Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weeds vs. Man, Round 3

I regret to inform you that in this round, we experienced several fatalities.  Namely, a hoe.  James is hard on tools, and if ever you see him at work, you will understand why.

We pulled several pound of onions, as various thistles and spiny plants were attempted to take over their bed, and their tops were drying up anyway.  Dan took home the Candy Apple Reds as well as any split onions (victims of James' enthusiasm).  Our onion are quite lovely, much bigger than I've ever harvested from our house in town.  Maybe next year (God willing), I will only plant onions out at the land, where, despite neglect and lack of water, we had several baseball-sized onions.

The potatoes look great, although I spy potato beetles all over our Rose Finns.  I guess that's what happens when we plant later.

Plumbers called and a hot day for us, AC-free people, so we returned victorious to our homes.

Until next time, remember.  This is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Weeds vs. Man, Round 2

I think we kicked butt and took names this time.

The garlic, now harvested, is a beautiful thing to behold.  Large, pungent bulbs will provide us with plenty for cooking as well as some excellent cloves for planting this fall.

Apparently tree onions don't need help replanting themselves, so I don't need to do ANYTHING with them, except make sure we don't disturb their self-planting efforts.

A few potatoes were unearthed by our thorough weeding.

The deer, or some other nibbling creature, has been sampling our onion greens.

We have eradicated a majority of the weeds, although, no doubt, there are others lurking under still-green potato plants.  The potatoes show little signs of flagging, so this year's potato harvest will be later than that of 2010.  All involved are hoping that such delay makes for a bigger harvest.

Then there's this thing called poison ivy.  I think it is now growing in our drive to Six Penny Pond.  Since Dan and I both have SERIOUS issues with poison ivy (um, think multiple rounds of steroids and still itching like crazy), this is NOT a positive development.  I don't think there's even a way to go to war against poison ivy, and I've read that even the mere mention of war against it causes its growth rate to quadruple.  Oh, we're in trouble.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch (hence the poison ivy).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weeds vs. Man

Weeds are attempted to seize the upper hand at Purgatory Ranch.

As late, we have been, um, lax about the weeding of the larger potato plants, assuming that their broad leaves and towering nature would choke out weeds.  Don't laugh.  If the drought had continued, I think we would have been right.

Then there were a few events called rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Apparently intended to feed all those nasty little weed seeds and seedlings.

We are still ahead of the grass by a long shot.  If you remember the pictures from last year, there might have been more grass than potatoes.

However, there are some other weeds that have been cozying up to our potatoes, and look just enough like potato plants that you actually have to pay attention!

The Lewis clan weeded Monday sans hoes (we were intending to dig a few potatoes, maybe, but not weeds.  Don't remind us that we're city slickers!).  Most of the weeds needed to be hand-pulled anyway, and it gave us some up-close-and-personal time with the soil and potatoes... and weeds.  We will be digging the garlic next time, as the tops are brown.

Tomorrow we will resume picket duty, and the weeds will be crushed.

(and about that pond-junk-fiasco we were all expecting... the junk man couldn't handle our junk.)

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Fourth Day

"And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.'” Gen. 1:20

DG here. Remember when we were thwarted by Bureaucrats? Our Purgatory Ranch (PR) future was torn in two. One family would build at PR, and the other must cast out into the deep! So I slunk back to suburbia, back to my rock that I can crawl under and brood. (C.f.: Suess's Onceler and His Lurkem) But then, a wonderful opportunity came along, an opportunity to make Purgatory Ranch better by expanding and deepening its community. And behold, a new ranch was born.

My family has purchased 10 acres approximately 4 miles from PR proper. Nearly everything we own is a castoff, scavenged, adopted (kids and animals as you'll see) or bought used. Thus, our humble 10 acres is dubbed "Second Hand Ranch" (SHR). Think of it as the staging point for PR, and its little sister to the northwest.

While this blog is still about Purgatory ("Remember..."), every once and a while we will give you a glimpse of life at SHR. It's like Tanto's side-plot to the Lone Ranger. Which brings us to the Birds.

Our Plan: Slowly build up a homestead. God's Plan: Let there be chickens. And other flying crap.

