Friday, April 24, 2009

First one of the year...

Oh, I saw the first lightning bug tonight!!
It signals to me the beginning of the best time of the early summer.
Days are warm (though today was almost 90) and the nights are
still cool and breezy.
It brings to mind childhood pleasures and memories of good times.
Sitting by the fire alongside the river watching the fireflies and dodging the smoke.
And I must share the story of the magic holler.
The last place we lived in the mountains was the home of fireflies.
We lived on a rise above a flood plain of a creek. Another low ridge was across the road and across the field. In that low place on a summer night gathered thousands upon thousands of fireflies. They would start the evening down in the pasture along the creekside. The ground
glowed and twinkled until well after dark. It was if you could step across it and your feet would
glow and the light would almost splash beneath your toes.
As the evening went on the fireflies would move further up the ridges on either side of the holler
and settle in the trees.
To look out across the field and up to the ridge top was like being in a huge arena with thousands of flashbulbs flashing all around you. They would continue that deep into the night accompanied, during breeding season, by 4 or 5 Great horned Owls hooting from ridgetop to ridgetop... an eerie, mournful chorus.
And the crickets kept a steady hum and scree the whole evening and in the late summer
they would be drowned out by the cacophony of cicadas.
And all the time the burble and song of the creek that ran behind and beside the house and the frogs and toads that croaked mellowed the heart and calmed the soul with cool murmurs.
What a perfect way to spend the evening, sitting in the yard being washed from head to toe in a cool mountain breeze while all of nature gave a show.

Great. Now I am homesick.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Help!! I am overrun!!!

I have just been hatching, hatching, hatching.
And the Sweet Husband just keeps putting more eggs in!
I hope I can sell all of these little darlings!
Anyone need some pretty chicks from great stock?

I am loving the ear tufts on the Ameracaunas. It just doesn't get any cuter than this.

I seriously wish I could keep old "Spot" here. I will never know what it will look
like as an adult.

And this here is a Langshan chick.. I think Langshan mix actaully as the toes are two-toned black and white. Cute though.

So, my time is spent as a complete slave to the incubators and the chicks.
Making sure that every one is eating and drinking, not too hot and not too cold.
Raise the light, lower the light. Fill the waterer, fill the feeder. Boil some eggs, mash some eggs.
I am not going to get a tan this way. Nope.
But they are really pretty. I just love them and I have about 60 more too
and the incubator is full up. Oh my.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Opulent Ova!

Aren't they just the prettiest things...?
Like Easter bunny droppings of the sweetest chocolate.
And they will hatch into lovely Marans chickens
Black Coppers and Splashes and Black....oh yippee!!!
I got these gorgeous things from a friend
so, if you are tempted beyond your ability to control
check her out and you too could be as happy as me!!
I am ecstatic, by the way. Like a kid at Christmas.
Thanks, Patty!
I fixed the link!!! It works correctly! My bad.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Moving a Drunken Pig...

No. That is not a typo.
I did say, "a drunken pig'.
Now, you may think that moving a pig that
is a sheet or two to the wind is a
bad idea and I can see where you may think that,
but moving a stone cold sober pig really
is much worse.
The time finally came to move PigPig
out of the barn and out to greener pastures.
Of course we waited until dark to do it.
Not intentionally, but time does slip away.

How does one move a pig anyway.
This took some thought. But Sweet Husband had it all
under control...... yeah. ok.
The plan involved feeding treats to the pig
and then slipping a rope around him and then a
come-a-long band under the armpits etc....
Now, PigPig is a sweet pig, given to wanting belly rubs
and scritches when ever he can get them.
But PigPig just didn't get that we were trying to do him a great favor.

After half and hour or so of teaching all the barn
animals some new and colorful words Sweet Husband
realized that the plan needed some tweaking.
So, on to Plan B... slipping a rope around PigPig's back feet.
Plan B was no more effective than Plan A and the chickens
learned some more new and colorful words.
Now, at this point I need to describe the scene.
A big double stall just absolutely filled with pig filth
and several gallons of water in various puddles throughout.
Can you smell me now?
Take a moment and think about trying to capture
and unwilling 100 lb. unaltered boar in such conditions.
Now you get where Sweet Husband was coming from on this.
Plan C- Beer.
We stood and scratched and thought until we lit
upon the notion that softening up ol PigPig
would be advantageous.
So off I trotted to the fridge for a beer.
Three beers in we figured we were ready to give it all another go.

