Thursday, December 31, 2009

Misc.

I have about 8 posts floating around in my head, all with themes, none of them written. I will abbreviate them with a list (for SHG) so as to get them down and free up some brain space. Heaven knows I need it.

1. Today the SB and I will head to a secret spot to purchase hog jowls for 99 cents a pound. Why secret? Because I don't want everyone and their brother muscling in on "our" cheap hog jowls. What are we going to do with 15# of hog jowls? Make guanciale, of course! We were going to start with pancetta but apparently jowls are cheaper and easier to come by than pork belly. One step at a time. Actually the place we are going is no secret, they are a regular business, just out of town a bit. They pasture raise their meats without genetically modified grain and without antibiotics. Technically, I guess it is "natural" though I expect it is closer to organic than some of the organic stuff from the grocery. I'll tell you where if you want but you have to beg.

2. I have made two small adorable sun dresses which I will post pictures of soon. No. Not for me.

3. I am making 2 loaves of bread a week these days. Time allows because I am on vacation. I yearn to be a housewife.

4. I am making a list of projects for the new year. Inspired by, but not as motived, as some other folks.

5. I just sorted through the seed packets. I am simultaneously pleased and disappointed that I won't have to order too much this year. This of course, won't keep me from ordering too many seeds, but I don't have to.... It is always nice to have choices.

6. The days are getting longer. Whee FREAKIN' ha.

7. Regardless of the weather and the dark, I love duck tending in all weather. I feel fortunate to be up at a time when you can see the sun rise. There is something about the sunrise, brief and indescribable that makes it precious.

8. I made this kick ass pork and beans thing the other night. Soaked dried limas cooked with some bacon and a onion/carrot/celery mix with a couple of pork shanks and a few bay leaves and some black pepper.... Some broth but mostly water. In the dutch oven in the oven at 375 (after heating it all to boiling on the stove). It totally rocks. Been eating it with some fresh corn tortillas from La Michoacana. Dee lish.

9. The SB and I saw the bees out a few days ago doing short flights. It seemed too cold, but I guess they know what they are doing...

OK - that is the current round up. Now I can start over on filling up the brain with loose items.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Who's training whom here?

As of late, that being over the last 4 or 5 days, the ducks have been somewhat vocal in the evenings. Normally, they just quack their fool heads off about mid day, when they have decided that it is time to be out scavenging in the yard. Lately though, they kick it up again around 8. Now the ducks don't normally go to bed until 9 or 9:30. By "to bed" I mean locked in their house. They are in their secure enclosure by dark to prevent evening marauders from taking them as an early supper. I have left them there to eat, drink and be merry until later in the evening, thinking that it is best to let them have access to food and water as late as possible. I have been somewhat at wits end with what to do with them when they fire up in the evening. At first, I thought they were distressed, but there didn't seem to be anything going on when I went out. And if they feel threatened, they usually go toward the quiet side rather than loud. When I hear them all I can think about are the 2 year old twins next door and the 3 year old across the back fence... Lord have mercy on me if the ducks are keeping the kids up .... The quacking can sound like maniacal laughter.

These recent events have nudged me toward the duck confit recipes, but I have not been pushed over the edge yet. Tonight, I decided that they just needed to go to bed early. I put them up at 8. That will show them. Unless of course, that is what they were after all along. Who knows the mind of a duck?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Superfast

We got home late-ish last night after a couple drinks at our local watering hole. The SB hadn't eaten much so while he went out to put the ducks up, I whipped up a delicious snack. Which was pretty much ready by the time he got back into the house.

A couple days ago I made some leek confit (from Bon Appetite October 2008) for a leek tart, but hadn't gotten to the tart yet. I had made several batches as I had lots of leeks from the garden that needed to get out of the kitchen. Basically, 4 leeks in 1/4 cup of butter with a couple tablespoons of water and a bit of salt and you cook it for 20-25 minutes on the stove top.

So I took some of this, added some of the smoked salmon my Dad brought back from his fishing trip to Alaska and a dollop of the cream from the top of the milk jar and brought that to a simmer and then tossed in the pasta and warmed it up. I added a little fresh black pepper. Nice to have some good stuff on hand for a midnight snack!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Season

The SB and I enjoyed our nice quiet holiday with the family on Christmas Eve. My family has a way of overlapping gifts. It is nice to all be on the same page. There was much exchange of food and food related items. Many donations to our local causes. Many of those also food related.

Christmas Day, the SB installed our dishwasher. We have always had a dishwasher in this house (except during the first 18 months we were living here and working on the house and we didn't have water in the "kitchen" at all, which made a dishwasher somewhat obsolete). He INSTALLED it yesterday, meaning the bottom panel was attached and the thing got screwed to the floor. Which now means that when you pull out the slides, the whole thing no longer tips forward. It really is amazing what small changes like that do to make you feel just a teeny bit more civilized. Mostly, it made me realize that I haven't cleaned around the edges of the dishwasher in a really long time, so that has to be on the list for the holiday week. This was one of my Christmas presents from the SB. The other, a book called Charcuterie. This is definitely going to have to contribute to the goals list.

I was inspired to do a list of goals by Kate's list. More on that soon. I have been compiling a list. Starting a fig is on my list too. I am still looking for a place to grow it, but I think it can safely be started in a pot.

I am hoping over the next day or so to get out and dig out the garden. I am hoping there are some delightful green greens in there, just waiting for a big pot of beans and bacon (one of the SB's gifts from the Cho fam, and totally spot on. I mean, how can you go wrong with bacon?)

The duck egg production has gone WAY down. 3-4 eggs a day, and today, only one, though I may fine another one or two if I go out later. Slackers. We have been letting them out for long periods despite the snow. They have found the waterways in the yard and spend lots of time making mud pies and eating anything green or that may have at one time in the past been green. They are very happy to get out. When it started raining yesterday, I had the irrational urge to put them back in their pen. But, of course, they LOVE the rain. It was just me that would have been miserable with the 38 degree downpour. More power to 'em....

And to ward off the cold and damp of winter, I started a tiny sun dress for one of my tiny friends. It rocks.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Restless

The U was closed today. The roads a total mess. I stayed home and did business from here. The SB and I lit out to our local neighborhood bar for lunch and tried to shop at our local vegetable store, but they were closed. I had the grand idea of asking them for their wilted and unsellable greens for the ducks.

The ducks are getting restless. They have been in for days now, and the two small spots of grass that were showing through the snow just outside their cage thanks to the SB's shoveling, have been reduced to mud patties. They are going to be in need of some greens before they get scurvy or something. I think I read that you can give them alfalfa pellets for some variety. But I will have to do some research... I would hate to screw that up and have their gizzards impacted or something. Yeesh.

They seem unmoved by the cold and continue to stand in their water bowls with ice chunks floating around their feet.

I started a recipe from Cooks Illustrated - cajun beans and rice. Of course, I didn't have much of the specific ingredients (small red beans, sub black) or andouille sausage (sub italian) but I am using the method and it smells pretty good. Though I reduced the liquid by several cups. It didn't look like it was going to fit in the dutch oven otherwise, and I am glad I did. It is about right with 7 cups of liquid instead of 9 (!). They simmer for a long time but it was super easy to put together.

The cat is slowly driving me insane. He hasn't been out in days. He is cranky. I am cranky. But I am not currently as cranky as I will be as I walk to the mall before the crack of dawn to catch a trolly to the university. City still isn't running all the buses tomorrow. Bastards.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recovery

We seem to have weathered the storm despite having lost power for several hours and losing several ducks in the creek. We left the pen door open for them yesterday and when they got up enough nerve to leave the cage they went straight for the creek and jumped in. No small feat as it was 2 feet of additional drop from the top of the snow banks. Of course, they didn't plan on how they would get out... ducks being notoriously poor climbers given their lack of arms. Some of them did manage to get out. The others we had to dig an exit for... After that adventure they decided to stay in the pen for the rest of they day.

This morning I pulled some of the old straw out of the house and spread it around the duck run, but I think they prefer to sit in the snow. No accounting for tastes.

