Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Hi all!

I'm bored with Blogger, so I'm packing up my posts, photos, and comments, and moving to http://www.forksandneedles.wordpress.com.

The Wordpress premade themes are prettier, and it seems like you can do a lot more stuff. Goodbye to Blogger!

I've imported my old posts to Wordpress, and I think it went well. There is some odd formatting in some of the old posts, but I don't know if I'll go back to fix them. What's past is past.


Monday, June 07, 2010

No Thinking or Resting, only Doing

When I'm by myself, I like to stay busy. Well, I like to keep busy when other people are around, but they usually want to talk or some other silly stuff, so it slows down my need for busy-ness.

This past weekend, Porkchop was gone, and is still gone doing nonsense like this:

Yeah, she's at Disney World. She drove down with her older brother and his family. I declined the invitation because I really do dislike Disney World. Also it's June. In Florida.

So, I've been keeping busy.

On Saturday, I biked to the Tower Grove Farmers' market and hit up the free yoga class. I also picked up some strawberries for jam-making and green onions. After lunch and a supply run for canning lids and sugar, I made four jars of jam (sorry for the poor photo quality; all pictures were taken with my phone camera):

After making the jam, I had to do clean-up, which I do not enjoy. And then it was out to the garden for pruning and tying tomatoes, and then to the community garden for weeding and scoping out work for Sunday.

This is the star tomato plant in our backyard garden:

I have high hopes for this quick-growing plant!

Sunday, I awoke bright and early and started the day with making tea...compost tea. Our tumbler has holes that allow compost juice to collect in the base. You just unscrew the cap, dump it out, and mix it with water (1 part compost juice to 10 parts water). It is highly nutritious for plants, and can be one of the most foul things ever.

Our compost is kind of ripe at the moment, and the compost juice stunk to high heaven. I'm not a delicate person, but I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. The slugs didn't help, especially the dead slug floating in the juice. While I was mixing up the tea, I thought it was the most disgusting thing I had ever smelled. (Note foreshadowing.)

So, my work in the community garden started with weeding the tomato bed and hauling in compost tea for it (two trips down the alley carrying one of those pails that holds 40 pounds of cat litter). The day progressed to working on the potato bed. I added the second tier and filled it with as much dirt as I could before my back started protesting:

I then staked and tied as many tomato plants as I could using my stakes from last year, as well as some that I found lying around the community garden. After that, I planted green and black beans. Finally, I ended my day with installing a fence in the cucumber bed. The little sour gherkins are desperate for something to climb! And, who knows, maybe the big cucumber plants will use it too. Nothing fancy, just fencing left from last year:

In between all of this work, I did a lot of weeding. In total, I spent about four hours in the community garden.

I'm still impressed by the squash plants. HUGE!

And the cantaloupe vine already has flowers!

After garden work, I did some clean up around the house. This included dumping a bin that Porkchop had filled with leaves and left in the basement doorway (yeah, I'm looking at YOU, Porkchop!). The bin had filled with water and was even sprouting some sunflowers from the bird feeder seed. So, this bin had been sitting around for at least a month, growing fouler with each passing day. When I picked it up, dozens of mosquitoes flew out of it. Great - not only was it sprouting sunflowers, it was breeding mosquitoes. I drug the bin to the back corner of our yard and dumped it. And the stench that arose was THE most horrible smell EVER. EVER!!!

When I went out in the yard to do other stuff, I would get a whiff of the smell and hope that no one else could smell it. Our neighbors already think we're strange, and I don't need another mark against me. But, honestly, who could NOT smell that smell? Even with a nose swollen on the inside from allergies, I could smell it with no problem. Ugh... On the bright side, the leaves should be a wonderful addition to the compost bin (after they've dried out some and are less stinky).

Once the outside work was taken care of, I settled inside and poached a chicken. Using the stock and the dark meat, I made chao xa ga (Vietnamese version of chicken congee). For the past month or so, I've been craving a simple chicken and rice dish that my mom used to make, but I wanted it to be a little different. When I saw this recipe, I knew it was what I had been tasting in my head. The whole process took quite some time, but it was well worth the effort.

