Saturday, July 30, 2011

Basil dreams

V and I had some errands to run this morning so I made him stop at the farmer's market before we went home.  It has been years since he has been there and he was surprised at how much it has grown.  We stopped in to see J17 at work and chatted with her boss, Nan.  To my delight, Nan gifted us with a HUGE bag of basil.  It seems that for some reason, the basil wasn't selling today and she still had two other bags with only an hour of market to go.
Look at this!!
 That is a LOT of basil!!
So I made pesto...
 Lots of pesto for the freezer... About 4 batches of pesto.  I filled all my ice cube trays...
Used an old freebie "jell-o bean" pan... saved some in the fridge to use soon, froze a larger container for the party... and still had half the bag left.  If you've never made pesto for the freezer- you're missing out!  It is so easy.  I just toss the garlic, basil and pine nuts in the food processor and add just enough olive oil to make a paste.  Into ice cube trays to freeze.  Then pop them out into a freezer bag.  When I need pesto, I just pick out how ever many cubes I want, thaw, add more olive oil and parmesan.  And it's just like fresh!!  Fabulous.
But what to do with still MORE basil.
I hung two huge bunches to dry for in soups and sauces this winter and still I had a third of a bag left.  So, I made some basil butter.  Mmm...  I hadn't tried it yet but saw the recipe and gave it a go.  It is fabulous.   2 sticks of butter, softened, 3 cups packed basil, 2-3 cloves of garlic (I just used one giant clove!), some fresh ground pepper and whirl it all in the food processor. I've got some in the fridge for use and then I made little balls (about a heaping tablespoon) and put them in the freezer for use later.
And yes... I've still got some basil left!  But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
At least we'll have pesto this winter, even if we don't have much else from the garden!  Thanks Nan!!

For another fun thing, this afternoon, J17 and I stopped in at Fae Ridge Farm.  We've seen the sign on our way home for a long time and finally decided to stop.  Unfortunately, the owner wasn't home but there was a wonderful group of women sitting around the tiny little farm shop, knitting and spinning wool.  They were quite welcoming and said that they are there almost every Saturday afternoon and would love to teach us whatever they can.   Talk about fabulous!  And it is only about 3 miles from home.   We will definitely be back.  Especially since we found out that several people there had also been at Miss Effie's last weekend, so there is already a connection.  It should be fun.  Of course, J17's first question was "Can we get a goat?" Um, maybe some other time.

One downer this weekend,  I put in a call to a guy who was advertising wheat straw on Craigslist because I want some for mulch and chicken nests, etc, but he has never called me back.  Bummer.  Of course, it is a crazy weekend here in town with RAGBRAI having a stop over here last night.  I'm still hopeful that I'll hear from him.

Now, I've gotta go and make some caprese salad. Yup, we've got a few tomatoes and picked up some fresh mozzarella this morning.  Hmm.... I just wonder where I will ever find some basil.....

And if you hadn't noticed, the word of the day is FABULOUS!  Could be I'm in a good mood.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The good, the bad and the lucky

Ok, I may be whiny but I'm also counting my blessings tonight.  Just a few things.
First, the good:  Tomatillos!
 They are huge and beautiful!
Now for the bad:  My poor cucumbers...
 They are finally setting on but the humidity and heat are taking their toll.  Almost every cucumber is rotting from the blossom end when they get 2-3 inches long.  I caught this one early enough and we had a tiny cucumber in our veggies for dinner.
I also salvaged this pepper.  Our first Tolli's Sweet Italian.
Sun/heat burned on the tip and starting to rot.
But, we are also considering ourselves fortunate today.  Last night when I was going to bed, there was lightning visible to the Northeast. There was a huge storm along the river near Dubuque.  They got hammered last night.  Some areas got over 14 inches of rain!!  Flooding was terrible.  So I'm not going to complain about our weather... much.  I mean, it's 86 degrees and 75% humidity out there at sunset... what's to complain about.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


