Tuesday, July 31, 2007

remember the tooth...

tristan lost his first tooth--yes he'll be five in ten days. he feigned believing in the tooth fairy "i just wanted a dollar". i was skeptical that he really believed it but went along anyway. tabitha was taken hook, line and sinker. albeit he had a very complex tooth fairy story involving intricate tooth removal (from under the pillow) systems. she allegedly had a castle and (well i forget why she actually wanted the teeth). you get the picture he contrived this whole story based on pbs legend. he confessed and just wanted a dollar.

i love my boy--manipulative though he may be. don't feel sorry for his innocence lost. he has a strong harry potter belief and the star wars cult is well within his understanding. yes many things are magic in this life but they don't have to be contrived by me or any other portion of society. they can be magic just because he says they are.

anyway HE is magic and that is all that matters.

Friday, July 27, 2007

one local summer week #5

merlin, it's what's for dinner.

nimue our milk cow had a calf merlin. he was full blood jersey and had horns. we didn't castrate him because it seemed a little too violent. he shared milk with us. we got the morning milking after he'd been locked up all night. merlin got everything else. nimue wouldn't let her cream down for us, she'd save it for merlin. it was a constant battle for tabitha until we weaned him. then we got a real taste for what having fresh jersey milk is all about. merlin became uncontrollable and we opted to have him live with mikes cows. mike fed him out on alfalfa and grain with his other cows that were queued to go to slaughter.

during his stay with mike we visited him and told the kids that he'd be merlin burgers and all other manner of beef we were going to eat. they warmed to the idea and our visits to visit merlin became less frequent. when the "big day" came (slaughter day) no tears were shed and everyone looked forward to merlin burgers and beef. tonights dinner was beef short ribs--merlin style.


bbq beef short ribs (merlin 0 miles)
cantaloupe (cousin bruce 2 miles)
sliced tomatoes (our garden 0 miles)
fresh milk (nimue 0 miles)
pickled beets (our garden 0 miles)

more than 100 miles
bbq sauce (st louis, mo)
crappy beer (st louis, mo)

an appetizer of pico de gallo and chips. the pico was local and made by me. the chips were organic and petrol imported.

we picked the rest of the onions from the garden this evening. we also pulled tons of weeds that had overgrown that area. we'll till and plant some more herbs in that area. we already have a healthy stand of basil and some mint at the southern end of that sliver of the garden. we need more cilantro our salsa will suffer unless we take drastic measures. store bought cilantro just doesn't feel the same.

chicken ex-tainment is mostly successful. we have one small chink in the armor. i'll make the necessary repairs tomorrow and monitor for further breeches. on other chicken news our new girls (the austrolorps) are laying and i'm well impressed--they are three weeks early for their breed. henny penny sally is getting broody again and is looking for a clutch. we might let her set another clutch and give some of the brood to bob. he is looking for some girls to keep his guineas home and lay an egg or two once in a while.

just a few photos of the kids

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

local ketchup

one local summer is very important because it makes people think and maybe it'll carry over to further than just this summer. we at the pile of o'melays hope to save some of our local bounty for winter. tabitha has been making ketchup from our tomatoes. twenty five pounds of tomatoes converts to six or seven pints of ketchup. we have no hope of making enough ketchup to displace our current ketchup intake but every little bit helps right? our tomatoes are doing sorta alright but we had such high hopes of completely offsetting all of our tomato intake--ketchup, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, barbecue sauce and salsa. the salsa is one of the things that we'll probably make enough. the only reason for that is we love green tomato salsa. at the end of the year, we'll have all those green tomatoes still on the vine. they will have no hope of vine ripening. we'll pick them all and go into green tomato salsa production. thanks farmgirl for the recipe

i made my first attempt at excommunicating the fledged chickens from the garden. they are so destructive. i saw one from afar ravaging a tomato and went into a rage. shoring up the fencing could wait no longer. i bought a roll of big hole, two feet tall, chicken wire and encircled the garden. the chickens can no longer just wander in and out. any interloping chicken will have to make a special effort to enter. there will be repercussions. of course i'll chase them out the first few times and make a few further upgrades the fence. ultimately they have until sunday and any interlopers beyond that time will meet an unhappy demise.

