English has thousands of words from
many languages. Other languages can have plays on words, but they can’t rival
English for playing with words.
Standing in the cold watching the does eat during milking as most of them are dry is boring. Playing with words occupies the mind and lets the goats get away with little tricks which they don’t mind.
Dandy wether debates whether or not
a wether should go out in rainy weather.
Homonyms are fun. English has lots
Alpines align alertly.
Alliteration and tongue twisters are
old favorites. The challenge was to come up with one for each letter of the
Some were easy. C is for caprine. D
is for doe. G is for goat. T is for Toggenberg.
Others were real challenges. Yet
something worked for all the letters except one. No, it’s not Z or Q or J. I am
Now goats are ruminants and do have rumens, but these don’t seem to lend themselves to anything light-hearted using alliteration or homonyms or even tongue twisters. Perhaps there is some other topic? I need some ideas.
Playing with words gave me 26 pages doubled when illustrations are added. This seemed awfully short so I added some flash fiction about a kid.
The illustrations are another challenge. I’m working on the sketches. It’s tempting to make them rich, elaborate affairs. I’m not that good.
Tongue twisters and alliterative passages are simple word plays. The illustrations should match. They will be ink brush stroke done mostly in black ink but some color. After all, goats are in color.
I still think of this little book as
The Goat Alphabet Book, but it doesn’t really fit anymore. Buried somewhere in
this little book is a title. I haven’t found it yet.
And to think that this all started
because English has so many words with so many beautiful sounds and playing
with words can be such fun.
One of the advantages of keeping
goats more as a hobby than as a business is being able to keep special needs
goats from time to time. Such kids are rare.
Most often these special kids are
just small. They need bottle feeding and extra care. Most of those that survive
will grow up to be small, but normal adults. Juliette is as big as my other
Two special needs goats I remember here were born blind. The first was Louie.
Silk was close to due, but didn’t
look that close. She went out that morning, but didn’t come in. Intense
searching didn’t find her.
Early the next morning I went out
again. This time Silk turned up with a single doe kid. I had expected twins and
backtracked without finding a second kid.
My friend had started at the other end of the hill. He found a little buck kid. The kid seemed normal, but Silk rejected him. Bottle baby.
In the house we noticed his eyes
didn’t look right. Examination showed the corneas to be badly scarred and
Newborns have a short time in which
they learn to use their eyes. If their eyes are covered during that time, the
animal will never see well even if the eyes are normal. This is true not only
of goats, but people, cats, dogs and others as well.
Louie’s eyes were not usable at that
special time. They later cleared a little, but he could never see.
Louie learned to find his way around
the barn. He followed the herd out to pasture for a time. He got his name
because he would get separated and we could hear him trumpeting his distress at
the house and go out to rescue him.
Louie and Gaius were best friends for several years until Louie got urinary stones and died.
My other special needs kid was
Martha. She had several disabilities being born blind and mostly deaf. She
didn’t let it slow her down much. She couldn’t go out to pasture, so she
learned to play on the goat gym by herself. She amused herself for long periods
of time going up and down the ramp.
Martha was my shadow as I worked around the workshop and garden. Evidently she had no sense of taste either and I didn’t watch closely enough. She got into some poisonous plants when only a few months old.
Do I regret keeping these special needs goats? No. They did have disabilities, but were able to have good lives during the time they had.
Remembrances of these and other goat adventures will be part of the new goat book. For now, check out Capri Capers.
Months have gone by. Those small pepper and tomato plants have grown. Now they are big and the container bounty is ripening.
As I filled the containers, they looked so large. It took a lot of dirt to fill one. The plants were so small. So four pepper plants went into each one.
The surrounding wire is three feet
tall. Each circle is staked against the wind that never came this year. Instead
the plants are taller than the wire and pushing against it.
One tomato plant fills one container. When I walk out to milk or start backing out of the driveway, I see it. Often the leaves are just barely starting to hang in that “give me water” manner. I stop and oblige even though I’m positive I just watered it the day before. This too is container bounty as it sags under numerous clusters of tomatoes. Maybe all those tomatoes make the plant need more water.
Even four pepper plants don’t need
as much water as the tomato plant. The newspaper and mulch keep the thirsty
weeds from moving in. The rain comes by to help and the mulch holds the
Like the garden peppers and
tomatoes, the container fruit takes its time ripening. This waiting drives me
One consolation is the lack of
tomato and pepper attackers around the house. The container bounty has no bites,
is not torn down and tossed in the dirt.
The garden plants aren’t so lucky. The woodchuck still eludes capture, still digs up plants and mulch. Raccoons sample the tomatoes, find they are too green to be palatable and toss them aside. The young raccoons are captured and go elsewhere. The adults have learned to open the trap and escape.
Electric fence is my next option, but requires a pathway cleared through tall grass and other weeds. It is slow going in the heat.
In the meantime I admire the
container bounty around the house. A single tomato ripened to be savored at
dinner. Another has blushed. Three pepper plants have ripened fruit.
A freezer full of summer’s container
bounty may yet happen.
Why are quill pens so interesting? A
regular pen is much easier to use. Perhaps making quill pens is part of the
Then again this is fun to do as part
of colonial history. All of our country’s founding documents were written with
quill pens. They look so elegant in the portraits.
The first requirement for making quill pens are the quills. These are feathers, but not just any feathers. Birds are covered with feathers of many kinds doing different things for the bird. A quill is a large wing feather.
Birds have wings on both sides. The
quills on one side curve to the left and on the other side to the right. Most
people are right handed so the left curve was preferable as it curved away from
Another requirement was size. Bigger quills held more ink and wrote better. Goose quills were the most common as geese were raised for feathers and food. The best ones came from swans.
According to the 1912 Encyclopedia
Britannica making quill pens was quite an industry. The quills were obtained
and heated to a specific temperature. There was organic matter inside the
quills and the heat made it easy to remove this. Then the points were cut at
various angles depending on how the quill was to be used.
For “The City Water Project” activity
making quill pens, the special heating and cutting are dispensed with. The
quill is found, cleaned off and the end shaved or cut at some angle. Food
coloring can be used in place of ink, although real ink is much better as it is
I’ve used vulture wing feathers and wild turkey feathers I’ve found on the hills or in the pastures. Both work well. This time a friend gave me a peacock feather to try. It worked well too. The main thing is to have a large quill.
This time too I had real ink. It
worked very well even with the crude point I managed to cut. Making quill pens
is a fun activity, but I prefer my ball point pens, an invention that appeared
for sale in the late 1950’s.
Years ago I posted a science
experiment on my website every week. One summer these were
a series of water investigations.
“The City Water Project” was in its planning stages. The water investigations were being considered for inclusion in the book. They have been weeded down to ten investigations and six activities.
While teaching I came up with an
investigation format and still follow it. There is a question, a materials
list, step-by-step procedure, questions and tables to record observations
leading to analysis and conclusion questions. Each of the ten water
investigations has been rewritten in this format.
Writing out an investigation doesn’t
mean it will work. It should work. It might not. That means using the written investigation
to do the experiment.
Water is easily spilled. Besides, it’s summer. I set up a table outside to use for doing the experiments.
A few of the experiments need to be
done outside as they splash water around. I thought all of them should and could
be done outside.
There are some problems outside.
Rain is one. Wind is another. Insects come by to check the table out. Already
one of the Activities will have a recommendation to do it inside.
This is a fun challenge. Believe it
or not, you can boil water inside a paper pot. I’ve done it several times using
a candle to heat the paper pot.
This time I failed. The water did get hot enough to make little bubbles on the bottom. But the water didn’t boil.
Why not? A slight breeze kept
blowing the flame and heat away from the pan.
Another of the water investigations
uses paper towels. The breeze threatened to blow the paper strips away. The
investigation did get done.
There are a few more investigations
and activities to do yet. One will definitely get done in the house as it
requires using a stove. One really works better with two people or more as
shooting off water rockets is much more fun and easier that way.
Doing them outside in the summer is
mostly the way to go. “The City Water Project” is scheduled for release next
March just in time for next summer.
No matter what books I am working on, somehow I end up with another book about goats. This year is no exception on that score. It does leave me learning to draw goats.
In school I drew horses. Lots of horses. I didn’t draw goats.
Later I worked on cats. These were much more difficult. I didn’t draw goats.
So now I need
to draw goats.
This book is a little fun thing filled with alliterations, tongue twisters, short stories and short remembrances about goats. It isn’t quite done yet.
Since each short topic is on a different topic, each can be worked with separately. One series of flash fiction stories are related, yet each is still different. Each begs for an illustration.
Usually I use
photographs. I have none to use to fit this book. The illustrations will need
to be drawn.
The easy way is to have someone else who draws regularly draw these illustrations. Except the easy way will be the hardest way.
goats? Very few people around here. And goats are different.
Goats are angular, not round like horses, cats or dogs. Each goat breed is different and some of those differences are subtle. If the artist misses one, anyone familiar with the breed will spot it right off and know the artist didn’t know what a goat should look like.
That leaves me
learning to draw goats.
I do have lots of models, if I can get them to stand still for a time. Photographs are easier and I do have lots of those.
