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.

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.