Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do NOT Be Me

Arghhhhh....!!!!!! How do I put this?

Remember ALL those little seedlings I so triumphantly transplanted last week into Jiffy 8's? How splendid they looked? Need a reminder?

One Week Ago

There they were, all shiny and new. So HAPPY. Just like me.... a few slightly keeled over and no they did not make it but only 8 out of 50! Not bad!

Well, no one told me about MOLD!!!!! After only a week, there's mold growing on the outside of those little pressed cardboard squares!!!!!! I took this photo this morning, feeling all SMUG and SPECIAL because they were growing so beautifully and happy!

And then I took a closer look.....what is that fuzz I see on the outside...... OMG!!!!! Mold?

Sigh. Yes. We have been transtransplanting them all afternoon and they look DREADFUL!!!!! I hope they bounce back. Luckily, we hedged our bets and seeded the very same things last week and they are already up and leafing.

Ok, note to self:

1. try Jiffy 8s in the summer when they can be in the sun to KILL mold and see if you haven't WASTED a few dollars on all those pots.

2. DON'T water to oblivion next Spring! OR

3. DON'T use the Jiffy 8s indoors next year. Go straight to the plastic pods.

Up-Date: It's the morning following and I am please and relieved to relate that they plants have forgiven me overnight. They are all up and the tomatillos, which were they most aggrieved after the transplant episode, are looking decidedly perky. There may be hope for us (me) yet.
Stay tuned.

Buff Orpington is Not A Subway Station in London

It's almost Spring in St Tammany and we got to spend 3 hours in the garden yesterday. The sun was spectacularly warm and we got in the strawberries and onions. I started to dig out a huge sago palm which is planted (firmly, I might add) in the wrong place along with a friend. They are both coming out, with their little pups, to make room for a herb garden outside the backdoor.
But it was proving to be more difficult with what appears to be a substantial taproot so we might have to employ the tractor to heave it out. I was coming to this conclusion when John asked if I wanted to run errands with him. Great timing for a hasty retreat.

We ended up at the local Seed n Feed and popped in to get more scratch for the chickens. Oh BTW, pretty certain what we have is NOT a freak of nature but a rooster. He still does not crow but he barks like a dog. What an interesting farm this is turning out to be.
SO while John was bringing the truck to the back, I wandered in and found Biddies!!!!! Oh Boy!!! There were Barred Rocks, something I can't remember, the Americaunas were all gone (big surprise there) and 3 Buff Orpingtons.

Now these were the breed recommended by a chicken and quilt friend who even offered several to us but we declined her kind offer because hers were grown and we were leery about introducing 2 sets of grown hens into one small coop.

I have still wanted to have a few because they are really beautiful and hers are so sweet-natured. And I wanted to the next chickens we got to be some that were small so I could hold them and get them friendly to me so I can pick them up and administer to them whatever they need regarding health-care. I can't get close enough to the other 5 (soon to be 4).

3 Buffs, just sitting there, all alone in the world. Unwanted (except by ME). Unloved (I could love them something awful).
I wore him down. John bought them for me. Our $10.00 experiment. They are sitting in the brood box in the guest bathroom. I hope our guests this week won't mind sharing the space.......

You haven't lived until you've had a chick peck grub from your palm. Try 3.

Then one decides that sitting on your hand is just peachy.

And really, it is!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mother Earth News Pulls a Fast One

Anyone reading this blog knows how far we have come since last year. We could not have been as successful (yes we have had set-backs but those are learning curves) without reading resources, friendly advice, experimentation and perseverance. And money. Let's not forget that none of this is FREE. Except the advice. That is always free and greatly appreciated.

We have a shelf filled with books on pruning planting, great LSU guides to growing in Louisiana, Reader's Digest and an English Encyclopedia of gardening (always useful to see how how others do things) and several magazines, like Mother Earth News, Hobby Farms and Hobby Farms Home and seed catalogues. Honestly, they're scattered around the hearth and home like so much confetti. And I keep an eye out to new things because education never ends.

