Saturday, June 13, 2009


It rained a lot on Thursday and into Friday. This is great for the garden, which is growing its little green leafy heart out. Unfortunately, that includes the weeds.

Despite the fact that I spent a few hours breaking my back with the hoe on Wednesday, weeding the whole garden and hilling potatoes (HAAAATE hilling), the rain has made more weeds appear. Lots more weeds. So, second verse, same as the first. Out to the garden I go today, to weed the whole thing and hill the potatoes some more (HAAAATE). Also to thin carrots and parsnips and salt some more slugs.

My life: non-stop fun and excitement.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Separation Anxiety

There comes a time every summer when we separate the lambs from their mothers. That time was yesterday.

We do this because the lambs get huge and yet are still nursing, which is draining for the mothers. The lambs have all been grazing for some time now, but as long as they're still with mom, they're going to suck her dry whenever they get the chance. So, we have to physically separate the lambs.

As you might imagine, this does not go over well with either the lambs or the mothers.

I didn't know A. was going to do this yesterday until I came downstairs in the morning to the melodic sound of 13 sheep yelling their fool heads off. The lambs were all in the paddock right next to the house, the ewes in a farther pasture. And just to add to the fun, the ram has also been separated from the rest of the flock so he doesn't do his, um, duty too early, resulting in lambing in January. This meant three separate pastures of sheep, none of them happy.

The lambs were secure in the paddock, but the ewes . . . well, the ewes are a force to be reckoned with when they don't want to be kept in. They broke out of their pasture no less than four times yesterday morning, breaking gates and knocking down fences to get to their lambs. For all the effort they expended, however, they were easily lured away from their babies with a bucket of corn. So much for motherly love.

A. had been trying to keep the ewes in a pasture with lesser fencing, in the hopes they would eat down some of the overgrowth in there. But the fences were not up to the battering they sustained by some really pissed off moms, two of whom weigh at least 200 pounds. We spent about an hour in the morning moving sheep, A. leading the way with a bucket of corn while I followed behind with a stick, prodding them along and opening and closing gates. There was another jailbreak later in the afternoon, when A. was off-property, leaving me to wrangle sheep by myself. The two biggest ewes actually squirmed under the fence into another pasture, then broke that gate open to get out. They are nothing if not determined.

Then, when we finally got all the sheep secured in their separate pastures, we had to endure the piteous, and yet teeth-gratingly loud, maaing back and forth for the rest of the day. Which started up again this morning at 4:30.

I think I may need to run away.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scapes and Other Less Palatable Foods

Yes, it's that time of year again, kids! It's scape time! WHEEE!

Okay, so maybe you don't get as excited about these things. Just play along, alright?

I was introduced (actually, I introduced myself) to garlic scapes last year for the first time. Garlic scapes are the flower part of a hard-necked garlic plant. They shoot up in the middle of the plant, and should be removed so the plant spends its energy growing the bulbs more. So, because they are removed before the main garlic crop is ready for harvesting, they're like a freebie. Which is fun. Also fun is the bizarre curliness of scapes. They're kind of ridiculous looking.

Scapes on the left, yet another huge dishpan of lettuce on the right.

So. I deflowered all the garlic yesterday (dirty). I actually weighed them this time and discovered that I ended up with a little more than a pound of scapes, after I removed the flower part at the top (it's a little tough). I considered pickling some of them, but that would have required more energy than I was willing to expend at the time. Laziness won, and I ended up just chucking them all in the blender with some olive oil and freezing most of the resulting green goo for later use.

I did use some of the goo last night to make pesto, though. And of course, we had the inevitable green salad, because we are still battling the never-ending lettuce. I think someone may have given it growth hormone.

And SPEAKING of dinner last night, you'll never guess what A. made as a meat course alongside his pasta. No, really. You won't guess. Although based on the last time A. cooked, you might guess that it was something weird and a wee bit disturbing.

You would be right. He had lamb tongue and heart.

We have these small packages of things like kidneys and tongue and heart in the freezer that I have so far managed to ignore. A., however, went freezer diving for some ground beef a few days ago and re-surfaced with not just the ground beef, but a lamb tongue and a lamb heart. YAY! He was under no illusions that I was going to cook those items, however, so on Tuesday night he decided he'd better do something with them. He boiled them for a couple of hours to tenderize them, then peeled the tongue (EW) and stuck them in the refrigerator overnight. Last night at dinner time, he fried up a couple of slices of bacon, then heated the sliced tongue and heart in the bacon fat.

Now, I've had cow heart before. It's not bad. It's pretty much a muscle like any other, so it's not so far off from normal beef. Lamb heart was the same. I've never had tongue before, though. So I thought I'd better try it before deciding it's on my list of "Things I Don't Want to Eat."*

It's on the list.

The taste wasn't too objectionable, actually. It was the texture that turned me off. Like taking a big mouthful of fat or something. Kind of soft and squishy. Nasty.

So, another item on my Life List crossed off. I have now eaten tongue and can die knowing I have had a full and adventurous life.

