Sunday, December 31, 2006

What to do on the last day of the year

Charlie finished the greenhouse yesterday. It took a little work to level out a spot. We've still got work to do. We need to gravel the inside. For now there's landscape fabric. We'll be building a low retaining wall and filling the newly created bed behind the greenhouse with low growing herbs, flowers and veggies.

I filled some 7-gallon containers with potting mixture and sowed seeds for the first greenhouse crops - rouge d'hiver lettuce, black-seeded simpson lettuce, a mesclun mix, a stir fry greens mix, catalina spinach and oregon giant snow peas. I have more containers to fill. I'm thinking of starting some carrots and radishes. For now everything will be in containers, but I'm planning on some raised beds this spring. Before we know it, it will be time to start seed for the garden. I've got to leave a little room for some shelves. The seed catalogs are arriving daily and I'm getting itchy to order way too much again this year. But I've got grand plans forming for 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Roosters Swapped

I met up with Jamie on Thursday and it was a wonderful meeting. We met in a brewpub in downtown Greenville, SC and swapped roosters. It was an odd excuse for a meeting, but a worthwile one. She had an extra Speckled Sussex rooster (which I had been wanting, as I have four hens) and I had Lucky, the Barred Rock/Dominique - only named because he managed to escape not one, but two attempts at butchering. Good luck, Jamie - he's a handsome, yet crafty creature. The Sussex is now getting used to his new surroundings with one hen and will soon be joining the group.

I haven't been doing this whole blog thing quite as long as she, so it was nice to meet someone else doing what I'm doing. I liken it to meeting a pen pal. Do people still have pen pals? I had one from Japan and one from France (who at some point got tired of my poor French grammar, and stopped les lettres. Jamie was just as friendly and cool as I expected and surprisingly familiar. I suppose it helps that I've been reading her posts for almost two years... I even made the aquaintance of her car, Squeaky - which is blue, sort of.

Here is Number Two (her name for him, but it seems to be sticking) at the rooster swap high atop a parking garage in Greenville. He was quite perturbed when I brought him home and then he saw the Speckled Sussex hen in the pen next to him and he turned on the old rooster charm (they must be hardwired that way...). Way to go Number Two and welcome to Little Creek Farm.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holiday Recovery

Finally, a time to relax. The Monkey has finally gone to bed after two days of hard partying. In case you're wondering, "hard partying" for a four year old (excuse me, four and a half year old) involves wearing a Tinkerbell constume, consuming vast quantities of sugar, jumping up and down frequently and non-stop verbalizing. The hardest part has been that the weather turned and our Christmas was rather wet. Nasty, cold wet. It has at least set in motion serious plans for revamping the critter area. Gravel - it's a novel concept. And it's much easier to walk on than soul-sucking mud

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas, or whatever it is you do at this time of year. We tried to have less present under the tree, but our families didn't quite cooperate. Monkey didn't mind. She got a Tinkerbell costume, a Hello Kitty boombox (for her collection of kindermusik and Suzuki violin cds) and lots of art supplies. Charlie received practical presents like new boots, two copies of the new edition of the Joy of Cooking, and a doormat made of recycled flip-flops (one of our favorites!).

My Christmas present didn't fit under the tree this year. It is still sitting in several large boxes on the screened porch (thanks to the rain). I got a greenhouse! I've begged Charlie for months to help me build a hoop house and had been rather dissapointed that he seemed to show no interest in the prospect of fresh vegetables year round. Little did I know he was plotting. It's the curse of living with a landscape designer... all has to look good. So, as soon as the weather breaks, he'll be out assembling all those panels and soon I'll be planting radishes and lettuce!

While not a "present", so to speak, we do have new inhabitants here at Little Creek. Four Guinea Fowl - three lilac and one pearl, have joined the menagerie.

Two breeding pairs. I hoping for little guineas in the spring. From what I've read, they love to eat bugs and scratch less than the chickens - they may even get to go in the garden! I'm hoping to that they'll be rather self-sufficient. I know they are tasty! Although these four are just for breeding and increasing the screaming guinea horde. In case you aren't aware, Guineas can set up quite the racket when they want to set off an alarm. When they are just chatting, however, the sound quite pleasant with little chirps and such.

Tonight it's snowing and blowing and the temperatures have dropped. How do we keep warm around here? Let me share a favorite Christmas drink. I think Santa loves when I leave him one by the fireplace...

Aztec Sluggers from Gourmet, December 2005

Here's what you need...

1 cup freshly brewed strong coffee

1/4 cup bourbon

1/2 oz Kahlua

2 oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

6 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon sugar

Heat coffee, bourbon, Kahlua, chocolate, and 2 tablespoons cream in a heavy saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly, until the chocolate is melted. (Do not let it boil.)

Whisk remaining 1/4 cup cream with sugar until it holds soft peaks.

