Tuesday, April 19, 2011

KATIE

Spring 1998

He looked down at her lifeless body. What how could this happen? Just minutes ago Katie had been walking with Eric and him to the mailbox. It had been a pleasant walk in the late fall morning. They loved living on this new piece of land.

Eric and Katie had ran ahead, he’d smiled watching their small forms full of curiosity and wonder. They had lived there nearly a year, so there was no fear in his mind as they ran ahead and disappeared in the trees around the pond.

Suddenly Eric had been running toward him, his small face full of silent terror. Before he could wonder what was wrong, he heard Katie’s terrified anguished screams, and THE DOGS.

Terror gripped his heart as he ran toward the sounds of a pack of dogs after Katie. Frantically looking into the dark shade of the trees he saw her and THEM.

There were four or five near grown hound mixed with chow type dogs, they had Katie on the ground, she was fighting the best she could her small compact frame useless against the starved animals who with foaming mouths tore at her legs and buttocks. Working as a team to pull her to the ground. She was their prey and they meant to have her. He could see their ribs showing through their fur. Judging by their size and physical shape he could tell they were litter mates. Unwanted puppies who had been dumped, and who had some how survived to adulthood, but now they were starving and vicious.

The fence between Katie and him was several strands of barbed wire, too tightly strung for him to duck through. He ran to the gate, LOCKED, as he climbed the barbed wire that formed the gate tore at his clothes, puncturing his skin. But he did not notice. “Katie, he had to save Katie.”

Shouting and waving his arms he ran at the dogs, all but one ran off. The Alpha male, bigger than the others, was still biting and tearing at her, she had gone silent. Stooping the man grabbed a softball size rock and threw. It landed just short of its’ target. But its’ message was clear and the wild dog tucked tail and ran.

Katie lay before him, not moving. No sound. “Katie”, softly he called her name, no response. “Katie, their gone. “ He knelt fear filled his heart. Then he saw a flutter of eyelids. Her beautiful brown eyes, full of pain looked back at him. She was alive!

Now he had another problem. He had to get her the two tenths of a mile back to the house and medical treatment. He wasn’t sure he could carry her that far, plus how could he get her over the fence? He couldn’t leave her to go get the car and help. The pack of wild dogs might return and kill her.

As if to answer his unspoken questions, Katie slowly, unsteadily rose to her feet. Together with Eric they started the slow painful walk back to the house, and help.

Examination of her wounds showed medical attention was definitely needed. It was a weekend, and the type of medical help she needed was forty-five minutes away. Together with his wife and Eric, he loaded Katie in the car and headed for the emergency medical facility.

By the time they arrived, she was going into shock. The doctor told them immediate surgery was needed. While luckily she seemed to have managed to protect her vital organs and face. There was muscle and tissue damage to her legs and buttocks. In agony the three waited while the surgery was performed on the little one they loved so much.



Eric, a normally vivacious blonde, was quiet and withdrawn, not making a sound. He sat with his head hanging down, forlorn and lost without Katie. The attack had definitely done emotional damage to him. What about Katie, what residual damage would she suffer?

What would they all suffer? They had no insurance to cover this, the surgery would be expensive. But there was nothing else to be done, she had to have it, if she was to survive.

Anger slowly swelled in the man and woman. This was through no fault of their’s or Katie’s. The blame laid in the selfish people who had dumped a litter of puppies because they were an inconvenience. People who would go to a fast food restaurant rather than pay the small fee to have a pet neutered or spayed. Then when the unwanted puppies appeared, who thought it too big an inconvenience to try and find suitable homes. Nor would they pay the small fee to place them with pet adoption services, again they would have to give up some minor luxury for themselves to do that. Or as a very last result, have the puppies humanely put down. No it was far easier and cheaper for THEM to just dump the puppies. After all they were cute, people in the country would take them in and adopted them. At least that’s what they tell themselves and their children.

