O.M.G. it's Mosquito Season! And other things...

I had a conversation with my sis recently. She was suffering with broken air-conditioner syndrome. She's currently living in So. California, where it is now ranging between 103° edging closer to 114°. I couldn't remember it being so hot there, (at least not since the mid-1980's when I had baby twins and a swamp cooler). 
I do remember all my growing-up years, getting my fingers burned on the door handles of cars every summer. But this year, it seems everywhere is either hot... or flooding...

I told her it wasn't so hot here yet... but it's full-blown 'mosquito season', which means the air is made of mosquitoes! 
It's green everywhere here though. Some days the air even seems green. And I am not kidding!
I'm pretty sure the air gets humid from all that greenery just breathing! (This town is a little swampy in places, too).  
So there you go... one more example of what I tend to say a lot: "There's pros and cons to everything, wherever it is that you go/are".
A Foggy Spring Morning in Minnesota 
Lately we’ve been steeped in the gardening and hydroponics how-to’s, (a good series  HEREInnovative organic farmer Jean-Martin Fortier, author of "The Market Gardener" shares his profitable methods for achieving success growing vegetables on a small plot of land.”

Then I found “Raising Heritage Poultry”parts 1-25 (playlist) from Living Web Farms on youtube. 
These are full of useful info when you want to assess individual birds for flock improvement, detect who the true layers are, understand which birds to cull or keep, and the (heritage) breeds you want to get vs the ones you should not...depending upon your climate (for one thing), and lots of other useful information.

Even if you don’t have any heritage breeds. (Oh, and you’ll learn the significance of so-called ‘heritage’ breeds vs what they often have for sale at the hatcheries, even if they are pure bloodlines).
A hatchery-bred Cochin hen with my last batch of a dozen chicks of various breeds from the feed store. 

I didn’t know you can sustain 100 turkeys on 1 acre of pasture (not more than that). 
I never thought about them wanting to ‘roost, but then, turkeys are not something I really think about raising. We don’t really like to eat them. Well, I do like turkey noodle soup after Thanksgiving, but I can live without it. 

I wouldn’t want to raise ugly turkeys, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t ‘process’ pretty ones! 
There are some really beautiful heritage turkeys! I have too many favorites...
But I'd rather raise geese than turkeys! These are Sepastopol... and yes, geese usually only get 1/2 as big as a turkey, but look at these as 'expensive yard ornaments',! They can possibly be useful as guard dogs...
 https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/sebastopol.html  (not a recommendation just as photo source)

Fortunately, there is a LOT of info in that series about raising heritage CHICKENS. So if you’re a chicken-keeping buff, have a look. (You might also like the ones on raising black soldier flies for feed supplementing). I honestly found it too gross.
Over 340 videos to learn from, covering oh so many topics related to farming, raising things, gardening, ranching, raising livestock...
But there’s got to be something on one of those 340 vids that will enlighten you and help you on your own journey to sustainability! (I’m making an assumption that you have such ideas, since you’re reading this blog).

***Um, if you’re reading this because you’re a family member, come on, it’s time to fess up in the comments section!

I love learning this stuff, even if it’s not applicable to my life right now (or ever).
I want to understand how all the pieces of a farm get put together. In my mind, a farm is like a homestead - with many interlaced parts working together for the whole. The fun part of course is choosing what it is you want to interlace with what... based on what feeds into the other thing, for exactly how that interlacing will be done. 
But you see, you need to know things to figure that out.

Katie, from Valley Pasture Farm wrote a post back in January about homesteading skills – specifically, her “farmgirl goals”. She said:

“The modern-homesteading movement is growing, and with the internet, it is easy to connect with people across the country that are making things from scratch, raising farm animals, and providing for their families in ways similar to their great-grandparents – even in the city! Feeling proud of something you have done with your hands and possibly saving money along the way is a bonus to having these skills to fall back on if ever needed.”

It’s true~ and I’m on the same page already!
Along with her 2016 Farm Girl Goals she listed skills she had already done (that I have not), including these....
  • Learned to drive a skid steer  (Um, a what? I don’t know what a steer skid is!)
  • Make soap (Oh, I have plans..... and recipes and ideas for this! I can’t wait!)
  • Make sour cream, and cream cheese & mozzarella cheese (why haven’t I done this? I keep hearing how easy it is...)
  • Learn to use a pressure canner (when I get one)
  • Tap maple trees & make syrup  (If we ever have the trees...Apparently you have to tap the right kind of maple. 
I watched MIGardener’s instruction vids on tapping- which works on some trees, even if you don’t have true ‘sugar maples’...)
Oh, and he has a great one on making rose water too! Why aren’t we all doing this?
It’s SO EASY. And how wonderful to have a flowery cologne to spray on bed pillows, or laundry fresh from the line, or in the closet (especially for all those heavy coats)!

