Friday, January 30, 2009

inside outside underground

i started off another round of seeds this morning. some will begin their journey inside under the protection of lights and others outside sporting the fluctuating weather in the days ahead.

the inside group includes
  • cucumber
  • amaranth
  • tomato
  • lima beans
  • pink flour corn
the outside group includes
  • bulbing fennel
  • carrots
and i think that will be it for the season (ha ha so she says). really though i do think that may be it. we've got pretty much all of our veggie bases covered. the last item we'll be planting is sweet potatoes. i'll begin the sprouting process for those sweet babies in the next week or so.

in regards to planting i think i'll be clustering the corn, melons and beans together. i figure it worked for the native american indians in the hot hot plains of arizona, why not here? well maybe because they had dry rather than humid conditions but what the heck we'll give it a try just the same. i've got three types of climbing beans, two types of corn and four types of melon. i've not had great luck here with corn in the past. i'm going to try this year with some of the rich chickenpoo fed compost to see if that makes a difference.

i'm going to mix the amaranth with various flowers hoping to trick the flea beetles into thinking there's nothing of interest to eat in the area. we'll see how well that goes. i'd like to trellis a few of the cucumber plants with my climbing roses. i figure the established roses will serve as a strong initial support system. it could be a bad idea, i have to check into disease and such to make sure i'm not setting myself up for disaster.

i'm going to try the tomatoes in a bed deeply enriched with chickenpoo compost as well. we'll see if that gets them jet ready for a big harvest. i've got to get them out as early as possible considering the early heat onset we experienced last year. it got so hot so early that the poor darlings could not set, not even at night.

i'd love to find goods in order to build two superbig teepees for additional beans and vining plants. i'm thinking the 12' or 16' size poles. i've built them with smaller goods but the beans quickly overtake the size of the teepee and flop over themselves. i hope to find the goods locally because i think shipping costs alone could make it hard to justify the cost. this may be another drive around the area and pick up sticks along the side of the road gig. hey, it's never been beyond me up to this point...

i think the shape of things may be shifting this year. i'm thinking more and more it's time to change the layout of the current veggie garden along with the addition of several more beds. the plan reveals itself a bit more each day. i ponder then i let it go and allow my subconscious to work on it while i'm busy with other tasks. it will come, i trust that much.

anyway, i've got to prep for travel. another busy working weekend. how's your garden planning shaping up?

food driven dreams or just weird

crazy dreams last night, crazy, way out there

possums, baby possums, lots and lots and lots of baby possums, holes in the porch, and then another dream where my efforts to simply get myself to a bathing shower were thwarted by a whole slew of interesting and varied folk you might not run into everyday. weird man... folk wayyyyyyyy out of my daily goings on.

anyway i awoke wondering if the dreams were at all influenced by the foods i ate the night before which included only two items, sweet and sour cabbage and crimini mushrooms sauteed in butter and olive oil. yup real serious dinner all washed down with a single beer.

if it were not the food then i've got to say my imagination is far more powerful than i ever thought possible. and my inner self - big time weirdo, cool weird but weird.

excellent tattoos by the way. i've got to remember some of that. cheers!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

cabbages caggabes cabbages caggabes

i'm a big fan of cabbage. steam it, stew it, roll it and bake it, throw it in a soup, add some corned beef oh yeah now we are talking but my all time favorite sweet and sour braised red cabbage. i adore the tart smooth yummy goodness enough to pile it on a plate and eat only it for dinner. oohee don't want to sleep next to me but hey i'm single so i can indulge in the caggabes anytime i like. aha!

here's how i fix er' up -
  • chop the cabbage into thin slivery bite size pieces - i use one small cabbage
  • chop up a red onion into thin slivery bite size pieces - i use one medium red onion
  • coat a pan with olive oil and throw down a healthy dash of sea salt
  • chop up 4 or 5 cloves of garlic - i'm a garlic lover too - use less if you like
  • heat the pan up good and hot - medium high
  • toss everything in and cook until the onion is translucent and the cabbage slivers soft
  • turn down the heat to medium
  • add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar - you can use balsamic if you prefer
  • add 1/2 cup of honey - you can go with sugar here if you prefer
  • season as you like - i like juniper, anise and cinnamon
  • let this mix simmer over medium heat until almost all of the liquid has cooked down
  • turn off the heat and eat! or you can pack it up, store it in the fridge overnight to allow the flavors to mix even further before eating.
it's great hot or cold.
and it's pretty - red cabbage is pretty - at least i think so

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

drippings in a dry well

i feel i've been a bit slack with the blog as of late. quick short posts rather than thoughtful and/or detailed breakdowns of the steps forward on the day to day path to sustainability.

my recent schedule has had quite a bit to do with the spare pickings along side of an unknown dry spell in my creative writing department. i guess i could call this a dry blogging spell. it goes a little something like this. sit, stare at the screen, sit longer, type the start of something not worth typing, delete it, repeat several times, sit some more, hem and haw, stare at the screen ending in the final closing of the laptop in order to save oneself the pain of further failure.

i can't do it captain! dry dry dry

the odd thing is that life here around the homestead has been anything but dry. busy, crazy busy balancing precariously my full-time university teaching, neighborly entertainment, raising of chickens, wabbits and lovable kittieboys, prepping the gardens, planting new fruit trees, splitting and moving about perennials, traveling in and out of town in the pursuit of fancypants graduate candidates and eaking out a bit of sleep on the edges.

it's a bit tiring, a bit hectic and might drive another more sane person crazy but so far we're still standing. days have been starting just after 5am and going until late late late. my eyes are often bloodshot by evening but still my spirits remain high. i don't regret any of it. it's just a lot plain and simple. so i guess there will be those days and i expect more when the brain does not meet the blog. the brain decides to be "off for a while" blog or no blog. dry...

