Beans, and Travel Plans

The garden is going insane…with beans!  It is wonderful.  I went out yesterday, and picked a large batch to freeze.

All together, I ended up with 11 quart-sized bags in the freezer.

And then, I remembered that I’d completely forgotten to even look at the Runner Beans.  As I suspected, there were some monsters on there.  Runner beans get HUGE.

Some were larger than this, and these are really too large to eat as green beans.

I’m composting all the ones that grew too big – I don’t want to leave them on the vine yet, because I want it to produce as many blooms as possible for the hummingbirds, who adore them.  Later in the season, I may let them go to make dry beans.  I’ve heard they make good dry beans, but I actually have never tried them before.

They are also so ornamental.

They come in red, white, and a lovely pink.

This is more the size of bean I pick to eat.  They are tender and not stringy at this age.

Today, I ended up cooking the Runner beans along with a few more bush and pole beans for lunch.  I like just simmering them in a pan with water, salt, and bit of bacon until they are tender.  So good!

I picked my first squash today.  This is a Gelber Englischer Custard squash.

Also, I have a bitty little watermelon.  I have high hopes for this baby.  It’s a Blacktail Mountain, which is supposed to do marvelously in the PNW.

AND, the State Dept. took their travel warning off Egypt, so as long as nothing changes in the next year, I’ll be back to Plan A.  England and Egypt, my two favorite countries in all the world.

I’ve started putting patches on my Little Backpack of Geek in preparation.  Besides the fact that I might as well travel with a cute/funny bag, it will be a bonus if all the thieves assume it’s a kid’s pack and don’t bother to try to steal it.  :)  By next year, I’ll have a patch on this for all my major fandoms and geekery.

Meet Cori

Some of you may remember that I was looking for a Welsh Corgi puppy to adopt.

Well, finally, we found one…only he’s not born yet.

This is Cori, his mother.  She’s due to give birth in about 20 days, and as long as one of the pups is a little boy, he’s going to be ours.

Picture 138

Two weeks after the pups are born, we’ll be able to select ours.  We’ve named him Dexter.  Look at that fat little pregnant belly on Cori!  The owner said she believes she’s going to have a really large litter.  Hopefully that means a good selection of boys!

Garden Update

Wow.  What a difference a month makes.  I can’t keep up with harvesting the lettuce, kale, beans, and beets!  The rabbits are getting a lot of greens, and have learned that when I come back in through the front gate, they should come running to meet me, because I’ll likely have a few leaves for them.  What they don’t eat, we are drying for winter; bunnies enjoy dried turnip and kale leaves.

On July Fourth, I recorded a video tour of the front yard vegetable garden for you.  I didn’t get around to posting it, and now the garden is grown up even more lush.

The bush beans are producing like crazy now – I’ve eaten three meals of them, and still have a big bag of beans.  I think I’ll have a few more tonight, and then freeze the rest of the bag. These are Dragon’s Tongue beans.  I’m a big fan of colored beans, because they are so much easier to see and pick on the plants.

AND the pole beans are also beginning; I’ve picked a few handful of both the purple and yellow ones.

And we finally have tomatoes too.  These teeny little red ones (Red Currant Tomatoes) are so adorable in salads.  I love how they are all different sized when ripe.

The Indigo Blue Berries Tomato is ripe as well.  I don’t think I’ll grow these in the future, though.  They are gorgeous, but the flavor is not nearly so good as Sungold or Black Cherry.

The full-sized tomatoes, Japanese Trifele, are flushing orange, so it won’t be too much longer for those.  This is a great year here for tomatoes.  We’re in a bit of a heat wave, and the tomatoes are loving it.

The squash are happy too. I have tons of flowers and baby squash.  The ones in the cold frames are still hugely out-performing the ones in the ground.  I’m so glad I thought of doing this!  This is a photo from a week ago – they are even larger now.

And look!  Not only are the two figs on my bitty tree still ripening, but four more little figs have suddenly appeared.  It is seriously like magic, the appearance of those four figs.  Don’t figs have to flower?  I was watering the tree constantly, and didn’t notice a thing until suddenly…this.

