Saturday, May 30, 2009
As wise ol' Hubby pointed out, "PEEP!" is also chick speak for everything else too. :o)
Yesterday we bit the bullet and tried playing God one last time with our Mama chicken, Meringue. We bought 6 Ameraucana chicks from the feed store last night and tried to introduce them to Mama.
She was not pleased.
And how does a chicken let you know she's not pleased? She mouth-breathes...alot. And when you get the chicks anywhere close to her, she pecks at their poor little heads. Her pecks were like a scolding an animal mother would give to her child, but we were too nervous to take any chances, so out she and the Aunties went into the run. They have a new nest and roost out there thanks to Hubbie last weekend. They'll be fine--and now i guess they'll all be Aunties. Poor Mama.
The chicks are out in the coop. There is a straw nest on the floor, under the nesting boxes, and their food and water are out there with them. We put the heat lamp near the nest on the floor, blocked the door to the run with a piece of wire screen, and hopefully everything will be good.
One of the chicks adopted me last night and kept crawling up in my lap. When i left him in the coop, he just kept peep-shrieking at me. I hate that feeling....like you are leaving your baby at preschool for the first time. Is that what it's going to feel like when we take Ri to college for the first time? UGH! Thank God i have 12 years before that happens! Especially when she looks as cute as this It's nice to have chicks again...Ri is more confident with them this time around, so she is willing to pick them up and hold them. She's so gentle with them too, and makes sure she puts them down at the watering hole, just incase they are thristy. :o)
It's funny, but the chicks' markings are kinda like our cat's--the cat is black with white markings down the middle of it's back (that oddly enough look like a cross.)
Since we've been delving into Egyptian culture with Ri lately (getting ready for homeschooling in Sept), the other thing Ri and i noticed about these chicks is that they all look like Cleopatra with that "eyeliner" they have around their eyes. :o) And they do kinda "walk like an Egyptian". ;O) If they keep that look when they are hens, i think we'll have to name one Cleo. :o)
Here's Meringue...she's finally walking a bit more normally and she's stopped being too broody. She's looking good and Victoria and Lil' Miss have excepted her back into the social structure without too much hen pecking.
So far, so good here this weekend. Just getting ready for company and Summer--in between visits to the coop to make sure the chicks are okay. :o) Hope you have a blessed and wonderfully sunny weekend too!
Friday, May 29, 2009
the raspberries are taking shape...
strawberries are movin' right along...
and with the arrival of these...
Hubbie and i discovered a new, kid-friend exclaimation that doesn't require the use of soap applied orally afterwards:
And why do we feel the need to invent new, kid-friendly cursing?
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
So first, i headed to our local quilt shop. After leaving Joann's yesterday totally uninspired by their collection of fabrics, yet in need of one more pairing for a set of napkins Ri and i are sewing for some of the teachers.
I couldn't resist some of this chicken fabric for Riona--a pillowcase to gow ith the quilt we'll be making her, i hope. ;o) I can totally relate to that chicken in the tub--that's usually how i look taking a bath with seed catalogues or seed packets in hand.
I also needed to get some dishtowels to embroider on these cute pictures Ri drew for her teachers. I am thinking i am going to embroider a Mother's Day one for me with that chicky design and include her handwriting from my mother's day card this year.
These daisy and blue gingham fabrics i found also for the napkins for one of Ri's teacher's aids. I think they'll look just right for a Scandinavian woman named Mrs. Nordsletten, don't you?
(The "Gardening: Just Another Day at the Plant" is a sign my parents got me for Cmas. Today i found the faucet "coat rack" and had a brain surge--i am going to place these out on the inside of our tool shed door. Then i can make a few cotton drawstring bags for garden gloves, hats, and first aid. Now if i could just find a box that i could hang next to them to put the hand clippers and trowels in.)
The thrifting Gods must have known that today was the last day that i would have (hopefully for a good long while, since we're truely looking forward to homeschooling next year) for a thrift shop hop as today was the last day Ri has school till the early afternoon hours. So for my first stop, i tried a new little place next to our Big Kmart called Lili's Thrift Shop. It is an awesome place, and turns out, the owner is my neighbour (she lives one block over from us.) She is a sweet 84 year old woman that raised 3 children, one still lives at home with her because as she says "he is retarded and never really grew up past the age of six" (how hard that must be!!), and has been in the thrifting business for years here in our area--she owned a thrift store downtown since the time she was in her 30's until the city/downtown developers forced her out in the late '90's, telling her that if she didn't leave, then they'd jack up her rent because they didn't want "junk stores" in their town. Now, our downtown continuously gets nominated for best place to thrift shop due to mass amounts of 2nd hand stores. Go figure.
However, in talking with her, she got the better end of that deal, because even though she isn't in the thick of the thrift-district, she's got her name and reputation and she's paying a half as much for rent where she is now! She shops garage sales and thrift stores in other areas to stock her store. She has a hand full of family members that help her with that. And she is known by the people in her generation as the lady who came in to help them unload all their parent's houses when they died. So now that they are getting older and having to downsize or want to clean out their homes, they call her to do the same for them. Her store is packed...i hope someday she'll let me take a picture of it. It's amazing! A few people in there today said, "Oh my gosh, this place is scary because i have a storage shed that looks like this." Ha!
So, first stop, textiles:
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Sometimes i long for the days when this was as much excitement as we'd see around here till the tomatoes were ready to be picked. :o) The "Pre-Chicken Whit Days"* as it were.
Monday, May 25, 2009
And being sick allowed me to help my daughter get some more of her reading done for school. She is going for the gusto: reading 135 books for 15 minutes each to get a trophey and a book from her kindergarten teachers. Unfortunately, she doesn't read things like Yurtle the Turtle or Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel anymore (she's been reading those since she was 2 and 3 years old), so we read chapter books--the second to third grader kind. But we read to quickly, so 2 chapters usually take 15 minutes for us, even though she is reading the equivalent number of pages for 2 kindergartener books. Oh well, we put a little more work into it than the other families who are only reading phonics books with their kids to get these 135 books read, but i think we've rewarded our daughter much more with the love and gift of reading at an early age. She'll even take books with us to the restaurant and read while she's waiting for her dinner. That's something that she'll have forever! Not some silly trophey she "earned" in kindergarten.
Not a bad weekend, and i hope you hada good one too!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
I attended a class given by a local gardening guru, Marianne Binetti. She is a character. Travels to Italy alot because her son is a pro basketball player there. She had some great directions for planting tomatoes in cool to moderate climates like our.
The quickest way to a tomato harvest is to start with a plan.
First, find a south facing wall with full sun. Try to paint the wall white, as the white will reflect more of the sun's rays that induce quicker ripening of fruit. I tried a west facing wall last year with 6-8 hours of light with not so great results. Even better is if you have windows on a south facing wall. This is how my mom-in-law grows them and her plants always grow like gangbusters!
- terracotta pots (i use the E31 size. i've seen people use the huge terracotta pots, so they can companion plant herbs in with their toms)
- Momma's holy nylons: use these to tie plants to the stake without damaging the stem
- fertilizer such as bonemeal, alfalfa meal, wood ashes
- clear plastic: to cover pants on nights where the temp dips below 50 and on those rainy days to protect the leaves from getting wet, which could induce tomato blight.
- Planting in the ground? You'll also need red plastic (like the kind the potatoes or the Sunday news comes in--use these to save some $$$). This plastic can be used as mulch spread out on top of the soil underneath plants. Red plastic reflects UV rays to leaves of plant and helps fruit ripen 5-7 days earlier, whereas black plastic only holds heat.
There are to types of tomato plants: determinate (d) and indeterminate (i).
Determinate's fruit will mature earlier than the indeterminate's. Determinates will stop producing around the time the indeterminate begin ripening. It is recommended to purchase at least 1 determinate and 1 indeterminate, for the determinate's fruit will ripen and you will be enjoying it in sandwiches, salads, burgers long before your indeterminate's have ripened.
It is also recommended that you seek out the plants that are developed in your area. I know people who are set on a certain kind like Big Boy or the like. 'Cause why would you plant a tomato plant in the foothills of the Cascades when it was developed for the gardener from the Oklahoma plains?
For our area of West WA, Coastal OR, and cooler climates of N. ID, these types are recommended:
- d's for our area: Gold Nugget, Oregon Spring, Early Cascade, Willamette, Golden Delight, Taxi, Fantasic Hybrid, Pic Red, Legend, Sun Sugar.
