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Lessons & Lethargy

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness". So sayeth Charles Dickens in the Tale of Two Cities. Please grab a cup of coffee and sit back as I reflect on this past year's events on the farm.

It wasn't the best year, nor was it the worst. Perhaps it was something close to wisdom with enough foolishness to go around. I do know that 2022 was tiring and both physically and emotionally draining. It was one of those years when it has been difficult to keep the creative juices flowing. One that has been hard to find and maintain a healthy level of energy and inspiration with consistency. Rather than focus on all that is better left behind me, I would rather concentrate on my accomplishments.

Trial & Error

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow" ~ Audrey Hepburn

Ornamental kale and garlic

Planting is something I have enjoyed quite a bit. 2022 started out a little discouraging with some of my perennials not surviving the winter. The challenge has been figuring out what to plant, where to plant it, and when to plant it. In addition to understanding and caring for the needs of the different varieties.

My cherry tomatoes were a success and I also harvested plenty of peppers even though I accidentally cross-pollinated them. So, I ended up with zero hot ones. The heirloom garlic I planted did excellently and a new batch has begun to re-emerge! Their unique and fragrant blooms are fascinating to watch.

I acquired an ornamental kale plant on a whim that I recently planted after learning that they are winter hardy. It will be interesting to see how it does as I know literally nothing about kale. For a first-timer, the gourds my aunt and I planted also did very well. We harvested quite a few. About half have already dried out and are ready for whatever imaginations I can conjure up.

Busy as a Bee

"Skilled plumbers aren't cheap and cheap plumbers aren't skilled"

It would be easy for me to sit back and direct my attention solely on the stress of household plumbing, not to mention electrical issues, which has caused me this past year if it weren't for the information I have gained along the way as well as the incredible relief that it is mostly over.

This year seemed to start and end in the bathroom. I know far more about the workings of the toilet than I ever thought to learn or ever wanted to. Who knew my cousin and I could install a toilet all by ourselves? We, sure enough, did it and it works! Of course, no sooner than that was complete there was a clog far down in the septic line which caused some flooding in the cellar. It was a combination catastrophe of the clog, vent pipe, rain, and an unruly groundhog. Not to mention septic fly larvae. Who knew there was such a thing? I am glad that was handled promptly before I could ever discover the evils of it. It just sounds like a very bad thing. Something straight out of a horror film. That's all I need, a plague of septic flies. I shudder at the thought.

On the bright side, I now know the exact location of my septic tank and it is in excellent shape. The septic pumper dude marveled at the craftsmanship of my ancestors who built the tank many years ago. It seems weird but I kind of feel really proud about that. That my family took the time and patience to build something so perfect and do it up right. It was built to last and it's doing the job.

Aside from dealing with plumbing emergencies, I had fun directing water in a beautiful way by installing a jar fountain in the yard. I learned how a fountain functions and how to get water to move in the way I want it to. The end result is something both me and the bees can relax and enjoy.

Cute but not so Cute

"You gotta do whatcha gotta do"

I've had my share of unwanted pests this year. Garden pests are one thing, just trying to eliminate them without harming our pollinators has been challenging enough but groundhogs are a whole other matter.

Sure, groundhogs are cute but they also are highly destructive little buggers. I take no pleasure in killing them but they have left me with no other option. It's one of the difficult responsibilities that come with homesteading. You just have to do what needs to be done regardless. There is no other choice sometimes.

I have to think about the livestock that could break their leg by stepping in a groundhog hole or a family member that could wreck on a tractor causing injury or death to themselves. Having groundhogs living close to the house can also mean that larger predators such as coyotes feel brave enough to come closer to your house. That could be dangerous for small children as well as your pets and small livestock such as calves and chickens. They also dig extensive tunnel systems underground that can compromise the foundation of your home. They also wreak havoc on your garden.

So, they have to be dealt with, like it or not. I tried driving them away using various deterrents being mindful not to use anything that a pet or a child could stumble upon. I considered having them removed professionally but that comes with a cost that is outside of my budget. I also thought about trapping them but if I released them somewhere else, that could mean they just become someone else's problem. The only sensible solution I was left with was spending the summer engaging in target practice. I took no pleasure in it and tried to make it as quick and painless as possible. I managed to dispose of six and I believe there are one or two left to deal with come spring. Hopefully, they are males. Otherwise, there will be a mother with little ones and I don't want that on my conscience. I don't want them digging holes under my house either though.

Aside from the obvious, the worst part is burying them and they can be very heavy too. If you don't bury them, it leaves quite an undesirable odor for a week or so. That's a misery in itself but other than that, it also draws in potential predators and buzzards. You have to bury them fairly deep and place something over the top so they can't be dug up by other critters that happen to pass by. I learned this the hard way.

It seems the first one I buried inadvertently caused an explosion. I'm not sure why but it seemed like a good idea at the time to place the groundhog in a bag before burying it. My thinking was it might stifle the odor. For one thing, I didn't bury it deep enough and I didn't place a rock or something heavy over it. The odor was unmistakable while I was mowing grass in the area around the burial site. When I got to the site where I had buried it, the hole was empty and there was bits of fur and plastic bag all over the yard but no groundhog. It wasn't long before I found it though. No kidding, it was more than twenty feet away from the hole and had absolutely no fur on it at all. I had to re-bury it and the smell was about all I could stomach. All I can figure was there must have been decomposition gasses built up inside of the bag that must have exploded at some point shooting the groundhog out of the ground while blowing all its fur off as it flew across the yard in a tremendous WHUMPTH. Thank goodness no one was around or hurt by this accidentally homemade stink bomb. Life is not without its adventures and I can only imagine what the neighbors think. Note to self: no more bags. Sorry poor groundhog, I truly am.

Take Time to Rest and Recharge

"I feel a nap coming on"

As exhausting as this year has been with its ups and downs, there has been so much to feel good about and look forward to. I made my first ever cherry cheesecake and mastered the art of southern fried chicken. I'm looking forward to the upcoming year. One of my goals is to restore my double drainboard farmhouse sink and get it installed. It is a project I've been looking forward to for quite some time and I can't wait to see how it turns out. All I need now is a good long nap to give my creative vibes the jumpstart they need.

There are always going to be struggles and hard times so it becomes ever more important to focus on the good things. Turn the negatives into positives and take one step at a time. There is always something to learn from it all. In the meantime, rest up and get ready for the new year.

Thank you for reading, take care, and God bless.

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