Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ketchup, Catsup, Catchup. I'm behind.

Doesn't that look inviting?  Too bad I haven't had time to plant my tush in either one of those chairs.  Also, I'm afraid that, if I spend too much time there, the hops vine will consume me.  I am bound and determined - with that perfect cosmic concoction of no biting flies, less humidity, ducks at nap time, sun at a low angle, and a perfect little breeze - to sit out and enjoy it this weekend.

It has been all about weeding.  It is what I do every available moment.  I even dreamt about weeding last night.  Thanks to my slothfulness last year, the weeds got a root-hold and are doing their best to retain it.  The purslane is rampant.  The sheep sorrel is downright scary.  Then there are the grasses - snake, crab, hellish stuff.  Every morning at 6:30, I am trotting outside with my watering implements, to nurse my little garden along.  I do equal parts watering and weeding.  Then I weed my way across the front of the house, down the side, around the back and into the chicken yard, where there is nothing to weed. 

Mr. Butters has been a pain.  He is an adorable pain, which is the only thing that saves him in most moments, but a pain nonetheless.  Last night I came home to find he had peed on the rug by the deck door.  He had no excuse, as I let them out multiple times.  But he was too busy sticking his pointy little nose into every bush, crevice and crack to bother taking care of business.  Then I let them out into their fenced area, went inside for three minutes, and only Lovey showed up at the door.  After a frantic ten minute screamfest, I found him, nonchalantly sniffing around the big pine tree in the front yard.  He meandered back in his own sweet time and sealed his fate.  Back into the crate he goes.
I have harvested nothing but collards and kale.  There are a few promising cukes coming along, but my jalapenos are puny.  My one sweet pepper plant looks healthy, but there are no flowers.  Thank goodness for Marianne's farm!  They do a good business with their microgreens, but the pea shoots grow so fast, they are beyond micro in the blink of an eye.  I just happen to LOVE pea shoots, so I get a gallon bag of them every week.  Bliss!  My neighbor gave me my first zucchini and I almost cried.  Looks like I will have to get my act together an get back into my garden next year.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The importance of good resources.

I was very thrilled to be asked by Molly at Ulysses Press to review Leigh Tate's latest book, Preppers Livestock Handbook.  No one has officially asked for my opinion before - they usually get it, whether they asked for it or not!  While the book has been reviewed by many, more adept than I at this reviewing stuff, here's my two-cents-worth.

Let me start off by saying how much easier my start in homesteading would have been, had I had this book on my shelf.  Over the years - usually after the fact - I have amassed a hodge-podge of reference materials, covering everything from chicken breeds to bee-keeping, to housing, to fencing, to first aid.  While many are perfectly good books, they are usually rather...over-written.  You have to wade through a lot of text that impedes getting to the point - that nugget of information you need NOW.

Preppers Livestock Handbook is, in true Leigh Tate style, well-researched, well-organized, well-written, and concise.  It has, in one manageable volume, everything one needs when planning the best homestead set up for their circumstances.  I am quite impressed by the range of subjects covered and by the fact that the pertinent information - the boots-on-the-ground stuff - has been pared down to easily give you what you need to know to make good, informed decisions.

As a long-time follower of Leigh and Dan, and their great blog, 5 Acres and a Dream, I am not surprised that this is such a great book.  And, while all of the information on different breeds, their pros and cons, care and considerations, is a terrific resource, the part of the book that really resonated with me was Chapter 10 - Keeping Things Manageable.  This chapter is worth its weight in gold.  When you are first realizing your dream of a lifetime (which is what it is to most of us), it is so easy to get carried away.  Not only does this put a great strain on the homesteading newcomer, but it puts an unnecessary burden on your budget and often, as in my case, causes losses that need not have been lost.

No matter how long you've been homesteading, this book gives the reader a new, fresh look at their homestead.  Once again, Leigh has it the nail on the head.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Reining in my plastic life.

I made a pledge to do my best to make July a No-Plastic month.  As is usually the case, I presumed it would be a snap.  Wrong-o.  Plastic has invaded every nook and cranny of my life.  It is in/on/with/made of everything I touch, it seems.

