Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Little Peepers Growing Big

Our chicks are one month old today and still living in their cozy brooder in the garage. They' still too young to go outside to their intermediate chick house before joining the big girls in the hen house and poultry yard. Especially with the cool weather and lots of rain we've been having.

They've reached the adolescent age and are starting to look a little gawky.

No more little fuzz balls as feathers are now popping out all over.

I keep thinking the Light Sussex are dirty but it's just their black-tipped feathers becoming more prominent. I really like the way the Black Australorps are colored. But then I've always been partial to dark colored chickens. I'm thinking having the contrast between the dark and light colored birds running around the yard will be very attractive.

We're currently feeding them a mixture made up of one-half of our organic laying mash and one-half of the chick starter we grind from five different grains. A little bit of kelp is added to this mixture. A dish of this grain mixture is soaked overnight in fermented milk and whey which they get in a feeder separate from the dry grain mix. Another dish contains some rich dirt from our garden with chick-sized grit sprinkled on top. They also get a dish of grass, clover and dandelion leaves once a day. All they'd need would be a little chick-sized Rhubarb Pie for dessert and they couldn't ask for anything more.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday Night That's Really Monday Night

Wonder when I'll get my days straight after this last week and long weekend?

Lotsa rain and cold weather again today. No threat of forest fire though.

If our grass grows any longer, we'll have to cut and bale it. If it would ever dry out enough for that.

Hubby is now back to wearing flannel shirts again. I've had on a turtleneck and sweatshirt all day.

I've been going to change to my summer straw purse but am thinking it might look funny carrying it while wearing Sorels.

Today ended out in frustration. Not anything awful, terrible, bad. Just didn't make much progress on what I wanted to forge ahead on.

Tomorrow is another day. A new beginning. Open to all kinds of possibilities. Maybe it will even be sunny. And warm. Nah.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is The Weekend Over Yet?

I did manage to spend a good part of the day outside. The ground was a little spongy because of all the recent rain, but that made weed pulling all the easier.

Heavier mulch is needed between my rows of strawberries. That darn crab grass (or quack grass, I never know which it technically is) we have was popping up all over the strawberry patch. I traveled up and down the rows on my hands and knees and got it thoroughly weeded.

Also got two raised beds planted out to salad greens, radishes, scallions and one four foot row of kohlrabi just because I had the space left at the end of one bed. I pushed to get the beds planted because rain is forecast for the next two days.

Hubby checked our honey bees while I was working in the strawberry patch and although we were separated by a bit of distance, I was attacked by a bee that he had apparently ticked off. If you've ever heard an angry honey bee, you'll not forget the sound. I had my hair covered with a handkerchief scarf and the mad bee got in under my scarf which I whipped off very quickly. He was still tangled in my hair and I could feel him crawling on my scalp. I'm not particularly afraid of getting stung, but wasn't real eager to have him zap me on the head. I ran my hands through my hair to dislodge him, hoping I didn't smoosh him enough in the process so he would sting. Every time I got him out, he would dive bomb my head again like he really wanted to be in my hair for some reason. Or had heard that a good place to inflict maximum pain was on bare scalp and that was what he was going for.

I decided to try to out run him so got him disentangled once again and headed for the house. But he stayed right with me. I ran in the back door, luckily found Papa Pea in the kitchen, yelled that I needed help and sped past him and out the front door onto the deck. I got the demented bee out of my hair again and Papa Pea tried to knock him down with a dish towel. He told me to get back in the house which I gladly did. Then he ducked in a couple of seconds after me leaving the bee outside. That was our big excitement for the day. We both escaped without getting stung, but it was close. Whew. I tell ya, homesteading can be dangerous.

In the comments section of my earlier post, Sparkless suggested that to use my plentiful supply of rhubarb, I make rhubarb pies and freeze them. So here's my question for all of you. Just what is the best way to freeze ready-made pies? Do you bake them before freezing? Or do you freeze the "raw" pie all made up, but unbaked?

Can you tell how MONGONGOUS this stalk of rhubarb is? I can hardly get my hand around it. And it's still tender. Good rhubarb!

It's been my experience that freezing the pies raw results in a soggy bottom crust when they are defrosted and then baked. But I'm wondering if the pie was baked first, then frozen and then set on the counter to defrost being serving, wouldn't that result in a soggy bottom crust, too? Anybody? Sure would appreciate you sharing any experience you might have on this topic. Thanks for any and all thoughts in advance.

