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turkeywoodfarm

a return to the wild

First blog post

Day 3 of the new world order began today and saw us embark on a massive clean-up venture. After years of dreaming and planning and preparing and much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, we finally purchased our own little slice of the pie. 5 1/2 acres of wooded bliss. We’d decided on a name years ago so on our first voyage to the farm, aside from the massive stand of mature trees and the creek running through the middle, hearing the wild turkeys gobbling sold us on this place.

Day 1 was signing day which we couldn’t do until late in the afternoon. We then stole a few moments and went out for a toast on the property with family in tow before celebrating with viewing the latest Star Trek flick and eating dinner at Abuelo’s. Hand shaken margaritas should be a requirement for Mexican food. Just sayin’. And Day 2, although we’d planned on starting the work, we ended up having to repair fencing in the pasture where our goats are currently residing to keep them out of the neighbors acreage. They say if water can pass through the fence, so can a goat and ours have proven that many times over.

Which left today to begin. The day when 100 degree plus temps were forecast and all wind ceased to blow in our fair state. In Oklahoma, the temp is normal for August but windless days are rare. Anyway we trudged out at 6:30 AM to begin what we’re pretty sure will be an endless task of removing sticktights from the land. You know, those tiny grey seedheads that can bind your shoelaces into a knotted mess before you’ve closed the car door? Yep. We have those in abundance. While mom helped tackle the area near the old house and around what will be our new garden, I set off to clear the driveway of overhanging limbs and the entry of anything the weed eater couldn’t handle while Jerry played with his new chain-saw and began the process of removing a fallen tree from in front of the old barn.

We set up an old steel barrel in the middle of the garden plot to burn those nasty buggers which worked well. At least after a fashion … they were still moist enough that they didn’t want to burn well at first, so Jerry decided to add a little fuel to the mix. When he lighted it, instead of burning like so many other fires we’ve had, it exploded and made a ferocious boom and singed the hair off his legs. So, we changed tactics a little and removed everything from the barrel, started a small fire on the bottom and added to it handfuls at a time until the air temperature rose from a steady 85 degree to a blistering 885 in mere moments.

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This winter, I suppose, we will be glad to have that capacity to make heat, but today it just sucked. By 9:45 we were wiped out, our dew rags were dripping with sweat, and the sun’s rays had finally filtered through the tree tops and were shining on the land right where we plan to put the garden. Why fight nature, right? I mean, we could spend time and effort clearing the perfect place in our scheme for the garden to go but there’s already a cleared place where the sun shines most of the day. Seems logical to put the garden there.

It doesn’t look like much more than a mess right now, but by next spring it will be a functioning garden without a doubt. I can already taste the spring peas and radishes, the sweet salads, the juicy tomatoes, the black eyed peas, the green beans … I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Anyway, we have lots of plans – earthbag structures, permaculture landscaping, mass rocket fuel heating, building a bridge, a little log stacking art work for the entry, pond building, hot tub/sauna construction, incorporating in our goats, chickens, and rabbits, adding pigs and bees to the flock, and eventually even building a house all while practicing green living. We hope you’ll join us on this adventure in the wild.

Featured post

Permaculture – What is it and How does it work?

Lots of people have lots of definitions for permaculture. They’ll tell you it’s about sustainability, or land management, or tree-hugging, or eco-systems, or organics, or … at least when I first started asking questions about it those are the answers I got. But really, those are just opinions and not much more.

Yes, permaculture has an element of sustainability. Ultimately a permaculture environment will sustain itself indefinitely. And it’s about land management and eco systems and even tree hugging (depending on your definition). But permaculture is so much more than those things and also, not those things at all.

Permaculture is a set of principles which guide decision making in every facet of life. It is a practice, in other words, rather than a set of rules. For example, in organic gardening/farming there is a list of things that can and can’t be done, like you can’t use chemical pesticides. That is a rule, hard and fast. A line in the sand you must not cross. But permaculture isn’t a list of things to do and not do. Can you use chemical pesticides in permaculture? Well, there’s no rule banning it but if you are following the principles to guide your decision making, you probably won’t use them, won’t want to use them, and ultimately won’t need to use them.

I won’t go into detail about the twelve principles today. I plan on doing separate blogs posts for each of them later on in this series. The thing I want to point out today is that ultimately permaculture principles lead to a kinder world, and not just to the land or our gardens and farms and forests, but to us as well. It is a way of life, a way of viewing the world that governs all of the choices we make without dictating what those choices must be. It takes into consideration not only plants and animals and the earth but also other people and philosophies. It has a place for everyone and everything.

Permaculture is about slowing down, observing, and interfering as little as possible and only if it helps overall. It’s about diversity and problem solving and using what you have, about not wasting anything and finding value in everything. It’s about seeing the world in a different way than most of us were taught growing up. It’s about balance and longevity, about learning and accepting. It touches on every single facet of human existence and so much more.

