Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just getting by...

I'm pretty much on auto-pilot this week. Confession: I'm tired. I'm somewhat cranky. I feel fat. I feel like I'm coming down with something. Can you hear a squeaky violin playing somewhere in the background? ;-)

In all seriousness I'm just "getting by" for the next 48 hours. This week is the last week of my job. Hopefully forever. I can just TASTE the freedom but... I need to make it just a little while longer. Then I will have (hopefully) two months to rest, play, work, and prepare for Baby. Then, according to some, my life will be over. Others say then life will just begin. I'm shooting for somewhere in the middle .

No pictures today. Nothing particularly fun. I can report that the last of the figs have been picked for this year . Those %#%! grackles were merciless. I don't mind sharing some of my figs with birds (especially sweet sparrows or morning doves) but grackles are the worst. They take ONE BITE out of a beautiful, ripe fig and then leave the rest. And they say humans are wasteful... Fortunately the chickens still get to enjoy the half-eaten figs and I have enough to put away one more batch of fig jam, along with some leftovers to just EAT. Then back to the grapes.

It IS interesting, never having really done intense preservation methods before, how much you are at the mercy of the weather and time. I used to think that only applied to gardening itself, but it applies here too. Fig season is short anyway and the birds make it shorter. You only have so many days to harvest, and then put them away (or eat them!) before they are chicken snacks (figs do NOT have a great shelf life). Same with the grapes. We are getting close to their overripe stage so I MUST move forward and pick them this week if I'm going to do anything productive with them. Since I harvest the wild grapes from land belonging to other people, this takes some coordination. But after that, the rest of my plans are on a more relaxed timeline. I foresee being done with grapes and figs by early next week. I think.

Incidentally I just realized this reads as if I view all this as a drudgery. I do NOT! In fact, I'm merely begrudging the fact that for now, for this week - I still have a job and can't do all the things I really WANT to do. I'm being called to a higher work but held back by a few strands of obligations that I'm anxious to finally sever. Just a few more days.... :-)

Last thought: Remember my lofty weekend list? Um, yeah... I think half of it was accomplished. But that's ok, my weekend list is usually the jumping off point for the week's list. And besides... I'll have more time soon!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Scratch, scratch, scratch...

So yesterday I went from this:

To this!

That's what about 10 lbs of wild Mustang Grapes will get you. That and itchy hands. I had always been slightly derisive of people with skin issues. I've heard people complain about the notorious "fig itch" from fig leaves, warning to wear long sleeves and gloves. HA! I boldly go in amongst my Fig Jungle wearing a sleeveless top and barehands. I think my smugness has been due in part to having what has been described as "delicate skin" because I'm extremely fair-skinned. Puh-leaze... my skin may have that look but c'mon, it's Irish skin for a reason; it has a heritage of grubbing for taters in the cold dirt. It's pretty hardy. I had also received many warnings about the high acidity level of Mustang Grapes, proclamations as extreme as the grapes burning the skin of your hands. I did take some gloves but never put them on, never had a single issue during the picking or after.

That however changed in light of actually CRUSHING the grapes. It's not too bad but oi vey, yes, it ITCHES!!!!

But when I look at that row of pretty little sparking bottles of jelly, it's worth it :-)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Garden Nerd Alert!

Just to amuse you (and because it's Friday and work is BORING), I've drawn a little "yard map" to give you an idea of the space I have with which to work. I have no idea how well anyone can see this but here it is:

I know I SAID that I want to use this weekend to focus on the accomplishments we've done in the last few months BUT I can't help but make a list here of what I still want to do in the near future (being fall):

2 semi-dwarf apple trees
1 or 2 peach trees
Any other fruit trees I can fit
I keep thinking that I need to plant the lemon, lime, and apricot eventually or they won't do much but WHERE? How do I keep sunny areas for garden AND plant a gazillion fruit trees? Thoughts?

Also hope to do some more decorative herb beds, but that's easy stuff and plenty of room to squeeze those prettily around the yard.

Yes. I am a Woman Obsessed.

This and That...

Just a quickie little post. I spent all of Monday evening making fig jam and between that and work and the little watermelon I'm carrying with me 24/7 it seemed to do me in for several days. MUST remember that the whole "barefoot, pregnant, working in the kitchen" thing doesn't work for me - my flat feet have to wear shoes! Ugh! Not that I haven't been somewhat productive - Tuesday evening was spent picking wild grapes (and I didn't take my camera, I'm disgusted with myself) out of which I hope to make several batches of jelly and if I get really, really brave - some wine. Wednesday I reveled in the peace of a summer rain that brought joy and happiness to all of us dried-up raisins in S. Texas. Thursday... What did I do Thursday??? I crashed and burned. Oh and I finished my first new fictional read in a long time (lately I've been more of a "books of information" reader), Alas Babylon by Pat Frank (a most excellent book! Suprisingly enjoyable given the topic).

