Saturday, August 29, 2015

End of summer

And the beginning of Indian summer, right? Yeah!

Washington continues to burn. It's still smokey here, though a storm blew in today and actually rained some.

Dr. M came out and attended Autre, the unlucky chicken. I don't know what the hell happened to her, but one morning this week I found her all bloody, huddled in the chicken yard, the door to her cage in the chicken house hanging open. That's a heavy door, and she must have been under horrific attack to have pushed it open. Her chicks were hiding, but OK.

Something snatched her head bald, ripped off half her comb and left her at least half blind. Only her head was injured, and M said it looked like burns. Weird. A pecking assault by her jealous sister? A raccoon with a flame thrower? A carnivore would have bitten or killed her, not just attacked her head, and there's nothing on her cage that would trap her head. I found a place along the rock foundation where something the size of a guinea or a cat could squeeze into the cage, and blocked it.

That's not gatorade in the jar - it's a farm antibiotic mixed with water. M slathered Autre's poor head in Neosporin, gave her milk and oats and a big drink, and tucked her in. She's a good doctor.

Autre's leg is improving. She's got that going for her.

C. chipped away at the 44 pounds of cucumbers she's picked lately. Half went into a crock in the girl's bathroom, more into the stainless steel soup pot (we think of it as a crock at this point), and the rest will go into jars.

And what garden posting would be complete without mutant vegetables?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Blue sky

Yesterday was lovely - clear skies, yellow sun and white moon and breathable air. I even smelled the dairy farm at dusk.

 Today the smoke is back, though we're not completely socked in. There's a little blue above, but smokey around the horizons. It was good to have a respite.

We made and canned salsa yesterday, spending hours chopping, seeding and roasting tomatoes, onions, tomatillos and peppers. It takes five pans of roasted tomatoes to make four quarts of salsa. C. filled the rest of the canner with dill pickles.

I made four loaves of zucchini bread, but the lower oven element seems to have gone out so they were less than successful. Edible, but not great. I hate to waste ingredients and time and expectations, and make a HUGE mess for so little return. Kewpie says it is delicious, though.

Autre seems a little better. She and the chicks are really enjoying rolled oats soaked in milk. C. took her out of the Johnny Jump Up as she kept getting tangled up and had trouble reaching her water.

Autre's little grey daughter got stuck badly in the cage wire and C. had to cut her loose with fencing pliers. On a farm, it's always something. The chick was limp and shocky but seems to have recovered.

I stand poised to name the chicks, but C. says we have to wait for the crow, or the lack of a crow. (How do you know when you've heard a non-crow?) No idea what sex they are until they start making noise. Calling them hens is just magical thinking, I know, but can't help it. I'm an optimist.

I'm working on the pantry today, adding some shelves and hanging racks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Northwest is on fire

and the sky is a sick yellow-grey, with bits of ash drifting down. The air-quality people keep changing Spokane's rating from "unhealthy for sensitive groups" (would that be psychics? interior designers? redheads?) to just plain "unhealthy," and back again.

The great outdoors smells like smoke and tastes like ashes.

We're a long way from any active fires, but the topography around here tends to hang onto dust and pollution. It's pretty smokey out there. It's maybe the worst fire season in Washington history, and three firefighters were killed in Twisp today. We're all hoping for rain, and soon.

So the little guineas, just three weeks old today, are sleeping on roosts just like the big birds.

Pretty cute the way this little guy is sitting on papa.

The little pied guy is having trouble getting all the way up there.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mid August

The house is full of tomatoes. Big ones, small ones, ripe ones, not-quite-ripe ones. C. spent hours yesterday peeling them and poking them into jars and canning them. I made rolls again and am sitting here with tomato dribbles on my shirt from a lovely toasted tomato, pesto and parmesan sandwich. I love those things, but no matter how many I eat the kitchen is still overflowing with tomatoes. We struggle to keep up. It's a good struggle.

Our habaƱero peppers are ripe, so C. can can some salsa soon. And spaghetti sauce. And veggie soup.

And the cucumbers! She has a six-gallon crock full of salty cucs turning into pickles, and probably 30 quarts of new dill pickles in the pantry.

Autre the chicken is still limping badly after her two weeks of confinement in the chicken house, so I made her a "chicken chair" out of a fishing net, some fiberglass screen and a banana box. It's a little like a Johnny Jump Up, only with a pissed off chicken inside instead of a cute baby.

Chicken legs are slow to heal and splints are not helpful, so we'll just let her bounce there for a few weeks and hope for the best. I figured the two chicks would want to sleep under her, so made some holes in the box for them. No, they want to sleep ON mama. Idiots.

