Thursday, August 18, 2011

dry oh dry oh dry


hey folks - hippychick checking in -

don't know if you have heard, but here in texas, it's hot and dry. in fact, we remain in the midst of a historically hot triple digit and droughted texas summer. one that folks have not seen in a long while.

trees are dying and/or suffering.  cattle farmers and crop farmers are up against the wall in efforts to make ends meet.  everyone is making their best efforts to conserve and survive all the same.  the natural land is brown, dust flies when breezes pick up.  folks and creatures search high and low for that precious bit of shade and the sanctuary of a pool of water for cooling comfort.

while several areas in texas have seen rains along the coast and some up in the hill country regions,
we in bastroptown have not seen rain for a good three months, possibly longer.  

we had a few drops in the area but the clouds seem to avoid our specific parts.  the newly installed rainwater tanks are at the ready for their first filling.  fingers crossed that day is not too far from today.  the weather reports show no rain in sight but we hope just the same.  

the garden is holding on.  granted, there is not much growing this season. the okra, basil and lemon grass are holding on and blessing us with a bit of beautiful garden green.  there is mint in the back shaded yard area and several chards inching along in the front walk garden space.  the artichokes dried up.  the maters gave good harvest but have passed prime and the eggplant, though still alive are not fruiting due to the intense heat.  i must admit that i am looking forward to the autumnal season more than ever. 

i plan to plant late and lightly this fall/winter.  in fact, i may give the beds a good part of the fall/winter season to recoup and recover.  just this week, i cleaned out the old bedding from two of my large chicken coops.  rather than building compost piles, i decided to place the old bedding directly into my garden beds which means planting is definitely delayed.  

chicken compost is hot, hot, hot and will burn young plants quite easily which is why you want to compost it first before adding it to your beds.  i figured with so little growing in the east side beds, it might be good to give the beds a long and strong recovery period.  something i have not done for the six years that i have been gardening that particular area.  it will do the soil good but it needs time now which means no planting. in the mean time, i will continue to build up the beds with grass clippings and soil just as i would a proper compost pile.  and i will hope for rain as the moisture beefs up microbe action and the breaking down process.  either way, the beds will be in great form for a hearty spring planting and that's good.

i do have plans for the planting of the front walk area and i may even set up several container gardens as a supplement to the smaller beds.  i started seeds several weeks back and a good number are popping up.  it's up to me to keep them strong and healthy at this stage and that includes keeping the oh so sweet and dear kitty cats from enjoying a daily jaunt across the top of the seedling sets.   their dirty paw prints give them away every time the crafty buggers.  i guess we all enjoy a stroll in the garden inside or out.

so how fare the creatures?  
the chickenychicas are doing quite well.  i did lose two girls to heat after our first big spike in temperature.  since that time, i have set up small wading pools for the ladies.  they use them cool their chickenyfeets which in turn helps to cool their body.  early in the day when the water is still clean, they drink out of the pools and when the heat is as it is, they require a great deal of drinking water.  each coop is equipped with several large drinking fonts that i make sure to keep clean and full.  they've been drinking the fonts down to empty sometimes in a day, sometimes every other day.  

the egg laying has slowed considerably.  truth be told, i am surprised at the number of eggs they are laying.  i would surely be on egg vacation were i in their shoes.  the shells for the most part are still strong and thick but we do experience the occasional soft shell and/or brittle shell.  this is most evident upon egg collection.  the soft and or brittle shells will either crush under the weight of a setting chickenchica or collapse a bit in hand.  often times i will toss the soft eggs in the coop and allow the girls to clean it up.  the egg shells provide much needed calcium for the ladies as calcium builds both egg shells and feathers.  

bunbun is doing quite well.  he is gifted with several carrots each day and good bit of fresh alfalfa hay.  we've got him in a super shady spot which is important as rabbits do quite well in the cold but can struggle with heat.  he even has his own cooling fan - lucky fellow.  

there are many cats about the place.  they just keep coming and our universe and a sweet neighbor's universe proves a fine sanctuary for these lovely felines.  we feed them and love them and they keep the place free of mice and snakes. we see them most in the early morning in the later part of the day.  who knows where they going during the heat of the day but i imagine they all have their special shady spots for lying about. 

i have yet to harvest honey this season.  no rain, no nectar, no honey flow.  this has been a feeding season for my hives.  they seem to be holding on but population growth has been much slower this year than years passed. i hope the fall will bring rains, i would hate to see the bees suffer more than they already have. 

in other news - the fermenting continues - currently bubbling goods include
  • sourdough 
    • i have never been so pleased with home baked loaves as i am with my sourdough loaves.
  • sauerkraut
    • brother said it's stinky - and yes it is - but you don't have to open the tops of the fermenting jars if you don't want to - when closed the stink stays in.
  • milk kefir
    • revived daily and fermented at room temperature, one can enjoy a yogurt like ferment.  i have been using the finished kefir to make cheese, iced kefir (much the same as iced cream), smoothies and as a tart additive to sourdough bread.
  • water kefir
    • a light probiotic drink which i enjoy over ice with a dash of lemon juice - easier on the stomach than kombucha
  • kombucha
    • our old standby - a much stronger tang than that of the water kefir - more of a probiotic jolt too
new items in the pantry include
  • sweet onion jam
  • blueberry jam
  • strawberry jam
 we've still got plenty of  maters, bbq sauce and a varied smattering of pickled veggies to keep us going.  i did not can peaches this year as i did last year.  i'll be feeling that in the winter months i am sure.  i do have one last stash of frozen peaches to steal from.  i am going to have to make it last as long as possible.  

i caught myself considering baby chicks yesterday - danger will robinson - make her stop.  i am not sure if i will raise meaties this fall or not.  i go back and forth on this one.  should i raise my own or should i purchase from local farmers - i am still pondering - it is all based upon time.   it takes time to raise an excellent bird but when you raise it yourself, you know exactly what you are getting.  hmmmmmm...