Thursday, May 31

Bird Baths and Long Weekends

This past long holiday weekend was spent doing what it was meant for - remembering our veterans both fallen and still with us. Pots of red white and blue flowers were planted and placed on the graves of my Grandfather and my Uncle, his son, at my hometown cemetery. Grandpa survived horrendous wounds in Italy in '44, returning home and living happily until 1996. Uncle Glen served two tours in Vietnam only to be killed in a car accident about 2 weeks after returning home for good.

I remember them, and many other members of my family tree that have fought in wars dating back to before there even was an America.

The rest of the weekend was spent here at home, no traveling except to a relatives house for a grilled lunch of hotdogs and hamburgers. I worked all day Friday on the yard while Roy took charge of the kids. All those small projects that seem to pile up on the back burner until they threaten to topple the cook range. There was also much weeding, moving chicken fences, cleaning out the coop, planting more seedlings, planting seeds where seedlings were eaten, and constructing fences to prevent future destruction of the sprouts.

I do have to say that I am rather disappointed in my dirt this year. Very clumpy and tough going with the hoe. I am not seeing good germination on the beans or peas even though I made sure to soak them all before planting. Another problem for another day.

I got in 10 new strawberry plants in the new raised bed on Saturday - added to the 12 roots I planted earlier, I will have a full raised bed of strawberry plants next season. I may get a few berries off the transplanted seedlings this year, but not enough to make jam.
When each day was done and all the little finishing-up chores are complete, I top off the bird bath in the front yard with what is left in the watering can.


After cleaning up and getting something cold to drink, I sit on the front porch and watch as the birds make the cautious approach to the bath. First landing on the handle of the decorative plow, checking things out, and then perching on the rim of the bath. They wade in slowly, continuously looking around for danger, and then suddenly they duck down, dipping their heads and flipping water onto their backs. A flurry of feather shaking and flapping of wings ensues and then it is repeated, rapidly. Sometimes they really get into it and I can hear the slapping and flapping all the way in the family room if the window is open.
A good way to end the day.

Tuesday, May 29

The heat and humidity were so thick this morning that I felt physically oppressed. Like there was a weight pressing down on my shoulders making even the simplest of house chores fell like Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred Level 3.

Picking up the kids toys and watering the houseplants resulted in a sticky sweat and humidity ravaged hair. I had kept the windows closed last night because the temperatures were still toasty by bedtime and they were predicting a thundershower overnight, even though it never appeared. So I kept the windows closed this morning along with the blinds and curtains, turned on the fans and resolved to do nothing more strenuous after the toy/watering incident.

The little man, the baby and I camped out on a huge, cool play mat in the family room reading books, watching cartoons on Netflix and losing myself in the latest issue of Mother Earth News. The baby was miserable due to the heat even though I had her stripped down to nothing but her diaper. We do not have air conditioning at the house and venturing out to the mall or the library, although cool, would be more trouble than it was worth.

As the lunch hour approached, the radio warned of incoming inclement weather in the form of thunderstorms, rain, high winds and hail. I wondered what had taken so long. Such high humidity could only result in a thundery downpour but the heat was taking every available inch and minute allotted before the rain finally moved in.

I could almost hear the entire outdoors sigh in a chorus of thanks for the relief. We stood on the front porch and watched rain and the lightning until the wind picked up sending wet gusts onto the porch swing. Inside, the house was so dark it was like early evening but I left the lights off. I felt the darkness added to the dropping humidity level and I would do anything to speed up the process. I secretly hoped the power would go out, but then quickly changed my mind. No power meant no fans and that would mean very crabby children and a stressed out afternoon.

The automated voice on the scanner's weather channel told me that "lightning is one of nature's best killers." Good to know.

The rain let up and the sun is now shining again. The temperature is currently 81 degrees but the humidity has decreased. I have hope that this evening after dinner I can begin work on my new chicken tractor for the 7 new Red Sex Links. They are currently in the coop with the other 14 ladies, but separated by fencing to prevent fighting. The new girls are getting bigger by the day but they are still only a month and half old and I don't think they could hold their own against the full grown girls. So in order to get them some fresh air, sunshine and grass under their feet, I am building the tractor.

This rain has also been needed in the gardens and I am dreading the proliferation of weeds that will be popping up in the tomatoes and peas because of it. A small price I suppose, for nourishing rain, banishment of humidity and a good show from the front porch.

