Monday, December 29, 2014

Now the cold comes

So we've had a couple of snowy days, and today a wicked cold wind moved in. Brrrrrr.

I've been sitting on my butt reading and slurping tea since Christmas. Today I decided to get a few things done, starting with the chicken-yard roof, which collapsed overnight under the snow and ice. It's set up like a circus tent with heavy wires running up to a center pole, and chicken wire and bird netting draped over that. The wires popped loose on the west half, and C. helped me stretch them back into place.

C. went inside and banged the snow loose. At least now the birds can booble around in the fresh air without worrying about hawks or owls. They decided it was too cold for boobling, though, and went in to bed early.

That was it for outside work on this cold day (supposed to get down to zero tonight).

I've decided to work on improving the kitchen, something we've been thinking about for a long time. Basically, there's a nine-foot-long island of three cabinets with sink and dishwasher. The wall space is taken up with our giant fridge, our vintage pink stove (also huge), our big countertop microwave/convection oven and two old wheeled cabinets from a home-ec classroom. And an old china cabinet from the church near our Ancestral Home. Our baking is done on an eight-foot stretch of 1890s-era cupboard on the back side of the island, so any time you are baking and need the fridge or sink or stove you have to walk all the way around the island. Every time I bake something I get all pissed off. (And I like to bake. It leads to eating baked goods.) So the plan is to move the china cabinet out into the dining room, which means moving the shelf of craft-supplies-that-must-not-freeze out of there. So I'm making a tall cupboard from a stack of scrounged upper kitchen cabinets in a corner of the dining room for the art supplies. That's Step 1. (They will be so ugly that I am confident C. will be driven to paint them. Step 2.) Moving the china cabinet and contents (mostly canned and dried food) is Step 3. Thinking about all this has made me tired. Better find another book and put the kettle on.

I made another experimental chocolate-and-peanut-butter thing, but bought puffed rice instead of crispy rice so it's soggy instead of crispy. Idiot! But it's chocolatey and peanut-buttery, and tolerable with tea. And I'm experimenting with herbed dough in the bread machine, hoping to come up with rolls that are delicious under the broiler with bubbly cheese. (That's not hard, as anything, probably even cardboard, is delicious with bubbly cheese.) I used fresh basil from the plants C. brought in from the garden, and some crumbled dried tomatoes.

We're broke until payday, Wednesday, so we're making do with whatever is in the cupboards – lots of canned goods, not so much butter, eggs and milk.

C. is obsessed with gathering tiny, tiny guinea feathers from the chicken house. I think it's weird, unlike my obsessions, which are brilliant and compelling.

The feathers are kind of cool, actually, with their tiny polka dots.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Snow day

We got over three inches today. I braved the roads to Spokane for C.'s favorite kind of beer (Labatts, in case you want to send us a few cases:) and here are some miscellaneous snow photos, including a minor wreck on Highway 2 and Westmoreland Road. Yes, I know they're not great, but I was driving!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Recovering from Christmas

It's warm in here, and quiet. The kids were all up for the Christmas thing yesterday, and we overdosed on Telli's fudge and took turns opening presents. It was good. Everyone was here, and everyone was gracious – even about their weird, handmade, grandma presents. We have a nice bunch of people in our family.

Of course I rushed around and made presents madly in the two days preceding the event. In posh years C. and I make and buy presents. In tight years, we make everything. Those poor children. :) We're all just lucky the kids are past the age of requiring fancy electronics or sports gear now that we have a giant house payment and animals to support.

So C. made K. a philosopher's scarf, grey and black wool fashioned into a rude-gesture motif. It was cool. I made KC a Man Necklace from parts ripped from a car at the junkyard. C. made Em a felted anatomical heart pin with beaded arteries and veins. I made R. a fishing charm out of a vintage brass lure. I cleaned up and waxed some old tin ceiling tiles for folks to hang on the wall. And C. made me a Flat Earl floor cloth that looks just like Earl laying frog-legged on the floor. It's awesome.

It's always fun to see what the kids get each other, and the thought they put into the presents. No, they don't make the presents, but that's OK.

There was apple pie and baklava and fudge and soup. And fake mustaches and general silliness. It was good.

