Friday, November 20, 2015

Fallout 4 interupted , baby chicks, Meatballs and pasta sauce

Three new chicks  joined our family on the 4th of November.  No brooder needed! Mamma is taking  good care of them. They are the product of  a wyandotte daddy and a leghorn mom.  They were all  fluffy and mostly white with some yellow tufts on them. Adorable.   It will be interesting to see what color eggs they lay in the spring.  Feral Jane came for a visit and tried to get photos of them but Mom is  camera shy and kept the chicks under her  when the camera was out. 
Feral Janes  visit was very productive. A few months ago she was  cleaning out a closet for her Mom and found  the original (Italian)  family recipe for  pasta sauce and meatballs.  We spent the two days she was here making the sauce and the meatballs. While the sauce was simmering for hours, we made  homemade ravioli.  And of course .... the chatter.  Feral Jane and I have been friends since Jr high. We have never... ever lacked for topics of conversation.   The recipe for meatballs,   after everything is added, comes out to about 3  pounds of meatballs.   That's a lot of meatballs.  Or it should have been.   We were all surprised at how quickly they disappeared.  Almost a quarter of them were  gone  before dinner was even ready.  Jimmy  kept pausing fallout 4  to come up and snipe  meatballs. He seemed to have uncanny timing for knowing exactly  when they were coming out of the pan.
Fallout 4 must be pretty good. Jimmy had a near breakdown when the power went out for 30 hours in the middle of the game. We have been living in our little haven north of Seattle  for almost 4 years now and we know when the electricity goes out (and we are trapped in the house) that we are some of the last ones to get power back on.  We are pretty prepared  for the eventuality... lanterns, candles, camp stoves, firewood, old school transistor radio and plenty of propane  for cooking easy meals and boiling water to do the dishes with.   We can do  three to five  days on our own  easily. Usually  no power is a very relaxing time around here. We read or play cribbage in front of the fire and of course we break into  the good stuff  to keep away the  'ague'.  This time not so relaxing..... Jimmy was half way through fallout 4  when the juice  was cut off.   He spent 30 hours  not wanting to build fires or  relax into  the  'no power' routine  that we have developed over the years. He was convinced  for thirty hours that the power would be back on in 15 minutes so  'we   don't need to bring in firewood because the power will be back on in 15 minutes"  "We don't need to dig out the stored propane because the power will be back on in 15 minutes"  His hopeful little heart almost gave me hypothermia.    I finally resorted to the car.  He  found me and the dog  sitting in the nice warm idling car ...charging my phone.  He crawled into the car with us and put the ( no longer shaking from cold) dog on his lap.   We chatted amiably for a few minutes and  then he figured it out "you're not getting out of the car  until I build a fire ...are ya?".  For those of you who  know Jimmy well, I don't need to explain that he had to come to this on his own. For those  who don't know him.... yes, I am capable of bringing in firewood and  yes, I can build a mean  fire.  I don't need  him or his permission to do it.    What I do need is the peace and quiet that comes with his acceptance and compliance.     I couldn't have him thinking that I had jinxed his 'the power will back on in 15 minutes" magical mantra chant.   And fire was built. He busied himself then  tending to said fire.  I started running a betting pool in my own head.  When the power comes back on will he pretend to be cool and  mosey down the stairs or will he jump up and take the stairs two at a time.   I 'm pretty sure I skewed the natural outcome by telling him of my internal betting pool.  He put odds on taking the stairs two at a time.  When the power came back on  though... he was cool.  He got  up from the fire, blew out the candles , turned off the lanterns and  let the dog out to do his business . Then  he stood at the top of the stairs and  gave me one last long look before descending gracefully into the bowels of the house.   I haven't seen him since.     

