It has been a wonderful spring to grow everything from lettuce, to fruit, brambles, strawberries, grass, and weeds. But it is the weeds I want to talk about right now. Everyone complains about the weeds. A weed is nothing more than a plant that is someplace we don't want it to be. In my garden, the area which I've set aside specifically to grow vegetables, I work hard to keep "weeds" out, chiefly because they will compete with the deliberately sown plants for light, food and water. Secondarily, I figure those "weeds" are survivalists and have the rest of the 205.5 acres on which to grow. "Stay out of my garden poke, lambsquarter, and dandelion!" I command to an audience that snubs their lush, green leaves at me.
The last few years, I've decided not to fight anymore battles I can't win. One of those is the battle of the weeds. This strategy will not likely rid my world of weeds, but it will save my limited physical energy, save money at the grocery check-out, and will save money on seeds for things like spinach, turnip greens, chard, kale, and so forth. Following is a very brief lesson on each weed and how to harvest and prepare them from my experience.
LAMBSQUARTER. Best to harvest leaves and small stems when young, early in the spring. Later in the spring just harvest the leaves. Wash then braise, stir-fry, or steam leaves and tender stems for no more than 4-5 minutes. I like to throw them into Pad-Thai at the very end where they basically just get warmed through. They can be used in any dish that calls for spinach, kale, chard, or turnip greens.
POKE. There is a lot of scary warnings about poke. So many people say, "Ohh! I won't even mess with that!" But, it is soooo simple to work with! Here's all you do: pick only leaves that are 6" and under. Throw them into a pot of boiling water and boil for 5 minutes. Take them out of that water and transfer into another pot of boiling water. Boil another 5 minutes, drain, and they are ready to eat or use in a recipe. At this point, I have let the leaves cool and put them into freezer bags and put them into the freezer for a nice winter's meal. Poke can be used in any recipe that calls for greens. I've even thrown them into spaghetti sauce for added nutrients.
PURSLANE. Pick, wash, and this prolific spreader is good raw in a salad, or lightly cooked in any of the above dishes I've mentioned. Wonderful in Mexican dishes for added nutrients. Throw a handful in with a pot of beans or rice.
EASTERN PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS. (Aka Nopal) It takes some care and preparation for this goodie, but for authentic Mexican dishes you've got to have it. Pick a paddle and char the outside it in a dry cast iron skillet. With tongs, scrape off the needles and charred outer skin. Then slice the soft insides and stir fry or add to rice and beans. Quite nutritious!
We have a jumble of "weeds" here. A mature dandelion on the left mixed in with some lambsquarter. In the middle is oxalis which has sour leaves and banana shaped fruits. On the right is common, white clover. Dandelion: pick leaves and flowers early in the spring. Both can be used lightly cooked or raw in a salad. Oxalis: use it sparingly to add tartness to salads. Clover: use the flowers in a salad, sparingly--they add just a touch of sweetness. However, the best use for clover is for our honeybees! We need to preserve our pollinators.
POPPY SEEDS. Lastly, and I know that poppies are cultivated, but mine reseed themselves every year and come up like weedy cousins. I harvest the seeds when the pods dry--in late July or early August here. Then I use these in baking breads, rolls, muffins, cookies. I also blend a spoonful into homemade dressings. Contrary to urban legend, you can't get high on casual use of poppy seeds.
Well, that about sums up our botanical lesson for the day. Save your energy--Eat your weeds!
That's what we're down to now. We've done all the belt-tightening we can do, now we're facing the brass tacks holding it all together. When there is still not enough money coming in to cover expenses, it is time for drastic measures. Wave good bye to the last of the middle class folks. Give our do-nothing, no-common-sense, in-it-for-just-themselves-congress the big bird. Pick up our guns, shovels, and pea-shooters. It is time to do what's necessary.
