Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Today's Edible Weed: Catchweed Bedstraw

Today I noticed this weed growing behind the neighbor's fence. It's a rather attractive looking plant. I picked some of the foliage so I could identify it, and was unpleasantly surprised. It doesn't feel as nice as it looks. It's mildly prickly and wants to cling. Not surprisingly it is called Catchweed Bedstraw. Further research revealed that it is, indeed, edible. Because of it's rather prickly feel, I think it would be best to cook it before ingesting. However, the chickens loved it raw. I tossed a big handful into their run and it disappeared in minutes. They'll get more, tomorrow. Free chicken feed is a good thing!

The Raspberry Apple wine was racked for the final time, this morning, and joined the other occupants of the bulk aging closet. This one is VERY dry. I'll definitely back sweeten it before bottling, in order to bring out the raspberry flavor.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Today's Edible Weed: Purple Deadnettle

It has small purple flowers, mint like leaves and square stalks. This one is lamium purpureum. There is also lamium amplexicaule (henbit) which is similar but you can easily distinguish them by the different appearance of their leaves. Both are edible and are also a favorite of honeybees. Since my bees will be arriving shortly I plan on allowing this particular weed to remain in the garden. I will move it over to where the hive will be located. I did toss some into the chicken pen and they weren't overly excited about it. I think it will be best left for the bees. If it gets out of hand I'll make salad.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Free Food ~or~ Eat Those Weeds

OK, I admit it. I've heard of folks eating weeds. And I thought they were crazy-out-of-their-minds. Why would you eat a weed? But with the rising cost of produce and the realization that weeds are just plants, I am starting to become a convert. I've already taken to harvesting dandelions. Not for my own consumption, but for my chickens. And they are ever so thankful for the treats. I had noticed another weed that seems to be prolific in my backyard, and I have identified it as Hairy Bittercress. These little blighters were lurking under the water barrels.

This is a rather problematic weed, also known as Jumping Jesus. Probably so named because that may be one of the many expletives uttered when you try to pull it. Once the seed pods have been allowed to mature, the slightest touch and the pods explode, sending seeds scattering in all directions. Not wanting to waste food, I attempted to feed these to my chickens. And, although chickens CAN eat this weed, mine preferred not to. After researching and finding that it is similar to watercress, which is tasty on sandwiches, I figured I'd give it a shot. First order of business was to hard boil some of the chickens' contributions. Don't those look nice?

This meal is mostly a self sufficient one. We brewed the pale ale, I baked the bread, grew the chives, gathered the eggs and pulled the weeds.

The weeds were rinsed well and then the delicate leaves were separated from the tap roots. My verdict? Hairy Bittercress is incredibly tasty on an egg salad sandwich! So good! Gonna have another for lunch, tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Answer The Burning Question:

Can you fit a wooden pallet into the backseat of a Jaguar? You may not have wondered, but I certainly did. And I can now confirm the answer is a definite YES.

Why does the crazy lady need a pallet? To put my bees on, of course. More on that later. I promise.

On A Clear Day can hang out the laundry.

And yesterday we had the first clear day in a LONG time. I was excited to hang out the first laundry of the season. The last batch I hung out never dried, so they don't count. You can see how cold the morning was. There is frost on the ground. But I believe it reached 60 degrees F. and by the time I got home in the evening the clothes were nice and dry.

I am kicking myself for not picking up more of those sock dryers when I was at Ikea last. They sell the socktopus style (gray in the picture) and these are perfect for drying socks and freeing up the rest of the clothesline for larger items. Yes, those are baby blankets on the line. My dog and cat are my babies.

The chickens were also enjoying the sunny morning. Do you see what they're eating? When you think of dandelions as chicken treats, and not weeds, it makes their presence welcome in your yard. Every morning I harvest a handful and toss them into their pen. Before long the yard will be all weeded.

Last night I started 3 gallons of lingonberry wine, that's being made from the concentrate available at Ikea. I have it in my head that lingonberry wine will be the perfect accompaniment to our Thanksgiving turkey meal. Lingonberries are similar to cranberries, after all. This is my first batch of country wine using a yeast starter. The starter is doing its thing in the fermenting closet. I'll pitch it in the wine tonight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Painting The Hive

Yesterday I put the first coat of exterior house paint on the hive boxes. This is paint that was leftover from when our current residence was remodeled and painted. How appropriate that the paint is a light honey color? Tonight I'll put on the second coat and the hive boxes will be ready. Then I'll need to put some trim color around the bottom board and telescoping lid, and I'll be finished.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Love Spring

This is my favorite time of year. The weather is getting warmer, the plants are waking up and I have the whole growing season ahead of me. It makes my farm girl's heart go pitter-pat. I have been anxiously waiting for a dry day to coincide with one of my days off, in order to get out and play in the yard. Today I finally got the chance. I mowed and raked the lawn,

pruned the raspberry canes

and began to weed the gardens. The rhubarb are all weeded and ready for their springtime treat, a good dose of cow manure.

The raspberries will get some, too. The garlic prefer chicken manure, so I picked up a bag for them.

Kristine came to collect her bees and now I can get out there and prepare the vegetable garden for planting. But first I'll need to cut up all those apple prunings and put them in the garage to dry. I want to use those for smoking meats.
I found 2 pots, next to my garage, with daffodil bulbs which are ready to flower. I moved them closer to the house so I can enjoy them.

