Monday, June 30, 2008


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check it out.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

kicking the budget

i sat down today to uncover the naked truth of my monthly budget and the changes i'll need to make in order to live within my means. gotta tell you, it's tight, super tight, scary tight. so tight that i end up with a big $4.00 extra per month.
4 bucks

that's it! and that's with cuts that i'll be making in the next few days. i never did end up with much at the end of the month, usually just short of $300 bucks but that is $296 more than i'll have in the coming months.

oh boy, is it even necessary to say,

granted folks i cannot prove (do your own math) that the war is responsible for the doubling of my fuel budget for travel to and from work, for the rapid and sudden increase in cost for the natural gas used in my home and for the increased cost for alternative travel options (taxi and public transport) not to mention the increase in cost for basic staple food items; but it might be.

consider it for yourself.
look at the time table and the evolution of our current situation
hmm, interesting
thanks so much mr. gwb
hope you feel your war is worth the price of persons and the soon to be seen rapid increase of homeless, hungry and desperate persons in the homeland.
oh yeah, you've got mucho bucks, not your problem.

yeah, i'm upset. not so much for the cuts i'm going to have to make but for the folks that are not as fortunate as i trying to get by on minimum wage, send kids to school or college if that's even an option for some any longer while trying to keep their own bodies healthy despite the stress of it all.

my math shows a terribly grim outlook for these folks and i fear with the cuts effecting so many that we may enter into a state of take care of your own and don't look at those who suffer. it happens all the time. look at how we deal with homeless now.

oh if all that war money could have gone toward helping solve our nations health care and homeless issues. dreaming again.
wake up hippychick, that's not a realistic thought, haven't you learned yet?

in light of all, i am truly thankful for the efforts i have made thus far towards self sustainability. though the heat and drought have caused the summer garden harvest to be more spare than ever, i still have whatever does make it through the heat and i have got the future fall/winter garden to look forward too. because of the chicken's egg laying, i have a constant protein source and a possible source for making a few extra monthly bucks or barter for goods from egg sales. i have the skills to preserve whatever harvest comes in, i know how to bake my own daily bread for pennies on the dollar and i'm not too bad in the kitchen. in short, i probably won't starve and i'll probably be able to continue to sustain very healthy eating year round which is a much bigger deal than some folks realize.

i don't know to how solve this for those folks who are not going to come in within budget. what i do know is that local food pantry's and emergency food service providers are going to be hit hard. it's a boom for fast food chains that offer "meals" for a few bucks. that same boom is a bust in the health of the national population. it's a cycle that may kill and will most likely increase cost responsibilities and stress to the already hard hit in the long term.

this is a great disturbance in the universe of hippychick. the more i learn about growing my own food, the more i make efforts to live with less, the more aware i become of the basics humans need to survive and of how difficult it is for the mass of poor to obtain those necessary resources, the more it breaks my heart

what are we doing?
this will not make our country strong.
i sympathise with our next president - what a mess?
i'll be surprised if we do not experience something close to the bread riots of france.

now is the time to really teach folks to grow their own, to increase the number of community gardens and to empower the poor, near poor and any struggling folk with the knowledge of self sustaining skills. i've got to help somehow. i can't just stand to watch this all fall apart. and damn folks, i think things are really going to fall apart. i don't see how this cycle can be stopped.

hate to be a glass half empty.
i'm going to talk to my neighbors and see what we can do to help. our little town has got to have some little plot of land somewhere that we could turn into a community garden. all my neighbors love to garden. i'm sure somehow we could get this started.

what can you do to help?
if you are on the needing side,
how will you find help?
here are a couple of ideas
  1. check to see if there are community gardens near by and then drop in and talk honestly about your health and food needs. maybe there is a plot for you or your family or a group of families. you do not have to do it all alone.
  2. check to see if there is a local c.s.a. (community supported agriculture) farm in your area and ask if they have a work for a share program. a share is a weekly allotment of foodstuffs grown on the farm.
  3. check in with your local food pantry and see if they have a work for meals program.
  4. talk to your city to see if there are programs already running for folks in need.
  5. gather others in need together and petition your city or local land owner for a small space to grow your own foods.
i'm no genius but it's a start.

anybody else out there with ideas? please submit.

make sure you click on the photo - a tale of a courageous woman

cleaning house

i'm going in for the deep clean

i can't takes it no more!
too much dust
floors all scuffed
kicked around reminants of my dragged in outside adventures

the broom is out
the mop is out
the water is ready
and so am i

i'll not return until the place sparkles and shines!
the great part about this is - i like cleaning
i'm pretty speedy with it all
methodical me
can't even break into random acts when it comes to cleaning.

move forward and conquer!

- - - - - - - - -

ahhh the sweet smell of success or is that of murphy's oil soap? all the same to me. all that's left to do is to clean all of the windows. i'm leaving that for another day. i've got the vinegar but i've not got the newspaper. i'll have to stop by the local paper and see if they have any old issues they would not mind parting with. hungry hungry now, what to eat?

the floors look beautiful - shining clean old wood planks - ahhh.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

what to do with all them eggs?

some folks are already asking me, what are you doing with all those eggs? i thought i might post where some of these eggs go to answer questions some of my friendly folk have.

to me the question is kind of funny but maybe folks are not used to integrating eggs into their diet in the days of news driven food scares when it comes to any type of food that is not synthetically produced. lucky for me, i think beyond the natural raw food terrorism scares. i don't suffer from cholesterol problems - keeping in mind home raised eggs have shown time and again lower bad cholesterol levels and higher good cholesterol levels.

i like eggs and cook with them frequently. this morning it's quiche. if you've been around the hippychick universe you might have noticed that i eat a lot of quiche. i do. i dig it, it's easy to make, it changes up without much effort and it packs well for take away meals.

