Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Cow For Christmas

After gifts were exchanged this morning I was handed one more gift in the form of an envelope. Inside several pictures of Jersey cows fell into my lap. I just looked at my husband and he proceeded to tell me that the card was good for "1 cow" and these were 5 he had managed to find. All are bred and due to calve the end of January. Of course I started to sob! Jeez Dad, was the comment from my youngest son, you made her cry!
Soon afterwards the family started arriving and the rest of the day was spent with loved ones. I cooked a breakfast bread for the early arrivals and then we had a large dinner around 4 for the others. Just as we closed the door on the last to leave and collapsed on the couch, it started to snow. It was absolutely lovely and the ground was covered in no time at all. We went for a late night walk. It did not go in the record books as a true white Christmas, because it did not measure an inch at the airport by midnight, but we got 4 inches and it was truly magical. How incredibly blessed can a girl be? A cow for Christmas and a white one at that!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Turkey Cookin' Day

The morning started early~ 4 a.m. It was a cold day and the winds were blowing, making it hard to keep the heat up in the cookers. Finally, we stretched tarps to help block the wind and were able to get things rolling. People started wandering in around 1 and continued throughout the day. The smokers were full of yummy things to eat including the 16 turkeys that were for Doug's employees and some of our close friends. In addition we cooked ribs, chicken, beef roast, deer chili and squirrel. Beans and slaw too. That was just outside! Inside were platters of cookies and a huge array of appetizers. By days' end we had fed somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 or so guests. It was so much fun and a good time was had by all!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter Has Arrived

Oh yes, it is here. Our temps have been in the low teens and low 30's for the last few days. That means a lot of extra time is needed to be spent taking care of the animals and the garden.
The first thing on our agenda was to try and save the lettuce. I was not willing to let go just yet. We built small hoop houses out of 3 mil plastic and wooden stakes and crossed our fingers. I did not hold out much hope when it dipped to 13*, but to my great surprise this morning it seemed to be fine. We have two more nights before it levels off for a bit and rains. The temps are expected to drop again next week. I picked about a bushel and a half of spinach and lettuce to hold us for the next few days. I have found if I wash and spin the greens really well and place them in a heavy bread bag they will keep at least 2 weeks.
Next was to get the water pipes ready. Heat tapes were plugged up and all buckets were filled. The hoses have to be drained every night.
Every hay trough is filled daily to over flowing, the rabbit cages are stuffed with hay and shallow water dishes put in the cages for ease of dumping ice daily. None of the gravity fed water buckets work in weather like this. Through it all the critters are doing well~ just eating a lot.
The only bright spot in all of this is that I can now draw an easy breath and put parasite patrol on the back burner for the next few months.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Making Soap

It was cold again today. Heavy rains came during the night, so it was wet as well. After early chores were done and a quick farm tour completed. I scurried indoors to find something constructive to do that did not require me to be outside!

Soap supplies are getting a bit low and with the holidays coming up it seemed to be a good day to make soap. So, I turned on some Christmas music and got to work; 3 hours later, I had turned out 7 batches of goat milk soap. Some were old favorites~ rosemary/tea tree and a cucumber/ melon. I did a trial run on a sweet orange/ lavender combo and a special order for a young girl with skin issues. That one contained patchouli, myrrh and tea tree oils along with dead sea salts. Fingers crossed it will turn out well for her.

Once done, I cleaned up the mess and headed out to finish afternoon chores. I discovered one of the lambs had a run in with something that peeled his side open. It looked like a tear from wire, though I could not find where it happened. A very nasty gash that could probably use some stitches but being that he is most likely freezer bound I decided to do the vetting myself. He is in a stall with dry hay and his wound dressed.( It really seemed to bother me more than him.) I also had to free a goat that decided the grass was greener, and had her head stuck in the fence. My last chore on the list was to get a stinky goat smelling rag. Okay, let me explain. I had a sweet little girl bring her Nigerian goat over to be bred. Not sure if the little goat is pregnant, having keep her through 2 cycles and being that the little girl was distraught about leaving her goat any longer, I told her I would supply a stinky goat rag in a jar for her to let her little goat sniff when she is due to cycle again. Now I am not sure how this will work, though I have been told it does. I'll let you know...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Splitting Wood

