Sunday, March 28, 2010

Plants, Chickens and Trees. Oh My!

Spring is an exciting time at any house but especially a first spring in a new house because you get to see everything for the first time.  There is a sense of Christmas with every new corner that is explored.  Can't wait to see what's what when all is said and done.   To make the place our own we ordered 110 trees from the county that will arrive in the middle of April.  The order consists of seedlings and transplants of white pine, douglas fir, river birch and streamco willow.  Looking forward to planting them.
After work today I stopped by our dear friends, Pat and Dick Boese's house.  They have the greenest of thumbs and I wanted to see their setup for starting vegetables, plants and flowers from seed.  Like I mentioned in an earlier post I have loved landscaping and gardening since I was a kid but I have very little experience starting plants from seed.  It takes a great deal of effort, time, patience, knowledge and space.  Well I now have the space and I am gaining the knowledge from Pat and Dick.  They have a really nice set up and start their seeds indoors before moving them into either one of their 2 greenhouses!  They were nice enough to give me a sample of seeds that include heirloom tomatoes, dill, pumpkins, poppies, a wild datura from utah (which I am told contains cyanide!), amongst several others.  Many of these seeds are cultivated from there own plants at the end of each season and they save them to plant the next year.  I used their seedling setup design to build one of my own when I got home.  It is a simple set up that involves fluorescent lights and a seedling bed propagator.  Luckily I had a light in the basement that was not being used and I recycled the old dresser into my seedling station.  And yes, Mom and Dad, it's completely safe.  Fluorescent lights give off virtually no heat and use very little energy-which is also good for the environment!  In the next week I will plant the seeds and get them started!

The tall spiky things are some pussy willow cuttings that they gave me that I will allow to root after which I will plant them in the ground, after Dingus Day of course!  They remind me of Mrs Kozlowski who always had them growing in her yard when I was a kid!

On the left is a cutting of some succulent that I cut from a plant in an office at work.  It looks paltry now but when it actually has leaves it is quite striking with green leaves that have pink veins.  One the right is a cactus that Sarah bought, rather rescued, for $1 last year.  We are suckers for stuff like this!  It wasn't doing all that well after sustaining injuries when it was knocked in the sink by one of the cats, so it has spent the better part of 6 months at the Boese plant hospital under lights.  It has done incredibly well and has gotten a bit top heavy.  Therefore I had to re-pot it today and sink some of the trunk below soil level.  We'll see!  As soon as I am done writing here I will be putting a spider plant under the lights that I rescued from the garbage at work!  Now who would do that?!  Also thanks to Uncle Connie and Aunt Barbara for sharing the "Hens and Chickens" plants with us!  Can't wait to find a home for them.  These too remind me of childhood because they always has these at their house when I was a kid.  We would be honored to keep them growing!

And last but not least we ordered chickens!  They will arrive at the beginning of May as day old chicks.  The order includes the following:

buff cochin

Very exciting!  It will be nice to be partially self sufficient in many ways here and to be somewhat sustainable.  For those of you that want eggs let me know (unless you already get yours from Pat and Dick, or Ed Reiller).  You can't believe the difference in taste!

and a PS: my cousin Keith Kancar, whom many of you know, works with Thomas O'Brien at Aero Interior Design Studio in NYC.  You may also recognize his name from the Target line: Thomas O'Brien's Vintage Modern.  Thomas has a beautiful new book out that showcases his unique interior design style and taste which blends new and old, vintage and modern.  It really is quite stunning!  The book, American Modern, can be purchased here and I highly recommend it!  Congrats to Keith!  He is very much part of the success of Aero and all things Thomas O'Brien! 

Silly Animals

Caught Traveler playing in the sandbox...
...and Mr. Bad Blake enjoying the warm sun on the stone path...
...and Ms. Morgan Sophia Beasley greeted us at the barn door wearing her blanket!  It doesn't get much cuter than this!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Exciting Day at the Farm...The First Day of Spring!....

