July 30, 2009

Stolen Photos

As promised, here are some photos stolen from Jenny.

We all got matching hats at Floydfest, inspired by Jenny.

Dancing with the Hoorah Cloggers.

Before Floydfest, there was Peachfest. Here are some of the results of our canning day with Jenny last week. Joe just came home with another 8 bushels of peaches. I have to work today and tomorrow, so our plan was to take them to my boss' house on Saturday and process them in his large kitchen. However, Joe says the peaches are ripe NOW and cannot wait that long. Oh well, looks like we'll be squeezing it all in on a two burner camping stove in the evening hours after I get home from work.

I did enjoy a very relaxing day off yesterday. I had a whole list of things I wanted to do around our place, but the weather had other plans. It rained almost all day, which means I had to stay inside, do some cleaning and organizing and watch movies. :) At least the garden got thoroughly watered, which makes me feel more productive even if I can't take credit for it.

July 27, 2009

I will never understand how someone can spend as little time as I do being gainfully employed and STILL not have time to get half the things done that I want to. This has been a crazy week. On Wednesday of last week, Joe and I went and spent the day with Jenny (aka Canningmama) to engage in a mad peach canning blitz. After 12 hours and six bushels of peaches, we ended up with 42 quarts of peach halves, 13 pints of peach marmalade, 11 pints of peach butter, 11 pints of peach salsa and 25 pints of peach puree. And as if that wasn't enough, we've just committed ourselves to as many as 8 more bushels to process this weekend, and Jenny will be out of town. What are we thinking!?!

The other big time-consumer this past week was Floydfest. As fun as it was to dance and get free admission to a really cool music festival, it was also exhausting. Three days of performing, practicing and commuting. Somehow we managed to fit in a morning's work at the blueberry farm on Saturday, but we will have to go back soon to pick our 4-gallons of berries we earned. Speaking of berries, the wild berries wait for no man! They are not putting themselves on hold simply because we are too busy to find time to pick and process them. We went out this morning and spent an hour before heading to work picking a gallon or so of blackberries. We are temporarily borrowing freezer space until we can get around to making jam. Looking forward to the rest of this week, it is unlikely Joe and I will have any free time at home together to go pick, and I am not brave enough to go out deep into the berry thickets on my own. My imagination runs wild with scenarios of stepping on a snake or rolling down a hill and being incapacitated, and no one would have a clue where to find me. Wilson wouldn't be any help at tracking me because I'm not a rabbit, and Lily would only be interested in dragging my bones back to my own yard months later. I guess we'll just keep getting up earlier and earlier, heading out with flashlights if need be.

I took my camera with me to document both the peachfest and Floydfest, but I never did take any pictures. I will be stealing some from Jenny.

July 19, 2009


I knew it was only a matter of time! Lily (and Wilson by association) got skunked!! She's young and has that exuberant need to learn everything first hand, and now she has. I've never experienced skunk so up close and personal. It probably could have been worse, but it still gave me a headache and made my throat burn. It smelled like really bad burnt motor oil/overheating engine kind of smell. It took a hydrogen peroxide bath and, accomplished only with a major struggle, to get her clean, but now she and Wilson are both very white and shiny.

Well, I've got two gallons of wine berries to turn into jam, so enough sitting in front of a computer!

July 17, 2009

Water woes and Beary season

For weeks, Joe and I have been stretching every last drop of our precious spring rain water as far as it will possibly go in an attempt to keep the garden from becoming a crispy, brown desert, while the flowers look on in helpless envy. In the spring, when water and enthusiasm are both abundant, I plant scads of flowers in anticipation of a brilliantly hued summer full of butterflies and hummingbirds. In reality, summer is hot and dry and water is scarce. The flowers feed my soul, but the tomatoes feed my belly, and you can see which ultimately takes precedence. Meanwhile, nature has been cruelly taunting us with that ever elusive chance of a summer thunderstorm. After a while, it's hard to take nature seriously. Like the boy who cried wolf, when the thunder rolls and a couple of raindrops appear on the windows, all you can say is "I'll believe it when I see it." Well, now I believe it. At long last we are enjoying a REAL shower, and I can just hear the plants singing songs of joy.

Well, in about the time it took me to compose the first paragraph, the storm has moved on, but it did manage to dump a ton (just shy of two inches, over 200 gallons in the rain barrels) of water before moving on. I guess we'll settle for quantity over quality this time. All of this water uncertainty has led to a recent overhaul of our water system. Joe has re-plumbed and re-routed such that the rain barrels can now be filled via the pump down at the spring. It is a bit labor intensive, but at least we have the option of water when we need it.

Okay, enough water talk; let's talk berries instead. We've been doing a work exchange at a nearby you-pick blueberry farm in exchange for berries. The farmer was pretty thrilled to find out we'd be willing to work for food, so he's put us at the top of his list to call when he needs help. We've already canned quite a few pints of blueberries and are planning to try drying the gallon we picked yesterday. Joe is making us some wooden/cheesecloth drying racks to put in the earth oven so we can avoid a repeat of our first drying attempt, the results of which are documented in the following photo.