After coming to grips with this fact, I decided that I would aim for not bringing any plastic into my home for a month.  The upside of this is that a) I will save money and b) it will stretch my creative abilities to their max. 

I have been keeping track of how things are packaged over the last few months, as I got ready for the challenge.  It's sort of like jogging in place before a marathon, without the ibuprofen.  I would say that 99.9% of anything I ordered online came with some sort of non-recyclable, plastic packaging.  A few were pretty creative themselves.  I got some adorable mugs from Calamity Ware and they came in a veritable Matryoshka of cardboard boxes; a total of 4 boxes, nesting tightly within each other, with the mugs individually wrapped in plastic in the final box.  Then there was the book that was heavily wrapped in plastic bubble wrap and enclosed in a bubble wrap mailing envelope.  I ordered a used copy of Plastic Free - How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.  Ironically, it arrived in a plastic dust cover.  When I go to the grocery store, the majority of items I tend to buy are packaged in plastic.  If I am not right on top of the people manning the checkouts, everything would be triple bagged.   I already schlep my reusable bags to every store I frequent.  If I forget them, I have to come up with creative ways to juggle purchases to the car (pockets are my life).  Then there are the epic fails - like my experience ordering frozen dog food (each package came in it's own giant box, lined with Styrofoam - my nemesis - containing dry ice).  I've gotten the packaging fairly well under control on that end, ordering a freeze-dried, human-grade food that is in a box.  In a  plastic bag in a box.  However, it looks as though I will be buying only used furniture.  I have been looking for a storage unit to help organize my craft/yarn/office room make-over,  for quite some time.  I found the perfect one, on sale, at a big box store in May.  It had to be ordered, so I did so.  Had I ordered it in July, I would have had to send it back as soon as I opened the box and looked inside - it was a plasti-phobe's nightmare.
Damn Styrofoam again
In an interesting twist - my local Wal-Mart (which I usually avoid like the plague) was the only place I could find organic fish emulsion fertilizer (in a plastic bottle).  They also are one of the few establishments that will take your plastic bags for recycling - they sell themselves as very 'green'.  However, when I got to the checkout, the woman refused to put my purchases in the bag I brought.  I had to do it myself.  It's not that I mind bagging my own, but really?  I don't think that the corporate message has trickled down.  The only reason I will enter the store again, is to use their bag recycling.
I needed to get cheddar, but cannot buy it at the grocery because it is in a plastic-wrapped block.  I did a little calling around and found two local places that carry large wheels of cheddar that I can get cut to order and wrapped in paper.  Score!  It costs more, but it is worth it in the long run, me thinks.  The upside about all this mental canoodling, is that I find myself thinking of creative solutions to all kinds of things.  I was watching a podcast about a young woman and her family who homestead in Arkansas, and I was admiring her gardening/harvesting apron.  I looked it up online and it was pricy.  I think I can make my own rendition at a fraction of the price.  The wheels have already started turning.  After all, I finally remembered how to thread my sewing machine.
If I can stem the inflow of plastic and reuse what I already have accumulated until it falls apart (but never goes away), I will rest easier.  I grew up (my teenagish years) at the dawn of Earth Day.  Those principles have stuck with me ever since and the one thing that stands out most starkly in my mind is the fact that there is no Away, as in throwing something away.  It goes somewhere.  Unfortunately, it often goes into the oceans and streams and rivers.  It goes into landfills.  It is blown to the sides of the road, up in tree branches.  This is a finite planet.  There are already too many people on it and those people are creating too much trash.  If more people would become aware of the amount of plastic trash they are generating for future generations - as in all their kids/grandkids/great-grandkids - maybe the trend will turn.

Hope springs eternal.
If you are interested in joining in, here is the link.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Hell. I've got pictures.

So, this is what it's like.
Fifteen minutes later, it was 100.
Notice the interior temp.
Were it the only day of such extremes, I might not be complaining as mightily.  However, this was just one of many.  Saturday's high was 98 with high humidity.  Sunday reached 100, ditto on the humidity.  Monday dipped slightly to 99 (humidity again), Tuesday was balmy at 98 (blah, blah, blah on the humidity), and yesterday it was back to 100 (etc.)  I do not function in this weather.  At all.

