Chickens Are Pretty Neat

19 04 2013

By Snarky_Basterd

This morning when I opened the gate from their to coop to the pen, they came right out. On past mornings since we put them out there, I’ve had to coax them out, one or two peaking out until Crystal, the white chick my daughter named came flying out, pushing any of the others out of her way, as if to say, “what the hell are you waiting for?”

Not so today.

Then this afternoon, when I ran an extension chord to the coop and hooked up the chick light because we’re expecting frost tonight (they need this to keep warm when you have them inside until they start to fly around the container they’re in), they all came into the coop.

But not for the light. They all started pecking at the empty water container — they were saying, “we’re thirsty, stupid.”

Then just now, when I went out to put them in the coop for the night, as I do at 7 p.m., they all saw me walking up, and marched right into the coop. It was the first time I didn’t have to herd at least two or three, if not grab them and force them, into the coop.

I think we might start keeping the kids in the chicken pen so they learn some good habits, so we don’t have to repeat something 5 times before they do it.


God, I’m Tired

18 04 2013

By Snarky_Basterd

So the mental exhaustion of learning how to farm — and the ‘how to’ is just as if not more important than the ‘can do’ at this point — is like having a truck run your brain run over in the middle of the road.

And this happens by noon.

However, the difference between learning to farm and working a desk job is … with farming, you want to wake up tomorrow and learn more, while with the desk job you want that truck to put the rest of your body out of its misery, so you don’t have to wake up tomorrow and do nothing for nothing.

Potatoes, Onions, and Asparagus, Oh My!

16 04 2013

There is dirt under my nails. Lots of it. I’m sweaty, filthy, and sore. Yet running through my head is, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” Granted, most of the little songs that come from Baby Q’s musical froggy’s butt get stuck in my head but this time it’s apropos.

This morning Snarky really, really finished the chicken coop; he thought he had finished it yesterday until he found one of the troublemaker chicks outside the coop last evening when he went to put them in for the night. They’re still just small enough to fit through the holes so he added finer mesh wire around the bottom to keep the little suckers where they belong.

I played on the tractor, running the cultivator through the same field we disced last week. Apparently we’re about two weeks behind our neighbor in when we can plow since it was just a wee too wet in there. I kept getting stuck, my wheels spinning a bit, when the cultivator would dig too deeply, but as soon as I raised it a little, on we’d go. I’m going to have to run over it again tomorrow or as soon as it dries out some more.

I also cultivated the area next to the grape vines and blueberries and then went back to plant the asparagus crowns, onion sets, and potato eyes. Now, I have never planted any of these items before. Why? I don’t know. I’ve either inherited them in gardens to which I moved or it was always the wrong time of year. I, of course, started with the asparagus since it’s going to be a permanent part of the landscape. I got my handy dandy bulb digger and started making two 6″ deep holes (since I had purchased two packages of crowns).

After opening the packages, I discovered I had not purchased two packages of one crown in each, but rather about seven-to-ten crowns. I was gonna need a bigger shovel.

Luckily, while I was traipsing back from the shop with the shovel I remembered pictures I’d seen of asparagus beds, not holes, and subsequently dug a nice 5′ x 5′ x 6″ trench for the leggy things.

But squares are easy…it’s those rows that give me trouble; I have a hard time keeping them straight. Wobbly rows be damned I went ahead and planted about 40 potato eyes and about 120 onion sets. Now I just need it to rain so I don’t have to truck water up to that spot.

If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet.

I’m sure the potatoes and onions should have been spaced a little more but this isn’t about perfection; it’s about learning, adjusting, and just going for it, every single day. Thank gosh I read Joel Salantin’s You Can Farm. It’s always good to hear about the mistakes others have made as well as their successes. I come from a line of people who think that you have to do it perfectly the first time and there’s no room for adjustment. Well, perfect is fine, but if there’s no room for mistakes then there’s no room for learning.