i just took the ketchup pot to the spare fridge and opened it--it smelled soooo good. she is using a conglomeration of several recipes but mostly based on this one.

rosie has been a naughty dog the past few days. i'm not sure what her deal is. i'll spend the next few days working with her. i'm sure she'll turn around. she's probably just seeking attention and most of the pile has been too sick to spend any time with her.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

one local summer week #4

chicken soup

tabitha and the kids are sick--kassi is now also. tabitha thought that a healing chicken soup would be a big help. she took an entire frozen chicken and dropeed it in a pot of water, boiled it while i was at work--i took my half day today because of the illnesses. when i got home i cooled it off and stripped the meat off the bone. i took some onions and sauteed them with two heads of whole garlic cloves. i turned the broth back on and added the meat and sliced carrots. i let that cook down and added a mess of spices--i cook by taste. these are the main spices garlic, rosemary, ginger, sage, bay leaves, salt and my new black pepper. tabithas friend sent us some black pepper from their 2004 trip to india. it was local to the region they visited. i know it doesn't count against the carbon footprint like truly local does but damn it is great pepper. pepper like this is impossible for me to get locally, regionally or even nationally and i sorely missed having great pepper.

so i cheated and cheated big but i'll atone for my sins by eating locally all week long. well, my sacrifice isn't too large since eating locally for the rest of the week was my plan anyway.

after the soup rolled for a while laden with spices i wisked three eggs together and drizzled them into the soup. it makes for beautiful lacy flower petal droplets. i turned off the bruner and chopped and added swiss chard mostly stems. that was it--soup fit for a meal.

our farm
chicken butchered this spring 9lbs
eggs thanks girls
swiss chard

carrots organic (not locally available)

those tomatoes are queued for ketchup today.

Monday, July 23, 2007

strep throat plagues the pile

what is the deal? tabitha, tristan and anatoly have step throat. only kassi and myself have escaped it this far. i have been trying to keep up with the farmstead. the broiler chickens need to be moved but i don't have the heart the demand the help of tabitha. they will be fine. she'll be back on top soon.

kassi and her new dress.

the garden from the east/top side. the bean arches look like the five humped lockness monster.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

root cellar back wall of wine bottles

the new bath tub. i'm removing the old paint and rust with a wire wheel grinder.

i think it was built in 1924 on june 12th number 21. boy that was a different era where that kind of information was considered important. we love it.

tabitha stripping the last of the milk out of nimue. the cat gets it and usually is wet with milk squirts.

sepia mode of the camera really makes our little farmstead look authentic.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

early blight

we believe the hailstorm we had this spring that pelted our garden caused a vulnerability in our tomatoes. early blight is simply too early this year. we are very concerned that our plants might not produce the volume of tomatoes necessary for our winter stores. tabitha is making pasta sauce today. we are resigned to small batches since large ones seem out of the question right now.

one of my goals today is to excommunicate the younger chickens from the garden. if i have anything to say about it, they have eaten their last vine fresh tomato.

beans beans beans, we have too many beans. our bean arches are in an overproduction mode and require picking every two days.

i'm also gonna try to do a garden panorama today.

captured information about tomatoes:
plant tomatoes further apart. thoroughfares must be planted five feet on center.
cattle panel trellis on either side of double rows. mount cattle panels on tall t-posts eighteen inches above ground.
plant intentionally leggy starts in trenches.
have tarp/tents ready to defend tomatoes from spring hailstorms.
use corn meal around plant bases.
ladybugs and lacewing order queued for aphid onslaught.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

extra credit lunch & dinner

i had left over beet soup with fresh swiss chard chopped and added while it was reheating. i also got some fresh dill weed to add on the top of the dollop of fresh cream. there is still about 3 quarts of beet soup in the fridge. i tried to take a photo but the camera battery said NO.

