Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bug Bytes

I know, amongst the circle of folks that consider themselves to be environmentally conscious, that the subject of pest control in our gardens can be a very touchy one and I certainly try my best to avoid the use of even natural sprays. However, sometimes there are instances when just good garden hygiene, organic compost and our best intentions don't always work. So, I wanted to show a few of my methods for not only controlling pest but encouraging my garden to flourish naturally. Now, I am by NO means an expert but this is some stuff that has worked for me and I welcome any other suggestions too.
The spray pictured above is one of my last resort tools. It is a certified organic spray made from canola oil and pyrethrins, thus the name Pyola. You mix it with water and spray on your plants. It is very effective against a variety of caterpillars, hornworms, Japanese beetles etc. I apply it late in the day after most of the pollinators have gone to sleep and even many of the plants blossoms have closed, so the bees won't be rubbing against the spray the next day. It does not affect bees and such in the same way as soft bodied insects but you don't want to spray it right on them. I order the stuff from Garden's Alive, an organic gardening company that sells a variety of products that I think are very effective. I buy very little stuff like this but when I do need it I usually go to them. They offer some great discounts on their products for first time buyers too. I also buy their Kelp meal for the garden. Now, like I said, I only use this if I seem to be having an unusual problem with insects, like squash bugs. My chickens won't eat the bugs; I think they must taste really bad because Little Bea grabbed one up one day and immediately spit it out and started wiping her beak on the ground!
The label says it is not effective against fire ants but I beg to differ. You just have to apply it differently. Now, for those of you that don't have fire ants, count your many blessings. They are a hideous curse here and will wreck a garden if left to it. They are one of the most destructive things I have ever seen and incredibly vicious. Alabama has had a significant drop in our quail population over the past couple of decades, due in part, to attacks from fire ants. Quail nest on the ground and fire ants will attack and eat the quail babies. There has also been documented incidences of fire ants attacking and destroying wild honey bee hives. They are not native to this area, or even the US if I remember correctly, so I don't want to hear any shit about my inclination to destroy a fire ant mound. I don't go around looking for them but I will not allow them to reside in my yard or around my animals. It is very difficult to find a natural product that will kill or at least repel fire ants and let me tell you, I have tried most everything; borax, cornmeal, salt, diamatious earth, you name it. This spring they got in my coldframe and were destroying the contents so, on a whim, I put a few drops of Pyola, undiluted, right on top of their mound. By the next day they had moved out. I was elated. I don't think it killed them but if it just repelled them that was enough. I finally found something I could use against them around my food crops!
I am also trying an organic copper spray, like Ron mentioned, on my wilty tomato plants. I gave them some Epsom Salts water, which seemed to help a little but didn't quite do it. Like Ron said, it's very hard to sit and watch your crops, that we depend on so much, die or get eaten right in front of you, without trying something. If people are going to criticize me for trying to salvage my labor and food, well, they can buy my groceries for the next year too.

I do however, try to make the most of natural methods. I haven't had a lot of luck with companion planting but one thing I believe does work is marigolds. I always buy a large flat or two of the stinkingest marigolds I can find to plant throughout my garden, especially around the tomatoes. Not all marigolds stink though, only the true French ones do, so you have to watch what you get. When I deadhead them I take the spent flower and tear it up and throw it over the plants. This helps distribute the smell and lets me get some volunteers! This actually seems to work and it does make some sense because marigolds are one of the plants that they extract pyrethrins from.

Now, these are my best pest control but like I said, they don't always eat everything and after a while they will tear up more than they help. I let them in before the plants start ripening much and before I do any spraying. If the chooks are in there I do not use any sprays, even natural ones. When they are out for the season, due to my tomatoes ripening!, I will then spray if needed. Then, when the season is over and sprayed plants pulled up, they can come back in.

I also plant other flowers throughout my garden, where I have a little room, to encourage birds and any pollinators. I place a couple of shallow dishes with water around the garden also to encourage frogs and I have noticed a big increase in my frog population this year. However, I have to be careful to help keep the frogs out of the chicken run as Henny thinks they are a great treat. She caught one one day and was slinging that poor thing every which way, trying to beat it apart. I ran and grabbed it from her, much to her displeasure, and took it into the garden. I was afraid she had killed it because it was stiff as a board but when I sat it down it relaxed and hopped off under my blueberry bushes.

