Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, June 29, 2012

How Hot Was It?

This is what happens when it gets to be 100* (actual not heat index).....

It was so hot yesterday that the goose exploded......

Actually Cindy is just molting.

Then the dog exploded.....

Really Dog #1 and #2 are blowing their coats. I combed them out in the garden to ward off varmints.

And this chicken's feathers went flying off....

I have no excuse for this gal. She just looks bad.

But at least the ducks found some fun in the sprinkler.

The ducks were happily sitting in the spray until I walked up on them.

All joking aside, hot weather is tough on the barnyard. When it gets to be about 100* the poultry start dying. Its a tough go for sure.

To handle the heat around here we keep everyone hydrated, run a sprinkler in the hen yard, and hose off the hen house a couple times during the day to cool it off. We have tons of buckets of water, let everyone out early, and keep the doors of the poultry house open as long as possible at night. Of course dusk and dawn are prime predator times so keep a watchful eye out for varmints.

You can read more here about how to handle the heat. The best old timer's advice is always, "Give them the right tools, then let them handle it."

Stay cool, friends, looks like this weather pattern is here to stay for a while!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Feeding whole grains to chickens - the old fashined way!

You can't get much more old school than this!? 

Most of our state is under an extreme fire warning. We've been so hot and dry that some of the grain fields are actually burning down. Not only from stupid people throwing burning cigarettes out their car windows but also just from the heat. It a terrible loss for the farmers and a hazard for everyone nearby.

Our grain patch is far enough back from the road that I don't think an accidental fire is likely - but then I remembered that we are coming up on the 4th of July. One of my least favorite holidays. Not that I'm not patriotic... far from it. Its just that most times I'm standing there in my yard with the hose just waiting for my stupid neighbors to have a shoot 'em up, shoot 'em off, good-time-for-them-and-no-one-else bonfire. So I figured I'd get out there and take off the rest of my wheat before something foolish happens.

You can read more about why I let the grain ripen instead of just tilling it under here. Today I thought I'd show you what I do most mornings. I gather up Ol' SwingBlade, the pitchfork, and Little Red and head outside the gate.

I only have a small patch left but this patch has fed my hennies for most of this summer. A few swings later and I have a nice little pile of wheat in a heap.  See how I put it all in a row? Its easy the scoop up like this.  If I was fancy I would have something like this to help make this work go faster.

I scoop up the grain and load up Little Red and back to the henyard we go. This morning I had some much appreciated help. Thanks, honey!

Then I just dump it in the henyard and watch the fracas.  The hens thresh the grain themselves. That is - they remove the grain kernel from the husk. Not only does this keep the hennies busy and out of the bingo parlor, but its basically no work for me at all!

Whats left when they are done eating all that good stuff is just the straw. I just rake it all up along with the barnlitter and voila!  Mulch perfect for the garden. Isn't that just a wonderful little cycle?

And this is great if you are looking to feed your hennies without soy. You can read more about the how's and why's here. My pal Freemotion really knows her stuff!

Growing our own grains has been one of our best projects. This fall I'm going to go nuts planting winter wheat in the lower part of hill where we have been clearing. The wheat will grow very slowly over winter and then reach for the sky in the spring - and then we'll start this all over again.

Feeding whole grains to chickens - what could be more fun?

Happy Thursday everyone!  Keep cool today - its gonna be a scorcher for sure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Because they just keep getting cuter.....

This is what I found yesterday when I went to check on my momma duck and her babies....

They just keep getting cuter. The little black and yellow one is still much smaller than they others but he's trying to catch up. They are full of fun and happily peeping all around.

This is our last cool morning then the heat will be blazing. They already issued heat advisories and all kinds of weather warnings for tomorrow. We might hit 100*!  Then we'll be in the 90*'s for a while. And there is no real rain in sight.

The other day it occurred to me that I'm already done with the heat... and then it dawned on me that we still have three more months of hot weather. Drat. There will be some pretty fancy footwork here in the next couple days trying to keep everyone cool and watered.

Happy last cool morning everyone! Here comes the summer!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nicholas weighs in: Hard Day #7

I tell you the truth nothing is as hilarious as watching and entire vet staff burst into gales of giggles when you pull your most enormous cat out of your smallest cat carrier. Thus started Nicholas's most recent hard day - the 7th of such.
Nicholas, bigger than a laptop. Yes that is a pie recipe on the screen.

I loaded up Mr. MouseStompers and headed into civilization in the big truck this morning to see what our Good Vet could do for El Grande. It seems that he's had a bit of gastrointestinal discomfort lately. They couldn't have cared less. All of them gathered around Nicolas to see our most massive feline.

"Who is his daddy?" They asked between fits of oohing and aaahing... "A mountain lion?" They joked, answering their own question and set to laughing again.

Nicholas with Itty Bitty, a more normal sized cat, in the background.

The vet techs went out into the hall and waved others into the already crowed exam room. "You gotta see this!" They excitedly told their work mates.... and then with great ceremony they brought out the scale.

Nicholas weighed in at 21 pounds. At that point who cares about the ounces.

After poking and prodding and humiliations galore they determined that altho he was big... he wasn't really that overweight. His enormous paws and head proved that he was mostly in proportion... but he could stand to loose a little around the middle. They thought that perhaps he was an emotional eater.

