Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Totally Green Post...

Thunder started at 10 this morning so getting the garden work done started early, too.  When talking about what we were going to accomplish today, Steve said he wanted to get to weed-whacking.  I'm torn about that...

... because the homestead is looking so green, and for a desert state, that's saying something.  This was my view this morning at the garden gate.  Sure, they are technically weeds, but seeing lush greenness is the joy of monsoon.  The weeds are about a foot tall now, and I may not be able to slow Steve's ambition down, but you have to admire the landscape.  Right?!

Well, let's not admire the blueberry bed.  Since raising blueberries was not the best use of this space, I've pretty-much left this area on its own.  The weeds aren't as pretty here.  I got rid of them with the Hula Hoe* and inspected the bushes. Three more berries.  *Sigh* not what I wanted to see.

The weeds aren't as tall, or pretty, around this bed, so maybe Steve can cut here to his heart's content?

I uncovered the broccoli in the troughs last week... mainly because there was no point to the coverings.  Bugs got in and have been having their way with the plants.  The leaves have aphids all over them and the heads are deformed.  So, broccoli will never be grown in the troughs again as I can't adequately protect them there.  It'll be grown under hoops only.  The girls get a head each night now and we'll see if the second growth may be edible for the gardener.

And, lastly... can someone please explain the contrariness of chickens to me?  I let them into the garden proper to eat grass and nothing is eaten.  I keep them out of the garden grass and... they want to eat it.  It looks like I have a jogging track around the inside of the garden fence.  They actually strain their necks to reach it.  Humph!  Crazy chickens.

Well, the rain has started so I'm going to sit in the window and watch it fall.  We can worry about the weeds it's going to bring... later...

* TM Hula Hoe

Monday, August 13, 2018

Stumpin' For Booch...

Outside the garden, we decided to offer some of our fallen trees to neighbors around us who burn wood for winter heat.  Now that the monsoon is here, the wood can be chainsawed, so it was the perfect time to have the wood removed.  I decided to keep one of the stumps for some artwork on the homestead.

... Steve cutting stump to height I wanted...

... then adjusting height and angle to be level...

... and then admiring his work...

We have a business in town where trees are chainsawed into bears, moose, people, etc., so I hope to get this stump polyurethaned and ready for a bear. 

As we were admiring his work, he pointed out a smaller tree stump and now we're thinking we may need a moose.  Not sure, but stay tuned.

Inside the garden, the pumpkin/acorn bed is slowing filling with... leaves. Acorns are on the left of the bed and pumpkins on the right.  Oh, there are some squash trying to make it but, this bed seems to be suffering from the same "what's happening to the squashes" syndrome that the butternut bed of last post is suffering from.  At this point in the season I believe there may be some, but not many, squash for the holidays.  Final tallies should come in soon.

Switching to a kombucha update, I do believe I've found the winner for best tasting.  The strawberry flavor was the best.  It probably helped that the basic booch was also fermented for a shorter time so it wasn't as vinegary-sharp.  Adding the frozen/thawed sliced strawberries for 3 days was a good idea, too.  It's probably just beat-out the apple cinnamon for my favorite taste.

... strawberry booch going into the refrigerator...

Having a glass a day has helped with digestion and colon health, just what I wanted it to do.  Putting it as delicately as I can, having a bunch of abdominal surgeries has caused a daily fear.  Air or blockages rumbling through the intestines that are full of scar tissue has been the cause.  So, oatmeal becomes a friend.  Now, booch has become a friend, too.  Both have been keeping things calm and I'm sooooo much happier.  Anyone with a similar story may want to investigate booch.  

Probably the last I'll have to say on this subject... probably...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

August.... A Bust?...

An August picture of the garden is showing some growth of the zucchini, finally.  They are mounding up in the small bed next to the green giant.  August... never had zucchini take that long to grow and produce.  Under the leaves I have 2, count 'um two, zucchini close to picking length.  I'm still stumped about that.

The rains have brought growth to the grasses and weeds in the garden proper.  I finally let the girls in to see if they'd learned anything from last year and would want to eat grass.  Nope!  They only dug into the ground at the base of the zucchini bed (you can see some of the dirt they moved above) and browsed for bugs.

Runt thought she'd mosey over to the broccoli and get some leaves but a well placed stream of water moved her along.  After checking things out, but not eating grass, they all left the garden and went to nap under the pine tree.  I must feed them too well as new green grass doesn't tempt them.  *sigh*

Now to the butternut bed... which isn't doing very well, either.  Lots of male flowers showing here but the longed-for females... well, only one so far.  I jumped on it like a hen on a bug and got her fertilized quickly.  But, seriously, what is the problem with stuff producing this year? 

OK, not all of the stuff is doing badly.  This is the green kales bed and the bed is overflowing.  I've taken to pulling a plant at night for the hens to munch on at lockup.  Tried giving some away but got no takers.

What IS doing great are the ant mounds around the garden.  Ants are on everything.  Finally responded by getting bait and sprinkled it all along the beds.  Only in the garden proper, as I had to use cornmeal for those out where the hens are.  Then, I spent time trying to keep the hens from eating that.  I'd love the girls to eat ants but they aren't interested in them, either.  

Still have many fires going on in Arizona, as in most of the western states.  Luckily, we have not had bad ones around us.  Smoke is around us, though, mostly at night.  It settles into the valleys and moves down the mountains, so I've awoken at 4:30 AM thinking a new fire is near.  It will be great when the monsoon is over...

... NEVER thought I'd hear myself say that...


Monday, August 6, 2018

Obi-Jon Comes Through For Me....

Obi-Wan made Obi-Jon my booch master of note.  He got back to me after his vacation and I got the answers I needed...

1) Can I use a closed-top jar and not just a towel?
2) Can I double a recipe?
3) How long can booch stay in a crock without the SCOBY in it?
4) When is booch too old to drink? (don't want to poison myself)
5) What do I do with old SCOBY's?  
         1) Need breathable open top for fermentation to happen.
         2) Yes.  
         3) Without SCOBY in crock, refrigerate booch. 
         4) It's bad when the vinegar taste makes it impossible to swallow.
         5) Can feed them to hens, but a little at a time.  Don't fry them. 

He's never done the second fermentation with fruit or juices so I'm on my own there.  Actually, not really. There are all sorts of people giving advice on the internet and I checked out a few.  Some good ideas there, but also some over-the-top boochers there and I won't go as far as some have.

New bottles of apple/cinnamon and grape are brewing using the younger and shorter brewed crock and I've added strawberries (thawed frozen) to this jar to see how they do.  I get to try it on Tuesday so wish me luck and safe swallowing. 

The girls are chowing down on cucumbers daily... finally.  After their bad start I was doubtful.  Learning a lot about cucumbers.  NOT a fan as I've rarely eaten any.  Only really like them in the fried zucchini dip at Black Angus* restaurants and in gyros.  So, never knew they are covered in spikes.  Painful just reaching into the mass of leaves.

These two (above) hanging from the trellis got a little big.  Why they both hung straight down, yet one curled and one didn't, is also something to ponder.  Sneaky buggers too as they are the dickens to find in the green and shade of the plants.  As I pulled the straight one out, behind it was a huge one I'd missed.

It's was a foot long.  Washing them while using a brillo pad to get the spikes off was a learning experience.  The burpless breed seemed a bit easier on the hands.  Pulled out a few more green beans and I'm still alive to tell you.  

Now, notice the 2 blueberries...

Yup, not doing so well there.  On the plants it looked like this year was going to be better than last...

... with 9 berries looking like they'd make it to being edible.  I picked the two biggest and Steve said they were good, but really, how can he tell from only two?  This may be another sad ending of high hopes.  

Now, will asparagus grow up here?  Inquiring minds still want to know...

