19 February 2010

Assorted Sunny Afternoon Pictures

I don't like the way the "new" blogger deals with images. I can never get things to line up with the text any more. Nonetheless, here are some pictures I took this afternoon after doing some chores. It was a beautiful day, and I'm looking forward to a weekend with more such days.

It's a beautiful afternoon here on the farm. Filled up a garden bed, put dirt in flowerboxes for lettuce, and did a couple other chores. It's just a pretty day.

Those look suspiciously like peach blossoms in the making.

I have transplanted the first plants outside! This is a wee little pea plant; it has three friends nearby. The remaining eight will go out tomorrow (and we'll seed some lettuce, too).

This is an action shot of one of the chickens throwing dirt in my garden bed.

On a warm afternoon like this there's always a welcoming committee waiting at the front door.

Chickens Being Chickens

I mentioned earlier that the chickens feel the need to nest and peck around in my freshly prepared garden beds, which I guess is fine since there aren't any plants in the beds yet (except for one of them), and anyway I can't exactly keep them out.
I don't really know much about chickens. I can take care of them, but that's about it. Why do they want to nest in this dirt? Why do they throw it the way they do? Are they just trying to dig holes, or are they using the dirt (which they get all over themselves) to warm up, cool down, absorb oil...? I have no idea. Anyway, they've been out there lounging in this garden bed doing exactly this for half an hour now.

A week for the books

It has been an interesting week here on Smitty's Farm, the kind of week that doesn't allow for much writing of any sort. But it's also been an instructive week, and in some ways a good week (albeit in other ways a rather bad one). And it is also, after all, just a week. There have been many others before, and there are still more to come.

13 February 2010


It snowed yesterday at the farm. It's almost all melted now, but that's what makes snow around here so nice. It never wears out its welcome. So here are some pictures of Smitty's Farm in the snow.

My little airplane windvane just as the snow was starting, and then this morning after three inches.

The first picture I took this morning; the sun hadn't yet burned off the mist. Snow is terrifically quiet.

Vixen does not like snow. She followed me around all morning meowing at me to make it go away.

Witch Hazels are fun because they don't bloom until winter, so you get these crazy blossoms in the snow.

Bobbie Cat spies her own shadow. She's no groundhog; she looks somewhat surprised to see it.

I did not let the chickens out to romp in the snow, but their coop was almost photogenic with a light dusting against a bright blue sky.

Roswell is a funny-looking cat under any circumstances, but she really had some trouble walking in the snow with any amount of grace.

This is Raggety Cat, posed so sweetly in the black willow, where she spent several minutes knocking clumps of snow out of the branches and watching them fall. They always seemed to get the slip on her.

Nitro has never seen or even imagined snow before, but he seemed quite satisified with it. Until his paws got chilly.

Entitled "Still Life with Barney." Barney is the neighbors' hound dog.

Mama Cita, of course, has seen all this before, and is not impressed.

12 February 2010

Seedling Update

We have moved all of the sprouts out of their little greenhouse to a nice warm spot on the dining room table. On the left you have a row of sweet peppers, a row of cilantro, and two rows of wallflowers. In the middle is a row of eggplants, a row of poblanos, and two rows of sweet peppers. And on the right are many of the tomatoes, the four varieties I planted on the 1st or 2nd of the month. In the greenhouse now (by “greenhouse” I mean a little flat plastic job with a clear lid that we can sprout seeds in, about one foot by two by four inches high) are ten more tomatoes (a fifth variety, Tomande, our slicing tomato), along with rows of swiss chard and early peas. The chard and peas could be sown directly into the ground (both are frost resistant), but I haven’t built the bed for them yet. We’ll sprout them now, and between today and tomorrow I expect I’ll get their bed built (I have three beds left to build and fill), provided it doesn’t snow as they’re now predicting (actually, they’re predicting “record” snow, but they’ve predicted snow for us four separate times this season and we have had nary a flake here at the farm). We need to put some herb seeds (basil is particularly slow to get started) in the greenhouse, and I need to clean out a couple window boxes so we can start lettuce. Park Seed has shipped our final batch of seeds to us, so we should receive those shortly. This weekend we will be sowing about 70 plants, including some of those coming in this final shipment. It may not be spring outside yet, but it’s starting to look that way in here.