We're worn out. And I have a hell of a mess to clean up on the dining room table where craft supplies have been dragged out, and failed experiments are piled up. Like the 22 shells I tried to drill for more Man Jewelry (don't try it without a drill press!) and the buttons sticky with expired epoxy. Maybe I'll tackle that tomorrow.

I'm working up to consuming more fudge.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Playing catch up

Merry Christmas!

Haven't posted for ages. What has happened over the last three weeks? C. dug up all the sun chokes, and they're packed in sand in the hall. Um… Em and Richard came up and hauled firewood several times. I went to work. Oh, yeah, the rabbits chewed a water supply line and flooded their room, and had to be moved in the middle of the night to our bathroom, where they stayed for a week. And what a week! Cheeky little bastards. But after we dried out the rabbit room, we put Smokey in first and now he is the Rabbit MAN. No more beatings from his uppity sons. Or his uppity daughter. He seems happy to be with his fellows, but I miss him a little. So our bathroom is now rabbit-free, and litter-box free, and rabbit-den free. AND LEAK FREE, because I poked my head up into the attic, mapped the leaks, traced them to cracks or popped nails on the roof and patched them. We've only had minor rains, but it's holding so far. Huzzah! And tonight, just a little while ago, there came a booming crash. Now part of the bathroom is ceiling-free. A whole section of sheetrock, tired of being dripped on, came right down. How weird is that? And the roofer showed up. That's pretty weird, too. He put some magical sticky rubber stuff on the leaking drainpipe in my studio, and measured and contemplated the extremely porous drain by the back door. He also suggested we put another dry well in the west dog yard to take the load off the main dry well, wherever they put it in 1936.

Here are some misc. photos, including Earl being froggy, and the bathroom former ceiling.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


We're having a quiet day. All the kids are doing the holiday thing other places, which suits me fine. I don't like fuss. I do like the food traditions (no surprise there) but the whole thing has always seemed like a big slap in the face of Indians. "Hey, come to our big party! Later, you won't be welcome at our parties or in our homes or businesses. And we'll take all the land and kill all you red people." Not an attitude I want to celebrate.

Anyway, the kids will be up tomorrow, and we'll have some pie and hang out for a bit. We'll probably try to get them to move heavy things. We'll try to be subtle.

We're totally broke, as usual, so I'm trying to get some glass Santa ornaments listed in the Squidglass Etsy shop. It's pretty warm out, about 50 degrees, so working in the unheated studio is possible. I cut some red glass circles the other evening, and put them in the kiln this morning. It's amazing and wonderful to have an art space! I scribbled the kiln schedule on my chalkboard. My chalkboard. My studio. The idea makes me grin.

C. dug another bucket of sun chokes. We plan some house cleaning. Woohoo!

C. has been photographing the bunnies. She wants to list angora fuzz in her Ovinia Etsy shop, and include portraits of each rabbit. Despite the window, it's still too dark for photos in the rabbit room, so we'll need to take them in the bunny yard.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Well, the pipe that I capped last night had weak spots, so we had another flood about an hour after we stopped the first. I rummaged through my plumbing bits and had no other caps, so I left the pump off all night, hit the One-Stop this morning for parts, and had the line cut and capped before noon. (Yes, I slept in today. It was lovely.) No leaks, so I must have cut out any other areas that freezing had weakened. I think we're OK.

The bunny room was a sodden mess, though. I got it dried out and replaced the cardboard and newspaper layers that the buns live on, then moved them out of our bathroom and back home. Just in time, too. Crystal was rearranging the furniture, and both Marty and the toilet seat were wet.

C. dug another bucket of sunchokes for winter storage in the basement. Miserable work.

And she caught a mouse on the stove! Grabbed it by the tail (it hollered) and plunked into a canning jar. The dogs and I took it for a walk and released it down at the other end of our eight acres.

The mouse was attracted by my latest culinary experiment – a healthier version of scotcheroos, the rice crispy/chocolate/peanut butter bars that I discovered at the Halloween potluck at work. There's something about two bags of chocolate chips and a cup of corn syrup that really hits the spot. I'm hoping to hit the same spot, without either of those ingredients. So far, it's like rice-crispy treats, only with peanut butter and honey instead of melted marshmallows. And the chocolate part of no-bake cookies poured on top. It's pretty good, but not quite right yet. Good enough to attract mice, though.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's always something...

