Sunday, October 24, 2010

Racoon tracks!

Croicky! It's 2 AM and it looks like raccoons have been here! Two raccoon named Katie and Greg to be precise. An impromtu muchies jam yielded a baked casserole-type dip consisting of spinach, artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon and mayonaise. Mmm Mmm .. Just like how mom used cook .. When she was crocked at 2 AM!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day Deck Building

Last weekend I managed to get the general support frame together for the back patio / deck. Not much else happened over the course of the week.

Progress over Labor Day weekend. Tedious work!

We got a double rainbow in the usual location! I didn't get the camera quick enough and it began to fade.

We decided to widen the top platform and extend the stairs as out fully, which should give a cool complimentary angle to the look of it.

This is Leo. Er, no, I mean say hello to Leona. She is a girl it turns out. She is also a stray that wandered into our yard. We suspect, given her tame nature, that she was abandon here at our place. Seeing the play-set and kid paraphernalia littering the yard, they must have known that we would find it difficult to simply get rid of her. She was going to be our 'out-doors kitty' but .. we are having a change of heart. She may turn into our 'inside kitty' instead! Or both perhaps.

Stairs are on!

All that is left to do here is to finish the top platform, the last few deck boards leading up to the stairs, and put some sort of face boarding on the top and on the bottom of the stairs to pretty it up.

So far we're talking something like ... $1,200 in building material ... 60 some hours of labor ... about 2 cases of beer ... hmm!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More crazy 'maters - new deck!

Alas, the summer is winding down and we are scrambling like mad to freeze, can, jar dehydrate or use all of the vegetables that have been popping up. We always seem to bite off more than we can chew, so there is always some amount of loss .. be it cucumbers that turn into Louisville Sluggers, peppers that rot on the vine, etc. For the most part, though, we have been on top of it and have been socking away many jars of tomatoes and pickles and have been making our 'summer soup' consistently for a month now.

You recall the mammoth tomatoes in the grow dome from the last post. This is what we are talking about now - tomato plants overflowing from the windows!

The back yard still looks a bit like a demilitarized zone. Slowly, we have been moving the various piles of dirt to places in the front yard that need it. Grass seed to follow.

Katie has spent a lot of time pruning the plants on the inside of the grow dome. You can see the hollowed out section that she pruned through. This way, she can literally walk inside and pick the tomatoes from the inside of the mess!

This house supplies us with an never ending stream of projects. A while ago we cut out the old patio deck, which was in the final stages of sublimating into a vapor state. The last straw was when Aiden went through a rotten deck board up to his hip. Now, we are finally getting around to putting a new patio deck in. Last week - every day after work - I dug post holes and prepared posts. This Saturday and Sunday I put in full 8 hour days in the hot sun getting the basic structure in place. This shot is from Saturday morning - the posts awaiting the support structure to come.

A lot of preparation went into just getting to this point. Aside from simply needing a deck, there are issues with rain water flowage. This meant grading ground beneath the deck to shunt moisture away, putting down plastic and bringing in gravel. Once the deck is complete I will put in large gutters and down spouts which will carry the water under the deck and down hill away from the house.

As the afternoon progressed, I was able to discover where my level line would be and begun hanging 2"x6" joists.

By the end of the day Sunday we had a plan for how to arrange the deck boards. It's actually starting to look like something! When we are through, we will probably rebuild the stairs and use that space more fully - what is there currently was just a temporary solution. We'll hide some of the ugly under stuff with some lattice, too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Big-booty tomatoes!

Hmm.  I'll repost a few of these pictures, as some do not have links to the larger version ..

I've been promising my friends that I would post some a picture or two of the tomato plants that I have been ranting on and on about.  Finally, I make good on the promise.  Taken from the tire wall just on the other side of the grapes, this panoramic shot attempts to give you some idea of scale of what is happening in the green house.  BIG growth on tomato and pepper plants alike.  The basil and other herbs seem to be enjoying themselves as well.  I know I can't wait to enjoy them!

Lillian was excited to take a picture of use standing next to the tallest.  She took a good shot, but you still can't see just how far the tomato reaches toward the sky.  There have been a few nights now where I have been derailed from whatever I was in the middle of (finishing the outside of the green house) and made to scale the inside of the dome in order to string these huge tomato plants up.  Now THAT would have been a photo, except that my cursing would not have been captured fully .. 

Getting some red ones, now.  Pretty soon we'll be up to our eyeballs in tomatoes, which we will do our best to consume, jar, freeze and dehydrate.  We just used up the last bag of frozen tomatoes from last year in my (in)famous black beans and wild rice recipe.

Hop to it!  This is a tower that I built for growing hops.  They are getting a slow start, as I had a delay in getting them in the ground.  With so much to do, I had to fight with myself to make the time needed to assemble and plant the tower.

Hops growing up one of the wires.  I may not get many buds this year, but next year I'll have established vines that ought to produce a healthy amount of hops buds.

A shot of the back garden from underneath the huge mulberry tree, from which we harvested quite a few berries.  It's a little messy with weeds, but the tomato, pepper, eggplant and herb plants are doing pretty well.  Well .. the tomato plants out there are getting blight on them, but we ought to be able to pull off many good tomatoes from the looks of it.

Advice for stringing up 'maters: metal fence posts.  The kind with little notches.  Makes stringing up 'maters very simple.  Simple is good.  So are 'maters.

