Welcome to the journey,the tale and the saga of our Suburban Homestead.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Strawberries and planning for the future.


  This evening I went out and picked our second round of strawberries.That's our big colander over flowing with yummy goodness. I am starting to think we won't need to go to the fields to pick berries for jam,we have plenty more berries coming in the next few days.If I stick these in the freezer and add what is still ripening I should have enough.
  Although tomorrow I could make up a batch of this Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. We still have plenty of Rhubarb growing and it is a flavor combo we like.

 Chance and I have been talking about what we want to do about the pig weed in the back yard and the back yard in general.After some thinking and hanging out in the back yard we have decided on a couple of things.
  The first being we are thinking about borrowing our friends two young geese to eat the pig weed for us,which I am predicting will be comical to say the least. We will have to figure out their housing and wither or not they have to have a pool of water for the short time they will be with us.If housing can be easily done we will most likely go for it.
 As for the rest of the back yard we may stick with a big clean up so we have a blank slate to work from over the summer into fall.We just don't want to rush in and end up with things looking willy nilly or become more than we want to have to fuss over.We are hoping we end up with the back yard being about relaxing and for entertaining.We already have a nice fire pit area we enjoy often,now we want the rest of the yard to go with that space.



Yesterday I stared some Biga, a type of bread starter that is used in rustic bread recipes. I used to use this recipe all of the time but fell off of it when I got my stand mixer because the dough does not work well with the mixer.But I am craving some crusty chewy bread that I can only get with some good kneading by hand.Tomorrow I plan on baking the bread and will be sure to post about it.This bread takes much longer to rise so if I decide to make jam I can easily fit them both in.Oh my....think of it...fresh baked rustic bread slathered with still warm strawberry rhubarb jam..Looks like I am going to be a busy girl tomorrow.

  Rois




 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Frustration in the garden

  Today I am ready to throw in the towel and say "Forget it,I am done battling with this" I am also thinking this may be a year without a garden growing.
  Two things have happened here this week concerning the big back garden that have fueled my discouragement, a Rooster who flew the coop and that beep beep beeping Pigweed.
  I had finally gotten the beds planted,a bit late but the things I was planting would have been fine coming up later than normal,a few days later the Rooster decided he had had enough of being cooped up,literally. He spent his day of freedom digging up the garden beds and munching down the sprouting seeds.Thanks a bunch,really thanks,I am saying that sarcastically of course.
 That same day I noticed growing all along the edge of the garden beds that evil weed,pigweed.The weed we have been battling with for about 4 years now.
  The pigweed was the reason we attempted to Hay Bale Garden,we had hoped by not turning the soil and placing the bales on top of where the weed was growing we could choke it out.The year of the Hay Bale Garden was a year with a very slim garden.
 We have spent the past 3 years not really using the big back garden.We were hoping if we focused all of our energy on rebuilding the soil and trying to pull the pigweed as fast as we could we would win the battle.We have layered and piled on heaps of compost and mulch.We put the coop sweepings right on to the garden area as well.So here we are 3 years into the battle and have this gorgeous black soil, full of fat worms and a deep earthy scent.Perfect soil but invaded by pigweed.   
 This afternoon I decided to take a good look online for information on how to get rid of pigweed,god that was depressing,really, really depressing.The only high point,we are not alone in our battle.Even farmers are being over run by this evil weed.
    I found that pigweed is now resistant to Round Up along with several other weeds.Now we don't want to use Round Up in our yard so the spray isn't even part of this conversation but how depressing that people are using so much of this crap to kill everything in site that Mother Nature is fighting back in her own way.Scientific America calls this group of weeds "Super Weeds"
    Every other article I read said the same thing,weed killers won't work,not even the organic ones.The only thing we can do about pigweed is to keep hacking at when it is very young and we are not to let it go to seed.Once pigweed goes to seed it is estimated that the plant releases 7 years worth of seeds.One page said 100 years worth,maybe not but if you are in this battle it probably feels like 100 years.
   I did find lots of postings on horse related forums,it's a big problem in horse pastures.Which we knew sort of. The year before we started to have this problem my Dad gave us a load of horse manure from his horses.He said it was "cooked" enough and to go ahead and use it.Well it must of been half baked cause here we are.So my advice to you "Don't take any half baked horse manure,no matter how cheap it is." Thanks Dad,love you too.
  What to do? I figure we have a few options but they each have a few holes in them so the ship may end up sinking no matter what.
  We could go buy some plants to jump start the garden and  have Rooster pot pie for dinner.The hole in that is we would have to go out every single day to battle the pigweed.This is no easy thing,we have jobs and lives.And we hope to do some away from home things this summer.It's what we did last summer and the weed is still here.
   We could turn the garden into a big Lab test.Section it off into squares and try different things in each area.One website suggested pouring boiling water over the young plants.Another said it may be worth while to just try an organic weed killer,we could get lucky. Oh and then we could borrow a Goose from someone,one forum said Geese love to eat pigweed*.Any of these may be better than when we tried pouring vinegar over the plants on a hot day.It was suppose to "pickle" the plants and kill them.We just ended up having a yard that smelled like a giant Pickle.
  We could get a big bomb of Agent Orange and blast the area.No not really, can you see this is my frustration barking? We just watched a 1950's movie where they killed a giant spider with Agent Orange as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.Creepy.
  No matter what we can't do nothing,that would just make a bigger problem. If someone said,"Plant grass there,it will choke out the pig weed" I would,even though we are trying to get rid of the small amount of grass we have left. We have other areas we can garden in but letting it go fallow is not going to work.

