Sunday, August 28, 2011

This Week at Wren Cottage

Is it just me, or is it starting to seem like Fall?  It's still hot, but my garden is definitely looking fall-ish.

This week, out came the broken-down pole beans.  In went turnips, beets, and radishes. I still need to find a spot for lettuce.  I salvaged enough beans for a couple of servings, so not bad.   I tore off the ratty foliage remaining on the chard, and hope cool weather will bring another flush of leaves later.   The replacement basil and eggplant, and the bok choy are doing nicely.

This is one of the Comfrey plants, allowed to flower.

In real life, the little bell-like flowers look exactly the same shade as the Petunias planted beneath them

The "roma" tomatoes are slowing down.  I've been calling them Roma all this time, but I looked at the packet and they are "San Marzano."  Still a paste-type tomato.  I've got enough to fill the dehydrator again today.  I've already got lots dried for making "sun-dried" tomatoes.   This is one recipe  I want to try with them.  

The German Pinks are ripening and I LOVE them.  I hadn't tasted a tomato that tasted like the ones I had when I was young, since I left Ohio.  I thought it had something to do with the minerals in the soil - and it might - but this one really takes me back.   The plants don't produce many fruits, but the ones that are there are really big - 1 to 2 pounds.  Meaty, not many seeds, with tender skin - they are yummy!   I think I'll enjoy all of these fresh, and if there are leftover green ones at the end of the season, I found a recipe for a green tomato relish here .  I like that it is salty and tangy - the way tomatoes should be. 

I know I am in the minority on this subject, but two things that should never be said in the same breath, much less put in the same recipe are tomatoes, and sugar.  I know your Momma put just a teaspoon in her spagetti sauce "to take the acid out,"  but I'm sure every Nonna in Italy would blanch at the idea.  Tomatoes are meant to be tangy.  Ragu spagetti sauce (and others like it)  must be the most disgusting things ever put in a jar.  One of the primary ingredients is .....high fructose corn syrup.  blech!  (stepping down from soapbox and changing subject.....) 

Before I had to have a new muffler installed on my car  (which really needed to be done, but didn't fix the problem.  Now I'm thinking tune up / points and plugs)  I bought some more silk from Wooliebullie on Etsy. (and since she gave me a 20% off coupon when she sent my previous order)  The hankies are called "Veggie Tales," which is funny but true, since they are exactly those colors.  I'm not afraid of the really intense colors, because once they are drafted thin and/or mixed with something, it tones them down.

The roving at the top is called "Maple" and is spectacular. I want to just sit and look at it.  I have some brown Corriedale I can mix with Truffle's beige fiber, and either spin this separately and ply it, or card it in.  It would go a lot farther if I did the latter, but there's really a lot there for only weighing 2 oz.

Lastly, on the bottom right is .....something about Titania and Midsummer's Night's Dream... I can't remember the name exactly, taken from a painting the artist saw.   I wouldn't have thought to use those colors together (I rarely mix 'cool' and 'warm' colors) but I really like it.  That might go with my black Angoras - which produce mostly gray wool. 

Whatever I do, I will be sure to save some shreds in case we have someone doing a wet felting class at KSFF next Spring.  Now to figure out how to have my rabbit booth and take a class?

No real news about the chicks this week. Looking more and more like dinosaurs. I'm pretty convinced I only have 1 pullet and 2 roos.  If I'm right, anyone want a bantam buff Orpington rooster?  They are said to have nice, laid-back personalities......

Until next time, from Wren Cottage .......     

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sometimes life gets in the way

I thought I would be posting some photos of cute rabbits, amazing chickens and homely dairy goats from the State Fair today, but Friday as I drove to work, my muffler made an awful noise.  It's original to the car (16 years) so it's not surprising that it would go sometime.  The State Fair was out, Midas Muffler was calling my name for Saturday.   I looked under the car when I stopped and I don't know what made it start making noises right now.  Clearly it's been shot for a long time.  It looked like it had exploded.

I went to the computer to look up the number for Midas.....only to find I could not get connected to the Internet! (the phone books they leave on my stoop go straight to the recycle bin)  After trying all the usual things, I called the cable company (number is on the bill) and they said they could work me in the same day.  I hoped I could do both - computer fix and muffler, but the cable guy didn't come until 7:00 last night.  I found my router on my computer has also given out.  Thank God that was all.  One new router later (I'm sure I will get a bill and a new monthly charge from the cable company for installing and using their router) I'm back in business.  I can't blame the cable guy for making me hang around here all day - he was from Florence, called to Lex along with cable workers from all over the state, especially to help with the massive load of installations for UK students this weekend!

It seems Midas requires appointments for that kind of service anyway (no more walk-in like the old days) so I will rumble to work tomorrow and set something up.