Fogged In

That's just what we were early this morning, but happily the sun is currently making a valiant effort to burn off the gray stuff.

I'd love to get back outside to finish up garden-type work but don't know how fast the grass and soil will dry out. The light to heavy rain all day yesterday did a really good job of soaking everything to the nth degree.

Rain is supposed to start again tonight (70% likely) and go through Tuesday (boo-hiss and ugh) but at least the temperatures are creeping up there: high 50s and even possibly the low 60s in the next few days.

Anybody need any rhubarb? My one fantabulous plant seems to be loving the current weather and is producing much more than we can use. I find I just don't use frozen rhubarb during the winter months so don't see much sense in adding to the freezer stash I still have from last season. I don't have the craving for rhubarb in the off-season as I do when I can cut it fresh during the spring and early summer. Don't want to make more jam 'cause I have plenty left from last year. I could probably use the rhubarb up if we went on an all-rhubarb diet but I'm thinking that wouldn't be the wisest thing to do. Up here rhubarb grows so well that it's kind of like zucchini . . . everyone has plenty of it so it's hard to give away!

Here's Father Goose again all by his loney enjoying a Sunday morning brunch. Papa Pea doesn't want to take Mother Goose's eggs (blanks that we're thinking they are) away until she gives up sitting on them.

This handsome guy wanted his picture taken, too. We think he's one of our cross-breeds that was hatched out last summer. Part Maran and part Red Dorking.

Can you tell I'm rambling on to avoid doing less than desirable tasks that I could be doing inside this morning while waiting for things to dry out so I can go play outside? Yeah, I was afraid that would be apparent. Okay, I'll put on my big girl panties now and go do what needs to be done.

Hope you're having good weather in your neck of the woods and are enjoying the holiday weekend.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Perfect Timing

Papa Pea and I pushed for a couple of hours yesterday to get the first cover crops sown in the pumpkin patch and twelve of our raised beds.

We knew rain was in the forecast for the rest of the weekend (NOT perfect timing for holiday weekend revelers) so getting the plots ready and planted sounded like the wise thing to do.

Yes, it was very cool again yesterday as witnessed by the multi-layered look being sported by the planter gentleman above.

Do you think Martha Stewart does it this way?

So has the rain started? Yup. We woke this morning to gently falling rain which is great for the newly seeded plots. Not so great for potato chips, hot dog and hamburger buns and picnic blankets which may get a little soggy in the next couple of days.

Friday, May 27, 2011

We Interrupt This Summer To Bring You Winter

Okay, it's not quite as bad as that, but here's a quick overview this morning:

At 5:30 a.m., we had 29 degrees.

There was 1/4" of solid ice on the chicken waterer.

The high for today is forecast to be 47 degrees.

There is rain predicted for each of the next four days. (I guess the upside is that it is rain, not snow!) Memorial Day Weekend picnics can be held inside, right?

Last year on this very date, our apple trees were in full blossom. We should be very grateful for our cool, slow spring this year since had the trees had been in blossom this year, we would have lost all hope of any apples because of the drastically low temps last night.

Our usual onslaught of late spring/early summer biting insects haven't even had a chance to appear yet. See? There is good in every situation!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mr. Lonely

We kept only the single pair of geese over winter. Mother Goose has been sitting on a clutch of eggs for ever so long now. We were kind of expecting her to hatch some goslings out about a week ago, but nothing so far. Either we miscalculated or she's sitting on duds.

Nevertheless, she seems bound and determined to do her motherly duty and leaves the nest only a couple of times a day for a very short time. A VERY short time. She'll grab a few mouthfuls of grass on her way down to the pond, take a quick sponge bath, drink some water, then run (literally) back to her nest. It's amazing how female geese can survive on so little when they're sitting on eggs. She never touches the food or water we put in her enclosure. (Ungrateful little feathered twit.)

This all has left Father Goose a very lonely fella. He's much too far above the other poultry to associate with them although he could if he wanted. He spends a lot of time walking around by himself honking forlornly and looking as if he's lost his best friend.

He's extremely protective of his mate and will raise a huge kafuffle whenever anyone goes close to her and the nest. But lately I think he's reached his limit of alone time.

Now when you approach, he still comes at you hissing with neck thrust forward in a threatening manner. But if you talk to him, he lowers his high standards and seems to enjoy just having another being to hang out with for a while. Today when I was working on one side of the fence, he followed along with me nonchalantly eating grass and dandelions on the other.