This was the scene inside Casa Little Lucky:

Which is cooler?  Laminate or


What the....?!

That's more like it.
Butters did remain a fleece blanket burrito right up until 98 degrees.  Then, even he couldn't take it.  You will notice that he very much resembles a baby walrus - that would be the unknown-but-large quantity of dog food he snarfed up after breaking into the laundry room.  He is both busy and naughty.  I cannot keep him in his crate in this weather, so we have to trust each other - not.

Needless to say, not much got accomplished - again.  This so goes against my very being.  I do manage to weed and water in the wee hours, but I did not bake my pies for the annual local library event on the Fourth.  The first time in years.  I just couldn't face turning on the oven.

My new grass is loving the heat - and added sunshine, after all the sumac trees were cleared.
Phase One is complete.
The sheep and llama were very appreciative of the sumac branches, as they love them.  I fed them in the early morning, so they could eat before retreating to the barn for the day.  There has been much filling of wading pools and water buckets.  And bird baths.  And water dishes.  And adult sippy cups.
Linden (Tubby) and Norman (Nutty)

Apria works on early morning hay.
There has been very little knitting, no surprise, but I am slowly working my way through two sweaters.  Because I am a masochist, apparently.  For mindless knitting, I'm working on a shawl/scarf.  There are shortie socks to be cast on.  I had planned to finish my summer pillow shams (from last year...) but just couldn't work up enough energy to face that much movement.

I did whip up a double batch of garlic scape pesto, because I had to cut the scapes and I needed to do SOMETHING.  I love this stuff and use it often.  I'm doing a trade with a neighbor who grows a lot of garlic - he gives me his scapes and I give him back some pesto. 
After freezing, I pop these in jars and use as
On a bright note, I got to meet my new doctor on Tuesday.  I LOVE her!  I haven't been this hopeful about a doctor in years - years, I tell you!  First, she is a long way from retiring.  Second, she has a farm.  Third, she gave me the name and number of her acupuncturist.  Fourth, she is interested in herbal and alternative treatments.  And - I was so excited about this - she told me about tick prevention (tick tubes) and told me how to make my own!  OMG.  What's not to love?

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Weekend of Prostration.

I have almost nothing to show for the entire weekend.  There was a tiny bit of cooking - Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad for a cookout at my sister's on Saturday.  Rhubarb Juice, because I am hooked on it.  Tuna Salad Macaroni Salad (GF) because I knew I had to eat something for lunches this week.

Besides the foray to familyville on Saturday, I spent the rest of the weekend prostrate.  When I wasn't filling water buckets and wading pools.  I spent hours, sighing mightily and saying - in a weakened voice - "Oh, y'all.  I'm about to die from this heat."  Every once in a while, my tut-tut-ing inner voice would sneer, "Oh, go pull up your damp BGPs and DO something!"  Luckily for me, even the inner voice had the starch taken out of it in this weather. 

I managed to:

Weed in the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday morning.
Sell all of my eggs.  My Summer Lake customers are back in full force!
Take the dogs for ice cream.
Water everything in the wee hours of Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Put up my tobacco cloth over the currants and blueberries.
Sew up a curtain for the cat's room.

That last one - which should have taken, oh, 10 minutes, took over an hour.  You know how, in your mind, you can just pick things up where you left off - seamlessly?  Even though you left off MONTHS almost a YEAR ago?  And maybe you're no longer the sharpest tack in the box and it takes some effort to remember, say, anything?

I forgot how to thread my sewing machine.  I did some version of it and - no surprise - it bunched, snagged, tore, jammed and did a variety of things that whipped me into a frenzy.  I then stood up, took a deep breath, got some iced rhubarb juice and went prostrate for 15 minutes.  Then I was back at it and figured out that I had missed about 2/3rds of the most important steps in threading it.  Sigh.  I was then too lazy to look for better thread and tried, unsuccessfully, to use a spool that Lovey had gnawed on in her early, anxious years.  Fernatssake.  Another glass of rhubarb juice (See?  I'm hooked!) and a breather, and I rustled up a good spool of thread and it took me less than 10 minutes to finish the curtain.  I had put a sheer in the cat room window to let in light, but this brutal weather was just too much.  I found a lovely dark blue batik remnant and now it's cooler, darker and pretty as well!  Poor Slimmie is nothing but a slow-moving puddle in this weather, sweet furry lumpkin.