You know the saying.. chopping wood warms a man (and woman) twice. It certainly does and at the end of the day that large pile of firewood can make you feel very wealthy as well. With the exception of the normal chores- baking, feeding, ect. the day was spent cutting down trees. Most were hickory trees that are to be used for a "turkey cooking " party always held in late December. We cook turkeys for all of my husband's employees and a few close friends. Usually around 16 or so.
I was in charge of dragging and piling the branches on the trailer while the guys cut down the trees and cut the wood into loadable pieces. We all loaded the wood trailer. Once that was done, my husband headed to the upper barn to get the splitter. I followed along on foot. He hooked the splitter to his tractor and started down the rugged terrain. One large bump was all it took to pop the splitter off the hitch and send it crashing down the hill, headed for the fence. I just watched with horror, hand over mouth, waiting to see where it would stop and what damage it was going to cause. It crashed into the fence and stopped, just popping staples loose and doing little other damage, but was wedged in there tightly. The look on my husband's face was priceless and I collapsed in gales of laughter which in turn got my son hysterical. Doug, was not amused and shaking his head, he went to get a chain to pull the splitter out. Repairs made, we were finally able to complete the task we started, though not without a few more giggles on my part.
It was almost dark when we finished up and I had just enough time to pick a peck basket of spinach, a large bag of lettuce and gather eggs. Looks like there will be lots of spinach recipes on the menu this coming week!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


After doing the morning routine of baking, cleaning and laundry, I headed to the chicken coop to check on my two new ladies I brought home yesterday. I was lucky enough to be able to purchase some moran chickens. They lay the most incredible dark eggs you have ever seen and I am so excited to get them. They seemed to be settling in quite nicely with little picking from the other girls. I fed and watered everyone and went to check on the garden. It seems to be very happy with the temperatures of late (30's/60's) and is growing quite nicely. I was pleasantly surprised by the spinach. I had thought our germination was really bad this year. I had a very spotty row but a lot seems to be coming up now. So I spent the next hour or so weeding.

Next on my list was feeding and tending the sheep and goats. This turned out to be not such a pleasant surprise. It seems we had our first fence break- ALREADY. Grrr. So the next hour was spent putting the fence back the best I could and separating all of the sheep. Most went back to their respective pens quite easily. However there is always one that refuses to cooperate and today was no different. One of my younger ewes didn't care to go back to her pasture. I went and got grain and put some on both sides of the fence close to the gate. I managed to capture her and was holding her between my knees with an ankle hooked through the gate and trying to open it at the same time. I thought I was loosing my balance but realized that the gate was being pushed wide open by my 250 pound alpine buck in an effort to reach the bucket that was sitting beside me. Over I went, in a very contorted position and landed with a huge thud in the lovely wet sheep dooky. Surrounded by eager hungry sheep I was afraid of being trampled and I scrambled up in a flash. At this point my pleasant mood was fading fast. Now I was covered poop AND smelled like a stinky billy goat. Yuck. Finally after several more attempts I was able to once again secure everyone. I finished feeding, gathered my eggs and hobbled to the house to take a shower, trying to decide what hurt worse my fanny or my pride. Just another day on the farm...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Getting Creative With Kale

If one could drown in a kale patch I would have perished this past week. I have picked and eaten and eaten and picked. Not that I am complaining, but there seems to be just so much you can do with greens, being that just plain 'ole cooked greens have never really been my first choice.

And so it began with a kale risotto that was fixed a couple of weeks back. Then, there is always the creamy kale soup. I also cooked a huge pot of white beans with a smoked lamb bone and added kale at the end. The latest is a spin on an old family recipe that used spinach.
Saute about 2 pounds of kale with some chopped onion in butter or olive oil until wilted and tender. In a bowl mix together 1/2 cup of sour cream, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp flour, 1 cup of cheese, salt and pepper to taste. I use whatever cheese I have on hand, this time it was some smoked Gouda but Parmesan or Cheddar works as well. Fold in the greens and bake at 350* for 25- 30 minutes. Pretty tasty!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Icelandic Breeding Groups/ Washing Fleeces

Today I broke the sheep into three breeding groups. I am only breeding 12 ewes this year so each ram will have 4 girls each. Hopefully this will keep everyone happy and fence breaks will be kept to a minimum! This means the lambs should start arriving in April, just after kidding season ends. With the exception of the Nigerian goats, who are due January, most of the dairy girls should be due February and March.

I chose not to breed the ewe lambs born this year in hopes that they will take this extra time to grow and hopefully prove to be more parasite resistance in the future. Wouldn't that be grand.

I also spent some time skirting fleeces. Of the 16 to do, I got 6 done. One of the little moorit ewe lamb fleeces was exceptionally lovely so I decided to keep it for myself. I brought it up to the house and washed it. The fleeces were really clean this year so it only took a couple of soakings and one rinse. Once dry, I carded it up and now it is ready to spin into yarn.
This is how I wash my fleeces:

Run hot water in my washer (you must have a top load machine) with a bit of dish detergent. Gently submerge the fleece. Let soak 15 minutes or so. Spin out water. DO NOT agitate or you will have a felted mess! Take out fleece and fill again. Repeat this step until water is pretty clean. Try to keep temperature about the same each time as extreme temp changes can cause felting too. Rinse the same way. Let air dry on a towel. Once dry you are ready to card and spin.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fall Shearing Day

Today was shearing day. Our husband and wife shearing team arrived around one o'clock and the games began. They sheared a total of 18 ewes, 4 rams and 2 angora goats. Of course this being the coldest night thus far this fall, all the critters were a bit ticked at being naked! I will keep them in the barn for the next few days until the weather warms again on Monday. I will then break the sheep into breeding groups for the winter. The angora goats, belonging to my mom, will go back in with the cashmere bucks in hope of some cashgora kids in the spring! I am looking forward to seeing what type of fiber the kids will produce. I understand that it is exceptionally soft like the cashmere, but having much less guard hair.

Most of the fleeces were really beautiful this fall. Very little trash in them with some locks as long as 5-6 inches! The bulk of them were piled on my truck bed to be skirted and handled on Monday as well. What to do with all of the fleeces?! They best will be saved for myself or sold to hand spinners and the balance I plan to ship off and have washed and carded into roving. When I get them back I can then spin them into my own "Lopi" yarn.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Enjoying Wild Mushrooms

I headed to the store today to deliver bread and met an amazing gentleman who considers himself a "naturalist". I am inclined to agree! He had been walking in the woods and produced two amazing wild mushrooms for us to enjoy. Now, he has done this for many years and I certainly wouldn't go out and harvest without any formal education on this subject but I did enjoy his expertise on the subject.
The first mushroom he shared is called "Chicken of the Wood". It is a thick creamy white tinged with orange, mushroom. My mentor said to soak in milk and roll in seasoned flour and fry. It tastes just like chicken, he said. It did! So delicious! The texture and taste are amazing. The few that were brave enough to try it could not believe it was a mushroom. Those people did not include my family, who decided to wait and see if I wake in the morning to try it!
Next to try was the "Hen of the Wood". This mushroom is supposed to have many cancer fighting properties and high in antioxidants. I chose to make a risotto from this one.I sauteed it with onions and butter until soft. I added the arborio rice until brown then added garlic and kale until wilted. To that I added chicken stock and simmered covered until thick and creamy. I then added salt. pepper and Parmesan cheese. Absolutely fantastic! After seeing I did not depart this world after consuming the first one, my family did partake in this dish and enjoyed it as well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The First Fall Harvest

Today we harvested our first goodies from the garden. Lots of lettuces are ready and our first radishes too. We had a huge, yummy salad with homemade creamy peppercorn dressing.

The weeds are quite rampant still with all the warm weather we are having so it looks like a weekend of weeding coming up. It is quite muggy today and in the 80's. Hard to believe this late in October. I guess, however that is a good thing, being that the cold frames and hoop houses have yet to be constructed!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Army Worm Invasion

I accused my husband of missing a spot in the newly sowed rye field. However, when that spot continued to grow we became quite concerned and decided to check it out. To our dismay, we have an infestation of army worms. Thousand of these horrible worms have taken over. They are eating our pasture at a very rapid rate. Literally up to 5 or more feet per night. I can barely sleep!

We will spray, however, rain is in the forecast for the next 3 days and we will have to wait for sunshine. grrr.... In the mean time they are munching away.
After doing a bit of research and making many phone calls I have been told that you can use BT and/or pyrethrins and they are considered organic and safe.

As you can see, what was once a lush pasture is quite barren now in just a matter of days. It is always something...

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Processing Shed

One can never have too many sheds. Or so my husband says. Today he started a "processing shed". It will have a poured concrete floor, a stainless work space and a sink. We hope to be able to purchase a used walk in cooler as well. This will all be used for processing our chickens, turkeys and deer. The cooler will also be a huge help in the summer when produce is over flowing and stacked on kitchen air vents.

