Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer in Seattle

Well, Poop.

I am currently laid up after throwing out my back, so I have been taking a look at my stats for this blog.

The most common search phrase that brings you to my blog?

"raccoon poop"

That is right, the most common thing that causes people to come to my blog is.... Poop.

Last year, after finding a raccoon latrine on the roof of my garage, I wrote a long rant about the walking bio-hazard I consider them to be. You can find the "Walking Biohazards" post here.

I am not sure how I feel about "poop" being the common denominator that causes people to find my blog. I guess like celebrity, any traffic is good traffic. But, really? Poop?

In total the blog has had 3,780 hits. That means that since I started this blog in March of 2011, I have had 3,780 hits, which in my mind is pretty awesome!

Of that, 1,808 of those hits are due to searches for information on raccoon poop! This is the shit that people want to know about. (pun intended)

They want to know what it looks like. It looks like blunted cat poop with seeds.

Where they can find it. On roofs, in attics, under trees, in crawl spaces. Basically, any flat location that a raccoon has access to.

They want to know is it dangerous? HELL, YES. It is foul stuff full of roundworms and other nasty things.

I hope that people are able to find helpful information on how to deal with a raccoon latrine, but I still feel weird that poop is the reason so many people do end up on this blog. I kinda feel like I should be writing a very different blog...

Thursday, June 21, 2012


 I like entertaining my friends.   Unfortunately, or fortunately, I have a little house. My tiny Seattle home is 580 sq ft. of "cozy serenity". No fooling, that is what the ad said about the house when I first came to look at it.

The house is small but the yard is goodly sized, as you have seen with my garden and livestock(snerk).

But I rarely invite people into my house, because it is, well, small. It gets very tight in here very quickly. So I wait for the warmer months to entertain.

Last month, I worked on expanding my patio a bit, with extra paver stones my neighbor had I was able to bring the flat spot a little closer to the house. Opening up more space for people to gather and tables to be set up.

It isn't fancy by any means but it works and keeps drunk people, mainly me, from tripping and falling due to uneven divots.  Not that I would know from any experience...

It is well know among my friends that I make a most evil sangria. It has caused many a friend to fall down. My friends act badly, drink too much, talk too loud, tell colourful jokes in mixed company and are generally wonderful.

It may be a cocktail party but a good gathering should be filled with too much loud laughter, crass conversation and inappropriateness in my opinion. I have been to too many stuffy, boring cocktail parties where people don't drink to excess and don't talk about anything interesting.

A patio on a warm summer's night with good friends laughing uproariously and loudly, enjoying good food and good drink is always wonderful. Wear your best outfit if you must, but if you showed up in clam diggers and a wife-beater, I wouldn't kick you out of the yard.

Patios were made for such things. Just avoid falling into the pool... Carlo the pool boy hates that...

Back Blowout 2

The first time I threw out my back, I was 16. I throw out my back a few times a year and it gets worse every year.

Currently, I am writing this from the comforts of my floor. I would have rather gone to work, or worked in my garden, or a number of other activities that would have been a million times more entertaining that lying on the floor hoping that the boyfriend's dog didn't piddle in this location during a moment of excitement.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Last of Last Year's Blueberry Jam

Yes! We Can! Strawberry Jam!

This last Sunday, I took a lovely drive out to Carnation, WA to Harvold Berry Farm for some strawberry picking. The boyfriend was busy fixing the oil pan on a Volkswagon, so I took Olive, The WonderDog, out for a drive in the "country".

When I was a kid, Carnation was in fact all farm land. Actually, a good portion of that area is now suburbs and Microsoft campus and bedroom communities. A lot of the farm land has gone away and it the city/town councils fight over how many chickens people can have in their backyards because of density. There are a couple of larger berry farms in the same area, but they feel like farm theme parks than actual farms to me, so I never go to them. They have train rides and picnic areas and petting zoos. All very geared towards bringing the families who don't really care what a farm is, but would like a good family outing. Great marketing, but not for me.

So I took the boyfriend's dog for a drive and headed to Horvald's to pick some strawberries. Maybe a bit early in the season, they should sweeten up more as it gets warmer, but they have a good flavour for canning if not the sweetness. 
 Harvold's has none of that fancy stuff, it is just a huge strawberry field with a couple of weigh shacks and slightly surly farm hands. They aren't really there to have a conversation with you, they are their to point you to a good picking spot and then to wiegh your berries at the end.

