Monday, December 29, 2014

The Market

Baby turnip, daikon, water chestnut,
galangal, quince, tangerine, turmeric
I like to go to Asian markets and buy things, especially fruit, that I've never seen before.

When you go to the grocery store you always see the same stuff, no matter what month it is. That's nuts!

They rarely, or never have much in the way of root vegetables. So when you start seeing turnips, kohlrabi, parsnips, rutabagas and the like at the farmers market but the grocery store has the exact same produce it had in May, you know something is out of whack. Out of season produce is just weird.

Here's what I found lately in the photo. In the picture the yellowish-green fruits are quince. They are a lot like an apple but definitely not an apple. Almost like a pineapple crossed with an apple. Fantastic aroma.

I've known about quince for a while , but I've never come face to face with one before. The french know them very well and they make 'pate de coing' out of them. (pa-tay  day  kwa). But they think that we don't grow them here because they don't go to the Asian markets. In Spain they make something similar called "membrillo". (mem-bree-yo) or if you're Argentinian (mem-bree-show).

Monday, December 22, 2014

El huevo primero

The first egg came on Dec 19!

It was only about 3/4 the size of a normal egg. We think it came from Blondie.

So it's been a little over 18 weeks since they arrived.

I didn't expect any eggs just yet, not until next month. None of the others are laying yet, that we know of.

On the right you can see how small the yolk is compared to a normal egg.

La rubia

Monday, December 15, 2014

Oyster mushrooms

Lately we've been getting some oyster mushrooms from the logs that we inoculated back in the spring.

These were from a poplar that lost a huge limb last winter. It was probably a good six inches in diameter at it's largest and probably at least fifteen feet long.

I cut it up into about five three foot pieces. It took about a little over an hour to inoculate all of the logs.

The oyster mushrooms are not as tasty as the shiitake mushrooms are, at least they aren't to me. They are a little harder to clean as well. Still they are pretty good sauteed in butter.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Caught on camera!

Last night I confirmed what we've been suspecting for a while, we have a mouse!

I bought a game camera earlier in the year and it does a good job.

When it senses motion it snaps 3 pictures and in the dark it has infrared. The date and the time is wrong but the temperature is correct. This is the basement. The wire is there to keep the dog away from the furnace, where she likes to lay on top of the plenum when it's cold and chew off all of the insulation.

I'm not sure what I will do yet. He/she is living in the wall in the downstairs bathroom.

We have a cat that would happily remedy the situation in one night but it seems cruel to contemplate terminating something so small.

Permaculture says the problem is the solution, so I'll need to cogitate on this one for a while...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bushy's home, for a while

Bushy Tail went into the wild a couple of weeks ago. The garage was nothing more than a large cage for him.

I set him out on the deck and after I walked away he was away with his own kind. That lasted for about five days...

About five days ago, around dusk, I found the dog acting weird underneath the deck. After a while, when she wouldn't give it up we went under there to inspect. Sure enough, there was Bushy Tail.

He was sick.

He was dehydrated and needed to come in for a bit. The first day he barely moved at all. Over the last few days he has improved enormously and once again the garage is way too small for him.

Today I took him out on the deck and he took off into the yard and over the fence.

Once you start trying to find one small squirrel out in the yard it's then that you realize there are a lot of small squirrels out there and they all look about the same.

It doesn't take very long for your eye to improve however and you start to notice the subtleties pretty quick. Still, without any glaring features to i.d. Bushy, it's hard to tell who's who. Really the only true way to know is proximity. Squirrels don't like to get very close to people but Bushy jumped onto my shoulder from a tree limb one evening. He knows us better than we know him.

Squirrels are mechanical masterpieces. Their hind ankles will pivot past ninety degrees so that they can go from sitting to hanging down without needing to reposition their feet. When they walk it sounds like more than one four footed creature because their toes are so long that they strike the ground after the palms/heels do, so every foot fall is doubled. It sounds like drumming when they move.

