Sunday, February 28, 2010

Garden Pest

Last years garden was a year round disappointment. I was plauged with every malady known to the gardening world (and perhaps some that no one thought of). It was disappointing, frustrating and humbling though still peppered with miniscule victories that I gobbled up with the meager crops. The few ounces of basil and dill, a handful of cherry tomatoes.

I started out this year positively, thinking it will be so much better than last. I will make it better. I started early, made larger beds. We bought some citrus and experimented with both a new brands of seeds as well as some store sprouted plants. I bought more gardening books, joined a forum, asked questions and stuff my head with knowledge.

Organic gardening is hard. When problems occur, as they often will, you can't just run out to the store and buy a solution. Sometimes there just aren't any. You go out day by day and work your plots as best you can. There's a lot of praying involved. Much hope and, for me, many opportunities to be humbled. To learn that the way of life I want isn't going to give it up to me without a fight. I'm not a natural gardener and I know it but I want to be and I think sometimes that's enough to succeed.

So far this year, just two tiny months into it, I've had a good thing going. I've harvested about a dozen snap peas, about the same amount of cherry tomatoes, the bunny has gotten spoiled on clippings. I have sprouts shooting up full of life and promise.

Then I ran into a new garden pest they don't cover in books. One that sneaks off with fattening snap peas when you're not looking. Nibbles the spearmint and lemon balm. Eats the blueblueberries and strawberries when I'm waiting for them to turn the corner from almost to just ripe. I come out one day and everything I had hoped to find is gone, the bushes bare. It took me awhile to find this critter. There isn't a spray, powder, net or trap I can set to scare it off. It'll just come back for more, day after day, hour after hour. Even more frustrating is that I house it.

At least some of my frustrations hinge on this new garden pest I've found. I caught her outside today munching snap peas like candy without an ounce of remorse (though it did make me happy). I wonder now, how much of last years problems were caused by her. I've driven myself nuts thinking my garden is cursed! I berate myself thinking that I'll never be a good gardener, I'll never have a full harvest.

Then I realize, as I look at this garden pest pictured below, maybe my harvest is constantly coming in.

Emmy caught green handed with some snap peas.

Rag Rug-Along Week 6

Yes, I know that I missed a week in there but for those of you that are following along it'll be okay. We have a season to finish this. For those tuning into the archives, disregard that first part.

Week 6 assignment : sew your 2.5" strips into three long strips by the short ends. Sew either straight across with a 1/4" seam allowance or at an angle and clip the excess. Either way you'll end up with some unruly pieces. Start twining these into a ball. Keep going cutting more strips and adding to the girth of the ball until you have three 6-8" wide balls. You are more than welcome to keep going with it though, the larger the ball the larger the finished rug.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Big Day

We're heading out in about 2 hours to pick out a puppy from the same lady that we got Duncan from. She also runs a dog rescue. She has a litter of Border Collie/Lab mixes right now that we think will be perfect for our family. Shorter hair of the Lab, coloring of the Collie. Both breeds are great family and farm dogs.

The kids are nearly in hysterics. They've never had a dog. I'm a little nervous about it since it's just another being I have to take care of. But honestly, if this farm thing comes to pass we'll have a lot more than just one dog looking to us for care. Goats, chickens, cow, rabbits. Possibly some geese and llama.

I'm leaving the life I had behind. The selfishness and laziness of it. The dog will be a good addition. We'll train her to be a watch dog for our house. With Rob's varing schedule, his time away, it'll be security for me. Peace of mind, really. And when we're out on the land in an RV in the middle of nowhere too. Plus the kids are just gonna love her.

Taking on the responsibility of training an 8 week old puppy is a big job. Nothing to be taken lightly. We've gone back and forth over 2 years on the subject. Mary, the dog rescue woman, just happened to become my Facebook friend right when the puppies were dropped off. I think that's a bit of a sign.

I'll try and post more later. Put a pic up of the black and white gal we give a forever home to and let everyone know how she's doing. And how we fare as well.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Miss Molly

A few months ago I posted about our pansy boy cat Hiro. I mentioned our other cat, Molly. Here she is. Can you taste the distain? The disgust rolling off her, the fire of hate in her eyes? The world is hers and all bow before her or feel the pain of her wrath.

Molly hates us. She hates everything, really, so I don't take much offense. She feels our house, food and affection (when she wants it and only then, or else) are hers by right. She perches on Alex's loft bed and watches us with snarky lidded eyes, daring us to encroach on her personal space. Hell, she'll sleep with the kids in their beds and then bite or scratch them if they dare to unconciously move too close to her in their sleep. Don't get me wrong we love her and her surliness.

She's a beautiful kitty. We rescued her from a shelter when she was a baby. She had a little sibling with her but we couldn't take more than one at that time. I think that just adds fuel to her hate fire.

She's a fat, spoiled kitty but nothing we do is ever good enough. I call her "Queen Bitch Supreme" but lovingly. Really. When we got Hiro she took to him like a mama cat. She'd let him eat first, bathe him, cuddle him. Now when he walks by she hisses and beats the crap out of him. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was that time I caught him humping a feral cat on my porch. Maybe she's disgusted he'd sink so low.

Molly isn't declawed. We had to sign a waver when we got her saying we never would. That's fine. I don't really believe in it. Even if my couch is becoming threadbare. Hmmm, clipping off pieces of her body or having one less thing messed up on the already kid stained couch? That's rhetorical, by the way.

You'd never notice her claws unless you caught her in a mood swing. She will literally go from being petted to clawing your eyes out without blinking. Ask my neighbor, Amy. She could have put a piercing through the hole Molly made in the webbing between her thumb and finger.

So, there you have her, the Queen Bitch Supreme and I love her to pieces.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big Load

I rencently bought some citrus from the big blue store. I had to. There are strict restrictions on citrus in the Sunshine State. One tree infected with citrus canker can wipe out whole groves. This is one thing we won't be able to do organically. I just couldn't live with myself if one of my trees took out someones livelihood.

We have 3 Meyer Lemon and 2 Key Limes. I'm not the only one that loves them.

They're a huge hit with the local bees.

I was outside this morning playing with my new Pentax K-x. It's a huge learning curve upgrading from a Point-n-Shoot. I was testing it out on my stationary garden when this guy showed up. He's got the biggest load of pollen on his legs I've ever seen.

So naturally, I took a bunch of photos of him polinating my citrus blossoms. He was a good sport. And a hard worker.

Bees are one of the things we'll be getting within our first year on the farm. I haven't done much research into them yet, but I have a couple books for when I'm ready. I should probably look now so I can accurately name the things on his legs instead of calling them "big loads of pollen on his legs", they probably have a great scientific name, like baggus pollinous ginormica.

Fly on little bee. Fly on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fun times.

We went to the Bay Area Reniassance Festival on Saturday. It was one of those things that you just have to do. It's great. No one looked at us like we were freaks. Because they were all really freakier.

We did lots but the biggest thing with the kids was the archery stand. Alex whined to do it the entire time we were there. This is where you pay a bunch of money and they hand you real metal tipped instruments of death to play with. Without instructions.

Here I am poised to hit the cardboard deer.*

Look at that confident, relaxed stance. I could have been one of Robin's men er...women. But not like that.

And here I am after, trying to hide the fact the string whipped across my arm. I now have a black bruise dotted with broken blood vessles the size of a dollar coin on the inside of my arm. Fun times.

See the subtle difference in expressions. Man, can I repress those emotions.

*I don't think I could ever shoot a real deer. Or eat one though I don't have a problem with anyone doing it. I did actually hit the deer which was probably positioned closer than I'd ever get to one in real life. Plus the fact it had a big red target painted on it made it a bit easier.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A new week ahead

This coming week I hope to get much accomplished. I've purchased a book that I'm hoping will help me. It's called Managers Of Their Homes. It's hard to find but worth the read, even if it is overloaded with talk about God and quotes out of the bible as the only reasons to get anything accomplished heavily Christian based. I haven't had trouble skimming or flat out skipping parts that don't apply to our family (like the scheduling babies thing, WTH?). They do have good ideas about how to get the other kids to do stuff with the younger and some other tips and tricks that I hadn't thought of. Though, scheduling our lives from waking to sleep (and some even schedule the sleep ON the chart!) is a little much for me. I can't believe they didn't schedule sex, then again "Alone time with (insert husbands name)" might just be that...Somethings just aren't meant to be scheduled, folks. I'm going to roll off this slowly so I don't fall on my butt.

I'm taking this week to organize, really think about what's important to us, what needs to be scheduled to get done, how much time I want to devote to things. Maybe I can even schedule in a daily shower for myself without people trying to join me, crying when they can't or incessantly banging on the door to come in. Wouldn't that be something? If I could, it'd be worth the $28 for the book for that alone.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nostalgia is on the rise

Sometimes with the day-to-day it's hard to remember what used to be. Kids grow out of shoes, teeth get lost, we move, things change, weeks, months, years go by. The transformation is so slow, everchanging life, we barely notice it. Then time steps infront of our forward motion, takes out his wallet and shows me a photo of a baby. Something we held on to but never looked at again since it was taken. Freezing that fleeting moment in time. It takes me a moment to figure out who it is, how old they were, where we lived. The realization trickles through my brain at the same time a pain stabs at my heart. My gut clenches as I process what I see.

That's my baby!

Oh look, she's so TINY!

Oh my, she's so big now.

The last is said with much less enthusiasm as the ache of nostalgia rises in me. Where did that time go? I remember it clearly, now that I see the images. How could things have gone this far? I think of all the days compressed between then and now and it hurts. Tears prick my eyes. How many days were good ones since then? How many did I think were bad? Was I a good mommy through this time? Did I make her happy?

I think being nostalgic is feeling bittersweet. I'm glad for the time we had, yet pained that slice of it is over. Those days will never be again and I worry I didn't live them right. I didn't live up to what my children should have as a mom. Who I should have been as a wife, a woman. My baby will never be a baby again. My throat constricts and swallowing made difficult, painful. Pushing back emotions that are more regret than I want to realize.

Though the realization is with me now, helping to change my day today I know it will pass. Time will step away, allow my life to tumble forward until that next time it decides to stop me and remind me that the life we live has a limit and once it's over, it's gone. Hour to hour, day to day, year to year. We only get once.

Cordelia age Two. A series of photos pulled off an old SD card.

Cordelia age five.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ode To My Tech-Geek Son

Oh, Alex!
How I love that you know how to type without hen-pecking (mostly).
That you know how to install software from a CD-Rom.
And off the internet.
Filling your computer with downloaded games
until the thing just can't keep up with your tech-savvy-ness.
That you use a mouse with the skill of a cyborg attachment
which you would probably totally get if you could.
How you know where the volume control is
and can manage the Start menu.
That you understand what "www" means,
and know the varied link extensions.
By heart.
How you instictively know how to print,
log in with your user,
fill out online forms.
You navigate the web with ease,
as though it was a skill you aquired in the womb.
I love that you love Sim-games.
Online chess.
 (well, maybe not that last one so much)
I'm really glad your dad got you the Encarta software.
And that you show your sisters how to use the laptop
by hogging it and making them watch you play.
(we'll have to discuss that when you start dating)
My darling boy!
To think you're only seven!
What techological wonders will be when you're a man?
I shudder to think,
you might actually become a cyborg.
Though that might be kinda cool.
But I swear to God
If I get one more application packet
For University of Phoenix
With your name on it
I'm taking the damn laptop away.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cordelia is Five

My middle child turned Five last Friday.

That's Cordelia Anne. With an "e". Named for Anne of Green Gables (my favorite book/series/movie) and from Shakespear's King Lear. This means I have kids that are between one and eight. She's 4 years older than Max and 2.5 years younger than Alex. She was my most difficult baby.

She picked Macaroni Grill for her birthday dinner. We don't do parties. Just seems kinda avaricious calling people and inviting them to bring you gifts. We like to celebrate as a family instead.

We have a good time. And we still eat cake.

The lady on the left sang Cordi "Happy Birthday" in Italian.

Max thought it was delightful.

We all shared the cake and had ice cream too. Later on a set of Grandparents came by and gave her a gift she'd been wanting. A ballerina costume.

