Nothing Beats Free Food

Living among a bunch of agrarian people has its perks, especially around this time of year. Brandi texted me the other day and told me that one of our neighbors brought over a lot of squash and potatoes from his garden. I asked, "How much?" She replied, "Tons!"

Nice. I actually like squash ... the way Brandi makes it.

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver jokes that squash is so prolific that the few weeks of squash harvest season is the only time of year that country folk lock their home and car doors, for fear of someone foisting upon them yet another bag of squash. I'll say there's a hint of truth to that, but at this point we'll take all we can get. :-)

Saturday Morning Pleasure

As I was sitting outside a moment ago, under an oak tree, reading 1 Peter and enjoying a cup of coffee, my sweet little Abigail bounded out of the house, ran toward the barn and started picking flowers. She told me she was going to try and transplant them from around the barn to around the house. She's such a creative little gal.

I love this life.

Today's Check List

Mow 3/4 of an acre -- CHECK

Eat at the best burger place in the world* -- CHECK

Clean cat dung -- CHECK

Weed the garden -- CHECK

Assemble a telescope -- CHECK

Watch the "Supermoon" hide behind clouds -- CHECK

*We know we live in Podunk because the biggest intersection in our town boasts two businesses that are not related to each other ... and they're both called "Bubba's." Anyway, Bubba's burgers are the best ever, retire the jersey.

Twitter For Bird

Um, I feel like a dork, but I went ahead and signed up for a Twitter account. The whole micro-blogging thing seems right up my alley. However, I haven't posted a single tweet. I'll wait until I have more than 2 followers. :-)

https://twitter.com/ericguel

First Spring Photos 2012

It's spring on Guel Farm!

The main garden:
garden

The supplemental garden adjacent to the house:
supp

Taters:
taters

Watermelons:
dk

Bouncer:
bounc

Handcrafted Pillowcase By Abigail

Abigail made a pillowcase yesterday. She's quite the happy seamstress.

seamstress

Guels Plus Eight

We hosted Sam and Jennifer and their children, a family of eight, for dinner last night, and we actually successfully (and comfortably!) fit 10 people around our table and four at the adjacent bar. So a dinner for 14 went off without a hitch.

It was a fun-filled evening as we have plenty in common with this homeschooling family. They're older than we are by maybe 10 to 15 years, and that makes it even easier because their older kids are really good about working with the smaller ones. All of their kids are also pleasant to be around, and completely in love with our kids (and vice versa!). Their three-year-old girl loves two-year-old Evangeline; she calls Eve her baby and always wants to hug her and kiss her and, well, treat her like a baby. Sometimes it's a little too much attention for Eve, as we discovered when she let the older gal know with a two-handed shove. We forced them to work out their differences like adults. ;-)

After dinner we all went outside (by that time it was pleasant outside); the kids ran around the property like maniacs, jumped on the trampoline, chased chickens, collected eggs, enjoyed our 16 ducks hanging out in the Duck Yard, and had an all out good time. (I even think our enormous dog jumped on Sam at one point.) Brandi engaged Jennifer in deep conversation while I eventually challenged Sam and his oldest boy to games of chess on our picnic table.

Alas, the kids were pretty petered out by the time their friends rolled away. It was a good night.

It's Hot!

I really will start updating this blog religiously. The primary good I see in this blog is it acts as a journalistic time capsule, and hopefully my children and grandchildren will cherish reading these words one day. So I'll keep writing. :-)

Here's what's up ...

I have a very brief post up at Community Chickens.

It's been an oven here in Waco. Hot. Hot. Hot. The garden is struggling, but the animals seem to be thriving. We really need consistent rain.

We're in Houston right now for my sister's birthday. Brandi, Eve, and I will be back on the farm Sunday night, while the older kids will stay for a few more days.

I'm going to go cool off now!

Bantams

I did a quick post on bantam chickens at Community Cluckers. Check it out.

Spring Garden Time On Guel Farm

We're running a couple of weeks late, but we finally got some plants in the ground today. I borrowed a friend's tiller yesterday and tilled up our garden, so the soil was nice and fluffy today. Our soil is very sandy, so by the time I got done with the tiller the garden looked like a beach.

Here's Brandi, at the beach working in the garden.
beach1

A bird's eye view (don't be frightened by the fake owl). The structure behind Brandi is the barn.
fake owl

This a bonus shot of the field behind our barn. You can't really tell from the photo, but it's looking pretty bushy and ready to be shredded with a tractor. Time to call our neighbor who does that stuff for us. One of these days we're going to fence it off and put some goats out there, and maybe a calf.
bushy

That's it! We've still got some more planting to do, and the kids have their own little special stuff they want to plant, so hopefully we'll have some more photos on the way.

Life And Death On Guel Farm

For the first time ever at our little farm, we slaughtered animals (in this case, chickens) without the help of an expert. We did have a friend, Eva Marie, volunteer to help us, but she knew nothing about slaughtering animals, so this time around Brandi and I were the "experts."

I warned Eva (who I actually call "Ave Maria"), that we didn't have much of a clue as to what we were doing, but we were pretty certain we'd be able to figure it out. We've killed birds for meat exactly four times in the past, but it's always been under the tutelage of a bird killing guru. Not so this time.

On a lighter note, we actually had some eggs hatch today -- of all days, the day of the slaughter! -- so we were looking at the full circle of life, from "newborn" chicks to chickens that were about to fulfill their destiny.

