We love our technology, but in some ways we are taking the old road.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A New Favorite Quote

"I don't think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good enough at it, and I don't think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect. You don't want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath." -- Anne Lamott

Sunday, September 27, 2009


At the beginning of September, I already had to harvest my carrots, because they were HUGE:

I got a shopping bag full. I eventually put a bunch of them in a bin filled with sand in the garage, but now they're sprouting new stems. That can't be good, but I don't know what to do about it.

I got hardly any tomatoes this year. Maybe it was too cold, maybe it was something else. I should say that tomatoes did grow in my garden, but almost all of them had blossom rot and were spoiled. The night I picked the carrots, I found my first sound tomato:

Remember when the potato beetles ate my potato plants? Well, we had tried to save just a few plants, but they did die. But when I went to pull up the dead plants, I found some good-sized Yukon Golds:

That was a fun find.

My yellow onions did alright. I've never had success with onions before, since the rabbits at our old house would eat them (weird rabbits). But these grew nice and big. My husband built me a little screen-topped table quickly out of some scraps so that the onions could dry properly:

My garden really wasn't very successful this year, and I was a poor gardener. I need to get in the habit of getting out there regularly. Once I get in the garden, I see all kinds of things I want to take care of, and I actually enjoy the work, for the most part. But I tend to put off going out to work in it, and things got out of hand on many fronts this year. Next year, there's always next year... Maybe next year the weather will be better for growing things. But this summer sure was beautiful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Lost Hen

One of the hens is missing. She didn't come to the coop Friday night. It had been raining in the evening, so we thought she might have gone under some kind of shelter and not wanted to venture back to the coop once it was dark. So my husband and I went looking for her. We even brought our son out, since he tries to chase the chickens out of the woods and knows where they usually go. But we couldn't find her anywhere. A predator must have gotten her.

It wouldn't surprise me if it were the chicken we call the Lost Hen. There's one that loses track of the group. All twelve don't stick together all day, but they tend to stick together in small groups. The rooster usually has five or six hens with him; that seems to be all he can handle.

In any case, this hen loses track of the others. She realizes she's alone and starts crying. Once I heard this terrible chicken-wailing outside my window. I looked out and this hen was warbling with her beak open. Then she ran to the garden. Then after a few seconds, she ran back to our house, all the while making a racket. So I went out and said, "Let's go find the others." I persuaded her to follow me to the coop where, lo and behold, there were a half a dozen hens. Girl, don't you think you could have checked there first?

So that's not a bright chicken. It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine a coyote could notice her if she got lost in the woods. I just hope that she didn't lead a coyote to discover that this is a great place to find tasty chicken.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Early Morning Rooster

Our rooster has learned to crow. I missed his first attempts, partly because I'm a great sleeper. But now he crows all the time. He crows in the morning while it's still dark. He crows around the time the sun comes up. And randomly throughout the day he crows. Sometimes he does it while he's standing right outside our open living room window, and that's a little startling. But it's cute.

I'm not much for getting up and outside early, but whenever I do on a beautiful morning, I'm glad I did.

Before school started I needed to get outside before it was too late, to let the chickens out. Now I just let them out as we're walking down the driveway to catch the bus.

Mr. Rooster used to be the nicest chicken of the bunch. He'd come up to us and coo like a dove and let us pet him and even pick him up. Then he got less sociable. Then he started flapping his wings at us when we'd approach. Okay, no big deal. He wants to show he's big and tough, but he knows we're the boss. We've always given the chickens a tap on the head or back if they tried to peck us to let them know we're higher up in the pecking order.

Well, now Mr. Rooster's mature enough to breed, and he's just started acting like he's thinking about a coup. He acted funny with my husband just yesterday. Then today he bit me hard on the foot for no reason; the chickens do peck if you have something interesting on your body, like a ring or a paint splatter, but they don't normally otherwise. I have a red mark on the top of my foot now. Usually their pecks don't really hurt, they just surprise me. This was different. So I ran at him and tried to give him a kick, but he is fast. I think the most important thing is to chase him and make him run away, because he does that to the hens. So the current plan is to be prepared that he could be agressive and do something each time to show that we are still, in fact, at the top of the pecking order. Carry a big stick, perhaps. These chickens are afraid of big sticks despite the fact they've never been hit by one.

Mr. Rooster is so beautiful; my photos don't do him justice. And he is too much of an individual for us to want to eat him. So we want to keep him. It would be neat to have a hen actually hatch chicks (although I know getting that to happen can be highly challenging). And someone I know has a barred rock rooster with a nice temperament. It is possible. I hope we can keep him in line.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Pleasures of Sweet Corn

I adore corn on the cob. I have never yet eaten enough of it that I've felt ready to be done with it when September comes.

This year I think the cool, dry weather did a number on how the corn matured. The first corn was ready a little bit late, and then we got some rain and hot weather and practically all of it was ripe at once.

We planted two varieties and we spaced the plantings more than two weeks apart. And then, boom, so much of my corn was suddenly overripe. I was disgusted with myself for having to throw out so many ears because I didn't expect them to be ready yet. At least the chickens ate a bunch, so it wasn't completely wasted. But I could have eaten it!

I did eventually get on the stick and freeze some. I've never done that before because I've never had extra. I got advice from my sister-in-law who does a beautiful job freezing sweet corn. It tastes like August when you eat it in December. I did do some parts of the process differently than she does, so I'm crossing my fingers that it will still taste as good.

She says: Cook it for 5 minutes, then cool it quickly in ice water. Cut it off the cobs and pack it in small freezer bags.

I did some smaller batches that way. But I don't have an ice maker currently, and we don't eat as much corn in one meal as we should.

So when I did a bigger batch, I cooled it with running water. We have a well, so the water gets very cold.

Then I spread it out on a broiler pan lined with wax paper and froze it. Then I broke it up a bit and put it in freezer bags, so that I can pour out as much as I need.

Someday I need to grow more sweet corn and be good about picking it on time.

By the way, our two varieties were from Gurney's. "Gotta Have It" was disappointing: tough and not sweet. "Northern Bicolor Xtra Sweet" was excellent eating but didn't germinate well.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On the Threshold of Fall

The sumac is starting to turn red.

On this first day of September, I am trying to enjoy what I have right now. I have a tendency to feel melancholy at this time of year. I love summer and dread winter. I like seeing things come to life, not die, as beautiful as the fall display can be. And I like to have my kids with me, so I'm sad when they go back to school. Yes, I've considered home-schooling, but I've never quite come to the point where I decided to do it. School starts next week for us, so I consider myself lucky to still have my kids on summer vacation this late.

Today I went to our little woods with my son to pick wild grapes.

We have many wild grape vines, some of which are very easy to get to without braving the thorns much. We have thorny bushes in the woods, which discourages exploration. So my son and I picked the little bunches of frosty blue grapes we could reach with minimal scratches. I plan to turn them into jelly.

If you think you have wild grapes, please carefully compare the plants to photos of grapes to make sure you're not eating something poisonous. We have something growing on a bush with different leaves that looks just like the grapes.

Our chickens have found the grapes, also. If you look in the background of the grape photo above, you'll see a hint of red that is a chicken. They jump up to get them, which is so funny to see.

The woods are still green, fruit is still growing, the weather is beautiful, and my kids are still home with me. Hey, September first isn't that scary.