Independence Days

Last year, I watched from a distance and avidly ready all Sharon Astyk’s posts regarding her Independence Days Challenge, but I never formally signed up to participate.  The name comes from the intro to Carla Emry’s book The Encyclopedia of Country Living where she says “All spring I try to plant something every day…until Midsummer…Then I switch over and make it my rule to try and get something put away for the winter every single day.”  There are seven categories:

1.  Plant something

2.  Harvest something

3.  Preserve something

4.  Reduce waste/Manage Reserves

5.  Preparation or Storage

6.  Community Food Security Building

7.  Eat something

I officially signed up for the challenge this morning, and I will be posting every Tuesday on my progress in each of these seven areas.  This is my first post on the topic.  Some of the topics might not seem to make immediate sense, so if you have any questions I refer you to Ms. Astyk’s blog for further enlightenment 🙂

Plant something:  Wow.  I have one 4 x 8 bed that is on the far end of the house that I decided to make a perennial bed.  It presently has garlic that hopefully will be ready to harvest soon, onions that I just planted that I hope will be enough to cover us for a year, and I purchased asparagus crowns and put them in the back of the bed.  So far, they are doing well (mostly) and I look forward to a small harvest next year.  Mr. Tin Foil and I planted out all our tomatoes — roma, celebrity, german queen, beefsteak, early girl, cherry.  We also planted marigolds and basil with the tomatoes.  I planted pak choi, french breakfast radishes, zucchini, armenian cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, poblano peppers, and japanese eggplant.

Harvest something:  Well, other than onions we really don’t have anything to harvest right now; the chickens got into my lettuce bed and I had to reseed.  We are eating the girls’ eggs though nearly every day.  I did try to interest Mr. Tin Foil in some of the wild mustard we have growing on the side of the house but he was having no part of it other than reluctantly chewing the leaf I thrust at him 🙂

Preserve somthing:  not yet.

Reduce Waste/Manage Reserves:  Well, we’re still feeding our veggie waste and leftovers to the chickens.  I haven’t done much managing of reserves other than to make sure my jars of preserves still have a seal.

Preparation and Storage:  I purchased 80 lbs of mortar and a multi trowel kit to build our back patio out of the native stone.  The patio will eventually have a grape arbor over it, and I also plan to build some raised beds around the edges of the house also out of the native stone.  These will have annual herbs, flowers, and jasmine to trellis up over the windows reducing our heat gain in the summer.

Building Community Food Security:  Mr. Tin Foil and I have discussed the possibility of having a garden tour/open house in a month or so when the garden is more greened up.  We can have fliers with resources, references, statistics, and possibly even offer services to those who would like to start a garden themselves but don’t want to do the initial setup for whatever reason (for a fee).  I think it would be worthwhile to introduce the idea of food security by modeling it ourselves, in a low key environment.  Also, everyone is always amazed when MTF or I tell them how much we get from the back yard and what is possible with just a little input.  I also approached one of the HOA board members about possibly starting a community garden.

Eat some:  Well, we’re eating our own eggs, we’re eating onions and buckthorn from the garden, and we’re working through our stores of canned goods from last year.

Here are some pictures of the garden this year

Tomato, basil, marigold, poblanos

Tomato, basil, marigold, poblanos

The lettuce bed, and the recycled satellite dish/herb garden

The lettuce bed, and the recycled satellite dish/herb garden

Cardoon and japanese eggplant

Cardoon and japanese eggplant

What's left of the buckthorn, and pickling cucumbers; tomatoes in the back containers

What's left of the buckthorn, and pickling cucumbers; tomatoes in the back containers

Next year's onion seed

Next year's onion seed

That’s actually not the whole garden; I have tubs with peas and beans in the front yard, spinach and roses in the front, and plan to plant yarrow this week.  There are potatoes on the side yard as well.

And, we just made another 4 x 4 bed to go out with the others, I’ll post a picture when it’s all pretty and painted.  I may plant malabar spinach there again, or possibly cantaloupe.  Or both.


I am a far left liberal.  I believe in the right to marry whomever you want, even if you are the same sex…even if you want to marry multiple people.

I am a far right conservative.  I believe that you need to take personal responsibility for your actions, and if you choose to marry and have children, that you should be financially responsible for them; if you have 4 wives and 12 children you’d better be financially able to support them because I resent my taxes going to support your lifestyle because you choose irresponsibly to consume far more than you can support.

I am a far left liberal.  I am an agnostic Pagan pantheist and believe that you should be able to worship whatever deity, or none, that you please.  I am legal clergy.

I am a far right conservative.  Keep your religion to yourself and don’t impose your religious beliefs on me.  You have the right to believe whatever you want.  You do not have the right to expect it to be made law.

I am a far left liberal.  I believe in universal preventative health care from cradle to grave, and I believe in universal healthcare for every child up to age 20. Quality preventative health care and education will save money long term, and is cheaper in the short term than medical treatment is.

