Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Melange

A little of this, a little of that, not much of anything, yet LOTS.
A Monday surprise:

 Jalapeno blossoms in February!
and, no, it's not whitefly on those leaves- I checked after I looked at this pic!
 The plant is loaded!  I counted at least 10 blossoms and lots of new growth.
These blossoms are on our potted jalapeno.  We have had this same plant in a large pot for going on 5 years now.  It is an amazing thing.  It has a trunk!  Every spring we haul it outside, pot and all, and every fall we bring it in.  It is currently living in K10's room since he has a bright West window.  It seems to like it there as it has spent the last two winters there and has done well.  He does a good job of taking care of it- watering it when it needs it- so I haven't looked at it for quite a while.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was blooming.
Below is today's arrival:  Biodegradable 'plastic' mulch.
 It is an Italian product made from corn- which seems odd to me that something like this wouldn't be produced here in the US considering how much corn is produced here.  Anyway, we will be giving this a try this year.  It comes in sheets 54 inches by 33 feet.  We have such a huge weed seed load in the garden still, even after two years of cultivation, that it is a constant struggle.  Of course, it was an entirely a new bed and before that had been a barnyard for 50 or more years, then allowed to go fallow for a year.  The weeds took over and we've been fighting ever since.  Last year, I used newspapers and grass clippings for mulch but we ran out of newspapers for the size garden we have.  We got several packages of this stuff but we're still saving newspapers for the rest of the garden.  I'll let you know what I think of it at the end of the season. It apparently is supposed to break down in 90 to 120 days, depending on weather conditions.
And finally, a photo of J16, just because.  She is feeling better.  And check out her 'locally grown' t-shirt!
But, I'm saving the best news until last.  All of the counters came in today at the store and the counters and cabinets will all be delivered tomorrow morning, along with the new subflooring and tile backer boards.  WOO- HOO!!  Finally! One less thing to worry about.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ick

It's 29 degrees F and thunderstorming outside.  Guess what that means?!

ICE

I hate ice.  I would rather have a foot of snow than a 1/4 inch of ice.

Hopefully this will pass quickly, although the forecast is calling for freezing rain followed by sleet changing to snow overnight.


I am SO ready for spring.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

First sprouts of 2011

 Yeah, they're hard to see.  Above- parsley- gourmet mix from Cook's Garden, below- the first leek from Botanical Interest.
I was so excited to come home last night and see these.  I was doing the happy dance in the kitchen.  Since they are now up, I have moved them in under the grow lights- the kitchen window,while a southern exposure, is pretty cold and it has been cloudy and snowy lately.  I want then to grow healthy and strong.
I was at work today- nothing too exceptional.  This means that I have next Friday off. So, that means baking a birthday cake for K10 (soon to be K11!) and packing boxes from the kitchen.  We are two weeks from kitchen week and there is lots to do before then.  I have been doing some cooking ahead and putting stuff in the freezer- ground beef for burritos and some pulled pork (I made a double batch on Friday).
J16 is feeling better today.  She missed all 4 days of school this week due to influenza.  Tons of fun- especially since this is the end of the trimester and she had finals and projects due.  sigh...  However, K10 is now our wounded child. I don't know if he slept wrong, moved wrong or what- but he's got a stiff/sore neck and is moving slowly.  It is better now than it was when I got home so hopefully by morning it will be better.
It was snowy and miserable all day today.  Ugh.  I'm ready for spring- even if it means mud.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The chick order is in!

I placed the order with Meyer Hatchery today.  I wasn't able to do the rainbow assortment.  Even though it doesn't say that there is a minimum number, evidently the minimum is 25.  We DON'T need 25 hens!
So, I went back to our original list: 7 hens and a rooster.  They are as follows:
Rooster- Welsummer- V says we have to name him Eddie... I guess I can live with that.
Hens- one Welsummer- they lay dark reddish brown eggs sometimes with speckles
one Columbia Wyandotte
one Barred Rock
one Golden Laced Wyandotte
one Silver Laced Wyandotte
two Ameraucana/Easter Eggers- they are the ones who lay the blue/green eggs.  The hens aren't all the same color and each hen will lay it's own specific color of eggs.
The little ones are scheduled to arrive the first week of May (first date all the varieties we wanted are available at the same hatching).  Plenty of time for us to finish the kitchen and get a good start on the coop.  I had a 'duh' moment last night when I was thinking of what to keep them in while they're in the house.  I was thinking cage... it has to be big enough so they aren't overcrowded as they grow...  it needs to latch... what I need is an animal cage of some sort.  DUH! We have the old dog kennel in the shop from when Ticket was still in his chewing phase and V and I were both working outside the home.  Considering that he is a very large dog, it is a very large kennel.  Of course, we will have to put some hardware cloth on the lower part of it to keep kitty paws from reaching through to snag an unsuspecting chick.  And, it is tall enough that we should be able to hang our incubator light bulb from the top and have room to raise it as the chicks grow and don't need as much heat.
Things are falling into place...

