Friday, July 30, 2010

It Figures

Well, I leave tomorrow. I harvested the first tomatoes today. And of course the raspberries are ready to explode, the other tomatoes are starting to turn red, the swiss chard is ready to pick, the beans are finally starting to produce, and the lettuce I planted in a pot on the deck will easily be ready to eat sometime in the next two weeks. I just hope my husband can keep up with all the watering and picking!

Last night was Bru rehearsal at Tim's. Our friends from Twin Falls were there too, so it more like a dinner with a little jamming afterwards than a real rehearsal. Tim barbecued T-bone steaks from a grass-fed steer they raised on the farm. Those were amazing! Rare, as I like them, but tender and full of flavor. Like the memory of a perfect steak you carry in your head ("ideal steaks of the mind", I called them). Along with that we had all kinds of Asian greens (Ruby Streaks mustard, tatsoi, etc) from his greenhouses, as well as some amazing crispy-sauteed dinosaur kale with a goat cheese from Rollingstone in Parma. They're pretty low-profile here, but evidently they are master cheese-makers who sell all over the U.S.

So we ate very well last night. A nice send-off for me, heading to two weeks of cafeteria food.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

They Flinched

So, conservative extremists in the Tea Party made a calculation. They edited a tape of Ms. S's speech at the NAACP so it only included the parts where she talked about her racist behavior towards a Georgia farmer, in her capacity as a USDA official. This "racist" version of the speech got extensive play on all the hate radio shows and Faux News, stirring up a tempest about black racism towards whites.

What those conservative extremists did NOT show in that clip was the REST of the story - where Ms. S talks about realizing her own prejudice, how she changed her behavior, and ended up treating that Georgia farmer fairly. In fact, that particular farmer has gone on the TV news and radio to say her treatment of him WAS fair, and in fact her actions, through the USDA, saved his farm.

All it took to find this out was a viewing of the whole 40-minute speech. It's not like 100's of researchers had to dig through tons of material for days on end - it was right there in the same speech!!

Which makes the actions of the USDA in firing Ms. S even stupider. This was purposeful, calculated, deliberate lying on the part of those responsible for the edited "racist" clip of the speech. It's impossible to believe they did not know what she says later on. They simply chose to leave it out, with the intention of making the Obama Administration flinch. The disappointing thing is, the Administration DID flinch.

Seems to me the President's folks need to set up some kind of Surgical Strike team. A bunch of staffers that specialize in quickly looking into these childish attempts by fear-mongers at riling up their base and making the Obama folks look bad, and then discrediting them with the actual facts! How much better it would have looked, how much more statesmanlike, self-assured, measured and UNAFRAID, if someone on the President's staff had just taken one hour to look into this particular incident.

Then the Administration's response could have instead focused on exposing this blatant attempt by opposition extremists at twisting the truth for their own purposes. If only supporters of the President could do that often enough, in a way that dismisses these things as childish and calculated lies that aren't worth reacting to beyond exposing them. Then they might appear to be less defensive about the public's perception of them, and they'd have more time for all those major national problems we expect them to fix.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Progress, At Last!

We nearly finished the bathroom walls today. Or, at least the walls in the larger area of the bathroom. We may have to put a second coat on, but that will go quickly. Then there's the trim to paint, and the light fixture to remove so it can be painted under and replaced. I was worried the green might be too dark, but now we've got a decent-looking solid coat on the walls, I think it looks much better! I'm looking forward to getting the terracotta shade on the trim, and putting the new towel racks up.

Another thing I did today was put new drawer pulls on. I found some really cute iron-look metal ones with a leaf pattern. The towel racks are wrought-iron, so they should work well together.

The rubber backing on the white bathmats we've had for a couple years has started to crumble, so it's just the right time to replace them. There was only one green mat left that matched the towels when I bought those, so I might have to go look at a different Target store to find a second one.

The chicks are growing. They're starting to get wing feathers coming in and can fly short distances - like up to the top of the water fount or the food dispenser. I'm not sure if they're playing "king of the hill" or just getting closer to the outside air. The two Survivor chickens are also doing well. We moved their tractor a third time the other night and they liked that. The next move will give them even more dandelion leaves to munch on.