It wasn't like we haven't been warning everyone. We are all now feeling the effects of President Reagan's firing of the FAA workers in the 1980's. (Well, all except the wealthy 1%, that is.) The beginning of the end of collective bargaining, contract negotiations, fair labor standards and practices. A contract used to mean something binding, but now it isn't worth the paper it is printed on. Ask ____ ______, the company Doug raises broilers for. They throw a contract down in front of him every year. If he signs it, they bring him chickens. If he doesn't, they don't. He has NO input into this "contract." Furthermore, they can come to him in the middle of the year and say, "we are going to change the way we pay you, and yes, you will be losing another $200, but that's just how it's going to be."
You all should know that when you go to your favorite chicken restaurant and buy a $10 bucket of chicken, that restaurant paid $3.10 for that chicken from _______ ________. However, you should also know that __________ ________ gave Doug only $.20 for that chicken. Twenty cents. Out of that twenty cents, he has to purchase his heat, electricity, water, rice hulls, repair parts, and labor to raise that 3.7 lb bird. JULY 7, 2016 UPDATE: we still get paid only 5 cents per pound--still about 20 cents per chicken.
To reply to your, "yeah, but..." "NO!," we don't get any farm subsidies. And, by the way, did you know that 80% of the Farm Bill goes to food stamps? We don't even qualify for food stamps! The next time I hear some ignorant idiot mouthing off about the farmers in this country and the high price for food, I won't be nice like I was the last time. I will give them a high-five right in the face and go to jail laughing about it.
BUT, that is not what this blog is going to be about. Really. What I want to do is share our day-to-day life here on the farm--at the WP Ranch. The good and the no-so-good, but in general why we both feel blessed to have the opportunity to live and work here.
The first 10 days of 2014 have been busy. The Company delivered a new batch of baby chickens on Dec 31. They brought about 120,000 or about 30,000 per barn. It took Doug and a helper about 8 hours the day before to set up the barns. This entails placing cardboard trays and plastic trays out and filling them with feed, adjusting the feed and water lines, and making sure the heaters work and the barns are a balmy 92 degrees. We place approximately 4 tons per barn of feed in the trays--all done by hand with 5 gallon buckets and a side x side. On delivery day, it takes about 4 hours to get the birds placed in our 4 barns. Afterwards, he walks through and adjusts the water lines. Thus begins our 24/7 work shift which lasts about 33 consecutive days. Each morning and evening for the first week, Doug "runs" feed. This refills the feed trays for the babies. The temperature outside, if you'll recall, is in the single digits for this first week we have chicks. Our barns burn over 400 gallons of propane a day to keep them 90 degrees + for the first week.
Jan 4, 2014: we are informed that our propane company is having trouble getting delivery of their booked fuel. We pre-booked 20,000 gallons in August of last year at $1.39 a gallon. They will be rationing us to 250 gallons per week at our pre-book price, but we can get all we want at the market price of $1.69. Our question is this: what good is a contract when it can be voided at the company's whim? The key is when drafting a contract, to put a clause in there that states the contract can be retracted at anytime by The Company--they "reserve the right"--language such as that. That is how you get around a contract.
Jan 7: We are nearly out of propane. Doug calls Gary, our Field Tech with _____ _____. "Gary, I only have about 10% of propane left. There are going to be some really cold birds in my barns if someone doesn't get me some propane. You may need to put _____ or ______ on it and have them see that I get some propane or there are going to be 120,000 frozen birds here." A few hours later, Doug receives a text message that he can buy propane from Company X for $2.50 per gallon. "My Ass! Who is going to pay for that? We already make NO PROFIT during the winter months to grow these birds. Are you going to pay the difference for me to keep your birds warm?," Doug asks. No answer, of course.
I finally gave in and went back to the eye doctor today. Need new Rx so I can see. $462 for the exam and new lenses, not new frames. Wow. I am one of the however-many-millions without insurance. I'm going to have to sell a lot of patterns and crocheted socks to pay for that!
Jan 8: The wonderful lady that works at ______ calls to tell Doug they got a shipment in and she can arrange for 200 gallons of gas to be delivered at $1.69. The birds will stay warm for a few more days. The temperature outside is rising to the lower 50's. In the meantime, at the house, I'm doing laundry, sweeping floors, working on the bookkeeping for year end.