Now, if all of our counter top pieces would arrive.... they aren't going to deliver anything until it is all here and we're evidently missing at least one piece of counter.  AARGH... at least we still have time.  The cabinets and most of the counters are already waiting at the store for delivery.
I'm getting impatient to get started.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

An unexpected find

This afternoon, I had to run an errand in the hospital.  While I was out and about, I stopped in at a book sale.  The hospital occasionally has book sales as a benefit for the children's hospital.  The books are always reasonably priced but, usually, there isn't much there that I want or need.  But today, I was surprised.

I picked up this new, revised copy of Rodale's Organic Gardening for $14!!  Believe it or not, this is a book that I didn't actually own before this.  Oh, I have quite a bit of knowledge but I never had THE book.  Now, it will grace my shelf of reference books for the homestead.

I'm hoping/planning to order our chicks tomorrow.  We've upsized our order a bit and are now planning to get 7 hens and a rooster.  We've selected a spot for the chicken coop and V has agreed to help us build it- so J16 and I won't be on our own.  I explained my design ideas and V thinks it will be quite doable.  We will have a raised 8x4 foot coop with a fenced run.  I'm not sure of the dimensions of the run yet- we'll have to work around the raised bed for the strawberries.   We will need to keep them in a run since we have waaaay too many predators around here to let them free range.  We have dogs from across the road, coyotes, foxes, hawks and the occasional eagle.  We will also have to contend with the hungry raccoons and skunks.
I am really looking forward to this, as are the children.  We've wanted chickens since we moved here and now, I get my wish.  We had chickens when I was a child- both a laying flock and we raised meat birds as well so I have absolutely no illusions that it will be labor free.   I have promised V that I won't make him clean out the coop since this isn't his idea.  And, LOL, we don't even have the chicks yet and we've already got people asking if they can have eggs!
As far as the chicks go.  I've got an idea for a cage I'll have to build to keep them in the house while they're little and while we build the coop.  We will definitely have to have a latching lid on it and be dog and cat proof.  I'll keep you posted about progress.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chickens??- UPDATED

I got sent home from work yesterday and am home again today.  I'm still coughing and am running a temp- which is a no-no when you work at a hospital.  The children were all home yesterday and J16 has caught my malady and is home today as well.  sigh...
But, J16 and I spent the afternoon yesterday on the couch looking at chickens and chicken coop designs.  The idea of getting chicks regardless of V's opinion was growing in my head.  J16 and I decided that we would be competent to build a coop and run on our own if he won't help us.  But, miracles never cease!
Last night at dinner, I asked him point blank what is wrong with chickens.  Well, he hemmed and hawed a bit but ultimately indicated that as long as they don't poop all over the rafters and heater in the shop and were pooping where they were supposed to poop that he has no objections to them.  WOOT!!  So, more chicken coop planning is on the table for today. One of the local feed stores sells chicks every spring, several varieties so we can get a mix which is what we want.  Of  course, they are straight run so there is no knowing what sex we would be getting.  I will have to explain clearly to the children that if we end up with an overabundance of roosters that they will have to be 'thinned'.  We are hoping to get 5 or 6 hens.
In house/construction news, the cabinets have arrived at the warehouse.  The counters have shipped and should be in by the end of the week. As soon as everything is there, it will all be delivered.  Hoorah!  I was starting to get worried that things would arrive late.  But, now things are falling into place.
And I'm thinking that the lumber and doors from the old cabinets could be useful in building a chicken coop....
Ah, the homestead grows......

WOO HOO!!  Update that title to CHICKENS!!  We got the official go ahead from V to order some chicks.  We may actually order them online since we can request more breeds and have them sexed so we don't end up with all roosters.  But we want at least one rooster- the barnyard wouldn't be complete without one.

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Urban Homestead?

Do we qualify as an Urban Homestead? (gosh, I just love saying that forbidden word... Urban homestead, urban homesteading, urban homestead... oooh, I'm gonna be in trouble now, LOL!)
Today is the Urban Homestead Day of Action. The day to take back possession of the term that defines so many of us. But, having moved from the city to a 5 acre plot of land, do we still qualify as urban homesteaders? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, yes, we do- or at least we will. We may not currently be within city limits, but looking out across the highway in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees, you can see all the lights of the suburban subdivision that is so near. The farm just to the south and west of us has put 40 acres of land up for sale for another subdivision (sigh). There is the 'Moss green eco-village' office park planned for just down the road. It doesn't matter if we are urban at the moment... give it a few years and we will be again.
We started this journey while we were still living in town, it was a fabulous location and I still love the house. But, the postage stamp yard and the regulations of living in town weren't conducive to the type of life we wanted to live (restrictions on animals, compost bins, etc). Hence the move to our lovely acreage.
We are still building our dream. The progress is slow but sure. I ordered another red currant bush (to replace the one that died after V ran into it with the mower- oops!) and cranberries! We're planning to build the greenhouse this spring and I'm looking into possibly building a hoop house as well. I'm still working on V about chickens. He is adamantly opposed to them (bad chicken manure experiences in his past when we moved here). But, there is a local feed store that sells chicks in the spring. I wonder what he would do if I just came home with some.....
The orchard has been planted, the strawberries look lovely under their straw mulch (I peeked on Saturday) and things are taking shape. Will this area ever be truly urban? I sincerely hope not. But I will always consider myself to be an Urban Homesteader. We live on an urban homestead. We are urban homesteading. We are urban homesteaders.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Taking it easy

