Sunday, May 31, 2015

Daily Doin's, Last Week Of May, 2015

Robins.  I don't know if this is the family of the same Mama Robin who lost her babies some weeks ago.  All I know is that this nest was occupied by a Grackle earlier, and was vacated at about the same time that Mama Robin's babies turned up missing.  I was watching a documentary on Sage Grouses several days ago, and it was about a female Grouse who had her nest robbed of her eggs.  She went back to the place where she had mated, found the male she had chosen to mate with the first time, who, along with some other males, was waiting for "stragglers", if you will, and mated with him again.  They explained that, because she lost her first clutch, her egg-laying process would be accelerated by Nature.  Now, isn't THAT cool??  She did manage to raise half the second clutch.  Some of them were picked off by predators.   But that made me wonder about Mama Robin and whether the second clutch acceleration is true of all birds.  There are four in this nest, and it's up high enough to be safer.  They really fill up that nest. Of course we have lots of Robins and there is really no way of knowing if this is the same one.   But, could be.....

What with all the weather-related devastation that has happened all over the globe at what seems like an accelerated rate lately, plus the alarming increase in the rate of lives lost to disease and senseless killings, I sometimes mention to Hubs that we humans are beginning to be an "endangered species".  Of course we are too many in number right now but I wonder if the time will come when our birth rate doesn't exceed the death toll.  Frankly, if I were of child-bearing age, I doubt I'd be brave enough to even have children.  I remember a lot of young couples were thinking along the same lines in the 1960's and things are ever so much worse now than we ever thought it would get back then.

I imagine there's not one person in central US that will be unhappy to see May over with.  We have had more rain this month than we've ever had during ANY one month in all recorded history.  I woke up in the middle of the night to the sickening sound of water dripping in the house.  I got Hubs up, and we started looking for the source.  It was trickling down the vent pipe for the bathrooms.  It took three days to get the roofer over to look at it, and when he did come over, all the did was caulk.  In the meantime Hubs had rigged up a bucket to catch the water.  It went down inside the walls, we never did see where it came out at.  I'm keeping on the lookout for mold.  We have had problems with rain water coming down in the inside of the fireplace, had the fireplace sealed and that took care of that.  But we check it nearly every time it rains hard now.  I was thinking, you know, stuff like this can happen and it isn't always very often to notice.  By the time we knew the vent pipe was leaking, our insulation was wet.  So I think, when it's raining good and hard, that's the time to go up into the attic, listen, and look around.  Also check around the ground floor and see if water's coming in anywhere.  What's that my Grammy used to say?  "A stitch in time saves nine". 

We have a new wild critter visitor on RockWhisperer Hill.  We have not seen it but the clues are unmistakeably clear.  It is probably an Armadillo, migrated here from Texas.  It has only been during the last couple of decades that we have actually seen Armadillo Road Kill in this part of Oklahoma, and that, of course, is your first clue as to what kind of wildlife you have.  They dig for grubworms and I think they eat ants, too.  That would be a good thing, if they weren't so verrrrry destructive in the process.  They run a close second to the opossum for being the ugliest dang critter there is.  I just Googled them and apparently they like fruit and lettuce, too.  Yet another reason I'm glad the garden is securely fenced.  I wouldn't think they are able to climb trees but if they eat the fruit that falls to the ground, that could be another good thing.  So now we've figured out the silver lining in the cloud, haven't we?  I think this critter has even been in our yard, at least once.  Last week the rabbits showed us a gaping hole in the bottom of one of the gates that I would've sworn wasn't there before, and I remember seeing a spot out by the sheds where it looked like the ground was roughed up, and thinking, "Hmmmmmmmm".  Hubs has repaired that spot, but the fence that's around the yard is old, and poorly installed to begin with, so an Armadillo could bust right through almost anywhere.  The new fence installation will have that horizontal wire that runs along the ground, through the bottom point of each row of the chain link, and that is how the garden fence was done.  Joe's black lab, Beau, actually killed an Armadillo last winter and it layed out by the road, stinkin' to high heaven, till Joe disposed of it.  Beau would climb their 4' chain link fence and then he would hunt all night.  But this spring he went to live with the daughter after she bought a house and moved, so we have lost our best wildlife hunter. 

