Category Archives: High Reaches

My Way of Country Living

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.


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.


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.”

New Invasive Garlic Chives

In working on my botany project I keep coming across references to invasive species. There are lots of them, many escaped from cultivation.

I avoid planting these kinds of plants except in my vegetable garden. Vegetables aren’t known for their hardiness away from cultivation.

Except for garlic chives.

New invasive plant?

My garlic chive patch looks like snow in August when the flowers open. It buzzes and hums with activity. The insects are so busy with the flowers; I can brush by totally ignored.

Years ago my father gave me a pot of garlic chives. It was a ten inch pot crammed full. I promptly planted it in a corner of my vegetable garden.

The chives did well. They grew lush and bloomed profusely in August. Butterflies, wasps, bees, bumblebees, beetles, spiders swarmed around the flower umbels.

I didn’t cut the seed heads. Mistake.

My garlic chive patch is now six feet by eight feet. I leave it as it is in a difficult area. Besides, the blooms are so lovely in August and the insects do love the flowers. And I cut the seed heads.

garlic chive flowers

The garlic chive umbel is a partial ball of flowers. I’ve never counted them, but think there must be fifty in each one.

I missed a few. Garlic chives came up all over my garden. They came up outside my garden. This year they came up in the pasture.

At what point does a species become invasive?

My garlic chives haven’t reached it yet. I have given plants to people to plant in their gardens. Each person is warned to cut the seed heads. But, do they? Or have garlic chives spread from their gardens too?

Many invasive species hurt native areas. Autumn olive and Bradford pear displace native plants and aren’t as good forage as the natives.

Others have been here so long, like plantains and ox eye daisies, that they are part of the native flora now.

invasive garlic chive seed pods

Each garlic chive flower becomes a seed capsule. Each capsule contains three oddly shaped, black seeds. That’s around 150 seeds per umbel. When ripe, the covering turns brown and papery, splitting open. The seeds fall to the ground or are tossed when the wind blows the stalk.

Would garlic chives fit into the problem category or the ignore it category? I’m thinking it would be in the latter. Why?

It is a good insect pollinator plant. It is relished by goats so deer would probably like it too as a natural tonic against worm infestations.

In all probability, garlic chives will never become invasive. It does seed freely. However the plants are not aggressive enough when in competition against other invasives such as the grasses.

Still, it makes a person think: What potential problems lurk in my garden?

Fall Overtakes Summer

As fall overtakes summer, many changes sneak into the goats and garden. The noisy changes come from the goats.

Nubians are known for their loud voices. Prime breeding season is in the fall. Roughly every three weeks a doe announces she is in season and displays for the buck.

Nubian buck in rut as fall overtakes summer

Nubian buck High Reaches silk’s Augustus spends hours standing on top of the gym calling to and looking for the does. He has gotten fat over the summer which is good as he now often neglects his grain, grazing and hay.

Bucks produce musk behind where they would have horns. I prefer disbudded or polled bucks for several reasons, safety being high on the list.

My Nubian bucks weigh around two hundred pounds each. Double my weight. They are good natured and I can handle them without too much trouble. Horns would make them dangerous.

Many years ago my father had a black Nubian buck with horns. On Nubians horns go up six inches or so and then turn outward. This buck developed a horn spread three feet across with each horn spiraling a time and a half.

Nubian buck

Nubian buck Goat Town USA Gaius sneaks up on the gym to look out at the pastures when Augustus isn’t watching. He has gotten old and is now second buck.

One day my mother and I were out to trim his feet. He wasn’t very aggressive towards us, had grown up as something of a pet. He felt playful, turned his head, picked my mother – all 160 pounds of her – up on the tip of a horn and set her against the top strands of the barbed wire fence.

As fall overtakes summer and the bucks begin to reek and call for the does, I am glad they don’t have horns.

In the garden many of the summer crops are dying back. The yard long beans still bloom, but are dropping their leaves. The tomato vines are browning at the base. The squash is succumbing to the squash bugs.

broccoli takes off as fall overtakes summer

Transplants are an easy way to get cabbage and broccoli going for the fall. I prefer fall planting as the cool weather keeps the flavor good. Hot weather makes them bitter. The mulch isn’t needed now to hold moisture and can even make it too wet. The mulch does keep weeds down and the soil from freezing until winter gets serious.

