Thursday, April 29, 2010
These are my sweet potato slips. You can see how I started them myself in the post on "Growing Sweet Potatoes In The North".
I just started one of these small trays yesterday. I put them all out into the little greenhouse yesterday but they didn't fare that well. I guess they could have used more hardening off. I brought the new, not yet rooted ones back into the kitchen today. After a day and a night in the greenhouse, they all looked a bit wilted.
This is my first year growing sweet potatoes. Growing my own slips has gone well, so far. I hope the planting and growing in the garden goes as well! I still have another month to add to these before they all go into the ground!
Sunday, April 25, 2010
In the past year we have acquired four new pets, not counting fish and chickens. I have posted the acquisition here each time a new addition was added to our family.
With the coming of the nice weather, our two pups and two cats are outside a lot. They more or less follow me around the property. We move about as a group, with me usually working around a couple of giant puppies who are always trying to help me get the work done. Abby and Chisel, the two cats, are usually nearby too and will come to see me when the pups have found a distraction elsewhere.
Chisel was the first of the four to come live with us. You can see Chisel when he arrived, in the previous "Lost and Found" post. He is the most loving and affectionate cat I have ever known. He loves to be petted, to get belly rubs and to nuzzle noses. He will sit for a long time nuzzling me in the kitchen and being petted. He is a true lap cat!
He spends a lot of time outdoors these days. He likes to hunt and can be seen around the property, always stalking something or sitting at attention outside a mouse hole. He occasionally brings the dead mice into the house and drops them in the living room door where we are all sitting watching TV. He is so proud of himself!
Since he is out all night, he sleeps all afternoon and evening, soundly. His favourite spot is the nearest corner of the sofa where the blue blanket usually resides. He and Abby sometimes fight over that spot, or they did for awhile. They fought a lot when Abby first came but have since become companions. They don't do everything together like the pups do, but can often be found in each other's company. Abby washes him while he's sleeping. He can sleep through anything. We sometimes pick him up and move him from chair to chair if someone wants to sit where he's sleeping. He barely wakes up.
Chisel is so friendly and relaxed that it took awhile for him to assert himself when Abby first arrived. She stormed in here full of life and fiesty! She wasn't about to take anything from Chisel, or anyone else for that matter. Finally Chisel had had enough of being pushed around and started sitting on her, holding her down with all fours and holding her neck in his mouth. After a few days of that scene, things settled down with Abby giving him more respect and a bit of a wider berth. She won't eat out of his bowl, but he will eat from her's and both bowls have to contain the same food too, or he won't be happy with her.
She's a sweet and happy little thing now, just so loving and friendly, playing all the time. You can see Abby when she came to us in her post "Another Addition To Our Family". She loves to be caressed and held and petted. Hubby has always been her favourite. She snuggled with him before she would even let me hold her. She has only recently begun to nuzzle me and it is so sweet! She still bites me when she wants down, however, and I am the only one she bites. She prefers hubby and he just adores her! She is Daddy's little sweetie! She is so feminine, petite and graceful. So girly! She's still small, just a young thing, but she's a good mouser. She can sometimes be found in the middle of the night, tail twitching, watching underneath the dishwasher where the mice were getting in and she chases anything that moves. One of my little fancy tailed goldfish has just dissappeared, not dead just gone. I wonder...
She is outside quite a bit these days but stays near the house or near me, if I am out working. I have put a cat door in the basement window. It is an unfinished basement, but houses the oil furnace so is quite warm in the cold weather. They have food and water down there too. It is a lot handier than having to open and close the door to let them out all the time. They do have a litter box in the house, but love to be outside playing, hunting and exploring. We live in the country with no close neighbors, so they are not bothering anyone out there.
They do have to contend with the giant puppies chasing them, however. Buck is particularly fond of chasing Abby and trying to play with her. He jumps at her and follows her around but he is too big and she is just too little to be played with. Both pups tend to leave Chisel alone. I think he has made himself understood in that area, although Buck will sometimes try to play with him too, standing on him and trying to hold him down. He always gets away, sometimes after delivering a few strikes to a nose or two. These do seem to be gentle strikes and have not invoked any yelping yet, so I think he realizes that they are just babies.
After Abby, came Jake. You can read about our acquisition of Jake in the post "A Surprise Addition To Our Family".
Jake and Buck are siblings and are both pure breed Great Pyranees. If you want to know more about this giant livestock guardian breed you can read more at the Dog Breed Info Center page on the Great Pyranees breed. We were so impressed with his intelligence, gentleness and personality that we went back after two weeks and got his brother, Buck.
