Friday, September 9, 2011

Coop Du Jour

I absolutely ADORE chickens!  When I was in animal rescue way back when in Florida, I was lucky enough to rescue a little white hen I named Fedelia.  This little gal was a gem.  Her morning routine consisted of laying me a fresh egg, making a tour of my kitchen floor to rid it of all it's crumbs, hopping up on my knee to watch me feed my infant daughter and then letting herself out to roam our three acres all day.  When I we sold that home, I gave her to a neighbor who loved her so much, she adopted 4 more hens and a rooster and built them a coop that was the envy of the neighborhood.

Now that I am finally in a place where I can own chickens again, I was quick to aquire three from a woman who needed to rehome hers.  Reenee, Edie, and Beatrice came with a small, rather sad looking coop that was suffering from plain-ness and obscurity. 

Although they didn't know any better, I was embarrassed for them.  Since we couldn't afford a new coop, I thought sprucing up their chick pad just a bit might be in order.

Behold: Cafe De Poulet

Cafe De Poulet's Drive thru Egg Window

Now the chickens can hold their beaks up high and strut their stuff.  They're pretty sure none of their other feathered friends live in a French cafe'.  And their eggs never tasted so good!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Faeries In My Garden

The Fairy Song

"White coral bells
Upon a slender stalk;
Deck my garden walk.

Oh, don't you wish
That you could
Hear them ring?
That can happen only
When the faeries sing!"

I used to think it was silly to believe in faeries.  That was before I stumbled across a sweet little booklet self-published by Sharon Lovejoy called Faeries In My Garden.  Here was a perfectly sane (and very talented I might add) adult who not only believed in faeries but planted gardens for them.  If you've ever been fortunate enough to visit Heart's Ease in Cambria, CA, the shop once owned by Lovejoy, you will have experienced the magical gardens she planted there.  Sharon inspired me to create my own fairy gardens and to make my yard a wonderland. 

Due to a few years of upheavel in my family's life, all of the fairy garden implements were packed away until they could be set out to delight the faeries once again.  Now that we are finally settled, my daugthers and I have had so much fun picking the spot and planning the perfect fairy garden.  An ancient tree on our property was the perfect backdrop.  The girls unpacked the box of fairy furniture while I painted the windows and door that Daddy cut out for us.  The last time we had a fairy garden we had to purchase moss from the garden store.  Living in Oregon, we have moss growing under every bush free for the taking (although we did ask permission from the moss faeries).  We put the finishing touches on and snapped some pictures.  As is often the case in Oregon, the sun did not cooperate for the pictures but the faeries are happy and so are we!

Welcome to my garden.  Come up the path and have a seat.

Almost there...
Is that a fairy peeking out of the window?

Bunny is popping her head out of the clover.

Have a seat by the birdbath and enjoy the view.

Time to say goodbye for now...

Until the faeries come tonight to play.


By the moon we sport and play,
With the night begins our day;
As we dance the dew doth fall---
Trip it, little urchins all,
Lightly as the lttle bee,
Two by two, and three by three;
And about go we, go we,
And about go we.

(The Maydes Metamorphosis of Lylie, 1600)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Summer For Sweet Potatoes

Now that the weather is turning here in Middle Tennessee, it's almost hard to remember the oppressive heat we experienced all summer.  I know most of you can relate because it was something nearly the whole country experienced.  It obliterated most of my summer crops for they just could not survive in the 98 degree heat with no relief from even an occasional rain shower.  Having lived and gardened in Florida for most of my life, I nearly always covered up the garden beds for summer knowing it was futile to fight the weeds and heat stroke for a few piddly cherry tomatoes, okra and lima beans.  I stayed inside in the air conditioning and waited for our growing season to begin in October.  I wasn't prepared for TN summers to be even worse.  Although everyone assures me this was a fluke, I am extremely doubtful regarding next summer's garden.  So while I was preparing my fall garden this month, noone was as shocked as I was to see some little red heads poking up from under my sweet potato vine.  Upon closer inspection, I found I had a veritable mine field of huge, hearty sweet potatoes!  I started digging around one plant and pulled out the biggest potato, this gardener had ever seen.  A 5 pounder!!  The diggings from just one plant came home with me that day and provided not only baked sweet potatoes but sweet potato pancakes,

sweet potato chili,

sweet potato gratin and will this weekend become sweet potato pie, with half the batch of potatoes still to be used.  Yesterday, I dug around a second plant and added the bounty to what was left of the first. 

And I still have 7 more plants to dig.  I should get at least a bushel and perhaps a half more.  If anyone wants to pass any sweet potato recipes my way, I welcome them.  In the mean time, here's the Sweet Potato Chili recipe I made.