I also let large patches of wild flowers grow in the yard. This encourages the birds, which in turn, also check out the garden while they are there and also butterflies and bees. Jack couldn't understand at first why I would let those "weeds" grow up in the yard that way. They had not bloomed yet and he couldn't tell what they were. So, the other day I was quick to show him this pair of goldfinches that were enjoying the dried seed heads of this thistle and black-eyed Susans I have growing around. I know this is a crappy photo of only the male but his mate was there too, on another flower.
So, the natural methods take time to work but this year I have seen a marked improvement in beneficial insect/ critter population and health of my garden. I also keep several bird bathes and feeders out. I have noticed that the honey bees enjoy the bird bathes as much or more than the birds. I often see half a dozen or more of them stopping for a cool drink during any part of the day.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Try, Try, Try!

Up until about a week ago the garden was doing okay; kinda limping along due to the lack of rain, even though I was trying to water regularly. We have been getting some regular showers now though and the plants have thrown it into high gear! It seems everything has grown a foot or more just in a week.
Because I am attempting to grow a number of new things this year I thought I'd do a little review of those things, that I have harvested so far, and my results. In the photo above I have Amish Paste tomatoes and Moneymaker. I have never grown either of these before. The Amish Paste is not doing too well. About a third of the plants seem to have come down with some kind of fungus or wilt. Maybe it's just too humid here or maybe I have them planted too close together, although I planted according to the directions. I think next year I'm going to give all my tomatoes a bit more room. The Moneymakers seem to be faring much better. I also have two Black Krim that are doing real well. They are planted slightly away from the others, over near the peppers. I am anxious for them to ripen!

On the far left is the Amish Paste; I may still get a small harvest from them. The okra is doing great but then, it's practically designed to grow here! In the background is the corn, Silver Queen. It is another old Southern classic and one of my favs.

This is the new zuchini I tried; Costata Romanesca. This is just 3 plants and I had even cut it back some because it had completley blocked my pathway. I'll be careful not to plant any squash that close to the path again! It started out very vigorous and healthy but I think just recently was taking a beating from the squash bugs. I do use an organic bug spray, which had helped, but the production had dropped way off (maybe from the heat too?). Since it takes up such an enormous amount of room and produced, even at best, a moderate crop, I pulled it up after it got sickly.

These are the squash it produces, which are tasty. However, it just seemed that for the amount of room this thing covers, the amount of care it needs to keep it bug free and the difficulty in harvesting the squash because the plant is so freakin' big, it just didn't seem worth it for the few squash I got. I don't know, if I had a much bigger garden I might go for it but since I don't have unlimited space I think I might stick with the regular zuchini, which tastes just as good and just doesn't seem as big a pain in the butt. The old crookneck yellow squash grows well here and I have 3 of those planted also.

I dug all my garlic and onions yesterday, so that frees up a fair amount of new space. I recently picked up two regular zuchini plants, thinking Big Boy might not make it, so I think I'll use this new space to get a second crop of squash growing.
Oh, I also planted pepperocini peppers, which are doing realy well and starting to make peppers. Those are the type that are usually pickled for eating with salads etc. That's what I got them for and I'll show ya'll my rsults with that. Peppers of any type usually grow very well here with very little maintenance.

So, that's just some of the garden. I still haven't harvested a lot of stuff so don't really know the end results. I'll do another post on just the fruits and melons this year and how they are doing; which seems to be pretty good at this point.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tell Me 'Bout It

I thought I'd include a quick photo to show ya'll how the little craps are growing and starting to look like big chickens now. They are a lively bunch and never ending source of entertainment. Very few of them are actually the breeds or the number thereof we were told we were getting. I don't believe I'll be too quick to buy from that guy again. Well, live and learn...

