Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beans, Beans, Beans.

Finally, my sunflower tower of bean vines has decided to produce pods! Last night, I battled sprawling squash vines and pernicious mosquitoes, and picked about five pounds of beans. Of course, then I realised that I had no more pint jars.

So, tonight's plan includes stopping at the grocery store and picking up another package of canning jars. After that, it's home to put those babies to rest in lovely pressure canned goodness. Can you tell I am excited to use my pressure canner again? After overcoming my fear of imminent canning-related explosion and/or death due to shrapnel, it is amazing how confident I feel about loading that contraption up, cranking up the heat, and pressurizing the world.

Of course, between canning fun & the usual evening routine of animal chores (feed the dogs, feed the cats, feed the rabbits, feed myself...), I have to drive my car to the local repair shop & leave the keys so my nonfunctioning brakes can get overhauled. It is a lovely thing when your car is so smart it can tell you what "system" is defunct, but it is also frustrating when it doesn't tell you what is wrong with said system. I can hardly wait to find out what is wrong with it....and how much it's going to cost to fix it. Good thing I have all those beans to eat...too bad they aren't magic!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pulling Up

The powdery mildew has ravaged my zuchinni plants, so this morning I yanked them out of the ground. I did discover one last round zuchinni ball, so at its very last my little plants produced for me. I also took apart the maze of vines that was one of my pickling cucumbers, as the mildew had gotten that one as well. I found several small cukes, and one giant boat that had hidden itself amongst the raised beds. That one got fed to the chickens, who are enjoying a new layer of fresh straw and some scratch grain sprinkled into the mix. So far, the acclimation of the new pullets is going well. No extreme screaming, no denuded birds, no massive bloodshed or chicken war cries. My big pullets are even letting the little ones eat near them (amazing!). I rewarded them for good behavior by pulling up two of the copious swiss chard plants and flinging them into the run.
The back garden is slowly disappearing under a layer of weeds, but I was still able to find a few side shoots of brocolli & check on the slowly ripening melons. I still can't believe I got melons to grow, let alone get to the stage where I am eyeballing them daily to see if they're ready to eat or not. They may never ripen, but at least I got them to grow. That is quite the achievement, I tell you.
No canning yet today, although the day is young. I may need to wait a day or so, and then I will have tomatoes to deal with...ahhh, tomatoes. August's wonder crop! Now, to decide what to do with them is the big question....

Friday, August 26, 2011

Holy Hot Pepper, Batman!



The hot peppers are on in my friend Trudy's garden, and she sent me home with a grocery sack full a couple days ago. They sat on a plate for a bit, but today was the day to change them into one of my favorite condiments of all time: Hot Pepper Jelly. It is the easiest jelly in the world to make, and when it is all said and done, it is fantastic on crackers with a mild cheese, like chevre or cream cheese. I just grind up the whole pepper (minus the stem), and leave seeds and all in the mix. If you find yourself with a surplus of peppers, you just have to try it!


Hot Pepper Jelly

You will need: about a pound of whole, hot peppers (such as jalepeno, hot portugal, cherry bomb, habanero, etc.); 2 cups cider vinegar; 6 cups white sugar; 2 pouches of liquid pectin; and red food coloring if desired. Use your food processor to grind up the peppers and one cup of the cider vinegar together (remove the stems first). Pour mixture into a large pot, add the remaining cup of vinegar and the sugar. Bring to a boil, and boil hard for 5 minutes. Add pectin all at once, and boil for one minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat, you can add some red food coloring if you wish, and ladle into hot jars. Wipe rim, cover with a hot lid, tighten band and water bath for 10 minutes. After removing from hot water bath, allow to cool for five minutes or so, and then gently swirl the gelling jelly to disperse the pepper bits & seeds evenly. Makes about 6, 8 ounce jars.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Feels like Fall....