Monday, May 28

Pretty Stuff

My favorite flower

My purple columbine came up nice this year, even though I did not think it was going to make it.


Iris - what I call a very durable plant.



Thursday, May 24

Plan B Workshop at Cold Antler Farm

My Fabulo-tastic Day In Jackson - Part 2

The Plan B Workshop, hosted by Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm, was amazing. A perfect setting with people who shared the same ideas and and great conversation. The weather was wonderful - warm and sunny with a nice breeze. We spent a great deal of time outdoors, which made the days topics all the more relevant.

The day started with a meet and greet and then a tour of the farm. Jenna showed us her beautiful property, all her animals that we have come to know by name from her blog, and her cozy and welcoming farmhouse. After getting plates of food from the kitchen, we gathered in the living room to hear the first presentation by Kathy Harrison.

I had been very nervous about the day and I was trying my best not to have a total panic attack induced meltdown. Put me in a place I have never been before with people I don't know and mix that with general anxiety, and I am usually a hot flash away from crippling nausea and a day spent in bed. But that was not how I wanted this day to go - a day I had been looking forward to for months. I was just dreading it: "Excuse me Jenna, but I really need to throw up in your bathroom and then sprawl on your daybed for the remainder of the workshop."

So I took a pill and mentally cursed myself out - "Suck it up you wuss! You have been so excited about this workshop! Don't wreck it for yourself!!!!"

It worked. And mixed with the wonderful hospitality of Jenna and the engaging conversations with the other attendees, I was cured. Kathy's talk sealed the deal with her relaxed and open presentation style. We sat around Jenna's living room - on the daybed, on chairs brought in from other rooms, on the floor and someone was even lounging on the dog bed with George, the huge and very friendly cat.

Kathy's presentation was focused on home preparedness and the things you should have on hand at home or in your car. All the basics were covered, as well as a few things I had not thought about. Access to water and proper sanitation were some of the first topics covered as well as food storage. I did not know that you could dehydrate a potato and then re-hydrate it right in the mason jar with some water from the kettle. Give it an hour and you have....potatoes! And a new catch phrase was born - "It's just a potato!"

Also, stocking up on necessary medications is something we should all look into. With insurance providers, doctors and pharmacies sometimes limiting the amount you can get at one time, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are on medications that are necessary for your healthy and well being. They may be willing to write a prescription for a larger dose if you explain your reasoning. Along with medications, Kathy suggested that it is a good idea to have some Pedialyte on hand. It comes in powdered form, lasts a long time, and is essential for re hydration during or after an illness.

A good library was also discussed. Even if you never need to tan leather or make soap, you have a reference just in case. She mentioned the Mormon Survival Guide as a good thing to have on your bookshelf or filed away for reference. It is free and you can print it out or save it here.

One more important point that Kathy made - have hard copies of your important information and contact numbers. How many times have we called someone just by scrolling down the list of pre-programmed numbers on our phones and selecting the persons name? If you could not charge your cell phone, do you know their phone number in order to contact them?

After that we broke for lunch and loaded up plates with more food. I ventured outside to enjoy the picture perfect weather and I was soon talking with a great couple who lived only 15 minutes away from Cold Antler. There was such a wide variety of people there - ages, backgrounds, different geographical areas - but we all seemed to be drawn together by the same ideas. It was mentioned that it was interesting how we had all seemed to have read the same books and watched the same documentaries and movies.

The geese, turkey and chickens roamed freely around the yard and provided festive entertainment. Gibson, who had accompanied us on our meet and greet tour, was now showing us his great rabbit watching skills. This just might have been a perfect afternoon. Fantastic weather, great people, interesting and relevant topics, barnyard animal noises, friendly dogs, and cool, shady grass. Who would not love to spend time lounging in the shade discussing dairy goats and artisan wells with roosters crowing in the background?

The second presentation was given by James Howard Kunstler and was centered on peak oil and energy. A much different presentation than Kathy's but equally relevant and interesting. Although he had some competition from two geese that paraded back and forth behind him, he had us engaged and curious. Even the rooster sent out crows of agreement from time to time.

James Howard Kunstlers presentation spent time on the gloom and doom aspects of energy shortages and peak oil. But the gloom gave us ideas and discussion topics and we had a great time on the lawn hashing over economics, mutual interdependency, the future of everyday life and how all of the above will impact society on a block by block level.

