I intended to start blogging more this past spring. Russ and I planned and carried out some new gardening and poultry projects. Just as the academic year was ending, I took on project at a work that kept me from blogging, so I'll try and give a brief update.
For the first time in several years, the garden is living through the summer. In the past, I've had great luck with peas, which come early in the summer, and then everything else dies as soon as it gets hot. Life in the desert is extraordinarily hot. In previous years, we watered the garden by hand, and this proved insufficient. We simply couldn't get enough water into our plants and they withered and died without producing much of anything to eat. Over the winter, we came to the conclusion that we needed to put a drip irrigation system into our raised beds. We installed this as we planted the garden and buried the hoses to reduce evaporation and it has worked wonderfully well. The vegetable plants are thriving and nothing has died. I might actually be able to call myself a gardener now.
Monday, December 6, 2010
I'd always known that Russ wanted a dog. I like dogs and years ago it seemed like a good idea. More recently I had decided I wasn't interested in the additional mess and responsibility of a dog, not with two toddlers to care for. I came up with the perfect compromise - we'll get a cat! In my imagination, getting a cat was going to be great. We would feed it and it would take care of itself, occasionally letting us pet it.
I was still under the impression that the cat was the right option when I arrived at my sister-in-law's for Thanksgiving. She has two cats and we have spent lots of time there before, but I had previously failed to see exactly how much her cats hate my children. I realised that we would have to find an exceptionally patient cat to live in our house and that would be tricky. It might end up hating my children anyway. Toddlers are not cat people. A dog would be a better fit for our family.
I hadn't yet told Russ of my change of mind. A week ago, he mentioned that he'd been on PetFinder and had seen an adorable pug-poodle cross. I surprised him when I suggested that we go and see it. We made some tentative plans to see the dog, but Russ found out that it was being spayed and not ready for visitors.
On Saturday morning, we wanted to look at puppies and ended up at the local pet shelter. We were only there to look. The shelter didn't have any dogs there that were right for us, but the guy mentioned that they had a cocker spaniel at an adoption event in town that might meet our needs. We had a free morning, so we headed over to the adoption event. There were lots of adorable black lab puppies, some older dogs and then we found Homer. He was just the right size - a medium-sized cocker spaniel with a beautiful cream/golden coat. I could tell that Russ was immediately taken with him. We took Homer for a little walk with the girls, who both had to hold the leash. We were having a hard time deciding if we should wait to see if the pug-poodle would eventually be available to us or possibly get Homer, when I did something unusual for me and made the bold decision to take the dog home. We filled out some forms and Homer was ours.
The first 24 hours were a little overwhelming. Homer was very excited and also had some diarrhoea. Our second day with him has been much better. Russ and I have been on a number of walks with him and he is calm now. He's doing really well with the girls, though I think he was somewhat confused when Alex and Rosie tried to feed him imaginary food this morning. He'll get used to it. We're glad to have him.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Last night we harvested our honey for the first time - 17.5 pounds of the stuff. We haven't yet bought a fancy motorized extractor, so we had to use the crush-and-strain method. First, we had to remove the frames from the super. This was tricky, as the bees glued the frames firmly into place, leaving brown goo (propolis) everywhere. Then, we had to cut the honey out of the frames and mash it with a potato masher. Russ purchased a special food-grade bucket and appropriate strainers. Once the honey and comb were sufficiently mashed, the mixture went into the strainer. One day later, we were ready to complete the process and filled 17.5 one-pound jars. It was very exciting to actually fill the jars and see how much honey we produced. The kitchen was covered in sticky honey and propolis, but it was worth it.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Russ bought me this book for my birthday. I used to make a lot of bread, but haven't in a long while. I often start thinking about dinner at 3:30 in the afternoon and by then its too late to make bread that will be ready for dinner at 5:30. This book offers a whole new method for making bread. Instead of taking three hours start to finish, this book gives instructions for making a large batch of high-moisture dough, no kneading required, and keeping it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you want to eat bread, you cut off a lump of dough, shape it, let it rise for 40 minutes and bake it. I've been impressed with the results, though I've only made the first recipe.
The great thing about this approach is that the longer you leave the dough in the fridge, the more flavor it acquires, akin to sourdough bread. Russ and I have tried keeping a sourdough starter a few times and they are a lot of work. This method really is an easier, tastier bread. Alas, my loaf doesn't look quite as perfect as the loaf on the cover, but I'm determined to get there.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Nothing improves my day more than a fresh ripe peach from my own tree. I've been potty training Rosie for the last month, which comes with many frustrations. Potty training accidents eat up all of my patience. I finished cleaning up another terrible accident just before lunch and was starting to feel grouchy. Then I sliced up one of these and shared it with the kids and the whole incident was forgotten. It was full of real peachy flavor that I hadn't tasted in years. A truly transformational peach.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Russ planted sunflowers in front of our house a few months ago. I've never been much of a flower person, so I was a little sceptical. They grow quickly - the tallest of these is probably eight feet high - and in the last week they have started to bloom. I've spent the last hour sitting in the front room admiring the flowers while the rest of my family is in bed sick. They are beautiful.