Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Farewell June

I didn't think I'd do another post so soon, but I'm starting to see opportunities for the blog posts again while I work. I also realized that the "instagram-ification" of sharing pictures has sunk into my consciousnesses as I notice "oh hey, there's the pet food lids" on the windowsill or, "look at all those crumbs on this dishcloth." I find it interesting that I'm noticing it when a few years ago I would have never noticed it. The purpose of the blog is really to send out little dispatches on life on the homestead as they happen. If you learn something or find it mildly entertaining that's cool. It's also a nice writing exercise for me despite the typos. Let's start with Food. I bought my first black diamond watermelon of the season on Friday and as I type it's pretty much already gone. It wasn't as sweet as I hoped but still good. Maybe they will get sweeter as we get really into season. Few seeds, very juicy and deep red. Bowling ball shaped and also known as the "cannonball" I buy it at a local produce stand in Urbana. And this means...watermelon toner: It's a bit of a hassle to use on my face at night as I have to walk downstairs to get it out of the fridge. I won't make this with every watermelon or maybe any others this summer. I'll move onto cucumber toner later one. I don't make this year around, it's just the thing I do when they are in season. Here is a preview to another blog post: Beautiful, juicy, sweet black raspberries. My favorite food. Despairingly short picking season. I travel far to get them. I try to pick 20 lbs a year with a family member and freeze for pies and eating from the bag throughout the year. I got these at the farmer's market. I was worried with all the rain, that they would be waterlogged but these were beautiful and just right. I'll take pictures of this year's haul in July. Now, to critters, mostly insect life. I intentionally set the watermelon rind/shell/husk outside for a few hours, just to give the chickens the added treat of ants. They ate the ants first. There are lots of descriptions on egg cartons these days right? Cage Free, Pasture Raised, Free Range, Natural. There are many good internet sources on what all these things mean but in the meantime let's talk about "vegetatian feed." Chickens are not vegetarians. They are omnivores. They eat plants, bugs, worms, and a mouse if they can get a hold of one. I've hand feed the chickens tomato worms and lots of chicken treat includes meal worms. They are ace foragers when they range. The more varied the diet, and the more protein in their diet, the better the egg tastes. That's just a fact. Try it sometime. Get the cheap grocery store eggs with shells super thin and compare to a pasture range or farmer's market egg. You will notice a difference in shell, yolk color and taste. Other bug life includes: Seems like this year and last year have shown a better turnout for lightning bugs. And I snapped a picture of one busy spider's work in the new gravel. Sometime soon I'll be writing about broody hens and black raspberries and whatever else.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

June Round-Up

It's hard to believe it's almost July. I realized a couple weeks ago that with all the rain and clouds, I hardly noticed the long days as there have been so few beautiful sunsets. We are finally getting the sun and humidity Ohio summers are known for. I miss the cool weather, but not the rain that seemed necessarily packaged with it. I did manage to get into the herb garden. There is actually an herb garden in this picture, can you find it? I wish I was kidding. On Sunday though it only took me two hours and buckets and buckets of weeds to transform it into... I'll be adding several calendula plants that a green thumb friend started. The basil had already bolted and yellowed. I may have ripped up some of the thyme in my zeal. The two sage and chive plants now have room to grow. Plus I have malabar spinach and goodwin gray lavender. I never got around to planting basil. I also ripped up lots and lots of almost past bloom chamomile. The Chamomile is once again ridden with aphids. Soaking them up with saltwater kills them, but it's very hard to separate them for tea. I know they say we eat a certain percentage of, ah, "foreign material" but it's one thing to vaguely know it rather than absolutely know it. I'll use the chamomile for facial scrub powder and in a bath. If only my lavender was as hardy as oregano. Maybe I should become and oregano farmer. This is taking up probably a third of my herb garden. I'll mow down and rip out after it blooms as the bees do visit it. In other gardening news, the back area that gets overrun with weeds is so much better this year thanks to the hostas a friend gave me to weed out of her yard. I may lament having them lady as I have to rip them out myself as they are prolific. But right now I appreciate the hardiness of them and how they are choking out a lot of the weeds. Kale is interspersed. It's the first year I've done kale and it's nice to have too. Another harvest so far has been our largest cherry yield to date. Andrew picked them all in one night and I froze them so we can have pie later.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

