Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Arrived in Tiny Town

 Oh so tiny.. I had forgotten. Can't find anything yet.. only just got the internet up and running 5 minutes ago. Can't get to the farms as both are snowed in.

 The crazy adventure so far is pretty intense. Hoping to have a few moments later to explain it all!

 Hoping everyone had a wonderful Christmas and here's to hoping for an amazing New Year!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Screw Martha.. grab box and shove everything in!

 Not sleeping much lately as it seems no matter how fast I pack a box... the mountain of stuff does not seem to shrink.

 I did manage to thin out quite a bit of stuff and the check list of what needs to be completed is shrinking quick.

 Something new did join the checklist and I am hoping we get a vet appointment on Monday. I noticed something wrong with the cat's mouth. It took a lot of bribing with cream cheese to be able to get a decent look. 

 I am keeping my fingers crossed that it isn't something major.

 Running the last bits of laundry, packing packing and more packing.. I am also making a bunch of baked goods. The guys will be here for quite awhile, so I'll be feeding them dinner. Grilling up some flat iron steaks, herb marinaded chicken, baked acorn squash, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, spinach & arugula salad, and garlic ginger green beans. The guys can help themselves to it as it will be put out like a buffet. They just have to sit on a box.

 I know the renter guy likes cookies (I had some when he was checking out our place, and he ate like 8 of them!).. so I made a bunch and filled up a simple glass jar. I didn't have time to make all of the batches so there is 2 gallon size bags of cookie dough balls in the freezer with the directions on how to bake them up written on the front.

 I am such a geek. Just can't help doing a few things so he feels welcome and "home".

 Speaking of geek-ing.. I must admit I am caving... and getting the release of my favorite mmorpg. My husband also likes to play and we will have some down time as we will not make it to the farm before winter set in. It already has frozen the ground there rather well from the latest update. I have more than a few online gaming buddies who have become real life friends... even though I have only played 2 months out of the last 2 years (but have known them for almost 6). Oddly.. they are almost all in various stages/ aspects of the military.. retired, active, military wife, reserves, and 3 that are enlisted and soon to start boot camp come spring. 

 Very odd when you think about it.. when a dwarf logs in to tell you he's ok.. but lost a buddy to an IED that was on a mission ahead of them.. and then makes requests for his care package contents. 

 The cat is tearing around the house as all of this is a big playground for her. She found the plastic Easter eggs (her favorite toy.. and no matter where I hide them.. she always somehow has at least 1 to bat around the tile floor). Boxes, tissue paper, bubble wrap, bunched up newspaper balls.. and catnip... she's having a ton of fun.

 Ok.. time to make coffee & breakfast.. wake up the family and get going.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Out by Tuesday

 Well.. the potential renter is now a for sure thing. He came over and looked around.. and is thrilled. If we could have been out by yesterday.. he would have been ready to move in.

 He's pretty darn cool. I really hope it stays this way. He's even coming over this weekend with several of my husband's buddies and helping us move.

 Contracts have been drawn up and signed. YAY! All of the finer details have been covered by yet another friend who is in the real estate biz and as well a seasoned landlord. 

 I am trying not to have high hopes.. but it is beyond my wildest hopes already how well this is going so far. (Knock on wood, stroke lucky rabbit's foot.. adjust horseshoe) 

 The renter oddly has most of the same hobbies as us. He's a fishkeeper, he's into gardening, he's an avid disc golfer, etc. So the room in the basement that was my fishroom.. he FLIPPED when he saw it. His draw is killiefish and cichlids. I told him that the ph is consistantly 7.5 to 8+ as it was one of the first questions he asked after seeing it.

 The pond.. he loves the pond. From the way he went on about various fish keeping aspects.. he is without a doubt 100% grade "A" fish geek. 

 He looked at the garden and raised beds.. and the first thing he said... "Oh WOW artichokes!" ....  Oh.. this is a good sign! He could tell the difference between garlic chives and common chives. I told him the perennial sunflowers will pop up all along the fence.. and to keep them because then the squirrels don't bother the garden.

 This location makes it super easy for him to get to work. Several neighbors met him (hard to avoid lol.. you stand outside for more than 1 minute and someone is always going to pop out and say hello)... they like him.

 My husband got the short end of the stick for awhile. Shortly after having his wisdom teeth pulled.. he got the flu. As well the antibiotics were making it very hard to keep food down. He developed dry sockets..  triple whammy. After rushing into the dentist office yesterday, they switched up a few things and he is now a LOT better. Today is the first day where he felt good. Since the day before Thanksgiving he has pretty much been out of commission. 

 This is almost too good to be true (and I am honestly waiting for the other shoe to drop..) So far the challenge will be to try to get totally packed up and out before the on coming storm. 

 If at all possible.. I really do not want to have to tackle the roads in the area we are moving to in the winter with a moving truck. Even in 4WD vehicles, some of these roads in the winter are enough to shave a good decade or two off of your life span just out of sheer fright.

 Back to packing I go. The coffee is finished brewing and I expect to not be getting much sleep for the next several nights.

 I hope he is happy here. I hope it all works out. 

 I hope.....


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

 I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 We are kind of skipping it this year.. or delaying it I guess. My husband had his 4 wisdom teeth pulled yesterday and he's the turkey fanatic around here, but for the next little while all he can handle is soft foods.

 We are hoping for the best as we have someone coming tomorrow to look at the house. It just kinda popped up on Wednesday.. so leisurely packing is out the window and we are now in overdrive. My hopes to be completely organized while packing is slowly slipping my grasp. 

 My next older sister couldn't be more excited. She's been calling several times a day asking when exactly we will be out there. She's offered to help unpack, wants to throw a family dinner party when we get there.. has even scoped out shops, pediatricians, you name it. She wants to know exactly when.. so she can run to the grocery store and stock up the fridge for us and turn up the heat so it will be comfortable.

 Sometimes.. my sister.. is just awesome. 

 She's lived in several countries and is nothing short of amazing when it comes to packing up a whole household and moving it to the other side of the planet in record time. It is hard to believe we are related.  

 I admit.. I miss this kind of attention. For as insane as my family can be.. this over attention to detail and exuberance that you are there.. it makes you spoiled. I am grateful for this, and I am thankful that these nutcases are my family.

 The pendulum swings both ways.. so don't be surprised when I start using enough expletives to make a biker blush. 

 December 1st I think is my last check-up... and then we should be on our way.

 It is a funny thing.. when you have family like mine.. gifts don't matter. We've gone through both extremes, but the highlights and what was remembered has never been the gifts.. but the fun and endless teasing is always recalled.

 No doubt, something will happen and my Mom will yell at one of us girls. In her frustration she will go through the list of names until she hits the right one. That quirk I find endlessly funny.. and my best friend's mother does it as well. What's priceless about that is she has a brother, but her Mom as well runs through the list in order.

 I hope everyone has an equally happy day. 

 Back to packing I go!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anaerobic (rant kinda) Composting

 Ok.. I have to say something... must comment..

 Hot composting, cold composting are what is known as aerobic forms of decomposition. Basically, it means composting in an oxygenated system. 

 Anaerobic composting/ decay/ altering of matter is basically the breakdown of materials in an oxygen deprived system. Now I had to say "altering of matter" because it isn't quite composting.

One with oxygen and one without... but are they different? Yes, and as with everything, there are pros and cons to every option.

 Now this is where I encounter the wrinkle.. it is the same old wrinkle that pops up every time someone tries to shortcut the system without usually having a clue about what they are doing in the first place. That sounded crabby.. but just because the pace of life has reached break neck speeds, does not mean that mother nature is on the same time schedule.

 I've gone through a bit of cold composting and hot composting... right now I want to explain a little of anaerobic decay. Primarily because I seem to be encountering a fair bit of it in a trend, yet quite a few things are glossed over or failed to be mentioned in it's entirety.

 What I have been seeing is layers of green matter, or even vegetative matter run through a blender and then dumped into a bucket to rot in water. One such related method has been brand named Bokashi (which this method has a bit more study on.. but even more commercial spin attached to the concept). Anaerobic type of decomposition commonly occurs in bogs, swamps, and stagnant bodies of water. 

 Composting in an anaerobic situation utilizes a different set of microbes, in particular Methanogens. They feed on nitrogen, phosphorus and trace elements.. they expel methane and as well hydrogen sulfide byproducts. (Methane, is odorless.. a potent greenhouse gas many times more damaging than carbon dioxide.. and Hydrogen sulfide, which is actually a poisonous gas and smells like rotten eggs.. both of which are also flammable.) As well a little carbon in the decaying matter is released as carbon dioxide. This process reduces nitrogen into the forms of ammonia (& nitrous oxide) and organic acids.

 This form of processing does in fact release a few bound up nutrients from the matter relatively soon. However, unless it is processed long enough.. it isn't going to kill off pathogens. 

  In fact the beginning stages of this decay produce a fair amount of phytotoxins. (Phytotoxin byproducts is a naturally occurring part of the composting process. Leachate is another term for this when you have the stagnant liquids drain from vermicomposting bins or landfills.) The reason it needs to be diluted is because it still needs to go through a final step of aerobic decomposition which is done actually very quickly. To use it at full strength, you would kill your plants. Full strength it acts as an herbicide (due to auxin levels), a germination inhibitor.

 Anaerobic composting process created an acidic environment. It is in essence, fermenting. This is not a compost tea. Plants and their root system are in an aerobic state in gardens. 

 Yes.. if dilute you do see some benefits to this "fertilizer" as it does contain trace elements that are usable to plants. However I have yet to encounter very many that are aware that this process takes months and oxygen exposure should be regulated to be under 30% saturation levels. It also needs several days after this process to oxidize. In the case of Bokashi, the medium is buried. There is a reason for it.. to fully saturate it with aerobic microbes to finish the materials.

 Sorry if this is scattered.. I am writing this in a hurry. I just had to put that out there in hopes that someone can utilize this information before they wonder how and why their plants died off. 

 This form of "composting" is probably the least eco-friendly option. 




A Little Nip

 It is taking me forever to pack. I'm working on the basement.. which is where many of our tools are for our various interests. The day was a little chilly but I still left the sliding door opened so the cat could come and go.. and the dog will just shove the door wide open if he needs to get out.

 I had pulled out the mountain of stashed plastic grocery bags to help contain the many hanks of beads I have. Right as I was putting one sorted and packaged bag into a box, a gray fiend went for the kill. She dove right into the plastic bags sending them flying. This time of year, static is a big issue and in her insanity she got her head through one bag's handle, freaked out, and dashed away.. with 2 more bags stuck to her by the static.

 Someone was hitting the nip.

 She definitely makes packing interesting. She's been sitting on the highest stack of boxes in whatever room she is in.. stalking us from behind them.. and often jumping in every box she can. The only time she does this though, is after she has gotten her fix from the catnip growing like crazy in our yard.

 I made sure today to cut enough of it so she'll get her fix until I get a patch established at the farm. I have to thumbtack the bunch to dry to the ceiling so she can't and won't try to get it. 

 The 2 of the raised beds are ready to go for the most part for whoever moves in. I'm really hoping this one person in particular does. The plant debris was turned under, compost was spread across them all, then a couple of layers of newspaper and topped off with coffee grounds. 

 I won't be able to post much for a little while. We are coming down to the final stretch and the delays have put us smack dab in the middle of the holidays to boot. The more I can sort and donate, the easier it will be when we get there... that's what I keep telling myself. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The flying fence

 Sorry.. still busy with sorting, packing and the ever fun dentist trips. I've been at the dentist so many times that I should just move in. I never knew getting a root canal and a crown was this time consuming. One tooth for Pete's sake! 

Unfortunately, we will be here for Thanksgiving. The bummer is that it is because the only time my husband could get for an appointment to get his wisdom teeth pulled... is the day before Thanksgiving. 

 We have had our fill of turkey for several months.. so that is no big deal. I can't wait for Christmas! My sister and her family will be joining ours. I will be doing almost all of the cooking. I don't mind, plus I really don't want to be surprised by something like carob cake. She can tackle the wine.. and as silly as this sounds.. Pictionary. 

 The guys will try to separate us sisters when it comes to Pictionary. We have an unnatural gift to draw just 1 line or even a dot.. and know what our sister is drawing. My next older sister (the one coming for X-mas).. her 1st husband was in advertising. He is a "creative" and well.. from his talents he created quite a name for himself. Anyways.. he would COMPLETELY freak out. It was hilarious. He was fast.. and amazing at drawing.. and would lose every time. Mr. Cool would lose absolutely every shred of composure and throw a tantrum that would rival a 3 year old. It was beautiful.. and one of the things I used to totally look forward to when we got together. If we guessed it before our sister even drew anything.. oh boy would it hit the fan!

 Her current husband is well, pretty mellow. He has no idea what he's in for.. lol.

 I've also been digging up a few plants and gave them to a friend. He's excited for spring now, and I hope they all make it. So far he's gotten 2 hydrangeas, 6 artichokes, garlic chives, day lilies, Siberian irises, chives, sage, hops, 2 birch seedlings, 2 bur oak seedlings, and an Austrian pine seedling. Trees here need to be babied for them to even have a chance.

 So we had a big wind storm here the other day. The intensity was enough to make the house constantly shudder, the trees twisted in complaint, and the windows sounded like massive harmonicas. 

 I was outside today cleaning up the yard as the winds also seem to have liberated some shingles.. and that's when I noticed the fence. Several sections of it are leaning at a 65 degree angle towards the sidewalk. Not good.

 Right now I am trying to track down my wandering husband as he is out playing disc golf with the guys. I am hoping he can do something to secure it a bit before the parade of school kids starts. A lilting fence is too much temptation for them, and the last thing I'd want is one of them to get hurt by it.

 So while I wait for his call.. I am going to head back out there to straighten out the beds. Is it wrong of me to be giggling as I bury tons of radish pods, arugula pods, gourds, pumpkins, tomatoes, and the like? I know full well all of these will be sending up volunteers galore come spring. 

 Here's to hoping they really love radishes and arugula. 