  Suggestions? Anyone? Someone? Right along one side of the garden is the chicken run and coop so nothing to crazy, please. I am begging here folks! Even just a kind word of encouragement would go pretty far today.

  
   Rois


  * The chickens won't touch the stuff,if they did I would not be here writing this.And it never ends up in the compost,we actually put it in our garbage can for the dump to deal with.Oh,that's kind of evil too,spreading this weed through our garbage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ginger Ale,thumbs up or down?

 The votes are in regarding the Ginger Ale, 2 yes and 1 no. Issac did not vote because he does not like it in the first place.


  Chance and I liked it.
  Chance said it was refreshing and tasty.But would be even better with Vodka or Gin
  I liked it too even though I am not a huge Ginger Ale fan.It had a nice lemony under tone to it,leading me to   wonder about using lime next time.Actually in hind-site, I think I like this type of Ginger Ale verse the store stuff.
  We both realized that today there was more fizz to it as well.
  Sol,did not like it.To him it was overly ginger-y. Which is totally tinker-able,we used the maximum amount of 2 tablespoons,so next time we can try reducing the ginger by a bit and see if it suits him better.

 Our next recipe will be the Ginger Syrup route.We will let you know how it goes.

Rois 
 

Monday, June 13, 2011

One path,one blanket,one life.

  19 years ago I married my best friend. We gathered family and friends on a very rainy Saturday,our wedding feast was a potluck,my Mom's friend made us a beautiful cake and my Sister-n-Law put the flowers together.It was a simple homey feeling wedding,just like we wanted it to be.
  When we wrote our wedding vows we took words from Native American tradition,one path,one blanket,one life together. The path has sometimes been rough and bumpy but together we have always found our way. I tend to hog the blankets but Chance is sweet to me, lets it be and snuggles up close to share the warmth of our one life together.

  Saturday evening Chance and I went for a scooter ride out to Sauvie Island to celebrate just the two of us and the past 19 years.When I first met Chance he zipped around on a Vespa so taking a ride seemed full circle for us.


Sunset on the Island.
Wild Lupines,blue was one of our wedding colors.
Two Herons fishing for dinner.
  
One road,two people and one great life.

  Thanks Sugar La Rue for every ,moment,smile,tear and all of the love.Now I want another ride with an ice cream cone at the end,the helmet ransom payment is still after 20 years,not paid in full.

For a Thousand Years,
 Rois

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ginger Ale

This morning Sol and I made Ginger Ale from this recipe I found the other day. We used the first recipe and at some point we would like to try the other.

  Sol has been asking to try and make some home brew sodas and since he likes Ginger Ale so much we started with it.I also chose this recipe because we had everything we needed already on hand, a plastic bottle,fresh ginger,sugar,yeast,lemon juice and water.


I'm ready,lets try this out!
   We did not have the funnel the blogger suggested for pouring everything into the bottle so we used my 4 quart Pyrex measuring bowl.The pour spout on it helped but a funnel might have been easier.As I poured the ginger water mix into the bottle I had Sol stir the grated ginger to keep it mixed and flowing,it worked just fine to do it that way.


Shake it up baby,shake it up now.
  Once we had the bottle filled and Sol gave it a good shaking we left it to brew on the kitchen counter.We wait for 2 days and then put it in the fridge over night.The final step before drinking it is to strain the ginger out of the now Ginger Ale.








This is the bottle already to set.You can see the bits of grated ginger floating around.About an hour after this photo the ginger had all floated to the top.I read else where that when making your own brew of Ginger Ale to be very,very careful when you go to open it the first time,no one wants an explosion of sticky soda flying all over the place.

And do you see behind the bottle to the right? That's the awesome toaster cover I thrifted not to long ago. As much as I love Chickens I am not a Chicken decor kind of girl.I am also not overly fond of having my counter cluttered by stuff.But when I found the cover it cracked me up and will live with the toaster on the counter only because the cover makes me smile a bit.


Rois

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just a photo today.

The rain barrel running over.

 The other evening we had a big rain storm here,complete with Thunder and Lighting, the streets were running like rivers. I looked out the front window and noticed that our rain barrel had filled once again, within 10 minutes.When Chance and I were planting a couple of days before the storm we had filled the watering can from the barrel, bringing the water down about 2 feet. As you can see the rain provided a quick refill.

Rois


P.S Here's a link about rain barrels.It includes the math formula for how many gallons your roof will catch. Don't worry, the math part is super easy to do.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What about the compost? Asked a follower.

  





    In my posting about headlines a comment was left asking "What about the compost", I /we are not the worlds greatest composters but here I go sharing my lazy way of composting.

