Sunday, August 30, 2009

New animals

A few months ago my Dad gave me his group of roller pigeons, along with their loft. We spent a few hours getting it unloaded, putting it back together, and getting the pigeons safely housed. About a half-hour later, I was behind the house and I heard birds flapping - looked up to see them all flying around. They escaped - not good! After pigeons are moved they need about a month of confinement so they can re-learn where "home" is (or more accurately, where the food is). So they flew around for a few days, wouldn't come back to their loft. Eventually I was able to capture two of them. Unfortunately, one was killed under mysterious circumstances a few weeks later (I suspect a weasel). So I had one pigeon, until now.

I got 7 pigeons from an older guy who was downsizing his flock. So now I have 8 (and I have built a proper locking door for the loft).

Here's a video of what roller pigeons do while flying - pretty weird.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Putting up corn

Well we ate as much corn as we could that last 10 days or so, and it is just starting to get over the hill. After it reaches full maturity (when kernels are easily punctured by a fingernail and they exude milky fluid), corn has a small window where it has the maximum sugar content in each kernel, after which it begins to turn these sugars to starches, resulting in less sweet and chewier corn. Furthermore, it does not sit ripe on the plant for very long, especially if you grow anything other than modern, hybridized "super sweet" varieties. These are bred to stay sweeter for longer on the plant, and to stay sweeter for longer after being picked. I grew a hybrid "sweet corn", but not a "super sweet". So it's time to pick the rest of the mature ears and freeze them for storage.

With about 20 ears, shucking them was the worst part of the operation. You want to freeze them immediately after picking - I'm not kidding, they get less and less tasty every minute you wait...

After cleaning, they go into a big pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. This stops from working the enzymes that are turning the sugars into starches. Then they are quickly cooled in an ice water bath to stop the cooking.

Cut the kernels off the cob, and into a freezer bag. I got two gallon sized bags from 20 ears. We'll have some tasty corn this winter!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More things ready

Our summer has been so hot this year - my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are the biggest plants I've ever had, with fruit hanging all over them.

The first few peppers: hot banana peppers at bottom, jalapenos to the right, a purple bell above, and Hungarian black peppers at top left.

I love the variety of tomatoes we grew this year. Big ugly Purple Cherokee heirlooms are full of flavor, perfect fresh with basil, fresh mozzarella, and a good balsamic vinegar. Early ripening Stupice are fantastic slicers that have yielded the greatest so far, and Sungold cherry tomatoes are the sweetest, best tasting fresh tomatoes I've ever had.

My late-planted carrots are big enough to begin thinning out. Straight from the ground carrots are hard to beat fresh.

And here's something you don't see every day - a potato fruit. The flowers are rarely able to set fruit, as the real action is taking place underground, where the potatoes are forming. However, if your potatoes happen to set and mature fruit, don't eat it! The fruits contain high levels of toxic alkaloids that attack the nervous system (potatoes are in the deadly nightshade family, after all). I'll stick to the tubers, thanks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I'm getting closer and closer to having a honest farm, as I now have mechanization. Last weekend I picked up a small tractor. We have many things to do around here that would be so much easier with a tractor: digging post holes, trenching for water lines, digging a pond, grading and leveling, garden prep work, moving dirt and gravel around, cutting/raking/baling the pasture, pulling a trailer around...the list goes on. I know , I know, people have been doing all these things by hand for hundreds of years...but why? It's impractical to think a person can find one tractor to do ALL these things, it would cost you $20,000 and could never accomplish everything on the list equally well. So I have to start somewhere, and since I don't have an extra 20k sitting around, an older, small garden tractor seemed like just the ticket.

During the last few years my Dad restored a '49 Farmall Cub, which got me interested in "old iron".

Dad's Cub.

I watch Craigslist pretty closely, and an ad popped up for a Gibson tractor. I did a bunch of research on them and went and checked it out. I bought it that night and brought it home later in the week, a few days ago. It's a 1947 Gibson model D.

Towed it behind our Subaru. It came with a disc harrow, 12" moldboard plow, a spike harrow, and the built-in front dozer blade.

It's not very big (a "garden tractor") but has a torque-y 6 horse Wisconsin AEH engine, split rear brakes, and implements I can use to expand our garden and start cultivating some of our pasture. No PTO (though it does support powered implements if I can track down the PTO pulley that was originally an option) or 3 point hitch, but these things could be added in the future if I find I really need to.

The tractor is in excellent shape: recently painted body, new wheels and tires, and a replaced engine. Gibson will get plenty of work from me...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Guess what.

I'm engaged.

Emily and I have been part of each others lives for many years. We first met in 9th grade - we both played clarinet in band (nerds!). I still remember the first time I saw her when our band teacher introduced her as the "new student" from Tacoma (he gave her 3rd chair cause she was 1st chair in Tacoma). We have been together now for 7 years.

We will be married at our house a year from now, in August.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Big harvest!

We just got back from 10 days out of town. I take a week or so vacation every year in summer and I'm always amazed by how much the garden seems to take off when I'm gone. Things grow slower when you see them every day. We had tons of stuff ready so this is just a big picture post, get ready...


Lots of yellow onions.

Cascadia snap pea from the second sowing this year.

First corn!

Scarlet runners and tri-colored bean mix.

Red pontiac potatoes.

Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and lettuce too! We will eat well this week!