Their front feet don't have thumbs either. Their thumb is just like the first knuckle of our thumb. Only one joint. So when they hold something they press it between the two joints of their pseudo thumbs, where there are only pads. They have the full digit on their rear feet, so their rear foot is much more like our hand than our feet. They are built to climb. I think they lost the thumbs because they either interfered with climbing and it may have been getting caught up on things or it's entirely mechanical and affords more strength to the forearms so they can pull up easier.

When I started going to the gym years ago I noticed the real body builder types, the big guys, never wrapped their thumbs around the bar. It was always on the same side with the fingers close to the palm, "open grip".  I asked a guy one day why he used that grip and he told me that the thumb over the bar works against you. After that I tried it and I've used it ever since.

 I don't know if that's why squirrels don't have full thumbs or not but it makes me wonder. ..

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Oh, give me a home...

I scooped this yellow jacket from a glass of beer so he is trying to get all of the Hefeweizen off of his antennas. They really seem to be attracted to German style beer for some reason.

The zoom on the phone camera worked really well. They don't usually stay in one place long enough to film. Pretty interesting little creatures. I know that they built a nest in a hugelbed this summer because I thought they were honey bees and for a minute I got real excited.

After I got closer I saw that it was yellow jackets. I've never been stung by one so I just leave them alone. I only got stung once by a bee and I was messing with them, so I deserved it. On the other hand, wasps have stung me a lot for no good reason. It feels like someone putting out a cigarette on your skin. It hurts, a lot!

Insects don't bother me that much anymore, except for spiders and mosquitoes. There were a ton of big ass spiders all around here last month. I don't see why people put fake spider webs in their yards around Halloween when there are tons of real spiders all over the place. I don't kill them because Jim told Huckleberry Finn in the book that it is very bad luck to kill a spider and the next thing you know Jim got bit by a rattlesnake, or was it a water moccasin. I don't recall. I don't know where those big ugly spiders come from every fall, but they show up like clockwork and disappear just as quickly.

This year I didn't see any snakes, except for one small garter snake under a brick. No copperheads at all. The rodent population is WAY down in the yard now, they've moved on to greener pastures and the ones that didn't get eaten by my cat.

All the trees in the yard are dormant now. It bums me out to see them that way. It seems like they have died. From green to brown in two weeks. It's good to know they'll come back even stronger come spring. But we have already had temperatures in the teens and it's only November. I'm not looking forward to January. It's rained quite a lot too.

All of the pond plants have died too, except for some grasses we planted. The floating plants are all but gone now, I don't think they'll make it. The fish seem to be just hovering near the bottom, not really moving very much. Leaves are in the pond and are down on the bottom and it's too cold to try and fish them out so they are staying until it warms up enough to deal with them. The fish seem to use them as cover and it may be that the decay process generates some heat. Aerobic decay does so I would assume anaerobic decay would as well. It will be good compost come spring.

Saturday night we went to a bonfire a little ways out in the country. It was a nice event. It's been a long time since we have done anything like that. Sure, I've built fires in the yard many times but that's just us. Being around a fire with a lot of people doesn't happen very much, actually not at all in the city. A lot of kids were there and they weren't brats either. They have a vibrancy that livens the atmosphere in a certain way especially outdoors when they are free to roam. There were no "timeouts" or tantrums or bellicose parents yelling nonstop. It was pretty awesome to experience. Fire is a primordial, hypnotic thing for young and old.

I'm not ready to go back to rural america, yet. But I'm thinking about it a little.

"Lively up yourself and don't be no drag!" - Bob Marley

Thursday, November 20, 2014

New Coop

Tractoring the chickens through the yard gets tiring fast.  Especially when the weather turns cold. And chickens get big fast.

So we've had to come up with a permanent coop location for the girls. Zone 1 is the perfect spot if you can do, because you will probably be making at least one trip to the chicken coop per day.

