Thursday, June 29, 2006

Long Weekend!

So I am taking tomorrow and Monday off and Tuesday is the 4th, so WooHoo! I'm picking up my nieces after work and boy, do they have some weekend planned. Not having children, I often forget that kids have memories like steel traps. Do something fun once, and it becomes a tradition that must be repeated forever. So, this is the annual weekend before 4th of July extravaganza. We've been having for the last 7 years. On my nieces 'to do' list for the next three days:

  • Make salads from the garden
  • Help make a fruit salad
  • Bake something (this year it's gonna be farmgirl fare's blueberry breakfast bars
  • Drink Coke in bottles (1st time I gave it to them they asked if I was giving them beer)
  • Practice picking up chickens
  • Watercolors of many flowers in colored jars, at least once.
  • Dig things from the garden....."Aunt Meredith, did you plant carrots this year?"
  • Eat nasturtiums....seriously, they graze on the planter between the garage doors.
  • The Marietta Carnival
  • The Marietta Fireworks after the carnival (which I think we will be watching from the front porch this year, because they don't start until 11pm, after the fair ends, and the kids always fall asleep)
  • Catch lightening bugs in mason jars, complete with sticks and leaves to simulate real lightening bug houses
  • Eat breakfast at Hinkle's Pharmacy
  • Go to the used book store
  • Go to the antique store across from Hinkle's
  • Have reading time on Sunday morning (while Aunt Meredith reads the NYT and drinks coffee)
  • Watch Wallace and Grommitt at least once
  • Come up with funny names for one another. For some reason I can only remember the youngest one's names. Last year it was Carny Buttpaste. 'Carny' came from the carnival and the strange people that run the rides, and Buttpaste came from a diaper rash ointment we saw at Target and thought was funny. The year before that it was Brittany Weirds, for the hour long performance she gave with the garden hose as microphone on the front porch.

And Aunt Meredith has a few things planned. It will be 'eat local' weekend, with a trip to Central market in Lancaster, picking up Daisy Flour at McGreary Organics in Lancaster, which is the only source of local organic flour I could find. It is ground at Bachman's Grist Mill, an historic grist mill in Annville, PA still in operation. Then a trip to local Shady Acres Farm to buy local chicken and some fresh milk. And all the while a discussion of why people eat local and what it means. A little organic brain washing.

And I will be exhausted at the end. But it is all so fun and worth it and I absolutely love giving them good memories.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What has happened to me?

Had you known me 10 or 15 years ago, and then met me today, you would notice a very big difference. Somehow, I've become this other person. I don't know when it happened. It started slowly, but lately has been picking up speed. If, many years ago, I would have gone to a fortune teller and she would have said "One day, you will be entertained by watching chickens run" or "You will find cutting up old t-shirts to use as rags an enjoyable activity" or even "You will look forward to the day when you can stand in an August kitchen and sweat for hours making and canning something that can be purchased at the grocery store for .99 cents"....well, I would have said "You're on drugs". But I do take pleasure in these activities. And lots of other things that I totally would have turned my nose up at years ago. Last night I laughed hysterically at chickens running through the wet grass. They had been 'cooped' up since Friday because of the torrential rain, and were getting a little stir crazy. One snuck out behind me as I was replacing food and water, and ran like a crazy person all around the yard, by herself. Usually they are very group oriented and get alarmed when they think they are by themselves. This chicken did not care. But the other ones minded...a lot. 5 chickens giving you dirty looks is uncomfortable, so I let the rest of them out. I stood there for 30 minutes laughing at these chickens racing around. And now thanks to amy stewart, I've found a hen cam. I can be entertained by someone else's chickens while I am at work. Awesome! What is wrong with me?

What flower are you?

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Borrowed from This Garden is Illegal

Friday, June 23, 2006

Name that moth!

What is this? I took it out of the Rooster's mouth yesterday. He picked it out of the bark of the tree. I have never seen this coloring on a moth before. Anybody know?

It reminds me of candy.

