And then there was Iceland…

There are lots of places I’d love to travel to.  It’s easier to list the countries that don’t interest me.  But every now and then, I come across a place that just hits me in the heart and soul.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I’ve been planning a trip to England and Egypt.  I also wanted to spend at least a weekend (maybe a long weekend) in another country as well.  I was pretty much set on Venice, because flights from London are super cheap.  But then, everything changed.

I started looking at cheap transatlantic flights, and Icelandic Air was always on top.  The only problem was, they always seemed to give you a long layover in Iceland…and why would I want to go there?  I hate winter.  I hate cold.  I hate snow.  I kinda hated Iceland, just for having “ice” in their name!  I certainly didn’t want to go there.  Wasn’t there a flight that would give me a layover someplace I actually wanted to be?

But just in case, I started looking at Iceland.  Surely, there would be something there I would be interested in, if I had to spend a layover there….

Turns out there is.  The whole, entire country.

As soon as I started investigating, I was instantly, completely captivated.  And not in the ‘oh I’d like to go there sometime’ sort of way, like I feel about India or Italy.  No…this went even beyond love-at-first-sight, and into what I call soul recognition.  Iceland is a land I recognize.  It feels like home, like part of my soul has always lived there.

And I couldn’t figure out why for the longest time.  Why Iceland?  Sure, it’s spectacular, but so are lots of places.  It’s not the culture, because I’ve never been particularly drawn to Norse or Scandanavian history or myths.  It was something primal about the land, itself.

And then I realized why.  The Lord of the Rings films might be filmed in New Zealand, but Tolkien was inspired by Iceland.  Iceland is Middle Earth.  Once I saw that, it was so obvious why I was drawn there, to that land.  In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.  Middle Earth has always been one of my places; no wonder I recognized it so viserally the instant I saw it in the real world.

So, needless to say, I am taking Icelandair up on their (completely brilliant) free Stayover  program.  Are you kidding me?  Of course, I’m going to Middle Earth!  So the new, and probably the final plan, is Iceland, then England, then Egypt.  I’m ready to start buying tickets, as soon as the company I’m using for Egypt lists tour dates for Sept 2015.  Everything else has to be planned around that.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out where exactly I want to go in Iceland.  I know I’ll be riding an Icelandic horse.

38_image

I also want to go down inside a volcano.  Yes, Iceland is the only place on Earth where you can go inside a volcano!

I can’t wait.

Winterizing the Quail

Quail, like chickens, are extremely hardy and don’t need heat lamps during the winter.  Last year, our temps got down as low as 12 degrees, and I wrote a whole blog post on keeping chickens happy and healthy through the winter, including links to people keeping them in far colder climes than mine.  Please, people, I know you love your chooks, but don’t heat your coops!  You’re harming them, not benefiting them.  Proper ventilation is what chickens need, to keep them comfortable and frostbite free.

Anyway, this post is about the quail.  They didn’t mind the cold at all last winter, but this year, I decided to try something new.

I filled their coops with straw.  A thick, deep layer of straw.

I know they like to burrow under things, so I figured they would love this.  They did.  They started making little tunnels and holes immediately.

It made me think of hobbit holes, so I added even more straw…on top of their little houses.  From the front of the coop, you can’t see the houses at all.

But when you walk around the coop and look in the back…

….yup, there it is.  Do you see little Nefertari in there?  They are happy quail.

The only one who was a little concerned by this was the male.  Cinna lost all this girls, and couldn’t see them anywhere!  He started panicking and doing the alarm call, the girls answered from under the straw, and he finally located them and all  was content again.

This is a test.  I don’t know if it will work out once the weather turns wet and nasty again.  The straw may get icky, and I’ll have to scoop it out – leaving just what’s inside the shelter of the houses, like I normally do.  We’ll see.

Have YOU hugged your chicken today?

The garden is pretty much over for the year, although I still have a fall crop of snap peas and bush beans coming on.  I didn’t do much else for fall planting, although I did get garlic in, and left quite a few beets, chard, and collards that I hope will overwinter.  They often do, in my area.

I’m hoping we’re going to have a mild winter this year.  So far, it looks like it.  Fall has been extraordinarily warm – we haven’t even been tempted to heat the house yet.  Some days, it’s been positively balmy outside.  It would be a godsend for my building projects, except for the fact that it’s also been high winds almost every day and lots of rain.  Oh, well…the building projects might have to be put off until early Spring this year.  Just as long as I can get the new housing up before the ducklings and meat chicks arrive!

