Saturday, May 31, 2008

fraulein freckles joins the laying team

miss freckles has joined the laying team. she happily celebrates egg number one today. saffron and alfie did a little chicken dance for freckles. freckles blushed; after all it is she who showed them the moves. mr. t gave a special supercat meow-ish serenade and opera kitty joined in.

freckles would like to thank her many admirers for the love.
let's give it up for miss freckles.
oooh, i wonder is it worm digging time?
i do think so.

chicken party! rock on!

why me? mosquitoes take two

interesting mosquito information here.
pesky wabbits!

Friday, May 30, 2008

natural rain barrel mosquito control

i noticed today little tiny mosquito larva swimming in my screen topped rain barrels. how the heck did they manage to get in there? hmm, not good.

pesky squitttooos!

seconds passed and i thought of an idea. i took a stroll over to one of my neighbors and asked them about their fish and fish ponds. what type of fish did they have? how many relative to size of pond or container? where did they get them? do you feed them or do they do well on their own? etc. all the answers were easy.
  • regular old joe shmoe gold fish
  • they've got 30+ fish
    • some of theirs are big boys now
    • big like 9" inches big
  • at the local market in the pet section
    • did not know they had a pet section
    • learn something new everyday
  • feed them? nope.
    • they eat the mosquito larva and the algae in the water
    • excellent answer i thought
i hopped on my bike and rode to the local market. the fish guy was happy to hear about their new home. he was very proud of his fish tanks and took extra care to net the perky, feisty types. we talked about the rain barrels and about the use of small horse troughs for mosquito control. this guy knew his stuff. he suggested i purchase ten fish total. he also remarked that there was no need for any extra feeding. he even said goodbye to the fish before i walked off. this is a good fish guy. i'll be going back to him if ever i expand.

so i picked up ten joe shmoe goldfish and trucked them home. i popped five into each 75 gallon rain barrel. even though i had made an attempt to clean them out a day or so back, there was still plenty of algae inside for feeding. in seconds those babies were all over the mosquito larva. love that!


by the way, i do have a horse trough kicking around. hmmmm, where will that go. the fish man suggested i place it where i generally have the greatest concentration of mosquitoes. i know exactly where that is. aha! project next in the making.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

make your own laundry soap

i've been meaning to do this for a long time but today is the day. we're mixing up a 4 gallon batch of laundry soap at home and folks it's easy as pie. you can do it and save some serious laundry bucks. all you need is water, a bar or two of fels-naptha soap, though some folks use ivory soap, washing soda and borax. most everything is easily procured at the grocery. the toughest item to find might be the fels-naptha but you can find it if you ask around or you can try ivory soap for now. here's what you're looking for:

and here's the procedure. it's easy, give it a shot. note the recipe offers two options a 2 gallon or a 5 gallon. i used a single bar of fels-naptha, so i'm just doubling the 2 gallon recipe. the bar of soap will need to be chopped up quite fine in order to dissolve completely in the water. i chopped up the fels-naptha bar and then ground it up in my food processor. some folks grate the soap like you would grate cheese, your choice.

the recipe is from an old issue of countryside magazine.

here is the fels-naptha dissolving in the water on the stove.

here is the borax and washing powder measured out. don't add this to your mixture until the soap bar is completely dissolved and you have taken the soap water mixture off of the heat. once off the heat, add your extra warm water and stir well. then add the powder and borax, you'll notice the mixture thicken. that's when you add the additional cold water, stir and let it sit.

my laundry soap is currently in the sitting stage. tomorrow it should be ready for storage. i have saved some of my old laundry detergent bottles of which i'll reuse to store the home made stuffs.

cool! you can do this, it's cake.
actually it's soap.
he he he
so dry...

how often do you clean out the coop?

this is the first time cleaning out the coop. it's been two weeks and i figured the hay bedding might need some changing. after all was said and done i think all i really needed to do was flip the hay around some. the floor underneath was dry, the hay was not matting together nor was there any type of odor build up. i do bed the hay fairly deep. the ladies to tromp it down where they want but i think with the generous size of the coop relative to the trio that i may give this next round a try at the flip. i'm curious what other folks do.

