Monday, November 21, 2011

It's darker with the light on

The SB and I were working on our porch a month or so ago and took down the security lights while replacing some of the porch boards. We haven't put the lights back up yet. Since then, I have been enjoying the dark-ish evenings and mornings. We are in the city, so it isn't really ever DARK. It is just less light. And I have found it is much easier to see if I am not straining to see around the shadows. I have been taking the goats out in the dark-ish. Closing up the ducks in their house or doing the morning feeding. I actually prefer to have the porch light off, if the porch and house lights are off it is even better.

Today I stopped by a neighbor's house on my way home from work to pick up some leftover straw that was in her garden. She apologized "It's dark out there...." Not a problem.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Seasonal Employment

Because we have been doing nothing other than working on the milking cottage since this time last year (if you include the design/siting and the harvesting and collecting of materials in addition to the more obvious fabrication) I decided to take a bit of a break this fall on the garden. I did make a feeble attempt to get things going this summer, but it was so hot and dry that things really didn't germinate. I do have a small patch of carrots, some arugula and a few beets, but that is it. Because there is currently nothing in the garden that I am too worked up a bit, I have decided to put the ducks to work at their intended tasks...

We got the ducks as garden helpers.... do you remember? They were supposed to take care of bugs and not scratch things up like chickens. Actually, I have not had a slug problem since I got the ducks, even though we don't have them in the garden that much. The reason we don't have them in the garden as expected is because of the leafy greens. Wow, those ducks can put a hurtin' on the spinach and the chard. But since I have neither spinach nor chard this fall, thanks to Mother Nature, who knew I needed a break, I have set the ducks to task. The past year I have been plagued by these very annoying bugs that have ruined the greens and some of the brassicas. I also have a squash bug problem. All this is probably due to intensive cultivation and being a wee bit lazy about cleaning up in the fall.

I am hoping that the ducks take to the task. My plan is to leave them in the garden in the mornings with only a light breakfast. In the afternoon we will let them out into the bigger yard and let them swim in the creek. It is a good deal for them, because it means more forage time, and they do live to forage. The bad thing is that they are going to get spoiled rotten and think that they deserve to be out of the pen ALL the time. I guess we deal with that when the time comes.

I have also started to consider a flock of chickens. We have a section of the garden where we have been growing corn/beans/squash together. Unfortunately, this makes it pretty much impossible to weed. I need some good working chickens in a movable pen who can take that section down to dirt and eat every seed and growing thing in the top two inches of soil. I think some chickens are the birds for the job. While we don't need more eggs, there do seem to be folks in the hood who would be interested. I bet I could get rid of as much as we could produce in that department as people aren't as squeamish about chicken eggs as they are duck... And I don't have any trouble getting rid of the duck eggs.

Now it is all about fencing and a movable pen. And some warm weather. The first frost came in solid last night. Everything was crunchy this morning and the duck and goat water had a skim of ice across the top. Welcome to the Season of Frost.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ten Ducks, Two Dogs and One Very Close Call

The SB and I were out working on the goat barn/milking cottage on Sunday, as we have been doing for, oh about eternity. The SB was on the ladder nailing up trim and I was holding/handing tools like a surgical nurse.

I heard a bunch of quacking and splashing, not really odd for the ducks, but it went on.... when I turned to check out the hoopla, I saw two very large dogs happily chasing the ducks around in circles. I took off toward the creek with the SB right on my heels. I was yelling and running straight at the dog that was closest to actually having a duck in its mouth. It was a near thing. He almost had his paw on one and I think that would have been the end of it due to sheer terror or physical trauma.

Luckily the dogs weren't hungry, they were just chasing the ducks because the ducks were running. Had they been intent on eating one of them, I have no doubt they could have snatched one and been off before we even knew it.

It was a lucky day all around. All the ducks survived, the dogs did not end up getting punched in the face (which was the only feeble plan I had for what I would do if I got a hold of one of them) and the SB and I were able to return to the work on the milking cottage without dog bites or ancillary damage.

Around here, we count that as a win.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A day in the life....

Yesterday I came home from work and was pleased to find that the rain, nay the deluge, had ceased. The SB was leaving as I was arriving.. one of those evenings. Too wet to work on the milking cottage or really anything else, so I opted to take the goats out in the yard for a stroll. Their current favorite food is sycamore leaves. They look pretty silly munching down some dinner plate sized leaves. The sky was still overcast and we got one of those weird situations where the sunlight is bouncing off the bottom of the clouds as the sun goes down and everything turns all goldy-green. As I was marveling at the odd light I realized the backyard was full of dragonflies. There was a huge swarm of the swirling around. I didn't get a close enough look to identify them. I wondered if they were supposed to be migrating at this time or if they are all running late.

Then it started to pour buckets. I hung out under the paw paw tree with the goats hoping the rain would slow. The goats hate getting wet more than me, but.... We ended up making a run for it. That is one of the things that I like about the goats. If you run, they will always follow. So they got tucked into their snug little house. Me, by the time I locked up the gate, dumped the wheelbarrow full of discarded goat hay and made it into the house, I was drenched. Happy but totally drenched.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


The SB has done it again... solved a problem that seriously needed solving. And I was too in the middle of trying to plow through to step back and see that there might be another way. He is a big picture guy. Mostly, that is probably a good thing.

Without further ado.... Do you live in a place where there are paw paws? We are, we even have a small grove in the backyard. This is helpful as it tells you when the wild paw paws are ripe so that you can go and collect them. The only problem with having a lot of paw paws is that you have to separate the seed from the flesh and skin. It is super duper tedious as there is a LOT of seed in a paw paw. A couple weeks ago, we were drowning in paw paws. Something seriously needed to be done with them or all the collecting work would be down the tubes. In the old style, the processing of the paw paws we had would have taken HOURS and resulted in cramped hands and grouching. But the SB did a little experimentation. Here is the process that saves your sanity.
1. Peel the fruit with a veggie peeler or older fruits by hand
2. Cut the fruit/seed into large ice cube sized chunks
3. Put them in the food processor with the plastic dough blade (not the sharp one)
4. Process briefly until the flesh is saucy and the seeds are seperate
5. Run it all through some mesh or just pick the seeds out by hand.

This is not entirely without some tedium, but it is MILLIONS of times better than the other options I have tried.

We froze about 10-12 cups of paw paw mash. We'll be using it in breads and ice cream. Yum.

You can thank the SB.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Serves me right

Last night I was having one of those days. One of those days where I don't really feel like cooking anything. One of those days where it really seems like WAY too much trouble to turn on the stove. It would be so much easier to get in the car and drive to our neighborhood bar and get some nachos. And beer. And we wouldn't have to do the dishes or anything. And we could see one of our favorite bar tenders. We would probably end up with beer to take home and stay out too late and not get anything done. But really, the cooking was just not speaking to me. Despite having lots of fabu things around to cook.

So I started hemming and hawing. Then the SB mentioned lentils. I love lentils. Especially in the cool weather. I was inspired..... we had eggplant from the garden. We had smoked sausages from Edward's. We had garden peppers, garlic, parsley and onions and a bit of home made chicken stock. And some cooked fingerling potatoes. And that was sort of all she wrote with a squeeze of lemon on top. The onions were a pain in the butt because all that are left of this year's haul are the tiny ones. But we did it. We made a super yummy fall dinner and thawed some rolls from the freezer and added butter and it was delish. So much better than anything you could pay for and in large part homegrown.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Not me.