Today started out with the arrival of my new toy...a new Cub Cadet!  This new arrival has 4 wheels, not legs!
Then the little pig met the big bad wolf...
Morgan explored for hours today, she was exhausted!
Traveler wants to play with Morgan...
Getting closer...
She follows Sarah everywhere...
We thought for sure that she was headed to that water/mud hole!
But she wanted to play with Traveler too!

I must say that Traveler is really an amazing dog!  Accepting of all creatures that we have brought home to him, all 7 house cats, the horses, and now Morgan.  He wasn't sure what she was.  She does bark at times though so in his mind she may be another dog.  He has the biggest heart!  They hung out together for quite a while!
And lastly Bad Blake got to explore the world outside the barn!  His first venture out was met my the big bad wolf, and he quickly ran back in the barn.  That's a good thing.  The barn is safe and home.  He soon realized that Traveler was going to accept him as well, that makes 8.  He visited what will be the chicken yard and then went to the back horse pasture and explored for a bit before returning to the safety of the barn.  I later found him sleeping inside the barn on a bale of hay.  He had the option to go and explore because the door was still open but chose not to.  Also a good thing.  Still struggling with an "outside" cat but so far so good.  Day one was a success.

We couldn't be happier here!  It is an amazing place to call home!

My Love of Landscaping

Moving into a new house with several acres is like staring at a blank canvas, a clean slate if you will, in so many ways. It is ours and our to put our heart into to make it an oasis. Nothing could be more true when it comes to landscaping! Landscaping and gardening is something that I have loved ever since I was a little kid. I have my parents to thank for allowing me, a kid, to indulge myself and be the sole landscaper and gardener of both houses that we lived in when I was growing up. I can't imagine many parents allowing their kids to do this so I guess I must have been doing something right, or they wouldn't have let me do it. After all this wasn't some ugly painting I made at school and hung on the fridge and parents would be proud of it no matter what. This was their yard. The general public saw it and it was a reflection of them. Thanks for that! Landscaping is yet another extension of my artistic eye and innate sense of design. Again, thanks to my parents and my brother Todd for that.
The snow has melted, the ground is no longer frozen and I couldn't be happier to get my hands in the dirt! I have had a first project in mind ever since we moved in. My mind's eye had it all mapped out. Finally I was able to work on it. Each day after work last week I worked on it until it was dark.
Facing the house at the end of the driveway, on the left, I designed and constructed a raised bed framed by a natural rock wall and another cascade of rocks that pour down into the drainage ditch. The bed will be home to various ornamental grasses, perennial flowers and of course, hosta! I absolutely love ornamental grasses and have lots of plans for them. If anyone has any that they need to find a new home for (splitting up bigger plants, etc) let me know, I'll take them! The bed is about 75% complete in construction and the planting has only begun. This bed is also going to be home to our Czar of the Woods Farm sign at some point this summer.

This is the area last fall, obviously before I did anything to it (and before we moved in)...

and after...

the stone driveway is also new...thanks to my cousin Tim for helping deliver and lay it out last fall right before we moved in...I have been grooming it to make it nice and flat.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring is in the Air!