 Well.. I had better get back out there while the sun still is keeping the chill out of the air. Once it starts to drop in the sky the cold grows some teeth and you really feel it's nip. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gardening Interest Continues with Success

 So was/is the gardening momentum a trend? Yes.. and no. There will always be people who may initially dabble out of trend, but then discover a passion for it and continue to play in the dirt now for sheer self satisfaction.

 People being people.. some may get nailed by bad luck, lack of information, pests, diseases.. you name it and the lack of rewards for their efforts effectively can squash enthusiasm. It is a shame when that happens.

  I do happen to think it is important that people at least give gardening a try.. it seems to make many more aware of their surroundings and more aware of their food. In the end it seems to have a chain effect.. yard waste and kitchen scraps are suddenly a resource instead of landfiller.. kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies they got to grow.. chemicals often are looked at more closely rather than carelessly applied. 

 Someone I helped earlier this year with their first garden has pulled his harvest and is very proud of his success. "This is the first successful garden I have ever had, and I can't wait until next year!"  Yes, there was a learning curve.. like when the labels washed off and they ate the cosmos thinking it was dill.. and a friendly neighbor telling them the hops were mint.. resulting in some rather nasty tea made from it. However.. it did inspire them to make a compost pile and add another raised bed. 

 When you help someone start gardening, there are somethings that you can help remind them of when it comes to getting a good start. One of the primary things that is overlooked by the beginner is exposure. How much sun the area gets is pretty important, but someone new to gardening often forgets this and is just imagining the perfect little pristine vegetable patch tucked right under the big tree. Reality check.. aisle 9. 

 He thought he had "just the spot" but while the area was out of traffic, it was also well out of light. My husband helped him select the location and build the raised bed (the best light actually being in the front yard right off the driveway.. so some of the front lawn was ripped up.) 

 Something else to gently remind them of.. cool and hot weather crops, diversity.. and time until harvest.  Basically.. I am not so subtle. My husband reins me in, otherwise I am about as stealthy as using a semi to play bumper cars.

 Now one of the things I tend to encourage are those few lovely plants that are somewhat newbie proof. I say somewhat.. because as our dear friend just proudly announced.. he "harvested" the chives. Yes.. he pulled 'em up like spring onions instead of trimming the tops. I swear.. he's actually a pretty bright fellow.. just a bit too urban around the edges. I politely shoved the phone under the pillow while I laughed like a madwoman. 

 If there is something to pick.. a reward for their efforts.. it keeps the motivation going. Perennials like chives and mint are easy, extremely hardy, and chives are something that once established are one of the first things you can collect. 

 This is a list of good starter veggies and herbs 
  •  peas
  • radishes
  • zucchini/ summer squash
  • cherry & grape tomatoes
  • garlic
  • parsley
  • basil
  • chives
  • dill
  • oregano
  • sage
  • thyme
  • green beans
  • beets
  • turnips
 To name just a few. Definitely need a mix and things maturing at different times. The heavy producers like green beans & zucchini hold interest. Variety ensures at least something produces. Like this year we had slugs and aphids galore, so the brassicas had a heck of a time. 

 Small tomatoes, like grapes and cherry varieties mature more quickly. They also tend to be quite flavorful as well as many of them are quite hardy. Avoid ones like "Yellow Pear" that are heirlooms, but quite prone to cracking. Early fresh eating slicers are also a good beginner tomato, like Siberian, Silvery Fir Tree, and Stupice. 

 Basil makes me giggle as it is my sure-fire way to tempt them into the possibility of propagation. First thing is to show them where to trim so they don't go back too far and so the plant as well is encouraged to get more bushy. Having them place the basil in a glass with a little water not only keeps the herb fresh, on display, and ready to use.. but as well basil very happily sets out roots. Our friend fell prey to this.. and went from the dozen plants I gave him to a LOT more as he planted a ton that rooted. More than half survived his first attempt and the result is a quick how-to on drying herbs. 

 Easy wins are key and start small. 

 Avoid vining plants if they don't have the room, or show how to grow them in containers. The thought of growing squash like Butternut is appealing.. but if there is limited room an alternate option would be a better choice. For how much space they take up, their production isn't that great. Several I know also thought you could just trim back the vines and it wouldn't have an effect. Large winter squash need a lot of energy to produce these fruit, and they have a relatively shallow root system. Trimming off the rambling vines is like rerouting a river that a hydraulic power plant needs to produce electricity.

 The variety I helped him with was enough to get his feet wet, have a decent amount of success and definitely sparked enthusiasm to try harder next year. It makes me smile as he posts pictures of pasta simply dressed with sauteed onion, garlic, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes in olive oil and basil, parsley and parmesan. 

 I am digging up one of the huge clumps of chives for him to replant. It is a huge, established mound that he'll be able to easily gather more than enough from to satisfy his family of 5. He was so excited about his peppers that he dug them up and transplanted them in to pots to over winter in a south facing window.. right along with one of the last batches of basil harvested from the garden that are setting roots. The success inspired determination and the drive as well as some basic know-how to get antsy about next year. He didn't think they liked beets, until he tossed the baby beet thinnings into a salad.. now he wonders what else they are missing.

 The gardening thing right now is a trend for many.. that will probably fade for most. Every year there is a new challenge, a new experiment, a new success, a set back. Some things will never change, and unpredictability is the norm in the garden. 

 A helping hand can not only save a new gardener from a lot of unnecessary expense, but also troubleshoot potential problems. 

 I'll miss my gardening converts. I wish them luck with starting their own transplants and I look forward to their 8 million pictures of their first pickings, and dishes made from it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

cracked tooth delays move


 Bit something.. it cracked my tooth. I heard something, but felt no pain and didn't see any "damage".. until I chewed gum the other day and a part of my molar with a part of the root came out. 

 Then came the pain..

 Waves and waves of pain as the nerve is exposed and not happy. Went to the dentist yesterday and today.. they did everything except treat this tooth.. but today they referred me to yet another specialized dentist. So that's what I will be doing tomorrow morning.. endodontist.

 So now that I have popped a hydrocodone, which wonderfully is taking only just enough of the edge off for me to function, but not be comfortable.. I decided to point out my laments about the whole health care/ insurance company bullcrap to my husband.

 Mind you.. this was a rather unattractive conversation. Both of us had been through 2 hours of "cleaning" in which a heavy handed, but perky and pleasant, pregnant dental hygienist let out her pent up rage upon our mouths. 

 So as spittle flew in ever direction as we complained with slack jawed enthusiasm of the overly numbed ..

Our bill for me yesterday and the three of us today is pretty close to $2000. That's what we pay... AFTER insurance "coverage". This does not include my root canal tomorrow.. or the crown that gets made shortly after.. or my husband's wisdom teeth that he finally is going to get removed.

 Crazy... insane..  what did we have done? Well.. we had our teeth cleaned, x-rays, my daughter and husband each had 2 cavities, flouride treatments.

 And nothing was done to my tooth that has be in blinding pain that initialized this fun family outing.

 Two grand... and that's just for starters.

