Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dia de Los Muertos

Happy Halloween!

It took me all day to set up, and the weather never improved beyond a dismal fogginess, but I think this year's Halloween display may be one of my best yet.  I've been plotting a Dia de Los Muertos theme for the past year, and I think I managed to pull it off!

The kids really liked the candle-lined walk in to the yard.

The centerpiece: an altar to greet hungry ancestral spirits.

Graves, decorated for the holiday.

One of my more favorite headstones--love the eyes!

Flowers, candles, a skull--reminders of death in the midst of life.

There were plenty of snacks for spirits' enjoyment, including apple turnovers!

A four foot tall sugar skull--made from thin insulation.

Adult beverage bar, because parents deserve treats, too.

And after all that set-up, I got to enjoy a beer and weinie roast by the fire.

The pictures are much brighter than the day actually was--it was dark, and grim, and very damp.  I was practically sitting in the fire to keep warm.  It was worth it, though, to hear the kids' exclamations of delight as they came up the street and saw my display.  Lots of them had running commentary as they came up, saying things like "oh yeah, this house is awesome!" and "Mom, Mom, look what she did this year!" and "Man, this looks like Spanish class!"  (Apparently, the Spanish teacher at the local school taught a lesson on the Day of the Dead today.  She'd be happy to know that her students learned something!)

I lasted until about 7:40 PM, and then large raindrops started landing on me as I sat beneath the pine trees.  I took that as my cue to turn off the lights, pack up the last of the Cheetos (all my candy is gone, yippee), and head inside where it was warmer and drier.  The santos candles and jack-o-lanterns are left to burn as they will throughout the night, and any hungry spirits can help themselves to the bread, apples and turnovers that they need for their travels. 

And that is Halloween, done for another year.  I can hardly wait to start planning for next year!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Dreams

Tomorrow is the Big Show.  I'm planning on spending the day, putting the final touches on my annual Halloween display.  It's not quite as dramatic as last year--no alien space ship involved--but it's certainly going to be fun.

What am I doing this year?

Stay tuned and find out tomorrow evening!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Reviewing the To-Do List

Remember waaaaaaay back at the beginning of summer, when I came up with my annual, overly ambitious To-Do List?  Let's see how I did, shall we?

Summer 2013 To-Do List

1. Till up all gardens--front and back
2. Plant perennial vegetables in back garden by fence (Good King Henry, horseradish, Jerusalem Artichoke, Walking Onions)
3. Finish planting out garden starts and seeds
4.  Mulch everything with rabbit poo and compost
5. Get the hose connection pipe fixed, again.  Change to PVC?
6.  Plant Virginia creeper along wall of new Bunny Barn--how to train up?
7. Trim the rosebushes in front.  Not happening before snow fall, I don’t think.
8.  Dig out and replant flower beds in front.  I think this will be next year.
9.  Schedule work on root cellar project--needs to be done before October!  Again, happening next year.
10.  Move chickens out to fields in tractors.
11.  Figure out care coordination for chickens in the tractors.
12.  Hire lawnboy again for the summer--same one?  Different guy?
13.  If no lawnboy, look into hiring a sheep or two every week.
14.  Decide which rabbit to keep, and organize rest for sale at swap in June.
15.  Schedule chicken harvest date in August.
16.  Plant community garden plot.
17.  Go through spare plant starts; organize for Plant Swap in June.
18.  Water in the hoop house?
19.  Plant in hoop house.
20.  Rain barrels:  this year or next?  Next year!
21.  Pigeons:  this year or next? 
22.  Figure out sprayer and mix up Pyola concentrate.
23.  Mole problem:  how to control?  Dang critters digging up everything!  I think they moved.
24.  Clean out Little Coop; prep for new chickens.
25.  Buy new roosting bars for Little Coop; hang them.
26.  Need four more wren houses for top of back fence.  Local maker?

Huh.  Not too shabby for a girl with a bad leg.

Who knows.  Maybe I will get to those roses before snow flies.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Titli's Busy Garden

If you've been reading my blog for a little while now, you might have picked up on my love affair with all things British.  I am a particular fan of allotment gardening--it's like community gardening, but British.  Awesome!  While watching my marathon of Sean's Allotment this past weekend, I came across this gem. 

Isn't she just adorable?  (She kind of reminds me of me, but British.)