On a night like tonight, many people are probably venturing out for some late evening errand and are greeted by the gentle whiff of woodsmoke in the air. I imagine they stop briefly and think "wow, it really must be fall".

I was on my way to lock the ducks into their safe little house when I caught a whiff of woodsmoke. My reaction was, as always, "CRAP, I hope that isn't our house on fire." Perhaps those of you with old wooden houses can sympathize.

Happy fall.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


It is funny, at work, I sass with my co workers and complain about the work week and do the countdown to Friday. But some how, I suspect our weekends have a very different pace. This weekend, for instance, is the second in a row that we have been working on replacing some of the structural members of the back porch. So pretty much for 5 days (we include last Monday since it was Labor Day) I have gotten up, done some errands and then made coffee and breakfast for the SB and I. Then about 1 or so, we head outside to consider the porch. Structure, support, materials, lists, tools, sorting, moving things in and out of the house, supplying sustenance and otherwise working until dark. On the weekend. It is better in the fall b/c it gets dark at 8 instead of 9. For that I am thankful.

Is it true that a lot of people just laze around? Do they really watch movies and attend parties and have leisurely brunches? Because, there are those times, when I do wonder why I am so excited to get out of the office on Fridays.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Season of Frisk

So, sorry about those photos, I erroneously thought it would be easy to download the photos to my computer. Apparently I will have to take the onerous step of READING THE INSTRUCTIONS. Piece of crap phone. I don't have that kind of time.

Fall started last Thursday. It was abundantly clear from the moment I walked out the basement door on my way to feed the animals that something had changed. It wasn't the temperature. There had been cooler mornings. It wasn't the leaves falling, that starts around the first of August here with the walnuts starting to go. It was mostly the smell. It was of dirt and leaves and well, the end of summer. And the sound of desperately exuberant insects.

Today though, started the Season of Frisk. The goats are the harbingers of this. They know the exact time when the back of summer has been broken and they began the celebration at approximately 6:43 this morning by tearing out of the open gate and leaping on to everything they could get to the top of. Dashing from wood pile to rock to bench and whatever else they could find. They ate a few walnut leaves in between, but mostly they just frolicked. The celebration continued this afternoon with a little standing head butting and otherwise trotting around an being extra jaunty. I wonder how long this lasts....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sign of the times

The news of the world has been pretty grim here folks, in case you haven't noticed. Politicians acting like children, youth acting like apes, fear mongering and hysteria all around. Add that to the general pressures of paying the bills and keeping your head above water and you have a pretty bleak picture.

So I thought I would share....

This morning there was a guy on my bus in a wheel chair who I hadn't ever seen before. Maybe it was a temporary thing... His chair still said "Patient and Guest Services" on it, so maybe it was a "loaner" from one of the local hospitals. When his stop came, he was inexpertly maneuvering himself out of the bus and onto the sidewalk, pulling himself along rather than trying to use his hands to turn the wheels the way people who do this all the time do. The guy was about the age of a Viet Nam vet, but I don't know that he was. Just an older skinny white guy who didn't quite have a handle on his new world. When he got to the sidewalk he was trying to turn the chair around and head toward his destination. A middle aged African American guy happened to be walking by with a woman and he seamlessly and graciously got behind the guy in the chair and since they were going in the same direction pushed him along while smiling and chatting. A total random act of kindness. It totally made my day, I can't imagine what it did for the guy in the chair. I hope he saw it as I did.

A month or two a go my great friend P. was in the local bank, standing in line to cash a check. The lady in front of her was asking about the balance in her checking account. The checking account had about $68, and the woman needed $65, but the teller said she had to leave at least $5 in the account to keep it open. So she withdrew the $63 and another $2 from her savings account which was running on the order of $25. P. went home and called the bank and convinced the teller to allow her to transfer $200 into the woman's bank account anonymously. P isn't flush with cash, but she is overflowing with compassion.

Just thought I would share those two small snippets and that they infuse some hope and joy into your life. We need all we can get right now.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

9:00 AM.

I just came in from the garden. I don't think I will be going back out if I can help it. Drenched and dirty and it is already 90 degrees. The livestock seems unconcerned, though I did let the ducks out early so they can be in the water.

I let the goats out yesterday around 6:30 PM, when the temperature had dropped to about 97. The fool animals were galloping around the yard like hooligans. I could hardly stand to watch but they were so stinkin' funny looking while they were doing it I couldn't really resist.

The garden is in very sad shape. The summer stuff bug eaten or crisped by lack of rain and the fall stuff not yet brave enough to germinate.

The heat won't keep us from work on the milking cottage. We had been calling this structure the goat barn, but it is so not barn like that I changed it to the milking cottage. Barns don't have cute Victorian style screen doors on them. You'll see when it is done. Yes, you will. Because I finally got a phone with a camera in it. So I can take some pictures. Now if I can just remember to take my phone with me....

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Tis the season...

Tonight was a summer supper. After doing some yard work and playing around with the goats, I harvested some fingerling potatoes, parsley, cukes, basil and summer squash from the garden.

For dinner we had: boiled fingerling potatoes (flavored only with a little salt in the cooking water). Squash sauteed with Urban Farm parsley, garlic and onions, some smoked salmon sent by the SB's sister (who rocks), and a salad of tomatoes, cukes, basil, goat cheese and kalmata olives. Oh, and garnished with chard stem pickles (because I didn't have capers for the salmon). Simple fast and oh so fresh. THIS is what I like about summer.

I have decided not to horde the potatoes this year.... I am harvesting early and often. Before tonight, I made some fabu potato salad. My goal is to use them all up by the end of November, since they don't really store any longer than that. In past, we have just ended up with WAY too many seed potatoes.... With the summer squash, I am trying to pick it early. I mean, really, there is only so much summer squash you can eat right.

Last evening we had a large black snake in the duck house (again). This time he was in the process of eating one of the eggs. Imagine being disturbed while you are about 1/3 of the way through getting your mouth around a watermelon, and you will have a good idea of the state we found him in. Being lovers of a good meal, we left the snake to do what it would with the egg. At that point we were dubious of the outcome. When we returned from our own dinner, we found that the snake had not only gotten down the egg he was working on, but went on to a second as well.

Just shows me why I need to be a little quicker on the draw with the egg collecting.

Monday, June 13, 2011


It has been quiet on the blog because it has been anything but quiet on the homefront. Dag. The drawback to the lengthening days is that there is way more light to work by. So if you come in when it gets dark, that means you start making dinner at 9. Which means you are up until past 11. Which means that when you get up at 6:00 to feed the animals you are a wee bit cranky.

But anyway...

The garden is entering the summer phase. The peas came out over the weekend as well as some of the beets and turnips. Also the cilantro that has bolted and the fennel that is looking ready to go skyward. I harvested some of the red onions and some of the garlic (the rest doesn't appear quite ready). In place of these things I have put okra and long beans. Possibly will add some more leek seedlings since they have miraculously held on in their tiny cell packs. I harvested the first cuke today with a yellow squash coming right behind. Lucky us.

The ducks are good. Spoiled with being out and eating far less grain. Which is a good thing. The gimpy duck still has a bump on her foot. She doesn't seem to be limping though and it hasn't developed the nasty black scab that the other bumblefoot bump had. I don't know what that means. Seems like her weight is OK and she doesn't seem to be in pain. Kind of all we can hope for.