And so it has been decided. If you are as big of a fan of The Gardener of Eden as I am then you know that she has a chub cat too - her Alvin. So together Alvin, Nicholas, and Annie's Granny's feline friend will be forming a support group to see if they can get a handle on their emotional eating. Or perhaps they will have to "go paleo" as well.... donuts not included. 

Nicholas's huge head holds lots of deep thoughts. Not really, he's thinking of food.

Sorry about the drama today, Nicholas. I know it was a hard day indeed. Just like these others....

Nicholas's Hard Day #1
Nicholas's Hard Day #2
Nicholas's Hard Day #3
Nicholas's Hard Day #4
Nicholas's Hard Day #5
Nicholas's Hard Day #6 
Nicholas's Hard Day #7
Nicholas's Hard Day#8
Nicholas's Hard Day #9 
Nicholas's Hard Day #10
Happy Tuesday everyone and I'm hoping you are having a better day than Nicholas!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

My New Milking Buddies

How cute are these little guys?

One of our duck mommas finally hatched these ducklings. She and a chicken hen were sharing a nest - which never really works out.

Finally these little ducklings came toddling out one morning. The momma duck sat on her nest for another 3 days and finally the little black and yellow one hatched.

Now they are my new milking buddies. The momma loves to peep all around when I'm milking hoping for some sips of milk out of my bucket. How can I deny these funny little faces? An empty cat food can is a perfect drinker or feeder for these babies. I put a little milk in the can and they just enjoy the dickens out of it.

I'm keeping them locked up for a few more days. That newest one is still a bit small to be outside. She's a great momma tho and will protect them from the hen swarm. My only worry is that they are still "crow sized" and are easy pickings if they are out in the open.

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Garden Police Are Coming For You

Because an unemployed lady trying to grow her own groceries in her front yard is a crime.....

Do not think for a minute that this is a one time thing. Remember that Detroit incident last summer? The woman who put in a garden and was arrested?

Even if you aren't a conspiracy theorist you just can't believe that all of this is just about code violations. Private production of your own food is in the cross hairs. Stay vigilant, people. Don't fall for the lie that only "professionals" can, or should, grow food. We could end some, if not all, of the hunger problems in this country if everyone had a little garden and a few chickens in their yard. It used to be the patriotic thing to do. Now its a crime? Its something to think about.

In the meantime, you might want to all start working on fencing projects lest your neighbors decide that your garden is ugly and want to cut it down. You'll remember that I have experience with this.

I hope this woman sues the pants of the city, then drives her big luxury car she'll get with her big winnings directly over the neighbor who reported her, and gives them the finger.

Happy Friday everyone.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hot Dogs and Cute Ducklings

Is everyone surviving the heat? We have another scorcher on tap today. Yesterday I can assure you I was awake for every second of our longest day... its started about 4:30 in our AM.

We keep forgetting Zander is a baby. Wonder why? He keeps growing. Zoikes!

I try to get as much done outside as early as possible...and this goofy bunch helps me. I let them run around as much as they can before the heat gets too bad. Poor Zander only lasted until 9:30am... we kinda keep forgetting he's still a baby and can't deal with the heat as well as the rest of the pack.

Kai's tongue couldn't hang out any further.

Miss Duck is feeling the heat as well - its so hot that she isn't even sitting ON her nest. She is sitting beside it. I thought I should take up the eggs but then another duckling hatched! She knows what she is doing. I was sure I saw two new ducklings... but I could only find one new arrival when I looked closer. She's still guarding her eggs so I'll just leave her be - more could be coming!

Miss Duck and her first little one

And now the funny story of how I went out the other nite for chores and was reviewing the poultry swarm... hen, hen, rooster, baby duck with no momma, goose... hen.. Hey! And there he was the most adorable little baby duckling... alone with the hen mob! So I started yelling for The Big Man - afraid the baby would be killed by the hens or other ducks..I scooped up the baby and put him in, of course, my "personal poultry incubator", and then we did a hasty search for other ducklings. We didn't find anymore - just the one. Then we had to figure out where he came from.

Here is the second duckling - just adorable!

After some Sherlock-like deductive reasoning we determined he was from Miss Duck's nest and gingerly put him near her... and he peeped, and she peeped, and whew! She was the right momma. Poultry momma's aren't interested in other babies - we know that they will kill them so we had to find the right momma.

Then next morning I rushed out to see if she had any more babies. And I couldn't find the one from the night before! No baby duckling! I looked everywhere - including in the water buckets - really hoping not to find him there. Then I flashed with rage - the stupid rats. They had carried off babies before...which was why we...um... "made safe the hen house" last week... which was, as you now know, very successful. So I glumly walked out of the hen house and when I raised my eyes... there he was! The baby duckling was with the hen swarm again!! Outside already running around!

For heavens sakes.

There was a bit of a chase but I returned him to Miss Duck. And I figured out where he was escaping and secured the coop so we wouldn't have any more of this foolishness. He's a firecracker for sure.

Since its been so hot I've been scooping him up and putting him in a bucket of water to splash around in...but just for a second.. and he's also been paddling around in a shallow pan of water in the coop under Miss Duck's supervision.

I have to say, I just love baby ducklings. And when they grow up...well... I'm really looking forward to a full harvest and duck eggrolls all around. But for now I'm just gonna be charmed by them.

Welcome to the flock little ones!

