Friday, December 30, 2011

Hash update, building a vault, incubating eggs in a dehydrator

Hash watch.  Hash spent his second night back in the coop with the reds last night. This morning he didn't need any coaxing to come out and he was first in line for breakfast (very good sign).  We will keep watching him closely for  a few more days but we think the worst is over. He actually  crowed yesterday which made us very  happy .  None of the chickens are happy about being in complete lock down every night .  They are also unhappy that I am waiting until its full daylight  to let them out.  Jimmy put a good thick door over their  chicken entrance along with a strong,complicated latch.  They are now being kept in , for all purposes, a vault. The large trap I am borrowing  should be here today or tomorrow.  And I should look very fashionable in my coon skin cap next week.
Elphie left one egg behind and Prissy left 6.  I have made a makeshift incubator out of  my  dehydrator. The method I am using came from this link  http://www.thefreelibrary.com/How+to+hatch+eggs+in+an+incubator.-a018068214  If I can get a couple of babies out of this it will help.  I should know in about 6 days if the eggs were viable when I candle them. Some of Prissy's eggs were almost a week old.  And Elphies was 2 days old.  It's a long shot but I am going to try anyway.  I know that Prissy and Hash were doing the ancient dance but I'm not sure about Elphie.  So we will see what happens.
One of the reds started laying yesterday.  First one since the carnage.  I suspect its Hester since she is the youngest.   Jimmy and I talked  three weeks ago about trying the egg incubation in the dehydrator. He  was adamant about waiting until we move to try it.  And he was right. Trying to move and  brood chicks at the same time  would be a serious pain in the butt.  He came in the kitchen yesterday when I was turning the eggs. He didn't say a word.  Sometimes he's a very smart man. And I think in a manly-man sort of way he would like to see something of Prissy and Elphie saved as well.  I'm pretty certain that if this works he will give me a world of crap  when I'm trying to juggle moving and babysitting.  I'm also certain that he will spend goodly amounts of time playing with them and cooing over what nice chicken dinners they will be.  I'm also certain that if it doesn't work .... He will be stone silent.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Update on Hash

Update on Hash:  I opened the studio door this morning to see hash roosting on top of his bed.  When he saw me, he jumped down to run to me and immediately fell over.  He picked himself up and just stood there looking surprised . He then took very slow steps that obviously were painful, but he was walking.  I made a path to the door so he could enjoy some sunshine and he backed into his pen , not quite ready to come out.  It wasn't until he heard the  the reds calling for him that he finally got up the courage to go outside.  He was very slow today but he did eat and drink. The three uninjured girls circled him and protected him all day.  He wandered the yard, did a little foraging and I think he even tried to take a bath.  He started looking a little sluggish and cold about 3 pm so I put him back in the studio for the night.  He probably could have slept in the coop with the rest of the girls but I decided he should use his energy for healing instead of trying to keep warm.    We will be watching this week for any signs of infection. But we are hopeful.

Sadness and anger, carnage in the coop,christmas sucks

Sadness and anger. Christmas sucked.   Elphie and Prissy died in battle with a raccoon christmas morning and Hash tag was gravely wounded.   We were awakened 4 am Christmas morning to screams and banging on the side of the house.  Jimmy  was out the door so fast I couldn't keep up.  By the time I arrived all I could do was stand  still and stare at the carnage.  Prissy and Elphie were in pieces on the ground. Jimmy and My Darling Daughter  both  said "don't go in in the back, Hash is dead too'.  Never one to turn a blind eye to reality, I went to the back anyway and there lay  my fearless Hash. I was just about to let loose with a primal scream of pissed when Hash flipped over, stood up and began to stagger towards me.  DD and I quickly wrapped him in a warm towel and set up a makeshift hospital in the studio.  His comb was torn, His neck was bitten and  he couldn't stand up.  He had that cloudy eyed look that  bespeaks shock.  We warmed him up, Put antibiotic cream on his wounds and let him sleep because that's all we could do.  Jimmy in the mean time was on burial duty.  The two ancient reds and Hester made it through   physically unharmed but their combs had shrunk to nothing.  We locked up the coop and stood guard until the sun came up.
I  am not some Pollyanna  who  doesn't understand how  nature works.  But we have a killer on the loose in the neighborhood.  This was not a search for food. This was wholesale  slaughter for the sake of slaughter. If jimmy had not acted  as quickly as he did , we would have lost them all.   It is still dark outside as I write this.   When the first streaks of light show in the sky I will go to the studio to see if Hash survived the night.  I was unwilling to disturb his  much needed  healing sleep.  I was also afraid that another night time disturbance would be too much for his heart to bear.  I am afraid of what I will find when  I open the door in hour.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chicken laws, Letter to HashTag, Training a rooster, Favorites need humility too

Dear HashTag, Consider this a warning.  You may be the uber spoiled  favorite.  But even favorites  need to know their place.  A little humility  would keep you in good standing. I have given you food, shelter, affection, a harem, and  a peerage.  All that you are... I have  given.  AND I can  take it all away.  I do understand that you are struggling to  attain the respect that you  think your position deserves.  I also understand that you are struggling with your masculinity.... being raised by 7 women.  I also know that you are doing your job  as well as any rooster  in the history of roosters has ever done. Your rooster credentials are not in question.   You must understand: Your domain is yours and You are mine.   I am at the  top of the pecking order. Not you!  I will continue to sit on you until you understand that basic fact. 
Yours Truly,
Dread Sovereign

So, Hash is trying very hard to herd me  with the other girls.   He was  pecking my shoes and pants legs when I went  outside.  The solution (from my research) was to  use the flat of my hand to push him to the ground firmly but gently.  In chicken language this says ....Yes! I AM the boss of you!  I've been doing it for 2 days and it seems to be working.   I like simple solutions to problems.  If only everything in the human world could be solved with chicken laws!   

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Moving an Artisan Lifestyle

I think maybe  the only thing harder than moving a pack rat is  moving an Artisan Lifestyle!  Jimmy is busy angsting  over what he has to do once we get there... I'm pulling out my hair over HOW to get there.  We have so many bio and sensitive things to move  that I'm scared we are going to kill something. Chickens of course and the cat .... They are not going to be happy but they can at least express distress if  they are not treated well.   My 3  vinegar mothers cant talk.  The plants cant talk either... (ok Brenda can but   you have to meet her to know that).  The turtle will be fine. He's going to outlive us all.  The pond residents will be tricky.  The fish  have gone into winter stasis and we don't want to kill them  or Jimmy's water plants.  I didn't start any new wine this year, but the eight carboys from seasons past are clearing beautifully and I hate to disturb their process.
I'm not looking forward to having to buy my produce from a grocery store  for what is left of the winter.  Cant take the  winter garden with us.  Someone will be the  lucky recipients of  brussel sprouts, broccolli, collard greens , onions and, in the early spring,  red sails lettuce and walking onions. I will miss the new zealand spinach bed.  It will take a while to get one going as good as the old one but we will have plenty of space for it.  We will be digging up the medicinal garden in January for transport.  We will also be  digging up the  beautifully established sage and thyme plants. I am going to miss the giant rosemary bush!   In the mean time I will be digging up all the carrots and onions I can and getting them dehydrated.
I'm almost looking forward to cleaning and packing the garage.  My electric sander disappeared into a black whole two years ago and I  haven't seen it since.  There are a couple of other things I haven't seen in a while  that I'm pretty sure will show themselves  during the packing process.  I will need those tools over the next few months.  I have made a vow to myself to have NO  press wood, laminate furniture in the house. (Yes ikea and dania are forever banned from my sight).  I will be haunting  thrift stores and estate sales for  real wood furniture  that can be refurbished and turned into things of beauty.  Jimmy sighed when I told him this.  He says I should finish the oak dining room table I started  4  years ago.  I need to put the little two inch feet back on it to call it done.  I think its fine the way it is,  but I'm way shorter than Jimmy and I don't bang my knees  when I   pull up to the table.  Apparently that 2 inches is a big deal when you are over 5'10.  I keep telling him I'm not a carpenter and  I haven't found the right pre-made feet for it.   But the ongoing  arg...er...discussion about the dining table is a long story for another blog.
Anyway... Back to packing and moving.  I'm going to have to draw a grid and move by sectors.    The plants and  art will get moved first.  Then the food  stores: wine,vinegars, canned goods and such,  Then the garage and studio. Then the house.  Then the  animals.  Then.... cleaning the old place and finally unpacking in our new home and all the arguing over what goes where. January is going to a long month!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to keep a rooster quiet, Micro farm, giant eggs

