Showing posts with label Farming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Farming. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Finally!  I have the time to devote my attention to my poor abandoned blog.  I have reached the end of my hours of working day and night and am back to a lovely, calm schedule.  Almost the beginning of a summer break.  When I got home yesterday afternoon, I determined that I would begin at once working on all of the projects I've been meaning to.  First, I got my camera out and took copious pictures of pretty much everything and everybody that would stand still long enough.  I've been taking gloriously long runs, performing all kinds of cooking experiments, and reading all those books that have been sitting on my living room side tables for months.

Here are a few pictures of what's been going on around here:

This year's piggies.  Photo Credit: No idea. Whoever was holding my camera at the moment.
Another thing I did: Go to the greenhouse down the road
and stock up on various pretty flowers.

One of the lovely Lantana plants I got at the greenhouse.
This variety is called Evita Red, which means that, every
time I walk past these plants, I get to belt Don't Cry for Me Argentina.
While I was moseying around with my camera, Grouchy Kitty walked up.  Grouchy Kitty is one of our many barn cats.  Her name has nothing to do with the made-famous-by-memes Grumpy Cat.  Actually, her name came before that famous cat, I think.  She was just a generally grouchy cat who didn't like other people.  But, over time, she started to become a people cat.  However, bless her heart, she has a very disgusted look on her face at all times.  Those who are her friends understand that she really is a very kindly soul who has unfortunate looks.  In all seriousness, we think she has some Persian in her blood.

Tomorrow, I've got another chatty post in the works.  It turns out that I had all kinds of posts churning around my head, so I'm excited to start regular posting again.

Monday, April 20, 2015

After the Rain

After it came tumbling down
in fat, wet drops that made us sprint for the barn,
the rain stopped.

And we walked outside to see
the most beautiful rainbow 
arching across the pitch black sky.

Then I blinked, and it was gone,
leaving in its wake a sky,
turning blue with puffy clouds.

And the only signs that it had rained
were the rushing of the gutters
and the puddles on the soaked grass,

the muddy, wet feet,
the patch of sky in the puddle,
and the buzzard in the tree, drying his wings.

(This was a late afternoon poetry inspiration that came to me as I walked to the chickens.  A surprisingly unexpected post idea for me.  I think the beautiful day went to my head.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Rose Garden

This story begins when we bought our farm.  While the majority of the place was a bit dilapidated and run-down, there was one little bright spot-and that was the rose garden.  The previous owner had filled the little plot chock-full with all kinds of beautiful, highly scented roses.  Now, I am not a rose person by any means and I find them kind of fussy, but I did appreciate that beautiful little corner.  Well, several winters later, the roses were sulky and a couple had died.  The cause?  Ash from the wood stove being dumped in the garden (by certain parties who are going to remain nameless *ahem*).
The embarrassingly rackety, early spring condition of the flowerbed, pre-pruning.

See, the problem with ashes is that they're very alkaline on the pH scale.  And roses like very acidic soil.  So the poor dears were in very alkaline soil and they obviously were objecting.
After some tidying up and pruning the roses

While walking past the poor dejected dears a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly had a wild hair to fix that sad little garden.  It started with pH tests, phosphorus tests, potash tests, nitrate tests, and about a thousand more.  After realizing that that patch of soil was devoid of absolutely everything except for potash which, surprise, surprise, is derived from wood ashes, I got to work.  I dumped and dumped all kinds of manure-mainly sheep and horse because they're very acidic.  I got Miracid and about 10 other products.  Then, I heavily pruned all the rose bushes that were still alive.  And, ta da!  the bed looks much better.  Now, of course, this is a work in progress and it's going to take awhile to get the soil back to the way it was.  I still have a couple of tricks up my sleeve-dumping cheap, steeped coffee, fish heads for a nutrient blast, chicken manure (which is supposed to be the most acidic).

