Friday, August 29, 2014

Potato Family Roots.

I have been digging up my potato harvest - the score is:  Fancy Schmancy Potato Bag Planter - meh vs. Hillbilly Tire Planter - Wowzer!  In order to make potato harvest a little more exciting, I decided to go at it like an archaeologist.  Of sorts (or of spuds).  This is what I came up with:

From top left to bottom right:

A.  Newborn spud
B.  Infant spud
C.  Baby spud
D.  Tweenage spud
E.  Terrible Teen spud
F.  Mama spud
G.  Papa spud
H.  Great Grandpappy spud

 And let's not forget:

Weird Whale spud

Obviously, I am either in need of a vacation or I have too much time on my hands....  Hey!  Given that everyone (except me) loves all things "baby" vegetables, do you think that Newborn Potatoes could catch on?  Infant Carrots?  Preemie Spinach? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Cabbage, she is beautiful...

I know I was going to post pix of my new driveway, but it pales in comparison with this:

I may just give up my garden and rent out part of my neighbor's fertile plot.  Remember those six Savoy cabbage plants that I wheedled into his garden?  Two got so big they split (my fault for not checking on them), while the other four grew into massiveness.
This one is NOT the largest.  Yes, that's right.  It weighs 12.8 pounds.

I had to use my regular scale.  After I dusted it off.

I see pounds and pounds, gallons and gallons, of beet sauerkraut, blueberry sauerkraut and plain ole sauerkraut in my near future.  I would love to hear if anyone has any recipes for canning cabbage - I need all the help I can get!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Weekend Adventures and Winners!

It seems like I time-warped through the weekend, there was so much going on. Firstly, I came home to a new, expanded and improved driveway! (Pictures tomorrow) I feel a bit better about accepting this 'service' from my neighbor, as it seems he has done the same or similar for other neighbors. I am, however, going to slip a dozen eggs into their mailbox every week. It will slightly ease my conscience.

Saturday morning I arose at my usual o'dark thirty so that I could bake for the local library's book and bake sale. I have been dying to try a recipe for Lemon Blueberry Bread (GF). It smelled heavenly and I figured it would be a good seller. When I came in from morning chores, I discovered that it must have tasted wonderful - someone had taken a HUGE bite out of the middle of it. After emitting a screech that would set off car alarms, should I still live in Brooklyn, I stormed into the living room and easily spotted the culprit. Lovey sat, looking at everything and everyone but me, with blue crumbs stuck to her nose and muzzle. It was so hysterical that I had to laugh. Then I put her in her crate. I had just enough time to whip up a GF Lemon Glazed Zucchini Bread, although it went to the sale still warmish in its plastic cocoon. I hope it didn't turn into a sodden mess. I dropped off my recyclables and made it home in time to work on the garden, run the vacuum, peel back the tarp over the nuggets (no rain predicted for a few days - hallelujah!) so I can dry it out a bit. I picked up feed, paid a short visit to a friend, came home and unloaded the car and cleaned as much of the dog hair I could out of it. Then it was off to the city to pick up my aunt and uncle, flying in from Arizona to visit my folks. I discovered that most of the heavy-duty construction is done on weekends. Thank goodness I gave myself an extra half-hour, because I needed every minute. Their plane arrived early! Then I schlepped them to Vermont, dropped them off, got their luggage inside, said "have fun" and drove home.

Sunday was more garden work - I decided to turn the failed strawberry bed that lines the front walk into a flower bed. This meant ripping out all the strawberry plants and transplanting my bee balm. I have to build up the bed, so I rummaged around and found a 4x4 and a pile of bricks and got it half done. No one can accuse me of being a dead ringer for "Martha". It's Hillbilly All The Way! I got the laundry on the line and then met a friend for more blueberry picking. Technically, I did not NEED more blueberries. But I am not one to turn down free food and spending time talking with someone not on four feet. I got back in time to throw a roaster pan full of tomatoes and basil into the oven, then my friend Lisa came over to get wood chips. We had a delightful, but short, visit, and I started on the sheep and llama area. Got everything raked and shoveled 9 - five gallon buckets o' beans for future use. I also forked a pile of composted hay/manure around the bare roots of the big fir tree that is next to their barn. If I keep them in this area for winter, I will have to wrap the trunk with chicken wire. A sheep can de-bark a tree in a nanosecond.

