Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm A Hack Sparky

I have an obsession with lighting.

Overhead lights make me very upset with their annoying, unflattering, harsh shadows, especially in the morning when I'm not yet awake and trying to make coffee without tripping over the dogs who are impatiently waiting to be fed.

I have slowly replaced almost every lighting fixture in my house with nice, efficient halogen spot lights, although by the time I am finally done, this will likely all be outdated, and I'll have to start all over again. Additionally, my level of skill in the electrical world is probably on par with the reject that wired our house in the first place. It hasn't been pretty.

Lately, I've been getting very jealous when I see nice, new kitchens in the fancy home magazines with built in under-cabinet lighting and all it's pleasant moodiness. Well, that and fancy granite/marble/concrete/copper/stainless/whatever counter tops that lack my 1" 1970's grout lines that soak up every bloody spill my drunk friends/family like to dish out in my kitchen, but we won't go there today.

I was at my favorite hardware store the other day and noticed that they have these xenon under-cabinet light kits and decided to try my hand again at electrical work. It was totally fun actually because they worked on the first try and now I don't have to be blinded in the morning whilst whipping up Hub's morning smoothie. I'm hoping they don't lead to my burning the house down - fingers crossed.

Plus, isn't it fun when you get to see the inside of someone else's house whom you do not know? My other weird obsession is seeing the insides of other people's abodes. Very strange, I know.

Anyway, here's my kitchen with the new-halogen-but-still-overhead-lights lights combined with my new xenon under-cabinet lights:


And here's with only the xenon lights:


Much improved for morning coffee and smoothie making.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happy Peas

The peas are getting fat like they're supposed to.

I made the mistake of not re-reading the seed packet the other day and excitedly picked off a pea pod and force fed it to my husband because "O, it just tastes so sweet and fresh!", and then realized that this is supposed to be a SHELLING PEA, to be consumed sans shell. Well, it sure tasted good to me, but I will obey Renee's instructions and wait until the pods get fat with their little pea goodness and then shell them like the good gardener I'm trying to be. Gardening is a serious test of my attention span.

I find the pea tendrils totally fascinating and pretty.

Something stupid has been eating my cut-and-come-again butter lettuce before I got the chance to actually cut it again. I believe my VB1's impenetrable squirrel/bird/cat/whatever proofing has indeed been penetrated by a squirrel.

One by one, a different lettuce head disappeared each morning, but I was too stubborn to reinforce the previously mentioned varmint proofing, and the chives aren't doing so hot anyway, so I pulled out the lettuce and am going to transplant the chives somewhere in the backyard where they'll get more sun.

Sorry, Lettuce, you can't share a bed with the chives anymore. Don't take it personally.

Not sure what I'm going to replace the chives and lettuce with. Maybe I'll try some root vegetables again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Am Able To Grow Something And Eat It, Too!


It's not much, but considering that this is Trial Year Gardening for me, I'm pretty pleased with myself.

O yea, and I almost broke the new/old truck on Saturday. Loaded 1.5 tons of landscaping rock in a 3/4 ton truck. Whoops. She's doing ok after that harrowing experience. I'm doing ok, too, after being yelled at for a good 20 minutes on basic knowledge of payload capacity.

But let's put that all behind us and get back to the Butter Lettuce.

Don't mind my 15-year-old ghetto salad spinner.
first harvest of the spring 2009 season!

I learned that you can cut-and-come-again (bwahahahaha!) the lettuce, which means you can cut it, and it'll grow back a few more times.

Note to self: don't use the leftover chicken pine bedding to mulch the lettuces as it sticks to the leaves like super glue.

Friday, May 29, 2009

We Don't Know What Her Name Is Yet

I'm not going to be one of those bloggers that doesn't write something for what seems like eons and then apologizes to his/her non-existent readers for not keeping them posted on the day-ins and day-outs whatever the fuck he/she babbles about. Those people are annoying, so you get no apologies from me. I've been busy.

Busy buying a farm truck, that is!!