Never enough

I simply cannot get enough. If half of our property were planted in black raspberries, it would not be enough. Every night for the last three nights, my dinner has consisted of almost a pint of black raspberries, in addition to all the sugar snap peas I eat while weeding and tending the garden. I get scratched (because my half-assed training attempt failed and they sprawl everywhere), and sweaty, and dirty, but it is so very, very worth it. I guess half of the appeal is that they are so very brief. And they bring back memories of being a kid. My brother and sister and I would get geared up at the end of every June. On what always turned out to be the hottest day, the berries would be a peak ripeness. We would put on long pants and long-sleeved shirts and hats and shoes and socks and head out behind our house. There was a large field surrounded with woods, and at the edge were many, many black raspberries. There were also a few hedgerows and then a long line of businesses and parking lots, behind which were woods, so the entire long line was fringed with berry bushes. We would pick easily 20 quarts at least. As much as we could carry. My mom would make pies and jam and for our dinner on the night we picked, we were allowed to have a giant bowl of sugared berries served on melty vanilla ice-cream. We would come back with bleeding fingers and poison ivy and more bug bites than you coudl shake a stick at, but it was so worth it. They are probably my favorite fruit.

Three very guilty chickens. The rooster is still with us. I just can't decide if I want to get rid of him yet. But he leads the girls to do very bad things. Like create dust baths in newly mulched beds and rooting up the maltese cross.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Solstice!

Even though it occurred at 8:26 this morning...Happy Solstice! YAY first day of summer and longest day of the year! Well, actually, it's still 24 hours, but the most hours of sunlight. There's a little melancholy though, cause from here on out, the days get shorter. Next thing you know, we'll be turning the clocks back. Bah. The thing I like best about this time of year is twilight. It's really long now, longer than any other time of year. Last night the sunset was really colorful, full of pinks and oranges, so twilight had this rosy glow for quite awhile. We counted three bats and watched the lightening bugs rise up from the grass down in the corner of the yard. Flowers supposedly smell their strongest at twilight, which I've known to be true with the fragrant ones I have. The French refer to this time of day as l'heure bleue or the blue hour. The Scotts refer to it as the gloaming, which is terribly romantic for some reason but not really a word that you can work into casual conversation without appearing pretentious. "Shall we retire to the back lawn to take in the gloaming?" See what I mean?

The definition of evening twilight (because there is a morning twilight) is that period after sunset when the sun is less than 6 degrees below the horizon. Sometimes this is also referred to as civil twilight, because it has been used in law. Civil twilight is when you need to turn on your headlights or makes the difference if you are charged for a daytime burglary or a nightime burglary (according to Wikipedia). After civil twilight comes dusk, when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. There is little to no light and things are no longer recognizable. Then comes nautical twilight, when the sun is more than 6 degrees but less than 12 degrees below the horizon and the point at which sailors can see to navigate using celestial bodies. Astronomical twilight is last, when the sun is more that 12 degrees below the horizon. Very faint stars are visible now. The faintest stars visible to the naked eye appear when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon. So tonight, after dinner, wander outside and enjoy the longest twilight of the year, cause from here on out, it'll just keep getting shorter.

Oh, one more fun fact. You know how things active in the day are diurnal? And during the night is referred to a nocturnal? Well guess what things active during twilight are called? Crepuscular! Where the hell did that come from? Not a pretty word. Ok, all for now. Later.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sunday, at church......

