Saturday, May 28, 2011

Charity Case

I did the switchover from winter clothes to summer clothes yesterday, culling some clothes in the process. Over half of the clothes I decided to get rid of I deemed too crappy to donate to the Salvation Army. Good for nothing but rags, they are.

I think that tells you a lot about the state of my wardrobe. Sad.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Subaru as Food Dehydrator

I don't have a food dehydrator. It's one of those things that I will occasionally consider getting, until I remember how annoying it would be to have another gargantuan food processing item that has to be stored for nine months of the year in a kitchen built in the 1920s with the corresponding number and arrangement of 1920s cabinets. That is, not enough and stupidly arranged. Really. We have more scary, unreachable dark corners in our cabinets than are in that hotel in Psycho.

Wait. What was I talking about? Oh. Right. Dehydrating.

So, no dehydrator. That's why I was so stoked to read on this site about drying herbs in the back of the car. This totally made sense to me. I mean, what is a car but a greenhouse with no glass roof? All those windows and all. In fact, I knew someone who started her tomato seeds in her car. I thought that was pretty ingenious. And I had the same reaction to the idea of drying herbs in the car.

Not too long after I read that post, I was pulling out the last of the Italian Herb Mix from Penzeys and I stopped to read the herbs in it: oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, rosemary . . . uh. Wait. I grow all these herbs. I could make this mix. If I could get the herbs dry.

Enter My Awesome Subaru, which honestly gets more and more awesome by the day. Literally. I am awed by the car. It fulfills my every need. Even food dehydrating.

One old framed window screen from the shed (well scrubbed, because the condition of anything that comes out of our shed is EW), two random plastic flower trays to set the screen up off the floor, and I was all set. I put the screen in the cargo part in the back of the car and spread out all the leaves from our overwintered sage plant that was almost flowering, plus several branches from a huge rosemary plant that lives in the cellar in the winter. I pulled the leaves off the sage, but I left the rosemary intact. It took a little over a week to get them all dry, because we had some cool, rainy days. I just left the whole deal back there, even when I was driving.

I could do that because I have an Awesome Subaru, you see. The Nissan was not that awesome. It has very little storage space and a small back seat. Totally useless for drying herbs, I bet. The Nissan people should look into that.


Yesterday*, I gathered up the sage and crushed it up into a little container. I ended up with about a quarter cup of sage. Then I just pulled the rosemary branches between my fingers to pull off the little needles. I did it over a sheet of newspaper to catch the needles, so then I could spread them out to pick through and get out any stray bits of twig or whatever before folding the paper and pouring the rosemary out, using the crease in the paper to direct the flow of the rosemary into a jar. I got almost a cup of rosemary, though that will be reduced because I think I'm going to crush the rosemary up a little bit. I hate big needles of rosemary in my food.

I planted marjoram yesterday and the basil, thyme, and oregano are already in the ground. Give me a few months, some more window screens, and some sunny days, and that Italian Herb Mix will be stamped with MY name. And all thanks to my Subaru.

* Yesterday while Cubby was running around climbing on the stump of the cedar tree and playing with sticks and chasing the cat and NOT NAPPING. Though he did sleep for about 45 minutes in the afternoon, during which time I got another row of potatoes planted and the asparagus bed weeded, so that's something.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What Happens When There Is No Nap

Or, more accurately, what doesn't happen:

Another row of potatoes doesn't get planted.

The cabbages don't get mulched.

The bathroom doesn't get cleaned.

The herbs drying in the back of the car don't get crumbled up and stored.

A post about drying herbs in the back of the car doesn't get written.

I don't get to eat a normal meal.

Cubby doesn't maintain his standard happy attitude.

And neither do I.

Let's hope tomorrow is better.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Chick Cottage

I call it the cottage because it's little and has a cute peaked roof. Which I can now show you, because I took some pictures.

Except I kind of cut off the peaked part of the roof in the photo so I could include Cubby for scale. It's peaked though, promise.

It's also a little crooked, because the old concrete barn foundation it was built on isn't level. NOTHING is level on our property, because it all slopes towards the lake. As nature intended.


That pallet there Cubby is leaning against is actually a big door, the one we will use to enter the cottage when necessary. The food and water are just inside the door, as the nesting boxes will also be when we put them in, so that we won't actually have to go into the cottage much. That's the plan, anyway.

And here's one with A. for scale.

Somehow he makes it look more like a dollhouse than Cubby did. Funny.

How about a little peek at the inhabitants of the cottage?

Fried chicken dinner in August! Any volunteers?

We're keeping them closed up in the cottage for a few days to get them used to it, then we'll build a small caged run just outside their door so they can get outside but not too far away. This will, we hope, instill in them the habit of returning to the cottage at night.

Soon, though, they will have free run of the ram pasture. And here are their pasture buddies now!
Who have no idea we're about to unleash two dozen chickens into their pastoral paradise.

