Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A good family night

We just had a lovely family evening!  Fun, relaxing family time is so necessary, at least I think so, for mental health and good family relationships.  Tonight after I got home from work, we had fun in the pool for about an hour and a half (after chicken chores), came in for a quick dinner of burgers with great slabs of fresh tomatoes and sat down to watch a movie.
A few days ago I had declared tonight a mandatory family movie night to watch the 1935 movie "The Scarlet Pimpernel".  Just like when we made the children sit down to watch Captain Blood years ago, they moaned a bit and then were enthralled.  Of course, now they're all going to be walking around with affected British accents saying "Sink Me!"  But it's so worth it.  Building family memories that will be with them forever can never be taken for granted.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Another Manic Monday

It was a busy day here.  My Monday off, as usual, was packed full.   I got up fairly early and spent about 90 minutes out in the garden this morning before breakfast.  It got hot fast today but I managed to get my little seedlings planted, mulched and watered before it got too bad. Hopefully they will survive.  I also watered the vining plants.  Chickens fed and watered, I headed inside to work.
After breakfast, I worked on cleaning and doing a bit of hand washing.  After Justine got up we went off on a mother/daughter trip to Kalona to the Stringtown Grocery (the Amish bulk food store) and the cheese factory.  There we picked up flour (unbleached and whole wheat), some cornmeal, popcorn, dried fruit and more pectin.  A quick stop at the cheese factory for cheese and curds and we were off to the Hawkeye Food Outlet.  We're getting together with V's family soon and I wanted to pick up a few things.  I was amazed to find organic udon noodles for $.75 per package.  Since we like these with stir fry I stocked up.  We also got some tortillas for $.50/pack.  And they're having a sale- 10% off all week leading up (I think) to inventory on Friday/Saturday.  We may go back in a day or two since they were out of something I was looking for.
Home again and purchases stowed, I worked on tomatoes. I got another 7 pints canned.  So I'm up to a dozen pints of diced tomatoes in the pantry so far.  Now I'll start working on sauce as I hopefully will start getting a few more tomatoes per picking.  I also dried the skins again.  I've got quite the collection going so I'll have to break out the coffee grinder soon to finish them off. I also whipped up a bit of fresh salsa.  Mmmm....
Late afternoon, we had a family swim, I watered the rest of the garden, made dinner and then it was time to watch Warehouse 13. Now, I've got to head to bed soon since it's back to work tomorrow.  V's mother will be here in a few days so I really need to re-convert the sewing room into the guest bedroom tomorrow.  Looks like it will be a busy week...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Doing a happy dance

V managed to fix the washer!  Hoorah! It seems that a ribbon cable had wiggled loose and wasn't making proper connections.  Whew!  I guess that's the trouble when you've got computerized parts that need connected on something that wiggles and jiggles around.  At least it was an easy fix. The problem we've discovered with this washer- that wasn't mentioned in all the reviews when we bought it new- is that if anything goes wrong with the computerized bits, you have to essentially purchase an entirely new control panel- both inside and out because it is has electronic touch buttons rather than mechanical ones like on old machines.  And of course, that new part costs $275.  Really....  That seems a bit much for a part.  Of course, the upside of that computerized system is that it automatically adjusts the water level and the machine is quite energy and water efficient.  It has been great until now so hopefully we get at least another 6 years out of it.
Now on to doing laundry!


I've noticed that I've got a lot of W's in my life recently.
Wacky Weather
Work Worries
Washer Woes
Yup, my washing machine is on the fritz.  I got home from work yesterday to have Justine greet me with the words "The washing machine won't start".  Great... one more thing.  And just when she is finally cleaning up her 'floor-drobe' to get ready to leave for college.  V has done his research and managed to download the service manual. Hopefully it is something that he can fix.  Sadly, it is probably a problem with the circuit board and we'll need to order a replacement part. Of course, if that's the case, we may just get a new washer.  I can't see paying $250 to repair a 6 year old washer when I can get a new one for not too much more. That's the problem with these high-end, computerized things- you can't just replace one piece, you've got to replace the entire control console.  When we got this machine, it had great reviews.  It seems that a few years later, it has been dubbed "the worst machine ever produced by Whirlpool" because of technical problems.  But I guess we've lasted longer than most.  V has seen many stories of this machine lasting only three years so we've managed to double its general life expectancy.  But that's really sad considering that the washer we had before this one was about 20 years old when V finally blew it up. (a long story for another time)

sigh... if it's not one thing, it's another.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A dry Independence Days Challenge