So I popped into the pharmacy the other day and scanned the magazine shelves and spied a new Mother Earth News mag. Last year's was great! If you are interested in a copy, keep reading. If not, here's a cool website.

I bought Mother Earth News, Wiser Living Series, Vol 6, SPRING 2010. Great! I was so impressed, I wrote them a letter.
Last year's issue was wonderful and so helpful in my recent transition to a more organic lifestyle. So it was with great anticipation that I bought this year's issue which I found 2 days ago on the magazine shelf of Walgreens! So much to learn and adopt in this new exciting lifestyle. Couldn't WAIT to get home and pour over it!

Imagine my surprise to find it is ALMOST exactly the same issue with a different cover. Oh yeah, there are few new or slightly rehashed articles. But really.....

Recycling takes on a whole new meaning with Mother Earth Snooze. Thanks...... I guess.

I bet they don't answer.

So if you have read this so far, and are interested in this redux, it'll be on the shelf TIL May 3, 2010, or 2011, or 2012. Hard to say, really.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Is It A Rooster? - Up-Dated

You may have noticed that I have added a poll for your consideration.

Is my chicken a rooster or a hen? You should have read by this time that we have a chicken that remains genderless. It is a cross-breed of a Silver Wyandotte and an I-Don't-Know-What.

Here you see a pretty good shot of "It" and Little Bit. They were both approximately hatched at the same time, 2 different clutches. They are about 16 weeks old now. It has always been larger than Little Bit.

This (below and to the right) is what a Wyandotte looks like; Pure Black and White. Notice the comb is quite small and close to the head and "It" has a large single comb.. Other than that, they are very similar. "It" has brown and mottled feathers as well. The one on the left is Ginger. I don't know her breed either. Someone said she's a Plymouth Rock Red. Don't know about that.

Here is "It" legging it when Gretchen gives chase. Or is that Gretel. So hard to tell the diff.

The evidence for:

Long strong legs, bright up-standing comb, stands erect and alert, and tries to mount with very limited success the definite hens (they tend to throw him off and give chase).

The evidence against: Has never crowed, no long tapering feathers (yet), no spurs, is chased by Gretchen and Gretel constantly, has never tried to mount Little Bit (it's roost-mate), and runs for cover when unsuccessfully attempting to mount a hen. Like this:

So what do you think this bird is? Vote Early. And Often!

I saw that someone has actually read this drivel of mine and voted....... but I could not see what the vote was until I voted, myself. I was highly amused to find only 2 votes (!) and we thought the exact same thing! So whoever you are, you first voter, apparently we think alike. That could be a scary thing for those who love you. I believe those who love me are just a little afraid I'm a nut.

And thanks for voting. By the time the ballot is closed, I hope we will have put the whole issue to rest (and not to roast). (Or stew)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Friday and It Snowed Again

Why not sew if you are a human or sleep if you are a cat?

Things are Greening UP!

It's Valentine's Day and it's been three weeks since we planted the first set of seeds. They came up nicely, some with multiple seedlings and stopped growing a few days ago. This must mean they want more space!

We started them off in Burpee 72 Grow Pods. I put at least 2 seeds in each spot (apparently I got alittle sloppy with the Cherokee Purples). 6 varieties of tomatoes, jalapenos, eggplant, butternut squash and tomatillos. Now when it comes time to repot them, I bought Jiffy-Strips 8, which is made of biodegradable cardboard. They're about 2" square. 8 to a strip, 32 to a pack, $1.97 Lowe's.

