Monday, February 8, 2016

Dreaming of Flowers

It's officially February, snow and cold winds everywhere you look, and here I am, dreaming of flowers.

I blame it on the seed catalogs.

But whatever the cause, it's got me thinking about what flowers I want to grow in this year's garden.  I know I will have my usual volunteers of cosmos, chamomile, campanula and morning glories, because by now, they pop up in random spots having spread themselves to various other places in the gardens.  I'm hopeful that poppies will come up, but if not, I have some seeds in reserve and will plant out more.  My usual plantings of sunflowers will go in, and I plan to sow lots of marigolds around and about.  For my new flowers, I'm envisioning drifts of dianthus, clouds of violas, batchelor buttons blooming, and with any luck, asters to linger into the fall.  One of my favorite things about my garden is mixing flowers with vegetables, like little pockets of jewels amongst practical garments. Everything grows so happily together, layers of layers of layers, all hidden under the buzzing of bees.

It was a happy thought to bring
To the dark season's frost and rime
This painted memory of spring,
This dream of summertime.

Our hearts are lighter for its sake,
Our fancy's age renews its youth,
And dim-remembered fictions take
The guise of present truth.

--Flowers in Winter, John Greenleaf Whittier 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Meet the Freeloaders

No eggs.  Only golf balls.

Yes, my chickens have yet to lay.  It's been forever since I had home-laid eggs.
Aren't they beautiful, though?

They aren't the most friendly chickens I've ever had, but I appreciate their independent spirits and cautious natures.  I just adore their coloring, too.
Mister, my gorgeous rooster, has really come into his own.  From his proud upright comb to the silver saddle on his back, to the iridescent green tinted tail feathers, he's a prime specimen.
As for the ladies, the penciling of their feathers is so intricate.  They are very sweet natured (even though they don't want to lay eggs.)
I just love my little flock.  Now, if only they'd repay me for the hundreds of pounds of organic feed that I've invested in them, with a few eggs in the nest every day...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Coop Repairs

Ah, the coop.  The time has come to build Chickenopolis 2.0, but for the duration of this winter, the current coop needs to make it through.  I always have issues with the door freezing in place, so I decided: enough is enough.

So I took the door off the hinges, and broke out my hand saw. Off came four inches of the lower doors, and tah dah...
A door that closes, and opens, and doesn't freeze in place.  (I can only suck in my gut so far, and it's been a squeeze the last couple of days...)  It wasn't even too hard to rehang.  The chickens thought I was weird, but then again, I think they think that most days.

One job done!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Temporary Melt

Lucky us!  We've had a weekend of near 40-degree temperatures, with melting snow and ice and drippy roof galore.  It's glorious!  I'm feeling particularly blessed as I officially burned the woodpile this past week, and stacking wood in terrifically cold temperatures is no fun at all. 
Just look at all that glorious firewood, stacked wearing a sweater.  A whole cord of luxurious warmth, plenty to last me through the end of this mild winter we are enjoying.  One of the nice things is that I get all sorts of bits and snivels to use as kindling, which saves me one task of chopping it up for a little while.
I have to admit, though, that I do really like chopping up kindling. I really don't mind it at all anymore, since a wonderful friend gifted me a Kindling Cracker for the holidays.  I don't have to worry about losing a finger anymore, because instead of my kind of rusty hatchet whizzing down toward my fingers, I get to bang the wood with a hammer onto a blade--no where near my essential digits, and it breaks up a log in no time.  It is such an ingenious device!  I wish there was a larger size, for splitting big chunks of that would be super cool to find.

There's rumors of snow in the forecast mid-week, and then it's going to be cold again, but gosh, this warm weekend has been so nice!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Still Here...and a Recipe Involving Bacon.

Hello after a long hiatus.

I had a bit of a bumpy fall:  work suckage, foot sprainage, too much going on but nothing I particularly wanted to write about.  You know.  The usual, when it comes to blog burn out.

