Sunday, December 29, 2013

Venus Retrograde 2013 / 2014, Prophet Frankie hath spake

Venus Retrograde 2013.  I'm a few days late getting this information out.  The RX started on the Solstice.  The stars  don't usually hit us in the face with surprises  so we get a period before each personal planet retrograde called the 'shadow period'.  This is where we get hints from the universe about the   theme of the retrograde.  The shadow period for this one began on Nov 13th.  On the solstice the gentle hints  brought hard reality. In general all retrograde planets bring up old issues and then pretty much force us to deal with them.   Venus' specialty is love, money, relationships, and art/creativity.  Venus is the planet that we use to attract things and people to us.  During a  Venus RX you can expect  people, that you thought were long gone, to show up in your life again  in various forms and degrees depending on the level of resolution you and the other party experienced when you parted.  This could be an old friend or the dreaded ex.  The arena where this occurs  depends on where Venus is located in your personal chart.  This VRX is located in Capricorn for everyone so authority issues (sample: this could be your boss at work, or if you are the boss it could be  highlighting the way you manage things), limitations, hard work and personal responsibility  are major themes here.  Capricorn and Saturn (its ruler) want you to follow a step by step process to achieve your goals.  When a personal planet  retrogrades in Capricorn , you have to go back and complete those missed steps.  We all have an area of our lives where we are called upon to dance to Saturn's tune.  And right now there are a lot of dance lessons going on.
Venus is unique in that it follows a specific cycle.  Venus retrogrades every 18 months (in a beautiful lotus blossom pattern).  Every 8 years it returns to a sign a few degrees later than 8 years previous.  If you go back 8 years to December 05 and January 06  you will see what Venus has you working on in the long term.  What comes up during this retrograde will be a work in progress until Venus retrogrades again in another 18 months and changes your focus.  
The peak point of this retrograde happens on January 11th (give or take 48 hours either way).  If a lot of pressure has been built  up in the VRX arena and you have not been dealing with it ,this can be a pretty explosive point.  This is the day  relationships hit a breaking point, folks get fired, cars break down, your computer crashes and so forth.  If enough pressure has been built up in a specific area  and no release is in sight  this is the day that accidents can happen.  So, drive carefully, be extra aware when handling heavy machinery or sharp objects.  Try not to schedule things like climbing on top of the house to clean the gutters or standing on a wobbly chair to  change a light bulb.  Awareness is everything during  an RX peak. 
Now that the potential for negative outcomes has been embraced, lets look at the bright side of the VRX.  For all artists this is a great time for completing  projects that have been hanging around unfinished.  Venus can be very inspirational and many artists (actors, musicians, dancers etc.) do some of their best work during the retrograde , provided its not a new project .  Some of those old relationships that show up can be  delightful reunions.  Money you gave up on or forgot about can show up in the mail.   Be grateful when Venus  gives you a gift.
The best use of this energy is to focus on whatever needs to be completed.  Try not to start anything new because  typically when Venus stations direct,  the new thing will just disappear  anyway and you will have wasted a perfectly good opportunity to make space  in your life for the lovely things that Venus has planned for you over the next 18 months.

PS  Retrograde planets love to use stupidity to teach lessons, so please be careful on New Years Eve, make good choices and ...seriously ... watch out for the other guy.   Not everyone is armed with this info and  crazies will be out in high numbers on this  NYE!

 SPECIAL NOTE  FOR RESIDENTS OF THE PNW:.  The shadow period kept threatening us with snow so, there is a good chance that January 11th will  bring us a fat snow storm.  You 've now been warned and can plan accordingly.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Year three , the voice in my head is my own, christmas hate, vintage chalkware fish

Year three of  no tv.  And something interesting is happening.  No Christmas hate!  OK, not NO hate ...but severely diminished..
Those who know me intimately, know I have had some pretty serious Christmas hate going on for   pretty much most of my adult life.  The saturation  marketing is enough to make me  primal scream on a daily basis.  The gitmo droning Christmas music  that fills every inch of   every building  I  walk into makes my ears bleed.  The implied threat of  loss of affection from friends and family, if I don't comply with purchasing  regulations, is  anxiety provoking.  The flickering  perma images of faux happiness make my teeth grind.  Usually by the day before Thanksgiving I'm hiding under the bed in a fetal position begging for the torture to stop and  knowing that it wont....not for another month!
But not this year.  I have delightful company coming tomorrow for dinner and all I'm worried about today is getting the house clean and getting my 1950's chalkware fish up on the freshly painted bathroom wall.
I attribute my new holiday serenity to a complete and total lack of tv.    I feel like an addict that has been clean for three years.    The voice in my head is my own.   I'd like to say that again.  The voice in my head is my own.

I've been noticing for some time now how much better I feel  without  a thousand voices telling me what to do.  How much better I feel  without  flickering lights whispering  how inadequate I am in every area of my life .  How much better I feel now that there isn't a box full of hypercritical assholes  in my living room  telling me I'm fat, I stink, I have bad breath, my car sucks, my house sucks  my clothes are all wrong, my hair is wrong and telling me I have the symptoms of every disease that has ever been identified in medical history and some that haven't.   The hyper criticism of  product marketing is  outdistanced only by the fear mongering of  service marketing.  Don't have 'our'  insurance? This horrible thing will happen to you. Use our financial services or wind up homeless and living in your car. If you don't use our  security services your whole family will die.  Modern television is modeled after Norman Bates Mom and we wonder why our  country is full of psychos that are popping off everywhere on a more and more frequent basis.

  The greatest advantage of  no tv is a more content life with  a major reduction of  generalized anxiety and depression.

Now, there are some drawbacks to not having tv.  I get left out of a lot of conversations these days.  It doesn't matter what  social environment I am in , eventually someone says "do you watch.....?"   When I say "I don't have tv"  a couple of things happen, about 10 percent  just change the topic of conversation (love those folks).  about 60 percent  try again with  'oh then you  Hulu?, Netflix?'  When I say no to that as well, I can see the frustration behind their eyes.  I can also see the judgement call they make.  I can see  'elitist F$#%' flash across their faces (one  sweet  individual who was trying to let me know that they  'got me' said  " cousin is a vegetarian too".  ..?!?!!...).    About 20 percent hear 'no tv',  and simply wander off to find someone else  to talk tv shows with.  But the final 10 %  are pretty entertaining in their response.  They  just freak out.  "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T HAVE TV?!?!?   Then they proceed to ask all kinds of questions.   'Why?' is the big one and this is the next one: 'But......but,  what do you do?'  They ask it  in a tiny  frightened voice as  though a world with out television is empty and bleak.   Most are very interested in my answers and some are very kind and try to be understanding, compassionate and helpful  "I have an old antenna in storage , if you would like to have it.".     Then there are the folks who don't even factor in to the math.  They are like me and don't have TV.  When I boldly state ,in a crowd, that I don't have TV, sometimes I hear a voice in the wilderness say 'I don't have TV either!  Then the words have wings. We start with a  warm greeting and  then begin to tell each other how we spend our time. We almost always find a common ground within the first few minutes.  It could be the arts, cooking, craftsmanship of some kind, gardening,  stone masonry, knitting, sewing, brewing. Anything could be on the list.  I have yet to meet  a  zero tv-er who didn't have a whole list of things that they 'do' or  want to do.    Even  no tv musicians have at least one  or two other things they like to do besides compose and play music!
Yep! Three years clean and  life is better than good!  I might even make it through this holiday season  with my sanity intact.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chickens are not yard art, eat it or not, do the right thing