We've identified a place on the west side of the house that will probably be ideal since there is a door there as well. The exterior wall of the house where it is joined by a fence gives us two walls already in place. It's a pretty big area that is already fenced in and not really being utilized, so it's the best solution.
All of the materials are re-used from other projects, except for two posts I had to purchase for $16.

At present, the coop is only about 4'x6' but eventually we will extend it to the left in the photo. So it will likely be about double the area. I am also going to put in a screen door so that we can access it.

Not a whole lot phases the chickens. They put up with the dog fairly well, but sometimes they let her get themselves upset. But not too much.

They hardly even move when you want to shoo them to another place and then they come straight back to where you moved them from.

Now they are about 4 months old and they cluck. So I guess that their gizzard is formed now. I'm not sure how much they've needed it. All the green in the yard has died off from the cold. They pretty much stay near the coop all day.

Nearly complete

The coop has water and a food dispenser now and so hopefully I won't have to make as many trips out there as before.

A couple of months from now they should begin to lay, so we are really looking forward to that.

If you want to buy some chicks, go to Meyer

They will send them through the mail in only a couple of days. It's seems a little weird but it's completely safe and the best way to go outside of physically going and getting chics locally.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


The European Space Agency landed a probe on comet 67P this morning.  Congratulations to them!

The mission has been ongoing for ten years but the satellite just woke up this summer.

It's called Rosetta because astronomers have the erroneous belief that comets are primordial chunks of ice left over from the formation of our solar system.

In the past two months of orbiting 67P they've detected no ice or water and they are not going to. It's a huge rock.

Astronomers believe, since the 1950's, that comets are snowballs, sublimating as they approach the sun.

It's the kind of theory a sixth grader would pose, since physical phenomena are all that they know. If it were sublimation you wouldn't be able to see it and the comet would "melt" on the first orbit. Lots of people have known for years that the theory is bunk but they get relegated to the basement.

A comet is a negatively charged body and as it approaches the sun, which is positively charged, it begins discharging and sputtering the nucleus into space. The process is used in industry here on earth everyday.

Electric Universe theory states that the dominating force in nature is electricity.  Now we will be able to observe firsthand what a comet consists of from the instrumentation aboard the probe, Philae.

They made a pretty dam cool video about the mission though they do continue to drone on about theories that don't hold up to scrutiny, nevertheless it's a good vid.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween gets cold

Wild Child w/Demon Dog
On Halloween night we left a party and on the way home it was snowing!

Tonight it is suppose to be 28 degrees.

Cold records are falling all over the south.

Winter is coming..

Bushy Tail is nearly grown already. He hasn't eaten enough food to be as big as he is. Other energies are feeding him, things we can't see. This is what Rudolph Steiner talks about and Mollison. We receive these energies too, but our ability to take them in starts to wane as we grow older. As Thoreau put it, "Though the frost is nearly out of the ground, the winter has not broken up in me. Perhaps we grow older and older till we no longer sympathize with the revolution of the seasons, and our winters never break up."

"Cosmic and solar energies impinge on the earth, and life intercepts these flows to make them available for life forms..."- Bill Mollison

I think if the sun goes out it won't take 8 minutes for us to know it. I think we will all wind down almost immediately. That electric spark that powers us probably has to do with the sun. The world would be dead right away, except for the machines, which would run until they were out of gas.

A woodpecker flew into the kitchen window today and died. With as many lives as we've received we've buried just as many. This is the way it goes, I suppose.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Goji Berries

This is the time of the year when goji berries start to produce. They are also called wolfberries. (Lycium chinense)

If you look closely you can see the red berries in the center of the picture. To me they taste like peppers, but not hot. They come from the same family Solanaceae.

The plant is a bush with long skinny stems. I used a wire cage to help mine stand up more vertically otherwise it would be growing along the ground.

Last year it was only when the weather hit the single digits that the plant seemed to have any ill effects.