More and more raspberries are ripening, with plenty more flowers as well. It's just getting to the point where it's hard to find them all before they go over. I'm waiting until later this evening to give the bees a chance to go home. I've never been stung out there rummaging around in the raspberry canes while the bees work, but it's pretty hot today, so 8 or 9pm might be nicer than 6pm. :)

Otherwise, my first planting of swiss chard is definitely ready to harvest if we want some. The tomatoes are getting taller and filling out, and there are plenty of green ones ripening on the two Legend plants. I have a feeling I'll be lucky to get any tomatoes off the younger plants though.

The beans are a dismal disappointment this year. I bought a bag of three color bush beans, and the purple ones have done the best by far. The green and yellow bean plants are being eaten as fast as they can grow. I'm guessing it's because the pests don't recognize the purple ones as food as easily as the green or yellow ones.

Anyway, I'm not expecting much of a bean harvest this year. Although the scarlet climbing beans could still surprise me. They're only a foot tall right now, and not growing very fast. I'm behind with all my seed-raised plants this year, due to the cold weather earlier. So I'm wondering if the shorter and shorter daylight hours are making a difference. Sure it's hotter, but as the season goes on there's less daylight over-all.

The basil has probably been the biggest failure this year. We've tried three different plantings of seed and hardly any of them have germinated, much less actually grown. Even the seeds I put into new compost in a pot on the deck haven't done anything, and it's been two weeks. I finally broke down today and bought some starts. Let's hope *those* grow at least! This is ridiculous. By this time last year we were making pesto from our own basil at least once a week. At least the salad mix and chard I planted in the other deck pot have come up. Those I've kept in partial shade and they seem to be happy.

I guess I should be comforted by our organic farmer friend, who says his basil has done very poorly this year too. But still...I miss our pesto!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Chicks, Again

I went to Dunlaps Hatchery on Tuesday and bought five one-week-old pullets, two Silver-laced Wyandottes, and three Barred Rock. This was the last batch of chicks they were raising for the season, so I jumped on it. Assuming they all make it, I'll then have three W and three BR hens. We'll keep them in the chicken tractor once they're all old enough and the roster has gone on to better things.

I found a design for a new chicken tractor in a chicken magazine, but I'm not sure we'll make one that elaborate. This design had an enclosed part one foot above ground level, with a ramp. Makes the whole thing taller, but gives shade even if the tractor is in the sun.

On the other hand, we could just do a taller enclosed bit that has a perch rail and a nest shelf inside, with a roof extension for shade outside. I'm hoping we'll get this done before winter. It would be nice to have a slightly larger tractor for six hens.

We've got most of the bathroom walls half-painted. The green color is darker than I expected. I'm usually pretty good at choosing the right color/shade, but oh well. I've bought the new towel racks and a new set of towels. Hopefully this weekend we can do another coat of green, then see if it needs more.

This bathroom is two offset rectangles, with the overlap being the connecting opening. The smaller rectangle is where the toilet and shower are. That's the area with termites. So we've left that unpainted. The wallboard is just going to get more holes in it before the termites are gone, so we'll wait to paint it.

The raspberries are producing, the tomatoes are growing, and I put in more bush beans, swiss chard, mixed lettuce and basil seeds last weekend - into pots. The chard out in the garden is just about ready to cut, but it's been gnawed on by slugs and earwigs. So I thought pots on the deck would be easier to keep an eye on. I'm hoping to see seeds germinating by the weekend.

Better go water!

Monday, July 5, 2010

13 Chickens Killed by Dog

I like dogs. Really. I own one. We both grew up with dogs, large and small. But today I am not liking dogs much.

We went out to a BBQ last night, stayed late to do fireworks with the kids, and got home around midnight. This morning I went out to check on our chickens, which have been in the large enclosure for exactly one week. As I approached the gate, I saw three of them lying on the ground, motionless. Dead. I went inside to look for the rest, hoping more were alive.