My garden is really pathetic this year... a great disappointment.  I'm contemplating ripping everything out except for a few tomatoes and just putting down black plastic and solarizing the entire thing.  The weeds are out of control, again.  Nothing seems to be producing much.
I mean, really, it's almost August and we've only had one cucumber, a handful of beans and two tomatoes. The broccoli only produced enough for three meals and we only got 3 small heads of cauliflower in total.  The cabbages are tiny and pathetic, barely enough for one meal each.  The summer squash are not producing either.  It has been so humid that everything is just rotting.  I pulled 2 turnips this evening.  The rest were rotten in the ground.  There is only one tiny eggplant set on.  Like I said, disappointing.
Everything out there is suddenly being devoured by a plague of little grasshoppers that seem to have appeared out of nowhere.  The weather has been uncooperative for weeding, it has been ungodly hot and humid again.
I guess the basil is doing well.  I'm hoping to make some pesto for the freezer this weekend.  At least I can preserve something this year.
I'll still hold out hope for tomatoes.  Maybe I'll get enough to can a few quarts.  I know it's not quite August but it's looking rather sad out there.

Monday, July 25, 2011

They're starting

I love the late summer.  That is when the garden really starts producing.
We've now had two 'real' tomatoes- distinguished from the few cherry tomatoes we've had.  Last night we had the first Black Krim with our cheeseburgers and tonight, the first Amish Paste.
A little pasta with creamy pesto and a fresh sliced tomato on top. Mmmm....  Summer heaven.
The heat really did a number on the tomatoes.  Some that had been doing really well and getting really large got sunburned in the heat so we will lose a few.  Also there were LOTS of blossoms that will never have a tomato on them...  sigh... we'll see what the harvest brings.  At least the plants look OK.  My attempt at spraying with copper sulfate seems to have slowed down the bacterial spot but not stopped it.  I'm really unwilling to keep spraying because of all the negative effects of copper.  We'll see how things turn out.
The combination of heat keeping me out of the garden and now the 2.9 inches of rain have helped the weeds run rampant again.  But, it's a never ending job.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Field Trip!

Oh me, oh my, J17 and I had an adventure today!
It involved a drive down the interstate under some rather ominous clouds.
 Then off the beaten path past some corn flattened by a recent storm.
 Where were we heading?
To a very special place:
 Yup, we went to the ice cream social at Miss Effie's Flowers!  We even got to see the famous tea cup tree:
I'll tell you, the homemade chocolate french silk ice cream was heavenly!  And I had a piece of chocolate lavender cake.  Mmmm.....
There were local artisans selling their wares.
 We picked up some lovely chevre and feta cheeses from Triple Creek Dairy, some goat milk lotion and J17 got some fabulous, funky yarn from Farm Genevieve!
And we took each others pictures in front of the famous barn.
 J17 even took my photo,  a rare occurance that I get my photo here.
A few errands later, we were home and J17 wasted no time on getting started on a scarf.
Isn't that the most fabulous yarn?!!  Hand dyed and hand spun.

Of course, I realized that we left today with out getting a photo of Cathy, the whirling dervish behind Miss Effie's.  But I'm sure we will meet again...
I don't feel that I got much accomplished today, but then, we have had almost 3 inches of rain in the past few days and it was still raining off and on all morning.  I still have TONS to accomplish but it was nice to have a day off for some fun.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A chicken post

It has been a while since I did a chicken post.  I thought I would give you a few highlights.
They are, unfortunately, still using the temporary run.

 We are planning to order some lumber soon for the deck extension and the supplies for the run will be ordered at the same time.  While we could haul most it in the van, the roof sections wouldn't fit and since we will be having a delivery made, it's just easier to have it all delivered together.
Magnus is growing, and crowing... still his trial run crow- I hope, it makes me laugh every time I hear it!
 Buffy is definitely the queen of the flock.
 And a question for those of you more familiar with chicken breeds.  I'm still trying to figure out our 'mystery' layers from the farm store.  Here is Claudia:
 And Eddie:
 I'm thinking maybe Rhode Island Reds?  Any opinions would be welcomed.
Below is Georgie (ameraucana) with her blue-green feet.  I do think she's beautiful. Also in the bottom right corner is Abbie, a silver-laced Wyandotte.
 Micah, one of the barred rocks likes standing in the water.  She did a lot of this during the recent heat wave.
 The big girls are about 17 weeks old now, the little ones 12 weeks.
They do like clucking around.
I  can't wait to get them in the big run.  But most of all, I can't wait for that first egg!!