Now, on the main subject of this post: I thought it was funny that yesterday's post title got way more hits than even the "Great Big Knockers"! But, Ron, you shouldn't have deleted your original comment on that last post! I was not put off by it and you have a right to express your opinion. I hope my reply comment did not come off as brusque or snippy. I was in a little bit of a hurry yesterday to get going and kinda rushed through a few comments that morning. I needed to go into Birmingham for a multitude of errands and meetings and it was about 10:00 last night before I got home. I intended to continue answering comments but during the last hour of my trip I developed one of my tri-annual migraines and made it home limping and dragging. I had trouble reading, much less typing something legible, so thought I'd just respond to comments here. I feel somewhat better today but am a bit fuzzy still from the meds. At any rate, I don't want my readers to feel they cannot dispute me or argue their point. Ed has disagreed with me a few times and I still let him come around! LOL!! Sometimes it's hard to remember to make absolutely every point you want to within one post. I certainly did not want to make it sound like regular Joe's (non-construction people) can't do a good job. Certainly they can. And I have seen, in person, some horrible examples of "professional" work. I actually meant to include such in my original post but my memory leaves me sometimes. I'll never forget once, Allen and I watched a crew of home builders pouring a footing for one of your typical McMansion type houses in a suburb. This was probably a 2,500 sq.ft. home or more, so a sizable footprint. Now, they were pouring directly out of the truck and we noticed that they only moved that truck once. You see, the concrete was SO wet, it RAN all the way around the footings. We call that pea soup at work. And that is one reason I would never want a licenced home builder, other than Allen, to build anything for me. Sure, the mud set up. But what it's going to do 10 years from now when the ground has heaved a little here and there.....
And what Jenn said in comments about a commercial block building that they didn't even grout or throw their rebar in...Dang! I wonder how that got past inspection? but stuff like that does occasionally happen. That was one reason I was so reluctant to ever work for another construction company than the one I did. We did our work right! We never cut corners on our concrete or reinforcing. We were proud of our work and rightly so.

But yall, please, if you don't agree with me on something, feel free to say so if you're inclined. I would love to get more comments than I do because I like discussion and I am not up here just to spout out what I think is so. I show what has worked, or not worked, for me and I show some building techniques I know to be correct because I know a lot of people want that information but I am not an authority and somebody can always come up with a better or easier way. We always said at work; a good carpenter is NOT one that never makes a mistake. A good carpenter is one that knows how to fix his mistakes. You can always learn from others too. I know I may have a terse manner sometimes and some of my comments may seem snippy but it's just years of construction work and that environment. I know that sounds like a lame excuse but, well, you work on those sites for 20 years and tell me what you think. lol! Either way, I welcome all comments. Unless, you tell me I'm a bitch; then I'll kick your ass!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Distant Early Warning

