Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just Dew It

When I went out to feed the animals this morning, I saw little white patches scattered here and there in the grass. A closer look revealed spiderwebs covered in dew.

It was early enough that the sun hadn't reached them yet - later on in the morning they were almost invisible.
I ran inside for the camera, of course.
I think there's a spider lurking in the little funnel-shaped hole. Using a blade of grass, I tickled the edge of the web, trying to draw her out. Either I can't imitate a trapped insect very well, or she's too smart to fall for such a shabby trick. I was disappointed that she didn't appear, since I really wanted to see the spinner.
Here's another web, with the toe of a size 8 Muck boot for scale. (It's actually Madman's boot - I wear them for chores. I walk like Sora of Kingdom Hearts in them, but love them just the same.)

And as long as I had the camera...

This is a Riesentraube tomato plant that I raised from seed and transplanted in a Tootsie bucket.
Check out how many flowers there are on one stem:

(The white is more dew. Maybe I should take a picture during a drier part of the day?)

And for the flower lovers, here are some of the false sunflowers that are spreading all over my flowerbed.

I really need to go out and clear some of them out, since they're too tall for the front of the bed and are masking and shading out some of the shorter plantings. But it just goes against the grain to murder flowers...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Four, Five, Six... What's up with this?

This is my clematis.

It's been growing happily at the corner of our deck for a number of years, its beautiful 4-petaled flowers brightening my day whenever I look at it.


This year is different.

Four petals:

And five petals:

And six petals:

Wait, what?
How can the same clematis vine have totally different flowers on it?
Any botanists out there?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Woohoo! I have empty bobbins!

I've finally finished spinning up all the Goldie fleece that I had washed up. (There's still more in my sewing room. And that's last year's fleece...)

Fiber: Goldie 2010 fleece -(that's Shetland, for anyone who hasn't been keeping score)
Weight: 3-ply worsted - 11 wpi (or maybe 10. How close is close? How squished is squished?)
Yardage: 1580 yds.

The yardage is before washing and thwacking, but even with some shrinkage I have enough for a sweater, which was the goal. (And if I run out, there's always spare fleece still kicking around...)

I'm calling this done.

Tour de Fleece, goal one - finishing the Goldie Project. Woohoo!
Now to decide on goal two...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You know you're a Knitter when...

I was on my way home from work the other day and spotted a convertible on the road ahead of me. It was a gorgeous day and the driver of the car was taking full advantage - her hair fluttered in the breeze as she rolled along, the car open to the sky.
Her license plate said TOPDOWN.
My first thought was of socks...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chicken Butchering 101

Yesterday was the big day for doing in the first batch of meat birds, and since I've had requests for documenting the process (mostly from folks who want to convince their partners "See how easy it is?"), I ran around with the camera like a chicken with it's... well, like a busy little photographer.
For the squeamish and the vegetarians in the crowd - you might want to skip today's post. For the curious (and the morbidly curious), here we go...

We're going to be taking something that looks like this:

and turn it into something a little more barbecue-ready.
To start with, the chosen ones were closed in their coop the night before, with lots of water, but no food. This was to ensure that the poop-pipeline (so to speak) was empty, making for a much cleaner process the next day.

Necks broken, heads removed, the chickens are hung up to bleed out.

Next, they're dunked in a water bath (in the 140-150 degree range) to loosen the feathers. We keep a big pot of water heating on the barbecue grill, with another pot preheating on the kitchen stove.

While I was waiting for Madman to dip the chicken, I got distracted by a garter snake on the rock wall surrounding one of my herb beds. Isn't he cute?

The big innovation this year was that Madman and his Dad went in halvies on a chicken plucker! Yay! (You may remember from last year that the plucking was the big bottleneck in the operation. Not that there's anything wrong with plucking chickens for Thirteen.Frickin'.Hours.) This machine is practically magic.

You have to keep a tight grip on the chicken, however, otherwise it tends to launch...

Just in case you were getting tired of looking at chicken butchery pictures and needed a break. This is one of my bush roses.

With feathers removed, it's time for those big stompin feet to go.

And now we're ready for the gooshy bits.

Here's a lupin.

Cut around the anus, then cut up the abdomen towards the breastbone.

Remove all the goosh.

You definitely deserve a flower after that bit. This is my rugosa rose. At the rate it's spreading, you'll be able to see it from your own front window in another year or two.

We use a bone saw to cut the chicken in half. Here's where Madman and I differ - I start on the back, he starts on the front. Either way works.

And all the way through.

Here's where I took over the process. I did the final washing and packaging, and cutting some of the chickens into quarters. See where my thumb is? Right at the tip, there's a depression where there's a weak spot in the spine that even a crappy knife can cut through. This is where to cut to divide the front half from the back half.

A good aggressive rinse, and they're ready to go in the freezer.

Our chickens were so big that whole ones had to be packaged in 2-gallon sized freezer bags. We could fit one half-chicken or two quarter-chickens in a 1-gallon size. I did some spot checking on weights as we went down through, and they weighed from a little over 7 lbs to a little over 9. (That's dressed weight, so about twice the size of the average supermarket chicken.) One chicken makes many meals for 2 people.
And here's one more of my roses - another rugosa in a frilly white. It's nowhere near as aggressive as the deep pink one, so you'll just have to settle for the picture.