Hubs and I did go out to the garden on Monday and we planted all those onions.  I updated the onion post (previous to this one) with a picture at the end rather than put it here, because I want it to all be in one place.  He planted most of the Ailsa Craig onions, as I wasn't able to bend over.  I stood there with the tray and handed him an onion at a time.  Hubs at that point announced he doesn't like to garden and if I wasn't here to plan, grow seedlings, and plant, all he'd have in the garden would be tomatoes.  Yeah, and he'd be buying all hybrid plants, tilling, adding chemical fertilizers and chemical bug and disease killers.  Really not much of a step up from just buying tomatoes at the grocery store.  He tells everybody that he stays out of our garden unless I specifically ask him to do something in it, and that's true  -- unless it has to do with the weed-wacker.  And then, it just seems like I can't keep him out of the garden with THAT.  Of course he doesn't mention that part, and they tend to think he's afraid of getting in trouble with me by going into the garden without permission.  Like I'd beat him up or something.  Puh!  It's his choice.  I don't know why people are so prone to believe that, if we had one of those doormats that says, "One Nice Person And One Old Grouch Lives Here", the Grouch would be me.  It's not like he never gets hacked off.  He just doesn't write about it on a blog.  I'm not saying I'm not an "Old Grouch" sometimes.  I'm saying the doormat should say, "TWO Old Grouches Live Here".  Just so ya know....

By afternoon, I was feeling some better so I went to the garden and planted all the New Dawn onions and about twenty small Ailsa Craigs that we ran out of room for in the row.  I just carefully got down on the ground and crawled along, dragging the tray of onions as I went.  We have the walkway covered in wood chips so it was reasonably dry there.  It had not yet rained that day.  Pretty muddy in the garden otherwise.

On Tuesday, Hubs mowed.  It was really too wet, but he can't stand tall grass.  There were several places where his zero-turn riding lawn mower tires left ruts, something he gets real irritated about if somebody else does it.  The iris are all done blooming now so I went around with my hand pruner and nipped off all the flower stalks.  I found that bringing along a bucket that I could turn upside-down and sit on helped get the job done without killin' my back.  I looked around in the garden till I found a spot for about half a row and got those sprouted Provider bush beans out of the refrigerator and into the ground.  I'm not crazy about bush beans because they're such a pain to pick, but these are supposed to be Pinetree's most popular bean seed so I thought I'd give them a try.  If my Fortex do well and if I can get seed from them, I might eventually plant all Fortex.  The main thrust right now is just to get something that's worth canning for the winter.

Here the Fortex are shown planted on both sides of both sides of one arched trellis at the south end of the garden.  Pardon my weeds and garlic.  The garlic will be pulled before very much longer.  All I can say about the weeds is, "Well, I'll try."  I had some seed that was marked as Fortex last year but they ended up being bush beans.  So I don't know if they were mis-marked, or if they had been grown from Fortex beans and crossed with something else.  Mis-marked seeds happen occasionally from the big seed vendors, so I can see how easy it would happen in smaller plots, but it is a step backwards to spend a season growing something and find out it's inferior to what I thought I was growing.  I think those people who sell small packets of seed on Amazon and eBay are reselling seed they've bought in bulk, rather than seed they grew themselves.  I'm all for encouraging small businesses, but without QC and a real concern for their reputation, there's always the chance they're going to send you old, mis-marked, or mis-identified seed.   I was pretty sold on Lazy Housewife for several years, but seems like since we moved here, they've occasionally been stringy.  I've saved seed every year and maybe they have crossed with something else somewhere along the way.  Last year I ordered a little packet of Lazy Housewife beans and the beans weren't even the right shape.  I grew them out, far removed from the rest of the garden, and the pods were short, not very prolific, and went dry very quickly.  I shelled the beans and used them in the next pot of beans I made, pulled up the plants and disposed of them.  I've only got onions planted in that bed now so if any beans fell to the ground, I'll know what they are and pull them up if they germinate.  If the Fortex vines don't do well, such that I have to order seed, I think I'll try Emerite.  Pinetree has started selling them and they have gotten verrrrry good reviews.

I have been picking Nanking cherries every day.  Saved them in the refrigerator till after my eye appointment on Thursday. They are a real pain to pit, being small and mostly skin, pit and some juice.  I'll go ahead and soldier on with them this year, but next year I might just put them in the apple press or the Squeeze-O and just save the juice.  All of that depends on whether we like the jam that will be made from this year's pitted cherries well enough make this tedious, messy job worth it.  I'm kind of thinking ahead to a spoonful of cherry jam in my unflavored yogurt, with maybe some slivered almonds.  Or I might start making low-fat granola.  Mmmmmmm.  I'm not sure if the Hansens Black Cherry bushes will do any good this year.  The bushes were loaded with green fruit, and some of it has turned red, meaning that they will be ripening into black very soon, but none of it is plump like it was last year.  Where they are planted is a good place when the weather is dry but they have stood in water for most of this month. 

