Monday, February 27, 2012

Gareth Just Bought Himself a New Chore

You never know what hidden talents will crop up when you have a bunch of children running around!

Gareth made his first bread today.


Why yes, that crust did crackle. The crumb?


The gluten-eaters in our family are raving about the flavor, as well . . . I think we have a natural baker on our hands!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Seed Order In

Last year I blogged that seeds were ordered January 13th. February 26th this year. . . not so great. And it was easier this year, too, since I was just plugging holes but have lots of seeds left from last year. This year's order was mostly beans, a bed-worth of cauliflower, some radishes, and new zucchini.

This coming week I hope to drag out the seed starting bench and get growing. We have very little infrastructure work this year; I'd like to improve the trellising, and the plastic that covers the tunnels needs replacing. This is a good thing, as there still are tasks to do on the barnlet. We didn't paint it before the rains came, and we'll need to construct some sort of milking stanchion in time for the goats to become accustomed to it prior to actually being milked. I'm hopeful that the composting straw/manure will give a pleasant boost this year to the soil, and just looking forward in general to another productive gardening year.

Spring creeps closer and closer (despite the fact that we had snowflakes today)!

Crafting a Sensible Crop Rotation

For the first few years of our garden, I've tried to avoid growing the same crop twice in the same garden bed. But there was a sort of nagging realization that this approach needed to be tightened up. Two crops can be different, but still heavy feeders, and such bed would need a break. Still, this is difficult in a small, mostly shaded, food garden. Sun-thirsty plants such as eggplants and tomatoes only work in a minority of our garden beds.

This year I am following a rotation plan that I'll put the beds on from here on out. This might mean that if I want tomatoes or other heat lovers, I'll go to self-watering containers set in the front of the house, which we cannot use to plant because of the septic field. But I feel pretty good about this keeping our rotation managed, and I'm grateful to have found such a helpful plan. Check it out at the "Harvest to Table" website! Beds are divided into four plot groups, then rotated through on a four-year plan. The authors recommend grouping together in one's garden, but since I'm not beginning with a new space, that didn't work here. Also, I think scattering plot types has other benefits in my garden: the shadier spots are divided among groups, and insects attracted to a particular crop have to work harder to find their food of choice!

Always nice to have a nagging concern addressed!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Lovely Barn Surprise

Yesterday morning, Gareth was puzzled to find only two eggs. I sent him out again in the afternoon to check in the brighter sunshine, since the ducks have been covering up their eggs at times with straw, but even with careful searching, no, only two eggs.

This morning . . . seven eggs! He couldn't believe it, and came running in wondering what on earth was happening. Looking it up online, it seems that if Khaki Campbell ducks (from which our breed, Welsh Harlequins, were derived) miss a day of laying, it is quite common for them to make it up with two eggs the next day. Still, this means somebody out there had to lay an egg yesterday and then two today. Good girls!

Not only that, but this is prime slug birthin' weather (err, hatching weather?), and the ducks sure know it. They are very busy at the bases of the garden beds, and they jump up into the beds and patrol around the boards, a slug perimeter patrol. I am delighted with these ducks. The breed is said to be a placid one, recommended for families with young children, and while our ducks still aren't cuddly (as I've noted before) they have become comfortable with us, especially Gareth, who they allow to stroke their backs.

They have my entire approval on this seven egg day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mud Pit Junior High

Our backyard has turned into "Mud Pit Junior High". When I initially debated whether to get chickens or ducks for backyard eggs, I made a pro/con list. On the pro-duck list was the fact that chickens scratch up lawn while ducks do not (hard to scratch with webbed feet). I'd been in many a backyard where lawn had become mud with a backyard chicken flock. Well . . . that little fantasy bubble is burst. Actually, due to the poor soil back there, the "green" of the lawn was mostly weeds, anyway, but the backyard is definitely just as muddy as it would've been had we gotten chickens. It seems to be the emptying of their water every morning that is wiping out the lawn more than anything. We are putting our collective mind here toward a solution. Current brainstorming is leaning toward installing a rocked circle for draining duck water, but we'll see.

