Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

Chilled Kid Becomes House Guest

High Reaches Sprite’s Matilda had her kids the other night. The day was cool, but not bad. The temperatures went down with the sun. One chilled kid had to go to the house.

A chilled kid is a kidding emergency. Kids are born wet, get cold, get hypothermia, stop responding to their mother and die.

chilled kid in goat coat in morning
Still in his goat coat in the morning, the little kid is awake and hungry. He still can’t stand on the towel or the linoleum. He is no longer cold.

In Matilda’s case this was complicated by the sizes of the two kids. I read once long ago that, if the developing kids share a placenta, one can get most of the nutrition and get large while the other one is small. This is what I faced that night.

The larger doe was up on her feet, drinking milk and doing well. Such a kid is not a good house guest. Such a kid needs a goat coat, a sheltered place to sleep and will do fine.

chilled kid now up and walking
The kid needs to eat frequently so he went to town with me. He enjoyed being at the laundromat as the rough texture of the indoor outdoor carpet was made for walking on. When he got home, he could handle the linoleum.

The smaller buck was second born. He got cold. He shivered for a time then stopped. He spoke to his mother for a time and stopped.

Drying this kid off didn’t help. Putting a goat coat on him didn’t help. He refused to eat. He had to get warmed up.

I had a choice to make. If I took both kids into the house, the larger one would be lively and unhappy. However, Matilda would take both back in the morning.

If I took only the chilled kid inside, Matilda would assume she had only one kid. I would be stuck with a bottle baby.

chilled kid meets sister
The little buck’s sister got to spend the day out in the barn. Matilda mostly left her parked in a corner while she went out to graze. The sister sniffed noses with her brother, but doesn’t know him. Hopefully they will be playmates in a couple of weeks. He has lots of red on him. She is deep black with white star, frosted ears and nose.

The lateness of the hour (nearly midnight) made thinking things through difficult. I chose to have the bottle baby.

Once inside, I fitted up a box with a towel on the bottom (I have a couple dozen bath towels for emergencies such as this.), a heating pad under plastic and another towel on top. The heating pad was set on warm, the kid was put into the box.

Heating pads are a wonderful invention. Mine is old and I dread trying to replace it. This one stays on for two hours and has a warm setting, perfect for a chilled kid.

In an hour the little buck was ready to drink some milk. Two hours later he wanted more. Three hours later he wanted more and I had to get up for the day.

chilled kid enjoying the garden
An afternoon in the garden was interesting for a short time for the kid. He enjoyed basking in the sun. He’s already nibbling at things although eating is a couple of weeks away. Mostly he found gardening rather boring. I wish he could help pull weeds.

There are several problems with bottle babies. One is how often they need to eat for a few days. As I had to be in town most of the day, the bottle baby went to town. He had a wonderful time learning to walk on the rough carpet in the laundromat.

At home the little guy is off and running. The linoleum still gives him some problems, but the wood stove is a great nap spot. The floors are scattered with towels as baby kids are prolific producers of yellow rivers.

My next trip to the laundromat will include at least a dozen towels. The chilled kid is now doing fine. His name has changed from Pest to Holy Terror. My cats agree as they vacate the house ceding it to him.

Poor Harriet faces her own goat emergencies in “Capri Capers.” Find out more on the sample pages.

Growing Older Gardening Tricks

My father loved gardening. I was not impressed as I was used as weed puller and little else. He was practicing a growing older gardening trick.

I have come to enjoy gardening. As I grow older, I am coming to appreciate such tricks.

Growing Older Gardening Trick 1

Younger gardeners seem to think the entire garden needs to be done in one or a few days. They take that big tiller out and plow up the whole garden. They follow this with raking, setting out rows, setting out seeds and plants, watering and collapse in the evening with aching muscles.

My garden is divided up into pieces, mostly four by ten. I work up one section each day. This takes a couple of hours. Then I wander off to do something else like take a walk or read a book.

Oh, yes, about that tiller: Sell it.

growing older gardening trick: potato fork
One of the difficulties from growing older is getting less done in the same amount of time. So I picked up black walnuts and didn’t mulch the garden beds. This leaves me removing weeds this spring. A potato fork is great for this. It lifts and breaks the soil making pulling the weeds easier. That is not to be confused with easy. Dead nettle has fibrous roots and makes a root mass two or three inches deep. It must all be pulled up at once in large chunks. Mulch prevents dead nettle from growing.

Small spaces don’t need the use of a tiller. Rich garden dirt containing plenty of compost does not need a tiller. A potato fork works fine.

Growing Older Gardening Trick 2

My father used children to pull his weeds. That works fine, if you have children wanting to earn a little money.

Some gardeners use herbicides. These are not necessary.

Mulch is the secret. My garden sections are normally mulched fall and spring with extra as needed.

This is not wood chips, plastic or other commercial mulch. My goats supply plenty of bedding (Do note that even expensive alfalfa hay becomes bedding as soon as it touches the ground in the opinion of goats. And goats do drop lots of hay on the floor.) However commercial straw or free leaves work well.

Leaves do have problems as they blow easily. One solution is to put down the leaf layer and cover with a thin layer of dirt or straw. Another is to run the mower over the leaves and chop them into small pieces, but they need replenishing sooner that way.

Mulch does have drawbacks. Bugs like mulch. Some plants don’t do well if mulch is too close, think lettuces.

growing older gardening trick: mulch
Yes, weeds aka dead nettle and chickweed (edible) are growing in the garden pathways. The mulch will keep them out of the garden beds. Mulch will get rid of them the end of April. In the meantime the weeds bloom and feed the bees. On the garden bed, mulch does slow down how fast the soil warms, but keeps it cooler during heat spells and holds moisture.

Some weeds will grow up through mulch. Locust trees and morning glories are my main culprits. Most will not.

Growing Older Gardening Trick 3

Raised beds and containers are very helpful when large scale gardening, even in sections, becomes difficult. They are nice any time.

I love raising colored bell peppers. I also like sweet Macedonian peppers. The bells go in the garden proper. The others grow in large containers around the house. This way I can save seeds. This would work for sweet and hot peppers.

Raised beds can extend the gardening season. Access is needed from all sides to put everything within reach.

growing older gardening trick: build your soil with compost and mulch
Once the weed cover is removed, I can admire the rich garden soil. It’s built up using compost and mulch over the years. The soil is loose and easy to work up. There are still rocks in my garden as the Ozark soil grows rocks continuously. Other than carrots, nothing seems to mind my leaving the smaller ones.

Growing Older Gardening Trick 4

This is the hardest trick to do. It means putting aside a love of gardening and looking honestly at how much you are growing. Crops that take lots of work or you no longer use need to be discontinued. Cut back on how many plants you are tending as older people need to eat less.

Growing older is not an excuse to stop gardening. It is a reason to change how gardening is done.

Gardening is creeping into the Hazel Whitmore series. Mother and Grandfather are competing in the County Fair with their tomatoes. Check out “Mistaken Promises.”

Rough, Tough Cloudy Cat

Early every winter morning Cloudy Cat arrives to sit on the plant bench outside the window. He is patient. He knows I will fill the dishes in the house and open the cat door. He leaps in.

I sweep up the debris from the firewood littering the floor while Cloudy eats. He gets done first. And panics. The cat door is closed. He begins meowing, demanding to be let out.