Fortunately I woke up somewhat recovered and I'm trying to get myself in gear for a weekend jam-packed (ha!) full of plans. Here is my Wish List of what I hope to get done. Maybe.

·Make watermelon jelly.
·Possibly get started on watermelon rind pickles -- I hear they are great but honestly, what does one DO with watermelon rind pickles??? Does anyone know?
·Make another batch of fig jam.
·Make several batches of grape jelly.
·Clear out Garden Plot #1 of summer remains, add some manure yum to the dirt, and set it up for a few weeks of sun solarization.
·Prep for Garden Plot #2
·Finish the most long-winded "simple" project I have undertaken this year, what has become known as the Infamous Orange Tree Redo (will have pictures of that soon).
·Finish up the Kitchen Reorganizing Project and have it nice and clean and smelling yummy by Sunday evening.
·Start making some serious headway on the Study Reorganizing Project (which I've started in small spurts of available time).
·Get some progress done on a gift project that has been in the works forever and MUST be done in the next week - a corkboard made of wine corks as a gift to my boss.
·General straightening of the house and those mundane little tasks that make life during the week easier (menu planning, gathering of food from the Farmer's Market and store, etc).
·Really, really need to clean and move the chicken coop (NOTE: this has been on my list for weeks and see how it is still on the BOTTOM of the list?)

Whew... I'm tired again looking at this list. We shall see what actually gets DONE ;-) I would actually love to also make some chicken stock but I don't think I can handle THAT many pots on the stove all at once. Even I have a limit.

Lastly, I feel that I need to take a step back and really look at the yard and space, and consider not what needs to be done next, but enjoy and appreciate all that has been accomplished for the first half of the year. And because I can't do anything without going all Nerd Brain, maybe make a yard map. Oooooh I love maps.....

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Saucerful of Heaven

A word on desserts: Despite my last post on ice cream, we don’t do a lot of desserts in the house. I definitely have a sweet tooth but I try to be careful for a variety of reasons (weight, some blood sugar issues in the family, etc). More and more I’ve been turning to exclusively maple syrup or raw honey as a sweetener for all my cooking. The only exceptions to this is my single daily cuppa coffee and when I make jam/jelly – for those things I still use sugar (albeit organic). I have also been trying to keep desserts simple and incorporating more fruit or natural things (as opposed to a pastry, or something processed). Lastly, I only “make” a dessert about once a week – as a special treat to perk up the middle of the week (not counting my yogurt & honey escapades - that's a PROTEIN snack! Right? RIGHT??!!).

Last week when the figs were first ripening I came up with this decadent little dessert. I did a some research and pulled together ideas from my various foodie websites but the final result is my own creation.

First I cut some figs in half -- aren't cut figs strangely luscious and sensual???

Meanwhile I melted some butter and honey together with a dash of a few spices (you could probably insert just about any spice here like cinnamon, allspice, anise, etc). Then I put the fig halves in a small baking dish and drizzled the honey/butter mixture all over them. THEN I topped them with the teeniest, tiniest dollop of my yogurt cheese. I roasted them for about 15 minutes in the oven and then... voila! A little saucerful of heaven for The Mister and myself :-)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A little bit of yum

Must. Stop. Eating. So. Much. Ice. Cream.

I have always had an ice cream addiction but lately it's gotten to be a BIT much. Plus I need to add more protein to my diet. I still get a pint for the weekend but here is my new "healthy alternative" dessert to satiate my need for delicious creamy decadence during the week. Plain whole-fat yogurt mixed with local honey. Next time need to try it with vanilla. OOOH and maybe crushed figs!!! ;-)

It isn't Caramel Cone but it's a heck of a lot better than ice milk (BLECH!!!)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Homemade Laban Cheese

I made a comment on Facebook the other day about making some homemade cheese. So just a quick blip on that cheese... I make it out of yogurt although it can also be made out of whole milk, buttermilk, and kefir. Making it out of yogurt gives you the texture of cream cheese with an every so slightly sour taste - think of it as a hybrid between cream cheese and sour cream.

Tidbit of the day: To make it specifically out of yogurt creates a cheese commonly used in the Middle East called Laban Cheese.

Rather than recite all the instructions, I'll simply direct you to one of my favorite Foodie sites, Cheeseslave

Here is a picture of my Laban cheese when it is finished:

Moms, this would be a fun EASY project to do with the kids!

One caveat - you must use PLAIN WHOLE FAT dairy. A little blueberry cup of "yogurt" isn't going to work. If you can get raw dairy, even better. When I can't get raw milk to make my own yogurt, I use Strauss yogurt out of CA. It's pasteurized but the cows are primarily grassfed and hormone/anti-biotic free.

Someday I hope to do more cheesemaking someday but this is about as much as I can do with my equipment and knowledge... so far ;-)

It's a figgy sort of day...

So... remember when I posted this picture of my fig tree earlier this year?

Check it out now!!!!

Funny thing about this fig tree... I've had it for years and years but it never did anything fruit-wise. Back in February 2010 I told it if it didn't start producing figs it was going to be chopped down to make room for a GOOD fig tree. Sure enough, about a month later, some of the branches of a looming chinaberry tree came off and some figs appeared! I guess the poor tree was choked off from the sunlight figs love so much. THIS February the ENTIRE chinaberry tree was chopped down and the fig tree is going CRAZY!!! Figs are amazing things, considering we've had basically zero rain for months the figs are still there. Perhaps not as plump but happy enough. We are now in fig season so I've been going a-figging.

Peering through the fig jungle!

So expect some figgy posts the next few days... I'm making fig preserves, fig jam, fig desserts... Fig season is so short and so precious, it really only lasts just a few weeks. But hopefully I'll be able to capture enough figs in jars to brighten up a rainy winter morning. And of course, I'm sure a few figs will just end up popped into my mouth as well ;-)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lessons in Gardening, Part 1

So this spring I had what I consider to be my first REAL garden. Technically I did plant a garden last spring but it was a colossal failure for several reasons.

1. I didn’t plant anything on time. I had the plot ready, I had the seeds… what I didn’t have was a P L A N. Yes, on certain things I’m a Planner of the Highest Magnitude. I love the details in planning. Oh, I planned the heck out of my garden but by the time I got done planning and actually planted something, it was far, far too late in the season.
2. I didn’t understand watering. It isn’t just giving plants some water, especially in S. Texas (this is something I’m still learning).
3. Don’t bury your seeds. I planted my seeds so safely, so securely, soooo deeply! The poor little guys couldn’t get enough growth to get their heads above ground. I’ve learned to just pat them into the ground.

I thought at the time, that’s ok, I’ll do better in the fall (fall is really be BEST of our three seasons down here). The only catch was that by the time fall planting rolled around, I was falling madly in love with this handsome man who by Christmas would be my husband. Needless to say my mind was not on gardening ;-)

So this spring, handsome sexy hubbie aside, I was DETERMINED to do a garden the right way. I still had to overcome my planning tendencies. Fortunately I was able to use a lot of the info I had put together from last year (again, the plan wasn’t so bad, just the timing). I actually got some seeds in the ground – on time! I actually made a garden map with dates. When some seeds didn’t do well, I replanted (and recorded the new date). If they still didn’t grow, I marked those seeds as junk (didn’t toss them though, someday I’ll do a wild haphazard plot and just toss all my junk seeds out and see what happens…that could have really cool results). I watered, I nurtured, I sang and talked to my plants, I even prayed over my little plot. How did it do?

Weeeeeell… from a harvest perspective… I’ll call it “ok” but really it’s been pretty dismal. My mustard and collard greens went crazy, and I got quite a few radishes out of the deal. Everything else? Well, let’s talk. Technically I have the 2nd “wave” in the spring garden still working but I’ll go over my mistakes and what I’ve learned most of this season.

No matter how much you think you will eat, plant more.
Very important lesson for several reasons. First of all, if something is really yummy, you will want more. Humans are funny about food in that way. Secondly, I remembered too late the old saying “One for the blackbird, one for the crow, and that will leave just one to grow”. Ok, so I’m not dealing with blackbirds or crows but I still had my share of hungry little bugs (who are still decimating my Cherokee Purples as I write this). Thirdly, not every seed you sow or plant you put into the ground will actually produce. More on this a little later. Lastly, you don’t realize until you’ve been there that one bean bush doesn’t give you a heck of a lot to work with. Most plants seem to need multiples to give you something to actually COOK (some exceptions – maters, eggplant, some greens like collards).

Water. And water a little more. But don’t waste water.
Most of this spring I was fortunate enough to use my two 55-gallon water barrels that were filled up this past January. Just 3 weeks ago I drained them dry (although a shore rain since has filled them back up about halfway). During that time I did pretty well with watering from the barrels, filling up my water bucket and doing what I call a “focused” watering – pouring a cupful of water around each plant. It was a little more work and tedious, but I liked knowing I was using God-given water and I also like knowing I wasn’t paying for it. However as the days got hotter and we had some exceptionally dry wind, I did come to realize that every few days the garden needed a really good soaking, and then I used the hose.