I have been working on some projects. Going through the bales of recipe clippings I have stowed away. I figure if I eat something new every meal for the next 18 or 20 years, I should be able to get through them.

I was making some new years resolutions (more on that later) and sorting out some of my unfinished projects both knitted and sewn.

I was trying to clean up the sewing room. Oi. Pick something up, put it down in another pile. Clear one pile into three other piles. Repeat for several house, throw up your hands and have a drink.

I watched our neighbor bring one of his twin sons down to see the ducks. That is about 100 yards in 2 feet of snow, carrying a toddler. It must be getting a little crazy over there with everyone snowed in. The snow is about shoulder level on the children. They seem to be enjoying being toted and pulled around in it though. It is pretty cute.

The SB spent the big part of his day shoveling snow. He did our front walk, a path to the duck yard, the creek escape route, then the front walks of two neighbors. When his is good, he is very, very good. Etc.


We walked up to Beer Run last night which was open. Lots of folks hanging out and drinking beer. Just sorry we missed the nachos, but they were low on supplies with the snow. Except beer. They had plenty of that. This may be a new hang out for us. So walkable.

I am currently scanning seed sources and dreaming of planting. The fall garden is under 2 feet of snow and I have no idea what that means for the fate of our produce. I guess we find out after then next warm snap.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

16 hours and counting

It has been snowing hard for 16 hours and if anything it is snowing harder than before with no signs of letting up. In a rare show of common sense, the ducks decided to go back into their house this morning. Only after I had shoveled 20 inches of snow out of their entire pen though. Shoveling out ducks made me very glad that I wasn't shoveling out a cow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

White stuff

The snow is coming down in droves and piling up like icing on a grocery store cake. It started around 4PM and by 5:30 on the way home my bus was spinning out at the stop sign down the road. That was hours ago, and there are fools still out there driving around. We have over 5 inches now for sure, maybe more, and the weather says the heavy snow hasn't hit yet. The SB and I went out earlier and put up the ducks. They will be snug in their little house for the night with lots of straw and each other to stay warm. So far there isn't a wind at all, so they should even be relatively draft-less. It'll be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow. I am going to have to dig out the entire pen to give them someplace to stand. What do you do when your are 24 inches tall and there is 18 (or more) inches of snow? My guess is that you head for the creek, but I don't know how well ducks can tunnel... I suspect it will be a long day for ducks tomorrow and Sunday...

I am planning on sledding tomorrow. Maybe just in a box down a hill, but I am going. It has been far far too long.

The garden is tucked under straw and Remay, and I have high hopes for some greens when things thaw off a bit. Surely there will be more carrots. I need a weekend that is relatively free of frost to dive in and see what we have out there under all those blankets....

Hopefully adorable pictures of ducks in the snow tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Favorite

Growing up, one of my favorite things was my Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak. Although it is jumping the gun a bit, this verse fits the day very well....

In January
it's so nice
while slipping
on the sliding ice
to sip hot chicken soup
with rice.
Sipping once
sipping twice
sipping chicken soup
with rice.

Chicken stock with leeks, celery, carrots, potato, bay and parsley with some chicken and white beans. And of course, rice. If I am feeling really fancy, we'll top it with a mixture of very finely chopped lemon zest, garlic and parsley. Maybe some drop biscuits as an excuse to keep the oven on all day....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Not

All the things I am not doing....

Not getting ready for Christmas
Not keeping the house even remotely clean-ish (my pre New Year's resolution)
Not sewing
Not cooking
Not gardening
Not blogging.

If things change, you'll be the first to know.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Local

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you have the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate all that is important to you. I, for one, feel incredibly fortunate in so many ways.

I tried to stay out of the Black Friday fray yesterday, and managed to not go shopping. Later in the evening though, we did go out to meet a friend who was only in town for a few days and available only last evening. So we did purchase some beer and snacks from our favorite local spot.

This morning, I went out to feed and water the ducks from the new spigot that the SB installed in the garden as my Christmas present. We had discussions about draining the hose. Of course I would do it. Daily. Except for yesterday. So the hose was pretty well frozen when I got out this morning and turning it on split the hose and caused an icy shower that the ducks didn't even seem to be interested in. So I hand carried some water from the kitchen, down a steep flight of stairs and out to the duck house. Which makes me feel fortunate that this happened on a weekend and not as I was trying to leave the house for work. I also broke one of the duck water containers. Really it was just an old cat litter pan. When I turned it over this morning to dump the ice out, a big chunk broke off. But I pretty much knew that was coming.

So at 8AM I took off out to Southern States to get supplies. A new water container, flexible and meant for being left out of doors, a bale of straw and a bag of layer crumbles. I also found some very toasty flannel lined leather gloves that I think I am gonna like just fine, thankyouverymuch. I needed some new gloves anyway, so this was a treat.

THEN I went off to one of my favorite local hardware stores, Meadowbrook. The gentlemen there are super nice, SO helpful and not condescending at all. I bought a couple of very nice quality hose repair bits, the metal ones that are about a million times better than the plastic bits. They are only 2 or 3 times more expensive, but truly, you will replace the hose before these things. I bought the kit to fix the hole in the hose and a new hose end as the one on the new duck hose is crushed and no longer round. When the duck hose goes belly up, I'll take my parts off and save them to repair the next hose. I am hoping to get the hose repaired before the SB can give me the lecture about how I already got the lecture on draining the hose....

And guess what.... I got a free calendar from the Meadowbrook guys. They totally have the Currier and Ives promotional calendar. It kind of rocks. Not because I am a fan of Currier and Ives, but because it is so totally retro fantastico.

Buy local this season, y'all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yummy

The weather has turned toward chill though not really cold. It was the perfect day to bake. So this morning I made some cornbread from The World of Breads cookbook, which I love. It the Sweet Corn Bread with apples added to it (you can and I have also added blueberries). This bread is pretty rich and is sort of between a tea bread and corn bread. Cream together 3/4 cup sugar and the same of butter. Add three (duck) eggs and mix. Add 1 1/2 c. coarse cornmeal and stir. Add these dry ingredients (2 c. flour, 1/2 t. salt and 1 T. baking powder) alternately with 2 c. milk. Bake at 374 for 40-50 minutes in a 9 or 10 inch square buttered baking dish. The house smells heavenly.

I am also planning on a cream cheese pound cake and some sandwich loaves for the leftover turkey I am planning for but I need more flour. Which means I need my car, but it needs to be jump started. The SB was putting new bulbs and wipers on for me the other day and drying out my trunk, which always seems to be damp and we sort of ran the battery down. All worth it though to have a (relatively) clean car ready for inspection. Life is good.

Looking forward to a few days off work this week and some catching up around the house. Some knitting too. I just joined Ravelry. Can you believe it? And I already found my first project. The cowl I made myself turned out WAY too huge, so I had to frog it. I also ran into the Juniper Moon Crew at the market this AM. SO exciting to see them there. Total stroke of luck that when they decided to leave Martha's Vineyard they decided to relocate here! Super great addition to the area. I hope to check out the farm soon on one of the open farm days.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Darkness

One of the real downsides to the change in the time (thanks to daylight savings time) is that there is no light when I get home. This is a trade off, as for now, there IS at least light in the morning when I have to go out and tend the ducks. But that is something of a rushed thing. The evening hours are when I had been getting my quality time with my feathered pets. Anywhoo, dark at 5:30 also means that I don't have much opportunity for enjoying my garden... Which is, currently, gorgeous. Here are a couple of photos from the AM which don't nearly do it justice...


These are my multicolored carrots from this morning's harvest alongside a leek. I am hoping to get to some greens freezing today. Last night I came home and whipped up a little pasta with ham and greens with cheese for dinner. It was pretty handy to have those greens in the freezer all blanched and ready to go. A super 20 minute meal. Normally the SB is not so keen on allowing the compost pile volunteer squashes to run rampant, but this year they got a reprieve as they were well placed and covered a bit of ground that was convenient to have covered. As a result, we got about 2 dozen squashes. We'll see what the quality is on them, but it is always nice when the volunteers decide to be productive.