Tentative plans are being made for raising and selling free range, organically fed chickens and turkeys next year. Stay tuned on that one!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Making Goat Milk Soap

I awoke to a lovely drizzly morning. Lovely, because we desperately need the rain and I needed an excuse not to be outside! I have a huge number of soap orders to get out and need to make more inventory as well. It is hard for me to stay indoors when the weather is nice and since I also need to get ahead for the holidays, it was a perfect morning.
I gathered all my ingredients and proceeded to get to work. In a few short hours, I had filled all my molds. Today produced a lovely lavender soap, a double batch of sandalwood with oatmeal, a Russian tea with orange peel (and yes it smells just like the Russian tea we made as kids!) and a double batch of tangerine with calendula petals. A good day's work for sure. I will have to freeze more goat milk before the next go round. I hope that is to be next week as more rain may be in the future. My dad has also promised to make me a few more molds, so I hope to turn out quite a bit very soon. I have also been commissioned to create a soap for a young lady with some skin problems. I think this will be a fun venture as well.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Finishing the Fall Garden

Yesterday I planted the garlic and onions that arrived over the weekend. In an effort to become more self sufficient, I planted yellow multiplier onions and Egyptian walking onions. These varieties are supposed to produce year after year without the purchase of new bulbs. I plan to save the best from year to year and it is my hope that these plants will prove useful!
The garlic varieties I chose this year are Chinese Pink, a very early season, Early Red Italian, an early season, Oregon Blue, Music, and Italian Late all mid season and finally (I couldn't resist), Elephant garlic a late season variety!
I also sowed some more lettuces, 8 different varieties, as well as 2 kinds of kohlrabi and another variety of spinach. Lastly I planted spring onions, 303 to be exact. Why so many you ask? A momentary loss of good judgement at purchasing time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tidying Up

This past weekend was spent picking up fallen branches and taking down some dead trees. The largest trees will be split for firewood. The rest of the branches were piled up for a Fall bonfire at some point. We will need rain before that happens.
We also cleaned out the barn, repaired a fence one of the horses destroyed and dismantled the cattle head gate that had not been used in years. (Never needed it again after the bull chased my husband into the chicken pen and we sold him!) The new fence section was boarded for extra stability. We painted the boards black. Once done with that, I thought we should touch up some of the barn trim. Well, you can't just touch up old paint and before we knew it we were involved way more that we had intended! About half way through this project I was informed by my husband that no where on any of his lists was "paint the barn trim". Oops!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Fall Garden Is In

Well, the Fall garden is finally in, along with the winter rye in the millet field. It happened just in time as some much needed rain finally fell and gave everything a good soaking. In the garden we planted 4 kinds of kale, 3 kinds of spinach and 2 kinds of collard greens. We also put in a variety of lettuces, mesclun mix, arugula, carrots and radishes. We also planted four flats of broccoli and cabbage. The garlic has yet to arrive and I still plan to plant some kohlrabi, mustard greens and more carrots.

We hope to build a tunnel to protect the lettuces and get the cold frames by the house finished soon.. we'll see!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Burnt Offerings

I consider myself a fairly good cook. However, there are days I do get distracted and until I made good friends with my crock pot I ALWAYS burned beans. My family at times accuse me of having adult ADD. Today was one of those days that I wondered myself..

I found a new recipe for a southwestern chicken dish for which I had all the ingredients including the tortilla chip crumbs. (you know these, the bottom 1/3 of the bag that is not edible!! Yeah! so I will now toss all crumbles in the freezer until I make this dish again)I put the chicken quarters on to boil and did a bit of housework. They were frozen so I knew they would take a while and I decided if I turned them on low, I could get the barn chores done. Well, that was probably true but while doing the barn chores, I decided Halle, my filly, needed a few lessons on picking up her feet. Then my old cat was in desperate need of being held and I obliged by plopping down on a hay bale and giving him a good scratching. It was about this time I remembered the chicken and after sprinting to the house I found a kitchen full of smoke and some very burnt chicken. But only on one side;!! I very carefully cut off all of the burned parts and the rest was not toooo bad, only a bit, ummm smokey, shall we say. Alas though it was not enough so I needed to cook a couple more pieces. I put those on in another pot, the first one was in such sad shape that will require several Brillo pad scrubbings.My husband came in, in the interim and with a raised eyebrow asked if there was a change in dinner plans. Nope. I have it under control. The second batch of chicken was simmering along quite well. My sister called. Would I come for a visit? (she lives next to us.) Sure. No! I am cooking chicken. I decided to check my email. Soon I smelled the ever so familiar almost burned smell of chicken. Geeezzz. Once again I made a dash to the kitchen. I saved that round. Long story short.. the dish was good, an excellent use of ingredients on hand, but not one to fix while otherwise distracted!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bye Bye Bees