Another thing about watering… little plants and seeds don’t seem to need as much, but when you are transplanting potted plants into the earth, they need a LOT of water to get established. I planted two grapevines and three blackberry bushes into the ground directly and they were all suffering until I figured this out. Now they are established fairly well and don’t need that soaking quite as much.

Square Foot Gardening doesn’t work… aaargh!!!
My OCD side loved the idea of square foot gardening. It’s clean, it’s precise, it’s easy to maintain… and it doesn’t work. Part of the reason by the SFG Guru, Mel Bartholomew, is that you plant an exact amount of seeds rather than waste them by planting too many only to thin out later on. Yeah, ok that only works if ALL YOUR SEEDS SPROUT. This has never happened to me. Blame me, blame the seeds, doesn’t matter. Next comes spacing – Bartholomew is passionate about spacing. HIS SPACES DON’T WORK. One square foot for a full-grown tomato? Um, try 2 feet. Four heads of lettuce per foot? Not if you want baby greens, then you want a bunch of seeds in that foot of land (oh and other thing Mel, some seeds don’t do well “planted”…sometimes you gotta just sow a lot of them. Another thing I learned about lettuce).

Oh wait, Square Foot Gardening DOES work…whaaa?
Some aspects of Mel’s writing do help me out. It keeps me organized. It helps me find little nooks & crannies to plant things (for example, plant late harvest radishes under the branches of taller plants).

Don’t be afraid to experiment with new plants – but you might want to know what to do with them once harvested.
Kinda self-explanatory. Let’s just say I’ve had some interesting cooking experiences.

So those are a few things I’ve learned so far … but I’m sure not the last ;-)

This post is part of Weekend Gourmet - Hartke is Online

Friday, May 6, 2011

Shrimp Stock

Ever since becoming a Weston A. Price girl I've been gradually trying (emphasis on the "trying" here) to increase my steps towards Real Food. You know, like, food-food? Not the Hamburger Hell-per that is processed garbage but real meat, veggies, fruits, and "naturally" processed foods via fermentation, etc. One thing that is strongly emphasized is the importance of good stocks and broths. I save and freeze all sorts of potential stock goodies - chicken bones, meat bones, veggies scraps (ok some of those go to the girls), fish scraps... I even had a full bag of shrimp shells. So I decided to make some shrimp stock. What will I use it for? I have NO IDEA! Why let that stop me? ;-)

For the record I've always bought shrimp with shells. They are cheaper and I find it theraputic to de-shell & de-vein the little boogers. But before I always just tossed the shells into the garbage, and forget about them, then 6 days later I wander through the house wondering what in the world that smell is wafting about. This was before The Mister came along as he is very diligent about trash duties.

So following the general recipe in Nourishing Traditions, behold, the glories of shrimp stock!!!

You start with all your shells, break 'em down in a food processor. Simmer them in some oil (I used coconut oil...of course). Add some wine, apple cider vinegar, and a few other goodies.

Add your water and some veggies. Then you let it simmer. Some people say that with shrimp you can cut it off as early as 30 minutes... others say to go for about three hours. Not being in a hurry I let it go three hours.

The golden goodness of shrimp stock!!!

Getting back on track...

Eeek!!! It's been weeks, almost two months since I posted! Bad blogger, bad!!! So I'm going to try to catch up a bit with some "blog blasts" this weekend. First, some epicurean fun...

Made my first batch of homemade bbq sauce! Took this recipe from one of my favorite food blogs Cheeseslave . Check out this pretty little jar!

My first harvest! Lovely radishes to go with my girls' eggs :-)

I collected these a few weeks back. Sadly, radishes have really been the bulk of my harvest so far. Don't get me wrong, I love radishes but... well, I'll save all the garden stories for tomorrow. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed for something new soon ;-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Weekend Chatter

Time for an in-depth update on what is going on here with the SassyChiken.

All three hens are laying now, which surprises me. I was convinced there was a slacker in the bunch because pre-molting period I was only getting 2 eggs a day. But now there are some days where all three are laying. I'm not complaining, I'm just wondering -- did the negligent hen go on vacation? Was she on strike? Casually brooding (no one was obviously broody at that time). Or simply knowing where her bread was buttered and that she was safe from slaughter regardless of egg laying inclinations?

I planted three blackberry bushes last weekend. I opted for the Rosborough, I'm sure The Mister will rue the day I went with a thorned variety. Actually I might rue that day myself. We'll see. So far they are looking vaguely depressed, but that could just be the replanting process, plus I think I left them in their pots too long after I brought them home (about 2 weeks). But their fresh spring leaves aren't looking too bad so I'm just going to keep an eye on them. Not that I would know what to do for them if they starting showing stress, hrmph.