Pinto Bean Sweet Potato Chili

1 T olive oil
1 Med onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 T chili powder (adjust as necessary)
1 C vegetable broth
1 1-lb. sweet potato (yam), peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 Med tomatoes cubed
1 Can Pinto beans drained

Heat olive oil in heavy sauce-pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add chili powder and stir 1 minute.  Add broth and potato.  Cover pan; reduce heat to medium and simmer until potato is almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and pinto beans.  Simmer uncovered until chili thickens and potato is very tender, about 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with a touch of mexican cheese shredded on top.

This was so easy and delicious.  A must try this winter!

I used to grow sweet potatoes in Florida many years ago and had completely forgotten how much they loved the heat.  I had one plant that grew year round there and provided me with potatoes all year.  In my California community garden, potatoes were on the banned list so I forgot all about them.  Something tells me I won't be forgetting about these sweet potatoes for a very long time.  It will take me at least two full day to process them for the freezer and we should be having sweet potato dishes until we are in our 80's.  Sweet potato cassarole anyone?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Had Me At 'BARN'

So I was finishing up a run to my local Tractor Supply Co. and as I was about to unload my minivan, I paused, took a long look and ran inside to get my camera.  Those of you who know me, will attest to the fact that this is the way think a minivan should be used.  Rick says my next vehicle will be a truck because that's what I've made the van into anyway. 

Ain't it perty?  Supplies for the garden and the critters, and plenty of room left for us country folk.

Speaking of the garden.  Although we are renting in subdivision-land right now, I am so blessed to have a community plot on 45 plus acres provided by my church.  My community plot back in Long Beach, which was next to the plots of my dear friends and which provided as much free manure and mulch as I could haul in a wheelbarrow, was smack next to the freeway which drowned out the sounds of nature.  So there are trade-offs.

Speaking of the critters, my husband stepped on some rabbit pellets the other day and said, "I've been steppin in animal poop for our entire 18 years of marriage.  I guess the only solution is to buy you a house with a barn."  At that moment the heavens opened and the angels sang a chorus of "Hallelujah".  He said "BARN"!  My dear husband doesn't even know that as a child growing up in the country, I longed for a barn but my father didn't share my views even though we lived on enough land to build 20 barns.  It was enough to get him to allow me to put in a fence for my horse and I had to dig half the holes.  So when my husband said he would get me a barn when we buy a house, he was speaking my love language.  I don't require much.  Just some manure and hay and a place to keep it.  It only took  him 18 years to figure it out.  I think that's pretty good!
By the way, these are some of my new favorite magazines!  So much fun with lots of information about gardens, critters and BARNS!  Check 'em out! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CHRISTMAS IN JULY (and August and September and...)

What would you do if you heard a cry for help?  Ok, what would you do if you were a crafter and you heard a cry for crafting help?  I hope we would all "do unto others as we would  have others do unto us", right?

I was in JoAnn Fabrics one day and overheard a woman on her cell phone lamenting the fact that her daughter had to have a lion head made by Monday and here it was Thursday and she didn't sew and didn't know what to do.  The little angel on my right shoulder stuck my nose in her business as soon as she had gotten off the phone and within a few days, I had made her a lion head from yarn and an old ski mask pattern I had lying around.  She failed to tell me, though, that her daughter had an emormous head and it was all she could do to get it over the aforementioned noggin.  But it served it's purpose, she was extremely grateful, I made a friend and ended up getting the lion head back for my daughter for halloween.  This is a photo of the lion head along with the lion costume that I made for it when she returned the head to me.

I bring up this story to illustrate that I seem to always be sticking my nose in to other people's business because I can't resist a cry for crafting help.  It was to just such a cry that prompted me to embark on my most recent knitting adventure.
I was browsing around Ravelry, minding my own business when I noticed a post asking if anyone could knit a Christmas stocking for her soon to be born daughter.  Aww, what could be sweeter than to knit for a new little baby to be.  I'm thinking pink.  I'm thinking small, quick and easy.  I thought wrong!

I made arrangements to meet the woman at my local yarn shop, Bliss Yarns and after a quick introduction over her very pregnant belly, she showed me the pattern she wanted knit.  It was published in 1948, it was intarsia and she wanted one knit to match hers, which had been originally knit by her grandmother and her husband's, whom she had someone knit for her in another city.  Not one to back down from a knitting challenge, I went home with her chosen yarn and a pattern that had seen better days. 

