Friday, February 28, 2014

Rainy Day Book: At Home, by Bill Bryson

After almost giving up this book during the first 50 pages, because the reading mainly consisted of wordy descriptions of the prehistoric dwellings of Skara Brae and the Crystal Palace of the 1800's, I persevered and am now really enjoying this chronicle of all things Home.

Basically, the book is a room-by-room history of how each room in our modern homes developed, along with lots of interesting factoids about life, diet and personal habits of people from the Middle Ages through the Industrial Revolution. 

I have learned that the word "cabinet" was originally a diminutive form of "cabin," as in "cabin-ette."  Once a piece of furniture to store valuables, it eventually referred to a place in larger houses and estates where the most private of private meetings were held. Eventually, the term actually began to refer to the people themselves in those meetings, which is why our high-ranking government members today are called the President's "cabinet."  

Here's another interesting fact:  In the Middle Ages, bread was primarily baked by professional bakers in villages, rather than in the home.  Around the 1500's, the bakers were accused of adding all sorts of ingredients to bread in order to stretch their genuine (and therefore more expensive) ingredients like flour.  The false ingredients were things like chalk powder, sawdust and bone-ashes.  Once this was reported and discovered, bread-making was more tightly regulated, with weights and ingredients being measured out carefully and records kept.  Since evaporation made loaves turn lighter, however, nervous bakers began adding an extra loaf to orders -- the "baker's dozen" -- so that if the loaves were light the extra one would make up for any loss and the regulators would suspect no attempt at foul play.

And one more:  The word "boudoir" literally means, "room for sulking."  So much for romantic intrigue.

Anyway, those are just two of the fascinating things I've learned from the book so far.  Since it's raining cats and dogs and the wind is howling right now, I am contenting myself with reading and making a winery friend's birthday cake for later today. So Bill Bryson, it's you and me home.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

A few more thoughts on sustainability and employment

So the very nice man who offered me the sustainability job I turned down has contacted me twice since then, sweetening the offer by almost doubling the salary, as well as slightly lessening the commute. He's committed to getting the program off the ground, and I admire his dedication.

I am still not taking the position, because as I said in a previous blog post, it's not personally sustainable for me.  But the whole thing has made me think about it from a bigger perspective as well.

I've been thinking about it in regards to how carbon footprints relate to sustainability.  Personally, I believe that the smaller your carbon footprint, the more you are contributing to a sustainable future.  Less dependence on fossil fuels is the key, whether it's using less gasoline to power your car or not adding to the amount of petroleum-based fertilizers put into the ground by buying less mass-produced food from the supermarket. 

So, with that in mind, the future of teaching and academia is clearly not in burning fossil fuels to commute, especially if you're going to be teaching about sustainability.

Traveling to a sustainability/homesteading class, no doubt.

Sustainability is (I believe) best served by utilizing today's modern technologies to disseminate the ideas and share knowledge about things.  In this case, the "things" I speak of are of some very back-to-basics ways of living, like growing food naturally and making much of what you'd otherwise be buying. Do those things alone and you've lessened the amount of pollutants going into the atmosphere by a significant amount.  We don't all need to live like we're completely Amish.  But adopting just a few "Amish" practices can make a huge difference in the carbon footprint of what is otherwise a very lovely and modern life.

In other words, we can still live in both centuries.  We can use 21st century technology to teach 19th century country skills, wherever possible, thereby melding the best of both those worlds into something workable and, yes, sustainable. 

So this means if you want to learn how to can foods, it's better to get on the internet and watch free instructional videos about canning than to drive 100 miles to attend a class.  If you know someone down the road who does it and is willing to show you, then you're luckier still.  But if not, there are plenty of plucky, self-sufficient types out there making very good YouTube videos on the topics you're interested in learning how to do.

One writer I know holds workshops on homesteading-type topics and brags about how how far some of her audience members come to take her workshops.  That's not anything to brag about, to me. Because I believe that...

1) Teaching about sustainability is something we should be passing on to whomever wants to learn, free of charge.  Intern on a sustainable farm, if you need truly intensive, hands-on knowledge, which can only be built over time.  But layman's knowledge about growing food and sustainability are not things you should have to pay someone to teach you.  They're skills you should have learned at your great-grandmother's knee, but didn't have the chance to. And like any basic skill they should be passed on, person to person, generation to generation, for no other reason than to make the future a better place.

