Thursday, August 9, 2018

My Muse Hath Forsaken Me

While I have been thoroughly enjoying everyone else's blog posts, my muse seems to have taken the summer off.  The Yap has gone out of my Giddyap.  The light's on, but no one has been home.

I blame it on the weeds.  No matter how many times I have groveled around in my raised beds and flower beds, yoinking great heaps of the offending greenery out by the wheelbarrow-ful, they have come back with a vengeance.  I have not seen the likes of this since I have cultivated this plot.  It doesn't help that my energy level has been running on low - I come from cold weather people - and as soon as the temperatures rise over 80, with matching levels of humidity, I'm a goner.  Even my whining has gone damp.

We have also been blessed/cursed with non-ending monsoon-like rains with accompanying thunder and lightning.  This, coupled with the unending heat and humidity, has created a steroidal effect on my weeds.  Quite perversely, while being banished to the inside by the weather, I have started plans for next year's garden.  I mean, we have to have hope, right?

Slimmie wants summer to stop.  Please
note small fang.

My morning sausage.  Or is that ham?
The only upside of this godforsaken weather is that the tomatoes are ripening!  Marianne has been keeping me in Black Krim tomatoes
This summer's fav
and my next favorite, Green Zebras.  I would show you a photo of them, but I have eaten every single one as soon as they appear.  I eat them like an apple.  OMG.

Having a countertop full of ripe produce means that I can indulge in one of my favorite seasonal foods - gazpacho!
Best served in my bee mug and inhaled within
I have been combing my Moosewood Collective Collection and have a flurry of Post-it notes on all of the recipes I want to try. 

My sister and I made our annual pilgrimage to the League of NH Craftsmen's Fair in Sunapee, NH, and it was as wonderful as ever.  It was a rather hectic trip - I ran a little late because I picked up birthday Iced Maple Lattes for us.  Apparently, there are three shots of espresso in each one, so we really didn't need the car.  We could have rocketed there on caffeine power.   It was oppressively hot and humid and I really felt for the vendors.  At least the tents were white, but there was little breeze, so the heat and humidity stayed trapped under the canopies.  We didn't have a lot of time - which was a blessing, given the weather - as Connie had to get back to pick up her other client (other than our parents).  I made a beeline for the one artist I always buy from and picked up a couple of lovely items from a new one.  Ann Eldridge's etchings are very popular, so I usually email her prior to our trip, to see what she still has.  Lucky for me I did, as the cat print below, "Repose", was her only one. 

I love this turkey - my favorite

Sorry for the blurry photo - it's behind
I've already started to save towards next year.  She focuses on nature and animals and I love her work.  Last year I got a small print of a porcupine and I bought a raven print for my sister.

New this year were some stained glass pieces:

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the craftsman's name.  Both are exquisitely made and now I have to figure out where to hang them.  My sister bought a beautiful print of a New England wood in fall.  As is always the case, we had occasion to laugh so hard we cried.  This time, the impetus was a pickup topped with a homemade, poorly balanced camper top that was proportionately wrong for the vehicle.  BUT, as he was apparently doing his part in Making America Great Again, we just kept a safe distance, squealing in terror every time he tried to negotiate a curve in the road - which was constantly.  I don't think we took a breath from Brattleboro to Bennington.  It was such a relief to part company with this disaster on wheels.

Meanwhile, work has been unseasonably busy, which makes me cranky.  We are used to and proud of being the outpost office - never visited by the nobs in HQ.  So far this summer, we've had three partners camp out.  Fortunately, this last one is a gem. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

If I had rotator cuffs, I'd pat myself on the back.

I never learn.  After effusing about the young fellow who has been replacing my fence, he got everything done except for one last section.  Then he disappeared for three weeks.  He was going to re-hang my hay feeder in the run-in shed so that I could move the sheep and llama down to their "summer" home.  I suppose, technically, it's still summer.  MID summer.  On Sunday, having reached the end of my rope, I stopped at a local hardware store (local to Marianne's farm - there is nothing of use locally to me) and picked up a variety of bits and bobs that I thought I might need to do the job.  As is often the case around here, help is scarce in small stores - unless they know you personally.  So I ended up with 100 1/4" nuts, 30 1/4"x2" #20 screws and 60 flat washers.  I marched up to the checkout guy and plopped the lot on the counter and asked if they all went together.  I am old and no longer care if I appear to be idiotic.  I am practicing for my eccentric years (hahahaha - jokes on me - they're here!)

I then went home with my bounty - vege and hardware -and proceeded to reinstall the hay feeder to a point where I think I can even thwart Linden.  I do have to tweak a few things - like saw off the overage on the crosspieces and switch from regular nuts to locking nuts - but it is solid.  Huzzah!

I then weeded for two hours.  Do I know how to have fun?!  Being a little over-zealous with my weekend expectations, I also made some new things:  Aztec Cookies (thank you, Elaine!) and Chai Coconut Ice Cream.  By the time the ice cream was finished, so was I, so I can tell you that it's delicious from the teaspoonful I had just before cramming it in the freezer.  The Aztec cookies are delicious!  I also made, for the first time, Chickpea Zucchini patties.  They were also delicious, but way too fussy for this time of year. 

For my two hours of work with Marianne on the farm, I got:  a quart of Shiitake mushrooms, six heirloom tomatoes, yellow onions, German Butterball potatoes, a vase of sunflowers, a bunch of beets, two heads of Romaine, two purple kohlrabi, a bunch of carrots.  And an iced coffee!  When I got home, there were an additional two pints of raspberries from my neighbor.  AND my sister and I made our annual pilgrimage to the blueberry farm, where I filled the coffers with 12 lbs. of blueberries.  It has been a spectacular year for blueberries, apparently.  Those 12 lbs. were picked on one half-row of plants.  I bet I could have gotten all of them off of two plants!

I had just collapsed with the pups, when a 4x4 pulled into the driveway - my fence fixer was back.  It's like washing  your car when you want it to rain, right?  I let him saunter down to the run-in shed and, after a few minutes, he was walking back up towards the fence, shaking his head.  Apparently, I had done exactly what he was going to do!  Double huzzah!  He then proceeded to finish the fence within a whisker of doneness.  By then it was dark (the days are so much shorter) and all that was left was to connect the end of the fence to the barn with fence clips.  I had moved the crew down to their new summer digs, so we left it that he would be back to finish up.  He arrived at 6:30 the next morning and finished.  Finally.

Monday, July 30, 2018

There was much heaving and sighing and hyperbole.

On a recommendation that I read on a blog in one of those rabbit-hole-blog moments - you know, when you start at Point A and then, an hour later, are at Point M with no recollection as to how you got there and you can never find it again - I had ordered two books on CD from a thriller series.

Words escape me.  It is possibly one of the most over-wrought-written books I have ever read/heard.  On top of that, the narrator is beyond description.  If he were a woman, I would say there was an almost constant heaving of bosoms.  It really defies description.  I have found myself caught up in the awfulness of it and can't seem to stop listening.  It is 12 discs long.  I did, however, promptly return the second episode without a listen.  I do have my limits, even when it comes to masochism.

Here's what I can tell you -

Someone latched onto the word, "preternatural" for dear life and it has been used WAY too often.  One gets the feeling that certain words catch the fancy of the writers and then are used WAY too often.  Like, "splume" and "nostrum" and "elixir".  During the course of this hot mess, there have been instances of poisoning by nostrum, dirty cops, hallucinations involving lounge chairs, lemonade and volcanic rims, superhuman-women with Victorian sensibilities.  There have been black chemises.  Widespread violence in foreign countries.  There have been exotic flora and fauna.  Fake skeletons, elaborate traps, blow guns with poison darts, whale eyeballs, main characters who seem to be nearing death, only to pop up without explanation in situations that defy logic and, let's not forget, the sweet scent of lilies...

All the male police characters are read with a rather high-pitched nasal voice.  The female characters are all breathy. 

In total, it is a big, hot mess that is rather mesmerizing.  I can hardly wait to see how it ends.  For so many reasons.  I am not revealing the title so that I won't spoil the surprise when you unwittingly check it out of the library, pop the first disc into your CD player and press "Play".

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

As I was saying...

before I was so rudely interrupted by my life...

I had mentioned my garden.  Well, here it is, warts/weeds and all.  I planted a very abbreviated garden this year, banking on my neighbor's huge and ultra-productive garden and my work-for-vege arrangement with Marianne.  Has it been worth it?  Yes and no.  Yes, in that there was less to plant, water and weed.  No, as in Marianne disclosed she had not planted cherry tomatoes because she doesn't like picking them.  WTH?  I have to say that a summer without cherry tomatoes is not summer.  It is a pale and lacking rendition.  My neighbor did plant cherry tomatoes but his garden is not organic.  This is the guy with the 'scorched earth' policy when it comes to weed whacking.  I tend to be more selective when it comes to helping myself to his garden's bounty.

Here are some photographs of this year's garden - snapped on the fly because... it started to rain!

The sad, sad strawberry bed. 

Dahlias (and ragweed!) and
the garlic bed

More dahlias, puny jalapenos and
four tomato plants in rear

Cukes, volunteer sunflower,
fall crop beans (hidden behind the cukes)
 and out-of-control lemon balm

Always a winner - kale and collards!

Herb bed, comfrey behind

Self-seeding calendula and more
damn ragweed

The strawberry bed is going to be completely pulled, mulched and sat fallow until spring.  I am just not able to keep up with the weeds, chipmunks and squirrels.  I am thinking of an entire bed of zinnias.  Or some vertical melons.  Or....check with me after the seed catalogs arrive.
Els - do you remember this hat?  One
of my fondest memories of you and the Netherlands
was the tea shop with the hat store
Dropped off by my neighbor - peas,
blueberries and raspberries.
We are in for a day and a half of heavy rain - bring it on!  Of course, with our ground so parched, we run the risk of flooding.  Still, we need rain badly, so I hope the majority soaks into the ground.  This coming Saturday is the annual Blueberry Picking Extravaganza - I will be trying to rein myself in this year, as I am going to be downsizing from a large and small freezer to a small freezer.  Any extras will be juiced and canned.  I am also hoping to get my first tomatoes this weekend - then I will be officially ready for autumn.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The train to Looneyville is picking up speed.

This morning, I ran out of gas.  And I don't mean that figuratively.  I have never run out of gas in all my (many) years of driving.  Ever.  I had to call around to see which neighbor a) was awake and b) had a can of gas.  I finally located one who was willing to come save me, but it took him almost a half an hour to go in his garage, get the gas can, put it in his truck, and drive the less-than-a-mile to my driveway.  I thought I was going to go mad.  I didn't want to go back in the house because the routine had already been set in motion and the hounds would commence baying if I made any alteration to the process.  Then, again, once I leave the house, they only recognize me as an intruder in a car, so bayed their tiny heads off anyway.

Earlier that morning, after finally casting off the first sleeve on the sweater from hell, I realized I had been knitting away in denial for the entire sleeve.  Hmm, I had said to myself - OFTEN - how odd that they have you INcrease every X rows on a sleeve.  Oh, well.  Lalalalalalalala.  Once I (ACTUALLY) cast it off, it looked all wrong.  I checked the pattern (now, THERE'S an idea), I realized I was supposed to DEcrease every X rows.  No shineola, Sherlock.  I had to rip it all out, which is so much extra fun with fuzzy thread-weight yarn, and start over.


There's plenty of room on this train, if anyone is headed in the same direction....


On a totally different note - IT RAINED.  A short thunderstorm rumbled through last night and it poured!  We got half of an inch and it has been raining off and on all day.  Huzzah!

Monday, July 16, 2018

At least there is color.