Woe to any other cat who needs to go out or come in. Cloudy is there at the door any time it opens impatiently waiting for me to go to the barn.

Cloudy Cat waiting at barn door
Cloudy Cat is waiting at the barn door for me to get done carrying water and other assorted tasks and let him inside. As soon as he gets inside, milk should appear in his bowl. He never seems to catch on that I have to milk a goat first.

After starting the fire and eating breakfast, I head to the barn. Cloudy Cat leads the way, tail up, triumphant. His insistence has paid off. (Never mind that I go through the same routine every morning and always go to the barn to milk.)

Now comes show off time. Roll on the ground to trip walkers. Race by and up a tree. Bat a snowball or rock or bit of wood around. Keep checking to be sure of being noticed.

Cloudy Cat rolling in snow
Snow may be cold, but Cloudy Cat doesn’t mind. He throws himself on it and rolls over expecting me to stop and pet him. The fact that I have a bucket in each hand is my problem, not his.

The pay off is milk in a bowl still warm from the goat eating on the milkstand.

Cloudy Cat does catch mice in the barn. He must as he stays fat and sleek. I have seen him catch a few.

Mostly I see Cloudy showing off his technique. He crouches poised on a feed barrel top waiting for any mouse stupid enough to come out while the goats and I are tromping around. Amazingly, a few do.

Cloudy Cat sleeping on hay bale
Cloudy Cat is a typical cat. Naps are an essential part of his day. A sun-warmed bale of hay makes a good place to snooze.

When the weather permits, Cloudy enjoys shadowing me on a walk down the road and back. In bad weather he curls up in the hay or on a goat blanket to sleep. He insists on staying in the barn and has ever since he arrived here five or six years ago.

Late afternoons Cloudy is back at the house to eat dinner. He again retreats outside and waits. It is time to go to the barn so he can have his milk.

Once warm weather gets here and the cat door is open all the time, Cloudy Cat will stop sitting on the plant bench. He will come in and sit on top of me. After all, he is determined to get me out to that barn.

Having Fresh Goat Milk

I like milk. To be more precise, I like my own fresh goat milk and use it everyday. Having a steady supply requires planning out when the kids arrive.

A doe produces milk to feed her kids. Dairy animals are bred to produce more milk than their kids require and for a longer period than kids need milk.

fresh goat milk producer Nubian doe High Reaches Silk's Drucilla
Nubian doe High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla posed nicely for her picture, then threw a fit as her twin does were not with her. They came over wondering why their mother was so upset and got their pictures taken. All were glad to be set loose.

Long ago I found I could breed half my does each year and milk the others through the winter months. This does mean milking twice a day, every day, all year round.

The alternative is to purchase a freezer to freeze milk in to last for several months. The goats still need daily care. I milk every day and enjoy my fresh goat milk.

fresh goat milk producer Nubian Doe High Reaches Pixie's Agate
Nubian doe Agate loves attention, but hates being tied up. She is a first freshener and has been milking for a year now. A former bottle baby, she is very friendly and still wants me to go out to pasture with her.

This winter has been trying. Cold spells alternate with warm spells. Even some of the plants are confused as the maples started to swell their flower buds by January. They got blasted by the next cold spell.

It seems to mess the goats up as well. Normally my does have a big heat spell right after the first really cold spell in early September. They stand bawling up at Augustus for two or three days. They wag their tails. They need escort service to come into the milk room.

fresh goat milk producer Nubian doe High Reaches Juliette's Lydia
Nubian doe High Reaches Juliette’s Lydia is positive there is a better way to have her picture taken. I’m thinking the same thing, but haven’t come up with a better plan yet. My goats don’t seem to like posing for the camera.

The rest of the winter the does cycle regularly until they are bred, but at much lower intensity. This winter that changed. Every warm spell, cold spell cycle brought my does into vigorous heat cycles.

Augustus produces that odiferous musk over breeding season. The smell usually starts fading in February. Not this year. He must continue to impress his does and abuse the noses of others.

Each big heat cycle cuts a bit of production from the does I’m milking through. It isn’t much, but accumulates. My supply of fresh goat milk is getting stretches thin.

fresh goat milk producer Nubian doe High Reaches Violet
Nubian doe High Reaches Violet is an older doe. She cooperates with the picture taking, but is not impressed. She prefers acorns to oats. She expects escort service to the milk room most days.

Kids are scheduled to begin arriving in mid-March with the last in early April. This assumes the goats will follow my schedule. Drucilla’s December twin does show they are not overly impressed with the schedule.

Additional fresh goat milk is iffy while the kids are nursing. It depends on who milks first, me or them. They usually win.

The kids should leave in June. Then my kitchen will again overflow with fresh goat milk until November after October bred goats start drying off for the winter.

Find out more about goat milk and milking goats in “Goat Games.”

Eating Snow Makes Goats Happy

Dairy goats need lots of water. With four inches of snow on the ground, the goats are inside and I am hauling water. Except the goats ignored my buckets and stood aong the gym step eating snow.

Snow is cold. Eating too much of it can cause hypothermia. Advice for goat owners is to provide plenty of warm water to their goats.

Nubian does prefer eating snow to drinking water
Yes, I had to bribe the goats to perform. Earlier they were eager to come out and eat the snow as they had just finished their hay. Now they wanted more hay and had no interest in the camera or posing or water at all. One thing about Nubians: they love to eat.

So I do.

And the goats continue eating snow.

I suppose I could confine them to the barn forcing them to consume the warmer water I bring. I did do that the day it snowed.

Soon the goats were bickering. The younger ones were bounding into the milk room and leaping onto the hay. They were racing around the barn upsetting the pregnant does due next month.

I opened the gate. The goats poured out to bask in the sun that was so prominent yesterday.

Nubian doe prefers water to eating snow
High Reaches Valerie preferred to drink water. She is a coming yearling and totally disgusted with the snow and ice.

And I hauled water. And dumped unwanted buckets starting to ice over. I hauled more water to the milk room for those who wanted some after eating their grain. And I dumped half of that.

My goats have eaten snow for years. I don’t know why they prefer it to the warmer water in the buckets, but they do.

As with hay or grain, my goats are picky about the snow they eat. It must be clean, no hoof prints or dirt, definitely no goat berries. Since clean snow lasts only a day or two, eating snow is a short time activity.

Orange Cat drinking from goat bucket
My place seems to have traveling tom cats drop by every few years. They come by and stay. Orange Cat is the latest. Cloudy Cat is disgusted as Orange Cat sleeps in his barn. It is the goat’s barn, but cats take precedence. The cats normally have their own water dish by the hand pump, but it freezes in this weather. Orange Cat likes the goats and shares their water bucket.

The practice doesn’t seem to hurt the goats. Hay continues to disappear from the troughs quickly. Grain vanishes as though vacuums were at work.

My herd is doing fine. My pregnant does are getting wide and their udders are swelling. My milking does still produce milk. I will let them enjoy their few days eating snow.

February Ice Storm

Perhaps it is just a coincidence. Most likely it has no relation at all. However a February ice storm came by.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the space ship arrives in the middle of a February ice storm.

