Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Routine

Now that the ladies are in their permanent coop, I wake up at 6 and head up the hill to open the door and let them out into the run. I watch them for a little while, worrying that they aren't eating enough, or drinking enough. Then I head back to bed for a bit.
The brown stuff is leaf mulch - our dirt is black

My second wake up comes around 7 or 7:15, when my tummy starts rumbling and the sun is too inviting to ignore (if I've slept with my contacts in, this comes sooner, because I can actually make things out when I open my eyes lazily.) I head downstairs and make my morning drink: sun tea, or hot water with lemon and mint leaves. I take my mug out with me to the garden, where I check on all the plants. Morning is the best time to harvest, to I gather anything that looks too good to pass up. Today, I picked a ton of spinach (at the end of its rope), some kale, chard, and a tiny bit of basil and blueberries. Normally I'd water the plants, but the two thunder storms yesterday took care of that for me.
My favorite is the 6 blueberries!

I bring any grubs or worms I find and any crummy leaves I've snipped off to the chickens. They seem pretty excited about it, so maybe that'll make up for my manhandling them twice yesterday to protect them from the storms.

I take my veggies inside and wash them all thoroughly and send them through the salad spinner. This morning, though, the kale and chard leaves are too big. I don't feel like cutting them, so I decide we should eat them right away. I whip up a frittata of:

-peas (from VA farmer's market)
-spicy red onions and their green tops (VA farmer's market)
-basil, oregano, rosemary (from my mom's garden)
-dill (VA farmer's market)
-Chard (my garden)
-Kale (my garden)
The makings of a delicious breakfast

It sticks to the pan a little, but it's glorious with some gluten free toast spread with peanut butter and our homemade strawberry jam. Alex is up by this point, so we eat together on the porch.

I then spend about 30 minutes tidying the kitchen, hanging herbs to dry, emptying the dish washer, and trying to ignore the floor which I haven't cleaned in 2 weeks. Time for house chores! This morning I get down to sanding the floor while Alex helps his brother with tax stuff via the phone. I make it 40 minutes before the battery craps out. Luckily we have two. On the new battery, the sander is overheating and the plastic paper holder is burning up. I get a little scared and decide to do something else. I gather all the supplies to do touchup painting in the hallway, but the fancy new painter's tape won't stick to anything. It's either crummy, or the issue is the layer of sawdust that's everywhere. Regardless, I don't feel like dealing with this by myself and head upstairs to check e-mail and blog until Alex is done. This may seem specific to today, but it's a pretty common scenario. It's hard to stay motivated when doing stuff on your own.

But blogging doesn't pan out either, since none of the photos I took will upload from my stupid (haha)  smart phone. So I bite the bullet and head back down to sand some more. After the second battery goes, I take an air break, check on the chickies, and decide to start on lunch. Faux meatballs, quinoa noodles, homemade yogurt cheese, rosemary, and soy milk don't sound like they'd be good together, but they are an excellent pasta dish. Alex is finally ready to begin house work around the time that I'm totally ready for it to be over, and heads out to weed whack the front yard. He eats when he's done, and we hang out for about 20 minutes before he heads to work.

I occupy myself with e-mail, work stuff, and playing with my new juicer that my totally awesome sister got me for a housewarming present until I feel guilty, try some more sanding, and now it's 5:30. I pulverize a bumper crop of mint in my handcrank blender and freeze the pulp in ice cube trays to use in cocktails and tea later. Then I get down to business r.e. figuring out what's wrong with my idiot phone, and finally post this sucker.

Sanding, days 2-3

For all my complaining, we are a lot closer after yesterday's work.
If the drum sander was my bitch, I was totally the edger's bitch. Sorry for the rough analogy, but there you have it. The thing was 45 pounds, only about a foot tall, and you had to either kneel or bend over and drag it around the room. Kneeling isn't practical since you can't move fast enough to not F-up the floors, so your back is killing you five minutes in. The instructions claim you don't have to remove the moulding, but what they mean is the machine doesn't hurt moulding. It can't actually make it all the way to the wall in many spots, so there is still a lot of work to do.