Friday, July 22, 2011


I'm feeling a bit peevish today...  Must be the heat.  There are little things that have annoyed me today more than usual... and it's NOT my children- they have been great.  What's annoying me today?  Here are some examples-

  • Perfectly healthy young people (who look like they work out regularly) with empty hands who insist on pushing the handicapped door opener while they are most of the way through the door after I have opened it.
  • People who believe that every forwarded email sent to them is the truth- without checking any facts.
  • People who engage in fear-mongering in the name of religion.
  • Obviously overweight, unhealthy people filling their grocery carts with cupcakes, chips and processed food (normally I feel sorry for these people, today I was just annoyed)
  • People who drive by the farmer selling sweet corn out of his truck on the corner to spend a dollar more per dozen for imported corn at the grocery store.
  • People who extoll the virtues of W**mart.
  • The government- who just can't seem to get it's act together.
  • The weather- after a lovely 1 inch rainfall and a cool morning it had the nerve to get up to 93 again today and there are heat advisories in effect AGAIN for the weekend.
What's annoying YOU today??

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday things

Hmm, much to post and not much to post...  an interesting conundrum...
Things about today...
  • Roger came home from rehab!  Hooray!!
  • It only got up to 99 today!  And even then it warmed more slowly and cooled off much more quickly in the evening.
  • The chickens are all doing well, even with the heat.
  • I watered the garden this evening, some of the tomatoes and the baby corn were looking a bit stressed. I hoped it was a sure way to make it rain.
  • I celebrated the 'Ritual of the First Tomato"!  A single heirloom yellow cherry tomato, warm from the sun, eaten in the garden while giving thanks.
  • It's raining!! Only the second measurable rainfall in about a month.
  • The roof still leaks... sigh... we thought we had it patched.  Most likely the extreme heat caused the patching material to crack... sigh... and we thought the deck extension was going to be our last major project on the house.  sigh some more....
  • We are all healthy.
  • I forgot to water my little freebie marigolds yesterday and several look dead.
  • No one was home until nearly 7 tonight so we actually ordered a pizza from a local restaurant!  Unthinkable!  It's the thin edge of the wedge... but it was really good!  Chicago stuffed pizza from the Wig and Pen East.  
  • I'm enjoying a bit of the homemade limoncello that Jim gave us.  Mmmmm
  • It's time for bed. I'm tired, I had bizarre work related dreams last night- never good for a restful sleep.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oh, Baby!

It's HOT out there!!  We hit 102 degrees F today (nearly 39 C).  With the dew point hovering around 80, it was like a sauna outside.  The heat index was hovering in the hundred and teens for a while this afternoon. Even now at almost 9 pm, it still feels like 103 F outside.  BLAH!
The chickens are hanging in there.  We've been making sure they have plenty of cold water but they still look like they're suffering.  They have been hanging out inside the coop- amazingly enough, it was cooler in there than it was outside this afternoon.  Since it is supposed to be just as hot tomorrow and possibly continuing through the weekend, I'm freezing some water in 2 liter bottles that I'm going to have J17 deploy in a water dish in the coop tomorrow every few hours so they have extra cold water.  I know they are stressed but I hope to make it as bearable as possible for them.
Oh, and in other chicken news- Magnus was crowing this morning when I let them out of the coop!!  or at least attempting to.  K11 says he heard him try last week one morning but I hadn't heard it yet.  He doesn't quite have it down yet but he's at least trying.  And he is getting huge!  He is bigger than even the big girls now.  The little girls are still a little smaller than the big girls but they are gaining fast.  Hopefully this hot weather won't hold them back.
It has been too hot to do much outside but V and I did spend an hour in the pool with the boys this afternoon after I got home from work.  The water is so warm it's almost not even refreshing anymore.  But it was still a lovely time.
Now, we're watching an old movie on TV and enjoying the wonder of air conditioning.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The poor man's drip irrigation system

The heat has begun taking it's toll on the garden.  I did water last night.  Amazingly, the tomatoes and peppers look good.  The vining plants are another story.  My poor cucumbers were looking quite droopy when I got home this afternoon.  So, I broke out the poor man's drip irrigation system.