But instead, of those who do manage to survive many turn into vicious feral dogs. They form packs with other dumped and stray animals and together they hunt. First living off of small game, and then family pets, poultry cattle and finally attacking small children and the elderly, becoming more aggressive and vicious with each attack. This was evidenced by the attack on Katie.

It was apparent from the condition of the dogs that had attacked Katie that they were starving, making them a very dangerous pack. Although they had not completed their attack on Katie, others were in danger. Now the farmers and ranchers would have to ban together and do a job they detested. Destroy the pack. Katie was suffering, and others would too, all because some irresponsible pet owner, dumped a litter of unwanted puppies. Never considering the domino affect of their actions. Because some pet owner hadn’t spent less then $50 to have that litter’s mother spayed they would be out hundreds of dollars for Katie’s medical treatment, not to mention the emotional stress and pain it had caused. Nor did that pet owner think about the burden it put on the families in the country that would now have to deal with vicious, possibly rabid feral dogs. It was easier to just dump that litter of puppies, go out to eat and tell themselves it was perfectly okay.

Suddenly the doctor was standing before them. The surgery was successful and the damage was far less than they had thought. As long as no infection set in she would be scarred, but healthy. She had been lucky the man had been with her. She would not have survived otherwise. Katie could go home and be with her family, but she must be watched closely for the next 24 hours.

The man and woman took turns monitoring her condition all night. In the light of the early dawn hours he went to check on her again. Eric was with her, his small body curled protectively against her. He looked up as the man entered, sad worried eyes. “She’s going to be okay, boy.” He told the three year old yellow dog.

Katie looked up with pain ridden eyes and he reached out and petted the soft ears of the blue heeler. Thankful once again that both animals were fully vaccinated. Katie would not get rabies, if the dogs had been rabid, because of their foresight in not only spaying and neutering the pets, but in keeping them fully vaccinated. If only he could undo the damage and pain his pets were suffering now, because of others.



Giving Katie her antibiotic and pain pill he thought to himself. “There are those who would say, ‘Why be so upset, Katie is only a dog?’ “. He knew that statement would anger him, she was more than a dog, she was family. In the same instant he knew what his response to such a remark would be. “But what if she had been a small child?”

April 19, 2011
I wrote the true story above in the Spring of 1998 after our beloved Jealous Katie Katrina Quit!  was viciously attacked with my husband just a few yards away.  I repost it in various places periodically and especially this time of year when the dumping of household pets becomes a major problem for those of us who live in the country. 

I had actually forgot about posting it this year until an event last night.  My husband and I had just gone to bed for the night when Sean called out from the living room asking if I could come help him.  Grabbing our robes we both ran, we could tell from his voice something was definitely wrong. 

There in his lap was our beautiful white Tufted Roman goose, Wendy.  Wendy and her mate Casper are some of my personal favorite geese.  The two of them have been with us for about six years.  She had finally gone broody on a large clutch of eggs and was desparate to hatch them.  She and Casper are obvious in their love of goslings and she's only successfully hatched one gosling in years past--Lumpy, who a stray dog got when he was a teenager.

Last night it was Wendy covered in blood.  Sean had heard her screams and rushed out to chase away a LARGE black stray that was trying to drag her to the woods from her nest right in the light from our living room windows!

Sean screamed and chased the animal off and rescued Wendy, but her long graceful neck was tucked under her main body, she was upside down on her back and she wasn't making a sound.  When he picked her up her neck hung loosely, but she struggled to get away, thinking he was the dog come back.

Once in the house we doctored her wounds--one is really bad on her cheek and she bled a lot.  Once I got the bleeding stopped I held her in my lap to keep her warm and hopefully from going into shock while Sean fixed the nursery up for her. As I spoke to her of how she had to live because her goslings needed her she raised her bloodied white head and peered at me with an understanding blue eye.  I reminded her that Mama Rose had suffered similarly and had gone on to hatch and raise Beauty.  While her head wobbled on her neck it was wonderful to see the neck was not broken.   She leaned against me for comfort as we waited on Sean.

