Monday, June 30, 2014

Cry Me A River

 Well, nothing like talking to a real life friend to totally mash any delusions that your blog is enjoyable and entertaining for folks!  I'm just joking around really.  Sorta.  I talked to the infamous BFA today and he informed me that every time he had read my postings lately he went away with the desire to go stick his head in the oven.  I take it he felt my posts were kinda "downers".  Haha!   Well, it hasn't been my intention, to be posting depressing stuff, but I may have inadvertently gone that way a few times.  So....to make up for this gross transgression...I give you.....
Fuzzy, baby chicken butts!!!
They make all things right again and spread the warm fuzzies like nobody's bidness!!  Sorta like when George, the largest of the babies, gets on my shoulders and craps down my back.  I even have a feel-good, warm fuzzies story to go along with them.


The baby you see pictured here is Tilly, the youngest and smallest of the four new bitties we got a couple weeks ago.  They all seemed quite healthy and active when we got them but I noticed a few days after they had been here that Tilly just didn't seem to be as active.  She stood in the corner a lot and always wanted in my lap when I would go visit them, where she would quickly fall asleep.  A heavy rain shower came through one afternoon and it turned unusually chilly afterwards, so I went out to check on the babies where I found Tilly huddled in the corner once again, shivering a little.  Now, for some reason she is kinda bald on her lower back, and baby chickens need a lot of warmth, so I scooped her up and brought her into the house.  I had also noticed that her crop never seemed to be anywhere near full and she didn't seem to like the chick starter meal we had gotten them.


 I pulled out a box and made Tilly a quick bed within it on an old heating pad.  A soft, stuffed dog took the place of Mama Hen and it wasn't long before Tilly was nice and warm and sound asleep.  I had gotten her to eat several raspberries beforehand but I knew it wasn't going to be enough to last.
The next morning we took her out with the others but she just didn't seem to be eating like they were.  I experimented a little and found that, alone with me in the yard, she would forage and gobble up stuff as well as any other chick though.  Now, Tilly must be about half the age of the other chicks she came with because they were SO much bigger than her.  They never attacked her or anything but if you have ever had chickens you know that they get very excited around food and Tilly was just getting knocked around every which way when she found a bug or whatever and was usually coming up empty handed, so to speak.  The lack of getting much down her gullet was making her weak and further unable to fend against the bigger chicks.


So, Jack and I devised a plan.  We would take Tilly into the garden with us while we were working, so she could forage all she wanted to with no competition.  She loved it.  Finally, she could have all she wanted to eat without having to fight those others.  And, since she is so small, she is absolutely no harm to the garden.  We started letting one other chick (Pumpkin) go with her, so that she would have some company, and it's so much space they would not be competing.  Either Jack or I am always with her too, because the garden is not covered and a hawk could, theoretically, swoop down and just haul her off.  It worked really well and soon Tilly was stuffed full of bugs and other goodies and even eating her chick starter meal again.  She regained her strength and now even takes bugs away from some of the others!  She's small but she's fast. 


After she regained enough strength and was running all over Pumpkin, we started bringing all four of the chicks into the garden with us while we're working.  It works really well actually.  They are small enough now that they don't damage any plants or the fruits.  Well, they will snatch a strawberry or blueberry if they can reach it but I will afford them a nutritious snack like that.  The strawberries are about gone anyway.  They run through the beans and tomatoes and squash like nobody's business, eating bugs and such and never hurt the plants or disturb things.  George, the biggest, does scratch a little but even he doesn't mess much up. 


Little Tilly's legs are so tiny that, even though she goes through the motions of scratching, she's not really moving anything.  I'll even sometimes move the mulch for her so she can look for bugs or worms and then move it back after she has scoured the area.
She loves the garden so much now that she runs like crazy to the gate anytime she sees us come around.  Unfortunately, we can't stay out there all day with her but she, and the others, do get a few hours a day and they have their regular outdoor run the rest of the time.  With this procedure Tilly has caught up enough that I don't really worry about her anymore.  Her crop is always about to pop at the end of every day now, so she's getting her fill! 