Another week is gone.  July is almost gone. Where is the year going?!  We're still waiting for rain, as are many.  It was really heart rending to notice that a neighboring farmer is already feeding hay to his cattle since his pasture is worthless.  Work has been work this week- and I work tomorrow.  Time is ticking down on when Justine leaves for college and I've got lots to do around the homestead.  If it's no rest for the wicked I must have been really, really bad!
But it has been a productive time here.  I have been busy, busy, busy and it's time for my Independence Days Challenge update.
Plant something- not a thing- I've been trying to keep things alive that I've got out there. I really need to get my little fall plants into the ground but I don't dare until the weather moderates a little, at least the heat. (although it was only 87 today)
Harvest something- tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, basil, thyme.
Preserve something- made two batches of peach jam- one spiced, one plain. Froze a little left over sweet corn and I've got the first 5 pints of diced tomatoes going in the canner right now.  And I'm drying the tomato skins to make tomato powder, a trick I just learned here.
Waste not- The usual recycling and such.  Brought home some more icky produce from work for the chickens.  And I think that the tomato skin powder is an experiment in wasting not- although the chickens may not agree with me.
Want not- Got a bunch more peaches before the sale ended early this week.  I'm making a shopping list for the Stringtown Grocery (the Amish bulk food store) since I ran out of both whole wheat and 7 grain flour tonight and I'm nearly out of bulk pectin.  I think Justine and I will make a trip to Kalona on Monday which is my day off.
Eat the food- sweet corn, tomatoes and cucumbers, grass fed beef.
Build community food systems- Sweet corn and a melon from local farmers.  Eggs to work.
Skill up-  Learning to make tomato powder.

Not a bad week, all told.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ready to cry

Frustration is my middle name at the moment.  We got a little rain last night (about 0.06 inches) with lots of wind, lightning and thunder.  I'll take any rain I can get at the moment but I could have done without the wind that knocked down my cherry tomato, a pepper plant and broke a few branches on other tomatoes.  With the new drought monitor maps out this morning we've moved into the extreme drought zone.  No surprise there from me.
My big frustration comes from work.  I left a bit early today for a dentist appointment.  Later, I checked my work email account.  There was a message that our new therapist- who started last week, and on whom we were counting to take up some of the load that has been nearly unbearable in recent weeks- didn't pass her national certification boards.  AAACK!  So, effectively immediately, her temporary license is void and she can no longer work until she successfully passes.  And she can't try to retake them for a minimum of 45 days.   So, the stress will continue- and get even worse since my student that I've had for the past three months will be finished next week.  She is fabulous and has been a great help.  But, we will survive- we always have in the past.  I just may be ready to check myself into the unit after a few more weeks.  I do feel very sorry for her, though.  I can't imagine what is going through her mind at the moment. How awful for her.
I made peach jam this evening.  Mmmm... tasty!  It is a different recipe than I have made in the past and while it's really good, unfortunately it didn't seem to make much.  I got just over 2 pints.  I've still got some more peaches so maybe I'll have to make another batch as more peaches ripen.  Of course, as I was skimming the foam off the top, V came by with a dish of ice cream and Justine came by with a cup of vanilla yogurt for me to add a bit of jammy goodness to so I may have not ended up with quite as much as I could have.
We're nearly out of peach jam in the pantry. K12 has been inhaling it recently, having suddenly 'discovered' the pantry.  He has also been going through another growth spurt. I'll have to check to see if any of his pants fit before school starts next month.  I think he has grown another inch or two this summer.
I had hoped to get a few pints of diced tomatoes canned this evening but I ran out of time.  There is always tomorrow- and maybe I'll have a few more tomatoes ripe by then.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Holding my breath

But not going to talk about it so I don't jinx it!  Look!
Shhh, don't scare them away!
Did you know that at 105+ degrees it doesn't matter how well watered anything is- it wilts?  It does, let me assure you.  V saved my fall seedlings this afternoon by bringing them inside.  They have been holding up remarkably well but today was too much.  Fortunately they perked up again.
I've been outside in the heat for most of the time I've been home.  I picked a gallon bucket of tomatoes and a few peppers.  But mostly I've been watering.  It was still 104 when I got home this afternoon. It's nearly 9 pm and it's still 97 out there.  It's just plain HOT!
I still have a bunch of peaches that I got on sale at the store.  I've been letting them ripen on the counter and my plan was to make jam this evening but I don't think I've got it in me- it's 8:50 and I just don't think I can start peeling peaches.  But there is always tomorrow.  And I'm hoping that maybe I've got enough to can a few tomatoes- maybe a couple of pints of diced.  We'll see.
I talked to Mom this evening.  They are getting a harvest from the Amana Orange tomato plants I gave them.  They are amazed at how huge and tasty they are (I guess they didn't believe me when I raved about them!)- and an added bonus- they evidently don't have vitamin K in them (red tomatoes do) so they don't mess with Dad's blood thinners. Hoorah!
Now, I've gotta go put my peaches in the fridge, check my tomatoes and go to bed.  I'm tired.  This heat is really taking it out of me and work continues rough.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sultry Sunday