The other problem is breed. My goats are Nubians with their Roman noses and long, pendulous ears. Other breeds have dished faces and upright ears. And LaManchas have tiny ears.
will be to draw illustrations for the easy stories first. Build up my
confidence. I can do this.
After all, learning to draw goats will be like learning to draw horses. It’s a matter of practice.
A few years ago a family of
woodchucks moved in under the tractor shed. They lay waste to my garden.
Another woodchuck attack shouldn’t be a surprise.
Out in the woods or in the abandoned pastures, woodchucks are interesting to see. Baby ones are rather cute. Most generally they are spotted as a flow of dark fur streaking across the road and into the brush.
Once I got a chance to watch one a
few minutes before being spotted. They flow along busily sorting through the
grass. This is rare as they are very alert creatures.
Alarmed woodchucks live up to their
other name of whistle chucks. Their whistle is high, loud and sudden. The first
time I heard it I jerked upright looking all around wondering what was going
Nothing was going on. The woodchucks
had vanished. I never saw them.
My garden is heavily mulched. This encourages worms, roots, moisture. Moles love it which is annoying.
This year I kept finding my mulch
churned up. My tomato plants were dug up. My pepper plants were snapped off.
Woodchucks are vegetarians. They eat
plants. I found out before they love Brussels’s sprouts and will eat them to
the ground. They love runner beans, but not yard long beans.
I looked at the damage and thought skunk. Skunks aren’t so messy and can’t climb into the garden and don’t dig holes under the fence. Raccoons were a possibility.
It was a woodchuck attack. Friends
have seen the same damage from chucks in their gardens.
And woodchuck explains why the
chicory is all bent over. This one likes chicory. And grubs.
I’ve seen it, or rather the dark
flow disappearing out to the manure pile. The den under the tractor shed was
freshly remodeled. I found the hole under the fence.
The next challenge is catching the
woodchuck in the livetrap. My garden can’t handle a full scale woodchuck
attack. It has to go.
It’s summer in the Ozarks, hot and
humid. Last winter is a memory. But getting ready for winter begins now.
Finally the wet weather broke for a few days and the air filled with the sounds of tractors, mowers and balers. A barn full of hay is essential to getting ready for winter when you have livestock.
People don’t eat hay. We do eat
things like potatoes and garlic. These are early spring crops maturing now.
Normally leaves begin drying on the garlic stalks to signal when the bulbs are ready to harvest. All the rain kept the leaves green longer.
The garlic is still fine. Most of
the bulbs are still tight. They are much bigger than last year’s bulbs.
Once the bulbs are dry and in the
bucket in the pantry, they will bring dreams of spaghetti, lasagna, stir fry
and rich soups and stews. Getting the bulbs dry is very important or the cloves
will rot. Once dry, the bulbs will last all winter.
I used to grow several kinds of potatoes, but only have Yukon Gold now. The potato bugs are trying to move in. They haven’t much chance as the plants are dying back.
So far the potato crop is generous.
The tubers are usually smaller when grown in mulch, but harvesting is much
easier. Besides, we are older and don’t need a monster baked potato at dinner.
A medium-sized potato will do very well.
I like growing potatoes. They are nice looking plants and fairly easy to grow under mulch. Still, the number of seed potatoes I put out is going down. Older people don’t need to eat a lot of food.
Potatoes too need time to dry. I
have several old milk crates to hold them. I put some newspaper down on the
bottom, pour in the potatoes, top with newspaper to block light and stash the
crates in the pantry.
Getting ready for winter will
continue over the summer adding winter squash in the pantry and tomatoes and
peppers in the freezer.
Growing tame berries takes time and space. The space I have. The time I don’t. So I look forward to summer berry time on the hills.
Around here the first berries to
ripen are the black raspberries. The first few are waiting in the refrigerator
as an addition to morning pancakes.
The canes grow along the yard and along a fence nearby. These are challenging to pick as blackberries grow among them. The raspberries have thorns, but the blackberry thorns are fierce.
Sometimes there are more in the
house than we can eat. These berries freeze well. I spread them on a cookie
sheet and pour them frozen into a freezer bag. This takes summer berry time
into the winter.
The gooseberries are still green. Many people pick them green and add enough sugar to counter the bitter taste. I don’t use much sugar so I let them ripen before picking them. They are a bit bland then, but don’t require sugar.
The gooseberry bushes grow along the
yard and back in the ravine behind the house. These do have straight thorns,
but the berries hang down away from them.
The blackberries are the hardest to
pick. The canes interweave in large patches. They are
well armed. Ticks like to hide on them. And the almost ripe and still bitter
berries are easy to mix in with the delicious ripe ones.
Extra blackberries can be frozen like the raspberries.
