Thursday, August 30, 2012

Spudly Redemption

You may not remember last year's potato harvest.  I remember last year.  It was bad. 


A whole bed of tires, full of soil and straw and that was all I had to show for it.
But this year, HA!  Behold my better year!
Yes friends, that's 30 pounds of organic fairly roundish potatoes.  I have no idea what type, since they were basically what I had left over from the farmer's market last year.  They're white, if that helps.  The blue didn't do nearly as well.  I got a total of 3 1/2 pounds from them.  Two meals and they were done.  But these little guys!  Not bad for a 4ftx17ft bed.
What have I learned?  No tires.  Also, potatoes DO NOT grow in straw.  Whoever says that is lying.  The potatoes stopped where the soil stopped.  Had I used more dirt, I think I would have gotten more potatoes.
I did get quite a few of these little guys as well:
Little potato-lings, I guess.  That'll make a nice side dish for a dinner I think.  Now to stick them in the basement, which is the best place I have for curing and storing.  Woo hoo!!

post signature

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Well, Hello Again!

Long time, no post. 

It's been very busy here, and though things keep happening, it never seems like they're newsworthy.  So here's a mish-mash update instead:

The garden is giving over to my old nemesis, powdery mildew.  I never win with it.  Once we get cool nights and damp mornings, it hits and that's it.  Now things are catching it like wildfire, and that's what'll be the end of them.  This is one of the challenges of organic gardening, I find.  I have not yet found a nice organic solution to powdery mildew.  If you have one, please give me a holler.  It's unstoppable this time of year.

Luckily, things are still producing, though the garden is not so pretty.  Today's harvest:
The white thing is an eggplant.  The flowers on top are Calendula.
The basket is full, so that's really good.  The tomatoes are coming in hard and fast, and now I'm getting the larger ones instead of just the smaller ones.  For example,

Kellogg's Breakfast

Mortgage Lifter

This is the first time I've gotten any Mortgage Lifter from the garden--they've always been green.  But good things come to those who wait, and they are heavenly!  Yes, they've gone on my next year growing list.  Along with them, my list contains Pearly Pink, Grape, and San Marzano.  I've grown the San Marzano as well as Roma this year, and though San Marzano has taken longer to ripen, they produce bunches of 8-10 meaty tomatoes on each little stemlet, and there are several stemlets per plant.  They're a very nice canning tomato.  I think they've blown the Roma away, but I'll wait until the year is over until I do my tallies to know for sure.

8 million grape tomatoes and under it all, some Pruden's Purple and a bunch of San Marzano

The Grape tomatoes are just like little machines.  They were always coming in fast, but now they're coming in at light speed.  Makes me think I'm getting the last hurrah.  I hope not!  I need some for the harvest festival!  We will see what we will see.

You know how when you homestead, you're always rigging up something?   Well, with the Calendula flowers, I needed a way to dry the petals.  I didn't want to lug the dehydrator up for that, it seemed silly, so I thought "solar dehydrator".  But you know how I love to build (ahem).   And the list for buildings is kinda long right now, seeing as I adopted some rabbits, so it's not on the top of the list.  Then I had a brainy idea.  What is a solar dehydrator other than a piece of glass or plastic, and some reflective material to catch the sun?  Well, taa-daaaa!

Genius!  It's a danish pan from the supermarket.  I think I took it from somewhere at some point, thinking I could use it, and then didn't.  It's been in the basement pantry for quite a while.  But then I thought, hey, that could work!  And it does.  Those petals will be dry in no time flat.  I'm not saying I could dry foodstuffs in there, but it works very well for these flowers.  Cost?  $0!  I like that.

As to the rabbits?  They are doing just fine.  Philip Johnny Bob and Ygraine have accepted me and are dealing with me handling them.  Ygraine is being plucked by me slowly, and I can see the improvement in her coat from it.  I do it by hand, with her on my lap.  It's actually very relaxing.  Hopefully for both of us.  Now when I'm done (or she tells me I'm done), I can put her down and see where I've done and where I haven't.  She is starting to look much better, and I'm getting some beautiful fiber from her.  Philip Johnny Bob is not ready to be plucked yet, as he's been shaved down recently, but he'll get there.  Right now he's just getting used to being handled.  He seems to be getting better.  I think the green beans are probably helping my cause alot.

And Bella?  The bunny from the garbage?  She doesn't like us.  She doesn't trust us.  It's going to be a long road with her.  But I hope we'll get to a mutual "ok-ness" someday.  We'll have to see.

And I think that's all the news that's fit to print here at Chicken Scratch.  I hope you all have a fantastic day!
post signature

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Chicken Scratch--Now with More Fiber!

And it's because I need my head examined.

You know how these things go?  You say to yourself, "Self, I would really like this farm/homestead to also produce...milk/bread/pork/silkworms/peacock feathers someday".  You know, something like that.  Something you want to produce that you don't already produce?   With me, it's fiber.  We have NO fiber animals here at all.  And I am a fiber-aholic.  I love fabric, thread, ribbons, and yarn.  You name it, if I can touch it and feel it, I want to have it.  Yeah, it can be that bad.

Well, a couple of years ago, I went to a mill in a nearby town and bought a skein of locally grown alpaca yarn.  And let me just say, oh my gosh I NEVER knew how beautiful that stuff is!  I still haven't used it--I'm afraid to screw it up.  But I take it out every once in a while and feel it and squeeze it and say sweet nothings to it and so on.  Gorgeous stuff.  I knew from that point on that one day I would like to add a fiber animal to our homestead farm.  Just so I could roll in all the fleece, you know?

It went to the back of the brain box, that idea.  The key was to get us going food-wise before I even CONSIDERED fiber animals in any capacity.  And what a responsibility an alpaca would be.  I don't know about you all, but it seems to me that alpaca farmers are just a totally different breed of farmer.  I didn't think I would be ready for that, so I thought I would start smaller, just to get my feet wet.  This led me to thinking about sheep--but we have no pasture.  Then I thought about Angora rabbits.  They're hairy.  They're good for yarn.  They're also impossible to find around here.  So we were safe in the meantime, as I couldn't find any I could afford and wasn't ready for them anyway.

I'm still not ready for them, but they're here anyway.  I know that's happened to all of you at some point, so I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Meet Ygraine (Ee-grain):

and Philip Johnny Bob (tell me which book series that's from, and I'll send you a nickle):

Philip Johnny Bob enjoys organic green beans.  He says backyard beans are the best!

They are breeding pair of English Angora rabbits and another reason why I should not check Craigslist's Farm/Garden section anymore.  Ever.

A woman in the next county had these two for her daughter, a 4-H-er.  The daughter is tired of them and no longer does 4-H.  The woman doesn't want to keep them.  Need I say more?  Here they are, then.  I got them for a knock-down price, and Ygraine was supposedly Grand Champion at the fair back in her day.  She's 4 years old now, and Philip Johnny Bob is 2.  He's her son, so it'll be line breeding, but breed them I will, after I get them up to condition.  That way I won't have to worry that Ygraine is getting a little long in the tooth.

And no, their names weren't Ygraine and Philip Johnny Bob originally.  They were Cocoa (him) and Puff (her).  We don't name our animals things like that here, though, everyone gets a "real" name.  So the kids brainstormed in the car and that's how we got Ygraine.  Philip Johnny Bob was originally named Edward by the kids, but when we got him home, his name wasn't that.  He said so.  So I changed it.  He likes it, I think.

Anyway, I was glad Philip Johnny Bob is not named Edward because of this little one:

My daugher tells me her name is Bella.

