The Farm on Oak Creek

Tool Time

Funny that I’m titling this after a sit-com that I never watched.  But I did see Tim Allen’s Tool Time routine if not the show it spawned.  And I related!  This is because I have an addiction to good garden tools.

But before I get to waxing poetic over tools, there are a few updates.  First, I have SITTERS!  The hens have begun settling in and brooding eggs.  The date is marked in the calendar so I can keep an eye on them.  Actually, I don’t really need to watch them.  I know that they’ll sit without moving for 21 days.  On day 22 the mama-to-be will leave her nest for a few minutes to grab her first drink and bite to eat in 21 days, then go back to incubating. It’s day 21 when I start counting, picking up the mamas a little to see if they’re hiding newborns.

Second, poor Bear.  He’s had a rough week.  Apparently, his shave was a little too close around his neck.  It seems that as his fur started growing back it got a little itchy just beneath his chin, and he scratched himself a raw spot.  I considered buying him a “Cone of Shame” but I just couldn’t see him racing along the fence line at night wearing such a contraption. The Traumeel ointment helped but he figured out what I was up to when I picked up the tube.  That dog doesn’t move fast for me, not even if I’m offering treats.  But, come at him with something to I’m going to plaster on him and he’s off and running.  Then I remembered the Blue-Cote I used on the cows.  Since he didn’t recognize the spray bottle, I got close enough to coat the raw patch and now own a white and purple dog.  And that’s just fine, since it seems to have done the trick.  He’s not scratching any more.

Since I’ve touched on the subject of “Up”, Moosie has formed an obsession around one particular squirrel, who is very aware of this interest.  The squirrel inhabits the walnuts and apples on my neighbors’ property, safely behind a chain link fence. Ask Moosie where the squirrel is and he scans every one of those treetops, carefully looking at every branch while the squirrel hangs frozen in one spot.  Yesterday morning Moosie was sitting on the porch engrossed in watching his nemesis across the fence.  Apparently, he was so intent that he didn’t hear me coming.  I swear, he went straight up for a foot when I touched his back.

Now back to good garden tools…

Over the last two years, I’ve slowly been investing in good tools because I can’t stand using those cheapie things that bend when they hit the sun-baked clay that passes for dirt around here. My first purchase was a set of hoes from Rogue Hoe.  They’re handmade, in Missouri I think.  The blades are formed from thick steel taken off discarded big machine parts and the handles are good ash.  I use a bench grinder to keep their edges sharp.  Then, two birthdays ago, my son gave me two really expensive pruning saws. OMG!  No chainsaw needed, not for me.  In a minute or less, the larger saw can take down a 2″ diameter sapling.  It takes a little longer to cut through a thicker trunk, but it can be done.  I know.  I’ve done it.  The smaller one makes easy work of the smaller branches that the big saw only mutilates.

Today, I bought myself a birthday present.  That’s right, as of tomorrow I’m no longer “Single and Sixty” but “Single and Sixty-One”.  And, I have to admit, I’ve never been happier.  I wish I’d understood this ten years ago.  As the oldest of six, I’ve spent most of my life caring for others, starting with my siblings, then my own brain-challenged children.  Then, after my younger son was finally self-sufficient, I squandered years I can never get back trying to accommodate the ex.  It’s SO nice not having to please anyone but me.

new flower garden coming soon

Those are roses in the pots

Which brings me back to the first of my birthday presents.  I’m getting the other presents tomorrow when I start building my flower garden. So, what did I get myself?

A very high quality (read: really expensive) billhook clipper and an equally fine (read: not quite as expensive) pruner from Raindance Waterworks.  I’d seen them on the wall there last year and started salivating.  By the time I got home, I was so excited about the billhook that I didn’t even unload the groceries before I had it in my hands.  Out to the road I went.  Snap, snap, snap.  Down went the rest of the Russian Olive on the roadside. A few feet later, I finished off that scrubby deciduous whatever-it-is that seems to grow all along Page Springs Road.  I’ve been trying to get rid of that thing for four years!

I strode happily along the upper path, taking down the “Crown of Thorns” twigs that were sprouting from the trunks of the trees I had cut down about 4 years ago.  Snap, snap.  Gone.  I dropped a 3 inch diameter stub of a half-dead mesquite.  I took off those awful walnut branches that I run into every time I decide to climb to the spring box at the end of my property.

By now, I was grinning like a fool.  Down and across the Mason ditch I went.  Dang!  There was a turkey hen on the wrong side of my fence.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  Turkeys are great about flying over the fence to get out, but to a one they forget how to fly when it’s time to come back.  The hen was pacing right at the edge of the ditch, on the other side of the fence from the bridge.  That means she’s laying her eggs in the, gulp, poison ivy.  As safe as that might sound, I’m not betting on it.  Poison ivy doesn’t seem to affect either the dogs or cats, only me.  That means the hen will be vulnerable to that pack of coyotes Bear insisted I come watch with him three nights ago.

I chased her back in through the gate and started across the newly cleared back field and … DANG!  There was Gabby Gray on the Oak Creek side of my perimeter fence.  She was pacing back and forth between the gate and the edge of the blackberry patch.  That’s the same spot she chose to lay her second batch of eggs last year.  Thankfully, back in August she escaped the predator that took her nestmate and ate their eggs.  I thought Gray had better sense than that.

Scolding her for her idiocy, which she let roll off her back like a, well, turkey, I opened the gate.  As I said in an earlier article, Gray and I have a new understanding,  So, unlike the other hens who go the opposite direction when I fiddle with the gates and must be chased back to the opening, Gray waited politely for me to finish my nagging and stand aside.  Then, she walked right past me and joined the rest of the flock, who had come down to see what was going on.


Brambly Hedge for sure

I stood in the open gateway and eyed those blackberries, billhook still in hand.  When I arrived here they were 8 feet deep and made a brambly hedge that spread for at least a hundred yards.  Did that stop me from picking the berries?  No it did not.  Dressed in heavy denim, hiking boots and gloves, I lowered myself into the center of the patch and worked my way out, tripping over trunks, flood-fall and half rotten logs.  Although in the picture it still looks like a jumble, a lot of pruning has happened between then and now.  I love blackberries–in pie, jam (seeds and all), but especially in vinegar.  Two years ago, I got smart and strung electric fence line along the creek edge and put the cows in there.  Not only is there great grass in the area, as well as a lot of mint which the girls seemed to love, they really enjoy eating blackberry leaves.  More importantly, they weren’t at all put out about having to push through great thorny patches to get to what they wanted.

So, in I went, determined to see if I could find where Gray has her nest this time.  Whack, whack, yank, snap.  About fifteen minutes into it, the groceries in the car began to call to me.  Disappointed that all I’d managed to do was clear my path again, making it safe for sandals, I returned to the civilized (ha!) center of the property.

There was no sign of Gray’s nest.  I wonder how much a turkey cam is?  Dang.  I hate when I get attached.




© Denise Domning, 2023