Saturday, June 19, 2010
I'll tell you where: pretty much exactly where I was two months ago.
The first batch of chickens, the Magnificent Seven posted about in April, have moved outside. A few days after my last post, Ivy and I took a long drive into Austin and came home with a box of 8 tiny Silkie chicks. Three were yellow, four were black, and one was partridge. Of those, we lost one yellow chick who ate out of my hand without hesitation, and the one little black chick who was turning silver.
Right now we're eagerly awaiting the day when the silkies will be able to join their older siblings out at Sunshine's farm. The coop still isn't finished, but they're living in a wired-together conglomeration of old rabbit hutches and dog crates, and they have plenty of room.
The garden... has failed. Or rather, I failed it. I couldn't make it out there every week, much less the multiple times it would require to keep up with an 80 square foot plot, weeding and harvesting and reseeding. Eventually the community garden folks told me to put up or shut up (in so many words), and I had to admit that my plots would be better taken care of with someone else. It's making me seriously rethink my dream of Persian PenName: Hobby Farmer, and that might be for the best.
I do still want to live on a small acreage of land, with fruit trees and goats and chickens and perhaps a mini-cow, milking my own animals every morning, making my own preserves and living off the bounty of my own land, but I might have to start smaller than homesteading on my own with a terribly limited skill set. At least I know how to properly milk a goat now, and butcher and castrate them, and trim their hooves. Goats and chickens I'm feeling pretty secure on.
This past week has been pretty rough on me. Sunshine and I had to admit that we make better friends than partners, which was rough, but probably one of the most grown-up decisions I've made; Ye Olde Camry broke down, and according to the one mechanic in town I implicitly trust it's going to be somewhere between $250 and $400 to fix, and I'm considering trading it in for a used Smart Car or a moped or something; oh, and my bike was stolen.
That, and they announced that they're going to start laying people off in the library where I work. They're not using longevity or merit as part of their criteria, so there is literally nothing - not one single thing - that I can use to say "oh, well they won't cut me, because of this very valid reason". All things being equal, about one in every ten people are likely to be cut, and we won't even know in what departments until the end of next month, and no particular names until the end of August. I started job hunting, since that just seems like the smart thing to do in these circumstances, but my heart's not really in it. I'm also looking in other states, since... I've never really been in a position to move out of Texas before, you don't get much more ready than single and newly laid off.
I'd have to take my share of the chickens with me, of course, or sadly give them to Ivy until I got a yard. Banties are tough little guys, though, so I'm sure they wouldn't mind a climate change all too much.
I have family in Indiana and Tennessee, so it might be nice to move closer to them. My Aunt Nina is dying of an MRSA infection, and there's nothing I can do about it. She'd already gotten to the point of not recognizing anyone by the time I heard she was sick, so even if I spent the money to get up there and visit her, she wouldn't know. And as much as it hurts me to say it, I don't have the funds to take a trip she won't be lucid for. It's crazy, really, and it makes me cry if I think about it for too long, so I'm going to change the subject now.
I got my hair cut. It's pretty short now, and definitely falls somewhere on the "Oh, so I see you like the ladies" end of the spectrum, but I like it. For now, anyway.
Ivy got a cat. Her name is Lolita, and after a few days of tense hissing and angry growls, she and Ripley seem to be getting along well. She is a fluffy tortie, mostly black, and she is still a bit skittish around me. I can definitely see the difference in confidence level between her and my cats, and I have to wonder if it's because she's changed owners at least twice in the past year; Ripley's never had reason to think she would live with someone else, and I don't think Heed could even formulate the thought.
Ivy has been teaching me to cook. I can make steak now! And mashed potatoes, and veggies, and pies. Lots of pies. I make elaborate baked goods when I'm sad, these days, and after Sunshine and I had our talk I started right in on some pie crusts. I've already eaten half the chess pie I made, but I ran out of energy before I could finish the shaker lemon pie, so that's probably my project for tomorrow.
I started buying fabric last month, intending to make a quilt. I don't think that's going to happen anymore, but I do believe I'll have a number of nice skirts before the week is up. Probably all on the same pattern, a tiered peasant skirt, which will be odd not only because it will mean that I now own non-costume skirts voluntarily for the first time in my life, but because I've got enough fabric that I'll have more skirts than actual pairs of pants.
In other news, I made a tweed Godzilla plushie. Finishing up a denim one too, and they'll be given to Sunshine's kids.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
There were two yellows, Hobbit and Soup. Two black and whites, Tweasel and Tiberius. One white, Pie, and one silver, Sparklesnatch (if you think the names are odd, go check out the Lazy, Stupid and Godless group on Ravelry. It's awesome).
On the first day, they were fluffy and adorable.
By day 4, their wing feathers were coming in, and we'd started to see more of their personality. Sparklesnatch, despite being the smallest of the group, had established herself as Top Chicken. Pie was the sweetie, and had taken a particular shine to another friend of ours, Ella, so much so that by the end of the week we'd decided that Pie was going to live out her life as Ella's house chicken.
On day 7, I went to the purina store to get more supplies, and a seventh baby bantam came home and was dubbed Dinner.
We introduced the chicks to Heed. He sniffed briefly, then ran away like a scared little bitch.
Hobbit and Heed
By this point, everyone's wings were coming in well.
Then, as it tends to do, a bunch of time passed at once. I spent a couple of days helping to bottle feed baby goats up at Girlface's farm (Dos was another girl, Tres and Quatro were boys), a couple of days working, a couple of days recovering. Next thing I knew, it was day 17, and I hadn't photographed the babies in over a week. Everyone's wing feathers are in, their tiny feathery feet are fluffier than ever, and their combs are coming in. We even had to clip their flight feathers, to keep them from launching themselves into the air whenever we took them out to play with.
Still the smallest, of course, at 10 days old. She's not quite a snuggler, yet, but she's holding her own in the Grand Chicken Hierarchy.
Hobbit has the most impressive comb so far. You can see all the little ridges and everything.
Hobbit's turned brown! She was already the darker of the two yellow chicks, and her wing feathers are brown with white edges.
Tweasel and Tiberius are much easier to tell apart now - Tweasel is the one with the comb!
Tiberius is the next sweetest chicken, after Pie. I'm trying to feed him from my hand every day and snuggle on him, but he's not exactly thrilled about it.
Pie is sweet as can be around Ella, but is really a one-woman bird. She doesn't care much for me.
You might notice that Sparklesnatch is a lot leaner than the rest of the babies, and that her tail is longer. Because of this, we're thinking that she might actually be a he... but we're still calling him Sparklesnatch.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
For example, I now have a goal for my adult life. I know! Who does crazy things like that, right? And it's not one I would have figured for myself, either, until my grown-up years.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Internets, I want to be a farmer.
Specifically, I want to live on a small, organic homestead of about 5 acres. I want bees, and chickens, and goats, and sheep, and miniature donkeys, and cows, and lots and lots of space for growing things. I want to grow and preserve my own fruits and vegetables. I want to raise and butcher my own meat. I want to milk my own dairy animals, and turn it into cheese and butter and awesome creamy soap. I want to suit up and steal from my own hives, honey and wax and pollen and royal jelly, and then figure out what to do with those last two.
Ideally, I'd even like to build my own house on those 5 acres, but since construction is not my strongest point I may pass on that one.
I'm not sure if these urges are a continuation of my love of spinning and knitting and making things in general, or if they all have some kind of ultimate root in wanting to live a simpler life, closer to nature, taking part in all the steps of production from start to finish, but I think it's all connected back to my early memories of my great-grandmother who lived up north.
I remember going up every winter to Granny's house in Indiana, and catching brief glimpses of The Basement, a magical place where little kids were not allowed to wander, a place full of shelves lined up like the stacks in the library where I work now, all of those shelves full to the brim with jars and jars of different things Granny had preserved. Apple butter, green beans, pickled cucumbers (the cucumbers were grown in an old claw-foot tub that lived in the back yard), and other things that I never found out what they were. I'd never had apple butter before, and no other recipe tastes as good to me as the one made by my Granny, and that I never thought to ask her for.
