Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Beautiful Maine Sea Scallops

One of the many things I love about life in Maine is the seafood we have available. Tonight Dan brought home 5 lbs of Maine sea scallops, which were caught yesterday, shucked last night, and on our table today. They are so fresh they smell sweet, with a faint salty tang.

As a teacher on the coast, many of Dan's colleagues have friends, neighbors, or relatives who
are fisherman, so we have great opportunities to buy local FRESH seafood. An e-mail will go out to staff saying "the scallop boat is in, and anyone who wants scallops can let Betty in the guidance office know how many they want, and the next day, Betty will deliver them to the school.

We always take advantage of the scallop and shrimp boats, and buy some to freeze. The shrimp come all cleaned and vacuum packed, ready for freezing, but we freeze the scallops
ourselves, individually on cookie sheets, then pack them in zipper freezer bags, and enjoy good eating the day we get them, and many more after that.

Tonight we had seared scallops with spicy mango glaze over a salad of napa cabbage, spinach, red peppers, scallions and soy vinaigrette. YUM.

The Grand Plan

Although the weather forecast is calling for more snow on Friday (yuck), Spring is most definitely on the way. I'm hearing spring calls from the backyard birds, and the days are now 11 hours long, with over 12 hours of visible light, and we are gaining 3 minutes of daylight every day.

I'm ready for spring, as I finally have completed the Grand Plan -- our vegetable garden re-design. After acquiring some free garden fencing this summer, we completely fenced in our vegetable garden. No more voracious woodchucks ravaging the immature green beans, no more piggy dog eating the tender young pea plants, we are protected. To take better advantage of the fence as trellis, and to maximize space for trying new vegetables and growing more tomatoes than 2 people can possibly eat, we decided an new plan was in order.

After seeing a gardening show at Mom's in November, we were inspired to create permanent raised beds with a permanent U-shaped path for access, and to use more of a square foot gardening approach, dividing the beds into 4-foot blocks. With 15 4-foot squares, this will give us 240 square feet of growing space --no doubt far more than we need, but hey, more room for a cutting garden, right? (Click on the photos for a detailed plan view).

The plan calls for the vegetables to be grown in the perimeter beds, making the fence available for trellising, and placing the bug-attracting vegetables like squash and cucumbers next to the chickens, in hopes the girls will develop a deep love of striped cucumber beetles.

The three center blocks will be used for herbs and flowers for cutting, and will we hope have a birdbath and bench in there where we can rest from our toils. Now that the plan is done, and my list of vegetables mostly complete, I need to get moving on the seed order! As usual, I'm spreading my orders around three Maine seed companies, Pine Tree Seeds, which I like because they sell some interesting varieties in smaller packets for home gardeners; Johnny's Selected Seeds, which sells great varieties, many developed at their Albion, ME farm; and FEDCO, which I love for it's great varieties, witty well-written catalog prose, and lefty leanings. Yikes, the FEDCO seed order deadline is March 27. Time to go!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Floor

Kyle and his girlfriend Megan came to visit today, so in the morning before they arrived, we prepped the windows, then cleaned all the dust and mopped the floor.

We then took a break for lunch and chat, then after lunch Kyle and Megan took Fishy for a walk, and Dan and I poly'd the window frames. They look great, even with only one coat.

On to the floor. Kyle and Megan returned with the dog (darn!), so we pressed Kyle into service to help get the first coat of paint on the floor. Dan edged around the baseboard, Kyle painted the countersunk screw holes, and I rolled. In no time, we had the first coat done. Thanks, kids! We are approaching the finish line, another couple of coats of poly on the worst areas of the windows, and another coat of floor paint, then we get to the fun part, the decorative stamp accent!

Painter's Progress

Attention, Black & Decker, please contact me about becoming your product spokeswoman for the Mouse Detail Sander.

Seriously, I had heard from friend and fellow DIYer Holly the B&D Mouse was good, but really, it was an impulse (i.e. unresearched) purchase; I am awed by how WONDERFUL is the mighty Mouse. I knew we needed to sand the window frames and it would be a fussy, time-consuming job (not my favorite), but we have the water-stained, UV-damaged window frames ready to coat with polyurethane in about 2 hours, with frequent stops to clean up dust and marvel at the mighty Mouse. I love it.