Saturday, October 24, 2015

New chicks, bee problem, raspberry nips, first fire

I cant believe its almost Halloween.  Where did 2015 go?   I'll figure it out later.
Right now I have a broody hen .... again.  A few  blogs ago I told you that I separated out the roosters and penned them up. I also told you that my leghorns started laying back in August.  A few weeks ago I caught one of the leghorns  going over the top of the barn to get into the rooster pen.  Now I have a wyandotte sitting on four fertile leghorn eggs. I should have taken them away from  her but I really want to see what the chicks are like.  I was worried that it is late in the year for chicks but professor internet assured me that the mamma  would take good care of them.   We will watch them carefully  anyway just to make sure. I didn't bury the brooder in the back of the barn after the spring chicks  used it so its within easy reach if needed.
I have a bee problem. I'm not sure what to do about it.  Two kinds of bees showed up this summer at mystic cedars.  The classic farmed bee, which I'm sure came from the   semi that spilled on 405  about 3 miles from our house , back in the spring.  I don't  know where their hive is  but its close.  Then, In the railroad tie retaining wall, in the back yard, there is a colony  which seems to be some sort of native bee.  The problem is with the retaining wall bees. 1. We cant have them breaking down the retaining wall. 2 . They are right above the potato bed and every time I try to dig potatoes , they swarm.  If  anyone has an old bee hive they are not using.... can I have it?.  I want to try to move them to the back of the property. I understand that if I put a  bee hive next to them and bait it, that they will move into it voluntarily.    I will also accept any advice  from beekeepers on how to deal with the situation without harming the bees.  I really have no idea what I am doing here. I just know that they are too close to the house (about 25 feet).
The house.  It smells really good right now because I just got the last of the herbs  in.  They are hanging in a corner of the kitchen drying..  I'm  way behind on winterizing the  property because I had the flu a couple of weeks ago  and it stopped my process cold.    When I started feeling better I got the upstairs fireplace  cleaned out and laid logs for the first fire of the season.  I'm just waiting for a cold enough evening to throw a match on it.      If I wait long enough I might even have a glass of  this years raspberry wine to go with it.  I have two 5 gallon carboys going right now. One blackberry. One raspberry.  I keep taking nips from the raspberry because its so tasty.  I realized this year that since we began our  'artisan lifestyle' that I really love autumn.  Yes the garden is gone  but we have such  yummy things around the house that came out of it. Jellies, wines, pickles, herbs and more.  Because this year  is so warm ,I am still getting a little bit of produce from the beds.  We are still enjoying a few  stray green beans, snow peas, potatoes and carrots.  
The light is leaving quickly now  so I am finding myself textiling more and more in the evenings. 
Yep, life is good at Mystic Cedars.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Nasty Cold, Apple Jack or Cider, Got things to do

Jimmy brought home a virus from his last job.  I'm on the tail end of it  but I sound so froggy that  even the dog  wont take me seriously.    I've got things to do. I don't have time for this!    I need to winterize  Mystic Cedars.  The tables on the  deck need to be taken down and stored for the  winter.   The living room needs to be re-arranged and the plants taken off the mantle so we can start using the fireplace again. Then there is more canning and more wine and cider making to  done.   You know those people who enjoy being sick because they love the attention (referencing Berliner's man-cold observations here)... I'm not one of them.  Being sick annoys me.  I lay around thinking about all the things I could be doing  if I felt like getting off the couch.  Damn you virus! Damn you!  But even on the couch, armed with Jimmy's foul tasting hoar hound tea, I've managed to work on some textile stuff. I finished a couple of bamboo scarves that I  like so much  I'm beginning to resent the intended recipients.  The half finished  rug that's been sitting in a corner untouched since April is now 3/4 finished.  I even picked up the guitar and  practiced a little. I can thank Dad for that. He bought me a guitar stand a couple of years ago so I can keep the instrument in sight.  He knows me so well. He knows that if its in a case under the bed, that's where it will stay.
I found myself wishing that I already had all the documents from  the King county archives that I have yet to retrieve.  This would have been a perfect week to do some writing.  I'm so close  to  having everything I need to put together   that I'm getting frustrated.  I can almost touch it and I'm getting eager to get to the  big reveal.  Jimmy is getting excited  now too. For the last four years he has listened to me go on and on about this project.  Now he wants to be a part of it. I made a deal with him two days ago : If he helps get the documents out of the archives, I will let him work on the script. Once we made the deal he was a flood of ideas.   Most of which I said 'no' too.  Breaking him of film school thinking isn't going to be easy.   He stared at me blankly  when I told him no 'ists' 'isms' or  'ians' will be allowed.   He keeps looking for context and I keep saying the  story is the context.  Jimmy and I are notorious  for our  creative arguments (it cant be helped when two  artists  marry).   I see a long drawn out one coming.   I'm sure  we will be yowling at each other , in front of the fire   this winter, over  how to present the material.   
But that argument will have to wait until the one over what to do with all the  mash I have started, gets  resolved. He wants to make apple jack. I want to make cider.     I  processed the apples so   you can start laying bets now on whether it be apple jack or cider ... or if we will come to a compromise (he did after all  prune the trees so that they would produce a few apples).

