Monday, December 29, 2014

Its a chick thing, old friends, the light is coming back

All signs and semblance of the holiday  are gone!  There is nothing left of Christmas 2014 except ...chocolate. This was the year of chocolate.  Almost every gift came with  some kind of chocolate attached to it.  There were gourmet chocolates, cheap chocolates, ultra cheap chocolates (those rock hard waxy santa things) locally made chocolates and one box of high end chocolates that arrived on my doorstep at just the right moment.  (that moment in the season when I all I want  is to transport to the outer Hebrides).  It's the kind of chocolate that you don't open right away because   just the sight of the pristine, gold, beribboned box ,sitting on the table,  wakes up all kinds of feel good brain chemicals.  Anticipation of the sacred moment of opening  reenergizes the  weakest parts of the weary soul.   And  a primal territorial instinct is awakened.... Its MINE.   As Jimmy was hovering over the box drooling and saying 'look what  'Goddess'  (not real name) sent US!'  I calmly explained to him that his name was no where on the box.  When he crept closer to the prize...his intentions clear...I took up arms (a roll of colorful candy cane covered Christmas  paper) and placed myself  between him and the treasure.  Every Ancestral Warrior Queen in my genetic line surfaced in that moment and we howled as a chorus  "Get away from my chocolate!".  And the earth shook and the skies rumbled and he said  'ok' and then went downstairs and pouted.  I swear I heard him muttering as he walked away.... 'geez...I'd share with YOU'.
I almost felt guilty but not enough to open the box.  Later on I will explain it to him in terms he can understand.   I will start by saying 'its a chick thing'....... cuz for some mysterious reason, if you begin the conversation with 'its a chick thing', they actually listen and try to understand.  Must be a guy thing ;).

The best thing about Christmas is that it means the light is on its way back.  The girls will soon be laying again.  Christmas eve they were all in bed by 3:30.   On the advice of my Father ,I have never put a light in their coop.  The farmers of old knew that hens  needed a rest from producing, so, who am I to go against  ancient chicken wisdom.   While they are sleeping, I am planning.    I want to put in some new beds this year .  I have to figure out the onion situation in our new space. I had no problems with onions in the old place but,  Mystic Cedars has a rhythm all its own and its taking me a while to find it. I will.
In the meantime... Lunch with friends. I had a chance yesterday to have lunch  with old friends from high school.  I had forgotten over the years how much I like these people. They are all talented and  intelligent.  As I listened to them talk about their  life journeys I was impressed with the choices  they have made.  What I heard from each of them (with none of them  actually saying it ) was that they all maintained their integrity  no matter what life threw at them.  In many cases  they tamped their  personal ambitions  for  the sake of others.  Note that I said 'tamped' not 'gave up'.  These are not  sacrificial lambs. Not by any means.  They have all achieved a vibrant balance in their lives.    Yes, I am still in awe of them.   I feel very fortunate  that they smile benignly on me (even the ones who know about my misadventures, bad choices, bad habits and temperamental behavior).  I look forward to seeing what they are going to do next.   I also look forward  to spending more time with them.
As much as I complain about the downside of  technology  and  the isolating effect that we are seeing  it have on a large scale...I don't think I would have been sitting there with old friends yesterday without it. Maybe its a generational thing but,  even though social networking  helped bring us all together, the smart phones were off at the table and it was all human interaction.
  It felt good. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fudge success, cookie fail, winter solstice love, ...and I took a nap

  I love the Solstice! I love it so much I can understand why folks of yore  worshipped it.  While it has been unusually warm this December, it is still dark.  With less than nine hours of daylight, its hard to get anything done.  Its hard to stay motivated.  I look forward to the solstice because the steady march towards  darkness becomes a steady march towards  light.  One of my complaints about deep winter is that I never know what time it is.  I also don't like buying eggs.  This time of year they don't lay enough eggs to keep Jimmy and I supplied, let alone have the surplus that we are used to.    I had to buy eggs this week because DD and I had did some holiday  baking.  She came up for an overnight and we packed as much activity into the time as we could.  Shopping, cooking, crafting and of course the chatter.    And it IS chatter.   Amongst the chatter on this visit we made fudge  and several batches of cookies.  Fortunately we were more concerned about the visiting than the baking because our cookies didn't turn out exactly like we expected.  DD found a recipe online for cookies that looked like peppermint candies.  I'm not really sure what we didn't do  but they did not  turn out like the picture.  It took us all day to NOT make  holiday cookies. Jimmy wandered in looking for cookies at one point and marveled that it had taken us 6 hours to make 12 cookies.  If  we had been  trying to make your classic chocolate chip or classic  sugar cookie , we would have been fine.  But, we were going for high culinary art and a specific aesthetic.  We wont be doing that again unless  the daughter in law is present and in charge.   We realized we needed her about 2 hours into it and greatly  lamented  her absence... for the rest of the day.          But the fudge turned out great.  DD's fudge was better than mine.   Way better than mine.  It was her first time making fudge and she nailed it.   Hers was chocolate-y creamy goodness and mine was chocolate flavored sugar bricks...again (sigh).  I just don't have the candy gene but, its seems DD does.  She must have gotten it from her fathers side.
       And we worked on our rugs.   After the cookie fiasco, we sat around on the living room  floor eating DD's delicious fudge and  casually  punching our rugs with even more chatter.  DD has plans for a very  elegant black and white entry rug as her next project.  The girl's got class!  My next project will enhance the 'under da sea' theme in the main bathroom.   I'm planning giant pink  seahorses on a purple  background.  They will match beautifully with  Grannys  1950's  plaster mold  fish plaques.  Yep, it was a wonderful visit.
We also talked about cheese.  DD  cant do cows milk  products so we have been talking for sometime now about making our own goat cheese.  I really need to pester Jimmy a little more about a second fridge. So many of the food projects   that we want to do require aging in a temperature controlled  environment that it is becoming imperative that we become those people with a second fridge in the basement.  Of course most folks with a second fridge fill it with soda pop and beer , ours will be filled with things that ferment. 
On the topic of fermenting..... The blackberry wine is still working away on what is sure to be one of the best  batches of wine I have ever made.  Jimmy and I finally got around to doing some wine tasting of the  the stuff that's been in 5 gallon carboys ,in the basement , since we moved in.  One batch was just plaing nasty and was dumped.  a couple of others will get Jimmys special mash treatment and the 5 gallons of apple wine  has been strained off and put in the  4 gallon crock jar with a Mother starter.  In about 6 months we should have  gallons of tasty apple cider  vinegar for multipurposes.
That's about all the news for this week. Its actually quite  a lot  considering how desperate we are for daylight around here.   But don't be surprised if my next entry consists solely of ...  'and I took a nap'.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

100 year old meat pie recipe,100 year old pie crust recipe, turkey pies, what to do with leftover turkey, Ida Bailey Allen

100 year old meat pie recipe.

Having great success  with  this years smoked turkey, figuring out what to do with the leftover turkey was even more important .  I think I have told you before that jimmy LOVES his meat pies. Any time I make a roast the leftovers are  made into individual meat pies and baked to perfection.  Meat pies were something I  couldn't deal with until I found Ida Bailey Allen's  rich pie crust recipe.  For years I never made pies of any kind because I just couldn't figure out how to make pie crust.  My pie crusts either fell apart or turned to leather.  And then came Ida.  Her first cookbook was published in 1917.  Before that she was a food columnist for a New York newspaper.  Her Radio cooking shows  skyrocketed her to food fame lasting well after WWII.  In her best cookbook of all '2500 recipes, cooking, menus and service' She  gives this very easy pie crust recipe.

100 year old pie crust recipe

2 1/2 cups pastry flour
1 cup  solid fat (butter/lard etc)
1/2 tsp salt

Ida says to cut the fat into the flour with a pastry cutter or fork.   Then add  'sufficient'  ice water  -up to 2/3 cup- and mix  until you get a firm ball of dough.

I use my kitchenaid (of course) to mix the whole thing.  I put my flour and salt in with the fat , put the  mixing paddle on low and let it go until  the  butter is  thoroughly mixed in with the flour.  Then I slowly add the ice water  as the kitchenaid is running.  Once it forms a dough ball, I'm done.  I know that this recipe goes against all  the conventional  pie crust wisdom that says  very little water and don't over mix. But, conventional never worked for me and this does.  Its the perfect pie crust for meat pies because  it doesn't fall apart.
The next step is to take small portions of the dough and roll out  to about the size of a large tortilla.  Put  a serving spoon full of your pie filling  on it, fold it over and seal the edges by mashing them together with a fork. (you can also cut squares and just fold the corners over the top and stick a tooth pick in it to hold it together)  Put your pies on a cookie  sheet and bake in a hot oven (425 degrees) for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  One additional  step that is optional.... beat one egg in a cup of water and brush it on your pies for a lovely glaze  that makes your crust flakier.

And now for the filling.  This is a 'leftovers' recipe so you can put pretty much what you want inside.
For our smoked turkey leftovers I chopped up 2 cups of  turkey, added about  a cup each of cooked carrots and onions, 1 cup of leftover dressing and  mixed the whole thing with the leftover turkey gravy.  Since the original meal was already  seasoned  you don't need to worry about that end of it.
The gravy is important in meat pies so they are not too dry.
6 cups of filling makes 6 to 8 pies

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blog babble, excuses, smug he-men

I want you to know that two weeks  ago I sat down on a Sunday and wrote a blog. I really did.  Then... I deleted it... because it was nothing but a  litany of  complaints/problems.  It all started out simple enough with a broken dishwasher and a zit. It then turned into a rant  almost 30 bullet points long (and I could have kept going).  By the time I got to bullet point 21, I was so pissed I was gasping for air.  None of the items on the list were  singularly malevolent , it was  having them  put down in words, in one place,  right there in front of my face, that set me off.   Most of the items  could be dealt with if I would just 'do it'.  The two extras roosters, with a little fortitude on my part, could be turned into chicken dinners.  The 30 year old dishwasher that came with the house? ( its so old they don't even make generic parts for it).  I COULD  just buy a new one.   But, I don't want to.  The puppy  accidents?  This would require even more diligence than I already exercise.   I've been told by other dog owners  that getting him fixed would go a long way to solving the problem.   We haven't done it yet because he was so under developed  when we got him.  He's due for snipping in January.   I am now  being forced to buy produce  from   a commercial market.  There is nothing I can do about this is winter.  Everything on the list was either something  I had a good reason for not dealing with or something that was out of my control.  So, I deleted it.   And I decided to NEVER do that again. It was simply a bad idea.  It did however provided impetus for a couple of things I could do.  In true Frankie form...I began a purge.  First I went through the kitchen.  I got rid of three boxes of  stuff that had been shoved in corners....mismatched wine glasses , scratched up cookie pans.  Tortilla warmers I've never used and other  assorted odds and ends that were  just getting shuffled around in the cabinets  while I searched for the kitchen items I actually use.    My beloved came into the kitchen  while I was doing this and rescued two water bottles.  He tried to rescue several   lidded , thermal coffee cups  but I wouldn't let him.  I had to explain to him that we don't need a mismatched set of twelve.  I kept  a couple of the nicer ones but the rest  had to go.   Its not like we spent money on them. They were almost all gak from one show  or another that Jimmy and I had worked on.  And then there was the  big argument over the  vegetable steamer.  Jimmy bought the thing 6 or 7 years ago and the handle  had long since fallen off.  He argued that it was still usable. I argued that it was broken and dangerous. He argued that he bought it and it belonged to him.  He was right  (and yet so wrong). I stopped  arguing and just glared at him. He dropped it back in the box and went downstairs to avoid further confrontation.  I resumed purging  with renewed vigor.  By the end of the day  I was down to stainless steel and cast iron organized and within easy reach
It paid off.  The thanksgiving feast went  extraordinarily well.  
The turkey was astounding.  I need to work on my timing for the xmas feast.  I put the turkey in the smoker  at 8 am.  I should have put it in at 5 am  like the neighbors did.  I used one of those little  plastic pop up turkey thermometers. I wont ever do that again. Long after the turkey was done the pop-up still hadn't popped up.
In my next blog I will try to give the whole process  I followed and  post some photos.
I will also rant about the  'grizzley-he-man '  crap I've had to listen to for using an electric smoker  instead of a 'real' fire smoker.  DD's squeeze (  his was just one in a long line of  smug he-man comments I've heard since I got the smoker ) asked me what would I do if the electricity went out in the middle of smoking.  I replied...'exactly what I did (ok......exactly what Jimmy did)  during the Christmas from hell a few years ago.   I would put  the turkey in the dutch oven and finish it and everything else on the barbque.'  I am prepared for the apocalypse.  I have spent the last seven years learning how to be self sufficient and how  to grow and make everything we need for basic survival but, the end isnt here yet and I still have electricity and running water. I'm going to use them while I have them. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Punch rug frame, $10 solution, Tone bather

I woke up with a cold this morning and I feel like crap.  I'm pretty sure  Jimmy gave it to me and  he caught it at a MS show.  I've had to much coffee to go back to bed but bed is my ultimate destination today.  For once I'm ok with it.  I have a free  week with no class ,no work, and no  urgent  projects to be completed.  I'm completely free, for the next 6 days, to wallow in  common cold misery.   Its been a while since I've had the luxury of laying around in my pajamas sneezing and croaking out  'woe is me'.  Normally I would already be  pumped up on E-mergen-c and Dayquil and my thermos would  be filled with hot, honeyed, breathe easy tea.   But , not today. Today I'm sitting here with a box of tissue on my lap  waiting for the caffeine to wear off so I can take some Nyquil and sleep the day away.  I don't think I'm going to miss anything.  Its dark and rainy and chilly outside so I probably wouldn't be going out anyway if I felt  fine. 
Since we don't have tv , every fall I try to come up with a new  creative way to spend my time. I've spent  winters painting miniatures, cranking out hand pressed prints, , sculpting, crocheting,  cold ceramics (with grannys  vintage molds from the 60's), sewing, fabric painting and a few others I cant recall right this minute because my head is clogged with viral residue.  This year I was going to  learn  the craft of tiling and then I got sidetracked.  A friend of mine in California called me almost in tears .  She came home one day ,a few weeks ago, to find that her beloved  (enormous) puppy had chewed up her equally beloved vintage  embroidered rug..  Being a lover of vintage goods I had a great deal of sympathy.  Truly  beloved vintage items are one of a kind and cannot be replaced but, a token gesture was in order.  I went over to etsy intending to buy her a  vintage rug.  After perusing items like this  (which are lovely)... 

I became inspired and decided that I would MAKE her a rug.  I have no patience for  latch hooking so I opted for  a punch rug. Some monks cloth, yarn,  a punch needle and several youtube videos later and I am on my way.  This is so fun and easy that it has become my defacto winter project(ing).  I did a couple of small  practice runs (embroidery hoop size) and then started on  a real rug.  The giant peacock on a black background is almost done.  I will be starting  the distraught friend's  rug by next week.  The only issue that I ran into was that unlike latch hooking, punching requires  taught, stretched fabric.     I looked at commercial  punch rug frames which  started around $200 and quickly decided that  the price range was unacceptable.  I  wandered into my art/sound studio and  dug through  my  box of canvas stretcher frames.  I chose the length and width that I wanted, tapped the bars together and then stretched the fabric over it and stapled it in place.   A $10 solution to a $200 problem.  I will probably continue using this method of framing as  the stretcher bars come in all lengths and easily assemble and disassemble for reconfiguration.
It is a fine way to spend  the winter in front of the fire listening to Jimmy practice his ukulele.  Yes, the ukulele that I bought him back in 07 is finally   being used.  Thank you to Dad for inspiring him and giving him music lessons.    Jimmy was so inspired  after he and dad played a simple version of 'she'll be coming around the mountain" that  he is no  longer complaining about his lack of musical ability.  The last time he was practicing he was worried that I would be annoyed  at the sound of him playing 3 chords over and over.  I explained to him that it was a much loved sound  from my childhood and  it was comforting  sitting in the same room,   quietly working on a project, while musical notes meandered  through the air.  One of my college professors once called me a tone-bather.  I don't remember why but, he was right.  I love the repetition of soothing sounds and I'm looking forward to tone-bathing  with Jimmy in front of the fire this winter. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Kitchen clutter, bad feng shui, housebreaking a rescue dog!  Or more accurately de-clutter.  The end of canning and preserving season always looks like this..  All the tools I use for this process are piled up in the kitchen, The dehydrator, water bather, jars, carboys, food processor, extra large boiling pots, kitchen aid attachments and of course....a gazillion jars  of jelly, pickles, chow chow, beets and so forth.
I have a really good reason for   not getting everything stored away before now.  I think I do anyway.  I have been meaning  (since we moved in) to  clean and paint the  preserved goods storage cabinet.  Its ugly and once I fill it up with all the goodies I've been working on ,it wont get painted until next year. That is just a fact.  I had planned on doing  it during the summer  but...well...of mice and men and all that... Part of the reason it isn't done is because I couldn't decide how to do  it.   The practical part of me said 'just clean it and paint it" the artist part of me said 'this is a great opportunity to express yourself."   The artist part of me wants to take the time and  do a decorative tile thing on the old ugly counter top and once it is complete, move it into the kitchen, under the window, so I will have easy access and get lots of compliments  for the cool looking  storage cabinet.  Since the kitchen needs to be cleaned NOW, I will probably just throw a coat of paint on it and leave the artistry until next year.  Its not like I'm desperate to  express my innate creativity. I have more  creative projects  going on right now than I can handle comfortably.  I'm not even going to list them all because it will just make me feel bad  knowing how much stuff is on my to-do list that isn't getting done.  Some of it not getting done  is directly related to the mess in the kitchen.  Once I get some open space in there, I can finish up the  one or two kitchen projects that are screaming to be done and then I can get on with my life.  Of course it could be argued  on a philosophical level that this IS my life  to which I respond It is only part of it and  I am done with this temporal experience for this year!  In my head I have moved on .  Now I just need to make the  space for my physical being to move into the next temporal phase.   'Sides... all the clutter is bad feng shui!
Now, on to a completely different topic. Marlow.   The trouble with a rescue is that you never know what their experiences  or  training were before you  took them in.  Marlow is absolutely perfect in all ways but one.  We don't seem to be able to stop him from piddling in the house.  But I may have found the solution.  Jimmy was playing with him in the house  a few days ago and  was encouraging him by saying 'good boy' .  After two or three  "good boys" Marlow promptly hiked his leg  to  wet on the rocking chair.  Then I began to notice that every time we said  'good boy' he would  proceed to do his business   where we could see him.  In an experiment I took him outside and told him the  magic words  and he immediately voided.   I tried it a few more times that day with the same result.  It would appear that for the last 7 months that we have been encouraging him to pee all over the house.  I told Jimmy  about my observation and   told him  not  to say 'Good Boy' as  a  re-enforcement phrase  any longer, cuz  'that word doesn't mean what you think it means'.  So, now we are beginning again  with housebreaking.  If any of you long time dog owners out there have suggestions for how to housebreak a rescue dog.... I'm all ears, cuz  this  vicious circle needs to stop.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Learning to smoke, western washington wild grapes, breaking and entering