June 2nd, all in one day

There are some days, too few for my liking, where a lot of stuff just gets done. This was one of those days, the the pictures I have to share it. The lavender wasn't quite ready to cut and had been planted (more on the lavender blog, eventually) so this Sunday had a focus on the chickens. We got new gravel for the driveway and it had been a few years since we had re graveled the chicken pen. Gravel helps with drainage, keeps the mud down, provides small pieces of grit the hens can swallow for their crop (to help digest food) and to help them dust their feathers (to kill parasites.) This year, the gravel was a larger grade than usual. Perfect for the driveway and a real investment that will last a lot of years. We were a little worried about this larger grade for the pen and that's why you see the board down to give them a place to rest their feet but turns out they are just fine on this gravel. If you look closely, you will see the bare patches on the hen's back. She recently came from a farm with a few too many roosters and her feathers were being always pulled out by the aggressive boys. Here at the homestead, there are no roosters so the hens can relax and grow out their feathers like the ladies below. These two hens are about 4 years old. I lost two last fall from old age but overwintered these two. They still aren't fast friends with the new five, and have been ranging on their own as the other hens have stayed in the pen. The new 5 have stayed in the pen to get used to the new home and really imprint on what and where their home is. But also, without a full coat of feathers they just don't have confidence to roam far. On this day though, I left it an open choice and for the first time they felt comfortable to take on the larger world. I'm pleased they can take advantage of all the fun and food ranging around the backyard has to offer. Their weeks in the pen have enabled me to condition them to the expensive chicken treat to bribe them back into the bed as needed. Despite not having feathers, the hens are laying. A real unexpected treat, these black australorps are laying colored eggs like easter eggers! I have one laying a light green and light blue egg. These are the things that excite me. The eggs are almost always clean now as long as a collect once a day, a sure sign that the hens are committed to laying. As Tutu was outside with me, Moxie enjoyed lounging on the bed, oblivious to my labors outside. After re graveling the chicken pen and cleaning out the coop, I planted peppermint in pots, and planted some other things in the garden. After a late lunch and a shower, Tutu and I went for a ride and then enjoyed a lovely evening resting.

May Round Up

I'm thinking that a monthly round up is all I'm going to be able to do on the blog. May seems like a lifetime ago now that we've been into Summer Reading about a week. The rain has slowed up a little bit which has helped and it remains cool which I like. Sage, basil, thyme, malabar spinach and a goodwin gray lavender have all been planted in the herb garden. I managed to harvest some chamomile but will only be using it in herbal exfoliating herb facial powders. Despite multiple soaks in salt water, I just can't get enough aphids out for tea. Vegetables are also in, more or less and all the butterfly/bee attractant plants are large and green if not blooming yet. Below is a hodge podge of pictures from life in May. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out why these two robins were nattering at me the whole time I would be taking care of the chickens, then I looked up. There was only one Robin that fledged, the next rested on a pole smack dab in the middle of the pen. I suspect the other babies fried, as there was very little protection from sun. We had another robin nest in the orchard but it did not succeed. I have seen for the first time baby mockingbirds running around the backyard but sadly did not get any good pictures. One other next on the property is more problematic. A dove's nest in the gutter. We don't have any trees to heavily clog up the gutters, but this next will have to go. The dove figured out the sweet spot, as the water flows at a slight slant in the opposite direction. One drizzly afternoon I saw this fellow hanging out in the chicken pen, right inside the door. He blended in perfectly with the mud, tromped down gravel, and chicken poop. He also was very, very still. I kept a wary eye on him and he on the chickens. Even though I had to get pretty close to him going back and forth into the pen with water, food, etc for the chickens. He didn't move. He's a pretty big toad and has been around. Smart of him to figure out the chickens were a bigger threat than me. I'll have more on the chickens in the next post, but here let's wrap up with a few views from the western facing porch. Being on a hill that faces west, there's a lot of exposure to the elements. Wind, and all the precipitation hits the house at full force. Shutter color fads, door trim needs repainted. But on nights like the one below, it's really breathtaking. I'm no morning lark, getting up to watch the sunrise so sunset will have to work. But like a sunrise, a sunset changes from moment to moment.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