And not the seductive type of sultry!  Actually, today wasn't as bad as we had been lead to believe.  It was cloudy for most of the morning and we even had a few sprinkles.  Of course, the line of showers that was on its way on the radar dissipated about 10 miles out from our house.  sigh... we're still dry, dry, dry and HOT!  I think we finally hit 97 this afternoon.  At least it wasn't the 102 that had been forecast.
It was a busy day here. We did the drive-by church drop off since I15 had to acolyte. I got up early and headed out to weed in the garden while it was still cool. I'm trying to get a spot prepared for my fall crops.  The spot available is the space where early stuff had been and has now been taken over by weeds.  They pulled amazingly well considering how dry it is.  Justine got up and helped me for a bit and we got quite a bit done before it got too hot to work.
Then, we ran off to the farmer's market and grocery store.   We picked up a HUGE cantelope and some sweet corn from the market and got peaches at the store (along with a few other things).  Then this afternoon became a busy time of making things.
First, it was necessary to make some laundry detergent since I had used the last of what we had.  I'm definitely getting faster and better at it.  3 gallons of detergent in half an hour for probably about a dollar cost.  Not too shabby!
Then, I worked on some of the peaches.  They aren't as ripe as the ones we got to eat so I had to be selective.  The rest will ripen some more before I use them.  But this afternoon I made some spiced peach jam.  YUM!  I15 wasn't too excited about it (He's not a huge cinnamon fan) but everyone else thought it was 'da bomb'!  I hope to make some plain peach jam when the peaches ripen a bit more.
After jammin' - it was family frolic in the pool then a late dinner.  I'm back to work tomorrow- a 6 day stint.  It will probably be a rough week since one of my co-workers is on vacation all week.  But, I can't complain too much, I've got some vacation time coming up soon.
V and I also met our new neighbor this afternoon.  The 41 acre lot to our West and South were sold earlier this year.  This afternoon, we noticed that someone was mowing brush across the fenceline to the west.  So V and I wandered over that way.  We met Dave- the new owner.  It seems that he has a full time job but wants to farm evenings/weekends so they bought the land.  We're just fine with that.  At least he doesn't want to develop it.  We have been worried about a housing development going up over there.
Family things have been a bit stressful recently.  One sister's home was burglarized recently but she at least has gotten her wedding ring and a few other things back- the police found them in a pawn shop.  My other sister was rear-ended last week and totaled her car.  Fortunately she is OK.   I'm really hoping that this isn't a trend of bad luck for the family.  I can't handle much more stress.
I thought I'd end with a few drought photos.  I wish I had taken my camera along today when Justine and I were out.  I'll have to get some photos of the local corn fields.
 This is our lawn!
 Complete with cracks in the soil.  This one is a good inch across in some place.
 At least the weeds in the driveway aren't a problem this year.
 The neighbor's hay field to the North.   He has had only one cutting so far this year.  Unless we get more rain that may be all he gets.
 The pollinator garden is struggling.  Even the coneflowers are curled up.  This space is usually lush and green.  Not this year.  I have watered it on occasion but not as much as it needs.
But, just so you don't think everything is doom and gloom.  A few positive photos.

 Ripening tomatoes.
 And green peppers.  This is the first year in a long time that I've had green peppers.  I plant them but usually they have huge plants but very few peppers.  This year, they are doing great.  The Anaheims are the ones that have big plants but no peppers.

And, lastly, a potato of questionable origin...
How odd!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Still dry and an IDC

Today has been cloudy and cooler- only 89 today- so I've spent most of the day outside until I'm about ready to drop.  Anything that needs done outside in the near future needs to be done today since we are forecast for 100+ for the next few days.  Sadly with the clouds we had today there was no precipitation.  There was a band of showers on radar for a while but it dried up before it got here and we got only a few sprinkles.  I think it's probably too late for most of the corn crop here even if we did get rain.  I need to water my newly planted shrubs later and probably the tomatoes and peppers as well as the vining crops.
Work has been brutal this week- we've been short staffed and my patients have been particularly challenging.  It has been a long time since I have been SO ready for a weekend.
I have been making progress in my Independence Days Challenge this week.
Plant something- Got my shade garden planted but nothing food-wise.  My little seedlings for fall planting are doing well. I should be setting them out in a few weeks but I'm worried about them in this heat and dry weather.
Harvest something- eggs, potatoes, peppers, kohlrabi, zucchini, a few herbs, a few tomatoes and a single cucumber.  The cukes aren't setting on- I'm not sure if it's the heat or the drought- could be either.  I'm excited that I've got a few little eggplants out there but they're not quite ready yet.
Preserve something- my sanity???  Froze a bunch of chicken that I'll talk about later.
Waste not- the usual.  I did bring a whole bag of old produce home from work for the chickens.  We do meal preparation with our patients with eating disorders and sometimes have left overs.  We were cleaning the fridge and I couldn't bear for wilted lettuce and a slightly slimy bag of spinach to be thrown out.  The chickens thought it was grand!   I keep asking my co-workers who do the meals to save stuff but usually they forget.  This week, since I had been covering meal groups, I knew what was in the fridge.
Want not-  I've been stocking up on chicken this week.  The local grocery chain is having dollar days sales this week and have chicken (breasts!!) for $1/lb.  It is bone-in but I've been skinning and boning the breasts, repackaging them and making packages of the bones as well for making broth.   They have also had some good deals on other things that I've snagged.  Canned chili beans, pasta (even though I can make my own sometimes it's nice to not have to!)  They also have peaches for $1/lb. I've been hoping for some local peaches to make some jam but I may make do with these.  We got some for eating and they are quite tasty.
Eat the food- Eggs, sauteed zucchini and onions, chicken fajitas with peppers and onions
Build Community food systems- got some wonderful sweet corn from a farmer selling it in the parking lot of a local store.  Eggs to work and home with Roger and Sharon.
Skill up-  The latest issue of The Herb Companion arrived with great articles this month.  Most interesting are articles on alternatives to antibiotics and one on natural medicines for colds and sore throats.

