Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Feeling of Change in the Air

It's one of those Christopher Robbin kind of days out there, where you expect to see Winnie and Piglet tramping across the landscape looking for a heffalump in the blowing, blustery wind. I love fall days like this, particularly mornings when I woke up feeling less-than-well, went back to bed, and woke up feeling revitalized (but still willing to keep taking a sick day). So far, I have cleaned the fridge, which was horribly gritty inside with some mysterious sticky stains. I have to go to the store and restock my larder, and it is so much easier to clean out the fridge when I've eaten through leftovers and only have a few bits and jars of things to remove.
Animal check this morning went well, with all heads present and accounted for. I had my bug man come and spray yesterday evening, which should help with the annual fall invasion of nasty Asian beetles. I don't believe in pesticide spraying, but this is one exception I make. I hate these biting beetles more, and living in a former barn, they really like to come in and make themselves at home. I try to make my home as welcoming as possible, but not for insects.
As you can see, I revamped my blog's look. Hope you like is striking me as a little busy, but in a good way. If you've ever visited my house, you've probably noticed my love of layers as decoration. Everywhere you look, there are layers and layers of cozy, colorful things. And I believe that books are the ultimate house accessory! So hence, the cozy, warm, book-themed look that I chose for my blog.
Sometimes it is just fun to clean things up and create some small changes, particularly when the seasons themselves are changing outdoors. Now, if I could just figure out how to change my little farm into a big one....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Babies Have Left the Nest

This morning, I went out to feed the rabbits early. Its definitely fall outside, and this morning was dark and murky and rainy. (Not my most favorite chore weather...)

I got a big surprise when I wandered into the bunny barn: The kits have hopped out of the nest! Their eyes had opened a few days ago, and they had gotten a lot more active with exploring the nest box. I wasn't really ready to be greeted by five pairs of eyes staring at me from a cage that usually only has one pair in it. Little Mama is disappointed, because now she no longer gets any grass rations at all. Darn kids, always messing things up! Anyway, she seems to be very proud of her little brood. They'll stay in with her for another week or two, and then move to their new collective cage. I'm hoping to figure out how to tell if they are boys or girls before then, which I think is going to be a little complicated. I'll keep you posted on how that research turns out.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What a Haul!

The weather finally cooperated for a few hours this morning, and I was able to head out to the back garden and dig the potatoes and last of the onions. It was amazing how the weeds just swarmed over everything in the last couple of weeks--see, I knew heading back to work after a summer off was bad for the garden! Yet another reason to become independently wealthy...well, maybe in my next lifetime.

If you felt like it, you could scroll back to early spring ('round about April, I think) and find where I mention that I planted the potatoes that arrived from FedCo, a five-variety package called the "classic keepers collection". And the five types, if you really wanted to know that, were Green Mountain, Kennebec, Red Pontiac, German Butterball (ha ha, I love that one...), and Russet Burbank. What I think I forgot to mention is, that for each of the rows, I planted four or five potatoes and then hoped for the best.

As you can see, my little table is covered. I decided it would be over-kill to show that the kitchen table is also half-covered in potatoes, so you'll just need to take my word for it. I gathered just over 30 pounds of potatoes this morning, so added to the 10 pounds or so I dug up over the season, that is not a bad return on 20 individual potatoes. As far as I can tell, the russets and the reds did the best, but I did eat more of the German Butterball...not only is the name a hoot, but they were the best new potatoes ever....

And yes, I do realize that the middle of this table is covered in onions. I harvested the last of the yellow onions as well. They grew, and while they are small, I think they'll be fantastic cooked into a whole variety of yummy things this winter.

Oh, and I got the lawn mowed as well. Not bad for a chilly Sunday morning! I feel completely okay with being lazy and warm inside this afternoon--besides, it's started to rain again, so I can watch PBS and knit and not feel one whit of guilt.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

First Year - A Video by Jenna Woginrich

I am so crazy proud of this girl, I can hardly stand it. She figured it out, and went for it. This video makes me cry with pride, every damn time I watch it. You go, Jenna. You go.

My Good Life Moment

My friend Gretchen came over this morning, to help with taking some pictures of me for this online dating thing I am trying (again). Yes, yes. I know, I am such a happy singleton whatever am I thinking?!? My philosophy of the moment is: It doesn't hurt to give it a whirl again. Who knows, maybe my dream farmer-lumberjack-Shrek-gorgeous man is out there. This time. Likely I'll acquire the same batch of needy oddballs as I did last time, but they will be NEW needy oddballs. It makes for good dating horror stories to wow your friends with, in any case.