He built her a deep nest of hay and carefully moved her eggs to the totally enclosed structure in the big coop that we normally use for either a nursery of parentless baby birds or wounded hens and their clutches of eggs, then he gently carried her to it.

As we passed her old nest she struggled to get down to go to her "babies"--she's only been broody for two days, but her need to protect her eggs was strong.  Sean held firm and talked softly to her, telling her the eggs were safe and he was taking her to them.  As we passed Casper and the main flock who honked softly to her she struggled again, but not near as hard as she struggled when she saw her "babies" safe in a cage with deep soft hay.

Once Sean set her down she washed the blood out of her mouth in the medicated water he'd fixed her, nibbled a bit of the food supplies and then wobbled to her "nest".  She carefully counted the eight eggs and tucked them under her bloodied wings.  We told her good night and left her in God's hands.

This morning she actually hissed and spread out protectively over her eggs when Sean tried to re-arrange the water bowl in the wire and wood enclosure that will now keep her safe.  This is a VERY good sign.  

I have to say we all went to bed angry last night, which is not a good thing.  Someone has dumped this starving dog and we are dealing with it.  We think it has already got Miss Pugsley and Butterfly, (we keep hoping they are hidden on a nest somewhere--but we are doubting that is so) and none of us wants to kill an animal.  But it's coming right to the front door and something will have to be done.

While no one I know would ever consider dumping of an animal, some of you might know someone who might.  Please tell them the stories of Katy and Wendy and how much harm their selfishness can cause.

Jan who is sad to see Wendy in so much pain and still being so protective of the goslings she wants to hatch so badly in OK

Sunday, April 17, 2011

THE THEORY OF ANYWAY

April 17, 2011

I’m currently reading a book called “Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation” by Sharon Astyk. I’ve actually just started it, I saw a review of it online and decided it might be worth a read to gear me toward the food storage I hope to achieve.

Early in the book she speaks of the “Theory of Anyway.” From what I have read it is basically the reason we should be putting food by, become debt free, and be good stewards in life in and other aspects of our daily life in general. Simply because we should.

Not due to some coming crisis, a fear of the government controlling food, the end of the world or anything else, just simply because we should. I like this thought. It rings so much of the truth above and beyond anything else I have read.

So many books, articles, late night radio talk shows, disaster movies harp at the “impending doom” and how we must be “prepared” for it. The plain and simple truth is the things these media sources tell us to do we should do anyway.

The book got me to thinking, about all the times before I’ve needed food storage and was glad I had it. Over the years my husband has only been unemployed twice and both times we had ample food stored it was not a problem. We simply ate out of the food storage and we ate well.

A third time was when my father-in-law was in his last days. During that time we had up to 30 people staying at my home for one to three weeks. Due to food storage, my master mixes on hand and the co-operation of those involved we all ate 3 square meals a day and did so without having to spend a lot of time in the hospital cafeteria.

I had planned for none of those events to occur in my life, yet they did. Putting food by, just because I should anyway, showed to be a true blessing each time. This is why I need to build my depleted food storage back up now. I do not think the world will end in May as some say, or on 12/12/12 as others say. I do see food prices escalating in the stores and that may or may not be a meter of things to come. None of these are the reason for preparation. The reason is because I should “anyway.”

Not managing our finances as well as we should have put us in a bit of a bind during this most recent bout of unemployment. If we’d previously managed our finances as we should my husband would still be “retired”. I am striving to get him back to retirement. I miss him being home.

No matter what stage of your life you are in I suggest you cease using credit immediately and become debt free, not because it is the fad thing to do, or because major inflation is headed this way. But because it is something you should do “anyway.” As I have often said before we are following the Dave Ramsey “Total Money Makeover” book plan and it is working well for us. I know of hundreds of others it has done well for too. But you need to do it for yourself not because I said, but because you need to do so “anyway.”

