Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This is what I was greeted with yesterday morning.  That is ICE.  Not snow.  It was a day of jammies, hot chocolate and comfort food.

Today, some of it has melted and there is a LOT of standing water on the property again.  It's another day for jammies, Judge shows on tv, and more comfort food.  I'm going to get some Inside-Out Cabbage Rolls into the slow cooker very soon. 

There is another system on the way for late tonight which is supposed to bring more ice and snow.   The weather people have actually named this Winter Storm Remus.  I just call it yuck.  My poor, sweet husband has had to take over duck duty because I'm NOT going out there.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Salad garden!

I watered my salad garden well today and finally got a pic of it.  WHILE watering, LOL!  The netting isn't very pretty, but it IS functional.  (Remember that outdoor kitty?)  I can't wait to show you baby plants poking thru in a week or two!!

My little dogette, Mia is still young enough to get into everything, so I need to keep her close.  I put her on a retractable leash that I have clipped to my belt loop.  Today she had to 'help' me with all my activities, indoors and out.  I spent quite a bit of time sweeping inside today, and it was from room to room to room... I wore that poor little thing out.  (She is used to taking several naps during the day.)  I caught her at a quiet moment when I thought the light was interesting.  Isn't she a cutie?  A total booger, but a cute one.

Nobody thought to take anything out of the freezer for dinner, but thankfully, we have an awesome pizza joint in our tiny little town!  Our usual order (for Kern and I and sometimes Kae) is sausage, onion and black olives.  Seriously good pizza.  A little added Parmesan and hot pepper flakes makes it AWESOME!!   Especially awesome because I don't have to clean up afterwards!!

Thanks for dinner tonight, Honey!  <3

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sun ovens, chairs, and seeds!

It was a beautiful, bright day, and I decided that I wanted to use my Sun Oven to bake some beer bread!  The Sun Oven is a great way to  bake goods, purify water, bake soups or casseroles IF the day is bright.  I mixed up a regular beer bread recipe as well as one with Parmesan and Cracked Peppercorn. 
Bread is cooking!

Almost done!

After the bread was done, I turned the oven away from the sun to cool down, then collapsed it to put it away!

The Parmesan peppercorn bread went very well with the spaghetti and meatballs we had for dinner.  Kern actually liked the plain bread better.  (More for me!)  The meatballs were ones that I canned last Fall, and they were really yummy!

While the bread was cooking, I stained my Adirondack chair so I can take it out into the yard to sit with the ducks from time to time.  I think it's pretty!

I decided to get that salad garden planted, so I drew up a plan so I would know what went where, and when I wanted to harvest, I'd k know what I was getting!  I'm hoping it will be pretty when it's growing!  I tried to mix colors and shapes.  I'm excited to see if my 'dividers' of onion, radishes, and carrots will be as pretty as I want them to be!  It was already dark when I was planting, and I was cold, so I'll have to get water on it tomorrow.

 I wasn't able to plant the broccoli raab.  I thought it was a cold crop, but the planting instructions say to plant after the last chance for frost.  I'll figure out something different to put in there tomorrow.  Maybe more spinach.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Back to work.

After a good tournament weekend in Alabama, it's good to be home. 
Put me in, Coach!!  I'm ready to play!

Team picture.  They took second place out of the 12 teams competing.

For a quick catch up.... I made more homemade laundry detergent at the end of last week.  It takes washing soda, borax, and soap.  I use the Fels Naptha.  I like the scent it has.  You can use just about any soap.  I know some people who used the Zest citrus flavored soaps, and they loved it.

After melting down the soap in a pot of boiling water, I add it to the soda and borax in a 5-gal pail, then fill the whole bucket with hot water.  Let it sit for a couple of days to gel up, go after it with a stick blender, and it's ready to go!
Soap is almost melted.  It doesn't take long at all if you grate it first.

Half a cup of Borax, one cup of Washing Soda.

Today was a busy day for me.
We have a large water fountain just outside the sun room door on the patio.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out if it worked, or even how to turn it on, so.... I turned it into a salad garden.  I LOVE water features, but the idea of a salad garden was irresistible!  I DID cover the holes where the water would go into the pump so if I ever wanted to reverse it, the pump wouldn't be full of dirt.  (Like that's gonna happen, LOL!)  I filled the bottom half way up  with wood mulch to act as a water sponge and reduce the amount of dirt I had to bring in.  I added about 2 inches of mushroom compost, then bought a bunch of Miracle Grow garden soil.  Here's where I got a bit weird. 

Do you know what that is?  Nope.  You don't.  It's diaper lining, scraped out of a clean diaper and thrown into water.  You've seen those products that you add to dirt that swell and hold water, right?  Well, diaper lining is the same stuff and no nasty ingredients.  Did you know your toddler's diaper can hold approximately 6 cups of water??  Well, they can.  That's how much water I used per diaper lining!

