Year One Garden Wrap Up – No Fodder in the Shock

There’s no frost on the punkins but they are ripe earlier than I expected.  I think we’ll have about twenty of them when all’s said & done.  If they keep, maybe I’ll put them out on a table in front of the house and try to sell ‘em for a few bucks each.

NO MORE SQUASH!

NO MORE SQUASH!

Yesterday I had the kids pull out the yellow squash vines because they were beginning to get some mildew and I didn’t want it spreading to the pumpkins.  Plus, I am DONE with yellow squash.  We have enough in the freezer to be still having ratatouille in January.

I want to say the garden was a failure this year but really, if I’m being objective, it was a moderate success.  Considering we broke new sod and fought the grass all the way, considering the late, wet spring, coolish summer, and my own craziness at the end of last school year I’d say we did OK.  The lettuces were excellent and lasted a long time, the peas were pretty good, the beans so-so, the squash abundant and the pumpkins took over.  The watermelons didn’t do much – they’re still out there growing but I don’t know if they’ll get big enough or ripen.  Oh, and I think I still have some onions underneath the pumpkin vines.

When we began this venture I said I’d like to be growing most of our own food within five years.  This was year one.  I think it’s going to be a steep learning curve, but we’re climbing.  So far I’ve learned that

  • starting a large garden on newly broken sod is a big, difficult job, but not impossible
  • ideally, new ground should be prepared the fall before planting
  • composted manure really makes a difference
  • try to find a source of garden amendments that doesn’t come in expensive little plastic bags
  • being ambitious at planting time is a good thing because not everything will grow well
  • a few minutes in the garden everyday is better than hours once a week
  • putting a couple of camp chairs in a shady spot near the garden will encourage me to spend time there
  • pumpkin vines spread
  • place giant pumpkins in a good position when they are small so they don’t get a flat spot
  • you only need one yellow squash plant
  • mulch early
  • hoe often
  • weedblock between rows works well

 

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History Comparisons

A friend recently asked me why I hadn’t been blogging.  “I have nothing to say,” I said.  She seemed unconvinced.  So, let me rephrase, I have nothing to say that would interest anyone but me.  I am not well-informed or well-read or practical.  I am an expert on nothing and I’m not particularly warm and fuzzy.  I’m pretty average.  I’m OK with that.  I’m happy with it.  So sometimes it just seems like I need to stay quiet for awhile instead of adding to the cacophony of all the other average people trying to be heard.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think about things.

For example, I’ve been wondering about Russia lately.  Y’ see, preceding the invasion of England by Duke William of Normandy, King Harold was advised by his brother to burn everything before the Normans could get to it.  Harold, feeling himself to be a protector of the English rather than a destroyer, declined to do it.  He was defeated at the Battle of Hastings.

In contrast, almost seven hundred fifty years later, the Russians burned everything in advance of Napoleon’s invasion.  Napoleon suffered more than the plunder in burning, empty Moscow was worth and he gained nothing politically by this campaign – the Czar wouldn’t even correspond with him, much less cease his breaking of the blockade.  And the loss of French lives from battle, cold and starvation made Napoleon deeply unpopular with his own people.  Is this a Russian mindset even today?  Are they OK with destroying themselves as long as their enemies lose too?

And so.  THIS IS WHY I HAVEN’T BEEN BLOGGING. 

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Filed under babbling, Duke William, england, france, history, King Harold, Napoleon, russia

Summer Drawing Club week #2

 

Simcha Fisher is hosting a Summer Drawing Club – check out the other participants!

Please excuse the poor picture quality.  I update my blog late at night when the children are mostly sleeping so the lighting is not too good.

I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to fail at this exercise.  Two tries.  Hated it.

voz or foz

voz or foz

 

Copying Picasso’s Stravinsky upside down.  Terrible at it.  Three tries and still couldn’t finish.

new appreciation for modern art

new appreciation for modern art

 

Copying Spiderman upside down.  All those lines!  Ack!!  Two tries.  Gave up.

stupid spidey

stupid spidey

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Filed under drawing, drawing club, general

Pasta, Pope, Paint, Berries and Slaughter

Over dinner tonight my sister and I discussed whether or not we’d be comfortable serving puttanesca to the Pope.  She says she just wouldn’t feel right serving him anchovies.  His loss I say, it was delicious.

And while I lie here fiddling around on the computer she’s making homemade toaster pastries from this book.  Yay breakfast!  Who am I kidding?  Yay midnight snack!

So all this is to say that because my sister does the cooking fabulously well AND does dishes and because we are on a homeschool half schedule – which just means that we never did finish our math curricula and are using the summer to get them done – I have had time to do a few things around here.

This is how I know my kids are getting older:  after years of only being able to tolerate neutrals because anything else seemed too busy and I needed a place to rest my eyes, I am finally enjoying color again.  I was a little nervous so after I narrowed down my choices with the paint “chips” I bought two quarts and made big squarish swatches on the wall.  To my surprise the darker color won.  It just looked nicer with the white woodwork.  Kind of a big decision.  Anyone who says, “If you don’t like it, just paint over it” has never painted an old house with miles of window frames and door frames and baseboards to cut in around and probably has never had to deal with patching plaster walls.  I work slow, too – just a careful hour or two here and there.  The dining room has been off limits for about a week now and will be for probably a week longer.  My family has been very patient with me.

polka dots!

polka dots!