We heard tell of some animals that were for sale at a bargain basement price. A friend of a friend was moving back into the city, and needed to cast off some flying stock. Chickens? Cheap? We were interested. We drove by the seller's farm and entered... an avian sideshow.

I will attempt to capture this in the pristine typeset of The "chickens" of our naive imagination had now transfigured before our eyes into a pole barn full of feathered friends. For half a Benjamin, we were to receive 7 Bantam chickens, 2 Guineas, 2 Turkeys, 2 Ducks, and 1 Goose. Daunted but not repulsed, we meekly said we'd take them, and I retreated to rally logistics. At no time did I ask myself, "Self, what in the #$%^@& are we going to do with Turkeys, Ducks, and a Goose?" To quote John Candy's character from Canadian Bacon, "There's a time to think, and a time to act. And this is no time to think!"

We returned the next week, armed with 7 dog carriers and reinforcements. The dog carriers were for the birds and the reinforcements, as it turned out, were to heckle. I was wearing work gloves, sturdy boots, and the cloak of naivete'. The birds, docile when being viewed previously, turned malignant upon my approaching their enclosure. The goose was mostly bark, but the turkeys? The turkeys were vile. Also, there was (magically) a third gobbler. Bigger than the others. Where did he come from? The coop was the inside of the northern quarter of a tall Wick-style lean-to, with chicken wire running to the rafters. It looked a lot like Thunderdome.

There was some discussion of whom to take first. My dad offered some sage advice, in the hypothetical sense. HE wasn't going in there! Biggest first, we decided. I entered the Arena. I reached for the nearest duck and it was ON. Like Donkey Kong.

What ensued was a grand spectacle. Feathers, expletives, birds, rocks, and poop flew. The general tactic devolved to:
1. Pick a bird
2. Chase it until it gets cornered
3. Smash it down and pin its wings
4. Run to the nearest available dog carrier
5. Jam it in

At first I was trying to be gentle. After gently chasing burds and only succeeding in scaring them, I went for shock and awe. After a few chickens, guineas, and a duck, I learned to hold me hands and arms over my head, walking like Frankenstein. This apparently scares them and prevents them from flying because you look so freakishly tall. They mostly cower and you can smash and pin.

Oh, but there's one thing. Turkeys. Yeah, none of that works on them. The first turkey I approached opened its generous (Read: terrifying) wingspan, flapped as if fanning the very furnaces of Hell, and attacked my face in its flight to freedom. Bounced off South wall, East wall, and then promptly flew the coop. It settled into a roost in a tall tree, looking very indignant. We were at a loss.

What works for turkeys, I can say now, is a modification of the general tactic. I like to call it "Turkey Rodeo". You lunge and grab, essential roll into the fetal position to protect your eyes and face, then hold on for dear life. After about 10 seconds, the turkey stops flapping to see if you are still there. Then pin and runnnnnn!

By perseverance, a lot of scrambling on hands and knees in chicken/duck/guinea/goose/turkey poo, throwing stuff for distraction, and yelling at small semi-flightless fowl, I managed to load the back of my truck with about 120 lbs. of pissed of birds stacked like a Jenga game in the bed. Thus began a very interesting 6 mile voyage back to Second Hand Ranch. Driving 20 mph is advisable. Any faster, and the two turkeys simultaneously went vertical, lifting their dog carrier about half a foot and scaring the bejeebers out of their fellow avian passengers. And me. Fortunately, my fellow motorists were understanding. At least once they figured out what the heck was in my bed.

James and I had prepped a coop and run the day before. Before de-birding my pickup, my Dad and I threw a tarp over the run and wired it down. The chickens were eerily quiet. Even the turkeys seemed beat. Had they survived? I was worried. We had somehow bonded in the harrowing cage fight. My little feathered friends were good, pleasing to the eye, and desirous for making eggs.

I moved the carriers inside the covered run and some birds came out. Others had to be coaxed. The turkeys... well I admit I just shoved the unlatched carrier into the darkened coop. We left them with water and some food. They went straight to roost. They seemed so peaceful. Then I realized- what if we had moved them AFTER they roosted? Duh.