This morning, when I got up early to drag my reluctant self to work at the office (Day #3 and I already want to play hooky...), I bebopped outside to do my usual round of chicken checks followed by rabbit checks. Lately when I've been checking the chickens, I have wandered outside in bare feet. It is such a delicious feeling to wade through the dew laden grass and savor the last bit of summer underfoot. This morning, after a humid evening, I expected to find the out-of-doors the same way as the house felt: warm, slightly sticky, more August than September. Imagine my surprise when I stepped outside into Fall. The dew was there, but it was chilly underfoot. Chilly enough that I actually thought about turning around and getting shoes, before gritting my teeth and wading on through. The air was clear, lovely, stirred by a gentle cool breeze. Even the morning sounds of birds and rustling leaves hinted of the coming cool weather of September.
Not only is my summer over, but I think Mother Nature's summer is almost done as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

all this from one potato




Hay for the Buns


I've been meaning to post a picture of this (my completed hay shed) for a while, but other, more exciting things have been coming up. I mean, really: Canning tomatoes is soooooo much more exciting than storage for hay near to the actual animals that will eat said hay.

Okay, you saw through my ruse: I forgot to post about this weeks ago. It is more exciting than canning. Well, maybe equally exciting as canning.

Though the bunny barn is fantastic for storing the actual rabbits, there isn't quite enough space to store hay off the ground and where it won't get peed/pooed on. One day I had a brain wave, while I was moaning to myself about needing to hike the hay from the car shed to the bunny barn: Why not build a little shed that can hold 6 bales of hay at a time, right near the bunny barn? (Yes, even my brillance is astounding on occasion. Notice that I don't say how long I had been moaning to myself about needing to cart hay across the yard. That's just embarrassing and doesn't bear mentioning, although I will say it was a long, long time.) So, I called up Jack the Handyman and he whipped together a little shed for me. I still have to paint it, but it is sturdy and does a great job keeping the hay dry and off the ground. I am thinking about adding a tarp-flap to cover over the opening for the winter, as I think snow may creep in and freeze around the bales. The idea of needing a pick axe to remove a flake of hay just seems unpleasant...

The past several days I have been doing nothing too much, aside from starting back to work for the school year and managing to pull a major muscle group in my back. Luckily, my day job doesn't involve heavy lifting and I lifted all sorts of heavy things at home this past weekend (hence, the now-mangled back). I am now well stocked on all sorts of pharmaceuticals, and although it is hard to tell if they are doing anything for my back, I am pleased to report that (1) I don't care that it still hurts, so that detachment is exceedingly pleasant, and (2) I can kind of put together some coherent sentences in both this blog post AND on paperwork at the office. I can't remember what I wrote/said after I've done it, but so far I have not incriminated myself or signed myself up for some horrible obligation. It is very helpful that no one but me is back to work, so I can be deranged in the back room without witnesses.

Stay tuned for more canning shenanigans. I think I may be picking up 5 gallons of tomatoes tonight....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Swaaaaaaaaaap!



This morning, I left the house at 4:45 AM. I know, it was horribly painful. But, unlike last Saturday, my mission to find the small animal swap in Fall Creek was much more successful. I came home with: A "white cornish" pullet (although it looks nothing like the "cornish" breed in my chicken encyclopedia, so I think it is a barnyard mixture pullet--who only cost me $5 so it's okay);A black cochin pullet, crossed between a bantam variety and a standard variety, so I think she'll be "in the middle" sized ($2);and two standard cochin pullets, crossed between partridge and buff colors ($5 each, from a guy who really knew his stuff--he's trying to create a "true red" color variety!)