Model number works  every time!   It also helps if the  spouse/partner/sig other can have as much fun with your birthday present as you can. Such is the case with  my new 30 inch electric smoker (analogue not digital).   The day after receiving my  oh-so-desired gift, I tried it for the first time.  While I would  not call my first effort disastrous, improvements  can be had.  For my first attempt at smoking, I decided to go with the classic beef jerky. I cut  two pounds of lean round   into slices  and marinated it per  instructions. I put it on the  designated amounted of time  and when I opened it  a few hours later most of it  was  jerky brittle. The wood chip container still had  almost all the wood chips intact and barely scorched.   I, of  course, consulted professor internet  and armed with new info went for  experiment number 2.  Yesterday I woke up at the crack of dawn and put a whole chicken in the fridge to  brine.  At noon I heated up the smoker  and put the chicken on the middle rack.  I  clanged the door shut. For the next 4 hours I carefully monitored the temperature and resisted the urge to open the smoker  to see what kind of progress  the bird was making.  To keep myself busy and away from temptation I dug the last of the potatoes out of the garden, pulled a few carrots up and then made Jimmy help me pick late season green beans.  I made a huge production out of  cleaning and prepping the vegetables (partly because  this will be one of the last meals with everything fresh  on our table coming from our garden).   5 pm finally rolled around.  I was of a mind to let it  stay in the smoker for another half hour just to make  sure  that it was completely done but, Jimmy wouldn't let that happen.  Around  4:45 he started dancing around on his toes singing  "its time. its time".   I prepared myself for whatever was in the box and bravely opened the door.  It was beautiful and golden.  SUCCESS! Almost... The wood chips were  only lightly scorched....again. I'll work on that after dinner.   Dinner was wonderful.  The chicken was delicious. It had a lightly smoked flavor and the  brine did exactly what it was supposed to do. So, on the second try I got the seasoning, the temp and the timing right.  After a delightfully delicious meal I consulted professor  internet  again.   According to the professor I need a tiny bit more air flow.  Not enough air flow and  the wood will not ignite and smolder.  To much air and the whole thing becomes dantes inferno, complete with fire trucks and charred remains. 
And now for something new and old at the same time.  One of the delights that Jimmy uncovered  when he  did the slash and burn blackberry removal in the  secret garden, was an old, well established  WA state  wild grape  vine.  We were not even sure it was a real grape  vine until this year.  The first two seasons we were here it produced no fruit.  It was a huge tentacled monster waging war with the blackberries.    Over last winter jimmy cut it back so far we thought he had killed it.  Not so.  This week we pulled one kitchen colander  full of tiny green wild grapes off of it. They were very tart and very sweet.  I had just enough of them to make  a half dozen jars of jelly..  Unlike the raspberry and blackberry jelly the wild grape is very light and  subtle.  The color was interesting too.  It turned out a very clear light green gold color..
I have one canning project left to do and then canning is finished for the season.  I have several pounds of tomatoes in the freezer waiting to be made into tomato sauce.  I was going to do it last week but there are still more tomatoes on the vine  ripening.  This has been the  best and longest tomato season that I can remember in years.  I'm sure the season is over  though because last night when I got home from work the house was so cold I was tempted to build a fire.  I chose to go to bed early instead because it was a crazy week.
I had a kamikaze trip down to Portland and left Jimmy here by himself.  As so often happens when I'm gone, he got bored and lonely and wandered over to the neighbors house for company.  They opened a bottle of wine and chatted for a while.  I'm not sure how it happened but Jimmy came home with the neighbors wine glass.  He left it on the kitchen table   to remind himself  to return it.  I woke up this morning to shattered glass all over the kitchen floor.   I feel bad about the glass and will  buy the very nice neighbors  a  whole set to gain absolution.  What I am truly disturbed by is that I didn't hear it happen.  I was so tired last night that  crashing  glass and running cat (I'm sure it was the cat that knocked it off the table) didn't wake me up.  The dog didn't bark either.  Seriously!... if some  underworld personage decided to  break a window and crawl   into the house in the middle of the night for nefarious purposes, we would all  just  drool into  our pillows and snore right through it.
So much for basic survival instincts....sheesh........

Sunday, September 14, 2014

High school reunion, seattle traffic, harvest season, inspired frieze

I got a message yesterday  afternoon from an old friend inquiring as to my presence at an event last night.  Said event  was my  high school reunion.  Crap! I almost missed it.  So this morning I have to thank  the magnificent PWM  for  thinking of me and inquiring.  I was only a little bit late getting there last night and had a grand time.   Everyone was amazing.  I had the usual HS reunion  anxieties (but just a little bit cuz I didn't have time to sit around and angst about it)  which were laid to rest pretty much the moment I walked through the door.  Some folks I recognized immediately and others took  a little longer. And then there was one....(don't give me that look  cuz  we've all had that moment of  'what if'.....and yes I WILL tell Jimmy... in a few days after I have found a file folder for it).   I  got to tell the band people that the reason I dropped out was that they were all better than me  and I couldn't keep up.  They were  (are) a seriously talented bunch of people.  I've been very lucky in this life to always be surrounded by smart, creative  people.  I had a serious case of the warm and fuzzies going  home last  night until ,that is, I ran into traffic.

  Seriously Seattle , how do you do that ?   How do you  have the same traffic at 11:00 on a Saturday night  that you have during rush hour   the rest of the week?  Insert heavy sigh here.

By the time I finally managed to pull into the driveway my  tired  brain had gone into default and I was calculating how many tomatoes I  could  stuff into the dehydrator and actually  have them dry  before they molded. Doing math  keeps me awake so I was also calculating how many more jars I would need  to get the texas chow-chow canned up.      I was also wondering if I had dropped enough hints to Jimmy about what I want for my birthday   this week.   I shouldn't say hints cuz I don't do that to him.  I learned years ago  that the best way to get  what I want inside a be-ribboned box is to just tell him. .  Visual aids also help so ....a  photo and a model number usually guarantees success.  Unless ,of course, I accidentally told him six months ago  that I wanted something else and he put it in  long term memory.

Yes, I know I am rambling this morning but, I was up at 5 am after a short night  and inspired by the Good Typist to try and keep a blog schedule.... or at least  blog more often..  It occurs to me that I might try writing a paragraph  at a time and then use bloggers  cool  scheduled post feature.  God only knows what kind of  confused mishmash, that passes for writing, that I would create that way.

There are a couple more weeks of  harvest season to handle and then  I can get into the studio guilt free.  In a conversation with Feral Jane yesterday I was inspired to  create a  multi medium frieze.  I was telling FJ about a textile mistake that I had made when an image popped into my head  fully complete  with materials and process.  There wasn't any 'how do I do this? or what do I use?'.  It was all there and complete.  I love it when that happens!  It makes being an artist so much easier.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pickled beets, home made wine, welcome to the artisan lifestyle, dairy goats, juxtaposition

Thank you Dad!   That big  bag of beets will  all be in jars by Wednesday night!

Dad and Mom also brought a cooler full of cherries from the east side of the mountains.  Sweet cherry wine will be made.  It will  grow up next to the   blackberry wine that was started three weeks ago.  This has been a good year for fruit which means it  going to be a good year for wine.
I don't have to worry about Jimmy trying to play mad scientist with my wine this year.  We have plenty of apples and he is planning on making cider and applejack ( that should keep him  away from my cherry and blackberry nectar).  
This next two weeks will be all about canning and pickling.  We had one cold night that  stopped our beautiful tomatoes in their tracks. That same cold night sent my winter squash into hyper fruiting.  We will be dining on homegrown acorn and delicata  squash well into the fall.