To be planted this weekend: two grapevines that will grow along the new fence (chain link fences make for an AWESOME grape trellis!). On one side I will have a Thompson seedless (white grape) and on the other a Flame seedless (red grape). I felt like a cop-out for doing such typical boring grapes AND seedless. But honestly, I don't feel up to dealing with seeds when it comes to grapes. Call me a wimp, that's ok. It will make the jam/jelly process far easier down the road. From what I've been reading there is a strong potential for these vines to cover the whole fence within a year, which would be fantastic! A lovely green hedge instead of cold stark metal!

But I think I'm most excited about my purchase of a Garden Annie apricot tree, a natural dwarf tree among apricots. While I want to plant some fruit trees, my space is limited so I must choose wisely. So I have this idea of a tableau of some smaller fruit trees in containers along the fenceline. I'm trying to be very careful of creating a backyard of edible goodies but at the same time, striving to avoid a trashy look -- this is a delicate balance to achieve. Do-able of course, but takes a bit of planning and considering. One of my favorite bloggers over at Urban Self-Sufficientist has discussed this problem of balance and I think he has done a really lovely job over time with his projects being both productive and tasteful. But it takes time to see the results and I am not patient by nature. However, the overall image I have in mind of the fenceline I believe will be stunning and gorgeous in a year -- if I can keep everything alive ;-)

So on duty for this weekend:

•Planting the grapevines
•Potting the apricot tree
•Purchasing and potting a lemon and lime tree and whatever other dwarf or container-appropiate fruit trees I can find.
•Moving the chicken coop (they need a change in scenery and I need to get them out of the back corner since that involves an upcoming project).
•Helping The Mister remove all the brush from the chopped up Chinaberry tree to the front for upcoming brush pick-up.
•In the FRONT yard I would like to finish cleaning up the hedge, plant some small roses in the front wall container, and prettify my front stoop a bit with some daisies, marigolds, etc.

On the domestic front (aka "boring housework") I need to start the long awaited Kitchen Floor Scrubdown Post-Dog. Loooooooong overdue but put off until Crazy Daisy was permenently installed outside.

I think that will about do me for the weekend!!! Veggie report later...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bits of Spring...

First olive bloom of spring...

Remember my tight orange buds? Full blossom now!

Sweet pea flowers are the sweetest!

A dash of color with potted cherry tomatoes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cooking Creations

First loaf of bread in probably a year, opted to make a full refined white flour bread just for something decadent and naughty, and to get back into the breadmaking habit.

I'm working my way back up to 100% whole grain bread from grains I grind myself (which is a little harder than regular flour). Then when I have mastered that, I'm going to attempt soaking the dough first.

Funny story about this particular loaf of bread. The Mister was very excited that I had made bread and spent a few days savoring it carefully. Then one night he announced he was "eating a big piece of bread" with great solemnity. One might of thought he was going to balance the national debt. I laughed and said that is what the bread was there for, to be eaten, and that I could always make more and I intended on making all our bread from now on. His eyes got really big and said, "Really??? That's so cool.... I can handle that."

Lori's Quiche - my mom's recipe, sacred and secret to all but myself. The key ingredient is lots and lots of bacon ;-) What made this particular quiche so special is that it was the FIRST time I ever made my own crust! And guess what, it was so easy! I'll never buy crust with who-knows-what ingredients again.

As you can see, I have a ways to go til I master the art of ROLLING the crust ;-)

Now I just need to find a good source for lard to get that unique crust flakiness...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Need YOUR ideas for Dead Space!

I need ideas from YOU!!!

I have this dead space around the orange tree. It's completely encased all around by concrete so I thought it would be a good space for mint since it tends to take over. However, that's a LOT of mint so maybe I'm missing something that would do better?

The Stats:
·Interior is dark dark dark, I'll probably just stick a few ferns in there
·Outer areas are part-shade, but remember in our Texas heat sometimes "full sun" plants actually prefer part-sun.
·I would prefer something either 1) edible or 2) pretty bloomer that attracts bees/butterflies.


Ignore all the junk, it will be gone this weekend (said shamefacedly)

Fence Saga of '11

WOW! We had both extremes of weather on Saturday. The morning had thunderous downpours and the afternoon was a lovely bright early spring deliciousness. Unlike last weekend, I was prepared for the weather this time!