We got the same amount of sand paper rolls that we did for the drum sander, which wasn't really enough. No matter though, since we only had a limited time and couldn't really get to everything anyway.

Alex did 99% of the work, with me relieving him twice for about 4 minutes each time. I vacuumed a little and made sure he didn't trip on the chord, but I'm really not strong enough to use that machine. If I did this again (and I will, in my bedroom) I will buy a more powerful plug-in hand sander and use that instead. Our little hand sander isn't designed for extremely rough work, so the lowest grit the paper sheets come in is 80. Hence, it taking so long to do final touch ups.

Others come in 36, so that's my recommendation. The edger is awkwardly designed, heavy, and you have to change the paper every 10 minutes anyway, so a hand sander is a better bet.
Stupid sander disks! Why can't you handle a little floor finish? Wimps!

Our little hand sander does still get mucked up really fast by the floor finish, though, so I've gone through a lot of sheets of 80 in the last few days. Hopefully we'll be done in another 2, which is about when I expect the (expensive as all hell!) non-VOC floor stain to arrive.

We are so close (ish) to having two usable rooms!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This Means War.

Snap Peas, just minding their business....
With 2 weeks of 85-90 degree weather comes....bugs. Leaf miners are taking more and more spinach leaves each day, but since we've only got a few more days before the spinach is finished, I'm not too stressed about it. The arugula is already out of commission. We've finally seen the deer in action, and they bit the tops off most of my snap pea plants a few days ago, which I cannot abide.
See any blossoms? No, because they were all munched!!

New cabbage worms hatch every day and leave the tell-tale little holes in anything in the cabbage family (Kale, collards, Cauliflower, etc.) Today I went on the offensive and rubbed both sides of affected leaves with soapy water. This killed the caterpillars, hopefully removed some of the insect eggs that were just waiting to hatch, and made the leaves inhospitable for buggies. I think the soap makes it so they can't breathe.
The soaped-up underside of an attacked cauliflower leaf

Naturally, every time I do this (or spray liquid fence), it decides to rain. Today was a doozy. The poor chickens were out of their minds. The wind was bending the trees at alarming angles and spraying water everywhere, so I felt for the babies. Their safe, warm coop was just a ladder climb away, but either it didn't occur to them, or the trip would have been too scary. Instead, they were cowering under the coop, where there is a wind break on one side, but open wire on the other.

I know the fastest way to a dead chick is to make them cold or damp, so I pulled on a hoodie, went out in the rain, scooped them out from under the coop (no easy task) and penned them up in the coop until the storm was over. Maybe they'll do it themselves next time. My arms aren't quite long enough to make that a pleasant job.

Monday, May 28, 2012

First Canning of the Season

Nothing too major, just a small batch of strawberry jam from the gorgeous strawberries we found this weekend at the farmer's market. We were visiting my parents in Virginia, where the growing season is a little further along, so the berries were just right.

Those that were blemish free were mixed with sugar and left in the fridge a few hours to release the juices. The bruised ones weren't wasted though. They went into the strawberry sauce pot. A jar of strawberry sauce is now at the ready in the fridge. I poured it on my granola with yogurt this morning, and it was glorious.

For those who want to try jam making without a ton of sugar, I'd suggest trying Pomona's Universal Pectin instead of regular pectin. It's activated by calcium powder instead of sugar, so you don't need to add so much. It's a little more expensive than the other stuff, but it makes a lot of jam (I'm still on my box from last year and I canned 12 jars worth) and lasts forever. This small batch filled three half pint jars, which is pretty exciting. That's probably all the straight strawberry jam i'll put up this year. If there are gorgeous berries I can't resist at the market, i'll either make strawberry vanilla jam next, or half and freeze them for smoothies all year long.

Other scores from the farmer's market in VA included english peas, which I'll use to make cheesy pasta tomorrow, radishes, which I'm going to use for refrigerator pickles, spicy onions, southern sweet potatoes, mint, and a fruiting blueberry bush I got for 20 bucks. More on that later.

