Saturday, April 24, 2010


During the spring cleanup happening around here I have found a wide assortment of things that have been left, lost, misplaced, forgotten, blown away or perhaps swiped by one of the dogs over the years.  I have found several cars of various shapes, sizes, colors and makers. Some are in pretty good shape and others  probably should have been left in their earthen burial grounds where I found them. I have found a small plastic yellow dinosaur with his front feet bit off, sandals, socks, tin cans, a couple quart jars from bug collections gone bad,a few utensils, assorted bits n pieces of plastic stuff.

Until yesterday I had not found anything of any real value  in quite some time around here when I saw something that caught my eye. After digging  around in the dirt   and pulling it out I found an old cast iron chili pot with  handles and cute little legs. It is a little bit rough looking but with a bit of TLC, some elbow grease  and time  it will be as good as new.

rainy day ramble

Ahhh a couple days of  rest are upon us as we are getting some needed rains today and tomorrow. I wandered about a bit this morning between the rains and it was absolutely beautiful out. It was all dark and gloomy but  the birds were singing and the green colors were  brilliant. The flowers were blooming and the veggies, I swear I could see growing. Unfortunately along side the veggies I could also see the weeds enjoying the watering.

I had entirely good intentions of making  some cheese and yogurt  today as well as  making some poison ivy soap and being creative, making something  fun, useful and worth posting about. But, once I got up  and around and moving I changed my mind and decided to devote myself to nothing but what absolutely had to be done. Besides, my poison ivy is itching n scratching, the kink in my back is getting kinkier and  my muscles are having  a few issues so I deserve a break(insert evil grin here).  Sometimes my lack of motivation and enthusiasm is astounding even to myself.
 First thing this morning, ok not exactly the first thing, but within the first couple hours of our day I went to feed the chickens  and even  though I know the new ones are door hangers I swung open the door to greet them and say  good morning and 6 of them came charging out the door at me.  Great, I barely got my eyes open  and have a half dozen loose birds  out n  on the run, me with 2 coffee cans of food in hand, big white dog is trying to  catch them gently (haha) and the stupid small black dog so excited about chicken for breakfast he cant control himself and manthing over yonder at the goats feeding them.    I try and grab feet, feathers and wings and managed to snag  five before I realized  that it would be much easier if I set the feed down  and then caught them.  I holler to  the manthing who is in his  water shoes as the small black dog and the big white one chase the  poor little chicken over the bank and through the woods. Manthing somehow  managed to  grab the chick  from the black dog with no damage  other than a good scare and then I watched while he tried climbing the  bank in wet leaves, water shoes and chicken in hand. I think he got a lil bit annoyed on how entertained I was   by his  struggle so I helped him out n took the chook because I am nice like that .  Ain't nothing like a relaxing, raining Saturday morning.

Sometime after the near chicken fiasco I went out to the front porch and heard a loud buzzing sound. I thought  it was either a very large bumble bee or Japanese hornet but when I looked up it was a hummingbird. I opened the door more for it to go out but it was being persistently stupid and trying to go out the corner of the porch. After a few more futile attempts to talk  the hummer  out the door I tried to coax him while standing on a bucket. I guess my talking to myself and the scraping of the bucket finally got manthings attention  enough that he came to help me snag it up and set it free.  I caught him once  n  he escaped but  went right back to his silliness of trying to get out  the corner. Manthing was finally able to get him and set him free but in the process I was able to get a fairly decent picture of him.
in flight pic

This bird was the yellow color you see. He was quite brilliantly colored with the yellow and black  that wrapped around its underside. Its chest was white and it didn't have the other little patch under its chin so was  a female I believe.  Its beak was straight and it was definitely a hummer. Even for a hummingbird it seemed quite small so possibly  a juvenile. Thing is we have no yellow hummingbirds in Ga. I searched online a fair bit  and the only thing I have found  is the possibility of a young ruby throated hummer or that  it was covered in pollen. We both  handled this bird, no pollen was left on our hands and if that was all pollen it sure was an intricate pattern.  Maybe it is a mutant or an exotic hummer(and was thoroughly confused on its whereabouts) or maybe we have a new species. I don't know exactly what type of hummer she was but it sure was pretty.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth day is every day

Happy earth day  all! Please keep in mind  that while we for whatever reason  have just one day set aside for Mother each year,  EVERYDAY is earth day. Love her, respect her and take care of her and she will take care of you.


As a kid I hated chick peas or chi-chi beans as I used to call them.  My mother loved them in salads which we ate a lot of, unfortunately they were always from a can  and they all tasted like sand so I thought they were thoroughly disgusting.

Come to think of it, as a kid I found most everything disgusting although we always gardened and had mostly fresh, home grown, foods.  Lets just say my "food" as a child consisted of potatoes, meat, bread  and cheeses. I would do  nearly anything to get away from eating a veggie of any sort including push  things under the side of my plate, stuff the food in my mouth and have to go pee and of course feeding it to the dog sitting under my feet.I actually used these tricks until I was about 30 or so , no really I disliked veggies just that much that until I was very well in to adulthood I did not eat them.

Of course, throwing yourself headlong into full blown,  working toward sustainable  farming life (which is overwhelmingly vegetarian like), one needs to  learn to eat what they grow and learn to like it.  I think I have done quite well,  in fact there are just a few veggies that I do not like no matter how hard I try and swear I will NEVER eat. Garbanzos are not one of those foods. I have actually learned to quite like the lil jobbers, they don't taste like sand at all, are quite tasty, easy to prepare and good for you too.

I had intended to purchase a pack of garbanzo seed this spring to plant and try this year as an experimental, filler crop. Legumes are nearly always what I fill in with when I harvest a garden plot out and having nothing else to throw in.  Even if they don't produce any edibles they do add nitrogen  and other goodness naturally to the soil.  Unfortunately, I completely forgot to add the  beans and wild rice to my seed purchase  so i was thinking I would have to go without them this year and then I got to thinking. Would garbanzos from the grocery store sprout? I knew   from my own experience that most other beans grow just fine from the grocery.  While they may not be prolific  producers , they do indeed grow and make beans and if  you save seed from what you planted (other than soy, most beans in USA are not GMO but are often  hybrid) it will revert to what the mother plant was  which is typically an heirloom variety.

So, I looked a bit online to see if someone else had tried growing garbanzos from the store as I am certain that I am not the first person who has thought about growing them. While there is not much information out there, I did find hat they are a long season legume, over 100 days and that they are often an over winter cover crop and if they are not killed off during the winter the beans are just an added bonus. I also  found that in Central and South America they are often  ground into flour  and used  rather than eaten as a bean. They are considered a good bean for "sprouting" and eating  as a sprout.

 On a down side, they  seem to be very particular about moisture once the bean pods form. Anything I have found on them says  something like this. "The problem is the seeds are sensitive to moisture, and the pods offer  no protection whatsoever. Rain or would cause any ripe seed to rot or sprout, even if the pods had not yet dried. They need to be picked whenever rain threatens and thus the spoilage rate is high."  This is not good for us here. I had this problem last year with all our extra rain and many of our beans that we planted for consumption, not just an experiment we complete losses,  then again so was almost EVERYTHING last year.

I have sprouted some over this last week  and will be setting them in the ground over the next few days. If they seem to do well this summer, I may use  them this year instead of my typical and boring pinto beans or black eye peas. Last years I  tried lentils and did not have much luck, though  the plants grew they  didn't do much   of anything else. It will be fun and a learning experience no matter what they do  and I will  periodically do an update of how they are growing.

Fore more information on growing garbanzos  go here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

simple supper-lentil stew

Since we are having a cool and rainy  day  here today I decided to make us some lentil stew and corn dumplins for dinner tonight.  A nice, easy, hot meal that isn't overly heavy  yet is nutritious, filling, cheap and versatile, my kind of fare for a lazy and  relaxing day.

There are many different lentil soup and/or stew recipes out there and  I don't exactly follow any recipe in particular  but I always begin with a base mix of the following and throw it all in a crock pot. Cook times depend on what veggies you throw in  but 3-4 hours on high usually  covers it. Serve with salad and bread as a meal or thicken  and serve as a stew over biscuits, dumpling, bread or noodles.  Be creative  lentils are very versatile.
1-1/2 cups lentils
1 cup carrots sliced
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tbsp butter
15 oz can tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic

From this base I add other  spices, veggies, meat, rice or noodles even. Some of our favorites to add in are root veggies, although we tend to eat this in the winter months rather than now. A mild curry flavor is also nice as is adding Mexican flavors and veggies.  The Mexican  is especially  flavorful with corn  dumplins, almost like a pozole with corn tortillas  but not . Give it a Moroccan flare and throw some winter squash  or pumpkin cubes in. If your family needs to have meat with every meal, throw some diced bits of meat in, a little meat can go a long way in  dishes such as this.

Tonight our  stew is simply  the above  mentioned recipe with  some added spices and taters over corn dumplins. Total cost was the price  of the lentils (45cents),  flour(10 cents) and spices (10 cents). This will give us at least two meals  for the two of us and maybe even  three. It took me about 10 minutes to prepare everything   and get it cooking, now that is what I call simple.

For some very different lentil stews check these out.   For those that don't eat meat, simply omit it in the recipes, it is what  I do they are still very good. The only one that I have not made some sorts of variation of is the beer and bacon one. The rest are quite tasty and all are simple.

For corn dumplins just replace 1/2 of your flour in your favorite dumplin recipe with corn meal and cook as normal.  Here is the recipe I use for dumplins and they have not failed me yet. 
2 cups of white flour (not self rising, if using self rising omit baking powder and salt)
  (for corn dumplins use 1 cup flour and 1 cup corn meal)
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup of milk (or more)
 Mix all ingredients. Make sure your soup or stew is on a gentle simmer. Drop dumpling dough into the liquid by teaspoonfuls or for larger dumplings use a tablespoon. There's no need to worry about shaping perfect dumplings because they will puff up as they cook. Cover your pot with a lid so that the dumplings can steam. In crock pot this takes about 30 minutes on a stove 20.

Monday, April 19, 2010

around the homestead-planting

We were beginning to notice a dry weather pattern  creeping in and saw that we are supposed to be getting a little dose of rain in the next day or two.  After contemplating, looking at the weather forecast, weather patterns thus far this season, signs from Mother and  relying on our gut instincts we  decided it was the time for us to get the majority of our spring crops in the ground now.  We are hoping that things will germinate and begin growing a good root system before it gets too hot  and too dry if this current pattern continues.  We are also banking  on no frosts in the next two weeks or so. At the same time  if something absolutely awful was to happen and kill everything we had in the ground,replacing them would not be that costly as the only plants are the tomatoes.   The remainder was our seed, most of which I have plenty more stashed. 

We have spent the last three days  in the gardens. The first  two days were spent planting tomatoes  and me transplanting tobacco seedlings into grow cups while manthing  was doing the first till of the tobacco bed.  For the tomatoes we  used the weed barrier feed bags.  Hopefully this will eliminate most of the up keep in there once we set up the trellises.  We had a bit of space left in that garden and added a bed of carrots  and a bed of mosaic long beans and some basil. In the small patch outside of the bed we planted rice beans and a couple squash plants.  Because we just tilled that space up last week or so we decided to use the weed bag weed barrier here as well.
By the goats we have onions, onions more onions, leeks  and peas.   the hot tub  has stir fry greens in it and the other small beds have flowers, herbs, lettuce mixes, radishes, beets, spinach and  turnips. In containers  we have scallions, carrots,cilantro, broccoli, and  tomato as well as plans for a few more. In the pyramid we have onions and the gutter garden has lettuces and spinach.

Behind the green house we put squash and melons in the round mounds and in the squarish beds are hidatsa beans. In the pacman shaped bed I put  eggplant and squash. There is also some chard in there as well as cilantro, dill and a few plants I am waiting on for seed. Along that side of the gh is mint, garlic, cucumber and thyme and a zucchini in the little circle.
 In the top twos tiers we have taters and in the tires, squash. In the bottom bed  we put in several types of lettuces and greens for salads and put calendula on both ends. Another potato bed is by the evergreen and below that is my greens and celery "going to seed" bed and then an empty  bed The next bed down the hill has okra, squash and melon in it ,  thefollowing one has amaranth and below that is corn  Eventually  we will put beans in there as well. The black covering is extra shade cloth  from the GH, we use it to protect the seed from crows. Up and to the left of the corn bed is another potato bed.
 Out front we have cabbage, broccoli, carrots, corn and will eventually have the remainder planted in the three sisters. The two beds in front of that bed are still empty as is the small bed up at the corner of the shack. In front of the porch  we have peas.
  In the GH we have beans, cucumbers, cabbage, peas,  melon, onion,greens, lettuce, okra and spinach. These pics are a bit old. The plants in here are much larger now.
Another couple days of planting and we will have the summer crops in  although I could use a little break caused by rain as my dishes really need washing and my body could use   a day off.

For a complete photo journal  visit here.