Mr. Butters insists on being ON me, with his hot, sweaty little body.  Lovey just looks miserable and tries to find new, cooler places.  I have a series of four fans going and, even so, I was pretty unhappy having to leave them alone for another brutal day.  Yesterday, the thermometer peaked at 99 degrees, not factoring in the 70% humidity.  Today is supposed to be the same.  Just shoot me.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Wild Thangs

If this morning's commute is any kind of a precursor of events to come this week, hold onto your hat!  I had to stop for:  wild turkeys; BEAR CUBS; porcupine; deer; grouse.  While four of the five are reasonably common, bear cubs are not.  I was laboring up my mountain (CLOSE TO HOME) when I spotted what I first thought were obese Labradors.  While I was tsking their owners for a) letting them get to that state and then, b) letting them run loose, a tiny voice in the back of my brain pan said - dogs : no / bears : yes.  They scampered into the woods before I got close enough to see their beady eyes.  Which is probably a good thing, as they seemed young enough to still have their mama close by.  After hearing the story about a woman (on the same mountain) having her car attacked and totaled by a cow moose with a bad attitude, I was in no mood to hang around to see if she would come along.

I got so much done this weekend!  Woot, woot, woot!  Of course, only about half of it was on The List, but it still counts.  Because I added, then crossed off all the extraneous stuff.  I do not consider it cheating, since you asked.

The weather was sort of crummy on Saturday, as the Big Rain forecast for our area dissolved into dribbles on and off all day.  I did a drop-off run to the local food pantry (reducing the clutter in my laundry room significantly, as it's the only safe place to store food stuffs in a house that contains the Flying Sausage, aka Butters), picked up 100# of poultry feed from the local supplier, then headed home and hit the ground running.  With help from my neighbor and his trusty chainsaw, all the sumac trees were taken down in the section of the chicken yard that was fenced off for grass rejuvenation.  Then another hour was devoted to clearing the debris, followed by another hour of yoinking weeds, then another two and a half hours were spent with shovel, pickax, trowel and iron bar, trying - to no avail, alas - to dig out an oak tree seedling and move it to its new home.  After following a large tap root (with no extraneous root system) for more than a foot and a half, the root zigged east and south and there was no way I could extract it.  I was quite unhappy about it, as I love trees and had hoped to move it out of the flower bed close to the house to the new, grassy oasis in the back.  At least I have a hole ready for a potential tree.  I will have to start keeping my eyes open for a likely candidate.

By the time I threw in the trowel/shovel/pick/rod, I was mud from head to toe, as rain drizzled on me the entire time.  The temperature on Saturday didn't rise above 60 degrees, so it was pure heaven to go inside and peel off the wet clothes, shower and put on nice, dry everything!  The dogs spent a contented day, gnawing on their marrow bones and watching me labor in the rain from the dry coziness of their sofa. 

There were many other small things ticked off the list - repair mirror chain, put a new layer of shavings in the duck hut and nesting boxes, switch poultry waterers (which I can now fill from my rain barrel!!!), weed the garlic, repair another window screen, etc., etc.  I hit bed early and didn't move until 4A.

Sunday, I was out by 6:30, as there was more rain forecast for the day.  I made four wheelbarrow runs, clearing out all the weeds I pulled from the grassy plain in back.  I also noticed that the platform on which I had balanced my rain barrel had partially collapsed from the weight.  You know those times when you do something sort of half-assed and you know it's half-assed and will probably end in a bad way, but you do it anyway because you're in a hurry/lazy?  I did manage to prop up one end with part of a cement block and will have to wait until it's empty again (how ironic) to fix it.  I am sure we will now be inundated with rain because I need it empty.

