Thursday, April 27, 2017

Beauty+Function, When Your Food is Cute, Progress

When I toddled home last night, I didn't even notice the flat package that my postal carrier had so nicely placed (out of direct view) in my carport, so it wouldn't get wet.  I dragged my bags into the house, fought through the swirling sea of wiggle-butts and whip-tails, let The Pepperoni free* and let them loose out the back door.  There is no end of "Happy to See You" when I get home.  It's wonderful.  After they did their business and came bolting back in, I realized I had forgotten a bag on the back seat of my car.  As I was approaching the car, I just happened to see a white corner peeking up from the wheelbarrow and - there was a package from my BFF, Sylvie, and her partner, Jim!  I raced in, opened it carefully (as it was marked "Fragile") and found this beauty inside:
The color is not true to the original -
it's cherry, I believe
My camera work leaves much to desire and it was pretty dreary outside this morning, but it is one of Jim's beautiful hardwood cutting boards!  OMG.  The inlaid design goes all the way through the wood and it is the most beautiful cutting board ever!  I can't stop with the exclamation points, as it is SO BEAUTIFUL!!!  You can find Jim's woodworking page here.  I spent an inordinate amount of time just gazing at it.  Thank you, Jim - I adore it!


I've run into a little snag.  My Nuggets are Cute.  My Nuggets have Personality.  Up to this point, my annual Nugget-fest was populated by the Creepymeat chicks.  They were cute for a nanosecond, then they were not.  By the time it was time for freezer camp, I was more than happy to see them go.  These Grey Rangers are feisty, active, curious, and ready to break out of the brooder condo at any given opportunity.  They are relatively quiet about it, though, and, while they fling their crumbles hither and yon, they do not poop on every surface available to them.  Sigh.  I am hoping they will morph into something not so cute and meaty, to boot.  (Hey!  I'm a poet and don't know it!)


Progress is being made in small steps, inside, outside and on the knitting needles.

The Pergola
After struggling with windblown deck umbrellas for years, I got the bright idea that I needed a pergola off the back of the house.  I do not do well in direct sunlight, so have had limited use of my deck for 11 years.  I am a slow mover.  At first, I was going to have the pergola built off the back of the house.  Then, I thought, what if I fall madly in love with my pergola, move and can't take it with me?  These, typically, are the types of thoughts I have at o'dark thirty, when I am trying to make up my mind whether to try to fall back asleep or throw in the towel and get up.  I decided on a free-standing pergola that can be moved around the deck, if need be.  Then there was the dilemma of who should build it.  Not I.  I turned to a young fellow who had fixed my under-house freezing plumbing problem.  He is a) reliable; b) honest to a fault; c) reasonable; and d) pretty darn handy in many areas.  He and his also-young wife are expecting their first child and I know that extra money will come in handy.  It is a win-win-win situation.  I whipped up the sketch above and from that shaky rendition, he was able to figure out a materials list.  He and his wife came over last night and we hashed out the details, although I am still trying to pry an estimate for labor out of him.  He is worried he may estimate at too high a price.  Sigh.  I had to reiterate what an estimate was.  Just as an aside, he used to provide firewood for a neighbor down the hollow.  This guy was either high or drunk 20 out of 24 hours in the day.  He brews beer.  Big surprise.  Billy (young guy) would deliver the firewood, get paid, then two days later, the neighbor would show up at his door to pay him again because he forgot he had already paid.  They used to argue about it!  Billy finally quit working with him because of it.  Top that.

Once his labor estimate is in and we decide where to buy the lumber, it's all systems go!  Another project checked off The List.

Progress is slow in the seed-starting arena.  My celery seeds did not germinate.  It's been long enough to incubate a duck egg, so I am thinking they are toast.  It could be due to the fact that I am triply distracted with outside work, inside work, the Nuggets, and Mr. Picky.

Progress has been made, however, with Mr. Picky's eating issues.  I have now arrived at the fact that Bertie has a sensitive system (as witnessed by the beating my hall rug has been taking) and is prone to food boredom.  Gone is the poached chicken - enter the lightly sautéed ground beef.  With sticky rice.  And just ever-so-much expensive kibble.  Luckily, the other two would eat wallpaper paste if it was in their dish, so nothing is wasted but my time.  Meal prep is complicated and time-consuming.  I am waiting to finish up the poached chicken and then everyone gets ground beef.  Honestly.

