Sunday, May 31, 2020

Statistics and goings on

The US is over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths. I can’t even. I won’t be regularly updating those stats anymore. I had wanted to keep a kind of personal record so I’d remember but I don’t think there is any danger of forgetting.

In personal news:

The Bridge is done! We got the permanent railing and the screens up. It is definitely darker in there with the screens but it’s also now bug-free so I consider it a win. We’ve been sitting out there for blackfly free lunches and mosquitos free evenings.

While Chris had the extension ladder tied up he figured he may as well re-stain the soffits as they were starting to fade in the sun.
Painting soffits  
Here you can “see” the screens top & bottom. And my twinkle lights!

My oven started taking forever to ignite and the temperature would fluctuate. That’s my signal that it’s time to change the glow rod. We do this every 4 years or so and the oven is working perfectly again.
Putting the door back on
I got my first rhubarb harvest. I’ve got many rhubarb recipes pinned but was only able to harvest enough for I chose The NY Times rhubarb custard bars. They came out fantastic.
Gotta let it grow another year 
We also got the fence around the garden finished. This area serves a dual purpose, keeping deer out and giving the chickens a second pasture. I’ll now be able to start grass growing in the old pasture again.
The new gate 
It’s a huge area
The garden is in except for onions and potatoes. They’ll get planted today. I put a mammoth sunflower next to every fence post and added cages to keep the chickens away until they are established.
The cages don’t help with cats.
Weather has been all over the place. Super hot and sunny (89 degrees!), then humid and thunderstorms, and today it’s 45 degrees out there at 6AM. At least there’s no snow.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Of cats and chipmunks

Our cats are excellent hunters and are averaging 4 chipmunks per day. Unfortunately that’s 4 caught per day, not necessarily 4 killed. See they, much like many cats, prefer to torment their prey rather than cleanly dispatch it. Luckily Cooper the dog is quite willing to serve as executioner. This becomes particularly important when the cats decide to bring those chipmunks home.

And I don’t mean to the front door. I mean into the house. Like yesterday for example. I’m on the front porch sweeping up when I hear the sound of a cat meowing with her mouth full.

Never heard that sound? It’s distinctive. Makes me jump right up and run to shut the door. Sadly, I’m nowhere near as fast as a four-legged feline. In she goes, live chipmunk hanging prominently from her jaws. I run in right after her, calling very urgently for Cooper because that cat is no sooner three feet into the house when she releases one very motivated chippy. It darts deeper into the room but Cooper executes an impressive snatch and grab before it has a chance to really make any progress.


I tell Coop “outside!” and worry not a bit that that’s the end of my problem. Can you see this coming?  This is where I make my big mistake. Instead of following the dog outside to praise her, I chastise the cat...and Coop comes running back in to see what I’m doing, chipmunk in hand, so to speak. And then she releases it. Because obviously I want it inside, right?

Now I’m yelling, the cats are watching, and Cooper is running around nose to ground trying to track the darn thing which has escaped into the closet under the stairs. The very deep, very full closet.


Chris soon joins in the mayhem and we’re now all involved in trying to outwit the wee beastie. Stuff is moved, the dog alerts on a box of Christmas decorations, and BAM, she’s got it! “Outside! Outside! Oh my God she’s dropped it!” “Just kill that fucking chipmunk!”

Victory was ours.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Garden update

Tuesday weather was fantastic, especially for working outside. Sunny, cool breeze, temps in the low 70s. Wonderful!

I transplanted the cabbage, kohlrabi, tomatillos, bachelor buttons, nasturtiums, and marigolds. The sunflowers are ready but I’m not...need to finish the fence so I can plant them at the base of the posts. I also direct sowed my herb seeds as well as carrots, cucumbers, and zucchini. I still have cuke and zuke starts but they need more time to grow before I put them out. 

The chicks are growing well. They are now 7 weeks old and getting brave. They’re venturing into the closed run now and are able to get up and down the ladder okay. Their coloration is pretty and I think the Black Sex-links are going to more closely resemble Bunty rather than Tso. The Barred Rock of course stands out as it’s the only one of those I have. Still not sure if it’s a hen or roo. 

Look at that red head!

Watching the big chickens 
They’ve also started trying to fly out of their coop playpen. Which is bad as the big chickens live in the other side of that coop. I’ve put up soft fencing to keep them in but it’s obvious that it’s just going to get worse as they get older. Time to figure out how to handle accommodations until they’re big enough to integrate at about 14 weeks.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sunday May 17, 2020 Statistics

From the Times Union website:

Total COVID-19 cases:
  • 350,121 in New York state, including 28,232 deaths. 60,796 recovered. 1,378,717 total tested.
  • 1,480,873 in U.S., including 89,318 deaths. 268,376 recovered. 11,077,179 total tested.
  • 4,690,873 worldwide, including 314,096 deaths. 1,721,884 recovered
Temperatures really climbed this week and we got a lot done. I cleaned the coop, moved compost piles, relocated the chicks, cleaned the house, planted the kitchen garden with herb seeds, and started to harden off some of my starts.