i should catch up some though because there have been steps forward. here's the quick breakdown.
  1. threw a great party for friends - seems like months have passed since then but sadly it's only been a week or so. it was lovely. we ate fish taco's, drank beer, wine and non-alcoholic bevvys. we sat with the chickens, fed the chickens, fed wabbit wabbit, hung out with the kittyboys, generally relaxed in the company of one another. fond memories.
  2. i've been steadily hoarding bags of leaves - for chicken bedding, for composting, for gardening, for who knows what will come up.
  3. put in a new bed of asparagus and artichokes - one can never have enough of either
  4. planted one dwarf goldkist apricot tree
  5. planted one dwarf pineapple pear tree
  6. planted one semi-dwarf almond tree
  7. planted one male and one female red kiwi vine
  8. split the rosemary bush again - now there are four lovely bushes planted around the yard
  9. fill the meatie feeders, fill the meatie waterers, clean the meatie living space and... repeat
  10. walk about the yard to watch the winter pea green manure grow and grow and grow - see above photo
  11. repair clothing - i've pulled out the thread and needles and put my hand at thrifty fixes. so far i've mended sweaters, pants and a favored pair of socks.
  12. started some knitting - the knitting now waits for time - too bad i'm not a pro at knitting in my sleep as i'm already in love with the wooly sweater in the works. it would be nice to finish before the steamy weather arrives.
  13. have started taking meatie chicken orders - the demand grows
  14. have planned for the next round of meaties - i'm looking at an early march start date
  15. good news, good news - the tulsi hybrid solar oven has arrived - have not had a chance to rev it up yet but will in a week or so. i'm hoping the solar oven will become the primary cook stove for 2oo9 and beyond. i'll have to learn how to use it first. it appears to be pretty straight forward but i'm sure i'll catch the hang of it after a few failures.

that's pretty good i'd say. right now everyone is tucked in tight. it's cold out there and the wind is blowing hard. i'm tempting to fare the cold weather in order to add an extra layer of plastic around the chickenchica's coop. the expected freezing rain is on the way. the car in in the garage for the night - fingers crossed the roads will be free of slicky surfaces in the morning. all forecasts say otherwise but you never know. i'm focusing on the power of positive thinking.

had a bit of a funny experience tonight with an outdoorsy meatie. she was determined to spend a bit more time out of doors. generally i am required to shoo a few nature loving meaties in through the chicken door at night before i can close shop but once shoo'd in they stay in. tonight i had adventures with a young lady determined to view the stars a bit longer. i'd shoo her in and then moosh myself around the building, move inside and try to untie the door's support before she would head back out. no luck - we went back and forth three times.

i then tried a new tactic. i let the door down half way and tied it off. i then went out and shoo'd the girl toward the door then mooshed her in while lifting the door wide enough with my hand. aha! this is a smart girl. by the time i got around to untie the door and shut it completely she was out again! ughh!

next tactic. i released the door completely, went back out, mooshed her toward the door, lifted it up and mooshed her through for the last time. by the time i got back in to see the matter finished i notice she was pecking at the door. poor thing i thought but better inside where it's warm and predator free than out in the chill all alone poised as dinner for hungry raccoon. soon she settled in with her siblings. i turned heat lamps on and daylights off before closing up. even chickens enjoy the stars.

i think it's time i go make a chickenchica draft check
got a chilly night?
stop chilling drafts - that's the key

that's all for now folks
be warm

readying up for chilly weather

the texas sleets are coming! this is the toughest stuff that we get. freezing rains and temps in the low twenties with high winds are expected. not only are these conditions challenging for plants but they are also challenging for driving out on the roads.

it's the freezing rains that have in the past turned my forty-five minute ride to work into an easy three hour very slow moving and often terrifying trip. terrifying because there are some folk out there who believe that driving an suv means that they are free from the dangers of the road. they drive in an unsafe manner and place everyone else on the defensive.

please people slow the heck down! one slip and we could all be in trouble.

ok so much for my driving rant, back to the garden. in light of the forecast i pulled out the heavy plastic sheeting, the burlap and the empty woven plastic feed bags all of which help to protect and cover delicate edibles. most everything that might get touched is now covered. the citrus and the veggie gardens. opera kitty helped me along the way. he gave notes and double checked my tucking of items in by climbing over them and sometimes lying on top of them until he was sure the covers were fully secure.

i threw down four more large garden size bags of leaves in the chicken run. this will give the kiddos a thick soft fluffy bed to settle into if they decide that they do wish to spend their time out of doors chilly or not. we've got plenty of leaves horded up just for such chickenyfarming needs.

the baby seedlings are inside, covered and doing quite well. the beans and corn are already sprouting and will soon require the tops to be removed in order to allow freedom for their growing height. my set up is pretty low tech but it does the job. the room they set in is windowed on two sides in order to supply plenty of natural light.

this will be the coolest chill we've had in a while. i think we're ready. it's nice to know that the meaties and the baby layers are now fully feathered out, the chickenchicas are cozy in their coop and that there is refuge for all the kitties of our universe.

i'm sure the cabbages, the cauliflower and the rest of the kohl crops are also looking forward to the nip. here we go.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

crazy time catch you soon

crazy time. in ny this weekend working in chicago next weekend working teaching in between. going bong bong bong bong..... bang the drum.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

the morning news

morning sunrises glow increasingly more golden. days inch and lengthen. chirping birds sweep low to sip from the bath. feisty twitching tails speak code sending signal.