February ice storm coats everything
Ice coats this old log. It isn’t thick, but don’t step on it. Your foot will slide off possible making you fall. Such a coating was on the landing site for the Carduans. Thrill ride anyone?

This year’s February ice storm wasn’t much. It heralded a warm front coming in. About a quarter of an inch of freezing rain covered everything. During the day the ice melted and rain began.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the ice storm drops a half inch of ice as a cold front moves in. The sun does come out and melt the ice off the trees. This is typical of such storms in the Ozarks. And that’s a very good thing.

That quarter of an inch of ice is treacherous. Any surface becomes slick. Walking is asking to fall and get hurt. Driving is not advisable from my house as the hills will be too slick for even four wheel drive to conquer.

February ice storm encases tree twigs and branches
Twigs and branches sport an ice coating. This coating is thin. When the coating is a quarter of an inch thick, sunlight will sparkle through it making the trees into crystal structures. The thin coating will try to do this, but melted too soon this time.

There are drivers who believe four wheel drive makes any winter road passable. Ice removes all friction between the road and the tires. Without friction, the vehicle slides no matter how many tires are trying to find traction. I would rather stay home than slide off the road and twenty or thirty feet down into the creek bed.

February ice storm creates frozen drops
An ice storm is freezing rain. It falls as very cold rain that freezes on everything. This milkweed pod has an ice coating with more dripping off as frozen drops. These can get fairly long as new drops add onto the frozen ones already there.

The grass stuck up through the ice and made walking possible. The goats do need milking, hay and water, ice or no ice. The chickens need food and water. And I want those eggs and milk.

A February ice storm can be destructive. The ice is heavy and can break off branches, bend small trees to the ground or snap them off and break electric lines. This little storm did little damage.

Instead the storm set the mood as I work my way slowly through the first rewrite of “The Carduan Chronicles.” In that the ice storm is followed by snow. There is snow in the forecast. I wonder.

Buying Seeds Galore

January thaw. The garden beckons. Spring is coming. I’m buying seeds to suit my garden dreams.

Gardens have a finite size. No matter how many books come out about squeezing more plants into less space, the only way to have more space is to make a bigger garden. Bigger gardens mean more work. Mine is big enough.

buying seeds for peas and greens
Red cabbage is unusual in my garden. I think it will show up more often in the fall since it is more frost hardy than the green cabbage. These will be gone by March. Peas will move in by the end of March. Maybe some spring cabbage. Maybe lettuce. Choices, choices. So many seeds to choose from.

Rationally I should calmly assess how last year’s garden worked. What grew well? What did we eat? What did we like? What was a waste of time?

Buying seeds is not done rationally. Not by me. Well, a little.

The catalogs make everything look fantastic. Those gorgeous vegetables look delicious.

We love corn. Corn takes lots of room. Raccoons love corn. I don’t grow corn.

buying seeds for spring planting in a mulched bed
What will grow here? Last year Chinese Winter Melon spread its vines down the section between okra plants. Maybe Yukon gold potatoes will grow here this year. The pathway is full of dead nettle and chickweed for the spring bees. That will disappear under mulch in late April.

Winter squash is wonderful. I love growing pumpkins. Both take lots of room. How many can two people eat? The goats don’t mind eating the extra.

My diet needs more greens in it. Not everyone in the household agrees. However, I have friends who love the extras.

Rutabaga is one vegetable I rarely have any luck with. I love this root crop. It hates the Ozarks. I persist.

Spinach, snow peas and peas are on the early list. Yard long beans are on the later list.

Potatoes are definitely on the list. They grow so well. I do plant fewer as we can’t eat them all.

No need for buying seeds for the garlic patch
All winter the garlic has settled in under the mulch. This is one crop planted in the fall as spring garlic gets burned by summer heat in the Ozarks.

Four summer staples are on the list. Okra, summer squash, sweet peppers –both colored bell and long ones – and tomatoes will be in the garden. I always seem to end up with many more plants than planned for.

Buying seeds is such fun. Garden dreams are so wonderful. Reality sets in about June. By then it’s too late for rationality. The garden will again become a jungle, a delicious jungle, a frustrating jungle.

And I will do it again next year.

Wonderful Fur Coats

Winter cold, ice, snow reign in the Ozarks for another month or so. Coats, hats, long underwear add girth and still the cold seeps through. The cats sit and play in the snow in their wonderful fur coats.

I’m jealous.

Tyke and Cloudy have shared the barn for several years. Tyke was there first and is older. They stay in the barn by choice pretending to hunt mice. They do catch a few to impress me from time to time.

Over the winter the two cats found cozy beds in the hay or on extra goat blankets and coats. The house was used overnight only in extreme cold and for cat food.

winter fur coats help keep Cloudy cat warm
My cat Cloudy is one tough cat. His winter coat is an inch thick. He races and jumps through the snow. He makes small snowballs to bat around. He can’t understand why I don’t want to stay out with him.

Running fingers through the cats’ wonderful fur coats is to find them thick and soft. A generous undercoat makes the coats like deep plush velvet. This traps heat. The outer fur sheds water to keep the undercoat dry.

Tyke is getting older and now sleeps on the floor in the house. He prefers the cold floor to warm blankets. I don’t mind as he doesn’t share well and thinks my side of the bed is his and I can move elsewhere.

This bed stealing is a subtle thing. He waits until I am asleep, moves up against me and shoves. I roll over. He repeats. Lucky for me he starts on the outside or I would be on the floor.

Days Tyke goes out. He catches mice in the hen house. He catches voles in the pastures. Rain or snow, he goes out.

Tyke cat warm in winter fur coats
My cat Tyke comes into the house with snow or rain on his fur and uses my leg for a towel. I see him out in the pasture walking through the grass in any weather. He seems unaware that such weather should chase him indoors.

Cloudy is more of a clumsy clown when I see him. He loves showing off bounding through show, racing up trees, leading the way with sudden stops to trip me up. Days in the twenties don’t slow him down.

As I put on the layers getting ready to go out to milk or put out hay or carry water, I look at those wonderful fur coats and sigh. I try to remember that next summer those fur coats won’t look so tempting.

Feeding Winter Birds

We didn’t plan to feed the wild birds when we moved here twenty-five years ago. It’s just winter birds have such a hard time finding enough to eat when it snows. So I tossed out some scratch feed by the barn.

Watching the birds was fun. Juncos, chickadees, sparrows and cardinals became regulars every morning.

winter birds wait for their seeds
Shortly after dawn the birds begin to gather watching and waiting. The cardinals are the easy ones to spot due to their size and color. There are mornings not a bird seems to be in sight. Yet, as soon as the tray of seeds is set out, they swoop in from all around. Winter birds are easier to see as they can’t hide behind the leaves.

There’s a window in the kitchen looking out at the back yard. This was the perfect place for a feeder so we put up a platform.

In the snow the tray was full of white stuff. In the rain the seeds went swimming. I built a roof.

Over the years our feeder has never been fancy. The birds don’t seem to care. The big tray holds sunflower seeds. The dog dish holds scratch feed. A water pan is there when it won’t freeze. Otherwise the creek and a spring fed pond are close by.

The local NPR station had a weekly bird commentary. Mike Doyan mentioned peanut butter. So we put out a lump on a half brick.