They are pleasant. But friendly, nope. Which works for me, I am not there to chat, I am there to pick berries. I leave Olive in the car with the windows down, since dogs are not allowed in the fields. She may be a chihuahua but she is also all teeth if she doesn't like your looks. I was also close enough to see the car if she were to get into any trouble. I could here her bark from the bed I was steadfastly clearing of berries.

The berries smelled like heaven and there were quite a few families out busily picking. Children in their Sunday best were squealing with joy about finding the most biggest, most beautiful, red ripe strawberries! Parents lugged their huge cameras about and took faux candid shots of their kids, eating a strawberry, picking a strawberry, trampling a strawberry, having a tantrum in the dirt.... But I digress.

Anyways, after about 50 feet of toil and 30 minutes of sweat I had my flat of berries. I do not know how farm labourers do it and I give much props to them for doing so. My knees ached for the rest of the day for that short amount of time of work and the thought of someone doing it for 10 hours a day made them scream. I appreciate those who go out and pick these so that I might enjoy them.

Picking your own berries is less expensive than buying from your local urban grocery store. Twelve pounds of fresh picked strawberries cost me
12 dollars. Ok, the drive to the country may have cost me another 8 dollars in gas, but I got to enjoy a lovely morning driving on an idyllic stretch of road.  The drive down the Fall City Carnation Road is a curvaceous split through mostly farm land and when heading north spits you out into lovely Monroe, WA. Home of the Evergreen State Fair and gateway to Leavenworth, WA.  It is a nice drive and makes for lovely daydreams about farm life.

There are quite a few farms that are open to the public for pick your own and educational farms like Oxbow Farms.

Oxbow Farms teaches the public about environmental stewardship and sustainable food practices.

You can find most of the produce provided by these farms at many of the Farmers Markets in the urban area. In the Seattle area you can find information on those farmers markets at Puget Sound Fresh. Quite possibly one of my more favourite web sites. You can find a listing of farms in the area that provide to your local CSA.

Harvold's Berry Farm's Strawberry Field
I can go on and on about the glory, greatness and goodness of the farmers, and I will at some point. But for now I am going to have to tell you about making strawberry jam!

Strawberry Jam

Eight Lbs of freshly picked strawberries
Four (or more) cups of sugar
Juice of one Lemon
2-4 Tbsp of Pectin

Place berries into a large pot with sugar and mix so that they are covered. Allow the berries to throw off their juices for an hour then turn on the to medium high.

Sprinkle in the pectin according to the instructions on their box and allow the jam to come to a full rolling boil.

Add the juice of one full lemon to add some acid to the jam.

As the jam boils a foamy skim will form on the top, scrap this off and discard.

You can check the cooled thickness of the jam by placing a plate in the freezer for about a minute then drop a tablespoon of the jam mixture on the plate and put it back in the freezer for another minute or two.

Once cooled it should give you a true idea of the thickness of the jam.

Pour the jam into sterilized jam jars and process per your preferred method. You can find more information on canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Never On Sunday

Never On A Sunday

I am not one of those people who are able to sit and do nothing on a sunny Sunday. If the weather is relatively fine I will be found outside working on my garden of just putzing around in my yard. Those who are able to relax on their days off are very lucky.

I usually do my normal chores of laundry and general house-cleaning, but on a lovely Sunday I also tend to try to work in the yard as much as possible. For example:

This morning at 8AM, I built a table. Using the legs from an old table I got years ago from a friend and a pallet I got from a garage clean out.

Next, I weeded the garden pathways and laid down burlap coffee bags I found for free on Craigslist. (I tend to find quite a few things on Craigslist for free. I found a claw foot bathtub that the boyfriend and I are planning on turning into a love seat.)

In fact we dragged home this huge rabbit hutch, I found on CL, yesterday! It needs a good scrubbing and some of the chicken wire has rusted through, so they will need replacing, but otherwise in pretty good shape! Woo rabbit meat!

I worked on weeding the veggie and herb beds, 
then proceeded onto relocating a few plants. Crocosmia, Siberian Irises, Death Lilies and Ferns. I worked on clearing out the millions of hyacinth leaves and stems that are turning into mush under my cherry tree. I am not a fan of the hyacinths, but they came with the yard and refuse to leave. 