After scraping the diaper lining into a bucket of water and letting it sit for a few minutes, it becomes a clear gel.  This pic has some not-totally-saturated bits in it, but it was almost clear after adding more water and massaging it in.  I added a bunch of this to the soil I added to the salad garden, partly to make my soil go farther, but mostly because this is located in the hottest part of the patio, and the sun is brutal here.  I'm counting on this stuff keeping my crops alive!  I'm afraid without it, I'd have to water about 4 times a day in the summer.  With it, I'm thinking a good soaking in the morning, and maybe again in the evening during the hottest part of the season should do it.

Yes, that's a diaper sitting on the second tier.
Here it is almost finished.  I had to mix up one more bag of the soil to finish filling the bottom.  That's when my phone ran out of battery, so no more pics.  After getting that done, I grabbed some deer netting and cut lengths to fit from the very top of the structure to the patio floor and shrouded it from top to bottom.  I have an outdoor kitty and I didn't want him to think this was a new luxury litter box!  I actually had to chase him out of the third tier to apply the netting!  Cheeky little bugger.  I was excited about my salad garden, and I went ahead and planted some bibb lettuce into the second and third tiers. They will be stinkin' adorable when they are sweet little heads of butter-crunch lettuce, ready to be plucked whole and used as individual salads!!  I will plant new ones between the growing ones after about 2 weeks so we can have a continuing crop.  I'll probably plant the bottom tomorrow with radishes, onions, carrots, kale, lettuces, spinach, mustard greens, cabbage.... OH!  Can't wait! "Hi!  Welcome to our home for a grilled dinner!  Your salad is over in the dirt, help yourself!!"  LOL!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Checking in...

Whew!  Great weekend!  We traveled to Birmingham, AL for a basketball tournament.  Anika's team took second place out of 12 teams competing!  Not too shabby!  We got home really late last night.  Today was cold and windy.  I did some grocery shopping, came home to baby back ribs in the slow cooker for dinner!  Heading to bed  because we have to have Anika in the city really early tomorrow morning for a Dr. appt.  NOT looking forward to fighting rush hour traffic.  Thankfully, I have the best hubby in the world and he will go in with us.  Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Another beautiful day in Texas!

My poor friends up north are getting clobbered by winter, and I'm LOVING 70* in February in Texas!  I had to run a few errands today, so I didn't get to spend much time in my yard.  I did hang out with my ducks for awhile. 
I'm anxious to see who will come up with the drake feather, the curly tail feather that says "I'm a boy!"  

Hello, my beauties!

We got a new feeder (the red one in the back), so I put it near the feeder they are used to.  I'm sure they will take a few days to figure it out.  What will REALLY freak them out is when I add the rain hat to it, so I'm going to try to get them confident with this first, THEN I'll add the rain hat.  Thankfully, we aren't expecting any rain for about a week.

There are signs of spring everywhere.  The pear trees are setting buds, and I found the tiniest blue flowers next to the path to the pond!

I haven't started my seeds for the gardens, yet, and I'm really anxious to do so. I went through the seeds I have, and I want to plant them ALL!!  I have so many varieties of peppers and squash!  I think I need to build a couple more garden beds!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The best time to plant a tree....

...is 20 years ago.  If not then, than NOW.   We got the rest of the trees we had ordered in Fall this week.  Four more trees and 10 rhubarb starts.  It was a beautiful day, and Kern and I got them in the ground, along with the 4 raspberries we hadn't planted when they came in.  They were pretty dry, so I hope they make it. 

Kern and Mia dig the hole for the pluot in the front yard.  Since our 'soil' is really a very thick clay, it's tough digging.

Bare root trees.  You have to be sure fill the dirt in under and around the roots, not leaving any air pockets.

Finishing up the Lapins cherry tree out back.  After filling in the hole, we surround the tree with wet cardboard to act as a weed barrier, then cover that with about 6" of compost, 6" of mulch, 2" of compost again, and a final inch of mulch.  This will help retain water, and it will also help eventually break down the clay around the tree. 

I planted the raspberries into the raised beds I put on the North East side of the house a month or so ago.  I was pleased to see the mulch was already breaking down, and I planted the bushes in the bed, but above 'ground' level.   The rhubarb crowns also went on the NE side of the house, near the house. They won't get a LOT of sun, but as hot as it is here, I'm hoping they will flourish.  I've always been told that Rhubarb wants full sun, BUT, in MY experience, it has done better for me with some shade in the hottest part of the day.  

We worked right up until it was almost dark, then came in and I used my canned ground beef to make taco salad.  The canned beef cut the prep time to about a third or less.   One of my favorite quick meals!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Non-stop Saturday.