Happy Thursday everyone! Keep cool and keep an eye on the flocks. Looks like another day or two of this heat.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Poetry Slam: OFG Style

Editors note: Decent folks, just look away. Don't read this. Come back tomorrow when there will be cute baby ducks. Consider yourselves warned. We, the editors of Adventures in the Good Land, are blaming it on the heat as that's the only explanation for this foolishness. Hopefully this will be the first, and only, poetry slam.

The scene:  A gritty downtown nightclub, troubled urbanites and their followers fill the hazy basement of an after hours club, nervous competitors review their notes and wait to be called to perform. The MC hesitantly announces the next name... "OFG to the stage, please"...a smattering of applause and smirking looks from those who do well  at this kind of thing. Newcomers aren't welcome and are greeted with suspicion.

House lights go out and suddenly a single spotlight shines directly down on an unkept, angry looking woman in a dirty shirt and barn boots.  Varmint control is ugly and not for the faint of heart. Rat shoots, poison, curly tailed bear killers going mano y mano with the most hated vermin.....sometimes it all becomes too much, even for the steadfast.

OFG grabs the mic and yells her rage, expressing the events of the last several days the only way that she sees fit...She calls this...Parade of Death.

Four dead rats in a sack
Die, rat, die!
Got 'em!
Good girl, Kai!

The crowd is stunned, they let the vivid imagery and symbolism wash over them for a minute... then they are on their feet with wild applause. OFG drops the mic and walks off stage. The other competitors shake their heads knowing they can't follow that performance.

The night ends.

Check it out! Chai Chai has posted some more of her fancy guinea prose.. haikus to be exact!  Great work baby!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Something adorable is happening here

I just love baby ducks.....

Hey baby! Look who's here!

Miss Duck is a favorite and an excellent momma. She's settin' that nest... like a boss.

 I hope more babies hatch. I'll check on her later today.

More on this stunning new arrival's surprise entrance later... we got a little rain this morning and I'm hoping to do some work outside.

Happy Monday everyone!  Crank on the air conditioning... its gonna be a hot week in the mid-West!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Little and Big

No matter how many times I see this....... I just love it.

How adorable is this? Little egg, big egg.  This isn't he smallest "whoopsie" egg that we've gotten but its still pretty cute especially compared to this bigg-ish egg. I'm always amazed at the variety of eggs we get from our ladies.

This little egg is called a "pullet" egg - its usually from when a very young her first starts laying eggs.. or when one of the hens who's finished molting re-starts laying again. We find these from time to time and they always crack me up.

A little housekeeping:  For a while yesterday I thought the comments problem with blogger had been resolved... but its not right again today. Apologies to everyone who has been kind enough to leave a message. Some folks have said they can't even get the comments to work at all. You are always welcome to send an email to me at ohiofarmg   at    g      mail  (dot) com.   Note its "g" not "girl - that gal is sick of getting my emails for sure!

Its been pouring rain for the last hour - just south of us. Here's hoping today its really going to happen. Come one rain!

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday snaps and update

Blogger seems to be acting up lately and I'm having trouble with the comments.... so my apologies if its not working for you either! Hopefully it will be fixed soon. In the meantime....a  few happy snaps and an update.

Young sunflowers reach for the sky.

We never got our good soaking rain last week. It rained for a bit that what was it. Actually some of us are starting to get nervous. The weather guy said that we've had less than an inch of rain in the last 35 days.... far from last year when we had about 200 days with rain! The forecast doesn't even mention rain for the next week to 10 days. Nothing but blue skies and low humidity. OK I admit it.... I was the one who wished for this but um... we need a little rain please.

Squash blossom

I don't think this rainless pattern is going to break so we are doing a lot of sprinkler moving. Good thing I have the water trolley also. I continue to use the water out of the stock trough - this works great. Lightly fertilized by the geese and I'm not wasting the water.

Surprise cranberry beans

I found some cranberry beans from last year! I'm such a goof - I found them in a bucket and wow was I surprised. So I'm planting them up. There are two rows in the Square Garden and three rows in the upper garden near the pear tree. I was able to easily take off the rest of the wheat for the hennies and till under the stubble. I scored some leaf mulch at a great price so I worked that into the soil as well. Hopefully these beans will pop up soon.
The buckwheat has set seed.. I'll take it up next week. The seeds will be planted when we get some rain.

The gardens continue to grow, the chicken continue to chicken around, goats are goating....and not one egg has hatched for us. Not a one. We had some turkey eggs in the incubator and they did not hatch or even develop. The hens haven't had one chick hatch despite their best efforts, I'm about to give up on the ducks, and sadly its not looking good for our momma goose, Cindy. If she doesn't get up by next week I'll have to take her off her nest. Some folks think its because of this crazy weather. Normally we'd be sweltering in the humidity but right now its dry.. we've been running about 25% humidity which is just nuts for us. Whatever the reason its very odd indeed.

That's the update here. Dry and sunny...and a lot of sprinkling.

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Senseless Victims of Marketing

You know how I'm always yammering on about how what we eat is largely cultural and almost always because of marketing? And how I'm always saying don't be a senseless victims of marketing - especially for your food choices?

My pal Tony over at FED (Fitness in an Evolutionary Direction - a great paleo/primal blog) posted a terrific article the other day about how vegetable oils overtook animal fats in our culture as the fat of choice. Its an excerpt from The Happiness Diet by Drew Ramsey. I have not read the book but I can tell you that this is exactly how marketing works. Its a good wake up call if you don't fully understand how advertising impacts your life - and especially your health.

Is marketing evil? Nope. Not necessarily. But as a consumer you need to understand how you are being manipulated. Every TV show, movie, and magazine out there exists for one purpose - to sell you something. Start looking around and you'll find it everywhere.

Ever notice that in the very center of your screen is a perfectly framed shot of a phone (necessary to solve the crime), computer (with logo), or that glamor shot of the car (with logo) whipping around the corner? And for no apparent reason, in the middle of a car chase, the hero turns to his sidekick and says, "Wow! This car handles great with the new and improved technical cornering system." Features and benefits right there as part of the story. We always laugh when that happens.

Or maybe its more subtle. Have you noticed that everyone's favorite 30 minute cook - who I blame entirely for the sky high price of Parmesan cheese - is now making burgers all the time? Do you really think she just got a hankering for a big ol' burger - or do you think she scored a prime contract with the beef folks to encourage you to make burgers for dinner?

My favorite example is the formerly-chubby B-list stars who were on Dancing With The Stars and lost weight thru the sheer amount of physical exercise... but then get signed up with a million dollar deal for one of those weight loss systems. Them gals didn't get skinny on that prepackaged food, friend, she just danced her bottom off.  Literally.

Marketing is either subtle or its not. But its out there. That soda/beer/pair of shoes is just what you need to make you happy. And don't you know that you already have the symptoms of a dreaded disease with a cool acronym they are showing on the TV? You should run right out to the doctor... now. In that flashy new car with the on-board GPS system. And of course, stop at the drive thru to get that fabulous new meal combo. Be sure to talk on your new phone while you are driving there. Then you'll be happy.

Marketing is all about creating a need you may or may not have. Then telling you what product you must have to fill that real or imagined need. All those products will take away all your problems and then you can be happy like those folks in the commercials. And all of them use corn oil - not that old lard. Who wants that old school lard? Not the cool people...

To quote the great philosopher, and Dread Pirate, Roberts..."Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."  But in our case.. everyone is always selling you something. You just might not know it. But now you do. 

Happy Wednesday everyone! Now keep your eyes peeled wide open for who is trying to sell you whatever they got. Don't be a senseless victim of marketing!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Keeping chickens out of the garden

Or rather... how to keep your garden from being demolished by hennies who sneak in looking for easy pickings....
The rolls of field fence curve perfectly to form a "hoop."

Most of my hens stay out of the front yard. The geese, dogs, and I keep chasing the malcontents back to the hen yard and the lower hill where they have miles and miles to scratch around. However, some of them still prefer the garden probably because of all the seeds just laying around. Chickens!

This hoop is a little taller to accommodate the 'maters originally planted under it. Those plants are now sturdy enough to withstand the hens....so I just moved the hoop over these new, younger plants.

The hens are masters of hopping the fence. I could clip their wings and pluck them bald and they would still get thru or over the fence and into the garden. So I've been employing a variety of techniques to keep the chickens away from the tender young plants and where the seeds are sprouting.

My best idea is one that I've been reluctant to use - but what was I thinking? So far using short sections of field fence as "hoops" have been most effective at keeping the hens at bay. They can't get between the holes in the fence to scratch around - and having the "hoop" low enough keeps the hens from sneaking under.

I've resisted this because the field fence is so expensive... but then so is replanting a garden. However, I can re-use these short sections, move them around when needed, and they store easily. I just cut between the holes in the fence - so that I can push the pieces of wire into the ground to secure them. And the curve of the fence from the roll forms the perfect "hoop."

This also works for the stupid cardinals. I know they are Ohio's state bird but they are a pox upon me. Dogs#1 and #2 hate them also - like....really hate them in a weird way..... so they tend to chase them off. But the cardinals keep snatching up my just-spouted seeds. I believe they got a whole row of corn out by the road. Stupid birds! 

But I'm defeating them by using these field fence hoops, sometimes with some netting draped over as extra insurance.
Broccoli rabe sprout in defiance of the hen invaders.

I also have my own riff on the old "bottom cut out of a plastic soda bottle" and used as a cloche to protect the seeds. Since we don't drink soda by the gallon or really at all....  we use big water jugs. Back on the old farm we had to buy bottled water and we had a bunch of those big 5 gallon water jugs. So I cut away the bottom (which can be used for lots of things) and put them over the seeds.

By the time the seeds sprout and fill the jugs they are safe from the birds - the stupid ones and my hennies. Just remember to water the seeds by removing the jug - and then replacing it of course. I have not had any luck trying to water thru the open neck/top of the jugs.

I probably was too lax in letting the hennies come into the garden before I planted it - which is why they keep coming over. But really I think they did a great job of scratching it up for me, eating the bugs, and leaving some fertilizer behind. Now I just have to convince them that the hen yard is the best place to roam around.

In the afternoons - during the daily "late afternoon peck around" - me and Dog#1 sit out front. Me with the hose to spray the hens, and Dog#1 with his hell yeah, are convincing the hennies just to stay over on their side. Now if that only worked for the cardinals. Stupid birds!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Amber Waves of Grain

The wheat I planted is ripening... isn't it glorious?  I believe most of the grains in our part of the world are early this year because of the warm and mild weather - folks are taking off their grains for harvest.

Just beautiful!

