Friday, December 31, 2010

Break

I think this is the longest break from work I have taken in years... Off a half day on the 22nd, back to work on the 3rd and only a half day in the office in between. Sheer freakin' bliss.

On the 28th I made cheese with my neighbor. She had The Cheese Kit. I had done this with the food crafting girls a while back, but since it was a while ago, it was like starting all over. Except that I also tried some cheddar. You inoculate the slightly warmed milk the night before with some yogurt or buttermilk and let it sit at room temp. By morning it was certainly thicker than regular milk. I walked it over to the neighbors as we were doing this in her fabulous kitchen. Then you add the rennet and let the milk sit for an hour. Which we did. Only we used my rennet which had apparently lost its kick. So the first 30 minutes nothing happened. We added new rennet and 60 minutes later we had a lovely curd - lesson learned, keep your rennet in the freezer. (We were doing other things along the way, making mozzarella, drinking tea and eating home made toast). The curds were cut into tiny squares, then stirred gently for 15 minutes while the whole thing was held between 90-100 degrees. The whey was drained off, and the curds were put into a clean cloth fitted into a clean tomato can with both ends cut out. I then took this home and placed one of the can ends on the top of the cheese which was on top of my cooling rack. On top of the can I put a smaller can (tuna, full and unopened) and and a couple of fat cookbooks (the Joy, and 1000 Chinese Recipes). We pressed it overnight on the counter and then wrapped it in fresh cloth and stuck it in the fridge where it will hang for a week or two until it forms a rind (which appears to be happening) then I am supposed to put cheese wax on it. But I will probably eat it instead.

We went to dinner at our other neighbors house. Cold roast beef, roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts and Christmas pudding with hard sauce. Yum.

I went shopping with Cho to the new fabric store. All I could do was think that those lovely upholstery fabrics would look great in the garden pavilion. Or the goat barn.

I walked to the Tea House with my chummy and had a pot of tea.

I made goat stew from the Frugal Gourmet. I messed with the recipe.

I made no knead bread. And messed with the recipe (adding 1/2 cup oatmeal and a bit of wheat germ to tone down all the whiteness) and had success.

I got a comment on my blog from the MENews people regarding my dissing of the garden planner. I was corrected.

I moved heavy things.

I saw an owl fly through our backyard.

We worked on the garden pavilion and goat barn plans. We made a model of the goat barn in cardboard.

See how much fun I am when I don't work? Someone should buy me out so I can be a stay-at-home homesteader and blog about it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post Christmas Post

Now that the gifts have been delivered and opened, I can tell you what I have been working on...

Chai spice concentrate for tea (or coffee) from here. Modified, of course. I like my spices a little stronger than what I got from the original recipe, and a little spicier. What I miss from my own chai is the warm fragrant fresh ginger. I may continue to work with this and see if I can sneak that in without making it chunky/funky.... All in all, I think it was pretty successful. I'll be taking some to work for afternoon tea, since we don't have real milk there and I don't do caffeinated tea without some kind of milk. Non dairy creamer does not merit consideration.

Mocha hazelnut biscotti - from a modified recipe in Sweet Maria's Italian Cookie Tray. The straight up recipe is for chocolate biscotti, and it couldn't be easier. The nuts make it a little tricky as things tend to want to fall apart a little more, but... All worth it. I think this was a great success. The biscotti are crunchy, not too hard and not too sweet. Basically Sweet Maria's recipe with tiny bits of chocolate, finely ground coffee and bits of toasted hazelnut. Yum.

So here is my question, is it bad to put recipes from books on the blog? I don't know.... and I don't know why this has just occurred to me that it might not be all together on the up and up....Advice please!

Cranberry Apple Bread - this is my holiday standby. I make small loaves of this for neighbors and friends and lots for the house here. The recipe (Dutch apple bread with cranberries, I actually haven't messed with this much) is from A World of Breads which I love and am sure I have told you about before. It is from the time before "artisan" baking was what people talked about. It goes through about a million recipes for all kinds of yummy breads, including multiple recipes for cornbread, biscuits, etc. If you want to be an artisan bread baker, make them all and figure out what makes those recipes tick. You don't need pretty pictures for that - and you won't find no pretty pictures in that book. It is one of my most used cookbooks along with the Joy of Cooking.

The ducks spent the holiday at work. I put them into the garden to hunt for anything that might be chillin' beneath the leaves for winter. They really take a long time to warm up to these tasks so I figured I had better keep them in condition for the upcoming spring thaw. I did a trial subscription to the Mother Earth News Garden Planner. I am not impressed. It doesn't allow you to modify for vertical gardening or mixed plantings (like lettuce beneath the okra). So I would say it might be good for folks who like to row plant, but for me, well, I am just a little more free form than all that. It would be nice to have actual plans from past gardens, but I think I can live without that. Gardens are something like theater, once it is gone it is gone and the memories are all you have, other than the friendships forged in the sharing of them.

The SB and I spent the day on the FUF thrashing through the design of our garden pavilion. It will be awesome if it comes to fruition. Rilly. In preparation for the pavilion we moved a tree/shrub (Carolina Silverbell) and planted some winter berry hollies, so in future, we hope to have us some of this.

I have more days off, Woot!, and hope to get lots of organizing, straightening and cleaning done around the house. Unfortunately, I am being distracted by the internets....

Friday, December 24, 2010

What I love about winter

As you know, winter arrived with a bang this year which included a total eclipse of the moon in the wee hours of the AM. I am lucky enough to have the SB up at wee hours so he woke me when the time was right for me to see the most in the shortest amount of time. And I didn't even have to get out of bed. THAT is my idea of stargazing. The only disappointment about the arrival of winter was that it had felt for at least a month or so like it already was winter. The Season of Smartwool started a while back. I rejoice now if we get above 40 during the day.

So in the spirit of embracing the uncomfortable and demoralizing things you cannot change, I will make a list (for SHG) about the things that I really love about winter. It will be short but heart felt.

1. I can use the back porch as an auxiliary freezer.
2. I get to wear my favorite winter hat.
3. Give me a minute, I'm thinkin' I'm thinkin'......
4. No mosquitoes.
5. Time for indoor work (at least in theory). (I have made a few stabs at a garden apron for myself made from a linen dress that was falling apart. So far so good)

I hope you have planned a lovely holiday with family and friends and lots of time for the things that make you happy. Here at the Future Urban Farm, we will fill our days much as we always do with planning.

Happy vacation to those of you lucky enough to have it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tea and garden dreaming

I found this recipe earlier this week. I have been tilting at windmills when it comes to chai. I have tried much and hadn't found anything I liked. The NYT recipe was obscenely simple. So of course I had to complicate it....

I knew the tea I was using (something from India brought to me by one of the residents I work with) wasn't going to produce a strong enough brew in the time given. So I used 5 t. tea to 4 (ish) cups water. I added 3 cardamom pods (crushed/chopped), 4 slices of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, about 4 cloves and a few red pepper flakes and about 1 1/2 T. sugar. I added 3/4 c. milk cuz I like it milky. I actually simmered per the directions. Shocking. It turned out pretty well. I drank it all and now have a total caffeine buzz. The brew wasn't perfect, but definitely on the right track. It wasn't quite as rich as I would like. I think I will try simmering the spices first for a few minutes then adding the tea. I would like to avoid the over brewed tea bitterness but get more from the spices. A bit more milk might help as well.

And because currently, everything relates to the garden, I am thinking of growing some bergamot for my own tea flavoring, which could be a nice little addition. Renee's is also selling seed for hibiscus for tea, which could be great as well (and while you are there, check out some of the spectacular lavender varieties, not to mention some golden beets, a trio of melons, and other fancy stuff). I have many many plans for the coming year. If 30% of them come to fruition, it will be a bloody miracle.

One of them includes selling off my extra seedlings - probably cheap since I just need to pay for my habit.... I LOVE starting seeds and even with our big garden, I can start WAY more than I need in the basement. Shoot me an email if you want to be on the list for leftovers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Season

We have crossed from the Season of Frost to the Season of Smartwool. And seeing as my smartwool is still languishing in a trunk somewhere I am officially and seasonally appropriately freezing my ass off. Big leaky house + temps only in the 30s during the day x one week = supercranky.

I think the last several nights have done in the last of the veggies. Except I hope the rest of the carrots are OK. I have pictures of the last harvest, but the SB has to send them to me as he downloaded them. I will post. We will see if anything recuperates come springtime.

The last few nights I have fallen asleep planning my spring/summer vegetable beds. Last night the last thing I remember was trying to decide if I needed one or two kinds of marigolds.