This morning my sweet son-in-law (hence forward to be called 'just' my son) went up to our firearm instructor's range so I could try out a Springfield XD9.  I'm looking to return my SCCY and replace it with something more reliable.  I'm just in love.  I must own one.  Soon.  Shoots like a dream!
Raine wanted to shoot his new firearm while I was checking out the XD9.  I just love quality time with my kids!
LOVE this little baby!

I'm a pretty darn good shot.

A quick lunch and a stop at Home Depot for another big, expensive pot and citrus soil to plant my new little blood orange tree!  I also bought a bunch of different product to try to make soil cubes so I can get my seedlings started.

While I was planting my orange tree, I threw my onion sets into a bucket of water to hydrate a bit.  As soon as the orange was rehomed, I got busy getting the onions into the ground.  I had 3 varieties for that garden, and there are three neat 25-ish foot rows of onionlings that I need to water tomorrow!

Planted in a neat row, and put to bed with a little straw on top!

Day wasn't done, yet!  QUACK, QUACK, hollered my ducks.  They wanted fresh water, so I complied.  They aren't quite as spooked now that I convinced Kern to stop picking them up, and they even stood nearby and watched while I filled their pool.  They are big (just over 8 weeks) now, and when the sun shines on the black ducks, you catch flashes of blue and green.  Beautiful!
I haven't figured out how to add a video yet, but you get a glimpse at least!

After all that excitement, I decided to try to make some soil cubes.  I'm anxious to get some seeds started.  I followed the 'recipe' in the directions, but they are iffy at best.  I think I'll just make a bunch of paper pots like I have in previous years.  I need to find some newspapers...

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fun Day!

Today was a busy, but fun day.  I went into Kaufman to have lunch with a friend at The Tea Room.  The potato soup was awesome, and would have been even better if I had asked for a dollop of sour cream on it!

Anika's team, the Dallas Jr. Wheelchair Mavericks played an exposition game at the half time of a game from a school that does a lot to support them.  (Whew!  Did you understand that??)  It was way up on the north side of Dallas, about an hour and 15 minutes drive.  Kern found a Thai restaurant in that area with excellent reviews, and since this ares is DEVOID of any good Thai food, we decided to go there before the game.  Yep!  If I ever get back to that area, we will certainly go back.  The game was a lot of fun.  There were kids there from the prep team, JV, and Varsity, so the 'game' they played was pretty tame.  The Varsity kids did a great job of pacing themselves with the Littles (the young kids, really ARE little!), so it wasn't the fast paced, chair crunching, floor kissing game we usually see.  They were very aware of the Littles, and even made sure they got to handle the ball often.  Makes this Mama proud!  I meant to get a picture, but totally spaced it.  Sorry.  NEXT time!  I plan to go with them to their next tournament in Birmingham, Alabama next weekend, so I'll try to get some shots to share from there.

I'll leave you with this picture I took of Kae a month ago.  We had some friends visiting, and NONE of us could believe the size of this CAT!!  He topped out at about 32 pounds!  Kae just HAD to get a pic of him! What a great squeeze!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Pip, pip, pip!!  Followed by Peep, peep, peep!!   We got 18 duck eggs from a friend in November!  We bought an incubator, and 26 days later, the excitement began!  I culled out 7 eggs a week after they started incubating since candling showed me infertile or dead eggs, and there was one I was iffy about so I left it in the incubator.  They hatched over a 3 day period.

One of the eggs did not even pip (that was the one I wasn't sure about), and one pipped, but didn't progress and the chick died in the egg.  We hatched out 9 beautiful ducklings!

Seriously, there are few things as cute as a day old duckling!  They are stinky little things, tho, and after a week in my sun room, they graduated to the garage, LOL!  

We continued to keep them warm and happy, visiting them often.  They are quite shy, and I'm trying to convince Kern to STOP chasing them so he can hold them.  I don't want stressed out ducks who won't lay when the time comes!!

After letting them play outside in the afternoons for about a week, we decided to move them into the duck house, and we fenced in a small, nice yard for them to play.  They LOVE the water, and we change it once or twice a day.  They can fowl the water pretty darn fast.  (LOL!! See what I did there?)

I ordered in some additional fencing and posts, and we were able to enlarge their yard.  They are SO happy!  I made sure to include the low area where water runs thru to the pond, and they are in duck heaven!  They are closing in on 8 weeks old very soon, and we are thinking about half of them are drakes.  I read online that ducks 'QUACK', and drakes are squeakers.  If that is true, we think we have 4 drakes.  I guess we will figure it out when the tail feathers curl!  I still call them all Ladies, because we will probably cull out most of the drakes.  People ask me what kind they are, and I tell the we have Frankenducks.  The friend who gave them to us has several kinds and they are all penned together.  We think they are mostly Cayugas, and one is very obviously a Grey Indian Runner.  The grey was the first one hatched, so we call her One Of Nine.  There are 6 black ones that are almost identical, so we couldn't figure out which one was Seven Of Nine.  Darn.  I've yet to see all my ducks in a row... they always stay in a tight little clump, LOL!