Sunday, October 27, 2013


My poor girls are not quite as shiny now as they were when this picture was taken.  Feathers are everywhere, new spiny growth is sticking out like porcupine quills, and the Ladies are down to their fluffy underdrawers.

Naked chickens, everywhere!

The annual fall molt is upon them.  Poor things, they don't know whether they are coming or going.  While they haven't stopped laying entirely, their egg production fluctuates from day to day--sometimes, six eggs, sometimes nine or ten.  They are all eating and scurrying around like usual, but there is a touch more grumpiness and crabbiness than usual.  If someone has a treat or acts like something delicious may be in a corner, another one comes over and starts a fight until she gets to have the treat for herself.  Squabble squabble squabble!  I'll be glad when their feathers come back in and they start acting like their peaceful selves again.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Odd, But It Works.

You might have seen this floating around Facebook or on Pinterest, and wondered, huh does it really work?  And you know me, I can't help but give things a whirl to see if they actually do, well, work.

Since I have plenty of eggs, it wasn't a pinch to find a spare dozen to try out the trick of baking "hard boiled" eggs in a muffin tin.  Basically, you heat the oven to 325 degrees and then bake the eggs, which have been placed in a muffin tin (just dry, no greasing or adding of water needed) for 25 minutes.  I guess you could do 30 minutes, but I found 25 minutes to be perfect for soft, delicate yellow-orange yolks and tender firm whites. The eggs give off an odd smell when baking, kind of like hot chalk, and they extrude a little liquid through their shells like little pimples and steam away happily.  After they are done and cool off a bit, they are quite nice "hard boiled" eggs, which peel fairly easily.  (I say fairly easily because these are, of course, very fresh eggs which don't really peel well regardless of which way they are hard boiled--but with this method, the peel came off with a minimum of lost egg white.)

So now you know.  In this one instance, what you've read or seen on the internet actually does work!

Friday, October 25, 2013


I have plans to relax a little this evening, before jumping into Halloween decorating mayhem.  I think I will be watching a few episodes of Sean's Allotment, a perfectly delightful little program from across the Pond.

Isn't he just delightful?  I love his friends, too.  Someday, if I ever make it to the United Kingdom, I really want to go visit them and have a cuppa in the garden, after helping them to do a little weeding or digging.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Glorious Chocolate Spread

I admit it.

I am a Nutella fan.

Oh, sweet chocolate hazelnut spread of joy.

Here's my latest favorite way to eat it:

Step 1: Scoop a good quantity of plain greek yogurt into a bowl.

Step 2: Add sliced bananas on top.

Step 3: On top of all this, place a good sized dollop of Nutella spread.

Step 4: Sit and devour the goodness.

Really, this is seriously good comfort food.  Yum.  Excuse me while I go back for seconds.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Weather

This week, the weather turned cold with a chill wind from the north.  Sunday brought snow showers, with the same repeated on Monday.  The leaves have pretty much fallen to the ground, much to the delight of the chickens in the Big Coop.  They've been braving the wind and ice pellets to scrounge for beetles and worms, even though they are scarcely covered by feathers due to molt.

Poor Harriet Tubman looks absolutely miserable, down to her fluffy undergarments.  She hasn't ventured out of the coop for days, preferring to hunker down and brood on the roost in a warm corner.  You haven't seen miserable until you've seen a naked chicken.  Poor thing.

Meanwhile, in the Little Coop, the Little Ladies have all started laying, giving me four eggs daily.  Dickens is very proud of his girls.  I finally took a look on the internet and came up with a list of "new names" for the girls.  I wanted to name them after female characters in Dickens' novels.  So far, I've come up with these:  Caddy Jellyby, Dolly Varden, Rosa Bud, and Polly Toodle.  Don't you just love them?  Charles Dickens certainly had a way with creative names.

Now I've got the names, I've just have to observe the ladies in the Little Coop and figure out which one fits each one.

And, I've got a new rabbit in the Bunny Barn.  I have to think of a name for him, too.  He was a trade for one of my young bucks, which was great as I had four of them and was in need of a new buck to add to the bloodlines of my little herd.  He's quite the handsome fellow, large and white and very sweet mannered.  Now, if I can only keep my insane Labradoodle from licking him through the lattice...naughty dog!  Max the Wonderdoodle loves his rabbits; unfortunately, he generally just wants to eat them.  (Sigh.)