regarding the number of eggs i deal with each week, i must remind folks that it's just three chickenchicas we are talking about here, not 25 or 50 or even 100 . the ladies are young and don't lay each and everyday yet. so on the best of days i harvest 3 eggs on the worst of days so far 1 egg. that's not bad, either way is fine for me. i'm not expecting super duper productivity. as far as i am concerned, the chickenchicas are fabulous company and the eggs are a bonus.

quiche is simple. it's made of 3 or 4 basic elements and can then vary with the contributions of your own local findings and some creative thinking.
  1. pie crust
  2. eggs
  3. milk (optional)
  4. good fillings and herbs (optional)
the harvest this morning included 1 cucumber, 1 amazing pepper and a number of beautiful okra pods. the cucumber is for later but the okra and the pepper, they are going in the quiche no question.

step one - place your pie crust in the oven and bake until it is half cooked.
step two - crack your eggs and beat them.
step three is optional - add some milk to the mix
adding milk makes the quiche a little bit lighter when cooking meaning that it causes the eggs to puff up some. making a quiche without milk just means the eggs set lower - not a big deal to me and either tastes great!

step four - chop your veggies,
prep your herbs and spices,
and gather your cheese or any other items you think might be good inside.

remove your pie shell place the chopped up veggie, cheese and herb goodies inside the pie shell.

step five - pour the egg mixture over the goodies.

quiche #1 above is red pepper and local herbed goat cheese with extra dill
- i love dill -

quiche #2 is an okra and local goat feta cheese with rosemary and lavender from the home garden

step six - pop the whole bit into the oven and cook at 325 or 350 for about 40 minutes. test for done-ness by piercing the center with a knife. the knife will come out clean when the quiche is ready.

you can see here the puffed up bit i was referring to when adding milk to the mix. i did add milk this morning which leads to super puffy quiche. don't get too excited, the puff settles as the quiche cools. what you should get excited about is the yummy soon to follow.

step seven - eat!
so that's what we are doing with some of them eggs in the hippychick universe.

note: yup i admit it, i cheated on the pie crust today.
i'm not a perfect specimen of the human species yet.
working on it.

got a good pie crust recipe?
please oh please send it my way
natural and organic recipes preferred.

later in the same day...
moving that which was once big ole' bags of horsey poo, leaves, pine needles, spent hay, weeds and unwanted veggie bits.

yup, it was a big darn compost day. the plan was to turn it but clearly i had not been watching this particular pile close enough. the pile was done, completely composted and ready for distribution.
ding! ding! ding! ding!
i guess the hot weather is good for helping something.

the timing is perfect. two rabbiteye blueberry bushes, 2 thornless blackberry plants and 1 heritage raspberry are coming today and will need to be planted pronto.

so i fetched my trusty garden cart and my trusty garden fork and started to work. it did not take long for me to prep the location for the new babies. i roughed up the existing soil, spread a bit of pellet sulphur (berries like a more acidic soil) and watered it well before setting the new compost on top.

this particular pile of compost was 3'x3'x3'height so i had a lot left over once i got the berry area prepped which was great. i had enough to place a good 4" to 5" thick layer over each and every fruit tree in the yard. that includes:
  • 4 blueberry
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 fig
  • 1 apricot
  • 1 plum
  • 2 peach
  • 2 apple
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 2 thornless blackberry
  • 1 heritage raspberry
  • 1 crabapple
  • 4 small (baby) olive trees (italian and spanish)
  • 1 plum
i felt no worry to hit most of these trees and bushes with this second round of compost. i had done this very same thing a month or so back but with the heat and wind as steady as it is, i believe this can only be of benefit to the food producers. honestly, i don't know how anything makes it through these rough conditions.

i have to tell you, i am a compost geek. there is nothing like the softness of a good finished batch of the stuff. you can feel it's water holding power and if it's loaded with earthworms well then baby you've hit the jackpot because those worms are going to better the condition of the soil they are transferred to. it's a win win when it comes to worms.

well it did not take too long to move the 7 fine loads, distribute and water it in. all the plants are happy and i'm back inside for a bit to consider a bit of lunch although i guess it is actually closer to dinner time.

no matter all is well
i love my compost pile

Friday, June 27, 2008

getting a message that it might be break time

i've been working pretty constant all week which can place me out of the cuddle and scratch department. i often don't realize the number of hours i work in any one period of time. my work habits are driven by the getting it done factor. i set a goal (which is usually pretty high) and i work until i get there.

i'll stop for a glass of water or something quick to eat but i don't walk away or even go to bed until i know i've done all that i can for the day.

there are other folk in the household that know better. they understand the value of a nap, the greatness of a cuddle. they will make simple attempts to gain your attentions in order to enlighten your inferior mind but if those simple attempts fail, they may just go full out and sit on your work. nudging in closer and closer and closer until you have no choice but to stop for a bit and enjoy a bit of quality life.

well that's going on right now. i think it best to heed the call. projects are in a good place and i could use the break. cheers to the superior hearts and minds of the universe.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

she did it! she did it!
ms. freckles flirtasia has gifted us with her first egg.

and what a sweetie she is, boy oh boy was she proud. she sent out the ba goking alarm at full volume. i sprinted out having not heard the alarm for a long while ready to tackle whatever predator or threatening creature curiosity lurking around the coop or run. it was no creature, it was the call for the celebration of the first egg. i cannot tell you how big the smile on my face was but let it suffice to say that i too was thrilled. she is proud and so am i.

i love these girlygirl chicken chicas.
it's exciting to see them grow into fine young ladies.

