Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mimosa Memories

I remember a beautiful mimosa tree that grew in the front yard of one of my childhood homes.  The pretty pink puffs released such a wonderful scent that floated on the breeze, attracting hummingbirds that would flit from blossom to blossom.  

I planted one several years ago at the bottom of our drive, near our garden wall, so visitors would someday drive down to a magnificent bouquet of pink and green.  While it's still young and sparsely flowered, the tree conjures up images of a tropical isle. 

A larger tree stands at the top of our drive on the neighbor's property, but we have a lovely view.  I stopped to take a close up of the bloom as I was walking by.  A pretty combination of pinks and green.
I think it could be a quilt inspiration!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dried Greens, Berries and Bananas

Cost, labor and ease of storage are the key elements in our decision to dehydrate most of our produce this year.  Freezing requires power which is something we don't want to rely on, particularly since we are in an area with exclusively overhead lines.  We have frequent outages due to storm damage or accidents.  Canning also requires a lot of energy, jars and a larger storage area.  I'm sure we will be canning some of our produce or famer's market purchases; however, dehydration offers the least expensive and ease of storing.

We began with our swiss chard, drying to a nice crisp, which will evenually be incorporated into soups and pastas.  Then strawberries but only after enjoying a batch of shortcake with whipped cream.  Then my husband picked up some bananas.  We want to test all types of fruit and vegetables-practice makes perfect.  The bananas do not become the hard, crisp rounds that you see in the store.  It's more like a chewy leather.  I was at first concerned at this but after surveying many dehydration posts, the consensus is that they will stay somewhat leathery, even after 12 hours of dehydration.

The herbs are improving after a blast of nitrogen and liquid fertilizer.  There had been corn planted here last year, ravaged by raccoon.  We added a leaf mulch to test it against the straw we typically use but between the two a little nitrogen was required.  I still have some room to expand and a pile of seeds.

To the left is another cattle fence with tomatoes, peppers and tomatillos.  Below that is a separate bed with the onions and what should have been garlic.  There are mole hills everywhere the garlic was planted, and so far no sign of garlic.

The rutgers tomatoes are in the foreground with beans and cukes following.  They will grow up the cattle fencing which allows us to tie off the branches and vines.  The beans are growing where the tomatoes did last year and should add nitrogen back into the soil there.

Squash is growing where the pole beans were last year.  I may need to move squash next year to a non-mulched area to keep down the squash bugs.  I planted some nasturtiums on the pole but have not seen any development yet.

On the lower bed (not pictured here) we have planted watermelon and pumpkin. Our small side garden has produced wonderful spinach, lettuces, snap peas, chard and some pretty hearty tomatoes.   The spinach salad has been super. Last night supper was a mixture of spinach and romaine, sliced cold chicken breast, black and green olives topped with mozzarella and some Italian dressing. 

The most amazing thing was the bean plants that grew where I had dropped the package.  They were just laying on top of the straw but a few must have slipped through some holes.  Now several beans plants have popped up, all by themselves, not even in dirt.  That says a lot for the seeds!

Bugs are starting to arrive- Japanese Beetles!  More on pests later.   

Saturday, May 26, 2012

River Fun

Saturday on the Beach.
Kids in bathing suits.
River shoes on their feet.
Noodles and snorkels,
Flippers and masks.
Sandcastles and sunscreen.

Lawn chairs under awnings and
Hot dogs on the grill,
Buns dripping with mustard.

Crackers and chips
Soda and watermelon slices.
Beer and Backstrap.
Boats and Sun.
River Fun

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Organic Escargot ! (aka We Got Snails)

A snail crawls into a Porsche dealership 
He finds a perfect model but before the deal is done
he asks the dealer to put a large "S" on each door.
The salesman asks why a snail would want a car with a big "S" on each door.
The snail replied- so when people see him speed by they will say
Look at that S-car go!

Yeah, I know.  Corny joke but oh so apropos.

We Got Snails!

Yesterday I saw a couple of cone shaped, dark snails floating upside down (by choice) in our fountain.  The pump went out so things are pretty stagnant.  There are lots of tadpoles, occasionally a shiny frog or two and now, floating snails????
I put a rock in there (last night), just in case they are not supposed to float.

The neighbor girl was playing around with them last night. 
 "Hey," she said, "these two are stuck together!"
Ooooooh!  Hmmmmmm . . .
Guess what I found on the rock today?
Itty, Bitty specks.
And slightly larger specks.
I had to look closely.

But How?  We never had snails before, at least not this kind. 
Did they end up in our fountain as eggs stuck on little bird feet?
  Do they reproduce that quickly?  Like magic?  I guess they do.

