Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

What a glorious sight!

Totally tidy nesting boxes

Yes, it's a cleaned out chicken coop!  I finished it yesterday - reveling in it's cleaned-out-ness for 15 minutes, then got over it.  Fresh shavings were spread and everyone was happy.  It was a very busy weekend - yard sale, house cleaning, errand running, garden planting, chicken coop cleaning, sister visiting.

The yard sale was okay, although it would have been much better, had the local rag remembered to run my ad.  I had big plans to get things set up and covered with a tarp so I wouldn't have to run around like a lunatic Saturday morning.  However, the winds were blowing and the temperature was dropping like a stone, so I spent the evening swaddling my tomato plants, etc.  Still, things were moved out of the house.  Of course, some things were moved in:

Thanks to my shaky hand, it's too out of focus to get the detail - it's my neighbor's old toy box for his boys.  It has a Western motif stamped in red on the front and top - saddles, horses and cowboys.  How could I NOT have it?  It replaces the shiny red chest, which got hauled out and sold.  So I'm even!  I was very tempted to keep this:

as I always wanted a tractor.  It's a child's riding Farmall - solid cast metal in really good condition.  I ended up selling it for pretty close to what I think it was worth.  Someone's lucky grandson will be tootling around in it.  I also chalked up 15,000+ steps on my Fitbit.  Thanks to all that standing and walking, I was whumped Saturday night and didn't have much energy Sunday morning.  As frustrating as it is, I am not as young as I think I am.  Plus, after a morning low of 33 degrees, the temperatures shot up to the mid-80s.  What weather!  I kept a low profile, ran some errands and cleaned the house.  Lovey's crate went into storage.  Out went the ratty rug in front of the sliding glass door, in came a new one.  Fig tree went out to keep Lemon tree company.  Windows were washed, floors washed, vacuum run.  Dust badgers tackled.

Sunday I finally mustered up the strength to tackle the coop.  My sister had dropped off her three lovely hens Saturday morning and they proved to be smart and sweet.  Never before have I had such a seamless introduction of older hens.  Penelope (RIR) mustered the troops (Izzy and Maddy - both Welsummers) and they stay in a tight bunch, keeping a low profile.  Just as I finished the dreaded job, my sister pulled up for an overnight visit (and celebration of her move closer to me/us).  What fun!  The dogs practically swooned when Auntie C came in.  As a matter of fact, the Pepperoni is entirely and totally in love with her.  I got up this morning and couldn't find him - until I located a dark lump curled up outside the guestroom door.  Cute. 

I am glad I had such a lovely end to my long weekend, as things at the office are in total chaos. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mind the Gap!

Interestingly, that is the strongest memory I have of my trip to London.  The polite warning on the Tube.  And of course, Harrod's Food Court.  Lawsymercy. 

There needs to be a gap in my posts (even longer than of late, that is) and I didn't want anyone to think I'd fallen in a hole, or had been trampled by the world's largest Chocolate Lab (Dexter).  I have gotten myself in quite a busy streak - work, yard sale, major projects - and I am going to be putting the pedal to the metal from now until the end of our glorious long weekend.  There will be little time for fun.  Poop. 

And, yes, there will be lots of poop.  There is always lots of poop.  Chicken coop must be cleaned.  My sister's little flock of three must be melded into the flock with the minimum of bloodshed.  The run-in shed must be cleaned out.  The yard sale must go on. 

I promise to take pictures and make up for the gap next week.  Wish me luck.... :)

Monday, May 18, 2015

All hail, Sprummer!

It's wackier than usual, this weather.  Frost one night, high 80s and humid the next day.  It is wreaking havoc with my gardening schedule.  Plus there's the fact that we have had no measurable rain in almost a month.  All righty, then. 

I'm thinking I might have found the next Chia Pet - Hula Lady!  She is powered by a small solar cell in the base.  The only complaint I have is that they should have at least painted the base green.  This looks like she's standing on the bathroom scales.  The best part?  It really, really irritates the Lexus driver to my right and the BMW driver to my left in the parking garage.  The rebel still lurks below the surface....

