February 28, 2011

But Before We Can Get To The Kitchen.....

View of back porch from
the kitchen back door
We deliberated a long time about this. Finally, we came to the conclusion that before we can get very far with the kitchen remodel, we need to do something with the back porch. For one thing, we'll soon need to set up a temporary kitchen. But before we move the stove and fridge out there, it only makes sense to level and repair the porch floor first. Then too, when Dan moves the location of the new kitchen door, we'll have to open up the kitchen wall. So first, he wants to make sure the porch door and lock are secure. Then too, the porch needs to be cleared out so that we'll have a place to keep materials as we need them for the kitchen.

To the left of that
Like many back porches, ours has become a multi-purpose, catch-all room. Besides serving as my summer kitchen, it is also our mud room; laundry room; curing zone (for garlic, onions, winter squash, seeds, nuts, etc.); shoe depository; cat lookout; home for recycling containers; where we hang our rain gear; and storage for small garden tools, general project paraphernalia, and the big cardboard boxes I'm saving to use as mulch. It is neither heated nor cooled, but I like that, especially in winter, because it buffers the kitchen from the cold outside air and wind. (House floor plan here.)

After a lot of discussing and measuring, we came up with a plan:

Click for a better look-see

Where new kitchen door will go
There's a lot we could do with this room, but for now, we've decided to focus on three things:
  • floor
  • appliances
  • doors
The floor slopes, and is buckled and bowed in places. Dan doesn't like the slope and having it level will be better for the appliances.

Those (washer, dryer, and electric stove) will all fit along the one wall, with enough room for a small utility sink! I don't use the dryer unless the weather is too bad to use the clothes line, but still, we've got it and it's convenient to have if needed. Besides the fact that it makes more sense to have it closer to the washing machine (rather than across the room), we need to move it because the new kitchen back door will go where it currently is. The current dryer vent hole in the wall, will become an exterior cat door.

From the kitchen door
The new arrangement of appliances will require some plumbing and electrical work. The 220 volt outlet will need to be moved for the dryer, and a new one installed for the stove. Dan also wants to add an outdoor outlet so we don't have to keep running a cord for his power tools out the door. Besides adding a utility sink, the plan also calls for scooting the washing machine down a bit. These mean the plumbing will need some reworking. While he's at it, Dan wants to prepare to use our laundry water for greywater irrigation.

Our beautious porch door
Of doors, we have two to deal with: porch and kitchen. The porch door, with it's broken glass and torn screen, merits replacing for aesthetic value (in the negative numbers) alone. Even though it's a exterior door with a deadbolt, it opens outward like a screen door. That means the top of the door hits outside porch roof when it's opened. Which means it can't be opened all the way. On top of all that, the door framing wasn't properly done and needs to be replaced. So, even though it's functional, a new back door is definitely on the to-do list.

Current back (kitchen) door
The other door to be replaced is our kitchen door. Since we're changing it's location, installing it will come after we finish everything else on the back porch.

Eventually I'll add some shelving along the windows (probably like those in the pantry) for seed starting, and seed and vegetable curing. Recycling containers and litter box will fit under these. While we're working on the kitchen however, this area can be used to keep building supplies.

One thing not on our list, is new windows. Most of the current ones are jalousie (louvered) windows that open with a crank. The cranks are cranky, but the screens are all in tact, so we'll wait on replacing them. For now, we'd rather use the money to get back to working on the kitchen.

As anxious as we are to work on the kitchen, we'll have to get all this done fairly soon. The entire porch project will take enough time so that I can set up our temporary kitchen in milder weather. Then we can finally make a serious start on the kitchen itself!

February 27, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I was both surprised and delighted to receive another Stylish Blogger Award, this time from Granny Miller! Thank you Granny! I confess I'm going to cheat a little, and refer you back to this post, where I told you my original things no one on the internet knows about me.

The rules have changed somewhat since then, in that the recipient only has to tell 7 things, but name 15 bloggers to pass it on to. That part will take a little time on my part, so stand by .....

Stylish Blogger Award © February 2011 by 

February 26, 2011

February Garden Tour

Here I am, squeaking in my February garden tour at the tail end of February. Mostly this month, I've been working on the companion groups for the garden, because until this recent bout of lovely weather, the garden itself has been too wet to work in. The first week of February brought us over three inches of rain, but it hasn't been warm enough to dry things out much. Still, spring planting is right around the corner, so I decided to go out and see if soil conditions were good for working in.

Turnip bed drying in the sun.
One of the first things I did, was to rake back the mulch from the turnip bed. This is where I am going to plant English peas, so I needed to check on the soil. It was still pretty soggy under the mulch, so I left it to dry out in the sun for awhile. Last fall I marked my nicest turnips to help me remember not to pull these, so I can collect their seed this summer.

New beet leaves
Besides the turnips, I mulched my beets and carrots in preparation for freezing weather. This worked well for winter harvesting, because our ground doesn't freeze deeply nor stay frozen for very long. Last fall, I tried storing turnips in a cooler, layered with sand. This wasn't successful because temperatures were too warm and the turnips kept putting out new leaves.

Now that the days are longer and the weather milder, I'm wondering when my root crops will start to flower and go to seed. Last year's turnips taught me that the roots got tough when this happens, so I need to make sure I get all but a few harvested beforehand. Before that though, I need to mark a few beets and carrots to save for seed. The rest I can harvest.

Carrie asked about my garlic. It was planted in the fall and has made it through the winter.

Other winter survivors...

lettuce, mesclun, and radishes...

Swiss chard...

... and broccoli. 

Only about half my broccoli plants grew, which was disappointing. Still, we've had at least some to enjoy. Warmer weather has brought a new spurt of growth, so more is on the way.

I have a couple of cabbages left, but these didn't look so good. The outer leaves were wilty dried and brownish looking. Peeking beneath those, I discovered small green heads doing rather nicely.

While I was out in the garden digging around, I pulled out my second horseradish pot...

I had already pulled the first pot, and used the horseradish in a big batch of Supertonic. That pot contained a lot more smaller roots, which this one had only one big one.

I think the pot method for growing horseradish was semi-successful. I planted it with the potatoes, as a companion. While the potatoes did well, I found lots of little horseradish leaves popping up all over the place. At first I thought this was because it had gone to seed, though I never noticed any blossoms. Once I pulled out the pots though, I think it may have been roots growing through the water holes at the bottom of the pot.

My winter wheat is also doing well and starting to grow again ...

On the other hand, the annual rye we planted for green manure...

... made a disappointingly sporadic appearance. Dan thinks this is because he used my bargain seed spreader, which may be the case. He thought we did better last year, with hand broadcasting. (A photo of how last year's turned out is here.) Either we don't have the knack of the seed spreader, or maybe we just don't need that thing! Still, some green manure is better than none.

By the time I finished my tour of the garden, the soil in the turnip bed had dried out enough to plant a packet of peas. I planted Wando, which are supposed to do well in warm weather. With March right around the corner, gardening activity will be in full swing soon.

February Garden Tour © February 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/

February 24, 2011

The Girls & The Million Dollar Question

Which is, are they pregnant???   I've been researching this subject, but evidently pregnancy detection in goats isn't all that easy.

Baby belly? Might be healthy rumen.
Enlarging udder? Some goats don't bag up until right at or even after delivery.

Hormone testing and ultrasounds aren't feasible for me, so that leaves the observation of whether or not the girls' heat cycles resumed 18 to 21 days after the attempted mating. I confess that even of that I'm not entirely certain. While Surprise was a blatant hussy and outrageous flirt, Baby and Jasmine were more subtle. Were they really in heat, or just being tolerant of Petey's amorous advances? Was all that tail wagging in his face really an invitation, or were they were just shooing him away? Then I start second guessing and wonder, was Jasmine in heat again three weeks later, or just shifting into her uber-drama queen gear? And Baby seemed disinterested the entire time.

What I do have, are dates marked on the calendar. I jotted down each goat's name when I thought she was being receptive to Petey and circled the date. Then I used the 150 day goat gestation calculator at LinderCroft's Goats, and circled those dates as well. All I can do now is feed them well, and prepare for the hoped for blessed events. And watch and wait. As far as the watching part goes, here's what I'm seeing:

CryBaby Belly

CryBaby is the youngest and smallest of the three. I have to say, I'll be mighty surprised if that's not a baby belly. Maybe even a twins belly. What do you think?

Surprise Belly

The color contrast between Surprise and the straw on the floor isn't especially pronounced, but she definitely has a lumpy bulge about her middle.

Jasmine Belly

Jasmine, I'm the least certain about. Of course, she's the biggest girl, so if she's carrying a single, it may not be as obvious. Still, I've been reading that during the first several months, the kid usually grows on one side or the other, giving the mother a lopsided look. I'm not sure if this photo shows it well, but Jasmine definitely looks bigger on her right side. My uncertainty stems from the fact the 6 weeks we had Petey, was during the time when she was suffering from an infected udder and may not been up to his advances, even if she was in heat.

As I wait, I wonder about something the books don't seem to be address. That is, do pregnancy hormones change a goat's personality, like with humans? Those of you who breed and raise kids can probably answer that question! I'm wondering because all three of my girls have changed somewhat.

Surprise, has always been something of a complainer and tattle tail with a "Poor Me" attitude. Now she plays, jumps, and bounces around like she's got springs on her feet. She obviously feels good and is happy. I've even seen her challenge Jasmine (unsuccessfully) for the queen goat position. She's the first to come running when she sees me (though that's nothing new.)


Jasmine, who always used to be  loud, talkative, and opinionated, hardly ever says a word anymore. These days she behaves more like a big dog, always running over to be petted and have her head scratched. She's still top goat, but she follows me around so that it's hard to get anything else done because she's always in the way. And just like the photo on the right, she usually looks like she's smiling.

I used to think that CryBaby (AKA Baby), hollered just to hear her own voice. Ever vociferous, she has become a good deal quieter these days, and quite introspective. I frequently see her just standing around, staring off in to space.  The good news is that the three goats seem to be getting along better these days, so that Jasmine and Surprise aren't giving Baby the business anymore. Even so, she is still at the bottom of the pecking order.

My first potential due date is early April for Surprise. In the meantime I continue to read up on the subject, prepare in whatever way I can, and pray that all goes well.

The Girls & The Million Dollar Question © February 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/

February 22, 2011

Kitchen Remodel: Tearing Into It

Initially we thought that after developing a plan for remodeling the kitchen, we would start by gutting the entire thing. Perhaps we would have, if we'd waited until the weather was milder. Besides tearing out the inner walls and floor, gutting the kitchen means having to move stove, fridge, and cabinets out onto the back porch. Starting like, in February, and it would be too dang cold to do all my kitchening out there. It has no heat! Am I a wimp or what. ;) Rather than wait though, we decided to get started and just take it once section at a time.

While I was trying to figure out the window treatment for the bathroom, Dan started working in the crawlspace under the kitchen. He added additional support for the cookstove, as well as new bridging between the floor joists. The other day though, he came home from work ready to tear in to something. We decided to start with the corner by the back window. Not only do we need to do something about the water damage under that window, but we've also decided to move, as well as replace, the back door.

First though, I had to clear out the cabinets and shelves.

My herb and tincture cabinet.
Also, a better shot of "The Post"

I liked these cabinets for storing my herbs, tinctures, and teas. The shelf spacing was a good height for quart jars, and the selves were shallow enough to be able to find things without too much digging around. Unfortunately, they were right where we plan to put the new back door, so they had to go.

Lots of nails to pull, including some cut
nails, which are difficult to pull out.

Initially we'd hoped to reuse all the wood. Unfortunately it is quite dried out and split easily when the nails were pulled out.

This unit was one piece, built 1st & then nailed to the wall.
Sadly, the wood is too brittle to probably be salvaged.

Once we got the cabinet and shelves down, we made an interesting discovery; evidence that a wall had once been there. You can see where it was on the left side of the photo below, an unpainted clue to the home's original kitchen.

Back door wall without cabinet and shelves.
Can you imagine an entire ceiling painted that color?

The upper, baby poo green was under the upper shelf unit, and must have been the kitchen's original color. You can see that it was repainted after that wall was torn down and the shelves built. The entire house was once the green color on the bottom.

Below is more evidence of the preexisting wall.

The floor under the cabinet

The unfinished strip of floor in the photo shows the original floor. It shows where the wall originally stood. My best guess is that there was once a small room here, probably a pantry. That pantry had the linoleum floor you see above. (Same stuff we took out of the hallway when we did the dining room floor). At some point they tore the wall down and built the cabinet to make up for lost storage space. The ceramic tile floor was installed after the cabinet had been built. You can see that it was mortared down on top of the old floor, both hardwood and linoleum.

Our annoying post in the middle of the kitchen was probably one of the pantry's corners, left because the wall is load-bearing. Likely we'll get more clues when we take out the remaining floor tiles and see what's underneath. I'm guessing the original kitchen was an 11.5 by 11.5 foot square. Can't blame them for wanting more space. In fact, they were probably so happy to have a larger kitchen that they didn't mind that post in the near-middle of the room!

One big question was, what's behind the interior tongue & groove wall? Dan pulled off the trim from around the window so that we could take a peek. Above the window and down the side of the wall, we found the same insulation that had been blown into the attic. Well, at least there was some insulation in the walls.

Inside the wall below the window however...

... there is nothing. Nothing as in no insulation, no sheathing, no vapor barrier. In fact, with a flashlight Dan could see right through to the original wood siding, so badly rotted that he could see the vinyl siding on top of that. If it wasn't for that vinyl siding, we'd be feeling the wind blow through. That explained the water damage to the interior wall. It also explained why they put the vinyl siding up in the first place.

I suppose it's fortunate that this is only a 4 foot section of the outer wall, but still, it's one of those inevitable unexpecteds that comes with renovating an almost 90 year old house. It makes me wonder what we'll find under the rest of the vinyl siding, but that's a whole 'nother project.

So here's what it looks like now...

After tearing out the herb cabinet

Removing that cabinet gave us almost a foot more space. It isn't visually realized however, because the wall is a darker color. Still, it's a first step and the kitchen project has officially begun.

Kitchen Remodel: Tearing Into It © February 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/

February 18, 2011

My Companion Group Garden Plan

In my last garden post, Garden Gazintas, I shared the experiment I'm going to try this year, that of planting the entire garden with groups of companion plants rather than one vegetable per bed or row. I've finally worked out a plan, so here it is and how I came up with it.

I started by making a list of everything I want to plant this spring and summer. My list of ordered seed is here. My list of saved seeds is here. Note that some of those will go in to the herb garden I'm developing. Some will be planted in the fall. The plan here doesn't include corn, pole beans, and pumpkins, because I plan to plant these as the 3 sisters in the area we're preparing for the corn patch.

In the main garden then, I plan to plant:

  • amaranth
  • beans, dry soup (bush)
  • beets
  • cabbage
  • cantaloupe
  • carrots
  • chard
  • cowpeas
  • cucumber
  • eggplant
  • lettuce
  • okra
  • onions
  • peas (English)
  • peppers, sweet
  • peppers, hot
  • popcorn
  • potatoes
  • radish
  • squash, summer
  • squash, winter
  • sunflowers
  • sweet potatoes
  • tomato, paste
  • tomato, table
  • watermelon

Then I made a list of herbs:

  • basil, sweet
  • basil, cinnamon
  • borage
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • horseradish (in pots)
  • parsley, Italian
  • summer savory

So far these are mostly annuals, except the parsley which is biennial, and the horseradish which I kept potted last summer. Since we till and rotate, I don't want put any perennials in this garden, but I may try more of those potted. With the horseradish, I partially sank the pot, which aided keeping the soil moist. It was easy to remove the pot when I needed to. I could do the same with perennial herbs, like peppermint and rosemary.

Lastly I made a list of annual flowers that are supposed to be beneficials:

  • calendula
  • cosmos
  • four o'clocks
  • marigolds
  • morning glories
  • petunias
  • queen anne's lace (volunteers)

From there I looked at lists of companion plants. There are lots of these in books and around the internet.  For anyone who's interested, here are some of the websites I found helpful:

Companion Planting at Golden Harvest Organics
Companion Planting at West Coast Seeds
List of Companion Plants at Wikipedia
Companion Planting at New Self Sufficient Living
Companion Planting Chart for Herbs at Garden Simply

These lists not identical, which is one reason why I used so many. It also means that I'm not entirely confident about some of my groupings. But then, when it comes to gardening, I'm a firm believer that something is better than nothing. Even if a grouping doesn't work out, I'll gather important information and can make adjustments next year and following.

Once I had some groups figured out, I made a rough sketch on paper. I have a few things that I'm leaving in the garden to collect seed, so I just worked these into my companion groups. In the future I'll plan ahead better for that. Since I'm still learning the planting schedule for this area, I jotted in the recommended planting dates as well.

click for bigger

In reality, no bed will be more than whatever is easily accessible by an arm's reach from either side. If one bed isn't enough of a thing, I'll plant two. Or three. This is still a work in progress, and likely some things will change before everything gets planted, but at least I have a plan! Just in time too because I plant peas this month! I reckon it's time to get to work on more than just paper.

My Companion Group Garden Plan © February 2011 

February 16, 2011

Around The Homestead

Updates, followups, and other odds and ends since my last Around The Homestead.

Life Without Charlie.

Charlie's grave

Besides leaving a llama sized hole in my heart, Charlie's death has affected the goats too. Not emotionally in the human sense, but it definitely upset the balance when it comes to buddy arrangements. On cold nights, everyone would pair up, Charlie and Jasmine, and Surprise and Crybaby. Now that Charlie's gone, the Nubians have become a team and Baby is on the outs.


Initially they chased her away from everything, from the food, from the hay, from the water, from the barn. Of course she then lived up to her name, crying and complaining louder than ever. Things do finally seem to be settling down though, fortunately.

Petey. Anyone remember Petey? I found him a new home quite awhile ago.

Petey, having escaped into the hay mow

Not only was he bullying and pushing everyone around (including Charlie and me), but he had taken to escaping (jumping out?) It was time for him to go. His departure didn't seem to be missed by anyone. Did he do his job? Time will tell.

Jasmine. Remember last December Jasmine had an infected teat? The vet gave me antibiotics but not hope. In fact, he was pretty sure the end of the teat would slough off, making it completely nonfunctional. Well, this photo was rather awkward to get...

Jasmine's udder

... but as you can see, the teat was saved. Whether or not it will be functional in the future remains to be seen though.

Last of the Garden Tomatoes. I still have a few of the ripening green tomatoes I picked last November, after one of our frosts.

Ripening Romas

As they ripen, they shrivel a bit however. I'm guessing this is because they are Romas, which as a paste tomato have a lower water content. When cut open, they look a bit greenish inside, but when chopped up and added to a grilled cheese sandwich or scrambled eggs, they are flavor packed.

Squerry Ben? Setting, lunchtime. We've just sat down to eat, Dan has said the blessing, and we're beginning to help ourselves. As I put mayonnaise on my sandwich, Dan asks, "What's squerry ben?" Squerry ben??? He points to the label on the gallon crock sitting on the table.

Squerry ben?

"That's sauerruben!" I exclaim. Now I ask you, is my handwriting really that bad???

Transplanting. January is a good time of year to transplant things. I can move things we don't care for in one spot, to somewhere they would be more useful.

Loading the wheelbarrow for transplanting

I decided to transplant a bunch of what I think are privet. I dug them up from our future bird garden (see master plan), and replanted along the north property line, where they can better serve as a privacy hedge. The digging up and planting were a breeze, but since the goats love to eat privet, my problem was getting the loaded wheelbarrow across the goat field. That involved pushing the heavy load through the field in a mad dash to outrun three galloping goats, and getting hung up at a gate that insisted on swinging closed every time I tried to push the barrow through. Eventually I made it, but the goats weren't too happy with the outcome.

3 disappointed goats

Dwarf Lemon Tree. I showed you when my Meyers lemon tree bloomed. Now I'm happy to report that I have little lemons!

Lovely baby lemons

I tried hand pollinating, and was obviously successful. I've counted about 27, with another round of flower buds forming. I'm not sure how many we'd need for a full year's supply, but I do know one thing. The first thing I'm going to do is make my great-grandmother's lemon cream pie!

Egg News. I know I just gave you an update on the chickens, but I have news. The Welsummers have started to lay again. On Monday, there was all manner of fuss coming from the hen house. When I went to collect eggs, I found six.

Clockwise from left: Delaware, Ameraucana, Welsummer,
Ameraucana, Barred Holland. Center: Welsummer

It was the first day in a long time that I'd gotten six eggs. Very welcome indeed.

Other than all that, there's my garden project, for which I'll have a plan soon. Unless you can think of something I forgot, I reckon that's it.

Now can we eat?

Around The Homestead © February 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/