Right now, the three larger pullets are in the coop, in a kennel. I did some reading of various blogs, and this sounds like the best option for the next day or two. Right now, everyone is pretty freaked out (that is, the new additions are freaked. The current pullets are interested but not upset). The littlest one, the black cochin who I think will become Gretel, is in a separate kennel on the porch. She isn't too pleased, but the other newbies were picking on her so I thought, ahh well let's give them a day or so apart and see how it goes. It should be okay, as everybody is young and hasn't gotten the adult "kill the infidel" urge yet.In other chicken news, I decided to rename Speckles the Speckled Sussex to Sookie. It seems more fitting, and way less blah. Along with Pearl and Fifi, Sookie seems to be getting over her trauma and settling in. They come say 'hi' now when I am outside, a big improvement over the shrieking and running that marked the last week. And there you have the amazing chicken update from my little rurban farmlette. I think I'm going to go take a nap now...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tomatoes are in....



This morning, I am celebrating finding a heck of a deal on canning tomatoes at the Farmers market in Barron. Yesterday, as I was searching for cauliflower, I stumbled over a display of wooden buckets filled with "canning tomatoes, 15 lbs for $15". How could I resist? My tomato plants have started producing, although not with as prolific a harvest as I had hoped for. I believe that monsoon rains at the height of blossoming are to blame, as well as horribly hot weather that baked them into submission directly after the rain. In any case, I have the need for copious amounts of tomatoes as they are my go-to ingredient for homemade soups, sauces, chili, and casseroles.

Today, I am making an incredibly good concotion called Tomato-Basil simmer sauce. It winds up thick and delicious, with fresh basil added after the cooking process is done, right before you sling it into jars to be sealed up tight. It is great as a pasta sauce, or pizza sauce, and I love it on top of browned chicken made into a fantastic rendition of chicken parmesan. Everyone who has every tried it raves about it (even kids). I found it a couple years ago in Real Simple magazine, and with a couple of tweaks I think even they would agree that it is extra-fantastic!

Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce

You will need: 12 lbs of ripe tomatoes; 3 T. brown sugar; 4 tsp. kosher salt; 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar; 1 tsp. ground black pepper; 2 cups basil leaves, finely chopped; 1 cup herbs, chopped; 6 Tbsp. lemon juice.

So first, you need to peel the tomatoes. Using a sharp knife, cut the core out of the tomato (also known as "where the stem was"). Then drop the tomato into a pot of boiling water, leave it in there about a minute or so, and then scoop out and put into a big bowl of ice water. The skin will peel right off. Drop your peeled tomatoes into your handy-dandy food processor, whirl them around, and pour the liquid mess into a big non-reactive pot (I love my enameled steel pot). Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper, then bring to a boil. Lower heat just enough to maintain a steady boil for the next 70-90 minutes. You want to cook this until it is thick and darkened slightly, and smells like tomato heaven. I recommend not going far in the last 20-30 minutes, as you are going to want to stir it often to prevent burning...and burned sauce needs to be tossed to the compost, honey, because you cannot save it. Pull the sauce off the heat once it is thickened to your liking, and add your herbs. Stir them around well. Put the lemon juice, 1 Tbsp each, into hot pint jars. Ladle in the sauce, being sure to leave a good half-inch of head space (that tricky space between the bottom of the lid & the food) because this sauce does expand when heated during the hot water bath processing. Place your hot lids, tighten down with a band, and process in a hot water bath for 35 minutes. Allow to cool overnight, then check the seals & store them in a cool, dark place. Makes about 6 pints, but I really recommend making a double-batch. This goes FAST! It's a great way to use up those "too soft" tomatoes, as well as the crazy amount of basil that is turning into shrubbery in the garden. If you prefer it spicy, you can add 2 Tbsp. of crushed red pepper flakes with the herbs. Or, you can snip in 1 cup of sundried tomatoes at the same time, if you like your sauce to have that extra-tomato flavor.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My squash vines have decided to climb to the sky on the trellis that I made from a bent hog panel. (That was a job and a half. It's a great way to build upper body strength, but I don't recommend it for the faint of heart. Hog panels would prefer not to bend.) And not only are the vines clambering up and over and all around the structure, but they are starting to set fruit. This is some kind of pumpkin, I think, and daily swells another couple of centimeters. It is soooo exciting! The downside of growing squash vertically is that (1) squash vines are very brittle, for all that they are ferociously spiny, (2) the little coiling clingers that grow are not very muscular, so you actually need to weave the prickly vines very gently through the openings in the trellis, and (3) one of the reasons squash vines grow along the ground is that they sprout little rootlets to help feed the voracious mother plant. How to overcome all these challenges? Well, aside from getting in touch with my inner weaver, I find that making hammocks out of old strips of cloth or orange net bags, combined with trusty garden twine, provides enough support for the ripening fruit to not fall off of the delicate vine as it grows. (The net bag makes a neat pattern on the skin of the squash, too.) I also supplement the feeding of the plant by shoveling some rabbit manure around the mother plant, and watering weekly with a fish emulsion. So far, it seems to be working well! Keep your fingers crossed that we have a nice long fall, so my squashes have a chance to grow and mature before the hard frosts arrive.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Make Hay While The Sun Shines



