Tuesday, January 14, 2014

# 500 - Lost in the Forest

I can't believe this is my 500th blog post for Farm Life Lessons. In this journey, I've learned that living in either the city or the country can provide a beautiful life. The great part of my adventure is that I have been graced to experience both and know that I am happy with either way of life.

My house at this time, last year.
Very large home in the Greater Houston area. SOLD!

Got the RV for the temporary residence for the next year while
getting ready to build on the acreage.
This was the backyard in the city...a good sized backyard for the area.

This is now my "side" yard.

In spite of all the excitement I have written about, today I had a difficult moment in the forest of being left behind during a hike. With my terrible sense of direction, I was not in a good spot since I am surrounded by significant forest with difficult terrain, and I had NO IDEA if I were going to end up having to find my way back to residence-land on my own. During that time, it was a hard realization to face the fact that I did not have any water on me, nor a gun, and that was NOT a good feeling.

...It was a feeling I won't forget.

I had on warm clothes, had on leather gloves for climbing, carrying a walking stick made out of the same material as ski poles and a cell phone with a very low battery.

Up until that point, I had a wonderful hike. There were berries on trees that were beautiful. This week, I will be going to the local library because I just received my library card in the mail recently. I'll be checking out books on berries and books on trees.

My lesson today is that I will NEVER walk into the forest, unless I, personally, know exactly where I am, have a significant knife in my pocket, and I will NEVER again go on a hike without my own weapon, checked and with extra ammo on hand.

Live and learn.

That's my Farm Life Lesson, or I guess I should say, my Life in the Forest lesson for the day.

Howdy says, "Howdy!"

And here is a video of me being a bit turned around, but I took this video shortly before the "Get Lost" moment occurred. To be sure, this is an eternal lesson that I should never depend on another person while in the forest, and to never follow one person into the forest with the expectation that they will lead you out because that person might disappear.

Good thing was, I didn't need a machete chopper in front of me in order for me to wind my way through the forest...turns out I am REALLY good at ducking and diving and weaving and winding and climbing out of ravines.

So, this was a great day because it taught me more about life. My level of wisdom was increased exponentially today, so it was a great day indeed!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

# 499 - Trees, Trees and Pig-Preparation

Despite the cold weather...the miserable weather...the bone-achingly cold weather of last week that finally gave way to a few beautiful days, we worked to select trees for removal so that we can get the lawn tractor around the "yard" areas we would like to enjoy.

We have a 54-inch cutting deck, which is fairly wide, so we need clearance to get the mower around the main trees, so we're removing the dinky trees that stand in between the straight and tall trees.

Sgt. Dave's favorite tool is the machete. And he's good at wielding it with power. He'd be a good buddy to have around during a "Walking Dead" moment, even though he's never watched an episode.

Of course, on our three-hour hike this past week, I found another "perfect" spot for the cabin. It's one of the original spots I had loved with all my heart, but the construction there would mean a new septic tank, more electrical lines and additional water lines. However, I think it will be worth it.

We will also have to work on putting in another road to that side of the land to reach the house. But, the area is gorgeous, deep in the forest.

Another task is to find the area for the pigs that will join our farm this Spring. Sgt. Dave will soon be building their fencing, housing and prepare for their arrival. Now, my next task is to do research for available piglets in our area.

I'm terrified of pigs, but am ready to take the plunge. This is part of my great adventure to enjoy living in the country on rural property. Sgt. Dave has raised pigs, cows (steer), rabbits and is good at it. As for me, I've had a few dogs, and the past few years, chickens.

And I love to read this blog, which helps me prepare, somewhat, for raising pigs.

However, as I did with the first eggs laid by my first throat will probably close as I try to swallow the first bites of our own farm-raised pork. This is not going to be easy, but I have come to the point in life where I recognize the store-bought variety might have questionable quality issues that ignorance won't fix.

I'd rather have more control over my food intake, knowing the food being put on my table is of the highest quality possible and to know our animals are treated well is important. On the other hand, I am not excited about meeting all the piggies because I will fall in love with each one and will try to make them a pet.

One question I am trying to figure out is the distance the pigs need to be from the house. I know they stink, stink, I want to make sure we are not subjected to any wafting aromas.

So, that's what I've been doing as part of my activities, watching lots of YouTube videos about pigs.
In my research, so far, I've learned:

1) Light-skinned pigs are not always great for the South as they sunburn easier
2) In the South, it is more important for pigs to have wallow holes; mud acts as a sunscreen.
3) The breed is not as important as it is to select pigs raised locally.
4) In the South, shade is important for the pigs.
5) Fat is good, it equals good, tender meat. Pork that is too lean is not tender. Just like marbling is important to red meat, it is important with pork.

Raising pigs in general:
1) Require minimal space for housing.
2) Supplement feed with table scraps or veggie garden harvest.
3) Have manure that is excellent fertilizer for the garden.

If you have advice about pigs, feel free to post your comments! I read every comment and appreciate the feedback from my fellow city dwellers, from country folks and all in between.