This year we are trying some suet. It took weeks to get them to try it. The birds like cheap peanut butter better. They prefer cheap generic peanut butter to natural stuff.

This newest feeder top has higher sides than the last one making it harder to see the birds. It is sturdier as high winds have come through the last few years blowing the roof off the feeder several times. The roof doesn’t look like much, but it does keep the rain and snow off the winter birds.

Over the years the population of birds has changed and increased. We feed year round. Winter birds are still the favorites.

Our winter birds now include mourning doves, cardinals, juncos, chickadees, sparrows, nuthatches, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers and purple finches. They line up on the feeder and in the nearby trees in the morning waiting for breakfast to arrive.

And it does arrive. When snow is on the ground, the feeder is packed with birds coming and going. The sunflower seeds need replenishing in the afternoon.

We have a new, larger kitchen window now. Standing there watching the feeder can delay meals. It is wonderful entertainment for us and a life saver for the winter birds.

Find out more about our bird feeding adventures in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Unhappy Goat Snow Days

My Nubian goats are spoiled. Dairy goats in general seem that way, or so I hear. They hate to get wet or tromp through the snow. They like to go out romping. Snow days are tough on them.

The first day wasn’t too bad. My herd is smaller now and has plenty of room in the barn to argue among themselves. Standing around with enough hay in the troughs to replace their bedding is fun too.

Nubian goat herd on snow days

Snow is still covering most of the ground. Still my Nubians look out from under their door cover blanket hoping I will open the pasture gate. Somehow I must be able to give them their pasture back minus the snow. I wish I knew how. They need the exercise. Mobbing the milk room door is not exercise for them, only frustration for me.

Even Augustus didn’t mind the first day. He is lonely now without Gaius around. He liked having the herd stay around all day.

Day two wasn’t so fun. The goats have plenty of hay to eat. They are bored with hay. Acorns are tastier. New hay doesn’t appear often enough.

Water is another complaint. The buckets don’t arrive often enough. Of course, the goats can’t be bothered to get drinks when they do arrive. New hay is on the agenda, then water. I am supposed to wait around until they are ready.

Nubian buck Augustus on snow days

Nubian buck High Reaches Silk’s Augustus has room in his pen, just not enough. By day 3, he is ready and eager to get outside and run. Unfortunately the snow is not leaving and he is stuck watching the world go by.

Exercise is important. The goats chase each other around in the barn. There is one bench and the thunder of feet going over it is almost continuous. I’m glad I got it repaired last week.

Augustus is tired of snow days. His pen is big enough for a short time. Two days is too long. He wants out to play too. His brand of playing is not appreciated by the does.

Up north the snow days lasted for months. This herd would go nuts. Luckily for my herd Ozark snow days last only a few days.

The storm should pass tonight. The sun will start melting the snow tomorrow. By the next day the goats will be ready to race out the gate churning up the mud as they buck and bounce their way out to find those acorns.

Enjoy raising goats? Try Dora’s Story.

Changing Climate Gardening

I’ve had a garden here for twenty-five years. It was very small the first few years. It’s grown and changed over the years. It has always been challenging, but gardening in this time of changing climate is hard.

Ozark springs are normally short, warm and wet. I skipped cold weather crops like cabbage and broccoli.

The last two years spring has been long, cold with frosts, wet and miserable. This is great for cabbage and broccoli. So I put some in.

changing climate lets cabbage grow in winter

The mulch keeps the ground from freezing. The biggest problem with it is cold and wet rotting roots, but that hasn’t happened this winter. Normally even cabbage and turnips are done in December. This winter they are still growing in January.

Except.

The plants were growing well, looking great. The temperatures went up into the eighties, humidity to match and no rain. Both crops rotted.

Lots of people put in their tomato plants when the weather is still cool thinking they will get a head start. The plants languish.

I prefer to wait until the weather is warm and settled as my plants will catch up quickly because they are happy.

Except.

Tomato plants do not like eighties and nineties with hot sun. They hunker down refusing to grow, blossom or set fruit. Even providing shade doesn’t help much.

Fall into early winter has been a good time for lettuces and cabbage. Changing climate has winter confused. My plastic protections must be taken off for days, then put back on.

broccoli survives winter in changing climate

Broccoli takes a lot of cold, but not twenty degrees and under. That hasn’t been a big problem this winter. The plants are growing slowly under makeshift plastic shelters. Maybe I’ll have broccoli this spring.

The seed catalogs are sitting on my kitchen table. I want to put a seed order together. The changing climate must affect what I grow. I need to try some new crops. Crops that can tolerate drought, heat and weeds.

Maybe I should start growing more of the edible weeds. The changing climate doesn’t seem to devastate them. Perhaps I will cut back on the lettuce and other tame greens and expand into more wild greens.

However, tomatoes, okra, winter squash and bell peppers stay in the garden. These are the joys of summer eating. These make winter menus so much better.

Where are those seed catalogs?

Exploring Water This Year

A few years ago I wrote a book called “The Pumpkin Project.” It was based on some of the experiments I’d used in my classes to explore botany. At the time I was also doing science projects on my website. One summer those projects were about exploring water.

As I finished “The Pumpkin Project,” I planned to do another science book called “The Water Project.” After all, I had the experiments. The book didn’t get done.

The Pumpkin Project

I enjoy science. Finding out about how things work is interesting. At least, it’s interesting if you do the experiments instead of just reading about them. Too many schools and teachers have students read the text and answer the questions with no lab work.

Water is getting a lot of attention lately. A person can live on water alone for about a month. Without water survival shrinks to a week. For many people around the world, getting enough clean water is a daily challenge.

exploring water with water tower

Do you know what this is and what it does? Do you know how it works? That will be in “The City Water Project.”

Water is so necessary, yet we in the United States rarely give it a thought. It is supposed to be there whenever we want it.

How much do you really know about water? Where does your water come from? What happens to that water before it arrives in your house? What happens to it after it leaves your house?

“The City Water Project” is taking form. The investigations allow young people to do labs exploring water, what it is and how it works. The activities can be fun. The project will be challenging.

 

Goat Games

As in “Goat Games” and “The Pumpkin Project,” there will be pencil puzzles to work. These too will aid in exploring water. My biggest challenge will be not making the puzzles too difficult. But you might like a challenge.

“The City Water Project” will be lots of fun over a summer. After all, what fun is exploring water if you can’t get wet?

Kids First Day Out

The Nubian doe kids are two weeks old. They run and play, jump up on the gym, the hay trough, the sleeping bench. They want to have a first day out in the big world.

Two weeks old is very young. The herd is going far up the hill pasture hill. The kids will get tired and go to sleep. I won’t be able to find them.

The day dawns cold and frosty, but bright and sunny. The grass is short, easy for kids to see the herd and their mother. The herd wants out even before milking is over.

I could wait until the kids go back in the barn and go to sleep. The frost will melt by that time. If I hide in the house, I won’t hear the goats calling, asking why they aren’t out yet.

goat kids first day out is for exploring

Nubian doe Drucilla doesn’t get much eating done as she tries to keep up with her kids.

Drucilla is a wonderful mother goat. She stayed in almost two weeks with her kids. Most stay in only a week before trying to sneak out the gate. She has a big Nubian voice. Those kids will hear her a quarter of a mile easily. Her kids have big voices too.