With the recent Nor'easter there has been rain rain rain. In other words, pretty much duck heaven. Our little bit of land here is riddled with rivulets and they all start running with a good rain. These bits of water and puddles are what ducks live for. I have felt bad about not letting them out in it as much as they would like, but schedules have been a bit hectic. The ducks would stare longingly from their pen to the puddle just on the other side of the fence. It was heart wrenching. But in an attempt to make up for earlier deprivation, they have been out since 8:30 this morning. There is much duck work to be done in the next several days, but I feel sure they are up to it.



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

M.I.A.

Wow, I have been out of it for a while... And there is soooo much to report on....

Waiting for pictures of C in her Halloween costume that I made. She wanted to be a princess, because she is 4. I made her a purple and gold number with flow-y sleeves and lots of bling. And a cape. A sparkly cape. Cuz everyone needs a cape. Don't tell me you don't. THAT took up a chunk of October weekends, but it was the good kind of taken up.

We had a party. Which worked out great considering it rained and it was an outdoor party. It just didn't rain much and we had a fire and music and lots of beer. So it was definitely a good party. Getting ready for the initial one that we canceled and then the one that went on took two weekends.

The garden, well you really must see it. I instructed the SB to take pictures since I am not home during day light hours thanks to daylight savings time (booo). He went out to take pictures and got distracted by ducks and then his batteries went on the fritz. So hopefully you will get to witness the remarkable and inspiring beds of greens that are overflowing right now. And hopefully you will get a good picture of where the ducks have sheared back the greens as far as they can reach through the fencing. So much for ducks being garden helpers. With the recent rains they managed to turn our garden paths into a mud fest. Really, I don't know where they got all that mud because it wasn't there before. Re.mark.able.

Over that last week, with the help of my friend V and my back yard neighbor, I have launched my duck egg empire. I was whining to V about too many duck eggs and the hassle factor of listing them on Craigslist when she reminded me that we have a neighborhood list serve for this sort of thing. Oh. Right. I listed the eggs and got some interest.... Then one of the interested neighbors forwarded the email on at her work place and I got orders for 7 dozen eggs. Seven. Dozen. I told the SB that we clearly needed more ducks. At $4/dozen, it won't be any time at all until we are rich, I tell you, RICH!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gleaning

We have been out. Two weeks ago camping in Floyd, then near Clarksville. Both great experiences. The old time/bluegrass in Floyd is something to be seen. Quick, before it becomes Disney-fied. Right now it is just a lot of normal people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying a bunch of music. Soon it will be Teh Thing and everyone else will be there and you will miss what is truly lovely about the whole thing. Which is that people seem to know each other and enjoy going downtown in small town VA and dancing to traditional music with their friends and neighbors. Saturday at 6:30 PM in a small but lovely town just north of South Boston the slave cylinder on the SB's car gave up the ghost and we limped into town. Just to make the point... It was 6:30 on Saturday, meaning all repair shops were closed until Monday. Somehow we must have been living right since the guys at the car parts store we stopped at managed to find the part, though initially we were told we could get it by Monday. AND they knew a guy that would come over and put it on in the parking lot where the car was. In less than 90 minutes we were on our way again. Shocking and delightful.

We visited Prestwold on Sunday. A fantastically restored 18th century plantation house. Since no one else was there, we got the 2 hour tour from a delightful young man doing his PhD on the house. And he is in school in C'ville. I think we will hook up for a beer at some point.

This past weekend was spent in Reedsville on the bay with my girlfriends and their tiny ones. The oldest 4, the youngest 2 1/2. Wild times. Good wine, relatively few tears from the younger set. So hard to say good bye. But I talked up the ducks so hopefully they will be receiving visitors.

In the interim, ice cream made with duck eggs (of which we are getting an alarming number- stop by for a few) and paw paw. It is the SB's new favorite ice cream ever. This afternoon he went out and gleaned another 5 or 6 pounds from an undisclosed site nearby. We'll be freezing those babies for more ice cream later in the year. If anyone has any great methods for removing the pulp from the skin and seeds, please fill me in. As it stands, I sort of know how tomorrow evening is going to be spent.

The garden is looking great. SO excited about all the greens coming along. The cold weather stuff has taken off since the rain last weekend. I think this weekend is the last for the peppers, they will be coming in to be frozen. By mid October we'll probably put the garlic and shallots in for the winter, more to get them out of the kitchen than to get an early start in the garden.

This weekend I have to go out and rearrange the bees and make sure everything is in the right place for winter. Crossing fingers for no rain as there is much to do. The duck yard needs a dig out and we need to head to Southern States for straw and float-y food for the ducks. All the errands made better now that they are laying....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hive check


I am a little behind in posting, but a couple weekends ago I went out to check the bees. All in all, a bit of an odd situation. There is an very nice sized colony. Bees covering the frames, a large brood section. The honey super, however, has not even a drop of honey. The bees never even made wax this year, the slackers. Odd. I emailed my bee mentor (who rocks) who did not comment on why my bees may have decided not to fill a super this summer despite a record breaking honey year for most beekeepers. He did address my thought that perhaps my bees didn't like the foundation I had provided for them. He said it was unlikely the cause. Anywhoo. I am going into winter with significantly more bees than last year and am hoping like hell they don't eat themselves out of house and home. I still need to do another check and make sure the brood is in the bottom box with some nice honey stores on top. That'll probably be the first weekend in October. Good thing I still have honey from last year. It would really be a bite to have to buy bees AND honey this year....

I got three eggs this morning which became the SB's breakfast. I haven't heard yet how he liked them. The ducks seem to be eating more, I don't know if it is because they are beginning to lay eggs or because they haven't been out as much lately. I really wish I had a video of the "incident" the other day when the cat was very casually walking down the driveway, playing it totally cool and the ducks noticed him. The ducks, being both quite curious and impressively dumb, took off after him, en masse, to investigate this new animal. The cat, upon noticing the interest of the ducks, took off like a rocket. I think the ducks were somewhat disappointed. The SB reported they were trying to have a conversation with our resident groundhog the other day. The groundhog was more interested in lunching.

The fall garden is coming along, some things better than others, but one really exciting thing... I saved seed from my lettuce plants this spring and planted them among the cabbage seedlings and what do you know, they came up and are now sprouting like gangbusters! With luck, there is going to be some serious lettuce in a few more weeks....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ta DAH


The brown one is a chicken egg for comparison. And yes, the duck egg on the right is wet not naturally shiny. I had to rinse it off. They are quite lovely and they taste pretty much like chicken eggs but more so. Sort of like the difference between chicken and duck meat. Go figure.

To date I have gotten 4 eggs. The most recent dropped in the middle of the duck yard with a super soft shell. I am not eating that one as it is weird and spent the whole night in a pile of duck poop.

Yesterday there was a slight scare, I went out to visit the ducks in the garden and when I offered the usual treat of a handful of greens, I noticed that Gloria was missing. She is usually first in line for treats. I called the SB, but we found her pretty quickly hiding in the tall grass. Later, I found her there as well. I thought she might be egg bound, but this AM, she was back to her normal, goofy, relatively friendly self and there was the weird egg. So I am writing it all off to that. Teh drama.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

EGG

Today was the first duck egg. Found in the duck yard, no nest evidence, just whoops! there she goes.... Picture soon. With the review/recipe cuz we haven't eaten it yet.... I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Close Encounters

When I got home this afternoon the SB reported that a large (VERY large) bird had buzzed the ducks while they were grazing in the driveway. He said the bird had a huge wing span and was incredibly graceful. I have heard there is a pair of eagles on the Rivanna, and a neighbor reported osprey. I suppose either of those fit the bill.