Helping others is another thing we should do “anyway” not just because a disaster hit, but because it is who we should be as a nation. Oh it feels good to give to the Japanese Earthquake Fund or whatever the latest disaster is, but how about the elderly person down the road who has trouble just getting a ride to the grocery store? Or the newly widowed man who has never cooked a day in his life and now has no one to cook for him.

You don’t need to do something huge to brighten their day, sometimes just stopping by to say hello is all they need. Maybe the neighbor’s child is having a horrible time with math and you are good at it. Visit the parent around homework time and drop small “hints” about the easy way to do that math problem. Charity comes in all forms and it is something you should do anyway, not just when a disaster hits.

Back to the book Independence Days, the author touches on much deeper issues as she quotes her friend who developed the “Theory of Anyway,” Pat Meadows. Me I like to think that by simply bringing it up and adding it to my blog it will perhaps get a few more people thinking about the things they should do “anyway” without me pushing any political buttons. Because after all I do not agree with all of Ms. Astyk’s political statements, but I do believe in what we should be doing anyway.

Jan who is trying to read at least one non-fiction a week in OK

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

VALUABLE LESSONS LEARNED--A BLAST FROM THE PAST STORY

April 13, 2011--I've been posting on various yahoo lists my latest adventures with baby birds.  Those stories reminded me of this blast from the past one from 2004.

July 28, 2004




First of all let me say to those of you that don't know me personally that despite my towering height of 5'0" I am not a petite person, I am quite round, so scurrying quickly is not a thing I do. Nor is bending over, crawling around easily or any other such aerobic activity.



Today, so far, has had a series of valuable lessons that I thought I would share for those of you who may or may not be new to homesteading:



1. While leaning a board inside the coop for guineas to nest behind may sound like a good idea consider how you will retrieve eggs from behind said boards if they extend well behind the roosts for the birds. We didn't and today I had to. On hands and knees with my Gopher Grabber reaching tool and basket I crawled under the roosts it was not pleasant. The Muscovy duck, Lady Rachel, who had decided she liked the guinea accommodations better than her own small coop and thus had gone broody next to the nest of guinea eggs I was robbing was not amused at being disturbed. I became very thankful for the Gopher Grabber which kept my arms away from her hissing bill.



2. When you have a guinea hen broody in the coop on 66 eggs REMIND your dh that when he puts the birds up at night he should MAKE SURE Mama hen is on her nest and not locked out of the pen for the night. The eggs are in the 'bator now, but it was a very cool night for OK, we'll see. They were near their hatch date.



3. Day old baby Muscovy ducklings can march right through chick wire. This lesson was learned when I was preparing my lunch and heard baby ducks in distress. Running outside I saw 4 ducklings marching straight out to guinea hens who thought they were pecking material.



4. Day old baby ducklings are EXTREMELY fast!



5. All larger duck backsides look the same to baby ducklings.



6. Older sibling ducklings DO NOT want their younger brothers and sisters under their backsides and will peck the newly hatched ones HARD!



7. All older ducks will flog you if they think you are going to hurt a duckling.



8. Even the best trained dog will get excited when Mom is chasing a small tasty morsel and the bigger ducks are chasing Mom. While they didn't eat one they barked and snickered at it all a lot not great for Mom's ego or ears.



9. When blocking all the bottom wire one should remember the chick wire that runs BEHIND the feeder and ramps.





10. Once baby ducklings get under a coop that is surrounded with chick wire on all 4 sides you better figure out a way that you can get Mama duck out of the coop and away from the other 10 to call those other two. Because they are faster than you and you aren't going to get them out on your own.



11. The only way to put additional boards behind the feeder and ramps once the other two are back to Mama Duck is to do it from inside the very messy duck coop. ON HANDS AND KNEES. YECH!



12. Once you are certain you have blocked all exits for the baby birds one will climb a corner and go out above the boards just to prove it can, it too is extremely fast.



13. Once you are certain AGAIN you have all exits covered and you are now ready for a scrub down and have lunch another will escape just as you take your first long swallow of Pepsi.