Monday started atypically, with me sauntering up to the screen door with my coffee to see...a full grown Angus bull in my backyard.  I went on the deck and we eyed each other up and down for a minute or two.  Then the dogs caught sight of him and Pepperoni, he of the six inch stature, decided to take issue with the interloper.  The bull snorted, stamped his hoof and then, thankfully, did a quick about-turn and trampled down the bank towards home.  I called my neighbor and left a message that his bull was on the loose.  Then we all calmed down and I finished my coffee.

I have finally decided that I need an intervention.  And where is my chief interventionist?  On a catamaran headed around the Florida peninsula.  Sylvie!  I guess I'll have to muddle through on my own.  I've got yard sale stuff everywhere, plants needing to go in the ground, a chicken coop that needs cleaning, a run-in shed that needs cleaning.  I should have paid more attention in science class so that I would know how to clone myself.  I did manage to get my tomato plants in and two pepper plants.  I also finished planting my potatoes, but still need to put the Copra onions in and my lettuce, arugula, chard and beets.  Not to mention my zucchini.  Since it was so damn hot this weekend, I divided my time getting beds ready for the tomatoes - I am so proud of myself.  I set a limit at 4 plants and managed to stop at six.  Now you can see why I need an intervention.  Of course, I am not counting the tomatillos, since they are not - or so I say - tomatoes.

The Tweenagers are now allowed out of their coop - with a temporary fence between them and the big flock.  It was the usual hysteria, followed by the thrill of discovering grass and bugs.  I had forgotten about the hitch in the process, where they do not naturally go back inside at night.  I had to round them up and put them inside - stretching my evening chores into o'dark thirty.  They will pick it up soon.  Hope springs eternal.  The Meaties are growing like...meaties.  I ran out of both time and steam last night and did not clean out their brooder.  It is at the top of the list when I get finished with chores tonight. 

While I was trying to figure out what to do with the plethora of young roosters in this batch of straight run chicks (never again), I was introduced to a local handyman by my friend/neighbor.  And, hallelujah, he lost a rooster AND was in construction for 30 years.  He has agreed to roof my run-in shed (he is inexpensive and reliable) and take two roosters off my hands.  He also knows where to buy heavily discounted bundles of shingles!  Woot!  Now I have to find some strong lad to shovel the run in out -- it shouldn't be too onerous, as it is dry and lighter than it would have been, had we had any rain since winter.  I have a lad in mind -- my dairy farmer/neighbor's new helper.

This week is all about getting ready for the yard sale.  It's no wonder I only do this once every six years.  The ads will run in the local paper (so I can't back out....I know myself so well) and it is only for one day.  I can live through that.  The dogs will go bonkers, but they will have to live through it as well.  And I get to rehome a bunch of stuff!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Something had to give.

You would think that, given I rise before dawn, I would have loads of time to get things done.  Tain't so.  I end up getting involved in one project or another then have to dash around.  This morning I had to deal with our overnight frost - yes, isn't that special? - and had to make sure the meaties were warm enough.  I have two brooder heaters in their pen, plus a light, but they are growing so fast that they can barely wedge in under the heaters.  I had put a solid cover over most of the top, so they managed to stay warm.  Looking ahead, it seems we have one more chilly night before things get more normal.  Whatever normal now is.  ABnormal.

Then there was the unwrapping and uncovering of all the tender plants.  Then the filling of the watering dishes.  Yadda.  But the sun was up and shining and there was a light breeze.  Birds were singing and I was feeling pretty darn good.  Until I went in the house and realized I had fifteen minutes to finish chores, take a shower, get duded up and leave for work.

I was not entirely suprised, then, when I arrived at work looking like I had dressed in the dark and put my hair in a blender.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gargle, Grackles, Gooseberries and Gashes.

As I sat in the living room on Sunday, recovering from heat stroke, I said to the dogs (I talk constantly to them), "Odd.  The dust should be blowing AWAY from the road..."  Small, dim light bulb went on.  Pine pollen.  Good gawd.  I am sure it was psychological, but I developed a whole series of coughing fits as soon as I noticed it.  Which continued up until this morning, when I finally took pity on my raw throat and gargled with salt water.  Much better.

