Monday, September 28, 2009

Daily art

Here's today's art: "I'll Fly Away." It's a cardinal, I guess, since I have very limited color choices until I can get to the art store.

And now, another exciting edition of The Unfarm Update: Tonight when I went to put the chickens away in the armored coop I noticed that Daisy was back up on the roost bar between Penny and Sakari. This is an improvement over last week in two ways: first, because for the past couple days Penny had decided that she was going to spend the night perched on the rim of the garbage can in the shed where we store the extra straw; and second, because all of last week Daisy refused to sleep on the roost bar, choosing instead to sleep under the nest boxes on the floor of the coop - very unusual for chickens, and probably a result of her being picked on by the other two.

Things continue as usual with the rabbits: Suki is steadfastly diplomatic, being civil to both TJ and Jojo, although she is not unbiased, giving preferential treatment to Jojo and refusing TJ's repeated requests for grooming; meanwhile Jojo and TJ remain sworn enemies.

Maggie's leg appears to be on the mend and her limp is much less noticeable now - she feels well enough to come thundering down the pathway after me, trying to grab grapes before I can take them inside. Ducks in the water are very graceful. A full grown Pekin chasing you around the garden: not so graceful. (But cute nonetheless.) Minna is taking full advantage of the fact that her quack is quite noisy and is using that to get her way whenever she feels like it: bring me water in the evening, bring me food in the afternoon, let me in early and then let me out again, etc, etc.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Art by request

The poem "The Bridge Builder" by Will Allen Dromgoole with an illustration - it was commissioned, kind of, for my grandpa, who loves this poem, so that he would have some art on his walls while he stays in a rehabilitation hospital as he recovers from his stroke.

Daily art note: I have decided to count this as today's daily art because I was so busy today. First we went out to Sauvie Island and biked around the main loop, stopping at a farm store to buy squash and apples. When we got home I had to peel and chop apples, mix in the sugar, make a double batch + a little extra of pie crust dough, and bake two regular and three mini pies, then take a pie and some rocky road over to some friends who had to put their dog to sleep today. (She has been battling bone cancer for a while and her quality of life has been going downhill for a little while.) So today was busy and by now I'm tired and I still have to clean up the bunny room - I have art stuff scattered all over the place and it's a mess.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Daily art: Campfire

Here's today's daily art: entitled "Campfire." Someone in the area has been burning something the past couple days so that delicious campground smell gets carried into our yard on the breeze. Of course, I think it smells great but I know that not everyone loves the smell - my sister washes her clothes as soon as we get home from camping to get the smell off whereas I wait as long as possible before putting my sweatshirts in the wash.

I was going to do today's art entirely with watercolor but it appears that I am sadly lacking in watercolor paint: no brown, white, pink, or grey, very little yellow and tons of sticky orange stuff. Of course, I could always make pink or grey if I had white, but I don't. And it does NOT pay to try saving money buy buying cheap paint: it's usually pretty poor quality and you'll end up throwing it out in the end and you'll still need to buy good paint. My lack of paint necessitated that I find some other medium to color the logs so I used a brown oil pastel, and with the texture of the paper it ended up looking a bit log-like so I guess it's not too terrible, but I think I'll be taking a trip to the art store tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daily art

Here's today's daily art. Three days in a row now: not too bad. Even though I'm not totally pleased with this picture I decided to be good and upload it anyway. It's called "Baby Maggie" and it's not so much that I think it's a bad picture, but more that it isn't in the same style as the first two and I like it when things match up, are consistent.

This picture, by the way, is how the ducks looked when they slept as babies. They would have put their beak under their wing but their wings were too little.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Daily art

I first heard of the concept of daily art from Creative Thursday - She's a super creative lady and her art is so cute. So I'm going to try to follow her lead and try to do art every day... and here's today's art, entitled: Ewe so lovely.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

There's a bird on my head

Today's art: entitled "There's a bird on my head"

A thought on art....