14. The third time you are certain you have them all blocked safely in you thank God that it is a cool day and you can keep the windows open to listen for more escapee sounds.



15. You contemplate bird netting on the outside of the run wired up tight to the chick wire, all the way around and very high up.



16. You cancel a much needed shower until reenforcements arrive to help you untangle the bird netting and get it up for fear they will escape again.



17. You now know you MUST enlarge the duck housing facilities immediately . Those older siblings might hurt the younger ones when it comes time to settle down for the night in the too small coop.



18. You develop a headache when you realize that you have a broody duck in the guinea coop and you get to play this game all over in three weeks when she hatches her dozen out.



19. Cedar needles in the hair and under clothing hurt.



20. You better learn to laugh at yourself because everyone else is.



These are valuable lessons learned today, hope they save someone else my scurrying around trying to nab little and yellow and black ducks as they flee under the low lying cedar trees. Jan who is most certainly glad no one had a video camera going today in OK

WEEK TWO OF THE GARDEN AND HOUSE ADVENTURE

April 13, 2011
Since I last wrote we’ve all been very busy moving on with our plans for the spring and summer.

Gary worked a little overtime at his job this week so he couldn’t do much to help in either endeavor until Friday afternoon. Once home though he really pitched in and the gardening went a lot faster.

Monday Sean went to pay off his truck and while out he found some Canadice red grapes, Tuesday he planted those in the grape garden. I then planted Bloomsdale spinach between the grapes and the strawberry plants. I’ll probably add a few marigold to this garden as well since we have a lot of rabbits in the area.

Prior to Friday Sean worked on building another 24 foot row in the garden by himself as I worked on the potato garden. In this long and narrow bed I planted Russet white potatoes, and Norland red potatoes. Then I companion planted Copenhagen Early Market cabbage, Spring broccoli raab, and Green Sprouting broccoli.

Normally I wouldn’t plant three Brassica in the same garden, but I only want a few heads of cabbage because none of us like sauerkraut that much and the smell of cooking cabbage can run you out of the house—although I do love a good cabbage roll. So we decided we’d grow only a few head this spring (if the rabbits don’t get them) and then go for a bigger crop in the fall of a long keeping cabbage, with possibly trying to grow a few heads in the greenhouse.

I misplaced the broccoli seeds on Friday (found them that night) so the broccoli raab got planted in that row instead.

Once the broccolis and cabbage were planted two Victoria rhubard were planted at the opposite end of the bed from the already well established horseradish. This left a little space for a short row of something else. Got to check my companion planting chart to see what.

That leaves the area between the fence and this garden where we will add marigold seeds, if ever there was a garden that would need it this would probably be it. Last year we got very little lettuce and NO cabbage due to Peter Cottontail.

By the end of Friday Sean, Gary and I had finished building the second row in the big garden. In this we planted Adirondack blue potatoes. I will be adding a few other seeds to this garden as well this next week.

The three of us started building the third row in the big garden and have it nearly completed.

Along the same line, but different…while purchasing feed on Thursday I noticed they had a sign up they had freshly harvested asparagus up for sale. While my husband won’t eat asparagus Sean and I love it and my asparagus hadn’t started sprouting yet (first shoot appeared the next day). So I inquired about the price. I had to have them repeat it.

The last I had priced at Wal-Mart was nearly $7 a bunch and a bunch wasn’t quite a pound. I later called our local produce place where I buy a lot of bulk produce and was told their 1# bunches were $3.99 each or 3 for $9. The feed store price was $2 a pound for firsts and $1 a pound for seconds. I purchased a pound of each.

For those of you who don’t know a second where asparagus is concerned is usually those super skinny stalks that despite how they look are tough just past the tip. I had a plan.

The first night I fixed a nice mess of asparagus on the charcoal grill to go with our grilled chicken for dinner.

