Friday, March 8, 2013


Who's ready for some garden talk? No? Too bad.  Because here we go . . .

We all got a little involved with the The Victorian Kitchen Garden series this winter. Even A. watched some of it and read the accompanying book that the MiL bought. And then he decided to build a hotbed with sheep shit.  Because why not?

Manure generates its own heat as it decomposes, as well as being a good fertilizer.  So if you mound it all up and then cover it over with glass or plastic, theoretically you can create a little mini-greenhouse right out in the garden.

So A. made a big pile of sheep-shit straw, the cleaned-out grossness from the chicken coop, and soil on top, covered it with a plastic tunnel thing the MiL had bought, and surrounded the whole thing with straw for added insulation. It was a lot of work.  The wealthy Victorians, of course, had like thirty laborers in their kitchen gardens, so what did they care how much work it took to produce early lettuce*?


We left it to start "working" and getting warm, and then this afternoon, I planted seeds.  Two salading (I can't resist) mixes, a couple of short rows of radishes, and a short row of sorrel.

Oops on the sorrel though, which is apparently a perennial and therefore should not really have been planted in a temporary bed. It can be transplanted, however, so I guess I'll do that later in the summer.

A. also found that one of the overwintered collard plants managed to escape getting devoured by varmints, so he put a protective milk jug around it in the hopes that it will start growing soon and reward us with more early greens.

Something also ate the tips off the garlic sprouts. That won't have any lasting detrimental effect; it's just annoying.

While I was out there with the wheelbarrow getting more hay for the sheep, I mucked out some of the nasty sheep-shit straw from the floor of the barn to start mulching the asparagus.

AND the MiL and Cubby started leek seeds a couple of weeks ago that are now growing quite happily under a grow light in the downstairs bedroom.

AND AND, while I was outside tonight with Cubby so he could play in the dark--the most exciting thing ever to him and which actually means he can play outside the dining room door in the dim light cast by the patio light--I decided to clear out the flower bed under the magnolia tree out there. Because the crocuses are trying valiantly to come up there, despite all the old leaves and pieces of wood and various other detritus that got left there over the winter. I got all the junk out of there and raked it off, so they have a much better chance now.

Green things! Growing things! Which probably means a blizzard is just around the corner, this being upstate New York and all, but SPRING IS COMING, WHEE!!!

* Called, quaintly, "salading" in the series. That sounds so tasty, doesn't it? Anyone out there from the British Isles? Do you still call it this, or is this an antiquated term? Either way, I like it.

When the Shepherd Goes Down

I'm sure you've all heard that saying about walking a mile in another person's shoes to truly appreciate what it's like to be him. Well, today I had to step into A.'s shoes.

Or rather, muck boots.

He's sick with a cold. That's not debilitating, obviously, just a pain. But what IS debilitating is the shoulder injury he sustained yesterday while moving hay and pulling himself in and out of the cistern to fix the water pipe. Again.

He woke up this morning not able to use his left arm at all. But there are still sheep and chickens out there requiring care, so I put on his barn coat and my boots and moved the hay in the wheelbarrow, then pitchforked it over the fence to the sheep. I brought them a bucket of water. I brought the bottle lambs' bottle down to the house to be washed out and refilled, and then I hung it up again. I brought water to the chickens. I wired together the fence by the gully where the dogs were escaping.

This afternoon, I brought more hay to the sheep; helped A. set up the water pump hose in the lake with a pipe to weight it down and pulled the pull cord to start the pump*; and emptied sap from the maple trees in the gully into two full five-gallon buckets, which I then hauled up the gully bank.

I don't know how long he's going to be out of commission, but he's already frustrated at not being able to do things. And watching me do them instead. For a man like A., this kind of injury is really a problem.

Good thing he married me, right?

But we'll both be glad when he's running at full-speed again.  Whenever that is.

* He thinks there's a tiny hole somewhere in the outtake pipe in the cistern that's resulting in too much air in the pipes. So to buy himself some time until he can fix it, he wanted to fill the cistern to raise the water level above the hole. In case you cared about all of that. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Is This a Hint?

After a casual conversation with Mr. Jason about aquaponics (basically, growing fish and vegetables in a water system), he said he would bring me a book he had read about it.

Then he showed up yesterday with two books about the subject, plus the information from a seminar he attended about it.

Mr. Jason lives in an apartment near a city, but he has the interests of a country dweller.  I suspect he's hoping we'll get interested in aquaponics and try it out here on our country estate (HAHA).  And knowing A., if he studies the various systems involved in aquaponics and starts imagining how he could make them from spare bits of junk in the milk barn and chicken wire or whatever, we might end up with an enormous fish tank of tilapia in the Pit of Despair and some tomatoes growing in fish poop.

Personally, I could do without it.  I'm okay with my tomatoes grown in soil.

And speaking of which!   Only a few more weeks before the tomato seeds get planted!  TOMATO CRAZY, HERE WE COME!

But not aqua Tomato Crazy.  That's too crazy even for me.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Finale

What better way to end a long afternoon and evening of sugarin' than descending into the outdoor cistern to fix a loose pipe connection that's left us with no water? In the dark.

At least A. has Mr. Jason to aim the spotlight for him. But still. Suck.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Return of the Owl Game, Now With More Noise

Although The Owl Game is by no means a nightly entertainment around here, Cubby will occasionally request that I turn off all the lights so he can be an owl.

Or, lately, I'll go into the living room to find him swaying precariously atop his rocking horse as he reaches to turn off the lamp on the table. This is the problem with small children: Their increasing independence is so often tied to increasing peril.


Whether I do it or he does, the lights get turned off and then he hoots around, stopping periodically to whisper thrillingly that he can hear something and it's . . . a snuffling skunk. But then he pinches his nose shut and informs me that he can't smell the stinky smell now.

I suppose he's not an owl at these times, since as far as I know owls can't pinch their beaks shut. Or whisper.

Anyway again.

Tonight he added a new twist to his game, unfortunately prompted by my attempts to play along. He was hooting around while I sat in the dark and made stupid comments like, "Is that a great horned owl I hear?" To which he would gleefully announce, "It's me! Cubby!"  And then I'd say, "Is that a barn owl I hear?" Repeat ad infinitum.

Once I asked if it was a screech owl I heard. And instead of saying, "No! It's me!" he just started screeching.  Over and over.

Then we had a talk about how screech owls use outside voices because they're outside and their voices have to carry a long way so other screech owls can hear them. But Cubby the screech owl was inside and his voice didn't have to carry so far, so he should be using his inside voice.

An inside screech owl voice.  My evenings just get better and better.