In front of the garage / chicken coop we have expanded the garden.  Katie's "lasagna garden" worked beautifully last year and we expanded from that.  Out there be bush and pole beans, onions, asparagus, black eyed peas, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, a few apple trees, pear trees and currant bushes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Strange strange skies

A week or so ago, we residents of south central Wisconsin we're treated to some very unusual skies.  After the torrential rains, we received a beautiful double rainbow.  I was in the shower at the time and my wife was yelling like a mad-woman for me to come and look, so I hurried out, shivering in a towel, to go stand on the roof and take a panoramic shot.

As the sun crept over the hill to the west, the colors turned into the deepest orange I think I've ever seen.  It certainly was very strange, very beautiful.  

One of the really weird things was the persistence of the rainbow even as the sun got dimmer and dimmer.  There wasn't enough light to really capture the unusual quality of the sky, but here is one that attempts to do so.  And no, those are not orbs from the spirit realm, unfortunately .. only raindrops that got caught when the flash went off.  :)  

Midnight Farmer

As some of you may know, my lovely wife has taken to working in the green house at night.  It is a peaceful place to have a glass of wine and work on the garden.  At night, the dome looks a little unearthly, illuminating the yard and casting shadows from within, where tomato plants reach for the sky.

Inside the doorway, the view is reminiscent of someone's living room!  The hanging wicker lamp came with the house (with tons of other crap!) ten years previous, which along with the wooden flower beds gives a certain homey-ness to the place.  It's a homey-spaceship-looking thing!  :)

Propagating strawberries.  We are multiplying the number of strawberries, setting up our shots for next year.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Puffy Chicken!

Puffy Chicken. I have named this bird because of her odd behavior of puffing up her feathers, which makes her look a bit like a turkey. It's quite hilarious.

We had to boot Puffy Chicken from the general population and put her out into the yard, away from the laying boxes. Puffy Chickens main diagnosis is a neurosis boarding on psychosis. The primary manifestations of this diagnosis appear in her obsessive practice of trying to hatch eggs that have not been fertilized.

Here we see that Puffy Chicken after being cast out into the yard snuck into the garage and in a fit of either protest or madness has launched herself atop the coop, where she is displaying an impressive puffiness.

It is not uncommon for a single hen among a group of hens without a rooster to become convinced that the eggs they are laying will hatch. Hence, the afflicted chicken will lay on the eggs - almost obsessively. Some chickens will hoard eggs. We are still wondering how Puffy Chicken gets so many eggs under her! It's weird! I think about putting in a little wireless network cam to see this in action.

You can see how she fluffs up her tail and puffs out her wings. What we've figured out is that she is agitated about not being able to go in and sit on eggs, so she is pretty much saying, "WTF?!"

Here she is getting puffier by the minute.

Something happens and she springs for the rafter in the garage where, apparently, we store a lot of junk.

It was crazy to see her doing this high wire act. Reminded me a bit of the movie Man On Wire (highly recommended).

This was right before she finally slipped and flew down, where we evacuated her from the garage and back into the yard.

Katie thinks the origin of Puffy Chicken's disease stems from an evening where, somehow, she didn't make it in to the coop at night. That evening something got her. It was last winter shortly after a snow. There we're no animal prints to or from the place where Puffy was attacked, so we think it was most likely an owl. I do remember hearing an owl at night around this time. ANYwho, Jason (our future vet) nursed Puffy's wounds. It was after this event that Puffy Chicken actually became Puffy Chicken. Somehow, the trauma of the event fired the right sparks in Puffy's little brain to make her who she is today.

The problem is that Puffy tends to crack and egg or two. There are consistent pecks in one (and typically only one) of the eggs that she is laying on. The eggs are still edible, as the inner membrane is never breached. But we can't sell them or store the ones that get pecked.

Lastly, it appears that we have another hen that is beginning to behave like Puffy Chicken. Not puffy, but with the obsessive nesting. The idea floating around the house is that this will most likely end up providing the perfect opportunity for Jason to learn how to butcher a chicken. Sorry.

June 6th, 2010

I really want to clean this space up this season. Last year, our then-roommate, Matt, made a little fire pit and we've had fun evenings around it. This cool rock and tree is nearby, but infested with poison ivy! As I get done with the bigger projects, I'll peck at this one and eventually put in some sort of shade garden.

Ye Olde Composte Pit

We cleared brush, put down a layer of mulched grass and cardboard and setup the A-frame for these melon plants.

Here is a better shot of the melons.

Raspberries are getting going, too. I REALLY want to take advantage of all the wild raspberries that are everywhere. There are tons of them, but they are crowded by sumac, wild grapes and other things that I don't know what they are. :\

Here is a pretty something that I don't know what it is. It's gorgeous though and they are all over the place right now growing wild.


Here is that prize 'mater. Comes up high then my mid belly right now!

Our grapes, strung up with care.

Last year I plugged a bunch of logs with shitake spawn plugs. I kinda neglected the logs as other activities got in the way. Buuut it looks like the shitake is alive and well! I'm going to put these down stairs in a nice cool and dark place where they can mature.

Here is a neet one I found! Looks like an Amanita judging by the flecks on it's cap. But this cap is shaped more like a shaggy mane, although I know this isn't a shaggy mane. Hmm. I'll have to check the field guide.

Chick mushroom.