Saturday, November 13, 2010

Backyard chickens, fertilizer, organic weed control, Fresh free range eggs, gardening, composting, organic pest control, zombie cows

Its been a while since I waxed poetic about backyard chickens. But yesterday a friend  FB'd that she may be adopting a couple .  Then I remembered the excitement of our first flock. In the beginning it seemed like there was so much to learn and now its old hat.  Chickens integrated into our lives so easily I couldn't figure out why everyone doesn't have them..... especially gardeners. The benefits are many and the  drawbacks are few.   the first benefit of course is the eggs. Nothing tastes better than a fresh egg from a healthy free range  chicken and  the nutrition is very high. Grocery store eggs are an  average of 2 months old by the time you get them home. Many commercially produced eggs are as old as  four months before getting to your fridge. I don't want to eat old eggs. I'm not gonna. You cant make me.
Chickens are great gardeners. They forage through the yard and keep the bugs way down. They dig through garden beds all winter and keep the soil turned over looking for yummy things to snack on.
They dig up and eat your weeds. We have the most beautiful well fertilized lawn in our back yard. And all Jimmy does is mow. When we first moved in here the  lawn was a sea of  waving dandelions. Now after two wintered of free ranging the girls,  their scratching, aerating and pooing have left only the occasional weed popping  up.  And its all organic with no watershed damage. And we get eggs.
They love the compost pile. Year before last they took an  8 foot by 8 foot  area piled up 3 feet high  with organic materials and reduced it to  a stunning  rich garden bed ready for planting in 6 months. They did all the work between October and March while Jimmy and I were sitting warm and toasty in the house in front of a fire. And we get eggs.
They make great pets.  After a while they recognize you as one of their flock and treat you accordingly. They live well with cats. And as long as you have chickens.... crows and blue jays will avoid your yard and sparrows , hummingbirds and other songbirds will visit daily and play with the chickens. They  are a viable part of any backyard ecosystem.
And the poop. You will never buy fertilizer again and everything you pull out of the coop can be composted or used to make  'hot' beds for growing peppers and other vegetables that need warmer soil.

The drawbacks?  They get up at the crack of dawn.  They argue over the nests (even if you provide one nest per bird they will have a favorite and fight over it).  Any unprotected garden greens are just snacks to them. (we fence off the winter  beds when free ranging them.).  They will poop on the patio cuz they don't care. And they will hang out on the back porch  under the dryer vent in the winter to get warm.  And when it snows they will bitch at you like YOU did it to be mean. And when it rains hard they will give you dirty looks.   In the end they are delightful  creatures and provide a grounding  that one can only strive for in yoga class.
Now if I could just talk Jimmy into one of those miniature cows for the front yard! I just have to figure out a way that  mini cows could be useful during the zombie apocalypse

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Venus retrograde 2010, coping with Venus retrograde. Stop crying and create, Its almost over

Many letters, many tearful phone calls,  And some folks just showing up on my doorstep.  All of them asking the same desperate question.  When is it going to be over?    I wrote a response to  a very close friend this morning and realized after reading it that everyone could use this advice right about now.  So, I lifted and edited  a personal letter to a friend  and  I'm offering it to you as well.

The really nasty crap ends on the 19th but we get to revisit it in 'lite' form until after venus completes its transit over the point to which it went retrograde which is December 20th.

When Venus retrogrades... especially in Scorpio. We have to deal with our own subconscious crap, old worn out relational patterns (our patterns not others). Our own culpability if you will. After the 20th we will be offered a gift if we learned our lesson well. For most of us that gift... be it person, thing or situation has already been hanging out around us during the VRX, but we are so caught up in our own shit we cant see it. I don't usually tell people about this silver lining because they wont listen anyway. I mean... who listens when they are in pain or angry or obsessed ?

Whatever this Venus retrograde has brought  down on you.....Its meant as a lesson. The planets teach if we are willing to learn. The planet  Venus rules  love, money and art.  My best advice is to focus on a creative project. Get out those art supplies (whatever they are) And dive into it. Art/creativity is Venus gift to us. Its our 'out' when shit goes bad. Its the place to pour all those raw feelings so we don't implode when the universe is teaching us something. Art organizes feelings and manifests them externally so we can see them objectively (hows that for a definition of art that you wont get in art school) So, start writing, painting, sculpting, dancing or whatever you have used in the past as a creative outlet and don't put too many restrictions on it. That's the other part... It has to be something you have done before, something you already have a reasonable proficiency in because VRX wont let you start something new. Do this now  so when  the post venus retrograde gift  makes its self known, you will already have dealt with your baggage and can  start fresh , clean and relatively baggage free.
I know a lot of you are confused or in pain right now . I am doing the best I can to help alleviate it by giving you this advice.  Please take the advice. It is offered with love and good intent.

