Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas, Birdies!

Just like you, we've been busy little elves this month.  Planning Christmas gifts, making treats, getting ready to visit family for the holidays.  I've been away so long, too many things rattling in my head that are just bursting to be shared with you.  Thinking i've found a place to start here.

Aside from the knitting projects i've been working on, the coolest craft we've made so far is homemade birdseed and suet.  Cookie loved this project so much we've made two batches. This is what we call "school" now.  We learn so much about real life things, and the experiences keep it exciting and enjoyable for my poor child who is suffering the ill effects of "boredom" anytime she is asked to complete rote work on her own.  It's best for all those involved who wish to maintain their sanity.  :)

We learned that many of the toxins that are in food sources and fields now are affecting the birds tremendously--everything from shell strength to genetics informities to immunity and lifespan can be effected.  With this realisation, we have come to learn that we should focus on what we grow in our gardens, rather than what we put in our feeders.

But today, we are just going to tackle one thing at a time. :)

First off, BIRD SEED we needed to source organic seed ingredients.  We used our food co-op, which has a huge selection of many different kinds of seeds and grains.  Cookie picked millet, sunflower seeds, oats, pumpkin seed, lentils and peanuts.  We added the wheat berries we feed our chickens to this too for their protein content. 

Now it was time to source organic lard.  This wasn't an easy task, but we found a farm down the road from us that raises pigs.  We asked if they sell the fat, and sure enough they did.  Not only did we come home with a bag o' fat, but also our milkshare.  :)

A quick search of The Google resulted in a bazillion ways to render pork fat into lard.
I chose to use the crockpot from the blog NWEdible, because she explained the process so well, however am not certain that method is the best for me.  It seemed to take a really long time (3 days?!??!  Really?) and i never got cracklins?!?!?  The fat that melted out never really solidified.  Is it the fat?  Or is it me?  Erica is a seasoned pro at this, so it can't be the method.
More research is needed. :)

Hot Piggety!

Once we got our lard, we headed over to the blog Chiot's Run.
Susy has an easy recipe for suet there.
We used our homemade bird seed, our home-rendered lard, and because the lard was a little soupier than what i expected, we used a little more wheat flour. :)
We placed the first batch in square muffin tins lined with paper.
I stuck them out on the deck to firm up in the cold.
The Juncos, perched in the branches of the Red Osier dogwood next to our house, decided they couldn't wait and started devouring right away.
So we took the little blocks of birdie goodness and lined our deck rail with them.
The birds must think they're in Heaven...perched in the braches of Oregon Grape, Red Osier dogwood and a cedar type columnar tree, hopping down for a little sustainance within a tail-feather's reach.
Susy also had a wonderfully snazzy idea of molding the suet into a wreath shape with a bundt pan.  Our's didn't look as pretty as her's, so we just molded them back into suet cakes for your typical
 wire cage.  Maybe if we had tried the angel food cake pan with a removable bottom, we would have had better success.  We might just try that next.
Over all, i really liked the muffin tin.  Wouldn't they be cute in a sweet little cupcake box with a cellophane pane??  And if someone mistakened them for a human treat, at least it would be wholesome and organic. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Auctioned Roo Update

Back in October, we decided one of our roos needed to find a new home.  We are lucky to have the "Sales Barn", as the locals call it.

We had heard stories of people's luck at the sales barn.  Selling one roo for $40 bucks.  Selling a 4 member flock of 3 year old hens, who's egg production dwindled to nothing, for $50 bucks.  We were leary, but hopeful.

The first of November, we got a reciept in the mail.

Rooster Auction

with a check totaling $3.97. 

Oh well, at least we haven't had to put up with his bullying.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Excuse My Mess...

Seems that i was trying to be told something, by my lack of blogging. 

I am out of space for photos! 


Since having a blog without photos is like Thanksgiving without stuffing, and i don't want to move blogs, sending readers on a wild goose chase, i will be removing some of these photos to a Flickr account and removing from the blog.  Or maybe all it will take is upgrading to Google+.  Who knows....  ARRRRGH

Hope to return soon with more photos of what i would really like to show you!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Busy as a Bee


Hoping you had a wonderful holiday.  Hoping you enjoyed your family more than your food this holiday--especially this one.

