Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Big wind

No, not me. There's wind storm out there, rocking the pine trees and stirring up dirty grey clouds. The wind advisory firm the NWS calls for gusts up to 50 MPH.

If we're lucky, the big pines will stay rooted in the ground. If not, some of them will blow over, taking power lines with them, and the area will have no lights or water for a day or three.


The wind got a little scary there, and I shut down the computer. But all is well – no power loss or downed trees. The ground is littered with pine needles, though. Might rake up some for kindling.

The forecast is for rain, for the next week. And likely until the snow flies next month. Not excited about the fall rains, mostly because of the leaky roof, and the relentless grey skies and muddy ground. Snow usually comes as a bright, clean relief.

I'm pleased I managed to finish the rooster house and the roofing over the basement stairs before the rain hit.

During the storm, I made the rounds of the building, blocking that floppy window in the stairs room with bricks, and the north door with a heavy can of paint. Locked the south door to keep it from blowing open, and added a few chunks of heavy wood to the metal roofing over the woodpile. Hauled in some bigger logs for the stove. Brought four bowls of nearly ripe tomatoes from the other kitchen. Left a message at SNAP, a local HUD agency, to see if we can reconfigure our mortgage and lower our payment since I'm officially disabled now.

That's it for work for me today. I'm reading "Slow Dancing on Dinosaur Bones" by Lana Witt. Good book. Just finished "Dancing Bear" by James Crumbly. Also good.

Earl is out barking at coyotes.

Tamale pie for dinner. One egg today.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Chilly, windy day.

I stacked on the pile of wood the kids brought.

I winterized the duck house that A. gave us last year and Em and R. moved over to the rooster quarters. Basically, I covered the bottom, sides and front with thin plywood, which stiffened the structure quite a bit. The roof is metal, and lifts for human access. It should be quite snug for the four fellahs. C. helped me prop it up on 4x6s to keep it out of the snow and ice. Higher would be better.

I added a stout branch for a roost, and tossed some layer crumbles inside so they'd check it out. They moseyed in to eat the crumbles, then went back out into the wind to roost on the brick windowsill. Idiots.

I'll cover the floor in straw, and maybe as the weather worsens they'll move inside.

Then worked on putting a tin roof over the outdoor stairs leading to the basement. I've had to cobble together scraps of the tin to finish the thing, so am adding some wooden supports in a couple of places. (Yes, it'd go quicker if I bought new materials, instead of scrounging roofing from the barn leftovers, but hippies don't do that.)

Hope to finish that tomorrow, and go on to reinsulating the pump house and a bunch of other jobs.

I've managed to put behind me (snort) the hideous image of my old-woman butt. And my tailbone is feeling better after that fall, though it still hurts to sit down, lay down and get up.  Seriously, I need to wear some protective gear, since my natural bumper back there has shriveled up and fallen down. Something like an orange life jacket, stuffed into my underpants. A whoopee cushion, duct-taped to my jeans?

Three eggs today.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I'm in shock

Seriously rattled.

I made the monthly trek to town yesterday, lunch with buddies, pharmacy-grocery-beer-gas-chicken-food shopping, and dragged my tired old butt home.

Em, Richard and Liam (with a pumpkin cheesecake) were here to celebrate C.'s birthday, and they'd brought two loads of wood from a neighbor of my garden-club friends. It was awesome. R. unloaded the wood, and the car. Em made dinner. Liam and I read in the big recliner.

Then I helped Em deliver plates of cheesecake and the GF carrot cake I'd made yesterday, discovered I was without my cane while I crossed the kitchen holding two plates of cake, and in ominous slo-mo,  windmilling, fell backward onto my butt on hardwood floor. Richard lunged to catch me and managed to save one plate, but not me. Boom.

Nothing was broken, not even me. I hurt some, and I'll be taking it easy for a few days. The shocking part came when I checked in the bathroom mirror for a bruise.

Sometime in the last 30 years, something has happened to my ass. Now, I've lost weight in the last year,  thanks to my doc's ban of gluten. Maybe six belt notches. I don't pay much attention – after all, I'm in here, not out there. I don't look in mirrors much. (Who knows how many times I appeared at work with my hair sticking up, or tags on the outside? I don't. I have kind friends.) And I've gotten old – 59 at last count.

This morning I met my butt face-to-face. Or face-to... you know what I mean.

And I'm still reeling. (Mentally, I mean. Though if I forget the cane and am tired, physically, too.) Where there should be a robust bumper of butt cheek, there is a... sort of saggy hollow. And the cheek bit is a shriveled thing, way down there. Whoa.

What happened?

I'm going to go sit on the heating pad now, and read some escapist fiction.

Do they make helmets for the butt? Or do I have to wear my old fanny pack backward?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fine weather

The monsoons have backed off, and we've had lovely days in the high 60s, blue skies with lots of clouds. No need for a fire at night. Indian summer: my favorite time of year. Long may it last!

C. canned another batch of veg soup today. There was enough left over for dinner – I think it was the best batch ever.

She's working on more tomato sauce now. I'm to stir the soup pot of paste tomatoes while she is in the shower. She'll put herbs in and let it simmer overnight, and can it tomorrow.

She spent the day picking tomatillos and digging spuds, and I cleaned up the messy area outside the rabbit room. Our boy and family are coming up tomorrow to help with the harvest, so I ventured into the basement and cleaned up the "ice room," our root cellar area. I was pleased with myself. I haven't been down there in a couple of years. I don't do stairs anymore, and these are a steep set of 20 concrete steps. There's an old-school pipe handrail, though, and I took it slowly. Hah. Maybe I'll get on the roof next.

We'll ask the kids to dig carrots, beets and parsnips, pack them in buckets of moist sand, and haul  them to the basement. And dig spuds. And move the duck house around the building to the rooster yard....

We're lucky to have family to help us out with the heavy work around the place.

The spuds will cure for a few days outside, and we'll get them to the basement, too.

Yesterday I cut all the cabbages, pulled off their outer leaves, and hosed dirt, aphids, earwigs and slugs off. We've got about 30, some of them bigger than basketballs. They'll become sauerkraut, except for a few in perfect shape that can be wrapped in newspaper and go to the root cellar for storage.

C. cut all the winter squash, and fed the vines to the goats. And I picked the field corn and cut the stalks for the goats and sheep. I'm pulling the husks back and hanging the ears to dry in the entryway.

Our venerable microwave/convection oven died. C. found another for $25 on Craig's List, and the microwave guy gave us some apples, too. C. plans to make apple cider vinegar, after pricing the real stuff ("with the mother") for her pickle-making. You can't buy gallons of the good stuff – it comes in quarts for about $5, and she uses lots of it.

Our fine son-in-law brought us two loads of firewood. He's batching it for a week while Em and Liam are in Portland getting some specialized medical treatment. He's such a good guy. C. will fire up the chainsaw and cut the wood into stove lengths, and I'll stack it on the porch.

Two eggs today; four yesterday.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Garden: toast

Well, pretty much. A good hard frost hit us Friday night.

It was a surprise – the weather service predicted 36 degrees, then issued a frost warning (didn't know there was such a thing) in late afternoon. We'd been at the Friends of the Deer Park Library book sale all day and didn't know about it until 6 or so. I told C. about it, then promptly went back to the Civil War, and forgot all about the garden. I do get involved in a book. I finished "The Black Flower," by Howard Bahr, at dusk, and wandered outside, wondering where C. had gone. Duh. She was draping plastic sheeting over the tomatoes.

I put on a headlamp, dug out more plastic, clothespins and all the spare sheets, and covered tomatoes until midnight or so. Hard work on uneven ground. We have three 40-foot rows – and a few plants here and there – of indeterminate tomatoes, and those plants get 6 or 7 feet tall.

We had a fire in the wood stove that night.

So Saturday we pulled off the plastic and the sheets, and checked the damage. Some of the covered plants, especially at the bottom of the garden, were hit hard. Others were barely touched. The pole beans were uncovered and took only minor damage. As usual, it's weirdly random.

Then the fall monsoons started. It's been gray, chilly and rainy since. The remaining tomatoes aren't going to ripen much now, and another freeze is forecast for Friday. Might as well accept it.

We finished picking the last of the tomatoes today – six buckets full. The green ones are spread out on the island in the other kitchen. They'll ripen over the next couple of weeks, probably. The yellow, orange and red ones are over here. Wait – I forgot to get the toms on the fence on the little dog yard. We'll get those, and the tomatillos, squash and corn tomorrow. Then we'll pick the giant cabbages, and launch into sauerkraut production.

