Thursday, July 20, 2017

Too hot for peas

The peas have pretty much quit producing, though I do have to check every day. I think it's just too hot. Most of the plants are in good shape, though, green and robust, so we're hoping they get going again when the weather cools off a bit.

The pole beans are blooming furiously, so we'll soon be slaves to beans. Looking forward to it.

Earl and I hit town yesterday to fill a prescription. It was hot and boring, and the highlight of the trip was a stop at Zip Trip for ice cream cones. He had vanilla in a cup, and must have gotten "brain freeze," as he kept shaking his head and looking funny. I gave him my cone after removing every  trace of chocolate ice cream as it was chock full of gluten.

C. is keeping the food driers going 24/7 with herbs and rabbit greens. My friend Vicki gave us a cool dehydrator from the 1970s – it's a Harvest Maid, and looks like a microwave. Does a beautiful job.

I'm working on organizing the hallway, and the front yard.

Nothing exciting to report.

Six eggs today.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pea slave

No, I'm not talking about being a slave to an over-active bladder, though I am.

Remember when we got the peas planted so late in the season, and worried that we'd get none? Hahahaha. I am spending three hours a day picking peas. Every day. And I'm pretty glad to do it. I love shell peas. And the dogs love snap peas. And we have lots. We've had them with new spuds in cream sauce, steamed with butter and salt, and in salads. The extra fridge has big bowls waiting for me to shell or break them for canning or freezing or drying or eating. And soon it'll be cool enough for me to get out there and pick some more. It's good. If we're really lucky, we'll get enough put  away to have peas once a week all winter.

The weather has been hot, hot, hot. A thunderstorm is forecast for Saturday, then back to hot, hot, hot.  Peas aren't crazy about hot weather, so we're keeping them watered and picked, and hoping they keep producing.

Also, we have a prisoner.

He's a young pocket gopher, and I just reached down and picked him up by the tail in the garden as I was headed in one evening. He's now installed in an ice cream tub in an old bird cage, and not real happy about that.

Em, who is tenderhearted, and hasn't had these little bastards tunnel up under her tomato plants and just suck a whole plant into the ground, is all for us returning him to his gopher family. We said no way. I was planning to relocate him to the woods someplace far away from gardens, but Washington state law prohibits releasing him anyplace but our own land. Legally, we can kill gophers (but no lethal traps without a permit) and we can live-trap them, but that's it. So we're not sure what to do with him. Meantime, I deliver garden greens to him.

My friend Allison was telling a story about her parents, who were plagued by squirrels. They were nature-lovers, and weren't about to go shooting or poisoning them. So they caught one in a live trap, killed it with carbon monoxide from the car exhaust (said to be painless and humane), and left the furry little body on a platform in the woods frequented by eagles and hawks.

Makes perfect sense to me. Shoot, I use a battery-operated mousetrap that electrocutes mice, then I feed them to my chickens. It seems harsh for a vegetarian, but we all draw the line somewhere. I will kill to keep mice out of my kitchen. And gophers out of the garden. And to protect myself and my people and my animals, I suppose. Just not casually, for dinner.

I keep offering him as a pet to my friends. He's kind of appealing, in a hamster-on-steroids kind of way. No takers, though.

Monday, July 3, 2017

It's my birthday

so I'm sitting here eating chocolate ice cream. And if it wasn't my birthday, I'd still be eating ice cream. It's hot out!

Em, bless her heart, made me a gluten-free chocolate cake, with garbanzo beans instead of flour. It sounds weird, but is delicious, and sort of cheesecake-ish. I think we've discovered the secret of successful GF cooking: don't try to imitate ordinary dishes. The texture is never right. Just make something tasty, however strange. She buzzed up a can of chick peas in her blender, added the usual sugar and eggs and such, and baked. Came out really well. Thanks, Em!

She dropped the cake off, along with two dogs and her two big weird tortoises, on Saturday. We're keeping everybody over the long holiday weekend, so the kids can go camping at Priest Lake.

We're doing the usual gardening tasks today. The alpine strawberries have been producing like crazy, so I've been out there picking the little things, and popping them in the freezer for jam-making later. C. is planting little patches of carrots and beets here and there. The spuds seem to need constant mulching. And the driers need to be kept full of greens for winter rabbit food. And the weeding... and the picking....

We got the Subaru food dehydrator in operation.

It's just a clean old nylon-net curtain stretched over poles in the back of the car. I can roll it up, fold the seats back up and be ready to drive in just a couple of minutes, should we need to go somewhere. I like the operating cost, and the fact that it doesn't heat the house up. Makes me feel like such a virtuous hippie.

That's kale drying there. The poles are mostly sections of fishing poles that we picked up
at the estate sale of a fishing-pole repair guy. We have hundreds of the things.
We're off to buy milk and eggs, then back into the garden.

Three chicken eggs today. The guineas are somehow hiding their eggs, despite being locked in the chicken yard. It's a mystery.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Bird bath

I'm sitting here holding a wet chicken wearing a bib. Birdie is still damp from her bath in the kitchen sink, and is eating oatmeal while I blog.

I'm hoping C. will take her and blow-dry her, so I can go tidy the hallway or something. It's 82 degrees out, and we're avoiding the garden until evening.

Earl and I did a little shopping in Deer Park this morning. He was very good, so I bought him a little box of crackers. I let him open it himself – I think he enjoyed ripping up the packaging as much as eating the contents.

Two eggs today.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

An interesting few days

It's hot again, so I'm sitting here eating vanilla ice cream. I've been out tying up tomatoes and reinforcing the tomato towers.

We learned that the towers were tippy on Monday. It was hot and muggy, and I was out mulching potato plants. I was hunkered between the pea and potato beds, pulling old hay out of bags and poking it around the bases of the spud plants, when the weather decided to break. The sky got grey, a wind came up, and splotches of rain fell. No big deal – we garden in the rain all the time. Keeps the skeeters down. And rainstorms out here are often brief.