And I'm not just saying this to get everyone off my ass.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Web bots , tipping point, apocalypse, zombie lessons, RPG value, clif high, hard copy library, backyard chickens, TEOTWAWKI

Clif High of was giving an interview yesterday  on an internet underground radio station about the latest web bot predictions. Chilling at best.  I was involved in one of the most daunting tasks in our household......  retrieving and re casing all the DVD's and CD's we own.  When I was done we only had  about 15 DVD cases that were minus their innards. Fortunately Jimmy could account for all but one when  he got home. The CD's? Now that's a different story, Between 2 cars, the studio,the computer room, the living room and Jimmy's  shuttle/solarium  ....... god knows where everything is. But I will NOT  stop until every piece is accounted for and organised.  Even if that means  a pile for
'cant find the case" and a pile for  'Damn I really liked that CD... where is it?"  I worked on this tedious but needful process for a good 6 hours before I rolled over on the floor and gave in to pure 'where is waldo ' exhaustion.  But I digress....... I was listening to Clif throughout this entire process and in an attempt to distract myself enough   from the tedium and frustratration  of the chore to keep going I made lists in my head of all the things I have done that will save us  from clif's coming TEOTWAWKI apocalypse.

Yes Clif,  I was listening  when you said either way  the web bots are offline for a while whether you are right or wrong because  the web bots are no longer a hidden observer.  So I feel safe referencing the bots.  I've been reading the bots since they first came on line waaaaay back.  And I understood  from the beginning  that referencing them would create a feedback loop and compromise future runs..... At the very least, magnifying the  linguistic  values of any possible  event or on the major downside  creating totally  fictional scenarios  that build on themselves by virtue of participation like the classic children's game of sitting in a circle and whispering something to the first person  and watching how it changes from the original speaker to the end announcer.  That said I now feel at liberty to blog about it  since you said you were done for a while.

Now , while I really hope we will get  the equivalent version of 'webbots lite'  due to the aforementioned  feedback loop.... Clif has had a great record for accuracy. 
I will be the first to admit that this latest prediction has made me a little nervous and my first response was OMG ... But then in true Frankie Fashion I resigned myself to the idea that everything was going to go to shit so I better  have a plan.
I did the    'what do I have.... what do I need' list thing.

Fortunately I have been living with Jimmy's Zombie Apocalypse obsession for a very long time and have on several occasions turned it to my advantage.  Like the time I convinced him we needed a high quality dutch oven to survive the zombie days. Or when I explained to him that chickens would be a great subsistence food source   and alarm system..  You get the picture?
By indulging his favorite RPG on a real life scale, we are actually pretty prepared for a run of  'jesus this sucks!'
We have a three months supply of basic food stuffs: flour,sugar,salt , baking powder,yeast,cooking oil,  canned milk and so forth.
We have  a winters supply of canned goods.
We have  a pretty decent winter garden of high vitamin brassicas and hardy greens
We got chickens and eggs,
We have jars and jars of herbs, spices  and medicinals and sturdy resources for more
We have classic hand tools and my great grandmother's treadle machine
four cases of candles left over from my neo hippie commune days
Enough homemade wine and other assorted hooches to take the edge off for years (and to barter for the toilet paper we are going to need)
A seed bank
a winters supply of firewood
a garage full of odds and ends of needful things.
But the best resource we have is a library of books we have actively collected over the years on DIY ....
books on gardening, soapmaking, medicinals, animal husbandry,sewing, canning, cooking, carpentry, distilling (gonna come in handy when the water supply is tainted).  Any classic home art you can think of and all from pre-electricity experts.   When we were collecting all these ... plenty of folks laughed and made commentary of the availability of info on the internet (some folks are not going to adjust well to being flung into the dark ages if clif is right)
If Clif is wrong.... Whats all this for?   Add  a little electricity, a great partner to share all this with and you get a pretty high quality of life.  So, thanks for the heads up clif  but even if  TEOTWAWKI never comes to pass in a lightening flash.... Jimmy and I are going to keep the Artisan Lifestyle alive.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Roasted Apples recipe, Roasted apples for two, very easy, Masala lamb companion, Happy Backyard Chickens, Seattle Firewood

We  winterized the yard during the creepy,  sunny, warm weather last week, put up a cord of firewood (OMG getting firewood delivered in Seattle was an exercise in patience!) , netted the winter garden beds and let the chickens ( happy happy backyard chickens) out to free range the yard.  The day after we finished all the work, the skies opened up on us.  We moved indoors  and had the first fire of the season in a well cleaned fireplace.  All is cozy at Jimmy and Frankies.  To make it more cozy I wanted to do a dessert  that was light and would follow  roast lamb. I also wanted to use the oven since I was already roasting a lamb.  I had about  a dozen apples sitting in the crisper for going on a month now (there were a lot more cuz Washington IS the apple state, but apple sauce, apple bread, apple jelly,  caramel apple dip and sliced apples sprinkled with lemon has brought our fall apple share down to  a manageable level) I opted for roasted apples... not baked,... big difference. 

These were a great companion to roasted masala lamb and  a good palate cleanser.
Super simple, Super easy!

Roasted apples for two

3 or four apples washed and sliced in half
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch allspice
pinch powdered clove

Preheat oven to 425 or 450
Mix sugar and spices well in a large bowl.
Put in apples and toss til they are covered with the sugar
place apples in rows  in  sided baking dish
sprinkle remaining sugar over apples
place in very hot oven for about twenty minutes or until very lightly browned on top
Important: don't put your apples in until oven is up to temp or you will get mush