There are several kinds of
blackberries along the road and on the hills. The small canes along the roads
are less dangerous. These berries are few in number, but a real treat.
Summer berry time includes the
lowbush blueberries. These are hardest to get. The bushes are small and grow up
in the hills. Not all the bushes have berries on them and the blueberries are
Birds and other creatures like the
foxes eat berries too. Luckily there are enough berries for all of us.
This year I have a problem. Unlike most years I have leftover seedlings.
Seed catalogs have such a variety of tomato seeds and all are tempting. Stores offer only a few kinds; the kinds that sell well. So I try to raise my own.
Without a greenhouse or special
lights, my seedlings are started late and often turn out spindly affairs. They
do grow fast in the garden and produce tasty tomatoes. Leftover seedlings don’t
My usual method is to fill a dozen Styrofoam cups with potting mix, water and two seeds each. If I’m lucky, one comes up in half of them.
This year the temperatures moderated. The seeds germinated in most of the cups, both of them in a third of the cups.
Warm sun let me set the trays of
cups out on the front porch. The seedlings grew. They thrived.
I had ordered three varieties: Speckled Roman, a paste tomato; St. Pierre, a red tomato; and Pineapple, a yellow and orange striped tomato. This was to result in eighteen plants in the garden, plenty for two people as there are always volunteer cherry tomatoes for snacking.
Then I came across a packet of Abe
Lincoln tomatoes, a red variety I had wanted to try. The seed company sent a
complimentary packet of Russian Blue tomatoes. A friend added two Paul Robeson
red tomatoes. Another friend added a Lime green tomato.
Gardens are finite in size. Mine is packed with bell peppers, summer and winter squash, potatoes, beans, various greens, garlic and onions. There were four areas designated for tomatoes.
As of now a pepper section has the
cherry tomatoes and the Lime tomato. Another section has ten red tomatoes
planted. One side of the shade house has six Speckled Roman with Pineapple on
the other side. A side bed has six, many double, Russian Blue plants.
I have sold and given away tomato
seedlings. And I still have leftover seedlings. They are tall and need planting
One solution would be to yank them out and toss them on the compost heap. Maybe I am too soft-hearted. They are trying so hard to grow.
I scoured the garden for any holes
big enough for some tomato plants. There are two much less than ideal spots. My
leftover seedlings will have a chance to grow.
When do chicks become pullets? I really don’t know for sure.
Chicks are these balls of fluff.
They quickly grow wing and tail feathers. Body feathers push their way out. The
fluff disappears as dust.
Not all of the fluff disappears.
Some is persistent. The feathered out chicks have these ragged bits of fluff
sticking out in odd places.
These chicks are still chicks. They are small and peep. They still like a bit of heat at night.
Once chicks have feathers, staying
inside is not popular. Rainy days keep mine inside. They sit up on anything
tall to look out the windows in the door.
Sunny days are a delight. The bottom door opens and a new world stretches out in front of these chicks. The chicks line the door sill, heads and necks twisting and turning as they look around.
By the second day the chicks are
waiting for their door to open. They generally stay inside as I fill feed
trays, but don’t stay there long. Grass is much superior to chick feed.
A week later I make sure I am not
standing in front of the chick door when I open it. Twenty-two feathery bullets
shoot out. The chick yard is too small.
There was a time when I would let
older chicks out into the grass. Grey foxes now live across the street. Quarter
grown chicks are snack size.
Now I put up a ring of chicken wire.
The chicks come out into a larger yard only when I am working close by.
Moveable electric fence posts make moving the wire into different shapes and
Now six weeks old have my chicks become pullets? They are almost half grown. They fly across their yard. They chase bugs as well as eat grass.
These birds still peep. I think they
are still chicks.
In another week or two, these pint
sized chickens will start clucking. They will not be happy in the larger yard.
Already they cast longing eyes at my garden. There is an invisible “Chickens
Keep Out” sign, except they can’t read.
I think my chicks become pullets
when they start clucking.
All my seedlings were ready to transplant at the same time. Tomatoes came first, then bell peppers in the garden, finally I’m planting peppers in the containers.
Containers are nice. They do have
their drawbacks. First is placing them. Second is finding enough dirt, compost,
manure etc. to fill them.
Planting in containers brings in another set of drawbacks. First is keeping them watered. Containers dry out quickly and must be watered often.
Weeds are second for several
reasons. Weeds compete for root space, leaf space and water. They usually win
competing against garden vegetables.
Third comes heat. In the garden the
sun heats the surface of the ground down a few inches. Containers are heated on
top and on any part of the sides the sun contacts. In extreme heat conditions,
the sides should be shaded.