The goats are cranky with giving up their milk. They now just get an ounce of water by bottle in the morning because I am a lily livered pansy and afraid they are going to make a rukus in the morning if I don't give it to them. My neighbors are already saints for listening to them complain in the evenings about the milk thing. Sheesh.

The goat barn is coming along slowly. Considering a work party soon to kick it before the SB takes off for Scotland for 3 weeks at the end of July. It would be nice to have it at least partially completed by then.... These things always take so much longer than expected.

Monday, May 30, 2011


If it weren't for the veggies and fruit, I really would have no use for summer. I'd skip it all if I could. The bugs, heat, sweat, watering, poison ivy, and dealing with hoses. There is none of this that I love. What almost makes it worth it is the tomatoes, peaches, fresh peppers, basil, tomatillos, corn, squash and parsley that makes its way to the table.

Last night we had a very late dinner of roasted chicken and veggies. I had found some inspirational new potatoes at the market and added my own tiny carrots, beets, turnips, fennel and onions and popped them in a way too hot oven and we still ate near 11. Which is what happens when you work until dark. Why is it that delicious roasty things come in a season that you don't want to roast? This is what I am saying about summer. Inconvenient on all fronts....

Monday, May 23, 2011

Season of Laundry

At this time of year there is much to contribute to the never ending and insufferable mountain of laundry that the SB and I produce. First, the temperature fluctuates wildly during the day. You can go from needing long sleeves, pants and socks in the morning to short, tank and sandals in the afternoon. Necessitating at least one change of clothes. Add in that you are sweating and stinking up your clothes. And that just about everything that we do outside involves mud, water, hay or poop and you can see where this is going. Then there are the work clothes. If I could hire out one indoor task it would be laundrypluscleaningthefreakinbaseboards.

The goats are growing and getting a wee bit chubby I think. They are full tilt on the hay but have not given up the bottles. We are weaning them down.... Tomorrow I think we do away entirely with their mid day meal. Nice how I eliminate the one that I am not home for.... I let the SB suffer the loud displeasure of the goats. Him and the neighbors. By the weekend they will be used to it. And I can sleep in another 10 minutes.

LBD is going on her third round of antibiotics. She still has a lump in her foot. It isn't getting any worse, but it isn't getting that much better either. The last bit really needed to ripen up on its own time, so we are trying to be patient. I talked to the vet today and he said his partner suggested using Preparation H on it. Another vet has told us that we should soak in epsom salts and hit it with Benadine every day until it "drains". There is both comfort and frustration in the fact that the "experts" are just as scatter shot as I am on this.

Flea beetles found my tender eggplant plants if 34 seconds flat. Planted corn and squash this afternoon. I think that counts as getting something done.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Renaissance Hombre

So yesterday was sort of a crazy day, as are most around the Urban Farm in the springtime. The SB though, decided that he might just merit the title Renaissance Man after the day. He spent a big portion of it designing and building the goat house. The difficult part being the pyramid roof with the cupola that is planned (you know, the one that allows the light to come into the middle of the building and fire up the chandelier in the middle of the day). Not so straightforward in the rafter department. Not revolutionary, mind you, but it takes some figuring. Add to that an (at least) semi successful foot surgery on the Little Brown Duck (LBD) and you have a day of many colors here in Woolen Mills.

The surgery. Oi. We captured the duck late in the day and decided to give it another go on the bumblefoot. The foot was progressing in that the bumble was getting a large scab on the bottom and a tough outer ring. The SB poked and carved at it a bit until something came out. Um. Dis.Gusting. It was an evil looking thing. Like a booger from the nose of The Devil Himself. Tough like cartilage and with nasty fingers poking out in all directions. It bled quite a bit, but getting that bit out was a big step in the right direction. There may be more there, but we are giving it a few days to sort itself out before we try anything new. When I came home from work I gave the duck some antibiotics and tried to get some Blukote on its foot, but I couldn't subdue its feisty three pounds of protest (at least without doing damage) so I called it a day and let her spend the rest of it in the garden with free access to the pea shoots and spinach.

All in all, progress on many fronts. I got the tomatoes in the ground (FINALLY) and still have to plant lots of peppers and eggplant. And okra. THAT definitely has to go in soon. But the garden is heading toward its first lull, at least in the greens department. Though now that the spinach and cabbages are on their way out, this year's chard is coming on, so we should be ok for a while during the wait until the peas and zucchini start making a showing.

The wee goats are growing up and are now more interested in eating than in lap sitting. Which is truthfully something of a relief as I was beginning to wonder if having two forty to fifty pound goats in one's lap was really a good way to spend the summer. They are still adorable and love to be petted and will still climb in your lap, it is just between foraging now.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I talked to my vet today. He admitted being "invested" in the duck cure. I like that in a vet. He even called around to get me a better antibiotic set up. You see the ones I got were pre mixed and for use with mammals. Avian species apparently metabolized differently so we need to give her a lot more per body weight. But since the stuff was already diluted, it meant that we were trying to give her 3 ml twice a day. OK, that probably doesn't seem like a lot, but when you are holding a squawking duck down at 6:20 AM, it seems like a lot. Especially as a lot of it ends up on the person delivering. So the pharmacist at Meadowbook (who rocks) mixed up a stronger dosage. I think he also added some glycerine as it is a little thicker too. To keep it from running out of the bill so quickly.

Over the weekend, the bumble developed an honest to goodness scab that could be removed. We hoped that removal of the scab in combo with some swimming would help things along, but it looks like we are going for another surgery tomorrow afternoon. I think this one will be successful. It is easier to see now where the best place to make the incision is. Cross your fingers for us.

I have been dreaming of wee duck footwear to keep the foot "clean and dry". I don't think I am going to be able to craft the stylish duck sandal I have in my head, but we will need to come up with something. And if we do get it out, there will be an end to the swimming for a while. Which is too bad as she does enjoy it. Especially because we add copious amounts of spinach to the bathing water, which is a favorite way that ducks eat. Gag.

The garden is about to hit that awkward in between stage where the spinach and arugula is bolting but the summer squash and beans have not yet matured. I think I will have beets and some mustard in the interim, but it is kinda hard to tell right now. Looking forward to cool week ahead to keep the greens from bolting.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Double Ugh

We tried today to lance the duck's foot. Succeeded in making an incision but not in getting out the cyst, or whatever it is. I gave in and called a vet. Of course, the one who is up for odd animals is out of town. Now we have a duck with an open foot and no treatment options. The vet is supposed to call me back tomorrow and see if there is any advice after they do some research. Which probably means reading the same blog posts that I did. At this point though, I am happy to pay someone else to take responsibility. The SB (who did the cutting), the duck (who did the insanity inducing consta-quack) and I (who did the maniacal irrigating with sterile saline solution) are all ready to have the pros take over. Crikey. That is some grim work.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


So I think one of the ducks has bumblefoot. It is an ugly big lump around one of her toes. Hard and a bit of a scab seems to be developing. She started limping yesterday and the SB and I caught her this evening before we both had to run off for work. Yes, it takes two people to tend a four pound duck. One holds while the other prods. And the wings try to go everywhere, which is the part you get nervous about. They are hardy critters, but a wing has a lot of leverage that could go the wrong way.