I know I've been bad about reading and commenting on others blogs this week.  I'll try to catch up.  Now I'm off to do some laundry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trying not to whine

I'm trying really, really hard to have a good attitude.  I've got a healthy family, a job that I love, a home on 5 acres, air conditioning that works and a well.  But it's getting harder and harder to stay positive.
Work has been really stressful recently.  We've been incredibly short staffed- it looks like tomorrow there may be only 2 of us to cover 7 units in the hospital... far, far from ideal.  Even though I love my job, it isn't easy, especially when we're super busy.
The weather has been another stressor- as I know it has been for many, many, many people.  I added it up.  Since May 7th we have had 2.95 inches of rain- and almost half of that in May.  Since the beginning of June we've had just 1.3 inches- most coming in tiny dribs and drabs- not enough to really soak into the ground.  And the heat has been miserable.  I'm not sure what the official high was today but it was into the upper 90s here again and humid with a dangerous heat index.  Driving home this afternoon we were appalled by how bad the neighbors' corn looks- curled up and beginning to turn that sick gray-green color.  We've got burn bans in effect and one town nearby has begun asking for voluntary water restrictions.  I hear stories of people selling off their herds because they don't have anything to graze and not enough hay to feed them.  All of this just makes me a bit sick to my stomach.  We eat quite a bit out of the garden but we aren't dependent on it for our livelihood- for which I'm grateful- we would never survive if that was the case.  (but then, I try to tell myself that if we were dependent on the garden I probably wouldn't be working outside the home so would have more time to give it the attention it needs)  So far our well is holding out- but I can tell you, this was a bad year for us to decide to do landscaping and plant lots of new shrubs that now need watered regularly.  Of course, hindsight is 20/20.  And I really couldn't resist the $10 plum tree, even if it lists a bit to the West.
But, we've got our health, our land and our dreams.  We will survive.  We will be able to afford food when the inevitable price increase because of the drought hits.
Add into the mix getting ready for the beginning of school in a few short weeks, never ending housework, Justine getting ready to head off to college, bills, depending on others to finalize vacation plans, dealing with inconsiderate people, not enough time to myself,  family members and/or coworkers in crisis and a jerk of a rooster and you've got a recipe for a funk which I'm fighting.

 I'll be fine- just needed to vent a bit- thanks for listening.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Random photos of the weekend

It has been a busy yet somehow laid back weekend.  I actually sat down with Justine this afternoon and watched a movie.  Usually we reserve TV/movies for in the evening.  It was fun.  V was off at a book signing and I was tired after getting up early to do outside work before it got too hot so we had some girl time.
I thought I'd share a few photos of the weekend.  I took a walk yesterday afternoon and snapped a few photos along the way as well as a few others from the past few days.
 The Queen Anne's Lace is the one thing that seems to be doing well in this drought.  Since the rest of the lawn is quite brown it towers above everything- not only in our yard but in others as well. Amazing how much is there that generally gets mowed off in a normal year.
 One of our daylilies is blooming.  Something more fun than the usual orange ditch lilies.
 It's kind of hard to see against the backdrop of other trees but here is our new little (or not so little) plum tree.
 Some of the big trees are yellowing and looking stressed as the heat and drought continue.  These are the boxelders that are on the slope southwest of the garden.
 Watering the melons is paying off!  A honeydew is growing bigger each day!
 And check out all those little cherry tomatoes. But I discovered today that I've got a serious problem with blossom end rot on my tomatoes.  We put crushed eggshells in the soil when we planted them to try to circumvent this but it has been so dry that it doesn't matter. I made sure to water them well tonight.  I'll have to water them more often than I have been in order to (hopefully) keep this at bay.
 And, photographic evidence of a "triple share-bag".  The children have developed this silly habit of sticking their heads in a cloth grocery bag and singing the 'sharing is caring' song.  This was the first time they did all three at once- although K12 was not necessarily a willing participant.  I never realized that they could all three get their heads in there!  Oh, the silly things they come up with!
 Yesterday the boys and I got up early and moved dirt before it got too hot.  This morning, I got up early and finished leveling off the area in the L of the house for the shade garden.  I even got my hydrangeas and ferns planted.   I know it doesn't look like much at the moment but this is an amazing transformation from what was here. This area still needs a lot of work but it is slowly coming together.
A view from the north stairs of the deck.  There will be a patio of the pavers (that you can see the beginnings of)  out here. But first, the debris needs to be cleaned up. Beyond where the patio will be you can see the rose trellis that leads to the goth garden beyond.  The poor goth garden is rather sad this year.  Something ate my columbines and the whole area has been rather neglected.  I need to give it some attention next spring.
So, that sums up the weekend.  Well, that and good food and family time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

IDC- mid July

It's Friday and time for my weekly Independence Days challenge update.  It has been a busy week. It's kind of funny- K12 has just realized that it is Friday and is upset by this for some reason.  He seems to have missed Thursday.  It's funny hearing him try to convince all of us that we are wrong and that today is actually Thursday.  Poor confused child.  That's what happens on summer vacation.
But, back to the IDC.
Plant something- plum tree and blackberries finally made it into the ground!  Otherwise, nothing planted but my little fall cabbages are doing well.
Harvest something- eggs, broccoli, onions, kohlrabi, peppers, a few tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, a few herbs, cabbage.  Kale for the chickens
Preserve something- nothing this week.  I'd like to see if I can get some Missouri peaches and maybe make some jam or can some.
Waste not- The usual recycling, composting, scraps for chickens.  I know there was something else but I can't quite remember what it is...
Want not- I've been stocking up on vinegar for the past few days.  Our local grocery store is having a sale on white vinegar.  I think I've purchased 7 gallons over the past few days and I'll probably pick up another few before the sale ends on Tuesday.  Since we use vinegar for a lot of things it is great to get it at a good price.
Eat the food- coleslaw, stuffed hot peppers, boiled new potatoes with butter and grilled grass fed steaks.  YUM!!
Build community food systems-  Made stops at the farmer's market and Justine and I made a run to Kalona today to the Stringtown Grocery (the Amish store) and the cheese factory.  Cheese curds are so good!
Skill up- not much,  I've been doing some plant identification around the property.  I think we may actually have wild groundnuts growing.  How cool is that! I need to wait for them to bloom to be certain.  But another wild edible!!  Sweet!

Six Continents today

How cool is this?!
I was checking my blog stats this afternoon. I discovered that today, I have had visitors from six continents:  North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. All I'm missing is Antarctica.
But probably not many bloggers in Antarctica.

Not much going on here.  A little rain this morning but not nearly enough.  I know we're not alone in the drought  and crazy weather this year but it doesn't make it easier.  I'm just glad we've got a well.
I'll try to remember to do my IDC post later. Now I've got some errands to run.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's official

Today, with the release of the newest drought monitor maps, we are officially in a severe drought.  Amazing!  I would have never guessed it...  Not by looking at the wilted plants around or the trees already turning brown or the dusty dry soil.  Even the coneflowers and oregano in the pollinator garden are curling up and looking pathetic.
But, never fear!  Our governor- Terry Braindead... er.... Branstad... is going to hold a meeting!  Because, of course, we know that holding a meeting to talk about the drought will solve all our problems!
I watered the pollinator garden this evening as well as the vining plants.  Justine had watered the newly planted tree and shrubs already today.  The tomatoes and peppers are looking amazingly well considering how little I have watered them I even got the first Amish Paste tomato this evening for our salads and we had stuffed peppers for dinner- YUM.  I think I've given up on my beans for the year.  I had really poor germination and they haven't been watered enough to being too well.
We're wishing for rain- as are many this year.  We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Such a tease!

The weather has been teasing us lately. We have had 'measurable' rain twice in the past few days.  Saturday afternoon we had a shower as the cold front approached.  Just under 0.05 inches.  Not enough to really count.
Yesterday afternoon, it clouded up, we could see the storm clouds building.  But they were very localized showers.  If you happened to be under a cloud, you got a shower- a few hundred yards away, you got nothing.  We were fortunate enough to be under a cloud.  Hooray!  But again, just under 0.05 inches.  sigh.  
So, the rain has been here- just not enough to be helpful.

V has been laid up all afternoon.  Our friend Mike's servers were acting up again and V was down moving large machines around this morning and managed to pull a muscle in his back- again.  He originally injured it moving the stair platform a week and a half ago.  So he has been spending some quality time flat on his back today while I've been at work.
At least he was fine this morning to come to my rescue on my way to work.  My bus broke down on the way into town and we were stuck waiting for a replacement bus.  I didn't have time to wait the 20+ minutes it would have taken for a new bus to get there and still get to work on time.  So, I called V who came and picked up me and one other regular rider who also works at the hospital and he gave us a ride. I was still a couple of minutes late but not enough to worry about.  In the good old days- we were considered professionals who did our work and managed our time like professionals- we were expected to do our work, staying late if necessary and flexing our time as needed to maintain our 40 hours/week. But a few months ago we had to start clocking in.  Initially we just had to clock in some time in the morning to prove we were there but evidently that wasn't good enough and we were told we had to clock in within half hour of our start time.  Then the screws tightened even further and we have only a few minute window in which to clock in or we have to provide an explanation to management.  This has caused no end of stress in the mornings, not just for me but for others who are reliant on public transportation or who have to contend with railroad crossings on their way to work.   It really makes us feel like we aren't considered professional or trustworthy.  We also now need to 'get permission' to stay late or flex our time ourselves.  Definitely not as great a work environment as when I started there.  It has turned into much more of a business than patient care and that makes me sad.
But, in lighter notes- the weather has been cooler- of course it's kind of funny to think of 87 as cool!  The tree and shrubs we planted over the weekend are doing well.  I got a couple more cherry tomatoes out of the garden.  The chickens are picking up production again with the cooler weather.

