Monday, January 26, 2009

Continuing the California in decline theme...

This is the piece Steve did for the LA Times book review this weekend. Don't think the link will take you to the right place after a week, however...

edited to change the link to this, which is just a thumbnail of the piece. Fame is even more fleeting in cyberspace than in print, sadly!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Color photos from 1939-1944

Found a reference to this huge Flickr collection today (imagine, the Library of Congress is now on Flickr!) I find it utterly fascinating to see color photos from this era. I love the carny/fair shots and I found the sharecropper photos particularly poignant.

Today's high? 21 degrees.... Celsius!

How balmy to hit 70 in January! I'm starting to warm up to this whole climate change thing....

Yesterday was nearly as gorgeous, we watched the inauguration then took off for the raptor rehabilitation center for a hike along the poudre river and a visit to some disabled birds of prey, including a huge bald eagle, golden eagle and great horned owl. In the afternoon, I bought 27 bags of steer manure for some garden bed building today. Of course, whatever I want to get done, I need to finish it by tomorrow, as the weather is expected to turn tomorrow night.

Steve and I have had a prosperous week, which is nice for a change. Steve last did two pieces of freelance art for the LA Times over Thanksgiving, and with exquisitely bad timing, he submitted his invoices in that narrow window just before the company declared bankruptcy. His unpaid invoice is now part of the bankruptcy proceedings and who knows when or if we'll ever see the full amount.

A week after the filing, the company was okayed to continue payments for future work and Steve got two assignments last week, which he just finished. Whilst I got my first writing assignment in 4 1/2 years from the LA Daily News, where my good friend and former colleague is now the editorial page editor. She was putting together a package on this current out-migration from California, and wanted a first-person piece. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it for her and you can read it here. Doesn't pay much, $150, and that is if I can get payment before something drastic happens at the Daily News, a distinct possibility these days. Still and all, a fun return to writing, and I may do more in the future.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Home-ground wheat -- with aspirations for home-grown...

We bought a grain mill last month and finally got it up and running this week. The pancakes and muffins we made with the first batch of wheat were deliciously nutty. I'd read that fresh ground wheat tastes worlds better than the store bought stuff, and wheat berries last for decades when stored securely, while whole wheat flour can go rancid fairly quickly.

I'm trying a batch of the no-knead bread with it right now, though I'm not sure how it will do, as our wheat is whole grain and I haven't tried this recipe out on straight whole wheat flour before. I'll report the results tomorrow morning. Here's Maddie and Steve doing some grinding....

Other recent events include a warm spell that got my gardening urge flowing again, so we started on another sheet-composted bed, down on the main lawn. The chickens, ever hopeful that there might be worms, were quite the hindrance while I was shoveling, but they spread things out nicely once I was done. We'll plant corn, beans and squash on this patch, but I might try another sheet composting on part of the lawn to grow some winter wheat in the late summer or fall, I'll have to read up on how to grow wheat. Threshing might be a fun adventure.

We tossed another layer of dirt onto the bed that was built in October with the Grow Food Not Lawns workshop, and watered everything in hopes of keeping some composting action going as we wait for spring. I'm going to tunnel-cover at least the October bed to get a head-start on spring crops.

We also enjoyed a visit from Grandma Judith and Aunt Joanne, who rode the train from Iowa to stay for a long weekend. They toured the Budweiser plant just down the road from us, learned to place a dice game called Farkle that we learned over Christmas from Aunt Cindi, and spurred Maddie to new knitting heights, which she blogs about here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chicken Disaster Averted! Harry Saves the Day!

Yesterday, we had a close call at S & S Homestead, but thanks to the sharp eyes and quick wit of Harry, all is well. It was midafternoon, very cold and the playground was deserted. I was fixing Harry a snack in the kitchen and he was standing at the sliding glass door when he cried out, "Mom, there's a fox in the yard!"

I ran onto the porch in my stocking feet, brandishing a paring knife, and I bravely shouted "Git!" The fox promptly turned tail and leapt lightly back over our back fence and into the school yard. I ran around the yard looking for signs of chicken carnage, not knowing how long the fox had been in the yard (it turns out Harry had watched it jump in) and not finding them in the coop, I feared the worst. I called and ran around and one by one they sauntered out from the far side of the garage, wondering why I was making such a racket. One, two, three four. Phew!

I locked them in their run and ran back upstairs to change socks and thaw my toes. I was surprisingly shaken by the worry that the girls had been gotten.

Maddie looked up information on the red fox, its diet and its home range, and we determined that the fox in our yard was mostly likely the same fox we've seen several places in our neighborhood and several times on the canal path. As they're omnivores and need about a pound of protein a day, and we're now in deep winter, we decided to put some dog food out for it, sprinkling it in the grasses along the canal in hopes that a hungry fox will be diligent about hunting out the kibbles, but a well-fed dog on a walk won't work that hard to steal it first.

With any luck, we can keep it from getting so desperate that it goes after the chickens again, or, heaven forbid, Sunny.