Update on the family  visit:  I had an interesting  conversation with the niece  on the last day they were here.  I was futzing in the kitchen and she strode in purposefully and parked  herself confrontationally in front of me.    Niece: "Every thing here is home made."  (this a statement..not a question)  Me: "Well, almost everything".    Niece : (rather smugly) "not the bread".  Me: " there is a loaf  home made bread in the cabinet if you would like some ...and the biscuits we made ARE bread. ".    In response, she looks down at her feet and shuffles them a bit .  Then she looks up at me and says  "The chickens aren't home made."     Me: "No,  but four of them were born in the backyard".  This was met with a long pause and then she brightly says "the dog  isn't home made!".  I said "you're right. He isn't".  She has finally scored a point and she isn't going to let it go.  She says "the plates aren't home made!".  I said  "you're right  but, the rugs are  home made."   (her eyes acknowledge that we both get a point for that one!).  Her stance softens and she giggles and says "The stove isn't homemade!".  The giggle told me that she had found a file folder in her head  for the juxtaposition of lifestyles that she was experiencing.  Knowing that she had found what she was looking for and knowing I was still in my pajamas at 11:00 am, I gave the best response   for the situation...I   rolled my eyes at her and said " Why don't you go feed the chickens for me while I get dressed?".  She then bounced out the door ...on a mission.
It cant be easy for a new gen, plugged in ,streaming all day, everything instant,  eleven year old to find a place in her apriory for   slow sustainable  living.  But, then again,  maybe  the file folder she put it in  was the same one she has marked   'field trip to the zoo'.  Ya never know with kids.

Speaking of Zoo. Jimmy is starting to talk  about goats again.  He's been muttering about it since I told him baby sis is considering  dairy goats.  He wants to go to the Puyallup fair  this week to  see what they have.  I was all for getting goats when we first moved in but now....not so much.  If Jimmy wants goats he has to take 100 percent responsibility for them. So, we will see  how that turns out.  'sides..... if baby sis goes into  goat  raising, I'll be her first and most loyal customer.    The best part of living the artisan lifestyle is  having trade agreements with  other people who are living the artisan lifestyle.  DD and I are already talking about the delicious smoked gouda we are going to make once we find a  reliable source for  reasonably priced goat milk.  We are really hoping that source will be baby sis.
DD is proof that  the artisan lifestyle can be lived even if you have a full time job.  She  keeps her family fed with nutritious homemade meals  while practicing animal husbandry and vegetable gardening. 
To DD and Baby Sis..... Welcome to the artisan lifestyle!  We are glad you are here. The FIRST rule of artisan lifestyle is  Always talk about your artisan lifestyle. Brag about what you are doing, what you have made and what you are going to do next.   The world should know that you are saving it one homegrown  green bean at a time!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Secure chicken house, canning season, Texas Chow Chow

Half of half  (not a typo) of the goat barn is now a chicken house!.  DD and her squeeze worked all day last Saturday to  refurb the old barn to hold the boys and girls comfortably.  DD's squeeze Rocks.  All I needed to buy for the project was some chicken wire  and a set of hinges.   Everything else he used was  repurposed wood and other items  from around Mystic Cedars.  Its predator proof and if I cant deal with them  due to work they have a secure little outdoor pen to get some sun and air.  We have not let them free range all week so they will know the chicken house is their new home.  Tomorrow they will be allowed out .  The best part of this is that I am no longer on the chickens schedule. I don't have to let them out  in the morning and I don't have to be home at night to lock them up!  What freedom!!!!!!!!!  They are also going through a fraction of the feed since I am no longer feeding all the  wildlife in the neighborhood.    Their food and water is no longer outside the coop.
I'm loving our unusually warm weather this summer. My squash, cucumbers and tomatoes are  amazing this year.   This has also been an amazing year for berries. My freezer is still full of raspberries that I did not have a chance to process because we had so many.  Now it is blackberry season.  I don't have any freezer space left so I have been throwing them in a five gallon bucket.  Without adding any water I already have  3 gallons of blackberry mash.  This is going to be the best blackberry wine EVER!
Our garden came in so quickly and thoroughly this year that harvesting all the beans has happened and the bed replanted with winter vegetables.
Yup! Its very harvest season around  here.  I have been canning and pickling with a vengeance with lots more to come.  AS I sit here writing this, I am munching on homemade bread slathered with butter and homemade raspberry jelly.
Jimmy's Mom and sis are coming labor day weekend. I think I will enlist them to help with the  food preservation.  I am always trying to figure out   fun activities  when they visit and The mindset is on  touristy places.  I think this time we will just stay home and   practice sustainable living!  This comes from my initial thought of  "OMG how am I going to get all of this done with company here?!?".  It was Jimmy's suggestion to  " put 'em to work".  Jimmy is very excited this year about canning season.  He finally got a good crop of chili peppers (hard to grow on this side of the mountains).  He plans on making his own hot sauce.  We discussed ideas and plans for it over dinner last night.  So, while they are here we will be making even more raspberry jelly.  Grannys Texas chow chow is on the  task list ....    Recipe is here

This might not seem like a lot to do, but each project will take a whole day.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Smelly lifestyle, Squirrel King, Trying to keep up.

I'm a terrible blogger!  I just realized how long it has been since I last blogged.  But, please don't feel bad. I have been  so busy I haven't socialized  more than minimally all summer.   We've been crazy busy.  When Jimmy and I aren't working real jobs we are trying to keep up around here.  All this beautiful warm weather has turned our garden into a paradise ...a paradise  with weeds and slugs .  Daily watering has been imperative to the survival of our squash.  I changed out the herb garden this spring  to see if I could get some high sun veggies to grow and it worked. We are getting huge winter and summer squash plants.  I like yellow crookneck squash and have never had much success with it until this year.  Because of the sun and  high temps our tomatoes  are  5 feet high and the vines are so laden with fruit they are in danger of breaking.    Our cool weather  crops like snow peas and broccoli have not done well this year.  They are doing ok but not the bumper crops we have had in the past.
The berries this year have been glorious.  My freezer is full of raspberries waiting for Little Sister's canning visit in a couple of weeks.  My beets were a fail again this year so I will be buying beets  next month to pickle..
Jimmy and I have been trying to outsmart the squirrel population this summer.  In the past the squirrels have decimated the plum trees before   the plums were fully ripe.  This year Jimmy and I  have been outside, in the dark, with a flashlight,  picking the green plums and putting them in dark boxes to ripen.     We are doing it in the dark because we have limited daylight hours to garden with.  In fact we have done much gardening by flashlight this year.  Everything is ripening early this year.  Also,  the  Squirrel King is asleep at night so he isn't pelting us with plums!  Yes, the Squirrel King is a warrior squirrel  that will fight for his lands and clan.  aerial bombings are his specialty  whether its Jimmy and I picking plums or the cat climbing the hazelnut tree.  I've  even seen him pelting pine cones at the dog just for fun.  I have a plan.  This year I'm asking santa for the biggest supersoaker on the market.  Next year I'm going to engage him in open combat!  No more guerilla fighting for me. Because we are losing!   The chicken population has outgrown  the coop we so lovingly made 6 years ago so  DD and her  squeeze are coming in august to  help turn half of the barn into the new chicken house.  DD gave me an update on Gannicus who went to live  with her squeeze.  We had to let him go.  Liberace, the  flamboyant  rooster was beating the crap out of him every day...all day.  Gannicus held his own pretty well but he  was starting to show serious signs of wear.  He is now in a place where he is the only rooster with his own flock of girls that  he lovingly cares for and DD reports that he recently became a father. 
The worlds tiniest rooster Arnie is  still on my dumpling list but, Jimmy is standing firmly between  the tiny little  thug and the chopping block.
And then there's Marlowe.  Our itsty bitsy rescue puppy has grown  in stature and confidence.  His coat is full and luxurious and he now regards   all of us as his property.  He has lost all vestiges of  'baby doll' and has turned into a real dog.  All 5  pounds of him  is noble, aware and  alert.  He still has some separation  anxiety issues   but, even those are going away.  He tries to get in the car with us when we need to leave.  So, we recently took him on two trips with us  where he had to be in the crate most of the day and be on a leash.  Both times he was supremely glad to get home again.   Now he's not so quick to want to go with us when we leave.  And he is almost completely housebroken.  I might  even be able to have company before the end of the summer without the house smelling like dog accident.
Jimmy and I have been very self conscious about visitors this summer.  The house has been scruffy.  We try not to have visitors with environmental sensitivities because our house is an allergy attack  waiting to happen.  16 chickens, two cats, a dog,a turtle,  drying herbs hanging in the kitchen, various houseplants and lots of  smelly cleaning  chemicals,  Linseed oil and other art accoutrements that stink.  I have an attachment to  incense and  scented  candles to cover up the less pleasant odors that go with our  lifestyle..  So, we are not shunning our sensitive friends ... We are trying to save their lives.
Jimmy and I have accepted that our lifestyle is smelly.   