So, over the next twelve weeks I’ll be focusing on the twelve principles of permaculture and how we’re integrating each at Turkeywoods Farm. Hope to see you all!

 

 

Cheese, Please Pass the Cheese

We had the misfortune of having a goat with mastitis in one teat. Since this was a new thing for us, I caved in, loaded her into the mini-van in the pouring rain, and took her to the vet. A new vet who actually does goats. Anyway, while there, we discussed how many and what type goats we had and I mentioned that one male was a full Boer and everyone else were crosses of some type. He reacted oddly, I thought.

“Why on God’s earth would anyone ever want to keep a Boer goat? Those are the most worthless creatures on the planet,” he exclaimed.

At the time I didn’t have an answer. I just shrugged. But this picture is evidence of why anyone would want a Boer. Boer’s have a higher fat and protein content in their milk than other goats. That’s because Boer’s are meat goats and they need to gain more weight faster than other breeds.

But for us, we wanted not only goats that were good for meat, but also good for making cheese, and the Alpine Boer cross seems to be the answer. We get the production of the Alpine (almost 4 gallons a week) with the fat and protein content of the Boer which means more cheese. 2 1/2 gallons of milk yielded me 3.2 lbs of cheese after a 24 hour pressing.

And that makes me happy!!

This batch is bound for feta. It’s been salted and is in the fridge for another 24-ish hours. I’ll check it sometime tomorrow when I get a chance and package it up.

 

Building Something, At Long Last

Yeah, so the blog every day/every week/twice a month went by the wayside. Life got complicated. Depression set in. Feelings of being overwhelmed and inadequate to meet the tasks of this raw land swamped the boat before we even put it in the water.

But, at long last, we are finally starting to put a plan in place.

A real plan. Not some half-baked, let’s get it done, it should’ve been finished yesterday plan. I think part of our problem was that we had animals to house and care for immediately so we threw some things together for them but we never meant for those things to be permanent. And our neighbor was all gung-ho about building a fence and kept pushing us into a plan that we didn’t have time to think through. And the excitement of finally, after so many years of wanting our own land, actually having our own land was mind boggling.

So we’ve settled down now and are putting in the first real structure – a chicken coop. Exciting, I know. I lived in England for a while and I always loved that they had buildings lined up along the sides of their farms kind of like a dual purpose fence so it was always in my mind to do that with Turkeywoods. Only I also liked the idea of having a path all the way around the place so I could drive a Mule along the fence and to give us a barrier from our neighbors in case they sprayed chemicals and such on their fields or animals got loose or fire fighters needed a path through. So the chicken coop is 8 feet off the fence line in line with the existing barn. A long gate will go between them on the north side of the property and a huge brush pile will set on the east side of the chicken coop right up to what is now the power pole, making up a 60 foot section of fence on the north.

The north slope of the roof will be short and steep while the south side of the roof will be 8 x 20 with a more gradual slope to it, a gutter on the long side will catch rain water and hopefully keep our animals and garden in water for the year. I plan to build a filter of sorts using a trash can layered with coconut coir, lava rock, sand, and charcoal to catch debris and give some resemblance of clean water. Boiled it could even be consumed by humans or at least used for laundry and washing dishes. Our tank is only 500 gallons right now though, not enough for humans and animals and garden for very long.

The other addition to the farm has been these two beauties. Gigi and Gin. Not sure how I lived without them before now. They are racked out in this pic after a grand time shredding a newspaper. Gigi always sleeps on his back like that. Weirds me out. Lol.

Days 20-32 Work, more work, and Creatures Gallore

The two things that I assume are predictable about any farm are one, there’s going to be more work than a human can possible ever accomplish, and two, creatures of all shapes and sizes are going to take up residence whether we want them to or not. I know it’s been 12 days since I last posted an update. That’s because number one from above has been kicking our butts.

But I’ve been documenting everything. Creatures, flowers, plants, work, progress, demolition, you name it, I’ve got pictures. So instead of me waxing poetically or groaning on about this and that, I’m just going to share a bunch of pics and their blurbs. 🙂 Enjoy!

Creatures, bugs, and spiders amok!! We find at least ten of those webs and spiders each night at the farm and that’s just in the areas near the house, barn, and road. I shudder to think about how many are in the woods!

People, people, people … well, family but they count, right? Our daughter Morgan and her pet chicken, our son Zek taking shelter from the rain, and my sister Saen with Ophelia.

Just a couple of the things we’ve “unearthed” at the farm. The little oil can is my favorite I think but I love knowing that the previous owners took Organic Gardening magazine. This one is from 1979 (I think).