Otherwise, I've not got much.  Work has been incredibly hectic and stressful with us being really, really short staffed.  We're running out of time for all the summer projects we wanted to get done. Justine only has another month before she heads off to school.  Life continues busy.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Planting and harvest

Oh, I like the sound of that.... planting AND harvest.  Now if only I could hear the sound of rain I'd be in seventh heaven.
I got the children all up early and we had a planting festival of sorts.  We planted the new plum tree, all 4 blackberries and a forsythia bush I also got on discount to replace the one that V accidentally backed over with the lawn tractor last fall (oops).  The weather this morning was lovely- mid 70's, slightly overcast and with a breeze.  Great planting weather.  With all of us working it didn't even take us that long.  We were done in less than an hour.  Now we'll just have to make sure we keep them well watered until they are established.  The soil was powdery dry as deep as we dug the holes.  Scary!
V, however, missed out on all the fun this morning.  He had to make a run into town to reboot our friend Mike's servers.  Mike lives out of town but still has his web hosting service here.  There was a power outage downtown yesterday which messed things up and V is the resident troubleshooter for Mike's business.  But Mike gives us comp tickets for Silver Dollar City so it evens out.
This afternoon I pulled all the rest of the onions and have them safely into the shop to dry off.  And... drumroll please..... The first ripe tomato of the year!!!  I was pulling onions and glanced over at the nearby tomato plant and there they were.  THREE little yellow cherry tomatoes.  I ate one on the spot- following my usual 'ritual of the first tomato' and brought the other two inside where I shared one with V and promptly ate the other. And no, there were no photos- they didn't last long enough!  It looks like a few more are starting to turn- even some of the big tomatoes.  I can hardly stand the wait!
I noticed that I've got another summer squash out there that needs picked, the Long Island Cheese squash vine is growing rapidly and I've got a honeydew melon about the size of a softball already.  Hooray!!  I'd better get out there and fill my water jugs to keep them all going.
With the drought we're having this year I'm going to try to stash away all I can since I can envision food prices climbing even higher this fall.  Makes me glad we've got a freezer full of beef.  Maybe I need to pick up another 25 lb sack of flour.  At least we'll be able to have homemade pasta and beef all winter.  Mmm... spaghetti and meatballs. Yum!  That's making me hungry- I'd better start thinking about dinner.

I hope you all have a lovely week ahead.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Post Independence Day IDC

And it's HOT!
This was snapped a few minutes ago.  See, I told you it is hot.  And this thermometer is on the east side of the house in the shade of the front porch!
Our citronella candles on the sconces on the deck reached critical mass!
Unfortunately, leaving a huge mess on the deck.
But some things are taking the heat right in stride:
The basil in the herb spiral is thriving
As are the daylilies. I just wish I was as tough as them.  The heat really sucks the life out of me!
It is that time of the week where I usually do my Independence Days update- seeing how I'm doing on achieving more independence in food production and food security.  With the weather the way it is going this year, food security may be more important than usual as I'm guessing that food prices will be going up as the dry weather continues and the corn crop withers.
Plant something- I planted four kinds of fall cabbage, cauliflower and fennel.  I STILL haven't planted my blackberries or my plum tree.  It has just been too hot to dig holes in the ground.  But that is on tap for tomorrow morning. Maybe tonight I'll pre-water the spots where we are going to plant so the digging is a bit easier tomorrow morning.  The soil out there is rock hard!
Harvest something- eggs, broccoli, onions, kale (for the chickens mostly- it's too strong for me!), peppers, a few herbs, zucchini and... behold:
The first of the potatoes! These are the pink ones- Mountain Rose? I think.   We'll have these for dinner this evening!  I'm excited!! For as dry as it has been there are some nice sized potatoes there.  I'll have to get some more when it isn't so hot that the ground is burning my knees.
Preserve something- froze much corn on Tuesday.  Pulled about half of the onions in the garden and they are now hung in the shop, drying. I need to get the rest out of the ground soon since they are done growing.  Of course, they seem to be drying nicely in the garden- if they don't cook first!
Waste not- the usual: recycled, composted, scraps to chickens.  We repurposed the old deck/porch from the now non-existent North door to in front of one of the barn doors.  It is a huge step up into the barn and the old wooden platform/step that had been there (an old pallet) had long since disintegrated.  It is so much easier now to get into the barn without fear of breaking a leg.
Want not- got discounted blackberry bushes and the plum tree in garden center clearance sales.  We will get these into the ground tomorrow and hopefully they will someday provide us with food.  We also picked up some frozen shrimp at the grocery store.  They were having a meat and seafood sale and shrimp is something we can't really raise ourselves or get locally but it is awfully tasty in jambalaya!
Eat the food- Made lemon curd and homemade ice cream using eggs.
I used some of the lemon curd as the base for a fresh fruit tart.   Mmm......  We also had sauteed peppers and onions with our burritos for dinner and Justine and I had sauteed zucchini and onion for lunch- YUM! Steamed broccoli along with our grilled steak (from our half cow) for dinner last night.  We're eating well!
Build community food systems- Corn from the market!  Eggs went to work and home with some of Justine's friends last weekend.
Skill up- not much.  I really need to figure out a new skill to work on.