Do you know why WD-40 is called “WD-40”? Because it wasn’t until the fortieth formula did they succeed in getting it right. That means thirty-nine mistakes! I’m not sure I’m willing or able to keep trying for something thirty-nine times.

If you’re happy and you know it, wave your arms.

Need vs. Want

11 04 2013

My 1965 Webster’s dictionary, to which I refer when I want a more traditional definition of a word rather than the watered-down definitions one finds in more modern dictionaries, defines need as “a lack of something requisite, desirable, or useful.”

Yesterday we received a quote from a contractor. We need a water line run for the LG Combination Washer/Dryer that we’re purchasing. We currently haul our laundry down to the local laundromat, something I haven’t done in twenty years and which I wouldn’t have conceived of doing just a few years ago. I wouldn’t even rent an apartment when I moved to Las Vegas if it didn’t come equipped with this necessity. I was too old for lugging laundry. I was beyond this college-day’s activity. Yet here we are, in our late 40’s, having purchased a house with no laundry room, space, or closet. We need it.

We also have an electric range with one oven. Having been raised on gas ovens, the act of cooking well on electric still eludes me, even after being stuck with electric for years at my various abodes. At least the rest were self-cleaning; this archaic model has the four requisite burners and two racks in the single-oven and no broiler pan. We need a five-burner, double-oven range with the ability to “cook multiple dishes at the same time at different temperatures”, one of them being a convection to “circulate air in the lower oven for consistent temperatures and uniform browning”. This, of course, means running gas to the location of the out-of-date, wholly inadequate range that currently sits in the kitchen.

Our third need is a tankless water heater to replace the minuscule, 30-gallon, wholly inadequate water heater taking up space underneath a cabinet in the kitchen. This appliance is so insufficient that I can’t wash my hair and shave my legs during the same shower; Snarky can’t take a bath in more than 3 or 4 inches of water which does absolutely nothing for someone trying to soak after a hard day’s work.

Last but not least, our fourth need is electricity: additional outlets in the sun room and run to the shop for Snarky to run his power tools and to give us room to plug in the freezer that will store all that meat we’re going to have.

Please note that these are household needs and pale in comparison to the needs of the farm (fencing, plowing, animals, etc.) that need to be obtained.

With all these needs in tow we called a local plumber/electrician/gas guy. “Barry is his name but he’s called ‘Blue'”, our friendly real estate agent told us over breakfast the other morning. Van had taken Snarky out turkey hunting at daylight and then subjected himself to my electric stove-top cooking. “As in blueberry”. Ahhh, local humor.

Blue told us he’d be by either before noon or after; he showed up at 2:30, clipboard in hand and Pall Mall’s in his shirt pocket. After explaining all our needs and showing him the appliances with which we were filling our “requisites”, he provided us an estimate.

In my experience, estimates are provided with a breakdown, an itemization of labor and parts so that one knows for what one is paying. Not so in the case of the blueberry. We received a paragraph describing the fulfillment of our needs. Our needs had a requisite $2,760 price tag.

While we may be able to “afford” this, some re-evaluation was…needed. We certainly don’t want to be known as those newcomers with more money than sense. Hell, we’re already talked about down at the post office as, “the new people on the hill who get the most packages.” Yes, that’s what our postal driver told me the other day. My response was, “And I don’t pay taxes or shipping or make a trip to town, so there will be more.”

After getting over the sticker shock and some discussion, two of our needs became wants. There will be no electricity in the shop; an extension cord run from the house will suffice and we’ll find freezer space. There will be no five-burner, double-oven gas range with the ability to cook multiple dishes at the same time at different temperatures; over-cooked, sometimes burned meals will have to suffice.

And with that, another lesson in truly going Galt has been learned, and $1,000 has been saved after the revised estimate.

But I still really want a double-oven gas range…

Week 1 at Basterds’ Bluff

1 04 2013

The move went very well in spite of an increase in the moving rate; I guess those 30+ boxes of books (in addition to the rest of our stuff) took a wee bit longer to move than anticipated. The movers came a day early to avoid the threatening rain which of course made us scramble to ensure everything was done a day earlier than planned. Thank God for my sister, Michelle Ray, being here to help…we couldn’t have done it without her!