Yes, you read that right. I spent Sunday morning in church. And I'm still here to tell the tale. My Godless, liberal self did not burst into flames or anything. I was there to attend the dedication of my newest niece. Mother of the niece is sister to my husband, but was he sitting in church with me? No. He laughed and said there was no way he was going to put on a shirt and tie on a day when it was going to be 90-some degrees and sit in a church. Ass. So I went by myself because I am good and kind (even though I am a Godless liberal). And the rest of his family and all the family of SIL's husband. Lots of family. Anyway, here are a few observations:
  • When did churches start using Power Point? Seriously, when the sound that signifies that the service is beginning is that annoying little Windows startup chime, things have clearly gone down the wrong path.
  • The church I attended was a Church of the Brethren. A little bit removed from Mennonite, a little more modern. Maybe too modern. There was absolutely no structure, no formality, nothing. No choir, no acolytes, no robes, no nothing. I like a robes....not a Kathy Griffin doppleganger with her hands in the air, eyes closed, swaying to a pre-recorded track. Words to the first three weird comtemporary Christian songs we had to sing were on Power Point.
  • People were really, really friendly.....creepy friendly. Like members of a cult that have targeted you as a potential member friendly.
  • During the "Praises" section of the service (where people stand up and give reasons they are praising God), a man stood up and praised God (actually raised his hands up in the hair was was CRYING) because GOD STARTED THE TRUCK OF THE GUY THIS MAN HIRED TO TAKE DOWN ONE OF HIS TREES. Apparently this tree really, really needed to be taken down and the tree-removal guy was having problems with his truck earlier. But the man prayed for the tree-removal guy and God started tree-guys' truck the next day and he was able to come remove this man's tree. Now, two things. I was pleased that apparently I am in good stead with Jesus because my car starts every day. Also, if you believe that Jesus resides under your hood and approves or dispproves of things as minute as your car starting, then what level of personal responsibility are you taking for anything?
  • In the little pamphlet that they hand out at the beginning, there is a sheet that lists people whose prayers have been answered and people's prayer requests. Under "Praise God for" was "Adam and Kelly both finally found jobs! And under prayer requests...."Michael and Elizabeth need less expensive health care". Maybe these people need to re-examine how they are voting instead of praying about things like that. And if you believe God is responsible for deciding every little thing in your life, why do you even need healthcare?
  • The last song we had to sing was "This is my Father's World", which is an old hymn and, having attended church at least twice a week for the first 17 1/2 years of my life (church, Sunday School, youth group, and choir), I knew the words to it. I did not need a hymnal to sing it. This did not stop the Pastor's wife, sitting behind me, from jabbing me in the back with a hymnal and offering it to me, assuming I was standing there not singing because I wasn't holding a book. I smiled nicely and said "Thanks, I know the words". I have a new favorite acronym and almost used it for the first time which would have been totally inappropriate.
  • Why does religion hate science? Twice in the sermon the pastor dissed science. Saying that it had come up empty and offered people nothing. Tell that to the list of people in the stupid pamphet that are recovering from surgery or are being treated for an illness. Science did something for them.

So there you have it. My morning in Church. It was weird and I don't plan on going back for a long time. Sorry if I offended any church-going folk that read this blog. I didn't mean to. I admire people that have faith like that. It must be comforting to know the Truth and to know that all evidence to the contrary is a product of the Devil.

Well, future Sundays for this Godless liberal will be spent how they are usually spent.....reading the Paper of Record..."all the Godless liberal propaganda that's fit to print."

**Actually, I'm not entirely Godless. I do sort of believe in God. Only my God is wearing a white lab coat and is clinical in his detachment (is totally hands off), sitting back watching his grand experiment run itself into the ground and taking notes on things to change for next time.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

so far.....

Lettuce anyone? I pick a bunch and by the next morning, the hole it left has grown shut. It's the never-ending, self-generating lettuce patch.

Soon there will be many, many beans of different color.

And pounds and pounds of peas.

Marmande tomatoes. A new one for me.

Only a handful of blueberries this year. I ate the ripe ones right after I took the picture. I will have to ammend the pH I suppose.

And baskets and baskets of black raspberries.

My new favorite vegetable, and only available for a limited time. See that corkscrew lookin' thing? Or maybe it looks like a pig's tail, only green. That's a garlic scape. Really yummy.

Pumpkins on the march. They grow so unbelieveably fast.

And as my nieces say..."Those flowers that you can eat".

"Violet, did you hear about those chickens up in Maine?" (just kidding liz)

Monday, June 12, 2006

do me a favor....

If you read this blog, follow this link to Democracy for America and vote for Lois Herr. Currently she is in 4th place. If she places in the top 5, she receives valuable campaign funding. And if she places 1st, she gets the grand prize. She is running in my district as a democrat to unseat Joe Pitts...who thinks that gay marriage and flag burning are what Americans really care about. Lois is a great lady and I'd love to see her win this campaign money. I'd like to see her send creppy Joe Pitts packing this November. Thanks for your help.
Busy, busy, busy over the weekend. I swear my weekend's are more hectic than my weekdays. Trying to cram so much that I want to get done into 48 hours. And of course all of it doesn't get done. Sunday my list was huge, but I only got two things done. But it took me all day.

I made jam in the morning from these beautiful homegrown berries that I bought on Friday. I also cut up three quarts and froze them and left one to eat fresh. The chickens went wild over some over-ripe ones and smushy ones that I gave them and were later even eating the caps that I had thrown on the compost pile. I made two batches of jam, following the exact same recipe, using the exact same ingredients, and the exact smae equipment.