I was at an office party last week and started talking veggie gardens with another woman. The rest of the group began to drain away as we went on and on about how therapeutic gardening is, how rewarding, the triumph and heart break, the back breaking work, the absurd and slightly embarrassing joy of the perfect pumpkin, etc, etc. Eventually we changed topics and other people decided they could be around us once again. (I can't blame them, I would have done the same if others started talking sports or prime time TV.)

These instances are how I know that I am totally and completely obsessed. I have become one of THOSE people. (woot!)

I got my first gardening catalog in the mail today. I am marking pages, veggies, varieties, etc. This will go on through January. By then I have pretty much marked everything and I have to start over, which is fine - I am pretty easily entertained. SESE has a great planting guide in the catalog and posted on the main website as a pdf. Invaluable if you live in Virginia.

I just read about sorrel here, which reminded me that I want some of that too. Along with rhubarb and horseradish.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thither and Yon

I have been over here. Doin' stuff.

A quick Saturday AM post. In the garden still some carrots, kale, arugula, parsley and lots of cabbage. Hopefully cabbage goes lactic this weekend.

Ducks are good, though they have essentially stopped laying. Slackers.

Planning for the spring garden. The goat barn/pen. The out buildings and a possible greenhouse in the not too near future.

Got some greenhouse plastic to do some early cropping in the garden. Can't wait to order seeds though I need nothing. Except carrots. And long beans. And corn. And spinach.

We are considering moving our asparagus to dryer locations as it has yet to produce for us (in 10 years). Must be the high water table there. I am on the look out for some perennial veg to add to the landscape, anyone have extra rhubarb or horseradish?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gumbo

How is it that I have made it this far in my cooking career without ever making gumbo? Somehow it seems to have been so, but that all came to an end today. I found this recipe on the Internets and then, go figure, winged it. I decided on gumbo because of all the okra in the freezer. That stuff has got to go someplace and there is little that I think to put okra in... First of all, I used bacon fat since I had some. A couple tablespoons full and added a chopped onion, two ribs of celery, half a carrot, one roasted red pepper and a couple of small hot and sweet peppers. I sauteed those for a bit in the fat and waited until the juices evaporated and the veggies were relatively dry. Then I added a couple tablespoonfuls of flour and sauteed that for a while til it got a little brown. Then I started adding hot stock a little at a time. When it got kind of broth-y, I added a bay leaf, some cooked chicken and some sausage slices. Then some frozen summer tomatoes and then a potato because it was on the counter and otherwise in my way. Then I chopped up some of the okra from the freezer. Salt. Pepper. YUM. It is going to be super tasty over rice. I think that is its job.

I also made some bolognese. We are gonna do some good eatin' this week.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

As Expected

Ok, so I am not the new hot blog in Turkey. I can accept that.

Planted the garlic this weekend. We did some other transplanting in the yard and garden. I made bread. And finally effing finished the green tomatoes. The bowl of peppers remains on the counter. I must have frozen gallons of hot peppers this year. I guess my next bit thing will be chili.

The time change has kicked my butt.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

OK Fess Up

I don't know about you, but I like to look at my blog stats. I mean, I know YOU can't look at MY blog stats, but maybe you can monitor your own. In the last week, I have apparently become very popular (I mean this in a relative way) and let's just say a large percentage of my page views have come from the Netherlands, Japan and Turkey. The SB, being the raging optimist that he is, says that it is probably drone computers trying to hack into something. Actually, I AM a raging optimist and I can't really figure out any other reason why I might be getting page views from around the world. Of course, I would be flattered if the folks in the Netherlands, Japan and Turkey wanted to pop in and peruse my garden hints, check in on the ducks and live vicariously through me living vicariously through other bloggers. But somehow, I doubt that is what is happening.

So, if you are reading, and you are outside the US of A, please leave a comment and tell me what you think. Of course, if you are IN the US of A, you are welcome to comment as well. We love us some comments at the old urban farm.

In other news, we continue to close in on some kind of architectural solution to the problem of housing two tiny goats on 1.49 acres. At this rate, we should be good to go for spring. 2014.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Season of Frost

The Season of Frost is that period of late fall where the frost is killing, but the days are warm and the air is clear and you can use the back porch as a cooler. (Of course, I just made this up b/c it sounds good to me for it to have a name) The season of frost will end with the first snow or the days that don't get above 45. The season that follows is called the Season of Smartwool. Anywhoo, I knew the season of frost had begun by the first hard-ish frost and the very recognizable "ping" that heralds the cracking of my teacup when it is filled with hot water. Despite the fact that this pretty much happens every year, I still don't learn. We are down to exactly two coffee cups.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More Debriefing

As you know, I am enthralled with vegetable varieties. Why have 3 varieties of tomatoes when 12 will be better? Just one type of beet? Why bother?

I actually let my guard down this spring. I planted (at least) two varieties of tomatillos. Once called Verde that I had last year, and one called Everona Large. I got these because they grow well at Everona Dairy, and that is so near by. And I love their cheese. Turns out, I got so excited about the sturdy Everona tomatillo plants that I didn't have room for the Verdes. Now, over the past few years, regardless of weather, I have had tomatillos leaping out of the garden from June to frost. My freezer is full of tomatillo sauce. This year? Large sturdy plants with many blooms and almost no fruit. It was actually, worse than nothing. Several fruits at a time, with weeks between, so they basically all went to waste as there were never enough to do anything with.... I would have preferred a swift death by wilt as then I would have ripped the plants out and replaced them. Had I been my usual self, I would be able to compare the Verde and the Everona and I would know if it was the new variety or some oddity of the climate, soil, garden action, etc. I fertilized this year, and "they" say tomatillos like poor soil. It was unspeakably dry and hot. But one would think they would prefer such conditions as the tomatoes and peppers were fantastic.

This is EXACTLY the reason for multiple varieties.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One of Many

I have about 10 posts swirling around in my brain right now. Most of them revolving around debriefing after the summer garden. On a normal day, I would do a list (for SHG) but today, no. I will have one ode to the forgotten garden item. The one I am sorely missing now that the weather has turned cool an it is time for soups. And that item...

Leeks.

The past several years I have started the leeks early. Ridiculously, absurdly, unreasonably early. I put the seeds in the dirt in January. They are ready to plant out early in March. Then they are still small as the weather warms. You can eat them, certainly, but they are quite onion-y. None of the subtle sweetness. And small. Hardly-worth-it-for-heavens-sake-just-buy-a-scallion. So I would leave them in the garden, growing along until fall, when they would look fat and lovely and be mild and delicious. Especially after the frosts. I would have leeks through Thanksgiving. I mulched them heavily to try to prevent the splitting from the outsides freezing, but then they would get a little slimey. None the worse though if you pulled off the outer leaves.

This year, THIS year I thought I would get clever and put off the planting of leeks until mid summer. They take 120 days, and since you want the growth to all happen before the last frost, you have to count back 4 months from October 15, which would be....um, right June 15. Which is precisely when the rest of the garden is packed with other goods. So this year, not only did I forget to start the little beggers in May/June, I wouldn't have had any space if I had. Poor planning indeed. And the price is no lovely leeks for soup or smashed potatoes. Dag. I miss those critters.

Frankly, I have never done the onion thing well, but I have muddled through with the leeks. I'll have to not think too much about it for next year. Thinking seems to be where I really get myself in trouble.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Winner

I made a batch of Farm Girl Susan's No Sugar Green Tomato Relish last night. It was simple. No peeling, only rough chopping, and long simmering. She hits it with an immersion blender at the end, but I just used a potato masher for a chunkier sauce. I think I will add more heat though, even with the 4 jalapenos called for, the heat factor is only about at 3 of 10, though I should probably taste it again after an overnight sit before I make my final determination.

I put it in bags to freeze since I was too disorganized to get the canning together last night. Heading down to make another batch now. It will be a good stand in for tomatillo salsa. And with more pepper and cilantro added would be chimichuri-ish and fabulous with grilled meats. This is such a boon with all the green tomatoes!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Birds

This morning is spectacularly gorgeous. Bright and clear with a definite bite of cold. There are birds everywhere out there. I don't just mean the ducks who are splashing happily in the creek and exploring the property next door. Song birds are everywhere. They are flying around with purpose, but somehow also seem excitable. I am speculating that they are all doing errands for the imminent trip south for winter.

I am sure we had frost in the swale last night where the garden is. Good thing I harvested the peppers and what was left of the basil. Everything else out there can stand a nip of frost. I also brought in the green tomatoes. It was a remarkable harvest. Mostly for being so completely unexpected. It must be close to 2 gallons of peppers and at least that of tomatoes mostly green but some ripe-ish and some that will probably turn red with some stern words and warm sunlight. I am planning at least one and likely two batches of Farm Girl Susan's No Sugar Green Tomato Relish. I'll let you know how it goes. I may even end up canning some of it as the freezer is absurdly full.