So am I. However I'm not using a big combine. Just my scythe... good old SwingBlade. I planted the wheat as a cover crop but instead of just tiling it under I let it grow to maturity. Now its serving double duty as feed for the chickens and straw for mulch.

These are still a little green

If you are interested in this project then run right over and get Gene Logsdon's incredible book, Small-Scale Grain Raising, Second Edition: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains, for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers.  This informative book tells you exactly how you can grow grains in your garden - from getting the soil ready to harvesting. How fun would it be to have a pancake garden?

And of course Harvey Ussery has some things to say about using your homestead's resources to feed your flock. He finally has a book out also - I consider him to be the King of the Flock. He really knows his stuff.

In the mornings me and ol' SwingBlade trolly out to the front of the property and cut down some of the the grains, gather them up where they lay, and take them into the henyard to a multitude of rejoicing chickens.
The straw - the stems from the wheat - have all kinds of uses. And are free.

Sure I guess I could harvest them for our use but really, I'll get more bang for my buck cutting down my feed bill than having it for our use. Especially since we are trying to be all paleo and stuff. When I get a larger area we can work on having more for us but letting the cover crop that improves the soil help in these other ways is a great use of time and space.

These are the oats, just about ready.

The hennies scratch around to get the grains leaving the straw for me to rake up - with some barnyard litter - to use as mulch for the garden. I've been working on building up the mulch layer in the pathways of the gardens to cut down the weeds, retain the moisture, and provide places for the worms to hide.

If we ever get some predictable rain I'll till in the stubble from the grains and then plant more alfalfa and hay. But for now we are so dry that the rain that is supposed to be coming isn't even making it to the ground. Hopefully tho, we'll get a good soaking later today. Until then me and ol' SwingBlade are heading out to get some "free" food for the hennies.

Happy Monday everyone! Anyone else taking off their grains?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Chinese Five Spice Pork Belly on the Grill or Char Siu

Back when we were parting up the pigs I labeled a couple cuts as "belly for the grill" and put them in the freezer. While it may initially sound like a waste of bacon-to-be....and I can't remember where I first heard about this...I've had it in my head for months. It did not disappoint.

Would you just look at that! I thought my cross hatching was rather good. 

Wow oh wow we had one of the "for the grill bellies" for supper last nite. It was incredible..... I wish I would have remembered which cut it was specifically. Truly spectacular.  I loosely used this recipe. And this site is really great too and uses a pork shoulder if you can't get a belly. But just ask your butcher and he can probably get one for you. Or just raise your own pigz... You can use the shoulder but I think I'd like these fatty cuts better. However.... this cut was not fatty at all. It was heavenly.

Just the right amount of fat and beautiful meat..the "char" part was perfect with the five spice.

I marinated the belly in the five spice, soy, vinegar, garlic, and I think some Thai sweet chili sauce over night. Then I just grilled it over indirect heat. That is - I heated up the grill with all three burners, turned the middle burner off, flopped the meat on the center of the grill and cooked it off the direct heat. It took about 15 minutes a side because it was a fairly thick cut. And I let it cook the longest amount of time with the more-fatty side up. To be sure it was properly "char" style I let it get a little crisp on the direct flame for a couple seconds.

And I made potstickers also. Yay!

As I was making this supper I was thinking about my friend, S, who had a really icky day yesterday. So I was wishing I was serving this up for her with a big glass of white wine and tons of love. Nothing says love like chinese five spice pork belly prepared in the char siu way. Hang in there, baby!

Happy Sunday everyone! Now you know what to grill!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Today was the last day. The very last day.

*OFG stomps angrily up the hill from the pig yard, throws feed bucket out of view, yells into camera....*

"This is the last... the LAST day that I'm getting in the pen with them lazy, no-good, filthy, flea ridden, thrice cursed, despicable, disgusting daughters of Jezebel!"  * Throws hat down for emphasis.*

"I tell you the truth! The only reason that them pigz ain't bacon right now is because they need to get just a little bit bigger or I won't even have me enough for a picnic ham! Why I oughta just let the dogs have them no good, sorry, stanky, mud covered ladies of ill repute right now!"

Beside her the dogs silently plead with their eyes, "Come on.... give the order... give the order...we want them pigz... pah-leeeeeeeze..."

OFG bends over to pick up her hat, giving the camera an unflattering view of her tailfeathers. Right there, smack dab in the middle of her port cheek is a perfectly formed, in mud, outline of a pig's nose.

Behind her the dogs try to stifle snickers. Kai holds a paw over Zanders mouth, Lucky's eyes get big, and even Ti tries to look away. As OFG stomps away swearing a blue streak and spitting out words that gentle readers such as yourselves should never hear.... the dogs lose their composure entirely.

"Did you see what was on her bottom!?!" Kai and Zander fall into fits, lay on the ground holding their bellies, laughing uncontrollably. Lucky snorts something out his nose. Ti just shakes his head muttering, "Well glory be, I guess them pigz stuck their nose in her business."  This sends the dogs into further fits of giggles.

"I CAN HEAR YOU!" OFG screams from off camera. She's mad. Real mad.

The dogs quail.

"Run!" Yells Ti and they all break away.....except for Lucky who's still laughing. He also never remembers that their Commanding Officer always circles back around looking for malcontents.

Lucky is summarily snatched up and sent to the brig for "conduct unbecoming." Again.