So I'm poking hay, and poking hay. The rain gets heavier, and the wind starts lashing the trees. Poke. poke. These things usually blow over pretty quickly. I'm getting damn wet, though, and the thunder is rolling. Poke, poke. The rain is coming down so hard my glasses are channeling rivulets. Can't see a thing. The thunder is becoming constant – and the lightning is making brief, quick flashes just to the north. Hmm. Might be time to go inside. I heave myself up out of a puddle with the help of the terrace wall, grab my metal cane, and start for the house. The air has gone white with water and the ground is covered in puddles. I'm bent way over, clutching my useless glasses in one hand, rounding the tall wire fencing that supports the pole beans. It's times like these I remember the guy from work who was struck by lightning in a fishing boat. Years later, he still had no eyebrows. My old neighbor in Denver, who lost his big toes to lightning. Those four farming sisters killed by a single strike of lightning out in the fields, in that southern novel. (OK, fiction doesn't count. Stop thinking about that.)

I'm working really hard to get up to the house. It's taking forever, the thunder a never-ending rumble, the lightning dancing close. I see the lights in the house go out abruptly, then I make it up the steps and inside, and C. hands me a towel. I made it.

We light the candles, and read by battery-operated LED.

The power is still off the next day. We find a can of Sterno and a folding survival stove (good thing we buy weird stuff at estate sales), and make coffee with the water we keep in gallon jars on the fridge, in case of outages. (The well pump is electric.)

Fortunately, the freezers are nearly empty – just ice cream and a few quarts of Chinese cabbage. But I worry about my lovely gluten-free chocolate ice cream turning to runny sludge in there. I finally whip the door open and grab it, and close the door quickly. It's soft foam, not very tasty, but I eat it anyway. I get a stomach ache.

Out in the garden, one of the bean towers has blown over. And a bit of the brush pea-trellis. And one of the stepladders supporting tomatoes. The plants look undamaged, except for a battered rhubarb. And rhubarb is tough.

Apparently one of the power poles on our west fence line is among the casualties, as crews are over there with backhoe and cherrypickers Tuesday afternoon. A few hours later, our lights come on.

We really need to look into a backup power supply, just for the freezers and pump.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The cockeyed optimist plants peas

Sure, they'll be plenty of room between rows for picking! And 34 inches is certainly tall enough for pea trellis! See, here, on the packet? "Plants grow to 30 inches high."


The peas on the outside of the fences are relatively well-mannered Lincolns. On the inside, a variety new to us, and ridiculously vigorous.

Our '"short" peas, taller and wider than expected. That disappearing thing in the middle is the path. 
C. caught the peas just starting to twine together across the path. I made a bunch of ties out of binder twine with a clothes pin on each end, and used them to pull the plants back to their trellises. It's still tight in that path, but I think it's passable. But then, I'm a cockeyed optimist.

The improved path. Wide enough?

We'll need to add some strings or something to the trellises for height. How tall are they apt to get? Who the hell knows. I guess we learned something for next year.

It's hot out, over 90, and I'm sitting here eating chocolate ice cream. I darted out, fed the chickens, hauled a couple of bags of bedding hay out to the potato beds and spread them on the tall spud plants, then came in to cool off. If I'm quick about it, I can keep that up all day. If I stay too long, it's over.

The potato plants have to be heavily mulched several times over the summer, or the spuds will get green where the sun touches them. Fortunately, we have lots of old hay for mulch, since some cheapskate bought crap hay last year. 

C. is out in the heat, planting something in the second-to-last empty bed. 

The dehydrators are full of spinach and kale, and I'll be rigging the car up to dry stuff today, too. Our volunteer kale bed is really productive, dammit. The rabbits don't like it much, though they'll eat it gladly in January. I don't like it much, either. I've been looking up online recipes for kale chips. Maybe they're delicious. Hey, it could happen.

OK, time to dart out again and do a little gardening.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The hay is in

I sound as if we sowed it, harvested it, put it in the barn. Ha. Two nice young fellows from Deer Park did all of that, and I just handed them some money.

It's lovely hay, all green and soft – and the animals, mouths full, have given their approval.

C. and I had spend the afternoon in the last of the barn prep: hauling pallets in and bagging old stuff, in the heat and dust. Feh. Then I reinforced the keep-the-goats-out-of-the-hay wall, and beefed up the hinges and clips on the inner gate. We will have no dancing and pooping on the winter food supply, goats!

So we were ready when the guys drove up with truck and trailer piled high with hay bales. They unloaded, pulled the giant tarp (really an old vinyl billboard) over the neatly piled bales, and waved as they drove off.

Neighbors, if you're looking for good grass hay, I can give you their number.

Tomorrow, it's back to the garden. The greens are coming on in serious waves, and we need to pick, wash, and dry for winter. Over and over. We were up until 2 last night getting spinach in the driers, mostly because somebody here is a procrastinator. And it isn't me. Well, okay, I am – but it wasn't. C. says she'll do better.

After remembering all that hot, dry barn work, I think I need more ice cream.

Seven eggs today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Getting ready for the hay man

C. and I drove up to the barn to make room for two tons of new hay coming Friday. We spent a few hours in the heat bagging up old bedding hay for the garden, and raking and sweeping. We moved the last three bales of old stuff onto a pallet in the back. Bambi, the overly friendly sheep, kept us company, but I shut the other guys out.

There is still more to do – we'll save that for tomorrow. I need to gather more pallets to keep the new bales off the floor, bag up more of the clean loose stuff for the rabbits (who are less fussy than the big animals) and reinforce the walls that should have kept the goats out of the bales.

We bought cheap hay last year – $150 a ton, and, boy, was that a false economy. The big animals ate maybe a third of it, and dragged the rest out onto the floor and pooped on it. Thanks for letting us know how you feel, guys. This year we're going for the good stuff, at $230 a ton. It's not the most expensive – my friend Tim pays $310 a ton – but it should be more than adequate. I'm hardwired for cheapness (is it the Scots on both sides of the family?), but might be learning better. I hope so. A great deal on crap just leaves you with crap, I tell myself. Well, crap and a little extra money. But still crap. There is that extra money, though....

I cooked last night, roasting store-bought spuds, onions and carrots, with our asparagus and fresh thyme and oregano. It was pretty good. It would have been better with home-grown everything, but our winter stores are used up (we still have jars of borscht and pickles!) and it's too early for the most of the garden. We are awash in baby greens, though. C. had me plant the lettuces, and the seeds are incredibly tiny – and I have a heavy hand. She thins them every three days or so, and we've been eating salads like crazy. I'm not usually fond of salad (crunch, crunch, crunch), but baby lettuce is pretty good. Unlike, say, arugula.

I need to let the children know their obligations extend to greens consumption – as well as that of borscht and pickles.

Seven eggs today.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Muddling along

Muddle-dee-doo, muddle-dee-doo. We've had a week of rain, including a brief cloudburst that came rushing up the hill like a steam engine. I love those kind of storms, even while worrying about the leaky roof.

It's been decent gardening weather for the most part, and C. has planted and mulched all kinds of stuff. I finished the third big bed of tomatos, and C. has tucked more in here and there. We have a couple of dozen tomatoes left in the greenhouse – my friend Diane can probably use those.

C. planted carrots Imperator, Red Cored Chantenay, Scarlet Keeper today, and some peppers. I raised an old 20-foot-tall ham-radio tower to support the hop vine near the chicken house. The four lines running to the top of the tower can be raised and lowered with a pulley, so harvest should be easier this year (last year the vines were all entangled in the chicken wire over the chicken run).

We took a day last week and went to town to deliver the two granddogs that have been staying with us since December, and to dig up some of the plants in the yard of the Ancestral Home. The kids plan a sort of minimal yard when they buy the house, and our style has alway been maximal. The front yard is like a neglected cottage garden on steroids. We brought home the akebia vine, some bamboo, day lilies, comfrey and C.'s Just Joey rosebush. Then we spent a day planting that stuff here.

Earl and I took a break from gardening yesterday and made a beer run to town. Well, actually, we went for an estate sale, and the beer was an afterthought. We bought some bookcases, and a whole lot of miscellaneous stuff. And on the way to the beer store, we spotted another estate sale, and filled up the rest of the car with more miscellaneous stuff. We didn't buy the piano, though we thought about it.

The big animals have eaten their pasture down to nubs, so I'm working on fencing a new area just south of the building. We hope to eventually extend the fence over time around the whole lower four-acre field where the school kids used to play baseball. We're looking for used fencing, as that stuff is expensive. I did pick up some brand-spanking-new 6-foot T-posts with a gift certificate from work.

In the meantime, I've been cutting grass (and knapweed) for them at the north end of the garden, as well as feeding the last of the hay.

You grab the grass with the left hand, swing the sickle with the right, and deposit the cut
grass and any severed fingers in the bucket. Rinse and repeat.
The summer-long task of drying greens for the rabbits has begun. The four food dehydrators (not including the car – yet) are lined up on the old grey cupboard, full of Chinese cabbage and leaf radishes. More leaf radishes await in the fridge. We'll pack the big, leafy hay into old lard cans for winter rabbit treats.

Cutting up Chinese cabbage for the dehydrators.

Now that the big garden push is over, I'm trying to get some other things done. The hallway is a cluttered mess. We're thinking of ways to reorganize/remodel our idiotic kitchen. My studio is a dusty, messy storeroom rather than a work space. And we have a lot of books to read.

Nine eggs today.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

No planting today

Since it's 90 degrees out! I'm sitting here limp and sweaty after spending an hour or so fiddling with the water lines to the garden beds.

I'm extending a line from the north tomato bed across the north pole-bean bed and to the raspberries. Thought I might add some metal roofing to the downhill side of the berry beds, to keep water in. So I sat in the shade and chopped an old piece of roofing into short lengths to curve around the plants, kind of like an eyebrow. I got the hose out there, the roofing there, and had to come in to cool off.

C. was feeling poorly yesterday so took it easy and went to bed about 8. She's better today, and is working on mulching and filling in the spotty rows of beans seedlings.

I'm off to watch Edwardian Farm. Might learn something.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Planting, planting

It's 72 degrees out there, and sunny. The peony is blooming furiously.

Today C. planted tomatillos, a Jarrahdale squash, prepped a bed for green beans, and mulched tomatoes. I watered and mulched the Siberian pea shrubs out in the yard – they've taken a beating from the deer and goats. Next I need to get wire cages on them, attached securely to small fence posts.

Then I trekked to the barn and filled a wagon full of buckets with alpaca poo.

We're inside cooling off before heading out for the final push for the day. I'll get more tomatoes in.

Yesterday, C. planted a Jarrahdale squash, transplanted some Tronchuda cabbages, and filled in the gaps in the Coco Noir bean rows. I put some some old wooden stepladders up to support some tall tomatoes, and got about 25 planted.

Then we went up to Rose's, and bought two gallons of milk and five dozen eggs. A big old yellow rambling rose in her front yard caught C.'s attention – she sniffed a bloom and was transported back to Montana in the 1950s. "My daddy used to cut one of these and put it in my hair," she said. Rose fetched a shovel and dug up a couple of little ones to send home with us. We promised to bring her some tomato plants.

We came home and caught the big goat, and C. brushed him. He's been shedding his cashmere undercoat. He's got goat lice, which makes him itch, so he's been rubbing on the fence and matting up his fleece. So I'll be getting out the evil insecticide again. We checked over the little goat, and he looks better. The worming must have helped.

Six eggs today. I'm off to plant those tomatoes.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Planting tomatoes and raspberries

I say we have 29 tomatoes planted. C. says we have 121 to plant. As usual, my glass is half full.

Yesterday was the first big book sale of the year, and we were there, raring to go. We brought nine bags to the sale, and took six bags home. It's been a long winter, and we were excited to get new reading material.  The Friends of the Deer Park Library are the nicest people, and they pull out all their boxes of books once a month June through October and sort them onto tables in the RV storage place. The sorting is a little random early in the sale – it gets better over the summer.

So we spent about three hours there, and I made a run to the Deer Park grocery for ice cream. I was all excited to find Breyer's chocolate and vanilla, gluten free! Woohoo! I didn't check the labels carefully, though, and both contain corn syrup, which C. refuses to eat. So I have to consume all the ice cream. I feel kinda bad about it (she says with her mouth full of chocolate ice cream).

