Solar Production 2016 and 2018

Solar Production 2016 and 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Spring Homestead Updates

Homestead updates:
Pie for my sweetie

1.       I AM smarter than a chicken! After being locked into the coop all day, until Eggs Were Laid, for five days, they decided that laying eggs on their side of the fence was a pretty good deal.
2.       Both hives of bees have settled in and are packing in the pollen—a god sign of bee larvae.
3.       The planting is done. The squash plants have moved into barrels in the front yard to replace the leaf mulch pile. The leaf mulch is on the revamped garden bed along the sidewalk.
4.       Solar production is up—12 to 13 KWH on a sunny day.
5.       The school assignment calendars in the back of my classroom now show the Last Day of school for the year.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Week Alone in the Garden

                Mark has been gone for a week; he went home for a funeral and to catch up with friends and family. The time has been a revelation; I have realized how I was able to go through grad school while working full time—I lived by myself. There are hours more in the evening when I am on my own. Dinner is simpler; oddly enough, I spend less time on-line; I can focus my attentions on one thing after another.  No one interrupts my train of thought. It has been a very productive week. It does not hurt that it is peak garden planting time and the weather has been lovely as well. I don’t think I would be so peaceful and focused if it had rained all week.

                In the last week, I have:
    Planted out the tomatoes with cages.
·         Laid all of the hoses, in all of the beds.
·         Planted some new herbs, bought at the Thyme Garden last Sunday.
·         Planted the bean bed and the corn patch.
·         Mowed and trimmed the back yard.
·         Pruned the grape vines over the dining room door.
·         Planted the roots—parsnips, carrots, and beets.
·         Transplanted herbs in the greenhouse.
·         Cleaned up the berry alley.
·         Repainted a beehive roof.
·         Hived another swarm of bees.
·         Maybe convinced the chickens that they can lay eggs on the right side of the fence.
·         Cleaned the brambles out of the back alley.
·         Cleaned out the recycling pile.
·         Looked for a new birdbath (failed there, so far).

I’ve also been to two council meetings, taught school, met with several people on city issues, and spent two hours at Government Corner on Saturday,  eaten a lot of asparagus,  and finished two books, as well as spent several hours, at least, staring into space. It’s been a good week.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

She Persisted-- Chicken Run, part two

                        It’s been a rough couple of weeks on the Chicken Escape front. Rosie and Aussie keep getting out, desperate to lay eggs in the day lilies and under the empty rabbit hutch. The third young chicken, Amelia, has settled into the nest box/pollinator habitat that I created from an old hive.  I stalked them one day and closed gaps, but that did not work.  I clipped a wing on both, which reduced how high they could fly (no more over the eight foot trellis), but they still got out. I moved all of their launching pads. Still out.  I clipped more severely, but they were out the next day.

          On Saturday, I settled  into a few hours of yard work, planting out the tomatoes, determined to catch the escapees.  For a while, all was quiet. When I turned my back and went into the greenhouse, Rosie made a break for it. I caught her dashing across the lawn and put her back. Five minutes later, she was out—a gap near the gate. I closed in. Out again. Close the gate gap. She started to pace. Amelia settled into her nesting spot, looking smug.  Meanwhile, Aussie began the assault on another section of fence. I closed gaps. Toss and close. Toss and close.  Finally, I was tired of the game and the frantic, panting pacing around the fence. I put Aussie into the coop and shut her in. There, I told her. Lay your egg. She gave in. Twenty minutes later, she was out and Rosie was in. Another egg. I let everyone out and they all climbed over the trimmings around the compost pile for the rest of the afternoon. This morning, they are not coming out until they have laid their eggs.

               After all this was over, I realized I was wearing my “She Persisted” tee shirt. The irony was clear. Here I was, the dominant creature in the back yard, tossing the interlopers back over the fence every time they broke through. I closed gaps to make it more difficult for them to get out. They persisted. They created spaces, squeezing out where I was convinced they could not. They watched each other, seeing where each had success.  They talked to one another. They yelled at me. The other chickens looked on; two are too old and plump to take action.  Meanwhile, I worked on my side—clearly the better, bigger side—of the fence. In the end, I tossed each one back into her house, saying “Go to work there.”  Today, they are not even allowed out.

