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 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.