 My husband is a bit mad. He should be. I tried explaining to him that this ALWAYS happens. Even though he opted to pay extra for the premium package offered at his work.. the bill still is obnoxious.

 It would have been cheaper for us to not pay insurance and cover the whole thing out of pocket.

 So I rambled on before how I have some health issues.. and keep hitting a brick wall when it comes to getting help. (Nothing like dropping $10k to get results like "idiopathic")

 He gets it now.. the coordination of visits.. the surprise big bill for services literally stated as "the minimum health care required".

Meanwhile.. my sister is a translator that is often employed by the courts, the police, hospitals, social services, etc.  Something that she is frequently hired to do... translate to help non-english speaking people to get assistance and financial aid. 

It makes me a little mad.. that I pay taxes.. and have paid a lot in taxes.. and my family has literally paid millions in taxes..  

 and when we need help we get shafted.. while someone who pays next to nothing if at all gets far better health care and assistance.

 So the move is delayed a bit.. and in an evil twist... we have someone who really wants to rent our place. I may have to find some means to get a crown done where we are moving to before the end of the month when our insurance is up.

 Just doesn't seem right that you pay extra to get the better plan.. so much extra as the company no longer covers it entirely but instead only pays 1/2 because the rates have jumped so high... to still get nailed. Especially in a time where the company still forces reduced hours and pay cuts.

 The system is just not right. (Yes, I realize this whole post is rantings from a person in pain induced delirium.. but it still has merit!) 

The pain meds are wearing off... time to take some more and hope like heck they give me enough peace to sleep a little. The last 3 nights I have gotten a total of 6 hours of rest.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Busy Busy and a trip to the eye doctor

   Running around like crazy.. there just aren't enough hours in the day. I did encounter something that I am allergic to.. just not sure what it was! Whatever it is gave me hives.. like Buick sized hives along the left side of my face and down my neck. Benadryll quickly became my best friend.

 So among the bliss of packing, cleaning and sorting.. we have to squeeze in time for dentists, doctors and optometrists. Our eye doctor is awesome. He's hilarious and the whole office is always happy and joking around. No one is immune to their hilarity.

 So I told him we were moving and he declined the offer to convert the milk shed into his new office if they'd just come along. Bummer. While I had my face shoved into the contraption so he could do the light test thing (which frankly made me think the whole time of Lord of the Rings and the whole EYE of Sauron - yeah, probably spelled it wrong, but I packed the damned books)..  he told me "Well.. what ever doctor you see next, you need to tell them something."

 "Ok.. but you may want to write it down for me so I'll remember."

 "Your doughnut has a HUGE hole."

  "Ok.. that I will remember. I may even feel the need to mention it to strangers."

 He drew it out so as to explain what is seen from his end when looking at my ocular nerve.. He drew a big "O" and inside the big O he drew a small circle.. and the drawing looked like a doughnut. "This is what a typical eye looks like." Then he drew something that looked like a 10 speed tire.. "And this is yours." 

 So while most people have eyes that are "windows to the soul" .. mine are like wide open double bay garage doors. After the exam.. I was still giggling and quietly yelled to my husband across the expansive office (that at the time contained all 6 of us) "Hey honey.. he says my doughnut has a huuuge hole!" 

 My husband.. ever the gentleman.. and completely unphased responded with "Annnnd that's why I married you." 

 Frost has finally nailed the garden and thankfully put an end to the endless array of tomatoes.  It is one of those guilt things.. I could have ripped them out awhile ago as we have more than any normal family could consume for half a year. They just were so happily putting out fruit by the forklift load. 

 I have a very hard time ripping out productive plants. 

 The frost works wonders on sweetening various crops.. especially the Brassicas. So today the last of the kohlrabi, beets, turnips, carrots, kale and the rest will be gathered up. 

 Yep.. roasting yet another turkey today.. the last one.. FINALLY!  We had help finishing the last several birds. My husband packed his own lunch which was big enough to feed several armies.. and used 5 very large containers. He let a coworker buddy have some at lunch and from there it spiraled into my husband and 3 coworkers relishing mini Thanksgiving every week. 

 As much as I get some sort of twisted satisfaction from doing this.. I really really hate the clean up afterwards. Every pot, pan, roasting dish, cooking utensil staring back at me in this mountain of mockery. The boys sent containers so I could pack it up for them.. with little notes like.. "Thank you and could I have extra sweet potatoes?" At least I don't have to clean up the containers.

 Next week the guys will get stuffed pork chops for lunch and the last being a basket of prime rib sandwiches. (I've been sending off big bowls of salad, muffins, cookies, brownies, various soups, sandwiches.. and even berry crisps.) By Tuesday... I should have enough room to unplug the big freezer.. The end is near-er!!!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

America.. Death by Work Ethic

 Talking to my cousin, who is German/ Spanish, and lives in Germany and completely forgets she is related to "those Americans" often exposes a different perspective on things. Here's a connection I think many Europeans miss.. the American "work ethic" is killing us.

 I'm not putting down being a productive worker, but I see a distinct link between our work habits and our health, and it isn't for the better.

 My cousin got 2 years paid maternity leave. Her work week is 35 hours. She gets 6 weeks + paid vacation.. and it's not based on seniority. Then there is the health care coverage.. but that is a whole different tangent.

 The effect of the changes in our lives can be seen.. if you just look at the waistlines. We are running a race at the expense of our health. Give a thoroughbred enough meds and he'll run himself into the grave. 

  Currently.. it requires both parents to work full time to raise a family. The "norm" now is we out source family care. Nannies, day care, before and after school programs, camps, clubs.. networks created to take care of our kids while we try to keep up with the Jones' .. or in this current economic climate.. fight the rip tide to keep a roof over our heads. We're plugged in to a system that leaves us no down time to honestly connect or slow down. This detached method shows up in social interactions. Basic social courtesies becoming forgotten.. rude people everywhere.. and just daily movement becomes stressful... rush hour.

Stress.. stress is amazing at piling on the pounds. I know I'm not the only one who has used vacation time so that I could log in more hours at another job. Taking a month long vacation to go trekking is not unusual for my European family members.

 We don't even have time to cook. "I'll just grab something on the way.." you don't even have to leave your car. The concept of having a long lunch.. long enough where you can eat real food, enjoy it... that's a foreign concept. Literally. We need it fast enough that we can eat while on the move. Time is Money. 

 If you get the chance.. watch Food Inc.  We've sold out our health for the perceived notion of a better life. 

 The more insane things get, the worse our health gets.. the more people seem to daydream about escaping to a quiet farm far far away. The hilarious/ romantic part is that a lot of these people also have never lived on a farm. A petting zoo.. or what they see in commercials is the extent of their connection, or base of information that they have to relate. "Modern" agriculture is nothing like what they dream about.. irony is that it is determining how we live and how fat we get.

 The pace we keep running this rat race can only go on for so long. GMO's, fossil fuels, pills to make you happy/ calm/ focused/ numb/ energized/ sleepy/ alert/ easy to handle, superbugs, the list goes on and on and on.. 

 Privacy no longer exists.. a quiet moment to just breathe a rarity.. In all of this that we have around us.. do we have a better life? Do we have better health? Is life easier? Does most of this offer us more time for family or friends? 

