Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Coming Home

It feels so good to be home. The smell of the air is so different here in Illinois than it is in Florida. It's hot this time of year up here but it is a different hot: not the drippy sopping wet sweaty heat I am used to at home in the south.

It is also nice to be with my kidlets. They are all growing up so fast and becoming their own people. It is nice to see how they have grown and talk to them about their activities throughout the year and see the end results of their 4-H projects as they ready them for the fair this weekend.

I am looking forward to the fairs, it has been a long year for us and I am so ready for some fun. I can smell the cotton candy and kettle corn already! I love walking through the exhibit halls, seeing the projects all the young people brought in for judging. There is always so much creativity and innovation in their creations. I enjoy witnessing the ideas of the next generation of world leaders, inventors, businessmen and women, farmers, artists and more.

My favorite part is to walk through all the animal barns and see the happy healthy animals these 4-Her's and Junior exhibitors have raised. It makes my heart happy to know that they will be the next generation of farmers to feed our nation. This weekend I will take root in the beef barns, watching the cattle and kids and listening to their lively banter and witnessing their jovial antics. There is never a dull moment in the beef barn.

I am hoping to see some family, have some great ice cream at my favorite drive in, take a drive through my home county to drive by and revisit the pastures filled with gorgeous green grasses, endless cornfields, old rustic barns, quaint small towns, rivers both small and massive, big rolling hills and ancient limestone cuts that make this area so great to come home to.

Just breathing the air makes me nostalgic. It is so good to be able to "come home".

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Well, it is hell getting old. Don't do it... Its a trick!

I am pretty strong and kinda agile for a gal who has terrible arthritis in every joint and who has undergone several major surgeries on joints and too many minor ones to count. I have been hauling feed and dirt, digging up dirt, sand and manure, fossil hunting in mines and rivers, have been crawling in and out of trucks hauling dirt, rocks, manure etc for many years. Well, today I can say is the first time I have fallen out of the tuck. No I am not hurt badly but I do have a nasty foot long very dark bruise starting to show down my left leg and a second nasty one on my right leg.

This comes a couple weeks after I had a four hundred pound rain barrel fall on me and pin me down. That one gave me a concussion as my head hit the steel pig cage on the way down. UGH. Poor ole Wilbur the 400 pound boar was out and came over to see what was happening and as I had his corn in my hands when I fell he came over to see what the heck was taking me so long. All I saw were those tusks and started screaming. He looked at me like "what the heck is she screaming at? She is on top of MY corn!!!" He walked away like nothing was happening. I didn't hurt hardly at all from that and it should have been the worst pain; my knee was twisted sideways until Bill got the barrel off me. I was pinned there for a while, screaming my head off. Not a good day.

So todays embarrasment, yes my ego is bruised too, showed me that I am not invincable and maybe I should stay on the ground from now on. I am going to let the tractor do the majority of the work and if I get one less bucket load in that truck so be it. At least I will still have a heartbeat.

Many thanks go out to Aaron, who was loading the truck with the tractor, for catching me on the way down. I had a bad feeling about my dismounting the truck and I had asked him to stand behind me in case I fall. After he caught me as I fell ass over teacup, he said, "nice planning". I limped away, bruised in ego as much as body, and all I could say was, "that's gonna leave a mark".....

Friday, February 27, 2015

It is carzy here at the homestead as it is spring and planting is right around the corner. We have two new baby goats so ffeding bottles every four hurs and watching them play is our only entertainment. We also have a new pig, Wilbur, a 300 pound Hampshire boar. He was emaciated when he arrived but as put on about fifty pounds in ten days and is looking better each day. He get all the extra produce from the garden, 40 fresh scrambled eggs a day, daily baths, a nice pasture to root and nap in so he is in hog heaven. We are harvesting our watermelon radishes which grew as big as softball, truly I mistook them for turnips. We roasted some with turnips and carrots last night with some olive oil, garlic and sea salt and they were amazing. I am looking forward to planting and have been working on getting a seed inventory. We got the seed collection organized, mostly, thanks to Delphine, she has been a godsend this year!!! We are starting to move some of the beds ad refresh them and the rest with gorgeous composted manure from a loal farm we have partnered with. We look forward to the new season, I hope you will all come visit soon. 

Our woofers have been working like mad and have been hauling manure, emptying beds, feeding baby goats, going to classes, we attended an alpaca birthing program where we learned to assist with difficult births, it was amazing and we even had a lab where we could practice ientifying positions of the cria inside the mother and also to practice moving the amanimpulating cria to allow passage into the birth canal. It was an incredible experience and we hope to do more classes like that one. We held two classes here already this year, one was for spring gardening in Florida and other zone 9 areas and Delphone held another short class on seed starting as she is the queen of germination!