This week I made my chicken tomatillo crock pot thing, and a big batch of beef stew. I have been craving warm sloppy stew-ish type things these days. Soon, it will be chicken soup. One of my favorite things on earth. When the real cold hits, I put the chicken on in the morning with all the stock bits that I have put in the freezer during the week, onion ends, parsley stems, etc. and cook the chicken until just done. I pull that out and let it cool. Then the I pick the chicken an throw the bones, skin, etc back in the stock and continue to add veggie bits as I go about whatever other cooking I am doing during the day. Then the stock gets strained and I throw in some fresh veggies (onion/carrot/celery) depending on the stock flavors, and maybe a few potato bits. Toss the dark meat back in, season with salt and pepper and ladle over wide egg noodles. The SB prefers the tiny thin noodles but he is often out voted on this.

I may even start some bread this weekend. Having the oven on would take the chill off. Too early for heat.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Slacker

Wow, I have totally been slacking off in the blog department. So, let's catch up with a list shall we?

1. Went to Reedville for a long weekend with some girlfriends and their small children at the end of September. It was lovely. The children were lovely. We had much fun with small children in the water, which is one of my favorite things. Children are exhausting, how does anyone have them 24/7?
2. It went from summer (90+ the weekend we were in Reedville) to in the span of about 14 days.
3. It went straight from socks required in the AM, to really-I-should-be-wearing-my-woolie- slippers-if-I-only-knew-where-to-find-them.
4. I have a wedding to go to today and nothing to wear. Shocking.
5. I am back to making cornbread every week and still searching for the perfect recipe. Feel free to hook me up if you have one that is not too dry and not too sweet.
6. We went to the urban goat keeping workshop. Wow. Those goats got some cute goin' on. We didn't get to stay for a lot of the hands on stuff b/c things started late and the SB and I both had evening obligations. Maybe spring on the goats.
7. The SB has taken on putting up the ducks at night most times. He volunteers as he is up much later than I and the ducks like to be out as much as possible. And we like that too as it makes for a less messy duck house.
8. The ducks are molting, and the production seems to be 1 or 3 eggs a day. Interestingly, rarely 2.
9. Work is busy.
10. Dark evenings mean that before long, we won't be working outside much in the evenings and I can start sewing again. Woot!
11. We have tons of spinach, chard, carrots, Chinese cabbage and very spicy arugula in the garden.
12. We will be planting the garlic soon.
13. An interesting article about Colony Collapse Disorder in bee populations.
14. A couple weeks ago something knocked my hive over. The SB called at work to give me the heads up. The bees were actually pretty cool about me coming to pick things up. It didn't look like anything had been rummaging around in the hive. I suspect it was a deer that crashed into it in the middle of the night. Those things are clumsy and their startle response is way over developed. I am just hoping the queen didn't get killed in the jostling and repositioning. I didn't look through the hive for her, I am not that good at finding queens as they pretty much look like every other freakin' bee in the place. Though my bee mentor (who rocks) would totally disagree.
15. I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I am well on my way to being "that crazy lady down the street". I just came in from letting the ducks out and I realize that I went outside (that would be appearing IN PUBLIC) in capri length yoga pants (grey), blue socks, black clogs, a maroon shirt and a purple and green anorak. Right. I would much prefer to be the crazy lady down the street in vintage patched Chanel jacket and 19th century granny boots with blue jeans. Maybe that is what I can aspire to for my golden years. So if anyone finds some old totally too far gone Chanel, send it my way, K?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Refresher Course

Check this out. Cuz some of us could use some remediation.

And while you are there, see some of the fabulous vintage stuff. Pure inspiration. Smashing.

That coat reminds me of the sew along going on over here. Had I more time and a functional sewing room, I would be AT IT. You go girls.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Seriously....

SOMEONE needs to do something about the rain situation. Clear fall days are all fine and good, but seriously. We haven't had more than an inch of rain since July. I am starting to think a hurricane would be just fine about now.

The garden is limping along. The long beans are pretty much done. The squash are just hanging out waiting for us to bring them in. I have arugula, chard, carrots, beets, broccoli raab, mustard greens and some lettuce. More chard and spinach on the way. The peppers are giving their last hurrah and producing like crazy. We are drying and freezing. The first tomatoes are pretty much done and there is a little more okra coming. A few cukes and summer squash. We have nearly lost our blueberries because I am an idiot and keep forgetting to water them. The old blueberry doesn't really wilt, it just starts to die - gah! I need some notice please!!!! I think we have saved them though harvest next spring will be totally hit or miss.

Please join me in a rain dance. Soonest.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

And Then There Were Ten

I had been thinking of posting for a while. You know what I mean - phrases, ideas, photo opps all piling up. It was going to be about how much I love the fall garden and how welcome the last two days have been weather-wise. The pulling of the blue jeans from storage the consideration of socks... though I haven't gone so far yet.

Unfortunately, this post is about the first loss in the duck flock. One of the little brown ducks was killed today by a raptor. We don't know what kind, maybe an immature eagle of some sort, apparently we have both bald and golden on the river only two blocks from the urban farm. I heard some ruckus outside, but it was brief. About a half hour later, I went out and the remaining flock was tightly huddled and staring at the bird that had just started eating the little brown duck. The bird flew away, and it had to be one of the largest I had ever seen. The duck was undeniably dead, which I admit was something of a relief. I herded the flock into their pen and closed them up tight. They were freaked, and kept staring across the creek at their dead companion.

I went inside for the SB. We found an old tee shirt relegated to the rag bag and made a little shroud for her. Then the SB brought out the maddock to dig a hole for her. There has been so little rain the ground is dry a foot down, which is about where we planted her. With a couple of large logs on top to deter the animals from excavating. Rest in peace little duck. Thank you for being with us and giving us so much pleasure and so many eggs. I know you had a pretty good duck life while it lasted. Lots of water time and friends and a comfy place to live and lots of grazing opportunities. You got the short end of the stick on the lesson learned and for that I am truly sorry.

On one hand, I am glad it was a raptor and not a dog or something that would have just killed the duck for fun. On the other, a raptor is a menace because it is so difficult to protect against. It could pretty much strike at any time that they are out. I am hoping this immature bird is on his way some place else. Since he didn't really get much of a chance to eat his prize, I am hoping he sees it as a lot of risk for not much reward.

He did come back later to tuck back in to his dinner, but the body was buried by then. He looked confused. Had that, "I know I left that thing here somewhere look" for a while. No kidding, he was standing on the ground and must have been 2 feet tall. Freaky.

He left the grass and flew to a low branch, I guess to get a better look at what was going on. That is when the blue jays found him. I have never much cared for blue jays, but today, I was totally cheering them on today. Those brave little birds were dive bombing that raptor. It was sitting there in a tree, and first there was one jay, calling and swooping, and then another joined in. Then a wood pecker came along, and another jay, and they were making such a racket and giving that bird so much grief, that he left. Flew off to some high place where blue jays don't follow. And I hope he stays there, though I heard him calling later in the afternoon.

Raise your glass to a happy little duck. And cross your fingers that this raptor doesn't make a habit of this.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On Projects

So this weekend was totally chock full of projects. Friday night we moved gravel (at 10 PM, to the delight of the neighbors no doubt) to install the second half of a patio under our 2nd story back porch. The first half went in about 4 years ago, so it was nice to get done. It is less perfect than the first half, but done is a beautiful thing.

Then we spent a big chunk of Saturday and Sunday cutting up and moving a bunch of cedar trees to turn them into fence posts and a goat shed. Luckily the weather was good. And luckily, I found this amazing recipe for cucumber agua fresca. I made something pretty similar. Anyway you do it is probably just as delicious. You really get the cucumber/melon connection when you make this. And it is refreshing as you could want on a hot day. Add lots of ice and serve it very very cold.

In addition to two truck loads of cedar posts we also brought home a hefty load of chiggers. Dammit.

Sunday I also picked up a bushel of peaches from one of our local orchards. Last night, half a bushel made their way into the freezer. All after a trip to Nelson County to pick up additional siding from the same batch we used for the duck house. We are swimming in building materials (much to the delight of our neighbors, no doubt).

On Monday, August 16 at 7PM, City Council will be considering the change in ordinance to allow for miniature goats in the city. Meghan, at the Goat Justice League has done an amazing job in putting this all together. I'll be attending the meeting and hopefully not speaking. If you want to be supportive, come out and be counted, or send an email to council at charlottesville dot org and let them know how you feel.

I have high hopes for a change in ordinance. I am trying to do research on goats as we consider our options and muster our financial resources.

