Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On My Game

I had a farm project to complete this morning. Weeds. They are everywhere. They creep into the yard, orchard, driveway. I gotta get 'em under control.

Then there's the gas prices. Paying for gas in the tractor to drive it around killin' weeds... hmmm. There has to be another way.

So it's experiment week in the Nutty Forest. What's the experiment? We are trying to see how little weed killer we can use, with as little gas, and as little labor as possible. Typically we load up the tractor and spray tank and get to drivin'. We kill everything. I love it. I imagine the trees love it. No competition. The Nutty Papa has concerns though. He wonders about soil erosion if there are no weeds holding the ground together. Hmmm.. Valid concern, you say? Nutty Mama to the rescue! My goal is to make everyone happy.

So I rigged up our little Bombardier with a sprayer. The little Bomb doesn't use lots of gas. Good. We can spray up under the trees. Good. And we can leave a little row of weeds in the middle that can be mowed. Nutty Papa happy.

There's my little project. I got that tank a few years ago thinking this might be an option. It only came with a spray gun though. When the metal arm came to the store, I snatched it up. It only has one sprayer though, and I didn't think it got the job done as well as it could. So I ran to my local Tractor Supply store and found a few parts. This morning I put 'em together and gave it a run. Beautiful! Three spray tips now instead of just one. And I'm hooked. I'm going to get me more supplies as soon as the store restocks and add another.

I love doing things like this. Solvin' problems. Building things. It's fun! I don't remember playing with blocks as a kid, but I sure like doing it now. I love days like this when I get to be a little inventor. Gives the kid in me a little candy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

How about a Gopher?

I found this on Google today:

And here is what they had:

Look familiar? Can I get a show of hands from those agreeing with me? Our little digger is a Gopher.

Mystery solved!

More Mystery Mammal Photos

Name that Mammal Contest

As we were leaving for Grandma's house yesterday, and I was locking up the door, I noticed a hole in the ground. Right by the back door. I don't like holes in the ground. You never know what's in them. Could be a snake...

I called The Nutty Papa over and asked him to investigate. Right when he did, this little guy popped his head out of the ground...

Hello little fellow! Initially, the Nutty Papa wanted to kill it. See, we have mounds of unearthed earth in our front yard, and back yard, and orchard... well, everywhere. The Nutty Papa is angry about this and wanted to take it out on this little fellow. That is until my 4 year old Snuggle Bug and animal lover came to it's rescue. He told The Nutty Papa that we should keep it, and the Nutty Papa, being the tender heart that he is, couldn't kill this guy in front of the Snuggle Bug, so a chase began. As soon as our little dirt digger saw he was being watched...
He high tailed it back into his tunnel. The Nutty Papa followed. The digger dug. Papa dug. Digger. Papa. Digger...
Papa. Until finally, the digger dug no more. He decided trying to dig away from the giant leather yellow thing was futile. So he decided to stand his ground and fight. He bit. He clawed. He bit some more. But the giant leather yellow thing would not go away. It could not be hurt. And the little digger was finally caught...
in a Jiff Peanut Butter jar. Poor little guy. He was digging and clawing trying to escape the jar. Once again, Snuggle Bug to the rescue. We found him a bucket in the garage. Threw some dirt in there. The Nutty Papa recommended a root for food so I got him a carrot and a little water. We set him up in the bucket and voila! Happy little digger.
Here are the Nutty boys and Papa with the digger in the jar. They enjoyed the excitement.

I'm happy to report, the little digger is still alive and well in the bucket in the garage. He is enjoying all my carrots and we gave him an old Pringles bottle to hide in for safety. He's content. And stinky.

But we said a contest, right? Here's the deal. If you can name that mammal you will win a free, all expenses paid night in the Nutty Forest. We'll provide the, uh-um, bed, dinner and breakfast. Leave your ideas in the comments section. Just please help us name this little guy.

I'm afraid his home is going to be my garage until The Nutty Papa knows what kind of digger this is!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Baby is One!

We celebrated my Baby's first birthday by taking a family trip to Sea World. We had so much fun! I love Sea World. I get all choked up seeing those trainers swimming with the dolphins and whales. It makes me proud of them. They worked so hard and got those big ol' fish to jump and flip in the water. Amazing!

We were thrilled to see that Shamu (a.k.a. Sea World) was also celebrating a birthday. So Shamu had a party hat on to celebrate! I thought it would be fun to pose with the birthday boys. When we got home, the Baby got to open his gifts. His reaction: "This? For me? This?" (See him point.) He just grinned and pointed like "Aw, shucks. You shouldn't have!" Then his big brother and sister proceeded to tear into them and show him what he got. Then they ran with the stash to the next room to play. Hey, atleast he got to see what he got!

Finally, my favorite first birthday moment... the cake. We spread the Baby's birthday over the weekend and we culminated the celebrating with cake. It's fitting to really stretch his birthday out over the weekend. Seems like that's the pattern for his life, so far. He's a little guy. Not even on the "chart". I guess he's -1%. He's really stretching his infancy out... getting the most of the baby time he can. Taking his time growing into 6 month clothes. No hurry learning to walk. Teeth... got a few. No hurry. I love it.

The same was true with his cake eating. It was as if he said, "Hmmm. What's this lovely thing the Nutty Mama has placed before me? How does it feel? Oh... soft. I'm in my food chair. Maybe I should eat it. Oh, yeah! Chocolate. I know this stuff! Yum!" And the face smearing began. Beautiful. We should all be so uninhibited.

So hears to my Baby and hears to wishin' him a wonderful second year full of fun, happiness, health, and love.

All on his own terms of course.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The War Begins

I know you have been eagerly anticipating my first Pecan Nut Casebearer catch. You wake up every morning and wonder, "Is this the day that Nutty Mama will catch her first bug?" It fills your every thought... every dream....

Well, the time has come!
It seems like just yesterday that we hung out the traps.

My little helpers and I set the traps ever so carefully. Then every day, for the past month, we have checked our 8 traps, only to be disappointed by the emptiness we found.

Monday, he made his appearance. Poor little guy. I drove over to trap 1. Nothing. 2. Nothing. 3. 4. 5. Oh, no. Another dull disappointing day. 6. -gasp- What's this?!? Casebearer. Stuck to the icky sticky bottom of the trap. Trying to wriggle his way free. 1. I caught 1. Make no mistake there will be more.

What happens next you ask? I keep counting. I keep checking. When I hit a peak, then I give it about 10 days for the little suckers to lay eggs and hatch. Then I go after them with my guns, er, I mean my Monster, a blazin'!

In the meantime, I have one more thing to look for. Eggs. I have to search for eggs. See it in that picture? It's the little round whitish thing in the middle of the photo, under that little flap of green. (This picture is magnified for your viewing pleasure.) They'll be layin' those eggs on my little precious nutlets. A perfect feeding ground for a baby casebearer worm. They hatch and start eatin' my precious little nuts. They're my precious. MY precious! Leave 'em alone!!

Let the war begin!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Diggin for Answers

The Great Pecan Man came to visit Monday. I say he's great because he is. He has been doing this for a long time. When The Nutty Papa and I went to the Pecan Short Course at the greatest University in the world, the professors talked about his work. They showed pictures of his trees. He's a Great Pecan Man.

He has been involved on a limited basis in the production of this orchard for many years. Mr. Z used to take his pecans to The Great Pecan Man to have them cleaned. Now we do. So The Great Pecan Man has seen what this orchard can make. And he knows how good it can be. He wants to help. He's not only a Great Pecan Man, he's also just a fabulous human being all a round. He doesn't have to help me at all. He could just refer me to the Pecan Dr. and other specialists and wash his hands of me. No. He offers support and guidance and drives an hour over here to help me.

One of the unsolved puzzles about our orchard for the Great Pecan Man has been water. He, and many others, have said that the trees aren't getting enough water. This has been something that I just couldn't get. Not enough water?!? I watered them every day, 24/7, in 2006. We survived the great monsoon of 2007... not enough water? You've got to be kidding. But still he persists. And since he is The Great Pecan Man, who am I to argue.