In other weekend news, I made a two-floor rabbit tower out of a sonotube. We're making more bunny shelters so Marty can safely go back in with the group. We moved him in with Smokey after the other guys beat up on him, but he has refused to become civilized. He says only sissy rabbits use litterboxes. I say piddle on the floor in your own room, you little long-eared butt-monkey. The sainted Smokey will stay in our bathroom with his sissy litterbox.

I hooked up the new (to us) washer.  Made my new version of no-bake cookies with peanut butter in the middle. And the ultra-secure chicken yard has been tested (and definitely NOT approved) by those roving little keets. They are not pleased at their confinement. I put a little hatch into the garden so we can easily let them in there, and maybe keep them from roaming too far from home.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Millet craze

I put some millet out for the keets, and they came right over and stuffed themselves. They make a funny little churrip noise while they eat, and their little heads bob up and down like sewing machines.

It's hard to believe those pretty brown feathers will be replaced by black-and-white polka dots.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Early August

The little guineas are still finding ways out of the chicken yard. I'm working on it. They're not quite two weeks old, and real feathers are already replacing the fuzz on their wings. I found them sunning and dusting in a striped heap on the old compost pile, while their parents worried a few feet away inside the chicken yard. Confident little fellows.

Em and Richard came up yesterday, delivering a teacher's desk and staying to haul the last of last year's beets and carrots from the basement. We shelled peas and talked about Em's Grandma Betty, who was an accomplished pea-sheller and a big nut. We miss her. They left with veggies for tortoises and for people.

C. canned a batch of dill pickles and two of green beans last night, and more beans and some carrots today. The pantry shelves are slowly filling up.

Pea and bean picking is a daily chore. Those vines are out there pumping out pods and seeds every day.  Little today, big tomorrow. Amazing.

The deer continue to nibble here and there, but nothing catastrophic since we flopped chicken wire over the cabbages and the lower row of pole beans. And recent rains have greened up the grass a bit, so maybe we'll get to harvest most of what we planted.

I've got rolls rising, and hope to have the first melty-parmesan-and-tomato sandwich of the summer before I fall asleep tonight. Mmmm.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Some days we are stupid

Or at least ineffectual.

Autre and the chicks managed to escape their pen in the chicken house. OK, it was a lame pen. So I slowly pursue her around the chicken yard, trying to take it easy on her poor leg. She freaks out, runs past me one way, runs past me the other way. I am not winning, and she is limping. I finally wave her into the chicken house, and close the little chicken door. I go around into the human door, corner her, reach down… and she goes through my legs and out the human door, which I had neglected to pull closed. So the chicken I'm trying to protect is limping and loose in the wide world full of predators. Good job.

She gives me this sharp, disappointed look – "What the hell is wrong with you today?" – and limps off down the hill.

Later I find her outside the chicken yard, talking to her chicks, and shoo her in. I beef up the pen, and close the little family up tight when they come in for bed.

The little guineas keep sneaking through the fence and boobling off with their irresponsible uncles while mom fusses and calls from the chicken yard. In a few more days they'll be safer, too big to squeeze through the wire, but I worry about them injuring a foot or wing on the fence. Ot getting eaten by the neighbor's cat, who is fond of tender young striped-ass birds. Or stepped on by a goat.

One of the little pied guys spied a big old grasshopper in the yard today, and snatched it up and ran off with it. All the others zipped after her, trying to grab it away. The hopper would struggle and she'd drop it and try to peck it in to submission, then have to take it up again and hustle away from the other little birds. I don't know who won. Fierce little birds.

We picked peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and greens for the bunnies. C. has the fridge full of carrots to can.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday – and August

Another 100-degree day. C. is working on her second batch of pickles. I picked beans and peas, and greens for the rabbits. Filled up the Subaru dehydrator with typhon leaves. Boy, if times got tough and I had a lot of people to feed, I'd grow typhon and sun chokes (Jerusalem artichokes). Easy to take care of, and very, very productive. Not real exciting to eat, but hungry people are easy to please.

We got a little deer damage in the garden last night. White-tailed bouncing bastards.

Autre is limping, so I cordoned off part of the chicken house for her and the two chicks so she can get some rest away from the guineas, who give her a hard time.

The little keets are growing, and are now almost too big to squeeze through one-inch chicken wire. I had to boost a little pied one through the wire where she'd gotten stuck. And we discovered we have 13 of the little guys. Had to count them in a photograph – it's impossible to get an accurate count with them darting around after mom.

I bought eggs and milk from Rose today, and met her new red border collie pup, Fritzie. She has five now, all with better manners than our six barbarians.

I'm recovering from a tough week: a four-hour workshop thing at work where I had to interact and share with my office mates, and a medical test that involved fine needles and electric currents.

It's good to be home. Really good.