Tuesday, April 30, 2013

identify that bird

There's a bird around here that sings some beautiful songs that we really love. It has several different calls. On an somewhat unrelated note, I have some extra photographic prints from an art show I did a while back. What do these two random thoughts have in common? The first person to comment and correctly identify the bird in the above images (genus and species) gets a free fine art print (of my choosing, but I'll give you some options), matted and signed by yours truly, mailed to them. Go!

Also, some adorable pig pictures.

Monday, April 29, 2013

blueberries, marigolds, kale and chickens

I've been wavering between carefully selecting and buying blueberry plants online from a reputable grower that are specifically suited to what I want in terms of flavor, size and disease-resistance or just going to my nearest big box store and picking from their limited selection. It just so happens I was near a Lowe's today, so I just buckled down and got three plants: Bluecrop, Blueray and Brigitta, all northern highbush varieties. I figure that 33 bucks for all three isn't that much of an investment if one or all bite the dust.

I transplanted some six-pack marigolds the other week into the future tomato and pepper beds. Surprisingly, the ones in the pepper bed that I mulched with leaves quickly succumbed to a mild frost whereas the non-mulched ones are raggedy looking but will probably recover. Weird, right? Maybe the mulched ones created little extra-cold leaf frost pockets or something.

The volunteer kale that germinated after I tore up the fall garden and then transplanted into a spring garden bed all willy-nilly is going bonkers and looks ready to be eaten soon. Also, the chickens discovered the compost bin (and sat eerily still for a picture), which is awesome news because they can do the dirty work of turning the compost for me.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

rainy sunday

It's been raining or drizzling non-stop for the past two days, so we make food, watch movies, and chill, animals included. The garden sure is loving it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

a cooking snob

The stove that came with our house was kind of a mess. It worked alright, but the oven cooked everything incredibly unevenly, I couldn't get any of the burners hot enough, and the old-school coil cooktop was no match for my culinary skills (or lack thereof). I mistakenly busted through a coil once trying to mash potatoes. It was impossible to keep clean. The knobs had lost most of their grip eons ago and were unruly to control to say the least.

We upgraded, and although I feel like a total snob for getting one of the more expensive model at Lowe's (okay, the most expensive), it's alright in our book to spend good money on good tools. It's got a double oven (but with one door instead of two -- something I've always wanted), is a breeze to clean, has two 3000W burners, and the knobs will never come loose.


Also, I put some seeds in a wet paper towel the other day, didn't label it, hid it in the kitchen, found it today, and now I can't remember what they are. Guess I'll put them in a pot and see what happens.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

herbs are important

We went to Evergreen Home & Garden Center today in the hopes of finding some locally sourced fruit trees but were disappointed in the selection and instead came home with some potted herbs that will go in the potager garden once I get it weeded. I got (from back to front in the top image) thyme, sage, (the basil I mentioned yesterday from Wal-Mart), lavender, lemon grass, dill, and more basil.

Then I made some bomb beef basil stir-fry. I reluctantly pruned the new purple basil (everything I've read has said to relentlessly prune that shit back for big, bushy basil plants) and used the sacrificed leaves in the aforementioned dish.

In a nutshell:

- beef, thinly sliced
- whatever veggies you want, diced/sliced (I used carrots, sweet onion and broccoli)
- basil, sliced all thin-like
- sesame oil
- soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and garlic (and some sort of habanero sauce if you're not a wimp)
- fluffy, aromatic Jasmine rice
- slivered almonds and sesame seeds, to garnish

Start cooking your rice in a rice cooker. Whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and your spicy stuff of choice. Heat oil over medium heat, throw in onion and carrots, let soften, then increase heat to high, throw in beef, saute until done medium, throw in broccoli, cover, let steam briefly, then add sauce. Let simmer, uncovered, until sauce is as thick as you want it. Add basil at the last minute. Serve over rice and garnish with almonds and sesame seeds.

Leftovers? No. There was nothing left.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

pepper seedlings gone awry

I heard my favorite songbird, the American Robin, this evening for the first time this year. It made me very happy a while back to learn that I'd get to listen to them out here in Tennessee after appreciating their song so much back in Cali.

A very bad cat named Nekkie decided to dump over my tray of pepper seedlings that I had put out to sun themselves on the porch railing. I think Jay and I were able to save them all, and he even commented that perhaps they'll be even hardier after surviving an unexpected 3-foot dump onto the porch. Fingers crossed because I don't think I can find Ghost Pepper (aka, Bhut Jolokia) seedlings anywhere around here anytime soon.

I bought this basil plant at Wal-Mart a few months ago during the depths of winter to give us hope of spring. It promptly started to turn black and lose every leaf and stem except one and miraculously held on. I pruned it the other day, and it's looking better and better each day. Hopefully, it will flourish and we'll be able to make and freeze lots of pesto this summer.

Monday, April 22, 2013

trailer pigs

We moved the piggies into a new enclosure today because they were quickly outgrowing their inside digs and temporary outdoor pen. Using the utility trailer as a temporary abode beats building a sturdier, temporary run for them that will only get a few weeks of use. We gave them plenty of shade, but they insist on sun bathing despite the warm temperatures today and probably have a mild sunburn after this afternoon. Once they're in the barn, we plan on helping them make a wallow so that they can cool off in some mud.

p.s. we figured out that Miz Pig is actually a he, so now they're dubbed Happig (aka, Happy Pig, aka, previously Miz Pig because she's the nicer of the two) and Grumpig (aka, Grump Pig, aka, previously Asshole Pig). I'm sure their names will continue to evolve as we learn their personalities, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it for now.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Chicks finally looking like chickens. And pooping everywhere.

Pepper, tomato, zinnia, basil, California poppy, and marigold seedlings.

Moosie being helpful.

The weed-overrun potager garden. This is what I get for being lazy and not kill mulching with cardboard first. Gah.

The broccoli that endured my neglect all winter is actually rewarding us. Go, Broc!

Raspberries on the move.

You may or may not have noticed yesterday that I switched over to a primary URL, www.mountainstead.com, from my secondary URL, mountainstead.blogspot.com. I thought this might alleviate some of the issues readers have encountered when commenting (thanks so much for all your feedback! -- plus, I look all official and shit), but technically, I'm still using the Blogger platform so if you still run into problems, please email me at sarahnoce@gmail.com. I know how frustrating it can be to take the time to write a thoughtful comment on a blog, only to have it disappear into a black hole, gone forever (copy + paste, my friends, copy + paste). It should automatically redirect you from the blogspot domain, but you may want to update your bookmarks/RSS feed at some point.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

lazy saturday

It was a nice afternoon to hang with the in-laws and for Nekkie to yell at Moosie to open the screen door.

Friday, April 19, 2013

miz pig and asshole pig

Y'all, I feel so loved! I didn't think many folks actually took the time to read the jibberish I throw at this site, but apparently you do, and you have missed our farm updates (and my Ma has given me some gentle prodding to "set your backside down and update that shit" -- ok, she didn't say shit, but I know that's what she meant). I've had a hard time figuring out a schedule for regular posts -- I got burnt out on doing them daily back in November, but if I don't do them every day, I let weeks slip by without realizing it. (Actually, I totally realized it but continued to procrastinate out of sheer laziness.)

So, instead of feeling the need to blabber on incessantly about loathsome farm details you may or may not care about, I'm going to try out doing image-only posts coupled with more detailed ones to mix things up a bit. That way, you can get your daily mountainstead fix (and I can keep a visual record of what the hell is going on around here to refer to in the future), and I can just throw up a picture or two (or ten) and still feel like I'm being productive.

On another note, I've received feedback from some folks that they've had trouble posting comments before, and I'm not sure if it's Blogger's fault or what, but would you do me a huge huge huge favor and comment on this post just so that I can troubleshoot this a little bit? I also get approximately ten bazillion spam comments per day from people in the U.K. or wherever trying to sell me mortgages or erectile disfunction pills or a casino in India, so it's possible that the trouble is entirely because I'm retarded and get tired of filtering through them. Even if you're just a lurker and never comment on any blogs, you can write something as short as "hi, i love this shit!" or "you suck!" or "you're out of your mothereffin mind if you think Tennessee and farming are cool" or whatevs. Just help me out and leave a comment -- if you are unable to for whatever reason, take an extra minute and shoot me an email at sarahnoce@gmail.com with the same commentary you would have left in the comment -- I'll send a thank you response, then delete your email immediately and you'll never hear from me again.  Pretty please?

April 4th.

April 4th.

April 18th.

April 18th.

April 18th.

NOW, with that out of the way, a pig update.

We brought two sisters home on April 4th (coincidentally, Jay's birthday), barely an hour after their birth. We fed them colostrum for the first 24 hours and then switched over to a milk replacer fed from a bottle. They were both runts but seemed healthy and vigorous. Sadly, on the fourth day, one of the sisters stopped eating and started making pained noises non-stop. We noticed that her rear end and back legs had turned red and then blue/purple-ish and was clearly causing her discomfort -- we think she may have had a circulatory problem. It may or may not have been treatable, but she was suffering, and our neighbor who knows way more about pigs than we do was at work and wouldn't be home for several more hours. I tried an internet search to no avail. Jay put an end to her suffering. When we were able to finally talk to him, our neighbor confirmed that we did the right thing -- he knew of no shots or medication that would have addressed the issue (we still don't really know what it was, but she may have just been weak overall). We knew that getting runts was a gamble but still felt like failures so soon after getting our first large farm animal. Now you can sorta understand why I didn't post an update sooner.

Anyway, the guy we got the piglets from had assured us that if one or both died, we could come back over and get replacements at no charge. So Jay went back the next day and got a boar who we now call Asshole Pig. He's at least 30% larger than Miz Pig and yet was still the smallest of the remaining litter. He is demanding, loud, obnoxious, and super funny to watch, but we are counting down the days until we can move him and Miz Pig outdoors permanently. For now, we let them in the pen pictured above when it's nice out. They have plenty of shade (I was worried about sunburn) and a dog water bowl to play in (and a Kong because they like dog toys). They have escaped repeatedly and like to chase the dogs around the yard, but we think we have the cage secured finally (at least for now). They're already rooting around in the grass and like to bury themselves under the straw bedding. They use one section of the run as their toilet, unlike dogs and cats who are disgusting creatures and poop wherever they please (Nekkie is especially fond of the fluffy garden bed soil -- damn cat).

I initially was disappointed that we didn't get at least one piglet with spots, but Miz Pig is apparently developing them for me, as you can see in the third picture (she just looks dirty, but it's her skin).

It's raining today, and both pigs are pissed off that they're stuck inside and not out having fun terrorizing the dogs. And they just woke up and are hungry. Gotta go.