Em, Richard and Liam came up and we went over to a neighbor's place to dig up raspberry plants. I keep trying to grow berries and apples, but deer or the goats get into the garden and eat them, or I don't take care of them and they die. I keep trying. C. says she can't stand to watch me bring plants home and kill them. I vow I will do better. I will do better.

I did find one little apple tree that survived the great goat rampage of 2014? or so. The grafted bit has died but the rootstock looks healthy with lots of leaves. I pulled all the quack grass and knapweed out around it and laid down cardboard and mulch to keep the weeds away, and gave it a big drink. That is one tough little tree. I'll regraft it next spring so that (fingers crossed) we get a named variety of apples someday, not the little sour ones that the rootstocks want to make. I also found a little plum tree and two raspberries hiding in the tall grass.

Today I planted most of the new raspberries in the sad, old raspberry spot, and shaded them with cardboard boxes. (I'll use the boxes as mulch after the plants settle in.) Then C. and I worked on tomatoes, and I pounded in a few chunks of rebar to reinforce the 2x8s in the tomato terrace. Then we cut some grass and greens for the rabbits. Note that I am leaving out the part during the hottest part of the day where I kept getting hung up as I tried to drag a hose down the hill, and had a little tantrum with some heartfelt but very uncreative cussing. I really need to come up with some new expletives. I'm fond of "suffering whangdoodles" from a favorite old radio show, Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police, but it lacks serious power. Feel free to suggest your favorites.

Nine eggs today.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

O! Great crabbiness

I'm in a vile humor. It was 89 degrees yesterday, so I stayed in until evening, then dug out quack grass  (in  the shade of a tarp) and transplanted Chinese cabbages and non-heading broccoli, and thinned my tragically already-thin beets (damn guineas have been scratching through there, leaving clumps of seedlings and big empty stretches). Must fill in the gaps with more beet seed. The chickens were still penned up, but the guineas figured out an escape route, so we were running them off as we worked. The mosquitos were legion.

The garden was dry everywhere, so we watered and watered.

Then, compelled (and addled) by the heat, I cranked the hot oven up and attempted to make gluten-free cheese Danishes. They were, unsurprisingly, disappointing. The Danish part was a whole lot like my pita bread, and the cream cheese filling was blah. "They're... a little... like cheese Danishes," said C. politely, after trying one. Poor C. gets far fewer baked goods since I went GF. I ate two, working hard to believe in them, and woke up in the night with a miserable stomach ache. Had to listen to two Agatha Christies and a Dragnet on my phone before I could fall back to sleep. Feh.

Today marks the end of the heat wave. Hurrah! It's muggy, but only going to get to about 75 degrees.

So I booble out to feed the chickens, with Arnold and Earl at my heels. Tricks the black sheep is out, as usual. She stays close, though, and I can't figure out how she gets out, so we live with it for now. I go to let her back in (she's always very willing), and Bambi the buttheaded sheep bulls her way by me. I grab at her, and Savvy the good sheep pushes out the gate as well. Bloody hell. I have all three sheep loose, and here come the goats. What a moron I am this morning.

Cursing the foul ancestry of all sheep and goats, I stump over to the house to get a bucket of grain. And here comes the alpaca. I push past goats and alpaca to dump grain in several spots in the pasture, thumping the goats with the bucket to move them out of the way. It doesn't work. Pushy bastards. I wave the bucket alluringly at the sheep (think Vanna White here), and they head over. Arnold the urban granddog is fascinated by livestock, and "helps" by standing in exactly the wrong place, sniffing sheep noses, and blocking access to the gate. Finally, I get Tricks and Savvy in, but Bambi is too wily. Bloody hell. She's moving down C.'s stone path, nibbling delicately at the oregano and thyme along the side. Fine. I'm out of grain and patience.

I feed and water the chickens and guineas, water the greenhouse, spray water on Appalling the alpaca, who likes that sort of thing, water the thyme and oregano along the path (hoping Bambi is still there so I can have the pleasure of squirting her, but nooooo), and head inside. At the door, I conspicuously scoop more oats in my bucket, shaking the grain alluringly and laying a looped leash inside, while ignoring Bambi. She's hooked. She tip-taps up the steps onto the porch. I pull the loop around her fat, annoying neck, and lead her back into the pasture. Score one for the moron.

Now I'm inside, cooling off under the ceiling fan and trying to get over myself. Next, it's back out into the garden to dig and plant and mulch and water. Looking forward to it. There are no goats or sheep in the garden.

Two guinea eggs today (C. figured out where the guineas were escaping, and fixed it).

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hot, hot, hot

Summer weather is here, and I'm staying inside for the most part. I dart out to move the sprinkler, or place a few rocks in a terrace, then zip back in under the ceiling fans. I could get up at 6, I suppose. In theory. But I'm retired, and getting up early holds no appeal. I'll get out there in the cool of evening and get some more ground cleared for planting.

C. is tougher than I am – enormously tougher – and is out in the hot sun planting amaranth. I'll go out and call her in soon so she doesn't get all woozy from sunstroke. I will reminder her of the cold Canadian beer waiting in the fridge.

Four eggs today.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Good news and bad news

Bad news first. I've run out of episodes of "The Great British Bake Off." I've blown through all the PBS seasons, and the UK-only seasons. I'm a little verklempt.

The good news? I've run out of episodes of "The Great British Bake Off." I might actually blog a bit again. Apparently the drive to write a blog is satisfied by watching a dozen British home bakers  struggle to recreate obscure historic baked goods with diabolically inadequate recipes. Who knew?

I did try a few episodes of "The Great British Sewing Bee," but found it uncompelling. I'd much rather blog.

We're muddling along, doing gardening, for the most part. I did replace four broken panes on the front doors the other day. I was pleased to do something on the house. There's another broken window up high that C. will have to help me with (either by doing the whole job, or holding the ladder for me and being prepared to catch me should I fall over backwards, which I have tendency to do). Then the sidelights need attention. They are narrow stacks of three panes, but the muntins, the pieces of wood trim separating the panes of glass, are missing so I'll need to rebuild them. It's just little fiddly bits of wood so it shouldn't be too hard. It'll be nice to take the boards down and let the light in!

