Sunday, June 17, 2018

What's this flower?

This perennial is blooming in my mother's gardens and I don't know what it is. The purple color is so intense that when my sister came in the house with them I thought they were artificial flowers. They're really pretty.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Second-hand Thursday

Oh, treasures.  Let's see what "second hand but new to us"  wonders snuck in the house this week.

Saturday I got up early and went to two yard sales with really nice children's clothing.  I think there are 22 items here, including a winter coat, that were about 50 cents each. Really nice name brands and my total was $11.00.  This would have been a couple hundred dollars new.  Buying children's clothing new is so expensive and they grow out of it so quickly.  Plus, the one sale was full of "outdoorsy" stuff and there are several little camping/animal themed outfits here.  Adorable.

More books from out little local thrift store, 25 cents each.  I brought these home today and we've already read the pigeon book, the pet book, the cupcake book (twice) and the baby animals book (twice). 

This treasure was from the thrift store.  I saw it being dropped off and asked right off if I could buy it.  He absolutely adores his new "pirate castle" and has played with it every day.  It even took a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house. $3.00

He loves it so much that the next day I stopped back in to ask the volunteers if they had found any of the knights or horses that would have came with it.  That was a mistake on my part.  This is the little local place.  I think the minimum age for volunteers is 85 years old and every one of them was confused by what I was asking.

Standing at the back of the store, this was my conversation with two of the volunteers:

"Hey, Bob! This lady is looking for a castle!"
"No, I bought it here yesterday. It was sitting outside and I bought it before it went out on the shelf. I was asking about the toys that came with it?"
"Has anyone seen the toy castle someone donated?"
"I didn't donate it - I bought it. It's at my house."
"I don't see a castle."
"I know. It was in this box here, but I bought it before it was put out on the floor. I was asking if any toys came with it?"
 "Well, if there were pieces missing, we would have thrown it out."
"You didn't throw it out, I bought it.  I was asking if you found any toy horses?"
"Well, since you're missing pieces, why don't you take this train set home with you? It's free."

(Pause. Me weighing the situation and deciding to just be polite and get the hell out of there.)

"Ok, great, thank you.  But I'd really like to pay you something for it."
"No, here, just take it.  Are you leaving now or do you have more shopping to do?"
"I'm leaving."
"OK, good.  Here take it and leave before Bob sees you."

Vintage Fisher Price circus set: free.  Don't tell Bob.

Small towns are so funny.  I don't know who Bob is, but if he's the incredibly nice gentleman that works the checkout counter I really don't think he would have cared.  In fact, thinking about it, maybe I should have just talked to him in the first place.  So I took the circus set home.  We already have one.  I figured I would just donate it back next week but it came with all of the circus animals and when I got ours out of the toy box I realized that the cars were different colors too.

So now we have a very large choo-choo with all of the animals. 

And lastly, my new favorite maternity shirt from my dear, sweet friend L, who always seems to intuitively know when I'm feeling down and need a little pick me up.  The baby dropped and none of my maternity clothes fit.  But this gift fits wonderfully and is soft and just long enough to cover a huge belly. 

What a bunch of blessings this week.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Animals everywhere

There have been so many random things going on around here, all animal related.  Here's a bit of the mayhem.

Well, there was an evening earlier this week that I didn't get out to close up the birds until after dark.  It was a downpour and I had a flashlight and my big brown work jacket on with the hood up.  Walking out to the coop, what greets me but  one of my little skunk buddies sitting INSIDE the chicken coop happily eating an egg. Come on.  It was a little guy with odd broken striping down his back.  No amount of yelling or banging on the coop would interrupt his dinner.  Mostly he would just take a bite, blink around in every direction but mine and then go back to getting another egg.  I guess I was in the dark and blinding him with a flashlight.  Eventually I got a T-post, opened the clean-out door on the coop and tried guiding him out the door.  He ran and hid under the nest boxes.  There is less than 3 inches of clearance under there.  I stuck the T-post under and ended up forcibly shoving him out the door.  Anyone have a cat? And when you go to the vet you have to turn the carrier upside down and shake it in 10 directions to get the cat out?  It was like that. No one got sprayed.  He toddled off. 

Next up, remember the raccoon woes? Did I mention that one of them hissed at me from the other side of the fence one evening? And it wasn't even dark yet? Yeah, it's been fun.  I set some live traps last night and this morning there was a raccoon in one.  I came in to have a bowl of cereal before dealing with it.  I came back outside to find Nigel sitting sadly beside the trap.

He's molting right now and looks terrible.  I don't know what happened to this poor guy before I found him on Craigslist and brought him home but you have never seen a sadder face on a creature then when Nigel sees a box trap.  He will literally just go stand beside the dang thing and stare at it sadly.