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Garden is in, chick dispersal, safety first

Garden is finally planted and  secured with bird netting.   We had to take a trip to   the gardeners disneyland : 'Flowerworld' ,  just a little north of us in Maltby because we never got around to getting our starts going.  Flowerworld is great fun.  Its acres and acres of plants, trees and garden gewgaws.  We picked up all of our squash and cucumber starts and  some rosemary, tarragon and thyme for the new herb bed.    We realized that the herb bed  that we put in  two years  ago was a prime spot for high sun veggies. A month ago we moved all the herbs and conditioned the bed in readiness for squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes..   We built up one of the beds that I have been struggling with since we moved in.  The struggle?... Creeping buttercup.  Its on the WA state noxious weed list and I know why. We put down gardeners felt  and raised it up by a foot.  Hopefully  that will keep it at bay while my beets gain a foothold.  With everything in the ground, we just need the sun to come out. 
  I anxiously await the first meal of the season  that comes completely of our own efforts. 
The salmon berries are slow  to  ripen this year. I'm pretty sure its because of the lack of warm sunny days.  I'm afraid the raspberries will all come in at once like they did last year.  I really need that 6 week slow ripening to be able to process them all.
At some point over the next month I need to take little sisters advice and hang a gazillion  cd's in the plum trees to discourage the squirrels.   I would like to actually get some plums this year.  Its been a while since I made plum wine and I'm really  wanting a glass of the good stuff.
The new chicks update.  I put up an add on craigslist     
So far I've had a few responses.  There has got to be a better way.  Everyone responding  has a paranoid note to their emails.      I'm pretty sure only two of the respondents actually read the whole add.       Oh well, hopefully I will get the leghorns I want before this season is over!
In the meantime, I need to clean the garden shed.  I was in there looking for something yesterday and was almost buried under a cave-in.  Safety First!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Godfather, East Coast language, Mystic Cedars Menagerie, Photos Finally

The Godfather visit went well!  Whew!   And I learned to speak East Coast.  Before the visit I didn't even know that the east coast had a language completely different from ours.   The first two days the Godfather was here I  only understood  about 1/2 of what he said.    Jimmy's Mom has the east coast accent but she has been living on the west coast for the the last 40 years.  It wasn't until the Godfather and Jimmy's mom were in the same room and talking to each other  that I realised that they were speaking a different language.   We did the usual Seattle first timers visit to Pike Place and Pioneer Square.  Every few blocks The Godfather would bark "What are we doing here?"      At first I thought he was unhappy and unimpressed with the local flavor.  But by the end of the day I  figured out that a barked "What are we doing HERE?" is east coast for  'I'm lost and turned around', 'how far away is lunch?'  'Where are we going next" 'What's that smell?' 'Why are those kids running around unsupervised?' 'Is everything in Seattle UP the hill?'  and 'I'm tired, I want to go home.'   Jimmy's Mom  understood what he was asking every single time by listening to his intonation and following  his line of sight. .  In a loud and barky way  it was a very subtle form of communication that the east coasters  must have developed to  live in the density   of  New York.  You can say anything, anytime about any activity and only  the person or people you direct the phase too know what you are talking about.   I also learned that  "Don't worry about it! " means everything from  'I already printed the boarding passes' to  'I'm going stab you in the eye if you say one more word.'  Yep, very interesting linguistics education I got  this week.
The Mystic Cedars  animal population was very popular this week.  No one was bored.  The Godfather is an award winning photographer and spent a lot time  photographing our menagerie.
Jimmy's Mom spent a good amount of time playing with  Marlow, the newest edition.   Much commenting was made concerning his emerging  personality.  Marlow has ceased completely being a toy.  He is a full fledged dog or I should say Dog.   He no longer spends his days  on any one's lap or wrapped in a blanket.   We had several beautiful warm days this week and he took complete advantage of them. He ran the yard, chased the chickens,  greeted everyone that walked by the fence and bounced everywhere he went.  Then we had the inevitable rainy day and he pouted and sulked in the house.  The Godfather  and Jimmy's Mom were very worried about him and thought he must be sick.  He had so much energy all week long  and now "he's just laying there looking so sad and unhappy".   I couldn't convince them that he was just pouting...and then  it stopped raining and  warmed up. He jumped up and took off running.   They just watched him and smiled.  Altogether it was a great visit.

Blogger will finally let me post photos  so here are some great shots taken by the Godfather


Blue Laced Red Wyandotte chicks and one strange.  Naturally nested

Rare Blue Laced Red Wyandotte chick. One week old

Blue Laced Red Wyandotte Rooster . Rare

Michaeletto The Assassin  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Naturally nested chicks,The Godfather, Saved by DD

With  chickens  free ranging a whole acre its sometimes  easy to lose track of one.  Which I did. One of my hens surprised me  on Monday.  I found her in the  brush behind the barn crawling with babies.  9 of them.   9 perfect healthy chicks.   How she managed to  set for 21 days  outside the coop and pen without being eaten by  opossum, raccoons, the giant owl that lives in the tree by the barn or other predators is beyond me.  But there they were Monday morning.  She was cooing and the chicks were happily peeping.   I couldn't leave them there because all that chick activity is just a signal to the cat that lunch is ready.  I had to get the clippers and cut my way to her.  She was buried deep under  blackberries, english ivy, tall grass  and a butterfly bush.  It took about a half an hour just to get to her and then the fun started.  Picking up the first baby was easy but then she realized what I was doing and promptly set out to kill me.  While she tried to kill me her  young scattered in every direction.  It took  three trips to the  temporary coop that I set up for her but, I finally had them all. Then I decide to catch her  so I could put her in with the babies.  Error in judgement occurs here.  Putting  my own safety first  I decided to shoo her into the pen and I hoped  when she heard her babies she would go to them.  It worked. She did.  I opened the  small pen and she ran right in.    Much cooing and happiness followed.  They are adorable. And they will be adorable for the next 6 weeks. Then... they will be chickens.   More.....chickens.  Anybody want a couple of very cute rare breed, naturally nested  chickens?    Blue laced red wyandottes are a rare breed and very expensive and YOU can have them for free.     Seriously, I didn't expect  that any of my hens would go broody let alone set on a clutch all the way to hatching.  The broody attribute has been bred out of most of the chickens we have in the united states.  
Little Mammas timing was awful. I am in the middle of painting the upstairs  because  THE Godfather is coming and Jimmy is freaked out. Its his Godfather's first visit and Jimmy wants to make a good impression.  Jimmy is working so most of the crap work to get ready for this visit falls to me.  I  finally called DD on Monday and asked for help putting the  house back together.  She came up yesterday and worked like a whirlwind to get two bedrooms cleaned and 5 huge bookshelves moved.    I did one room in the time it took for her to do two.    The bookshelves  HAD to be moved because when we pulled the  giant glassed book case, that came with the house, away from the wall, we discovered a second intake  vent behind it that was completely clogged and useless.  We think maybe that is why the central heat hasn't worked right since we moved in.  Sheesh.
I am a very lucky  woman to have a daughter that will drop everything to come rescue her Mom.  And rescue she did.  I would be in  tears  right now and probably chasing Jimmy around the yard with a  hatchet if she  hadn't shown up.  Thanks to her all is well right now.  I still have to get all the curtains washed and rehung and standard   'company's comin'" scrubbing to do... but the big crazy furniture moving part of it is done.
If I didn't have so much  work to do right now, I would be sitting in the chicken pen  admiring the babies. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