 

I’ve also been eating a lot of strawberries from our accidentally huge strawberry patch.  Last year I ordered 25 strawberry plants.  I thought.  But um, they were actually bare root strawberry plants packaged in lots of 10.  Wait.  Maybe I ordered 10 strawberry plants that turned out to be packaged in lots of 25.  Anyway, you get the idea.  I wound up with 25o strawberry plants.  I just shoved them all in the ground kind of haphazardly and hoped for the best.  This year we weeded, strawed, and netted.  And surprisingly – we got strawberries.  And let me tell you – a fresh, ripe strawberry warm and right out of your own dirt is something luxurious.  I sat in the sun in my camp chair with one leg thrown over the arm just savoring that first juicy jewel.  A queen should have it so good.

I just eat them fresh.

I just eat them fresh.

 

And finally, today was the first time I ever intentionally killed anything other than a bug.  My husband and I did two of our eight meat birds.  We followed these directions pretty closely.  I have to say the killing part was the easiest for me because I was able to practice it in my mind – I could see how it should be done.  The gutting not so much.  It was a little messy but not as bad as it could have been.  I did nick the crop and had to clean that up, and I did cut myself twice, but other than that no problems.  It took about an hour for the two of us to do two birds, which I guess is alright for first timers.  We’ll do two or four more tomorrow after church.

waiting for rigor mortis to pass

waiting for rigor mortis to pass

So that’s What I’m Doing on My Summer Vacation.  You?

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Filed under chickens, Cornish Cross, country living, garden, homeschool, house, husband, meat chickens, paint, puttanesca, recipes, school, strawberries

Summer Drawing Club week #1

Simcha is hosting a drawing class using Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  I was using this video while I waited for my book to be delivered but it turns out the exercises in the revised book are a little different from the exercises in the video and I had sort of zoomed ahead a bit.  Because my drawings won’t line up with everyone else’s I’ll just post the one that does and post the others as they come up in the book.

A pre-instruction self-portrait.  I am quite a bit older than this picture makes me look and not so much like a ballerina.  My boys say I’m prettier but that’s because I pay them in cookies.

IMG_5385

 You can join in or at least check out the other link ups!

 

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First Experience with Meat Chickens

Last year’s trial of six hens plus a donated rooster has turned out well; all the chickens are friendly, interesting, healthy, easy to care for, and they provide us with delicious eggs, so this year we decided to expand. We now have six more chicks who will hopefully grow up to be layers. They’re actually a dual-purpose bird, but we use them only for eggs. They are cute and docile and growing well.

Barred Plymouth Rock Chickens Eating a Tomato

Barred Plymouth Rock Chickens (dual-purpose chicken) Eating a Tomato

We also decided to try raising meat chickens.   These are the birds that have the body conformation that consumers have come to expect in the supermarket – big and with an abnormally large breast. I ordered them because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to choke down something that looked different. Silly me. If we expand again next year, I’m going to order straight run (mixed males and females) and see what dual-purpose chicken tastes like.

These meat chickens (Cornish Cross)  gain too much weight for their frames.  You can’t even breed them naturally – they don’t usually live long enough and apparently even when they do the mechanics just don’t come together correctly. They’re lazy little eating machines.

All birds are messy, but these meat birds are just the worst. They eat a lot, poop a lot, they are dirty and yucky and weirdly shaped and apparently very delicate. Two out of the ten I brought home have died in less than ten days. Knowing that the conditions I’m providing are clean and warm and spacious enough compared to battery farming, together with the fact that these birds are just so ugly to look at is off-putting enough that I don’t think I’ll be eating chicken for awhile.

In contrast to these frankenbirds, the chicks we incubated ourselves are thriving little chickens now. They are outside in the Ark of the Poultry, eating weeds and bugs and being useful. I’m pretty sure we lucked out and got one cockerel and three little pullets.

Big Rooster Putting Finishing Touches on the Ark

Big Rooster Putting Finishing Touches on the Ark

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Filed under Barred Plymouth Rock, chickens, chicks, Cornish Cross, country living, eggs, incubating eggs, meat chickens

More than one, fewer than four

That’s how many s’mores an individual should consume at a cookout.  And when it begins to thunder, quick grab the sweets and run to the house leaving everyone else to fetch and carry in the downpour.  They’ll forgive you as soon as they taste  oven-baked s’mores.

I’ve finished Book I of The Iliad and it has gotten more interesting, mostly because I’m reading it with one of my sisters who narrates everything she reads with a girl-from-the-hood interpretation and a New Yawk accent.  “So Hera is giving Zeus grief about doin’ favors for other women and he says, ‘Sit down woman ‘fore I crack ya.”  I tried to find someone to do an illustration of this version but I know surprisingly few people willing or able to draw Zeus in a wifebeater.

After the kids were in bed tonight, I volunteered to walk with my husband in the rain to lock up the chickens.  It was wild and black and electric and made me feel like I was about to jump off into certain freedom.  Lovely and fierce.

The creek had been beginning to take on its summer appearance – very tame, quite dry in spots.  After about two hours it  is now flooding its banks.  I think that’s a rise of four feet or more.   We’re going to have to do something about erosion.

Still fast and swollen this morning, but no longer overflowing its banks.

Still fast and swollen this morning, but no longer overflowing its banks.

 

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Filed under books, chickens, creek, family, Homer, Iliad, photos