But wait, what's this?  Anyone see a raccoon? No? Me either.

It managed to beak out of the trap.  "What.... the..... hell....?" I said in disbelief.  "What! The! Hell?!" and then it occurred to me that maybe I should back peddle myself out of the chicken yard for awhile while looking over my shoulder.  How on earth did this happen?

Look, the door is all mangled.  It takes me both hands to set these things and I have opposable thumbs.  How did it get out from INSIDE the trap??? UGH!  So not only is it still out there, but it's never going to go in a trap again.  Awesome. 

So, thanks in part to the raccoons we said goodbye to our two remaining ducks this week.  Between the raccoon attacks and getting repeatedly humped by the gander (yep, sorry, that was actually happening) they were pretty miserable.  They went to a family we are good friends with who have a wonderful property with a big flock of free-ranging birds.  This is the first time we've been without ducks in close to 5 years.  It's sad.  I miss them.  The plan is to start over in the spring with a new flock. What was really surprising is how much quieter the place is.  Want to know what's louder than 4 geese and 3 roosters put together? Two female ducks demanding breakfast.  

Oh, heck what else?  There was a night this week when I was putting the little man to bed and he was talking about a grasshopper in the kitchen.  The kid knows his wildlife and I could not figure out what he has seen with a picture of a grasshopper on it.  The next morning he and I were at the kitchen counter making bread and he points and says "Look, mom, is grasshopper in the sink."  I looked and didn't see anything.  "Where, honey?"  "Right there! Is grasshopper in sink!"  

Yeah, it wasn't a grasshopper.  It was a baby praying mantis, about a 1/2 inch long.  And the thing is, they were everywhere.  Everywhere.  Worse yet, this is not the first time this has happened this year because *someone* likes to bring the egg cases inside and display them.  The last time was in April and there were mantis babies all over the dining room, like 100 of them.  I denied it when asked of course, because I couldn't actually remember having brought another one inside.  But come on, who else could be at fault here?  Eventually I found the egg case and put it outside.

Too late. Everyone know what a praying mantis looks like?

Fierce predators about 4 inches long.  This is what I had unleashed upon our house.  We're still finding them.

On a lighter note, Bee brushes up on her babysitting skills and gets a foot to the face.  

And I went fishing this week.  Look at this bounty!  It was a beautiful evening at the lake.  Panfish may be small but they quickly add up.  Seven sunfish and a small perch.  We had fish tacos and there are still some fillet left in the refrigerator.  

It's not even the middle of the week yet.  What other fun is waiting for us?

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Favorite lunch; white beans with kale, chard & eggs

White beans with greens, anchovies and egg. Good with a glass of dry white wine or iced tea, depending on pregnancy status.

It seemed fitting to follow up yesterday's post with one of my favorite dishes.  I was out in the garden earlier this week, looking at all of the greens coming up and thinking about what to do for lunch.  Then it occurred to me that it was an odd day when everyone else in my family was occupied and I could make whatever I wanted.  This is one of my absolute favorite meals to eat and I used to hand out this recipe when we sold vegetables at the Farmer's Market. 

This dish is restaurant quality and costs me about 30 cents to make.

Put a glug of olive oil in a deep sauce pan and start cooking a chopped chili, minced garlic and a couple of anchovy filets.  (Please don't skip the anchovies, they add the most amazing flavor, Caesar salad is popular for a reason).  

While those are cooking, wash and chop a big handful of sturdy greens (kale, orach, chard, spinach) and add to the pan.  Watch out for caterpillars on the kale leaves; ugh.  In the spirit of Anthony Bourdain I guess those caterpillars are technically protein so that's your call.  We feed them to the chickens.

When the leaves are wilted add about 1/3 a can of white beans along with some of the liquid from the can and give it a good stir.  Throw in a handful of leftover cooked grains if you have any.  When it's good and bubbling poach a couple of eggs right in there.

Toss it all on a plate and top with Parmesan cheese and a handful of panko crumbs.

Between the eggs and the beans this dish makes its own luscious sauce.  You get heat from the chili and a savory depth from the anchovies.  It's honestly just incredible, one of those meals that my body reacts to in a primal way.  Like every cell is rejoicing because what I'm eating is so full of vitamins and goodness.

Being able to produce a good meal from a handful of humble ingredients is a skill I feel blessed to have and one I hope I can teach my children well.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Yes, that.

“Basic cooking skills are a virtue... the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill. [It’s] as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.”