I know, right?  What the hell is wrong with me?  The woman had this one as well, a New Jersey Wooly, also good for fiber.  She just wanted to get rid of her, so she asked if I would just take her.  This is why I did:

Up in these parts, there is a certain ethnicity of people that comes up to live in camps of a religious nature.  There are many kids, as it's all families.  The woman I got these rabbits from lives right in the middle of a bunch of these camps, and says that the families come up and buy their kids pets for the summer, to have as toys.  She says that after the summer is over, before they go home, they throw the pets away.   Yes, you read that right.  She says they throw the pet, the cage, the whole thing, right into the garbage, as they don't want to/can't take it home.  She learned this a few years ago, and now waits for the camps to be out to basically go dumpster diving.  This one was in the dumpster with 3 inches of manure in it's cage. 

We are a disgusting species, we really are.

So how could I not take her?  She's a total nut, and completely nervous, and who knows what she's been through, so I suggested we name her Psychotic Wackadoo, but that was vetoed.  Bella it is, and she'll need a lot of work.  I am glad the Edward name didn't stick, then.  I don't think I could have taken the Twilight references people would have thrown.  I've never even SEEN those stupid movies.

And that's my story.  Needless to say, I had nowhere to put them, and brought them home, and then had to run out and buy water bottles and two cages, because I was two cages short.  The bunnies are all residing in the living room in their houses until I can get them all cleaned up.  Then I'll figure it out from there. 

Ah, planning... who needs it??

post signature

Monday, August 20, 2012


Harvest is in full swing at Chicken Scratch, and I can definitely see the theme--tomatoes.  My harvest basket gets filled almost to the top every time I go out, which is usually every other day.  Most of the things in the basket are tomatoes, but they are not the only things in the basket.  I've been taking pictures of some of the baskets, and it's been funny to look at the change in what's being brought in.  Want a peek?

Before the tomato explosion, the basket was not too full.  Beans, eggplant and some potatoes figured in.

Then I went out a week later, just to look, and there were some ready, which I put in my dress.

Then it got interesting.

One week later:

Then a few more days:

A few more days:
 (this was a biggie)

A few more days:

It looks like a lot.  In actuality, though it looks like it's ALL tomatoes, the other stuff is underneath.  I tend to harvest from the front to back, and the tomatoes are in the back, so they are always on top.  The beans and cucumbers and such are first, so they're underneath. 

Finally, I wised up and remembered to go the OTHER way.  Genius.

That makes for a prettier basket, and a more accurate representation.  Don't get me wrong, though, there are PLENTY of tomatoes on the bottom there. 

We have been able to eat fresh tomatoes when we want to, I've made salsa once, and can again, and I have 9 full jars of sauce frozen away.  I can make more tomorrow, too.  All in all, not bad for this early in the tomato season, and much better than last year.  What have I learned about tomatoes so far?

That 90-ish tomato plants is a good number.  Truly, I think that 100 would be better still.  The jury is still out on which tomatoes I'd like to grow next year, but I think the number's finally about right.  It has left us enough to be able to save, enough to eat, and I think I should have enough to be able to sell as well.  It also leaves enough that when the chickens get into them (which they do), I don't get TOO annoyed when I have to pitch a tomato or two.  Or five.  Dang chickens. 

So, so far so good, I think.  Having a better picture of how many plants are needed to fill our needs is reassuring.  Previous to this, all I could ever say was I needed "more".  Now I have an idea of how many "more" is.  Hopefully I can apply this to the other plants as well when they're ready (many aren't--carrots and peppers and the like).  I like to have numbers.  It is a good way to know what to expect. 

I'm a big fan of that.
post signature

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Soap For the Festival--Part 2

Hello again!

I thought I'd show you how the Lime/Pineapple soap came out after cutting and curing a little while.  Here it is:

There's little soda ash on top I've got to get off, but not too bad.  The delineation in the colors came out really well, I forgot to take a picture.

To add to the pack, this is Lavender and Pearls.  It's a lavender soap, swirled and dropped with white, and then topped with some glitter for shine.

Then, because I like to stripe, too, I made a bar of Earl Grey Tea with Lemon.  This one smells fabulous, like Meyer Lemons and a hint of tea.  So nice!

This one was cool before being cut, too.  Wanna see?


This nubbly one is Vanilla Sugar.  The sugar is on the top, which is why it's so bumply.