Divide drink between two large mugs, then top with whipped cream. Enjoy with your favorite jolly, old elf. I'm taking some down to the guineas right now as a house-warming gift.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Art - let's eat!

On Thursday afternoons I teach art to a group of home school children. They range in age from kindergarten through third grade. This whole "semester" we've been working with color and exploring lots of possibilities. For our last class of the year we made an edible color wheel.

Yummy. I only gave them frosting in the primary colors - red, blue and yellow. Their job was to create the color wheel. After much finger-licking and consumption of sugar, they went on their merry way. It was a very fun project. And I just have to say, I love teaching art this way - working with a handful of students over a protracted period of time. We really have been allowed to explore and learn. I just love hearing a kindergartner explain analgous colors to his mom.

I think I'm on my way to creating a little attelier! We meet in my studio and they get to see the paintings as I work on them. They ask questions and work at their own giant table. In January we move on to line, form and pattern. Soon I'll have them grinding colors and preparing canvases, while living in an indentured state in the garage... (not really - we can't go back to the renaissance, but a girl can dream).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

One more day

One more day until Winter Break and I sure can use it! And tell me, how did I happen to not post anything here for two weeks (besides being a bad blogger?). Well, it could do with renegotiating my contract, writing a couple of grants and generally being exhausted.

It's not as if I didn't have anything to say... Everyday, something occured that was a little, if not exceedingly, "blog-worthy". I even created whole posts in my mind. I just didn't sit down at the computer to actually type.

So tomorrow starts 10 days of doing nothing work related. Which is not exactly true. The carpet cleaners are coming to school and I must be there to let them in and lock up afterward. But generally - I'm work free (well, besides a couple grants I want to polish off...).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Changes in the weather

Yesterday the temperature dropped by tens of degrees in a matter of hours. This morning all the water troughs were frozen solid. There is nothing more pathetic than a big white duck sitting on a frozen block of ice that the day before was a baby pool full of water. It was pathetic not in the attempt, but in the length of time - Ping sat, waiting for some sort of magical transformation of ice to water to occur, close to 10 minutes before he slid off in frustration.

It was 8 degrees here this morning. The water line to the coop was frozen. I had to carry buckets from the house to the coop and back five times. I've broken the ice for the birds and goats twice today. It's a good thing I got to use my executive powers and call a snow day today.

I'm sure that every teacher that enters administration experiences a shock of pleasure the first time she gets to cancel school due to weather. It is the ultimate power to posess the code needed to put your school's name on that cancellation list scrolling across the bottom of the television screen during the local morning news. What child wouldn't sell their soul for that code? Well, it's stuck to the side of my fridge kiddies, and I'm not sharing!

The down side of posessing that power is getting up at 5 a.m., checking to see if the public schools are cancelled, calling teachers to check the weather, calling the board chair to make sure you have the cancellation policy correct, and then knowing that some parent will still show up to an empty building at 8 a.m. and wonder what the hell is going on.

Did I mention that we only had about 1/2 an inch of snow?

Eggs up to my armpits

The chickens have finished molting and I've added extended hours of light with a timer and light bulb in the chicken house. Suddenly I'm up to my arm pits in eggs. Also, keeping them cooped up, so to speak, has finally triggered a desire to use the nest boxes. Yesterday there was a total of 23 eggs. I found a clutch of five beautiful blue eggs under the goat shed by accident. I caught my white ameraucana hen coming out from under the corner of the shed and viola! Cool weather has kept them all fresh. Now if only I can get her to lay where I want her to.

Oh, and while I can't quite knit as fabulously as Liz, here's the Monkey in her new favorite hat. Perhaps I'll have the scarf ready for Christmas. My plan was to have hats for my two nieces and nephew as well. I better get knitting.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's not even technically winter...

And I'm dreaming of spring.

I turned another year older on Friday. That however had to take a back seat to everything else last week. My contract with the school as interim head ends December 31 and I had, until last night, not heard a word on whether I would be there for the second semester. Well last night I heard I would be. I found out today that I would be getting a raise, and that the Board would really like for me to apply for the permanent position. Gosh, I was just starting to look for a new job...

Anyway, let me describe briefly the typical day of last week. In briefest terms: Overflowing toilet, unannounced arrival of state inspector, pre-schooler with bloody nose, another overflowing toilet (inspector still there...), slightly insane intern overreacting to something that has nothing to do with her, odd parent questioning the validity of a field trip to see the Nutcracker (inspector still there...parent should be shot...), I forgot my lunch and then... projectile vomiting in the teachers' bathroom by elementary student (luckily inspector was gone by then because that bathroom is not covered by health inspections and student should not have been there). That was such a good day!

This weekend I ignored anything to do with education and took myself and Biscuit the Wonder Dog to a dog trial. We brought home two second places and a third place. Not bad for a soon-to-be nine year old dog.

Now I am going to peruse the first of the seed catalogs that arrived today and help myself to a beer...