Chris bought a 270 gallon tote and set it up to collect rain off the coop roof. We’ll use this to water grass and gardens. Nice! He also spread the rest of the topsoil we’d bought and finished his work on the bridge. I’m now up for adding the screens. Then we’ll be bug free up there. Woot!

Food this week mainly focused on turkey leftovers but I did manage to add in a Toll House pie and 4 loaves of cinnamon swirl bread. Oh, and a batch of spicy mac & cheese.

And now for a gratuitous picture of Noodles enjoying her nap.

Sleepy kitty

Thursday, May 14, 2020

I spent 6 hours shoveling chicken shit and had a great day

How’s that for a blog title?

Today was gorgeous-sunny, breezy, slightly cool. The perfect day to completely clean out the chicken coop and run after a long winter of deep-littering. The bonus would be being able to move the chicks out of the house (finally) and into the coop.

So I spent about six hours shoveling poop-heavy hay and debris out of the coop and run. It was hot work and I wore my homemade mask. It worked a treat. By the end of the day I was filthy and tired. But I was also deeply content. It had been a productive and quiet day. The chickens kept me company. The dog and cats checked in frequently. I had to shower before making and eating lunch with the full realization that I was just going to get dirty all over again.

Sitting and enjoying a cold drink after cleaning up for the final time, I realized that attitude makes all the difference. This could, literally, have been a shitty day.

Instead it was wonderful.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The last cold weather?

This is supposed to be the last day of cold weather. They have a freeze warning in place for tonight, but the forecast from here on out is temps above 60 and lows in the high 30s. Finally! This has been the coldest spring we’ve had since moving up here. Most years I’ve been able to plant the garden in early May. I’ll cover the plants tonight then put the coverings away (hopefully).

We worked a bit on the bridge and front porch despite the cold. Cleaned the 8x10 rug and moved it up to the bridge. Cleaned the front porch and got the chairs arranged. Weather and pandemic permitting, we’ll get to sit and visit out there soon. Put up the dart board on the bridge and arranged the table and chairs. Still need to do some cleaning but that space is coming right along. 

Roasted a turkey last night and will get to enjoy leftovers for a while. Some I’ll shred and freeze for quick lunches mid-summer. I’ll also make some freezer pot pies. The rest will become quesadillas, egg rolls, enchiladas, and sandwiches. Gotta remember to roast turkey more often. Without the stress of timing a big family meal it really is a simple task with big payoff.

I dismembered my bird before roasting 
I also baked some ANZAC biscuits. Used the King Arthur Flour recipe as my starting point but adjusted the size and timing. Will definitely make these again.
Buttery toffee oat flavors
That’s about it for today. We’ve got a fire roaring, the house is warming nicely, and I’ll start the pies shortly. A good day.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Monday May 11, 2020 Statistics

From The Times Union website:

Total COVID-19 cases:
• 335,395 in New York state, including 26,612 deaths. 57,180 recovered. 1,153,768 total tested.
• 1,321,223 in U.S., including 79,058 deaths. 212,534 recovered. 8,709,630 total tested.
• 4,079,388 worldwide, including 281,313 deaths. 1,394,920 recovered.
What a week it was. Sun! Snow! Ice! We got lots done and nothing done. Work on the bridge was going great then halted completely when freezing temperatures kept us from being able to stain or glue up boards. All work on the garden fence stopped because the wind was whipping so hard. And you can’t really work garden soil when it’s hard as a rock.
So we did what any sane person would...we gorged on books. A lot of reading got done this weekend!
The brisket I cooked last week lent itself beautifully to leftovers: wraps of brisket and carrot salad, quesadillas, baked potato with brisket and beef gravy. I’m roasting a turkey today for more of that leftover goodness.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

This is becoming ridiculous

May 7th
May 9th
What’s with this weather? Last year I’d already planted a bunch of stuff in the garden. This year we’re getting snow?!? And it’s supposed to be freezing temperatures all week. Ick.
“Only” a couple inches
When freezing temperatures hit late April I put the chicken water heater back in the coop as their outside water was freezing each night. Good thing I hadn’t gotten around to removing it yet.

