Monday, May 28, 2012

Never Forget

Freedom isn't free.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Suddenly Strange

Well, I'll warm ya right off the bat this is one of those rambling, slightly deranged, bored out of my mind kinda posts.  I don't have squat progress to post about on the house and I don't don't feel like downloading those pictures from the garden and writing a sensible article about what I've been doing there lately.  I've felt like crap the past couple of days. This leaves me to wallow on the couch, get disgusted with TV and finally end up here, vomiting my frustration on you, my dear readers, like Grendal vomits on my rug when she got too many cat treats.
In my frustrated boredom tonight I was just flipping through blogs, trying to find something new I had not seen before but my threshold for middle aged women writing about their kids and trips to McDonalds is pretty low, so this didn't go very well.  I did manage to come across a few well-known blogs that have led their authors on to illustrious careers in books and even TV.  And I'm not knocking those people at all.  Good for them, seriously.  But just looking at their pristine, superbly categorized sites I knew I will never attain such success.  Not that that was my goal here but hey!..I'm in a crappy mood so I had to be down on myself about something!  I think first off I don't have sense enough to hide the crap side of life like those people do, or make it somehow seem funny.  I just blurt out that the chickens shit all in the doorway and Chigger eats it or I cooked something new and it tasted like shit etc. etc.  Granted that doesn't happen very often but for just once I'd like for one of those fancy food bloggers to admit they made something that made the dog flee in terror.  Way back when I was first trying to learn to cook I made some biscuits.  They were not quite edible so I threw them to this ol' hound we had.  Now, a southern hound dawg will and can eat just about anything.  They kinda like goats.  Even ol' Slick spit that biscuit back up though.  I could see the fear in his eyes when it lodged in his throat.  I quickly theorized how to perform the Heimlich on a dawg but he barfed that thing back up before I could attempt it.  Good thing; I don't think it would have went well.

Being in this state of mind and body makes me want to wander too.  However, the pain killers make me too groggy to drive, so I'm confined to zooming around the globe via the web.  I have at least come up with a variety of ways to make recycled light fixtures out of egg cartons for the kitchen, if I ever get back to that.  And I have thought of a killer tile pattern to do on the fireplace divider wall, but you'll have to wait to see that too!  Ha! now you see my frustrations!!  I have the materials to finish my kitchen laying all around me and the stores where I sell my pottery keep calling me wanting spoon rests.  I am a freaking artist!!  hahahahhaha  I don't make spoon rests.  Spoon rests are crap!!  And if I would make blue spoon rests they would probably be beside themselves with joy.  Let them go to Wal-Mart.  I only make art.!!  Allen splurged the other day and got me a bottle of Knob Creek.  It does help the cramps.  And no, I'm not a drunk.  Two shots is about my limit.  Oh, I used to could do more but now heartburn gets me.  Gettin' old and decrepit.  Back when I was married, years ago, we would usually cook a big weekend meal in the summer and make cocktails, usually something with rum.  I think this one time I was making pina coladas and after about 2 he says, 'why don't you just drink that rum straight?'  Well, I guess that sounded like a good idea, so I did.  You ever been so drunk you had to hold onto the floor?  I did.  Woooweee; I felt bad.  I never did that again.  'Course, back them I had a lot more to drink about.  I had to wake up next to that sum bitch every morning!!  ha!  God I'm glad I'm not there anymore!!  But it was my own damn fault so no one to blame but me.
So, I still miss my fellers from work.  Another one called me the other day to tell me he was going to another company.  I was glad for him but it's sad.  Our old company, which really isn't anymore since it's been bought out, has just been trashing those guys benefits, pay and everything.  Everybody is trying to leave or has already left.  It's a sad thing when an honest, good craftsman can't make a decent living anymore.  I suppose the unions need to come back here but that's a whole 'nuther story.  We had some good times though!  I'll never forget Hippy and Dal gettin' stuck behind that Porto-let during that tornado!  Or Hippy's teeth flyin' out into that concrete pour.  Me and Anthony moving forms and that rat ran out right towards me!  Steve running over my brand new welding machine with the backhoe.  Watermelons.. Bama throwing rocks at me from the crane ladder where I couldn't see who was doing it.  Boy, we had some fun.
Come to think of it; things is kinda boring now that I'm not having to dodge heavy equipment, projectiles and vermin.  Ah, well, that's life I guess.  I need to have a big cook out and get them fellers up here.
Hey, I don't think I told ya'll about Daddy Rabbit and Pops??  Daddy Rabbit got let go from the company.  He was the super on the last job I was on and ya'll know I had worked for him for years.  I don't feel bad a t'all for quittin' them now.   Sons a bitches.  And poor Pops; the older black gentleman that ran the buckhoist on that job, died.  On the job.  His son, who worked there too, found him in the Porto-let dead.  Musta had a heart attack.  I sure did hate to hear that.  He was a sweetheart.
Well, now I've depressed myself again.  See what you've done!!  Got me to talkin' about all that stuff.  Well, I guess I'll go on to bed.  Nothing else to do around here.  Things will be better in a day or two though!  I hope ya'll are having a good weekend and remember the servicepeople who have sacrificed all this weekend.  God bless them and their families.