Honest, funny, engaging and passionate about his subject, I very much enjoyed his talk and I have been watching more of his comments on YouTube videos.
Part of the workshop included copies of the books from both speakers - Just in Case and The Long Emergency - which both speakers signed for everyone there.

After the presentations and the cleanup, Jenna gave us an impromptu goat milking lesson with Bonita, who walked herself right up onto her milking stand and rose to the occasion. I learned more about goats in 10 minutes at Cold Antler than I had ever picked up reading books or internet articles.

By that time it was well past the official end time of the workshop but Jenna did not seem to mind at all. People were hanging about in the yard under the shade of the huge front yard tree talking about books, canning products, and ticks.

I have never been anywhere that had such a great group of people. That, coupled with Jenna's easygoing attitude, made my day stress free and put me at ease in a situation where I would normally be freaking out. Being able to share ideas and discuss topics that might raise some eyebrows at your local Applebee's in a great setting was priceless. Like minded people getting together - one of the first steps in making it happen.


One of the main topics discussed between all of us in attendance was the issue of self sufficiency vs. small tight communities. Someone asked us which one we would strive for is we had to choose and most people answered for community. I was one of the hold outs, stating that I would like to think I could be self sufficient but when we started discussing things, I realized that one person can not realistically do everything, make everything, grow everything, handle everything and keep everything secure. This made me a little uneasy however in that if my neighbors were people like the ones at the workshop, it would be no problem. Everyone would be on the same page and share a common ideology. But how do you take that home to your neighborhood where your neighbors are so different  that it seems impossible. One neighbor sprays chemicals on everything in his yard while another owns a house big enough for three families. Another neighbor grows some food but yet another pours gallons of gasoline into all sorts of hobby crafts.

I asked this question of James Howard Kunstler: "What is it going to take for all types of people to finally get on the same page?" In general he answered by stating that the way we live now is not going to be the way we will live in the near future. We have to be willing to reevaluate our standard of living and realize that there will not be a way to continue it, even with renewable energy sources. In his words, "making a more fuel efficient car is not the answer, it's realizing that the car is the problem."

What will it take? What will it take to have suburban middle class America, the cities, the farms, the rich and the poor and everyone in between take a look at the limited availability of the resources taken for granted? A massive drought? Famine? Environmental disaster? Government failure?

Or could it just be something as simple as waking up one morning and finding the price of gas is $20 per gallon?

Bottom line: We need to be more self sufficient and we also need to reach out to members of the community who feel the way we do. As much as we would like to think we can do it all on our own, this workshop taught me that having a network of people with skills, ideas and common values is just as important as having a stocked pantry, a crank radio and a backup heating plan.
A great deal of information was gathered and shared at the Plan B Workshop. People went home happy, excited and full of new ideas. And if something does happen, I like to think that I am just a little more prepared thanks to this great day of education.

Wednesday, May 23

Wood Duflo

We spent Mothers Day at the Rochester Lilac Festival in beautiful weather. The lilac bushes were all pretty much past their prime, having bloomed earlier in the strange early spring we had here. There was one small bush that still sported a handful of good blossoms, which was subsequently the most photographed bush at the festival.

Tough going.....
Due to the great weather, the place was packed and it was hard going in the rows between the vendor tents. Border lining on claustrophobic, the rows were much too narrow to accommodate the crowds and it made browsing very difficult.

We spent time taking the little man on the rides and lounging on the grass eating food from the many local restaurant vendors. When we did venture down to the arts and crafts vendors we did find some great items, despite the massive crowding.

Roy finally replaced his old wallet with a nice new handmade leather one from a great vendor selling all leather goods. His wallets have to be extra durable since he is so hard on them, and this one seemed well stitched and finished. He has had no complaints so far.

I found a fantastic vendor out of Dunkirk, NY that sold all wood kitchen products. Since I have slowly been replacing my plastic cooking utensils with wooden and bamboo, I was definitely interested in checking this out.

Photo from HERE
I ended up buying a beautiful deep straining spoon and I love it. I tossed two old dark green plastic spoons that I had been using as soon as I got home.


The vendor was Wood Duflo and they make handmade hardwood kitchen implements from reclaimed wood. Their website describes the process in great detail and lists a variety of wood types and how to care for the finished product properly. They use FDA approved food-safe clear finishing oil to protect the wood.






Measuring Spoon Set
Coffee Scoops
"We are the sole creators of every unique implement and vessel you see on our website and in our booth. Each is a signed, hand crafted piece we hope you will enjoy using."



