Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tea for tweets

I took a couple of minutes to make a little something for my garden yesterday.  It is a super simple project and it was just the creative break I needed.  I've been meaning to make one of these feeders for a few years now (years, things sit on my to-do list for years!) and figured now was as good a time as any.

I was going to write a quick tutorial but this one over on Little Birdie Secrets was so well-written that I figured I'd just point to that one.

I have a handful of vintage teacups and saucers on hand that I pick up at yard sales, but If I had the supplies on hand I would have preferred to use a copper pipe and cap as a post.  Instead I used a scrap piece of pvc pipe and a stick.  I have lots of those.  I sanded the end to fit inside the pipe snugly.  The feeder can be easily lifted off for cleaning or storage.

I filled my completed feeder with grape jelly and later hung an orange slice on the spoon, hoping to entice the orioles back to my yard and away from the hummingbird feeders.  Having a big orange bird on their feeders really throws the hummingbirds into a tizzy.  The little guys seem a bit high strung anyway so why add to their anxiety level, right?

Have you done any simple gardening projects lately?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Crafting For Ourselves

I've been missing my crafting time lately so this morning I stole a few moments to work on a little something for myself.   Well, my bird friends actually, but anyway...it's a small project and I'll show it off later but it made me wonder what others have been making for themselves lately.  A look in the Crafting For Ourselves Flickr group made me feel really inspired.  Have a look and enjoy what these crafty souls have been up to.  If you haven't joined the group, please do!  We could all use a reminder now and then to take time for ourselves.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

When the wind blows

All that wishing I did on dandelion puffs seemed to stave off the rain but did nothing to stop the winds.  While storms raged south of us, we were treated to blue skies and lots and lots of wind.  Sadly, the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. robin were dashed when a big breeze knocked the potted tree down where they had made their nest.

It's probably for the best, I'm not sure I could have protected their tiny brood against the busy hands of my little ones for the next few weeks, but it's still a little sad.  All part of life though.

I spent the better part of yesterday expanding a flower garden with the tiller and then planting about 100 irises.  I re-painted our tiny patio set where I sometimes have my morning coffee.  Hubby put together our log swing and we all sat swinging in the yard as the sun set.  It was a lovely day and I only had to shop vac water out of the basement once.

I haven't crafted in two weeks now and I'm getting a little twitchy.  In good time my schedule will normalize.  I hope.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Not fast enough

So it seems I didn't move quite swiftly enough in moving the tree I mentioned this morning.  Just two hours later and look what we have.

Dandelion puffs and flooded basements

It's been a full week here and I wish I could say it was full of fun but alas...it was one of those kind of weeks.  Instead of crafting I've been busy tending to a flooding basement, busy kids, and a bouncing puppy - who I'm convinced is like having a sugared-up 2 year old with sharper teeth.  And no diaper.

We're forecasted for a weekend full of rain but I'm wishing on dandelion puffs that it doesn't come true.

Speaking of hopeful, look where Mr. Robin built a nest for his beloved...right in our potted tree on our back porch.  I hate to take down all of his hard work so I'm going to slide the tree away from the house/kids/puppy/traffic/grill smoke.  I guess this is a better location for a nest than the gutter bird from last year but sometimes you really have to wonder.

Wishing you all a wonderful long weekend.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Delicious Dandelions

This time of year I start to get really eager for fresh produce.  Given our late and short growing season (it snowed here what, 2 weeks ago?) I often look to the woods for ingredients to spice up my cooking.  I love finding something in the wild to try but this time the wild was our yard.  I have eaten dandelion greens before but had never tried anything with the flowers.  We have a bumper crop right now and hubby was threatening to mow the yard/jungle so I figured the time was ripe to get pickin'.

The boys and I headed out with a large bowl and got to work harvesting the flower heads.  In some areas of the yard I noticed several tiny ants in the flowers so I picked the flower with the stem attached so I could give them a good shake before popping the head off into the bowl.  It seemed to work.  We had a few stragglers but not too many and since I planned to expose the petals to heat I wasn't worried about any extra "protein" that might be included.

After we picked about a gallon of flowers I got to work.  I dumped the flowers out on a piece of newspaper, and pulled out a paring knife, my cutting board, and my cheese muslin.  The goal is to remove the bitter green parts, using only the petals for cooking.  There are a few different methods of harvesting the petals that I have read but what worked best for me was to cut the bottom off of the flower and unroll the green bit, dropping the petals into a pile.  If you cut it just right it works like this, but often I still had to pick bits of green out. 

It took me over 2 hours to process enough petals for 2 batches of jelly and 1 loaf of bread.  If you're going to try this, get comfy, enlist some help, put on some music, something to help the time go by quicker.

When I had one cup of petals I started the bread.  I found the recipe on Fat Of The Land and it was really easy to throw together.  (he also has a recipe for deep fried dandelions which sounds amazing.  Anything deep-fried is good with me.  Just ask my thighs) The bread was slightly sweet and reminded me a bit, texturally, of zucchini bread.  The petals added a really lovely bit of color.  The kids gobbled it up.

(and so did I)

I will definitely make this again.

I found the jelly recipe at Simply Canning and it's pretty straight-forward.  The idea is to make a tea by steeping the flower petals and using this infusion in the jelly.  I wrapped my petals in cheese muslin, like a big tea bag, poured boiling water over it, and let it steep for about 5 hours before making the jelly.  The resulting color is a beautiful golden yellow and though I've read that you can add food coloring, I don't see why that would be necessary. 

The taste is very similar to honey.  It's a bit milder than the honey we get, but defiitely honey flavored.  I'm thinking I'd like to try making some dandelion ice cream...can you imagine having some of those pretty petals and that honey flavor in homemade ice cream?  Oh yeah...

What's your relationship with the dandelion?  Love it or hate it?  Have you tried some recipes yourself?

Happy Friday everybody, I hope you have a great weekend.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To-do tackled and now on to Tuesday

I did pretty well on my to-do list from yesterday.  I still haven't found my herb seeds and Charlie still insists on chasing chickens (just short bursts, enough to make the chickens scatter and bawk) but I did pretty well on the rest of it.  At the end of my day I decided to reward myself with a walk around the yard with my camera.  I can't get enough of the flowering plum right now, but I also saw the first trillium and some violets.  

Here's a bit of what I noticed.

Soft, pale violets and bright yellow dandelions.  I have plans for each of these today.

Poplar leaves catching the light.

Trilliums and a patch of Creeping Charlie I overlooked.

I watched as the sun dipped below the horizon, making the sky blush and sending the dandelions to sleep.

And finally that beautiful moon through the trees.

My to-do list for today is pretty similar to yesterday's and I can only hope it ends as nicely.

Hope you have a great day.

(oh, by the way, Blogger keeps eating my posts and comments so if you've left a comment and it's gone, I have it in email.  I'm a little behind on replying, but I'm working on it.  Thank you all, I so enjoy reading what you have to say, and visiting your blogs too.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday's to-do list

It's a beautiful blue sky morning here today.  The hummingbirds and orioles are fighting for control of the sugar water, the chickens are raking the yard in search of nibbles, and the leaves on the poplars have started to dot the woods with green.  It's one of those days that makes you feel hopeful, like you can accomplish anything, which is good because I have a mighty long to-do list today.

  • Wrangle the wool roving that has unraveled like long octopus arms out of their storage bins (with plenty of help from my children) back into their containers.
  • Find a new place to put the brooding box since the new chicks are prone to bouts of loud peeping in the middle of the night and I can hear them loud and clear all the way in my bedroom.
  • Teach Charlie the puppy, though a pretty good dog, that chasing chickens is not okay no matter how much fun it might be.
  • Try to salvage the flowering plum after the boy broke its big limb off by playing tarzan and swinging from it.
  • Find out where the kidlets hid my herb seeds so I can finish planting the herb garden.  I found the basil but everything else is missing...
  • Gather Creeping Charlie leaves and Clover to dry for tea.
  • Get a quick soak on these beans since I forgot to do it last night.
  • Finish painting the soffits in the kitchen then start on the dining room walls.
  • Take a break and enjoy this beautiful (finally!!) weather
After a few days of strangeness, Blogger seems to be behaving so far.  I'm able to post but some of the comments you left on my previous post haven't returned yet.  You also might have gotten some old posts if you subscribe via email.  Sorry about that.  With luck everything will be a-ok today.