First snow of the year today. It's all melted in town, but not out here.

I have a three-day weekend!

I'd been home about four minutes when C. found me and said the bunny room was flooding. Sure was. We hauled the rabbits to our bathroom, Smokey's room. I turned the pump off at the electrical box, and pulled some sheetrock and insulation from the wall outside the rabbit room. A pipe had frozen and split during the cold spell, and had just now thawed. Huh. I cut it and capped it off (just happened to have a three-quarter inch CPVC cap) and turned the pump circuit back on. I think we're OK now. So we have a pack of damp, hairy barbarians in the bathroom (not Smokey – he's very civilized). I could tell Crystal was thinking about redecorating. I suppose we can stand it for a night. The rabbit room flooring, cardboard and newspaper over concrete, is a sodden mess that we'll tackle in the daylight tomorrow.

We just heard a weird noise – something big falling down a flight of stairs? Thunder? The "new" dryer freaking out? It's hard to tell since the damn dogs instantly start barking. We think it might be the rabbits thumping and fussing in their new space. Or flamenco-dancing goats on plywood. We'll tackle that tomorrow, too.

There's apple pie. Could be worse.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mid November

Time does keep slippin' (slippin' slippin' slippin') into the future.

I remember when my second-grade teacher (Mrs. Amundsen?) erased "1965" off the board, and wrote in "1966." I sat at my desk, left arm in a cast, towhead bangs on my forehead, and thought about time. I was 7.

Now I'm 56, sitting here having tea (the black British kind that comes in round teabags) and double-chocolate pecan brownies, thinking about time. I haven't come to any meaningful conclusions about the nature of time in all that time. I just think, "Whoa." Tommy Chong is doing my mental dialog. "That Steve Miller is sure right about time, man. Heavy."

It's dark and cold out. The wood stove is pumping out the heat, and C. is vacuuming. The dogs and I hate it when she vacuums.

Em and Richard were out twice this weekend, Friday to get wood and Saturday to bring up Richard's late mom's dryer. The heat element went out on ours this spring. We'd bought it new at Monkey Wards in Coeur d'Alene in 1987. Replaced the drum belt a couple of times and maybe the elements once? and it ran and ran. C. is good with appliances. She takes them apart periodically and vacuums everywhere and oils stuff. The furnace in our Ancestral Home was old when we bought the place in 1975, and she cleaned it and the ducts every fall. It's still running fine. Anyway, we were hanging our wash out on the line in the cold and thinking that we really should look at those elements when Em offered Diane's dryer. Bless their hearts, she and Richard brought it in and installed it and tested it. It's harvest gold and smells funny, and we're pleased to have it.

I blew my weekend on foolish things like redoing the netting over the chicken yard. It was sagging and C. worried the guineas would get tangled in it. I hate working with that nasty bird-netting crap. It catches on my shirt buttons, on my fingers, on my boots. If there were three of me, it might be funny. It's not so amusing with just one stooge, though. And I moved the big animal fencing so we can more easily haul water to them. Last year we used an electric stock-tank heater on a long extension cord to keep the water thawed. I was reading that it costs $3 a day to run one of those – and that last year 17,000 animals were hurt or killed by those heaters. So the new plan is to haul a three-gallon bucket of water to them twice a day. We'll see how that goes.

Monday, November 10, 2014

R.I.P. Mrs. Davis

Well, she didn't make it. Our home stitching job proved inadequate, she developed massive infections and I had the local vet give her the big shot.

I know, pretty wussy for a farmer. But that's how we roll. Wussy style.

She was a good, brave bird.

Been raining in the bathroom. Now it's getting clear but cold. Supposed to be 17 tonight. I'm not crazy about the cold, but at least it won't be fucking raining.

Em and Richard came up Saturday and got wood, then cut it up and stacked it in the hallway. Pretty awesome. I made mediocre apple crumble from the box of granny smiths that Fred the whizzer brought, and we ate mass quantities warm from the oven with vanilla ice cream on top. Mmmm. Sunday I crawled around in the crawl space (the place to crawl, don't you know) and got the outside water off and the lines drained. C. and I dug sun chokes and packed them into buckets for storage in the boiler room. That's miserable work, grubbing the things out of the mud. But everyone from rabbits to dogs to people to Azul can eat them, and they store well, so it's a smart crop. Dead easy to grow, too.