If not now, when? How old is old enough? Winter kids have advantages with the short grass and bare branches of bushes.

The goats are calling. They are standing in the barn lot looking at me and at the pasture gate. “It’s a beautiful day to be out,” they seem to say. “Please let us out.”

kids first day out in woods

The goat kids are having a wonderful time going up and down the hills. It’s much more interesting than being stuck in the barn all day.

I’ll snag the kids as they try to go out the gate. I go to the gate with the herd and open it. The herd pours through.

Drucilla has her kids beside her. If I snag them, she will turn around and stay in crying mournfully all day. They are bouncing, so excited at this first day out.

I watch as the three get to the bridge. The kids won’t cross. Drucilla goes back and talks to them. And the three are min the middle of the herd as it winds its way up the hill pasture.

I do want to go out for a walk later today. If I happen to wander up the hill pasture, that’s a good walk.

Mother Goat Care

Winter kids bring special concerns as these small goats need to keep warm. This can overshadow mother goat care.

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla is a big, healthy mother goat in the prime of her life. She doesn’t look like she needs special care. She would sneer at the notion, if she understood.

Nubian doe High Reaches Silk's Drucilla

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla is a big Nubian doe, about 140 pounds. Her coat gleams. her milk is good. She seems in good health. Still, raising kids is stressful so I keep an eye on her.

That doesn’t change a thing.

Long ago the standard advice was to deworm a doe just after she had her kids. The sequestered worms would flood her system due to the stress of kidding.

I followed this for years. Drucilla is glad I don’t now. Instead I have a waiting game. If she appears to have an overload problem, she will eat wormer, to her disgust. If her coat remains silky, her droppings normal, she gets to skip the awful stuff.

Nubian doe guarding kids

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla is a wonderful mother goat. She is constantly on the alert for any threat to her kids. This includes a chicken walking by, a cat chasing mice, me putting on or taking off goat coats and, especially, me picking up a kid to pet it.

One bit of mother goat care I do follow is for milking. Yes, I let my does raise their kids. Years ago I had time for all the bottles and fussing. Now I don’t. Both my does and I are much happier.

That doesn’t mean Drucilla gets to skip milking. Being a Nubian, she would never miss a chance to eat unless she were ill. While she inhales her grain, I check her udder and milk her out every morning and every night.

Nubian doe kids out to play

These Nubian doe kids have their mother well trained. If they want to stay in the barn, so does she. If they want to go outside and play, so does she. If she calls, they ignore her. Sounds like kids, doesn’t it?

The first couple of days, I don’t milk unless the doe’s udder is congested or full. I do take some of the first colostrum and freeze it for emergency use. This precious first milk is produced before the kids arrive and not after. It is important for the kids. I let them have as much as they want.

By the third day, the colostrum is diluted with milk. The kids are still too young to empty a large udder like Drucilla has. I milk the extra out. My barn cats Cloudy, Tyke and Orange Cat are delighted with the bounty.

mother goat and doe kids

This is where Drucilla would enjoy standing to bask in the sun for a time. The kids find this a good place to run and play, for now.

Other mother goat care depends on the doe. Often their hooves need trimming as they were too big to do before the kids arrived. Their kids may need help learning where their meals come from.

My does are kept in a special pen for a few days. this pen is set up with places for the kids to sleep and keep warm. The doe can have extra hay. And the rest of my does are safe from overly protective mother goats.

As soon as the kids are playing, the special pen comes down. There are places for the kids to sleep in peace. And mother goat care becomes general goat care.

What do you do when your new does have kids the same day? Harriet finds out in Capri Capers.

Enjoying Winter Goat Kids

Winter in the Ozarks has its ups and downs this year. A week will have highs in the 30’s, lows near 20. The next week will have 50’s for highs and 40 for a low. That makes winter goat kids an iffy affair.

I prefer March kids. Traditionally March is more settled and warmer. The last couple have been cold, but not winter cold.

Nubian bucks aren’t concerned with when kids are born, only producing them. Nubian does are the same. In the Ozarks Nubian does can cycle all year.

High Reaches Silk’s Drucilla seems to be like her mother Silk and prefers winter kids. And so I have winter goat kids born December 1.

black doe of winter goat kids

The ears have it on Nubian kids. This is the bigger twin doe, independent, inquisitive, loud and demanding.

It was obvious Drucilla was due soon. There was a date on the calendar for early December. Cold moved in and lingered.

Kids are wet when they are born. Below freezing temperatures can freeze them quickly. Trying to tell which day kids will be born has signs that are often wrong.

Suddenly winter got shoved out by fall for several days. I urged Drucilla to hurry up while the weather was kid friendly.

Drucilla ignored me.

The weather was supposed to change Friday night. I laid out towels to dry kids, wrap them and carry them to the house for time by the wood stove. Winter goat kids dry, fluffy and with goat coats on can take a lot of cold.

brown doe kid of winter goat kids

This slightly smaller brown Nubian doe kid got pushed off the milk and needed a bottle boost. She’s doing fine now.

I knew Drucilla would have her kids Saturday morning.

The expected cold front got delayed. Saturday dawned bright and warm. The kids were dry and up when I got to the barn. They had the entire warm day to get thoroughly dry and fluffed up.

Saturday night brought the edges of the cold front. Sunday let it settle in. Monday the twin doe kids had their goat coats on and looked like winter goat kids.

Harriet panics when her goats kid in Capri Capers. One kid is Capri.

Missing Goat Town USA Gaius Nubian Buck Extraordinaire

I remember going to Tahlequah, OK, to pick up a little buck kid I’d picked out sight unseen and named Goat Town USA Gaius many years ago. He was a little thing, but full of personality. The drive home was an adventure for both of us.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius as a kid

When Gaius first came, he went out with the does to eat in the pasture. Yes, Louie went too and usually had to be rescued. Gaius grew fast, but not fast enough that first summer. His deep red grew in that first winter.

Once home, I decided Gaius had been weaned to early and offered him a bottle. He concurred with my opinion. As I was already feeding another little buck born blind a month older than Gaius, both were happy with the arrangements.

Gaius and Louie were soon fast friends. Both were bucks. Louie was blind with horns and so could spar with Gaius who was sighted and disbudded.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius as a yearling

Louie was born blind. Gaius seemed to understand this. Louie would go out in the small pasture with Gaius and get separated. When Louie started calling, Gaius would go back to him and lead him on to wherever the next good eating spot was.

The two lived in the same pen for years. I’d had a previous buck who literally smashed his companion wether through the wall one day. Goat Town USA Gaius never got aggressive that way. He was easy going, definitely top buck, but generously allowing Louie to stay with him. The truth was, Gaius hated to be alone.

That first fall Gaius was eager to be a big Nubian buck. Those does in heat were so interesting. He had a problem. He was six inches too short.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius walking

Nubian buck Gaius seemed to get redder as he got older. Maybe that black helped deepen the color. he was always confident, but always had time for a neck rub.

The barn has a cement step in front six inches high. Gaius watched me back a doe in heat up to the step. Perfect.