This is Buck when he came to us. You can read about Buck in a previous post. As you can see by the photo at the top of this post, he has changed a lot in the couple of weeks that we have had him, as has Jake. They are both growing at an alarming rate!
Buck is a bit smaller than Jake but I think his feet are bigger. He might catch up to and surpass Jake in size, who knows? They are both going to be HUGE dogs! Their personalities are different, as well. Jake is ready for anything, eats anything, wants to go anywhere and do anything and will obey all commands cheerfully. Buck is very laid back and relaxed about life in general and all events therein. He only eats those treats that he has decided that he likes. He comes when he wants to and is very quiet and relaxed all the time. He is very sweet, loves to be petted and paid attention to, he is just not demanding (sometimes overpowering) about it, like Jake. He is learning to be more assertive and doesn't let himself be pushed around by the puppy exuberance of Jake.
Buck has begun to defend his food bowl while Jake is just happy to be eating, even if its off the floor. They both drink, together, out of whatever waterbowl they have decided to use. They usually do everything and go everywhere together, making us even that much happier with our decision to have two dogs.
We let them into the house for a few short visits every day. I have begun lately to think that the house training has finally gotten through to them. Thank goodness we have no carpet! They have also sort of learned that if they misbehave, they go back outside immediately, so they try to be good but they are, after all, just puppies. They no longer go for the basket of toilet paper as soon as they come in and have stopped trying to play with the hand towels (The bathroom is near the front door). They do, however, LOVE the dishwasher. If its open and has dirty dishes in it, there's no keeping them out. They will stand up inside the dishwasher and lick the dishes if given the chance. I daren't even open it if they are in the house.
They are outside a lot in this nice weather. Because a lot of our property is unfenced and on a busy fast highway, we have had to install an underground wire electronic fence with shock collars. They have been training on it for a few days now and are dutifully scared to death of the little flags that outline the 1000 feet of wire safety zone.
I have crossed it to work in the garden and they just sit on the other side. There is absolutely no way they are going to cross that line, thank goodness! Their safety and very lives might depend on it. We do have a driveway that is about 200' from the house, but it is a fast country road we live on.
The highway across the big field is a busy and fast one, too, and that field is unfenced.
This electronic fence also keeps them out of the many vegetable gardens, the tobacco garden and the berry garden. I have already trained them, somewhat, to stay out of the flower beds. They are very intelligent but, still, just puppies! Unfortunately, the cat door into the house is behind a flowerbed and sometimes chasing the cat is just too much of a distraction. As they get older and more responsible, they will stop going there completely.
We have grown so attached to our two boys! They are the delight of our life and I spend a lot of time with them during the day. They go for car rides and are learning to enjoy them (if they are not so long that someone barfs, that is). They have special cookies in the car, just for rides.
They have other in-house treats and will come running at the word "treat" or the sound of the treat jar opening. They both learned very quickly how to "sit" on command and for treats. The sit automatically for all treats now. Such smart boys!! They know the word "come" too but don't realize yet that it is not a multiple choice question.
Our lives have improved dramically with the addition of our pets! They all fill a space in our home and hearts just for them and are loved very much!
Saturday, April 17, 2010
No, I don't smoke. It goes against my constant struggle towards healthier living. There is another member of my household that does smoke, however. I figure, if he has to smoke, he should at least do it in as healthy a manner as possible, without inhaling pesticide residue and other added chemicals and more in keeping with our newer frugal and self sufficient lifestyle. Your own home grown tobacco will have a lot more flavour and less filler. Can you buy organic tobacco? I don't know about that. You can, however, grow it yourself.
Did you know that it is not illegal to grow your own tobacco? In Canada, you can have 15k per year of processed home grown tobacco per household member over the age of 18.
Most people don't grow or process their own because they don't think they have enough garden room or the space needed to dry and cure it. A person could grow and process just a few leaves at a time for personal use.
Tobacco leaves need to air dry completely before storage and use. Some commercial tobacco farms hang the leaves in a big open barn type structure with fans going all the time. It can also be dried outside in the sun. This produces the lowest nicotine and a light flavour. We are going to try this method, as well as air drying it under the veranda.
As each leaf matures on the plant, It is cut off and hung to dry. The leaves at the top are the strongest but a blend of all the leaves is usually used. As each leaf matures, it is picked and hung to dry. You will want to rinse the leaves with the hose before drying, to wash off any dirt, bird poop and soil residue.