This is one of my favorites, and since Gretchen pointed out that there are no pictures of myself on my own little blog, I thought it might be a good thing to show that there is more to me than just the random finger pointing to bunnies or hand holding an egg. Ever watch the show from the 1970s called The Good Life? Its a British sitcom, about a couple who decide to turn their home and garden into a suburban farm (!!!). This is my good life moment photo op. Looks good on me, doesn't it?

P.S. The potatoes were Gretchen's commission for her photo-extraordinaire expertise.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Little Bunny Video

As you can see, the kits are doing very well. It is amazing how fast they are growing! Little Mama has been eating more & more, and I think she'll be glad in another week or so when her babies start hopping out of the nest and sampling kibble and hay bits. Of course, she'll miss her daily dose of fresh grass (the kits can't eat it, as it will make them really sick) but perhaps the break from child-rearing will be an even trade.

In other news, the two kittens are getting into trouble (as 9 week old kittens should) and making friends with the other creatures of my household. Ernest is in love with Phoebe, although he does get confused when she tries to make him nurse from her belly...but he keeps purring and mewing and rubbing on her anyway. Both have learned to hunker down and grimace their way through the greetings from Max and Charlie (which are invariably wet and slurpy). It is promising to be a lovely weekend here, so I hope to mow the lawn one last time and dig my potatoes. I'll post pictures of the harvest, I promise!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Update on The Kits

They are one week old and doing great! All have fur, and are fat little sausages. Little Mama is an excellent mother, and her four little ones are happy, content, and just starting to open their eyes. They no longer look like little pink piggies, but are identifable as white rabbits-in-miniature. Pictures will come soon, as Little Mama dislikes the flash and I can't say that I blame her. Just rest assured, my friends, that these little kits are having a MUCH better experience than the poor nest of this past July. I think I may just be getting the hang of this livestock wrangling yet...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Toasty Toes

It's that time of year again, when you climb into bed and the bottom of the sheets are cold as ice. What is a girl to do? Wear socks? Sure. That's an idea. But my preferred method involves a simple rubber bottle filled with boiled water, covered with a new handy-dandy wool cozy, crammed at the end of the bed just waiting to have my chilled toes snuggled up against it.

Okay, yes. Hot water bottles are seriously old-school. Yes, they are the height of "camp". And yes, perhaps they are kind of odd and strange and vaguely unnerving--I think it's the fluid sloshiness that gets people feeling a little freaky--but you can't deny the beauty of finding a warm bundle of wonderful heat, hidden below chilly covers, on a cold fall/winter night.

So here's to the old fashioned wonderfulness that is a hot water bottle. Long live warm toasty toes!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Harvest Moon Tales

I love this time of year, when everything turns golden and brown, baked by a long summer season under the sun. My garden is still producing, but it is a race to the finish before everything gets frost bitten. That might happen sooner than I am ready for, if the predicted near-freezing temperatures come to pass tomorrow evening. I feel very suspicious about tonight's low, so outside in the garden it looks like the local KKK chapter threw a strip-tease party and left their clandestine sheets draped over my tomatoes, peppers, squash, and greens. I spent part of the late afternoon wandering around and gathering what was ready to harvest. The last of the green beans went into a bucket, followed by a couple of half-ripe tomatoes and a lonely poblano pepper. I dug some onions, but was repelled by giant prickly masses of emerging nettles. I'll go back and conquer them, armed with leather gloves, but for now the onions are safely hidden in the dirt. One more melon fell from it's vine, so in it came, along with a couple of sprigs of brocolli that decided to head up. Everywhere was the sound of bees, humming and buzzing and muttering their to-do lists and weaving a zig-zagging path around the remaining blooms. One of my roses is blooming like it is June again; my policy of benign neglect is apparently reaping its' late season rewards. When the sun settled to the west, I went around, closing up cold frames that have been open since late May and adjusting assorted sheets and tablecloths, wrapping them snugly around tomato stakes and squash plants. The rabbits are settled in for the night, munching their hay and cozy behind the closed dutch door, keeping the worst of the chill out but allowing the night in through windows ajar. The dogs are restless, listening to the neighborhood dogs barking out the nightly chatter of approaching deer and raccoons invading the corn field across the street. I love the comfort of this calm house as it wraps around me in these early evenings, when darkness falls before we're ready and makes us long for nights wrapped in quilts and warm cotton blankets, with nothing but a snoring cat and a good book between me and a good night's sleep. It seems like fall inspires me to slow down, savor the shortening days with their amber light, resigned against the winter that lies ahead.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Too Hot Out There