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Blackout fun, perked up garden, separating the boys from girls, chicken prison, I can keep a secret

This is the first quiet Sunday I have had in a while. At least its the first quiet  Sunday with electricity and internet.  The windstorm  last week took away  our electricity, internet and  phones for the weekend.  It was fabulous.  I prepped well for the storm because we live on a swamp,  in the semi country.   I meal planned  for stuff that could be easily done on a gas grill in the rain.  The day of the storm I decided loaded baked potatoes  was the best choice because potatoes can be thrown on the grill  and don't need to be  supervised in the rain.  I invited the neighbors to join us.  I got a great surprise when they  said yes and then said 'bring your potatoes to our house because we have steaks'.  They apologized because there was no salad or vegetables to go with it. Not a problem since I have a garden.  Jimmy and I  put together a bruschetta and dug into the wine closet to find a bottle suitable  for a dark and stormy night.  The one on top was bottle of 1995 salice salentino.  We  packed up our potatoes, bruschetta,wine and  a few extra candles and ran next door .  The neighbors were ready for us. Steaks  on their grill and a lovely mushroom and onion shish kabob AND chocolate cake.  We were delighted when  they brought out the antique  (wind up ) Victrola and started playing  music. It was  the kind of evening that makes me wish we could unplug more often!
And then the storm was over and we had a few days of rain.  Once again a  pleasant surprise... My desiccated garden perked up and began producing again.  It happened fast once  it had an abundant water supply.  The rain also helped my hens. The leghorns started laying this week.   And in answer to the  massive chickens hormones  everywhere, the barred rocks began producing double yolk eggs.
I had to take some desperate chicken action in August. It appeared they had all stop laying.... completely.  I didn't get any eggs for almost two weeks.  I knew the cannibal  was eating some of them but that didn't count  for the complete loss of all egg production.  Jimmy's mom was here during the no eggs time and she wanted to do some cooking so  we BOUGHT  eggs.  The day after we bought the eggs we found the broody hen , behind the barn, sitting on 2  dozen plus eggs.  So, now we know where they all went.  I decided that could no longer be  the benevolently neglectful chicken owner .  Wrangling must be done.  Sarah now Skyler, the transgender youth who keeps my coops clean was called in for extra duty.   Skyler scrubbed  and scraped  both coops  and put a roost in the old one for me.  I love that kid. Skyler  smiles and says ok to whatever I request.   When the cleaning was done and Skyler had skipped happily home  with a pocket full of well earned money, Jimmy and I put new lips on the nesting boxes in the big coop.  After dark we moved the two old reds, one of which is the cannibal, and the  two roosters to the small coop.  All the laying hens and the  two  pullets  were left in the big coop.  That was two weeks ago.   They have all been locked in their respective pens for two weeks.  The first three days of lock up  I got one egg.  I'm pretty sure it was the disruption  of routine that caused it.  This week though I am getting  eggs everyday.    For the last three days Jimmy has been prison advocate.  "When are you going to let them out?" my response?  When they start laying regularly and know where to lay.    His compassion  is making me feel guilty so  later this afternoon , when they have all had a chance to lay,  they can have some yard time.  The hens ,that is, can have some yard time.  The other four will stay penned up until we can make some decisions.  I am really enjoying  NOT being attacked by Arnie every time I go outside. I'm  also enjoying not hearing the hens running and screaming  several times a day because he is trying to take what isn't his.  I hate that chicken.  In case you  haven't heard me say it before. 
Darling Daughter came over for a visit yesterday.  This is a great accomplishment because she is working on something right now  that is pretty amazing and I am very proud of her.  I cant tell you what it is  because I have been sworn to secrecy until she is ready for the big reveal.  Its gonna be worth the wait though.   See DD...I CAN keep a secret !

Monday, August 17, 2015

Research excitement, gardening, winemaking, henna barter.

Most of you know that I have been working on a research project for a one woman show.  Up until now the research has all been computer assisted.  Pretty much anything you want to research is online these days. But now I am to the point in my research where I need documents to prove what I am saying. They are all down at the king county archives...on microfiche.   I'm old enough to remember when microfiche was   a really great tool  that helped speed  the research process .  Now , it is slow and labor intensive.   I realized last week that even  though Jimmy and  I are neo luddites  that we have been spoiled when it comes to getting the information we want. We think any and all information should be at our fingertips just  a second or two away.   Ask a question....get an instant answer.   I made one trip to the king county archives so far. Everything I need is there. I just need to get to it.  The archivists at King County are information badasses!   I walked up to counter on my first visit and  babbled a bunch of disorganized   word salad at the poor guy manning the desk.  He took a few seconds, organized everything I told him his head.... and gave me a place to begin.  He even explained to me how to read the  bureau of land management maps that I have been staring at, for the last two years, with glazed over eyes.  I have a new hero and a random thought crossed my mind  while he was being  both patient and genius... I need to get him and Feral Jane together in the same room.  They would be perfect for each other.  I haven't  tried to match make for FJ since jr. high school  so, this truly was a random thought in the process. I  retrieved enough info from the archive indexes to be able to put together a four page outline.  I read it to  jimmy and he said it sounded like a deposition.  That's a good thing , I think.  Its means the information is there.  Now I just have to build a show around it.  An interesting show.   In the meantime life goes on at Mystic Cedars.   My poor sad garden perked up significantly after  last Fridays deluge.   We may even get a few solid meals out of it before the weather turns cold.  It hasn't all been bad though.   My home canned goods cabinet is getting full. Tons of Jelly and I have my second  huge jar of cucumbers brining right now.  I'm hoping to get at least one more batch of pickling cucumbers  out of the garden before the season ends.
The second planting of the garden is doing so much better than the  first.  The new pole beans I  planted are shooting up and we should get a really good crop from them as long as it doesn't snow in September.  
Here is an FYI for Baby Sis. The Blackberry wine is in the first  ferment and  is bubbling vigorously.  We should be getting a minimum of five gallons out of it. Now I just need to keep it warm.  When I put it in the glass carboy, I am going to put one of the  planting start mats under it.  I used to use classic heating pads, but mine all  burned out and the new ones all have  timers in them now that shut off after two hours.  Useless!
Jimmys Mom is coming in for a few days this week,  so the guest room continues to be a guest room for a while longer.  After she heads back home though it will once again become the  'textile' room.  Sewing machine, rug  frame, giant yarn depository, random baskets full of projects.  I will also be going through my bins of costumes and  rehoming  many of them.  I would love to  keep them all but to do that I would need to rent a  storage  room somewhere. Not going to do that.  And here is something I have been meaning to do.  I stopped using henna on my hair.  I now have a drawer full of henna and henna products in my bathroom that needs to go.  If you want them give me a call.   They are free.  Unless  you are in a bartering mood (cuz some people  are suspicious of free).  In that case, I am looking for  a couple of  good condition,  classic picnic baskets,  more yarn, really big baskets,  plant pots and that sort of thing.   

Sunday, August 9, 2015

88, jelly making marathon, sisterly love, RIP Grandfather Squirrel, 88

This week at Mystic Cedars  was  all about canning.   Wednesday I put up 14 jars of plum jam.  We have  an enormous and ancient yellow plum tree in the far back.  Its  about 30 feet tall  and  all the plums are on the top.  This year Jimmy rigged  a tall pole with a bucket attached to it and we managed to get enough plums to make jelly from it.  This is both a happy and a sad thing. For the last three years we have been sharing the property with the worlds oldest, smartest and most industrious  Squirrel.  He was here when we moved in and I have spent the last three years yelling  at him, cursing him and throwing pine cones at him. Every year  he has decimated the hazelnut crop, eaten all the cherries,  gobbled the few pears that we can get to grow and  stolen all the apples. His treatment of the plum tree was special though.  As soon as the plums would start to get ripe he would   run through the tree  pulling off the plums, biting off the newly ripening tips and then throw them on the ground.  By the time  the plums  should have been ripening for harvest ....they were all gone.  This year  the  highest plums on the tree are still there because Grandfather Squirrel was  the victim of a  four wheeled demon.  We found him, a few weeks ago, in the road by the mailbox.  A moment of silence please.
I find myself  missing him.  It was highly entertaining watching him torture the cats by  catapulting  fruit at them  from whatever tree they were sleeping under. He mocked the dog for being smaller than himself and stole the chicken feed  right in front of the roosters that chased him around the yard.  He was annoying, intrepid and took extreme delight in being a squirrel.
All that said.... because of his demise... I   actually have a fruit harvest this year.    Such as it is  thanks to weeks of no rain and uber dry conditions. Now I have to  can it all.
It was way to hot in July to spend hours in an already sweltering kitchen, made it even hotter by  boiling fruit, so all of this years raspberries went into the freezer. 
Friday  I pulled them out and strained out all the seeds and yesterday Baby Sis  showed up with five gallons of  strained  blackberries.    I felt somewhat under achieved because I only had two and half gallons of raspberry and salmon berry juice.    Baby Sis arrived at 7:30 in the morning (before I had even finished my first of coffee) full of energy and enthusiasm for the project. I should have been suspicious then but I wasn't awake enough  yet to see where it was going. By  nine am the jars were  sterilized and ready for the first batch.  The first  three or four hours  were full of fun and tasty  delights as we sampled spoonful after spoonful of our  amazing  jellied creations.   After 50 or so jars of jelly, I was ready to call it quits .  I wanted to water bath what we had and  stare admiringly  at the pristine  jars of jelly as we listened for the telltale  pop of the sealing jar lids but  Baby Sis set her jaw in that way she does when she is determined and said " NO... we are not stopping. We still have fruit and  we still have sugar!"  (at this point she hugged  and caressed what was left of the 25 pound bag of sugar  sitting on the counter).  Fortunately, I recognize a genetic predisposition  when I see one.  Especially when evidenced by a close family member.   I saw it in her eyes.  There was no stopping this warrior matron. She was on a mission.  And she wasn't letting me stop either (no matter how I begged).  Not until the last grain of sugar was gone.  At 4:30 I  sighed with relief  as we put the first  jars in the water bather.  (Just a quick FYI for other jelly and pickle makers. If you write on top of the jar lids in a sharpie permanent marker before you water bath.... the writing does not come off in the boiling hot water.  Which is a good thing.)  While the first batch was water bathing we did the count.  88 jars of  jelly.  Yes!  We learned that 6 gallons of fruit juice and 25 pounds of sugar makes  88 jars of jelly!    Now... maybe its because I was so DONE with jelly making by the end of the  day or maybe something magical really did happen but,  88 seems like such a mystical number.  Maybe there is magic in those jars!   Or maybe we should have stopped at 50.     I don't know...but it was a fun day with Baby Sis.
What happened to the last two  and a  half gallons of fruit juice ? It was all  blackberry. It was all strained and it was  the  rightful property of Baby Sis.     But, every time I looked at it, I could almost taste the blackberry wine that I could make out of it!   It took half the afternoon to talk  her into  giving me 2 of the 2 and a half gallons (I could not reasonably ask for all of it...that would have been selfish).   For those of you who have never done it. Straining out 2 full gallons of  blackberries is a lot of work. A LOT!   So, the only reason anyone would give up that much  prepared blackberry juice would be sisterly love!  ....or maybe it was my promise to give her half  of the finished product ;).