The buckets are three-gallon plastic frosting containers from the Safeway bakery. Imagine that: three gallons of frosting. That's what I would have spent my allowance on, when I was a sugar-junkie kid. Three gallons of frosting. Of course, it's that commercial crap frosting that you have to scrape off before you can eat the cake. Imagine, though, if it were decent frosting. Chocolate, or cream cheese. Made with buttah, not gross shortening. Three gallons of buttah frosting. In a bucket.

Today I took C. to the doctor in town, and Mrs. Davis to the vet. Weekend over. Back to work.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The rainy season

The rain continues, outside and in. Wear your umbrella hat when you go into the bathroom. I remember now that fall is very rainy. And you don't dare become miserable because winter is coming. And at least rain is not snow. We're waiting for the new roof guy to come up with a plan. I wish he'd hurry up.

I've been replacing panes in the old windows in the girls' locker room. It's not bad work, except that it goes on forever. Twenty panes in this one, and another 12 above the door.

 I moosh the stuff in the grooves, let it set up a bit, then come back with a putty knife and try to make it look good. That little thing above is the spring-wire clip that helps hold the glass in place.

It the good news department, SIL Richard replaced the butchered wiring in the truck! Wooohooo! I'm going to get to go to the dump. I just know it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rainy weekend

So I spent two hours this morning with a retired couple who volunteer with the sheriff's office taking fingerprints and helping deputies keep an eye on the area. Nice folks. They dusted and photographed the poor violated truck and completed a great many cards and forms. They got a good print from the door handle – maybe the rat bastard will get in some trouble.

Meantime, I'm chaining (but not locking) the driveway gate at night, and parking and locking the car close to the building.

I took a photo of the cut cables for Richard, who says they'll be easy to replace. I don't know – there seem to be a lot of them.

C. made a huge pot of veggie soup, complete with little tomatillos floating on top like bubbles. We had it (with fresh bread and farm butter) for dinner. She's got seven jars of it in the pressure canner now, and there's more in the fridge for tomorrow. I'm happiest when the fridge is full of food. I made rice pudding, brownies and the bread after the fingerprinters left. Must be a comfort thing.

Spent the day putting a door on our space. It's one of the original classroom doors that I found in the entryway. Found the jamb in the gym, the door plates on another door in the gym, and the knobs in our collection of interesting objects. The knobs aren't quite right, but will do until I can figure out how to get the square rod thing out of the latch mechanism and replace it with a shorter one. There's some sort of clip holding it in there – never seen one like that. I'm glad that most of the doors are still here, but in my less grateful moments I wish the Mad Remodeler had left them all in place – or at least left them with knobs and works intact, still hinged to their jambs and labeled with original locations. Ah, well. So the door is up and functional, and I don't miss the heavy plastic curtain that's been hanging there for a year and a half. I pulled the particle board off the opening in the top, and will pop some glass in there tomorrow if I have a piece big enough. (I could do a leaded glass window if there weren't so many urgent things to do.) There's another door opening in the living room still covered with plastic, but we're planning to turn it into a built-in bookcase.

Mrs. Davis is still looking tragic but is doing well. She is getting around pretty well, just a slight limp, and she is eating like a pig. Nobody is picking on her. I hope she'll be able to fly when she's all healed up. We've been keeping them all in the chicken yard since it's grey and rainy out.

C. has been working on bringing in the last of the produce in from the garden, as well as the stakes and tools and hoses and such.

Tomorrow we should get wood, unless it's too wet and miserable. And maybe go mushrooming.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Uncharitable thoughts

So Richard got the truck running. Woohooo! I loaded it up for a trip to the dump. And in the wee hours, some rat bastard crept up my driveway, popped the hood and cut the new battery out. He siphoned the gas out, too, and took the registration. He also pawed through my unlocked car, and reamed the ignition pretty good with a screwdriver.

Hey, asshole – that gas has been sitting in the tank for months. I hope you and your vehicle choke on it.

So once again I have a big brown ornamental truck out front. Now it's full of garbage. I'm feeling a little disheartened.