This annoying cold is kicking me in the butt.  I'm coughing and have a headache and I'm tired because I'm not sleeping well.  Ugh.  So, I'm skipping belly dancing this afternoon and taking it easy.  Oh, I've got laundry going and have packed up a box of kitchen stuff but I'm also spending some time curled up on the couch.
Yesterday was a bit of an adventure.  Filming was loud and chaotic.  The dog got loose (someone didn't close the door all the way) and J16 and her friends chased him across the highway to the neighbor's where he went to visit the dog there.  But I did plant my first ever leek seeds yesterday.  So that makes two things planted so far this year.  I also went out wandering about the garden seeing what needs to be done.  Ugh.  I did a pretty poor job of putting the garden to bed last year so I've got lots to do before I can plant.
I would like to get the hickory nuts from my parents planted today while it's still warm out (well, it's 40 and raining).  I pulled them out of the freezer and they're now in the fridge.  Maybe I'll put on my boots and take a walk outside in a bit.  It has stopped raining- at least for the moment.  Tomorrow it is supposed to be more seasonal with a chance of snow.
The children don't have school tomorrow but I've got to go to work.  sigh...  normally I love my job but it has really been seeming like work lately... and I work next weekend so I've got a 6 day stretch ahead of me with no break.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Coming together

Things are starting to come together for the kitchen remodel that will happen in a few weeks.  But, they aren't coming together fast enough for my liking.  We picked up the new dishwasher today.  We ended up spending a little more but got an uber-efficient Bosch dishwasher.  It will wash an entire load of dishes with less than 3 gallons of water and is a tier II rated energy efficient appliance.  Like I said, we spent a little more up front but it was on sale, plus we get a 10% rebate, plus a rebate from the power company for replacing an appliance with an energy star one and, it will probably pay for itself in the long run with it's efficiency.
BUT- the cabinets and counters aren't in yet.  They were supposed to be delivered this week but now the estimated delivery date has been pushed back to the 25th.  Now I'm doubly glad I was so OCD and insisted on getting the order in early.  We ended up ordering new subflooring material and the tile backers that they were able to add onto the same delivery truck with no additional fee.  We know that the subfloor is rotted in several places and since we will be stripping at least 3 layers of old lineoleum, we wanted to start with a smooth, level surface for laying tile.
I'm hoping to pack up several more boxes of kitchen stuff this weekend.  There is a lot of stuff that we won't be needing in the next few weeks and I'm hoping to get an early start on boxing stuff up since we will only have 9 days to complete this whole project once we get started- at least 9 days with all of us available to work on it.
I'm starting to get really excited about getting started on this- if you couldn't tell.  I'm beginning to plan meals for the week since all we will have to cook with is the microwave and crockpot (and the grill if the weather cooperates).

Tomorrow I've got the usual household stuff to do.  J16 is having some friends over for a video shoot.  For one of her school projects she is doing a sort of steampunk take on the nutcracker and is doing some performance art.  So, she has been working on her costume and will have friends come help her with the video tomorrow. Of course, she wants to set up the Christmas tree for one of the shots.  WTF! What a lot of work for a video.
J16 and I have belly dancing on Sunday afternoon.  And... we really need to get started on her prom dress.  We picked up the fabric for it last weekend.  It should be stunning...  or BAM! as she puts it.  Black matte satin with a supersaturated red brocade with black cherry blossoms on it for accent band.  She really wants to sew her own dress so she is guaranteed to have one that is unique.  I didn't realize that they have actually started an online prom dress registry so girls don't have the same dress.  WOW.  How times have changed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

FIRST SEEDS!!

The first seeds of the 2011 gardening season have been planted here at my not-very-urban homestead.  Ok, it is only a little cup of parsley on the windowsill but still--- the first seeds of the year!  A momentous moment.  I'm hoping to start my leeks this weekend. V moved my grow light set up into the addition so it is all set and out of the kitchen for the remodel.  The real seed starting will begin in March.  We've still got 12 weeks to go before our average last frost.
And speaking of seeds,  this is the last call for the Save the Bees seeds.  I need to get those in the mail so let me know if you want some.  I'll try to contact those who have already indicated they want some.  If you want in, email me.  I'm at gmail and you send it to fullfreezer.  Pretty simple.  Let me know your address and what you want.  I've got Anise hyssop, Bee balm, purple coneflower, clary sage, nasturtium and poppies.  I've got lots of other stuff as well- lots of odds and ends of black flowers from last year's Goth garden as well.