How did that happen?

In chicken news, now that all the baby chicks are long gone from the local feed store, my mama chicken Josie has finally decided to go broody.  I told her she missed the boat for this year, and put her in ‘chicken prison’ – an outdoor wire dog crate I use to keep her outside and away from the nest boxes.  Hopefully in a few days, she’ll give up and go back to laying.  Maybe next year I’ll get her some chicks to raise…if she picks a reasonable time to go broody.  Silly girl.

Corgis and Beets

I love harvesting season.

These are Crosby beets.  Love the pinky-red stems!  They did really well – although I should have harvested those larger ones earlier.  I prefer to eat beets when they are very small, cooked up with their greens.  So good!  These too-big ones I may try roasting.

This morning we went to a local dog show.  I liked seeing all the different breeds, but we especially wanted to see the corgis.  After the death of our Jack Russell Terrier, we decided the next dog was going to be a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

Originally, Mom was dead set on a female, as we’ve only ever had female dogs.  I rather wanted a male, since I discovered that the male of the species often seems to be sweeter.  (At least it’s true in cats and ducks.) At the show, we met the most charming boy.  As soon as I got down on the ground to pet him, he put his front paws up in my lap and just leaned against me, snuggling.  Then he did the same to Mom.  That was all it took to win her over.

So now we’re looking for a boy corgi, instead of a girl.  Corgi puppies seem to be hard to find.  There are hardly any breeders in WA state, and none that have pups available.  We have our name down with a breeder in Michigan (Carol’s Corgis) who ships, so hopefully she’ll have puppies born before too much longer.

In the meantime, we’re trying to settle on a name.  We had one picked for a girl, but now we need a boy’s name.  I like Pippin, because if there is ever a hobbit dog breed, it’s a corgi. (Short, furry-footed, and loves to eat.)  But Tucker is one name Mom and I both like, so at the moment, that’s the front-runner.

 

Harvesting

Today was a first for me – I processed a chicken.  I did everything myself: the kill, the plucking by hand, the gutting.  It was not one of my chickens.  My girls are my babies; I could never kill and eat them.  No, this was a young “accidental” rooster a friend of mine ended up with in her lot of supposed-to-be girl chicks.  Besides being a rooster she couldn’t keep because of legal restrictions, he also had a bum leg from an injury that he kept re-injuring.

So she was happy and relieved when I said I’d take him as my trial run into whether I’d have the heart and stomach to keep meat chickens as well as my beloved pampered hens.  She even bought me a kill cone.

If you don’t want to read about how it went, skip down to the first picture below  – that will be the beginning of the safe portion of this blog, the part about how my garden is doing.

I knew it would be easier to kill a bird (unlike my quail) that I didn’t “know”.  And it really was.  He was calm when she brought him, and he had no objections to me putting him upside down in the kill cone.  Once his head was through the bottom hole, I petting him a little on his face, and he just instantly relaxed, even closing his eyes.  It was just like he was going to sleep.  So then I just took off his head with a pair of hedge loppers.  It was hardly fun, but not nearly so emotionally difficult as holding the quail and letting thim go through their death convulsions in my hands.  Even though it’s just random muscle spasms, it’s not pleasant to feel.  I  greatly prefer the more hands-off of dispatching with a cone.

I heated water up to about 180 degrees, filled a bucket, and dunked the body a few times to loosen the feathers, then started plucking.  He was such a young bird, that it hardly seemed worth plucking all the wing feathers, so I just took the wings off at the shoulder instead.  Plucking wasn’t at all difficult.

Gutting was…interesting.  Quail are so much easier, because you just spit them open at the backbone and slide the guts out.  You have to reach inside the chicken which was…awkward, since I didn’t know what I was doing, really, and was afraid I’d burst something I shouldn’t and contaminate the meat.  I think I worried for nothing, though, because after I did some timid (and ineffectual) tugging, I finally just gave everything a firm pull, and it worked.  Nothing went wrong.  Here’s a tip: scrape the lungs out with a spoon.  They come right out, and it works for quail and chicken.