Anywhoo. From the reading I have been doing, it looks like the only option is to lance the wound and get the gunk out. That will have to happen tomorrow. So if I don't chow down as usual at the Diner, you will know why. And I may need to have something a little stiffer than the Legend Brown Ale I usually drink there. I am sorta hoping the SB decides that he wants to practice his surgical skills and lets me off the hook. But I also realize that this is something that I am gonna have to know how to do. These may be our first ducks, but they aren't the last. And bumblefoot is not uncommon. I'll be doing more reading tonight though. I won't so much be looking at the horrifying pictures on the internets. yee. Any advice would be welcome so chime on in....

We smeared the lump with Neosporin for the evening in hopes of slowing the growth and we will keep her penned tomorrow as well to keep her off the foot. Some people have made wee boots for their poultry to protect the open sore from getting caked up with poop and mud and stuff. I think I am going to shoot for as clean bedding as I can get. Really, I can't imagine a duck wearing any kind of boot. Heaven only knows how long this lasts.

In other news, we just got a torrential downpour with hail and everything. I am hoping there is something left of the garden, but I won't know until I can see it in the light of morning. I guess there isn't anything I can do about it right now anyway.

On a lighter note, I found $5 in one of my front porch pots this AM. I have no idea where that came from.... Yay me.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I took off from my real job Thursday and today to catch up on things around the Urban Farm. It feels like I have gotten a lot done, though there is no end in sight for the to do list.

This morning I transplanted chard, parsley and tomatillos into the garden and volunteer sunflowers into the orchard bed. The overcast skies and rain made it a perfect transplanting day. We are officially in greens season. Lots of spinach, mustard, chard, arugula and lettuce. We are tossing the mixed greens with hot pasta, vinaigrette, garlic, Parmesan, grated carrot and sunflower seeds. Yum.

We worked on the goat barn some. I made squash soup with what I think is pretty much the end of the winter squash. It isn't my favorite, but it'll do.

Because of the rain today, the ducks were foraging all over the place. Twice they were caught at the front of the house near the road. I ended up locking them up early as they seemed hell bent on trouble today. They complained LOUDLY.

I took the goats for a ramble around the yard while the SB headed out to an auction. The goats do like to walk. And they are exploring a lot more in the way of forage. They still prefer plastic and string to pretty much anything else except cedar bark. Ella loves English ivy and they both like privet. It is a good start. Unfortunately, they are also obsessed with the raspberries, so those may need to go back into the garden.

The big day off treat was to go back to bed at 8AM after feeding the animals and myself and having a cup of tea. It is much easier to wake up after caffeine, but it doesn't make getting out of bed any easier.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Everything else

Since you have heard more than you probably care to about goats lately, I will tell you of other things...

We are eating spinach, arugula, chard and mustard greens out of the garden. Along with some radishes.

Getting up 30 minutes early is killing me.

I don't really need to get up 30 minutes earlier just to feed goats, but I am a terrible judge of timing. So I am exhausted.

The ducks are goofy and laying between 6 and 8 eggs a day. Luckily, we can sell them to the diner. I seem to forget that I don't really use a lot of eggs when the weather is warm, because I usually use them in baking. And I don't do that much when the temperature is above 60.

I am exceedingly tired of stink bugs.

I planted cucumbers on Sunday in front of the duck house in hopes that the vines will give summer shade.

My garden needs some serious weeding.

The SB built a trellis for the peas and beans, and was gifted a very cute garden bench by a friend. The bench is now, surprise, in the garden. So we can sit there and drink wine. Ooh. How nice.

The potatoes are coming up.

The ducks ate all the sorrel, but I am hoping it comes back now that I have moved it to the front yard. The rhubarb is still alive and doing remarkably well.

OK, about to pass out now, off to round up the current crop of stink bugs and retire for the evening.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Wow, it has been a whirlwind week. New goats, family in town, lots of goat visitors, bare root plants in the mail (like 200 of them), etc. etc.

We officially have the most visited goats in the universe. I love that we can share the goat love. Plus, we want everyone to fall in love with them while they are little and cute, so if they get in trouble later, there are the good memories to fall back on.

I still haven't had a chance to look at the garden, but I think we have lots of spinach.

We got 100 hay scented fern for the back yard. Currently, 50 Piedmont Azaleas , which will likely go to 100, as that is what we ordered. Love bare root stuff as it is cheap and easy to plant. The window of opportunity is tight though to deal with them. I would be happy to sell you some lovely piedmont azaleas if you want some. Ordering 100 (smallest available quantity) from this place was at least as cheap if not cheaper than anything else I found. And we can use a lot of them....

Once again, Punk Domestics pulls out the awesome recipe . I can't wait until my rhubarb takes off.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

About the cutest

So I came home from work today to find the SB working in the garden with two tiny assistants. He was pruning and Ellamenope (Ella) and Zinnia were helping by keeping him company and nibbling on all the the twigs he had pruned off.

When I came down the hill toward them, the little goats ran across the bridge to greet me and one even bleated a tiny hello.

The SB had thrown one of the cedar rails across the creek to challenge the goats and Zinnia got it right off. Ella, being a week younger and by far tinier, had to do some bleating and figuring to get across. Finally opting for sidestepping the rail and just leaping. The little boys next door came over for their afternoon visit. They learned that goats do not like a hammock. Good to know.

I have been so busy with goat projects and visitors, I haven't seen my garden in days. I hope the rain helped things along and that there will be salad by the weekend. Funny thing is that it grows without me checking on it every day. Go figure.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dragon Hill Farm Zinnia

Born on 3/6/11 at Dragon hill farm. Photo by the LB. Who came over this afternoon with her man and exercised the goats.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

PIctures soon

Boy howdy, there is some cute goin' on at the Urban Farm. Two new residents arrived today. Two pretty darned fresh baby goats. One 5 weeks old and her half sister right on 4. They are wee and have elastic in their bones. Friendly like puppies and they love people. We have them in an abbreviated pen and temporary housing, but they have plenty of room to sproing and the SB moved a big chunk of log into the pen so they had something to climb on.

We arrived home from the farm late in the afternoon and the goats were welcomed by my mama and three of our closest neighbors. Everyone was enchanted, natch. Which is good. Cuz we are the ones that are going to be hearing them.

They bleated a bit when we all left to go inside. A heart wrenching 10 minutes, but since then, all has been quiet.

The SB and I will be trading off feeding duties, I'll take morning and night and he does the mid day shift. Three times a day shouldn't be too much longer. We are working them onto milk replacer from goat milk, slowly upping the proportions. The goat lady gave us some goat milk to help with the cross taper. She rocks. Cross your fingers for a smooth transition.

Names when we get to know them a little better.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rural and Urban

This is about the cutest story ever. This young man won a flock of fiber goats from Juniper Moon Farm. When he came to pick up his goats (from Oklahoma), he brought chickens as a hostess gift. Like, real live ones. Way to go kid. A. You know what a hostess gift is and B. you picked the perfect one for your hostess. Your mama is bringing you up right.

It makes me glad that there are kids like this out there still. So many are so completely incapable of doing anything but turning on the TV or killing aliens on the screen. Don't get me wrong, I can't turn on the TV at most people's houses. Luckily, I don't need to....

Glad too that there are people like Heidi out there. She is a total urban farming badass.