I started with the Romas and I think they don't like being manhandled much. Since there were several seedlings in each, I thought I'd try to "save" them all. This might have been a mistake. They look very droopy and unhappy. Check it out: (they're the ones that are keeled over in agony)

Keep in mind, they started out today looking like this! (perky, huh?):

But I got a lot better as I went on. At first, I was "washing" the seedling roots in a bowl to untangle them and I think this is what stressed the Romas so much. So I did my best to be gentle and worked my thru the Early Girls, Better Boys, tomatillos. Out of 3 pods of Cherokees, we ended up with 10 plants!
At one point I ran out of squares altogether and had to go back to Lowe's and on the return trip I thought rather than trying to separate all the plants, I would simply plant the whole little pod and cul the second or third seedling after they have had a week or two to figure out which is going to be the strongest in the pot. At that point I will cut with a pair of scissors the weakling(s). I really didn't expect such success. In fact, we plan on staggering out the growing season and I will plant again the same number of pods (more careful this time with the Cherokees) so that they don't all ripen at the same time like last year! SO I think we will have plenty of tomatoes this summer.

Only 2 butternut squash plants grew.....you can see them in the separate circular pots but I need much more than that if I want the success we had last year with this veg. I love them! So I will keep making more seedlings.

So there you have it, out of 36 pods, we have 50 tiny plants! Not bad. Much cheaper than trying to buy all those. But it is VERY early, too early to be counting vegetables. Much in the way of disaster may occur between now and transplanting day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Swedish Coffee Bread

My daughter called yesterday to tell me she used a packaged recipe from IKEA to make sweet rolls and was disappointed with the results; they were not as good as the ones she grew up with (naturally. I made them and learned how with my Mormor, straight from Goteborg and a master in bakery items) and wanted my recipe. Well why not spread the wealth in all cardinal directions?

Coffee Bread

2 Tbls + 2 tsp FRESH yeast. Look if you don't get that part of the recipe right, don't bother to continue
1 tsp sugar

1/2 cup (one stick) butter (I use unsalted)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg at room temp.
2 tsp ground cardamon. Really.
6 1/2 + white plain flour

Warm the milk til it bubbles along the edge of a medium sized pot and then add the butter, salt, sugar and cardamon. Remove from heat (you don't want it to boil or get super hot)
While that stays warm, run water til it is fairly hot on your fingers (NOT SCALDING HOT: that will KILL the yeast) and to 1/2 cup of this temperature water, add the 1 tsp sugar and the yeast. Stir til the yeast dissolves. It should start to foam and get progressively frothy. Don't let it overflow the container! Keep an eye on it.

IF IT DOESN'T foam, your yeast is old. Scrap it and start over.

Pour the warm milk into your mix-master using the Hook or if you are gonna do the old way, leave it in the pot and start adding the flour using a large wooden spoon (the wimpy ones will break. don't say I didn't warn you)(great! now you've got splinters in the dough!), little at a time til you've put in about 2 cups and keep stirring, beating. Now add the yeast, all of it and continue mixing and add that room temp egg! as you add all the rest of the flour. Wow, what a pretty color it becomes!

You will notice I added a plus sign up there with the flour requirements. That is because it usually takes MORE flour than 6 1/2 cups worth. But I never know HOW much. You will know when you have added enough when:

Mixer: the flour is flapping around the hook, whapping against the bowl and there is no sticky residue on the bowl itself. If you press a floured thumb to the mass, it should spring back. If it feels sticky, you need alittle more flour. If it feels hard, you used too much. Don't go there.

Kneading by Hand: The dough should feel very elastic and smooth and no lumps, no stickiness at all. It should be killing your arm muscles either. If you are exhausted, you probably have too much flour worked in. Again, don't go there.

Now, cover the ball of dough in a bowl (don't need to oil the bowl. Don't know where that idea ever came from) and let it rest til the dough has doubled in bulk. THEN:

Punch it down and turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times and divide into 3 equal portions. Roll each piece out to a rectangle and spread softened butter and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over the butter spread, Roll up and pinch the seam closed and slice the log into 1/2" "snails" and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper (no need to butter the baking sheet with these beauties) leaving plenty of room for the snails to expand, which they will! Cover the snails with cloth to rest again (approximately 20-30 minutes, you'll see them swelling up) and continue in the same fashion with the last two portions.