The next fall Gaius waited for my help again for the first doe or two. Then he realized he had gained that six inches and more. He was a very happy buck.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius eating along road

One year drought hit and the pastures dried up. The only real browse was along the road. Gaius loved going out. I put a rope around his neck and kept busy doing things checking on him from time to time. One pull on that rope and Gaius would stop and go with me. He did resist going back in the barn lot a little. It was so much fun being out.

Several years later Louie got urinary calculi and was gone in a week. Gaius was devastated.

Augustus had been born that spring. goat Town USA Gaius was delighted to have company again.

Unfortunately Augustus didn’t have Gaius’ easy going generosity. He was second buck and unhappy. He was always testing.

Gaius became ill. And Augustus became top buck. He took over the pen.

I set up a pen inside the barn. Gaius recovered mostly. He was happy to be right there with the girls.

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius standing

There were days when Gaius would pose for a picture. Then he would go back to typical goat behavior and goof off making it impossible to get a decent picture.

Augustus would have leaped over the stall wall. Gaius never tried. He enjoyed making out over the barrier. He was delighted any time I forgot to fasten his pen.

Last spring Gaius was sick again. He recovered enough to enjoy the summer. Then, one fall morning, he was gone.

For all his bravado Augustus is grieving. So am I. There should be two does bred to Goat Town USA Gaius. Those kids are something to look forward to.

Find out more about raising goats while having fun working pencil puzzles in Goat Games.

Fall Garden Plastic Protection

Fall is a cold time in the garden. Frost is always a possibility. That is when plastic protection comes in handy.

In a real greenhouse with heat and insulated sides, tropical plants do well. I don’t have a greenhouse. So I grow cold tolerant plants in the fall: cabbage, turnips, rutabaga, spinach, broccoli. These can take night temperatures down in the twenties.

The other night was forecast to be in the teens. Panic time.

Normally I clear my summer crops out in October. This year I picked up walnuts.

plastic protection on the shade house

Each fall I spread plastic over my shade house and remove it in the spring. I get plastic wide enough to cover the entire house at one time. The ends are done with the plastic taped to the panels. The main sheet is put over these. The ends are weighted down with old fence posts. Four or five lengths of baling twine are passed over the top to keep the plastic from billowing up in the wind. It must be monitored on sunny days as the inside heats quickly.

Clearing out pepper plants isn’t too much of a problem. Tomatoes are another story. The vines this year went up over the shade house. And over is the word for it.

In truth, this worked fairly well as long as I held the vines in place with twine so the wind couldn’t blow them off. I could go inside the shade house and pick tomatoes at head height and below.

The downside was one of the varieties I grew. It was a large dark striped cherry sample packet included free with my order. These split whenever I watered, it rained, they got ready to turn color. Then they came down with blight. They were intertwined with others on the shade house so I had to tolerate them for the summer.

plastic protection works for Pak Choi

Pak Choi and chickweed are doing well inside the shade house. On really cold nights I spread split feed sacks over the plants for more protection.

Now the vines were dead from killing frost. The cold crops inside needed plastic protection for the winter. It took several hours to clear the vines.

There seems to be an unwritten rule about putting up plastic sheets. As soon as the sheet is maneuvered into place, the wind blows. Once the sheet is on the ground or draped over your head, the wind stops.

This year the turnips, broccoli and cabbage are not in the shade house. Makeshift wire structures were thrown up around them to hold their plastic protection over them.

plastic protection plus blankets

There wasn’t quite enough plastic for over the cabbage. The make shift place has the open areas covered with blankets except during storms. The cabbage isn’t happy right now as I got home late and the blankets were late in getting put up.

Plastic itself won’t hold plants when the temperatures are in the teens. That’s when old blankets and feed sacks come out. Draping these over the plastic structures or over the plants in the shade house now unheated greenhouse will.

The thermometer read fifteen in the morning. My fall garden made it through.

A side benefit of the plastic protection is heat. Sunlight goes inside and warms the soil and plants up to summer conditions. Venting keeps things under control. And a few more fresh veggies will be available until mid winter.

Nubian Buck Strength

Fall is breeding season for goats. Bucks in rut have only one thought: does. Never underestimate Nubian buck strength and single-mindedness of purpose.

I did.

Nubian buck kid Augustus shows buck strength

Goat kids love to run, jump and play. Nubian buck kid Augustus was no exception. He was born in November, 2014. Even as a kid he had long, thick legs built for speed and power.

High Reaches Silk’s Augustus was such a beautiful little boy. His mother High Reaches Bubbles Silk doted on him, spoiling him rotten. Separating the two was difficult and Augustus gained the nickname Houdini.

Nubian buck kid with mother

As a Nubian buck kid, Augustus was protected and coddled by his mother High Reaches Bubbles’ Silk.

Now Augustus is full grown and big. He weighs over 200 pounds, stands over a yard tall at the shoulders and trots thunderously from place to place. He has also wrested buck supremacy away from Goat Town USA Gaius.

I don’t particularly like to line breed my goats. So, when High Reaches Pixie’s Pamela, Augustus’ daughter, came into season this fall as a yearling, I let Gaius out with her.

Augustus was not happy. He was frustrated and furious at being ignored. His buck strength was enough to batter his pen walls but not enough to break them.

sparring Nubian bucks show buck strength

As Nubian buck Augustus gained his full height, he challenged Gaius’ position more and more often. When Augustus rears up and comes down, his buck strength really shows as he hits hard enough to shatter a metal hasp or even a logging chain.

I was in a hurry and didn’t notice Pamela wasn’t the only doe in heat. Augustus did.

Milking over, I called the herd out to the pasture gate and let them out. They were delighted, racing over the bridge to under the persimmon trees. Gaius was left forlornly calling at the gate.

I walked back to the barn and let Augustus out. He flew out the door and across the barn lot. I reached in to pick up his dish. I froze.

Augustus had shown his buck strength by hitting the pasture gate and shattering the latch board. The gate was wide open. The two bucks were joyfully racing out to join the herd now on the hillside eating acorns.

Nubian bucks Augustus and Gaius

Nubian bucks Goat Town USA Gaius and High Reaches Silk’s Augustus stand watching for the herd.

Normally I can walk out, put a lead rope on either of my bucks and lead them around. Bucks in rut among does, some of whom are in heat, do not want to be caught and dragged away.

The only way to catch the bucks was to drive the herd back into the barn lot. Then the does can go out again and the bucks are left behind.

A herd just turned out happily gobbling acorns is not happy to return to the barn. This is one of the very few times I wish I had a herding dog.

After getting a full day’s exercise and yelling myself hoarse, the herd was in and out again. The bucks were in. And another item was on the ‘To Do’ list.

Love goats? Check out some of my books about goats: Goat Games, Dora’s Story and Capri Capers.

My Nubian Goats Vanished

Since my Nubians are dairy goats, they get milked twice a day. They go out to pasture during the day and come in when it starts getting dark. At least they did until my goats vanished.

A lost kid happens. Each time means a frantic search until the kid or kids are found.

my Nubians start out to pasture

Milking is over. The herd is ready to go out to pasture. It was hard to get far enough in front to get a picture as, every time I sped up, so did they.

This time it was the entire herd.

Everything started out normally. Morning milking was done. The goats poured out of the gate, crossed the bridge and headed for the south pasture.

The point of decisions is here. The herd can go to the north and pasture with persimmon trees. The herd can cross the bridge and go up the left hill or go right down the creek bed and out to the south pasture hill and acorns. The last option was chosen for when the goats vanished.

