Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rewards of volunteering

I'm now working 2 Sundays per month at the bird rescue, whose mission is "rehabilitation of injured, orphaned, and oiled native wild birds, with the goal of returning healthy birds to their natural environment". Note the word, wild. And yet, occasionally a domestic bird is brought into the center, and the staff work to find a home for it when it's ready for release. This is just what happened on my first shift, and that very day I brought home two domestic ducks. They have assimilated well into our little flock.

Much to my delight, last Sunday I was once again in the right place at the right time. Same supervisor on duty, too. In reviewing the caseload, she mentioned two adult domestic geese, who came to the center after someone released them, and they were struck by a car on a busy road. The supervisor said they were looking to place the geese when they were ready, and she cast a glance my way. How could I resist? I went to see them in their enclosure, and even snapped a photo on my phone to show the family. And today they were ready to come home.

I think I'm developing a reputation there as "the volunteer who will adopt domestic waterfowl" ... and I have no problem with that!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Garden Ups and Downs: a Season in Review

For the second weekend in a row, my gardening efforts have been thwarted. I really need to do some preparations for winter, but it's been too rainy. So today I find myself ruminating on my first year of gardening which, as expected, had its ups and downs:

The Ups:
  • Strawberries: This is where it all started, as last year I had really let the strawberries go and vowed that 2008 would be different. This year I stayed on top of the weeds, and at their peak I was harvesting 2-3 quarts a day. Much of this went into the freezer, and I've really enjoyed using those berries to make jam and ice cream, not to mention the occasional strawberry shortcake.
  • Potatoes: all things considered, these did well. I think we had some beginner's luck here, and I'm not sure we mastered the art of hilling but we did make an effort. The spuds turned out a bit smaller than expected, and I don't really know why, but we did manage to put a nice quantity away in our "new" root cellar.
  • Green Beans: I was thrilled with the yield and the duration of my little harvest. We enjoyed them fresh, and froze about 5 lbs to use throughout the winter.
  • Zucchini: Like the green beans, these were plentiful and we planted just about the right number of plants.
  • Tomatoes: the Brandywines were delicious fresh, so much better than store-bought. The Marianas had excellent yield and I enjoyed trying my hand at canning.

The Downs:

  • Tomatoes: Yes, there was a downside, too. We planted too many Brandywines, which don't preserve well. So I had to sacrifice an awful lot of them. And our trellises didn't hold them well enough either.
  • Raspberries: I don't know what happened, but I only saw about 3 berries this year.
  • Peas: They were delicious, but we didn't plant enough of these and the harvest was used up far too quickly.
  • Lettuce & Spinach: I planted these too late in the season. The spinach didn't germinate at all, and the lettuce "bolted" early so only saw a few measly leaves.
  • Carrots, Parsnips, and Leeks: we never got around to planting these. Oops.

There's Always Next Year ...

I've learned so much from gardening that I can channel into the next season. It's probably always that way, isn't it? Now I can spend the off season thinking about what I'll do differently next year. I have a few ideas already:

  • Plant lettuce earlier, and try a different variety. The Amish markets near here all carry buttercrunch, which was deliciously sweet. Maybe I'll try it, too.
  • Look into potato varieties and see if there are others more suited to our climate. Consider trying something new, but probably only two varieties, not three as we did this year.
  • Plant root vegetables!
  • Try onions.
  • Try a different variety of plum tomato, just to compare flavors.
  • Improve trellises and other supports.
  • Be more diligent with compost.
  • Keep on having fun!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ten-month pupdate: the art of chewing

I haven't posted a "pupdate" since month 7. Woody is the same crazy dog, just a bit larger. His favorite activity is chewing, which he has evolved into an art form. This skill emerged early, back in month 4, when he took a chunk out of a rug. At least he hasn't destroyed anything really valuable, like money or anything ... His long-time favorite was this pink towel, which was removed from the premises when we found he was not just chewing it, but eating it. And it didn't agree with him ...

This was once Lily's bed. Woody pulled it out of Lily's crate, chewed the seams, and proceeded to deposit piles of cotton batting all around the house:
While he seems to prefer textiles, really anything will do. Occasionally Woody gets into the recycling bin; cat litter jugs are a special favorite:

On a positive note, he has become much more interactive with us and loves to play tug, especially with Lily!

While he can be a handful sometimes, for the most part he is a loyal companion and I'm sure will become even more so as he matures and calms down!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekend avian visitors ...

I've been doing an abysmal job maintaining my Birdstack Dashboard (follow the link, or see my sidebar). I know I've seen some interesting birds, but I've neglected to record the observations. I've tried to make up for it by recording this weekend's visitors:
  • A pair of green herons, which chased each other around the pond on Saturday evening. I'm not sure, but I think one of them might have been trying to get the other to vacate the premises. The attempt was not successful.
  • A sharp-shinned hawk, first heard early Sunday morning in some kind of fracas with some crows. Later, I saw the hawk in a tree and it disappeared after swooping in on its prey.
  • A ruby-throated hummingbird, which made numerous visits to the hummingbird feeder today. Sometimes he even stopped to sit on the hook holding the feeder. We only put up the feeder last weekend, and have missed most of hummingbird season. So it's nice to have this visitor before they migrate.

Now I just wish I had a super-duper camera to capture photos of all these! Sigh.

Preservation & Preparation

The growing season is coming to an end, so my attention has turned to preserving what we've grown this year, and preparing the garden for next season. At this point, all of our garden beds have been cleared except for the tomatoes. Several pounds of strawberries and green beans are tucked away in the freezer, and I've been canning tomatoes and salsa.

We've also created a root cellar. This old spring house sits on the edge of our property:
A ladder leads down below ground, where the potatoes are now stored:

It's a good start, but there are still some areas that need to be sealed up before winter!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Are you "following" me?

Do you follow this blog either by visiting the site directly, or via an RSS feed ? I'd love to know about it! Our friends at Blogger have recently rollout out a "Followers" feature, which you can now find on this blog's sidebar. Following this blog lets me know you're out there (you can follow anonymously if you wish). And, by following, you can also read updates to this blog right in your Blogger Dashboard.

Try it out ... I'd love to see the "followers" counter go from zero to, well, anything greater than that. Thanks!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

More adventures in canning

I picked ten more pounds of tomatoes this week. Watch the magic:

Tomatoes, red onion, jalapenos, dried red pepper, cilantro, garlic. Any guesses?

first step: blanch and peel, of course

after much chopping, mix all that stuff in a pot along with red wine vinegar and some spices

bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes

can it!

enjoy the leftovers immediately!

This recipe for "SpicyTomato Salsa" can be found in The Ball Blue Book of Preserving. It's delicious!