Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! And, a brief update.

I can't believe it, really, but apparently today is the end of 2009. I also cannot believe how long it has been since I posted anything! Oh dear. You know, this is remarkably like my efforts at keeping a diary. I would start great, vaguely maintain it, and then the last 3-4 months of the year I would completely let the thing gather dust. And of course, along comes a new year & I get all, oh no. Now I have no document to remind me of what the heck I did when I am old & have no memory left. I suppose I can invent my own history then. Won't that be something to look forward to?!

In any case, here is (briefly) what I have been up to over the past few months:

(1) Not only did I make little cute character mittens for all my nieces & nephews, I managed to make several snowman hats, a couple of scarves, and a baby diaper cover with a baseball on the butt seat. I discovered that I am not very clever at colorwork, but perhaps I will learn to do it more neatly this year.

(2) I have acquired a spinning wheel, and finally have some fiber to try to spin (wool roving and llama). I actually figured out how to pedal the damn thing, so maybe I will get the hang of it yet!

(3) The 6 remaining hens are doing very well. Currently, not laying too much due to the cold, dark and dreary weather of late December, but perhaps they will start to get back in the groove soon. I am still getting three eggs a day, so I am sure that they will all start laying again for me eventually.

(4) As most folks do, I try to come up with a new idea to work on during the coming year. So this year, Idecided I am DONE with television. Sort of. I dropped cable and upgraded my internet, and now can watch all three PBS channels and get Netflix. I am rather excited about this, since I can watch all sorts of BBC programming via DVD or on my computer. I also now have a "book budget" every month, to add to my library. Now that is a REAL treat!

(5) I have decided that my loft, which is where my bedroom is, is very underused. Today, I started creating a sewing nook up there. It helped to clear out some of my craft room clutter, and with a table & machine always set-up and ready to go, perhaps now I will tackle more sewing projects instead of thinking about them and never actually doing them. I also have my spinning wheel up there, and plan to get a CD player at some point. That way, I can spin/sew and listen to audiobooks or music. Doesn't that just sound peaceful?

And that, dear friends, brings me to saying: Happy New Year to all! I am off to ring in the new year right--with a book, some music, and perhaps, a nap before midnight. Ta ta!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Little Gift for a New Arrival

So, my friend Megan from college just had a little girl (Renee--isn't that lovely?), and given that Megan works for a rock-and-roll kind of place, I know this is going to be one hip little chick. Pastels? Pinks and ruffles? Not for this kid. Think ACDC and Megadeth tee-shirts, sized to show off a little bellybutton action. Lucky for me, I found some grape-a-licious yarn at my favorite little yarn shop in Roberts, WI. Located on the railroad tracks, it is called Color Crossing. Isn't that great? Everytime I go there I drool over the floor-to-ceiling crates of yarn. And I mean, crates! Too bad my yarn budget is strained by house payments. Anyway, this yarn is called Jelly Beens by Plymouth Yarn. The pattern is a free one I found at It is called Jimmy's First Sweater Set, and includes the little cardigan as shown, a hat and a pair of booties. The little sweater took two balls, so if you wanted to make the accessories I think you'd need at least one more, but probably two. I modified the pattern a little. I really don't like picking up stitches along necklines and front sides of a cardigan. Somehow, it ends up looking messy and too tightly knit on me. So, I broke out a trusty crochet hook and crocheted a couple rows of edge along the neckline and sides. Don't forget to make your button holes when you do this! I always get crochet-happy and seem to forget little things like that... I had found funky buttons up at Bargain Bill's (they have a HUGE bin full of buttons, one cent each) but when I looked for them, I had put them in such a safe place I couldn't find them. I had daisy buttons left from a project, and I think they look darn cute. Even a rock-and-roll baby needs a little flower power now and then. My little sweater only took an afternoon to make, which is great when you've procrastinated on a gift and the receipient has already arrived to the party! It did need a bit of blocking, I think mostly because it is a small item and done in stockinette stitch which gets curly at the edges. As soon as it dries, I'll stuff it into a priority mail box and off it goes to Brooklyn! The best part is, the kid won't have outgrown it before it shows up. Now that is good baby gifting!