Friday, May 25, 2012

More Smell

I had a number of ya'll ask many questions about the bee repellent that I showed in the last post so I thought I'd put up the info from the website I bought the stuff from.  You can go HERE to read all about the stuff.  I think they do a good job explaining the product.  They are very clear that it is NOT an insecticide.  It will not kill the bees and if you already have an infestation you may need to use something else first.  This stuff is solely a repellent. 
I can tell you from my experience that the smell does fade somewhat so it's not like a strong overpowering odor all the time.  Because it's natural oils I think the faded odor smells kinda nice actually.  Also, it did not change the finish of the stain that I mixed it in.  I even touched up some spots on previously painted trim and I couldn't tell any difference in the sheen or anything when it dried.  I have not tried mixing it in water and spraying it on yet but I will tell you about that when I do.  I may actually mix it in water and spray the deck because it does really seem to repel ANY bug.  It seems that there are not as many flies and skeeters around the areas I have been working.

Monday, May 21, 2012

That Smell

With the recent painting renewal it also became time to deal with an issue that, over the past couple of years, has become a serious problem.  Carpenter bees have been eating select parts of my house, or trying to anyway.  Now really, they were only going after the few pieces of wood on the house that are pressure treated.  I don't understand that at all.  You would think they would avoid the chemically treated wood and go for the natural stuff but I guess these bees aren't interested in the 'green' movement.  When they first started coming around I didn't do much because it really hurts my soul to kill these creatures and they were just chewing on some boards that are probably going to be replaced anyway when I put up the real porch columns.  However, one thing I learned is that the offspring of these little piggies return each spring, somehow, to exactly the spot where they were hatched, even using the same holes sometimes.  Well, after enough generations these holes fill up faster and it's time for expansion!  Time to move to the suburbs!  When I noticed they were now crawling up under my roofing trim and flashing to get to the tops of my rafters, I said 'No more'.  I know you are a great pollinator.  I know you are a vital part of the ecosystem.  But I cannot let you eat my house.  I really, really, really hated it but we did kill a number of them to get them out of the rafters.  I do not want to continue such a thing though; neither the killing or the eating, so I did a little Google-fu and found this stuff.

It is an all- natural carpenter bee repellent that you mix in paint or just water and apply to whatever you don't want them to eat.  I was a little skeptical but willing to try.  It is also supposed to be time released so it lasts for several years.  Today I mixed it in the paint that I use on the rafters and some other trim and got to work.  Let me first just say that the odor is.....STRONG.  I would use caution if you have a bad problem with strong odors.  Secondly, nothing came near me the whole day I was painting.  No bees, skeeters, bugs, Jack, gnats, nada.  Even the dreaded deer fly stayed away if I had that bucket near me.  One dirt dobber buzzed around my head a couple of times and then flew off screaming.  Finally, towards the end of the day a lone carpenter bee appeared after I had put the paint up to do some caulking.  I got the paint back out and eased over to the rafters he was scrutinizing.  I gently brushed on some paint in his general direction.  He eased on down the other way about 8 feet.  I followed.  Little more paint near him.  He quickly buzzed off and went up to check out the eaves.  I followed.  A few more slaps of paint and he said the heck with it, I'm leaving.  Now, I don't know that it was the smell but whenever I came near him with that paint he left and I was being real quiet about it to try not to spook him.

It says that it will also repel other bugs; ants, spiders and such so I think I'll mix some in some water and spray my foundation and bottom run of siding.  I don't have any problem with bugs coming in the house now but it never hurts to do a little preventative work.  I wonder if it would repel chickens??

Oh, one note: I realize the bees are not actually ingesting my house.  They are chewing it up and spitting it out.  Same thing.  Same problem.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Brushing Up

 I imagine more than a few of you will be happy to see that I'm doing house project posts again, instead of relentless chicken and garden stuff!  Just joking, I know ya'll enjoy those too.  I, however, am VERY happy to be doing house project posts again.  I'm ecstatic to have something to post in that area.  I took just a bit of a break from the pottery, as I had a little inventory built up, and used the time to start anew on the house.  Now to just keep up that momentum but still take 3-4 days a week to do pottery.  As I have some money saved up I can devote a little more time to the house and not be having to scrap every minute to make money.  Of course, not really having any bills helps too. And having the garden in full swing for food production. Our grocery bills should be minimal for some time.
So, my first priority is to finish the outside.  Every last bit!  This shouldn't take too long actually.  It's mostly just painting, which I actually enjoy.  I know most people detest painting a house but I like it. I like how fresh everything looks.  In fact, I have to resist the urge to paint stuff that really doesn't need going over again.  I know; I'm whacked in the head.  I have been alternating between finishing this south wall and the clerestory wall that you can see just a tad of.  The upper part was really done but it needed a little touch up on the caulk and trim.  I was very happy at how well the caulking etc. is holding up in that area because it receives the brunt of the weather and sun in the winter.  I always use a siliconized latex caulk with at least a 35 year warranty. (I've actually seen some with a 50 year but it's harder to find).  The siliconized caulk is flexible enough to move with the building without cracking, and the structure is going to expand and contract with the weather.  I will say though that it works better if you apply at least a 1/4" bead to cracks, joints etc.  Smaller, thinner beads do tend to split with excessive heat/ cold.  The silicone paired with the latex base makes it paintable.  100% silicone will resist paint, so keep that in mind.  You can get 100% silicone in a variety of colors though, although you may have to go to a specialty company.  This has been one item that I have tried to be very conscientious of simply because passive solar houses are designed to be exposed to so much sun. 

I've been painting off a ladder a lot so it's handy to use a hook like this to hang your paint can and it leaves your hands free to caulk or hold onto the ladder!  I just had a thick piece of copper wire that I bent into an "S" shape.

I also love these little mini roller screens designed to fit a gallon can of paint.  I hate using a pan and avoid it whenever I can and many times if you are painting the exterior of the house you don't really have a flat place to sit those pans.  You can get these for 5 gallon buckets or these gallon sizes and they are much easier to use and faster to clean up than the pans and all that crap.
So, I'm going as quickly as I can on the outside because that means I can then start on the kitchen!!  Actually, I can start doing a few prep things on the kitchen in the evenings after supper and I'll show ya'll a few of the things I'm working on there.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tea For Two

I'm not sure if I ever showed ya'll a close up of the tea plants I ordered or not so I thought I'd post abut that today.  They are basically an evergreen shrub, Camellia Sinensis, although there are several varieties.  Some have white blooms, some have pink etc.  I have 3 each of the white and pink but I think I'm going to prefer the white blooming shrubs, which this is.  They seem to have a much more vigorous growing habit and a more tender leaf.
Anyway, they seem to be doing really well here and are already putting out a lot of new shoots.  As I've told show people though, they have not gone through a winter yet but I believe they'll be just fine.  Our regular camellias grow prolifically here with hardly any care at all.