I have a fourth problem: my cats. They don’t tend to dig in the containers. Instead they find the containers ideal places to sit for observations of the surrounding area. Containers are wonderful places for naps as well. Plants make nice cushions.
In the past I’ve watered extra,
weeded extra and chased the cats or place strategic rocks. After reading
“Lasagna Gardening” by Patricia Lanza, I’m trying something a bit new. First I
dumped a watering can of water on the dirt newly cleaned of weeds (Yes, the
weeds had already started colonizing the containers.). Next I laid down layers
of newspaper and poured water on them. In the book the newspaper is wet when
it’s put down. I find wet paper is very difficult to work with so I put it down
dry and add water.
A trowel slices through wet newspaper easily to make a hole for the transplants. Last a layer of mulch hay went on top of the newspaper.
The container was watered before planting peppers as transplants do better in moist soil. The newspaper and mulch should discourage weeds and help hold moisture in the container. The mulch also protects the newspaper and transplants from drying out or being pounded by rain.
A circle of woven wire serves two
purposes as well. It discourages the cats. It keeps the pepper plants from
falling over. I will be adding a stake to keep the wire in place.
Writing the Carduan Chronicles I
find these survivors need to master various skills including making rope. There
are two kinds: braided and twisted rope.
Normally I make braided rope as I
can make it slowly by myself. I use it to make lead ropes and long ropes to tie
down hay bales. When I had cows, I made a halter.
Making twisted rope requires a couple of tools and three people. A friend mentioned having the devices and offered me the chance to help make some ropes.
Both braided and twisted ropes are
strong. The twisted kind made by machine is the one sold in stores.
Hand made twisted rope can be single or double strand. The device my friend has requires each strand to be full length at the beginning so any splicing must be done securely before beginning. The alternative he uses is rolls of baling twine used in balers.
The length of the finished rope is
determined by the length of the working area. If the length is so great the
strands sag to the ground, they must be supported. Weeds and other items must
be cleared away so they don’t get incorporated into the rope.
The cranking device is clamped onto a sturdy post or trailer. It has a crank with a handle hooked to a toothed gear turning three smaller gears attached to three hooks holding the three strands. This is so the hooks turn at the same speed creating even tension on the twine.
At the far end is a hook that swivels. The strands of twine are attached to the three hooks at the crank device. The other ends of the strands are tied together and hooked onto the swivel hook.
A wooden paddle or traveler with
three slots controls the twist. One strand goes through each slot. The strands
can not be tangled.
Holding the swivel hook might seem
simple. In one way it is: you stand there pulling back to put tension on the
twine strands. In another it isn’t: you must keep that tension while being
pulled forward as the twisting shortens the twine between
Cranking is work. The arm gets tired but the crank must continue to turn at the same speed until the traveler starts getting close. Then the cranking must slow down to keep from making the rope too tight and stiff.
The traveler starts close to the
swivel hook to hold the twine strands apart as the crank turns the hooks
twisting the strands. They quiver and vibrate as they twist. When the twist is
tight, the traveler is moved forward. The swivel turns and the strands twist
around each other.
This is when making a twisted rope gets tricky. If the traveler is moved forward too slowly, the twists are tight making a stiff rope like a lariat. It the traveler is moved too quickly, the twists will be loose making the rope too soft and not as strong.
Three strands of twine make a
quarter inch rope. Double strands make a half inch rope. The more length or
number of strands, the harder cranking becomes.
My Carduans may read about making
twisted rope, but they will begin with braided ropes as these are easier with
the fibers they find to begin with. Still, learning to make twisted rope was
interesting and I will appreciate my new rope.
Mulch is nothing new to me. I’ve
used it for years. I never thought of it as gardening in layers until I came
across a book on gardening called “Lasagna Gardening” by Patricia Lanza.
It isn’t that I don’t have lots of
books on gardening. I do. The library display of gardening books was too
tempting. Besides, I like lasagna.
Except “Lasagna Gardening” isn’t about growing lasagna ingredients. It’s about gardening in layers as lasagna is assembled in layers. This is right up my alley.
The first layer in a lasagna garden
is newspaper. Those were the days when people subscribed to a daily newspaper.
A good substitute is cardboard.
The purpose of the paper or cardboard is to block grasses or weeds from growing up into the garden. No weeding!
Does it work? Yes, it does. I’ve done this for years. The problems involved include obtaining enough cardboard (The local feed stores get a supply regularly on the pallets of feed.) and weeds creeping up between overlapping pieces or at the edges. As the paper breaks down, some strong weeds like tree seedlings can grow up through it.
My normal next step is to dump on the mulch. My goats are happy to keep me supplied with any hay not meeting their exacting standards.
