Friday, October 31, 2014

FIRST FALL WEEKEND


Oh....the plans I have!  
Here is the forecast for this weekend:


Lows in the 40's...highs in the 60's on Saturday?  It truly is our first REAL weekend of Fall.  This is working outside weather if I've ever seen it!  The list is getting long and I only have two days to work on it.  Of course, we'll have more weekends but I want to do it all now.  Sometimes I'm one of those instant gratification types of people and that can be a hindrance to getting it all done.  I'm better off to focus on a few projects.


The most important project is getting the garden cleaned up and readied for Winter.  The other big project is to plant some more trees and bushes.  So it's off to the garden center tonight to pick up soil and all the other things we need to get the plants in the ground.

Needless to say, posting will be sporadic this weekend while we enjoy it.  

Now if I can just keep the napping with the windows open and a cool breeze blowing to a minimum...

THE HAND OF BARNABAS, HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Barnabas the tree
I took this picture of Barnabas, our party tree, not too long ago because it reminded me of the creepy hand of a vampire or other scary creature.  I found the picture below and it reminded me of what I saw in the tree, even though it's a female hand and he's a male tree, ha.


He's pretty and shaded in the Summer, providing a respite from the oppressive heat, but he's also kind of scary in the Winter.  We're in the 'between seasons' time now so scary Barnabas is coming soon!

Hope you are having a good day.  More this afternoon/evening.  
Get lots of candy and have a great and safe Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

HALLOWEEN PORCHES, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Pumpkins on porch, image courtesy of BHG.com
One thing we've always wanted to have a large porch for is for Halloween.  How fun it would be to decorate for the holiday?  Of course, being in the middle of the country at the back of 11 acres, um, probably a pretty good chance that we won't have trick or treaters, LOL.  Still, we could do a dinner party instead.  We think it would be so cool to have a table set up on the porch with pumpkin decorations all around.  Even the pumpkins above look really neat just grouped together and lit up.  Maybe a dinner party/pumpkin carving contest?    

These two pictures kind of inspire us toward that time.  Obviously we wouldn't be having anyone out this year so we don't need to think about doing it now but it doesn't hurt to dream, right?  And then we can just make it happen someday down the road when all the other projects are done and we can enjoy...  

Be inspired!

Dinner on Halloween porch, image courtesy of sunsetliving.com


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

GREEN BEANS WITH HEIRLOOM TOMATOES AND BACON RECIPE

You may remember, last week, we had some HEIRLOOM CHERRY TOMATOES left over from another meal.  This weekend, 2nd Man decided to make a side dish of green beans, bacon and those tomatoes.





First thing to do is to fry up some bacon in a large skillet until crispy.
1/2 - 1 lb (your preference, we love bacon and used a pound)...



...remove the bacon, crumble and set aside.  Pour out most of the bacon fat leaving about 1-2 TBSP (but always save the bulk for future use). Leave heat on medium and...



...add the heirloom cherry tomatoes, we had about 12 oz left over (use as much as you like).  Saut√© them for a couple of minutes...




...and then add about a pound of green beans (this doesn't have to be exact, again, personal preference).



Stir the beans and tomatoes around until coated in the bacon drippings and the tomatoes start to soften. No water is added because the tomatoes and the green beans release moisture as they cook.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Put the lid on and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the green beans are crisp tender and the tomatoes have started to pop.  Remove lid.  If they haven't all popped, gently squeeze with tongs or gently mash with a spatula (be careful, they are juicy but very HOT).



 We served from the pan.  However you decided to serve it, just add the crumbled bacon cooked earlier and stir.  

It's ready to eat!
Bacon green beans with meatloaf and mashed potatoes
We served ours alongside some mashed potatoes and a slice of wonderful meatloaf.  It was definitely a great meal after working outside all day.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THE BOOK OF BARKLEY REVIEW

Recently, I've been immersed in gardening books and bee books and flower books...to be honest I was getting homestead overload and it was time for something different.  So I had the pleasure of getting a book that has been a very moving read.  

The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever
This is the book (click link below to be taken to the book purchasing options).  