After searching hi and low throughout the South Bay and Santa Cruz and Monterey and wherever else Craigslist took us, we finally settled on this beauty.

"Well, she was just 17, You know what I mean..." started going through my head.

It started right up the very first time. And it wasn't warmed up prior to our arrival.
started right up the very first time!

The seat springs on the driver side are totally shot. Hence, the Driving Pillow. Makes for a fun, bouncy ride!
the pillow is necessary because the springs are shot...

I got distracted by a bee in a flower while Hub finished "the transaction". I tend to do that.

Smart Husband installed a tachometer because I drive like a retard without one.
new tachometer!

Smart Husband also rebuilt the carburetor, changed the spark plugs, fuel filter, and other things I don't know how to say nor care about.
rebuilt Holley carburetor

Now I can say, "I'm gonna take the ol' girl to the hardware/materials/nursery/whatever store." Wheee!
nice and spiffied up!

Monday, May 4, 2009

I Have Reclaimed Our Computer Room

The computer room has been home to the chickens for the past seven weeks now, and I didn't even bother trying to clean it while they were in there because it would be covered in dust again within a day. Dust from their pine bedding and their food crumbles was on EVERY FRIGGIN SURFACE of that room. I spent two hours this morning wiping everything down and cleaning the floor.

They moved into the chicken tractor permanently on Saturday, and of course, I woke up periodically throughout the night to check on them like the crazy Mother Hen that I am. I thought the rain this weekend would be a bad thing, but it actually helps to insulate the air and kept the temperature at around 55 all night long, so they were quite cozy all hunkered down for the night.

Being stupid chickens that they are, they kept trying to cram into one corner of the tractor, and because we put diagonal cross braces in each corner, they were all vying for that one spot between the frame and the cross brace where it was extra snuggly and warm (one would snatch up that spot, and the others would lay on top of her - I actually felt them while they were in this configuration, and the one on the bottom was almost hot!). So I decided to fashion a sleeping nest out of an old cardboard box that I cut down so that it is only about four inches tall, stuffed it full of pine bedding, and put it in that same corner. They instantly took to it and snuggled down and weren't freaking out about who got the warm spot.

We also went to a feed store in San Jose on Saturday and bought them a gigantic waterer and feeder. My trusty Rural Hardware in Los Gatos didn't have any with hooks/handles attached with which to hang them from the top of the tractor. This place also sold ready-made nesting boxes, but they didn't have a hinged lid - Hub, however, was able to get a better idea of how to build them for our coop.

Lastly, I nailed the dowel that we had inserted into their indoor cardboard box accommodations onto the tractor frame so that they have another roost instead of just using the cross braces.

"Thank you for putting us outside permanently. We were very unhappy indoors."

"Yo, this is MY feeder."

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Dog is Jealous

We had some leftovers from dinner at Scopazzi's last weekend consisting of a bacon-wrapped beef medallion, some mashed potatoes, and a few pieces of saucy broccoli, so we decided to give the girls a treat. Now, they are no longer satisfied with plain, old lay crumbles anymore - the ladies promptly DEVOURED almost every last morsel of the leftovers as well as half a banana leftover from this morning's smoothie. Again, we realize now that we mistakenly brought home pigs, not chickens.

We looked up in my Encyclopedia of Country Living book whether it was okay to give chickens leftovers after we realized that the ladies were becoming rather lethargic after their gorge-fest. Fortunately, all is well and they were just overstuffed - you can apparently give chickens just about anything to eat, but shit, I was kinda worried there for a minute.

Needless to say, the dog was insanely jealous. So we let him scrounge around after the chickens were transported indoors for the night. I'm pretty sure he ate some chicken poop, too. Yuk.

It's not every day you see a 105 lb. American Bulldog in a chicken tractor, you know.