GRILLED ASPARAGUS

I make this vegetable numerous ways, but this is one of the simplest asparagus recipes. I used a small loaf pan and placed some of the tender spears of the firsts after I had cut off the tough ends and fed those tough bits to the greedy geese. Over the tender spears I poured a mixture of lemon juice, garlic salt and black pepper (all mixed to taste) then topped it with pats of butter. A foil lid was added to the loaf pan and then it was set on the edge of the grill where it would get heat, but not boil dry. Simple, simple and delicious!

If you are using an indoor grill, like a Foreman grill you can let the asparagus set in the liquid for a while then remove, drain and grill it until tender crisp on the indoor grill.

That left a LOT of leftover raw asparagus. As anyone who has dealt with this divine veggie knows it has a short fresh shelf life and I knew we wouldn’t eat it all before it went ugly.

The next morning I filled the dehydrator with the remaining asparagus. ALL of it, including the tough parts. No I’m not insane, I’m a tightwad that is gazelle intense about getting out of debt.

After following all the usual cleaning standards for the veggie I trimmed the tender parts separate from the tough parts. The tender parts were put on two trays of the incubator in about inch long pieces-give or take.

The tough parts were also trimmed to that length, but the thicker pieces I also sliced in half length wise. From the remaining bundles of that $3 investment I filled a cheap round five tray incubator to capacity with asparagus. It ended up being three trays of the tough parts and two of the tips and tender pieces.

The reason I separated them is once they are dry it’s really hard to tell the tender pieces of stem from the tough pieces. Like I said, I had a plan.

I learned years ago that you can dry the tough parts of things like broccoli, asparagus and similar plants (as well as the peels from fruits and vegetables) and then pulverize them using either a mortar and pestle, a blender or a food processor into a nice powder.

This powder can then be added to any number of things to get the vitamins, fiber and other nutrients of the produce to whatever you are cooking from what many people throw away.

The tough ends of the asparagus are destined to become part of soups, omelets, souffl├ęs, side dishes and many other things. I’ve added recipes for a few of these uses below.

As I cut up the beautiful CHEAP asparagus I thought about the BIG dehydrator I’ve saved the money for, but have not yet purchased. I decided it was time, but I was still leery of letting go of that much money. Gary, being the practical and loving husband he is, told me he thought I should order it that day.

He pointed out that even if the garden doesn’t make well there are always produce markets, u-pick farms and other places we could get a wealth of good healthy foods to dry. So I ordered it. I ordered the Styx Dehydra 800w with the bread/yogurt drawer from a gentleman on ebay. I also ordered some fruit leather sheets for it.

I much prefer dehydrating over freezing or canning of many fruits and vegetables for several reasons. The top ones being:

1. Ease of preparation, you seldom need to blanch, ice water dip or exact time.

2. Storage space is minimal for dried foods.

3. Shelf life is extremely long.

The unit is due to arrive here on Thursday. If the feed store still has good cheap asparagus on Thursday I will go get more asparagus. As long as it is that cheap and my asparagus bed isn’t up to producing enough for a year’s worth of mine and Sean’s need for that lovely green I’ll purchase and dry all I can comfortably afford. After all when it’s dried it will keep forever! (well almost).

BTW, drying foods is super easy. I’m self taught on doing it, canning and freezing were the way my mother and grandmother did things. Gary says he remembers his grandmother spreading clean sheets on the roof and drying apples up there when he was a kid, but that was the only experience he’d had with food drying as well.

I highly recommend two cookbooks on drying your own foods (and you can dry almost everything). They not only tell you how to dry the foods, they give you recipes to use the dried foods!

Those two books are:

Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrating Cookbook by Mary T. Bell

Making and Using Dried Foods by Phylis Hobson

I also recently stumbled across some interesting websites

http://everydayfoodstorage.net/

http://www.countryconsultant.com/

http://cookmyfoodstorage.blogspot.com/



There are numerous ones available and I really suggest you cruise around on them.