She's quite happy being five. Even if its bittersweet for mom and dad.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Long Road

I'm walking precariously on a road. A road I never envisioned being on in the first place so being here is a little bit of a shocker. Now that I realized it of course. I've been moving forward even if it is ever so slowly towards a life. It sounds a little funny, I know. I mean I have a life. I've been living it for close to three decades but aparently there's a new one out there that I'm travelling towards.

Its a little scary. Mainly because I don't know whats going to happen.

I have ideals that are still skittering on the fuzzy outskirts of my mind. Sitting at the end of the road. Things I think I might want or just solutions to things I'm unhappy with. They're starting to come into focus. Like an oasis far down a hot dusty path I see shapes and colors flickering in waves of heat. There, but not really. Or maybe they are.

You see, I've had a mental blindness if you will. A blank hole in my thought process that I encouraged with ignorance. Having kids helps you see things with mommy goggles. It helps you to want to know about things that didn't bother you before. To discover things about yourself. Your life. The world. It helps you to see.

I'm sure there are other ways to come to the epiphanies that are silently stalking me in the shadows. This is just how it happened to me.

The truths I had before about my world I look back on with shock.

Power comes from the outlets. Gas from a gas station. Chicken from the store. Diapers go in the trash. Fast food is fine a few times a week. Lettuce doesn't need to be washed.

Dear lord, I was so naive.

I rarely took an opportunity to look beyond myself to the impact my solitary actions had on my life and others. Because that's what they were: Solitary. It was just little ol' me. How much could I impact anything? I now have five other people who will be changing the world with the paths of their lives. Add in their daddy and there's seven people to account for. 

I also don't like thinking my kids will grow up with the same blindness I'm just now recovering from. It's a hard, slow process and I don't want them to have the same regrets I do. I don't want them to go through so many years never being completely satisfied but not knowing why. Feeling something was off when I gave myself the opportunity to look. I was edging closer to walking the road I didn't know was there.

I had implemented a few things over the years but nothing stuck. In all honesty, I never really tried. Taking steps backward or standing still is easier than picking up a foot and pushing it through to take another step. When it got too difficult I just gave up. Convenience is easy. Comfortable. But sometimes comfort doesn't feel good.

Today I find myself on a road. I'm standing somewhere between convention and the unconventional. Ease and work. Societies standard and the unknown depth of my own standards. It's hard being here. Sometimes I have to revert to "the old way" I did things just because I don't have the knowledge, skills or ability to do it the way my heart tells me to. Going back makes it harder to go forward again. But sometimes it can renew determination to take more steps than before.

I might not be able to see the end of the road. It might not come into focus for a long time. But I'm far enough along now that I can't see the begining anymore either.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Beds

I decided to make some permanent-ish beds in the front yard. It's the only place on the property that gets full sun all day. The backyard is fully fenced and fully shaded. Plus we have a lot more front yard than back. I just hope the neighbors don't mind. Bonus points for no HOA.

I bought some 1 x 4x 8's at Lowes and had them cut them in half to make 1x4x4's. A few packages of L brackets (complete with screws) and we're on our way. Having them cut it took the work from me and made it easier to transport 16 pieces of wood in my car with 5 kids in tow. Yeah, all the kids go with me on errands. That's what happens when you homeschool.

I made one frame as soon as we got home because I know me and I'll procratinate beyond all reason put it off just a little bit. I also picked up soil, manure and some broccoli plants. The kids weren't happy with the broccoli. No color! They said. So they each picked out an annual to plant. They'll attract the bees and only cost $.98 a piece, so that's alright.

I dug out the soil and added 2 bags of dirt and 1 manure. Planted them and off we went with our regular stuff before I made the second bed. Almost two weeks later. Ahem.

For being fairly close to the sea and in the city, we do have some nice rich black earth under about two inches of acorns.

Alex manned the camera while Cordi helped me clear out the second bed.

After we added the new soil and manure the kids went to work stomping the dirt down. They only weigh at the most 42 lbs. The perfect weight for just right compacted earth. You can see the first bed on the right.

Cordelia got a little excited...

And some fairies joined the stomping fray.