I planted what I believe are the last seeds of the season... lettuce, spinach, mustard, mache... We love us some greens - and what we don't eat, the ducks will. I have been keeping them tame-ish by periodically offering them some greens from my hands. It is the only thing they will eat out of my hands, though sometimes they eat the water fowl food (we call it the float-y food cause you put it in the water trough) out of the container I use to transport it to the cage. They are always tasting my fingers when they eat from my hands. Good thing they don't have any teeth...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No matter where you go, there you are....

Earlier in the summer the SB and I decided, bouyed by our blackberry successes, to get another bushel of peaches. I don't mean another one this summer, I mean another one in our lifetime. The last time we got a bushel of peaches was the summer I took off of college. I had started working at a strawberry farm as soon as I got home and immediately learned about freezer jam. I made about a ton of that. Then the SB's landlords were away during raspberry season, and I made jam from those. Then we bought a bushel of peaches..... If you know anything about peaches you know that they go from rock hard to fruit fly nursery in a completely unpredictable trajectory. Sometimes over night... Sometimes it takes, oh 4.5 days. Our first bushel of peaches was roughly handled and the peaches began to get brown spots immediately. We had an entire week of peach patrol. Watching for the spots and desperately trying to do something with the peaches before they went completely brown.

This time the SB suggested we bring in some co conspirators... People interested in helping with the load. No, I said, they are all going to ripen at different times, we have a whole 4 day weekend (I took Friday off last week), surely we will be able to process them all. Well, true to form, the peaches were a little too hard yesterday and absolutely at the perfect ripeness at 7:15 this morning as I was headed out for a day at the office followed by a standing babysitting gig. So. I just put the first batch in the freezer. And I have many many more to get to very very soon.... And a peach waits for no one.

They ARE tasty though and relatively easy to peel after they have been blanched. August Lady is the variety. I think I am going to put them on the calendar for next year as well.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

For your viewing pleasure....

But before we get to the duck photos....

This article has a little good news on the bee thing, at least that is how I read it.... See what you think.

In other exciting news the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has begun a new online classified service. Which allows people interested in breeding, keeping or eating these old breeds to access the many small farmers who have valiantly keep the breeds alive despite plummeting demand in the face of agribusiness. I found out about it here. I have read about the ALBC before and am in awe of the people who have organized around this. I, of course, would love to be a part of the conservation efforts. I am not sure how likely that is, as I am not going to be able to have a breeding flock of chickens as roosters are banned from the city. Perhaps my goats can be of a heritage breed, though sending a goat via post seems somewhat more difficult than shipping chicks or hatching eggs.

This is the SB's approach to the duck house and the mid day freeing of the ducks....

This is them (they?) just hangin' out....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Of all the.....

We have 1.49 acres, but yesterday, the ducks thought that the grazing might be a little better on the other side of the road.... Now, I wouldn't say our street is a thoroughfare, but it does get quite a bit of traffic. It is one of those places that there is little enough that what we have can go fast.

I was in the kitchen cooking when I realized that I couldn't hear the ducks. Like children of all ages, silence makes you wonder what on earth they are up to. I went onto the back porch (which has an excellent view of the yard) and still couldn't find them. Finally I discovered them on the opposite side of the road, snorggling around in the rotting leaves and looking like they were considering climbing the bank there. Thankfully, there was no traffic. They are so, um, impulsive, that I think if one of them ran, the others would follow, lemming-like. A single vehicle could have taken out a big chunk of the flock.

I herded them back across the street to their own yard. Then I told them that they were grounded and locked them back up in their pen. Bad Ducks. We are considering some fencing to keep them in the yard. Really. How is it that 1.49 acres isn't enough grazing ground for 11 ducks? They haven't even seen the majority of the property....

I am going to try to get out in the garden and do some last ditch seed planting for winter. My beets have not come up well and I am in a bit of a panic. The mustard greens are going crazy though. If you have recipes for mustard greens, let me know. I usually just through them in with bean soup or something.

Made moussaka last night from this recipe. YUM. SO much easier that the other one I was looking at in the Joy of Cooking. I think I would salt the eggplant though, as mine turned out kinda juice-y

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Recovered

The little brown duck has recovered. Whew. The SB kept making jokes about duck and mustard green soup. Which sounds delicious, unless you think about it as your duck.... No eggs yet.

I came home from work yesterday to find that the SB had dug a new garden bed. Talk about a big fat treat!! He does the hard work and I get to do the seed planting. *swoon*

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gimpy

One of the little brown ducks is limping. We caught her and looked but couldn't find a wound (I thought maybe she had gotten cut on some of the glass that turns up in the creek.) We are letting her be and hoping that she improves on her own. It came on suddenly, so I am hoping it is just a sprain or pull and will heal up on its own. Poor critter.

Friday, August 14, 2009

And more with the summer...

I think we are getting toward the end of the summer heat. Not that we had much of it this year, but in the same way that having a long vacation doesn't actually make you want to go back to work, having a cool summer doesn't make you glad to see the heat. In reality, I could deal with the heat if it weren't for the voracious mosquitoes that stalk me now day and night. I have to slather myself with stinky bug spray before even attempting the simplest of garden tasks. There is so much to do out side and it is brutal. Last night the bugs were biting me through my pants. Pretty underhanded. Oh, and we have yet to turn on the AC this year. Not that I mind really. I just feel kinda butch.

Things have gotten frisky in the duck pen. There is a great deal of cavorting and flirting and ... well, I am sure you can imagine the results. Two boys, nine girls all reaching sexual maturity in the summer around a pool. It is no less dramatic than you might - who is flirting with whom, who has his/her advances accepted or rejected, etc etc. The boys aren't actively fighting though, which is good. Sampson chases Cyrus, who seems happy to run rather than confront him. He is a lover (every chance he gets) not a fighter. Duck eggs in about 3 weeks I think.

I have been making tomatillo sauce. We have lots of peppers and tomatillos. I planted sugar snaps yesterday. Still waiting on other things to come up, though the mustard and kale are going great guns, as is the rutabaga. A few other less identifiable things as well.

Tomorrow, I think, must be a day to visit the bees. They have been sorely neglected and I have to see if 1) there is any honey and 2) if I need to do anything to get them ready for winter. Wish me luck, I am a little out of practice.

The SB and I spent about a week digging and moving 4 ENORMOUS boxwoods from a yard a mile or so away. THAT will set you back on the housework.

I have been making watermelon agua fresca lately. Fill the blender container with watermelon chunks, the juice of a lime, about 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Blend until smooth, run through a strainer, add more water or seltzer and some more lime juice and/or mint. Mmmm. I'll even give you some if you come mow the lawn.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Season

So this is an odd time of the year when I am both putting things up and planting. Over the weekend I made three batches of tomatillo sauce. The SB and I went blackberry picking at a friends and hauled home 6 pounds of blackberries after 30 minutes of "work". An amazing year. Hoping for more of that tomorrow and possibly some blackberry jam. I am getting lots of jalapenos which go well with the tomatillos, but the squash bugs have pretty well done in the summer squash, though I am considering one last planting. I have planted August 1 before and harvested before frost. The SB built me a trellis for fall sugar snaps and I am currently trying to cool the soil with a heavy layer of straw. I have put in seeds for lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, turnips, rutabagas, and some other things. I have a flat full of cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts seedlings. The SB also built me a frame from bamboo garnered from the CHO house so that when all these goodies get going, I will be able to cover them with remay for the winter and prolong whatever harvest we get. Assuming we can figure a way to keep the ducks out.

They were great company in the yard yesterday. I took off work early and came home to sort through the potatoes (which I had noticed some fruit flies in earlier in the day - a bad sign). I took everything out that we had harvested and washed and sorted through them all to find the "eat soon" ones that wouldn't store and the ones that were suitable for longer term storage. Let me just say there are a lot in the "eat soon" pile. But I LOVE home grown potatoes, so no worries there. The ducks kept creeping up on me. I think the sound of the water I was using to wash the potatoes in an old dishpan was attractive to them. Though when I offered it, they ran away. They eventually got bored and started nibbling on the SB's old Chevy truck in the drive way, and chasing them away from that was akin to playing with a boomerang.

