Well, it is August and this summer is rolling towards its end. I can’t say that I’m sorry: 2020 is no one’s favorite, it’s been way too hot, and the garden has been challenging. BUT, the chickens are a riot and laying now, so I am seeing my glass as half full.
Keeping busy with chicken cabbage “tether ball” games.
Note, we hung up the head of cabbage in the chicken run and then I had to go out. I came back and could not believe how much cabbage they had pecked away and presumably ate. I said to Mr. Gordon: Er, that’s a lot of cabbage to eat… I know how I get after eating a lot of cabbage. (Pointed look.) We looked at each other and I removed the rest of the hanging head. (Chickens were fine.)
I actually have so much I want to write about. So much on my mind! I have been kicking blog post topics back and forth in my head. Now, if I was paid to write and blog here at GCER, you’d get everything. 🙂 But, that’s not the way it is right now. I hope someday I can develop a way to generate a pleasing income as a part of GCER. In the meantime, you just get me, showing up and writing. Hopefully entertaining, inspiring, and maybe you will learn something from my posts or even from one of my awesome commenters.
What has been happening? Well, here’s a recap – with a lot of (sometimes random) photos:
Prosecco to celebrate.
My promotion finally came through. (Is it a new role, or “just” a title change? Hmm.) Well, I did get a raise to match – ironically just before Covid-19 blew up. The title, apparently, needed a long approval process. Anyhow, I am pleased. So… having nothing to do with gardening, cooking, working towards a (sorta) homestead, or raising chickens, I am now the Senior Application Support Manager for my department. 😉 Ah, the fame and glory. But in all seriousness, I have been working in a challenging environment for over the past year following the surprise departure of a VP and SVP. It’s a long story, and not one to spend time on, but there are still a lot of “challenges” to work through. The change in title is recognition for having stepped up to the plate. I earned it.
Stocking up and preparing for fall and winter. While we are predicting a smaller garden yield this year, we have plans to purchase bushels of whatever we would like to store or process for over-winter. We already planned on buying bushels of apples (NY State grows GREAT apples), but we might do the same with tomatoes and peppers. Already we’re putting up (freezing) zucchini, beets, and yellow wax beans. We are seeing a lot of green tomatoes on the vine. Hopefully the yield will be good enough for our needs, but we had hoped to surpass last year’s crop. I’m afraid we’re not going to. I’m not ready to pick up large amounts of produce to process right now, but it’s on my radar.
Speaking of food, we purchased the beef and pork “bundles” we needed to pick up. It’s totally worth it. We ended up with about 67.5 pounds of beef (mostly), pork (some), and chicken (a bit). The total cost was $354.00. That’s $5.24 per pound. An organic pound of ground beef (hamburger) from the grocery store is $5.99 per pound, so at the end of the day, it is a better deal. Plus, we get all kinds of cuts – some that if you bought only by the pack / piece, are much more than $5.24 per pound, like the “better” cuts of beef and pork.
We love Indian food (this is a good recipe to use as a start)
and beef stew cubes become so tender in the Insta-pot.
Plus, we get a lot of leftovers from one dinner.
Our kitchen refrigerator freezer is full, so is our small basement freezer. We bought another bigger chest freezer in July. Believe it or not, it won’t be available for pick-up at Lowe’s until most likely OCTOBER. Apparently there was a run on freezers this year.
Anyhow, we have always “stocked up and filled our larder” as able. Living in the Northeast, you keep an eye to the sky and know it’s possible to get snowed in during winter. Even if you are NOT literally snowed in, the roads can be treacherous and it’s nice if you don’t have to run out to the store. Building up the “winter larder” is a comfort task. I know many of you feel the same way.
The chickens are laying! Well, as of right now, about four of the eight are laying. We expected all four Plymouth Barred Rocks to lay before the four Australorps – in fact, we didn’t expect the Australorps to start until late September at the earliest – but it appears we have at least two Australorps laying as well.
Mimi, our smallest chicken, is a sweetie. She laid the first egg, and the second… and the third. 🙂 Mimi is an overachiever. You go, Meems! (Yes, I have started calling her Meems. She likes it. I just know it.)
I love this photo. Doesn’t it look like Mimi is smiling?
This is right after the very first egg.
So we are getting three to four eggs a day now. They are small, but it’s wonderful and we love the dark yolks! Nothing like fresh eggs, right? 😀
Baskets and a “smokin’ deal.” You know how I love snagging a smokin’ deal… 😉
Since March, we’ve pretty much parked our behinds at home. We didn’t go for groceries for months, but for the past few, we have been masking up and making targeted trips for groceries and Tractor Supply. If we’re going into a store, there is a list and a purpose. Wegmans, that super awesome grocery store, has an app that allows you to scan your groceries and bag them in your cart as you shop. When you are ready to check out, you simply roll up to the self-checkout and scan the screen. Then you pay. Then you go. Little interaction with store staff required. Since Covid-19, this is my preferred method of grocery store shopping.
Anyhow, back to the smokin’ deal. Because our shopping is targeted, we’re not hitting up some of our favorite haunts and browsing. However, last weekend, while making our strategic shopping strike, I said to Mr. Gordon: Go to the ReStore Store. (That’s our Habitat for Humanity store.) I want to run in quickly and see if there are any baskets.
We’ve needed some extra baskets for the garden and produce storage in the kitchen. So we stopped, I masked up, and ran in. I picked up two big wicker baskets, a smallish wire basket, and a fancy-dancy “wine” picnic basket in like new condition with cloth napkins and two GLASS wine glasses, not plastic. (Mr. Gordon added the bottle opener.) Total cost for all four baskets with tax? Less than $13.00.
The wine picnic basket was the most expensive item at $5.00. 😎 Smokin’. Deal.
This is Peaches. We think Peaches is Betty the Biter. She’s now Peaches because her face coloring has remained fairly peachy in color – especially when compared to the rest. She’s a bit of a spaz, actually. She is kind of, well, awkward. It was so hard to get her to be still for a photo. I had to take this one through the fencing.
You get back in there, Peaches!
(We like to encourage her when she’s bossed around by the other chickens.)
Peaches might be the lowest chicken on the pole. She gets chased away from the treats sometimes, but always gets right back in there. (The Australorps really hog the treats.) She doesn’t like to be touched by us so much and will scoot away. Every now and then, she’ll bite. Like I said, we think this is the same chicken we called Betty the Biter.
Whenever we take in “apples on a stick” as a treat, Peaches always goes for the loose bit on the top where the pole comes through. Interesting how their personalities and habits develop, yes?
Calm and quiet: Alice.
Alice might be towards the bottom of the pole as well. She stays out of the way for the most part. She does not get caught up in chicken drama. 😉
We also call Alice and Peaches “the twins” because they tend to sit next to one another. I’m not saying that they necessarily are friends, but I think they feel safer together. In the picture above, Alice is snuggled up against Peaches on the run’s roost. She’s only a tad bigger than Mimi.
And then there was… Garlic!
Below are the garlic “braids” I made after the garlic had dried. We harvested the bulbs in July. I kind of like this look. Decorative food storage. 🙂
You can read about our fall 2019 garlic planting here. The July harvest included:
- Chesnok Red: about 20 bulbs
- German Extra Hardy: about 24 small bulbs
- Music: 17 bulbs
So, not the most I would have hoped for, but not bad for our first real “serious” planting. Looking back at my calculations from the original garlic post, the bulbs harvested this summer “cost” about $0.82 each (versus $1.33 each we would pay for an organic bulb at the grocery store). Again, I had hoped to harvest more AND I wish the German Extra Hardy would have been bigger, but we still came in under the cost of buying out-of-state garlic from the grocery store.
Black Beauty Zucchini – how I missed you!
Guess what? We did NOT have the problem we had last year with squash bugs. Thank goodness! We have enjoyed quite a bit of zucchini: sauteed, dipped and fried, and I’ve even shared with the chickens. Everyone loves Black Beauty Zucchini! A few of the squashes have grown to monstrous sizes! These are good for shredding and freezing.
This year we also grew Gold Rush Yellow Wax Beans.
If you are looking for a variety to grow, these are really good!
We haven’t necessarily done right by our pepper plants. It’s a long story and it involves the decision to discontinue the Upper Garden – I will share more in another blog post. Anyhow, Mr. Gordon picked some of the peppers (darker green are the Bridge to Paris peppers – which should be red, and the Hungarian Boldog Paprika Peppers…. the light green ones… which were also picked early). His reason was that they were touching the ground and they’d rot. He’s right. That’s exactly what would have happened. But they don’t ripen so well off the plant. Like I said: we need to be better with the peppers.
Frankly, I am just too tired this year. (Not complaining, just stating a fact.)
For example, we got NAILED with another horrible thunder and lightening storm – and a flash downpour. (They have been the norm this year as discussed in this “happy ending (we think)” post.)
A couple of days ago I was on the phone with my boss, so I couldn’t stop what I was doing – not that it would have made a huge difference. Anyhow, it rained sideways from all directions. The chickens, bless ’em, didn’t go into the coop, but went UNDER the coop and of course, got wet. And, because it was raining sideways (also causing flash floods), and because the largest window on the coop was open, a lot of rain blew inside the coop. Mr. Gordon (also working) did manage to get outside during the downpour and closed the windows. But it was too late. I finished up work at 6pm and checked on everything. Over half of the pine shavings on the floor of the coop were soaked.
So, evening plans abandoned. I got dinner into the oven (salmon), made the rice, and headed outside for a full coop cleaning out of all the shavings and straw. Rake, scoop, and sweep soggy shavings out, then in with the new. Shovel the mess from the wheel barrel into the compost pile. Make sure everything is set for the girls, then back into the house to shower.
So yeah, some days I’m just tired. 🙂 If the peppers are not at their best because of me, I’ll live with it. Moving on.
Once per summer, I get a vanilla frozen custard in a waffle cone.
It is awesome.
My sister-in-law Conni is the baker in the family! She also decorated these super-cute peanut butter cookies.
(And made GORGEOUS, oh-so-delicious cupcakes with frosting lightly flavored with lavender. Amazing!)
I did go to one socially-distanced, outdoor, by-the-windy-lakeside baby shower for Abbey, a lovely niece on Mr. Gordon’s side. It was so nice to see everyone. It was a small gathering of immediate family members. Kelly, my other sister-in-law (and the grandma-to-be), served up this adorable fruit dish.
Now how cute is that?
Kelly and Conni are both really creative and thoughtful people. Kelly has an Etsy shop for her jewelry here. Anyhow, that was my “big, social outing” for the summer! Oh, Covid, it’s past time for you to go.
My contribution to the shower’s finger foods: Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Mini Peppers.
Recipe here at listotic.
Country road, take me home.
Walking with Mr. Gordon after work… the view on the return trip home.
We just got our flu shots. Wegmans makes it so easy. Just go into the pharmacy, provide your insurance card (even without insurance it’s relatively inexpensive), and the pharmacist will take you behind a private curtain for the shot. Done and done.
I’ve decided I want to revamp my budget again. Did I ever mention that I have Excel spreadsheets containing budgets back to the early 2000s? Yup. It’s a compulsion. But you should just see my spreadsheets… things of beauty. Ha! But in all seriousness, I am a natural budgeter. I learned from my mother how to squeeze a nickel from a penny. However, I was NOT born a natural saver and had to learn how as an adult who dealt with her share of poor times. The budgeting got me through those money-strapped days; the saving helps me to avoid them now.
Building in the cost of keeping chickens has been a challenge. Perhaps it’s because we are still in the start-up phase. Right now, even though they have begun to lay eggs, they are expensive “pets.” (Not really pets, but I don’t see them as “just chickens” we have for eggs, either.) So money is on my mind right now. Mr. Gordon and I committed to paying off our mortgage in 10 years from purchasing our home(stead). Plus, as fully working folks it’s better for us to take care of house projects now, versus having to scrape to get by as retirees who have to figure out how to pay for something that needs to be fixed or added because we put it off.
I went back to a meal planning process (monthly dinner planning) which I actually like doing. It’s just the two of us and we like leftovers. Often we’ll cook bigger dinners and freeze leftovers (like lasagna, beef burritos, or chili), or have them for lunch the next day. Since we both work from home, this certainly helps save money.
We are just now getting to a point where the grocery shopping bill can start to decline. That’s a good thing. I might do a separate post on meal planning mostly just to share our calendar and maybe give you some ideas of what to make. And, then you could share your ideas on meals you have in your rotation. Just a thought!
Between my crazy ideas and Mr. Gordon’s love of making things, we’re never bored.
Welcome to The Chickery. 😀
Oh! Coming up: a post on Mr. Gordon’s homemade sausage making with photos I took, plus soon we hope to share our cheese-making experience (yet to happen). Also, we are going to put in a 8.5′ L X 6.3′ W X 6.5′ H polycarbonate greenhouse on our back porch. We might also extend the Lower Garden (actually, double it) and scrap the Upper Garden. Stay tuned for those posts.
So, do you like a longer post with a BUNCH of photos and many topics, or 3 – 5 shorter posts all dropped at once like I did here? What seems better to you? Just curious, so let me know when you make your comment below!
Well, as the Saturday morning cartoons used to say… That’s all, folks! (Who else misses Saturday morning cartoons because they were only on… Saturday morning – and therefore IMHO more special?)
Time for me to head down to the Lower Garden to pick some more Gold Rush Yellow Wax beans for putting up! Yay for the weekend and beans!