Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

July 26, 2010

Yeah... I'm a Duck Rangler!

And so goes my reputation in the neighborhood. I am... the duck wrangler.

Saturday afternoon, I got a message on my phone from a neighbor asking if I had some chick starter. Apparently he had a duck in his backyard with a couple of small ducklings. This wasn't a neighbors domestic duck that had gotten lost mind you. Oh no, this was a wild mallard hen with two very, very little ducklings.

Apparently that morning, while outside, My neighbor heard some quacking in the corner and upon investigation found a doting mother with her two chicks. They observed them for a bit, but as they didn't move on, she called the county animal control officers to come out - hoping that they'd assist the happy family back to the wetlands area a few miles away. Ah, yeah....NO! What they did do was to try to throw a blanket over the hen and scared her off into the wild blue yonder leaving her little ones behind.

Enter, I, the duck wrangler. We had the ducklings in a crate, with a bowl of water and a little powdered chick feed; now, how do we get mom back? She finally flew back, gliding in at top speed like an F-16 and cruised over to the neighbors driveway and began the squawking. We dropped off the ducklings across the street and she promptly waddled over to pick them up. It was then that the problem came about.

She immediately led them right back across the street to the shade of the neighbors garage. Um, did I mention that this was the same neighbor that has like 5 cats that roam the neighborhood. Yep, that neighbor. So now you see the problem right?

OK, plan two. The neighbor (Is all this neighbor reference getting confusing? The one neighbor I keep referencing was actually two neighbors, husband and wife.
Just FYI) Anyway, the neighbor and I began herding the ducklings toward my side of the street. The original plan being that, we'd get them into our backyard and let them have their place there until they were ready to go on. Our yard is safe, fenced and I have equipment available to make a duck tractor if the need came about. At least they'd be safe until I could find a way to take them to the wet lands. Well that changed quickly when she find a nook in the fence between my house and the next one and holed up there. So now came the wrangling.

We had no way to get her and the kids out but it needed to be done. The ducklings were so small that they took a few minutes just to get across the street; They would never make a couple of miles to the safe wetlands. I got on a coat (to protect me from claws, yes they do have them) and some gloves and my kids butterfly net. The plan was to get a hold of mom, get her into my dogs small carry crate and get her to the wetlands with her kids. So, with the fates on my side, I made a clean move and was able to get mom on the first try. She didn't like the crate at all and hissed heartily at us for the ten minute ride to the wetlands, but she made it in one piece.

We put the ducklings right out in front of her and flopped the door open for her to join them and it worked perfectly. Out she came and took her little ones into the water and they were on their way.

So anyway, nowadays I'm just known as the Duck Wrangler.

July 18, 2010

Just the way things are...

I'm tired. I have to admit my mortality and I'm not happy about it.

I know I've probably whined enough about my back and such lately, but it continues to make me accept things that I really don't want to accept. The last couple of weeks, since I had the cortisone shot put through an epidural into my back, I've felt quite a bit better. The problem is that I haven't really been doing much of anything, so really I've only been been feeling better from not exerting myself. Not really a realistic picture of my day to day; at least not as it has been to this point. That will be changing for at least the rest of this year.

What do I mean? Well, typically at this point in the season I would be harvesting and turning over quite a few of my garden beds and preparing to plant another whole batch of second crops for the fall. I generally keep working the garden intensively right up until the end of the fall and then put in a couple of long weekends prepping for the next year. Not this year. As of this point, for the most part, what is in the garden is all that will be in the garden for this year. I have some sunflowers that I will be planting in the next couple of days mostly just to take up space, but that will be just about it.

What I will be doing is beginning to work on my end of the year stuff now. I'll start turning in organic material like grass clippings and straw, I may even sprinkle some cover crops like vetch or alfalfa to let that enrich the soil while I neglect it, but that will be about it. With the help of my strapping young boys, I will try to make some progress toward cleaning up our back yard and hopefully will be able to put things in place this summer and fall so that next year we can have a better year.