The ducks are, undeniably, insane. I have named another duck. She is Aretha, duck of many colors. In the filtered sunlight her black feathers have eggplant purple, mallard green and peacock blue colors. Stunning. In direct light she is quite ordinary.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More Duck Pictures


The duck in the foreground is Cyrus. He is the other male (Sampson was pictured in the last post). The are both good ducks, but Sampson really is the better of the boys. He watches while every one else, including Cyrus head full throttle into the food dish in the morning.
These are some of the girls. Hard to tell who is who here, and only some of the ducks have names. Gloria, Gladys from New Jersey, Josephine and Louisa. I can only sometimes pick Little out of the group. She has to be standing next to the other small brown ducks in order for me to tell them apart. She is the one with the slimmest neck.

Here is everyone alert to noises. It is funny, if they are startled by sounds like a hawk or something far off, they tighten up the herd and come toward me if I am out with them. It is about as much affection as I am likely to get from them.

Wanna check out someone else raising runners in an urban setting? Check out this guy. He is sooo much more reliable at blogging.... They just had a duck party. We were hoping for something similar. Of course, we may have to do it to celebrate our first egg (in September if all goes well) rather than any of the other milestones that we have passed.

These are not ducks, in case you were wondering. This is the first of our potato harvest. This happens to be about 11 pounds of LaRatte, which is a delightful fingerling potato that we grew last year. These are actually from seed potatoes that we saved over the winter.

This is the weekend to plant fall stuff. I have a small patch of carrots doing well so far, but that is all. The SB helped me haul horse poop down for the beds and I dug in lots of amendments. I am hoping for a reasonable season.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer

It feels like summer now. We have had some heat, though overall, the weather has been merciful - cool evenings and mornings make ALL the difference. The mosquitoes are just starting to get bad. We are eating pasta with tomatoes, garlic and basil twice a week, at least. I have yellow squash for miles which I started to cook and freeze. Yesterday I put seeds out in the garden for carrots, leeks and parsnips (at least 2 of my neighbors have told me the difference between store bought and home grown parsnips is worth it... I figured I would give it a shot as I didn't like beets until I grew them myself). In a flat I have sown broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale. I plan on more things, but I need some more space in the garden. Soon I will put out more chard seeds, beets and start the spinach and salad greens. I want more fennel too. My okra isn't so impressive and I have been getting only a few cukes, but they have been delicious. The tomatillos are still growing. If that all goes well it will be a big year. I am harvesting potatoes plant by plant - restraining myself from digging up the whole bed. My garlic harvest was satisfactory and I am holding back heads for planting in October/November... My house mate says you plant on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest. I can't wait that long... When the weather gets nice I want to be out there. The SB and I are considering the garden expansion - maybe in time for fall crops....

The ducks have decided they are afraid of the creek. When we let them out of the pen, they race toward the swimming hole and then stare at the water. When they get back to the pen, they fight over who gets to stand in the water dish. No idea what this is all about. We will likely be getting them a pool as soon as we can figure out how to make it work. Dumping and filling a pool is a lot of water and a lot of work, so we will need to figure something out.

And here they are.... Along with the first 11 pounds of fingerling potatoes from the auxiliary


And this is Sampson. Handsome, isn't he?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hala-freakin'-luja

Ducks are in the duck house. Still details to work out but they are safe and out of the basement. Could we ask for anything more?

Pictures this weekend. Rilly.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Eventually

I am a total loser. But here, in brief, is some of the last month or so in a list (because SHG loves a list and I miss her).

1. The SB is home. Woo hoo.
2. The ducks are still in the basement. It is like the Peabody Hotel around here in the evenings. Absurd.
3. Hopes of finishing the duck house over the long holiday weekend - dashed.
4. Harvested delicious varieties of potatoes, some fennel, yellow squash and lots of basil and parsley. Some jalapenos, some blueberries (unfortunately these are a fav of the ducks).
5. Working my ass off on the duck house and garden. Rest of house and garden going to hell.
6. Unbelievably fantastic weather. I wore a sweater ALL DAY. In July. Gimme a shout out people, this rocks.
7. Roasting a chicken with some beets and potatoes now. Woo hoo. It is 10:25. Boo.
8. Not as social as I used to be.
9. The ducks rock. They were out grazing all day today.
10. Haven't talked to the bees in months. Wondering if there is honey I should be collecting.

Soo much more, but need pictures for the rest. Soon. Rilly.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

And Again with the Ass Kicking

The ducklings continue to kick my butt. The bigger they get, the more they need feeding and cleaning and general stuff. They are still in the basement. I go to the City to pick up the SB and his stuff and bring him home on Sunday. It'll be nice to be co-parenting.

The ducklings spent a good portion of the last holiday weekend in the garden splashing around, which was excellent. I have figured out how to get them in and out alone, but it is much easier with two. Soon though, hopefully, the run will be built and they can be out quite a bit of the time. Here are photos from last Saturday....

The ducklings love the SB. I think they clearly see him as the leader as he is the tallest.



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photos


Because I am too tired to be coherent... I bring you pictures.

Link


Monday, May 11, 2009

Livin' the Farm Life

This livestock raising thing is freakin' exhausting. Saturday morning, first thing, I cleaned out the duckling cage. In a word, disgusting. Everything was totally soaked. The ducklings are changing daily, and Saturday's trick to see how fast they could empty the waterer. I know it shouldn't be shocking, but these ducks totally love water. I thought they were drinking the majority of it. Until I came home at 11PM Saturday night after a babysitting stint to a lake of duck runoff in the basement. Too tired to do much about it, I laid down some news paper to sop it up. Then I went upstairs to read about ducks.

Sunday at 6 AM I woke up and began to devise and implement and environmental management plan. The platform the ducks were on had to be lifted off the floor - luckily we have lots of bricks from our chimney demolition 10 years ago (and no, you cannot have them). The platform went on bricks... Luckily we thought in advance to put a shower curtain on top of the platform then the cage on top of that. The cage also had to be lifted so that it could drain properly. I used the overhang of the shower curtain to create a gutter that drained the runoff into a bucket. By Sunday afternoon there was about 3/4 of a gallon. I am pouring it into the compost pile. Sunday afternoon, I had to go get a new gallon sized waterer because I watched the ducklings empty the quart one in about 45 minutes.

I got up at 6AM this morning, with some help from Kitty. I went and fed and watered the ducks and then did a few small chores while the feeding frenzy took place. The only thing sharks have over ducks in a feeding frenzy is teeth. It gets a little ugly and the ducklings are all covered in food and water by the end. When they settled down, I put some dry bedding in the cage and refilled the food and water for the day. I was a little worried that the gallon waterer might not be enough so I left work a little early and was pushing to get home, thoughts of gasping ducklings in my head.... When I opened the door, the smell of ducklings greeted me. All the way from the basement I could detect the sent. Not overpowering, but certainly recognizable.... I went down and found some water in the waterer (whew!) and set about to cleaning out the cage again.... If it were warmer, I would have opened the door and aired the place out, but with the temperatures falling, I didn't want things to get cool in the basement. I think I am going to have to scrub everything with bleach when they move out...

I think the ducklings are getting bored. I am devising a swimming strategy for the weekend when it is supposed to get warm. I think a little paddle and play time in the water will exercise them sufficiently, and provide some rockin' photo opps. In the meantime, here is a link to CHO's photos from Sunday morning. I think people are getting really tired of me using the word "cute". I will have to consult my thesaurus.

In other news, I am neglecting both the cat and the bees. The garden looks pretty good for the most part, the potatoes are amazing and one plant is actually budding already. I picked the last of the fall/winter chard as it was getting ready to bolt, and got some lettuce for a few salads this week. My arugula has already bolted. It is too cold for the tomatoes and peppers and eggplant to be doing really well. It is a banner year for slugs, which makes it an even better year to have ducks. I bought two whole flats of plants this weekend which I needed not at all and now do not know when I will find time to plant.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Monsters

I am afraid I have unwittingly invited monsters into my home. In 3 days, the ducklings have gone from getting through most of a bowl of food and 3 cups of water to 4 bowls of food and more than a gallon of water. Of course, much of it is spread across the cage, but they must be ingesting some of it because they are noticeably larger. I am talkin' NOTICEABLY. If you haven't seen them you would think they were still small, and they are, but they are growing like weeds.... You should come see them. They have been viewed by several neighbors, friends and family over the past three days. I think today is the first time they have started to settle a bit. They seem a little more confident.