ON THE HOUSE FRONT:

Sean’s tax refunds came in so he is now a debt free (except for Sallie Mae) man. So he was anxious to get started on his place this weekend. Right up to and including going to the home improvement center and figuring out exactly how much each of the 16 pillars was going to weigh in just the raw materials (cement, cinder blocks and rebar) and that we would have had to unload it the minute we got home because of rain in the forecast. When the weight topped 1,000 pounds it was more than he thought the three of us could handle that late on Friday night. So the purchase was put on hold.

Good thing it was, the next day I found two coupons mixed in some mail that will save him $35 on the first $300 of his purchase. Around here that’s a lot of money. So if the weather is good we’ll get started on the footing pillars next weekend.



THE PROMISED RECIPES—all serve 4

To simply cook as a veggie:

Pour 1 c boiling water over 1 c asparagus spears or pieces. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender. This will yield 1 ½ c cooked asparagus



Cream of Asparagus Soup—using dried/powdered asparagus

In a soup pot melt the butter and cook  the flour

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

Season with:

Dash of nutmeg or mace (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper

Stir in:

¼ cup asparagus powder

1 1/2 cup milk

2 cups chicken broth or stock

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon onion powder or a small chopped onion

Heat over a medium heat until heated through thoroughly.

Asparagus Souffle

2 tbl butter

2 heaping tbl flour

1 ¼ c milk

¾ grated cheddar cheese

¼ c asparagus powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of nutmeg

5 eggs, separated

Melt the butter in a saucepan and then sprinkle in the flour. Remove from heat and whisk together well. Stir in ½ c of the milk and mix well again. Add remaining milk, whisking all the time a little at a time.

Return the pan to a low heat and cook until the mixture thickens, whisking as you go. Remove from heat and add all remaining ingredients except eggs. Let cool. This is your base.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat a six inch souffle dish, or four ramekins, in the oven to heat as it preheats just long enough to warm it. Then butter the dish/ramekin.

In a bowl beat the egg yolks well and then add them to the cooled base using a whisk.

Beat the egg whites until the form stiff peaks. Pour half of the base mixture over the whites, fold in gently. Repeat with the second half. Do not overblend.

Pour either into the souffle dish or ramekins

Bake:

Souffle dish 30 minutes

Ramekins 25 minutes.


Marinated Dried Asparagus (basically a pickled asparagus)

Place in a jar and then shake together well:

½ c oil

4 tbl. Lemon juice

1 tbl minced dried celery

½ tsp minced dried chives

1 dried bay leaf

1 sprig dried thyme

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground paprika

Pour over 12-18 dried split asparagus spears that have been placed in a serving dish. Refrigerate overnight. At serving time remove bay leaf and thyme sprig.

Monday, April 4, 2011

SIGNS OF SPRING AND SUMMER PLANS

April 4, 2011

As the wind blows heartily outside I think of how our spring has unfolded so far and our plans for the summer ahead.

We are determined to have a large, productive garden this year. Hopefully productive enough to fill our pantries and freezers for at least a year and to share heavily with family members and friends.

It has been slow going so far, but we are determined to do this. Just as the three of us worked so hard together to survive when both men were unemployed we are now working together on our spring and summer projects.

Yes, the “s” is suppose to be on the end of project. Because we have two BIG projects planned. The first is the garden of course. The second is the building of a small home for Sean to live in.

Some of you may remember how hard we worked three years ago clearing the land, putting in a drive way and utilities for a much bigger house than the one he is now planning. Then of course the big layoff and those plans had to be put on hold.

It is now three years later and he is still unemployed after working for a short while in the middle of those three years. Only there is a huge difference. By being VERY careful with his money, a la the Dave Ramsey plan he has paid off all his bills except his student loan, which is mortgage size.

So now he’s going to consider the student loan a mortgage and split his monthly snow ball between his loan payment and building a small house with cash only.