So...this thing happened yesterday.  A nice couple showed up on my doorstep at 8:15 am with a rooster in a cage.  They wanted to know if it was one of mine  that perhaps escaped over the fence.   (Of course it was NOT one of mine because my chickens are spoiled and happy and would never run away from home.) The male part of the couple told me he had found it behind his house in the park.  He told me his logic was that  ..since we are the only folks in the immediate vicinity with chickens, that he thought it was one of ours.   He also said he found a cardboard box near by which was unusual  because the place is super clean.  I asked the man how hard it was to catch him and he said not at all. The rooster came up to him and allowed himself to be picked up.  That alone says hand raised.  I thanked the couple for their kindness.  If it had been one of my flock I would have been  grateful for their thoughtfulness.  After they left I  decided to check craigslist for a lost rooster.   I was surprised at how many  free roosters were on CL.   The third listing I checked  was a photo of the rooster   the couple had brought to me.  This big beautiful  boy had very distinct coloring and markings so, yes, it was him.  The listing had been up for a while. He had been, in the owners own words, "an easter chick".
  The Seattle times had an article a few months ago  about chicken dumping in parks and wooded areas.   Its become a  problem.  All those folks who jumped on the urban chicken  'cool train' a few years ago are now getting tired of them.  (FYI: I was sneaking chickens into my backyard years before it was  'cool' or even legal)   Chicks are adorable and  young hens provide eggs and.... that's great.  But , the  'cool' is wearing off and the hens are getting old and roosters are no more acceptable in a  condensed neighborhood than a barking dog.  People who would never even think about dumping a dog or cat  10 miles from home have no problem with driving old and socially unacceptable  poultry into the country and dropping them off.
  "They are just chickens" you say.    Chickens are very social animals.  Taking one that has been in a flock and in a protected environment since birth and dumping it in the woods  where it is alone and afraid and  unequipped to fend for itself is just cruel.   It is much more merciful and responsible to  cut off its head than to leave it  to be ripped apart by predators.
 Eat it or not.  Don't let it suffer because you are to much  a coward to do the right thing. If you are thinking about getting chickens, please consider first what you will do when they get old and stop laying or if that cute little  chick   turns out to be a large noisy rooster. If you are not willing to nail a killing cone to the side of the garage then you are looking at an eight to ten year commitment.
   Yes, I know this blog advocates back yard farming but, only if you are responsible and courageous  enough to handle the  unpleasant  tasks that go with it.   Chickens are not fashion accessories or yard art.  Chickens are  domesticated animals that depend on us to do the  right thing. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Vintage 1950's cold ceramic molds, plaster molds, no tv, company coming, how old are they?

I hate DST! I'm Ok  with waking up at 4 am.  I'm not OK with waking up at 3 am.  And I mean WIDE AWAKE.   So, I guess I will blog now and nap later cuz there is no way I will make it til 10 pm  without a nap.
We have company coming.  Jimmy's sister and niece will be here this weekend.  This niece is around 10.  I know... I'm a bad aunt!  I have no idea how old my nieces and nephew actually are.  In my head I judge their ages by...Eyes on them at all times (0-5). Can be in other room or just outside but must be able to hear them at all time (6-8)  Check on them every 15 or 20 minutes  but don't let them know you are checking (9-11) .  Can be trusted  unsupervised for up to 2 hours as long as  they are  not allowed to get bored (12)  In their room with the door shut (13-15)   "no you cant have the keys to the car (16-17)  Seriously? You're graduating?  How did I get that old? (18).
I'm a bit worried that the niece will be at loose ends.  Jimmy and I gave up TV  3 years ago so, that entertainment option is out.  They are coming from Vegas so I'm sure cold, dark and rainy will be a bit of shock.  Last time they were here  temps were in the low 60's and Jimmy's sister was turning blue.  Jimmy's sister said that the niece just wants to  do art and play with the chickens.   Art I got!  So,  over the next couple of days I will get various projects organized  and prepped.  I recently acquired my grandmothers cold (plaster) ceramic molds from the 50' and 60's.  These things are so cool!  1960's wall hanging bathroom fish and seahorses.  Fighting cocks and fruit  for  the kitchen AND 1960's ballerina's!  I already  have about a dozen  of them made up.     I remember my grandmother painting them with enamel model paint.    I did two test with enamel and the other with  modern  acrylic 'craft' paint.  Enamel is the way to go.  Gives them that authentic  vintage  look.  They are really fun to do  so I imagine many of them will wind up on Etsy cuz really?  How much ceramic fruit can you have in your kitchen?  Feral Jane has requested a pair of fighting cocks so I will be making  at least two sets of those. One set for her and one set for me.  Hopefully the niece will find them as entertaining as I do.  I will also  pull out some fabric for aunt marthas iron on transfers so she can do some fabric painting.  There is always  classic painting. I will set up an easel for her .  Maybe even a lesson in print making.  Then of course there is cleaning.  I looked around yesterday and there are bits and pieces of  projects all over the house. Sewing, crochet,  ACEO's, canning jars, fabric paints, books....every where... books!  I will be spending the next few days   putting books back on shelves, canning jars in the garage, art supplies and paintings  in the studio, fabric in the trunk,  costumes in the closet (these were all dug for a last minute job this week that required grab,pack,go).   It occurs to me that 'normal people' just have to dust, vacuum and change the sheets on the guest bed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Two roosters, feminist chickens, feed dispenser , sensitive but co-operative

The guy didn't show up last  week to fix the  broken heat pump so I'm cold and grumpy.  I've been trying to avoid a root canal for a couple of weeks  but, after yesterdays x-rays, its looks like it has to happen anyway.  My own dentist  wont do it cause its a molar, so he is sending me to a 'specialist'. Or so he says.... I  think he's  mad at me cuz I threw up on him the last time he  was drilling for oil in my mouth.  On my referral scrip he wrote  'sensitive but co-operative'.  Of course I'm sensitive. I'm an artist!
I'm an artist with two roosters.  Yep its official. The gigantic blue laced red wyandotte is a boy.  I saw him crow and shortly after than he and Gannicus  got into it!   Feathers everywhere!   While it looked like Gannicus got the worse end of it  my little silkie roo is holding his own and does not seem to be at all intimidated by  the bigger guy.  Surprisingly , its pretty quiet at Mystic Cedars .  Maybe its because they have a whole acre to avoid each other on.  And also because  they are not fighting over the girls.  My girls are quintessential modern females. They are choosing for themselves which rooster to allow to protect them.   All but one that is.  The blue laced blue wyandotte has given both of them the little chicken finger.  I guess she has decided that if she can   keep the cat in line she doesn't need a rooster.   Poor little Michealetto. He was napping in the sun  when she jumped on his head and bit him on the butt.  Just to bring her point home, she followed him around for 10 minutes  with a chunk of cat hair hanging out of her mouth.  That girl is not to be messed with! 
The girls (and boys) are all happy to be free ranging again.  Our summer long battle with vent gleet disappeared  as soon as we let them out to wander as they please.
Jimmy is working some long hours these days.  I kind of miss him.... but I kind of don't. Let me 'splain.  When my dear love is hanging around the house... I don't get anything done!  When he's working I gets lots of things done.    Why don't I get anything done?  Please refer to my $10,000 tea towels post
When he's bored he hovers!   Sometimes that is a good thing like when his hovering resulted in google stew.  But most of the time his hovering results in us  sitting around  bickering over  how to proceed or...more likely.... getting into a conversation that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.   Which is why I'm not going to tell him about my latest community oriented idea.  All the neighbors and school kids hang over the fence and   delight at the chicken  antics and they all want to feed them.  I have decided to  put in  one of those  petting zoo feed dispensers next to the fence.  I'm currently keeping an eye out for a cheap or free , not plastic, candy/gumball  dispenser.  While I am community minded,  there is only so much  that I am willing to spend on other peoples 6 year olds.   I'm not dropping bank on a high end feed dispenser.   If I hang out on craig's list long enough I'm sure I will find one that meets my criteria.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Late Garden, Slug Army, Gubment shutdown, Art sale gone bad.

My  late planted garden , which looked so good, is now officially a fail.  Before  the September rains started   we were well on our way to a   second harvest of beans spinach, carrots, beets and potatoes.  Then the rains started.  It washed  away the  slug repellent daily .  I tried to keep up but  the week of  stormy,stormy,stormy... an army of  slugs attacked my raised beds like Sherman burning through Georgia.   It was all gone in less than twenty four hours.  My all-knowing 92 year old Grandmother has advised me to procure barnyard geese.  She says they will eat all the slugs for me.  ALL of them.  Soooo, we will be adding  goslings to next years  baby chick  frenzy!
Next year will be chick heavy.  DD brought us a small incubator and Gannicus is doing his job well.  Only one of the new chickens we procured in our good neighbor   attempt is still a mystery.  One of the Blue laced red wyandottes is enormous and has fluffy-ish  rooster-y feathers.  It does not crow however and is meek and submissive and to be perfectly  honest... kind of girly in its attitude.  The question this a  large  gawky  hen or a surprisingly effeminate rooster?

