Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Still Waiting...

Minnie lost her mucus plug last night.  When I announced the news last night, I got two disinterested stares and two "Yucks".  I can still feel the lamb(s) moving around pretty vigorously, even though she is walking around swaybacked and sunken.  So it will be any day now, but I am hoping for the weekend, actually. 

Nothing much else going on around the farm.  It was rainy so long, the ground is still like pudding - difficult to do anything.  It was quite windy (50 mile an hour gusts), so I had hopes it would dry things up a bit, but it hasn't to any appreciable amount.  That's no excuse for the basically wasted greenhouse space, but I plan to tackle that this weekend.  Unfortunately, the greenhouse is quite far from the compost pile and the tractor working is an iffy proposition - which means plenty of work for my on-its-last-legs wheelbarrow.  Good exercise, anyway.

I am going to end up with way too many jalapenos - I threw an old pepper in a pot and there are about a million seedlings in there that need to be replanted.  I will have to make pepper jelly or really hot salsa again.... jars and jars of it.  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Drumming My Fingers....

Minnie is showing all the signs of imminent delivery, but she is taking her sweet time.  I am tempted to just go with my original estimate of Dec. 5, but what if I am wrong, and she is just as bad a mom as the first time?  That time, she'd left her first born ewe lamb in a corner and went off to have the ram lamb somewhere else.  She left that ewe lamb several times, even after I got her to accept her.  She was just careless with her lambs.  Her mom, Audrey, is a little better, so I am hoping Minnie will learn and become better.  If not, I will have to either cull her or sell her. 

Since we've had 3-5 inches every day for three straight weeks with only a little break this weekend, the stalls and pens were a mess.  My husband and I spent four hours working on them - but part of the length of time was due to the unfortunate and inconvenient stalling of the John Deere.  The connections to the battery seem a bit dicey and it was fiddly to have to jump it - probably, we need a new battery.  Our compost pile got a huge input of material - mud and muck, and the stalls are scraped clean waiting for straw when Minnie goes into active labor.  Since we used the pallets for the greenhouse tables, we'll need to figure out a new lamb jug arrangement. 

The good thing about the down time with the tractor was that I was able to apply a hoe to the garden - the rain means a huge crop of weeds.  I also found a new nesting place for the hens - they weren't laying there two days ago, so that dozen eggs was new - which means there are probably other nesting places I am not finding.  Those araucana hens are sneaky.  We've been letting them out later and later hoping they would lay in the coop, but they seem to hold it until they are out free-roaming.  Is that even possible? 

We've plans tonight that will keep us out late - hopefully Minnie will wait for us to gt home - but probably  not.  That's not the way these things work.  They seem to wait until the car drives off for the night or the day and then pop them out.  Good thing these Barbados/Katahdin cross sheep are fairly self-sufficient.  Minnie was a yearling mom and she delivered twins without incident - the delivery part, anyway.  The counting part was a different story.  She had a lot of milk, too, but she left it up to the lambs to remember where she was. 

While I am waiting, I will be drumming my fingers with a bit of impatience, and hoping she delivers this weekend or next, and not on a work day.  So far, I have been lucky that way....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am inordinately clumsy today - have burned myself making three different dishes today.  I have been doing Thanksgiving for a couple of decades now and this is the worst one, yet ...

Let's see - I spilled part of the pumpkin pie mixture on the floor and collapsed one of the pie crusts - one of the pies, therefore has a crust about an inch in from the edge of the pie.  I figure it will taste the same, but you have to wonder how that happened at all.  I burnt my finger on that one.

The pumpkin flan - I don't know how that came out - definitely put far too much cinnamon, but I only burnt the tip of my thumb. 

Turkey:  in the oven, so far so good, but burnt the palm of my hand while putting it in the hot oven.  Not sure how that happened...

I have a wall oven, and it is a bit small.  Matters are not helped by the fact that the heating element is detached at the front of the oven and drooping down.  A new wall oven is not in the budget, so on big meal days like Thanksgiving, I get burned.  I just expect at least one a year - but three is getting annoying.