With the rest of the chicken, I made a pesto-ish chicken salad that I had for lunch today. I also froze two cups of shredded chicken and 8 cups of chicken broth (and that was after using 9 cups for the recipe!). If you're looking for good poaching directions, I suggest this post. Seriously, use a whole chicken that was raised locally...don't buy cut up parts at the big grocery store. After driving through Tyson country in Arkansas, there is no way I can buy that crap ever again. Ever smell a commercial chicken house? It's filth. Pure, unadulterated filth. Chickens are not meant to be raised in that manner. Now that I think about it, commercial chicken houses smell even worse than the gross leaf bin did.

Anyway....I also had a special treat yesterday from the Mud House: an iced caramel latte (decaf) and a piece of gooey butter cake. The cake had cherries in it from trees in our neighborhood. Nice! Now I want to plant a cherry tree for sure!

That's it! Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

If It's Summertime, It's Allergytime

Every summer I try to deny that I have allergies, and every summer I feel like itchy, congested crap. Alas, I broke out the Allegra too late, so I stayed home today and did nothing but read and accidentally leave on stove burners (sounds like fun, but it wasn't).

Summer brings the allergies, but it also brings the good things. Like lots of strawberries:

For a Memorial Day gathering, Porkchop and I made ice cream using our backyard strawberries. Porkchop pureed the berries, and I cooked up the custard base. When it was combined and churned into creamy goodness, it was the best ice cream ever. Seriously.

This year I tripled the number of sugar snap pea vines, so I've had quite a few to gather. I never get sick of these treats:

Last Friday, I took this photo of one of our backyard garden beds:

After the sun and rain of the weekend, these plants have doubled in height. Yesterday I had to remove the plastic top because the center tomato plant was pushing against it. I'll have to post more recent photos soon.

Porkchop's potatoes are doing fantastically well, too, with lots more growth since this photo:

At the community garden, the squash have really taken off. I planted butternut, delicata, and kabocha squash. This is the kabocha, which already has flower buds on it!

Unfortunately, many of the tomato plants are struggling at the garden. I hope to dump some compost on them this weekend in an attempt to jumpstart their growth. The community garden tomato plants are so far behind mine, and they were all planted at the same time.

Speaking of the community garden, it's a monster to manage. I spend 2-3 hours a week weeding it, and by the time I'm done I don't have the patience to do more important things like staking the tomatoes or building a cucumber trellis. So, I will prioritize this weekend and put weeding at the bottom of the list.

While walking home from the community garden on Sunday, I spied this tomato plant growing by my neighbor's steps in the alley:

It is growing in a 1" strip of dirt, and I don't know how it's surviving. It's even producing flowers! I hope no one pulls it up because I want to see how it fares.

Other Fun Things
Sunday afternoon, Porkchop and I went on a little fishing trip with Suzi and Dale to a pond outside of Nashville, Illinois (Dale's hometown). It was quiet, cool, and green, and the perfect antidote to the muggy St. Louis weather.

Here is Porkchop posing with one of her catches:

And here I am with my first and only catch:

I hadn't fished in more than 20 years, and Suzi and Dale's dad gave me excellent instructions. Even though I only caught one little guy (note that all caught fish were released), it was a fun time.

Some Old News
The bar on the corner that was becoming the bane of our existence shuttered last month! However, it was not a result of our protest petition. Instead, it seems the bar operator wasn't paying rent and was perhaps intimidating the building owner (the woman in her 70s who used to run the place). The granddaughter of the building owner surrendered the liquor license just to get the tenants out. While it's sad to hear of these circumstances, I am quite happy that the bar is closed. Our corner is quiet again, and I don't worry so much about the people walking outside our house.

In late April, we took Keetah to the vet because of some "inappropriate urination" and her recent weight loss. It turns out she is now a hyperthyroid, kidney insufficient cat. The good news is that the thyroid medication is working great, and Keetah has put nearly a pound back on (she had lost about 4 pounds!). Her kidney levels are holding steady, too. So, as the vet told me, Keetah isn't going to drop dead any time soon. Whew!

On that note, have a good night and a great week!