here are the figuring details:
  • three lady chickenchicas
  • the interior coop is 8'x8'x7'3" high
    • bedded with hay
  • the exterior run is 8'x 3'9"x 3'10" high
    • bedded with leaves, grass clippings and a few buckets full of compost
      • i have found this bedding to keeps flies away
      • the ladies are constantly scratching so they scratch and compost in their doings before the flies can find it.
  • i live in texas and it's hot
  • i occasionally sprinkle the areas with lime and diatomaceous earth
    • fights mites and odors
    • dries things up
    • again keeps flies away
how do you do it? curious.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

sharing on the hippychick homestead

strawberries and oatmeal for everyone this morning.

each of the hippychick peeps; mr.tsupercat, me and the lady chickchick three are all enjoying sliced strawberries over chilled yesterdays oatmeal with raisins and apricots. mr. t and i touched it up with a bit of milk over the top while the chickchick three kept to the cereal and fruit combo. my bowl is clean, mr. t's bowl is clean and i'll wait and see what the chickchick three will do.

it's an early start for all but i think we are all a bit revved up and ready. the morning has a bit of cool feeling to it, thank the gods, so i've opened up every door and window that i could. it will probably heat up again but i'm gong to take advantage of every drop in degree that i can.

the ladies are out scratching, mr. t is patrolling the east and west screened in porches and i'm sitting in the morning pantry writing while observing a mocking bird build her nest in a tree right outside our door. i think her choice is lovely and i take it as a compliment.

this is the second day that i've noticed her activities. she's quite a good little architect and often takes breaks to sing a bit of a song while perched on one of the garden supports. i gathered a number of small twigs for her and have placed them a small bit away. i have noticed that she prefers to travel a bit for the goods. maybe it's a diversionary thing, maybe it's a grass is always greener thing, don't know but i think i've found success with my approximation of distance. she's now going back and forth from my little pile religiously. she's got three spots she likes to pick up from.

her choice of tree is excellent. i still have not figured out what type of tree it is but it produces a white flower that then buds green berries that eventually turn blue and the mocking birds love these berries. so she's got her home and food source all in one spot. smart girl! if anyone can identify this tree, please let me know. i just can't figure it out.

this is the bark of the tree and here it is from a short distance
what is it?

she's so focused that she did not allow my working to bother her one bit. i spent a good part of yesterday afternoon cleaning and moving my two big rain barrels. they live now not far from where they once were. now they live side by side and face directly into the garden. they needed a good cleaning. they had all kinds of bits floating around and the tube connecting the two had weird gooey algae like stuffs growing on. it was a good day for the trees near by because that's where i dumped the water that was currently standing in the barrels.

they were pretty low otherwise i would not have had a chance of moving them. i've been tapping them frequently due to the heat so i just figured i should take advantage of the lighter weight opportunity. they sit on a bed of paving stones. i dug out a spot and then tamped down the soil before placing the stones so as to create the most level area that i could. then i just placed the barrels on their stones, connected them up and walla, done. they look good, they drain directly into the garden area and there is a drain directly above that will feed them quite perfectly.

i planted the weeping japanese maple tree where one of the barrels had once lived. the soil was teaming with worms and beautifully loose and mushy all at once. perfect growing spot for a baby tree. the tree looks lovely in her new home and i bet with soil like that, she'll grow quite quickly.

i split up a whole number of daisy plants in this area as well. i had only planted them last year but already, they had doubled, some tripled in size. i just spread them around the yard some. i love daisies and they seem to tolerate the heat here just fine so they're staying. they were a bit weepy last night but upon morning inspection, they are back up to their perky selves.

i discovered a whole number of squash bug eggs and squash vine borer eggs on my baby squash plants so i decided it was time for some protection if they were even going to have a chance.

i first picked all the eggs off. those squash plants got an inspection like no other. then i build little tepees over them and wrapped some light weight rowcover around the tepees.

it was a good use for a chunk of rowcover that had number of rips and punctures in it from use. nothing goes wasted in this garden. i hope i got all the eggs.

big dork last night... i left the garage door wide open before turning in. lovely thing about this small town is that not a single item was moved or missing this morning. and this town is not so small that it could not happen, it's just not part of the culture around here to do such a thing which is nice. and it seems that the night creatures left the garage alone as well. good thing i've got the feeds in the storage barrels, it could have been a great mess in there otherwise. regardless i need to watch out, there may come the day when i am not so lucky.

