A Rare Day Off…

I had to go back to work at the end of May – after 4 months off for medical leave.

I’ve had few days off – although I have been fortunate enough to be able to work first half-time, and most recently, about 3/4ths of a typical work day.

On an average day I’m at work by 7 am, get home by 1:15 pm – and pretty much crash. Getting over this lengthy illness will take a concerted effort and quite a bit of patience! It’s been pretty frustrating not being able to accomplish the many things that I feel I ought to accomplish.

Over the course of the last week – after a substantial delay due to the very cool, very wet Spring we’ve had – our garden has begun to take some shape.

HOORAY!

Here – let me show you what we’ve got put together so far…

This is the “old” garden. I.e., the original garden plot that’s been here since we moved her 5 years ago.

In the foreground are three rows of squash… they are yellow crookneck (my very favorite in the whole entire world), and Mexican squash – sometimes also seen as grey zucchini. The Mexican squash is a new variety for us – I buy it sometimes at the store, but it’s expensive, and not reliably available. So I decided we oughta grow some!

Next, is a row of dill. I’m relying on it to be wildly successful – I have big pickling plans this year!

There’s a reserved space next (i.e., empty) – right before that trellis. It’s for the trellis that is currently being used for peas. When the peas are done, the trellis will move here, and we’ll get another planting of green beans in. And the trellis that you see here:

On the left side are the old standard – Blue Lake pole beans.

On the right – another fun new option:

In the right growing conditions, these beans can grow up to 36″ long! WOW! The rumor is that they’re fabulous, too. I hope to find out. That would mean, of course, that we NOT the deer get to eat the green beans this year!

To that end, I’ve planted lots of flowers that are supposed to be deer deterrents. Like:

My goal is to edge each plot with plantings that the deer are said to be particularly repulsed by. They include: astilbe, coreopsis, gallardia, chives, lavender, sage (quite a number of varieites), purple coneflower, candy tuft, and bee balm. Here’s hoping it works!

After the green bean trellis are five hills of another new to us planting – Romanesco Zucchini. I think this is the variety of squash that I enjoy so much when I’m in Spain – or at least something very similar to it. I heard so many raves about it – and it was SO difficult to obtain the seed. I’m really hoping for success with this one!

And lastly in the old garden – four or five rows of corn – I can’t remember how many now. We’ll see when it comes up! 🙂

In the “new” garden plot we’ve got…

A potato condo with both Red Pontiacs and White Kennebecs. Here’s to a more successful potato year than last year!

Cucumbers! The trellis on the left has pickling cucumbers. The trellis on the right has slicing cucumbers.

In the foreground you may be able to discern a hill – there are actually 3 (I forgot to get a shot of them!) – one of a variety similar to cantaloupe that we’ve enjoyed in Spain, another an heirloom cantaloupe, and then an heirloom watermelon.

We’ve got forty tomato plants in the ground. A few aren’t looking so great. Gosh – they could sure use a few solid days of genuinely summer weather! They are all – of course – heirloom varieties: Paul Robeson, Copia, TC Jones, Grammy Cantrell German Red, Moon Glow, Dr. Wyches, Grace Lahman’s Pink, Roman Candle, Weeping Charlie Roma, Amish Paste, Isis Candy Cherry, Dr. Carolyn Cherry, and Tess Land Race Currant Cherry.

Separating the two banks of tomato trellises is a row of basil plants. I have some serious pesto plans for those basil plants!

Also in the new garden is my weed-infested patch of cabbages…

As well as my weed-infested patch of peas – which have pea pods on them now!!! Woo Hoo!!!

Aren’t they beautiful?

You may recall this entire plot was completely weed infested – as recently as just a week ago! We decided to just till it all under and start over again – sadly, saying goodbye to the spinach and green onions that had limped along thus far. I need to get out there and weed this little corner – and soon! – but only as energy allows.

Also in this plot are…

Parsley…

Cilantro…

Beets…

…and marigolds.

So far.

We will fill up nearly every spare inch we can.

I still need to get lettuce planted, a new planting of spinach, and a new planting of green onions in, as well. I put those under the trellises – it works out nicely.

John also got two more beds tilled tonight.