 Or is the truth about what we need in the daydream? 

Forgive the incomplete rambling.. how's this for irony.. I am so busy I don't have time to finish a train of thought about hectic life. *sigh*

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Farm Thieves

 Well.. the cop-hunter guys weren't planning to hunt this year, but on a whim some of them took off to go to the farm. One of them keeps his ATV chained up there in the garage so they can go tooling about on the farm from one end to the other.

 Some red necked creep(s) broke into the farm... again. They stole the ATV and the old plows. 1 was an ancient tractor plow that was Emerson's.. the other was a really old horse plow.

 I don't know the extent of the damage.. and this is the last straw. The local police of course are worthless. Never in the past have they located anything that was stolen before.. ever. I don't think they could find their ass with both hands and a map. They were jerks to the Chicago cops to boot.

 Now the joys of a small town is everyone knows everyone.. what sucks about a small town is that everyone knows everything about everyone. I'm not even there.. and already I have more than a small clue who may have done it.

 While I have never been inclined to own a firearm.. that may change. My sister's husband is a cop.. and I may see if he will provide training for my daughter. Before it even is a possibility, she would need to learn. 

 In my family, my sisters and I all have a knack for shooting, moving targets in particular. The extent of our hunting was clay pigeons and straw bales for archery. My maternal biological grandfather was an avid hunter, so when me and my next younger sister were holding our own skeet shooting when we were 7 & 8 years old.. she was quite proud.

 While it is fun to do.. we've never had any interest beyond very infrequent recreation. Personally, I liked archery better.. and got some sort of pin for it in a small competition. Fencing was extremely fun.. and painful. 

 Anyways.. I will be putting up signs on the farm for the first few years. In my evil sense of humor, this is what 2 of them are..

" Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again."
" I aim to sterilize." 

 When people daydream about being on a rural farm.. somehow I don't think it occurs to many how much of a sitting target you can be. Our farm has been burglarized roughly a dozen times. I am a little scared by that.. but a whole lot more angry. 

 It is a small town.. the few that know me from when I was a kid still think of me as a hot head with a strong willingness to strike back. My husband is the even tempered, level headed, almost impossible to rile up kinda guy.. and I am the complete and total opposite. I have no qualms about sticking up for what is right.. and never been one to stand on the side lines when something wrong is being done. The temper I was known for was demonstrated a few times when I saw "good ol' boys" abusing horses. One was a "trainer" that was almost 18.. he had a young horse twitched and was hitting it.. "teaching it a lesson".. I decked him. Then I called the owner and the vet.. and camped at the stables that night making sure that Steve didn't return.

 People with no morals suck.

 Oh well.. here's to hoping we get out there the 1st week of November!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Spread, the Catalog, and Alicia

  My sister called me yesterday right after having her life flash before her eyes. The short version is she got called to go in to work, hopped out of the shower, went to grab clothes from the laundry, dogs charged past her on the stairs (which exit out into the living room), towel went flying, missed the railing, unceremoniously landed in the living room.. only to discover they had company. The small town they are in, several of the police officers are also firefighters. I tried not to laugh, but failed as the evil younger sister took hold and proclaimed "Well now you can say you've been naked with half the cops and firefighters in town." 
   A total exaggeration as there were only a couple of them.. but my sister.. the one who is NEVER embarrassed.. was mortified. Christmas came early for me this year. 
   The conversation took a turn when I asked her if she had any need for "The Catalog of Catalogs" as I was about to toss it in the recycling bin. 

  "Wow.. you still have that?" 

  "Yeah.. I tried getting rid of it but darling husband was entranced and kept rescuing it. It eventually was hidden by him in his sacred stash of 15 years worth of Rock & Ice." 

  The catalog is really old, ancient almost historical in the context that it is a catalog (late 90's). The pages are tagged, marked, written in with notes stating when it was ordered. Everything marked is regarding organic farming.. suppliers, equipment, seeds, etc., natural paints and everything to create a healthful home and toiletries. She had gotten all of these catalogs to help her friends Tony and Alicia with creating their dream.
  I had met Tony and Alicia a long long time ago in Tokyo. They were friends of my sister and her at the time husband Arex Alex. Alicia, ever so graciously, made a huge dinner. My sister read me and my next younger sister the riot act.. "Behave yourselves because your life does depend on it. Tony is British.. while he views burping as rude, the man is oblivious to the fact that passing gas is equally so. Don't you dare make a comment.. I don't care if it is bad enough that it sounds like a flock of ducks have just been terrified. Alicia has spent days making this meal.. you will use your best manners. She just started learning to cook and this means a lot to her."
  Alicia is from Singapore. While we had done a fair bit of traveling and were accustomed to new foods more so than the typical American kid.. to jump into a massive spread of "delicacies" of Singapore is a challenge. My sister was across the table.. and she made sure to wear the most pointy toed shoes in her arsenal just in case we even thought about forgetting our manners.
  Let's just say.. that not one of my friends through the rest of high school and quite a few years after was able to top her menu of challenging foods. One of the highlights being a clear soup with dates and what looked like white walnuts with veins. Yeah.. those were frog stomachs. Any look of fear was immediately wiped away by a blinding shot of pain to the shins.

 Tony and Alicia's dream was to create an organic farm.. which they did in Ireland. Bunalun was the name of the old estate they found. The place was decaying and charming all at the same time. The groundskeeper lived in a small house on the estate.. as did several generations before him. He could be heard at night calling his dog home... " Floooozieeee!"
  Tony and Alicia fixed the place up and got their organic farm running. They are one of the largest organic produce producers in the UK. 
   The difference in taste in organic produce was something my sister always harped about often making people taste various produce to see for themselves.

  My sister told me Alicia passed recently due to cancer. It seems an evil irony. She leaves behind a daughter just 2 years younger than mine.. so Fern should be about 11. I wish the best for Tony and Fern.. and hope one day their hearts mend. Alicia is someone who has the ability to impact someone's life memorably even if the encounter was only for a brief moment in time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cooking like Crazy.. Turkey

 One of the things that I am trying to tackle is my stockpile in the freezers. I would snap up whole pork tenderloins, turkeys, chickens, hams, and roasts galore. Now.. they are all staring right back at me and laughing.

 Cooking mania hits about every 3 days. Like last night I roasted a turkey and made all of the trimmings... and I mean ALL the trimmings. My husband gleefully took 2 hours to eat before finally succumbing to food coma. I pried the plate out of his death grip as the dog and cat were circling him and drooling. (The critters are spoiled, but not allowed to beg. Something about turkey makes them completely nuts to the point where these normally well behaved creatures are out of their minds.) I cleaned up the kitchen, which took forever, and the fur beasts got their treats. The cat however was not satisfied with her portion.. so she wandered to my sleeping husband. 


 Seems she was licking his fingers and bit him hard enough to painfully rouse him from his coma.  He's lucky she didn't bite his face. She bit him hard enough that he was now alert and hunting down dessert. The first thing he said this morning wasn't "good morning".. it was "hey.. could you pack up leftovers for my lunch?" 