In “Lasagna Gardening” the next
layers are peat moss, grass cuttings, chopped fall leaves, compost, manure and
other organic matter. These are piled on to eighteen to twenty-four inches deep
before adding the mulch.
I no longer use peat moss. It is
touted as natural, which it is, and sustainable, which it is not. It is being
dug out of peat bogs (destroying the bog ecosystems) faster than the new peat
can be created.
The other ingredients are subject to preference and availability. Compost and manure are easy for me to come by. Grass clippings require raking. Fall leaves require asking around town for the maple and sweet gum leaves which will probably require raking.
Oak leaves are problematic. They are thick and more acidic. They are slow to decay. If chopped up with a mower, they do work fine. Chopped leaves don’t blow away as readily.
The difficulty with reading
gardening books in the spring is that my garden is already underway. The
potatoes are up. The cabbage is delighted with this cool, wet spring weather.
The other beds are prepared for summer crops.
I will definitely adjust this new
method of gardening in layers. It is an extension and improvement of my
methods. Over the summer I will stockpile cardboard for this fall. Manure is
not a problem as the goats produce a new supply daily. Mulch will need to be
Over the summer I can do some of it
on a small scale as various crops finish up and the beds are prepared and
planted with another crop.
Gardening in layers? Cutting back on
weeding? Cutting back on garden drudgery? I’m all for it.
Planting two different varieties of
peppers next to each other isn’t wise. They cross. This is why I went to pepper
My favorite peppers were the colored
bells. Unlike green peppers, they are not bitter. The different colors have
slightly different tastes. And they are pretty.
Then a friend talked me into trying
a Macedonian pepper. This is another sweet pepper (I don’t grow hot peppers.).
It is a long horn shape turning from green to lime green to yellow green to
rose red. It is delicious.
Two more Macedonian peppers have
joined my line up. I still grow the colored bells as I like them too. I needed
to have a place to grow the new pepper away from the garden where the bell
peppers grow. Containers were the answer.
There are several considerations for pepper container gardening.
Peppers like very warm and sunny
places. Here in the Ozarks all day sun is not necessary, but half the day is
Choosing the location is vital for
pepper container gardening as, once the containers are filled, moving them is
As I have three varieties of peppers to consider, I need three locations separate enough to discourage cross pollination. In front of the house, on the sunny side of the house and behind the house work for me. All get shade part of the day, but sun most of the day during the summer.
Since I grow four plants in each
container, I need a big container. Bigger containers don’t heat up in the sun
as much preventing the roots from cooking.
My containers are the empty plastic
tubs sold filled with cow licks. My feed store buys them back empty from
cattlemen and resells them to gardeners like me. The owner also uses a line of
them to grow left over transplants for himself and customers who want a quick
snack as they go into the store.
Drilling five or six half inch holes
in the bottom provides drainage.
Drainage is important. Putting a
couple of half size cement blocks or a few bricks under the container helps.
Next the pepper container needs
gravel. A larger piece goes over each hole. Four to six inches of inch size
gravel goes in on top. This will, in a few years, clog with dirt and need
Soil comes next. I mix mine. My
mixture has one part creek sand, one part composted goat manure and two parts
dirt in it. The amounts are not exact. Part of the mix is removed and replaced
each year with more compost.
Leave three or four inches clear at the top to hold water in the container.
I space four plants around the
container three or four inches from the edge. It’s a good idea to have a stout
pole in the center to tie the plants to.
The Ozarks can be a windy place. I
have used circles of fence wire, but this needs anchoring too.
Pepper container gardening is
different from garden based pepper growing. I do mulch my containers to help
control weeds, hold in moisture and keep the soil cooler. The containers need
watering every other if not every day.
With a little planning pepper
container gardening can yield enough peppers to spice up every meal and put
plenty in the freezer.
Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower
transplants show up the first of April at several places around town. Yet
growing cabbage in the Ozarks is a dicey affair at best.
Cole crops like cool weather.
Seventies is as warm as they like to be. Eighties is a disaster in the making.
There are several problems with cole crops in hot weather. First and foremost is the bitter taste. All cole crops seem to have a bit of bitter taste to them. Hot weather multiplies this to inedible.
A second problem is mostly a cabbage
problem. The heads rot. A series of cool days will encourage the plants to form
heads. One day of eighty degree weather might bleach the top leaf. A second day
starts the inside of the head to wilt down leaving a pile of stinky ooze the
Broccoli, cauliflower, pak choi
promptly send up flower stalks. They flower almost overnight turning scraggy
and dying a few days later.
A friend wants cabbage in the spring. I get the varieties with the shortest maturity dates, put them in and hope for the best.
Cabbage leaves are edible too.