New dog, rib bone battle, too cute for words

15 chickens, 2 cats, a 22 year old  turtle and now a dog.  Marlowe joined us  a month ago.  He's a 7 month old Chipin.  Half Min Pin half Chihuahua.  We didn't get him from a shelter but he is still a rescue dog.  He was  a birthday gift to a teenage girl who kept him in a crate in her room and   got tired of him and just ignored him.  One day her Mom got fed up with the situation and just opened the door and put him outside ...forever.  One of DD's  friends found him and took him in but couldn't keep him. So DD  decided he would be the perfect dog for our little micro farm.   She was right.  When he arrived at our  house he was under weight and terrified.  He spent  a good deal of his time  burrowed under a blanket in his puppy bed.  He had a couple of bald spots and  was barely eating.  He was afraid to go outside alone. (When he did go outside , his feet were so tender  that  he had a hard time walking).  He was always glued to a human.  Now lets fast forward a month.  The bald spots are gone and his coat shiny.  He has put on enough weight that his ribs are no longer showing.  He has built up  some nice muscle mass (enough that he can now  jump on all the furniture).   When it is not raining, he spends all day  running at break neck speeds all over the yard and runs the fence barking at strangers that come by.  He is no longer mincing when he walks  because his feet have toughened up.   He still snubs his nose at his puppy chow  but part of that is because our household is treat heavy. There is food aplenty  all day long.  He really prefers  canned dog food but we are NOT  going to go there.  Canned food is a treat for the dog and cats and is used when  medicinals must be applied!   Adorable  and spoiled he may be, but some boundaries must be drawn.    He has gone from being a shaking little cuddle bug to being a real dog.  He refuses his sweater now and has started sleeping without blankets .  He now curls up on whatever carpet  on the floor  that is not claimed by a cat.  He's made friends with the young cat Mickey and gives the old cranky cat Drusilla a wide berth.  He has learned a handful of commands and  has begun shepherding the chickens.  He may even keep Arnie (the tiniest rooster in the world) out of the soup pot.  We had a friend over yesterday and when Arnie charged the friend... Marlowe went to work and put Arnie in his place quickly. He is fitting into the household nicely.  We do have some challenges with him.  We are retraining him to do his business outside ( he was puppy pad trained).  He is a big eyed beggar.  He pouts magnificently  when he doesn't get his way.  A few days ago I was in the middle of cleaning some closets and he wanted my undivided attention.  I didn't give it to him so he peed on the floor in front of me... looking me in the eye.  Belligerence will not be tolerated even from the cutest and newest member of the household so, he was firmly,  verbally reprimanded and put outside for ten minutes with the door closed in his face.  When I let him back in ...he went straight to his bed and pouted for a full 24 hours.  He snubbed me at every chance and gave Jimmy all his attention while glaring at me.    For those of you who say 'maybe he wanted your attention so you would let him outside"  I respond : The door was open and he had been running in  and out all day.  It was a calculated  act of defiance by a very smart animal.  That day he learned  that cute will only take you so far and  mom will only smile indulgently  when you are not being an ass.
Challenges aside he is very lovable and entertaining.   I wish I had had my phone available to video record  when he and Gannicus  got into a tug of war over a rib bone in the compost pile.  Gannicus won the first round by pecking Marlow on the back side and sending him running and  yelping into the black berries , which of course, made for more yelping.   Gannicus, being a chicken, has a short attention span and soon  wandered off.  Marlowe  swooped in, grabbed the rib bone and ran for the house. For those of you who say "Oh My God ! You let your puppy get  pecked by a rooster!" .  I respond : Marlowe has a responsibility to develop  his own workable relationships  with everyone else  who lives here.  That means  respecting  the boundaries of  others and understanding that  crossing some boundaries will get you  time-outs or pecks on the butt.  I love that he is healthy, happy, energetic  and secure enough now to test boundaries.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

hatching chicks, candling chicks, happy niece

I successfully hatched some eggs for my  niece.  Sort of.  Here's the story.  I acquired (thank you DD) a small digital incubator that is digitally controlled.  I still need to  turn the eggs but, it controls the temp and most important... the humidity.  I chose my eggs carefully and treated them with all due respect.  I was all ready to  put them in the incubator and begin when we discovered that one of the wyandottes  had gone broody and was sitting on a nest behind the barn.  We couldn't have that because she was out in the open and exposed to predators.  So we cut all the foliage with clippers (she buried herself good) Moved her and the eggs to a safe location and of course the broody fell off of her then.  She was sitting on 18 eggs , half of which were muddy  and not in good condition.  So, I took seven of the best, disinfected them and put them in the incubator.  At about day 8 the incubator began to stink...STINK.  I took out all the eggs and candled them.  One was not fertilized at all and had gone rotten  from the high temps.  I discarded it  and put the others back in.    At 14 days I candled again.  I was pretty sure I was doing it wrong because I couldn't see into the egg. It was too dark.  I learned later that I couldn't see because of the chicks inside.  Early in the morning ,the day before hatching was supposed to happen, I went to the kitchen to get my  injection of coffee and heard peeping sounds coming from  the table in the corner.  There inside the incubator lay one glorious, wet and exhausted chick.   I panicked because I didn't have my brooder together yet  and had nothing to feed them.  I grabbed Jimmy and we flew to the feed store to get supplies.   We were home by 9 am.  There was no need for panic because chick #2 didn't show up til 1 pm and #3  came along at almost 5 pm.  #4  wouldn't make an appearance until 7 am the next morning.   Something was wrong with #3 .  She had a flat spot on the side of her head and she didn't dry out and try to walk for over twenty four hours.    Once inside the brooder we felt sorry for her as the other chicks  stepped on  her, rolled on her, rolled her over, bumped her and moved her around .  We expected to wake up to a dead bird on day 3 but, when we checked on her in the morning she was dry, walking unsteadily and eating and drinking with the help of the other chicks.  She wobbled around for about three days and we thought she was going to make it.  Then one afternoon she just lay down and stopped breathing. 
The other two eggs in the incubator never hatched. I gave them three extra days and  when they started to smell I knew it was the end.  Before discarding them I opened the eggs to see what happened.  They were the equivalent of breech birth.  Their little heads were at the wrong end of the egg where there was no air.  Out of 6 fertilized eggs, I got three chicks.  I'm sure I would have had better results if I had gone with my original 7 eggs instead of   deciding to go with the eggs the hen was sitting on in the bushes.
When they were 6 days old I sent them to my niece via DD who was a sweetheart  about transporting them for me.  She lightly commented on how she didn't want her pristine car to smell like mine.  Yes, my car smells of livestock, feed, vegetables and dirt .  Its why I drive my 14 year old workhorse.   I don't cringe when stuffing a load of lumber  through the trunk into the back seat or when I'm hauling a quarter cord of firewood or when I have so many  bags of planting soil in my car that I scrape bottom  going over speed bumps.
Upon arrival my niece was delighted and promptly named them all.  I got a call from  the Brother- in- law the next day telling me two of the chicks were cocks. He kept repeating the word "Cocks".  I think he enjoyed using a word that in any other context would be considered profanity.  I could hear the grin in his voice every time he said it.    I assured him they were too young to tell yet.  He was insistent because two of them are larger and have different coloring.  I let him have his way and said  'fine, I just gave you two chicken dinners!".  He then related that he wanted Rhode Island Reds.  That I have!  This Easter Sunday he will be taking possession of three laying hens.   

Monday, April 7, 2014

Curing and smoking meat, new rescue puppy

Jimmy and I are officially the proud owners of a rescue puppy.  Tea cup chiuaua/ Min Pin.   Yea ...I know...... but this one is different.  He doesn't yap.  When I say he  doesn't yap, I mean this is the quietest dog on the planet except when he is giving an alert.  He has integrated into the household quickly.  He figured out by day 2 that I don't want the chickens  on the top side of the house and he herds them into the back.  He's working on his relationship with Mickey , the newest  cat and has seen fit to avoid Drusilla  the 14 year old cat who is about as cranky as cats come.   Its a good choice on his part.  I once watched her take on a black lab and send it yelping home to its embarrassed owner.   He's quiet , affectionate and well trained.   So far, no accidents in the house.    Jimmy and I had to talk long and hard about it before we took on the commitment.   The deciding factor was the food bill.  Its gonna cost  about $5 a month to feed him!
And now for the next exciting news.  My smoker should be here any day now.  I've been waiting for over 6 months to get this.  I  waited until the smoker I wanted went on sale  AND I had a %30 off coupon.  The timing had to be perfect. 
You all know that  Jimmy and I have been working towards being more self sufficient.  I learned to cook  everything from scratch.  Then we  learned how to grow our own food.   When you start growing your own food it becomes necessary to learn how to  preserve your own food.  I spent time learning how to can, pickle,  dry and make preserves.    I've done a good job  at getting down  the fundamentals of each  form of food preservation.  I only  have two left to learn, curing and smoking.   (I've left these two for last because they are  the scariest and have the greatest potential for disaster.)
Baby Sis  loaned me her meat grinder attachment for the kitchen aid so I can try my hand at summer sausages.   Yes, I could use my  hand grinder but its 2014 ,I have electricity so I'm going to use it.
All my herbs from last season are long dried  and sitting in jars so I'll be using my herb drying corner to hang sausages! 
I'm so excited to be trying something new.
After  curing and smoking..... my next new adventure will be cheese making!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Need a logger, brooding hen, million dollar idea, high tech digital incubator
The equinox has happened!  All kinds of spring things are happening at my house.   Jimmy  toted a few hundred pounds of chicken manure compost up the hill and spread it in the garden beds. One of my hens is brooding . I started 7 eggs in the high tech incubator that DD gave me  and the whole flock has been cleaning out the grass and weeds in the raspberry bed for me.  We moved the upcycled table and chairs out on the deck along with the  refurbed perfection  kerosene oil stove.
I'm starting to see cohesion in our new space and a semblance of routine.  Little buds are popping out everywhere. I expect a bumper crop of salmon berries this year  because of our vigilance with the hedger.  Its starting to look less and less like ma and pa Kettle live here.  Not sure the neighbors agree.   We have a couple of spaces in the yard that are covered with cardboard and several piles of brush that are waiting to be chipped.
I'm hoping that if we make it scruffy enough the general public will stop thinking that they have some rights  to the  property.  One cranky old guy with his 5 year old granddaughter came by with a bag of bread to  feed my chickens.  When I explained to him that the girls were  otherwise occupied, he got pissy with me and informed me  in his best haughty voice that 'SHE' wants to feed the chickens'.   Not really knowing how to respond to  his  attitude of entitlement.... I just walked off.  If I hadn't I would have yelled at him   "1. What makes you think its ok to feed MY chickens. 2. I don't care what your speshul snowflake angel wants... and you cant MAKE me care!"  
But the incident did remind me that I'm sitting on a million dollar idea.  Well....ok...50 or 60 dollars a month (enough to pay for chicken feed).  I need one of those  candy dispensers to put out by the fence line to put  scratch in .  That way all those folks who want to feed the chickens can give me 25 cents a tablespoon  to help with costs.  My general attitude is that if I have to put up with your will cost you money.  I found  one on amazon that I think would work.    So, if anyone has  one or more of these  tucked away in an attic or closet and you would be willing to  sell it to me cheap... please let me know.  I would also be willing to trade a basket of eggs, homemade jam, homemade soap, a hand made scarf or two....And if you are old enough ... a bottle of neglected fruit!