Over the day the goats vanished into the hills. The acorns were falling and my Nubians love acorns.

Late afternoon arrived. I went out and started doing afternoon chores like gathering eggs and putting the bucks into their pens.

my does raced off then my goats vanished

Nubian does High Reaches Drucilla’s Rose and High Reaches Pixie’s Agate are racing by good grazing in their quest to get up the hill to eat acorns.

The herd was not in sight, but I wasn’t concerned. They had taken to waiting in the pastures for me to come out and call them. (My goats are not spoiled.)

After putting hay out, I opened the gate and walked out across the bridge and toward the south pasture. The walk is pleasant even though time is short. Dinner preparation takes time.

The goats weren’t in the hill pasture. The goats weren’t in the south pasture. I walked to the north pasture. No goats there either. My goats vanished and failed to reappear.

herd in pasture isn't where my goats vanished

Purposely striding across the south pasture my Nubian goats are still headed for the hills and acorns.

Sunset was streaking the sky. I raced back to the south pasture to check the ravine and the hills.

Getting a flashlight I clambered up the hills in the dark. This was not a smart thing to do as this hill was covered with loose gravel at a fifty degree or more slope.

There was nothing more I could do in the dark. I left the gate open and went to the house. My goats vanished. Maybe I could find them in the morning.

my goats vanished into the woods

Notice how the browns and blacks of my goats blend into the hillside. I’ve been twenty feet away from the herd and now seen them. Usually one moves or the leaves rustle. When my goats vanish, they are truly not there.

Before going to bed, I walked over to the barn one last time. I had left the lights on and needed to turn them off for the night.

The brats were laying around chewing their cuds. I closed the gate. I considered milking, but it was already eleven.

The next morning I considered keeping the goats in the small pasture for the day. The brats begged and I relented. The goats vanished again.

This time I saw them reappear and know where to hunt them up next time my goats vanish.

My Fall Garden Survives

Winter walked through my garden leaving a white coating that turned to black in the morning sun. The summer garden ended. The fall garden remains – for now.

Killing frost is rarely a surprise. Average dates are given for my Ozark area about October 17. The days are warm. The nights cool to cold.

fall garden garlic

Garlic planted in the fall will be ready to pull in late spring. In the Ozarks garlic does the best when planted in the fall. I put down a good four inches of mulch, burrow holes through to put in the cloves and watch it grow. It stays green most of the winter.

Already the peppers are harvested. These summer plants like hot days and warm nights. Fall temperatures leave the peppers hanging on slowly ripening. They will ripen as fast in the pantry.

Tomatoes are another summer crop loving hot days and warm nights. Green tomatoes will hang on the vines waiting for the temperatures to go up. In the pantry they will turn red. The flavor isn’t as good as summer sun ripened ones, but not bad.

fall garden cabbage

Cabbage will take a hard frost. It slows down, hunkers down, but keeps growing. The good thing is that the cabbage worms don’t survive.

Squash plants too are summer crops. By fall the squash bugs are killing the vines starting with the summer varieties and moving to the winter varieties. The winter squashes are putting on their thick rinds.

My pantry was filled with sacks of peppers, tomatoes and squash.

Frost can form pretty patterns and edgings on plants. It freezes the water inside the summer plants destroying their cells and killing them.

The morning after killing frost is so depressing. The tomatoes were towering over my head with vines heavy with fruit. Now the vines are limp and dark.

fall garden turnips

Turnips like cool weather. They don’t mind a good frost. I never seem to plant them thin enough, but the extras make good greens. A good mulch along the rows keeps them growing better.

In the beds nearby the fall garden is still green. Cabbage, broccoli, turnips and garlic hang their leaves in the frost.

Once the frost melts, the leaves stand up still fresh and green. All but the garlic will slowly produce their crops in the warm days of Indian summer.

Another fall garden crop is chickweed. This sprouts in the fall growing green and lush with the cool temperatures and moisture. It like the garlic will overwinter.

By November most of the fall crops will succumb to winter’s cold blasts. Until then, they are a welcome bit of green in the garden.

Making Fall Decisions

The idea of fall being as busy as summer seems strange. After all, the growing season is ending. The year is winding down. Yet fall decisions are many.

A possibility of frost sent me out in my garden. Tomatoes, peppers and squash are all frost sensitive. They are cold sensitive as well.

fall decisions about tomatoes

Green tomatoes are popular with some people, not me. Sometimes the green tomatoes will ripen in the pantry. Cold temperatures stop them in the garden. Will these? Should I pick them? How many bowls, trays, sacks of green tomatoes do I want in the pantry?

Tomato plants in the spring sit refusing to grow until temperatures warm up. Tomatoes hanging on the vine stay green as long as temperatures are cold. The same is true of peppers.

Bags of tomatoes, green to red and bags of peppers green to various colors moved into the pantry. Unless we want to eat tomatoes and peppers morning, noon and night for a month, we can’t eat all of these.

butternut squash fall decisions

Frost is coming. The mottling tells me this butternut squash isn’t ripe yet. Should I pick it anyway and hope it ripens in the pantry? Should I leave it and hope the vines survive another week?

One solution is tomato sauce. I like one made with minced garlic, chopped onion and peppers cooked down in tomatoes. It’s packaged in two cup amounts and frozen.

This is a delaying tactic. The piles of tomatoes and peppers changed form, but are still waiting to be eaten. How much spaghetti and pizza do we want to eat every week?

Another solution is to sell or give the extra away. This is easier during the summer when the vines and plants are busy producing more. Now the vines and plants are gone. When the extra is gone, there will not be more until next summer.

evening primrose flowers

A touch of color is welcome. Evening primrose is a bit frost hardy so a few flowers may still be there when the tomatoes are gone.

How much should I keep? I’m never sure. Making fall decisions about this is guess work.

Another set of decisions surrounds the goats. It’s breeding season. Once a doe is bred, she will milk one to two months, then go dry until having kids in the spring.

Summer has made me complacent with plenty of milk, mozzarella, ricotta and feta. When most of my milkers are dry, this will stop.

The temptation is to delay breeding my does. But delaying breeding doesn’t change anything.

Fall decisions loom. Which does will I milk through the winter? Which does are to be bred to which buck? And I do like March to April kids, so breed the does in October to November. The milk desert begins about December.

goat fall decisions about breeding

Nubian yearling doe High Reaches Pamela is old enough to be bred. Maybe Goat Town USA Gaius wants a girlfriend.

One other set of fall decisions sits in my computer room. I have boxes of books. Now is a good time of year to have book signings.

November is Novel Writing Month. I’m not ready. I have two weeks. At least I know I will try to finish the first book of “The Carduan Chronicles” neglected this year as I finished “My Ozark Home” and “Mistaken Promises.”

Fall is definitely not a time to slow down.

Winter Squash Going Wild

Despite its name winter squash is a summer crop. Like all the cucurbit family including cucumbers, summer squash, and melons, winter squash loves warm weather and dies with frost.

The many varieties are called winter squash because they form a hard shell and will keep sometimes for months in a cool, dry place. My pantry has high humidity and I can keep winter squash there for four to five months.