happy day happy day
that's the lot of them, each is now in lay.
saffron prefers the left side of the nest.
freckles and alfie prefer the right.
saffron is my red headed lefty, that's fun!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

long day good day

feeling tired after a good long day. much accomplished on my own and with the help of others. it's been a work work day full of calculations, photometrics, ideas of light and shape and space and transitions. this is what i do, i see light before it's there and design the layout of the instrumentation to achieve the image. wondrous imagining the ethereal it is. you can't touch light, you an merely observe and record and recall.

anyway i feel good about where i am at tonight's stopping point. i've a few more ideas to find space for but the meat of the design is on paper and everything from here on out is detail and gloss.

i did take a step outside a few times today. sometimes thinking on a topic too intensely blocks the path of discovery. sometimes i'll find myself too caught up in the science of an idea or stuck on how to make the photometrics of a shot work. (that means how to get the light where i want it from the positions for hanging available). it's good to get out.

i spent my outside time with opera kitty and my tres chicas de chicken. it seemed a quiet day for the three boking babes. alfie dropped a huge egg today which i am sure is part of the reason she was so quiet this morning. she had big work to do. lucky for she there was no sign of blood spotting or harm to herself after letting it go. this is a two day egg. she did not lay yesterday but today's egg more than made up for that. i bet she would prefer to lay two smaller eggs rather than the mongo eggs every other day. i know i would!

it was warm today - there's nothing new there but the evening finished off with a fine soft breeze. it was ninety but it was warm and cushy - air like a pillow.

everyone is now tucked in and slumbering. i am soon to follow.

good day good day good day and good dreams for another good tomorrow.

chickens need private space too

in an effort to please ms. aflie sunshine, i built a low tech separating barrier in the nesting area. it is constructed from a plastic garden tray and two small cuts of lumber each attached to the plastic tray and each attached to the nesting box.

i am happy with the garden tray. it allows for healthy air flow, it's a cheap fix and the plastic is easy to clean. and if the ladies wish chat while on nest they may.

it seems to have calmed the morning "i want the nest now" chatter to 0%. it was so quiet and calm this morning that i felt slightly alarmed. was it just the new nesting pad that cleared the chatter or was there something else going on at the same time. you never can be too sure so i spent a little time this morning watching the ladies.

i was also concerned because the humidity factor has jumped a bit to the point where you can really feel it in the morning. i want to make sure that they remain cool and healthy. i moved the coop's stuffs around a bit yesterday upon returning home in order to maximize air flow and cool shady resting spots. i did not change much, just a slight shift of where the hanging waterer and feeder are located and a slight shift of the nesting box which opens up access to the cooling fan i have located outside of the coop. the ladies take fan baths during the heat of the day. the fan, the waterer and the shadiest spot are now all in the same proximity. they can gather and rest, no stress to travel between the three for their needs.

it was really good to see the ladies again. granted i was only away a few days but i missed them. they are sweeties and i have grown accustomed to their morning cooing and purring. i love my ladies which means they now officially enter the realm of pet. i knew that would be the way so it's ok. it does mean that if i ever entertain the idea of meat chickens that i'll need to approach their raising in another way. we'll cross that bridge when we need to.

the musk type melons are netting beautifully and growing rapidly - beautiful creatures that they are. the big one (above) is really big, larger than anything i've seen in the store or at the market and it shows no sign or shifting color to yellow as of yet so it's still growing. already i'm dreaming of eating the young thing. patience is a virtue but oh my hard to wait. i will just the same so that the sugars set properly. this type of melon is a fruit that set sugar prior to picking. pick it early and you are out of luck.
this is the smaller musky melon and it's neighboring water melon. both looking just as good but smaller in size. they set later so it's just a mater of time. i placed the plastic beneath all of the melons today after my discovering that the hay i had laid below each was rapidly composting. good for the soil, bad for the melon. the plastic bed keeps the pill bugs and other such melon hungry creatures from eating the young fruit from below. i learned that one the hard way.
here is the very first winter butternut squash. i'm so thrilled and yet cautious. i have not had great luck with squash in central texas. i hope this baby makes it to adulthood, it would be nice. there are several other setting and when they get large enough, i will prep them a little plastic sheet bed as well. fingers crossed for squash...
here's a lovely ancho chilli. give it a few days and it will turn a brilliant red. the size is wonderful. keep on keeping on baby.
and here another cucumber. they are really starting to kick now. my neighbors on the other hand are reporting that their cucumber plants have kicked the bucket. they planted early and harvested early. i planted late and we'll see how it goes. every year is different, you never can tell. i must admit not a single cucumber has made it into the house yet. well correction, one has and only long enough to be cut into snacking size spears. this is not good for the pickle department. the cook has got to get a grip or risk a low pickle season.

the good news is that i've still got a healthy stock of last years pickles. they won't last another year but will cover for now.

that's the morning report. a huge project is due tomorrow and i'm feeling the stress let me tell you. i'm looking forward to 6pm tomorrow when all materials will be out of hand and i'll have replaced project with gin and tonic. the future is bright and folks. chin up!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

delays delays and yes more delays

hmphff i wonder, is this how it's going to be now?

departures... delayed
arrivals... delayed
across the board, delayed

oh boy. i think this might be how it's going to be.

i travel a lot. more than i like and i am quite used to airport snafus and long security lines, crying young babies not happy for the change in air pressure and the like. most things don't bother me as i consider them part and parcel of the character of travel. lately though i've noticed a mass increase in flight delays and not just with one single airline but with all of the airlines.

i'm a weather freak, most gardening folk are. so you can bet i take a good look at weather conditions located in my departure, arrival and path cities for my flights before i head out the door. if i know there are mass delays i myself might delay my transport to the airport. i can only do this if i am not checking baggage and have had the opportunity to check in online. usually i head out anyway.