April Round Up

We're more than halfway through May so I thought I'd post a round up of April. With all the rain and still cold weather April doesn't have much in gardening news. However, for the first time since relocating some wild asparagus from years ago, I actually had the presence of mind to harvest it. Nearly every spring our domestic and wild asparagus shoots up and seeds before I can think "hey maybe I should check on the asparagus." But not this year. Perfect for eggs, asparagus is my favorite green vegetable. I got the perfect gift of lavender about 6 weeks ago. He's planted in the herb garden now but for about a month he rode around in my cupholder which provided a perfect green house condition. The plant doubled in the size you see here before I planted it. It was actually kind of fun to have a plant in the car. Blooms from one of the orchard trees. Currently we had four baby robins hatch just this weekend in one of them. I wish these lilacs were mine, but the classic lilac I tried to grow from a start never made it. The benefits of working in a walk able neighborhood with some lovely gardens. So many rainbows in April with all the rain.sun.rain.sun. You can see here that the grass is green but weeds have not completely taken over the lavender yet. I've told myself I'm going to do more baking, but gardening and the declutter project around the house keep taking precedent. One thing I'm consistently making are these lovely, tutu approved home made dog biscuits. They are fast but more importantly cheap to make. You can find the recipe here: Tutu looks on while I make her the biscuits. Yes, one of these days I'll get around to writing about Tutu.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Yes, it has been 4 years: Hope for Spring.

Hi folks, I know it's been a while. A long while. Everything has been fine on the home front, but a lot has changed. Andrew has been working as an RN for a year now and is still in EMS. Molly passed away in late 2016 after outliving everyone's expectations with a large cell cancer diagnosis. We have our first dog Tutu, who I will introduce later although you might have seen her on her instagram account tutu_on_the_move. I'll admit I got bored with the 'gram pretty quickly and I am unsure if I will return to blogging. Other changes include (again many of you already know this) I work at Bexley Public Library now and I have been here nearly two years. It's taken a while to settle down and settle in and I find myself slowly returning to old and beloved hobbies. I'm not sure where this will take me but for now here are some pictures from last spring, or maybe the spring before??? Enjoy the baby bunnies and the kildeer. The kildeer periodically nest in the lavender.
You will notice with the one above the classic "broken wing distraction" as I was getting close to photographing her eggs. I didn't stay long.

California Pictures 2019

I've taken pictures from California trips before, but always with the good canon camera. I didn't pack it this time, and these were the best phone pictures. We went up to Santa Barbara for a few days and I love the garden center in Los Olivos, I think it's J Woeste...and all their beautiful containers featuring succulents.
In Los Angeles we went to Abalone Cove, a must stop and quite a hike both down and up. These rocks are beautiful but it gets old walking on them, which you have to do a lot to get too and from the tide pools. All the rocks are lovely and it boggles my mind how many combinations a photographer can make.
I'm always fascinated by water, rocks (or other objects in the sand) and how light, depth and shadow are constantly changing. On our first trip to Lake Michigan in (2007 (!)) I easily took 200 photos. I was desperate to capture all the lovely sensory images around me. Andrew reminded me I was actually missing out on the experience. He was right, but I do treasure the pictures I took. It was cold when we were in LA, it never got over 60 degrees and there was very little in the was of ocean life. So I had to content myself with more inanimate subjects.
And view from the top, before the descent to Abalone Cove.
There were some real highlights from this trip. Notably our first stat at an Airbnb in Santa Barbara, and staying at a good, good friends house. Their lemon tree in the backyard had fresh ripe lemons I snipped right off the tree and made lemonade. I was also giddy about the 5 foot tall rosemary growing along their fence.