Even though I have one of my mom's socks still on the needles (and needing to be frogged down to the basic foot because it is too short), a mock-turtle neck, sleeveless black cotton top about 3/4 done - for the last four years - a pair of socks for me started, and a pile of cup cozies started as well, I was drawn like a moth to a flame to this project:

I had never heard of Caron Cake yarn.
Where have I been?!

Curse you, Cheryl (of Acorn to Oak)!  And, thank you, too!  I saw her Caron Cake shawl on her blog (she is so amazingly creative - it boggles) and I was hooked.  I have just started on the decrease part and am determined to finish at least ONE project - especially a large, worsted-weight wool project - before the onset of summer. 

*In the ongoing saga of "What Next!?!", someone - I think it's a joint effort by The Pepperoni and Lovey - was opening TP's crate during the day.  This involved pulling up a lever and moving it to the left.  My fix was to use a carbinger clip on the flip-up handle and, so far, it's working!

Monday, April 24, 2017

I've been outside.

And the inside of my house shows it.

I am loving anything perennial right now.  My currant bushes are starting to leaf out.
Black and red currant bushes
Spring would be downright bleak without chives!
Oh, you beauties!

The horseradish is showing signs of life.
The strawberries are coming along, even though I tried to kill them by over-planting.
Hoping that the pine needle mulch
will help keep the weeds down.
The celebrated compost complex in all its glory - only need to set up the fronts so that I can add boards to keep it in place.
Look!  Rays of SUN!
I am making progress against the grass (I'm delusional, but what the heck) in my back flower bed.
I'm gaining on it!
Another raised bed was readied.
Cucumber bed and bags positioned
for squash planting

Garlic and shallots are popping up!

You may have to biggify in order
to see them.
It was so nice yesterday that I tempted fate (again) and put the geraniums out.  Then, of course, it went down to 35* this morning.  But - no frost!  If I have time tonight, I will put them in their pots and get out the 'covers', just in case.
Please excuse the mouldy siding -
it's on my list to be scrubbed this
After buying and planting Johnny Jump-ups / violas every year, they are finally seeding themselves.  I will dig these up and the few in the next bed and put them in a window box.  It makes my frugal little heart go pitty-pat.
My favorite spring flowers
It was my typical, busy weekend.  Saturday morning I raced up to the transfer station (having to bring my garbage every week until the bears settle down is a P.A.I.N.), then drove down to another town about 20 minutes south of me to have breakfast with my friend who raises the Randall cattle.  She had brought us 30# of bones!  Then I headed back home, after a quick stop to get chick feed, to let the dogs out.  Then -- are you sitting? -- I went for a pedicure!  Squee!  Pure, unadulterated luxury.  Of course, I ruined the paint job almost immediately but, still, I have blue toes!  I get happy every time I look at them.

Speaking of chicks, this breed of meat chicks is so quiet, compared to the Frankenchickens, that I find myself checking on them to make sure they are still alive.

This was taken when they arrived - all in good health and full voice.  Once they got settled it was Quietsville.  Of course, my sister stayed overnight on Saturday and, after I went on-and-on about how quiet they were, blah, blah, blah, there was an uprising in the middle of the night that woke us both up!  I bolted into the laundry room-cum-brooder condo and there was nothing going on.  Fine.  Make a liar out of me.

That was an extra special treat - having her stay over.  We were supposed to go to a concert, but we were having too much fun just yaking, so we stayed home.  The Pepperoni is in complete heaven when his Auntie Connie is visiting.  He gets to sleep in a people bed. 

While the interior of my house didn't get much attention (again) this weekend, I did manage to get three loads of laundry done and get a few windows washed.  Man, oh, man, dog-nose-slime is not easy to get off! 

It's supposed to be a mild week, with a couple of rainy days mixed in, so I hope to be able to do some stealth gardening in the early morning/early evening.  Got to keep chipping away at The List!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Short Shrift.

I had planned on featuring my chickens - who have been getting short shrift around here, except for my gratitude for their outstanding egg-laying ability of late.  When I walked into the coop this morning, camera phone in hand, I was met with one dead-as-a-doornail chicken and another who has been placed on DW (death watch).  Sigh.  It figures - they made it through the rigors of winter, only to keel over from the exertion in the Halcyon Days of spring. 

I will, instead, lead you on a wild and merry chase through my weekend.