My last step was to order some new, old fashioned roses for the garden.  I picked four, all highly scented in a variety of colors, plus climbers that I'm going to plant to climb up the side of the little summer kitchen attached to the house.  The plants came yesterday and, oh, it looks so refreshing seeing that little bit of ground coming back.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Anniversary Post

Readers, it has been a year.  A whole year since I started blogging.  I kind of can't believe it.  I thought I would tell you the story of why I started blogging.
Just some chicken pictures.

I have been a voracious reader my whole life.  Books stick in my mind years after I read them and I have lived the majority of my life with many of them.  Funny books, sad books (but only occasionally), scary books, exciting books, how-to books, they all have a special place in my heart.  When a friend started blogging and told me how much fun it was, I was eager to start, but didn't really think that I had much to write about.  I have a pretty normal, quiet life.  Still, I had always noticed the minutiae around me and I thought it might be kind of fun to see if I could make an interesting blog out of it.  And then I thought about books.  I can still clearly remember-I was sitting on the couch, having just finished The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery, with my head in a whirl of thoughts and things to discuss about the book.  And I had a sudden revelation-I could write about books!  I certainly spent enough time reading and thinking about books to write a blog.

And so I started-with a basic blogger template and a bunch of ideas.  I wrote my first post and clicked "Publish" for the first time.  For the first couple of weeks, I carefully watched the statistics as people read the blog.  I found other book bloggers, far more experienced than I, who had been in the blogging business for years.

It turns out that blogging doesn't just involve words (although it does involve a lot of those), but also numbers.  So here are just a few of the numbers I've collected:
Number of posts written: 208
Number of comments made: 390
Number of times this blog was viewed: 12,645
Number of times I have said, "Wow, I love blogging!":1,000,000+

Finally, I want to thank all of my readers, the commenters and the non-commenters.  This blogging journey would not have been nearly as fun if all of you had not read my blog.  I especially want to thank all the family and friend readers, who gave me advice and opinions and shared the blog among each other (Grammy, chiefly, among them).  But also, my fellow bloggers who have participated with me in so many things, from book clubs to book tags to everything in between.

I'm looking forward to another year of blogging!  I'm sure there will be more of the same and maybe some new things, too.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Day

We're in for a blizzard around here, which means that I'm battening down the hatches, but also making sure that I'm stocked up on entertainment and things to do.  There's a dirty house to get tidy and all the animals to tuck up first, though.  And a blog post to write, because it's been on my list for so long.  Be warned-this is a multi-part post.  So sit down with a cup of tea and prepare to listen to me ramble.
A little wooly worm that I found creeping across the icy snow.
Of course, I tucked him up into the hay in the barn.

Part 1-Snow Ice Cream
Yesterday, the snow hadn't started for real, but we had about 5 inches, so I went outside and filled a metal bowl and prepared to make snow ice cream.  Have you heard of this?  I first read of this in the Melendys books when I was elementary school aged.  The idea enchanted me and I remember making a batch and ending up with sweet, watery milk.  After that, I abandoned the idea.  The memory of that flashed through my head and so I ran to get the ingredients and hurried outside to try snow ice cream again.  And it was delicious!  It's not like regular ice cream, but the trick is to keep everything thoroughly frozen in the snow and to eat the ice cream outside, exclaiming about how cold it is all the while.  I love making this recipe because it's pretty ridiculous to sit outside making ice cream in the middle of winter and, oh is it delicious.  I firmly shut my brain off that is reciting the litany of nasty stuff in that precipitation and pretend that I've never heard of acid rain, er, snow, and heaven knows what else and make this ice cream.  It's lovely.  Here's my recipe:
This is a terrible picture, but white ice cream against white snow is extremely hard to photograph.

Fill a smallish bowl with cleanish snow.  Sprinkle sugar liberally into the snow.  Now that I think of it, maple syrup would be delicious as well.  Actually, maybe more delicious.  Pour about a capful of vanilla into the snow.  Splash full-fat, maybe even raw (if you're a rebel) milk into that sugary snow and then lightly toss together, kind of like you stir egg whites into batter.  Your goal is to keep the snow intact so you have a kind of ice cream-ish texture.  While you're doing this, keep your bowl sitting firmly in the snow so it's staying as cold as possible.  Enjoy!
Part 2-Winter Activities
I have the hugest pile of mending to do.  And, you know what?  I'm actually looking forward to tackling it in front of the fire during these blizzard-y evenings.  I've got a bag filled with yarn and thread and needles and a thimble and I'm ready to go.  I'm also planning to entertain myself with my camera.  I'm in the process of going through the pictures I just took off of my camera and sorting them and, I'm sure, throwing great quantities away.
The cute sweater-wearing (trust me, it's necessary) dog, but also
this perfectly illustrates wood stove season.  There is always ash.  Always.