blah blah
i wonder what the deal is. each and every flight i've taken as of late has been delayed and not just by a little bit but in great chunks of time. are they waiting to combine connecting flights? is there weather up there i missed? are the airports under some new take off process? i have no idea but it seems that the new airport culture is to understand that your flight will not be taking off on time which is tricky for those of us who are flying on a schedule directly related to work needs and timed so as to be the most efficient use of all persons time and dollars. the flying out and back in one day seems to be a little less probable if my calculations are even close. and it seems to me it might be smart to take an earlier flight if you want to get to your destination in a certain delay driven window of time. in short plan for your flight not to take off on time when choosing a flight.

the mean i've been experiencing is a 40 minute delay which then impacts connecting flights which often don't wait for delayed flights so the metrics of the planning grows greater with each connection.

there's not much you can do folks except plan ahead and travel with a good book or a friendly companion for company. i will no longer travel with mr. supercat. he has always traveled in the cabin with me but with all the delays i feel it unfair to ask anyone to remain calm in a bag with a mesh window for hours and hours and hours with no place to relieve oneself in the case that time would linger on too long. i just can't ask that of him. i'll miss him but i think with good home care he'll be much happier and healthier.

i put this out there not as a complaint but as an observation that seems to have a pretty steady pattern associated with it. complaining won't get you far. just buck up and make the best of it. my only dream is that someday, in the near future we might begin to see more healthy foods at the airport. there is so much garbage food at the present. for now i always make sure that i've at least two or three apples and a lara bar or two in my bag. that way i can still control what's going in the body in the case that i have a long sit ahead due to a delay.

cheers folks. hope your travels are safe and swift and that you meet your destination with great happiness.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

goat's milk yogurt smoothie - tre yumme'

for those of you who have ever had goat's milk yogurt then you know about the supertang flavor. some folks would describe it as sour. the cultures in goat's milk is super active and you can taste it. leave in the fridge long enough and it bubbles. all of these characteristics make it perfect for a smoothie and for the past few days, i've been enjoying smoothies anytime of day.

they've both turned out great so i'll share. i get my goat's milk yogurt direct from a farm but you can find it at the grocery if you take a look. some folks keep it near the soy milk. try checking out your local store or even better, look for a local farm.

honey banana melon mix
1 super ripe banana (dark brown ripe)
1/4 musk type melon chopped
8oz goat's milk yogurt
2 squirts of honey

honey mango applesauce mix
1 small mango chopped
1/2 cup applesauce
8oz goat's milk yogurt
2 squirts of honey

throw it in a blender - blend it up - enjoy!
it was a good start to the day.
gotta go, traveling today.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

dude i love my brooks axioms - ohh baby!

i'm telling you folks my brooks axiom running shoes rock the house. great run today! finally a semi-cool morning (the mid 70's now feel cool to me), beautiful sunshine and a slight (very slight) breeze is about. i was out early and to my surprise, an hour and a half later, i feel worked but not crazy bad and that's great because i was shooting for a shorter 40 minutes run. i love it when the time flies by.

i guess i was so thrilled for the cooler air that all else went to the back of the mind and stayed out of the "'can i go further" way. i was all over the place this morning. apparently there is a parade in town planned for later this morning. juneteenth is the occasion. i have no idea what that is but there are a lot of folks down at the river park getting in the parade line so it must be some texas cultural celebration that i've got something to learn from.

well for me it's another work day but i feel great and fresh from the run. i had my time out and about and really enjoyed it. and now my head is in a content and happy place. let's hope the rest of the day goes as well. i feel relaxed and relaxation lends itself to good work so here we go.

get outside today folks! it can really make your day.

i did breakdown and buy something for the ladies today. I purchased a second large waterer for them. they've got a large waterer inside the coop but i wanted to make sure they had big water in and out.

this weather is just unrelenting and the 1 gallon outdoor waterer was not something i felt would be enough.
i do change the water every other day but the evaporation quotient has been high and i just could not trust a long day away would ensure outdoor water for the chicas. so i picked up this great little giant 3 gallon waterer. it is super sturdy, built rugged and heavy as heck when full but the trough drinking area is nice and wide and the extra few gallons of water eases my worry that the girls will ever want for thirst.

if you've been wondering about this waterer, i say invest! it's going to last a good long while and the filling and cleaning set up is great thanks to the screw on/off top. i set the waterer on a number of piled up bricks. the weight of the thing full is plenty to keep it in place. the handle on top keeps the ladies from sitting on top. freckles loves to climb the most, she might be disappointed but i think the plus is greater than the minus of a loss of a climbing object.

the little one galloner will now help out in the chicken tractor. nothing will go to waste. we're doing our best to drastically reduce and eventually cut out the idea of waste around the hippy chick universe. we get what we need to be healthy and happy but no more if we can help it. we being me who has been known to show weakness every now and again; more often than not if we're going to be truly honest. i have to tell you though, a low balance in a bank account really helps one to identify what you need to get by and what you think you need otherwise known as wants.

the good news is that we are not going to starve around here and we've got our roof so i guess big picture, we're doing great!

i'm doing my best to shape up with the running. i spent a great while being happy just running 2 or 3 miles every other day or so. i could fit it in schedule without having to shift too much around in my life and without having to sacrifice some sleep to do it. now that i know i can go for an hour and a half or longer, i have to think more about where it fits into the day and how to get to bed in time to be ready for the body demands.

i won't increase mileage too quickly, i'm not that prepped so next week i'll see if i can match my long run for the hour and a half. today might have been a fluke. don't know until i try again. i do want to try to work on speed once a week. i'm pretty slow am i'm ok with that because i know i can go and go and go and for me, it's not really about speed but i have done speed workouts in the past and i know they do help whatever pace you choose to run in the end and it's a good mental shift for one day a week.