This year i had a huge breakthrough.  I ate a plate of Thanksgiving goodness around 3pm for "lunch", and was hungry again by 7.  You know, like any other day (should be.)  Huge success for me!  Especially when part of a mob at a dinner party.  Showed up at the scale on Saturday too...look at me, 3.5 pounds lighter.  Woot!  Now if i could just find a way to work in a walk during a visit like that, however people might misconstrue that as being "unsocial", i guess.  I'll get up the nerve, someday.  Point being, i felt completely well going to bed and absolutely wonderful the next day. 

If i keep this up, Nona might just have a little bro and sis before too long. :)

We have been busy with other things than holidays as well.  Irish dancing.  Merry Birthday Making.  Entertaining visitors. Mostly conceptual, right now, but we are slowly wading into this farming gig by meeting some individuals well on their way to providing locals with a "food source" and questioning them heavily.  Thankfully, a woman with much success on and off her farm has called to order a small group farmers in our area and we have been trading ideas online with regard to sharing of farm chores.  I feel as if i've moved to Vashon Island (without the arsenic or the ferry ride.)  Very excited to meet these individuals at our inaugural potluck in January.

We are shaking up school as well. I haven't the patience anymore for things that bring my child to her knees pleading for something less boring.  We are reading lots, plugging along with math, in the throws of learning chores and cooking things as well.  But Cookie's new passion?  Making movies!  So we are learning how to do that, as well as the various ways to put together a movie via a few different computer programs.

I'm entrenched at the moment in homemaking.  Finding recipes for household items for this month's Urban Farm challenge.  Making sure the seed companies all have my current address. :)  Knitting.  Sewing.  Package wrapping.  Yardwork.  Decorating for a majour holiday.  You know the gig. Also trying to add more exercise to my long list of daily chores.

Hoping you have a wonderful week ahead of you!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Foyer :: Putting the "Welcome" into Our Home

The garden is slowing down, work on the old house is winding down, and if i have to can one more batch of applesauce i think i could potential lose my mind.  The sunny summer days have given way to storms that roll through, bringing not only dreary dark skies but two inches of rain to boot. :) 

With the out of doors and the old house getting most of my attention these past few months, you can imagine what the new house looks like.  So, i'm getting that nesting feeling again...time to reclaim a sense of order in our new space and time to experiment hanging a few things on the walls before i repaint everything.  Someday.

This week's redecorating mission is the foyer.  Some would call it an entry.  To-may-to, to-mah-to really.  I grew up in a home with this awesome foyer, as my folks called it...from the front door you saw a quaint courtyard they built with a view to the backyard.  It had space for a wood stove and a chair.  All these years in my first grown up home, i had an entry space about 5 wide by 2 or 3 feet deep.  One person could stand in the area, and there was really no room for any more.  Maybe this is why i've come to think of one as a foyer, and the other as an "entry". 

Anywho, these spaces beyond the front door have become very important, and dear, to me.  It's the area you welcome guests out of the cold and rain, the beginnings of your hospitality.  In our home, it's where one should leave their shoes and coat.  It is also where we like to leave our things that we've brought in with us and the things we'll need as we head out the door. 

Which becomes the problem.

Over the past few months, i've identified a few things that we will need to conceal our belongs in this area and make it a tidy, welcoming space for guests, but also a functional one for us. 

Wish List for Foyer
Space to sit to put on/take off shoes
Place for us to put our keys, wallets, purses so they are handy when we leave (this may change)
Shoe storage
Mail drop
& if we win the lottery:  a new tile or wood floor and ceiling fixture!
Three pieces have been added, and i am slowly trying to identify what else is needed, if anything at all. Some items we moved with us and i would really, really love to replace with nicer finds.  Things definitely need to be budget friendly right now though.

The important addition over this last summer was a sweet bench my mom and i found while shopping. 
How do you like our Halloween bats?
It almost looks like something a person would have made in a woodworking class, honing his furniture making skills.  The seller had owned it for 30 years at least, having purchased it when he was an antique dealer years ago.  His family loved it, as evident from the worn leather upholstery and the dents and scrapes in the wood.  His children own a lunch spot my folk's dig, so it was neat to be able purchase something from their family.  Just call me Ol' Sentimental Nellie, as when i find things like this, they take on the personalities of people who had them.  And if i don't know who they were, i create the characters in my head who loved the item before it was my fortune to own it. 