So when The Great Pecan Man came on Monday, I thought I'd be driving him around the orchard looking at sprinkler heads and water patterns around the trees. Little did I know... Remember this? Irrigation. Fixin' pipes. Diggin' holes. Well, one thing that Mr. Z left me with was a rough sketch of where he put the pipes. Yeah. Ok. Whatever. So there are pipes in the ground. They take water to the trees. Blah. Blah. Blah.

But this isn't enough for The Great Pecan Man. He has questions. What size pipe is here? What about over there? How about down there? Where does it go? What about that valve? What does it do? What is the water pressure here? What about when you do this? Does it change the water pressure? Geesh! Isn't it enough to know there are pipes down there that take water to the trees?!? Nope.

So to answer these questions we dig...

and dig...

and dig...

and dig, until we get answers.

One of the questions was, where does this come from and what size. Well, Great Pecan Man, here it is. This is a 1 1/2 inch piece of pipe and we dig along for 25 feet until we found where it met with this 3 inch piece of pipe. Answers. Got 'em. What's it mean to you and me? Not much. There's a pipe. Yep. It connects to something else. You bet. Thought so.
But to The Great Pecan Man it means so much more. After 30 minutes on the phone with The Great Pecan Man clickin' away on his calculator, he figures out that the Southside of the orchard has been getting less water than the Northside. I could have never figured that out! The Great Pecan Man saves the day! Now the Southside will be treated with the same love as the Northside.
And the Southside thanks you!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Making Changes

I love our house. It's big. I can escape in there. There's enough room for everyone to find their own space. And when we want to be together, the rooms are big enough for all of us. Mr. and Mrs. Z built this house. They did a good job.

However, Mr. and Mrs. Z loved wall paper. It's everywhere. It's bright. It's flowery. It's overwhelming. Someday, I want to take it all down. I could use some help. Any volunteers? This is Mr. and Mrs. Z's dining room. They had a big beautiful table in here with all their china displayed in the cabinets. When we move in, the kids claimed that room as their play room. Now those cabinets hold toys and books.
Well, Grandma called recently and suggested I change the playroom into a school room. I found this suggestion interesting since she isn't a staunch supporter of our choice to homeschool the kids. I have always wanted a school room, but I want a play room too. I love having a room whose sole purpose is to hold the toys. This appeals to me. Find a toy. Throw in in that room. Nice. So when she suggested we make it a school room, I wondered what we'd do with the toys.

Then she suggested I make the downstairs bedroom a playroom. Hmmm. The idea has merit. But I really like the idea that guests have a room to stay in when they come. Sure they have to share the bathroom with everyone, but they have a big bed to sleep on. Changing that makes me sad.

She had a solution for that too. And that's how I discovered her alterior motive.

Grandma is moving this month. She's downsizing. She's moving to Houston to a retirement community. And she has too much stuff. So she's trying to pawn some of it off on me.

It worked.

Meet my new school table. It'll be nice for the kids. It's a game table which I discovered means it's shorter than a regular dining table. Why do people who play games need a table that's shorter? Another of life's unanwered questions.
And this will go in the new playroom. It's a nice comfy sofa that we'll sit on to read and watch movies. I'll be sad to see my king sized bed go. But that doesn't mean we don't want guests. Guests are welcome. You can sleep in the play room. On Grandma's sofa.

Sweet Dreams.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mystery for Mystery

I am lucky enough to have an entomologist who tunes in regularly. I call him Mystery. Don't ask. He's a teacher and researcher at the greatest University in the universe... Texas A&M. Can I get a WHOOP?!? He's great. When I run into a critter out there in the orchard... and that's pretty often... he tolerates my photo emails and questions.

So since I am dragging you all through this experience with me, I thought I'd show you my latest critter. Let's see what Mystery says about this one.

Hey Mystery... What's this? Should I have smooshed him? Do I need to break out the bazooka?! Help me protect my little nutlets...

The Nutty Mama

Mystery responded:

Your bug picture is a leaffooted bug, not a good guy so you can smush him/her........ You can tell by the "leaf like" swelling of the hind legs that sort of looks like a leaf. I know of three species of the leaffooted bug genus - Leptoglossus that feed on pecan. The three are Leptoglossus phyllopus, which has a white stripe across the back; L. zonatus which has a zig zag stripe across the back plus two light or orangish areas on the head; and L. oppositus which has three very faint white spots on the back.

Keep up the great work....................Mystery :)

Now to go a smushin'! Thanks Mystery!


Since I have become such an educator on pecan trees... chuckle, chuckle... I figured today would be the day we talked about the birds and the bees. That's right folks. Reproduction. As I began thinking through my head what I would tell you about it, the only thing that repeatedly came to mind was the song from Grease 2... you know the one. Everyone sing it with me. (Deep Voices now) Where does the pollen go?!?

I digress.

It's the time of year when all pecan growers watch their trees with anxiety. Waiting to see what we'll get. Kinda like going to get a sonogram. Will it be a boy, or girl? (Not that I know. I never had one... I'm good with those kind of surprises. Unlike some folks we know -cough- Missie.) We pecan farmers wonder... will it be an on year or an off year? And because Abuck is in Hawaii and wants to know how things are coming along, I have to learn what to look for so I can answer him honestly.

Let's take a look and see what's out there today...

These are Catkins. You've seen them. They make a mess all over your car. Typical. They are the "male" part of the tree. This year, they look good. This is a Wichita. Look at those catkins. Big. Long. Good nutmakers. (Let's keep it clean folks.)
This is the flower. The female part of the tree. This is where we hope the pollen from the catkins ends up. And with the wind we've had lately, it looks good. But something looks funny here. Let's take a closer look.
What's this?!? Nutlets! So soon?! WHOOP! That's exciting. Aren't they tiny? I have to nurture, protect and care for these babies for 5 more months. Let's see what else we can find...
Hey! A bird's nest! Awesome! So that's what happens to my hair after I clean out my hairbrush. Recycling. Cool. I love going out into the orchard and finding these little surprises. Isn't nature amazing?!?

Sorry, I got distracted. Happens all the time. Like once when I... Oops. Focus Nutty Mama.
Here's what we are celebrating...

Reproduction! THAT'S where the pollen goes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Root of the Problem

I'm happy to begin today by reporting the Doodlebug is recovering nicely. She even felt up for a gator ride to help fix pipes today. However, she crashed in the back while we worked. Looks cozy, huh? A nice nap, under the shade of a beautiful pecan tree, with a nice breeze blowing... excuse me... zzzzzzzzz. Uh-hmm... where was I? Right. Pipes. The saddest thing we do in the orchard is fix broken pipes. Not simple stopped up sprinkler fixin'. Not "oops I ran over a pipe and broke it" fixin'. Deep down in the ground fixin'. Sad, you ask? Yes. It's sad. Let me explain.
Each tree has a sprinkler to give it food and water. No need to get up and go to the kitchen. No preheating the oven. No dishes to clean after a meal. Nothing. Mama takes care of it. Water and food. Right here, baby. And what does the tree do? Breaks the hand that feeds it. Literally. The roots often grow right where the pipes are going. And since there is only room for one, the tree selfishly breaks the pipe to make bigger roots. I wish someone would explain this to the tree. Here is what we then have to do to fix the problem...
Chop! Chop! Chop! Ouch! The root must come out. This makes me sad. I haven't removed a root yet that I didn't stop and apologize to the tree. I imagine it took a lot of energy to grow a root that big. It's a good thing. A root. Collecting lots of water and nutrients for the tree. And here I come, chopping it out. If only it would have taken a different direction. Seriously. It's not like the tree is blindly growing in the dirt.
It feels the pipe is there. Grows around it even. I wish someone would just tell it to detour at the pipe. Then everyone could be happy. Tree keeps root... happy. Mama doesn't have to cut out major piece of root... happy. Pipes left intact. Good.
There is a little joy found in the chopping of the roots...
Leave it to a 7 year old boy to remind us of the joys of digging in the dirt.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We interrupt this farmin' to bring you...

We caught a bug. Not a bug in the trap. This bug won't hurt the trees, but we caught it none the less. This is the most detested bug in my life. I hate this bug above all other bugs... and that's saying something. Seems we caught a stomach bug.