"Ma, I can't turn around in here."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

They're Gawky Teenagers Now

I remember looking up pictures of Buff Orpingtons and Barred (or Plymouth) Rock chickens when I first brought these bad girls home and being taken aback by how ugly they would become as they entered their awkward teenage years (weeks?). Perhaps it's a mother's love, but they don't seem to have ever become funny looking or ugly to me, and I'm pretty sure they've surpassed the ugly phase already and are well on their way to becoming lovely, healthy layers that will supply me with lots of yummy chicken tampons (this is how Hub refers to eggs; way before Howard Stern ever called them that, THANKYOU). If not, Hub will need to whip up some of his unreal-good BBQ sauce and the girls will become dinner.

We have been bringing the ladies out every afternoon, and now they get very angry if left in the house too long: trying to fly out of their box, knocking over their waterer, and generally being temperamental and rebellious teenagers. The plan was to move them outside permanently this weekend, but with stupid rain on the forecast, we may be forced to keep them indoors for a few more days, much to their dismay.

Trixie and Egg Carton (the Barred Rocks) are pretty much impossible to tell apart now, except that Trixie doesn't mind being held, while Egg Carton has a hissy fit if you try to pick her up. Brat.

McNugget and Peep (the Buff Orpingtons) like to fight a lot. Let's just say that it would be to their advantage NOT to end up being roosters.

So far, they don't like radishes but love radish greens, balk at broccoli except the leaves, and eat bugs and worms like there's no tomorrow. They turned 6 (weeks) on Tuesday. I LOVE THEM.

"We're going to pout and face the wall because we're not outside."


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Carrots Are Being Lame

I'm not sure what their problem is, but they don't get a picture because they just haven't done much in the growing department lately, and I am not amused by their slow-growth antics.

The beets are on my shit-list, too, because I took a picture of them yesterday that looks almost exactly like the one I took of them ALMOST ONE MONTH EARLIER.

March 29, 2009.

April 28, 2009. WTF?

Perhaps this is because root vegetables do all their growing underground and then their greens grow all crazy right before they're ready to be harvested? I don't know, but that's what I'm telling myself because Lord knows I have given these guys some serious love.

Spinach is doing OK, I suppose, but needs to get his ass in gear because I'm going on a diet and need more greens. Something appears to be munching on it, too. Must be a bug of some sort because Fort Knox has got nothing on me when it comes to how secure this bed is.

Holey spinach.

The peas are my friends because they are doing what they're supposed to do like good little peas and growing to my satisfaction.

Thanks, Peas. You guys totally rock.

The ghetto pea trellis.

The cilantro and green onions seem pretty happy in their large pot.

It appears to be a good thing that I bought tomato seedlings because these guys aren't very excited about growing yet. I thought tomatoes were supposed to be easy to grow, so this is not much of a testament to my seed starting skills.

We're being stubborn.

On the bright side, the butter lettuce and chives seems to be enjoying their home in VB1, and Justin's Future Pickles have poked their heads out of VB2. The yellow squash and zucchini are taking their sweet time.

Out of frustration from all my vegetables' slow-growth shenanigans, I made a tea the other day from Foxfarm's Peace of Mind fertilizer and gave everyone a good feeding, so hopefully they'll thank me by fulfilling my need to feel like a somewhat successful gardener and just grow faster already.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Long-Ass To-Do List

I took Friday off since Hub was off clamping for the weekend with his drinking buddies and yet still barely made a dent in my yard to-do list. I blame this on the fact that future SiL (sis-in-law) was in town as well, so I felt obligated to entertain her to some extent: so I put her ass to work in my yard. Unfortunately, SiL has mad allergies, so after only 20 minutes or so of weed pulling, had a good excuse to not help me with my yard work anymore. She made a valiant effort, however.

Here's my list:
1. make a trellis for the peas
2. take old toilets, empty propane tanks, and other miscellaneous crap at front and side of house to dump
3. eradicate blackberry bush up against house, including roots
4. clean out shed and move it where blackberry bush was
5. burn remaining brush
6. move compost bin away from house and turn it
7. figure out what kind of ground cover to fill parking space with, then cover it
8. spread gravel along north side of house - fill in washing machine drainage ditch
9. take down stupid pear tree that litters tiny white flowers all over your driveway
10. buy a gas-powered blower because your electric blower is retarded
11. wash and clean out Tacoma
12. re-position clothesline
13. make the extra bedroom into a canning/storage room (IKEA trip?)
14. build a fence out of T-posts and welded wire fencing for your future goats

My pea trellis turned out pretty ghetto, but I think it will work.