We madly labled and packed up 33 entries for the strawberry fest's canning anc baking competitions. We have several interns entered and even Bill and I and some friends got in on the action. We go tomorrow to se if we won anything. I am excited. I earned a grand champion ribbon last year with our chicken soup. I am hoping to do well but I drem of another pretty purple ribbon!!! :)

The dogs are getting a bit neglected with all the babies around but they have been spending time with the girls as they unload manure trucks. They seem to enjoy watching us work. I'm thinking "get off your butt and grab a shovel" but I am glad they are out in the fresh air enjoying being with us, I hope to start working them soon once the frenzy of hauling is over and we settle into maintaining the garden once it is planted. 

The market is going strong and we hope to see you all there the second Saturday of March. We will have eggs, veggies, greens and so much more. I made a fresh batch of laundry soap and hope to make some more soon. We made marmalade last week from our sour oranges and our intern Lisa made us a french rabbit dish for diner that was incredible. Always something interesting happening in the kitchen. Annelise and I made homemade noodles last week and she was amazed at how simple it is to make this tasty morsel from scratch. I do hope she takes it back to France and makes some in the future. 

Thats all for now. I will try and write again soon.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Woofer #1 Quinn and our adventures

Quinn was here for over a month and helped start us on our woofing adventure and motivated us to begin many projects we had been neglecting. 

The first and most important was getting our house painted. This was no easy task as it had to be done a certain way in order for the warranty to be good on the paint. It is a new paint called an elastomeric sealer and let me tell you, it is amazing stuff. It costs a pretty penny and has to be done "just so" but it is well worth it if you have cracks in your stucco or want to seal it FOREVER!!!! 

We started y digging a trench around the house. This would allow the sealer to totally wrap around the house and extend down to the foundation to seal out moisture and insects for which Florida is famous (ask me about cockroaches that could carry you away sometime).  The trench took a while but Quinn was very good and got it done in no time. 

Bill and his friend Rob got the house pressure washed so all Quinn and I had to do was to knock off the dirt that had splattered up on it during the rains. Quinn started priming and once he got going it went ok once he figured out the best way to do it but it was hard work in the heat. It is thick stuff and goes on like glue. He had to get it into all the cracks and crevices in the stucco so it was slow going at times. 

The rain stopped us many times and it frustrated us all to no end. I kept reminding Bill and Quinn that we only wanted to do it once so we needed to wait and do it right. Try telling hat to two impatient men. Yeah, that was frustrating to me for sure. They found other things to keep themselves busy though. Quinn helped us start one of the biggest projects we have had this year and although it has snowballed into something huge I cannot thank him enough for getting the ball rolling. 

For several years we have wanted berry bushes, blueberries and raspberries. We had a place in the garden for blueberries and the fence lines seemed the best place for the latter. We are on sand so the first thing we needed to do was to build a bed and make some soil for the plants. Both plants love rich soil so we had to dig trenches to fill with manure and compost. This was not easy. Bill started by digging what looked like graves in the garden area and filling them with manure. This was all well and good but it wasn't well thought out and his holes ended up looking like a crazy quilt. Quinn spent many days out there as well and we now have very rich soil in that area. Too bad this is the only place viable for our greenhouse. However we may be able to utilize it for growing once the inside is mapped out. You never know. 

The fence lines were the biggest job of 2013 and I am happy to say the front area is almost complete. Quinn started on the south side of the house but the going was slow die to the roots and invasive bulb I call the vine from hell. He dig out so many of these and they can get bigger than basketballs. It was a nightmare for him. I helped when I could but it often was more than I could handle. 

I did make it easier for him by accident one day. It was a calm day and we had been wanting to burn a couple stumps on the fence line by where he was digging so I had been piling grass on them from mowing and letting it dry so we could burn them lower than the ground and then bury them.I thought it was the perfect day for burning so we lit them and we both agreed to keep an eye on them throughout the day. 

I don't remember exactly what we wee doing that day but we were working hard and decided to break for lunch and relax a bit before heading out to work again. I made some lunch for us and we sat in front of the TV to watch something for an hour or so. Quinn had just checked on the fires and all was well so we didn't think anything of watching them.  I checked during lunch once but then let it go for about 20 minutes or so.