Stuff 'n Junk

Last weekend I took a trip down to Atlanta to visit with some friends and enjoy the Superbowl and my friend T’s cooking. And while there I helped clean out the house. T’s house is similar to the homestead here at Smitty’s Farm, though we have essentially an extra room here. But both houses needed a lot of work and updating when purchased and both have come a long way since initial purchase.

T’s house also has too much stuff in it, much like ours. We spent a good part of the weekend cleaning out, organizing, and in some cases getting rid of that stuff-—so much stuff that at times it was tough to get through the house. Yet by the time of the Superbowl—-in fact several hours before-—the house was clean, tidy, and ready for a big group of guests. Nice to watch that transformation, and proof that it can be done with a reasonable work crew (four or five people are a lot more effective than one).

But it really got me to thinking. We put a lot of stuff in the crawlspace under the house. In our house, such things go in the attic (our crawlspace is low and filthy and not appropriate for storage; T’s attic is nigh inaccessible). And we have designated March as “Attic and Garage Month.”

We designated several months this year for specific projects. Officially January was yard and garden month, although that has bled over into this month and will continue for a few more weeks yet; this was supposed to be Paint and Trim month, but we’ve set that back until April or May. But March is now the month I’m really looking forward to.

I hauled a lot of stuff into a crawlspace over the weekend, much of it stuff I would have kept three or four years ago but now would sell, freecycle, donate, or throw away. I feel more mature because of that (or at any rate I feel like I've changed), and yet, I know what the attic looks like (I know, in other words, why we designated an Attic and Garage month). And now I’m really looking forward to March. I organized the Christmas stuff when we put it up this year, and the Christmas section of the attic is tidy and free of unwanted junk (except for a few ornaments we mean to be rid of). I can’t wait for the rest of the attic to be a) organized and b) free of unwanted junk. I go up there frequently enough, and I know there’s stuff up there that we put there when we moved in 18 months ago and have not seen or used since—art that’s not on the walls (though we have almost no art on the walls yet), clothes we haven’t worn (old uniforms in particular), a kayak paddle (I sold my kayak two years ago), cabinet doors that don’t fit our cabinets, two boxes of assorted crap I retrieved from my old desk before we sold it and which I haven’t look at since the move or before… the list goes on.

Until very recently I was the sort of person who kept almost everything. I don’t need it now, but I might need it later (when I can’t say, or for what purpose, but I might!). I can’t throw that away, it was given to me seventeen years ago by someone, I don’t recall who, and they probably don’t even remember it, but it was a gift! I don’t fit into those clothes now, but I might someday (or in my case, that shirt is looking ragged and worn but I’ve had it for sixteen years and I can’t bear to part with it!). Or, the most common reason of all, I haven’t gotten rid of that because I don’t want to throw it out and I’m too lazy to take it to Goodwill or put it on craigslist.

I still have that gene in my makeup but I’m getting much better about hanging on to stuff. Smittywife comes from a family with the same gene, so we have an uphill battle. We both tend to set stuff down on any handy flat surface and forget about it, so tables and desks are always cluttered, but we don’t have stuff in piles in the corners for the most part (okay, well, in a couple of places, but nothing like we had in Tampa) and we don’t have an entire 10x10 storage unit full to the ceiling of stuff we plan to use at some point but can’t even see (we did that in Tampa, too).

And now I feel particularly empowered to clean out the attic. We can reduce what’s up there by half at least, maybe two-thirds or more (there is Christmas stuff to consider), and although it won’t really reduce our crap level down here in the house, it will mean that the attic is clean, organized, and relatively empty, so it will provide us with a more appropriate storage area for things like seldom-used linens (extra sheets for the convertible sofa don’t need to be in my dresser, for example), fabric awaiting a sewing project (Smittywife has lots of fabric that we don’t quite know how or where to organize) and seasonal items. So cleaning out the attic will help us clean up the house. The project I’ve been dreading for a year and a half no longer looks so dreadful. How nice.

06 February 2010

First fruits? Or last?

Why look, it's fresh broccoli! I just cut this out of last year's garden. We planted this in the ground last April, so it's been almost a year in coming; the bed evidently was in too much shade, and with the summer heat cabbage plants don't do so much. I thought we might get some broccoli this autumn, but no dice. There's cauliflower plants out there, too, but no actual cauliflower yet. And there is more broccoli.