That was one beer too many.

And with the spoken prayer that the normally sweet
and docile PigPig was not a mean drunk,
off Sweet Husband went again into the fray.
What he found was a drunken pig.
Drunk pigs can scream, let me tell you.
What the neighbors must have thought we were doing, I cannot imagine.
So, on the rope went.. under the armpit and around the belly by the haunches.
It looked great, it was a sturdy get up. Pig on a rope. Nope.

PigPig was both unwilling to go and somewhat unable to go.
So, up went the back legs a la a wheelbarrow. Nope. Too heavy
and too short. Sweet Husband was killing himself. He made it about 50
feet down the barn before calling it quits.
So, there he stood with a screaming pig on a rope.
He called for the wagon. The little RadioFlyer that we use
for firewood etc... and off I go to fetch it.
PigPig is failing on his attempts to stand now.
Seriously drunken pig.
Up goes the pig into the wagon. This is a big pig
on a very small wagon. I had point with Sweet Husband
bringing up the rear and keeping the drunk on board.
Down we go through the barn and down the slope
and across the old pig lot... did I mention that it is pitch
dark at this point?
After a few stops to reposition the pig onto his haunches
and to giggle uncontrollably at what PigPig must think...
what with being good and wrecked for the first time
and on a wagon ride and all, we made it to the destination.
We did feel a bit bad about PigPig's coming morning.
We figured it wouldn't be pretty, what with waking up with
little or no clear memory on how he got there
other than a few snatches about a wagon
and floating on air.
Three beers is a hard road your first time out. gigglesnort

Pig love. Aaawwwwwww. Ain't it sweet?

And the small transport vehicle.

The end.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More on nettles...

Martian Chick, one of my followers, my sweet beloved followers
mentioned that she liked raw veggies and greens.
I am here to say that you can eat nettles raw/uncooked.
I do it all the time.
I like them in salads and on sandwiches and burgers.
And they are really good on homemade pizza.

I just pick them and let them wilt for awhile.
I usually stick them in a baggie in the fridge until I am ready to eat them.
They have a mild flavor and they taste very green.

I also dry them for a tea that is unbelievably good for you.
I pick them and lay them out in the shade on a sheet or on a screen.
I am lucky enough to have plenty of screens from old storm doors lying around
and use them to dry most of my herbs that don't get hung to dry.
I don't dry them in the sun for the leaves are very papery
and would dry to quickly.
I fluff them periodically until they are paper dry.
Then I crush them up and remove the stiffest of the stems.
They diffuse into tea better when crushed
rather than when you use the whole leaves.
I store mine in mason jars, but I make sure that they are
very, very, very, very dry first.
You can also store them in paper bags.

I use the tea as a drink. I mix with cranberry juice. yum.
And I use the tea on my hair and skin.
Nettle tea for your hair is great.
Stops dandruff and leaves your hair shiny, thick, full and healthy.
It was THE remedy for baldness for ages.
I just pour a cup of it over my head after I shampoo.
Don't rinse out. You can also work into your scalp when
your hair is dry. That is a great trick to get rid of the dry,
crackly, 'I heat with a woodstove' look that winter can give.

I use it on my face after I wash. It is like a vitamin infusion
for your skin. My skin looks fresh and healthy and moisture rich
which is good as I tend to have paper thin, dry skin.

To make the tea I take a good pinch of the dried nettles
and put them in my tea ball. I do a quart jar at a time.
I hang the ball chain over the side and screw down the lid
to keep the essential oils from escaping in the steam.
I leave it overnight usually.
Having a tea ball is a new and wondrous thing for me.
I have only had it for a few months.
Before that I would just toss a pinch into the jar
and then strain the leaves.
The tea ball is much better.

And don't toss your dregs. Put them in the compost!!
Like comfrey, nettles are great for your compost and for your plants.
Sometimes I use the tea in a sprayer to give my plants a quick mineral boost.
I also ferment my dregs and stems (like the ones from last night's meal)
in a quart jar. Ewwww after a week or two, but very good for the garden.
I use it on my seedlings.