I then loaded my car with various flotsam and debris that I have been collecting and zipped off to the transfer station.  Where they were having their coffee and couldn't help me unload.  Harumph.  I was then off to Marianne's for my farm stint.  We weeded and fertilized everything in the greenhouse (she has fist-sized tomatoes!), admired her ducks and then headed in for an iced coffee and a nice chat.  I really do love these 'work' days.  I was back home in time for the rain, so focused on the inside of the house.  I did get my mirror chain rehung - I love it so much, Joyce! - and then vacuumed, swept, cleaned bathrooms, and made a grass fed beef/Marianne's mushrooms ragout with GF mushroom noodles for dinner.  Yummo!  I did not bake one thing this weekend.  I'm sure the barn guys are in shock (or mourning), but I took the day off.  My latest favorite DVD series is New Tricks and two DVDs arrived in Saturday's post!  Huzzah!

I awoke this morning feeling virtuous.  I also awoke way too early because someone (SLIMMIE) managed to get my bedroom door open and I was wide awake at 2:30.  I put in two hours on my sweaters (yes, I am knitting tandem sweaters because I am certifiable), then cleaned up the kitchen, washed eggs and made my lunch using the swag I picked up on Sunday:
Spinach, beet microgreens, my lettuce, cilantro
microgreens, shaved sweet onion, Kalamata olives
I also made a kale/spinach quiche over the weekend for lunches.  Speaking of swag - I swaggered past the only large mirror I own and was abhorred to catch a glimpse of myself - egad.  So a strict food regimen has been handed to me by me.  Swagger, indeed.  More like, Run!  Run away!  If nothing else, the exercise would do me good...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My next life (or the Big Plan B).

In my next life, I would like to put my name in to come back as a handyman.  I am very over having to wait for others to get things done.

I started rounding up someone to reinstall my fencing in April.  It is almost July and it's 1/3 done.  I'm not complaining about the quality of the work, as this young fellow is doing a splendid job with the existing fencing (which I was told had to be completely yet another local 'expert').  The posts are pounded solidly in.  The fencing is pulled as taut as possible, straightened and reclipped.  But holeymotherofzeus, it's moving at a snail's pace. 

El Blimpo (aka Linden) has gotten out three times, the latest being yesterday.  There is nothing like pulling into the driveway after a harrowing commute to find your fat sheep mowing your lawn.  With the dogs barking like lunatics (legs crossed) and the above-referenced young fellow pulling into the driveway behind me, it was touch-and-go getting fatboy back through the gate, with all the external factors - stranger, noisy dogs, cars in the road.  After getting him safely back to where he belonged, I did a perimeter check and he had either squeezed under or climbed over a section that had not been fixed yet.


The deposit has been mailed to the chimney people.  I had called the insurance company and, yes, they would cover it. deductible was less than $200 below the estimate.  I have to pony up the dough.  This will entail my taking apart my bed, dealing with the fleece and taking vacation time.  I sure know how to have fun!  I am not in a hurry, as I still have to come up with the balance and that will take some finagling.  While I have my bedroom in tear-down mode, I am going to try and get someone (hahahahahaha) in to replace the ceiling fan and, while I have a live body, fix a dead outlet and remove the VW sized microwave/fan combo from over my stove and replace it with a hood.  I guess I had better start now, as it seems to take months to actually get someone to show up.

On a positive note, Layla and her new person are going gangbusters!  It is a veritable love fest, from all accounts.  This makes me so happy.  I have rebuffed two other foster offers, as I am still making up with my two petunias.  Butters has finally relaxed slightly, but he is still clingier than usual.  As is Lovey.  At least she has lost her worry lines.

I have taken this weekend off, as far as going to VT or anywhere else, for that matter - other than my work-for-vege stint at the farm.  This means that the to-do list has reached chapter book status.  I'll try not to wear you all out with my Monday post...  There is a slight chance of rain (pleasegod) so I have an alternate (PB) list for the inside.  It's time to make the rhubarb BBQ sauce, a rhubarb kuchen and Scotch eggs.  I believe I am covered, no matter what the weather.