Sunday, August 30, 2009

Man vs. Nature

There is something magical about sitting in your backyard and watching wildlife go about its business. I don't just mean the birds and insects, either. I mean all wildlife be it scaled, feathered, or furred.

To often I hear people, usually living in 3000 sq. ft. homes in the mountains, complaining about their peace and quiet being shattered by a wandering bear or coyote. I always ask myself, and sometimes not so quietly, where exactly do these people think the animals lived BEFORE they, the humans, decided they absolutely had to have a huge piece of land in the "country". Where exactly do these people think the animals are going to go after, what has been their territory for generations, a house is built across their migration path or the best berry patch in the region.

Then of course there are those living in the suburbs of cities across Canada who complain when Fluffy the cat is eaten by a coyote, or Yappy, the lap dog is taken by an owl. You have to wonder exactly what these people are thinking, especially when they cry and whine to the city officials to eliminate the pests before one of the kids, or outside pets, get hurt. The obvious answer is, of course, to stop thinking they have some kind of God given right to do what they want. Keep the pets indoors unless you are outside watching them. Teach the kids to recognize and avoid wildlife. And, of course, stop leaving things for wildlife to eat out in your garbage cans and yards over night.

Animals do what animals do, especially when their homes are being paved over and built upon. They adapt, they eat, they breed, and they roam. Maybe I'm just weird but I think being able to co-exist with wildlife is a virtue, not a curse.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vegetable Rice Risotto

We joined Love Those Weeds' CSA program again this year and are already getting run over with vegetables. It seems she planted most of the same veggies we did so what we get from her doubles what we are getting from our own garden. I decided I had to do something that would use up as many types of veggies as possible and Vegetable Rice Risotto was the answer.

Vegetable Rice Risotto
1 cup rice
1 cup broccoli bits
1 cup cauliflower bits
1 cup fresh green beans - snapped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup fresh green peas
Any other veggies you have will work.
1 can coconut milk
garlic, salt, pepper to taste

Optional:
Shredded coconut
Parmesan Cheese

Cook the rice in a deep skillet until almost all the water is absorbed.
Add the vegetables and cover to steam until tender crisp
Add 1 can coconut milk and stir until milk is absorbed and rice sticks together.
Serve warm.

Options:
To give it an Italian zing top with Parmesan Cheese
To make it a Thai rice meal add shredded coconut just before servings.

Enjoy as a main dish or serve on the side of a mild flavoured meat dish.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hot Weather and Chores

It seems the weather these last few days has been trying to make up for the cooler than normal July. It has been 30ยบ C + every day with the humidex making it feel even hotter. Needless to say, I've been hiding inside with the window air conditioner unit running as often as possible. However, that hasn't been as often as I would prefer since I've had a lot of chores to get done.

The biggest chore has been getting the chicken's coop and enclosed run finished. We're nearly there. As of yesterday we only have a little decorative trim, painting, and the storm windows to build. I'm actually pretty happy with the final results even if it has taken far longer than planned to get it complete. The girls, and Putz the rooster, all seem to appreciate the coop at bedtime, though they prefer to free range during the day.

I'm still unsure about letting the chicks free range except during supervised playtime. Besides the possibilities of predator attack there is also the chance the chicks may wander into a neighbours yard, which would be very bad. To give the girls more room to run and fresh grass to graze on they still use the tractor, with one very important addition. We've added a dust-bathing bowl to their tractor. We had a copper "bowl" from a patio fire pit that has been recycled into the dust bath, using simple construction sand. The chicks love it and we often see 5 or 6 all jostling for the best place in the bowl at the same time. It is quite fun to watch.

That is Putz, front and centre, sleeping with his beak in the sand. He is actually a cute thing, if somewhat of a bully with the girls, and doesn't seem to mind being picked up and carried from the coop to the tractor. He even challenges Dunny, our big dog, if he gets to close to the tractor. So far he hasn't shown much of a mean streak toward us which is a good thing. He also hasn't started crowing yet, the only reason we haven't re-homed him yet.

The heat has done wonders for the garden. Everything has finally started producing, well except the broccoli which has flowered in this heat. The pole beans are loaded with pods and the sweet potatoes are growing like crazy.

I can't wait for the sweet potatoes to bloom later this fall. The sweet potatoes have beautiful purple and white blossoms all over their many vines. With the plants being in pots this year, and their vines trained up cages, they should make very striking flower pots in the yard this year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Goldenrod and Geese

I firmly believe that the old timers knew how to predict the weather far better than we do with our computer models and meteorologists. At least for their particular slice of the world anyway. I'm always observing the natural world trying to find the best and most accurate indicators of the weather to come.

