away from my mother.

She began to complain of a sore throat and the ENT’s biopsy showed cancer. By the time it was discovered it was everywhere and it had started to make itself visible as it attacked her body functions and she declined very quickly. She died July 24, 2017. I had some time to prepare mentally for her death so it didn’t hit me so hard.

Two days later my sister was supposed to go with me to the funeral home to make arrangements and early that morning I got a call that knocked me to my knees. My daughter had overdosed and died in her sleep. Drugs was an ongoing problem with her and her sudden death hit me like a freight train. The day we buried my mother we had an appointment with the funeral home to make her arrangements.

We all lived in the same town and suddenly I was surrounded by flashbacks. There is not one trip into town that didn’t bring me to tears. I asked my doctor again for help and she increased my dosage. Two weeks later we took our travel trailer and headed to New England to look for property.

We actually found the house by accident as it was not listed in MLS. A sign was nailed to a tree and the owners were happy to show it to us immediately and two days later we made a contract. We knew winter would be coming on around the time of the contract closing so we decided to wait until spring to move. I’m so glad we did for the temperature had dropped to -13 that season which is unusually cold. I can always put on more clothes to keep warm but I can only take off so much to stay cool. I don’t want to go to jail!

And so the clutter reduction begins. We liquidated nearly everything and brought absolutely no furniture except our bed. But somehow we still filled a 26′ moving truck pulling a 16′ box trailer and our F250 pulling a 24′ flatbed with and a dog, a cat and two milk goats. We drove for 12 hours a day and we pulled up to the new house around 6pm on the 4th day.

When I opened the door I was surprised because all the furniture was still there. I called the seller and he said they got everything out that they wanted. I can certainly understand because just a few weeks after we closed on the house, his wife had died of cancer. Couches, coffee tables, and even beds made with fresh linens and fluffy pillows awaited us. This was such a welcome relief.

After getting settled in, we began the arduous task of scraping the 3-story house to get it ready for new paint. The exterior is in desperate need of attention and we are getting as much done before the weather keeps us from painting anymore.

The town we moved to has around 400 people and we are walking distance to the square which has a well-stocked grocery store, post office and town office. Directly across the street is a small lake with a dam and the running water is so soothing. A clock tower chimes every hour and I feel like we have gone back in time.

After two months in the new house, even with the paint project, our stress level has decreased to next to nothing. We adopted a dog, a standard poodle, to hopefully train as hubby’s service dog. Just the other day, he had an episode in a dog friendly store and thankfully Sam was with him. I didn’t even know anything was wrong because I was on another isle. He doesn’t know what triggered it. This has never happened before and it worries me because it seems him condition is worsening. We will be addressing it with the VA soon.

The VA in Maine is a welcome change from the Dallas system which is overcrowded and people get lost in the system. On our initial visit to be established with his new doctor, we were given referrals to pain management and ENT to straighten his airway from past nose breaks.

I know this is long and I’m sure I have lost many readers before reaching this point. But for those who made it this far, please drop a comment and tell me what you think.

 

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Hydroponics 201

hydro 201This is the beginning of my second year of tinkering with hydroponics. You can see the blog about my first year here. It wasn’t very successful but I’ve made a few changes this year and going “all out” on plant varieties.

It’s mid February and the weather has been unseasonably warm here in East Texas. I just started seeds for several varieties of tomato, lettuce, and spinach, and I have many more seeds to get started. I purchased onion sets, bare-root strawberries, and garlic cloves as well. I started the garlic cloves in potting soil until some roots got going, then transferred them to the hydroponics.

My plans are to include cucumber, squash, peas, beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, corn, okra, broccoli family, and whatever else I can find room for. Most everything should do well in the cup system but I will use a large trough for the corn and okra since they grow so tall. I have yet to set that portion of the system up so look for an update in a few weeks.

Feb 10th

Garlic Cloveshydro 201c

Rooting in potting soil.

 

 

 

hydro 201aOnion

Sets transplated

 

 

 


hydro 201b
Strawberry

Bare root

 

 

 

 

Feb 14th

hydro 201dGarlic

Good root system started

 

 

 

hydro 201eTransferred to hydroponics

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 18th

hydro 201hGarlic

Taking off!

 

 

 

hydro 201fStrawberry

Starting to wake up.

 

 

 

 

hydro 201gCilantro Seeds started

I had to cover the seeds with clear plastic wrap to keep the birds from stealing my seeds.