The photo here does not directly relate to what this post is about but is more of just an example to make my point about something. Now, I don't want this post to come off as pissy or elitist or some other such; it's just my thoughts on some stuff that has bothered me for a while. Of course, I know I'm preaching to the choir, so to speak, on this subject because all of my readers are smart and savvy enough to know what I'm fixin' to tell you but just in case....
Over the years of blogging I have come across a number of other blogs on building, as you would expect. Mostly it's regular people building their own home or barns or such. And that is great. Ya'll know that I try to encourage everyone to try their hand at building, especially women, for a variety on reasons. And in the course of reading some of these blogs I have noticed some of them have quite a few readers. Unfortunately, it seems that the blogs of people who are least qualified to be showing other people how to build something are sometimes the most heavily read. Let me just say, just because someone is being adventuresome in their construction; say, building in some exotic location, does NOT mean they know what they are doing. Now, some of these are fun to read regardless and I am not promoting myself as some all-time expert; I make mistakes too, which I will also show you. That said, I do have almost 20 years of construction and safety training and with that I say please, PLEASE, be very careful who you take construction advise from and what their qualifications are. I don't care how much experience they say they have in concrete, if they don't know what a snap-tie or a johnny clamp is, you run from them, quickly. They are an idiot and have never worked in the industry. In fact, we used to have a game we played when I worked construction. We often had fellows drop by our jobs looking for work and they often claimed to be form carpenters or whatever. This is common in commercial construction. Now, they wouldn't have a resume or anything but would just tell the super what their experience etc. Now, if they promoted themselves as super-carpenter, one who had done all and been all, and even if he uttered the famous words of one guy, "when it gets too rough for everybody else, it's just right for me", we, the crew, would immediately start taking bets on how fast this guy was going to drag up. Not, IF he was going to drag up but just how fast, because when people start talking like that they are full of shit. We never were wrong about a one. Keep that in mind when reading these blogs.
I have also noticed that many of the self-sufficiency types and all really like to get out of the city limits where there are fewer, if any, restrictions on building. Now, I don't have a problem with this. I'm only in the county and didn't have inspections on my house BUT, it is still built to code. Now, I agree that many times the building codes are stupid about some things and the city just wants the revenue. However, for the most part these building codes are for your protection. They are there so that JimBob doesn't put your rafters on 3 foot centers and have the ceiling or roof collapse on you. It's there so your neighbor isn't shitting in a 55-gallon drum and having it overflow onto your property. It's there so your well-meaning cousin doesn't burn your house down because he really didn't know how to wire that junction box anyway.
I have seen some of the stupidest things done, by way of building, on some of these blogs. I have seen people frame a two story house and not put the first header over a door or window. That's fine until about 2 years down the road when things have sagged so bad they can't open any of the doors or windows. I have seen a lot of unsupported spans on outer floor bands and rafters; no piers but in the corners. Code will tell you how far you can span according to the size lumber. I actually saw a couple install rafters with the wide side down. Now, I don't know how anyone can look at that, no matter their experience or lack thereof, and think,' yeah, that's the way those go'.
Granted it was just a chicken coop (a big one) but, holy hell! how do you do something like that.?? I have seen people install roofing in about every bad way imaginable. Granted now, roofing can be difficult and you really need to have help if you don't know what you are doing.
And Lord O' mercy, don't get me started about people pouring concrete. Concrete is a wonderful and versatile medium. It is astounding in it's strength and beauty. Under the right circumstances, it will kill you deader'n a hammer in seconds if you make one mistake. Concrete is not something to screw with and you especially need to watch who you get your advice from. Now, it's hard to make a deadly mistake pouring a slab for a patio or such but you can mess up and waste an enormous amount of money if nothing else. The photo above is of some formwork from one of my old jobs. We were pouring foundation piers and footings that were 2-3 feet deep. You can see some of the massive amount of rebar that went in those footings and the steel sticking up was just part of what was stubbed up for the walls that would pour on top. And, in all honesty, these were kinda wimpy footings for commercial work. I've seen one guy, on a blog, pour walls where he only put a stick of rebar every 4 or 5 feet and then claimed that was overdoing it. And NO, fiber in the mix does not help on walls. Fiber is to help keep slabs and walkways from cracking. It is NOT structural. Nothing over his doorways, windows etc. Please, please, please, consult with an actual concrete professional if you are going to pour walls, even some retaining walls. Walls must be tied into the footings correctly and with sufficient steel and the footings themselves must be sufficient to hold the wall up. Now, I know footings for a house are nowhere near what commercial construction calls for but, as I have actually seen, a 2-inch thick little spread footing is NOT going to hold up a two story house, especially when it was poured right on top of the topsoil! They didn't even dig down past the frost line or to substantial enough earth to meet resistance from a probe. You can get into a lot of trouble with concrete in a hurry if it is done incorrectly. The form itself can fail, which I have seen, and that can hurt or kill someone. Concrete (reinforced) weighs around 140 lbs. per cubic FOOT. That means one yard is way over 3,000 pounds. Concrete is expensive nowadays and hard to get back out once it has set! If you screw it up it can be costly to repair.
It just pains me to no end to watch people install such piss-poor foundations for their houses and such and you know, come a year or two or 5, everything is going to be so damn outta whack the walls are going to be cracking and all kinds of hell. The foundations, however they are done, must be done correctly or the rest of the house will suffer for it. And you too, I might add.
So, this is my rant. Just please, take most of what you see online with a grain of salt. Even me. For one thing, I have come to realize that something that is code down here might not be advisable in another climate and some stuff I've seen done up north (because it was code) I would never do here. MUCH depends on your climate, the geology of your region and the building materials you are using. Please, please be aware of these things, research your ideas for your region and know and go by the building codes, even if you don't have to.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day Tripper