The front bed – along the street – will have pumpkins and lots and lots of perennial seeds that I’ve saved up and need to get in the ground!

And a bed where we’ve had great success with green beans in the past, will play host to green beans once again! John will get the trellising up in the next day or two, and then it will get planted. And then immediately thereafter – fenced! One MUST protect the garden from the chickens!

And speaking of chickens…

Buffy and three of the babies… the fourth (the Dominique) is always trailing behind somewhere!

One of the little black sex link chicks. Isn’t she pretty?

And – one of the EIGHT mostly naked chickens I have on my hands right now:

I don’t know if it’s the weather being so cool and yucky that’s caused so many of them to decide to molt all at the same time – or what! But there are feathers EVERYWHERE! Poor things – they look kinda pathetic! At least it’s not as cold as when Crayon molted last year! But has sure put a damper on egg production!

So – while I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped to on this lovely day off, I’m thankful for every moment I got to spend here at home with the kids and in the garden, and out with the girls. I even threw together a new fun salad, that I’ll post about later this week. I think it’s going to be a keeper!

Oooh! And – Shelly‘s broody again! I think I’m picking up fertile eggs for her to set in the next day or two. More on that as details are available!

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Wing Clipping

When you get a delivery of beautiful little chicks, chances are you don’t consider that one day, said adorable little chicks will develop a wanderlust.

And want to sleep places like this:

Not only that – when new threats present themselves to your flock – you want to take measures to protect them! Particularly when said threat involves three small-elephant-sized, aggressive neighbor dogs!

So you fence! (And make sure your dog knows that she’s a good dog for protecting her flock!)

Then – you realize that your flock is kinda sneaky.

In fact, they become quite adept at escaping above-mentioned protective fencing!

What’s a girl to do?

Clip some wings, that’s what!

I know, I know. It’s controversial. It’s also got some questionable efficacy. But – well – sometimes it’s the best option to try and keep your flock safe!

I will admit – the first time we considered clipping wings I was a little freaked out. I mean – dang – doesn’t that hurt them? Honestly – no – it doesn’t. It’s about the same as you or I getting a haircut. Really!

And if you spend any amount of time researching online, you’ll see lots of videos about wing clipping, drawings, and the like. There are some that I like particularly that I’ll share with you. But I’ll also show you what we just wrapped up with – clipping the wings of our girls.

First – my personal favorite time of day to do this – when all of the girls have gone to bed. Wait until everyone is roosted, and it’s mostly dark out, and grab yourself a pair of really good scissors. I use an old pair of kitchen shears – and I make sure they’re nice and sharp.

It’s best to gently take hold of the hen – holding her feet with one hand, and cradling her with the other.

Next, hang her upside down.

Yes – really.

Then extend one of her wings.

(Pepper is upset, she’s worried we’re doing something not very nice to her chicken!)

It doesn’t matter which side – just choose a wing.

Now this is important – see that first section of the wing? Right where my right pinky is below?

Do you see the little set of wings on the underside of that wing? THAT is our guide.

Those little feathers are the primary coverts. The bigger feathers underneath there are the primary flight feathers – those are the ones we want to trim.

See?

You just trim that first set – it’s not that many feathers.

Afterward – you right the hen, cuddle her a little, speak soothingly to her, and then resituate her back on the roost she came from. She might be a little indignant for a moment – but not too long – ’cause she won’t want anyone moving in on her favorite roost spot!

Here’s another one – different coloration – so it might be easier to see…

And another…

See?!

Nothing to it!

Things you need to know…

When your chicken molts – she’ll loose most of her feathers – and regrow new ones – and well, if you feel this is a beneficial thing for your flock – you’ll have to re-clip those wings.

This does put them off kilter a bit when they fly. If you’ve got a particularly motivated flier – well, then you might want to clip BOTH wings – so they’re not so off kilter that they fly INTO stuff, you know? The benefit being that they will be less able/likely to fly so far or high.

Nope – this does not hamper their ability to roost at all. My girls still get up on their 5 foot high roosts with their clipped wings.

And – yes – you may well still have a girl who can do this:

AFTER her wings have been clipped.

Go figure!

Now – some resources you may find helpful.

When you’re clipping wings – remember, you’re using the tips of primary coverts to guide where to trim the primary flight feathers.