i made more fresh pico de gallo for dinner. we had left over roast chicken as tacos. one of those handy canned jars of black beans, fresh cream, fresh cheese, a sliced cucumber, icy fresh milk and imported tortillas. both kassi and tristan loved it. the pico wasn't quite as hot as usual cause i wanted kassi to love it too. she doesn't like spicy--yet.

it was incredibly hot today. when i got home from work we piled into the car and went to the heavily air conditioned target, tjmax and homedepot. we shopped for stuff we didn't need and guess what, we found some. i suggested that we go to the creek but it was too hot even for that.

i cleaned part of my garage out yesterday. i need room to paint and repair our new bath tub. i still have a torn-up bathroom we still need to purchase the cement board sub-floor. maybe we can afford it by friday.

on the brighter side the solar shower is really showing its stuff. i didn't get to take a shower last night until after dark. it had cooled off and i was worried that i'd have a cold shower. i was pleasantly surprised. i took a nice long shower and when i was finished tabitha squeezed a shower in after me without loosing hot water.

tabitha picked beans again until the mosquitos carried her off--i'll miss her.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

one local summer week #3

here is our week three submission. i know i'm a little late but i'll do an extra credit lunch very soon.
fresh milk from our cow. see how the cream sticks to side of the jar. there is usually a three to four inch layer of cream that will support any kitchen utensil.
spaghetti sauce fresh from the garden tomatoes and spices (not salt & black pepper)
meat balls our cow, fresh eggs and fresh basil.
cheese tabithas queso fresco (she makes about five pounds a week now)
sauteed squash and onions yellow crooked neck squash and onions from the garden.
noodles angel hair from hodson mill yeah this is the only thing that isn't from our farm but they are local to gainsville, mo--less than 50 miles away.

tristan loves tabitha's meat balls and has been begging for them for several days now. his dinner request repertoire always amazes me--so wide ranging and he'll pull stuff out of his hat that we havn't had in months. kassi is still eating very blandly and hates any deviation from the usual suspects. although one redeeming characteristic of late is, she has taken to eating everything with chopsticks. we encourage this individuality and hope that her culinary breadth widens soon.

toly eats anything. especially stuff that the older kids have abandoned in a less frequented corners of the house. he is so agile and strong these days. he regularly walks the entire house without touching anything. the most amazing thing is his feet first off the bed move and then he'll climb right back up. the bed is neck high to him but he still negotiates it easily.

Monday, July 16, 2007

just a little slide show

we picked 12 pounds of beans from four of our five arches. we are letting the fifth arch go "boar" for seed for next year. we are seed saving in earnest this year. i already started with one of our cherokee purple tomatoes. also, tabitha taped some of our japanese long cucumbers blossoms (some male and some female) i don't know the difference--i believe they deserve their privacy. she pollinated them this morning. i hope they fruit.

kassi and tristan played "play-clay" all day. it is one of their favorite things to do. kassi made little cut-out hearts while tristan made a large heart shaped bowl. summer illness is waining.

the new kitten has adjusted well. hermione underfoot seems to get along really well with rosie. sylvia (the old cat) still hates her but tolerates her nonetheless.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

ruined up

i just ruined thirty pounds of tomatoes--garden fresh tomatoes. hours of preparation blew on this. i scalded them into ruin burnt taste through and through.


i'm going back to bed.