The left sidelight is missing the lower muntin. You can see where it should slot into
the window frame. And at the top, the creatively broken pane that still needs to be replaced.

This is what the repaired sidelight should look like. It's on the inside of the airlock, which duplicates the window arrangement of the front door area. It's in much better shape, with less weathering and vandalism.

We've still got our boy's two dogs, Walter the pug and Hazelnut the Tibetan spaniel. They should be able to go home soon. We've also got two of Em's four until she gets the tall wood fence up at her new house. That's Bella the indoorsy wiener dog, and Arnold the greyhound/kangaroo. Or meerkat/prairie dog. So we've got eight dogs underfoot. Our four are getting tired of sharing everything with all these granddogs, but everyone is mostly good. Except for the yapping.

Today is the last cool day before a stretch of hot ones, and we're working to get the last of the major stuff planted. Yesterday I got the Rattlesnake green beans planted in fat rows on each side of the trellis fencing. Today I set out all the little field-corn seedlings in the square bed at the north end of the garden. C. is working on getting the lower square bed in shape for amaranth and some of the determinate (bush) tomatoes, and some bush beans in the big bed by the little-dog yard. The big tomato push is next.

I took Birdie, our neurologically damaged house chicken, out to enjoy some dirt and sunshine as we worked. (You may remember her as Burday, but that was me being French or something. C. calls her Birdie, and Birdie she is.) I can't tell if Birdie appreciates sunshine and dirt, but we think it's good for her. So she's laying there, in the dirt and sunshine, and Bella the pudgy, lazy dachshund goes completely primal and grabs poor Birdie up and shakes her furiously. C. got hold of the dog and freed Birdie before any serious harm was done – we hope. But Birdie was pretty pissed, and will probably never trust us again. She's resting in her box in the bathroom. Enough sunshine and dirt.

I'm heading back out to shore up the lower square bed with metal roofing. We're out of medium-sized rocks to build a terrace wall, and besides, the roofing is faster. We've a bit left from the barn reroofing job.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I ate a sandwich!

And the next morning, I had a piece of toast. It's a miracle. I'm all excited.

No, I didn't figure out the mystery of concocting gluten-free bread, and no, I didn't pay $7 a loaf for the stuff. I found a reasonable recipe online here for GF pitas. Unlike most, it didn't call for psyllium husks or the gum of some tropical tree. (C. did offer Metamucil to sub for the psyllium husks, but I turned her down – rather rudely, I'm afraid. I was mistakenly thinking of Kaopectate, the antidiarrhea medicine, and thought she was being obnoxious. I guess Metamucil is fiber, and weirdly enough, might work.)

Are these things truly pita-like? Well, not really. They're more a cross between pancakes and English muffins. But they are a sort of bread, entirely edible, and you can slice a pocket in there and stuff in mayo, cheese and pickle, or peanut butter and honey, or any sort of sandwich stuff.

I tried a batch, and they were OK. It made about eight of the things, and our boy and his girl and baby came up and helped cook them. We all sampled them so avidly there were few left, so I made up a triple batch, and put most in the freezer. So, bread-wise, I'm covered for a while.

The dough, made with yeast, is really soft and loose.

You flatten them in the hot skillet, and cook them two minutes per side.
All told, it was a triumph. And it allows me to quickly grab something to eat, which means snacking without planning. My favorite. It makes a hella mess in the kitchen, though.

The kids helped in the garden, digging alpaca poo into the new bean beds, and raking out quack grass. Our boy ventured into the pasture to haul out wagonloads of poo (“I'm not afraid of an alpaca,” he said, and promptly got spit on. He was revolted, but persisted. He borrowed a cane and waved it at Apalling, and then found a big stick and smacked other sticks with it in a show of bravado. Appalling backed off.

The baby was, of course, adorable, and we developed an improvement on the old ride-the-horsie-on-grandma's-knee. It's ride-the-drunken-electric-bull, and involves knee gyrations, and much arm waving and squealing on the part of the baby.

My friend Diane and daughter came up and took boxes and bags of extra alpine strawberry plants and multiplier onions, so we didn't have to find places to plant them. Score!

And the next morning I came down with some stomach crud and am still feeling a little puny. I did check with the others in case I had poisoned us all with my cooking, but no. They're fine, and I'm not. So I have a stomach bug, and have spent many hours wrapped in a blanket at the computer, watching the UK-only episodes of "The Great British Bake Off" on youtube. One of the challenges was, weirdly enough, GF pitas, made with psyllium husks.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Rain continues; lettuce in

It's been rainy and windy, especially in the mornings. Windy is OK, though, as it means no mosquitos.

I laid the last of our drip lines and soaker hose  today. We need to buy more, as well as some connectors to hook up all the various sizes and brands of pipe we have. (Yes, most of it came from farm or estate sales.) It'll be a job finding the right fittings – what various companies call half-inch pipe is actually five different sizes.

C. is outside picking asparagus. It's what's for dinner!

I planted five kinds of lettuce and some leaf parsley in the flower bed. And mulched the peas and sunflowers that are up in the square bed. I hauled a wagonload of alpaca poo (I love the way they put it all in one place for me) to the garden. I took Earl and his guest, Emma's dog Arnold, with me into the pasture. Arnold learned to keep an eye on the sheep at all times (Tricks the black sheep caught him unaware and butted him nearly over) and to stay away from the alpaca. Appalling the alpaca decided to chase poor Arnold around the pasture, and he's fast! Arnie came and hid behind me. Smart move.

C. mulched the third potato bed, and started digging up a bed for bush beans near the square bed on the north side of the garden. She also relocated some arugula and violas to a new bed out by the chicken yard. The birds are welcome to help themselves.

S. came up yesterday with many bags of duck bedding, a mix of straw, wood shavings and duck poo. Our garden loves that stuff.

We're pooped. Time for asparagus.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Rainstorm coming!

We've been gardening in sunny weather for a few days, but now it's back to rain. That means we haven't been watering in our seeds since the storm tonight is going to do it for us.

Em has become stalled in her move, with the U-Haul truck sitting idle out front, so C. went to town yesterday to jumpstart the next wave of packing, and get that truck filled up again. She came home knackered. I hope her effort was enough to get moving momentum going again.

