Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stalking the Wily Chicken

Junior chicken, so named because she looks just like her mother, Missy (so does Baldy, if it hadn't been for the unfortunate head pecking she got as a young pullet her first day in with the rest of the flock), disappeared a couple of weeks ago. Missy used to pull that trick every summer for years, reappearing three weeks later with a newly-hatched clutch, so we haven't been too worried about Junior yet.

Junior disappeared last year, too. I watched the calendar and eventually found her nest. But Junior's too fast, and flies too well, for our little Bantam rooster, Coach, to catch, I guess. After four weeks, and nothing hatching, we took the eggs away from her and got her back in with the rest of the flock.

This morning, while I was out hanging some laundry on the line, Junior came up squawking for food. I kept an eye on her while she gobbled up the feed I put down for her, and then as she got a drink of water. Then she went over to where I'd been watering a plum tree, and proceeded to dust-bathe. Finished with the laundry, I sat down on a log a little ways away from her to watch and wait, to see if I could find where she's been hiding.

She knew I was watching though. She pretty much finished with her bath, but then just stayed in her little hole, murmuring and clucking to herself, picking a bit a the dirt around her. I sat, she sat. I tried facing off towards the distance, keeping her in sight from the merest corner of one eye. No dice. She was in a nice damp hole in the shade, I was in the sun and the humidity from last night's brief thunderstorm made it even hotter.

Ok, something's got to give - guess it'll have to be me. I got up to move the water on a couple of the trees. When I was clear down at the bottom of the lot, she jumped up and ran up towards the house. I ran too, just barely keeping her in sight - she was heading towards the shed. By the time I got up there, she was nowhere in sight. Under the fence? Under the shed? Wait! There, in the middle of a clump of Oregon Grape next to the patio, a leaf wobbled back and forth in the still, heavy air. Gotcha!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Chinese Veggie Time

The Sugar Snap pea plants have shriveled in the heat, without ever allowing any of the few picked to make it into the house. I can't seem to catch the English peas at the right time. They seem to go from no pea in the pod to starchy overnight. But the Chinese pea pods, both the Mammoth Melting and the Oregon 2, are still hanging in there. I've been trying to get them picked daily to keep them coming.

Joi Choi is the only bok choi I've found that holds without bolting once our summer heat sets in, and it hasn't disappointed me this year either. Crispy, crunchy stems and thick, dark-green leaves - thinned earlier by harvesting entire plants, and now I just snap off a few of the outer leaves whenever I need some.

Chinese veggies are especially suited for stir-frys. The short cooking time is perfect for this time of year, keeping the house cooler in the late afternoon. I use a Mix & Match Stir-fry method that lets me vary the menu depending on what I have on hand. I try to get a jar of mung bean sprouts going about once a week, and then just do a wander through the garden before dinnertime to see what's ready. I've written out my stir-fry basic recipe on my post over on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op blog this week. What's in your garden?

Friday, July 9, 2010

This Year's Corn Patch

I really need to get better organized with my garden seed storage - not the actual storing of the seeds, but seed expiration dates. I know some of my seeds are too old. I find it hard to just throw them out, though. I also have seeds that I grew once or twice, and then they never seem to make the cut again when it comes to plotting out my growing space.

Time to sit down and clear things out. Sowing seeds that no longer germinate just wastes time, and my growing season is short enough as it is. Hanging on to seeds I'll probably never plant is silly too. Time to whittle my seed storage box down to what I know I like, will grow here, and then keep up with it.

What brought on this rant is the sorry state of this year's corn patch. Wanting to spread the harvest out over many weeks, I have packets of seeds with varying maturity dates - plant once and harvest in succession. But this also means only planting a few of each type each year, so some of those packets are getting up in years. Some, this year, didn't germinate at all; others were down to less than 30%. Luckily, I track what is where (or should be, anyway), so I do know which packets to toss out for the birds.

I think I was able to salvage my corn harvest for this year, though. I've been trying to move more and more to saving my own seeds, so have been giving various non-hybrid varieties a trial or two in my garden. Hometown Seeds has a prepared package of emergency "survival seeds" - a packet designed to store in your freezer, with enough seeds for 3-4 seasons worth, or enough to get an entire block of neighbors growing their own fresh food (a good idea, in my mind - if things really did deteriorate to a genuine emergency state, I don't think I'd want to have the only food source in sight). I've seen other survival seed packages listed online, but I live in a rather rigorous growing environment. Just because something grows well in the Great Plains or Florida doesn't mean I'll get a crop from it. But Hometown Seeds is in Utah - the same Great Basin, high-desert, environment as my home. If things do well for them, they should be good here too.

So, one of my corn rows was their Golden Bantam 8 variety. Those seeds are great! Every one of them popped right up (however, growing well is only half the trial - they have to pass the taste test too). And since I'm used to the lower germination rates of other seed sources, I'd planted too many of them. Corn, being a grass-type plant, can take transplanting though, so that's what I did. I dug out every other GB8 plant and moved it over to fill in the gaps in three other rows.

Not quite enough, though. I still had two almost empty rows. But while grocery shopping the other evening, I checked out the little seed stand there. I found a packet of Trinity Hybrid - at 64 days, the shortest days-to-harvest I could find. I got them in the ground night before last (with lots of protection from hungry birds until they get up and growing). I'm hoping, with the hot days now, that they'll be up in no time . Our first frosts can come anytime after mid-September, but will sometimes hold off until early October. So maybe, just maybe, they'll have just enough time to set a crop.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Make a Jeans Skirt

My Soroptimists Club is working a booth at a local Chili Cookoff this weekend, and since it's the Fourth of July we're going with a red, white, and blue theme. It's gonna be too hot for blue jeans, so I made myself a blue jeans skirt this afternoon.

Since it's also my turn to post on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op blog, I took pictures of my little project and wrote a tutorial. I've been refashioning jeans into skirts for decades. It's easy enough for even a beginning sewer, and a great use if you have a pair of favorite pants where the inseam is starting to wear. Check it out here.