Tuesday, August 30, 2016


I usually bring armloads of flowers inside the house each summer but have been hesitant to this year because the little man gets into everything he can reach.  Today I decided to throw caution to the wind and brought in a big bunch of dahlias.  They are the workhorses of the flowerbeds - sturdy, dependable and productive year after year.  After a frost I just dig the tubers up, pack them in sawdust and store them in the basement until spring.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Week in review - canning, rooster spurs, blackberry vinegar & other such

It's been the kind of week where we've been crazy busy but I don't really feel like anything got done.

Let's see....

I canned tomatoes.  It's the kind of activity that is disappointing and satisfying at the same time.  Disappointing in that buckets and buckets of tomatoes don't really add up to all that lot once they're in jars.  Canning heirloom tomatoes is different than canning paste tomatoes like Roma; you lose a lot of volume with the seeds and cores and whatnot. That's ok, the poultry eat all of the scraps and turn them into eggs.  But this is the satisfying part - the taste.  Wow!  It makes me so happy to pop one of these jars during winter.  The taste and smell are pure summer.  I canned a total of 3 quarts, 6 pints and 5 jelly jars.

This Cherokee Purple tomato was spared.  He will sit in the kitchen and make me happy until he collapses from old age.

My final broody hen has babies.  I saw at least one pair of legs, duck, under her when I went out to feed everyone this morning.  I candled her eggs last Friday and she was down to 6 - 1 duck and 5 chicken.  So we'll see how things look tomorrow morning.  I really need to take a serious look around the yard soon and make some hard decisions about who to keep over the winter and who goes into the freezer.

Mr. Rooster Jr. is going to the freezer.  Sorry, buddy.

Trimmed the spurs on Mr. Rooster, Sr. He is... wow... 4 years old now and the one spur had actually curved around was threatening to poke his leg.  If you look on-line for information on how to deal with spurs people will usually recommend one of two methods that both sound insane.  1) sticking a cooked potato on the spur until it falls off or 2) twisting the spur off with pliers.  The first just sounds stupid and the second one really cruel.  If you ever need to do this I suggest dog nail clippers and sneaking up behind the rooster while he's on the roost for the night.  Both were trimmed and he barely noticed. Mr. Rooster is, let's face it, a pet and should be treated gently.

Cleaned the refrigerator out and found a pint of blackberry juice from jelly making pushed waaaay to the back.  Fished some of the "mother" out of a jar of homemade apple cider vinegar plopped it in the juice, covered it and set it on the windowsill.  It's starting to look like it has a jell on top so hopefully it will work.  I've never intentionally done this before.  Hopefully, there will be blackberry vinegar for salads next spring.

On the stay-at-home-mom front, I found that changing the lyrics from "Old MacDonald had a farm" to "Little Man's momma had her dream farm" make it much more entertaining for at least one of us.  We had a lot of spare time to fill that day.

Let's end with some dahlias in an old honey jar.  Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When cats attack.

So, that other post I did - implying that our cats were not only lazy but also ineffective?  Yeah, I publically apologize to Bee.  Bee has been trying to get back outside since the day we brought her in as a stray kitten.  Every single day.  For six years.  And so we made the decision last week that Bee would be allowed to come and go as she pleased.  She's absolutely thrilled.  But I was not prepared for what happened today.

I heard Bee screaming her head off out on the front porch and went to investigate. 

That bird is dead.  Real dead.  Bee demanded to bring it inside and tried running in between my feet. "Are you drunk?" I asked her.
I made a huge fuss over her and her prize and eventually got it off of her.  It was a Cedar Waxwing. We've never even seen them on this property and I have no idea at all where she found it or how on earth she snuck up on one. 
Watch your backs, birds.  Bee's on the hunt.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A day at the Crawford County Fair

We spent yesterday evening at the Crawford County Fair.  There is a spectacular variety of animals on display every year and it's so much fun to go see all of the different breeds and "window shop" for the fantasy farm.  Our little man had saw lots of things yesterday that he had never seen before.  I can't even imagine what that must be like; to see an object that is totally foreign to you and you have no context for mentally.  Then to try to process it.  It's fair to say his mind was totally blown. Repeatedly.

WHAT IS THAT !?!? Pointing at an American Buff goose.