Kitty is still unaware. Thank heaven. Once he finds out, there will be no rest for any of us.

The weather is spectacular and I am blogging. Remind me not to complain about working in the heat when the time comes. Clearly I am squandering the good weather.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Make Way for Ducklings...



So the duckling that I was worried about, seems to have kind of caught up with the rest of the crew. There are definitely larger and smaller ducklings, but it is hard to tell which is the "runt" now... So perhaps we have dodged that particular bullet.

You can tell they are already growing. They have figured out the eat then put the face in water thing that makes ducks work. They use the water to wash out their nostrils and with that dry food, you can see how they would need to. So I sat and watched them for a long time tonight going from food to water and back like a recirculating pool. They love to fish for bits of lettuce in the water even though they aren't very good yet at eating them. I am putting down new layers of straw twice a day. You could really do it about every 2-3 minutes, but you really have to draw a line somewhere. They are going through about a gallon of water a day. Most of which ends up in the bedding. Oh well.

My friend V says that ducklings are like crack. I must concur.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Roller Coaster

Today was the day the ducklings were supposed to arrive. Or not. It was Tuesday, likely Wednesday or maybe Thursday. I started out by calling the post office at 8:15. They were very nice and took my name and number. Then I had to wait until it was 8:30 in Iowa to call the hatchery. Yes, they shipped Monday but without a tracking number. So great, they would likely be here today. Called back to the post office later, talked to someone else who was incredibly nice and said the package wasn't there, but I could call the distribution center. Which I did, and got another unbelievably nice person who said to call back after noon because that was the last truck of the day coming from Richmond. I called back. No live birds except for the Tractor Supply order. Dang! Canceled my ride, moped to the SB, CHO and my Mama. And fretted about the little critters being in a box for another day.

At 2, Tuck from the loading dock called to tell me the birds were there! I had to call back my ride V. We had been planning the duck run since I placed the order. She was on the phone. GAD I must have called about 18 times in 12 minutes. She finally whisked me off in the red Duckmobile. We picked the little darlings up around 2:40 this afternoon from a postal clerk who looked like she couldn't wait to get rid of them. I told her that I was supposed to inspect the package for losses in front of a clerk and I thought she got a little green around the gills. Luckily I could just pry the lid up a bit and check them out. No feet sticking straight up in the air, so I guessed that was OK. Then V and I navigated traffic Oh So carefully home. Where we stuck there little bills in water to get them drinking. Which they, for the most part, took to - well, like ducks to water..... Right.

Next we moved them to the new basement quarters (theoretically cat proof - the basement, not the quarters) and got them rolling on some crumbles. Three point two minutes later there were crumbles and water spread across the cage like a very small tornado had come through. Really. It was impressive. As we were watching them tear around making the cutest little pat pat sounds with their feet, V pointed out that we had 11 ducklings. Right. Ten would have been plenty. Even nine if we lost one. Crikey. The SB said, "That's about 300 more eggs!" Right. But I am betting it is a male, why else would they have thrown it in for free other than they have lots of extras. We do have one little one that may or may not make it. It is just teeny and not up to speed. I kind of hope that if we lose it, it is sooner rather than later....

The majority of the little beasts are eating and drinking like champs and the SB and I went ahead and cut off the leg bands since he is here and it was DEFINITELY a two person job.

So? Are you ready for the photos? Actually, most of them are terrible, I will try to get more good ones soon, but the little buggers are FAST.

Upon arrival at the Future Urban Farm. They were actually pretty calm. Until we dipped their bills into the equivalent of duck gatorade - which inspired them to begin leaping around and trying to climb out of the boxes. Or maybe it was just being handled and stared at that made them a bit nervous....

This is probably one of the chocolate colored ones. The feet are the best.

This is before everything got really crazy.... Wow. You should see the place now. Crikey. Oh, and they started to smell bad almost instantly. The cat is still blissfully unaware. At least I am blissful that the cat is unaware. I don't know that he is blissful. He is always on the cranky side. When I was last downstairs, they were all sleeping under the lamp and next to the heater. I need to go look at them and make sure they have food and water for the night. It is just remarkable how much they have gone through in such a short time.

In other news.... the potatoes are loving this weather. But frankly, I am ready for a little sunshine.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gardening

Today the SB and I had the pleasure of touring some local veggie gardens with some pretty interesting folks. A neighbor put together a handful of people who have veggie gardens in our quadrant of the city. The most remarkable thing about the tour (5 gardens in 4.5 hours) was how different they all are. Some are quite structured and others totally free form. I found herbs I had heard of but never seen and drank some ground ivy tea, and learned that black eyed peas are care free and delicious.

I can't wait to get back into the garden now. Just having an afternoon with people who are enthusiastic was exciting. I want to put my peppers and tomatoes in.... I want more garden space and I want to be harvesting. I am so greedy. I have so much space and such an amazing setup, but I want more.... I want a place for black eyed peas and more greens and corn and winter squashes and about a million more varieties of everything.

The SB and I went to Southern States earlier this morning and got feed and grit and a waterer for the ducklings. We still have some thing to figure out... Like where the cage is going to go.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thunder!

So here in central VA we have managed to go, again (SIGH), directly from early spring to mid summer. Wednesday there was a frost warning, and yesterday, today and tomorrow are all in the 90 degree neighborhood and now it is thundering like we'll get a summer boomer. It went from too cold to put the summer stuff out, to too warm to transplant anything. I am betting/hoping late week and weekend may be more reasonable for such things. I hope so as I bought a flat of impatiens at the market.

I dashed out in the cool of the morning and planted a couple types of cukes, some watermelons and zucchini and summer squash. The seeds will probably love the heat. I was then obliged to go out mid day in full bee regalia and put the honey super on the hive. It was probably a little over kill for the job, but last time I went out I got stung so I was being overly cautious. Of course, when I got stung I was being underly cautious so it served me right. So now the bees have someplace to put all the honey that is theoretically flowing right now (end of April to Mid June in this area).

ETA for the ducklings is the first Wednesday in May. But they won't say for sure. I guess we have to wait for them to be hatched and there is some lee way in all that. Below are some names I am tossing around. Feel free to chime in with votes or additions. I need 10 names so don't be shy.... The rule is that they can't be named after anyone in particular....

Jackson Carlisle (the one boy) or Levon Devonshire
Rosaleigh Bates
Iona McKaulsky
Maria Helena Garcia Fuentes
Honey-Jane Purslane
Anabell Klein
Josaphine McFadden

You see I need some help....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter!

What I learned/remembered on Easter Sunday 2009. A list! Because I know SHG loves them and I haven't heard from her in a while....

1. The SB is right. Easter is when the violets REALLY start blooming.
2. It is great to have a neighbor who collects you from your yard work for a mid day supper of lamb, potatoes and spinach in the company of smart women and mimosas.
3. I am not sure that transplanting beet seedlings is really the way to go.
4. A floor jack is effing heavy.
5. I am clever enough to get a floor jack from the basement to the trunk of my car without actually having to lift it.
6. Although I didn't actually have to lift the jack, I think I will be feeling the strain tomorrow. Since I am feeling it now. Oi.
7. You cannot ever ever ever appreciate your friends enough.
8. I never get through my list of things to do on any given weekend.
9. Home made chicken stock rocks.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Step Closer

The SB was home last weekend to work on the duck house. The building extended through Tuesday. We are well on our way, but still not done. Here is a pic. We did get a roof on but without covering (can't decide if we want shingles, cedar shake or metal). Still need to add batons to the board and baton.... And of course the covered run. Which will mean more post hole digging... Which isn't as bad as I thought, as long as you take it super slowly....

