Monday, September 24, 2007

which is which?

I snapped this photo of two bees on a bush. One is a honeybee and one is a bumble. Can you tell them apart?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

coming soon...taxidermy soap



Taxidermy soap! That's right, bear and deer heads to wash your bits with. What could be more badass than facing a grizzly in a shower huh? Nothing. Nothing at all. These will be pretty big and the molds won't be ordered for a while, but when they do they'll make a pretty rad gift with some homemade cowboy and indian grown-up pj pants for the tough guys. I bet Stephen Colbert would like some angry bear soap, I'll send him some to the show (I'm serious).

p.s. handmade clothes coming soon in cool patterns and fabrics. I've got the sewing bug and following patterns takes no time at all. Urban outfitter style ponchos being first in line. They'll have a warm wooly fleecy outside and a cool pattern inside. I'll see what i can dig up thats vintage and report back.

i saw a flurry!

This morning was one of those mornings where the temperature under the covers, next to Jazz was about 62 degrees warmer and fluffier than the world outside. I laid awake in bed scratching jazz’s ears and leaning on Annie till the moans from the silkie roosters got me up. I looked outside and thought it had snowed. The hay fields were white and frost capped, the grass was also glassy and white. No snow to speak of but it was well into the low thirties in the shade of the barn when I read the thermostat on the wall. I put on a pair of rag wool gloves without fingertips, a heavy sweater, a wool hat and a scarf and walked outside with a bag of scratch for the birds. All of which were up and trotting around mindless to the cold. I need to buy some insulation and an outdoor lightbulb and run it from the house to their coop. they need a light with a timer in there to keep them laying and to warm up the joint. It already has a thick layer of hay and a wool blanket keeping the wind out, but more mornings like this and they may start complaining.

I then checked the weather in Knoxville right now, 74 degrees, Geesh.

Don't worry mom, I ordered oil and I'll be all set before the trip.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

intense updating here

Last night, after work, I was outside reinforcing the chicken pen with tighter woven wire and fly-top netting. It is now nearly inescapable with a little door for me to get in when I want to collect eggs or give William a high five. I think that project is officially done. I also moved the Silkies back into their own mini coop/pen set up which has been super reinforced with the help of my trusty staple gun which I’ve known since I bought it to staple canvases together my junior year of college. So, let’s hear it for posterity.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

fence!

Yesterday morning I got a call, the last call, from my neighbors. Who told me they were done with my chickens getting into their yard. Something that used to never happen and now happens all the time. As the girls got more and more brave and used to their yard, they started wandering off into the barn area, then naturally ended up walking into the green lush grass of my neighbor's place. They're nice enough people, but if you're not into poultry you don't exactly want to wake up to Kevin the silkie rooster screaming in your yard. And it's not just the black kids; William is relentlessly brave and has taken them everywhere he can see, So the birds are getting a little to far into the fields, woods, and neighbor's very pretty lawns. All of these places dangerous and thriving with coyotes, eagles, replublicans and dogs.

So, it was time. I had to build a fence.

Last night Diana came to the rescue. I drove home with her and Bruce to Floating leaf and helped with their nightly chores. Their calf Kingsford is adorable, a month old and solid milk chocolate. I try not to get to attached to them because in a year hell be a side on their china (thus the food-related names this years slaughter calf is called Mac), but damn they are cute when their babes. I collected eggs and we moved a giant hamster wheel shaped hay feeder closer to the red barn. By the time we were done the timed lights were coming on in her three chicken houses. It was getting dark and we were just starting to load up the truck with fenc building gear (Post holers look kinda dirty). We drove across the lake back to my farm and by the glow of the truck’s headlights we used a post holer to nail down five t-posts. Last we hooked up livestock fencing and then moved in the coops. It felt good to work with my hands and make something that produced an actual result after a long day of staring at computer screens. The night was followed by wine and pizza, which was well deserved.

