Tuesday, May 28, 2019

e-i-e-i-o my aching back!

First, let me say that Advil is now my new best friend.

Oy.  I had started the holiday weekend with a grand proclamation - the garden would be planted by close of business Monday.  I am very big on grand proclamations, but very small on actually pulling them off.

However, at precisely 2:45 PM on Monday, I had planted everything. 
A tidy, enclosed garden.

Right - beans, melons and sweet peas.
Left - weedy bed.

Foreground - garlic, onions, scallions

Three kinds of kale, two kinds of chard,
golden beets

Pickling and slicing cucumbers, celery

PEPPERS! and eggplant

Herb bed (with weeds)


Tomato bed, dead ahead, squash to the
There is still the weedy bed and the herb bed needs attention.  I still have flowers to plant.  But!  I planted:  red and green yard long beans, melons, sweet peas, three kinds of kale, two kinds of scallions, two kinds of chard, golden beets, way too many tomatoes, way too many peppers, eggplant, celery, pickling and slicing cucumbers, parsley, cilantro, cosmos, three kinds of dahlias, nasturtiums, and a bulb flower I forget the name of.  Before I planted, however, I had to prepare the raised beds.  It took, literally, all my energy.  I topped it off by installing my new fence around the garden (which, for some reason, made me inordinately happy) and found that I did not have enough to completely enclose it.  I am using a section of the sheep fencing, while waiting for the additional fence to arrive.  I did rally three times during the weekend (it's all about balance, right Mama Pea?) and got my hair cut, had a lovely visit with a friend, and socialized with a lively bunch of friends at a camp on Spring Lake!  Wowza! 

There was also some baking - I made rhubarb kuchen for the barn crew, my neighbor and my friend.  I have a bumper crop of rhubarb (which is why I felt impelled to plant yet another kind - what?!?) so I have been making rhubarb everything.  I mixed up a batch of rhubarb 'iced tea' to have in between my glasses of regular herbal iced tea.  I mixed my first batch of cold brew coffee.  I pickled more quail eggs (the bourbon pickled eggs were, meh.) and managed to totally ignore the messiness of my house and the largeness of my pile of ironing.  I knit to a preordained point on my wool shawl and stowed it away until fall.  Then I promptly cast on two summer sweaters.  I was a MACHINE, people! 

I was also happy to read the forecast of rain today (let's hope) and to get in the car and drive to the office.  Where there is no planting to be had.  Holey guacamole.  The sheep will finally be sheared this Friday - poor babes are uncomfortable in the heat (as I predicted, we virtually skipped spring and catapulted into summer) with their woolies and blubber.  I still have to consult with my vet about how best to get Apria sheared.  She needs it, but is impossible to handle because of her blindness. 

There is also (good) news on the job front.  I think.  I will report on that in further detail, once I am sure.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Real Buddha would NOT have approved and rooster-less.

I drink tea every night and maybe four times a day on weekends.  My current favorite is ginger-turmeric, given its anti-inflammatory qualities.  My usual brand is The Republic of Tea, since they sell their teas in a tin and do not also wrap every teabag.  They also offer refills (not packaged in plastic) for most of their teas.   However, I ran out (bad me) and was forced to find an interim replacement.  Enter Buddha Tea.  With all the package-hype and holier-than-thou-ness, I figured it was a safe bet.  Wrongo.  Not only was it boxed (thank goodness, cardboard, so recyclable) but every.single.bag was wrapped in NON-recyclable materials.  I opened every one and stuffed the bare nekkid bags into my TROT tin.  Not that it makes up for the waste, but it may help ease my blood pressure every time I make a cup.  Let me tell you, the real Buddha would not have given this a pass.