The other thing I will be doing is trying my best to get myself healthy. Stretching, exercising lightly and losing some of my extra poundage. As I said, I'm tired. Not tired from working too hard, just tired of dealing with this unhealthy, miserable, achy no good way I've been feeling.

Time to take charge, accept some things for being just the way things are and do what I can to change others.

Sorry for complaining, but life is not always perfect I guess.
Take care all.

July 16, 2010

Ah, Kohlrabi... the sputnik of the garden!

It's funny, that's how I first heard kohlrabi described, as resembling sputnik! I had to look it up to find out exactly what sputnik looked like.Guess what? good description don't you think?

The edible part of the kohlrabi, besides the leaves that is (yes those are edible too. but I'll get to that.) is not a root or a bulb as many would think. It's technically the swollen meristem of the plant and forms above ground just like in the picture above. As the kohlrabi forms, it looks a lot like a kale plant or a broccoli plant. Then, after a few weeks of growing the stem will start to swell just above the ground. That's the good part, just like what you see below.

This oddball brassica relative of both broccoli and cabbage definitely HAS become a family favorite though. We first grew it three years ago on a whim. It was one of the first of what would become known as our annual "test crops". Crops that we would sow a small section of just as a test to see how they would do and if we would like them at all. It's funny that the more you get into gardening and the more confident that you feel, the more you want to try odd and unique plants. Well, with three kids at home I was hesitant to grow large amounts of anything that we didn't know for sure we would eat.

We have learned a few things in the last few years and have come up with some good ways to prepare and to cook kohlrabi. Because I've gotten a couple of requests and because it is apparently showing up now in CSA shares, I thought I'd share them with ya'll.

First off, bigger is not necessarily better with kohlrabi. This was a lesson hard learned last year. Because we had determined that we liked it, we wanted to maximize our yields from the plot that we were growing. So we let our kohlrabi get to a really big size, like softball sized. When we got around to cooking them, we found to our dismay that the insides of the "bulb" had gotten stringy. Not stringy in a good spaghetti squash kind of way, but stringy in a woody, not pleasant to the palette kind of way. Anyway I digress, The point is, you can harvest some as they form up, and then continue to harvest as they get larger. if you start to see them stall at a particular size, chances are they are done.

To prepare kohlrabi we cut off the stems and set them to the side. Then I like to cut the top and the root section off the bulb and work my way around with a knife cutting off most of the woody outer section. I finish peeling the outsides off with a regular potato peeler. You can tell when you've gotten down to the good part because it will look exactly the same as if you had peeled a thick stem of broccoli. That's because they are essentially the same thing! Now that you know that, I bet you have lots of good ideas on what to do with them. First though, let's talk about those leaves.

The leaves of the kohlrabi are a totally edible part of the plant. They're a sturdy leaf, much like kale for instance and can be treated much the same way. After harvesting a good number of kohlrabi plants, I generally take the young new growth leaves from the center and set them aside in a separate pile. These should be sauteed as soon as possible to get the best flavor and texture from them. The older leaves toward the outside of the plant have a much woodier stem that needs to be removed before cooking; the easiest way is to fold the leaf in half along the stem and slice the stem right off, even up into the leaf portion. You can slice the leaves up thin and steam them or sautee with some onion or use them much the same way you would a kale or Chard leaf for instance. They're not the best part of the plant, but they're definitely a usable part of the plant particularly if you are a fan of greens. The other thing to do, if you have chickens, is to slice up the leaves and feed them to the girls. They love em and it's a good source of green vegetation too. Now, on to the good part... the bulb!

I don't know about your families, but in our home one of the ways we can always count on veggies being scarfed down is to put them in a dish with a little veggie dip and just go at them raw. Kohlrabi is great for this. After peeling the bulbs you can cut them into thin french fry size pieces perfect for any veggie tray.