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
- Scott Adams

Yesterday, my brother and I took the day off and went to the fair. I went with my sister last year but she wasn't able to make it this year, thus necessitating I convince my brother to go with me. If we'd had the time I'm sure he would have insisted that we bike there as he is generally pretty opposed to using cars to get places. But the trip is about 200 miles and three hours by car and not exactly feasible to make it up and back in one day on bike. But to give him credit, my brother agreed and we had a pretty good time, even though he wouldn't let me get an elephant ear (my splurge treat) of my own and made me share one with him. (My sister has a different approach to fair food: as soon as we got to the fair last year she said, "Ok, we need to get elephant ears, caramel apples, and cotton candy.")

Most people tend to go to the fair to ride the rides and spend hundreds of dollars to win stuffed animals that just got unloaded off the ship from China that morning and probably cost about 50 cents to make. Our family, on the other hand, spends most of our time looking at the animals and the various 4-H and art exhibits. And it was the art exhibits, both professional and high school (some of the high school art was good), that have sparked my guilt. These kids are at least ten years younger than me and they're doing some really nice work. I really need to spend more time working on art. I usually just draw or work with acrylic paint but I also want to work on watercolor, lithograph, block printing and collography (just as soon as I figure out what exactly collography is.)

So, a mid September resolution of sorts: to work on practicing art more often. The two things that usually stop me are laziness and fear of the result not being as good as I had pictured it in my head. But maybe this time it'll be different and I'll actually follow through with this resolution. Hey, just last week I finished the quilt that I'd been working on for several years and had resolved to finish this year, so there's always a chance.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mystery on the Unfarm

Mystery on the Unfarm - it sounds like it could be the title for a Nancy Drew novel but it's just the latest thing going on here on the Unfarm. Yesterday I went out back and found Maggie quacking away and looking a bit lost with Minna nowhere in sight. This is unusual as Minna and Maggie are rarely more than five feet away from each other at any given moment. Minna, however, is not a quiet duck by any stretch of the imagination and following her quacks I was quickly able to find her in the dog run. How she got in there I don't know. Enter the mystery.

The backyard, I should explain, is a series of fences and runs: a chicken coop sits in the back corner surrounded by a six foot (supposedly too tall for a chicken to fly over - not true, by the way) fence that makes up their run. This is not so much to keep the chickens in as to keep strange dogs that might be visiting, out. The chicken run sits inside the dog run, which is a four foot fence that fences off the back quarter of the yard, with a "chute" that runs down the middle of the yard up onto the deck. To get from one side of the yard to the other you can either go through the gates in the dog run chute or walk under the deck, which is about seven feet off the ground. The back yard itself is entirely fenced to keep all the various animals from running off or from being bothered by passing dogs or roaming coyotes.

So the only way Minna could have gotten into the dog run, with the gates shut, is to have flown over the top or to have crawled under the dog run fence beneath the squirrel feeder, where the chickens have made large holes as a result of their dust bathing. Initially, my thinking was that Minna had simply wandered under the fence by accident - half the time the ducks wander around the yard nose first following bugs, their eyes on the dirt. Walking under a fence while not paying attention would not be unheard of.

Today, however, I arrived home to find Minna on the back deck. So did she walk under the fence again or is she stretching her wings and flying over the fence? I am starting to get a bit worried that she's flying. My previous duck could fly and she once flew over the backyard fence and hit a powerline. She also later flew away for good after my dad threw out her nest of eggs even after I had expressly told him not to touch them. (But that is a WHOLE other story.) Maggie, being almost twice as large as Minna, can neither crawl under or fly over anything and so while Minna goes exploring so she stands out in the yard quacking (somewhat forlornly) and waits for me to come out and open the gate for her.

Because I am unable to ask Minna how she keeps getting into the run, it seems that for now the mystery will continue. But we're bound to catch her at it one of these days and the Mystery on the Unfarm will be solved. Until the next one appears. And there likely will be a next one. It once took us a week to solve the Mystery of the Disappearing Chicken, but we did manage to solve it (she was flying up into a large fir tree at night and spending the whole night perched in the branches) and things returned to normal. Well, normal for the unfarm.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thoughts on autumn

It is autumn now. It's only September 16, but the rain has started and, though there might be a few more sunny and/or warm days around the corner, the summer is - for the most part, anyway - over.

What will I miss most? Keeping my window open all the time, for one thing. I like to hear the quiet noises from the garden: the birds chirping, the hummingbird flying past the house, the ducks talking to each other, a breeze in the Japanese maple outside my room. I had to close my window yesterday morning as the "quiet garden noises" coming in - while I was trying to sleep - were the neighbor's twin boys yelling about getting ready for school and remembering their lunches. Not exactly peaceful.

I'll also miss my plants. Over half of them go underground for the winter - not that you can blame them with all the rain and cold we get during the nine month rainy season here in the Pacific Northwest. I talk to them when they first come up in the spring, and then all summer long so I miss each one of them when they're hibernating. (And, out of all of the gardens on our unfarm, mine is always the most lush and beautiful. Coincidence? I think not. Talking to plants - in an encouraging way - helps.) Along with my plants, I'll miss sitting in my garden, smelling the honeysuckle and watching the bees.

And the third thing I'll miss? The bats. I love watching the bats flying over the field at dusk. We don't have a lot of bats here, but the few we do have are definitely worth watching. We have a bat house up in one of our trees - it's been there several years but we have yet to have a bat move in. Bats, it seems, don't work through a realtor. Although, a couple summers ago, we did have a nuthatch work laboriously all summer to chip a hole in the front of the bat house, only to discover - once the hole was big enough - that the bottom of the house was not solid. He looked so disappointed when he had to abandon his home after all his hard work.

The rain today was a mixed bag, as far as the animals were concerned. The chickens dislike the rain. They'll tolerate light rain but get positively disheartened when it really pours. They stand under the eaves of the house, with their feathers all fluff up, staring out at the rain with miserable expressions on their faces. The ducks, on the other hand, love the rain. They love playing in it, swimming in it, and searching out new mud puddles created by it.

Updates from the unfarm: the grapes are finally ready, and well worth the wait. Harvesting them was a bit of a challenge, though, trying to keep them away from both the rabbits and the ducks - both of whom were determined to eat as many as possible. Minna laid an egg this morning, but didn't quite know what to do with it so as soon as breakfast was ready she left it behind without so much as a backward glance. Mynxy cat has taken to licking my toothbrush. She is a very strange little thing sometimes. TJ has thrown his litter box into the middle of his cage and is moping (it appears) in the corner. Kita is feeling much more frisky after getting his hair cut again, and Buddy has been on somewhat better behaviour lately during our walks. But he is sure to be unhappy today as he HATES walking in the rain. He actually thinks that once it starts raining, going outside for anything (even to go to the bathroom) is optional. We continue to insist that it is NOT optional, and that he will not get a treat for running outside and simply pretending to go to the bathroom - a trick he constantly tries to pull every rainy season.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Open-face Caprese Sandwiches, special notes

Hey all -
Check out the new note I've added at the end of the original open-face caprese sandwich recipe - I did the recipe a second time in just the oven (instead of the grill) and it turns out just as awesome. This is a really good, simple recipe that I highly recommend if you like basil, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, or any combination of the three. It would probably also be a good thing to serve if you were having a get together with friends, as it's simple and makes a good snack sized thing that looks like you've put more work into it than you actually have to. If you do get togethers. I don't, as I don't even know enough people to fill up a broom closet, but maybe you know more people than I do...


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lemon Pudding Cake

The batter separates into a sponge cake layer atop a pudding bottom.

2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350. Set 6 ramekins (6 oz each) in a 9x13 baking pan, and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Stir in flour, milk, butter, lemon juice and lemon zest. In a large, clean bowl, whip egg whites and salt until firm (but not dry) peaks form. Stir one quarter of the egg whites into the yolk mixture until blended, then gently fold in remaining whites. Pour the batter into the ramekins. Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come one inch up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until cake layers are set and tops are lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Remove ramekins from water bath and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Notes: This is another recipe from my favorite-est magazine in the world, Sunset. I highly recommend getting a subscription to it, especially if you live in the west as it is the magazine of western living.

I pretty much followed the directions on this one - I think in baking there's a little less wiggle room than there is in cooking. I've seen several recipes for ramekins and I've always wanted some so I broke down and bought some for this recipe - if you like baking a lot I think ramekins are a fun investment. And if you buy them at Cost Plus World Market, they're practically free - $2.99 for 4!

The recipe turned out pretty well, I think. Especially if you like lemon. I would probably like this better if it was done with chocolate instead so I might try to find a way to alter it or something... It's also a little bit more technical (is that the right word?) than I typically like but it's a good summer dessert - sort of light and airy and fresh.

Monday, September 7, 2009


"When ideas come, I write them down; when they don't come, I don't."
- William Faulkner

And unfortunately, none have come lately. No good ones, anyway. I would call it writers block but I don't know as though I actually qualify as a writer. Question: how do you know you have writers block? Answer: when the only thing you can think of to write about is writers block.

In an effort to work through my massive pile of recipes I've saved over the years I made a new dessert tonight. A "rustic" pear tart. It turned out decent enough although it could have been much better and I'll probably try it again when I have the correct type of pears - the ones I used were 1) not the right variety, and 2) much too ripe, resulting in a much soupier tart than I would have liked. So the final verdict: probably a keep recipe, but further testing is required before I can be 100% sure.

And what is new around here with the animals? Not a whole lot.

The chickens - well, Penny and Daisy, anyway - are molting and so are not laying any eggs for the time being... Sakari is not molting but she's not laying because she's on strike. Our chickens, it would seem, have unionized. But as they are valued for themselves and not simply for being egg dispensing machines they will continue to live with us as possibly the most spoiled chickens in the whole of the western hemisphere. Their current diet: corn, watermelon and - lately - grapes that they poach from the vines in my garden.

Rabbits: a bit annoyed at the lack of time out of their cages - I haven't had the heart to kick Kita out of the room the last couple days - but quite pleased with the 1.5 pounds of basil and bag full of carrot tops that we brought home from the farmers market on saturday.

As for the cats, Mynx has been spending time in Mom's room in the evening - very strange behavior for her - and Aspen has been refusing to come inside in the evenings until I bring out the tuna. Ornery cat.

The ducks are still demanding water every night at midnight and continue to enjoy their days outside - they are the only animals that are not upset by the rain, as they love water and don't seem to care in the least whether it's in their pools, comes from the sprinklers, or falls from the sky. Mud puddles are an endless source of amusement for them, although at times they look as though they've just come from a mud bath at the spa...

The dogs continue on much the same as always. Buddy gets up on the counter any chance he gets and balks at going out in the rain - as if we actually expect him to go to the bathroom outside even when it's wet: what kind of monsters are we?? Kita is looking a bit disheveled lately - trimming him takes longer than he has patience for so I have to do it in stages, with the result being that he looks somewhat patchy until I finish it completely. Maia sleeps with me in the evening, and in Mom's room during the day. I think she must log only about 45 minutes of time spent awake per day. Today Buddy was thrilled to discover that we were cutting up bell peppers - they are one of his favorite treats. That, along with broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, etc - how he came to love vegetables so much is beyond me. I'm a vegetarian and I don't even like most veggies. Maia continues to maintain her stance that Buddy and Kita are insane to eat anything that doesn't start with an "m" and end with "eat." Speaking of meat, while defrosting the freezer yesterday we came across a package of deer meat that was given to us by a "friend." As no one wanted to eat I decided to grill it up for the dogs. The most disgusting thing I've seen/smelled in a long time. Truly nauseating. Didn't seem to bother the dogs, though, as they managed to eat everything I gave them.