Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse day was... eclipsed....

 ... by yesterday.  Today, nothing happened in these parts in regards to the eclipse.  We never looked for the special viewing glasses so there was no way we were going to look at the sun.  As the time came, and went, for our eclipse here... nothing.  No shadowing; birds kept chirping; chickens stayed awake.  

My sister, who lives in the Cottonwood area (about 130 miles from us), did have the glasses and said she saw about 50% coverage of the sun.  Would've been cool if the sun dimmed about 50% around us as we'd notice that.  But, it was not to be.

Yesterday, we had a humdinger of a storm with more than half an inch in the rain gauge and loss of internet, power and phone.  All in all, I'd say the storm was the winner for weather phenomenon around here.

On Saturday, I finally got around to using the chickens as lawn mowers. We actually have no lawn, but we have an abundance of grass coming up in the garden.  It was finally tall enough for them to get a couple bites from each blade, too.  

I dropped off a meager breakfast portion so they'd be hungry.  I had to drop and back off as the melee was something.  I find I always want to play a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos* **because that's what they act like.  Every head was bobbing and grabbing.

So, finally the gate was opened and I pulled up a chair to make sure they only ate the grass and didn't try to attack our food.  I think they thought they were in heaven.  After an hour... well, they all left the garden and came to sleep by me under the bushes. Kind of a letdown for me.  I grew tired of sitting there, so I shut the gate and decided to try again later.

Turned out that yesterday I just decided to leave the gate open all day and they could do what they wanted.  Really, only the kale is reachable and that's their food, so I didn't need to worry much.  They don't jump in the squash troughs and can't get to the broccoli and Brussel sprouts, so I saw no reason to stand guard.  

Now, I see no dent in the amount of grass there so I'm wondering if they will turn out to be good mowers.  I may have to ask Steve to buzz-cut the place.

Yup, today the sun was the celestial "being" of the news programs.  No difference in the sun up here, but I found my own little sun in the garden. One of my yellow heirloom tomatoes finally changed color today.  It's not ready to harvest until red stripes appear on it, but it did add a little sunniness to our eclipse-less mountain.

*“I have not received, nor expect to receive, any compensation for items mentioned in the blog that I like, or may suggest to the viewers.  The items are just something that works/worked for me.  The Irish Lady.”

 ** Copyright, Hasbro

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Stable steps for an unstable gardener...

We finally made the big decision to change home insurance companies because, for SOME reason incomprehensible to us, they kept raising our rates.  Actually, we know why.  Some companies equate forest with forest fires and... well you know where this went.  So, for the time being, we will try out another company.  

We got a fair rate, but they didn't like our front steps.  Yeah, they moved a little when Ziva hit them at full speed, but she was to only one to really use them. The drop-off was too high for me to feel comfortable since I always pictured myself rolling to the bottom.  And, the whole front would eventually change, at some near (far) point, to a deck.  Still, we had 3 months to change the setup, so we got started.

We still hope the get the deck soon, so how to make the steps stable? Hmm.....

First, cement pads for the feet...

... and try to get them aligned to fit perfectly...
 ...measurements drove Steve crazy...

... finally the tubes were in and cement was mixed and ready.  A piece of wood was placed into the top to make an indentation for the feet to sit in and not allow movements of said steps...

... so, we are at the drying stage.  This picture makes it look like we already had a major accident.  After steps get set on pads, we'll add cement steps up to metal ones.  Hopefully, this will work until everything comes back out.

Yes, I pleaded with Steve to finally move the old blocks to the garden area. It took the look of an accident away from anyone who may have seen the mess.  I may add another bed at some point and they'll need to be there anyway.  Can't do much until he finishes the railroad tie wall near the troughs.  

Ziva stood like a statue for half an hour on the ties... she'd trapped several lizards there and was so excited that she may get one...

... she didn't.  They're smart lizards.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Down... focused... stuffed... and back....

Yes, it's an odd title for the blog but it does say exactly what went on this weekend.  We were FINALLY able to get reservations for a wine dinner at one of our favorite spots.  This is what we usually pick for anniversary, birthdays and celebrations for the year.  It's probably the only thing we agree on, too.  

We get emails when one is coming up but usually can't get back to them in time to get in on one.  The emails come out about a week in advance and we don't check our emails much. Yeah, I know.  WHAT ELSE DO YOU PEOPLE HAVE TO DO?  Suffice it to say that this time the invite came in WHILE I was using the computer.  I yelled for Steve and he said to go for it.  Called in... were accepted... and bingo. 

Now, for the "focused" part of our title this post.  What were we needing done, that we hadn't done and so now could get done?  Get our glasses replaced.  So, onto that website and appointments made for the same day as dinner.  

Hastily made chicken plans, garden plans and packing plans.  While Steve was out to the post office, I added a chicken treat to his list of stops.

The girls wouldn't be allowed out while we were gone so here was my plan to keep boredom away and, hopefully, stop any egg-eating problems popping up. Suspended a head of cabbage in their ball, filled food and water and it was hasta la vista, baby!

Stopped in for our eye exams and new glasses are ordered.  I lost a little farsightedness and Steve gained a bit more astigmatism.  Otherwise, good outcomes.  Being able to read a highway sign 3 miles away wasn't a particularly needed skill; would prefer to read a book, or seed packet, without help instead... but it's not to be.  Oh well!  At best, we have healthy eyes and at even better, the whole trip down and up became a mileage tax deduction. Double win!

After a quick run home, clothes changed and we were off for our many-celebrations dinner and reason for my "stuffed" headline.


... my plate became deconstructed when Steve put his shrimp on it... 

It was one of the best times and a treat I'd recommend for those who enjoy wine.  Met some great people and learned a lot.  Best way to lump all celebrations into a fun night.

Then, we were awake most of the night with a hurricane-type storm going through the western Valley of the Sun (um, Valley of the Deluge).  NEVER seen anything like it. Winds sending everything flying sideways around the backyard. Lightning and thunder like what'll happen during the Apocalypse. For hours!  Pieces of our roof left.  Talked to a neighbor who had rain push through her doggy door which soaked the living room.  A dead bird was left inside for her, too.  WOW!  Frenzy we'll probably not see again.

Got only a couple hours sleep and it was time to head back to our mountains and hopefully, some calm.

While we were gone, much had happened.  Half an inch in the rain gauge and the whole head of cabbage gone.  The girls get even more to eat since there was no way to eat all that was provided at our dinner.  They will be in on our celebration with the leftovers to eat for days.

I took this picture of the tomato bed just days ago.  It was just starting to really take off after a slow start.  More sun was helping.

When we got home I had to tie rope around the tomato bed as they seemed to have gone crazy in just a couple days.  The weight on the tulle was causing collapse so now there is some better support.  I'm harvesting more fruit, which was not the case last year.  I think last year's take was about 3 tomatoes.  So far, I'm at 5 this year, from the red heirloom.  Lots of yellow heirlooms coming in but none have ripened yet.

Noticed this ring of grasses inside the garden fence.  The girls are getting their heads through the fence for the grasses, so I think I'll need to have a feast day and babysit a feeding frenzy inside the garden.

But, that's for another day.  I just want to sit now and enjoy the peace and quiet for a bit...

... any more frenzies can wait awhile...

*“I have not received, nor expect to receive, any compensation for items mentioned in the blog that I like, or may suggest to the viewers.  The items are just something that works/worked for me.  The Irish Lady.”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bees... 2... Ziva... 0...

Been living with a little baby for 2 days.  No, not Steve... Ziva.  It's hard to consider her a little "anything" but she's working on a title for baby right now. It all started with bees.  

For some reason we are having mean bees around the homestead.  It could be that all the rain and dark has kept flowers from doing anything this year and they are hungry.  Still, she'd like the docile bees back.  

I haven't suffered their wrath as Steve and Ziva both have.  They don't seem to hang around the mostly-flowerless garden, but they seem to enjoy the garage area.  There, they spend their time getting angry, angrier and finally... ZAP!  Steve rubs salt on his stings and goes on his way.  Ziva, however, has finally flipped out. Steve checks for stingers and removes any found.  She's been stung several times over the years and handled them like a pro.  Now, she acts like there are bees around every corner, even inside the house. 

I know stings hurt, but this last sting, on her rear end, was her last straw. She can't lay on the floor for more than 5 minutes without jumping up, running through house while seeming frantic.  She then licks her rear and looks at us like we did it.  Then, she repeats.  She's under my feet currently and driving me crazy. I guess I must make her an inside dog for the near future.

Checked on the pumpkins and noticed that they are yellowing.  Early?  I don't remember when they did this last year (must make a spreadsheet to keep tabs).  Most of the pumpkins under the mess of leaves are orange or partly there.  That also seems sooner than I remember.  The sacrificial pumpkins have mostly been eaten so they are doing their jobs.  Found a few more babies trying to grow, but will they make it to mature in time?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Today's take slowly filled the bucket.  Spent yesterday preparing and freezing beans and broccoli.  Today, I prepared and froze beets.  Those crops are turning out to be winners this season.  Going to have a bumper crop of onions, too.

Interesting take on the new carrots I tried.  Pulled these guys today.  The two up at the top of the picture are petite carrots that are a disappointment. I mean, there is "petite" and then, there is "petite."  The small globes are great little guys and look like they are supposed too.

Neither type of carrot grew in it's allotted time frame, though.  The "petites" were supposed to be ready by July 5th.  You can see they missed that date for harvest.  The globes, by July 15th.  They, at least, looks like their seed packet picture.  True, lots of rain and clouds may have delayed their growth, but jeez!

Cleaned the beds and threw things into the compost pile.  The girls immediately had to scrounge for goodies.  Compost pile is not growing as expected, either.  What's going on?!