Oh, and the toilet works!!!  Woo Hoo.  It turns out that it was actually the filter in the new septic tank was clogged and draining too slowly.  That's why it would flush sometimes but not after someone took a shower.
I am SO ready for the weekend.  This has been a long week, it seems.  I'm fighting an annoying cold- not one where I feel bad but one with a continuous post-nasal drip that makes me cough.  Blah.
But, the weather has been fabulous!  It was 60 today!!  The snow is almost all melted and the creek is running full.  It is really making me want to get out and work outside- unfortunately it is sloppy muddy at the moment.  sigh...  soon enough... it is only February.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Angry and disappointed

I had another post in mind for today but I have learned something that has left me a bit angry and greatly disappointed.
Most people with knowledge of the modern homesteading trends are familiar with the Dervaes family.  They have done amazing things with their house and property in Pasadena and have been key in promoting growing your own food. In fact, I have been a member of Freedom Gardens and I have respected what they have accomplished.  However, some information has come to my attention that has made me lose all respect for them.
They have apparently applied for, and received trademarks for the phrases: URBAN HOMESTEAD and URBAN HOMESTEADING along with several others.  They have pressured Facebook groups to be removed for trademark infringement and have also asked other established bloggers to stop using those phrases.  These are phrases that have been long in use, long before they established their homestead and I don't feel it is proper for them to 'own' these.  Evidently if you choose to use those phrases, you have to use the trademark symbol and indicate that they are trademarked by the Dervaes Family.
Oh, they say that they have trademarked these to 'protect' them from big corporation misuse.  Yet, they are behaving no better than those companies they despise.
I have removed the image and link to Freedom Gardens from my sidebar and I will no longer visit their websites.  So much for their dream of building community- it seems to me that they are more about tearing it apart at this point.

Monday, February 14, 2011

An unhappy Valentine's Day

At least for V.  We are having plumbing issues.  Around the time of the blizzard the toilet in the basement started not flushing well.  It got progressively worse until we banned it's use.  V has tried the snake, plungers, all to no avail. Today, he even pulled the toilet up to check the flange and try the snake further down the drain. No luck.  Then, he thought it may be a vent problem.  So, checking the vent pipe (PVC) resulted in a break that he is now trying to repair.  And the toilet still doesn't flush.  So, tomorrow he will pull the toilet again and try a drill snake to see what happens.  At least the sink and shower still work.
But all this made for a very unhappy V today and no grand celebration (not that we would have had one anyway).
But, in more fun news, we purchased our flooring for the kitchen yesterday as well as the new dishwasher. The tiles we brought home with us but the dishwasher won't be in for another week.  We were also able to add the new subfloor and tile backer onto the delivery truck that will bring the cabinets and counters.  So it will all come in one giant delivery.  We're starting to count down the weeks.  I started boxing up some of the stuff from the upper cabinets.  You know, stuff we don't use that often.  I mean, really, what are the odds that I'll be needing a springform pan in the next few weeks.
Gotta go.  J16 is taking her final written exam for her driver's ed class (they gave it as a take home!!??) and I'm needed to help her interpret some of the questions.  Some of them are really bad questions.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Growing Challenge: 4 Season Garden

Melinda at One Green Generation is offering up another edition of The Growing Challenge.  I've participated in her challenges before.  She challenges gardeners do do much of what we've been doing all along:  Plant something new, grow a plant from seed to seed (seed saving basics), tell others about gardening and trying to get them to plant something.  She encourages local foods and sustainable living.  This year the growing challenge is getting a bit more extreme.  She is challenging us all to a 4 season garden!  Now, that may be all fine and nice for some people, but here, we've got a foot of snow on the ground (although it's melting quickly with the warm up we're having) and we get temps into the negative teens- if not colder on occasion- in the winter.  This will definitely be a challenge for me.  But, expanding the seasons of the garden was one of my hopes for the year anyway, so this fits right into my plans.  Mwahahaha.  Good thing I've already been calculating the fall planting dates for things.
But, not only does she challenge us to plant so we can harvest in all 4 seasons, she is throwing down the gauntlet and challenging us to grow at least one new thing each season.  Hmmm, things I've never grown before.  Well, let's see,  This year, I'm planting melons I've never grown- that will be a new thing for the summer.  I'm also growing kale for the first time this year so I'm thinking that will be my winter harvest.  For fall, hmm, I've got some black radish seeds that I'm going to try. And, I've decided to try my hand at leeks this spring.  So, I guess finding new things wasn't as hard as I thought.
Come on, join in.  It should be fun.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Knock me over with a feather!

