23 September 2011

heavy aura: rain, rain, rain, or tennessee in the fall

Also, welcome autumn:

After I explained to my kid what the "macro" setting was for, he got busy taking awesome photos of his candy corn.
Our little family took an accidental day trip to Center Hill Lake/Dam (a 64 mile long man-made lake thanks to the folks at the TVA) and the Edgar Evins State Park. We also had a peek at the Caney Fork River below us. The road to the park is just a bit up the highway from our home, so we just took the turn to see how far away it actually was. Not far, but even though we live in a fairly remote place, the scenery was shocking and, to gingerly use a much-abused word, surreal.

I was unprepared to capture anything with my camera, so the partner's phone cam is the best we had. The roads to and in the park were tremendously terrifying with the steepest possible drop offs (and I lived in Denver for awhile) but very, very gorgeous. To be totally honest, we went on a rainy, windy day, and everything fucking looked like Forks. It's terrible that Twilight is a source of running gags in our house (or car, in this case), but we kept saying to each other at every possible opportunity, "You aren't in Phoenix anymore, Bells." Once we latch on to an in-joke, we really commit to it. For better or worse. Or way worse.
Everything thrifted except the top, which is a hand-me-down. And the kid, who is organically derived.

ma & pa
By the way, if you ever make it out to Edgar Evins, beware the awesome but somewhat alarmingly spirally observation tower. Great view, but the thing sways in the wind. I know that's a perfectly normal structural thing, but when I got to the top and felt that movement ... no sir, I don't like it.

Photo of said tower of terror, by Brian Stansberry.

The next day was considerably less full of "tree mess" (as my kid likes to call it). However, the kiddo did get to break out his thrifted vintage plaid pants, and capturing his "fashion pose" was worth the upload. Plus, we were both wearing our Docs. I found his pair, in amazing orange suede, for a buck fifty!

On kiddo: thrifted shirt, pants, and orange docs! On ma: gifted tank, thrifted skirt, target sweater, and etsy-origin docs
His pose is way better than mine -- I think that's why he's giving me that little side-eye right there.

fat of the land: cool season growing

I have a few herbs in my raised bed up by the house, and though it's cool and raining, everything but the curry plant (not actually tasty, or actually curry-like-the-spice at all, but fragrant and perhaps useable for potpourri) is pretty happy. I'd like to be able to take some herb cuttings this spring to transplant around the storm shelter behind the house. The rocks that build up around the shelter actually create kind of a pretty landscaping opportunity, though I'm pretty partial to using herbs as ornamentals. I've never been particularly calmed or charmed by beds of flowers or managed gardens (though I do enjoy wildflowers), but I love, love, love herbs. I love brushing my hand over a tight clump of green stuff, or gently tweaking a single leaf, and being rewarded by a fragrant emission, whether sweet or floral, savory or citrus.

We found out recently that we can use some of our benefits to buy seeds, as long as they can be purchased from grocery stores. The awesome DHS worker actually recommended Whole Foods (not my favorite place to use EBT, since the folks working the registers usually kind of stammer and stare and because I feel highly visible as poor, fat, and weird-acting/looking) because they have the widest selection of seeds available. So I guess I'll be putting on my big kid boots (read: definitely not going alone and not lingering) and heading out to what is, generally, the more welcoming of the two Whole Foods locations around Nashville. I have an acquaintance who works or used to work there, so it helps to think, "Oh, I could possibly run into this really nice person" instead of, "Oh, this is going to suck and be hell."

So far, as far as planting goes, I'm looking at broccoli, cabbage (actually have one of these in the raised bed), cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, Irish potatoes (we'll see if I can find these, because that would be awesome), radishes and spinach (list from Transition Now). We still have to tear down or bush hog the old garden and turn it over a bit before we can get the new stuff in, and if we get the seeds before we get everything torn down, I'll probably start some seeds in egg cartons to get the process started. 

Dear Mr. Landlord, please let us use your tractor and bush hog because that would be uhhhhaaamazing.

20 September 2011

fat of the land / chk chk chkens

As my life has taken a turn in the direction I've always wanted to see it go, I'm updating my blog to reflect that (at least a bit). Instead of confusing myself by starting some kind of side-project blog, I'm just tossing Fat of the Land content right on in here. Heavy Aura / Fat of the Land is basically a crossover blog. I'll focus, however loosely, on my burgeoning experiences as a very small scale yardfarmer, while taking the opportunity to reflect on being fat and mentally ill while farming, being queer while farming, and raising a kid during all of this, too. I'll post about what I'm doing, as I usually do, from a body positive/FA sort of perspective, but there'll be stuff about cleaning up this property (today my partner and kid found an old iron weather vane!) and raising chickens and battling tit sweat, too.

Basically, how will I effect my efficiency? Can I succeed at this with falling apart? How will a transition from a college-town environment to rural living feel (being too close to other people stresses me out, and I feel freer here to move around my house and my yard; however, going into town can be difficult, as I feel like my physical presence garners more notice)? While moving out of town has removed many stressors from my life, it's also cut out most of the social interaction I actually did enjoy engaging in on a semi-regular basis.

I guess take heed, however, if you're staunchly against the use of animals in various aspects of agriculture. My personal goal is that all the animals I raise will be treated with love and thoughtfulness during their living days, and appreciated for the bounty they provide whether as a dairy animal, egg layer, or meat producer.


I lucked into finding a trio of pullets (young hens, not yet laying) and a cockerel for a mere 25 dollars via Craigslist. The seller was a nice guy who is a former Ag student at the local University. The birds, two Welsummers (Padma and Parvati), a Speckled Sussex/possible Barred Plymouth Rock cross (Minerva), and the Ameraucauna/Barred Plymouth Rock cockerel (Fudge), were in great physical condition.

Sadly, Padma lost her wee life to some sort of misadventure (most likely stress-induced). After several calls to the local Ag Extension Agency, we've determined it would be prudent to treat everyone for coccidiosis just to be sure. From now on, we'll probably make it a practice to treat all new animals for this shitty little parasite upon arrival. The medicine is a little pricey (about 23 bucks a pack), but because our flock is so small, it will last us quite a long time.

So far, the Welsummers and the cockerel have been much more susceptible to flipping their shit than the comparably stalwart Minerva. Hopefully we can manage their stress a little better now that we have the basic lay out of the coop set up. We have a lot of predators in the area, so we've been adding fencing and reinforcing things a lot. We're probably going to have to do some further winterizing.

The common thread in the breeds represented in our birds is that they dual wield (ie they're dual purpose breeds). The hens are good layers as well as good growers, so once their egg production decreases significantly, they can be stew-pot bound. Any chicks we have are likely to be good growers, and so we can raise them to a slaughter weight fairly economically.

Our coop is a modification of an existing three-part outbuilding on the property. There was already a little yard with a shelter: we just increased the amount/height of fencing, and fixed up the inside of the shed. The biggest mod to the shed was the addition of the doors in front to close it off (originally it was open). We found the doors stuck in the barn (the property also has small barn!) just begging to be used.
 The right-hand door opens, while the left hand door is fixed (and will need to be reinforced as the weather gets colder).

Ideally, I'd like to lower the top shelves to mod out as laying boxes/roosting spots, and use the lower shelves as a base for a roof-within-a-shed. My thought is that attaching a "roof" with hinges above the roost and nesting boxes will help conserve heat in the winter, while in the summer allowing for more air circulation when raised. 

Not pretty, like this palace at The Fancy Farmgirl, but serviceable. The CDs strung on fishing wire confuse hawks and hopefully convince them to leave our birds alone.

Found-wood roost at bottom, rudimentary ramp to upper level shelves. Shelves to be lowered ASAP. Also, this was prior to adding bedding.

Shade/rain shelter outside.

Adding the top of the "wall."
 Cluck cluck for now.