A gallon jug, filled with water with a single pin hole in a bottom corner.  Loosen the top a bit and you get an exquisitely slow stream of water.   Fortunately, we had forgotten to put out the recycling last week and still had some gallon jugs.  I'll have to refill them tomorrow but this should hold the vines nicely.  If things continue to be bad, I guess we'll just have to drink lots of milk and OJ and put jugs by each tomato as well.
The heat has been tremendous and the humidity unbearable.  Even now, at 9 pm, it is 87 degrees with 75% humidity.  ACK!  But, another thing I forgot to mention about the weekend.  V and the boys got the pool set up.  After a few days in this heat, the water is warm and wonderful.  A quick dip after deploying the water jugs was welcome.
The poor chickens are hanging in there.  I just wish it would cool down a bit more at night so the coop would cool off.  We're making sure they have plenty of water and they seem to be doing well but it is so sad to see them panting, wings slightly outspread in the heat.  K11 suggested we bring them back in the house... umm, I don't think so.
I hope everyone affected by the heat is staying cool and safe.  It's dangerous out there.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday scenes

And a variety of other things for a busy weekend.
It's definitely the dog days!
The heat and humidity are horrendous! But we still accomplished a few things today and this weekend.
This is my morning project:
 I got landscape fabric and mulch down around the currants.  Hopefully this way the raspberries won't take them over.  V and I got out by about 7 this morning before the heat got too oppressive.  Here is V's project for the weekend:
 He's been working on finishing and insulating the office area in the shop.  Poor guy, he has been out there much of the day in the heat and humidity.  I made sure he had plenty of fluids.
A few other scenes of the day.  I moved my bird bath into the flower/herb garden on the edge of the garden.
 This is the area that has lots and lots of gravel in it so I planted it in perennials to attract pollinators to the garden.  Yes, it needs weeded.
But just so you don't think we're totally devoid of bees:
 Still not many but a few.  The anise hyssop is drawing them in.  
And the day lillys are beautiful.
 And today, when J17 and I were out grocery shopping and errand running. We stopped at Lowe's (we got a trellis for the new climbing rose) and got a treat:
 A potted Meyer lemon!  And it already has little lemons on it!!!
 I have wanted one of these for a long time.
And my freebie plants are thriving:
Nothing like a little TLC.
Other things this weekend,  I froze a bunch of corn.  J17 was my spotter at the farmer's market on Saturday morning and called me to let me know that the sweet corn has arrived.  So I struck a deal with one of the vendors for 5 dozen ears.  We saved a few for dinner but froze most of it.  I'll probably get more in the future.  We didn't plant any sweet corn of our own and my parents aren't having much luck again this year.
My other impulse buy this weekend was a pair of sandals.  We had stopped in to pay the bill at a local store and they had a pair of sandals- you know, those padded sport ones, on the discount rack for $3!!  And in my size.  Ok, they are kind of ugly, but for three bucks I now have a new pair of sandals that I won't feel bad about getting filthy. And a bonus- they are incredibly comfortable!
It seems like the weekend has flown by.  I still have so many things I want to accomplish.  I need another vacation... but not the next few days... it is going to be in the mid 90's all week with high humidity.  I guess summer has truly arrived.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Say it ain't so!

Our local dairy plant, just two miles or so down the road is closing...  After 77 years in business.  We have made it a point to purchase their products to help support them.  While the brand will still be available, the current location will now be simply a distribution for milk and products coming in from other areas in Iowa.  What's worse, there are many people out of jobs.  And now we will no longer have milk trucks rumbling past the house every day.
I wonder what our dairy neighbor will do....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Can you guess?

What's wrong with all these pictures?

 Noticed anything yet?

 What's missing here?
Got it yet?

No bees.