As fall overtakes summer, the cold weather crops are coming up. Turnips, beets, peas, Chinese cabbage, rutabaga and lettuce have sprouted. Cabbage and broccoli transplants are in.

The rains have come dropping the temperatures. Here in the Ozarks fall overtakes summer, not slowly, but in a couple of weeks.

Thwarting Raccoons For Now

The raccoon wars are stalemated for now. The fruit trees and chick house are in contention.

The raccoons won some and lost some. So did we.

Most of my apples are gone. One Asian pear tree was stripped in a single night by raccoons.

The lines of electric fence went up. The other two Asian pear trees remain untouched.

raccoons don't like electric fence

The roofing tin sides should have worked as they are four feet high. They didn’t. Raccoons jumped up, caught the top and climbed over last year. This year electric fence wire circles the top and bottom of the metal square. Finally we get to eat some of the Asian pears.

Next year the electric fence lines will expand. The apple tree is still a challenge, but now that we know the electric fence works, the challenge will be met.

That gives a happy ending for the fruit crops. It leaves my pullets at risk. Their house is on the other side of the garden and workshop from the fruit trees.

I built the chick house around 20 years ago. I’m not a great carpenter, even worse then, so it isn’t quite square. I’ve patched it numerous times over the years in an effort to keep the wildlife away from my chicks.

The wildlife keeps winning. Between the raccoons and black snakes, the last couple of years have been disasters.

Next year will be different. I’m remodeling the chick house.

solid building should foil raccoons

Is any building truly safe from raccoons or snakes? I have my doubts. This one is as safe as I could make it with solid walls and floor, securely screened windows and ceiling and four hooks on the doors. The roost sets on two supports and is easily removable to put a brooder and heat lamp in for baby chicks.

There are now solid plywood walls. A tongue and groove floor is in place. The doors are replaced or fixed. A solid door sill went up. This should keep the black snakes out.

Although chicks like to be warm, they out grow much of it in a couple of weeks. They raise a lot of dust growing feathers and dropping manure. Ventilation is imperative.

The chick house had hardware cloth tacked up around the eaves and over the windows. It wasn’t secure. A couple of raccoons discovered this.

raccoons like pullets for dinner

My black Arcana pullets are half grown, but still living in the chick house. Or, at least, they have moved into the remodeled chick house. They had been spending the nights in a cat carrier for safety, so don’t know much about going into a house at night. All of us are glad to dispense with the cat carrier. The pullets were getting much too big to fit.

The remodeled house has a hardware cloth ceiling securely tacked up and under the plywood walls. The problem window is now secure with more hardware cloth over it and slats around it tacking the cloth down.

A roost is in place. It sets on a foundation for easy removal when the heat lamp is in place. Plenty of floor space is left for a water fount and feed trays.

My remodeled chick house and I am ready for next spring and new pullets.

Making Mozzarella Cheese From Goat Milk

Raising Nubian dairy goats means having goat milk in the refrigerator – lots of milk. It’s good for drinking, cooking, spoiling the cats and chickens. Eventually more goes into the refrigerator than goes out until the shelves are covered with it. Making mozzarella is one way to empty them.

There are lots of recipes for making mozzarella cheese. I have a simple one I use.

Making any cheese requires certain equipment. First is a large stainless steel pot. I have three of different sizes for one gallon, one and a half gallons and four gallons of milk. Whey – the liquid left over – is acidic and eats aluminum.

Second is a stainless steel colander with small drain holes. Other items are a stainless steel long spatula, whisk and flat ladle. A cheese thermometer is absolutely essential.

For making mozzarella I use a Pyrex bowl the colander rests on, a Pyrex bread pan and kitchen gloves. The other ingredients are milk, rennet, citric acid and canning salt.

milk for making mozzarella

Many recipes are for one gallon of milk. This makes a little cheese. I like making more cheese as the work involved is about the same. I stash a couple of glass gallon jars of milk in the refrigerator and use 2 to 2 1/2 gallons at a time.

Let’s get started making mozzarella.

Step 1: Set the pot on the stove. Put citric acid in the pot.

Making mozzarella cheese requires slightly acid milk. Normally I add 1 1/2 tsp citric acid to two to three gallons of milk making about 2 pounds of cheese. Goat milk changes a little over the seasons. If the cheese starts getting rubbery, reduce the acid. If the cheese doesn’t set, increase the acid.