flies test the bounds of the chickenycoop. disappear woop! gulp! whirrr of a sonar driven beak.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

back at school ahhhhhhhhh!

busy? is there a word that means more than busy?

hippychickenfarmer in the early morn
teacher teacher advisor mentor teacher through the day
hippychickenfarmer, kitty loving, rabbit scratching folk in the late eve

sleep a bit here and there
and do it all again

and the next two weekends?
out across the nation recruiting the next batch of brilliant designers of the universe

a walk in the sunlight, gulping breathes of fresh aire
great and joyful elements of the day

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

may the gods save his character and allow our truths to be told

people are pulling together

- oh happy day -
for me, today's inauguration of president obama proves truly inspirational.
sure there are rough roads ahead, sure the worst has yet to come but if we can get people working together toward a better america then i do believe we can we can we can make it through.

my wish
  • more truth
  • more transparency
  • bring jobs back home
  • better interior relations
  • improved international relations
  • reinvestment in goods made in the usa
  • more effort and concentration on our own home country's woes - hunger, poverty, health care, education, care for our elderly, and needy folk
  • re-teach folk to value our elders, our veterans, the folk who serve in our communities and each other
that's a pretty serious list and by far, not the whole but let's start where we start and see how far we can go. i don't know if you've noticed but there are a number of wishes on the list that we can start on our own. respect others, value others, help in our own communities, think differently about shaping our communities, supporting others to improve our own american experience. as has been said many times before, goodness begins at home. so begin!

Monday, January 19, 2009

2009 seed round up

here they are folks
- my seed picks for the 2009 spring/summer garden -

from baker creek heirloom seeds
  • tiger eye amaranth
  • golden giant amaranth
  • hopi pink flour corn
  • sikkim cucumber
  • poona kheera cucumber
  • christmas pole lima beans
  • the pritchard or scarlet topper tomato
from seeds of change
  • triple play sweet corn
  • arkansas traveler tomato
  • hales best jumbo muskmelon
  • crimson sweet watermelon
  • kentucky wonder pole bean
  • red velvet okra
  • perfection fennel
from victory heirloom seeds
  • edisto muskmelon
  • old time tennessee muskmelon
  • desert king watermelon
from renee's garden seeds
  • seeds for a butterfly garden collection
  • seeds for a hummingbird garden collection
all of the above are either soaking or newly planted into cozy little seed pots. time to get working on the new beds. before you know it, these wee babes will be ready to go into the ground.

- already in the ground -
  • salad greens - all sorts
  • radicchio
  • red mustard
  • sorrel
  • cabbage - red, green, chinese
  • broccoli
  • kohlrabi
  • cauliflower - now showing beautiful baby yellow heads
  • kale
  • chard (silverbeet)
  • cardoon
  • artichoke
  • beet
  • carrot
  • turnips
  • rutabaga
  • radish
  • green peppers (believe it or not, i'm wintering them over)
  • garlic
  • red onion
  • sweet white onion
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • borage
  • chives
  • edamame - soybean
  • strawberry
  • potato - red, russet and yellow
i think that's it.
there are the cover crops of rye grass, crimson clover and winter peas.
this is why i need the expansion - we are just going for it like never before.
victory garden baby - do it!

oh yeah, great breakfast this morning
raspberry buckwheat pancakes
yeah baby!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

fish tacos rock!

ok folks i'm sharing my fish tacos recipe. it was truly superfabulisticly yummy. so much so that my FIVE pounds of fish did not turn out to be enough. i was shocked! i thought for sure i would be left with heaps of fish of which i'd eat up no problem but not so. peeps kept going back going back going back for more.

guess i know one item i'll be serving next time around. i can see it now, bb-q chicken, fish tacos and beer! yeah yeah yeah

ok so here is what i did. i purchased five pounds of farm raised catfish. i rinsed all the fish in cool water, patted it dry and cut the fish up into small bite sized pieces. the cutting into bite sized pieces takes a while - be patient and maybe grab a chair for the job or spend more and buy already cut up fish. i then took all the little fish bits and placed them in a large bowl. i poured milk over the top of the fish and let it set for 48 hours in the fridge. the milk pulls out all the icky stuff and give the fish a milder flavor. after the 48 i pour out the milk, rinse the fish with water, drain the fish and set them back i the bowl. i beat six eggs (or less depending on how much fish you are dealing with) and pour the beaten eggs over the fish. i then place the bowl of egg soaking fish back in the fridge for another 12 hours. once the time has passed, i mix up my dry flour coating.

dry flour coating ala hippychick - don't ask for measurements, i eye everything. enough flour to coat my fish plus a dash of everything below to meet my flavor likings.
  • flour
  • sea salt
  • pepper (i like a lot of black pepper myself)
  • cayenne (a few dashes)
  • paprika (good for color and flavor)
  • rosemary
  • lavender (yup, you read that right)
  • cinnamon
  • cardamom
before dredging the fish in the flour mixture, i let the fish drain in a colander for a good two minutes in order to rid any extra egg liquid not sticking directly to the fish. then, once well drained, i dredge the fish in the flour mixture making sure all pieces get a good coating. today because of the large amount of fish i was dealing with, i split the flour into two bowls and dredged in two batches.

at this point you can bake or fry the fish. i baked the fish. i took out two large ceramic pans and coated the bottom of each pan with olive oil. not too much oil, just enough to keep the fish from sticking to the bottom. i split the fish between the two pans and placed them in the oven heated to 300˚f. bake until cooked through and tender - about 30 minutes. the time may vary depending on your stove.

once cooked take the fish out. place a few bites on a tortilla, add some sour creme, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, cheese, black beans, onion, sliced cabbage, whatever you like. then take a bite - ooooh mama tre' yummy.