And nettles are good for livestock. Back in the day
they would feed crushed, dried nettles to horses before
they sold them to improve the gloss and condition of the horses'
coats so they could demand a higher price.
It is said that nettles (again, crushed and dried) mixed
into chicken feed can make a dead hen lay an egg.
It is great for the lactation support of milking animals
like cows and goats... and nursing moms as well.
It is the high mineral content that does it. We really don't get
enough minerals in our diet anymore. And nursing babies
just rips it out of you... more than anything else.

And while I am on my nettle soapbox I will share another tidbit.
Nettles make great fiber!
Again, back in the day nettles were used for cloth
and rope. The fibers in full grown nettles are very long.
Healthy nettles in rich, moist soil and good sun can
reach 7 feet tall. I have never seen one that tall, but they say it can happen.
You rett the nettles by rotting the stalks until the meat
falls away. You can do it in an old bathtub or in a still part
of the creek.
The woven cloth from nettles is said the be softer than silk
and can be made to be stronger than canvas.
Now that is saying something!
Nettles make a high quality paper too.
One day. One day I will rett some and see what I can do.
I am not familiar with all of the process that go into
making cloth, but I can make paper.
We shall see.
I would truly love to just have a nettle farm.
But until the word gets out about nettles
I think I would just be sitting on a lot of product.

I hope that this has opened some eyes
about the wonders of stinging nettles.
So, next time you are walking the creek bed, take a look.
Best to pick them for eating when young and tender.
Just pick the tops and they can produce for you all summer.
In the fall I go through and gather large quantities
for drying to use through the winter.

But if you are harvesting wild please remember to pick one and leave three.
Let me know if any of you give nettles a whirl and like it.
If you don't like them...shhhhhhhh.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nettle Soup..

Though technically the nettles
weren't quite big enough....
I couldn't take it anymore.
And I had fears that I would have to wait even longer
for it was pouring rain all this morning.
But the sun came out and gave me a lovely afternoon.

You see above the nettle gear.
-Good gardening gloves.
These have rubber-like palms and fingers.
-Sharp scissors.
-A bowl (or a 13 gal garbage bag if you are really harvesting)
-Beautiful, succulent nettles.
Careful. Careful.
For the nettles do bite sharply and the feeling lasts
like a good kiss.
Except the nettles sting and burn and tingle
most unpleasantly.
Pick just the top few leaves.

As soon as they are picked they begin to wilt
and the sting leaves them.
Apparently after a good rain and while very young
and strong, the sting lasts a bit longer.
Ask my left thumb pad how I know. ow

My Nettle Soup

-chicken stock
-milk or cream

-Put a hunk of butter into your pot to melt.
-Roughly chop one onion and sweat in the butter
until translucent.
-While that is going peel and chop your potatoes
and cook them in the microwave or another pot.
(leftover baked potatoes are perfect for this)
-Add your stock to the onions.
-Trim the nettles' stems and roughly cut the leaves.
I use scissors for this and hold the nettles by the leaves
and cut away the stems and let them fall.
-Add cooked potatoes into your pot.
After they cook a bit I use the masher to crush them into the soup.
-Add nettles, a pinch of savory.
On salt... if your stock is salty, add to taste. I don't like
salt very much and only add it if absolutely necessary.
-Let simmer for as long as you like, stirring occasionally
to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
-Turn off heat and let sit a bit, then add milk or cream to taste.

It is very good and very good for you.
Nettles are full of minerals and calcium and chlorophyl.
They really are one of the healthiest things you can eat.

I served the soup with a spinach salad
and fresh baked herb bread.
(please, please forgive the obvious
bread machine bread.. I was busy.
Oh lord.. I feel like such a 'not-a-woman'
for stooping to the use of a bread machine.
But sometimes...sometimes dang it all
I don't wanna knead bread!)
Dinner was great tonight!!! I mean, really, really good.

And on an unrelated topic.. check it out..

Those gossamer threads on my holly shrubs are just covered with teeny, tiny baby spiders!
Go Charlotte's Kids!