Now the birds are kind of contained. This morning when I went outside Emily was already out and looking for her two male escorts that were too scared to come out and face William. Mary Todd Lincoln went AWOL and flew out over the bars (but everyone knows she’s crazy) So there are “adjustments” to be made to this whole fence thing, but it’s up and the neighbors can handle a few days of ironing out the kinks and escape routes. Or if anyone out there wants to buy me one of these, that would be great too.

Monday, September 17, 2007

pumpkin loaf

This recipe is easy to make and I suggest keeping it around for pumpkin carving time when you have no idea what to do with your jack-o-lantern guts. But that's no excuse to wait because it tastes great with canned pumpkin. The recipe can be whipped together from scratch in about ten minutes, and it has received rave reviews in the office here. You can make it into cupcakes, cake, loafs and anything else your heart desires but keep an eye on it if you're baking something less dense then a standard loaf. It's done when you stick a scour in and it comes out clean (which for a cupcake might be 45 minutes, not 75). Also, the smell of baking pumpkin bread might be one of the best fall smells you can start bringing into the house. Taylor, you'll be eating this and drinking cider in a few weeks.

Homemade pumpkin loaf

ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 table spoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin
2 big eggs
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup veggie oil

Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl, and all wet in another. Mix wet into dry and whip with a wooden spoon into a wet batter. Bake in a greased bread loaf for 75 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top after it cools, or if you want to make it amazing, spread a hearty layer of creamchesse flavored icing on top. Which I recomend.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Raven Soap

Now in the Etsy shop and just in time for Fall. The same mint, beeswax and goatsmilk blend from before but in a snazzy and seasonal creepy shape. A raven hunched over pumpkins, now whats more classic then that? It's a third larger than the other bars which are roundish. Looks nice in the hay or in your bathroom. And all proceeds go to chicken feed and dogfood, so shop darling, shop.

Get your soap here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

my empire of dirt

The following article and video are from the most recent issue of New York Magazine. A Brooklyn family man takes his 800-square foot backyard and makes it his soul source of food for one month. He spends his whole summer (march-August) making his home and yard into the smallest farm in New York City. It is fabulous, frustrating and inspiring. He’s doing exactly what the book I’m currently writing is trying to help persuade people to do (only, more fun and less crazy… he’s trying to accomplish in one summer what I want to accomplish in ten years) The entire several-page article talks about his experiences with planting, rabbits, chickens and other things I myself have grown pretty familiar with. With the “localvore” movement building, it’s a really fascinating read. You can read a blurb below and follow the rest via the link at the end.

"A farm essentially is... Dirt. Death. Sex."
-Manny Howard, The Farm Project

*******************

At 6:40 a.m. on August 8, the tornado hit my house in Brooklyn. Most people viewed it as a snow day in summer, a meteorological oddity. Not me. After a sleepless night listening to the wind and the rain intensify, I watched the sky turn green, then heard the hemlock tree in the yard next door split in two, clip the gutter on the third floor of my house, and bounce off the roof of what used to be our garage and had come to be known as “the barn.” As the wind torqued up even further, the limb of an oak torpedoed the most productive quarter of my vegetable garden, smothering a thicket of tomatoes, snapping the fig tree, pulverizing the collard greens, burying the callaloo, and splintering the roof of my main chicken coop.

That’s right, my chicken coop, which happens to be in my tiny backyard farm—800 square feet of arable land.

A tornado hadn’t struck Brooklyn since 1889, when Flatbush was farmland; this one laid waste to the lonely little farm that I had planted in my backyard and that, within days, I planned to rely on as my sole source of food for an entire month.

I started my farm, hereafter referred to as The Farm, in March, with my eye on August as the month I’d eat what I had grown. It was, in original conception, equal parts naïve stunt and extreme test of the idea that drives the burgeoning “locavore” movement. According to this ethos, we should all eat food produced locally, within 100 miles—some say 30—of where we live, so as to save our planet and redeem our Twinkie-gorged souls. Now that the “organic” label has rapidly become as ubiquitous and essentially meaningless as the old “all-natural,” the locavores have established a more sacred code, one meant to soothe our anxieties about what goes into the food we eat.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

perfection

When you bake your own bread, churn your own butter and get eggs fresh from your own chickens you will discover that French toast has hit a new plateau you had never dreamed of. Surely if you visit you will try this. Unless you’re one of those people who prefers pancakes or omelets or some other lesser breakfast eatable. Which I will also make for you- but will do so silently judging.