Currently I am reading Goat Song. It is a really lovely book. After the first few chapters, the author lapses into a dairy diary he kept with info and musings. One of the things that totally resonates with me is the idea of caring for animals as meditation. It is habitual, ritualistic and directly deals with life and food and death and shit. I do find tending ducks to be something of a walking meditation. It is the same every day but also totally different. Delightful, heartbreaking, soothing and stressful.

Loving these guys. Great summer produce ideas and directions, can't wait to give it a try. Hopefully, I'll end up with enough jam or something to pass around. (much to the delight of the neighbors, no doubt)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Less Sweltering

Ok, so a lot happens in a week around here. And you know what that means....Yes! A list.

1. FAB.U.LOUS weekend weather. Cool overcast and not humid. Near heaven.
2. Potatoes harvested. Woot.
3. Ginger beer made from this recipe.
4. Dark and Stormy s made with above ginger beer and dark rum. It is the go to cocktail of the rest of the summer. Kill.Er.
5. The SB got three free truckloads of dirt. Woot! For projects. Woot!
6. Dried tomatoes are almost done. At least the first round. We have lots. Yay.
7. WTF?
8. I bought a set of popsicle forms. I am starting with iced tea/lemon/honey popsicles. I'll keep you posted.
9. I think La Michaicano has closed. Which blows.
10. I thought I had a sick duck last week. Blew a day of vacation running around looking for someone to give me antibiotics without dragging a duck into the vet. Luckily she got better on her own.
11. Trying to make mint ice cream.
12. I have some major freakin' welts on me. Chiggers? GAH!
13. Thinking of making white peach liqueur
14. We sheet mulched the garden paths with cardboard. At least some of them
15. Found a nice guy in the country who is happy to get rid of his old horse poop and will load it into the truck with a front end loader. Free. We are going back as much as possible while we have my Pop's truck.
16. Nice people rock and we met several this weekend.
17. Sometimes 2 gin and tonics and some bread pudding can count for dinner. It is O.K., especially when combined with good company.
18. There is no smell like the smell of tomato vines. Get out there and enjoy it while you can. Tomato season is WAY TOO SHORT.

Sheesh. So much. Want to know the back story on any of the above let me know. Too overwhelming to think about describing them all. Summer is some kinda busy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More sweltering

"They" say that there is a cold front coming through. Temperatures are going to plummet into the 90s. Brrrr. Pull out your parka's people, cuz it is gonna feel like winter compared with the last week. At this point, I am all for anything that isn't triple digits.

In honor of the coming cold snap, I planted some fall crops in the garden. I was drenched in sweat by the time I finished (before 9AM). Beets, chard, kale and carrots this time. I'll wait before heading down the lettuce, spinach, mache path. Still a few more of my favorite varieties to plant. Italian Silver Rib and Scarlet Charlotte Chard. The silver rib overwinters amazingly well and is mild and sweet, and the Scarlet Charlotte is just so beautiful. In the cold, the red ribs turn into a palette of luminescent red, magenta and tomato colors.

My green grape tomatoes have started to come in. The are most definitely an interesting tomato. They are very sweet, really like eating grapes. Odd. Nice for a change, but it wouldn't be the only thing I would grow. But then again, you know I don't roll that way, right? If I don't have half a dozen types, it ain't worth doin'.

My experimentation has really bitten me in the butt on (at least) one item. I ordered this variety of tomatillo for the large fruits. I don't know if it is that our soil is too good or that I have been watering them, but the production is TERRIBLE. I had a teeny flush early in the year and since then almost nothing. Last year I stuffed our freezer full of tomatillo sauce and we use it for cooking chicken or pork in the crock pot. I thought these would be great, as the EVERONA dairy isn't so far from here. This year I have had enough only for a couple small batches of salsa. This just goes to show you that you can never put all your eggs in one basket. I started a tried and true variety "Verde" but never got around to putting them in. In all fairness, the ones that have popped up willy nilly around the compost heap aren't really producing either, so maybe just a bad year. I'll have to try multiple varieties next year.

I am really wondering what is happening in the beehive right now. It is too stinkin' hot to put on the bee suit and check it out, though I know I have to. The bees have been all over the corn tassels. Which makes me think they are hungry. I need to find out now if I should start feeding the little buggers. Which I will if we don't get some rain and blooms here soon.

Also, today I think the SB and I are making ginger beer. I'll make him take photos.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer

What ever happened to the carefree days of summer? This is not a rhetorical question. I remember getting bored in the summer. Granted, that was 30 years ago, but still. I would like a little of that back please.

With the weather, we have been running around watering and trying to keep the garden alive. No real rain in weeks. None in the forecast. And temps predicted to be around 100 this weekend. It stinks. Big time.

We are getting lots of tomatoes, the Principe Borghese - the drying tomatoes.... We are doing a couple batches a week. And using the extra space in the dryer for summer squash. I am glad to make use of the dryer I bought at a yard sale ($3), but it does heat the house up.

I have started the fall cole crops and some onions. Some of it may be too late, but you can't win them all. I need to do some direct seeding in the garden this weekend. Beets, carrots, kale, chard, etc. Seems absurd with the heat, but there you go.

Watch these guys. Making headway on the sustainability/coolness front here in C'ville. Don't get too excited, but the SB actually brought up the idea of having a goat on The Urban Farm. And actually, since goats are herd animals, a couple of goats. So I am thinking about Nigerian Dwarfs. They can be milked you know. Quart of milk a day, anyone? This is definitely on the longer range plan. First we need a tool shed. We need to finish the duck house roof. We need more garden architecture. And to fix the porch. When that is done we can start thinking about a goat house/milking area/fencing.

A picture of the garden in summer
And of the bean trellis by the duck house
And the snake that visited the duck house a couple weeks ago
Just f yer i, this is not a feed bag. It is one of those bags you buy stuff by the pound in... just so you don't think we have a python in the area or something.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Famous

The ducks are famous. Here they are, photographed by a real photographer. That isn't me behind them though. That is one of our neighbors.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Home Improvement

The SB and I embarked on a couple of projects this afternoon. He was re-pointing some bricks on the basement exterior wall and I got to pull staples and scrape the paint off the old screen door. It made me nostalgic for the days when we were renovating the house and I was either freezing cold or broiling hot and had the dust of paint/sheet rock/dirt of ages rubbed into my skin.

This time, I got off pretty easy. The paint chips were flying, but I didn't get any in my eyes (thanks to the safety glasses) nor in my underwear. The brassier was a different story, but manageable given all the other near misses.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Winging it

So we (i.e. the SB) decided that it actually is too hot to work in the yard. Even at 8:30 in the evening. The benefits of 100 degree heat. I knew there had to be some. So I caught up on a little blog reading and decided to do another post. Two in the same week. You can thank me later, cuz I know this stuff is R.I.V.E.T.I.N.G.

As you may know, I love to grow some potatoes. As you also may know, seed potatoes are absurdly expensive. So for the past few years, I have been saving my own. Yay me. Last year, in addition to the spuds I had saved for seed, a bunch of our La Ratte spuds sprouted in storage. For the record, they don't really store for crap in less than ideal circumstances. So we had LOTS for planting. So many, that I had leftovers even after giving away a bunch to SHG (for her excellent housemate) and Tay of Tuesday fame. Rilly, I mean a LOT. The long and the short of it was that we didn't get a chance to plant them all. The leftovers have more or less been sitting around in the way since, oh, maybe April. I was going to throw them out, but the SB insisted we try to plant them. So we hastily dug a "bed" where one of the future garden beds will be, added a little compost and fertilizer and some very dehydrated, very unrecognizable potatoes. Today (though we did the digging yesterday. When it was just about as hot.) In case you aren't a gardener, this is totally non standard practice. Potatoes are planted on St. Patrick's Day. Or as close to there as possible. We are not very close to St. Patrick's Day. But if we get anything at all, perhaps we will be that much ahead since we had to dig that bit anyway. We shall see. The moral of the story is don't hoard your potatoes. Eat them early while they are still firm and delicious.

We are eating tons of them. Cold boiled potatoes with smoked salmon. Tonight maybe with some tuna/white bean salad and green beans and boiled duck eggs. A sort of modified salad nicoise.

Edited to add:
OK, dinner was delicious.