Scruffy ,smart little hashtag has me jumping through hoops. We had some pretty frosty  weather over the last week.  Some very cold nights.  It is recommend for back yard chicken keepers who do not heat or artificially  light their coops to feed their flock a warm mash  in the morning when the weather temps get below freezing.   I usually  just stick their morning table scraps in the microwave before I give it  to  them. But the last few days  I haven't had any leftovers os I made up some oatmeal  and rice to give to them to warm them up.  Three days in a row I did this.  This morning, its not freezing so I just fed them normally .    Hash was  not ok with this.  He stood at the back door crowing until I came out with warm oatmeal mash.   All is quiet now that I have served the preferred breakfast.  There are two ways to keep a rooster quiet 1. Put them in a dark quiet place and leave them there.  2.  Distract them with food.  I am choosing  NOT to lock Hash in a cave.... no matter how tempting it is.  I am choosing to cater to the whims of a .....chicken........ At least until January 12.  That is the  date that Jimmy and I will take possession of our  beautiful new house on 1 acre.  There.... Hash can crow  all he wants.  Until then I  will  do any dance he wants me too so the neighbors don't complain.   Why don't we solve the problem by having ourselves a nice chicken dinner?  Because  he still rides around on Jimmy's shoulders and  He still crawls into my  lap and cuddles and purrs.
Jimmy and I are very excited about our upcoming move.  We have our micro farm all planned out.   We even have a perfect space for the green house. It comes with several well established fruit trees.  I am already designing my sign for the front: Fresh, Free Range , Organic Eggs, $4 a Dozen.  Its always nice to have the potential to realize a fantasy.
I have some photos of Prissy's latest  clutch of eggs. She  is laying double yolks and they are huge. She  laid one this week that was so big I couldn't shut the carton.

Leghorn Double Yolk from Prissy  'The Benevolent'

Same egg different angle

In the frying pan!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Three principles of brain washing, shunned like an amish slut

Three Principles of Brain Washing
1) REPETITION - Going through the same subject over and over again.

Yes I get it! Christmas is a ticking time bomb and if I don't buy SOMETHING for EVERYONE I know by 6 pm December 24th .... it WILL blow up in my face!


2)  PEDAGOGICS - The subjects are never left alone nor give any private time to contemplate  the information they are receiving.

Yep the only place I can get away from the Christmas holocaust is in the bathroom. TV,Radio,internet,mailbox,newspaper,buses,billboards,banners, neighbors houses, complete strangers houses, text,telephone and a few I'm sure I haven't mentioned........ I cant get away from it.  I'm being swarmed by christmas like an attack of killer bees!


3) CRITICISM- The subjects are supposed to feel uncertain; under the constant threat of being humiliated and despised.

1. There is nothing I can give my mother for under $20,000 that will make her feel loved or appropriately gifted.  I am a bad daughter!
2. I must spend at least $2,000 on a gift for my husband or he will leave me for a younger more appreciative woman who knows how to shop.
3. I must spend $400 on each child I have birthed or they will do drugs or join a cult...or do drugs AND join a cult and they will NOT be there for me in my old age.
4. Brothers ,sisters, nieces, nephews: I must give them each a $100 dollar gift card to ensure  they will at least THINK about me through the upcoming year.
5. Friends....  There is a scale here....If they have  seen me cry and throw a temper fit...  $50
If they have seen me cry,throw a temper  fit,  throw up ...$60
If they have seen me cry, throw a temper fit, throw up, unwashed ... $75
If they have have seen me cry, throw a temper fit,throw up,  unwashed, bleed .. $100
If they have seen me cry, throw a temper fit, throw up,  unwashed, bleed , naked...$125
If they have seen me  cry, throw a temper fit, throw up, unwashed, bleed, and naked ALL at the same time.... that will cost me $200 a year!
Casual acquaintances who I see regularly, but behave around....$20
Any one I meet for the first time during the holiday season......$10
If I don't follow these prescribed pricing rules.... I will, for one full year, be shunned like an amish slut!

18 months of therapy wasn't therapy.... It was de-programming! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Potato peeler crisis, I would buy American Made if I could find American Made

Grrrrrrr...... I'm mad again! Two weeks ago I bought  a potato peeler at safeway because the potato peeler I bought at fred meyer 3 weeks before that snapped in my hand.  I bought the potato peeler at fred meyer because 1 month before that I bought a potato peeler at central market.... that snapped in my hand!  The safeway potato peeler   with the pretty red handle.... snapped in my  hand day before yesterday!  Each peeler was around the $5  mark.  In the last three months, I have bought 3 different  potato peelers from 3 different stores only to have each one last less than a month. I'm sick of paying $5 a month for potato peelers   I need a high quality American Made potato peeler.  If you know where I can get one please tell me. I beg you...tell me!  I have money....I can pay! Its not like this is an item I can make myself.  I dont have a degree in metallurgy nor do I have a handy foundry.  Yes I know I could peel potatoes  and carrots with a paring  knife like my ancestors did, but with a potato peeler I dont  cut myself ( as often).  They are a nifty little invention with built in safety  features and I like them!    

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Backyard chickens, danger will robinson danger danger, intruder alert

Hope you all had a happy holiday!  We did.  We ate well and then slept through the rainy stormy day. Hash and the girls?  They spent the windy, rainy day in the ...wind and rain....soaked.  There is no doubt that HashTag is a boy anymore. He has been waking us up  every morning for the last week with his crowing.  Fortunately he only does it in the morning.  I was thinking he might sleep late today because we had an intruder in the coop about 11:00 last night.  I woke up when I heard the chickens screeching.  I threw on some clothes as fast as I could and grabbed the flashlight.  By the time I got to the chicken pen all was quiet and HashTag was patrolling the fence fiercely.  I put him back in the coop and he came right back out again watching  the fence line.  It took a few minutes to convince him to go back to bed , that the danger had passed.  This incident seems to have gone a long way to solidifying HashTag's position in the flock.  He has been having a little trouble getting the respect he thinks is due him as protector.  Prissy has been the major holdout.   She's almost twice as big as he is.   When Hash tries to curb her wandering  she just leans over him and pecks one feather off his butt and  then stares him down, with the feather in her mouth,  as if to say....."How far do you want to take this.... Shorty?"   This morning all the girls are sticking close to him.  Prissy tried to wander off and when Hash explained to her that , after last nights intruder she needed to stay close, she gave him some attitude...thought better about it and  backed down.  Once Prissy agreed to HashTag's security measures, everything became quiet and serene in the land of Back-a-yard.
Even though Hash is doing a great job....I will be putting out the havahart trap tonight.


Fearless protector hashTag


Silkie rooster  protecting flock

All the girls staying close to HashTag after he repelled  an intruder
   

Friday, November 18, 2011

HashTag is a rooster, back from AR, sick again, Jimmys inner bachelor

Good Morning Seattle! Nice to be home.  I've missed you....and your water.  Just got back from another trip to Arkansas.  Thanks to the plane rides... I am sick again.  I'll be cleaning out the chicken coop  today with my pockets full of tissues.  Jimmy's inner bachelor must have gone to Vegas without him cuz when I got home everything was in pretty good shape.   But once again it was freezing in here when I came home.  Why the man wont turn on the heat or build a fire  when I'm not around is beyond me. Even though he took care of things  while I was gone, I still have a tone of things to do.  The last batch of herbs I hung to dry are ready to be   stripped and stored.  I have a bag of apples I stole from an empty house that I need to get fermenting  so I can add them to my rapidly diminishing  apple cider vinegar.  About a month ago I bought some linen on sale at Joannes so I could make a table cloth for the holidays.  The  house plants all need to be trimmed and fertilised.  The  summer clothes need to be packed up and put away so we will have room for the sweaters and thermals. And I need to  drive out to the feed store.  The girls are getting low on lay mash.  Jimmy called while I was out of town with reports of  'crowing ' from HashTag.  I haven't heard any  boy chicken noises  since I've been back so I don't know.  If hash is a rooster he is the most un rooster I've ever seen.  Hash is always the last one out of bed.  NO aggressive behavior toward  the girls.  Very sweet natured and ...... What was that noise?   Ah crap!  What fortuitous timing... as I was writing that last  sentence I heard it.... That was a crow!  Two  in a row, just in case I didn't get it the first time.  Mystery solved!  That means the itty bitty eggs are coming from someone else. Hash is indeed a rooster.  Guess I will need to do some research on  fertilised eggs and what to do with the offspring if there are any.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Free range chickens, annual releasing ceremony, Deep litter chicken coop, winterizing the backyard farm, harvest is in

Yesterday saw  an annual  ritual take place in our backyard, micro farm. Jimmy and I jumped out of bed at the crack of dawn  (ok it was 9 am).  We had our coffee and then set to work  winterizing the back yard. I cleaned the coop and added about 6 inches of  bedding to keep the girls warm.  We  do a deep litter thing in the coop.  It means clean out the poop, but leave  the old bedding and add new on top of it.  By the time of spring cleaning there will be close to 14 inches of bedding in the coop.  This is something you want to do if you don't have any heating or a  lamp in your coop.  The old bedding on the bottom generates heat and keeps the girls warmer.  Its a good idea to sprinkle a little  seven dust on  the floor before the first layer.  When I cleaned the coop last month it was a thorough cleaning and debugging so all I needed to do was  clean out the poop and add new bedding.  I also moved the ladder which HashTag uses as a perch,  as far against the wall as I could.  (bantams like a lower perch)  cuz it was to close to the  high perch and every now and then someone would manage to poo on her head in the middle of the night. Hash and the oldest  girl  were cuddled together nicely  last night  when I checked.  The old grouchy one is now too old to get up on the high perch.  All is well in the Hen house now.  While I was doing this, Jimmy was busy  covering the cat  door in the  fence and patching all points of excursion.  Then we cleaned the  yard and put away the lawn chairs and all other signs of summer.  We put bird netting on the two winter beds ( which are still producing nicely).  Jimmy cut his precious pepper plant off at the base and it is now drying in the kitchen with the other herbs. We walked the perimeter  and policed the entire area for bits of plastic or wire  that might be indigestible.  Then we stood  back, surveyed what we had done and decide it was time.   The annual release of the prisoners  could now commence.   I got the camera and Jimmy opened the gate.   HashTag was, of  course, the first one to realize that   freedom was beckoning and casually walked   through the gate like it "weren't nothin'".  She really does have chicken "Cool" down to an art.  She kept looking behind her  and when she realized the other girls  didn't know the gate was open she calmly went back to tell them.   Unlike Hash, the other girls got all excited, had some sort of chicken  planning meeting and then they all lined up single file and marched out the gate  with  a dignity and ceremony we  humans could  only envy.  I've seen them do this before and I am fascinated by it.  They always seem to know it is  an important moment and they take the time to acknowledge it.    Interestingly enough, Elphie 'the fallen'  took point and led everyone out.  Prissy 'the benevolent' swept the rear.   The only glitch to the annual parade was  our grouchy old girl.  She kept lagging behind getting distracted by dandelions and beetles.  Finally the other  girls just went back, surrounded her and  escorted her through the the process.  They hit all their favorite spots ...in order... and took about 5 minutes in each place.  After about  a half hour they  had another chicken meeting,  acknowledged  that the ritual was complete, and went their separate ways.   Last years ritual took almost an hour before they got to this point.  I think this year they shortened it  for the old girl cuz she just couldn't keep focused on the rite.  And so it is done.  The harvest is in and the girls are free-ranging. Drusilla has taken up her Lordly position atop the the Hot tub to watch over  all, accordingly, as Jimmy  and  I sit in front of a warm fire enjoying the fruits of our labors.
Aaaahhhh... life is good. 

The intrepid HashTag, first on the scene.

Elphie 'the fallen' leading the way. Prissy 'the benevolent' sweeping the rear.

Barred Rock Elphie 'the fallen' and  Leghorn Prissy 'the benevolent

Silkie 'the intrepid'  HashTag

Jimmy's precious peppers hanging to dry

an empty prison

Jimmy patching a point of egress
 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The fall of Elphie, The rise of Prissy 'the benevolent', The intrepid HashTag, Coup' in the Coop

So, one day last month I went out in the early  morning to check on the girls and found Elphie hunkered down under the coop. Her eyes were a bit glazed and she was obviously cold and perhaps in shock.   My first thought was that a predator had gotten into the coop that night and she had battled it all the way out the door. I opened the coop door  expecting   an awful sight to meet me and was greeted by 5 serene faces  who just wanted to know what was for breakfast.  Over the next few days I watched Elphie closely as she sulked in whatever corner everyone else was not in.  Her comb  was a little deflated and her attitude was one of humility.   When snacks were pitched into the chicken run, Elphie would hang back  and not approach the food until everyone else happily grabbed what they wanted.  This is very un Elphie behavior. For the last two years Elphie has been queen and guard, choosing who eats in what order and strictly enforcing all coop rules.  Elphie was a bad-ass chicken.  Here's  a link to the first blog about her http://artisanlifestyle.blogspot.com/2009_08_30_archive.html

Not that she was selfish  or   completely without thought for others.  She regularly stood back and allowed the two elderly girls to have first pick of tasty morsels.  But the key word here is  'allowed'.   During her reign she  was tough,exacting and at times brutal.  Always  in control and always alert.  She could be generous one minute and punitive the next.  But no more.  She is humbled in her fall.   It would appear that Prissy is the new sovereign.  Something happened between them that night  that only the privvy few witnessed.    A new era has dawned. Empress  Prissy has a very open  attitude.  She is the peoples chicken.  Everyone is treated the same.  She takes her meals with the common folk and  no one needs to wait for her permission to dine. She allows far more individual expression than Elphie ever did. Her second in command is Hester.  Hester, if she were human, would  be a drinking,wenching,partying, captain of the guard, removing herself from her  indulgences only when her sovereign calls upon her for action in the line of duty.  Which  often earns her  an eye rolling sigh from Prissy.   HashTag has blossomed under Prissys rule.   She has become the courts beloved scamp.  She knows everything, sees everything and talks to everyone. She is friends with everyone.    When she zips under all their legs to  steal  the  prime prize and zips out again  they all just  watch  bemused.   That HashTag has a cavalier disregard for the social order, and a bit of moral ambiguity, seems not to bother any of them one bit.  They allow her to steal   tomatoes the size of her head, they say nothing when she sprays them all with dirt  after a really good bath, and when she uses one of them for a springboard to jump to a higher location they just grumble good naturedly because they all know  that for all her high energy high jinks she is the bravest  and smartest of them all.  They know that when danger arrives HashTag will fight to the death for them if need be.  She is the greatest comfort of all to the deposed monarch.   In Elphies saddest moments  HashTag is there with an exaggerated  deference for her former position, cooing and comforting and keeping Elphie connected to the flock.  They have, in essence, become best friends.   Elphie in turn, is humbled and grateful for  the time and energy that the most popular girl in the coop gives to her. Our intrepid HashTag is indeed a treasure.  Long live Prissy 'the benevolent'!    