Monday, September 10, 2007

farm update

dogs
People ask me if I have any pets and I answer something like “Oh yeah, I have chickens and a hive of bees and some rabbits” and I completely brush over the dogs. Not because they’re forgettable but because Jazz and Annie aren’t pets. They are Roommates. They aren’t some creepy stand-ins for children, sub human buddies, or something I dress up for kicks, they’re just “Jazz and Annie”. I come home from work, dump my bag by the coat rack and start telling them about how crappy or dreamy things are at the moment. So I feel weird calling anyone I talk to regulary a "pet" This morning before work and after our walk Annie and I sat on the couch and watched an episode of Gilmore Girls with really really strong coffee; jadeite in my right hand and scratching her head with the other. Warm under a wool blanket. It was nice.

chickens
Okay. If reincarnation exists I want to come back as a rural vegetarian’s chicken. They live in such ways you and I could never dream. They spend their days laying in the sunshine or chasing grasshoppers around the lawn. They have a nonstop buffet provided for them. They are on no particular schedule, and have no real threats. And if the ladies want to sleep in while William patrols, they do. I’ve gone outside and met William in the driveway, said morning, and walked around to the coop only to find all the other girls still nestled together on the roost asleep. Probably dreaming about what all women dream about (Oprah and unicorn rides). Yes, these are happy birds.

bees
The bees are in push time. Thanks to my shoddy landscaping there is a wild array of non-mowed wildflowers and weeds producing pollen and nectar. I'm really hoping they keep up the good work, because they are the underdogs of the farm. They practically were goners when they lost their queen, then they were nearly overtaken by yellow jackets, and after that the drought made water supply at the creek almost non-existent. But they are still keeping on, and they might just make it through the winter yet. We’ll keep rooting for the home team, and this winter I’ll keep shoveling them out. I am a very exciting young person.

rabbits
I’ve learned that rabbits are a love/hate relationship. Generally, I like them. They are quiet, pretty and eat very little. Like everything else that lives here they require minimal attention. But they stink. I clean out their cages every three days and they stink. I come back from the rabbit hutches and the dogs go retarded convinced somewhere on my person is a delicious meal. Anyway, the Angoras and the Lop (named Fumiko after a friends’ grandmother) are hearty guys. I’ve now sheered the angoras three times and sold most of it online at Etsy. There’s a big market for pure angora (Angora goats don’t offer angora, they offer mohair) I’m a very very very small part of that market but it’s still nice to know that they pay for their own food and supplies and I get to hang out with a rabbit in my lap on occasion. Which at campfires is nice.

wildlife
So we’ve got a coyote named August, which you know about if you’ve been reading dogcoffin. He's doing well and patrolling daily in the back fields. But there’s also a Doe and her fawn that have taken up residence near the house. I named them Gwen and Oscar. Sometimes I’ll be doing dishes and catch a glance of Oscar running by the kitchen window and then Gwen will step over the chickens slowly and saunter by behind him. I like those two, they liven up the place. No moose have moved in from the bogs yet but I hope to see some cow/calf pairs by October. There’s a big coven of ravens that live in the aspens and a mated set of bald eagles too. And then there was this weird Saturday morning when I looked outside the front window and saw a turkey hen and her chicks (turks?) waddling along the driveway.

gardens
I have to go out and cover everything now because night temps drop into the 30s. So last night I was outside coving the gardens with 4mil plastic in an attempt to keep my lettuce and broccoli kicking into November if I can. So far, so good. Eggplants are coming in late, so are the peppers but I have high hopes. Tomatoes, they will slaughter the kitchen soon.