I'm going to hump up in my recliner, eat chocolate and contemplate the shotgun.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dressing Mrs. Davis

I'm a moron, and my animals pay for that. Today I let Annie out into the garden, after carefully shutting all guineas and chickens in the chicken yard. She's been really good lately, coming when called (even when pursuing a gopher) and passing right by chickens on our walks. I felt guilty that she spent most of her time inside, instead of out sniffing country smells and doing farm-dog things. Never mind that she comes from a long line of badger killers, and has personally terminated squirrels, kittens, mice, guineas, songbirds and more. Moron, like I said. Maybe she hypnotizes me with her sincere brown eyes.

So she's in the garden, running round and round after gopher scent. I'd forgotten that the cleanout door from chicken house to garden had come loose. Annie found it and was busily mauling guineas when I came back from starting the truck. One bird, blinking solemnly, was hanging by the neck from the bird netting over the chicken yard; three others were tangled in the stuff. One was on her back on the ground.

I yell obscenities while pawing at the gate latch, burst in, unhook Mrs. Davis from the evil toothy jaws, haul Annie off by the scruff, boost the hanging bird free with an elbow as we get out of there. I hustle to put Annie inside and get back out there and help everybody – and the fucking door latch is stuck. I pound on the door and after an eternity C. hears me and lets us in. I dump Annie and we go to the chicken yard to assess the slaughter.

I am such a moron.

Mrs. Davis is the worst, with tears on breast and thigh, and feathers ripped off down one side. She's sitting, stunned and bleeding. The bird on her back has a couple of puncture wounds on her wing and side, and some missing feathers. Everybody else seems OK. Angry and upset, but OK. The two chickens have gotten the hell out of Dodge. Chickens are pretty smart.

So that's how we end up in the bathroom, putting stitches in a polka-dot fowl. It's pretty horrible. C.'s hands are shaky as she pushes the big curved needle through guinea skin, which is surprisingly tough. I hold her on my lap, keeping her head tucked under my flannel shirt. I can't help but see childhood chicken dinners in Mrs. Davis's drumstick, her thigh muscles showing through the gash in her goose-pimply skin. We baste her with betadine, rub antibiotic ointment into her skin, close the gaping holes. C. says she has sewn up birds before – Thanksgiving turkeys, to keep the stuffing in. This is a little different.

I don't eat chicken any more.

She's our oldest guinea, the only one left of the first four – Mrs. Davis and her three daughters, the giant Connies. She's a royal purple, dusty purple with a polka-dot undercoat, and our only exotic guinea. She's a good bird, steady and industrious, but not over bright. She's often left buckWHEATing plaintively on the far side of a fence while the flock moves on. I hope she gets a chance to do more of that.

Several hours later, Mrs. Davis is still alive, sharing a darkened cage on the washer with victim No. 2. The electric heater is on and the room is toasty. If we can keep her from getting chilled or shocky or infected, she'll might make it. Injured birds are delicate, though.

I'm really sorry. I'm not speaking to Annie, but we all know who is responsible. That moron over there in my recliner.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

No mushrooms yet

We drove out to our mushrooming spot, where we found 30 pounds of funnel mushrooms last year, and stumped around a bit. Nothing yet. Talked to a muzzleloader with a big pickup and a big white beard, and he said shaggy manes should be out with the next good rain.

Annie and Earl came along, and Annie worked hard tangling her stretchy leash in every possible shrubbery.

Then we came to to more tomato servitude. To which I must now return.

And ALL the beets and carrots are sleeping in their bins of damp sand in the boiler room.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Slaves to tomatoes

Tomatoes continue to rule the kitchen. C. has been canning them plain, cooked down into sauce, and mixed with herbs and onions and stuff into spaghetti sauce. The three food dryers are cycling loads of roma-types into lovely dried scraps of concentrated tomato-ness. The cherry ones go straight into the freezer in gallon ziplocks. I've been helping with the daily sorting – beefy, cherry and roma; green, ripening and ripe; and tomatoes with issues (slug bites, deer bites, Earl bites, bad spots).

C. spends a whole lot of time dunking them in boiling water to peel them. If we could find the damn Foley food mill (we call it the Foley Fuckerhead after a story I read once in a women's magazine in a doctor's waiting room) we could dispense with the peeling, but it's in a box someplace, or at the Ancestral Home. Right next to the cheese grater and my favorite Hawai'ian shirt – items that were apparently lost in the move.