We learned two very important lessons from this experience - 1) Don't use meltable drying racks and 2) Let the earth oven cool for many hours, overnight if possible.

In addition to blueberries, we're starting to hit peak wild wineberry/blackberry season. The wild black raspberries were sadly lacking this year, but we've already picked a gallon of wineberries with more to come soon. Compared to the ease of farmed blueberry picking, wild berry picking seems like a deep jungle adventure. Wild berries may be free, but they come at a cost of blood and sweat if not tears. Good thing they taste so good. :)

After the rainstorm, I took a walk out back to get some berry pictures for this post. I found this as well. Looks like I'm not the only one interested in blackberries! For those of you whose tracking skills are a little rusty, this is a bear track, and a big one!

Last but not least, our first potatoes and little Tigerella tomatoes (hence the stripes).

July 14, 2009

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

Yesterday, Joe and I were hanging out by the front porch, when we were startled by what sounded like a large object falling into a tree just overhead. It turned out to be a rather clumsy landing by a barred owl, presumably one of the same owls we hear calling all summer long. It had been a noisy summer afternoon, full of birds singing and chickens fussing about, but it suddenly became very still and quiet. I looked for the chickens and saw they were all hiding out under their house, virtually motionless. With the binoculars, we were able to get a close up view of the owl, who was staring right at us. He hung out for about 10 minutes and then retreated back into the woods, much quieter than he made his entrance. All activity resumed and the chickens came back out into the open. It was a brief sighting, but very cool.

Speaking of the chickens, by locking them into the pen for a couple of days, we determined they have just decided not to lay eggs anymore. Well, not more than one or two a day if at all. Due to the large amount of feathers laying everywhere, I'm assuming they're going through a molt and will hopefully pick back up with the egg laying soon. Meanwhile, we're on strict egg rationing.

July 10, 2009

Our homegrown diet is working nicely, but the chickens are threatening to derail it. Just as soon as we temporarily swore off of grocery shopping, the chickens stopped laying eggs (in the nests anyway). There goes breakfast! As happy as I am that our garden is cranking out green beans and squash at an ever increasing rate, I'm not ready to start having stir-fry for breakfast. We've had to ammend the diet rules just a little bit to allow the utilization of the oats we already had on hand as a breakfast stand in until we either convince the chickens to return to laying in the coop or find their secret stash. I spent all morning yesterday on a chicken stake out, listening intently for the sound of the "egg song", but all was quiet. I think they're on to me. Today I've switched tactics from stakeout to lockdown to determine whether or not they've stopped laying altogether or just been hiding the eggs. I'm hoping it's the latter as I don't know how to fix the former.

The chickens aren't the only creatures I've been having to work hard to be smarter than these days. We recently had a dognapping on our street which makes me even more nervous about the fact that Wilson sits up by the main road awaiting our return whenever we leave him (which is hardly ever!!), that is if he's not roaming the neighborhood looking for us. In an effort to protect him and give ourselves some peace of mind, we put Wilson in a wire dog crate on the porch the other day so we could take a short moped excursion. We returned in less than two hours to find him running across the yard to greet us. That lousy little beagle had busted out!! He somehow managed to squeeze through a space of less than two inches (of course his squeezing enlarged the space and warped the crate). That crate has housed goats, chickens and a rabbit, been trod upon by Banjo and mauled by a bear, and yet a little beagle managed to do more damage than all of them! And to top it all off, he chewed the bed inside the crate all up before escaping. Lily's appetite is her only downfall, and Wilson's is his obsessive need to be with us at all times. Like Joe said, how do you fault a dog for loving you too much? Well, fault him I won't, but I still have a need for his safety and my peace of mind. As much as I've always said that nothing makes me sadder than a dog on a chain, it looks like that's the only option we're left with - a very strong, chew proof chain. If he finds a way to escape from THAT, we will rename him Houdini and become very rich.

July 03, 2009

Catching up

It's time again for your regularly scheduled bi-monthly post. :) Hopefully I will soon be able to post more often as Joe and I gave me a new used Mac laptop for my birthday! I have to be patient for a few days longer, though, as it is being shipped as we speak.

Anyway, Joe is back in town and freshly rejuvenated from his meditation retreat. Only Joe would be adventurous/trusting enough to leave his stuff in the care of a total stranger in a New York bus station to go running around the streets of NYC at 3 a.m. looking for pizza! Whereas most of us would have been robbed blind and left starving, he managed to find the last open pizza parlor moments before it closed and returned to find his stuff safe and sound. Some people have all the luck, although I'm hoping some of it will transfer to me by association. :)

As soon as Joe returned home, we hit the road together, along with his mom, to his family reunion in MO. We had a blast, despite some of the craziest heat and humidity I've felt in a long time. Our car thermometer was reading 102 degrees while driving through St. Louis! Luckily, Joe's cousins (and reunion hosts) have a wonderful pond, and it became the center of activity over the weekend. I took my camera with me, but I only managed to get one photo. At least it was the group photo.

Now we are looking forward to some serious home-time to start refocusing on our projects at hand. We just started our 3-month experiment of a homegrown diet, so it is a good thing that our garden is going strong.