When I was growing up in Florida I was taught that goldenrod was the best indicator of when the first frost would come. Over the years, and many places I lived, I've tested this theory and have found it still holds true. The blooming goldenrod means there will be a frost in that area in 6-8 weeks. Of course, our goldenrod started blooming last Friday so we should get our first frost by the middle of October. It may not be a hard frost but it will be frost.

On Tuesday we had to go into town and I noticed the Canada geese were starting to flock up. Since moving to Eastern Ontario I've noticed that the geese start flocking up about the same time as the goldenrod blooms. When the geese start to flock up then we can expect frost within a few weeks. When they start flying south I know there is snow coming. Of course by the time they start flying south it should be late October early November and snow is almost always within a few weeks anyways.

I've had my theories poo-pooed by almost everyone but I still hold them to be true. Maybe I should start a spreadsheet, but then would be be any different than the computer models - nothing but good guesses, and averages? I guess the secret of the old timers is more about gut instinct than omens or portents.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fair Weekend

This was the Williamstown fair weekend. We went last year and enjoyed ourselves so we decided it would make a good afternoon break from chores to go again this year. Last year we arrived at opening time and found several vendors hadn't set up yet, so this year we tried getting there just after lunchtime. Unfortunately.

We arrived at the gates at 12:30 pm, paid our $8 each to get in and then spent1/2 hr in line to the directed parking. After parking we then had to walk 10 minutes back down the road to get into the fair proper. Once there we saw the requisite 4H cattle show, English Pony show, and the Western rodeo show all going on at the same time. Problem was there was no seating left and very little room close enough to the fences to actually see the shows.

So we decided to go look at the animal exhibits. Last year there was a tent full of show chickens, and a few ducks. Of course being new to the whole chicken addiction I really wanted to see the chicken exhibit. This year, there was no chickens. In fact, there was very little in the way of animal exhibits. The only goats, sheep, llamas, and geese were at the petting zoo, which was crowded. Little Ray's Reptile Zoo was doing a show but neither of us was interested in seeing that.

Ok, that was a bust, so we tried the craft vendors. Last year there was a young female blacksmith who was very friendly and more than willing to talk to people visiting her tent. This year it was a middle aged gentleman who did his level best to ignore everyone around him. When we got close enough, through the sulfur fumes coming off the fresh pile of coal he placed on the forge, to actually ask questions he stepped away from the forge and started drinking from a thermos. In fact he drank from the thermos for so long we decided to leave and find someone else's stuff to look at.

Most of the other vendors were selling classic flea market trash. Cheap China made belts and buckles, metallic 8 x 10 pictures of unicorns and the like. Even the furniture makers seemed to be selling the exact same stuff, or at least stuff made from the same pattern. The only vendor who had anything even remotely interesting was the Preserves vendor, and she had a lot of really interesting jams, jellys, and pickles. But, as PeterC said, we din't need any of that stuff until we eat what we already have put away.

We wandered our way through the midway and food vendors, where we bought some fresh mini-donuts, watched the price of a small 500ml bottle of water climb from $1.00 to $3.00 as it got hotter, and generally tried not to get run over by the crowds, or breath to much of the insane amount of cigarette smoke. In the end we found ourselves back at the cattle show and decided it was time to leave. We spent a grand total of an hour trying to enjoy ourselves and just getting more and more frustrated.

Next year we are getting there early. Then if we only stay an hour we at least don't have to wait so long to figure that out.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

What do you get....

So, what do you get when you cross a wok, with a surprising well sealing lid, with 2 tablespoons of oil and heat? An explosion! PHWOOMPH. Scared the bageesus out of me and PeterC, especially when the lid flew into the air, flames following suite, and smoke came roiling out of the pan.

Luckily, neither of us panicked. The pan was taken outside to let it finish smoking while it cooled off. Supper was finished fairly quickly and life returned to normal. However, that was enough excitement to last me the rest of the year. Hopefully, my life will be dull in comparison from now on.

On the chicken home front we still have eleven starving velociraptors. They eat constantly, which is a good thing since they are growing so fast. They are only partially feathered out which makes them even more dinosourish in appearance than normal. Another week, maybe two and they will be going out to their coop, as long as the weather holds long enough for us to finish the silly thing.

Unfortunately, it looks like one of the barred rocks is a rooster. A definite no-no in our backyard. We'll have to try to find a home for him once he gets older. Of course a couple of the girls have really taken a shine to him and like to lay snuggled right next to him during nap times. I suspect he would be a very good, and caring mate, but the crowing would get us into all kinds of hot water with the neighbours.