and then there is this guy. i call him opera kitty because he just sings and sings and sings. he's a little thing.

this is the fellow that as a kitten somehow ran off from mama and decided to live under the house. he's doing o.k. i want to take him in for neutering because he has begun to spray the area which is not so hot in my book. on the otherhand, he calls this yard home and may very well do some good in the keep the pests away department.

i've decided to invite him to stay long term and put out some food and water. he took to it immediately. a bit hesitant but soon allowed me to give him a few scratches and to apply some flea liquid to the back of his neck. if he's going to stick around then we're going to really take care of him. he's actually very sweet and loved the petting. he'll be the outdoor kitty while mr. t will still be king of the indoor universe.

so please welcome opera kitty to the hippychick universe. now to get this baby to the vet. i'll have to give a call today to see when we can get an appointment. mr. t might need a checkup himself. i think it best for now to schedule them for different days. hopefully i'll be able to locate opera kitty when his appointment comes. hmm, that could be tricky.

so we share the homestead with a few more souls. friends of foul and feline and the pesky human sort, we all find our way together.

it's good. our lives are good.

i hope mr. t supercat feels the same. i think so. he knows he is loved and spoiled darn rotten. what more could a creature want?

aside from caring for the kitty universe, the building of architectural mockingbird nests and the feeding of oatmeal to the troops, i've noticed that the house could use a good cleaning.

it's a good day to get the vacuum out, at least while it's still cool. and a good day to hang the wash out on the line and to give the floors a good wash. mr. t supercat is happy out on the screened in porch so he'll not be underfoot or feeling intruded upon by my cleaning chores.

whatever happens today, i'm just happy for the cooler temps. thank you nature gods, i appreciate the break.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

it's my pleasure to eat and be at home these days

for those of you who enjoy a frequent dining out, have heart, i too enjoy a fancypants night out at a restaurant that specializes in fresh well prepared foods, but as of late, that fancypants night out has been happening right here at home.

yesterday, i decided to go out for lunch to a local restaurant just blocks away. i was not super hungry, i was just looking for a bit of a change and a chance to do some people watching, gain a bit of insight to the local goings on and possibly a bit of small town gossip. this was the place to get all of that and a good big quart sized ball jar of iced cold tea.

i ordered pretty simple, a b.l.fgt. sandwich; that's a bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato sandwich. i myself have never truly succeeded with the art of the fried green tomato and there may be the day when i do concur the process but for now, i leave it in the hands of the southern experts. i sat, enjoyed my tea, and sat a bit longer - you see nobody rushes in this little town of mine so the wait is not a sign of panic in the kitchen or abuse by a disgruntled waitress, it's all just part of the culture.

well when the sandwich arrived, i was excited. the bread looked good, the bacon was very lean and the lettuce was crisp. i took a first bite and was shocked to be thinking, "oh my, i could have done much better than this at home." and from that moment on it was about kindly eating my lunch, listening in for some good gossip and just enjoying the scene.

on the way back home, i thought, funny, that was a pure moment of discovery. home grown, home made, and home raised foods are much more satisfying than any day out. i mean i knew that already but the going out proved a whole lot less special than the eating at home. the next thought, "i'm definitely going to become a bit of a hermit now", kind of, not really but kind of, probably, actually i think i'm a hermit already. good thing i have cool neighbors.

i don't go out much, for parties and drinks and such. it's a very selective process for me. i prefer gatherings where people can actually sit and talk and that's usually what i do. if it turns out to be a see and be seen type of thing i'm usually gone in a very short bit of time. it's just not my thing. i'm not a fan of small talk, just not my game.

most of my buddies live in a bit far ways off away in austintown. i take the price of gas seriously and do my best to use less oil when i can.

another reason for selectivity is that i really enjoy my home, my garden, my supercat and my chickenladies. there's always something that needs doing and i've got plenty of ideas that win my attentions. most of all, i feel comfortable here and i enjoy watching the veggies grow, the birds fly around, the squirrels digging and foraging, the lizard lizards sunning and patrolling the garden bug population and digging up a few worms in my efforts of planting.