When I lived in California (for 25 years), and then in Colorado (for a dozen), I never smelled flowering trees in bloom. 
I didn’t catch the scent of the jacarandas, or any of the other myriad landscaping trees. I don’t even think the magnolias sent their lovely lemony scent across the air.I didn’t catch the scent of all those roses growing in Riverside - ‘The City of Roses’, either.
I remember distinctly, putting my nose right up into the blooms all around my neighborhood one summer (I was trying to capture photos at the time), and that was the only way I could smell them. ANY of them.
       *random photo just to break up all the text....

And the landscape trees that line the avenues... nope, no scent wafting through the air! 
We did have ‘pepper’ trees in the school yard playground – those kind of stunk. And the poor choice landscape Carob trees planted down our street, only had blossoms once that I remember. I don’t mean to mislead anyone on how often they bloom, but I didn’t remember their blossoms BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT WORTHY OF REMEMBRANCE. But I can tell you, they sure dropped the heavy hard ugly pods every year! It was a lot of work to rake them up, and the smell was NASTAY!

Some things are worthy of remembrance. 

In Colorado, there were aspen, cedar and pines. I could most definitely smell that wonderful spicy pine scent on a warm breeze, but never smelled any of the sparse wildflowers that might have been blooming, and there were no landscaping trees- except in the big box parking lots – they tended to plant trees that had gorgeous fall leaves.

My first experience of Minnesota’s short and explosive spring season, was completely different. 
Late afternoons I take my dog for a walk. These are my limited outings... and I try to notice every little thing in order to understand this new geography. I want to understand the wildlife habits and migrations- to know when the first Canadian geese will come back, when the fireflies arrive and leave each year, when which butterflies arrive (please take note of my Monarch Butterfly migration tracker to the right...), and, when the mosquitoes arrive (and leave)... and things like that.

Oh I saw a silver fox 2 days ago, down by the garden! Sorry, that was off-topic, but so neat! (It also tells me that having 'city chickens' would be a situation fraught with predation. The hawks and eagles here are as prolific as they were in Colorado. Oh, and skunks too.)

What I wanted to illustrate is the heavenly scents I could follow down the sidewalk here. They would fade off and then be picked up by yet a different flowering tree (or bush). 
I don’t know the names of them yet, but there were blooms cascading and opening up everywhere for exactly 3 weeks – the last 2 weeks of May and the 1st of June. 
Then the blossoms from the walnut trees came floating across the street like giant snowflakes, signaling the end of spring bloom. Done,  just like that!
At least until the next round of blossoming things (early spring, early summer, mid-summer, fall...)
Blossoms are wondrous things, after a long cold gray bare-naked snowy 'smells like cold' SAMENESS of winter.

While they lasted, the smells were like opening up my Grandmother’s solid perfume tins when I was little. The kind she would dab on before church on Sundays.
I really remember the Gardenia. It always offered an overpowering shock to the nostrils, lol. There were others I preferred more, like the Freesia, and the Lilac, and there were others I don’t remember. I am sure the church pews smelled like a church-lady bouquet all week! 
I thought they were overpowering at the time, but now I understand that is exactly how blooms can smell. It was a happy discovery!  

Anyway, getting back onto the previous topic, it was fun to read Katie’s past, present and future goal lists. They made me feel more connected to the REAL FARMGIRL experience because I had done so many of them.

Yay me, I’m not a faker, nor a wannabe farmgirl – I’m IN THE CLUB!
If you’ve been reading my blog over time, you KNOW that’s been kind of an obsession on this side of the screen, lol. 
I'm hoping to hear from more of you out there, who have the same vision!

Some of the things on her exhaustive list I did well enough that I hope to do more of / again (you know, somewhere down the line).
Like make candles. That was a very fun process. And there are sooooo many techniques!
Her list also reminded me of things I’d long forgotten, and of other things too. I feel pretty good about the accomplishments I can claim– like ‘made paper from scratch’, ‘pressed flowers’, and ‘made a doll out of a burlap sack’...
And for sure, I want to add: make rose water. 