Anthony Bourdain

Monday, June 4, 2018

Happy quail

We've had rain and summer storms here over the last couple of days and the quail pen was looking pretty sad.  When the poor quail wanted to use their sun room it was nothing but mud.  So I found a bag of sand in the garage and put about an inch of it down.  Quick fix and happy quail!

They're all puffed up from dust bathing.  These little birds are so much fun.

More dust baths.  I think I have 5 hens and a rooster out there total.  That's the rooster to the left, he has a pretty orange breast.  Not as bright as a robin, but a rust color. 

I also planted kale transplants in there.  Kale is pretty sturdy and I hope these can grow and provide shade, nibbles and bugs for the birds. or the quail will just squash them. We'll see.

Of course, happy birds lay lots of eggs.  This is a handful of the ones from the refrigerator.  They lay all sorts of lovely patterns. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The start of summer; gardening, predators and other such

Bee takes a break to cool off and have a drink.

It's been wicked hot here the last week, in the middle 80's.  Which I guess is not too terrible but enough to keep us inside through the heat of the day. There's been a lot of playing in the wading pool and eating popsicles on the porch.  Any work I am doing in the garden is during the early and late hours of the day.

Patiently waiting.

Flowers cut from my mother's gardens.  These irises are my favorite and I'd like to transplant some of them over here.

The little man and I made the family famous Bicardi Rum Cake for my father's birthday today.  Little man was super confused about the bat on the Bicardi bottle: "Is bat juice?"  "No, honey, it's not."  I accidentally discovered that if you let the gaze set up a bit in the refrigerator it makes it much, much easier to glaze the cake. 

We finally had a nice, steady downpour today.  The ground really needed it; the soil in the garden was starting to crack.

Kale, fava beans, lettuces, snow peas.  Behind the fence is flowers and winter squash.  That green area is just being mown, not attempting to mulch the whole garden this year.

Poultry yard is filling in nicely.  The baby goslings sent through the mail are huge.  The only way I can tell the difference between the babies and my mature female is by the feathers; they are close to the same size now.  We've had a rash of raccoon attacks this month that I haven't been excited to talk about, it's been pretty horrible. Picture a raccoon dragging a full-grown goose around by the wing horrible, and me running out there pregnant to chase it off while screaming profanities.  I would have killed it with my bare hands if it hadn't run away. We've lost two ducks and had another duck and a goose attacked.  It's not been fun.  We're doing what we can.

Shelled out the money for one of those HUGE Havahart traps that you can fit a miniature goat in.  It was a considerable expense I should have invested in years ago, honestly.  Except that when we got it out of the box it was heavily damaged and had to be returned.  The company I ordered it (Home Depot) from said we can expect another one tomorrow and knocked $20 off the price of the replacement. In this day and age where crappy customer service is the norm, we were really pleased with that.

This is the back of the chicken coop.  My father and husband turned the space under the coop into a safe, predator-proof area for the ducks and geese to sleep.  I had been trying to rig something with an old A-frame coop and it was miserable.  The door has a barrel latch and the whole enclosure is 1/4 inch hardware cloth.  It's dry and shaded under there and tall enough that even the big male has plenty of room to stand.  It was a wonderful gift from people who love me.  Probably they were motivated by the fact that neither one of them wants me messing with possibly rabid raccoons. 

Also pictured; they made me a water barrel!  It hold about 40 gallons and has a handy spout on the other side.  Eventually it will be connected to a gutter and downspout on the coop.  For now, it saves me hauling water out there in buckets twice a day.  These two modifications have made the poultry yard a downright pleasure to be in.

Our beloved Alpine strawberries look horrible.  A google search of these rust spots leads me to several possible fungal culprits.  Which doesn't make sense because sources say that they're triggered by damp and wet - the exact opposite of the hot and dry weather we've been having.  So the berries are not being eaten by us, but picked off and fed to the quail.

Who have moved into their summer vacation home; the quail tractor butted up flush against the old duck coop.  It gives them about 10 times the square footage they are used to and they seem pretty happy with it, although they've spent most of the time hiding out in that old crock.  Quail are odd in that experience has shown me that they really do prefer to stay in a tight group in a smaller space.  There are also some logs to climb on and hollow logs to hide in.  They're just starting to use the old duck house during the day.

The garden is 99% planted except for these beauties.  Honestly, there's no room left so I'm not sure where they're going.  There's always an empty corner somewhere I guess.

Here's to summer, so glad it's here.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Reading, Second-hand Thursday

We love our books around this house and may own more than a reasonable amount. Probably  because we don't have television the little guy gets read about 8 to 10 books each day, mostly kid's books but he also has a soft spot for field guides, the vintage Little Golden Guides that I still love.  Sometimes it will be quiet in the living room and when I tiptoe in he'll be sitting there quietly absorbed in a book. I take that opportunity to sit down and read something of my own.