And last, but not least, a straight-up no fragrance, no color Castille bar.  'Cause you just never know.

And that's the line for the festival.  Now it's time to wrap them up and get them ready to go!

post signature

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Frum Tor Agin

Deer Bad Laydee,

'Smee, Tor.

I wanted to talk to yoo agin abowt those things yoo bring intoo my howse.  Yoo nowe whut I meen.  Theese things.

Thees is new. 
I don't get it.  They wuz egggs, and now they is fuzzee and stinkee.  I not like them.

Dis my dissappprooval disaapprooval unhappee face.
Why yoo not let me eet them?  It wood be ovur quik.  I wood stalk them,

I is stelthee
Then put my fut in there like dis,

Oh no!  The bad man claw gets mee!
 And then SLUURP!

I is demonstraytin demunstrayteen showing yoo.
I wood bite them like dis bocks.  Yum!  All gone.

They bothur me, bad laydee.  They squeek like a toy, but yoo say they is not toys.  Huh?

Dat's all I's gonna say about dat.

But P.S-- Pleeze get rid of dis one, too.

Hee's big and not afraid of me aneemore.  In fact, hee peks my face.  Ouch!  The horrur!

Oh, and I don't think hee shoold wach TV.  It will rot his brayn.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Ducks in Diapers

Odd?  Yep.

Unusual?  A little, maybe.  But as I looked into it more, it seems there's a slew of people who keep ducks as house pets, and therefore have diapered them.


I'm not thinking this little duck will be a house pet forever, but he/she sure does LOVE my daughter and people in general, and so the only way to really make him/her happy is to keep him/her inside.

Remember this little one?

This one hatched on the 26th of July, and was adopted by my daughter.  He (we'll call him/her that for simplicity's sake)became very attached to my daughter and all people and hated being alone.

Enter duck #2.

This little yellow may have been kidnapped from Susie, his/her mom the following week.  In our defense, we did it so the little grey wasn't lonely anymore and would stop yelling, which was really getting tiring.

Then I noticed that Susie's eggs were disappearing.  And then her ducklings were disappearing.  First one duck was found smothered.  Another was drowned.  Then another (that I didn't even see hatch) was smothered.  Her missing eggs?  Still missing.

That was that.  I took the one remaining baby away, and then there were three.  These two little nutter-butters,

and a small grey and yellow one that Susie and the other ducks hadn't been allowing to eat.  It is remarkably smaller than the other two (obviously) well-fed ones, though they are all the same age, give or take a day or two.  The only eggs left in the house were being sat on by the stink-eye duck, so I took them--all three.  They started to hatch yesterday.

But Little Grey?  Well, he's thrilled to have friends, and lives outside in the brooder most of the time, but he really, really likes people.  So we bring him in.  But he poops.  What's a girl to do?  Diaper him.

This blurry picture is of Little Grey wearing a duck diaper made out of an old sock.  It's not my design--I found it on some Internet chat board.  But it does the job of containing the mess and it's the only way Little Grey is allowed inside.  I did not know that this was such an art form.  But hey, it is.  And ducks are nice, as pets go, but whether or not Little Grey is going to be allowed to stay inside as a house duck, I doubt.  He's a DUCK, for goodness sakes. For now, though, it's OK.  We'll see where this takes us....

post signature

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going in the Wrong Direction

 This article was in my newspaper this past week.  I found it in the LA Times to share

Just another reason we should grow our own. 

post signature

Friday, August 10, 2012

Home Grown

I love this.  Going out to the backyard and picking a meal.  We had a fantastic meal on Sunday, straight out of the backyard.  The only things we didn't have are the milk and cheese.  But next year, that'll be a different story!!

Tomatoes from the garden, cooking down to make sauce

Chicken from the backyard.  OH MY GOSH GOOD!!!

Yellow squash with cheese sauce.

Purple potatoes and fingerlings from the garden

And of course, can I forget?  Other things have been grown here, too.

Thor, the wonder cat

Little girl and her little duck

Nearly a third grader

post signature
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...