********* amended a few hours later ********

no such luck
i had to clean up the mess then grill burgers although it is a zero mile dinner.
merlin burgers we love him now more than ever.
fresh tomatoes cherokee purple.
fresh cheese tabithas queso fresco.
pickled beets one of the two jars over canner limit.
fresh milk, nimues our favorite animal at the pile.

one local summer make-up quiz

since this is only for partial credit i'll give our worst example of a local meal around the pile.

yeterday lunch

black bean quesadillas with fresh salsa

we buy black beans in bulk (no local grower and we don't have the garden space yet). they come dried in 25# bags but tabitha localizes them, well makes them much more convenient. she soaks around 5 pounds of them in water overnight. then fills canning jars with the swollen beans and adds our own garlic and a bit of onion and salt. she then pressure cans them and puts them in the pantry. they are so great a quick easy side-dish or main course.

tabitha also has perfected queso fresco. having a cow with ample milk makes the trial and error method of cheese making reasonable and somewhat necessary. this cheese is so good, fresh and stringy. we love it.

the tortillas--well their store bought. making our own is in our plans but there is only so much time in the day and the kids eat an incredible amount of tortillas daily.

then there is the salsa fresca (pico de gallo) fresh tomatoes, onions, pepper, garlic and cilantro from the pile. the lime, salt and black pepper are shipped in via some smoke spewing petrol consuming machine.

well it doesn't quite qualify for 100% local but that is about the worst it gets around here. partial credit please?

Friday, July 13, 2007

one local summer #1 week 2?

tabitha made borscht (beet soup)

early during my last trip to st. petersburg i had the most amazing soup. it wasn't like any soup i'd ever had. i decided to make it my quest to try every version of borscht possible during my month long trip. i told everyone that i loved borscht and russians being very proud, dinner invites for borscht ensued. at every restaurant i ordered borscht. if i understand properly borscht just means soup--usually with beets.

i focussed on what i liked about each version and whenever appropriate asked what the ingredients were. huge dinner discussions surrounded borscht and homemade vodka recipes and rituals. broscht is a wonderful lens of russian culture. you might be thinking that i'm weird and obsessive and you'd be right--but my version of weird obsession has brought me great pleasure.

my borscht recipe derived from this study is not really a recipe at all. only a set of rules--my rules not really russian rules.

#1 my borscht is beet soup and must be a soup (not a stew) and contain beets as the main ingredient.

#2 the broth must be of beef and any added meat must be beef. sliced pan seared tri-tip being the best choice but seared ground beef will do.

#3 fresh dill is a requirement.

#4 the rest of the ingredients like to be root based vegetables. carrots, turnips, beet tops, onions, garlic, and leeks. other veggies that we like in there are swiss chard and sometimes celery.

#5 lastly a large dollop of fresh sour creme and fresh chopped dill on top.

last nights dinner was all local to our farm. from the fresh creme, garden beets, fresh dill, to the *merlin roast that tabitha cubed and pan seared. black pepper being the exception.

our kids love it. tristan kept saying over and over "this is my favorite"

tabitha just informed me that we have an official recipe for this at garlic pimpernel please enjoy.

the pear trick from the above recipe is something that a great chef shared with me from one of my favorite restaurants in S.F. and is a wonderful addition to any soup. yes, if it's not obvious, i generally love all soup.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

rainy daze

tabitha is sick, cold or flue or something. summer illness is the worst. i went to the farmers market to sell a few cucumbers this morning and pick up the coop order. no one was buying. i made the following signs cucumbers 3 for $1, organically grown and japanese long heirloom. these missouri hicks don't care much about organic. there was a stand selling some stuff with seven dust (malathion) still covering the veggies. they had an inferior hybrid 5 for $1. they were twice as small. to the ill informed smaller normal cucumbers are better but these japanese longs are best at the size that i was selling. i ended giving them to some friends. in the grand scheme of things, it was probably better to have given them to a family that will truly appreciate them. kassi went with me. she is my precious angel.

it has been raining a slow rain all afternoon. i am just hanging around in the house this evening. the kids are holdup in the house. i set up a large train track for tristan. he hasn't played thomas the tank engine in quite a while. toly plays toly-zilla and wants to destroy the entire complex. there has been much strife over keeping toly away and interested in other things. he just wants to play trains with his big brother.

tabitha is making borscht for dinner. a nice treat with fresh beets, dill and merlin roast. i attempted to join the "local summer" meme but received no reply. no big deal cause just about any give night we are 95% zero mile dinner. most comes from our little farmstead and what we can't get local (pepper, olive oil, grapeseed oil, and so on) we get in bulk. we kind of take the view that we an are isolated farmstead of an hundred ago. it is naturally a lessor carbon footprint than the processed grocery store paradigm.