Hey Everybody! I'm finally back again. Things have been fairly busy around here lately, keeping up with the garden and all the chickens etc. I have been in a little bit of a no-writing funk also, maybe brought on by cabin-fever and so we have been making some effort to get out a little more. Finances will not allow us to stray very far from the house but there is usually a number of things do in our little community or some of the neighboring ones. A lot of people overlook some of the small towns when it comes to festivals and such but a lot of them are pretty fun.. and cheap!
I have written about this subject before, but since I have some new readers, I'll inflict these flower pictures on you all again! lol! A flower nursery in a nearby town has an annual sale to the public every summer and I love to go, as I collect their specialty, daylilies. They also have homemade ice cream, fried pies (a southern delicacy) and give away a large number of doorprizes. Jack and I went last weekend and had a very fun day.

Guess who won one of the largest specimens they gave away! Jack didn't even know what this plant was but was very excited to win! I thought it was great! It was a lot of fun. He was slightly more excited about all the ice cream and pies and that kept him occupied while I perused the lilies.

This place has so many varieties it's just mind boggling. Well, to me anyway. It's also a really nice place and you can just wander around and eat ice cream. They have benches here and there and the lady that runs the place is VERY knowledgeable about all sorts of plants. It's a nice diversion for half a day and you don't have to drive for an hour to get there. Well, we didn't anyway but there are many folks (serious collectors) that come from all over the state to buy on this weekend. They have day lily varieties that range from $5 to $85. That's $85 for one plant. The near black one in the first photo is one of their more expensive ones.

This was the variety that I purchased this year. I did not have any other yellow lilies so I thought I'd get one this year. It is a shorter version (and cheap!) called 'Lion's Dance'. I got two of them but they will eventually multiply. My pottery sales picked up quite a bit in the stores and galleries this past month so I had a little money to play around with and could afford a little treat for myself.

This is one of the more unusual types I already have at the house. Most of the colors fade the opposite way, with the darker on the outer edges, so I really thought this one was striking.

One last gratuitous group shot. It started coming up a little bit of a thunderstorm after we had been there for a while so I made a quick purchase and we left. We had a fun time and came away with some nice things to further beautify the gardens, for very little money.

So, this weekend we went on another little outing that I'll show ya'll about later. I've been making a list of things to post about so maybe I can get a little more organized and write about some more relevant things. Does anyone have any subject you would like me to post about or a question on anything? I will get back to the building posts soon too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dig It!!

"Heyyyy, braaaawkk.....uh, hey, ya'll, I don't think we're supposed to go near those vine thingies!! Braaaaaawwwk! I got in trouble for ransacking that one on the other end of the garden! Hey!! get out of there before she comes out h......!! Oh crap! here she comes! Braaaaawk! Henny!! Henny! get your head outta there!! you two are on your own!! I'm going to stay back here in the oats and mind my own business!! Braaaaaawkkk!! don't say I didn't warn you!


I let the gals out into the main garden today since things have grown fairly stout in size. I thought they might enjoy the much wider range and variety of bugs, and they seemed to. They were a little hesitant to go in there at first but soon overcame their fear, once they discovered the apparent lotto of bugs under mulch! They really didn't do much damage but I did have to put a little wire cage around my cantaloupes. They got a little over enthusiastic with the scratching around them due to the heaving mulching. They seemed to really like the outing and ran up and down the rows of corn and potatoes especially, pecking and talking. Bertha even forged her way through the giant zucchini forest. I hope she found the squash bugs! I haven't seen but a few of them this year though; thank goodness. After a while they took a break under the largest fig tree to rest and dig a small dust bath. I tried to dig them a few grubs but it has become so dry here I couldn't find any. They were disappointed at that.
We are hearing thunder in the distance and it rained a little a few minutes ago. Hopefully we will get a heavier downpour later. We really need it. I have been watering regularly but there is just nothing like actual rain.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Imagine

