Tuesday, August 31

Start With One and Trust Yourself

As I am fixing dinner, I sometimes have the little television on and tuned to the evening news. A little while ago I heard news, while boiling some pasta, that there was a recall of eggs.

And that is when I stopped listening and went pack to my pasta.

This is just another example of why i am glad we are doing more for ourselves around here. Our ladies are producing about a dozen eggs a day. Enough to keep us, family members and some of our neighbors supplied indefinitely. We know what the ladies eat, where they roam for grass and bugs and we know that they have access to clean, fresh food and water. We are no longer part of the factory egg system.

When we decided to pay more attention to our food and where it comes from, we not only ate better, but as we learned more about food origins. We became hyper-sensitive to labels, to chemicals, and to news about recalls and dangers. And we were, and are, glad that we made the change to local, organic and carefully chosen foods.

Not to get into the details of all of our food consumption in this post but I can not tell you how good it felt to know that we did not have to worry about the egg recall. I feel bad for all those people who have gotten sick because of this. It is a horrible reality in this country - when we use methods that are nothing more than an assembly line for meat, eggs and dairy, there are bound to be problems. I am hoping that this occurrence with the eggs will lead more people to choose a more organic and local route. It only needs to start with one item - your eggs, or your meat or your veggies. Then just let it grow from there.

My "one item" wasn't even food. It was Tylenol. The car accident where my back was broken was 6 years ago, and things have healed nicely with all of the rods and bolts in my spine. but there are days when I totally over-do it in the garden or around the house and I need a little help. I used to take Tylenol PM before bed on those days. One night I woke up at 2am after taking the PM and I spent the rest of the night on the bathroom floor, periodically throwing up. Turns out there was a recall and this bottle made it into our house. I threw it out the next day, along with other items in our medicine cabinet that I just didn't even want to take anymore, recall or not.

I am too trusting. I "trust" or "assume" that companies, and the people who run them, have our interests and safety in mind when they make products. I trust in quality control and common sense. I just think that when the guy who makes Tylenol PM comes home at night after a long day, he would not have any reservations about taking some himself. I am sad to admit that this is not the case, as you all know. And on some level I always knew this. But I just wanted to have faith that people will do the right thing.

the right thing, as it turns out, is to still trust, but to trust in yourself.

Monday, August 30

90 Degrees in the Shade




Fall is definitely not here yet. Last week offered a little taste but today we are back up to 90 degrees in the shade. Even though it looks like a great day to be outside in the grass and running around after the little guy, once you get out there, it's not. Hot, sticky and humid with only the slightest of breezes, intermittently.

It is however a good day for laundry and I have all the lines full plus the extra extension line running from the pole to the cat pen. We tried to hang around outside and we managed to make a go of it for about an hour and a half. Then it just got to be too much. At least we were home in our own yard and not at the park, and we could just come inside.

The heat has managed to do both bring out some good and wilt most everything else. My black-eyed-susans, butterfly bushes and Japanese anemone are all bursting with blooms and attracting lots of bees and butterflies. There are a few roses trying to put on one last show - I have a climbing white by the barn and a red by the house.





Unfortunately, most everything else seems to be in a state of remission. Even the hostas are looking a little droopy. My purple cone flower is a duller, wilty example of its former self and the bee balm has just about run out.

The tomatoes are still going well, even though they are being held up by a series of twine, stakes and squash vines. We are getting quite a few baskets full and more are coming. I will have a nice selection of gourds and squash with which to decorate the house this fall which will save us some hard-earned cash at the garden centers. Oh, how I am looking forward to fall......

So, other than the changes in the yard and garden, things are pretty much normal here. Nice and quiet with the baby and me. We try to fill the day with fun and interesting things - playing in the yard, watching poultry television, baking, napping and reading books. His actual television watching has been restricted to one half hour of Curious George, which he is crazy about. And since we have gotten rid of the cable, my television watching has gone way down.

Quite the boring blog post this time but I am just glad I can say nothing instead of having to report something bad.

Tuesday, August 24

Hello, Fall????

Picture by Masha D'yans


Hello? Fall?

Are you on your way? I caught a little taste of you the other day when it was chill and the air was crisp. I happily broke out my favorite flannel shirt and relished in the warmth and comfort it provided.

The black-eyed-susans are still in bright bloom so I know that you are not quite ready to make your full appearance. Showing all your colors that I look forward to all year. There are still tomatoes and beans to harvest and the roses are giving one last effort. So, I know you will be here soon, but not quite yet.

That is ok. Take your time. I know that before I know it, I will be sitting by a campfire in my yard, wrapped in a flannel and a quilt. One day soon, I will wake up and I will sense that you are here - the air will be crisp and chill and there will be a scent in the air that will be all the proof I need.