The berries are small and red like little peppers, they start out green. They are native to Asia. They are suppose to be full of anti-oxidants. They are labeled as "super fruit" these days.

I've just seen them selling for $25/lb on the internet. So far we haven't really figured out how to use them. I've seen them dried a lot. The taste isn't that great to me, but I don't think I've let the fruit ripen enough yet.

The plant is loaded with them this season so hopefully we can figure out what to do with them. They are super easy to propagate, every single cutting I've made has taken root.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


These are cuttings of that have been rooted from an elderberry plant in the yard. They are very easy to root. But you have to get the woody part of the stem. The green part won't root.

I used a mixture of sphagnum moss and perlite as the medium. I also put a mister on a timer that comes on for ten minutes every two hours. I think that is key. The cuttings are in a fairly shaded spot for most of the day.

Another easy to root plant is goji berry. The green stems of the goji's will root. The leaves won't even drop off. They just go.
I used rooting hormone to help the roots get started on the cuttings. For comfrey, you can dig up some of the roots of a plant and make small cuttings, about an inch long and just replant them. They will come up in a few weeks. The crowns will grow in just a few days.

I have been experimenting with rooting some trees as well. I tried the same method with several trees, fig, peach, persimmon, asian pear, nectarine and apple. So far the only one that has worked is fig.
Another method of rooting tree cuttings is to wrap the cuttings in a wet paper towel and place them in a container. This method has been more of a success for the stone fruit cuttings for me. I learned this method here.
 Here is a shot of the container with the tree cuttings. The figs are doing the best. The peach are beginning to put on new growth but the persimmons aren't showing much at all, but they might.
In the bottom I put in some perlite to give the cuttings some support.
On the right is a peach cutting that is rooting from the paper towel method.
On the left is a fig cutting that is beginning to grow. Most of the trees sold in containers are at least 20$, so learning how to propagate them is a very beneficial skill to learn.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Growing Up

Bushy Tail

The little abandoned squirrel has grown exponentially. I call him Bushy Tail. He can climb with the best of them.

He's off the formula and onto solid food.

He loves grapes and pine nuts and sleeps in a shoe.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Abre los ojos

There are lots of beasts around here these days. One dog, three cats, four chickens, six frogs, a dozen or more fish and one squirrel.

I wonder what will be next...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Runt of the litter

Peanut's been with us for about a week. His mom kicked him out of the nest and she won't take him back.

Discovered by Abbey, who's a cat, he's none the worse for wear.

The animal rehab facility said they already had too many squirrels and wouldn't take him. Nothing else to do but try and rehab him here.

He's growing and getting more active day by day.

"The earth-care ethic in permaculture is a life ethic and part of it says that all living things have an intrinsic worth." - Geoff Lawton

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Season's end

The tomatoes have run their course. They've been much appreciated and enjoyed. But now the time has come for them to make way for something else.

The experiment netted some fine results. Container gardening on the deck is viable. Not all of the varieties were home runs but we now know which ones we like the best.

There are still some producing tomatoes in the yard garden, so we'll get a few more tomatoes until a cold snap, maybe.

The shadows are long now and the main crop doesn't get any light at all really. The deck still gets light in the a.m. and so we'll try some more container gardening going forward.

Sitting Bull

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chickens 6 wks

The chickens continue to grow and they are now 6 weeks old.

Just six weeks ago, little peeps.

They have a mobile coop called the Chickshaw!

Monday, September 8, 2014


My little buddy Pogo died today. I found him in the middle of the road near the house clinging to life.

I started noticing him a few months ago, ambling around the neighborhood in broad daylight.

I don't think he could hardly see at all.

He came and went. Once I walked outside and he and two of my cats were all on the front stoop. The cats wouldn't mess with him, they gave him a wide berth.

I knew I'd find him on the road one day. I'm glad I found him while he was still alive.

