Wednesday, April 26, 2017


It looks pretty forbidding out there.

I boobled out to feed the chickens, and decided to install the third nest box and tune up the bouncy roosts. The roosts are locust poles, and pretty springy. I think the guineas are doing gymnastics on them – parallel-bar routines, swinging round and round, and doing daring dismounts. How else can you explain the way they are out of their brackets nearly every day?

So I took out some pipe strapping and fastened the poles down with deck screws. We'll see if it stands up to guinea gymnasts.

You can see the slot in the white board the pole was supposed to fit into, then the 2x4 on top of it that was supposed to support the poles, then the big nail that was supposed to hold one in place, and now the pipe strapping. Layer upon layers. Bandaid upon bandaid. 

I attached the new nest box in the corner – and note the four hens crowding to sleep in the old nests.  Silly birds. They must all be serious about hatching chicks, or they'd be on the roosts as usual.

C. planted half the hoop house with Ukrainian Chinese cabbage Bokal. I came along and stuck clear packing tape on the tears, and under the clips as well. The tape sticks well to the fabric.

 The clips are just snips of irrigation pipe the same size as the hoops, split down the side and rounded a bit with scissors. They are a bit rough on the fabric, which is why I taped under them.

C. dug a few clumps of quack grass out of a bed and planted Delikatesna kohlrabi. "Is this too much kohlrabi?" she asked. "How much kohlrabi do we need?" No idea. We've not grown it before. Does it taste like chocolate? Because then we'd need lots.

C. dug up some multiplier onions that were multiplying in the wrong place and brought them in to dry.

We fled the rain and came in to rummage up dinner. I built a fire because it's chilly.

Two eggs today. No guinea eggs. They've taken to laying them in the hills, dammit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

More spring rain

C. planted two rows of Green Wave mustard, and hoed out a whole bunch of dill today.

We planted dill the first year we were here, and never since. "It's dill weed," explains C., and she's right. It grows like a weed. She saved a gallon jar of dill seed last year – for what, I don't know, since the damn 2013 dill keeps coming up and trying to take over the garden. Because she's thrifty, I guess. Or for sprouting. The rabbits love dill leaves, seeds and sprouts, but the sprouts take two weeks and I don't usually have the patience. They aren't much work – no soak, and a rinse just every other day – but I have to look at the jar next to the sink for two weeks.

The forecast is clouds and rain for the next few days. Meh.

We bought two gallons of milk and a dozen eggs from Rose today.

I emptied the big plastic greenhouse garbage can and washed it out. Now it's inside our front doors, full of 100 pounds of seed barley for sprouting. There's another big can for chicken food and oats, and a 5-gallon tin of alpaca chow. We'd put them outside on the porch, but the goats and Bambi would be out there butting them until they burst with grain goodness. Then Bambi and the goats would die of bloat. I keep the lids on tight to keep mice and Earl out.

I spent some time tidying the hall. It's the place everything gets put "temporarily." I took wagon loads of tools and boards and buckets and empty grain sacks and kindling to various places. Now I'm tired, but the first 10 feet of the hall looks pretty good. If I did that for a week, the whole hall would be beautiful. Or at least not horrible. It's a big hall, maybe 10x60 feet.

C. listed the seeds she started yesterday: Ebony and Heart of Gold acorn squash, and Lower Salmon River, Jarradale, Sibley and Blue Hubbard winter squash; summer squash Odessa, vegetable marrow and Chaklun zucchini. She started a flat of Opopeo amaranth, and another of broccoli relatives: Green Lance Chinese broccoli, Amazing cauliflower, non-heading broccoli, Ukranian Chinese cabbage and Chinese Chinese cabbage. Apomiksis was the Russian cucumber she forgot to list yesterday.

Graham the rooster has been stalking C. again, and bit her yesterday. She put him in a cage for a while, and he paced furiously and banged his comb bloody on the wire. She let him out last night, and I saw him come after her again today as she was transplanting thyme on the rock path. He's little guy, but he's serious, and has big old spurs. He flies at her knees, and she bats him away and keeps on with what she is doing. He kept coming at her, and she finally grabbed him up and dunked him in a bucket of rainwater. That settled him down. C. insists he can learn to behave. I think we should cage him before he does some damage.