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trek across the south land, bad coffee, spoiled seattle, flying saucers, inner bachelor

Whew... Its good to be home. Just finished a week long trek across the south land.  Said hello to one and goodbye to another. A bittersweet  time to say the least.
But now I'm back.   Jimmy embraced his inner bachelor while I was gone......... Actually him and his inner bachelor made out on the living room rug.  He was still at work when I walked through the door bags in hand.  And I walked into a cave! Cold and dark.  While I was gone he resorted to  take out and instant coffee. He never once turned on the heat so it was freezing when I walked in. (It was a good thing I bought souvenir pullover hoodies for both of us)   When he wasn't doing take out....... Well, I found  banquet salisbury dinners in the freezer.  And the cat.... I need to go buy new cat food today cuz the little friskies he bought her was thrown up all over the carpet this morning.  I wont even talk about the laundry or the kitchen!  I will leave it to your imaginations.
On the South land.... Coffee.... Next time I am taking my own coffee and my Italian coffee pot.  The guy in the airport Starbucks in Little Rock  apologised when I ordered a short mocha breve' because he had to charge more for the half and half.   I couldn't figure out what he was talking about at first.   Then it dawned on me.  Folks down south think a latte should be the same price as drip coffee and  and if the coffee calls for a half pint of half and half they shouldnt have to pay for it.   I actually said the words.... "I'm from Seattle. I know how to order a cup of coffee and how much it costs."  but I was appalled at the look of fear in the baristo's eyes when  he thought I would yell at him when he told me my  SMB would be $3.50... I was buying coffee in an airport, I expected to pay  $6.00.  Course' Arkansas's minimum wage is lower than the federal minimum wage.  I would balk too if I couldn't pay rent  and a cup of coffee cost me a half hour of my life.  But then back in my poverty days... I didn't order mocha breve's. 
And I am reminded of how good our water is here in Washington every time  I leave the state.   Even the filtered water tastes nasty down south.  We are truly spoiled here in the great frozen north.
I gotta go clean up after Jimmy's inner bachelor then I have a whole bunch of stuff to do to get ready for Halloween.  This year is 1950's outer space. We are putting a giant flying saucer on the roof!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NO on 1183, NO to corporations buying our government...again.

NO on 1183.  I just keeping voting against privatizing  liquor in WA state. Every time Costco puts it on the ballot. I shoot it down.  Why?... Ignoring all the adds that are running on both sides. Here's the best reason of all.  The liquor  department in WA state is only one of two departments in the state that generates income. It pays for itself completely and puts around 350 million dollars a year back into the state general fund.  The several thousand employees  the department has, all make a living wage with medical  insurance  and retirement benefits.  I am not willing to put those people out of work so Costco and  7/11  can  create a few new minimum wage jobs with no benefits and put billions  of dollars in their own pockets. That's my  oh so simple reason for  voting no on this.   The system we have is not broken. It doesn't need to be fixed.  While licenses and fees  from  corporations might put a few million  dollars a year into the general fund... it wont be enough to  cover the the unemployment checks for all the people they put out of work. The economy is in enough trouble right now  without adding 3000 + more souls to the ranks of the unemployed, underemployed, uninsured,'cant pay the mortgage' , 'need food stamps to feed the kids'  line.  This is  just another  case of a corporation with big  dollars trying to buy our government.  While Costco has the money...... it is  'We the People' who will pay the price if they win.

Want to read the annual  report from the liquor department?  Here it is in all its public glory. (you wont see  Costco's annual  budget report online)  We own this so lets keep it!
http://liq.wa.gov/publications/2010-annual-report-final-web.pdf

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Artisan Lifestyle coup'detat, IT'S DONE, handmade crochet rug, it took a year, If you want "American Made" - Make it yourself.

ITS DONE!!!!!!!  Ok..... it would be done if Jimmy hadn't talked me into  batiking it.  But the  year long effort of crocheting this monster was over last night while a favorite episode of Stargate SG1 was running in the DVD player.  My plan now is to put a heavy  gauge  trim of unbleached  muslin around the edge. About 2 inches wide....  and then  I'll batik the chosen design on it.   Right now I'm thinking of dying it  crimson.  Before I do any of that ... I desperately need Feral Jane to come over and help me to block it.   Its 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 feet.   Jimmy has usurped my studio for  building the Halloween pieces, so it will have to wait until Halloween is over.  I'm ok with that cuz I will spend the next two weeks rolling it out several times a day and wondering at the awesomeness of what I have done.    I have to admit I have some reservations about throwing it on the floor and walking on it.  It truly will be a piece of art when I'm through.  But, I am stubbornly sticking with the original intent.   In my last blog I told you Jimmy and I are looking for a house.  The rug will not be used in this house and when we move into our new house I will have a  'Rug Laying' ceremony.
Oh Yes!  I am PLEASED  with myself today!
Here are some photos that, quite frankly, don't do the majesty of the moment justice.


 This  is a photo  for yarn junkies.... so you can see the gauge and texture.  It is %100 cotton, unbleached. 

I consider this an Artisan Lifestyle Coup'detat.  Once again I have denied  cash flow to   corporations that insist  on trying to sell me overpriced,  low quality goods, made  overseas by cheap labor.
If the only way to get American Made  products is to make them myself...... "So let it be written..... So let it be done!  Pharaoh hath spoken"  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I love my chickens, buying a house, Moving an established lifestyle

Loving my chickens.   I went against the rules and let them out day before yesterday when we had all that sun.  I was working in the yard and could keep them out of the garden.  They were pretty much purring as they foraged under the oak tree  getting at a whole new crop of bugs and worms.  When I let them out one of  reds was in the coop laying.  When she came out of the coop she freaked out because she was all alone. Elphie and Hash responded first by dashing back into the pen. The others came running too.  They surrounded her and en mass  escorted her into the yard.    They waited until she settled in and then went back to happily scratching.  I love the way they take care of each other in a crisis.  Makes up for those times when they are fighting so much I want to make soup out of them.  I got to show them off to the real estate agent last night!  Yep Jimmy and I are going to take advantage of the buyers market and  buy ourselves a house with a little bit more land.  I want a bigger garden and a few more chickens and Jimmy wants goats!  I really want a miniature cow too ... but I think that would kill Jimmy.  Every time I mention it, he get this sort of purplish, strangled look on his face.    Anyway... about this house.....  I never realized, until we were explaining to our  VERY PATIENT real estate agent, Amanda,  just how picky we are.  I mean for the most part we are pretty laid back  about our living conditions.   The wall of bookshelves is always disorderly, cuz we use it almost daily.  Its not a library, its a reference center.  Jimmy and I always have our little piles of crap related to whatever project we are working on  laying about within convenient reach. The back porch, laundry room always carries evidence of our outdoor activities (shoes,gloves, baskets, hand tools, you name it) There is usually evidence in the kitchen of gardening and cooking  laying around.  I mean, we don't live in one of those homes that would make it into  a magazine with cream colored rugs and  'Decor'.  (decor is silly)   We have a lot of original art in the house but they are not treated like  museum pieces.  They are treated like one of the family.  We are .....best description...... scruffy.   So, I was surprised when it took 3 hours to lay out what we wanted  and why.
I'll be sad to leave this place.  The gardens are well established and we have a nice routine.  Starting over somewhere else  will be daunting.  On the upside... we will get our green house. On the downside... OMG we have to MOVE all this stuff. The fish will need a new pond immediately. We will have to take down part of the fence  to get the chicken coop out. We will need 6 guys to move the hot tub. We will have to dig up the  the medicinal garden to take with us cuz some of the stuff we have is hard to come by.  The cold frames will need to come down.  The solarium will have to be disassembled and moved quickly so the tropicals don't die. Many of the herbs will need to be put in pots and transferred cuz I'm not leaving my favorite sage plant or my thyme bush.  And all that will have to happen before I even pack up the house.   Good Lord...... I'm tired already just thinking about it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

OWS, Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Seattle, I'm surrounded by retards

Well, I pretty much have to comment on the Occupy Wall Street / Seattle Cuz its in my face every direction I turn.  The media is so immersed in the old paradigm  they cant even report on what the OWS  people are talking about. They are babbling about mobs and unclear messages and actively state they don't understand what the Occupy Wall street  protest is about..  My retard neighbors are all up in arms over the  'commie/ hippie/ job less bums' that are occupying Westlake.  These guys aren't very smart to begin with, but  their lack of understanding  of the events is pretty astounding.  But on some primal level they must be getting the message  because the panic  and fear all around me is palpable. 
I guess I understand the fear because if the OWS message is allowed to permeate the mainstream mindset ...Its the end of life as we have known it for the last 30 years. 
For those of you who have been reading this blog for the last four years, you know that I frequently rant about the  corporate domination of this country.  It is in fact the very  corporate greed and abuses  that the OWS is talking about that set Jimmy and I on our path 5 years ago.  While we call our lifestyle 'artisan' it is really anti corporate .