We buried him today in the backyard and planted a black walnut tree over his grave.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chick update

L-R Blondie, Cleo, Chi-chi, back Baby
These chicks are growing like weeds. Maybe because that's what they eat all day, I'm not sure.

In the morning they go outside in an enclosed run. We bring them back in in the evening.
3 weeks ago

We still haven't determined what kind they are yet.

Mobile chicken run

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Jet lagged from Cleveland 

Chicks arrived on the thirteenth of August from Meyer Hatchery. The post office called at about 6:30 a.m. and left a cryptic message that I was somehow able to decipher. The post office is very nearby and I drove around there at around 8:30 to pick them up.

The people at the post office were pretty tickled with the little peeps chirping through the box and actually checked my i.d. before they handed them off to me.

Pit Bull & chicks
Their home for now is in the garage in a kiddy pool. There is a coop already made that they will move into once they are big enough.

I wasn't very keen on ordering chickens through the mail but it turns out that it is so commonplace that it works well enough.

We ordered six pullets or hens. They are mixed brown egg layers so we don't know exactly which kind they are yet. I believe that one is a Buff Orpington.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pond H2O

The pond has been a learning experience all year long. I nearly killed all of the ten goldfish I put into it early on by not aerating it properly.

Now there are not only more goldfish, but different species of fish in the pond. There are also a couple of frogs too, Winder and Tucker.

It attracted a lot of dragon flies and I do not have a clue where they go to at night. I found a drowned chipmunk one day. I've gone thru three pumps as well.

The plants I put into the water divided ten fold without any interaction. The pond has taken on a life of it's own, so to speak.

Birds drink from it early in the day and the dog all day.

Liquid H2O is a pretty rare thing. It's usually either too cold or there's not enough pressure to have liquid H2O. Earth is pretty much a giant pond floating in space.

Most of the H2O in our solar system is orbiting Saturn in it's rings, as ice.
The amount of water in Saturn's rings could fill the Earth's oceans 26 million times.

If there's liquid water there's life, guaranteed.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


We began canning some tomato sauce recently.

We canned about twenty pounds of tomatoes and ended up with twenty pints of tomato sauce.
It's a pretty simple process. A propane burner works well when bringing a large pot of water to a boil. You can do it on the stove but it takes longer.

The first step is to bring a large pot of water up to boiling. Cut an X in the bottom of the tomatoes before tossing them in the boiling water to remove the skins. Just a couple of minutes is all it takes.

Remove the tomatoes and set them in a colander to cool off for a few minutes so that you can handle them. When they are cool enough the skins will be easy to remove.

After the skins are removed put all of the tomatoes in a large canning pot. They will need to cook down for a couple of hours.

While they are boiling they need to be stirred often. The tomato sauce will reduce quite a bit and become more concentrated. How much you reduce them is up to you. The more you reduce them the more the depth of flavor they'll have.

After the sauce is reduced you will probably want to remove any large chunks and throw them in a blender and then add them back into the large pot.

The jars and lids need to be given a hot water bath before canning. After they are removed from the water, fill each of the jars, not quite filling them completely.

Place the lids on but don't tighten them all the way. Depending on the size of your pot you can process eight to twelve jars at a time.

Submerge the jars into a pot of boiling water and be sure they are covered at least one inch by water. Let them sit for about five minutes.

After that remove them and let them sit out. In a few minutes you will start to hear the lids popping. This tells you that the vacuum has formed in the jar.

This process doesn't take very long and if you are sitting around on a weekend you can do this in a couple of hours and drink beer at the same time.

No matter what, your own canned tomato sauce tastes better than the store bought stuff. Tomato sauce is the base of spaghetti, chili, brunswick stew, chicken cacciatore, tortilla soup, etc.
In the depths of winter, homemade tomato sauce is special because in reality you are canning a little bit of summer in the process. That canned summer leaps out of the jar when you open it in February. Honestly.