I got one of those mass-generated e-mails from Marjorie Wildcraft the other day and her topic was Eating Insects.  Yecccchhhhh!  But, my curiosity got the better of me and so I watched her presentation and then did a little research and it seems they expect insect-eating to be the next trendy thing in expensive restaurants since sushi.  I could never stand the thought of eating raw fish so I'm 'way behind the Trendy Wagon, I guess it won't hurt me to get a little further back.  But I think I'd be more likely to try a cooked insect than I would be to try raw fish.  The World Health Organization is now making an effort to encourage more people to eat insects as a way to end world hunger.  Apparently everyone but Americans and Brits already do.   And I know that military personnel have had insect-eating experiences as part of their survival training.  Apparently certain insects can be quite tasty, although there are others that are 'way down on the other end of the scale.  They say insects are high quality protein and good fats.  All this aside, you DO know that we have all eaten insects before, right?  IF we have eaten processed foods.  And from my research I did find a guy who had a good tip for how to stun grasshoppers so you can catch them more easily, which I wish I'd seen when I was wanting to give grasshoppers to my chickens.  You simply cut a good-sized leafy tree branch, walk out into the grass till the grasshoppers start to jump out ahead of you, and then you smack the ground in front of you with the branch, run forward and pick up the grasshoppers before they start hopping around again.  Demonstration HERE.  Something else for me to do for the amusement of my neighbors.  Seems like, though, a lot of energy has to be expended to catch insects.  You might burn more calories than you end up getting and starve to death, anyway. And then it's not really safe to eat them unless you cook them in hot coals or boiling water.  That means, gotta find firewood, build a fire, etc., etc.

I saw this on Thursday:
Rainbows are supposed to mean it's done raining, right?  Well, it's just a pale one.  Maybe it's just a test pattern.

Food Pyramid is having a sale through June 2 on chicken leg quarters, a ten pound bag for $4.60.  That's the drumstick and part of the thigh.  They cut creatively and get part of the ribcage in there too but that's ok because that'll go into the stockpot.  They also had pork tenderloin for $1.49 a pound, and they will cut and wrap to order.  Hubs dropped by on his way home from the workout center on Friday and got some of each.  I told him to ask them to cut the pork loin into 1" slices and make four packages out of the loin.  This is some good, lean meat.  We each had a slice, rolled in flour, salt and pepper and then fried for supper that night.  We had fried okra from the freezer.  Hubs had left-over potato salad and I had some sweet potatoes from the freezer.

I have dinked around on this post a little bit each day and now it's Sunday and the last day of the month, so I will publish today.  We finally had a day with no rain on Saturday, and Mesonet forecasts that we will have no rain for at least the next seven days.  I have started handing lettuce out to whatever neighbors will accept it.

On Saturday we hit a few garage sales.  I didn't find much.  A woven throw rug for $1, four regular-mouth canning quarts for a dime each, a pitcher that looks like it was hand-blown but probably was mass-produced just to look that way, for $1. 
I had a young woman try really hard to sell me an "antique" metal bed frame that was king size.   I was polite and didn't laugh when she insisted it was very old and very rare because there "just weren't many king-sized bed frames made back then".  Oh, my dear, it's not old, it's just made to look like it is....  But it had a certain charm and I might've bought it if it was for a queen-sized bed.  The price was too high for me to buy it for the garden.  At the estate sale, I bought four cookbooks.  The small ones were a quarter, and 50 cents for the bigger one. 

I really like the Jell-O cookbook, copyrighted in 1963, a Blast From The Past.  That was right about when Dream Whip was the newest form of "whipped cream".  Dream Whip was powder in a package that you mixed with milk and whipped it up with your mixer.  They hadn't invented fake whipped cream in plastic tubs yet.  So anyway, a lot of the recipes call for a package of Dream Whip, prepared according to package directions, and in some places, the recipe specified "OR 1 cup of whipping cream, whipped".  So there you have your conversion clue.  After we left the farm and Mom didn't have fresh cream from our cow anymore, she absolutely refused to buy cream.  Instead, she bought cans of Milnot.  Milnot was displayed on the grocery store shelves with evaporated milk.  It was cheaper because it was a soy product made to taste like evaporated milk, and if it's chilled, it can be whipped like cream, just as evaporated milk can.  Of course those of us who have actually sampled evaporated milk know there is a certain un-cream taste to it.  I had a brother-in-law who actually preferred it in his coffee, but mostly if people had the choice between evaporated milk and cream, they'd take cream, hands down.  Still, for Jell-O concoctions, the "evaporated milk taste" would meld with the Jell-O taste, which is also fake flavorings and colorings, and we did so love our fake flavorings and colorings back in those days.   All this to say that this little Jell-O cookbook, with an index that fills seven pages, is still usable today, whether you want to still use Dream Whip (I think it's still sold in grocery stores), or Cool-Whip (which is what most Jell-O recipes call for now), or evaporated milk, or cream.  There's a recipe for Milnot Cheesecake on THIS blog, I guess somewhere along the way people believed Milnot will whip and evaporated milk will not but that is just not true.  I've used them interchangeably for years. 