On the unorthodox subject, I also played fast and loose with the bees. I checked on them a couple weekends ago and they had totally filled their honey super (woot!) and so I decided to put another on. Of course, because I was in a rush, I didn't put new starters in 4 of the frames. I left the edges where I had cut out the comb over a year ago, which had been totally cleaned, and then alternated the starter and non starter frames in hopes that the bees would do some mind reading and fill in the frames instead of building comb willy nilly all over the place. I'll keep you posted on that. I am pretty much the laziest beekeeper ever. Whatever happens, I can deal, even if it means just yanking it all out and melting it down. I suspect what is going to happen is that with this dry hot weather, honey production is going to come to a screeching halt so there likely won't be any issue at all. I do need to pop out there and check though and see what is going on. To be honest, I don't really like this hive. I think that my last hive spoiled me with their docile personality. These are a little more, well, impatient. Not so much what you need as a beginning keeper.

I have become a fan of the asparagus bean. These babies take a while to get rolling (75 days as opposed to 50-60), and you definitely need something for them to grow up, but I am right now getting about a half a pound of beans a day. No sign of slowing down, despite the heat. We trellised them up a bamboo grid we put against the duck yard in hopes of providing shade for the ducks during the hottest part of the day. It doesn't provide as much shade as I was hoping for, but it is definitely giving it a go. It being right outside the door, the ducks have paid a little attention to the beans, but luckily after they got established, so no harm done with a few lost leaves. We lost much more to the munching rabbit than the nibbling ducks.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sweltering

We are in the midst of a(nother) sweltering week. We had a delightful 3 day respite a few days ago where I actually had a chance to wear a long sleeved shirt (woot!) one evening. Now it is predicted to be in the upper nineties for another 5 days or so. Which would be fine, except that there is no rain predicted to go along with the heat, so it means we will be racing around watering things to try to keep them going until someone does something about the weather. Just sayin'. The SB is taking matters into his own hands and is making a watering grid for the garden. At some point, we will have a grid for each of our beds and we will be able to just turn the water on, grab a beer and not have to mess with hoses, etc. That will be very close to heaven.

Have I mentioned that my fall garden was SO. MUCH. BETTER. than my summer one? I did get the first teeny tomato. Hal a freakin luja. Only one cuke so far, and there is NO excuse for that. No zucchini....WTF? Lots of yard long beans. A bunny has been eating the beans in the Three Sisters quadrant of the garden. Cute, but so bad. I pulled the rest of the teeny beets and made borscht. I just yanked the mustard as it wasn't going anywhere good. Dug some more potatoes, but only what we need over the next week or so. Yes, you can pat me on the head for not doing them all. Cuz then where would I put them? That was the problem last year. Don't say you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

In exciting farm news.... we had a black snake in the duck house Saturday. Hopefully the removal of the snake from the duck house was scary enough for the snake to deter him from trying that again. It sure didn't do much for the SB. I feel lucky that I noticed him in there cuz if I hadn't, I might have locked everyone in together by accident. It would have been a looooong night.

I thought one of the ducks was getting broody. She was hanging out on a nest and making nesting motions (pulling straw up around her, etc.) But as soon as it got hot she abandoned the task and went swimming. Youth. Maybe next year she will have more of an attention span. It would be nice to have a duck to raise ducklings. Kind of a pain to DIY that project.

Remarkably, it is time to start the fall crops. Hard to think about in this heat, but time none the less. I think I am going to wait for this weekend to put the stuff directly in the ground (carrots, beets, etc) and hopefully this week sometime get the inside stuff started, broccoli, fennel, brussels sprouts, leeks, etc. With luck the dry spell will break and we can get started on this fall thing.

Things I miss about winter.
1. turning on the oven.
2. wearing long sleeves
3. not getting sun stroke
4. no bugs
5. sleeping under blankets
6. you get the idea.

The benefit of summer
1. Tomatoes
2. Peaches
3. cold beer on the porch after hot work
4. The Market
5. A whole host of other things I will remember when it gets cold.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kitchen time

The SB headed out to do some work this afternoon, so I spent the alone time cleaning out the fridge and making one hell of a mess in the kitchen. There was much that needed catching up on. But now, we have a nice clean fridge and LOTs of yummies for the coming week.

Cold corn soup. Refreshing and super simple.
Coleslaw, no real recipe, just the quarter head of cabbage, a little grated onion, a grated carrot and some sour cream, a splash of vinegar, salt and pepper. Mmm.
Chicken salad (actually made this AM before the SB headed out).
Beets, from the garden and simmered until done.
Fruit salad with all the bits of stuff that needed using up. Cantaloupe, watermelon and mango.
Yogurt.
Tomatillo salsa. Tomatillos, pickled pepper, a little onion, garlic and cilantro, salt and pepper. Whirred in the cuisinart. It is gonna be hot. Those pickled peppers from last summer are pretty fire-y.

With all that cooking I had to turn the AC on for a while. It is pretty stinkin' hot out there. The cat, came in panting and laid in front of the fan. I feel fortunate that the ducks don't know about that option.

Then I cleaned everything up. Then I had a nap.

Unfortunately the SB took the camera with him. No photos. I know you are surprised.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wow

It has been a wild couple of weeks here... Mostly work related. My schedule ebbs and flows with the coming and going of the new physicians. The first half of June is most definitely a flow. No complaints, it is all good stuff, just lots all at once. The welcoming of new friends and sending off of old ones coincide and make things a teeny bit easier.

I have a bunch of posts that have been swirling around in my brain, but I can conjure none of them at the moment. So we will have a list.

1. Flea beetles totally suck.
2. I am excited about the tomatoes.
3. The ducks have cut back to 6 eggs a day. No complaints, nine is a lot.
4. We got our garden sink installed. Woot! Pictures WILL follow, but the SB has the camera.
5. Our asparagus beans are finally starting to bloom.
6. I really need to do something with the bees.
7. We are growing corn beans and squash. Can't wait to see if it works.
8. We put in a new bed on one side of the house. All the orphan tomatoes ended up there. Don't know if they will do anything or not, but at least they aren't suffering in their tiny six packs anymore.
9. We have tons of Thai basil.
10. I made my first batch of rural salad, cheating only a little with some of the tomatoes
11. Peaches. Need I say more?
12. BIG ASS STORM yesterday.
13. BAS (#12) resulted in me being out of work most of the day b/c the hospital didn't have all its power back. Surprise long-ish weekend. Yay me!
14. Delightful gathering at the Urban Farm last night sans power (due to BAS) but with friends and lots of good food. Love me some dark nights. Without power (i.e. fan) I was able to enjoy many many hours of the darkness since I was up all night sweating.
15. I made potato salad from the fingerling potatoes and used boiled duck eggs .... Thanks to the Diner for telling me that the info about boiled duck eggs being rubbery doesn't hold up... Pretty delicious.
16. I had to restrain myself from digging all the potatoes. You know I love to dig me some potatoes.
17. The cukes can just go ahead and start producing any time now. Ditto peppers.
18. Very close to starting some of the fall crops. They will go in where the garlic came out. Garlic harvest was somewhat disappointing, but can't complain too much. It was a very rough and very wet winter for them.

OK, hopefully I will be able to post something other than a list soon. Maybe even pictures.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Inspiration

I hope to get a copy of the book mentioned here. This post is a good reminder. I am off to DIY, as soon as I check in on a few blogs....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Where to start?

I had a few days off before the holiday weekend. I planned to do all kinds of house and garden work and multiple blog posts. As usual, the list was longer than the vacation...

Where should I start....
The two frogs, courtesy of The Bad Cat on the doorstep? Only one entirely dead. No, let us not start there.

The 3.5 inches of rain Friday night (in two hours) causing basement flooding? No, that really isn't a good place either.

The three nights of babysitting? While. On. Vacation. No. Not there.

I did have a very nice wedding luncheon to attend for some of my coworkers who were just married. They are Indian, so we met at Royal Indian. Yes. That is the place to start though it was in the middle of the vacation.... I really MUST recommend the eggplant. Spicy and delicious.

I washed a ton of sweaters. The Switching of the Clothes is one of the most dreaded of tasks. At least the winter to summer side.... I hate the washing and hanging of sweaters and I procrastinate. So even things unworn need to be frozen (48 hours kills moth larvae) before storage.

I hung out my laundry on the porch. (I *heart* Starr Hill Girl who always hangs her laundry). Because I have a drying rack and not a line, I compromise by hanging the bigger stuff (towels and shirts and pants) and drying the smaller stuff (underwear and socks). It works for me - hanging small stuff seems more trouble than it is worth. Of 5 loads of laundry I dry only one. Yay me.

We continued to work on the corn, beans, and squash planting. We ordered a "kit" from SSE. We are planting about 20 hills of 4 corn plants and 4 bean plants and then interspersing this with hills of squash (actually pumpkins, but who can tell the difference, I mean, really?) We will improvise on some of it as we will run out of bean seeds and it would be nice to have a variety of squashes. This is the planting that is occupying the new ground in the garden. It is a good compromise, as we only have to dig mounds and not the whole thing.