OR.... roll them into three long snakes and braid them together, turning under the ends. If you do THIS you don't add the butter, cinnamon and sugar. Obviously. Let the braid rest covered with a cloth to retain the warmth for 30 minutes or so.

Then brush with a beaten egg yolk with 1 Tbls of milk added to thin it and sprinkle with pearl sugar if desired. That is not necessary really but it looks like snow when it's been baked.

Now bake at 400 for about 10-12 minutes but keep a close eye on things. Bake the braid longer...... it's bigger!

All ovens are different and I would hate to think I made you burn your first batch by telling you to bake them too long. You know they are ready when the tops are lightly browned. LIGHTLY. Don't forget, the bottom is browning too, and you really don't want that part to burn!

Here's another thing: In Sweden, this recipe is the same for Lucia katter which are made for the St. Lucia festival except you would add saffron instead of cardamon as the spice. It make the dough even more yellow.

OK, my other daughter gave me a box of that Swedish Coffee Rolls from IKEA last October so I thought, why not make some and show what I mean by pearl sugar and snails

Here you see the snails after they have risen, brushed with the yolk and sprinkled with the sugar, ready to bake. They didn't rise NEARLY what they will when you use the recipe above. Big Difference, so leave that much room between the rolls, they'll need it.

Now here is another shape you can make:
Pretty, huh? Better than a braid because you can FILL IT!!!!

Roll the dough out, spread the butter, cinnamon and sugar, roll it up again and lay it on the baking paper:

Now with a pair of kitchen scissors, snip on a slant ALMOST thru the roll and repeat every half an inch or so. til you reach an inch from the other end. Pull the first segment backwards slightly and "open it" as it were, then follow with each segment, laying on to the left side and the other to right, back and forth. Cover and let rest and rise. Then continue with the yolk wash and bake.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quilting Progress

Here is the latest from my stack of quilts-finally-quilted.

This is a baby quilt, 3 dimensional and cute as a bug.... I loved the quilting motif I used. I found it at Patsy Thompson Designs and I really encourage anyone reading this or thinking about machine quilting to GO THERE NOW and look at her artistry. Go on..... I'll wait.....

Are you back? Isn't she amazing? And YOU can do this too.

I did, on this one. You might be able to see the design if you click on that quilt above. It's like a modified paisley and loop-d-loop. I practiced on this quilt to prepare myself for this one:

A few years ago, my aunt in Houston got serious about quilt-making and I threw some remnants at here and she made SO many fun colorful quilts, all sizes and even one for her Jack Russell. This one has been hanging in my closet to quilt for (mumbling a number) months so really it is about time to get it done. It's done and I love it. So colorful. It's a string quilt and I love it. I love the backing fabric. Here you can see a close-up of the outer border with the feathering and this is the first time I used a second thread to punch up the design. Together it reminds me of Rhubarb, a vegetable I love to eat and am attempting to grow here in the sultry south. (I know, it's just a dream....ain't gonna work)

Okay going back to Patsy Thompson..... I see she is publishing a new (second) book and I can't wait to add it to my arsenal of design ideas. At her site, she has many free downloadable designs as well as things to buy so try to copy a few and you'll see WHY you'd want to BUY her wares. She is WORTH it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tyra's Gardening Sites

I have added 2 new Blogs I read over on the right side of the window.

If you want to see beauty in vegetables and gardening, head over Tyra's

If you wish to see it in swedish, try this link instead. The photos are different and absolutely beautiful. I aspire to this level.

also, check this out: www.allaboutallotments.com

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Things Get Weirder By The Week

This chicken has me scratching my head. Don't know what to make of the situation. The Evidence:

Longer, stronger brighter legs = Rooster?
Comb is bright red and erect = Rooster?
Larger beak = Rooster?
Stands upright and alert = Rooster?
Jumps on the backs of the hens = Rooster?

Doesn't crow = Hen?
Doesn't have tapering tail feathers (yet) = Hen?
Doesn't have spurs - Hen?
Hens don't put up with the mounting exercise = Hen?
Runs AWAY from the hens when they chase it from the scattered scratch = Hen?
NEVER tries to fly over the chicken run. Or roost on the rails...... = Chicken?

This bird is a crossbreed, definitely part Wyandotte but something else with brown and green in it as well. It is as tall as the the hens but doesn't have the girth they have. It is approximately 16 weeks old and maybe possibly older. The other "Little Bit" was half again as small as this one when we got them and I am fairly certain that is a hen....... she even LOOKS like a girl. I THINK they came from two separate clutches. They don't look anything alike but they hang together, roost together and I even find them cuddled up in a brood box together occasionally. That always make me embarrassed...... Like they were napping and I woke them. Or .......something.

I am beginning to conclude that perhaps this chicken is a HEN and is making a play at becoming the top chicken. Since the Big WO died, there has been a distinct void of supremacy in the coop. Not that this is a bad thing. All in all, it's been fairly quiet in there, with the odd pop on the back of Little Bit. She is the receiver of every peck that rains down. Even from her brood-box mate. She gets hammered from all sides. I don't know how she puts up with it.

The two Silver Wys, Hans and Frans ( Iknow, they're GIRLS!), the SS officers, just run around trying to boss the other three; except Ginger gives them the same in return when they try that on her. One time the weird one jumped on Frans' back and she submitted. She didn't shrug it off... for about 3 seconds Then ... boop! Ginger and Hans don't put up with ANY nonsense from it. They both send it flying and bark at it. CLUCK, BARK!!!! And it scampers away and acts all innocent. lall--lal--la- la-la ...... pecking at the ground.

Gardening: It was blurry cold yesterday with a stiff wind coming in from the Northwest and I was determined to get some English peas in the ground as a last stab at them before it's really TOO late. They should have been in the ground by Mid-Jan but then you ask yourself.... would they have been killed off by that last hard freeze we had? I don't know. I have seeded the last of my leek seeds inside but see no activity at all and wonder if perhaps they are too old. n truth they should have been sprouted a month ago but I lost track of time. We have as aides several books on veg growing and of course LSU book focuses on our part the world where the others are British and northern US climes so we have to take all that into consideration. BUT I am also one who tends to break rules occasionally.

We planted outside: Spinach, mesclun tape, Romaine, beets and mushy peas. Oh and John cranked up the JD and plowed under a bed, added good manure and topsoil, turned all that and planted the asparagus crowns!!!!

I have been trying to figure out sweet potatoes. Here's why:

A lady in our beginning quilting class said as a school project a few years ago the kids grew a sweet potato vine and it was so pretty she planted it outside in her landscape bed. In the fall, when it died, she was surprised to find so many potatoes in the ground they ate all winter on them! So ..... who wouldn't want to try to plant this?

At the Allotment site, he had a lovely bed of vines growing....... I want this!

But how? I have been calling the seed shops and online centers looking for "slips". Nope. don't have any. Grr kept at it and found a reference in the Ed Smith book about making your own. Duh. (she slaps her forehead) Not too bright, this one.
I'll take photos to show the progress.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tiny Little Seedlings

My cousin has sent photos of 200 seedlings that have leaped out for her in Texas and she is going to be way ahead of us on this. She is just that much warmer there than we are here so she gets to start early and look how great this is:

We got ours going a week ago and are juuuussst starting to see a little activity sprouting. This is all good.

She asked about our composting bins and I went out to shoot a few pictures:

John took 6 pallets sold at our local Feed n Seed and 2 metal poles like we used to stake the fruit trees for stability on the back corners. He wired two of the pallets side by side for the "back, supported by the two poles banged fairly deeply in the earth.
Then with the remaining 4 pallets, he made 3 "bays" and nailed two long slender pieces of wood to the top, one in the back and one across the middle as you can see for more stability.
(That clean wood you see on top and leaning against the frames on the left is from a composting bin we bought from a catalogue which came a few weeks ago. Clearly quality control was off the day they banged this one together because it was broken, and definitely prior to packaging and shipping. A big and expensive disappointment. Yes I called the company. We await a replacement. It's been 3 weeks.)

He made 3 bays so he can keep leaves for layering in the first one, the second bay is the pile that we are adding to at the moment and the third one is the the oldest pile which we have left to complete the composting cycle. It is almost ready for use.
The black bin you see to the right is where I stow the chicken manure in straw after cleaning the coop. We add that to the current bay as needed. Layers and layers of lovely muck.

Yesterday, when he "turned" the middle bay contents, the steam poured forth, a good indication of how "hot" it is and it really had a great fragrance as well. We don't see any worms so I think it is the degradation is more due to bacteria and bugs but I hope in the spring the native worms find us.

It's Not REALLY a Farm Until....

... you have rusting tractor implements lolling around the place.
Or a cat warming herself on the hood of a John Deere.
BTW. you can see who he loves more.... the tractor is under the carport. MY car is out under the elements. Hmph!

I guess we are officially "there".
I am spoiled beyond all reason and don't think for a minute that I don't know this. Spoiled rotten and loving every minute of my life.

Except possibly for that chicken out there, which may be a rooster. This is an area of concern, to be sure. If he is indeed a rooster, we have a big problem.

How do I kill him? I don't think I can do this. I really have bonded with that bird. Please don't be a rooster. Can I beg and plead my way on this?

Anyone out there want a beautiful chicken? That might be a rooster?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


HAHAHAHAHAH My sister in North Texas just took delivery of 15 baby chicks! A Valentine's Day gift from her husband and they have arrived a month too soon and at exactly the WRONG time: her husband is out of town!

Ok so that part is hilarious but oh how much fun is going to have once she gets the chicks settled in. I wish I were there to experience this with her but as it is, she is calling me, step by step and taking photos at each stage from, opening the package they came in to placing them in a temporary brooding box. It's pouring down rain and she has no idea what to do first or next so she (we) are winging it and I hope they all survive our bumbling ways.

She has hauled her dog crate out of the garage and set it up inside the laundry room and is getting ready to ceremoniously dump the newcomers inside. But she has to get the water bowl ready and paper towels on the "floor" so they don't slide around. G had ordered quite a bit of stuff for this grand debut but D doesn't know one thing from the other and she's opening packages and saying stuff like, "ok here is red thing with holes and here is flat yellow thing" and I'm taking my best shot at it, having NEVER raised a chick to save my life. We're both in a foreign country at this moment.

I know she has a brooder lamp but I don't know if it is to be suspended from a height or the clamp on kind. I know how to determine the height to set it at...... but then what about food for day old chicks? I read that they can handle instant oatmeal...... how about 5 minute oatmeal?

Did you ever wonder what day old chicks that arrive by post might look like?

Here ya go!

and one without the decorative shredded paper so you can enjoy the sheer beauty of it

I can't stand it.
Thankfully, the tractor arrived here to give me some distraction.

Oh yeah, and that one chicken of ours? might be a rooster after all. darn.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ta-Da!!!! Not really

MILES to go before I quilt!

Here is the Victory quilt assembled, before the outer borders are added and all the swagging appliqued down. It's BIG! I think when all is done, it might just be our next bed quilt!

Q down at the bottom, keeping me company in the wee hours of the morning.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Modest Prediction

Regardless the outcome of the Super Bowl, The Who Dat Nation is going to be crying for about 4 months. Tears of joy. Tears of woe. Don't matter which. Dey gonna be a who' lot o' cryin' goin' on 'round hea.

Then when the boys go back to summer training, the griping will begin anew.

Just thought I'd tell someone.