Sorry for another salad picture, but I'm extremely proud of all that IS being grown here.  Except for a few add-ins, we are eating homegrown salads big enough to fill our bellies and big enough for Steve to finally ask that I quit serving them for awhile.  I guess I should promise to stop putting pics of them onto the blog... for awhile.

Tally this picture?

Ours:  Carrots, lettuce, romaine, eggs, onions, zucchini, beets, broccoli,
          tomatoes and spinach.

Theirs: Grilled chicken, sunflower seeds, strawberries and pecans.

Come to think of it... I may also be tired of the salads....

... come on potatoes....

Monday, August 7, 2017

Critters a homesteader likes... and HATES!....

Headed out to visit some of the critters I like, with their bowl of goodies. Yup, the chickens are some of the best little critters around.  They give us eggs, entertainment and, sometimes, fried chicken.  They should also be called nature's little garbage disposals.  I get rid of most of the leftovers and trimmings that would've accumulated in the kitchen and garden.

It was lightly sprinkling when I took out their breakfast today so I dumped it into their bowl while in the shed.  (Ha! I say to the weather reporter's saying no more rain for a while).  Anyway, they received a massive amount of leftovers today.  Yes, there was the usual beet tops, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini and eggs.  They also had shrimp and fish from a lovely dinner out. Grilled peppers and onions from a fajita dinner earlier this week.  They eat better than most garbage disposals, and I think the compost pile is jealous.  

Soon, it was time to work.   

The garden is still doing it's thing, though maybe slightly slower until the sun comes back some more.  That mass in the background?  The zucchini.  It's taken off.  

Growing them up in tomato cages has really made them look nicer than they do while sprawled along the ground.  The netting they're surrounded by is also making them look bushier.

Underneath, they are producing the light green and black versions of squash, and soon I may start leaving some around the neighborhood under the dark of night. Oh, another thing in the chicken's meals... squash blossoms.  They won't eat them if I just hold one out for them.  BUT, slice them up and put them into their meals and every little piece disappears. 

... a baby watermelon I couldn't wait to see mature...

... a pumpkin that was almost ripe...

... NOT viable anymore.  Nope, because of the HATED critters that are out at night.  They are probably cute little critters (yes, you know who you are, rabbits) and I'd love to see them at any other time than when I'm hoping for a good harvest.

Now, I wasn't even truly hoping for the watermelon since they haven't done well here and that one plant was an experiment.  But I was slightly believing I might get one this year.  

The pumpkins are another thing.  They did well last year and my belief was they'd do well again.  The variable?  Last year they were in a bed and stayed in the bed until harvest.  Those in the troughs this year spilled over and some were hanging... which the others aren't doing anymore.  

As I bent to take pictures and found the backs gone, things changed.  The good fruit are now stuffed back into the troughs and leaves have been pulled over to camouflage them from any hated critters.  The eaten ones are being left as bait for the time being...

... yeah, rabbits, I'm onto you....

... YOU and your little bunnies, too!...

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Too "mush" rain....

First day watering in, what, about 3 weeks?  Yeah, about 3 weeks. Rain hadn't stopped daily until just the last few days.  Dark, cloudy and dare-I-say, GLOOMY days, to steal from my last post, remain though.  The only difference has been the clouds haven't dumped onto us for awhile.  I kept checking for needed watering to start and only today was there a slight dryness to the garden.

However, looks like the last few weeks of rain have brought on a mushroom crop that I didn't plan for.  There are lacy, delicate white mushrooms in both surviving potato bins.  

These monstrosities are growing under the bird feeder tree amid the sunflower sprouts.  It's difficult to gauge from the pic but they are the size of a baseball and softball.  I was never brought up with a mushroom education so I don't trust any of them.  I've been pulling them up with tongs and filling a zip plastic bag with all of those daring to show themselves.  The dump can have them.

Steve, who is taller and can see into the bird feeder trough, said all the rain is growing greens there.  I stood on the steps to get this... and yup, greens. I'd think the birds would love this new food addition, but they don't seem to be eating them.

... Please bow your heads for a moment of silence.... 

All the rain and dark seems to have finally killed even the one lonely little red potato plant that had been struggling.  Hate any death but they were so young and it was unexpected.   "sigh"

I hadn't moved the small hoop for a while and noticed weeds growing well under it.  I don't mind weeds dying so I moved the hoop and let the girls clean up the place.  I think it took all of 1 minute.  I have a nice crop of grass and weeds going in the garden, too, so I'll supervise snack-time soon.

As I re-read this post, I feel I'm a little embarrassed to tarnish my newly-earned homesteader/gardener mantle.  I'm entirely too grumpy about rain. If I were still a "flat-lander" I'd be dancing in it and my little-kid-self would be lying in the flowing gutters to remember what rain felt like...  

... wow, what a difference 6 years make...