Of course, you can't gargle your eyes, can you?  They are itchy and red.  It's times like these when I try to focus on the bees - and their need for pollen of all kinds.  What is a little suffering on my part?

When I went out to do poultry chores this morning (now triple the work - dang), a huge flock of grackles burst into the air!  I tell you, it got my heart started and the dogs were jumpy all morning.  They apparently found some scratch feed that the hens and crows didn't inhale.  I don't see many large flocks of things - a small V of Canada geese, a conversation of sparrows (my coined expression).  Maybe they could be called a Burst of Grackles?

Morning chores now entail seeing to two other levels of poultry - the Tweenagers and the Meat Chicks (a total of 23 so far).  I have yet to work it into a seamless effort.  It's very bumpy.  The meat chicks need mash, but I refuse to buy organic mash - the only kind I can find that is not medicated.  That means I have to schlep crumble into the house and run it through my blender.  Then there is the broiler booster water.  Since I had such a terrible experience with the first batch, I am making sure they have all the nutrients I can muster.  This means mixing their water separately.  However, since we have successfully made it through a week with no losses, I am going to gradually mix crumble into the mash.  They are in enhanced water for another week, then to plain. 

The Tweenagers need to get outside, but need a protective fence so that they can meet the big girls without bloodshed.  It's going to be hinky in any case, as I must have at least five roosters in the bunch.  Poor Bleu.  He does seem to have trouble knowing boys from girls....this should really throw him.  I am going to try and throw up a temporary fence around the small coop this weekend - keep your fingers crossed.

Dexter continues to be a handful.  The banding didn't seem to slow him down for more than 15 minutes.  I flip-flop daily on whether it is a good idea to keep raising him.  He's getting bigger and is not only strong, he's a wing nut.  I am thinking this must be the Jersey effect.  It might be easier to work with him if I had a better set up -but in order to get a better set up, I need to clean out the run-in shed and move the sheep down to that area.  BUT, I have to clean the coop out first.  Procrastination can sure come back and bite you in the hiney.  I need to have a talk with my farmer/neighbor on the personality quirks of Jersey bull calves before I make a final decision.

As I work my way through my stores - I am starting to discover the back of the freezer.  Always a scary trip.  I got excited, thinking I had found a bag of blueberries only to discover they were gooseberries.  Once all this cleaning out, yard sale, garden putting-in business is over, I am going to have to deal with the three types of currants and large bag of gooseberries I have come across in the frosty depths of my freezer.  My goal is to defrost it in early summer.

The previous owners of my small abode must have had mush for brains.  They planted Barberry bushes smack-dab against the full length of the front of the house.  Every spring and fall, I am lacerated as I try to remove/put on my window screens.  I have been trying to kill these things for nine years.  I have just made them stronger - evil plants.  In my latest attempt, I whacked them down to within eight inches of the ground, then went on Freecycle and said that anyone who wanted to dig them up was welcome to them.  I then received a tsk-tsk email informing me that they are deemed an invasive species and are not allowed to enter most places (like Vermont).  That was all I needed to hear.  I have put "Decimate/Dig Up/Destroy Barberry Bushes" on The List.  I need to find something that will do well in shade and lousy soil and that will not gash me to within an inch of my life.  All suggestions are welcome.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Family, Farinata and Flummoxed.

I got to spend some quality time with my youngest DS (Dear Sister, Spiderjohn - just in case you think I have a son stuck in a closet somewhere...), where we enjoyed a fabulous repast and shared a bottle of very fine champagne.  The dogs got to throw themselves at their Auntie Cynthia - I do notice how Scrappy leans heavily into friends and family, while casting the stink eye at me.  He is such a character.

My mother, when asked what she would like to do for her day, said that she wanted to go on a picnic.  So, on a picnic we went!  I had found a very nice, new little stream-side park that was near their house.  The ground wasn't too uneven, the picnic tables were new, it had a great view of one of the many covered bridges that grace Vermont.  DS and I put together some GF oven fried chicken, deviled eggs, a tossed vegetable salad and lemonade.  I have a great picnic kit that does not see enough action, so we had a table cloth, cloth napkins, plates and flatware to boot!  It was peaceful and the air was filled with birdsong.  The only blot on the landscape was a fisherman on the opposite side of the stream who decided to practically strip naked while he fished.  And there was a LOT of pink naked on that fella.  After lunch we sat on a bench by the river and enjoyed most of the view.