All together, from kill to final washing of the meat, it took just under an hour.  Not too bad, and I wasted a lot of time looking at gutting directions on my Kindle, and being a little squeamish.

I discovered that I could definitely be okay with meat chickens.  And my friend who gave me the rooster is also interested in keeping some, as is another friend of mine.  Neither of them is ready to do the killing themselves yet, but we’re talking about each raising a few meat birds next year, then getting together for the processing.  They are willing to pluck and gut, which are the two most time consuming things.  Me, I’d operate the kill cone.  It’s not the job I’d like, but I believe SO strongly both in eating meat, and in eating meat that has been raised in a healthy and humane manner.

So…we’ll see.  It’s a weird world.  If you’d told me even a couple of years ago that I would be writing today about how I butchered a chicken, I would never have believed it possible.  But I’m glad I’m here.  I’m glad I have the resolve to live up to what I believe, even when it’s a hard, unhappy thing.

And now you get some pretty pictures of my garden.  The front yard vegetables have grown by leaps and bounds since I posted that video tour three weeks ago.

The beans are as tall as me, and beginning to bloom.

The Runner beans in the back yard are also in bloom.  I love beans.  Usually I eat all the ones I produce right away, but this year I planted a ton.  I’m hoping to have enough to freeze some.

The experimental millet planting seems to be doing really well.  If I actually get millet sprays, I’ll plant a whole bed of this next year.  The quail would adore fresh millet!

I’m discovering that Oakleaf lettuce is real winner.  It’s so pretty, and tasty, too!

The tomatoes in the grow bags are getting close to ripening.  I think I’ll have my first red currant tomato ripe next week, and these Japanese Trifelo tomatoes are getting huge.

The tomatoes in the straw bales are also doing better.  I was hoping that there would be enough in the breaking down of the straw itself to nourish them, but that appears not to be the case.  I gave them a boost of fertilizer, and they seem to be greening up and putting out healthy new leaves.  I don’t believe straw bales are going to be a method I’ll use in future.  The ones in the grow bags are doing SO much better that it isn’t worth the expense of buying bales when I’ll just have to fertilize them anyway.

Speaking of grow bags, the very cheap seed potatoes I bought from Walmart seem to have been infected with some virus.  They suddenly developed black spots on their leaves, then turned yellow and died.  The other potatoes in the garden are lush and fantastic and beginning to flower, so I can only think it must be a virus affecting these.  So I just pulled them out and tossed them

But to my surprise, they’d already managed to set a nice small crop of new potatoes!

Yay!  I can’t wait to taste these.  I’ve never actually grown my own potatoes before.  Now I’m really hoping for great things from the other two varieties.

The chickens, quail, rabbits, and of course we humans are really enjoying the salads we’ve been getting from the garden.  All the different varieties of lettuce really made for a pretty salad!

Tonight for dinner, I think I’m going to steam a pot of baby beets and beet greens, along with some of those new potatoes.  Yum.

One real success I’m having is the squash plants I put in the cold frames.

These plants are easily four times as large as the ones I put straight into the ground.  When the nights were still a bit cold, I closed the tops, and that kept them nice and cozy.  Next year, I think I’ll put melons in the cold frames.  This just might be the perfect method for melons in my Pacific Northwest climate.

 

Last post, I told you about how I built a new raised bed around the Honeyberry bush, and planted strawberry seedlings in it.  The other day, I looked at it from a little distance, and saw that weeds had planted themselves in it as well.  But when I went over to pull them out, I realized something interesting:  almost all the “weeds” were actually vegetables!

I had kale and lettuce:

And even two squash plants!

How funny is that?  I left most of them there.  I wish all my weeds would actually be vegetable volunteers!

Are Aliens Using Our Rabbits to Communicate?

