Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What the heck is that on the hillside?!

Off I was, driving to the store after work yesterday, and what do I see? THIS:

Yes, that's SNOW on the nearby hill. AH! Go go. FAR away. Now, granted, it's still a ways vertically until it would get to me, but STILL. We've received 5.5 inches of rain in March, but that's been mostly in the past 4 days.

The view from my office is a muddy river.
We're supposed to get thunderstorms later today (a rarity here).
Yup, still muddy. I like that there's a duck in the bottom right-hand corner of this photo.
All of you probably think I'm nuts for going on about the weather. Honestly, rain is typical and I should be used to it. But hillside snow in late March is not typical, and after a really easy-going winter, it's a bit harsh to suddenly get dumped on by rain. But, the local ski resorts are LOVING it, and it will lessen the likelihood of a summer drought. So, I shouldn't be complaining. I do want it to stop soon; I have stuff I want to get in the ground, and my folks may fly up a week from tomorrow (weather permitting).

In other news...

I stuck to the dinner plan last night and made falafels! I decided to serve it sushi roll style, layered with avocado and tomato.
I eventually topped it off with some side spinach, some non-fat yogurt, and some light sweet onion dressing. I was very happy with the turnout. Falafel is one of those things you can mix and match things with, so I think we'll be having it more often. Plus, all you need is the mix, water, and an egg or two. Pretty easy to always have on hand.
Oh yes, and a glass of delicious wine (like my frosted windows?).
And to top this all off, I was the epitome of a super sexy cook, with my Michael Jackson-esque glove routine. I really wanted to cook in the kitchen, but I did not want to get that darn cut of mine wet. So.... glove and a clean hairband. SEXY. It was a powderless glove (so no residue on my cut), and at least this way, I could tackle any dish mess I made.
GROWL. Sexy, no? Arg though-- why do my wrists always look massive in photos? I have really small wrists! Ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Soggy & mucky with a dose of awesome doggie.

Um, it rains here....

Generally speaking, it doesn't rain a lot. I don't think so... but this winter has been a pretty darn gorgeous one, so the squish of muck in my shoes is an unusual thing this year.

In the video, please ignore the patio furniture. It's all crammed messily together so that it stays dry. It usually looks nicer.

Damp is good. Drizzle is good. Both of those mean I can go out and poke around in the yard. In fact, it's pretty darn nice because the dirt looks rich and it's easier to dig. But raining-ponds-in-my-backyard?

I think the reservoir is mostly full. Starting around March, they usually don't release water as much because they want to to be full for summer. I only say this because the river is HIGH, and usually the reservoir (actually reservoirs) helps control that. I'll have to take a picture of the muddiness outside my office window to prove myself to you. Maybe that's tomorrow's post. Hm. Especially given that I won't be doing any work OUTSIDE. Grumble.

On other news, I am getting a few edamame sprouts! They are my "experimental crop" this year. I've cut back on the watering, and I'm hoping that provokes the others to sprout too. I think the tray that is sprouting is 1-2 days older than the other two trays, so here's hoping! It's a tentative plant to grow because of our weather. It may work some years, it may not work others. I'm starting it indoors, giving it a good head start to be ahead of the game when it goes outside in mid-May.

Anyway, that's about it... so, on to...

The dose of awesome doggie:

Yes, that expression does totally read "I have so earned the biscuit of which I have been promised.... I earned it about 5 photos ago."

It's her own darn fault for looking so cute when I goofily plop my hat on her head.

Monday, March 29, 2010

BIRTHDAY, soggy chicken, pea update and fuzzy cat clothing

First and most importantly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO B!!!!! Love of my life, putter upper with all my shenanigans. I love you so much.

The rain continues in my neck of the world. Wonderful Saturday, but SOGGY ever since. Finally, I took pity of my chickens this morning. I battened down the hatches. Their coop is dry, UNDER their coop is dry, and now, their little outside area is dryish. The rain is supposed to continue for a while, and that was really what prompted the tarpiness. It's either tied on or stapled on, with a board screwed inside to make it like a tent. I also poked holes in a few selective places so that any pooled water won't make the entire tarp bow down. Here's hoping it works....