All of a sudden we both saw a wall of smoke drift by the front window. We both knew something was wrong and jumped up. We ran out to the front yard and the entire fence line was a wall of fire. The fire had jumped to the dead leaves on the fence line and had started the vines on fire that went all the way up and into the trees. It was a literal wall of fire. I ran and got the hose and as he drug it over to the fire I ran for rakes and a shovel. By the time I got there with tools the fire was out (it had totally burned away the vines and had run our of fuel and Quinn had doused the leaves and put them out). Just as I arrived at the fence with the tools I heard the sirens and saw the fire trucks. Not one but several fire engines arrived to help us put the giant fire ball out. I guess a car driving by had seen it and called it in because he didn't see anyone there tending it. Quinn thought he saw the guy as he was driving by. 

The fireman who came up first was very nice and said "sooo, what are we dong here today?" I just smiled and said "We're burning a fence line, how 'bout you?". He then asked me if I meant to and I admitted I didn't really mean to THAT particular day but we were going to do it eventually anyway to find the vines. I explained that in order to find the bulbs where they originate you burn the vine and then wait for them to come back up as small vines. Otherwise you hunt forever in the mess and get frustrated trying to find the beginning. 

He and I and several other firefighters all stood there discussing ways to do it other than burning and all eventually agreed that burning was the best way even though this had been unintentional. They saw the fire area had crept to my neighbor Fred's yard a bit and warned me that if it started again I would be liable for damages. I took all responsibility and told them I would do no more burning since the breeze has picked up and we promised to keep it wet and watch it so it didn't flare back up. 

The one fireman was kind of a jerk wile he did the paperwork for the station, He took my info and warned me that I was now on an arson list for three years. Great. Now I am a firebug. Geez. SO I do no more burning here. Billy has now taken up that mantle. AT least for the next three years, God help us. You should see the bonfire now, it is huge. If he lights it we are so in trouble. He did promise to make it smaller before he burns the House down. I just got it painted he better not burn it down Now!!!

ANyhoo, Quinn got a good start on the trenches on the front fence lines and started a summer long project I am sure several woofers will NEVER forget. ;)

We did get to go fossil hunting with him several times and kayaking and fishing too. It was great fun showing him Florida's wild side. I'll try and post some photos, we have some good ones!!!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Wwoofers- The beginning.

If you aren't familiar with Wwoofing it is definitely something to share with those who love to travel and garden. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is an organization that pairs farms that need help with people who love to travel and work in gardens or on farms. Each host farm can offer different things along the lines of housing, education, meals, travel opportunities, activities etc. Here at Dragonfly Ranch Organics we offer a unique way to learn about Organic Gardening while allowing travelers to see the wonderful nature areas around our farm and the Nature-coast of Florida.

Deciding on how to host the wwoofers was a complicated task as we are in a state of construction (constant construction) due to the damage from a sinkhole and its subsequent improper repair. Nothing is where it is supposed to be and there are boxes everywhere. It makes for a messy house at times and things are always moving around. It is not  "home" quite yet but we try to keep it cozy in at least one area so we can relax while all this is going on. 

We decided to host Wwoofers and agreed that the garden would not be for making a profit this year, it would be for feeding us as well as our guests. We would come up with all the projects we wished to get done and then host wwoofers for one year to see what we could accomplish. 

We put our profile on Wwoof-USA.com and away we went on our wwoof adventure. We had a stack of applicants for our first wwoofer but we went though them and one stuck out as being the one we wished to start with. Quinn hailed from Montana and seemed to us like an ambitious and intelligent young man. When he arrived he had already been a wwoofer in several places and boy did he teach us a lot: especially me. 

We butted heads right away: many of you who know me well will giggle at this one, you know me too well. This poor guy had no idea what he was getting into and neither did we. He was 19 years of and of course knew everything and he ended up in MY lap. Poor kid. He was such a hard worker and dove into every project with heart.

We ended up learning much from one another and he became the first member of our family through Woof-USA. I am so glad he was our first but those who follow have some bog shoes to fill. We wish Quinn the very best in all he decides to do and hope he comes back to us very soon. We already miss him.

I will write more very soon. I promise!!!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 is off to a great start. We spent the morning of the first watching "A Dolphin Tale" ad followed that up with a visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Rescue Center to introduce Mario to Hope and Winter, the resident baby dolphins that will permanently reside there at the center. We watched a training session, a rehabilitation session and a play sessions with Hope and Winter and enjoyed every minute. Even though the place was packed it was fun and we got to see so much. I played with the stingrays and one little light colored one was really enjoying me scratching her wing so much that when Billy finally convinced me to go she splashed a huge splash right where I had been standing. I would have been soaked!!!! I guess she was mad I had to go!