On another note, I was sitting for a new family last night and they were asking me all about the cville urban farm, was it a real farm in the city? did I have people working for me? was it my full time job? All this from my email address (found stage right if you need to reach me). Which I came up with a few years ago. Maybe even before the bees. It was a total "fake it 'til you make it" moment for me. So here, a few years later, I have bees, 10 ducks, probably 5-6 additional garden beds, and very soon some wee goatlings that will hopefully be contributing milk in 18 months. I wish it were my full time job. The SB is the only employee, paid in room and board. Is it a real farm in the city? Depends on your definition of farm.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I have had a relatively productive week. And it is only Tuesday. A list!

1. posted on the neighborhood email list for a doghouse, and found one. This will be the temporary goat housing while we work on the goat barn.
2. found some rhubarb from another neighbor down the street.
3. chatted with neighbors while walking to my mama's.
4. went to my goat cheese class.
5. planted potatoes
6. moved the bees another 5 feet out of the goat yard.
7. successfully retrieved a key from my neighbor when the SB accidentally (I think) locked me out of the house.
8. dug 2 post holes.
9. communicated with the goat breeder and reiterated our interest in the little caramel colored goat and one of her cousins.
10. received the goat milk replacer in the mail so as to be ready for bottle feeding baby goats.
11. called Southern States to be sure that they had timothy hay to start the wee ones on.

Also didn't sleep well due to the electric storm last night. Still need to work on the taxes. Taking Friday off to do goat fencing/prep in hopes of having goats home this weekend, though I suspect it will be a stretch.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Better than a fortune cookie

I can't remember where I found this. I may have even shared it before. Tres Zen, n'est pas?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Goat kinda day

The SB and I went out to the hinterlands today to meet some baby goats. Need I say more? I mean, really. I wanted to scoop up all 14 of them and bring every one of them home. They are pretty much the cutest most personable baby animals you are likely to meet. We picked out one. We may visit others on Friday. Somewhere in between we have to put up some fencing and get a doghouse to put them in until we get the goat barn done. The SB took lots of blurry pictures since the little critters wouldn't be still. I hope to post some tomorrow. EEEP.

That was followed by my goat cheese class. Basically exploring local food via goat cheese. Three classes and a Saturday tasting. Should be fun. Oddly, I know no one in the class except for the instructor. Weird.

Hoping the seedlings have survived the SNOW and several nights of temperatures in the upper 20s. This is what one gets for starting things too early. Worth it though if it means spinach soon. I am dying for greens. The only summer stuff left is some okra. I had to buy tomatoes over the weekend for chili. Looking forward to a few more okra dishes. We have a great Turkish okra and chicken recipe. But I will need more tomatoes.

Made butter over the weekend. Took flippin' forever for some reason. Even with a whisk and the kitchenaide mixer it took half an hour. I think that perhaps my cream wasn't separated well enough. Which may have something to do with the SB tilting my jug on its side while I was in the middle of draining the skimmed milk from the bottom of the jug (very scientific.... I punch a hole in the bottom of the jug with a knife and let the skim milk drain off). He is forgiven because he has built me garden beds and is now working on the goat enclosure. And he took pictures of baby goats for me. I am happy to cut him slack.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I know that it is only March, but I got a notice via email this AM that there was a winter storm warning in effect for this evening with the possibility of up to 5 inches of snow. Um, Really?

Like my friend at Carter and Spence posted on her Facebook page yesterday... March- in like a lion, out like a yeti.

I have piled straw on all the seedlings and will cover them with Remay. Hopefully that gets us through the next several evenings of very cold (27 and 28 degree lows). Really I worry more about that than the snow, though 5 inches could be a real pain in the butt.

The SB put in three new garden beds this week. They will be planted with potatoes as soon as the snow is gone. Can you tell I am bitter?

On the good side, so far my summer seedlings are coming along swimmingly and I have lots of peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, tomatillos, and basil. This weekend I will start the zinnias and sunflowers and marigolds. I also have a bunch of leeks started. I planted them super heavy because my seed was old and I thought they wouldn't sprout, but it turns out, I will just have, like a billion leeks. Unless you want some. Then I will have less. So let me know if you want some seedlings. There is no way I have space to plant all of these. But I will plant many and be the happier for having enough to share as they are unimaginably delicious, especially in the Season of Frost.

Also on the list for the weekend is making butter. Tried this for the first time about four weeks ago with no success, possibly the milk was not separated well enough. Two weeks later, again, but with luck. But I added too much salt (idiot!). I will try again tomorrow after my cream has cultured a bit more.

I was out weeding this AM and found the first asparagus sprouts. They are puny. We need to move them to higher ground. It is long since time for us to have a real asparagus patch. Action should be taken, but we are so tied up with goat buildings etc it is hard to find time for another big digging project. We definitely need some staff.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Well that was a near thing....

I put my seedlings out today. Some to harden on off, some to just soak up real sunlight and heat. I put them out where they wouldn't be in direct sun until noon or so, at which time I would move them. LUCKILY, I was out before that and noticed that although the sun hadn't hit them yet, some of the plants were wilting. Of course, the ones hit worst were the eggplants. If you have ever grown eggplant from seed you know that they are s.l.o.w. I packed them all inside immediately and put them on the heat pad under the lights. It wasn't the sun or dryness, but too much breeze that had gotten to the tender plants. THANKFULLY, they bounced back immediately after being inside. I cannot even imagine losing 3 weeks on eggplant seedlings. That would have been a total bummer.

I put out some fennel, cabbage and kohlrabi in the garden today. I am pushing things as I want the space under the lights to start the zinnias. Am I alone in not having enough space for gardening? Of course, it wouldn't matter how much I have, it will continue to be insufficient.

Season of Impatience

I am generally an impatient person. Really, gardening is the only thing that keeps me grounded in reality. I find waiting a huge distraction from the present. I am working on that. Being present while waiting for other things to happen. Maybe even getting something done while I am waiting. Other than mentally pacing. Right now I am waiting for greens. And radishes. And for my seeds to come up and to have space to plant my zinnias under the basement lights. I am waiting for the goats to come (though the barn is still unfinished). I am trying to be patient.

We are making progress on the goat house. I have calls in to goat people about baby goats. I would really like a couple of very wee ones, for that is where much of the fun is, no? Plus there is all that relationship building to do....

The greens are up in the garden, I will transplant some very small cabbage and kohlrabi starts into the garden today to make room for the zinnias. I may even have to pot up some of my tomatoes into larger pots. The problem with that is they then take up so much space under the lights and leaving them out during the days risks having them dry out and losing all the time and effort.

We have a huge bed of tulips that we put in last year. We will be going to Southern States today to get T-posts and filament to "fence" it as deer LOVE tulips and I hear they don't like barriers that they cannot see. It is worth a try. I would hate to lose all the blooms to the voracious pests. What I haven't quite figured out is how to put a "gate" in this sort of fencing so that you can actually access what is there for weeding etc. I have a few ideas, but we'll have to see what the garden engineer has to say about it.

The ducks are pretty much full tilt now, 7-8 eggs a day. That adds up fast. The Diner will start taking them though, so we do have an outlet.