The poultry barn was fantastic, and my favorite part of the fair every year.  We got there as the poultry were being judged.  This involves being taken out of their cages, placed upon a table and poked and prodded by a white-coat judge in front of an audience.  I could only think that would end in a bloodbath if I tried that here.  There were trophies for the winners that had tiny gold chickens on the tops.  If anyone in my family is reading this - a vintage one would make a spectacular Christmas gift for yours truly. 

How handsome is he? 

Look at the comb and waddles on this gentleman.  Wow!

Moving on to the rabbit barn.  There is a hand-painted sign outside that says "No Balloons" and shows an image of a presumably dead rabbit on its back with four tiny feet in the air.  I don't know why I find this funny; it's really not.

For years we had house rabbits and a well-socialized rabbit will run to greet people, eat snacks while watching TV and basically act like a small dog.  I always wonder if the animals at the fair are totally bored all week or if they look forward to fair week as a vacation where they hang out with other animals and are fed tidbits of corn dogs.

Bored?  Happy? Ate too much? Who can tell?

Little man had never seen a rabbit, goat, cow or horse up close and personal before yesterday.  He loved the rabbits.  With the larger animals he would do this thing where he would turn his back and cling to me.  Thus comforted, he would feel brave enough to peek at whatever animal he was trying to "figure out".  For some reason, the goats were especially intimidating. 

I noticed that most of the goats being shown had names like "Petunia", "Daisy Petal" etc.  How about "Kabob" or "Curry"?  

Lastly, would you just look at this vintage camper?

 This is a terrible picture, but I kinda had to do a drive-by photo because I didn't want to seem like a creep standing there taking pictures.  Although I'm sure the person who owned it would have loved to talk about it.  Maybe 16ft long. Two doors!  Look at the paint! It's a Utopia Panoramic and I'm not finding much information about them on-line.  It's gorgeous. 

Hooray for the fair!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Garden snapshots

More lovely things from the garden.

Rain on kale.

Look how tiny he is! It's been so much fun to grow canna in the garden, it doesn't take up much space at all and it really brings in hummingbirds.

The straw mulch did a great job keeping the weeds down.

We don't even eat cabbage.  I just think it's really lovely.   They get stored in the basement and the chickens appreciate them in the dead of winter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

All Mark, all the time.

My new reason for getting up in the morning. Besides pancakes.


It's all Mark, all the time. Thanks, Lord!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Snapshots & video game listings

Here are some things I love, so that when Winter comes and we're snowed in and there's nothing to do but re-read my tattered copy of The Shining I can look back and remember that yes, summer actually happened.

Man, do I love these portulacas.  Look at the stripes!  My mother loved portulacas.  Today was her birthday and she would have, should have, been 62 years old.  Happy Birthday, mom. I miss you.  Every Single. Day.
The planters in front of the porch.
Cast iron kettle that belonged to my husband's grandmother.
I also listed some more video games on Ebay today and I'll continue through the week.  Ebay seems to be having some issues tonight so I'll keep working at it.......

Tomato Monday

Picked from the garden this morning to ripen in the kitchen.  We've had so, so much rain lately that everything is cracking.  Rain every day.

I picked everything with color this morning.  What you see - I threw twice this amount into the chicken yard because the tomatoes had split.  I was sad but the chickens were not.  Also, ducks.  Ducks love tomatoes.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Yard sale days & produce sale

So, my family is having a yard sale starting tomorrow.  A good opportunity to clean out some of the junk that accumulates over the years.  I have been trying, very hard, to weed through our things Marie Kondo style and pare down over the last few years. I was a bit of a hoarder.  But I am also the descendant of frugal farm people who survived the Depression so I don't believe in just tossing stuff out.  Most things have a purpose, or will bring someone else joy.  The marketable things go to Ebay and the not-so-much to the local thrift store.  Either way; someone else gets a new treasure and we free up some space in the house. 

So I took a car-load of things over to my parent's house.  Then I came home and did my evening routine.  Tomatoes are coming on. Why not?  I used to set up at the farmer's market every week.  And I miss it.  Very much.

I'm going to take these over tomorrow along with some fresh basil and cilantro.  Maybe I can pick a few more things tomorrow morning. 

I love these Rose Finn potatoes.  They're a French heirloom and sliced paper-thin and sautéed in oil they are perfect with eggs.  So anything that doesn't sell by noon will become lunch.  Anyone who doesn't see the potential in that for $1.50 doesn't deserve them anyway.