He doesn't give me any trouble, but C. is always finding grubs and calling the hens over. He must think she's trying to take his girls away. Or maybe he's just a jerk.

I found an old apple box in my studio that should make a good third nest box for the hens. And we need to construct something that the guineas will use. They're laying three eggs a day on the floor in the corner of the chicken house. Something with a roof and a back exit, maybe covered in brush? Guinea psychology is tough. If they are happy, maybe they'll lay eggs at home, instead of all over the hill. And maybe we'll have fewer surprise batches of keets. The guinea hens like to show up with 24 babies, and drag them carelessly around the place. Sometimes they lose the whole group – to cats or owls or something.

There's an animal sale/swap at the Deer Park Feed Store Saturday. We might pack up some guineas and roosters and go.

Seven eggs today.

Monday, April 24, 2017


I made mediocre gluten-free pineapple-coconut muffins this morning. They're never as good as the blueberry (which are never as good as huckleberry) but we're out of frozen berries. Going to have to hit the store soon.

I've been to the barn to check the old chicken house for eggs (Dovey hid 20-some eggs there last summer and hatched six chicks out) and to bag up some old bedding hay for mulching spuds. I loosed a few bales of hay for the big guys while I was there.

Found no nests of chicken eggs. I was going to confiscate any I found. It's a long way away from the house, and close to the neighborhood cats. If anybody hatches chicks this year, they should do it closer to home. The little black hen, Skeeter and the dark hairdo hen have been stationed hopefully in the nest boxes, but I don't know if we'll let them set or not. Chicks are a pain to protect, and they are at least half roosters. Don't need any more roosters, thank you!

C. is on a cleaning rampage, so I'm laying low. She pulled everything out from under the kitchen sink and scrubbed. It's always ugly under there. The cabinets are el cheapo white laminate over particle board (yes, so practical for a place with running water) and there have been many leaks over the years. The faucet drips all over the countertops. If everything is clean, she'll be able to make herself lay in there and reach over her head to tighten the faucet nuts. If it was up to me, I'd just toss an old towel or something down, and get to work, but, as C. often tells me, I'm a slob. And it's true.

I'd like to rip out the kitchen and start over. It's badly laid out, and made of cheap materials. The one nice element is the old-school maple floor, but I think a hardwood floor in a kitchen is idiotic. I'd go tile on the floor and countertops, and I'd take over the dining room area, too, and make the whole area a big farm kitchen with plenty of lower cabinets, a center island, a pantry and a work table.

Sounds like a huge amount of work, doesn't it? That's why we put up with the lousy kitchen we have.

Ah, she's given up on the cleaning and gone out to look at the garden. She wants to plant kohlrabi and broccoli in the hoop house today, as well as more spuds and some carrots.

Yesterday she started basil (sweet, Genovese and Mammoth) and a flat of cucumbers (mini white, Parisian pickling and two Russian varieties. She started some squash, too. I took a couple of flats of some other damn thing out in the wagon to the greenhouse.

"I've got so much shit to plant," she says. "I'm doomed." Her glass is generally half empty. "It's too late to start these things...." I'm the optimist here, and I try to get her to list her accomplishments rather than the million things she didn't get done. She works hard. She is a brilliant gardener, not in terms of meticulous planning, organization and record-keeping (OK, she is terrible at these things), but in finding the best varieties for our climate, persuading even reluctant plants to thrive, and producing hundreds of pounds of food for us and the animals.

I'd better go out and see if I can help.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


We packed and packed for probably three hours. Gah. Now we are exhausted. We are way too old to be helpful in a move.

And packing is a personal thing. Em likes to go through things, decide what to give away and what to pack, then box things by item type. All the pans in a box, all the tea in a box, all the dishes in another box. No fraternizing among different items in the boxes! And she has no sense of urgency about it.