Looking at all of their items, each one is totally unique and I had no doubt that the statement made the woman manning the booth was correct - "this spoon will last you the rest of your life." A durable and well crafted product that I can definitely see passing down to my daughter some day.

Curly Maple Measuring Set



Monday, May 21

My Fabulo-tastic Day In Jackson - Part 1

Yes, that is what I said when she asked me if I had had an ok time. First, it was totally more than an ok time - it was a great time! An inspiring time! A Fabulo-tastic time!

I don't think I have ever seen my GPS
say over 200 miles before...
A Fabulo-tastic time. This was my nervous minds attempt to relay to her that I did in fact have a fantastic and fabulous time. If she thought I was an idiot, she didn't let on, and was as gracious and as pleasant as ever.

That was the first thing I noticed about her - how genuinely friendly and open she was. From the minute I arrived at her home it felt like just that - a home. A comfortable and inviting space with like minded people ready for a day of conversation and food and livestock admiration.

 I managed to collect a wide variety of bugs on my
windshield while passing through
NY's Leatherstocking Region.

It is a 5 hour drive, give or take, from my home to hers in Jackson NY so it was a 2 day adventure for me. Given that I am prone to debilitating panic attacks which have been known to wreck entire European vacations and the occasional music festival, I was slightly dreading the excitement of it all.  So, armed with anti-anxiety medication and a can-do attitude, I was off on the NY State thruway system and driving at speeds that I haven't since I had children.




No kids, no husband and loud music with questionable lyrics, mixed in with a rest stop dinner and bathroom breaks made for a fast 4 hours. At my dinner stop, I declined the offer of a 64oz. giant plastic mug for soda and told the lady I would just take the regular medium cup.

64 Ounces = 1.89270589 Liters
That's like drinking almost 2 of those two-liter bottles.
Who in their right mind would buy a 64 oz. gigantic mug and fill it was soda while traveling on the thruway!!??!!? You would be stopping at every rest stop and pit stop and areas with a wide shoulder to do your business.

I arrived in Latham NY and to a very nice hotel with a kitchenette and a very spacious bathroom. After lounging and fighting off a little panic attack, I was sleeping with the aid of ear plugs. This hotel was near the airport.

A lake. I have no idea which one.
The morning brought a very nice free breakfast from which I stocked up on apples. It also brought a massive panic attack that required two pills and the realization that my GPS is a sadist.

The roads that I was directed to were no more than one lane passages with no center line, no shoulder and sometimes no pavement. Given that i had spent 4 hours on the thruway, this was shock to my system, but these are the kind of roads that I love. Given that, I knew that she lived out in the country but I was just under the impression that there might have been a little more of a direct route.

I made it - just in time - to Jenna's road. Just as I thought it would be. Secluded, peaceful and slightly bumpy.


Who wouldn't want to live on a road like this!

Thursday, May 17

I've Got a Plan B


Well, at least I will after this weekend.

I will be attending the Cold Antler Farm Plan B workshop on Saturday. I can not express how excited I am about this and i will probably give myself a massive panic attack and feel nauseous for the entire seminar. But i will suck it up because this is just too good to miss.

Jenna Woginrich, proprietor of Cold Antler Farm, is one of my favorite authors so meeting her and seeing her farm would be more than enough for me to drive 5 hours, one way. But I also get the fantastic benefit of the Plan B workshop with  Kathy Harrison and James Howard Kunstler speaking on preparedness and the future of energy.

So, I'll be on the road this weekend, taking pictures, taking notes, and taking anti-panic attack medication.

How to Fold a Fitted Sheet

Tuesday, May 15


Today was one of those days that makes you feel kind of good. What I like to call a "useful day."

The weather was absolutely perfect today- sunny, warm, a light breeze. A day to open up all the old windows in the house and let the smells of late spring pour in and clear the stale air frpm a house closed up for too long. I have been waiting for a day like today - when the breeze is as warm as the sun and it will not blow chill air into the house. Getting the smells of dirty diapers cleared out is also a plus.

The little man and I set out into the yard as soon as Mom arrived for baby care duty and we were soon knee deep in mulch, garden soil and play sand. Mix in some fresh grass clippings and we were having just about the best time you can have with a three year old gardener in training.

We transplanted the pumpkin and gourd seedlings, along with the cucumber and green peppers sprouts. Mulch was spread on the shady area path to the coop and gardens to keep the weeds down and we rode around on the lawn mower, taking our time and enjoying the day.