We bought 18 pounds of chicken necks and backs, and made several pots of broth for canning.  It is so lovely to have homemade broth ready to go…especially if one of us gets sick.  It’s not a myth that chicken broth has healing qualities – but not the icky stuff you can buy in cans at the grocery store.  That stuff tastes like crap, and pretty much is, as far as nutrients go.  I’m experimenting with beef bone broth next.

Most of my free time has either been spent working on this three-book time travel series I’m publishing in (hopefully) January, and keeping constant eyes on Dexter the new Corgi puppy.  He hasn’t got the hang of housetraining yet, and likes to test his sharp little baby teeth on everything – especially shoes, socks, and anything made of paper.

Also, Happy Hug A Chicken Day!  Yes, this is a thing.  Yes, I did hug mine.

047

Dexter wanted to hug them too, but the chickens weren’t amiable to that idea…

Corgi Puppy!!!!!

Yesterday, we rented a car and drove to SeaTac airport to pick up the newest addition to our family…our corgi puppy, Dexter.  He’s about 10 1/2 weeks old.

He was shipped from Carol’s Corgis, in Missouri, and didn’t have any problems at all with the flight.  He wasn’t scared, or stressed at all.

It was a good thing we hired a rental car for the trip, though, because on the way,  this happened.

Yup, in Seattle, going through an intersection, a driver ran the red light and hit us.  He tried to swerve away at the last second, which is why we were lucky, and it only go the front passenger tire area, rather than squarely in the passenger area, where Mom and I were sitting.  No one was hurt, and the other driver was very nice to deal with, thankfully.  The rental folks came and picked up the damaged car and gave us a replacement, and we were back on our way.  We were a little late picking arriving at the Air Cargo office, but Dexter had only arrived from his flight about 10 minutes earlier, so he didn’t have to wait.

That evening, he was too interested in looking around and exploring to rest, so when he got tired, I put him on my chest, on his back, and he just conked out.  Such a sweetie!

I think he’s going to be perfect for us.  He’s very calm about new things, and not fearful at all.  He and Cat Sookie are not friends yet, but they did touch noses, so I expect they’ll be fine once Sookie gets over her worry about a new animal.

The chickens were EXTREMELY concerned about him at first, but they are getting used to see him through the fence now, and are going about their business – as long as he doesn’t get too close.  He’s very calm with them, and doesn’t jump or bark or scratch at them, just sits quietly and watches them.  He doesn’t seem to be thinking of them as prey at all, which is good.

He has the BIGGEST feet, totally outsized to his body!  I love that.

He’s smart, too.  He’s already mostly figured out his name, and is learning “sit”.  His first night, he slept like a little angel, and seems to be settling in perfectly.  He absolutely adores playing in the yard.

The Near Future

Today, I harvested the last of the squash.  Mostly Sweet Dumplings, although there’s a little This and That in there, too.

I picked one of the watermelons for breakfast.  I didn’t think it would be any good, since it was super tiny – I only picked it because something had eaten a little hole in the bottom.

Surprise, surprise!  It was only about the size of a large apple, but the inside was extremely juicy and flavorful.  I now have tremendously high hopes for the larger watermelons still on the vine.  We’re going to eat the largest one tonight.

The new strawberry bed is doing great.

I wasn’t sure it would, because I used the runners from the adult strawberries growing on the quail green roof.  You’re supposed to leave the runners attached to the adult plant until the runners have rooted, but I just cut them off and stuck them in the ground.  I planted them really close together, because I wasn’t sure if all (or any) of them would root.  But most have.  At some point, I’ll dig them up and space them further apart.

We’ve been having some typical Fall weather here, lots of wind and rain, mingled with bouts of brilliant warm sunshine.  Sometimes within the space of a few minutes!  I do love stormy weather, but there’s still a ton of stuff I want to do outside, so I’m glad for the periods of sunshine.

The rain is nice to write by.  I’m going to be publishing my first book soon, so right now I’m doing some editing – plus working on the second book in the series.  Cat Sookie (who is the most anti-social cat I’ve ever owned) will only deign to sit beside me and purr if I let her use my Kindle Fire to watch bird videos on.  Here’s us, me on my laptop, and her on my Fire.

Plus, our Corgi puppy will be arriving by air on Saturday – so we’ll be spending the day in Seattle, then coming home with a new dog!  He already has a HUGE box of toys, plus a collar and tag.