And here’s a great video!

Hope you find this helpful!

Happy Father’s Day!

I’ve been missing my Dad.

My aunt (left) and Dad (right). Probably near Jackson, MS around 1943/44.

He was a really “real” guy. He was all about telling the truth, being a man of integrity, a man of his word, and loving unconditionally.

Man, he loved my Mom.

Man, he loved us kids.

He was not a mover and a shaker, so much. But he moved people by his love and generosity. And he wasn’t above getting on the floor and playing with a bunch of kids – even if that meant getting dirty, or laughing his full-bellied laugh along with a child.

I don’t think he ever forgot how to see things from the eyes of a child.

And that, my friends, is part of what made him such a great Dad.

You know what? He died February 1, 1994 – and I still find myself stopping and thinking, “I should call Dad and tell him such and such…” I forget that he’s gone. He’s so not forgotten.

The boys both have a LOT of James A. Courtney in them. It’s hilarious, really – being that Jonathan was just a baby when Dad died, and William was born three years after Dad died. They both look like him, too – in their own ways.

As the boys get older – it kinda of blows me away how I see more of Dad’s personality coming out in them. How can that be?

Isn’t God wonderful to continue those precious things in these grandsons of my Dad’s?

My Aunt and Dad – early 1960’s-something in Beaverton, OR.

When the world seems to be such a dark place – with so much to be sad or worry about – I take great delight in remembering Dad and the great times I shared with him. I know he’d be proud of these boys – who are quickly growing into young men. He would be so proud of Jess – the grandbaby he’d hoped and prayed to one day have – who would share his birthday. He would take great delight in her academic achievements, her plans for college in the fall, her integrity, and commitment to the things of God.

…and he was so happy to give my hand to John McBride in marriage.

He actually told John when we got engaged that he would require a dowry of 19 horses for his first born girl. John – being the great guy that he is – promptly went to the toy store, purchased a deluxe set of 20 miniature horses and FedEx’ed them to Dad – explaining that 20 seemed more appropriate! Dad laughed out loud when he got them, and gave his hearty blessing.

What a blessed woman I am to have had the rich investment of some truly amazing men in my life.

What a blessed woman I am to have the great honor and privilege of being married to John.

What a blessed woman I am to have the best seat available to watch as my husband fathers the children God has entrusted to us.


John, holding William – July 1997, the Oregon Coast.

Happy Father’s Day to you all.

May it be a day when you will take the opportunity to express freely the love, admiration, pride, and honor you feel for the faithful Dads in your life.

Creamy Orzo and Veggie Salad

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

Since I lost my stomach in February, eating has been – ahem – shall we say, a bit of a challenge?

One of the first questions people ask when they learn I don’t have a stomach (really – I don’t have a stomach – at all!) is, “Can you eat?!”

“Yes,” I always say, “I can eat.” And then clarify, “But it’s definitely different, and it’s a process learning what works, and what doesn’t.”

For the most part – meat and bread just don’t work for me anymore. So I’m doing a LOT of vegetarian eating. Good thing I like it so well, huh?!

I’ve eaten lots and lots of soup. I’ve eaten lots and lots of salads. Yesterday, after I got home from work and was needing some calories, I just couldn’t bring myself to have another cup of soup, or another green salad. I ended up snacking on a thinly sliced piece of turkey sandwich meat, and longing wistfully for a nice, yummy, deli sandwich. It was then that I realized, “I really want pasta salad!”

Pasta presents some of its own challenges. If it’s too bulky (like macaroni or penne) it’s gonna kill my gut. If it’s small and somewhat delicate – it will work beautifully. It was then that I decided that I needed to throw together a nice orzo pasta salad.

You ever do that? You get an idea of what something should taste like, what the texture should be like, and then start throwing stuff together – and voila! – a new dish is born.

This – my friends – is just that sort of thing. Kind of a hybrid of a few different salads I’ve thrown together in the past, but with a bit of a twist. Honestly – it turned out absolutely sublime. One bite and I couldn’t help but smile – a lot. I’m going to enjoy eating every last bite of this yummy stuff!

