Monday, September 29, 2008

Smoke and wind.

They don't mix well.

Two of the four fields surrounding us were planted in barley this year. After the barley was harvested, our neighbor burned the fields down. It wasn't terribly windy, just enough to move the fire slowly and move the smoke through our house. My head hurts.


Our plums are just now diminishing. We had a *lot* this year. I'm not sure what type they are - they're small. A full, ripe plum will fit in the center of your palm. But they're very tasty. The girls and I have spent many fall afternoons picking plums. We've canned three experimental plum recipes - a chutney, a conserve, and a steak and burger sauce, all from my *big* Ball book of preserving. The conserve we've tried already and it is *tasty*.

This is us heading down into the trees. The camera angle is wonky because Gray was on my back and right as I snapped the picture, I heard what I thought was violent projectile vomiting. It turns out that it *was* violent projectile vomiting, but since he was on my back, there wasn't much projecting.

*shudder*



We had a wonderful crop this year - more plums than we or our friends could harvest.

Hannah had a stick and she wasn't afraid to use it. The "dang darn goats" kept coming after her basket of plums.

So I shook one of the branches and tons of ripe plums came down. That kept them busy for awhile.

Long enough for Ainsley to try the plums and realize she liked them.


Really liked them.

Liked them enough to defend them herself when Tamari got bored with the goat's pile under the trees.

Hannah handed me one of these double plum anomalies and said "Look, Mother. They look like your breasts."

Isn't she sweet? I *wish* that's what my breasts looked like.

In the interest of being totally, completely, fully, and unnecessarily honest, I have to say that *this* is closer to what they look like these days.

What can I say? Nursing does that to a girl.

At least it's not as bad as all this yet...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gleaning.

Here in our little corner of the world, there are a lot of potatoes grown. In modern, large-scale farming, the tractors that harvest potatoes miss quite a few potatoes. Some farmers call up friends and family and tell them "I'm harvesting tomorrow, see you there." Then those friends and family call *their* friends and family and the result is a field full of fun. Adults gleaning potatoes for the winter and kids meeting new kids and playing.



Or gathering potatoes. I make my kids work. Doesn't she look thrilled about working?



She was actually a stellar little helper. She loved filling up the bags.


Her sister liked the novelty of it for - oh, about as long as it was a novelty. Almost a full minute. She liked the strange shaped potatoes that you don't find in stores.


Then she got bored and grabbed my camera, so you get a shot of me for once. Her pictures (and commentary) will be up on my other blog in a few days. I'll link there when she's done. My current header is a picture she took that day.


We got a lot of potatoes - enough to last the winter and spring (I didn't even have to buy any, like I'd worried about when I was digging potatoes for Hannah all summer) - but when my husband came home, he wanted to go back to the field and get enough for his parents and some of his siblings. I also got enough for my sister.


That evening, our friends showed up about the same time we did and the girls went running over to say hi. They helped them pick potatoes for about ten minutes and then came back. Don handed Hannah a heart shaped potato and said "Will you be my valentine?" He said she thought about it for a second and then said "I better not. I kind of love my mother."

Usually, gleaning is done by following behind the tractor and picking up potatoes that may have been brought to the surface but weren't picked up or shuffling your feet through the soil to pull up any that weren't brought all the way to the surface. It's back breaking work made worth it by the community spirit and the free potatoes. Not that potatoes are that expensive here.

This field, however, was wonderful to glean in. It's a test field - the farmer was testing yields of a new type of potato for a university. This meant that the tractor was manned by men who took one box of potatoes at a set rate and dumped the rest of the potatoes that had been dug into nice, neat piles. It was just a matter of sitting by a pile and pulling out the potatoes you wanted. Big baking potatoes, tiny potatoes, funny shaped potatoes for the girls.


Gleaning is a problem for some farmers for a couple of reasons. Some farmers think that if they let people glean in their fields, that reduces demand for potatoes in the store, so they're taking money out of their own pockets by letting people take them. For other farmers, they have problems with uninvited gleaning - people who stop their car on the side of the road and glean out of the fields without asking. So these farmers, once they're done digging, disk around the edges of their fields.

Something I don't understand - some farmers call up the food banks and homeless shelters and invite them to come glean. They've tried this in the past and the people who go to the food shelters won't glean, the reason most given is that it's "humiliating". Interesting way of looking at it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Apparently, thinning *is* important. Whodathunk?





Notes for next year: Thin. Or not. Those are cool carrots.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Damn earwigs.



