Monday, December 3, 2012

I knew better

I will never let anyone process a deer for me again.  I don't care if we are having guests or not.  That was a HUGE doe El Jefe got, and if we got 35 # of meat back, I'd be shocked.  The entire back end of the deer is missing.  I got ONE shoulder roast, and ONE neck roast, a few chops and steaks, and 12# of summer sausage.  That's IT.  Now we have to spend muzzleloader season hunting for another deer, because we don't have enough meat in the freezer to last 'til next October.  Wait, I'm complaining about hunting.  Never mind.  I was actually kind of disappointed I wasn't going to get to hunt anymore after El Jefe got the monster doe, because I didn't think there would be room in the freezer for that buck that was mocking me ten yards outside my crossbow range.  Still, I'm angry at the cost of the processing. 

In better news, the Top Hats have started laying, so we're getting 9-12 eggs a day.  Which will soon be a problem in itself unless I find someone to eat them.  I suppose I could freeze them in ice cube trays and shut off the light in the larger coop and let them slow down for a few months.  In fact, I think that is what I will do.  I'll replace their light with a red heat lamp, and that should slow them down significantly.  Heck, they'll probably molt.

I had to put Dinosaur in the chicken hospital last night (that would be my tub, since we are using the other bathroom with the shower in it 'til I sand the ceiling of the full bath.  One of the stupid roosters, probably Drunken Chicken, tore such a chunk of flesh off the back of her head that I could see her skull.  I sprayed it with veterimycin (sp?) and I may keep her in the tub today and tonight, too.  I hope it heals.  She isn't the prettiest hen (that would be Golden Claw), but she is the most friendly.  She fell asleep on my knee with the other Barred Rock on Saturday eve, when I took a few moments to sit in the chair by the Big Coop.  That was after I had to knock all the other chickens off me, since I really don't appreciate their dirty feet getting caught on my hair when they are up on my shoulder.  Usually it's up in a bun, so they can't, but that day it wasn't, and I didn't realize what would happen when eight silly hens decided to rush me for treats.  I still like them.

It's the dog I hate.  He puked on the floor.  Twice. 

We finished cleaning the wood cookstove this morning, and the chimney.  That will be a blog post all it own.  Now I must go start a fire, and homeschool the spawnlets.  We're late today already...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The month that got away

I realized that I've been doing a poor job blogging this month - partly because I've been busy, and partly because I tend to post a sentence or two on FB about what we've been up to, and then I don't feel like repeating myself here.  So I will have to make an effort to blog first and then FB from now on. 

On the chicken front, the Grey Fox had aggression issues with everyone but me, so we ate him for Thanksgiving.  I was kind of bummed about not having wild turkey, but since I didn't get out during turkey hunting season, we had chicken instead.  It was a quiet Thanksgiving at home.  I missed my family in Ohio.  I miss the Grey Fox, too.  He consistently went after the Pirate, though, and occasionally the Princess, and even jumped on El Jefe a couple times.  He didn't like the metal bucket I was carrying once, but that's as bad as he got with me.  Generally, he'd puff up at the Pirate, I'd step between them, and he'd deflate and find something more interesting to do elsewhere.  With him gone, Lucky-the-Lakenvelder and Drunken Chicken are duking it out to see who will be the Supreme Ruler of the Chicken Yard.  My money is on Lucky.  Drunken Chicken puffs back at him, but keeps retreating.  We got 12 eggs from ten hens today, which is the most we've ever gotten - apparently they like life without the Grey Fox just fine.  This is all from the Rocks (brown eggs) and Blue Andalusians (white eggs).  The Top Hats aren't laying yet.

On the deer front, El Jefe got a doe, which we took to the processor because we were having guests arrive the next day and it just wasn't going to happen that I would be up half the night processing it and be functional the next day.  Without help, because I have banned El Jefe from my kitchen during deer processing, in order to avoid a right bloody mess, and a trip to the ER.

On the house front, I'm still priming the Princess' ceiling, because the tendonitis in my right arm is so bad that holding the brush/roller to the ceiling for any length of time sets the whole thing on fire and then it aches abominably the next day.  So I'm doing little bits at a time.  The doc said it won't get better unless I can totally NOT USE IT for several weeks.  Yeah, sweetheart, like THAT'S going to happen.  On the other hand, she gave me a different med for the fibromyalgia, which is working so well I feel almost too good... I'm almost afraid to say that for fear of jinxing it.  And now I need to go do my bit of painting for the evening, so I can clean it up and spend some time with El Jefe...  belated Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



Thursday, November 1, 2012

Freshest Eggs I Ever 'Et!

The hens started laying today.  The Princess went out this morning to let them out of the coops/pen, and came running back into the house shouting, "Zombie laid eggs!"  Well, Zombie was setting on them, anyway.  She thought there were three, but when we actually looked, there were five, one nearly buried in the wood chips under the straw in the nesting box.  We took them inside... the Pirate was upset because she wanted Zombie to set on them 'til they HATCHED.  I had to explain this wasn't the right time of year to let her do that, and we would be eating all the eggs the hens laid until Spring.  Zombie left the coop after we took the eggs, wandering off on another chicken field trip with the rest of the flock.

We went inside, cracked the eggs which were incredibly ORANGE, stirred them up and scrambled them.  Even stirred up they were the bright yellow of the walls in my kitchen.  And they were the most delicious scrambled eggs I've ever had, just all creamy goodness.  After that was homeschool.

Then we noticed that the chicken field trip had gotten into the neighbor's yard (they've been doing that for the last two weeks - ever since the weather turned bad, probably because the neighbor's barnyard is more sheltered from the wind than ours, I'm guessing).  So we took a break from school and went out to call them home - I went into the coop to grab some corn and noticed yet another egg right on top of the nest box next to the one that held all the other eggs earlier.  Feeling generous if not virtuous, I am saving it for El Jefe, rather than frying it sunny side up and snarfing it myself, which I admit was my first inclination.  

So, of the 13 hens, 6 began laying today.  They were little brown eggs, one long and skinny, the rest normal egg shapes, some darker and some kind of speckled.  I'm assuming they all belong to the various Rocks, since I think the Blue Andalusians lay white eggs.  I'll have to check that to be sure.  The TopHats are still in Chicken Ghetto, so I know they aren't laying yet.

I'm so happy I could hug a hen.  Except they bite my ear when they sit on my shoulder.  I don't know what's up with that...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rooster culling

I took seven of the roosters to the processor last weekend.  They were quite a bit easier to catch that I was afraid they would be.  Of course, I just sneaked into the coops at 7AM and grabbed them and stuck them in the dog crate, so maybe that was cheating.  I'll have to learn to process them myself eventually, but we had guests last weekend and there was just no way I could manage that, too.  Anyway, I got them back and parted them out (breasts, drumsticks/thighs, wings, and everything else).  The "everything else" category got tossed into the pot and I made 5 quarts of chicken stock, now in the fridge (I couldn't can it because the pressure canner wasn't cooperating - I'll use it up too fast for it to matter anyway).  So this week we had Chinese chicken wings - which were yummy, and pesto and Parmesan chicken breasts, which are a favorite of the kids.  The Pirate was rather upset about the demise of Paprikash the Rooster, and didn't want to eat any of the chicken, but did anyway and admitted it was good.  We had a  bit of a discussion about how mommy's ten years as a vegetarian are not an example she should follow.  We also had Chicken thighs cooked in the crockpot with a jar of Curried Apple Chutney that didn't seal.  That's one of my favorites.  I still have a bag of breasts and a bag of drumsticks/thighs left.  The breasts are frozen in the marinade for Honey-Pecan Chicken, which El Jefe really likes.

I admit that I miss having the roosters around.  We still have five, but they are nowhere near as noisy as twelve.  And I particularly miss Frick (-asee) and Frack, the two buff rock roosters, because they were pretty, and funny to watch, since they always hung out together.  Also, the big blue Andalusian (black color phase) was just gorgeous in the sun (all iridescent blues and purples).   He was never friendly, but he sure was beautiful.  Yes, I am apparently a complete sap.  I'm still enjoying eating them all, however.  They taste oddly like pheasant, and nothing like storebought chicken.  I don't know if that is the free-range effect, or just the fact that none of them were Frankenchicken crosses bred solely for their meat.  Or maybe it was just that they were 18 weeks old at processing instead of 8, I have no idea.  They just taste better.

HA! I have sweet potatoes! And other food for the winter!

The evil burrowing creature did not get all the sweet potatoes - I actually got a few pounds.  Only three of them were of any real size - the rest might generously be referred to as "fingerlings" but I am going to cook them all this week anyway.  I also dug up the rest of the potatoes, which will last us a bit longer.  All three types are delicious (one red, one russet, one Yukon Gold (my fave)).

Also, my lovely neighbor let me (and the girls) glean the last of her tomatoes and so I did get a batch of  chili sauce canned, around 1:15AM last night.  This is in addition to the honeyed orange tomato butter and the orange tomato chutney and the tomato-apple chutney and the salsa I made a few weeks ago from her tomatoes.  Also, since it's been so long since I posted, I realized that I didn't mention that the university DID decide to have a fruit sale after all, though it was far more veggies than fruits - I came home with the largest head of cauliflower I have ever seen, and enough apples for a batch of curried apple chutney, and 6 heads of cabbage I cannot do anything with until the ten pounds of cukes in the brining pot actually finish so I can pickle them - come to think of it I should check them today (I have to dump in more salt every Friday).  That sentence was a run-on into looney canner land.  The cauliflower was so large that I made 5 different cauliflower recipes with it over the course of the week it lasted us, in addition to just tearing off bits and munching them raw whenever I felt like it.  Even the Pirate liked the some of the cauliflower recipes. 