Memorial Day = Moving Day

Not for us, for the chickie babies! It's 80-90 degrees every day outside, we think they'll be warm enough in the closed coop at night without a heat lamp because they have a lot of feathers. Plus, I think the ladies had done all the exploring they could in a 2x2 foot box.

We lined the inside of the coop and the nesting boxes with nice straw, but thought that seemed like a waste in the run, so we used clippings from a recent hedge pruning for their bedding. We also tossed in some treats, like the tops of strawberries I used to make jam this morning, and some greens from the tops of radishes. If radishes are like carrots, leaving the greens on zaps the taste and energy from the root, so I wanted to get rid of them fast.

So far, they seem extremely happy. Every time a fly goes by, they try to dive bomb it and end up tumbling into the chicken wire fence or landing in a heap in the new waterer, but they'll figure it out eventually.

Before we moved them in, we put hardware wire on the bottom of the coop too, so dogs or racoons couldn't burrow under the run and get in if we forgot to close the coop door at night. Next week, we are constructing a portable pen for them so they can also hang out in the yard when Alex or I am out there to supervise and deter birds of prey

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Floor Sanding, Day 1

Our porch is back to being the storage shed. It almost looks like a very cluttered living room, right? I woke Alex at 6 am this morning and we headed to the Home Depot. The man at the tool rental counter was extremely skeptical, telling us over and over again that drum sanders were "not for amateurs," and warning that if there was varnish on the floor it wouldn't work anyway. We persisted, and rented the thing for a 4 hour chunk. After grabbing plastic sheeting to tape off the rest of the house and a bunch of sand paper rolls for the machine, we headed home. The clock was ticking!

The plan was that I would sand the dining room while Alex pulled nails in the living room (I'm pretty useless at pulling nails when they're this embedded.) While we were given instructions on how to use the sander, Alex, ahem, lost them. So we had to figure it out on our own. I wanted to go up and back; Alex though we should always move forward, so when we hit a wall, we should turn. I tried that, and the self propelled sander almost ran me into the wall. It also looked crummy where we turned since we were going against the grain of the wood. Eventually I got the hang of it (after a few inner breakdowns) and it worked great! You begin with the lowest grit sand paper, and make sure to get all parts of the floor evenly. Forward and back is correct, but you pull the lever up when repositioning the sander, which Alex figured out.

Because our floor is 3/4" and there isn't any subfloor, I was less worried about making it perfectly level and more worried about leaving as much floor there as possible. If there was a groove that the sander wouldn't get, we left it. The hand sander could take care of it. As you can see below, the hand sander is a little messier, since it doesn't suck up most of the saw dust into a little bag.

We had to rush a bit at the end, but we got the sander back just a few minutes late, and they give you a 1 hour grace period anyway. Turns out the home depot employee recommended we get twice as many sand paper thingies as we needed, and since they were 8 bucks a pop, we saved a few for when we do the upstairs, but returned the rest. Score! So far, it's been a 106$ proposition. Still need the edger, and the stain.

The wood looks gorgeous! I definitely want a dark stain down here, given what we're doing with the molding, but up in the bedroom I might just polyurethane it since it's so lovely.

Hooray for progress! We're bringing the little truck back to my parents this weekend, and I'd really love to rent the edger tomorrow or friday to get everything sanded before we head out. Because we have to tape off the kitchen and stairwell from the sanding, it's a little tricky to maneuver around the house at present, so I'm motivated to get this project finished!!

In other news, the wall we've been working on for EVER in the dining room looks much better than the one in the living room. Turns out everyone who said we needed to patch with drywall was wrong. Those places look the worst, actually. No idea if the cracks will come back in a week, but since we've used a bunch of different methods on different cracks, we'll eventually know the best option.

Recommendations for other newbies:

1) Don't listen to everyone - you can use a floor sander. You'd think it was brain surgery or something!

2) Never stop moving when the drum is down, but of course you can move when it's up; you have to get to the next place. No one says this.

3) You can apply a little pressure with the lever when you hit a particularly tricky or grooved spot.