That's pretty much it. This is the home stretch till the first snow. Then everything shuts down and all i do is cook, bake, bitch about fall being over and play music. Which I enjoy doing, every one.

Friday, September 7, 2007

garden is still truckin' on

Friends and readers, let me tell you something that I am unequivocally certain of. No human family needs more than three zucchini plants. They. Just. Keep. Coming. I started getting zucchini the size of my forearm in late July, and now after frosts and rain and dead leaves the vegetables keep growing. I have made zucchini bread. Zucchini cookies. I have stir fried and grilled it. I have added it to soup and chopped it into salads. I have done nearly every goddamn thing a girl can do with zucchini (don’t be dirty) and it still keeps coming. When I show up at parties or to watch a move at a friends’, I bring zucchini. I’d be beside myself if I had this much luck with broccoli, but a person can only take so much zucchini. I’d stab my left hand for an eggplant.

Christ, just wait till all those tomatoes come in… The tomatoes pictured above are just the first of over 300 ripening others outside the front door on my 4 giant plants. Bruce and Diana are going to see me show up with two giant shopping bags and we're canning marinara all day soon. In case you were concerned.

And those little gourds. How about them, huh? Are they strictly decorative or can i make pumpkin recipe stuff from these, Heather? I ask you because of your intense history with compost pile gourds.

WINNERS!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

noodling

Making pasta is pretty simple. All you need is eggs and flour. And it takes less time to make and cook from scratch then it does to cook dry store bought noodles. All you need to do is this. Put a pot of water on the stove and put the heat on high to get it boiling. While that’s heating up, break an egg or two in a bowl and whip it into a yellow goop. Add flour a half cup at a time and mix it until you have a non-sticky dough (maybe a cup and a half tops?). Roll it out flat as you reasonably can with a rolling pin over a floured surface (so it doesn’t stick) and then also sprinkle flour on the top of it. Then roll your flattened dough up into a long rod (think of how cinnamon buns look in the mall before they slice them) then slice thin circles and unwind them into long pasta strands. Lay them out on a floured countertop or hang them from a coathanger while you work. Last, All you need to do then is put them in boiling water for 3 minutes and then (and this is the secret) mix the fresh noodles with a ¼ cup of butter, ½ tablespoon onion powder, and a ¼ garlic powder) serve with fresh basil and plain marinara. Get crazy and sprinkle cheese on top.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

night mares


One more tired thing,the gray moon on the rise
When your want from the day makes you to curse in your sleep at night
One more gift to bring. we may well find you laid
(like your steed in his reins)
Tangled too tight and too long to fight

Friday, August 31, 2007

four day weekend


I'll be away from the internet for a few days. Starting tomorrow I'll be on a small vacation. I'm planning on watching lots of deadwood and gilmore girls, writing, baking, and playing music that annoys the dogs. Maybe I'll smash Lookout Mountain but I'm not making any promises. You kids be good.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Saven

Some day, when I have a dozen Suffolks in the pasture I'll have a border collie. And that border collie will be a working dog that shares my home with the no-good rebellious sled dogs. I have already decided his name - Saven. Which is the 6,000 year old Scottish word for Halloween. He'll have yellow eyes, an all black coat, and putz around the farm with me. I can't have a third dog now. I can't have a third dog so much that I turned down a malamute/wolf hybrid puppy a few weeks ago because I know what I can handle. Yes, Jenna Woginrich turned down the chance to have a pet wolf. But I know what I can deal with - and a third big dog can't fit in a subaru, and I can't walk three dogs and stay in control. Jazz and Annie are everything two housedogs can be, and recently came back from their annual check up with rave reviews (minus Annie needed to drop 6 pounds and Jazz needing some dental work). But as far as overall health, they're gangbusters. More dogs means everything gets a little thinner, less attention and personal care. Adding a third dog to the family would make things too hard on me and the Siberians. Who wouldn't understand why Saven got to run outside off leash? And Saven wouldn't understand why Siberians are allowed to jump into a packed car with the sled tied to the top and be outside all day in the winter while he stayed in...