Or, better yet, dry some apples! My project for the day (well, one of them, anyway) involves the sun, apple slices, and a nifty solar dehydrator bequeathed to me by a very good friend (Thanks, Gretchen!).

Early this morning, I dragged out my apple-peeler-corer-slicer whirligig device, parked it on the end of the table, and found a spare 5 gallon bucket to hold all the left-over cores. Sometimes I peel the apples, too, but these will be for the rabbits during the winter months so I left the healthy-yet-leathery peel in place. It took me about 5 minutes to crank through about 25 little apples, and another minute or two to separate the rings into slices and lay them out on the screened shelves for the dehydrator.

After parking the dehydrator in the sun, I filled it with the shelves, shut the door, and let the day do it's work. No electricity, no noisy fan filling the house with random whirring, no worries about bugs (it's too dang hot in there for any sensible insect), and by the end of the afternoon I'll have a whole bunch of dried, sliced apples that my rabbits will enjoy as supplemental feed during the winter. Gotta keep those bunnies happy!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Taking a Break

I've been canning since early this morning, so I am parking it here at the computer to take a break. It's kind of nice to sit, after you've been prancing around the kitchen in bare feet since 7 AM. To top it off, I had a late night last night, so the need to sit has me happy to play on the computer for a few minutes.

Yesterday evening, I spent some time with a good friend who just happens to have two "unused" crabapple trees in her backyard. Yes, it was a visit with an ulterior motive, but she was cool with it--and the roaster chicken and jar of red onion jam made her happy to do an exchange for unwanted apples. After recruiting her husband to hold down the top of the springy tree, we picked about 1/3 of a 5 gallon bucket full. Then we snuck over to the neighbors and swiped some un-used ripe apples of unknown variety to top off the bucket. By the time I stuffed it into the car, it was overflowing. Her dogs were delighted to help eat the fall-outs.

When I got back home, I poured off the regular apples and picked through the crabapples. After removing the leaves, pine needley bits, and sticks, I poured them into my largest pot, filled it with water and plunked it on the stove to come to a boil. Cue major dog fight, emergency visit to the vet at 10 PM, and returning home at 10:45 to turn the stove on again, start scrubbing the floors, and drink chamomile tea laced with gin to calm my fraught nerves. (Nope, no idea what started the fight, but poor Phoebe got the worst of it and is feeling veeeeerrrrrrry sorry for herself this morning.)

After finally falling asleep, I was up before the chickens this morning. Early rising gives me plenty of time to tackle big canning projects, so after straining the juice that stewed overnight I commenced filling every other big pot in the house with the pinky blush yumminess, added some sugar so I wouldn't make faces like my mouth had met Preparation H when I drink it down this winter, and set it to boil for a good 5 minutes or so. Into quart jars it went, and now I have 11 quarts of healthy crabapple juice to hopefully keep some nasty germs away this winter. But, my adventures in canning were not done! Oh no. I had oodles of crabapple guts to play with.