February 1: Do You Know What That Means?

It means it is time to start getting serious about spring planting. We had a mild week in the end of January which brought out the Redbuds up here. That's a tad too early, I thought but at least I haven't seen any Japanese Tulips in bloom. Yet. And sure enough...... we have had two nights now of near freezing temps.

We covered what remains of our citrus orchard and I deeply hope we haven't lost the trees altogether but what is, is and I'll deal with that then. Can't worry about what I don't control.

John bought a "grow system" last month and we have been holding ourselves back to get the seedlings started because we don't want them to be ready to plant before the last frost day (March 15) and because we want to try our luck and hand at staggered planting, we have worked out a calendar of dates to plant another set of the same seeds in three weeks time.

So far we seeded out: 7 varieties of tomatoes, butternut squash (had great success with purchased plants last year in Mandeville. Eager to see what we make of them up here), two types of jalapenos and you know why if you have sampled our sweet/sour jalapenos & two eggplants.

I am curious to see how quickly they germinate and how strong the 3 pods each grow. We will do this again in a few weeks (staggering!) except for probably the eggplants and Cherry 100 tomatoes. Won't need more than 3 plants each of those. Unless of course they were not productive. In that case, I'll either rethink bothering or try it one more time.

At that time as well, we will seed the peppers, squashes, and few other things. Cucumbers and pumpin will go straight into the soil when it gets warmer out there.

And BIG NEWS: John has made an executive decsion on the tractor and will order it this week. Not a moment to spare because we really need to get that back plot tilled under quick if we are going to plant corn and potatoes. And YES!! we are.

We still have waiting to get in the ground asparagus crowns, strawberries and we await three peach trees to be delivered. We have been waiting for the tractor to dig up for the asparagus. The strawberries will go in one of the raised beds in the enclosure. (A lot of waiting, you'll notice. I hear the Army is bit like this as well)

We have friends in England who have recently acquired an allotment in South England. They will be here at the end of the month and I am SO excited to hear what they have planned to grow, besides hops, which I know about already. and this has gotten me crawling around the web in search of information about how they do things "over there".

All About Allotments is a wonderful site to head over to and read up on how Dr George Cook in Liverpool got his a few years back and set about turning his 11 x 27' plot of earth into a full-production slice of heaven. It is INSPIRING. You will not believe the transformation that 4 years and sweat can make but it is the excitement in his voice you hear on the youtube videos that make me, "the first time in my adult life-time" to borrow a phrase, wish for summer! I KNOW. crazy. Me, wanting summer to get here. Go figure.

So yesterday we headed back up to our benefactors of the chickens to scoop horse manure and that was fun. No sooner had I opened the door then a pack of Weimeranners and one Doberman surrounded me to give me the once-over. Twice. Just to make sure. And then since I rubbed them up real good, they didn't leave my side. I am now officially part of the pack.

First, we got a look at all the CHICKENS that have been birthed and the grown ones running around the ranch. They have two roosters that have sorted things out nicely between them and are content to be roommates in the harem.That was silly fun and then M saddled up her young huge horse and worked him. What a magnificent horse he is, too.

As she was quietly doing her thing, we slipped into the stables and got down to business but this brought out the curiousity of a couple of other horses, wondering what we were up to in their rooms. HUGE crazy big horses and SO beautiful. I cannot describe the colors of these two Irish Drafts. One looked like champagne and the other like pewter. And they are awesomely, frighteningly huge. Their jaws looked like cross-sections of beer kegs. And they would not back off. They wanted to sniff me and get all in my face. So scary. I used to RIDE, yer crying out loud. But they are really indimidating.

We managed to fill 5 trash bags with lovely rotted muck and it actually pained me to leave clumps of manure in the fields as we moved out of the pastures. By now the light is dipping and we needed to get back to our coop. So we said our good-byes and last back rubs on the dogs. It would be nice to have a Doberman as sweet as that one.

My luck, I'd get Killer.