Sunday, April 30, 2006

Spring's Sweet Scent

I haven't hung clothes on the line since I was a kid. At that time, it was mostly done out of necessity: either mom didn't have the money to pay the electricity or the dryer was broke. I guess my situation today is somewhat similar considering it was a bit of necessity that led to line drying. It wasn't because the bills weren't paid, they are. It's the dryer. The relay switch required to crank up some heat is kaput and the part is on order, soon to be delivered. But I'm ok with it all, in fact, the timing is coincidental. It was just last week that I was telling a friend of mine that I'd like to start line drying. I wanted to because I like to save electricity and because there's just no better way to bring in the sweetness of spring, unless you're cutting fresh flowers and mine aren't ready yet.

Friday, April 28, 2006

They Grow Up So Fast

Today marks the one month mark of being a chicken herder. It all seemed like a great idea, then a crazy idea, then a trendy idea, then and finally, it seemed like the right idea. Get chicks, raise them organically, naturally. Let them free range in the yard so they can run after each other, chase butterflies, peck at weed seeds and flap their wings in the warmth of the sun. In turn, they'd provide us with eggs, in fact, the best you can get: homegrown from healthy and loved birds.

I am embarrassed to admit the number of hours I spend each day watching them do what they do. I just hate to be away from them, I'm so eager to see what they'll do next. It's a guarantee they'll earn a laugh from any audience. It is so much fun to watch them hop around after each other, testing their wings, with no set path ahead of them. It's all fun for them until Xena knocks the other two on top of their gourds with that hard and pointy beak of hers. I've been pecked by her, so I know how it feels.

Out of the three, she amazes me the most. Without any sage advice or guidance from a mentoring chicken, she has leapt to the top roost to be the head of the pecking order. She is a firm leader with a mother's watchful eye. She is quick to *bock* when she eyes something threatening in the sky above. Hawks, ospreys, P-3 Orions, it doesn't matter. She protects against all. It is fascinating.

Ginger has proven my prediction to be true. She is the lap chick. Buff Orpingtons are known to be docile and she definitely has the genes. She's a very sweet bird and has completely captured my heart.

Little Ella remains a songbird. She still does a little singing at night as their day comes to close. But come to think of it, Ella is seldom ever quiet. She has something to say all the time. As the little sister of the flock, she follows the other two on their tail feathers chatting away. There's just always something to chatter and chirp about. Always. She should be hoarse by now.

With other projects in the works and life's regular happenings, the tractor remains a work-in-progress. It is coming along quite nicely and should suit the girls well once it's operational in the backyard. There were no diagrams or plans to follow, so it's been design-as-you-go construction. The very cool thing about it is that it can be converted to a real coop a little later down the road. We'll be able to add the necessary nesting boxes, elevate it, add some ramps, add on a run and the girls will have a nice shady chicken condo to call home. We don't expect them to start laying until late this year so that gives us time to make sure the neighbors aren't going to raise hell before we raise the tractor onto stilts.

**click on photos to enlarge**

Thursday, April 27, 2006

How Chickens Clean Themselves

One major part of a chicken's day is bath time. Most females will probably agree, a nice long soak in the tub can wash away any of the day's problems and make us forget the world around us. I think it's got to be just about the same for the poultry girls.

I watch the girls take their numerous dust baths every day while they're outside practicing their chickenness. Ella, or Little Ella as she's commonly called, was the first to take to this ritual. I was really surprised since she is, as you may have guessed, the littliest of the trio. She is still the most eager and aggressive bather in the bunch. For all of them, it's like entering some kind of freaky opium zone. They get totally stoned, euphoria abounds! As you can see, Ella looks like roadkill once she's nearly done.

Speaking of roadkill...

It's really no surprise to learn that chickens aren't that bright. I'm sure that my girls would never make it to the other side of the road. They have, what I have named A2D2: Avian Attention Deficit Disorder. I thought my cats were bad??? They're furry Einsteins compared to these girls. It's all fine ... it makes for great entertainment.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Power to the Pups

I stumbled upon this article today and had an immediate flashback to my visit to La Jolla last spring.