After a whirl around the food mill, I seasoned the pulp with cinnamon, cloves, and plenty of ginger (oh, and sugar too...crabapples are very tart!), set it on the back burner, and cooked it down until it was a thick, dark brown lovely butter. I wound up with four pints of it, and I am so happy. I love crabapples. Could you tell? I think it is a very under-celebrated fruit, which so many folks let go to waste in their gardens and backyards. I can't wait until my little Whitney crabapple grows big and starts producing all sorts of cherry-sized fruits! Then I can make my favorite concoction, spiced crabapple pickles. Mmmmmmmm....crabappley.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Early Mornings

I have been waking up very early of late. Friday, it was early to rise & take chickens in to Clear Lake. Saturday, I woke up even earlier and discovered that once again, driving at 5 AM means that I'm driving in the dark, not pre-dawn's pearly light. Remember how I mentioned that I was going to pick up a couple new pullets at an animal swap in Fall Creek? Well, I got allllllll the way to Fall Creek, and went to turn down the county road heading to the little farm, and didn't see a distinctive "swap" sign. That got me thinking, ummm? I thought it was this weekend...
Luckily for me, Mr. Blackberry had service and I was able to surf the net and discover that the swap is actually next weekend. There I was, 6 AM, nothing open, tired and laughing at myself as I parked alongside a field of cows. They didn't seem too perturbed by the shrieks of hysterical laughter wafting from the car windows.
Yesterday, I slept in until 7 AM, and then cleaned the whole house before a passel of smart women came visiting. I've started a Farmgirl chapter (it's detailed, but for the best description, go to www.maryjanesfarm.com and click on the link) and so far, there are 10 ladies who are just delighted to find a social group with their same interests at heart. You know, all the stuff I blog about here: canning, growing food, making homemade stuff, chickens and rabbits and sewing...all that stuff that other "normal" folks aren't into and earns you funny looks when you mention your interest in it to general company.
This morning, I was happily snoozing in bed thinking: "Man, it's already August 15th. Where did summer go?", when I shot straight up in bed and remembered, it's August 15th and I have a major auto-payment getting sucked out of my too-lean bank account! Augh!! Silly me, I completely forgot about it and said to myself just yesterday afternoon, "Wow! I have all this extra money, I think I'll pay a bunch of bills online & by phone early!!! Aren't I clever??" Oh, clever self. You are soooooooooooooo not clever sometimes. But never fear, my dears, all is not lost. The Bank of Mom can (sometimes) save your sorry butt, but never abuse it. The Bank of Mom is a rare, rare bank that actually has a heart. It also accepts semi-frantic phone calls at 6 AM with grace.
And this concludes the installment of 'Early Mornings'. Stay tuned for the next episode, titled 'Afternoon Nap'.

Friday, August 12, 2011

chicken. canned.

Take that, pressure-canning-phobia. Hah!!

Yay, Me!



For years, I have been afraid to pressure can. I have visions of exploding metal canisters, shards of glass flying around like little shrapnel bombs, and third degree steam burns all around. Not to mention food stuck to the ceiling and imbedded in the walls.

But when you don't pressure can, it means that you can't preserve things like canned beans or canned corn, or canned chicken or beef, or homemade soups. While you can freeze all those things, sometimes you might just, you know, forget to defrost them and then, you have no dinner. Or you forget that they are in the freezer, until one day something shifts and you can't cram the ice cream back in & still shut the door, and you are swearing and muttering and hauling mystery packages out, all bearing a heiroglyphic label and a date sometime in the last century. Given that I am the kind of girl who is prone to not defrosting things, and subsisting on cheese and crackers and booze when dinner plans go south, it would help me have variety (and healthiness) in my average daily diet to, oh, I don't know...actually CAN things that I can pour into a pot, heat up, and eat. Tin-can cooking, homestyle.

