Saturday, June 30, 2012

Taming the Berries

Last year, I moved a series of rapidly spreading black raspberries to a better location.  Better, in that it was away from the side of the house, out of my sad herb garden, and would prevent them from growing into the wall and windows.  They are still on the south side of the house, which they love, and they get some nice bits of shade during the day from the large box elder trees.  They do love to droop though, which lets them root all over.  This is nice, if you don't mind a big messy bramble patch, but I prefer to pick my berries with slightly fewer lacerations.

By pounding in steel t-post poles and attaching three levels of support wires, I was able to fashion a really simple trellis.  It won't win any awards from the garden architecture folks, but it works to weave the trailing branches through and tame them into rough parallel rows.  The raspberries seem to like it rather well--they don't fall over in a stiff wind, and they get some nice air flow to prevent mold and mildew when it persistently rains.  They are still very, very spiky, though, so it definitely requires armor (in the form of jeans and long sleeved shirt) before going after the bounty.

They are so worth a few puncture wounds, oh yes.  So very worth it!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Jungle Fowl

No, we haven't moved to South America...although the recent heat wave could fool you into thinking that.  I don't have actual Jungle Fowl here on the property.  It gets far too chilly for those tropical ancestors of my chickens. 

My girls have discovered a taste for the trees.  In particular, the box elders that border the south side of the lot.  While I am sure that they would love to fly up and perch in them, what they really get thrilled about is consuming them.

While pruning this morning (box elders love to grow all sorts of suckers at the base, which makes for a weedy looking tree), I tossed in the trimmings to the girls.  They are having a grand time rootling around in the depths, crooning and clucking and cackling.  Even the spring pullets are getting into the act:

In a few hours, they will have all the leaves stripped off the branches.  Some of the smaller twigs may get eaten as well.  Voracious, aren't they?  Talk about deforestation risk.  Don't let the chickens out, they might eat the whole forest!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jam Session

It has decided to become hot again, and all my berries are rushing toward ripeness--a full two weeks ahead of schedule!  My sad little strawberry patch, which needs a good thinning and quack-grass-removal-session, yielded three quarts of berries.  They were very small, but incredibly sweet, and I've frozen about half for devouring later in the year when strawberries are nowhere to be found.  I saved back a quart and made a batch of Strawberry Lime Jam:

Six little jars, all in a row.  Lovely, aren't they?  The lime part of the recipe comes from homemade lime "mush", involving two days of cooking & 24 hour rest periods, ten organic limes, and conspicuous use of a vegetable peeler and sharp knives.  All that yields about a quart of bright green deliciousness that can be combined with fruits to make marmalades and exotic jams.  My initial taste test of this little number is rated WOWZA.  (That's a tingly top mark in this house.)

This year has been a bumper year for my fledgling currant patch.  I planted one Red Lake currant bush a few years ago, and three Pink Currant bushes last year.  This year, after stripping all the bushes, I had a whole quart of teeny tiny round berries.  That may not seem like much, but last year I think I gathered about a half of a cup.  This was a significant increase!  I had just enough to simmer down into a rich, ruby sauce--a whirl through my favorite kitchen tool, the food mill, took care of all the skins and teensie seeds, leaving me with thick pulp to make into Red Currant Jam.

Aren't they pretty?  Currants are one of my most favorite berries, sweet and tart and tangy, all at once.  They make a fantastic jam, equally good spread on a muffin or sweet quick bread as it is on the side of a plate of roasted pork and potatoes.  Jam is one of those condiments that has been relegated to partnership with peanut butter, but it is much more versatile than in a basic sandwich.  I love putting the sweetness of a good jam with a good bit of beef with country bread, or roast chicken with vegetables, or smeared in a grilled goat cheese and arugula sandwich.  Mmmmm-hmmm-good!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Succession Stories

 If you've been reading the blog over the past week, you'll remember that my emerging garden suffered some serious losses due to the unusually heavy and copious rainfall last week.  While this was sad, it did give me the opportunity to root out the "failed" crops, and plant new seeds for successive vegetable growing.