We broadened our sense of community a little today too as we did a little manual labor at the neighbors house, removing storm windows in exchange for two huge red poppy plants.

So many other things were mixed into today that it can't even name them all. Just all those things that need to get done.

As I was on the extension ladder removing a protective window, my neighbor asked me why I like to be outside doing things. I told her that I like to feel useful and that since I had the kids, I spend a lot of time doing less-than-physical work. In my days before children, I spent a great deal of time outdoors. Most days, it was the entire day. The sense of accomplishment I had at the end of those days was priceless to me. I felt I had contributed, felt useful, felt important. I was in pretty good shape. Strong and a healthy weight. Now, with more demands on my time and more time spent indoors, my level of heavy physical labor has been lowered substantially and I have gained weight. My energy level is down and when I find that if I have a little time to work on a project, I find myself stressing about the many, many things on my to-do list and what I should try to accomplish in this short time.

I get frustrated with myself with my lack of strength, lack of energy, inability to get more done faster. I find myself at the end of a day upset over the things not crossed off the to-do list instead of feeling good about the things I had managed to get crossed off.

I miss the days when I had that accomplished, shoulders back, chin up, slightly arrogant and proud feeling at the end of a day filled with hard work and sweat.

Once and while, when naps, babysitters, good weather and time are all on my side, I can get that feeling back. I can get dirty, shed a pound, get things done, smell like sweat and chicken poo, and take off my work gloves at the end of the afternoon, slapping them against my jeans and seeing a healthy cloud of dirt dust fly off of them into the air around me.

Today was a good old useful day.

And Yet Another....


Tis' the season for kitties in the 'country'.

People, acting with either good intentions or pure stupidity, pull their cars over on what they think is a 'country' road and leave a cat.

Cats in the country - how cute. They are everywhere in the country, right? They live lives of freedom and luxury in well stocked barns and are fed by old ladies with bags of cat food always on hand. They lounge in wildflower filled fields and on stone barn walls warmed by the sun and getting fat on the generosity and plenty that is kitty life in the country.

They will do great, right? They will love being wild and free and will just find food, right? All cats can hunt and are naturals at finding warm, comfortable shelter, right? And it's spring - almost summer - it is warm and breezy and they can chase butterflies.

Meet our most recent drop-off. Confused, bone-thin, terrified.

And I want to stress that we are not really in the 'country'. We are on a road that does not have lines, but we are 10 minutes away from the nearest Dunkin' Donuts. We have fields and farmland and quiet nights with peepers, but we also have a housing development going in across the main road.

A beautiful cat with very interesting markings that you can't see in this photo. Her tail is ringed - little doughnut rings of alternating white and light grey on her whole tail. I am calling this one a "she" even though I have no idea if she is a boy or a girl. Kitty is a "boy" for now, so I thought I would have a girl kitty too. She is SO THIN. I can see her hip bones, ribs and spine. Her face is slightly elongated, coming to a point at her nose. She might have some Siamese in her. She has beautiful green eyes.

I have managed to get some food to her through a terra cotta plate by the peony bush and lots of patience and not making eye contact. After only a few days of wandering into my yard, she seems to be sticking around, for the food at least.

Kitty is doing very well in the barn. He still will not let me pet him but I am greeted every evening - feeding time - with meows and no mad rushes to hide behind the pile of old screen doors stored in the barn corner. He watches me from a distance of about 5 feet while I pour the food into the bowl and he meows at me when I talk to him.

I want to think that there are good hearted people out there who will take care of the cats and kittens that are left on the roadside. I want to think that people in general are not so naive to think that a house cat or a three week old kitten can survive in the woods or a field or someones barn full of old tractors. And I want to think that most people are just not so heartless.

Sunday, May 13

3:30 AM

This is what 3:30 am looks like at my house.

I am usually awakened about this time every early morning by the cries of the baby and a changing and making of a bottle very quickly follows.

I have been leaving the kitchen sink light on most nights since she came along given that I now need to make my way through the house at all dark hours and I was tired of stubbing my toe continually.

The light shines just bright enough with its energy bulb to illuminate the nick knacks on the shelves by the sink and I am greeted recently in the early AM with my little white flowers.

The bottle warms and the little girl fusses on her changing table, very impatient, that one. And I pad around in the low light on the cold kitchen floor testing bottle temperature and enjoying my little white flowers.