anyway folks, my effort to start the 1/2 marathon training from the beginning has obviously failed in two ways.
  • my body was ready to start further in.
    • so i think i am going to just jump further in and take it from there.
    • in fact, i may look at a jeff galloway marathon training program and run that instead.
  • i have not been doing the run walk. i've been just running straight. today's long run should have been a run/walk day but i felt too good to do so.
    • maybe i'll just run the training and when the mileage really starts to climb work in the run/walk bit.
    • i feel good running outright. i'll play it by ear.
maybe a marathon will fall into my path after the half this fall. who knows? the fall schedule is going to be brutal. i've got to build the strength now so that i can continue on when the other variables are added in.

blah blah blah. runner talk. if you have a runner friend, i sympathise with you. we all become runner geeks down the line. blame the runner's high - we love that dope.

stinky cheese and knock out sweet rolls

i'd like to share with you today one of my staple sites. this is a big one for me. you may click on any of the below photos to take you to his site.

you must visit. you'll find something interesting on david's site even if you never plan to make your own cheese. but if you are a food geek get ready to take a step closer to nirvana.

if you ever wondered how cheese is made or how to make your own cheese, yogurt, bread, root beer, ginger ale and other such items then you need to visit david fankhauser's cheese page. it's not just cheese. this one page can empower your food skills and change the way you procure your goods forever! it has for me.

david even illustrates how to make your own cheese press from affordable materials. i'm forever thankful for his efforts. each and every recipe is photo illustrated and written in a no nonsense manner.

you can start with yogurt cheese or like me you can move forward from your experience with yogurt cheese.

take your time on david's page there is a wealth of information that allows you to truly investigate the chemistry of cheese and other excellent food items. there are links for beginners which i find interesting to read even after reading it time and time again and there are generous links to additional resources that will further your understanding and creativity with the process of putting up milk.

after all, cheese is all about saving milk.
ever thought about that?
hmmphf, yup that's the deal, cheese keeps milk from spoiling.

don't miss the link to the schnecken sweet rolls.

my oh my oh my
they look outstanding
i have not had the guts to bake these yet. i'm afraid i'd not leave the house until they were gone.

i dream that someday i will cook them up but not until i have many visitors to help finish off the goods. wow what a beautiful looking treat.

thank you david, your generosity is so very much appreciated!

Friday, June 20, 2008

water restrictions in action

the bastropian water peeps have finally enacted a water restriction plan. it's a good thing as we've not had rain for over a month now. rain is falling in texas just not anywhere near here. and it's been crazy hot as you've heard me report time and again. yesterday hit a whopping 104 degrees in the shade. crazy talk!

i shared a good conversation with two of our local water department fellows about rainwater harvesting and grey water restrictions. - very informative - and positive. it looks like i might be able to legally set up a grey water system here as long as i get the water folks involved from start and as long as i'm not running the water directly into city drains. as i explained to the fellows, that's not the plan at all. the plan is to get it to trees, flowers and non-edible planting areas. they were very cool and in full support of the plan. i've now got a name to contact to check the out the fine print. we'll see how that goes.

what a world of extremes. the poor folks in iowa and bordering areas are swimming with more water than they ever could want while we cry for a single drop. nature mama is keep us on all our toes. if you did not read the farm aid entry from yesterday, do check it out. and visit they are good people.

i was out hosing down the chicken run just so they had some place to cool off. the ladies spent no time digging in and resting in the cool damp soil. wet wet wet is not good for chickens, it can lead to illness so i just damped the place down enough for a cooling off, besides the evaporation rate at 104 degrees is swift. the other great benefit of a good spray every now and again is the sprouting of the chicken scratch that they leave behind. it's a good source of baby greens for them.

the ladies got the mother load today. i was out early this morning taking care of the ladies, yard business and few errands. i stopped by the home from which i collect their grass clippings each week. they leave them next to the road and i pick them up. today there were two huge huge bags of clippings. well, the ladies got one full bag to themselves and boy oh boy are they happy. i'm happy too. whatever they don't eat, they scratch in. the scratched in bits then begin to compost with the soil and with their poopy poops all without any odor. they are my wee one composting machines who lay yummy yummy eggs - aha!

i put a third source of water out for them, a 3 gallon bucket filled to the rim. i set it in a corner of their inside coop. i'm hoping that it not only works as a waterer but also helps cool the place down a bit. every little bit helps.

ah back to the odor thing. i've not had a single problem. i'm keeping the inner coop thick with hay about 8" deep. every 4 or 5 days i head out with a small can of garden lime mixed with a dash of diotomaceous earth and sprinkle just a little on any exposed poopy poop. it dries it up quick and keeps any interest the flies might have to a minimum.

in fact i do not have a fly problem. really i see 1 or 2 every now and again but i think my process is really keeping them unawares of the goods in the coop which i will not change until some other factor requires so.
today is a long day of design and drafting. i expect an electrician to stop by a little later in the day to take a look at my main power panel and to run a line out back. i could probably do it myself but i thought better not to considering it's the main connection to the power line, i'll let the licensed, bonded, insured pros take care of that.

even with the heat, there are bits of the garden still doing extremely well. the heat loving okra and melons are doing just fine.

the long beans are up and sprightly.

the cucumbers seem to be setting.

just the same, i put out some tuffbell row cover . it's not shade cloth but it's what i've got right now and anything at all to help cut some of this harshness is good in my book. i have run a single piece leaving the bottoms open for air current and bee and beneficial bug entry and allows me access to the goods. it's water penetrable so if it rains, it rains through.

this guy does not seem to mind the heat one bit. in fact, i see these little folks bathing out all day long.
don't see him, look close

Thursday, June 19, 2008

helping the hands that feed us

i stopped by today and gave a few measly bucks to help out with the family farm disaster fund. my few dollars may not solve all the problems but they help. this is an american crisis and you can be a part of the relief. think on it. and if you do decide to help out you get a great little thank you note like i did.