I hate when my kids get stomach bugs. My oldest is pitiful when he gets one. He's weak and whiny. When my second born gets them, he knows exactly what to do and takes care of himself. He's kinda tough that way. This is the first time my Doodlebug has caught a stomach bug. It's kickin' her butt. She's been throwin' up for 36 hours. We are on our way to the doctor to get some fluids. But let me tell you, my Doodlebug is one stubborn gal! She'll toss her cookies and then look at me with all seriousness and ask for water. Beg for water. Scream for water. If I leave the room, she sneaks out of the room and finds water. Then proceeds to throw it all up. Stubborn. I wonder where she gets it?!?

So I'm hangin' my farmin' hat on a hook for today and I'm being a watchdog.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Well, Well, Well

They took the pump out of the hole on Saturday. There it is. See that piece of pipe that has wires on it? That's it. I know. I'm not too impressed either. But if you knew the price of that not so impressive piece of machinery... you'd be amazed. Apparently, when you put a pump in a hole and turn it on, it vibrates. The wires vibrated right off that baby. That's it. That was the problem. Nothing exciting like getting zapped by lightning. Just loose wires. It had been working hard getting water to those trees. I guess it needed a break. Hey, after workin' hard around here, my wires get a little loose too.
And this is the hole it came out of. It normally has a nice cover on it. But my friends and I were curious how a child could fall down a well and get stuck. After removing the cover, you can see how that could happen.

Since the pump was out of the hole, our local water conservation guy came out to measure the water level. This can only be done when the pump is out of the hole. Last year, during the monsoon, the water read 113 feet. Dig a hole 113 feet down into the ground and there's water. Well, that's how far you'd have to dig last year. This year you'll have to work a little harder. It's at 115. Don't worry, Abuck. That well is far from drying up!

And for those of you who are curious to see how deep 115 feet is, there it is. The water conservation guy said you can shine a mirror down there and see the depth. So we did. It's much more impressive in real life. You'll have to trust me on this one.
They are plugging that baby back in as we speak so the trees will be served their spring dose of food. Yummy! Sorry for the delay folks. (Hope that doesn't mess up my tip!)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Second on my list of To-Dos...

So the pump is down. No pump. No water. But I still have to spray. This makes me weak at the knees. Last year the pump was down and I didn't spray when I should have and I lost the crop. I absolutely can't have that happen again.
So the wheels in my brain begin to turn. Water. Water. Where can I get water? I know! We have the most Friendly Cotton Farmin' Neighbors. I'll ask them. Maybe I can buy some water from them.
Turns out, my Friendly Cotton Farmin' Neighbors are more than wonderful. They are a beautiful reminder of a time when life was a little more carefree and simple.When I call the Daddy Cotton Farmer he says, "Sure! Drive that ol' rig on over and we'll fill it up. And don't worry about buyin' that water. Water's cheap!" Can I get a hallelujah?!? I can spray! Yippee! My Friendly Cotton Farmin' Neighbors just saved the day!
The next mornin', I'm makin' plans to drive my Monster over there and I talk to Grandpa Cotton Farmer. "Hey, we have a nurse tank. Why don't you just let us fill it up and bring it over to ya?" After I picked myself up off the floor, I ran out to the barn and met him there with that nurse tank. It's a 1000 gallon tank which means it'll fill 500 gallon tank on the Monster twice. We have about 13 loads to go. When I tell Daddy Cotton Farmer this, he says, "No problem. Just give me a call when you are done and I'll come get it, fill it up, and drive it back." Now I'm startin' to feel a little guilty about all the help I'm gettin' from my Friendly Cotton Farmin' Neighbors, so I insist on drivin' the tank back over there myself. "Really, it's no trouble," the Daddy Cotton Farmer says. Gosh! What nice folks! I am so glad they are my neighbors. I did finally convince him he had better things to do all day than to fetch me water. After all, he's a cotton farmer.
When we finish sprayin' the first two loads, I hook up to the nurse tank and drive over to the Friendly Cotton Farmin' Neighbor's. They meet me beside their tank and we fill 'er up. When I tell you I meet them beside a tank, I mean this...
This is what a Friendly Cotton Farmin' Neighbor calls a tank. Not the black thing over there... the lake. They have that by the barn just as pretty as it can be. The Doodlebug went with me over there and she says it's a lake... filled with sharks and even a whale. I wouldn't go that far. It's not THAT big. But it's nice. A little piece of heaven right there in your backyard. They even get to go fishin' there when they aren't busy farmin' cotton, or peanuts, or hay, or cows.
So we got the nurse tank filled up and drive it back over to the Nutty Forest...