Over the last few weeks we have had some truly amazing weather for March in Buffalo!  It's been in the 50's and 60's, little to no rain and lots of SUN!  We are all feeling mentally refreshed and re-invigorated after a long, dark and cold winter.  Due to the high temps the snow melted very quickly and this was followed by some serious snow runoff in the back pasture which created a beautiful stream.  The front arena for the horses is a mud pit and they have loved it.  Czar has turned from light grey to brown.  With the nice weather even that has begun to dry up nicely.  
With the days staying lighter longer I can't wait to get home from work everyday to work outside.  I patched all the low spots in the stone driveway with help from our nephew Corbin, dug trenches in areas that needed help draining from all the melting snow and have even begun some landscaping at the end of the driveway; creating a beautiful rock wall and raised bed that will be home to ornamental grasses.  Boy have a missed working outside and especially landscaping.  Wr also have a never ending supply of soil.  After a couple years horse manure turns to black gold.  Want some, let me know, I know a guy!  Seriously, call me.
The horses get to spend the days outside, no longer locked away in their stalls.  Morgan, our pig, has really gotten into coming out of her stall for the past month and a half and today she ventured outside of the barn for the first time, exploring the yard while getting lots of dry, dead skin brushed off her courtesy of Sarah(she, Morgan that is,  absolutely loves this by the way!)
Yesterday we decided what breeds of chickens we will be getting in about a month.  More to come on that, stay tuned.  Sometime soon our friends Cindy and Steve Mead of Never Rest Farm will be bringing a bee hive or two to our property.  They will reap the rewards of which they will give us some.  Bees are amazing animals, incredibly important to the environment and without them humans would become extinct due to a lack of food.  Good to have them on our side!
So yes, spring has sprung at Czar of the Woods Farm!  I don't even mind the mud that much, it's better than snow when the sun is shining and the grass is starting to turn green!  My new Cub Cadet tractor arrives Saturday.  
Daffodil bulbs that I planted last fall here, prior to moving in (it pays to befriend the owner of a house you are buying!) are popping up.  The really beautiful thing is that they were given to me by a friend of mind at work whose mother, Dorothy, just passed away recently.  In these she lives on.  Kind of nice!
Enjoy the photos of Morgan exploring!

Introducing Bad Blake

We have a new barn cat...ahem, yep, it's true!  We now have 8 cats...7 house cats and 1 barn cat, Mr Bad Blake!  He is wonderful cat that came to the hospital as a not so friendly stray that was leery of people.  Not only leery but would attack them.  Cats don't get like this if they are around people; he was obviously living outside on his own for a while.  He even scratched the Good Samaritan that brought him in.  As a result he spent 10 days in the slammer at the hospital for a rabies quarantine (since his vaccine status was unknown).  All this and after battling an upper respiratoy infection; he was close to being euthanized!  After some great foster work by Erin, one of the assistants at work and Amy at the Erie County SPCA he has lost that fear and can't get enough of human contact.  Luckily he enjoys being the only cat so there is no chance that he will follow in the footsteps (into the house-even we have our limits if you can believe it) of his predecessor barn cat, Wilco.
Why the name Bad Blake?  This is the name of Jeff Bridges' character in Crazy Heart, the role for which he recently won the Oscar for best actor!  Told ya he was a lock!  Go see it!
In it he plays a washed up country singer trying to revitalize his career as he battles alcoholism and loneliness.  He on the outside is a bad dude but on the inside has a heart of gold, just as does the feline version of Bad Blake.  He no longer is a bad dude but he has a heart of gold.  Unless you are a chipmunk or a mouse, then you might think otherwise!  He is a combination of affection (to humans) and murder (to the barn varmen)!
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Bad Blake! (Not the best photo...he moves around a lot and I managed to get him when he was in his crate, which gives him a sense of home until he knows for sure that the barn is home.  You get the idea, more photos to follow.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Love is in the Air or Shifting Dynamics in a Band of Horses

I was fully prepared to come home today and write about how love is in the air at Czar of the Woods Farm.  Don't get me wrong it still is, it's just different than it was 12 hours ago, but especially different than it was earlier in the week.

Before I start can I just say that it is still really surreal to me to have horses.  To go out to the barn each morning and feed them, etc and then turn them out for the day.  It is an incredible feeling to have these peaceful and large beasts dependent on you.  This morning I let them out and the sun was shining as it came up over the hill and I took the time to watch each horse find his or her pile of hay to start with.  It all smelled so good.  The morning, the horses, even the sun.

You're probably wondering about the 'her' horse that I mention above.  No, Czar and Midnight have not fallen into gay horse love.  I would be fine with that as I fully support anyone that is gay, whether they are a horse or human.  This involves a lady horse, Ember. 
Ember is a 13 year old Saddlebred mare (unspayed female horse) and she came to the farm nearly 2 weeks ago.  She was incredibly nervous for the first few days.  Not surprising given any new surroundings.  The plan was to introduce her to Czar, the non-dominant gelded (neutered) male, of the pair of he and Midnight, without Midnight being around.  This is important because he really wasn't in a role to be able to be interested in her as Midnight shouldn't let him.  Not to mention, he's 25 and has no man business.