4) Empty the saw dust bag carefully, outside, and with the whole thing wrapped in a garbage bag. That said, it will still be a nightmare and get all over everything.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy Two Week Birthday, Ladies!

You've learned so much! Like how to fly, eat bugs, be outside, peck at each other, and roost.

Harvests of Green!

In our square foot garden, we have 2 cubes of spinach (really 1.5, since half of one was taken over by rogue rutabagas), 1 cube of arugula, and 1 cube of different lettuce mixes. For the last little while, these four square feet give us a great cutting of greens every other day. I wash them in the salad spinner and store them in an old mesculun mix container. They are usually gone within the day, plucked out for sandwiches, salads, and omelets. I'm really floored by the lettuce so far. The Arugula is peppery without being bitter, which I find can sometimes be a problem. I don't have any clue what the other kinds of lettuce we're growing are called, but they are so flavorful! Alex agrees, and says the spinach from the garden is juicer than the stuff we've been buying.
Homegrown Salad Mix

We also took our first few cuttings from the collards in the patio pot yesterday, and used them in a rice pasta dish with lots of (local) cheese. Yum!

I'm cutting my veggies when they're a lot smaller than you'd buy them at the store for a few reasons. One, I don't want the pests to find them first! Two, I've heard overall yields are higher this way, since the plant keeps producing fruit if you cut early and often.

In the next week, the chard should be ready for a first harvesting of little tender leaves, and maybe the kale too.

We did some mulching yesterday, which makes the garden look messy and a little gross, but I'm hoping it will help reduce weeds and retain moisture in the soil. We've had some hot days, and the plants are complaining! The corn and beans are coming up, as is the winter squash, but no summer squash yet. Amaranth is also peeping up slowly in the new bed, but I can tell I did a crummy job of spreading seeds evenly, since the seeds were so tiny. They'll be in clusters, but there's not a lot I can do about that now.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chicken Update

Clementine is smushed in the center, like always.

The girls are getting huge, and they really love the perch Alex installed for them this week. They're adept enough at flying now that we had to put a screen roof on their house, making pictures a bit more difficult.

I can tell one apart from the other two now; she's smaller and has slightly darker wing and tail feathers. I wonder if she's just a runt, or if she's not a Buff Orpington. Another few weeks will tell. In any case, her name is Clementine Hildegarde Cruger.

We also got their grown-up waterer in the mail today, but it's a bit too big for their current home so we'll have to wait to introduce it. It's a shame, since their favorite place to poop seems to be the chick water dish.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Crafty Rug Options

Along with the lost couch, the yellow chevron (yes, it's super trendy, and I still love it) rug order was cancelled. Ethical rugs are even tricker to find because they are often made by children. There seem to be a few options out there for us.

1) Find a rug that has the Good Weave label. This is an international organization that certifies rugs as not made by child labor. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, there are many more concerns than JUST child labor when it comes to the ethical manufacturing of goods. The organization has acknowledged this and is overhauling their standards, but for now I'd like to explore other options.

2) FLOR is a modular carpet tile system that is relatively inexpensive (7-20$ per tile, which covers 19.7 X 19.7 ''), recyclable, and sometimes made from renewed or recycled materials. The company is a little vague about where their products are made, though I believe at least some of their manufacturing occurs in a Georgia facility. I used to really like their designs, but lately things have gotten slightly horrible. What is this???

Still, their solid colors are lovely and functional. I've had FLOR before in a previous home, and I'll also say it was super easy to clean.

3) I could make a rug! I'm most intrigued by this one, but of course it's also the most work. The House of Smiths Blog has a nice tutorial on how to take an IKEA rug and make it Chevron print. Apartment Therapy also ran a piece last year about rope rugs and how you could make one yourself. There are two tutorials I found online that'd be helpful for rope rug weaving: This one from the Free People blog, and This one from Flax and Twine. I think I like the hula hoop method better, and I could then sew a bunch of the circles together to approximate something like this:

I'd tone down the pom-poms and neon colors, and maybe have fewer, larger circles in an asymmetrical arrangement, but this is certainly a starting point. It's also a great use for Alex's 405 old tee shirts that never seem to make it into the rag pile. 

A financial account + AUSTERITY!!

I've been saving receipts for all the home improvement projects, garden buys, etc. I wanted to do a breakdown of what each project cost. The problem with that is : 1) I've bought a lot of items that I use for multiple jobs, and 2) I've waited so long that the labor necessary to figure a;; that out feels like a waste of what little free time I have.

Instead, I'm offering below a (rather sobering) list of total expenditure so far on the new house.


Including 2 dozen seedlings, seed potatoes, a zillion actual seeds, soil for the two raised beds, rhubarb crowns, asparagus crowns, lots of compost, the multi-grafted fruit tree, raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry plants, herbs, a few house plants, and some organic pest control stuff, we've spent $409.95 so far. The biggest expenditure by far was the fruit tree ($150.00) but starting soon we won't have to buy apples ever again. We've only spent about 60 bucks on soil and compost, which I'm happy to do given how happy the plants are in the raised beds and how pathetically sad all the plants are we directly planted into our ground. Hopefully we'll need to buy less soil amendment next year once the composting operation is up and running. We also won't need any new seeds next year since I can save anything I like, plus I still have A TON left over from this year. I'll probably still grab some seedlings, but the cost should decrease. Given what my weekly organic grocery bill looks like, I'm happy with this. Plus it's a hobby I enjoy. I'm keeping harvest tallies.


Including the babies themselves, grit, organic starter feed, straw for bedding, a brooder lamp, a feeder, waterer, and a coop, we are at $465.49. It's important to note, though, that 399$ of that was the coop. The babies and their food and supplies only cost 65 bucks. While there were certainly some cool plans online to make a coop on the cheap, most of them assumed that you just had lumber lying around "from other projects." We didn't, and calculated that it'd easily cost us 400 bucks to buy all the stuff to make a coop, and this one was pretty! One of our concerns with backyard chicks was keeping the yard nice so we didn't piss off our neighbors. The local organic eggs we buy at the farmer's market are around $4.50 a dozen, meaning we'll need 1,200 eggs to break even (and of course, by then we'll have bought more feed and straw, though not that much more.) However, I LOVE my chickies. They are pets. Given what a dog costs to maintain, I'd say our babies are much cheaper (and better, because they give us presents!)

Appliances & Furniture:

This was the HUGE expenditure category so far. Even with buying stuff mostly used or at outlets, we needed a dishwasher, fridge, chest freezer, washer, dryer, dining room table, six chairs, and various decor items. $2616 so far, which includes the stuff we bought from previous owners (armoires, chests, lamps, etc.)

Building Supplies and Tools:

I've given Lowes, Home Depot, and Allegheny Milllery $1190.74 of my hard-earned dollars. That's bought A LOT of tools we didn't already have, paint, stain, electrical stuff, caulk, mortar, lumber, garden tools, etc. It's less horrible than I expected, frankly, but still not ideal. We buy the American version of stuff if they have that option. I estimate we'll need another 300$ worth of baseboard lumber and 100$ worth of paint and stain to complete the dining room, living room, and bedroom. We've already got all the stuff to complete the kitchen. For an overhaul, I think that's a steal.

While I don't think any of the above tallies are unreasonable, I need to go on austerity for the next few months with things that aren't house related. No more eating out twice a week (though I love supporting local independent restaurants)! And I need to cool it on the expensive cheese purchases!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Chicken Coop Construction Complete!

It was pretty simple, though we did screw up a few things. First we needed to level a chunk of our mountain yard. It was A LOT easier to do this with Alex's help than it was to remove the grass for the Amaranth Patch by myself earlier that day. Teamwork is where it's at.

Right away, a sad little bird got stuck in the run by climbing underneath. Alex had to stage a rescue. We haven't predator-proofed the bottom yet, and this unintentional break-in indicates some of our security concerns.

It looks so great! I love seeing it out the window when I wake up. In another few weeks, the ladies can move into their classy new home.