We finished off the first bed, planting peppers, zucchini and spinach and mounded up a bit for some canteloupe in the other. I'm starting this months earlier than last year but I'm hoping to actually get something other than frustration out of it this year.

Live and learn. And play in the dirt.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Building A Bunny Hutch

Duncan has been sitting on the porch in a 30x30 cage which is all well and fine except his droppings have been getting scattered all over the place even with a pan beneath him. He was also really close to the ground and we have a large feral cat community here. There's possums and raccoons too.

Before we got him we wanted to have a hutch in the very well shaded back yard. He's an angora, remember, so we have to be really careful with his cooling in the summer. We had drawn up plans for lots of impressive wooden/metal hutches based on the models that run in the $200-400 range. Well, those didn't work out so much. They've got a lot of exposed wood which can be pee'd on or chewed. We came up with a design that integrated the 2 30x30 metal frames, would be easy to clean and didn't cost anywhere near $200 to build.

First off you have to get yourself ready. Tools and safety are important, as is being warm while you work. Get an outfit similar to this but beware, it attracts a certain kind of octopus...

Here is the frame for the 2 cages. The roof is slanted and will be covered with corrugated aluminum roofing we had left over from the building of the shed that this is now attached to.

Here's Rob and his foreman Alex. Keep warm me boy!

It's important to have the proper tools for working. Like a screw holder.

Or a ladder.

Here's a photo just cause he's a handsome guy so engrossed in his project he didn't know I was taking photos.

The back and sides are on the hutch. More aluminum lines the inside walls and metal sheathing (I think that's the right term) covers the wood frame. Like a huge urine guard.

The bottom is open so the droppings can easily be harvested. (Yes, I just did say we're harvesting bunny poop). They're about chest high here too which will make it better protection from predators. Bunnies can get scared if they can't get away. They can have heart attacks.

Most of the wood is treated but we gave it a once over with Killz and added a top part to the front roof so cats and whatnots can't hop on top of the cages. It's important to have your "helpers" keep busy with various other projects.

Here's the completed hutch sans Duncan.

I picked up a toddler play yard at Target for 75% off. It was normally $129 and I scored it for $35. I'll use this to house the buns when I have to clean the cages and when I want to let them get some exercise. Duncan can fit through the bars so he has to be supervised in it.

We used a blow torch to clean off the matted urine dried hair that accumulated on the bottom of the cage.
Rob took over this project...I think he just wanted to play with fire.


And finally, here's Dunk settled in his cage.

What a weekend project this was. Happy Valentine's Day to me! and Duncan :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010


To go in conjunction with my earlier post this week on's a great resource for lots of FREE spelling stuff.

Rag Rug-Along Week 5

I'm not blog savvy enough to figure out how to link a YouTube video into my posts. If anyone knows feel free to post a comment with how to do it. The above link is to a rug making video. Just a little inspiration since we're already a month into the project. Things will pick up over the next few weeks as we create the fabric balls, braid them and start to wind our rugs.

I posted a column on the left side with links to the previous weeks. So far we've just gathered and washed material and are now in the process of cutting them into 2.5" strips. I've been having trouble trying to cut my large sheets without shifting so this week I'll be cutting them down to more managable pieces and joining them together.

Week Five Assignment - Finish cutting materials and if you've got the time start joining them together on the short ends. Sew them across with a small 1/4-1/2" seam allowance and roll them into balls. You'll end up with three 6-8" (or larger if you want!) balls of strips.

Happy cutting and sewing!

And if anyone is actually doing this along with me please let me know!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Egg Bowls Recipe

I took a lot of photos of this but it's another of my almost-not-a-recipe recipes. And I'm probably going to babble a lot. I got inspired by The Pioneer Woman's cookbook where she made little breakfast dishes for everyone. This is a similar recipe but without a lot of the work. Here's the basics

Scramble 9 eggs with 1 cup heavy cream, salt and pepper. This makes 6 10 oz ramekins.

Chop up a bunch of stuff you want to eat. We have orange and yellow peppers, bacon, cheese and spinach.

Spoon in eggs about half way filled. Then have everyone make their own bowls their way.

Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven on 350 for half an hour. Just keep checking to make sure all the egg is cooked.

And the above now looks like this:

Or this