    We compost here,we put everything that we can into the compost bins,which is part of why it takes us 6 weeks to fill our garbage can.But we have a few flaws in our system,neglect,weather and 7 chickens who think the bigger back yard compost bins are their place to snack and dust bathe.

   We have in the back 3 bins Chance built out of pallets,why use pretty new wood for something that is just grubby. They look very much like these  but with a half sheet of plywood over the top that is supposed to help keep the rain out.

   The first bin is for fresh compost.We put in most of our kitchen veg and fruit scraps but during the warm months when the garden is growing some scraps are fed to the chickens who are left in their coop/run more.We also compost coffee filters and grounds,bits of paper,dryer lint (there is some debate over dryer lint not being a good idea but so far we have not had any problems doing so.) tea bags,the gunk out of the kitchen sink (you know food bits ect from washing up.) and egg shells.When the chicken coop is cleaned out the poop filled bedding goes in here as well.We don't compost meat or dairy because it will stink and attract rodents. Sometimes the chickens will get the dairy and the meat goes to our two dogs.We also put in yard debris that is not too woody. We have a whole other system for wood and woody things I'll get to another time.This bin is the one the chickens think is their snack bin.

   The second bin is for the half finished compost.This bin looks still a bit chunky and you can still tell what some of it was.
 
   The last bin is for finished compost that has been sifted,it looks like nice dark soil and smells good and earthy. This is the bins the hens like to have their dust bath in.

   So like I said we have short comings when it comes to composting.The first bin should be a mix of soil/manure layered with a green/fresh layer and a layer of dry/brown stuff.You then toss it like a salad and try to remember to turn it often and water it when it is looking dry. We have most of that,at least the tossed salad part.The watering never happens,we live in wet Oregon,the rain does that.We should turn it more often than we do.

   Every now and again we remember to move the compost around.You kind of go about this is a backwards way. First you need to sift what was the half finished stuff into the finished bin.With the finished bin you can keep adding to it and use it as you need it.Now you need to move the new half finished out of the first bin and into the second one.Leaving the first bin more empty for new green stuff.

   There are two schools of thought when it comes to composting,hot and quick or cold and slow. We are more of the cold and slow composters.Having the quick hot compost takes more effort,turning more often and watering.We have read that hot composting in our cool wet environment takes work.The coolness keeps things from heating up and the wet leaches out nutrients in the soil and washes away what you are trying to make.It can be done,we just choose not to.

   We are also fighting a loosing battle with the hens over the compost bins.Chickens are smart and they have found their way into the bins no matter what we try to do to block them.I can't blame the hens from loving the compost bins,there is some good food in there and a nice dry spot to bathe.They poop in the bins which adds to the whole composting system.They dig around which means we don't turn things as often.It makes them fat,happy,healthy,egg producing lovelies.They have become part of our composting and in their own way a key part to the eco-system here.The chickens are why I don't have a photo of our own compost bins,they scratch and fling all kinds of things out of the bins,leaving the area looking messy. We tend to just put it all back into the compost bins when we need to.Most of the time the area looks like a teenagers room,not a pretty photo at all.

  At one point in time we used one of the black plastic beehive shaped recycling bins you can buy or sometimes get for free.Here's a link with an image. We found that for the scale of what we do here it was not big enough and did not break things down as fast as we thought it would. We moved the bin to our front yard on the far side of the yard.We use this bin for garden waste from that side of the yard.Since this area is  at the opposite end of the yard from the big bins we figured why haul things all the way around when we could just do the composting right there. As we say here,why make work out of a job. These bins are neat and tidy to look at and if you are composting on a smaller scale than we are that work just fine.

    We do use the finished compost around the garden.Before we plant we add a thick layer of the compost to be worked into the garden soil. Over the  growing season we will add a top dressing of the compost every now and again.

   I should add here there is another way I compost,growing up my Mom called it green composting.This is where you dig a  hole or trench in an unused garden spot and add in some chopped up green stuff.Then you fill in with soil.The green stuff will compost right there where it is most needed without the loss of nutrients.Be sure to chop what you are composting into small bits,it speeds things up.

   Composting happens here in a slow paced,neglected and mildly battled for way. Although not a ton of effort is put into it we feel it is important for environmental and economic reasons. I don't think we are truly lazy about it,we just go about it in a slow way that eventually gives us nice soil and big fat eggs.I guess you could say it is one of the areas of Hrafinstaad that just happens without much thought.

  Things are moving along here garden wise,planting has been happening and planning as well.I am worried that we are going to have another growing season like last years but only time will tell. It is still wet and cold here,hopefully the seeds in the ground don't just rot.
  We have discovered that we have an Owl who hangs out in our apple tree.The first evening I heard the Owl I was locking the hens into the coop for the night.They were in the coop early and extra quiet so they must have heard the Owl before I came out.I heard the Owl last night too,making me extra diligent in locking the coop earlier than normal.It is awesome to think there is an Owl here in our neighborhood but chicken safety is important too.The hens have been roosting way up high on the top roost bar and as far away from the door as they can get.The coop is secure even with the door open,the Owl wouldn't be able to get to them when they are up in the rafters of the coop.

  The photo at the top of the page is my favorite view right now,it is looking out the window by our front door towards the front walkway.


Rois