It's called The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever.  The author is L. B. Johnson and I believe this is her first published book.  And wow, what a read it is.

One thing I was immediately struck by is her beautiful writing style.  I love reading authors that have such a way of using words to so vividly describe moments in life.  Her style takes my mind to a different place when I'm reading.  As a lover of the written word, this book made me very happy and I often found myself rereading a paragraph, not to understand, but to just see again the lyrical way with words.  If I ever ventured into writing a book, I'd love to have just half of that ability.

Here is a sample I transcribed for you: 
______________________________________

"It is a bond between him and me.  For me, it is not a substitute for something lacking in my life, but an outlet for the warmth I harbor in my soul, seeking a place for the waters of my emotion to go when all else is damned up.  He's my confidante; he's my fashion critic (jeans and t-shirt again? Well, if you insist), he's a soft-hearted Kleenex if I cry.  

Now, he was getting older, grey abundantly showing up in that black hair.  Yet still, when woken by my soft snore from the office bed he'll move away from the heater, to my side as swift, as strong as ever, even as he slows.  He looks at me with brown eyes more humorous and honest than anyone I know, soft paw on my arm, content simply to be by my side because I'm there.  Like the rest of my friends, his needs are simple, his demands of me only warmth, faithfulness and time to go out and play."
______________________________________

It is truly the rare author that can write, in just a few short paragraphs, words that will have you laughing, crying, laughing again and then thinking to yourself "wow, that was profound".  L.B. is that kind of author.  The book chronicles the life of her beloved black lab, Barkley.  From rambunctious puppy to wise and gentle old man, L.B. writes through the eyes of Barkley and along the way, teaches us the meaning of living...indeed the meaning of loving.

Barkley...star of The Book of Barkley
They always say the love of a pet is unconditional and this book follows that in every colorful, wonderful and yes, sometimes painful, detail.  You don't have to be a dog person to enjoy this read though.  When we lost our cat Sydney at the end of last year, after almost 20 years, we struggled to put into words what he meant to us.  Dog...cat...the love of a pet is universal.  Thank you L.B. for helping us hear the words we longed to put down in print.

Barkley
Get this book for yourself, or with the holidays coming, it would truly make a great gift for that animal lover in your life.  

Click the links below to pick up a copy via Amazon.

Monday, October 27, 2014

CONTAINER GROWN SWEET POTATO HARVEST MONDAY


Every Monday, Daphne's Dandelions hosts "Harvest Monday" where bloggers can post their harvests.  Click her link above to see what others are harvesting and see below for what we harvested:


So last May, we PLANTED some sweet potato slips that we had ROOTED AND GROWN .  We used two large metal trashcans as containers.  After we saw how big they had gotten, we decided it was time to harvest them.  This is the one on the left side...


...and this is the one on the right side (photos on the original blog post).  For some reason, this one didn't grow as well as the other one.  Same watering schedule, same light, maybe just not as good a start to the slips?




The first thing I did was clip off all the trailing vines and toss them in the compost bin.  Then I dragged the very heavy cans over to the nearest unused raised beds.



I pulled up the vines on top of the can and immediately got a few.  Hopefully there would be more further down in the container...



...I dug out around this one and it was a beautiful, almost perfect sweet potato.  Side note, is there nothing more fun than digging for potatoes?  It's like buried treasure!



Do you know where these were?  Not in the cans...they were attached to the vines when I pulled them up from from ground!  Kind of like sweet potato carrots, ha. 



I flipped the cans into the empty raised beds and spread them out.  It was an easy way to do the sorting without making a mess in the yard or on the mulch.



One upside of the sorting method is lots of fresh and rich soil added to two of the empty raised beds.  That will be good for getting them ready for Winter sleep.
Container grown sweet potato harvesting
So above are the mostly odd shaped ones, and below are the five "best ones" that we pulled from the two containers.  We should still be able to eat the long thin ones, right?  Might be a new experience, LOL.  They must 'cure' of course, we have to do that first so that the starches turn to sugars.  