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Well, maybe his smaller cousin at least. My pumpkins are fat and orange and the stems are drying out--a sure sign that they are ready to harvest! So this evening I decided to save a medium sized one from an imminent slug attack and hauled my golden treasure inside. It was tricky but it did fit on my antique kitchen scale, and weighed in at 17.5 pounds. This is my first attempt at growing pumpkins, and being a fan of many things girly (pink, floral fabrics, shiny baubles and glittery chandeliers) I decided to grow Cinderella pumpkins. They are gorgeous! I have 10 more in the garden, and while I am not sure that they will make it to harvest--slugs and stem rot seem to like to wage war in my patch--I have one that is THREE times the size of the one pictured. Isn't that exciting?? In any case, these pumpkins not only look lovely and as though they were pulled from the pages of a fairy tale, but they are also good eating. Shortly after its photogenic debut, I hacked this orange monster apart, scooped seeds and pithy flesh, and wedged it all into my turkey roaster. It is now happily simmering away in a 400 degree oven, and in an hour I should have it soft enough to make oodles of pumpkin puree. I plan to bag it in 2 cup portions and hide it in the freezer to be reincarnated as pumpkin bars, pumpkin soup, pumpkin scones, pumpkin spice cookies, and more wonderful treats. I just love harvest time!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rainy day, floods and more

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring...

I'm glad somebody is restful, since it certainly isn't me! This morning, I was awakened abruptly by a loud thunderstorm at 5:00 Am. My little dog Hannah immediately swarmed out from under the covers and huddled across my face, shivering. She does not like thunderstorms, and while I sympathize, having a 12 pound dog cutting off your air and scraping your eyelids with her claws is not a pleasant early morning experience. There was nothing for it--I managed to remove the little face-hugger and was up for the day. Lucky for me, I had filled the coffee pot before retiring the previous evening, so all I had to do was over-ride the timer and I had the lovely hot stuff to wake me up. This was all good, as the morning was rather chaotic! The thunderstorm did not abate, and in fact was pretty bad for a good couple of hours. For those of you without dogs, this means that (1) not one wanted to go out and pee/poo, so at least one of them whizzed on the carpet, (2) flooding ensued on the sun porch to an impressive degree, (3) my umbrella blew inside out while I was trying to ferry feed to the chickens, so I got drenched all over instead of just my boots, (4) some dog broke a hole through a window screen, when I had forced them outdoors during a lull in the storm to "do their business, dammit" and the storm decided to renew with a vengance, and (5) the power went out temporarily right as the toaster was in the middle of its cycle, which royally screwed up its timing for my english muffin and one half was blackened while the other was pale and mushy. On the plus side, I didn't have to apply makeup in the dark so I don't look like Bozo the Clown, the dogs were all willing to eat their breakfasts, I had time to make a couple of eggs to go with my crummy muffin, I found good leftovers to bring for lunch, and I found both cats who had been outdoors all night without much trouble. And, when I left for work, it was only lightly raining--and didn't start to downpour until after I walked in the office door. So something about Mother Nature is on my side, in any case! It is always more comforting to look at a storm from the comfort of indoors, when the alternative it to be out in it trying to corral hypochondriac animals or dealing with monsoon flooding on one's porch.
In gardening news, I have been harvesting some sweet corn and rutabegas. The tomatoes are ripening, and aren't too mildewed--hopefully they won't get bad after today's rain! I am about sick of cucumbers, and I think I may start leaving them on peoples' porches in anonymous paper bags. To think I was worried that I wouldn't have enough for pickles! What the heck was I thinking?!?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Canning, canning and more canning...