  On to other topics... The gubment shutdown..   No.   I'm not going to go on a rant.  It wouldn't do any good.  Things are seriously messed up in our capital and untangling the knot of intrigue and  special interest positioning is far,far beyond the capabilities of my itty bitty brain.  The end game?  Who TF knows. Does the shut down affect me personally? Could be.  It looks like the shut down might  have lost me a sale on Etsy.  Someone was spending a lot of time looking at a particular piece. The shutdown happened and the looker/potential  buyer...went away.  Maybe...maybe not, but the timing was suspect.  Oh well.  It did show me that I need to pay more attention to my etsy page.  It has been sadly neglected for the last few months.  I re-posted 5 paintings  a couple of months ago and then wandered off to do other stuff.  Is this a surprise? No! I've failed at every retail-y, sales-y job I have ever had.    The ones I had short term success in, bored me to tears and I just didn't have it in me to continuously pester people to  'buymystuffbuymystuffbuymystuffbuymy........  I am a seriously  lackluster  marketer.  Being crappy at marketing however, doesn't  alleviate the disappointment of losing a  big sale.   Losing the money is bad enough but, the real hit goes to my  squishy soft artist's ego that wants to cry with the pain of rejection every time someone looks at one of my paintings and then shrugs and walks off.  So,  yes !  This Sunday morning finds me  with a  pouty lip  and lowered  eyes.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Smart Dad's advice, winterizing, vent gleet, To do list

Gleet girl is back with the flock and doing fine.  Now that she is better I have completed two more items on my list.  The desk was on my list.  Its a pretty, medium sized roll top.  It had gotten so bad that I couldn't  shut the roll top and  none of the drawers would open because of the  paperwork stuffed into them.  I took the day , sorted every piece and now have a kitchen garbage bag of old bills and  such that I need to shred.  The desk is clean and pretty and I now have two empty drawers  to stuff   paperwork-y things into over the coming year. Am I uber organized? NO!  Am I organized enough to keep my piles of crap   separate? Yes.  Good enough!   
I also bottled up  a half gallon of  raspberry vinegar and started another gallon.
The two winter beds that I planted two weeks ago  have sprung to life beautifully.  There will be plenty of collards, beets, beans  and spinach   for our fall consumption.  The brussels sprouts we planted in the spring are beginning to sprout little 'brussels' and the broccoli is still producing.   I'm not too sure about the  second harvest potatoes though , they are not showing any signs of coming up yet.   We will see.  They were an experiment.
Next on the list..... Sealing everything for the winter.  Dad has been giving me   great advice about how to do this.   While some things are obvious  (even to me), He has had some suggestions that I probably would have missed.... left on my own.   Dads are great! Especially smart Dads like mine.  And he can cook.  When he came to visit for Christmas we made apple pies.  Actually, he made them and I watched.  His pies are  award  winning. I mean that straight forward. He has ribbons  to prove it, so when I got the chance to learn from him....I did. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Vent Gleet, nasty chicken butt, dr. internet, shut-ins, hubris, stupid list anyways

A case of nasty chicken butt  threw me off my list this week. One of my 1 year old layers  turned up with 'vent gleet'.  According to  Dr Internet it is a kind of yeast infection caused by  'fill in the blank'.  The first couple of days we didn't know what it was and then she starting getting lethargic. Lethargic enough to  let me pick her up without  so much as a cluck.    Jimmy and I brought her in and gave her a bath which at first she protested until the warm water  made her butt feel better.  She was more than content to just let her rear soak in it.  We took her out, dried her off and sprayed her sore bottom with tinactin  (the mico stuff).  We put her in a big box  with a bowl of water  dosed with apple cider vinegar with the mother, a few tablespoons of plain yogurt and some crumble.   We put her in the downstairs bathroom and lightly covered the box.  We wanted her to sleep as much as possible. The next day she was much more alert  but, still  no struggling when reached for.  Yesterday when Jimmy and I picked her up to spray her derriere she squawked a bit.  This morning she is in fine fettle and was bumping around enough to knock her water over.  Her backside looks way better and she may be able to join the other girls later today.  Which is good because  the downstairs smells like chicken!   Vent gleet is not contagious but, just to be safe, we dosed all the other chickens water with the apple cider vinegar and gave them yogurt too.  Every body seems to be okay and all the butts in the pen are fluffy.  Why did I turn to Dr Internet instead of a real vet?  Cuz I'm not spending $200 on a chicken and most vets  don't know anything about chickens anyway.  The big money is in dogs and cats!  I did worry that maybe it was coccidiosis but if it was , with our slow response to  her  'gleet' , all of them would have had it and this blog would have been way different.  Anything other than  a yeast infection would have killed her in the first 48 hours and infected all the others as well.  We will see if our country doctorin'   was effective. I will update here on her progress in a few days.

Since I spent most of my spare time this week watching chicken asses and playing nurse, I'm now behind on my  30 day challenge list.  Knocking off one  chore a day for 30 days.  Maybe I should make a 7 day list and do a 7 day challenge.  I should have learned by now that 30 days is to far in advance for me to plan anything.  Our work schedules are too crazy and we have so many variables  in our life that new priorities  rise to the top  remarkably fast.  The sad thing about all this crazy scheduling is that we haven't seen anyone since the  winter except the few brave souls  that   live within driving distance and have been willing to come visit us.  We are practically shut-ins!.  We are not actively avoiding or shunning or ignoring anyone , we just cant seem to get our s#%& together  to fulfill our social obligations.  We haven't been anywhere or done anything (Not involved with work) since we moved in.   Every time we make plans to do a social thing with friends or family  something critical rears its head.  Work, plumbing, electricity,  chickens...flat name it.... we have had to deal with it.  We were told before we bought this place that the first 18 months would be crazy and scary and hard.  Of  course, we poo-pooed that because we are so much  more relaxed in attitude than others are about these things but.....
Hubris is the sin the gods hate the most.    Guess which sin we unknowingly indulged in?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Action items, Homemade soap, damned squirrels

Work and life.... Scheduling ...very important. In Between learning lines  this week, I made two batches of soap, replanted part of the garden for a late fall harvest, did all the laundry, painted a drop-leaf table, partially removed the fencing between the old chickens and the new ones AND made the masters tournament on tiger woods golf.

My soap: One batch saponified nicely and is cut and curing. I made it with the fat rendered from the  pig my brother-in-law slaughtered and cinnamon. I cant wait to use this one.  The other one, I made with  vegetable oil and it is taking its sweet time  hardening. I may have to hot process it.  That one is sandalwood facial scrub  and orange oil.

The garden has served us well this season.  We railed through over half the beans really fast so I put in a few new ones. They should come in just about the time the weather turns.  I put in a new winter bed with spinach, collards and some new lettuce.  I am also ready to plant a new batch of potatoes.  I will never again plant  'fingerlings'  the yield was so low it wasn't worth the  bed space.  With all this hot weather you would think that the tomatoes would be coming in by now but they are still green and tiny.  We got enough cucumbers for some salads  but I didn't even bother to try and plant pickling cucumbers this year.  To get enough cucumbers to pickle you pretty much need a dedicated space.  We aren't there yet.  I miss my old garden with the perfect soil  and the perfect amount of sunlight.

I'm disappointed in the new girls. At least one was supposed to be a rooster.   I'm not so sure.  I haven't heard any crowing  and they are all 4 1/2 months old. Jimmy says he heard attempts at crowing but I  haven't heard anything but peeping and clucking.

A friend from Portland is coming to pick up  four of them on Wednesday.  Maybe a change in the pecking order will bring out the  rooster  in Gannicus.

I still have raspberries  in the freezer that need to be made into Jam.   Baby sister....The blackberries are coming in....its time.  I also managed to get a few of the yellow plums off the tree before the squirrels  annihilated it.   Steps will be taken to insure next years crop is safe.  I will be making  plum jelly out of the ones I saved.  The squirrels don't seem to have much interest in the purple plums so I may get enough to  make some wine this year.  I'm also going to try to make rose hip jelly.  I've already made enough to jelly to keep Jimmy in PB&J for a year but not enough for gifting.  I'm sure that will be remedied soon.