EDDA (Estimated Date of Duck Arrival) is May 5-8. There are definitely issues to be worked out. Food. Intermediate housing. Bedding. Water containers. The list grows... I was recently reading an article about ducks for egg production. The Indian Runners are egg producers rather than meat ducks. They aren't really large enough to merit all that plucking. The article said that a well bred duck could produce 250-300 eggs per year. Um, multiply that by 9 duck hens...... OK, I am not panicking, but if you have a little time, you might want to clear a corner out of your fridge before, oh, say the end of summer when the ducks start laying. In reality, I don't think mine are coming from champion laying stock, nor do I expect all of my ducks to make it to production age. I am sure there is much about fencing that will have to be learned the hard way.

I planted out some more beet and chard seedlings this morning. I have bunch of other seedlings that will go in a week or so. These are the warm weather things. Tomatoes, peppers, etc. They won't do so well until the nights are warm, so there isn't much point in putting them out too early. I can keep them under the lights and on the heat mats and probably get better progress....

Friday, April 3, 2009

Check It Out

You probably heard about the organic garden at the White House. But did you hear about this? Hip hip hooray for the support from the top.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The News

I don't know how the rest of March got away from me... Other than I have been recuperating from illness. I was better a long time ago, but finally feel like I am hitting my stride again. Sheesh... This recovery thing takes a lot longer when you are, um, a certain age.

The most excellent news is that the ducklings have been ordered. Yup. Ten baby runner ducks will be on their way to me the first week in May. Don't know what a runner duck looks like? Check 'em out below via YouTube. And did I mention I will have 10? That would be Ten.... And yes, we will have a champagne reception for them. You bring the champaign because all my cash is going to fencing and duck crumbles.



The SB is coming home for the weekend to work on the duck house. And the Market opens this weekend. THANK GOD.

The bees seem to be well and get the next hive body on tomorrow if it is warm enough. The cat found the first snake in the yard (yes, I was able to save it, but I didn't get a good look at it). I have decided that the day the cat finds the first snake in the yard is the REAL first day of spring. After that (it was Sunday) we are highly unlikely to get an additional serious frost. Of course, I am making this all up, but that is par for the weather course, I think.

The chard I planted in front of the house has started to look like it is growing and there are blossoms on the peach trees. My my. Real spring indeed.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spuds

So I valiantly battled a virus-to-sinus-infection one-two punch last week. Finally caved and got some antibiotics. Thank you LORD those things still work. It passed the point when you thought you were going to die and went straight into hoping if you were gonna die, it would be sooner rather than later so you could avoid feeling so miserable. Anywhoo. Now that that is behind me....

I spend the day messing around in the garden. I planted a little over 3 pounds of seed potatoes. And because I just bought a handy dandy new kitchen scale, I am gonna find out how many pounds of potatoes that actually gets me. Some of them are in pots, so it will also be interesting to see how the pot yield differs from the in ground yields. Have I mentioned how much I love harvesting potatoes?

I also transplanted some lettuce, parsley, chard and beets into the garden. What I realize about the start ahead thing is that it takes a LOT of time so separate those little buggers and put them in the ground. Though I think the spacing will definitely be better. I always have a hard time ripping the extras out when I direct seed and things end up too close together. I may sneak out yet and direct seed some spinach and lettuce mix to get things underway.

I have come to the conclusion that the garden is not big enough. I put one and a half beds into potatoes. The other half is probably going to be eggplant/peppers to try to keep the solenaceae family together to make crop rotation easier in future. That leaves me only 2 beds for ALL the other things I want to plant.... I have more onions and leeks and beets and chard and kale and okra and beans and basil and fennel and peppers and squashes and about a million other things.... Looks like I am gonna be doin' some diggin' this summer.

Also last week, in the midst of the funky flu bug, I received and installed the new bees. Woo hoo. The queen is in the house again. (figuratively speaking, of course) I'll go out there again soon and check and make sure that she has been able to get out of the cage and is setting up house there in the box. When I put them in, there was the nice bonus of having a bunch of honey left from last year's bees along with all the comb that they made, so these critters should be miles ahead of the others. Let's hope the weather cooperates and they can take advantage of it....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good, Bad & Ugly

The bad and ugly are this cold I have been draggin' around for the past 6 days, though it feels like weeks. I am trying not to let it get me down, but being woken up at 4:30 or 5 every morning by the sore throat gets old. I say, Be Gone Cold. Or Else.

The good is that no one needed me at work today, so I stayed home. I slept REALLY late, went and got my milk a day early, and then messed around in the garden. I planted out the King Richard leeks and the Sweet Spanish onions. Also some chard and parsley in pots. The soil is too wet for digging, so the other stuff will have to wait. I sprayed the orchard trees with dormant oil spray and some Deer Off and continue to cross my fingers that we might get some fruit this year. We shall see. Where I took the leeks out of the starting flat I put in some broccoli. Late, but still possible for this year. My other seedlings are doing well. The peppers are FINALLY beginning to come up. They take a really long time. I am going to have tons of eggplant and tomatillo plants. Want some? Several varieties of each....

Still waiting on the word as to when the bees arrive. Soon, soon. I am trying to be patient, but it is so hard.....

Monday, March 16, 2009

Did I Mention?

No, I don't think I did....

When the SB was home on Saturday and we were trying to tie up a bunch of garden chores, we moved some rocks (that had been a highly illegal fire ring in the upper lawn) to allow for easier mowing. Under those rocks we found THREE salamanders and TWO teeny tiny northern brown snakes. All were relocated to similar places in the yard. Hopefully we didn't disrupt things too much.

Also, I am chitting my potatoes - at least I think that is the term....They are sitting in an egg carton on the dining table soaking up some diffuse rays and sprouting eyes.

There are three kinds, La Ratte (fingerlings saved from last year and sprouting like crazy after being in the basement since fall) Early rose, and another yellow type for storing. I have about three pounds .... plenty for the space we have available.

Just waiting for things to dry out to put in some of the early stuff. The parsley is looking quite fine, as are the lettuces.

And because the weather was yucky and the SB wasn't around to haul my ass out into the yard regardless, I stayed in and did some cooking. Ricotta dumplings in a roasted red pepper sauce. It needed some pasta to call it a meal, but it was pretty tasty if labor intensive.

So this is what I will be eating for the next 8 days, provided they last that long. I don't think cheese thaws so well or I would freeze some. I also made dill bread. And brownies. By the state of the kitchen afterwards, you would have thought I had just prepared dinner for Napoleon's army, but no, just lil' ol' me.

And on another note, this is my 125th post. Woo hoo.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Much Needed Rain

I am trying hard not to complain about the days of rain we have been having. We need the rain desperately, but I would rather be planing. The SB and I had a very productive couple of days. Though still no duck house, we did a great deal of yard and garden work. We made a new bed by the orchard and moved the raspberries. This is the first of several and we are talking about having a LOT of raspberries, which suits me just fine thankyouverymuch. We put the garden fencing up, which is critical. We moved the beehive to allow for the chicken run. I still have to clean some of the frames, but it looks like the bees were indeed in residence for a while, but there was a VERY small number and they didn't make it due to cold or starvation (there was food above them, but probably too far above.... ) [Aside: I will tell you that dead bees don't smell very good. I think the next hive is coming next week - stay tuned.] The SB added horse manure and creek mud to the beds and we set our final garden bed (in the rain on Saturday before he left). The setting of beds is to make them level and look all pretty. It does look nice. It also takes about 2 hours. I try to look at it as an investment. With luck, we won't ever have to do it again - at least on the ones we have already placed. I am holding out hope that we will set additional beds this fall and on into the future as we continue with our garden expansion.

