Saturday, December 29, 2012

Feeling optimistic

Romaine lettuce mix from The Cook's Garden

Pink sparkly fingernails compliments of Mesha.

Garden window in the bathroom.

Now Grow.

Looking forward

Now that the holidays are over I can start seriously perusing the garden catalogs porn that seems to be arriving daily to our mailbox. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fresh livestock greens!

I found a local grocer that prefers to give its produce scraps to people with animals rather than throw them away.  I picked up a box this morning before work.  All the animals were thrilled to see something besides alfalfa - especially the ducks.  With the snow on the ground this is a veritable pot of gold for me - it is the end of the pay period and I need to wait another day to get a new bag of feed.  Although the hens love leftovers, like for us, fresh greens are better. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

The holidays around here are pretty mellow.  Christmas is traditionally Jammie Day at our home (the jammies opened on Christmas Eve)  After chores are done it is mostly sitting around reading and eating.

Reilly & I went out for our walk about 7am - no one was yet up.  We have a large park a couple blocks away with fresh snow covering the soccer fields.  I let him off leash in the morning quiet and he ran circles gleefully through the new powder every so often burying his nose and chuffing.

All the poultry (+the bunny) got spinach for a special breakfast with fresh water and grains.  And I got 3 (count them THREE) cups of coffee before the girls roused themselves out of bed to check out their stockings.

We did have a surprise though - outside our back door on the deck was a small pile of wrapped packages.  We have no idea who they were from - our gates were all locked and the names on each gift was typed.  And there was a single bare footprint on the steps to the backyard.

Dinner was simple.  Ham, scalloped potatoes and green beans with upside down peach cake for dessert.

It was really a lovely day.

Monday, December 24, 2012

New Morning Routine

It starts earlier.

I should have always been getting up around 5:30.  I have been meaning to, but it wasn't until the need to take a puppy out for a morning walk that I am actually doing it.  Reilly (Riley? we decided on a name but not a spelling yet) is 6 months old and need to go out IMMEDIATELY upon being let out of his crate in the morning.  So I bundle myself up (I do so hate being cold) and we walk before the sun is peaking over the edge of the horizon.

While the rest of the family sleeps.

While we are gone, though, the coffee pot is doing its job and we walk in to the house smelling of the dark roast Bob just sent us (Thanks Bob!)  I enjoy a cup before heading outside with a bucket of hot water for the livestock.  The poultry and the rabbit (much happier outside in his 2 story hutch than he was inside in the dog crate)  are enthusiastic about their newly thawed water this time of year.

On a side note:  I finally found a book that told me why the quail and ducks are not laying.  In no other book that I have read does it mention that these birds, like hens, need 14+ hours of light to produce eggs.  Since there is not power to the areas of the yard they live I will go without - and instead make a trade with our neighbor who also has ducks (and a light).  Hubby and I are not planning to keep the quail anyway.  We are down to 3 now, one male flew out yesterday while I was getting them fresh water.  The eggs are too small to more than a novelty and the meat - tho tasty, is a lot of work for a small amount.  I would rather have 2 more hens.  Or a dairy goat.

But back to my morning.  Reilly and I go back in the quiet house, and herein lies the reason I have wanted to get up and do the chores earlier.

A second cup of coffee in peace and quiet before the rest of the family gets up.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bob's Beans Coffee Milk Stout

Tastes good with both beef and cinnamon rolls.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012


Up until now I have avoided recipes showing up here.  There are many great sources for recipes on the web (America's Test Kitchen anyone?)  Any entry here would be redundant with all the good food blogs out there.

So last week I was feeling the need to bake, to fill the house with sweet warm smells.  I was planning on chocolate chip cookies but looking in the fridge I found cooked butternut squash and bourbon whipped cream leftover from Thanksgiving.

Our quick bread recipe started out as a typical banana bread recipe from a basic cookbook, but we have found it to be endlessly adaptable to whatever we have on hand.  I hope you find it as useful as we do.