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Seattle drought, pirates and princesses, crooked chicks,peeing in the woods,mean rooster attack, home movies

Drought in Seattle. Who would have thought that we would ever hear those words?  Its killing my garden. I mean it really is killing my garden. I normally plant  a lot of cool weather veggies that grow well in the PNW.  Broccoli, spinach,lettuce, snow peas are all close to fail this year.  Squashes  and cucumbers  are doing fabulous.  Green beans are hit and miss depending on where I planted them. All the berries this year are dry and  tart.  I cant say  that warmer weather is doing  the gardeners in the PNW any good.   None of my gardening neighbors are having any luck with their carrots this year.   As for me? I'm wilting as well. Once it  hits 90 degrees,  all I can do is sit in a puddle of my own sweat and dream of the day  it is overcast and 78 degrees.  The kids came for an extended visit  during July. They have been in one of the southern states for the last 7 years and the weather was to hot even for them.
While they were here I incubated a few eggs for  the little ones.  Best choice ever.  Out of 6 eggs, 3  developed to  maturity.  I was surprised at the results.   The first one was a pretty little  blue laced wyandotte.  The second one took a full 24 hours to hatch and has some issues. Everything on her is a little bit crooked. I was concerned that she would/would not survive but, here we are at one month and she is  thriving. Not sure how I feel about that.  The last one was a complete surprise.  A coal black chick with a white butt.  Jimmys  itty bitty mean rooster is  obviously the daddy. Bantam roosters are not supposed to be able to do that with full size hens.   We named them Daffodil, Rosie (the crooked one) and Snowbutt.  And that's what happens  when you let a three year old name chickens.  In a couple of days  the three new ones will be moving outside to  climatise in the  integration pen before joining the  others.  The  leghorns I picked up  early in the spring are doing well.  They bonded with Arnie pretty early and he watches over them.  They should be laying by the end of august.
July was delightful at Mystic Cedars.  While the grownups were busy  grown-upping the little ones were enjoying  Mystic Cedars  at its finest.  By week two we had developed a routine of  walking the yard daily and snacking on berries, plums and whatever else we could forage for.  We fed the chickens and hunted for eggs.  We put a couple of swings in the trees and built a cardboard castle fit for any princess to play in.    Papa Jimmy decided  the castle needed to be besieged by pirates (guess who the pirate was) and built two cannons out of five gallon  buckets, one for the castle and one for  the pirates.  He then showed  a two year old and a 3 and half year old how to throw rocks at grownups.  Papa Jimmy is a terrible influence and must be kept from small children.  Except  the small children idolized him and followed him everywhere which is how the  oldest learned to  pee in the bushes.  Papa Jimmy neglected to instruct her..... that for effective  peeing in the woods,  one must first  pull down ones pants. Her mom was not happy with that particular tutorial.   Papa Jimmy also found them  a nice patch of dry, sandy dirt for them to play in, which resulted in their first ever hosing off, before they were allowed in the house.  It took a good week for Jimmy to realize that they were following him everywhere and peeking around corners to see what he was doing, which is how they found his secret chocolate stash.  Marlow was in  heaven while they were here. He followed the little ones everywhere vacuuming up  their toddler-food shrapnel.  He dined on spilled mac n cheese,  abandoned pb&j's (and sometimes not abandoned) pieces of hotdog and  many other  foods he would not normally have access to.   For the first two days  after they left, he refused his kibble and waited under the table for treasures that wouldn't drop again until next summer.  Did I worry about him not eating? Not this time.   Did I feel sorry him? Not really?  I figured when he got hungry enough , he would eat.  He did.
The cats, of course, pretty much disappeared while they were here.  Nothing terrifies a cat more than  a tiny,high pitched voice, exclaiming excitedly...'KITTY!!!!!!!!'.
Many adventures were had at Mystic Cedars this July including a large family BBQ.  I need to stop here and apologize to my sister-in-law .  Jimmy decided at some point  during the BBQ, to add to the chaos by letting  the big chickens out.  My poor, unsuspecting, sister-in-law  was strolling   the back yard when Arnie jumped out  from behind a bush  and attacked her.  I hate that bird. The screaming  brought us all running to the rescue and  she wasn't injured but, still... I'm sorry!
Does anybody want a really mean teeny tiny rooster? For free? I'll even bring him to your house. 