 20 pound turkey should feed several people for a few days. Not here. There are only 3 of us and more than half of it all is already devoured. My husband could decimate a flock of turkeys in record time. One year, I asked him to pick a few extra up as it was nearing Thanksgiving and they had a HUGE sale, but you could only get 1 per visit for the sale price ($7 for the 18+ pounders). Sanity left him that week.. and when I went out to that freezer to grab something.. I was surprised by 16 turkeys! I didn't even think it was possible to get that many in there!

 The dog and cat will be guarding the kitchen until it is gone. Any mention of the word "cookie".. which to my dog means he is getting a treat.. he will fly at top speed to who ever said the magic word. My daughter finds this hilarious. So she gets bits of turkey and goes to her room.. and quietly says "cookie". He runs so fast to get to her that he uses the walls to slam into to get around the corners more quickly. It is funny.. and he'll do anything to get some turkey with complete and unbridled enthusiasm. That's the only food on the planet that is able to override his selective hearing.

 1 turkey almost down...  5 more to go.. by the time Thanksgiving comes around all I may be in the mood to make is cereal.




Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hunting the Great Alfalfa..

So in any down time from packing, sorting, repairing.. I am hunting down seeds for forage pastures. One of the neighboring farmers used to be our supplier of alfalfa seed. Mystery strain as it was one he perpetuated, but he passed a few years ago. 

 Alfalfa is a lovely forage crop for it's nutritional content and bonus of as well being nitrogen fixing. We'd have the fields reseeded every 5 or 6 years and never honestly stopped once to contemplate what strain it was or even hunt for a source other than the neighbor.We just always used what he sold.. didn't have to think much about what type as we already knew it did very very well in the area.

 The fields are overdue to be reseeded. It fell on the wayside as during these last few years several family members passed away. There is most likely still alfalfa, but I have no idea what percentage is left. Curiosity no doubt will overrule common sense.. and I may leave one of the fields fallow next year to see what pops up.. and if there are survivors to propagate from. The 3rd cutting wasn't done this year, which is fine and no doubt the deer will appreciate it.

 Right now, Round Up Ready Alfalfa is gearing up to make a return to the marketplace. I really do not want to have Round Up Ready anything anywhere near what I am growing. They are pushing to have it back on the market by this coming spring. 

 Although I won't be able to reseed all I want, I should be able to get a fair amount done, just as soon as I find the right seed supplier. I tend to prefer to order from small family owned and operated businesses when possible. One of my favorites being Pinetree Garden Seeds mainly because every time I have ordered from them it has been a very pleasant experience. What killed me is when I was asking about 2 different varieties.. and the girl taking my order admitted she didn't grow that vegetable as she wasn't a fan of it.. so she asked one of her coworkers about the differences in the strains! I was hooked.. super friendly people who can sometimes give first hand information about what they sell. I love small businesses! 

 However much I'd rather order from them, they aren't exactly priced to handle what I am needing. No matter who I order from, I pick open pollinated strains and propagate by various means from that anyways. 

 Only I would contemplate hunting, collecting, propagating various grasses and legumes to build up forage areas with glee. 

 Meanwhile my sister, who wasn't paying attention on the phone, insisted I should just send the seeds to her while we get organized. I can't wait to hear what she has to say when a couple hundred pounds of seed shows up at her doorstep.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Applause for Preppers and (self sufficient) Gardeners

  Right now we are faced with a unique mix of Eco-crumbling. The economy and the ecology are both being nailed on a global scale. 

Now whether or not the world goes to hell in a handbasket is not a sure thing. Regardless.. things happen.. weather happens.. war happens. Long term.. short term.. who knows. I look at it this way.. prepping (to some degree) is logical, and self sufficiency is ethical.. both are acting in accord of being responsible. They make sense to me. 

 This appeals to me because in these endeavors, various art forms are being reawakened. Canning, cooking, gardening, smoking, fermenting, designing, building.. creating. In the insanity it triggered a rip tide of creation. A quest to learn about things that 20+ years ago.. not many would have ever considered. 

 Rediscovery and enjoyment of local and seasonal bounties are now more appreciated in many cases than the act of defiance. It isn't novel anymore to eat "fresh" asparagus in September or melons in January. 

 It inspires me in a time where so much can really feel oppressively smothering. In this unique era we have access to information so easily that it is amazing if you think about it. On the same level, some technological "advances" could also set us back.. but awareness and defiance are keeping options open.

 I have to admit.. the ones that inspire me the most are out there doing it for themselves.. sharing.. encouraging.. helping others. 

 Mini rant... I find it sad when a good concept gets corrupted by self marketing. Even worse when credit is taken, or contemplating selling something that is directly copied from someone else's work ( creator of the no-knead bread and here is the recipe to make it). If you are going to push being eco-conscious... and that is your focus.. you'd share how to make something vs packaging it up in plastic and mailing it across the country. Something that youngsters figure out very early and very fast when living on a farm (or even just experiencing puppies or kittens).. a mammal produces milk after it delivers it's young. As a mother.. heck.. as a woman.. that's kinda something you would think one would figure out before hand. Good concept..good work.. good intentions.. marred by asking others to write in for more face time and contradicting what is being preached by realization of their own marketability. Rant over before I go any further.

 If I know how to do something.. I share the information... especially in seed saving. I marvel at the tenacity and focus of those backyard rebels who work at creating their own strain of plants. They are to me the unsung heroes that get taken for granted. I giggle at the ingenuity and crave more more more.

 So that's just me. I'm the one cheering in the background as someone just starts taking up gardening.. beekeeping.. canning.. seed saving.. etc. I cheer for the harvest tallies.. will hope and good luck when problems occur.. and applaud the efforts made.

 To the preppers and eco-gardeners..( artisans)  keep up the amazing efforts. Even when things don't work out as planned, your efforts are inspiring and what you achieve is amazing.

 ...... back to packing I go.....



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Resistant SuperFungus in Soil

  Everyone seems to have some degree of awareness about the current resistant bacterial strains of diseases and currently nicknamed "superbugs".  Well now convetional gardening practices are creating superfungus strains. 

 Now to most people this isn't really a big deal. Aspergillus is a genus that covers several hundred types of fungus, of which only a few dozen are pathogens to people. Some strains get used to ferment foods, some strains create the moldy spots on your bread and produce. It is one of the major fungi in compost heaps.

 While healthy adults and in general most healthy people's immune systems are able to handle the several hundred spores we inhale daily.. those with compromised immune systems can't. Although it is relatively rare, a big enough dose of spores can mess with a healthy person.

 This is the problem.. by dousing areas with fungicides the results are the same as the planet mass dosing with antibiotics.. resistances develop. While using fungicides is more widely used in some areas of Europe, it is as well done in the States (granted to a lesser degree).

 Aspergillus fumigatus is a strain in particular that has been scientifically proven to be resistant to several fungicides. Birds in particular are susceptible to developing respiratory infections and yes, this is one of the strains at work in the compost heap.

 I actually knew someone who was healthy and contacted this. They think his exposure was from when he was digging a new well for his hunting cabin in Wisconsin. The spores were in such a large quantity that they basically invaded his lungs and set up shop. He's fine the last I heard (he is one of my sister's ex-boyfriends) but it took a toll as he did have damage to his lungs.