One of the new ones.
chick

Death row.
death

A chicken meeting its maker.
dying chicken

Brandi and Ave Maria watching a chicken die. (Brandi can't bring herself to watch, actually.)
watching

A few processing photos.
proc1
proc2
proc3

A bonus shot of our broody duck hen. Her ducklings ought to hatch in about three weeks.
ducklings

Still Alive!

We're still alive! I've been a slacker on here, obviously, but we have much going on at our little homestead. I hope to post a proper update soon. In the meantime I'll just say we're gearing up for spring. We're contemplating slaughtering a few roosters pretty soon and tilling our garden for planting. We've got three broody birds right now (two bantam chickens and one duck hen), so we should see anywhere from 20 to 30 baby birds hatch pretty soon. :-)

Evangeline, Chickens, and Squirrels

Evangeline is so beautiful it's almost ridiculous:
eve

Things are going well enough around here. We're in the throes of winter, and we're burning through a fair amount of wood to heat our house.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered that a "hen" we bought from a lady a few months ago actually grew up to be a rooster. I was agitated because extra roosters are pretty much worthless around a farm. You really only want one rooster for every dozen hens or so, and we already have a rooster! As it turns out, we now have three roosters (four if you count the bantam rooster). Hold on ... we actually have eight flippin' roosters because four of them are still not yet full grown chicks.

Once all of the chick roosters grow up, they're all dead. We'll kill them all (except for our original rooster) and use them for chicken soup. Killing and processing birds is officially no longer a big deal for us. It takes a bit of preparation, but it's definitely worth the time and effort.

Speaking of killing, there's this squirrel that's been eluding me for weeks now. I've seen the little rascal go into our chimney on more than one occasion, and by the time I get my bb gun from the house ... he's gone like Houdini. Squirrels are a big time pest around here. They eat the chicken feed we throw out; they chew on wires; and they get into all sorts of things like chimneys and crevices around the property. I can't stand those little fluffy-tailed rats. I'm glad there are no ordinances against killing squirrels in the country.

Happy Anniversary, Brandi

I love you!

Swamped

I've been swamped at work, so not much time for posting these days.

Things are going well at the farm. Last year around this time our chickens were only giving us, on average, one egg per day. This year we tried a new (to us) strategery [sic] by leaving a light on in the barn to extend their "daylight hours." It's worked! We're getting maybe 4 or 5 eggs a day these days. It also helps that we have four more new laying hens. Come spring time we'll probably get a dozen eggs a day. Yay!

We still don't use 70 percent of our land. It's just there, looking pretty. That sort of annoys me, but it's nice to know that one day we'll fence it off and start by putting some meat and dairy goats on it. They say goats are a poor man's cow. :-) We have actually eaten goat burgers and goat fajita burritos -- and we liked them! We also like goat milk. So it'll be a start ... maybe this spring? We'll see.

So for your viewing pleasure, here's an early morning shot of our two young duck hens:

ducks

And here's one of the photos from our Christmas card session (this shot was taken by Brandi; she did a great job!):

xmas

A View From The Top

I had to go up on our roof today to work on our chimney. After I finished, I realized how beautiful our back yard is from such a bird's eye view. We've always appreciated the beauty of the landscape around our place, but seeing it all from such a high vantage point was pure, unfamiliar delight. I didn't have my camera with me so I whipped out my cell phone and snapped the following photo. Our property line extends back toward the tree line, and the hayfield on the right (which we're in love with) belongs to our neighbor. The field is unoccupied; he lives about half an hour away and shows up a few times a year to harvest the hay. When he's around working the field it's quite a thing to behold, believe it or not. Anyway, you can also see our barn on the left and our dog standing next to the barn. That white building is our shop.

homebird

Here's a bonus shot of Brandi working our winter garden. I love her Country Mama look with her boots and jeans. ;-)

country mama

Three From McAllen

I'm in McAllen right now where I just wrapped up shooting the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I've shot this meeting every year for the past 12 years. It's a good change of pace from the stuff I normally shoot every year, and they're always some nice people to be around.

Here are a few photos I like. A gal taking someone's blood pressure (I like how the smile on the poster behind her matches the smile on her face); some guy cutting cheese; and some ex-homeless guy singing a solo. Enjoy!

smile

2

3

The Art Of Hatching

I posted something new over at Community Cluckers. It's all about how we brought these gals into the world.

gals

Random Shots

- We successfully hatched seven chicks that were "incubated" by our broody duck mama. Yes, our duck hatched chicken eggs. Brandi said Abigail is quite the chick mommy now. (More on this later.)

- On Halloween trick-or-treaters drive from house to house in our neighborhood, since it would take forever to walk. Guess they'll do anything for candy.

- Our remaining two duck hens (from the ones we hatched back in June) are getting used to flying around the property.

- Duck tastes like dark meat chicken. For real.

- I hope to heat the house this winter using nothing but wood. Last winter I think we heated the house with 80 percent wood, 10 percent gas, and 10 percent electric. Hopefully we can conquer that 20 percent this year. We'll see.

Cluck Cluck

Some of you bumpkins out there might be familiar with Mother Earth News and Grit magazine. Shortly after Brandi and I became hillbillies (in May of '09), we had our rural neighbors driving up to our little farm in their golf carts giving us handfuls of old homesteading magazines including Mother and Grit. We were hooked from the get go!

Now I've been honored to be accepted as a regular blogger for Community Chickens, an online magazine from the publishers of the aforementioned publications. The blog is called Community Cluckers. Feel free to check out my first contribution, For Love Of Poultry.

Cock-a-doodle-doo!

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