The tobacco leaves must be well cured before being used. This is an important stage. Fresh, green tobacco is so high in nicotine and ammonia that is can be dangerous to smoke and it stinks! It stinks while it is drying too! As if cigarette smoke didn't already smell bad enough, as it is.
We plan to grow our own tobacco this year. I have a field all prepared for it and seeds waiting to be started early indoors. They are tiny, tiny seeds so I am going to scatter them on a tray and transplant into small pots as they get bigger. Up here in the north, they need to be started early indoors. If you have flourescent lights, you could probably grow one all year indoors and always have your own tobacco in various stages of growth and drying. They do get very large, however, so you might need a big light!
This will be my first try at growing smoking tobacco. I have grown nicotiana for years, an ornamental tobacco and I love it. Its easy to grow! I have read that any tobacco is easy to grow. Few things eat it. As a matter of fact, you can use tobacco juice to make insecticide.
We do plan to sun dry the tobacco leaves as much as possible. This is faster and produces tobacco with much lower nicotine levels and less ammonia. We also have a large, open garage type buildling where we can hang it from the ceiling to dry and we have an open front veranda the width of our house with a high ceiling where it can hang to dry. I have heard that it smells a lot when it is drying so I don't know about using the veranda, may do it anyway and see how it goes. I also have misgivings about using the garage, as the tractors and motorcycle are in there and I don't want exhaust and diesel fumes in the tobacco smoke. What would be healthier about that? I am going to stick to the sun dried method, at first anyway, and hang them outside to dry like this. They can be completely cured in 30 days in the sun, but you would need 30 days of dry, sunny weather for that. I think I might hang them on a portable thing that I can move to the veranda if it rains, maybe. Its just a thought...
Tobacco gets smoother as it ages and releases toxins as it dries. If you are curing it in a homemade wooden kiln (recommended for home growers) it is ready to use in about six weeks. If air curing out of the sun it will take about a year. The Chinese used to boil their tobacco to cure it. This sounds interesting and I am looking into this method now. Maybe this will work better than sun or air curing or using a kiln. I will probably try various things with a few leaves to see what works best.
There are some simple home made tobacco kiln directions on the net. Here are some easy directions. I would do more research into buildling a tobacco kiln. I am sure there are even less expensive plans out there. We are going to build one after we see how the crop does. Even an expensive kiln has to be cheaper than buying your own tobacco.
After it is dried and aged, you will need to crush it or grind it for use. You will also need the paper and filters to roll your own. You can buy little, inexpensive kits with the paper rolls, filters and a manual cigarette maker thingie (industry term).
This is an exciting new venture for us! I don't know anyone who grows their own tobacco around here. Its just unheard of. I hope it catches on. Here's a thought: maybe we can make a business out of selling tobacco kilns. We could make small, personal kilns, as well as larger ones.
Tobacoo plants are very large and will produce a lot of tobacco leaves in a relatively small area, so it seems to be worth doing if you smoke and are concerned about the added chemicals, toxins and the cost. Time will tell. Anyone can grow their own tobacco, hang it somewhere like a spare room with a fan to dry for a year and use it. I will be saving my own tobacco seed this year and so will have a lot for next year's trading.
Here is another interesting post from another blog on the subject:
Growing your own tobacco at home.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Buck had a bath today, as Jake did when we got him. He didn't mind it at all! It was nice to give a bath to a dog that just sat there, as opposed to one who howled through the entire process and had to be held down to keep him in the tub. Great Pyranees are water dogs. They have webbed feet! I think this is so cool! I have never had a water dog before!
They will need a lot of training and socialization. I plan to start socializing them, probably tomorrow. I think I will take them both to Pet Smart where they will let me bring them into the store to see people and the other dogs there. There is a groomer in the store so there are always dogs going in and out. One day soon I will take them to the dog park. I have not done so because Jake suffers so much from car sickness. He barfs almost every time he gets in the car and is starting to avoid it. I have to get some special car treats to make it a fun experience for them and cover the back seat with plastic!
I am aware of how much work they will be and already are, but I love having them and will put as much time into their training and bonding as possible. They spend most of the morning with me every weekday, while I work outside.
They even help dig. For every shovel full of dirt I turn over, they dig out three in the same hole. They're a great help while digging, if what you want is great big holes dug in the garden...
I just smile at them and call them my funny boys, while I fill the hole back in. They are just so sweet!
Their favourite spot to lay down outside is in the dirt, right in front of me while I am planting the vegetables. I have to skip a spot in the row that is about the length of a giant puppy's body and try to come back and fill it in later.
Buck licks, wherein Jake nips. Jake has not tried to play tug-a-war with my clothes since Buck came, either. Maybe Buck will be a good influence on him.
