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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

This is poison ivy.

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This is a public service announcement from someone who has years of experience with this vine…namely me!!

In short, stay away. Don’t touch. Don’t eat the berries. And in my case, don’t even look at it. The penalty is an insanely itchy rash that will last for weeks and drive you crazy.

I took these photos on our property this afternoon, so this noxious weed is growing now….and lurking….and waiting for the unsuspecting.

Poison Ivy is easily recognizable once you know what to look for. Nothing else looks like it. It can grow in clusters on the ground, or it can climb a tree. We have seen years old vines that have a trunk about 4-5 inches in diameter and have reached the top branches of a 50 foot tree. All parts and phases of the plant are poisonous: the leaves, the stem, and even dead and brittle pieces that you may inadvertently pick up years later can harbor the poison which is an oil called urushiol.

The plant produces black berries in the summer which are very nutritious and harmless to birds, (but highly irritating to humans). The plant is propagated when the birds eat the berries and deposit the seeds in their droppings. Don’t be lulled into thinking that if you stay out of the woods, you will never come into contact with poison ivy. My first run in with the itchy weed was in my backyard in a suburban golf course community. I contracted it while sitting in my flower bed in shorts, pulling weeds. I’ll let your imagination run wild here. It was not a pretty sight.

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So what do you need to look for???  Leaves of 3. Not everything with 3 leaves is poison ivy, though. Look at the shape of the leaves. They are irregularly lobed. Some leaves have lobes on both edges, and some leaves will have a smooth edge on one side and have lobes on the other side.

Poison Ivy Hairy vine

When the vines get mature, they will have a characteristic hairiness. “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson”. Whoops, I just gave away my age.

Now on the other hand, this is Virginia Creeper.

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Many people mistakenly think this is poison ivy because it is a vine that grows high in trees. This is a harmless plant, and should be admired. In the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant red, and virtually light up their host tree.

Note the obvious difference here. How many leaves? FIVE.

Now here is a photo of a Virginia creeper growing side by side with a poison ivy vine.

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The Virginia Creeper is on the left. Note the regularity and uniformity of the leaves. The edge of each leaf is serrated and is a mirror image from side to side.

So if you need a catchy phrase to help you remember how to tell the two apart, trust the age old axiom:

“Leaves of three, let it be.

Leaves of five, let it live ”

Ok. So it doesn’t rhyme. But I bet you remember it, just the same.

Oh, and what should you do if you should come into contact with poison ivy? Wash it off immediately. Dawn soap is great, because it is an oil fighter. And if you don’t know you have touched it until the rash appears? (Usually takes about 24 to 48 hours to manifest the tell tale itch). I swear by Zanfel. The price will take your breath away, but if you start using it as soon as you see the first bump, and scrub with it a couple times a day, it will help. It won’t go away immediately, but it will go away sooner. Think one week instead of three.

So, head on out into the beauty of nature. Just be careful, and enjoy.

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Keep the llamas off the streets. Book a llama hike now!!

pete wasted

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curtains

Now, I know you are going to say that I’m one egg short of a dozen, but I recently saw, in one of my farm publications, an article about nest box curtains. The photos were adorable, and I thought, if for nothing else, my young hens needed a home improvement project.

Before embarking on this undertaking, I decided to do a little research to hopefully find a design that didn’t involve sewing. I used to sew…..somewhat. I had a basic cabinet machine that my Mom had bought when I was just a kid. Granted it was ugly, it only did straight stitching, and it took up floor space, which we were always in short supply of. But it was always there…always up and ready to go. If I needed to repair a 1 inch seam…zoom, it was done.

About 20 years ago, my sweet road warrior surprised me for Christmas with a new portable machine that could be packed up and stored out of sight and could do zigzag stitches and button holes. We were living in Italy at the time, so when we were ready to pack out and return to the states, I gave the old cabinet machine to my Pilipino housemaid. The portable machine now sits in the back of a closet, behind rolls of Christmas wrap and boxes of shoes, and gathers dust bunnies. It’s too much trouble to dig out and set up, so it hasn’t been used in years. I have forgotten how to sew. So… back to the chicken curtains.

Who knew that the idea of curtains for the chickens nest boxes has been around for decades, maybe centuries? Old time farmers used to tack up old gunny sacks over the nest box openings to provide the hens with privacy. Chickens apparently prefer to lay their eggs in a dark and secluded space, hence, a good excuse to hang some jazzy curtains.

The coop BC (Before Curtains)

The coop BC (Before Curtains)

There are lots of gorgeous coop curtains out there. Just google it, if you are interested in seeing more ideas. Many talented ladies make curtains with tie backs. Personally, that would have been my preference, but definitely involved more sewing skills than I wanted to resurrect. Then I saw some that were just straight valances….nothing more involved than sewing a rod pocket and a hem. But, it did involve digging out the dreaded machine and spending more time setting it up than the time it would take to do the whole sewing thing.