Chinese winter melon

This isn’t listed as a winter squash, but acts like one. This is a Chinese winter melon. The seeds are difficult to get. The melon has a light green, firm flesh with very mild taste. I’m told that, once the white hair haze covers the melon, it will keep for months. It can be eaten at the immature stage like summer squash.

A few years ago I reorganized my garden into beds. These are a generous four foot by ten foot. All the vegetables I grow do very well in these beds.

Except winter squash.

Summer squash forms a large, bushy plant. It sprawls a little. My plants do get big enough to demand an entire bed for two or three hills.

kabocha winter squash

Years ago I tried a Kabocha squash from the market and liked it. The variety this year is like the store one. It had orange flesh and a sweet, moist taste.

This year I grew kabocha and butternut winter squashes. The kabocha grew up and over the pea trellis. Branch vines drooped off the edges spreading out through the bean trellis and across the summer squash.

The butternut plants were planted late in July. The heat and dryness held the plants back even with supplemental watering. Rain revived them. the vines remained smaller than usual, but still overran the bed and invaded the garlic chives across the pathway.

butternut winter squash

Waltham Butternut is an heirloom winter squash. There is at least one modern hybrid, but I prefer the old standard. The vines grow fast and load up with squash. It has a firm, deep orange flesh with the seeds at the rounded end. the goats love the peelings and seeds. They will eat the squash too.

The prize for exceeding its bed goes to two Winter Luxury pumpkin vines. Pumpkins are a variety of winter squash.

These vines engulfed their bed, the neighboring summer squash, the hollyhocks, covered the raised bed including the cherry tomatoes there. Still not satisfied, the vines went out through the fence and spread out into the orchard.

The vines can be trimmed. I hesitate to do so as the squash bugs move in and devastate the vines.

Unlike summer squash that quickly succumbs to squash bug attacks, winter squash has a survival tactic. Those long vines root at the leaf nodes. The extra roots help the vines survive long enough to ripen the squash.

pumpkins are winter squash

Waltham Butternut is an heirloom winter squash. There is at least one modern hybrid, but I prefer the old standard. The vines grow fast and load up with squash. It has a firm, deep orange flesh with the seeds at the rounded end. the goats love the peelings and seeds. They will eat the squash too.

And that is the big reason to plant winter squash. Each variety is different from the others in taste and texture. I like kabocha and butternut, but not buttercup. Acorn will do in a pinch. Spaghetti squash is not on my menu.

Pumpkins are another story. I love pumpkins. And those monster vines are busy ripening a few nice pie pumpkins for me.

Taking Chicken Pictures

I need a cover for “Mistaken Promises” and have decided to use a Buff Orpington hen on it. This means I am taking chicken pictures.

Goats are challenging. They love to strike unattractive poses, hide behind the other goats or drift out of range.

the target hen for taking chicken pictures

The target Buff Orpington hen has spotted me. She is tossing dust over her feathers and watching me warily, ready to flee.

Chickens are worse. Well, my chickens are. They seem to believe the camera is a long distance way to turn them into chicken dinner.

There is another challenge. The gray fox picked off all but one nice Buff Orpington hen. She is skittish.

taking chicken pictures of hiding hen

Spare gate posts lean up against the barn. The Buff Orpington hen considers them an excellent place to hide.

Since the background isn’t very important for these pictures, I can go taking chicken pictures in their yard or when they are out eating grass and bugs. It does give me something to do while guarding my hens.

My vision of this cover is a hen standing looking out with a note hanging out of her beak. This means I want a pose with the hen standing upright and looking at the camera.

The hen disagrees.

maybe pose of Buff Orpington hen taking chicken pictures

This might be a good pose. Can’t you see the note hanging out of her beak? That foot would have to come down on the ground. This picture has possibilities.

This hen prefers to face away from the camera. Failing that she pecks at the ground. If this doesn’t discourage me, she races off and hides.

There is another aspect to taking chicken pictures that seems strange. Chickens, like other birds, have relatively immobile features. They do not smile or frown like we do.

I found it surprising then to find this hen can add emotional aspects to her face. it must be from using her eyelids. She can look very disapproving, even snooty.

taking chicken pictures gets a good pose

This might be a good pose of the Buff Orpington hen. She is definitely unhappy and glaring at me. I must conclude my hens hate having their pictures taken.

Of course, I can’t know that’s how she feels. Her vocal complaints do seem to echo her expressions. Chickens can sound very disapproving, especially when they think I am taking too long to open their gate.

The gray foxes have moved on, for now. The chickens seem to have short memories, but are still jumpy. They are impatient with my precautions.

My taking chicken pictures doesn’t help the jumpiness or impatience of the chickens. All they want is to be left to go out eating grass and bugs. No cameras invited.

Picking Up Black Walnuts

Black walnut trees are nice. They grow a bit slowly but are nice sized in ten years with a wide canopy. They are long lived. They leave you picking up black walnuts.

That is the main reason many people don’t like having the trees in their yards. A big tree drops a lot of nuts beginning in late August and ending in late October.

having a black walnut tree means picking up black walnuts

This is a younger black walnut tree. As it gets older the top will round out more. Walnuts are borne mostly on twig tips. And there are a lot of twigs.

Stores carry walnut meats. These are from English walnuts which like warmer areas than the Ozarks. The nut meats do taste good, but not as good as black walnut meats.

Black walnut meats have richer flavor. They are spicier. They make their presence known in whatever they are in.

We have four big trees around the barn area. The nuts are falling. We can ignore them or we can begin picking up black walnuts.

The case for ignoring them isn’t very good. These can be almost three inches across the hulls. They are hard to begin with and roll under your feet. Small wasps lay eggs in the hulls turning them into a black, gooey mess as the larvae eat the flesh.

black walnuts

Most black walnuts hang in pairs or threes on smaller branches. They are heavy and branches droop down with the weight.

The nuts themselves are extremely hard. Lawnmower blades end up with nicks mowing over them.

The case for picking up black walnuts is better. It removes the risks of wrenching an ankle. It saves the lawnmower blade. They are good to eat, although difficult to crack open. (It takes a special nut cracker or a heavy hammer.) And the nuts are saleable.

Our local feed store hulls and buys black walnuts for around twelve dollars a hulled hundred weight. The price varies over the month of October, higher the first week and dropping over the month.

I use the plastic feed bags to gather nuts in. It takes about six bags to net a hundred pounds of hulled nuts.

I usually gather the nuts in old two gallon buckets. It takes thirty nuts or more to fill a bucket and five buckets to fill a sack.

picking up black walnuts for sale

Black walnuts deteriorate into a black, gooey mess in a week or so. Plastic feed sacks work well. These sacks aren’t full yet. Once they are full, I tie them off with baling twine. It’s possible to put five sacks across, two rows, then pile four flat on top and two on top of those. Another two rows across and pile. I won’t do that this year as I won’t pick up that many. Still, it would be nice.

That is another drawback to picking up black walnuts to sell. It takes a lot of walnuts to make any money. It takes a lot of time.

One year I gathered a thousand pounds of black walnuts. Not now. I don’t have the time. Now I mostly go picking up black walnuts because I hate stepping on them. Last year I sold three hundred pounds. This year I have one sack filled and part of another one and more on the ground to pick up.

Read more about this fall activity in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”