sadly there were some folk who did not make it in time for fish tacos. they now know better for next time. the other sad thing is that i never got pictures of the fish taco set up - it went too fast. the most sad part is that there are no leftovers for lunch -- ahhhhhhhh but there is beer and guacamole leftover and that's quite nice. add a handful of taco chips, i'm good to go.

you can make fish tacos with any fish i would imagine - maybe not sardines or herring but then again that would depend upon your taste. i used the catfish because it was locally raised, organic and inside my budget line. the milk soak truly helps smooth out the flavor of a fish - give it a try.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

cleaning house without a sweat

normally i associate house cleaning with a good steady sweat - sweeping, bending down, lifting up, moving here, there, all about. well today it did not turn out that way. today was a clean a bit, cook a bit, clean a bit, care for the chickens a bit, cook a bit, clean a bit, move furniture around a bit and check in on the garden a bit kind of day. not a bit of it rushed or too crazy.

it's a good change for me. hope i take the lesson from the experience. plenty's been done and there is the evening yet to be enjoyed. even now i sit with a half full beer at my side. this is the way to live hippychick, take note.

i am happy to report that the first time ever homemade egg noodle pasta is a mad success! ooooh boy the noodles are good. i do believe that i will never buy dried pasta again. the flavor difference is huge and the texture much more of an experience and pleasing to the tongue. you need to try yourself, you'll not be sorry i promise.

i kept the process simple this round and stuck to a basic egg based pasta mix. figured since i knew what plain pasta should look and taste like it might be better to start simple first. the ingredients are few.
  • farm fresh eggs - room temperature
  • semolina flour
  • olive oil
  • salt - optional
  • water
the mix is as such 2 to 3 eggs depending on size to 1 1/2 cups of flour. 2 tablespoons of olive oil and of water. a dash or two of salt. mix it all together until it forms a firm dough - i started the mix in a food processor. i then took it out and gave it the old hand treatment for good measure. once you have a good dough, kneed it for 10 minutes then form it into a ball and mash it down until you have a disc like shape. then wrap it up in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and pop it in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes. you can leave it longer without a problem.

once rested pull the dough out of the fridge and out of the wrap and place it on a floured board. then roll it, roll it, roll it until you reach your desired thickness. you'll need a bit more flour to keep the dough from sticking to your rolling pin. once you reach your desired thickness, cut the pasta ( i used a pizza cutter and free-handed it) and lay it out to dry or if you just cannot wait, pop it in a pot of salted water at a rolling boil and cook for 3-4minutes then drain and eat - YUMMMMMMMMMMY! i tried a bit with homemade pesto - rockin' rockin' rockstar good. yihaaaa!

i don't have a fancypants pasta rolling machine but you can do that too if you like. i just kept rolling my pin until it proved a thickness that i found exciting. i would not think that there are any particular rules - just make it the way you like it. i don't have a fancypants pasta drying something either. i created my own gizmo out of an old mailing tube. i cut the ends off either side, ran a piece of string through, hung it from the ceiling and hung the pasta over the tube to dry. the tube could only hold so much pasta so i grabbed a towel out of the closet, set it on the table and layed the rest of the pasta on the towel. both seem to be doing the job just fine.

and aside from the pasta, the house is clean, swept, dusted, vacuumed, neatly arranged and ready for tomorrow's visitors. and when they go, i'll get to clean again - funny cycle. it will be worth it. truth is, i have no idea how many folk are stopping by. it does not matter one, five or twenty, it will be nice just the same.

there's still a few bits to do but then again, those bits don't have to be done. hey it's a house, people live here, not everything will be perfect yeah?

what i did not do today was plant seeds or even make my paper seed pots. i forgot to soak the seeds the night before and the other tasks seemed better suited for the day so i let the idea pass without worry. i'll get to it first thing in the morning. the seeds are soaking now. i'll be planting watermelon, muskmelon, string beans, tomatoes and corn. nothing outrageous, just enough to get started.

anyway, it's been a good day. the sun is now setting and the air is not too cool. the lights of night are clicking on and i may sit with another beer. enough for today enough.

wishing you a happy week end.

bye bye andrew

awe ffff...
fleeting wisp

Friday, January 16, 2009

ahhh what the heck!

i was planning on throwing a small gathering this sunday and just like myself, i began to feel bad that others were not invited soooooooooo, i just now sent out word to the universe that the hippychick homestead casual sunday dinner is now an open to all open house.

why the heck not eih? i figured what the heck, let's have fun, open up the community and mix the folk on the invite list up.

who knows how many folk will actually stop by the definitely not in austintown a bit way out of the way hippychick house? i sure don't but i'll be ready just the same. and if not completely ready, i'll wing it. i'll just follow my old standby. add a little beer, add a little wine and things will begin to flow all on their own.

i have placed a time window on the gathering in order to get folks home at decent hour in order to enjoy a good nights sleep. it also gives me time to settle the creatures in for their good night's sleep as well as my own.