Of course you can cut them into chunks and steam them till they're just tender to the bite, and plate them with just a little salt (and butter if you like) and they're great too. If you like the ole cheese sauce thing with broccoli that's a perfect way to serve them as well. (I personally am not, but to each their own!)

If your a fan of stir fry, broccoli beef for instance, you can take the peeled bulb and run it over a course grater or mandolin to get a thin julienne that you can drop in a hot pan with some garlic and onion and a little soy sauce for instance for just a few minutes till the strips are tender. If your vegetarian some marinated tofu would go great with this.

Probably our biggest family favorite for kohlrabi is to put them into hobo dinners along with whatever else is fresh from the garden. Early potatoes, turnips, carrots, onions and a ground beef patty seasoned well and wrapped in an aluminum foil pouch and placed on the grill or around a campfire till the veggies are done. Mmmm, we just had these last weekend while we stayed up at a cabin in the mountains and they were as good as ever!

The flavor of kohlrabi is familiar yet unique and the plants are reliable as an early and late crop. Where broccoli can be picky in some climates and bolt early or not form heads at all, Kohlrabi is generally a lot less finicky, gives good yields and has a very similar taste profile. If you haven't tried it, give it a chance, if you do I think you'll find this interesting looking veggie will become a favorite of yours as well!

If you have any personal recipes or if you decide to try any of the ones I've mentioned please share your input. I'm always looking for more ideas and would love to hear how your taste tests worked out!

Best of luck!

July 8, 2010


A~ was reading something or other online a while back and read about an interesting thing called... Rhubarb-aide?!
I'd never heard of such a thing but as we had a big harvest of Rhubarb that - coincidentally - needed to be processed and since I'm always up for something new and interesting, well, here we go...

The way we like to process our rhubarb is to clean cut and sheet freeze them. Doing it that way allows us to store the frozen rhubarb in bags and lets us take out only what we need for a recipe.

In the back of this picture is a couple of the sheet pans that we filled with our cut rhubarb. In front is the cuttings and little bits that didn't make the cut... Didn't make the cut... hee hee.. get it? OK, I'm a dork.. anyway, they're in the food processor where we pulverized them with a little water, into a thin completely pureed slurry. We then filtered that slurry through some cheese cloth until we had this...

Essence of rhubarb. To which we added water and sugar to taste and voila.

The strangely iridescent green color that is Rhubarb-aide.

I'm not sure whether to say we loved it or not, but I'm gonna go ahead and add it to the list of at least once a summer tonics that we'll tweak and work with over the years to come. It certainly holds promise.

Have you tried it before? Any hints? recipes? Care to share?

Best to you all til next time.


July 7, 2010

Kombucha Making

I spoke some time back about how I was experimenting with making some kombucha and I realized that while I had taken pictures of the progress I hadn't shared it with you, so I thought I'd take a minute to bring the blog up to date with the progress on that front.

To start with I needed to get a SCOBY started. For those not yet initiated in the ways of kombucha, a SCOBY is an acronym for Sybiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast.
This was the "mini"-SCOBY that I started with. It was collected from a store bought bottle of kombucha that a friend of mine gave me. To grow it into something that I could make a sizeable quantity of Kombucha from I placed in this bowl full of sweetened green tea. The Yeasts in the SCOBY consume the sugars in the tea and ferment it producing alchohol. This alchohol is then consumed, through further fermatation, by the various (beneficial) bacteria to produce acetic acid. An additional by product is the Cellulose that makes up the body of the SCOBY.

Now, biology lesson completed, I was successful in culturing my SCOBY into a nicely formed disc of Bacteria and Yeast which I would now send forth to do my komucha bidding!
That white color is from the cellulose that I was talking about.

Although you can't really see the bacteria, being microscopic and all, if you look in the photo below you can see the whispy tendrils hanging from the main body of the SCOBY. Those are mainly yeasts. Many of them being the same types that do our work for us in other goodies like Sourdough and kefir.
In fact, I was successful enough in culturing my SCOBY that I am now able to have two gallon Suntea jars going constantly brewing for me.