I haven't done too much with succession planting, simply because I have found that it takes most of the summer to grow what I can on my little quarter acre of paradise, and then I get busy and forget to put in new seeds for a later crop.  I like the idea of succession planting, which seems to be challenging the elements and the turning of the seasons by looking to eke out a harvest of beans or peas or chard right before frost comes and winter is looking over our shoulders.

So far, I've planted for a fall harvest of beets, turnips and chard.  I have plans today (if I ever make it out there following breakfast) to plant some peas and other delicious things.  Of course, I'll have to dig the weeds out of the bed I need to be planting in...ahhh well.  I think I'll go have more bacon and watch a fun gardening video.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June Hymn for a Busy Day

Music like this helps me forget the chaotic Saturday morning thus far: rabbits escaping the cage, one consumed by the dogs before I could stop them, hose connection breaking, spewing a gyser of water everwhere, chicks escaping the brooder when I went to fill their waterer from the tub, dogs racing all around the neighborhood when I forgot to lock the gate (due to chick round-up distractions), neighbors calling to complain about the excessively friendly dogs coming to visit their garages, almost burning the bacon, and getting to drink my coffee only after it went all cold.


Good morning, spring-ville.  I'm off to buy a new hose connection.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Say, Little Wren

courtesy of
One of the best things about my tiny yard, with its varied trees and hedges and wildflower sprawl amidst gardens and raised beds, is the diversity of wildlife that I find.  A couple summers ago, I had a pair of Pileated woodpeckers nesting in my 100 year old white pines.  A collection of finches calls the tops of the spruces home, while the robins are sharing accommodations in the pines with a downy woodpecker or two.  The local pheasants come early in the morning to rootle around in my wildflower hill, which the dogs find wonderfully exciting, and have to tell the neighborhood about in loud barky conversations.

This year, I have at least two pairs of wrens nesting: one family is occupying the Copa Cabana birdhouse on the back fence, and another is somewhere high up in the leafy jungle of the box elders.  They have taken to scolding me vigorously whenever I am out in the garden, whether I am near their nests or not.  Brrrr--chick-chick-chick-chick--brrrrrtttt!  It's like being the only Yankee fan in Fenway Park, constant razzing and hissing and booing.  This morning,  I was checking out the state of the currants (nearly ready to pick already, which is two weeks ahead of schedule!) when I swear, one of the bold wrens attempted to poo right on my head.  ON MY HEAD. 

I thought only monkeys flung poo.

After I am outside for a while, and the little parents realized that I am not going to waltz over and eat their babies, they calm down and put on a wonderful show.  Diving and zooming all over the yard, hopping in amongst the brocolli and cabbages to snatch up wriggling green worms and bits of beetle, and then back again quick as wink to a suddenly loud nest.  The babies are silent once the parent departs, but the moment they reappear it is all shrieks of hunger and moans of distress when there aren't enough treats to go around.  Back and forth, the parents fly all day, pausing only to scold me, or one of the dogs, or a chicken who is clucking about having laid an egg.  The wrens aren't impressed with just eggs, for goodness' sake.  They have a whole clutch of babies, and can't be distracted by some silly hen clucking away about tomorrow's breakfast.

A wren's work is never done, and certainly never dull.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Frog Attack!

In the past couple of days, we have had inches and inches of rain fall from dark grey skies.  The porch has flooded repeatedly.  The chickens are still soggy.  I've lost at least three rows of just sprouted spinach, and the corn is looking pathetic.  The dogs are still traumatized by the thunder and lightning of yesterday.

I have gotten a whole bunch of inside projects done, which was rather nice.

The (now bean) field across the street from my house has become a pond once more.  The frogs are deafening at night, which riles up the pups and they start barking and barking, upset about the strange noise so close to their house.  I'm pretty sure that a third of the field is lost, which is sad for the farmer.

It sure is exciting to live next door to a big Frog Party, though!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chicken Hospital


Sometimes, chickens are just too brutal to be borne.

This afternoon, I discharged Mr. Bloody Butt from Chicken Hospital.  This was a wonderful thing, as he had been in his cardboard-box-Ward-A for the past three days, recovering from defuzzing and pecking at his little chickie hiney.  Who knows what started it, but he had a heck of a wound that needed recovery time without little beaks pecking at his behind.

Off he went back amongst his cousins, siblings and cousins twice removed.  All was well and Chicken Hospital was off active duty. But then, at mid-day feeding, I found these two, the Bloody Wing Twins.  Again, why??  Why?? Oh, the agony. 

Actually, they don't appear to be in much pain, just bloody from their little friends biting at and stripping off their growing wing feathers.  It's more gross than anything, and because blood happens to be red, and red makes chickens peck like crazy, they need to be separated from their brethren (and each other).

Chicken Hospital has expanded to Ward A and Ward B.  I sure hope we don't need a Ward C, as I don't have any more cardboard boxes.  My closet is pretty small, too, what with it acting as the pantry, clothes closet, and general repository of debris not currently needed elsewhere.

Chickens.  The unsung cannibals of the animal world.  Ommm nomm nomm nomm.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Is That a Foot I See Before Me?

Yes, yes it is.

Today, I sat and looked at this, all day:

What you don't see in this picture, cankle and chipped pedicure and all, is the three inch gash ended with a deep puncture wound in my heel.  Oh yes, I managed to find a mysterious chunk of sharp glass, in my house, on my floor, where nothing to my knowledge had ever been broken.  I won't show you the picture of that wound, because, frankly, it is pretty gross.  As in, Ewwwww-inspiring.

When I woke up this morning, it was to a very swollen foot...which made hopping down the stairs an interesting challenge.  Needless to say, I haven't done much today except for propping my leg, taking a nap, and hobbling around the yard to do the bare minimum of chores.  No gardening, no weeding, and no mucking out of animal stalls was in the picture. 

Tomorrow, bad foot or no, I've got to get a couple of things done.  I'll keep you updated on how hopping & hoe-ing works out for me.  It may be a scene from one of those "I've fallen, and I can't get up" commercials.  Then again, maybe I'll impress the chickens with my one-footed chicken house mucking prowess.

Who am I kidding?  It is impossible to impress a chicken.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Need Stuff? Head to the Barn!

This morning, I picked up my good friends Mike & Gretchen, and we headed to a new-to-me thrift store experience:  The Barn in New Richmond, WI.  The Barn is part of the historical museum complex, which has many structures important in the history of the area across the grounds.

This vintage lovely structure once housed a herd of prize-winning dairy cows, and now holds all of this:

Incredible, isn't it?  Even better than the collection of stuff is the pricing.  Most things are priced at a quarter, or a few bucks.  I found a whole slew of childrens' books for ten cents per book, as well as a whole lot of wooden beads for ten to twenty-five cents per package.  I even scored a fairly new feather pillow for five dollars.

I hear that Saturday mornings are when the die-hard shoppers appear, but Sundays the Barn opens at 12 noon and seems to attract a calmer crowd.  It was nice to have a low key place to wander around in, because it let me admire the remnants of when the Barn was part of a working farm.

I love how the ribbons and medals from fair showings and regional competions are still tucked away, safe in glass cases behind the racks of old flannel shirts and knitted baby afghans.

The original narrow stairs with rung railings are challenging to navigate with an armful of found treasures, recalling what it might have been like to travel them carrying a bag of feed or bale of straw.  Best of all, there are human treasures like my new friend Erv working there:

Isn't he just a lovely man?  Such a hoot to listen to him visit with all the customers...I nearly walked out of there with a desk I didn't need, he's such a smooth salesman!

Bargain hunting trips don't come much better than this one.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nook Part Deaux

It was another rainy afternoon, and a group of people who signed up to come out and learn about rabbits, didn't show up.  So I took advantage of the suddenly open afternoon, and beavered away making pillows for the nook.  I swear, my sewing machine was in the groove!