As you can see, one batch turned out and one didn't. Well, both are still good, but I hate it when the fruit floats and looks all stupid. I can just stir it up when I open a jar, but forget giving as a gift. "Hey, as a token of my thanks, here is a gift of my 'scratch and dent' strawberry jam!". Oh well. Better luck next time. But since I have about 20 jars of jam now, that'll be in about 2 years.

And the rest of the day was spent in the garden. Planting the rest of my tomato plants that I had to run out and buy because the ones I so carefully raised from my saved seed, I scorched and probably only got three or four. And weeded. And weeded. And weeded some more. They come up over night, I swear. Especially the grasses. But now with all the tomatos and peppers in, I can do the newspaper with straw over top all around them and not have to worry about that area for awhile.

Friday, in an attempt to use up some of my ridiculous bumper crop of swiss chard, I made this swiss chard pie. Which was very yummy by the way. And super easy. I sauteed some garlic and spring onions in a little olive oil. Threw in a bunch of chard until it wilted. I added a few roasted red peppers until heated. Then I tossed the mess in a pie shell, sprinkled about a cup of shredded sharp cheese over it and poured about 5 beaten eggs (with a little cayenne and some sour cream) over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Super easy and great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

This hardly ever happens

You know how you can't ever just enjoy your garden or flowerbeds? You always see the empty spots, or the stray weed, or the plant that just won't behave and spreads where it shouldn't. At least I do. I can never just look and enjoy. I always see things that I need to fix or change. Except for Sunday. Sunday I was weeding, getting ready to put down mulch and I came around the side of the house and stopped. Now it isn't the prettiest bed, and there are weeds and bare spots and things that should be moved. But for that moment I didn't see them. None of them. I just saw the color and I felt good. This pretty scene was mine, created by me and I enjoyed it for, oh, a few seconds, and then the stray weeds came back into focus and I was back at it. That hardly ever happens and it was nice.

This rose pleases me also. It is a Don Juan climbing rose. And even though it is straggly and neglected, and needs to be clipped back and retrained up the cruddy shed, it blooms it's little heart out every year.

Monday, June 05, 2006

As I was saying.....

I can't believe May is over and June is just clipping right along. Why does it all move so fast? The corn in the fields around us was just a vague green suggestion a few weeks ago. Now it is over a foot high. A daily reminder of the rapid progression of this season for which we so eagerly wait.

I had Friday off and husband had vacation for the past week, so we got a great deal done. Chickens have moved into their new housing and I am an empty nester. No more little chicken faces peering over their box edge in the morning, and no more singing to my little hens last thing at night as they nestle under their brooder lamp. They are happy though and I can hear thme pecking on the sides of the shed at daybreak, hoping to alert someone, anyone, to come and open their little chicken door. Only 10 more weeks till eggs. I do have a rooster and he will be moving soon to a egg and honey farm near Manheim. I've been promised that for awhile he will used for breeding purposes and not somebody's dinner right away. This morning I could hear his polite crowing at 6am. A pleasant way to wake up, I must say. I wouldn't mind the crowing, it's the fertilized eggs I don't want. Hopefully the girls won't be too distraught at his departure.

Saturday I was planting a bunch of things. I ordered mulch and couldn't resist a few fire engine red geraniums to take home. I know. Lots of people hate geraniums. Well, whatever. I sometimes have plebian tastes and to me, a red geranium in a pot on the front porch says 'summer'.

Anyway, I was digging in the shed for my nifty vintage planter that I like to put my geraniums and when I pulled it out, I found this.....
I took them outside and tipped the container on it's side. I hated to disturb this little family, but I needed my planter. Momma mouse ran into the wood pile next to the shed, but not out of sight distance of the kids. I delicately picked up the babies and placed them in front of her, at which point she quickly grabbed them and ran them right back inside the shed. My husband said that with the mice mingling with the chickens, our home will be ground zero when the Hanta virus combines with Avian Flu and wipes out the East Coast. Don't hold me responsible. I just couldn't kill them.

Here is a pretty geranium that I planted with some annual that I can't remember the name of.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The American Trance

I haven't talked politics lately, or the state of our populace...but this is a good column and I wanted to share.....

The American Trance