This year has not decided what to do
yet. Through April the temperatures dithered from days in the sixties to days
in the seventies tossing in a couple of eighties.
Growing cabbage under these conditions is not ideal. My plants are heavily mulched to keep the ground cool. Since it keeps raining an inch or two a week, I’m hoping the mulch isn’t too wet.
Typically spring in the Ozarks is
short. We’ve had the usual amount, even a bit more. Any day could turn into
For now my growing cabbage is happy
and starting to think about making heads. I watch, wait and hope.
In the meantime the tomato and
pepper seedlings are doing well. They prefer eighty degree days, but tolerate
sixties and seventies once they’ve germinated.
April has pros and cons for raising chicks. A big pro is having the pullets start laying in the fall and continuing through the winter. A big con is the weather.
This year my chicks were to arrive
on a Wednesday. It was a nice warm spring day. Perfect for settling new chicks
The chicks were delayed. The weather turned cold. They arrived huddled in the box trying to keep warm. Their new quarters weren’t warm enough. Keeping them warm is critical to raising chicks.
Changing to a larger light bulb
solved the warmth problem. I do use a heat lamp so the heat is directed
downward. I do not use a heat bulb. Instead I have an array of wattages from 60
to 100 to 150.
When cold weather moves in, the
largest bulb goes in. When the temperatures go up, the size of the bulb can go
down. The chick house is remodeled against predators, but temperature
fluctuations move in.
It’s hard to keep all the chicks
together for the first day or two. So I move an old wire cage into the chick
house. This has three advantages.
First is keeping the chicks together and under the light. Surrounding the cage with cardboard contains the heat when temperatures really drop. Draping blankets over it will keep chicks warm through frosts.
Second is giving an extra protection
from black snakes. I have learned that these creatures can fit into crevices I
don’t even see.
Third is ease of cleaning. I put down layers of newspaper in three sheet groups. Each day I can roll up a layer leaving the chicks with a clean floor with a minimum of trauma for them. clean quarters is important for raising chicks.
This year the temperatures decided to soar when the chicks were a few days old. The cage was getting cramped and couldn’t be kept cool enough. So the chicks moved out into the chick house proper.
The chicks are delighted with all
the room. I haven’t changed to a smaller bulb as cooler weather is coming in.
Instead the top of the double door and a window are open. Small bugs fly in to
amuse the chicks.
This may be a makeshift arrangement,
but it works for me and the chicks. And that is all that matters.
Winter never gives up without a fight in the Ozarks. Spring and winter vie for supremacy the month of April giving me houseplant headaches.
All winter my few
houseplants have patiently waited. The grow light is never bright enough. Water
is either too much or too little. They hunker down and endure.
Freezing temperatures will kill my houseplants. Warm temperatures will make them grow into beautiful plants once again.
Spring blows in
with warm temperatures. The houseplants move outside. The fern puts up new
Winter tromps in
with freezing temperatures. The houseplants move inside drooping under the grow
light once more.
The houseplants move out again.
Houseplant headaches come in the form of poring over the weather forecasts. Will the temperatures stay warm for several days?
headaches come as heavy pots are carted out and the watch begins. Weather
forecasts are notoriously inaccurate in this frost pocket. Most accurate is the
feel of the air when I go out to milk. Ice in the air means racing back to cart
those pots inside for the night.
Winter is sneaky.
The air can feel warm in the evening. The wind can shift blowing in freezing
temperatures by morning. Such a set up turned all my plants black a few years
ago. Most of them did sprout back up in a week or two.
Many of my houseplants are gone now, given away. April houseplant headaches following the struggles of keeping the plants alive over the winter became too much of a hassle.
Now there is a new
source of houseplant headaches: fig trees. These are not the hardy figs. These
are the tropical figs grown for their delicious fruits. They reside in large
All winter these
trees lived in an insulated, heated room. Now the tractor comes over to move
them out for warm spring days and returns to put them
back in their room when winter returns.
houseplants that are strictly to look at, the figs repay us for the trouble
with fresh figs. The trees are already putting on a crop.
Spotted goats are pretty. Black with white spots is very popular. Kids with brown spots are not popular. Such liver spots may turn color.
Some of my kids are born with white spots. There are two doe kids covered with such spots this year. One belongs to Spring and one to Pamela.
Spring’s little buck has no spots at
first glance. His black is intense. Look again and several brown spots are
there in the black. These are liver spots.
Drucilla’s brown doe had such spots. As she got older, the spots seemed spotted with white. When I ruffled her fur in these places, the underneath was white. I’m confident her spots will be white when she is an adult.
Why do these brown spots turn white?
I don’t know. Perhaps someone has studied this.
I do know body temperature can
affect color. Siamese cats are not really that ivory with brown ears, tail and
paws. They should be all brown.