Urban Chicks "Insert Flavor here" Bread

1 - 1 1/2 cups mashed banana/pumpkin/winter squash or applesauce or grated apple/zucchini/carrot - any canned fruit can also be used for part (pineapple, peaches, etc.)
1/2 cup melted butter (shortening/lard/margarine)
2 large eggs (3 small/1 jumbo & 1 med/2 duck eggs)
1/2 cup buttermilk (yogurt/sour cream thinned with milk/half&half/whipped cream or milk w/ tsp lemon/lime/orange juice
 1 - 1/2 cups sugar (white/brown/maple/combo - agave, honey or maple syrup can be used in part)
1 tsp vanilla (or whatever)
2 1/2 cups flour (again blend of choice, whole grain flours will need more liquid)
1 tsp soda
1 tsp salt

Mix melted butter vigorously with eggs and buttermilk.  Add to banana and mix well.  Add sugar and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients however you prefer.

Bake in greased pans.  1 loaf pan 350 for about 1 hour 15 minutes OR 18 regular sized muffins 350 for about 20 minutes.  I will prep the muffins and refrigerate them in the pan to bake in the morning on school mornings.  I always loved it when my Mom did that and my girls appreciate it also.

Some combos we really like
*grated zucchini, chopped candied ginger,  1/2 the sugar is honey, zest and juice of one orange (or lemon) mixed in with yogurt and sliced almonds
*winter squash, raisins, bourbon whipped cream mixed with sour cream and cinnamon
*grated zucchini, zest and juice of 2 oranges mixed with milk, fresh cranberries mixed with the sugar and finely chopped walnuts
*grated zucchini, carrots, & apple, crushed pineapple mixed with sour cream, chopped pecans, coconut & raisins 1/2 the sugar is brown

Monday, November 19, 2012

Boards going up

Hubby and Mesha are a great team.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


View from side yard

South property line with old chicken house/playhouse

Good Fences . . .

 So today Hubby and I started putting up a fence.  There is chain link along the alley at the back of our property and our neighbor to the north has a wooden one, but the south line is open.

Juju wants the chickens to be free range.  Mesha would like to not worry about Peppers the Bunny when she takes him outside.  I would like the ducks to roam freely.

And we all would like a dog.

But first things first.

We did have help.  A friend offered up her 2 teenaged sons and they brought along a friend.  Chris and I had gotten 4 posts sunk in when they showed up which allowed me to take the girls and run errands.

Mesha also helped by poking wet concrete with rebar to get air bubbles out.  Juju did the inside chores (folding clothes, washing dishes etc) which helped out a lot.

Before bed I started reading Katz on Dogs - less about how to train but a philosophy of dog ownership.  The author was previously a mystery writer, and his well though out story telling is why at midnight, with heavy eyes, I was still reading in bed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Last night after dinner Hubby sent Mesha out to gather eggs.  We have a red light on inside the coop at night now and they are back to laying 4-6 a day.  She skipped out in her knee high converse shoes with all kinds of plans to hold her 2 large fluffy cochins before coming in again.

A few minutes later there was a high pitched scream.

Hubby and Juju headed to the back door in a rush.

The scream continued.

Mesha came running in sobbing, her shirt front full of the eggs.  An animal had meowed at her, she told them after a few minutes, but it didn't sound like a house cat.  It was kind of a bark too.  And the chicken door was still unlocked.  "I wanted to drop the eggs and run, but I didn't, I didn't break one" she said sniffling proudly checking her impromptu egg basket.

Hubby went outside and locked the hens up.  There was no sign of an animal, but he heard the dogs nearby start barking.

He snuggled with her on the couch and told her she had startled a fox, and it had done its strange & eerie bark in return before taking off through the neighborhood.

We see foxes a lot in the area.  There was a den across the street under Miss Vicky's deck until this year.  We see them running down the street and jumping easily over the six foot fences in the alley.  But we don't have a rabbit problem, and see very few mice.  I would rather have them in the neighborhood than either rodents or the deer I hear people complain about.  They are an important part of the food chain.

Mostly we are happy to see them.  But watching local wildlife from 50 feet away is quite different then having them spook you in your back yard.  They have been quite interested in our livestock since we moved the ducks to the back corner of the property.  But other than losing one quail, we had not known they "hung out".

This is why farms have watch dogs for their flocks I guess.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

where have you been all my month?

Mom commented the other night while we Skyped that I haven't been posting lately.  It is not that nothing has been going on, but I have been loath to sit at the computer and log in.  Not sure why.