And in other news, thanks, Karen for joining Dan and I at inaugurating the first of what I hope will be many champagne Fridays, and for bringing the pretty tulips! Tulips are my favorite cut flower. They really disguise the heaps of dog hair, road salt and other crud liberally adorning the house while we work on the painting project. Aren't they pretty?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Teal for two

Now that we are back at Henbogle, we are working on some coop improvement projects, namely painting the sewing room. Six years on and we are still pecking away at all the painting and redecorating projects on the list; after we paint the sewing room, we'll have one more room to paint before it is time to start re-painting the other rooms, sigh.
The previous homeowners had 3 children; the sewing room was a boy's bedroom, painted a bright sky-ish blue semi-gloss, with a very juvenile wallpaper border around the top of the walls (I could hardly wait to rip the border off, it made the ceiling appear about foot lower).

The former occupant had used approximately one million thumbtacks in the walls, and had covered the ceiling and walls with glow-in-the-dark stickers in the shape of planets and stars, some of which were very difficult to remove. Thus, we had a lot of spackling to do before we could paint.

For the walls, we selected a deep bluish green, Teal Stencil, from Sherwin Williams' Preservation Palette line. This room has no floor as of yet; until a hardwood floor is in the budget, we'll paint the subfloor a taupe enamel (Behr Beaverwood), the same color as the kitchen, with some bronzy gold and Maleya Red accents. Maybe an argyle pattern? No, even I'm not that crazy, we'll use stamps to imprint fleur de lis and star shapes on the floor in a pattern.

Yesterday we spackled and painted the ceiling, and earlier today we painted the walls. Between coats of wall paint, we rode forth to our usual source in search of taupe enamel paint, (we are big Glidden paint fans) but were disappointed to learn Glidden no longer makes glossy floor enamel. Thus on to Home Depot, where of course I was seduced by the siren call of the Black and Decker electric sander for sanding and re-polyurethaning the window frames, but we did find Behr glossy enamel floor paint in Beaverwood.

Back home, we painted a second coat of teal, and tonight removed the painter's tape. Wow, it looks so much better! Dan did touch-up painting while I gave the door a first coat of taupe. Maybe tomorrow we'll be able to start on the floor (currently a vile primary green).

Last year, following some project or other, I created swatch books for each of us (stored in the car & truck) with paint sample chips and other pertinent info about our home's paint palette. We are always collecting paint chips because so often we can't find the color we envision in the Glidden line, so we'll have the paint store colormatch the shade we want from a swatch. I added the Teal Stencil paint chips to our swatch books, it's a keeper.

With the walls finished, now we need to paint the door, the floor, and sand the window and skylight frames and coat with clear polyurethane. We also will sand and poly coat some of the as yet unfinished trim, and Dan will make a door for the sewing/craft closet. This room will look great, and probably will be the first room in the house to be completely finished. Oops, except for the floor, and replacing the overhead ceiling light fixtures.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Can we come in?

Last night, on my way out to the freezer in the shed to get something for dinner, out of the corner of my eye I saw something suspiciously chicken-shaped on the deck.

Yep, it was indeed a chicken, 5 chickens, to be precise, staring intently at the door into the shed. Iris the escape artist must have figured out how to open the gate, and led the girls down the path to to the house for a visit.

It w
as almost dark, I don't know whether they came down to the house to come inside, or to let us know they were unable to get through the gate, and thus inside the coop to roost for the night.

I called Dan to come and look, and we both had a good laugh, then he led the girls back to Henbogle Coop for the night. (If you look carefully, you can just see Dan's legs at the top of the bottom photo.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

After a whirlwind trip to visit Dan's parents in New York, we are back in the nest at Henbogle. Thanks to the faithful Antonio, home for February break from the University of Southern Maine, the zoo was in good hands while we were away. Fishy enjoyed 2 walks a day, and the girls were watered, and fed, if not cooed and coddled over.