I then stopped. Except for chores.

Cooking-wise, I made a Gluten Free Tabbouleh Salad that was/is delish! I also defrosted some cooked chicken and made chicken fried rice, having discovered a container of cooked rice that needed dealing with. For dinner, I made a light Tomato Basil Cheese Quiche that was really good! My lunches are set for the week.

And now that you have read through this entire rambling post - I will show mercy....the winners of the giveaway!

Book #1 - Most popular by far - goes to MAMA PEA! I have your address, so will pop it in the mail this week.

Book #2 - NANCY PO will soon be a goat expert! Please email your mailing address to me.

Book #3 - Some thoughtful reading will be had by -- JOY! Please email your mailing address to me (swomersley at gmail dot com)

Book #4 - A little Italian gardening will be done by SUE O! Disclosure here. The cats, bless their hearts, knocked over my vase of sunflowers and it dampened the back part of the book - it did not destroy the text, but the pages will be wrinkly. If you would rather not accept it, that is fine. If you still would like it, I will mail it as soon as it dries thoroughly. Please email your mailing address or let me know, either way.

Thanks, everyone, for participating! The next giveaway will most likely involve cats....
(KIDDING, Carolyn....I think....)

Friday, August 22, 2014

It's been a while.

As I was sorting through my bookcases, gleaning prospective volumes for the local library's Book & Bake Sale, I came across some that cried out for inclusion in a homesteader's library.  How about a giveaway!?! 

Here is what is up for the offering:

Book #1
By one of my favorite non-fiction writers,
Joel Salatin.  A wonderful book that reinforces
the importance of nurturing the "family" farm.

Book #2
(slightly different cover than mine)
A great resource for starting a small herd
of goaties.

Book #3
A classic from one of the foremost
proponents of farming and food.  A great

Book #4
If it wasn't for the six feet of rock and gravel
on my property, I would have done
this successfully.

So there you have them, from soup to nuts.  To be entered in the giveaway, just leave a comment about which book you would like.  This giveaway is open to US and Canada only, given the exorbitant postal costs of shipping any further.  I will randomly choose (four) winners on Sunday and announce them on Monday.  Cheers!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On Patrol.

We have been diligently doing our neighborly duty every morning now.  No more tresspasser sightings.  The dogs have been working on their macrame - or that's what it seems like after tangling and untangling their leashes a gazillion times.

I would usually let Scrappy run (relative term at his age) off leash, but we were heading back and once he gets his 'home' in his vision, he does not look right or left.  Kids.

Monday, August 18, 2014

We Loves Our Zucchini and Putting on the Squeeze.

I've been experiencing a sort of debilitating shock every weekend lately.  It happens when I get up in the morning, have my coffee and look at my list.  I freeze up.  Of course, some of that might have to do with the fact that it has not been over 50 degrees for the past five mornings.  I mean...

But mostly it has to do with the fact that I have had to try and squeeze two-days worth of work into one.  This is causing my frazzled brain to shut down and I sit, unmoving, unable to process it all.  Eventually, I can nudge myself into action, but I lose valuable time and it makes it even worse on Monday.  Sigh.  Not much I can do about it for a few more weekends.  It is what it is.  This Saturday was my dad's birthday (92!!) and I schlepped the granddogs north where we bustled around and grilled up his favorite - steaks - with fresh corn on the cob, a kale salad and doubly triple chocolate ice cream.  The kids were well behaved and Lovey was so relieved that she wasn't left behind, that she conked out on the way home and continued her snoring on the sofa.  As a matter of fact, they were all out cold.  It was very nice.

Sunday, after I managed to goad myself into action after six times my usual daily dosage of caffeine, I tackled the garden a bit, worked in the poultry yard and spent a delightful half hour with my friend, AnnMarie.  She is the Florence Nightingale of all things goats - getting dragged from bed in the wee hours to help with a difficult birth, an emergency.  She is something else.  She was the midwife for Sage and has provided Chickie with a wonderful home.  She is a bit of amazing and it is always so much fun to spend time with her.

I cleaned up the garlic that has been curing in the barn and it was a fair harvest.  The heads were a little smaller than last year, but last year I left them in the ground too long.  This year looks better.  I also stuffed two of my three (if I am lucky, there will be one more...) round zucchinis and made some zucchini fritters with zucchinis donated by my neighbor.  I absolutely love zucchini fritters - these were made with fresh corn, as I had two ears in the fridge.  I have them for dinner, I have them for breakfast (nothing like them topped with an easy-over or poached egg).  I am having them for lunch!


Down to garlic business.


My tomato plants are in a sorry state, and I have been pulling any tomatoes off that are on their way toward ripeness.  The cherry tomato plant is in much better shape.  Peppers are growing, but not close to ripeness.  The beans are gone - plants donated to the sheep, who love them.  I am still getting 3-4 large cukes every other day. 

I harvested potatoes out of the potato bags (bintjes) and out of one tire planter.  The number and size were a little disappointing, but I think I need to water them more.  The bag allows a lot of moisture to evaporate and the smaller bag planter did better because it was tucked between a raised bed and a tire planter.  I learn something every year.  I learn many somethings every year.

P.S.  A series of giveaways is coming up...stay tuned....

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Whole Lotta Lovin.

When I got up this morning (way too early, per usual), I did not hear the tippy-tapping of canine toenails outside of the door.  This is unusual, since they seem to hear even the faintest rustling from behind closed doors.  Even Pepper, my knee-cozy, didn't budge.  Hmmm. 

When I walked into the living room and turned on the light, I realized they were all balled up on the sofa.  No wonder - here we are, mid-August, and it was 45 degrees.  This is not right.  Nope.  Not at all.  After making them go out (it's a lot of, "You go first.  No, YOU go.  No, YOU go." when it's cold), I made a cup of chai tea, let them back in, and sat on the chair-and-a-half to dig into a (are you sitting?) book.  Yes, Sylvie has me hooked on the Maisie Dobbs series.  Light reading, well-written, with a fine character study and an interesting period piece.  Plus it's a mystery and I love me my mysteries.

Within nanoseconds, Pepper was smooched up next to me.  I feel a tap on my knee, peer over my book, and there is Lovey.  Furrowed little brow, soft, wrinkly boxer face, white paw on my knee.  Pepper goes into my lap, Lovey smooches up next to me.  Then there is some heavy purring on the back of my neck.  Slim - he who must not be held - has snuggled tightly against my neck.  Scrappy has dibs on the favorite end of the sofa and is snoring softly(ish), his back to me, looking like the canine version of Yoda.

My mornings are filled with a whole lotta lovin.  This is especially appreciated when it's 46 degrees, fernatssake.


I try to keep the pity out of my face, as my office mates ask if I'd like a salad from the deli downstairs.  Poor unfortunates.  I sit with an array of salads on my desk - left to right (I forgot my cellphone at home - I hope Scrappy doesn't surf the Net all day) - thinly sliced cucumbers (mine), sprinkled with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and seasoned rice vinegar; diced tomato (mine), sprinkled with basil - green and amythest - chiffonade (mine) and a little EVOO (Italy's); broccoli salad - diced raw broccoli (mine), with Craisins (Ocean Spray's), red onion (farm in VT), diced crisp bacon (Marianne's), and dressed with a dollop of mayo (Hellman's), yogurt (mine), ACV (mine) and a teaspoon of sugar (organic somebody's).  I go close my office door, because I don't want them to see what they're missing.  I am trying to be kind.