Jimmy and I  have refused to eat processed foods for some time now, because the stuff is poison.  The only way to do this is to grow and can our own food.   Supplementing with locally  grown produce.  (cuz our yard is just a smidge too small to feed us all year long and  we haven't built a greenhouse yet.... but just you wait Henry Higgins)
The OWS statement to support this is:
 'They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization'

Jimmy and I have our own chickens that we keep for eggs and meat because the state of  commercial poultry in this country is  tragic.  The animals that are used to produce eggs are kept  in such  an unhealthy and abusive environment  that I'm not going near  their eggs.   Common sense: Don't eat food produced by sick animals who are  covered with sores and forced to produce.
OWS statement:
'They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices'  (this is not a PETA statement. This is your food)

I have repeatedly  ranted about low quality  products  and products with designed obsolescence built in.  All of them produced overseas
Jimmy and I actively search for high quality American made  products and yes we are willing to pay the fat price tag to get  them.  But they are rare and  few and far between because American manufacturing  has been  assassinated by corporations by  moving the  factories overseas to take advantage of  laborers who have no protections and who work for pennies.
The OWS statement on this
'They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay'
'They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions'
'They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.'
'They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.'

Jimmy and I have no medical insurance.   Not because we don't need healthcare but because we just cant scrape up the extra 15 thousand dollars a year,  EVERY year to pay for it.  We  take care of our medical needs with  Jimmy's medicinal herb garden,  home remedies ,supplements, and Mexican anti-biotics.  The reason we cant afford health insurance is because (no matter what other reasons they give you)   health insurance is a publicly traded commodity in the stock market.  Bluecross/shield is owned by wellpoint.  Wellpoint's stock is currently $26 a share.  Medicine in this country is FOR PROFIT not for people.  If you cant pay.... you're dead!
Me and Jimmy?... We are the walking dead. (note: I used blue cross/shield as an example... don't believe me? Do your own research)
OWS statement on this
'They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.'

'They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.'

Personally I think the OWS  should hit a little harder on the medical industry.  But they are covering a lot of ground and a lot of abuses  by corporations in a multitude of areas.  Taking on the faceless leviathans  with tentacles in the  home of  every single American  high and low is a daunting task. So, I will cut them some slack.

To the media, my retard neighbors and anybody else who doesn't understand what the OWS is protesting.....
 It is not about who is running for any office. It is not about raising or lowering taxes. It is not about more or less social services or welfare.  It is not about immigration. It is not about  not supporting our troops. It is not about Democrats or Republicans or Independents or Fringe Fruit Balls looking for political power. 
It is about  the high jacking of  the American government by  Corporations, who have spent  billions of dollars over the last 20 years or so to buy  laws, policies and regulations .  Corporations   have  the controlling stock in our government.
They want to charge you 29% on your credit card...... They BUY a law that says you have to pay it.
They want everyone to buy insurance.... They BUY a law that says insurance on your house, car, yourself, your business... is mandatory and you have to pay it.
They want to take the living wage  American worker out of the equation .... They  BUY

deregulation of import and export laws, allowing them to NOT pay tariffs and taxes on overseas manufacturing.
And so on and so forth.  They BUY BUY BUY .
They have bought so much of the American judicial system that the system is  no longer for the people by the people.  It is now for the corporations by the corportions.

Still don't get it?  In its simplest form.  They own you brothers and sisters, body and soul.  And you will submit or else.... They will ruin your credit, take your house, take your job, poison your food, deny you medical care, make your life savings disappear,  watch every move you make , tell you that every choice you make that is contrary to their wishes is not only wrong but illegal  and  burden you with so many laws and regulations that you will  need daily doses of  anti anxiety and anti depression drugs just to get through the day.

 Oh wait.... they already did all that.

If  you  want to read for yourself what the OWS is about (without the FOX corporation telling you what to think) go here    http://occupyseattle.org/resource/official-statement-occupy-wall-street

Now that I have addressed that issue...... Hash is laying the  cutest  little eggs you ever did see and my soap is perfectly well.... soapy.  Elphie and the two older reds are molting.  We have enough jam to last us at least a year.  My homemade tomato sauce is scrumptious and canned up and stored.  We already opened a jar of this years spicy hot pickles.  We still have plenty of vegetables  in the garden and last nights dinner was all from our own yard.  I've started  work on the  the out of control rug again (now that the weather has turned chilly)  AND I had a wonderful time  at the small  studio party that I hosted  for the girls in the show that  just  ended. Karaoke, food, wine and good company.  One of them is moving away for a couple of years, which makes me sad, cuz she's pretty cool . But I will never council against adventure. 

So, onward we move in our Artisan lifestyle... Next up?  Weaving and cheese making! 


 












Sunday, October 2, 2011

I made soap, homemade sundried tomatoes, Steak and tomatoes, chicken watch

I MADE MY OWN SOAP!
About three years ago I traded   a friend a painting for a 'batch' of homemade soap.   As of two weeks ago the soap had yet to be delivered.  I think I have been patient enough.  So, in a fit of peeve and impatience (and I'm out of soap and tired of paying $5 a bar at the local co-op for it) I set out two weeks ago to make my own.   This friend, who reneged on the deal,  repeatedly discouraged me from making my own saying it was a very difficult, time consuming and delicate process that required math and other stuff.   Even though I had been warned by an  'expert', I was desperate.  I got out my  copy of  'country living skills', read the directions and made my first batch.  It was a little dry but looked and smelled the way I wanted it too.   The second batch done a week after that (and after some research on why it dry ) was deliciously perfect, smooth and creamy.   Both batches are drying in the studio and because I am impatient, I am already using a bar of the first batch in the shower with no ill affects.  I am delighted with my  new artisan skill.  I now have enough soap to last  a year or two depending on whether I give some  to friends as gifts or not.  To said friend who reneged on deal and forced me to face a fear he instilled..... I say, " pfffflllllt! you are full of ka-ka. making soap is easy!"
So is making 'sun' dried tomatoes.  The weather here in the PNW has finally turned chilly so Jimmy and I are harvesting the tomatoes that have beautifully ripened over the last 3 weeks.   Yesterday  we pulled the cherry tomatoes ,sliced them in half and marinated them in balsamic vinegar and sprinkled them with thyme and basil and put them in the dehydrator.  This morning we have tangy dried tomatoes that are going to be yummy in oh-so-many recipes over the winter.
Last night we had steak and tomatoes for dinner again.  Jimmy's beefsteak tomatoes  ripened because of his cold frame.  We still have a lot of unripened tomatoes out there so today most of those are going into a cardboard box to finish their process over the next few days.  Next week I will be using the box ripened tomatoes to make  a few jars of sauce.  Some of them will go to make  tomato basil bisque.  Mostly because Jimmy's basil is beautiful right now .  I will be harvesting most of it today   and hanging it to dry.
Update on the chicken-watch.  Who ever it was that was  laying shell less eggs has stopped.  We never figured it out.  So, chicken watch will be ongoing .  It appears that the oldest red has quit laying completely............... 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Backyard chickens, shell less eggs, fix the hen house, blackberry jelly

Somebody is laying shell less eggs!  I cleaned the coop yesterday and found  2.  I have my suspicions but we are on chicken watch  today to find out for sure. Hester is off the list.  We watched as she laid a beautiful egg.  Pretty sure its not prissy cuz the bad eggs are  brownish.   One of the older reds is trying to molt, so it could be her.   The old graying red ....well if its her ......   But the prime suspect is Hash. Could be just a newbie beginning to lay and there was an itty bitty egg in the nest a few days ago.  Could be the other birds are running her off the nest to soon.  Might have to add a third nesting box if that is the case.    Not sure if that will work because they all fight over the same nest anyway.  Tomorrow is fix-the-hen-house day.   We are expecting that it will be a cold nasty winter so we have been brainstorming over how to keep the girls warm without running electricity to the coop.  I found one of those emergency camping blankets in my dresser drawer this week , so I will be lining an area with it as an experiment.  I will also be moving the roost or covering the nesting boxes... I haven't decided which one.  Covering the nesting boxes would be easier and it would give me an area to line with the thermal blanket.
While I am on chicken watch , I will be turning my preciously guarded blackberries into jelly.  Later this evening I may attempt to start my newest project..... weaving.  I picked up a beautiful loom for a steal at a  thrift store this summer.  The enormous crochet rug I started last winter is almost finished.  Its just been TOO  hot to work on it.  I can see why working on textiles has historically been a winter activity.
Oops..... time to chicken-check!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Show over, Harvesting, canning, drying herbs, getting caught up