Since both men are excellent drafters and designers they have been designing the “tiny house” as it started out. Basically it will be a 24’ x 24’ two story structure. Quite similar to the portable buildings you see at many home improvement centers. At that size it will be on the upper end of the term “tiny house”, but it was the smallest he could work out and get all his basics in for his needs.

He is also designing it so he can add on to it easily in the future when he has a family.

So that’s our two projects. You can guess what a good lot of my posts will be about as the spring and summer go forward.

In fact here’s the first update on both.

IN THE GARDEN:

Here at the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch we garden organically via the “Lasagna Gardening” method. (ref: Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens; No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding by Patricia Lanza) and we plant intensively. This year we are planting in rows rather than doing square foot gardening (ref: All New Square Foot Gardening; Grow More in Less Space by Mel Bartholomew.) We also companion plant for natural pest control (ref: Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte.)

Because we didn’t get around to adding the layers to the garden this winter, or building the fourth garden, we are doing so as we go now.

Over the last two weeks we have built from the ground up a new grape and berry garden. This raised bed is three landscape timbers high and 24’ x 2’ in size. We used some old timbers we had on hand for most of the construction, but we did have to purchase spikes and some timbers to do it. It is located in the extra wide walkway we had between the other three gardens.

Once the structure was built we lined the bottom with paper feed sacks to block any possible weed growth. The bottom layer was pine straw/needles, this we topped with a thin layer of peat moss, followed by pond mud, then compost, peat moss, pond mud, poop coop, peat moss, and finally pond mud.

About that pond mud. My mother swore that the best garden soil came from the bottoms of rivers and ponds because all the good top soil washes into these watery holding spots. Our ponds are currently very low. So that’s where we’ve been digging trailer loads of mud from.

Not only do we get that top soil, but we get fish emulsion and we help keep our ponds from filling up with dirt doing this.

We finished up building the new garden and into it we planted the first two Thompson Seedless grape plants. Two Red Flame Grape plants will also be added to it as soon as we find some at a reasonable price. (I paid $2.50 each for the white grapes). We are after all on a budget and have to keep our garden costs down.

Around the base of grapes Sean planted nearly 50 Ozark Everbearing strawberry plants. Later this week we will add spinach and carrots to that bed, along with marigolds to help keep rabbits out of the garden.

Once we put in the grapes and strawberries we moved on to the first row in the 24’ x 24’. Again we built layers in the same method. This row we made four landscape timbers high, and about 12-18 wide and runs the full length of the garden. In this row we planted Laxton green peas, Triumphe de Farce bush green beans, mixed lettuces, Touchon carrots and marigolds. I’ll be adding a photo of the first row to this post shortly.

Next will be a lower walkway lined with paper feed sacks to block weeds. This is where we will start on our next part of the garden. It will be another raised row built in the same method. I’ve not decided what is going in this row yet.

I’ve not seen any asparagus growth in the big garden yet, I’m hoping it’s simply because it’s been too dry, but I think the gophers may have got most if not all of my asparagus crowns over the winter. The garlic bulbs we missed last fall have sprouted wonderfully and there are numerous garlic plants growing well there.

Over in the 24’x 8’ garden Sean discovered we hadn’t dug all of our potatoes properly last year and we have several volunteer potato plants with tops nearly a foot high already. We will probably finish filling this bed with potatoes and things that can be companion planted with it. The horseradish is of course growing well still in that garden.

This last weekend we planted two blueberry plants and two thornless blackberry bushes in huge flower pots as well.

ON THE HOUSING FRONT:

Sean and Gary have worked very hard on the house plans and nearly have them to the point construction could start soon. This weekend we went to the building site to get an idea on where to start construction and how much effort is going to be needed to make sure the house is level.

While we were at the site Gary mowed the area to give us an idea of how big Sean’s house will be. Not huge, but just perfect for a single man. As soon as the plans are firmed up all add floor plans and artist renderings of what the house will look like when completed to the blog as well.

So that’s what is going on in my world right now. Happy Spring everyone.

Jan who thought she was going to blow away in these high winds yesterday in OK