Saturday
Apr282012

The World is Green Again

We had a string of sunny days in the mid-70s early this week, which—of course—was followed by a crash back to reality. On Friday it was cold and rainy. Undeterred, the husband rented a rototiller and got the garden plowed up.

The garlic and shallots we planted last fall are up. 

The rhubarb is growing.

The blueberries and raspberries are leafing out. 

Saturday afternoon, the husband and I put out the broccoli and cauliflower starts. We put in 50 of each and had another dozen or so of each left over. (Yes, I am aware that that is a LOT of broccoli and cauliflower.) They would probably be okay if we left them uncovered, but we put the row covers on them just to be safe. We also planted four rows of potatoes—surely enough to feed most of the neighborhood, because we didn't use up all the potatoes we planted last year. 

We decided that we would see if Susan or our minister want some of our leftover broccoli and cauliflower starts. I know they have plants of their own, but it's good to trade stuff around the neighborhood and then compare notes on what did well where. The husband is keeping a notebook and writing down what we planted and when. 

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The water test results came back from the lab and it is as I feared—there is nothing in our water except an excess of calcium and magnesium. Our water hardness is 194 mg/L. Anything over 181 mg/L is considered "extremely hard." I've now been off tap water for a month, and have had no stomach issues during that time. I drank a glass of water from the tap Friday afternoon as an experiment, and within 30 minutes I had nausea and heartburn again. My working theory is that our water has an excess of calcium carbonate in it. Calcium carbonate can be extremely hard on the stomach, resulting in the following problems, all of which I have when I drink water from our tap:

  • upset stomach

  • stomach pain

  • belching

  • constipation

  • loss of appetite

  • metallic taste

I suggested installing a water softener on the kitchen tap, but that idea is not being met with much enthusiasm by the husband. This morning I boiled a gallon of water, let it cool, and then ran it through the Brita filter pitcher.  (I have to boil the water I use to wash my hair in order to drive the excess carbonate ions off and make the water softer, so this is the same principle.). So far, so good. I seem to be able to drink the boiled and filtered water without problems. It's labor intensive, but better than buying 5 gallon jugs of water a week. 

I have no idea why this has suddenly become a problem after 18 years of drinking the same water, although I noted to the husband that it started at about the same time I gave up eating wheat. Perhaps that has something to do with it. He and the girls have cast-iron stomachs; they can down a jar of pickles in one sitting. I even have trouble with a glass or orange juice. 

Speaking of wheat, I was bad on Friday and ate a biscuit with the beef stew I made for dinner. I should know better. All day yesterday my joints ached, which made kneeling down to plant those broccoli starts much harder than it should have been. 

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The turkey is still here. It doesn't even make a pretense of being a turkey anymore; now, when I pull up dandelions to feed the chickens (they love dandelions), the turkey comes right over and stands next to me until I give it some dandelions, too. Every night it goes up and roosts on top of the chicken coop, and every morning it comes back down and spends the day circling the chicken yard and attempting to engage the clucks in conversation. The roosters have long since given up caring:

Wednesday
Apr252012

Thwarting the Deer

The husband would like to keep the deer out of the fruit trees using a rifle, but as FWP rather frowns on deer harvesting out-of-season, we resorted to something else:

My friend Susan and her husband Jim loaned us these cages.  They used them when their fruit trees were little. We will have to get another roll or two of wire and make more for the trees that haven't arrived yet. This will definitely help, and I won't have to worry about bailing the husband out of jail. 

Susan and Jim have two little Merino lambs. They are only 5 weeks old and need to be fed a couple of times a day, so last night DD#2 and I got to do the honors:

They are each pure black with a white spot on the tops of their heads. One is a wether and one is a ewe. No names yet. They are so cute. Susan is very clear that they are going to be pets and lawnmowers. I imagine I will be visiting them frequently. 

This is how happy my feet are to be in my toe shoes again (very happy):

I realized that we haven't had any knitting updates lately, so I'll tell you what I am working on. I am almost finished with the shawl I started for the Spain trip. It's very pretty and it will be even prettier when it's blocked, at which time I will try to remember to post a pic. I think I am going to publish the pattern for it. 

I also decided to scratch the itch I've been having to design and knit an Aran. Melanie is going to be carrying some new yarn from Imperial Yarn in Oregon. One of the yarn stores near DD#1's college campus carries this yarn, so I picked some up last year when I was there. It's quite nice. I am glad Melanie is going to be carrying it. She ordered me enough of a dark mossy green (yum) to knit a cardigan with a shawl collar. I have lots of ideas percolating through my brain. It's nice to have the luxury of some time to think about a design instead of the pressure I used to feel to produce enough stuff for the newsletter. I do still plan to stick to the "one project at a time" model of knitting, however. That seems to work best for me. 

I think while I am waiting for the yarn Melanie ordered to arrive, I'll use the Imperial Yarn I bought last year to whip up a hat or a scarf, just to get a feel for the yarn. 

And yes, the turkey is still with us. Gobble gobble. 

Tuesday
Apr242012

Reluctant Turkey Farmers

It appears that we have become turkey farmers whether we wanted to be or not.

The turkey's gender has been established:

I may crack one of these open and eat it, although I am having enough trouble using up eggs as it is. My family has been treated to pumpkin pies just about every day this week. I need to move on to a different custard.

Last night the turkey chose not to sleep in the woodshed (thank goodness, because that makes the dogs nuts), but instead chose to perch on top of the chicken coop:

See that bucket hanging down there? The husband stuck the head of one of the deer he shot in that bucket. As it rots, the flies come and lay eggs and the maggots drop through holes in the bottom of the bucket into the chicken yard for the clucks to eat. It's quite an ingenious system. I think the turkey was up there hoping to score some carrion. 