Jan 9: Doug is out most of the day running errands. He talks to the Natural Gas Company of Benton to see about getting natural gas run to our barns. Yes, we can do it for about $5,500 which will pay for itself in about 3 flocks. Why didn't he make this switch sooner? Because "I felt I needed to honor my contract with _____ Propane. But, now I see that our contract doesn't matter to them, so I need to do what is best for us. It is business."
Jan 10: Doug spends the day working in the barns, picking up deceased chicks, refilling the pans with food, adjusting water lines. At 5:00 pm, supper is ready, but he comes in and announces he has to go back up and fix a gas line leak which was bubbling up through our rain-soaked ground between barns 1 and 2. He drives into town and is about to procure the copper tubing he needs to make a temporary fix--above ground-- to get the tank flowing propane again to the heaters in barn 1. $86.00 and 4 hours later, he makes it back to the house for supper, a shower, and the evening news. Eleven p.m. and he is sound asleep.
Jan 11. 8:00 a.m.: Doug is on his way to load hay to delivery to a Murray State student. Twenty bales which will give him $120 gross; $20 in the gas tank, $94 to pay towards, fertilizer, herbicide, equipment insurance, and baling twine. Six dollars profit. He stops by the pool at MSU to help his pals with the scuba class clean out the pool area, lockers, and equipment before scuba classes start next week.
Meanwhile, here at the house, I have been trying to keep the stubborn fire going in the wood stove. I've done my typical, everyday chores of laundry, sweeping, dishes, jiggling the toilet flusher handle every hour so it will quit leaking, feeding and watering the dogs, cats, and chickens (my yard birds here at the house which give us the most delightful colored eggs everyday!). The ground is saturated and I sink in the mud across the yard up to my ankles in my rubber boots. Thank goodness for rubber boots! I've planned my spray schedule for the orchards and will be rounding up the various sprays I will need starting the first of February. I really need to get our fruit trees to produce well this year for us. Most of them are now of the age where, with adequate disease and pest prevention, we should get a good fruit harvest this year. Time to attend to my sewing room: I've got a knitting machine to do some maintenance to, and want to photograph and list a few more patterns for the website. I give myself until noon each day to do the general housekeeping chores before I spend time on extraneous projects. What's for supper? I'll be trolling the freezers here in just a few minutes....
I spent most of the day cancelling our webpage accounts for WP Ranch, working on sales tax returns, paying bills, and trying to figure out how to make $1000 stretch until the end of Feb. Perhaps 2014 will be better for us all! Last night's supper: Tinga and fresh tortillas, Yummmmy and filling for winter day.
Dianna's Recipe for TINGA
1 chicken and 5 bay leaves, boiled until cooked, reserve broth, remove bay leaves--add water and a chicken bouillon cube to make 3 cups of broth. Remove meat from bones and shred. Set aside.
Heat 1/3 c olive oil in soup kettle with low heat.
Add 1/2c chopped onions, 1T minced garlic, and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the shredded chicken and continue to stir-fry on medium-low for about 5 minutes, lightly browning the meat, add 1 chopped bell pepper and continue to stir fry for another couple of minutes until bell pepper is softened.
Add 1 can of Rotel original or Mexican style tomatoes with green chilies.
Add broth, 5 whole cloves, 8 whole peppercorns, 1 heaping T Chipotle in Adobo sauce (chop the chilies into small pieces before adding), 1-2 t salt, 1/2 t ground pepper, and 1 T of epazote pesto or just dried epazote if you don't have it in pesto form. Cover and simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, while making and cooking the tortillas.
Turn off the heat. Add 1/2- 3/4 cup of cream or La Leuchera. Stir until completely blended. Serve in bowls with warm tortillas.
High noon: The Gang of Five and I took a 1/2 mile walk and I made it back without collapsing. Must get back into shape this year....must....and now I am going to take pictures and post some new patterns to the store!
2:00 pm: time to let our 14 backyard chickens out for the afternoon and collect their gifts of eggs.