Since it was Easter weekend and my presence was expected north on Sunday, I thought I could put in a full day on Saturday.  I am so funny.  I opened my package containing my special T-5 bulbs for my little greenhouse and...they were not the size they were reported to be.  Drat.  I had to drive to the nearest big box (HomeAwayFromHome Depot) store (a good half hour away) to either find a fixture to fit or ... Plan C.  Since I had to leave the house anyway, I decided to drop eggs off at the food pantry, stop at the library and make a run through the transfer station.  I then remembered that I had not gotten my 2017 transfer station pass, so added a trip to the town clerk's office.  Needless to say, half the day was gone by the time I got back home.  There was some frantic planting of onions, cleaning, weeding and mulching of the strawberry bed, and the spring cleaning of the duck huts. 


This design has worked out well.
I decided to spare you the "Before", but you can tell how bad it was by  the high 'water' mark on the wall of the first pic - biggify to see, if you dare.  You will also notice that the ducks refuse to use the nice nesting box I included in the design of this hut.  It's become their personal latrine.  They always lay their eggs in the same spot.  The girls were so thrilled about their clean digs, that they went in and out three or four times, quacking loudly in delight.  I choose to think it was delight and not, "About time, lady!"

Leggy Seedling Alert!

Herb seedlings
I ended up having to buy separate fixtures and different bulbs for the seedlings.  As you can see on the first tier, the seedlings (lettuce and kale) got all leggy on me because I a) did not have the right light above them and b) had it too far away.  Isn't it good that I took that seed starting workshop?  Geez.  I planted celery in the six-pack next to them and the tray below is planted with oregano (could those seeds be any smaller?  I think not.), parsley, basil, chervil, and cilantro.  There is more seed-starting in store for this weekend.

My favorite view from the kitchen.
Although I'm trying hard not to get too giddy about the onset of spring - it can be so cruel - it's hard not to think that it is finally here and here to stay.  The sun has been out for over two days!  We did have rain, but it was not a gusher and happened overnight.  My favorite kind.  I set up one of the rain barrels and it was filled the next morning.  I am planning on setting up another in the chicken/duck yard.  This, I hope, will save me wear and tear, toting 5 gal. buckets of water from the barn to the back.

Grass!  Dogs!
Even the inside plants are rarin' to get outside!

Over-wintered geraniums

FIG TREE! and Meyers Lemon tree.  Can't wait
until the jungle is outside.
Another sign that spring has sprung?

The last time it will be this clean.
The Nuggets are arriving at any moment.  ***Make that HAVE ARRIVED!***  I have such a bone to pick with the USPS.  I signed up for their text service - which was to alert me by text at every change in status.  I started with "Label has been generated" and there it stayed.  I checked it this morning six or seven times.  Still at the label stage.  Then I got to work, opened my phone and had six messages from the USPS and one from my post office.  Apparently, they magically went from label to delivered in less than two hours!  Amazing!  Spectacular!  Baloney!  I had to call my neighbor to ask him to pick them up and hold them for me.  I can, hopefully, leave early to go fetch them and get them snugged in.  I am not a happy camper. 

I will do a separate post with garden-type pics, once I can get myself out there with my camera.  Not that there is much to see, but at least there is no snow.  Wait.  Can I take that back?  Did I just put the big Hinky Jinky on myself? 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

My Egg Basket Runneth Over.

Wasn't I just whining about the lack of production in the hen house?  Well, shut my mouth.  It seems that Spring is in the air and in the nesting boxes, if nowhere else.  I am now averaging between 18-24 eggs a day, plus my 3-4 duck eggs.  Egads.  Unfortunately, one of my better egg customers is no longer - he had a little black market restaurant going on and got ratted out.  Poor guy.  I may have to start making angel food cakes commercially.

I've been putting off dealing with my egg-eating hen, but I think I will have to look that problem in it's beady little eye this weekend.  She is setting a bad precedent and will have to ... go.  Bunny the rooster is turning into a little jerkmo, too.  Sigh.  I am about to be rooster-less again and it's not necessarily a good thing.  I find that, when there is no rooster to rule the roost, so to speak, the old girls start to go around beating up on the younger girls.  Way too much drama.  Perhaps it would be better to line up a replacement fella before Bunny hits the bricks.  Something to mull over at o'dark thirty.