 I made a list of 30 things to do in 30 days...because its been crazy around here and I wasn't getting  crucial projects done.  The list is helping.  I planned on doing the items in the order that they were listed but that hasn't happened.   I tend to work organically.  If one project calls for time in the kitchen , I just do everything in there in one day whether or not  they are all on the priority list.  Guess I just learned something about myself and how I  process.  The list has made it easier and I seem to be getting a lot more done.  So it looks like today I will be doing items 3, 14 and 22!   Unless it gets too hot , then I'm going to do #6  and read my  book in the shade.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Integrating new chickens into an old flock, establishing pecking order, train your chickens

The new chicks are more and more chickeny everyday.  Tomorrow I will be making a small opening in the integration pen so that the new girls can wander out  at their leisure and run screaming back in if they get too picked on.  We have learned over the last few years that this is the best way to do it.  Let them see each other from a safe distance for a week or so.  Then, let them find their pecking order with an escape route . After a week or two  take away the integration pen.  If one of the old birds gets too aggressive with the new ones, isolate her for a day (they hate that  and they know it is punishment  for bad behavior).  The first couple of nights you may have to  do a pen search for the new ones to make sure they all get into the big girl coop.  It helps to  clean and sterilize the old coop (and re-arrange the roosts if that is feasible) before you put the new ones in.  It will de-stabilize the old flock enough that they will accept the new ones.  They love their own smell and will get confused if its not there.  If they all feel like they are in a new environment , they will huddle together for safety.
Had a conversation recently with someone who hates chickens because they are stupid and cannot be trained.  Newsflash.  Chickens can be trained.  You just have to spend time with them like any other domestic animal.  Positive reinforcement,  conditioning..... and, sometimes, a time out for  aggressive behavior and your flock will be easily managed.  It helps to know some basic chicken  psychology.   If you get a hen or rooster that is aggressive toward you, place your hand on their back and gently but firmly press them to the ground.  This puts you  at the top of the  pecking order.  I had to do this in the first twenty minutes with the new rooster  we  just received.  He didn't want me anywhere near his girls.  I don't want to interfere with his job (cuz that's why we got him) But, he needs to know I am the Boss-From-The-Big-House and ultimately... all decisions rest with me. We have been getting along great since then and he even shows off his rooster skills  for me when I go out to hang out with them.  The bright student that raised the chicks was surprised  that it worked on one of the hens that had become so aggressive they thought she was a rooster.  They transported her in a separate box because she was pecking them so hard and just being mean.  When they told me this, I lifted her from the box, set her on the ground and pressed her  back firmly down . I held her there to a slow count of ten and then let her go.  She has been docile ever since.  When  getting new birds for the first time or integrating new birds into your old flock.... remember , the first thing you want to do is  establish yourself firmly at the top of the pecking order.

Cochin pullet
Silkie pullet

Silkie and Wyandotte pullets

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Backyard chickens, Managing your flock, integration coop, coop design, The Mighty Gannicus

 To be  neighborly..... I agreed to be a part of  one of the neighbor kids school projects. She wanted to raise her apartment bedroom.  I agreed to take said chickens when the project was complete.   She was only going  to get 6. She got 12. I told her mom I couldn't keep that many so they found a home for 3 of them.  3 days ago I became the proud owner of 9 new chickens.  2 cochins, 4 wyandottes and 3 silkies.    They are, of course, delightful.  Being a school project they were a bit over-nurtured .  The first full day in their new home, they would not come out of the integration coop until almost 3 pm.  They were afraid of the  dirt in the pen.   One of the chickens, a beautiful and brave silkie  kept poking his head out of the door.  He was the first one to venture out.  He explored the environment and then let the others out of the coop.  The first one out was a tiny  black silkie that Jimmy has taken a liking too.  He named  it Arnold.  Arnold is irrepressible.  He/she  was the second one out and hopped all over the pen  with the white silkie  following it around to keep it out of trouble.  After a few minutes, they all came out.  By bedtime they were all having such a great time  playing in the dirt that Jimmy and I had to manually  return them to the coop.  They complained for a good five minutes after we shut them in.  The  very bright student's mom told me that at least three of the chickens  were roosters.  After watching them for three days I 'm pretty sure  we only have one rooster.  The Brave white silkie.  He herds and protects.  He is the first one out and the last one in.  He is the Mighty Gannicus!  All hail Gannicus!
I'll need to be finding a home for at least three or  four of the babies.  Or Jimmy will be wearing his tight face and muttering under his breath 'we don't NEED 21 chickens!'  He will be right  of course!  He's good with any of the new chickens finding a new home ....except Arnold.  He has taken a liking to Arnold.  He loves Arnold's  pluck!  Last night over dinner we talked extensively  about   who stays and who goes and what kind of a time line for  integration that we have.  Gannicus  stays!  He is my rooster replacement for  the Indomitable Hashtag.  I asked Jimmy  last night " What if Arnold is a rooster as well?".  He groaned and got a very pained look on his face.  Then in an unprecedented move said ' well...silkies are so small that  no one will notice two roosters.'  At that moment I gave Arnold to Jimmy.   "Congratulations!  Arnold belongs to you!" says I.  Jimmy can no longer use the argument ' They're your chickens!'
I took a photo of the integration coop.  It is an old plastic garden shed that we modified.  It is a perfect temporary summer home for  new girls. There are no roosts.  Roosting happens  when they move up to the big girl house.
For the next week  the new girls will remain penned up and separated from the old girls.  They can see each other and interact but no pecking can happen.  Next week I will make a small hole in the fence  so that the new girls can come in and out as they please  but the old girls will not be able to follow them in if they need a safe place.  Also next week the two ancient reds will be retired.  Not only are they cranky and mean but they are beginning to have health  issues.   Week three Jimmy and I will be redesigning and rebuilding the inside of the big coop.   When I first began backyard chickening I didn't know what a well designed coop interior should be like..  I now know that no part of the roost should  run over the top of the nesting boxes and  all roosts should be at the same level or they will poop on each others heads all night!  Once the  coop is redesigned and repainted on the inside,  the  integration  pen and coop will be removed.  There will be a good week of squawking and  screeching  while they all find their place in the order of things.
I read an article in the Seattle newspaper last week that said the animal shelters are filling up with chickens   that are too old to lay eggs (or began crowing).  Managing your flock is very important. You really only get 3 good years of laying out of a hen.   If you want to keep your egg production high you should bring in a couple of new hens every couple of years and retire the oldest ones.  If you absolutely can not bring yourself to retire the old ones...Well, you might want to rethink the whole thing.  Maybe the $5 dollar a dozen, free range  eggs at the co-op aren't such a bad deal after all.  If your OK with retirement.... Backyard chickens are a great choice.

The Mighty Gannicus!

Silkie Rooster....Gannicus

Integration  coop and pen

Chicken Coop
to be redesigned and repainted

Black Silkie chick,  AKA Jimmy's first chicken, the plucky Arnold

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Raspberry infusion vinegar recipe, broccoli, snow peas, green beans, waiting for PSE

We have broccoli! Lots of broccoli.  We have about five snow peas which means that next week we will have enough for a couple of meals.  The green beans are  on target as well.  This might not seem like something  to get excited about but, after  a year of eating  commercial produce, I'm so happy I could cry.  My only regret is that the garden isn't bigger.  It would have been  bigger this year  but, Jimmy had me by the back of the collar  slowing me down.  In between struggling to get away and screaming "lemmego lemmego!" I could  hear him saying  "wait til PSE gets done  so we can see what happens".    PSE is  changing the  power lines that run down the length of our property and we already signed off on the permission slips for them to top all the trees  that are wrapped around the power lines.  That was back in late February.  They are taking their sweet time about getting here!   I know it takes some planning to shut off the power for a whole neighborhood for a day but I just want them to get it done!  Then there is  the  driveway.  We don't know where the edges will end up. The fate of the hazelnut tree has not been settled either.  There is a pile of sawdust under this tree that the bugs  have eaten out of it.  This according to the tree guy is an indication that the tree is old and sick and the bugs are doing their job.  It will probably have to come down. ( So much for my home made nutella fantasies!).  By October I will know where all the newly  exposed sunspots are and next spring will be a frenzy  of  building  new raised beds and getting all kinds of  yummies in the ground.
This coming week, I will be building a  small integration coop  for the new girls coming on board.  The  problem of too many chickens may have been solved.  One of Jimmy's friends in Portland  might want them.  I will keep half of them.   The two old girls are   being  retired.  I did not make the decision lightly.  Since they have been penned up for the summer, their bullying  of the young girls has escalated to the point where action must be taken.  Last years  new girls  are scared to death and their feathers are poking out everywhere  they have been pecked. One of the sweetest  new girls is taking the brunt of the abuse.   Both of the ancient reds are doing the bullying but  'Long Lip'  is the meanest.  Old , useless and sweet? You get to live.  Old, useless and mean?  Well.... cant have that.  The deed needs to be done before the   babies get here.  They are all hand raised, sweet tempered breeds.  The transition from teen girls bedroom to  sky and dirt  is going to be hard enough on them without making them fear for their lives from  a  vicious inmate.