Dear hippychick (not my real name did ya know?) ,

Thank you very much for generously donating to Farm Aid's Family Farm Disaster Fund.
We are deeply grateful for your generosity and support of our efforts to help farmers affected by natural disasters. With your help we are able to provide vital services to the farm families we serve. We count on you and people like you to ensure that we can continue helping farmers in need. Once again, thank you for your support.

Everyone at Farm Aid

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

walking the talk - supporting local farmers

we all do what we can with the resources we have available to us. for the rest we either do without or find a way to support ourselves through relationships with others. i did just that today - i connected with a local family farm.

i think it is important to know exactly where your food is coming from. i find it a privledge to meet the exact person, one on one, who is raising the food i eat and to see with my own eyes where the food i eat lives and grows. you can't do that in the grocery and you can't do that at a fast food joint.

yes i struggle still with the slowing down of my own life. but i am making strides in the slowing down of my food.

today, i found local milk, local cheese and local yogurt all available at one farm less than 10 miles away. i was able to try all the goods before purchase. everything was wonderful and so so fresh. this farm keeps several types of goats for meat and dairy. the dairy goats are french alpine dairy goats.

upon visiting the farm and sharing a conversation with the farmers, i decided to become more than an on again off again customer. i chose to make an investment in the farm. i bought a share. the share helps the farm to sustain itself, it allows me access to fresh goods at a set price and in the big picture it takes a step toward the further building of the local community. i help pay room and board and the farmers give the goats good care. i think it is a good move.

it's not as formal as a csa where you gain a weekly delivery of in season goods it more about freezing a price at which to procure the goods with an understanding if mass circumstances change then prices may change. it's trust pure and simple.

tomorrow i take an afternoon trip to another local farm just about 10 miles away in another direction that is raising a rare french meat chicken breed called freedom rangers. i'm going to pick up three processed chickens ready for the cooking.

i have already talked extensively with my local chicken farmer on the phone, asking questions about the food the chickens eat. as luck would have it, we both feed our chickens from exactly the same local organic mill. so not only are my chickens raised locally but their feed is raised locally too.

why does that matter? well to start, every step closer to home cuts the amount of oil resource required to get that food to the plate. and that's a big deal to me. the president today is asking congress to approve more drilling access. is that really the answer? i think this request is built upon short term vision and i personally don't feel it addresses the big picture crisis we are up against.

many folks out there think "if we just drill in more places, then we'll have more oil and the price of a barrel will go down". i hate to rain on your parade folks but it's not that easy. the value of the dollar is what's really kicking us in the behind right now and until the value of the dollar is strengthened then really no extra amount of oil is going to drop the price of the barrel for us. and even if the drilling is approved then it's years before any impact of that drilling will be felt.

ponder this...
short term thinking - the administration is making one further false effort to please the masses with one final bait and switch tactic before they are out of office. this is simply ridiculous. but the fact is that there are many people out there who need to hear that there is a definitive answer (there is not) and that they will be able to continue to have their cake and eat it too as they have done for so many years. i think for north americans, those days may finally be at an end. some day someone was going to have to pay for our excesses and guess what babies?

it's us.

that is just part of why, for me, raising my own food and vegetables, searching for additional local foodshed resources and working towards keeping everything i can closer to home is a step in the right direction. it is important for me to invest in my local community. my one share and my purchase of a few chickens helps to keep these local farmers going and helps to keep quality food goods at arms reach. i consider it an insurance policy.

how hard will it be in the future to access good quality raised foods not tainted by genetically modified somethings or dependent upon big agribusiness for it's survival? it's a bit hard to do that now and there are many folks trying hard to make it less hard on folks. they are the new pioneers and i support them one hundred percent. i'll skip a convenient trip to the grocery for all of those reasons any day and besides, at the present moment, these folks are closer to me than the nearest grocery selling quality organic meats so truthfully, in my house, it's a no brainer.

the above photo of the chickens is borrowed from the blog site of rooster hill farm, some cool folks from newark valley, new york. click on the photo to visit their site.

and check out this comparison

Goat Milk vs Cow Milk

· Nutrient content of goat milk is slightly less than cow milk but goat milk is more digestible because the fat molecules are one-fifth the size of those from cow milk -- making it easily tolerated by those with compromised digestive systems.

· Seventy-two percent of the milk used throughout the world is from goats. It is one-third richer than cows milk but more nourishing and easier to digest.

· The flavor of goat milk is comparable to that of cow milk. Goat milk has a milder taste.

· Goat milk has no cream separation because of smaller fat molecules.

· Goat milk contains pre-formed Vitamin A in the milk fat that allows it to be readily available for use by the body.

· Goats milk contains a more highly-evolved cholesterol than cows milk, making it more available for absorption to the brain and body. (Cholesterol is essential to the health of the myelin sheaths "white matter" of the nerves in the brain.)

· Goat milk is closer to human milk and is therefore easily accepted especially by those young or frail.

· Goat milk has an alkaline reaction the same as mother's milk. Cow milk has an acid reaction

· Goat milk does not form mucous (phlegm) and is therefore better tolerated by asthmatics and those with allergies.

· Goat milk contains more chlorine, fluorine and silicon than any other domestic livestock. Chlorine and fluorine are natural germicides and fluorine assists in preventing diabetes.

· Goat milk contains 2% curd, which precipitates in the stomach. Cows milk is 10% curd.

· Goats are naturally immune to diseases, such as tuberculosis, and are used in third-world countries to actually cure tuberculosis because of their inherent antibodies.