My darling hubby still surprises me sometimes.  This morning was one of those.  As a background- we moved out into the country, in a large part, because I wanted to, and because he thought it would make me happy.  We went through a really rough period in our marriage a few years ago (before I started blogging) and I think he still worries that I'll leave him if I get unhappy again.  But enough of that...
This morning, before the children got up, V and I were talking over coffee.  We were discussing our weekend plans and of course, finances came up since V said he wanted to go pay off the Menard's bill this weekend (this has half of the cabinet/counter purchase on the charge card- the other half is on my MC).  He also informed me that there is some piece of electronic, sound processing equipment he wants to get (he does record some of his own music) that is $400.  OK.  So, if that's the case I guess he doesn't mind that I spent $100 on row covers and hoops for the garden....  so the conversation progressed and he said he wouldn't mind if I ordered a hoop house- um, yeah, I don't think he has a concept of how much one of those would cost....   Well, I mentioned that probably the only reason I would need a big hoop house was if we were going to go into market gardening.  He gave me an odd look so I asked him if he was planning to retire into market gardening and sell CSA shares.  He laughed and said "No, silly, we retire to market gardening and have the market here.  We could contract with other small producers as well. We've got a prime location on the highway and this area is developing fast.  We're much closer into town than many of the other small farms that market around here.  And we could own the web presence around here."

like I said.... knock me over with a feather.  Some kind of market gardening has always been a dream in the back of my head but I had no idea he was in on the idea as well...  I thought he wanted me to be happy but I have noticed that, even with all the work and chaos going on out here, he's having fun and coming up with all sorts of plans on his own...
And part of my plans to cut my work hours was to have more time to devote to the gardens.  Hmm, maybe he is on the same page??!!  

Hmmm, now I have to think......

Thursday, February 10, 2011

RIP

Brian Jacques- 15 June 1939 to 5 February 2011
Your wonderful stories will live on but we shall miss additions to your universe.
You inspired us to read.
You kept us entertained on long travels.
Your lavish descriptions of food made my children want to eat turnips.
Your creative genius will be missed.

Still working on the master plan

For seed starting, that is.  It's been much on my mind lately.  Maybe it's that it has been unforgivingly cold here this week and I'm longing to see something naturally green outside.  It was -15 F this morning when I left for work (That's about -26 C for those of you more familiar with that scale).  Regardless of the number or scale it was COLD! Much colder than normal for here this time of year.  But... a warm up is on the horizon.  It is forecast to get above freezing this weekend!  GASP!  We may see liquid water outside!
V and the boys were moving more snow again this afternoon.  It occurred to us that we are expecting a delivery truck next week and it will need to be able to get through the drive, around the house and into the courtyard to unload the new kitchen cabinets into the shop.  Hmm, we didn't clear any of those drifts... oops....

In more fun news, I placed my order for floating row covers this evening  and now, I'm going to get back to my planting calendar.  So many seeds, so little time. (and room)

Ooo...and this must be a particularly evil post.  It's number 666....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eating our rainbow

Nothing much going on here.  It's cold...  Abnormally cold for this time of year.  But, we're still eating our veggies, and trying to keep color in our lives when everything outside is white and frozen.
This afternoon, when we stopped at the grocery store for milk, we discovered that they had cauliflower on sale.  And not just any cauliflower.  They had the colored stuff!
We got a head of purple.  With our organic carrots, cucumber and a few olives, it made for a great bowl of fresh veggies to have with our pizza.  Since we are planning to plant colored cauliflower this gardening season (white, green, orange and purple), this was a fun way to 'practice' eating our rainbow of veggies.
Now, I'm off to do some research and soon I will (hopefully) order some row covers to keep the bugs out of our broccoli and cauliflower.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Meatless Monday success!

Woo Hoo!  Finally, something new and vegetarian that both boys actually LIKED!  Mark the date on the calendar!!
Of course, it isn't that far of a stretch from things we've had before.  But still different.
Cheddar Spoonbread
from Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest
I know- not the best photo but I wanted to get it before it fell.
Of course, next time I make it, there will be a few tweaks.  I actually followed the recipe.  (insert gasp of horror here)  It wasn't difficult but made lots of dirty dishes.  And it needs hot peppers!  and onions....  And I don't actually OWN a souffle dish.  It also made a HUGE amount so maybe I'll have to see about cutting down the recipe.  Of course, if I had a bigger dish....  I used two casserole dishes and it turned out fine.  We only ate one and have an entire other dish left over.  I'm thinking breakfast??

Here's the recipe if you want to try it.  My take on the instructions ;)

Cheddar Spoonbread
6 eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons butter
3 cups fresh corn (I used frozen and it worked fine, I just drained off part of the juice)
1/2 teaspoon salt (it could have used more)
1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
1 1/2 cups packed, shredded cheddar
(I also added in some fresh ground black pepper and cayenne)

Preheat oven to 400*F and butter a medium souffle dish (or any other fairly straight sided casserole dish)
Bring the milk to just under boiling in a small pan (scald it) and remove from heat.
In a deep skillet or medium saucepan, saute the corn in the butter for a few minutes. (here is where I would add the peppers and onions)
Add the cornmeal to the corn and continue to stir and saute them together for about 5 minutes.
Slowly add the hot milk into the corn mixture and stir.  Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl.  Stir in the cheese and beat in the egg yolks.  Let cool to room temperature.
While this is cooling, beat the egg whites until stiff.  Fold them into the cornmeal mixture as well as possible without deflating the egg whites. Transfer to the souffle dish and pop it into the 400F oven.  Immediately turn the temp down to 375 and bake 35 to 40 minutes.  Serve immediately before it falls.