Starting in the spring, you pinch off the 3 tiny shoots at the tip of each limb and this is what makes the tea.  Whether or not you make black, white, green or oolong depends on how the leaves are fermented, if at all, and how they are dried.  It doesn't sound horribly complicated but I'm sure you have to be pretty consistent in your drying etc. to get a good product.  I would like to just be able to supply myself with tea but if I could make more, I think it would make a good side income.  Of course, that would require A LOT of plants!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Get It While You Can

I guess this is just a little photo update of what's going on around here now.  Whole different set of plants blooming now in the driveway flower bed.  The daisy-like flowers in the foreground is Feverfew.  I need to pick a good supply of the flowers to dry for tea.  It funny 'cause last summer these disappeared but I guess the seeds survived in the ground and came up this year.

I FINALLY got a clematis vine to bloom!  It's not very big but has lovely flowers on it.  I'm not sure why I have such trouble with these.

Most of the garden is doing quite well.  On the right you can see the first bits of the peas and green beans coming up.

The broccoli has done much better this year; larger heads and all.  I have harvested about 4 quarts of the stuff so far.  Ate two and froze two.  I still have about 6 plants that I have not touched.  I may pull up some of the ones I've cut and use the space to plant some more hot weather crops and leave a few broccoli to produce the occasional side crop, if it will.  I'll sow another crop towards fall to try to have some for the winter.

The raspberries are doing great!!  Fingers crossed!  The birds have been rough on my strawberries and I had to put netting over them; may have to do the same with these.  I'm not much on preserving raspberries so I'll probably just gorge myself on them fresh!  It's a fine trade-off to me.  Fresh, plump berries for a few weeks as opposed to mushy, mediocre berries all year round.

Good bug or bad bug??  He didn't seem to be eating my plant; just kinda hanging out.  Beautiful design work on 'em.  Maybe a warning symbol to birds not to eat?

Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird have raised one brood already this year and have started on their second!  I moved their nesting box into the fenced garden area after those damn raccoons ate their babies last year.  Now all those coons will get is a handful of hot wire if they try to get at them.  The bluebirds really seem to enjoy this area, even with us occasionally working in the garden.  And they patrol the garden regularly for bugs to feed their babies and themselves.  The garden is really starting to deliver the goods and all the critters like the birds and worms and such are very active in it.  I think I'm almost as proud of the garden as I am of the house.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Friday Food.....on Saturday

 I still have several of the roosters in the freezer from our first ever batch of chickens and I alternate between cooking one of them and one of the broiler chickens, which are much better for baking or roasting.  The assorted roosters are just a little too lean to make a good baking chicken but I was determined to find the best way to cook them and not waste any.  What I found is a super easy way to cook them.  I just defrost one and simmer it in a big pot for 1 to 2 hours.  This accomplishes several things:  1. I get at least a half a gallon of good, fresh chicken stock for seasoning and soups.  2.  The chicken meat is extremely easy to pull off the bone, assuring it's all used with no waste and it's very tender.  (the bones then go back into the stock pot to simmer another hour or so.)  3.  I now have a couple of pounds of juicy chicken meat to use in whatever recipe I decide on.  I've been bad to just bake a chicken, because it's so easy, and not experiment with new ways to cook them and this way I have to come up with a new recipe.
Southern Living just happen to put out a bunch of new chicken recipes this week so I decided to their Chicken Enchiladas.  It was very good.

Chicken Enchiladas

5 tablespoons of butter, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
3 (4 oz.) cans diced green chilies, divided
3 cups shredded Colby-Jack cheese, divided
8 soft taco size tortillas
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
Toppings: fresh cilantro, chopped tomato, shredded lettuce, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium heat;  add onion and bell pepper, saute' 5 minutes or until tender.

