Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Harvest...no... but busy!

So I've ignored the garden the past few weeks. It's raining daily and my poor fruits and veggies are splitting left and right. This week promises drier weather but now that I am entrenched in this other project, I have put my garden on hold.

Old plastic surround
So what project am I working on this time? Our Master Bathroom. We had an issue with mold/mildew forming on the wall at the junction of our shower stall and the bathtub. At first I moaned, then I groaned, then I got mad. Once I had finally given into the fact that I was going to have to do something, and that this something that had to be done was not only drastic but fairly expensive I set upon the task of selecting the best materials for our re-do at the least expensive places. It required a lot of weekends of window shopping ahead of time and the plan was to finish this portion of the project within 2 weeks...Oh boy. Was I wrong!

The first weekend we took out the old surround. This sounds fairly straightforward and easy in theory but in practice it was a much more difficult task than we expected. We ended up having to take it out in pieces. Once this was accomplished we quickly realized that we were in for a bit more that we expected. There was no wall behind this! WHAT?! That's right. It was plastic glued to the wood supports. Oh, BOY!

It was a good thing that we didn't wait much longer for this overhaul. There was mold growing on the back of the fiberglass in places that water couldn't have possibly gotten to. Because there was no wall behind there was also no barrier and no insulation. This created a space between the walls where condensation was occurring unchecked.

Project easy peasy is now put on hold while we research what our next move would be. We knew we'd have to have a wall of course, but how, what and more importantly how much!?

Turns out not to be a horrible cost, but an unexpected cost is still, unexpected. Another $100 isn't the worst of things so I'm grateful for this.

Here you can see we were foolish enough to leave up the fixtures. These were promptly removed after the picture. I don't know why that wasn't our first step. I mean hello? Not going to use them again. LOL.

So we finally get a water resistant wall up, and unlike the picture dictates also got it taped and mudded. This brings us to the next weekend. I wish we didn't keep trying to do this between work and toting the kids around. I think the next time we take on a project this big we will be taking some time off work!

So during the week I visited my local tile outlet. Um, yeah about that. I had to travel a half hour and go past about 20 different tile place or places that sold time to get there. I began to question my sanity and wondered if it wouldn't have cost less after all to pay more for the tile if it was closer. Immediately after that thought I got lost in the aisles and dreamt up all kinds of other things to do in the house. I mean, just look at all these choices, and that is only in the tumbled stone end pieces. There were decorative accents to choose and I needed to coordinate the stone we picked for the tile with the accent and the corners, I needed a shelf, or really a few of them.

About 3 days later my husband filed a missing persons report and the police found me huddled under a rack drooling on myself. No, don't buy it? Well fine. I picked out all the coordinates and loaded up the truck.

Have I mentioned how much I love this big ole truck? It's so convenient to have a vehicle that doesn't mind getting dirty or hauling thousands of pounds of rocks, dirt or whatever sets my little heart to a pitter patter.

The next step is one that we hemmed and hawed about. We are now into yet another weekend. I have a different opinion that my husband when it comes to the placement of the tiles, and the distance of them from each other. I stand by my original thought that less grout is better, but since we did pick a wonderfully coordinating grout color I no longer have to consider stringing my husband up from his toes. See, he started the tile placement while he sent me on and errand. I should have known better. I really, really should have. But, what's done is done. At first I was still very upset with him and may have thought to shave his goatee while he slept. But, looking back it's all good. I got the accents I wanted, he got the spacing he wanted. Most of all I got the SHOWER I wanted. :-D

So I came home to this....
... and that brings us to the next weekend. LOL

See, that whole- "We'll get it done in 2 weeks" thing? Yeah. That got thrown out the window. We are on week FOUR here already people. Sheesh! And then the next weekend....
Hey, at least it's starting to give us an idea of what it will look like.

The following weekend...   This picture is very deceiving. It looks complete. It looks ready to shower in, it looks ready for...THE PLUMBER.
*EEEK* Another $200 and change for an unexpected encounter. The builders installed a very specific type of plumbing fixture that could only be used on a very specific brand on a very specifically NOT MADE ANYMORE thing. Yes, thing. It's a technical term for I'm too ticked off to think straight let me breathe for a minute here 'thing'. 