They were also very quick to learn that wherever we are digging there is liable to be worms and bugs to be found and you can see here how much they were "helping" Jack weed this area.  You can also see that huge overgrowth of weeds and grass that I let get out of hand.  But, valiant Jack soldiered on until he dug all that crap out.  He then put down black silt fence to kill any roots.  A little later I'll finish the brick entryway and side beds that go in this area.  If nothing else, Tilly gave us the motivation to work in the garden weeding for longer than we probably would have otherwise, just to give her plenty of time to eat.  It paid off for all of us.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

There's No Business Like Show Business

 Goodness!  I guess I didn't realize just how long it had been since I last posted. Kind of just the same ol' stuff going on here:  Rain and more rain.  Some days I feel like crap.  Some days I feel pretty good.  Pottery making and deliveries.  Not much going on in the way of building but I have been cleaning and getting rid of more stuff.  That always helps. 
And speaking of 'stuff', we did go to the antiques Roadshow!!  And I had a blast!  Of course, none of the things I took were worth much but it was still a lot of fun and I can now say I finally got to do that.  We made a day of it by going in a little early and having a nice dinner at The Fish Market downtown.  Then we headed over to the Birmingham Civic Center and found our way to the exhibition hall where the show was being held. 


When you received your tickets they all had a particular time on them that your ticket was good for.  That way they wouldn't have 6,000 people show up at one time trying to get in.  Our tickets were for 5:00 p.m.  The last group to be admitted.  It was all very smooth and we actually did not have to wait very long before going into the area where they do the actual appraisals.  We talked to other people in line, which was fun, and finally made it through the lines to have our items appraised.  If you are familiar with the show, Sebastian Clarke appraised my little stool and he was a lot of fun to talk to.  All the people were very nice but you could tell many of them were kinda tired at that point.  Nevertheless, while I was waiting on Allen to get his item appraised, I just walked around observing and the folks running things said I could wander around inside where they were filming and watch.  Just mind not to get in the way, which I tried to be careful of.  So that was cool.  From what I read later they found some really good (and expensive) items in Birmingham and I watched them film 2 different appraisals. 


So, these are the items I took.  My little walnut stool.  I was correct in my guess about it's age (early 1930's).  One of my older Yixing teapots out of my small collection.  And, my Japanese teabowl.  As I told Allen when I met back up with him, I won't be building the other half of my house anytime soon with my new found wealth but...all the items were, at least, worth more than what I paid for them.  At any rate, we had a really fun time and it was something I've wanted to do for a long time.  And yes, I will be applying for tickets again!! 
Oh, and if you are wondering; they would not let you take any photos once you entered the area where the appraisals were going on, so that is why I really don't have any pictures.  But I do have good memories!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

And So It Goes

 Well, as we had talked about a couple of posts back, this is just a kind of update of what's going on around here.  Heavy on the photos.  I was sitting here thinking to myself, 'well, I just don't have that much to write about.'  But basically, that's not true.  I mean, if I really consider it, there are tons to write about; growing herbs and their uses, gardening methods, crop experiments, simple life strategies, animal care, minimalism and the list goes on.  Truth is, I've just been lazy about thinking up stuff.  I've been kinda down for the past couple of weeks, or more, and just haven't felt like talking much.  Just my usual stuff I guess.  I have had trouble adjusting to being at home all the time.  And I know it's been like 2 years since I retired from construction but it's still working on me.  I guess I need more social connections than I thought.  But, I have been making some changes around here and am feeling better about things.  I'll explain as I go on.


As far as here though, I've got a lot more herbs and such growing than I had last year.  I try to add a couple of new things each year if possible.  A friend gave me several lemongrass sprouts and so I added those to my deck herb garden.  They are doing well.  I've got a lot of parsley going this year as it seems we go through a lot of that and I like to share some with any monarch butterflies that happen through.  Unfortunately, that doesn't happen much but we do get a few.


The oats have taken a real beating in all the rain and storms and those damn moles but it is trying to stand tall again.  I really have no idea what I'm doing with this stuff but it's a fun experiment.  Hopefully I will get a few pounds of oats from it.


The rest of the garden is doing well.  It is beautiful and weedless thanks to Jack.  I've done some of the mulching but he really deserves the credit on most of it.  I have been trying to get started on some new directions in my pottery and have also joined the local gym, so after I got the garden planted, most of the maintenance falls on him. 


This extremely cold past winter killed back all of our fig trees, along with all the other fig trees in Alabama.  I haven't seen any that got by unscathed.  We predict a fig shortage this year!  They are coming out at the roots again but I don't know if they will have time to bear any fruit.


Lots of squash and so far, no bugs!  Well, there is that spider there but you know what bugs I'm talking about.  My friend also gave me a dwarf zucchini that grows in a pot so I'm trying that out on the deck.  It's fruiting so we'll see.


The tomatoes are doing well and I almost have some ripe ones!  I'll be so glad to have fresh, real tomatoes.  I'm not sure why some of these photos look so out of focus.  It was getting close to sundown when I took these and that may be part of it.  Slow shutter speed.


Going to the gym has been good although I am having to take it pretty slow for now.  I joined mainly to be able to swim but after getting very bad headaches from my half hour swimming stints I'm not sure how that's going to work.  Best I can figure, most of the positions that you must hold your head in to swim stresses my neck too much and walaaa! a headache!  (I can't turn my head to the side repeatedly or look up for long due to the fusions.)  I can swim on my back or side and that doesn't bother me too bad but I think I need to cut it down to maybe only 15 minutes.  I do the circuit machines for cardio though and some light weights also.  It helps my mood greatly and lets me get out and about.


And lookie!!  we got some new sweeties.  It wasn't really planned but they are so sweet.  Allen went to a local auction to sell some of his pheasants, which he did, but he ended up buying 8 young chickens just 'cause he felt kinda bad for the lady selling these.  Unbelievably enough, no one was bidding on them.  So he bid and got them!  He also bought 4 Polish Crested, which I have always wanted, but when I watched them for a while I decided they may all be roosters, and quite aggressive, so I didn't want them.  These little goobers were just so sweet though and kept following me around the pen and I am such a sucker for cute little biddies.  They were also kinda getting picked on by the other birds and Allen was concerned about that, so we bought them from him and brought them down here.  Those Polish Crested can hold their own against those pheasants.


They are in the chick run and are having a great time.  I think I have 3 hens and 1 rooster.  I hope!  These are Buff Orpingtons by the way.  This was the incentive we needed to get rid of those two neurotic, noisy Brown Leghorns, so Jack took those to a lady that has a small farm not far from here.  They will still get to free range but with about 50 other chickens!


These are so funny; I just love to sit with them for a while each day.  They are so excited about everything and run to you whenever they see you coming.  They finally learned tonight how to go inside the coop house into their little separate "apartment", so they are catching on and settling in.

Well, I hope I will be back soon enough with something more interesting.  We go to Antiques Roadshow on Saturday!!!!!! so I may post before that or that may be the next post!!  Who knows!!  I hope you all are having  a nice summer so far.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ramble On


Well, tonight's post is just an exercise in rambling.  A spillage of random and erratic thoughts.  My normal way of thinking in other words, not cleaned up and organized to fool ya'll into thinking I know what I'm talking about.  I'm not sure if it's the rain, the bugs or the humidity that has destroyed my enthusiasm lately but I'm just bored out of my gourd and lacking any energy to do anything about it.  I've tried to get a few photos of the garden and things going on around here but it's either raining like hell, complete with lots of lightning, or you are so busy fighting the mosquitoes and deer fly, it's almost impossible to focus on photos.  Everything has the musty, sopping wet feel of an old sponge that's been laying in a kitchen sink for a few days.  We either go to sleep hypnotized by the flashing of distant lightning or are woken in the early morning hours, the house trembling from the close proximity of the hits.

I often wonder what the chickens think about the lightning and thunder.  They are never deterred by the rain though.  They remind me of little pigs with feathers.  They actually seem to relish the mud, scratching and flinging it with abandon to find worms and other goodies.  Then they run to me with their little muddy feet and heads.  Why doesn't she want us to sit in her lap today??  They stay out in the showers enough to let it wash all that away though and when the heavy downpours come they'll all rush under our trucks to sit and preen and re-oil everything again.

I guess my mood isn't help much by the fact that I've been going through photos trying to pick a number of them to be printed.  I want to make a scrapbook of when Jack and I went out west.  And I have lots of picture frames to be filled, or given away.  Seeing all those photos makes me want to go, of course.  Maybe I should have been a photographer for a travel magazine!  or a newspaper or anything where I worked on the road.  But, I've been there partially.  It gets old sometimes.  I think I did figure part of it out though; my restlessness.  As beautiful as this hollar is, I think it's somehow confining to me.  I can't see the horizon.  I've always loved that distance.  Those wide open spaces.  They make you feel free.  I think that's why I love a sparse house; it's open and uncluttered.  Just space.  I love the shade here, the flowing shady creek..... but I can't see over that hill.

People don't talk to you on blogs like they used to.  That's one reason I like to sometimes read back through old posts from a few years back.  Lots of conversations going on.  I fear we are entering a time when people really don't communicate anymore.  There is the semblance of it but no real substance.  Used to have your 15 minutes of fame, now you have your 15 seconds of contact.  Just enough to make us feel there are other humans around us but don't ask me to sit with you in person.  That thin digital mask is always present and all it takes is a swipe to move on.  Gotta have something fresh to hold my attention.  I might be missing out on something really good.  All the while something really good walks by as we are all looking down. 



Speaking of old posts, some of you may remember ol' Ernie, Allen's bloodhound.  Well, he passed on from this old world yesterday evening.  Ernie was pretty old; he was a stray that came up here a few years back and Allen took him in.  He was terribly aggravating at times and produced incredible amounts of saliva but he was a good ol' dog at heart.  He just wanted to be petted and a bone to chew on.

So, now that I have depressed you all I shall go to bed.  My work here is done.  Ha!  Hopefully I'll be back soon with something better to report.  If anybody's even listening.  And if you're not that okay; it gives my brain something to do so that, hopefully, it won't set up into a big chunk of nothingness.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

First Things First


Well, the garden is off to a really good start this year...knock on wood, and I'm ecstatic to have several "firsts" to report.  For one thing, my cherry tree actually made some cherries this year and they stayed on long enough to ripen!  To me, growing cherries has always seemed like such an exotic thing (I honestly don't know why) so this was pretty cool.  Of course, they were kinda small and not enough to do anything with, other than just eat, but I was happy.  I plan on getting another tree so, hopefully, that will make them more productive.


This is also my first year to successfully grow cauliflower!  I had tried a couple times before, and I'm not sure of the time of year I tried, but this worked.  You know I had posted not long ago that I was about to think they were not going to do anything and then a couple days later I noticed the first heads starting to form.  They grow pretty quick after that.  I haven't cut one yet but it won't be long.  And you know, I've never been one to cook cauliflower really.  I just like it raw with dip.  But I think I want to try to make some kimchi this year and I might add some to one batch.


Some of my potatoes are doing well, but that's not a first.  I though this was interesting though: the 2 left hand rows were planted from last years seed taters or ones that sprouted up this spring in the garden and I transplanted them over to the rows.  The right hand 1 1/2 rows are from seed taters I bought fresh this spring.  As you can see they are much more vigorous.  I thought this was kind of interesting as I didn't think that would make that much difference.  Oh well, maybe I'm easily amused.  Hopefully I'll get some kind of decent potato harvest either way.

So, it keeps storming on and off again here and I keep going on and off again. lol!  Some days I feel pretty good and some days I could snap somebody's neck for looking at me wrong.  I dream sometimes about moving to an area that doesn't get low pressure systems much but I have no idea where that would be.  The desert maybe?  So, for now I hide out in the cool basement studio and growl at things that go by.  I am throwing, trying to get caught up on pottery, in between working in the garden.  I hopefully have a very cool restoration job coming up in Birmingham and that will be a lot of fun to work on.  Still waiting to see if they accept my estimate though.
So, there you go.  Any firsts in your world?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

In The Garden

After reading this post you might like to enlarge the photos, by clicking on one, and go through the slideshow.


 While we were on the coast a few weeks ago, we took time to visit Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile.  I can't really remember if I had ever been before but it was very nice and I enjoyed touring the gardens.  They have a pretty wide selection of garden types; sunny meadows, shade, water and Japanese amongst others.


Their rose garden was maybe not quite as nice as Birmingham's but they had some real beauties nonetheless.   I love bi-colored roses like these.  And these were real roses too, not any of that "knock-out" crap that don't even have a fragrance.  In my book, it's not real unless it has that rose smell.  I'm absolutely horrible at actually growing roses but maybe one day I can devote a little more time to my efforts.


They had a very nice arboretum that was crammed with all sorts of cool flowers, trees and shrubs.   Jack's interest poops out during these kinda of things but he always brings his Kindle so he can find a quiet place to read and I can look for as long as I want.  Jack's sister-in-law was kind enough to take us to the gardens so she and I went over every square foot of the place just about.


I really loved this area with the pool.  The story of Bellingrath is fairly interesting.  Basically, a very well to do couple, with no children, bought several hundred acres (I think) as a "fish camp" for Mr. Bellingrath to use for relaxation and fun.  Well, Mrs. Bellingrath thought it needed some work, so she hired a famous architect and well, the rest is history.  You know how those architects are....After extensive development they decided they might open their gardens to the public for one day, so in 1934 they placed an ad in the Mobile paper.  Anyone who would like could come out for an afternoon stroll around the gardens, free of charge.  I think something like 4,700 people showed up and they got the idea that maybe they should allow the gardens to be open more often.


Mrs. Bellingrath was the first to pass away and in his devotion and love for her, Mr. Bellingrath established the gardens as a public establishment forever in her memory.


 Visiting places like this always makes me want to go all wild landscaping when I get home.  I, however, have to work with a severe lack of funds.  And landscaping design sense.  Mostly I just move rocks and plants, that are already growing here, around until I find something that works.  I am going to put in some kind of fountain/ water garden behind the house though and it is going to be cool beans.


Of course there was the quintessential Spanish moss hanging from the trees everywhere.  The girls in the big Gone With The Wind dresses only come out on special occasions though.


Since it was originally a fish camp it actually is situated on the shores of a river and several of the trails lead down to the water.


This was a good size estuary sponsored by, get this... Exxon.  I laughed out loud at that one.  What hypocrites.  How 'bout spending some dough up in that Alaskan town you ruined, you bastards.


Anyway.   Jack did join us long enough to see what kind of trouble he could get into and he always finds something.


The ideal time to come here would be when the azaleas are blooming because this place was eat up with them.  I can imagine that when they are blooming it is just a sea of color everywhere.  But, alas, they had all bloomed a few weeks before we were there.


Lots of mossy trees.  We took a break for a really yummy lunch in their cafeteria and I thought everything was very reasonably priced, including admission.


The Japanese gardens was the only part that was a little disappointing.  Birmingham's got them beat by a mile.  However, they did have a few plant/ flower species I had never seen before, like this ginger.  (I think)


There is a home there also that you can tour but we were not interested.  I was kinda surprised to see it was modest compared to today's rich people standards.

 

There wasn't a lot of art but they did have a few bronzes and things.  I want a spouty frog for my garden.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Supper's Ready


I haven't done a food post in a while, and I have been meaning to show my method for making a pot roast for some time, so...here ya go.  It's not exactly a recipe but more just a technique I guess.  I prefer pork roasts over beef but whatever you like works.  I rub a variety of seasonings into the roast and then place on a hot grill.  You are not cooking it here but just leaving it long enough to sear both sides well and get the fat caramelizing.  Then, just put in a crock pot on low and cook for however many hours.  I add some potatoes and onions that I have covered in olive oil and seasonings.  They don't dry out that way.


And, a few hours later you have a tasty meal with almost no effort.  I usually serve a salad or some type greens or veggies with this.  A nice glass of wine is good too!


We have an abundance of sugar snap peas right now so I stir fried them with some stray asparagus spears and  mushrooms.  Very tasty!  I'm only getting a little asparagus every few days now so a stir fry is a good way to use it when I don't have enough for a whole dish.  Of course, I added some fresh garlic and then, right at the end, toss a little sesame oil on for flavor.  Or.. a splash of balsamic vinegar would be good too.

I let about half of the peas mature and then shelled them per my experiment to see if the chickens would like them.  Well, they didn't.  A few of them ate them but most just mashed them up and spit them out!  It's just as well though because it would take a crap load of these to make enough for any substantial amount of feed addition and I just don't have the stamina to shell that many peas!  I'll just freeze them for us.  I like them in pot pies and soup.  What about you?