one way that i could really make a carbon footprint difference would be to get our solar thermal system up and running. once the bathroom is finished it'll be much higher on my agenda. the root cellar is so close to being finished it is almost sad. i like the process of life better than the material accomplishments. but having a finished root cellar will be great.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

solar shower upgrade

our solar shower worked well on sunny days but when a person really wants a shower after evening chores it was no longer warm. i decided we needed a batch solar heater that will retain a bit of solar energy into the evening. our requirements are small so i used a five gallon air pressure tank that i had been planning on replacing the schrader valve. it was mostly taking up garage space anyway. the main problem was there is only one opening (port) to the tank. i needed to put cold water into the bottom and remove the solar heated water from the top--that requires two ports. i don't own a welder and my brazing kit is in a shambles so i couldn't simply add another port. i used the old heat exchanger concentric piping trick.
sorry for the lame drawing our mouse is acting up. the idea is that the water will stratify. hot water will raise to the top. as the shower is on cold will add to the bottom. this strategy works for a larger tank much better. this little tank works fine also.

the tank likes to be insulated from the cooler evening. so, i built a box around it with a glass window for the solar collection part. i also integrated solar oven technology. a parabolic reflector which happens to be r-6 insulation. everything was going fine. i built the box/collector sized for a window that i already had. during the final moments of construction--the last screw i cracked the glass. ...damn... i got out the caulk and caulked the crack and called it fine for this temporary solution.

the shower works great the entire family can easily take a shower on five gallons of water. re-heat time is minimal maybe an hour in full sun. we are very pleased.

Friday, July 06, 2007

new tile

we got the new tile for the bathroom last night. it is beautiful beyond expectations. we were so excited to see it that we took a special trip to branson to retrieve them. the color matching can now start in earnest. we envision an all yellow bathroom--rich marigold. the accents will be white and red. the bottom of the be claw-foot tub will be red and most everything else will be white. of course our new toilet seat will match also.
we are so excited.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

long winded reply

yes, our bathroom is very large. when we first started working on the place it was a tiny pass through bedroom with three doors and an even tinier bathroom of the most cramped proportions. since this entire area was in ruin we opted to put it back together as a single huge bathroom/thoroughfare(10' by 18'). i am actually standing in the kitchen taking a shot through the doorway into the bath. on your left is the back door (sliding glass). at the end to the right is the bedroom. just past the tub is the entrance to the front-room. the kids call it the toy-room, if you have kids you can imagine what it usually looks like. the front-room is only slightly larger than our huge bath (10' by 22'). and the kitchen/dinette is roughly the same size as the bath. the bedroom is (9' by 15') our entire house is less than 900 square feet. i once lived in an apartment in oakland ca, by myself, that was two and a half times larger.
someday we plan an addition that will extend out the back. it will be an all-purpose sewing, craft, computer, mater bedroom. the sleeping part will be a loft. the kids will takeover the existing bedroom and maybe we can reclaim the front room from the heaps of toys. once tristan is old enough to really help master bedroom addition will start in earnest.

Monday, July 02, 2007

weekend progress

we have been planning to put pictures in these windows since we moved here. just prior to this all you could see was the cob webs in our laundry room. originally the house was smaller and these windows viewed the out of doors.

in celebration to kassi graduating from a little potty we got a new toilet seat cover. it is also in anticipation of the completed bath room.

the demolition is in progress. i still have to rip out this old leaky piece of crap tub/shower unit and fix the floor under it. the floor is almost ready for hardiboard then floor covering.

pretty sunflowers in the front yard.

beans just started today. i ate two and tabitha ate one--thats all.

the tomato jungle--no machetes allowed

the bean arch is really filling in

happy baby just to cheer you up.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

june panorama


finally, i have managed to put up another panorama. instructions for its use are here.
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