There has been a startling lack of bees this year.  Outside this evening, I spotted only three honey bees on a huge expanse of white clover.  None anywhere else.  A few carpenter bees and one bumble.  And it's a lovely evening, still early enough that they should be out in full force.  I've noticed this over the course of the summer.  This just reinforces my choice to get bees next year.
I wonder if this is why I still don't have any cucumbers even though they are blooming like mad.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More goodness arrives!

All I'm going to say is YUM!!
Look at the size of those things!!
Not too many this year but we planted it as a single cane last year so it's not done too bad.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I wish....
We got a letter in the mail today:
 It's not every day you get a letter from NASA.
And in it was something very few people ever get:
 An official launch invitation!!
Too bad we can't go.  sigh....
The launch is scheduled for August 5th.  There is no way we can get to Florida. I can't get that week off work, someone else has already requested time off.   We can't afford to fly with all 5 of us and it would take too long to drive.  sigh some more....
It would have been a great experience for the children.  I know my parents are going and one of my sisters (and a niece who lives in Florida).
Hopefully there will be other invitations in the future.  This is one of the perks of having a brother who is a rocket scientist- for real!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

An actual vacation day!

Like usual, the dog woke me up this morning.  It was nearly 5 am.  I rolled over and tried to ignore him.  Then I noticed a sound... the wind was howling.  Then a flash lit up the sky.  Great, a thunderstorm... the ones that had been in Nebraska when I went to bed had rolled across the state.  Unfortunately, I realized that all the windows in the shop and chicken coop were wide open.  So, at 5 am, I'm running around outside in my jammies shutting windows.  Good thing we live in the country.  Fortunately, it hadn't started raining yet.  
We got the tail end of the storm that ripped through.  Further North, in Vinton (about an hour north of here), where I've got aunts and an uncle, there was tremendous damage.  No tornados, just straight line winds- but at over 100 mph.  Fortunately, all my relatives are fine, but with no power for probably a few days.  That's concerning with the heat and humidity we're experiencing. My aunt isn't in the best of health. But her children and grandchildren came in to help her clean up the tree that fell on her garage.

Since it rained this morning (0.4 inches) I took the opportunity to go back to bed after the storm and slept in.  I had planned to go out into the garden but didn't.  So, after sleeping in, we all decided to go see a movie.  Man, I remember when a movie was a cheap date.  To get all three of us in, plus snacks, almost required a second mortgage. Of course, we did spring for the premium 3D pricing and saw the new Transformers movie.  It was freakin' awsome!  I'm a sucker for giant robots blowing things up.  After the movie, since we were on that side of town, we stopped at the farm store and picked up some more chicken feed.  A few loads of laundry is about all I got accomplished today.   Tonight, it is SyFy night.  The new episode of Warehouse 13 is just starting so I've gotta go.  V and J17 will be home tomorrow.  So much to do, so little time...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday scenes

I'm not feeling like I'm getting much done.  The dog has been waking me up at night so I haven't been sleeping well.  And it has been HOT!  Even now, at nearly 7 pm, it is still near 90 degrees and with dewpoints in the upper 70's it is pretty miserable out there.  We had a brief shower come through this morning.  Not enough to even wet the ground but enough to make it unbearably humid.  I did weed for about an hour and a half this morning before the rain.  Still a lot to do but it's too humid to be out there for long.  But, here are a few scenes of the day (hmm, interesting, Blogger reorganized my photos for me- so these are now in no particular order).
The broom corn is growing well, loving the heat but it could use some rain.
 I did venture out in the heat (with boys as firemen, just in case) this afternoon to burn weeds in the gravel of the courtyard:
 It was kind of fun but hot and smokey.  I14 didn't think I actually meant it when I said I was going to use a flame thrower.
The day lilies are beginning to bloom.
 The boys have been spending hours saving the world on the x-box.  They have been helping outside but in the heat of the day I'm not even cruel enough to make them go out.
 Recognize this fellow (or lady)?  I actually haven't seen many this year...and so far only on the smartweeds.  Who knows.
 The hostas are also blooming- check out the haze in the background.  You can see just how humid it is.
 Finally, the goth garden, all mulched and lovely.
Hopefully I can get out early tomorrow (without having to take a break for church) and get some more done in the garden.  Only 2 days left.