this means that tomorrow - saturday is clean up day top to bottom. i'll start inside and then work my way outside. and once the clean up is complete, i'll move on to cooking. i'll be making fresh egg noodle pasta for the first time - that will be fun. other bits on the menu may include -
  • fish tacos, bean tacos, bean and egg tacos on whole wheat tortillas
  • locally made taco chips w/guacamole and salsa
  • first time ever made egg noodles with homegrown homemade pesto and garlic butter
  • a quinoa sauerkraut slow cooked chicken in tomato something or other - no name for this one but it's good good good
  • eggy quiche thanks to the chickenchica's out back
  • superduper now soaking use the rest of last year's homegrown dried bean soup
  • fresh baked bread
  • fresh picked salad and home mixed dressing
  • pickled beans, pickled okra, pickled cukes, pickled peppers, pickles pickles pickles
that's a pretty good mix employing all kinds of goods grown and/or made fresh. we'll see. now we cross our fingers and hope for fine weather.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

garden extensions for 2009

give me a 1/2 day and i'll get a job done. today the job was the extension of the veggie garden along the east side fence. it was a fairly simple job, i put in two extensions 9' x 30". i put in a third bed 8' x 30" also in the east garden but on the west side of the garden. i built the three beds up in layers and watered them well before setting in the plants. i used materials i had on hand and layered them in the following order.
  • old paper feed bags
  • 1" thickness of old hay to provide an airy base
  • 6" thickness of compost - some chunky and some in it's state of perfection
  • 1/4 " thickness of chopped alfalfa - good for feeding the plants
  • 4" hummus mixed with fully composted manure
what's with the old paper feed bags?
the bags will perform a number of tasks.
  • provide a weed barrier that may last out the year
  • provide a food source for wormies below
  • slowly compost themselves into the soil providing a carbon source.
the layered goods will provide
  • the roots of the plants with a healthy airy grow long roots environment
  • slow release and immediate release of naturally derived fertilizer for the growing plants in the needs long-term and the short-term
  • proper drainage
  • a weed free - no competition for space growing environment
  • worms with an excellent underground universe and food supplies - better for the making of valuable castings which in turn feed the plants
  • a slow breakdown and mixing of goods sure to create a moisture holding soil structure
so what went into the new beds? more cold weather crops. we've got a short cold weather season here so i'm doing my best to take full advantage of it.
  • green cabbage
  • pak choi cabbage
  • red cabbage
  • savoy cabbage
  • broccoli
  • leeks
  • texas super sweet onions - short day
this puts us (fingers crossed) over the top with healthy vitamin packed greenie goodness. we've already got savoy cabbage, red cabbage, cauliflower, cardoon, swiss chard (silverbeet) and kohl rabi planted. i've also got three beds of salad greens planted several weeks apart for continual harvest. in regards to onions we now have the super sweet whites to compliment the short day reds planted out back. the currently planted turnips, beets and rutabaga are growing verrrry slooooowly. it could be the weather or it could be just moments before they take off.

there should be enough for all us hippychick universe creatures, chickens, wabbits and peeps alike. i do hope to have greens and kole crops coming out of my ears in the not too distant future. it would be nice. oh the many slaws we could share. i'm a huge fan on freshly chopped cabbage, carrots and apples atop a piece of grilled fish.

and if the harvest takes off like i hope that it will, i'll be in greens for while which means healthy healthy (possibly a bit gassy ha ha watch out!) days ahead. i find it hard to justify eating outside of the garden if goods in the garden are ready and waiting. it's part of the dream never to have to eat veggies from anywhere but from the garden or a friends garden or from a local farmers garden but from my own garden, that's the tops.

one of the big goals this year is to enact a healthy crop rotation cycle. the planning process has been tricky. in the past, i've planted items where i had room. i kept the idea of rotation in mind but remained flexible, possibly too flexible. some of the factors might have included a case in which a crop did not mature as quickly as planned or produced longer than expected or in the case of a crop failure. i am even now still working out how to start. i must take into consideration currently planted goods, their planted location and maturation date. i may further increase the size of the garden in order to start a clean rotation.

at the moment there is not an inch for the summer crops - tomatoes, melons, corn, amaranth, okra, cucumber, sweet potato, etc. we'll be working on that in the very near future. i walked about and pondered the how and where of the summer crop. i've got some ideas, some plans, but they have not yet settled with me.

do i inter plant with my flowers and bushes or do i separate them out into their own controlled universe? would they benefit and trick the bad buggies if i intermixed them? would the bed appreciate the mix? should i create smaller growing areas beneath the fruit trees? where shall i place the bee hives this year? (off topic - back to the veggies) does the soil around the bushes and flowers provide the nutrients the veggies might need?


should i build a new bedding area? it could mean less mowing and a more productive living space... i could put in smaller beds that create interesting pathways and movement in the yard - that could be fun - maybe with a small tree, large climbing bean teepee (for the wee nephew niece who is on the way (yippeeeeee) or a small creature water resource in the center? then there is the watering and winter protection that will need to be pondered. i'm still working it out. the solution will come or at least the "let's try this plan this year" plan will come soon enough.

maybe something like this?

i've got to got to got to get my big ole' water tank/cistern hooked up and running - asap! i need a 1/2 hour of help from good men and good woman with strong arms and a determined will to lift the tank up on it's support. hiyaaaaaa and lift!

the pondering of the site may go on and the searching out of strong armed folk may be in process but this weekend is seedling starting time! i've got my old newspapers of which i'll roll some pots with. i've got my seeds. i've got my soil mix and i've got my seaweed solution. it will be fun. i will begin soaking a few packs of seeds tomorrow in a weak seaweed solution to give them a good healthy start. the planting will take place this saturday. tune in!

chilly morning banter

woke up this morning to iced over chicken waterers. gave them a good tap tap with a stick thinking it might just be the tops frosted over - no way no way, they were pretty darn hard so i took them out of the coop, pried them apart and filled up with warmer drinkies for the thirsty chickenchicas.

ooooh dog it was chilly early this morning - down in the twenties - that's chilly around these parts. two nights in a row the temps dropping down low but i cannot complain a whip considering most other folk are trying their best to see over the mounds and mounds of snow they are continually challenged to dig themselves out of.