Stir together onion mixture, chicken, 1 can diced chilies and 2 cups shredded cheese.  Spoon a heaping 1/3 cup onto each tortilla and roll up.  Arrange tortillas , seams down, in a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; whisk in flour until smooth.  Cook, whisking constantly 1 minute.  Gradually stir in broth and milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes or until thick and bubbly.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining 2 cans of chilies.

Remove enchiladas from oven and pour green chili mixture over enchiladas.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake at 350 degrees (F.) for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve with desired toppings.

Now, I used corn tortillas instead of flour because I like the texture better for enchiladas.  I also added a little cumin, garlic, red pepper flakes and cilantro to the chicken mixture because I didn't have any green chilies.  Oh, I also added some fresh yellow corn to this mixture.  I had more chicken than what they called for so my recipe ended up making about 16 tortillas; it filled the whole pan, but I just whipped up a little more sauce than what they called for.  In fact, I made extra to pour over the enchiladas right before serving as you can see in the photo.  I thought it was quite yummy and apparently Jack did too.  It would be good served with a small salad too.

Since we've found a local source for fresh, mostly organic, actually tasty strawberries, we have bought about 4 gallons to put up.  I took a couple of cups and mixed with some store bought rhubarb to make this pie last night.  Yummyyyyyy!!!!  Yeah, I know my crust is messy and kinda wonky but who cares!  It doesn't last long!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Seeing Red

I've been promising to put up a few pictures to show Ed what really red soil looks like around here, as compared to the soil of my land. My foot is somewhat better by the way, but I really have had to take drastic measures to get it to heal all the way.  The new shoes and inserts and supplements and all the other stuff you nice people have suggested is working I think but I've also gone as far as to use crutches now whenever possible to just stay completely off my foot.
 Anyway; back to my original story.  The photo above is from a job I was on south of Birmingham.  Now, some of you may know that Birmingham was once a significant steel manufacturing town.  The Pittsburgh of the South! so they say.  Well, this was due, in great part, to the large deposits of iron ore that lay across the middle section of the state.  Red Mountain in the heart of Birmingham really is red.

And this is a chunk of ground iron ore that came from about 50 feet below the surface of Red Mountain.  Many, many years ago I was on a job being built right on top of the mountain and the building had an elevator installed in it.  The guys drilled a large hole down into the mountain for the hydraulic shaft of the elevator to fit in and every time they would bring the drill bit up, which was huge, I would clean the slurry off of it to save.  It was almost pure iron ore and makes a great colorant for ceramic glazes and clay.  Of course, this isn't really soil but this mineral is what gives that famed red clay of the south it's color.

There is actually a local clothing company, Earth Creations, that sells organically grown cotton clothing that has been dyed with this iron ore.  And yes, it will stain your hands and clothes and everything you get it on!
I still use the ore in some of my glazes and such and it's a great selling point when you tell people about it.

I also promised to show the birthday present I bought for me at the art show I did a couple of weeks ago and since it is predominantly red, I thought it fit right in with this post!  It's a very nice watercolor done by an artist from Tennessee and will be very appropriate hanging in a southern kitchen, I think.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Local Color

Since I can't seem to get a break with my own strawberries, I decided to drive over to a neighboring small town that has a couple of those 'you pick' strawberry farms.  They also claim to use organic growing practices and when I chatted with the farmer he readily explained what that meant.  He also confirmed my choice for ordering Chandler strawberries for this area.  He said they were great for home gardeners and the ones he sold us were quite tasty!  So, on the way there and back I thought ya'll might like to see some of the surrounding countryside.  I know I've shown similar pictures before but this area is a bit more hilly.  I've always thought it was very pretty out this way.