Hark!  Do you hear that cockadoodledo?  No?  Heh, heh.  Neither do I.  Seriously, poor Fritzie had problems.  Before the Zombie Rooster had so brutally attacked him, he was just a fun-loving, sort of goofy guy.  I believe that Big Red (ZR) brutalized him so viciously, that he inflicted neurological damage.  Fritzie would not use the roost, preferring to huddle in a corner - long after the brute was gone.  He was hysterical at any noise or movement.  He was self-maiming - pulling out his feathers.  He was a sex maniac, leaving many hens with bald spots.  The final straw was the occurrence of small seizures.   Those of you with chickens know how they are when they sense weakness.  Last Friday, during one of the non-raining spells, I went out to the chicken yard and witnessed a more severe seizure, with the hens forming a circle around him.  I don't think it was to cheer him on.  I marched back into the house, got my pellet rifle, and ended his suffering.  Luckily for me, he'd apparently used up all of his zombie powers during the seizure, so I was not chased through the yard by his living dead self.  Such a shame.  I think we will take a rooster break.  I have not had good luck with them for some years and we are all heaving a collective sigh of relief.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Tip-toe between the raindrops. As if.

Don't look now, Ma, but it's
raining again.
Other than Saturday, the weekend weather was shite.  I found myself puttering around in the house, listening intently for the intermittent let-up of the rain - so I could vault outside and DO SOMETHING.  Friday was pretty much a wash (pardon the pun), but it did clear up at the very end of the day so that I could move the bale of wood shavings into the shed next to the coop and a 50# bag of chicken food into the bin.  That was pretty much it.  I made a quick trip up to Marianne's to pick up my tomato plants and drop off some how-tos on hard-boiling and peeling quail eggs, should anyone wonder.

The Belden Farm farmstand, built with
leftover old windows.  Quail eggs (Baby Blues)
on the front left.
I have not heard whether or not we sold any.  I think we'll have better luck when they are included at the farmers market.  In the name of research, I whipped up a batch of Bourbon Pickled Quail Eggs.  Because, why not?  I will let you know how they turn out when they are ready to be tasted - in a couple of days.

Saturday dawned blissfully dry.  Good thing, too, as my dear sis was coming to help me clean out the chicken coop.  We had tried a new method, thanks to her clever brain, where I lined the floor last fall with a heavy-duty tarp.  In my mind (so often not grounded in reality), all we would have to do is grasp the ends of the tarp and drag the whole hot mess out.  That could have 'possibly' worked, had we not had a winter full of Arctic blasts, where all 30 chickens and two ducks were coop-bound for days.  The accumulated mess had the heft and make-up of a cement/epoxy mix.  We did end up shoveling out about three large wheelbarrow loads, but it was much easier when we were finally able to haul out the tarp.  The cement floor was clean, there was no scraping and swearing, and we actually had fun doing it.  The fall clean up is always much easier, as they are all outdoor spreading the love.  After that, I did some potting up of plants and fired up the electric netting so that the sheep would get some greens.  By the time I turned around, it was early evening and I hadn't gotten even half my list accomplished.  Oh, well, said I.  There's always tomorrow.

Which dawned ... wet.  The rain was not supposed to start until early evening, bringing with it strong storms.  Instead, it rained from before dawn through most of the morning, with a brief clearing spell around noon.  When it became summer.  I really do miss spring.  It was so nice when we had it - back in the Stone Age.  I managed to get the rest of the raised bed frames completed, although they are not ready to plant yet.  I lassoed a neighbor (who had the bad timing of driving up to have me meet his new dog - from the rescue I work with - woot!) into helping me put up my trellis for my beans.  The new plan (what is this, Double ZZ by now?) is to finish cleaning up the three main beds this week, planting most of my seeds and seedlings over the holiday weekend.  Including my 14 tomato plants.

During the endless bouts of rain, I painted my front door a color sure to perk me up whenever I looked at it.  It gloweth!
Either a little bit o' sunshine
a smear of yellow mustard...
We managed to avoid the severe thunderstorms, thank goodness, but today is another one of those rain-all-morning, wait until I am safely in my office for the sun to appear, then more severe storms day.  I'm hoping for at least a few opportunities to work frantically in my raised beds this week.  Wednesday we play the hospice shuffle - my sister and niece have to head to Massachusetts at the crack of dawn, Mom has a doctor's appointment in the city (chauffeured by moi), lunch has to be arranged, caregivers scheduled to stay with Dad.  Nothing is easy when you are dealing with dementia and the elderly.  I think we have everything under control (and I only say this because my sister is in charge - not I).  I am looking forward to folding my aging mother into my low-rider. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Plan Z

I do believe the Universe has its Ms confused.  You know, like March instead of May.  Another spiffy little statistic is that tomorrow marks the EIGHTEENTH straight Friday with rain.  I may put pontoons on my raised beds.