I got my first paycheck from that Steampunk Monster book I was doing some writing/costuming work for, so yay.  The duck coop, meat chicken coop, greenhouse, and whatever else I can stretch the money to, is now funded!  I’m most excited about the duck coop, because DUCKS.

After a ton of going back and forth on breeds, and whether I’d be raising them for meat, or just eggs and slug patrol, I decided (for now) on just eggs and slugs.  That means, for me, the only choice of breed was the Indian Runner.  I just adore these guys.  If there’s anything that looks cuter walking down a garden path, I don’t know what it is.

I’ll plan on getting three girls (Philomena, Penelope, and Phryne) but if one turns out to be an accidental drake, I won’t mind.  Male ducks are super sweet!

Garden Disasters and Missing Chickens

I have a terrible time with corn.  Last year, the squirrels ate the little mini-ears I was growing…right before I was going to harvest them.

This year it was wind.

Yup, my gorgeous corn stalks looked like this in the morning.

At least a few of the ears were far enough along to harvest, although it would have been better if they’d been able to stay on there a couple more weeks.

This is Glass Corn, the prettiest corn in the world.  Every ear is a different color.

It’s a not a fresh eating corn; it’s meant for flour, or popcorn.  I’m going to go with popcorn.

And look!  Here’s a random cabbage!

I love colorful vegetables.  They are so gorgeous in the garden.

Yesterday, one of my chickens got lost.  I went out to shut them in the coop for the night, and Josie, my Barnvelder was just…gone.  I looked in the coop, and in all the various yards they currently have access to.  I called her.  I asked the other chickens where she was.  No one knew.

And then I found her.  And made a video, because if you can’t use the internet to shame your chickens into proper behavior, what else can you do????

And then, after I filmed her, I took her out of the bucket and discovered what she’d been up to.

These are all her eggs.  And here I thought she was not laying because she was heading into a molt!  I still can’t figure out how she was getting in and out of that bucket.

Crazy chicken.  It’s not as if she doesn’t have perfectly wonderful nest boxes…complete with pink curtains!

Building Quail Coops, Fences, and Garden Beds

First off – I have exciting news!  You may remember we have been searching for a Corgi puppy…well, we found one!

Meet Dexter.

Dexter5weeks

He’s just about 5 1/2 weeks in this photo, so we have about 3 weeks to wait until he’ll be old enough to come home with us, but he’s officially ours!  The breeder said he’s her favorite from the litter, the sweetest and most affectionate, and not so bossy as his brother.  He also likes cats; in one video we saw, he made a beeline to go play (very nicely) with the cat!  It’s good that he’s already getting used to animals other than dogs.  When he gets here, we’ll have to introduce him to the two-legged cats…i.e. the chickens.  (Hey, the chickens sit on my lap, purr, chase squirrels, and would eat mice if we had any…)

Also exciting is my crop of millet.  I harvested it the other day, and it’s gorgeous.

It definitely won the contest between millet and quinoa as a seed crop.  I would have gotten a small amount of quinoa, but we’ll never know if the quail would have loved it or not.  The chickens managed to bust into the quinoa bed, knock it down, and eat it before it was ripe.  They seemed to enjoy it, at least.  :(  See – they are also as sneaky as cats!

Because the chickens clearly cannot be trusted, I spent the last two weekends fencing off a part of the east yard and adding garden beds.  I swear the chickens know what it means when I haul out t-posts and wire.  They start whining and complaining right away.  Not more fences!  Nooooo…..

In the beds to the right, are strawberry starts.  To the left, in the front, is one gooseberry.  I plan to add one more, plus an espalier of some sort against the fence.  Still undecided as to what that will be.  I’ll put more strawberries around their feet.

To the left, in the back against the chicken coop wall, is one of the vegetable beds that I will rotate the quail through.  I still have to build the coop/tractor that sits on top.  Right now, there is a moveable cold frame that I also built.

To the side of the new fenced in area, we put up a wire hog panel arch.  I’m training a thornless blackberry up it.  In behind the arch, you can see the two columnar apple trees I planted this Spring.  They are doing very well, despite the best efforts by the chickens to get into their pots and dig all the dirt out.

The Sweet Dumpling squash leaves are looking terrible this time of year, but the squashes themselves are wonderful.  I can’t wait to taste them as mature winter squash.  I ate a couple immature, as summer squash, and they were very tasty!  This variety will be grown again next summer for sure.

I’m still canning like crazy and loving it.  We bought a couple boxes of peaches, and I canned some straight-up in a light syrup.  For others, I saved the leftover syrup I used to can Black Plums in, and used that.  It has a gorgeous red color that makes the peaches look really pretty!

I met a new friend through my local Freecycle, who was also interested in keeping quail.  When Anna came over to my place to pick up her freebie, I gave her the tour and she was especially intrigued by one of my quail coops.  This one.  After Anna found some quail up on Freecycle, she came back to visit my coop again, and ended up making a similar one for herself in one day!  I asked if I could share pictures, because I really like some of the modifications she made.

She added a door to the center front, which must be handy for cleaning and catching stubborn quail, as well as cute handles on the two lift-up doors.  She also has a green roof on the middle section with sedum planted.  She says her seven little quail hens are very happy in their new coop, and I believe it!

I cannot even tell you how happy my garden has made me this year.  The wild critters seem to love it as well.  The chickens, rabbits, and quail have had so much fresh food to eat, and since I use no chemicals, the wildlife is really flourishing as well.  I know they are helping to keep all the unpleasant bugs at bay, because other than my brief issue with root maggots this year (solved by the application of beneficial nematodes) I have had almost no damage to anything.  Several birds have nested in my garden this year, and look at this little sweetie I found in my bean plants!  He didn’t budge the whole time I was harvesting beans around him.

And finally, a brief travel update: another friend was kind enough to give me a bunch of Egyptian money leftover from her trip!  So much fun – being able to hold actual money in my hands in making my trip seem so much more real.  Thanks, Arte!  This time next year I’ll be across the Atlantic Ocean!

Egg Popsicles and Runner Beans

The Runner beans are starting to dry, which means I need to keep the pods picked before they burst open on their own and scatter the beans all over.  The white ones are the white-flowered variety, and the purple ones are the standard red ones.  It makes for a pretty mix!  I’m very excited about tasting these.

Besides picking beans, today I froze a bunch of excess quail eggs.  When those little girls lay, they certainly lay in profusion!  From what I’ve heard, frozen eggs are practically indistinguishable from fresh eggs (as scrambled eggs, or in recipes) but you can’t just pop them in the freezer.

First, since they ARE teeny tiny quail eggs, I cracked five of them into little plastic cups.  Five quail eggs are equivalent to one chicken egg.

Then, I beat them gently with a fork, to mix the yolks and whites together.  Next, I put the little cups in the freezer.  When they had frozen, I ran the bottom of the cups under hot water for a few seconds to loosen them, then popped the frozen eggs into freezer bags.

They look like little tasty orange popsicles!  During the winter, when the quail aren’t laying anymore, and the chicken eggs are sporadic at best, I’ll be able to grab out however many little egg blocks I need for my recipes.

I’ve been doing a lot of work out in the yard these last couple of days.  I finally finished the raised beds in the vegetable garden, and added more beds in the East Yard.  I forgot to take pictures, though, so I’ll have to do a separate blog post on those improvements later.  This fall, I’m really hoping to get the greenhouse and duck coop built.  No matter how much I accomplish, there’s always an unending to-do list!

Pressure Canning, Doctor Who, etc

A friend lent me her pressure canner, so I was able to give canning green beans a go!  Once I realized I was not actually going to blow the kitchen up, it was just as easy (or easier) than the water bath method.  Definitely slower, though – the annoying bit is waiting for the pressure canner to cool down before you can open it up and start another batch.

This jar *just* came out of the canner – so it’s still boiling and bubbling inside.  I liked doing it well enough, that I went onto Amazon, and bought my own pressure canner.  It was cheap enough, since I can’t get one of the really nice ones because of my glass top stove.  The Presto one I bought is really the only one that will work with my kind of stove.  I hate that stove, btw.  It’s been nothing but an annoyance since the day it came.  Glass top stoves definitely suck.

I think I’ll can some greens, corn, and beets when my new canner comes…plus more beans.  I planted some bush beans a few weeks ago, planning for a fall crop.

Speaking of corn, my teeny little corn patch is doing wonderfully.  I have actual ears now!

And the plants themselves are so cool and ornamental, growing just beside the back door as they are.  I love looking at them through the kitchen window!

The biggest Blacktail Watermelon is full-size, I think, and nearly ready to pick.  The underside is starting to yellow.  I’m so excited about this.

I’m harvesting several kinds of dry beans.  This is a test year, to see what grows well, and which ones we prefer the taste of.  Next year, I’ll put in a whole bunch of whichever variety turns out to be our favorite.  These are called “Bumblebee”.  They are so pretty!

And the last bit of gardening news is that the Tromboncino squash is ready to harvest.  Look at this crazy shape! My vegetable garden is in the front yard, so yes, it was slightly embarrassing to carry this past the neighbors….  ;)

It’s supposed to be one of the best tasting summer squash around, but I still prefer my Englischer Custard Squash.  I thought the tromboncino tasted a little bit like a spaghetti squash…only without the spaghetti.  It was good, though, and the vine appears to be very resistant to mildew, and well as being a great climber.  It has earned a place in my garden next year.

When I was a work, one of my patron/friends heard I was planning a trip to Egypt next year, so he brought me in some Egyptian money left over from his trip!

I love foreign money.  And it’s cool to think that Steve brought this money from Egypt years ago, and now I’ll be taking it back.

Lastly, what do you all think of the new Doctor?

I was not a fan of Matt Smith (although he got a lot more bearable once The Terrible Amy left) so pretty much anyone would have been an improvement in my mind.

capaldi-space-bg

But as it turns out, I’m pretty thrilled with Capaldi.  He’s interesting, and so far, he’s shaping up to be my second-favorite Doctor.  Capaldi is just a terrific actor, and this role is so perfect for him.

Plus, you know, Scottish accent.

 

 

Quail Fairy Eggs!

Sometimes chickens lay what’s called a “fairy egg”…a teeny tiny little egg.  A few days ago, I discovered that quail lay fairy eggs too.

One the right, is a normal sized egg.  On the left, is a fairy egg.  It’s less than half the regular size!  I found three of them in one of my pens, and since it’s normally just a small hiccup with the egg laying process, I’m not concerned yet.

When you crack these fairy eggs open, there is no yolk, only white.

The quail are still laying up a storm, but several of the chickens are now molting, and thus not laying.  My favorite girl, Ellie, is at the really cute stage of her molt: The Fluffy Butt.

She hates it when I photograph her during her molt.  Shhhh….don’t tell her I put her fluffy butt photo on the internet!  She would be so mortified!

In the garden, the Blacktail Mountain watermelons are doing really great.  I might actually get three this year.  This is the biggest, and I think it’s getting close to full size.

The millet is doing SO well.  I continue to be deeply impressed.

I’ve started harvesting a few of my dry beans.  These red ones are so pretty, and I can’t remember what they are.  I’ll have to check the tags, once the bean forest dies down a bit.

I’m getting a ton of ground cherries as well.  I was hoping I’d like them for fresh eating, but although they are sweet enough, it just isn’t a flavor that I’d care to eat fresh by the bowl.  So I’m collecting them, and I think I’ll try a batch of jam later this week.

They are pretty cool looking in their husks.

And when you peel back the husks?  A pretty yellow!

I still LOVE making jam.  My favorite so far is Stonefruit jam (peaches, apricots, and black plums) with vanilla.  I made a few test jars awhile ago, and last weekend, I made a bunch more.

The pantry is starting to get stocked up!

The pollinators are enjoying my sunflowers.

And Dandelion and Daisy are prepping for Easter.  They found this basket on their own, and it’s become one of their favorite places to sit.

Mom uncovered a nest of baby rats in the far garden.  They were so young their eyes weren’t open yet.

Let me tell you…I was tempted to save their lives by adopting them.  They were just so cute.  Too bad the last thing we need is more rats in the area.  We don’t even put food out for the birds anymore, and are super careful to keep our animals’ feed where the rats can’t get into it.  It seems to be an ongoing problem for the whole city though – even the public library I work for has had an issue with rats invading.  At least it’s gotten much better since the city finally tore down the abandoned house that was Rat Central.

This week, I worked on cleaning out some of the vegetables that were going to seed (saving a few to collect next year’s seeds from) and planting some more kale, lettuce, cauliflower, and beets for a late fall/early winter crop.  I still have some planting to do, but everything is mostly in.  This weekend, I’m planning on building some raised beds, including the raised beds that will become the rotating vegetable and quail system.  Also, I am taking the strawberries off the big quail coop roof.  It’s turning out to not a good place for them.  I might put cantaloupe up there next year.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114 other followers