All in all, we are thrilled to have them both! The Lord has given us a wonderful, double blessing!
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Spring is finally here, well almost, give us another week and it will definately be "here". Night temps are still below freezing so I can't put tender veggies into the unheated cold frame yet. Next week I should be able to, however. I am looking forward to getting some of these seedling trays out of the house! They are taking over!
This is what my seed window looks like now. It is overflowing!
These are my tomatoes. They desperatly need to be repotted but I am waiting until I can put the newly repotted veggies into the cold frame. There is no more room in the house! Do they look like they can wait just one more week as they are? They'll have to.
I did transplant all my red bell pepper seedlings into bigger pots today. I had four flats of them, with one plant per pot.
I made two new veggies gardens to hold all these veggies, and also because we are planning to use the previous large garden space to hold goats later this year, maybe. They have been tilled only once so far, except for the front of the smaller one. I tilled it three times then planted the peas, carrots and onion starts in it. This will be the early veggies garden. Today I spread chicken manure all over it. Tomorrow I will till in the manure and a lot of fall leaves. Then it will be ready to plant with the early crops, hopefully next week. I have three large trays like this one of brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, bok choi, and red cabbage) to go into this early garden.
These corn seedlings will follow just a short time later, along with the sunflowers.
This is the larger late veggie and chicken feed garden. I planted poppies, amaranth, flax and millet in it a few days ago.
Today I covered half the smaller, early garden with chicken manure. Tomorrow morning I will finish the job, spread out the bags of leaves and till. My manure pile is rapidly getting smaller. I may have to get some horse manure from my neighbors, the racetrack or equine clinic.
I also have some flower seedlings to move outside. These are the star lilies. My flowers are starting to get big, also, and need to go outside. In another week! I have to wait one more week! Then they can all go into the cold frame.
I have growing pots of dahlias, elephant ears, callas, cannas, glads and probably a few other things I can't remember right now.
There is no way the old cold frame will be big enough so I have begun to install another one at the south side of the chicken house. I am going to use plastic for the sides and dig down a bit under the glass. This will hold the flowers and bulbs that are getting really big.
I still have two more, unused, patio doors. I can make more buried cold frames if I need them.
I have an entire basket of seeds, still unplanted, that I have sworn to grow this year. Some veggies and some flowers. I will get them ALL planted!! Half of them are squash and I will only be planting a few of each kind, so its not as bad as it looks.
This is my lasagna garden, made over the summer last year. I have decided that it will be my berry collection and herb garden. I have planted mesclun, lettuces, spinach and green onions in it already this spring and moved one long row of herbs to this garden and the red raspberries and rhubarb too. If I need to, I can enlarge it. I want to plant a lot of berries in it this year, including some June bearing strawberries which will take up a lot of room.
This is my asparagus bed right now. The older plants are at the other end. I enlarged the existing bed last fall and moved my two year old seedlings into it. I don't know what to expect from the young ones this year. They were started from seed two full years ago, in the spring of 2008. I will probably have to wait at least another year before getting pencil sized asparagus from them. At least the older bed at the other end is producing well. I put some old chicken manure and confrey leaves on this bed today.
The flowerbeds are coming alive! The primroses are blooming!
This is the place where I put the tall, 'Keri Blue' dahlia. It is 6' tall with extra long strong cut flower stems. Its my favourite! Of course, I say that about all my flowers. They are all my favourites!
I can't wait for weather that is just a bit warmer! I have a new small greenhouse set up in the kitchen that can go ourside in about another week! It will help contain all the tender veggies like the melons and squash, various peppers, the monster tomatoes, and the flowers. I am planning to start a lot of unusual annuals from seed this year. They won't be started for another couple of weeks yet, not until they can go in the little greenhouse.
Really, I have a lot to do. I tell people that I am busy right now, but I don't think they realize just how busy.
Then there's the new puppy, Jake. Puppies take a LOT of work and time, but he is so cute and we just love him! Here he is out with me and Chisel today. Chisel LOVES it outside and spends a lot of time out there. Abby, the newest kitten, is too little to be outside. Some hawk will just scoop her up for lunch! Sometimes I let her out on the fenced in porch/deck area where Jake spends his unsuperivsed time. She will have to stay inside until she grows more. She is growing a lot but not fast enough for her. She so wants to be out in the world with the big girls and Chisel! She follows him around everywhere.
Here's Jake doing his usual thing...getting his head stuck in the railing. Goofy!
Can you believe that he's only 11 weeks old!