Part 3-The Buzzards in the Tree
I can't believe it, but these buzzards haven't made it into a blog post.  I apologize to them and now will post several pictures.  We have this very old tree that is dead, but provides great shelter to so many animals.  It is a spectral sight to look out and see that stark, old, dead tree filled with buzzards with their wings spread (we think they're drying their wings, but who knows).  I do wonder what they're watching for.  The chickens?  There are no carcasses that I know of.   I have become peculiarly fond of those old birds.

Part 4-My Book List
I do have a book list, readers.  Of course I do.  Here it is:
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, because it seems extremely fitting
Essays of E. B. White
The Edwardian Lady: The Story of Edith Holden
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
A new vintage magazine that I plan to read
I plan to keep busy with these titles.  I'm sure there will be more reading.  I'll keep you updated.
Whew!  I'm finished rambling.  If you've reached the end, thank you for listening.  Now I'm off to stuff the cracks of the chicken coop with straw.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gardening Reading

It's been so drearily bleak around here, but not cold.  It's my least favorite weather conditions-50 degrees and gray.  So, to distract myself from the less-than-ideal weather, I've come up with a nice big stack of gardening reading materials.  I'm already getting excited for the seed catalogues and gardening charts!

Here's my list:

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver-I think this is my third time reading through this and I love it more each time I read it.  This does deserve its own review, so when I get around to it, I'll definitely write one.

  • How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jevons-Good, so far, although the man does seem to have a mad gleam in his eye.  I can't imagine doing all of the hoopla required for this kind of intensive gardening.  Interesting, though.

  • The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord-A lovely, lovely book.  Not terribly informational, but full of gorgeous pictures and ideas for making beautiful little kitchen gardens with just a little bit of space.

  • The 12 Month Gardener by Jeff Ashton-A really great book all about gardening year round in a temperate climate.  Useful, interesting, and inspiring.
Now aren't you refreshed just looking at all those bright green books with the word "garden" in their titles?  I'm sure there will be more books like these as spring draws closer.  I'll be sure to keep you updated on what I'm reading.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Pictures

I've been taking pictures up a storm the past few days.  You see, I got a new camera for Christmas!  And, oh, it is a beauty!  It's a grown-up camera with a nice 18-55 mm lens and all kinds of settings that are making me extremely overwhelmed.  Everything is getting photographed, from the salt shaker to the family opening presents.

Here is some of what I've been capturing:

My brother and I lit some paper lanterns to line the driveway after an extended family Christmas gathering.
So lovely.

A yawning kitty.
The tops of the kale, photographed artistically as I was going out to grab some for a salad.
Photograph of the inside of a hornet's nest sitting in an old tree.  I've been wanting to take
this picture for so long and couldn't get up the nerve to stick my camera lens that close. 

Hazel the sheep.  My camera is speedy enough that I can get animal pictures!
The little paper lanterns.

All of this photography is making me want to check out books and books and more books about photography techniques.  I'll compile a list of favorites once I get them all read.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Meet Dorcas

About a month ago, we got a new stray kitten.  A straggly, skin-and-bones, strangely colored, yet adorable kitten.  She was about 4 weeks old and had just a few teensy weensy teeth that were definitely not ready for grown-up food.  She was named Dorcas, after the small town near where she was found.

Fast forward another 4 weeks and Dorcas is still adorable, but now her little tummy pooches out and she had grown a nice thick, outdoor-kitty coat.  I made fudge and, while it cooled on the porch, I had my (at least 3 times daily) visit with Dorcas.  I snapped pictures while I was there.  I have to say, kittens are not easy to photograph and this kitten is even harder.  She's much more attached to us than previous strays have been, which means that, as soon as she sees a person, she wants to climb all over them and snuggle up for a nap.  Nevertheless, I managed to get a few good-ish pictures.