He's not quite old enough to where I trust him with books borrowed from the library so mostly I buy them at the local thrift store.

This is what I found today. For 25c each you can't beat it.  I remember when my sister and I were little and my mother had to take both of us grocery shopping,  her go-to bribe was that if we didn't act like asses in the store we could each pick out a new book before we left.  Thinking back on it that must have been a heck of an expense on the grocery budget but it paid off well, both my sister and I still love to read. 

Usually I don't pre-read the little guy's books but could not resist opening One Kitten Is Not Too Many, circa 1964.

Oh man.  So many truths in this one. 

We only have two cats but this is pretty much what our house looks like. 

They have totally done that.

And my husband has totally said that.  

Keeping with the second-hand theme, here's another treasure:

This didn't come from the thrift store but was something my dad found and gave to me today.  A new vintage milk box! I have a soft spot for old dairy collectables and the one on the right, while local, is a dairy I didn't know we once had.

Hooray for suprises.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The rural update

There's been so much going on here the last couple of weeks.  It feels great to be outside in the sunshine being productive again.  Taking it slowly but getting things done nonetheless.  What's new?

Part of the property. The right hand side of the garden (the "spring" side) is 90% planted and about 50% mulched.  This side contains garlic, potatoes, herbs, the strawberry bed, rhubarb and asparagus.  Plus some extra room where I planted canna, sunflowers and kale.  Really making an effort this season to use living mulches: nasturtiums in bare corners, dry beans between the tomato plants, that kind of thing.

Some herbs: oregano, thyme, lemongrass and sage.

Also new this year I collected praying mantis egg cases from around the property last month.  I've stuck about a dozen of them around the garden to hopefully hatch and help with organic pest control.  Plus, they're just neat to watch.  We planted two kinds of basil here.

The alpine strawberries I grew from seeds last year are huge and setting berries! So pleased with this.

Some volunteer squash.  Sure, they're probably cross-bred but I don't care.  There are lots of volunteer plants this year, for which I am beyond grateful.  Weeding is going to be impossible with a newborn and anything green and productive is more than welcomed. 

Except maybe this hot mess.  What you're looking at is mint gone wild in a corner of the garden.  So much mint.  I really need to deal with it.  It's taking over the snow pea trellis.  Also pictured are lots of volunteer sunflower plants which I'll weed around and encourage to grow.  They'll look beautiful in that corner.

My husband tilled up some rows on the summer side of the garden.  The little man got into the action with his excavator.  

This weekend we put in the rest of the greens, 16 pepper plants, 12 tomato plants, black beans and lots of flower seeds.  There are still many tomato plants to go in, along with the squash transplants.  My helper loves to water, mulch and plant.  There is no sweeter sound to my ears than a two year old saying "Mama. More plant, please!" after he tucks in each transplant. Oh, be still my heart.  Times like this make me miss my own mother even more.  She would have loved gardening with him.

We still need to construct the garden teepee.  That thing was awesome.  Also more bulbs and tubers to plant but what gets done gets done at this point.  The ornamental flower beds (all 2 of them) are planted already.  Thank God for perennials, I just had to fill in the gaps with dahlias.  I'm still well ahead of our last frost date and probably have another couple of good working weeks still ahead of me.  Honestly, mulching is probably the most pressing thing. 

Remember the incident with the clearance bantams at TSC?  They're all grown up now, sort of.  I'm afraid to let them range quite yet because they're literally the size of my quail.  These things are TINY.  They were moved into this pre-fab coop we bought a couple of months ago on sale.  Pre-fab coops get a bad rap but honestly, I am in love with this thing.  If you're planning on stuffing 8 full grown hens into it like the box claims you can it would be a nightmare.  But it's fantastic for what we needed.

That's our old Christmas tree in there for playing and cover.

Here they are!  Wow, did I luck out.  Not only are 5 of these the Millie Fleur chickens I was hoping for but there are 4 hens and a rooster! They're just starting to get their speckles, which I read can take a couple of months. They're so beautiful.  

I lost two of the Seabrights shortly after we got them (no idea why) and that game bantam is obviously a rooster that will have to be dealt with but I could not be more pleased with how this group turned out.  

The new goslings are nearly as big as my female goose.  The poultry yard always takes some time to fill back in in the spring but in another month will look like a green jungle. 

The planters on the porch look really sweet.

Sometimes we take breaks.  I have to swing in the hammock sideways or I can't get back out without help.  How embarrassing.  Here I'm on break from planting and Bee is on break from killing small critters.  The last couple of weeks have been full of sunshine, warm weather, naps and popsicles.  It's been wonderful.