- i's for our area: Early Girl, Stupice
- Best sauce toms: window box Roma (d), striped Roma (d), Heinz, Oregon Star, Super Marzano.
Once you have purchased your seedlings, it's time to harden off like a professional. Hardening off requires you to place the plants outside 4 -5 days, exposing them to sun and a tiny bit of wind in the daytime and bring indoors at night. The plants leaves will thicken and become a darker green, therefore making the plant more resistant to flea beetles.
For our cooler climate, test growers have reported that covering your tomatoes every night until July 4th is best for maxium productivity. Just don't forget to uncover them every morning so they'll get good circulation. I have seen gardeners around the area just wrap the plastic around the sides of the tomato cage, which cuts down on the work of removing the plastic every day.
The biggest reason to make sure your plants have a nice warm shelter on a cool night is because plants like tomatoes and peppers "pout" when they get cold. They'll throw tantrums that rival that of a 3 year old's fit in the grocery store, during the busiest time on day, when you tell them they can't have the free cookie at the bakery! If these plants are exposed to 1 night 50 degrees or below, they pout for a week. For 2 nights at 50 degrees, then for 2 weeks they'll pout. Basically the number of days their exposed to cold temps, that's the number of weeks they'll go on strike. A pouting plant will throw the equivalant to a tantrum by shuting down production and casting off buds. Kinda like a French labour union's strike, without the hostages, eh?
Marianne's Rule of (green) Thumb is:
if you don't know how to spoil a child, you won't grow good tomatoes and peppers. :o)
Another rule of thumb--proven at test gardens in OR--peppers can not be planted in our climate until after June 10th. Same with basil.
Use a terra cotta pot with drainage holes
Use crumpled plastic pots from starts in the bottom of the pot for great drainage material. This will also enable you to use less soil if you have purchased a larger pot.
Use POTTING SOIL to fill the pot so to cover the drainage you've placed in there plus an inch. Make sure you don't use garden soil from the yard as it doesn't drain fast enough for use in a pot. Also, don't reuse tomato pots with last years soil for this year's tomatoes--reuse last year's soil for flowers. Blight can overwinter in the soil just as it does in the garden.
Add fertilizer (i use alfalfa) to your pot.
Now prep your plant: remove those bottom leaves--at least half way up the stem.
Get in touch with your inner kid and make mud puddling: take 1 cup of luke warm water and pour in the hole, making a slurry of soil.
Dip plant in bucket of warm water, half way up the stem from roots. Warm water tells plant to grow roots instead of leaves. Then massage roots. And add another cup of warm water to the pudding.
When potting, bury 1/2 of the plant stem. If flowering, try to lay plant on it's side with small piece of top exposed. The warm water will induce root growth faster and the heavy fruit that will soon develope on that flower will have plenty of roots to support that stem of the young plant.
Place pot on top of plastic caps from bottles or lids from jars (i use the saucers i have left over from pots that have broken), carefully avoiding drainage holes, to boost drainage so that plant doesn't sit in pool of water on ground, deck, patio, etc. Tomatoes really don't like wet feet either.
Boy, i can almost taste those Christmas Grape Tomatoes!!
Other important tips:
**if planting in ground, follow these directions (minus the plastic pots in the bottom of the hole) and add one handful of bonemeal, wood ashes, or dolomite lime (anything high in Ca) to increase acidity of soil to prevent blossom end rot.
**if using water soluble fertilizer, pour over leaves early A.M. on a sunny, warm day for max absorbtion into the plant.
***keep your soil moisture consistant and your leaves dry to prevent late blight.
***to prevent Tobacco Mosaic Virus, do not allow any smokers near your tomato plants.
Remember Mom's and Dad's advice: "You have to plant marigolds with tomatoes!" Well, marigolds are the magnet that attract aphids and slugs to your toms. Use lavendar instead, or plant onions or garlic around your tomatoes. Basil is especially good if you are planting in pots.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
This change to start producing as much of our own food as we can, during the summer months, came with the birth of Ri. That is when we switched really to all organic 95% of the time. We eliminated fast food restaurants from our diet. And luckily my new hobbies as a homemaker were hobbies that happened to save us money and time in the end. It's nice not to have to sweat teacher's gifts when you have canned jam or tomato sauce on hand to give as gifts. Knit up a quick wash cloth or make a quick loaf of bread, and you've got a gift that will bless anyone--hostess, birthday boy/girl, teacher. Before i didn't think like that--gift giving always required running to the store for something bought. Now it can be a cute find from a thrift store, or an upcycling artist even.