I'm also looking for  some strapping  logger to cut down a really old cherry tree over my garden beds  .  It no longer  produces viable fruit and just  creates a canopy  over the garden beds that block out much needed sunlight.  Oh and if  the logger  enjoys smoking meats they can keep what they cut down.  There will, of course,  be some payment of services involved  (I don't expect anyone to do it for free).
So, that is pretty much where I am in my spring process.     Lots of work to do  but it is starting to be fun again. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Secret garden, out door performance space, satyr plays, all hail Jimmy

I really wish google would let me post photos. I would show you what jimmy has been working on.   The back 5th part of our property was a surprise to us.  When we made the offer on the house we didn't know that the fenced in  area in the back came with it.  It was so over grown with blackberries , fallen trees and all sort s of other brush, we didn't know what it was.  After we moved in we  decide to trudge through it and to our surprise  we found a stream with a little wooden bridge and a duck pond , two apple trees, blueberries, roses, a  magnificent rhododendron, a grape arbor and much more.  All of it was being choked by  overgrowth.  In essence  we found a secret garden.  For the last two weeks Jimmy has been back there with the chainsaw and the hedger.  Last week the whole thing was one giant pile of  cut brush and blackberry vines and piles of  limbs from the fallen trees that he had cut up.  It got a little too quiet when he was working back there yesterday so I went to check on him (just to make sure I didn't need to call 911 over a chainsaw accident.).  I couldn't believe what he had accomplished.  He rolled out  a bunch of  gardening felt to make walking paths and then lined the paths with all the tree limbs he had cut up.  He had also dug out the stream bed so it wasn't a swamp but an actual running brook. He's planning on renting a chipper next month  and  pouring all the chips on the walking paths and in the clear area inside the paths.  I can see the little wonderland its going to be when he's done.  We have already picked out the  spaces for the statuary and  outdoor art to be placed.
The big reveal here is that when Jimmy and I first trudged through the mud back there  we ,of course,  thought it would make a beautiful outdoor performance space.  We also thought it would be five years down the road.
Yesterday we discussed  having our first performance in August....this August!
When I told Feral Jane about the performance space idea  last year, she suggested we begin with one of the Greek Satyr plays.  (think..ancient Greek burlesque).  They are only about twenty minutes long and would be perfect for a  summer  evening entertainment.
So, this is a casting call of sorts.  Of course we will need actors.  It would also be nice to  have a couple of musicians (acoustic only  until we can figure out how to get electricity back there)  maybe jugglers, dancers and  my favorite.... Fire eaters.     If you would like to be a part of one magical summer night  in a secret garden... Let me know, so I can get an idea of  what we need to put it together.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spanakopita recipe, Read the recipe, deflated kitchen pride

I have a facebook page.  And on this facebook page I have friends who post recipes. One friend posted a recipe for spanakopita.  In our multicultural, international cuisine kind of world ,I know you will find it shocking but, I have never had spanakopita. I didn't even know it existed.  ...Until   the friend posted a recipe for it and a photo.  I kept looking at it and going back to her page to find it, which was like  digging for treasure because she posts prolifically.  This speaks volumes for the quality of the photo that accompanied the recipe.   I'm not one of those folks that sees a picture of food and then MUST eat.  But this little Greek pie looked so appetizing that I had to make it.  Its made with phyllo dough so,  after work yesterday, I stopped at the  grocery store and dug through the freezer section until I found it because , if I had to make the dough , it wouldn't get done.
What's the point of this story ?    When one is trying a  whole new thing in the should thoroughly  read the recipe and directions.  I read the part about buttering the dough.  I buttered the bottom and the top.  Somehow I missed the part about buttering each thin layer of dough.  I carefully mixed the pie ingredients  to the exact proportions  and put them in the dish lined with phyllo, then covered them with phyllo, then buttered  the top.  I put  it in the oven on the required temp and left it the required time.  When I pulled the work of art out of the oven I called Jimmy into the kitchen to stand with me and admire the beauty  of my creation.  We  cut huge slices and sat down at the table ready to enjoy  my masterpiece.  I was all smiles and puffed up kitchen pride  and then we took the first bite.  It was like eating layer after layer of ...copy paper.  The lesson I took away from this?  Its was a very simple one.  Read the recipe... dumbass.  Yep, that's the big reveal. That's the moral of the story. Read the recipe.
You would think ,as someone who posts recipes and directions regularly,  I would have that simple part of the equation down.  Nope!
For anyone else who might like to try it, here is the link to the recipe.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Google broke blogger, Chicks with power tools, perfect valentines day present, blackberry down

I have been trying to post this blog for a week now and have been unable to  get photos to download.  I have been through all the  'helps' and quite frankly have concluded that they are amelioration BS.  A few months ago, Google broke blogger.  Their answer to  frustrated bloggers who cant upload photos or get the buggy  banner on their  overview page that says 'browser unsupported' is to  make  the people seeking  help jump through a whole lot of pointless hoops   just to wind up back at the beginning  with blogger still broken.  The upside for Google is the time  you have jumped through all their  fiery hoops and followed  all their dead end  rabbit trails......... ya just don't give a shit anymore and stop trying.... so they don't have to deal with you.  I give up... they win.
I'm just gonna post what I have and be done with it.

When you are a backyard farmer,  Valentines Day romance  morphs into something  strange and wonderful.  Jimmy bought me a really good hedger because I had been complaining that  cutting blackberries with my organic and quiet hand tools  was just too hard on my poor recovering hands.   The day before VD he came home with it in the trunk of the car and was worried that I wouldn't like it.  He was afraid that I would have preferred flowers or candy or jewelry.  Don't get me  wrong...I love flowers, candy and jewelry but,  I'm hard wired to  love power tools as well.
We pulled it out started it up and fifteen minutes later the blackberries that were back and threatening to swallow our beautiful vegetable beds  ...were gone.   Ok... the roots still need to be dug out but, that's the easy part.  I'm  just grateful that it only took fifteen minutes to do, with the appropriate power tool,  what it took me a month to do  by hand  when we first moved in.
15 minutes wasn't enough with my new toy so I also tackled some of the   other overgrown areas in the yard.  I whacked my way through the property for about an hour before deciding it was time to quit because  I still had another hour left of cleaning up everything I had  cut down.
Jimmy said I looked very sexy  wielding a deadly power tool.  He's so sweet and what a sweet valentines day  thing to say!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Artisan red cabbage recipe for canning, Rooster vs man,

So, I'm thinking about taking one of those  "blog every day" challenges.   The two things holding me back are 1. I'm not sure I have that much to say. 2. To blog everyday I would have to seriously  go off-topic for info.  Should I?  Shouldn't I?  You tell me, cuz you guys are the ones that read this stuff.  And now on to Artisan lifestyle stuff.  We ate the last jar of  red cabbage from last years harvest.   Note to self: 8 jars isn't enough to get us through the whole season.  Jimmy's mom gave me the recipe for this years ago and I have been canning  it for about 5 years.   The basic recipe goes like this:

Artisan Red Cabbage recipe:

1 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2  granny smith apple, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive  oil
1 tablespoon  brown sugar
1/4  cup white vinegar or  apple cider vinegar

Mix together the  butter, olive oil,   brown sugar  and vinegar in a skillet and heat to medium high.  When butter is melted add vegetables and saute until onions turn clear.

 When I can this, I leave out the butter and add extra vinegar.   I water bath it for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Because I add so much extra vinegar, the cabbage needs to cure for about 6 weeks  before it stops tasting like a vinegar bomb. I have no idea what kind of scientific-y chemistry thing goes on in that jar  after it is sealed and sanitized,  but it becomes  pretty yummy and the cabbage, apples and onions stay  fairly crisp. 
Cabbage goes a long way. Each head of cabbage makes  about 8 1/2 pint  jars, which is perfect for two people.

