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.

Canning

Canning is proving to be addicting.  After my first test run of making strawberry/black currant jam, I went running back to the store and bought a bunch more jars and Mom chipped in for a fancy new pot.

The first batch of jam was made using a regular recipe with LOTS of sugar.  It tastes good, but I prefer my jams less sweet.  So for my next two batches, I started experimenting with alternate recipes I found online.

One really interesting one was for Blueberry Vanilla jam, using honey as the sweetener, and chia seeds to thicken it.  It worked like a charm, and Mom really likes it.  I’m not entirely sold on how the honey overwhelms the vanilla flavor.  I’ll try it again, I think, using “less sugar” pectin.  NOT the kind that calls for a Splenda substitution, however.  That stuff is so bad for you, it could literally be called poisonous.

Since we have a ton of blackberries ripe right now in the back yard, I made Blackberry Jelly next, using the less sugar pectin.  Worked really well, and I was able to add just enough sugar to sweeten it just enough, while leaving a little tartness.  Loved this one, and I’ll be making more of it, I think.

I also canned about fifteen half-pint jars of sweet cherries.  I used only a very small amount of sugar in the syrup, and YUM.  So good!

I’m really excited about canning peaches, and making apricot jam.  Two of my favorite things!

 

Harvesting the Garden, plus Newborn Puppies!

I’m really liking these Gelber Englischer Custard summer squash.  The plant is producing prolifically, and one of these little guys is just right to cook for either a snack, or as a side dish for one person.

They have a better flavor, I think, than the standard pattypans I grew last year.

The winter squash are also coming along well.  I have a few good-sized hubbards, which I’m very happy about.  Last year, my blue hubbards won my winter squash taste test.

And the Sweet Dumpling is turning into a jungle.  It is one of the varieties I planted in the cold frames, and most of what you see below is it.

There are a TON of little squash on it, and at least one (that I’ve found) is quite large.

I’ve never tasted a sweet dumpling before, so I hope I like it.  I’m not even sure how I ended up planting one.  I know I didn’t buy seeds; it must have been one my friend gave me.

The fig tree is up to nine little figs now.  The two largest ones are actually ripe.  We picked one earlier and ate it.

I have to say I’m still not really a fan.  Mom loves them, though, so pretty much this tree is for her.

The millet is looking so wonderful.  It won’t be long now, until it’s time to harvest.  I’m definitely planting a bunch of this next year.  It’s super easy to grow, and looks quite attractive in the garden.  Plus, the leaves make a wonderful rustling sound in the wind.

One thing I’ve discovered is that orange flowers look really pretty in the vegetable garden.  I have several bunches of marigolds in mine, and they make me happy every time I walk by.  Plus, they draw beneficial insects!

What else?

The cabbages have formed lovely heads.

Oh, and my teeny little by-the-back-door patch of glass corn is taller than me now.

Not only are they tasseling, but they have tiny little corn ears.

Last year, the dastardly squirrels got to them, and ripped apart all the ears JUST when they were almost ready to pick.  I didn’t get a single one.  This year, they are by the back door in the hopes that I’ll be able to protect them better.

Today I bought some canning jars.  I have never canned anything in my life before, but I thought I’d give it a go.  Since I don’t want to invest in a pressure cooker until I know this is a method of preservation is one I care to do, I’ll stick to high acid fruits this year…things I can safely can using the water bath method.  I remember my grandmother used to can peaches this way, and they were SO INCREDIBLY GOOD.  Seriously, store-bought ones cannot even be mentioned in the same breath.

So I thought I’ll do some peaches, and maybe a few cherries.  And also, some jam.

I picked the black currants from the little bush I planted this Spring, and found I had a pound of fruit.  I found a recipe online for black currant/strawberry jam, so I think I’ll try that.

And the most exciting news?  My new puppy Dexter the Corgi has been born!

dexter

The breeder says there are 2 girls and 3 boys in the litter, and we will get first pick among the boys!  When they are a week old, she will take individual pictures of them.  By then, their coloring might have started to change as well.  What you see now is definitely not what what the adult coloring will be.  Corgis are interesting that way; it’s really hard to know what you’re going to get by the time they are a year old.  I just want one with great white markings, because that at least tends to remain pretty much the same throughout its life.

Quail and Garden Update

I was so excited the other day when I discovered my millet is making seed heads!

So far this seems to be a really great crop for my area of the PNW.  It is fairly shallow-rooted, though, so in a recent wind-and-rain storm we had, I came outside to discover most of the stalks were flat on the ground.  I tied them up again and they don’t seem to be fazed by their near-death experience.  Next year, when I grow a much larger crop, I’ll be sure to put them up inside some kind of support from the beginning.

The test crop of quinoa is also doing well.  I have the beginning of flower heads on those.

It will be a lot of fun to feed these these crops to the quail, when they are ready.

The rest of garden is still going gang-busters.  It’s become a jungle out in the front yard vegetable garden!

I’ve harvested the last of the bush beans, almost all the turnips, and the early plantings of lettuce are bolting.  Some of the swiss chard is also bolting.  That’s okay.  Some of it I will let do its thing, so I can collect seed for next year.  Some of it, I’ve been feeding to the chickens and quail.

This weekend, I’ll start planting some fall crops in the newly available garden space.

Speaking of the quail, I’ve found each bird definitely has their personal preference when it comes to taste.  With the two newest girls (the golden italians) one is a millet/bird seed gal.  She comes running to me when I open the coop, begging for me to hold out some seed in my palm for her to eat.  Even if there’s some already scattered on the ground, she prefers “fresh” seed right out of my hand.  The other girl really couldn’t care whether I have seed or not.  She’s all about the greens.  While the first one is eating her seed, the second girl is dancing around my knees, pleading with anxious eyes.  When I pluck a leaf and hold it out to her, she rips into it like a Bengal tiger.

And the standard quail?  It’s worms, worms, worms, for them.  I can’t use the trowel or turn over any stones/bricks within view of their coop without them going crazy.  I think I’m going to have start raising mealworms.

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