Good-bye and an Egg Roll, Please

Today very well may be the last day I ever eat Chinese food. My favorite Chinese restaurant for the last 14 years is closing its doors. The sign on the glass front door reads:
It is with a very heavy heart that we announce we are closing Wednesday, April 26.

Hing Loung's owner, Peggy, kept us company while we ate dinner in her place on Friday. She told us, with a big sigh, that she and her husband were simply tired. It's no wonder. They do all the work, and I mean ALL the work, themselves. Over the last 14 years, they've had a part-time server on occassion as well as a dishwasher here and there. But most of the time, it's just them. Her husband, who started his professional career as a Szechuan chef in New York, prepares all the food, by scratch. Peggy said he is there from 9am or 11am until nearly midnight, seven days a week. He hasn't been back to China in over 20 years, she said. She doubts he could find his way around their hometown because so much has changed.

Everything is so expensive, too. Her lease expenditure is the lowest in the strip center only because she's the only original leasee left. But even so, she said it's just too expensive. We talked about how more and more family-owned restaurants will close because of the economy. I couldn't disagree... there are 99¢ menus on every corner and that is affordable for most.

She hopes to take a break and then search for a situation that will allow them to just serve carry-out. That would eliminate a bulk of their overhead and still give them a chance to do what they love: cook and see their regular customers. I hope she is able to make that happen. She has a large number of regular customers who hope the same, too.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Another Urban Garden

While visiting the county's extension office last week, I was offered a tour of the city's urban garden. Nestled in between a number of non-descript municipal buildings is a plot of land loaded with growing vegetables and herbs. The extension office maintains the garden as a test bed and education location and is grown and maintained using guidelines set by the University of Florida. It was there that I learned strawberries are grown as annuals, not perennials like most of the country. That was useful information since I have one plant growing (and producing fruit) and intend to add several more to my garden. I also liked that they set an example by using recycled materials in the garden such as the bike wheel for trellis construction. Once my garden is ready for harvest, I plan on utilizing the Canning Center. I have much to learn about "putting up" food.

Adjacent to the urban garden are 15 plots of land for citizen use. All plots are currently in use and there is a waiting list for additional gardeners to work the land when an opening becomes available. I was very impressed with the growth and diversity of plants. One of the plots is maintained by a couple of PhD students who are studying plant tissue. I was very impressed with their onions. They were the size of softballs. HUGE, I tell ya, huge.
**click on photos to enlarge**

Saturday, April 22, 2006

April Showers

Bring fallen trees. A wonderful rain shower (finally) moved through and with it came strong wind gusts. Our neighbor's (half dead) pine tree couldn't take it so on our fence it came. I was sad to see all that Jasmine lose its home. Oh, and the HUGE squirrel condo that was nestled in the frangrant boughs.

**click photo to enlarge**

Friday, April 21, 2006

Flutterby Gardening

With one bed of the vegetable garden completed, work is underway for a woodlands butterfly garden and sitting area. The extra butterflies in the yard can only help as long as I keep an eye out for the caterpillars. I'm still collecting plants and shrubs while I work on a natural-setting design of sorts. The garden will be in a semi-shady corner of the backyard, underneath a handful of tall pines. The soil is exceptionally sandy, fortunately there is a large variety of plants who dig that for a home. So far, I've gathered a couple Shrimp Plants, Jacobinias, and a Night Blooming Jasmine. I can't wait to catch a whiff of the Jasmine, which I've read is lightly fragrant during the day.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lemonade, That Cool Refreshing Drink

A recent find at the grocery made me a very happy girl. As a comparitive consumer, I find it's rare to see organically grown produce priced the same as their chemically treated cousins. Fortunately, I found lemons priced the same this week and I snatched 6 lbs. of lemons because summer is here. I don't care what the calendar says. The temperatures have been in the mid-to-upper 80s the last week and when you're out monitoring chicken practice or planting a spring garden, nothing refreshes quite like a tall ice-cold mug of tart n' sweet lemonade. Here's the tried and true recipe I've been using to stave off thirst:

4 lemons, juiced
1 quart water
1/2 cup white sugar
In 2 qt. pitcher, combine the lemon juice, water & sugar.
Stir until sugar is dissolved. Chill in fridge.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bee Charming 101

My interest in bees has grown over the years. My first influence, of course, was Pooh. There's just something so yummy about having honey in the tummy. One of my most recent influences has been meeting an apiarist in Wewahitchka, which happens to be where the film Ulee's Gold was made. There's also Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes. She was quite the bee charmer. Actually, I'm fascinated with the life of bees and am very excited by the thought of raising my own honey and beeswax.

With so much inspiration, my plan was to set up a couple hives this year. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about beekeeping for the last several months and have learned that I have a whole lot more to learn. With that, I've decided to devote the rest of this year to increasing my knowledge and will set next spring as my start target. I'm going to join the local beekeepers' association and network to gain more insight. Many new beekeepers are able to pair up with a mentor and that's exactly what I'll do so I can be an apprentice of sorts. The experience of hands-on will far exceed anything I can learn from reading. Both forms of education combined should insure me a safe and successful start to beekeeping.

On Saturday, I observed the splitting of a hive. Calvin shared some of his fall harvest honey and damn! was it tasty! Liquid gold, I tell ya.

The Clay County Extension Agent points out the queen of the colony.

Tools of the trade. Bee smokers.

Yes, She Really Does Have A Motorcycle

For those of you who are taking a look at my blog for the first time, my title and descriptor might be cause for confusion. I mention a motorcycle yet post pictures of cowboy butts, carrots and chicks.

When I started this site, nearly three years ago, I was all about the motorcycle. Riding to Texas for lunch was not unusual and spending two weeks out on the road was commonplace. Times, they are a changin'.

I've always been one to have a myriad of interests. Some stay with me, like correspondence, and others drift away, like watching neighbors through the telescope. Motorcycling took over my life when I got my first bike in 2000. In 2001, I discovered that I like to ride far. Really far and for a long time. Long-distance motorcycling was my life's mainstay. It filled me with an energy I didn't know existed. It fed my soul, which at times, was a dark, bottomless pit. It was a substitute for a few things that were lacking in my life, such as a child. I've accepted that I'll be childless and that my motorcycle isn't really a baby. It was a stop-gap of sorts but I've come to terms with it all. It just took me 84,000 miles, but I got there.

My life is now being lived with a purpose of different sorts. I'm living intentionally for the first time in many, many years. I'm glad that this is all coming into perspective before I turn 40 next month. I'd like to think I've already had my mid-life crisis, so that craziness is behind me. One can only hope!

So, regarding the GirlOnAGlide... that is still me, for the time being. I gave myself that moniker because of the bike I ride, an Electra Glide Standard. That's a Harley for those of you who aren't familiar with motorcycles. I basically took the last year off from riding so it was really eating at me that I still called myself GOAG. I'm still trying to determine a new title that will encompass more of who I am. It will come to me or I'll finally decide that a name like that really isn't important. At any rate, I will need, and I do want, a new title for this site. I expect it to come to me while I'm watching chicks peck at sand or butterflies gather on flowers I've planted just for them. A quiet epiphany. Hey, I kinda like that one.

For those who do wonder, is she still riding? I can say yes. I rode on Saturday, as a matter of fact. One of my current interests is beekeeping and I attended a class sponsored by a local county extension office. It was a gorgeous day and riding to the class was more than I could resist.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Outtings

With skies colored ala Crayola, a stroll through the 38th Annual Mandarin Art Festival seemed in order. It'd been several years since I last attended the longest continuously running art festival in Northeast Florida and the warm breezes warranted a visit.

The festival was held beneath the 130+ year old Live Oaks that shade the grounds of the Mandarin Community Club. The Club once received funds raised from Harriet Beecher Stowe to help build the structure that has been a prominent landmark in Mandarin, the community I've called home for nearly 16 years.

One highlight of the festival was seeing Carol Adamson, a weaver from Nashville, Indiana. I am friends with her sister-in-law and was happy to talk with her and see her beautiful work. I was extra happy to see Chris Jones. The ceramic mugs I bought from him several years ago met their demise and I didn't know where to find his work, except for the festival. Now I have his card and some of his mugs, all is good.

There were no Easter eggs hunts here, but I did manage to find some chicks lounging around in the backyard. It won't be too much longer before they're spending their days outside. The chicken tractor is under construction and should be ready for them to inhabit this week. Making a tractor without plans is a bit time consuming but the end result will make it worthwhile. For those who have an eye for chicken, perhaps you've noticed that Xena isn't the Black Australorp we thought she was. Apparently she was mislabeled. By the looks of her, she's a Barred Rock. The big question now is, wasw her sex mislabeled, too??

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Time To Get Growin'

One good thing about living in Florida is the window of planting opportunity. All threats of frost have passed and it's time to get dirt under the fingernails (again). Today I made a stop at a family-owned Ace Hardware and an independent nursery to buy some seeds and plants. In addition to vegetable, fruit and flower seeds, I bought a raspberry plant, blueberry bush and six tomato plants of two varieties. While at Ace, a shopper dude asked me if I was starting a farm. It struck me as an odd question but I quickly responded with a smile and a "yes". It's an urban farm, but it's a farm all the same.

The strawberry plant I bought a couple weeks ago is producing fruit! It was a sweet and juicy berry and a reminder that I need to plant more so I can have a sizeable amount on hand healthy snacking.. or milkshakes.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

But They're Pretty On The Inside

It's evident from the two pictures that Ginger is growing and is the ugly chickling phase of poultryhood. These pictures show her growth over the last week.

Yesterday, I had the chicklets out for nearly two hours so they can do what they enjoy: practice becoming chickens. They make complete fools of themselves running around in big circles with their wings-a-flappin', but hey, if it feels good, do it! They occupy themselves by peckin' and scratchin' and spreading their wings out in the heat of the sun. Ella, much to my surprise, was the first to take to dust bathing. I didn't expect the littliest of the three to be the first one to do something so instinctual.

In this picture (taken last week), she appears to be ready for chick-sized coins to be placed on her eyes and to be planted in the ground. But no, it was her dusting while Xena looked on.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Carrots and Thoughts of Mom

And so it is the end of Garden #1. The last of the lettuce, onions and carrots were harvested and the broccoli, well, it never produced. That was simply a timing issue, seeds were planted too late. At least we know it'll grow because the broccoli plants themselves were standing at 2' once we fed them to the compost pile.

The leaf lettuce did wonderfully well and I kept many co-workers in stock with a fresh supply. I'll miss not having it. Lesson learned: spread out planting so that a supply will be readily available. This step towards (at least a little) self-reliance is all one huge experiment and learning experience. And so, Garden #2 is planned and a second raised-bed plot is in the works as well. Planting will take place this weekend with mostly seeds but we'll also use a few plants, such as tomato.

While baking a carrot cake from scratch yesterday, it dawned on me how much I don't know and how little the children of today are learning. It's a general observance but I believe parents are raising some really stupid kids these days. So many kids are plopped in front of a TV, even while in transit, or they're being rushed to this activity or that one. When are families together, sharing conversation, skills or knowledge? Fortunately, I DO know some intelligent and caring parents who DO put forth the effort to raise bright kids with hearts so there IS hope for future generations. And it's those parents who limit my time atop a soapbox bitching about the fall of society.