And a bit of building stuff. The pallet “bridge” we had to build over the pond that formed in front of the barn, the roof over the demo area on the house that we were sure would have fallen during the 5.6 earthquake, and the chicken tractor frame.

 

Days 17-19 Peaches and cream and little things

A few days back we were cleaning up around the old house and smoking a pork loin on the concrete area and noticed that we had a peach tree growing. Straggly and half dead, we decided we could trim it up and see how it performed next year before doing anything drastic. It had green leaves on several branches, so we assumed it was alive but we didn’t see any fruit at all.

Fast forward to yesterday.

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We brought our chickens down to the Woods and have been letting them free range over part of the acreage. One white chicken we call Molly kept getting adventurous though and roaming far beyond where we wanted her. So I would chase her down and scold her and run her back to the flock. But one time I missed her and she managed to make it all the way past the house. I pursued her into the woods and herded her back towards the others finally, and in the process went under the peach tree where one ripe peach fell to the ground.

I scooped it up, ran the chicken where she needed to go, and carried the peach proudly to Jerry. We rinsed it off and pulled it open. Freestone all the way! And tasty to boot. Having no idea what variety it is, we’re naming it a Molly peach since I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t been chasing her around the Woods.

Speaking of rinsing it off. We have water.

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Not a lot at the moment because we brought it from the artesian well that we’ve used for years. But that well is a bit of a drive for us now. We love the water from it but it doesn’t really save us money unless we can haul over 300 gallons at a time which we aren’t set up for yet. In the meantime we’re coating the roof of the barn to cover all the old rust, etc and installing gutters to catch rain.

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It’s not perfect but our animals have been drinking from a pond all summer and we’ve had them in 3 different places so it’s time to reunite our farm animals in one place and having a water source of any kind is the basic requirement for now.

Today we are building the communal rabbit pen and testing out the old breaker box at the farm to see if we have electric power we can use. We know we have power to the meter but having the breakers work and power an actual plug is still unknown. We’re hoping to have all the rabbits and cats moved by the end of the week into their new abode. Still need to find a source for selling bunnies in one form or another. Our freezers are already stuffed with rabbit meat, ducks, chicken, and goat. Being self-sufficient in the meat department isn’t an issue at least!

 

Day 16 Little surprises

A few years ago I decided to dedicate one whole garden bed to growing nothing but things that Thomas Jefferson had grown in his garden at Monticello. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I have this weird fascination with the man and his gardens (and his architecture). So I set about to gather as many varieties as my little raised bed would hold. Of course they had to be heirloom.

I had scarlet runner beans (which are amazingly beautiful when they bloom), Tom Thumb lettuce, and some of these little jewels – Mexican Sour Gherkins. Thomas Jefferson used to have them pickled by the barrel. As I dug the soil and planted the tiny little seeds, I imagined having vast quantities to pickle as well. I only had 10 seeds because none of the seed houses had them that year or sold out of them very fast. I finally found a pack at Territorial Seeds.

The seeds grew and the vines crawled up the little trellis I placed for them. It seemed like months passed before the smallest yellow flowers you’ve ever seen appeared followed by the teeny tiny melons. But ultimately, I ended up with about 10 and then the vines died. I was baffled. They said full sunlight and compost … I had done those things. Regular watering … also done. Disappointed, I made sure to order the seed early the next year. But they did even worse the 2nd time around. Only a few seeds germinated and produced the spindly vines and we had no fruit at all before they again died.

But I am a consumate gardener who is undetered by failure. So for a third year, I purchased more seed and planted the fragile looking plants. One seed germinated. One. It grew 6 inches, then 12, then 18 and then, just as the blooms were setting on, one of my chickens ate it. (no, we didn’t eat him for dinner that night but if words could have boiled his feathers, they would have)

After that, life happened for a couple of years and brought us to the Woods. We’ve been working our a** off to get certain things installed before fall and winter arrive and make them impossible. 1) our water system for the garden and animals and 2) the fence posts. Somedays it seems like we get very little done despite returning to the house exhausted beyond belief, dripping with sweat, and covered in dirt. However, every day we seem to discover something new about our little slice of heaven on earth.

Today we discovered these Mexican Sour Gherkins growing wild and prolifically behind our barn in full shade untouched by the hands of man for years now.

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The barn is to the upper left of the pic. We think that table object is an old feed trough. And the yellow string is our property line (the other side of which is a plowed field half-full of weeds).

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And there the little beauties are hanging gingerly by tendrils vining profusely among the brush and rotting logs. My mind boggles.

I had posted on Facebook a memory this morning about harvesting garden produce from a couple of years ago and lamented the fact that this year I haven’t been able to garden due to my dad’s death and moving. But I guess God did the gardening for me this year.