An added bonus, it can be moved to the living room to provide more seating when we have Moose's family over.  Love that!

The Mission style back had me at hello.
At first, i thought i would paint the wood (a striking red, perhaps?  or black?), but for now i have decided that it will stay this way.  I am planning on repainting the walls a lighter, creamier colour and seeing how it looks against that.  The seat is a removable box with coils, so a later date project will add more cotton padding and reupholster it. 

Only to be made more homey with the addition
of a thrifted homemade quilt.

Now with this new piece of furniture gracing our home,

i have a dilemma. 
Furniture arrangement in our foyer.
Granted, all the crud could be cleared out, and that would make heaps difference.  However this is everyday living, friends.  Our home will never grace the pages of a magazine.  But more important to me is that it's inviting and comfy to those who visit, whether they are family and friends
or Jehovah's Witnesses. :)

This is how i initially envisioned the space.


It's hard for me to see anything on the wall below the stairs because of its height and depth. Needless to mention is that unfortunate placement of support column in the middle of the area.

If that isn't needed, "you know who" may be the first to go. :)

It looks decent, but as you can see, the depth of the bench isn't ideal for the space.  We've lived with it like this for three months now.  We're all luke warm about it.

Around the corner, where the bench sticks out, is the bathroom...the bench is a potential toe-tangler here now.  Moose hasn't ever liked this, so i used his idea this morning.   Come around that corner too quick, and you've got a bruised hip.  Ei yi ei!

I played switch-a-roo with the *awful* wicker dresser this morning.  The only thing we lose moving this dresser to this area is the possibility of having a small lamp to light the space, instead of using the overhead light.  The depth of the dresser definitely works better here. 

I would love to find a wood dresser, possibly the same colour as the bench. 
However, it will need a short depth. 

After all the rearranging,
here's the finished result. 


I like that the bench still hides the pile of library books from the visitors.
And the flow seems to be a lot more spacious.
What do you think?
Any suggestions on how to spiffy up this ugly vinyl tile floor on the cheap??

Thursday, November 1, 2012


All dolled up

Out here in the country, we were pretty certain we wouldn't get any trick or treaters.  It's not that we don't have an abundant group of neighbours, but that most are from a different generation...who's children grew up a long time ago. 

Racer and a slug


All Treats Here Cookie, an eager trick or treater, was chomping at the bit yesterday.  She designed the pumpkins and helped carve them.  Riona's pumpkin carving In town, the merchants get together with the city officials and block off the main road, encouraging kids to come for tricks and treats downtown.  I piled my kitty cat in the car and headed downtown.  Have you ever seen a single file line of children in costumes, waiting their turn to beg for candy?  The kids weren't the only ones getting in on the act, as some parents dressed up, trick or treating for themselves, and held a bag chock full of loot from their efforts as well.  It was the strangest thing i had ever seen.

In talking with some of the merchants, the numbers varied from 10 pounds of candy given in an hour to 2000 suckers with coupon offers attached handed out.  Wow!

Afterward, we headed into the homes of the city folk, who were amazed at how few goblins there were. Cookie was happy that there weren't as many scary things here as in our old neighbourhood. At half a bag of candy, she was ready to go home, where we sorted (only one piece didn't pass the "have we heard of that before" test!" She found 3 coupons for ice cream from our favourite merchants downtown. And to cap the night, we watched the great pumpkin and Cookie and Moose had light saber "fights" with glowsticks. :) It was a calm Halloween without worry...quite nice!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nature's Jack-in-a-Box

We have these cute little Pacific Tree Frogs all of over the property.
In the strangest places we'll find them.
They were all over the grape leaves this fall.
Today, while watering the lettuces and trees in the greenhouse, this one came out to say hi.
Startled me a little, i have to admit.

Looking for the canning jars this weekend, i found his cousin in the strangest spot...

Hello little guy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

In Case You've Had a Weekend Like Ours...

This weekend was a busy one.  We lived a library in "The Big City" so Cookie could learn about and practice ciphers and codes.  The library was straight away from our favourite Irish restaurant, so we lunched there.  Then we headed to church at our parish in the south end.  All in all, we probably put about 100 miles on the car on Saturday.  Ugh!

