Saturday, February 26, 2011

Recipes from Venice

One of those cooking shows we saw this morning inspired our dinner. It was a trip to Venice to a cooking school. Two of the things they made sounded really good, and weren't too difficult. So we tried them. One was short ribs braised in wine, garlic and rosemary. The other was bell peppers and onions sauted a long time, and finished with a little balsamic vinegar.
These were from Travels with Ruth, episode 4, Enrica Rocca's Venice.
Both were really good, and quite simple. Ken made polenta in the microwave to go with it.

I did get out today to work in the garden. I cut back the old raspberry canes and dug up a lot of buttonweed roots. The ground is still a bit hard (we *are* dropping below freezing at night), but it's a good time to dig up weeds. None of those tiny hairy roots to hold them in so tightly like in summer. I also pulled a lot of the dead iris leaves away from the dwarf iris. There are a lot of bulb leaves showing now. I put in a lot of new bulbs last fall, tulips mostly. Sure hope they come up. Next I should get some compost out there so it can break down into the soil before the weather really turns warm.

Lazy Cold Weekend

It's cold here. We had frost flowers on the storm-door overnight, and the chicken's water bowls were mostly frozen. Aside from taking care of the hens, I haven't done much today. Except stitching four more rows on Mom's scarf and watching five cooking shows. We like Jacques Pepin and Cook's Country, and the others are just in-between.

We're getting more eggs from the hens now, usually five per day. Yes, we have six hens. So one of them is always taking a day off! I wonder sometimes if they've agreed to rotate the day off between them, because it's always the five hens that give us only four eggs. The single Wyandotte is very regular. In fact twice last week she gave us double-yolk eggs! I have a feeling she's happier alone. We may eventually put her in with the others, but I'm going to wait till she's recovered.

I might cut down the old raspberry canes today, while it's sunny. I'm hoping to set up a temporary fence around the veg garden and let the single W hen roam around eating bugs. I think we're supposed to get more wet weather this coming week, so it might be the best day for it.

The picture is my Mom's scarf - or at least the progress so far. It's a chevron, or ripple, pattern. I think the yarn is perhaps a bit too small in diameter for it, but it's soft, a gorgeous color, and easy care. So I'm hoping it turns out well.

Monday, February 21, 2011


It's nice to have an extra day off once in a while. Today I started a new crochet project that I'm hoping will turn out well enough to be a gift for my mom. I also made some lemon curd. It's the time of year when we really feel like something bright and Spring-like. Lemon curd on french toast. MmmmMmm! I'm just now waiting for the spiced walnuts to finish in the oven. Ooh, there goes the buzzer. They're out. Yum! Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and a touch of ground coriander, with honey and butter.

Dance class tonight. And I don't have to teach. It's nice to have a break after four weeks in a row. Which reminds me - we'll have to re-arrange things in June when Ken and I are gone for a week.

No snow this morning, but lots of big clouds passing over. Possible snow overnight or tomorrow. Just in time for my drive to Payette. Ah well.

We've moved five of the chickens into the large pen. This is the pen that a dog got into back in July, killing 13 of our 14 chickens. We've modified it a bit by putting framed wire panels along the ground most of the way round the fence. Filled in the empty spaces with logs. It's been two weeks now and so far things are going well. The one hen left in the small tractor is there to recover from being seriously pecked by some of the others. Although I originally liked the Wyandottes better, I'm now leaning towards the Barred Rocks. They are much tamer and livelier than the W's. We put them in the large pen a week before the two W's and they've now learned that I bring treats (veg peelings, old bread, etc) sometimes. So the three Barred Rocks come running to the fence when they see me. I usually give them the treats before I go in to look for eggs. But even so one or two of them will follow me around, hoping for more.

We put two of the Wyandottes in there yesterday. That was much more exciting than it should have been. Ken came out to help me. You'd think with three hens in a small tractor it would be easy enough to catch two of them. But no. Instead, the two we wanted got out. So then we had the fun of trying to herd them into a corner where we could catch them. You don't run after hens, it's a bit like herding sheep. You walk slowly in the direction you don't want them to go, which usually makes them head the other way. A long pole helps.

One I caught relatively easily - after her running all the way round the yard being herded away from the irrigation ditch by the two of us. The other one was a bit more wiley, to a point. She managed to find the ditch, where there are bushes to hide under. We managed to shoo her out from under the wild rose with our poles. I missed a chance to catch her as she came out, so round she went again. She got into the ditch again and Ken headed for the rose bush to fend her off. When I finally caught up, I saw her. This time she had attempted to hide by putting her head into a small animal hole in the side of the ditch. Evidently with her head hidden she thought her body was also! It was pretty easy to pick her up. I guess ostriches really do hide their heads in the sand. :)

This pen is quite a large area for five hens. It has three shelters in it and since it was empty for most of last year the weeds had a chance to grow. Plus there's a pile of shrub and tree trimmings. I figure if a dog does get in, some of the chickens might survive by hiding under the brush. Anyway, there are two shelters where the hens can lay eggs in privacy. But since they've been in there we haven't been getting an egg per day from each of them. I'm always wondering if one of them has found a hidey-hole in the weeds where she's hiding her eggs. So I make a point of walking all the way round the inside of the pen, looking for eggs. It's one of those things that makes you wonder if this is how the Easter egg hunt got started! :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Snowy February

After a weekend that felt like Spring, on Thursday we woke up to an inch of snow. I managed to get a decent picture just as the sun was rising. They're predicting possible snowfall every day until Wednesday. Thursday's snow melted by afternoon, but this morning, Saturday, we woke up to another dusting. More has fallen since sunrise, but it's not really sticking. So much for the early Spring weather, for now.