Now I wonder if this is a new genetic strain of the plant?? Hmm … heirloom for sure as the property has been untouched for over ten years but could it be more than that? We’ll definitely be saving seeds!

Days 10 – 13 Cleaning up and tearing down

The last few days at the Woods has been down and dirty. We bought a water tank so we can set up a rain catchment system to have water for the animals and garden. Paying for that was a given from the beginning. But, keeping to our goals of using and reusing what we have, we didn’t want to have to buy stuff for the foundation. Plans were already made to tear down this addition to the original stone house and we now needed the concrete block, so this has been the labor.

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Hammer and chisel … oh yeah, and bumblebees. All those gorgeous flowers I’ve been enjoying so much that have been pollinated by the gigantic bumblebees, we found their home … inside the concrete block wall … Both of us were stung in the head by these lovely creatures. Talk about insane amounts of pain. But we’ve carried on in spite of them. They don’t seem to like our new bug repellent that has essential oils in it and vanillin. Not sure why but as long as they stay away from me, I’m good with having them.

While Jerry has been chiseling away at the block walls, I’ve been busy scraping up the debris on the concrete patio area. We’re guessing there was a fire at some point that melted the roof. Here’s a before and after from one day of work. The overall pic I forgot to take until after I’d already started and at the end of the day I still had some left to go.

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Our third venture this week has been installing a fence. Zek got busy digging more post holes and tamping them into place. We’re 1/4 done with this side of the property. Lol…but… it only took 5 hours to do 100 feet so if we get some more good weather and time it shouldn’t take long to finish the fencing.

 

Day 8,623,947 better known as Day 6

Today was Monday. One week after we closed on our land and 6 days into the clean-up, re-vamp, figure-out-what-the-hell-we-want-to-do-with-this-place.

It was not a great day. Many things went wrong. Including someone adding a mattress and box springs and other trash to an old pile of junk in the middle of the property. They didn’t just dump it along the road. No. They actually drove all the way down the driveway into the middle of our property and dumped it. I don’t know if they thought we wouldn’t notice or what … but really, it’s a little hard to miss something so big.

At first we were both a little miffed. I’m still a wee bit upset because someone came on my land without my permission and did who knows what else. Luckily they didn’t take anything that we could tell.

But then we decided that we weren’t going to be upset by it. We’re going to install a gate tomorrow and start running fence. That should keep anyone from just driving in. More importantly, we decided that this is a place of peace. Whatever happens, we will deal with it in the best way we can. The old mattress and box springs can be burned and the metal saved for scrap or the springs reused in another project.

Besides, now I get to be artistic and paint a sign or two:

The first will read – “For all who wander here uninvited, take a moment to find peace and then remember how it feels. 60 seconds from now you’ll be removing a broad-head arrow from your flesh. If you survive, you will be prosecuted for trespassing. That is all. Carry on.

The second – “NO Trespassing. NO hunting. NO fishing. NO dumping. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be prosecuted. If you made it this far, the next step will be a doozy.

Homesteading isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

 

Day 5 – in the end

Reality. 5 1/2 acres isn’t anywhere near as big as 80 acres but when you walk the entire perimeter fence in 95+ degree heat, it might as well be a square section … especially when most of it is untouched woodlands.

We started out to simply run a string line between the markers on the north side of the property. That was the easy part. The neighbors plowed field creeps over the line so we were able to walk it in about 3 minutes which included stopping to admire an old feed trough we’d never seen and snap the single pic for the day of this frog.

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That’s a blade of crab grass mind you. He was a tiny one. There were many more when we crawled down to the creek. The presence of amphibians pleases me. It means the environment isn’t toxic.

Of course, I’m not sure how it could be toxic unless someone sprayed it from overhead. After walking the entire fence line, it’s pretty safe to say that no one has ever done any improvements on the back 1/2 of the property. The south side of the creek, other than the small area where the old moonshine still sits, is about as wild as it gets. Fallen trees, wild grape vines as big as my arm, brambles sprawling in large mounds, swales, ravines, etc … take up the space and make it nearly impenetrable. We’re not even sure how the surveyor made it through all the stuff to hang flags.

After making it back to the chairs, we took off our shirts and poured cold water from the ice chest over our heads to help us cool down. That’s when the cat appeared. It showed up a few days ago, meowing at us from under the foundation of the old house. Today it walked out and rubbed up against our chairs and then petted itself on our hands. It’s a girl and a tabby cat with a wide nose and the most beautiful black lines stretching back from the corner of her eyes. Now I guess we need a name for her.

We didn’t get any other work done today. The walk nearly killed us both. But we did find a design for a geothermal air conditioner for the shed we’re building. It took some convincing before my husband would believe it was possible, but he’s on board now. We just need to dig some trenches … and clear more sticktights. The never-ending sticktights. Ugh.

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