Temperatures being less accommodating than they were the same weekend last year (the weekend we got married) we cranked up the multiple propane wall heaters, opened the doors, and started putting things away as fast as the guys could get them in the door (which wasn’t very fast because they were so cold). As boxes and furniture began stacking and their comments of “how the hell you gonna get all this stuff in here” became more frequent I began to despair…how were we going to fit it all in?

Long story short, we did get every single item for which we’d planned into the house with plenty of room to move about and not one extra box or stick of furniture went to storage that wasn’t planned. Our kitchen is so big we actually have two refrigerators (one for food, one for alcohol and bacon) and an old metal-topped table in the middle…you know the kind: white, with that nice red painted trim around it, the kind of metal they used to make cars of (and probably painted with the same sort of paint, and it probably contains lead).


We’re at 2,000′ elevation and it snowed the first few days, with wind adding to the chill factor. Damn global warming.


The house is 95% put away, Snarky has the shop put together and all his tools put away. The house is truly a cozy little home and now that we’ve lived in the space for a bit we’ve decided that the addition for which we’d planned and budgeted is not needed. Woo hoo!


We don’t have a laundry which means I get to go down to the end of the road to our local laundromat and mass wash and dry. I must say I was a bit intimidated the first day…it’s been 25 years since I had to use a laundromat, so I only took four loads with me to break myself in. Easy schmeezy. Now that we’re not doing the addition (which included a laundry room) I’ve found an all-in-one ventless washer/dryer that runs on 110 that will fit perfectly in the big ol’ kitchen, right next to the portable dishwasher.


And, we have chickens. Six of them, three different varieties (of which we have no idea). Bought at the local Tractor Supply, the sign simply said “Pullets” and “Red Pullets”. Guess what? “Pullets” is not a variety, it just means they’re all hens (insert facepalm here). So we have two whiter chicks, two yellow chicks with red stripes, and two red chicks (two per kid). The kids are happy and, of course, the girls have named theirs; Thing 2, being nine, has named her’s some cutesy names like “Crystal”; Thing 3, being two, has named one of her’s “Poop”.

Things 1-3 with their brood.

Things 1-3 with their brood.

“Bye, chicks! Bye, poop!” she said last night.

“Is Poop your chicken’s name?” I asked.


And there ya have it.

So We’ve Gone Galt

31 03 2013

As you may have heard, the Basterds bought a farm somewhere on the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee, an area dubbed the “Redoubt of the East” by none other than M.D. Creekmore over on his survivalist blog, so I guess this means we intuitively “done good” and picked the perfect place to bug…and stay bugged…out.

If you just need the short version of the story: I sold some property, we bought land in Tennessee, we left our jobs, we moved out of the rat race that is Atlanta, and we’re going to be farmers. If you want the details, read on…

For awhile there we talked of really bugging out to Ecuador where we could buy land cheaply, hopefully with existing crops and existing buyers, but thankfully the rose colored glasses came off and we rethought the reality of such an extreme move. That, and the fact that the mosquitoes there carry every horrible disease they can, I’m allergic to them, and I’d probably drop dead the moment I stepped off the plane when one infected me (it’s not that I’m a wimp or anything, I just happen to have the sweetest blood imaginable and mosquitoes love me. I could take a bath in DDT and they wouldn’t care.)

So, what does it mean that we’ve “gone Galt”, and how did we do it?

Well, we happened to find this particular place by doing a little research in the areas that were close enough to Atlanta for Snarky to get the kids. We had certain criteria that had to be met or we’d keep looking or even stay put: the property (or at least the house) had to be out of the view of neighbors…not because we run around naked in the yard doing rain dances or anything, but because we just    want   to   be   left   alone; it had to be tillable land on which we could, at the very least, sustain ourselves, or better yet, grow enough to sell; it had to have a house on the property but how much house wasn’t an issue – we were willing to take a lesser house for more land; and the sale price had to be less than $250,000.