Also, I still have chicks in my house. That’s right! They are nearly 5 weeks old and I really, really want them out in the coop but it’s just still too cold. Articles warn that they can’t take cold temperatures until they are fully feathered, including the neck feathers. Most look good but the barred rock is still fluffy in places so they’re still enjoying a heat lamp over the pen. I can do that much more safely in the house than I can in the coop. Plus the house is simply warmer.

So, to sum up: snow on the ground, a week of freezing temperatures ahead, chicks in the house, and a water heater in the coop.

I’m going back to bed.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Bridge Railing

We have an open space over the garage; we call it “The Bridge” because of the expansive the viewing screen on the Enterprise. 
The view, at least some of it
From up there you can look out over the garden, greenhouse, and chicken coop/pasture. There are woods beyond and the sun sets in that direction.

For many years we’ve been planning to put up a permanent railing. The temporary one got us our CO but was ugly. Quick, but ugly. Since the railing has been down we’ve not let anyone out there. Which is no fun as we finished the space last year and it’s awesome for entertaining. Or would be if we didn’t have to worry about people falling to their deaths.
Not kid friendly 
We spent a few days finalizing design plans then Chris got to work cutting and shaping supports. I painted the goat panels (leaning against the wall behind Chris) black then stained all the wood to match.
A lot of framing
On the bridge he attached the side supports to the house with impressively long bolts. Then he interconnected everything, sandwiching the goat panel between the 6x6s with lots of framing, and tying it into the floor.

One panel done
We had to use come-alongs to help keep the posts straight. They wanted to lean out.
Improvisation at its best
There were three sections to complete and they all came together beautifully. Now he’s working on the cap. It’s live edge ash From the property. We used this same wood to make our dining room table and it’s 2 inches thick. Super strong and hard.
Nearly done
Once the cap is in place I’ll start adding screening to make this space bug and critter free. Just in time for black fly season too!
The chicken’s view

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Sunday May 3, 2020 Statistics

From The Times Union website:

Total COVID-19 cases:
• 316,415 in New York state, including 24,535 deaths. 959,071 total tested.
• 1,149,197 in U.S., including 67,200 deaths. 175,382 recovered. 6,816,347 total tested.
• 3,485,948 worldwide, including 246,125 deaths. 1,113,777 recovered.
New York remains on PAUSE until the 15th. There does appear to be light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel though as hospitalizations are down again. Some states are opening up already...we’ll see how that goes for them.

Today was gorgeous again. Sunny, breezy, and in the high 60s. The greenhouse got up to 110! The lower quadrant stayed about 80 so air circulated well. And my tomatoes and peppers poked their heads out of the soil today. The outside garden is really popping too-peas, radishes, and all the garlic I planted last fall are all showing sprouts.
I painted panels for the bridge railing while Chris worked on all the wood parts. It’s going to look really nice and I’ll be so happy to have that area screened in. A bug-free zone will be wonderful.
We also stapled the fencing up on the posts. I’m still working to bury the bottom for predator control, but should get that done tomorrow.
For dinner tonight I grilled a fillet and made charred tomato ricotta sourdough toast. Everything was yummy though I felt the ricotta was a bit much. The bread and tomatoes were so flavorful that the cheese really wasn’t needed. Good to know for next time.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Gorgeous and productive days

The weather has been fantastic the last couple days so we’ve gotten lots done. Which is great as we realized today that black fly season has officially begun. Argh. Anything done outside just got harder.

We’ve made inroads on the big dirt pile. Chris has been covering it with a tarp at night to keep the rain off. It’s making it much easier to spread than in previous years.
Noodles enjoying the cool dirt
The expansion of the chicken pasture is going well. This new area is huge and encloses the greenhouse, garden, and a chunk of shady woodland. It’ll give the chickens another protected area, keep deer and porcupines out of the garden, and will let me rotate pastures so grass can grow.
Those aren’t trees, they’re tall fence posts
I’ve been trenching between the posts so we can bury the fencing. Not only does this deter digging predators it keeps the darn chickens in. The can flatten themselves much more than you’d expect!
The front fence line
Some happy garden news: peas are up, radishes are up but spotty, and my rhubarb is coming in beautifully. Plus I saw some garlic sprouts today.
Walter’s rhubarb 
After a day digging trenches by hand I decided a treat was called for. Vanilla ice cream made with my homemade vanilla extract.
Creamy goodness 
Had zucchini and tomato galette for dinner which was awesome as lunch was peanut butter on Ritz crackers (don’t judge). Tried to do a levain for some sourdough sandwich bread but it failed to rise. My starter is quite active but I think I needed to use ripe starter in the levain...the recipe didn’t specify and I thought since the levain was to be left to rise for 8 hours I’d be okay using discard. Apparently not. Will try again using fed starter.