Ahh, it is that time of year: Everything ripens at once, and what is a girl to do? There are bags of frozen berries in the deep freeze, cans in the closet, and jams galore in the cupboard. I even have potatoes piled in the fridge! It was a little cooler today (only 85 degrees), so I decided I had to do something with the 10 pounds of peaches that were ripening on my kitchen table. And of course, I made the unpleasant discovery that some winged creature was hatching out of them! I was able to salvage about 3 quarts of peaches, which was enough to make 6 pints of peach chutney. And then I decided, "I really need to harvest the rhubarb before the grasshoppers decimate it for the season". So out I went, armed with a sharp knife, and whacked away at the giant rhubarb shrubbery. That left me with 8 cups to stew into raspberry-rhubarb jam (recipe to follow!) and two cookie sheets full of chopped rhubarb bits to freeze and then bag. It is really good stewed with apples and raisins, and served with roast pork....mmmm. Makes me want Fall to come quick, just to enjoy that for dinner! And after I harvested all that rhubarb, I looked at the cucumber vines and realized, I had 20 more cukes ready to make into something. Which lead to making 4 quarts of kosher dill pickles. You know, at one point, I was worried about not having enough pickles. What the heck was I thinking?!? In any case, I am done steaming up the kitchen for the day (only took me 4 1/2 hours) and I am ready to go wash off some of the sweat I acquired during my canning frenzy. I just had to post the loveliest sight in the whole world: A line of cans, sparkling on the counter, filled with delicious preserves that will help me enjoy the winter months, making their happy "ping" sounds as the lids seal tightly. Oh, heaven!
Raspberry-Rhubarb Jam
7 cups chopped rhubarb
4 cups granulated sugar
1 large package of raspberry flavored Jello (don't use the sugar-free crap!)
Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large pot.
Set over medium-low heat. Sugar will melt into a syrup.
Stew rhubarb until it breaks down into gel. There will be a few chunks left, but it
should be thick and sauce-like.
Add Jello to stewed rhubarb in pot.
Heat at slow boil for 5-7 minutes, until it thickens a bit.
Ladle into hot half-pint jars, cap with two part lids.
Process jars in a boiling, hot water bath for 15 minutes to seal.
This is really great on toast, served with soft cheese on crackers, used between layers in a lovely cake, or (my personal favorite) heated slightly and served on top of vanilla ice cream. You can also use other flavors of Jello: Cherry, strawberry, and blueberry are very good!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hauling in the eggs!

Egg production is peaking! All the new hens are laying now, so I am getting 6-7 eggs per day. (One hen is still working out the kinks, so eventually she'll be more regular and I will have 8 eggs per day.) I am working on a sign to hang from the mail box, advertising my eggs for sale. Currently, I have 3 dozen in the fridge...and I have yet to collect today! Eeek! A girl can only eat so much quiche. I figure, if I sell 10 dozen eggs per month at $2 per dozen, that will pay for their monthly feed costs ($20 per bag of Layena). Way to make your livestock earn their keep, right? Oh, I feel so farmer-y...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Potato Harvest!

I am so excited: My potato project worked! This spring (end of April) I planted one seed potato cut into thirds into a very large plastic tub. After placing it on top of bricks near the garden, I waited. And soon enough, the little potato pieces started to grow. As the plants grew, I filled in the tub with more compost, straw, dirt, and sand. About a week ago, the plants started to turn yellow and die back. Which, according to the gardening books, meant that the potatoes were ready to be harvested. Last night, after a light rainy day, I pulled out the plants and tipped the tub over. After digging through the dirt pile, I found all sorts of little treasures. Hopefully they will dry out nicely over the next day or two, and then I will have fresh Nakota White potatoes to devour. I just love it when gardening experiments work out!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Recovery and Boredom...