We've also been trying green bean recipes.  I can no longer say that I utterly despise green beans - I actually found two recipes I like, and I discovered that fresh beans picked and eaten while standing in the garden are decent.  Nowhere near as good as peas, but they'll do.  The girls have decided they like picking and eating the carrots in the garden, too.  This is good, because those carrots are NOT to my taste.  I have gotten another few icicle radishes, though, and I still love those.

Best of all, the figs are beginning to ripen.  We've eaten about a dozen, and taken a few next door.  I hope that having the plastic on the hoop house will be sufficient heat for the rest to ripen, because they are delicious.  It would be fabulous if I could get enough to try some of the canning recipes that call for figs - fig jam particularly.  Num num.

Still, for all this canning, I am realizing that we will need a LOT MORE garden space next year.  There were many, many veggies we didn't grow, or grow enough of, to supply us til next year.  Then the question becomes where will I store all this stuff I can?!?!  And that doesn't  include the meat issue- which is that there isn't enough room in the freezer, so some of that has to be canned, too.  At least I fixed the pressure canner this week.  As the Pirate has been going around saying..."Yea Me!"


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Communion for Preppers

El Jefe here. If you're one of the few, the brave, the "it showed up on Facebook and looked so weird I had to see what El Jefe was doing hijacking XaLynn's account this month" crowd, I need to make you aware of that major hole in your emergency preps. You may have a bunch of bottled water and some filters. You probably have 1000 rounds of ammo for each firearm in your arsenal. Canned goods-check. Emergency medical supplies, including a platoon-rated field hospital shrunk down to fit in a plastic sandwich baggie: got three. Radiation detection gear and potassium iodide- no worries. Gas mask. Tomahawk, Buck Hoodlum knife, and an assortment of moras. Tactical pants.

But you're almost certainly missing a major critical item -- prepackaged, long-shelf-life communion supplies.

Prepper wafer & wine

In my opinion, no Christian prepper can really claim to be ready for bad times until they have this and a stack of economy bibles (in a modern English translation:  E.g., NKJV Economy Bible) to distribute to friends and wandering 'zombie hordes'. (For the non-initiated, that's code-speak for the lost and clueless).

Please understand what I'm saying. I believe, out of all the sacraments, that communion is the most important in the life of a Christian. The commitment and public communion with Christ in some senses defines the Christian faith. We partake in communion because it gives us the opportunity both to  publicly declare our faith in Christ as the savior of all mankind generally and to privately unite with Christ as our personal savior.

So when I talk about the prepper's communion, I'm talking about the recognition that our life in Christ is just as, and even more, critically important as any amount of physical food, water, vitamins, batteries, ammunition, etc. that we might have on hand in the event of TEOTWAKI. I doubt I'm going to buy the prepper wafer/wine sealpak combo, but looking at it really made me think about the focus of the current awareness (in some circles "fad") about preparing for future disasters. Thinking about our preps, and recognizing that those preparations for the future in some sense represent where we (or you) have placed your faith, did we make room for God in between the ammo, heritage tomato seeds, and the canned goods?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chickens that deserve death

El Jefe here. The El Jefe that considers all livestock, including, potentially, the dog, to be food. XaLynn let the kids name the chickens, despite my warnings from personal experience. So now we're dealing with chicken meanness. Chickens, if you didn't know, are ruthless, sort of like mobsters or communists, or democrats. If they sense weakness, or nonconformity -- like the mob, the commies, or the democrats -- they kill it. So XaLynn gets several Polish top hat chickens, and the kids name them. I really don't know why. They are classed as "ornamental", which pretty much means they are poor egg layers and poor meat producers. Pets. They still look like meat to me, but XaLynn and the Princess and the Pirate are still upset that they get "picked on" by the other chickens.


 They also have lots of tufted feathers sticking out of their heads. They look like the loser big hair kids in high school. Not the cool ones, but the ones who were just dirty and stupid looking.

(This is the main culprit--AKA "The Grey Fox")




 (This is the Grey Fox with his criminal gang. All I know is that they named the one in the lower left "Lucky." I'm wanting to eat him just for the irony.)
















The other chickens, naturally, are offended at the stupid looking chickens and want to peck at them continously. And they do. The end result is that the Polish Top Hat chickens are about to meet their maker. Currently, all of them have a tonsure, since the other chickens apparently think it's fun to peck at the back of the Top Hats' heads.

Enter El Jefe at "She's" command. $100 of lumber later, we are near to finishing what will likely be a turkey or goose coop after I finish off the Top Hats. In the meantime, the top hats will get their own special "time out" room in which they can feel safe from the mean normal chickens.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Painting Postponed in order to deal with Freezer Problem

I'm frustrated right now because I was supposed to be painting the Pirate's new, much smaller, bedroom yesterday, today and tomorrow, and I haven't even been able to start it due to dealing with the fallout from the freezer issue.  Suffice it to say that everything in the smaller freezer (that is part of the fridge) thawed, and I've had to do a lot of cooking and canning to keep from losing everything in it.  I had to pitch the eel and the fish, cook all the chicken, turn all the ground beef, turkey, and some of the pork into meatloaves (that I can at least re-freeze), and all the venison sausage into various soups, which I can freeze and El Jefe can take to work.  And this morning I made all the "yard berries" the kids picked (black raspberries) into jam so their work would not be wasted.  I still have three bags of formerly frozen strawberries to go.  Then I have to deal with the 10# of blueberries that have now been sitting in the fridge for a week.  After that, I can actually start priming the bedroom.  I can only hope that with enough all-night painting parties on my part, I will actually manage to finish it before she gets back from camp.  Oh, and we're not even going to discuss starting the Princess' bedroom.  I think she'll just be sleeping on the couch in the living room next week so I can get hers done.  Not quite the birthday present I was planning.  Sigh.  Someday, I may actually be on schedule for something, but I cannot imagine what.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

More pickles...

I'm up rather later than I wanted to be as I am finishing up another batch of pickles (sweet pickle chips this time, suing the nifty wavy chopper tool).  I'm kind of surprised any actually made it into the jars (6 pint jars worth) because I tasted one, okay, more than one, before I started canning them.  They have to be soaked 12-24 hours in vinegar and sugar and spices, and they were yummy without even processing or aging them, even though I lacked the fresh ginger the recipe calls for.   Somehow,  I managed not to snarf the entire saucepan full of not-quite-pickles and now I am waiting to hear if all the jar lids will seal. (I've heard two of them pop so far, make that three.  I love that sound - it means I did it right...)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cherry Jam, Pickles, Chicks and Bees

I finally got a bunch of stuff done today that needed doing - the last batch of cherry jam (9 more half-pints), started a batch of cucumber chips from the Ball book (will finish them tomorrow night), and now I'm going out to play with the chickens for a few minutes before I read the kiddies tonight's chapters of the Roman Mystery: Colossus of Rhodes, which has provided many laughs so far.

I made plans to remove a hive from a house being rehabbed for sale - I know it's too late in the season to expect them to make enough honey to get through the winter, but I thought I'd try giving them a bit of a head start from the hive already going gangbusters here.  If neither hive fills two deeps before October, I'll just combine them and see how that works.  If one hive does and the other doesn't, I'll sacrifice the one that doesn't and eat all its honey.  If they both do, because the weather is just that weird, then I'll be two hives ahead of where I thought I'd be next spring.

Other than that, the darn rabbits are after my cukes, and since they don't finish anything they start, I've been feeding the half-eaten cukes to the chickens, several of whom will now hop onto a knee in order to eat their treats.  The squirrels have gotten into the basement.  And I'm thinking Brunswick Stew is in order.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bees are happier, I hope.

Well, I finally found the tool(s) I needed to finish the frames for the hive, so I got that done this morning and now the hive has a second deep.  I hope they like it.  Next I'll have to make the frames for a super, just in case they fill that second deep before everything stops blooming.  I heard from the farmer's wife that we're supposed to get as cold an August as we've had hot a July... and that since the cicadas started chirping the fourth of July, and we have six weeks from that time (usually in August, btw) til the first frost (usually after Sept 15), well, this has just been the weirdest gardening year ever.

The idiot mutt tried to eat another chicken - he grabbed a Polish Top Hat rooster's tail from the other side of the one inch chicken wire fence.  I hope he broke his teeth on the fence.  Would anyone (that has no chickens) like to adopt a dog?  I'm going to have to shell out for a new shock collar (the THIRD) because the first one doesn't work and the second one went missing in the move, in order to train the doufus that the chickens are OFF LIMITS to his stupid self. 

To calm down the Pirate who was bawling about the Polish Top Hat while holding it in her arms, we fed the chickens chunks of cuke from our garden that something else had already started chewing on the vine.   They LOVED it.  Well, all of them except the TopHats which pretty much hid under the coop and clucked.  Everyone else came out, even the hinky Grey Fox (blue andy rooster), for a bite.  Or several.  Or a few attempts to eat my engagement ring, and the threads and buttons on my pants.  Whatever.  At least we got everyone calmed down. 

I haven't gotten the cherries done yet, and it's still in the nineties in the house, so I believe I will do that tomorrow morning when it will be...