I've been making small inroads into the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done to garden and barn.  So far - two raised beds have been cleaned out and are almost ready for planting (onions and beets this weekend).  Only six more to go!  I have to transplant a blueberry bush - I must have hiccupped when I planted them originally - one is way out of place...  I need to move the hoops to the new lettuce/pepper/eggplant bed and get more rebar.  I am also rethinking the cukes this year.  I usually put them at the end of the bean bed, but I may build a small raised bed just for them.  Or plant them in containers.  As always, I need not only a Plan A, but B, C, and D to be safe.  More seeds will be started this weekend, along with a start on the poultry housing clean up - the main Duck Hut needs cleaning out something awful.  And I do mean awful.  I know that I will need a full weekend for the chicken coop, but I think I can squeeze in the individual small huts and coops in Duck Village when I have an hour or so.  I also need to get ready for my order of meat chicks that will be arriving sometime next week.  My system has been fine-tuned and (knock on wood) has worked well the past few years - raise them to a feathered stage in the brooder; move to the small coop with screen door and lamp until they get most of their feathers (and hopefully, the weather warms up); then out to the hoop house with electric poultry netting and freeish-ranging until they are off to freezer camp.  This means setting up the brooder condo (goodbye clean laundry room), cleaning out the small coop, sprucing up the hoop house, testing the energizer battery, locating the netting, blah, blah, blah.

I'll try for pics this weekend if progress is made.  Even if progress isn't made.  It's not always a pretty business, is it?  But, Heaven help me, I love it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Plugging Away. Pun Intended.

Precise holes drilled into logs, then a
sawdust/spore mix is plugged into the holes
using mushroom injector thingies.
Let me know if I'm getting too technical.

Making sure the plug is tamped into
the holes.  See stacks of logs in background...

Melted wax is then daubed onto the holes
to seal and protect the spores.

For mental health purposes, I spent a cold, rainy, windy day inoculating maple and oak logs with shitake mushroom spores.  Doesn't everyone?  No?  I am so shocked.  Friends are starting a mushroom enterprise and I volunteered to trade labor for mushrooms.  Can it get better than that?  Spending some hours in rhythmic mindless-ness with music and good company?  I think not.  Unless it's the fact that I also worked out a trade with buckets of llama beans for organic tomato plants.  Woot!

Seed-starting workshop
Saturday morning started out the same as Friday - cold, wet and raw.  I went to the seed-starting workshop that was put on by a local organic farm that also has a foundation dedicated to self-sustainability and community involvement.  I have bought awesome vege at their roadside stand and have spent time gawking lovingly at their herd of Scottish Highland cattle.  Our instructor was a winsome young woman who was articulate, enthusiastic, well-organized, and an overall wonderful representative for anything food, farming and sustainability.  The only photo I had from the workshop is the inane still life above.  I was too busy taking notes and planting winter lettuce and kale.  I came away with a wealth of information and a six-pack (of seed starts) - two hours of good stuff for a donation of $10.  It was so worth it.  Then Melanie and I hoofed it back to my place for a picnic - my donation, thanks to Michelle, over at Boulderneigh, was Russian Carrot Pie.  I have all the Moosewood cookbooks, and had forgotten how many of the recipes in the Enchanted Broccoli Forest book I loved!  If I can tolerate this crust, it is going to become my go-to-pie crust!

Nut crust, using Einkorn flour and ground
In my own defense, I did send M home with extra...
Melanie brought sandwiches on Udi's GF chiabata rolls with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes - OMG.  AND her amazing sweet potato salad with red beans, sweet potatoes and peas. 

The weather finally started to perk up in the afternoon, so I did get a start on my composting complex and got some celery seeds started.  On Sunday, I was out and at-em early, got some errands done - trash to the transfer station, things dropped off with a neighbor - and then back outside.  I have the composting complex almost finished, I cleaned out two of the raised beds and got started on a third, did some general clean-up around the yard, hung three loads of laundry on the line, and cleaned off the back deck.  It was so glorious to be outside without seven layers on - with the sun shining and just enough breeze to 'stimulate' my laundry.  The dogs got lots of fresh air and ran non-stop for a couple of hours.  There was much snoring later that evening.  I fired up the grill for the first time and, all-in-all, it was a great weekend.  I squeezed in another load of laundry to hang out this morning before leaving for work - all the dog's laundry - as this is another glorious day.  Tomorrow it starts to go downhill, weather-wise, so I am trying to take advantage of every nice moment.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Indestructible meets Bertie

"Indestructible" Dog Toy

Bertie wins every time.  I have now gone through six "Indestructible" dog toys.  This one has lasted, such as it is, longer than all the rest.  My rule of thumb is to do triage on dog toys three times, then out they go.  I am waiting until "Liony" is limb-less.