Or I can just live the rest of my life knowing I never want to eat tongue again. I'm going with that one.

* Also on that list: liver.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fluffy Says Good-bye

One more puppy left us last night for her new home. This one was harder to let go, because it was Fluffy. Fluffy was, well, the fluffy one. Besides the obvious heartbreaking cuteness of a fluffy collie puppy, Fluffy was also appealing because of her cheery, bouncy personality. She really loves people. And we all loved Fluffy.

But Fluffy is destined for greater things than just hunting woodchucks (noble as that endeavor may be). Her name is now Asha, and she is headed for Salt Lake City to become a therapy dog. Her new owner came to pick her up last night. It was love at first sight.

Yeah, she might have to learn not to do this to the therapy patients.

That's Amanda, the therapist. She's very excited to have a dog. She even just bought her first house with a big yard just for Asha. That is one lucky dog right there.

So even though it was hard to let our Fluffy go, we know Asha is going to have a great life. And that leaves us with only two puppies still at Blackrock.

Belle the Devil Cat thinks that's two too many.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

If I Only Had a Wand

In case you missed all the trailers and ads and hype, the newest Harry Potter movie is going to be released this summer. So I'm currently reading my way through the series again in the hopes that I'll remember what this movie is supposed to be about by the time it comes out. There are so damned many of the books, I can never remember where I'm supposed to be in the story.

Anyway, reading all about wizards and witches has me contemplating how fun it would be if I had some magical powers of my own. I mean, the characters in these books can do some seriously cool things: appear and disappear at will; make heavy objects levitate and move; fly on broomsticks; transform teapots into tortoises and beetles into buttons; go back in time; conjure food out of thin air . . .

Which leads us to the question of the day: If you could have just one magical ability, what would it be? I think I would go with conjuring food out of thin air. How nice would that be? There I'd be, working outside, getting hungrier by the minute, and then, with a wave of my wand . . . a piece of cake appears just in time for a snack.

On second thought, if I had that ability, I would probably weigh 300 pounds. Maybe not such a good idea.

Anyway, what magical ability would you choose, duckies?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Goin' Huntin'

I am not a fan of hunting for sport. If you're going to kill something, you'd damn well better eat it. But I do have one exception.


Slugs started appearing in great numbers in the vegetable garden last year. We used to have a couple of ducks and a goose that were penned in the garden, and they certainly took care of the slugs, but they also had their drawbacks. In that they shit everywhere and the goose made this horribly loud rusty-hinge honking sound ALL THE TIME. Hated those things. But since they disappeared, and last summer was particularly wet, the slugs started oozing their way back into the garden, hanging out on the cabbages, eating lettuce, and generally being all slimy and disagreeable.

I had a particularly fun time with them when I was cutting off the potato foliage in the fall. They like to live under plants, and that foliage was so thick, the slugs were having a damned rave under there. I picked up the ones I saw and delivered them to the chickens for a snack. Which works, but also requires me to, well, touch them. Even with gloves on, it kind of squicks me out.

So this year, I have taken to stalking the garden with a jar of salt. All you have to do is sprinkle a little salt on slugs and they dissolve. For real. They literally dissolve into a little puddle of orange goo. It's vaguely disturbing, and yet strangely satisfying. I do this for a few minutes every day, checking around the barn and the blackberries where the weeds grow up and provide cover for the slugs. I haven't yet found any slugs on the vegetables, so I guess it's working.

I wouldn't say it's the thrill of the hunt that compels me to stalk slugs with salt, but the thrill of slug-free lettuce? Definitely compelling.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Scrappin' U.S.A.

A. has this little song he is fond of singing while he plays with his cutting torch and hauls around rusted metal. To the tune of the Beach Boys' Surfin' U.S.A.: "Everybody's gone scrappin', scrappin' U.S.A."

That's right. A. is scrapping again. For those of you who may have missed this fun hobby last year, scrapping refers to the collection and sale of scrap metal. Or what I like to call junk. We live in a really good place for junk, what with all the old pieces of farm machinery that have been thrown into the gullies and woods. There are scrapyards that will buy this stuff from anyone who brings it in, paying cash for rusted old farm machinery and busted-up cars. The metal is then recycled. Last year, prices for scrap metal went through the roof, and A. spent all his weekends collecting and selling scrap. He even bought a cutting torch so he could cut it up, because smaller pieces (called "short steel") sell for a lot more.

Then the prices dropped so low that it wasn't worth bothering with anymore. However, prices have been slowly creeping up, and now that A. has more spare time, he is once again venturing into family members' junk piles and dragging out rusted wagon wheels and swing sets.

I have nothing to do with the scrapping, except going along for the ride when he brings the junk to the scrapyard. We went there yesterday for the first time in months. It hasn't changed much. Same piles of rusted metal, same weirdos working there. Scrapping is a whole world in itself, mostly attracting ex-prisoners and other people you wouldn't want to be alone with in an elevator. And A.

I prefer not to speculate on what that says about him.