Speaking of which, I was able to chip away at one of the more problematic raised beds - not the most problematic, but let's not split hairs, shall we? - and I now have two almost-prepared beds out of eight. 
The worst one is to the right.
We take what small victories we can.  The chickens were thrilled to get the thinnings - four and a half five-gallon bucketfuls!  This particular bed used to be the strawberry bed, but a couple of years ago, during yet another lousy gardening season (I'm beginning to see a terrifying trend), the chipmunks and weeds beat me to any fruit and I threw in the gardening gloves.  I took out the remaining strawberry plants and tucked them in a bucket and sent a message to my new gardening buddy - she's a young mother who is trying to introduce healthy foods into the school system.  She has a big garden at home and has taken over an unused patch at the Middle/High school, where she is a cook, so I have been giving her all of my extra plants.  As a plus, she always shows up when she says she will.  I am all for promoting healthy eating, growing your own and shopping locally.  Especially when that shopping is free!

Tomorrow, I have taken the day off.  When I scheduled this day off, the forecast was for a mostly clear day.  It is now a mostly rainy day.  Give me strength....if it is not a total washout, I will be out there in the drizzle.  Things must get done, no matter what the weather.  The poor sheep have been looking longingly (and loudly) at the grass outside the fence and I found, drat and damn, that my energizer is kaput.  This puts a crimp in my moveable electric netting plans.  I did manage to dig out my battery-powered charger that still had some juice in it.  That gave them an hour of bliss on the grassy slope, poor babes.  I believe a solar energizer is in my very near future.  I can't complain, as I have gotten almost 10 years out of this energizer, including having to rewire it myself after the sheep pulled the cord out.  How fortuitous that I have in my possession a birthday gift certificate for the fencing company.... (xoxox)

After suffering a brain freeze looking at my list, I decided to break it down into areas, then prioritize each area, then set aside blocks of time, etc.  This is becoming more like a military maneuver every year.  Where are my troops?  Where are my minions?  They are inside being naughty, thanks for asking.

Saturday is supposed to be a dry day.  Oh, right.  If it is, I am bringing in my sister and niece and we are tackling the chicken coop.  Bless their hearts, although my niece has never experienced anything farm, so this should be interesting.  I will have a Plan B for her, just in case.  And it will not include The Pat.  I have other plans for them - on the deck with marrow bones.

I have a confusing housing situation with purple martins and blue birds and I am darned if I can figure it out.  Apparently, my lopped off birch stump (about 7 feet tall) has become a hot property.  I thought the martins had set up housekeeping in a hollowed-out area near the top.  I had mounted a blue bird house on the other side - before the hollowing-out process.  Now there is a lot of noise and comings and goings, ins and outs, between house and hole.  The wren even got involved!  I hope they can sort it out and babies, both blue and purple, are fledged.

Saturday is the debut of the Baby Blues, and I am hopeful that we can generate just enough demand to meet production.  I am not adding quail.  Nope.  No way, no how.  (Will some responsible adult step up to keep me in line?) 

I will hope to dazzle you with pictures of my tidy raised beds, newly framed and ready for planting on Monday.  Hope springs eternal, much like the rain, so we're in a dead heat.  If that fails, it's on to Plan Z.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Where have you been all my life, Everything Parmesan Crisps?

I'd have inserted a photograph here, but I ate them.  All of them.  Without pause.  Well, with some pauses, but short ones.  And there is no use to photograph he weather.  Think rain forest.

I am not going to go on about the weather, because I hate it and it makes me hyperventilate.  We had about 5 hours without rain and about 3 hours of sun over the weekend.  (STOP IT, depressing weather-speak!)

Anyhoo, I had made an appointment for a spa pedicure - strictly on the basis of testing out the facility, you understand.  We (my younger sister and I) are plotting my middle sister's birthday surprise and, being in the veritable middle of nowhere, it's not easy to come up with luxurious day spas that don't cost an arm and a leg and include half a day's travel.  I was quite pleasantly surprised (I apologize, nice spa lady, if I snored....or drooled...) and so we are set.  All that is left is to further plot how we are going to get her there.  I have volunteered to lie like a rug and then kidnap her and deliver her - blindfolded, if needed - to her mini-spa treatment.  I am nothing if not sneaky.