Turkeys - done

The turkeys went to greener pastures two nights ago along with the lone duck.  At 8 weeks old for the duck it was an ok time to do it.

They sat bagged in the refrigerator and then next day I took care of them in my kitchen.  That isn't as bad as it seems.  It's about 100 degrees outside with 100 humidity and no way in heck was I going to stand outside and do it.  I've done the kitchen routine enough that it's pretty easy with minimal mess. 

Here are some things I've found that are helpful:
  • Even if it's early, pour a glass of wine and set it out of the danger zone.  Don't worry about not "drinking before noon".  You're not going to be done before noon.  The wine is so you have something to stare at hopefully when you've got your hand in a turkey trying to find the teeny-tiny lungs and not heave.
  • Cover every work surface with freezer paper for easy clean up.
  • Put the trash can on the floor beside the sink. Place bag with bird into sink. Work inside the bag as much as possible.
  • I skinned the duck and plucked the turkeys.  Either way, you're going to need to at least pluck enough to see what you're doing. Gently pluck a small tuft of feathers and slowly ease them into the garbage bag.  Repeat.  If you move slowly and watch your movements the feathers won't fly all over.  Promise.  It's meditative when you get into it.
  • When you baby-gate off the kitchen, please evict any cats that are hanging around.  I didn't notice this until it was too late and had "help".
  • When you're done, get out your secret stash of Clorox wipes and bleach every single surface including the floor.  Because since you've had a baby, you've apparently turned into your mother. 
I was really happy with the way things turned out.

The duck, at 8 weeks, weighed 3 lbs.  It was a runner duck/pekin cross and mostly free-ranged.  Runner ducks are not meat ducks, so I wasn't expecting a huge duck.  Because it's so small I think I just might confit the whole thing.  Anyone have advice on that?

The turkeys, at around 10 weeks, weighed 7 & 8 lbs.  The were the industrial kind, broad breasted whites but I did not do anything fancy with their feed to encourage growth. They free-ranged like champs, ate every bug and green they could find and ran around a lot.  When I got up and personal with their crops, they were filled with about 25% feed and 75% clover and grasses.  I got them plucked mostly but will finish up before I package them.

Can't find my kitchen twine.

I am very proud that these turkeys had a better life than probably 99.9% of broad-breasted whites raised in this country every year.  They spent the time they had out in the sun, the rain and in the shade of trees.  They got to chase bugs, scratch and the dirt and be turkeys.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Turkeys - gone. Revenge is going to be juicy & delicous.

So, the little group of chicks? We had to leave town again and when we got back another one had gone missing but when I let the family out to roam there were still two chicks with mom.  The demolished building site next door is being buttoned up today so little man and I went outside after lunch to look at the progress.  We apparently got outside just in time to catch the culprits in action.  Who was it killing the chicks? Turkeys. Yeah. The effin' turkeys were tearing apart a chick right in front of me while the mom chicken was running around screaming.

To say I went blind with rage is an understatement.  There aren't even words to describe. I chased them down, picked them up and heaved them both over the fence into the south end of the garden.  Where the assholes are probably currently eating my tomatoes. Fine, let them.

They're going to be butchered tonight.  At two months early, the yield is going to be pathetic but I don't even care.  These two were destined for holiday dinners when I bought them, but they will still make sandwiches.  I will put up with a lot crap but this crosses the line.

Yes, they are just being turkeys. Yes, all poultry will eat anything small that moves; mice, snakes whatever.  Yes, this was a complete rookie mistake on my part.  I own that.  I will say that I have tossed together all ages and kinds of poultry for years without any kind of incident.  Fine. Lesson learned. But they don't get the privilege of sticking around anymore.

I'm thinking the breasts are going to be for sandwiches and the rest made into ground turkey - possibly some sausage patties.  And they're going to taste delicious.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Family & home

We had quite the end to our week.  There was a family emergency, the kind where relation near and far throw things into bags and run out the door. Thank god for an early diagnosis and a great team of cardiac nurses and doctors.  There was a triple bypass surgery that was needed but it looks like everyone is going to be just fine.  We were gone for a few days and came back to re-group before heading out again.  Thanks also to my dad, who came over to check on things outside and keep the poultry fed in our absence.