See this bigger snail?  It's about the size of a pencil eraser.  
See the specks?  Those are the babies. Cute, but for how long?  
Will they crawl out of the murky fountain and join the Mr. Slugleys in eating my stuff?

Most of our snails look like this.  
Well, sort of.
Anybody know anything about water snails?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Help - What's a Good Ice Cream Maker?

Wanted:  Advice on Ice Cream Makers

I had a comment on my Excalibur 3900 dehydrator post concerning investment in an ice cream maker.  I am asking for everyone's help here because I'm just not the ice cream loving type, it's OK but in small quantities and only when soft and freshly made (or a Dairy Queen vanilla dip cone dunked in chocolate).  My milkshakes are admittedly pitiful, more like chocolate milk with mushy lumps (yes, I like it that way).

Here is the comment- any suggestions?
I like soft icecream during those 90 plus summer temps, but the price has totally gotten out of hand at fast food places. They all want $3 for a milkshake anymore. I can almost buy a gallon of milk for that! So I'm thinking of buying an icecream maker. Anybody know of a good inexpensive one? It would be great if it also made SOFT icecream. I don't know what goes into making soft icecream though or if it's possible to do at home, let alone for a reasonable price. If not, I'll settle for regular ice cream.

Rural Thursday Blog Hop
Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Graphics Fairy Link

Modern Ice Cream Maker credit

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Excalibur 3900 - Investment in the Future

We decided to make an investment in the future.  Not stocks and bonds, gold or silver, but in sustainability- natural, home grown food.  We had a little set aside when we noticed a sale on the Excalibur 3900 plus a a temporarily discounted Preserve It Naturally book.  We can pair this with our American Harvester/Nesco dehydrator to get much more of our garden and farmer's market produce dehydrated.  While we still plan to do some canning, this will allow easier storage using less room and with much less labor.

Tonight we picked the Swiss Chard, stemmed and blanched it, laid it out on the trays and by tomorrow we will have our crop shelf ready for soups, stews or pasta recipes.

The Preserve It Naturally book not only has instructions for drying produce but also making bread dough ornaments, sachets, granola and fruit leathers both plain and filled with goodies.  There is a section on Living and Raw foods, although I don't think I could completely stick to that diet.  While looking delicious it seems essentially vegan and I am far too much of a cheese lover!  

My personal favorite will be the dried fruits.  I have to be careful or the next thing I know, I've eaten three apples and two peaches!  Well, better than the Hershey bars we had at work last week!  

Have a good evening!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I Tore 'Em Up!

I pushed off from shore, stepping into the khaki green jon boat at the last minute, completely unaware of the struggle that would shortly ensue.  The jet skipped us over the rocks and barely submerged logs in mere inches of Meremac river water, glistening as the early evening sun reflected images of trees and sheer bluffs on its banks.

I sit at the bow facing the stern, hair tentatively pinned atop my head, loosening strands whipping in the wind.  I shut my eyes as the boat approaches the most shallow areas.  I can see the pebbles on the bottom.  If we stop, we're stuck.  Finally we reach Fish Trap Rapids where we meet up with neighbors also enjoying the quiet evening.  The girls are innocently playing on the gravel beach, swim suits damp from water play.  We're going fishing, slowly following the banks rich with grassy vegetation, fallen boulders and trees, bark peeling and sun bleached.

I am trying artificial bait, using something tiny and white with a treble hook.  It has a nickname, which I won't mention in polite company-or impolite for that matter.  At any rate, I don't typically use anything but worms so I'm not optimistic but I like to cast, particularly with a spinning  reel. It's light, you can feel everything, even the smallest nibble and control is much better.  I seem to have pretty good hand-eye coordination.  I can usually put it exactly where I am aiming (as long as I don't have a moving target)!  

Suddenly I have a hit.

I'm fighting it.  The rod is bending and my husband is yelling, "Keep the rod tip up" to keep the tension tight. I'm thinking, "Don't lose him!"  as I reel and pull.  I'm wishing our boat had those deep sea fishing straps,what if this guy starts pulling me in!   My brow is full of sweat, I'm bracing myself against the side of the boat.  I'm winning.

The river is pretty clear, aside from the mystery foam, seeds and occasional leaves that float down with the current,  I can start to see the beast beneath, struggling as much as I am.  I am confident now, I can do this. He breaks the water, caught solidly through the lip. I yell to get the camera, I can't let this opportunity go undocumented. 

I'll warn you, scroll down to see the photo.  I'm a mess by this time.  My hair is trashed and I'm exhausted.  I look like crap. 