So look who came inside for the afternoon. It is about 95 degrees in the bunny barn, and when I popped in to check on the inmates before taking Ernest & Emily up to the vet for worming & first shots, the little kits were squeaking and wiggling around (which are apparently signs of distress). Much to Little Mama's consternation, I pulled the nest box out and hiked these little ones to hang out in the dim, cool kitchen for the rest of the afternoon. Once the sun goes down, and I shut off the cooling mist system (can't get the kits wet, either), I'll put the nest box back in. Hopefully, since I haven't touched the babies, Little Mama will be very happy to have them back and not get freaky on me. I just had to pull them out, though...I was having flashes to my week old kits' being killed in July, and couldn't bear the thought of these new arrivals not making it! Tomorrow, it is supposed to be much cooler (high in the low 60s) so the kits shouldn't need to come out again until they are ready to be weaned in a few weeks' time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Meet Ernest & Emily

This is Emily, who is not amused.

This is Ernest, who already worships me as his Queen.

Very smart, Ernest. Very smart.

French Press Love

I love a good cup of coffee. I can handle a crappy cup of coffee, but life is too short to dwell in Folger's Territory. So hand me those beans to grind, and I will happily take the time to make the perfect, rich, delicious, seductively dark cup of joe.

I love coffee soooo much, that I routinely kill my coffee makers. Yes, I am hard on my small appliances. Foolishly, I expect them to work (and work hard) on a daily basis. Apparently the designers in foriegn lands think either (a) Americans only need coffee once a week or less, or (b) will tolerate needing to buy a new coffee maker every other year or so. When my latest model crapped out, I decided it was time to step away from the drip and move into french press-land.

Oh, and what a wonderous land it is! After moving away from Anchorage, I thought I would never again find the proper cup of coffee. But here it is, in my own kitchen! Ahh, the French truly are the masters of all things cuisine. It makes me feel very chic to heat up my snazzy little electric kettle, measure my beans, and stir up the most wonderfully black libation....but there is a downside. I tend to savor, not gulp, my good coffee. And a french press coffee pot has zero insulation, so you wind up with cold coffee that needs to be microwaved, or incarcerated in a tin thermos. So not chic. But being the intrepid knitter that I am, I scoured the pages of (best knitting pattern site ever) and found a simple pattern for a french press cozy. Here it is, in all it's noro-varigated yarn glory, and yes, it works! So, my friends, unite with me in rising against the tyranny of nasty dried coffee that has been chemically treated up the whazoo, and join the french press revolution. Freedom!!

How to make a french press cozy:

You'll need size 10.5 or 11 needles and bulky weight yarn (or hold two strands worsted together). Cast on 19 stitches in the method of your choice. Knit in seed stitch (knit 1, purl 1 across all rows) until piece measures 10 inches. Bind off. Using a crochet hook, chain 15 stitches at each corner, and in middle of narrow rectangle-side. Wrap around your french press pot, and tie crochet ties together at top, bottom, and beneath the handle across the middle. Now your coffee will not only be hot and delicious, but stylish as well!

The Lovers

I Have Made Melon

It has only taken me four years of attempts, but I have finally grown a melon. These are melons that I picked up at the Seed & Plant Swap in June, and it took them forever to get started. Suddenly, the vines flourished, and little melons appeared. And the little melons grew and grew...and then just sat there, mocking me. While I heard others were enjoying their ripe and delicious melons, mine were green, hard, and unpleasant. Mocking me, I say. Mocking!! I could hear the laughter, low and nasty, from the garden at night....but today, this little melon gleamed amongst the green weeds and fell off the vine when I touched it. Hah!!! I feel like the Queen of the World: Let it ring from the rooftops! I have made....melon!! (And it was good, too.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

I could win big....

But only if you rate me! I've entered a photo contest at McMurray Hatchery, and if my coop photo rates "high" in the likes department, I could win a gift card! The grand prize is $100 to be spent on hatchery products (such as little peeping boxes of chicks), which would be simply too fantastic for words. So, go to the website by following this link (you might need to register as a user, but you won't get strange chicken-related solicitations):

The photo you are looking for is this one!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's Free for the Taking

Today, I stopped for lunch in a parking lot of a county park. It was deserted except for a couple of chickadees and the roar of a cataract as water fell over the spillway of the old dam. It was such a peaceful place to munch my sandwich and contemplate how much I would rather be home, digging potatoes or processing yet more apples....and then I looked left out my window. Holey moley! Bounty was at hand. Literally inches away was a whole passel of bright red, ripe and ready rosehips. Rosehips, for the uninitiated, are the little red apple-like fruit of roses of the rosa rugosa variety. They are tart and not so nice on their own, but brewed like tea they make great...well, tea. And you can also use the tea-infusion to make a great lightly rose flavored jelly, chock full of Vitamin C and other great stuff. After climbing out of the car (okay, yes, I nearly fell out of the car in my hasty joy of finding wild forage of such beauty), I wound up with almost two cups of rosehips.