I woke up this morning listing the people in my life for whom I am thankful.   I am glad I did that, because when I was in the most fiddly part of the baking and had just burned myself the second time and was inclined to be cranky  (My son says I owe enough money to the "Swear Jar" to take us to the movies), my almost 14 year old came stomping through the kitchen making boy noises.  Sometimes when I am cranky, this sort of behavior is less than appreciated, and I think he expected a scolding.  When he looked at my face and saw me smiling, I got the sweetest smile back.  The kind of smile you miss when your kids grow up and turn into teens. 

Now, that was something to be thankful for! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Now is Not the Time to Give Up

Most of the lessons in literature that lasts and the collective wisdom of the ages is that perseverance is the ticket to - well, some kind of positive result, whether it be happiness, success, what have you.  Along with that comes the assumption that there is a clear goal which you persevere towards, even when it seems that someone keeps moving the goal posts.

I have come to the realization that I have a few too many goal posts to persevere toward, and that they often are in different directions, so that two steps toward one goal means two steps away from another.  I believe this is a common affliction in modern life; I imagine it was an affliction in the past, too, but perhaps not so much as now - especially for parents, because some of your goals are actually other people's goals.  If that makes sense. 

But for today and tomorrow, the goal is food.   Pies, a turkey, mashed turnips, mashed potatoes....
It's nice to have a single goal for a day or two. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lemon Bars

I have never made these before, but there was a lemon that needed using, so I made the attempt.  As usual, when I make something new and tasty, the whole pan was gone within the day.  That was the extent of my homesteading/homemaking activities on this rainy weekend. 

The outside garden got a once over and quick weed-pulling in between showers, and the laundry got hung (under the deck where it will take days to dry in this rain), and it appears that while I was work on Saturday, some of the floors were swept, vacuumed and/or mopped, which is always a good thing. 

We had the rare and wonderful opportunity to completely embarrass our teen-aged son.  We took the younger kids to the movies and ran into him and his girlfriend.  He needs to read up on reverse psychology - the more he tries to avoid him, the more pleasure I take in rubbing it in that I am still his mommy.  The young lady in question is quite lovely and was actually excited about the invitation to a decades old rock band (which is more than I can say, since I loathe, loathe, loathe this band enough to want to wash out my mouth when I find myself singing along with them on the Classic Rock station - not because the lyrics are so bad, just because they are irritating and ubiquitous).  She may not thank us later, but who knows - maybe these elderly men who should know better than to wear leather pants will surprise me. 

I am not being ageist - I really enjoyed seeing The Moody Blues two years ago, even though their bassist was wearing leather pants, but the band in question - I didn't like them thirty years ago, either. 

Well, I am well of the homesteading topic.  I'm off to buy purple sweet potatoes, since mine are still determinedly all leaves and no tuber, to make a sweet potato and haupia (coconut pudding) dish.  I am also going to attempt a pumpkin flan.  We'll see how that goes off.  I'll let you know. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Muddy Weekend Half Planned

Or maybe what I want to say is half of a weekend is planned to be muddy - since I have to work for half of the weekend, only half is available for mud-based chores.  It's still raining a good chunk of the time, so mud is the order of the day. 

I had some poi yesterday, just a little taste.  Now I want more.  I need to pull up some taro, pressure cook it, and make poi.  Yum.  My son was telling me about some poi balls he had at our school festivities yesterday, and I want to try to make those, too - although they are deep fried and sugary and probably need to be limited.

What really needs to get done is work in the greenhouse - pulling out the tag old ends of stuff and planting new food products.  The thing is I love producing food in my own garden, but on top of my engrossing full time job, actually being in the green house shoveling dirt and little seeds in the greenhouse all by my lonesome is not actually that fun.  It's an effort to make myself get out there - I have to remember how cool it is that those little seeds actually produce food.  I think if my husband, at least, came out and helped, I would feel a lot more motivated.

