The Blurrr That was July, August, September and October!

Farming Stuff:  Mr. Duke plowed rows for us to set up raised beds for our vegetables but then got busy with his day job so we didn’t get the raised beds built.  We are hoping to get them built before next Spring.

We planted several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, and squash most of which we kept for ourselves.  We harvested 80+ bulbs of garlic, ~20 lbs. of Red Cloud Potatoes, ~40 lbs. of Yukon Gold potatoes, and ~30 lbs. of blackberries which we sold at the market or put in the freezer.

Blackberries.2014We learned a lot about thornless blackberry growing this season.   I visited a family-owned commercial blackberry farm that has been in the business for 23+ years.  I asked a bazillion questions and learned more in 3 hours than I had in all the many hours I’ve spent reading books and surfing the internet.   Turns out with our initial 80 thornless blackberry plantings we did practically everything wrong.  So… now armed with a mere portion of 23+ years of actual experience, we are embarking on planting many more rows of thornless blackberry plants in the correct direction and of the right varieties for our target market.

I also learned a painful lesson about growing sweet corn.

I very excitedly planted ~200 seeds of cCorn Rows.2014orn in the most beautiful straight 8 rows and waited with great anticipation for the tiny green plants to burst forth from my carefully dug, mulched and tended corn rows.

ZERO seeds germinated.

ZERO plants “burst” forth.

And I cried…  What the heck?   Folks with a whole lot less resources, education, etc. have been planting AND HARVESTING corn for eons yet I got ZERO seeds to even germinate.  It wasn’t birds or other critters as I was out on the property most days, along with all my dogs, the property is enclosed with deer fencing and the rows were undisturbed.  We surmised that I must have planted the seeds too deep.  Aaaaaargh!!!!!!!!    Very disappointing turn of events…  Huge lesson learned.  How hard could it be???  Geez.

Zero-Turn Lawnmower Adventures:

Stuck 1I continued my obsession with getting the zero-turn lawnmower stuck going places I shouldn’t with our zero-turn lawnmower.  BUT, due to numerous scoldings from the Mr., I have learned how to get the thing unstuck with Diego, my tractor, by myself.  This is HUGE as now the Mr.  never knows of these quite numerous incidences (that occur only while he is away at work) thus no more scoldings for me to endure for THAT and THAT is a good thing…  Making progress :o)  Whew!

Japanese Beetle Saga:  Despite our best efforts applying milky spore to the entire property over two years ago, the annual Japanese Beetle invasion came and stayed for 2 months this year.   And I cried…again.  They deleafed our fruit trees (except the Plum tree and Fig trees-weird) for the 3rd year in a row and then moved to our blackberry rows but thankfully AFTER we had harvested the blackberries.  For some reason they didn’t bother the blueberry bushes (again weird).  We found ~40 boxes of milky spore powder on a huge CLEARANCE SALE at Lowe’s so we will put it out one more time and pray we can make a dent in the population next season.   Local Cooperative Extension experts advise there is no good evidence that milky spore works at all on Japanese Beetles, at least in our area in North Carolina.  I continue to look for a natural way to control this extremely destructive pest other than picking them manually either squishing them or drowning them.  I feel NO remorse.  Next year we will try putting our chickens to work in the fruit tree orchard during June and July.  Hopefully THAT will help.    I’ll report back.

Fun Fowl Stuff:  We established our egg laying flock with the arrival early Spring of 24 Black Copper Maran, 24 Ameraucana and 24 Golden Comet chicks.  Unfortunately, none of the Ameraucanas made it (too many days in transit—very sad) so we ordered a replacement batch from another hatchery.    All are doing very well with no further losses.  We are ecstatic with the early production and size of the Golden Comet eggs–lots of double yolks!  The Black Copper Marans started laying the end of September albeit not at the Golden Comet rate or size but then they are a specialty egg layer:  dark chocolate colored eggs!  The Ameraucanas will probably start laying early November and we are looking forward to their beautiful blue-tinted eggs.

We move the chicken coops and solar fencing every week and they are loving all the fresh air, grass and bugs.  We enjoy watching them and listening to their sweet happy noises.  There just is not much more fun than making up conversations they are NOT really having with each other :o)   I am stunned at the beauty of one of our 2 Black Copper Maran roosters, Sundance, above; however, in October, Sundance decided he needed to protect “his” girls from me :o(   I used the Dog Whisperer method of claiming space and he complied and has given me no further trouble…yet.   Seriously dude?