UGH. So, plumber out during the week and then the grout has to cure for a week. This was one sticking point I wasn't expecting at all. I figured a day or two sure, but a WEEK!? Oh so disappointing when all one dreams of at night is hopping into the shower in the morning for a nice refreshing wash. Of course hidden is all the hundreds of parts of tiles, the hammers, saws, screwdrivers, mastic, grout buckets, floats and all that jazz all over the place. 

So, then we Finally seal the stone and grout and then install the new fixtures...

 And are now supposed to wait 2-3 days before using it. Well. I waited 45 hours. That was enough for me. I gotta tell you, that may have been the best shower of my life. Wait, no I remember that one. It was the third day after I had the twins. THAT was glorious - but this was a close second and a memory I won't soon forget. It's so wonderful to walk in and see the beautiful shower staring back at me. We increased the area inside the shower by nearly half again of what we had and I couldn't be happier with that. 

Only problem is I now get out of said wonderful shower and have to look straight at the nasty mirror, the rusty light fixture (yup it's that moisture problem again) and the old standard counter top.

So, no we have a new vanity in our garage waiting for a small repair and are waiting on a granite counter top we ordered. This is possibly one of the worst ways to revamp I know of. Living our day to day lives and trying to do all this work is exhausting, but it will be so worth it. Just look at what we already accomplished. It can't be any worse than this, can it? (Maybe I shouldn't ask!) I'll keep you posted on the progress. We begin deconstruction again the weekend after Labor Day. Of course that 3 or 4 day weekend would be ideal for this project, but we need to make a trip to Alabama. The 7 ducks are restless.

Speaking of. If anyone needs a beautiful Show Quality Welsh Harlequin- please send them my way. My boys are great but I have at least 1 too many!
       QUACK!!!   


See you Soon!

Barbie~





Monday, August 11, 2014

Harvest Monday 8.11.14

Well, things have been super busy around here. With the garden, with the house, with the kids, with schools tarting next week and with a schedule change at work. But, since it's Harvest Monday - I'll start off the posting extravaganza with that.

This weeks harvests include a few avocados, a bucket worth of guavas, some eggs, and a gypsy pepper.


This handful of strawberry guavas is what I am getting on a daily basis. Well, I should clarify this is what I get when I can get to the bushes in the morning and it's not raining. Rain causes the fruit to drop, and the squirrels LOVE these. I'm breaking out the squirrelinator 2000 this next weekend. I'm just waiting for the newly germinated corn to get big enough to withstand a possible trampling. The ducks normally don't go near the gardens, but occasionally one will play chase and that causes a momentary lapse of reason and they will run through quickly.


I waited and waited for this gypsy pepper to turn, but it didn't and I wanted to eat it, and so I did.

Gratuitous avocado shot. Same avocados, I just forgot to get pictures.

 Another shot of the guavas. This basket was gathered over the weekend and I boiled these down. Now I just have to go buy a new strainer and get the seeds out of the pulp and make some jelly.

I'm still debating on if I want a mix of flavors (grape/guava...strawberry/guava) or if I would like to try it on it's own. Either way that is this weeks project. I only cooked enough down for about 2 jelly jars. Just in case. I mean really, what if I don't like it after all?
This is another gratuitous shot of a random pollinator. I do love to try to get good shots of them.

That's it. I ate a few seriously bitter carrots out of the garden, and replanted beans (and the previously mentioned corn) I still need to weed half the garden before I reseed and I'm praying after schools tarts I can get some brassicas in there.


Hope you are having a wonderful week.

See you soon!
Barbie~

Monday, July 21, 2014

Harvest Monday 7.21.14

Welcome back to Harvest Monday! Many thanks to Daphne over at: Daphne's Dandelions for hosting once again. I don't know what I"d do without it, I just love being able to go see what people are harvesting all over the world. It gives me a weekly jolt of inspiration.

This weeks harvest continues the avocado fest. It will only last an other week or so because my tree didn't produce a ton this year. Instead it grew a good 15 feet. Have to trade growth for fruit production. Now that the tree is getting rather sizable next year it will be kept trimmed to promote branching and fruiting rather than growth.

