Monday, June 8, 2015

Independence Days

Here is another  installment of our Independence Days Challenge. The Challenge was originally written about in Carla Emery's wonderful book, The Country Living Encyclopedia. Writer Sharon Astyk expounded on the idea and encouraged us all to do what we can to be more self sufficient and to enjoy good, real food. Click here to read Sharon's description of the 7 categories presented in the challenge.

Would you like to join us? You can begin anytime, and don't worry if you haven't accomplished every category. There will certainly be weeks when I only complete a few! Post weekly, or whenever you find the time, and add a link back to here. 

Here are the 7 categories for you to copy and paste to your blog (or to the comments section below this post):

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something:
3. Preserve something:
4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):
5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):
6. Build community food systems:
7. Eat the food:


Yikes, I missed last Wednesday's post because we've been so busy! Here is what we accomplished since the last Independence Days post 12 days ago:




1. Plant something:
Well, there's not much planting going on now but there's plenty of growing! Like these currants, blackberry bushes, potatoes and garlic:








2. Harvest something:

Here is Monkey helping me "harvest" milk from the cow. He's been milking the front half of her udder while I milk the rear half! We get the milking done in half the time.




Here is one recent harvest: spinach, chives, tarragon and salad greens. Artist posing with them as he helped with the harvesting and the washing:




And more spinach!



Artist helped me wash it all and bag it up until I had the chance to chop, blanch, and freeze it. 




As I watched the next garlic harvest coming ever closer, I realized I'd better use up last year's garlic! I ground up the last of it, which we had dried in the dehydrator, in our coffee grinder and filled a couple quart jars with garlic powder. I use it near daily all year round. 



I made another batch of pickled eggs. I love pickled eggs! And they are a good way to put excess eggs to use in the spring when the chickens and ducks are laying like crazy. I fit an average of one dozen in each quart jar.



It's too bad they're all plain old white once they're peeled and put in the jars. They're so pretty before!




Little Miss Farmgirl, at 3 years old now, is a terrific egg peeler! She helped me quite a bit. 



I have found that steaming our eggs is the best way to "hard boil" them. I fit around a dozen eggs (chicken or duck) into my steamer basket that has a handle so I can lift them in and out of the pot easily. I get the water boiling, lower the egg-filled steamer basket in and put a lid on. I set the timer for 13 minutes and then take them out and pour them from the steamer basket into a large bowl in the sink. I fill the bowl with cold tap water. Then I peel! Without distractions, say, from a grumpy baby, I can peel one dozen before the next dozen are done steaming. 

I've been able to use this method with very fresh eggs as well and be able to peel them (eggs normally have to be old to peel well which is why eggs from the store can be boiled and peeled so easily!)







4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):
We reused a lot of fencing materials in order to move the sheep to a new field. They needed more grass. We reuse egg cartons for collecting and selling eggs in. The cow got our garden scraps from veggies being thinned out. 


 5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):


Lots of eggs in the incubators, lots of chicks being born. Lots of cheese and yogurt being made. Orchard trees were fertilized, along with the garden. More fencing went up for the sheep to be moved to new pasture. 

Here is the view from where we sit at our dining room table. It's so fun to get to watch Sheep TV while having dinner! They are all quite entertaining, especially the lambs.




This mama hen hatched out 10 chicks in our shop yesterday. She's just been sitting there, right next to where we collect straw or grain or hay everyday. 




6. Build community food systems:
Part of what kept us so busy last week was the farmers market. I'd forgotten how much time market prep took! The morning of, I got 4 loaves of whole wheat bread and 4 of white prepared. I also, with much help from all the children (!), got honey-flax seed rolls, popcorn balls, and chocolate chip cookies made. (We also sold eggs and lavender soap made from our own sheep tallow).

The wheat bread baked, the white is rising:




Here's the view from behind the table- Baby is rolling around in the shade of the table! Artist came with me and was a big help. All the children are anxious to take their turns accompanying me. :)




Long time readers might recall a few years ago how I had discovered how many people did not know what our "free-range eggs" sign meant. Some thought it meant our eggs were in fact free and tried walking off with them! So my husband painted "pastured eggs" over the top of the free-range eggs sign. Well, that confused folks even more ("What are pastured eggs??") So, here is the sign I tacked right on top of that. :p



The market was super fun, as always. It is soooo nice to get outside and chat with other grown-ups! :) (Although, funny thing, I spent much of my time chatting with the 19 year old homeschool grad from a family of 10 who was a vendor this year, lol)


7. Eat the food:

Eggs, milk, salad. And things made out of eggs, milk and salad. With a goose thrown in which I butchered yesterday and will be tonight's dinner. With milk and salad of course. 


It is SO hot! My brains are melting. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

happy things

Ranger turned 17. Seventeen! Soon I'll be sitting down to plan out next school year, his last school year! Oh, sigh. Those kids. One day they're drooling little babies, and the next day they're taller than you and have a man's voice. 

Him and his dad:



I made a good attempt at making him cake pop snitches. Ranger had requested a snitch cake since that is what Harry Potter was given on his 17th birthday. ;) A few of them turned out, the wings fell off the rest of them! But, they still tasted super duper yummy.



Ranger and I:





Our silly diaper clad munchkins. Busy is 25 months, Roo is 5 months.



I love my fat baby.





Grendel. I see folks frequently ending up at my blog after Googling "Leonbergers" (his breed). I apologize for never talking about him. LOL He's a great dog. A fantastic family dog. At 4 years old, he still acts like a big, old excited puppy. Very often, when people visit our farm, they announce, "That is the hugest dog I've ever seen in my life!"  He loves everybody. And isn't he handsome.




A bird flew into our house the other day! Monkey found this little swallow scrambling around in a kitchen windowsill trying to get out. It was so neat to see one up close! I'd always thought they were black as I see them zipping around our homestead (hopefully gobbling up mosquitoes). But this little guy was a deep, shiny blue. So pretty! He flew off quickly, seemingly unharmed. 





Roo enjoying Grandma love:



Put on your big sister's rain boots, sit in the dirt and play with bailing twine? Sure, why not!




While some of the littles were in the bath tub today, I stuck some new pretty things into my dreads.




More of my silly children: 



Pretty little miss Farmgirl today:



Monkey is our resident garter snake catcher. He has no fear of them, just snatches them right up!






Those are some of the things making me smile these past few weeks. Today I feel entirely full of smiles and gratitude to God for sending my incredible husband onto my path exactly 11 years ago today. If someone had told me on that night that that super attractive guy I just met was going to buy me a farm in Idaho, have 6 children with me, and we were all going to become Catholic, I would haven't believed one word of it. Not a single one! Funny how life is, don't you think. :)


Thursday, May 28, 2015

goosey goosey gander

I was nervous last spring, when I'd let my husband talk me into adding geese to our farm. I'd heard stories of them being real mean to kids, nipping at them with their big, mean bills. I remember being bitten by a goose while feeding them at the park as a kid. I only agreed to them if the moment one of them attacked our children they all went into a stew pot. Well, I've not had to get out the stew pot yet!

We've got 10 adult Embden geese running around out there now. We ate a couple over winter and they were sooooo delicious. Duck has always been my favorite meat. It just might be my 2nd favorite now. Waterfowl are just so tasty! 

Our geese free range night and day. Somehow, and I don't really understand it, they have managed to never lose a member of the flock to the coyotes. Coyotes eat everything else! We've had no choice but to keep our previously free-ranging ducks fenced in because the coyotes regularly wiped them out. It can't just be the size of the geese that intimidates coyotes- they love to eat up our great big turkeys. 

This spring we began putting their eggs into our incubators. I was so excited to see that very first gosling peeping out! Once we take them out of the incubator we put them in a box on our kitchen counter for a few-many days. There we keep them warm and keep a close eye on them. All those little birds are so fragile the first several days! Even our mama hen out there, who began with 5 babies, had only 2 left after the first week. 

Some goslings and ducklings fresh from their eggs, enjoying the cozy heat under a light in a box in the kitchen. That goose in front is so brand new he's still wet. 




Eventually they all get moved out to one of our outbuildings such as this one. Those 4 blurry creatures in front are goslings, the ducks are all under the light. Husband and I have always been amused at how all the animals keep to their own kind. Even if we have chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese hatch out of the incubator on the very same day, they soon separate into their own groups. How do they know they're of different sorts? 





Geese are amazing grazers! They have access to poultry feed but they prefer free ranging for tasty grasses. They graze and graze around the land all day. Wherever they can't reach, like in the area the ducks are fenced off in, the grass is so much taller! Look at this- we have this old rabbit cage tossed over the head of our well pump to keep it protected from being fiddled around with. Since the geese can't get to that grass, it's a mile tall compared to all the grass around it! Who needs a lawn mower?!






This is as close to bothering a child as they've gotten. Yesterday I caught them hissing at our 2 year old as he passed by with his toy. They do hiss like mad at everybody and everything that ever passes them by, especially if there's a goose sitting on a nest nearby. I like to hiss back and continue on my merry way. ;)



Here is one goose who's been sitting on a nest for some time now. 




Hissing at me to tell me to get lost:





She's not been on her nest as long as these guys have been though. Directly under our back porch, 2 geese have been sitting and sitting and sitting. We didn't mark the date we first noticed, but I hope some goslings appear under there soon! 




I kept assuming it was a female with her gander-husband. But that other goose on the woodpile has never had a male sitting with her... So now I wonder if these are 2 females sharing a nest? They are so, so loud! Every time someone walks out the back door, they let you know you're not welcome there. 






This is an experiment. In all my years of blog keeping I've never tried uploading a video. Let's see how it works..... It should be 11 seconds of those 2 geese yelling at me as I approached their nest:

video



The huge egg is goose, the upper right one is turkey, a duck egg below that, and the one below the goose egg is a chicken's. Goose eggs taste just like duck eggs to me, which is, they taste kinda like a chicken egg but not really. :p How's that for a description? I love them. Yum.





Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

The stairs went crack,
He nearly broke his back.
And all the little ducks went,
'Quack, quack, quack'


~~ Old, English nursery rhyme.  I call all our geese by name: they are all named "goosey goosey gander whither shall I wander" in my book. ;)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Independence Days Challenge

Here is another  installment of our Independence Days Challenge. The Challenge was originally written about in Carla Emery's wonderful book, The Country Living Encyclopedia. Writer Sharon Astyk expounded on the idea and encouraged us all to do what we can to be more self sufficient and to enjoy good, real food. Click here to read Sharon's description of the 7 categories presented in the challenge.

Would you like to join us? You can begin anytime, and don't worry if you haven't accomplished every category. There will certainly be weeks when I only complete a few! Post weekly, or whenever you find the time, and add a link back to here. 

Here are the 7 categories for you to copy and paste to your blog (or to the comments section below this post):

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something:
3. Preserve something:
4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):
5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):
6. Build community food systems:
7. Eat the food:



Here is what we did this week:


1. Plant something:

Husband brought home several young apple trees he'd found on clearance for $14! They're 6-7 feet tall. What a bargain! Our baby orchard is sure growing. One day, we'll have more fruit than we can shake a stick at. And I'm not sure why I'd want to shake a stick at my fruit anyway. 



He also planted these Goji berries in the garden:




2. Harvest something:

The first salad greens of the season!! Yum. Here Artist trims and washes them (with my help):







Spinach is next on the list for harvesting.


Elsie is now giving 2 whole gallons per day! And the eggs come like crazy. It must be spring!


3. Preserve something:  Nothing this week...

4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):  The plastic container from the store bought salad that I reused for our salad greens? ;) That's about all I can think of for this week...

5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?): Well, we did have 10 young turkeys out there. Ones that we incubated, cared for under brooder lights then released into our farm yard to free range during the day and go to bed in a barn stall at night. And guess what, the other morning there were only three. Seven of them disappeared at some point since the day before!  Soo disheartening. Since we found no feathers and no chickens were missing, we think that possibly they simply wandered off together and couldn't figure out with their pea sized turkey brains that they ought to come home. And then got eaten. 

I found one huge patch of feathers over by the sheep days before, where a chicken apparently had been eaten. We're never positive whether it's coyotes or neighboring dogs that pick off our poultry. At least we haven't had trouble with the owls lately! They fly in from above so no fencing helps, and just eat the necks off our birds! What a waste.

The very last of our adult turkeys got carted off by coyotes (we believe, since there was an enormous patch of turkey feathers right on the path the coyotes use) a couple months ago. So, we've been hoping to get the eggs they left behind to grow up into our next turkey flock. Well, now that there's only 3 of them left, it's good that a friend of ours gave us her turkey pair! They're fun because the female (the darker colored one on the right) is quite tame. She lets us pet her and everything. 



6. Build community food systems: We're selling eggs  this afternoon. And, I get to start selling at the local farmers market next week!

7. Eat the food: Lots and lots of eggs, milk, and salad greens. I've been utilizing Pinterest for egg recipes. I made yogurt in the new slow cooker and it turned out great! I made a whole gallon and the kids gobbled it up in one day. This week I opened up canned jars of broth, potatoes, jams and dilly beans.



Shared with: Homestead Blog Hop