We were out at breakfast when the downpour whooshed into town. This immediately made me wish I had stayed in bed. However we scooted over to the Farmer’s Market afterwards anyway, especially as there was going to be a rare appearance by a cattleman who specializes in grass-fed beef. I braved the rain and wind to go stand in line (The Mister stayed in the truck… ahem). Picked up a chuck roast (which I shall now need to learn how to cook), some Amish butter, and some more Brussels Sprouts. The sprouts are part of my current effort to 1) appreciate what’s in season and 2) trying to learn to like Sprouts de Brussels. Incidentally I never knew til writing this it is Brussels plural.. I always pictured it as Brussel. Moving on…

Wet and shivering later, got home and as planned due to the weather, devoted myself to domestic duties. Yay. The weather turned gorgeous and I opened up every single window in the house, all the doors, and the whole place had a delicious airing. More enthusiastic YAY. But I really wanted to be outdoors. That will come later. But Saturday was all about The Mister and his outdoor Saga of the Chain Link Fence.

Very early on in our courtship but after we knew we would be getting married, we had both decided that it would be wise to put up a fence between the garage and the house. It was actually something I had been contemplating for more than a year already. For me, this would serve several purposes.

1.It would keep the chickens more contained if I needed or wanted to let them run around
2.It would provide a more secure area in which to contain Crazy Daisy when company came over.
3.It would provide a GREAT place to grown grapevines
4.While my backyard is very private already, somehow it seemed to me like it would create an even deeper sense of Special Place-ness.

The Mister also wanted a fence. His reasons were:

1.To keep Crazy Daisy outside ALL.THE.TIME.

Could you put this cute little thing in doggy jail?

I shall spare you the details of the long and boring discussions that occasionally happen between two stubborn adults both used to having their own way. In this case, The Mister won out. And LOGICALLY speaking, he’s right and I think even I will be happier in the long-run with the arrangement. Daisy tracks in an enormous amount of dirt that I’m forever cleaning, she sheds horribly, there are the occasional flea battles, she slobbers all over the walls, she’s been a submissive pee-er ever since he moved in, and she is a maniac with guests. Granted, the vast majority of these problems are due to a mommy who either didn’t care about these issues or just looked past them. When you are single for X number of years you need companionship and I adore dogs. However I’ve often been too busy to train her properly (although she does a wicked “sit”!). So… The Fence.

We had waffled a bit on what type of fence to get; initially I wanted something functional yet pretty (think either picket or a wrought iron type-thing) but they were all either too expense or would have taken forever for two people who work full-time to install. We ended up going with a chain link. Some folks don’t like them but I actually feel quite nostalgic about chain link fences – they make me thing of summer days at my great-grandmother’s house. Plus they are relatively inexpensive and relatively easy to install (remember that “relatively” for later). The Mister quickly decided HE could put up this fence at minimal cost and it would be quite easy to do. I had a slight moment of panic at this announcement but kept my mouth shut (for the most part).

And I’m glad I did, because for the most part he was right. He had almost no issues. Oh you can see in the end results some flaws but it is sturdy, looks attractive, and does the job. Other than the fact that he made the space for the gate one inch too tight, which required a whole new latching system, it was fine. Oh and the end pole on one side was wide enough for Daisy to get through, but we figured out a solution for that quickly.

Man at Work

Things I see that I will like already

·I foresee sweeping the floors less = less cleaning time! BIG YAY!
·Since there were parts of the house she wasn’t allowed in, it will be nice to have all the doors open and not have to closed-up sections of the house
·No fear of the already-forbidden jumping & rolling upon the bed, leaving all sorts of delightful and wonderous things behind her
·My clothes will have less hair on them

Things I do not like

·I find myself wanting to sneak her in when I’m in the house alone. No, I have not done this... yet
·I’m suddenly aware of the fact that a dog will be running loose in the yard when I get bees. I need to research this. I’m inclined to think she will naturally steer clear of them but…. Hmmm…
·I feel like a traitor

Needless to say I had a sleepless night but she was quite good, she only had one bout of whimpering around midnight. Sunday we put out the doghouse which is immediately took to (I guess crate training had a benefit here) and we’ve hardly heard a peep of objection from her since. Of course I am still an emotional mess but oh well ;-)

Time to shop for grapes!!!

Hey there studly...

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Bookstand

What is on the bookstand by the bed this week?

Beekeeping for Dummies
A catalog of apiary items whose name I've forgotten
Anne of Green Gables (millionth reading... I do not exaggerate)
Catalog of Baker's Heirloom Seeds

Stolen moments...

Tonight I have to work. Wine tasting. Sounds glamorous to you? Eh... not so much to me. I'm surrounded by wine ALL.THE.TIME. It isn't that special anymore. Although sometimes you do get to talk to some interesting people (and then again... you get some people you wish had never shown up). Plus that means I have to dress up, put on fancy clothes, makeup... blah blah blah. When The Mister comes home he won't know what hit him ;-)

The upside is that I took off from the office part of work this afternoon to get a break before the evening tasting. I did not waste the time especially since tomorrow we are expecting rain.