I have this every single day, until I run out of tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Playing catch-up.

With so much of my weekends being spent off-farm, I am having to scramble during the week.  This is not helped by the shortening of daylight.  And the little waves of panic that are lapping around my consciousness, telling me winter is on the way.  I am my own worst enemy.

After a very bumpy start, my summer squash is actually producing.  Just in time for powdery mildew.  I am so thankful to have even a few of them, I don't even care.  Well, I do, but I don't have time to do much about it.  While wandering by the cucumber trellis, I spotted quite a few good-sized cukes, so those went in the basket, too.  Tomatoes are starting - finally - to ripen, but the plants look like hell.  I just hope they last long enough to keep the crop going.
I love these round zucchinis!
I've got popcorn ears growing!  I literally jumped up and down when I saw the tell-tale silk peeking out, here and there on the stalks.  And these are some stalks - they are well over 7 feet tall.  I believe I will give them an entire bed of their own next year.  You know, in my quest to downsize my garden...

This past Sunday, after dithering around for weeks, I finally made a new clothespin bag.  For years, I have been using a system that does not work.  For YEARS.  Talk about slow on the uptake.  I have a seersucker (remember that stuff?) sleeveless granny top - sort of a cross between a short muu-muu and an apron - that I have been using as a wearable clothespin holder.  This means stuffing the clothespins in both pockets, reaching down, then up, down, then up and then having to reach across and down when I run out of pins in one pocket.  Awkward, to say the least. 

My new bag:

And, to close today's post, a dose of cuteness.

I have been trying to get a pic of all three of them - I've come close, but no cigar.  Since Pepper is never further than 10 inches away from me, it's easy to take his picture.  Crouching waaaay down.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A good time was had by all.

There is nothing trickier (in my opinion) than pulling off a surprise party.  While the party was not 'quite' a surprise, it contained enough unknown and unsuspected elements for the birthday girl to be very surprised.

On Saturday, we threw a picnic party for my middle DS on the occasion of her 60th birthday.  She had requested just a little picnic with family.  She got a medium picnic with family and friends - and live music!  I had had three signs printed up and placed them in strategic places on the close route to my parents' house in VT.  The next surprise was my Soul Sister Abner (aka Rosie) - who drove all the way down from Barre and then back the same afternoon.  This, of course, was a treat for the entire family. 

The Birthday Girl - isn't she lovely?
Mother and son.
Perfect setting for the music.

SS Abner (heehee) and Dad - groovin' to the music.

The next surprise was a duo - violinist and keyboard(ist?) - both local musicians who play a vast array of Celtic, Scottish and other folk songs, along with popular music and classics.  My DS is a music lover (and musician), so it seemed to be the perfect surprise.  Never mind that we ALL got to enjoy it.  The grill was fired up, liquid refreshments were chucked in ice filled coolers, salads and sides were put out and a great time was had by all of us.

Then I went home and collapsed.  After chores.


I spent Friday morning an hour north with my DS Melanie and her daughter, picking blueberries.  There are few things better than standing in the early sun, a slight breeze cooling you, the sound of a train in the distance, birdsong, and the plink, plink, plink of blueberries hitting the bottom of your pail.  I managed to pick my quota, while humming my way down the rows of bushes.  It was delightful.  I also got to deliver some blueberries and honey to a friend to whom I owe a lot.  And I got some baby goat love in the bargain!


I decided that I wouldn't be good for much on Sunday, so I had two friends over for dinner.  I was on a roll!  I now have enough leftovers to last me for a week.  I did manage to get Linden's front problem hoof trimmed, as he was not quite as eely as usual.  It still needs work, but I will pick my moments.  I had moved the Tweenies out of the Nuggets quagmire and have been enjoying watching them darting about in their new-found freedom. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Is there such a thing as a "Typical Day"?