I keep finding myself making excuses to go out and visit this charming little bundle of fur.

The box that was her shelter when she was littler.  Now it's
just a climbing structure.
This picture is to display Dorcas's tail.  Her ears and her tail
are a striking charcoal against her otherwise black fur.

 The picture above comes with a story.  While I was busy taking pictures of Dorcas, Olive, the plump, elderly cat who has been surprisingly calm about Dorcas joining her in living on the porch, came up to me.  She touched the camera with her nose and then headed over to these plants...

...and posed for me.  And what could I do but take a picture.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pictures of Today

Instead of being a good blogger and review two finished books, or writing about my first draft of the Katniss dress that is finished (!), I'm doing this:

Just one of the containers that held apples.

Here's the drama that was unfolding in this picture:  I was cutting up apples for applesauce,
when who should drop by, but Tom.  He proceeded to get most infernally in the way.
A while later, I took the cut up apples inside, leaving that box that had held
the apples and now had two knives at the bottom of it.  A gust of wind
blew up, blowing the box and Tom went chasing after it.
At some point, Shadow came and joined in the fun.
That is, I'm making applesauce today.  Yes, folks, canning season is in full swing, which means that writing about interesting things takes the back burner.  

Ps.  These pictures were taken with the camera on the laptop.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  My camera has croaked, leaving me sadly picture-less.  I was extremely surprised by how good these ended up turning out.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saving the Season

It's canning season and I'm having fun looking through canning cookbooks for ideas and inspiration. There's something so exciting and anticipatory about looking through a really beautiful canning cookbook. One of my favorites this season is Saving the Season by Kevin West.  It's a big, fat canning cookbook, full of recipes for canned everything, from marmalades to pickles to syrups.  It also has the added advantage of being full of all kinds of eccentric fruits and vegetables, not just your basic strawberry freezer jam.

I love this cookbook for a number of reasons. The pictures are all gorgeous and perfectly portray the tone of the book.  The recipes are written with enough instructions to be clear, but not so much that the reader becomes bogged down by unnecessary details-a fine line to balance for cookbook writers.  The book has that lovely, crisp, new-book smell that I so adore.  And finally, the food all looks delicious.

As a little picture of the recipes that this cookbook holds, let me tell you what from this book is on my to-can list this summer:
-Watermelon Rind Pickles
-Elderberry Syrup
-Yellow Peach Slices in Tea Syrup
-Spicy Sweet Squash Pickle
-Apple Jelly with Mint
-Pine Cone Syrup

Actually, I would happily make anything from this cookbook, if given the time and ingredients, but these are the main things that I am itching to try.  I don't think I would regret trying any of these delicious recipes.  So for those of you who can, what is your favorite canning cookbook?  Do you have one, or do you stick to the basics?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Cats- An Explanation and an Introduction

As I was heading out to feed the chickens, I watched the cat sociology and made up a story as I watched. Then, a brilliant blog post sprang into my head and took hold.  I arranged and rearranged sentences as I lugged buckets and shook mud out of my boot, then came running inside to quickly get the post down on paper.  So here it is.

As you may know from my frequent kitty pictures, we have a host of barn cats.  These are not cosseted little darlings, mind you (not that I have any problem with cosseted kitties).  They get their first vaccinations, get fixed, then live pretty rough and tumble lives.  Yet we all have soft spots in our hearts for these kitties and they have all come to have personalities, both real and made up.  Now you're probably wondering what on earth I mean.  My family has an odd tradition (and it's generations deep) of making up a character for beloved pets.  It's usually kind of based on the animal's real personality, but it's definitely very much rooted in the imaginary.  I was thinking about why we do this and I think that it's because we all read and grew up reading.  We are so used to fictional characters that turning our animals into fictional characters themselves is no problem!