May your skies be blue and your to-do list be tiny.
Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

We made chickens!

Two adorable little chicks joined our menagerie Tuesday evening.  These are the very first we've ever incubated and hatched ourselves and while I know I didn't really make them, it was such an exciting feeling to know that these were chicks we helped bring up.  They weren't purchased from the hatchery.  We did it. 

Here are a few photos and an explanation of the process.  I'll warn you, in case you're having your breakfast and morning coffee, that there's a little bit of blood when they first hatch.  It's normal and natural of course but just in case you're squeamish...

I candled the eggs at 8 days and thought there were at least two that were developing. I really couldn't tell with most of the other eggs and I couldn't see through the blue eggs at all. I figured we'd leave them all to chance and put them all in the incubator to see what happened. So while 2 chickens out of a dozen doesn't sound like much, it's about what I was expecting.

The eggs were in the incubator with an automatic turner which slowly rotates the eggs, mimicking what a momma chicken would do, for 19 days.  At day 19, 3 days before they're to hatch, we removed the turner, allowing the eggs to sit still, preparing to hatch.  We've had to maintain a constant temperature and humidity level during the incubation time which means checking the levels and adjusting a couple of times a day.  During the last phase of incubation the humidity is between 70% - 80% and the temp is at 99.5F.  Sweltery!  The humidity helps keep the emerging chick from sticking to the inside of the egg.

The baby chicken starts pecking thousands of times until it pokes a hole (called pipping) in the eggshell and starts to breathe air.  They slowly rotate inside the egg, pecking and "zipping" the inner membrane to prepare for their big push into the world.  The entire process can take up to 24 hours.  That's a lot of work for a tiny little chick.

Hubby had a live feed set up so we could watch the hatching on our TV, which was awesome.  We watched as the shell swelled and rocked with the chick's efforts and finally...pop!  Out he came!  It was truly amazing to see.  Tiny feather still wet, wobbly and weak, he started flopping around the incubator like he was playing soccer with the other eggs.  I worried about his brother who was emerging on the other side of the incubator but he managed just fine.

We let them dry off in the incubator overnight and then put them in the brooding box under a heat lamp.  The kids kept checking in, announcing when they felt the chickens were fluffy enough to hold.  (not yet, boys)

They've started running around in short bursts, drinking a little, eating a little, standing in their food...

We'll keep them under the heat lamp for a few weeks until they're able to move into their coop, separated from the big chickens.

We'll try another batch next week and with luck we'll have even more success.

If you've read this far, thank you for putting up with my chicken obsession. 
Have a great day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New babies

It seems life is about to get a little crazier under the poplar and pine.   I'd like to introduce the newest member of our family...umm... well he doesn't have an official name yet but his working name is Charlie. 

Charlie is a muttly mix of lab and boxer and he's a sweetheart.  Everyone is thrilled with him.  Well, except for Sandy the bulldog who is concerned that he is going to eat all of the dog food (that she hates, regularly shuns, and is now gulping down as if she hasn't eaten in 10 days).

As it goes with puppies, last night was punctuated by bouts of howling and whining so I didn't get much sleep.  To make matters worse some bird was loudly chirping outside my window this morning at 2am.  Or so I thought...it seems the eggs in my office have begun chirping...they still have to make it out of the shells but it appears that we have at least two baby chickens trying to make their way into the world.

I have a feeling the next few weeks are going to be busy ones.  Between new babies, kindergarten graduation, summer vacation, visitors, trips...oh my.  I'll do the best I can but if I fall off the radar from time to time, you'll know why.  Wish me luck.

Happy Tuesday everyone.


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