I was wondering about that this morning.  I would have to say that my typical day is atypical.  Or is that an oxymoron?   My days have shifting chores - depending on the behaviour of the indoor group, the weather, the traffic to/from the job, how much sleep I got or didn't - on a whole variety of variants.  (Redundant?  My third grade teacher, Mrs. Puca, would be rolling in the hereafter...)

This is my day so far:

Awake, tossing and turning at 2:30A.  Force myself to stay in bed and try to go back to sleep.  This was the result of eating later than usual and having two glasses of wine.  The cast iron stomach of my youth is way gone.  I am also trying to adjust to a small, warm bundle of Velcro that snugs up against me.  Pepper.

3:20A, I give up and get up.  Much yawning, snorting, clicking of nails from outside the bedroom door.  Everyone goes out - they are very good at rocketing off the deck without barking.  I am sure my neighbors, whether they know it or not, owe me.  Then pat the three little black and white cat heads that surge around my ankles. 

I pad off to the kitchen and plug in the electric water kettle.  My coffee method du jour is coffee concentrate made with my Toddy.  (Thank you, Sylvie.)  A dash of cream, a tiny spoon of sugar, and I am off to check email.  You never know - someone might have sent me an important message between 10P and 3:20.  Not.  I put in a disc from my current book on CD, let the dogs in, and curl up with my coffee and Pepper.  And Cookie.  And Kramer.  And, not to be left out, the front end of Lovey.

By 4:30A, I am revived and go make another cup o' joe.  Then I wash yesterday's dishes, sort out the cat and dog food, and pack my lunch.  Then I go sit down again with the usual suspects.  By 5:30A, I am making my bed and slipping seductively into barn clothes (multi-patched jeans, giant t-shirt from a Juvenile Diabetes Walk 18 years ago).  I wade through the various pawed ones, lift Pepper's bowl off the floor (cue hysteria) and go get a quarter cup of kibble to soak in homemade chicken broth.  Gently heated.  I then pick up the other two bowls (more hysteria - this time affecting the cats, too) and portion out their kibble.  Much yipping and snorting (Scrappy snorts).  When the broth is juuuust right, I portion it out and then add Pepper's softened kibble.  I then portion out the cats' every-other-day helping of canned cat food.  Complete hysteria, including spinning and talking in tongues, while I put down their bowls.

I head down the hallway towards the cat room - Kramer gets his food separately because he's skinny and a slow eater and needs more time than the other two butterballs.  The other two get theirs in the office, behind a closed door.  I'll skip over the cleaning of the cat commode, etc. - by then Pepper and Lovey are frothing around outside the baby gate in front of the cat room.  We go out for a walk, making sure all 'business' is taken care of.  Come back, let the cats out of the office - dogs surge in to clean up any missed molecules.  I had out crunchy treats and make my breakfast.  I labor over my crossword puzzle, listen to the weather, then head outside. 

Chickens first.  My latest typical day includes filling the Nuggets' feeders and waterer, then opening the door and watching them as they launch themselves like giant led balls, landing in various awkward and ungraceful positions before lumbering off to the feeders.  The Tweenies shoot out, happy to be away from so much body fat.  Then I left the babes out (all SIX - my lost guy came back!) and fill up their feeder and waterer.  THEN, I open the chicken door on the main coop, tossing down any treats from the kitchen, strewing a handful of scratch feed, and fill up their feeder and waterer.

On to the sheep.  Everyone gets a good scratching behind the ears (Norman is still a little twitchy), then I go into the barn and bring out the hay.  It goes in two piles - the boys and Apria; Juno.  She doesn't share.  Then I fill water buckets, check the garden  - just in case the tomatoes that I checked on last night miraculously ripened overnight - and I check the hummer feeder.  Dry.  Go inside and fill with homemade nectar and replace.