I'll be out in the garden most of the day, or preparing to garden or other garden related things. Nothing quite like central Virginia in the spring, eh?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Great day

Wow. What a lovely day. It started as it always does, with feeding the ducks. The day was already on the way to being glorious. Then I made pizza. Turns out it was breakfast and lunch. Then I made butter. No really. It was totally cool. Except I added too much salt. I used these directions. I can tell it is one of those things that will take practice, but I am up for it. Anyone have any good recipes for buttermilk? I have a lot of buttermilk. Things are coming up in the garden, slowly, but surely. The tomatos in the basement are just getting their first true leaves. The SB and I worked on the goat pen. Really. And we visited with friends and neighbors. And we rounded up ducks from the neighbors yard. Three times. Really. When the SB gets back from work we'll be heading out for a beer at our local pub. Just keeps on gettin' better....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

At least someone has come to his senses

Thanks again, Mark Bittman for the update and the cautious optimism.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


The SB and I are on opposite work schedules these days. Yesterday I came home to a note scratched on a green paper square that said "Bad ducks" in black permanent marker.

Today he sent me and email entitled, "Bad Ducks Part II" which reads...
"in this episode, watch as we round up the ducks from TWO yards away on the other side of the fence"

Apparently the spring time is making them somewhat adventurous.

They were grounded for the rest of the day, despite the fact that we got four eggs this morning.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Must try

I don't have any idea what I would do with 5 cups of spicy chocolate sauce. Nope, can hardly think of a single thing to do with that. But I will make it anyway.

Once again from Punk Domestics. My "recipe" file is getting clogged with stuff from there....

Damp x like a million = today

It rained today. A lot. Many inches of it. In duckland, the day was a perfect one. They got out early as it was a weekend and I was home. The creek was rolling and all the auxilliary creeks kicked in too, so there was tons of water to play in. Even the duck yard is full of enormous puddles, not so good for keeping the duck house in good repair, but exctiting for the inhabitants.

We had breakfast with our friend JG, then went out to slog through the water. The SB likes to go out in this weather and make sure that the creek isn't obstructed. I came in after I started to get soaked, but he stayed out. He helped the neighbor fix a clogged downspout. Turns out part of the clog was a garter snake. Go figure. I washed dishes, attacked cobwebs and took a nap. He did all sorts of outdoor maintenance. He was probably in the pouring rain, for like 3 hours. His boots were full of water. Oh, and did I mention he doesn't have a raincoat? No? He doesn't. Soaked and prune-y he is napping.

As are the ducks, who, despite having run around all day "foraging" were starving when they finally got locked in for the evening.

I am afraid the clover we planted in the garden paths is probably in Richmond by now, by way of the James River. We have sheets of water running through the garden paths....The rain is good fro the transplants though. We got a huge number of small boxwoods over the weekend from a friend. Put in a bunch yesterday, pretty roughly b/c of the sheer numbers and the time we could devote. The rain makes me think they might make it yet.

I called the goat lady today to ask about the availability of baby goats. She wants to hang on to hers until the end of March as she is teaching a class. She has only had one goat of six kid so far. It had four babies. FOUR. Um. Wow. I also got some vet recommendations. The thought of entering this endeavor without back up is terrifying.

I hope we are ready by the end of March, but I suspect it will be later. And the rain can lighten up any time now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Always Welcome

Common sense is always welcome, probably due to its rarity. Thanks Mark. You go. I just don't have much faith that anyone who can do anything about it has a fraction of the sense it takes to think through this.

Monday, February 28, 2011

On Fluid Plans

Over the winter I kept myself sane by drawing up moderately detailed garden plans. I sorted my seeds into the "start inside earliest", "start inside later", "direct sow early", "direct sow May", etc.

I planted inside early and had a slow start due to technical problems. Actually due to problems with my brain functioning, but we will just let that go for now. Two Fridays ago, it was warm. It was so beautiful as a matter of fact that I had to leave work early and come home and throw seeds into the ground. I stayed pretty much on target for that one 5'x5' bed. The SB and I went to Southern States over the weekend. He was keen on us getting cover crops to hold the beds over until we planted our summer stuff out. Luckily they didn't have any because I came home and "accidentally" planted the bed that the peppers and eggplant are going to be in this summer. I just threw in all the stuff that would be done or bolted by mid May... Which is probably going to be less than I think, but definitely includes beets, carrots, arugula, broccoli raab, lettuce and spinach. Some of the other stuff like chard can go for a while. I also put in peas. I assume we can just run the beans up the same trellis a little later in the season. I also got the summer stuff started in the basement. An entire 128 cells of peppers, tomatillos, eggplant, tomatoes and basil. Cross your fingers and hope for some serious harvest.

We put clover seed in the garden paths. Talk about hoping for the best.... We did get rain today, so I hope that helps it get a jump on the weeds.

The ducks are now banished from the garden for the foreseeable future. They can put a hurtin' on some newly planted seeds. It is unfortunate as they are good company. They sort of forget that I am there after a while and just snorfle around and talk to each other. I just eavesdrop. It really is the only way to keep up on the news from that quarter.

I think there are now two ducks laying. I am hoping this is the last week I have to buy eggs until November.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Season of Hope

This is the time of year when things begin to look up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel that is winter. The days are longer, and things start to grow.

My basement seedlings are coming along slowly. I wish it were faster, but I can't see heating the whole of the basement for a flat of plants. They are relatively toasty with the heating mat and under the light cover. I think I have finally figured out the timer and the mats. That definitely set me back.

Last week the weather was gor.geous. I lost my head a bit and put out some seeds directly in the garden. It was too dry for them to do anything and I didn't want to set the hose up, knowing that we would have serious frosts again. So they just got watered Thursday. They are covered with remay, as is the teeny plot of chard that seems to have wintered over. Good ol' Italian Silver Rib. If anyone can do it, it will be ISR. Only one of the many reasons I love that chard.

This morning I planted a bunch of my summer stuff. Tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil. There is more to do, but I am limited by the space under the lights. I am itching to get some other things in... zinnias, sunflowers, ground cherries, etc.

I think this weekend we will be going to Lowes for more garden edging. We want to put in a few new beds for potatoes, and the planting of those is not so far off (St. Paddy's day). Plus I am wanting some hardy kiwi. We will have to incorporate that into the plan as well. The SB is hot for planting a cover crop to keep things together until the direct seeded stuff goes in the garden in May. And we are going to try to plant clover in the garden paths... We had sheet mulched them with newspaper and cardboard, but, as you can imagine, it looks like hell. It would be nice to have something a little more attractive, and since the newspaper and cardboard killed out most of what was growing, now seems a good time to plant. The cardboard and newspaper goes into the compost with the straw from the duck yard. THAT is another weekend project. The rain and warm temps have reminded us that the decomposition has started.

We did get the first egg of the season on Friday.

Hope to start work on the goat complex this weekend. Much to do.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban Homesteading on the Urban Farm

My parents moved to this neighborhood when I was in high school. What drew them initially was the rural nature of the place. When I was in high school, there was a cow pasture a block and half from our house. There were chickens. You could hear a rooster on some mornings. But we were right on the bus line and less than a mile from downtown. In the ensuing years, the cow pasture disappeared to make way for the new development. The roosters came and went. The gardens were always here. Our neighborhood is near The River. And much of the land has escaped development b/c of the flood plain.