I did some planting while she was gone, getting a small patch of corn in, as well as some beets. C. has filled four flats with corn as well. I also emptied our freezer into the upright freezer in Nadine's Room, so we can defrost in preparation for this year's peas and tomatoes. Besides, the ice maker was starting to make unhappy noises.

C. filled a paper grocery sack with thinnings from the volunteer kale bed, and the rabbits were very pleased.

C. planted some mustard-spinach, as well as Typhon.

I managed to give away two buckets of sprouting sun chokes at the garden club meeting Tuesday. Sure, we could have fed them to the rabbits, but these guys wanted to grow! Our group of 20 or so toured a small garden a few miles north, where the gardeners have managed to squeeze quite a few plants into raised beds and tiny terraces at the bottom of a steep hillside. Their house is pretty cool – square, with porches all the way around, and a three-level pyramidal roof. They had a tree growing inside.

Monday, May 8, 2017

I want lambs!

Just like this one, from Punkin's Patch. You must go to this blog and admire Biscuit. What big pink ears. What big eyes (Eye nervous sausage bag ice!). What an exuberant grin. Wow. Nice photography, too.

We finished transplanting the third flat of tomatoes today. The greenhouse is full to bursting.

Mice found their way inside overnight and ate the tops off a whole flat of tiny amaranth seedlings, the little bastards.

I – not shelled or hulled or husked – took the kernels off the best cobs of our dried field corn so C. could start some in flats. What do you call that? De-kerneling? Heck if I know. But now we have a big bowl of black Indian corn seeds to plant. C. wants me to do the same to the imperfect cobs, too, and try making corn meal or flour.

Earl and I went to Deer Park for groceries and chicken food today. I accidentally bought a $16 bag of gluten-free flour (I thought it was $6, which is bad enough). I'm horrified. I think I'll try to take it back. That's $4 a pound, which I think is highway robbery for rice flour and a few fancy additives.

Forget winning the lottery – I'll just come up with some gluten-free baking mix and make a million. Of course, most shoppers would actually read the price and run the other way. Only a few idiots  would (like me) put it in the cart.

Zero eggs today.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Gardening: full speed ahead

We've worked at it the last few days and managed to get all the cabbage and onion starts transplanted into the garden. I was all pleased at being caught up, but C. tells me that we're way late getting all the greens in. Pish.

I'm trying to be more helpful in the garden this year – usually I have some infrastructure thing going on, and leave most of the work to C. But there is too much work out there for one person. And I can do lots of it – the paths are a little wider this year, and I can plant and pick from a sitting position. Still can't tell a baby cabbage from a weed, but maybe I'll learn. Or maybe she'll just keep me well away from baby cabbages.

Today I'm all about tomatoes, worked at it furiously all day, and got just 48 transplanted into larger pots in the greenhouse. That's a flat and a little bit of another. We had three flats and a few trays of little pots, so I'm maybe a quarter of the way done. That's not so bad. It's hard on the back, so that might just be my daily limit.

I was too busy planting tomatoes to go to the feed store, so the chickens are going to get creative meals tomorrow. Sprouted barley and rolled oats, anyone? Corn-chip crumbs and sunflower seeds? Maybe fava beans and a nice chianti.

C. continues to putter on the rock path from house to garden. Earl decided to help and dug up the middle of it today. He was sent to his room for a while. She's filling the edges and cracks with thyme from the flower bed, as well as plants volunteering in the wrong places in the garden. I think there's a clump of oregano in there. That stuff is a weed here!

We drove up to the north gate and browsed the big pile of rocks there for flat ones for the path. C. found a skink – this one was an adult without the bright blue tail of the juvenile lizard. We held it for a while, and put it back under its rock. Lizards are cool.

We came away with a dozen or so flat rocks, a couple large enough to take both of us to lift each into the car, and a few cranky red ants that promptly bit C.

One measly egg today. Fortunately we got three dozen, and two gallons of milk, from Rose yesterday.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Crazy hot today

It was 81 degrees, in early May. Nuts!

So on the hottest day of the year (so far), we finished planting our cool weather crop, peas. Also nuts. We are very late getting them in the ground, but should still get a decent amount for the freezer if the weather doesn't immediately go all August on us.

And apparently May 1 is Mosquito Day. We saw the first ones of the year that day, C. got her first bite the next day, me the day after, and today they were all over us. I smacked my arm once and killed three. We'll be hitting the store for a supply of DEET – nothing else seems to work, though the lemon-scented geranium is pretty good. You just take a leaf, bruise it and rub it on your skin. I should buy one.

C. transplanted some of the onions from the greenhouse.

Earl went after a gopher (he says) in the middle of a patch of multiplier onions, and left a crater and a bunch of broken onions. I brought the fragments in to dry. And he's banned from the garden for a while.

There are too many delicate little seedlings in the garden to let the chickens have access, so we're keeping them penned up. The broody hens are still broody – I've given up fighting it. Reader Vera suggested dunking them in cold water for a minute or two, but that seems so rude. I kicked them out of the nest boxes during the day, and at night, and lectured them ("Eggs, yes; chicks, no!") but that's it. I'm a wuss. I do take any eggs I find under them, though.

On the schedule for tomorrow and the next day and the next day... is repotting tomatoes and moving them to the greenhouse. I've not gotten around to adding on to the greenhouse, so it's going to be crowded in there. I'll try to take some to town next week when I have lunch with my work buddies. (Hey, work buddies – get ready for tomatoes!)

We're getting a little asparagus – keeping the chickens out of the garden should help with that since  the damn birds scratch through the deep mulch and break the stalks off.

Four eggs today; I dropped them once and broke one, then dropped them again and broke another.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Some peas in

Yes, it's a little pathetic, but we are making progress. We got the two sugar-something peas planted (new to us this year). We have a spot picked out for two long rows of Lincolns, and fencing up for about 20 feet of Cascadias. C. is putting those two varieties to soak, and shortly we'll go out to throw up some  more fencing and get those puppies in the ground.

We'll be putting the 8-foot-tall pole-bean fence up, too, since we're putting them next to the Lincolns and it would be a job for the Three Stooges if we waited until the peas were up.

I would love to sit here and blather on, but I have to go plant peas now.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Almost peas

We've got pea seed soaking, and pea brush and pea fences erected... but no peas in the ground yet.

We're tired. C. isn't feeling great, and must be tired from dealing with the alpaca, vet and gravedigger events. We'll get it done.

One of the hard parts is deciding where to put things. No, we do not have a spreadsheet for every gardening year, with planting and harvest dates noted. Silly. We're artists. We're spontaneous, man. 

We rotate crops in the beds, so we can't just put beans where beans were last year. So we wander around, poking at the ground and peering in all directions, and C. says, "Let's put short peas here, all along the edge of the bed." OK. So I rummage up some light-duty posts and start pounding them in. Wait. There's a path on the front side of the row of future peas, but no access to the back side, and we plant peas on both sides of the fence. Spuds are in the bed below, and we didn't leave a path there, since spuds don't need much attention. Huh. So we need another spot for short peas. Back to wandering and staring.

We did decide to plant tall sunflowers in an 'L' shape along the west and north sides of a 12x12-foot bed. Corn will go in the middle, and short peas in the front, on the south and east sides. So I put up a short fence for the peas there. 

We have four different kinds of peas to plant – Sugar Heart, Sugar Magnolia and Cascade snap peas, and Lincoln shell peas. I admire the efficiency and practicality of a snap pea in theory (no shelling, just eat it, pod and all), but would rather just eat the pea part, thank you. Pods, while vaguely pea-flavored, are not peas. C. likes the snap peas, and the dogs eat lots of them over the winter. One of our pea varieties needs a 7-foot support, one a 4-foot, and the others 30 inches. And we need to put them where they won't shade other crops. See – it's not as easy as you thought!

I laid some drip hose and we mulched a bed of potatoes with a couple of inches of bedding from A.'s duck house. Will need to haul over some straw from the barn to go on top. 

It's grey and dreary outside, but should be warmer and sunnier over the week.

The tomato seedlings on the window sill are getting big – 8 inches tall, some of them. It's about time to repot them and send them to the greenhouse, but it's too cold at night right now.

I kicked the broody hens out of their nest boxes twice today, and will move them again to the roosts when it gets dark. They don't see well in the dark, and won't be able to get back in the boxes. They're deep in the broody thing, with the far-off gaze and puffed-up feathers. I'm trying to snap them out of it, without being too mean. 

Five eggs today.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Never mind

The boy, his girl and baby came up, so we didn't get peas planted after all. Tomorrow.

The baby is six months old and nearly crawling. I dandled her for a bit, then C. dandled her and then we handed her back to her parents. 21 pounds is heavy! She babbled some, but didn't shriek once. I'm glad that phase is over.

She's amuse by our animatronic Boohbah figurine. She must be the just right age. Do you know Boohbah? It was a 2003 British TV show for little kids, featuring five weird, brightly colored scrotal creatures who dance, shoot light out of their heads, and fart. Yeah, I don't get it either. It must be Beavis and Butthead for the toddler set. I imagine there is a developmental psychologist behind it (Boohbah, not Beavis and Butthead. I think the juvenile justice system is behind Beavis. They're trying to scare you straight).

Ours is like this one – Jumbah, I believe.

I evicted the hens from the nest boxes once today. I'll go out before dark and if they are back in the boxes, I'll move them to the roosts. Yes, eggs; no, chicks!

In gluten-free news, I have made decent mac and cheese with rice noodles. You may applaud. I used Tinkyada brown-rice macaroni. Pretty dang good. Also, Milton's sea-salt crackers are good.



I tried a couple of other kinds of crackers from Costco, and they sucked. Rice-flour crackers tend to be shiny and hard, like health-food crackers from 40 years ago. We call them lacquer-crackers, or shellackers. I hate them. Glad I found something decent.

That's it for today. Off to bully the chickens.

Moving on

C. dug a fine, large hole and we buried Tom the iguana/alpaca this morning. Good thing we don't keep elephants.

C. is outside planting peas. It's nearly May! We've got to keep after this planting stuff. I need to get out there and lay water line in the spud bed.

The chickens are up to something. We've had just two eggs every day for a while. I suppose the four that want to set have stopped laying. I was just reading several ways to break them of being "broody." I think I'll go kick them out of the nest boxes. And if they insist on coming back, I'll either block the boxes or go in at dusk and move them to the roosts. We'll see how it goes.

Two freakin' eggs today!

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Our smaller alpaca is dead, and it's on me. I left some old wire fencing half-buried in the ground below the school. I meant to get back there with the wirecutters. But I didn't.

Then C. worried about seeing only one alpaca at a time – I went to the barn and saw the other one. Or who I thought was the other one. I figured they'd had a tiff.

So we let it go. But it didn't feel right.

I finally figured out we were seeing the same one over here, and at the barn. So I went looking for the other, and found him strangling in the wire, where he had been for days in the rain and cold, just below the garden. Fuck.

C. pulled him free, and we sat with him, giving him water and molasses and keeping him warm.  He stood for a little while. Em and Richard brought up electrolytes and a kerosene heater. I sat with him overnight, humming. He got weaker. We called the vet and two young women came and hauled him out on a blanket sling and kept him overnight on IVs. They didn't give us much hope, and today they decided to euthanize him. They said he had some contributing problem, maybe congenital. We brought him home.

Animals die on farms. Shoot, animals are killed on farms. But this was directly connected to my stupidity. I left the wire; I didn't recognize him; I didn't look. And the whole time this big gentle creature under my care was trapped, dying.

I don't want to think about it. I want to crawl inside a cheesecake and forget all about it. But cheesecake has gluten in it. And gnawing on a salad will do nothing for my guilt. Pity I'm not a drinker.

So I'm sitting here bawling, choking on shitty Paleo brownies.

And how much of that is for poor Tom? It's all probably for me, my guilt, my MS, my baby grandson's cerebral palsy, all the events of this past crap year.

Please don't leave me any kind comments. I couldn't take it.

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.

Monday, April 17, 2017

No chicks!