The next morning, the roosters (2) went to it. A marvelous sound. All the birds were up and alert. I let them free range and they happily began working on the surplus SHR bugs. Each has their own personality, and the turkeys are my favorite... of course!

This should be a nice preliminary to when James and Co. get their own flock. Perhaps they will learn from our mistakes!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Expect Some Excitement Today...

The men are cleaning out the pond today at 2 pm.  If you remember how exciting the last attempt was, you'll be sure to check in tonight or tomorrow for an update.  If you don't see an update, please harass them on facebook so we can hear the story, unedited, about skunks and rats and flying tow straps!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


There was hail.  The potatoes are a little worse for wear, but not pulverized.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Steven's Granola Recipe

Yum, yum, yum.  You'd be wise to make a double batch, as this won't last long!

2 1/2 c. oats (Old Fashioned, but Quick would work)
1/2 c. brown sugar*
1/3 c. nuts or sunflower seeds
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. wheat germ
1 t. spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or other)
1 t. vanilla or almond extract
1/2 c. dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, or apples)

* or 1/2 c. white sugar, 1/2 T. molasses OR 1/2 c. white sugar, 1/2 T. sorghum!

Chop large nuts and fruits down to raisin size.
Combine oats, nuts, fruit, wheat germ, brown sugar, and spices.
Combine melted butter, honey, and extracts.
Toss the oat mixture with the butter/honey mixture to coat.
Bake at 325 for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.  It's done when there is light browning around the edges.
Cool in the pan, stirring for a crispier granola or in a storage container for a chewier granola.

My personal notes:
Don't put hot granola in a storage container or... it melts.  Let it cool for at least 10-15 minutes in the pan.
Parchment paper makes quick work of cleanup.
Don't let the granola cool without stirring or you will have a tasty, rock-hard slab attached to your cookie sheet (and then you can't eat it!)

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Today, we crawled out of bed early in order to go strawberry picking at Jester Creek Farms near Newton.

Then we saw lightning, heard thunder, and I discovered James had to go outside in the middle of the  night as our gate had been blown off during a heat burst (it was 102 F at 12:45 am!).  Still, it was only sprinkling on and off, and we were planning to pick with my mom, sister, and BiL.  Off we went...

When we arrived, she was a little surprised to see us, as she wasn't sure we would come in the rain, but it didn't look like the weather would necessarily be better later, so pick we would!  Pick we did.  James carried Bear Cub Q for a while, then my sister held him when she was done with her share.  The Screamer held a basket and graciously allowed me to fill it for her.  The Assistant picked sporadically (and spastically... am I allowed to say that) and then allowed me to graciously fill her basket also.  Wasn't that kind of them?

21 quarts later (for the whole family)
11 quarts later (for our family)... we had a blast.

Half of our household's harvest
When we reached home, I went to work, washing, sorting, and slicing strawberries.  8 cups were mashed to 5 cups and frozen for strawberry jam.  Some were reserved for fruit crumble.  Two quarts were sliced for fresh eating.  More were sliced and frozen for homemade shakes.
Sorting (ripe from unripe and sunburned, as well as straw)

Mashing to freeze.
We will be making strawberry jam later...
 Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.


Our first potato harvest was 3 of each type of plant, yielding 3.5 pounds, and took place on June 8 (yesterday).
 The Blue Viking potatoes, seen in the middle third of this picture, are less tolerant of the drought and sun than the Kennebec and Yukon.  I wonder why that is?
They are so pretty, though, with their purply-pink skins.
As I write this Thursday evening, we have had to delay a visit back to the land with friends as we are hearing the sirens for the third time tonight.  It could be exciting!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wednesday's Work

Belated, I know, but at least there are pictures!

Rose Finn Apple potatoes.  These are fingerling, and planted in the new (north) bed, so they are smaller.  We'll see what golden goodness is underneath in the next few weeks!

Onions were mulched.  Poor things, they want the nice bed most of the potatoes have.
Next year, it will be their turn!

The potato patch goes on forever!
We will begin harvesting next week.

Tree onions and garlic.
Does anyone know exactly when you harvest tree onions and/or when you replant the bulbs?
We replanted some for a trial.

Until next time, remember.  This is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.