We made several calls about the bee situation in our bedroom wall. The exterminator said yellow jackets don't build in the same place twice, so if we could live with it, just leave them until winter. Uh, no. The "wildlife" removal person would spray. Duh. We could do that.
So, once again my husband put on his bee suit and went to work with a can of spray. The spray he used had a little nozzle that would fit in the crack where they were coming and going between the eve of the house and the rock facing. Then from the bedroom side he made a small slit in the duck tape and sprayed from there as well. Only one escaped while doing that. We then put cardboard up over the hole and taped again just in case the spray weakened the ceiling. After a few minutes of angry buzzing, all was silent. Ding, dong the bees are dead...
Now all we have is a huge mess to clean up. The ceiling will have to be patched, the molding replaced and maybe a section of the wall. That, we won't know until we investigate a bit further. After all the patching, we will have to paint. I am just glad it wasn't honey bees, that would have meant the whole wall would have been taken out to remove and relocate them! Always thankful for small favors.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Vacation Chronicles

Anyone that has a farm and numerous animals knows that vacations are all but a figment of one's imagination. However, every Fall we try to go to the beach so the guys can fish. Personally, I detest the beach and am usually drug kicking and screaming all the way. Maybe it is not JUST the beach, it could be the preparation of getting there. Our vacations are usually limited to day trips or at the most, 24 hours-- feed, milk, leave, spend the night, come home, feed, milk...
So preparations began weeks ago, with me lining up a farm sitter and adjusting work & baking schedules. This was also a poignant time as this was the same weekend and same house we went to last year with my best friend that was dying of cancer. More on that later..
So back to the preparations. I spent last Sunday and Monday checking over all the critters in hopes no one would decide to croak on the poor farm sitter's watch. I trimmed feet and dewormed those that needed it. I also moved extra water tubs to each pasture and stocked up on feed. I made sure there was plenty of hay out of the loft so she would not have to battle the steps and condensed some animals to make less pastures to tend. I also packed up groceries. We don't eat out down there, instead choosing to purchase local fresh seafood and enjoying family time as we prepare meals.

Tuesday- I baked and worked a long day. That evening, as I was packing, I kept hearing a noise in the bedroom wall (I had heard it for last few days). I kept telling my husband about it and he would kind of nod, but I felt like maybe he thought I was nuts. That night it seemed louder. I called him in the room, got a chair and said, "See? it is right there!" as I said there, I poked it with my finger which went into the ceiling and out boiled yellow jackets. Holy cow! We practically knocked each other down as we tried to escape. He put on his bee suit, taped up hole and we gathered fly swatters for a bee killing fest. All escapees killed, we finally got to bed.

Wednesday- I got up before the chickens to bake bread to deliver before we left. While it cooled I headed to the barn and filled all the water buckets, milked the goats made sure everyone was well . I put several bales of hay out in the woods for extra food. I filled the chicken feeders to the brim and added extra water pans for them too. Gathered what eggs had been laid, fed the dogs and headed for the house. I came in to find my husband once again in his bee suit. It seems the tape we used did not hold and our bedroom was full of really ticked bees again. He wouldn't let me in the room until some had been disposed of. I delivered bread. Back home, most of the bees were dead, several layers of duck tape were now affixed to the ceiling and I was able to finish packing, get a shower and get ready to go. We hit the road around 1:30.

Thursday- I waited until about mid morning to call my friend who was going to stay at the farm and take care of the animals. She asked if we were almost ready to leave. I just about died. We are here. She just about died. It seems we some how crossed up dates, but bless her she rearranged all of her plans and headed to the farm. I explained to the bee situation and all was well. Later that day I got a call from my boss and she informed me that the 18 laying hens I ordered were here. They were supposed to be here NEXT week! Geezz, I should just go home. I made what I thought were arrangements for them to stay at the farmer's barn until I got back.

Friday- We hiked the Sugarloaf Dune in the Carolina Beach state park. Half way through the hike we met up with many park rangers and sheriff deputies. Had we seen anyone on the trail? No, we had not, so much for a relaxing hike. We walked a little faster.

Saturday- A message from my boss on my cell phone. The people could not keep the chickens, she was headed to get them. She wanted to know if they needed lights. Being that they were 20 weeks old she would not need lights, but a truck to pick them up. Good grief! When I got back with her, she had already figured that out and God bless her had taken care of that. I promised I would be there ASAP Sunday.