73 degrees at sunrise.  Sigh.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pickled today

In the process of weeding the hoop house, we discovered about a dozen cukes of a size to be pickled as spears.  So I did.   This is my first attempt at making pickles, so I hope I did it right.  The recipe (a sweet spear pickle recipe from the Ball book, that did NOT call for brined cukes, which I didn't want to mess with today) said it would make about 10 half-pints, but I ended up with seven half-pints and five pint-and-a-halfs.  There was exactly enough liquid to cover that.  My only issue is that the pickles float upward and the directions said to leave a half inch headspace.  I did that, but what if the pickles float above the liquid line (which some of them were doing before I put them in the water bath)?  Won't that make for icky pickle ends later?

Other than that, I took care of adding dirt to the taters til I ran out of dirt.  I'll have to pick up more this week.  I checked El Jefe's hops which are doing much better since I stopped watering them (?!).  I shut the irrigation off on the maters, too, because they have leaves yellowing at the bottom of the plant, and I noticed the dirt wasn't dry in the evening a couple days this week, which is insane, but the evidence was hard to deny.  I will start on the bee box this eve as soon as I get off the computer.  I think I'll try to do that in the house, because while it is hot in here, it is REALLY hot outside where there is no shade.  (Nineties again, and eighties in the house).

The second batch of cherry jam will wait til tomorrow, assuming the Pirate doesn't eat them all first.  I have to admit the temptation of cold cherries from the fridge has been impossible to resist today!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cherry Jam, the "special" kind... and special chicken(s)

I bought three bags of cherries at the grocery store because they were on sale for $1.99/lb and I can't even get U-Pick for that price.  And I don't really want to pick anything in 90 degree heat anyway,  Even if there were any cherries here to pick, which there aren't.  The birds got what the weather didn't.  Anyhow, I decided since it was going to be hot anyway, I'd just heat up the kitchen s'more and can some jam (I love sherry jam, I mean cherry jam).  I was looking for the recipe in my Ball Book and I came across one called Bing Cherry Jam, which has cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice and almond liqueur in it.  It smells LOVELY.  I'll make another batch of regular cherry jam (nothing but sugar and pectin in that) tomorrow, since there are enough cherries for that.  Then we can taste test them both.

After that, I have 10# of blueberries to deal with.  That should make one batch of regular jam, one batch of blueberry-lime jam, and a batch of syrup.  Anything left over will go on oatmeal or in yogurt or just eaten by the handful the rest of the week.

Somewhere in there I HAVE to build another box for the beehive, since they have built out all ten of their frames.  (Oops - should have dealt with that last week).  It would be freaky to have a captured swarm throw a swarm two months later.  And also bad management on my part.  So as soon as the cherry jam is done tomorrow, I'll build the box and paint it.  Then I'll put the frames together Monday, and slap it on the hive Monday or Tuesday.

Something has eaten all the lettuce in the garden, all the icicle radishes they wouldn't touch last month, and is working through the beans.   I'm thinking I'll be buying green beans at the Farmer's Market this year.  The sweet potatoes are doing well.  The regular potatoes are ready for me to throw another layer of dirt on, I need to pick some cukes, and the gourds are going gangbusters.  The lemon cukes are tasty.  There is one sport cuke - bright yellow but shaped like a normal cuke, except that it is twice the size it ought to be.  There are two golf ball sized watermelons.  The malabar spinach didn't survive the heat and I lost tomato plants (2/8)... which is annoying, since they had green maters on them.  The kohl rabi still lives, even though those nasty green caterpillars (they look like little hornworms) have skeletonized half the leaves.  I pull them off when I find them, but I think they are hiding from me now.

There are still 26 chickens.  The Pirate picked one of the roosters I WASN'T going to save as her favorite now (since she can't get the misidentified "Midget" to come close to her since returning from vacation at Grandma's and Nana's). It is the unidentified exotic chick sent with out order.  I think it's a Lakenvelder.  We'll see.   She wouldn't take my advice to hang with the hens.  So far, I've figured out that two of the Buff Rocks are roosters.  One of the black Blue Andalusians and one of the white Blue Andalusians are also.  And two of the Partridge Rocks.  And two of the Barred Rocks.  And of course the two Polish Top Hats that I ordered sexed. I don't want to keep five roosters.  I would prefer to keep three and cal that enough... so I could keep nine hens and have lots of eggs. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stupid chicken

   There are now 26 chickens. I am down one buff rock because the stupid thing decided I was scarier than the dog outside the fence and it squeezed through the white trash gate and ran straight into the dog, who promptly opened his mouth and broke the chickens neck. At least he had the sense to look mighty guilty and drop the chicken when I yelled NO. But the chicken flapped its wings and died anyway. I managed not to cuss, but just barely. It was a hen, too. A stupid hen that wouldn't go in the coop, but still, a hen. I would rather have lost the evil biting buff rock rooster.  It was almost big enough to justify plucking it  and calling it a Cornish Hen and eating it, but it's late and I have had next to no appetite for over a week, so I didn't.  I feel guilty about that, but I also feel guilty about the leftovers I'm going to have to pitch tomorrow. 

The living room is painted and looks great.  The hallway I will have to roll one more coat on, because the grooves in the wood paneling still show some primer.  I rolled another coat on the kitchen yesterday, and then worked on the trim that didn't get done last week, and fixed the trim I decided I didn't like.  Tomorrow I have to get everything back where it belongs (that is, out of the girls' bedrooms, because they will be home Friday), which means cleaning everything, too, because I'm not putting all this stuff back dirty on dirty floors, blah, blah, blah.  I'm really glad this is getting done, but I'm very annoyed that so little else is, because painting is taking up too much time.  The asparagus bed desperately needs weeding (I did half of it this morning).  Something is eating all my bean plants in the hoop house (dangit).  The hoop house also needs weeding in the worst way (I did the sweet potatoes this morning and fed all those weeds to the chickens).  I have to remember to check on the hops, and I need to pick the berries before they, too, are eaten by something else.  I think I'll freeze them until I have a moment to actually can some jam.  I'm hoping that moment comes before, say, THANKSGIVING.  


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In other news, Tooth is still missing

Tooth, the snake, is still AWOL. 

The Princess and the Pirate have both lost teeth (Princess, 1; Pirate, 2).  The Tooth Fairy needs to go shopping, because the Tooth Fairy's supply drawer was EMPTY.

I cleaned that horrible stovetop again (the propane, not my beloved woodstove).  Now I can stand to be in the kitchen again.

The house was powerwashed today and it looks SOOO much better.  The decks are a different color.  Really.  The painters are coming Thursday and Friday to paint the living room, hallway, and kitchen.  The painters were affordable, though not cheap, but the paint was pretty darn expensive.  And I still have 4 more gallons to buy, for the kids' rooms, which I'll be doing myself next week.  Ouch.  And I have one more $100 purchase after that - a pantry closet for the alcove off the kitchen, so I actually have storage space for the food that I also need to buy (but which can wait until the end of August, when the local grocery stores have canned goods on sale because the students come back and stock up).  After that, I need to sit down and re-write the budget.  Before that, though, I need to write the plan for the next homeschool year, preferably while the kids are visiting their grandparents.  It's something I really need about three eight-hour days and a trip to the nearest library for, in order to do right.  That lets me write out the first two months in detail, and get the other months somewhat organized, so I have MelCat lists attached to the days they need to be done, and books ordered from Paperbackswap.com if they are available, and from elsewhere if they are not, so I'm not scrambling around the morning of a particular lesson looking for resources. (I hate that).  Oh, and I need to make sure we have the money for the excavators to come in August and fix the drainage around the house, and I need to buy grass seed to replace what is going to be torn up. 

More fun stuff - I have a quilt block that has to be done Monday.  I had a manic midnight quilting party for myself a couple days ago and finished 16 blocks for a large-ish baby quilt.  I'd like to finish that for Monday, too, but I'm not optimistic it'll actually happen.  We'll see. 

Chicken News

We lost a second chick, so we are down to 27, which is the number of chicks I actually paid for.  I don't feel like I'm out anything.  The Pirate never did figure out that the first chick we lost was the runt she liked.  She simply began calling the next smallest "The Runt" and now calls one of the larger chicks that, claiming that it grew.  Reality is apparently still fluid to a nine year old.
We now have 7 Blue Andalusians (only one of which is "blue" - a good sized rooster that is leery of me because I had to catch him and toss him in the coop this evening).  One of the smaller Andalusians is the friendliest of all the chickens - she comes right up to me, and doesn't struggle when I have to pick her up to move her somewhere.  There are still six Polish Top Hats, only three Barred Rocks, six Partridge Rocks, and four Buff Rocks. The meanest chicken of all is a Buff.  It bites.  It's name is Fricassee.  Because that is its ultimate destiny. 

Yesterday was the chicks' first day out of the coop, loose in the pen around the coop, which I fenced with chicken wire, after digging an 8 inch deep trench to it, and sinking some metal posts, and cussing about this not being done sooner.  I ran out of chicken wire three feet short, and so have concocted what El Jefe refers to as "an expedient solution" and what I call the White Trash Chicken Yard Door... because I took the door off the shed that is coming down, put it on its side and wire tied it to a post at one end and leaned it again another piece of wood at the other.  Ugly, but it works.  They haven't escaped yet, which is a good thing considering how the dog circles their pen, and occasionally lunges at the chicken wire (whereupon I holler at him and make him go sit in his crate, which works about as well as timeouts do on my youngest child, that is to say, not at all and stopping no behavior whatsoever).    I'm not sure how to train him to leave them alone, which we WILL have to do, since they will eventually be free-ranged.  I suspect I will have to locate the shock collar.