Funny how those two things seem to go hand in hand, isn't it? It's been a week since I was diagnosed with Lymes Disease--damn ticks. I am feeling much improved, thank you, but still very tired and a bit achy. Apparently, this will continue for a while according to my researches on the internet. Hooray, hooray. I can only stand to sleep for so long, and then...dun dun...boredom sets in. So, I find things that "need to be done". The other day, I rearranged the living room, mostly because I decided that the sofa I was trying to lounge on wasn't comfortable and the other one would be. So, I moved stuff. And then the TV wasn't in a good viewing area, so I moved MORE stuff. In between moving things, I napped on said sofa. It took several hours, but the living room now has a nice cosy flow to it. And then I decided, I didn't want to see my office from the sofa (it's awful to have all that work staring at you while you are trying to nap), so I made curtains for separation. As you can see, it has a very nice Grandma's-attic vibe going on. Tres retro! Yesterday, I cleaned the kitchen and bathroom--took a couple hours, since I also went through the closet and sorted items to be washed and to be donated. I also wandered over to Goodwill and found some "new to me" shirts for the upcoming school year. I always love it when I can find 8 or 9 items for under $40. Yay bargains! After all that, yes, you've got it: I took a nap.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The new layers are laying!

I found a little, half-sized egg today in the main coop. Right now, only the new layers are in there. I was surprised to find it, as I wasn't expecting anyone to start laying for another couple of weeks. Yesterday someone had made a little nesting hollow in the nesting box (this is where the eggs are laid), and before that someone had made one on the floor. Chickens do these behaviors for a little while before they lay their first eggs, so I wasn't really expecting to find a treasure quite so soon. As I said, it was small, but a delicious chocolate brown color. I can hardly wait to fry it up for breakfast!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chicks in a Box

On Wednesday morning, bright and early, my second batch of meat chicks arrived via the US Postal Service. They are in the cute and fuzzy stage, very lively with bright snapping little black eyes. They seem to be much happier than the early spring batch--the weather is much warmer and they are content to run around their little habitat on the porch. I am even able to turn off the heat lamp by mid-day, which is very nice for the ol' electric bill. I couldn't believe how packed they were in their little box--no one would believe me if they didn't see it for themselves (hence the attached video!). My garden continues to grow, with the corn almost ready to pollinate and the pumpkins and squash vines running wild. Lots of green tomatoes on the vines as well, so I can hardly wait to make homemade sauce and dried tomatoes. Tonight I plan to harvest fresh broccoli and have it with some "real" macaroni and cheese. Yum-o!

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's official...

I can no longer mow around the garden. Vines from the squash and pumpkin hills have moved into the lawn, and I can't shove my little reel mower around them anymore. Of course, I can't move the chicken summer chalet through them, either, so the weeds are happily growing rampant. I think I can still manuver the weed whacker through the jungle, so once the battery recharges from whacking the weeds in the orchard, I will attack. The corn is about 5 feet high now, no pollination yet but I have some little "buds" of ears starting to grow. Now, if I could only convince the pocket gopher to move to some other garden area, life would be perfect!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pumpkins taking over the world!!

My pumpkins are so happy--I have vines going everywhere! They are sprouting through the fence, climbing up the corn, infiltrating the bean patch. It is incredible! And, even more thrilling, I have counted a dozen pumpkins so far. If they all make it, I will be slathered in pumpkin guts and the smell of roasting seeds will be smelled for miles and miles--come October. I am envisioning a pumpkin pyramid on the front lawn. Maybe I will post a little flag on top, with a miniature Swiss alpine climber--viva Mt. Pumpkin!! And aside from the happy pumpkins, I have tomatoes galore on the vines. The plants are about 5 feet high now, still vining out too. I can hardly wait to see how my sweet corn does. Oh, I love gardening (especially when things grow)!!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pigged out on mittens...