                Maybe there is a lesson here.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

April Madness

Late April is a tricky time in the garden. The slow rains are done, but downpours alternate with bright sunny moments, forcing all of us into carpe diem mode. This weekend was no exception. On Friday afternoon, I was clearly behindhand because of wet soil, meetings, and bad timing. We spent Saturday catching up on house cleaning and watching the rains rush through, followed by enough sun to dry the roads before the next downpour began. I made a list of everything that needed to be done and assigned it to days in the coming week, working around budget commission meetings. Sunday afternoon’s task was emptying the compost barrels.

After lunch, I pulled on boots and garden pants and headed out back. I stopped into the greenhouse to admire the open shelf where 72 tomato starts had been until Friday afternoon, when they ALL went away (a new record) and realized that a few starts needed water.  I meandered back to the house with the watering can and tended to the plants before beginning the listed project. After gathering the big wheelbarrow and deep shovel, I headed for the chicken run. There were to garbage barrels full of sifted compost from last fall that needed to be empty before Mark could tidy and begin sifting the winter’s work.  Twenty minutes, tops, I thought. And it did go quickly, which was good, because it was starting to rain again. The herb bed in the back took some of the compost, then I added some to the asparagus, and the bed on the south side of the house.

That’s when things began to turn from “small project” to “all afternoon.” Maybe, I thought, I should toss over that bed while I am here and pull out some of the weeds that are growing there. That will only take a few minutes. I got out the pitchfork and tossed the bed.  After that,  I headed back. The rain was still holding off…maybe I should plant out those cabbages under the hoop? That would be quick, too. When I went in to get the cabbages, I noticed that the collards and chard, planted at the same time, really wanted to be freed from their containers as well.  Should I bump them up? Seems like a waste of effort if they could just be planted. But the bed needed to be tossed and de-lumped. I looked at the sky. The shower was passing.

Ten minutes later, I was deep in bed prep, plastic cover tucked to the side of the bed, hoops off, chickens commenting on the process.  The sun was warm. The plants were really ready to be planted out. Even the signs were painted. I tucked them into their summer home and headed back to the greenhouse with a few starts that would not fit.  They needed to be bumped up. Other starts needed to be tended inside as well.  And the shelf needed to be brushed off. And maybe the doorstep should be swept? Oh, and there was that rake head, painted blue, that Julia dropped off when she picked up tomatoes on Friday afternoon. That needed to be worked into the front garden fence.

  I was outside for two hours completing a “twenty minute” activity and I still hadn’t picked up all of my tools. The sun was out. The air was warm. It was time.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

I am smarter than a chicken!

I am smarter than a chicken. I am. I have college degrees. I am smarter than a chicken.

The chicken coop left the garden beds two weeks ago. It was time to begin planting and they needed to  be in Summer Quarters, behind the garden fence, around the compost piles, and under the laurel hedge. It’s a nice spot. They have shade, places to hide, and lots of compost to dig in. However, this batch of chickens has decided that they do not like to lay their eggs in the coop. One likes the empty rabbit hutch, the other the day lilies. The third really does not care. She lays an egg wherever. So, when we moved the coop, I knew we were in from some work.

                The first day, we tied the fencing to the trellis and hung pinecones off of the high bars. Pinecones have worked in the past to convince chickens that there is really a higher fence. The next day, there was an egg in the rabbit hutch. I shut the  hutch door and put up some twigs around the gate, which is the low point in the defenses, and added some pinecones which  look cool and  move, unlike twigs and wire fencing.

                For about two weeks, I have been adding twigs to the fence whenever I find a gap and a chicken egg out (thry often let themselves back in after laying). One day, I was home early enough to watch a determined chicken check out the defenses. I thought we were good until she climbed onto the top of the (empty) beehive and launched herself over, flying through a remarkably narrow gap.   I tossed her back over and rearranged the hive, away from the fence. She still got through when I was not watching.

                I spent an hour  one afternoon arranging some tempting nest boxes in the run. The old langstrom hive that I have never used, tipped on its side, was one candidate. A milkcrate of straw in the coop was another. I considered a pile of straw under the hazelnut, an old favorite, as well, but did not do it. My egg-dropper took me up on the hive box offer and has laid two there so far. The others refuse.

                Saturday morning was warm and sunny, so I headed out to do some serious spying on the ckickens.  Armed with the grass trimmers, I observed. Rosie, the hutch layer, pushed her way through the gaps around the gate. I closed them and tossed her back. She found another gap. Toss. Close. Trim. Major fuss from the other side. Fly. Gap. Toss back. Fuss. Repeat.  I watched and waited for over an hour, hiding behind the artichoke, trimming and raking the grass, until I was sure she could not get over, and left for twenty four hours.

Free Bird!
                I came home this afternoon and went on the egg hunt. One blue egg in the hive box, one brown egg in the day lilies. One chicken under the hutch, watching me balefully. Clearly, there are still some gaps. I need to make sure she cannot push her way out from UNDER the fence this afternoon.  I AM smarter than a chicken.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Household Cleaning Plans

According to a radio report yesterday, couples who wash dishes together tend to stay together longer than couples who do not. It was a sign of the ability to take on an unpleasant task and complete it together. We do not do the dishes together—I cook, Mark washes, ninety five percent of the time—but we do clean the house together every Friday night or Saturday morning. It has become one of our long term rituals.

We did not always do this. For several years, Mark worked in Portland and came home for the weekends. During the week, I was teaching and busy figuring out that new job. We were often faced with a messy house and a pile of dirty clothes on Saturday morning, right when we wanted to go for a walk or talk with one another.  Without a system, we argued. Mark claimed that adding another requirement to cleaning the bathroom was Mission Creep; I claimed it was just Doing the Whole Job. Because there were no defined projects, no ends in sight, it was ugly.

Then I found Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, aka “The Crazy Cleaning Lady,” at the library.  It is an excellent book; she takes on how to clean just about anything in the household in specific detail. She even explains the chemistry behind various cleaners. I was fascinated. Mark agreed that she was an expert.  I bought the book. When we argued about how to clean the tub, we could refer to the expert. If the author said to do it that way, it was done. No more Mission Creep.

She is also an advocate for a Schedule for cleaning. Some things need to be done every day (dishes), some things once a week (change the sheets), some things once a year (clear out the basement). It depends upon your household. I made a chart of daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning jobs and then divided the monthly ones up over four weeks. Now, cleaning the bathroom consisted of the weekly activities of toilet, sink, tub, and floor plus one monthly task, like washing the mildew off of the ceiling.  I made some adjustments to make sure each week took about the same amount of time and effort in the next few months. The week I wash the bedroom and living room floors has a simpler kitchen task, for example. The system assures me that each task will be done each month, so that I do not have to try and do everything in one week. I can let the webs in the corner go because I know that I will clean them next week, when I am not washing out the fridge.

The schedule has made a huge difference in our work. Now, on Friday after school, I make the cleaning list: the weekly tasks, the monthly tasks, and whatever else needs doing, like repotting the tomatoes.  We turn on the radio—rhythm and blues on Friday night, bluegrass on Saturday morning. I start with the kitchen. Mark works on the bathroom. Laundry moves in and out of the washer, depending upon who is closest at the time. We each have physical tasks and paperwork tasks. We finish at about the same time most weeks. We no longer argue about cleaning the house. In fact, we have both come to enjoy both the process and the results.

Leek Toasties: We just discovered this recipe in River Cottage Veg.

Slice a huge leek or two into rings. Saute in butter with salt, pepper, and thyme until soft. Pour about a quarter cup of milk into the pan and add a handful of grated cheddar. Heat until melted and warm. Spread over whole wheat toast. Eat with a salad for dinner. Every week in April.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


March-- the challenging month.

Robert Frost said that April was the month of constant changes, shifting from spring to winter when a cloud passed over the sun and that may be true in New England, but, in Oregon, March is the month of constant changes.I find myself moving in and out of the house, working quickly to button up the just planted garden bed before the rains begin, catching the plastic tarp right before it blows away. Then I come in, change out of wet and muddy clothes,  find my book, make a cup if tea, and settle down-- in a bath of sunshine. March.

This weekend, despite downpours, I planted out the first of the garden beds, filling one with broccoli, cabbage, beets, kale, and mustard starts that we planted on Candlemas and then covering it with the steel hoops and a light weight plastic tarp. The other bed is tucked in the south corner of the house, under the kitchen window and holds some large lettuce starts, arugula, and mustard, all of which will be eaten before it is time to plant out the corn and squash in the same spot.  The starts were ready, reaching out of their pots and tangling together. They had been living in the greenhouse, so they were already hardened off as well.  We will be eating fresh greens from our garden soon.

We also had a lovely walk through the woods this morning, visiting with friends, watching out for the spring wildflowers, climbing the hills around town. We got hoe just before the downpours-- which have now ended once again.