this is after all, my idea of slow which i don't do with much success but it's as close as i'll ever get and i like it.

when it comes to cooking, i'm pretty talented there. i can whip a lot of somethings out of nothing as some of my friends have expressed. to me it's fun and another outlet for creativity. i consider all of the effort it took for that plant to emerge from a seed, to survive the ups and downs of temperature and water shifts, to gather it's sustenance from the soil and air and the to produce a fruit or edible root or leaf structure. that inspires me and so the dinners and lunches and brunches grow from there.

i don't talk much when i'm at home. i talk to myself a lot but that's usually me figuring out how to get something done or to make fun of myself. i think a lot of deep thinking happens when i'm not paying attention. sometimes the thoughts present themselves in my dreams, sometimes just when i'm working or sitting and sometimes in the shower. whenever they come is fine with me, i think too much as it is so i'm used to thoughts and ideas popping into focus at any old time.

so for now, the thought is how much i enjoy the act of being - at home. and that's a big one. eating at home is good too. it's good to know how you, yourself, feel about your own living.

they grow up so fast - of beans and melons and of - mother nature's queer sense of liquid humor

a short view into the life of melons and beans or beans and melons, however you like...

may 9
beans and nasturtium just planted around basil seedlings
may 15
beans emerge, nasturtiums emerge
compost day - everybody is happy.
may 22
oh oh where is the basil?
it's in there and so are the nasturtium
may 27
no stopping now!

back to the beginning

may 9
melon seedling is planted
she's looking a bit pale
melon seedling qickly branches out
first signs of a feeler, this baby is ready to go
compost day - melon baby loves her compost
may 22
heat is really kicking in, time to mulch
first flower buds showing
may 27
now we're talking - go baby go
vertical living, who needs that?
i'm taking over the universe!
kind of amazing how quickly this occurs and all from a seed, that's even more amazing to me.

and now a short bit about a mother nature and her often teasing, sometimes queer sense of humor.

i sat out near the garden mid afternoon yesterday, enjoying a cup of iced coffee when it began to pour buckets. pour buckets across the street on two sides, to the east of me and to the south of me but not a drop in or around the place i was sitting and not a drop for the garden or for the trees around me.

that's hilarious and my neighbors walked over and joined me, stunned by the event. we sat there and laughed as it rained and rained for the neighbors and not a drop for we of the hippychick universe. oh well, maybe we'll get extra next time.

very funny ms. nature ha ha ha

Sunday, May 25, 2008

hotter than you want but what are you gonna do?

well folks, i think it's official. the dog days of texas are here. this heat just keeps coming. it showed up early and i think it's here to stay. there's no rain in site and there's no break from the heat in site so it's time to just accept it and if you can learn to love it.

the heat does not seem to be bothering me as much as each day goes by. oh yeah, i can feel it but i also feel that i still can function rather than drop into immediate melt down mode. the human body is pretty amazing when it comes to adaptation.

i brewed myself up a huge batch of one of my favorite summertime cool down drinks, ginger lemon tea. and this time i made it super strong so it carries a hearty bit. mmm mmm. the ginger zip is cool!

ginger is said to help a person cool down when over heated. i don't know how true that is but this really hits the spot for me.

here's the simple concoction -

about 4 gallons of water
10 lemons
peeled and cut in half
1 cup brown sugar
5 really big chunks of ginger
the size of your hand times two
peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons of red roobios tea in a tea ball
everything goes into the pot. i heat it almost to a boil then i turn it down to a low low rolling simmer for an hour. after the hour has passed, i scoop out most of the ginger, the lemons and i pull the tea ball out. everything that's been scooped out goes into a food processor and i process it all together (yup, even the tea) and throw it back into the pot. i turn the heat off and let the whole mixture sit in the pot overnight.

in the morning, i pour it off into bottles and/or pitchers and pop it in the fridge. i keep a few smaller bottles of the stuff out in the little garage fridge. it's a great drink for a hot day and it's pretty darn good for you. the processed ginger bits are tasty. this is the cool drink that i wean myself off of coffee with.
the garden is all mulched now and good thing, this sun has been unforgiving. as you can see the plants in the east garden are still, for the most part in the smaller size range. this is the garden that had to wait a bit longer due to my crazy spring schedule.