Pea update! The second bed is now filled, and the first bed's trellis has string! I can make the string higher, if need be, but for now, it's standing at about 3' of string.
And, the peas are planted! Well, some of the peas are planted. These are snow peas. Sugar snap and green arrow still need to be transplanted. This will happen soon... hopefully. Darn rain!
And finally, an explanation of why our clothes always have fur on them:
Look at Rumpole's darn contented face.
Contented only while uninterrupted, apparently. Guess the rule is to let sleeping cats lie (rather than to take photos of them, huh?).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Menu for this next week, a lesson in stupidity and garden schedule

I want to start doing menus for the week, that way we're better about planning stuff out. There are too many nights where I come home, work in the yard, and then we sort of hit 7:30 or so and ask "um, what about dinner?" Dagnabbit.

Though, I did whack/cut/bruise my palm pretty badly today. Note to self: do not try to unjam a staple gun (not the air-powered kind, the squeeze with your fingers, spring-loaded kind) with a screwdriver. While talking on the phone. STUPID STUPID STUPID. Much better idea: Use a pair of pliers to take out individual staples. Apparently, my noggin only starts a-workin' post-painful experience. It's a bit swollen right now and I had to pierce areas of the cut to relieve pressure (too much information?), but I suspect tomorrow it will be tender, but fine. Or my hand will have fallen off overnight. I suspect the former.

Moving on to dinner. Forgive me while I italicize things I need to get.

Monday is a freebie: It's B's birthday and we're going out. Might as well start the better planning on an easy week, right?

Tuesday: Falafels. Which means I need to get cilantro dressing at the store. I also want to start having salads with meals, so I need salad fixings too.

Wednesday: Pasta with pesto and chicken. I'll probably add some fresh tomatoes too, which I'm getting for Thursday's dinner.

Thursday: Yumm bowls with maybe some leftover pasta from Wednesday. More on Yumm bowls when I make them. But, that means I need to get dried beans, tomatoes, salsa and cilantro. I'll need to start the broth and fix up the crock pot for Friday on this night.

Friday: It's supposed to rain this week.... and rain and rain, so I think I'll make crock pot soup during the day. Plus, I can use up some chicken I have, as well as finish the falafel off by plopping it in the soup. I'll still need some veggies for soup though.

My friend also has some pumpkin for me, so I'll be making pumpkin bread too.

There! I have my grocery list. Let's see how much I stick to it. I'll need to make broth out of the duck I cooked last week. I bought some new lids and my pressure canner is clean, so I guess chicken broth will be duck broth this time around! I think I'll be able to make about 6-7 quarts of broth from the duck.

My peas are getting huge in the laundry room (apparently it's a pea paradise in there or something), so they're being acclimated for outside (out during the day, inside at night). I planted my snow peas today (photos to come), but I need to get my other two types planted. One bed still needs to be filled, and two trellises need to be made. There should be a rain break on maybe Wednesday, but likely Thursday. BAH. Looks like I'll get a lot of plants planted then this week. My poor laundry room will overflow.

Friday, March 26, 2010

New bike!

Yes, it's a tricycle. I needed something with better stability so I could commute to work with it. I take my computer to work every day, so that's a lot of weight. My old bike's back baskets were loadable, but then the bike would be unstable and topple.

The bike wheels support a BIG basket between them. And, the basket is collapsible, in case I want to put a bigger container there or something.
I love it. All I have to do now is strap my briefcase and purse in, and I'm good to go. It has a very low center beam (unlike my 4' tall old bike's), and you sit upright, rather than hunched over. Plus, you sit upright!

And, Maddie likes it too.

Though, we're going to have to figure out a better system. I'm worried too much about her jumping out and hurting herself.


It's pretty soggy out today. It's been raining outside since Wednesday evening.
While all my plants are getting watered, I have no desire to work outside. Just to cold and mucky.

My hens have a plastic tarp over their pen, so hopefully they'll be happier today than yesterday. I suspect they spent most of yesterday under their coop or in it.