These lovelies are amazingly delicious. I like a good grocery store avocado, but these are even better. Completely pesticide free, and hey! The stupid squirrels don't eat them until they start to ripen. BONUS! This means I can pull them off the tree and let them ripen indoors.

Another bonus is that the tree is rather weepy. Weeping? What is appropriate here? The boughs hang low and are difficult for animals to climb. LOVE THAT! It also supplies a nice amount of shade for my poor hot duckies. :-)

Also on this weeks harvest is truly a tropical/Floridian type delicacy. I've never seen this fruit in a grocery, but can occasionally (rather quiet rarely!) find them in a farmers market.  GUAVAS!






Here is a close up of this lovely little diddy.

Richard, the kids and I have had a massive debate on what these taste like fresh. (I've only previously had syrup & jelly) We've come up with this:
The flavor profile of a kiwi, strawberry, and banana with the acidic bite of pineapple. The texture of an overripe banana and those seeds BTW, are not edible. I was under the impression they were, but quickly learned otherwise. I thought they would be like blackberry seeds and be something you could work around once it was in your mouth. Nope. Those little suckers are like rocks. HA! Only good news is there are about 6-10 seeds in each one so not too terrible. Only bad news is these fruits are the size of a half dollar piece. Around the amount of a strawberry.

It took some doing but I finally figured out a decent way to get the seeds out. Unfortunately it requires sticky fingers and a spoon. Bright side to that is I get to lick my then sticky fingers. Win some, Lose some.

Oh, also found out the hard way that the chickens will do ANYTHING to eat them. I've found Campbells way up in the bush stealing them as soon as they blush. When I manage to get them before they do I have 2 hens that hop/fly up and me and my hands trying to get me to drop one or otherwise throw them and run.

So many lessons to learn this week.  While planting the guavas in the chicken run has worked out really well, not getting many of the fruit stinks! Good thing I've got a few more plants on the side of the fence as well. This years crop will most likely only be for fresh eating but, if I can squeeze it in I'll make some syrup as well.

That's it for me. I harvested a half dozen tomatoes which were cracked and gross looking. Only was able to use the bottom half of them so no pictures there. I also harvested 3 large carrots, but they went to the chickens. Too bitter in this 99* heat.

See you soon!

Barbie~

























Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Noisemakers.

Well. Today will be a week since I brought the noisy critters home. They really are good looking. The gold duck (older) is starting to molt into her adult feathers. She is the loud mouth. The smaller one does quack and is much louder than the drakes are, but she is less prone to really get the decibels up there.

So, I thought since I managed to make it a week without issues I should at least show you what they look like. Meet Cinnamon and Applesauce.

Applesauce is already nearly the same size as Cinnamon. But, cinnamon is only about 2/3 the size of the boys, if not half. I'm hoping that Applesauce ends up being closer to their size. It already worries me that having 3 boys - 2 girls is going to be a problem. I can't imagine how much worse it would be if the girls are so small and can't defend themselves from their amorous advances.


From aligning the pictures of the boys, Applesauce looks to be 6-8 weeks old now. Since the gold one is starting to molt I can tell that she is the same age as the drakes at around 11-15 weeks.

While I can't wait to see what she will look like with her adult feathers, I am desperate to get her out of my yard. Shoot, I've even thought up ways to bargain with someone to take a pair of birds in exchange for watching them until we are ready to leave. Of course I'd supply food for my flock, a little pond... and then reality kicks in. No one in their right mind would take 7 ducks to babysit for 6 weeks. Who am I kidding?

Raising the initial set of ducklings was fun, and I really enjoyed having them, but even 4 is too much to have on this little speck of land. Well, I should quantify that remark. We just don't have enough yard for them to free-range effectively without running into problems with stress on our yard/gardens. Having all of them penned up all day/night can lead to smell issues at least in the summer. Our rains keep the pens constantly moist.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that while I enjoy them, I'm glad the time is coming for them to leave. I still think that having a pair here is feasible and will be enjoyable, as long as the girl is a quiet one.