I hope you enjoyed my Big Fish Story!  LOL  :)

I did catch the first, in fact four of them.  We would be lucky to have popcorn fish bites from this but it was fun!  A bald Eagle flew overhead.  He must live here because the guys tell me he is there every time they go fishing, which is often.  A beautiful heron was posing on the beach as we passed, watching us as much as we were marveling at him.

Neighbor's boat 

One of the many beaches

Have a wonderful weekend.

Linking to Farmgirl Friday

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

From Fluff to Feathers on a Roost

The kids are growing up fast! One day they are just a little yellow ball of fluff and the next thing you know they're ready for the roost, feathered out and finding their place in the pecking order.
These little Buffs are a curious lot.  As soon as they see you walking the coop becomes a hub of excitement. They jump and fly, bash into each other and darn near crush each other trying to get as close as possible.

I remember when . . . .
Look how cute, both of them.

Pretty soon they will be one these big fat hens.
Right now they are still sectioned off although one of our little gals, probably the past escapee, has somehow been sneaking out into the main coop area.   She just walks around.  No one bothers her but she can't figure out how to get back in with her buddies before we show up.

Mr. Araucana is none too thrilled.  Now, he's not mean or aggressive to them but check out that look in his eye.  He knows what we do now.  He knows one of the little gals is really a guy!   He's a pretty assertive guy too, feeling all important with that tiny comb setting atop his head.   See him below, about center and facing to the left?

This is not a good thing at all.   Someone's going to have to back down or get along.  Time will tell.

Linking to Country-homemaker-hop-20.html
 Rural Thursday-blog-hop-17-diy.html

Monday, May 14, 2012

We Have a Digger

Everything was going so well in both gardens. 
The potato tower is over the top, literally.  I have to add boards 
and start filling with straw or a combination of straw/dirt.  
These are boards my husband made out of our cedar tree.  Now, they are not
so straight because, unless dried, they will twist.  I'm making a potato tower, not furniture
so I don't really mind that it isn't perfect.  
You can see how tall it may get.  

The spinach and chard are doing well.  The spinach may seem sparse, we've been 
eating it up along with the neighboring romaine and butter crunch.

The tomatoes are doing great, EXCEPT, we have a digger!
Something has dug down around the logs that make the raised beds.
It's dug around plants, making one of my green peppers fall off!
It's pushed plants around, not wanting the plant itself.
This is the little kitchen side salad garden.  It got the big garden too.
The raccoon and opossum have never dug like this.  I am wondering, 
just wondering if it could be an armadillo.  We see more and 
more of these along side the road.  They must be coming up from Arkansas.
I checked on the internet and it says they love worms.  Boy, have we got worms!
They hate hot peppers.  Guess what might be sprinkled up at the garden soon?
They also are deterred by human urine.  I guess I can recruit some guys to help out there, 
I think I'll pass.  LOL

It hasn't bothered the grapes yet, neither have we seen the Japanese beetles.

The big garden. 
Raised beds made from felled trees.
I planted herbs in the top section.  This may change but for now, here they are.
It's amazing soil but it didn't start out that way.  Rocks, all rocks.
We layered it with manure, straw, leaves, a load of dirt and whatever else we could 
throw on it.  Now, rather than rocks and shovels, you can gently push the 
dirt aside to plant.
The digger got to this one, you can see the dirt humped up. 

Tomatoes, peppers, marigolds and tomatillo.
The digger was here too.
The section to the right, just one level down from the upper bed is
a very loose soil area.  I have onions and garlic there.

See here, it was digging under the trees to find the grubs, worms and/or lizzards.

Can you see the wire going across the bed, just above the cat? 
That's fishing line.  
We discovered the deer can't see it.  Neither can I.
That's why I have an orange ribbon on it- to remind me to duck!
When the deer walk up to it, it's as if something pokes them about chest level,
chest level to a deer, you have to remember the height.
They get spooked and leave.
I'll also hang pie tins from jute so they blow in the breeze.
Tom and Taylor plan a scarecrow too.  I'm a little worried about that, 
I've seen those movies.

This bed has more tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, more tomatillo, squash and 
nasturtium. Beans grew up the tepee last year, flowers this year.
We have zucchini squash, yellow squash, acorn and spaghetti squash growing here.
We have pickling cukes plus straight eights. 
The digger has been all around this bed, but didn't disturb anything inside.
The cattle fencing has proved perfect for us.  Easy to tie up tomatoes or 
let the vines grow.

The beans are coming up pretty well.