Photo thanks to my DS.
The rest of the weekend was spent in pure, unadulterated labor.  The temperature was 87 in the shade (Spring, hast thou forsaken us?  Yes, indeedy.) so I didn't get as much done as I had hoped.  I am not good in heat and humidity, which is why I tend to stick to wintry places.  I did get my beans and cukes in, two out of three potatoes planted (trying Rose Finn and French fingerlings this year), planted a Bleeding Heart near the front deck, did copious amounts of laundry, and then forced myself to stop at 4 (it wasn't a hard sell this time) so that I could do chores, take a shower and share a bottle of wine with a friend.  Since she and I have the same breakneck schedule on weekends, I knew that neither one of us would stop to eat - so I whipped up my favorite finger food:  farinata and tapanade.  The farinata is a type of flat bread that takes less than an hour to prepare and is a wonderful vessel for toppings.  The tapanade was out of desperation, as I thought I had enough feta cheese for a whipped feta dip, but was mistaken.  So, out came the olives and capers, chopped with a splash of sherry vinegar and a glug of EVO.

The farinata is very simple to make:

2 cups of garbanzo bean flour
1 tsp sea salt
bunch of grinds of black pepper
3 tablespoons of grated cheese (I use Asiago)
7 tablespoons of EVO, divided
1-3/4 cup of water

Mix flour, salt, pepper, cheese in a bowl.  Stir in water and 3 tablespoons of EVO and mix until smooth.  Cover and let sit at room temperature for a half hour, allowing the water to be absorbed-ish.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, pour the remaining EVO into a large, flat, oven-proof pan - like a pizza pan, although I've used a large cast iron skillet and have settled on my paella pan.  Put the pan in the over to heat the oil.  Remove the pan from the oven, pour in the batter, and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden.  Take it out and let it cool to room temperature.  Cut in wedges.

It travels well, too:
Today's lunch.
After all my smugness, I removed the screen door top from my cold frame to water the spinach was gone.  Vamoosky.  Eaten to the ground.  Bloody rodents.  I am going to try and reseed it in the hooped bed and hope for SOME spinach this year.  I really don't know why I keep trying...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Momsie's Day

Even at this tender age, I was
not a beach girl.  Note expression.
(Doesn't Mom look like Jackie K?)

I like to think that I celebrate my mother every day.  I love her to pieces and am very happy and lucky that she is still such a big part of my life.  My youngest sis found this photograph of Mom and me.  It made my heart just rocket right up and lodge in my throat.

Happy Mother's Day to my own, sweet mother and to all the rest of you wonderful gals out there!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Egads! Eating and Elocution.

Egads!  The only moisture has been
heavy fog on my way to work in the morning!
As we approach summer at light-speed (as I had feared, we got two days of spring), my thoughts naturally turn to green things.  Unfortunately, the weather has morphed into July, while the gardening reality is still early May.  A conundrum.  Plus, we have had no rain.  Nada.  Zilch and zip.  While I doubt it will be even the teeniest bit as bad as in the western portion of the country, it certainly puts a hitch in your gardening giddyap.

Once again, my brain - still in winter's icy grip - did not flex enough to realize that I needed to put the hose on the rain barrel BEFORE it was filled.  Sigh.  There is also a leak in my retractable hose, which means I really need to take a whole day (hahahahahahaha) and spend it on fixing things.  I am currently running in place as far as the poultry is concerned.  I have the tweenagers in the small coop - needing a temporary fence put around so they can stretch their legs and become safely acquainted with the big girls.  I have my few survivors from my first meat chick shipment - three and a half.  The half has a splayed leg and needs to be culled.  Then there are the little ones.  I had hoped to be able to add the first chicks into the new ones but, as all of us who have raised these Frankenchickens know, even a week's difference means that the survivors are three times the size of the newbies.  I may do it anyway.  I want to reclaim my laundry room.  And cut down on my morning chores.

My youngest DS arrives tonight and will stay over with me before heading north to our parents' house.  Since we missed her birthday, I am making her a special birthday dinner - Wild Salmon with English Peas and Mustard Beurre Blanc (it leaped off the pages of the latest Living magazine), fresh asparagus (thanks to my neighbor), oven roasted sweet potato wedges, and a gluten free, flourless chocolate cake.  I had everything but the salmon and the sweet potato, so those were purchased - I've done pretty well, staying away from the grocery store, having only 'slipped' three times since January. 

I am going to try and squeeze in a Ramp Walk this weekend - hopefully, I haven't missed them.  The chickens are finally settling into a laying routine and I average 7-11 eggs a day.  I have lots of butter churned and in the freezer.  I've started up my milk kefir again.  My spinach finally started to come up in the cold frame, only to be mowed down by some miscreant.  I rummaged around and found the old screen door from the poultry enclosure I took down last fall and popped that on top.  Let's hope something can be salvaged. 


Is it just me, or do most women under the age of 35 sound the same?  Most of my observations come from the radio - I listen almost exclusively to NPR - but it seems as though, besides the sort of baby-girl-ishness, it's also forced through the throat and always comes up on the end as if they are very unsure of what they are saying.  I feel so old.  Then there is the young fellow with whom I work.  His speech is so peppered with "like" that I find myself counting them and not listening to a thing he's saying.  Yesterday he was all stressed - it doesn't take much - and broke his own record.  17 instances of 'like' in less than three minutes of conversation.  Maybe future generations will just beep and text.  It's discouraging.  Words and language are so wonderful - so powerful.  Elocution will soon be a dead art.


I was going to save this for my "F" post, but I need some input from you gardeners out there.  I am having a heck of a time with my fig tree.  It is in a pot and seems healthy enough, but as soon as it starts to leaf out, this happens:

Sorry for the lousy pix - the leaves sort of 'prune' up along the edges, and turn brown.  Any observations would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dirt, Drudgery, Discombobulation and Dust.

(I've decided to create the Alphabet Series of Posts...)

This weekend was filled with the usual (and more so) stuff, but we were blessed with beautiful weather.  As a matter of fact, I suspected we went from our usual one day of spring into full-on summer.  Both days reached a high in the low 80s, which, while glorious after all this cold, gives me the wilts.  And discombobulating because it was in the 30s in the mornings.  Geezloueeze.

Saturday, we moved some furniture into my DS's new house and then the Girlz (Mom, DS and Yours Truly) went to a great place that sells the contents of estates.  They have an auction every Sunday during the summer, but the rest of the 'treasures' are stored and sold out of an old house.  It is so much fun to rummage around!  You can get everything from old postcards to a stuffed swordfish!  My DS found a lovely, small, cherry desk with a chair at a very reasonable price, so we toddled that back to her house.  Slowly, but surely.  She moves here two weeks from today.  I. Am. So. Excited.

The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning up the raised beds, weeding, schlepping dirt around, more weeding, more schlepping, and planting.  I got some lettuce planted under hoops, rearranged my cucumber/bean bed to accommodate trellised beans AND bush beans.  I also planted some sweetpeas (encouraged by Mama Pea's success) and my red onions.  I had been poking around in a big box store's garden area and found a lone, bedraggled six-pack of curly kale.  As all it appeared to need was a good watering, I talked them down to less than half price, and they were taken home and put in the kale bed.

I managed to slog along all day on Sunday, but have made the executive decision that all drudgery stops at 4 o'clock.  Sometimes I actually follow my own directions!  It was a great weekend for laundry and I got four loads dried on the line.  How nice it is to put away the racks - and the flannel sheets.  However, I keep waiting for the other snow boot to drop.  I've been tricked before, which is why I did not plant more.  Should the need arise, I can easily cover what I've planted.  By the time I was finished, I was covered with dirt.  What a glorious feeling.... :)  Now, if it would just rain.  It is as dry as dust out there. 