2)  If you're teaching about sustainability yet you (or your students) are putting hundreds of pounds of carbon pollutants into the air by using a private car or airplane to get to the workshop venue, you're missing the whole point. Don't talk the talk, walk the walk. Lighten your load on the planet by teaching locally or sharing your skills via your blog, the internet, or writing a book about it.  The book can travel in a more eco-friendly fashion than you or your workshop attendees ever could.

Bottom line, you cannot untie the connection between sustainable and local.  They are the two concepts that, put together, can change the future of the planet.  But the minute it becomes a "for-pay" kind of knowledge, as soon as words like "net profit"  or "commute miles" come into the picture, I think we've  blown it.

Let's not blow it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Double Coverage

Nice view. Manly men doing manly things I don't care to do.

So Big Ag and Groceries were outside today, digging holes for the buckthorns we'll be putting in as a privacy hedge.  Neighbor comes out and asks what we are doing.....and I decide to go for it.  I explain that I like to do backyard astronomy and that his yard lights are killing our view of the Milky Way.  He says he'll work on remembering to turn them out more.

Pleasant conversation, no weirdness or resistance.  Will he remember to shut off his lights?  Not sure.  But I figure we have double coverage now.  He'll be our first hope, but if that fails, we have our buckthorn hedge as our back-up.

Double coverage to give us darkness at night.  Definitely something worth over-planning for.

Sustainability and employment

So a couple of weeks ago I saw a classified ad, looking for a person to run the local college's sustainability resource office.  The job description was a bit vague as the center just received a grant to get it started, but the job qualifications -- teaching experience, a passion about sustainability, sounded like me.

The best part is that it was only 10 hours a week, which would mean I would not have to stop working at the winery.

Sounds perfect right?  Well, cutting a long story into a short one in the spirit of word conservation, I got offered the job after interviewing for it on Tuesday and said I'd think on it.  But on Friday, I sent an email thanking them, but turning them down.

And why, you ask?  Because the sustainability job was simply not sustainable -- for me and my life, anyway.

My homesteading job offers pleasant co-workers

For me, this is progress, because when choosing not to take the job, I did something I never used to do when I was younger -- I looked down the road at the long-range scenario, fitting my life in with the job.  The job, done right, would expand, as more and more schools were served under the program.  Right now it might be 10 hours and less than a 100 miles of driving a week, but if I did my job well, within a year or two it would expand -- to 20 or 30 hours a week, and a lot more driving to various cities each week (most of which I would not be compensated for).

In other words, for me, my job would basically be this: to be successful enough that I could no longer work all the hours the job required, unless my ultimate goal was seeking regular, almost full-time employment.

An office with a view

In our family, Big Ag already has the Big Career/full-time job in the family.  His job provides our benefits, the truck he drives and the gas it takes to drive it.  He's well compensated.  And because of that, we are able to have me here, taking care of our own crops, our own livestock, and running things on the home front.  Remember, we homestead, which means I make a lot of what others buy in the supermarket like soap, laundry detergent, etc. It all takes time.

I was blessed to find my job at the winery, which has completely flexible hours, great pay (actually more than what the other job was offering) and is just a couple of miles down the road, meaning I spend almost nothing on gas. That, to me is sustainability. In my own life.

And a decent compensation package.

So while I was flattered to have been offered the job, for me it was a little like being proposed to by the wrong guy ... a man who will make someone a great husband, but not me.

I guess what it comes down to is whether I want to teach about sustainability, or live it myself.  Sometimes you have to choose.  

This is my choice.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Smile for the camera!

Went to a photo session for the winery's 2015 calendar...the staff is looking good!  (I am the blonde in the center, sitting on the floor of the back seat with glass of wine in hand). Not a great pic as it was taken from a cell phone, but the calendar pic, done by the pro photographer, will look much better.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Carrot Souffle


and after.

Given an awesome recipe by reader DFW, I dove right in and made this lovely carrot souffle tonight.  It just sounded too good to wait. Sweet but not too sweet, and filled with carrot-y goodness, this was an absolutely lovely dessert. Thank you DFW!  Great recipe!

(Those of you wanting to see it should check the comments section under my "Carrot Glut" post and try it for yourself.  It's light, fluffy and richly-flavored.  Healthy and decadent at the same time.  What could be better?)

Carrot Glut

So we are getting ready to harvest carrots and I only have one problem...I don't need any.  Because this winter has been so unseasonably warm, we didn't make our usual complement of stews, lasagnas and other hearty dishes.  We've been much more about salads than stews these last couple of months.  So the upshot is that I still have several pounds of Spring 2013 carrots left in the freezer.