You notice how it says toilets, plural? Yes, we are white trash. I'm ok with that. It scares away the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses.

I forgot that burn season ends on April 30th and am kicking myself for not finishing off the last tiny bit of the burn pile.

So yea, my percentage completion rate is only 28.5 percent, but to my credit, instead of starting out with yard work on Friday morning, I opted to rip the frightening orange carpet from 1976 (I'm not kidding) out of our bedroom. I found a somewhat thread-bare but pretty clean Karastan rug on CL the other day for $20 from some lady that thought I was a college student (BLESS HER HEART), and it just so happens to be almost the same dimension as our oddly-sized bedroom (11.5' x 18'), so out with the old carpet, and in with an antique (ha!) rug. Some sort of rug is necessary because our house was built in 1963 and has asbestos tile flooring in the bedrooms, which isn't exactly cozy to walk on with bare feet - I plan to hunt down the person that made this unfortunate decision and strangle him/her someday. As long as you don't try to remove the tiles, it's not a health hazard, but WTF (that would be who, not what) would install vinyl tile flooring in a bedroom anyway?

I like the rug a lot! I'll take a picture for you once I get all the furniture back in place and post it soon. I even remembered to take BEFORE pictures so you can understand just how much happier I am without gnarly orange carpet in my sleeping quarters.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You've Got Nuthin On Me, Chard

I got Hub to eat green vegetables last night - lots of them. No, really, I did.

Noce's All-Green-Like Stir-Fry.

  1. The massive bunch of chard that came in the farm share today, ribs removed and chopped up
  2. One young onion (aka spring onion; or you could use a leek) leftover from last week's farm share, sliced
  3. A lot of broccoli, chopped (or not, if you prefer big trees)
  4. Two chicken breasts, sliced into bite-size pieces
  5. 1 cup Black Pepper Sauce from Trader Joe's
  6. 1 1/2 cups Sweet & Sour Sauce from TJ's
  7. 2 1/2 Tbsp. butter
  8. Garlic, minced
  9. Some slivered almonds
  10. Some sesame seeds
  11. Lemon pepper and salt, to taste
  12. Basmati or Jasmine rice
How to:

In a BIG saute pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and add the young onion/spring onion/leek. Let it sizzle for maybe ten minutes (start cooking your rice in a rice cooker about now), then add the chicken. Season with lemon pepper and salt.

Add the broccoli and chard (holy cow, that's a lot of chard) to the chicken, cover, and let cook until broccoli is bright green and chard has (significantly) reduced in size. Not so scary looking now, is it?

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together your Black Pepper Sauce and Sweet & Sour Sauce. I'm just guessing on the quantities here, but I probably had about 1.5 cups, which is why I put those particular amounts in the ingredients list, but I really don't know how much it was. My stir-frys always seem to be disappointingly un-saucy, so I really sauced it up this time, and it obviously worked out because Husband ate it all.

Now toss your garlic into the Fry. Stir it up.

Wait for the click on the rice cooker to tell you that your rice is done, then add all that good sauciness to the Fry.

Now, serve yourself up some rice, slather on some of that Fry, and garnish with the almonds and sesame seeds.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Line Drying Season Has Begun

OK, maybe I was little negative yesterday with all my Earth Day un-support rhetoric.

Although I don't understand why people get so excited about it, I do appreciate the sense of community and togetherness that Earth Day brings about. I still think it's total BS, but I also try to be a relatively positive person, and slamming people for having kids probably isn't going to accomplish much. Even so, I am a big proponent of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement and think everyone should peruse the website and draw their own conclusions. I'd be interested to know what people think.