It was an interesting combination of textures.  The souffle part made it quite light while the cornmeal gave it a lovely crispy crunch and the sweet corn was just that. 
Even my non-adventurous eaters liked it.  Hooray!!  This is definitely a keeper recipe- with tweaks next time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Project: Save the bees- a giveaway!!

I learned through a post by meemsnyc that there is a giveaway project sponsored by Holly at Tasty Travels.
The idea is to get gardeners, bloggers, whoever, to plant bee friendly flowers in their gardens.

The idea is simple: purchase a packet of bee friendly seeds (or find them in your stash), divide them up as you desire and offer them to other gardeners to plant.  Simple, huh!

To play along, here are the rules..
1.  Purchase a package of bee friendly seeds and figure out how many people you would like to share them with.
2.  Announce the project on your blog/website and offer the seeds to others (starting Sunday, Feb 6)
3.  Link back to this post.
4.  Mail your seeds to your people.
5.  Update your original post with a list of places you mailed your seeds to.

See, easy, peasy, right?

I'm game.  I hope you don't mind seeds from my stash...

Last year, as many of you know, we started lots of perennial flowers (and herbs) from seed.  Well, there are MANY, MANY more seeds than I needed in those packets. So, I can offer:
Lavender Hyssop (also known as anise hyssop)- lovely blue/purple spikes of flowers, edible/medicinal and makes a wonderful tea.
Bee Balm (monarda lambada)- one of the most beautiful bee balms I have ever seen!
Purple Coneflower (echinacia)- many uses and beautiful.
I may also be convinced to part with some Clary Sage (Salvia sclarca)- a biennial with 3 foot tall spikes of flowers,  This is a new one for us this year
All of the above are from Botanical Interests in 2010 in case you are wondering...

So, to get in line for these seeds. Please leave a comment below telling me your favorite bee friendly flower.  I'll try to honor at least 15 requests for seeds and may be able to do more.  Some of these I've got more of than others.  Of course, I've also got cosmos and poppy seeds if you're interested...
I'll announce the winners sometime and you can send me an email with your address.

Lets get planting to make the bees happy!

An editorial note:  Sorry, I can only ship within the US.  While the postage doesn't bother me, I'm not sure of the customs regulations about shipping seeds overseas.

Random acts of kindness

When the children and I returned home last night, J16 was anxious about pulling into the driveway because the path we had been able to clear was quite narrow- barely wide enough for the car- so there was little room for error.  Much to our surprise, we reached the drive to find that the massive piles of snow had been pushed well out of the way by someone with a snow plow.  V had no knowledge of this... a mystery.
So, this morning, V was out with the snowblower, clearing the drive again.  We had about an inch of snow overnight and of course the DOT had thrown snow back into the drive.  He was surprised when he turned around, to find a snowplow blade in front of him, attached to a big, red pickup truck.
The driver lives across the road in the subdivision. He apparently is a concrete contractor in warm months and does snow removal in the winter.  He said that he had seen us out working on Wednesday and the more he looked at our drive and thought of his own daughter trying to negotiate it.  That bothered him.  He said it just isn't right.  So, not only did he clear the end of the drive by the road, he plowed the entire thing- in a straight line- all the way past the garage.
If we need any concrete work done, I know where we're going.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A good day trip

Today, the children and I made the trip to my parents farm.  V stayed home to work since he has deadlines for articles on both Monday and Tuesday.  It was a lovely day.  J16 drove both ways, getting in more needed driving time- including the drive back in the dark.
We helped out a bit around the farm, shoveling some of the 17 inches or so of snow that they got.  Fortunately, a neighbor came over with a tractor and blade and cleared the drive and also shoveled the front porch for them.  But the children and I cleared the back door and a path to the wood pile.  We also cleared a path to the gas pig- and another from the little pig that supplies the house to the larger tank that holds most of the supply.  The little tank is due to be filled soon so Dad needs to be able to get from the little tank to the big to attach the line for the transfer.
The real reason we went was to celebrate Dad's birthday.  We were a bit early since his birthday isn't actually until Monday but we celebrated nonetheless.
The birthday boy is waiting for his cake and ice cream!
We also did a bit of a seed swap.  Well, rather, I gave them some seeds for the garden.  Mom commented last year that she really liked the India Paint eggplant that I grew so I gave them a few seeds.  I also gave them some Amana Orange tomato seeds and a few of our new Tigger melon seeds. I think I may also start some cauliflower seedlings for them since I learned that (with his medications) cauliflower is the only brassica that Dad can eat.
But we definitely ended up on the better end of the deal.  They have been conditioning some Hickory nuts for us.  These are from Big Hickory trees that are much more uncommon and slower growing than the usual shagbark ones.  They have much, much larger nuts and are easier to crack out.  So, they have been moving seeds from the fridge to the freezer for the last month or so, giving them the cold they need to sprout in the spring.  We are hoping to plant them on our property as they thrive in wetter conditions than most hickories.  Of course, it will be 30 or 40 years before they really start bearing nuts but we're looking to the future here.  Who knows what 40 years from now will bring.  Maybe our children or grandchildren can harvest the nuts.
We also ended up with several sleds.  Years ago, my parents purchased a plastic sled for J16 that they kept at their house since we didn't have a good place to sled at the time.  They finally decided that it is time for us  to take it home.  We also ended up with two ancient Flexible Flyer sleds (or similar type) that need some work but are in basically working condition.  These sleds are probably 50 or more years old but still look like fun.  
And even better... Mom baked hickory nut sticky buns and sent a pan back with us.  YUM!!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The LIST so far