Something is going to give in the incubating egg/gosling department soon. Then he'll have his little lady love back out and about to keep him company. We're hoping it will be with several round, fat, fluffy goslings waddling behind Mom and Pop.

Gotta Use That Luscious Rhubarb!

This is the very best Rhubarb Crunch (or crisp or whatever you want to call it) I've ever come across. When I went into my recipe box to find this recipe last night I was thinking I first made it last year, possibly two years ago. You see, when I first try a new recipe, I mark the date and other comments on the card. Know how old this recipe is? May 25, 2007, was when I made it for the first time. My, my, how time does fly when one is having a good time.

I've reduced the sugar ingredients quite a bit because hubby and I both like the flavor of rhubarb to come through in a dish . . . and the original really was too, too sweet. I've got it now to where I think it's dee-lish. If you try it, I hope it suits your taste.


1 cup flour (unbleached white or whole wheat or a combination)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup melted butter
4 cups diced rhubarb

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except rhubarb.

When uniformly crumbly, place 1-1/2 cups of mixture in a 9" square pan and press down lightly.

Cover with the 4 cups of rhubarb.

In a small pan combine: (I think this is what makes this dessert "special.")

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (I always use arrowroot powder in place of cornstarch in a recipe because cornstarch is made with GMO corn. I've heard there is non- GMO cornstarch but I've never found it.)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cook this mixture on a medium/low flame until clear, stirring almost constantly.

Pour over rhubarb in dish.

Top with the remaining crumb mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No Tornadoes . . . Just Frost

Let me state upfront that I'll take the frost we had this morning over the terrible tornadoes others are having any day!

Yepper, we did indeed wake up this morning to all roofs and vehicles covered with that white stuff called frost. Fortunately, the temp warmed up rather quickly and the frost was gone before we knew it. No young plants were nipped in my fallow garden (I may have picked the best year not to garden, don't you think?) but I'm wondering how other gardeners in the area fared.

I was sitting here at the computer right after breakfast this morning getting ready to do a post when my husband announced, "Power's going off!" And it was off until about a half hour ago when he reported that great progress was made today. Great progress. Love the sound of those two words.

My services were not needed to help him with his "great progress" so I headed outside. I suppose part of the reason for our overnight frost was our very clear sky. And we surely did have a lovely day today full of bright sunlight.

When I first went out, there was a heavy dew everywhere in the yard area so I decided to attack a much neglected flower bed on the side of the house. Unfortunately, it was also in the shade first thing this morning. I had on a long sleeved t-shirt, heavy flannel shirt and down vest . . . which wasn't enough. Hubby stopped out at one point and commented that I looked half frozen and wouldn't it be smarter to do something out in the sunshine until the sun got up high enough to hit the corner I was working in? Hmmm. Right. Good idea. Turned out it was so much nicer in the sunshine that I quickly shed my vest and flannel shirt and worked with my t-shirt sleeves pushed up.

At noon I came in to make us soup and a cottage cheese salad for lunch. I had it ready before the man working underneath the house in the crawl space (nasty work area) was done with his task there so I took advantage of a few spare minutes to sit out on the deck.

I tried to capture Mrs. Cardinal on the bird feeder but she doesn't show up very well. Her mate was farther on down in the yard in an apple tree.

Everything certainly has greened up since our recent rains. Looking out at this view felt very relaxing.

I continued my battle with weeds this afternoon and think I'm gaining on them. Also went back to that flower bed and filled a whole wheelbarrow full of prunings and debris which went to our ever-growing burn pile.

Now to make a simple supper for tonight. Leftover spaghetti noodles and sauce from last night mixed together for what my mom always called goulash. A tossed salad on the side and we're good to go.

I just checked the weather forecast and it is for frost again tonight and tomorrow night. Whadda spring.

Hope you all had a good day and aren't in an area where you're having to deal with bad weather. Keep that generator and those emergency lamps goin', Erin. We're thinking about you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

AWOL - Now Back with . . . Not Much

I have this feeling as if time is actually slipping through my fingers. Seems the hurrier I go, the behinder I get. You name it, I'm behind on it. Are we/am I trying to do too much? Might be, but I don't have enough active brain cells or time to ponder that possibility.

Sorry 'bout dropping out of sight for a few days. And love and thanks to those of you who sent e-mails wondering if I was daid. All is well, but busy. However, for some reason none of the busyness has seemed worthy of including in a blog post.