And now time for  some home movies... I hope. I've never tried to add a video to my blog so I hope it works. This isnt everyone at the BBQ.  Most of them were scattered all over the property and a few even wandered down to the creek but, this video will give you the flavor of our  get together.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rooster attack, I told you so, Bad wife, Rags to riches karma

This week at Mystic Cedars:  You will be happy to know that the second rooster (the one that fought so hard to get away from being dinner) was rescued by Nurse Jenny.   She read of his plight in my last blog and intervened to change his destiny.  And change it she did. He is now living  in a casbah with 14 ladies to call his own.

Rescued Rooster - Happy at last!

Nurse Jenny named him Larry and he is happy at last.  From dinner to dynasty builder...Don't you wish you had his karma?  (I did have to have a conversation with him during transport about being grateful to Nurse Jenny for sparing his life and giving him a new start.  He was being a bit contrary about being boxed up for the ride.  I  do hope he is behaving himself.)

And then there is Arnie.  The  tiny little attack rooster that quite frankly ...I hate.  It takes a lot to make me hate a chicken but this one, I hate. He is mean...just plain mean.
Jimmy has been telling me for months that his rooster isn't vicious and that his attacks are not meant to harm, just to gain attention.   In an attempt to prove to me that Arnie  is  gentle and loving  Jimmy approached him and reached out to  pet him.  What followed next was worthy of any slasher film.   In a flurry of feathers and spurs Arnie attacked.  He  must have hit a vein in Jimmy's hand because there was actual blood spray. All over Jimmy's face and clothes.  It wasn't just one well placed peck either.  Jimmy came away with several  cuts and two puncture wounds.  All in less that five seconds.  I couldn't even begin to describe the look on Jimmy's face when he realized what his 'loving' pet had done to him.  The slightly green tinge around his jaw turned veridian when he realized that I had witnessed the entire thing.  I know that you will all be surprised when I tell you that I waited until  Jimmy's wounds were disinfected, medicated  and bandaged before I said "I told you so".
Some could say that I am a bad wife.  I simply could not generate any sympathy  for him.  Not when he was bleeding. Not when he yelped in pain when we poured alcohol  over the wounds.  Not when his hand swelled up and became unusable for twenty four hours.  His  rooster has been attacking me for almost two years and  every time he attacks me and I complain, Jimmy  tells me that Arnie is just being affectionate and showing me chicken love.  He tells me that I need to work on my relationship with  Arnie.  Well, I'm not interested in an S&M relationship  with anyone! Pain doesn't turn me on , it pisses me off.  But, I am not going to interfere with Jimmy and Arnies relationship especially now that the we know who the bottom is.   Sheesh!

And then there are MY hens. The two new leghorns are proving to be very sweet and very trainable.    They seem to have bonded with one of the barred rocks who has taken on a watchful motherly  role.
Last night she refused to go to roost until the young ones were in the coop.  My chickens are so much better than Jimmy's.
Yesterday was a great gardening  day both on the lunar calendar and for me.  Jimmy's hand was sufficiently healed to help put the  vertical  garden boxes on the side of the house.    I planted bush beans in all three of them.  By august we should be  swimming in green beans.  I also  pulled up another crop of failed beets and replanted the bed with lettuce, spinach and snow peas.  I don't know whats wrong with me. Beets are supposed to be  one of the easiest vegetables to grow and in 9 years of serious gardening I have yet to have a successful crop. I guess I just need to put beets in the same file with sourdough bread.  The missing gene file.
When I'm not  keeping up  with the garden or  tending Jimmy's  chicken inflicted wounds ,I'm picking raspberries.  I thought after the way I cleared out the patch this winter that this years crop would be smaller but they just keep coming.  I will have enough for several batches of jelly, some raspberry vinegar and possibly a gallon or two of  wine.
There are a lot of things going on at Mystic Cedars these days   but I only really have time for the highlights  today.  .  . 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The usual chicken and gardening stuff and saying goodbye to a friend.