even opera kitty chose to stay indoors for the night and to head out later that even myself. stupid boy kitty he's not. termite took a whiff of the cool air on the porch, turned himself around and headed directly back to the down blanket he had just left. guess it's just not worth the fuss for he either.

i popped on a sweater, some wool socks and headed out for the morning duties. brisk, white breath led my way. frost crusted the grass, a sight i had not seen for many a day. the blades glistened pink, the sun not quite up. peeking under the heavy plastic covered veggie beds, i spied survivors perky and bright. the chickenchicas were out and about and greeted me with their enthusiastic smiles. a caroooo-ing sounded from inside the meatie palace. a young man making efforts to wake the day. another peek and i found the meaties mostly settled down and the three not so baby layers perched above. even with the chill in the air, the meaties traveled out the door to enjoy the freshness of the day. i traveled back in, kitties still not interested in heading out, and made my first mornings coffee. i check on the bean soup slow cooking all night and packed up the bread loafs now cooled.

i'm glad for the lengthening days. thought i had to go into austintown today but in fact that's not until tomorrow - hoooraaaaay. i started the day bottling up the homemade clothes washing soap - a good six to eight bottles worth - another good reason to save large plastic jugs and gallon sized containers. i made a double batch of laundry soap this round - planning ahead for extra busy days is never bad.

hmm and unexpected day at home - time to change back into work-ish clothes. i think the veggie garden expansion may be upon us. we've sure got enough compost and crunchy leaves to get us started. cool!

i'll be back later today to report the seed purchase for the spring garden. superduper!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

supercat and the necessary nap

mad aching head this morning owie ow ow ow.

my eyes are heavy, weighted by an invisible force pushing down and pushing in. owoooieeee. head is pulsing, bulgwup bulgwup bulgwup. were did this come from? maybe the transfer from arizona dry dry to texas whatever might be part of the shift. or it's another one of those work and work and work to slow down body takes a grip and takes over moments. oh sad, pretty light too bright to observe, achh achh, even my stomach threatens to take a turn. where are the pain meds this cannot stop my day.

eggs are collected, creatures are fed and watered. ooopff not feeling great. i have the rare opportunity to stay home today. i think it is time to take a nap. time to treat the body right for a change, give it a short rest. i'll have the warm and purring company of mr. supercat.

hmm, maybe the gods are granting supercat his favorite but often too busy for napping napping partner for the morning. sounds nicer than the gods punishing me with an aching head. yeah, we'll go with that. here i come supercat, make a bit of room. show me the way of the nap.

soon we will be up, feeling fresh and out and about once again.

note - the egg-o-matic-egg-counting-o-meter has been updated. the girls are reliably laying an egg a day sweeties that they are. and later today i'll post photos of the meaties. they are gigantic! the best part, there are a few roo roos beginning to try out their voices. it's so darn cute i cannot stand it. of course i am there cheering the fellows on. it would be nice to have a full time roo roo around. not right now hippychick, not right now.

to the nap, supercat is waiting
ok pounding head, off with you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

packing out last year's harvest

good to be heading home this fine morning. i would have been on a flight right this moment but it's been canceled and the lot of us have been booked on the next outgoing trip. it's fine with me. i would have enjoyed the extra few minutes of sleep but what can you do?

i've got my iced coffee sitting at my side and free wireless service so i'm in good shape. note to travelers out there - the usairways b terminal at tucson international airport offers free wireless service. good deal. actually i am of the belief that all airports should offer free wireless service. hey if you cannot fly, you can work or browse or catch up with family and friends.

i'm curious to see how the meaties are doing. are they twice their size? are they still in pin feathers or are their backsides now feathered out? is wee lame chick still doing well? are they venturing outside more? how are the supply levels doing? (feed, bedding, etc.) is everybody healthy and feeling perky?

truth be told, i would not be surprised if i'm not transporting chickenpoo to the compost piles later this afternoon. so it goes, you raise them, you clean up after them. aha, i wonder how those compost piles are doing? i bet they've composted down at least 1/4 of their size. they sure were kicking and steaming when i left. boy if i do things right, we could have some killer tomatoes this season.

the chickenchicas have been dealing with some chilly (chilly for bastroptown) nights the past few days. i'll be treating their combs tonight to ward off frost damage. they've probably been just fine, spoiled by my more than fantastic neighbors. i'm looking forward to giving each of the ladies a good scratch and a cuddle and sharing some coop coop chatter while we catch up on the week's doings. bunny bunny might have a few updates to share. i'll have to harvest some garden greens for everyone to share.

today will be a good day to get some bread started, wash up clothes, count eggs and plan and prep for the week's packed dinners. packed dinners are going the norm this semester - better for health, better for the pocketbook and better for happiness. if there is one thing i miss when i travel, it's home grown, home cooked meals. there is just nothing like it. it feels good to be eating the food you grow and/or raise. you know where the food has come from, what it's been fed, you know it's fresh, fresh, fresh and it tastes darn good! how can you beat that?

here's what i'm thinking for this coming week.
  • boil a few eggs for salad toppings, munching and sandwich mix ins
  • pull out a few containers of homemade frozen soups from the freezer (onion, veggie, chicken and/or chili)
  • bake up a quiche - with home made pie crust this round
  • harvest greens, radish and herbal bits from the garden for yummy salads
  • mix up a batch of honey vinegar salad dressing
  • bake up a batch of crusty bread rolls
  • mix up a batch of yogurt and musli
  • cook up a batch of my throw all the grains in porridge
  • pull out a jar of crunchy canned pickles
  • last but not least, brew up a good strong pot of coffee for my morning iced
the above looks good, looks good for me, will not require a great amount of prep time and requires little to no supplemental visits to the grocery. right now, i'm looking at shopping for olive oil in bulk, butter for the pastry and several packages of cheese (feta, goat and fresh mozzarella - though i should be making my own).