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Hydroponics 101

hydroponics 101a copyLast year I started tinkering with hydroponics. The project wasn’t very successful so I chose not to write about it. But as you can see, I changed my mind because I have run into so many people that are interested in hydroponics but don’t know where to start. So I wanted to post my experiments, successful and not so successful, so that others can learn and maybe venture into their own experimentation with this type of gardening.

Why hydroponics vs. conventional gardening? Everyone will have their own answer to that question, but mine is my gradual inability to get down on my hands and knees to plant and weed, drag hoses, and my desire to manage pests in a more natural way that in the past has not been very successful. I have a bad back and bad knees, and two years ago my husband broke his back. We considered raised beds and container gardening but the thought of lifting and moving dirt and watering every day did not appeal to us either and the weeds and pests were still going to be there though maybe not as bad.

hydroponics 101cMy first hydroponic system was constructed in a small greenhouse with the piping system being supported by wire metal shelving (photo above). It contained indeterminate tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. It was started in the spring and shut down in the fall when I gave the plants away while I reconfigured the system.
At the time of shutdown, the cucumbers had died and I was able to harvest a fair amount of basil. The tomatoes were healthy and had good root systems but never produced. I concluded that I was not getting pollination inside the greenhouse even though I left the door open all summer.

hydroponics 101b copyWhat was best about the system, I was not plagued by many pests or weeds. The few pests I encountered were grasshoppers and I put out Nolo Bait. I don’t know if it was the Nolo Bait that got them or all the frogs but the leaks in the system piping helped support a very large population of toads. I will never go back to conventional gardening again.

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Livestock Forage Series: Soil Testing

soiltestprobejpgMost people don’t think about soil testing when it comes to livestock production, but it plays an important role in the productivity of your pasture. The major nutrients required for crops and forage production are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If you are not providing those nutrients in sufficient quantities, your pasture is lacking in forage production and consequently stunting your livestock production.

Nitrogen (N) produces the most dramatic growth response in forage grasses.   It’s the key component of chlorophyll which is the critical process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities. The Earth’s atmosphere is about 80 percent nitrogen by which a small portion can be introduced into the soil my natural means. Unfortunately, nitrogen is lost by several natural processes and must be replaced in one way or another to maintain sufficient quantities for profitable forage production.

Phosphorus (P) is important in helping the survival and growth of seedlings by helping in the photosynthesis process of converting energy into food.   Fortunately, phosphorus, unlike nitrogen, is not usually leached and will remain bound in the soil and slowly released over a period of years.

Potassium (K) is used by plants in relatively large amounts and is a key element to cold hardiness and is also of major importance in the longevity of perennial stands of forage. It also improves water retention, nutrient value, color and disease resistance.

This image shows what deficiencies look like in corn plants.

mineral deficiencies in plants

 

 

This pasture is nitrogen deficient.

Ndefgrass

 

Below is a comparison of nitrogen application, note the color difference.

Ndefcompare

 

Calcium, magnesium and sulfur are referred to as secondary nutrients and are equally important in plant growth. Soils limed according to soil tests should contain adequate calcium. Magnesium can be obtained from products such as sulfate of potash magnesia or can be added to applications of dolomitic lime. Lastly, sulfur deficiencies are most common on low organic matter, sandy soils and with shallow rooted annual forages.   Recommendations on sulfur application vary from state to state.

The most important aspect of nutrient availability is soil pH. There may be sufficient quantities of NPK in your soil but unless the pH is in the correct range, the plants are unable to utilize those nutrients as they become locked in the soil. A pH of 7.0 is neutral while a pH below is acid and pH above is alkaline. Most forage crops perform best at pH levels of 5.8 to 6.5 although there are some exceptions. Nutrients are most available and many herbicides are most effective in this range. If your pH is low, the addition of lime will raise the pH to the desired level. To correct high pH, gypsum or calcium sulfate can be used.

The following chart shows the availability of nutrients at different pH levels.

soilPhChart

In conclusion, keeping soil pH and fertility at satisfactory levels is important for several reasons. Fertilization increases forage yields, nitrogen affects forage quality, mainly by increasing the protein content of grasses. Other nutrients affect forage quality by changing the balance of nutrients within plant tissue. So if you want healthy, vigorous stands of desirable forage crops that offer strong competition to weedy species and extend the longevity of your stand, keep your nutrient levels balanced and your pH in the correct range.

 

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Water Control Valves

underground water control valveIt’s been a while since I’ve written anything. Tommy and I were in a bike wreck just before Thanksgiving so we were not up to doing much of anything for a couple of months.  With winter setting in and trying to avoid frozen pipes, I stumbled across my next blog subject: Water Control Valves.

When the temperature dips down in the low 20’s, I cut off outside waters to prevent freeze breaks.  In doing so, I broke a PVC sectional valve at the barn so I had to shut it off at the meter which means no water in the house.  I can deal with that.  But one day turned into two, that turned into three…

Trust me, you don’t want one of those cheap PVC quarter turn valves to control your waterflow.  Yes, I know they are tempting seeing as how every single hardware store has them and they’re cheap.  But they don’t hold up to turning off and on while under pressure.

We are in the process of changing all our water control valves to the brass ones.  They are also quarter-turn but will hold up to usage and they’re really not that much more expensive.

Another lesson learned, always install a union with all of your valves wether they are above ground or below ground.  I cannot tell you how many times I have cut and replaced fittings and pipe routings when having to change one of the cheap valves.  The 1/2″ union shown in the picture was only a few dollars and will save you many a headache.

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What is a Designer Dog?

sdc10054.jpgI love dogs, don’t get me wrong, but what the hell is a “designer dog”?  Labradoodle, Buggs, Pomapoo, Basenji, Barger Stock Feist, they are all Mutts: mixed breed dogs whether the breeding is planned or not and no matter if you know the exact ancestry of the breeding animals involved.

In my life, I’ve had two registered dogs: a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd, neither of which cared who they mated with and the end result was Mutts.  I tried to control the breeding and get them with registered dogs of the same breed but they wouldn’t listen to me.

The male German Shepherd bred everything in site, including our livestock guardian dog Sassy.  That happened many times and we gave those pups away.  I still have one of the pups, he is probably 10 years old now and arthritis is setting in pretty good.

As soon as I saw the female Golden show signs of heat, I penned her up in a kennel for 3 weeks.  Didn’t matter, somehow it happened and she had a litter anyways.  I think they did it through the chain link.  All I can say is “ouch”.

Mutts are never going to go away, they are here to stay and now someone had the brains to label them “designer” dogs and make a mint.  It seems like the wackier the breed name sounds the more it costs.  Before “designers” came out, I bet they couldn’t give away those dogs.

Now Mutt working dogs I can understand, Sassy is a mix of Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd.  I’ve heard the Pyrenees tends to wander and the Anatolian is aggressive, so the mixed breed gets you a more mild-natured dog that stays put, and I’ll pay money for that dog because it works for it’s groceries.  But a Mutt that costs $1,000 and does nothing for a living, I’m sorry.  I have a hard time understanding that.  Just leave me with my farms dogs and I’ll be just fine.

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Tractor breakdown

tractor breakdownTom started a job a few weeks ago working out of town.  I know he feels helpless by not being able to help out around the farm but I’m a pretty self-sufficient person and he knows if I need help with something, we have a few friends and neighbors that I can call on.

I’m gonna make a plug for the local college here in Athens.  Tom and I have been taking agricultural classes for the past few years and they have really helped us out on our farm.

For example, our tractor locked up the other day and we tugged it to the carport to be closer to the tools.  Tom and I took the hood off before he left town and I told him I would tinker with it when the temperature outside backed off some.

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I’m a City Girl

Roosting ChickensCreating this blog automatically made it 13 years behind, so we’ve got some catching up to do.  I purchased my 35 acres in two parts starting in October of 2000 and with trial and error we are getting it the way we want.  Did I mention a few errors?

I’m a city girl, there’s no denying it.  I grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood where all the food came out of the grocery store.  Lawns were manicured perfectly and outside Christmas decorations were mandatory.  We had an in-ground swimming pool in the back yard and there wasn’t livestock to be seen anywhere.

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Kickin-n-Screamin

blog definition

I’m being drug into the technical world kickin-n-screaming, with all the social media sites to keep up with, getting our Country Store online, and now a blog website.

I suppose it’s not really that bad, the brainy creators have made the installation pretty seamless but I’m still lost.  What if I don’t like the color or the header photograph, or what if I hit the wrong key and accidentally delete everything from the server?

I’ve actually come a long way from my first blog in 2006.  I was on my way out of a bad relationship then and to see myself now, I’ve never been happier.

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