It's not that this is a huge haul or anything, I mean, I didn't even use a quarter for size comparison because it would have been embarrassing. But hey, it's fresh home-grown broccoli, in the middle of winter. Pretty neat.

Strictly speaking I guess, we've been getting stuff out of the garden all winter, since we have parsley, chervil, rosemary, thyme, and (to my surprise) oregano that are all surviving the winter months just fine. The thyme has all turned deep purple and the oregano red, but they still taste like thyme and oregano.

04 February 2010


"February is an interesting month here, in the sense that nothing at all interesting happens. It's the last month of winter; come March, things will start to flower and leaf out, the last frost date will pass and we'll start transplanting our seedlings into the garden. But it's definitely still winter for now; more dreary days than clear ones, all the trees are just bare sticks, and for the most part all the work that needs to be done is just prep work, not the most exciting stuff.
January is the same way, I guess, but February, by virtue of coming after January, seems longer. You get to the end of the month and you're wondering, really? It's still winter? I have issues with spring (allergies), but winter, like summer, always seems to wear out its welcome by the end.
This month I have at least three more garden beds to build and prep for planting, and I really need to try to burn off the brush on top of the septic field. We'd like to get a railing installed on the back stoop, too. But that's about it.
Well, that and, there's a checkride to be taken and passed later this month. I still have plenty of studying to do for that, but these dreary days are perfect for such things."

I wrote that yesterday (and thought I had posted it; oops). Then this afternoon I was cleaning the kitchen, and looked out the window and saw half a dozen robins hopping around in the driveway. So maybe spring is closer than we think. The elderberry bush in front of the kitchen window has tiny little green buds on it now; it may be the first tree out this spring. Looks like I need to get cracking on finishing those beds...

03 February 2010

Seedling Update

There are eggplants! Yaay!
We planted Fairy Tale eggplants this year, which are supposed to have very pretty flowers and good looking eggplants, so I'm looking forward to them.
We now have eight or ten sweet pepper plants with actual leaves on them; all but one of the remaining pots has a sprout in it but most of them haven't escaped their seed yet. The wallflowers and cilantro are doing nicely.
I have planted 20 tomato seeds: eight sauce tomatoes (Viva Italia), four hybrid slicing tomatoes (Razzleberry), and eight cherries (four Chocolate Cherry and four Tumbling Tom). We still have a fifth variety coming in the mail. It will be tomato heaven here this summer if these all grow, and I'm looking forward to it. Nothing beats a fresh tomato and cucumber salad in the summer.

Cloud Pools

Last week I scheduled a flight for this morning. That's always a risk, since I never know what the weather's going to be like if I schedule more than a couple days out. I've had four cancelled checkrides due to weather, maybe five, in the last couple of months.
This morning I woke to a little fog and chilly temperatures, but by nine here at the farm it was clear and sunny. I moved the tropical plants outside and headed up to the airport, which is about 19 miles away.
Halfway between here and the airport I entered a dense fog bank, and stayed in it all the way through the town of Liberty. The airport sits atop a low hill just north of the town, so I thought it might be clear, but no such luck. I was disappointed. I wrote up some paperwork and as I headed back out to the car, I looked up, and the sky cleared--a long, narrow strip of blue directly over the airport. Who am I to turn down such a sign from above? I ran back to the plane, got it started and taxied through fog to the end of the runway.
The fog was still dense on the ground, but right at the airport I could see blue above. Visibility was shot but only on the ground. I was above the fog bank within seconds of takeoff. Climbed up to about three thousand feet (two thousand above the ground), and took a look around.
To the north was a line of low clouds, clearly rising fog that was burning off as I watched. Ahead, to the east, it was clear. But just to my south, over Liberty and for several miles around and west, the ground was obscured by a layer of fog. From above, fog on the ground just looks like clouds, and as you fly directly over them, you can see the ground through the fog.
The fog was burning off, and broke up in patches as I was flying. As I was finishing up in the airport pattern at the end of the flight, I noticed the quarry that's about a mile south of the field. It's two big deep holes in the ground, not much more. Today the fog lingered in those holes, so that they were just two big cloud pools on the ground, slowly dissolving into the sky above. Gorgeous.
What a day for a flight.