After finishing my work day, I wandered home by way of the store for yet more pint jars (oh yes, there be apples here...) and comenced the afternoon's "putting up" sequence. I made another huge batch of applesauce, adding another 6 pints to my stash, and juiced a whole buncha apples into my own homemade cidery drink. I have nearly four quarts full, but once the froth dies down and I filter it, I think I'll have three quarts to pop into the freezer and enjoy all winter. What about the rosehips, you say? Oh yes, those have been steeping with two chopped apples and four cups of water, to be poured into a jelly bag and drip overnight. Tomorrow morning, I'll pop the clear juice into the fridge and it will wait patiently for me to come home & transform it into one of my favorite "old timey" jellies: Rosehip Apple Jelly. Mmmmm mmmmm. Here's me, fighting scurvy one foraged fruit at a time...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lazy Labor Day

Today, I played with apples. Again. I have lots of apples. I have done pretty much everything with apples, and still I have more apples. It is exciting, in a ridiculous, Tribble-like way. They multiply when I am not looking, I swear. So, I have cans of applesauce, apple chutney, frozen apple slices, and apples in the dehydrator laced with sugar and cinnamon. If the sun would stay out consistently, I'd load up my solar dehydrator with more apples for the rabbits to enjoy as supplemental food this winter. But it has turned cool with intermittent puffy clouds, so today the dehydrator outside is taking a break. It seems fitting for Labor Day.
I mowed the lawn, which was desperately needed, and I think I discovered the hidey-holes of one or two ground bee nests. No stings were involved, just some mild posturing on their part, and me steering my whirling blade of doom the other direction when they appeared. I'll wait to clear the head-high shrub weeds that they seem to be nesting in when it officially freezes in another couple of weeks. Lucky me, ground bees, wasps and bumblebees all die when it freezes, so then I can clear out their old homes without needing to run for my epipen. (Yes, I have one, because my old bee stings wake up and itch from time to time, which makes my doctor think I am now allergic to bees.) The flies are lazy and persistent, due to the cold I think, and it is a hoot to watch the chickens polish them off, snap by beak snap. There is some kind of huge garden spider making a prolific web in a corner of the coop. He/she has caught several flies and a large ground bee, and doesn't seem phased by the prolific dinner at all. The chickens are wisely leaving this pest-control expert alone. I swear, this spider is the size of my thumb--the whole thumb! Giant spiders appearing out of nowhere, cold mornings with faux frost covering the garden, needing a quilt on the bed at must be September.
Here's me, off to deal with more apples.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back to the Start

I don't ever post advertising in this blog, mostly because I find it very difficult to find any ads that actually support what I believe to be important. This one, though...I love this. It sums up so much of what I think is wrong with the way the food industry hands out as the "way food must be"; and it shows what has to change (and is changing!) to make our food system safe, healthy and sustainable for both people, animals, and the Earth. If you haven't stopped in at Chipolte Grill lately, or ever, you should give them a try. They are the one fast-food joint that is getting it right...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Somehow, It's July Again.

Just when I thought, gosh the last couple of nights I've woken up cold and shivering and reaching for a blanket, it decides to be hot and muggy and just plain ol' nasty outside. It turned into the kind of day that you break a sweat just strolling from the drivers' side door around to the back to grab your bag from the trunk. The kind of day when an iced drink of any sort is more than welcome, at every moment of the day. The kind of day when you can feel your deoderant throwing in the white towel before it's even hit 10 AM coffee break time.
Yes, I am whining. We had a lovely taste of fall, and I am hungry for more. Apples falling from overburdened limbs, a pot of soup simmering on the stove, bread rising to be baked in the oven--all those things have been calling to me. To be suddenly plunged back into the middle of summer is just harsh and unpleasant. Someone should write to the management and demand an immediate change back to the appropriate season! Tomorrow evening is a home football game, and I am thinking that the kids running around under pounds of gear are going to be sweating buckets. Poor guys. If we lived in Texas, I could understand it but here in northwestern Wisconsin we expect our seasons to behave. (And to apparently support the football boosters, as well.)
Aside from the unpleasant weather, the garden continues to produce. I have a couple offers of free apples, so I think I will be wandering around with buckets and bags gathering the bounty. Afterward, I will be swimming in various forms of apple-goodness, including my favorite Curry Apple Chutney! Oh, how I love that stuff....thank goodness it is fall again so I can replenish my supply.