We're in a spell of very wet weather although we haven't actually had any falling rain today. Yet. But it's all super-heavy cloudiness, very cool and damp. We had a temp of 43 when we got up this morn; now at mid-afternoon, it's only up to 47. And guess what? Our forecasted low temperature for tonight/first thing tomorrow morning is 31 degrees. Ugh. Double ugh. Hope it doesn't snow. (Bite my tongue!)

Despite the yucky weather, I've been trying to get outside all day today to work on what I can . . . but haven't made it yet. And there is still much to be done before all is ready for the summer season. (But wait, at the rate we're going there will be no summer season this year, so what the heck, if I just stop now I may be home free!)

I know if I were doing my usual full-blown garden this year I would be super-frustrated with the weather. Maybe this WAS a good year to take off.

Here's my ever-faithful, first-to-bloom-of-the-year Leopard's Bane. Flower bed hasn't been weeded and cleaned up yet, but the Leopard's Bane is blooming away. All is well.

The Bleeding Heart blossoms seem to have popped out over night.

Rhubarb must like cool, damp weather. The thin white stake I set to the right of the plant is 30" tall so you can see how large the rhubarb has grown in the past week. It's in the center of a four foot wide raised bed and is starting to hang over the edges already.

When Papa Pea put on his insulated vest and cap to sit down for lunch today, I decided it was time to give up and make a fire in the wood stove. It's now (two hours later) up to 68 in here so we're making some progress. (He may be able to take off his gloves for dinner.)

I can't go outside until I get the mountain of dirty dishes on the side of the sink washed. To my mind, the whole house can be immaculate, but if there are dishes waiting to be done, the whole place feels cruddy to me. (Does this woman need an automatic dishwasher in which to hide her dirty dishes? Yup.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gorgeous Weather Day

Jiminy Crickets! We got another wonderful weather day again. Temps in the 70s but no humidity, Minnesota blue sky and no bugs (yet).

It was mostly an outside day for us on our little homestead. I finished completely mulching the strawberry patch using grass clippings the man pushing the lawn mower made for me.

The raspberries got tied back up to their trellises to keep them from bending over onto the ground as they grow taller and taller and bear all that heavy, luscious fruit.

I did some edging around the field garden with the tiller. That sod of ours is so thick and healthy that it would flow right into any worked up garden space like a wave of water if you didn't constantly keep at it.

There were enough clippings to mulch the permanent bed of comfrey and the Jerusalem artichokes.

I got started on tilling the perimeter and in between rows of the raspberries but there's still much to finish tomorrow if the predicted rain holds off.

Last year, seven days from today, on the 27th of May our apple trees were in full blossom. The above is a picture I took today which illustrates how far behind we are this year.

We had guesstimated Mother Goose would be hatching out her eggs sometime around the 19th of this month but so far no little goslings in evidence. And she's still patiently sitting.

I caved early this morning and took my first rhubarb cutting of the season. The stalks may still be a little short in length but they are nice and thick so I don't think I'm hurting the plant. I always bake a plain rhubarb pie with the first of the rhubarb. The picture above is straight out of the camera, no tweaking done at all. Our rhubarb plant is a Strawberry Rhubarb and it seems like it gets more red in color each year. Hubby commented that he kept thinking he was eating a slice of cherry pie for dessert tonight because it was so red.

Speaking of food, we had another little cookout on the deck for dinner tonight. Hamburgers made over the wood fire this time. When hubby tried to flip the burgers halfway through cooking, the rickety old metal rack we were using collapsed. Fortunately, we were able to save both burgers (whew!) but it was kinda frantic for a few minutes there.

After dinner I baked a batch of what are Papa Pea's current favorite cookie,
Walnut Clusters. He's convinced himself that they qualify as a healthy treat because they're just about all walnuts. And everyone knows nuts are good for you!

I'm planning on being outside again tomorrow . . . if the weather cooperates. I don't put a lot of faith in the forecasters but IF they are correct this time, looks like we'll be having rain through next Tuesday.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Some Progress

I haven't blogged about our remodeling because we realized everything would go much easier, quicker and faster if we finished up some things in the garage first. And that work consists of a lot of stuff that doesn't really show . . . or is very interesting as blog fodder.

The accomplishments today still may not be very interesting, but at least we can see definite progress.

Yes, folks, this is a construction zone. Note tarps handy for covering wood. It started to rain two or three times today but thankfully never amounted to much.

Moving this doorway has been on the list for several years. (Yep, I said several years.)