Step 2: Pour in cold milk from the refrigerator.

The milk can be a couple of days old, but can’t have any hint of sourness. I check any milk over one day old to be sure. The milk must be cold or the acid will not dissolve properly.

warming milk for making mozzarella

Milk at the bottom of the pan warms faster than at the top. Whisk the milk to mix the temperatures before checking the temperature. If the milk gets too warm, let it cool before adding the rennet.

Step 3: Warm the milk slowly to 88°. I stir it occasionally with the whisk and check the temperature. I take about 30 minutes to warm the milk so it doesn’t scorch.

Step 4: Whisk in rennet dissolved in a quarter cup of warm water.

Rennet strength can vary from different suppliers. It should set up the milk in 30 to 40 minutes. I prefer liquid rennet and count drops going into the water. Fresh rennet is 4 – 5 drops per gallon. Older rennet takes a few drops more.

Using rennet for making mozzarella

Liquid rennet is easy to use. I put a little warm water in a custard cup and count drops as they fall into the water. The water with rennet is whisked into the warm milk.

Step 5: Stop heating, put on the lid and wait until the curd sets.

Step 6: Use the long spatula to slice through the curd. Make quarter to half inch slices across. Cut across the slices to make columns. Cut the columns into short pieces by slicing both ways at an angle. Let the curd set for five minutes.

cutting curd while making mozzarella

The set curd is soft and full of whey. The whey seeps out through the surface of the curd. Cutting the curd into small pieces makes more area for the whey to seep out of. Heating the curd kills some bacteria that would sour the cheese and drives the whey out faster.

Step 7: Start gently heating the curd. Sprinkle canning salt over the cut curd. Use 1 Tbsp per half gallon. Use the ladle or gloved hands to gently stir the curds and dissolve the salt. While the curd heats, set up the bowl and colander beside the pot.

The curd can eventually reach over 120° and be too hot to touch. The cheese forms between 110° and 120° so very slow heating gives more time to work with it.

Step 8: Stir the curd every five minutes or so until it sets. This is hard to describe. The curd gets firm, seems like a soft rubber, starts to melt together. Take the curd out of the whey, putting it into the colander.

pressing the curd into cheese while making mozzarella

The curd is full of whey when it gets put in the colander. Pressing down on the curd and folding it over helps push the whey out . Once the curd is a compact, flat mass, it’s ready to return to the whey.

If you have two pots, you can strain the curd out while transferring the whey to the second pot. You need to keep the whey in a pot and continue heating it.

Step 9: Fold the curds over to push out more whey and form a large, thick slab of curd. This is slid back into the whey in the pot to heat. Set the bread pan up next to the colander.

Step 10: Every few minutes turn the curds over. The outside will get soft and hot. The slab will pull into a long slab. The curds will start to melt.

stretching the curd making mozzarella

The pancake of curd will get very hot on the side touching the pan. It will feel soft and melted. This gets turned over so the other side gets just as hot. The interior won’t be as hot. This means the outside will stretch down off the inside. Folding the stretches part back up helps distribute the heat so the entire mass will stretch down. If it doesn’t, put it back in the whey to heat some more. The curd will be very hot, close to 120 degrees. Wearing gloves and rinsing your hands in cold water helps prevent scalding your hands.

Step 11: Take the cheese out of the pot and hold it over the colander. The slab should stretch down elastically. Fold the end back up and let it stretch down. Keep stretching and folding until most of the whey is out of the cheese and it has cooled so it stretches very slowly.

Step 12: Put the cheese into the bread pan, pressing it down. Pour off any whey. Let the cheese cool a little and then refrigerate.

making mozzarella results in cheese

The cheese can be molded in any shape of container. I prefer a loaf pan. To unmold the cheese, slide a butter knife around the edges and shake it out onto a plate or use the knife to slide the cheese up out of the pan. The mozzarella made from raw got milk keeps about a week. It can be frozen. Frozen cheese must be used frozen or as soon as it thaws.

Making mozzarella takes me about three hours from pouring the milk into the pot to pressing the cheese into the pan. It sounds more complicated than it is.

The best part comes after the cheese is chilled: Eating your own fresh mozzarella.

Other recipes for using goat milk are found in “Goat Games” along with pencil puzzles and goat trivia.