Sunday was harvest day.  Moose cleaned out the kiwi vines of about 15 pounds of berries, and we made 2 batches of jam with enough berries potentially leftover for four more batches!  Ei yi ei!  I harvested a basketful of apples, sauced and placed them in jars to freeze them in hopes of using these being used for our lunches and the snacks we need to provide our friends in the clubs we belong to.
Also finished cleaning up the shelling beans.  Whew!  All that  and a quick haircut for Moose made for a 5am to 9:30pm day!! 

And after a day like that, you can imagine the need for a little comic relief, eh?

The poison of my choice is a parody of a cute little song by Carly Rae Jepsen "Call Me Maybe"

And Mitt Romney wants to cut funding for this kinda creativity??!?? 

President Obama slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon is a must see as well & the spoof of Mad Men singing Rick Astley is pretty funny to, however i will warn you that that last one isn't too family friendly, video-wise.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lemon Update

meyer lemon oct '12We've already had a couple of frosts out here in the country.  I didn't want to push my luck with my lemon tree, so i moved it into the greenhouse the end of last month.  With all the unseasonably nice weather we had, i was afraid that maybe it was getting too hot in there in the afternoons.  Then i remembered that these trees flourish in AZ. :)

Upon this week's inspection, i noticed the lemon tree is flowering again!  *Sqee!*  And right above those blossoms in the background you can see our first lemon developing.
Overall we have 3 lemons, but the other two are so tiny, and with lemon tree's propensity to drop fruit, i am trying not to get too excited.

Also, per recommendation of an inspiring blogging chap at Tall Clover Farm, i snapped up a Bearss lime plant i found in a grocer's floral section...on clearance for $5 no less.  :)  There were olive plants too, so i figured i give one of those a go.  Behind them there are my lettuce plants for the winter.  Boy, that medium greenhouse is filling up fast!

Bearess lime and olive tree

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Kinda Chore Chart

We've tried everything to get Cookie to tackle her chores.  I figured if the list format and chart format didn't work, the online computer program with email reminders would.  Pffft!  That only worked for a couple weeks. 

Back a square one, i came across cool chore punch cards, much like our coffee punch cards we coffee addicts carry around in separate wallets because they all won't fit in our money wallet. :)

I was about to order some i had seen on Etsy, when Cookie said, "Whatcha doin'?" 

I showed her the cards and got a resounding "cool!" from her. 

Then a quizzical look came across her face. 

"Momma, why would you buy them when you could make some really cool ones?" 

So i sat down at the computer, and after about a half hour with our art program i came up with this:

We decided that we'd leave the pay-out of each card negotiable.  That way they can earn a new book, an ice cream, a trip to the movies....when they are worth monies, we decided that each balloon is worth $0.25.  When a chore like making the bed is complete, Cookie pops a balloon with a hole puncher. 

We'll see how it works.  So far, just inspired chores for one day.  I wish i knew how to inspire her to complete more chores without beatings!! :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Late Night Story

The other day was a late night for us.  We have them scattered throughout the week.  Just another example of why we need to find an electric doo dad to put our feathered friends away.

It all started in the afternoon.  We drove to dance class about 25 miles away.  I've had a real sour stomach the past week, Cookie had one more class after dance.  Called Moose to see if he could play switch-a-roo with me, so i could go home and go to bed.  Agreed. 

We arrive at class No. 2 at 7:20pm.  It's pitch black out already.  Moose is waiting for us.  I make sure Cookie is settled, then head home.  Figuring that Moose won't be home 'til 9ish, i drive the car up the driveway aways, where the headlights can shine on the duck shed.  Open the car door and there's Rosie, "Mee-roowr".  Hi Rosie.  She escorts me to the duck shed and i just start to enter when i see two beady eyes.  Hmmm, those eyes are too close to each other on that head to be a bird, i say to myself.  Then i see it...the white striped tail.  Spooked Rosie because she didn't know i could run so fast!