Friday, August 20

Book Reports

I've been reading a lot lately, mostly before bed after the baby goes to sleep. The only thing about this is that I cannot read for very long before I fall asleep. This leads to a lot of re-reading.

However, here is my book report:

Woodswoman: Living Alone in the Adirondack Wilderness
by Anne LaBastille
Loved it! Details, details, details!! Just what I like in a homesteading book. How she did things, the lessons and tips she learned along the way, and very descriptive passages about the beautiful Adirondack region. Her life sounds like heaven to me. I highly recommend this book.


Farmer Boy
by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Garth Williams
I checked this out of the library and re-read it in preparation for Laura Ingalls Wilder Days at the GCVM a few weeks ago. Sadly I was not able to attend after all due to illness, but it is always a treat to pick up a Little House book.
One of the things I had kind of forgotten about was the food. That family eats - a lot. They make just about everything themselves and they seemed to eat very well. It just impresses me that there is so much available on your own farm.


Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm
by Jon Katz
This book was a great read. Farms, animals and nature - everything I like to read about. Just a really nice true story that i could really get into. His observances of his farm animals, his dogs and of people and the world I found to be very interesting and thought provoking. Highly recommended!
A good quote: "... it is useful to be reminded that no matter how hard you work to create your own version of the world, the real one lies right outside the gates and sometimes crashes in."


Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
by Michael Pollan
Oh boy. I am sorry to say that this one did not agree with me. I could not concentrate on this book. My mind wandered while I was reading, and I was reminded of my college textbooks. Some parts were very entertaining but mostly, it was a very poetically written with sentences that you had to re-read in order to understand what he is talking about. Now, I can totally appreciate this, and I do enjoy this kind of writing. But only here and there, not a whole book.
I did like his quote about thinning seedling, however: "Triage is essential in the case of root crops."
I found that I had to read this book with a dictionary within reach. he likes big words that I, sadly, have never heard before. 'Multitudinous', 'Eponymous', 'Synecdoche', 'Accoutrements.'
Sorry, Mr. Pollan. I will try your other books in the future.

The Deal With Dill



When we moved in to our farmhouse, there was some dill growing wild in the field. I have kind of ignored it but this year I want to try and save some of the dill seeds to use in pickle making next year.

Does anyone know when to harvest the seeds? How? Do I have to dry them? How do I store them?

Thursday, August 19

Canning - Round 2



I canned again the other day, when Mom was over to watch the baby. It is easier to concentrate and can when you don't have an 18th month old hanging on your leg.

I stopped at a stand and bought a big basket of peaches, since I like peaches and I knew I would eat them. I used a very easy recipe in You Can Can, and I think they turned out pretty well. A little hard to cut around the pit but pealing the skin was kind of fun. I ended up with three large jars of canned peaches. I thought I would get a little more given the amount of peaches I bought but I'll settle for three jars, well done.

I also made more pickles for Roy, using less dill seed this time because the first go with pickles called for many more seeds than I thought were necessary.

Lastly, I made salsa. We have a ton of tomatoes this season, along with jalapeno peppers. A good recipe was found in Preserving Summer's Bounty and I got to use my blender. There is something very therapeutic about using a blender. I get to 'destroy' stuff for a purpose. Jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, cilantro, and few other odds and ends, and I ended up with some pretty impressive looking jars of chip dip.



So, this winter, we will be eating peaches and salsa by the pellet stove. Probably not at the same time, however, unless I get pregnant again.

I think I am getting the hang of this preserving thing.

Wednesday, August 18

Garden Update

Despite my lack of attention to the garden and the past couple of weeks, it has been producing. Tomatoes are the big hit this season, by far. A few bad years and i knew it would turn around this year.



The peas are done as well as the cucumbers so i will be cleaning them out this week. I am hoping against hope for the potatoes however, since the plants look all but dead and gone. I don’t think I am going to find any potatoes worth keeping when I dig them.

On a brighter note, I finally grew corn. I have a total of 16 stalks and three ears coming along nicely. I know that doesn't sound like much but it is a big accomplishment for me since I have not been able to grow any corn since I started gardening.



We also have, for the first time, grapes. We planted the vines a few years ago and this year we finally have something growing on them that resembles a grape.



I am also happy to report that I will not be spending a small fortune for fall decor this year as I have a garden full of gourds and squash. I may have to by a big pumpkin or two since I have yet to see anything resembling a pumpkin growing.

I am happy with this year’s garden, however, I do not think I will ever be fully satisfied. Every season I learn new things that change how I will do things in the next season. For instance, this is a great season for tomatoes and I am happy with this except for the cages. I am using those metal circle wire cages because that is what I had and I didn’t want to buy anything new. They are horrible. They do not go into the ground far enough due to rocks or whatever and they tip over with the weight of the plants. I currently have a very hodge-podge system of twine and stakes holding everything up long enough for tomatoes to ripen. So next season, I am going to have to do something different. Suggestions?

PS - Please, no more zuchinni!!!!

Tuesday, August 17

I Might Learn to Like Weeds



There is a section if my yard, on the far side of the barn, that I am considering letting go of.

It is by the old stone wall that lines the grass incline that leads to the upper barn doors. It is an out-of-the-way area that I can't do much with, except mow and weed whack once a week. But I missed one.

This weed, common mullein, is so interesting. I actually like this weed. I want to see more.



So this section if my yard is now going to be 'the wild zone". I am not going to trim things here and I am just going to let them go and see what comes up. Not that I am going to totally neglect my lawn care - this area will be contained and kept tidy. But I am interested to see what happens. I am hoping that this might lead to a natural area that attracts bees and butterflies and maybe a few hummingbirds.

Monday, August 16

Poultry Comedy

The other day, the little man and I decided to watch some poultry television. Turns out a comedy was on.

Little man loves the ladies, and I am not just talking about the waitresses he charms in every restaurant we go to. He loves his 'chickies'. He loves it when we go outside and I say "Let’s go see the chickies!"

He sits next to the pen and watches them flock to him as if he has food for them. they sometimes peck at his shoes and he just watches them and talks in a language I cannot yet understand.

Little guy also loves bubbles and we have numerous jars of bubble mix sitting on tables around the yard. He is fascinated with the wands and likes to carry them around with him, blowing imaginary bubbles. And sticking the wand through the coop fence so the ladies can study it.




Then a lady grabbed it.



And the chase was on.



I retrieved the wand before any of the ladies could actually get a piece of it and swallow it, but for a few minutes, we enjoyed the best episode of poultry television comedy ever.

Sunday, August 15

Gertrude

Two Saturdays ago, we lost our first chicken. Gertrude, one of the adult six, had been acting a little strange. She was lethargic and she looked bloated.

I was worried about her. I went to me go-to source, the internet, for answers. After a little reading, we decided that she must have an impacted crop. It was 10pm, dark and humid. We had the laptop, supplies, and Gertrude in the shed and began the oil-eye dropper-massaging technique outline on the internet for us. We were trying to clear her blocked crop by massaging whatever was in there into small enough pieces that we could work it back out through her mouth.

We managed to get quite a bit of dark liquid out, which smelled horrible, but after about an hour of carefully trying, we couldn't get any more out. We hoped that this would help her work it through herself.

Gert was a trooper through all this and was calm and patient. She knew we were trying to help her. We kept her separate from the other girls that night and checked on her first thing the next morning.

She still looked very bloated and her crop still looked full. Not as full as it had the night before but it was still not right.

I wanted to take her to a vet. She was not able to eat and was suffering. Roy said "I am not taking a chicken to a vet." Growing up where his Grandparents slaughtered cows regularly for food, he could not see the sense in it. But I knew she was suffering and I persisted.

Good husband that he is, we put Gert in a cat carrier and he took her a vet recommended by Tractor Supply. I waited at home with the little man and waited. When the truck pulled back in the driveway, I saw an empty carrier. I hoped that she was at the vet, getting IV fluids and resting.

But she was not. She was in a cardboard box in the truck, having been put down by the vet.

Roy explained what the vet said. Gertrude did in fact have an impacted crop. But she also had mites, or fleas. We did not even know that any of our birds were infected. The vet said that the mites had "sucked the life out of her". By the time the vet saw her, there was nothing she could do. I did not like this terminology and I felt horrible.

How could I not see this???

We immediately got to work. We cleaned out the entire coop - removed all bedding, feeders, fonts, nest boxes. Everything was cleaned with Permethrin 10 Livestock and Premise Spray. We then dusted each lady thoroughly with Diatomaceous Earth powder, being careful to avoid their eyes. This was not easy and we spent a lot of time chasing chickens. Finn was the trickiest chicken of all and she was last to get dusted. That’s my girl.

The entire process was done again a week later to get any remaining lice eggs. This time we used Orange Guard, which was a little less chemical-ly and smells like, well, oranges. Roy did this second cleaning solo since by this time, I was down for the count with that digestive infection.

All the ladies look healthy, I am keeping a close eye on them, and egg production is up. the little ladies are now bigger than the older ones and they have started laying. Little dark brown eggs.

