All Strung up

Things have been certifiably crazy around here. Or was that me? Several weeks ago The Husband had surgery that he’s been waiting to have for a while. The opportunity came up for him to have it done out of town, with less than a week’s notice, and we went for it. We didn’t think it was going to be as big of a deal as it was. Thankfully, family members were able to drive him there and be with him while I looked after the baby, school runs and things at home. The surgery went well but we were told he needed to be off work for four weeks! He arrived home with a stack of medication and I was told I had to take him straight to ED if there was more than the acceptable amount of blood. And I had just been trying to get dinner on the table while feeding the baby and wrangling both kids for bed, plus having issues of my own to deal with.

I’m not going to pretend I didn’t slip into the fear hole in those early days. Apparently the mention of “ED” was enough to make the trauma of being with The Husband in ED while I was in the last trimester of pregnancy come flooding back. The Husband wasn’t doing so well the first few days and I was just trying to keep the ship afloat. Looking after everyone, especially around dinner time, was hard. To make things more crazy, The Husband had a couple of phone or video job interviews the day after surgery, because he thought he’d be fine. Thankfully, the adrenaline and everything hadn’t worn off by then, but afterwards he crashed. At the end of the week, I got him to an in-person interview. He wasn’t feeling good but while he was in there I drove around to get Miss Scarlet to sleep and prayed like nobody’s business and had asked other people to pray too. The whole situation seemed ridiculous – nobody chooses to do these things in the same week – yet I had a good feeling about this particular job.

As I drove and prayed my worries subsided into the sense, the presence, of God’s faithfulness. He knew what he was doing even if the timing seemed ridiculous to us. Sometimes the ridiculous can lead to the wonderful. The Husband felt good once he got in there and he did a great job. That afternoon he was offered and accepted the job. We were both like stunned mullets, extremely thankful but, like, what?! Not much got done on the weekend because we were exhausted. Thankfully, some friends saved my sanity by cooking some meals for us. I think the icing on the cake for me was when The Husband said he gets a work ute (truck if you’re in the US) to drive. That is The Little Fulla’s dream, to have a ute, well, a dream for all of us really, but The Little Fulla often talks about having a ute one day. I can’t wait until he’s surprised by its appearance.

The Husband is doing much better now and we’re out of survival mode and clawing our way back again. I feel like that’s been a bit of a theme this year. I am currently juggling chicken butchering season and making a bunch of different baby food since Miss Scarlet has just started trying solids, on top of catching up on housework, gardening, storage endeavours and all the other things. So far I have gotten pureed pumpkin (actually squash), kumara (sweet potato) and rice frozen in little portions.

Garden

We’re gobbling up tasty peaches from our early Springcrest peach tree.

It took a while, but all the strings for the beans and tomatoes have been strung from the frames. Last year was our first time using this exact method for tomatoes, with metal standards (Y posts), metal conduit and PVC tees. It worked very well for hanging strings off to wind the tomatoes up.

This is how we wind the tomatoes.

Since we have so many climbing bean varieties this season I thought I’d try a bunch of them on this trellis system. I know they can climb up strings, I just wasn’t sure if they would manage on the somewhat slippery polypropylene twine that we have. It is working! I had to get the beans wound around the string to start with but most of them have just taken off and some have commandeered two or three strings or are fraternising with their neighbour varieties. That’s fine, as long as they’re climbing. I planted ones that I think are more vigorous under the wire mesh arches instead. Apache Red has been a bit reluctant to grab hold of the strings but the others have it sorted and Fat Goose won the race to the top.

The climbing beans are climbing. That’s always a bonus. Here, Fat Goose is victorious.

Most of the vegetable crops are growing well but they would do better if we had more rain. I haven’t gotten much watering done and it has reached temperatures of stinkin’ hot, which are normally reserved for January or February. Summer has arrived like its got something to prove. I have a lot of weeding ahead of me, which is daunting, but there is good food growing in the ground. Sometimes gardening is a hard slog, but if you persist, learn and adapt you reap the rewards. We can make a thousand excuses for why we can’t grow something but what I tell myself is this: Just grow it.