At long last, ta-dah, the doorway has been moved!

My washer and dryer in the bathroom are moving out to the garage. The easiest way to plumb for the washer was to build a false floor on a small section of the garage. The water lines will now go on top of the cement and under this flooring.

The three-quarter inch plywood (do you know how much a 4 x 8 sheet of that weighs?!) flooring is temporarily laid out. The plumbing will have to be done before we secure it permanently.

So, yes, we're still in the garage. Will we EVER get out of the garage? It's bound to happen sooner or later. Please let it be sooner!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hrumpf / Hooray

I got nothing done today.

Well, that's not true.

I did quite a few things today that needed to be done.

They just weren't things I wanted to do.

But because I got them done today, I won't have to do them tomorrow.

Then I can do some things I want to do.

Each day really is a new beginning, a new chance, a new opportunity.

Hooray for Tomorrow!

I Might Need Help . . .

Papa Pea and I both flopped into bed last night at 10:30 which was later than it should have been since we'd both been wide awake and going since 4 a.m. yesterday morning. I was last to get in bed, turned off the light and asked him a question. I think I remember him mumbling something that sounded like, "Too tired to talk . . . "

Fast forward to 12:35 a.m. when I woke to find I was still wearing my reading glasses. And I hadn't even been reading before falling asleep. I did a quick check to see if I might still have my gardening shoes on (I didn't) and promptly fell back asleep.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Punishing My Body . . . and Other Homestead Happenings

We decided this past weekend that this week was going to be "Outside Work Week" meaning it was time to give the push to get things out there under control and shaped up for the start of our summer season. Although when the temperature went down to 32 degrees last night, it didn't feel as if we were anywhere near summer time.

Hubby weed whipped the borders around the field garden and pumpkin patch and then cultivated both areas in preparation for sowing the first cover crops on them. Since I'm not gardening in either of those areas this year, the cover crop will keep down the weeds and by plowing it in it will help enrich the soil during this year of rest for the gardens.

I headed out to weed the raspberry patch today but got side tracked as I walked through the blueberry patch and decided to weed that while I was there. Happily, there were few weeds in evidence. How could there be with the several tons (slight exaggeration) of peat moss I've mulched it with over the last couple of years? I'm happy to say that weeding job was accomplished quickly. Then I did make it on to the raspberry patch and got that completely weeded. (Not so quickly.)

Even though I've been using a kneeling pad for the work I've done on my hands and knees, I found today that my knees are just plain sore. Sorta feels like I've been kneeling on gravel a lot lately. Other parts of my body are complaining about this first real workout of the season that I'm giving it, but I know that all will get better in a few days. I hope. (In the meantime, my husband is getting used to my moans and groans when I try to move and doesn't even ask anymore if I'm okay.)

Tonight we decided we would have the first "cook out" dinner of the season on the deck. (Why don't we do that more often even when it is just the two of us?) I made a fire in our portable fire pit and let it die down to hot coals ready for roasting hot dogs. Well, our "hot dogs" are actually turkey franks, but they taste much like hot dogs without containing ingredients that might be injurious to our health.

So the two of us knocked off work about five o'clock, cracked open two beers, enjoyed our hot dogs in buns and a small salad and then just sat and reveled in the end of a gorgeous day. We have a huge birch tree that spreads half of its branches over a part of the deck and wouldn't ya know it, a dirty little bird high up in the tree dropped a deposit right on the back of my hand as we were talking and relaxing after dinner. Hey, could have been worse. He missed befouling our dinner. And my glass of beer. (Whew, that would have been awful.)

Other news on the homestead, we think Mother Goose is due to hatch out the eggs she's been sitting on sometime this week. Pictures of the new goslings will follow as soon as I can get them. When they hatch, they're such huge fuzz balls compared to new chicks that I just get a kick out of them.

Speaking of new chicks, our new chickies are growing by leaps and bounds. We did lose one of the Black Australorps last Thursday. Our daughter had volunteered to look in on them for us as we were gone all day. We had warned her that one of the Light Sussex chicks had been looking droopy for a day or two so not to be alarmed if she found it dead. When she came by to check, all the Light Sussex chicks looked fine but there was the one Australorp that was dead. (The Light Sussex we had been watching seems to have recovered from what was ailing it with no problem.) But we can't help but wonder what took the Australorp so suddenly.

I still haven't managed to get any seeds planted in our salad green raised bed. Or green onion sets planted for scallions. Maybe tomorrow.