This is, in fact, the very last day I will get in the pen with them pigz. The next time they see me coming it will be with an axe in one hand and my butchering knives in the other. And now I'm gonna go wash my best work shorts and hope to get this stupid muddy-pig-nose-print off of them.

All y'all can go off now and have a nice day. I'm mad a hell.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


I wasn't kidding when I said that our Kai can really dig. We call her Digger for a good reason. 

That's my Kai. Digging to China.

She worked on this yesterday - a huge hole under a stump. When she gets to the roots she chews thru them. Amazing.
A whole family of wombats could live in there!

Kai isn't usually being naughty when she digs - and its not because she's bored. She's usually after something. And she usually gets it. I think this hole is for a wombat or something. Zoikes!

And yes, that's poison ivy. Sheesh!

Unfortunately this hole got completely out of hand.  She could actually get her shoulders down in there also. But that was getting ridiculous so we filled it full of bricks until we can do something else.

Good diggin', Digger!

Happy Thursday everyone!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Path to Lettuce

One of the things I determined to do this summer is work on all those little areas around the property that are just annoying me. The gate that doesn't work, the soggy areas that are mud pits, the extra steps I have to take to go around some weird thing, that stupid wisteria that is taking over the garage...or that corner that just looks ugly.
Little Red and the last big rock

All of these small projects have been overlooked because of lack of time, money, inspiration, or just don't see them anymore and just put up with. They all seem like minor projects without a lot of merit...but once taken care off they somehow make my life and work much easier.

An example of this is the kitchen faucet that I hated since we got here. Finally we spent the $100 and took the 20 minutes needed to replace it - and my life has improve at least 37%. And my effectiveness in the kitchen has probably increased about 78% with this small change.

This is why I finally spent the $16 for gravel needed to work on my lettuce path. The front garden has typically been my last planting project. Its a soggy area that is the last to dry out, has difficult soil, and has a lot of ornamental plants (from the previous owners).  It always gets shoved to the bottom of my to-do list. However, its the most easy to access garden as its right across from my front door and once its spiffed up its the most pleasant place to sit and enjoy. So I decided to tackle the problem of the soggy pathway that kept me from getting to one of the planting boxes.
Does everyone know how to take your truck to the gravel yard? Its my favorite thing and I'm such a constant customer when the loader guy sees my truck, he instantly heads for his bobcat, waves and yells, "The usual?"

Getting your own gravel is fun and easy. We go to one of those mulch places in the closest big town. Drive your truck onto the weigh station (follow the signs once inside the yard), stop where indicated, wait for them to wave or flash the green light, then find the gravel size (8 Limestone is my favorite), and carefully back into that section. Leave room on one side for the loader to scoop up the gravel and pour it into the back of your truck. I get just over a ton - and my loader guy  knows it. That's about one and half scoops from his bucket loader.

Then just pull around to the weigh station again so they can tell how much gravel you got, park nearby, then go in and pay. Easy peasy. Just make sure you aren't a road hazard - brush off your tailgate and bring a tarp if you get dirt or compost that will fly all around and ruin the day of the folks who are tailgatin' you in their convertible. But they might have deserved that face full of compost, if you know what I mean....

I have lots of pots of lavender which will thrive along the new gravel pathway.

The problems I needed to solve with this path were to make it easy to get around the main bed and to the raised lettuce bed, get rid of the stupid grass which was impossible to mow, and make the path deep enough that the soggy ground wouldn't ruin my day when I went out there. And I wanted it to look nicer too.

I started by laying feed sacks down where the path would be to keep the grass from growing up thru the gravel. Then I rounded up some big stepping stones - I had some nice ones and then I also just found some big rocks around the property. I found some smaller rocks to act as the edge of the path.

Then it was a whole lot of trollying the gravel from the back of the truck to the path, making sure the stepping stones were even, and filling in all the gaps. I was thrilled when I placed the last big rock. My goal for this garden is to raise the whole thing up to keep it from being a swamp. Not only will it be more pleasant, it will be more productive and it will be easier to work in this are.

The daisies are just about ready to pop!

An extra bonus was that the new path created a new planting area on the left. The next time I go into town I'll get some more compost and fill in this new growing area.

I'd say this project was definitely worth the $16.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Anyone else working on those annoying little projects? Time to bring them to the top of the list.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Don't Drink That! How To Stop Drinking Soda. Or Pop.

By now you've probably all heard about how they are trying to ban the sale of 16 ounces or larger of soda/pop/soda pop/sugary drinks in NYC. Of course what happens in New York rarely stays there so if this passes its sure to spread elsewhere.

While I don't believe any human, for any reason, should drink more than 8 or 12 ounces of soda in one sitting.... I also don't think its the state or national government's job to tell folks what they should or should not eat or drink. I'm pretty sure this is coming tho so its a good thing to think about. I thought Jon Stewart had some pretty good thoughts.

I hope that this measure does not pass - for lots of reasons - but I still don't think folks should be drinking so much soda. Its just stupid. You heard me. Its dumb. Don't drink that. Go dump it out. Right now. 

Personally I don't understand the emotional attachment to what I'll just call soda (even tho I think its widely known as "pop"). I gave it up a long time ago when I realized - like most unfood substances - it wasn't doing me any good. And nope, I don't even drink diet drinks. Ever. I like water. Good old fashioned, cool and refreshing water. When I really want to live it up, I drink plain sparkling water. I like the bubbles.