My freezer is full of raspberries  waiting for DD to come up for a couple of days.  I already set a gallon of them to infuse in white vinegar.  After the last infusions ran out, I tried to buy a bottle  of raspberry vinegar at the grocery store.  It seems that raspberry vinegar has fallen out of fashion. (who knew groceries were  bound up in popular opinion?).  I will probably make another one after this.  My chrisoween baskets this year will include a small jar of it for gifting. I will leave you with a simple recipe for your own raspberry vinegar.

Raspberry vinegar infusion recipe:

Fill a one gallon jar 3/4 full with raspberries
Pour one cup of  sugar over berries
Pour in distilled white vinegar  until jar is full
Stir contents well
Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let steep for at least one week.
Stir contents at least once a day.
When berries begin to look white-ish, strain through cheesecloth or very fine strainer to remove pulp and seeds.
Bottle and store.
(I choose to put mine in quart jars and water bath them just to be sure)    

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mighty roman gladiator Gannicus, free backyard chickens, two new dresses, RASPBERRIES

About three years ago I bought a dress at a thrift store. It was a cute ,hippie, baby doll  thing.  It fit perfect and was  extra comfortable.  The only problem was that it was purple with big black tie dye  splotches on it.  It was not something I would ever wear in public because  it made me look like I was a purple cow.  My intent for the garment was to    use it as a pattern.    Last week I finally got out the seam ripper  and carefully pulled it apart.  There are only 4 pieces to it so it is a perfect pattern.  Using  the fabric that I bought on  uber sale   a couple of weeks ago, I made two new dresses out of it.  Building the dresses only took a couple of hours each.  I ran into a couple of problems.  1.)  I have never worked with  gauze fabric before.  When I finished the dress, I was horrified. It was enormous.  I ,of course, consulted the oracle (the  internet) about my problem and was told 'wash it  and hang dry".  I did and it shrunk two sizes. This made the hem way to short and I had to take it out and redo it.  Which brings us to problem # 2.)  trying to hem clothing on yourself is a pain in the  back-side.   My next  domestic tool purchase will be a dress form. I have convinced myself that this is a  reasonable investment which I will use ' all the time'.  'All the time' meaning  ...once every year or so  for a couple of weeks at a time.   Dress number 2 was easier because I had already practiced on dress number one.  I'm all inspired now to make dress number three.  I just cant decide  between the pretty   butterfly fabric or the  pink pirate skull fabric.
I will be wearing my new summer dresses to pick raspberries.  The raspberries came in with a vengeance last week.  DD, if you are reading this.....your  poor frail old mother needs help making raspberry jelly and raspberry vinegar!
Chickens:  One of my neighbors daughters raised 12 chicks for a school project.   I told her mom  I would take them when the school project was done.  She was only supposed to raise 6.  Anybody out there want some free pullets? They are healthy, inoculated,  silkies, wyandottes and frizzles.   They will be coming to live with me the second week in July and I cant justify keeping  twenty chickens.  Not even to myself.  I will be keeping the rooster to protect my hens.  I have already decided to name him Gannicus...  after the mighty roman gladiator.  A mighty roman gladiator-chicken  should be able to fight off opossum.... right?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Floor pillows. Upcycled Halloween costume, comfortable reading space

Yesterday I was in the computer room wasting time.  From the living room I heard Jimmy say "I really like your  new floor cushions".   An unsolicited compliment from Jimmy?  Of course I went to investigate!  I found him lounging like an ancient roman on top of them, playing with his tablet.  I was a little worried that the floor pillows  I made out of his old Halloween costume would be nothing more than a trip hazard.  He is pretty happy with the upcycle.    It seems that I achieved my main goal  in my living room make over.  It looks great and it is an inviting room for conversation and ..well... living.  Before the make over started I asked an important question.  What do we do in the living room?  We read and we have conversation.  (No TV)  So, lots of good lighting and cushy, cushy comfort. Step Mom's beautiful and extraordinarily well made half sized quilts have been added to the decor.   No need to crawl into bed to read comfortably.  Tea,  coffee, wine and other beverages are safe from spillage.  This might not sound important but,  my favorite activity in the winter is reading in front of the fire with a cup of  herbal tea.  We longer just walk past this room on our way to someplace else. 
Floor cushions made from Jimmy's old Halloween  costume. (OK , not the flowery one.  That was leftover fabric from the kitchen  re do) 

 Comfortable reading space with  hand made  cushions

Friday, June 14, 2013

How to get 10,000 page views, Salmon berry jelly, dirty little secret, fabric hoarder

I hit a milestone this week.  10,000 page views on this blog.  It took 5 years and 254 posts but I made it. 10,000 page views.  It probably would have happened sooner but I lost a lot of readers when I changed URL's.

Nuff bragging..
Jimmys Mom was here for a week.  It was  a delightful visit. We spent most of our time eating good food and just chatting. DD's Pico was a big hit as usual.  Maybe she will give me permission to post her super secret  recipe here.... someday.  I doubt it  though. She guards it  like Precious cuz it always makes her the most popular person in the room.  I wouldnt give that up either!   We stopped eating and talking long enough to make 2 batches of salmon berry jelly and one batch of blackberry/ cranberry jelly.  Jimmy and I have been  diligently gathering salmon berries  for the last month.  They are a delicate berry that look like raspberries  but taste very citrus-y.  They are also sparse, so we had about 10  sandwich bags in the freezer. One for each berry picking walk we took.   While I was digging through the freezer  to make sure I didn't miss any, I found  two 1 gallon bags of black berries from last year that had somehow been overlooked.  I also found a  bag of  frozen cranberries left over from the holidays.  I have 2 dozen or so jars of jelly now ... and a big plus?....I now have room in the freezer.
When it comes to berries I always make jelly instead of jam.  Those tiny little seeds wreak havoc with my dental work.  I put them in the blender and then  run them through  a super fine strainer.  What I have left is more than juice.  Its very thick and pulpy and makes a rich flavorful jelly with lots of body.  The season is upon us.  In WA state the salmon berries come in  in late May/early June.  The raspberries  and strawberries  get here in late June/early July.  When the raspberries finish in early August the blackberries  suddenly ripen and they are everywhere  until the end of September.  My plan this year is to have a jelly making day at least once a weak until all the berries, plums,apples,and cherries are completely harvested.

More home decorating.  The day after Jimmy's Mom left , I made two giant floor pillows  to add to my 1920's (ish) living room.  These were cost effective because I used three yards of fabric that Jimmy  bought for a Halloween costume three years ago and the two big fabric stores in town  are having competing sales, so I got a 5 pound box of fiberfill on the way cheap.  I still have half of it left so I will probably be making a few more cushions.  You can never have too many  throw cushions.