Sometimes my youngest comes out, but she would much rather be baking in the kitchen (or, let's face it, watching terrible re-runs on tv).  The quickest way to get her out the door is to say "horse", if you want outdoor chores. 

Speaking of horses, I haven't seen mine for weeks.  It's dark when I leave, mostly, and dark when I come home - particularly with this rain. Even if I do participate in the care and feeding, it's by feel in the gloom.  This time of year is a busy, fulfilling one as a teacher, and I LOVE Christmas, but it is a bad time for Farmer Nan, who fees very cut off from her venture. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Garden Planting and Seeds

My fashion minded eldest told me that when the economy crashes, eye liner and lipstick sales go up - they are relatively inexpensive ways for people to feel good, shop, and not break the bank. 

I am not fashion-minded, nor do I enjoy shopping in general, but my relatively cheap pick-me-up purchases tend to be seeds.  It used to be small items of tack or grooming implements, but seeds are cheaper, as the budget gets tighter.  Then, I end up with little packets of seeds in the fridge, if they need to be chilled to preserve them, or in coffee cans in cupboards.  Some of the seeds I have are years old - I plant them just to see, and sometimes I am happy with the results. 

I almost always try to buy non-hyrbid, open-pollinated seeds with the intention of seed saving, but I always end up eating all the veggies before I can save their seeds.  I need to develop some self-discipline in that area. 

It's November, and it's time to start thinking about new seeds for the new year.  What do I want to plant in my garden?  Why didn't I keep better records this year?  What new could I experiment with out there?  I know I want lots of tomatoes - and maybe some determinate paste varieties because I am dying to can some sauce - and cucumbers and peas and beans.  Maybe not so many eggplants this year - but definitely cabbages, turnips, and squash (hopefully they'll be more productive this year).  I think I will need to peruse some seed catalogs soon!  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Of Course...

Back to work after a long (rainy) weekend.  Of course it is quite a lovely day today, when I am not home to capitalize on it.  The stalls are saturated - we must have gotten 15 inches of rain in the last week - the sheep don't want to be in there, and there is no way to dry them out. 

Actually, a beautiful day down here doesn't mean it is beautiful at home - but I hope it is, so the garden and the animal housing can start to dry out.  The ground is like jello with grass. 

We had a lovely anniversary, though.  We drove to Kona, just the two of us, for a massive Costco run and then stayed for dinner at one of the nice hotels up in Waikoloa.  It's nice to have mostly teenagers that can stand a day by themselves.  Getting home to unload at 8 pm is a lot nicer when you have young men to help you carry and a young lady to help you put it all away in the freezer and cabinets, too. 

I am impressed at the growth in the turnips - they are one crop that very much enjoys the rain and isn't hurt by the lack of daylight.  I am delighted that I will be able to pull them up and bring them to Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought I might make a side dish of stir fried greens, as well, so I can use the turnip tops, collards, and the baby Chinese mustard and kale, not to mention my ubiquitous sweet potato leaves. 

The fact is, though, even with those lovely greens and turnips, so much isn't growing well - might be the lack of sun, too much rain - it might even be chickens stealing seeds, though I don't see signs of them in there.  I need to plant more!  I have so much to learn! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Taking on More....

At what point is enough too much?  My life as a teacher and a mom, particularly with the shorter days and the rain we've had in the last week, is eclipsing the push for greater food independence.  I haven't seen the garden since Sunday morning.  I have no idea what the torrents of rain have done to my seedlings.  I stop briefly to glance at the sheep as I am driving out for the day - by the time I get home, I can see the ghostly outlines of the white sheep, blotches of the  paint horse, and  most of the big gray horse, but the black sheep are hidden in the murk.  I can only hope my husband is watering the greenhouse remnants, because by the time my 11 hour day is done and it is time to do laundry, help with homework, and cook, I am not thinking about those elderly tomato plants.... 

In fact, as I typed that last bit, I remembered I picked some tomatoes and placed them on the table while I hung laundry on Sunday - I think they are still there, because I haven't seen them in the fridge (which is actually bad news for the watering bit...) 

