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Waiting for rain…

September 4, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee is headed this way and we desperately need the rain.  All of our trees are shedding their leaves way ahead of their time due to the drought.  While I’m waiting for the rain to begin, I decided to take some pictures to share on this Sunday afternoon.

Pumpkin Plant

I posted a while ago about this pumpkin plant.  I had no idea how much a pumpkin would take over not only the garden, but now our yard!  I’ve so far gotten two pumpkins from this monster.  The chickens really love looking for bugs hiding out in the shade of the big leaves and they seem to enjoy eating the leaves themselves.

Bean Vine

These beautiful dark purple flowers belong to a bean vine that Tim planted.  We’re just now starting to see the bean pods forming and they are the same dark purple as the flowers.  I don’t care if we get any beans…I just love looking at the gorgeous purple flowers with the dark green foliage background.  Green and purple together has always been one of my favorite combinations.

Tomato Still-Life

We have surprisingly gotten some tomatoes from the garden this year.  After the plants had such a slow start and we lost the entire crop of ‘Mortgage Lifters’ to blight, I wasn’t expecting any.  In this picture there is one Cherokee Purple tomato surrounded by the little Cherokee Black Cherries and then the Roma’s.  A special thanks to my cousin, Kurt, for gifting me both of the Cherokee plants!

Peaches

And last but not least, this is an older picture I took of our peach tree.   Didn’t they look lovely?  We only got to taste one.  Squirrels staged an overnight raid and took every single peach off of this tree.  There were about a dozen that were just about at their perfect picking moment when they were hijacked.  Oh well. Lesson learned.  We’ll be better prepared for next year!

Another Farm Visit

September 3, 2011

Tim and I made a trip up to our favorite farm, Mountain Valley Farm, to see Suzy and get some of her cow’s raw milk.  Due to regulations, Suzy has to label all of the milk as being ‘for pets only’ since it’s sold raw.  Why can we buy raw meat at the grocery store but I can’t buy raw milk for myself legally?  It just doesn’t make sense!

Tim made some new friends:

These goats wanted attention!

This is a working dairy farm and there are lots and lots of cows to see.

Why hello there #32!  Aren’t you a pretty lady?

Gosh, she sure is a sweet cow.  Wait a minute…is she….I think she is…she’s….sticking her tongue up her nose.

OK #32, you just keep producing that milk and we’ll be moooving along.  See you next time!

The Ladies

August 31, 2011
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I lovelovelove keeping chickens.  Tim and I are planning our farming future and it definitely involves a lot more chickens.   Our future flock will be a mixture of more laying hens and meat hens but the girls I have now are pets.  Oh sure, they make my breakfast for me, but what I really love about them is their personality.  Each one is different.

Hunting for bugs.

There’s Curly Sue (my sweetie, loves to sit on my lap); Petunia (the BIG girl, also a lap chicken); Gladys (the tough chick, has a floppy comb); Sweet Pea (my buddy, follows me all around the place); Violet (named for my niece); Buttercup (an independent lady) and Betty (my smallest lady).

They’re very different from owning dogs and cats.  Chickens have lots of other issues to worry about.  For example, since they are ‘prey’ animals, we have to be very concerned about predators.  Sweet Pea was attacked by an opossum earlier this year but she’s pulled through just fine.  I don’t have that issue with the dogs…they tend to dispatch the opossums for us.

We weren’t legally allowed to own chickens when we first got them.  We went through a lengthy process with our Board of Commissioners to get Backyard Flocks allowed in residential properties in our county.  We even made the news!

I think this is their version of a chorus line.

If you want to own chickens, there may be some extra work involved, but it is so worth it.

Blue Skies

August 29, 2011

I took this picture with my cellphone looking out the front of the airplane.  I was having to deviate from my planned course to get around this weather.  While I do not like thunderstorms, I was struck by how pretty the white clouds were against that blue sky.

I thought you might enjoy this view as well!

Kentucky State Fair!

August 27, 2011

My latest work trip had me in Louisville, KY for a night.  Once I found out that they had Fried Kool-Aid, I had to go.  (Sadly, the Fried Kool-Aid was not impressive…just Kool-Aid powder mixed with  funnel cake batter and fried.  Blah)

My first mission was to find the farm animals.  I don’t live in the country (yet) so I have to get my fix where I can.  The first farm animals I encountered were the cows!  Lots and lots of cows!

This was the prettiest cow that I saw.  She had soft-looking white and brown splotchy hair.  I saw many other cows ranging from black to brown to white and red.

I also saw sheep!

They were so cute!  Most of the owners were busy getting the sheep cleaned up for the judging competitions.  Once they were all cleaned up, they were put in little sheep coats that went over their head and had openings for their mouths and eyes….they looked like ghost sheep with them on.

This guy wanted to sniff me through the railings:

Kinda looks like a camel, no?

My favorite part of the fair was watching the pig competition.  Wow.  I never thought I’d be typing that sentence.  The pig owners would walk their best pig into the ring and guide them around the judge by tapping them with a stick.  The judge would look at the pig’s gait, ham, muscle tone and overall physique.  When the judge was satisfied with a pig, he would determine the winner and announce what he liked about the champion pig.  I was surprised at how young some of the pig owners were.  There were several very young kids showing off their pigs.

It was quite interesting and I learned a lot about pigs!

Besides the animals, there were a lot of other homemade items that people submitted to be judged and hopefully go home with a blue ribbon.  I wandered though aisles full of artwork, pies, cookies, jellies, honey, beer, cakes and quilts.  There were also agricultural items on display.  Farmers submitted their prize corn, hay, wheat and tobacco.

Some tobacco on display:

I love when a work trip allows me to experience something fun and different.  I am going to keep my eye out for more opportunities to visit State Fairs in the future!