Speaking of hens, this morning, they had a big treat in store. Normal feed, but also: cooked rice, cooked chopped beats and greens, and slightly cooked and chopped radishes and greens. Nom. They were very confused by it and were very inspecting little chickens, but hopefully, most of it will be gone when I get home. I'm trying to feed them more and more vegetables. It's cutting down on our compost pile a bit, but that's ok. Hopefully, my coworkers will start giving me their veggie scraps to use also. I'd love to get the chickens on a mostly-veggie and bug diet.

Yawn. I wish to go home now and make plant pots.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Coffee Chaff Chicks

Early this morning, I headed over to Wandering Goat Coffee Company.

After buying two fabulous vegan herb bagels (OMG--sounds bleh, but sooo delicious!), I went in the back and got coffee chaff.

I've been trying to think outside the box when it comes to my chickens. First, I don't want them to cost me a TON of money. But, I also want them to be healthy and happy. Secondly, I'd prefer to use local sources for raising them. Just because it's a challenge, and well, it's better for everyone.

Coffee chaff is a biproduct of the coffee roasting process. It's the very soft paper that surrounds the coffee beans. Think of a peanut-- it's not the hard shell part, but rather, the papery covering on the actual nut. Hopefully, that analogy helps.

I had read somewhere to confirm that coffee chaff is good bedding for chickens, so I decided to check out Wandering Goat. I called a few weeks ago, and they told me what days of the week to come by. Now that my hens are bigger, I decided to try the chaff this morning.

I got two big buckets.

It looks wet in this photo, but it's actually SUPER soft and dry. Very fluttery. It's much softer and has no splintery bits when compared to pine and straw. I think it will wick out the moisture better than pine and straw also.

While I'm in the laundry room, here are a few photos of my peas. Aren't they huge? These are green arrow peas from Park Seed. The heat lamp from the chicks makes the peas just grow like weeds. I gotta get them in the ground ASAP!

Bad, overexposed closeup of the peas. And yes, those are homemade paper pots!

And, when I walked in with the chaff this morning, here is what I saw:
Yes, those are two chick heads-- the wyandottes are 2ish weeks old right now, which means they're big enough to hop on TOP of their food and water bowls. So that's what they were both doing, and poking their little heads over the top of the bin. I think I may soon need some wire mesh...

See? Look how big they're getting!

Anyway, I headed out with one of the chaff buckets to my hens this morning. As soon as I let them out, they always file out of the coop and immediately head for the water. I don't put water or food in the coop due to cleanliness reasons. They're only in there for a little while at night, so I think they can manage not having food and water while they sleep. So here they are, slurping up the water.

Closeup shot of thirsty hens...Yes, I know... they're getting bigger every day!

And here is their hen house with the chaff. One hen was curious enough to investigate. and she was squeaking with delight. I'll probably come back to it all over the place, but eeh, that's the price to pay for happy hens.

What's great is that the entire hen house only took half a bucket. (and look behind their ladder; you can see the curious little hen investigating)

Anyway, I'll provide updates soon. I'm pretty darn happy with the stuff so far. Local, organic, healthy for the hens, free, and easy to handle. Oh, and it smells good. Kind of nutty.

Oh, and for those peas that are huge? There are about 300 more of various types outside, ready to be planted. Yesterday, I made pea bed #1. I need to staple gun string to the A-frame, but you get the general idea.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yard: Prepped for Beds!

Yesterday, I was able to get out of work a little early, AND my rototilling guy was available. So, he came over, worked out my rototilling problem areas, dug down a few other areas more, and then we brought in 4.5 cubic yards of really good dirt.

SO, now, here's the view to the north... It may not look like much, but this is a yard that was a TOTAL MESS before. You can see the piles of stuff in the treeline. UGH. That will eventually be taken care of. The far back of this area is where my fruit trees and berries are. The area in front of that is where the old tenant's garden used to be. She worked the soil a bit, so I didn't touch that area much.

This is the view immediately looking off my porch. WOW. I haven't spread out those piles yet. But, beds can soon go in here. My peas are being placed near this area, so those beds will be built first.

This is the view to the south. You can see where the dirt has already been smoothed out. Short plants go here, like carrots and onions.

Since the yard is SOOO rocky, I've decided to use some of the rocks. I'm building this rock walled planter for my flowers, and I like how it's turning out. Rocky walls for flowerbeds, cedar beds for veggies.