My garlic is looking AWFUL. Too wet this year. Hopefully I will get some good storage worthy bulbs. Right now, things are moldy, though if you peel the outer layer, the insides are fine. I am trying not to panic.

We have some potato wilt. The La Ratte potatoes seem to be the first to succumb. We have eaten some tiny ones already, but they are dropping like flies. Luckily, the smaller beds look very healthy and happy. No solanaceae for the infected beds for a veeeeeeery long time. Dammit.

I have fallen head over heels in love with my tomatoes. I know. They will probably succumb to wilt like the do every year. But for now, I could spend many contented hours staring at them and smelling the green tomato smell. Green Grape, Principe Bourgese, Winter Keeper, Yellow Pear, Pink German, Black Plum, San Marzano, Celebrity. Bring 'em on. A dozen plants aren't too many for two people, right? Remind me how much I love them if we are fortunate enough to be buried in tomatoes this summer.

The garden is pretty much in a holding pattern. The greens have been harvested and frozen, the potatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplant and garlic aren't ready. The squash and cukes and beans are really just getting their footing. The herbs are the only thing producing. And remarkably, despite the heat, I still have some lettuce.

I am plotting for the fall garden though.... garlic, leeks and onions to replace the potatoes. Cabbage, broccoli and brussells sprouts, carrots and beets to replace the garlic. Greens to transplant out as the okra and tomatoes and peppers begin to fade.

I also cleaned the bedroom. That took days.

I took some pictures, but the SB stole them. I will see if I can get him to send them to me. They were of our most adorable bean trellis, which will soon be providing shade for the duck yard. Woven bamboo. Sweet. And Free (even better - thanks Cho!)

The bees seem happy and active, and I am wondering if I am missing out by not having a second super on the hive. Must. Find. Out. Soon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pull up a chair

And check 'em out.

Makes me wanna run out to the thrift store.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I know you are wondering

It keeps you up at night, doesn't it? The fact that I rarely post photos... I know. It probably keeps you from coming back too, doesn't it.... Sigh. The truth is that my card reader makes the old computer crash now. The SB set me up with his old laptop and a very nice flat screen, keyboard and mouse. So I am totally set. Except when you upgrade, you have to leave some things behind. Unfortunately, the ancient card reader is it. Now, I am much too lazy and ill informed on such things to explore my other options. It isn't that I don't think about it, but let's be real, on a nice evening I am either outside or babysitting. If it isn't nice, I am inside catching up on blogs and wondering how it is that two people can create so much freakin' laundry.

So, that is why the pictures have come to a screeching halt. I don't know if the SB will allow me to use his camera. Certainly not without a LONG list of instructions, warnings and threats about what happens if anything befalls it while in my possession. Or if, God forbid, I should return it with the batteries low.... I ask you, is it worth it? *pause* The jury is still out.

As for the garden, I have planted tomatoes and peppers. I continue to battle the flea beetles with diatomacous earth and fertilizer to try to get them big enough that the holes don't matter. Neither is particularly effective, but perhaps a teeny bit better.

I tried two new recipes. Both from the New York Times. One, the White House Fruit and Oat bars and Asparagus Pesto. I only modified them a little bit. Adding nuts to the bars and subbing in some OJ for maple syrup. Those Obamas may not like sugar, but they sure like sweet. The asparagus pesto had some arugula added in. Cuz I had it and needed to do something with it.

The SB and I started using the second batch of guanciale. Talk about yummy. Two varieties of sugar cured and two of salt. This time the hog jowls were whole and the entire process was super duper easy. Not sure if we can squeeze in another round before the basement is too warm. I think not. But oh, now I am getting used to the home made deliciousness, it is going to be hard to give it up.

We have gotten into the time between things in the garden. I have put up some greens, chard, mustard and kale, and now am waiting for the other things to come along. The strawberries are doing well other than being struck by mold with all the rain on the ripe berries. But we are still getting enough for a few freezer bags full for smoothies and ice cream. Next is blueberries, though we had some snow damage and probably won't have a lot of extra of those. There is lettuce and some spinach getting ready to bolt. The potatoes are going gangbusters. Soon we should have basil. The beans are up. I am growing both the short and tall varieties. The tall ones will be climbing up the duck yard fencing to give the ducks some afternoon shade. We also have some cukes and squash in, those are coming along slowly.

We still have a huge part of the garden to dig and are looking for a tiller to borrow. If you know someone, hook me up. We don't normally use a tiller (preferring to incapacitate ourselves with hard labor), but with so much new ground to break, it would be too much to try to do by hand... At least if we have any hope of getting corn in this year...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Just go

If you haven't already, you must go. You must get in your car and find the most rural, gravel, unmaintained road within a 30 mile radius. But you have to be in Virginia. And if you have a convertible, that is even better. You must drive down the road as the air is cooling in the evening. You know the roads, they go over hill and dale through wood and field and between old barns and their houses. Go around the bend where the trees are, right where the seep comes through the rocks and dribbles under the road into the creek on the other side. And when you come out of the trees into the pasture road where the honeysuckle and the multiflora rose are blooming, you should drive slowly, so as not to kick up any dust. Because nothing should get in the way of the overwhelmingly decadent scent of the flowers. Take your time. The season doesn't last long. But if you miss it, you'll be waiting another year. And every year the roads are harder to find. And the barns fall down, and the creeks get put into concrete culverts. Really. What are you doing today anyway?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Roughly a billion

That would be the number of unfinished projects languishing directly in my way. All in various states of unfinished-ness, from "Really, why have I not hemmed those pants" to "Oh, yeah, I got that for a specific reason and now I don't remember what it was" .....

I am looking forward to a long weekend with possibly some rain to get me out of the yard and into the house for catch up chores.

The beans are up, and despite being in full view and access to the ducks, they have not yet been eaten. We are just crossin' our fingers here. The ducks do seem much more interested in finding beasties in the mulch than munching on the veggies, but it only takes a second to start a frenzy, and that my friends, is not a pretty sight....

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tomatoes

(written Sunday, but I forgot to post...)

So we finally got the tomatoes in. Just in time for the threatened frost which MUST be the last of the season. There is going to be some serious covering of things this afternoon. I don't have enough straw to cover the potatoes with fluffiness like I did last time, so I think I am going to have to resort to the Remay and sheets to keep the cold off of everything. It is a bit nerve wracking as all of the basil eggplants and potatoes are in the ground. No back ups. But I will cross fingers and hope for the best, which is all I ever really do anyway.

The wind has been fierce over the last day, that in combination with some serious dryness has made watering our A #1 priority lately.

I did go to Fifth Season and purchase some organic fertilizer. I have high hopes. We have this very lovely but very porous alluvial soil. Great for growing things except that all the soluble nutrients leach out of it pretty quickly. So I am making a concerted effort to add compost and some pelletized organic fertilizer every month or so. I'll keep you posted.

I have been struggling with flea beetles in the eggplant. My garden friend from work says sprinkle the eggplant with flour and when the beetles eat it they blow up. I also got some diatomaceous earth to cut the little critters to ribbons. Either way, I will be happy. I really just need to get them going, then the beetles won't be so critical, but here in these early stages, it is tough on a plant to have lace for leaves....

It was supposed to be bee day, but it is pretty windy and not so very warm.... If things go better, I'll be out there a bit later in the day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

About time

I put in three types of basil plants and three different kinds of eggplant this weekend. All raised from wee seeds. Eritrean, Italian and Thai basil and two Asian and one Italian type of eggplant. All seem to be settling in despite the fact that we didn't get the rain I was hoping for.... though the overcast skies were good enough to get them through the recent heat...

I still need to put out the peppers and figure out what to do with the tomatoes.... The strawberries are starting to turn red.... EEEP!

The ducks broke into the garden this afternoon when I wasn't looking. They don't usually squeeze through gates but some how the garden and its off limits-ness was irresistible. They didn't do any damage, though they did almost trample the transplants in their wandering. Luckily they were more interested in the straw than the strawberries. They walked right past the chard a number of times, contenting themselves with digging up the paths. It looks like machine gun fire has ripped through the pathways, but the greens and berries are currently safe.

Now that they know the earthly delights of garden , I am guessing they are going to do more of the gate squeezing when they think they can get away with it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sometimes

Because sometimes what you really need is ridiculousness.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Whirlwind

Things have been busy despite the fact that there isn't really anything going on. The grass is growing like crazy with the rain and cool nights. The seedlings are growing like crazy with the fertilizer and heating pads and 18 hours of light a day (we are working on hardening them off now). The first wave of tomatillos are in, with more to come. I have ripped out a bunch that reseeded from last year in the wrong place. The garlic is growing along. The strawberries are bursting out of their beds. The ducks are laying 9 eggs a day. I pulled out the bolting kale and rutabaga. We still have chard from last year. The potatoes are growing great guns. I can't wait to figure out what the hell I am gonna do with all the tomato seedlings that I have.