Ooooh, I just love a pile of pillows, don't you?  That little beauty beaming from the corner is a one-of-a-kind ceramic lamp I picked up at St. Vinnie's Thrift Store yesterday.  I've always had a soft spot for Raggedy Anne, and I think Annie-girl fits right into the grandma's attic exploded decorating scheme I have going on.

Here's a snap of the little table and vintage retro lamp I picked up; table from Gene's and the lamp from this fantastic "everything's a quarter" garage sale I discovered yesterday afternoon, too.  It was incredible.  All the items were circa 1920 through about 1970, all for twenty five cents.  Piles and boxes and bundles...ahh, don't get me started.  It was awesome, though.  Anyway, here's the promised photo:

Can you tell that I am unafraid of color?

I swear, looking at this nook just makes me want to dive on in.

Just wait until I add the bookshelves.  It'll be hard to pry me outta there, once I get my hands on a good book and plump in amongst the pillows!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Random Updates

As I have so many things going on, I thought I'd update on a handful of them:

  • The chicks in the brooder are doing great!  Only 7 casualties, which out of 200 chicks is very good indeed.  They've doubled in size at nearly one week old.
  • The gardens are growing, with the corn, beans and winter squash all sprouted.  The front gardens look especially happy after the heavy rains of yesterday.
  • The pullets in the Big Shed Coop are very pleased with themselves and have started roosting at night instead of snuggling on the floor.  This makes me glad, as up in the air is a little safer location to take a nap!
  • All the kits are doing just fine in the rabbitry, growing like little sausages.  Magda has eight surviving kits, and Little Mama has her five.  That makes for a whole lot of babies!  The teenagers, which amounts to four remaining does, are ready for processing.  Hopefully, I'll get that done this weekend so some of the babies can be moved out to new quarters.  I think Little Mama is more than ready for her brood to move out.  They keep laying on her head, which doesn't look very comfortable for their poor mother.
  • The hoophouse is exploding with growth.  I have never seen such happy tomatoes, tomatillo and pepper plants.  The tomatillo plants in particular are thick trunked and sturdy, like little leafy sumo wrestlers.
  • The beans in the Community Garden plot have sprouted and look good, although slightly waterlogged after the rain.  Now to keep them safe from maurading deer and gophers.  There's always a challenge in gardening, isn't there?
  • I think I've finalized my plan for this year's version of chicken tractor...which is good, since I need to build a whole bunch of them in the next couple of weeks!  Now I just need to get the stuff and start building.
  • The goldfish in the stock "pond" are still alive and swimming.  They seem to be feeding on the water plants (that are multiplying rapidly) and stray bugs that fall into the water.
  • Lucy the feral hen is still broody, and still wants to bite when she is removed from her clutch of eggs.  Evil Lucy.  Bad hen.
There you have it: the news from Quarter Acre Farm.  I'm off to put some chickens to bed, and then it is back to the sewing machine for me.  I have a whole pile of pillows to cover, and too many fabrics to choose from.  Oh, the options....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rainy Day Blues

And pinks, and greens, and perhaps a splash of irrepressible yellow!

Today has been a day of rolling thunderstorms, which made the dogs highly clingy and the chicks annoyed by the chill in the air.  As for me, I was delighted with a day where I didn't have to be out moving mountains of dirt or grubbing out persistent weeds.  I got to spend the whole morning (between loads of laundry) digging through my fabric stash and combining assorted designs to make some pillows for the new nook upstairs.

I just love combining fabrics.  Even those that you think would never go together can be made to work.  I am really feeling the strip-stripe-quilting thing right now, can you tell?

After a productive morning, I have five newly covered throw pillows which will hopefully make the nook an inviting retreat.   I have plans to fetch more pillow forms tomorrow, because I think five little pillows isn't nearly enough.  I think the nook also requires a body pillow or two, and bookshelves.  Definitely bookshelves.

With sequins.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Mysterious Case of the Murderous Tail

This is Beezle.