Earlier this summer, I bought a canner. It was too complicated, too intimidating, too many strange instructions to do essential things like "time the rocking". What rocking? Time it with what?? Nobody said I needed a damn stopwatch to pressure can. So, I chickened out, never took the thing out of the box, and turned it in for a slightly smaller model with a clearly readable pressure gauge. No rocking. No timing. Just "watch the gauge and adjust heat to maintain XX pounds of pressure for XX minutes". Hey, I can handle those kind of instructions!

The new-and-improved canner lived on the porch, in its box, for a month. I kept moving it around, to make room for various other things.

Yesterday, I decided "that's it." I was going to conquer this fear, dammit. So, I took myself to the farmers market and bought 5 pounds of fresh green beans from a lovely Hmong family. (Yes, I planted beans, too, but I think the rain has caused the blossoms to fall off & no beans to form.) I spent time yesterday evening cleaning and popping the ends off and breaking them into inch-or-so long pieces. This morning, after hauling chickens for processing, I heated jars & boiled water & packed 10 pints full of little beans. I admit, I was feeling the fear when the pot heated up and began making all these mysterious hissing noises....but after reading (and rereading) the instructions about 10 times, it appears that hissing and spitting and strange buzz-humm-grumbly noises are actually normal. Normal. Well then. No need to fear, no imminent explosions are going to happen.

So after reaching the needed 11 pounds of pressure and maintaining it for the required 20 minutes, and then letting the whole sheebang cool down for an hour or so, I now have canned beans, that look correct and are making the "happy pingy" noise that all canners find secretly delightful.

Next up, watch the Amazing Cris create canned chicken in the blink of an eye....bwah hah hah hah hah!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

All I Want is a Hammock

Today, I cannot seem to get my motivation going. Call it decompressing after a crazy week, call it a case of the slothies, call it "oh dear lord, summer break is nearly done & I don't wanna go back to work" blues, I cannot seem to get going today. Okay, yes, I did do two loads of laundry, hauled 6 bales of hay across the yard with a friend, I'm breaking in new shoes, and I fed and watered everyone this morning as well as bred two rabbits. Still, it's not up to par with my usual kind of morning at home. By now, I likely would have also mowed the lawn, picked some produce, made the bed, cleaned the floors (which are seriously grungy; how the heck do they get so bad??), run errands in town to the bank and the post office, and possibly started some kind of food preservation for the winter. I would have at least cleaned out the Chicken Hospital debris and scooped out the cat box.
However, all I want to do is sit on my expanding butt and do nothing much. Drinking coffee and perusing books has the most appeal, but then I think about having to turn pages or move my eyes along to read the print and lift the coffee mug and swallow, and I think, nahhhh. I'll just sit here. I think I'll blame it on being a lovely summer day, not too hot, sunny and full of lazy cicada noises and half-hearted chirps of crickets in the ditch.
Anyway, I do need to find my motivation soon. I need to haul my carcass over to Clear Lake and fetch some crates for chickens. I need to get my sorry self up to Barron and hit the Farmers Market, in search of someone whose bean harvest is much better than my pathetic one (oh, and a deep fried treat of some sort, too). I need to actually fold the sheets, towels and clothes that are leaking out of my dryer and heaped clothes basket. I need to clean the cat box, for crying out loud, instead of wandering around, sniffing with a wrinkled nose and muttering "god, who forgot to scoop that nasty thing?"
Well. Maybe I'll do all that in a little while. After I sit here some more.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dead Chicken Walking