On to Indie.  I am perplexed by the complete disregard this little ladyIndie
(on the right–affectionately called “Indie”), has for the boundaries of our solar fencing…
She flies her precious “brilliant” self over
the fence every morning and spends the entire day walking around the outside of the fence wanting to get back in.  Every day she does this.  Mr. Duke has to catch her and put her back in every night…every single night.   There’s always a problem child.   Indie is ours…


InEgg Carton Label.2014 October we started making Friday egg deliveries to North Raleigh and having a large time visiting with the folks there!   Everyone is delighted with how orange the yolks are and how thick are the shells and particularly enjoy getting a double-yoker every now and then!    Feels so good for all involved!

Return of our Faithful House Bird, Agadore: Agadore.2009

Our African Grey parrot, Agadore, returned to us after a vacation with my cousin while we settled in our temporary house.  Although I hand-raised “him” and “he” loved loved loved me when “he” left, “he” HATES me now.   Horror!   Turns out “he” is a “she” and now at 7 years old she is interested in nothing but men.   She loves hubby…   Infuriating to me and she knows it.  But she still cracks me up.  I hear my cousin ordering stuff and talking on the telephone; fire trucks or EMS drive by several times a day (cousin lives on main street of a small town); kitties are called A LOT; dogs are told “let’s go out”; the emergency broadcast system alert is tested several times a week; cell phone alarm rings randomly; unintelligible conversations are held; a pantry door opens and closes; somebody belches, sneezes, coughs and, finally, gas is passed but w/no odor.   So funny.   Note to self:   Be careful ordering things by credit card over the telephone next to her.  They remember EVERYTHING perfectly!  The first picture obviously was taken when Agadore adored me.   Agadore wants me dead.

Picture to the left is now…feathers all ruffled up to “scare me” and trying her best to coax me to come just a little bit closer so she can bite my nose off.  I tell you she wants me dead but I still love her.  So funny!  What an ungrateful faithful house bird…


Olde English Bulldogge Going’s onPUPPIES!!! And PUPPIES!!!              

Mina Pups.3 Weeks.02On June 14, 2014, Miss Mina naturally delivered a beautiful healthy litter of 7 puppies:  3 boys and 4 girls.    Miss Mina did not require ANY assistance from me during June.  You see, Miss Mina is a Super Mommy.  She kept every puppy AND the whelping box spic and span and every puppy filled to the brim with yummy Mommy milk 24-7.   She takes her Mommy responsibilities very seriously :o)   All puppies went to super homes at 8 weeks old, very much loved and socialized AND knowing what “go potty” means on queue!   All are doing very well and are bringing a lot of love and happiness to 6 sweet families.  One family took 2!

Boo.New Mom.103014Then, on October 30, 2014, Miss Boo naturally delivered a beautiful healthy litter of 10 puppies:  2 boys and 8 girls.  All made it safe and sound without any difficulties.  We are so thankful everyone arrived okay and that Miss Boo is being a super Mommy and doing really well.


 Brock keeping watch over the flocksFarm Help Update:   Brock patrols the chicken pens.  He doesn’t want to hurt them or catch them.  He’s just making sure all is well.  Love him.


Boo and Angelina are convinced they can drive the tractor better than me…   Pleeeeze Mommie, let us take a whirl, just once!Farm Help



Boo supervising the blackberry weeding, tying up, etc.  Quite the Boss.

 Miss Boo.Fruit Orchard.092214



Poison Green StuffPoison Ivy.2014Yeah, so up until September 15, 2014, I was not allergic to poison ivy/oak.  On September 15, 2014, I spent the entire day weeding the blackberry bushes, blueberry bushes and pulling/snipping miscellaneous “vines” from trees in the area…of course with gloves on…and of course it was a bazillion degrees hot and HUMID so of course I was pouring sweat AND wiping my face with my gloved hands.   This was never an issue prior to that day.  By September 18th my face, neck and chest were covered with swollen, red hot blisters and very painful rashes.  THESE DID NOT ITCH.  These HURT like having red hot coals stuck all over my face and neck every moment of the day.   My only relief was freezing wet clothes and mashing them on my face.   A round of steroids calmed it but a second round of steroids was needed as well as that of a course of antibiotics and, as of this writing, it still is not completely gone.  4 weeks.  Seriously??    I no longer go pulling at vines willy nilly or traipsing through the woods without seriously suiting up and looking very carefully for…awe forget it…I don’t go in the woods anymore.  I don’t touch vines whether 3 or 5 or 100 leaves.   I don’t.  I don’t know there is a suit on the planet sufficiently secure enough to get me to go in the woods again or touch a vine.   I’m sparing you the horror of what I looked like for over 2 weeks.  Suffice to say I scared people the few times I went in public… ‘Nuff said.