Ok, this is a work in progress.  I was inspired by Erin, who posted her planting list.  So, I decided to go through my seeds again and make a master list- and it's a good thing, too!  I discovered that I am out of some things I thought I had (or I just can't find-although all my seeds are collected.. hmmm)
So, the planting list so far.

Tomato
Ananas Noir- Baker Creek- my new variety for the year.
Jeunne Flamme- stash/saved seed
Campbell's super secret- saved seed
Polish Linguisa- stash/saved
Amana Orange- stash/saved
Black Sea Man- stash
Black Krim- Stash
Yellow Cherry- saved (although I know it will come up volunteer in the garden- why do I save it???)
Amish Paste- stash
And, I discovered that I'm OUT of Mortgage Lifter seeds!!!  I have NO red beefsteak tomatoes!!  How can this be!!!!?????   Of course- I saved seeds a year ago- but that was the year the mortgage lifters got hit by an early blight and I didn't get any seed saved.  I used the last of my stashed seed last year.  Hmm, I bet I can get some from Roger... or maybe something different......

Pepper
Purple Beauty- Baker Creek- new variety
Jalapeno- stash/saved
Volcano (hot hungarian wax) saved
Anaheim- saved/stash
Alma Paprika- saved/stash
Cayenne- saved
Peter, Red- saved.  I'm debating on this one. It is a fun conversation pepper but it really has too long a growing season for us and doesn't do too well.
Red and Yellow Bell- saved
And of course, we have the Black Pearls that I fell in love with last year....

Eggplant
India Paint- saved

Cabbage family
Cabbage- Red acre- stash.  I hope for a spring and fall planting
Broccoli- Super Blend (hybrid!)- Cook's Garden (spring and fall) this (and I bet the cauliflower) is my hybrid purchase for the year- but we have had such good luck with this blend in the past.
Cauliflower Rainbow Blend- Cook's Garden (spring and fall?)
Wild Kale Mix (4 heirloom varieties)- Cook's Garden- for Fall

Tomatillo
Purple- Baker Creek
Toma Verde- stash- and these came up volunteer in the garden last spring!

Carrots
Carnival Blend (4 colors)- stash
Parisienne-  Baker Creek Freebie!

Radish
Lots of stashed odds and ends- white icicle, watermelon, french breakfast, pink beauty
Black Spanish- stash- for a fall planting

Beets
Detroit Red- stash
Cook's Custom Mix- stash

Lettuce
Lots of mesclun mix odds and ends from the stash
All season Romaine Mix- Cook's Garden

Chard
Rainbow- Baker Creek

Peas
Shelling- Lincoln- stash
Snap- Sugar Snap- stash

Beans
Christmas Lima- stash
Scarlet Runner- stash
Green Bush (no name???)- stash
I have some Jacob's Cattle Beans from a seed exchange but I'm not sure I'll have room.  Maybe.....
I also discovered that I'm out of purple bush and yellow wax beans- but I know a local store often has them for ten cents a packet for heirloom varieties (if you don't mind small packages- but then we don't actually eat a LOT of beans so it usually works for us)

Melon
Tigger- Baker Creek- something else new for us!!
I'm pondering a sugar baby watermelon but I'm not sure I've got that much room.

Squash
summer- Billiards mix (round zucchini?)- stash.
I was pondering what happened to the patty pan seeds I planted last year when J16 reminded me that someone had given me a few seeds- oh yeah.....)
Winter-
Speckled Hound- heirloom- Cooks garden- new (something smaller than last year!!)
Waltham Butternut- stash
I'm contemplating more Galeux d'eysines since we had so much luck with them last year but I'm not sure I'm prepared for 450 lbs of squash again!

Corn
Chires baby- Baker Creek- a new one for us
I'm debating planting sweet corn again.  It takes up so much room and we can get it so easily from the local farmers...

Herbs
Parsley- gourmet mix- Cooks Garden Freebie
Basil- Genovese- stash
Clary sage- stash
Summer savory- stash
Cilantro- stash
Dill, Mammoth- stash
Marjoram- stash
Camomile- stash
Stevia- stash
Oh, there are others as well...