As she processes the tomatoes she scoops out and saves some of the seeds. Saving tomato seeds is a messy job. (So is everything to do with tomatoes. The cutting board, the counter, the knives and my hands are all slimy with tomato guts.) You let the seeds ferment for a week or so in a little dish with some water and grow a little mold on top, then rinse them carefully several times. The gel around each seed washes off, and the good seeds sink to the bottom. You dry them and store for spring. We usually buy seeds, too, but it's smart to save some.

Anyway, big bowls of tomatoes are everywhere. We try to keep up with them, and try to keep Earl from sneaking them off to eat on the rug. And there are still some on the vines in the garden.

I worked on digging all the beets and packing them in damp sand in a bin in the boiler room today. I was pleased to have actually finished something – when C. reminded me there was one more bed of beets to dig. So tomorrow I finish something. And the carrots, too.

The rabbits played in their yard and ate beet greens. I've been plucking them a little – Fondue last night, and Plumb Bob the night before.

C. got out a six-gallon crock and is making sauerkraut, as well as something called kabachkovaya ikra, a Russian squash spread that should be interesting. Her first batch of ketchup is delicious. And her carrots are gigantic!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September weekend

I'm working on the veg storage area in the boiler room, hauling pallets and bins and sand down there. C. is cleaning the chicken house.

Since I was working outside the rabbit room, I opened the window into their yard so they could frolic and nibble some grass. They were skeptical. I brought Smokey out, and put the other guys on the window sill so they could look (and hop) out. They're still thinking about it. That's Crystal there, with the ear tufts.

No, Azul isn't dead. He's dust bathing, after a nice hose-down with cold water. Alpacas are weird.

Maltese dogs are also weird. Jazzy is doing her hair, while rolling in something nasty. Two birds,
don't you know.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Harvest season at the old school

The frost last week did more damage than we realized. The beans are pretty much finished. The squash and cucumbers, too. And tomato alley has lost all its leaves on the north and west sides. The fruit is mostly undamaged there, but is dropping off.

This side of the tomatoes has gone from lush to tattered.

So we're gathering all the green tomatoes from the damaged plants, and bringing them in to ripen. The undamaged plants are doing fine and we're leaving the fruit alone, as the forecast promises lows in the 50s for the next week. And the kitchen is full of bowls and baskets and boxes of tomatoes in every shade from lime to ruby (as well as the Russian ones in blacky purple). We're still having tomato sandwiches most nights.

I've been working on the boiler room in the basement, preparing to store all our root crops down there. We're going to set up big bins on pallets on the concrete floor, and fill them with damp sand and beets and carrots and Jerusalem artichokes. The spuds will go in milk crates or burlap bags.  I figure the winter will show which areas of the boiler room and the coal room are best for each crop. (That means we don't have any fancy devices for measuring humidity and are flying by the asses of our pants.)

Here's the outside stairway to the boiler room. The door and window were boarded up, and I finally had to use the reciprocating saw to cut the door loose from its frame. It took forever to get the job done, and I was stumping up and down the inner and outer stairs getting three different saws and the drill and an extension cord and vise grips and crowbars and wedges and screwdrivers. One at a time, of course, because I was sure each trip that this tool was going to do the trick.

The acoustics down there are awesome, so I burbled little tunes, and hummed and muttered and (let's be honest) bitched as I worked. At one point a frog or toad joined in with a huge, wet, echoing "rikkit" that filled the space. We did a little duet. I looked for him by flashlight to no avail. But I was pleased to have a giant frog in the basement, and hoped he'd stay out of the spuds.

So I finally free the door (to vast and echoing applause) and gather my tools for the climb out when – plop – a tiny brown tree frog lands on the step right in front of me.

I guess he liked the acoustics, too.

I opened the door and let him out.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The heating season begins

We started the first fire of the season in the big wood stove, and pulled the plastic curtain over the doorway. I was tempted to just throw on a sweatshirt and go to bed, but C. wanted be warm while she canned beans and tomatoes.

So I fired up a few scrap 2x4s and it's a balmy 66 in here now. Earl is happy. He likes a fire on a cold night. Me, too.

I made brownies, and now am off to bed. C. is finishing the tomatoes.

