Saturday, December 21, 2013

Flip 'em the Bird!

Many of you know I have a serious commute to work.  At 26 miles away, at best, it takes me 40 minutes to get to work.  With Seattle traffic during peak hours, it often takes an hour to an hour and a half to get home.

Surprising, isn't it?  Me, the environmentally conscious, tree hugging, granola eater, spending that much time in the car burning fossil fuels...  it's really a shame.

But wait!  There's a solution!


Yes indeedy.  I've been carpooling for almost the whole time I've been at my job, and this school year, I have carpooled with at least another person almost every single day.  (I think I can count the times I've driven myself alone since September on one hand.)

This year, there are five of us in our carpool.  We all have slightly different schedules throughout the week, so we're not in the same car every day together, but it works out that each of us only has to drive our own car to work two to three times a week.  We all live in the North Seattle area so we meet at a park and ride and each have a designated day to drive to eliminate confusion.  Let's do some numbers.  If I were to drive myself every day, my total mileage would be 26 x 10 = 260 miles.  Blech!  By comparison, the carpool place is 6.5 miles from my house.  Only driving twice a week, it comes out to: (26 x 4) + (6.5 x 6) = 104 + 39 = 153.  260 - 153... I save 107 miles!  Sa-weet.  At about 33 miles per gallon that I get on my car, that's at least a $10 savings in gas each week, not to mention the carbon emissions that aren't being pumped into the air.  At those are just my numbers.  Multiply that by 5 and you start feeling pretty good about the impact that it could be making.

Though the gas savings was the initial reason my workmates and I started carpooling, there have been many other benefits that have come up that really makes it even better.  Let's discuss:


SANITY: Driving long distances, especially in traffic, can lead to lapses of sanity and major road rage.  When you have others in the car with you the share in the anger that other drivers can cause, for some reason, that rage is dissipated instantly.  Instead, we just make fun of the driver and imagine scenarios that lead to their fiery deaths or ferrets chewing on their testicles.  Which leads me to the next benefit:

PEOPLE WATCHING:  It's really hard to look at other drivers when you're the one doing the driving.  But when there are two or three other pairs of eyes in the car, each looking out different windows, there are lots of people-noticing opportunities.  And the people we've seen have been quite entertaining.  Take for instance, the lady who was doing a crossword puzzle while driving.  Are you fo real?  She had it rested on her steering wheel between her hands and was seriously working on it.  That's worse than talking on the phone.  Maybe worse than texting.  Then there are the people with funny wardrobes.  Like the lady who was wearing a sweet rainbow visor, pink sunglasses, and white gloves.  Or the all the people rocking out to their music, dealing with their own road rage, and making funny faces while driving.

FINDING THE FASTEST ROUTES:  There are always various ways to get somewhere.  When you have two cars leaving the same place or going the same direction at the same time, you get the rare opportunity of a little experimenting.  Is it faster to take the exit before and get out of the traffic to take the side streets?  Is it quicker and shorter to got to the other freeway entrance?  These are things that are hard to decide when driving yourself.  But when you have two cars and two drivers at your disposal, you can find out!  Though our efficiency makes it a rare occurrence for two cars to be leaving one place at the same time, it has happened just enough times to answer some of the most dire questions.

WHAT'S FOR DINNER?:  Things get done when you have more brains in the car.  The "what's for dinner" conversation happens nearly on a daily basis and actually gets answered on occasion.  This saves headache when you get home.  Other things that have gotten done in the car: parties have been planned, tumblr ideas have been created, life concerns have been solved.  Carpool therapy- you should try it sometime.

GOSSIP:  Duh, when you have a bunch of people who work together stuck in car for two hours a day, gossip happens.  But really not as much as you think.  It's more sharing work stories and sympathizing with the daily trials and hilariosity of working with children.

CAR/ROAD GAMES: Seriously, we play them.  And they work to make an hour drive slightly more bearable.

INSIDE JOKES:  So many inside jokes.  I won't go into details since they won't make sense but let me explain one: Lately, we've begun Flipping the Bird.  Most know this as a euphemism for giving one that has pissed another off the middle finger.  In this scenario, there are no fingers involved.  Instead, we have a picture of a Western Tanager that just happened to get trapped in my car from summer camp.  One of my carpool buddies discovered this one day and has decided that it should be flashed to people who make bad driving decisions.  Sounds dumb, right?  But it's hilarious.  (Maybe I take back my sanity argument.)  It's just a fun way to release our anger out at other drivers that they won't necessarily take as offensive.  It's win-win, really.  It makes us feel better, but doesn't piss anyone off.  Most people don't even notice, but the ones that do just get confused.  We laugh.  This leads me to my final benefit:

FRIENDS:  When you spend many hours a week with someone in a very confined space in a stressful situation, you have to become friends with that person.  There's no way around it.  I think this is one of the best benefits of all.

Western Tanager is yelling at you to stop sucking at driving. (And to buy shade grown coffee.)
The picture below was taken last year in my old car.  My friend has a tumblr and always needs ideas for new pictures and posts.  This was one of them.  

If you'd like to see more, here's a link to that particular tumblr.

Tea Robot carpools to work.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Here, Have a Little Pre-ssert.

So last year I shared with you my favorite Thanksgiving recipe.  This year, I will share with you another fave.


Tang?  Wait, isn't that the powdery orange stuff that, mixed with water, makes flat orange soda?  The stuff that astronauts drink?  The stuff that is slowly being phased out and is really hard to find in grocery stores? 

Indeed.  That's the stuff.

This recipe is one that I grew up with, and one that my grandma made every year.  It's so good.  Mostly because it's like getting dessert during dinner, or as Shawn calls it, pre-ssert.

This recipe is full of "wholesome" ingredients.  See below:

1 large box orange Jell-o (or two small boxes)
4 tbs. Tang
1 pint orange sherbert
1 or 2 cans mandarin oranges

Mix Tang with Jell-o and dissolve in 2 cups boiling water.  Let sit until it starts to set.  In the meantime, get the sherbet out and let it start to thaw.  It's easier to mix in when not straight out of the freezer.  Mix in the sherbet with a mixer or a whisk.  It's important that you don't mix the sherbet in while the Jell-o mixture is still liquidy because you'll get a bunch of foam on top.  Once the sherbet is mixed in, gently fold in the mandarin oranges and pour into a mold of your choice.  I use a bundt pan, but any cool mold is fun.  Refrigerate overnight and serve when the turkey is ready to eat!

Mmmm... dessert at the dinner table.  Love me some traditions.

Oh, and here's my thankful list.  It's not as well-written as last year, but maybe next year when I've gotten all mushy with motherhood I'll have some deep things to say.
* Zantac.  Heartburn is a bitch.  Zantac makes it better.  I Love it.
* Not having gestational diabetes.  I passed the test today.  Booyah!
* Shawn.  And Shawn.  And Shawn. 
* Kitties.  Mine especially.
* Bubba.  He's a good dog.
* My house.  My chickens.  My garden.  My couch.
* Family and friends.
* Being healthy.  Having friends and family who are healthy.
* Nature.  It's always there when I need it to provide calm and wonder.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Having a Conscience is Stressful

Note:  I wrote this post a month or two ago and haven't posted it until now for some reason.  But I think I will now.

I'm frustrated.

Let me explain. See, we have this couch. Well, since we're gluttonous Americans, we have two couches. One of them is the new one that we use everyday and spent a bunch of money on recently because we decided we were big kids now and needed a real couch that wasn't purchased off of Craigslist. It's nice.

The other is the one we shunned to the garage because it was replaced by the new one. We tried to take it to Goodwill, but they wouldn't take it because our lovely feline roommates scratched the hell out of the corners. It's been sitting there for a few months as we try to figure out what to do with with it.

As you can see, it collects stuff, like ugly rugs, boxes of random shit, and cat litter. It's time for it to go. But where? The only place I know where it's NOT going is the landfill. It's still a perfectly good couch to sit on. It just has slightly shredded corners and some easily cleanable stains on it. Now, the stains I can clean. The corners, on the other hand, that is going to take a reupholstery job. But who's gonna do that? Not me. I guess we could try putting it in Craigslist for $20 with the tag of: "great couch! Just needs new upholstery!" Yeah, right.

So I went on the intertubes today to see if there were any furniture recycling places. I was looking for someone who would take it off my hands and maybe take it apart to find some use for all the textiles and wood that they can get from it. The closest thing I found was a green junk removal company that will take all the reusable stuff to Goodwill and sell the rest to a company that will burn it for electricity. Is that better than the landfill? Maybe. But seriously, do all end of life couches end up in landfills or getting incinerated? That's messed up.

Our next option would be to slap a couch cover on it and try to take it back to Goodwill. But if they take the cover off and see what's underneath, will they send it to the landfill anyway? 

Why am I letting this get to me so much? Landfills have limited space. That's why. I just feel like things should only go there as a last resort. But it sure does suck to have a conscience.

Being a conscious adult is so hard sometimes.

Now, like I've said above, this post was written by me in a fit of frustration a while ago.  Since then, we have cleaned the couch with with rubbing alcohol.  (Holy shit, that stuff works!)  And have put it up on Freecycle several times.  I've gotten several emails about it from there, but none of them have amounted to any real takers.  Tonight, we had some people come look at it and say they will come back tomorrow with a truck to pick it up.  We're not quite convinced they're coming back, but wouldn't it be sweet if they did?  Keeping our fingers crossed for a new life for our Craigslist couch!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Shop is OPEN!

Well, I finally did it.  I can cross it off my list.  I have an Etsy shop.  Where people can buy things.  It's scary.  Let me explain.

For the last several weeks, I have been doing some serious cleaning and rearranging of what will be the sort-of baby room.  Since we only have two bedrooms in our house, the baby will get a half-room for now.  (One corner of the room will house stuff like the sewing machine and our office stuff.)  So I've been going through all of my knitting, sewing, and crafting stuff and consolidating into bigger bins that can be stored easier.  I've also thrown away and donated a lot of random junk that we've accumulated over the years.  Going through random boxes unearthed a ton of completed knitting projects that I made over the last 10 years that I made with intent to sell at some point.

Well, that some point is now.  These things are pretty great, but they've got to go.  So thank you baby, for putting my butt into gear and making me take that plunge that I've been afraid to take for so long.

So check it out.  I've listed about 75% of the items that I have.  I don't know if I want to list the dog sweaters that I have since I don't have dog models of all sizes, and they just aren't as quality as the purses, but for now I feel good about what I've got up there.

I am a little nervous though about my own ability to send things out on time and whether people will actually be happy with what I send them.  But I suppose this is a feeling that all first time business owners/stuff sellers might be worried about...?  Also, I suppose I don't have to worry about that unless I actually sell something, so I should start there for now.

Come on internet!  Sell my stuff!

Here are some of my favorites:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Poor Elsie

Chickens are SO MEAN.  I guess I already knew that, but the last several weeks have provided further evidence to the cruel, cutthroat nature of hens.  Elsie, being smart for a change, started molting two weeks ago.  I consider this a smart move, because she will have all her new fluffy feathers by the time the nights actually get into the thirties.

But then again, maybe it's a defense mechanism because she knows her place in the pecking order.  Being at the very bottom, she generally gets bullied and is last to the food.  She also doesn't get to cuddle with the other three when they go to roost at night.  Abby, Frannie, and Pearl are all snuggled up together and poor little Elsie is stuck a few feet over, all by herself.  Normally this is ok, but when you're half naked and sleeping in a coop that gets to 43 degrees at night, risk of hypothermia is a real concern.  So she's smart for doing it now and not when it's 33 degrees in the coop at night, which is what it will be in the next few months.

So to compensate from the lack of love she's get getting from her own species, she's been getting some much needed love and affection from us this last week.  I came home to Shawn cuddling her in the living room the other day, and she's gotten some alone time, away from the others with the feeders.  She's been looking and feeling a little skinnier lately, and spends half the day up in the coop to get away from the constant pecking that the others are inflicting on her.  So she's been getting extra bowls of food in there to keep her company.  We've also been cooking her up some special meals: scrambled eggs with sunflower seeds and carrots, leftover beans and rice with corn meal, and extra piles of corn scratch that she can eat in peace away from the others.  She needs lots of protein and fat right now to help with the regrowing of her feathers, and she's getting there.

But MAN, chickens are mean.  I hope she dishes some back to the others when they decide to start molting in the next couple weeks.  But then again, she's so sweet, I'm sure she'll still get bullied.  (Sigh.)

Poor sweet Elsie.

She was looking like a porcupine for a while.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How do you say Bagel?

Bay-gle?  Baggle?  How about delicious?

Yeah, I had the energy to make these yesterday.  They're so damn delicious, but they do take some time so it doesn't happen very often.  Let me explain.  (These aren't quite the same as the ones you can get in a bagel shop, but WAY better than the crappy doughy ones you can get by the half dozen at the grocery store.)

1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (you know, to make it ok to eat more than one at a time :))
3 tablespoons sugar or honey
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast
1 teaspoon salt
Optional: an eggwhite for brushing the tops and your choice of topping. (Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coarse sea salt, dried onion flakes...)

*a pot of boiling water with a 1/4 cup of sugar in it.

In a large bowl, combine water, salt, sugar, and yeast.  Let sit for about 10 minutes to let it get frothy to make sure those yeasties are up for the task of making you delicious, fluffy bagels.  Add the oil and flour, one cup at a time until you get a good dough consistency that is easy to handle.  Knead for about 15 minutes or until the dough is nice and stretchy.  Pour a tiny bit of oil in the bottom of the bowl and place the dough back into it, rolling it around so that it has a nice coat all over it.  Let rise in a warm place for an hour or two.

Once it's doubled in size, punch it down and shape into bagel shapes.  I made 10 smaller ones, but you could also make 6 giant ones if you want.  Let rise for another 30 minutes until they get a little fluffier.  In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the sugar (or some honey if you prefer.)  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  If you have toppings (other than the salt), sprinkle them onto a smaller plate so that they are ready to be dipped in. 

Now, boil each of the bagels for a minute on each side.  Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and dip the tops into the toppings.  (You can also brush them with an egg white wash before dipping them if you prefer.)  Arrange them topping side up on the parchment paper.  Bake them for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Try them toasted with cream cheese and lemon curd and ENJOY!  I promise, you will.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Greens are Yummy

The results are in: the ladies LOVE the greens. Here they are, being enticed by the tray.

The chicken yard is growing but still too sparse to let them at it. We still have another tray for them and will plant more here soon. It fells really good to be able to grow something just for them.

On another note, I haven't posted any Sunday harvests lately but we have been harvesting things here and there. Unfortunately, I haven't been keen on vegetables lately and have been too tired to be out there much so things have been neglected.  But, the other day we thoroughly enjoyed a dinner that was made up of at least half things from the garden.  It was so damn good.  I kinda want it again.

Edamame and potato salad with home grown carrots, onions, and cucumbers.
I also made a delicious zucchini bread and have been enjoying delicious sandwiches with all the tomatoes I'm getting. We have some serious potatoes in the ground too.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sometimes Life is Extra Interesting

So some of you may be wondering what happened to that experiment where I was going to try out all those eco-friendly menstrual products.  Well, trust me, I haven't forgotten about it and I still can't wait to do it.  However, it is very likely that I will be trying out eco-friendly baby diapers before I get around to trying the pads and diva cup.

Yes indeed, Shawn and I are expecting.  Ooooh, boy. (Or girl.)

If you're not planning on reading the rest of this post, read this first before you click away:  PLEASE let's keep this whole thing off the wonderful world of Facebook.  Though we are not keeping this news a secret, we are also not wanting the WHOLE WORLD to know about it.  At least not yet.  I'm sure it'll get there somehow, like a herpes virus, but for now I'm not ready.  We've told the important people in our lives and now that it will be on this here blog, I think everyone who needs to know and has the right to know will know.  Eventually, I know that it will become too obvious to keep it much of a secret, but for now, I'm not ready for the barrage of Facebook likes and comments.  There's just something fake and overwhelming about it, you know?

So what does this all mean for this blog?  First of all, it will not turn into a mom blog.  Not that there's anything wrong with them, I've been an avid reader of several mom blogs for a few years now.  In fact, this blog was started because of all the mom blogs that started cropping up several years ago.  But there are lots of them and I feel like I have something special and a little different going.  (Well, not that I have the only urban homesteading blog in existence, either.  But I'm special, dammit!)

Over the years, this blog has become an extension of myself.  A lot of the goings-on in my life (that pertain to the theme of the blog) are shared here, and I have found myself being more experimental, ambitious, and motivated to try new and fun things so that I always have things to write about and to keep things from getting stale.  Considering this relationship I have with the blog and since it mirrors much of my everyday life, I'm sure this whole baby thing will indeed make an appearance from time to time.  I just hope that it doesn't become an everyday thing and a place where I post incessant pictures of every cute thing the wee one does.  And yes, I know I will think everything is cute, but I also know the rest of you won't give a sh** most of the time.

So there you go.

I'm 14 weeks now, feeling fat and bloated.  Overall, being pregnant has sucked donkey balls.  I have almost every side effect possible, from nausea, to constipation, to constant heartburn.  I get sick when I move too fast and too much, but I also get sick when I sit for too long.  So I have to maintain a constant life rate of two and a half miles an hour to stay comfortable.  I've probably gained more weight than I should have at this point and I can't wait to have a legitimate belly so I have a reason to have a belly beyond the fact that I've eaten too many carbs and haven't worked out for 3 months. 

I could complain a lot more but I'll spare you the pain of reading it.  Hooray for getting all knocked up and stuff.  I haven't told my boss yet, that's causing some anxiety.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chickie salad bar

Like everyone else around here, we have a very sad looking lawn indeed.  Quintessential of all Seattle lawns, it's crispy, yellow, and we haven't had to mow it in several months.  Though I don't personally care since I know it'll be back as soon as the rains start, the chickies aren't quite enjoying it as much.

Our ladies love the greens.  They love dandelions, clover, grass, and almost any other leafy green thing growing in the yard.  This also includes my lettuce and kale.  Unfortunately, my lettuce is also completely gone so I can't even provide them with the gross, bitter, overgrown stalks that they like so much.  I would also rather they not eat all my kale.

So last weekend, we took some steps to mitigate the situation and also provide our lovely ladies with their very own foraging space.  And no, we didn't just start watering the lawn.

First we took a trip to Skye Nursery and got a couple bags of cover crop seed.  We got a mixed bag that included ryegrass, clover, peas, millet, and some other stuff.  I also got a bag of buckwheat since I've read that chickies like that too.  We also got several bags of potting soil, chicken manure (ours isn't ready yet), and compost to help with the terrible soil situation in the chicken yard.  At home, we covered half the chicken yard area with a couple inches of compost and manure and raked it into the first inch or so of the dusty, sad excuse for soil that was back there. Then I sprinkled a nice layer of the seeds and raked those in as well.  A nice dousing of rainwater and we were all set to wait for sprouting.

I also planted a few portable trays so that there would be stuff for them to eat when their yard is regrowing.  These actually sprouted much quicker than the yard so they'll probably be eating from those in the next few weeks while the stuff out back grows enough to withstand some serious chicken trampling.

Let's talk a bit about why I feel so strongly about the ladies getting greens into their diet.  First of all, they LOVE it, so why not let them have it?  Also, they tend to eat their eggs less and lay more eggs when their diet consists of more than just their boring feed.  Greens also make their eggs healthier for us.  They are higher in Omega 3's and lower in the bad cholesterol, and the yolks are a brighter yellow when the ladies are able to eat more beta carotene.  From a behavioral standpoint, foraging is totally normal for chickens.  They do it all day long because that's how they would normally eat.  And foraging also provides them with extra protein from all the bugs and worms that are found along the way so their diets are more well rounded, resulting in healthier chickens.  Finally, the more stuff they eat that we can grow, and keep growing, the less feed we have to buy.  So in the end, it can be financially beneficial as well.  So there you go.  If that doesn't convince you, I don't know what will. 