Making Mozzarella!

August 26, 2011

Hello!  I am writing today from Louisville, KY.  The State Fair is going on right outside my window and I think I’ll wander over for some fried kool-aid.

But for now….

Have you ever considered making your own cheese?  I hadn’t, until I read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ by Barbara Kingsolver.  I always thought it would be an impossible process and not worth the time…but I was wrong!

I got brave and made my first cheese the other day.  I wanted my first cheese making attempt to go smoothly so I picked an easy cheese to make: mozzarella.  I also chose mozzarella because I just so happened to have a mozzarella cheese making kit that my awesome Mom bought for me last Christmas. 

You don’t need much to make mozzarella.  The required tools are: milk, rennet, citric acid, a thermometer, salt and time.

The directions are really simple and the whole thing was done in about 30 mins.  Sweet!

Once I had sufficiently heated up the milk (wonderful raw milk from Mountain Valley Farm in Ellijay, GA) and added the rennet and citric acid, it was a mere 8 minutes before I was cutting my curds and separating the whey. 

 

See the curds?  See the milky whey?  haha.  Actually I think milky whey is not good….it’s supposed to be clear.  Oops.

Well, once I drained out that milky whey (ha again!)  I had to keep my cheese warm by nuking it a little and stretching it like taffy to get the right consistency.  Once I had it where I wanted it, my options were to make little mozzarella balls, make string cheese, drop it in any container and just let it blob there, or braid it.

I chose to braid it.  If you’ve never braided cheese before, it’s a little harder than it looks.

It may not be the prettiest braided cheese in the world, but I’m proud of my first attempt!  I will definitely continue making cheese at home. 

If you want to make cheese, I recommend http://www.cheesemaking .com for supplies and recipes. 

Have fun on your cheese-making adventures!

Evening

July 23, 2011

Evening at my house is peaceful.  My favorite way to enjoy the last few moments of sunlight is to let the chickens out in the yard while I relax on the porch swing with a glass of wine.  The girls are extremely entertaining to watch as they chase bugs and waddle around scratching in the grass.  I’m glad they figured out last year that lightening bugs don’t taste so good…there are no longer any lightening bug fatalities.

The girls take turns coming over to me and giving me the stink-eye until I toss out their favorite treat–sunflower seeds.  Usually one or two of them will jump up onto my lap to sit with me for a while and let me pet them.

Once it gets dark enough, the chickens hop up into their coop one by one and settle in for the night.  It’s my job to do a final head count and make sure all seven are tucked away safely once again.

In the morning, their automatic door will open at sunrise and they’ll be free to do whatever it is that makes chickens happy all day long.  Then, if I’m lucky enough to be home, when the sun once again starts to set, I get to enjoy another one of my favorite relaxing evenings all over again.

Pumpkin Leaves

July 19, 2011

I have never attempted to grow pumpkins before.  I think they could technically go into the garden ‘fail’ category since I have yet to see an actual pumpkin.

What I do see though, are the massive vines and leaves of the pumpkin plant.  They’re gigantic!  And they are taking over the garden!  The vines are growing up the bean trellises, over the garden fence (and soon the gate), through the corn and they have all but taken over the pepper plants.

Ugh.  If I had an actual pumpkin growing to show for all of this vigorous greenery, I would feel a lot better.

If anyone is in the market for enormous leaves, let me know!

NYC

July 18, 2011

I had a work trip recently which planted me in New Jersey for a few days….right across the Hudson River from New York City. 

My good friend Stephanie moved here a few years ago and offered to be my tour guide for a day.

We ate our way through Little Italy.

There was charming Italian restaurant after charming Italian restaurant up and down each side of the street.  We picked one and settled in for some yummy food.  Since we planned to eat our way through the city, we did appetizers only: Caprese salad and stuffed mushrooms in a tomato sauce.  They were excellent!

Next, we mixed it up a little and moved onto dessert at the oldest pastry shop in America: Ferrara, established in 1892.  I opted for authentic New York Cheesecake and coffee while Steph had an orange flavored chocolate confection.  Both were delicious.

We decided we needed to walk off some calories.

Our next move was to wander around SoHo and duck into whatever little shops intrigued us.  Steph introduced me to some new stores that were definitely unique.  I ended up with two shirts and only paid $20 total.  Love it!

By the time the sun was setting, we were worn out.  We plopped down at an Irish bar and relaxed with some adult beverages and bar food before heading home. 

It was a super fun day.  Steph expertly navigated us back to Jersey on the subway and we called it a night.

I’ll admit I’ve never been too excited to spend time in a big city.  The heat, noise and crowds just don’t appeal to me.  But to be there with a dear friend (who knows her way around!) was so much fun!  I had a blast and would love to go back to NYC someday to see more of what it has to offer.

Garden Failures

July 13, 2011

Ugh.

It’s so depressing to put time and effort (and money) into something just to see it whither away.

I love yellow squash and we planted lots of plants this year.  We got a grand total of three dinky yellow squash out of about 12 plants.

This bed used to be teeming with healthy looking squash plants.  What happened?!??

I also suspect early blight in our ‘Mortgage Lifter’ tomatoes.

So sad.

We’ve sprayed some “Imunox” to treat them and the yellowing has really slowed down.  Today we’ll do a second spraying since the death and dying has not completely stopped.

In addition to the squash and tomato casualties our other failures have been the broccoli and brussels sprouts.  I suspect not planting them early enough.  The corn and watermelons are also not looking too impressive.

I think in general, our problem is not enough sun.  This fall we are going to eliminate some yard that receives the most sun to create more garden space.

I would rather have plants that can feed us than grass that just requires mowing and more water.

How is your garden doing?