On a sad note, I lost another chick - he/she was not as hearty as the other five and when I moved them to a box in order to clean out the brooder, it was too much for it.  I also opened the coop on Sunday morning to find that E-Claire had died during the night.  That was a tough one - she was the first homegrown chick here and a real character.  But she had developed a sour crop and had three years of ups and downs. 

The sheep got out on some grass on Sunday and were thrilled.  I had to keep an eye on them, with the heat and threat of bloat.  I have decided that Linden is not the sharpest tack in the box.  As a matter of fact, I would refer to him as a marble in a box of tacks.  While it's much better now that their woolly coats are off, they still can get sunburned and overheated.  The other two, Juno and Norman, and the llama know to head for shade if it's hot and take breaks to suck down water.  Not Linden.  He goes around like a lawnmower.  I had to physically move them up to the barn and close them in a shady space.  He was actually panting!  My problem child.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Carnage, Coppertox and Green Cheerios.

If that heading doesn't make you want to pull the covers up over your head, I want what you're having for breakfast...

In my usual chaotic week's activities, Wednesday was more chaotic than usual.  I had scheduled my shearer to come mid-afternoon-ish, so had planned on taking a half-day of vacation.  I really should know better by now.  Really.

Late morning, I got a call from my post office.  My meat chick order had come in and needed to be picked up before 3.  I was surprised, as they were supposed to be shipped Tuesday and I usually received them in the early morning of the second day.  This is the first time that I have ordered chicks from this hatchery.  I chose them for all good reasons:  1) they were closer than the hatchery I usually use (meaning less stress and a shorter transport for the chicks); 2) they hatched their own chicks, as opposed to contracting them out; 3) they were notably cheaper - including vaccinations in the per-chick price and their shipping was less than half of what I had been paying; 4) it was a family-run, small operation; and 5) they had gotten rave reviews. 

I hurried through the basics at the office and headed out to the post office.  When I walked in, the postmistress and a customer were discussing my chick shipment.  Both were shaking their heads sadly.  As I stepped up to claim my shipment, I noticed that the box did not make the usual ear-splitting peeping.  That was because, out of 20 chicks, only six had survived.  And only one of those had a good pair of lungs.  I was devastated.  As ironic as it sounds - I mean, meat chicks are for, well, meat - it is heartbreaking to see that many tiny yellow bodies.  I had gotten the car good and warmed up, so popped the box under the floor heater and headed for home. 

At home there awaited and brandy-new brooder, with whizzbang heaters, warm lights and safely snugged in my shed.  Blissfully away from the  house.  The reality was that I could not put six extremely stressed chicks in that big brooder.  Le sigh.  Into the laundry room they went, with a Jerry-rigged brooder, warm lights, specially treated water with probiotics and electrolytes.  They were pretty droopy.  They remain stressed, but are alive and I hope that they pull through.  I called the hatchery and was informed that, yes, they had had trouble with the shipper.  I would say so.  They are replacing the order next week.  Which means more time off and now I have a LOT of them.  Le sigh again.  I really should stop trying to plan.

The shearer did not arrive until almost 5:45 - over two hours after our scheduled appointment.  Although I knew there was a high probability that he would be running late, I had almost given up hope.  Good thing I didn't.  I love my shearer - and he brought along his fiance who I now equally love.  All three sheep were in good shape, with the exception of my problem-child, Linden.  He has perennial hoof problems.  His hoof rot was back, dammit.  However, J, my shearer, knows his stuff and is not afraid to cut down drastically to get as much of the damaged foot material off.  He draws blood, something I am loathe to do.  And, his fiance is a nurse!  She doctored his gory foot, drenched it in Coppertox, then Wound Kote, then bandaged him up.  They also took charge of all the drenching and vaccinating, so all I did was fetch and carry.  We have a long way to go, and I have to paint Coppertox on Lindy's hooves for a few weeks, but I think we have a chance.  It was the best $40 I ever spent.

Dexter continues to thrive - he's a handful.  Even though his man parts were banded this past Sunday.  As my farmer neighbor and his fairly-useless sidekick labored away, he said, "Wow, I'm glad we're not using these on ME - they look like little green Cheerios!"  Ouch.