Macabre? Yes. True? Yep.
Tomorrow, I go to Clear Lake to pick up crates to load 50 meat birds, early Friday morning, and haul them in to be processed. So far, I have 30 sold. The remaining birds may stay in my freezer, although I think some folks may want a few. They are fat and sassy, and I am rather glad that chicken raising season is coming to a close. The weather this summer was NOT helpful, to say the least. (Of course, as I type this it is 70 degrees, breezy and lovely and feels like an early fall day...why couldn't all summer have been this nice???) Anyhow, off they go on Friday and come back all ready for someone's freezer.
The pullets are doing well, and seem to be enjoying their rest-cure in Chicken Hospital. I think I have found a home for the Wyandottes, and while I am sad that they are going, I really do need to focus on the revitalization of the flock. Keep those eggs rolling in, dammit! Saturday morning, I am heading to an animal swap in search of young pullets to make up for the three that died in the heat. I'm not looking forward to the early morning wake-up, but it will be neat to see what I find.
In rabbit news, I plan to breed Little Mama this afternoon. If all goes according to my nefarious plan, there should be little bunnies arriving mid-September. Hopefully, we won't have any 100 degree days after Labor Day, and these little ones will make it longer than one week. Or one day, as was the previous record.
Beans are slow coming on, squash vines are growing to the sky, tomatoes are definitely turning pink, and I think the sunflowers are gearing up to bloom. I picked two more pool ball zuchinni today. I haven't checked the beets--but I am sure they are lying in wait for me. The potato vines are turning yellow, so maybe next week I'll be able to harvest the crop. I don't know how many I have under there, but I'm hoping for a bumper crop. I have to think with five varieties, I should get something. And if my early foraging for new potatoes means anything, they are going to be fantastic. Oh, and the brocolli seems intent on setting heads. Perhaps I will actually get a crop this year! No new canning forays this week (yet), but I am leaning toward a trip to the farmers market tomorrow, so who knows what I will come home with. Stay tuned, and prepare to be dazzled!

video

Friday, August 5, 2011

When a Good Thing Goes Bad



Early this morning, I awoke to a beautiful day. A bit misty, but sun nevertheless. The dogs went out, I puttered away in the bathroom, and shortly afterward headed out to the morning chores. I was greeted by the sound of muffled screams coming from the coop.

Nothing changes a bucolic morning quite like discovering that the lovely laying hens have decided that the new infidels must die. Poor Fifi the Cuckoo Marans had a massive gash on the back of her neck, with her muscles visible and blood everywhere. Pearl the white Araucana and Freckles the Speckled Sussex were also bleeding from wounds on head, neck, leg and back end. I snatched up birds left & right, and ran triage. Poor, poor Fifi. The clean-up and medical treatment was horrible for both of us!

In any case, the pullets are now recuperating in Chicken Hospital (or, the sun porch). Fifi has a room of her own (also known as a spare dog kennel), and after a wound cleaning and heavy dosing with antibiotic cream, she is very interested in food and water and I am really hoping that she pulls through. Pearl & Freckles are doing okay, enjoying the rest-cure in their larger "hospital suite" and sharing conversation across the hall with the convalescing Fifi.

Meanwhile, the Two Big Girls are cackling to themselves in their reclaimed, pullet-free coop.

No decision has been made as to the future integration plans. Stay tuned for updates on the abused victims of chicken-bullying.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Update: GN Saga Continued