He is one massive cat, weighing in at 19.7 pounds.  Usually, he lives to lounge about, draped over various ends of furniture or atop a pile of pillows on the ledge in front of the window.  He's a great big lump of a kitty, and one incredible mouser.  Overall, he is a polite gentleman, getting rowdy only when bacon and smushy canned cat food are in the vicinity.  He may be giant, and ferocious when hunting the mice and voles, but he is one big pussycat at heart.

Lately, he's been acting a little nutso.

Randomly, he will jerk awake from a sound sleep or leap into the air while walking along, as though someone has come along and pinched him in the rear.  Whirling around, he starts to bite and snarl and act as though his tail is a foriegn kitty that  It would be amusing, if it wasn't occurring multiple times during the day and the night.  As in, middle of the night, on my bed, when I am trying to sleep. 

This morning, after being awakened abruptly around 2 AM by sharp claws impaling my backside and the screeching of a one-cat cat fight, I was in no mood for this to continue.  I held him down and took a look, trying to see if there were any fleas or pinched things or big sores...nothing.  After a call in to the vet, to confirm my suspicions that I was dealing with something out of the ordinary when it comes to feline behavior, we went in for a consultation.  The diagnosis is possible flea bite reaction (although there's no hint of a flea anywhere), resulting in deep dermatitis.  Beezle wound up with a shot in the butt of depo-something-or-other to combat the itching response, and a different flea preventative to try, just in case there are fleas coming in on the frontline-dosed dogs.

If this doesn't work, we'll be moving on to psychotropic medications next.  Possibly for me, but definitely for the cat.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Nook

This was such a great afternoon.  I coerced my friend Mike into coming along for a road trip to Gene's in Weyerhauser.  Oh, how I love Gene's!  Five barns filled to the brim, floor to rafters, with stacks and boxes and piles of junk to sort through.  At some point, I wandered off and ditched Mike in the depths of one of the barns, and went in search of treasures.  I wound up finding a deal on a twin sized mattress and a little shelf-table thing, which will work to fix up a cozy area for reading and little kid guests to enjoy.  My other "guest" areas are in fairly public spots in my little house, so when someone wants to go to bed early (or needs to be put to bed early so the grownups can have some adult time without them), there hasn't been a spot to stick them into.

No longer is this an issue!  I've rearranged the former sewing area upstairs, and created a little nook with a $20 daybed frame, a bookshelf, and that little table I mentioned finding at Gene's.  Here's the initial outcome after an hour or so of wrangling furniture:

It's a tad austere at the moment, but just wait until I swathe it in layers of quilts and pillows.  I think I may need to find some kitchy cowgirl fabric somewhere and make a big body pillow along the back.  And maybe some sequins...definitely sequins!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lazy Hazy Days of Summer


Summer break from my main job started at 12:47 PM today, and I am giddy *giddy I tell you* with sheer joyfulness.  Never has a school year wound down so slowly, painfully slowly.  It was like a milimeter by milimeter removal of a very sticky bandaid on a hairy man's back, right down to the bitter end.

Whew.  Thank goodness that's over and done with!

Let the revelries commence.  I celebrated my good fortune with a thorough weeding of the herb garden, where the guerilla mint still persists in making forays into the brick-laid beds.  Dang mint.  It wouldn't be so bad if it hadn't hybridized into a nasty testing mess.  But because it is revolting and good for nothing, it must be rooted out (literally) and destroyed.  Plus, all the little winged seeds of the box elders have started sprouting and if I let them go, I would have quite the forest of box elders on my hands.  I have to admit, I do feel a little bad rooting out tiny trees.  I'm sure the Druids would frown upon it, but then again, perhaps the Druids would prefer to have healthy lovage and oregano to spice up their meals.  You can't stuff a box elder into a chicken and call it roasted goodness, that's for darn sure.

I was going to do more weeding, and perhaps some manure hauling, but then I thought:  Hey, it's the start of  vacation.  Let's begin as we mean to proceed, Chicken Lady. 

Pardon me while I go take a little nap.  Yay, summer vacation!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

They've arrived!