But it's got me thinking about seeds and the garden. Other people are talking about seeing bulb leaves peeking up, but I don't have any yet, not even the crocus. I'm hoping we'll have a more reasonable day this weekend when I can cut back the old raspberry canes and clear up the veg garden, and let the chickens roam around eating bugs. They tend to harbor a lot of bugs, and it wouldn't hurt to decrease that population a bit! We think we can set up a temporary fence around it so they don't wander too far. After they get used to it I may not worry so much. But we are surrounded by big dogs and I still don't know which one killed all our chickens last July.

Anyway, time to think about tomatoes and what else I'm going to grow this year. Definitely more rainbow chard and rhubarb. And I'm thinking I may dig up my asparagus and put it in it's own large pot. It's hard to keep up with the weeds in that area because I can't dig over it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Finished Mitts

So, here's one of my finished computer mitts. I've been using them during the days when it's cold, and they do help. Especially my mouse hand. This room stays colder than the rest of the house. Not a bad thing in the summer, but it can be challenging in winter when I'm working in here.

I'm not completely thrilled with the fit of the right hand mitt, but it's good enough to use. And I love the yarn color. I don't think it reproduces correctly on the computer screen - or maybe the photo doesn't pick up the color well. It's a wonderful heathered blue-green, sort of like peacock blue. I'm thinking of making some mitts as presents next, although I might try a different pattern. I've found a few free patterns on Ravelry that look easy enough to try. I'm still learning how to follow the instructions correctly, and I forget to count stitches sometimes. But that's what stitch markers are for.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I ended up unraveling the oversized computer mitt. First I made the 2nd one, leaving out the stitch increases and making sure my stitch counts were accurate. I still haven't done the picot edging, but the fit is MUCH better. So last night I unraveled the body of the first one (kept the cuff), and started re-making it. It's about half done now.

Note to self - picot edging does not unravel easily!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Yarn

I started up crocheting again in December. I learned it from a friend back in the early 90's and managed to use up a whole skein of yarn on a "scarf". Well, it was supposed to be a scarf. I dug it out of storage to have a look. I don't think any of the rows are the same length as any other row. It's an interesting shape, but it sure ain't a long rectangle you could wrap around your neck!

So, this time I was determined to do a little better. There's no point in spending all the money and time and coming out with something unusable. I bought a few books and magazines, and found a yarn in a color I really loved. I figured that would keep me going if I decided it was boring.

But it hasn't been boring, so far. I'm really enjoying it! I've finished a scarf in an alpaca/acrylic blend, and most of another scarf in a wool blend. The alpaca scarf is dark purple with violet highlights. It matches a lot of my work clothes, so I've been wearing it at least a couple times a week.

The wool blend scarf is in a green variegated yarn. It isn't quite long enough yet. I think I'm going to add another foot or so to it. Then I'll try blocking it to spread out the stitches some, make it look a bit lacy.

I have also finished one of a pair of computer mitts (fingerless). The picture shows one cuff, and one half-finished. The backs of my hands get pretty cold while I'm using the computer, so I'm hoping these will help. The yarn is pure alpaca and I *love* the color. One of the pleasures of crochet, or knitting, is the color and feel of the yarn as you stitch. It's a heathered blue-green, but the green doesn't show up very well in the photo.

Unfortunately I miscounted the stitches in some rows and it turned out a lot bigger around the knuckles than it should be. So now I'm torn between unraveling it or just leaving it. It's not going to get any smaller. Alpaca doesn't have crimp in it like wool does. I'm wearing it now on my right hand (mouse hand). The edge around my fingers is waaaay too big. (sigh). I think I'll make the left hand mitt and try to get it the right size. If that works, I'll unravel the first one and re-do it.

As for other things, the chickens are laying two to four eggs a day now. I'm not sure which of them are doing it, but at least four of them are now fulfilling their destiny! Unfortunately there's a bit of pecking each other going on. It's too crowded for all of them in one tractor, now they're fully grown. That one aggressive Barred Rock is probably the main culprit, I'm guessing. So we're going to build a second chicken tractor and put the three Barred Rocks in it. They'll all have more room, and the three Wyandottes will be happier.

It's still icy cold here. It bugs me that so much of the U.S. is getting snow, but we haven't had any since before Christmas! No fair! More snow please! At least we've been able to go snowshoeing a couple times already. Last time we went to McCall. Hopefully we'll be able to go at least once more before the weather turns.