Monday, April 30, 2007

I was so close

So, those of you that grow asparagus know that it takes three years from planting to harvesting. Three long years to wait before you can eat your very own homegrown asparagus. When we moved here, there were 10 plants from a previous owner. I enjoyed asaparagus out first spring. But it didn't seem to be enough. So the next year I planted 25 more plants. Woo Hoo! Tons of asparagus! I just had to wait three whole years. So on Saturday, I was walking through the garden in the morning with my neice. We picked a few spears, leaving many in plance that were less than 6 inches tall. Then we rounded up the other niece and we spent the day at the King of Prussia Mall for the younger one's birthday. Shopping (thank god only twice a year!) and lunch and just a fun girl's day. Then we came home. And the tiller was in the driveway. And the husband proudly announced that he had tilled the garden. My face fell. Everything moved in slow motion. I dropped my bags and ran towards the garden. Only the 10 original plants were left. The 25 other plants that I put in were completely tilled under. Along with 25 Sparkle strawberries that had miraculously survived the winter. But that one was my fault. i jinxed myself the other day saying that this was the first year that he hadn't tilled up/burned/or otherwise destroyed the garden. I didn't cry. I just got very quiet and sad and I know he felt terrible. But seriously. How do you not see 25 asparagus plants in rows where at least half of them had asparagus stalks poking up through the soil? What weed does that look like? None. So I will go and buy more plants and three more years and probably be thwarted again.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dog Food

These are my kids. They are messy and dig holes and occasionally smell a little funky, but I love them terribly and want to protect them from harm always and forever. They are my beloved Chessie and Emmett. Foofie and L'il Brown Dog.

So when it became known that some assholes in China were purposely adding Melamine to ingredients used to produce pet food (in order to artificially boost the protein percentage) I became worried. They have eaten Iams their entire lives, and Iams dry dog food wasn't on the list. But Iams wet cat food was. So it wasn't a great leap to think that it could be in the dry food as well, they just haven't reported it yet. Well, I don't think Iams dry food was ever recalled, but the torrent of other foods and treats being recalled was too much for me. They started getting homemade dog food. I could not imagine taking such a huge chance with their health. And I could not imagine the guilt I would feel if something happened to them because of what I was feeding them.

Jamie was asking on her blog if anyone was making their own pet food because of this awful recall situation. For the last several weeks, I have been feeding my dogs a mixture of ground turkey, rice, carrots, a little red bell pepper (Chessie's favorite thing in the world), garlic and spinach, topped off with a dollop of cottage cheese. They get about 2 cups total: one cup of turkey and one cup of the other ingredients mixed in.

They absolutely love it. They have never been so excited about dinner time. And Chessie's allergies have improved a good bit.

I make a big batch every 5 days or so and it takes about a 1/2 hour to chop and cook everything. It is worth it to make sure that what they are eating isn't going to kill them.

Roy (the cat) has been eating Whiskas wet food. I tried a combination of hearts/gizzards etc. cooked up for him but he wanted no part of it. And plain tuna is good but for him to get everything he needs it has to be mixed with other things and then he wants no part of it. So for now he is still eating his wet cat food (not made by Menu Foods). Any ideas on homemade cat food for a picky kitty?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A moment

On Sunday afternoon, I stood in my kitchen making tuna salad for lunch. It was almost 80 degrees and all of the windows were open, the curtains fluttering in the breeze. The kitty was asleep in the sun coming through the laundry room door and the house was filled with the song of the white-throated sparrow sitting in the holly tree just out from the kitchen window. The tulips were just starting to open and everything is just so very green. I was overcome by spring at that moment. I love love love this time of year.

Fordhook Farm

Last Saturday my friend and I took a trip to Fordhook Farm in Doylestown, the home of W. Atlas Burpee. Saturday was the Heronswood Hellebore Open. As many gardeners know, Burpee Inc. bought Heronswood Nursery from Seattle, WA and closed it, choosing to take the fabulous Heronswood plant varieties back east and make them amenable to east coast conditions. Many people thought this a sacrilege. And I'm not exactly a fan of Burpee Inc. as I think George Ball (the current owner) is somewhat arrogant, but the farm was lovely and the plants were lovely and the history was interesting.

W. Atlas Burpee belonged to an established Philadelphia Family and was destined to become a physician, as his father and grandfather had done. Except his boyhood hobby was poultry breeding. In 1876, Burpee dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania and started a mail-order livestock and poultry catalog. In the next few years, the focus of the Burpee Seed Company would change as Atlas talked to farmers and realized that European Settlers were having problems with seed brought from their own countries...they just did not grow well here in the United States. By the 1880s, W. Atlas Burpee was the main supplier of feed and seed to the Northeast and the Midwest.

In 1888, Atlas bought Fordhook Farm in Doylestown and set about making it into a premiere plant development facility, developing varieties that are household names today. Did you know the Fordhook Bush Lima Bean was developed here, supplied by a farmer in Chester , Pennsylvania? Burpee also developed the first yellow sweet corn "Golden Bantam". Prior to its development, the public associated yellow corn with livestock and thought that only white corn was fit for human consumption. By the 1890s, Burpee was the largest seed company in the world.

To read more about the W. Atlas Burpee legacy you can go here. He was an interesting man, as was his son, and is responsible for many of the flowers and vegetables that we see today. I think he is also the father of the seed catalog, giving all of us something colorful and dream inducing to while away the dreary days of late winter.

I didn't end up buying much. The Hellebores were beautiful but the ones I wanted were $40 and I just couldn't justify that for a single plant. A tree or shrub maybe. But not an herbaceous plant. I did buy a little plant called a Fire Pink (Silene virginica) for $4. Pretty little thing. I am a sucker for red flowers.

We stopped at Waterloo Gardens in Exton on the way home (after a fabulous lunch at Classic Diner. Everything is good there!) and I was able to find a reasonable facsimile of the Hellebore I wanted for far less than $40. And two Endless Summer Hydrangeas. And a Euonymous "Manhattan". I so love plants.

At Fordhook, I discovered a new must have plant. Hakuro Nishiki or Variegated Willow (Salix integra). Absolutely lovely. Great shape and it appears to be a somewhat fast growing shrub. Alas, they did not have this yet at Waterloo and since it was a poor seller last year, were not sure that they would be selling it again. *sigh*

Monday, April 16, 2007

National Hangout Day

Hullo fellow members of the laundry underground! What's that you say? What is the laundry underground and who is a member? Well, I'm a member. I didn't realize I was. In fact, I didn't realize there was such a thing as the laundry underground until I read this article in the New York Times. The laundry underground is made up of frugal people, people without dryers, and people from other countries where hanging laundry outside is a cultural tradition.

Who knew!

According to Alexander Lee, a CLOTHESLINE ACTIVIST from New Hampshire, this April 19th we can make a statement on National Hanging Out Day and encourage others to join in our laundry underground ways and dry our duds outside. I must confess that I am not a die hard clothesline activist. I don't do it in the cold. I prefer to be warm. And I need to polish off my sheets with a tumble in the dryer because otherwise they would be coated with dog hair. But otherwise I pretty much use the clothesline for curtains, other bedding, rugs, and all my clothes in the warmer months. Thankfully we purchased a very energy efficient dryer, so it lessens the guilt when I push the on button during the dead of winter or on rainy days.

A good concept, good thoughts, but seriously....clothesline activist? laundry underground? It really makes you wonder if these reporters for the NYT ever go anywhere other than New York or LA. I hang out laundry, all my neighbors hang out laundry (except for the assholes nextdoor that think they live in a development), most towns around me are filled with little houses with clotheslines out back....ummmm....most people never stopped hanging out their laundry as far as I know. It makes me laugh to think that some hipster standing with a clothesline at the statehouse in N.H. has totally been whupped by my dutchie neighbor lady down the road who been 'hanging out' for the last 50 years.

But I guess it will be nice next time I'm standing at the clothesline to feel edgy and anti-establishment as I pin up my panties.

The first tomato of the year

Yes! The first tomato from the bathroom greenhouse window. Mmmmm. The result of using compost that wasn't hot enough. A little seedling that appeared out of nowhere in a plant I had repotted.

And I had my first big harvest of greenhouse window lettuce. I can't believe I only ever had houseplants in there.

So for the next few days, homegrown salads!

I bought a salad spinner on Saturday. I know. Its a gadget that I've always considered silly. Totally uneccesary. And then I had a salad at the The Classic Diner in Malvern on Friday. The salad was just greens. But the balsamic vinegarette on the salad was perfectly applied. Each little leaf had the perfect amount of dressing sticking to it, like it was sprayed on with a fine mist. Not too much, not too little. It was amazing. You probably think it wierd that I'm getting this excited about some leaves and some dressing, but I just can't explain it. So I tried to recreate it at home. Now I have the salad spinner and I need some spray mechanism for dressing. I know I've seen spray bottles for oil products, but I looked at Target on Saturday and they didn't have one. Anyone use something like this that they can recommend? And what if I just use a regular sprayer like you mist plants with? Would that work with a vinegarette?

Now I can't wait to get greens out of the garden. Some mustards and several kinds of lettuce, some beet greens. Yum. If spring ever gets here and I can plant anything outside. Although I'm glad nothing was in the ground yet, because all the rain we've had, it would have rotted. Hopefully this weekend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The chicken story

So last Thursday evening, I went into the chicken coop around dusk to collect eggs and shut them in for the night and Claire was still on the nest. Not normal for a chicken to still be on the nest in the evening. I made a mental note to check her out the next morning, already becoming paranoid as to what this might mean. The next morning she was on the nest as well. She looked uncomfortable and seemed to be flexing her nether regions....y'know, where the eggs come out. Oh God. She is egg bound. Freak out a little bit. I felt her abdomen and it sort of felt like an egg was hanging out there but I couldn't tell and that doesn't necessarily mean something is wrong. I will check on her when I get home from work and take action then. Hopefully she won't die by then as a result of my neglectful chicken husbanding ways.

I got home in the mid-afternoon (Good Friday and all) and found her still on the nest. Still felt like an egg in there. Time to take action. I consulted my trusty Storey's Guide to Chickens to see what I had to do to fix an egg-bound chicken. It involved a latex glove and ummm....personal lubricant. Which I did not have. But okay, CVS is only a short drive. I'll just go get some and come back and save Claire's life.

So I go to CVS to buy the personal lubricant, for the chicken, and I wasn't sure where to find it, since I've never bought that particular product (not that there is anything wrong with that particular product, I just haven't had the need for it. Okay, TMI.). Anyway. So I find the aisle in the store where it is stocked and wow. I was not aware that there were so many choices of personal lubricant available. I figured K-Y, Astroglide, and maybe some generics. I was stunned. There are tons and tons of these products! Scented, spray-on, warming, flavored, different colors. When did this happen? I stood there looking at the the five shelves of personal lubrication that stood before me.

And I must have looked bewildered. Because a CVS employee, a man, came over to ask me if I needed help. In my head I was telling myself "Just say no, just say no, he'll go away, just tell him no". But I didn't do that. I said that I was looking for a personal lubricant that was plain, that didn't have any fragrance or smell or warming stuff, just a plain simple one. And he asked if there was an allergy issue or something.

And I said...... "No, its for a chicken".

I know. The words started slowing down before they were even out of my mouth because only then did I realize how ridiculous the words were and how they most likely would totally be taken wrong and would suggest something unspeakable.

And that is exactly what happened.

The CVS employee looked at me with such disgust and horror. And I had to explain about the egg-bound thing and how it really wasn't what he thought. And he still was unnerved and shoved a box containing a CVS brand plain lubricant at me and mumbled "this should work". And I paid and left.

Long story short, after the donning of the glove, the applying of the shame inducing product, and a suprising compliant chicken....she was not egg-bound. She was broody. And she came bounding out this morning all fresh and happy, not sitting on her nest. And I have learned valuable lessons about when to keep your mouth shut.

Monday, April 09, 2007

We interrupt this spring.......

to bring you more of winter.

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. It has been ridiculously cold here with snow flurries just about every day. It has put me in a gloomy mood. And the riotous change from upper 70s to below freezing apparently jostled my immune system so I have been battling an annoying cold for the last week. Or I have developed allergies for the first time due to the obscene amount of tree pollen floating about. Hard to tell. I just know I'm miserable. THe photo is actually from winter, not recent. But I thought the gloom factor was appropriate to illustrate my current demeanor.

It has been painful to be outside with the biting wind and frigid temperatures, so nothing is getting done in the yard. Daffodils are still blooming but I feel like I missed a big chunk of spring already. It just isn't the same when viewed from inside through a window. The chickens are cranky, the dogs are listless and confused, and I just want to hole up with a fire in the woodstove, some movies, and emerge when it is 70 degrees again. This isn't fun.