Pulled a venison roast, asparagus from May 18, and our new Dog Food from the freezer. I'll elaborate more on the Dog Food, but to clarify right now, NO, that is not part of our supper. Doug has just gotten home, has split some firewood, and is off to the barns. I've finished posting some new patterns for today. My goal is at least 20 per day as long as our data allowance holds that.
4:11 p.m. What would you do if you received a water bill for $506.19? We just did. I'll leave everyone with that information for the evening because my eyes are burning and I need to get supper going. Doug is still working in the barns, I'm heading out to feed the dogs and horses.....the sun is sinking lower in the sky as the temperature drops into the 40's....
A Treatise on selective hoarding
Alice said, "She made a Tea Cozy. She doesn't drink tea." So, I explained it was going to be a gift for my mom for Christmas. But, it got me thinking about where my plans for all those patterns and all that yarn and fabric were headed. I haven't a rock-solid answer for that. Not yet, anyway. I have a general direction: Hoard first, Crochet and Sew Later. In the meantime, if I die, I will surely win. Doug just looks at me with that odd, sideways look, and says, "You're not going anywhere." But he hasn't been up in the attic lately, either. If he does go up there by chance, I'll be winning sooner rather than later.
So, here's to the first post of my blog which I never, ever thought I'd do. Cheers! Now I have a place to smart off, muse, contemplate, complain, organize my thoughts, and so forth. If I can keep it all here, then maybe I won't be wandering around muttering out loud to myself.
I'll post some pictures of my creations and will be shameful about telling you where you can purchase said creations. After all, if I make all this stuff but can't make a living at it, then I couldn't hoard more fabric and yarn and patterns, so what would be the point. Oh, yes.... "But she was a heck of a blogger" carved into the rock upon my grave--NOT! "Stayed sharp right until the end--when she lost her mind trying to perfect that sock pattern."
Later..... we will chat about being a Gemini with not just two but 7 personalities, and living with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder but right now I have a few more things to take upstairs to the attic.....
Zen and the Art of Selective Hoarding----10/05/2013
subtitle: Step-by-Step How-To Lessons on keeping your significant other from NOT having you committed.
Admit it. Once you admit it you're half way there to not stressing about it. And, really, what IS the difference between selective hoarding and collecting? Selective hoarding is simply a Collection of Particular Items. Selective Hoarders, such as myself, don't collect every scrap of paper or cotton ball or rubber band that pops into our field of vision (although we may consider it for a moment). We collect only the things that interest us. But we do tend to be rather obsessed about those things, and the joy of collecting them is undeniable. It's a rush. Hummmmmmmm. Hummmmmmm.
Now, I don't condone the type of hoarding that causes bankruptcy or fires. If you're going to hoard, do it within a very strict budget and be organized, neat, and safe about it. We aren't the type to die amidst our stuff only to be located many months later pressed and preserved between stacks of cardboard boxes full of Corelle Ware dishes and trashy romance novels.
Here is what I claim to hoard: Yarn, fabric, patterns, music, plants, information, and books. I have a very nice collection of magazines that I've hated to part with such as Mother Earth News, Sunset, Kentucky Gardener, New Yorker, Archaeology, National & International Wildlife, Biblical Archaeology, Earth, Herb Companion, and Science. But, I am actively in the process of weeding out most of those. Unless there is an article or recipe that I just have to keep....I'm trying, OK? give a girl a break.
Selective Hoarding Rule For Magazines: Make a copy of the article you wish to keep and put the issue up for sale on eBay. That way, until it sells, you can still keep it, but feel good about the process of possibly getting it moved out of the house. When it sells, consider hoarding the money you make on it. Yes, replace a bad hoarding habit with a good hoarding habit. Hint: Don't try to sell a 1984 issue of National Wildlife for $17 as you are shooting yourself in the foot before you even get out of the gate.