I clamour back into the car and wait.  That skunk looks like it's going to bed down for the night in there!  But wait, aren't they nocturnal?  I wait some more.  Finally, my plan is to rev the engine and see if that does any good.  I drive the car up near the duck shed, and after i hit the gas a couple times, the skunk runs out of the duck shed....  Hooray!

and right into the chicken coop!  Ugh!  So now what?  Well, at least i can put the ducks away and then go to bed.  Wait!  Where are the ducks?  Huh?  I look outside and see another flash of threatening tail.  At this point, i don't know what to do.  I am quite certain that if Mr. Skunk skunked me, i would definitely have a real sour stomach.  So, i do what any self respecting gal would do...
call her man! :)

But there's no answer.  The third time, there is still no answer.  So, i leave a note on the front door.

After a while, Moose and Cookie make it home.  Now it's really pitch black.  Great night for stargazing.  Moose has the flashlights in his pocket, so he heads out to the shed.  Mr. Skunk has moved on, but there is no sign of the ducks....anywhere.  Moose heads out into the fields, calling "Here ducky duckies!" :)  Near the pond, that actually resembles something more of a large puddle at this point in the season with this little rain, he hears ducks come crashing out of the brush.  They follow him all the way back to the duck shed.  He turns on the light and finds that only Mischevious and Daffy have followed him back.  Where's Racer?!?

He comes up to the house, asked Cookie to put on her boots and grab a flashlight.  A few minutes later, she comes back to the house to collect me.  "Mom, we need your help.  Grab a jacket and boots."  Oh Lord, help me.

While Cookie is leading me back to the pond, i am amazed at her calmness in the pitch black darkness with only a small headlamp to light our way.  She's a completely different kid now...
Not a hot mess of a city girl like her momma.

We get to the pond and Cookie charges down through the brush to the edge of the puddle.  I stay about 3 feet from all that.  Cause you know there could be frogs down there. 

"See Racer, Mom?  She's under those bushes."  Moose tried bring food out to her. Cookie and Moose tried shooing her on shore.  Rosie even tried climbing into the brush hoping to help us herd the duck home.  No luck.  When they'd get too close, she'd retreat under the shrubs.

Finally, Moose asked me to go get another duck.  On the way back to the duck shed, i decided i would bring Cheevy...he tolerates me picking him up sometimes after we play tag.  Sometimes he gets too fresh and the only way i've found to make him stop is to give that silly ol ' duck a big bear hug.   

Hoping that Racer will respond to Cheevy's calls, we trudge back out to the pond.  We all say, "Call Racer, Cheevy!"  Right on cue, he lets out a big male whaaaaa, whaaaa, whaaa duck sound and Racer comes tearing out of the brush and up the banks.  Cheevy wants down to see if his woman is alright.  I'm *not* letting go of you, you silly duck!

Cookie's at the front of this crazy late night sharade parade, lighting my way.  Moose is at the back lighting Racer's way.  Cheevy's flapping his big ol' manly wings in my face.  Occasionally Racer would stop and duck into brush along the way.  Cheevy, sing it again, ol' boy. Waaaah!  Good boy! 

Finally, we got the ducks back inside and fed.  Whew!

And the neighbours are none the wiser since it wasn't daylight out.  :) 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Enjoying This

Fall is here.
Although, this isn't a fall us Seattlites would recognize right off hand.
Seriously?! California is getting massive amounts of rain this week and we are dry, sunny, & in the 70's? Cue the Twilight Zone intro!

It's cold in the house when Moose awakens.
Lovely man he is, he braves the freezing temps to fetch the firewood that will warm our little house.
All before he's had his breakfast.  Or his shower.
By the time he leaves, the stove is pumping out the heat--around 400 degrees Fahrenheit!
Enjoy finding where our Halloween decorations will live in our new home.
Needing to find more pieces and places for vignettes,
rather than blanketing the house at large with seasonal decor.
Just where are those cool orange and black globe lights we have going to go???
Enjoying how the toys are creeping back in front of the fire.
Reminding myself to enjoy those now, especially when the littlest of pieces embeds itself in my foot, because they won't be there too many more years. :)
Enjoying a new knitting project this week.
In need of more dishclothes and Martha's yarn colours where spot on for my new kitchen.
Portland Feis this past weekend was the perfect time for new projects--lots of knitting on the car ride down and while cheering for Cookie in the stands.
Cookie is the 2nd girl from "Batgirl" on the right

Monday, October 8, 2012

shop local :: Enumclaw Sales Pavilion

In this installment of my shop local series, we bring you our experience at the Enumclaw Sales Pavilion.  The proper title should be "sell local", however. 