Oh, dogs. If you only knew the half of it this week.

But yes, Saven will be the border collie I hope to share my life with when my life is at a constance. Border collies seem to need more routine and solid ground then Jazz and Annie do. Or maybe I just have decided that a herding dog deserves a herd and I can't offer it to him yet. (I realize that boder collies as pets do not need sheep to be happy, I just want mine to have sheep) But I can offer trails and snow to the dogs in my life now. Maybe I can marry a hobby shepherd and wreck all his plans with dogsledding races and trips to Ireland. If you know this guy, tell him I make great pie.

Monday, August 27, 2007

mountain music for the masses

There are two things necessary for my mental stability - hiking and making music. I need to get outside and walk a few miles every now and again. And I need to be able to pick up an instrument and play it until my fingers hurt. It’s not so important how hard the hike was or how complicated the music gets. What’s important is the self-reliance of creating your own adventure and soundtrack when the mood strikes. If you’re into hiking too, and possibly interested in homemade music (but are convinced you can’t ever learn the guitar, banjo or fiddle) have I got an old friend I’d like to introduce you too…

The Strumstick. It’s basically the love child of the mountain dulcimer and banjo. And it’s made so that every chord you play is part of a chromatic scale. It weighs next to nothing, sounds like something right out of deliverance, and costs less then taking you and a friend out for a steak dinner. I recently got reacquainted with it and have been having a hoot taking it with me on the road or the trail. It’s perfect for back porches, campfires, and the beach and can hold it’s own in a bluegrass jam. You can pick one up from the original creator here, or find a multitude of knock-offs that sound just as good and even look a bit more interesting.

Keep pickin
-j

watch the flock


(sorry about the wind...)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

william


Meet William. He’s a one-year-old Welsummer rooster, and the newest addition to the farm. While chickens aren’t the most complicated livestock to raise, it does take a little management. Introducing a hard charger like him meant reducing the amount of males in the flock. Two of my silkie roosters found new homes on other small farms. So even though I am adding a new animal, I am now down to fewer birds then when the fair started.

So, William… William was the first place rooster at the fair. His owner, a sweet woman named Judy had a sign on his cage saying he was up for adoption. That he was a little to rough. We talked and decided to trade males. My silkie roosters are good guys and extra calm and gentle. We swapped last night and ended up with guys that better complemented our natures. I figured I could handle and appreciate William just fine. After all, my idea of a great time is being pulled over by wolves with robes. Oley!

After the fair was through, I packed him into the backseat of the Subaru with the help of Judy. When we arrived back at the farm shortly after, I had to decided what to do with him. Generally with hens, I wait till dark to put them in the coop with the others. They are too focused on roosting and going to sleep to care about another chicken cooing next to them. Kinda like if you’re staying at a youth hostel and you’re too exhausted to care at 3 Am if some random kid from Amsterdam rolled out a sleeping bag next to you. Anyway, come morning the new girl learns the routine the others created, and walks out into the world with them. I decided this is what I’d do with Will. While the other girls were scratching about the yard I placed him in the empty coop at dusk. He hated this. He carried on and flapped around like a crazy person. He didn’t understand why he was inside and locked in a coop when it was still light out and all those ladies were walking around free. But I was worried he’d be too confused about the farm to settle in. What if he panicked and headed for the coyote fields? Or worse, ran for the highway?

I decided to just let things happen how they would. Roosters aren’t new to the world and he probably had a plan of action set since I turned into my driveway. I opened the coop door. William flew out like a swan and landed like a Czech gymnast. I was in a bit of awe. Within moments Mary Todd Lincoln was dashing for him. Like her long lost lover showed up out of nowhere. So how about that for a welcome wagon? Within three minutes of landing on green grass William was having sex, dancing and singing. Something few of us get to do within the first moments of moving into a new house. Needless to say, William was a happy guy. The girls were man-starved and followed him around like groupies. William ate, drank, got laid and when the sun came down trotted right up into the chicken hutch and went to bed. Hell of a day.