 This morning, I slept in a little in honor of Saturday.  It was glorious--no alarm, no howling cat reminding me that they needed to be fed, just peace and the rumble of the window air conditioner.  But once I was up, dressed, and had a cup of coffee in me, I had a mission.

Today was Brooder Building Day.

A few months ago, I placed my order of Cornish Cross meat chickens with McMurray Hatchery, and picked the next available due date: June 11th.  Now, McMurray is a great company to work with, but they do have a tendency to mail their chicks early.  As in, three to four days early.  And that meant, I should have had a brooder ready about three days ago...but there's nothing like procrastination to get the blood pumping and the power tools revved up.

I picked up several sheets of chipboard, a couple of old free pallets, and some corner brackets from the local lumberyard.  The pallets bring it up off the floor (to help avoid flooding from rainstorms), and the chipboard works to make the sides and flooring under the pine shavings.  Hinge one end, and you've got yourself a brooder.  There was a brief moment of consternation when two different heat lamp bulbs "pinged" and died immediately after plugging in.  Luckily, I had squirreled away a 250 watt red heat light bulb in a safe location.  What was even more lucky was that I was able to find that "safe location".  I am fantastic about losing things that have been put into "safe places".  They're so safe, no one can ever find them.  Ha ha.

No sooner had I driven in the last screw and spread the layer of shavings when my phone rang.  It was the post office dispatch center in Eau Claire, informing me that several boxes of chicks had arrived with my name on it.  So this afternoon, I hopped into Lucille Laverne and cruised down to the backside of Lake Hallie to pick up my chicks.

Have chicks, will travel.  I swear I should write bumper stickers.

Anyway, there were THREE boxes of chicks.  I've never gotten three boxes all at once before.  Two hundred chicks were peeping madly away, the entire hour drive home.  If you didn't like  that sound, you would be driven to madness.  It could be a new torture technique.  Well, maybe the CIA already uses it?  Once we got home, I filled up the water container and feed trays, and it was time to unpack the weary travelers.  Each one got their little beak dunked twice (that is 400 dunks...not that I counted) and then was tossed into the general melee.  There were chicks running all over the place, on top of my feet, around my ankles, trying to leap into the waterer, climbing all around the feeders.

It was sheer bedlam.

It was wonderful.

In a couple weeks, these little yellow fuzzballs will be feathered out and ready to spend a summer in the fields, munching on grass and bugs and fulfilling their purpose to become delicious dinners for many.

Now, I just have to build eight chicken tractors in the next two weeks....

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fiddle Dee Dee

I feel like Scarlet O'Hara, where tomorrow really is another day. This one is turning out to be lightyears away from yesterday's rough go of it. Not only did I get up on time, but I had two whole cups of coffee before I left the house. I caught all the roosters and crated them easily, and then stuck them in the back of Lucille Laverne and made chicken deliveries.

One Jersey Black rooster went to my friends Khaiti & Andrew of LTD Farm (check them out at, who needed a replacement for their aged rooster. Hopefully he won't turn out to be a hen-masher and will serve their flock of Barred Rock beauties well. Then it was off to my friend Raine's place, to drop of two more Jersey Blacks and one Amber Link.

Now, the Amber Link is a bit of a mystery. Amber Link chickens are a sex-linked breed, combining the Delaware with a Rhode Island Red. As such, any with the pale coloring are supposed to all be pullets. But my little "man" chicken is colored like a pullet (very pale cream with tiny touches of brown on the wings and back), and a definite juvenille crowing going on in the morning. Genetics is just a force unto itself, know what I mean?  He may be a hermaphrodite.  He may be sterile.  But one thing is for sure, he acts like a rooster and as I like my neighbors, off he goes to a new farm.  I think he (and the other boys too) will all have a grand time teasing the cats, chasing the goats, and bonding with my personal hero, Bob the sheep.

Anyway, the boys made the 60 mile-per-hour, hour long drive north with hardly a scratch. A couple of feathers flew out and caught my attention as I was tooling along, but nobody arrived at their final destination completely naked.