C. says we shouldn't let the hairdo hen have chicks now, so I take the eggs I left yesterday.

She brings the hoses and other gear up from where I left them on the hill coming up from the pump house, and closes the door down there. Before winter I need to get down there and rip out all the fiberglass insulation on the little room enclosing the pump. I'll put in that rugged, waterproof styrofoam sheet insulation and hang a proper door, and it should be easier to keep it warm in there. And buy a new milk-room heater, too, since the last one was floating in the floodwaters.

We tried to turn the outside water on – I went down into the newer crawlspace and closed the drain on the pipe, and C. went into the old crawlspace and opened up the water line. We were disturbed by the sound of rushing water. And it wasn't rushing out the garden spigots. C. went deeper into the new crawlspace, and found 15 feet of PVC pipe spewing water out its whole length. Must have frozen and cracked lengthwise. Feh. So I went down and took measurements, and will pick up some three-quarter-inch Pex pipe in town tomorrow. It'll be an easy fix, and I'll just reuse the Sharkbite fittings down there. (I love those things.)

My friend Diane and daughter came by to worm the goats, bless their hearts. Diane keeps and knows goats, and thought worming the little guy might help his generally run-down condition. We caught all three sheep and the little goat, and squirted wormer down their throats, but couldn't get the big goat. C. and I will do that tomorrow. We chatted for a bit.

C. took Foghorn, the white hen, back out to the chicken house and put her on a roost. She's been in the bathroom for a week or so, recovering from a limp. Have to remember to check on her tomorrow.

Four eggs today.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sufferin' wangdoodles

It's been a heck of a few days here.

Yesterday I was standing at the top of the hill, looking down at the concrete-block pump house, when to my wondering eyes should appear Bambi the sheep, being pursued by the two goats. They were playing. And they were all on the outside of the fence. Huh.

So I got a bucket of oats and waved it enticingly, and the goats clattered right into the pasture. Good boys. Bambi was wise to this trick, though,  and hovered right outside the gate, trying to figure out how to get the grain while keeping her freedom. I'm hanging onto the fence posts, holding the gate open and holding onto the grain bucket and staying upright, and blocking the goats from the opening. They're pushing at me, and Bambi edges forward then jumps back. We do this for a while. It was like bad basketball. I finally get tired of the foolishness, take the grain and myself out, and grab Bambi and shove her bodily through the gate. Take that, sheep. Huh.

So Earl and I gather up our fencing bucket and go down to the lower pasture (across the front of the garden and down the old concrete steps) and check out the fence. It's all pretty dang straight and tight, thanks to Richard and Em and KiSong, who helped me put it up. I see a few places that could use another clip, and a section below a cattle panel (that's a heavy 16-foot-long welded bit of fencing) that a goat could maybe squeeze underneath. I practice some of my college-acquired weaving skills with blue binder twine and wire. Pretty good. But then I see tufts of wool caught where the little buttheads are escaping. There's a gap between the cattle panel above the stone wall, and the panel below. I used regular stretched-wire fencing everywhere except near the wall – we splurged for the stiff panels there. So the little blighters are weaseling between the panels, through the old lilacs, jumping six feet down the wall, and frolicking off. Great fun!

I tie the panels together tightly with that fabulous blue twine. But the fence above the upper panel is just crap. Sloppy, loose, slumping... embarrassingly bad. So I need to go in and add another post and clean that up. But not today.

As we're finishing up, Earl and I walk the fence the other direction, just in case the buttheads have another escape route. And we find water pouring out from under the pump house door. Pouring out. This is not good. So I open the door and look in on an 8-inch-deep sea of water, gently rippling. You could raise catfish in there. I gingerly reach in and unplug the little heaters that were supposed to protect the lines from freezing, and crab my way up the hill to fit some jars with water and ask C. to shut the pump power off.

I check the weather forecast – 26 degrees tonight, so we can't leave the pump off overnight.

I haul a garden hose and C. brings buckets down the hill. We set the hose to siphoning the water off the floor, and C. bails. I wade in to see if I can spot a crack in the plastic pipe on the pump. No – it looks fine, except where the high-pressure spray of the leak has blown through the insulation on the walls. Damn. If I could find the bad spot on the pipe, I could replace it now while the pump is off.
But nooooooo. We have to get the room dry enough to stand in safely, then turn the pump on to spot the leak.

We leave the hose siphoning away and go back up the hill. We check later – it's going really slowly, so we bring three more hoses down and set them to sucking. C. bails. It's getting dark. I make a run to Miller's – bless them, they have hardware, and are open until 10 on Saturday. I pick up a few PVC parts, just guessing at what we'll need.

When I get back, K., T., and the baby are here. They are immediately drafted. K. and I hike down with parts and tools. The water is down to an inch, easy to work in but still plenty to electrocute one. K. rings a cowbell (our signal to the folks in the house to turn the power on), and I climb in my rubber boots onto dry 2x4s on a cinderblock in the pump house and aim my headlamp on the pipes. T. honks the car horn to tell us to be ready, and C. turns the power on. Water shoots out of the pipe where plastic meets metal. Bingo. The power goes off (another honk reassures us), and K. and I get to work. I cut the bad section out, leaving the threaded bit of plastic busted off in the metal pipe. K. works to get that out – it's the hardest part of the whole job. He hikes up the hill three times, I think, to get the tools we need. He finally has to resort to a hammer and chisel to get the plastic threaded bit out, being careful of the metal threads. I find an old bit of PVC pipe with the correct thread and cut out the section I want and splice it onto the new bit. K.'s strong hands are able to twist all the sections tight before the glue dries, and our repair looks great. We make our way up the hill, and he gives me a hand up the steep bit.

Done. We hope. The kids depart – I didn't get to see the baby! – and we kick back for a while as the glue dries.

I turn the pump on before bed at 11, and we leave the taps dripping to keep water moving in the system. Hurray, we can flush the toilet again!

This morning Earl and I hiked down the hill and looked in. The floor was nearly dry (we left the door open to finish the job) and no spray was visible from the doorway. Looks good.

And the damn little goat was out this morning.

C. planted six pounds of Kennebec spuds.

Four eggs today, though I let the dark hairdo hen keep three. She says she wants chicks.