The thing that hit me while grating carrots by hand (yes, I have food processor but choose not to use it and no, I didn't grate a finger which is a hazard of grating by hand) was how much I could have learned from my mother. She wasn't educated by books or classrooms, but by life itself. She knew the traditional things that women learned from their mothers who also learned from their mothers. My mom wasn't a traditional homemaker, not by any stretch of the imagination. She was a single mom who knew how to take care of things without required help of someone else. At any rate, I broke the link in the chain many years ago and I find myself wanting to learn blacksmithing so it can be repaired. It's too late, my mother is gone. In retrospect, I see what a great teacher she was. For one, I learned to treasure nature by the example she set and the exposure she provided. But the homemaking arts she introduced me to just didn't hold my attention. Damn that damn Pong game! I still have the sewing machine she gave me as a high school graduation present. I know enough to plug it into the wall but that's about the extent of my knowledge. Pity and a reason to add sewing to my To-Learn-List.

Like my mother, I will learn by life's tutorial or I'll do my own independent study. At the same time, there are unlimited resources at my fingertips so finding a substitute teacher is always an option, too. I can say for sure that I scored well on cake baking from scratch. Mom would be proud.

PS...did I mentioned gardening was new around here?
This is, I'm assuming, what can happen if you plant seeds just a little too close. Carrot hugs to all!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Circus of the Sun

When I saw my first live performance of a Cirque du Soleil show, I'd never heard of it. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, I couldn't begin to imagine what I was in store for. Thanks to Sylvie, I was treated to a magical, mind-blowing performance of Quidam, which to this day remains my favorite show. For several weeks, Leah has been telling me how she was looking forward to seeing a Cirque show in Raleigh. Since Jacksonville isn't considered a hot-spot for live entertainment, the thought of that show coming here never crossed my mind. It wasn't until I saw the full page ad in the Folio that I learned it was coming. And so, I was treated, once again, to the wonder and whimsy of a Cirque show. Last night I saw Delirium.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

How To Get Lost While Never Moving

It is often that I go link-clickin'-crazy when I'm on the 'net, which means I lose a lot of time that could otherwise be spent doing things that really deserve attention. (that's a polite way of saying I'm lazing and I waste a lot of time online) Through all that clicking, I can typically end up somewhere that leaves me singing Once in a Lifetime.

It happens when I'm in a conversation, too. I'll end up telling someone that Owney is stuffed, then I'll have to retrace the convo's steps to figure out exactly how I went from the subject of football to a stuffed dog in my favorite museum. (did you notice that April is National Card and Letter Writing Month?? Get busy!)

Anyway, it happened online earlier today. I was perusing some of my favorite online destinations and started following a thread of links. Want to know how I went from a farm in Missouri to a guy I went to high school with? Grab your compass, follow me, we're going hiking...

  • Path to Freedom's journal. An inspiration to me and many others.
  • Rurality. I'd never have thought Northern AL could be so beautiful.
  • Farmgirl Fare. I was saddened to learn about the passing of Lucky 13.
  • The Full Life lives in...
  • New Albany, IN... My hometown.
  • The house that Robert Beury called home while we were in junior high and high school.

ps... somewhere along the way, I learned about a chicken that led a family from The Sugar Creek Farm to Hollywood. I need some lemonade and a sit in the shade now...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

I've Been Everywhere, Man... er, Not Really

Netflix finally mailed a copy of Walk The Line so it'll be popped into the iMac tonight for viewing. My favorite song by The Man in Black is, hands down, I've Been Everywhere Man. In case you didn't know, Australian Geoff Mack wrote I've Been Everywhere with place names in Australia which became a hit for Lucky Starr in 1959. Three years later, Hank Snow topped the charts after place names in the U.S.A. and Canada were incorporated.

How many of these places have you been, man?
Without referring to a map, I can say I've been to 33 places.

I was totin' my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road
When along came a semi with a high and canvas covered load
If you're going to Winnemucca, Mack with me you can ride
And so I climbed into the cab and then I settled down inside
He asked me if I'd seen a road with so much dust and sand
And I said, "Listen, Bud I've traveled every road in this here land."