With the advent and proliferation of the internet and co-conspiring gadgets associated with it, the lust for information is nearly uncontrollable for an information hoarder, or "junkie," if it sounds better. "I need to look up when the show Grimm starts this fall," because we are concerned it may not have been renewed. Seven hours later I'm watching a You-Tube video about Power Yoga thinking, " I need to get back into that."
So, why have I kept all my class notes from Algebra 120? Information Hoarding for the day I'll need to look up how to solve for "X". Why do I still have the Chart of Elements I made in 7th Grade? Information Hoarding for the day I'll once again become interested in the atomic numbers of gasses and metals. Why do I still have that entire set of Britannica Encyclopedias for the Young Adult? Information Hoarding for the day I'll need a simpler explanation for the basics of Electricity.
Selective Hoarding Rule for Information Junkies: Chuck the hard copies. You can look it all up on the internet. Unless the world collapses and we have no electricity or communication systems. At that point you really won't careabout solving for "x", the atomic number of argon, or how electricity works--because there isn't any. One exception: Don't get rid of that hard copy of The Victory Garden, because you will want to know how to grow food.
That's all for today. I have to spray for spiders. I do not collect spiders. But, I do have a funny story about that which I will share under another topic....
I've picked another bushel of beans--getting ready to either snap them or ignore them, not sure which just yet. So, I'm sitting on my little gardening stool under my lobster-print Gilligan hat, with rolled up shorts trying to do a little sun bathing--you know, multi-tasking, with one leg stretched out, propped up on the raised bed --when along comes a spider the size of a house cat. Anyone who knows me, even just a little bit, knows how deathly afraid I am of spiders.
I saw this guy last week when I picked some beans for supper but I didn't get the quadrant of the bed where I saw him as I really wanted to avoid him. I figured if I gave him a week, he'd likely move on to another county. No such luck.
Have you ever sat on one of those little, tipsy garden seats? I'm here to tell you, they will buck you off if you lose your concentration...
Anyway, to make a short story really long, this cat-spider leaps out of the bed, runs between my legs, and back up into the bed. I scream and fall over backwards off this silly little stool. Can't get up fast enough because the spider is just as hysterical as I am, jumping and scurrying around--we can't get away from each other! Well, 4 dogs come running from 4 different directions to see what "mom" was screaming about. A lot of good they did, because with all 4 of them shoving each other and licking my face, I couldn't get up off the ground and I just knew that spider was going to regroup and "get" me or at least run up the leg of my shorts. Finally, I heave my fat ass up off the ground and I think, "I'm having a heart attack. 'Lizbeth, I'm comin' for ya darlin'!"
Are the green beans worth it? Ask me again next January.
Jan 10,, 2014: They were worth it. :)
Books add wonderful, intelligent, character and ambiance to a home, don't they? I mean, you can be as dumb as a door knob, but if you have a stack of books on your coffee table your perceived I.Q. is elevated by a few points. And, we all know that perception is reality. Can one go too far with their book collection? I suppose some would argue, yes, but they, clearly, have much too clean a home and they likely have wax tarts simmering in every room wafting the aroma of roses or oranges. I prefer the smell of a library when I walk into my home.
Grandmother Johnson was an avid reader and book collector. I think I get my hoarding chromosome from her. Which is fine, she was a super lady, smart, and pretty. We used to talk about books--how they just feel good in our hands. Library books and eBooks are fine for fictional novels, but if we own a book we can mark in it, learn from it, refer back to it when we want. Grandmother J liked poetry, though, and I really didn't get that gene from her. Oh, I like a couple of Robert Frost poems, maybe an Alfred Lord Tennyson line or two, but that's about it. My philosophy on books and reading is this: If I'm going to spend my time reading, I want to learn something from it. Ergo, fictional books and books on poetry are best housed in a library or purchased via eReader. Gemini alert: you will find The Poetry of Robert Frost , The Complete Book of Keats Poems, a couple of Dan Brown and Michael Crichton books stuffed here and there among How To Survive In The Woods, Hopi Katcinas, Gardening With Perennials, Native American Religions, and The Emergence of Man, in my stash. All my crochet and sewing books have their own shelves, in their own rooms, of course.