I am a far right conservative.  I think socialized medicine as it exists now is bankrupt both morally and financially, and I resent my taxes paying for people’s bad healthcare choices while offering no incentive to do differently, and no idea of the real costs associated with quality medical care.  I believe in the rationing of medical care.

I am a far right conservative.  I believe in the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms, and do not support any measures that infringe on that either past or future.  I believe an armed society is a polite society. I believe that criminals who are not sure if their potential victim is also armed are less likely to proceed with robberies and assaults out of a simple sense of self preservation.

I am a far left liberal.  I believe in the legalization, not just decriminalization, of all illegal substances, and the regulation and taxation of same.

I am a far right conservative.  I believe what people choose to do to their bodies is their own business.  That is as long as I am not required to pay for their medical care resulting from years of abuses, and as long as others do not get hurt by those choices.

I am a far left liberal.  I believe in the paying of taxes to support things that are in the public interest:  preventative healthcare, libraries, education, infrastructure.

I am a far right conservative.  I think our level of taxation is outrageous given the return on our investment, and I think our governments have gotten greedy with the idea that one can, or should, make a profit in public service.  I think our government is bankrupting not only my future, but the future of my great grandchildren by propping up failed financial models that are based on fairy tale money with no real, tangible product backing that money up.

Simply a mass of contradictions, aren’t I?

The backlash begins

I am firmly against the speed cameras.  I don’t think they deter speeding, I think they increase the likelihood of accidents due to people suddenly slamming on their brakes, and I think they create huge amounts of resentment in a powerless populace.  I say this as someone who works in an ER and sees the results of accidents regularly, and as a driver on the roads.  And to any of you who think even for a moment that if you don’t speed you have nothing to worry about, I have news for you.  Those cameras are recording 24/7.  The police are perfectly capable of tracking your movements wherever the cameras are posted, as are the servicing company’s staff.  Stalkers, anyone?  Orwell, anyone?  To quote Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Being able to track people based on their license plates wherever they go, when you have access to their home address and an idea of their income level based on the car they drive and their routines, seems to me to be a recipe for a disaster in the making.

When the papers reported that our former governor had cleared the way for speed cameras to be located on the state’s highways I predicted a rash of shootings taking them out.  When the speed cameras went mobile, I held my tongue and waited for the rage of the people to begin.

I waited longer than I thought I would; apparently even in this state people have greater restraint, and more good sense than I have given them as a whole credit for.  Instead of antisocial methods of getting rid of the cameras, the majority of the populace engaged in lobbying, letter writing campaigns, public education, petitions and the like to get rid of them.  It looked as though they might actually be making progress last month, when legislators at the state level said they were considering legislation to ban the cameras along the highways (the cities could still do what they wanted on their streets).  That is, until one legislator from Anthem said that we couldn’t ban the cameras because we had to let their contract run out or we would be sued by the company who owns and services the cameras…which is actually not true.  Our governor may have been greedy and naieve, but she did make sure there was a clause in the contract that simply states the state may cancel the contract at any time if it is determined that it is not in the best interests of the state to continue it.  So.  All the legislators would have had to have done was make a formal declaration in the bill that the cameras are not in our best interests and therefore banned.  Done deal.  Unfortunately it did not work that way; people heard the first part (we are stuck with the cameras until Sept 2010) and didn’t hear the last part (contract can be cancelled).

Thanks to lawmakers who are more afraid of being sued than in upholding the will of the people and the best interests of our state, the backlash has now begun.  Last night a motorist stopped near a mobile camera van, got out of his vehicle, walked up to the van, and shot the driver multiple times, killing him.  Whether he was a civilian or a retired officer working on a contract I don’t know, but he is dead and leaves a family grieving behind him.

The fact that it happened does not surprise me; that it took this long for something like this to happen does.  The viciousness of the attack saddens me.

If DPS does not voluntarily remove the cameras for more than the temporary halt they have called, I predict more of the same, and better planning and execution of vandalism to the unmanned cameras.

…And life again

Well, MaryAnn was finally milked this morning, and they got a gallon and a half. This made her teats soft enough that the calf was able to latch on at about 7 this morning, and things have been going well since.

Mr. Tin Foil Hat says he’s willing to go to counselling.  This is a huge change.  Maybe things can work.