i think in a few weeks, i won't recognize it. the cucumbers are popping through, the okra is about ankle high, the melon plants are taking off and the beans way down at the other end are growing like weeds. the white pot you see on the right is mint and it's doing just fine.the peppers are flowering as are the two eggplant i've got out here. the tomatoes and the big lot of eggplant are outback this year for rotation's sake.

i'm curious to see if the early heat is going to stunt everything. those folks who planted on time have beautifully full gardens right now. i'm envious but doing my best to remain patient and understanding with my own. sometimes you just can't do it all. i hate to admit that but this year was a tough one. so now it's about a later harvest rather than sooner. i just hope the plant babies make it through the hot days.

i can't complain. i just put up 3 pints of pickled green beans and 2 quarts of pickled beets yesterday afternoon. i've got sauerkraut in the making, potatoes in the garage and a big bag full of carrots in the fridge. plus i've got all the chard a person could want growing out back.

i guess i'm just used to the garden being in a sort of jungle state at this time. i do believe things happen for a reason. there's got to be some lesson in this. i've just got to keep my eyes open in order to see it.

a bunch of us folks around here are in a quandary as our tomatoes are not setting. we've all got the maters that set a while back but the new growth just will not set. i think it's the sudden heat. other folks don't think so but there's a whole lot of happy healthy vine and very few fruits forming. my neighbor is tempted to cut off the top two feet of his plants to see what happens. i'm tempted to give that a shot too but i wonder if i should wait for the chance of a cool day to do so. i don't want to feed them too much for fear of encouraging more green but no fruit. i may go out and clip a bunch of the comfrey leaves and bury them at the feet of the maters to give them a natural boost. honestly, i still think it's the heat.

could this be the makings of a great pumpkin?

it's funny, the volunteer squashumpkins (don't really know what they'll be) have been putting out a great number of male flowers and very few females. i don't know what that's about. maybe i'm treating them too well? don't know. anyway, this is the first shot at an actual fruit. we'll see how it goes. hopefully it will stick.

these vines are really kicken' it. wonder what they'll be.

i took my weekly neighborhood grass clippings drive today and scored two big bags. they mulched the front flower garden and the side walkway a bit. each week, mulch comes. soon we'll have everything under a good 2"-3" of the green stuff.

now it's time for dinner. i'm thinking carrots and some of those groovy taters i mixed up the other day.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

foods of the family heritage

cooking early this morning as it feels hot out there already. muggy eichhh.

i collected a big handful of baby potatoes this morning, gave them a bit of a rinse and now have them boiling on the stove top. pretty little yukon golds that i'll serve up with a bit of chopped dill, a dash of apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, a dash of milk and tiny bit of butter and the best final toucher-upper, horseradish. oh yeah, sounding yummy already.

my german minnesotan grandparents would be proud.

i just can't get over how darn pretty they are. these were dug up a week or so back and i've had them sitting in a cardboard box in the garage curing up.

they've all got a good skin on them regardless of their small size. i'll give potatoes a shot again soon. it's too hot now but maybe a fall planting. i'll have to look into that. don't know if summer planted potatoes in texas have enough time to mature. something to check out. anybody with experience out there, let me know. your comments are greatly appreciated.

the sauerkraut is percolating daily now and it's at the point where each morning i have to skim off a bit of fermenting scum. yeah yeah, but i don't know a better way to describe it.

i think we're nearing a week of fermentation. it's looking good taking on a beautiful pale golden tone. could this possibly be working? it is in all truth probably one of the easiest fermented food stuffs to make so i hope it's working. failing at sauerkraut, now that would be a family embarrassment. cabbage, salt and water, what could be tough about this?

i'm starting out small to test my skills at krauting. then again there is only one of me to feed so small is o.k. this batch should give me about two quarts total.

if this works, i may become a kraut addict. i do enjoy the occasional kraut dinner, probably more than most and it does not tend to give me an upset stomach.

i just love the color. beautiful.
if it can pass the tastes good to dad test a few months down the line, then it will be a total success.