We've been getting out quite a bit these past couple of weeks in order to appease my wanderlust. I know going to pick strawberries isn't very exciting but we do other, more cosmopolitan things too!  The concert the other week is a good example.  I know it seems crazy to some that someone like myself, that likes to wander so much, would tie themselves down to a homestead type place but I don't know of another way to achieve the type of life I want of food and economic independence.  It's nice to have a partner that I know will take care of things while I'm out exploring or go with me on occasion too.

These 2 barns I have pictures of are a bit of an unusual style for the south but I think they are cool.  The lower roof on this one is sort of an odd design.

We also participated in a community yard sale yesterday.  We made a little money and, more importantly, got rid of some more stuff that might be cluttering the place here. We also had the good luck to be put next to a local Hispanic church at the yard sale that was raising money by selling home cooked food.  They had some magnificent tamales.  Holy cow!!  I LOVE good tamales!  Between me and Allen they made pretty good on their food.  I also got some nachos, which they talked me into putting pickled jalapenos on, and it was good! Of course, I might have made a few more dollars if we hadn't been put next to them but we had fun.

This is another unusual design for this area but oddly enough, there is one very similar to it about 15 miles south of here.  That one is on a dairy farm and this may have been one also at one time; it's now just for beef cattle.
So, today I am trying to get some loose ends tied up and cleaned up for tomorrow starts the big push to finish the house!!  I will still be doing pottery part of the week but I am really getting serious about completing the house and landscaping.  AND, I expect ya'll to give me a kick if I start slacking off any.  My first project is to complete the painting of the exterior.  I know, it's downright awful that I have not finished that before now!!  Once I get that done, which shouldn't take more than 2-3 days, I think I will then move to the kitchen.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Planting Seeds

We have been a little late getting the rest of the garden planted but it's no big deal really, since our growing season is so long here.  Our last frost is usually around April 18th so I'm not horribly late!  And we kept having these really cold spells of near freezing temps after having a really warm March so I was afraid to set out hot weather plants.  It's all worked out though.  We have expanded the garden over into the secondary chicken run where we kept the broilers.  The area above, in the original garden, was planted with green beans, black-eyed peas, tomatoes, cukes and squash in addition to the cool weather crops already in.  On the far left you can see part of the broccoli and brussel sprouts.  In the far left back you can see the potatoes coming up nicely.  All the fruits are over here too.  I tidied up too, cleaning out the cold frame and such but this area needs much more work.

This is the expansion area where I planted corn and cantaloupes.  The broilers pooped this place full for about 3 months so it should be well fertilized!  To the right, on the other side of the fence, is blueberries, strawberries in the raised bed, and raspberries down by the coop.  That white dot down by the little black door is Goober digging in the dirt.

I am trying a different approach in planting my tomatoes this year.  I was reading some gardening info and came upon one lady's procedure for planting and it sounded good so I thought I'd try it.  Basically, you dig a deep hole, deeper than you are going to plant your plant.  Know what I mean?  She recommended 2 feet deep but my plants were only about 1 foot tall so I dug about 16 inches down.  Throw in a handful of basic fertilizer.  I just happened to have some organic stuff formulated for tomatoes.  Then, throw in a couple of crushed eggshells.  Then a fish head if you have it.  I didn't, so I just poured in a little fish emulsion and a banana peel.  Then, throw in a little bone meal and a few inches of dirt on top of all that.  Then, plant your tomato plant.  I plant mine deep to help them establish deep roots so I had about 4-5 inches of plant sticking up after filling the hole.  Then, bury 2 aspirin tablets about 6 inches away from the plant stalk.  This is supposed to help the tomato resist some blights.  Just a little epsom salts might not hurt either.  So, we'll see.  I'll either kill them or have great maters!

Hey, in other news, I cooked my very first, totally from scratch pizza!!  I made the dough and everything!  I was surprised at how quick it was to do so and it came out great!  I would like a crust that was maybe just a tad chewier? Maybe?  But it was still good.  I just threw together some stuff I happened to have for the toppings.  I used some chard (it's like spinach), smoked sausage, ham, onions and feta cheese.  I thought it was great!  The feta adds a wonderful flavor.