Today we strike the show and then I am back to canning and chickening and..... Oh wait, I never stopped doing that stuff. I just stopped blogging for a while.  Something had to give and it was the writing.  I have tons of stuff to tell you about!  I made my first batch of soap!  I need to hone it, but , its soap.  Nice thing is... between the books I own and the internet, I know what to do to make it better.
Our beloved Hash is all grown up... well almost.  No eggs yet and so far, no more crowing.  She has integrated into the flock .  Hester and Prissy have also integrated well. Its relatively peaceful out there these days.  The older girls are watching the light change and are anxiously awaiting their freedom.
The garden was late getting started this year but once it did, it exploded.  I put up so many pickles this year that I am giving away cucumbers by the bagful.. Jimmy's tomatoes are beautiful.  We have been enjoying a steady diet of steak and tomatoes for two weeks now.
I picked up an old Hershey's recipe book at a garage sale this summer and it had the best cake recipe I have run into so far. Once things get settled I will post  it for you.  And now that the weather has cooled off, we will be moving our cooking indoors and Ida Bailey will get dusted off again. 
HERBS:  Banner year for them. I should get one more good cutting to dry.
I convinced Jimmy to let  a blackberry bush grow in one of the back corners.  In another week I should have enough to make a couple of fine batches of blackberry jam.  I traded  eggs for beets  this year  cuz I just didn't have enough room to grow enough to pickle. I'll be stewing and canning tomatoes next week.
We have about 10 more winter squash that I am leaving on the vines for a few more days to see if I cant get them just a tiny bit bigger.
All in all , not a bad summer.  Spent it with with smart, talented, dynamic artists and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Our artisan lifestyle did not suffer a bit for my absences.  But now that it is over I will be better about this blog. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rehearsal, backyard chickens, Leena's Cafe

I woke up at a savagely early hour today so decided to take advantage of it  and  do a blog update.  I'm in the middle of rehearsal for a show right now so getting things done is much more important than talking about  (or writing )  what I'm doing.   Our 'no summer' ..then ...'sudden summer " has resulted in the garden all coming in at once.     So, lots 'O canning and preserving to be done  now, or to be more accurate, NOW!!!!!      
The girls are doing well.  Everyone is integrating with minimal fuss.  Even #hashtage is  running-away-screaming  less.  He/she is still spoiled beyond belief.  And He/she still  still believes he/she is human.   My rehearsal schedule has kept me pretty busy  and Monday and Tuesdays  I'm almost completely invisible around here.  Last Thursday, on my extended chicken visit to the pen #hashtag crawled up on my lap and tattled on everyone for a good ten minutes before  she  laid her head on my chest and purred contentedly.  She really does have some un-chicken behaviors.  Or he does.  We are not sure  at this time  which way our little hash is going to go.   Twice in the last month, we have heard what sounds like distinct crowing noises.   If #  is a boy that could explain why all the girls treat  him like a pariah.   They know what is coming.  
Just a note:  Feral Jane and I went to Leena's Cafe yesterday and I couldn't have have scripted a better experience.  Perfect service and perfect food.  AND we were the youngest people in the restaurant.    We had the oh so yummy chicken fried steak.  Jane agreed...  it is THE best diner experience in the Seattle area.  Oh and very important.... Free, convenient parking. I hate having to add $20  onto my dinner tab for parking.    

Monday, August 15, 2011

Seattle times restaurant review, Skillet Diner, Leenas Cafe, REAL Diner experience

You can tell things are kind of quiet around here because all I have to write about is  a restaurant review in the Seattle times that annoyed me.  It was all about the skillet diner  on capitol hill.   Skillet diner fans.... don't get your panties in a twist.  I 've never eaten there.  I'm sure it is a perfectly acceptable dining experience.  My  problem is with the   Seattle times reviewer who insisted on calling it a diner.    While it might meet the Merriam Webster definition of Diner   'a restaurant shaped like a dining car'.  It doesn't meet the American classic perception.  Their description of the  place  makes it sound like every other restaurant in downtown Seattle...  with a gimmicky twist.  For the price tags.... its sounds overcrowded.   $19 salisbury steak and $14 hamburgers?  Thanks  to the review, I'm not going near the place.  Thanks to the review I  now have a longing to visit my favorite   'real' diner,  Leenas Cafe on 15th in Shoreline.  Their food is "Diner' food.  The prices might not be 1978  but the atmoshpere and attitude is. Their  $9 salisbury steak isn't  a rib eye. Its ground round  smothered in brown gravy.  Their $6 hamburgers are ....well... hamburgers.  Their beverage menu consists of cola products, coffee,tea,lemonade, water and some beers.  The dessert cabinet contains peach pie, apple pie, coconut cream pie, chocolate cream pie and  and if you order the petite dinner it comes with  (are you ready for this?) Tapioca!  Its one of the few places left  in the Seattle area where you can still grab a friend and go for coffee and pie without maxing out your credit card!  The best thing about Leenas is the service. Your server is your server.  She (I've never seen a male server in the 5 years I've been going there) takes your order, brings your drinks and food and checks frequently to see if you need anything.  Each server has a section (the old fashioned way) and she is always present (if she's not , she's just getting another customers order from the kitchen.)    You are never more than 2 minutes and eye contact away from a soda refill or  extra gravy for your biscuits.   The be-uniformed servers are not out to impress you with  expressions of their individuality or coolness.  They are not hip, they are working.   You know they are working, you can see them working and it makes you want to leave a fat tip.  With Leenas  prices it makes tipping fat easy.    I mean really.... Dinner for  2 with  at least 20 percent tip for under $30 .  When was the last time you saw that?    That, Seattle Times reviewer, is a diner.  A  classic all American diner.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mercury retrograde, integrating chickens, pruning the garden

Chicken integration is going well....sort of.  Mostly we have Detente.  Everyone gives everyone else space and stays out of each others way. The older girls are still strutting and posturing, but no attacking. The two new girls  are pretty much staying to themselves. Hashtag is still trying to  to make friends with everybody but mostly she hangs out on top of the potato box and runs to Jimmy and I when we are about. 
Jimmy and I ruthlessly  pruned our squash, cucumbers and tomatoes this week. We did it because our plants were producing a lot of fruit but not much of was maturing. 
We took off the leaves so the fruit would grow.  I think its working. I'll let you know in a week.  But beans?  We got beans!  The bush beans and Pole beans we staggered all   came up at the same time (thanks to the  cold summer we have had.)
I'm still looking for an etching press .  I would rather trade than buy ,but I'm open.
I'm doing some theater right now so my blogging might be a little sporadic.  I had intended to give a heads up on this Mercury retrograde.  Dates to watch for are the full moon on the 13th and the Mrx conjunct sun on the 17th.  I'm thinking about starting a blog just for astrology.  But I'm not sure yet.  It might be too much effort.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Integrating new chickens to an established flock

Gyah! Jimmy and I both worked late last night. And we both got home within 5 minutes of each other. I went outside to check on the girls cuz the 2 new ones had only  had 1 night in the big coop.    They weren't there.  And they weren't in the pen. I searched the 8 X 14 pen for 10 minutes.  I looked behind every fern and bush and bucket of water.   I was starting to get really concerned  when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  They had somehow managed to tear down a corner of the pen netting and were roosting on the fence under the eve of the front of the house.  I went in to get Jimmy, who was not happy  to have to put his clothes back on  (the man peels in record setting time when he walks through the door after work)  to come out and be tall.  The red was easy to retrieve and Jimmy handed her down to me.  The leghorn, who has been named Miss Prissy (foghorn Leghorns girlfriend), unfortunately was awake by now and she proved to be a challenge.  Jimmy got a face full of flapping feathers all the way back to the coop.   Once in the coop they settled in quickly.  This morning  everything is fine.  No one is fighting...... yet.   The good thing  about adding two more birds is that Hashtag is no longer  the primary target. She hasn't quite figured it out yet though.  Every tempest  sends her running under the coop where she peeks out and watches.  Poor little Hashtag, She just wants everyone to get along.  She is nice to everyone.  I keep waiting for the day when she gets tired of their crap and goes to the top of the little chicken clock tower with an itty bitty  automatic rifle.  It will serve 'em right...the cranky old hags.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Portage Bay Grange, two more chickens, integrating flocks, vermin problem solved