 To me.. this is just another reason to garden organically. The last thing we need is another resistant strain to a highly prevalent potential pathogen.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Picking Out Nectar and Pollen Plants

 I was fending off the bumbling bees yesterday morning in an attempt to try to tackle the garden before the heat made it too uncomfortable to work. The bonus to being a mile above sea level in an arid location is every night the temperatures drop 30 degrees or more. The cool crisp air buys me a few hours where the only pollinators are squash bees and bumble bees as the other pollen trollops need more heat to make the journey. Great sleeping weather.. bland tomatoes.. really sweet corn.. always a trade off I suppose.

 The rains are scarce this year, the reservoir having dropped over 7 feet and several small streams in the area turned to dust, I have made sure to offer a water source for the bees. Yesterday the pan dried out and I went to refill it only to be amazed at suddenly dozens of honeybees pounce for a drink. Most of the day it was a nonstop cluster of honeybees and wasps. The bees drink from one tray and the wasps have claimed the others. 

 I paid more attention that day and noticed the honeybees were sticking to the basil, melons, squash, chives, and mints.. but mostly ignoring the rest. I wondered if it had to do with the nutritional content of the pollen, so I started to do some research.

 They are after the nectar.. not the pollen. All this time I never once stopped to consider the fact that some flowers are primarily a pollen source and others are a nectar source, with a few that offer both. It was a moment where I just was amazed at how I could have missed something like that.. it suddenly seemed so glaringly obvious.

 Not all of the nectar producers are of equal caliber either.. while rain or irrigation can dilute the flowers' offerings, not all flowers produce nectar all day long. Some are like a sprinkler system on a timer and produce nectar when the right elements are triggered. 

 Quality and nutritional content of the pollen and the nectar depends on the environmental factors, in particular.. the soil. As well the amino acids vary depending on species when it comes to pollen. The amino acids are converted into proteins for the bees and much of the nutritional content they need- minerals, vitamins, protein, etc. are in the pollen.. the nectar is the energy. Pollen gets eaten as well as the surplus gets created into bee bread which can last for up to 2 years. The bee bread actually goes through a type of lacto-fermentation and in that process vitamins D and E are created. (Who woulda guessed bees pickle their pollen?)

 While I started out trying to find the nutritional values of various pollen plants, I ended up on tangent after interesting tangent. Urban bees have somewhat of a benefit due to an assortment or plantings to pick from, rural bees (in particular ones used for commercial pollination of monocultures) can not be quite as healthy due to the lack of variety.

 So I have yet to create the list, but am gathering information on it yet from as many sources as possible. Trying to keep track of what blooms when in the garden in order to attempt to keep the attention of pollinators all season is always a good thing. By all season I mean from spring clear through 1st frost. 

 The first few years in this location taught me not to take pollinators for granted. It has been a work in progress over the years to finally have the variety and plethora that now visit. Judging from the size of the last batch of bumblebees (the ones in spring are smaller than the ones in the late summer/ fall.. how well the larvae are fed determine how robust the workers will be).. these kids did pretty good. 

 Last thing.. I found NASA's BEE SITE which looks very interesting to say the least. Using scales to monitor how a hive is doing and it's production (it seems that even peeking into a hive for a few minutes can disrupt the girls productivity for a whole day).. they are tracking climate and ecological fluctuations. Makes sense.. as bloom times would be altered by climate changes and bees are a creature more easily observed due to their hive being maintained by keepers. Tracking the hive's condition by weighing it seems brilliant to me. Tracking the production over the years would give a rather good idea when a flow starts and is finished. I guess I am just one of those that likes to know what to expect.

Monday, September 27, 2010

7th hottest, 8th driest .. and it's making me crabby

 Still a few days left to this month and it is looking like we will jump up to being the 5th hottest September on record.. and while currently we have had less than 1/10th of an inch of rain.. we may move up the ranks for being so dry as well as no rain is on the horizon.

 I tried heading out to the back garden to try to round up the zucchini, green beans and tomatoes but there is a cloud of agitated yellowjackets preventing such an endeavor. It isn't a swarm.. I have seen that too often here as well. A swarm looks like a low flying black cloud.. a migrating shadow.. this is wasp frenzy. Frantic and furious they slam into you like bumper cars. When one got stuck in my hair.. any bravery and determination vaporized as I peeled out of the garden screaming like an insane fool. First thing I could grab to get the little beast out of my hair before it stung me.. the dog brush. Not a proud moment for me... only further enhanced by my neighbors lounging on the deck and witnessing the whole spectacle. 

 Minimal sleep, blazing sun, and the heat have me feeling a bit waspish with a raging headache.

 The heat and extended summer is lovely for the tomatoes and peppers.. but hell on the water bill. Only 4 tomatillo plants this year has provided more than enough for us. I discovered that one of them is a pineapple tomatillo.. not exactly my favorite.. but my daughter likes them... sorta. 

 Definitely an anti-social kind of day... or rather selective socialization. Like facebook would send me into a tizzy right now. My verbal filter is not to be trusted today around those that drive me nuts on a good day.

 Today is a good day to organize and sort seeds.. to clean out the fridge.. scrub the cabinets.. organize the pantry.. right after I pop some Tylenol and banish this headache in a cold shower.

Thinking about Roses and Seaberries

  While tackling a corner of the mountain of stuff accumulated over the years, I unearthed some hidden treasures in a box that pretty much left me weepy for a few hours. In the box were letters written to me by my Grandmother, my Dad's treasured rosary, and some picture negatives of my sister. 

 The rosary and 2 pictures were the only things my Dad had to remind him of his parents. The beads of the rosary were made out of rose petals and are black due to time, yet still very faintly offering a sweet scent.

 The letters from my Grandmother made me laugh and miss her a lot. They are in German and very difficult for me to read especially with her script. The ultra short version .. "Anne.. behave...please." The pictures ironically.. I took of my sister in my Grandmother's garden after I decorated her waist length hair with hundreds of flowers. The first few she was smiling.. I thought it was missing something.. so I may have mentioned something about an insect.. and the next progression I thought were better. Terror.. then all out murderous glare. Ah yes.. the artistic years. (My sister got back at me.. let's just say I was sporting the mother of all asymmetrical haircuts that took over a year to grow out.)

 My Grandmother grew a massive climbing red rose up the side of her apartment building. My Dad found peace from the insanity of 7 daughters and 2 ex-wives trying to coax his roses to thrive. He hunted for awhile for this pale orange petaled beauty with the alluring scent.. and he adored it.

 The smaller farm is rather exposed. The plot of land is a big open grassy rectangle, and I really am not a fan of massive monocultures of grass. It needs a fence.. a living fence for starters.

 While I could make it out of blackberry or raspberry.. there are already plenty of those running rampant. I have considered something like what my Aunt has and make it out of seaberries (Hippophae rhamnoides) but I am not sure of the drainage in that area on that farm. 