This is the spare bed, guard cat on duty.
We'll begin to amend that this year.  We've grown some no fail pumpkins and 
zucchini in it before, but nothing intentional, all volunteers.

The compost piles.  It's difficult to see but the little pile in front is hiding the truckloads
behind it.  Truckloads.   This is what the tree trimmers brought us, free.

We have pathways that will accommodate the tractor so we can keep the grass down.
The bed in the rear is for pumpkins (to the left) and things that need more shade (to the right).  
I haven't finished cleaning it yet.  Well, I did once but there are some very fast growing weeds.

We ran a pvc pipe under our gravel drive and then across the side yard. Then we installed a hose bib
so we'd have water from our well.  It is so much easier than carting the water over here and trying to water
everything well enough.

It may not look like much now but once we catch The Digger, we'll have some pretty nice veges in our future.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Blue and White Bits and Pieces

Happy Mothers' Day to all the mothers out there!  We've got a busy day ahead of us with church and then going to visit my mother-in-law.   My mom lives out of state so I'll be calling after she's home from church.    Taylor, my granddaughter, is with us this weekend too.  She helped make the salad last night, her job being radish washing and gobbling up spaghetti and meatballs.

This is something I was working on yesterday while my husband took Taylor and the neighbor girl out for a bike ride over at the state park which is just a couple of miles away.  It's a small one, mostly river access for boaters, trails, a fishing pond plus very small camp ground.  We've actually camped there before with Taylor.   It was close enough to run home to tend to the animals!

The backing is the flowered print with the stripe as the binding.  It was a little kit that we got at an amazing quilt shop about an hour from the house.  It comes in a paper bag with the coordinating material and some instructions.  Just a fun project that is quick to do.

I also worked on the garden, finishing up planting the flowers and some other things up at the vegetable garden.  Some cucumbers came up from last year- being the good heirloom seeds that they are-- so I transplanted them into the new cucumber area.  I'm not sure if they will take or not but if we keep them moist they will probably do OK.

We've been loving the Roku box, after dropping our satellite.  Taylor is discovering creature features, yesterday it was The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  You have to make sure the little ones watch the corny B movies.

Have a wonderful Mothers' Day, all.     

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What is this Plant?

I was walking at the edge of the woods looking at the various plants that are maturing when I came across what I believe to be two more mulberry trees- just babies.  I'm pretty excited about that.

The next plant was just a start as well.  It has shiny leaves and a cluster of  flowers in the middle of each bunch of leaves.  
It almost looks like a bay leaf.

The back is very ridged.

Any ideas?  We will be clearing the brush out but want to keep anything important. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ssssnakes in the Garden-

There was no tiny cottage with a moss covered roof.
Or a little red door with pebbled walkways; however,
it was someone's home nonetheless.
A tiny little someone, 
a mere seven inches long,
only a wee bit high.
Barely more than a worm, 
worm snake that is.

They are great hiders, rarely coming out into the open, 
preferring to hide among the leaves and under rocks, gobbling up earthworms,
a delightful treat, if you're a worm snake.
We have a veritable buffet laid out for them,
Worms by the buckets.
My beds are full of underground holes.
I thought they were moles, but no,
just a snaky walkway.
Watch closely and you just might see one race by.

He had a buddy visiting, 
A dandy dressed in flashy stripes.
Surprisingly brilliant coloring when you're sneaking up on mini frogs.
Well, what's a Western Ribbon snake to do?
A bit bigger than his friend, growing up to 30 inches long, 
part of the garter snake family.
Nothing to be scared of.

Western Worm Snake Image
Western Ribbon Snake Image

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Salad from the Garden

A yummy mix of spinach, butter crunch lettuce along with some very young romain.
Much more nourishing than iceburg lettuce, and grown in the little side garden.

I used our gargantuan radish, taking care to pluck it from the root rather than grabbing the thorny stalks.
We also had an onion that over wintered.  It never developed a "ball" at the end.  I'm going to move them to a place where the soil is more sandy.  The onion was SWEET!
Unfortunately the eggs were store bought, we at the fresh ones for breakfast.
The older girls are starting to step up the egg production so that will change, especially when the chicks are old enough to lay.

I added some olives, both black and green plus some cheese.
I looked into an olive tree but it won't grow in our zone. 

We used a Good Seasons Italian salad dressing packet.  Does anyone know how to make their own packets using homegrown herbs and spices?
We used apple cidar vinegar instead of the recommended white.  It was so good!

Pizza completed the meal, after a day of planting in the big garden.  More on that later but we'll eventually have several different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, assorted herbs, tomatillos (if luck in on our side), squash, green and red pepper, beans and cucumbers.