Thursday, June 21, 2018

Craft! DIY air plant display & love

Nesting is taking the form of crafting this time around, feeling the urge to wrap up some half-done projects instead of oh, doing laundry or cleaning or anything actually useful.  Oh well.  Stay tuned for some more craft posts over the next couple of days.  

I fell hard for air plants this winter and ended up spending too much money buying a couple groups of them off of Ebay. It was so addicting though; both times the plants were shipped from clear across the country and arrived in perfect condition.  Both times the sellers included free plants too - I think one seller sent 5 free plants with my order!  So they're tiny but added up quickly.  I've been displaying them in little bottles and planters but really wanted one of those hanging frames I've seen on the internet - but was not willing to pay $50 for a frame with wire stapled to it.  We have plenty of chicken wire around here.  Today I finally made one!

The chicken wire is just stapled to the back of an antique frame with a staple gun and the whole deal is hung on the porch with hooks.

The little plants are just tucked in the chicken wire.

I think it looks really great and modern on the porch.  It reminds me of a little science display.  We'll hang it inside in the fall.

The plants also look really beautiful glued to driftwood.  You can order special glue on-line but plant sites seem to agree on the E6000 Quickhold glue I got from Wal-Mart; the $3 tube is huge and will last forever.

These are the easiest plants I've ever owned.  All they need is a good soak once a week or so (I leave mine in a bucket of water overnight or pile them in the sink and let the little guy soak them down with the sprayer).  If it's a day I'm cleaning the fish talk I'll soak them in the fish water to fertilize them but that's it. 

I could see this getting out of hand quite easily. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Little wonders of nature

It's been such a fun couple of days outside.  Look at what we've seen!

These sweet things are called Bird's Nest fungi.  I've found them mostly growing in mulch.  Besides just looking like a tiny fairy bird nest, it reproduces in the neatest way - when raindrops hit the "nests" the tiny "eggs" are launched into the air to germinate nearby.  Isn't that great?  In our area it comes in this color and also a beautiful bluish/grey.  

The little guy and I found this tiny creature at the lake yesterday.  I took a picture thinking it was just a type of beetle we weren't familiar with and we'd look it up when we got home.  Turns out this little one is actually a baby ladybug that's not fully grown up yet.  It's the pupa stage of the insect. Wow!  Ironically, we own a book on this very subject but had forgotten all about it. Next time we'll talk about it for sure.

This wonder of nature is happening right on our front porch, in the planters.  I noticed big black ants puttering around on the flowers stems and wondered what they were up to.  If you look closely by the ant's feet you can see tiny green bugs - aphids!  Each ant I saw was hovering around a small aphid cluster.  When I was little my favorite book at one point was an antique guide to insect behavior and I still remember reading about the relationship between these two insects.  The aphids actually produce a substance that the ants love to eat.  The book had described the ants as tiny dairy farmers tending their herds - as does this article in Modern Farmer (the ants/aphids part is about halfway down the page).  I was so excited to see this for the first time.  

We've found some really tiny miracles of nature this week, and it's only Wednesday. It's been a lovely reminder to slow down and take a good look around at the world around us.

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.