Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The duck days of August

I finally managed to set up my pool today. Sadly, the Unfarm is not blessed with the in-ground infinity pool my mom and I have been drooling over, and as I would rather have a colonoscopy than wear a swimsuit in front of even one person at the public pools I must content myself with cooling off in our small inflatable pool. Swimming is pretty much out of the question for me. It is another story when it comes to the ducks. The pool that barely fits an adult fully stretched out is an aquatic wonderland for the ducks, and they are well aware of the potential of this giant oasis of wet. When fully filled, it is too high and there is no way for the ducks to get into the pool. Before that, however, for a good hour or so while the pool is filling up with water it is vulnerable to invasion by ducks and they know it. This then necessitates me to stand guard poolside during this time period. And even then, if I am not careful, the ducks will hop in at any opportunity. Despite the fact that the ducks have two year round pools of their own, they know a good deal when they see one.

Maggie peeks over the edge of the pool, checking to see if I'm looking.

"How long is Mom going to sit there?"

Maggie sits on the edge of the pool. This allows him to stay near the pool without actually breaking any rules, and thus avoiding a spray from the hose. Not that getting wet is that serious a punishment for a duck.

Maggie is pushing the limit a bit here, but still not technically in the pool. Ducks have a very good grasp of the rules.

I turned my back for a second and Maggie took advantage of the opportunity. He was in the pool before I could even turn around. Ducks: 1, Mom: 0.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Updated weather report

I am relieved (to say the least) that the weather seems to have taken a turn and sunnier skies appear to be in our future. The grouch storm is dissipating and the glasses are starting to look like they might be half full again. Hallelujah!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's not all sunshine and roses

Life on the Unfarm lately is not all sunshine and roses, despite the fact that the sun is actually shining and the roses are actually blooming. No, the dark cloud over the Unfarm is coming from inside the house. Dad has been cranky of late. Cranky with a capital C. And R. And A, N, K, and... Y. This then makes life somewhat miserable for the rest of us. Any bit of happiness or enthusiasm on any subject is met with a gruff, if not downright surly, response on why we can't be enthusiastic, happy, optimistic, excited, etc about such and such or thus and such. It's not realistic; it will cost too much; I don't approve; no; I won't allow it; not gonna happen; because I said so and I am the king of everything; etc, etc. Nope, on the Unfarm the glasses are all half empty and there are no silver linings and nothing we can do will have any impact on the situation. Believe me, we've tried. All we can do now is try our best to weather this grouch storm and hope it somehow passes. Soon. Very soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Chocolate chip zucchini bread

It is summer and time for fresh vegetables, which means that we have an abundance of zucchini and we need to find something to do with it all. My mom likes to roast it and eat it seasoned with other vegetables but that doesn't work for me as I do not actually like zucchini unless I can't taste it. Enter zucchini bread. But even that is too healthy for me so I added chocolate chips to the recipe and it turned out pretty good - edible, even. In case you are also suffering from a glut of zucchini here is the recipe to try out.

2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups of peeled, shredded zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla together until well blended. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder and mix well. Slowly beat the dry mixture into the wet mixture until the dry mixture is well incorporated. Stir in the zucchini and the chocolate chips. Grease two 8x4 inch loaf pans and split the batter between the two loaf pans, filling them approximately half way. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean. Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes and then turn the loaves out onto racks to cool completely. If you want to bake mini loaves, try cutting the baking time down to about half an hour.

This produces a loaf in which you can't really taste the zucchini and you get little bits of sweetness from the chocolate chips throughout the loaf. Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Projects on the Unfarm (an illustrated account)

In an effort to make this a productive summer, I have been working on knocking out a few of our bigger projects that have been sitting around on the to-do list for longer than I care to mention. With that goal in mind I tackled a patio and a barbeque restoration a few weeks ago. I didn't think to take a "before" picture of the area where I installed the patio but let me assure you that it was your standard weed-choked patch of dirt strewn with bits of old fencing from a defunct vegetable garden that never quite got enough sun to thrive. After several days of weeding, tilling, raking, smoothing, and hauling large loads of sand, cement, and bricks in very hot weather I managed to produce a fairly decent patio.

A view of the patio from above. It ended up being somewhat avocado shaped, which I didn't realize until it was finished.
The patio from ground level.
I should mention that my preferred method of patio building is rather informal: I level out an area, set out path liner to create the desired shape, put in sand as the base and smooth it out, then place bricks inside the border. After that I pour dry cement on top of the bricks and use a broom to sweep it into the cracks. Once the cement is in place I set the hose on mist or fine spray and wet the whole patio down until the water pools on top of the cement. Then wait for it to set and voila - (not so) instant patio. The amount of patience you have when it comes to doing the prep work (getting a perfectly level base) and how uniform in size your bricks are will determine how smooth your patio turns out. I am not generally blessed with an abundance of patience, but more than that I like to use recycled materials when possible so my patios tend to turn out less than perfectly smooth. (This is my third patio built in this style.) This doesn't bother me - they still function as intended and I like the rustic look and the fact that the bricks each have their story: some were extras from when the neighbors built their walkway; a few came from the construction of the new local library; and others are over a century old - rescued when a nearby cannery was closed down years ago.

Project number two: a barbeque restoration. This time I did get a "before" photo:

Our grill, before the restoration.

Our grill was in bad shape. We had gotten it years ago second hand from a garage sale. It was old at the time and it is even older now. And years of exposure to weather hadn't helped the situation. In truth, at this point the grill consisted more of rust and holes than it did of metal. This begs the obvious question: why bother? Why not just get a shiny new grill that has a functioning temperature gauge and doesn't have an ash tray so rusted out that an old license plate is the only thing keeping the deck from burning down? Why indeed.

The answer is simple: it is my mom's grill, and it is just like her father's grill, so it reminds her of him. He used to grill fish and corn on the cob out on the covered patio overlooking the lake in the summer at the Lakehouse. When all of us - our family, and my mom's sister and two brothers and their family and my grandparents - gathered at the Lakehouse we would sit down around the huge picnic table that grandpa had made and eat the dinner that grandpa had cooked. Grandpa is gone now and the family is fractured - fighting over money and control - I'm sure Grandpa approves. (That was sarcasm, by the way.) So that is why Mom loves the grill, and that is why the grill stays, no matter what the condition.

Thus began the monumental task of sanding and scrubbing and sanding again. For hours. And then taking apart as much of the grill as I could and finding new parts: screws, trays, planks, grill plates and thermometers. I bought special paint and repainted the grill, inside and out. I bought sheet metal and made a new ash tray, retiring the old license plate. The grill did not come out perfect - I was afraid that if I continued sanding until there was no more rust there would also be no more grill. So I did the best I could and had to settle for less than perfect - a difficult task in and of itself, to know that there was still rust under there and I could do nothing about it. At any rate, the finished product:

The "after" photo. It isn't perfect, but it's better than it was.