Speaking of training, I am currently discovering whether it is possible to train the chickens to go into the coop in the evening on their own.  Yesterday, I had to pick up every freaking-out chicken in the yard and put it in the coop.  Many were highly unhappy with me for this.  Today, about a third of them walked (or flew) in when I put their food in the coop.  The others required more physical convincing that the coop was the place to be.  The last chicken, of course, was a royal pain, since it figured out that it could hide under the coop (it's built on cement blocks), and I had to get after it with the rake, repeatedly, to get it to come out long enough for me to corner it and manage to grab it successfully. At least all 27 of them are tidily put away for the evening.  I do admit I like to throw a chair over the fence and sit in the pen and feed them and watch them behave like velociraptors whenever a fly gets near.  And the chicken dance they've been doing establishing their pecking order is highly amusing, too.  Think Cossack, and you'll have an idea what it looks like.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Snake flies the coop

Yesterday, the Pirate gave her snake a (frozen and then thawed) mouse, which he didn't eat.  This was cause for her to have a screaming hissy fit over him wasting another mouse.  She threw such a temper tantrum ("I hate you, Tooth, I HATE YOU!  You're a stupid jerk!"), that she distracted herself from closing the snake's door.  She left the room and her snake left his cage, and no one can find him anywhere.  I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am in the Pirate.  Under no circumstances will I ever buy her another pet, and I do not care how many teeth the dentist has to remove from her mouth.  I do not have time for this idiocy this week.  Homeschool is cancelled, and so is the "official vacation" from it in July, since we will be making up everything that will not get done this week while I take the house apart trying to rescue the snake from the Pirate's irresponsible idiocy.  I have to take the car to the mechanic tonight, after the Pirate's appointment, and TaeKwonDo, so nothing will get done here after 3PM, until tomorrow.  And I REALLY do not have time for this.  Why?  Because I have between 6 and 12 guests coming this weekend.  Assuming they are still willing to come, after they hear about the snake.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chicken Adventure

We are on Day Four of the Chicken Adventure.  So far, all 29 are still peeping away in my laundry room shower.  Yes, somehow we ended up with 29 chicks... which is twice what the the coop will hold when they are grown.  Let's just say that the roosters will all be named for chicken dishes.  The minimum order for chicks by mail was 25, and I ordered 27 (I know, that wasn't smart), then the hatchery threw in a couple freebies, one of which is a Blue Andalusian rooster and the other is a big question mark... both the breed and the gender.  I have 3 Blue Andalusian roosters and 4 hens, 2 Golden Polish Top Hat roosters and 4 hens, 4 straight run Buff Rocks, 7 straight run Partridge Rocks, and 4 straight run Barred Rocks, (so I'm hoping that half of those 15 straight run chicks turn out to be roosters for dinner) and one utter unknown.  The Polish Top Hats I ordered strictly because they make me laugh.  They will also likely be the Princess' 4H project.  The Pirate is mad about this, but she isn't old enough to do it until next year.  The Blue Andalusians are for fly-tying feathers (roosters only), and so we have some white eggs from the hens, maybe, for Easter, or some such.  The Rock roosters (except for 1 or 2) are for the pot.  The Rock hens are for brown eggs.  There is a variety of rocks, and I saw no reason to order all the same kind, since they were the same price anyway.  Also,  since these will be free-ranged eventually, I figured whichever blended in best would survive best.  This is not a  good scientific experiment though, because there are too many other variables, like the fact that the buffs are the biggest of all the chicks, and also the pushiest, bossiest and most obnoxious.  And also the hardest to hold.   I think they are all very cute.  El Jefe says they are not.  The kids keep quoting one of their favorite books, When Fletcher Was Hatched... "She loves chickens....cute, fluffy, peeping, STUPID chickens!"  and then cackling with laughter.  The Polish Top Hats had fluff growing straight up when they arrived.  It makes them look like the have cotton balls on their heads.  Or someone let his high-and-tight grow out.  The Blue Andalusians come in the widest variety of colors - only 50% are actually "blue" - the others are either white or black or some combination thereof.  The Buff Rocks look like the typical fluffy yellow chick.  The Partridge Rocks look like chipmunks.  Supposedly, they will set eggs, too.  I hope so.  And the Barred Rocks all look similar, but multicolored, and I can't describe them well.  I looked through the hatchery website to see if I could find a  chick that looked like the one that doesn't match any of the others, but couldn't find anything even close.  Maybe when it's a bit older I'll have better luck matching it to a picture.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Failing miserably, or not

I've been failing miserably to keep up with this blog.  The only thing I can say in my defense is that actually DOING the garden has taken priority over writing about it.  One side of the hoop house is entirely planted.  The other side is half weeded.  The rest of the weeding needs to be finished, the entire side double dug, and the manure needs to go in.  Getting the irrigation system to the trees and the hoop house by Friday has taken priority over that.  Next week is supposed to be dry, and windy, when it isn't in the upper 80s.

On the planted side of the hoop house, the peas and rhubarb are doing great.  The second and third plantings of radishes are up (I gave up on the square foot spacing and went with rows because the seeds are old and the germination rate was low - planting every inch in rows four inches apart has gotten me enough radishes that I will thin them once, hopefully tomorrow, and eat those as greens, then wait for the rest to actually be radishes.  We ate the four radishes we got from the first square-foot.  NONE of the carrots (any of the three plantings) has come up.  Admittedly, those seeds were old, too.  Or it could be Ph level - which I didn't check (something else to do tomorrow, now that I have a tester).  The kohlrabi is doing fine since I covered it with chicken wire to keep out whatever little beastie was chomping all the leaves.  We've harvested a bagful of spinach (the regular kind) that we need to finish before Friday.  The leaves are huge - I won't wait that long to harvest them again, because I like baby spinach best.  A few of the early beans actually came up - more will be planted tomorrow and/or the first week of June, along with more Malabar Spinach, since the cold nights took out most of that.  Two of the cukes (the big ones under the cloches) are doing okay.  The rest are dead.  Some of the gourds are okay, but I don't know which are which (someone mixed up my labels when they were in the Jiffy pellets indoors). 

On both sides we are munching the occasional strawberry from the plants that were there when we moved in.  And the figs in the middle are coming back up from where I had to cut them to the ground after those late cold winds killed them back.

I still have the peppers in the house because it has been too cold at night to put them out.  Also more white wonder, lemon, and paris cornichon cukes.  And there might be more gourds in there, too.  Or morning glories.  Like I said, the labels didn't stay where they should have.

On the rest of the property, the fields are tilled.  I should walk down and see if they planted yet.  The fruit tree I couldn't identify earlier in the year IS a pear tree.  El Jefe got a little too happy with the chain saw while taking out the branches that were making mowing such a pain, and he cut off all the low-hanging branches on the cherry trees, so I'll be harvesting those from a ladder.  There are lots of pears and cherries.  I think we lost the apples to the late frost.  Oddly enough, though, we have peaches... on a sad looking tree that is nearly as many dead branches as live.  And the magnolia STILL has buds and open blossoms.  Last of all, El Jefe figured out what those three scruffy little shrubs in one of the unmowed strips were - Gooseberries!  Then I found more of them mixed in with the raspberries or blackberries (really which is which?) that are everywhere.  There is a difference, though - all the berry bushes at the edge of the woods have white petals and white to green centers.  The ones by the gooseberries (and there are a LOT of gooseberries) have the same white petals but the stamens are yellow.  Really bright yellow.

 And that is all I have time for today.  Now off to the TaeKwonDo tests...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More pleasant surprises

We've found more rhubarb, buried in unmowed areas.  Also, more asparagus, leeks, and GARLIC.  Oh, happy day!  I love garlic.  I had already ordered some to be delivered for planting in the fall.  It would be nice to be able to harvest some this year, though.

The bees in the nuc are quite busy.  They've chewed themselves a slightly larger opening.  This is fine, since I doubt they'll chew anything larger than they can defend.  And I'll get the woodware for real entrances, hopefully by Thursday... right, El Jefe?  Also, tomorrow I have to set the swarm lures.  Should have done it today, but I was distracted by cutting off the plastic the wind tore across the hoop house, and painting RoundUp on the area where the hops will go.  My list of things to do keeps getting longer faster than I can get anything done.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Birds and the Bees...

We got a bit more done on the coop yesterday after church and lunch, since the weather held.  The Princess and the Pirate both helped.  The Princess by gophering, and the Pirate by keeping the dog out of our hair and then by weeding half of the next section of the hoop house (which I need to get dug, and add the manure to, since I've also planted the entire side that was ready).  Let's see if I can post some pics...





This was actually how much we did LAST weekend.  I don't have the pics of what we did yesterday.  But we added the corner posts, with temporary braces to hold them, and two of the beams across the tops.  It's a learn-as-we-go experience.  We stopped working yesterday because I wanted supper, and we needed L-brackets that we didn't have.

In the process yesterday, we discovered we have two racoons living in the barn... way, WAAAYYY up near the roof.  One of them is a monster-sized beast.  They have to go.

We also took El Jefe's new revolver down to the river where there is a backstop, and I tried it out.  In the process, we discovered again that the dog will never be a gundog, since at the first shot, he lit out for home like a bear was after him.  He came back to us looking highly embarrassed about ten minutes later, as we were walking up the path to home.  I like the Ruger LCR better than any other revolver I've ever tried, but I still much prefer semi-autos.

