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.