Monday, July 28, 2014

Bug Week, Blister Beetle

This is a fairly new invader to our garden:

I do recall seeing them in a patch of wild amaranth (pigweed) about five or six years ago and remember them having a strange habit of dropping off the plant as soon as you even tapped it, trying to make their escape.  I also recall seeing so many of them that I started to collect them for the chickens.  Which they turned their noses up at.  And I yelled them for being ungrateful bastards at not accepting my offering of a free bug smorgasbord.  Only now did I realize that they did so for a reason.

There are many varieties of blister beetles and apparently we have the black variety.  I didn't think much of them since they didn't seem to be eating anything but the wild amaranth.  Then a few days ago while trying to find the hornworms that were eating all the leaves off my tomatoes, I found a bunch of the blister beetles congregating on the tomato plants.  And non-hornworm black poop underneath them.  They were the ones defoliating my tomato plants!  Bastards!

So I donned my rubber gloves and started removing them from the area.  Normally I'd just start crushing them between my fingers like I've been doing with the squash bugs, but luckily for me, I hadn't done that yet.  Because as it's name implies, I would have a mess of blisters on my hands.  Blister beetles have a nasty little goo in their body called cantharadin and when it gets on your skin you get a blister.  Even when they are dead and pulverized they still pack a nasty punch, especially to livestock.  If you're a horsey person, you've probably heard of the potentially deadly effects of having your beloved Mr. Ed eat blister beetle infested alfalfa.

And I'm sure most people have heard of the aphrodisiac "Spanish Fly".  Guess what's in it?  Dead, dried and crunched up blister beetle.  A little bit and you're drooling over the guy/girl next to you and a little bit too much and it's your mouth that's on fire instead of your groin and you're dead in a few hours.

So needless to say, I have a new found respect for the little tomato plant munching bug.  Still don't like him.  Still going to kill every single stinking one I find.  But I will be much more careful next time I run into an unknown bug before I start squishing them with my bare hands.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Heat must be frying my brain

It seems as if there is a direct correlation between 100-degree temperatures outside and the desire for me to make soup.  I mean, I have cravings for soups in the winter when it's more "normal" to be wanting hot bowl of soup, but what neurological short-circuit causes me to want to make the kitchen even hotter than it is already?  So yesterday afternoon, when it was 101, I made split pea soup.

But what's even more peculiar is that when I went to search for the recipe on my blog (yes, one day I will write it down and put it in my recipe box), I noticed that the date was almost two years ago (two years and two days to be exact) that I had the same exact urge, on a 102-degree day.

Had I not been such a sloth, I would have collected firewood and started a fire in the grill and cooked the soup over that, but instead I just put the pot o' split pea soup fixings on the stove in the kitchen.  I can't wait until we get the outside kitchen finished and I can use the wood cookstove when these wacky urges come up.

In the meantime, I'm going to eat my way though the split pea soup and hope that I can contain my desire for making a creamy wild rice soup.  Or at least wait until the weather is in the lower 90's.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Now is the Summer of Our Discontent

If my neighbors didn't personally know us, I'm sure they would have called the humane society on me by now....it sounds like I'm torturing animals down here.  The goats are being very, very vocal lately.  I mean, Pickles still takes the cake, but it seems as if the three doelings (all of whom are still nursing, so there's no excuse) feel as if they should be screaming as frequently as their older and audibly annoying herdmate.  Nobody is hurt.  Nobody is lacking in food, water, minerals, company, etc., and nobody is in heat.

The fact that there seems to be absolutely no reason for it other than to tick me off is what is so completely infuriating.  They yell first thing in the morning when they see me, even though only two of them (the two I'm milking) are actually getting fed.  I assume the kids are vocalizing their malcontent in not being fed both morning, mid-morning, pre-lunch, lunch, dinner, supper and a snack.  Or, again, it's just to pisss me off.

Lira, Penny's doeling, is especially annoying.  Annette's kids, Pyewacket and Elemanzer will start yelling when someone else does so they are more tolerable, but Lira just does it whenever a gnat flies by and it's one of those really, really annoying yells, like a spoiled-brat kind of noise.  

I just started weaning Studly DoRight three days ago, and if anybody had a legitimate reason to yell, it would be him.  Ironically, he is the only one out of the four kids that can seem to keep his howling screaming zipped.  He'll still come running up to the fence, waggly-tailed and anticipating a bottle, but he keeps his mouth shut.  I can only hope that he passes these quiet jeans on to his progeny.

Once we get our Boer herd a little bigger, Pickles is out of here as is any other goat that has a tendency to scream.  It's bad enough that I have seven roosters running around, crowing their little bird-brains out all day starting at 3 in the morning, but the noise of screaming-brat goats I cannot stand.  I had actually thought (and still may) about putting Charlie's shock collar on Pickles and zapping her each time she yelled.  I doubt it would work, but heck, it might give me a little bit of satisfaction seeing her crap her pants (figuratively speaking of course....I don't put my goats in underpants.  Only the chickens.) mid-yell and wonder what the hell attacked her.

It would so be worth a visit from PETA.  Maybe they would even "rescue" her from me.

If only.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Fun Day of Firsts

We were invited to go river fishing this weekend and it was a perfect day for it; temps in the lower 80's with a sporadic cover of clouds and the occasional breeze.

Morning barn chores were done in a rush, an impromptu lunch was thrown into the cooler, and we were off!

This was Rhiannon's first time on a river boat, or as a matter of fact, in any type of boat.....in the water.  Rhiannon gets lots of  boating "practice" as we do have a small fishing boat, but alas, it sits in the side yard instead of the water.  She is also very proficient at casting out a line as she practices with her fishing pole in the front yard by throwing out a plastic weight and catches "cat" fish (i.e. Outside Kitty chases it around the yard).   Rhiannon wasn't apprehensive at all about going on the water, which was a relief because unlike her, up until just recently, I was anxious about getting into one.

We spent over four hours on the river.



We fished.  We ate chips.  We marveled at the clear, cool water and how you could see the fish just a foot down.  We ran the boat up and down the river.  We caught some fish (and played with them in the live well).  We took a break and pulled up to shore and walked around.  We fished some more.  And when Rhiannon (and I) were getting too hot (and maybe even a little bit cranky), our fishing guide took us back to the boat launch and we brought our catch home.

Rhiannon was out like a light five minutes into the car ride home.  And then was somehow magically refreshed and renewed and ready to take on the world after a five minute powernap.  I, however, was exhausted beyond belief and collapsed into a coma like it was nobody's business for a full two hours.  How does one get so tired from sitting on one's behind the entire time?  I don't know, but I'm telling you, it took all of my remaining strength (and a little help from Paul yanking me) to get out of bed for evening barn chores.

We live a stone's throw away from the river (and the lake as a matter of fact), but as many of you can attest to, it seems the closer you are to something fantastic like this, the less likely you are to take advantage of it.  Why is that?  Is it because it's taken for granted?  Because we say "Oh, we can get out there any time" or "There's stuff that needs to be done today, we'll go tomorrow"?  Not that I'm advocating throwing all reason and responsibilities to the wind and just screwing off every day.  But maybe there would be more time for it if we made an effort to make more time for it.

I hope that we'll make more time for river and lake fun from now on.

Is there anything that you need to make more time for?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another fruit loss

Just a few weeks ago there were nectarines a' plenty on the trees.  This was the first year they fruited and I was anxious to taste them.  And then while yanking random weeds in the yard, I passed my full-o-fruit nectarine tree and saw something that made me do a double-take.

Every. Single. Nectarine was covered in some icky fungus stuff and some of the branches look as if they are blighted.  I didn't even know that nectarines got blight.

The pears suffered from blight this Spring, the apples trees only had a few fruitlets on them (even though there were plenty of flowers) and now the nectarine trees have suffered this new ailment.  It seems that the peach trees are our last hope for any fruit this year.  We have four pathetic blueberry bushes which yielded zip blueberries and I never made it out to the Pick-your-own so we'll be blueberry-less as well.

The strawberry beds did well this spring, but those are long gone and I didn't even freeze or jam any of them.  Which is actually ok since I vowed it would be a Jam-Free 2014 in order to use some of the jam already in the pantry.

Last year I was able to can some pears and apples, but we're down to one quart of apples and six quarts of pears.  So unless I find someone with a bumper crop of pears and apples, there will be no glistening jars of home-canned fruits this year.  Just another reason to stock up for more than one year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Flurry on the Homestead!

This Summer Polar Vortex thing totally rocks!  Although we didn't get any snow flurries, I was in a flurry of activity as I spent all morning outside and I didn't melt into a pool of rendered fat.

I spent hours out in the jungle garden this morning yanking weeds and swearing at the tenacity of the prickly sida which even at less than 12" tall requires a backhoe to yank out from the earth.  I don't know what, if any, useful purpose they serve in the circle of life, but if I had the power to wish any weed away it would be prickly sida and morning glory, neither of which have any food or medicinal use so I say to hell with 'em.

While weeding out an area where I have volunteer tomato, squash and melon plants, I discovered these little beauties:

And immediately cut up the ripe one, went outside to pick a few leaves of fresh basil (yet another volunteer plant), a little S&P and voila:

I'm telling you, I just love Slothwoman Gardening.  Granted, I'm not exactly sure what I'll get or how much of any particular item I'll harvest, but I'm really looking forward to having Paul tear up another section and just toss any and all of my old garden seeds, rotted veggies & fruits in there and just let it go.  Of course, I'll have to continue with "normal" gardening if I ever want to have a real vegetable harvest, but the Sloth Gardening is kind of fun with not much work involved.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Getting Big

No, not my arse (total lie), but the baby Phoebes.  There are still four of them in the nest and it looks like they're about to pop out of there any minute.  They seem pretty miserable.  But I suppose anyone would be smooshed together with three other bodies in 90+ degree heat with 114% humidity:

We've had deer come browse on the new grass in the soon-to-be-fenced-in pasture area.  There are two bucks:

And two does, each with a doeling of their own:

As long as they don't start munching on my squash garden and young apple trees all will be well.  Although I suppose it won't be too bad as it will make them fatter for Fall........