We have gotten about 1/4" of rain (.09 ish cm for my friends north and elsewhere) in the past month or more.  I didn't have the courage to look at my egg journal records.  It is as dry as dust.  We did get enough rain (the above-mentioned 1/4") to penetrate the top layer of soil.  By about 1/4".  The watering continues.  The only things flourishing in this weather are the weeds.  Why can't 'they' harness that ability to thrive in every adverse condition and put it into vegetable seed production?  Why, I ask you?

While my vegetables are struggling, all flowering things are thriving.  Of course, I am watering them, too.  There's got to be SOMETHING to look forward to in the garden.
Front deck
Interestingly, these geraniums have been over-wintered for four years.  They were so pathetic, leggy and spindly this spring, that I swore this was their last year.  I am prepared to eat my words...

I had given up entirely on two of my large beds this year and weeded them completely (five wheelbarrow-loads between the two!) and am letting them go fallow this year.  One is covered in cardboard, while my (what-would-I-do-without-him) 83 y/o neighbor brings his little Honda tiller over and gives the second one a good tilling every two weeks or so.  I covet that tiller.  In the process of weeding the beds, I potted up five good-sized pots of lemon balm.  It grows rampant through the garden.  I put them on Facebook for free and they were gone in two days.
Not the greatest contrast.
As far as colorful vege, it ain't happening here.  I did pull my first 'harvest' of a half-grown cuke because I had a hankering for one and needed something to perk up my lunch salad.  I was pleased to see a quantity of them growing on the vines.  I will try to do a garden post next time.  With photos, no less!  However, when I went up to Marianne's farm for my weekend stint on Saturday, I drove away with a bag full of color:
Carrots!  Beets!
We spent a good hour and a half weeding the entire greenhouse, then moved next door to put down a soil/compost mix and plant kohlrabi, romaine and more beets in the ground garden next to the greenhouse.  I will have to get a photograph of their hugelkultur beds - they are amazing!  Dwarf fruit trees, flowers and vege.  With a view - of course, every inch of their farm offers a view.  I will be taking Friday off to help her weed what needs to be weeded in her flower beds (she's part of a town garden tour on Saturday).  I really enjoy working along side her - she is my source for all things news and has a wealth of knowledge about just about everything.  I also trotted home with three zukes (be still my heart!), microgreens, shiitakes and lettuce.  Booty!!!

Here is some gratuitous color - for Theresa.  The new Cat Room curtain.  This was made from a leftover piece of batik that I bought at a yard sale in a previous life.  I wish I had had enough to make a summer dress out of it - I love the colors!

It is sheer enough to let in some light, but shades the room enough that Slimmie can collapse in relative coolness during hot spells.  Mostly, he goes from place to place on the kitchen floor.  You have to keep a lively eye out, as you negotiate around my place!

Other than the usual drudgery, I did get some cooking done in the wee hours - I made some of Mama Pea's infamous cottage cheese, I made a pan of zucchini roll-ups (thin strips of zukes rolled around a mixture of ricotta- made from the whey from the cream cheese - egg, corn and fresh herbs, sprinkled with a half-jar of leftover mild salsa), teriyaki chicken with pineapple in the Instant Pot (disappointing results), and oatmeal raisin cookies for the barn crew - actually, just my neighbor, as his teenage helper has turned into a wimp, and an inconsiderate wimp at that.  He's left my farmer doing everything alone for three days running.  This has provided the proverbial straw and he has put his farm on the market.  Sigh.  Sometimes I don't like change.

Last Friday morning, I had rummaged around in my big freezer (trying to empty it so I can defrost it and sell it) and found two packages of frozen, shredded zucchini from last year.  In a fit of mad experimentation, I let a package thaw and made my ultra-favorite GF pizza crust Friday night - shredded zucchini, squeezed dry, mixed with eggs, almond flour and cheese.  O.M.G.  It was perfect!  I can now have it all winter long.  My love affair with zucchini has reached a new, deeper level... :)

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.