One rooster is in the freezer. The other one got away.  That is how I'm starting this blog post so you will know we have not been idle.  Most of he garden is in and now we get to do a few fun things.  I snagged a great deal on some  vertical  garden boxes at the hardware store and found an old can of paint the color of the house.  I painted them to  match the house and we will be attaching them to the front porch  railing next week.  I'm going to put bush beans and basil in them.  This season I scrounged (like every year) for containers  to grow vegetables in.  The big score this season was  a plastic tub from an old washing machine that Jimmy took apart. I painted it green and put it next to  a post in a bright sunny spot. Jimmy hated it. ...until he asked one of the neighbors what he thought of it and the neighbor said he didn't even notice it until Jimmy pointed it out.  He said the green made it unobtrusive.  So, this last week I painted every garden container I  I think it looks nice...Jimmy said it is overkill.   And that was as close as we have come to an argument this season.  Mostly, I think it is because he is too busy reclaiming the back forty to  worry about what I'm doing up front.  Eventually he will notice  but, by then it will be too late. Ha!
I'm excited about the raspberries this year. I cut them all back a few months ago and  expected that it would affect this years harvest negatively. Not so.  I think we might have the best crop yet.  I'm hoping to get enough raspberries this year to make  a few gallons of wine.  Last years blackberry  wine is  almost  finished and ready to bottle. It is  some of the best I have ever made.  I'm not surprised that it is excellent, considering   the ground was accidentally consecrated  in a wickerman sort of way.    The salmon berries are getting a slow start this year. But I WILL get enough to make salmonberry jelly.
And then back to the chickens. The two babies I picked up at the feed store were moved outside to the old coop last week.  I did what Jimmy told me not too ..and gave them names.  Pansy and Petunia. I gave them pretty, girly, names to encourage them to be girls.  I've had enough of roosters.  Of the two big red roosters  we had last week, only one is left and only because he fought so hard and hid so well.  He doesn't know it but,  his days are still numbered.  We can't put pansy and petunia in the big coop until the big red is  gone.  Cant have him traumatizing the little girls.
And on the final note here... Jimmy and I will be in Oly  on Saturday for a funeral.  We will be saying goodbye to  a great friend and mentor that  was instrumental in Jimmy and I finding each other.   I cant write more  without writing a book about the man. He deserves a book but, one that is well written.  Goodbye Vaude and thank you for everything.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

100 year old collard greens recipe

Jimmy has been pestering me for about two weeks  now to make one of his favorite meals.   Beans, cornbread and collard greens.  Folks from the southern U.S. will  just nod when they read this. Beans, cornbread and collard greens is a classic southern meal.  Its a dietary staple.  To my Connecticut born, Los Angeles raised  husband, it is gourmet cooking.   In this day of pre-packaged everything, he might be right.    The rest of Seattle  seems to think so.  Collards are popping up on menus all over town.    Sometimes they are ok (just ok) but most of the time they are pretty disgusting. Seattleites  really don't  know what to do with this  vegetable that is relatively new to their foodscape. Collards are a tricky vegetable. If they are cooked incorrectly they smell bad, taste bad and the texture  can be unpalatable. I am reminded of a restaurant in Ballard that served me watery,  underdone, collard syrup...yeeccchhhh!  I'm certain someone told the chef that the secret to collards is to add sugar.   But boiling up the contents of your hummingbird feeder and  blanching some greens in it is not the answer.  Southern cooks have had a couple hundred years to  learn how to make collards  taste good.  Collards are one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat but,  that vitamin, mineral and antioxidant bomb  is packed tightly  in tough leaves with a bitterness that will pucker your whole face.    The following recipe  is time tested to make  diners go from  'I'm not eating that smelly ,disgusting mess' to 'May I have some more please'.

 4 to 6 cups of washed, chopped collards (usually one bunch)
1 medium onion , chopped
1 cup chopped/diced bacon or salt pork
2 tablespoons  butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder 
1 teaspoon  red pepper flakes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup  apple cider vinegar

In a 6 or 8 quart stew pot, caramelize  your onion in the butter and brown sugar.  When your onion is almost caramelized  add your  bacon or  salt pork and continue to cook for 1 or 2 minutes longer  or until onions are finished. Then add your mustard, red pepper , orange juice and vinegar.  Bring that all to a boil while stirring.  Then add your collards and fill stew pot  with water. Bring it to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce temperature to drop it to a simmer.  Stir occasionally. Let simmer for about an hour and then remove the lid and  raise temp to bring it to a low boil for about 20 minutes to a half hour.  At this point you want to boil it  down but you don't want to boil it dry.   You want  your liquid to  solid ratio  to  be about half and half. 
On salting your collards: If your bacon or salt pork is adequately  salty you should not need to add salt.     If you are going to add salt ,wait until the last 15 minutes to do so.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Salami,Salami,Bologna, Yay Spring