 Seaberry has some wicked thorns. It is one of those multitasking plants that appeal to me. They are exceptionally hardy, fix nitrogen, offer visual interest, and also produce an edible crop. Harvesting the berries.. that's where it becomes death defying with those thorns.. and those thorns also make them a rather interesting hedge choice. They just do NOT like having wet feet.

 The other option I am considering is roses, Rosa Rugosa in particular. They are very very hardy roses and most of them are grown on their own root stock. Quite a few of them sport so many thorns that they make razor wire look like a safer option to cross. Many of them are scented and produce rose hips.. they also can escape control (and even self seed). 

 Although part of the allure of the Rugosa is how easy it is to care for.. the petals (with the white part, the heel, cut off) are edible.. and the rose hips are something I love in tea.. knowing me, I'd be making rose water. The ever lovely edible astringent... but the all time favorite of mine is rose water lemonade. 

 My sister's husband has made desserts flavored by roses.. but that is so very far out of my league. (Not to say I don't secretly hope that one day there would be time to learn!)

 Seaberries and roses...  I probably will plant them both, but it won't happen anytime soon if I don't get back to sorting and packing. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Scouting Out New Tools, Last Batch of Tomato Seeds

 So I am looking at getting my husband 2 gifts. Rather hefty ones I know he'll use often.. an air compressor and also a paint sprayer. Only problem is I don't have his construction buddies' phone numbers... yet. The one I really want to ask is laid up in the hospital and the last thing he needs is to be pestered.

 He's had a palm nailer on his "toys I gotta get" list ever since this one summer where they put in the fences for a stable. He's told me several dozen times about Wendel's palm nailer able to sink 30 penny nails in solid oak posts the size of railroad ties so fast it was amazing. 

 Ok..so maybe it is a bit more along the lines of I want a paint sprayer.. but I know if I get one.. he's going to take it. He refers to it as "power tool rescue and recovery". Seriously though.. it would be nice to have something more than the Fischer Price Anne safe  tools I have.

 Anyways.. the last batches of tomato seeds are fermenting away. I let the first several blooms get cross pollinated however the bees wanted and next year will grow some of those out to see what comes of it. These last batches are from trusses I bagged to keep them from crossing. A low estimate is each container is holding 600+ seeds.

 If you ever order out at a restaurant and they use those quart sized plastic containers..or they'll have them at delis.. the ones for holding hot foods. They look like this.  I have put them through the dishwasher and they are fine and I'll use them for fermenting the seeds if I don't have glass jars around. Only reason I like the plastic ones is because when pouring into a strainer outside, I have had the glass ones slip out of my hands.

The compost is almost finished, and another batch is cooking. By the time the one batch is totally finished, we should be hit by a frost. I will rip out the spent plants and set up the chicken wire ring to hot compost right in some of the raised beds. The finished compost will be turned in to the soil in one of the raised beds and I will plant garlic. The guy who will hopefully be moving in (no.. still not finalized.. hoping it will be soon) will just flip. I asked if he wanted a vermicompost bin and he very excitedly said yes. 

 With constant composting, minimal tilling, and consistent moisture the worm population in my garden and raised beds are extremely high. If you dig 20 feet away from the gardens.. in the concrete clay you might be lucky to find maybe one or two of the Tommyknocker worms. Just a guess.. but possibly they are Diplocardia spp. or Octolasion tyrtaeum. I am really hoping they are a native species though. They are large.. really large.. and unpigmented.. so their bodies are this almost translucent grey coloring and then the clitellum sports a faintly orange coloring. 

 If you ever read Tommyknockers... if you saw these worms, you'd think of the Steven King book too!

 Last tangent.. it was discovered that slugs will eat an earthworm. Not a discovery made by me.. but rather a professional worm geek  scientist who saw it happen on pavement.. and then proceeded to test the oddity several times to verify. Indeed.. slugs will prey on earthworms if they can catch them. I wonder how much of the unnaturally high slug population in my yard was due to my vermicomposting. If they would just allow us to have ducks.. the slug troubles would really not be an issue. lol I can't explain how gross it was to be weeding and have slugs stuck to you.

 Good thing an air compressor will help make building the poultry palace a lot faster!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Unidentified Shrub and the Fall Ruckus

 Right outside one of our living room windows are 3 aspen trees underplanted with this ever expanding shrub. Worst placement ever for trees as the closest is maybe 2 feet away from the house.

 The shrub is very happy where it is and when I had fish in the pond, the water and much would drain near it. The aspens and the mystery shrub of course loved the additional watering with nitrate packed sludge.

 I brought a 2 foot cutting off of the shrub into several nurseries to have them identify it. HA.. yeah..they didn't know. I know I should have gone into a local extension office, but I never got around to it.

 In the spring it puts out a lot of pale pink flowers.

Then in the fall the berries mature to a matte deep blue. Heavy producing shrub, every year it never fails to produce a big crop.

 I wish I knew what this was. I do know that the squirrels and assorted birds go crazy for it. It holds on to the berries well into winter and until winter kicks in full force, we have our daily visitors.

 Every other day we have a mob of birds pop in and cover the shrub. So many birds that the shrub moves as if stuck in a gale. The dog always runs up to the window and watches them intently.

 The squirrels come to visit almost everyday and every day they spot the dog.. and the bitch session begins. There is a many year feud between the dog and the squirrels.. which sadly the squirrels have the upperhand. Once the squirrels fill up on berries, they then take off to steal entire heads of sunflowers gone to seed.

 He's going to have a field day.. literally.. on the farm.  I am not what you would call a "dog person" but he is the exception. If every dog was like him.. I would be. He has a special "Ahhh-Rooo" which he only does for us when he wants to let us know he missed us. He can only make that sound when he exhales from a yawn.. so he makes himself yawn. 

 We will have to watch one of my Mom's dogs while at the farm. My dog seems large when you first encounter him.. but next to her neurotic beast.. he looks tiny.  
 I am going to gather a few berries from the mystery shrub and extract the seeds. With any luck, I hope to have some to plant at the farm. 

 It may seem like an odd way to approach things, but I handle problem critters like this.. if possible, I try to plant things they can have away from things I don't want them to have. I'm not talking about offering up an easy buffet (although that is how we kept the raccoons out of our garden. The little panhandlers got to the point over the years that they would hop onto the kitchen balcony and scratch at the door. They'd see us round up the leftovers and run down to the ground for feeding time. Now this isn't advisable, but the neighborhood went from being houses on 2 acres plus per home of mostly forested lots surrounded by fields and forests.. to big lawns where the surrounding fields and forest being developed with McMansions. Who the hell buys a house for a couple million with no yard? I mean you can almost shake hands through the windows with your neighbor!)

 Anyways.. beyond our bubble.. these critters perform more of a function beyond being a "garden pest". Easy to say when you don't have a warren of rabbits  feasting in your garden. We also had red-tailed hawks nesting in our yard.. My Mom refused to have a massive ancient.. and very dead oak removed that the hawks selected one year.. until the babies had flown away.

 I suppose I come from a long line of odd logic. Plant for yourself.. plant to redirect pests and encourage predators. Not sure how well this practice will hold up when poultry is added, but judging from the turkey population.. I am hopeful.