We had a wonderful time. We celebrated Mom's 75th birthday, all Dan's siblings were there, and a couple of the grandchildren, too. As a bonus, Dan's sister Louise and I, and granddaughter Marianne, also February babies, got to hear the birthday song, and enjoy a cake for us, too. Amazingly, my birthday is February 3, Louise's is February 4, and Dan's mom's is February 5.

We had some pretty competitive games of Snatch, and played a few rounds of a word game Dan's Mom found, Ad-Lib. And we laughed a lot; we always enjoy the chance to see everyone. Happy Birthday, Mom! Best wishes for a very happy and healthy 75th year, and many more after that!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snatch to the rescue

My ever resourceful and entertaining best friend Holly recently made a visit to celebrate my birthday with me, and in addition to her company, one of the gifts she brought was a terrific word game, Snatch, which she bought at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on a recent business trip to California.

Dan and I have made a habit of playing a game or two most evenings after dinner this winter. We've elected to forgo cable television, so other than rented DVDs we never watch the tube, preferring instead to read, do crossword puzzles, or play a game. Snatch is perfect for a winter evening, quick to set up, play, and pick up. It's great fun and is nicely designed, coming in a sturdy plastic tube printed with the directions (thus reducing opportunities to lose them) and snugly fitting cover. The basic premise of the game is to make words from Scrabble-like letter tiles until you've exhausted all available tiles or cannot form a word with the remaining tiles.

We are both pretty competitive, though, so it can be a bit tense, as a fundamental element of the game is snatching a word from another player, and adding letters to it to make a new word, i.e. bird becomes bride becomes bridles. We are pretty closely matched, although Dan is the stronger player, routinely snatching a word from me or seeing one the instant a new letter is revealed. In two games tonight, I won the first 32-20, and Dan won the second game 30-25.

If you are a fan of word games, check out Snatch. We are planning to bring the game on our upcoming trip to visit Mom & Dad in New York. It seems like a good game to travel with, being compact, self-contained, and fun.

Yup, it's snowing

Well, we're getting the predicted snow, 4+ inches so far, with more coming, possibly with sleet, freezing rain or even a thunderstorm tonight.

We filled the bird feeders last night, and the birds were glad of it-- over breakfast I watched a beautiful female cardinal flitting from the grapevine to the feeders with a sunflower seed. The male cardinals are showier, but the females are beautiful this time of year, I wish the photo showed her coloring better. Enjoy the snow!

9 p.m. update: We've received about 10" of snow, and it has turned to sleet here. Our weather gadget is calling for thunderstorms, but the temperature is hovering at 10F so it's hard to imagine that will happen. The wind has picked up, but the sleet appears to be reducing the amount of drifting we are getting now. Not a letdown, exactly, but not as big a storm as I was expecting. At least so far.

6:45 am update: We received quite a bit of sleet overnight, raising our total to 14" of snow and sleet. Dan's district cancelled school today, but I'll be heading onto campus for another busy day, the second week of classes and the week before vacation!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Nor'easter on the Way?

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning and wind chill advisories for today and tomorrow.

Winter Storm Warning

355 AM EST TUE FEB 13 2007





The actual forecast is calling for 4-8 inches of snow in the mid-coast, possibly with a little freezing rain or sleet mixed in, yummy!

Still the whole panic-riddled forecasting biz leaves me shaking my head. Inciting panic over 4-8 inches of snow seems a bit extreme. I can clearly remember several big storms of my youth (now referred to as the blizzard of '78, etc.) that did not incite near rioting at the grocery store despite the 14+ inches of snow that fell. I think the problem is not the snow, but us.

I miss the old days, before SUVs, when we were all in the same boat, so to speak, wipers straining to clear the windshield as we crept along the road at 35 mph. Now I drive a sedate 45 mph --as required by law on the Maine turnpike, I might add-- and the crazy fool in the big SUV puts my life at risk screaming by at 65+ mph while yakking on the cell phone. These days, I stay home, I'm afraid of the other drivers. A little snow don't scare me, but the fools with 4-wheel drive, well, they leave me shaking in my pac boots. In my driveway at home.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Garden Recordkeeping

Lately, I've been enjoying my blogging crony Tracy's posts on her blog Outside, reviewing the vegetables she grew in her garden this past year. I'm impressed with her recordkeeping and the systematic way she is reviewing the successes and challenges of her garden. It is one of those things I wish I were better at, but that kind of recordkeeping eludes me.