In the meantime, we are enjoying the changes from city life to country living, especially with our unlimited parking space!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

# 489 - A Hike through the Woods

Today it was cold, but we went on a three-hour hike. We needed some play time. We had 12 degree temperatures last night and had to contend with three acres of plumbing pipe. Unfortunately, the one that went to my shed, in spite of it all being wrapped, burst. It was wide open, flowing into the shed for hours before we knew something was wrong. So, it was a stressful morning.

However, that hike was something we both needed to do. It's been far too cold to be outdoors that much, but we are feeling cooped up, so we decided to hike to the far corners of the acreage.

I wore sweats, boots, and one of my husband's old winter jackets. At least there aren't any fashion do's or don'ts here in the country. If it fits, if its works.

I'm standing in a wider portion of the creek bed that
runs through our property.

Our hike took me to interesting places on our acreage that I didn't know existed, such as being able to walk the creek bed through our property. I discovered that part of the land that I thought belonged to our never-present neighbor is property that actually belongs to yours truly.

The lake at our was a beautiful day.

David is looking for ducks. Yes, it's time to eat some food that
we hunt on our own.
We live on acreage full of wild game, and it's time to start eating food that is hunted or captured on our property. Yes, I'm a bit nervous about it, but I'm wanting to utilize the resources of our land to the fullest potential.

I love the lake --- we have land to build next to the lake, which would offer GORGEOUS views, but the access to that part of our acreage is rather challenging. But, I could picture the rewards of making this area our home-site.

It's a nice size private lake, but one can only use a trolling motor on the lake.

As for our hike, Sgt. Dave uses a machete as he walks in the lead, chopping and clearing the area so that I might be able to walk through the same area with more ease...less thorny vines and low branches to reach out and grab me!

And here you see the Magic-Stick-Machete which is aided by the magnet in his pocket.

The puppy that was recently found on our acreage at about 10 weeks of age is now strong and healthy. She loves her adopted family and we love her!

Today, on our hike, we let her be goofy and run all around us as we explored the land. Eventually, we all had to cross the creek at a certain area, we all crossed, but she hesitated crossing...she was scared. After some encouraging coaxing, she finally made the leap!

Then, later in the day, Gracie explored the rabbit trap and got herself into a traumatizing predicament. She was a bit too curious and ended up being the creature trapped inside the wire cage. She's been warned to stay away from these cages, but this time her curiosity got her in a jam. She whined and cried; we hope this experience reminds her that the rabbit traps are not much fun.

This past week, we pulled in our first harvest of broccoli. I had actually mourned the loss of my last vegetable garden, but now we are beginning to enjoy our garden in the country. We're about to expand it further, and I'm dying to get a small greenhouse so I can always sow my seeds in advance. I don't like buying starter plants. I've always sowed my seeds and planted my own small plants in the ground.

Today, I worked in the garden to clean it up. After taking that three hour hike, it was nice to do something calming, productive. And we are committed to making our garden wonderful so that we can eat as many home-grown foods as possible.

This Spring, we should be adding pigs to the farm that will put high-quality food on our table; we will grow more vegetables to incorporate into our meal planning and to provide food for canning; and we will be getting meat-chicks which will be designated as the birds that will provide us with chicken for the year instead of having to buy the grocery-store variety. I am hoping to get a few goats as well, especially a milk goat so that I can have goat milk, cheeses, lotions and such. As much as we can do to enjoy sustainability and to utilize this acreage in meaningful, productive ways...that is the goal.

We have a lake that provides fresh fish, and the traps will hopefully help to catch small wild game that we will eat and utilize their fur hides for various purposes. We might eat squirrel, but we will be hunting deer, rabbit, and other animals might be trapped in an effort to save other farm animals, specifically our chickens. The raccoons will be dispatched, but their pelts will make a nice hat that will be treasured. was the day that Gracie received leash training. For the first time, we attached a leash to her collar and she did not like it.

She pulled. She threw a fit.

But, I held firm. Gracie must learn to walk on a leash without acting like a wild beast.

Sometimes, caring for a young puppy can be a challenge.

Howdy tried to help guide her and to keep her from yanking me around. Finally, Gracie submitted and began to walk more normal next to me. She's a great doggie. In fact, our hike and time outside wore her out so completely that I was able to cut her toenails without any resistance. None.

I love country life. There is no way that I'd want to go back to the city, so if circumstances ever require that of me...I will always be busy trying to work my way BACK to the country! However, the best plan is to stay here, be set free from the RV and into our cabin, then keep enjoying and exploring our little piece of Earth that is ours to enjoy for the time being.

Maybe we'll be able to leave our mark here by doing good things. Since the Boy Scout troop is coming next weekend for their survival training, to earn badges. I'm thankful we have enough rural land for them to work out the survival scenario so the boys can practice their survival and life-saving techniques.

It's great that our land is able to give to youth --- the troop is thinking about having a fishing expedition out teach the boys how to cook, clean, prepare and cook fish. I think that's a great idea. Anything we can do to promote the love of nature, to expose a bit of farming and maybe ranching qualities along with self-sustainable concepts...I am eager to do my part to contribute.

I am blessed.