And here is my newest toy, my Envirocycle tumbling composter. It's holding today's grass clippings.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Danskos

I admit it. I have a bit of a Dansko habit. I'm on my feet all day and these are the most comfortable brand of shoes I've found. But they usually cost over $100. And I'd rather not pay that, if I don't have to. So I watch for them on Craigslist. Today I scored this pair for $20. And they were delivered to my workplace. Oh, and no sales tax. Sweet!

Painting The Hive

One of this week's tasks is to paint all my wooden ware and get the hive into place in the backyard. I have mailed off the remainder of the payment for my bees and I expect to have to go pick them up sometime during the first 2 weeks of April.

With the weather so chilly and damp, husbeast had the (not so) brilliant idea to paint the hive in the kitchen. The teeny, tiny kitchen. Last night I managed to apply the first coat of primer. Tonight I'll apply a second coat. Then to figure out what color to actually paint it. I think I'll paint it yellow to match my home.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Some Serious Wine Racks

After much research into the different kinds and styles of wine racks, I decided on the 14 shelf Gorm racks. They are inexpensive, easy to assemble and hold a whole LOT of wine. Each unit holds 112 bottles. Today we made the pilgrimage to Ikea. I bought 2 units. So I am probably set for a while. I say probably, because you never know with me. Along with the racks, I picked up this jug of lingonberry drink concentrate. And what am I going to do with that, boys and girls?

MAKE WINE! The concentrate consists of lingonberry juice, sugar and grape juice. I think lingonberry wine will go perfect with our Thanksgiving meal. I better get on it, if it's going to be ready in time. I'll have to send the husbeast to the brew store to pick up a couple (maybe 4?) 3.5 gallon jugs. OK, I'm getting distracted. Back to the wine racks. Here they are unloaded and stacked in the living room.

Husbeast only had time to assemble one of the racks before heading off to work. Here it is assembled and in place in the basement.

There went my budget for the month. And I'd been so good.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Two More For The Closet

The bulk aging closet, that is. Today it was time to rack the Orange/Banana and Apple/Raisin wines, for the final time, and place them into the closet where they joined the Cyser Mead. But first I had to sample them. The hydrometer bottomed out, meaning there was no more sugar for the yeast to convert to alcohol. These are both pretty potent. My favorite is the Orange/Banana. So good! Some folks say you can't make good wine from oranges. Not true!

And here is the Apple/Raisin. It's not bad. I just wished I'd added cinnamon and ginger, along with the cloves.

Next time I'll make a real spiced apple wine. I better start it soon if I want it ready in time for Christmas. I froze my ginger from the last visit to the Japanese restaurant. Now I just need cinnamon sticks and more apple cider.

And here is how I filtered out the raisin bits. I rigged up one of the straining bags around the siphon. Worked great.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fresh Roasted Coffee

I finally got a day off, that wasn't raining or snowing. And this afternoon I was able to take 45 minutes and roast my week's worth of coffee.

It took 5 batches, in my little popcorn popper, to fill the pickle jar. I still haven't heard the elusive "second crack". I am afraid to let them go too long and end up with over-roasted burnt tasting beans. So my strategy is to wait until the roasted beans try to jump out of the popper. This point comes not too long after the "first crack" stage. The beans get fatter and lighter and eventually are jettisoned from the popper, much like popped corn. I find if I leave them in much past this point they get a little burnt. Here is a video of today's roasting. It's rather noisy but you can definitely hear some of the "first cracks" happening during filming.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ant Wars

For the past couple of years I have been fighting a losing battle with these beastly little creatures. I have tried everything. Pellets, sprays....things that I hate using......but to no avail. Still they keep coming. But I think I may be turning the tide. I am making my own ant poison using water, molasses and borax. This photo is from day 2, when there were still quite a few ants clustered around the bait. Each day there are fewer and fewer live ants, and more dead ant carcasses for me to sweep up. I am hoping some of the ants are living long enough to make it back to their nest and share some of this treat with the queen. The borax seems to work well. Once they eat it they wander around aimlessly until they fall over, convulse, and die. I'd almost feel sorry for them if I didn't loathe them so much.

On a more appetizing note, I think I have perfected my bread recipe. This is a loaf from the last batch, which was made using some of the barley flour from the Hairy Porter. This bread is soooo good.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March's Expenditures

$9.27: Groceries - Safeway (3-4-11)
$6.74: Espresso - Perk Central (3-4-11)
$15.86: Groceries - Safeway (3-8-11)
$6.74: Espresso - Perk Central (3-8-11)
$6.74: Espresso - Perk Central (3-11-11)
$26.06: Groceries - Safeway (3-11-11)
$6.74: Espresso - Perk Central (3-13-11)
$4.38: Breakfast - Ikea (3-14-11)
$285.75: Wine racks & juice - Ikea (3-14-11)
$68.54: Money Order for Bees - Market Place (3-14-11)
$10.54: Manure & groceries - Market Place (3-14-11)
$20.00: Dansko Shoes - Craigslist (3-15-11)
$6.74: Espresso - Perk central (3-16-11)
$50.00: Envirocycle Composter - Craigslist (3-16-11)
Grand Total = $503.88
Espressos = $33.70
Groceries = $81.95