With all the sewing I have been doing, my fabric stash is getting really low!    I almost panicked when I saw how low it was getting.  Now you know my dirty little secret. I hoard  fabric!  I think everyone who sews does this though because fabric is so expensive.  When I find a piece that I like, at a price that I like, I always buy a length, even if I have no immediate plans for it.  I take any and all give-aways as well.  It pays off.  I might not go near the sewing machine for a couple of years at a time but, when I do it becomes compulsive behavior.  I cant just make one apron, I HAVE to make five. I cant just make two  cushions, I have to make ten. One skirt becomes three.  Maybe it is because sewing is so messy.  If I already have the machine out and the fabric stash is all over the room ..........I might as well make everything  right now before I put it all away for another year..... 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Artisan lifestyle living room design, redesign using what you have on hand, It's amazing what a little paint can do

My furniture painting frenzy might be over for a little while.   I painted the  tables in the living room room, the rocking chair, the dining room table and chairs and the  'media' cart.  I dug  DD's old dresser out of the barn (I braved an army of spiders  to retrieve this piece).  This antique dresser was in DD's room during her teen years and it was covered with  wax, fingernail polish and stickers.  It had  stains from years of   god-knows-what being spilled on it.  I thought to just throw a coat of paint on it and put it in the kitchen to hold plants up to the sun in the window.  Jimmy said that it really needed to be refinished because it was such a nice piece of furniture (minus the abuse).  I thought about it for  10 minutes and decided he was right.  I got out the electric sander and was amazed at how fast it cleaned up.  It took three days  to get it sanded,stained and polyurethaned.  It's beautiful and sits in a place of honor  under the 1970's swag lamp.  We put the cd player on it and filled the drawers with cd's. After finishing all the painting and refinishing, I made  seat cushions  and tablecloths for the kitchen table. I had to put away the painting and sewing mess because Jimmys Mom flew in for a visit last night.  It was fun getting everything cleaned up and ready for company.  We had the entire house put back together and completely clean  early in the afternoon yesterday.  I couldn't stop myself from wandering from room to room admiring my own handy work. I also marveled at what one can do with a can of paint, some surplus fabric and a few pieces of well made , beat up  furniture.  I loved  digging through my fabric stash and deciding which lengths to use.  At one point Jimmy suggested a trip to the fabric store to get a bigger selection.  I explained to him that this whole process was about using what we have on hand.  He finally agreed with me when I said that a trip to the fabric store would push the cost of my home makeover to well over the $100 price tag I allotted myself when I started.

Refinished dresser. Top view
(No DD, You cant have it back)

Refinished antique dresser in place and being used.

Painted rocking chair.
Painted vintage telephone table
Handmade cushion from fabric stash.

Painted vintage dining table
(I moved the other two chairs for the photo)
The photo is crap because the table is actually bright white.

Hand made seat cushions
the buttons are different  for each of the four cushions  because I used what I had handy

Artisan lifestyle living room

Artist's living room

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1970's swag lamp, refurbished vintage tables, handmade cushions

Its been a year!   Ok...  a little more than a year since we moved in.  When we first moved in  we had so much to do  that  we stored a great many things in the barn until an unspecified later.  'Later' has arrived.  I have been pulling things out of the barn and  painting and repairing.    I spent an afternoon repairing the   oh- so -cool 1970's swag lamp.  Its not the coolest 70's  swag lamp ever made (that is reserved for the iconic rain lamp) but, when an item is almost 40 years out of fashion... you take what you can get.  Its done and hanging in a corner!    I have been in a painting frenzy for almost two weeks.  Stripping was required for the  vintage coffee table.  Once I had it stripped there were flaws  that said  'paint me cuz I'm old and stained".  After that I HAD  to paint the end tables.  The rocking chair  needed a coat too.  I picked up  a 1940's  end table a few weeks ago which I was going to strip,stain and oil  but, decided at the last minute to paint  it instead.  I painted it the same color as the  media cart!  Jimmy, of course, is pacing like a polar bear in a cut rate zoo.   All this change is making him nervous.  To make him feel like he's part of the change, I let him choose the fabrics for the hand made couch cushions and the rocking chair cushion.  He's OK with it now but, on his way to work last night he told me not to touch anything  else until he gets home.  He loves the swag lamp!  I cant tell how he feels about the beaded lamp shade.  He keeps adjusting it.  Could be love.  Could be hate.
Here's a couple of sample photos. 

1970's swag lamp rebuilt and working perfectly!

Refurbished  vintage tables and handmade cushions.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Safety VS happiness, water conservation, whole new career, Titanias's bower, Slug death

I am up way to early on a Saturday so I figured maybe I should do a blog update because I haven't done one in a while. I'll start with the girls cuz they are the reason I'm up so early. With the sun up by 5 am these days I cant sleep in til 10 am.  I have to let them out and feed them.  I feel sorry for them .  They have been penned up for weeks now.  They took it pretty well at first.  I noticed over the last week that they are starting to look a little stressed.   Confinement does not agree with them as they were raised free.  I am beginning to think that  Hawk and Eagle danger is the lesser evil.  The philosophical argument of  'freedom from' vs 'freedom to' has begun running in my head.  A happy life? Or a safe life?  They are not happy!  Can I give them any less than what I desire myself?  Can I trust that  , like  myself, they will learn to duck and hide when danger is present?  I'm really leaning towards  let them be happy and free and if something happens..... then they learn to be more aware.

Plumbing!  We received a water bill of 250 dollars   3 months ago.  OMG!    I went into action and bought a faucet to replace the old leaky one in the kitchen.  It took me 5 hours to get the old one out.   Much screaming, expletives and  bleeding knuckles  happened  before  I finally finished.   But before Jimmy came home from work, the job was done and a shiny new faucet was installed! By 8 pm I had running water in the kitchen again.  The hot and  cold water ran out of the correct sides and the dishwasher still worked.   After that I worked on the toilet innards to  stop minor leakage there.   It all paid off.  A few days ago I opened the newest water bill and it was $47.  I almost cried with happiness.   The cheapest water bill we had had since we moved in was $70  (yes , I thought that was normal).   While I was under the sink, I also learned how to hook up an ice maker, which will come in handy in a couple of months when I buy a new fridge  because the one that came with the house is itty bitty and in poor repair.  Yes, I am all puffed up with the pride of accomplishment!

Work is another story.  Learning , learning, learning.  When I discovered, last summer, that the state of Washington had regulated me right out of a job... I got depressed.  I sat around for weeks feeling sorry for myself.  My options were to pour more money and a year of my life  into an education program  for a job that would never pay more than 'just barely a living wage'.... or do something else.  15 + years of experience  and a BA were not good enough for the state so.....
I'm doing something else.  I got an agent  and I am now doing some acting and  voice-over work.  Last week I put a mini recording studio in my computer room.  I did it so  I can audition  for VO 's from home.  My agent is amazing and up until now has provided free studio time,  his free time and some  much needed mentoring.  Last month he suggested that I am now in a  good place,  knowledge wise, to be able to do the  recording and auditions  on my own.  God bless the man for trusting me!   Nobody tell him, but I think I might have a 'show crush' on him!  If any of my performer /actor friends out there have been thinking of  doing PAID work  and wondering who  the best agency in town is. Give me a call or send me an email and I will wax poetic  about the best agency in town and what to expect from them.  I've been with them almost a year and they are pretty amazing!
The new studio is scary and intimidating.  All new terms and software to learn.  To give you an Idea of what I'm facing... The software for this process needs 2 GB...CPU.  My laptop couldn't handle it so I had to move to the computer room and use the big PC.  I talked to  one of the other VO artists at workshop last night and she told me it took her months to learn the software completely.  Yes! My eyes are rolling back in my head and my breath is coming out in gasps.  But I can do this  (she says with desperate bravado)!

And in my spare time (hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!) I have been painting and repairing various pieces of furniture  that I have collected.  Pretty cool pieces, I might add. Almost all are vintage  pieces.  I couldn't make up my mind about them.  At first I was going to strip and refinish and leave  bare beautiful wood.  Then, I decided to paint.  Then, I couldn't make up my mind about what colors.  Feral Jane  talked me into  getting brave with color.  She said I don't have enough color in my house.  She's right .  The only  color in my house  is  in whatever paintings are hanging on the wall.  I tried  her suggestion and I like it.  My sea green area rug now sports  a  1940's  vintage, carved coffee table in translucent  hunter green.  My living room is taking on a  Titania's  bower, hobbit-y, 'I live in a forest' look to  it. Thank you Feral Jane for reminding me that I am an artist.