Building Easy Garden Trellises

A carpenter I am not. I can build well enough to get by, but fancy or even close to really good is beyond me. I still want garden trellises, so easy is essential.

Another reason for easy is being fast. I rarely have more than an hour to spend in the garden for watering, cultivation, weed control and all the other tasks a garden requires.

My garden trellises have versatility as well. They are light weight, sturdy and last for years. Moving them is possible, but not easy.

I use cattle and hog panels for trellises.

single garden trellises

The bean trellis is half of a cattle panel. Mosaic yard long beans have long vines so I stood the piece upright. The beans till made it to the top. The big problem is harvesting the beans at the top, two feet over my reach. A stool helps.

The first step is deciding where a trellis is wanted and why. My first reason for a trellis was to support pea and bean vines. I like those varieties with long vines needing support, but want them within reach for easy harvest.

One type of easy trellis is to cut a cattle panel in half. Pound in two posts. Tie the panel piece onto the posts.

The panel is stiff enough to place a foot up the posts to extend above them. The foot is maximum height from the ground or the vines sprawl and tangle before reaching the wire. It is possible to hang pieces of baling twine down from the wire to guide the vines, but this doesn’t always work well and the twine is a nuisance to get off the panel later.

hog panel garden trellises

Originally I put up this looped trellis for peas. This year late winter turned into hot summer and fried the peas. The winter squash vine grew up over the trellis. It has tendrils and keeps itself on the hog panel. two problems have surfaced. One is that the vines can’t put down adventitious roots (extra roots) because the vines don’t touch the ground. The second is keeping the developing squashes pushed away from the panel so they aren’t stuck between the wires.

The advantage to using panel pieces is being able to move the trellis easily. After cleaning it off, the panel is untied and set aside. The posts are pulled up and pounded in at a new location.

More permanent garden trellises are made with whole panels. With planning, one person can create these. It’s easier with two people.

These trellises require wire and a panel. The two wire pieces need to be as long as the trellis is to be wide plus extra for wrapping on the trellis. Get these ready and laid out where the trellis is to go.

I work alone. I stand the panel on edge with one end against a tree or building and secure one wire to the panel wire next to the bottom of that end. I don’t mind stepping over the wire about four inches over the ground. Otherwise the wire can be wrapped on the last panel wire, but will need to be replaced when it rusts through.

tomato garden trellises

This is not really a trellis, but is. I have two cattle panels pulled into hoops to form a permanent shade/green house. This year the tomatoes are providing the shade. Tomatoes are vines that normally sprawl across the ground which ruins the tomatoes. They do not twine or have tendrils and must be encouraged to lean down onto the panels. I’m using baling twine attached on one side, looped over the vines and threaded through the panels across the length.

The wire is laid out along the ground. The loose end of the panel is pulled to form a curve until the wire can be reached and secured to this end of the panel. The second wire is secured at both ends to the other side of the panel.

The trellis is maneuvered to where it is to go. The top of the arch is lifted up until the trellis settles in place.

I like these rounded garden trellises. This year tomato vines are leaning on some. These must be tied on. A winter squash vine is growing over one peas were on earlier. Peas or beans can be planted at both ends so the vines meet in the middle. Greens can be planted under them in the shade provided by the vines.

That is the final advantage of these garden trellises. So many plants can be supported on them freeing up more space in the garden.

Gravel Road Hazards

My gravel road is like other similar roads for many road hazards. The most common ones would be potholes and washboards.

Most drivers, if not all, are familiar with potholes. On a gravel road water causes the potholes either by digging them out or by turning part of the road to mud. Tires toss the mud out forming the pothole.

gravel road in summer

One of the special things about living here is the gravel road with its edges in trees and wildflowers. This is one of the pictures used in “My Ozark Home.”

No matter how the potholes are dug, traffic either goes around, straddles or bounces through them. The road grader dutifully fills the holes with loose gravel which gets wet and tossed out again.

Trees line my gravel road. Surprisingly these trees are road hazards.

Black walnuts and oaks are sturdy trees. They get big with massive branches reaching out across the road sheltering and shading it.

This year the black walnuts hang heavy with nuts at the branch tips. Each nut is small compared to the tree or even the branch. Lots of nuts means lots of weight.