And that's the latest chicken news from Blackrock. Over and out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Everyday History

You all know about the Erie Canal, right? Clinton's Big Ditch, the greatest improvement to American shipping of its time, blahblahblah? Even I learned about the Erie Canal, even though I got my book larnin' in Hawaii, Alaska, and Arizona. The Erie Canal is a part of American history, and even more, it's a part of New York State history.

It is also still very much the way it was when it was built. The locks that allow the boats through are still there, with all the original equipment and mechanisms, built to last hundreds of years. Visiting the locks is a fond memory for A. His dad used to take him and his brother to fish at the nearest lock with some frequency.

There are a few locks within an hour of our house. When we passed one on the way to the wildlife festival we went to a couple of weeks ago, A. just had to stop and let Cubby have his very first Erie Canal encounter.

I'm afraid he was mostly unimpressed with the historical significance of the site, instead preferring to stand on his head . . .

And play with the stagnant water in this hole . . .

There were some old guys fishing--because there are ALWAYS old guys fishing at the locks--and one of them caught a fish and gave Cubby an up-close look at it. Cubby enjoyed that.

Give him a little more time, and he'll be making his own memories with his dad on the Erie Canal.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hey, Who's Tired of the Garden?

I AM. Or maybe that's just tired in general, because of the garden. Nonetheless, we will forge ahead with one more garden update before moving on to other matters of importance.

So! I did indeed manage to plant the experimental green bean seedlings yesterday. There was a little space left at the end of the plot I prepared for them, so I stuck in some bamboo supports in preparation for planting some purple pole bean seeds there. I have not yet done that, but that's the plan.

I did not plant any potatoes. Instead I planted the purple cabbages I bought when Cubby and I went to a neighboring village to get some grapefruit and grapes. Cubby needs his grapefruit and grapes, you know, and I needed the purple cabbages,* so away we went in the awesome Subaru to fulfill our needs.

I was going to wait until Cubby was asleep for the night to plant the cabbages, but then I decided I REALLY wanted to be done grubbing in the dirt already and would like to be able to take a shower and collapse after he was asleep, so I hauled him out in the garden with me and distracted him with asparagus stalks while I dug, hoed, raked, and planted the cabbages. Thank God the kid likes asparagus so much. Such a handy snack when it's right there in the garden with us.

There were actually eight purple cabbage seedlings in the tray I got, so now we have, uh, a WHOLE LOT of cabbages total. And there was a little space left next to the cabbages when I was done, so I threw in some Heatwave Blend lettuce seeds. Literally threw--just broadcast those suckers and ran my hand over them to cover them.

I was really tired by then, okay? I couldn't be bothered with rows.

Okay! That's it for the garden! And that's it for me with the garden, because good LORD, I am weary.

In other fun news, A. built a new chicken coop out of pallets and we moved the chicks into it yesterday. I was all set to take a picture, but then A. wanted me to wait until he was done nailing up the chicken wire, and before he finished Cubby had a meltdown and I had to take him inside for some cheese crackers and yogurt, so . . . no picture. I shall do my best to remedy that situation, as I know your life will not feel complete until you see a photo of our latest woodchuck structure.

Have a fabulous Monday, poppets.

* For German red cabbage with apples, of course. I know of no higher calling for purple cabbage.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Red All Over

I planted tomatoes yesterday, which are obviously not red all over yet, as they are about two inches high and as yet fairly pathetic looking. No, I'm afraid it is my shoulders that are red all over. Or rather, my back. The back of my shoulders?

Whatever, I got a sunburn, okay? And it irritates me because I have not had a sunburn like this in several years. I'm pretty careful about wearing sunscreen and covering up with this one see-through-thin men's dress shirt I got at Salvation Army specifically to work in when it's hot and sunny.

Except I haven't yet gotten to the Small City to buy my preferred sunscreen and I thought my work shirt was packed away with my other summer clothes that I have not yet hauled out of the back bedroom, so . . . ouch.

But the tomatoes are in! All 27 of them, with actually one more to be planted in a pot near the house for more convenient harvesting.

Yes, that's right. There will be 28 tomato plants this year, assuming none of them kick it in the next couple of months. I have extra because, well, the little starter thing of Romas Andy the Plant Guy gave me had more than the six seedlings in it that I was expecting, and so, OF COURSE, I just planted the extra. Because I am Crazy, with an emphasis on Tomato.

I also put in seven or eight basil plants. Once again, however many were in the little pot I got from Andy. He's sneaky with those extra seedlings hiding there in those tiny pots. I have another whole pot of basil that I'll have to find a new home for, because there's only so much pesto we can eat. And that I have the patience to make.

Oh, and I shoved a thyme plant in the ground as well at some point yesterday, but that's not very exciting.

So! On today's agenda is planting the experimental green bean seedlings and maybe, if my muscles hold out and I don't just collapse, digging up some ground for potatoes. Which should have been in the ground like three weeks ago, but listen, I can't control Mama N. and her excessive rain, okay? All I can do is kill myself to plant everything when she gives me the chance.

And on that note, off I go to face down death in the form of a shovel and a hoe. Ta ta, duckies!