Friday morning, I got a call from a friend about a swarm of bees hanging 7-8' up in a pine tree in her back yard.  She had to go to work before we could get there, but she left good directions, and I found them with no trouble.  It was the easiest bee capture EVER.  Even though I had to do it by myself.  I transported them home in the trunk of the car and they are happily ensconced in a nuc box I had.  We hadn't planned on getting bees again until next year, but darned if I'm going to turn down a free swarm.  El Jefe is on his way to Dadant to pick up a hive body so I can transfer them as soon as they have built out four/fifths of the frames in the nuc.  I should have told him to pick up a swarm capture box while he's there, since it occurs to me that the weird warm weather we've had this spring may provoke more swarms than usual - I believe I'll sign off and see if I can get him on the cell to do that.

Pic of the bees in their tree...  That ball is slightly smaller than a football, maybe three pounds of bees. 


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Pirate/Sniper/Spy Amusement for the Day

El Jefe and I went for a walk down to the river a bit after dawn this morning.  We did this yesterday, too.  Yesterday, we were trailed by a small pirate, who was quickly spotted when El Jefe turned around to drag a tree off the path that had been knocked down by the high winds we've had lately.  Small Pirate was disappointed to be discovered so quickly.  I mentioned to Small Pirate that perhaps she would blend in better if she were wearing camo.  I did not expect this information to be retained, much less acted upon.  However, halfway through this morning's walk, I noted some movement on the other side of the field.  I pointed it out to El Jefe, who quickly identified the Small Pirate, and then stated we should pretend we had NOT seen her... probably because if she knew she had been seen, she would be vociferous in her disappointment at the failure of her "sneak" - and we really wanted some peace and quiet and "just us" time.  But it was quite amusing to watch her attempt to tiptoe across the field, and drop behind the bits of scrub growth whenever we looked her way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Leeks and Onions

This past weekend, while the internet was down, I did get the leeks and onions in the ground... about 200 onions split fairly evenly between red, white, and sweet yellow, and about 60 leeks.  Of course, then I looked a bit more closely at what was coming up in the yard around the trough (future asparagus bed) and realized that... there were leeks everywhere.  There are leeks coming up in the old garden area that is now my compost pile, too.  There are leeks coming up all over.  I have maybe 6 good leek recipes, but will obviously be trying every leek recipe I can find in the near future.  I like leeks, fortunately.  El Jefe, though, looked at me when I told him about the "wild" ones, and said, "Do I like leeks?"  You do now, honey.  You may not later, but you do now.

I was also pleased to see the rhubarb coming up where I cut the overgrown grass back.  That means I'll actually get rhubarb this year instead of having to wait two more years til my newly planted rhubarb is grown enough to cut.

Of the starts in the house, the lemongrass all died.  The amaranth is spindly.  But the malabar spinach looks great, and every seed germinated.  There are 6 good chile peppers and 8 white wonder cukes.  There  was an ant nest in one of the trays, so everything that germinated was moved to the other tray and the antful one was put outside (and drowned in the rain).  I have another tray and I bought some refill peat pellets, so we'll start other stuff this Sunday.  And I'll repot the cukes and peppers to something larger tomorrow, I hope.

And I have finished 2/3 of double digging the trough for the asparagus, which arrived Monday.  I need to finish the other third and get over to Suzanne's for more manure, now that I've figured out how to attach my little wagon to the back of the little tractor.  And I have to mow, too.  All that rain - nice not to have to water my new trees, but does make the grass grow faster.

One of those days

Did you ever have one of these?  Where at the end of the day the only thing you can say is that at least no one died?  That was my Monday.  It really started Sunday when the internet died just before I went to file the taxes.  So El Jefe spent an hour on the phone with the provider trying to fix it long distance.  No joy.  Then he was crabby.  Same thing Monday morning.  Then he had to leave for work (cranky) and I got on the phone.  Another hour.  Still no joy.  AND they couldn't schedule a service call til Wednesday - AFTER the taxes are due.  (Now I, too, am highly irritated).  So now I have to find the original Turbotax disk, and we'll have to load it on El Jefe's computer when he gets home from work, and transfer our return from my computer to his, too.  And then go to McDonalds or somewhere with WiFI, and file there.  Homeschool got cancelled, because of the ninety-three other things that needed to be done/went wrong, including that stupid dog rolling in the nasty, for the forty-second time.  I threw dinner in the crockpot.  Thank goodness for crockpots.  We had a dentist appt. at 2PM.  I wanted to stop at a friend's house on the way, to borrow next year's Tapestry of Grace to see if we want to do that next year (I need to order it soon, if we do).  But we didn't get started early enough to make that stop.  We've been trying to make that stop for a month.  We left on time for the dental appt, but without my phone.  We got there, and their power was out (it is a 45 minute drive to the dentist).  They had called my husband to tell him, about 15 minutes after I'd left the house, but I didn't have a phone for him to call me.  He was annoyed because they had called him anyway - they always call the wrong number about our appts.  I thought I'd just take both kids to the library that only one usually get to go to, while the other is at Sylvan.  But the Princess had forgotten to bring the movies that needed to be returned to that library.  Steam is coming out my ears.  I decided to just waste the gas and drive home (another 45 minutes ONE WAY),  get the movies and my phone and stop at the friend's house on the way BACK to town for the Pirate's appt at Sylvan.  We did this.  Then we dropped the Pirate at Sylvan and went to the library to discover the Pirate has an unreturned book she owes $20.60 to replace, Or $8.00 in late fees if she can find it, which will never happen because her room is a pigsty again.  We went back to Sylvan, picked up the Pirate and drove to TKD where I dropped both kids and went off to the allergist for my shots.  I got the shots.  I got back for my own TKD class, where I kept screwing up the same two points in my form - the form I am supposed to do at the tournament on Saturday.  El Jefe drove the kids home.  I went to Wally World for the fabric tape I need to edge El Jefe's uniform before Saturday's tournament.  On the way home, I ran over a raccoon.  Then I got home and El Jefe was really grouchy because we'd had 58 mph winds during the day and they had torn the hoop house to shreds  The new door is broken and the plastic is torn down the length of the house and up across the top.  In multiple places.  It is now useless.  so we go out in the dark and throw an old painter's plastic over the plants because we are supposed to get frost.  The plastic isn't quite long enough, but I don't think the rhubarb will care.  The carrots might, though.  Re-reading this, individually none of those things should have caused me to do any more than sigh.  Collectively, that should just be a lot of sighs.  Unfortunately, collectively it made me mad.  I might laugh at this later, but only if my plants survive.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gardening notes

I got the leeks and the onions in the ground in the hoop house today - that was four hundred or so little holes.  The kids helped by weeding other beds there, without even being asked to do so.  It made for a pleasant afternoon.  Of the seeds I started indoors, half of the cukes and chile peppers are up.  So is the lemon grass, but it looks REALLY thin.  I've never grown lemon grass so I don't know if that is normal or not.  A lot of the malabar spinach is up, and the amaranth.  Unfortunately, there was apparently an ants' nest under the carrier tray so I had to take that outside and remove and inspect all the plants and transfer them to another tray (leaving the infested peat and ants behind, I hope).  A minor irritation. At least it was warm enough to take the trays outside for some real sun.

 The potatoes arrived, but I have no idea where I am putting them yet, so they are still in the box in my bedroom (since it is far and away the coldest room in the house).  The asparagus will probably arrive next week, so I need to finish double digging the trough and adding the manure.  El Jefe might do it if it doesn't thunderstorm tomorrow (like it is supposed to), and he finishes leveling the base for the chicken coop... Unless removing the last trash tree next to the trough holds more appeal.  Ha.  Tomorrow I am Appleseeding, so I won't be doing any gardening, and Sunday I am singing the special at church, so my spare time is going to practicing with the background tracks anyway.  I hate singing with tracks.  They don't let me take the song where it wants to go.  Probably how an espaliered tree feels.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pirate Birthday

The Pirate has NOT given me a list for her birthday.  Usually she has a list several pages long for every birthday and holiday for which she might remotely expect a gift.  This is somewhat weird.  But she had mentioned that she wanted more puppets for putting on shows (and really for playing with like the stuffed animals I refuse to buy any more of), so when the Princess and I were in the bookstore today, we checked out the Folkmanis puppets, and found the perfect puppet for the Pirate.  A Flying Squirrel.  Seeing as how her favorite superhero is The Red Panda, that's perfect  (It's a Canadian radio drama, for those who have not yet heard of him).   The Red Panda's sidekick is the Flying Squirrel.  The Pirate wants to be her.  But since she has to be herself, she has decided to be The Flying Cheetah, because she has leopard print clothes already, and that's clothes enough.  (It's late, I'll stop that, right now, really...) 

Homeschooling Bits

We have finished the Botany text for the year, except for the "Final" (which we are doing orally tomorrow, since it is 50 questions long, and the questions require more than one word answers, and the Pirate would be apoplectic at the idea).  So, I need to order next year's text, which will be Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (I'd call it an ornithology book, but it includes bats and butterflies in addition to birds, so that won't quite fly.  ha.)  Anyway, we're just going to take a week off science while we wait for the new books to get here, and then we'll start next school year 5 months early.  I see no reason not to do so, and I'll never feel like we're behind in Science if I do it.  I'll also have a chance to proof the book, because I had a few issues with this year's text.  Field bees are not male, and I'm not a Young Earther, and so on.  I dislike sloppy thinking, grammar, and editing.  In case you are wondering, the quality of the experiments and activities made up for my issues, so we are sticking with the series.