Friday, May 23, 2008

even in the heat you gotta do it

as dry as it is, the grass keeps growing. as hot as it is, you gotta mow the lawn.

mowing the lawn today was awful dusty. i'm not watering the lawn these days. i'm just watering the gardens, the trees and surrounding flower gardens when they look like they need it.

i've done my best to plant natives with the thought that they would require less water. but there are times when the blistering heat is too much for us all and then everybody gets a drink.

anyway, i mowed until i ran out of gas. i knew the tank was not full and i knew i would mow until i could mow no more. i did pretty good. i got all of the front yard done. now i'm left with the outside of the fence chunks and the round the coop area. that i'll save for morning. it's too darn hot right now and i don't like to pump gas when it's this steamy. the fumes are just too much. plus it's better to pump when the weather is cool, less gas bits escape into the atmosphere in the cooler temps.

i spent the morning shifting two of my three citrus trees around. one was beginning to feel a bit tight in it's spot and the other was in a location where i had witnessed people walking by pull a lemon right off the bush. (yup, sad but true). several times i went right outside and said please don't take my lemons.

and you know, some of those folk deny taking them, whatever.

so now they are moved. the improved meyer lemon and my dwarf key lime tree are now in the back in the company of the apple, the peach and the plum tree. there's a bit of space between these trees and the fig and the apricot. i don't know yet what will occupy that space yet but it will be some sort of edible, possibly a blood orange. that's what i'd really like to place there.

well digging holes for trees means contact with worms means the ladies got another wormy treat today. they would be happy if i relocated trees everyday. i won't be moving much else around, at least not until fall when the weather proves a better ally to those moved.

after all that, i cleaned up the garage. i folded all the plastic sheeting that i use to keep the beds warm in winter. i folded all my tufbell rowcover. i swept the heck out the place and i put some things aside for a near future garage sale.

i've never had a garage sale but i think i'm ready. i've got some things that i just do not use and others that i carried all the way from chicago and still have no need for. good thing is that it's not really that much so it would prove a small but sweet garage sale. hey whatever works. i've already freecycled a number of items, the rest might actually buy some seeds for the fall or the blood orange tree.

you know you are a garden freak when extra cash immediately translates into seeds and trees. i guess it could be a whole lot worse. trees and seeds, as far as vices go, at least prove productive.

i did the ladies a big favor today. i installed some shade cloth on the west side of their crazy coop to help with the setting sun. it's just been so darn hot. i feel for the ladies. i don't want unhappy chickenchicas.

it's already proved a big help, i could feel the difference myself. i hung it at an angle so as to break the rays from a straight shot in. i think the ladies are thankful. i used a 6o% cloth. i had the option of purchasing 4o% or 6o%. i went for the big guns, too much sun is too much sun is too much sun.

oh and one last treat for the ladies today. i loaded up the run with several buckets of partially composted leaves and several buckets of fully mature dried compost. i spread everything around which pretty much covered the entire area.

they were outside like bullets. i think they could smell the worms and insects and whatnots lurking in the leafy bits. oh they were the happiest of happy clams. scratching and kicking and rolling and then snuggling up and napping. i had a trio of very dirty birds for a while there. amazingly enough though, when they got up and shook themselves up a bit, they were clean as a chicken. no dirty bits stuck in their feathers, alfie still white as could be and preened up real nice. i thought they were going to be dumpy. clearly i don't know all there is to know about the secrets of dirt bathing.

lizard lizard finds a lover

oh but i should not have looked
but i looked
lizard lizard is a mr. hottypants
maybe somedy soon there will be more lizard lizards to eat more baddy bugs. i wonder if it will be a june wedding? i've never been to a lizard lizard wedding.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

anatomy of an egg sandwich

eggs gratis the lovely saffron

cook them up in a bit of butter
notice egg number one sans yoke
little eggs, fresh eggs, organic home raised eggs

fresh maters from the garden
fresh greens from the market
too hot here for growing lettuce greens now - we've hit bolting weather

place the eggs on home made bread, with the home grown maters, a bit of feta cheese, the greens from the market and a dash of salt and pepper and a small bitty bit of mayo

nothing tastes quite like a home made, home grown, home raised dinner.
i like egg sandwiches. mmm

easy peaches gifted from the neighbor and plain organic yogurt.
cool and fresh and yummy