Saturday, September 28, 2013

Green tomatoes in the rain

I work in town all week so my country life is confined to the weekends, mostly. C. keeps the garden and animals in good shape all week, so I try to give her a break on the weekends.

This weekend, the tail end of September, I'm bringing in all the green tomatoes. We had a light freeze earlier in the week and the forecast is calling for dreary rain, more rain, and a hard freeze in the next few days. Summer is over. We had a good long growing season, but it's time to bring everything in. So I spent about five hours hauling pounds and pounds of tomatoes in the rain. Some of them are peach-colored, a few orangy-red, and some of the Prudence Purples are pink-and-green striped. Most are green, though. I rolled them out on an improvised table made of plywood covered with towels. They're sopping wet – so was I – so I'll give them overnight to dry some, then sort them by color onto the tops of plastic bins in the fourth-grade classroom. Those bins are full of stuff we haven't unpacked yet and are perfect for the task. We can watch for ripening and spoilage, and hustle the red ones to the kitchen for canning, drying or eating. There they are. Millions and millions of unripe tomatoes. Hundreds, anyway.

C. has the canner full of jars of tomato sauce. Earlier, she loaded the driers with San Marzano roma-type tomatoes. She made bread dough and I shaped it into lumpy loaves and baked them. Made some oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, too, but from that bland Quaker Oats recipe. (Must find the better recipe.) I let Earl lick the bowl as he's had a hard day. His legs hurt even with rimadyl and tramadol. Maybe the rainy weather is a factor. Oh, and I went to town to an estate sale. Not a very good one.

That was Saturday. Sunday, we moved the rabbits into the old kindergarten room. It doesn't seem like a natural habitat for them, but I think they'll come to like it. That's Crystal on the left. She's got a gorgeous full coat. Smokey is in the cage. We have to keep them apart until we get him neutered. They'll take turns in the cage until then. Crys was zipping around, kicking up her heels and investigating the wooden boxes, blankets and toys.

I replaced the plastic on the busted studio windows, found more tomatoes in the garden, beefed up the goat shelter – and suddenly realized tomorrow is Monday. Lo. And the dismal rain continues.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

156 pounds of winter squash

Not bad for a new garden! The big ones are green striped cushaw and jarradale, from Pine Tree Seeds. The jack o'lantern pumpkins are from a neighbor, the lone sweet mama from ? and acorn squash from ?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Alpacas like green beans

in case you were wondering. Sheep do not.

The roof is on, and Earl breaks his leg... again

So Craig and his crew have finished the roof. They worked hard and did great. Need a hot tar roof? I can recommend them without reservation. Good folks. The crew included a mini schnauzer named Talulah who bossed everyone around. It's been 90 degrees for days and days, but we're expecting a thunderstorm tomorrow so we can enjoy the lack of leaks. Below, here's an expanse of deck with the leaky, wrinkly layer removed. Then the new paper. Then the interface between new and old sections. And the "kettle" tar-melting trailer, alongside a pallet of packages of tar. I didn't get photos of the smoky, smelly excitement of mopping tar. I know. I suck.

And while Craig and his crew were finishing up the big roof, Richard and I were working on the barn roof. Actually, Richard did it all alone as I had heat stroke. Not sure how I did that. Unpleasant, though.
He got about three-quarters of the west side of the roof all cleared off. And the hay is inside and covered with an awesome tarp - a piece of recycled billboard vinyl. (My friend Tom got it cheap from the billboard company. It looks more durable than the standard blue tarp, and is huge.) So we'll continue peeling all the old shingles and nails and crap off, replace a few of the rafters and a lot of the strip sheathing, and slap some metal up there. And we'll be awash in roofs.

Further adventures with Earl

Earl, bless his heart, is an idiot. And so am I for posting about how well he was doing. Hubris, you know. He snapped the same leg making a leap over the big-dog railing in the living room. Even on that hideous but thick carpet. So he's in another splint and we're to meet with specialist tomorrow or Tuesday to talk about what is going on with Earl because it's not enough that his bones are made of paper.

He likes the goats. They seem to share the same viewpoint. That's Pants, below. He's sooooo soft. He and his brother will eat grain out of my hand and I sneak pats on their soft, soft sides.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We're getting a new roof!

Craig, our hot-tar guy, is up there today making the whole town stink of tar. I'm excited. This means we can move stuff into the formerly leaky classrooms, and empty and organize the gym a bit.
And the kindergarden room's Lake Elk will be no more, and the rabbits can move in there. And we can move all those buckets and bowls back into the kitchen (so they can be filled with ripening tomatoes).

It's a big item we can cross off the to-do list. And a step in preserving this cool old building.

I hope the tree frogs in the gym will stay and continue to make those big squishy ribbits.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alas, bat

We were visited by two small, furry bats the other night. They flew around the home room a few times, then one managed to find her way out. The other seemed confused, hung over Badeaux's bed for a while then circled and circled. I opened the south door and turned the lights outside on and the inside lights off (not that bats would even notice, would they?) and tucked the plastic away from the doorways and it seemed to finally find its way out. The high ceilings, random openings into the hall and plastic curtains over doorways must make the space confusing. A couple of days later C. found Earl with the dead little thing. I think it's a Townsend's big-eared bat, a nearly endangered species. I wish I'd paid better attention and helped it out.

 A couple of random garden shots. The striped squash is a winter variety, Cushbaw. It's big.

Earl the pearl

It's Earl, a youth. He's growing into a handsome galoot, and his legs are stronger and pretty straight. (Well, maybe a little lumpy.) He gallops and lopes and rambles around the place. He steals drinks of beer and howls at Murder, She Wrote theme music. He is a good boy.

Repairing the old bus barn

We've been working on straightening the old barn, getting it ready for a new metal roof. We'll keep hay there, and shelter the five big fiber animals. The foundation has a cracked and leaning side (not too bad, though), the roof is sway-backed, and some rafters and roof boards need to be replaced. Some folks have mocked us for trying to save and use the building, but it's a cool old place with big bifold doors and we like it.

Below, Earl is helping me get the sides winched into plumbness (plumbitude?)  and the loft cleaned out.

You can see it's about due for a new roof, below. My friend Tom lent me two come-along winches and a bunch of chain to do the plumbifying. The front wall was tilted out about 2 inches, so we used the come-alongs to pull it back into shape. The plumb shape. Shaped like a plumb. You know, like a rectangle. I reinforced the corners with two-bys and L-brackets before cranking.

Inside, under the mess of fallen ceiling boards, was a pile of weird mud and sticks. I guessed it was old swallow nests, but we found labels from bags of clay. So it's art supplies. We're going to dig it out and make some tiles for the school, if it test-fires OK.

And this is cool: in trim on the northeast corner of the building, way in back, honeybees have a nest.  I was nervous about working there with bee traffic going in and out like a Yogi-and-Boo Boo cartoon and the huge rumbling buzz from the wall, but they were very mellow. And I kept low and avoided eye contact. Honey wasn't dripping out of the walls and I wouldn't pull off the siding and disturb them - but maybe next year I could put a hive box outside and try to lure a swarm into it.

Below, the two little goats enjoy their evening oats. C. hasn't named them yet, but I call them Mo and Pants. Mo, on the left, sports a bucket-handle necklace. They need meaningful work, some kind of job to keep them from making jewelry from found materials. And dancing on the non-running riding non-mower.