Recently, I had a reader ask me how I went about building things as far as making drawings etc. or did I just work completely from what I visualize in my head? Well, it's kind of a combination of the two. For the most part, I can see completely, in my mind, what I want to build, whether it be a building or a bowl. It took me a long time to realize that apparently, not everyone can do this. I mean, it would only make sense that artists can do this, so I thought everybody did. From what I gather talking to others though, some people lack this ability. I can see what I want and even walk around inside, in my mind, opening doors etc, moving from room to room. It does help quite a bit though to make a sketch from this. There are always a few corners or such, or shapes that I can't quite see clearly, so drawing things helps me to see these. It's an odd thing to describe to those who cannot work this way.

Here in these drawings you can see a few of the sketches I did for the chicken house. Most are fairly rudimentary. In the top photo, down in the bottom, right corner, you will see the sketch that comes closest to what I'm actually building. I did more sketches than normal on this one to work out the roof lines, since it is actually two buildings joined together.
For a building, I will then generally do a footprint drawing or cut, to work out my foundation etc. and also to do a materials list from. It helps me count up how many 2 x 4's etc. I will need. I was also calculating my roof pitch and such and, as you can see from the many scratched out places, I had trouble remembering the formula to figure rafter lengths! It had been so long since I have done that I messed up several times. So, see, even those of us who build can forget if we don't keep in practice. I finally saw what I was doing wrong in the formula (I could remember that part) and figured everything out. Still, even with the drawings, I ended up changing things as I built to save on material and such. For instance, the front wall is not a full 8 feet tall and the roof pitch is not a full 3/12. So, I don't know if this helps anybody! When I built the house we pretty much went by the drawings but we might occasionally move some framing just slightly. On something like a shed or so however, we might move stuff quite a lot.
So, I guess to answer the question; I do make drawings but they are just a suggestion! and to help me make up a material list. Also, since I often built with salvaged material, I have to go with what I have sometimes and that affects framing, looks etc. I guess my artistic side allows me to "go with the flow" on building. I know this is due to my nature because this method drives Jack bonkers. He is more of an analytical mind and it drives him nuts to watch me build some stuff because I won't have drawings and he can't see what I see. He is also very dubious about using reclaimed material, I guess for the same reason, and we often butt heads over this. Generally, he eventually "gets it" when he sees enough of the building standing but he often expresses his skepticism. He has gotten better about trusting my "mind's eye" though!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

In The Garden

I realized one day while working on the chicken coop roof that you could get a real good view of the garden layout from up there! So, I thought I'd give ya'll a little tour of the place now that it is starting to fill in pretty good. My garden is somewhere around 43' x 50', so that's like, a little over 2,100 square feet. That's just over twice the footage of my house! I thought that was funny when I first figured it up.
Anyway, We'll go around the garden clockwise, starting at about 9:00. I have several rows of potatoes there and they are starting to bloom, so it may be getting close to harvest some. I may harvest some small ones (new potatoes) and then let the others go on some more. Aboe the taters is corn (Silver Queen) and some peas mixed in. I think peas anyway. They are volunteers so I thought I'd just let them go and see what they do. Above the corn is the coldframe which still has some carrots in it but not much. Next to the coldframe is Blue Lake beans (2 rows). Moving to the right is 5 rows of okra, 4 of Clemson Spineless and 1 row of Burgundy. Okra is a favorite of mine and Jack's and I finally found a way to freeze it so it still tastes good. Next over from the okra is tomatoes!! I have one row of Amish Paste, one row of MoneyMakers and a little further over a couple of Black Krim I just happen to find down at the local hardware store. That giant mass of green to the far right is yellow crookneck squash and zucchini. I made the mistake of planting some of these things right next to each other and as a result, may have some trouble with my seeds cross-pollinating. Just another thing I have learned recently. Moving down from the squash is where the onions were and where I still have leeks and spring onions. I harvested most of the onions this week. To the left of the leeks are cucumbers, bok choy, pepperocini peppers and eggplant, which never does good for me. It just sits there stagnant and refuses to grow. In the far bottom corner is my garlic, which is about to die over and be ready to pull. There is also some dill next to the garlic. Separated by the walkway (or future walkway) and on the outer edges, is the fruits and herbs. Raspberries, strawberries, grapes, catnip, lemonbalm, blueberries, and some flowers. On either side of the coldframe is 2 fig trees. I think they are Brown Turkey. I plan on adding much to the fruit/ herb border. Oh yeah, on the outer left edges are watermelon, cantaloupe and hulless oats. There is a fair amount crammed in there. We are planning an expansion on the right.