On a completely different note... I'm not sure  if I should interfere with Jimmy's relationship with the worlds tiniest rooster.  Jimmy went outside to do some yard work a couple of days ago and  I watched out the window.  Arnie followed him all over the yard  pecking  at  the back of Jimmy's shoe.    Jimmy ignored him for a while and just cut his blackberries.   Arnie kept pecking at the back of his leg.  After a while  Jimmy  turned  around, knelt down and started hand wrestling with him.  Arnie was beside himself with joy,  jumping up and down  and   chest puffing and squawking and flapping his wings..  Jimmy  finally got tired of the game and stood up.  Arnie just stood there for second  waiting .  When Jimmy went back to cutting blackberries...Arnie    just wandered off and joined the rest of the flock.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunshine in Seattle, Tiny attack rooster, January garden prepping,

This is the follow up to my CFL rant.  Friday was beautiful, warm, dry and sunny here in the Puget Sound.  Jimmy and I got brave enough to wander outside where we  sort of cleaned out the barn and then stacked a load of firewood in there.  We rewarded ourselves  with a cup of coffee on the porch.  While we were on the porch I  casually started  cleaning out one of the flower containers I was sitting next to.  Then I cleaned the next one.   Then I noticed how scraggly the honeysuckle was looking and went and got the clippers and trimmed it down.    And suddenly we were in gardening mode.  We wandered over to the vegetable beds and started cleaning and turning them. All 16 chickens were following us around  and as we pulled old stems and vines from the beds  they came behind us and turned over the soil.  We dumped last years garden containers into the vegetable beds  and stacked them neatly.  We did a bunch of little things that we should have done last fall.  Altogether we were working outside from 10 am to about 3 pm.  I should have been too tired to go to class but I was energized and ready  to jump around on stage.  Its amazing what a little light can do for the constitution.  The most amazing thing?  Jimmy and I did it all  without one single argument!  We  managed to agree on our garden plan for this coming spring.  Its going to be great!  Jimmy got a chainsaw  from DBB for Christmas.  Which means there will finally be sufficient light over the vegetable beds We also agreed  to move the herb garden and put high sun vegetables there.    Old Mrs McDougal had flowers in every sunny spot in the yard.  They are all coming up and  vegetables are going in.  The first year we moved in we didn't have enough time to get everything  in place that we wanted and we didn't really understand  when , where and how our sunlight would move around.  Last year Jimmy and I had completely different ideas on what need to be done and how it needed to be done.  So, mostly last spring and early summer, we bickered and argued and nothing got done.   We have finally reached a middle ground and I think this year will go smoothly (as smooth as it can for the two of US).  We have identified that part of our problem when it comes to working together to get things done is that we are both artists with artistic temperaments.   Which wouldn't be a problem except that we have completely different aesthetics.  He thinks linear. I think circular. He thinks everything has to be connected to everything else. I think every thing  should have its own little space. He thinks big picture. I think  four square feet at a time.  He thinks water hoses are ghetto . I think water hoses are a brilliant invention.  I think Arnie (the tiniest rooster in the world) is obnoxious.  He thinks Arnie is entertaining.    He thinks its funny that Arnie charged the Fed Ex guy.  I think its time for chicken soup.   See why we  bicker over everything?
But, this year there is hope.  We have met in the middle over most of our  gardening  needs.  The ones we just cant seem to agree on we have split up.   Some  parts of the garden are mine and some parts are his. By agreement we leave each others private space alone.  Arnie stays out of the freezer that way.  I gave Arnie to Jimmy early on because he was the fourth rooster to emerge and destined for the soup pot.   Like all things tiny and spunky.... Jimmy fell in love with him.    I cant say that I will stay completely out of his relationship with Arnie..... Cuz if the Fed Ex  guy refuses to deliver  again.......? 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sitting in the dark, CFL's suck, cant get anything done in the dark, energy saving light bulbs

I would love to say "Sorry I haven't blogged in a while" But that wouldn't be entirely true. I have  blogged several times since my last post.  Some of them I haven't even finished before hitting delete. Some of them have been complete with spellcheck  and instead of hitting post, I hit delete.  This personal phenom is not confined to my  half-assed writing.  I went into the studio,  set up everything I needed for a piece I've been percolating on for a while. I stood there , brush in hand and then...just couldn't do it.  I started to set up the finished antique bed in the bedroom, hit a minor glitch and then just couldn't do it.  Tried to finish some of those handmade Christmas gifts that didn't get done before the holidays because of time constraints , and just couldn't do it. Tried to  make some more of Grannys  plaster fish and just couldn't do it.   This isn't ennui.  That's a completely different thing.  When I'm running with a bout of ennui everything feels pointless and my brain goes to that existential place that I visit every so often.     This is something else.  These are simple tasks.  They are not life journey,   epiphanal, fate hangs in the balance, turning point in the road of life, sorts of things.    Maybe its just because last year was so  crazy busy  and now that I have down time  ALL of me wants a vacation.  Or maybe I just want to do something new.  Or maybe not.  Or maybe..... 
 I'm tired of sitting in the dark.  I realized over the holidays that I HATE CFL's.  I can see how they save energy.  They don't put out enough light to keep an able bodied grown-up awake.  It gets pretty dark and gray here, in the frozen wasteland of the Pacific Northwest , around the solstice.   Good lighting  is essential to performing tasks for about 4 months  out of the year.  We are almost completely CFL in our household    And we are saving tons of energy because ...well.... its to hard to do stuff in the dark.   I'm tired of walking into a room , turning on the light, and then having to wait 10 minutes before I can see anything.  I want my incandescents back.  I want light in my house so I can get things done.    I especially want  to be able to see in my kitchen.  My kitchen miiiiight be 8x10 .  There are three light fixtures and the  stove light in there.  AND its still a dark cave.  I feel like I'm going spelunking every time I walk in there. 
Somebody please tell me there is a black  market for outlawed light bulbs.  And then someone please tell me who the dealer is because I'm tired of sitting in the dark and doing nothing.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lessons in neglect, not poison, message in a bottle, the 2014 benevolent neglect plan

A lesson in Neglect:  The first summer we moved in, I was overwhelmed by raspberries.  So, I made jelly  and more jelly and  infused raspberry vinegar. I also made 5 gallons of raspberry wine with the intent of turning it into vinegar.  I  didn't do anything right with this wine.  I put it in a corner of the guest room, wrapped a blanket around it and forgot all about it. I never racked it off, so it sat on top of its own sediment for a year.       A couple of times  I noticed the aerator was dry and once I noticed that the aerator wasn't even on it.   About four  months ago I noticed the aerator was missing and  because I couldn't find it, I just put some plastic wrap  on the  top. I found the aerator under one of the dressers two days later. I'm pretty sure it was  used as a cat toy. Around the beginning of December I was cleaning the guest room for holiday company.  I decided that I needed to get rid of the  neglected mess.  I huffed it into the kitchen and put it on the counter next to the sink with the intention of pouring it out and scrubbing the carboy for use in 2014.  That curious part of me decided to taste it first , just to see what kind of  disaster had been brewing in the back bedroom.   I sloshed it into a glass  and  took a tiny sip (just in case it had turned into poison).  What passed my lips made my eyes  water... with tears of joy.  The failure I had expected was manna from heaven.  Smooth, sweet, full bodied raspberry  wine that  IS  nirvana on the tongue.
I just stood there frozen  with shock. How did this happen without my tender care and nurturing attention? What did I do wrong that was so right?  And then I thought (because its how my brain works).  Is this a message from the gods?  Am I over nurturing too many things in my world?  Can some of my many failures this year be attributed to trying to hard?
I  struggled very hard in 2013 with the  'wall of no'  that has been surrounding me.  It smacked me in the face in  every direction I turned.    At the beginning of Nov, filled with manic frustration , I finally just sat down with ten years of stargate SG1 and about two dozen unfinished crochet projects.  None of which are finished because I would crochet two rows,   feel frustrated and bored and put it down and pick up another one hoping that it would satisfy that need to do SOMETHING, to complete SOMETHING,  to feel accomplished at SOMETHING.  nope.  So I just sat there quietly pissed off.   Jimmy started to get worried, he started making comments and offering suggestions that might get me moving again. Then he started to treat me like I had a bad case of the flue. 'can I make you some soup? ' he would say or 'can I get you another blanket? Would you like me to open the curtains?'  He brought me the cat to pet and called me to the window to watch the 'cute and funny' antics of the chickens.  I just smiled and nodded , said thankyou when appropriate and went back to being quietly pissed.  Then I tasted the wine that should have been part of my great wall  of no.  
Did I have an epiphany? Not sure.  Did I get some clarity?  Maybe but, its a myopic clarity at best.  Can I move forward now? I don't even know what that is anymore.  Seriously...forward? What does that mean? Did the  wine tell me I should  be looking at other areas of my life that I have neglected to find satisfaction?  I did that and discovered that there hasn't been much neglect anywhere. I've been  right there ,in the moment, present with everything I've done.  I've paid attention to every detail and made it a point to jump through every fiery hoop placed in front me. And here I am.
I'm choosing to believe that the universe sent me a message in a bottle. The full message appears to be in code so it will take some time to decipher it.  But even I cant miss: Back off! Leave it alone! Good things happen when you are not looking. 
So, benevolent neglect  will be my  theme for 2014.  I'm  gonna slow way down and turn my attention away from doing everything right.  I'll do what needs to be done to keep things from completely dying off , but the hyper attention I  have been giving to every detail stops today.

Thank you.

 Now I'm gonna go have a glass of raspberry wine.