...filled up the Monster...

... and started sprayin'. I was so thankful to the Friendly Cotton Farmin' Neighbors. That's a good neighbor. When you need something, there they are. I wish there was more of that in the world. Kinda like the leave your backdoor unlocked, let your kids play in the street, cars unlocked kinda days I hear about from Grandma. It's still out there folks.
Here is the Monster in action. He's a crazy beast, dreamed up and created by Mr. Z, the Original Nutty Farmer. It has two full sized truck engines. One runs the truck, one runs the pump on the back. I have learned more than I'd ever dreamed I'd learn about the inner workings of a truck engine. This Monster is my challenge. There's always something to fix and work on. Thanks to Mr. Pete, the mechanic, the Monster is running beautifully and is getting the job done. We finished spraying on Sunday. Mark that off the list. Still to go: water the trees, feed the trees, and now... deal with weeds.

A farmer's work is never done.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pumpin' 101

This week, we were geared up to run full force. I was advised by the Great Pecan Man to get to watering, fertilizing, and spraying... as soon as I could.
I was ready to water. Last year, right in the middle of the season, our pump died. It was a sudden death, completely unexpected. We cried and mourned and then got to the business of replacin' the old pump. Well, it's a tough thing to replace a pump. Gotta find someone you trust first and foremost. The folks that the Great Pecan Man recommended were not available for 3 weeks. Well, that just wasn't goin' to work. I needed that pump... NOW! I found someone locally and they were available to put the pump in in 3 days. So I went with them. But I drug my feet. I didn't know if I should increase the size of the pump... how much water I really wanted to come out of the hole... how often I'd pump... things like that. Things that Mr. Z, the original Nutty Farmer would have known right off the top of his little ol' head. But I didn't. And I was wary of spending that kinda money without thinkin' it through. Well, I finally got around to getting a pump put down that hole and wouldn't you know, the rain began. It rained and rained. So I never really got a chance to use that nice new pump. But I'm ready now. So I fired up that shiny new pump and started irrigating. The trees breathed a sigh of relief with the sprinklin' and yummy food that I gave them. Atleast the first 274 trees did. As I was watering the second section, the pump stopped. So did my heart. I called the pump guy and he came right out. "Tell me the news," I said. "Is it good news or bad news?" "Well, I'm gonna have to pull it outta the ground." Uff-da Mega! That wasn't the news I was hoping for. He says it'll be Monday before he can get it out. Well, surprise, surprise! Saturday morning, a team arrived to pull it out of the hole. And for those city folks interested in seeing what that means...
Here is the rig they use to pull it. Not the little thing on the right... that's the rig I use to haul munchkins around. That big monster thing with a crane on the back of it. The pump is danglin' in a hole in the ground by a big long bunch of screwed together pipes. First they have to pull the pipe out... one... piece... at... a... time.
They lift up the first 12 foot pipe and then have to use their brute strength to unscrew the first piece of pipe from the second. They have some crow bars and chains... but mostly, they just have to push... HARD!
The guy in the cammo managed it all on his own. I kept waiting for him to do some fancy Jackie Chan move and jump kick the thing. He just pulled and yanked... all with his own body weight. I have a lot of body weight to throw around, but I don't think I could have gotten those two pieces of pipe apart.
After he gets it apart, the other guy pushes a button and the crane ever so gently lowers the first piece of pipe to the ground. Then they pull up the next piece of pipe and do it all over. And in case you were wondering, there are 12 pieces of that pipe reachin' down that hole. It's a long process. Lots of patience, muscle, and sweat. Not to mention trying to do your job with some crazy lady running around taking pictures of everything.
And then there's these two...