Then I got a hold of the chainsaw... I really need this thing taken away from me, but it is so freaking HANDY!

AND of course;

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


An article in the Christian Science Monitor from when I was the City Chickens Coordinator at Seattle Tilth.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Let's Drink Some Wine and Curk a Tookey!!

I love to cook. When I was younger I had considered going to culinary school. How do you know when I am truly happy? I am in the kitchen. I am not a great cook, but I am a good cook. Nothing I cook will win the James Beard Award, but it will satisfy and make my friends and loved ones smile.

People are surprised when I tell them I can cook (they are also surprised when I build a fence or fix an oil leak in my car or start a campfire, but that is neither here nor there). When asked how I make something taste sooooooo good, I tell them I "put a little Love into it". Yes, I know that sounds all hippy dippy cliched and shit, but it is true. When you love doing something you put every ounce of yourself into doing it. That is when it turns out beautiful. That is when the magic happens and it becomes a shortcake instead of a plain old scone or turns Sunday night beef stew into boeuf bourguignon.

I love cook books, I have a few older ones from the 30s and 40s. The recipes all call for a pound of butter or a half cup of lard or heavy cream and I love recipes like that!! Don't get me wrong, I make my fair share of vegetarian and healthy food dishes, but when a recipe calls for bacon drippings, I start to salivate. I keep a pickle jar of bacon drippings for cooking. I also have a containing of duck fat, specifically for potatoes. You do not know joy until you have roasted potatoes in duck fat!

Occasionally, I can be a food snob. But I have also been known to stop at Popeye's Chicken, because they make an AWESOME spicy fried chicken. I also like Sonic Drive-Ins and have to stop there anytime I go on a road trip. I like little hole in the wall restaurants and I like those places where I must put on my best pair of Spanx. I like good food and I like when I find some weird little restaurant hidden in an alley as much as I like the fanciest roof-top restaurants.
But I mainly like to cook at home, I like feeling all the ingredients under my fingers and the scents mingling. I like how my house smells after baking bread or cookies or roasting a chicken. It smells like a home should smell.

I took an after school cooking class many years ago when I was a latch key kid. It was a way for my mother to have someone to watch over me for a few hours in the afternoons and it was a way for me to learn how to make hobo stew. It was probably the first thing I ever learned how to cook. After that I was on my way to being a home chef. The next item I cooked was zucchini bread, but forgot the oil and my mother kindly ate it and gently said... "I think you may have forgotten something in the recipe..." And I was on my way!

I tend to like cooking from scratch. I like real unprocessed ingredients, most of the time, although I am not above making brownies from the a mix when I am have a choco-attack. But you get a much better product that is healthier for you when you make it by scratch, you don't have the glut of preservatives and colouring or artificial flavours (what is chocolate-y flavour, anyways?!). I admit I have no problems with purchasing things to make my life easier, I do not believe I will try to make wonton wrappers by scratch anytime soon, but simple things like cookies and cakes do not need to come from a box. Trust me, a lemon chiffon cake made from scratch is one hundred times better than Betty Crocker's boxed stuff.

I love to experiment with foods and although I have a shit-ton of cookbooks, I tend to use those as reference books and then take the long way round to see if a pinch of this or a dash of that will make it even better. I have had my fair share of failures. The strata I did not allow to sit long enough to soak up the egg mixture that became a hockey puck. Or the chocolate pudding that wouldn't set no matter what I tried. Or even the chunky creme brulee (still gives me the shivers...).But I keep trying, Julia Child did not learn to cook until she was in her 30s.

I love to cook for my boyfriend and he is a very good eater. He also has no qualms about telling me when something is not quite right, which is the only way to truly figure out if a dish is amazing or just, eh. You need the feedback, I do not like to hear that something is always good as you don't grow as a cook if you do not know if something needs to be tweaked. And when you finally get a recipe correct it is as though you have finally summited a mountain! Ok, maybe not that cool,,, but it is still pretty darn awesome!

All I know is that food brings friends together, heck it brings strangers together. Food makes people smile when shared and good food makes people smile even more. It encourages community and good conversation and laughter and drinking. Good food shared brings joy and everyone likes a bit of joy whereever they can get it.  The best bit of advice I ever got from my mother was "Never say no to a free meal". She was right.