Raspberry Patch In Progress

I don't know what happened during the first part of the day yesterday (selective memory?), but I didn't get out to the raspberry patch to do the first-of-the-season clean-up until 2 p.m.

Armed with our large garden cart to hold the pruned canes which were then hauled away and stashed on the burn pile, a kneeling pad, sharp hand pruners and, best of all, a willing helper/husband (thank you, thank you, thank you!), I set out to conquer the canes.

We've got three rows of raspberries each about fourteen feet long. We originally had four rows but one of the rows was a fall bearing variety and because of our short season, each fall just about the time the berries were a-l-m-o-s-t ripe, we would get a hard freeze and lose about 90% of them. Nuts, I said, and ripped them out. So that left us with the three rows we now have which is more than ample (waaay more than ample . . . I plan on selling fresh raspberries this year) to produce enough for us to eat fresh, give away and preserve for winter.

In short order yesterday, the dead canes were cut and hauled out, the tops of this year's producing canes trimmed down and things were lookin' good.

Well, except for the weeds I need to yet take care of (read: dig out by their very roots) in and around the plants. It sure is proving to be a dandy year for "dandylions" in our area. Great early food for the bees but why do they have to grow so strong and robust right smack in the middle of strawberry plants and snuggled down hugging the base of raspberry canes?

I hope to get the patch weeded today, the perimeter and pathways tilled up and new mulch for the season applied. Off I go . . .

Monday, May 16, 2011

Keeping A Lid On It

Do any of you canners out there have experience with the Tattler reusable canning lids? (This is their website if you care to check it out.)

I use around 200 lids each year (some regular mouth and some wide mouth) and have been debating for several years now (nobody ever said I make snap decisions) trying some of this company's reusable lids.

According to their website, the lids first came out in 1976 and are "guaranteed to last a lifetime." I don't know a single person who has used these. Have any of you?

I would be curious to know how well the rubber rings do indeed hold up. I've had storage jars with a rubber ring for a seal and they have all seemed to deteriorate and become useless in time. But the rings of these reusable lids may well be a better quality of rubber.

They seem pricey (the wide mouth lids are 3 dozen for $23.95) so it would take a few years before they started to pay for themselves. And I know I couldn't afford to buy 17 dozen (which is about what I'd need) all at once. But I wouldn't do that regardless of cost until I tried some first.

Now you can't beat a lifetime guarantee, if that would truly be the case. But will the company be around for my life time? Or yours? I've rarely had a seal go bad in the many, many years I've canned with the more commonly known lids, so do I want to chance experimenting with these reusable lids?

It would really be helpful if any of you have had experience with the Tattler reusable lids and would care to share your thoughts with me.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pooped . . . But Mission Accomplished!

The strawberry patch is done. Or at least as close to done as I could make it today.

I know this doesn't look very impressive because some of the plants are still pretty puny, but once they get some sun on them, they will really take off.

I got the whole bed completely weeded and tilled around the perimeter and between the double rows. Sawdust was spread around each and every plant and I even had enough to do between the rows. We saved four big burlap bags full of wood sawdust/shavings from our wood cutting adventures last year and it sure came in handy for this mulching job. I'll do a little more around the perimeter with grass clippings during the coming week.

Methinks I will have plenty of grass clippings because as you can see, the lawn area has gotten away from us and is in dire need of a haircut.

The big shadow you see at the top of the strawberry patch is our solar panels with the late afternoon sun behind them. What a gorgeous day we had today. The temp on the north side of the house never got above 47 degrees but we had bright sunshine all day. A few weeks ago, we hung a thermometer out on the south side of the house so we would have more of an idea of what the temperature was in the garden. But do you think I can remember to look at that one?

Strawberry patch is done. The raspberries are next. We also got two raised beds ready today for me to plant scallions and salad greens so we can stay big and strong all summer. If the weather holds, I plan on being outside every day this coming week.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In The Strawberry Patch

It's hard to believe that strawberries are coming in ripe already for some of you readers. Not so up here in the North Woods. We don't start harvesting until around the 4th of July.

Even though I'm not doing my usual gardening this year, I've still got our three berry patches to take care of. Out of the three (strawberries, raspberries and blueberries), the strawberry patch with approximately 145-150 plants is the most weed-filled so that's where I'm concentrating my efforts this weekend. We had a heavy downpour last night and the ground is pretty wet . . . but at least this means the weeds are coming out easily. (I'll take all the help I can get.)

Last fall we mulched the strawberries with evergreen boughs for the first time. We usually use old hay or straw but found ourselves short on that mulching material and we had had three or four huge evergreens go down in a wind storm which meant we had a big stack of boughs we were planning on burning. I checked a couple of resources and because strawberries like an acidic soil, evergreen boughs were actually recommended to use as winter mulch. I think those boughs ended up riding a couple of miles around our property by the time we had hauled them out into the field and added them to the burn pile and then hauled them back into the garden to cover the strawberries. (Oh well, we needed that extra exercise loading and unloading the boughs, right?)

How did the boughs work? Good. And not so good. Looks as though they provided the cover needed to keep the plants from freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, but they did not keep down the weeds as the more dense hay or straw mulch does. If I had my choice, I won't use the boughs again.

We uncovered the patch last Saturday (one week ago) and much to my dismay there were already healthy, green weeds standing tall next to, in and around the plants.

The above picture is pretty much what the whole patch looked like when I started working this morning. Not good.

Here's a shot of part of one double row I've got finished. Although there are some sparse looking spots, as soon as the plants start growing they will fill in those area jiffy-quick. Plus, I think I'll move a couple of those plants on the right that have gotten a little out of line.

Okay, I've rested long enough. I came in for a pit stop and a drink and sat down here at the computer when I shouldn't have. Up and at 'em. Back out here I go.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chix Pixs

Do you know how fast nine day old chicks move? I tried to get some cute, interesting pictures to post today but mostly what I got were black and yellow blurs. They whizz around like the Energizer Bunny.

"Looky here, guys! A big dish of fresh food. Let's all stand in it with our dirty feet!"

Of our eight Light Sussex chicks, I'm thinking that we have three roosters and five hens. In looking at the two little yellow ones in the above picture, I think you can see one has darker, more defined wing feathers already than the other one. I'm calling the ones with the more prominently colored feathers roosters. Sound reasonable? I can't yet tell any difference in the Black Australorps. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No Regrets This Year

In the spring when my chives reach a nice height and before they bloom, I go out and give them a really short haircut.

Besides the rhubarb that is coming along nicely, but no where near cutting stage yet, the chives are the only thing in the garden that is green and growing.

Why do they get hacked down all at once?

Because I process them to put into containers that I freeze for use when the fresh chives have died down in the fall.

You may notice (upon close inspection) that the date on the above containers of chives is a little wonky. That's because being the lazy person I am, I used pictures from two years ago.

But I promise you I went through the exact same chive chopping process today. Now the house and my hands have a definite redolence of chives. Whoo-ee! Papa Pea has been gone all day and when he walked back in a half hour ago, his first words were, "Whoa! You're doing chives!"

Don't ask me why ('cause it beats me), but I failed to put any chives in the freezer last year. Yup, we were chive-less all winter. And, boy howdy, did I ever miss them. I kept thinking about putting some in cream soups, cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, dinner biscuits and rolls, etc. all through the winter months but the cupboard (freezer) was bare (of chives). This year I wanted to make sure I didn't regret failing to put up a big bunch, so that was my project for this afternoon. (I do live such an exciting life, no?)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Here Chick, Chick, Chick

We've always made our own chick starter by grinding and mixing some of our organically grown grains.

In equal parts we mix corn (and going around clockwise), barley, wheat, (red) millet and oats.

They get ground up to a fine consistency in our faithful, ol' Corona mill powered by Papa Pea.

We also mix in some kelp, about 1 teaspoon to every quart of ground grain.

This grain mixture, lots of fresh water, a little finely ground grit and an occasional hot fudge sundae (I'm KIDDING) and our chickies are happy little fuzz balls growin' like crazy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Feel Good Day

I had a lovely, laid back, very fine Mother's Day today. Both hubby (although I keep telling him I'm not his mother and he doesn't have to do a thing for me on this day) and daughter offered to do whatever I wanted to celebrate Mother's Day.

Daughter came to town to do a little work in her office but made it clear she was ready to do whatever I chose. She even brought her hiking boots because I had mentioned I was thinking of the three of us taking a hike in the woods. But we had a (I should say a-NOTHER) very gray, damp day so I told her to go on to her office, get some work done and we'd convene later in the day for some dinner. I said I had some things I'd just love to hunker down at home and get done.