Over the next few days, I watched all the internet videos I could on intarsia, gathered my supplies and my courage and cast on.  I'm sorry now that I didn't get pictures of my progress along the way because it was quite a scene: trips to the pool with red, white and green balls of yarn dangling from every possible point on my needles, and sticky notes strategically placed and replaced as I worked my way down the Christmas tree and Santa Claus which were knit into the middle of this enormous sock.
After most of June, all of July and the better part of August were over, I had completed the Christmas stocking.  Did I mention I'm a loose knitter?  Did I mention that although the yarn called for size 8 needles, I used size 3?  Did I mention that my stocking came out large enough for my husband to sleep in?

Now of course when I was knitting this thing, I knew it was turning out large but when I blocked it, it just seemed to stretch to even more gigantic proportions!  Only having 25% wool in the yarn, there was no hope of felting it (although I tried, Oh did I ever try).  I finally had to face the fact that I had failed and that I had to break it to this woman that I had failed and that I had to knit this agonizing project that had taken most of my summer, over again.  The latter being the hardest to face.  But all those things I did and this time, picking up size 1 needles, started knitting again.  This is what resulted.

Still too long

and still too wide.

So I have offerd to hunt for differnt yarn and to somehow make this work to match her other stockings.  It looks like I will be knitting right up until Christmas.  I didn't have any Christmas knitting to do right?

So take my advice, keep your crafting feelers on and make sure they are long enough to butt into other people's business because you never know when it will result in a costume for your daughter or a sleeping bag for your husband.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I'M BAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let's face it folks...change is hard.  You're going along all snug in your rhythms and *thwak* the rug is pulled out from under you.  In our case it was a move across the country that started it all.  We arrived here in the beautiful state of Tennessee exactly 6 days before what they are now calling the 500 year flood.  We searched those 6 days for a rental home we could all be comfortable in and one that had a yard in which the girls and I could explore, garden and begin collecting the animals we had been praying for every bedtime for the last year.  Well when water starts rising and people have to leave their homes, panic ensues.  We were told to grab on to the first home that appealed to us and be happy because there would be a lot of displaced people looking to rent  homes until they could get back into theirs.  And so that's what we did. 

This is a video I took around noon of the first day of rain.  We had no idea at the time what was to come.  The siren you hear was the fire department going in to rescue someone from the building.

Now don't get me wrong.   The home we "grabbed" is a lovely, large and comfortable home but it is not in the country as we had planned, nor does it have a yard that can be explored, gardened or made to house animals (even if they were allowed).  We are in suburbia.  It took me several weeks to get over that and to get used to the fact that our dreams were going to be postponed for yet another year at least.  The girls, on the other hand, promptly made friends with the only two little girls on the block and have made the best of what they have. (We should all take a lesson from our children).

After making our choice, we headed over to North Carolina to spend the next three weeks with my mother while Nashville dried out and our possessions could make their journey from California.  The girls loved visiting their "Gammy" and spending time on top of a mountain in the middle of a national forest was just what we needed.

The first half of our things arrived in late May (with the rest coming mid June) and we proceeded to settle in .  Things were timed perfectly, for the last weekend in May was the annual Middle Tennessee Fiber Festival chock full of fiber, fleece and furry things.  Susan's Fiber Shop was there and I brought home the drum carder I had been saving for for over a year along with some English 5-Pitch Combs.  And as many of you know, I have quite a  love for furry things so I tucked one of these under my arm as well.

Petunia, my French Angora, will be ready to shear in about 6 weeks. My own sustainable fiber source!  And it can live in the house!  (Where there's a will there's a way!)

Another big change took place not long after we moved in.  On June 7th, our little Angelina turned 7!!!

And just last weekend, yet another change.

She told me, by the way, "I think the tooth fairy is just you, Mommy"  So many changes. Exciting and a little sad.  Homeschooling will be starting again soon and that will help us get our rhythm back.  In the mean time, we continue to unpack, to settle in, to get used to this crazy weather and to accept whatever changes that come our way.  I'm so glad to be back and I look forward to sharing our lives with you, my dear friends.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nashville Here We Come!

We left Texas and sailed into Oklahoma with a rousing chorus of "OKLAHOMA".  Having been in the musical in Regional Theatre, I sang every part with harmonies. My husband started giving me looks 3/4 of the way through "Surry With The Fringe On Top " so I switched to singing under my breath.  Oklahoma seemed to zip by.  We seemed to be through it before I could get through "The Farmer And The Cowman Should Be Friends".
We spent the night in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.  Home of the dead animals.  Well it seemed that way.  We arrived there just after the storm and as we were unloading, I noticed two nearly naked baby birds on the sidewalk outside our hotel room.  One was tiny and already gone but the other was larger and still fighting for life.  Since I used to be in animal rescue, I kicked into rescue mode, scooped it up and ran in the room, wet a towel with very warm water and wrapped it up until I could think of a more permanent solution.  I was sad to find that I had arrived too late as the little bird breathed its last just a few minutes later.  A search of the area found a third dead baby over in the mud.  The storm must have blown them out of their nest.  The only one I could find was at the top of the second story roof tucked in the gutter.   That was a long way to fall and on to the sidewalk too.  Poor little things.  The girls of course wanted to hold them and pet them.  So I let them.