C. is a packing maniac, from doing antique sales for years. She arrives, she gathers her equipment, she packs. No dithering, no deciding, no fussing. Big things have little things wedged around them, breakables are wrapped in towels or clothing and put inside other things. If it's in the kitchen and she's packing up the kitchen, it is fair game.

So Em had to hover and try to direct, and C. simply put everything in boxes.

We did some good, I think. But we also drove Em nuts.

I was somewhat helpful, pulling things off upper shelves and passing them to the others. Then Em fed us, and we played with Liam. After a bit we heard shrieking from the upstairs – baby Ciri was up, and her new thing is shrieking. Which she alternates with whispering. Funny baby.

Then, since Em moved in before we were entirely moved out four years ago, C. gathered some of our stuff, and with help from the boys, loaded our car. I don't know what all is out there, but there are boxes of tiles, a big grindstone, rusty things to make into sculptures, and some plants.

Em took me for a quick tour of the new house, and wants recommendations for paint colors inside. I've been rummaging through, looking for ideas. I'm thinking tan, sage, soft grey-blue, all with white trim.

We were too tired to do the shopping we'd planned (ingredients for gluten-free pizza dough) and just drove home and collapsed.

Town makes me tired. All those people! cars! roads! stores!

Seven eggs today.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mostly garden

Thursday was another day in the garden, though a rainy one. 

I worked on the hoop house, so C. could get a start on the season and plant cabbages or something in there. It’s not an actual house, it’s just a bed with rebar driven in every two feet to hold bowed lengths of irrigation pipe (the hoops) and covered with a floating row cover. The cover is lightweight polyester that allows air and rain to pass through it, but keeps out most insects and chickens, and can provide some shade and frost protection. It holds the heat a bit, and blocks wind, too. It’s a “season extender,” a buzzword among short-season gardeners.

We’ve had this line of hoops up for a few years, but C. kept messing with it and it was getting floppy. This time I actually remade it to fit our row cover. (Never occurred to me until now. Really.) I pulled off the old, wimpy piping, and replaced it with heavier stuff, and extended the hoops to the full length of the row cover, 16 feet. It took forever. I wallowed around in mud, banging in short bits of rebar, and finished in a slough of wet straw and manure. Feh.

C. sewed a channel in each end of the fabric and put drawstrings in, so the hoop house now has a sphincter north and south. It’s pretty cool. There are a few holes (the stuff is five years old and a bit fragile) but she’s taped them up. It’s held on with clips made of short bits of pipe split up the side. You unclip the fabric and flop it back over the hoops to work in there. Water is supplied by a soaker hose that runs through it and the bed beyond. At least, I hope it is. I forgot to check.

That’s one thing I’m insisting on this year. Soaker or drip hoses get laid down as stuff is planted. No waiting until the plants are up, when it becomes really tedious. It’s a simple thing, but makes a huge difference. So I’ve put my tiny foot down, and C. has been really good about it.

C. planted leaf radishes and carrots, and more taters (and laid hoses down as she did it).

We worked through the drizzle, but went in when the hail started.

Today C. crawled under the old section of the house to test the new supply line to the outdoor faucets, and I crawled under the new section to check for leaks. It looked good! So now we have water outside. I filled the big animals’ water bucket and sprayed the greenhouse and the Siberian peas and the Stanley prune-plum tree. They weren’t dry, with all this rain, but I was celebrating.

It was mostly sunny and warmish. C. took the day off from gardening and worked on the path from the house to the garden. She’s paving it with big, flat rocks from previous excavations, and bordering it with thyme and oregano from the flowerbed.