Coming home the other day I found one result of this combination. A branch had bent too far from the weight and snapped off. It lay across the road partially blocking it.

branches can be road hazards

My truck would squeeze by this branch if I go onto the shoulder. Smaller branches are easily driven over which breaks them up. Such a road hazard is annoying and the cure is a fifteen minute exercise of sawing and shoving.

There are several options when a branch or tree falls onto the gravel road. The one picked depends on how much of the road is blocked and how big the branch or tree is.

A large tree requires calling someone with a chain saw to come and cut it up. Usually the road crew arrives with chain saws and large equipment to pick up or shove the pieces to the side of the road.

A small tree or snag which is a dead tree with no branches can be picked up at one end and moved out of the way.

The branch I faced gave me four options. First was calling the road crew. This seemed ridiculous for such a small branch. Besides, I have no cell phone and would have to walk or drive a quarter mile or more to a house hoping someone was home.

One was to drive around or over it. This works well for smaller branches, but not this one.

saw for cutting wood road hazards

This is a great little saw. It’s less than two feet long including handle. One side has coarse teeth. The other has the teeth different lengths as are found on a bow saw. These cut through branches quickly.

Third was to push the branch out of the way. I got out of my truck to heft the branch. It was too heavy and, being split, too awkward.

That left me with the final option, one I am prepared for. Pruners and saw are kept in my truck. Pruners were no help. The saw was the thing.

A couple of cuts and the branch was in three pieces. I shoved these off the road and went home.

road hazards pushed aside

In a day or two these branches will be covered with brown leaves. The leaves drop leaving bare branches. Unless the brush cutter chews them up, the branches will provide bird perches for years. The road crew dumps these branches over the fence sometimes.

There is one big drawback to lining the road with fallen trees or branches, one creating serious road hazards. Large amounts of water from big storms will race along these and dig deep ditches along the road.

I still prefer my gravel road with its trees and fields in spite of the road hazards.

Find out more about living on my gravel road on the sample pages from “My Ozark Home.

Building PVC Pipe Gates

A few years ago I needed new garden gates. Being tired of wood gates that fell apart in a couple of years, I built PVC pipe gates.

one of first of PVC pipe gates

This PVC pipe gate to my garden is used almost daily, often several times a day. It is so easy to open with one finger hooked in the wire. The bungee cord keeps it closed. It is like new after several years of use.

These gates have worked very well. They are light weight, sturdy and durable. I need another gate, this one for my little chick yard, and will build another of my PVC pipe gates.

This gate will be much taller, about six feet, as the wire around the yard is that tall. I gathered some wood to build a gate and found the weight more than I wanted even with 1” x 4” pine.

materials needed for PVC pipe gates

These are the pieces I will need for this PVC gate. The shorter pieces will be the sides. The longer pieces will be the cross bars. The short and long pieces are only 2″ different so I want to keep these separated to avoid mistakes.

Two lengths of 2” PVC pipes have a lot less weight. The pieces were cut into four 32” pieces and three 34” pieces. Four PVC elbows and two PVC tees along with a can of glue complete the materials.

checking the parts of PVC pipe gates

Putting all the PVC pipe parts together before opening the glue is a good idea.
Any fit problems or missing pieces can be fixed before having a mess.

The pipes need to be reasonably clean and dry. The working area needs to be flat and big enough for the completed gate frame to lie flat plus room to walk around it.

My preferred spot for building PVC pipe gates is under a big black walnut tree. I do need to move fallen nuts out of the way and pad uneven places. The shade is welcome on a warm, sunny day.

beginning to assemble PVC pipe gates

The first joint on a PVC pipe is easy to do. The glue is spread on and the pieces pushed together. Then begins the wait time until the next pieces go on.

The glue setup time is fifteen minutes. When I worked on four PVC pipe gates, I could glue one joint for one gate, go on to the next gate to glue the same joint and on down the line.

flattening joints for PVC pipe gates

It’s pleasant working out under the black walnut tree, but the ground isn’t level. The joints on the gate need to be flat so pieces of board give a flat surface to press the PVC joints flat as they are glued. Once the glue sets, any crooked joint stays that way.

This time I am working on one gate. I have a few other projects to work on to take up time and a watch to keep an eye on the time.