It was a hard lesson to learn but Nature is the best teacher and I don't turn down any opportunity to teach.  The next morning, as I was walking the dog, I found a little grass snake that didn't make it through the storm either.  The girls were thrilled to get to hold it.  I figured they would never develop a fear of snakes if they practiced  holding one that didn't move.

As we pulled out of the  hotel, Abby hollered out with all she could muster, "Good-bye baby birds.  Good-bye baby grass snake.  Good-bye muddy bird"  Abby doesn't leave anyone out. 
Needless to say, we were thrilled to cross over the "mighty Mississip" and into Tennessee.  The girls and I hopped out of the car and did the "We're finally in Tennessee" dance which looked an aweful lot like "Ring Around the Rosy". 

I had had this little ditty floating in my head for 2 days so we decided we ought to at least see Graceland while we were here in Memphis.  Neither of us are really Elvis fans but as the lyrics say, "for reasons I cannot explain, there's some part of me wants to see Graceland."  We headed on over and on the way, found a place to stop so we could all use the bathroom.  As we were pulling out of the parking lot,  I noticed, just out of the corner of my eye, a couple of people getting out of a car and one of them collapsing on the ground.  I brought it to Rick's attention and since we are foster parents and always up to date on our CPR training, Rick said, "Oh great.  Here we go" and turned the car around.  When we came upon the scene we found a young overweight man lying on the ground and his friend, also a young man trying his best to rouse him.  Rick called 911 and I went to see what I could do.  Since all we had ever practiced on were CPR dummies, this was new to us.  I felt for a pulse and found one but could not detect any breathing.  When I opened  his mouth, I heard what sounded like a snore so I knew he had an intake of breath.  I knew he was not sleeping as his color was not good but I was hoping with all my will that the snore meant he was breathing because although I would have done it, I did not wish to do rescue breathing on a stranger with a mouth full of braces to boot.  Rick had made his call and mercifully took over, and by laying his face right on the young man's nose, could detect shallow breathing.  He was out of danger and we could hear the sirens in the distance. We breathed a sigh of relief and waited around while they took this 18 year old boy to the hospital.  After our ordeal, it was too late to go to Graceland so we searched for a hotel in the area that would take pets.  Our search proved fruitless so we got back on the road and spent the night in Jackson.  Today we will be in Nashville and then Franklin and will start searching for a rental home this afternoon.  Our travels are near an end but the journey is still in it's infancy.  If you're interested, I will give you a tour of our new surroundings as well as a play by play on the house hunting.  I hope you've enjoyed the ride along the way and I'll see you in Nashville.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I Used To Be Fine...But I Got Over It

We were sad to say goodbye to New Mexico but happy to be on the road and closer to our final destination.  As we entered Texas, I made my husband stop for another picture.  I wanted to hug Texas. 