For those looking for a similarly easy coop option, has reasonable wooden coops that ship quickly and are made in the US. They also have organic feed (though you can probably find it locally for less money.)

Fair Warning: This one is a rant!

I've been searching for the perfect sofa for the attic entertainment cave. It needs to be super comfy, a sleeper sofa for company. I also wanted it to be ethically made. I looked and looked and looked. Everything was either ugly and beige, or gorgeous and 4000$. The cheap stuff was all made by slave labor [don't kid yourselves -- everything made in a sweat shop (i.e. virtually everything sold in our stores) is essentially made by modern-day slaves.] When I found gorgeous, velvety Aubergine fabrics and lush, comfy lounger sectionals that were made in the US (and most custom expensive stuff wasn't) they were going to take 4 months to make, and cost an even fraction of what the whole house cost. My standards got lower and lower. I wanted something comfy, not too ugly, and not too expensive. Surely this was possible? But alas, it seemed not to be. Why do Americans like such wimpy, disgusting, mealy beige things? Or overstuffed lumpy brown monstrosities that look like they could swallow you whole? Blergh!

Then, it seemed like fate smiled on me. Urban Outfitters had a gorgeous blue velvet couch that folded down into a sleeper and was reminiscent of chesterfield-style furniture. It was $749, which I could afford. I loved it. I threw my conscience in a closet somewhere and decided to buy it even though the only manufacturing information offered was an ominous label that read "imported." [NOTE: shouldn't retailers need to at least tell you the country of origin for a product? I want more than that even! I want a Portlandia-style dossier on each couch and the person who made it, with a health update assuring me they've seen sunlight and are well fed.] I didn't care. I bought it, even though it was made by sweatshop workers for corporations who care about nothing but profit margin, and even though it was on back order until May 10th. It was pretty.

But then May 10th came and went, and no couch arrived. During this whole 6 week period I've been feeling badly about my purchase because I put my immediate wants in front of concern for fellow humans. I feel this way when I occasionally buy a shirt from J Crew, or buy produce that isn't organic (because the labor conditions of the workers who pick conventional produce are horrifying.) I also re-read the specs and realized that when the bed folds out it is bigger than a twin, but smaller than a full, (!!!!!!!!!) meaning people would need to be super-friendly when they came to visit.

I called the customer service line today, and the woman on the line said there had been a problem with my credit card on May 4th, so my order had been cancelled. I could re-order the couch, but then I'd have to wait another 6 weeks for a new shipment of freshly-minted sweatshop furniture to come in. Really? REALLY??? They couldn't have called me and asked why my credit card was declined? Or sent a freaking e-mail? I lost my card a few weeks ago, cancelled the old, and had a new one sent out. I didn't think to call Urban Outfitters, because I thought they'd charged me MONTHS AGO when I ordered the darn thing. The woman was perfectly polite, but would not budge. And why would this company need to? Hipsters across the globe buy their carefully and intentionally-distressed sweatshop shit for exorbitant prices. Even someone like myself who thinks about equity and social justice all day long was momentarily caught up in my own wants [NOTE: I keep typing "needs," but this has nothing to do with need.]

I (politely) told the woman I would no longer be doing business with Urban Outfitters. I went back to the drawing board and starting doing more research on American-made sleeper sofas. Broyhill has some gorgeous options, as does England. I called a local Levin, and a sales person assured me he had made-in-America sleeper sofas in my price range, and that he had fabric options to get around the "beige problem" I've been encountering elsewhere. He also tipped me off about a sale they'd be having soon and told me to wait a few days. I'll keep everyone posted on the progress, but I am newly renewed and committed to finding something I can feel good about for many years to come.