Now that only problem I have is that I'm running out of bottles. These bottles were from my Mr Beer experiment last year and have come in handy for bottling the finished product.

Kombucha is a naturally effervescent drink because as the yeast comsume the sugars, they also "breath" out CO2 as a by-product. After bottling the kombucha, I let it sit at room temperature for 3-4 days during which time it continues to brew and breath. The bottling holds in the CO2 and when it's opened. Phzzttt... Carbonated!

It's an acquired taste, I will say that for it, but once you've acquired it, you gotta have it. There's been some issues with the labeling on some of the store bought Kombucha out there lately and some of it has been pulled form the shelves. The nice part about making your own, as with all things, is that you always know what's in it, and more to the point that you can always get it!

You should try it out. You may not even like it after trying, but it's a great science experiment and fun to watch progress. If you do try... good luck!

July 6, 2010

Strawberries and the new Dehydrator

You may remember the dehydrator we were able to get this winter because of an arrangement I made with CSN stores. You know, the online store that offers everything from Lighting to, well, to dehydrators for instance. We've used the dehydrator a couple of times so far for jerky, but now we have fresh strawberries that we wanted to be able to use for things later this year and decided we wanted to test out dehydrating them.
The strawberries weren't huge, so I cut them right down the middles and lay them flat after a quick dip in a citric acid bath (To preserve color and flavor.)
They really thinned out quite a bit, but the flavor is like.. POW! STRAWBERRY! These will be great in some recipe or on dry cereal.

But of course when the strawberries are fresh for that little window of the year, you have to have some fresh! When A~ makes fresh sourdough waffles (Yeah you heard that right, sourdough waffles.) nothings better on top than a little whip cream and fresh strawberries.

Maybe if we ask real nice we can get A~ to start blogging on here with some of her great recipe's? I think I've almost got her conviced... anyone else out there want to hear fromthe other (read: better) half of this equation?

Take care all.

Date Night at Ogden Botanical Center

I told you I was behind on things and by golly I was not lying. Waaay back in mid-June, A~ and I had a nice little date night out together at a local garden park. The Ogden Botanical Center is the sister site to the Davis Botanical Center which is our local Botanical center, the place where A~ and I did our Master Gardener training.

Of course, as with any time I get around a bunch of flowers, I took a bunch of pictures... Enjoy.

Two things A~ and I love are Gardens and Art. So of course, we had a great time.

The walking paths through the gardens were lined with booths set up by local artists. We walked through and enjoyed and thought about some time in the future when we could maybe buy the art we love... one day.

Looking out from the bridge in the "Japanese Garden" section of the center, we see the raised garden beds of the centers vegetable gardens. We walked through the garden and sat on the wide edging of the beds and determined then and there that in our next homes garden we will invest the money necessary to build this type of raised gardens. Bending was limited, the height was just right and the beds were narrow enough (I would guess 3 feet) to easily allow for reaching across them.

Just a very nice little river feature, oh and I love any kind of garden structures!

One of the local farms was out selling their local made ice creams. I think the tractor was just there for looks. It was a nice one though, old but perfectly restored.

Over in the evening shade near the rose garden was a very nice little Pavilion with a local String Ensemble playing classical music. We sat and listened for a time and just enjoyed each other.

Then, of course, we had to take time to smell the roses...

Is that not a beautiful rose?

We weren't the only ones out enjoying the garden.

As we were leaving, I noticed a little feature that I would suspect probably escapes a lot of the visitors to the Center; it was a Swale. A swale is a garden landscape feature that works in conjunction with the terrain's natural drainage tendency to help slow rain runoff and to allow the ground to receive more water.