I think I have discovered my new calling in life: To make animal-themed mittens! Thank you, spilly jane for creating the piggy mitten pattern. From this pattern, I have developed a bunny mitten. And I have plans for the creation of a frog mitten, a horse mitten, a dinosaur many mittens, so little time! I'd better get back to my needles and yarn stash...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thank God the 4th is over...

Yes, I know. That sounds very unpatriotic of me. Rest assured, I am most pleased to live in the ol' U.S. of A. But why is it that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has to get bit by the pyromania bug every fourth of July? Not only is there a light show over in the Pioneer Park, but at least every other house in the block has to send off some bottle rockets or firecrackers. My poor dogs are still traumatized. The little crazy one, Hannah, has taken to twitching and barking at everything. She even barks when it is herself that has made the noise! Poor Phoebe, whose one remaining fear is a fear of loud noises, tried to squeeze herself behind the toilet. This was after I gave her two valiums. And she isn't very small, so she got stuck. Just imagine trying to unwedge a trapped dog from behind the commode--and every time she'd start to get unstuck, another dang firecracker would pop off and whoops, back she'd go. The big lug, Max, was very bravely trying to be calm--I found him with his head wedged under the sofa after finally extracting Phoebe from behind the toilet. I think he was trying to get his whole body underneath, but only his head would fit. Phoebe joined him promptly under the couch (she was able to get her head and shoulders to stuff under). I grabbed a beer, turned on four fans in an attempt to drown out the noise, popped in a James Galway CD, and tried to pretend I was calm, cool and collected. Unfortunately, sitting on the sofa made me a prime target for the many traumatized cats who wanted to sit on me and use me as a pincushion every time a "boom" happened. Things finally settled down after someone either set themselves or their barn on fire--The screaming sirens from the local ambulance/fire department squad seemed to squash the neighborhood's enthusiasm for extended explosive play. And aside from the occasional, sporadic crackle of distant hoards of last minute deals on fireworks, the fourth of July seems to be "over" for another year. Happy Birthday, America!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Every house needs some hot pink...

The purply trim just wasn't peppy enough, so I had to add some hot pink accents (yes, pink!). Who doesn't love a hot pink mail box? Or very visible house numbers? The old storm door had seen the last of its' better days, so with the help of my handyman Jack, I have a lovely new one with twice as much window. My little cottage now looks like it is mine!

House Art Installation

Someday, I would love to have a large, iron work sculpture of a chicken to hang on my "blank" front wall. Unfortunately, such a creation is way out of the current budget! So, what is a girl to do when she NEEDS some art but on a shoe string? She goes to Goodwill, of course! Lucky me, I managed to find the sun, the moon, and the stars for under $40. Goodwill in Menomonie had one remaining tin half moon, and a collection of mildly beat-up suns. After pawing through the pile o' sunshine, I found the perfect one: Not too bronzy, not too crunched up, and in the same style as my lovely half moon. A collection of tin stars was not to be had, so I headed up to my favorite "junky" retail store: Bargain Bill's in Rice Lake. I just love a store that has Christmas merchandise up year round. And, Bill's has a huge selection of artsy craftsy supplies--you name it, they have it (with a big emphasis on beads and paper). I rounded up five tin stars of various sizes and styles, none of which were more than $4. I had two at home already, and with spray paint to make them silvery or pewter-tone, they finish off my "cosmos" nicely. Of course, before I left Bill's, I had to tour the yarn corner. Lo and behold, they had BOXES of Lion Brand "fancy" yarns--so I had to leave with 10 balls of Moonlight Mohair. I've been hanging onto a lace shawl pattern that I think will work up so nicely in this blend of mohair and sparkly acrylic ribbon. Don't fret--I'll post a picture when it is done!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Painted House

Isn't it funny how summer wings along and before you know it, it is nearly July? I suppose between the garden, a trip south, and painting the dang house, my time did get frittered away.

Finally managed to finish painting the house on Saturday--although the saga is not QUITE done (still need to paint the door and mailbox...).