(It doesn't smell as bad as you might think. Really.)

So it looks like the turkey has moved in. I did some reading and it appears that this is not a rare event. Wild turkeys and chickens can coexist peacefully, apparently. As long as the turkey does not get aggressive, it can stay. I am calling it "Drumstick" just to remind it that it's here on a provisional basis. 

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On the flight home from Spain, I wached the movie, "We Bought a Zoo." It was very well done and a real tearjerker. The little girl who plays Rosie should get an Oscar for that performance. Anyway, I am beginning to feel like I live in a zoo. Yesterday afternoon I went to the greenhouse to cut some lettuce, and there were three baby squirrels playing tag in the woods. They were quite noisy, but not as noisy as their mother, who started clucking and chirping when she thought I was getting too close. I know better than to mess with momma animals, although I did talk to the baby squirrels as I walked by. I talk to all the animals here, much to the husband's amusement. 

He is unhappy with the deer, who have discovered the fruit trees and have been nibbling on them. I warned him that would happen. I have lost way too many plants to deer over the past 16 years to trust that they will leave them alone. He did put some sleeves on the lower trunks to keep them from girdling the trees, but I think we will have to rig up some kind of protective cage around each of the trees. 

I realized the other day that I have not yet seen any hummingbirds. I would have thought they would be up here early because we had such a mild winter. I filled the feeders, though, and hopefully it won't take too much longer. 

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Our broccoli and cauliflower seedlings are looking good. The cucumbers and melons are all up, as are the tomatoes and the peppers. We did six different varieties of tomatoes, including Glacier and Siberia, which are the two variaties which have always done the best up here for me. No more Early Girls, especially now that I know Monsanto holds the patent on them. In fact, I don't think we have any hybrids in our garden—all of our crops are heirloom varieties.

DD#2 and I planted two trays of basil seeds last week (72 plants if they all germinate), and they are just now popping up. I dearly love pesto. The husband also did a tray of tobacco and one each of leeks, onions, and celery.  (We don't smoke, so I am not sure what the tobacco is for.) I can't wait to see how all of this stuff does out there. Gardening is such an adventure, especially in Montana. 

Saturday
Apr212012

Are You My Mother?

The dogs were barking and whining over by the chicken coop a few minutes ago, so I went out to see what was happening. We have a visitor:

It's a wild turkey. There is a flock that has been wandering the neighborhood lately, and this one must have gotten separated. He looks like a juvenile.

He's been out there for about 20 minutes now, circling the chicken coop and gobbling at the chickens. They do not appear to be interested in conversing with him. The Stellar jays often land on the posts of the garden and jeer at the chickens. The chickens are not interested in conversing with the jays, either. 

I may have to chase him off before he decides to stay permanently.  

Friday
Apr202012

Lazy

It was a cold and rainy day here in Montana. This was the sum total of the dogs' activity today:

Interspersed with occasional changes of position:

Lila really does sleep like that. She wasn't posing. Sometimes she lies on top of Rusty. That must be how the coyotes sleep. 

I haven't shown you my new orchard yet:

We've been trying to get fruit trees in for a couple of years now, but it hasn't worked out. I was going to order some last fall, but that didn't work out either. All of these trees are from Costco. I know, Costco isn't the first place that comes to mind when thinking of fruit trees, but my friend Susan up the road (who has an orchard to die for) bought several of her trees there. If they are good enough for Susan, they are good enough for me. A few weeks ago I stopped in and they had just gotten a big shipment of trees, including lots of apple varieties. I bought a Honeycrisp (by far the best keeping apple up here and one of the husband's favorites), a Sweet Sixteen (highly recommended by Susan), and a Lodi (on of my faves for pies). We also bought one apricot (the variety escapes me), a Montmorency cherry (Susan has that one, too), and two Harrow pears, which were developed in Ontario and are supposed to be very hardy. 

Yesterday I had to go to Costco for groceries and I saw that they still had fruit trees, so I picked up another Honeycrisp and also a Wealthy, which is supposed to be an excellent variety for applesauce according to one of the ladies at church who has one in her yard. I am inclined mostly to buy things that other people have and that I know will do well up here. 

The husband has a business acquaintance who manages a lot of the fruit orchards down by the lake, so we piggybacked on his wholesale order and ordered another 20 trees from a place in Wenatchee. I am not sure what all is in that order because the husband took care of it. I think it's more apples and cherries and maybe a peach or nectarine or two.  They haven't arrived yet, but he has all the holes dug. So hopefully in another year or two we will be getting some fruit off our trees instead of scavanging the Flathead Valley for fruit other people don't want. 

All we need now is a cow. Or some sheep. My friend Susan's husband just got two Merino X lambs. He used to work on a sheep ranch in Wyoming and every couple of years he buys a couple of lambs and uses them to mow the grass. I have a picture, drawn by Susan's mom many many years ago (before DD#2 was born, even), of Susan and me leaning over the fence in their yard watching the sheep. 

We've been eating the first of the lettuce from the greenhouse. It's not my favorite variety (Oak Leaf, and I much prefer Ruby), but it's fresh and it's clean and pretty much free and I only have to go out every few days with a pair of scissors and mow some off. I'll take it. The garlic is up in the garden, and the rhubarb is starting to come up, too. It's supposed to be sunny and warm this weekend. There isn't much to do in the big garden yet, but the little herb garden needs some work. I am expanding it into the old veggie garden that was here by the house. Some of the beds need to be redone and a lot of the plants need to be moved. It's good to be out and exercising again.