I do keep a garden journal, in addition to my collected ramblings on gardening that appear here at Henbogle. My journaling efforts started out well my first year in the house, collecting my thoughts in an inexpensive composition book. My garden journal includes several plant lists --for attracting wildlife, for sun, for shade, for wet spots, for dry spots; the (then) dimensions of the vegetable garden, the results of my soil test from the U Maine Cooperative Extension Service, a very basic yard map, and for good measure, the dimensions of the lot, the house/shed/barn, the freestanding deck. I drew the plan for the vegetable garden, recorded some of the seeds I purchased and started, and made a list of bird sightings. My last entry that year: April 8 (!) Planted flower seeds: Marble Arch Salvia, Coreopsis v. Baby Sun, Lavender Vera, Flax Flower, Baby's Breath (pink), Shasta Daisy, Nasturtium (Jewel & Peach Melba), Cosmos (Sensation Mix), Rudbeckia (Indian Summer), Dianthus (Cheddar Pink), Delphiniums, (Belladonna & Pacific Giant mix). I know I started a great many more seeds than those listed, as Dan and I were planning our backyard wedding, and we were dreaming of lovely gardens overflowing with flowers. (Unfortunately, Hogdemort the evil groundhog had other plans and did his best to mow the gardens to the ground. Still, our wedding day was lovely and the yard was beautiful. So there, you rodent!)

The 2002 gardening season had even fewer entries. The vegetable garden plan, a brief note about the lilac hedge we planted to hide our neighbor's garage, an even briefer note about the previous year --"2001 Planting: Silver Garden."

The 2003 entries were a bit more useful, listing the two dwarf cherry trees, a Stella Bing-type, and Montmorency sour cherry, in addition to the vegetable garden plan, and pasted-in photocopies of my seed orders, but little else, probably as that summer we were busy painting the house, a huge task that appears to be never ending.

In 2004 I made more of an effort, beginning in March with an entry about goals for the season,
and with regular entries through May 31, with some wrap-up entries beginning in November and continuing into 2005. I also cleverly realized I could print out color photos for inclusion in the journal. I did manage to write well into the summer in 2005 (July 1), but included no useful notes on the production of the vegetable garden, instead keeping more a record of the gardening projects undertaken. I gave a gardening journal to Dan's mom last year, and found her journal inspired me to include, as she does, clippings from the newspaper or magazines on interesting gardening topics such as a new plant variety or unusual herbs. She also taped plant tags onto the pages of her with her notes of where and when each plant was located in the garden.

Tracy has inspired me to pay more attention to the vegetable garden as I start both the new gardening season, and begin my journaling this year with a brand new journal. Yes, despite the few cryptic entries, my old journal is full, and I need to start anew. I know I really value what little I did write in past years, and am sure I will continue to do so. I suspect this blog will provide
much information to me in the future, but I think I will still need the journal, which I can carry about with me as I garden, consulting as needed without worrying too much about mud, hose accidents or forgetting it outside overnight.

The empty pages of my new journal beckon, and the lengthening days remind me I need to finalize my plans and get them in the journal to guide me in future years. And so, dear readers, I want to know: how do you keep track of your gardening efforts?

A big break from the cold

Wow, what a gorgeous day today. By 9 am, the temp was up to 25F in the shade, and the sun was shining. This afternoon, the temps hit above freezing (41F) for the first time in weeks.

Dan and I puttered about outside after lunch, shoveling snow off the new deck, and talking about an upcoming project, building a shade pergola for the deck.

A few days befo
re Christmas we drove by a "good used stuff" shop, and saw two gorgeous 8' porch columns for sale in the parking lot. (Imagine the screeching of the brakes at that moment.) Fortunately, we were in the truck, so after a bit of dickering, the columns came home with us. They are in excellent shape, we were really lucky. We plan to use them as pictured to support the pergola. We'll run the joists from a ledger board attached to the shed wall to a stringer connecting the two columns. I hope this will provide some badly needed shade for the deck. We'd been debating the merits of a pergola versus a shade cloth, but finding these beautiful columns for a song made up our minds.