 I picked up two new girls from  the Portage Bay Grange day before  yesterday.  This place is too cool for words!  If you are doing the urban farm thing in Seattle this is a great resource http://www.portagebaygrange.com/   Prices are reasonable and the animals are uber healthy and come with a guarantee.  Its a tiny urban farmers Disneyland.  In fact I was having so much fun choosing my two new girls and chasing   an escaped rabbit that the one hours worth of quarters I fed into the parking meter ran out and I  got to my car just in time to thank the parking police for the ticket he gave me.   The guy at portage bay even offered to pay the ticket for me!  So, great place, great customer service, reasonable prices and healthy animals.  
Now for the two new girls: A beautiful white leghorn and a gentle  Amish heritage rhode island red.  These are possibly the two calmest birds I have ever seen outside of my own flock.  The leghorn is delightful and expressive.  We put the integration pen inside the large pen in the back corner.    My  girls have spent the last 5 years turning this area into a fluffy turkish chicken bath.  When the leghorn realized that she had just been dropped into chicken heaven she   dropped into a dirt hole and spent the next twenty minutes gleefully splashing in the warm dry dirt.  The Rhode Island just stood and watched her with a look that said "Really ? You couldn't wait to get  to know everyone before you take a bath in front of them?" 
Tonight we put the new girls in the coop after everyone has gone to sleep.  I expect tomorrow will be painfully noisy. 
On the opossum front.  The trap has been empty in the mornings.  No opossum,no rats. It appears the vermin problem has been solved for a while.

Here are some photos of he new girls (and the old so they don't get jealous)

white  leghorn and  amish heritage rhode island red
5 months old


white leghorn hen

Backyard chicken flock, 1 barred rock, 2 rhode island reds, 1 leghorn, 1 amish heritage rhode island red, 1 spoiled silkie (playing under the coop)
    

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pissed opossum, havahart trap, eating the old and useless, Retail FAIL

The opossum hunt is back on. It took me a while to find  the small havahart trap.  Like so many other things I have tried to purchase these days .... it was unavailable to me in the brick & mortar world. ATTENTION: To all contemporary  retail  based corporations. Its not that  consumers are not buying.  Its that you are not selling.  Your business model is  WRONG!   Times are a changing! And you are not keeping up!

Ok ! Got that out of my system.
Now for Opossum.......... 
I put the  girls  to bed early and set up the havahart trap.  It didn't take long.  Jimmy and I watched a movie and went to check the trap and there was opossum #1, his cute little fingers desperately trying to reach the latch and free himself.    I couldn't leave the poor thing in there all night so we grabbed the keys and drove down to the local park and let him go.  We came home, reset the trap and went to bed.   This morning we woke up to opossum #2 .  This one spent the whole night in  there and he was pretty pissed by the time we let him go   in the same spot as his sibling.  Tonight we go for opossum #3.  Hopefully he did not learn from watching his  family  disappear  one at a time.    Jimmy has been singing  'Born Free' nonstop ever since we started this process.
It had to be done though.    Right now they are tiny and cute, but  a few months from now they will be full grown and  stealing eggs and keeping the chickens up at night.    Hashtag  keeps trying to  protect the other chickens from them and I am afraid one of them will kill her if they are allowed to stay.
Hashtag news: She no longer has her special  escape pen. She is big enough now to be in the pen with them.  One of the reds is seriously bullying her.  That same red is on death row and doesn't know it.  She is  at least 5 years old this year and possibly older.    She is also the loudest  and the one that calls for Jimmy and I for no reason. She thinks we should just sit outside and keep her company.  Her egg production is way down. So, the cranky  old hag who doesn't produce anything, bullies the youngster, and demands her own way in everything, despite her lack of contribution, will make the ultimate sacrifice  in about a month.  Moral of this story?:  When you are old and useless.... it might be a good idea to make   sure everyone  likes you so they don't decide you aren't worth the trouble.

Pissed opossum in a havahart trap

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pie making tips, sacrificing virgins, Pumpkin killer, Seattle gardening challenges.

I made a peach pie yesterday! It was BEAUTIFUL! But like so many pretty things  it was  less than perfect on the inside.    It was runny and not sweet enough.  Today I found a great site with pie making tips and  next time Jimmy asks for peach pie I will consult here first.  http://www.dianasdesserts.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/bakingtips.piesandtarts/PiesandTarts.cfm

I'm not going to fill this blog with whining about my failed pie. I'm just gonna make another one and fix the problem. 
Gardening in Seattle has been a challenge this year.   But well worth it.  Our cooler weather vegetables like snow peas and broccoli  are rockin' it.  Tomatoes?  Well....  we may need to sacrifice a virgin to the tomato gods  because even with cold frames we don't have a single tomato yet.
Our cold framed cucumbers are doing well enough that I was able to put up 9 jars of pickles yesterday.  Extra hot and spicy.

I was going to brag about my pumpkins that I put in the front yard where the   'now  firewood' pine tree was growing.  But Jimmy hired the 16 year old neighbor kid to mow the front lawn and he mowed right over the trailing vines.  I know the kid resented actually having to earn the $10 for 1/2 an hours work but did he have to take it out my beautiful pumpkins?  Everyone else can keep praising the  honor roll student who is destined for great things, but I know who he really is! PUMPKIN KILLER!  What's next?  Daisies and then small animals?   I've got my eye on that boy.... He doesn't have me fooled! 


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Backyard chickens and opossum. opossum hunt, night vision monoculars, havahart trap

I saw another opossum  out the back window last night so   I set up my   Wile E. Coyote net and sat out a distance away thinking it would be as easy as last time.  I was geared  up for benevolent war!  The net was laid out  with all enthusiasm, a hemp twine rope leading to my lawn chair,  which I quietly sat in and  kept watch with my night vision monoculars that Jimmy bought me for Christmas (for alien hunting).  It didn't take long.  After about 20 minutes  'they'  came out to nibble on the bait I had placed in the middle of the net.  The bait I had chosen was canned cat food which of course brought   the intrepid Drusilla  onto the scene and she frightened them off.  'Them' is definitely 2, possibly three opossum.  Siblings one and all.  I locked up the cat and started all over again.  They came out again after about 15 minutes.  I stayed quiet and still in spite of my excitement. I gave them all time to really start enjoying their snack and then gave the rope a mighty yank!  What I couldn't see with the night vision glasses was that the bright little creatures had nosed their way UNDER the net and were  eating it  from the backside. They got away again!  I then decided to go Rambo on them.  I put the net in the garage, got a big plastic bucket, moved my lawn chair into the chicken pen and put the bait back out.  I did my best Butoh. absolutely still and poised to pounce in the dark!  I sat there not breathing, in my pajamas  and waited for about 45 minutes before deciding  that I needed to rethink my strategy.  Yep.... I gave up!  I took all my toys, went in the house and  used the internet to find out if my local hardware store carried  a trap of any kind .  They do. Today I am heading out to buy a havahart trap.   Its worth the $25 not to feel outsmarted by the local wildlife!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gardening in Seattle... The payoff, Chick week, Levying a tax for bad manners, "Being Seattle".