There is some factor about the brown on Siamese cats that prevents it from showing when the body is hot. Ears, tails and paws are cooler letting the brown show. As a cat gets older and bigger, its body gets cooler and more of the brown shows there which is why older cats are darker in color than young ones.
Maybe goat kid liver spots work the
same way. The color does change as the kid gets bigger.
Yet, I’ve read that some spots never
change color remaining brown on the adult goats. This wouldn’t be unattractive.
It would be an interesting color pattern.
Spring’s little buck is barely over
a week old. The color of his spots does not concern him at all. Being able to
jump up onto the goat gym is far more important.
And, pretty as spots on goats can be, they don’t put milk in the bucket. Those solid brown does can make great milkers. And brown is a nice color too.
Harriet raises goat kids in “Capri Capers”. They keep her very busy and play an important part in the story. Read the sample pages on the “Capri Capers” page.
Pulling weeds is no fun. Knowing the weeds shouldn’t be there if only you had mulched properly in the fall makes it worse. Gardening with goat kids makes it bearable.
Goats are not welcome in my garden. They like too many of the vegetables and trample the rest.
goat kids is different. Kids don’t really eat much until they are three to four
My bottle kid enjoys hanging around me for company. He relies on me the way other kids rely on their mothers for protection and daring to go exploring. Besides, he usually has a lot of fun following me around as I go interesting places.
The kids except
for the bottle kid were supposed to be out in the pasture with their mothers.
That didn’t work out very well. I ended up with all four.
The kids explore everything with their mouths. They eat dirt as they are establishing their rumen residents. They nibble on the weeds. It’s a shame they can’t pull the weeds too.
I used the potato
fork to loosen a row of weeds across a garden bed. One or more kids would come
over to check out the weed masses I pulled out, shook dirt from and tossed into
Dead nettle and
chickweed have fibrous roots. They sprout in the fall and spread out their
roots over the winter. The root mat is a couple of inches thick and continuous.
It must be broken into small chunks to protect the back.
Pulling weeds does get boring after a time, a short time. Gardening with goat kids lengthens that time. Then they get bored.
It becomes nap
time. There are four kids. I can carry two at a time. The bottle kid is now an
I pick up
Natasha’s two younger ones. The bottle kid (I know, he needs a name. I’m
thinking.) follows me. His sister follows him.
The kids move back
into their favorite spot in the barn and curl up for naps.
It’s rare for me to have kids in the house for more than a few hours or even overnight. This is a temporary affair to warm up or dry off cold kids. Having one in the house longer leads to a major problem: Moving kids out to the barn.
Those in for a short time go back
out with their anxious mothers. Dry, fluffed and warmed up these kids do fine.
Mother takes them back and raises them.
Kids kept inside for several days are forgotten by their mothers, especially if there is a sibling out with the mother. That was what happened with this kid. Matilda assumed she had only one kid and rejected the little buck entirely.
Mother goats do more than feed their
kids. They protect their kids from the other goats. Goats have a pecking order
with each lording it over those below her. Small kids, unprotected, are on the
bottom and knocked around by everyone.
Moving kids out to the barn
therefore takes careful planning. If a kid is dumped out, it will be lost and
attacked from all sides. All the kid knows is the house and people.
Keeping the kid in the house is not tenable. It is not housebroken. Half a dozen towels are needed for each couple of days.
Older kids are ready to run, play
and jump. Like small children, they explore and get into everything within
reach. The kid was up in the recliner and on the bed. The cats fled or moved up
as high as possible.
I took the kid out to the barn
during milking. This was fine. The kid explored the milk room and followed me
around doing chores. And went back to the house.
I took the kid out to meet his sister. Matilda was not impressed. She behaved only as long as I was right there. I do not wish to move into the barn.
The kid had to move out to the barn.
I was up against all the difficulties of moving kids out to the barn. He isn’t
big enough or tough enough to make it on his own yet. He can’t be kept all
High Reaches Pixie’s Natasha
delivered twins. She is a first time mother. She is not high in the pecking
order. She is trying to decide how to be a good mother.
The kid went to the barn and in the
kidding section with Natasha and her kids. He isn’t happy. He is overjoyed when
I show up and cries when I leave.
But Natasha ignores him. Her kids
will be big enough to play in a week. And the kid’s sister came into the milk
room while Matilda was eating and getting milked. The two kids sized each other
Moving kids out to the barn is tough. This little buck will make it.
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
A chilled kid is a kidding emergency. Kids are born wet, get cold, get hypothermia, stop responding to their mother and die.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Some weeds will grow up through
mulch. Locust trees and morning glories are my main culprits. Most will not.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.