Once the frame is done and sets for two hours, I can complete the gate. I cut the wire to go over the gate and use old electric fencing wire to lash the wire onto the frame.

framework for PVC pipe gates is finished

The final two joints are glued and pressed flat completing the PVC pipe gate framework. This needs to set for a couple of hours so the glue hardens. Then the wire can be lashed on.

Hinges must be bolted on. This isn’t a big problem. Drill holes where needed, position the hinge and insert the bolts. Tighten the nuts on.

A gate latch is the last item. I find a bungee cord with hooks on both ends works well. For this particular gate I will use more than one to keep unwanted visitors from prying the gate open at the bottom.

wire is lashed onto PVC pipe gates

The 1″ x 2″ welded wire is lashed onto the PVC pipe gate frame. The gate is now complete and waiting for hinges to be bolted on.

PVC pipe gates take a bit of planning, but are easy to build. I love being able to open and close them with one hand. Best of all the advantages is not needing to replace the gates every two or three years.

Hazel’s Cooking Challenges

“Mistaken Promises” is written. Now I’m finishing all the fact checking. Then there is Hazel’s cooking.

Broken Promises

Back in “Broken Promises” Hazel learned to cook. Then it was a way to cope with her grief and anger. She discovered she liked to cook.

Old Promises

In “Old Promises” Hazel chooses a 4-H Cooking Project. Her cooking becomes more adventurous. The recipe sections at the back of each book get bigger. This continues in this third book in the series.

I grew up in a time when fast food was getting going. People cooked at home. Cookbooks were kept on a kitchen shelf for easy access. My shelf has about twenty different cookbooks.

pepper for Hazel's cooking

Recipes usually call for green peppers. My problem is the bitterness of these. Instead I’ve discovered colored bell peppers with an array of flavors and no bitterness. This gold bell pepper has a mildly spicy taste.

Hazel’s recipes are based on recipes in my cookbooks. This is when Hazel’s cooking and my cooking clash.

My milk comes from the goat barn. some of my milk becomes cheese. My eggs come from the hen house. My tomato sauce with its garlic, onions and bell peppers comes from my garden.

milk for Hazel's cooking

Refer to milk and Americans think of cow’s milk. I raise Nubian dairy goats and have goat milk in my refrigerator. It is unpasteurized. Goat’s milk and cow’s milk cooks much the same. The real difference is between using raw milk and pasteurized milk. Raw milk must be scalded (heated to 150 degrees and cooled) for many recipes such as breads and custards. Otherwise the milk will sour during cooking and sour the food.

Hazel gets milk, eggs, cheese, tomato sauce and other vegetables from the market.

I use lots of whole wheat flour, carob, little sugar, little salt and no black pepper in my cooking. Hazel uses white flour, sugar, salt and pepper in her cooking.

tomatoes for Hazel's cooking

Comparing store and garden tomatoes leaves the store variety in the chicken yard. chickens have no taste buds. Garden tomatoes come in hundreds of varieties suited to a cook’s purposes. These are paste or plum tomatoes with thick flesh and small seed cavities inside for making sauces.

Some of Hazel’s cooking is entered in the county fair in “Mistaken Promises.” One recipe is for a frosted chocolate cake.

I am in trouble.

I do bake cake. I do have an excellent recipe for chocolate cake. Except I cut the sugar in half and substitute carob for chocolate. I haven’t frosted a cake or made frosting in a very long time.

Meat loaf, cornbread, beef stew, zucchini bread and crepes don’t concern me very much. I do variations on the recipes, true. But my variations don’t change the recipes enough to be

eggs for Hazel's cooking

Chickens are great homestead livestock. The brown one is a salmon Favorelle. The white one is a white rock. There are so many breeds and colors. Fresh eggs are different too. People think about having brown or white eggs. The shell color is not as important (unless you eat them) as what is inside. Fresh eggs from my chickens have rich orange yolks from all the greens the chickens eat. This makes them a disaster in white cake (the cake becomes yellow cake). The whites are thick. The size varies, not all extra large or jumbo or whatever. Two small eggs are roughly a jumbo egg.


That frosted chocolate cake scares me.

Hazel’s cooking is an important part of her books. It’s not part of the plot, but it is her way of coping with stress. It is part of what makes her Hazel.

And preparing the recipes as they appear in Hazel’s cooking section in the books is important.

Where are those chocolate cake and frosting recipes?