Huh. This reminds me of something...oh yeah! Here it is, Sam the Eagle and his Discourse on Nudity:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Some Days are Trouble.

I am having one of those kind of days today.  Where nothing goes right, nothing that should be easy actually is, and where you feel like you are scurrying and rushed from the moment you roll out of bed.

That was the onset of my day:  I woke up late.  Waaaaaay late.  Late as in "ohmygoodnessthatclockhadbestnotbeshowingtherealtimeohmyisitreallythattimewhattheheckamidoinginbedohnooooooooo" kind of late.  The cats who were sleeping with me were flung in all directions as I heaved my way out from under the covers and ran downstairs like the White Rabbit with his tail on fire, late for a tea party with the Mad Hatter.

Speaking of fires, we had one in the Bunny Barn this morning.  Nothing major, just a bit of flung pee falling into the extension cord causing smoking and sparks and a few wee flames.  Why was pee being flung about the place?  Oh, I am so glad you asked.  The teenage rabbits have discovered their boy and girl parts, and the single buck was happily carousing with his sister does.  Do I have any place else to put him?  Nope, I don't.  I was hoping for a few more days of teenage-hood.  So after I am done with my work day today, I get to go home and add rabbit butchering to the To-Do List.  Not a big deal, really, but it added an interesting element to the morning already filled with lateness and flames.  Flung pee = Cris needs to change clothes before going to work, and on a late day this just makes things a bit more exotic.  It also means that no coffee is drunk before heading out the door.  That is a crisis of nearly epic proportions. 

And when I did head out the door to race off for a distant meeting that I was verging on being more-than-fashionably-late for, I was greeted by the sound of three juvenille roosters tunefully practicing their crows in the Big Shed Coop.  By my calculations, they should be no where near ready to start crowing. No. Where. Near. They are prodigies, I tell you.  It would be impressive, if I was ready to be impressed by crowing cockerels.  Of the fourteen "guaranteed pullets" (ha ha--guaranteed, my Aunt Fanny), I have at least four and possibly a fifth one that turned out to be little roosters.  They are sweet and cute and all that, but really.  FOUR of them?? Good thing I have lovely friends who are delighted at the prospect of acquiring some free chickens, even if they are the noisy rooster variety.  (Check out the farmy goings-on at

Top all that with checking of email, and discovering that a project that has been a long time in coming has a major blockage in the ol' waterworks.  No good solution is in the offing, and it will make for a long, challenging summer of gardening for a bunch of people.  This, on top of a rough morning and the endless joy of wrapping up a school year, does not make for a very happy person typing this little blog entry.  I am hoping to recover my sanity after consuming many red licorice bites.

Sigh.  It is never a dull moment, I tell you.

So now I am eating lunch in a lovely little cafe in River Falls, sipping luscious dark roast coffee and enjoying some artwork:

Not an ounce of rabbit pee in sight.  Blissful!

Now, back to writing some work-related reports.  Only three more days and I will be able to focus on my  real life as a chicken farmer-gardening lunatic for at least eight weeks of summer.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Night in the Woods

I had forgotten how much I love camping. 

The past couple of summers, I haven't gone on a road trip with the dogs and a tent.  I didn't realize how much I missed that experience of falling asleep to moonlight and tree frogs and the wind whispering through tall oak trees stretching above you...

Of course, this time, we were crammed into a Scamp.  For those who don't know what the heck that is, this is a Scamp:

courtesy of
Well, those are a collection of Scamps.  The teeny one in the front is roughly what we were using, with more of a retro-late 1980s look to it.