Sorry to not have photos of the critters, but it was too grey and dark to take good ones before sunset this evening.  From the weather forecast, it sounds like the theme for the week.  Good thing I've got some firewood to keep the wood stove fired up, or else I might just go into hibernation.  Brrr.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Truck Farm

If you haven't seen King Corn yet, you should.  That's where these film makers got their start--and then they made this little documentary film about farming in their old Dodge truck and checking out urban farming in New York City.  I'm adding this to my "must watch" list of films.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pushing the Envelope

As you may have guessed, I like experimenting in the kitchen.  Sometimes, it leads me to unexpected places.

Take, for example, my latest experiment: Boston Brown Bread, steamed and sealed in a canning jar.

Lest I bring down CDC and USDA lackeys upon my head, let me preface this by saying that, yes, I did read all the scary scary warnings about the terrible evils of canning breads in a jar.  Yes, I acknowledge that I am possibly bringing about the possibility of poisoning myself with botulism, which I cannot see, smell or taste which might grow in my canned bread.

I might also trip in the Big Coop, fall, hit my head, and be consumed by the Ladies as a delicious snack.

I think the likelihood of either happenstance occurring is about evenly matched at most likely never going to happen.

But, to satisfy any legal-eeze that might come about following this blog post, let me state for the record that I am NOT advocating that anyone else try this, nor am I endorsing this product for mass consumption by other home canners.  I did this for my own purposes, and as such, if I manage to poison my sorry self, I only have myself to blame.  Right?  Right.

Anywho. On with the show.

I've been wanting to try out this recipe for a while, as I love Boston Brown Bread, and grew up with it in the can from the B&M Beans Company in New England.  Living in the Midwest, it is nearly impossible to find this staple--so, I decided I would try making a small stash of my very own.  I found a recipe here, and after emailing back and forth with the author, decided that I would give it a whirl.  First, I had to track down some wide mouth pint jars, and then I needed to find "good" buttermilk.  And then, I had to actually be home for an extended period of time, as you steam this bread for about 2 1/2 hours.

As you can see from the above photo, I now have gloriously dark brown Boston Brown Bread waiting for me to devour it.  (I did make a small loaf in a coffee can, just so I can have some immediately).  Here's my thoughts about storing it:

1.  Yes, I am planning to put a can or two on the shelf in the pantry.  I want to see how it does in that environment, and plan to eat it within a couple of months.

2.  Just for experimentation purposes, I am going to put the remaining cans into the freezer once they are completely cooled.  The jars did indeed seal with very satifying pings, so they are air tight--I think this might help the bread to avoid freezer burn.

3.  Really, I am not worried about poisoning myself.  I know my kitchen, I know the quality of ingredients, and I know how I processed them.  So all in all, I feel pretty comfortable with this experiment.  Plus, I have my doctor on speed dial in case of emergencies.  Ha!

Please note:  Again, I'm not advocating that everyone who reads this blog entry go out and start canning up breads and cakes willy nilly.  Proceed at your own risk, should you chose to do an experiment of your own.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Victoriana Gardening

Photo courtesy of

Summer's garden is just barely done for the year, and here I am, plotting away for next year's growing season. 

I'm in the mood for something unusual and dramatic.  Tall, with large leaves.  Potentially dangerous, as well.

Cardoon should fit the bill nicely, I think.

Cardoon is a relative of the artichoke.  It was highly popular during the Victorian era, along with things like chicory, sea kale, and corn salad.  Where you eat the flower head of the artichoke, with cardoon you eat the blanched and peeled stalk.  It is related to the thistle, so there are formidable spikes on the leaves and narrow tips of the stalks.  They aren't particularly suited to Zone 3, but with a little coaxing, an early start indoors and growing in a pot in a sunny warm corner of the garden (and watering heavily), I think I will give it a go.  It's flavor has been described as mildly artichoke-esque with a hint of licorice--to some reading this, they may be recoiling in horror, but I think it sounds intriguing.  I've already come across a recipe for cardoon au gratin--and who doesn't like vegetables smothered in a rich buttery cheese sauce?

If nothing else, I can cut and use the spiky stalks as a weapon during the zombie apocalypse.