Friday, May 11

Park Geese

The park where we walk and let the little guy ride his bake always has an abundance of geese on the premises. The large ponds in the park offer a landing strip of sorts and there are many places for them to nest. Every once and a while you see one that is just a little bit different, Chalk it up to variations in the gene pool or just an odd nature fluke, but this guy has some nice markings.


The babes are hatching and feeding, under the watchful eyes of mom and dad.



Thursday, May 10

Blooms

Just some pretty blooms around the house and garden. The lilacs smell wonderful now and I am glad that they survived the drastic ups and downs of this year’s weather patterns so far. The magnolia tree has just to show a single leaf and I am afraid that the very early blossoms and the subsequent freezes might have killed off any foliage for this season.


Wednesday, May 9

Growing Up

My new little girls are growing so fast. Every day when I check on them, I can see the differences. Feathers are coming in, personalities are forming, appetites are rapidly increasing.


I have started putting the water font on an overturned terra cotta pot saucer to elevate it enough to keep the girls from kicking pine shavings into their water. It is still low enough to allow easy access to the water and as they grow i will stack another overturned one on the original so it will grow in height as the chicks grow in size. i am hoping that this will keep the water cleaner.
This feeder works much better in my experience.



I have also decided that the oblong chick feeder is not going to work. They basically get the whole thing full of shavings and poop and then can't get to the food. What they do down there all day is a mystery to me but it must be pretty exciting to allow for that much kicking up of shavings.

This feeder wastes too much food and gets contaminated
with shavings and poop too easily.
Not my chicks, but this is what they do, which results in the poop.
Fresh food must have been put in for this picture.
I invested in an inexpensive feeder that is the same size and the water font and works the same way (food falling from the top). This works much better in that the girls do not try to perch on it, and therefore, no poop gets in the food. We still have some shavings but not nearly as many as the surface area of exposed food holes is much more limited.



Tuesday, May 8

I Love the Green...

I love all the shades of green sprouting in my basement right now. All type and textures of plants from the thick and admirable stalks of the pumpkin sprouts to the thin hairy tomatoes and everything in between.

I have started moving plants outdoors in order to harden them off and they will be planted in the garden next weekend. I am still a little worried about the tomatoes in that they are still looking small and fragile. I think I will leave them under the lights for another week just to give them a good chance.

This is my time of year. Full of hope and promises and a little faith. This month I pray at the alter of dirt and milk jug cloches.


Monday, May 7

Planting Weekend


This past weekend was full of planning, digging and planting. And it was also my first time advising another on the ins and outs of planting a food garden. A friend of mine invited me over Saturday to help her plan and plant her first vegetable garden.

I have been helping her get ready for the past few months - lending her books on seed starting, soil preparation and every back copy of Mother Earth News I could locate. We installed the raised beds and the fencing to protect from garden intruders and Saturday we transplanted her pre-hardened off seedlings into the dirt. And what nice dirt it was - enriched with organic compost and manure - she joked about the irony of purchasing cow manure in relation to just a generation previously we would have gotten it from the barn.

She is off to a very ambitious start with as many different kinds of vegetables as she could fit in the space she has. I did my best, reminding her time and again that I am not an expert and most of what I have learned is from reading and from personal trial and error. Being looked to for advice on something is new to me and at first I felt quite bossy and lecture-like offering answers to her questions. Now I am starting to feel a little more confident in myself in that I just might know what I am doing, for the most part.

A few hours later, her garden was mostly planted and marked with little laminated index cards naming the plant with a little reference picture. These, she explained, were made by her class (she is a teacher) for her and her new garden.

The rest of Saturday was spent in my own garden putting in some seedlings that were ready: a few peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and eggplant. I do not eat the last three but my friend ran out of room and had these extra seedlings left over. I will be growing them for her and handing over the goods when they are ripe. I also managed to get the support fencing up for the peas and beans and get the tomato cages up in preparation for the tomato transplant in a couple weeks.

A side note: after putting in teh seedlings, we went out to dinner. When we came home, I noticed that in the time it took for us to eat our dinner, somthing had made a light dinner out of the tops of my two cucumber plants and one of the eggplants. I immediately placed milk jug cloches over all the transplants to prevent further munching. These will also protect against any light frosts that we may still get. I am going to construct some sort of protection fencing for each plant this year given the expereince I had last year.

Tomatoes always cause quite a commotion around here in that I always seem to mess them up. I am obsessed with them - and I don;t even eat them. Roy loves them as does my mother, but I just grow them. I figure that they are one of the most stressful plants to grow, at least for me, and if I can master them then I will have accomplished something great.

Last year I had a meltdown over tomato cage supports and I always agonize about when to transplant. Despite my best efforts to doom myself last year I not only had many more tomatoes than I could handle, i also had tomato plants coming up in the garden where i had planted none. The previous years tomatoes that had fallen off the plant had stayed in the ground all winter and sprouted by themselves in the rows between the plants I had put in. I spent a great deal of time digging out plants and taking htem to mothers house, sneaking htem into her flower garden - the flower garden that I tend every year since she had an aversion to dirt but enjoys the flowers.

Sunday was another day of planting and puttering around the yard making things look the way I wanted them to. Roy played the role of house-frau in that he sat inside and entertained two children and watched more than his fair share of television. I was in my glory getting dirty and sweaty and covered with grass clippings and chicken poo while going about my property care.

I have 20 strawberry bulbs to put in tomorrow in the second raised bed. The first raised bed is now full of carrots, radish and lettuce seeds. I also got the onions, corn and potatoes in the big garden. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the corn in that we have not had good luck with it in the 7 years we have been here. Either no germination or sporadic plants that only get about 4 feet tall and don't produce any corn. maybe this year will be better.

The peas and beans are soaking and they will go in tomorrow.

Curse You, Diana Gabaldon

Few things can cause me to let the laundry form a pile representing a large mountain.

To let the dishes pile up on the counter and the living room rug to hold remnants of un-vacuumed goldfish crackers.

Even with the presence of two children under the age of three, I have tried to keep an orderly home and property, which requires planning and scheduling and aggressive time management.
Yet I have stumbled across something that has completely taken any regimen of my daily life and thrown it right out my window in 2012 Western NY and into 1700's Scotland.

Curse you, Diana Gabaldon.

Forget the laundry, dishes and crunchy goldfish bits underfoot. I'm lucky to have clean diapers on the baby and milk in the fridge.

The most guilty literary pleasure...... this book is impossible to put down. I find myself bleary eyed, glued to the pages at odd hours reading about Jamie and Claire. While feeding the baby, while stirring dinner on the stove, while supposedly being spellbound with the little mans latest block tower....

Outlander.

And this is just book #1.

There are 6 more, with a 7th coming out in 2013.

Housewives, homemakers, homesteaders, secretaries, bankers, lawyers, career politicians... people everywhere are getting nothing done in the interest of Scottish fiction.

All my other reading interests have gone to the back burner. I should be reading about chicken tractor construction, plant rotation and new baby hat knitting patterns. Poor Joel Salatin has been sitting on the shelf, bookmark in page 34. My book on farming Civil War battlefields will have to wait.

The basic premise (not to give anything away): A woman from 1945 is transported to 1734 Scotland and chaos, intrigue, romance, excitement and hand to hand combat commence. I know, it sounds a little strange, but once you start reading, I double dare you to put it down.

Try reading little tidbits like this and not wanting more....

"And it was convenient to the pillory, a homely wooden contraption that stood on a small stone plinth in the center of the square, adjacent to the wooden stake used - with thrifty economy of purpose - as a whipping post, maypole, flagstaff and horse tether, depending upon requirements."

...with thrifty economy of purpose...   I love the language.

Not only interesting descriptions that make you admire Scottish ingenuity, but useful advice for everyday life - 21st century, or 18th:  "I can tell ye from my own experience that a good hiding makes ye consider things in a more serious light." (which must be read in a Scottish accent, of course.)

And my favorite quote from the entire book:

"It was peaceful on the road, with that sort of absolute quiet that comes when you are miles from any other person. The sort of quiet so hard to come by in my own more crowded time, when machines spread the influence of man, so that a single person could make as much noise as a crowd."

I'll be lucky to have a clean house and a single pea vine in the garden this year....

Friday, May 4

Chicken Treat Chart

I found this great treat guideline for my backyard flock today. More great information can be found on their website - Backyard Chickens

This is a great resource for anyone interested in starting their own flock or already have ladies foraging around the yard.

TreatTypeGeneral Opinions
ApplesRaw and applesauceApple seeds contain cyanide, but not in sufficient quantities to kill.
AsparagusRaw or cookedOkay to feed, but not a favorite.
BananasWithout the peelHigh in potassium, a good treat.
BeansWell-cooked only, never dryAlso, greenbeans.
BeetsGreens also..
BerriesAll kindsA treat, especially strawberries.
BreadsAll kinds - good use for stale bread or rollsFeed starches in moderation.
Broccoli & Cauliflower.Tuck into a suet cage and they will pick at it all day.
Cabbage & Brussels SproutsWhole head -Hang a whole cabbage from their coop ceiling in winter so they have something to play with and greens to eat.
CarrotsRaw and cookedThey like carrot foliage too.
Catfood * (see bottom of page)Wet and dryFeed in strict moderation, perhaps only during moulting * (see bottom of page)
CerealCheerios, etc.Avoid highly sugared cereal such as Cocopuffs, etc.
CheeseIncluding cottage cheeseFeed in moderation, fatty but a good source of protein and calcium
Cooked Chicken.They may like it and it won’t kill them, but it just seems so….. ummm………… wrong.
CornOn cob and canned, raw and cooked.
Crickets (alive)Can be bought at bait or pet-supply stores.Great treat – provides protein and it’s fun to watch the chickens catch them.
Cucumbers
Let mature for yummy seeds and flesh.
EggsHardcooked and scrambled are a good source of protein, and a favorite treat.Feed cooked eggs only because you don’t want your chickens to start eating their own raw eggs.
Eggplant..
Fish / SeafoodCooked only.
FlowersMake sure they haven't been treated with pesticides, such as florist flowers might be.Marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, etc.
FruitPears, peaches, cherries, apples
GrainsBulgar, flax, niger, wheatberries,etc..
GrapesSeedless only.
For chicks, cutting them in half makes it easier for them to swallow.
Great fun - the cause of many entertaining "chicken keepaway" games.
GritsCooked
"Leftovers"Only feed your chickens that which is still considered edible by humans, don't feed anything spoiled, moldy, oily, salty or unidentifiable.
Lettuce / KaleAny leafy greens, spinach collards, chickweed included.A big treat, depending on how much other greenery they have access to.
Mealworms
(see photo after the chart)
Available at pet supply stores or on the internet, although shipping is expensive!A huge(!) favorite treat, probably the most foolproof treat on the books.
Meat scraps of any kind.Not too fatty.In moderation, a good source of protein
MelonCantelope, etc.Both seeds and flesh are good chicken treats.
OatmealRaw or cookedCooked is nutritionally better.
Pasta / MacaroniCooked spaghetti, etc.A favorite treat, fun to watch them eat it, but not much nutrition.
PeasPeas and pea tendrils and flowers (thanks to YayChick for the advice).
Peppers (bell)..
PomegranatesRawSeeds are a big treat.
PopcornPopped, no butter, no salt.
Potatos / Sweet Potatos/YamsCooked only - avoid green parts of peels!Starchy, not much nutrition
Pumpkins / Winter SquashRaw or cookedBoth seeds and flesh are a nutritious treat.
Raisins.
RiceCooked onlyPilaf mixes are okay too, plain white rice has little nutrition.
ScratchScratch is cracked corn with grains (such as wheat, oats and rye) mixed in.Scratch is a treat for cold weather, not a complete feed. Toss it on the ground and let them scratch for it for something to do.
SproutsWheat and oat sprouts are great! Good for greens in mid-winter.
Summer SquashYellow squash and zucchiniYellow squash not a huge favorite, but okay to feed.
Sunflower SeedsSunflower seeds with the shell still on is fine to feed, as well as with the shell off.A good treat, helps hens lay eggs and grow healthy feathers.
TomatosRaw and cooked.
TurnipsCooked.Not a huge favorite
WatermelonServed cold, it can keep chickens cool and hydrated during hot summers.Seeds and flesh are both okay to feed.
YogurtPlain or flavoredA big favorite and good for their digestive systems. Plain is better.

Thursday, May 3

Dare to Dream.....

Dare to Dream: Martha Style

Martha's home in Maine - Skylands - may be kind of over the top for me, but I can not help but envy her laundry room, linen room, and her table cloth storage area. Just think, an entire area devoted just to table cloths and keeping them wrinkle free....


"The linen room, adjacent to the laundry room, keeps all of the linens at Skylands organized and accessible. A drop-down folding table makes folding even easier."

"Removable wooden dowels keep vintage lace tablecloths and runners wrinkle-free."


"Inside tambour cupboards in the pantry, tablecloths are rolled onto dowels for wrinkle-free storage."