Our Polish rooster, Mo, was becoming quite aggressive for our taste.  He had already attacked Moose once and had developed a reputation for charging from behind (which really made changing the waterers and checking food difficult for one person).  For people who like to commune with our hens on a daily basis, you can imagine how frustrating it was.

Saturday, while we were readying for our travels to the Rose City, Cookie was playing in our backyard while Moose was tending to weeds in the garden.  Mo kept jumping up on our fences, crowing, puffing, and taunting Cookie. We decided there was no tolerance for that type of bullying.  And from a chicken no less!

A visit with some acquaintances that we saw last week proved fortutitous, with conversation centered around chicken talk.  They mentioned they had taken some poultry to the Sales Barn before they left for a vacation; three year old hens who's egg production had really tapered off weren't worth the cost of an animal sitter to them, however they didn't wish harm to their chickens either.  Makes sense.

Mo:  If you could only have followed the cardinal rules!
So Saturday morning, Moose prepared a moving box with straw and air holes for ol' Mo.  We showed up at check-in hours, standing in line with the regulars who drop off dozens of eating eggs, hatching eggs, and other birds to be auctioned off.  How it works is you leave your name and address and item, a number gets associated with that item and set out for auction, and when the auction is over you get a check in the mail if your item has sold.  Haven't talked to anyone yet about what happens when items don't sell.  But we create our own fantasy for Mo, and hope that he was snatched up for his beauty, rather than his tempermant, was whisked away to a glorious and picturesque chicken farm with a sizable harem of hens, who were all immediately struck breathless when they saw what a handsome and (un)refined fellow came to live with them!

shop local: Enumclaw AuctionThe Sales Barn runs many different types of auctions from poultry to horses to tools and farm equipment.  It's located on Hwy 164 & 228th Street. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Case of the Curious Bird

Already the Barred Rock chickens are proving to be a handful.  Well, one in particular.
  Maybe it's her way of paying us back for injuring her in the fire
If you look closely, you'll see she is missing two digits on her cute little chicken feet.

Thanks to Linda's advice on chicken heartiness, we were able to calm out fears that we would have to put the chick down and we tended to her little feet while she healed.

In honor of the first sleepover guests to grace our home with their riotous antics gleaned from strange and unusual reality T.V. and contagious laughter that only can come from a group of charming girls, and because it is an extremely fitting name in this case, we have dubbed thee:

Honey Boo Boo
We even tweaked the infamous quote of the real Honey Boo Boo to describe our friends, feathered and not:  "Melon Ballas make me holler, Honey Boo Boo."
We were absolutely loopy!  Poor Moose had to endure two solid days of this. :)
But i digress...
Our Honey Boo Boo stirred up some real the last couple days.
You know how you get into a habit of counting chickens at night, and they become so reliable, that you may causally glance at them one night, suspecting nothing is wrong?
Guilty here!
It's that goofy time of the year for us, when we have places to be in the daytime that don't permit us to be home at dusk to put the birds away.  Moose has graciously been putting the birds to bed in the dark the last couple weeks.  When i opened up the coop yesterday morning, i noticed a chicken in full on sprint come from the far corner of the pastures.  Huh.  That's not right.
I mentioned to Moose, on our drive to the bus stop, that we may want to double check the chickens at night--both of us becoming complacent chicken counters.
Last night, he rapped at the window and mentioned we were down a chicken.
He got a flashlight and headed out in the pasture.  And you wanna know what he found by the wee apple trees along the fence line?  In that strangely fenced off, mouse-infested, tall grassy area i mentioned a little while ago.  You know the one?
Miss Honey Boo Boo, buried under a mound of grass, sitting on her CLUTCH!

These are destined for the Ol' Egg Test today.

*shaking head* "Devil Chickens, Chickens, Chickens!"
They never cease to make us feel dumber than they are!


The ducks have been blessing us with some "Pumped Up Eggs" lately.
The yolks on the bottom came from a single duck egg.
Yesterday, i only needed 3 eggs to make scrambled eggs for two. :)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cha Ching! The Great CFL Experiment.