The Princess finished her math text for the year last week (The LONG year of LONG division), and I ordered Life of Fred (Fractions) to play with until the credit card re-sets and we can order Teaching Textbooks 5 for her.  No, we are nowhere near our credit limit - we just pay it off every month, and when we reach the point where I am unhappy about paying it, we stop buying anything 'til the next month.  Yes, it is weird, but we have no credit card debt that way, so it works and you can laugh all you want, I won't care.  Anyway, Life of Fred is only $20/textbook.  Teaching Textbooks is going to run me over $100.  I like Life of Fred.  It's FUNNY.  And the author packs an incredible amount of information into each little chapter.   And it isn't drill and kill - the examples and questions are all "real life" so you know why you are learning what you are learning.  I ordered the very first book in the elementary series for the Pirate (Apples), and she did half the book in one day, and has begged for multiple chapters every other day we've done it.  This from the child who usually whinges and whines for an hour over a worksheet she actually completes in ten minutes once she finally shuts up and starts it.  She has 7 more chapters of Multiplication, which is about ten more weeks of work, so she won't be done until June.  That isn't stopping us from doing Life of Fred at the same time, though, because Fred is Fun.

We have nine more weeks of Tapestry of Grace - the Etruscans, then the Romans. I'm sure it will take til mid-June, though.  We're not starting Year Two until August, when the girls get back from Camp.

I've decided to finish up a few things we've let slide, like the geography workbooks.  The Princess likes them, and the Pirate is generally happy about anything we can do orally.  I won't stop with the maps that relate to Tapestry of Grace topics, but the workbooks provide more map-reading experience than simply coloring the extent of Alexander the Great's Empire by copying a completed example.  The Princess also started her Spelling program again.  I still find it REALLY HARD TO TEACH SPELLING, since I find spelling the easiest subject of all, and have never had to think about it.  Words just look right, or wrong.  Try teaching that.  When she finishes this workbook (June), we'll try Sequential Spelling with both the girls, because I don't think what we're doing now is working in terms of long-term retention, or application of previously learned material to new problems.  Of course, English doesn't help, with screwball issues like weight/wait and eight/ate, which we discovered today.

I'm done with phonics.  It is now time to convince everyone to read aloud to me (instead of me always reading to them).

We are still doing poetry, which I love hearing them recite.  Especially stuff like The Whole Duty Of Children.  We'll keep that up, but possibly not all from the book we've been using, because I got a new list from IEW, and it looked like more fun.  Suggestions are always welcome in the poetry department.

Garden Diary

One quarter of the hoop house beds are double dug and amended with our generous neighbor's horse manure.  Kohlrabi, carrots, radishes and peas are planted (all seeds because I was too short of time and too disorganized from moving to manage to start anything early).  I did manage to start amaranth, malabar spinach, lemongrass, and chile peppers in Jiffy peat pots yesterday.  They are on a heat mat in the living room, which is usually 65 degrees during the day and 55 at night... I didn't think they'd do well without the extra heat for germinating.  (All the seed info said they could liked to germinate in soil at least 70F.  Tomorrow, assuming the weather allows it, I'm going to clear the old 5'x10' cement trough of the trash tree in it, the trash shrub next to it, and the remaining layer of weeds.  I will probably NOT do anything about the pile of rocks next to it at this point, because I have other, more time sensitive, jobs to do... like emptying the green shack so it can be torn down on Saturday.  In fact, if I can find the RoundUp, I may just hack out the tree and the shrub, and simply spray the remaining weeds.  Then I can go work on the shack tomorrow, and deal with turning the bed Sunday after church, assuming the weeds are dead.  But that does put off getting the manure in the bed.  At least we have established that my little wagon DOES actually attach to the tractor, and I will not have to haul anymore manure uphill by hand (which experience taught me to appreciate cart ponies far more than I did).  El Jefe has apparently stayed late for Hapkido class after the usual TaeKwonDo, seeing as how he isn't home yet, so I think I will go find some bowls and start nicking and soaking morning glory and snake gourd seeds to start in the remaining peat pots tomorrow.  Then I will have to go buy more peat pots, because I will have more plants to start at the end of the month when the first sets are moved to the hoop house.

My week-by-week garden planner arrived in the mail yesterday - It looks to be very helpful, and allows me at least three years of space for weekly notes.  The One Line A Day Five Year Memory Book turned out to be far too small - one line per day that is only three inches long is simply not enough for my verbosity... I'm glad I ordered the other book at the same time.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Trees

On Saturday, I planted the 40 trees that arrived Thursday.  It rained Friday night, and drizzled off and on throughout Saturday, which was good for the trees, but slightly less than comfortable for people.  The Princess and the Pirate came out to help after I had finished the 10 Thuja, and was about 5 trees into the 30 Spartan Juniper.  I dug all the holes, and the kids mixed the dirt with potting soil, and tossed it back into the holes.  Then they removed all the wires and plastic bags, and then I let them help actually plant the trees.  We ran out of dirt mix on the last two trees, so those got no potting soil, just native earth. 

Yesterday after church, El Jefe put in the fencing to keep the deer off the new trees.  We'll have to leave it up for a few years, because I put in #1 size plants - even though the Thuja could grow 2' per year or more, the juniper won't, and deer munching on them will kill them until they are rather larger.  But eventually, we'll have two walls of trees that block the view of the house from the road, and vice versa.  We hope. 

I also got the rhubarb planted yesterday.  Unfortunately, I could not get the manure I needed from the  neighbors, because they weren't home, so I'll have to topdress it later.  In the process, I discovered (because manure doesn't glitter) that the large pile next to the hoop house is not old manure left by the previous owners, but is, in fact, a pile of sand covered in grass and weeds that I dug through to make this discovery.  This is frustrating, because the last thing I need in that hoop house is more sand.

Over the last several lovely days, El Jefe cleared much of the briar patch growing over the slab behind the house.  (We believe it used to be a garage).  Next step will be to remove the lower growing weeds coming up through the cracks (RoundUp is my friend), along with the leaves and the rest of the briars and trash trees (hawthorn) coming up around the slab.  The Princess has been picking up broken glass, which is everywhere.  She wears gloves.  The Pirate hasn't been helping at that job, because she keeps losing her gloves at inopportune moments.  One might almost think she plans this, except that it also happens just before jobs she actually DOES want to do.

The weather is back to normal today, sadly.  We had patchy frost last night, according to the radio weather man, and the temp won't get out of the forties today.  I'll have to see if any of the buds are left on the magnolia, or the blossoms on the cherry and apple trees.  I'm afraid I'll be getting my apples for canning from the Ag School Fruit Sale again this year...

The sunrise was beautiful again, since the clouds cleared off last night.  I drank my tea in the little green room off the balcony instead of going outside, because I didn't feel like braving the cold.  I'm REALLY tempted to fire up the cookstove.  Once it warms up a bit, I'll be trekking around the property with the lawn cart to all the areas I need to mow, to pick up all the stones and branches in hopes of getting the tractor out tomorrow to actually DO the mowing.  Mowing in March - how bizarre!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My New Tool/Toy/Tractor

Yesterday around 6PM, my new tractor was delivered!  I got a lesson on all the cool stuff it does/has, and after the tractor guy left, I went and found the camera (finally!  Just don't ask where it was!) and took pics...




I told El Jefe I had to get pics before I managed to hit a deer with it, since that is  what I've done with our last two vehicles, within a short time of acquiring them.  The deer have it in for me.  The feeling is mutual.

Due to the acreage I have to mow (and the paths down to the river), and the driveway that will need plowing, and the wood that needs hauling, we now own a Cub Cadet.  It has all kinds of cool features like the cast iron driveshaft, blah, blah, blah that make it really sturdy.  It has cruise control.  It has... a cup holder (?).  I had so much fun driving it around the property last night (oh, yeah, it has headlights, too), that I decided it must be illegal, immoral, or fattening.  Then I realized, that was probably the cupholder. 

Actually, since everything greened up here Saturday, and we realized that we may actually need to mow before the middle of May, that we should get the tractor now (also that whole "same as cash" financing thing helped - I'm not happy about monthly payments, but we're about to finish up a $300+ monthly payment in May, and this one is half that, so it actually fits in the budget, even if it annoys me).  And we do need the tractor.

In other pleasant news, we've been sitting on the balcony every morning to watch the sun rise and listen to the birds sing it up.  I noticed this morning that two of the fruit trees have blossomed.  This is pretty but it is NOT good.  We're not going to get any fruit if we get any real frost.  And it usually snows here in mid-April, so I may be hanging at the Ag School Fruit Sale again in the fall.  I couldn't tell you which fruit trees they were without climbing down and trekking there to look at the bark. (I don't know what is planted where from the view from the house yet).  There seems to be apple, cherry, and "unidentifiable to me" which might be pear.  I would guess the cherry would blossom first, but I could be wrong.  I would love to have some cherries to dry for cherry pork roast, and some cherries to make jam (my second favorite in the world next to rhubarb).  We'll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, I've had to open the doors on the hoop house because it was at least 90 degrees in there.  I'm going to plant some (old) seeds there today, and just hope for the best, because I can't stand not playing in the dirt in this weather.  I figure since they are two and three year old seeds from cold-weather crops, I'm not out anything except time if they don't sprout, and I might get some return for my labor... and really, I just need a couple hours to play/recharge after homeschool is done.  Which is where I'm off to now - to do botany experiments we couldn't do when we lived in the apt and the weather was bad...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend worth of work and the lack of common sense in children

The hoop house door is done.  As soon as I can find the stupid camera, I'll take pics.  Like everything else around here, the camera is AWOL.  Anyway, it was so hot on Saturday, the hoop house was practically a sauna.  Once I get stuff planted, I'll have to open the doors during the day to keep it from FRYING.  I mean, really, what is up with this weather?  I'm not even supposed to plant the cold weather veggies outdoors til April!  Okay, so the hoop house lets me do that earlier, but this is just ridiculous.  The temptation to plant is just overwhelming, even though it always snows here in the middle of April.  I'm going to do it anyway, because it will all be in the hoop house, and I can slap row covers on things, too, if the weather gets bitter and nasty.  But really, I think peas and such will do just fine.  Heck, I 'm more worried the ground will be too warm than too cold.  We also got lots of random stuff pruned and cleared and more branches cut and in buckets for kindling for the wood stove, which we are all very unhappy that it is too warm to use right now.  The entire family actually agrees on this - pancakes are far better on the wood stove. 