At Granny's house, I found crocheted turtles she'd made ages and ages ago, and tried to read the stitches and make her a new one (I couldn't figure out why mine turned out so much smaller - they had the same number of stitches!). At Granny's house, I had my first taste of horehound candy, which tasted sort of like cough syrup, but I loved it anyway. Granny's house was full of strangeness to me - homemade quilts; racks and racks of salt and pepper shakers that her daughter, my grandmother, had collected before she passed away; old-fashioned porcelain-faced dolls; strange almanacks and for some reason rooster-themed memorabilia all over the place - and I loved it. There was a park in easy walking distance from her house, with a lighthouse we used to sneak into, whose rickety stairs terrify me now that I'm older and wiser. There was a river with a bridge for the railroad tracks that my mom told me she and her brothers used to race across, while telling us in the next breath we were under no circumstances to ever do.
My Granny was born in 1902, and to the last she didn't take shit from anyone. When they made a law that you couldn't burn leaves and trash in your yard anymore, she still did it. When the cops came by to tell her it was illegal, she told them she was over 90 years old and had been doing it all her life - were they really going to take a lady her age to jail? She told me stories about growing up in that house, and while I could tell her memories were not all happy ones, I was glad to hear them anyway.
So when I think about farming, and having a home to call my own with its own shelves of apple butter and preserves, maybe its own claw-foot tub full of cucumbers if I can find one, it makes me feel happy inside. I've been making a lot of friends this past year, many of whom have chickens of their own (and let me tell you, trading leftovers for fresh eggs is a pretty sweet deal), and one in particular of whom has goats, sheep, and miniature donkeys. It's been making me realize that yes, this is really what I want to do, and I want to do it soon, and in this area.
To that end, I've decided to buy a goat. My friend (we'll call her Sunshine) has a bunch of pregnant mamas right now, and in the recent snowstorm three of them had their kids. Two of them froze to death in the night, but one of them made it, and I'm pretty sure I've fallen in love. Uno was intended to be a meat goat, but I think she's going to be the start of a milking herd for me.
She's even cute enough that I'm breaking one of the Cardinal Rules of the Blog, and posting my face for the first time. Enjoy it, folks. (p.s. the lady in the black shirt is not me, she's a friend who's crashing at my place until May, and wanted to come down and visit Uno. I'm the one in the glasses.)
I think it's a pretty good start.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
If by 'just a little' you mean a dozen pints of marmalade, 6 pints of jalapeno jelly, and a dozen half-pints of candied jalapenos, ALL of which have all found homes and a good portion of which have been devoured by yours truly in the past month. Then, yes, just a little bit of canning.
So, anyway, I have all these extra jars now (I may have gone and bought 4 dozen more half-pint jars and a dozen quart jars), and I am all out of produce, so hey, why not try growing some?
There's a community garden set up through the university, so I tracked down the email for that and called up a few friends to see if they'd be interested. And now? Now, I may have asked for a 4x20 foot plot, that we've already planned out the setup for, and are just waiting to get the seeds in. Yeah, this is going to be interesting :) The Library Overlord said he might help me get the actual land ready, but I think I'd really prefer to build the plot up instead of try to dig into the clay that is our local soil.
I'm excited, though. I'm actually going to be working with people who can touch plants without killing them, and all the ones we're planting are heirloom and organic. I can't fucking WAIT for spring!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Shit yeah, bitches, and it was EASY! Here is what you do:
Buy a bunch of canning jars (12 16oz jars for $8 at HEB)
Buy a bunch of oranges (18lb bag for $7 at my farmer’s market)
Buy a bunch of sugar (The Library Overlord went out and got me some kinda crazy 20lb bag of sugar, I really hope I use it all making jam because I don’t have anything I can store this in)
(optional) Buy a set of canning tongs ($10, The Walmarts)
Get a big cooking pot, like for making a bunch of soup.
Get an even BIGGER, GIANT stock pot, like for making chili for a very large party.
Peel some oranges. I find it’s easier to quarter them first, then peel the quarters, because then the peels are all the same size, instead of all kinds of crazy sizes. Cut the peels into little strips and put them in your pot. I did 8 oranges per batch.
Tear the orange-quarters into little bits, and put them in the pot. You can do this over the pot, so the inevitable juice drips go in with the rest of it. Toss out any seeds.
Pour in water, 1 cup at a time, until it barely covers your oranges. For my pot, 4 cups did it. Then, add as many cups of sugar as you did water. THIS IS ALL YOU NEED TO ADD!
Bring that bitch up to a boil for like a minute, then take it down to a simmer. Simmer it until you can take some of it out, put it in a clean bowl, and it kinda starts to gel up when it cools. That’s when you know it’s done. The recipe I was using said that should take about an hour, but I had the heat on low at first so it took a lot longer than that. Just keep setting the timer for 20 minutes, after that first hour, and eventually it will be jam.
NOTE: MARMALADE HAS A BITTER BITE. If you don’t like that, don’t add the peel, and DO add pectin. I didn’t do that, so I don’t know how to tell you how to do it. Me, I like the little bit of bitterness, and the texture of the peel.
TO CAN: Get your big-ass stockpot, and put something on the bottom so the jars don’t rest directly on the bottom of the pot. I used a vegetable steamer thingy. Put your jars in, put your lid parts in, fill it with water, and boil that shit for at least a minute to sterilize. Then, USING YOUR TONGS BECAUSE THAT SHIT IS HOT, remove the jars and fill them with your nice, hot marmalade. Oh, yeah, baby, just like that. Fill me with your orange goodness. Put the lids on the jars, the screw-thingies around them, and screw them on tight. Do this to all the jars, or until you run out of marmalade.
Put the jars back in the boiling water, and boil them for another 15 minutes. Take them out, and let them cool down slowly. If you can still poke the top of the jar and make a clicking sound as the top comes up and down, then it hasn’t sealed yet. If it doesn’t seal by the time it’s room temperature, boil it again, and see if it goes that time.
It should probably wait overnight to cool down, and it’s supposed to take a couple days to really thicken up in the jar. But let’s be honest, you’re going to be eating it with a spoon by breakfast time, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
FUN VARIANT: CHOCOLATE ORANGE MARMALADE!!!
When the marmalade is cooked, but you haven’t canned it yet, add in a bunch of chocolate chips. I didn’t really measure it at all, but maybe 1 part chocolate to 2 or 3 parts jam? Mix it up, and the heat of the jam will melt the chocolate. Can as per usual. It’s so good, your mouth will orgasm with delight.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Last night, I hit 50 rows left to go on my Persian Star Shawl. I posited that if I knit 5 rows a day, I’d be done in a little over a week! Then I remembered that the rows? Are over 1000 stitches each at this point.
I did some math. I have knit 124,592 stitches on this shawl. There are 51,200 left to go, PLUS the edging that I haven’t figured out yet what it’s going to be.
Galveston was only 125,128 stitches. If I’d done another shawl with that size yarn, I’d be almost done right now, instead of having 29% left to knit.
So, either way, I think I'm going to try it. I'm going to try and knit at LEAST two rows a day, and stop if I hit five in one evening. If I work on it during my lunch break, that should help. If I work on it during D&D games, dinners with friends, anything I can think of, that should all help. I'm getting into the point now where more and more of it has patterning every row, instead of every other row, and that is not helping. But as bob is my witness, I will get this done before my arbitrary deadline of April Fool's Day!
Monday, January 04, 2010
I'd really like to cut down my possessions to the bare minimum this year, and it's time to admit to myself that this may have to involve a significant bit of destashing. Some of it I'll be putting up for sale, but some of it I may be posting here for free, so keep a lookout. Now that I have one completely-cleared-off bookshelf at my disposal, I find myself wanting to store my various non-fiber crafts there. Once there's actually ROOM for everything I own - or, rather, once I've cut down what I own to just what I have room for - I think I might even start decorating. I'd like to finally hang my creepy mask collection, and maybe do a little bit of painting to hang up. If things turn out well, I'll take pictures and show everyone :)
Things in my personal life are going well, too. I've gotten used to living alone, and I'm starting to really enjoy being single. It's fun to flirt, but it's even better to go home to my quiet house at the end of the night. I'm secure in my home and my finances, I've gotten confidence in my ability to take care of myself, and all in all I'm happy. I know part of that has to be the brain drugs, and I'm so thankful that I'm finally on them. My weight hasn't really gone down a whole lot (I waver between 190-195), but I feel good, so it's hard to care that much.
I have another spinning wheel that I got off Craigslist that I'm still in the process of fixing up, but the drive wheel itself is a bit of a mess. I need to figure out exactly which spoke goes into which of 12 spots, so that the come-apart rim will come back together AND fit on the too-loose-for-my-tastes center. Once I've got that figured out, I am gluing that bitch together like you would not believe.
And hey, if that doesn't work, I can replace the whole thing with a bicycle wheel.