So, I thought I would properly introduce you to the cats, both their real and pretend personalities.  I did want to make a little clarification: these cat personalities are in no way related to people that we know.  Most of them are quite stereotypical characters that nobody is really like.

Tiger-I'm not sure if he's ever been in a blog post.  He's a huge cat and he kind of feels like the patriarch, probably because he and his sister Midnight were the first cats to come on this farm.
The Pretend Tiger is the CEO of the cats.  He puts together power point presentations of how many mice have been killed, how we can "grow the business" and how the rates of mouse killing have "impacted" our growth (can you tell how much business incorrect grammar lingo bothers me?).  He's a slick businessman in a suit and he's an affectionate adoptive uncle to his nixy little niece and nephew, Tom and Shadow.
                                  (Couldn't find a picture of Midnight)
Midnight-I'm sure I've never posted about her.  She is almost never around because she takes long hunting trips and keeps to herself and kills lots and lots of mice.  She also hates other cats.  However, she loves people and is always up for a good snuggle, as long as she doesn't smell like the latest skunk she got in a fight with.
The Pretend Midnight is a bit of a recluse.  She is a spinster who lives in a little cottage in the woods by herself.  She's fiercely protective of her bachelor brother and she's convinced he can't survive in the world without her.
Sadly, this is the only picture I could find of Patsy Cline.
But you get an idea of what she looks like.

Patsy Cline-Yes, we have a cat named Patsy Cline and yes, it's after the country singer.  See, she came around singing a song about a man who'd done her wrong (the common theme in Patsy Cline songs, doncher know).  Sure enough, Patsy Cline was pregnant and now we have Shadow and Tom.  The Pretend Patsy had a rough background (she probably did in real life) that involved a string of men and one cat in particular-a greasy longhaired cat who came riding up on his little kitty motorcycle to visit her at the restaurant where she worked.  After Patsy had Shadow and Tom, she moved here (that's obviously real) and has since vowed to stop chasing men around and having kittens.  Except now she's flirting with Tiger, which enrages his protective sister and is causing all kinds of uproar.  The kittens have moved on to live with their uncle Tiger while they go to school in town.  Patsy is glad to have a quiet little cottage to herself.
                                         (No picture for Grouchy Kitty available)
Grouchy Kitty-Grouchy Kitty is even more of a recluse than Midnight.  Actually, she isn't even our cat, she just shows up and occasionally eats our cat food.  She sits in corners of the horse stalls and growls to herself.  The Pretend Grouchy Kitty comes to the monthly meetings that Tiger holds.  She sits in the back of the room and talks to herself in a low, slightly insane voice.
I love Shadow's whiskers!

Shadow-Shadow is quite uncomplicated.  She's not crazy, she doesn't have a sad past, and she doesn't have corporations to manage. She lives with her brother in their rich old adoptive uncle Tiger's house.  I'm picturing the rich old gentleman's house in A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I picture Tiger's house.  It's full of rich old Indian rugs and an old fashioned nursery for the kittens, complete with a Mary Poppins-esque nanny.  Perhaps Tiger could hire Grouchy Kitty as nanny….
I love this picture of Tom because you can see
all of his face.  It's really hard to photograph cats, so
I resorted to selfies with Tom to get him to hold still.

Tom- Tom is also a pretty uncomplicated cat.  He's named for the Beatrix Potter character, Tom Kitten.  The Pretend Tom is about 12 years old and he scampers around causing all kinds of trouble and generally being a nuisance.  But everybody loves him all the same.
I actually made myself laugh writing this.  I know, I know, I am so funny.  But I have to thank my family for endlessly discussing this and making up many of the stories mentioned here.  Without them, our cats would not be half such developed characters.  Now aren't you inspired to go out and give your pet an interesting imaginary life?  If you aren't, it's because you're a member of my family and you've already been doing it and this is old hat.  You don't even see what's so weird about talking about a little kitty motorcycle.