Since realizing that the (girl) ducks are much louder than I anticipated I have decided to try my hand at imprinting a bird, raising it and praying that since it is well socialized and used to everything around here it will be less likely to be so loud. So, meet Baby:


Baby is about 10 days old now. She's imprinted on us, and my girls spend a vast amount of time with her each day.

To make sure that she is also used to being alone and won't raise a ruckus because we are not right there with her 24 hours a day she also has a teddy that will be hers eternally. We make sure to leave her alone at least 2-4 hours each day around lunch time for her "nap time" as well as all night long. At first she would peep peep peep until someone came back for her. Now she might peep a time or two but settles right down.

I was afraid that imprinting might have the opposite effect and she wouldn't tolerate the separation, but she's learning the routine well now and it seems this may work.

I'm possibly delusional. LOL

Nah, probably delusional. :-) Hey, can't blame a girl for trying.

It's not my fault I'm a country girl living in the city. I belong on a farm. I just can't afford to move out in the country yet. But don't you worry, I have lofty goals. Goals of hard work and great rewards. Unfortunately my goals have a 10 year plan. Gotta get my kids off to college first after all. But, meanwhile I'm taking as many baby steps toward getting what I want as I can.



If this works out it will be a good step for us. If not then at least I know what type of duck(S) I want. I also know how much work it will be to have more than a breeding trio. Guess what else I know? I know not to put the duck pen up near the house. That's a good lesson I learned from this. Girl ducks think they should crow like roosters.  

I'll keep you updated on my "quiet girl" progress.

See you soon!

Barbie~







Monday, July 14, 2014

Harvest Monday 7.14.14

It's Harvest time, again! Yippee!!!

I had a couple of weeks there I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get back here to report a harvest again. But, here I am! Linking in from Daphne's Dandelions, don't forget to drop by and see what others are harvesting all over the world.

This week brought me - green garlic. It appears that yet again my garlic will not be making bulbs. So, I took a few of these for cooking. YUM... so fragrant and delicious. If I didn't like actually having storage garlic for use later in the year it wouldn't bother me to use this all the time!

This single garlic stem covered my 4' table from one end to the other. HUGE. The usable white part was over 20" long. So growth isn't the problem necessarily. It's hard to grow certain things in Florida, and for me - this is one of those things. Some gardeners still manage to grow it fairly well, but the bulb size is never overly large.

The other thing I've been harvesting is my avocados!
Oh, this makes me happy. I was afraid that like the peaches once the squirrels and rats figured out the fruit was there that it would be gone. However, apparently when they are not ripe they don't entice the little critters. That's good because we have a thing for all things avocado around here. These beauties make me a little less hostile towards the squirrels. Only  a little though. THey are still stealing my tomatoes, beans and anything else they can get their paws on.

Today's avocado will be put into a salad with cranberries and a poppyseed dressing.. Oh my - I can't wait!


Not harvesting these yet, but the promise is there. So far the pomegranates have never had issues with either bugs nor critters. Something tells me that the critters don't like all the thornlike stickers on the bush. This works for me, because they are another one of this families favorite things. From popping the arils like little candy treasures to juicing. Poms are well received here.

Currently there are 7 poms on that have swollen enough I am no longer concerned about them dropping. There are another 6 that look like they have set but the branch hasn't thickened at the base of the fruit so I'm still holding my breath for another week - 10 days on those.

This tree blossomed earlier in the year and only set 1 fruit at that time. It is blooming still even with these beauties on and growing.  It's a good news/bad news scenario really. It means that the single crop I could have had (that is normally a large crop) is not going to happen. But, it also means that these fruits that are setting weeks and even months apart will provide me with a drawn out harvest. In the long run I'd rather have the fruit on an as needed basis to prevent waste, even though I probably will not get enough to juice, reduce and freeze yet again this year.

I have another bush that sits right next to this one and it tried to bloom earlier in the year. Non of those set any fruit and I can only hope that it will try to bloom again this summer so that I still might get even more fruit. That bush is older than this one and has yet to give me any fruit. I think by next summer if it doesn't set I may need to replace it!

That's it for my harvests this week. Nothing spectacular, but it's nice to have something from the garden anyway. Hope you are harvesting well!

See you soon!

Barbie~

Friday, July 11, 2014

Speaking out of turn

It's true. I have a habit of talking about things before they happen. Last week I was so excited to share the new girls with you and then the weather didn't allow us to go and pick them up. Yesterday again I was happy to tell you that we would be integrating the new ducks soon.

Unfortunately reality has a way of changing things. See, I knew that ducks were louder than drakes. I just didn't realize HOW MUCH louder they were and how often. The Quack that endears those little fluff balls to our hearts? It's ear piercing. It actually hurts my ears. Truly. And if that is the case, how do you think this is going to go over with my HOA? Yeah, not so well. I brought home 3 girls last night. 2 of them are older and have already established their super power quacks. The other is just a duckling. But, seriously? There is just no way that my neighbors will put up with this. :-(
video
Now, here is the thing. To really get the full effect you need to put on headphones and turn your computer up to full volume. Only once you are quite certain that your ears are bleeding will you truly appreciate the insanity.

I'm so terribly disappointing. Not that I can't  keep them long term. That was never the plan...but I don't think I can even get away with holding them until our next trip to Alabama. It's so frustrating to have spent that money, time and effort in raising the drakes only to find out that all the work was for nothing.

Last night I confined them to the isolation house. It helped keep them calmer. But, they can't live in there for 7 weeks. That's just not fair to them. I'm going to try to let them back into the bachelor pad tonight after 9 or 10 pm when fewer people will be out and about to hear their racket. But, if they can't calm down and quit the screeching I won't be able to leave them there.

So for now at least it looks like project populate the lake is a complete failure. I'm sure it won't be my  last, and I will be revisiting this issue again once we can move either up to the property (10 or so) or we are able to sell our current house and can get somewhere that the neighborhood wouldn't fine me $100 a day for having them. What really sucks is that I thought I was being realistic in planning on keeping only 1 hen. HA! I'm thinking that maybe I need a reality check.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Duck tails

I am hoping to chronologically picture all of the drakes progress soon, but right now I had to share the newest thing. The oldest drake (13 weeks) sprouted his 'drake feather' last week. It's so stinking cute. He actually has two and they are on opposite sides of his butt. So, it looks more like horns than anything. He has also stopped trying to quack. (Oh, thank goodness) and sounds raspy like a normal drake should.


The funny thing is that even though the ducks are easily twice the size of my two little hens, the hens really rule the roost around here. 

The ducks even let the hens have first go at their treats. Once the girls get their noses wet a time or two they quickly lose interest in the ducks seeds I give them.

Here he celebrates the small victory.
 Actually managed to lift himself up a good inch or two as well. Silly bird. 

While I've enjoyed having them here and watching them grow I simply can not wait to bring them to their new home. Having this many ducks in such a small area is difficult to keep clean. They are dirty birds. After I finally gave up leaving them free access to the little tot pool here and realized they only need the bucket of water to rinse their nares? So much easier. I dump the pool every 2-3 days now because they are only swimming in it for about 2 hours a night. It also keeps the area they stay in drier over all. That makes it easier to clean.  

They say that ducks poop more than any other fowl - but I'm wondering if that is not the case in particular but more of the fact that they do not scratch and thereby eliminate the evidence of their poop. I'm going to get help with that little problem as well. The drake that will be staying with us will have to be housed in the hen pen in the future. This weekend will be the first I will be trying out the drakes in there. I fell a little bad putting them in with the bullies (hens) but it is necessary. I'm bringing home the babies tonight and I need the 'nursery' space the drakes have been using for them. They will all forage in the yard together in the evenings to make the transition for the ducklings into the flock easier.

That's it for now. If all goes well I'll be back soon with pics of my new babies. Exciting, and daunting at the same time. I really can't keep them all here much longer.

Be back soon!

Barbie~

Monday, June 30, 2014

Well now.

That's interesting. Turns out the duck that was starting to quack? Is still quacking... but it is most definitely a boy.  It's head is now starting to turn green as well. None of the others quack or anything close to quack. He's an oddball in more than one way.
Well, the green shows up well on my phone. Guess I'll have to try to get a different picture of my fine fellow this week to show you better. He is well into his adult molt now and in about 2 weeks will not be recognizable
from this bird. His chest is a deep dark burgundy already, and there are a few of the darker colored feathers coming in on his back as well. It's odd that his first set of feathers was so light and now his adult feathers are filling in so dark. Then again this one has been nothing but odd.

 I've truly enjoyed watching them mature and now that I know they are all drakes I have begun the elimination process as to which birds are in the running to stay, and which three will be making a long trip to Alabama. The drake pictured, while beautiful - is a trip maker. The lightly marked juvenile feathers are an issue for me. (See the other in the background, much darker)

It's remarkable how alike they are and yet how different. I can tell them apart by their feathering to some extent, and the sounds they make are truly different as well. Unique and the alike at the same time...well except the one who thinks it's a girl.
 While I'd like to breed to the standard of perfection, that standard doesn't specify the darkness of the bird. I prefer the darkest coloration available to help them hide and blend in to their surroundings. They will be on a large pond and the darker they are the fewer predators will take notice. (See the one with almost no brown in the middle? His lighter coloration makes him stand out.)

OK, yes I chopped the ducks head off - metaphorically, but better this way, than physically - no? ;-)
I just love the patterning on these guys. Look at that purple/blue wing speculum.  Beautiful.

I'm excited to be adding to the flock next weekend and I can't wait to show you pictures of the new little ones. But meanwhile the drakes are starting to change so rapidly I'm afraid I won't be able to pick out the one I've decided to keep for breeding when I introduce more into the flock. 
SO. As a solution I've decided to mark the one that I feel will suit my needs best. Of course once they have completed their adult feathering this could change, but as long as there is nothing glaringly wrong with him as far as breeding standard and coloration goes I am going to be keeping the one that tries to rasp or honk, but can't seem to make a sound. He's by far the best bet for a pet in my neighborhood. Nearly silent and non-flying are great attributes to have around here!

Once I started looking around at ways to mark my birds I realized that there were not a lot of easy and painless options out there. So, I found these...
They are almost like keyrings in that they are looped over themselves, but they are fairly flexible plastic and should be easy to get on or off the bird(s). I want to mark the one that I am keeping now, but when I release them on the pond in Alabama I don't want it mistaken that they are just some random birds. So the ones we take up there will be marked before they are let out of their enclosure. By marking their legs any person (poacher, trespasser) will know that the birds are not wild game. Not that it would stop everyone but the area we are in up there? It's got a pretty good honor system going. If a neighbor was to see someone with my duck it would be questioned and reported. Livestock is super important to life up there and the vast majority  of people farm for their way of living/feeding their families. I realize that if the birds do manage to settle into a nice lifestyle and keep away form the predators that they might some day have ducklings and I would have no way to mark them and that's OK. I figure that if they are able to produce a new flock then that's awesome and more than I ever expected. I'm just hoping that they  live the first year or two out without any major incidence. It's be so nice to see the family group all together up there when we go fishing and such. <3

Off to fill up the waterers...again.

See you soon!


Barbie~


Monday, June 23, 2014

Harvest Monday 6/23/14

Welcome back to Harvest Monday!

I am unfortunately still dealing with thievery and nastiness in my garden. I am ready to turn it all under and wait until fall to start again. That is a sad day, indeed. All of my harvests this week were wild ones...


Blackberry season is upon us. The blackberries at home? GONE. The berries are all gone and one of the plants was chewed through. I'm not happy with that, but I was thrilled to gather a few handfuls like this for desserts. No cooking or prep needed, just pop 'em and go!

This harvest however, well it needed quite a bit of prep work. My son is learning how to filet and how to prep pan fish. This guy was too large for a pan fry, and needed to be filleted. But he was part of a stringer that ended up being a wonderful dinner for 5. :-)


Ah, yes this also took a lot of prep work. all the meat on the right was from a regular rack of ribs, the meat on the left is all wild pig. YUM... this was all smoked on Saturday and what you see here is after 9 of us were finished. My fridge is full of leftovers now and that makes for easy meal prep this week. :-)

Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to go by Daphne's Dandelions. She's got the scoop on what's happening in gardens around the globe.

See you soon!

Barbie~