*random photo from Pagosa Springs, CO. 20+ years ago

These are a few of the things on her future to-do goal list that I have already done...
  • Start seeds indoors (this spring, my first time! Only 1 in 4 plants lived after transplanting tho’).
  • Make homemade yeast breads (I want to try more whole grains!)
  • Made butter (in a jar and in a real churn, along with all the other family members that got roped into it, lol - instruction that left us all with a lasting memory).
  • Cook on cast iron (see below, but now mainly when baking)
  • Make pie crust from scratch (I LOVE it! Please look at Pinterest for some awesome creative crusts!)
  • Started a compost bin or pile (I think the squirrels are robbing it, lol)
  • Made own candles (now I want to try beeswax dipped candles)
  • Kept bees (hubby took that over, thank goodness...)
  • Went fishing (& gut) & cook your catch (at one time we lived on what we caught, along with potatoes and onions fried up in a pan and served with mustard- for an entire summer! Cooked in a cast-iron pan.)
  • Cook a whole chicken (whole and I also learned how to cut them up... unfortunately all 3 of my girls say they were as traumatized having to learn that technique as going thru a science class dissection – but fortunately they don’t ‘need’ to do it in daily life.)
  • Hemmed a pair of pants (my last pair of jeans – wish I’d had some plaid trim or lace to add!)
  • Made bone broth (chicken and turkey, haven’t yet done beef)
  • Hatch chicks or ducklings (I did ‘raise’ ducklings two different times, does that count?)
  • Learn to knit or crochet (LOL -I made a multi-colored ‘thing’ that was 12’ long by 2’ wide. I can also embroider, and am currently working on that rusty skill – look up “Red Work’).
  • Baked a cake from scratch (don’t wish to repeat this one!)
  • Kept backyard chickens (and did that hard thing: ‘dispatched’ roosters)
  • Planted vegetable gardens (with varying degrees of success)
  • Learned basic first aid & CPR (while in school for Medical Assisting)
  • Dehydrate fruits and strips of meat (it was easy when I lived in the desert heat!)
  • patch a pair of jeans (several times over, but only to get thru to the next paycheck, see notes!)
  • Fixed clothing instead of tossing it (I made some clothes for my kids over the years, and Halloween costumes, then I learned how to revamp clothes for myself-thanks to ideas from Pinterest! And have made doll clothes.)
  • Traded goods or services with a neighbor (eggs are a great barter item- I also traded paintings. One for my first flock of chickens, and one for my beautiful horse...though they would’ve been given to me freely, I wanted to give something in return. Without chickens now, I need to make something else to barter with though. The internet rocks with ideas...)
I WISH I WAS DOING EVERYTHING ON THAT LIST RIGHT NOW (except maybe the bees... lets substitute “tapping maple trees” instead!)

I have divided my goals into “1 thing a week” goals and I schedule them on a calendar (or they won’t happen). It works when I have the materials/supplies. It kind of sucks to be thwarted, but in that case, I can move on to the next thing. Or find something to paint on. 

Or, just watch vids and collect MORE ideas from Pinterest. LOL
*Minnesota - sky over cornfields

I want to say that repairing blue jeans is a quandary and depends on where they need repairs and how often they are washed. You can sew holes together but believe me, it doesn’t last long.I would suggest the easy more durable way: patch them with iron-on patches. I find them unsightly, myself...

But, there are lots of things to MAKE with old jeans, really cute things!
My latest DIY discovery were using old jeans as bags for clothespins!
The cutest thing by far though was a QUILT made out of jeans pockets – making one of those ‘countdown calendars’ for kids (Christmas); you can stuff the pockets with goodies!
(If you’d make one to sell, you could then buy a pair of NEW blue jeans!)

I had six pair saved before we moved here, but I tossed them out instead of packing them up. They weigh a lot and so unfortunately we left a LOT of thoughtfully hoarded useful items behind. It takes years to save those up, so in reality I probably won’t be making an advent calendar out of jeans pockets... unless I gear it for college-age Grandkids.

I’m currently doing what I can with what I have though... and even though I’m not moving thru my list of diverse things I want to try/do, there are ways to get along with what I have and still accomplish ‘production’ –maybe not my intended items or direction... but something is always better than nothing.

If you have an old sweater, and an old summer top- you can make 5 or 6 of these:

I happened to have 100 burlap sacks... so one winter project was Miss Bunny.
Now I’m working on getting her into photos so I can feature her in a little story book. 
Kind of like the things that get sent all around the world getting their photo snapped by people in different locations and then sent on to someone else... It's kind of fun- and has given me something to DO when walking the dog and scoping the neighborhood out!

Sometimes it’s not something that keeps growing in scope, it’s just one tiny thing...

What kinds of old fashioned skills do you practice? 

What would you like to learn / to do?  

On one of those 'at least do one small thing' days ...I finally worked up the ‘umph’ to dismantle the crappy frame... and touch up that mixed media picture – adding better shading all around (and that blue egg doesn’t look so much like it was printed out – which it was!)

But now I won’t cringe when I see it! 
(Truth is that most paintings aren’t done until they’ve been observed on the wall for a while and my eye can detect the flaws.)

Every day I must move forward with at least one thing.... so today, aside from watering the garden, (spraying liberally with ‘OFF” because it’s mosquito season), re-potting the luscious rosemary plants (that I propagated from store-bought in wintertime), bleaching the sinks and the toilet, doing dishes, laundry, manning the office phone, and watching a few more educational videos out of the side of my eye... while writing this thing up... whew... I have started another egg-in-nest painting.

I'm hoping to practice creating a highlighted area as if 'backlit'. Sorta. 
One in that series I’m hoping to one day hang in my future kitchen, but will keep me company now, in this space that contains so many dreams.

If I could impart one idea to you today... it’s this:
Do ONE THING every day that moves you closer in some way, toward the reality (or future) that you dream of. Otherwise, how will you ever get there?

And on that realism, I’ll close. The paintbrush is calling.

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