This past weekend, I got a bunch of work done in the garden.  Mainly grunt work, like weeding around the vegetables, and digging out 522 of the 5022 buttercups that are infesting portions of our plot.  Specifically the portions that I want to turn into a pasture for the chickens, future meat chickens, and ducks.  So those buttercups have got to go!

One fun thing I did was work on the little espaliers-in-training.  They have grown branches long enough to stretch out and tie to wires.

See?  Look at that!  They almost look like real trees!  :)  This one is the pear.

I also put in another raised bed in the east yard.  This one is built around the one Honeyberry bush that I currently own.  It is absolutely flourishing, and next Spring (or maybe this Fall) I need to get another one planted on the other end of the bed.

Under and around the Honeyberries are little alpine strawberries I just grew from seed.

Speaking of strawberries, the Sparkle strawberries I planted on top of the quail coop are doing great.

Right as I was beginning this post, actually, mom brought me a bowl of berries she had just picked.  They are so sweet and good!

Also doing well are the “White Soul” strawberries I planted, although none of those are quite ripe.  We have to wait until the seeds turn red – the berries themselves will stay white.

The fruit I’m most excited about are the hardy kiwis.  After making me think all last summer that they wouldn’t survive, they are finally thriving…and producing fruit! Of course, the MALE vine is covered in flowers, while the female has exactly six.  But I hear some kiwi vines don’t produce at all for upwards of seven years after planting, so I’m quite thrilled with six.  Fingers crossed they all survive.  With all those male flowers, they should at least be well-pollinated!

All my potatoes *seem* to be doing fantastic – although I won’t really know for sure until it’s time to dig them up and see how well they produced.  These are the batch I’m growing in a trash can.  Whichever method works best will be the method of choice for next year.  I’m kind of rooting for the trash can.  It takes up the least amount of space!

In chicken news, one of my white egg layers surprised me yesterday with a lovely cream egg.  Not to be outdone, one of the new Italian quail girls laid a pure white egg.  I’ve had two pure white quail eggs from her now.  I’m very happy with that!  I was hoping there would be a white egg line in these new quail girls I hatched out.

And that’s pretty much all the news around here.  So now I’m going to end this with a few gratuitous garden pictures and two video tours.

You’ve heard of crop circles, and how some believe aliens are using them to communicate with mankind?  Well, I think those same aliens are also using my bunnies.  See those black lines on Daisy’s nose?  That alien-in-appearance furry crop circle?  She has them all over, and they are constantly changing.  One day she has circles on her nose.  Then she has drag queen eyebrows.  Then peculiar black squiggles on her back.  I need to start documenting her fur…for science!

Now, video tours!  Number one, a tour of the new front yard vegetable garden.

And the back yard garden:

Processing Quail, Plus Bee and Garden Update

A few weeks ago, I processed the four extra male quail.  While I had previously helped clean (and then ate) two of my quail from a previous hatch, this was the first time I had done the entire process all by myself…including the kill.

It was a weird thing.  I’ve spent about 40 years raising animals, and nursing them back to health when injured.  I did kill a wild mouse once that was caught in a trap, but that was only time I’ve ever deliberately killed an animal.  The hardest part of the whole process was simply the before: picking the quail up, soothing it so it wouldn’t struggle at the wrong time, then deliberately thinking: Yes.  I’m doing this.  It just went so counter to all my instincts.

The actual physical moment of doing was shockingly easy and simple.  (I used the scissors method, because I felt it seemed the quickest and the most humane.)  Afterward, holding the lifeless body as it convulsed and bled out was not fun, but not nearly so traumatic as I thought.  I knew it was dead, so  it wasn’t like holding a ‘dying animal’.  I don’t think I could ever use the throat slitting method on a critter – I couldn’t stand the long several minutes waiting for it to die.

Afterward, I did feel bad, but not to the extent that I wouldn’t process more animals.  If I’m going to eat meat (and I am), it feels so much better to have control over how the animals lives, and how it dies.  It makes me sick to read and see how the animals in factories are raised and killed.  I don’t want to support that industry, that sort of torture and inhumanity.  I also don’t want to eat that sort of polluted food.  I don’t agree with or support PETA as an organization, but this video does a good job of showing what goes on in those factories.