Two of them, a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Wyandotte hen, were hiding under the tree. As I walked across the enclosure I saw the rest, their dead bodies strewn around in the far corner. I couldn't help bursting into tears. A dog, or dogs, had dug under the fence and had a grand old time chasing and killing our chickens. The poor things must have been terrified. Wild animals don't make the mess that dogs do. They come in, take the bird and go, with not even a feather left behind. We've had that happen too. It's upsetting, but at least it's not wanton pointless waste.

If we'd been home, we most likely would've heard the fuss and chased the dog off. We've done it before, and it will happen again, I'm sure. This dog tried digging under the fence in more than one place before finding a way in, so it was pretty determined. No matter how well-behaved you think your dog is, if it's running loose at night it's perfectly capable of doing something like this. Even a smallish dog can kill a chicken. In my opinion, people who allow their dog to run free are being irresponsible, and potentially causing harm to their neighbors in ways just like this. Allowing a dog to harass livestock is a crime in Idaho.

Those 16 chicks we bought didn't cost a whole lot. But chicks, plus bedding, food, water, and electricity to keep them warm 24 hours a day for a month isn't cheap. Not to mention our time. Aside from the enjoyment, you do it because you're hoping for a good return. In our case, we were going to have 8 roosters in the freezer and a good supply of eggs from the hens for years to come.

Now we have one very expensive rooster for the pot, and one hen. All because someone was too lazy to take their dog for walks on a leash. You can bet we'll be watching for a return to the scene of the crime.

And in the light of that, we've moved our two surviving birds to a chicken tractor closer to the house. I'd like find three more hens this week. Hopefully some at least a few weeks old, so they won't be too far behind the one we have left. I don't even care much what kind they are, as long as they're laying hens. At least one of my Wyandottes made it.

We've also been thinking of what changes we can make in keeping chickens. We're going to build a new chicken tractor, with wheels to help with moving it around. Then we'll be able to see the chickens around the yard too, which is part of the fun in having them. Eventually as they get older, we'll let them out for part of the day if we're home.

Anyway, most of our day was spent re-furbishing the chicken tractor we have, moving it, and getting the two live birds moved. Then we had the sad experience of digging a large hole to bury the 13 dead ones. Not the funnest weekend.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July Begins!

Messing around with my blog colors. There are new templates to choose from but I don't like any of them. And I'm not really interested in doing my own template right now. So I'll keep what I've got and tinker with it occasionally.

It's going to be a nice relaxing weekend, I hope. Today we put a second coat of paint on the bathroom ceiling. I'm pleased all over again with the color I chose. Tomorrow we'll start on the walls. I hope I still like that color too! Once we're done I'll go get new towel racks, and I have a gift card from Christmas I'm going to use for another set of towels.

I did some deadheading out in the garden, planted out my six seed-raised tomatoes, and pulled some weeds. I've also started picking raspberries. There aren't more than a dozen or so at a time, yet. But they'll start taking off pretty soon and I'll get a couple pints a day. Yummy!

The two 'Legend' tomatoes I bought already have golf-ball-size tomatoes on them. I also have a 'Mr. Stripey' and another one, but I don't remember its name. They aren't quite as far along. Neither is the swiss chard. I don't know what the deal is this year. Some things seem really reluctant to grow, even though the days are long and we're getting more sun than clouds. And, as a side-effect of all the rain, I have to worry about slugs! This is the first year I've had slugs since I moved to Idaho in '03. Gardens in town that get more water might have slugs, but it's pretty dry out where we are. I'm going to get a few cans of cheap beer and put that out in dishes overnight. Should cut down on the population a bit. I'm also putting coffee grounds around some plants. We'll see if it makes a difference.

One nice thing about the rain has been the rhubarb. I'm still getting plenty of it and the stalks are starting to be thicker, more like the plant my friend has that mine came from. So today I cooked up 10 cups of it. We're going to try canning it this summer with Mom's microwave method. It worked really well for the grape juice.