Anyway here is some photos to tell their own story - There are leaves to be raked outside and wood to be stacked.  Knitting projects to start and pasta sauce to be canned in addition to the regular chores before I go to work today.
This is not a nest box
Hard Cider in the works
More snow - gone now.
Corn maze at Denver Botanical Gardens

Friday, October 5, 2012

First snow

By the sun was up, half of it was already melted.

I am curious how the garden is doing up at the Ppatch (I won't have time until tomorrow to check it out) since both the summer squash and tomatoes were still producing the day before yesterday - despite nighttime temps in the 40's.

Oh and there is no longer evidence that there had been any snow at all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


The ducks are still not laying - the books say they won't start again until mid winter.

The quail have stopped laying also, I don't know why.

About 1/2 the laying hens are molting so their production is down.  Only 4 eggs a day on average.  With 8 hens that is less than ideal.

But one of the cochins left us a tiny gift (we suspect one of the frizzles)  All 5 of them should start laying this month. (although Hubby suspects that the 2 frazzles are roosters  - they don't crow but their posture is more upright than the other hens and they are more assertive.)

Either way I better have more eggs daily in time for holiday baking! 

You gonna eat that part 4

This past Sunday while I was working the girls went with friends to Miller Farms Harvest Festival near Fort Collins.  We were told they would be coming back with vegetables they would get to pick themselves.  

We were thinking a plastic grocery sack.

They brought home FIFTEEN plastic grocery sacks. 

Our dining room table seats 6 if you need a reference.

Some went to the food bank, some went with me to work, but most of it has found a home in our fridge or freezer.  I may even be able to save some of the potatoes for seed (how cool is that?)

Thanx Miss Mary!

You gonna eat that part 3

For those of you who shop at Costco - this is one of their bags I bought in Minnesota.  I am not sure how much volume but the bag is 20x12x14 inches - and I had three of them.  I didn't even have to pick them - just cart them away (I did, however clean up the windfalls for the hens)

That many apples made:
30 pints of applesauce
1 gallon dried apples
2 gallons apple juice

And I still have one to go.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

where did the time go?

I don't think I have ever gone this long without posting since I started writing this.   I just did not feel like sitting down and writing at the end of my day.  No real reason.  Even with harvesting and canning I don't think I was doing any more work than usual.

I guess I just needed a break.

Expect to catch up on what has been going on over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A single melon

By carefully avoiding the out of sight - out of mind garden beds in the back parking area we were able to harvest a single Prescott Fond Blanc melon this weekend.  It was small and ugly, as I knew it would be, and smelled WONDERFUL.  I chilled it overnight and cut into it to send with the girls to lunch today.  The rind was thick and the flesh a beautiful pale orange.  The texture was firm but delicate and melted in my mouth.

There was no flavor whatsoever.

One of my Master Gardener friends had told me this when she saw my plants and she did not overstate the fact at all.  I can get a better tasting melon at Costco in December.

I suspect it will still be in the girls' lunches when they get home - despite the slight sprinkling of sugar I put on it to try to draw out something.

Oh well.  The hens should enjoy the vines.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Produce etc.

 Well, not garden pics exactly.  Hubby picked this squash on Tuesday - our table is 42" wide.

We ate it last night in succotash.  This is my favorite summer squash now - thin skinned with a delicate flavor, yet it did not get mushy when sauteed.

I canned spiced honey peach jam on Wednesday.  There is one more picking left on the neighbor's tree - if I can get to it.


well, other than cherries of course.  These are Oregon Spring. The plant was given to us by the manager of the Ppatches back in May.  It is highly acidic, and not very tomatoey, and should have been ripe before the 4th of July.

It was still WAAAAY better than the offerings down at King Soopers.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday garden pics

Pinot Noir Peppers, yellow cherry tomatoes, purple beans, one red and one yellow carrot + onions.  The yellow squash is from a fellow Ppatch gardener. 
But these 2 trombetta Italian squashes were grown by me.  Amazing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

You gonna eat that? part 2

Peaches!  They are barely larger than apricots, but the owner told me to take all I wanted.  The hens enjoyed the windfalls and I made peach pie, muffins, dried some and canned a few quarts.  I picked again yesterday that I plan to can tomorrow.  I traded eggs, canned yellow tomatoes from last year and one of the pies.

Bonus - I met 2 more people in the neighborhood, the owner of the tree and the widow who lives on the corner.  I had been walking by her yard with our radio flyer wagon full of this new bounty and offered her some.   This led to to a conversation.   Luckily Hubby rolled up to remind me of work or I would have been late

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bottling lager

Hubby has been brewing every two weeks in anticipation for our end of summer BBQ.  This one is a Honey Lager made with the sourwood honey we picked up on vacation.  First taste was promising.  It will be ready in 2 weeks.

Potato Harvest

It isn't much of a harvest, somewhere between a quart and a half gallon of yukon golds and Purple Adirondack potatoes.  It was our own inattention that gave us this meager reward.  Although the back parking area is unused and gets the right amount of sun, it is a hassle to drag the hose to it and as a consequence is often forgotten.  The plants have all died back and we are left with a volunteer tomatillo and what I think is a cucumber.  After I dug these out - the plants had only set just under the top layer of straw - I watered thoroughly, happy to see black dirt and straw teeming with red wrigglers.  I will build the 3rd raised bed before fall and set it up in the upper yard before filling it with this lovely soil.  Then move these two beds up there in the same way.

It isn't much of a harvest, but it is better than last year. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Garden Pics Friday

Purple bush beans and the first carrots I have ever successfully grown.

The pumpkin vine is planning a takeover I think

I think I will grow the okra in the front yard next year.  It is related to the hibiscus and it shows.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

FFA music video

Saw this while I was trolling other garden/farm/poultry blogs the other night.  It is better than the original, which if you don't know, you probably do not want to.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

You gonna eat that? Part 1

 7:30 am in Englewood.  Owner of tree did not wish to be bothered with the fruit of her tree.  We cleaned up the windfalls for the hens.  They are now ripening slowly in our basement.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Today in the Garden

Climbing Spinach
Bush Beans

Pinot Noir Peppers

Carrot seed (Danvers I think)

Friday, July 27, 2012

So . . what's going on at the Ppatch anyway?

Let's start with the worst.  Here is the hill that Hubby planted wildflowers 3 TIMES.  Nothing came up.  In the back are a few Mammoth Sunflowers (not so big).  On the lower right corner is a few leaves of a small orange cherry tomato plant, other than that, Nada.  So yesterday the girls and I planted the last of the brassicas that were slowly dying in their pots and 6 peach pits (Mesha's new project since her apple tree sprout died)  We have 1 bale of hay left and will mulch this weekend.

Here is the other part of the hill.  Again, sunflowers on top, sweet corn in front.  Between and not really seen is the Greek Amaranth and popcorn (still really small).

Bell Peppers are growing at the base of the straw terraces.  The plants did not get big, but they are producing.

Hubby and I rescued some beige carpet that had been abandoned in the alley for a couple weeks and cut it in strips for the rows - 1/2 our weeding is now eliminated.  The tomatoes are huge, but the heat has halted their blooming.  But we have green fruit.  There is a tripod I erected today - volunteer Grampa Otis Morning Glories.  They are COVERED with bees.  Woo Hoo!

Juju's raised bed is the star of the show.  Her mystery tomato is growing well as are the sunflowers, cosmos, and basil.  The climbing squash has reached the top of the decorative "lattice" and I connected it to Mesha's with some long branches - cross your fingers for a covered arbor in a couple weeks.  There are little J-shaped fruits and everything.

The livestock have really enjoyed the weed from ours (and our neighbors') patches.  I do get funny looks when I point to someones weed pile and say "can I have that?"

BTW - we gave 2 of the new hens to another family, they are thrilled to now have 8 and we are more comfortable with 14.

And what, you ask, was Hubby doing while the girls and I have been working so hard in the yard and garden. . .

Making wood swords for the girls to take to RenFair this weekend - nicer than anything we saw there.
Mesha's short sword and shield - with a wand holder inside the shield (she bought a wand at RenFair a couple weeks ago)  She has since painted them black with a diamond design. 
One of two Scimitars for Juju.  The handles are wrapped in hemp twine.