Sunday, October 25, 2009

Garden Redux

We're winterizing the garden now. Our first year's attempt has, with few exceptions, crashed and burned. If anything, it's made me more determined and maybe a little smarter.

Our goal on our five acres is to have a large, self sustaining garden. The tiny self-watering boxes we have now are a drop in the bucket compared with what we'll have to have in order to eliminate produce purchasing. But it being my first year seriously growing anything, starting small was a necessity.

I'll freely admit that this summer growing season was horrible. My small victories when my motley crew of plants started producing quickly turned into side-show horrors. I never knew bugs proliferated so quickly. Thick, wriggling layers of bugs coated the supple vines and sucked the baby fruits into wrinkled lumps.

FYI assassin beetles fly. When the more than inch long bug, with long spidery legs and a formidable needle nose flew at me after I determinedly sprayed it with orange oil, I swear I could hear him laugh. I have no shame in telling you I gave a most girly shriek and ran for cover, those bastards are scary. And did I mention they fly?? I have a thing about freaky airborne bugs, especially freaky airborne bugs that bite.

The stink bugs and shield beetles were no better but at least they're smaller. Aphids were a nuisance we had as well. Then the eight days of rains drown out over half the plant varieties leaving only a couple of stubborn greenies behind.

Butternut Squash before the invasion.

But that's all past now. I'm hoping to have learned my lessons with the bugs and rains and next summers garden will be heartier, healthier and much much more productive. It really can't get much less productive. I'm picking up some special cloth to cover the beds to organically deter the pests and spending the winter building the frames for said covers. My goal is to do this free or cheap and I'll update on that when I get it worked out.

I ordered music garlic, yellow and bunching onions and a potato mix to winterize the beds. Plus, a bit of sugar snap peas to grow indoors. I'm hoping the fact the produce will be under the ground or in the house will help with pests. I'm still nursing a single very late blooming pepper to harvest I still have high hopes at least those jerks of the bug world didn't fly away with those.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

About a dog named Sammy.

Thanks Wikipedia for the photo
I found out last week by the city code enforcement that there are no chickens allowed. I had been hoping to get a foot forward towards our land, which is a few hundred miles away, by building a chicken coop and getting a couple chicks. In short clipped words my hopes were dashed.Oh, I'll still get my chickens, just not until we move.

This got me thinking about what animals I could get which I found I'm limited to the standard dog or cat. We have two cats already. A silly boy named Hiro and a fat bitchy girl, Molly. They're a few years old and occasionally bring me kitty sacrifices like gorgeous butterflies and the occasional squirrel. Yuck. At least they raise my hopes for being good barn cats. Somehow though, I think the butterflies are from Hiro,they just seem more his style and I don't think Molly would lower herself to such simplicity. Give her one of those pain in the ass squirrels that taunt the cats by running up a telephone pole and chittering squirrel obscenities a safe distance out of reach and you've given her a fair conquest. Be damned butterflies, squirrels just have more oomph.

So while I'm perfectly pleased with my pansy Hiro and crabby Molly (who I think would be great at kitty roller derby) I'm pretty settled with the cats we have. That just leaves a dog.

Rob and I aren't what you'd call "dog people". We like dogs. We grew up with dogs but many of the dog obsessing attributes just aren't there. So why do we want one? Well, it's easy. Dogs are cool. You will not ever find us with a dog in a stroller, those are for babies. Human ones. You won't find us dressing up a dog either. It's just not right (even if we had made one of our cats a faux lion mane hat one year for Halloween, that's different because cats hate that and it's funny). I can probably promise I will never have a bumper sticker saying "I love my dog" or "dog taxi". Not going to happen.

I personally can't stand tiny dogs either. Anything under, say, thirty pounds and it's more like a yippy toy to me. I want a dog that makes people reel when I walk down the street. A dog that doesn't take a "poo" but requires some heavy duty shit shoveling. One that needs a tranq gun instead of baby Benedryl. In essence, I want a small bear or pony that gets it's DNA in the canine family.

Tiny dogs are great but I treat them like single people with kids. Play with them a little and give them back. I know. I have single friends with small dogs. I play with their dogs, they play with my kids then take our property back at the end each having had our fill of the other. We get along great.

So, here comes Sammy. I fell absolutely head over heels in love with the first Newfoundland puppy I met. I haven't been the same since. I know that if the totally wonderful family hadn't been there scooping him up we would have. He was solid black and named Sammie and that just felt right to call this big bear of a dog. Even at six months the Sammie we met was well into the 50+lb range. Mmmm.

I wish Rob could have been there to see that lovely dog being tackled by toddlers and never even making a yip. Shaking off the kids and padding on huge paws a few feet away when he had too much. He was truly the gentle giant the breed is described as.

Now my heart is opened up a space for a 150lb black dog. I imagine Sammie romping with his two little boys that adopted him and picture our own Newfie, Sammy girl, romping some day with my bairn. We'd excavate the pond on our land so she can be true to her water loving nature and throw her mannequins to rescue.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our land has grown...upward.

Since our visit out last February it seems the weeds, wildflowers and brush have run rampant! Some are taller than me and as far as I can tell, there isn't a bare patch to be found without at least calf high grass. Lots of wonderful things happen when things are left to nature; there were some beautiful plants, a plethora of butterflies, grasshoppers and crickets, the sound of lively birds chirping. Also, many not as great things, like the six foot bushes, especially when hoping to build.

So, now the next on our to-do list has become cleaning off the land. As picturesque as it is now, there's just no way to build without some extensive cleaning up. I've posted on craigslist to find someone that can do it but I think we might be waiting till we can rent an RV and meet whomever up there. It was just too hard this last time keeping the kids in the car buckled in their seats.

We drove around a bit up into Lake Butler. There wasn't much out there though. Perhaps if we go up in an RV we can take a more extensive drive. The GPS defiantly helped us not to get lost! We couldn't find the land on the GPS since we don't have an address yet and Rob couldn't get the file with the lat. and long. to open before we left, but after we got there we pin pointed ourselves.

Not much accomplished but the photo above just strengthened out desire to get out there as soon as we can!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our Five Acres

So, before we get into what we're going to be doing on the land, I thought maybe we should actually tell you about the property. We do in fact have a 5.3 acre parcel in Lake Butler, Florida. We found these really great guys up in Gainesville, Jim Jean Realty, that deals with owner financed land parcels and pretty much only that.

Doug was our main guy there and he was terriffic at helping us out. Initially, I went up with the kids and put down a deposit on the land. It has a partly wooded area which is great and a low lying area which we could excavate later into a real pond, it's a pond during the rainy season. According to them, these features lowered the price, to us they're boons and the lower price made it even better!

When Rob came home on his 2 week break in Feburary, we all went up again and checked it out and signed the final paperwork. Jim and his family were wonderful with our kids. They're also a large family and familiar with military life. If you're interested in land in North Florida, I suggest getting on their email list. They'll send out updates when they get new comminuities.

Here's a few shots of our land.

As we understand we'll have three neighbors. It already has road access. We'll have to build a well and septic. Electric is present but will have to be hooked up to whatever structure we start with. We can't get a mailing address yet which is very frustrating. We can't have anything delivered without an address but we can't have an address without anything on the property, which makes getting shipping estimates for containers difficult.

The land used to be a sod farm, so there are uneven tracks through out where they used tractors to pull up the beds of sod. We'll have to get the ground leveled and packed. I want to go out soon with the soil testing kit so we know what type of soil we're dealing with. We'd also like to plant some saplings or small trees which have time to mature and throw down some grass and flower seeds which will help to tighten up the top layer of soil.

Early next year, we're planning on taking another trip up to stake out some preliminary positions for structures and get more acurate measurements on tree positions. Then we can map out where we want the drive way and other things. There's a big difference between 5.3 acres and a lot that's 30x100 which is about what we have now. I think we had figured out we could fit 63 of our current sized lots on the new one!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Container Housing

We are looking at using recycled shipping containers for a self-build home on the site. I've been seeing these every day in Iraq and have wondered how feasible this would be. I have CAD templates of 20' and 40' ISO containers and have been learning AutoCAD. My goal is to be able to create plans that would pass any building department scrutiny. I also completed the US Army CSC container inspection course and am qualified to verify the seaworthiness of used containers.

In addition to AutoCAD, we are doing our preliminary floorplans in Visio. I want to use Better Homes and Gardens home design software for doing 3D walkthroughs. The more we can plan out in advance, the better.

We are considering using reclaimed grey water for irrigation, flushing toilets, etc. and using solar to pre-heat the hot water supply for the house.

More to come!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We'll be up soon!

Five Acre Project website and blog will be up and running shortly. Please bookmark us and check back!