So what to do with this year's crop ... 

Carrot cake? (Yum!)

Carrot wine? (Like we need more wine in the house at this point?)

Sauteed carrots (every night until July, at the earliest.)

Find unlocked employee car doors at the winery and slip bunches of carrots onto the passenger seats (I have actually done this with squash during summer.)

I don't know.  The other issue is that because it didn't get very cold, the carrots are not as sweet as they normally are.  Probably not noticeable to anyone but me, but I can tell.

Along with the years when something you really wanted to grow does not, there are the opposite years, when something grows so abundantly, or that your previous years' stores last long enough that it turns out you don't need it after all.  All part of the gamble I guess, when Mother Nature is your business partner.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hail the Mighty Buckthorn

I have posted in the past about our issues with light pollution, specifically from our neighbors' lights.  This weekend Big Ag and I were at the nursery, picking out some drought tolerant and freeze hardy plants to replace those we lost in the Big Freeze back in December when we stumbled upon some small versions of this attractive looking shrub/tree:

Meet the "John Edwards" Italian Buckthorn.  Drought and freeze hardy, loves well-drained soil with lots of calcium, and evergreen. Grows 2 - 3 feet per year, or more.

Meet the solution to our light issues.

We bought three of these to add to our backyard landscaping, and another four to plant along the south fence of our house, where our neighbors have six spotlights, which shine all night long.  We have a similar light-loving neighbor along the north side of our property, and will be planting a high hedge of 15 - 20 buckthorns there, to completely block the lights from that direction.  It will also give us a bit more privacy and block the unsightly view of his assorted cars and trailers.

We shopped a fence which would do the same thing, and the price came in at approximately $3500.  We're not willing to spend that much on something that will only decrease in beauty as it grows older. We can buy the Buckthorns and get them planted for about 10 percent the cost of the fence, and they will actually grow in beauty and majesty as they age. I love hedges, and finding a plant we can use for one that is also drought-tolerant is a boon for us.

I'm looking forward to a much greener view outside with these lovelies in view, and especially to a darker yard, which their thick foliage will help provide us.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

May your day be filled with bountiful love and goodness.


California bears the dubious distinction of being one of those states where water conservation is not so much an option as a lifestyle, due to the fickle nature of the Mediterranean climate we live in, coupled with the weather pattern shifts Climate Change is bringing to the western states (well, every place, really).  

Yet, with each new drought and subsequent request that people conserve more, the question is inevitably asked:  How much more can we do?

California endured nasty droughts since before there was even a place called California, and most people do the right thing and use water wisely.  They are now being asked to reduce an additional 20 percent of water usage, which can be difficult if you kept up with the conservation measures you started doing in the late 1980's, during the last great drought.

That's the position we are in here at the Hot Flash Homestead.  We don't always flush (TMI?), we rarely wash our cars, and we've taken out almost all of our lawn.  So the 20 percent has to come from somewhere, and we've decided it's going to be here:

Yes, I think there's still room to save water in the bath and shower.  Starting now, we will be recycling the bathtub water, using a siphon and tubing, out to what's left of our lawn.  This way we can drastically cut down on the water we're using to water.  Grey Water is safe to use on lawn, shrubs and trees -- just not on vegetables.  Even more so since I make all our soap from gentle, natural ingredients, easily biodegradable, without any harsh chemicals. 

We are also looking at water collection barrels, which would allow our roof's rain runoff to be stored for drier months.

I'm not sure if it will get us to a 20 percent reduction in use since we already conserve so much, but it will help.

Of course the biggest and best changes would come if everyone in the state removed most of their lawns, if golf courses shut down or changed over to AstroTurf, and if swimming pools, agricultural ponding basins or reservoirs were covered to prevent evaporation.  But at this point, I guess that's asking too much of people.  So for now, we all do a little, and hope it helps a lot.

But, I suppose every drop in the bucket helps. And so we adjust our usage downward ... one more time.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Big Ag and I decided to spend this weekend working on the property, weeding and removing some zombie butterfly bushes.  Why "zombie" you say?  Well, because they weren't quite alive, but also not completely dead.  

They were also huge.  Which meant we needed to use his Jeep and his winch to pull the plants out.  