More hysteria upon re-entry - Lovey must have a bee in her bonnet, as she has managed to snag my reading glasses and chewed one stem a bit.  She goes in her crate with a stern warning.  Not TOO stern, as Pepper is very sensitive to loud voices.  I finish my lukewarm, well, cold, coffee, change into work-type clothes, squint into the mirror (it's amazing how much better you look when you squint), comb hair, brush teeth, apply five seconds of make-up, bid everyone hasta la vista, and head out the door.

Aren't you glad you asked?   You didn't?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Jinxes and Tassels.

I had been going on ad nauseum about how much better Lovey was, now that she had someone to play with.  She seemed like she was getting past her separation anxiety issues - she really did.


Granted, my barn shoes are on their last legs - but at least they had legs.  This is the first time that Lovey has actually damaged something - she usually shows her distress by shredding paper here and there.  Good thing I wasn't gone for more than 20 minutes or I would have been one-shoed.  I will just have to live with the duct tape until next summer.  And Lovey will have to be crated every time I leave.  I'm glad she's so good about it - she trots right into her crate and only gets a little stubborn if I have to crate her more than twice a day. 

Tassels!  My popcorn has tassels!  I would have taken a picture of it, but they are waaay over my head.  Aside - I am always so surprised to find out I am not six feet tall.  I have always envisioned myself as a very tall person.  While I wouldn't classify myself as vertically challenged, I am shortish.  Dang.

I have never grown corn and I am so excited about the possibility of having my own popcorn.  If it does actually form ears, I plan to put in a 6x6 plot next year.  Where is another story. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bitus Gigantus, Chicken Shuffling and the Weekend Review

While walking the dogs Saturday morning, some bloodthirsty insect managed to find its way under my t-shirt and bit me mightily just below the rib cage.  Ouchicus Maximus!  It swelled at its worst to almost 4 inches in diameter.  And it itched like a son-of-a-gun.  This is 36 hours later - (grossicus):

I should have called Carolyn to find out what nasty thing could cause this much damage...

I managed to rein in my test kitchen tendencies and only made two new things - one was a disappointment and one was amazingly good.  I had made the broccoli/kale version of Simply in Season's Zucchini and Tomato Pie.  I still don't have a ripe tomato...  It was bland and the kale was too chewy.  I would try it again with a lot of changes - less milk, more cheese, blanched veges.  The second recipe had been hovering around my consciousness for some weeks.  I'm not sure why, as there were no Russian genes invading my forefathers/mothers, as far as I know.  It was just one of those things - I read it, something clicked, and I HAD to try it.  One of my favorite blogs is Thrift at Home - written by a very versatile and talented mom.  I've been trying to come up with new ways to eat beets and this was a new one to me:  Shuba.  My beets were a mixture of chiogga and golden, so I didn't get that lovely pinkish topping.  But it was/is GOOD, or, as they say in the Old Country, voskhititel'nyy...

After taking Kyle in for an oil change - and finding out (not really a surprise, I was in denial) that he needed four new tires - I was not in the mood for much of anything.  So, I decided to shuffle the chickens.  I moved the Ostrich Chicks (aka the Langshans) to the small coop top.  This, it turned out, was a poorly thought-out idea.  It would have been fine, had not one of the OCs either purposefully or inadvertently fluttered down with the Tweenie Chicks.  Who then tormented him until he managed to pop out of the enclosure.  Right into the Big Chicken Yard.  That evening I heard all kinds of frantic peeping and there he was, all by his lonesome, in the front yard.  There wasn't much I could do at that point, other than herd him into the barberry bushes for shelter.  He was not in evidence this morning.  So, at o'dark thirty - my usual time of rising - I clipped on my headlamp and plucked the Tweenies out of their sleep and put them in with the Nuggets - more their own size and not given to torturing newcomers.  That left the OCs with their own little Shangri La.

I had hoped to finish off some sewing projects, but there is a problem with the tension on the bobbin thread and I'm too challenged to figure it out at present. 

I need to take note of Pepper's remedy for all things stressful: