Monday, June 30, 2008

Blooms, Brambles, Birds and Birthdays

I spent so much time bent over pulling weeds yesterday I can barely stand up. If you're pulling them out by the wheelbarrow full, they might have gotten out of control. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot if you still have half the flower beds to go. With the crazy wet weather this year, I'm actually a little grateful we didn't get the veggie garden planted. Although we still had our first harvest of the year yesterday. Black raspberries!

I managed to collect enough to make a fresh picked black raspberry cobbler served ala mode that was TO DIE FOR. I'm not going to mention how much of it we ate in one evening. You'll be able to tell by our waistlines.

It's been a busy week for birds around here. We have a wild turkey that keeps hanging around the hen house. It's hard to tell if it's a hen looking for food or a young Tom looking for some action. Either way it makes me want some turkeys of my own to rub and pat and call them George.

We were also visited by eight massive turkey vultures or most folks around here call them buzzards. They were following the state mowing crew cleaning up the road kill. I can't even begin to express how eerie it was when I first noticed them swirling around and started counting them. I'm told they won't bother the chickens so my panic induced initial thought of reinforcing the chicken run with steel bars won't be necessary. Still a little worried about the dog though. Gonna have to teach her NOT to play dead.

And finally, in celebration of the last birthday I shall ever celebrate, the engineer purchased and installed the over the range microwave I've had my eye on ever since we moved in two years ago. I cannot begin to express the joy this small appliance brings me. To have the counter space free that the old one took up is a wonderful thing. Finally landing on that holding pattern birthday, not so much.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Early Birds Took All the Worms

I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. A narrative that details her family's year of only buying food raised in their own neighborhood, growing it themselves or learning to do without. It's an interesting read. I don't think it's a lifestyle for an Indiana family. We'd be getting awfully hungry about February, but it's certainly a goal worthy of pursuit. So I headed out early this morning to hit the local farmer's market.

I was hoping to get some late season stragling strawberries, but evidently 9:30 a.m. isn't early to the farmers. In order to get "the good stuff" I was told I need to get there by 8:00 a.m. And with the screwy weather this year, the really good stuff is gone by 8:05 a.m. I still managed to bring home a jar of honey, some sheep's milk soap, a bunch of asparagus, 2 lbs of BBQ pulled pork and some homemade bread and egg noodles made by a very nice Amish family. To help support the local economy I wanted to buy a little something from each vendor, and I did all except one. She was selling cherries. I have two cherry trees of my own that I won't bother with. I'm not a fan of cherries. I don't think I'm the only one, she still had an awful lot of cherries.

I'm going back next week to ask the Amish woman to adopt me. I suppose if she says no, I'll just have to settle for buying some of the cinnamon rolls and other sweets she had there today. I'll bet they're to die for. Can one become Amish? Is there a process to convert I wonder? Cause with the way the world is today, it's starting to seem like maybe they're onto something.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Workin' the Plan of Stickin' it to the Man

If only we knew who The Man was. At some point I'll explain how we got to this point. It was a process. I didn't come out of the womb being a tree hugging, organic chicken loving, back to nature freak. Nope. I spent a large portion of my life "living the American dream" accumulating all that I could. I was busy. Very busy and convenience was all that mattered.

But yesterday I made my own laundry soap and tonight the engineer installed our new "solar dryer" or plain old clothesline if you live anywhere outside of California. Why? It's just one small way to stop supporting the petroleum cartel. Well, that and the homemade laundry soap is super cheap to make, smells great and uses natural products. And did I mention it was cheap?

I was skeptical at first. Especially given that I'm allergic to the earth, sun and the sky. Particularly perfumes. But with this recipe you don't have to add any smelly stuff if you don't want to. And really you don't have to, the soap smells wonderful all on it's own. But it doesn't over scent your clothing either. Anyone who's ever lived with a teenage boy knows that clothing that doesn't stink one way or the other is a wonderful thing.

There are a few different recipes. I tried the cheapest one first at $1.79 per batch or 48 loads. No that's not a typo. And all the ingredients can be found in the laundry isle of your local grocery store.

2 Cups Borax
2 Cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1 bar Fels Naptha Soap
1 Cup dry color safe bleach

Grate the Fels Naptha and combine all ingredients. Use 2-3 tablespoons per load depending on the size of your load and the softness of your water. No need for additional fabric softener.

The other recipe I'm planning to try is:

1 cup of grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax

Mix and store in airtight container or bag. For light loads, use two tablespoons. For heavy loads, use 3 tablespoons.

To make a large batch - grate six bars of Fels Naptha soap and add three cups of washing soda and 3 cups of Borax.

There's even a recipe for a liquid/Gel version:

1 bar of Fels Naptha Soap
½ cup washing soda
½ cup Borax powder
a small bucket, about 2 gallon size

Grate soap and put in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat it until soap melts. Add washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into bucket. Add soap mixture and stir. Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. Use ½ cup per load. This recipe = 64 loads

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nana Nana Boo Boo, You Can't...

I built a temporary fence to keep the chickens separated and the engineer started cutting down a tree that had fallen over the barn. Other than that, we didn't do squat all weekend. This may be a slow moving blog while we get caught up on life. I still have a pile of mulch to spread and it's the end of June.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Let the Fanfare Begin!

It's DONE!! Cue the chorus! Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!! Hal-le-lu-jah!!

The kid and I finished putting up the bird netting on top of the run yesterday afternoon. The chickens are happy. Mom's happy. The engineer is happy. The only one's not crazy about it are the dogs. The big one can't understand why I'd want to sit inside the run with the birds instead of petting him 24/7. The little one is mad because she can't figure out how to get inside to eat them.

Speaking of which, it took the neighborhood hawks exactly 24 hours to discover the chickens. We've always seen them circling way, way up high. But today I got to see 'em all way, way up close and personal like. They're HUGE! These aren't the cute little hawks you see sitting on a fence post. These things explain why we never see any barn cats. In fact, I'm a little concerned for the small dog's safety. The bird netting kept them away from the chickens. Or it may have been that crazy woman out there jumping up and down, screaming and waving a shovel. Hard to say.

We'll be building a matching fenced run on the other side of the coop, but that one we can work on at a little slower pace. If we're lucky, maybe we can set fence posts without the gallon of rainwater splashing up from the holes. In the mean time we'll start trying to remember what our lives were like B.C., before chickens. Surely we kept ourselves busy doing something? What'd you say? Oh yeah, the house! This was supposed to be an old house restoration blog. Gads, I might actually get a chance to tackle that creepy doll wallpaper border someday.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Village Blacksmith

UNDER a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And watch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought!

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882

The most mature and the youngest member of the local blacksmith association. You'd never know there's about a sixty five year age difference between them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Makeup! Where's Makeup?

There's a diva in every bunch isn't there? For the most part all the girls get along just fine. It's even hard to tell them apart. But there are a few that stand out.

Meet Tina,

and Cher.
"Whoa, I thought I was getting my own dressing room?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One of Life's Cruel Jokes

There's still water standing everywhere. I'm not sure how much rain we've ended up with over the past two weeks but certainly over a foot and a half. And there's a chance of more tomorrow. Yet, ever since the flood wiped out the switch on the pressure tank there's only a trickle of water coming out of our faucets. Life can be cruel.

At this point it would be silly to replace the pressure tank with a new one in the same location. The foundation of the well pit is crumbling, big time. So the proper thing to do is move it inside. Where it should have been all along. They were planning to do it Tuesday. But Tuesday morning's deluge changed those plans.

Today, for some reason, they decided the crack of dawn was the perfect time. I barely had time to brush my teeth before they had the old tank disconnected. In order for the new one to work an electrical line needs to be run from the well to the house. Of course, the well isn't anywhere close to the house. So a trench had to be dug from all the way back there...

dug by hand over to there...
and across here...
and through there.
And after all that... it didn't work.

I thought the poor guy was gonna lose it. While they were trenching for the electrical line they crimped the water line. So they needed to dig it all back up, but the guy with the trencher had already left. And was on his way out of state. By now they'd been at it for over six hours.

Luckily, he found someone else that could come out and dig it up with a backhoe. They found the crimp, repaired it and got the system up and running three hours later.

By then the guy was covered in mud, hot, sweaty and seemingly wishing he'd chosen another career. I'll bet he'll be sitting somewhere tonight having a nice cold beer. I think I might join him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Building Fences

The contraption they're using to stretch the fencing seems a little complicated. I'm trying my best to stay out of it and let the men folk handle it.


I know some of you out there will take one look at it and say "Duh, you guys are leaving a hole at the bottom." We know. We even planned it that way.


See, there's another round of fencing with tighter mesh going on the bottom and getting buried in the ground to keep varmints out and chicks in. There's even gonna be a mesh on top that will keep the hawks that circle this place daily from swooping down and swiping a chicken nugget. The only other thing we could possibly do to protect them is to arm the chickens with a shotgun. But there's that whole opposable thumb issue.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I take it back!

A week ago Friday I mentioned in conversation that the weather was starting to turn a bit dry. It was just a casual observation. Not a complaint. Yet Mother Nature took great offense. In fact I'm guessing now it must have been her time of the month. In her Midol induced mania she's saying "Too dry, huh?" "You want rain?" "I'll show you rain!"

This is the engineer standing in our yard. You could say the ground is a little saturated.
Since last Friday, we've had about 1 1/2 feet of rain. We've been in the creepy basement taking cover from tornadoes and straight line winds more often than I care for. We've had three trees down and a bazillion limbs scattered all over. Some sticking vertically out of the ground like a Capitol One commercial.

Lighting knocked out our phone service for a few days. We have satellite internet so that's been hit or miss. Mostly missing. The rain flooded our well pit again, flooding out our pressure tank again, so we had to replace the switch again. We just did this back in March. So we got a quote of $1600 to move it into the basement. Where there is now water spurting out from between the brick foundation like a spigot. I think we'd be better off installing it in the attic.

But it could be worse. Lots worse. So many families have lost their homes by the tornadoes and flooding, we're counting our blessings. And keeping an eye on the creek that surrounds us on three sides.

What it should look like: