Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Peep Raising, part one


The first stage of raising a few new chicks is simple. We buy two or three chicks at Chick Day, in Dalles Oregon, joining the line at 8AM to pick up the pre-ordered bits of fluff. Small children, older farmwives, an occasional new generation farmer all line up, sip coffee, talk chicks, and watch the Big Chicken dancing around until it is our turn to slip into the back room, reach under the heat lamps, and pick out the new peeps. Driving home, they peep loudly until they fall asleep in the passenger’s hands.
            The first peep house is simple. We have a blue plastic bin, about a foot and a half deep, that we line with newspaper. Food and water are in small versions of the standard chicken issue feeder with the pint mason jar attached. We rig up a heat lamp—a metal utility lamp I found at a Habitat ReStore—with a standard incandescent bulb. For the first few days, it hangs inside the tub. As the peeps feather out, it rests on the metal screen above. The bin is set in an inner room, away from drafts, with a door that we can shut from cats, and they are established.
            Depending upon the weather, we move them outside, at least in the afternoons, as soon as possible. This year, I set up a small ring of small chicken wire staked into the ground. They were out within a few days, but it was an early warm spring. Within an hour, they were pecking away on grass and talking cheerfully about the experience. When they started to sound frantic as the sun went down, we brought them in. The ring was easily moved, so we could place it in the warmest parts of the yard.
            Right now, the peeps are rapidly becoming peepsters. Their feathers are filling out, they are looking bare and gawky around the neck, they are running fast and flapping madly, trying to fly, so the ring no longer works for them and we’ve moved them into the cold frame—now known as the peep frame. It is a ten foot long, four foot wide (garden bed sized) wood frame that holds a series of old windows. We hang the lamp from the top bar in case of cold rain moving in while we are away and put them out every morning. They run around, peck at the petals that land on the glass, peep when the cats walk the ridgelines, and generally enjoy the day. We catch them in the evening and bring them inside, peeping loudly in protest.
            We are almost at the end of easy peep parenting. Soon, they will be larger, faster, and louder, but not quite ready to move in with the Ladies in the back coop. Then we’ll have a month or so of chicken  integration, which is ugly.

Better with backyard eggs!
Pastry Cream—the basis for many yummy things…

In a pot, warm 3 cups of milk
2T of butter

In a bowl, whisk together
1 cup of milk
6 egg yolks
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of cornstarch


Whisk the warmed milk into the egg mixture. Pour it all back in the pan and cook, on medium low, until thick. Pour into the bowl, add a teaspoon of vanilla, coconut if you are making coconut cream pie, cover with plastic wrap, and cool in the fridge.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Stalling Techniques

            After a long week in the computer lab with Honors Ninth Graders, I know  new and updated technology stalling techniques. It is not as if the entire class is off task at one time, but when you put thirty eight (yes, 38) kids in one room with a computer in front of each, you are going to have off task behavior.  At least no one was taking the “what color is your aura?” quiz that has been making the rounds on FaceBook….

Preferred stalling techniques:

  • Check your grades.
  • Change the grades that you see on your screen so that you have all “A”s.
  • Change the announcements of the school website to suggest that your teacher is having a “going away party” very soon.
  • Say “Hey, Dude” in a stoner voice while staring at rainbow colored pot leaves.
  • Crawl under the table to eavesdrop on the opposition for the debate you are researching.
  • Check your “Bacon” score (4).
  • Check Adolph Hitler’s Bacon score (2).
  • Check your teacher’s Bacon score.
  • Find the very annoying “soothing” music. Turn up the volume.
  • Re-arrange the cords on the opposition’s computer while he is in the bathroom.
  • Google Earth your house.
  • Google Earth a college campus—then check the GPA requirements. Then check your grades. Then ask the teacher what will happen to your grade if you bomb the essay you are writing.
  • Lean to far back in your chair.
  • Co-ordinate the beep on the computer with five friends so that it bounces around the room.
  • Scroll down “ModestWear” swimsuits and laugh. Call over your friends. Laugh some more.
  • Play “Six clicks to Jesus” on Wikipedia.
  • Watch your seventh grade video on the Romans.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

April Work List

April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot said…and he may be right. One day, we’re basking in the sun and the
next, being pounded by hail. And all there is to eat are green leaves, eggs, and a few asparagus stalks. It’s a tough month.

April Work List:

  • Raise two baby chicks, so that we always have eggs.
  • Mow the grass. Trim the garden beds.
  • Add a beehive or requeen the hive as needed.
  • Finish the pruning as winter damage becomes more apparent.
  • Raise summer seedlings: leafy greens and flowers are started early in the month, followed by all of the vines a few weeks later.
  • Mow the grass. Trim the garden beds.
  • Direct seed some root crops, like carrots and parsnips.
  • Arrange the soaker hoses in the beds as soon as they have been planted.
  • Check out the wildflowers blooming at Finley; there is an explosion of blooms in April.
  • Mow the grass. Trim the garden beds.
  • Fence the chickens out of the gardens.
  • Consider where to plant new bulbs this fall.
  • Late in the month, plant out the tomatoes. If it’s chilly, wrap the cages in plastic.
  • Celebrate Spring! Eat dinner outside; hold egg-boxing competitions; watch the bees bring pollen into the hive.
  • Give away tomato plants!
  • Mow the grass.


Rhubarb Cake: from Moosewood Deserts


½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1.5 cups flour (half whole wheat)
1 T BP
¼ t salt
1 t vanilla
2.5 cups of chopped rhubarb


Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and milk. Add dry ingredients, then the rhubarb. (you can add any fresh fruit, truly.)

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes.