Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thurgood Thursday: A Rant

Yes, my dogs sleep in the bed with me - if I'm lucky. They usually prefer the cooler hardwood floor.  I feed them dinner before I even think about cooking my own.   Their bowls get topped off with a joint support and digestive supplement in the form of a rich meaty gravy.

The boys visit the vet for regular check-ups and emergencies.  No, I myself do not have health insurance, and it's been several years since I've been to the doctor.  

After Thurgood had surgery to correct some eye problems, I sat on the couch with his head in my lap and read Marley & Me aloud to him.  When he cried out in pain that night, I slept on the cool kitchen floor with him and held him in my arms until morning.

We go on two walks every day, rain or shine.  When the weather permits, we go on a weekly long hike in the woods.

For Thurgood's third birthday, the boys had cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries.  Yes, those burgers were for the boys.  

When their tummies are upset, I feed them warm pumpkin to coat their stomachs.  And, although I'm vegetarian, I cook them chicken and rice.

My dogs get a warm bath every few weeks in our tub with Certified Fair Trade pure castile soap made with organic hemp and eucalyptus oils and lavender mint conditioner. We brush their teeth with chicken-flavored toothpaste every day (mostly every day).

Miles spent the first three months of his life in a puppy in Jefferson City, Missouri.  He came to me through an animal shelter, full of parasites from drinking dirty water.  There were so many animals at the mill that there was no way he could have received any significant human contact while there.   It's because of people who see animals as commodities, that Miles now has a difficult time trusting people.  If you get a dog, don't buy one from a pet store or "breeder."  Adopt, adopt, adopt!  They need our help.

The head of the house is the one with the tail.

I'm 28 years old, and my dogs are my children. 

I'll be the first to admit that I tend to go overboard when it comes to caring for my kids.  However, I will not apologize for it.  Dogs are emotional creatures.  They need to feel safe and loved.  They look to us for confidence and reassurance.  A dog's person is his everything.  My efforts are rewarded tenfold with the unconditional love that only a dog can give.   

My heart aches for the all the dogs that live their lives on the end of a chain.  All they want is to be a part of the family.  They want to be with their pack. They are sensitive, loving animals that thrive on human attention.  Dogs and humans CO-EVOLVED for crying out loud!

We live in a rural area where a lot of people keep their dogs in tiny pens or on the end of a chain all hours of the day.  Animal welfare and control services are scarce, and attitudes about animal care are all out of whack.

I understand that livestock guardian dogs live with the flock, and are not house pets.  I have no objection to that.  I do, however, object to leaving a dog outside all day on the end of a chain, bored out of his mind, wishing to come inside and be with his people.  When you call a dog your own, you are committing to provide for all of his emotional and physical needs for the duration of his life.

 No, dogs don't need fancy toys or fancy food (but they do appreciate them).  And you don't have to let your dog into your bed or even onto your couch to be  a good parent.  But, all dogs deserve adequate food, shelter, medical care, and most importantly, love.

There.  I feel better now.

Furkids rock!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Small Victories: I'll Take Them All!

Small Victory 1
We have one artichoke.  It's tiny, but I'm happy.  I hadn't expected any of the plants to fruit this year.  I'll overwinter at least five of the artichokes, and maybe we'll get more chokes next year.

Small Victory 2
The first pumpkin has ripened.  It's a little pie pumpkin and has a hole eaten through it.  The rest of the pumpkins look a lot better, and they're larger.  The chickens will get pumpkin #1.

The First 

 Another pie pumpkin.

Young's Beauty pumpkin

Small Victory 3
The early tomatoes all blighted-out, but the late plants are doing great.  I planted a dozen Black Plum Paste and transplanted five volunteer plants.  They've begun flowering, so I think we will get another tomato crop before it freezes!

Late tomatoes

I can feel autumn creeping up on me when I'm in the garden.  It's not the bad kind of creepy-creep, but a good sort of feeling.  The winter squash is establishing it's presence, and all of the late summer veggies are in full effect.

Australian Butter Squash

 Sweet Dakota Rose

 Sugar Baby

 This morning's harvest

 The Wisconsin Lakes are turning red!

We've had plenty of eggplants to eat and share this summer, and they're still coming in fast. 

Pintung Long

The melon patch is full of hidden fruits.

We harvested the first two plantings of corn last weekend.  Now the Queen's Island Blue squash has room to stretch. 

It's been a challenge to keep up with the harvest, but I ain't complainin'.  We eat good.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Monster in My Garden

I found this monster in my garden yesterday morning.  He had almost completely defoliated an entire Hot Portugal pepper plant overnight.

Tomato Hornworm

I am irrationally terrified of all things wormy (yes, I do have vermicompost bins in my basement containing thousands of Red Wigglers).  So, I knocked on the door of the best neighbor in the world and told him that I had a "wildlife issue."  He came over and eliminated the problem.  He put it in a jar, and we fed it to the chickens.  The ladies flipped out over it and chased each other around the yard, competing for this prized meal.  The monster was at least four inches long.  

Later that evening, as I thumbed through the latest issue of Mother Earth News, I found a letter that referenced the tomato hornworm titled "Save the Hornworms."  In it, Marilyn Smith from San Jose writes:

 I firmly disagree with the tip in "All About Growing Tomatoes" (Crop at a Glance).   The advice to pick and eliminate hornworms gives the erroneous impression that the worms eat tomatoes.  If you can find one on or eating a tomato, go ahead and destroy it, but you won't.  The green worms are so impossible to find because they remain on, and only feed on, the leaves.  We all know a healthy tomato has leaves to spare.  Let's not encourage the destruction of harmless creatures in our garden environment.  (Hornworms morph into amazing hummingbird moths.)

Seriously?  While I agree that the hummingbird moth is a beautiful creature, I believe that is Ms. Smith who is "erroneous" in giving the impression that the worms are "harmless."  I am well aware that they do not consume the fruits of the plants on which they alight.  However, they can easily destroy the entire plant within a matter of hours by stripping it of each and every leaf.

I usually have a live and let live attitude about most garden creatures, but not in the case of the hornworm.  My message to Mr. Worm:  KEEP OUT OR DIE!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spilt Milk: A Tomato Report

We got the blight.  SO disappointing, but I'm not crying about it.  The first and second plantings came down with it, so we pulled up the thirty or so plants and sucked back our tears.  I had just recently put in fifteen new plants along the fence, so I'm hoping we can save those with a good dose of copper spray.

The day we said goodbye to our plants, I was able to harvest 80 pounds of tomatoes off of them (only half of them ripe).  Again, I'm not crying about it.

Amongst the tomatoes that blighted-out were Black Sea Man, Persimmon, Moonglow, Red Brandywine, and Speckled Roman.  Of the five varieties, my favorites for flavor are Black Sea Man and Persimmon.  However, Black Sea Man was the first to blight and produced the least.  Persimmon is a great producer, and oh so sweet.  Speckled Roman are great paste tomatoes.  Ben says his flavor-favorite is Red Brandywine.

Black Sea Man

So far, the total 2011 tomato harvest is at 159.25 lbs., and that number will not be changing any time soon.  I've started 12 more plants in the greenhouse, hoping to get some super-late maters.  We'll see...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Ben made a trip down to the catfish pond last Saturday evening.  And, what do ya know?  It was a success!  He caught this handsome 22-incher within an hour.  The secret to his success: Snap into a Slim Jim!  Yes, nasty convenience store "meat."

 I fried this sucker up, and we had him with a side of macaroni & cheese and sweet potatoes.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Separate But Equal: A Watermelon Divided

When a watermelon enters our home, everybody gets a piece.  This is how we enjoyed the last one.

Clockwise from upper left: human portion, chicken portion, for the dogs, compost-bound 

 Is it REALLY for ME?



 So juicy.

I gotta take a breather here. 

Hey, Thurgood, you gonna finish that? 

 No rind left behind.

 Chicken conference

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grilled Pizza

I saved out some of the pesto I made a few days ago to freeze and made grilled pizzas with it.  I have to admit that every time I grill pizzas instead of baking them in our clay oven, I feel like I'm cheating on her.  Nothing compares to a pizza out of the earth oven, but the grill is faster.  I don't have to plan the meal as far in advance with the grill as I do with the mud oven.
Anyway, it was delicious!

Place dough on a hot grill (no oil needed).

 Remove from the grill when the bottom is browned.  Flip over so that the uncooked side is down.

Add toppings.   This one has pesto, pepper cheese, roasted tomatoes and roasted red onions.

Put the topped pizza back on the grill.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chicken Treat Pop Blocks and Frozen Pesto

It was sooo hot yesterday!  The high was 97 degrees with a heat index of 114.  So, after harvesting, fertilizing, and general gardening, I hunkered down in my kitchen for several hours.  I made very special treats for the girls, and a lot of pesto to freeze.

Chicken Pops
The chickens love juicy fruits like watermelon and tomato, so I thought they might want to peck at a block of frozen delights.

I made one pop block with cucumbers, cantaloupe, and tomato.  The other (back) is full of strawberries, cucumbers, and peaches.

I filled plastic containers with water and treats, put them in the deep freezer, and ta-dah!

The ladies LOVE these.  They're like chicken crack and methamphetamine all in one.  I gave them two today, and I've already put another one in the freezer for them.  If this doesn't entice them to make eggs, I don't know what will.

Round 1: Morning

Round 2: Afternoon

Hen Party

The best thing about the chicken pops is that all the ladies share them nicely.  I'm so lucky to have such a great group of girls.  Yes, they're bossy little princesses, but they've created a peacefull community amongst themselves.

Frozen Pesto Pucks
Yesterday, I posted about the pound of basil I that I had harvested that morning.  This is what came of it:

 I washed and dried all of the basil in the salad spinner.

These basil stems will be used later in vegetable stock. 

To the basil/olive oil blend, I added parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts. 

I lined a muffin pan with plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. 

 Just like little pesto hockey pucks.

I wrapped each puck individually in plastic wrap and put them in freezer bags.  

They'll keep a really long time like this.  Maybe a year?  But I always use them up pretty quickly.  I've frozen two dozen of theses so far this season.  I'm aiming for fifty.