And as to the junior high aspect . . . it's not just the goaties screaming for boy goats once a month (they seem to be certain that if they just scream loudly enough, a handsome suburban buck will arrive), but now Jemima Dorothy, Lucy, and Nancy Drew have turned into quintessential Mean Girls. For fun, they bully Ethel. Mostly they wait until she approaches the water for a drink, then they gang up. They peck and bite at the back of her head and neck, and one will climb on her to hold her down while the others peck at her. If she gets into the water bucket, they will actually hold her head under water while she struggles to get out. Most distressing to us! One of the children runs out to break it up when we notice this behavior, but it's hard to think of something to do that won't make the situation worse. We were wondering if it was Ethel that was the lone duck not laying, and perhaps this had something to do with it. But this morning for the first time, we had 4 eggs. Wooo eeeeee, we're at the full egg laying target! Now, off to ask Uncle Google how to deal with mean-girl behavior in poultry . . .

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Strange Notes from Lymphoma-Land

When I started Tales From Shady Fifth, I'd intended it to be a garden blog. It quickly morphed into a "far-flung family" aka "mommy" blog. I most emphatically do not intend for it to turn into a cancer blog - but as this is a part of what is going on around here now, I suppose there will be an entry from time to time.

At any rate, I am sitting currently in a silent home. Everyone is at church and I am . . . super super nauseated. They left food for me in case I could eat. Here is the strange thing: we'd been trying to think of mild, calm foods that I could keep down, so I was a little dismayed to learn that what Sophia had fixed was a plate full of bright-flavored small bite foods. But as I started nibbling, I learned that those bright flavors were exactly what I'd needed: diagonal chunks of lacto-fermented pickles, lunch meat wrapped around cream cheese and cut into coins, and a goat/basil/tomato cheese, with a blue aftertaste. Who knew? It was just perfect, whereas I had struggled to manage plain salted eggs earlier.

Another little odd tidbit, this from a friend whose little girl received a cancer diagnosis earlier this week: linen clothing for the ill. It does happen that I have a bunch of natural undyed linen in my fabric stash and a need for new pj's. As my friend said, "I'm not going to jump on a junk science bandwagon, especially at this time", but linen pj's do no harm.

This wraps up today's quirky minutiae from the Land of Lymphoma.

Friday, February 17, 2012

One Lone Holdout

As of yesterday, we've got three layers. We are suspecting Ethel, who has always been the smallest and the last to do anything, as being the only non-layer. But that's pure speculation, since Gareth just finds the eggs when he opens the barn each morning. And we've got to figure out something new for laying, as a curious goat stepped on an egg this morning. Can't have that happening! But all in all, it is a happy thing to have some productivity coming out of the backyard, especially since I haven't even begun seed-starting for the year yet. I did finally find the missing seeds a couple of days ago, so soon a new gardening year will begin. Ducks laying, seeds starting, the hyacinth plants in the front yard with about 2 inches of green pushing up . . . seems possible that spring might eventually arrive, eh?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Now There Are Two

As of this morning, two of the ducks are laying! We’re getting there. That’s a breakfast a day, anyway!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Three Founds and a Lost

Big exciting new “found”:

007 The first duck egg!

Gareth was elated to find it this morning. We have no idea which duck was the trailblazer, but we’re hoping the rest of them follow suit.


Tarquin has found that he feels much more pirate-y in his dreads, which makes him more even more fond of them:


And Araminta and Lucinda found a way to play Ninja Pirate Guards and look feminine . . .

019  016


Lost: my leftover garden seeds from last year! Time to order, and I have a ton of seeds to use, but can’t find them anywhere! Quite aggravating. I may have to put the local Girlie Ninjas to work on it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Batteries in the Camera!

I made it back to church Sunday for the first time since taking ill – hard to express how good that felt! We happened to all be in coordinating clothes (how unusual is that?) so got a snapshot (thank you Miss EP for the excellent photo!)


When Malcolm visited us in January from the midwest, we didn’t get a family pic at all. I was still just in bed at that point – but wish we’d done it anyway. We just simply forgot! Sophia did snap a couple of shots around home, only one of which is clear enough to see:


005 Boys discussing something fascinating


Tarquin has been growing his hair out again for dreadlocks (his request) and it’s finally gotten long enough (as you can see in yesterday’s shot from church). He just got back from the hairdresser who started his locks:




And since we have batteries, and a little sun today, we need a couple of gratuitous animal shots!

002 All lined up doing slug patrol in the garden beds




“If you’d just let me out I could find my own boyfriend”


027 “Why yes, I am one gigantic ball of fluff. Is this a problem?”