That's about it for this week.  The garden is starting to produce, the tomatoes are still green but are getting bigger.  I'm sure that there haven't been any new tomatoes setting on this week since it's been so hot.  At least there are already quite a few out there. I can't wait!

Friday, July 6, 2012

National Fried Chicken Day!

LOL!!  I had to laugh when I noticed that my punchbowl 'ticker' told me that today is National Fried Chicken Day.  I'm sure my hens would agree with that!  The poor dears.  We've been sure to give them plenty of shade and lots of cold water but they are still miserable.  There is almost nothing more pathetic looking than a panting chicken!
I think 'officially' the temperature hit 102 here today- although the car thermometer briefly read 104 as we were on our way through downtown.   Of course, on our thermometer, it has now cooled to 100!  At 630 pm!
Thankfully, it looks like tomorrow will be our last really bad day as it is only forecast to get into the upper 80's on Sunday- back to much more normal temps.  Sadly, the forecast for rain isn't too promising for the extended 10 days out there.  We are now officially in a 'moderate drought'.  But, I know misery loves company and we're not alone.  I do feel sorry for all the 'real' farmers and market vendors.  My garden, while large, is still small enough that I can water it pretty easily but others can't.  We've got a slim chance for rain (20 - 40%) this weekend so I'll keep my fingers crossed.  What we need is for a nice, cool, gentle 2 day rain to move through the midwest.  Ah... wouldn't that be heavenly....

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

To those in the US.  Happy 4th of July!

I wimped out this morning.  I got up early but it was so miserable out there that I decided the plants can wait a couple of more days to go in the ground.  Now they're saying that we may cool down a little over the weekend.  This morning, it is already approaching 80 with high humidity and it's not even 8am.  Blah.  So, I'll continue to water the potted shrubs and the tree... and the garden....

Have a safe, wonderful 4th.  May we all get the rain we need and moderate temperatures so we can all pursue our own independence.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Unexpected Bounty

Justine and I went off late this afternoon to one of the several farmer's markets in the area.  With a little traveling, there is a market every day of the week nearby so there are no excuses. Today's is one of my least favorite as it is held in the parking lot of one of the area malls (but I don't want to do the downtown market tomorrow on the holiday).  It was miserably hot!
A bank thermometer we drove by on the way registered 99 degrees and all that pavement reflected even more heat.  But we were on a quest for sweet corn- our first of the season.  We decided a few years ago that is just isn't worth our time, effort and space to grow sweet corn.  It is so readily available around here and with such wonderful quality that I don't bother fighting the raccoons for it in the garden.
So, we walked the market and purchased a dozen ears from a vendor who had the best price.  As we continued, we struck up a conversation with another vendor who was trying to sell us more corn.  She was asking a dollar more for 14 ears (as opposed to the 13 we already had) but then she uttered those fatal words... "If you buy a whole bag I'll cut you a really good deal"  The whole bag she was talking about was an entire gunny sack of corn- you know, those bags that would hold a small child.  And she was only asking $20, bag and all.   With the heat there weren't as many customers as usual so she was worried about getting rid of what she had.  So, guess what I've been doing!?
 Midway through processing it I remembered to take photos.
 I've had a lot of sweet corn in my day.  Let me tell you- this ranks up there with some of the best.  And it's still really early in the season.
Corn in the freezer already.  I'm liking this. Plus, we changed gears for dinner this evening and are grilling so we can have corn on the cob.  It won't get any better than it is now.  Mmmm....

Garden center score!