Moving on to more exciting things (at least in my head), most people who know me are aware of my obsession with drying laundry on my clothesline. Nothing beats extra crispy towels and the smell of Outside on my clothes. This is another trait I get from my Ma.

Soft, dryer-sheet-dried towels from the dryer? I THINK NOT.

Crispy, freshy bed linens.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cats Don't Care About Earth Day

And neither do I.

Let me show you:

Nekkie has no consideration for the fragile Alligator Lizard population in my backyard.

Lizard drops tail, confuses cat.

Liz says to me, "I'm totally smarter than your cat."

I think Earth Day and all this green bullshit is just a really sad excuse for people to feel better about their incessant procreating and whathaveyou because they don't want to admit that their decision to populate the planet further is the sole reason for its demise.

O, and it's something for big corporations to totally capitalize on, but that's a discussion for another day.

Not that I believe that Earth is in trouble anyway - we will destroy ourselves far before we have any long-lasting effect on the Big E. Humans are funny in how we always have to make it about us.

Here's a thoughtful quote to help console oneself amidst all this earthy Doom and Gloom:

"No American city comes remotely close to being sustainable. There are too many people on the planet to make it sustainable with any technology. Utopians believe that the earth can handle 6 billion and more of us to come, but every ecological system in the biosphere is collapsing at rates not seen since the last mass-extinction. Thus, I'm not especially concerned about someone driving a hummer or failing to recycle a plastic bottle.

Most of our environmentalism primarily serves the purpose of making us feel good about ourselves. It's not doing anything to 'save the planet'. The planet will be fine, it's doing a good job of ramping up all kinds of anti-human defenses. Read any science journal and you'll see countless reports of ways in which we're destroying our own habitat (and that of many other species), but life will go on just fine as it always does. It will go on with a very different balance of species and a lot of opportunities for new species to evolve during the post-hominid epoch." -- from username "TheHarvester" on

I remember my Pops telling me a long time ago about his theory that we should use up all the fossil fuels on Earth so that there's nothing left and we have to develop new technology to support ourselves that does not rely on a finite amount of resources. I thought it was absurd at the time - it makes perfect sense to me now.

So why am I trying to be a "homesteader"? Because I am doing this for fun, THANKS. Gardening is fun. Baby chicks are totally cute. Composting benefits the food I get to eat. I'm all in it for the gratification.

I also don't trust anyone. I value self-sufficiency for the sole reason that I don't want to rely on anyone else for my livelihood (other than the Hub for emotional support and because I just like him so darn much). This may never actually come to be, but I can certainly have fun trying.

Don't get me wrong now, y'all! I love all the rug rats that my friends and family have had (and will have in the future). I simply savor the freedom of handing them back over at the end of the day after I've gotten my kid fix.

Earth Day is tomorrow. Show your un-support by choosing to ignore it like me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I Love Bark Mulch

My front yard is starting to look like I actually care about it. I am so proud.

I got another truckload of bark mulch on Sunday, and, after much weeding and leveling of the dirt, spread it around. I just can't get enough of this stuff. Bark mulch makes everything tidy and neat and oh-so-organized looking. LOVE.

Bark mulch!

I also made another vegetable bed - we'll call him Vegetable Bed #2, or VB2. It's the same size as the first one - I used 28 bricks for each bed. This time, however, I mixed some steer manure into the top soil to hopefully give the zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumber seeds the boost they need. This area doesn't get a whole lot of sun, so I'm trying to give them the best chance possible to provide me with lots of yummy vegetables.

I would recommend wearing gloves when spreading manure. Ew.

The butter lettuce in Vegetable Bed #1 (VB1) seems to be pretty happy. I used some Foxfarm fertilizer in this bed instead of the steer manure. It will be interesting to see which bed does better.

Getting bigger, slowly but surely.

The chives are looking more edible by the day.

I removed the chicken wire I originally had covering VB1 and replaced it with some welded wire leftover from the chicken tractor extravaganza. It is much neater looking and will also be tall enough for the butter lettuce and chives, although I need to figure out how to cover the ends and will also need to get more welded wire anyway for VB2.