Some of the past few days harvest! Not a lot but it's getting better. My onions did okay but did not get real big. I must look into this and continue to amend their bed. I did keep the soil scratched back from the bulbs so they would expand but I think they need more nutrients. I will try again on onions later in the summer for a fall crop.
We are also getting about 18 eggs a week, some lettuce still and the raspberries are starting to ripen. Yum!! Won't be long until the wild blackberry crop is in too.

Unfortunately, we have gone many days without rain at this posting and things are starting to show it. I water some but am trying to use a lot of mulch to conserve the moisture.
On a better note, my Asiatic lilies are blooming wonderfully this year!

They are so bright and cheerful: I just love them.

I have also created 3 monsters out of these gals. I took to throwing them grubs as I find them weeding the garden and now they expect grubs every time I step foot out there! They line up at the fence and "talk' to me the whole time I'm in the garden. I'm thinking once the corn gets a little bigger I might can fence off the tomatoes and then let the girls in for a little bit to pick bugs. On the left is Little Bea, then Henny the Red and Big Bertha on the right. They are sweet chickens.

Monday, June 06, 2011

When You Go Out With Artists

In an effort to show that Jack and I do get out and have some fun and are not all about work, I have some photos from yesterday. I was getting cabin fever real bad from not getting out of town any in the past week or so, so...we found an event to go to in Birmingham. It's an art show that I have intended to do myself several times but always let the deadline slip by. It's set in a botanical garden south of town. As you can see, it's filled with permanent sculptures, beautiful gardens and even a lake. There was lots to see.

The only thing is that it was extremely hot. The geese didn't seem to mind but the attendance was down amongst people. At least there was lots of shade for the artists and visitors both.

I loved the architecture of this pavilion. A few lucky artists, who applied early, got to set up in here. There were ceiling fans and a concrete floor and that made a tremendous difference.

I ran into a lot of artists I knew, either from college or just from my past of doing shows. Bob here was recently named to a prestigious craftsmen fellowship. He is one of only 5 in the United States in his category.

This was one of the biggest hostas I had ever seen, so I made Jack pose by it for scale. Actually, it was 2 or 3 hostas, but still, they were huge!

We had a very good time and even bought a couple of small works; one from a lady I went to college with. After we left the show we had lunch in an air conditioned restaurant!

It's not everyday you get to see 4 foot tall rabbits! So, we enjoyed ourselves and stayed gone about all day. Chigger was very happy to see us when we got home that evening. I don't know if she thinks we've abandoned her forever or what, when we leave for a day!
But, now back to the grindstone. It looks like I may have to start doing these type shows again myself, so I got to get that inventory built up.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday Food!

I thought I'd do a short food post today; I think Friday's used to be the day for bloggers to do that. This is a real quick simple recipe that works for lunch or even breakfast. Daddy Rabbit, my old boss, taught me this one. You take one flour tortilla, lightly rub or spray both sides with olive oil and toast for a few minutes. I lay the tortilla right on the rack in my toaster oven at about 425 for 5-6 minutes. Watch it close because they tend to swell up and can burn. You see how this one is puffed up? Just take a fork or knife and poke it and it will deflate. After it is slightly toasty, take it out and mash it flat.

I then rub a few tablespoons of pizza sauce over the tortilla and apply a little cheese. I sometimes make a small batch of my own sauce to keep in the fridge for this or you can buy a small jar of ready made sauce. Now, years and years ago I worked as a cook for Pizza Hut during the summer while I was going to college and this is where I learned to put a little cheese down first.


Then, simply layer whatever toppings you like over that. I like ham, onions and mushrooms. What ever you put though, make sure it is thinly sliced as this pizza will not cook as long as a regular pizza. I then layer some more cheese on top! Place the tortilla back in the oven, right on the rack and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Just until it gets as toasty as you like it. Now, obviously, if you don't like thin crust pizza you probably won't like this style but I love it and you can top it with whatever you like. I want to try some spinach, leeks and goat cheese. Bet that would be good.

I slice mine into quarters and scarf it down!! Yumm!!! This is great if you are watching your carb intake; not a lot of dough in this and you can use whatever size tortilla you like. I use the kinda medium size and it makes a great lunch. Add a salad and it would make a good dinner.


It has been so hot here this week we have tried various things to help the chickens stay cool. We broke out the fan for them yesterday and some watermelon rinds. They really seemed to enjoy both. At first they wouldn't touch the watermelon but eventually one brave soul ate some and liked it; then it was on! When we came back there was nothing but the thin, dark green skin.

One funny story for ya'll: Jack had been doing some painting on the trim of the coop and was in the bittie's pen with a small step ladder. He rolled the top netting back to be able to paint and then took a lunch break, leaving the netting pulled back. He didn't think about what those little shits might do. I walked down there just in time to see 3 or 4 of them hopping up the rungs of the ladder, heading straight for that open gap in the netting! One of them reached the top and was contemplating if he could jump the rest of the way! One more leap and they probably could have made it over into the garden! I had to laugh. Maybe they aren't as stupid as many people think!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Million Dollar Babies

Well, we're not up to that figure yet; but Jack spoils these little craps like crazy. I caught him sneaking some of my cherry tomatoes out to give them for snacks the other day. They are growing very well though and go through the feed like little piggies. I am anxious to see them all get their "grown-up'' feathers too. Still can't really tell which are roo's and which are hens. I have picked out a few that I hope are hens, due to their pretty markings. They will be spared the knife.

Jack built them this new, slightly smaller run so we can keep all young chicks separated from the older ones and may also use it for separating meat chicks from layers etc. I'll show ya'll how we separate them on the inside of the coop in another post. The mornings and noontime have gotten quite hot here lately, so the babies go inside until the shade gets on their run around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Jack also built them a little lean-to for shade outside but they prefer to sit in the coop for some reason. You can see them here standing in the doorway; just in case a big bug wanders by they can rush out and grab it!

This is an Edisto 57 melon (cantaloupe) that I am trying this year. Seems to be doing well. The garden is doing pretty good but I am having a little trouble with things not getting pollinated well enough. I'm afraid possibly the large dragonfly population has taken out too many of my bees. For some reason though, I have noticed a significant drop this past week in the number of dragonflys normally patrolling the place. Coincidentally, I saw 4 honeybees today rummaging around my onion blooms. Now, that doesn't sound like squat, but around here, 4 honey bees at one time is a lot! I normally have to depend almost exclusively on the bumblebees. Hopefully things will come to some sort of balance soon and I can get my stuff pollinated!

This is just another gratuitous cute bitty shot. I hope that speckled one in the middle is a hen but I suspect it may be a rooster.
We have finally installed the metal roofing on the chicken coop and I will show that soon along with a few last details about the coop and run.
Not a lot of exciting stuff going on really. I know it's kinda boring. I've been trying to work really hard on getting my pottery business going and that is taking a bit of time. In addition to making the work, you also have to produce a portfolio to show prospective galleries (digital images etc. resume, gallery visa etc.). Then you have to research these places and find their application forms or just go visit them. And in between all this, design and get printed various promotional items for your work like business cards, product cards, etc. etc. Pain in the butt!! In fact, I threw so long today I did have a pain in my butt and it went all the way down to my knee. Not enough stretches I guess.
On a side note, I have seen where some bloggers make calenders from their blog photos and sell them for a little profit. Well, I was thinking of printing a few select photos from this blog to sell just for framing. Think any of you might be interested? They would be very affordable; maybe $5 for a 5 x 7? If I did I would just add a "Photography" page, like I did the Pottery page, and you could just go there to order which ever you wanted.