This morning, V and I needed to make a run to the bank for some business.  Across the street is a garden center that was having a 50% off end of the season sale.  I've been kind of looking for a peach tree but so far, none of the places I've checked have any left.  Apples, yes, and lots of pears but I don't want apple or pear trees.  We wandered around but didn't really see anything I wanted to took off.
Knowing that I want to make ice cream tomorrow, we stopped at our local grocery store for cream and half and half.  The garden center there is having everything at 75% off.  They didn't have my peach tree but we did pick up a HUGE Burbank plum tree for $9.25.  This tree is about 9-10 feet tall and is quite healthy looking.  How could I pass it up?!  So, tomorrow morning, I'll set my alarm and get up early, wake the troops and go dig a hole to plant it out near the apples.
I did my research and, fortunately, the wild plums we've got in the fencerow will act as pollinators for it.  It is a big enough tree that I'm looking forward to fruit from it soon.  Of course, it will be another 'mouth to feed/water' in this hot weather since we will definitely need to keep it watered until it is established or until we get more consistent rain.  I've also finally decided where to put the blackberries so maybe I'll plant them tomorrow morning as well. I can't plant my hydrangea bushes until we move some dirt in the back to level off the shade garden.  I'll dig a hole in the ground but I'm not really up for moving wheelbarrows of soil up hill in this weather.
I did get a little weeding done in the garden and some straw down under the melons that are starting to vine.  I'm excited to see little melons on the vine.  And my 'billiard ball' zucchini also have little fruits on them.  Too much fun!!  And I harvested the first of the peppers a few days ago to saute with onion for our burritos.  Heavenly!

This afternoon, since it is brutal outside, I'm hoping to do a little sewing along with some laundry.

I'm contemplating a run to the farmer's market late this afternoon to see if I can find some early sweet corn. Hmmm... fresh corn...   The field corn is already starting to tassel.  Amazing.  Hopefully this hot, dry weather won't affect pollination for the farmers.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lemon curd, fluffy dog and randomness

It has been a rather laid back two days here.  It has just been too hot to do much outside.  Not to say that things haven't been accomplished.
First... Lemon Curd.  I was looking for egg-heavy recipes yesterday and stumbled upon a recipe for Lemon curd.  I've heard of it but haven't ever made it- until yesterday.  Let me just say:  YUM!
It was even pretty easy.  Definitely not something I would eat on its own but it is heavenly on toast for breakfast.
Here's the recipe:
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice (it took me 2 1/2 large lemons)
a pinch of salt
1 stick (half cup) unsalted butter- chopped in half inch cubes
grated lemon zest (1 tablespoon or so)

In the top of a double boiler whisk the eggs,  Add the sugar and stir until throughly blended.  Over (not in) boiling water add lemon zest, salt and lemon juice, stir to combine.  Add butter cubes.  Stir constantly with the whisk until the butter melts and the curd thickens (it took about 15 minutes).  Pour into a bowl or into jars and cool in the fridge.  It will continue to thicken and set.  According to internet sources it will last about 2-3 weeks in the fridge (if it lasts that long).
I had some on toast for breakfast and I'm thinking about making some little tart shells out of graham cracker crumbs, using this as filling and topping with fresh fruit.  It is VERY lemony and very sweet.  Some recipes call for straining it after cooking to remove the lemon zest but I like the zest and don't mind the tiny lumps in the texture.

As for fluffy dog- we bathed the dog this afternoon.  Ugh.  How many people does it take to bathe a large dog?  Well, it took 4 for us.  He is not a fan of baths.  We hosed him down outside, soaped him up and hosed him off again.  Now he is fluffy and shedding fur EVERYWHERE!  But he's clean.

Even with the warm weather we have been having many, many visitors.  A pair of goldfinches have been busily fluttering about.
The male goldfinch likes hanging out in the blooming catnip.
Followed shortly by the female goldfinch.  She looks like she's having a hard time finding her balance on the stalk.
The female is pretty skittish but the male goldfinch hung around for a while for a photo shoot.  I'm still in love with the zoom on my camera.
I'm really going to try to get up early tomorrow to get out to the garden. Of course, it was already 80 by 8:30 this morning- we managed to briefly hit 100 today- and tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter. Oh joy....    The other damper on outside work is the number of ticks that we have been finding.  Usually we have a flush of ticks in the spring and then just a few for the rest of the summer.  This spring, we had very few, but suddenly we can't even walk through the grass without picking up two or three crawling up the leg.  Every time I've been out to the garden in the past week I've found at least three ticks crawling on me.  Thankfully no one has found any attached but it's only a matter of time.  One reason the dog got a bath today is that he is due for his monthly flea/tick treatment and I wanted him clean before I applied it.  We've only found one tick attached to him all year so it must be working and with as many ticks as have been around he definitely NEEDS it.  Who knows, maybe we're seeing more ticks because we've been making sure that there is water for the wildlife out near the barn.  Maybe the animals are bringing their friends with them....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Enough said

  • Mon
    P/Cloudy And Hot
  • Tue
    Mostly Sunny
  • Wed
    Mostly Sunny And Hot
  • Thu
    Mostly Sunny
  • Fri
    Mostly Sunny
  • Sat
    Still Hot
  • Sun
    Partly Cloudy

I know this doesn't hold a candle to the temps some of you are getting but it's HOT
It's currently about 94 out there according to my thermometer.  And I was hoping to plant blackberries this afternoon. HA!  Actually, earlier today it didn't feel too bad out there since there is a nice breeze.  But then it suddenly seemed to get HOTTER and it was time to retreat inside to the cool.