Death and life and death

Nana the goat's new baby

Nana the goat's new baby

Yesterday I realized that my marriage is pretty well done.  It was a revelation to realize that yes, there really is a point of no return and I think I have crossed it.  I haven’t been happy for years; Mr. Tin Foil Hat chooses jobs that require him to be gone from home for cumulatively large blocks of time, and drops everything to go on unscheduled trips frequently.  This is a pattern that was also prominently featured in his parents’ marriage.   When he is home, he is emotionally unavailable on my days off, and since I work 3 – 4 days per week, and am gone for 14 -15 hours a day when I do work, we don’t see each other much.  We have had problems in the past, and have tried to work things out, but at most the fixes last about 3 weeks and then it’s back to the same ole.   He once again says he’ll change, that he loves me, that we can work it out…but I’ve heard it all before.  I have no hope it will change, that it will work out, that he’ll ever ACT like he loves me as much as he says he does.  Do I want a divorce?  Realistically, no.  Its financially and emotionally very costly.  Do I want to stay in a marriage like this one?  No.  This might be great for him, but it’s literally killing me.  I can’t carry this burden anymore.  So, on this happy note, we packed up and drove to our friends’ house for what should have been a fun day with friends and animals.

Above is my friend Dana, holding a kid that was being born as we arrived at their house yesterday.  He was a big guy, and had to be pulled from his mother as he got a little ‘stuck’ with that big head.  He was very vigorous, and up walking within minutes after being dried off, and nursing not long after that.

MaryAnn's new calf

MaryAnn's new calf

This is MaryAnn, a Dexter cow, and her calf which was born during a surprise driving snowstorm (really!) at about 230 yesterday afternoon, right before we arrived at the farm.

The calf is a female, and just didn’t seem to be doing very well.  She was dried, warmed, stimulated, but just wouldn’t stand or latch on.  MaryAnn was restless, and couldn’t stand still; the guinea hens were curious to see the proceedings as were the dogs, both of which MaryAnn was determinedly protecting her calf against.  Dana decided to let mama and baby be for a little, and to check on her again at evening feeding time.

When we all went back down to check on the little girl at feeding time, she was NOT doing better, her eyes were rolled back into her head, and she was really limp.  Dana and Dean sprang into action, rubbing her to warm her, trying to assist her to stand, holding MaryAnn so the calf would have a better chance of latching on…all to no avail.  They milked mama and bottle fed the baby which seemed to rally her a little, but still no ability to stand or walk.  It was decided to bring down a portable space heater so that she could warm up, as she was still very cold and not even shivering much.  The barn was blocked off with a piece of plywood to keep the heat in, and a blanket was placed under the calf which was placed in front of the radiant heater.

We all went back down to check at about nine pm.  Bad news.  The kid was dead; he had apparently slipped out through a small hole in the pen and gotten into one of the horse stalls, where he was promptly stepped on and crushed.  He was still warm so it had just happened not very long before.  The calf though was sleeping normally, no longer shivering, and mostly warm except for her ankles.  Then ensued an hour long attempt to get her to latch onto mom, which mom was by now having no part of; her udder was absolutely engorged and every time the calf tried to latch on mom would move away.  Dana and her spouse ended up milking another bottle worth from mom (a two person job as she obviously was tender and didn’t want her udder messed with) and giving it to the calf, and got her up to walk.  For a six hour old calf she certainly acted much more like a newborn.  Being born during the peak of an April snowstorm certainly set her back.

Because MaryAnn was so engorged they ended up milking her at nearly 10 pm, just to relieve the pressure before she got mastitis.  They were also discussing the probability that this would end up being a bottle fed calf and who would take the first two hour feeding shift.

I still don’t know the outcome of the story, being a working farm it’s hit or miss with calling them.  I am hoping for the best with the calf.  To lose two babies on the same day, after being born on the same day, would be more tragedy than seems reasonable even for a small farm.

Yesterday was not a good day at all.

The (newly) dreaded tax time

Usually, Mr. Tin Foil and I have a refund from the feds which immediately goes to pay our state taxes, which we always end up owing on…not this year!

I changed my withholding so that we could afford to do some desperately needed repairs to the old homestead, and some equally needed improvements (like raised beds, fence, etc) which killed us for federal taxes; it seems that many of the deductions that were allowable in years past are not any more, and even the ones that are didn’t seem to apply to us.  Oddly enough, they all applied and we even got a very large tax credit from the state for installing our puny little rainwater harvesting system.

I’ll have to change my withholding at least twice this year, once to exempt so we can pay our debt quickly, and once again so that we don’t owe anything at the end of the year.

Oddly enough, although I’ll take a pay cut for transferring to a straight daytime position, it will help us tax-wise as we will be in a lower bracket.  Something to consider for sure.


What are we teaching our young people?

Over the weekend, I was in trauma.  Our social worker was escorting a young man who was there to observe as part of his public service commitment; he was 19 which is relevant.  He struck me as very polite and well mannered, in short a young man who was inculcated with sense of responsiblity and morality by his parents.

I spoke with our social worker briefly after the young man left and asked what he had done; she told me he had gotten a DUI.  But here’s where it gets interesting:  he WASN’T DRIVING.