Today, I gto the apt cleaned out - one last trailer load by El Jefe, (thank you, sir!) and then I cleaned floors and walls and the half bath, did three more loads of laundry and called it a day.  Tuesday the carpet cleaners will be out, and then I can turn in my keys and never see that place no mo'.   Oo-rah!  But now I have to clear a path from the front door to the half bath/laundry, for the delivery of the new washer/dryer tomorrow.  That's not all we're getting tomorrow, either, but if I tell you now then I'll have nothing to blog about tomorrow (ha!).

Also this weekend, Friday really, the Princess managed to step on a rusty nail in a board that she and the Pirate had been specifically forbidden to play with (because Mom knows about the dangers of rusty nails).  Apparently, my children think my rules are just me talking to hear myself talk, because I love the sound of my own voice (What?) or something.  Needless to say, their wrongheaded misapprehension of reality caused the Princess to spend 4 hours in the Urgent Care waiting for a tetanus booster until 10PM,  and now she is on a week of some dumb antibiotic, Cephalaxin?  (Really?  I'd like to know why!  I didn't get any antibiotic the last time I whacked off the end of my finger with the rotary cutter.)  But El Jefe took the Princess to the doc, because I was just not up to the expected meltdown over the shot - I was having a hard time dealing with all the whingeing about it at the supper table when she finally admitted that was what she had impaled her foot on.  Usually, I feel bad about having so little patience with youthful foolishness, but this time, I was just really ticked off, because I HAD SAID MORE THAN ONCE DON'T PLAY WITH THOSE BOARDS and had in fact, put them away in the barn to prevent such stupid disobedience (not to pull any punches here).  Mother, if you are reading this, please don't bother bringing up any of my similar follies.  We all know there were none, and I was never that lacking in common sense, and was always an obedient and respectful child. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Homeschool: the End is Near!

I meant the end of the School Year.  Really, I did!

Actually, homeschool is picking back up (due to the move, we'd temporarily dropped Science - it's hard to do botany in the snow, anyway.  And a few other things had taken a slide).  But we're back on track.  I think.  Maybe.  it was a good day, so I'm feeling optimistic, as opposed to impatient and unappreciated.  The Princess will finish Math-U-See Delta in the next two weeks - I have to decide if we are going to switch to Teaching Textbooks (so she can do her math on the computer, and the computer will check it, instead of me) and what level she should do, if we change - I  printed out the fifth grade placement test, and looked it over.  It was everything she had covered already this year.  So I printed out the sixth grade test, too.  I think she actually knows much of that, too.  But the seventh grade test was mostly stuff she hasn't learned yet.  Considering she's a fourth grader, I'm fine with that.  Or, we could stick with Math-U-See, which has worked for us so far (the Pirate wants to stay with Math-U-See, because even though she hates to write her answers down, she hates using the computer to do it even more.  Neo-Luddite in the making.  Anyway, the Pirate will do MUS Delta starting in August, because she won't finish Gamma until the end of June at her current rate.  Sigh.)

We're on track to finish Tapestry of Grace Year One (Ancient History) in the middle of June.  Then we'll take a summer break, until the beginning of August, when we'll start Tapestry of Grace Year Two (Middle Ages to colonization of the Americas).  I'm not thrilled with cramming that much into one year.  I would prefer to do it in two.  But on this four year cycle, we'll cover it two more times, so I can still mess with it.  I really liked TOG's first year - at some point I should critique it here, but if anyone out there is interested right now, you can just go to tapestryofgrace.com and check it out.

I have to decide whether or not we are going to do Institute for Excellence in Writing with the co-op in the fall, too.  That would be a drive, but only every other week.  The Princess needs a writing program.  Self-expression does not come easily for her, (unlike the Pirate, for whom a constant monologue of self-expression is seemingly as necessary as breathing).  The Pirate seems to have finally gotten over the hump as far as reading goes.  I'll let her attend continue to attend Sylvan until they go on their summer schedule.  Then we are DONE WITH THAT.  She has realized that reading adds to her great store of stories with which to entertain herself (and entertain or annoy everyone around her).  It's good to catch her reading on her own, and to have her come and say "Look what I wrote in my book!  I'll read it to you!"  Spelling words that do not follow the rules still offends her greatly, but she is willing to correct her words now, rather than simply throwing a temper tantrum, and her pen and paper.

We have two chapters left in the Botany text, which is four weeks of work.  That will take longer, though, since I had to skip some experiments in earlier chapters due to weather/season constraints.  We're going back to do those, now that we have a chance of finding some ferns in the yard.  It's okay - they'll get some real experiences when I give them each a block of the garden to plant and weed and harvest.  Then we'll do Dangerous Science experiments (just because we can), until we start next year's Science text which is from the same Exploring Creation Young Explorer Series - This time Zoology 1 - Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  I thought that was timely, since we'll be getting chickens in June.  I admit to having a few issues with the Young Explorer Series.  The section on bees in the botany book was poor, and contained errors.  Needless to say, I corrected the mistakes in the text.  And the sloppy thinking evidenced in some of the young earth "proofs" is irritating.  I skipped those.  And while the kids really enjoy the conversational tone of the text, I'd like the grammar to be cleaner.  Since I've been reading it aloud, I usually just fix it myself as I go along, so it's tolerable for now.  The experiments are well though out, and the girls particularly enjoyed them.  I liked the handwriting exercises, since I didn't start another handwriting curriculum with them when they finished the last one.  The notebooks were sometimes a hit (anytime they got to glue plant parts into them) and sometimes a hassle (anytime the plant parts fell out).  I would definitely buy the notebooks again, though, simply for the ease of having everything right there, ready to go, when we need it.

I found some other cool things - word problem a day, creative thinking, logic, etc., that I'll have to investigate further for next year.  But at least I know what I'll be doing for History, Bible, Art, Science.  Probably.  Ha.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cujo Coyote

I was driving home in the most nasty little thunderstorm we've had in awhile... the kind where the rain comes down so fast the wipers can't clear it quick enough to see the road... and finally, it slows down, so I speed up, and then I came up on CUJO the COYOTE standing in the middle of my lane.  That darn thing looked as big as a deer.  I missed it, fortunately, and so did the car that was tailgating me, and we all slowed down after that.  Then I get home to discover the dog is afraid to go outside to take a whiz, because the coyotes have been howling up a storm within 100 yards of the house.  (El Jefe says they set off the dogs across the road, too, probably running past their dogrun).  Coyote pelts are maybe $20 a piece right now.  Maybe the Pirate should start earning some college money by whacking a few...

In other less exciting news, I painted El Jefe's closet yesterday, and now it's ready for me to install the closet organizer.  El Jefe got the mouse runways/pipe holes under the sinks plugged with steel wool (chew through that, you little buggers!) and expanding foam (to stop the musty mildew smell from the crawlspace under the bathandahalf (that would be the bathroom with the shower stall, and next week it will also be the laundry room with a real washer and dryer).  And he got the door to the hoop house about half done with much yelling and grumpiness.

We also went tractor window-shopping and I'm voting for the CubCadet.  This has nothing to do with any emotional attachment from my childhood.  It's just cool.  And it has a real drive shaft instead of belts.  Now we need to sell some timber to pay for the thing.  Whoever bought a tractor and wished they'd gotten a smaller one, anyway?

And today I accomplished nowhere near what I wanted to.  I got another load from the apt., and cleaned a little more of it, and its garage.  And I finished Ellen's quilt block and gave it to her.  But not Rosemary's, which I'll do with Carole's for next month's CL meeting.  El Jefe, on the other hand, got up to Lowe's to get the order the washer/dryer/24'ladder AND the lumber we need to build the chicken coop.  That will all be delivered next week, which is just fine and dandy for me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mouse #5, and the back fields

I rebaited the traps under the sink about 30 minutes ago, and just got Mouse #5.  I heard the snap and some banging around under the sink, so I got up to take a look.  Field mice with their big buggy eyes are not anywhere near as cute as the little white fluffball that was the Princess' pet last year.  Just my opinion.
In other news, we had a local man from a nearby farm stop by to see if we'd be interested in renting our back fields to him.  He already plants the adjacent neighbors', and the land across the river.  Nice thing about him working the neighbor's field is that he can access ours from there, rather than needing a 16'  wide road all the way through our property to access our tillable land.  We're hoping we can work out a trade, since he has a backhoe and we need some drainage work done.  It would be the usual corn, beans, wheat rotation most of the farmers around here are doing.  He'd have to clear all those scrub trees the previous owner let come up in the field, since she wasn't planting anything, and didn't lease out the land.  Better him than me, I guess.  I have enough on my plate with the hoop house, the kitchen garden, and the orchard, etc.  Not to mention the chickens.  Anyway, I was glad he stopped by. 