C. is making salsa right now. She makes really good, mild salsa. I asked for her recipe, and she says she just wings it. I pressed for details, for you, my three readers, and here you go: Take a shitload of tomatillos (Exactly how many is that? A bunch. A bunch? A lot. All you have. Like... a gallon-jar full? Two, maybe... and the tomatillos should be mostly yellow, not green. They're sweeter that way.), three big onions, maybe a dozen medium-sized paste tomatoes, six Ancho peppers without seeds, four big cloves of garlic. Cut everything in half (chop the garlic), coat with oil and roast in batches in a 450-degree oven. (For how long? Until it's done. Blackened on the edges? Browned.) Drain off some of the liquid. Pulse everything up (not too fine!) in a fancy red food processor. Add lemon or lime juice, vinegar, salt, cilantro, cumin. Makes 10 pints to can in a water bath. And since the canner holds only nine jars, that leaves one to eat with chips or crackers while you clean up the huge mess this makes in the kitchen. (That's pretty good. More specific measurements would be helpful, though. Oh. Oh, well.)

So we're closing the gardening season down. Next, we'll get the winter's wood supply in. I'm already remembering those 90-degree days – just a couple of weeks ago – fondly.

Two eggs today.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cooling off

The smoke is mostly gone, and the days are much cooler – fall is really here.

The tomatoes are ripening like crazy. I pick pole beans every day, then tomatoes. It takes two trips with the picking bucket to get each day's toms in.

No, that's not me. But that's
my bucket. $1 at an estate sale
years ago. 
Very handy.
We moved the food driers over to the other kitchen, leaving a whole length of counter over here for tomato sorting and storage. I go through them a couple times a day, moving the ripe ones here, and the bad ones there, so we know what needs to be used or canned or refrigerated. I'm pleased to be a slave to tomatoes. And the rabbits and chickens are happy to eat any iffy ones.

We've been making our usual tomato-season sandwiches: a thick slice of homemade bread (or a gluten-free pancake, in my case), a generous layer of homemade pesto, slabs of tomato and grated asiago cheese, all toasted under the broiler. Mmmmmm.

The kids were up the other day to help with the garden. (Liam is getting so big! And he's got chunky little thighs.) We harvested the hops. My pulley system didn't work as well as I'd hoped. The vines climbed four lines tied to a ring, and the ring was to be raised and lowered with a rope going through a carabiner on the top lip of the 20-foot ham-radio pole. But the vines bound everything together, and it took some serious reefing to get the ring lowered. We cut the vines and tied everything up in clean sheets. Next I need to pick off the hop cones and rig up a place indoors to dry them.

That's the hops tower on the back of the chicken house.

This year was an improvement on the last, when the vines grew into the chicken wire on top of the chicken run – picking the cones was a real pain. Next year, I want to move the vines to the flower bed around the building, and set up several towers. The towers can attach to the roof for stability, I'll use actual pulleys for smoother raising and lowering, and we'll get away from the dust that the guineas and chickens churn up in their yard.

C. wants to make beer with our hops, which would be cool and maybe even save us some money. Of course, I get to design the label. She is looking for a recipe for a "skunky" lager similar to either Labatts or Dos Equis. Don't ask me – I'm not a beer drinker.

My addiction is chocolate, which I think is altogether more sensible. I've been buying Guittard milk-chocolate chips, big fat bits of smooth, rich chocolate – better than any candy bar, IMHO. Since we try to limit our grocery shopping to once a month, I figured I could limit myself (ha!) to four ounces a day, so 10 12-ounce packages would last a month. Right? Not so much. So far, I'm consuming a whole package a day. I guess I'll be realistic, pick up a few packages on payday, suck them down, and then do without. Self-control is a bitch.

Six eggs today. Milk and two dozen eggs from Rose Saturday.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Smoky and hot

September has been just like August, so far. Smoky skies from wildfires. Temps in the 90s. The air reeks of smoke, and the sun is a sickly orange disk.

We watched Em's four dogs for a weekend so she could visit family in Moses Lake. The dogs were pretty good. We still have the weiner, Bella, while they work on training Arnold. We have a weak spot for dachshunds. They are stubborn, arrogant, sneaky, greedy, noisy – and funny. Our own weiner,  Annie, is pretty awesome. And she hasn't killed anything inappropriate for a long time (like chickens or kittens). She did get a mouse last week. She's a little jealous of Bella, so I have to make a fuss over her, and give her the best spot on the lap.

Yes, the buttons light up.
C. is in the kitchen, skinning tomatoes for sauce and a batch of vegetable soup. She gets to slice up a bunch of veggies in her new food processor (woohoo!) for the soup.

I picked rabbit food, green beans and tomatoes today; green beans, dry beans and tomatoes yesterday.

Eight eggs yesterday; five today.