By the time I got home, I had about one hour to do outside work before the rain returned.  I had invited a 'friend' for a glass of wine and finger foods, so was tear-assing around, cleaning and straightening, when I got a text saying she really didn't have time.  (Ergo, the quotation marks around friend.)  So, there I sat with a relatively tidied house, a chilled bottle of rose and a plate full of Everything Parmesan Crisps, a new recipe.  So I tried one.  Made animal sounds and ate the rest.  The recipe is from Skinny Taste (thank you, Sylvie, for introducing me to them!) and is incredibly easy:

Grate 1/2 cup parmesan cheese on the large holes of a box grater.  Line a baking tray with a silicone mat (preferable) or parchment paper.  Divide the cheese into four separate little piles on the lined pan, spread each pile out to about a 4" circle, leaving room between.  Put in a preheated 400 degree oven for 3 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle each with  3/4 tsp of a combination of sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, dried garlic flakes and poppy seeds (I use Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel mix), then put them back in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until they are golden.  Take out and let them cool.  You're welcome.

I slogged out to the yard and clipped a shopping bag of nettle tops, slogged back in and blanched them, freezing some and making my favorite spring soup out of the rest.  I have to say that I like nettles more than spinach in some recipes, this being one - it's basic:

Half a shopping bag of nettle tops, blanched for 3 minutes, put in an ice bath, then thick stems removed and nettles roughly chopped

Heat a nugget of butter and a slur-up of olive oil in a soup pan (I use the same pan as I did to blanch the nettles - dishes, you know) and saute until translucent a small onion, chopped, and a stalk or two of celery, chopped.  Add to this some diced potatoes and about 2-3 cups of chicken broth (or vege broth), a bay leaf and a teaspoon of dried thyme.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the nettles and more broth or water if needed.  Simmer 10 minutes more, until potatoes are tender.  Remove the bay leaf and use an immersion blender or pour (carefully) into a blender and blend until smooth.  You can add a dollop of heavy cream or half and half if you wish, but I like mine straight up.  It helps you through the cold, wet weather.

Other than that - Mother's Day was a dark, cold, rainy blur - I did more cleaning and then canoed up to Vermont and back.  I have potted up the last of my seedlings and planted the Bibb lettuce and arugula in the cold frame.  It was too wet to put up the electronet for the sheep yet, but I did get the energizer set up. 

I sit in the early mornings, knitting away, and listen to the birds wake up amidst the pitter-pat of the incessant rain.  I know that this weather will pass - eventually.  As is now commonplace, the rain will stop, it will become summer overnight and I will be moaning and groaning about the lack of rain.  There is no pleasing me.  I should take my cue from the resident Carolina Wren - he is filled with music, no matter what the weather.  Just happy to be alive.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Power of the Snoot.

I came home two days ago, walking up the front walk to the accompaniment of the dog alarm.  They can see that it's me, but that does not stop them from alerting everyone in a mile radius that someone approacheth.  DANGER!  DANGER! (Will Robinson!  for those of you ancient enough to recognize the line.)

When I got to the front door and unlocked it, I could not get it open.  There was much frenzied yapping in the living room and, having not forgotten the horrors of old, I dropped my bag, vaulted down the front steps, tore around the house to the back, took the backs steps five at a time (there are four) and ripped open the sliding glass door.

At which point, the barking ceased and everyone was so happy to see me.

Peanut, his first day out of stir, had toppled a 40# box containing my quail food, had wrestled with it (pushing it against the front door) gnawed on it, clawed it, and had managed to chew off an end corner (HEAVY cardboard box), chewed through the packing paper and chewed off a corner of the feed bag.  He was moving pretty slowly by the time I got to him.


Judging by the 'end' result, both he and Lovey had managed to inhale some of the high protein organic feed.  There were small portions for dinner that night and The Pat is back in stir while I am not there.

It boggles the mind.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

When is a salad not a salad, but a hot/cold mess?