OK, enough grumbling about the rumbling in my muffler  -

This was a fun experiment, but one I won't repeat.  What looks like a plate full of somewhat disgusting raw meat, is actually ..... nearly a whole watermelon, dehydrated.

It tastes great, with an intense watermelon flavor, chewy and very sweet.  I did it just because the books say it can be done.  The reason I won't repeat it is it took over three days to dehydrate.   I will stick to more practical things. I'm loving my dehydrated leeks, for example.  Just throw a tablespoon or two into something with a lot of liquid -  even canned potato soup - and it really gives it a great flavor. 

The chicks at three weeks are continuing to grow and feather out, and are approaching the 'alien' stage, where they are awkward and ugly.  I still have no idea what I have, males or females, and no one is getting a name until that is figured out.     

They are still very hard to get a photo of, since Abigail hates the camera and sends out the alarm call every time she sees it.  Here they look like geese (or cockrels!?!?), with their necks stretched up. 

They like to stand, lay (and poop) in the food bowl, and at least one has discovered the roosting pole! 

Well, setbacks and unexpected expenses - whether we can afford them or not  - are all a part of life and (urban)  farming. but we just aim to ......

Until next time, from Wren Cottage.......

Monday, August 15, 2011

Planting for Fall

I've started planting fall crops.  Since this is my first fall garden, it will be an experiment.  I may get some things, or nothing, but I hope to learn.  I got ruthless and pulled some things out so I could put others in.  Out came the squash plant that didn't produce one squash, and in went Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  Two more of each of those went in tubs to see where they do better.  Turnips (to be harvested as 'baby' size), bok choy (ditto), and another planting of basil have gone in.  The basil is not a fall crop, and neither is eggplant, which I put in a couple of weeks ago, but if it's hot, like it usually is here in September, I may be able to get another crop in.  The original basil has been allowed to go to seed.

I can tell the days are getting shorter!!  Now if I go out to the garden in the evening, half of it is in shadow!  Maybe that is fueling my need to plant more crops before cold weather sets in.

There was a bean emergency here over the weekend!  Friday evening we had a thunderstorm which brought very little needed rain, but plenty of wind.  When I went out Saturday afternoon, I found my bean teepee had blown over and broken one of the poles.  Some plants were pulled out by the roots, and others plants mashed when the beans fell on them.  I propped up the beans as best I could on 2 poles by leaning it against the big rose, and covered the exposed roots with compost.  The beans have been disappointing again too.  This is my second year for pole beans - last year a heritage bean, and this year Kentucky Wonder. Lots of blossoms, but few beans.  There is no denying I get better yields with bush beans, but they take up so much room, and I don't know if they have non-hybrid varieties.  I will look next Spring.

One thing that is a huge success is the compost pile! (balance the 'browns' and 'greens') I got about 3 wheelbarrows full of finished compost over the weekend.  Since my townhouse neighborhood started offering recyling, it has been gratifying to see how many people use it, and between that and the kitchen stuff going to compost, it's amazing how long it takes my trash can to fill up!

I'm still running the dehydrator like crazy.  I dehydrated this big platter full of tomatoes - along with carrots and mushrooms - over the weekend, and still have plenty more tomatoes if I want to make sauce. (note to self: make Roma tomatoes a mainstay in the garden)  Of course the things I don't need much of, like hot peppers, are producing like crazy.  I've lost count of how many dozens of jalapenos I've dehydrated so far - many!  I powdered them in my coffee/spice grinder and it only came to 1/2 of a 1/2 pint jar!  I've got all the cayenne I will need for a long time too, so I can use that spot in the garden for something else next year.

The peeps are growing like weeds.  They were 2 weeks old last Friday, have doubled in size and are starting to feather out.  They do some really cute things.  They spar and chest bump, then freeze with their neck stretched out into a stare-down position.    

"You wanna piece 'a me?"

I hope that's not male-only behavior!  Dolley used to do it with the little roo who came her with her, though.  Abigail is a good mom, and will step between them to break it up.  One or the other always
'blinks' first and they wander away.  I wonder if that's why they call it playing 'chicken!?!' 

Saturday I found all 3 cuddled in their feed bowl, enjoying a sunbeam........but because of the 2.5 second delay in my shutter speed, I only got one. (still cute)  It has been hard to get photos of them all along.  They can really hear the tiny noises the camera makes and dive under or behind mom. 

Abigail used to let them sit on her back all the time - sometimes 2 at once.  She's weaning them from that now though.  When they hop up, she ducks her head or raises it while she ducks her bottom, so they slide off.  In the shot above one is about to get dumped.  Chick-watching is better than TV!

The KY State Fair has started, and this weekend is a 2-fer as far as I'm concerned.  Both rabbits and poultry are being shown then.  Sheep aren't until the next week. :( 

See you at the Fair!  From Wren Cottage.....     

Saturday, August 6, 2011

This and that

As much as I admire the many spinning friends who participated in Tour de Fleece 2011, I just didn't have the gumption for it.  Even with the longer days of summer, there are only a few hours after work each weekday, and mine have been taken up with gardening, putting up food, eggs and chicks.   I haven't even thought about spinning in ever so long. But, I found myself on Etsy  this week, and bought some dyed silk hankies to spin.

The colorway is called "Peony," and as you can see, they are shades of pink, peach, cream and spring green.  Since I tend to spin pretty fine anyway, I thought I would ply it together with some Cormo I bought at KSFF.  Very Spring-time colors, which may seem odd with Autumn approaching and the strong colors that go with it, but knowing me, it won't be done until Spring anyway.  

I've never spun silk before, unless it was blended with something else into roving. Years ago when I was in a spinning group, I remember Jane plying some silk with some cranberry-ish something she had, and it was beautiful.  That was before Jane left spinning and went to 'the other side.' You know, those who don't spin their yarn, but buy it.  ;)   

As for what has been keeping me so busy, I don't have any new chick pictures.  They have gotten used to the 'giant' lurking outside their coop, but every time I pull out the camera, Abigail 'bwaks' to them and they dive under her.  Silly girl.  As best I can tell, in my completely novice way, I have only one pullet and two cockerels.  The feather-sexing wasn't too successful.  They're just too small.  But I also read the females feather out a lot faster than the males.  One definitely has more going on with her (?) wing feathers than the other two, and they are pretty much alike. All still adorable - and I'm hoping I'm wrong about the 'boys.'

Dolley is getting more attention, and is developing a routine. She wants to perch on the towel-covered  arm of the couch each evening until dusk.  I'm sure it's because she can better see everything that's going on from that vantage point.  No eggs from her yet - and she can't even use the heat as an excuse.  She's at least 6 months old now, but others on Backyard Chickens are moaning they have Cochin girls over 8 months old and not laying yet! 

I picked (and ate) my first green beans from the garden this week.  I'm picking a dozen tomatoes off my Roma plants every 2 or 3 days. I have some replacement eggplant growing, and later this month and in Sept. I'm going to to be putting in some fall garden plants.  I want to try turnips again, Brussels sprouts, maybe broccoli, garlic, lettuce and radishes.   Try as I might, I can't find any winter onions other than the kind that only produce scallions. I must be the only person in the world who can't grow radishes.  Mine in the Spring have been a bust every year.  Maybe they will do better in fall. 

My dehydrator has hardly stopped.  For reasons I've mentioned before, I only can a couple of things, and freeze very little.  I'm drying everything I can get my hands on - Roma tomatoes (for home-made 'sun dried' tomatoes) onions, leeks, zucchini  and summer squash (from the Farmer's Market) bell and hot peppers, Bing cherries, carrots, celery, corn (I found a recipe for dried-corn soup) , mushrooms and more.  I bought some watermelon to make and can watermelon rind pickles, and I want to try dehydrating some of the watermelon.

Some 'sweet' banana peppers I bought at the Farmer's Market were NOT, and since I had been processing them with bare hands, my hands burned like fire for hours. They were even tender the next day. Between the hot banana peppers, and the jalapenos and cayenne that are growing like crazy in the garden, I have plenty of hot stuff.  Thinking ahead to Christmas, I want to do some herb and spice mixes with some of this dried produce I have, and put them inside cards for 'work' gifts. 

This has reminded me I'd better get back at it.  Busy as a Wren Cottage. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Baby Pictures

Just a couple more pictures of the new chickies:

They almost never come out all 3 at one time.

There is still an egg under Abigail, but I'm not holding out much hope for it.  At some point over the weekend it got pushed out from under her, and by the time I found it, it wasn't warm any longer.   I'll give it a chance, and a couple more days, though.  :(    

I think this is absolutely the cutest thing they do - pop their head up from behind Mom's wing like, "hey, what's going on out there?"  

One chick (on the left here) has a slightly darker gold head, and a tiny-tiny brown spot.  As quickly as they change, that probably won't last long.  The other two are identical to me. 

I tried feather-sexing from photos I found on-line, but I don't know what I was seeing.  Maybe if they weren't bantams, and SO tiny.....       

It amazes me that from Day 1 they scratch and peck the ground for food, and when they drink, they tip their heads all the way back to swallow.

Can you tell how I spent most of my weekend?  Chick watching!   Fiona and Yoshi have completely ignored them.  Mishu watched for a little while, but Ciaran was glued outside their coop most of the time.  I'm not trusting him at all.   He may be doing his Nanny-kitty thing, or thinking "yum, chicken for lunch."  The  coop is a baby-proof as I can make it, with 6-inch solid edging all the way around, so they can't get caught in the wire, and so kitty paws can't get them!