Saturday, April 30, 2022

Human barns

A reader sent this amusing meme from a Backwoods Home email:

Groan. Been there done that.

But unquestionably livestock are curious about "human barns." As proof, here's a collection of my "human barn" photos over the years:

I'm glad I took these photos when I did, because we'll never have "human barn" shots again. The setup of our new place doesn't lend itself to them.

But it does make me miss having cows. Can't wait to get some!

Friday, April 29, 2022

Groan, finished at last

At last, the month of Writing Way Too Much is finished! Done! Complete!

A few minutes ago, I put the last words to my 50,000 word count for my NaNoWriMo project, entitled "The Thomas Redemption."

When I entered the word count on the NaNoWriMo website, I was given suitably festive congratulations.

This NaNoWriMo project will be, I hope, a finalized book in my inspirational romance collection within a year or so.

But it wasn't just NaNoWriMo that slammed me this month. Oh no! I also completed four columns and seven articles. (I had an eighth article whose deadline got pushed back to mid-May. No complaints.)

Whew! Glad this month's deadlines are done.

Now I'll hint at a future project. Some of you have read a couple of Don's humor pieces in the past. We are now engaged in compiling all those pieces into a downloadable ebook that will run approximately 35K-40K words. We'll keep you posted on the progress of this project.

On the other hand, I just learned my last romance, The Amish Animal Doctor, has been on Publisher's Weekly best-seller list for the fourth week in a row!

Oh wow. Just ... wow.

But for the moment ... I am SO done with April. Gonna sleep well tonight.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Planting potatoes

We don't have garden beds in yet,but I wanted to plant some potatoes. This presented a quandary since potatoes need to be planted fairly early in the season. The solution? Grow bags.

We don't use Amazon anymore for ethical reasons. However for Christmas my brother gave us a $100 gift card, which was a sweet gesture. After some discussion, we decided to use this gift card to order twenty 20-gallon grow bags made by a company called Adorma. (I won't link anything to Amazon. You can look them up.)

These turned out to be tough, spacious containers with sewn-in handles and a flat bottom. Quite nice.

The next issue: Where to put them? Whatever the location, it had to be protect-able against deer. After some discussion, we selected a narrow strip of land between a storage shed in the yard, and the pasture fence. This area is wide enough to accommodate the grow bags, and can easily be netted against deer. It is also close to a water tap.

But we didn't want to put the grow bags directly on the ground. That might rot the bottoms. Instead, we laid out some pallets. We figured four grow bags would fit on a pallet, so we laid down five pallets.

The next minor problem to solve: How to easily fill the bags? They tend to collapse inward whenever they're opened. Then Don had an excellent idea: We had an old garbage can that was broken down and ready to toss. Instead, he cut off the bottom and made a "funnel" to fit inside the bag as well as prop open the sides. (That man can be so brilliant.)

It was a perfect fit.

Don marked a line at four inches to indicate how much soil to put in each bag to begin with.

I had three sources for potatoes to plant. The first source, believe it or not, were potatoes from the garden at our old house, harvested in October of 2020. I had kept a few in a newspaper-lined bowl in a dark place, and they still looked viable even after 18 months. Some were reds and some were Russets.

The second source were ordinary grocery-store potatoes. Usually these potatoes are treated with a grown inhibitor to prevent the eyes from sprouting, but evidently this batch hadn't gotten the memo. They were sprouting all over the place. Okay fine, let's see how they grow.

The third source were proper seed potatoes purchased at a nursery. As it turns out, I didn't have near enough of these.

Next step: a load of dirt. Since the grow bags are being placed inside the yard, Don dumped the dirt over the fence onto a tarp.

It was easiest to fit the bags on the garbage can upside-down at first...

...then flip.

Ready to fill.

Mr. Darcy was, of course, a tremendous help. His reasoning was: "If you're digging in the dirt, than I can dig in the dirt." Hard to fault him for that logic.

First two bags, ready to plant. I figured since the space was so narrow, it was better to fill and plant as I go.

Since the bags were heavy when filled with four inches of dirt, I put each bag in a tub and sort of scooted it over the pallets in the tub, then tipped the bag out. (Work smarter, not harder. That's my motto these days.)

For most of the bags, I planted four pieces of potato (or four full potatoes, depending) per bag. In theory the size of the piece doesn't matter, as long as it has at least one eye.

To bury the potatoes, I lugged over extra dirt in the tub, then scooped/poured it into each bag.

To keep track of what kind I planted, I wrote the info on stakes.


First I planted all the potatoes from my old garden, and then planted four grow bags with the store-bought potatoes. The remainder of the grow bags were dedicated to proper seed potatoes.

However I didn't purchase nearly as many seed potatoes as I needed to fill all those bags, so I ended up cutting them into much smaller pieces than anticipated. Each piece has at least one eye, so in theory (there's that theory again!) they should grow fine. Time will tell.

Before planting, however, the cut potatoes have to air-dry for a couple days to toughen up the cut sides, so I took a break from planting until they were ready to go.

After a couple days, they were ready to plant.

The tedious filling and planting in each bag continued until all the bags were done.

That's all I need to do for the time being. As the potatoes grow, I'll cover them with just enough dirt to cover the leaves, then repeat as needed until the bag is full of dirt. After that, I'll let the potatoes grow and mature until the first frost.

This is the first time I've ever grown anything in grow bags, and I'm excited to see how this works.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Where the deer and the antelope play

Remember the old song? "Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play..."

We have no bison around here (except some being raised on farms) or antelope (pronghorns, technically not true antelope). But boy howdy do we have deer.

Early one morning a few days ago, as I was making tea, I glanced out the kitchen window in time to see a deer dash by. My first thought is she was being chased by a predator, but that was not the case.

I went back to making tea, when I saw another deer dash by, followed by yet another. And another. It soon became apparent that this group of four were chasing each other across our pasture at full speed.

They would dash in one direction, reach the end of the pasture, turn around, and dash in the other direction. Over and over and over.

I set my camera to "burst" (fast repetitive photos) and tried to get pictures, but wasn't very successful. Most of the time the deer were just blurs.

Rounding a tree.

This game of tag continued for a good five minutes.

The photos can't do justice to how hilarious it was to watch them.

Honestly, don't some of these photos look like modern art paintings?

At last they slowed down, apparently having worked through their high spirits.

One doe finally noticed me standing on the porch with camera in hand, and looked a little embarrassed at having been "caught' at play. (See how scruffy she looks? The deer are in the awkward stage between shedding their winter fur and growing in their summer coat.)

Having regained their dignity after panting a while...

...the animals moved one by one out the pasture gate and down the road.

And that was the end of that.