The garden: Slugs!  DEATH TO THEM ALL!  Whatever it takes. Whenever I have to do it. THIS IS WAR!!!!!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Vintage American manufacturing, To paint or not to paint, chicken tractor, rooster time

I have time off and a whole list of projects to do.   Almost all the projects need to done outside.  The Puget Sound  weather refuses to cooperate!   Back in the fall I found the most adorable  small kitchen table and 4 chairs at a thrift store.  The table is a really cute 1940's thing.  It was designed to be a dinette in one of the  small tract houses that were  being built after WWII.  The solid wood chairs  are a matching set but I am pretty certain they were added in the 50's.  The whole set has been painted a gazillion times.  When I get done they will have been painted a gazillion and one.  I cant make up my mind though, on the color.   Right now I am going back and forth between white or hunter green.  I've toyed with the idea of yellow or  red.  Jimmy said I shouldn't paint them at all.  He said the prevailing  thought on antique/vintage furniture  is that it should be left  in its ...aging personality.  He says painting or refinishing is a no-no.  Apparently this comes from the antique road show folks.  We all know that TV is right all the time.  Well Pfiffle on that . I want to paint it and I'm going to paint it. It's not a stickley or  a Louise XVIII.  Its a table made in the USA  during the golden years of American manufacturing.  I may not be able to buy a small kitchen table and chairs  made in this country in the last 20 years but,  I can still have the quality of furniture that I want  if I just keep my eyes open  at thrift stores and garage sales.  And.... keep my paint can handy! 
But none of the above matters if it wont stop raining so I can get the paint on the pieces I have picked up.
Eagles, hawks and chickens.  The girls are so sad penned up.  They are spending a lot of time with their little chicken faces pressed up against the fence looking out at the rest of the property longingly.  So, one of my projects in the next couple of months will be to build a chicken tractor. When they get bored with a patch of ground I can just move them to a new place.  Its the best I can do for them and still keep them from being chicken nuggets!
I'm still looking for a rooster.  They should be showing up on craigslist pretty soon.  All those baby chicks at the feed store last month should be getting big enough to crow any day now.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Garlic alfredo sauce recipe, Home made ravioli

Yesterday DD came up  from Oly and we spent the day making home made ravioli!  We had a great time (of course  any time I get to spend with DD is always  great!)  It was the perfect Mother /Daughter day.   We gossiped and chatted all day and in the end enjoyed a delicious meal that we were both proud of.  (poor Jimmy missed it cuz he had to work a really long day and then got locked in the parking garage at work) The star of the day was the hand cranked food processor that  DD  gave me for a  Christmas gift  a couple of years ago.
  We used  the very simple pasta dough  recipe on the back of the semolina bag.  The stuffing for the ravioli was a thicker version of the alfredo sauce recipe, with chicken  added to it.  The alfredo sauce recipe is  below .  I'm putting it here so DD can have access  to it any time she wants to call it up.

Frankie's   Alfredo  Sauce:
(this recipe is more of a guideline than a recipe so add or take away as you please)

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1  tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup  grated  parmesan
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

IN a sauce pan..... brown your garlic in the butter.  Add the cream and milk.  When it starts to boil add your cheese and whisk til smooth and creamy.  Stir in the parsley. Remove from heat and let stand for a couple of minutes.  If you want your sauce thinner ...add more milk ( a little at a time).  If you want it  thicker...add more cheese.

Home made ravioli

Home made ravioli

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hawks and Eagles, Planting potatoes in the Puget Sound, Lovage, Don't let your garden fail.

Eagles and Hawks! OH MY!  Or...Fun times on the edge of civilisation!
I told you all about the hawk attack on the girls a couple of weeks ago.  The attackee is doing fine .  The hawk made another appearance and scared the bejeebers out of the girls.  I thought it prudent to pen them up and only allow them the full 1 acre when I am  able to keep an eye on them. So, last Friday I penned them up (much complaining  and squawking followed) .  I kissed Jimmy on the forehead, told him to stay out of trouble and went to class. When I leave for my once a week acting class Jimmy always says " I love you! I will miss you! Drive carefully!"  It didn't take me long to figure out that  this was code for 'Woot! She's leaving! I get the house to myself!"  I now know that when I walk out the door, leaving a smiling, waving Jimmy behind me.... the second he can no longer see the tail lights on my car... he does a little dance, jiggles out of his clothes, rifles through the kitchen for brownies/whatever junk food is available, pops not one, but two bottles of beer , cranks up the stereo and if its cold and rainy gets on xbox live  with his friends and says totally inappropriate things while he guns them all down or , if the weather is nice, wanders out into the yard to do a self satisfied survey of his domain.  If its really nice he wanders  a block behind the house into the park.  Last Friday was really nice.  He wandered into the park and  discovered that two juvenile bald eagles have taken up residence in the top of one of the cedar trees.  Which means that my girls can never leave the pen again.  The eagles don't see charming pastoral fowl who work for a living and bring joy to  people around them.  They see chicken yummy nuggets!

 I planted my potato bed  last week.  I read a wonderful article by a well known Seattle gardener that said ignore everything you have heard about growing potatoes.  In  Puget Sound  you have to do it different.  Conventional wisdom says potatoes do not do well in raised boxes.    In our neck of the woods, raised boxes is the way to go.  It gives  the plants the drainage they need to grow up healthy and strong.  We have really long days here but a short season.  Planting potatoes in a partly shady area is best, they will grow a little slower but will produce more fruit.  Also we have two growing seasons  here .  The first planting is in March which will produce  mature potatoes by the beginning of July.  Planting again in July will produce potatoes by October.  The double planting season is  due to our  milder climate.  I know the part about the raised beds is accurate.  I have had great success in the past with  potatoes in boxes even though many folk said it wouldn't work.  I also know that the partly shady advice is correct.  In the old place, following conventional potato wisdom got me a grand total of a  two dozen potatoes for the season.  I cant wait to get my carrots in the ground.   Buying produce sucks! Commercial produce may store longer but  taste is  bland and the stuff is expensive.  I cringe every time I have to pay  close to $3 for a head of lettuce. Last years garden fail taught me a fine lesson "Don't let your garden fail!".  Yes, we were tired injured and overwhelmed with the move but we paid dearly with low quality food and  a grocery budget that was over the top.  Not to mention having to go to the grocery store three or four times a week.    I missed not being able to walk outside my back door ,dig up a couple of potatoes and some carrots , pick a few snow peas , snip off a little fresh tarragon,  thyme, oregano, parsley or rosemary,  pop back into the kitchen and have dinner ready in twenty minutes.  I picked up a lovage plant  when I was out and about last week.  I have to figure out where to put it.  I don't use it very often but I when I want it.... I want it.  Lovage grows like rhubarb, plant it once and in a few years you will have a lovage  'bush". So I need to find a 'wasted' ,out of the way.  space for it because its going to live there a loooong time.  I also need to find a permanent space for the garlic bed. 
Yep! Almost there!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hawk attack, two missing, chicken instincts, chicken doctor,