Harvesting sweet potatoes
SO...I have a few questions.  Since this was our first attempt, I will not rate it as epic fail, we did start with pretty much nothing but a couple of sprouts and gained almost 7 lbs so that's free sweet potatoes.  But my question is, what caused the odd, long shaped ones?  I'm thinking maybe the soil was too compact?  These almost perfect, "normal" shaped ones were in the upper portions of the two containers and then when I dumped them out completely the others were the oddly shaped potatoes, more like carrots. 

Is there a soil ratio recommendation?  A special combination?  Did we leave them in too long?  Not long enough?  Too much water?  Not enough deep watering?  It was successful enough that we'll definitely do it again next year but we just thought we might see what we could do differently next time around to get a better crop.

This week's vegetable harvest:  6 lb 13 oz
_________________________________

Total harvest YTD:  22 lb 9 oz

Happy Harvesting!



Sunday, October 26, 2014

FARM EGGS AND A GOOD WEEKEND


The Farmhouse
Got to the farm and it was a beautiful day, clear and cool...

That didn't last long...


By late afternoon, it was in the upper 80's.  In the full sun outside, the car after sitting there for the day, was showing 104 degrees as the outside temperature. Of course that's the heat of the metal and reflected heat around the sensor, but when we're out in the yard trying to do stuff, it was the same feeling on us.  It's supposed to be Fall!  Needless to say, not a LOT of outside stuff got done.  

While I was outside roaming around, checking the property, this big guy came by to visit.


He is the neighbor's dog (the neighbor to the East of us).  At first I thought he was perhaps a new member of 2nd Family's animals but they said he roams over from time to time.  He was SO sweet and SO well behaved.  I walked and he followed along beside me, looking up at me and when I stopped, he sat down.  Then I tested him and walked around some more, he followed me and would stop and sit every time.  He was a good boy!  He also had the cutest kiss face.  He always looked happy.  After an hour or so, he roamed back home.

Before we left, 2nd Family stopped by and gave us a couple dozen eggs from their chickens.  Some good eats are coming this week!

Farm fresh eggs
It was a good weekend, more updates in the coming days.  Time to go eat now.  We hope you had a great weekend doing what makes you happy!


MORE BONES WANTED, VINTAGE POSTER SUNDAY

Bones for Salvage vintage poster image, courtesy of Wikicommons
Here is a fun poster (and the closest I could get to something 'Halloween themed', ha).  Apparently, during WWII, in the recycling for the war effort, bone were used in ammunition (among other things).  There were actual 'bone collection' boxes/stations around the city.

I wonder what would happened today if people were asked to save bones?

Hope you are having a great weekend.  It's been fairly productive around these parts, but still very warm in the day and that limits outside time.

More later!

Friday, October 24, 2014

ZEN MACHINE TIME

John Deere Zen Machine
Whenever I go to the farm and say I'm spending time on the zen machine, this is what I'm talking about.  I call it that because it's the most relaxing time I have out there.  It's just me, the John Deere X320, and the property...oh, and some headphones with streaming music.  It gives me time to think...

The path behind
...to think about what spaces I still need to clear and mow.  Then I look back and see what is behind, those are the moments I realize how much we've done.

The path ahead
...and sometimes when it looks like this, and I see the trails I've cleared and the perfect picture in front of me, I don't even think about anything in particular.  Instead, my mind just drifts away to another time in the future and the minutes pass by like seconds, fleeting moments that seem like images from a dream...

These are the moments that 2nd Man and I look at each other and say, 
"Do we really own this?"  "Is this ours?"  

Sure it still needs work, there are 11 acres to work with after all, but this is what makes it all worthwhile...and it's why I enjoy my zen machine time.

Update to post:  It's Saturday...we're at the farm, hopefully do some more of the above.  Hope you are off to a great start to the weekend.  When we left the house it was in the upper 50's.  Should be a glorious day!


SLEEPING ON BOTH SIDES, FELINE FRIDAY

Cat sleeping on both sides
Cat's can get into the most uncomfortable looking positions but sleep like it's the best position ever.  This is Brisbane, doing what we call "sleeping on both sides at the same time", LOL.

Whatever works, right?  I think I'd need chiropractic care after this position...or at least a good massage.