i've got lots of home cooked goodies packed in the freezer for future picking which will keep the eating healthy, interesting and joyful. it is time to eat up the existing goodies cooked, canned and stored from last year's harvest in order to make room for this coming year's harvest. exciting, exciting!

time to travel now folks.
cheers then, until my return...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

cool digs in tucson

here are some links to cool digs around the tucson area - my current workin-designin-location.
click on the images for a fun look inside of each.

the epic cafe

and a very cool look into tucson, check out this little ditty
by kynn bartlett - click on the below photo for entry.

the man brad lancaster of rainwater harvesting resides here

and finally the desert harvesters. a way cool group of folk doing right by the community.
you have to check these folk out.
click on the below photo to find out more.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

i turn lights on and off

back to work - designing away today - start early - finish late - hoping all goes well

Monday, January 5, 2009

early morning walk about

woke up early, not too early, just after sunrise, early enough for a day driven by no particular agenda. out of town for a bit - worked a long day yesterday - expected to work part of today, learning later - nope no work today. hmm? what to do?

got no car - got two good feet - got time - could do with some exercise - could do with some fresh air - could do with some healthy no cooking required fill you up organic groceries - searched out the local food co-op - drew myself a map - got cleaned up - got dressed - out the door - sun shining - a bit chilly - the feel good wake you up kind of chilly - better for walking kind of chilly - keeps you moving kind of chilly - moving but not too fast - just fast enough to produce some heat

i found the co-op. nice little place. they had everything on my little brain list and more. i had fun looking around. i kept in mind that my backpack only holds so much and my time here is not so long. i walked out happy. good food in the bag, beautiful day and time to wander at will. i had no idea which way to go but my body had an inkling so i just went with it.

i stopped at a locally owned coffee shop for a cup. the place was packed. i found a chair at a table enjoying my cup when two fellows sat down near by and we got to talking out of the blue. great conversation, down to earth folk, conversation worth having - no small awkward chatter - real talk and funny enough about topics relative to my brain set - sustainable living techniques, the future of automobiles in america (electric, alcohol, oil, gasoline, etc), nuclear power, solar power, uranium, concrete, natural, sustainable and new technological building materials, plumbing, electrical wiring, new government, the reality of today's economy and how to work positively within it rather than feeling bad and upset about it and more. i was there a good two hours talking to these fellow. how did this happen? where did these guys come from? who set this up? how did i get this lucky? we parted ways and the fellows offered up a form of contact. i felt no worry in taking it. this was good conversation - i'd share a cup of coffee with these fellows again, no problem. no one was playing anyone here - it was just what is was - good conversation. i packed up and got back to my wandering.

upon the wandering path, great discoveries and observations were made.
  • a local coffee shop as mentioned above
  • native seeds - the distribution store of a great seed saving organization
  • several artist collectives - sculpture, pottery, found object art - not for tourists studios - off the beaten path studios - cool
  • excellent examples of desert gardening
  • excellent examples of rain collecting systems
  • interesting examples of fencing made from mixed materials - steel, wood, stone, etc.
  • old historic church and building structures
  • fantastic structures made from local resources - stone, wood, clay, etc.
  • pockets of a city not intended for tourism
it was a good walk about. now i'm back at the place from where i started. the sun is golden yellow, the sky is mostly clear, scattered strings of clouds float above. hours have passed and the groceries collected unpacked and put away.
  • muesli - bob's red mill country style - really good stuff
  • banana chips - way too yummy
  • bananas
  • finncrisp caraway crackers
  • a small bit of havarti cheese
  • kefir milk - great with muesli and fruit
  • plain yogurt - big container
  • several carrots
  • several apples
  • applesauce - i mix it into my yogurt - nummy nummy
  • small bag of dry corn chowder soup - add hot h2o tada hot soup
not much but plenty to get by on. the room here provides coffee and tea while water is always easily had. i know where the killer coffee shop is so all seems to be well.

i may head out a bit later and i hope opportunity presents itself for another walk about before i go. for me, a truly satisfying way to spend a day.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

a foraging we go

the meaties pooooooooop a lot! a lot, a lot, alot which means that their bedding gets soiled quickly which means that their living quarters needs to be cleaned daily which means you go through bedding like there is no tomorrow. well the fact is that there is a tomorrow and that bedding is not cheap so the costs of raising the meaties could run steep in a very short period of time.

the good news is - there are options and if you plan ahead or prove crafty you can find bedding materials for free.

now is the time that many cities are grinding up christmas trees and offering out the wood mulch for free for those with the means to transport it home. my little town does not perform such a service yet. i've called and asked and they said it's in the works but not up and running yet. hmmpf? this year, next year? i guess they do grind them up but the mulch is not yet distributed. ok, at least the trees do not go to waste. good.

so no grounded holiday tree for me, what then? well i go foraging for bags of leaves. i've been pretty lucky - knock on wood - in the past. just yesterday i drove by a whole pile of leaf bags. i'll be heading up that way this morning to stuff the car full them. i usually grab bags of leaves for composting matter and i guess this is the same plan but with a hyper dose of nitrogen in the mix. there is a middle step now which is the few weeks stay in the meatie coop.

my number one reason i love foraging for bags of leaves is that the contents are 1oo% natural. bags of leaves often turn out to be a mix of leaves, pine needles, grass, tree trimmings and bits of dirt - a combination that really kick starts the composting process. another good thing about bags of leaves is that the chickens really love rooting around in them which helps me because they till in their poop keeping the place cleaner for a fraction of a second longer.