Hawk attack!  I was sitting  at the computer working on my one woman show  about a local  historical female  when I heard a squawk..... not just any squawk but one of those  'its gonna EAT me!' squawks.  I could hear the squawking  getting worse as I bolted down the stairs.  I got outside just in time to see what appeared to be a small coopers hawk  take flight.   I was prepared for the worse and pretty much got  it. One of  the young reds ( they are now a year old ) was sprawled on her back, feet in the air, twitching, feathers everywhere, up against the fence.  I very gently picked her up, smoothed her wings back into place and petted her while I assessed the damage.  The poor thing was bleeding from both eyes, the mouth and her comb, not moving  but  still alive.  I assumed internal injuries.  I made the decision that a mercy killing was in order.  I put her down on a bed of soft grass  in a protected area and went for the proper tool to do the job...that needed to be done.  I didn't want the rest of the girls to see what I was going to do so I started rounding them up to get them back in the pen.  I  found 7 of them but the two ancient reds were missing.  I managed to get 6 of them in the pen but one of the barred rocks would not be herded.  I couldn't let the suffering of the one  that was injured go so I  girded myself for the killing and went back to where I left her.  She was gone!  I found the barred rock a few minutes later under the willow tree and she had the injured one with her.  She was digging up little morsels out of the soft soil under the tree and offering them to her!  She was also flanking the injured one and  leaning against her.  I was surprised enough to see the  hawk's victim up and moving that I decided not to play doctor for a little while.  I let the other girls out of the pen and brought them to the willow tree.  One of the other girls  flanked the injured one on the other side.  when she stumbled they pressed against her and held her up. I stayed with them for  a little while and then herded  them back to the pen.  I needed to find the ancient reds (or what was left of them).  I searched the entire property, every bush and all along the fence line. I threw scratch  all around the property and called for them repeatedly.  No sign.  No peeps or  grunts and strangely feathers.  After a couple of hours I just had to  tell myself they had been carried off.  I continued searching on and off for the rest of the day. I finally gave up, checked one last time on the injured girl who was doing exceptionally well by now (a little wobbly  but eating and drinking and walking on her own) and went to my evening  VO workshop in Goergetown.  Jimmy was out of town on a job and expected back in the evening.  I left the gate open for him and texted him the days events.  I told him the ancient reds were no where to be found and  waxed sadly about how they were just to old to outrun a hawk.. 
I was just a few minutes into  the lecture on how to sync  voice  with video/computer  graphics when my phone vibrated in my pocket with a text from Jimmy.  He had found the ancients reds casually snacking on my  daffodils by the front door when he arrived home!   Where had they been hiding? Dunno.... but those two old biddies  have survived  heat waves, blizzards,  wind storms,  hard winter freezes, raccoon attacks, opossum attacks,  and a cave in.    If those two old girls were human I would want them on my team in an apocalypse!  They really are superchickens! 
Jimmy put everybody to bed and locked them up.  The next morning I  got completely dressed before going to  let them all out and give them breakfast.  I expected the injured one to have died in the night and was dressed for disposal duty.  When I opened the coop door, all ten of them ran out and gathered at my feet looking at me expectantly.  For about  thirty seconds it was eerily quiet and then they  started  clucking and bitching, wanting to know where breakfast was.  They were annoyed when I didn't let them out of the pen for the day.... but my heart just couldn't take it.  I needed them all in one  place and protected so I could get over the anxiety.  They were all fine..... I was the one with PTSD.    That was  three days ago.  I still have ten chickens.
I went to the feed store  to get lay mash yesterday and they had  bins  of  sweet fuzzy  chicks.  I texted Jimmy that  they had a rare breed he had talked about  wanting (two years ago).    He called me within seconds.  "NO...NO! NONONO!" He said.
"Piffle" says I, in my head.  Next week the leghorn chicks will arrive!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chainsaw, pruning, compromise, HOPE

So, I would be really worried right now about all the federal budget cuts and the economy re-tanking, if not for the forward thinking of my fellow Washingtonians.  CNN has an article today... The day that was never supposed to happen .  It should be a scary article, but its not.    No one in Seattle is talking about it.  Cuz we gave maryjane a license.   How did I come to this conclusion?  Well Jimmy and I live  next to a walking trail and when we do yard work, total strangers chat us up.  The general consensus of the total strangers?  "Everythingss gonna be be ok for  'us' (meaning WA residents) since we legalised pot".  That's a quote from a little old lady bird watcher.  We folks in the far upper left corner of the contiguos  United States ..... One of the most overlooked and ignored states in the union, just gave everyone else the bird and said ' We're gonna fix this ourselves!  We are gonna give ourselves a whole new industry!  It will be local. The money will stay here.  In  3 to 5 years  the state coffers will be adequate to the needs of the citizenry and we will have a whole new crop of nouveaux riche buying cars and tipping well in restauraunts.  We,  as a state, gave ourselves reality based hope.

That's my comment on current events. I felt the need to comment since I havent ranted about current events in a few months.  I wouldnt want anyone to think that I'm a back woods recluse who doesnt care about what's going on the world. 

Closer to home.... Jimmy and DD's squeeze   ran rampant with a chainsaw yesterday,  pruning  everything they could get too.  Jimmy and I have been involved in an ongoing domestic discussion  since last August over the cherry tree that sits above our terraced garden.  We put the garden in before all the trees bloomed and leaved for the summer.  By August of 2012  the vegetable garden was in full shade most of the day.  I wanted it gone (the tree not the garden).  It wasnt producing any fruit  that was edible.  Jimmy  pitched a fit and pleaded for its life.  I stood strong in my resolve.  Then Jimmy finally ( it only took him six months) told the truth.  There is a huge rose bush that has wrapped itself around the outside of one of the big limbs and  drips  pretty little primroses from about 8 feet up... all the way to the ground.  I will admit its pretty stunning in the late summer.  Jimmy told me that when he comes around the bend in the road and sees the  huge pink explosion, his heart swells and he  sighs with relief because he knows he is home.  Now , we could have have saved ourselves months of fighting over this issue if he had just told me WHY he didnt want the tree  cut down, instead of giving me psuedo environmental science  BS arguments that I could blow holes in.  Armed with  the truth, I offered a compromise.  Prune the bejeebers out of it.  Cut everything that creates a canopy over the beds and leave  the roadside  symbiotic relationship trunk and limbs in tact. That's what they did.  I'm happy. Jimmy's happy.  See, that wasnt so hard!  They also pruned the apple tree  by the back window. I have high hopes for that particular tree.   The plum tree in the back was not so easily dealt with.  This thing is huge!  They took off one limb that was dragging the ground and then got intimidated by the enormity of the job.  They walked away and left it for another day. 
My project for this spring is digging up all the blackberries and weeds from an area in the back of the house  that is the size of most peoples yards.   I  cut all the strangling vines  a couple of weeks ago and I need to go out there witha shovel and dig out the roots but, I am already seeing the treasures that old Mrs Murphy left behind.  I've uncovered dozens of  bulb type flowers... daffodils , tulips, iris and such like.  I've found at least three struggling rose bushes.  The biggest surprise was the  completely overgrown rockery that I had no idea was there.
I'm really beginning to feel like we may be able to do this.  Last summer when we took  our numb hands and swollen knees in the house and cracked a bottle of wine in defeat we werent sure this moment would ever come.  Now we are rested, almost healed and ready to go again.  But the appropriately named Kracken rum that The Good Typist gave me for Chrisoween is sitting on the kitchen counter in full veiw..... Just in case!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Google Stew recipe

Last night I decided to make beef stew for dinner.   I cut up the bone-in beef shank and got it to boiling when jimmy came in with his computer  tablet and started 'googling' recipes.  At first I was annoyed because really  ...I had it handled.  Mostly, to be belligerent, as he read each recipe  out loud,  I  started throwing in  ingredients from each one  that I  hadn't already added.  Poor Jimmy, when he realised what I was doing, he  almost panicked when I dumped in the  paprika.  Then he got into the spirit of the thing and said  "Cool! We're gonna make Google Stew.  And so it was named.  We stayed away from all recipes that were made by jumbling up pre-made processed food stuffs (for example one called for adding a can of tomato soup and many  said to add corn starch for thickening).  The result was the best stew I've ever made.  so, here in all its glory is  the recipe for  Google Stew.  It was made in an 8 quart stock pot.  Only one pot was used.

Google Stew

In an 8 quart stock pot:

Brown 2 pounds cubed beef shank in olive oil.  (do not drain off oil)
Then add water slowly to fill pot and bring to a boil. Let boil for  about 45 minutes or until beef is tender.
While boiling add:
a chopped onion
1 bay leaf
a couple of cloves of chopped garlic
1 diced tomato
about 1 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon each: rosemary, thyme,tarragon,parsley, vegetable bullion, beef bullion (real bullion not 'flavor' cubes)
Let all this boil together for the 45 minutes then add:
2 or 3  sliced large carrots. Let them  cook for about 15 minutes then add 4 or 5 peeled, quartered medium sized potatoes.  Let cook about 1/2 hour or until potatoes and carrots break down and stew begins to thicken.

Serve with fresh hot homemade french  bread! ( that's what I did but,... I guess you could BUY bread, if you were in a time crunch)

An even simpler version of this recipe is : boil everything together for about 45 minutes or so and then  add your carrots and potatoes.....cook til done.