In the Arid areas of the western United States like the one where we live, this is a great technique for capturing water that would otherwise find it's way to our rivers via the fastest way possible and the faster the water runs off the more sediment it takes and erosion that is caused. Bad all the way around.
Above you can see the way a berm was built along the contour of the lawn area. The area to the right of the lawn is a hillside that would naturally runoff a lot of rain water in our stormy seasons.
The berm make a shallow area between the hillside and the lower area that allows the water to slow and pool. During a large storm, this area will no doubt fill quite a bit and become a temporary pond area. As the pond sits, the water has a chance to percolate into the ground hyper saturating it and allowing a water plume to flow under ground where it can be used for months by the plants and trees around the gardens.

All in all we had a great time together that night. After walking through the gardens we headed down town to try out a new restaurant that we've thought of trying for some time. The food was good, deserts were great (Creme Brule for A~ and fried peaches and ice cream for me!) and we needed a walk around the block to let it sit.

Good times... Good Times!
Best to you all.

July 5, 2010

Trying my hardest...

OK, I've embraced my fate...

I guess relaxing's not THAT bad. I can do this once and a while!

Truth be told, after Friday's little "procedure" I layed around watching movies all day and really felt like a bum. Saturday morning I woke to fresh coffee the boys had made for me and sat on the porch in the unseasonably cool morning air writing while A~ spent the afternoon outside with our boys doing yard work. Mowing, picking and deep watering the garden. I watched from the porch feeling a little too much like "management". I'm more of the hands on type. It drove me nuts.

You know what I did get out of the whole thing this weekend though? Appreciation. Not just thanks, but appreciation; the kind you get when you get to see how blessed you are. My wife, in between yelling at me for LOOKING like I was gonna bend over for something, worked so hard at taking up my slack in the garden and my boys - little men more like it - worked side by side with her picking our last peas and cleaning up around the house and yard. Let it be known I am a lucky man. I tried my best to reward them all that night with a rotisserie roasted pork shoulder that I slow cooked all afternoon on the grill.

Sunday, after making sure all chores were finished Saturday, was spent enjoying our home. We did go out for a bit that morning to let the boys burn off a little energy at the local skateboard park, but the rest of the afternoon was spent lazing aroung the backyard. With our shade canopy up, we sat in the cool shade on an absolutely beautiful Fourth of July Day. The high for today didn't even quite reach 75 degrees! Our oldest serenaded us with his guitar and I tried my best to play harmonica along with him. The boys played off and on again in the pool we finally got this summer and even Marcello the dog layed around in the sun chewing the bone from the night before. All was good. Sunday night we sat out in the front yard while the boys enjoyed a few fireworks and we talked with each other and the neighbors.

There's still a few things that I'd like to try to get done this weekend if possible, having this afternoon and evening left in the day, but I'll have to wait til A~'s not looking. Maybe then I can sneak off to pull some peas plants that are spent and harvest a few early potatoes. There's second crops of the season to think about now you know!

Hope you all had a great weekend. Happy Fourth to all my fellow Americans and look forward to the coming posting blitz.


July 2, 2010

Taking it easy for a weekend

By Doctors orders.
Not Doctor A~, although she is doing her best to keep me still, but by my actual Doctor. I've mentioned recently that my back has been giving me a lot of trouble, well, the trouble has been getting worse and the simple fixes haven't been helping. I've been taking it easy, not been working around the house like I'd like to, and was prescribed a course of oral medication to reduce inflammation which I diligently took. Still, last week I found myself almost unable to get up and walk around. For over a week now I've been subsisting on pain medicine and little sleep.
This morning I had an appointment to get an epidural injection of cortisone to - hopefully - improve my situation. With any luck, the inflammation will reduce and I can start doing some mild exercise and stretching and allow myself to heal. In the mean time, I've been ordered to take it easy, not to work too hard at anything for the weekend and let my back rest.
I'm going to take that as an opportunity try and catch up with some of the blog stuff that I've been wanting to post and just haven't had a chance to put up.
I may post up through the weekend, but mainly I'm going to write and format. Look forward to a nice sized posting blitz in the next week.
Have a great weekend all.