I had a jet set little trip to NYC, up on the train Saturday and back on the plane on Sunday. Less than 24 hours. Went up to fly back with a sick friend. All is well. My friend was staying in Chelsea and the train dropped me off mere blocks from the fabric district, so of course I had to shop. The big stores are totally overwhelming and a little too spendy for me. Who wants to ruin $120 worth of beautiful fabric? I found this great little hole in the wall shop where the China silk is $4/yard and the 60 inch linen? $5. I restrained myself but will be keeping that one on the books.

With the unexpected trip, I didn't get to do as much this weekend as I had planned, but I did get some delightful empanadas and Murray's bagels to bring home. New York.... so much food, so little time. Walking down 8th Ave, I was tempted by an Italian deli with Zagut signs outside boasting of their home made sausages. I ducked in thinking I would bring some for the SB, but then realized that if you can't get on a plane with shampoo, they probably wouldn't let me on with fresh sausages and a bag of ice. And to throw away lamb sausage would be a SERIOUS crime.

The SB took care of the ducks for me while I was gone. They seem none the worse for wear.

It is amazing to see the changes in the garden in such a short time. ' Tis the season I suppose. NEXT weekend is bee weekend and the planting of some warm season things. And rearranging the bees.

I also picked up some raspberry plants from the garden swap list serve and promised to trade tomato plants... They weren't ready when the raspberries were, so I need to take them over. And I need to plant those raspberries. Cuz you can't have enough of those. I think we have figured out where to put them... up by the orchard, which, BTW, looks like hell. Two of our new trees didn't make it over the winter. $60? Bu Bye! GAH.

Oh, and look at this stunner of a dress I saw over on Sew Retro.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oof.

Super busy week with three nights of kid sitting, tons of planting, dinners, etc.

Last weekend I *finally* made a bunch of pasta. Six eggs worth on Sunday morning and we had fresh noodles all week. I let them dry to the point where they weren't likely to clump and then put them in plastic bags in the fridge. I kept it pretty simple. Some angel hair and some linguni.

Today I have been cooking. And cleaning the fridge. The crafty girls are getting together chez SHG for an evening of braided rugs and a bean swap. And of course, dinner. We are all bringing fabric and some kind of bean. We will braid the fabric and all take portions of different kinds of beans home for the freezer. It will be nice to have the variety. I made quiche to contribute to the dinner. And while I was at it, made one for here too. Though the SB is not a huge fan, when you have eggs...... I am also making sandwich bread. A loaf for the chicken salad I made and some for the freezer.

Really, I have been trying to empty out my freezer for months in prep for the upcoming vegetable season, but it isn't going very quickly. It seems to be two step forwards and 1.75 steps back. On a good week.

Yesterday I harvested the parsnips. What there was of them. Talk about a fail! Sheesh. I am lucky if they were as big as a pencil after being in all winter. I did learn that you are supposed to start them in early spring and then harvest them over winter or early spring the next year. No wonder no one grows them. Way too much space taken up... maybe one day. Right now, they are lined up for adding to stock or perhaps some potato soup. We'll see. The only good thing is now I have more room for the potatoes that still need to go into the garden. I am running a little late this year. We went to Southern States and got some organic fertilizers. I think I don't fertilize enough... We have this lovely loamy soil and add tons of organic stuff to it, but with the rain and the porousness, I think all the nutrients just leach out faster than I think they will. Crikey. This gardening thing is complicated....

The gimpy duck is back to gimpy. She actually put herself up today and decided not to participate in flock activities. Which makes me worry some. But I put her in the duck house so that she isn't tempted to run out after everyone and I will check on her a bit later and see if she is resting.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

First Summer Supper

We are blessed with wintered over greens.... lots of spinach and mache. Tonight, I made one of our favorite summer quick suppers.

While a pot of water for pasta heats, combine olive oil (I added a bit of truffle oil too since I had it) and a crushed clove of garlic. Add salt and pepper and grate a carrot into the mix. Add some vinegar, I combine red wine, a splash of raspberry and just a teeny bit of balsamic. Roughly chop some salad greens. I also added some asparagus that I steamed over the pasta water briefly. Boil the pasta and toss with the mixture. Throw on some grated parm and some toasted pine nuts. The greens will wilt and the whole dish will be only slightly warm. Perfect for a summer day. Fresh and very veggie. I am thinking about adding a poached duck egg to this, but haven't tried it yet.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yummilicious

I harvested a bunch of kale today that was threatening to bolt. I *hate* being held hostage by the garden, but I suppose it is what we must agree to. Sort of like having children..... I will be making notes as to the varieties that do well wintering over and those that are less obliging. Ditto the chard.

I sauteed some of the kale with some of our leeks that made it through the winter and some garlic (not our own) and I am thinking a quiche later this week might be in order since we are currently getting 9 (count 'em N.I.N.E.) eggs a day. Some of the kale I just cooked on its own. I am betting it ends up in pasta by week's end.

Early in my long weekend I made some really lovely stock. I bought two bags of chicken bones from the butcher and made a huge pot of stock, which I then reduced. It sits in my fridge, all jellied and delicious and like kitchen gold. It will be the basis of soup and sauce for as long as I can stretch it out. Really, you cannot go wrong with good stock.

Tonight after processing the kale, I made dinner. I took a bit of bacon and chopped it up finely and cooked it in a large frying pan, then added some of our leeks that made it through the winter and some purchased garlic. Then I added a few cups of finely chopped Brussels sprouts salvaged from last winters plants (I know nothing of the culture of Brussel sprouts, but hope to learn more). I added some of the stock and let things simmer while a pot of pasta cooked. I kept adding stock until the pasta was just about done and then added a dollop of cream from my farm milk (which rocks). This sauce was tossed with pasta and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and some black pepper. Absurdly simple. Ridiculously delicious. Definitely one of the recipes for Bistro Night. Have I told you about Bistro Night? No? Remind me.....

The SB, not a Brussels sprouts fan previously, was ensnared by my devious bacon cream sauce plot. But truly, there really was no chance of failure, he was but putty in my hands.....

Pictures (woo hoo)

OK, and again with the try at photos... Still trying to figure out how to eject the photo card hookup with out getting the grey screen of death on the mac.


The obligatory seedlings. I am soooo far behind. Since it is going to be 90 degrees this week (WTF? Where did spring go?), maybe I'll just go ahead and put everything outside... (not)
The strawberries are blooming. WooT.


Getting ready to plant potatoes.
Some potatoes planted. They are in the troughs, then I will pull the extra soil over top of them as they grow and then continue pulling until the mounds turn into troughs. Clear, eh? Then I will put straw on top. Cuz we loves us some straw around here.


The garlic planted last fall. Since we finished up the garlic from last year about a month ago, I am TOTALLY looking forward to this. Sometime in June we should be ready. Last year I wove the ends through the garden fence and let it cure out there for a few days.

Gratuitous duck picture. The gimpy duck is still gimpy. She did get a chance to go out of the pen yesterday afternoon though for a while. There was much ecstatic duck mumbling on her part. She clearly can't keep up with the flock though. I let her out for a while this AM and brought her in for rest time after about half an hour. She just pushes herself a little more than I think is good for her when she is out. But motivation is good.

And the most exciting thing.... Yesterday we moved the garden fence so that we can start on the new beds. Look at all that space! Look at all that future back breaking work!! Just look!!

We won't be doing it all at once, but we are probably adding about 35-40% more space to the garden by the time all is said and done. Which we will need. Because I have a LOT of seed potatoes to put in. And all kinds of other goodies as well.


Um, EEEEP!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Love/Hate

So I have a teeny love/hate relationship with Spring. Most of it is Love... but....

A list. For SHG, as always.

Love sleeping with the windows open.
Hate moths.
Love linen.
Hate ironing.
Love gardening.
Hate being out of the sewing room.
Love spring color.
Hate hand washing sweaters.
Love getting rid of the draft stoppers.
Hate putting up the blue jeans.

Onward.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hal a freakin' luja

So I think the duck is now well on her way to being better. No doubt it is all due to the SB's dedicated physical therapy regime. Several times a day he would stretch her foot and toes. That and the antibiotics and the neosporin seem to have put us on the path to health. As a reward for all the time and energy we have been spending, we got 10 eggs this morning. From 9 ducks. I don't know how that happens.... But whatever. The duck still isn't strong enough to be loose with the others. Ducks don't know the meaning of personal space and so just run over one another willy nilly. I am afraid her good leg will be injured if she is left out in the fray. But hopefully it won't be long. Now that she is feeling better she is considerably less inclined to spend time quietly alone.

Big day at work tomorrow and Thursday. Hopefully after that a few days off to enjoy the beautiful weather and get the potatoes in the ground. The seedlings are coming up nicely in the basement and in the garden. We have a bit of leftover kale in the garden. We also have spinach, but every time the ducks get into the garden, they run right for it and eat all they can before I shoo them out.

So far the bees are OK, but I need to keep feeding them....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

If wishes were ducks.....

Still wishing and hoping the duck better. My efforts seem to have come to a standstill however. I am administering antibiotics twice daily and the duck is strong and getting pretty fast for a one legged duck. She still won't put weight on her foot and the foot is non responsive. The SB has been trying some therapy, but no dice. I have put out another call to my friend. Crikey.

We had squash and cream over pasta with leeks from the garden and cured pork that we made. Fresh sage and a little garlic and we were good to go.

I am dead tired. I forgot that in the lighter months we don't come in until dark. Which means we just finished dinner. Bed time.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some progress

OK, so the duck is showing some small progress today. The leg is moving, though she still isn't putting any weight on it. I attribute this to the SB's regime of physical therapy and my remarkable ability to force (by will mostly) antibiotics into a duck. As she feels better, she is more feisty and less snuggly. I suppose I should recognize this as progress, and on some level I do. I guess I am willing to give up my close relationship if it means she is on the mend.

Still upright after several more hours of moving rocks on Sunday. Luckily, the job was completed when I got home today and I just had to help the SB unload the last pick up truck of rocks. Halla freakin' luja.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

No Progress

The duck is still not using her leg. The SB and I gave her a little more rigorous physical therapy last evening. Moving the leg back and forth and up and down but avoiding the joint that is swollen. I suppose there could be more than one problem...We'll keep working but I am back to not being very hopeful. She does seem a little more energetic. So maybe she will get bored with sitting and be motivated to try to move around more. Right now, she is in the garden. We have a bed that is covered in straw waiting to have potatoes planted in it. Until they arrive, it is both duck haven and heaven. She is searching under all the straw and finding delicious tidbits and lots of dirt. Sometimes, I think that ducks actually eat more dirt than anything else. It seems to work for them.

The rock moving went pretty well yesterday. I feel it today but am not nearly as sore as I expected. I guess that comes tomorrow. After moving more rocks today. It is always worse the second day. Oh well, better to be crippled at work than at home for the weekend.

I planted seeds yesterday. Lots of seeds. I'll post a list soon...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Still Waiting

So I came home mid day yesterday to meet my friend H. She is trained as a vet tech and she met me to discuss the duck foot issue. The duck was no better. After a thorough exam, she found a thorn in the joint above the foot. The joint was swollen and warm. The diagnosis, joint infection. The remedy, 1/2 ml of Tylosin (an antibiotic safe for birds) twice a day. Lots of water and treats, special time in the garden doing things she likes and warm compresses twice a day. I love that part of the treatment plan includes "special time". The good news is that it isn't a slipped tendon, which could have been REALLY bad news. The duck, I am pretty sure now that it is Louisa, just got her second dose of antibiotics. No change as of yet, but hopefully we will see the swelling go down soon. Have you ever tried to give antibiotics to a duck? No? Apparently neither has anyone else as there is very little about the logistics of getting liquid into a duck. With cats, you can brave teeth and claws and pry the mouth open, or at least you can start there. Or better yet, bury a pill in a treat. With ducks, the lower bill fits snugly inside the upper bill. I tried Open Sesame, but that didn't work. The other complicating factor is that you don't want to shoot liquid into the mouth b/c it can get into the lungs, which is very bad indeed. Birds don't do well with liquid in their lungs. Even antibiotics. So, although I am relieved to have some idea what is going on (and eternally completely and totally grateful to H for coming to our rescue), it is hardly the end of the anxiety. I did manage to dose this morning on my own, and remarkably, the duck doesn't seem to hold a grudge. I am putting the liquid in her mouth at the front of the bill so that she can swallow it. I think that is the right thing to do, though I am still concerned I might get the liquid down the lungs. And, I am afraid that too much time has passed and getting her to use the leg again is going to be difficult. Hoping that when she feels better she will give it a try again. We may still need the physical therapist.

In other news, I put my spring seeds in this week. Broccoli raab, mustard, lettuce, spinach, beets, chard, kale, turnips and parsley. I may need to water today. It has been so sunny and the weather SO delightful. Truly, it is the perfect time to be in C'ville. The flowers are making up for lost time and blooming without regard to standard timing. We have the earliest of crocuses still blooming with the daffodils.

The bees are flying. They don't seem to be taking any of the syrup I have left for them though. This is an independent lot, I must say. I think I may need to re-queen this fall ... That is going to take some research and a little hand holding I am sure. Have you ever tried to find the queen

We have a large project of rock moving happening this weekend, so I expect I will be pretty much incapacitated for the majority of next week. Oof. The SB has been moving lots of things around to get ready for the installation of some gabion walls that are coming via "the network". Seems like we find salamanders under just about everything. Which is nice. I don't know where they have been hiding in the last years of drought, but we have seen more in the last 6 months than we have in the previous 5 years. We loves us some salamanders here at the Urban Farm. The first two on this page is mostly what we see....

This time of year, especially, I think of the goats. I think of what an excellent thing it would be to have a dairy goat. I don't know that it will ever happen, but I dream on. Right now, I think that chickens might be the next step. The ducks don't do that well with kitchen scraps, and it would be nice to pass those along to some chickens. Though I guess we could get into some worms. They are definitely not as cute as some exotic chickens though. I have entered a couple of drawings for free chicken coops. I figure, if I win, it will be A Sign. I don't know what we will do with more bird poop though. Truly, a garden can hold only so much... Any interest in a load of poopy straw, just email me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Side work

So over the weekend we had some kind of duck injury. One of the grey girls started limping. By the end of Saturday, we had to confine the lot to give her a rest. Usually a little confinement and some moderate exercise take care of any leg problems in a few days. This was different. By Sunday AM she couldn't put any weight at all on her leg, she was using her wing to brace herself for walking. We needed new measures. I confined her first to the pen with a few of her mates (who were less than excited about being part of the cure since the rest of the ducks were out frolicking in the mud puddles). Later I moved her to the duck house with her own food and water. Luckily we built the duck house so that there is an upper door that can be left open for ventilation and light.

I have been doing twice daily swim therapy with her (not swimming with her, just getting her to the water). I have a rubbermaid container filled with water and I put her in a couple times a day. The water is deep enough that her legs can move freely. The hurt appendage seems to move ok, but she still can't really put any weight on it. In the morning she can go a few steps before she lays down. Each morning it seems to be a few more, but the progress is s-l-o-w. From what I read on the internets, this could be several weeks. It could also never heal up I suppose. I am trying not to think too deeply on that score.

She doesn't seem to be in pain when she isn't using the leg and as yet, not too depressed to be inside while her compatriots are dashing about in the yard. She does look forward to their company, except for the boys who take advantage of the fact that she cannot outrun them at this point. Bastards.

Cross your fingers and hope for her speedy recovery. She is a lovely little thing. The only good part is that she is getting used to being handled. She doesn't love it, but tolerates me being around while she swims. She even nibbled on my sleeve this evening.

The dark mornings are not helping with the therapy program. Not enough light to swim before 7 and not much time after if I am going to make the bus. We do try to do a longer session in the evening....

The SB fears my obsession with the recovery.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Missed me, didn't you?

Because some other people didn't post pictures, I decided to post a couple from last Sunday's dumpling wrapping party. Which rocked. I had the lucky chance to get a dumpling tutorial in advance. SHG got one via the internets. We all shared what little we knew and dove in for some culinary adventure....

Some of the first dumplings... Different shapes. We all had different fillings, chicken, shrimp, beef, tofu....

By the end we had many dumplings. We divvied up the goods so we all have some of each variety. In between, we ate salad, sesame noodles and dumplings and wine. We desserted on chocolate and more wine. And birthday biscuits. We also has some smashing mead, but that was earlier... as an appetizer. And which I am thinking about in the event that we get honey this year....


This is leftover beef dumpling filling after being fried in a pan and then having vermicelli and an egg poured over it. Fried up good like a frittata. It was the SB's dinner.

And speaking of the SB, I now have his laptop set up as my new computer, changing out the old iMac for this newer version. I hope that, once I figure out the new set up, things will be considerably faster, so that I can more easily post pictures.

And below, a gratuitous duck picture. Because I can.
That is Gloria in the front - brown with the spots on her chest. She is my favorite.