So I opted to find a readymade valance. Just by chance, I found a wonderful lady on Etsy that makes custom curtains, and she made these cute valances for me. I love the comical chicken design, and the colors were just perfect to brighten up the place.

Ready to move beck in

Ready to move beck in

I can’t say for sure whether the chickens approve, they haven’t started laying eggs yet, but it sure makes me smile while I’m scooping out chicken poop.

The Pullet Palace

The Pullet Palace

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If you live in the Northeastern U.S., you may be familiar with the number 1, most hated, invasive weed in the region, Garlic Mustard. It is a member of the mustard family, but has a distinctive garlic aroma when the leaves are crushed.

Garlic Mustard in the Wild

Garlic Mustard in the Wild

This weed is a non-native plant that was introduced from Europe back in the late 1800’s as a culinary herb. But it has gotten out of control and is taking over our woodlands, and strangling out our native plants. As a result, many communities are hosting Garlic Mustard Pulling Parties, where people are encouraged to gather for the day to yank out these pesky plants by the wagon load.

I didn’t know that you could eat Garlic Mustard until I recently saw a recipe for Garlic Mustard Pesto. Apparently all parts of the plant are edible, to include the sweet tasting flowers and the tap-root, which resembles the flavor of horseradish. Having lived for a few years in Italy, I am an aficionado of Italian Pesto; the traditional recipe using basil and garlic. And since we have patches of the Garlic Mustard growing exuberantly along the fringes of our woods, I decided I would reduce the infestation by eating some of it. You know the old expression, “If you can’t beat it, eat it.”

I checked out a few recipes online and picked bits and pieces of several recipes to come up with a recipe that suited my taste. I prepared it for the first time last night, and it was surprisingly delicious. I’m going to show you how I made it.

A mess of greens, as we say in the south, and my sous chef, Bayley

A mess of greens, as we say in the south, and my sous chef, Bayley

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

2 cups (packed) garlic mustard leaves. Pick greens from an unsprayed area and make sure you wash them well.

4 ounces pine nuts

3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped (or 2 tablespoons wild spring onions)

4 ounces extra virgin olive oil

16 ounces penne pasta

3 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is preferred)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for Garlic Mustard Pesto

Ingredients for Garlic Mustard Pesto

Directions

I started by picking off all the leaves and tossing them in a sink full of water. After swishing them around really well, I scooped them out by the handful, and squeezed all the water out of the leaves. I packed them really tight into a measuring cup.

You need two cups of firmly packed leaves.

You need two cups of firmly packed leaves.

It was about now, that I realized I didn’t have any chives. Well, I thought, this recipe is all about “the wild thing”, and we have plenty of wild spring onions sprouting everywhere, providing the llamas hadn’t eaten them all. (Our llamas love feasting on spring onions, as evidenced by the miasma of onion stink on their breath). So I grabbed my scissors and headed down the hill to harvest a clump. I had read a while back that the green tops of the wild onion were tasty in recipes, but to scale back on the amount, as they have a stronger flavor than the domestic variety.

Wild spring onions. Use only the green tops

Wild spring onions. Use only the green tops.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I decided that I’d go for 2 Tablespoons of the wild onions instead of the 3 tablespoons of chives. I minced them finely and tossed them in the food processor along with the 4 ounces of extra virgin olive oil and ran the food processor until the greens were finely chopped.

Next I added the pine nuts and processed the mix until it had the consistency of a paste.

Add 4 ounces of pine nuts.

Add 4 ounces of pine nuts.

At this point I transferred the mix to a mixing bowl and stirred in the parmesan cheese. I thought the pesto was a little too thick, so I added another tablespoon or two of olive oil until the consistency was right, and tasted it for salt.

Garlic Mustard Pesto.

Garlic Mustard Pesto.

WOW! Now, I must admit, I was prepared to hate this stuff. But, boy, was I surprised. It was delicious. It tasted a lot like traditional pesto, but it had a little zing. The garlic mustard leaves by themselves remind me of arugula, a little bit bitter and peppery. And this flavor came through very subtly in the pesto.

Now I couldn’t wait to boil up the penne and enjoy this taste of the wild.

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served.

I’m glad I don’t have to hate those pesky weeds nearly so much. Now I just need to find a way to love dandelions.

Feel free to give this a try, and let me know what you think.