· Goats milk is tolerated by a compromised /damaged liver because of the smaller fat molecules and it's naturally homogenized.

· Goats milk has the ability to "sweeten" the intestinal tract and assist with constipation.

· Goats milk contains a higher evolved carotene (pro-Vitamin A). Researchers have found this to have cancer preventing properties.

Source: Natures Prescription Milk by Gloria Gilbere, N.D., D.A. Hom., Ph.D.

how about them apples?

growing for the egg makers

it is official, the egg makers have cleaned out the chard patch. i had no idea the chard would be such a hit. i place a few 4 or 5 stalks in the pen each morning and in a few hours, sometimes less time, the ladies have it devoured. sometimes i wait until afternoon to give them the treat. they love the stuff and that's great but clearly i did not plant enough to keep up with their appetite. the chard should grow back but i imagine it will grow slowly considering the temperatures have bee so brutal. i have also planted more in a few other spots in the spirit of planning ahead. but for now what? i have added flax seed to their feed which is a good.

the feed is a "complete organic feed" but i think it's good to get them their greens and veggies on top of that.

yes there is grass and i give that to them but watching them eat grass is not nearly as exciting as watching them jump up to reach the hanging chard leaves. i truly believe they find the whole experience joyful. a little jump, a little treat again and again and again.

yesterday was particularly exciting as saffron and alfie pegged a small lizard lizard. boy oh boy the chase back and forth that ensued was high voltage. freckles decided to stay out of the whole mix. she was vocal but alfie and saffron played serious mine, mine, mine, mine, keep away and steal the lizard lizard from one another. i do not know who prevailed. the keep away went on for more than 20 or so minutes. i finally left them to themselves to work it out. everyone seems to be happy now which means no lingering grudges. don't you wish all life were like that? i do.

poor lizard lizards; between the girls fast moves and opera kitty's fast moves they are truly being challenged like never before around here. i wonder if the word is out. if the lizard lizard community is sending message to avoid the ladychickenchica compound or risk sudden death. never know but it would be an easy choice to shift a bit north and hang out at the compost pile rather than risk life and tail in "pullet" off ya land. ha ha ha, i crack myself up.

oh this is going to be bad, prepare yourself, but speak of cracking up, the eggs they are putting out are outstanding. (i warned you) both saffron and alfie are laying double yolkers every other day. alfie's eggs have jumped in size in a very short period of time. she's pretty much laying full size large to extra large eggs everyday. it took saffron a bit longer to reach the larger size. it's all interesting to me, learning about these chicas.

another tidbit i've learned about miss alfie. she likes to sit in the nesting box solo when it's time to lay and she appreciates everyone clearing out before she travels up. she's my nesting diva. she gets almighty vocal if freckles goes up to the nesting box with her. she will chatter and chatter until miss freckles get's the message and bugs off. miss freckles has been doing this for a bit now, traveling up to the nest and sitting with both saffron and alfie when they lay. i think it's a cross between sisterly support and practicing herself for the big moment, she likes their company too that is clear. i find it hilarious but tend to go out to talk with her about her chatter in consideration of the early time she likes to lay and in consideration of the neighbors who might possibly still be sleeping.

freckles has turned out to be the largest of the three. larger by far but oh so beautiful and her tail feathers are really filling out now. she has yet to begin the laying but that is just fine. she is beginning to warm up when i'm around. she is a the most private of the three when it comes to big creatures like me but i think that may be shifting, time will tell.

saffron does not seem to care too much if she has company while laying but if i come in to collect the egg right after she has dropped it and she is still up there well then i might experience a stern chicken stare and possibly a single peck on the back of my hand if i make a reach for it. she sends a message - "give me just a bit more time to move on out would you please, geez!" so i have begun to make a practice of collecting eggs after both ladies have layed. both ladies are laying eggs with nice hard shells that i'm not so worried for the egg pecking. it seems to have only been a problem with alfies first odd soft shelled egg.

but back to the quandary - what now with the chard patch gone? i've got to do some research to see if russian comfrey is safe for the ladies. i've got plenty of that. i'm not going to pay grocery store prices for chard, that's nutso and they don't seem to be too hot for melon. i have read they are not big on bananas but i have not tried that here myself. i could try to get some malabar spinach going. boy oh boy these ladies need their own little supply plot. maybe i ought to prep the "chicken chica plot" sooner than later. i wonder if they can eat fresh beans, we'll have plenty of those real soon. i'll have to look into that, i believe i have read on the topic and that some beans are not so good for the ladies. i'll confirm and report back later.

i could wrangle them into the tractor again and set them out to forage. that might be a great solution for the short term. fresh grass pickings and fresh scratch area.

uh oh, gotta go, aflie is clearly communicating that the nesting box is not free and clear to her liking. i wonder... does freckles jump up there just to get a rise out of her smaller sister? hey you never know, it could be her daily form of humor.

aha aha aha - an idea - sprouts! all i have to do is start a large scale (couple of big jars) of sprouts for the ladies to cover while the chard comes back. that's economical, mung beans are cheap in bulk and i've got alfalfa seeds around too. brilliant! i deserve a beer. auwp, too early in the day for that. well maybe later

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

an unexpected nap

mmmmmmm that was great i thought as i opened my eyes to see in my sites, my freshly painted red toenails, the sponge bob square pants band-aide on my right big toe, mr. t-supercat snoozing out in his spot and opera kitty soundly sleeping in his quarters. nice to spend a few winks in the nap zone but how did that happen? no matter, i let it go immediately to see if i could slumber of once again. i was comfortable but i was awake. so i slowly allowed myself to look around from where i was, thought more about the two loves of my life in my site and then slowly rolled out of bed so as not to wake the sleeping beauties.

