Monday, August 30, 2010

Compensating for Something?

It could be that it is an effort bust out without doing anything too crazy.

It could be a vain attempt to get my high school students to think I'm cool.

It could be some deep-seeded need to belong to something.  I get a rush from waving to other people, strangers, riding motorcycles.

Or, it could have to do with the joy of becoming intimate with my surroundings. Of the feel of the wind on my cheeks and neck as it drops five degrees when I speed past a field sprinkler. Of coming closer to the feeling of flying than while doing anything else, including flying. Of the smell of sage and alfalfa and the warm earth.

In any case, it makes my soul happy.

Don't tell my dad.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Dumb Clucks Allowed

At the end of June my mom came to visit.  Heavens praise my mom.  I say that because my chickie mama neighbor, Stayc informed me during mom's visit that the chickens might have to vacate her premises. See, Stayc and I have been sharing a flock.  It has been great; she would take care of their daily needs, and I would eat eggs.  And they stayed over at her place in a coop built in the 1800s.  These were classy digs, I tell you.

But for some reason I cannot fathom, Stayc's husband, Deek, disliked driving like a hundred miles every day to work up in Lindon and Salt Lake.  Something about never seeing his children and gas bills that exceeded his mortgage bill.


The point is, they bought a house up north and abandoned me and our children...I mean, chickens.

So, mom being the resourceful soul that she is and afraid of nothing says, "well, I guess we know what we are doing while I'm here!"

And like anything worth doing, it required a trip to the lumber yard. And a big red truck.

This is the first of many trips to Woodchcucks lumber yard. I don't really know if that is what it is called, but Joe the lumberjack has a picture of a big smiling woodchuck lumberjack on the side of his building and he (Joe) has a sunny disposition. 

I should have broken this up into a series of posts about building the coop.  But I didn't, so now I'm stuck with a ton of pictures and a somewhat fuzzy recollection of the last two months.  This means that you are getting a photo documentary of this project.  I will interject, but you can fill in most of the narration yourself.

These 4x4s are sunk 2 feet in the ground.  In holes.  I dug.  With a shovel.


We leveled the sills on concrete paving slabs.  Just little ones.


Mom insisted on 11 inches between rafters. Nice and sturdy.

I love this rough cut wood.

It goes perfectly with the rustic fence behind the coop.

I'm hoping the siding will fade to match it.

I hate insulation.  With passion.

Jon did the electricity, bless his soul.

Did I mention that I hate insulation? I did? I still do.

I understand from the farmers around me that this is a good sealant.

Jon and his dad helped me put up the siding.


We had a little bit of trouble getting the drywall ceiling up.  It came to blows.  We won.

And some of the boards didn't line up quite right, on the inside.

This might have something to do with it.

But I made this door on my very own and everything.  And it fit.

Felix seems to like the roosts.  The others aren't quite sure yet.

Isn't she purdy?

I don't know about all this, ma.

And presenting an almost all growed up Piper.  He isn't sure about his place in life.  I'm not either.  I don't think I can handle three roosters and I'm sure my neighbors can't.  I'll decide what to do with him when he starts crowing.

Maybe I'll put him with the chicks that are hatching under the broody hen that is hiding in the barn next door?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preservation Perseverance

Mid-August in our neck of the woods translates: sticky floor, aching back, home as hot as Hades, and a stark reminder why we spend so much time tending to the garden.

I love canning.

Love it.

Did I mention I really love canning?

Here's a wrap up of the projects we've been working on lately...


I get my dill pickle recipe from one of the greatest books ever written. Carla Emery, a brilliant woman to say the least, has since passed on, but her book - The Encyclopedia of Country Living - is ageless. Seriously, if you don't have a copy of this massive piece of literature, do yourself a favor and get one. The lady really floats my boat.

I like crunchy pickles, so I soak my cucumbers in culinary lime for about 12-18 hours before processing. Before we could get our hands on culinary lime last year, we crushed up a bunch of calcium pills and soaked them in a solution of calcium and water. It helped with the pickles' soggy nature, but not a ton. Wilco (owned by True Value) wound up ordering us a bunch of bags of lime, so now we're set!




My green bean "recipe" comes straight from another of my favorite books... The Ball Blue Book of Preserving (don't laugh at the name - it's right there! I didn't make it up!!)

We add very little to our beans. They're canned in water and a tiny bit of salt - 1 teaspoon per quart jar to be exact. They process in the pressure canner for 25 minutes, and voila! You have GLORIOUS green beans. Holy moly no matter how many bean rows we plant, and no matter how many quarts we put up, we always seem to run out by December. We just can't help ourselves.

SIDE NOTE: Thank you, thank you, thank you Lindsay Surface and mommy for helping me snap beans this year! D was working and we had a great girls get-together. Woah. So many G's.


My mom is famous in our family for her strawberry-rhubarb jam. I. love. it. My brother Chris has morphed his diet and nutrition into something I would never be able to tolerate, so this is the first year she hasn't shipped him some. I think I heard him cry a little on the phone when she told him what we were doing. Excellent. ; P

The recipe she uses comes right off the back of the MCP (pectin) box. One of the greatest lessons I have learned from my mother in the kitchen is this: always, always try the recipe on the box. So I confess... many of my best recipes come right off the boxes of the ingredients I'm using. I, too often, go searching for the best recipe online when, in fact, it's right there... right under my nose. Who knew?!?! Especially when you're making jam or jelly, the recipes on the table in the box are simply the best in my opinion, so we stick to 'em... sort of. ; )

We're apparently very thorough when using up the last of the batch... *ahem*

Hello love...

AND PLUM JAM... kind of.

I'm sure you all remember these gems from last year... my beloved plums. *sigh* I love plums. This year, the pear and plum trees blossomed right at the wrong time. It rained. It hailed. The bees never made it to them, and so, no plums. : (

Thank goodness, D had the sense to bring up the fact that we had 30 quarts of halved plums in the food storage room!! We didn't plan on turning these into jam, but we haven't used any of them - canning them semi-whole was more of an experiment than anything - so we got busy! The plums, though canned for a year, made GREAT jam and the juice that the plums were packed in made ever better jelly!! Score!!

D and I have one trick when it comes to plum jam... you may call it our best mistake in the world. We do. Last year, when we were making plum jam, and we were so googly-eyed about each other, giggling in the kitchen, dreaming of being husband and wife and the hundred babies we would have, we stopped paying attention to the recipe (*ahem* - I stopped paying attention to the recipe) and told D to add DOUBLE the lemon juice that it called for.

Yes. Double.

As it hit the pot I realized what I had done. We had not the slightest idea whether or not it would turn out. As it cooled in jars we watched, and we waited... And when it was all said and done, we had the best darn plum jam we'd ever tasted! It was lighter (in color and texture) than regular plum jam - our plums are dark in color and extremely firm and meaty. They make "man jam" so to speak... and the lemon juice added a tart tinge of flavor that was to die for.

So to make a long story longer, "our" recipe will call for double the lemon juice for the rest of our lives.

This is what happens when you have a bad ring. Yup. This bad boy exploded TWICE! I thought I had just lined up the seal wrong after it exploded all over the counter the first time, but when I tried it a second, we wound up with the same result. Bad, bad ring. : (

All in all we're happy with how things are going this year in the garden, though they may be slow...

Up next, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes... tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!!