What I accomplished...

·Weeded the garden
·Planted some beans and watermelon seeds
·Did a little seed organization
·Thorough inspection of the chickens (WHERE is all the poop coming from???)
·Put out some buckets for catching rain (I actually have two BIG rain buckets but we catch what we can down here
·Little leisure reading
·Cleaned the bedroom
·Rested a little

Interesting note: two of the three hens are laying regularly now, pretty much an egg a day. But these girls have NEVER wanted to use a nest box. It's really rather off-putting that they choose to lay all over where they poop. So since it was very cool today I've opted to move the two eggs over to the nest box to see if that encourages them to lay there tomorrow. The eggs will be fine to pick up tomorrow if they don't use it. I won't let them sit there longer than that, I don't want them suddenly going broody on me. Any chicken folk out there know if this will even work?

So I got a nice bit of stuff done. Unlike last weekend when I was caught by surprise by the weather, I have a solid list of to-do’s this weekend that incorporates both indoors and outdoors, so even if it rains all day tomorrow, I’m ready for it!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where's the light?

This time of year is frustrating for me.

It's lovely spring weather already but it's dark about an hour after I get home from work. I need more light!!! So during the week it's all about maintenance... watering the plants, buying more plants to pot or put in the ground over the weekend, planning, budgeting, longing to do more....

11 days to go!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hello March...

Already spring in S. Texas...The orange tree is about to burst forth in blossoms.

Dead fig tree?

I think NOT!

Now I have TWO eggs a day! I'm positive the layers are Trixie and Miss Penny Loo-Hoo. Scarlett looks like she'll be going any day now.

Going to make quiche and homemade mayo this weekend :-)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Second spring egg today! I think it's Trixie laying them, her comb is the reddest... but it could be Miss Penny Loo-Hoo. I'm rather hoping it isn't Penny because she is the mean hen who I am contemplating coop removal. However if she is laying she'll receive a reprieve.

After yesterday my body seemed to be in mild protest so I took it easy after church. Plus it was a warm, breezy day – perfect for being lazy. However I planted some new seeds that are probably going in the ground too late; but I had some room and thought I would experiment(cabbage & broccoli), and then replanted some plots that appeared to contain duds (I’m altering the planting method on these to see if that helps. If it does I’ll share details later). Weeded and watered everything that is supposed to grow. Continued on with the study clean-up/re-organization AND did the impossible “detangling of the computer wires”. I wish I had taken before/after pictures of THAT mess. Did the whole store thing and made a yum-yum dinner.

There have been requests for pictures so here are some of my favorite things to photograph… food!!! This was our dinner. Pasta with sautéed veggies: golden bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, ‘shrooms, with a snippet of sun-dried tomatoes for depth. Then sautéed shrimp. Mix it all together!


Where did the weekend go?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Day

Today was going to be THE DAY.

The day in which I conquered the world. Or at least my backyard.

Normally I am NOT a morning person. Never have been and never will be a willing one I’m afraid. It’s a shame. I love being up early in the morning once I’m up, but that whole getting out of bed thing… yeah it’s difficult. But I’ll admit its much easier now since I have someone who brings me coffee in bed every morning.

Today however as soon as The Mister leaned in and said, “Exciting day!!!” I jumped up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Is it sad that yard work would have me so pepped? I leaped out of bed (ok, I actually sat up, had some coffee, stretched, gave and received some kisses, and sorta rolled out – same difference), looked out of the window and saw… mist. Drizzly mist. Grey, drizzly mist.

No matter, breakfast came first and I was hoping it would clear up by the time I actually was ready for work. GOOD Saturday-morning type breakfast – egg, bacon, toast (real butter thank you) and coffee. Ran a couple of quickie errands with The Mister after eating. Spent 20 minutes looking for the set of keys that unlocks the garage. Found keys. During key hunt I realized how grotesque the house was. Still misty outside. Ok, change of plans.

I knew it would probably clear up later, I didn’t feel like getting THAT dirty and reminded myself that my house is my first duty, yard work and gardening is “playtime”. So rather than spend my time dozing back to bed (which is my usually morning response) I decided to actually USE the time and did some housework. Nothing major, really just a lick & and a promise. The big spring cleaning will be in a few weeks, after Crazy Daisy has been put outside permanently. There is no point to things like floor scrubbing at the moment. But it felt so good to get things in order and shockingly, took far less time than I thought it would. Good job! AND I found out one of the chickens had laid her first spring (post-molt) egg this morning! Gifts from the chicken gods!