I sat in the sun and cut scrap PVC pipe for a rack for my sprouting trays that live in the shower. I’ve been sprouting barley for the big animals and rabbits (the chickens like it, too). It takes about a week to grow from soaked seed to short grass, and I just rinse the top trays a couple of times a day with cold water (it trickles down through the rest of the trays). Pretty easy way to get nutritious feed –something like four times as nutritious as the dry grain, they say. At first I had the trays next to the kitchen sink, but that was a pain. I was worried that the shower would cause mold in the feed, but it’s been great so far. I just pull the rack out when we want to take a shower. if I ever forget to close the shower door, Marty the rabbit will get in there, knock the rack over, and have a sproutfest. I don’t think it would hurt him to pig out on sprouts, but I’d hate to have to comb pointy seeds and rootlets out of angora fuzz.

We’re inside, with a warm fire against the chill. Tomorrow we go to town to help Em pack for her move to her new house. C. is a packing genius.

Seven eggs today – four of them guinea eggs.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Beautiful day

It was sunny and warm today, and we worked in the garden for hours.

I hauled out the buckets of rabbit poo I'd removed from the rabbit room last night, and C. spread it on some beds soon to be planted. Unlike chicken poop, which has to be aged in the compost heap, fresh bunny beans don't burn the plants. (C.'s mom Betty, a big nut, swore chicken poop was the best paint remover ever. Betty was many things; a Felliniesque fashion statement, diabolical, smart and slyly funny. I sure miss her.)

I crawled under the house and replaced the busted CPVC line with blue Pex. I had trouble pulling the Sharkbite fittings off one side of the old pipe (dang hands just aren't strong enough) so I cut that bit off and installed a new one. It's a pretty tidy repair. The only thing I can see going wrong is if I didn't get the fittings pushed on tight enough. If they leak, I'll get somebody to go down and tighten them up.

C. planted parsnips, and divided and moved some volunteer garlic.

I took my fabulous cordless Porter Cable screwdriver out and took the old tomato towers apart, then stacked them off to the side. They are ladder-shaped things made of recycled pallets, stood up and tied together with binder twine and screwed-on 1x2s.

We took a break and had leftover veg soup, then got back out there. I peeled the tall fencing off posts in last year's long bean row, pulled the posts out, and cleared it all away so C. can plant more spuds there.

It was so warm we worked in tank tops and jeans.

I brushed Earl outside and he acted like an idiot. He's shedding like crazy.

Three eggs today.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Another trip to town

Earl and I got ourselves to Spokaloo today to get my meds. My new insurance doesn't cover Ritalin unless you are ADHD, but I found a coupon at that took the cost from $86 to $38. Go there if you pay for your own prescriptions! Of course, I lost a week of meds waiting for the insurance company to tell me no.

I poked cautiously at the items in the gluten free section of the grocery store. Way too many boxed mixes and little boxes of little snacky things for this hippie. And, no matter how badly I want a sandwich, I can't pay $6 for a loaf of bread. Can't do it. So I got some GF salad dressing and mustard and crackers. I have muffins and crackers; I will survive. Em said she'd look for GF bread at the bakery outlet stores (we call them used-bread stores) and pop them in the freezer for me.

I hit Ziggy's for some roof patching goop and Pex pipe. Dave (can't remember his last name) works there and is incredibly nice and helpful. Apparently one of his past coworkers lived in my school for a while, years ago. Dave is one of the people that thinks this is a cool place – unlike our realtor, and half our kids. Anyway, I've been buying hardware there for years, and got to talking about the school with him when we first bought it. He's always interested in the projects we're working on, and has helpful DIY advice. He got us a deal on our slightly used Englander wood stove (biggest legal firebox on the market!), and he always spots me in the store and gives me the contractor discount. He loves dogs, and got to meet Earl today. He also gathered up all the items I needed into a cart, wrote me an invoice, and loaded it all into the car, while chatting furiously about dogs and kids and gardening. Great guy, Dave. Must remember to bring him some tomatoes.

Stopped at the barn, caught the little goat outside the fence and put him back in, and loosed four bales of hay for the big animals.Then I easily caught the big goat and gave him the wormer.

C. planted spinach and did some other garden stuff.

I'll fix the water line to the outdoor faucets tomorrow. And clean the rabbit room. Really.

Three eggs today. C. took Foggy the hen back out to the chicken house.