With that, Snarky sent me a list of at least 30 properties in Georgia and Tennessee and I, naturally, started at the bottom in order to work my way up the list. I was in love with the second property and it was this picture that hooked me: Side Yard

Hooked is one thing, but looking is another. I think it took us a few months to actually look at the place (we were preoccupied with thoughts of leaving the country entirely) and it was a last minute decision to hang out in Chattanooga for the weekend. I called the listing agent but didn’t leave a message because answer your phone, yo. Impatiently, I called the main office and they told me to call him back on his home phone. Blah, blah, blah, so I did and his wife told me he could call me back after 1 p.m. when he was back from a training class. “Great, we’ve got an amateur”, my pessimistic brain told me, but I settled down and waited.

At 1 a heavily-accented Southern man called (“we’re not in Cali anymore, Toto”) and we arranged to meet the next day. I’m still learning about Southern ways but after spending time with our agent, Van, I think I’m catching the pulse of this place. Southerners tend to be story tellers. They may not be the next Carson McCullers or Tennessee Williams but they still have something to say and they’re going to say it and there will be no interrupting them, changing the topic in mid-stream, or, least of all, getting them to stop all together before the tale is told (if you can get a word in edge-wise.) Their slow manner of speaking makes one think Southerners are slow thinkers but don’t be fooled; just because they don’t speak in rapid-fire New York-ese doesn’t mean they’re not three steps ahead of you. The complete learning will be a lifetime but there’s nothing like spending a full day with a Southerner to get a jump start.

With that said, Van drove us through the local downtown, pointing out various points of interest with an ongoing monologue of what the terrain was like (“You got this valley, then this big plateau, then another big valley, then another plateau, then Nashville beyond that”), what happened where (“Have ya ever heard of the Scopes – Monkey trial? Well, right thar is where it was held”), and local hot spots. Oh wait, there aren’t any.

After driving us past several properties, it was time to see “Ellen’s place”. Just 1/8 of a mile off “the main drag” and down a 1/4-mile or so gravel drive, I could barely contain myself when we pulled into the driveway (“driveway” being a subjective term…this is the country, ya know); Van got out to go see Ellen and I looked at Snarky with widened eyes and a big smile.

He said, “Do you hear that?”


“Absolutely nothing.” (Well, there was an expletive in between “absolutely” and “nothing” but I’ll leave that out).

Being a wonderfully foggy January day, all sound was eliminated…the peace was deafening. I was in love.

The house was cute (bigger than I imagined), the fields are perfect, the soil is black, we can’t see any neighbors (we don’t really have any), and the garden is going to be amazing once this long winter gets over and everything starts to bloom.

Needless to say we went back two weeks later to make sure we still loved it and made an offer; after a little wrangling we came to an agreement…27 acres, complete with a two-bedroom house, small pole barn, 4 fields, acres of hardwood to harvest, and a tractor and other equipment, was going to be ours come March 15 for the bargain price of $162,000!

As for the “we left our jobs” part, we both had had enough of corporate America and the uselessness of our positions; I announced my retirement to my company and Snarky left his job of seven years (more on those tales in other posts).

What does “we’ve gone Galt” mean? We’re starving the beast as much as possible by:

  • Not paying into the system via income/payroll taxes.
  • Purchasing as little as possible and, when we do have to purchase a taxable item, we look for it first online where we don’t have to pay taxes.
  • We’re not driving long distances for jobs we hate (spending huge amounts on gas and vehicle maintenance).
  • We’re raising our own food (or will be), thereby paying even less into the system and eventually making money from what we raise.
  • We are “on strike against the creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties.”

We plan to share everything about our adventure here, both good and bad, successes and mistakes. Join us on this journey and perhaps you’ll find a path of your own.

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