Recipe

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 2 cups (packed) garlic mustard leaves. Pick greens from an unsprayed area and make sure you wash them well.
  • 4 ounces pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped (or 2 tablespoons wild spring onions)
  • 4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 ounces penne pasta
  • 3 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is preferred)

Directions

  • Toss mustard greens, chives, and olive oil into food processor. Run processor until leaves are finely minced.
  • Add pine nuts and process until it resembles a paste.
  • Remove paste from processor and place in a mixing bowl.
  • Add Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.
  • Serve over cooked penne pasta.
  • Sprinkle with additional parmesan if desired.

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Full rack

I am not a gourmet cook by any stretch of the imagination. But, I do like to try new recipes. I’m constantly being bombarded by mouthwatering recipes, streaming over Facebook, or beckoning me from the pages of a magazine. And I succumb…

This invariably leads to me having to buy a new spice or condiment to make the new dish. If I were asked to name my greatest strength and my worst fault, I think the answers would be the same. I am organized. Not quite to the OCD level of organized, but maybe not so far off.

I like things to be arranged alphabetically whenever possible. And spices lend themselves to that very well. Except when you accumulate so many that they wind up all over the kitchen.

My very first spice rack was a gift from my dear Road Warrior, on our very first Christmas together, 40 years ago. It held 18 bottles of spice and it served me well for several years.

Old spice rack

Then I had a couple of racks that sat on the kitchen counter that held an additional 24 bottles. Plus there were two 2 tier lazy susans in the cupboard above the microwave that stored who knows how many more bottles. Each spice cabinet was alphabetically arranged, but I could never remember which cabinet was hiding the particular spice that I needed. And I always had to drag out the ladder to see what was lurking in the top cupboard.

I’ve been pondering on a better system for a couple of years. It seems like all the spice racks on the market assume that 12-18 spices is all you should ever need. (At present, I have a total of 63 bottles of different spices). I soon realized that I was going to have to be creative and come up with a design of my own. I scoured the internet for ideas, and took a bit here and a bit there and finally found all the pieces I needed to make my perfect spice system.

One thing I wanted to eliminate was the backup spice bottle. You know, you’ve got this spice rack with its own decorative bottles. So you’re getting low on cinnamon, you buy a jar and dump it in the decorative bottle, and you still have a quarter of a jar left in the ugly grocery store tin, so you put it in the cupboard till you need more. So you’ve now got duplicates on top of the 63 original spices.

Yikes!

So I found these wonderful 6 oz. bottles that will hold just the right amount. Actually, I first saw these bottles at Target. This is what they sell their own brand of spices in. After Googling awhile, I finally located them. They are called French Square Bottles.

4 bottles

The shelves are actually photo ledges. Google to the rescue again. And I used a clear glossy label and my own llama logo to create the name tags.
I actually have a little room for expansion, so for right now, there is just enough room to display photos of the real spices in my life….my pups…. Mayzie and Bayley.

photoSONY DSC

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Everything is all about balance. Or so it seems when you think about all the ways the word is used in the English language.

“His life hangs in the balance.”
“We have to balance the good against the bad.”
“Don’t worry, things will balance out in the end.”
We balance the books; we get caught off balance; our government is a system of checks and balances; we should eat a balanced diet; …..to name just a few.

But to our peacock, Farina, balance is more physical than figurative.

For a quick summation, Farina escaped his coop 18 months ago, got lost for 6 months and suddenly reappeared last summer. He has become an outdoor bird, but has totally wormed his way into our hearts. We have been struggling with ways to feed him without the squirrels, crows, raccoons, and bears getting to the food first.
thieves

We were actually relieved when Farina learned to eat out of the squirrel proof bird feeder that hangs off our 2nd level deck rail. He comes morning and evening for a snack of nuts and sunflower seeds. The rest of the day he is grazing on grasses and bugs.

Farina at bird feeder

At the time of this photo he had his full 4 foot tail. Don’t be fooled by the idiom “light as a feather”. When you’re dragging around approximately two hundred 48 inch long feathers, it ain’t light. But he has learned very well to compensate for the weight of the ballast and use it to help him balance on narrow perches.

Peacocks shed all of these feathers each year right after the end of mating season. And when the molting starts, it only takes about three days for them to drop every one of those feathers. This happened over the weekend.

Tailless

Apparently, it is going to take a few days to adjust to a new center of gravity. We were entertained for an hour yesterday evening as Farina struggled to keep from falling off the rail everytime he leaned over to get a nibble. Watch his comical antics as he flairs his nubby little tail to try to keep from toppling off.

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Do you attract large birds to your bird feeders?

Farina at bird feeder 1

Our peacock, Farina, has been studying this squirrel proof feeder for a couple of weeks now. He’d sit on the rail and watch the smaller birds have a feast. A few days ago, we saw him pecking at the glass and wondering why no seed would come out. Finally, last evening, Voila!! I expect we’ll be refilling quite a bit more often now.

Farina at bird feeder

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