Initially the painting began late on a Saturday a couple weeks ago. I say "late" because I didn't make it to the hardware store to buy my paint until 1 PM. And when I got there, the helper person was in training to do paint mixing and, well, she needed help. Can't say I've had to wait an hour for five gallons of paint in two colors to be mixed before. I eventually wandered away with three gallons of a lovely gray color called "pigeon" and two gallons of this pinky-purply-fuschiaesque shade called "phlox". I got home with my hoard, and discovered the paint spray borrowed from friends was clogged with said friends' previously used paint. Of course, I discovered this as the paint began to explode from every available nook and cranny--except for the sprayer nozzle. In about two seconds flat I was covered in a half gallon of very expensive, highly viscous paint. I have to say, gray is not my color. Unable to resuscitate the device, I hauled ass to Menards in Rice Lake, WI, and became the proud owner of a new Wagner paint sprayer, guaranteed to spray 6.1 gallons per hour.

After getting home, figuring out the heiroglyphics that pass for instructions and priming the sprayer, I started to hose the house with the gray paint. So you could say, painting started at 3 PM. Lucky for me, about 15 minutes later a friend pulled up bearing a ladder and a brush. Yay for friends! Between the two of us we managed to paint two of the three paintable walls (the others are covered with vinyl siding) in about three hours. The new sprayer, which does NOT spray quite so many gallons per hour as advertised, did pretty well until it clogged up and began raining paint chunks onto the ground, wall, and me. We called it quits and feasted on pizza.

And then, it rained for days. And days. It was about five days before I could do anything. When the skies finally cleared, I was able to start doing trim painting in the front and discovered the previous white paint had the sheen of a high gloss plastic mannequin. But after two coats, the "phlox" triumphed and the white paint was subdued.

And then it rained, again.

Finally this Friday was nice and my friend returned bearing a taller ladder, which she also climbed and painted the backside peak of the house. I stayed lower and worked on painting the rest of the barnboard siding and concrete blocks that make up the lower half of the back wall. Got very close to done before the heat kicked in and the noon whistle blew. Saturday, I managed to paint between rain storms in the afternoon and yes, the house it DONE! (Well, aside from door and mailbox painting that I mentioned before). Only one tragedy occurred on Saturday: While finishing up the trim paint, I had Max and Phoebe (dogs) outdoors with me. All was well until some little pukey child somewhere in the neighborhood decided to start lighting firecrackers, which caused the dogs to freak out and begin running around the yard. This lead to a game of chase and wrestle--involving body slamming against the freshly painted wall. Keep in mind, this all happened in about 2.9 seconds so by the time I sqwauked out: "NO!!! GET AWAY FROM THE HOUSE, DAMMIT!!" I had two dogs coated in a layer of paint. Lucky for Phoebe, the gray paint blends in with her speckles. Unfortunately for taller Max, he has a large pink stripe above a large swatch of gray paint. I had dirt, sand, and dog hair stuck on my wall. A bit of touch up paint, and now it is just "texturizer".

All in all, I have to say it's worth it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

And it is June!

For a Monday, today was not so bad. Lucky me I work in the school district I live in, so I just drove 1/4 block with all my heavy heavy gear and rolled into work. It was so nice, I even got to come home and have lunch! Which made me remember that I hadn't put out some garbage OR hung the laundry that was waiting in the nice when you can multitask things. We finally had a little rain, in the form of a very lazy thunderstorm early this morning, so my garden wasn't completely gasping for water by the end of the day.

My new cottage garden in front is underway. I moved several hundred pounds of dirt, compost, mulch and peat moss into position on Sunday morning. Now it is settling in and will soon be ready for planting. I am lucky to have gardening friends who are cleaning out their gardens and are willing to give me some lovely plants--irises and lillies and phlox and coneflower and bellflower and daisies--oh my! I think I'll splurge on some annuals like snapdragons and begonias, maybe some purple salvia, and call it good for now. Oh, I do love Spring!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Another lovely Saturday...