This was a win/win, because Big Ag loves to play around in his Jeep, and I love the times when that useless, several-hundred-pounds-of-decaying-yellow-metal hulk can do something useful, other than adorn our driveway with its persistent oil leak and rusting parts. 

I am talking about the Jeep right now, just to clarify that.  Big Ag does not leak oil (yet).

Anyway, I now have two empty holes in the ground, which means I can do some plant shopping.  This will not be edible landscape I'm looking for, but rather something that will benefit the wildlife in the area, specifically butterflies, bees and birds.  So one hole is going to get a cottonwood tree, and the other will get some kind of native, flowering plant or flowering small tree.  

I think it's important that, along with feeding ourselves, we also feed the winged creatures that rely on the nectar and protective covering that some types of landscape can provide.  It's important to share the land. So this is definitely a project that will be pleasurable to do, and I can't wait to see something green and growing in the space where the zombies once stood.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mushrooms with grains

As you may have read in an earlier post here, we are attempting to eat more vegetarian these days, due to a drought in the western states.  It's a known fact that harvesting food in the form of animals uses a lot more of the wet stuff than just dining on the grains and veggies the animals would otherwise be eating, so to that end I've ramped up the amount of vegetarian meals we'll be eating in the coming months.

The other night I made a delicious mushroom/grains casserole, using this:

You could probably use any grains combination, or just quinoa if you wish, but this recipe came from a vegan friend and this is how she made it.

To the grains I added a generous portion of sliced portabello and shitake mushrooms -- enough to give it a meaty texture and flavor, as only mushrooms can do (in the vegetable world, anyway).  Plus a half a red onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and about a half-cup of balsamic vinegar. And salted to taste.

I first sauteed the garlic, onions and mushrooms in some olive oil.  Then added it to the cooked grains.  Then stuck it in a 350 degree oven for about a half-hour or so.

The result was heavenly, healthy, and will definitely go into rotation as part of our regular meal choices.

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Ironic Son

A few days ago my son (who is a public relations major at a university in Los Angeles) called me to let me know he'd gotten an interview for a prestigious PR firm.  I was ecstatic for him; he's good at what he does, and I know this internship is an important step towards success in his field.

He called again the morning of the interview, stuck in traffic on the 405 Freeway, slightly panicked about whether or not he'd make the interview on time. For the record, he'd given himself almost two hours in rush hour traffic to make the 38-mile drive, because that's just how LA is.  

Anyway, he made it on time, he got the internship, and will now begin making that two-hour commute three days a week.  He will be wearing a suit and be working in a skyscraper with a glass elevator, a mahogany-paneled conference room, and his own office.  I'm sure there will be evenings out on the town and plenty of lunching at Beverly Hills restaurants.

And in the midst of all his success, I found myself inexplicably depressed, despite being HUGELY proud of him. And it wasn't Empty Nest Syndrome, either. I found myself depressed because he's running headlong into the life I ran headlong out of 20 years ago.

You see, I was also public relations executive (apples don't fall far from their trees, do they?).  I had an expense account, two secretaries, a company car, and worked no less than 50 hours a week, oftentimes more.  I wore tailored suits and made good money, but because I lived in such an expensive city, I had little left over at the end of the month.

 Some of the problem was me -- I loved eating out, having my clothes dry cleaned, and taking vacations.  Some of it was the price of living in LA, where my crappy, one-bedroom apartment in a so-so part of town cost about $1500 a month and my car insurance was more than my actual car payment was.

I loved those years of my life, but truly, a part of me always longed for the country.  My vacations were always to mountain villages, remote and undeveloped islands in Greece, or just up the coast to Big Sur. I rarely visited other cities, because I lived in a huge one already. The truth is that, with all my success, I longed to get my hands into the dirt and to simplify my life.

Eventually, I did just that, and I raised my son in that same, simple life.  He had lots of animals, wide open spaces and a Mayberry-type town to grow up in, out in the endless, flat fields of the California's Central Valley.  But now he's in the city, living in the exact place I moved away from because I felt it wasn't a good place to raise children.

I guess that's a good example of irony, isn't it.

And so, along with my pride in his accomplishments, I also have some fear.  I fear for him, living in a city that often chews nice, kind people up and spits them out for breakfast.  I'd hate to see him lashed to the mast of a two-hour commute on a permanent basis.  And as much as I want him to meet new friends and even have a great relationship, I want him to be able to disconnect from LA Life when he is ready and fly away.

But of course, my son is college-age, and all these decisions are his to make. I just hope that his upbringing of having a love for the land will stand him in good stead and ultimately bring him to the place he's meant to be.  Some of it's trusting him, some of it is trusting God.

But since I am neither of those individuals, my job is just to wait and see.  And that's not an easy job, I'm telling you.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


This morning I was busy running around the house doing chores and answering phone calls and failed to keep an eye on the pellet stove. Once I checked on it, I realized it had shut down due to being out of pellets, and the house seemed very cold indeed.  It was 64 degrees, but I usually try and heat it to at least 69 degrees in daytime so when we come home from work it's still got some warmth in it.

So I turned on the HVAC, which heats the whole house using extremely expensive propane.  It's now warm and toasty.  A luxury I don't indulge in often, and therefore greatly appreciated.  A heater which heats every room in the house, closets, and bathrooms, at the same time!  I used to take that for granted. 

So nice to have a really warm house, but we won't do this every day.  As I said, propane is expensive and although having constant temperatures throughout our living spaces is lovely, it's not really worth going broke over lol. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Microwave

How do you feel about your microwave oven?  Is it a useful kitchen appliance, a dinosaur you rarely use, or an evil tool of Food Destruction?  I know many homesteaders eschew this appliance as one of the more  wasteful uses of energy, but in reality I think it's more of an energy trade-off, since the energy you use microwaving means some other energy-using appliance does not get used.  But it seems to make some people feel like this:

When I was remodeling my kitchen last year, I had a designer tell me that more and more people are opting not to have microwave ovens installed in their homes, because they just don't use them.  And I do know there are still people out there who feel they're not entirely safe.  But for me, the microwave is not so much used as an oven, but rather as a kitchen tool.

It's 7 a.m. as I write this, for instance, and I just used my microwave to heat up the coffee mug I then poured my hot coffee into.  I also used it to heat the actual water for my coffee, too (a filled, one-quart Mason Jar, heated on high for 5 minutes will bring water to a near-boil, much faster than your tea kettle can.  You can then pour it into your cafe-press for coffee, or into a mug for tea).

 I also use the microwave to warm up plates regularly.  Heating them for 30 seconds in the microwave  before pouring or plating, and your food and beverages will stay much warmer, for longer.  I also use it regularly to soften or melt butter when I'm baking.

As far as cooking goes, I suppose I don't do any actual cooking in the microwave, although all three of my kids do.  I just don't care for the slightly dried-out texture and flavor that comes when a significant portion of the food's stored water is heated and drawn out of it, which is of course how microwaves cook. Plus I'm relatively certain that, with those water molecules goes at least some of the vitamins and nutrition. But I do use it to re-heat leftovers, wrapping everything in a towel or wax paper, and being very careful not to overcook.  

Which brings up an important point: There is no worse smell in the kitchen than that of over-microwaved food, like spaghetti sauce or -- the worst -- popcorn.  It makes the house smell like the break room of most offices. Blech.  So if that's the reason you're tossing your microwave, I totally understand.  But, for me, it still earns enough of its keep for me to keep one in the kitchen for the foreseeable future.

Hen Slow-Down

Our three hens are now almost two years old, and I am noticing a definite slow-down in egg production from last year, which becomes apparent every time the weather turns cold again. 

 Last month, with daytime temperatures hovering in the 70's and the nights down into the 30's, egg production began picking back up again, after a lull in our very chilly December. Last month, I was getting at least one egg a day, sometimes two.  And that was a good thing, because I used a lot of eggs over the holidays and was able to build a little reserve of a dozen or so back up, there whenever I needed some.

But since our weekend storm, we've had freezing temperatures at night once again, and the days have only gotten into the 50's.  And the girls know it.  At this rate I will get only three or four eggs a week, which is barely enough to keep the kitchen stocked.  My reserves are used up again. It seems like as fast as those eggs get layed, I'm using them in recipes.

The solution is, obviously, a couple more fluffy balls of cuteness once Chick Days starts in earnest at the farm supply stores around town.  I'm thinking right now I want one Plymouth Barred Rock and one Auracauna. And maybe one more to be determined.

It will be nice to hear the peeping of little cheepers again....or is that the cheeping of little peepers? 

Either way, fluffy explosions of cuteness very soon, with colorful eggs to follow.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Country Snobbery

Over the years of making the transition from urban to rural living, I have experienced the death of a stereotype, sadly.  It's the image I had of "country folk," being 100 percent comprised of simple, honest, optimistic people, living their lives close to the land and embracing their choices while respecting the choices of others.  

Oh, that does happen sometimes, but its by no means something you can generalize about. But the following idioms are, I believe, present in almost every rural place you can find across our great nation.

(This is because, just like city life, there are hierarchies and cliques residing in the country.)

It goes something like this:

Large agricultural businesses often scoff at small farms, claiming they are either hobby farms or "communes run by hippies." (Are there even still people out there calling themselves hippies anymore, by the way?)

Small agricultural holdings, on the other hand, scoff at people choosing to be "yuppies" living "city life."  Although there are always a lot of platitudes about how they totally respect other people's choices, their disdain seeps through their conversation, their writings, and their attitudes when they run into these urban folk.  It's like they just can't quite believe people still choose to live and work in the city, and they treat those people like exotic zoo animals they don't quite understand. (Note:  This is always worse if they themselves actually chose to leave city life at some point for rural living.  Then the mock respect/curiosity/feigned ignorance gets plastered on so thick you could scrape it off with a knife).

People with no land are not immune to this either:  People with no land at all, who shop at the local farmer's market sometimes scoff at the ignorant fools in the grocery store, buying mass produced crap by the cart-load...never mind the fact that it's all they may be able to afford.

The carnivores, who believe eating meat is practically a Biblical mandate talk about vegetarians the way white people used to talk about blacks and commies in the 1950's.....they're all simpletons who just don't get the natural and correct order of things.

Horse people are in their own world and there are cliques within cliques within cliques, drama, gossip and grand plot twists.  Your horse clique is usually you and a couple of other couples who know how to keep horses. Your equine vet and farrier are in this clique too, although they are probably not aware of it.  Everyone else with horses are dangerous idiots, all other vets are incompetent, and all other farriers do nothing but cause horses to founder and develop cracked hooves. 

All that being said, you may ask why anyone would want to embrace rural life with all this mock elitism going on.  Well, it's worth it because, at a certain age and maturity level, you see these opinions for the prejudices they are -- held only by some (unfortunately) very vocal minorities -- and just live your life, not worrying what other people think.

You survived high school.  You can probably survive the country.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Orange and Gray

This morning I am going to begin making marmalade, which means first peeling the oranges. After that, all the pith must be taken off the peeled skin, and finally the skins need to be cut into little matchstick-sized pieces before one can even think of starting the jam itself. Labor intensive, marmalade is (says I, in my best Yoda voice).

But this kind of job is just right for a day that looks like this outside. Up here on the hill, we're still stuck in the clouds left over from yesterday's storm. Marmalade is appropriate for a day like this, as it feels like we're lost on the Moors, somewhere near Scotland.

A warm fire, some music on the radio and a Big Project are all on hand though.  Perfect recipe for a Deep House kind of day.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bucket Brigade

So how did you spend your SuperBowl Sunday?  We spent it moving rain around.  That's right, we had our first decent rainfall in a year today, which meant the rain gutters and downspouts were filled with the wet stuff. So rather than let it go to waste, we decided to collect it and use it to wash out our raised beds.

Our ground needs regular rainwater because the minerality of our well water is so high.  There are lots of salts, calcium and other elements that can build up in soil and lower crop yields.  So, this afternoon, we decided to capture whatever additional rainwater we could (other than what was already falling naturally) and pour it on our raised beds, to cleanse the soil of  mineral build-up.

It was cold, and it was wet, but we moved a few hundred gallons of water to the places that needed it most, via buckets placed under the downspouts.  Really, it's amazing how much rain your roof can collect.  Water cisterns or just large rainwater collection barrels are now being considered.

Other people may have been planted firmly in front of the television, with beer, chips, salsa and hot wings to keep them happy.  But I wouldn't trade places with them.  Trust me, when you've been almost a year without rain, you don't mind being out in it, soaked to the skin, one little bit. Bring it on.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Our wonderful pellet stove not only heats our home, but can also heat water and soup on its top.  Most people who have pellet or wood stoves know this fact. But I discovered yet another purpose for its heat this morning, when Big Ag went in the shower right after I got out and I didn't want to be trying to dry my hair in all that dripping humidity -- your friendly pellet stove also makes a great hair dryer.  

I shook my curls out, bent over so the nape of my neck was getting most of the fan's blast, and dried my hair in about 5 minutes. And I have pretty thick hair, so that's no mean feat.

Heater.  Stove. Hair dryer.  Versatile, indeed!