More later this afternoon!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

FLOWER PATH, INSPIRATION THURSDAY

Flower path and arbor, image courtesy of sunsetliving.com
OK, this is total pie in the sky dreaming and wishful thinking.  I don't think our climate would ever let us have something like this but it's pretty nonetheless, right?  Besides, now that Fall is bringing fewer and fewer flowers to all of us, I thought it might be nice for some last blast of color.  This looks like the entrance to some magical, secret garden of some sort.  I think if we ever did have something like this, we'd just get a couple of chairs and sit here right here in the entrance and look at it, LOL.

Be inspired!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

HEIRLOOM CHERRY TOMATOES

Aren't these beautiful?

Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
It's an assortment of heirloom cherry tomatoes.  I wish I could say we grew them but alas, we found them at a local market the other day.  But my oh my, they are SO good.  Like a bowl of candy!  Garden candy!  I swear, each one has a different taste.  We have no idea what the varieties are but it sure makes us wish we could grow them next year.  

Sliced Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
We sliced a bunch of them up and just ate them in a simple salad...well, some of them...many were just eaten with a sprinkling of salt!  We still have a few left to use in another dish.  We'll probably knock the rest of those out sometime later this week.  I'll be honest for a few minutes we just stared at them, they were so pretty, glistening like jewels on the plate, almost too pretty to eat...I did say almost, ha.

How do YOU use cherry tomatoes?
Any special dishes?


Monday, October 20, 2014

CREATURE SEARCH 2014

SO.......this weekend was time...time to do what I've put off for the last couple of weeks.  First of all, 2nd Family has been going to the house at least once a day to check the trap we set up in the bathroom.  Much like a fisherman who sets his line and waits, only to find nothing on the other end, same with our trap.  Nothing in it and nothing had eaten the bait.

On the plus side there was no poop and no shredded floor this time around.

There was only one thing left to do.  Go into the attic.


The house doesn't have a standard drop down attic staircase, it's one of the "stand on a rickety ladder and push your head up through the opening" types.  Oh and no light up there either.  So it's really one of those "stand on a rickety ladder and push your head up through the opening and into complete darkness" types.  I've seen those movies...they never end well...


With trepidation, and great bravery (be nice!) I pushed the door open.  I half expected bats to fly out.  Or snakes to drop down.  I hate snakes.  And spiders.  

But I digress...
Armed with the flashlight in one hand, the machete in the other, and my cell phone in my pocket, you know, in case I needed to, um, check my email, I stuck my head into the opening...


OK, so it wasn't that.

So here goes...brace yourself...look away if you are easily frightened...



OMG!!!  
GIANT BLACK SNAKE!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, OK...so it's just an old ventilation duct....


OMG!!!
A GIANT INSECT WITH ANTENNAE!!!!!

Fine...it's a TV antenna "Ma" left behind when she moved...


OMG!!!
IT'S....UM...UM...

So, it turns out there was nothing up there, certainly not of the SyFy Channel variety.  The imagination is indeed a powerful tool.


We did discover that the attic is fairly well insulated, though it could probably stand to be straightened up a bit.  There are actually TWO layers of insulation, that's why this stands up so high.  But the reconnaissance mission was not without some intel...check this out!


I found a hole in the eave of the house that you can't see from the ground!! There was even some nesting material.  Not sure if a bird or what.  
Here it is closeup:

Hole in attic
Any idea what could create a hole like this?

Looks like a router saw was taken to it?  Very odd.  It's a good 6" across...big enough for all manner of creatures to enter and exit.  

I have not sealed it up yet.  We're trying to think what we could do to drive out anything that MIGHT be up there and give it a chance to leave before sealing it up forever.  Also spotted one other small opening that I did seal up.  Side note, a dark attic with no light is actually a great way to find out where the holes are when you look at it in the daylight.  

We left the trap down with fresh bait and we'll give it another week.  If nothing comes in, we'll move it outside the bathroom and leave it in the living room and just make sure nothing is hiding elsewhere. 

SO I guess, this latest installment of "Random Country Creature Encounters" ends with a few answers, still no creature in the trap and the possibility that maybe we've sealed up most everything (other than that one spot in the attic).