1) The cheap shit you buy is subsidized by government (this is supported most fervently by republicans, which is hilarious given their free-market rhetorical bullshit), and by the sweat and blood of exploited humans who aren't being given a living wage. It's easy to forget this because we can't see it, but it's pretty much always true.
2) Americans have more access to cheap crap than ever before, so it may smart a little when a dress that's made in America is 400$, but we don't need so many freaking dresses. Consider clothing, furniture, and other things you purchase as investments to have for a long time, instead of cheap, trendy things to chuck once you're sick of them.
3) Middle class Americans spend a smaller percentage of household income on food than EVER BEFORE in history, and people complain that organic food costs a few cents more. Now, for lower income Americans, I can understand how organic food can be too costly a choice. That is a systemic problem wherein our food industrial complex pushes all the local, little guys out of business. For the rest of us however, shouldering the "extra cost" (which I'm not actually convinced about, since processed convenience foods are freaking expensive) is a matter of not buying so many lattes, or paper towels, or strappy sandals.

Ok, done. I promise I will be back to talk happy things and chickie babies tomorrow.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Yesterday the chickie babies turned 6 days old. I thought they deserved a treat, so while I was digging the Amaranth Patch, I saved all the gross little grubs I found and gave them to the ladies for a snack. At first they were a little confused, but soon they got the idea. One chick would grab a grub in her mouth, and then the other two would chase her around the box trying to steal her catch. The whole thing was hilarious, given that there were four more grubs squirming, fearing for their lives just a few feet away.

The girls are already getting pretty good at flying, so starting next week we'll stick an old window screen over the top of their temporary home. They're noticeably bigger (though maybe not in pictures) and their wing feathers are filling in nicely. We are very proud parents.

We also hit two milestones this morning. First, ALL THE GLUE IS SCRAPED IN THE DINING ROOM!!!! This is, in and of itself, cause to rejoice, but additionally, we harvested our first little basket of greens. Lots of spinach, one lettuce leaf, two arugula leaves, and two baby kales. It's enough for one tiny salad, but I think we'll use the bounty to dress our BBQ chicken (and faux chicken, in my case) sandwiches this evening.

We (and by we, I mean Alex) have also almost weed whacked the entire yard. It looks amazingly tidy, but I know by the time he finishes, he'll just have to start over again. The plan is to slowly fill the whole yard with fruit trees, and raised beds so there isn't any grass to speak of. It's gonna take a while.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Peonies in Bloom

The peonies have come into bloom just in time for Mother's Day - during which I can't see my very own personal mother -  but such is life.

Today we finally filled the second raised bed with dirt and planted all the seedlings and seeds. I know last frost day is technically May 20th here, but the 10-day forecast says we should be good to go so I'm risking it. We can always cover the whole thing with a tarp in a pinch.

Alex also took another go at the front lawn with our electric weed whacker. We look pretty respectable from the street, but if anyone checks the back yard, it's a jungle. The stairs to nowhere have a wild beauty, but I saw a snake hanging out in there yesterday, so it'll need to be attended to pretty soon. Hopefully the snake was on a caterpillar-eating mission.

Some of the little seedlings from the grow light were getting leggy, so I transplanted them into larger containers. I've got a couple reasons for this. First, I'm completely out of room in the raised beds and don't have any more planters. Second, I'm interested in consecutive planting and want to put in some broccoli and chard one the lettuce and spinach crump in the summer heat.

We have done an (extremely small) amount of work in the dining room, but should have the last of the glue scraped by tomorrow so we can start on the wall patching.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Won't Bury the Lead - The Chickie Babies Have Arrived!!

They hatched around 2am yesterday morning and we went and grabbed out three from a friend this morning. It was hard to tell the babies apart, so we think we'll have three Buff Orpingtons, but could have some variety instead. Only time will tell.

They already seem to have personalities. One only wants to eat and will not move from the grain dish. One is a bully and tries to peck at the other two, and one makes a lot of cute chicken peeping noises.

We do have ideas for names, but we're waiting until we can tell them apart.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The House is Moving Forward...Slowly.

We can actually use the living room now, though there is no casing or baseboard up yet, since it didn't make sense to do that before we sanded and refinished the floors. The dining room is out of commission, as we put off the glue scraping and wall patching.

I'm far more excited about outdoor projects as things warm, so I expect it will take another few weeks to get the first floor in order. Particularly since Alex's work schedule moves to all day Mon-Fri next week. World's crummiest timing, since school is done for me this week.

Meanwhile, the rhubarb and potatoes are coming up, the Early girl tomatoes are planted, and I'm working on an herb garden in an old tree stump on the hill.

The yard was getting really out of hand, and after failing to find a good used lawn mower on Craigslist, we bought an electric weed whacker for 80$ (+ 10% off at Lowes.) It's pretty effective, if a little slow. One bonus/annoyance is that the batteries die pretty quickly. It means you can't do the whole yard all at once, but it also means you aren't compelled to weed whack until you're miserable. It's also a lot quieter and lighter than gas-powered models, which means I might occasionally wield it. Maybe. I quickly become disgruntled when doing yard work that won't result in food production.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day and a Multi-Grafted Fruit Tree

A New Edition to Our Mountainous Yard
I've been dying to get some fruit and nut trees planted; since they take so long to produce anyway I want to send them on their way to fruit ASAP. Because we don't have a ton of yard space, I wanted tree varieties that are self-pollinating, and one option was multi-grafted fruit trees. This means a bunch of different varieties (could be of the same fruit type or different) are grafted onto the same root stock so you get multiple kinds of food in the space of one tree. I'd looked online and everyone was sold out. I'd prefer a local nursery anyway, but the ones we'd gone to didn't have one. 

Until yesterday, when we discovered Reilly's Summer Seat Farm. They only had a few options left, and we went with a 4-variety apple tree. It seemed very expensive to me (140$) but I need to remind myself that I'll have Jonagolds, Galas, Fujis, and Pink Ladies!! I also need to remember that after a few years, I won't really have to buy apples anymore if I take good care of the tree. I'll supplement this tree with tinier, cheaper fruit and nut trees in the next few weeks. Wahoo for the budding food forest! Now I need to read up on how to keep fruit trees pruned and manageable.

Oh, and: there is one rhubarb emerging and one tiny potato vine! We're heading out of town on thursday and everything is primed to grow leaps and bounds while we're gone. I think I'm going to miss the peonies blooming too. I'm a bit annoyed, but it will be so much fun to check it all out when we return Monday. Also, we're headed out to a good friend's wedding in San Diego, so it's not like we'll be moving bricks in a prison yard all weekend.

Culinary Exploits + Why I'm Annoyed With Blogger

I wrote this post once already, and then blogger summoned a boatload of error messages followed by my losing the post. This wouldn't be such a bit deal other than the fact that I've been digging in the garden all afternoon, my back hurts, and this computer chair isn't doing it any favors. I wanna go lie down with some of the farm mags I bought today at Barnes and Noble.

Yesterday I decided to make a batch of mozzarella from the local raw milk I acquired from Wild Purveyors. It was the best (and most well-behaved) batch I've ever made, and I don't think that has anything to do with my increasing cheesemaking prowess. Raw milk is lauded by those who know such things as the best for cheesemaking and I second. I didn't want to waste all the hot whey, so I decided to make bread with it. Unfortunately, stores are getting a little low around here and I didn't have enough of any one flour to follow an actual recipe. I winged it with local whole wheat and local rye flour and some caraway seeds, and it turned out extremely well: dense, flavorful rye(ish) bread that was great for scooping up our chili cheese dip last night while watching Footloose 2011. I'm not sure how I got away with that movie selection, but I think the promise of the chili cheese dip on crusty bread was partially responsible.

Today after picking up a bag of organic chick feed in anticipation of the ladies' arrival next week, dropping off some baby clothes for a friend, and grabbing a brooder lamp (which Lowes DID have, despite everyone in the store telling me otherwise), we were famished. I grabbed yesterday's mozzarella, local broccoli, mushrooms (also from Wild Purveyors), and onions, and whipped up a great cheesy pasta dish with some spelt elbows (not local, but bought in bulk at the coop.)

We dumped the leftovers into a casserole dish and covered them in breadcrumbs so we can back it tomorrow as a grownup mac and cheese.

I wish I had pictures of any/all of this, but I tore into the food without remembering to take any.