What did I do? I spent the afternoon in the basement cleaning and organizing. Don't look at me so funny. I enjoyed myself thoroughly! It's something I've been wanting to do for a while but just never seem to find the time to fit into a "regular" day. I love to do that kind of cleaning and organizing. It makes me feel so "rich" to see all our stuff organized and lined up on shelves. Besides that, now I know what's where and feel a little more on top of things. At least in that one little section of the house.

This is the front of the card Chicken Mama gave me. It's an Anne Taintor (we both love her cards, calendars, etc.) and says, "I dreamed my whole house was clean." Ah yes, that would be a dream.

She also gave me a very generous gift certificate for a session with the massage therapist I see to get lymph work done. 'Twas much, much appreciated because that's one session that won't have to come out of our budget. But I still wish she hadn't had to squeeze the expense out of HER budget. She's always been too, too generous with thoughtful gifts for other people.

I called in an order for a pizza for dinner from a favorite funky restaurant and she picked it up on her way out of town. Glad to report it was dee-licious. Not so glad to report I ate way too much. Then we all went out into the front yard, walked around while talking and doing poop patrol. (TMI?) It was fun. The day had turned a smidge warmer and the sun almost succeeded in peeking through . . . right before it set.

Back inside where Papa Pea did all the dishes that had been accumulating throughout the day and Chicken Mama loaded up her doggies and headed home. I'm going to get into bed a little early and do some reading before I konk out for the night. Mother's Day celebrations can be exhausting, ya know. But it was just the kind of day that I love.

And I couldn't be prouder of my little girl who made me a mother thirty-nine and three-quarters years ago. I love her bunches and heaps.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Mental Health Day

We decided to call yesterday a mental health day for both of us to run away from home and all the thoughts and concerns that have been plaguing us recently.

Throwing a few essentials in the car, we headed off into the boreal forest. Hubby usually does 90% of the driving when we're together mostly because he can't read without battling car sickness. But yesterday I commandeered the steering wheel and told him he was to sit back, relax and enjoy the views. (I think this worked because he commented on how much more of the scenery a person can see when he's not driving. Or trying to read. Or trying to not get car sick.)

The day was mostly gray and threatening rain, but we only experienced a couple of drops at a couple of different times.

We wanted to check out the inland lakes to see what the current ice conditions were. Opening fishing weekend is but one week away. We sure couldn't be classified as ardent fishermen (fisherpeople?) and have made it out on opening day only once that I can remember. Since that was the time we got caught out in the middle of a lake in our canoe in a terrific snow squall (couldn't even see the shore) and had serious concerns if we were going to make it to shore without dumping out, we've not been overly eager or felt it necessary to go fishing again on the earliest day of the season.

Here's another lake we checked out. Still ice out there but with luck, it could be gone in another week.

I had my camera at the ready because nearly every back road we went on, we saw moose tracks. The one above has a match box laid by it to give you perspective.

In one area, Papa Pea needed to make a pit stop, so I took a short hike off another path to see if it led to an overlook of a lake we were near. After encountering the third pile of moose droppings (each "nugget" is about the size of a walnut and they were looking none too old, I might add), I decided I'd seen enough and scurried back out of the woods and waited in the car.

We returned home around four and then headed back into town last night to hear a speaker talk on sustainable farming/gardening and eating locally. D and his wife live about 60 miles from here and operate a very successful CSA providing food to sixty families. They live off-grid with their two kids who are now teenagers and have built their farm up from literally bare land. Talk about being an inspiration! A few years back, we took an all-day stone building class at their farm and I still remember the wonderful buffet-style meal his wife prepared for about twelve of us at noon. They are now doing a lot of consulting work. How they manage all they do is amazing . . . and it also makes me tired. The ground swell of people interested in getting back into raising their own food (yes, even in our less than hospitable climate) is wonderful to see.

After D spoke, we saw the movie, "The Queen of the Sun - What Are the Bees Telling Us," which explains the plight of honey bees world-wide. Rudolph Steiner, the founder of biodynamics, predicted this collapse we are experiencing now way back in the early 1900's. The movie is very well done, but I suspect it was a bit of "preaching to the choir" as the building was packed with folks well aware of this dire situation that could possibly bring about a massive world-wide food shortage if we don't find a way of changing practices and philosophies before it's too late. The movie has just been recently released but I've heard it will be available on Netflix in the future. Well worth viewing if you have the opportunity.

As usual, I've rambled on longer than I intended. And lordy-be, the sun has come out now so I'm going to get out there and soak up some of it while getting some clean-up work done this afternoon. See ya!