As we slog through the latest day of gloom - will the sun EVER show itself? - I am comforted by the fact that most of the snow is gone.  I have received notice that my seed potatoes will arrive this week, my onion sets arrived yesterday and my seed-starting workshop is Saturday.  While I cannot wait to get out in my garden and plant, it is in no way, shape or form ready.  I have started to construct my large, three bay compost station and hope to get that finished, or mostly-finished, by the end of the weekend.  If I pace myself right, I should be able to also get a couple of raised beds cleaned up and get into the over-planted strawberry patch to get that in shape as well.  Needless to say, housecleaning will, once again, take third place, if it places at all.  This may also be the weekend of the first grilled meal.  The dogs were showing a suspicious interest in my gas grill and I was afraid that I would lift the top to find a mouse condo.  I did not!  This is the first spring that I don't have to do a major clean-out of my grill!  The only thing I did differently was to put mothballs on a plastic jar lid, as opposed to in a plastic bag with the top left open.  One less thing to clean up!

Mud season has started along with what I call the "Oh, say by the light of the new dawning season, we find all we put off with what we thought was good reason" season.  In other words, once the snow melts, all those things on which I procrastinated are rearing their ugly little heads.  Pfft.  At least I have reached the age where I am realistic about the fact that I won't change.  It just means I have to move a little faster on the weekends.  Which is not as easy as it used to be because I have reached this age.  Crikey.  Or, make that Creaky.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The worm turned.

Or, more specifically, the butt-head rooster, Peckito, turned into a jerk.  He's been giving me the Hairy Eyeball for a while now and making little he-man runs at me.  He also has been beating the snot out of Bunny and is hard on the hens.  It was just a matter of time.

When I went into the coop yesterday to gather eggs before my egg-eater got to them (she's next on the list), I heard him coming and wheeled around, throwing my hand up in front of my face.  Bugger.
I grabbed him by the ankle, whacked him a few times and jettisoned him over the high fence.  He's on his own.

Saturday brought snow, sleet, rain, snow, more sleet and more snow.  My seed-starting workshop was postponed until next week, darnit.  We were all a little melancholy.

Spring, where art thou?
Luckily, we only had to get through Saturday to get a little teensy taste of what spring is actually like.  The sun came out, the breezes were soft and we all went a little crazy - me, with my rake and shovel; the dogs - just crazy.  Aleve has become my best friend.  I met a friend for breakfast early in the morning in a quaint little village near where I used to live.  It has become completely "precious", as in expensive and exclusive.  Too bad.  However, the one bright spot (besides my Maggie), is the yarn shop.  Oh, be still my heart.  It is becoming apparent that I need adult supervision in yarn shops. 

I made it back home in time to change to shoveling clothes and trotted out to the sheep yard.  Where I shoveled.  And shoveled.  And did more shoveling.  My lord, can that llama produce the beans!  I raked, too, and started to set  up my big composting area - which has to be finished before the coop-cleaning can commence.  By the time I'm finished, I will be awash in compost.  How nice!  I dragged out all the Christmas tree skeletons from the sheep yard, too, and surveyed the encroaching erosion problem in the back.  I think I have devised a plan for at least holding it back until a more permanent solution can be arrived at. 

I also did my weekend cooking sans the planned bread-baking, as Maggie and I had breakfast at one of my favorite little bakery/eateries that has specialized in Gluten Free baking.  I picked up two loaves of GF bread that is locally made and cheaper than grocery-store GF bread.  I was/am a happy camper.  Thanks to my glut of eggs, I made an asparagus/mushroom/onion quiche with a potato crust.  Yummers!  I also made the chicken rolls again - I think that is now my favorite way to each chicken. 

This week is chock-full of early morning errands - starting with having had to be in the office early to reprogram all our phones.  The IT guy started in on, "and then you need to pull up the ITL files and wipe them via the Ethernet gobbledygook..."  When he asked me if I had any questions, I said, "Yes, I don't understand anything after "and then you need".  Please put it in very, very, very basic language.  Sheesh.  Anyhow, it seems that everything has gone without a hitch, except for one phone.  There's always one.  Tuesday I have to take a friend to the train in the city by 8A, which means leaving my house at 7A.  At least I will be able to leave early, since they are adamantly against overtime.  As am I.  I'm hoping that there will be enough non-rain/snow weather when I get home this week to enable me to start on some outdoor projects.  Time's awastin!