Quail, however, are not going to be a meat animal for me – unless I have a few extra males that I have to dispose of in the future.  Four adult quail made enough meat for one meal.  I don’t like that ratio of death.  With a standard sized chicken or duck, I can get up  to four meals from one death.  Maybe more with a rabbit.

The other thing I don’t like with quail is how many tiny little bones they have.  They are seriously like fish bones!  I tried to be super careful with my de-boning, and I still missed a few.  And the taste of the meat is not my favorite, either.  I wouldn’t call the flavor ‘gamey’ precisely, but it’s quite different from chicken, and nowhere near as fantastic as duck.  Quail just aren’t worth it, as meat animals, in my opinion.

However, I do adore them as garden companion animals – and they will be even more helpful once I get the rotating garden bed/quail cage set up and operational.  And I like the eggs; I’m getting into the habit of throwing a few quail eggs into whatever dish I am making.  I can’t ever see myself not wanting quail as part of my little homestead.

And now on to happier things.  Here are some photos from last week in the garden.

The foxglove and roses are in full swing.

The two tomatoes in the grow bags seem to be winning the contest, as far as growth and health are concerned.  That could also be because they were the last I put out, when the weather had finally turned to a proper Spring.  In front there is a Black Japanese Trifele tomato.  This is my first time growing it, and so far, it’s brilliant.

Look at the flowers!  They are HUGE.

Below is a shot of one of the straw bales.  I poked several squash seeds down into them a few weeks back, and now they are coming up nicely!

Below is one of my potato patches.  Potatoes are in the innermost square, and beets are around the outside.  I keep piling on more straw as the potatoes grow.  Adding more is on my list of things to do this weekend….

Because I’m not using the cold frames for anything, I decided to try growing summer squash in them…with the lids left raised, so the vines can tumble out.  So far they appear to like it.  This morning, they were already a good four times larger than this.

When I was inspecting the front yard garden this afternoon, I surprised a wee wild bunny doing an inspection of her own.  I didn’t see that she’d damaged anything – other than trampling down one sunflower and snapping its stem. That was hardly her fault, though – it happened when I surprised her and she was frantically trying to get away from me.  I may have to put some bunny-proofing out there if she becomes a regular visitor, though!

And the bees…sadly the bees are going to be a failed experiment this year.  I think too many bad things happened to them (difficult long trip through the mail, dead queen, wet weather) and their numbers are dwindling rapidly.  Bees only live for a few weeks, so when starting a new hive, they really need to get off to a fast start – they need that next generation or the colony will die of old age.  Right now we’re down to fewer than 100 workers bees.  I suspect as well that something is up with the new queen.  Either she was not accepted, or she died, or something.  The brood that has been laid seems to be all drones (males).  This can happen if a hive goes too long without a queen.  One of the worker bees decides to become a queen, but unlike a true queen, a worker is only capable of laying drone eggs.

We’ll start over again next Spring.  I found a guy who naturally raises bees (no chemicals or pesticides used in his hives).  His bees come from Oregon (so they will be used to my climate) and he delivers to my area.  Unlike the bees I ordered this year, his bees will arrive within one day.  I wish I could have gotten them from him this year, but we started so late that he was sold out.

Well.  At least we know we love having a hive, and really enjoy the bees!

 

Steampunk Photobook

Remember the steampunk photoshoot I did awhile back with photographer Tyson Vick?

Well, he’s releasing a book of those photos, including a few never seen before.  It’s pretty cool, and also inexpensive.  And my costumes are in it!  :)  Help fund the new Adventure by purchasing a copy.

http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/761976

 

Garden Update in Pictures

I’m going to have lots of new fruit this year!  The kiwi and grapes have buds:

The currants have actual unripe berries:

The fig tree seems to be ripening two entire figs…which is pretty impressive, considering it’s barely more than a twig:

And the strawberries I planted on the quail coop roof garden are doing wonderfully.