It must be a carry-over from elementary school, but I do love Saturdays. It doesn't matter if they are grey and cloudy, or if there is sun. It doesn't matter if I am so busy running errands, or just sitting drinking coffee and puttering about the house. Saturday is the BEST day of the week! Too bad there is just one of them. Today has been one of the puttering type of Saturdays, which is nice because last week was the running-around variety. I've been able to hang out some blankets and sheets to dry in the wind & sun, and I gave my bedroom a little bit of a spring clean. Well, I still have to dust, but the floors are tidy and I changed the linens.

We had a little rain last night, not enough to make it so I don't need to water, but enough that the air smells fresh and clean. The garden is doing well--the corn, pumpkins, winter squash, and some carrots have all sprouted. No sign of the cucumbers yet, but I am sure they will appear soon. The potato plants are doing great--almost high enough for me to add another layer of dirt and straw mix! All nine black pullets are in the coop and very happy. I need to figure out how to get the hen run door to open and close a little more easily. Yesterday, I picked up a small pulley and hook, so I will work on that this afternoon. I am hoping to find some old sheets at yard sales today--I finished my first rag rug and I am thoroughly addicted. What a fun new craft! The photo came out fairly well--it is a little wavy and won't lie flat, but since it squishes flat when I walk on it I think it will flatten out in time. I really like how the colors came out. Of course, for a first endeavor it was fairly expensive (I bought new fabric for the class I took) but now that I know the technique and I can use "old" cottons, I think I can make many more rugs for much less money. My new garage finally arrived on Thursday. My neighbor had a gray canvas hut that he had stored his boat in, and no longer needed since they rebuilt their garage, so I bought it for $200 and he and some cousins moved it into my yard on Thursday evening. I am hoping to buy some firewood for the backyard fire pit and store it in there--there's plenty of room for the car AND stuff! It is always nice when things work out to be dual-purpose, isn't it?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pumpkins are up!

How very exciting! The pumpkin seeds have finally sprouted. I already have lettuce and rutabega seedlings peeking up. No carrots, corn, or winter squash yet. And, the transplanted tomatoes, brocolli and herbs are all looking happy. Finally got around to potting the lemon verbena, rosemary, oregano and lavender plants this morning. It has been a lovely Sunday so far--warm and sunny--with the majority of my yard work and clean-up on the porch completed. I do have to say, I am a little concerned by all the darn yellow jackets that I keep encountering. I don't know where the dang nest is yet, but I am sure it is in some inaccessible location. I hate those damn things!! Honeybees I don't mind, since they are happy and busy and working to make something delightful. But hornets, now...they only seem to exist to be bitchy!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Processing Day

Well, today was the day: The 19 chickens and 5 old hens became future dinners. Just think! Roasted hens, fried chickens, chicken and dumplings, chicken stew, chicken fajitas, chicken hash. And all from my own growing and caretaking! I still find it surprising, that I have grown meat. The processing plant was very tidy and a small family-run operation. I stuck around and worked on a rag rug in the car while the processing was happening. Okay, so I admit: It was fairly creepy to hear my little chickens sqwak-sqwak-sqwaking and then becoming decidedly silent. But, it was a quick transition and the folks that were doing the job were very nice and obviously didn't want to prolong the pain. And the tidy little packages definitely are helping to fill my freezer! Each of the meat chickens was about 4-5 pounds, while the old hens were much smaller (most only 1-3 pounds). I think they will ALL be delicious!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Late video, but here it is!