Chickens

I started butchering a few chickens when the oldest of the youngies got to 12 weeks of age. Helen Cluck also made a one-way trip to freezer camp. She turned broody after two other hens were already broody so I figured it was her time to go. It is harder choosing which cockerels to butcher this time since they are better quality. A good problem. I started with Ninja’s sons as she has the worst colouring so I don’t want the father of future offspring to come from her. I want to see how her daughters turn out. I’ve been trying to observe the cockerels more and hold some of them at night so I can check them over. I am checking for general faults, like a crooked breast bone, split wing or wonky comb, plus breed or colour faults. The Little Fulla’s male chicken, Winkles, unfortunately got on my cull list because his comb wasn’t straight and his tail wasn’t the best. He also had some slight barring on some feathers. The Little Fulla wasn’t happy about this, even though we talked about it at the start, but it’s a reality of homesteading or farm life that most male animals can’t stay. I made sure I talked about it as much as I could before I did the deed, explaining about quality, space restrictions and roosters fighting.

It isn’t the best photo, but this cockerel’s comb curves to one side at the back.

I’ve had trouble getting the youngest batch of chickens into the coops at night. There are always some that take a few goes of training or shutting up in the coop, but this lot took WEEKS. They are quite absurd. I think it’s because I separated the girls and boys into different but adjacent pens straight away and they keep wanting to get back together. When I went out to check the chickens at night the boys were huddled in a corner by the gate to the girls pen and the girls were in the corner on their side, behind Featherburn Lodge. Then it turned into the boys sleeping and pooping on top of the auto feeders, even if I’d put them in the coop. A few nights of shutting them in still didn’t cement the message in all of their brains. One little cockerel is determined to sleep out on top of the auto-feeder, even by himself. Most chickens are smarter than that. They’ve finally got it sorted now, with put-ins, shut-ins and herding. And maybe a few culinary threats. There’s just that one little dude that I keep finding on top of the auto-feeder BY HIMSELF. But you know what? He’s one of Ninja’s sons. I just have to wait until little Teriyaki is big enough…

Indoors

I’ve been sussing out some kitchen storage solutions lately. We’ve been keeping more things in bulk and have been slowly acquiring more kitchen prep items so our small kitchen was in need of keeping up. Its size makes me focus on keeping what we use and getting rid of what we don’t, but we do pump a lot of food out of our wee kitchen. We got the shelf above the fridge built, which is very exciting to me, partly because it enabled us to move things off our dining table and elsewhere and partly because it feels so good to be building something again. I would rather have boxed out the cavity above the fridge but that would have taken much longer with having to remove moulding and so on. At some point it will get painted. I’m figuring out what to do with the space above our kitchen cupboards now, since some of the things up there moved above the fridge.

I’ve been at work in the pantry too. I’ve installed two wire baskets on the inside of the door and I’m waiting for the third one (which got sent separately) to be delivered. These are for storing onions and garlic. The stacking baskets on the floor that used to hold the onions and garlic are now holding potatoes and kumara (sweet potatoes), although we need something else to store more potatoes. I bought two 20L food grade buckets for storing wholemeal flour and high grade flour for the family’s bread consumption. I haven’t quite finished organising in the pantry yet but I’m enjoying the orderliness, especially since things outside are so disorderly. It’s easier to wrangle the kitchen than the weeds.

One day the idea just came to me to install baskets on the pantry door. There’s one more to come.
We were storing packets of flour in this bag, like a flour tower, but 20L buckets with scoops are so much better! We also have smaller plastic containers of flour for ease of use.

Christmas season is here. We’ve been doing the advent calendar house with the Christmas story but I haven’t posted about it this year since it’s been hard to keep up with everything. I’ve put up some Christmas decorations but there’s no Christmas tree yet. The potted Christmas tree on the deck that I bought and used last Christmas hasn’t magically grown into a beautiful specimen. It’s a reminder that I’m not very good at looking after plants in pots. It might have helped if I fed it. I did finally feed it, the other week… I think it may have been getting too much water as well. Unbeknownst to me The Little Fulla had watered it a few times to help it along for Christmas. It’s still alive, it’s just not at it’s best. I will get it into the house at some point!

Next on the to-do list is water the garden, wind the tomatoes, sow more corn, get mulch for the potatoes, weed the garden, weedwhack the bad long grasses, mow the lawn, clean the bathroom, replace the ventilation system filter, clean the chicken coops, clean the chicken equipment, deal with the broody hens and continue chicken butchering and making baby food. And then, there are the other things. If I don’t get the next blog post out in a timely manner perhaps check that I haven’t been swallowed up by the rampant grasses.

Despite the craziness, I am thankful to have my family with me and that we are ok. We have been able to have a lot of family time together even if some of us haven’t been able to do much. The Husband has been able to spend more time with Miss Scarlet, which is lovely for both of them.

Scarlet runner bean.

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