I do somehow make time to read, though, so it isn't like I have no time to myself.... it helps that we have SSR at school, but I also read before bed.  

My husband and I are contemplating a big step in our lives which would dramatically increase our commitment to our church (right now, all we do - rather badly because no one can find the time to practice together - is play music at one Mass on Sunday).  I am not closing any doors, but I do have to say, spending one weekend a month for the next five years sitting and listening sounds like Purgatory.  I like to learn; I love the Lord; I hate sitting and listening - give me a book and a pad of paper any day over any kind of lecture, meeting, or presentation.  I fidget, I doodle, and I fidget some more.  I am sure it looks highly disrespectful, even though I don't mean it to be. 

I have a high tolerance for fidgety kids in classrooms, because I know to the very itch in their toes how it feels to be them. 

So, I am left wondering if I am really worried about whether I am capable of putting in more time doing charitable works, etc. or if I am really dreading, completely and totally, the deadly prospect of sitting and listening. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Thunderstorms

Yesterday was incredible.  The thunder started about about 10 am and by 1:30 or so it was as dark as 6 pm outside.  It felt like the lightning was centered almost directly over the school. 

It was as if the day were backward, because it was dark in the middle of the day, but the edges of the thunderstorm started dissipating at about 5:00, so the day got lighter as the evening wore on - at least until the sun actually went down.  It cleared up enough to have a bright moon shining in my bedroom windows. 

Today is brisk, but partly sunny, and quite windy.  The wind appears to be tradewind generated, so I bet more rain will occur later this evening.  In fact, my office window looks in the weather-generating direction, and yup, there are more rain clouds on the way. My office feels as cold as a refrigerator, but I am sure that is just me.  It can't possible be 40 degrees in here - even if my hands and feet feel like it. 

Once again, we've had a series of late evenings, so I haven't inspected the garden, but I imagine more seedlings are barely holding on with their toes, so to speak.  It must feel like when you are standing on a rocky shore with a rising tide sucking at your feet.  Your toes grasp for purchase but you feel like you'll float away. 

This weekend my husband and I are celebrating our 22nd anniversary.  Although I want to celebrate in traditional ways (ie nice dinner - probably cooked at home, but something special still), I hope we also celebrate by working together to get the greenhouse in order.   Given the probability of an exceptionally wet winter, I think the greenhouse is going to be my produce source - except for those ever-hardy-in-the-rain brassica (brussels sprouts, collards, mustard, and kale) and I hope some of my root vegetables, too. 

I suspect that I missed the boat on broccoli again - usually I plant it too late and it bolts.  I got it in early this year, but not early enough to have a good sized seedling before the flooding rains.  Just can't seem to get that timing right - I love broccoli, too.  It's a bummer.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Out of Step with the Weather...

We have had floods of rain alternating with a nice sunny day - of course, when I wanted it sunny, it was raining (my silk shoes won't be the same), and when I was deep into cleaning my house, it was sunny.

I am used to it; it's like some kind of rain forest rule for residents.  It will rain when you have to work outside, and it will be sunny when you have to work inside - like a specialized Murphy's law. 

We also had a smallish earthquake - actually there were two almost exactly an hour apart, but only one of them woke me up.  The one almost directly under me was so small, I didn't even feel it - I felt the bigger one down the mountain from me.  Earthquakes are kind of a by-product of living on the side of an erupting volcano.

Last week, I could see fountains in the vent as I was driving.  That is always fun.

My garden is starting to show some of the effects of the pouring rain - a few seedlings washed out of their beds - I just replanted them.  Some things are sprouting, but I have hopes that when there is a little more sun, they'll pop up -it's happened before.  Sometimes they aren't where I planted them, but as long as they grow, I am not going to complain.

The brassica and the turnips are loving the rain - and so is one variety of the four sweet potatoes I planted.  I've never had much luck with the purple sweet potatoes that I really love, but this other variety my niece gave me is growing like weeds.  I hope it will also grow roots and not just masses of lovely leaves. 