That aside I've seen alot of comments online, some very emotional, about how folks just "can't" give up their soda. I think its weird to give a fizzy bottle of sugar water so much control over your life. So I always think to myself... the best way to stop a behavior...is just stop doing it. *shrugs*

I understand, tho, that this may not work for some folks. There are some practical things you can do but the best way to walk away from the soda habit is to fully understand what guzzling all those biggie gulps is costing you. By the time you really have it set in your mind you'll want to run screaming from soda and never drink it again.

When I was growing up we were lucky if we got one soda a week. Usually when my mom made a particular dinner. Or if we went out to eat - which was very very rare. Back in the day going out to eat was for a celebration - not because no one wanted to cook. So we'd be excited about that one soda per week.

Now..how things are now...gosh. I have to tell you I cringe when I see people plop down a big, unnaturally colored plastic bottle of soda on the table like its totally normal to drink that stuff with a nice dinner. Or even a badly prepared dinner. I once sat at someone's table for a ham dinner (not our ham) and they actually served it with orange soda. It makes my teeth hurt to even think about it.

Generations of French and Italians are rolling in their graves bewailing the fate of dinner served with some kind of soda and not table wine. Its a gastronomic failure of the most appalling kind. Remember that scene in Elf where he pours maple syrup over spaghetti and then drinks a whole liter of soda for dinner? That's what I think of when people serve soda for dinner.  Soda is not even a treat anymore, its made its place there in the center of the table like some little idol. How much do you think Coke paid for that product placement to convince you that its totally normal to have soda for dinner?

How did we go from "its a treat" to "its for the table?" Its only really happened in the last couple generations....so what gives? You can thank the marketing folks mostly. And also, I think, a couple generations of folks who can't or won't tell their kids no. Or the last remnants of my generation who were so starved by that one soda a week they would "never do that to their kids" so they pile on the soda so their children aren't deprived as they were. We also had to walk to school, up hill, both ways. In the snow.

Lack of discipline aside... It also begs the question - how much of your grocery budget is going to soda? Whatcha spending on a drink that will do nothing but make your fat, probably just make you thirsty, and will definitely suck the money right out of your wallet? I'm not even sure that taxing soda like they tax cigarettes and booze would dissuade people to stop drinking so many sugary drinks. I know people who basically lost their house because of cell phones and cigarettes. And soda. They got no house but by golly, they got that big gulp in their hand.

Folks may stop drinking so much soda if they figured in the true cost - their health. Look around... these last couple generations have lived almost entirely on packaged food, drive thru, and soda. We aren't any better for it. More kids than ever have "adult" diseases and the hard news reported the other day is that kids don't respond to the same treatments as adults. Sure an adult with Type 2 Diabetes can just take a pill and pretend they are taking care of themselves... but for whatever reason, this treatment is not as effective  in children. 

And now we are looking down the barrel of a generation of parents who maybe burying their kids. We've all heard that this generation is the first that will not live longer than their parents. In the developed world. Right here in the best country on earth. We are killing ourselves, and our children, with bad food and sugary drinks. It doesn't even seem possible.

So. Lets talk about health. How many calories are you drinking? Unless you are working outside in construction or a groundskeeping crew - most folks cant burn that many calories to offset the amount of sugar-based calories you are slugging down just so's you can have that soda that you love so much. How many sodas are you drinking a day? A couple? That's probably upwards of 300 extra calories. Four? Five? Six sodas a day? While you are sitting behind a desk? Are you letting your kids drink that much while they are playing video games?

Remember that what you eat is largely cultural and almost always determined by marketing. When I was traveling in Tokyo I was amused by the tiny little sodas they had. They were only 6 or 8 ounces in adorable little cans. I remarked about this to one of my Japanese co-workers and she told me that when she first traveled to the States she could never finish drinking a whole can of our soda. She just wasn't used to it. After being here for a while she started drinking the whole can. Then she said she started getting fat. So she stopped drinking the whole thing and went back to what she considered a "normal" portion. So what's a normal portion? Not that 39 ounce monstrosity you get at the Gas-n-Sip - I can tell you that.

Hopefully you have enough to think about that you're saying to yourself, "Maybe I should stop drinking that money wasting, gut busting, diabetes inducing poison" (or something like that). How do you stop that bad habit? I can tell you what I did.

First, stop being mindless about what you eat and drink. What do you naturally reach for? Is it nutritionally dense or a wasteland of chemicals and artificial whatnot? Do you really want it or are you just in the habit? I tell you the truth - you can get your tastes so change. You do not need to be enslaved to that sugary goodness. So intentionally set out to drink more water. No, not juice or diet drinks or sweet whatever. Water. Your body needs water - nothing else.

What if you don't like water? I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this but you need to grow up.  There has to be a tipping point in your life when you determine to do what is good for your health. This is it. Drink water and that is it. If you need one of those refrigerator water filter thingys then get one. If you need to add a lemon slice. Then do it. Bottled water? Fine.

The next step toward freedom from sugary drinks:  When do get your next soda - drink half and pour the rest out. You heard me. Waste it. Get used to having less. And as you are standing there pouring half of it down the drain, thank yourself for giving your body the gift of better health.