I wish I could tell you these were all the ingredients, but it’s not! As I started pulling things together, I kept adding stuff – and well – here’s the start of the ingredients!

First – cook the orzo:

Don’t be tempted to cook it in a small-ish pot. You want to use a big pot – this one holds 5 quarts.

After 10 minutes, it will look something like this.

Next, you’re going to drain the hot water off of the orzo, and then rinse it with cold water until it cools enough to handle. It doesn’t have to be frigid or anything.

Now, add the Balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise. I know – it sounds nutty, but it’s so good!

Mix together thoroughly.

Add the diced provolone and Italian Roast beef. Mix together thoroughly.

Now, add the sliced green onions, julienned zucchini, and quartered mushrooms; mix thoroughly.

Make sure to use juicy tomatoes! Core and then dice them – making sure to get every last drop of that lovely juice into the bowl! Mix together thoroughly.

Now, chop/dice the marinated vegetables, and the avocado. I sprinkle about half the salt on the avocado, and the other half on the orzo.

And of course, mix thoroughly!

And this is what you’ll end up with:

Isn’t it pretty?

Honestly – it’s AMAZING. You’re going to love it. I sure am!

Creamy Orzo and Veggie Salad

Ingredients
1 pound Orzo
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 pound Italian Roast beef, sliced thin
1/2 pound Provolone, sliced
4 Green onions, sliced
1 small Zucchini, julienned
3/4 cup Button mushrooms, quartered
7 ounces Marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
12 Marinated asparagus spears, chopped
6 Marinated baby corn, chopped
1/2 cup Black olives, sliced
4 small Ripe tomatoes, diced
1 large Avocado, diced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

 

  1. Cook orzo in 4 quarts of generously salted water in a large pot. Cook until al dente – about 10 minutes. When done, drain in a colander, rinsing with cold water until cool, then drain. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Immediately toss pasta with Balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise. Make sure all of the pasta gets coated with this mixture.
  3. Dice Italian Roast beef and provolone, add to orzo mixture.
  4. Add julienned zucchini, sliced green onions, and quartered button mushrooms. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add marinated artichoke hearts, asparagus spears, baby corn, and olives. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Add diced tomatoes, avocado, and kosher salt. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Cover and refrigerate. Ideally, this should rest for several hours before serving. When you remove it from the refrigerator, if it has soaked up too much of the liquid – add a little more Balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise, or alternatively, another juicy diced tomato.
  8. Enjoy!

Notes:

This salad is just as flexible as can be – and can include the vegetables that you enjoy. There are very few seasonings because the Italian roast beef and marinated vegetables bring quite a lot of flavor.

Orzo is a great little pasta with quite a protein punch! 6 grams of protein in a 1/3 cup serving. Not bad!

Ah….

There have been days in the past weeks when I’ve felt as if the sun would never shine again. There were days of actual INCHES of rain. The soil was too wet to work. I have a crop of mushrooms that is impressive.

Wanna see my garden?

Yeah – seriously – all weeds.

Okay – there’s some green onion in here:

Can you see it? You gotta work hard.

And there’s a bit of spinach, too:

And the peas – planted MONTHS AGO – are finally getting a little height:

It’s to that point where I don’t know if we should just till it all under, or really try and hoe all of the weeds out.

It’s nearly mid-June, for heaven’s sake, and the garden isn’t in yet!

But today – something beautiful happened.

It’s actually hit the 80’s today.

Beautiful.

Clear skies.

Not a cloud in sight.

Warm.

Amazing.

Lovely.

Sunny.

Ahhh…..

Thank you Jesus!

My hydrangeas may actually bloom!

And there will be blackberries! (Thank you little bee for doing your pollination thing!)

Phew.

The forecast for the week actually excludes the “R” word (it’s four-lettered and ends in n).

It was so nice today, in fact, that I let Buffy take the babies out of the broody mama section of the coop. She kept them close to home – but it was fun to see her teaching them the ropes of the coop in general.

Aren’t they getting big?! The little Dominique (on the left) is the most adventurous thus far.

And my Cuckoo Maran is still broody. I dunno – she’s really determined, this one. If we hadn’t already had one broody girl, I definitely would have put her on eggs!

So – hooray!

It does appear that summer may be coming around, after all!