I love having chickens, but I do not think that I was as prepared as I thought I was. I was ready for the responsibility and I knew that it was not going to be all healthy chickens, all the time. But for some reason I feel like I have failed. I lost Gertrude and my other ladies had to go through the indignities of dusting. I just hope the problem is solved and that they are content.
Being responsible for life is a very challenging, rewarding, stressful and sometimes a sad commission.

Friday, August 13

Pictures from the Walk

Went for a nice quiet walk at mom and Dad's the other day. They live out in the country, but unfortunately, there is a development moving in behind them. the lots are big but I still prefer the big open fields that I used to play in as a kid.

We walked back there on the paved roads and i was still able to find some nice things to take pictures of.


Thursday, August 12

Stuck

Every once and a while this happens.

A chipmunk climbs up the bird feeder and gets inside of it and gobbles food into his little cheeks, making them very big cheeks.

Then he can't get out through the not so big opening that he came in through. Rather than give up his stash, he sat in the feeder, plotting his escape.

The little man and I were lounging and resting in the back yard. I should say that I was resting and he was making a mess with pails of water. Then he saw the chipmunk in the low hanging feeder.

The chipmunk did not freak out or anything and just sat there, inside the feeder.

After a little bit I felt sorry for him and I gently took the feeder off its hook and carefully opened the top.

Chippy flew out of the feeder, sprinted across the yard, and disappeared into the cedar bushes.

That was today’s entertainment.




Wednesday, August 11

Gotta Have Poppies

...and the occasional blue butterfly....






Pictures from the Road

A couple weeks ago, the little guy and I went for a nice walk on our road. It is one of our favorite things to do because it is normally a quiet road, with some homes and a lot of fields filled with beans, corn and the occasional wildlife.




Tuesday, August 10

Gastritis and Laura Days

Sunday, August 1st, was when I knew I had a problem. I had been feeling out of sorts for a few months actually, but I just chalked it up to stress, not getting enough sleep and other little things. I ignored the nausea and the headaches and the dizzy spells. But while on the way to my Grandparents farm on the 1st, I started feeling bad.

Really bad.

I spent all day there on the couch and hauling myself around to the bathroom and attempts to participate in the roofing project. By the time I got home, I knew something was not right. Monday was worse. And Tuesday even worse than that. It got to the point where I could not even move. I was very dizzy, extremely weak, the nausea was horrible and I was, let’s just say it, on the toilet- a lot.

My husband noticed that I was in trouble, cancelled a business trip and took me to emergency. I spent all day Tuesday, had a CT scan and blood tests there and had to go back Wednesday for an Upper Endoscopy procedure. Not all that horrible but I just felt so bad that it made things worse.

Turns out I have Gastritis and Duodenitis. Both pretty painful and gross. I was not getting many, if any, nutrients from the food and liquids I had been consuming for months which lead to a gradual slowdown of my entire body. Sunday was the day when my body said it just couldn't go any more.

They are doing more tests and I may also have Helicobacter pylori, a nasty like bacterial infection that needs to be treated with some major antibiotics. But now I am just playing the waiting game. Waiting for test results and waiting to feel better.

I have been making slow but steady progress, for which I am grateful. I need to take care of things around here, most especially the little guy. Mom and Roy have been helping out a great deal, for which I am also very grateful.

But maybe the most maddening thing about all this was that I missed Laura Ingalls Wilder Days. I was really looking forward to that and I have been reading about the weekend’s events on a blog that I follow. I missed Dean Butler and William Anderson. I missed seeing all the great artifacts that they had on display. Very disappointed does not even begin to describe how I felt.

I like to think that everything happens for a reason, but most of the time I don't believe it. Most of the time, I just get mad and upset when things do not work out as I planned. But this time, even though I am disappointed, I know that I need to get better before anything else.

Maybe next year.....

Monday, August 2

Sick

I hate being sick. Absolutely hate it. I have been fighting it for weeks but yesterday, it came on full force during our trip to the Stuben County farm. We were heading to my Grandparents to rip of roofing and install new - a big job. But Grandma and Grandpa's leaking roof needed attention before the next big storm.

Roy and my Dad did most of the work and Mom and Grandma took care of the little guy while I was collapsed on the living room couch, too tired and nauseas to move.

After a drive home that was nothing short of a miracle, I was in bed and out for the night. This week is going to be interesting. An 18 month old does not understand the concept of "sick".

And, we lost a chicken on Saturday morning which I will post about later. So, please excuse the lack of posts, I will be back on my feet shortly, I hope.

I am really hoping that I feel better by this weekend - it is Laura Ingalls Wilder Days at the Genesee Country Village and Museum and I have really been looking forward to it.