Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Lesson in Hardening Off

Sounds like a class aimed at porn set Fluffers, but alas this kind of hardening off is not that racy.

Sometimes I am amazed at how far I will go to cut corners. The truth is, I'm kind of a crappy gardener that way. I blame it on being a fire sign and elementally in opposition to growing things. I can say that because I live in California, where talking about your astrological chart in general conversation is as requisite as submitting a C.V. to a prospective employer. Fire signs have a tendency to burn things. You should see me in the kitchen. I'm notorious for burning food and/or myself. I also have a lot of air in my chart. And wouldn't you know it, this past week I burned up all my transplants with wind. You'd think that a year in private astrology lessons would have at least enhanced my self knowledge. Nope.

So here's the really dumb ass thing that I did. After diligently caring for trays of seedlings over the course of several weeks, I was eager to get them into the ground as they were clambering for more nutrition and root space. In my over excitement, I skipped that oh so crucial step of slowly transitioning the plants to the outdoors by giving them increasing levels of outside time over the course of a week or so, i.e., hardening off. The transplants might have been okay in a moderate weather setting, but when you've got a gale that could shame the north wind on the Gitche Gumee, you'd be a poor sailor to set your transplants adrift in that gusty blow. I am, sadly, such a woeful sailor, casting my defenseless sprouts upwind, like Captain E.H. Smith giving his final orders to leave the ship. This is the wreckage:

I would estimate that at least 50% did not make it and would be surprised if there were any survivors in the end. Fortunately, most transplants were peas and as I've said before, we live in a year round pea growing climate.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Backyard Eats

OROAR is officially a success. I am pleased to report that we are now harvesting Red Russian and Nero Toscana kale, broccoli raab, and cilantro at least three to four times a week. Celery, parsley, carrots, and beets are looking good and it shouldn't be much longer until we begin to harvest these as well. The peas have a ways to go, but fortunately we live in a year round pea growing climate. Cheers to greens!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Cure for the Middle Age Blues

If I were a guy, I might have bought a sports car, got a few plugs, ran off with a 23 year old secretary fresh from a double D boob job, and called it quits. I could have done the plastic surgery thing, though not really my style, or gone the cougar route. But could you see me cruising the college campuses looking for a 20 something boy toy? Don't answer that.

It began, I suppose, as it does for everyone else: a little life dissatisfaction, a little depression (Okay, a lot of depression). Yet when it came to acting on my peri-menopausal, sailing-into-the-sunset-of-my-fertility angst, I didn't quite do it in stereotypical fashion. My midlife crisis did manifest as a love affair, but with animals, particularly small livestock. Eww gross, not THAT kind of an affair! I thought I could stop with the dog and the cat. But then I reasoned, what would be so wrong with a couple chickens? They make eggs, right? It wasn't enough. I needed more. Next came the goats. I really intended that to be the end of my animal collecting. Really.

Enter Julio.

The hubby is jealous. Who wouldn't be? It's hard to compete with 2.5 pounds of velvety, white fluff combined with a little pink nose that squinches in the most adorable way. And those ears! I could devour them like candy they are so darn sweet.

Julio came to me from a parent at my daughter's school who told me that she was having problems with a stray rabbit eating her garden. She wasn't able to build an adequate shelter for the bunny so she asked if I would be willing to take him until they could set something up. I agreed because I couldn't bear the thought of some helpless house pet braving the elements, especially one with a messed up, weepy eye. Honestly, I thought I would take him in for a couple weeks and then give him back. Honest.

I've owned rabbits before, but not one this charming. Julio is a curious little bun, who loves to snuggle, head butt various objects including any bodies that may be in his way, and rub noses. I'm not kidding about the nose thing. This guy must have been an Eskimo in his past life. He also eats like a horse. In one day, he probably munches his weight or more in alfalfa, orchard grass, and fresh veg. I've never seen anything like it.

As it has been a few years since I've cared for these creatures, I was so grateful to have met someone through this blog who has been rescuing bunnies for years. My blog friend Karen graciously offered to come give Julio a look over to assess his general condition and give me some bunny keeping tips. She surmised that he was in pretty good shape for having been left to his own devices and that he was DEFINITELY a boy. There was no mistaking those orbs hiding in Julio's fluffy underside. She also recommended getting his eye looked at.

Insisting on continuing my D.I.Y. vet practice, I attempted to treat Julio's weepy eye with warm compresses and some terramycin ointment that I had laying around from the troubles with the chickens. After three days neither seemed to improve his condition, so I broke down and took him to All Pets Animal Hospital, one of only two places in San Francisco that sees rabbits. More money than I wanted to pay later, Julio seems to be on the mend.

Given the eye situation, I wanted the rabbit in a relatively dust free environment so I've been keeping him locked in Ute's room, which has been none too pleasing to the dog and cat. In a traumatic breach of bunny security, Mr. Tinks broke into the room and made an attempt to bond with Julio by administering a neck massage with teeth. I heard the distinct shrieks of a rabbit screaming, a horrifying sound that would send chills through even the most hardened of hearts, and raced to the rescue. Grabbing the dog by the scruff, I tossed him out on the front porch unleashing a string of expletives that I probably should have refrained from uttering in front of my six year old. I found Julio scrunched in a ball, frozen stiff, eyes not moving. But other than a slight abrasion on the cheek and a small non-bloody puncture in one ear, Julio escaped relatively unscathed. I was relieved, to say the least. Scared the piss out of the poor bun, though. Literally.

The cat is displaying her dissatisfaction with the situation by shitting in the bathtub. Nice.

As for giving the bunny back? Sorry, he's my man now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

They're Back

Ute and I drove up to Lake County this past weekend to retrieve our lovely goats. We went up a day early to spend some time with our friend Tina in Santa Rosa and to give the Disgruntled Farmhand some space because frankly, we don't want to find out what happens when you push a person past disgruntled. I'm sure it's ugly.

What a gorgeous weekend it was with the sun beaming full glory and not a cloud in the sky to diminish its radiance. We took a lovely afternoon stroll through the Luther Burbank Gardens in downtown Santa Rosa. Spring was in the air with all of Burbank's assortment of flowers and veggies in full bloom. For those of you not in the know, Mr. Burbank was the creator of many a splendid varieties of plants, including the ubiquitous Russet Burbank potato of french fry fame. I would hold this against dear Luther, since his potato has probably been the main force in driving out a vast number of potato varieties. But how was he to know that when deep fried, his bulbous starchy creation would become the closest thing to heaven for anyone under the age of 18, while simultaneously being a major contributing factor to our current obesity crisis in the U.S.? Who could have predicted that the Russet Burbank would become the equilvilant to a nutritional hydrogen bomb, as the repercussions would only begin to reverberate in a distant future (Burbank died in 1926)?   But I forgive Luther for all of his blind transgressions solely for the invention of the plumcot, a glorious fruit with all the tastiness of an apricot combined with the crisper, juicier texture of the plum. Let's face it, where the Divine fell short, Luther Burbank took over.

Next we headed off to Sebastapool's Rose and Thorn. Trust me when I tell you that you've never been to a shop quite like this one. The store itself is loaded with more tchotchkes than a Hindu temple, but the main attraction is the animal yard where over 50 chickens and several dwarf goats, all named after famous movie stars, roam the grounds. It's an enticing stop for a picnic replete with country charm; they've got tables and everything. They even offer up the property for getting hitched, as long as you don't mind some feathery, furry bridesmaids and groomsmen clucking and bleating throughout the proceedings. Here's some of the exotic farm friends:

We left Santa Rosa early Sunday, but not before Tina sent us off with a mini library of gardening and homesteading books from the collection of Celeste West, a radical librarian who edited the desktop published Revolting Librarians and wrote a handful of books on lesbian polyfidelity. Since the gardening books I inherited are such gems and Celeste such an interesting character, I think I will save description for a later post. Stay tuned.

When we arrived at Oops Ranch for our girls, we were greeted by Mary Jane, who could pass as the twin of the mean lunch lady, Alice, on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, except for the fact that Mary Jane is a NICE lady. She regaled us with entertaining, albeit troublesome, tales of Ethel and Lucy's exploits. Apparently, Ethel reigned queen over the young does, always getting to eat first and teaching the youngins' all kinds of mischievous tricks, such as how to jump through the nine inch space near the top of the gate. Yes, that's my naughty, naughty goat. Meanwhile, Lucy slogged through her stay with the rest of the herd somewhere near the bottom of the totem pole. She lost a bit of weight with all the competition, while Ethel has clearly packed on some pounds. But Lucy got her job done with incredible efficiency, breeding with the buck several times the day after we dropped her off! She's my good girl.

While getting the lowdown on the girls' vacation, Mary Jane's husband Mel sauntered over to try and convince us that we needed a mini cow. Though a tempting offer from this gentleman who has probably done more than his fair share of time in a Santa Claus suit, we had to pass it up given that this doe-eyed boy might grow to 300 pounds. If you have at least an acre, you might want to think about taking him in (I can provide contact info). He looks a little wild in this pic, but he's really a sweetie.

He was terribly difficult to resist. But even more of a lure was his jealous pal Buddy who began to make the most obnoxious choking noises in a ploy to get a scratch around the ears. Poor thing. He sounded like he got one of his treat biscuits trapped in his throat and was trying to push it out through his nose. I had no idea the lengths a donkey would go to for a bit of attention. It was kind of charming, if not a little frightening.

All of us girls made it home safe and sound. To our utter amazement, we returned to a brand new/old set of stairs in the backyard made with recycled cinder blocks, a car so clean you could eat off the floor, and a spotless house. We love our Disgruntled Farmhand and suspect that maybe he's not THAT disgruntled after all.