My from-seed ground cherries are doing very well.  I’ve never tasted a ground cherry before; I’m really looking forward to harvesting fruit.

The pear and apple espaliers have a long ways to go, still, but they are leafing out and looking pretty.  I found a cheap blackboard, and put it out in the garden.  I still need to find a place to hang it, but I think it looks really cool out there!

I have lots of little lettuces coming up.  I love all the different colors and leaf shapes of lettuce.  It’s such a pity some people only are familiar with store-bought iceberg.

And the names!  This next is called: Frizzy Headed Drunken Woman.  Who wouldn’t want such a disorderly lettuce in their garden?  I hope she doesn’t corrupt the beets….

The chicken’s kale patch is growing up – and soon I’ll be putting out quinoa seedlings in behind them.  I’ve never tried quinoa before, but if it’s successful, the quail will adore the seed heads.

Speaking of the chickens, my favorite girl, Ellie, likes nothing more than to sleep/sunbathe in my lap.  She’s been too camera-shy to let me get a picture before, but today she was just too sleepy to care.

She’s a very smart chicken.  It took me awhile to catch on, but she communicates her desires to me by pecking me.  On the foot, if she wants me to go somewhere (like take her out to garden compost bin to dig for worms).  On the knee, if she wants me to sit down, so she can take a nap on my lap!  Since I figured this out, I’ve been testing it, and it’s definitely true!

Look at this sleepy face…

I also have healthy looking crops of potatoes…but we’ll have to wait to see how many potatoes actually grow.  I’m testing three different methods: in the ground, in grow bags, and in a trash can.  Here is a few in a grow bag.

And the bees?  They appear to be doing well, and I hope I’ll see some newly hatched bees soon.  They are definitely busy making comb.  They have four pieces in the new hive so far.

I really, really hope they survive – they are so incredibly awesome to watch.  I like just sitting beside the hive and watching them come and go.  They don’t seem to mind my presence at all.  Yesterday, one landed on my shoulder and sat with me for a little bit before buzzing off to work.

And I made a new quail video for you.  I ended up with three girls from that last batch I hatched.  One boy was lucky enough to find a new home with a friend – along with one of the girls.  They other two are staying with me, and Loki could not be more delighted to have a coop and girls all to himself.  The other four boys I processed for meat.  That was an experience I’ll save for a latter post.

Farm Update and the Museum of Flight

The Queen Bee is out of her cage; the bees accepted her and ate through the candy plug to free her.  Long Live the Queen!  I hope she’s started laying lots of eggs.

Here’s a picture of the empty queen cage:

Here’s a picture of the end, where the candy plug used to be:

Also, I finally got the worms for my outside bin.  Red Wigglers.

A couple of mornings ago, I saw a female merlin sitting on top of the big quail coop.  Fortunately, merlins are too small to take down a full grown chicken, and the quail aren’t free-range.  No dinner for you here, Ms. Hawk!  There are a ton of wild pigeons around the neighborhood, so I’m sure that’s what most of her diet is.  She’s a pretty bird; I tried to get a picture, but she flew off before I could.

Dandelion the rabbit has an eye infection.  There is a lot of pus in the fluid of his eye, and the vet says he hasn’t seen anything quite like this before.  He’s pretty positive it isn’t pasteurella, so that’s good, at least.  Dandelion is taking antibiotics mixed into jam and yogurt, and he likes the attention.  He’s such a sweet bunny.  I hope we can cure this, because he and Daisy are inseparable, and it would be so sad if he died and left her alone.

Yesterday, I went with Jon to the Museum of Flight in Seattle.  It’s HUGE.  The sections on modern airplanes and the space program were only of limited interest to me, but I really enjoyed the WWI and II sections.

There were dozens of actual airplanes on display, some you could climb into.

There were also uniforms; I was particularly taken by the WASP uniforms.

Loved this gorgeous leather flying coat.

And this one was worn by Erroll Flynn in The Dawn Patrol.  On display with it, was the Oscar the film won.

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