Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Putting up fence, gardens, chickens and snakes at home, and one old, old truck

parking area
Another weekend out on the land, clearing sage for the parking area and finally getting a roll of fence up. That was complicated without a winch and our old friend Mark and his ATV. We had an umbrella casualty when a dust devil blew through and tore the umbrella pole in half, and took the poor umbrella for a ride through the sage, basically turning it inside out. The cloth was ripped from its frame. No more temporary shade. Now, the permanent shade structure has become a major priority with temperatures reaching 90 F in this desert, mountain town.

Fencing layed out.
Pulling the fence tight with a come-along and our car.

Fencing on northwest side is up!

That's about all we got accomplished out on the land this past Sunday, but we did take another load of pallets over there yesterday, courtesy of Native Scents, who also donated a bunch of polypropylene bags to our building cause. We are going to make a shed/composting toilet structure out of the pallets and then stucco the whole thing. We also picked up some free windows down in Santa Fe from Gaia Gardens, a cool little community garden project. Although the windows are not in the best shape, we should be able to use them for sheds and barns. Way cool! Thank you all!

Tomato plants in the front window planters.
And at home, we got some tomatoes out in the front planters, finally, although this week, they are not fairing well. I think we need to replant, make water trenches and mulch like crazy. This heat is incredible and very hard on the plants. In the other beds, the garlic and onions are doing great, the peas are starting to flower and we have lettuce, radishes and carrots poking up through the soil.

Chicken Infirmary
Our baby chickens are getting big and are out of control. Too many roosters in the mix, I'm afraid. I've never had babies peck each other, but these guys are, so I separated every pecked bird and for a while our living room was the bird hospital, utilizing every available cage and Rubbermaid container. Good thing I have travel cages for my parrot and parakeets. But still, we had to search the thrift stores to find more, and Pieces delivered with a small kennel and a large wire dog crate.

Now, we have most of the flock outside. The Jersey Giants, which ironically are the meanest (everything I've read claims they are the one of the friendliest chicken breeds) are in one yard with the Chicken Barn and chicken tractor, and the Cuckoo Marans are in another yard inside the big chicken yard, with their own housing. It has been a chicken nightmare to say the least. Now I only have five plucked babies I have to keep separated in individual cages, but I'm keeping my eyes on those rooster babies, and watching for more abuse in the chick houses.

Back end of baby rattle snake.
Other excitement: killed a baby rattler with my handy sage clearing axe when my son and I went out to check on Richard making a delivery of water to our cisterns. Sorry, politically correct community I live in, but I'm not going to catch and release any rattlers. This one was five feet from our fenced yard, and heading for the house berm, where I know there are plenty of holes for little snakes to get in. No deal. Don't threaten an axe wielding mama and her baby, not to mention a whole lot of chickens, my dogs and my llamas. I think it was, what two years ago that Vador got bit in the face by a rattler. His chin swelled up like crazy and we had to give him shots for a week. That was fun. Not to mention a huge vet bill. Here in Taos, there don't appear to be any large animal vets, or not any who treat camelids, so we have to take the boys to Espanola to get to the nearest vet in an emergency. Crazy.

The truck has been acting up, stalling out here and there. I end up going to rescue Richard and the truck in some interesting places, pulling it home behind the Kia. That Kia has been a remarkable SUV, I have to say.

Rainbow truck and the water trailer.
We did have the truck towed to town to visit a mechanic, who explained that the old gas tank is corroded and full of sediment, which clogs up the fuel line. Now Richard takes the fuel line apart and blows it out with his compressor, which keeps the truck running until we go over a lot of bumps. Ha ha. This is Taos. How many days between tows? About three, if we work the truck hard. We are trying to find a replacement gas tank.

Still having fun in the sage, and lots more to come!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fencing, shade, gardens and Nature

Catching up. Gardens getting planted, more sage being cleared and lots more to do.

shade in the sage
The past two weeks out on our new land have been about clearing more sage and trying to get ready to put up the fence on the west border. I'm getting accustomed to wielding the heavy axe. It didn't take long for us to realize how incredibly hot it is out there in the unforgiving sun, so we have decided to make a shade structure one of our priorities, although the umbrella works in a pinch. It blows away on occasion and looks like a rainbow kite skimming across the sage. Richard has devised a great way to tie it down, weighted with the post pounders and tied to a sage bush.
cleared for shade structure

After we put up our shade structure, we can build a cistern to catch the water off the roof! In this desert place, any water we can get and store is a wonderful thing, so every single structure we build will have a water catchment system of some variety.
northwest corner h-brace
Richard finished the corner H-brace on the northwest side of the property and finally we even got the fence posts up. Next is the unrolling and hanging of the fence. Great fun to come.

strawbale compost bin
Our compost bin is growing quickly and with a neighbor's added horse and goat poop, by the time we finally move out there, we should have the beginning of some kind of useable compost.

We found and bought a generator online (free delivery) to give us power to work. Bonus: now we can use the generator to boost the batteries at our off grid rental house when the cloudy days build up.We are thinking of holding off on installing our wind generator and just putting it up on the new land.

prickly pear
not a rattler....bull snake maybe

Even though we only get out to the land once a week, our work is fulfilling and we seem to accomplish a lot in a short time, considering. This last week I was rewarded with a little bit of nature on the way home...a pretty cactus in bloom and a snake crossing the road.

Little ones plant potatoes

And at home, at the other end of the valley, we have been getting the gardens in. Richard and the kids planted potatoes, and this week we hope to get our tomatoes out...sooner rather than later.

nest with baby peeking out
There is also some wildlife around the homestead...this morning a huge raven woke us. He was on the roof and we thought for sure some kind of four-legged creature was running across the Earthship roof. And, the nest of baby birds above one of the outside lights has been taking flight. They leave early in the mornings and return at dusk. There were five at first, but now I only see three babies, when I see them. I hope they are out there finding their freedom and didn't become prey for some critters.

Also the Cicadas are singing, crazy loud, and scary thing, they sound like the rattle snake I saw on an early morning walk with Honey. Or the snake sounded like them. Who knows. I don't walk the tracks through the sage anymore. I stick to the wide gravel road that gives me room to see and avoid any snakes!

So this next week is about fencing and shade out on the land and planting tomatoes and peppers here at home. Still so much to do in so many places.

We are so thankful for the work share of produce Richard gets every week form Cerro Vista Farm, seeing how our gardens are slow going in, and much smaller than we had hoped they would be.

We anticipate the space we will have to put in greenhouses and huge gardens at our new place, and look forward to the days when we can hold classes on homesteading on our own land.