What's that sound you say?  Sounds like coins jangling in your pocket?  Nay, it's dollar bills swishing together in your wallet!

Last month, Moose completed his energy saving experiment by converting all our 25+ light bulbs in our home to the new CFLs.  We choose GE's "Trusty Edison 60W Look-a-like" version, that has a coiled CFL enclosed in frosted glass shaped like traditional bulbs we've all grown up with.  Only this bulb only uses something like 13W.   They were on sale at our one stop shop in the city, $10 bulbs for $2, so we figured we had nothing to lose for that price.

Proof was in the electric bill this month, when the total billing dropped by $45!!!  And thusly practically paying for themselves all in a single billing cycle!

Now, that's not to say we're in love with these bulbs.  About a minute after you turn them on, they flicker and emit this strange pink hue for a while, which thankfully grows brighter in a few minutes.  We do love that the 60W-ers are practically bright as the summer sunshine--you could burn your corneas when you glance in a light fixture's direction.  That will really come in handy around the end of May...when we hit our 230th day under dark grey skies!

We would love to replace them though, because of their strange flickering habit, at some point next year.  Thinking we could unload them at a garage sale, and trade up. 

Does anyone have an recommendations for energy saving light bulbs out there?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grape Harvest

Back in January when we moved in, the grapevines were bare and a wee bit wily.
I had read once that a grapevine will grow the height of a mature evergreen in one season.
That's almost as much as a 9 year old girl grows over the summer. :)  Thank goodness grapevines don't require a wardrobe like the kids do.
Having a 100 foot row of grapes to prune was a daunting task at first.  Especially because we never had to care for grapevines before.
We read that the ideal time to trim was in the winter, while sap production in the plant is low.  
Unfortunately, we read that in March. 
We steamrolled ahead, however, and trimmed back the recommended 90% of the cane growth.  They bled sap for days, but all turned out well.  I think we were at the end of the peak time to prune, though.  This year will aim for December or January pruning.
When trimming grapevines, we found out that the buds on the previous year's cane will sprout a new cane that produces the current year's crop.  From what we read, it is ideal to cut back all but 3 buds on a old cane, aiming for 8 inches of spacing between pruned canes, and removing the canes that will grow under the canopy.  We found a great example of this on Gurney's Seeds You Tube page.
Come late summer, this is how our vines developed. 
No irrigation required!!
"Hey, didn't i just cut all that off?"

Now we are reaping the benefits.

It is the end of September, and the black grapes have an amazing flavour!
Cookie loves them--noting that they have "a certain sweetness at first, then you get a little tang at the end!"  I believe she also has been heard saying "Mmmm, these are The. Best. Grapes. Ever!"  They seem to be getting a bit bigger as the days go by, so i have slowed our harvest of them to two or three clusters per day that average about 7oz per harvest.  The green grapes are still sour, however some of the bigger berries within the clusters have been sugary sweet.
I noticed the spiders have taken to making their webs between the canes.  So enchanting to see so many intricate marvels of nature!
One care note that i've learned this fall regards summer pruning.
When i was a kid, i remember going with my grandparent's to pick grapes in the desert farms in Florence, AZ.  I remember being under the grapevines, but i didn't remember them being shrouded in them, as one harvesting ours would be.  One reason could be our wet, rainy springs, but i also wondered if we should have pruned any leaves or canes, like you would for tomatoes.
Turns out, there are summer duties that if completed, will result in sweeter, larger berries, faster ripening, and prevention of diseases and mildews.
I found a decent video about this from Grow Organic.
What do you do with 100' of grapes, you ask?
For now, my plan is to freeze as many as humanly possible.  Cookie and i love noshing on frozen grapes in the winter.  Freezing seems to increase the sugary taste.  If you haven't frozen grapes before, it's best to clean them off well, strip them from their stalks, dry and pop them in a freezer bag , trying to expell as much air as you can while sealing the bag.  I figure after they are frozen, we can take our time figuring out if we want to make juice or jam.  :)  If we run out of freezer space, maybe we can set up a little roadside cooler and sell a few bundles. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Would You Believe Me If I Told You?

Looks like Rosie has innocently picked a nice little corner of fence to rest and possibly do a little mousing from.