Well apparently this doesn't matter.  I introduced Ember to Czar over a fence and within seconds he was making the noise of "huhhuhhuhhuhhuhhuh" and proceeded to get the biggest horse erection ever.  Well it was the biggest one I'd ever seen, on a horse that is-I've seen maybe 2 that close in my life.  Once at the fair on Bill, the horse when I was a kid and on my boy Czar.  As big as my forearm, no lie.  A 25 year old horse getting an erection is like the equivalent of your Grandfather getting one when a beautiful young girl walks in the room.
When I let Ember into the arena with Czar they both took a liking one another and Czar proceeded to take her as his girlfriend.  She was way into him and he probably would have mounted and humped my car if I parked it to close to him.  Again, he's neutered, this isn't supposed to be the case.  For 4+ days Czar pretty much walked around with  that erection and they were moving past 3rd base and fast.  If he could have he would have and she would have let him.   Ember has been a bit of a whor-se.  They say to call the doctor if an erection lasts more than 4 DAYS.
Then came the time to introduce Midnight, the alpha horse, or top dog if you will to Ember outside while Czar was in the barn.  He too liked her but more of an indifferent, "yep, you're a horse, I'm a horse, wanna eat some hay" kind of way.  That was that.  Very peaceful.  Next came the banding of all three together into one herd.  I fully expected Midnight to tell Czar to put it in his holster and to do so with gusto.  Welllll, that didn't happen.  Czar suddenly found himself thrusted into the alpha position and he was both protecting Ember from Midnight, even though Midnight really didn't want her.  Anytime Midnight got close, Czar chased him off and most of the time I found him to position himself between Ember and Midnight.
This went on for several days and Ember and Czar nuzzled and he continued to walk around with his sun dial out.  This morning I put them out and there was more of the same; Czar keeping Ember away from Midnight and the two of them eating together like lovers.
What a difference less than 12 hours makes.  Not exactly sure what happened while I was at work but it now appears that Ember has taken on the alpha role.  She has taken a real interest in Midnight, despite his continuing indifference toward her and she is now protecting him from Czar.  Not very aggressively but simply by positioning herself between the two boys.  Not sure where Czar fits in; if he fell back down the ladder or if he is now on equal ground with Midnight.  Time will tell.  All 3 are getting along very peaceably as I spent quite a while out in the arena tonight brushing each one.  And yes, Grandpa Czar, has relaxed his weapon and put it away at least for now.

This is Ember...

Notice Ember on the far right with Czar close by and Midnight the former alpha in the foreground...

Ember and Czar nuzzling...

Notice the "lovers" eating together...

Czar positions himself between Ember and Midnight.  Czar's ears are back (not a happy horse)...

Czar working the space between Ember and Midnight...

More photos of the "lovers" paired off and Midnight...

These photos were taken ~ 12 hrs ago and boy how things have to follow.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Motorcycle as Sculpture

Last summer I bought a 1970 Honda CB 350 Motorcycle!  If you're reading this and you know my grandmother, please don't mention this, she would die, after she killed me first!  It was a present to both of us for Sarah's 30th birthday-as we had both wanted a vintage bike for a long time.  Every day last summer and into the fall I worked on it, bringing it back to life; though it doesn't need much.  In a very short period of time I learned a lot, and ebay became my evil friend again as I scoured the web for parts.  Once it got cold, around the end of last October, I couldn't work on it anymore and I have really missed it.  Rather than let it sit in the garage and collect dust we decided to move it into our great room (thanks Sarah, what a cool wife!) and use it as a sculpture!  It looks great with the sort of midcentury vintage post modern look that we have going on, including the Big Lebowski bowling alley table.  Now we get to look at it every day and working on it most likely will take a back seat to the work that needs to be done on the house.  At least we get to enjoy it each and every day.  My mom really likes the idea of the motorcycle as a sculpture because that means I won't be riding it!  I started a blog last year to document the recycling process, visit it here.