We watched lots of sea turtles, dolphins, otters, and the two birds they used for the filming of the movies , Lucy and Ricky (named Rufus in the movie). I could watch the animals all day. They added a new "bone room" to their facility with movies laying and lots of touch items and posters and charts. They even have a whole skeleton of a small whale, it is very cool and I had a great time examining the bones.

We finished up the night with a trip to the beach to go to a couple surf shops and to eat dinner at Hooters on the Beach. Mario got to have his photo taken with the girls and the server we had remembered him from his birthday dinner there. All in all it was a fun night and a perfect way to both ring in the new year and say goodbye to a wonderful woofer, friend and new family member, Mario. We will miss you so much and do hope you come back soon. Good luck to you in your future education, travels and life!!!! We love you!

Sp today we invited two new woofers to join the ranks here at Dragonfly Ranch. Welcome to Viviane and Autumn. They arrive this week and we are excited to meet them.

Today is a work day and I am headed outside to clean up around the run and empty it so it can be moved. (As soon as I can get myself to stop typing!) Mario almost finished his new table which is complete with TWO sinks!!!! It is an awesome creation and I am sure I am going to enjoy using it. We will move it into the garden tonight and it will be finished there. I also finished the floor for the outdoor shower. I am so excited to try it but I think I will wait for balmier weather.

We will move the firewood pile and get a nice pile of wood ready for anyone who wants some great physical labor. We need to split a whole bunch of the larger rounds into usable pieces that fit in the fireplace. Come on over if you can swing a maul!!!!! I'll bring you water and lunch!!!

That's i for now. I will try and blog at least once a week from now on, now that I have a nice shiny new computer, thanks to Alissa and Bill from New Jersey. I was the proud and blessed recipient of their old baby laptop and I am loving it. Now I can try and keep in touch better and to keep everyone up on the adventures here at Dragonfly Ranch!!!! I feel a bonfire coming on!!!!!!


Monday, December 30, 2013

Wow what a year. I don't even know where to start. I should be able to blog a bit more often now that I have a good computer. It is December now and the garden is starting to look awesome. We have been picking greens and baby beets for a while now but I am starting to see small heads of broccoli, some carrots and beets and the cabbage I starting o form heads. We should be harvesting these in a month or more.

The garden is having a bit of trouble with a fungus bit it isn't too bad. The weather has been uncommonly warm this winter so the crops have had a bit of trouble with insects too. The chickens have not been helping, they have been escaping and getting into my kale patch and making it look like Swiss cheese. Hopefully the new chicken wire on the fence will remedy that. Little feathered brats!

We have lost four chickens so far in this feathered adventure. The first was when they were very small, we suspected a disease so we separated her and kept her isolated until it was obvious she needed to be put down. That was tough for me but I got it done. The second was very weird, we went to check on everybody in the afternoon one day as it was very hot and we wanted to make sure they all had water and we found one of our morans dead in the coop covered in ants. It was awful and I could not tell what had happened as they had pretty much eaten her. It was ugly, sad and hard to watch Billy bury her without knowing what happened. The third was even harder as I found one of my Buff Orpingtons slumped over in one of their cool spots and picked her up, rushed her to the house and she died in my arms while I was trying to research what to do. We did a mini necropsy and found she had a blockage in her intestine and it had backed up all the way to her beak. Poor girl. That was our first processing job, we plucked and processed her and made chicken stew. Hard but nothing goes to waste here so she fed us all for several meals. It was a delicious stew. The last was one of our new banty hens, we were on a trip to se Bill's folks for the holidays and had some woofers taking care of the place and they said the three banty hens disappeared for the day and only two came back. No sign of the third anywhere so we have no idea what happened.

Other than all of those the rest of the birds are just fine. We have thirteen again and they are all in great shape, gorgeous plumage, healthy birds. We dropped in egg production when it got cooler but we still get from two to four eggs a day from them.

We do have a broody hen with five eggs under her. We are letting her sit on them to see if she can hatch them. She is one of our Rhode Island Reds and she is bound and determined to hatch these eggs of hers. She lets me pet her but she is very clear on what my boundaries are! Good luck to her. Mrs. Williamina B. will soon be a Mom is everything goes as she has planned. It will be fun to se if we have babies in a few weeks.

I have to sign off but I will try and write again very soon!