We came home to a sink full of dishes, cats draped across the kitchen counters and no food in the refrigerator.  Then we all slept in until 9:30 which is unheard of around here.  I am so grateful to my garden.  A quick walk outside gave me this:

I can work with that. In fact, it looks like we're entering into the season of over-abundance here, for which I am grateful.  The next month will be a race to preserve as much as I can - summer squash & eggs frozen into baked goods, tomatoes canned in all sorts of ways.  Breakfast was scrambled eggs with peppers and tomato.  For lunch/dinner we'll have some sort of summer squash & veg dish over grains. 

Heirloom "Indigo Apple"

This happened while we were away.  I checked on her on the nest when we got home late last night and found 3 empty eggshells, which I disposed of. This morning the family was out and about. 

The only "ugh" to this is that this morning every one of her 13 eggs were empty.  I looked all over for the other chicks but I have no idea what happened.  I think it's safe to blame raccoons, cats or a hawk. She's a great mom to these three little ones. 

I had been avoiding an entire section of the garden to give her some peace, but today to clear my head I pulled about half of the onions to cure.  

I had some help.  When you read about raising turkeys, people will tell you how sociable they are.  It's true.  They're like dogs, curious, constantly in your business, constantly underfoot.  "Turkeys! Get the hell out of my way!" is something that gets said a lot around here.  

I'm in the bedroom writing this, little man is napping on the bed and husband is clearing his mind playing guitar in the next room.  With my back leaning against the wall, the guitar resonates through the plaster and it feels like our home has a pulse.  Which it does, more and more each day. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

Turtle trapping, jam making, chicken setting & a birthday party

Wow, that's an awesome post title. It was a whirlwind of a week.  Here's what happened.

Thanks to my dad, I checked one off of my "kick-ass rural fun" to-do list.  We finally went turtle trapping.  Dad is an expert outdoorsman and I have memories of turtle hunting with him when I was little.  I've wanted to go for a long time because it sounded like fun, plus I love to cook and turtle isn't exactly on the shelves at the local grocery store.  There is a season and regulations surrounding this activity; also you need to have a fishing licence.  Plus you will need to call around and find bait - in this case beef lung.  He set lines at a pond he knew about and I went with him to check them the next day.  Honestly, I would have been thrilled just visiting this place.

There were about a dozen goats, a couple ponies and guinea hens keeping us company. There was even a tiny bridge over the pond that the goats ran across. 

Success!  This guy weighed 20 lbs.  

He was butchered the next day and put in the freezer.  My dad did a great job explaining all of the "how's" and "why's" of the butchering process and it was simple but involved if that makes sense.  Poultry and mammals are much easier anatomy-wise.  I would guess that we ended up with about 10 lbs. of meat.  Of course the shell was saved too.  I cooked the back straps (turtles have them between the ribs and shell) and they had the texture and flavor of, I kid you not, lobster.

Fork for scale.

 The rest was frozen to make soup this winter.  I have already titled that future post Turtle soup - aka "pond to table" eating in my head.

Canned two batches of preserves this week.  

It's been an amazing year for berries - we have more blackberries than I can pick, and it's so hard to find organic jams/jelly around here.  I made a batch of blackberry jelly and added berries to half the batch so we also have some jam.  Then I made a blueberry-lime jam from the Ball blue book.  Not the "blue Ball book" as I have accidentally called it.

The tiny hen in under the cabbages hasn't hatched any eggs yet, but now we have another hen who has gone broody.

That is not a "happy to know ya" face

That's three in one season - we've never had any chickens do this before.  I wonder why?  We could use some new blood around here so I got in touch with someone I used to work with who has chickens and am picking up some fertile eggs tomorrow to set under her.  I'll keep a hen or two and any others will graduate to fajitas at the end of the season.

The building on the next-door property we bought was torn down.  When little man and I laid down for a nap it was still standing and when we woke up it was knocked down.  Kinda sad I missed the show.  It, and all of the trash that was in it, is still smoldering over there and think I heard the neighborhood cheering this week.  It had been an eyesore for years and years and was dangerous besides. Having it down really opens up the property.  Goats? Turkey farm?

Little man's birthday was this week.  I didn't know this before I had a child but his birthday was the best birthday in the history of birthdays.  It was so much fun.  We have a tiny house and it was going to rain so we could only invite a few people over.  I finished and hung my buntings, got balloons and made a  4 layer banana cake with cream cheese frosting  It was honestly the best day ever.

Well, that's it  Time to commit to a new week.