I was, though, kind of disappointed in the cookbook said to be "Favorites From Capper's Weekly".  Some of you won't be familiar with Capper's Weekly.  It was a newspaper that they were still mailing out to people once a week when I was a girl during the 1960's.  I think it was published in Iowa.  Now it's morphed into a magazine, I think Ogden Publications bought them out, but not sure.  It's not anything like the homey little black-and-white newspaper it once was.  It had farm news on the front pages and within the pages inside were recipes, letters and household tips from Midwestern readers, advertising for Kate Marchbank sewing patterns that you could order, and my mom did order a lot of those.  Even some wood-working patterns as well.  I think the rocking horse that I had as a child was made from a Capper's pattern. 
No, my feet weren't nearly that big.  I've got my older sister, Judy's, majorette boots on for the picture. 

The recipes offered within its pages were tried and true, made from ingredients most farm women already had on hand, and in fact there was a section where people would write in and say they were looking for a certain recipe that they had and lost, or they'd describe something they remembered eating when they were growing up, and so on.  I've saved many of those.  But had I put together this little cookbook I probably would've chosen different recipes and in fact it just feels like one of the many cookbooks you can find anywhere, where certain groups compile a cookbook from offerings from their members as a fund-raising activity.  

We stopped at Aldi's and at WMT on the way home.  Even though it was not raining, I was still in "Lazy Slug Mode" and didn't do much.  I picked two more quarts of Nanking Cherries.  When pitted they will probably yield about a pint less.  I think I have about two gallons of them in the freezer now.  I had started packing them away in the freezer in smaller containers and then I thought about how dumb that was, if I'm going to make jam with them anyway.  I'm forever finding one lost container of frozen fruit in the freezer after I've made all the rest of it into jam.  So after that I dumped a couple of the frozen ones out of their containers into this gallon ice-cream container and filled in the spaces as I got more of the cherries pitted.  I probably have enough smaller containers to fill another gallon, still in the freezer.

Freezing turns them very bright red.  Hmmmm.  Might make good pie.   Cherry is Hubs' favorite kind of pie.  If you've priced pie filling lately at the store, you know it can be as high as around $3 a can.  It takes one can to make an 8" two-crust pie.  But then, check the price of a frozen pie.  Yipes!  Canned pie filling can be bought for less at Aldi, by the way.  But you may have noticed, as I have, that canned pie filling is mostly cornstarch-thickened juice and darn little actual fruit.

I was a week post-op from cataract surgery on my left eye last Wednesday.  Had my second post-op appointment at Grisham's and Dr. Jeff was very, very pleased.  So was I.  The left eye is my "best" eye and I have 20/20 vision in that eye now.  Haven't had any trouble or discomfort at all like I had with the other eye.  I don't notice "tasting the eyedrops" like I did with the other eye and so I'm not having a sore throat or any acid reflux problems.  Even though I do have some epi-retinal macular degeneration in this eye like I did the other one, I don't believe it needs surgery.  But Dr. Jeff and I will talk that over when I go for my one-month checkup. 

Well, my dears, this day has begun and there is much to be done today, so I will get this published and get on with it.  Till next time,

Rock on.  Hugs xoxoxo


  1. Oh my! I hope you don't get as many armadillos as we have here! I saw signs of them in the yard yesterday ~ where were all those dogs when I need them! They make terrible deep holes in the hay fields that give a person a real jerk when she hits one with the tractor.

    The cherries look wonderful ~ haven't had a cherry pie in years!

    My garden things haven't been plowed since they were planted because of almost daily rains. I finally took a hoe and scrapped the grass from some rows. Peas are looking sorta yellow from so much rain and very little sun. So goes the life of a farmer....

  2. I guess I can put up with the Armadillos. What I AM dreading is when the raccoons start coming here. They say they can get into anything. I'll probably just have to give up gardening, or get myself a big dog, when that happens.


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