my book was lying beside me, barbara kingsolver's animal, vegetable, miracle. i have waited patiently for it to come out in paperback. i do not like hardcover books. hardcover books are too stiff and rigid for me. i enjoy the smooth bending and shaping of a paperback. paperback books are somehow more human to me and i'm stubborn enough to deny myself even a peek inside a book i may have so looked forward to until it is released in soft bound paperback.

so don't tell me how the book ends and don't send any "don't you love the part about the ..." i want to read this book slowly. it seems a record of the life many of us are shifting toward. i know that i am. i do not own the 120 acres that barbara and her family own. i live on a plot short of a 1/4 acre but i believe there is much to achieve in either bit of space and the philosophy to appreciate the local and to re-sensitize and possibly learn for oneself of those things which naturally exist in your environment is ever so important.

i am guilty for jekyll/hyde existence. i have periods where i am working so hard that i could not tell you which color socks i am wearing or where i was 2 hours ago because my brain is working towards the 2 to 12 hours ahead. i also have periods like now where i am at home and choose to be at home and wish nothing more than to be at home. for it's when i'm at home that i remember how simple life can be, that it is possible, that i am capable of doing so and that i truly adore those moments. and it's this double existance that troubles me. i still want both lives. i love my art and my art happens in an intense way due to the nature of it's intrinsic part of the whole but when away, i ponder heavily the creatures i care for here at home and i ponder the progress and needs of my students and i wonder how can i possibly find an equal balance?

i don't know if i'll ever find an equal balance. i do think there may be a day when i do choose one or the other and i'm pretty sure as to which direction i'd go. i pretty much always go the direction with the greatest amount of risk and challenge involved. i am not so fearful of change. i am not worried if my friends think i'm crazy. i know that either way i'd be fine but my principle philosophical sensibilities have shifted and i don't think i could turn towards a more wasteful life if that were to be a part of the mix.

i'm in a quandry now actually. i live 33 miles outside of austintown and when the school year hits i am driving back and forth 5-7 days a week. aside from the fact that the fuel will require a re-figuring of my budget i wonder is there not another way? i've looked into the park and ride and the getting to work would be no problem. it's an early ride in, i'm ok with that. it's the getting home that throws a wrench in the whole thing.

being a theatre faculty often requires my attendance at rehearsals and technicals which run late beyond any right minded park and ride program and probably beyond any proper car pooling program. the only thought i had is that maybe there is a musician living or like crazy artist in this small town that does the same. we might run the same evening schedule home. i thought about the purchase of a motorcycle but i think the safety issues are too great considering the late night travel home. i don't know.

creativity in travel is what it's all about. i'd prefer to find use of some sort of public transport or come up with some clever car pool program. a train runs right through town and it would be perfect for austintown transport. maybe i'll just play like the old times and bum a ride.

any brilliant ideas out there? i would love the hear them.

lighter side - in my oven is a beautiful new quiche everything from home except for the makings of the crust. i adore a good quiche and i adore the fact that the lady chickens are making quiche a regular treat these days. i think the choice of three chickens for now is a good one. i do think there will be more down the line.

one of my friendly neighbors stopped by yesterday and asked me if i would be interested in some rabbits. they have all they need and are willing to set me up with a pair whenever i'm ready. i said absolutely but not right yet. i explained my upcoming schedule and that i wanted to give myself some time to learn more about the chicken ladies before adding a couple few lifes into the mix. he was happy with the answer and said "anytime, you let me know, i know they'll be well taken care of."

hm! that's cool. so now to learn about raising rabbits. and now to prepare myself for the possibility of prepping rabbits for eating. ughh! that's going to be a tough one for me but if it is rabbits next then i think some of them will definitely be for food.

all i can think of is poor elmur fudd chasing bugs all around the castle trying to prepare the king's dinner. "where's my hasenpheffer?" "where's my hasenpheffer?"

i pulled the outback cherry tomato patch last night after my run in 93 degree weather, that was brutal. the tomatoes were failing quickly and i could not stand to see them suffer any longer. it was sad and much earlier than ever but that's how it goes sometimes. some years work out better than others. i did collect a good paint can full of ripe and green maters though. i cooked them up into a curry with fresh summer squash, raisins and some dried apricot. the mixture smelled divine. it's now in the fridge's freezer which is chock full of home made goodness.

memories of better days but it was time to think about what would go in next.

i don't like to leave ground empty around here in the hot hot months. i think it better to keep it going rather than allow it to dry up. i'm thinking beans of some sort but i've already got a whole lot of beans in the ground. i'm going to turn into a bean later this year just you watch. maybe more okra for pickling. mmmmm okra. either you like okra or you don't. texas is the perfect place to grow okra so i'm thirlled. the area is too small for a winter squash and it borders my neighbor's drive so i don't want to plant something that would invade their universe. hmm, hot weather loving something. pondering...

well i'm all over the place today. guess that's what a nap can do for me. or maybe that's why the nap happened, my mind is all over the place. i probably needed a mental break. whatever the reason, i feel great now.

cheers to you for sticking with this entry to the end goof ball that i am today.

and the what to put where the tomatoes used to be winner is.....
clemson spineless okra!!!!!!!
crowd sounds.

actually it should not be too surprising considering the temperatures we're having down south. there is not much else to put out. none the less i'm pleased to say that there is much okra in the future to be had.

just think
  • pickled okra - sweet, dilled and spicy
  • fried okra
  • gumbo with okra
  • stewed tomatoes with okra
  • okra corn bread w/cayenne butter - my own creation
  • okra quiche
  • chicken soup with okra
  • grilled okra - one of my favorites
  • okra with stewed beans
yummy yummy if you're an okra fan like me. got any other good okra recipes? send them my way!