The hens are sneaking under the canvas cover to lay eggs in my manure cart.  It is the weirdest thing.  At least I found their stash before it was too late.  Now I look every day - they have been waiting later and later to lay their eggs so they can go hide them.  I look by the cat door under the deck, next to the house by the clothesline, in the manure pile, under the project cars....I know I am missing some, but hopefully, I can watch them and find their hiding places.  Sneaky little girls....


Friday, November 4, 2011

Wild Weather

I know it is nothing like the wild winter weather that happens on the continent, but the atmosphere has been unstable for days here, and it finally brought thunderstorms yesterday afternoon and last night.  I am a little tired as the light show woke me at about 3:30 this morning, but that's okay. 

Last night, I attended a play at a high school in the area.  They did the Sound of Music, and it was really great!  I am always impressed with the local high school dramatic productions.  Hilo High has an after school Performing Arts club, and their stuff is always wonderful, and the productions I have seen at other local high schools have been equally well done.  For a small-ish town, we have quite a few arts programs available for all ages.  The Palace Theater in Hilo often has local productions which involve actors from the community of all ages.  I have taught at a few different schools, so it seems I always know someone in every production.

The fact that I live fairly far out of town and the fact that once I am home, I tend to stay home means I don't see as many of the productions as I would wish, but I am glad I went last night, even though I don't think my shoes will ever recover from the flooding wet I had to walk through to get there. 

I had some relatives in last night's play, some kids I coached in elementary track, a few children of people I have worked with - it made it even more exciting. 

I will need to go out to the garden and see if any of the seedlings and young plants survived the pounding rain.  At least the sheep and horses seemed to be none the worse for wear this morning.  I guess Crazy Horse has spent enough of his life in pasture to not freak out as much at thunderstorms as would expect.  That's a relief; I have had my share of stupid thunderstorm moments where I had to run around in pastures finding witless frightened horses to bring them into the barn - all the time praying that neither of us were struck by lightning.   It seems Crazy Horse and Ohia have the sense to come in from the storm and put themselves to bed.  Very nice. 

The sheep aren't as smart as all that, but their internal clock brought them in at 5, so it all worked out - that was before the worst of the storms, but not before the worst of the flooding rain.  I am beginning to believe the adage that sheep are stupid.  I maintain, though, that they are not as stupid as chickens.  I don't think anything beats a chicken for being ridiculously stupid. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First Time in 19 Years

Last night was the first Halloween in 19 years that I did not go trick-or-treating (or rather driving kids around to trick-or-treat)!  Since we live in a rural area, we always need to drive the kids to another neighborhood, usually Volcano. The houses are spaced enough apart, that you have to do a lot of driving - drive to one cluster of houses, walk around, get back in the car, etc.  We've done that for most of the last 15 years, with occasional excursions to Hilo to break the pattern.

Last night, one of the younger pair didn't want to go - he'd just finished a long day of school and a long play practice and since there was candy in the car for my husband, he just hopped in my car and came home.  My older son was going with his girlfriend and he agreed (lovely boy) to take his younger sister.  They ended up going to Keaau Ag Lots, which is a nice neighborhood, but the lots are big, so the kids must have walked three miles.  They came home with a lot of loot, but they were very tired.

I found a stash of eggs the chickens were hiding, so we had scrambled eggs benedict for dinner while waiting for the two to come home.  It appears that 5 of the Araucanas were hopping into my garden cart for the last three days to lay their eggs.  It's funny how you can tell the different eggs apart from different shapes and slightly different colors - Araucanas are the birds that lay blue, green, or pink eggs.  Most of my hens lay slightly oddly shaped eggs - long and skinny, with a marked point, and there is one hen that lays rough eggs (ouch). 

There's a flash flood watch in effect for my island; the skies are gloomy and gray - and although I slept through it, there was apparently lightning and thunder last night at midnight.  How appropriate for Halloween!