Yay! Spring!  Well... sort of. Its coming in a little early this year. I'm glad because I need the extra couple of weeks to get ready.  Starting at the end of this month I will be immersed in filming the first few episodes of a web series so, I need to get as far ahead as I can  on planting  and other things.   I've also been inspired by  close friends to get back in the studio  and do some serious work aaaannnd... a research project I have been working on for a couple of years is  coming to a peak point.  I just need a few hard copies to present as evidence and I'm there.  The  winter ennui is over and I'm up and moving.   I'm sure ,in a few weeks, I will be  kvetching and moaning about not having enough time to get in a good  nap.  On top of the  projects listed above Jimmy and I have a list of artisan lifestyle things we want to get done this summer.   Over the winter I experimented with making my own Deli meats.  I turned out a respectable salami and bologna.   I opted for cooked  meats first , just to see if I could do it without  poisoning us.  I did and  sometime over the next couple of weeks I will try cured dried meats. I am going to smoke them this time.  I was going to do it last time but I fried the cord on my smoker ( don't ask me how...just understand...I am dangerous around fire)  The new parts should be here any minute now.    While we are waiting Jimmy is turning over beds and I have a garden shed full of starts.    If you are an enthusiastic gardener but don't like hard labor.... get yourself some chickens.  Over the winter I put them to work in three different areas.  There isn't a single  buttercup or blade of grass left in the raspberry patch.  They  took out all the weeds (and everything else ) from the rock garden and at the same time kept the raised beds   turned over and weed free.  I started them working on a patch in the far back that I want to experiment with. They should have it done in about a month.
This is a little short blog today because Jimmy and I are headed to Sky Nursery to pick up some seed potatoes and tonight we have dinner plans  with friends. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Fridge, prepping for disaster, installing solar powered motion sensor light on top of barn

I'm so excited!  We finally bought a new fridge.  Its been   3 years of frozen lettuce and  unfrozen ice cream.  We chose one of those newfangled side by sides with an icemaker in the door.  I think I annoyed the salesman.  He tried to show us  the newest  gadgets in refrigeration and I wouldn't have none of that.  I explained to him that the fewer moving parts the less there is to break down.  If they made a refrigerator with  a toggle switch for the ice maker I would have chosen that one.    The whole process took about an hour and  we left the store with a delivery date for  Thursday the 8th.   And then came the fun part.  I decided that we would install the ice maker  line ourselves.    No, I wasn't being cheap.  I live in a run down farmhouse on a swamp.  The whole thing is being held together  with  rusty nails and prayer.   I don't want  some  delivery guy full of youthful exuberance to   knock something loose that will take a full remodel to fix.    While the salesman was giving me the  'you will be sorry for being cheap" look, I was having a panic attack over what was under the  dishwasher that hasn't been moved  in 20 years. Was there ever a leak? Is  the floor rotten behind it?  Are vermin nesting back there? Is that where they stashed the bodies ?     I was also wondering if we pulled out the dishwasher to run a line behind it....would it still work when we pushed  it back in place?   Would I now be forced to buy a new dishwasher?  How much could  a base model fridge end up costing me?     With all that in mind, the decision was made to plumb it ourselves...gently.... and  a week before the new appliance arrives. We calculated that a week would give us enough time to make any repairs on anything horrible we found.  Any repair that  takes more than a week?  Well if that is the case then  hooking up an icemaker is the least of our problems!    Four days ago we moved the old fridge out of the  alcove that was built for it.  (Should the scorch marks on the wall behind it scare me?)  We put it on a far wall directly in front of the door (attractive!) and proceeded to plumb the line.  While we did inspect the floor under the dishwasher and discovered no  hydras to slay,  we found we could run the line under the machine and  did not have to move it. Big relief there.  We only had to drill two new holes because the previous owners had other  hoses and things running under the cabinets.  It took all day  but the line is run and ready for  attachment.   It went better than expected.  And it only took  a mere 24 hours for Jimmy and I  to stop glaring daggers at each other and begin talking again.  Seriously... we simply cannot work together without fighting.  But I decided to forgive his transgressions when he came in to the house yesterday morning   and told me that he had installed my Christmas gift from DD's squeeze.  This was no easy task since he had climb up to the top of the rickety barn to install the solar panel  for my  brand new solar powered, motion-sensor, light.  No more stumbling  down  a  half acre in the dark with nothing but a flashlight to guide me when I need to lock up the chicken coop  or do other backyard things after the sun goes down.  We spent about 20 minutes playing with the light last night to see what would set it off  and from what direction.   When we returned to the house, we had  an armload of firewood and we  were in accord with one another again.   So goes life at Mystic Cedars!