My end of the neighborhood, just a few blocks from my parents, was divided off in the 1870s or 1880s. Sold off to pay off the debt of a dead man. The lots were divided into one acre plots. Someone figured this was about right. This was a village then, separate from the city with its own store/pub, schoolhouse and manufacturing. The people who lived here worked at The Mill. And the people that built and owned houses, at least in some areas, had acre lots. They grew their own food. They had animals. There was common grazing ground across the train tracks and children would take the animals back and forth. And that is in living memory. When we renovated, we removed some very bug eaten old wood dividers that had canning records scrawled on them. How many quarts of green beans. And the vaccination and calving dates for Inky the cow. Inky may have lived in the backyard, or maybe at the common grazing grounds. This was in the 60s I think, so probably the back yard. There was also an old chicken coop, fallen down around a perfect glass egg that was put in the nest to encourage the chickens to "lay here".

I hesitate to call us an urban homestead, since we have an acre and a half (the owner of our property was owed money by the person who owned the lot behind and they made it up in half an lot). So many are out there doing more with so much less. But we are in the City limits. We are making our way. Slowly slowly. At first one garden bed, then two. Then we raised them and enclosed them. Two more beds and two more. Bees. Two more garden beds. Then the ducks. Soon, we hope, goats. The SB wants to build a solar dryer and I hope we can hook up our rain barrels this year. May solar hot water heating? Who knows? We are learning more every year. Sometimes we have the privilege of sharing that with others. That is what people who are interested in this do....

We would have done this whether or not anyone else was doing it. So have many people here. It is our culture and our history. This place attracts people who appreciate it for what it is, has been and will be. We are lucky to have found our home here. I can't imagine being any place else. People here have been growing their own right here in the city limits since we were annexed around the middle of the last century. And I am betting that a good number of them have never heard of a family in Pasadena that is so much in the news - but this post isn't about them, it is about urban homesteading.

Neighborhood friends, feel free to correct my dates and timing and add your own stories. And if you want to learn more about the 'hood, you can go here and read from the beginning where it is all beautifully spelled out and lovingly illustrated.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On Fire

The blogosphere is on fire. Since I am not a fray-enterer, I will just say that I concur with what the people are saying. A very famous family in CA has trademarked the words "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading". Those of us who are also gardening/keeping animals/orcharding/etc will now be unable to use these terms unless we give credit to The Family.

Boy howdy. There are some excellent posts out there. There is a face book page. Here are a few links:

From Kate at Living the Frugal Life

From Dog Island Farm
and Havenscourt Homestead with a whole list of other links (including a very good one from Punk Domestics which happens to be another favorite site of mine and has a good rundown of the full story to date...)

Many of these folks say exactly what I would... The Family has done a lot of good work. I have always been somewhat uneasy with their persistent marketing. I gave the benefit of the doubt. It is tough to make a living as a farmer, especially when there are 4 mouths to feed and none of them seem to work outside the home. They did a great job of promoting themselves. They had lots of speaking gigs and reporters and TV shows etc. I am sure they work hard. But they have also isolated themselves from the other people who have embarked on this journey. They assumed that since they were getting attention that they were leading the pack when the truth is, they were part of a resurgence that would have happened with or without them. The internet has allowed them to have the spotlight shone upon them which they seem to enjoy. It also seems to have blinded them to the rest of the community.

The Family's response to the hulla ba loo in all this is to shut down, retreat and play the injured party. Sorry Family, but here is my message to you. If you want to play in the big leagues you have to act like adults and enter the conversation - shutting down your sites and turning off the comments is cowardly. Get your head out of your .1 acre and start looking around at what all these great people are doing for sustainability, food security and environmentalism and the local food movement. You didn't start that movement. There is ample evidence you weren't the first to come up with the term or the methods. Step off and let people talk and share info and celebrate good work without having to give you credit. There are a lot of people working jobs while trying to make their way through all this. Finding ways to coop their effort and restrict how they talk about it are absurd and unfriendly.

Wow. Look at that, I DID enter the fray.

And now for more regularly scheduled programming... I made the leap and planted some seeds outside yesterday. Radishes, lettuce, arugula, beets, chard, spinach and mustard. And onion sets. I NEVER have luck with onions, but I do love banging my head against a wall. The seedlings in the basement are finally coming around. Way too slow for me, but there you go.

I may do some more planting today, but it is windy something awful. I may just go ahead and start the tomatoes and peppers and such. It is early, but those stinkin' eggplant take for freaking ever.

My neighbor gave me some cranesbill, which I am very excited to have. I bought seeds, but I am hoping that this will get me started while I see if I can get the other stuff rolling. It may be a whole year before the seeds even sprout, so it is nice to have a jump start.

If the ducks don't start laying soon, they are going in the stock pot.

So far the bees are alive, but with this warm weather, I need to be sure to keep them fed since they will be up and about and eating more but without any food out there.... Generally they call March the "starving time" for bees around here for this reason.

Busy weekend.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not Done

We never actually seem to finish projects, but we have made some major decisions, I think, about how to inhabit our space in a little more sane way. Of course, implementation will be off in the future.

When we haven't been planning, I have been finding lots of inspiration from Collette Patterns spring wardrobe challenge. Check it out. I am in awe of the energy.

The weather promises to be fantastic this weekend. I may even put some seeds out since my early starting has been foiled by a malfunctioning heating mat and a confounding timer. The best laid plans, no?

It is time to feed the bees. I am looking forward to checking in on them....

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I have run into a couple of places where there is a rebellion against minimalism. By minimalists. Minimalism has never been a problem for the SB and I .... We tend toward the opposite extreme. Certainly not a shock to those of you who know us. We are so not minimal that we actually have a housemate. See, we even have people in the house in addition to the other treasures.

The housemate is gone for a month. In Hawaii. Lucky dog.

While she is away, we are tearing apart the house, rearranging work spaces and sorting and getting rid of a portion of our excesses via eBay, Etsy, Freecycle, Salvation Army, etc. It is no small job and it is in addition to the onset of gardening season. There is going to need to be some serious streamlining around here.

Because of the big projects and the potential to be moving my work space, I am not going to be on the internets much. Farewell world, until we meet again....

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Before I get to far, let me just say that the ducks are fine. I know you were on the edge of your seat waiting to hear that. When I came in from the morning feeding I told the SB the good news. He was unsurprised. He said he is beyond attributing sense to the actions of the ducks. Which equates to "Who knows the mind of a duck?" We are on the same page I suppose.

In other news. ... My seeds have started to arrive. So far, I have expected the packages. There have been years where I have continued to receive fat little envelopes from seed companies whose names only sound vaguely familiar. When opened, they begged comments like "Did I order this?" "Don't I already have some of this?" etc. If you are a gardener, perhaps you understand.

Today's order from JUNG was relatively light. I got four 128-cell seedling trays,

4 packets of zinnias, some cutting celery, ground cherries (free), and some stupid teddy bear sunflowers (also free). The two bundles of strawberries will be shipped at the appropriate planting time. Oh yeah, and some foxglove. You see, this wasn't my REAL seed order. That arrived a few days ago from Southern Exposure. I was pretty sneaky with that.... I ordered with a neighbor, so when a relatively large envelope arrived, and was greeted by the SB's raised eyebrow, I had the excuse that not ALL those seeds were mine. It was a shared order. Probably 5-10% of that order would be leaving the house, but I didn't get specific on that.