The "we" I keep referring to was my best girlfriend Amy and her two kids, who had never been camping before and who were over the moon excited about it.  They got to sleep on the little bunk beds at the front of the camper, and Amy and I slept head-to-foot in the spacious (ha ha) double bed that in the morning converted back to a breakfast nook.  The dogs slept in the truck, as they wouldn't fit in with all of us.  I can't say that we got a heck of a lot of sleep, between kids crashing to the floor randomly throughout the night and swishy sleeping bags making hissing noises that got louder and louder as it got later and later, and the dogs barking at nocturnal squirrels.  (At least I hope they were squirrels.)  But we had all the elements of a fantastic camping trip:  roasted corn and hotdogs for dinner, the exotic facilities of the public bath house, a smoky campfire (wet wood equals no flames), and smores made with much more marshmallow than should be legally allowed.  There were even some gruesome and ghastly ghost stories provided by the kids--I think they involved some kind of bad guy and electricity machines, but they were hard to follow.  Oh, and the camping breakfast of eggs, sausages, fried english muffins and fresh fruit.  Gotta have a good breakfast!

The Scamp is too cute, literally too cute.  It has it's quirks, of course.  The canopy has issues with being set-up, staying up, and then retracting into it's little compartment when you want to put it away--so I think needs replacement.  I have an idea for a homemade one...anyway, so the canopy has "issues".  The roof vent cover is broken, and won't stay on, so needs replacing as well.  I did a little research, and it sounds pretty easy to replace and it isn't terribly expensive to order the part from the Scamp guys.  And then there is the small issue of the water leak under the sink, which I found out after the water connection had been hooked up for 20 minutes or so causing some flooding onto the carpeting, after flowing through an electrical plug that was connected to the running mini fridge.  Yikes-a-rooni!  Anyway, it seems to be dried out now after a bit of help from a fan, and I think the fix will just be to reattached and tighten the hose clamps around the inside connection.  It sure made for a night of squishy wet feet, and I don't want a repeat performance!

I'm looking forward to going out again with just the dogs, and spending a relaxing night under the stars, with a roaring campfire and a good book.  It should look something like this:

 I think the doggles and I will fit into the Scamp, and be nice and cozy.  It will be a little harder for the bears to peel open and eat us (and our marshmallow supply).

I mean, you just have to keep that breakfast safe from maurauding wildlife.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Walking the Tiller

Yesterday was a busy day:  work, followed by a mission to find a 6 round pin-to-seven flat pin adaptor for towing (more on that to come), a bit of garden squeezed in, followed by egg for cheese trading and dinner with friends.

I realized that yesterday morning was the last day in May.  Then I realized, crap.  None of my summer seeds are in the ground!  No beans, no peas, no corn, no nothing.  Augh!  Some of these crops need days and days of growing time, and while it's still early in the season, they really need to be in the earth.  All day, while writing reports and answering calls I kept thinking about one thing:  Must. Plant. Beans.

Must. Plant. Beans.

Must. Plant. Beans.

So once I finally had some garden time available, I was off to plant those beans I had been thinking obsessive thoughts over.  The only dilemma was, those beans are intended to be planted in my community garden plot.  The plot needed to be tilled before planting.  I have a tiller, but no trailer.  Hmmmm....what to do, what to do?

The only solution was this:  Fill up that teeny gas tank (an exercise in extreme annoyance, as you can fill the gas container easily BUT you can't get the gas to come out of the safety-proof spigot without swearing, smashing things, and shaking it in fury).  Grab the hoe and some markers, stuff the seeds and cell phone in the back pocket.  Start that clunky old engine.

And then, drive this down the road:

Yes, that's right.  I piloted a vintage 1960s-era Briggs & Stratton rototiller up the block to the Community Garden.  It was clanking.  It was rumbling.  It sounded like a small airplane had fallen from the sky and was limping up the road at two miles per hour.  People slowed down their cars to stare and gawp, and then when I smiled and waved like I was in a parade, they sped up and drove away from the crazy person taking her tiller for a walk.

Just another day in the life of the Chicken Lady.

Really, my neighbors should be used to this by now.

The tiller and I made it to the garden without losing any essential metal bits or a rubber belt along the way, and then it was all about turfing up the soft black soil and whacking out clumps of aggressive quack grass.  After about an hour of working away, this is what was left:

Three long rows of hilled up King of the Early beans.  It'll look much more impressive when they sprout.

And then I walked the tiller back home.  I'm really good at steering while doing the Princess wave now.  Maybe I'll join the Dairy Days parade in July...