One time I thought I'd be clever and organize all my books on a spreadsheet, and then organize them on the shelves by subject manner, sub organizing alphabetically. Hoarders do these kind of things, you know? Yes, we do, and I really don't know why because it takes soooo much time away from hoarding! And then I moved again and they all went into boxes...willy nilly.....unorganized....sigh....I've never quite recovered.
Aunt Joan and Aunt Jane came to visit in 2010 to attend my graduation from Murray State University. I don't remember a whole lot about our conversations, but I do remember Aunt Joan asking me, "What are you doing with all these books!?" "They are my friends! What do you mean? I love them. They have been my security blanket since I was a kid!" Doug is thinking to himself, "Heaviest security blankets I've ever moved!"
In my defense, I have been trying to cull out a few books that I've toted around since I was 10 or 12. I belong to www.paperbackswap.com which is a really cool way to collect more books. I don't think that was really the original premise of that website, but it works for me! :) I have had a few leave my shelves and move on to other book lovers in far away states. Maybe 6 or 7....in three years. Don't ask me how many have been sent to me. I plead a faulty memory.
It is now 9:44 a.m., and it is time for me to finish my "appointed rounds"--or chores, as most refer to them--you see, the perception of a higher I.Q. at work. I give myself until noon each day to complete my computer work and housekeeping before I move outdoors or, on rainy days, into my crochet and sewing room. Weeeheee: looks like rain!
Pozolé a la Dianna--colorful and filling!--10/17/2013
Tonight's supper is Pozolé, a Mexican celebratory soup.
about 2T olive oil
1-2 lbs boneless pork, cut into 1" cubes
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 can Rotel Mexican Style with cilantro and lime juice
3- 6" sprigs of Mexican basil
3- 6" sprigs of Mexican oregano
2t smoked paprika
2- 15 oz cans hominy--yellow or white or both
salt and pepper to taste
2 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
5 fresh red radishes, sliced
1 fresh cucumber, sliced
1T fresh minced oregano or 2t dried oregano
1t cilanto,epazote pesto
1 small bag of frozen Mexican style vegetables (corn, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli)--I like Kroger's brand
fresh corn tortillas--I make mine with Maseca's Tortilla Mix (de Maíz)
Heat oil in large stew pot on medium low, add pork cubes and stir-fry until chunks are at least 1/2 cooked through--about 10 minutes. Add onion, garlic, and salt and stir-fry for about 5 more minutes. Add 6 cups of water, Rotel tomatoes, sprigs of basil and oregano, and paprika. Simmer, covered, on low for about 3 hours. Add half-drained hominy and check broth to see if salty enough and adjust if necessary, add pepper. Simmer on medium low for another 30 minutes while you are preparing the fresh ingredients. Microwave the frozen vegetables only in a serving bowl until warm, but don't overcook them, then set aside with fresh veggies. (Don't warm the avocados, radishes or cucumbers.) Remove the basil and oregano stems, leaving the leaves in the soup.
To serve: In a soup bowl, spoon in some of the frozen vegetables (that have been warmed thoroughly). Add hot Pozolé. Garnish with avocado, radishes, cucumber, pesto, and minced oregano. Serve with warm, fresh tortillas either shredded into the Pozolé or they can be dipped into the Pozolé and eaten that way as you would eat bread dipped into a soup.
Auntie Mom's Influence--10/03/2013
who are we?
We are avid seamstresses and crafters since the ORIGINAL 1970's, and we're still going strong. We're also yarn, fabric, and pattern hoarders. ("Speak for yourself," protests Alice.) We, ok, I haven't parted with my stash in over 40 years until now. Maybe we'll have something that you just can't live without! Enjoy browsing!
Click on box above to go to our Compost site for information on usage guidelines and how to purchase!
All photos and stories on this website are the property of Dianna Johnson unless otherwise indicated. Please don't copy them and call them your own. Plagiarism is not only really rude and mean, but it is against the law. I have made every effort to give credit to other artists when I have used their work, and would ask that you do the same if you use mine! Thanks.