This morning,
I was getting antsy to be outside, so I took Fishy for a long walk with my friend Karen. We got back to the house and Karen stopped for a snack (I'd made cranberry orange scones for breakfast) and some coffee. We had a good chat, then wandered about the yard, talking gardening and determining where to put the pizza oven this spring.

We decided it will need to be near the freestanding deck, a little way from the house. This way any smoke from starting it up will be well away from both our house and the neighbors house. We then went over to Karen's and determined where her pizza oven will go. We've decided we will build the two ovens together, sharing the work and our cement mixer, and learning from one another as we go. Only 37 days until spring!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chickens that do tricks

Dan and I just went out to give the girls a flake of hay. From the house, we could see them, standing all clumped together by the gate, staring at the house. Do they know it is the weekend and we are home?

As we arrive at the Coop, they begin crooning and clucking, happy to see us. We put the hay in the snow dome, and they immediately begin scratching and pecking, looking for seeds. I collect 5 eggs from the nest boxes. We head back to the house. At the gate, we turn to close it, and there they are, all 5 hens, looking at us. Poppy is all puffed up, standing on one leg, head retreating into her hunched neck. Dan said, "Look, our chickens do tricks, they stand on one leg!" And I said, "As though laying an egg a day isn't enough."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Frostbitten Chickens?

Groundhog, shmoundhog, I expected too much from that lousy rodent. Phil may have promised a short winter, but here in Maine we are experiencing the frosty freezing grip of winter, with below zero nights and daytime temps in the single digits. Brrrr.

I've been concerned about the chickens in this cold snap. They don't like the snow, but seem happy enough with the snow dome and the area near Henbogle Coop we've shoveled, and despite the cold, they want to be outside. Yesterday the girls were so eager to be outside they bolted from the coop through the side door as I was refreshing their water. With the forecast calling for single digit temps and wind, I tried to get them back inside Henbogle Coop for the day, but to no avail. I left the Coop door open, so they could go back in and get out of the wind, but don't really know how they choose to spend their days while I'm at work.

With this bitter cold, though, I'm worried their combs are getting frostbitten. Notice the brown patches on Poppy's comb in the above photo. I read in our chicken owners manual, Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow, that rubbing vaseline on their combs would help prevent frostbite, so we've been dutifully massaging on the vaseline, but I'm afraid they've experienced some frostbite. Poppy, with her luxurious comb, appears to be the worst affected. I recently read that Icy Hot increases the circulation to the combs, so I might try that, although I'm a bit dubious, and I don't want to try anything that will cause them discomfort.

We are doing our best to make sure they are comfy. We've got a couple of lamps set up in Henbogle Coop to give some heat and the needed 15 hours of daylight for optimal egg production. We put a sensor from our digital thermometer in the Coop the other day; yesterday morning at 5:30 it was a frosty 14 F, even with the lights. After a few days of the cold we broke down and bought a water fount heater from Knight's Farm Supply, which made life a lot easier for us and provides the girls with warm water, saving them from having to expend energy to warm it up.

Despite the cold weather and frostbite, the girls seem very happy, although a little bored. We've been throwing a flake of hay in the snowdome every once in a while to give the girls something to do. They will scratch through the hay and eat the seeds, and I'll throw any treats and their scratch in the hay to add to the hunt and peck factor. We are still getting 4-5 big, beautiful, delicious eggs a day, and we love every egg. Thanks, girls!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Groundhog Day!

Groundhog Day
is one of my favorite holidays. To me, it seems that once Groundhog Day has arrived, Spring becomes somehow more tangible, a definite possibility despite the long procession of cold days to come. Once Groundhog Day has arrived, the daylight hours have increased enough that it is still daylight when I depart for home after work, and soon, dusk will still be lingering upon reaching home.
Normally, I'm not a fan of the garden-devouring little rodents, but on Groundhog Day, I set my animosity aside and make a temporary peace. Today in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil the groundhog poked his snout out of his den and predicted the early arrival of spring. Yay Phil!