Wouldn't that frost you?

Out of the blue came freezing temperatures. It seems crazy early to me, but the old hands in the Elk-Camden Garden Club said it was just about time. Pat said they used to get frosts by Aug. 7 on the hill where she lives. Then, three years ago, it got warmer, longer. Last year's first frost was in late September or maybe even October. (I'll look through the blog archives.)

But you can't fight the weather, so we spend several hours yesterday draping covers over the tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, cucumbers.  We used all the plastic we could find, as well as tarps and flannel sheets.

What a beautiful garden! And ready for the magazine photo shoot.

Good thing we did, too. The frost damaged both uncovered and covered plants, but I think we managed to save the big double alley of tomatoes and maybe half the pole beans. And some of the plants that were nipped pretty badly, like the squash below, seem OK on the lower leaves and fruits.

The beans on the right are frosted; the ones on
the left look fine.

It's supposed to freeze again tonight. We beefed up the coverings.

I don't want to lose those hundreds of pounds of tomatoes on the vines, but, confidentially, it would be a relief to let the garden go for the winter. She's a slaver driver come fall!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

From Thermopolis to Elk

My brother and his wife and daughter stopped by on their way from Thermopolis, Wyo., to Seattle. Nice folks, and we had a good time. I gave them the old-school tour, the roof tour, the pump-house tour, the ballfield tour. Em was here, too, and we talked about everything from gardening to chickens to yap dogs to whiskey. Jasmine alternated yapping with stink-eyeing. Earl adored my bro, but we couldn't convince him to take the big speckled jackass back to Wyoming. (Earl is the speckled jackass, not my brother. My brother used to be freckled, and I often considered him a jackass when we were kids, but he's grown into a good guy with a sneaky sense of humor. I like him. And I'm sorry I was so snotty to him when we were little.)

Now that my nephew is in Seattle we should see more of them.

C. dug spuds, and I packed them away to cure in milk crates (for air circulation) in Nadine's room. In a few weeks we'll move them to the boiler room for winter storage.

Today we hit the monthly book sale in Deer Park and found another five boxes of reading matter to help get us through the approaching winter. C. packed a batch of green beans into jars and I ran the pressure canner. She plans to spend the next several hours as slave to tomatoes.

The goats are going under the fence into the orchard. And when I tighten up the bottom of that stretch of fence, they go over. I'll go out later and move the line and tighten things up. I must remember that, with goats, fences are more guideline than laws. I'll try to leave a weak spot on the other side of the building away from the orchard, so that when they feel they must escape, the little tree stubs are safe.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Canning on a Friday night

I'm canning seven quarts of green beans in the pressure cooker. I snapped them while rewatching an episode of "Warehouse 13." Is rewatching a word? Great show. Good beans.

C. picked the beans over a few days. At least the deer left us some!

We ate the biggest tomato so far – 20.5 ounces – yesterday on sandwiches. It made two, with some slices left over for dessert.

The garden is running our days now. C.'s days, anyway. She picks greens by the laundry-basketful for the rabbits and the big animals. Tomatoes are everywhere in the kitchen – ripening in bowls on the counter, waiting for the jar in the fridge. Ghostly white mini cucumbers and patty pan squash fill the crisper drawers. C. canned four quarts of dill pickles and three of tomatoes last night, and I made eight loaves of zucchini bread and a pan of brownies. Most of the z bread is in the freezer, for the far-off time when zucchini sounds appealing. Right now the damn things are everywhere, and growing threateningly larger.

Guineas in the zucchini squash.

Indigo Rose tomatoes. Funny that they are really purple, and Prudens Purple tomatoes are
pink. And then there are Violet Jaspers, a small streaky red-and-green variety.

Our tomatillos are HUGE this year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Boa in the chicken house!

C. called me out to the chicken house. "And bring the camera!" she said. It was a small snake, maybe 20 inches long, with a funny blunt tail.

I'm crazy about snakes, but had never seen one of these. His scales were tiny, as were his eyes. He had a rubbery look about him. We scooped him up and let him run through our fingers for a while. I took him out to the garden – C. said the chickens would kill him if we left him in the chicken house. I looked him up – he's a rubber boa, not uncommon in this part of the West. He eats young gophers, moles and voles. He's welcome to stay.