When you go out to eat, drink about a quarter of that enormous soda they bring you. Realize when that pretty waitress asks you want you want to drink, she is banking on you asking for a soda. Their cost is miniscule and drinks are where restaurants make most of their money. Supersize? Ha! The only loser is you - even if you are paying only $0.25 more for that extra portion they are paying probably less than a penny in their costs. They aren't trying to give you a better deal - they are just takin' your money and laughing at you as they are counting up all those profits. Quit trying to get yourself the best soda deal and save your health instead.

After a while - a several weeks usually - you'll realize that you are losing the taste for all that sugar and artificial coloring. Pretty soon that bad habit of soda swilling will be replaced by reaching for water. And then one day you'll be like me and the thought of drinking a whole soda will give you a headache and make your teeth hurt. Pretty soon you'll be laughing at the gallon drum of soda that they mockingly call a "small" at the movies. It will never occur to you serve anything but water, milk, beer or wine for dinner. Small children will come to your house and look at you, aghast, that you don't have soda in the fridge. And at last you will be free of the bondage of sugary drinks and be in the promise land of health drinking from the water of life.

Or you can keep drinking that crap, continue being a senseless victim of marketing, and just get in line for ill health. The choice is yours. You don't need the mayor of NYC to ban those big drinks - you can decide for yourself that its just not a very good idea.

That's my preaching on the soda thing. Now go and dump out that bubbling concoction of sugar and go and get yourself a cool refreshing glass of water.

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Turnip of Doom and planting notes

This turnip planted itself and I've been cracking myself up with how big its gotten. At some point its just going to crack or go to seed but I've been calling it the Turnip of Doom... very hilarious.

I've gotta get some planting notes in because you know I'll never remember...

June 3rd
* Replaced the broom corn that either didnt sprout or the stupid birds took on the hill by the treeline. Also moved some sunflowers that washed down to the path.
* Planted top row of pumpkin hills by peach tree with seeds from that great blue pumpkin we got last fall. Middle row is butternut squash, bottom row is more blue pumpkin.
* Established cucumber hill in corner by apple tree. Included some heritage summer squash as well as those great Italian striped zukes. Planted some radishes on each hill and also some sunflowers.
* Replaced bolted radishes under apple tree with giant romaine lettuce and planted bok choi by onions.
* Replaced bolted spinach by cabbage with Roma beans.
* One row of Dragon Tongue heritage beans closest to fencerow by lilacs followed by two rows of dwarf horticulture beans - seeds were from last year (??) but should work. Two rows of same horticulture beans along path by older apple tree. Finished up one long row of beans by fencerow on dogmoat and also 3 short rows by new fruit trees on east facing fencerow. This soil really needs improvement. Added fertilizer and lime but its pretty bad.

May 31 Square garden planting
* Romaine lettuce along path near basil tub ("custom blend")
* Dragon Tongue heritage beans in short row then beets
* Three kinds of raspberries:  Fall Glow (yellow), two red "heritage", one Brandywine
* After raspberries I planted several short rows of Roma beans closest to gate for easy picking.
* Hills at ends of rows are Genovese zucchini (striped) and some dark green zucchs

The tomatoes in the square garden are doing great - including the ones I started from seed at the top of the hill and transplanted. They are either Cherokee Purple or the romas... drat! Wish I had marked them better.

Also - I ran across this great site as a quick reference for companion planting. I don't know anything about them but boy this is a great 'at a glace' reference.

And now I have to quit talking about gardening and get out there and do some gardening.

Happy Sunday everyone! Now get out there and do some gardening!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Making a Stunning Neufchatel Cheese

You may be wondering why I'm not making cheese this spring? Well, the sad fact is that my cheese fridge died and now I don't have anywhere to age all that homemade cheese. I really don't have the extra money to replace it right now - especially since I've been spending up all my money on other things.

Isn't it stunning? You can make this at home!

So I've been making a lot of fresh cheeses that don't need to cure at 50*-60* with a specific humidity. One of my favorites is a French Neufchatel. Its fabulous. I have my blog pal, K, to thank for my love affair with neufchatel... he wrote about this cheese a while ago and I've been hooked every since.

When most folks think about neufchatel cheese they usually think of that horrible stuff beside the cream cheese boxes in the dairy section at the megagrocery...and not this stunning cheese lovingly handcrafted and shaped into hearts.  I wish I had a heart shaped mold but my round one is just fine.

The mold forms that white rind on this heavenly fresh cheese.

I found the recipe in my favorite cheesemaking book, 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes: From Cheddar and Brie to Butter and Yogurt by Debra Amrein-boyes.  I like this book the best because it provides easy, clear directions and provides a lot of goat vs cow milk cheese recipes.

The recipe is a snap. Basically make your standard fresh goat milk cheese (chevre) and add a pinch of mold - penicillium candidum to be exact. You can order the mold at Leeners - my favorite cheese making supply shop.  Leeners provides superfast delivery, exceptional customer service, and just about everything you'd need to get your cheese making project underway. Everything but the goat, of course.

There are a couple steps in making this cheese - mostly making sure all the extra whey is out of the cheese and also "curing" it in the fridge until the mold rind forms on the outside. Then its nothing but heavenly snacking. Depending on how long you let this cheese rest - during the steps - this cheese can be very mild....or with a twangy stank - as I like it.  Its incredible with a snappy white wine and crusty homemade bread.

Got milk? Got the book? Go ahead and give this easy, moldy, creamy cheese a try.

Happy Saturday everyone!

Click here for a complete list of cheese making supplies.
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