*A bit of business-I am cussing like mad because apparently I deleted Thursday's post.  Help me!  How the heck do I get it back?  Or is it lost in the blogger abyss for time eternal?*

Friday, June 6, 2014

What the World Eats

I took a little break from my usual reads, cozy pre-1980 novels, to pick up a very inspiring and fascinating book called What the World Eats.  This was a much-talked-about book (I think it was originally meant for children, but you can't tell in the least) when it came out in 2008 and I just never bothered to pick it up.  Then several weeks ago, I was reading a blog post that mentioned this book and warmly recommended it.  So I headed off to the library and picked this up and read it right away.  I was writing a post in my head while picking strawberries and now I've come in to write it.  Be prepared for a (minor) rant, everybody.

What the World Eats covers families in different countries, describing their daily work and what they eat in a week.  The family poses next to their table (or the ground) covered with all of the food they eat in one week.  All different people are mentioned in this book, from the French family with two college-aged daughters to the large, multi-generational Bhutanese family.  
That's probably the worst picture I've ever taken.  But you get the gist- those
people don't have enough food.

As would be expected, there is a heartbreaking difference in the amounts of food.  The poor family in Chad with 16 people in their family have about 1/4 of the food of the American family of 4.  The disparity in quantity was so strikingly unfair.  
...Aaaand the American family.  Sigh.

The other thing that struck me was the *ahem* crap (for lack of a nicer word) that so many people in the western world are eating.  Now I'm not just talking about the occasional box of Oreos as a little treat or the gorgeous green bottles of seltzer water (which I do adore) or perhaps some boxed cereal.  Oh my, no.  We're talking the whole table covered with boxes and plastic bags of stuff and then one sad, measly head of broccoli (I kid you not).  And please remember that this was the food in a week, not a month.  Oh dear, and the McDonalds.  It was everywhere, from the Chinese family to the Mexican family.  In this book, the Mexican family has 6 gallons of Coca-Cola a week.  I'm sure they're thanking America for handing them a nice helping of diabetes.  
Beautiful, beautiful green kale growing in a flower bed.

So now that I've gotten my rant out, I'll give some practical thoughts.  First, let's look at some of the families in the book who had enough (that's key) and were eating fairly responsibly.  The Mongolian family had eggs grown by a neighbor, fresh meat from the market, some oil, rice, salt, and soy sauce from a store.  Added to this was lots of produce, most of it grown locally or preserved (fermented, I think).  The large Turkish family had great food on their table.  The only prepared thing that was bought was some sesame seed paste cookies from the market.  There were eggs, fish, beef, potatoes, yogurt, pasta, feta, and milk.  And there was a nice long list of vegetables, some of them grown locally. Well, there was the pack of cigarettes, but aside from that, they had good choices.  I think it's important to look at the people that are making better decisions for inspiration.
The strawberries are starting to come on fast.  6 quarts
in one morning!  Yippee! 

Second, I think it takes baby steps (and the authors of this book back me up in the introduction).  For instance, in my part of the world right now, everything is flooded with beautiful, local produce.  We happen to have a large garden, but there are markets in pretty much every city nowadays.  It would be ridiculous to be buying Central American strawberries right now.  If we just got rid of, say, 3/4s of the packaged stuff just from March to October, we would make such a difference.  And as if cutting out all that nasty stuff wasn't enough of a reward, we'll be stealing less from people like the family from Chad because we won't be shipping unneeded resources from halfway around the world to ourselves.  

This book is fantastic and if you are the least bit skeptical after reading this post, go read this book and you won't be. Oh, and I'd love to hear what you think about this.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Walk

After a busy morning, I took a walk down the lane to put a letter in the mailbox.  A kitty-friend (Shadow) followed me down and we had a lovely walk enjoying the view and taking pictures (in my case) and shrinking in fear from the cussing mockingbird (in her case).  I'm sharing the pictures with you that I took today.

She leaped down off of the bench where she was sleeping and agreed to join me for a walk…

But first, she had to gaze a little apprehensively up at the tree that held
the enraged mockingbird,

Who warned her that her days were numbered and if she even thought
about getting his babies, she had him to answer to.
We saw gorgeous iris and poppies…I love that little window of time
where both are in flower…

And the clothesline full of wash…

And a blue, blue sky.