Probably this weekend I will start some seedlings. I have 256 cells to plant since I have two trays that fit under my grow light and two heating mats. I am going to have to parse out what goes first.... spinach, beets, lettuce, chard.... some of these things go so fast, they won't even get started indoors. I think I am going to try radishes again, and just try to pick them early before they get so hot. I said I wouldn't do it again, but the prospect of vegetables from the garden in only a month is pretty compelling right now.... Kale, arugula and mustard may go straight into the garden. They go so fast... Then second plantings right into the garden to extend the season, the earliest stuff goes to make room for the summer things....

I have some plannin' to do!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ducks are Nervous

I don't know what is up. The ducks are in a tight little flock and very nervy today. I didn't think to count them when I put them up as they were all discombobulated at the time.... we were putting them in and they got split up because they panicked. More panic ensued - squawking, running, falling, running, flocking....

I just went to take the compost out (while my new bottle of wine was breathing) and they were still freaked. So I went down to count them thinking perhaps something had happened to one which is why they were in a tiz. I can tell you that counting 9 or 10 brown, black and gray ducks in the semi dark while they are moving is a challenge. Especially when they are all flocked up tight. They are very quiet now. Which is odd. We usually hear them in the evenings quacking, or at least one of them quacks. Often. And I usually wish they would be quiet, but now I wish they would quack like normal so that I wouldn't wonder if there were 9 or 10 ducks out there. Be careful what you wish for. I guess we'll find out for sure tomorrow.

Maybe they have just been menaced by something during the day. Maybe there was a real attack. Maybe they think it is about time someone ate them since they aren't producing any eggs. Who knows the mind of a duck?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Bright Side

The best part of being woken up from a restful sleep at 5:30 AM by a cat who wants to go out and not being able to go back to sleep because now that you are up and all the snot has started to move around you can't really breath and when you do you start coughing like you are going to lose a lung is that you get to just decide to stay up and brew a pot of chai and watch the very orange-y sunrise.

That is the best part.

Polly Anna

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ah habba told.

I am stuffed up, snot filled and cranky. But no fever, so I am going to just try to lay low and rest. Even though I have a million things on the list. I think I will move "nap" up a few notches.

When I feel this way, I always want hot and spicy to loosen everything up. This morning I went straight for the chai. Here is the current recipe:

5-6 cardamom pods bruised
6-7 whole cloves
a pinch of cinnamon
20 red pepper flakes
4-5 fat slices of ginger
grating of fresh nutmeg
generous grind of black peppercorns

This all goes in a saucepan with 4 cups of water. It simmers for a while (like 5 minutes), and you can steep it too if you have to go out and feed the ducks or an errand or something. When you get back to it, heat it up to just about to simmer and add 4 level measuring teaspoons of tea (why do you think they call them teaspoons - duh). Let that sit at just under a simmer for a couple minutes. I use a mix of Earl Grey and Indian teas. After 2 minutes or so, add 1/2-3/4 cup of whole milk and about 4 t. sugar (or to taste). Let that sit a couple minutes and then strain it into a warm teapot. Steam your face with it before imbibing. Think that perhaps you may survive, but if you don't at least you will die caffeinated and warm.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Have you seen this?

Wow, one of my new totally favorite internet stops.

Here are a couple of urban farm blogs I have been dropping by as well. And what do they have that I don't, besides goats, rats, rabbits, chickens and horses plowing the gardens? Pictures. I have to work on that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Waxing Practical

I don't know if you have read the book Goat Song yet. It's a nice read. The author is eloquent about his passion for goats and especially cheese making. Poetic even.

I am a practical person. So tonight, I waxed my cheddar cheeses. I melted the wax in a re-purposed tomato can with an old boar bristle basting brush. The job would be considered well done if it was the product of a 10 year old. Since I am considerably past that decade, I will say that it is adequate. I am sure when the SB sees it, he will want to touch it all up and make it more even - he likes things to be beautiful more than practical... (which is to say he probably married the wrong woman, but that is a different story.) I am fine with it just being done. I love done.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I am not big on New Year's resolutions, but I do have some lists... In addition to the "get more exercise" and "stop eating so much bacon" on that list, there are a few other things.

I want to learn how to make those looped wool rugs. Not latch hooked rugs, but the real thing with strips of wool.
I want to make my own soap.
I want to make cheese from my own goat milk.
It goes on like this.... Some items very ambitious, others so do-able.

Today, I crossed one of the things off the list.... That was making my own laundry soap. I have no idea where I got this recipe, but it takes about 10 minutes to put together. Or less.

3 cups borax
2 cups baking soda
2 cups washing soda
1 small bar of castile soap, grated

Mix it all up and use a 1/8 cup per load.

I whipped it up this AM and ran 3 loads so far. Even the SB's outdoor work jeans came clean (at least as clean as they ever do).

The big bonus is that I won't have to have plastic containers kicking around. I hate those things, even if they are "recycle-able". Oddly, this is what drove me to start making my own yogurt as well. Though I do still sometimes buy yogurt if I lose my culture.

Nice to have one thing off the list as the bacon thing isn't going anywhere as of yet.


When I came home from work last night I found the SB working outside despite the dark. He told me that he was trying to tighten up the building materials we are collecting for the goat barn and garden pavilion because the little birdies were predicting snow. Of course, he meant it literally. He is convinced that the flying patterns of the small birds changes when snow is imminent. They fly low to the ground and flit from grassy clump to seedy stalk. I told the SB that the weather did not call for snow.

Later we went out to our local theater for a show and a few drinks at one of our favorite restaurants post show. (It was like old home week there and we ran into about 8 people we knew - the benefits of a relatively small town.) When we got home around 1AM, the SB said to me, "I guess the birdies were wrong." Except that they weren't cuz I woke up this morning to a light dusting of the white stuff.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Homesteading moments

I was just cutting the curds in my second batch of cheddar this morning. On the counter next to me was the start of some homemade biscuits (the flour, salt and baking powder mixed with the home rendered lard waiting for the SB's wake up time, it is after all, his birth week celebration). I realized I hadn't heard the ducks in a while, and like small children, one should be concerned they are up to something when they are not making copious amounts of noise... So I put down my curd cutting knife and look out the window. Yes, they were there at the alley, contemplating a sprint across the gravel to the neighbors yard. So I stopped everything and dashed outside in my yoga pants and apron to bring the ducks back to the garden where they could roam in a state of semi freedom while I attended to the more pressing tasks of making cheese and breakfast. We are so effing homestead here I can't stand it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"It won't be long now"

This is the actual phrase that went through my head last night as I was falling asleep. I had been kid wrangling late which gave me lots of time to work on my 2011 spring garden plan (we won't even pretend that it is for the full season since we know that I am a winging it kinda gardener). As I sat there staring at my blocks and being super thankful that the SB is a guy who really likes digging, it seemed like spring and planting was just around the corner. Granted, I'll put some stuff in the basement under lights around the end of February, and we may put some stuff in a cold frame sooner, but really, harvest is not so close. The earliest would be April, right? March in the cold frame.... 90 days.... 1/4 of a year.... Sigh. I guess it is closer than it was a month ago.

I will be inventorying my seeds and making my first orders Sunday. This is the Season of Danger when it comes to blowing lots of cash on garden stuff. I have an ENTIRE drawer full of seeds. I can always convince myself I need more, different, better, faster, stronger seeds. Truly, how do non gardeners get through the winter?