Still messy outside! Run errands – dropped some oranges off at the “Food for people, not possums” basket at the farmer’s market, got some odds & ends from a hardware store and meandered home. Gave two extra eggplants to a friend. Gave two more to my dad. Watch The Mister work on the new fence. Went back out to the feedstore for some hay. Back home and eat a little. Sky is starting to clear, FINALLY.

NOW… time to work!

The bulk of my list this weekend has to do with what I’ve been calling: “De-cracker the backyard”. You might have to live in the south to understand what a cracker yard looks like. Basically messy, unkempt, and junky. So here’s what I did…

·Cleaned the chicken coop. This has been desperately needed for a long, long time and had been on my list already, but I felt extra motivated by this morning’s egg. Raked out all the nasty stuff in the run, and replaced it with fresh hay. Thoroughly cleaned out the feeder and water jug. Sprayed down the bottom of the coop. Raked the entire area around the coop and pushed all into a pile that might or might not be a new compost attempt. Picked up a bunch of junk that’s been lying around in the area.
·Took down the chickenwire fence around the garden, weedeated the entire garden border, put fence back up neatly.
·Tore down and pulled up dead frozen banana trees. Debating on whether I want new ones. Banana trees are nasty and promote roaches. But they grown well here and it’s FOOD. Will think about it.
·Planted the cherry tomato plant that I wanted in the pot and not in the main garden.
·Began dumping out the old potted failed blueberry experiment but stopped when I realized I might have a better idea for that particular dirt (it’s very a very specific kind). More on that later if it works.
·Started to weedeat the area for the blackberries and the whacker decided it had had enough for the day. Will have to wait til The Mister can figure out what I was doing wrong when I reloaded it.
·Helped a little (very little) off and on with the fencing project.
·5:00 – DONE.
·Not quite – fixed our stopped-up bath drain. We’ll see how long it lasts, we’ve been having problems with our bath drains and this was the latest in a series of experiments. If this doesn’t work for long we’ll have to break down and get a plumber.
·Then… shower, din-din, and some writing.

Today was all about labor and I’m feeling it, sore and tired all over. Tomorrow will be about joy and relaxation and Sabbath. I shall plant some seeds!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weekend kickoff!

Snuck out of The Cave at 15 til 5 and shot over to one of the nurseries. Priced some pecans, stared longingly at some fruit tree, checked on the stock of blueberry plants, resisted the herbs and made my way to the veggies. I never remember to plant seeds for a few plants early enough so I picked up three types of heirloom tomatoes, Black Beauty eggplants, a Tam Jalepeno, and a California Golden Wonder Bell Pepper. Scooted home, weeded the garden, planted the new plants. Picked up dinner (bad bad bad - Pizza Hut of all things!!!) and wolfed it down. Picked 18 lbs of the remaining oranges off the tree, picked the fallen rotting ones off the ground. Fertlized the tree. Prepped small planters for 2nd batch of seeds that I'll plant tomorrow. Walked half a mile with The Mister and Crazy Daisy.


Now it's almost ten and I'm going to bed. Tomorrow will be uber uber busy in the very best way!!!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Garden is weeded, many things accomplished.

Chickens are sleepin’ (still no eggs post-molt)

Crickets are singing.

Dishes are washed and the tum is full of yum.

Windows are opened and but the air is still.

A pleasant, quiet peace pervades.

Cold glass of milk while chillin’ with my peeps (you know who you are).

Weekend ahead.

It’s been a good day.

Garden Update

Note to readers: If you ever want to see my head spin like the chick from "The Exorcist", watch me misplace my garden map.

Ok. On January 22 I planted:

Romaine Lettuce
Butter Lettuce
Red Lettuce
Mustard Greens
Georgia Collard Greens
Scarlett Nantes Carrots
Detroit Dark Red Beets
Purple Top White Globe Turnips
Purple Plum Radish
Sweet Peas

So far I have happy and thriving carrots, beets, turnips and both collard & mustard greens, and the peas. The peas are especially lively so far. The rest have yet to sprout and as this is the second failure on these seeds to even make an appearance, I think it's time to retire them and move on. However I'm happy since so far this is the most successful garden I've had. Yes, I just jinxed it ;-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How does God view surburban landscaping?

Please inform me if you know to whom this may be attributed!

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have had with St. Francis on the subject of lawns:

God: Hey St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect "no maintenance" garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

St. Francis: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. The begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

God: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it... sometimes twice a week.

God: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, Sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis: You are not going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

St. Francis: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

St. Francis: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. The haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

God: Enough. I don't want to think about this anymore. Sister Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

Sister Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It's a real stupid movie about....

God: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.