Jimmy was out of town last week working. It fell to me to meticulously guard  the garden.  I watched as the snow peas  became many  and heavy , the flowers on the squash became fruit,   and broccoli became dinner.  Our garden ceased to be a  lady in waiting and became a viable  and plentiful food source. When Jimmy got home last night we celebrated with  a simple dinner of grilled vegetables over rice.  Baby crook neck squash, carrots, broccoli, snow peas, onions and garlic, seasoned with  rosemary, thyme, tarragon, parsley, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and two teaspoons of olive  oil were  sauteed  on a  blistering hot flat iron and served over a bed of white rice.  We added a bottle of daily red  for the perfect  'everything from our garden ' meal.  We had to make it a gentle meal because Jimmy  had a case of  'road gut' going on.  A week of eating  catered and restaurant  food with whatever  oil complies with law and is cheapest  .... not good.  But he's back home with  butter and olive oil and   fresh  organic ingredients.
I turned my week at home alone into a  delightful chick week.  Time spent with the Good Typist and Feral Jane was refreshing and soul soothing.  An incident with the Good Typist  left no doubt in my  mind (if there ever was one) that the Good Typist is a poet  of the first order.  An incident  that I cant  give you all the details  about  was summed up by her in one  sentence  and will live on  in history.   What I can tell you is that the whole thing started  when  an over moneyed visiting  ex pat PARKED on top of   my  10 year old  beloved camry  and when I asked for her insurance info  she accused me of .......  (exact quote here)  "Being Seattle" and then drove off.    You can be sure the woman took one look at me in my  paint splattered jeans and  red wings and flannel shirt cum jacket, glanced at my favorite  beat up old car and assumed that I was poor and uneducated and would be powerless in the face of her designer arrogance  and self perceived social superiority.   Fast forward to 2 hours later, when  she was in near hysterics and completely confused.  She had no  clue  about what had just happened to her or how  she dropped from the top of  the food chain to the bottom in a matter of minutes.    At one point in the process she demanded to know if it was more important to me that she get a ticket or pay for the damages.  I kept my tongue firmly clamped between my teeth so I would neither laugh nor tell her the truth:   'My goal here is something you would never conceive lady.    My goal here is to teach you some manners and ruin your day in the process.    My goal is to sharpen my teeth on your over inflated sense of privilege.  My goal here is to show you that ostentatious displays of wealth and power mean nothing in this town where millionaires and billionaires  drive used  subarus and still wear the t-shirts they picked up at alternative rock concerts when they were in college. My goal here is to have a good story to tell  the next time I'm drinking homemade wine with my friends.  My goal here is to effortlessly   take one step more than you are able to keep up with.  My goal here is to make this so painful and frustrating for you, that when you get back to Argentina, you will pause and think before  you  pull out the nasty on some struggling  shop clerk, who is just trying to survive.  My goal here is to show you  just how expensive a %##t tax can get.'
I would like to acknowledge and thank the citizenry of Ballard for the back-up.
That was on Monday. The rest of the  week was all about girl gossip and playing with the chickens.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cast in a show, Backyard chickens and fireworks, I need an etching press, first cucumbers, lively garden, slow crochet

Lets see.... Where were we?   Oh yeah.... (its been a long week)  Chickens, gardening and  generally artisan lifestyle.  
Chickens: The fourth was supremely hard on the girls.  I had to yell at the neighbors for shooting bottle rockets directly over the coop.  They took it well and with a laugh...... and sort of pointed them the other way. .... sort of.   Sooo, I spent a good portion of my day sitting in the chicken pen reading. Cuz as long as I was there and not reacting to the explosions they would come out of the coop.   Hashtag spent  a good portion of that time on my lap and trying to crawl inside my shirt.   How stressed were they?  Normally my big girls lay brown eggs.  July 5th they all laid white eggs. I could have laid a white egg myself.  One of the neighbors who is normally ok turned full on D(*&  on the evening of the 4th.  Drunk and reckless and ignoring safety concerns.  He wont be invited back next year.  I'm ok with fun and I understand that boys are driven to blow things up, but beligerance and explosives are an unacceptable combination. 
Garden:  Oh Yeah!  Its finally taking off.  Its gowing so fast now that I wanted to know 'how fast' so I marked the pea strings with black ink and was surprised to find that my pole beans grew 1 full inch in four hours.   The summer squash are growing at almost the same rate.  I am finally a happy Gardener.
Crochet:  The run away  rug project is now under control and doing well.  Its 6 feet long and currently 4 feet wide.  Its been too hot to work on it this week and its getting so heavy  I have had to slow down  alot. But it is beautiful and should be quite the piece of art once it is batiqued(sp?) and dyed.
Canning:  Made Jam... but you knew about that.  Jimmy was adorable yesterday. He came into the house with two pickling cucumbers and  wanted to get them into the brine bucket. I had to explain that 2  3 inch pickles wasn't enough for one jar and you cant just leave them in the bucket all summer waiting for more cucumbers.  He looked so disappointed.  I might go to the farmers market and pick up some sort of fruit so he can play with the dehydrator  I bought at a garage sale for $3 .  It will give him something to do.
Etching press: I bought   a $100  press off of Amazon that barely works.  But it does work. I can do pieces up to 7 x11 with  a 2 inch margin.  I had to mount it to get it to work at all.  Fortunately Feral Jane and I managed to scavenge a really nice solid wood ,  2 foot by 2 foot  table from a back alley in the U-district.  The press is nothing more than a roller and a bed. The action is no way near smooth but it makes a  better print than a baren with   a fraction of the effort. There is some slippage so learning how to handle the thing is  a trial and error  quest.  It kind of reminds me of my first car  (a 69 fiat spider that over heated  and shut down every 15 minutes)..... But I had a car!   So far out of 20  attempts at printing I have had 3 successes.   Considering the crappy press and my inexperience... I'd say that's pretty good.   A real etching press that will print up to 24 by 30 is still very high on my 'I want' list.   Ok its really the only thing on my 'I want'  list.   Alright fine, I have convinced myself that if I had an honest to god   etching press my whole life would become rainbows, unicorns and strawberries dipped in chocolate  everyday!

And last but not least , I auditioned for a local play and was cast.  So, now I get to add memorizing lines to my already very long to do list.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Artisan Jam, raw sugar, spiced jam, strawberry jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, kumquat jam, conserves

Day before yesterday was miserable. A trip to the dentist for a 'deep' cleaning (which translates to gum scraping).  Spent the rest of the day  with a sore mouth, sore throat,and trying not to barf because my whole face was numb when they gave me the  'do not swallow' rinse and I accidentally swallowed some of it because I couldn't feel anything.  Everything hurt to eat or drink.  Yesterday was different because I followed the  'do not swallow' instructions  on the 'before bed' antibacterial rinse and woke up feeling fine and very hungry!
So, yesterday was catch-up day.  Jimmy and I rolled out of bed and went golfing at the nearby municipal range.  Much fun and a fine walk.  Then to my favorite  supply store for  a 50 pound bag of raw sugar and  raspberries and  lemons.  Then over to the  farmers market to pick up  this years late and newly arrived strawberries.  Couldn't help myself, I also picked up Rainer cherries and outrageously cheap kumquat's.   Came home dug out every empty  1/2 pint jar I could find and  began making Jam.   I started out  with  a batch of just plain strawberry...... if there is such a thing as  plain strawberry.  Success!  I then threw the raspberries and kumquats in the blender and strained out all the seeds,  added two cups of whole strawberries and made the most interesting conserve.  Delicious of course but the consistency is what I love.  imagine:  raspberry, kumquat, strawberry BUTTER.  This is truly an artisan jam.  I still had  a couple of cups of strawberries left and some rhubarb the neighbors had given me.  I combined the two and added vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of clove.  This jam is dark and rich and tastes like a holiday!  I used Ida Baileys 100 year old recipe and cooked the bejeebers out of it letting the  sugar do the jelling.  Once it reached a rolling boil I kept dropping it onto a saucer with a little cold water on it  until it formed a ball.  It gelled beautifully. It proved to me once again that sure gel is unnecessary.  
I water bathed it all.  I will not debate  the 'you dont need to water bath jams and jellies' argument with anyone because I water bath EVERYTHING (except the stuff I pressure bath) .  I absolutely will not take even the smallest chance of poisoning my family and friends.
Jimmy and I ate dinner to the music of popping lids.  Today I will move the 24 jars into the canned goods shelves in the garage and be happy that we are re-jammed again.  24?  Only 24?  you say.  There were 26 but I gave 2 jars to the neighbors who provided the rhubarb.  They, of course, were appropriately and enthusiastically  complimentary  of the spiced ,strawberry-rhubarb jam and offered up more rhubarb.  I told them if they give me a recipe to go with it I would take it but that I had to get creative with the first batch they gave me.  Seems they have the same problem with rhubarb this year that Jimmy and I had with brussell sprouts last year!    

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