I am getting the potatoes ready to plant. You set them out in filtered light where it is warm so that they can sprout. I was hoping to have them in by now, but I didn't get to it before the rain. Now we will definitely need a few days of warms and sunshine. I have lettuce and chard and beets ready to go into the ground. Also onions and parsley. I would really like to get things moving, but again, it is going to have to wait for some sunshine and perhaps some breeziness. I am chomping at the bit. I don't have any room to plant new seeds and I can't move the others out.... The agony.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spring

Spring is here. I am pretty sure, anyway. I am looking down the weather forecast with lots of days above 45. That qualifies. And it will be even better. There are a lot of days above 55. OMG, so glad we are getting there. I know we will still have frosts and cold days, but the birds are on board now. There is a different morning chorus at the bus stop.

Tomorrow is "Spring Break Day" for academic staff, which I am lucky enough to be. So needed and so very much appreciated. I also have some leave time which I will be spending a chunk of next week with the SB. I figure I should take it while it is still available....Heaven knows what will happen in the longer term.

I went to the beekeepers meeting tonight and was both encouraged and saddened by the fact that LOTS of people lost hives this winter. My bee mentor (who rocks) thinks he may have lost all 20 of his (Yes, TWENTY). Which sucks. But I don't feel as bad about mine going. I have arranged for a pick up of the next package and I will only have to go a little west of Crozet to fetch them. I will spend the weekend cleaning the quarters and getting ready for the new tenants.

If the snow isn't off the garden beds by tomorrow afternoon, I am taking the hairdryer out there and finishing the job.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow!

I hope this is the "in like a lion" part of March. I also hope it gets up to 60 by the end of the week like they are saying it will. I really want to do some outdoor planting next week during "spring break". The SB will be home late Friday night. I have limited sitting obligations and I am looking forward to getting lots done. Which means that the snow needs to go ahead and melt. "Nice to see you, don't let the door hit you in the fanny on the way out" if you know what I mean....

Later this week I go to the Beekeepers meeting. I don't go to them often, but this is the beginning of the season, and I am hoping to find someone to share a trip to Culpepper to pick up some bees. I am happy to scam a car, but it would be nice to drive up there for more than just my own 3# package of bees - and avoid having anyone else have to drive up there as well... That would just be silly. I am looking forward to having the critters back in residence. I need to get my butt in gear and do some bee work to get set up. I think I am in pretty good shape, but I need to take the hive apart and clean it out. Also, to level the area where the bee hive is. It drives the SB kinda crazy that the hive is leaning a wee bit to starboard.

I also want to go explore the sheds at my Papa's farm and see what kind of fencing might be around. No sense in buying anything that might already be around looking to be useful.

Also, while he is home I must decide what to do about the vehicle. Well, I don't REALLY need to decide, but I hate hanging around with indecision. Nothing but bad company there.

No summer veggies seeds up as of this afternoon. It has been three whole days. If they aren't up by Friday I am going in after them.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Proceed

I haven't decided what to do about the car yet. I am ignoring it right now in hopes that the best decision will make itself clear. Right now, I am pretty clear that I don't want to spend $8,000 on a used car. When did they get so flippin' expensive?

I took the day off Friday. Thursday evening I moved the strawberry plants from the vegetable beds where they have been for a few years and into the blueberry beds. Hopefully that makes everything easier. It is inconvenient to have perennial stuff in annual beds. I fed all the transplants some Roots and hoping for some rain over the next few days.

I also planted a bunch of summer stuff Friday as well. Black plum paste tomatoes, a hot pepper mix from Burpee, San Marzano Paste tomatoes, fennel, best boy, marglobe and yellow pear tomatoes, AiQwa Ai Gua and Rosa Bianca eggplant, Italian Pesto and Eritrean Basil, Red Cherry and Hungarian Wax peppers, Cisineros Grande and Toma Verde tomatillo and Hill Country Heirloom Red Okra. It feels a little early, but my handy calendar says we are really only 8 or so weeks from last frost.

My onions and leeks are up, as is the parsley and lots of beets and kale and the lettuce is going great guns. I started to clean out one of the beds at the front of the house this morning with hopes of putting some greens in there for the summer, nice and close for quick salads and herbs.
Lettuce to the right side, baby ball beets in the middle and multicolor beets on the left.
The things to the left side that look different are the parsley plants. The rest are all onions, leeks, scallions etc....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kick 'em when they are down

So you expect that your day may not be all sunshine and roses when your mechanic calls and you say "how are you?", politely, and he answers "I'm fine, but you're not". Gulp. The almost manageable $400 jumped to $600-ish in a few short hours of investigation. Damn.

So it is looking more and more like the trusty Nissan is for the scrap heap. Or the parts yard. Someone is going to get a massively good deal on a starter (used only 7 or 8 times). Gah.

Anyway, I'll be looking for another vehicle and in the meantime, begging, borrowing or stealing transport. I don't think of myself as using my car much, but I guess I do...Clearly I do. There is milk to fetch and children to watch. But at least I can get to work without problems. THAT is a huge relief.

Anyway.... I guess it all works out one way or the other in the end. I bet I get kinda creative.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Direct Hit

So I guess we all though I had dodged a bullet last week with the starter on the car. Sunday morning I found a HUGE puddle of oil under the front end. Some mysterious gasket decided to blow only hours after I retrieved my car from the mechanic. Actually, not a huge surprise since it has been dripping for a while. But this repair will be even more expensive than the starter. Oof. BASTARD! Gah!

OK, move on.

I am still determined to have the ducks. I shall post a notice and take on more babysitting (temporarily of course) if necessary. My next steps are to come up with a suitable brooder for them. Ducklings need to stay warm, and they need to not be eaten by my cat, which is something that I definitely fear in the early stages. My cat has a taste for the soft bodied and helpless in the animal world.... Anything that is completely defenseless is on the top of the menu. I visited a lady that brooded ducks using a heating pad instead of a light. Which sort of makes sense to me, except I am a little more concerned about that catching fire than just having the light on.... Anyway, figuring that part out is next on the list of things to do. I am going to try to work something out over the weekend - just to keep the ball rolling. Then when the SB comes home for break we can work on the duck house and yard. I also ordered a new colony of bees for arrival in late March.

I had a really nice weekend. Full of friends and family, exercise, some volunteer work (sewing for the theater), errands completed, a bit of cooking done and some house cleaning. You know, sometimes it just all falls into place. No rush, no struggle, just things done along with some fun. Lovely. I made hamburger stroganoff and some chocolate coffee ice cream.

The seedlings are coming along... The beets and chard are a little leggy but I think they will be ok. The onions and lettuces look lovely. I have to figure out how to move some things out and get the summer stuff going. Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, etc. etc. Theoretically it is only 8 weeks until last frost as of Wednesday. But who is counting? Doesn't seem possible since we have single digit wind chills predicted for tonight.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Close call

It has been a crazy couple of weeks. Lots of kid sitting and cooking and getting ready for the SB and friend to come to the Urban Farm. Then a weekend full of friends together in remembrance. Then the leaving of the SB, which takes many many hours. And then back to work, sitting, a surprise late meeting.... All this without my trusty vehicle. I THOUGHT it was totally shot. I THOUGHT I was in the market for a new set of wheels (well, not NEW, but new to me). Then, after standing in the rain and waiting for the tow truck and nibbling away my fingernails and searching craigslist for cars that I cannot afford, my mechanic called to tell me that it was the starter. So the $268.50 I spent seemed like a total bargain in comparison with the cheapest vehicles available. Had I needed a new car, I think I might have had to delay the farm animals.

The farming thing is freakin' expensive!
Fruit trees, seeds, bees, fencing, ducks and duck housing....

Then fabric/notions for the duck costumes, custom curtains for the duck house, pool maintenance, etc. etc. Of course, my duck costumes will have a more eastern flair, they being Indian Runner Ducks and all. And maybe Vintage Hollywood for the evening drinks around the pool. Ah, but those decisions are for later in the summer.

But the SB and I figured out that we spent $85 on all the appliances in our house... That includes the stove, dishwasher, fridge, washer/dryer, microwave, toaster oven and upright freezer. So I guess it all works out in the end.