Mr. MickOur Sweet Old English Mastiff:  The last of our four Old English Mastiffs, a beautiful apricot gentleman we called Mr. Mick, passed in September just a few weeks shy of his 10th birthday while I held him and kissed his sweet big head and told him I’d see him in just a bit and to just rest for a while.  Mr. Mick had endured many health issues over the last 6 years of his life without complaint.  He was happy.  He loved being out on the farm—it gave him new vigor and we are so thankful he spent his last year rolling in the grass, being next to me while I worked in the fields, wading in the pond, and running in front of the Gator barking loudly that “Mom’s coming!”   He loved me above anything or anybody else on the planet and desired nothing in life but to be with me wherever that was.   He would lay at the front gate when I left and was there, tail wagging, when I returned.  We all miss him terribly (including the bulldogges, especially our oldest, Brock) as we do all of our very much loved canine and feline companions that have crossed over) but our lives have been so blessed because of every one of them and we are thankful.  I believe they all visit me on occasion and when that happens I always smile and my body tingles with love, happiness and thankfulness.

Puppies are Here!!

Brock and Ms. Mina are now the proud parents of 7 beautiful healthy bully babies!  All delivered naturally on Saturday, June 14, 2014.   4 girls and 3 boys!  Pictures will be posted as soon as everyone gets some rest and settled in.  

Busy Start to Spring!

May 27, 2014We put garlic in late Fall 2013 and potatoes and onions just after the last frost mid-April 2014.   In March we had a totally-enclosed barn built for our equipment–yeah!!!    1-Barn_Brock.051714

Unfortunately, rain kept us out of the fields with the tractor for quite awhile so we are way behind in planting our Spring crops.  We have kept busy, however, planting perennial flowers, flowering bushes and trees all around the property to attract beneficial insects and support our honey bees.    

The Mrs. fell in the pond several times trying to plant spreading cover plants on the seriously sloped side of the dam.  Please note:  laying down on the sloped side of the dam does not prevent one from “sliding” into the pond.   She found that one of her favorite digging tools also serves very well as a “keep me from sliding into the pond” tool:o)

Garden Knife.2014

Our fruit trees are looking good so far.  This is the first year we’ve had apple blossoms! The apple trees were planted in 2010 so it’s taken 4 years to get blossoms.    In the past, the annual Japanese Beetle invasion in the orchard has skeletonized the fruit trees despite our best efforts to control them.   This will be the 3rd season since we applied milky spore to the entire property and we are very hopeful (fingers crossed) we will see a significant decrease in Japanese Beetles this year.  If not, the Mrs. will have a fit and fall in it…  It will be ugly.   And we will be buying and applying beneficial nematodes to the property.

Apple Blossom.3.2014 Apple Blossom.2.2014

We are also very excited to have new chicks!   We have a dozen Black Copper Marans, two dozen Golden Comets and a dozen Ameraucanas.   Once they are old enough they will be in charge of supplying us with eggs and hopefully keeping the insect population under control in the orchard.  Oh please, oh please, oh please!1-Chicks.051714

The blackberries and blueberries are quickly ripening!Blackberries.051714 1-Blueberries.052014

Our potatoes, onions and sunflowers are coming along very nicely. 

1-IMG_1373 1-IMG_1372

Corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, cantaloupe, and cucumbers are in the ground.

Our fig trees took a beating from the very late frost but are thankfully on the mend.1-IMG_1374

Brock’s “friend,” Sir Henry, the Blue Heron, has returned:)


And Miss Mina is busy busy making babies!  Due Father’s Day weekend.   We are so excited!





Put the bee package in the top bar hive late this afternoon.   Weather looks good for the week, sunny to partly cloudy and warming up.  Good for making wax.    I’ve got the other two hives ready for the other two nucs of bees I should be picking up this week or next.

A living difference

It’s so much different living in the country than living in the city.   In our old home, I could see the neighbors in their back yard sitting and talking on their deck but couldn’t hear them even though they were probably less than 50-60 feet away and now I can often hear our neighbors talking on their deck and they live over 700 feet away through the trees.  Last night, I could see many stars even with the full moon.  In the city, I could see a few stars on a moonless night.  On a moonless night here and looking North away from the lights of Durham, I can see more stars than I’ve seen since my parents had a place in Oriental.   I really am glad we were finally able to make the move!

Planting, irrigation and weeds

Today we hooked up the irrigation lines in the main field.  Everything seemed to be working properly for a while.  Then I noticed the generator running for an usually long time.  Went to check and found a pressure valve at the pressure tank had opened.  Not a run to the hardware store fitting so no irrigation until later this week after the valve is replaced.  Lueann worked on the weeds around the newly planted blackberry plants.