Other STUFF
Nasturtium- stash
Wild flax- J16 picked up this packed at the store a week ago- am I a bad influence or what!!
Moon flowers- stash
Litchi Tomato- saved seeds
Sunflowers- stash
More stuff we got for the goth garden last year and never got planted.  And some other freebie flower seeds from here and there.....

Onions- I always pick up onion sets from a local seed/pet store where you can mix and match in bulk.

Oh, and I completely forgot to mention cucumbers- K10's favorite vegetable.....

There will probably be other things we find to plant- you know how it is.
Yeesh- just looking at that list makes me exhausted!

I know that the parsley needs to be started early (up to 12 weeks prior to last frost) and that is coming up toward the end of February.  OOOH!!!  It's getting close!!!!  I just need to set up my seed growing racks somewhere other than the kitchen since we will be gutting the kitchen in March.
 TOO...MUCH...GOING...ON....  NEED...TO...GARDEN!!!!!
NEED... TO... SAVE.... SANITY...............

OOPS, TOO LATE!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More snow pictures

Yeah, we're pretty boring around here.  Snow is the topic of conversation everywhere.  Some late afternoon shots of the farm.
Just for Erin... the barn.  It's not new and I know I've posted pictures before.  The garden is in the barnyard, fenced off from critters (HAHAHAHA!)
 Looking down the fence line.  The barn is to the left, compost pile to the right.  I think it's actually drifted completely over the corner post of the riding arena/beach/archery range/volleyball court.
 I always love how snowdrifts curl over...
 The driveway.  There is just enough room for the car.  I don't think J16 will be driving this for a while.  She isn't that precise.  And you can see the poor buried van....  the front and passenger side aren't too bad...
 Finally, looking down the South side of the barn.  This is the area we're hoping to build the greenhouse, sheltered from the fierce North winds we get in the winter but still getting the sun.  Right now it's storage for old gates and fence posts not yet repurposed.
V and I were quite unhappy this morning.  After spending most of the day yesterday clearing the driveway, we discovered this morning, early, as I was ready to leave for work, that the snowplows had been through again, clearing the shoulder of the highway.   They plowed it shut again with chunks of ice and snow about 2 feet thick and back 8 to 10 feet into the drive. GRRR.. and of course, it was -15 outside this morning so it was REALLY FUN to shovel it all out.  Needless to say, I was late to work.  But at least I made it in.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It was a snowy, snowy day!

video
V ventured out last night in the storm to shoot some video.  This should give you an idea of what it was like.  Not fun outside.  The poor dog was so confused.  We were unable to open either of the doors we usually use to take him outside and he refused to pee until we walked him all the way around to the back of the house to his 'usual spot'.  Of course at the height of the storm.
Here are a few photos of the aftermath.  This morning, the wind had died down and the sun was trying to peek out.
First, the driveway.
 The guys started digging.
There was a drift about 20 feet wide (and long!) and 4 feet deep that we had to move.  At the tallest part, the drift was up to my shoulder.  Good thing I had the day off already, I wouldn't have been able to get in to work anyway and this way we didn't have to get up early.  We didn't clear the entire drift, just enough path to get the car out of the garage and down the drive.  The van, we probably won't see it again until the thaw- it's buried up to the windows!
Next, the reason we couldn't get the back door open:
 Yup, that's the back door there on the left...
This particular drift was over 6 feet deep.
 Looking the basement window with Spaz.
Next, the effort begins to dig a path for the dog!

Success!!

I have no idea how much snow we actually had, it all blew around so much.  There were patches where you could see the ground and then there were the 6 foot drifts.  Even with the snow blower, we had LOTS of shoveling to do since it can't cut through drifts that tall.
There was about 16 inches of snow on the deck, blocking the South door.  But, the doors and drive are all passable now.  NO thanks to the DOT snow plows which piled up a 4 foot wall of ice at the foot of the drive.  At least we got things cleared before the bottom drops out of the temps.
I hope you all fared well with the weather.  We are all fine here but will probably be a little stiff tomorrow.  We moved a LOT of snow today.

A new spectator sport


I was about to post this one yesterday afternoon when we lost our internet connection.  But it's still fun.
I'll post about the storm and digging out next.  Whew, it was nasty!



The snow has started so fun has moved indoors.
J16 brought home one of the pieces she is working on for school

Iowa City's famous Black Angel

Pretty awesome.
Because the weather isn't!


And now, for a glimpse of our new spectator sport.
video
Watching the birds try to make it to the feeder in the 40 mph winds.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ready to ride it out

The winds picked up early this morning and it started snowing around noon.  Schools released early at 1 and everyone is home, safe and sound.  We are expected to get about a foot of snow but with the winds the drifting will be BAD.  Of course, if the storm tracks just a bit farther to the northwest....
We aren't too worried.  We have plenty of supplies even if this last much longer than predicted.  No one has anywhere to go... we are safe and warm.
Time to bake some bread.....