But now it's January 2016 and here we are, in the midst of a short-term Arctic freeze.  I've got the truck running (it sat for the past 1 1/2 weeks, and I need to go fetch hay today...) and the fire is burbling away in the wood stove, so I thought I'd take a moment to bring us all up to date.

No eggs yet from the fancy heirloom chickens.  They all shed feathers and have finally grown them back in.  I'm hoping February and the increasing light might give me my first wee pullet eggs. (Freeloading organic-fed chickens are the worst.)

Indoor gardening is where it's at.  Lights are up, pots have come indoors ages ago and my herbs are doing well.  Soon, it'll be time to start some seeds but for now, I'm mostly growing indoor sprouts and microgreens...which reminds me, I need to sow some more of the latter this weekend.

I've just started my seed planning for the spring, no maps have been drawn yet but as it's only mid-January, I've got some time. 

Plans are a-foot for a small permanent greenhouse in the south garden and for a new Chickenopolis in the backyard (well fenced and electrified to keep the slavering dogs out), so come spring there will be some small construction projects happening.

And...that's about it.  More to come later, but for now, my latest favorite on the go breakfast:

Bacon and Cheese Breakfast Muffins

I use my Texas-muffin sized pan for these, and I get eight lovely large muffins, perfect for heating in the oven and driving down frozen roads with.  A hot portable breakfast?  Yes, please.

You'll need four cups of whole wheat all-purpose flour, two tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, three eggs beaten, 1 cup or so of milk (I used half-and-half).  Combine these ingredients and stir until combined, it's okay if it's lumpy!

Fold in one cup finely chopped green onions, four slices of bacon, crumbled, and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.  When mixed nicely, scoop into well greased muffin tin filling each cup about 3/4 full.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 17 minutes, give or take, and immediately turn out to cool on a rack.

Once cool, wrap each muffin in a square of tin foil and pop into a large bag or whatever to store in the fridge.  To reheat, place in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, then open the foil slightly to pour in a couple tablespoons-ish of maple syrup.  Return to the oven for another 5-8 minutes, then carry off to enjoy while driving down the road merrily merrily in the cold wintry weather.

Eat hearty, my dearies. More to come soon!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer Review

Well, it's nearly over so it's about time to check the Summer Projects list and see how I did.  Let's take a look, shall we?

Summer 2015 Project List
·        Dig wildflower garden area and re-seed
·        Clean Bunny Barn and finish summer bean planting
·        Rework Big Coop run, add stumps and wild bird netting.
·        Paint Big Coop.
·        Get Little Coop ready for meat chicks.
·        Replace south fence panel on Little Coop run.
·        Plant ground cover roses on Berry Hill banks.
·        Finish hugelkulture beds and plant blueberries (before they die)
·        Re-cover the Tent Shed.
·        Make new planting bed on west wall side of house.
·        Research fermentation & improve technique.
·        Knit hats for the gang at Sean’s Allotment.
·        Work on another 3D knit project.

  Well, all in all, not too shabby.  A few things didn't get done--and sadly, the blueberries did die--and a few things could still be accomplished before winter befalls us.  But the main important things did get accomplished, even if I was limping about the joint for the most part.

It's amazing how one appendage can affect so many plans! 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer Squash for Wintertime

Ah, the annual summer squash glut.  This particular lovely harvest is by way of a friend, as my squash has sadly succumbed to invasion by the dreaded stink bug and poor pollination.  But any way you look at it, gifted or homegrown, summer squash is a delightful problem.  I've eaten loads in various incarnations, but there comes a point where it won't keep any longer.  In the past, I'd shredded and frozen it...and consigned it to a sad slow death by freezer burn.

So this year, I decided: I was going to slice it up thinly using my vintage, $1 deal mandolin, and dry it.
After a few hours in the dehydrator (set up on the porch to keep from heating up the house too much), I should have a batch of dried summer squash that can be added to wintertime soups and stews, or rehydrated by a soak in hot water and made into a summery gratin come January, when "fresh" zucchini costs an arm and a leg, and is anything but local.  I think some people even season it and eat them as chips...well, in a pinch, I suppose they would work for that.  But for me, I'm looking forward to adding them to winter soup.