We have decided that we are going to order about 25 more ducks and 4 drakes of a variety called Golden 300 Hybrids.  They are supposed to be very calm, and excellent layers.  We will probably try to get them delivered at the end of Feb as day old ducklings.  We will definitely handle them more as babies so they won't be so shy. 


There is a big garden area right in front of the pond that the elderly neighbor has been growing his garden in for YEARS.  Since the property used to belong to his daughter, he was free to use it and the water in the pond.  He had lots of tomatoes, and okra!  I'm NOT a fan of okra, but what a beautiful plant!  The flowers are stunning and the leaves are huge and gorgeous!  After the garden was played out, he let me know that he was digging a new garden closer to his house, and I was free to use it however I wanted to.  (LOL!!  Yeah, it's MY land now.  I was willing to let him use that space, but he's quite happy with his new plot!)  He also let me know that I could use the areas adjacent, which is a continuation of the garden, but on his land.  Cool!!  I put some compost on the rows and added a layer of duck poop straw on top to finish the winter out.  I still need to go finish the rest of the rows on his property. 

In addition to the established gardens, I decided to build some new plots closer to our house.  I built two on the North-East side of the house that I will probably put red and golden raspberries into.  The guy at the nursery told me they would be ok in afternoon/evening shade, so I'm hoping they will flourish there.  I am also adding some to the yard directly beyond the patio area.  Here is my process: 
My first step is to lay down very wet cardboard to be a weed killer and establish a base for the garden.  It will only take a couple weeks for it to degrade to the point where roots of what I plant can go through it.  This is followed by about 5-6" of compost.

 Hmmm... I thought I had taken more pics, BUT... The 5-6" of compost was followed by a thin layer of duck poop straw, followed by  6" or so of mulch, more poo straw, then another 4" or so of compost, followed by about an inch of mulch for a top layer.

Last layer of mulch going on the top.

Here are the 3 beds I have completed in the back.  The far one (that I showed you in the previous pics) is going to be my tomato garden this summer.   I have an arch between the closest and middle garden that I plan to plant cucumbers and squash to climb up and over. I'm so excited!

Late summer/early Fall

Everyday we are awed by something beautiful here, whether it's the sparkling pond, big ole hooty owls on the roof at night (I refused to put my tiny puppy down to pee until it flew off, LOL!), the flowers that started blooming after we got a couple rains, and the AMAZING sunrises.  Now, if you know anything about me, you KNOW I don't see sunrises often, but since I didn't want to find puppy puddles in my room, I was getting up the instant Miss Mia whined to go out, and I saw MOST sunrises for a couple months. 

The sunsets are just as wonderful.

This was a November evening, I believe.  Notice the tank tops and the happy, contented sisters. 

Kern and I planted about 40 fruit and nut trees, both in front and behind the house.  That's a LOT of work!  The soil is a pretty dense clay out back, and I'm worried that with the winter rains we have gotten, the water won't drain and it will drown out my trees.  Keeping fingers crossed that they are ok. 

This is the Mayhaw tree we planted.  They are supposed to be water LOVING plants.  Man, we sure hope that's right, LOL!  (I did read that they love water so much that they are often harvested from boats, so I'm trusting this will be ok!  We DID plant it on dry ground, I promise.)

We have gotten a LOT of rain this winter so far.  Once the ground became saturated, the water had no place to go and we have had a lot of standing water this winter.  My pond has filled to overflowing a couple of times and we've had to keep the spillway cleared so it can drain.  Until the spillway catches up though, the lower part of my dock is often underwater for a day or two.  I'm just glad my pond is full again.

This is the front yard, the land between our home and the neighbor.  The water runs down his property and into my pond!

New family member

As if our lives weren't complicated enough, I decided to accept Shelly's offer to give me a puppy!!  Mia is a Chiweenie!!  Half Chihuahua,  half Dachshund  (Sp??).  TOO STINKIN' CUTE!!  She's smart as a whip, stubborn as a mule, and picks and chooses when she wants to listen to me.  She was tough to house train, and even now, I don't push it too long if she asks to go out.  Here are some baby pictures!

She has grown a bit since summer.  She is currently about 7 to 7-1/2 pounds at just over 6 months.  We still have to watch her like a hawk, because she wants to eat everything.  I'm constantly opening her mouth and fishing things out of there.  I have to put her on a leash attached to my belt loop when we go outside to work or I am hollering at her to get out of the neighbor's burn pile, or from behind the garage, or halfway to the back of the property.  She's a brat.  I love her like crazy!