So, things got a little busy and I didn't get to post this last week. The chicks are now 7 1/2 weeks old. Tomorrow, they go to the processing plant and get "processed". I am a little sad about that--it is hard to say goodbye to any living creature--but the idea that I have grown my own meat is pretty cool. At one time, all I had wanted to do was to grow some vegetables in a pot or two. Then, I got chickens and started "growing" eggs. It is pretty incredible to think, in 8 weeks I have grown 19 chickens ready for the grill, oven or frying pan. I am also "processing" 5 hens that have become irratic layers. Some days they lay, most days they don't. It is very frustrating, so they will move on to their next purpose: Becoming delicious stewed chickens for coq a vin, chicken & dumplings, or wonderful, slow cooked soups. I like to think that they have led a happy life. They certainly have had a great diet!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rainy Day in May

Lucky me, spending a day at home attending a virtual conference and whiling away a rainy day. The garden seems happy for the rain, with a new crop of weeds sprouting as I type. I put the two adult Black Star hens in the portable coop and they are very happy to weed around the vegetable garden. On Saturday, they each laid two eggs but only two actually had shells.
I've planted sweet corn, pumpkins, winter squash, carrots, lettuce and rutabegas in the garden so far. I can't wait until it warms up a bit more at night and then I can put in the brocolli and tomato plants. Once the corn comes up, I'll plant the scarlet runner beans so they can climb up the stalks. Hopefully, the three sisters planting technique will be successful in my garden: the pumpkin vines should shade the roots and provide protection from predators; the beans fix nitrogen in the soil and provide structural support to the corn; the corn provides a support for the bean vines and shades the pumpkin plants from the summer sun.
My herb garden is weeded now, and looks happy. I think most of my mints survived the winter, which is nice, and my thyme is doing wonderfully. I have 12 basil plants, cilantro, flat leaf italian parsley, red thyme, bee balm, lemon balm and oregano to add to the bed. I also found a rosemary plant and a lavendar plant to grow in pots. I am still hopefully that I will find a bay tree, which will grow indoors in the winter along with the rosemary and lavendar. I am looking forward to having fresh bay leaves to add to soups and stews, and making my own herbes de Provence blend. Yum yum!
Aside from catching up on technical data and case studies, I love days like this because it allows me to do some baking and cooking that is hard to get done mid-week. I plan to roast a chicken for dinner, and prep some bread dough. Maybe I will make some kind of yummy bar with fresh rhubarb from the garden! Ahh, rainy days. How I love you!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chicks at 4 weeks

So, as you can see from the video, the girls are growing and are getting spunky. I think I might need to round up something to act as a roosting post so the little black ones can get up on something at night. The huge white ones don't have any motivation to roost--too far from the feed bin!

Finally it is warming up around here! My newly planted strawberries are starting to pop out little green leaves, the apple trees are unfurling little leaves and buds, and (glory of glories!) the maple tree I planted in the back yard did NOT DIE over the winter! This afternoon, worked finished early so I worked in the veg garden for a bit. Managed to get the dirt ready to go in the new bed for corn/beans/squash and even planted a couple hills of pumpkins. I am hoping that the three sisters technique actually works in my garden. I suppose I will find out.

Moved the two large hens to the "summer chicken chalet" by the garden. They are so happy, eating all sorts of green grass and dandelions around the edge of the garden. Don't worry--they are contained in a portable yard so they can't leap out and eat my goodies growing in the garden. I am hoping that they will be good weed and pest control this summer. Anything (not Round-Up!) that can keep that darn Creeping Charlie in check will be very welcome!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Starting the Great Adventure

So, since Chicken Mama's Blog will soon be no more (thanks, geocities!), we shall start again here!

Current events in the Chicken Lady's world:

27 chicks on the porch--now 4 weeks old and very smelly. Really gotta clean that corral this afternoon....phew!

Gardening is having a slow start. It has been chilly, and frosty, so nothing is in the ground yet aside for a couple of apple trees, some strawberries, and blueberries. My wiegela got nuked by a sudden frost, the first plant loss of the season. Oh I get to plot something else to plant!

Dogs and cats are all doing well. No goats or sheep, as yet, although I am pondering: Do I need a couple of Angora rabbits?