Thursday, February 28, 2013

What we did last summer

The garden flourished - it was such a joy to tend and reap the bounty. The garden is large (you can see Kent in the background to the right of Steph - he's in the potato rows) so the three of us had plenty to keep us busy.
The bean teepees were a huge success. I found that picking the beans was enjoyable, they were high producers, and with mulch around the bases there was no weeding to speak of. We will be using these again.

Our basil did incredibly well and I found a spinach I will be planting again and again. Bloomsdale is a popular spinach but I find I like the less common New Zealand variety. I can pick the leaves from the stems and it continues to grow unhindered, the spinach itself is hardy and not easily bruised yet it has a nice flavor and dries really well.

The potatoes looked very healthy and yet we didn't get a huge yield from them. Maybe a few bushel at best. We need to reassess and figure out how to do better this year.

I also found a technique we will use each year for our cabbage (and broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc.) Cabbage loopers are a problem but it occurred to me that if the moths couldn't lay their eggs, then I wouldn't have to spend my time picking the worms back off. I purchased basic tulle from the fabric store, sewed three widths of it together and covered the cabbage rows. We weighted the edges with stones and the cabbage got sun and rain but no moths.

It made for beautiful cabbage free from worm damage!

And I was excited that our dill came in this year - now we could use our own hot peppers, cucumbers and dill for our Kosher-style pickles! That steer in the background is Grady at 1 year old. He now looks me nearly in the eye and his horns are about 8 inches long.

Stephanie purchased two dairy goat kids. Fern and Adelle. They were so cute! I have long thought I'd like dairy goats and they have done nothing but convince me - even though they are smart enough and curious enough to get themselves in trouble from time to time. Adelle, unfortunately, died unexpectedly but Steph got Fern another friend, Nougat (or NewGoat).

There was no shortage of cucumbers this past year. We canned kosher-style spears, dill slices, bread and butter, and hot and sweet pickles. And that's not counting eating fresh cucumbers and Grandma's refrigerator pickles.


Our mower stopped working but we had backup. One day I looked out the kitchen window and there were two cows grazing...

And out the other window I saw two goats. Wow, they were happy and we were happy. A great temporary solution.

And lots of tomatoes. Every day resulted in something to can, dry or otherwise preserve.

I find I'm getting so excited to start our 2013 garden - I can feel the sun on my back, the hot dirt under my bare feet, and hear the buzz of the bees!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What do bowling and cooking have in common?

True, they are both loud and noisy.
And they both include throwing large, heavy objects.
And the deft handling of knives.
And pungent odors.
And unattractive rental shoes.

But there's something more.

Oh yes! It's my new island top!

Haven't I mentioned that my husband is a visionary?
When we moved here I found that with the large kitchen and limited countertop, an island was very helpful. So at first we used a piece of furniture that used to be in our dining room and topped it with an oiled 2' x 4' piece of birch plywood. That sufficed for some time. And then we got a lead on picking up fancy KitchenMaid cabinets at rock bottom prices. So we went to a crazy warehouse sale and picked out bases to use as an island. We came home, put them in the kitchen and I again topped them with that piece of birch board. Completely functional. I loved my new cabinets and the board, though it sometimes tended to want to slide around a bit, worked out ok. But the island was still evolving and we had talked many times about butcher block style wooden countertops. That's when my outside-the-box thinking husband saw an add on Craigslist for bowling lane sections. With some clever remodelling he made me a fantastic island top! Solid maple strips create a beautiful and functional workspace.
There's even an overhang so one can sit and enjoy a snack, write a recipe or just visit.
Such pretty woodgrain and colors

And so much workspace!

So I christened the island with something sweet for my guy!

Cooking just got even more fun. And I don't actually throw things or wear rented shoes to make cookies.

Though I might get a bit noisy from time to time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A lot can happen

in eight months. 8 months! Wow!

Well, since the last post showed those adorable little fluff balls, let's see what's going on with them now...

Late last summer Stephanie, Kent and I carried chickens from their brooder to their chicken tractor in the yard.
Steph is a pro-wrangler - she's got a trio of cacklers there

13 went to live with Kathy at her house - that left 32 chickens and while the weather is nice the tractor does a fine job as a home base. But when the weather becomes inclement, we knew we needed a more substantial shelter for them.

Enter my amazing husband and his ability to plan and execute most anything he can dream up. This is a 10' x 12' building with two windows, clear panels in the roof to let in natural light, electric light inside and a switch to run a heat lamp when necessary. It's like the Ritz-Carlton of chicken accommodations.

Let's open the door and see what those fluffballs look like these days. Hey, there's Foghorn!

There are six nest boxes on one side of the building. Nice and cozy, with plenty of privacy.

But I can lift the roof to retrieve eggs or when it's time to clean them out. I actually designed and helped build the nest boxes. They are probably more substantial than necessary but I really got into the project.
And we can see that they use them to lay eggs. And ping pong balls. Actually, I put the balls in there when the boxes were new to the chickens to give them the idea of what they were for. It seems to have worked. We rarely get eggs laid anywhere else these days.

Hey ladies, what do you think of all this luxury?

They are the happiest chickens I have ever witnessed. You can tell how content they are by spending even a short time with them. They are healthy, curious, non-agressive

And productive.
Because what do happy chickens do? They lay eggs.

Lots of eggs.

Just. so. many. eggs.

So now I am on the quest to find the best ways to preserve eggs for when the ladies stop laying. Although we are getting 19-22 a day right now, eventually they will molt and we will remember these days with fondness. I'm pursuing two preservation techniques - 1. drying raw eggs and powdering them for baking and scrambling and 2. using waterglass (sodium silicate) to store whole eggs for frying and when whites are needed.

Oh, and I'm selling them. $2.50 a dozen. Let me know how many you want.