Pleasantries and Annoyances

Mouse #4 is dead and gone (back to peanut butter as bait, since they just stole the sunflower seeds without getting caught).  I have learned to start the fire in the wood cookstove on the first attempt, rather than the third.  Yesterday was beautiful (if rather windy!), so we did half of homeschool outside in the yard.  I want to put a table and chairs in the hoop house because it is so comfortable and smells so good there.  Burning the date branches I pruned makes the house smell good, too.  We haven't fixed the stinky bathroom, but have established the mildew smell is coming from the opening for the pipe under the sink.  I'll get to it this week.  El Jefe or I will block all the openings for the pipes in both bathrooms and the kitchen with a matrix of steel wool and expanding foam, so the mice won't eat through it and it will be airtight.  I hope.  I  have to snake the drains in the other bathroom today, and if that doesn't work, then I need to call the plumber.  Water is not supposed to splash up into the sink when one plunges the toilet.  The basement guy is coming Friday to give us a quote on sealing the Michigan basement and crawl spaces.  I suspect we'll have to treat the crawl spaces for mildew first.  And we need to get the dirt away from the house and install the plastic barriers, or we'll have bug problems, too.  And that means moving the termite bait stations - another phone call to the pest company to find out how to deal with that. 

We have a pair of cardinals, blue jays, redheaded woodpeckers, a mourning dove, and chickadees hanging about.  I would like to make some bluebird boxes and plant some of the flowers the hummingbirds like around the house.  We need to get the tree people here - We have a black walnut near the house that has to come down before it falls down, and there are a bunch of others on the property, maybe enough for the tractor we need...  Don't worry, I have no intention of cutting down the other black walnuts around the deck.  We're running low on wood - I'm hoping that this freakishly warm weather holds out and we won't need more.  We need to take down the old shed, have the bulldozer in to fix the drainage, throw up a lean-to for the firewood for next year...

Somewhere in there, I am taking the kids to visit my parents, finishing cleaning the old apartment (perhaps I should have figured the cost of gas driving back and forth to do that, compared to just hiring Merry Maids to do it!) and making the quilt block for the Charming Ladies meeting Monday night, and then picking the kiddies back up.  And sewing the black trim on El Jefe's TKD uniform.  And getting all the uniforms washed for Picture Day Friday.  Maybe we can get a washing machine next week.  That would be helpful.

I need to find the camera so I can post some pics of the pretty purple crocuses growing outside the kitchen door...


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mice and such

El Jefe mentioned the mice issue in the previous post.  So far this week we have caught three under the kitchen sink with snap traps baited with peanut butter.  I may have gone a bit too far with the number of traps under that sink (but I know that is where they are coming in), since the last mouse was caught in two traps at once.

I wish I weren't allergic to cats.  And that cats didn't carry toxoplasmosis, which messes with your brain, according to the latest science.  On the one hand, it supposedly makes women more social, and men less so, when it is not causing schizophrenia. Below is the link to one of several articles on the topic...
Cats making us nuts?

I spent the afternoon cleaning the apt.  I'm nowhere near done.  The fridge is clean, but the oven cleaner once again caused me to hack up a lung, and I had to leave the apt.  I hope it will work overnight and I'll be able to wipe it out without having an asthma attack tomorrow.  Otherwise I'll be finishing the cleaning wearing a gas mask.  Won't that be fun...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Update on the Plywood Palace Move

El Jefe here. Move successful. XaLynn burned out, worn out, tired. She is beautiful, especially in her patience with us.

New place is awesome with challenges. These include: Mice (yeah, I may have forgotten to fill her in on the ubiquity of the common field mouse in houses like ours), the dog's fascination with rolling in all the exciting new faeces of all the exciting new local wildlife, the supposed depredations of the local pack of coyotes (40-60lb??? The tracks were large enough. Recently killed a foal? The Pirate is on the case with her pink .22lr Cricket Rifle), strange smells that are like the "Fresh Earth" cover scents some people think are useful for deer hunting arising from the Lovecraftian pit more formally known as "the Michigan basement," long treks (40minutes plus) to church and martial arts classes with late bedtimes for both Pirate and Princess, and the extrication from the "short term lease."

We also had an interesting discovery that the river appears to be altering its channel and may suddenly separate about 8 acres from our 46.7. Princess and Pirate were devastated at the idea of losing 8 acres of worthless "swamp" that they never even knew we owned.  I put "swamp" in quotes because the granolas might not recognize that as a synonym for "wetlands". A few days later, though, a lawyer friend explained that this state follows the common law rule that accretions and erosions will slowly change boundaries, but if a river suddenly jumps its course you own on both sides of the new channel to the middle of the old channel. I'm cool as long as I can hunt and log the 8 acres of bottomland.

XaLynn and I are both working on our lists of stuff that has to be done, short - medium - long term. I think it will be cool to post them both at the same time to compare his & hers priorities. I doubt that she is going to place "build man cave and home office" sufficiently high.

On the good side, the awesome side, XaLynn and I spent our first morning doing devotions and prayers in the upstairs room with the roof deck and east facing windows watching the sunrise. When we started this, I told her it would be an adventure and that we'd be depending on God to see us through all of it, but especially the more interesting adventure parts.

Also on the awesome side, I took the Pirate hunting for the first time. Of course, her pink .22 rifle was unloaded, and she was really mad that we didn't kill at least 20 coyotes ("because they killed a foal, Daddy!!! Make them dead!") on her first time out. The Princess also wants them dead, but for other reasons that I'm not going into here. Notably the "worthless" (according to XaLynn) dog herded both the Princess and the Pirate away from the trail leading to the back fields right at the time the Princess noticed a pack of 5-6 coyotes or dogs or coydogs or whatever traveling through the brush way down. That's God's work, because even I will admit that the dog's first response to danger is bark then flee. The girls will be staying around the house unless they're with us until they're big enough to deal with wild dogs or coyotes. I'll let XaLynn write more on that later.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Yayboo!

We got a trailer this past weekend and mostly emptied the garage at the apt.  There are a few things left but they will all fit in the trunk of the CV (just not all at once).  If I can get the whole thing emptied and cleaned out before the end of February, we won't have to pay the rent on it in March... saving us another $50.  The boo part was discovering the amount of damage done to out stuff by the raccoon that apparently decided to make itself at home in there. 

On Tuesday, I took another trunk load down and put it away, along with everything I had no time to put away on Sunday.  In the process, I found the stud-finder!  Yay!  Then I discovered the stud-finder doesn't work on the wood paneling.  Boo!  So I decided I'd just install the closet organizers in El Jefe's closet in the master bedroom, and my closet in the mudroom, where there is wallboard and not paneling. Yay!  I'll figure out what to do about the kids' closets later.  We've had to postpone moving again to the 18th, so I have time to come up with a solution,  I think...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Another beautiful day...

The kids spent the afternoon tearing prickly vines off the corral.  That wasn't my idea.  They inadvertently tore off a few pieces of wood, too, so I think I now need 18 1'x6' instead of 15.  At least they were trying to help... The weather was gorgeous.  Clear blue skies and temp in the upper-forties.  The kids ran around without coats.  Warmer blood than I have, apparently.

I got three of the curtain rods up, and the curtains on them, so the living room is done (until I figure out what color I'm going to paint it) and the Princess' room just needs the closet organizer installed.  I was going to do that today until I discovered I needed a stud finder, which I don't have,  although I have found my tool box (hooray) and the extension cord I needed for the drill (yea) in the process of trying to do this. 

Now I'm going to throw together a chicken casserole we'll have for lunch tomorrow, and get ready to go out to dinner with a friend. 

And same as yesterday and the day before - the pics will go up when El Jefe has a moment to show me how to do it...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stupid garage door opener...

I misplaced the stupid garage door opener for the apt garage again, so I couldn't get the stuff I needed in order to do what I had planned at the house.  In a fit of frustration (and because we are forever losing them), I stopped at Lowe's on the way to the house and bought another set of pruners.  The weather was still in the 40s, if rather gray and cloudy, so I thought I'd just go work on the figs.  The first one went fairly quickly - cleaned up the leaves, took out the dead wood, took off all the tall suckers and called it good.  The next two went much more slowly.  They were larger, denser, taller, and had more dead wood.  There was so much, in fact, that I think I may just cut them back to the ground and let them start over.  It'll put a crimp in getting figs this year, but it needs to be done.  In the process of doing the fourth and last fig, I discovered that it was really two figs very close together.  All we managed to get done on that one was to clean up the leaves.  And yes, I did say "we," because I had help.  The Princess and the Pirate showed up while I was finishing up the first fig, and they helped remove the leaves, and hauled off the branches for over an hour after that.  Pics to follow when I figure out how to get them out of the camera and into the computer.  This is rather difficult because El Jefe cannot find the cable...

Lovely Day Cleaning the Hoop House

Yesterday I finally accomplished something.  I got all the beds down the sides of the hoop house cleaned up, pulling up at least 15 sled loads of weeds, and piling them up outside in a mound as tall as I am.  The weather was perfect for this job, and I love the H-house.  I am contemplating moving into it... ah, no, but if you can't find me in the real house, the H-house is the best place to look next.  It smells wonderful in there.  I am wondering if that is the scent of figs or something...  The temperature outside was pushing 50, so it was ten degrees warmer in the H-house and I took off my jacket because it felt like May.  The ground inside was not frozen.  It was damp from the walls to about two feet inward, which made pulling weeds easier, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how loose and light the dirt was.  I grew up on clay and always expect that.  I'd like 15 yards of compost to top off the beds, but I think it'll be okay even if I don't get it all this year, because the dirt was so good.  Before and after pics will follow as soon as I figure out how to get them from the camera to the computer...