This One’s for You, Mr. Robinson

Ever want to know what a superhero looks like?  He looks like this:
This is our friend, Bob, who’s a superhero.  He’s made an appearance or two in this blog before.  He’s been our mentor, our motivator, our commentator, and the one who brings Yuengling every time he visits.  Other would-be visitors, please take note.  I actually think this is a nice photo.  I took it on the ol’ Mass Pike on the way home from a visit to Brimfield.  Brimfield, for those of you who don’t know, is the massive antique and junk sale that happens in Central Mass, in the town of Brimfield.  It’s a locus for junquesters like us, of whom Bob happens to be one.  So it was convenient that Bob was here when Brimfield was going on.  Incidentally, Central Massachusetts in July is pretty hot, if you’re considering a visit, but I’d say, also, worthwhile, because everyone thinks it’s gonna be too hot, so they don’t go.  So it’s less crowded, and, in my opinion, the deals are better.  I don’t think everyone shares those sentiments, but hey, if you want to hear what somone else thinks, go read their blog.   Bob got a coupla hand planes, which he needs like I need another hen not laying eggs.  I swear, I don’t know how many handplanes Bob has, but it’s gotta be, like, thousands.  I’m pretty sure he keeps them in his underground lair with his special superhero car and butler sidekick, and transponders and stuff.  And seriously, none of our hens are laying eggs.  I wasn’t kidding about that either.  And I think that’s just garbage, and you can tell the hens I think that, see if I care.  They started to – laid about 4 real nice ones (this is the just-coming-into-maturity Black Barred Rocks, now) – then quit.  Either they’re not laying at all, or they’re laying abroad somewhere in the field or grass or what have you.  Well you can guess about how much good that does me.  Also, in a sad bit of news we had to do away with one of those Barred Rocks.  He got sick, and we tried to let him recover, but no go.  So yesterday I put him out of his misery.  Which was kinda sad.  We liked Rudyard.  I’ll spare you photos of that little piece of true-life farm business.  Anyway, here’s a photo of most of the fowl family, having a Sunday afternoon roost:
Please don’t judge us for all the crappe that seems to be hanging around along with the fowl, or with the advanced decrepitude of those park benches.  We’re gradually trying to get the place spruced up, but it takes time.  And apparently, we’re not so good at throwing stuff away.  We’re getting better though!  If you look in the background, you can just see a couple ducks.  We like those three a lot.  They’ve got a real personality all their own, and they just up and decided to move into the chicken house.  So now everybody’s together, under one somewhat leaky roof.
Thanks to the great amount of time since my last post, I admit, I’m meandering a bit.  Thanks for bearing with me.  First, what we got at Brimfield:
Gosh, this is just a terrible photo!  But hopefully, you can see at it’s top, a light fixture!  Finally, where before there was only bare wire, now there’s an actual functional (and pretty dang nice, if I do say so) light fixture.  Ironically, I took a photo of it turned off.  Which seems like an odd choice.
Bob also visited because we’re trying to move the chip forward on renovating our ol’ back section.  Remember this room?
Well, turns out, the whole floor system is pretty sitting on dirt, and rotted in a couple significant places.  Like places that hold the building up.  Which means the floor’s spongy in the good spots, and downright rotted through in other spots.  So we pulled up the floor, which you see above, and now it looks like this:
So Bob, who’s got a lot of expertise in this area came to help us lift up sinking floors and walls, with house jacks.  It takes a lot of setup, but then ultimately, you just lift the whole dang house up.  It creaks and groans, lines line up, and then, voila!  You note that that things aren’t looking so cockeyed anymore.  Now we’ve got to pour a concrete sill beam, atop the foundation, place a new sill, repair the rotted stud bottoms, and sit the wall back down.  Just a little work still to do.  And that’s only one wall.
One of the most important jobs to do when you’re preparing to jack up a house is the house-jacking dance, here interpreted by someone you may know:
And here’s Bob doing the setup:

Thank you Bob.  Thank you so much.
Also, here’s the CD I didn’t buy at the grocery store last night whilst Casey was experiencing a hail storm at the house:

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The Garden Grows. And the Caveat FoxTrot.

Many of you may have heard, but we had a visit from a very, very, very large, and rather well-fed looking fox. I was in the garden when I saw one guinea hen shoot past, and had just begun to think it strange when I saw the gleeful predator, right on its tailfeathers. Anyone who’s seen a fox before will probably understand that rather than going into immediate combat mode, I was sort of filled with awe and wonder. I stood up, screamed “WHoa!” at which point Fantastic Mr. Fox went “oh sh*t!” and seamlessly bounded back into the woods. When I filled Sam in on the details, he somehow managed to track the perpetrator down in the woods long enough to have a meaningful stare-down. We lost 4 guinea hens, which was a bit of a wake up call. So all our fowl spent a few days indoors while I set to work building some protective runs.



Here are the ducks in their new duck tractor.. complete with diving board! who could ask for more?





My mother will be pleased to know that the chicken shaque has managed to get even more hillbilly, and just in time for the wedding!




We now have a total of 3 roosters. Which is generally thought to be 2 too many. My mom has been giving us a lot of grief for not being “real farmers,” and for burying our chickens when they die. I’m thinking of asking her to help me butcher El Grande (far left) on her upcoming trip, to make things a little more comfortable for Curtis, our OG rooster. (far right.) Coq au Vin dinner at the Hoot, anyone?


This evening, I noticed our first squash blossoms! This makes me very excited. In CA, Sam and I would hit up the summer farmers’ market and buy a bunch of these, stuff them with goat cheese, and dip them in a cornmeal batter and fry them. There is no adjective that appropriately captures the taste sensation..




I’m sort of a new gardener, but I must say that zucchini is a very satisfying thing to grow, mainly due to its sheer size. It also seems to pretty much take care of itself, which helps.






The sugar snaps are also doin great! I spent a few obsessive mornings out there smashing aphid nurseries that had taken up residence on their leaves, but now they’ve taken over fending for themselves.







Our asian greens have bolted, but they’re sort of nice in flower, so we’re just leaving them.





Here’s the bloom of some anonymous green. It sort of looks like an antique flower to me. if such a thing were to exist…







Nasties and blacktail watermelon, still building up steam..







We’ve been working on some companion planting, to stave off pests naturally. Here’s a little neighborhood of tomato, parsley, nasties, and dill… I don’t want to jinx myself, but so far, so good!






Sam’s a big salsa verde guy, so I planted some tomatillos for him.







rainbow chard!







This kale is the best I’ve ever had. It has the tenderness of lettuce, and the flavor of kale. You always hear that garden veggies are better than store bought.. well, its true.






And these onions were planted by Lee and Deanie! I’ve been letting the clover creep in because it’s supposed to attract beneficial insects.




Now these here are my pride and joy. Our soon-to-be award-winning cheese punkins. Great for pies. Get ready, Thanksgiving. Sam’s chosen “little cheese pumpkin” as a new pet name for me… I might be honored. but i’m not sure yet.





these are some very spicy mustard greens.







Alongside some turnips, and some very spicy arugula.








I have great visions of this being a very spicy ancho pepper plant, though right now, it just looks a little uneasy.







Needless to say, these guys have been enjoying the garden more than we have. Sometimes I go out there with some chopsticks and try to hurdle as many as I can into Kingdom Come. They always find their way back. They do make a decent duck snack.



Pleasant garden evening.





I will leave you with this image of Prince Quaalude sitting on some eggs. Tawny is standing by, as always, for emotional support. The eggs are warm, but a little overdue, so there’s a chance they’re duds. For a week or so, I kept finding them stashed all over the house. Sam was insistent that it was part of the process, they had to be abandoned behind a mirror before the hen sat on them, but I’m not totally convinced.. In the grand scheme of things, it would be sort of appropriate for this chicken to be sitting on dud eggs. Still, a tender moment for you to enjoy.





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Whatever Happened to Uncle Turnip?

We might have found a human jawbone buried in the dirt under the small old part of our house.  No kidding!  I had to put it out on the blog because I need some confirmation.  Photos below, but please advise.Dentists, please sound off.  I decided if it is human, clearly it’s a jawbone from Uncle Turnip who disappeared way back when.  Hence the name of the post.
That’s just the beginning of the ’round The Hoot happenings.
In that same excavation area we turned up a ceramic pipe bowl.  The stem’s gone but the bowl is very complete.  Apparently this is not quite so exciting as I’d initially thought, unless you can date it as very old-timey.  Without my radio-carbon dating kit, however, we’re kind of up the creek.  Bob K., any ideas on this?  Some of what my cursory internet research reveals is that newer pipes had very consistent wall thicknesses, and larger holes for the stem (I guess as tobacco got more common, and cheaper you could stand to allow more smoke through.)  So the smaller the hole and the more irregular the wall thicknesses, the older the piece.  Apparently clay pipes have been around a very long time – in the Americas from the 1600s right up through the 20th century.  So finding the pipe doesn’t help us date the age of the house very well.  But the pipe and jawbone together – wow!  Uncle Steve, this might be an area for your expertise.  We’ve been waving the metal detector around back there, but so far no metal has turned up.  We’re hoping for gold doubloons, and you can rest assured if we find any we won’t be putting it out on this blog.  Hard to know what sort of person might be reading.  Suspicious lot, you are.
In other news, some really wonderful things have come into bloom: Lee’s Mock Oranges smell amazing, and the only shame is that the internet hasn’t yet figured out how to record and share smells:
Also, I think these are spring beauties, but I can’t say for certain.  I found them down while mowing along the road.  Don’t worry.  I didn’t mow them down:
Also, that mowing was enabled by the generosity of my cousin Ross, who’s lent us his old sickle bar mower.  I’m getting the hang of it.  Slowly:
Finally, before parting for a day of wackiness, here’s our latest poultry addition.  A gent and two ladies.  East Indie Bantam ducks.  We love them quite a bit.  Casey has named one of the ladies Sylvie.  They’re lovely.
Have a wonderful holiday weekend.

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Cards Played Right

I’m here to report, I must have done something right.  As I said in my last post, I had a fighting chance of eating some home grown vegetation if I didn’t mess up.  Well, here’s the proof:Mixed greens, tasty and nutritious.  The ruler isn’t there for scale, it’s just that, for some reason, it got captured in the photo.
Also, this morning, we had some visitors.  I thought something might be wrong with the guinea fowl, recently liberated into the wider world.  I had a look, and everything seemed fine over that way, but then I heard this strange call from the front yard, and when we looked out the window out there, found these folks:
Morning Visitors
Finally, Casey has discovered the joys of mowing.  Please enjoy the following montage.
With love, from The Hoot.

If you want to see this mowing in action, please do so here.
There’s been a lot written, in this publication, about how much work there is to do here.  It’s true, there is.  But sometimes, work pays off, and you can just sit on a nice plastic folding chaise, in the middle of a freshly mowed field, get the sunset on your face, and admire your handiwork.  We call this “sittin’ in the lap of luxury,” and it’s pictured below.
You’ll notice, the chair is empty, because there’s not time for us to sit in it.  But rest assured, when you arrive, this is where you’ll be.  And this is what you’ll be seeing:
and this:
With love, from The Hoot.

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Spring in the Valley

It’s here, in earnest.  Taller grass and I saw a frog hopping through it yesterday.  Those f-ing chipmunks are chirping, and probably burrowing through our foundation walls.  Deer are grazing, and we’re researching pellet guns.  The good news is, we’re completely swamped building furniture, though in a way, that’s also the bad news.  It’s hard to find time to fit everything in.  By everything, I mean eating.
We had a tragic escape of 4 guinea hens, while we were out of town, and the guinea fowl were under the care of one of our friends.  Still, the reduced flock is starting to make its characteristic sounds heard, and all they want to do is run off and get lost or eaten or hit by cars.  I can just see it in their eyes.  Well, believe you me, I’ll be fighting that tooth and nail.  I made them a temporary crappy run, so they can get some yard time, but there’s no basketball hoop or guard towers.  Also, the run is already falling apart.
On the good news, somebody is doing some good around here:

Weeding. Or planting Chard. I’m not sure which.

If I play my cards right, maybe I’ll get to eat some vegetables.  We’re just calculating the path of the sun over the yard to make sure there will be enough after the trees all leaf out.

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In which I channel George Hearst, as portrayed on my favorite TV Show, Deadwood

In case you didn’t know, one of my favorite shows is Deadwood.  Maybe the favorite.  It’s not giving anything away to say that Hearst shows up in Season 2 or 3, and turns the whole camp upside down.  He takes petty disagreements and rivalries between existing personalities, and turns them into allegiances.  Interesting the way a common enemy can unite seemingly unallied parties.  Anyhoot, one of Ol’ Hearst’s first projects is to bust a door in a wall, where previously there was no door.  I looked but couldn’t find any pics of that, but here’s actor Gerald McRaney, as Hearst:

I know what you’re thinking.  Sam, wherefore the zany digression?  Well, yersterday, I busted a hole in a wall, where there had not appeared to be a wall before.  To whit: I’m standing in the wagon shed, chock full of wood, ladders, miscellany, wondering how I’m going to shove more stuff in.  The doors are almost completely blocked, and the spots where there’s room to stash more treasure are inaccessible.  Standing quietly, I see a place where there should be a door, look closer, see mortises, realize, there was a door.  That’s all it takes for me to make up my mind.  Here’s a little before and after:
Ok, scratch that.  There’s no before, only the after.  Come to think of it, that might be “words to live by.”  What you see is a new door, with some really wonderful old 1/2″ oak siding, stained a wonderful rust red, with a bead, a decorative flourish that would indicate a certain prosperity at the Hoot in days gone by.

siding detail

This siding is in good shape (having all those white painted cedar shakes over top of it, probably helped maintain it).  And the bead seems to have been hand cut.  In case you don’t know, a bead is a line along the edge of board.  More close-ups to come.
Interestingly, the post that the door should swing on, is sitting on dirt, and not even really sitting, since it’s dangling, bottom rotted, not doing what it should.  The good news on that is that with a door opening, we can now do a little surgery on this post and its fellows.  More pics on that to come too.
Apple trees are everywhere in bloom!
Casey is tearing up the floor in her office, and…
We’ve spent the month of april celebrating Casey’s birthday.  These are some carrot cupcakes I made her.

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Family Visits, and other guests who come to stay, though uninvited

No, this is not a photo of Aunt Deanie and Casey and Mom planting a tree.  It’s a photo of the 3 of them planting a fence.  A deer fence, around the garden.  It happened a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve been so remiss in writing the blog that I’m just now getting around to posting it.  This was during the pre-birthday celebration and weekend for Casey that included the death of Delphina, the laying chicken, and primary girlfriend of Curtis the rooster, and other things.  Like reattaching the upstairs toilet.
Since that time, the days continue to unspool across the Hoots’ Hills, and the grass ain’t getting any shorter.  Also, spring has brought the return of our bat colony to the attic.  Oh, joy.  Actually, it is kind of joyful, because the bats should be what stands between us and a mosquito infestation.  We’ll choose the former, but sirs and madams, won’t you please take up residence outside of our attic?  Like in this nice, tiny, dead-tree-attached… box?
Apparently bats are suffering from a major scourge – white nose disease, and being wiped out nationwide (according to NPR the disease just recently crossed the mississippi barrelling west) so we’re hoping we can gently relocate our resident flying rodents.  Any suggestions?
The family really seems to be beginning to gel, with the Seneca and Hanna becoming familiars.  Here they are settin’ on the porch, keeping a watchful eye on the far fields.  They’re pretty good friends, and Seneca hasn’t tried to eat her in at least 4 hours.  No really, they’re basically immune to each others, and get along great.
Finally, here’s a teaser for our next post:  we had some other visitors recently.  Our west coast family came to say hi!!!  More photos to come.

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