And to make matters more precarious, our deck and most of our yard for playing in, running through sprinklers, and gardening in is in the front of our house. Imagine a 75 ft x ~100 ft. grass lot--that is our (front) yard. We feel like we are on display when we are mowing or bbqing or just kicking the ball around. But at least we have a yard, right? Most of our acquaintences have a McMansion with a 6,000 sq foot yard. I complain about mowing too much grass, i wonder what the incentive is for hauling out a big ol' stinky gas powered mower just to mow 400 sq feet of grass?
The top of the cross is my lavender and hydrangae plants, some alpine tulips and some hardier herbs like sages, savory, and thyme. The sides of the cross are ever changing--think kitchen garden with cauliflowers, broccoli, onions, garlic, leeks usually ending up in there with some sunflowers too for the birds; however i am slowly coming around to the idea of planting things that wouldn't require me to dig out the area every year due to weeds. At the bottom of the cross is my daughter's sandbox--a nice way to garden and keep her occupied while she was too young to help plant.
the top of the cross garden with french and Jean Davis lavender, white coneflowers, "Jupiter's Beard"
this year's artichoke (this past summer was so cold and snowy here, most gardeners lost their artichokes and rosemary)
The next project was to take out a 10 x 40 foot swath of grass for a veggie garden. We've had a lot more success with this than just trying to dig rows in the grass and plant seed like we were doing before. Here we are able to grow 8 rows of corn, 4-6 tomato plants, beans-pole and bush, peas, potatoes, and zucchinis and sugar pumpkins. This year we are adding a grapevine. My advice: don't try to do too much at once...pick 1-2 new items each year that you would like to try your hand at. You'll feel more successful that way.
Last year, we added a rhubarb plant. If we ever have a farm, Hubbie and i think that is what we'll grow. It does well here, along with hops. WA used to be the capital of rhubarb and hop production.
Also, last year, we moved the raspberries out from the semi-shady spot in the back. They have grown in size by gargantuan amounts!
It's been amazing the amount of food we can get out of this garden in a good summer. The first year we had 50+ ears of corn, green beans running out our ears, so many tomatoes we were able to can 15-20 jars of pizza sauce from the recipes in Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy. This inspired me to stop calling out for pizza and to learn to make our own dough. That saves us $20 each week right there. This year, i am really looking forward seeing how many raspberries we have this year--we never buy them anymore because nothing compares with the taste of off the vine--which saves us $5.00 a pint.
The front entry to our home is still a work in progress. It is the only place i will allow fussie plants (like roses). I have some lavender in there too, and a poppy here or there. We just replaced our windows this year (that were original 1 pane, aluminum framed from the late fifties) with aluminum clad wood windows (another thing we did outside of the normal vinyl windows.) One of the nice features of the entry is that brick planter near the front door.
It's as handy as the deck for keeping commonly used herbs like parsley, oregano, and thyme. We also plant sweet peas there to cascade down the wall: we use these for cutting flowers (double as an air freshener in the bathroom!) and their nice welcoming aroma.
This past year we also added chickens to our family in our quest for semi self sufficency. They have been a welcomed addition in our lives, not only because of their entertainment value, but because they are quite the rewarding pets. What do cats give you in return for the care we give them? Attitude and self-righteousness. What do fish give you? Nothin' but a guilty conscience at the first sign of algae in the tank. :o)
And, besides, the best gift chickens give you is if you are too tired for grocery shopping for dinner, there's always breakfast for dinner! :o) And in the late summer, combine that with a little basil, tomato, and zucchini from the garden and you've got an awesome strata!
Although there are still tons of things i'd like to do (beekeeping = candle making, making our own soap, bettering my sewing skills so we can give more handmade gifts), we are saving a bit in the summertime by gardening.