So we'll see if they like it.  It might take a bit for them to get used to, but they like green stuff so I have faith that they will thoroughly enjoy their very own salad bar.  I'm also planning on planting the seeds into my garden beds to help with replenishing nutrients that are clearly missing in this year's garden.

They're just itching to get out there!

And since you haven't seen a cute picture if Nikolai in a bit, here he is, in his new favorite lounging space. Maybe he wants to go on an adventure.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gussy Beans! A Double Sunday Harvest

This might be my most exciting harvest this season.  Or EVER.

I should have planted more!
I'm obsessed.  They are so freakin' adorable.  When I opened the first pod, it was like laying my eyes upon 4 cute little kittens that all looked like my sweet little furry babies. I knew they would look like this but to see them for real coming out of my garden was almost too much to handle. And from the looks of the pods, you would never guess that the beans would look so unique.  Love love love it!  I will call them Gussy Beans.  Gussy Beans will make a delicious pot of chili in the fall.

Look closely...

See the resemblance?
The green beans just keep coming, though I think they are finally closing out, and I spotted some edamame emerging so that's exciting.

These purple dragon beans are just as interesting-looking as they sound.
Oh, and last weekend I pulled my garlic that I planted from cloves last winter since the plants were looking nice and dead.  The bulbil plants just shot up some nice scapes so I harvested those as well and gave them to a friend since I didn't want them.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dilly Green Beans

Despite staggering the planting of the seeds, for some reason, my green beans still managed to get ready all at once.  Since I didn't feel like eating them, my sister decided we should just pickle them.  What a lovely idea, I said.

These are so easy, I'm afraid they're going to taste weird. They'll be ready in three weeks so I guess I can let you know how they are then.

We started with maybe a little over two pounds of beans. I sterilized 6 taller half pint jars, the lids, and the rings and kept them in the dishwasher to keep them warm.

We mixed the following to make the brine:
* 3 cups of water
* 1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
* 2 cups of white vinegar
* 1/3 cup salt
* one clove garlic, peeled but kept whole

These were all mixed and brought to a boil.  In the meantime, the beans were rinsed and the ends were trimmed. Into each jar, we added a sprig of fresh dill and 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes.  The jars were then packed with beans standing on their ends.  Once the brine was ready, we filled each jar up to a quarter inch from the top.  We screwed on the lids and let them simmer in a canning pot for about 12 minutes. Once they cooled, all the lids sealed well so we had a 100% success rate.

So now we wait.  I hope they're good...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Harvest

We'll be pickling those green beans. And I had Shawn pull the pumpuchinni plant because I hate it and it didn't deserve a place in my garden.  We replaced it with some cucumber plants that a friend gave us.

I'm so tired.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Holiday Weekend Sunday Harvest

Check it out! I have another damn pumpucchini plant. Why does this keep happening? I'm starting to wonder whether I got bad zucchini seeds because this plant was NOT from a seed I saved. Damn. So I picked them early, hoping the young squash will be somewhat more useful than the less-than-useless things I got last year.  I also got a real (yet weirdly shaped) zucchini along with some good sized carrots and a handful of green beans. The artichoke is almost ready...

I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday weekend. We went up to Vancouver, BC yesterday to see the Whitecaps make the Sounders look like a bunch of fools. But alas, we still had a fun day trip to Canada and ate lots of good food.

P.S.- Next time you're in Vancouver, be sure to hit up Stanley Park. Beautiful!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hot Summer Sunday Harvest

Last year, I planted a whole bunch of onions, both started from seed as well as from starts. I planted them in every little nook and cranny that was available at the time. Most of these got shaded out by the many volunteer tomato plants that I let go to maturity.  I pretty much thought they were a lost cause.  I was kind of sad about it, but overall the garden did so well that I didn't care as long as I was getting food out of all the space that I had.  So I forgot about them.  I let the chickens dig around them to their liking, knowing full well that whatever chickens have access to, they will destroy beyond recognition.

Then spring came.  And so did the onions.  Back with a vengeance, they did.  They tried flowering, so I broke off each of the buds to encourage energy to go to the bulb, and just let them do their thing.  Some of them recently started getting these weird bulges growing in their leaves, so just out of curiosity, I pulled one up.  It had a pretty good onion attached to it so I pulled another.  Then I couldn't stop myself. I pulled 'em all.  There were 22.  Out of that, 20 of them had good onions or onion-like things attached to them.  Some are a little smaller than tennis balls, some about the size of a large marble. Maybe some of them could have used more time in the ground with their stems squished, but the temptation to pull was just too great and I like to think of them as reclaimed food that I previously had thought were lost so it really was a win all around for me.  The onions I started this year are sucking it up big time.  I just hope they're saving their energy for next year.

I also got several handfuls of berries.  I've given up on the strawberries, by the way.  They just keep getting half red, then robbed.  

The carrots are getting close.  My temptation to pull is getting stronger each day.  So I pulled 3.  It was way too much fun.

So happy about these.
I get about this much every day.
Yesterday, I made a delicious salad out of some carrots, peas, and a bunch of lettuce I pulled because it was starting to bolt in the hot weather. I topped it with a little sliced red onion and what a delicious 100% home-grown salad it was!

The ladies really enjoyed those carrot tops.
I also pulled my pea plants. I let a good handful of them go to full peas so I have seeds for next year.  My pepper and eggplant plants were needing a new home with better soil so I moved those over to where the peas used to be. I also had cilantro and shiso plants that needed to get in the ground so I put those there too.  Then I planted a batch of sugar snap peas where the other stuff was, since peas are less needy of really good soil.  (I did, however, add some compost to help them out.)

So now the peas are left in their pods and have been set out to fully dry on the vine. They should be hulled and dry by next weekend.  It was a hot day, but still really great to play in the dirt.

Happy hot summer day my friends!  Have a fun and safe 4th of July!  Here are some more pictures from today as a bonus:

Dragonfly hangin' with the 'chokes. Where's Gus?
Gus normally sleeps in a very compact ball.  But on a hot day like today, he prefers the sprawl method.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Harvest

2 words: garlic scapes!

(Not pictured: lots if lettuce and peas.)

This is about $4 worth of scapes. I did some research at the farmer's market and based on the prices, it looks like they're the "in" thing to eat these days.

So pretty and curly...

Have a great first week of summer everyone!

Friday, June 21, 2013

What's Eating My Plants?

Something is eating my plants.

I know that the chickens are responsible for the few sad lettuce and kale plants. (Elsa found them the other day and has now made it her mission to get a bite every chance she gets.) 

But something else is eating a bunch of the other stuff. I have been meticulous in picking off the eggs of the cabbage butterflies so my kale (other than what Elsa has gotten) is doing great. The ones that are suffering are my pepper and eggplant plants, the soybeans, the dry beans, and the strawberries. Even the potato plants are showing signs of herbivory.

It's not just isolated to my veggie garden either. My little baby kinnikinnick has been preyed upon as well.  All of the fresh new leaves were devoured by a mystery creature in one evening.

So I'm angry.  I've checked for aphids and I really don't see many. There are a few here and there and they don't really eat the leaves anyway.  I've also been checking for slugs but can't find any either. But that doesn't mean they aren't around.

I think we have a various array of pests at work here.  My soybeans look like the slugs are getting to them.  Maybe the same goes for my already struggling bok choy (below). 

The strawberries are another story.  Though I know the slugs love strawberries, the evidence is of something bigger.  The little green strawberries are being stolen off the vine as a whole.  It looks as though something has come along and cut them off.  So my thought is rats.  We've seen them around the chicken coop so I wouldn't be surprised if they were getting into other stuff too.

Unfortunately, the herbivores aren't the only problem in my garden.  Some stuff is just not growing.  The onions are totally stunted and aren't doing anything.  ALL of my broccoli died, so I had to replant it two weeks ago.  My cucumbers suck, and the eggplant isn't doing anything either.  Even the zucchini is struggling.  What's going on?  Zucchini is supposed to be a like a weed.  I didn't add much to the soil this year, and I think I'm paying the price.  I have been fertilizing, but it doesn't seem to be enough.  Blerg.

Missing: Three green strawberries.
But, there are some things that are happy.  The potatoes are gorgeous, the peas are producing like the zombies are coming, and we have an artichoke!  So I guess not all is lost.  And look at the beautiful garlic scapes!  I think I'm going to be cutting them and eating them this year.  Yum!  Now if I could just figure out what's eating my plants.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Harvest 2013!

Is it just me, or am I posting the first Sunday harvest post 2 months earlier than last year?

Oh yeah, I am. Booyah!

So I planted some lettuce seeds at the end of last season and they didn't really do much. Then spring came and they shot up to welcome the warmer weather and sunshine like the rest of us. We've gotten about 6 good salads worth of 2 kinds of lettuce and arugula. So cool. And I like it, in case those of you who know my aversion to lettuce are wondering. I've been making this really delicious Caesar dressing which helps too. 

Quick Caesar Dressing
(Recipe for some now and some later)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup mayo
1 tbs lemon juice
5 dashes worchestershire sauce
Fresh ground pepper and ceyenne pepper to taste
Lots of Parmesan cheese

Put it all in a jar and shake well. Use as needed. Yum!

The other thing we've been eating like crazy is snow peas. So good right off the plant or stir fried with other vegetables and oyster sauce and garlic.

On a slightly more annoying note, we've been having slug and aphid issues. Or at least we think that's what's been eating our plants. This is putting a damper on the peppers, eggplant, and strawberries. And my patience for being inclusive of all living things in and around my garden.

But I'm still happy that my diet now consistently includes something I've grown in my yard.

How are your harvests?

This is just a fraction of what we've picked this week.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Taking Care of V

Yes indeed.  This post is about vaginas.  Vaginas and all the loveliness that comes with being a proud owner of one.  I have been thinking about this post for over a year now and haven't really had the guts to write it, or even more, post it.  But this is important.  For several reasons.  There are lots of ladies out there, and therefore, lots of vaginas.  We spend a ton of money and time taking care of them and I feel like we are in it together.  If one finds a new trick or tool to make taking care of a ourselves easier, then we as women have an obligation to pass along that knowledge.  I'm about to drop some serious knowledge on y'all, so watch out.

(You may also be asking why this is at all appropriate for this blog.  I too thought about this and realized that the subheading of my blog is "A Journal of Conscious Living."  Trust me, the info I have to share will make you live more consciously with your body and about your impact on the environment.)

If you're blushing and are feeling uncomfortable having read this much, you should probably click away because I'm about to get real.  You might not see me the same way after this.

Still with me?  Great.  Let's talk about periods.

Since early on in my hormone-filled teenage years of feeling completely horrified that I had to have periods in the first place, I remember thinking what a waste menstrual pads were.  Watching my garbage can fill up each cycle during the 4 or 5 days was pretty horrifying.  (Leave it to me to think that even at the age of 13, huh?)  When I started using tampons I felt a little better since they were just smaller in size and took up less space, but even then the applicator seemed silly, and the risk of toxic shock required me to continue using pads as well.

My first step in conscious menstruating was to buy applicator-less tampons.  I recommend this for everyone.  You don't need an applicator.  Trust me.  You really don't.  Then I started getting pantyliners and tampons made out of organic cotton.  But that still doesn't eliminate the stuff that goes to landfill.  So I think it's time to make the ultimate leap.  Zero-waste, baby!

Moms these days are jumping on the bandwagon of cloth diapers.  So why not cloth pads?  I've been using one periodically for a few years, called a GladRag, and have to say, I feel pretty awesome when I do use it.  This one, however, is a little bulky so I don't wear it out as much.  I also only have one, so when it's dirty, I'm back to using a disposable something.  But I did some research recently, and found that there are tons of different companies (mostly Canadian) making and selling cloth pad options.  I ordered one of several kinds to see which ones I like best. You can get a free sample at this site for just $5 shipping.  (I'll update this post when the testing period is complete.)

You probably wondering what the cleanup situation with cloth pads is like.  Sure, it's a little more work to clean than a disposable, which has no clean up whatsoever, but it doesn't have to take forever.  The idea behind some cloth pad companies is that cleaning your own pads "gets you closer to your natural cycle."  I'll have to admit, that's kind of silly, seeing as how I have no desire to "get closer" to my period.  But for the sake of the environment, I'm willing to do it.  A combination of cold water, hydrogen peroxide, and some natural detergent or baking soda pretty much takes care of things.  You can even just throw them in the washing machine with the rest of your clothes as long as they aren't too saturated.

Now I know some of you are also thinking, "but I'm a tampon girl, cloth pads don't take care of my needs."  Not to worry my friends, there is a zero waste option for you too. --->  Menstrual cups!  They are little silicone cups, about the size of a shot glass, that you just stick up there.  You empty it out every few hours, and it can stay in there for up to 12 hours with no risk of TSS.  My friend told me about it way long ago in high school and I thought it was a crazy idea.  But times change.  I bought one.  Haven't used it yet but I'm excited to.

Ok, so I think that takes care of periods.

Moving on to bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

This just gets better and better, huh?

I received an incredible piece of advice from a Swedish Physicians doctor several years ago that I still, to this day, consider the single most useful (and practical) piece of info I've ever gotten from a doctor.

Basically, vaginas need a delicate balance of things to stay happy.  Any time this balance changes, you get infections of the yeasty or bacterial variety.  This imbalance is often caused by a change in the Ph of the environment.  Vaginas are naturally acidic, at about 3.5-4.5 on the pH scale.  This keeps the bacteria present to a controlled level.  However, when the pH rises, the change effects the balance of the good bacteria and allows for an overgrowth of the bad stuff, plus a chance that yeast can move in and get comfortable.  Gross.

Now commercials tell you that you have to go out and buy the latest fungal ointment or douche or "feminine wash."  Those are not only chemically based, which is a problem in itself, but are also expensive, gross, and unnatural to use.  All that really needs to be done is to return your V to its happy pH.

What does this?  Boric Acid.  You can find it in any drugstore, maybe near the hydrogen peroxide, in an 8oz bottle.  You should look for the stuff that says it's for "household and farm products."  You also need to get some size 00 gel capsules.  Those come in packages of about a bazillion.  Seriously, these are both super cheap and will give you enough to last for many years for not only you but your mom, your sister, your friend, and anyone else with a vagina.  Just fill a handful of gel-caps up with the boric acid and keep them in an airtight container in the bathroom.

It works because Boric Acid has the same pH as your V.  It also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.  It can be used to treat an existing problem or as a preventative.  Either way, insert one gelcap, just as you would a tampon, before bed.  (Make sure you go to the bathroom as soon as you get up in the morning or you'll be greeted with a a bit of a mess.)  For an existing problem, use nightly for 7-14 days.  Then you can treat once or twice a week for preventative measures, or at any point when you feel like your precious pH has been compromised, like after swimming or sex.

Pretty easy.  I've read that some people have some irritation at first, but it's uncommon.  It's also important to note that Boric acid is toxic when ingested.  So don't eat it!!!  And clearly label your capsules so no one gets confused.

I should also remind you all that I'm no doctor, and never will be.  This is simply a tip that I have found incredibly useful in my life, but you should always talk to a doctor if you're feeling anything unhappy down there.

Here's to living closer and more comfortably with your femininity.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Native Loveliness

I had last Friday off.  Working 56 hours in 4 days gets you that.  It was kind of a nice day.  Despite the fact that I was physically exhausted from the four days prior, I had to get out of the house and enjoy some sun.

While I was messing around in my backyard doing this and that, I had an epiphany.  I had been wanting to create a native plant garden somewhere in my backyard ever since we moved in.  I love native plants and have been collecting them and keeping them in pots for the last several years, which is not really good for them.  I had a place for this garden mapped out for a while, but was feeling a bit underwhelmed by the location and overwhelmed by the work it would take to prep it.  Then I found the perfect spot.  It got a tiny bit of sun but was mostly shady (perfect for native woodland plants), was not being used for anything else, was on a side of the house that needed some love, and was relatively bare of stuff to make prepping the bed easier.  I jumped at Shawn for his approval as soon as he came home from work, and 3 hours later, we had a native plant garden that we were super proud of.


After!!! From left: red and evergreen huckleberry, wood sorrel, and deer fern, sandwiched by bunches of vanilla leaf. The mulch is stuff we found on Craigslist for free.  It's arborist's mulch, made mostly of Douglas fir.  It smells really nice.

Vanilla leaf!  It smells so good. We had a huge patch of it that we split into 4 sections.

Red huckleberry, a little sunburnt, but it should get better in its new shady spot.
The only problem we had was the wrist-thick holly roots that we had to battle and dig up while prepping the bed.  (That's a whole other project: English Holly murder.)  But it really was an easy project and super fun and super rewarding to finally get those poor plants in the ground.  It is directly underneath the bird house Shawn built so this little corner of our property is prepped to be a little native natural haven.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Garden Learning 2013

Every year, I take on several garden experiments.  Of course, I do the usual stuff since I like to have lots to eat, but the scientist inside me just can't help experimenting and trying new things out.  This way I can really maximize my yields by finding out what grows the best in the micro climate of my backyard.  I couple my experiments with some help from ye olde Google and whisk the summer away, playing in the dirt and expanding my mind.

Lifelong learning, baby.  Never gonna stop.

Last year, the experiments resulted on some successes and some failures.  Pumpuchini (aka saving seeds from a sugar pumpkin)- fail, Beets - mediocre, Peas in fall - mediocre, bok choy - awesome, etc.

(And just to clarify, my experiments include just trying out a new variety of plant, saving seeds from something I haven't saved seeds from before, or just trying a new way of growing something.)

This year I am trying a few new varieties of vegetables:
* Sweet pepper
* Eggplant
* Dry beans
* Fava beans

The pepper and eggplant seeds (as well as all my seeds for that matter) I got from a local seed company up in Bellingham and they are accustomed to growing in our cooler, shorter summers.  They produce smaller fruit, but I'm really excited to see if they work.  (So far, they have been slow to germinate and the ones that have, haven't done much.)

I decided on dry beans because I want to extend my eating of what I grow to past the summer and early fall.  I hardly buy vegetables during the summer which is great, but I want to really buckle down on preserving and canning so that I can enjoy my harvests all year round.  Dry beans will help me do that.  And who doesn't like a nice steamy pot of chili in the winter?  Imagine how much more delicious it would be if it was made with beans and tomatoes from the garden?  Mmmm, can't wait.

I got the fava beans because it is a plant you plant in the fall and harvest in the spring and early summer.  This is a great way to utilize my otherwise fallow planting space while also getting some nutrients back into the soil.  (Beans do that, you know.)  I need to do more growing in the fall and winter.

*I was going to try my hand at asparagus since asparagus is super delicious, but the root bundles (or crowns) that you have to buy and plant are expensive and you really need a ton of space to get a handful.  NOT worth my time or limited space.  Maybe later.

But the experiment I'm most looking forward to is my garlic bulbils.  Last year, I accidentally left my garlic in the ground too long which resulted in the scapes producing large amounts of these little purple balls of garlic at the top of the plant.  I didn't know what they were at the time, but it turns out they are garlic bulbils.  They can be planted in the spring to start new garlic plants. However, it turns out they won't produce garlic the first year.  I'll have to harvest them along with the other garlic, then let them dry until the fall and replant them.  I've read that a majority of them will then produce cloves the second year, with a handful still staying in bulb form.  These are pretty much guaranteed to produce big cloves the third year.  Pretty cool, huh?  I'm excited.  I'm still using my garlic harvest from last year, so if I can keep it up, I'll never have to buy garlic ever again!  I may even start to have extra so that I can share my bounty with family.  Garlic is great because it takes little fertilizing and little space for lots of harvest.

Don't mind the peas mixed in.  Can you spot the hazelnut? (I have no idea where it came from.)
The tall ones are garlic cloves planted in the fall, the smaller ones are the bulbils planted in the spring.
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