After a nuclear war, those little buggers will still be alive, swimming around in nuclear waste. I come as close to hating them as I do to hating anything.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"I hear kittens!"



*sigh* Yeah, I hear them too. Poor things. I was able to keep the girls distracted enough for a few weeks that they didn't notice that A) Desiree was no longer "fat" and B) I was always moving their play away from the lilac bush.

Unfortunately, Desiree is gone. Disappeared. Probably kaput. No more. Owl dinner. And her kittens, still just three week old babes at the time, were very hungry and yowling up a storm. I left them as long as I felt comfortable, hoping that Desiree would come back, but she didn't and as the kittens got louder, the girls noticed them.

So, in they come, putting my marriage on the rocks. My husband has a "thing" about house cats. Even if they're starving orphans.

Want to meet them?

This is Marie. She's a loner who likes quiet laps to cuddle on.


This is Toulouse. He's a tiger who likes trying to beat up his sisters, but I think he's going to be a big softy who likes to sit in a window seat and look down on humans and dogs alike.

This is Beep Boop Beep-beep Boop Beep Boop Bee. But you can just call her Beep. I got clearance to give her that nickname as long as I remember her full name. She likes pulling Marie around by the tail and romantic walks on the beach.


Their grandma is a wonderful mouser - think I'll be able to make barn cats out of them?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cherry pickers

Our cherries had a bumper crop this year. Sure, it was a few months ago, but I'm just now getting around to putting the pictures up. We have a plum crop ready to be harvested, so I thought I'd better take care of the cherry pictures.

The couple who lived here before us loved trees. They tried to get as many different types of trees to grow here in the desert as they could. These pie cherry trees took to the climate and proliferated. We have some up by our house along the driveway and quite a few down in what Hannah calls the "forest".

It was fun for the girls to pick the cherries, though most ended up in their mouths or fed to goats.

I picked cherries for a long time - they were very patient.

I washed, dried, and flash froze the cherries, dumping them after being frozen into freezer bags to use for pies. We're already down to bags because the girls love to eat them frozen.

We had so many cherries that my sister came out and we picked a bunch for her family also.

The goats wouldn't leave her alone. Her son was a bit nervous about them.

Before she left, she made us some cherry/lemon ice cream. It was amazing. She can come visit us anytime.

Notes for next year: Prune the "wild" young trees in the orchard. They're growing straight up, so we're losing the majority of the harvest there - even the birds can't eat them all.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Harvesting with the kids.

I count a garden resident a success if it can suck the kids in and keep their interest. In our garden, the potatoes are king.



You wouldn't think it, since they grow underground, so are invisible to the ultimate "out of sight, out of mind" demographic, but these have been the favorite vegetable to check progress on throughout the summer. The fact that they have lovely flowers didn't hurt with my girls.


I sacrificed about one plant every week so that Hannah could check the size and renew her confidence that Mother may actually know what she's talking about.



When we started getting potatoes big enough to do stuff in the kitchen with, I had to fend off requests to get more potatoes almost every night. I gave in most of the time. I'd rather keep her excitement about gardening alive and buy potatoes this winter than kill her desire to be involved. So at least three times a week, you'd see us heading down the driveway, Ainsley with the bucket, Hannah with the shovel, Chinde with the kind of optimistic hope that only a labrador can have that maybe *this* time we're digging up a bone for her.



So, notes for next year. PLANT MORE POTATOES. And different varieties. Fingerlings and blues to go with the reds and yellows. Even if Hannah has no interest next year, her sister more than likely will be much more aware, and probably will be interested in more than how many ladybugs she can catch. Not that that's not a worthy interest. In fact, notes for next year - introduce more ladybugs to the garden. They not only control the aphid population, they attract beneficials, like toddlers, to the garden. Notes for this year, stop tearing up every time you say 'toddler' because you realize that your little redhead is more 'girl' than 'toddler' now. Stop it. That's not dignified. *sniff*



With all of the freezes we've been having, our potato plants are almost completely dead on top and we'll be digging the rest of them up soon. Hannah wants to throw a potato themed party. I wish I were kidding. I'm an Oklahoma girl at heart - I don't understand these Idaho kids.



Here's our bounty for one evening's dinner - complete with the obligatory two carrots.



Life is good.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dan the Dog

Playmate

Babysitter


Cat herder

One hell of a partner

Friend

RIP Dan
2002 - 2008
I don't know how I'll get anything done around here without you.