It seems that the young man, although he was irresponsible enough to drink under the legal age of 21, WAS responsible enough to arrange for a designated driver.  This designated driver, when driving said young man home, decided he was thirsty and stopped at a convenience store for a soda.  Since said young man was staying in the car, DD decided to leave the car running so that said young man could listen to the radio while waiting in the car, in the passenger seat. A police officer stationed at the convenience store then arrested the young man for DUI, which he was successfully prosecuted for even though he was in the passenger seat!  In Arizona, when they passed our draconian new DUI/DWI laws last year, also snuck in a provision that basically means even if you are in the back seat trying to sleep it off, if you have the keys in your possession or can reach them from anywhere in the car, you are displaying intent to drive and therefore can be prosecuted.  This is what happened to this young man; since he could reach the keys from the passenger seat, even though he was still seat belted in the passenger seat, he was according to the cop displaying intent to drive…and therefore arrested for DUI.  And successfully prosecuted no less!

What are we teaching our children about responsibility?  He tried to do the right thing after all.  Kids drink, young adults drink.  At least mine did, I did, my mom and dad did, my grandparents did.  I don’t think I’m alone in having family like this.  So, doing the responsible thing and getting a designated driver nets him the same punishment as driving drunk would have.  This is a tragedy.  What are we coming to?


Endless Detours

I have a list about 3/4 of a legal sized paper long filled with things to do around the ole’ homestead.  I try to do as many as I can each day I have off; I often don’t succeed in even finishing one but most of the things on the list can be put off for a few days.  This is good, because when I do start a project I often find that I can’t finish for one reason or another, or I find that what should have taken 2 or 3 hours takes all day.

I wanted to make a chicken tractor for my girls; I can’t just let them roam due to the neighborhood cats — I doubt a cat could take down a full grown, very well nourished Rhode Island Red, but I don’t want to lose one taking a chance either.  This means that I can’t leave them out for any length of time unless I’m right there watching them, I did try to let them out while I worked on the other side of the house and I caught one of the neighbor cats getting ready to pounce when I returned to check on them.  So.  Back to the tractor….only I wanted to make a bigger one, like 4 x 8 since they’re full grown and deserve a little more room.  Then, since I have at least one girl that never lays until after like 1 pm, I also wanted to make a nest box to attach to the tractor.  Then, since I’ve learned about the niceties of little things like hinges on the nest box tops, I had to dig up the hinges I bought.  So, I ended up, 3 days later and much frustrations later, with a 4 x 8 pen that is too heavy to move around, with a nesting box that is ridiculously too large (24 x 16 x 26).  Back to square one.  So, with Mr. Tin Foil’s help today, I simply took some garden fence I have left over from trellises last year and wired the pieces together and to our fence to make a fenced area that we can watch out for them from the kitchen in.

Grapes.  I have wanted grapes for the longest time, but I also had planned to make an arbor after I built our back patio.  Well, an impulse purchase had me bringing home two little bare root grape plants about a month ago.  Since they started sprouting leaves in the house, I planned to get them in the ground several days ago, right after I finished the chicken tractor (do you see where I’m going here?)…they finally got in the ground after dark tonight; I found that we have a foot thick layer of colechi (concrete hard clay from hell) in the side yard as well as in the front and it took much longer to dig through it than I had planned — at least for one of the plants.  The second plant I planted closer to the back of the property and thankfully the layer is neither as thick nor as hard as it is 7 feet farther toward the street.  I love my pick axe.  It has saved me many times in situations that a shovel is merely for digging out the pick axe rubble.

Nearly all my tomato, cucumber, eggplant, and tomatillo starts have died; I left them on the front porch overnight and apparently it is still much too cold for them even though it isn’t freezing any more.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get more started in time to produce while the season is hot.

I need to replace the pavers that the construction crew moved when they built our deck, but since they moved a bunch of gravel out of the driveway and into the paver area looking for the sewer line (another long story) I need to make a sifter so I can sift out the rocks before I try to put them back.  Well, I’m still working on that because I didn’t measure before I drilled some nice cedar posts left over from the deck together.  My landscape cloth is 2 feet wide, my square is 2 1/2 feet wide.  So, when I get my next day off I’ll be taking it apart, making the pieces smaller, and putting it back together so I can staple the cloth to it and get busy.

Another impulse purchase:  honesuckle.  I loved this plant growing up, and I didn’t realize it would grow in our climate.  I got a small plant and hope to espalier it along the back fence; if it does well I’ll get more gradually so that we have a living fence rather than the garden temporary fence we now have.  I did plant that earlier today and thankfully the colechi layer was almost non existant where I decided to plant it. The chickens LOVED the grubs I pulled out of the dirt while digging!  They were hanging around at the edge of the fence just waiting for the next one to show up.

Now, no time is wasted if you learn a lesson supposedly, but I seem to learn a lot of lessons and not get much done.  I sincerely hope I get better at this time management thing in yard work soon!