You can't get to us now, stupid deer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Trial Run

Hub was able to cut out the door to the tractor this past Saturday and attach the two hinges as well as the lock, so since it was so nice and sunny and warm, we decided to take the chicks for a trial run in their new digs.

Fancy, new, predator-proof (fingers crossed) door.

They were a bit unsure what to do at first and had this odd tendency to just lay down sideways on the ground instead of standing and pecking around - I think this was just confusion on their part because they are chickens, after all, and not a whole lot goes on in those heads of theirs.

You want us to do what?

BUT, after a few minutes of huddling together, taking in their new surroundings, one by one they started to branch off from the group and peck around at all that lovely greenery and bugs and whatever it is that chickens do on the ground.

I think it was Egg Carton that welcomed herself into the tractor by taking a nice, big dump. Good girl! Momma is proud.

Not quite sure how to navigate the roosts.

Within 30 seconds, both cats came prowling out of the corners of the yard and were quite disappointed to discover that the chicks had a solid fortress surrounding them and would not become kitty snacks today.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beet Candy...

...more or less. I think you could even get kids to eat this, and I know you can get husbands to eat it because I've done it myself.

Here goes:
1. Peel and trim some beets.
2. Slice them thinly cross-wise. The thinner the better because then they cook faster and caramelize better.
3. Throw a pat or two of butter in a small sauce pan over medium low heat, let it foam up, then add your beets.
4. Let them sizzle around for a little bit, preferably covered so they steam and cook faster.
5. Maybe start whatever other dinner plans you have since this could be considered dessert. I'm not joking.
6. Toss in some pine nuts.
7. Add a pinch or two of salt.
8. Then, the most important ingredient of all (other than the beets): get out your sugar and toss a handful in there.
9. Stir it around so that the sugar dissolves, and then let it cook, covered, for maybe 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how thickly you sliced your beets, until they're done but not mushy and the added sugar and natural sugar from the beets has had a chance to caramelize.

Husband picks up fork and tastes.
Husband proclaims that they're "really good".
And then the icing on the cake: HE GOES BACK FOR MORE.


I'm thinking that you might be able to omit the pinch of salt because when I first started making these beets, I had no idea what I was going to add (sugar?), so I thought salt was in order, but Husband thought the salt added a complex flavor when married with the sugar. Like sweet and salty?

I also think that this would be super tops with some caramelized sweet onions and sprinkles of Blue cheese.

I think you would be sorry if you omitted the Knob Creek, but that's really up to you.

See? Just like candy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chanterelles Taste Like Chicken

They really do!

I don't think I've ever had Chanterelle mushrooms before, but they came in the farm share unexpectedly last week, and I had been deliberating all week about how to cook them because I wanted to put them in something that Hub would eat but never got around to figuring out what that magic dish might be. Sunday rolls around, and they're still sitting on my counter, so I decided to just throw them in a pan with some walnut oil (because I'm a bad wife and had failed to restock the butter supply) and garlic, and yea, wow, pretty much tastes like chicken after throwing in a splash of rice vinegar at the last minute.

I was somewhat scared of their crazy shape, but I ate them all. Hooray for expanding my culinary horizons.

Chantarelles = an expensive chicken substitute.



On to gardening: we had all these leftover pieces of Trex decking from building, well, our deck, and I knew I could use them for something, so I decided to make planter boxes out of them. I drilled and screwed them using 2.5" galvanized deck screws - they're not exactly square, but I don't think the tomatoes will mind much.

Happy tomaters.

Then, I built one for the thyme plant I had as well as one more. I wasn't sure what to put in it, and then I remembered that I had some leek ends that a gardening friend of mine told me I could just put right back in the ground and they'll grow back! We'll see what happens. Not ten minutes after I put the leeks in the soil, Gravel dug one up. I think some welded wire barricades are in order here.

They seem to be multiplying.


Leek rear ends.

More tomaters.