I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
'Crossed the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I've had my share, man
I've been everywhere.

I've been to: Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota, Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma,Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma, Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo,Tocopilla, Barranquilla, and Padilla

I'm a killer
I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
'Crossed the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I've had my share, man
I've been everywhere.

I've been to: Boston, Charleston, Dayton, Louisiana, Washington, Houston, Kingston, Texarkana, Monterey, Ferriday, Santa Fe, Tallapoosa, Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa, Tennessee, Hennessey, Chicopee, Spirit Lake, Grand Lake, Devil's Lake, Crater Lake, for Pete's sake

I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
'Crossed the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I've had my share, man
I've been everywhere

I've been to Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville, Ombabika, Shefferville, Jacksonville, Waterville, Costa Rica, Pittsfield, Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport, Hackensack, Cadillac, Fond Du Lac, Davenport, Idaho, Jellico, Argentina, Diamontina, Pasadena, Catalina,

See what I mean, sir
I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
'Crossed the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I've had my share, man
I've been everywhere

I've been to: Pittsburgh, Parkersburg, Gravelburg, Colorado, Ellensburg, Rexburg, Vicksburg, Eldorado, Larrimore, Atmore, Haverstraw, Chattanika, Chaska, Nebraska, Alaska, Opelika, Baraboo, Waterloo, Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Sioux City, Cedar City, Dodge City, what a pity

I've been everywhere, man
I've been everywhere, man
'Crossed the deserts bare, man
I've breathed the mountain air, man
Of travel, I've had my share, man
I know some place you haven't been
I've been everywhere

Double Take

Some places are worth going to twice. I posted this link about a year ago and somehow found myself there again today. I'm so easily amused.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tested By Nature

Want to know if you have hawks in your neighborhood? Take three peeping chicks into your backyard and you'll find out quickly. I know because I had the chicks outside, their second field trip to the great outdoors. I'd been watching them pick and scratch and was about to cozy into a book for a few minutes when I heard a scream. I looked up into a pine tree to see one VERY large hawk eyeballing the feathered babies. I leapt into mommy mode and snatched the two small ones, Ella and Ginger (yes, she's been named!), to put them in their brood box. Xena was running around like, excuse the expression, a chicken with its head cut off! I was so frantic that I was scaring her to running around, away from the lidless box. This meant that I was leaving the other two alone and more vulnerable while I tried to gather Xena. My heart was racing while I looked up to the sky to see the hawk circling. Damn that beautiful bird of prey! I finally got my hands on Xena and placed her in the box with the others, shielding them from the hovering bird's eye view. Obviously, there will be no more unprotected outtings. We will have to pick up the pace on getting a chicken tractor built so the girls can go outside for fresh air and fresh pickins. It's odd how nature works. I can leave the chicks in their box lidless and three cats won't pay them the any mind but put them outside for less than five minutes and all hell breaks loose. I guess my cats really are domesticated.

Notice Ginger's sprouting tail feathers? They grow up sooo fast...

My First County Fair

Yes, it's true... I'd never been to a county fair before Saturday. With my strong interest in moving the hell out of the city, growing crops for self-reliance and maintaining livestock, going to a local county fair seemed mandatory. Keep in mind that I wasn't a complete fair neophyte. Afterall, I'd been to the Kentucky State Fair many times. But a county fair has the feel of community, unlike the huge state fair... I know that now.

The 4-H students in the judging ring. I didn't know I liked goats until I got around them. The Nubians were my favorite because of their droopy ears.

The goat-milking hands of a 4-H mom.

As adorable as Wilbur is, I'm not interested in keeping swine.

The Florida High School Association Rodeo competition was held on Saturday. Events included pole bending, barrel racing, team roping, and bull riding. This was another first for me. I'd never watched a rodeo. Why didn't I wear my ropers??

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Lettin' the Fur Fly

Taking Cleo outside for brushing is wise. She is like Pigpen from the Peanuts when it comes to fur.