This evening, I was out messing about in the yard: rolling up temporary fencing that had become a dog-approved obstacle course jump, finishing up the sink fountain on my side of the fence, adding straw to the TARDIS. I was in the back garden, picking the first head of brocolli & the third harvest of beets, when I heard a man's voice asking if I had a minute. Lo and behold, it is GN's son. Apparently he decided it was time to introduce himself--after ignoring my presence for the past five years. I held out my hand to shake his, and after a minute of staring at it like it was a foriegn object, he acknowledged the gesture. I asked, so...what can I do for you? And he launched into a huffy tirade, wanting to know the "nature of the conversation [I] had with [his] mother". I responded by asking, oh dear...hasn't she spoken to you about her concerns? His reply was that she was very upset, and had told him that I started the issue by being beligerent and mean...!!!! I replied, oh my it sounds like she's told you something very different than what actually happened! and smiled, sweet as sugar. In a calm, collected and kindly tone, I filled him in on the saga (the screaming phone call on a Sunday afternoon, refusal of the offer to call a pest expert, two weeks of silence followed by a complaint to the Village board, ongoing campaign of talking to the neighbors and refusing to speak to me, etc., etc.), ending with the sending of a certified copy of the pest control expert's report clearing my property of rodent issues to her and the Village board, because "your mother just refuses to talk to me, poor thing, and I really had no other way of being sure that she would receive and acknowledge the report--which really, should put her mind at ease about her concerns about rodents on my property". Yes, my dears, I said all that, and smiled sweetly at him while doing so. He huffed and he puffed, and basically told me to stop being "mean" to his mother, because she had "a lot on her mind" and she couldn't understand why I stopped talking to her, as she had always liked me and had felt insulted because I sent her a letter instead of just talking to her, like I had in the past... No, dears, I didn't start laughing at this point, but I did retch a little. All I said was, that I was happy to hear that she liked me, although surprised because she refused to speak to me which doesn't seem terribly friendly, and that I hoped she wouldn't misunderstand my intention of sending her a letter (which again, since she refuses to talk to me, needed to be sent certified so I would know she got it) as being, as he put it, mean. That's me, the big meanie who started this whole saga--oh wait. No, it was GN who started it! My mistake.
The funniest part of the conversation was when he tried to blame the ongoing circulation of the "rats on that girl's property" rumor on the Village gossip mill--and I said, oh really, because I've heard from several people that heard the concern directly from your mother, they sure seem like reliable people and I don't know why they would lie about something your mother said. In public. To her women's group and bible study group and the rescue squad and the Village board and the folks at the gas station....yes, my dears, I did say allllllll of that, and then I just looked at him and smiled sweetly. He huffed and puffed and couldn't maintain eye contact to save his darling little life. Shortly after that, he sidled off, saying he was glad we were finally introduced and that he "felt good" about clearing things up. I told him to stop by anytime, and that if his mother had concerns, she should stop in, too.
I cackled to myself, and kept pulling beets. I mean, they were ready...anyhow, shortly thereafter, my wonderful neighbor to the south roared up on his lawn tractor, waved me over, and said, I'm keeping the tractor running so nobody hears us...but what did he say??? I think my wonderful neighbor got almost as much of a kick out of the conversation rehash as I did in the original version. Apparently, there is a history of GN and son making much of themselves around town, to the amusement of many other villagers, and this saga (and it's conclusion this evening) has been making the rounds. I get the feeling that I am a heroine of sorts, not that I am looking for that, but a little notoriety never did a girl any harm. I can handle having a reputation of owning a pair of brass cahones and not being afraid to stand up to the resident Stepford cheerleader on the block. (Yes, she really was the nasty head cheerleader once...scary thought, isn't it? Some people don't change as they get older.) I should mention, after having the pest control guy come & finding conclusively no rodent issues on my property, I did mention to a few key people (who I know manage to spread a bit of "news" about town, to strategic ears) that if the rumors and insuations persisted and developed to the point that some govermental entity felt the need to dictate what happens on my land, I would have noooooo problem contacting my lawyer to address the issues at hand. Shortly after that, certain individuals who had been rather vocal about the rumored rat issues & my part in them made sure to stop in or call, and suck up royally and the allegations stopped, oh, nearly instantaneously. Ahh, the power of potential litigation never ceases to move mountains. Anyhow, after relaying the conversation to my wonderful neighbor, I added again that if this issue came up again, well...I'd hate to call my lawyer in, but I would do it...he almost fell off his tractor he was laughing so hard.
I am sure by tomorrow morning this story will have circulated around the village three times, each time getting more and more elaborate. My brass balls and I will be very much admired by some, I am sure, and grumped about by others. I do love living in a small town--it's better than a Greek drama! Shakespeare, anyone?? Et tu, Brute.