* TM Black Angus Steakhouses, LLC

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Ho... Ho... Ho... NO!!.....

Everyone know that commercial song..."In the Valley of the Jolly, Ho, Ho, Ho, Green Giant"...?* (yah, now it's going through all your minds).  Well, I feel that in some small way, I'm living that jingle.

My green giant is the bed full of green beans.  I should've expected a problem when I noticed bean vines where bushes were expected.  Now, I'm afraid whenever I have to tilt up the hoop and search for beans.

Sure, the bed looks innocent in its serene greenness.  It's looks so lush that it pulls you in.  Cool and shady and beautiful... IT'S A SMOKESCREEN! 

It's alive and struggling to get out.  It tries sealing itself in by making it almost impossible to open the hoop.  Little green seamstresses sew tendrils through the hoop fencing and bird netting and they are now straining to break through the tulle.  It's ALIVE I tell you!

This one seems to be trying to lift the hoop up.  Well, not yet, but it will soon.

Lifting this hoop is a regular hardship as it weighs so much more than the other hoops.  Having the plants fight opening it is a bigger hardship than I wanted.

Once I rip those tendrils loose opening the hoop, I must gather beans as fast as I can while the plants try their best to make their escape.  So far, I've been faster than them, but they may soon overtake me.  I fear being cocooned when I'm not looking.  

The carrots and beets in the same bed are doing well and getting big.  They don't seem intimidated by the huge green leggy mass looming over them.

Note to self: make VERY sure to get bush beans next time green beans come to mind while planning the garden.  Why would anyone want vines when bushes make finding, and gathering beans, so much easier... and safer?  NEVER thought I'd consider green beans sinister.

Something untoward is also going on with the chickens.  We are back to missing feathers and open sores there.  It's hard to get them to sit for a picture, but here Sunny is bleeding on her side and feathers are gone.  Still have two girls with naked butts.  Goldie has a naked neck.  Now, this isn't molting, it seems like warfare.  I never see any fighting, though.  No mites or fleas, either.  What are they doing to each other?...

... I know... fears of the escaping green bean tendrils are causing stress in the girls... 

* B & G Foods

Monday, July 30, 2018

Booch and Wine... Divine...

... Grass is appearing everywhere and we are looking like a green mountain paradise...

We are back to monsoon weather, almost daily.  LOVE when the rains are here.
We are back to the biting mosquitoes from all the rains... hate that the rains are here.  

I'm sporting many more bites than I've had in years.  Have one on my center forehead and one in the hollow of my throat that're making me look slightly exotic.

Yes, a bit bipolar about the joys of rain.  It does the garden so much good but the gardener in me doesn't want to be out in the garden unless covered up to the gills.  

I'm also having other non-rain water problems.  Murphy's Law is wreaking havoc in the garden.  

Both seeping hoses in the east bed have blown so it's a manual job now.

The kink in the metal hose, caused by a railroad tie dropped on it, blew too.  Didn't even think that could happen, but Murphy made sure it did.  Until the new one arrives, I'm watering more of the ground than the beds.

Found out my booch-buddy is on vacation so I'm proceeding without him for the time being.  I did do the second booch fermentations...

... by adding apple juice and a cinnamon stick to a quart and grape juice to another.  They needed to sit at least 3 days on the counter and the results were...

... well, besides tiny little SCOBY's again, a transformation beyond belief.  

After chilling the booches... boochs... boochii... I did taste comparisons and I'm sure this is the way I'm going to brew from now, on.  In fact, I've already ordered bottles for just this operation since pouring from canning jars was very messy.

The juice made the booch sweeter with great flavor, mellowed it out and the fizz it now has is amazing.  People have asked and no, no alcohol is made.  The only high would be a sugar high.  So, booch is not hooch.

I find topping a glass off with a bit of wine makes the best dinner companion I've had in quite a while...  

... OK, yes, Steve is a great dinner companion, but he's nowhere near this effervescent...