There's another rock bed going in on the upper tier. I think I'm going to put some herbs in there. I found mint and sage in the yard, so I've already transplanted those plants into that bed.

Just a shot of my hens and the garlic. :)

The deck is slowly coming along too. We got a new canopy (which you can't really see in this photo), but B also got his fire pit. He's very happy.

More photos to come as beds actually go in! Hopefully, the first one will go in TODAY!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sardine chicken and freezer organization porn

Sardine Chicken...
The incredible, sleeping, sardine chicken have been captured on camera.

Yes, they now use the coop to sleep in at night. But they all try to fit in one nesting box. It cracks me up to no end. They also seem very bewildered that they all can't always fit in. Wait till you get bigger girls.

On to the freezer organization porn (thanks Lucy for the phrase)...

Here is our freezer. 9 cubic feet. I didn't want it to become an unorganized bin of things... SO, I decided to make a grid for organization.

This is the before shot. Notice the bump in the bottom where the motor is, and there also has to be space left on top for the bins.

So, I took coroplast, which I got at a local plastics store in their leftover bin (for $5!!!). Coroplast, essentially, is plastic cardboard. I made a wine-box type pattern (where you cut the pieces with slits and then push them onto each other-- thanks Erin for the analogy).

Then, to make sure the pieces didn't constantly flex and push out, I used a hot glue gun to seal the corners. The glue does get brittle when it's cold, but it still takes a lot to break the glue seal. It's about as good as anything else.

And voila! Organizer in the freezer! I may end up cutting a few sections if I find I consistently need bigger space. Each "compartment" is 6"x4", and the depth goes the entire way down to the bottom of the freezer. I do like that it forces us me to put things in smaller packages. Really, that's what I should be doing generally. Rare is the circumstance when something takes up more than a quart bag (and if it does, you generally thaw it out, use half, and then refreeze, right?), so this system makes us me freeze things as I probably should be freezing anyway. The only hang-up is some of our beef is in larger parcels. I'll just have to keep an eye on that now.

There are more freezer photos below, but I thought I'd take you on a tour of the rest of our small-but-busy laundry room.

First, there are the 4 new chicks in their bin, with their lamp.

Judgmental chick is still judgmental.

There's also a bike.

And some of my seedlings (with bins above).

I am crazily excited right now with these seedlings. Because of the chicks' heat lamp, the room stays a bit warm. My peas? Went bonkers. They grew 1" yesterday. I LOVE that the chicks' heat lamp now has a dual purpose, making the energy expenditure more justifiable. These particular peas are Park Seed's Green Arrow Peas. YUM!

Here's the window where I'm going to soon build shelves for my seedlings. This will particularly be nice for my heat-loving plants, like tomatoes, edamame (fingers crossed that works!), squash, etc. They'll get a jump-start indoors and then go outdoors around May 10th.

Back to the freezer.

Here's the system with the two bins inside. No, the bins can't slide back and forth anymore. But I'm ok with that. They can hold a few bigger things

And here is the freezer with the entire contents (!!!) of the small freezer. Yes, that's only a little bit of the bins and four compartments used. WOW! The foil in one of the bins was me being lazy; it's sausage that I should have taken out of the containers and frozen in packs. I had to go to work so I threw it in foil and in the freezer. SO really, that should be in a compartment too, but temporarily, it's in a bin. And yes, that is a duck.

I love that with this system, I can know at all times how much space I have. Do we have enough room for x that is on sale at the store? We know instantly.

The only issues are two main things:

1) Rotisserie chicken. I like to buy those to have them on hand for crockpot dinners and then making chicken broth. They don't fit well in the grids. Maybe I can use the bins for them?

2) Pot pies. When I make them, I make 30+. I think I can use the space on TOP the red grid (there's about 3" between the lid and the red grid) for freezing the pies, and then I can stack them in our house freezer. I think.

Regardless of the two issues, the system cost me $5. So, if it works, great. And right now, it works.

Finally, I like that if we have something liquid-y and we put it in a compartment, the liquid will mold to the compartment. So we may have a bunch of square-shaped freezer bags. But that's great right? It's using the space to the max.

So here's hoping it works out.