The chickens say, "Ba-gawk!  What's this?"

One was elected the mediator apparently. 
Unbeknowst that her that she was the setting herself up as bait.

"Approach slowly, cluck, cluck, cluck.  Remain *Bee-GAWK* calm."

What i wouldn't give for a thought bubble over that cat's head right now!!!


Thankfully no critters were hurt in the making of this entry.
Nor soon there after. :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

4 Cords and 7 Months To Go...

Over the summer, Moose had four cords of wood delivered.
Our home doesn't have a central heating system.  Just a wood stove, a propane stove, and a few electric wall units that we really don't use much.  Well, with one exception: the bathroom heater--that we use alot in the dead of winter because it makes coming out of the shower much more enjoyable. :)
We're hoping this delivery, combined with the one cord we had left from January, will be enough to keep our family nice and roasty-toasty during the winter months.  Moose and i are still on the fence, wondering if paying for firewood to heat this home is cheaper than paying an electric bill over the winter months at our old house.
Funny, the things we have to think about now that we live in a little home in the country. :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Swimmin' in Apples

Apples Near the Pond - not quite ready at the end of September
We are in full swing of apple harvest around here. 
With 12 trees producing, this will get interesting, i'm sure!
Now that i see how many apples one of our trees can produce, i will not hesitate to prune blossoms in the future, shrinking the harvest but hopefully increasing the size of the apples produced.
Apples from The Fancy Pasture...
still a little under ripe in August.
We started harvesting in late August when the apples started falling to the ground from the tree out in the nicely landscaped part of the front yard, aka The Fancy Pasture.  It was a little too soon, as most were still a little sour, even though red skinned.  Those have made the most delicious galettes!  Most of the apples that fell to the ground split open when they hit the gravel path under the tree, becoming havens for honey bees and ants.  Not the best of circumstances--note to self:  when we start planting trees on this farm, don't follow old owner's ways by planting fruit trees in "pathways"--make sure grass is under them so they have a chance at realising their potential in a pie filling, chuntey, or sauce once they fall.  We sent a majourity off for composting at the regional facility, but we were pleasantly surprised that a few people answered our free listing, picking up some for their critters' treats. :) 
One thing worth researching is how many apples can one really add to a home compost pile and still expect decent compost and not alcohol laced mud. :)
These trees at the end of our driveway are in dire need of some help.
We've talked about culling them, as they are planted in drainage pipe in gravel, poor things.
However, they've yielded a tasty McIntosh-type apple that my folks and Cookie Monster went
gaga over.
While the parentals were here the second week of September, they graciously helped start the harvest.
Pop backed his rig up to the trees and they got to work.
For the apples out of reach, Pop started shaking limbs.

Most the apples had some kind of scab or holes in them.
With recent studies linking BT spraying adding to honey bees plight, we are doubtful we'll spray our trees in the future. Needing to focus on soil health as a way of hopefully addressing the problem.
 So many apples had something wrong, that Cookie created a cheer to sing while picking, "One. Two. Three.  Say 'eww!' 1,2,3 Ewwwwwww!"
We moved on to the tree in The Fancy Pasture.

What a haul, eh?

Those marauding Stellar's Jays apparently weren't satisfied with stealing all our hazelnuts, as Pop reported that most of the beautiful ripe red apples on the upper branches had distinctive beak-like chunks taken out of them.  Baah!  I've noticed the past few weeks though hummingbirds are hanging around in the apple tree. I am glad we left the damaged apples, because it looks like they are harvesting some of the juices of those.
This tree in the chickens' pasture looks like it's almost ready to get unloaded at the end of September.  It's a very old tree...the trunk on it is enormous!
Hoping these fruits are viable.
 If not, it has made for a lovely display out of the dining room window.
This tree sports fruits that look like Asian pears.

We aren't certain what they are, because these are in a section of the pasture we haven't mowed all year. I'm too chicken to walk in there to harvest the fruits, because the rats that Rosie's been hunting down in that grass are the size of rabbits!  And frankly, that is terrifying to this city girl!
We'll have to devise a plan for keeping the grass down here so we can get to these next year.
At any rate, the biggest issue that needs addressing 'round these parts this time of year is collecting more apple recipes!!