I am sure that is a question that rises to the top of your mind on a daily basis.  It does mine.  That should give you an idea of how exciting my life is.

We have segued into the time of year where every lunch is a salad by default.  As I was rummaging around my fridge this morning, mining various unmarked containers for potential lunch ingredients, it occurred to me that what I was creating might not be deemed a 'salad'.  Case in point:  Today's Salad

Leftover rice, sliced green onions, peanuts, avocado, chopped tomato, chopped egg, ginger sesame dressing.  There are times, I must admit, where the end result is - while not repulsive - odd.  This does not stop me.  I did draw the line at adding raisins to my 'salad', as the combo of tomato + raisin does give me pause.

Let's see.  What's new.  It's not raining yet!  This is the first day in over 10 days that I have not had to slog through the rain to do morning chores and try to reach my car without my 'style' dissolving.  Of course, it had to occur NOT on a weekend day, but a day where I can only enjoy it virtually - out my office window with a view of other office windows.  Not to worry, it will rain later today.  There is a slim chance that it may not rain at all tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath.  At least this constant dismality has made it easier to harden off my seedlings.

What it has not done, however, is given me a chance to replace my raised beds.  I managed to get the cross pieces cut under the cover of my carport and I did transplant a peony, but that has been the extent of my outdoor activity.  That and scraping the square meter of muck that sticks to the bottom of my shoes every time I go out to do chores.

Enough about the weather.  Safe to say, it stinks.

I am soldiering along on another pair of short socks and I managed to push my way (virtually) into a charity crochet-along with the home office.  Truth be told, it was listed as Knit a Square and, as always, I read no further.  Apparently, the home office is full of crocheters, not knitters.  Not to be dissuaded, learning to crochet has been on my bucket list (you will note that I have low expectations of the lead-up to my demise) so I volunteered.  I am relieved that I am going to be at the end of a phone line, as my crochet speed is still in first gear.  I watched a quick YouTube tutorial for Slow Instructions for the Very Beginner, taught by a 14 year old, and found, much to my delight, that it is fun!  Tomorrow I labor along, trying to achieve two squares to their fifteen.  No matter, it's given me the impetus that I needed to take it further.

I had every intention of celebrating Cinco de Mayo with bells on, but I was having a friend to dinner who has an extremely limited palate.  I did manage to squeeze in a modified huevos rancheros for breakfast.
Close enough.
Dinner, although well-planned on paper, skirted disaster.  I had decided to make dinner with the slow cooker function of my Instant Pot.  Easypeasy.  (Insert pregnant pause)  As we all know by now - everyone but me, apparently - nothing goes as planned.  All I had to do on Sunday was to take my recycling to the transfer station, feed the farm cat(s), drop off eggs at my neighbors and come back to put three ingredients and a simple sauce in the slow cooker.  What could go wrong?  How about everything?  It poured and delayed the loading of my car.  Dropping off the eggs involved a longer than expected visit with my elderly neighbors.  By the time I finally reached the transfer station, there was a double line of cars and trucks and I was in Transfer Station Pergatory for almost a half hour.  When I finally got back home, my neighbor had already arrived to help me prepare the lumber for the raised beds.  The dogs needed to go out, but didn't want to because - rain.  When I finally got inside to throw dinner in the Instant Pot, I had just enough time - according to the recipe - to get the thing cooked in time for the arrival of my dinner guest.  I still had to vacuum and sweep and do the usual housecleaning things, get chores done and spiffy up.  About 40 minutes before she arrived, I realized that I did not smell anything - there should have been some sort of mouth-watering aroma emanating from my Instant Pot by then.  I took the lid off and discovered that the roast was about 1/2 of the way cooked.   Not phased, for once, I pressure-cooked it for 35 minutes and it was perfect.  Bless you, Instant Pot.

I also found a new home for my potato grow bags - I've decided to plant my potatoes in tires, when I do plant potatoes.  Between Marianne and my neighbor, I get plenty of potatoes in the late summer/early fall, so I don't have to plant them and that frees up precious space in my garden.  I am hoping that the rain gods move their focus somewhere else and soon, so that I can get cracking on the one million items on my List and that's only in the garden!