the thing you have to watch out for in bags of leaves is trash. make sure that you kick the stuff around a bit and pull out any bits and pieces you don't want the chickens chewing on. paper, cigarette boxes, bottle caps, screws, nails, wrappers, chipped paint, etc. if you watch out for the danger bits then you're good.

there's one more thing to watch out for. you'll want to start paying attention to who sprays their yard with chemicals and who does not. i've been watching how folks take care of their yards for a few years now. i notice on my morning and/or afternoon runs. it's a great cover for scoping out yard care - sound crazy? nope. i know the bags of leaves i would not touch with a ten foot pole from those that i can trust. knowing what's natural and what's not means a lot when you are making efforts to raise safe and healthy food sources.

sometimes the leaves i find a big and flat and clumpy. those are the leaves that i throw out on the ground and over a few times to break them up before using them for bedding. the smaller bits work better, absorb more and pack down less which are all positive characteristics for good bedding.

it's not the right time of year for bags of grass clippings but they work too. fresh grass clippings are sometimes wet and will clump so open up those bags and allow them to dry out a bit before spreading them around. once they are dried up a bit they will work well and prove a very soft bedding for the creatures.

i'm sure there are other good bits that people find. i'd be interested to hear about them. every day is a lesson, so throw out your best tips and let's see what we come up with.

Friday, January 2, 2009

the road ahead

i pondered the idea of a resolution for 2oo9. i pondered and decided the idea of resolution is not for me. for some resolutions work. for others, resolutions last a day or a week or a scant month before they slowly wane and disappear or carry over to the following year.

me, i'm just going to try to increase my sustainable existence and focus my efforts on actions that might improve the hippychick universe. the idea is to stay the course and continue along the path towards sustainable happiness. boring? no way. i've got depths of learning still ahead and application of idea that could keep me busy for many years rather than just this one.

looking back, it's amazing to think that i've been in this home for nearly four years. time has gone by quickly. the payoff for early efforts are beginning to make face and quickly ramp up. the putting up of foods is invaluable. continued efforts to bake daily bread, work with varied grains, seeds and whole foods keep things interesting. with some tasks i succeed and others not so much but the trying and the trying again, the recording of one's approach towards a task and the post pondering is what truly matters. over time, you figure bits out.

the gardening is always an experiment. the planting of flowers and herbs toward the attraction of beneficial bugs i think is my best learned lesson this past year - where to plant them and around who. the brewing of compost tea is another great skill. i know enough to never take weather patterns, seedling dates, expected growth rates and/or pest/virus resistance for granted. i know enough to plan for extremes.

several of the benefits include-
the first planted fruit trees now bear, my roving compost system has set the ground for numerous fertile planting areas and the early planted perennials are thriving now that i have finally figured out where in the yard they might do best.

more recent efforts are also paying off. the raising of the laying chickens provide a perfect protein with endless uses. this first batch of meat chickens further activates my efforts toward taking responsibility for most everything i eat. i've had to learn quickly about chicken housing, run space and how to care for the babies in the hot hot to the cold cold to the hot wet to the cold wet. i'm learning about how to care for those chickens picking on one another - those picking may be in need of nutrients and those picked at a care of a different sort. and then there are the efforts to deter the baddy bad bad guy predators. you do your best there and keep working at it when you see a possible weakness in your system.

slowly but surely i collect the materials and further knowledges that help me to keep plants, animals and myself happy in our often tough hot weather conditions.

it may not sound like much but folks, for me, it is great.

so what's next? well this coming year is indeed the year of the bee. i'll pick up my first two colonies in april. i've got their hives here and ready to go. i don't feel like i know nearly enough at the current moment but i will by april. planning planning.

i'll improve my rainwater collection system this year, fix some poorly installed gutters and find a way to better use rain run off in the gardens around the place.

i add new fruit trees each year. i'll be adding a pineapple pear tree and kiwi vines later this month. i'm sure i'll plant more flowers that support local wildlife. i may even create a small water garden in a galvanized tub in effort to support more froggies and a small family of mosquito larva eating koi fishies.

i keep saying i'm going to re-organize the garden and i think this spring is the time to do it. i've got the boards for the new beds. it's a matter of growing out what's there and holding off planting anything new. if you are a gardener you understand the challenge here. asking a gardener not to plant... yeah, you try it.

there is the butchering of the meaties. i'm going to do it. enough said there. i'm still working on prepping myself for theses days ahead.

and then there is money. money money money uuuughhhh! best to admit that i don't think i'm great with money - i get by - i pay my bills on time but i feel i could be better. i have debt that i should not and it's time to rake that in. debt sucks plain and simple and it's time to get rid of it. ah the stress it would relieve.

bigger picture though, i hope to better employ my long term planning skills in the hippychick finance universe. think longer term - think emergency fund - live within means - incur no additional debt - set aside cash on hand and keep to that amount rain or shine. i'll be making some changes as to how i pay out my bills, what type of services i subscribe too and of course, how i shape my social life (don't laugh brother - i'm working on it) and how i plan for the unexpected (car repairs, house repairs, etc.).

lastly, i think i'll be helping a good number of folks in my community with the planning of their own veggie gardens and the raising of their own chickenchicas. folks are not just talking these days. i've seen them clearing out grass patches and collecting rocks and/or limbs of trees to mark out the space. they are borrowing seed catalogs and reading up on the local weather patterns. they are in action. it's cool.

that's the plan as it stands for efforts in 2oo9 not to say they will not benefit 2o1o, 2o11, 2o12 and possibly further on. just keep swimming i say and we'll see how it goes.