   What I needed to do was hold on for dear life! 
Not too long after Amarillo, we saw ahead of us a huge wall of ominous clouds.  The girls were excited to see a real thunderstorm and couldn't wait to catch up with it.  It wasn't just a passing thundercloud though but a huge cell moving across the Southeast and we were moving with it.  For over 3 hours, we drove at a snails pace in thunder, lightning, hail and driving rain with an occasional rainbow sighting which brought loud squeals from the girls.  Seeing the futility of it, we decided to take our leave at the next exit that looked inhabited:  Shamrock, TX.  Did you know Shamrock, TX boasts the tallest water tower of it's kind anywhere?  Neither did we.  We were just happy to see the one and only restaurant still open for business.  When we pulled up at the front with the elements churning all around us, the waitress opened the door and motioned us in.  The busboy ran out and took Abby for me while Angelina and I ran for the open door. When we were safely inside, we saw an interesting collection of locals hovering around a television in the corner watching the Weather Channel.  They were openly concerned.  Apparently the storm sirens had been going off. Apparently a tornado had touched down a few miles from there.  And apparently it was getting worse.  The waitress must have seen my concerned look and said in her thick country accent, "Don't worry darlin', if we get a twister, we have a walk-in.  We can all pile in there."  By "walk-in", I believe she meant the refrigerator.  Now God bless these sweet people for their shelter in a storm and for their concern for the safety of myself and my children and even my dog. (Yes, they asked the owner if they could bring our dog in the restaurant.)  But the look of concern she saw on my face was not for the howling wind and hail outside.  No.  It was for the fact that the air was filled with the long forgotten smell of cigarette smoke.  It was the fact that she offered us a seat in the NON-SMOKING SECTION.  It was the fact that my eyes had taken in the tiny salad bar containing iceberg lettuce, jello, and some pink stuff that looked like drowning marshmellows.  Oh my word!  What have we done?!
After my husband joined us, we were seated in a booth in the aforementioned section and perused the menu.  As always, my first concern is 'what will I feed my children'.  The only non-meat item on the menu was a grilled cheese.  I occasionally make grilled cheese for my kids from my home-baked bread and either veggie cheese or organic dairy cheese so it wasn't completely foreign to them.  At least they would recognize it as food.  When I placed their order, the waitress replied, "french fries, chips er tater tots?"  Oh my word!  Do tater tots still exist?  You  mean the FDA hasn't banned them as being a plastic non-food item?  The waitress only raised one eyebrow when I asked for a side of sliced tomato instead.  As expected, the sandwiches came on Wonder Bread.
Throughout our short and surpisingly inexpensive dinner, we learned from the Weather Channel that the storm was big and it was heading east at the same rate we were so it was no use fighting it, we were stuck in this little town for the night.  Fortunately, when the rain subsided a bit, we found a very nice hotel right next door to our sheltering restaurant.  We got a beautiful, newly remodeled room for the night and woke up to clear skies.
As my husband often does, he got up before anyone and went about town to gather supplies and get the "lay of the land".  He came back into the room just chuckling to himself.  In the local grocery store, he asked the checkout girl if it was always this windy here to which she replied, "If it ain't windy, you better write it down."  She asked one of the regulars, "Hey Leonard.  How ya doin'?"  His response, "O, I used to be fine, but I got over it".  And as Rick made his way to the door, a large man in overalls, that didn't quite button on the sides, rushed ahead to the door and said, "Here.  Lemme get that for ya."  I thought about these kind, friendly and genuine folks and their concern for strangers in a storm.  Just listening to him relay what he'd encountered and thinking of the kindness we'd been shown the night before, I knew then that we were on the right path.  Ok, eating is going to be a challenge, but we've overcome bigger challenges than that and will again.  This is our adventure and yes, for a moment, I was worried...but I got over it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Vest In The West - Part 2

We headed north out of Bandalier and made for our next intended destination: the home of Georgia O'Keeffe, but we missed the turn and ended up at Ghost Ranch, one of the artists frequent haunts.  The landscape was simply breathtaking.

An ancient wagon was the perfect backdrop for nature's beauty.

We spied a lonely log cabin on the road out.  And could not resist stopping by for a closer look.

And if it really matters, here's the vest.  Have I mentioned how huge this thing is.  Perhaps if my husband gains 30 lbs. it will actually fit him.  I finished the back the night we pulled into Santa Fe...
And I'm working feverishly to finish the front and join the shoulders before the next post. 
This thing could fit King Kong so wish me luck.

Rick after passing a sign for body piercing: "That reminds me of a moile I once knew.  He said, 'It's a lousy job but you get alot of tips'."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vest In The West - Part 1

We drove into Santa Fe Monday night and have spent two amazing days exploring the city and it's incredible surroundings so rich in history and culture.  Santa Fe is celebrating it's 400th year this year and if folks have been hanging out here since 1610 then by golly it's worth more than a passing visit.  If I could, I would have stayed a week.  There is so much to see and so much to show you of our trip, I  have had to divide it into two posts.  I hope you don't mind.
We spent the first day wandering in the Plaza at the center of the old part of town which is graced with ancient adobe dwellings and the beautiful St. Francis Basilica, built in the 1600's and rebuilt in the 1800's.

We strolled down the row of Navajo vendors selling their gorgeous handmade turqoise jewelry and woven rugs.
The next day we headed north of town to visit Bandalier National Monument, a pueblo inhabited by the ancestors of the Navajo from the 1100's to the 1500's.  The girls had a fabulous time running along the trails and exploring the caves.
A friendly beetle stopped by to say hello but the girls did NOT want to become acquainted.
Stopping for a rest and a chat with fellow travelors.     
Abby being Abby
The girls made a friend on the trail and instantly fatigue was forgotten for the thrill of foot races.
Tomorrow, our visit to Ghost Ranch and of course, the vest.

Rick as we were passing some cattle lying down in a field: "Look! Ground beef."