Sunday- We headed out early and arrived home safe and sound. We unloaded the truck, gathered cages and went to pick up the chickens. After tending the animals and finishing chores we ordered a pizza and collapsed. This vacationing stuff is exhausting and I personally find them a bit overrated!
As I said this was a poignant weekend. A year ago this week we made this same trip down with my best friend, Sharon. She had been diagnosed the previous Christmas with cancer. We spent most of the next few months together, cramming a lot of life into the time we had left. We went to the beach to celebrate her birthday. We laughed until we cried and ate wonderful meals and had a grand time. That Sunday, we headed home. I decided not to call and check on her since I knew she was really tired. Monday morning at 7 a.m. her husband called to tell me she passed away in her sleep. She asked to be cremated and taken to all of her favorite places. Her family has traveled to Germany and New York. We traveled to the mountains this summer to say good by at my parents' house, a place where she and I spent a good deal of time. This past year has been an emotional one. It only seemed right to scatter a few of her ashes at the place where we spent our last wonderful few days together. Saturday morning, I awoke to the sun starting to rise over the ocean. It was a glorious sunrise. I hurried down to the beach. I scattered her ashes by the walkway, near a bush and said goodbye for the last time. The sun ducked behind a cloud and then burst forth in the most amazing light I have ever seen. For the first time in a year I felt a calmness and peace in my heart. Later that day my husband and I gathered shells and placed them where I had scattered her ashes. It was a special day.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fixing Fences

If we don't think Fall is coming, the animals do. The testosterone is flying around here and so are the fences. Today we repaired three. The cashmere's had divided themselves into breeding groups a couple of weeks back. I was okay with the division so fixed the break and went on. Well, I guess they reconsidered and once again beat the fence into a mangled mess and brought along my dairy buck just for fun. Good grief. In my next farm life I will have four foot spaces between fencing to prevent all this ruckus! That of course means I will have to mow the dividers. It has been chaos and we haven't even begun to deal with the sheep breeding groups. Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Poison Ivy

Remember the tree that I tried to avoid? No such luck. I have huge weeping whelps, up and down both arms. Sigh. I wore gloves, tried not to touch the actual wood but none the less am totally miserable. Sleep has been but a dream ;o).. between scratching and applying benadryl. This too shall pass, I suppose. Next time, I will make sure to find other pressing chores to do!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

After Labor Day the farm settles down to a dull roar. However, the weekend itself, is packed with the end of summer chores. My husband has a long weekend off , my son is out of school for a day and we pack as much work as possible into those three days.

Saturday started off with me baking and the guys heading to the garden. They dismantled the tomato cages and plowed all the areas not being used. We still have crowders, okra, some peas to dry and a few peppers. All in all ,the garden is done for and we will be planting the Fall garden in the next couple of weeks. Next on the list was a tree that needed to be cut down for fear that it may fall on the Fall garden! It was a huge red oak, that has an equally huge poison ivy vine on it. I decided to pick okra instead. Unfortunately I finished before they did and had to help split the wood and stack it.

Fence repair was next on the list. We have section that is old and we tend to just patch, patch, patch. The goats know this. We did what we thought was an excellent patch job, corralled the escapees one more time and headed to the next job.

The millet field was plowed and readied for the fall planting of winter rye. We will graze the dairy goats and a few sheep on this field. The rye will be planted as soon as they are calling for rain.

Lastly we completed the new equipment shed. This will house our baler, teddor and rakes.

The weekend always ends with a large supper of farm fresh food. This year we had hamburgers, homemade baked beans with maple syrup, slaw and chocolate goat milk ice cream. Yum! We linger a bit longer on the porch, bid a fond farewell to summer and take a deep breath. Soon it will be time to think about breeding groups for the animals, shearing and planting the garden, but for the next couple of weeks we just relax a bit and enjoy the break..

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Still Putting Up The Harvests

Our organic chicken and goat feed was delivered this morning. Once that was unloaded and the morning chores done I headed to the garden and orchard to see what may need picking. Of course there was more okra! Lots of peppers needed picking as well. The pear tree is loaded and I picked a bushel standing in one spot. I hope to get these canned and make some pear butter when they ripen a bit more. However, the okra and peppers needed to be taken care of today, so in addition to frying a huge pan for supper, I pickled several jars. I decided to make hot pepper vinegar with the little Tabasco peppers. These make such pretty jars! Later, I will dip the tops in wax, tie raffia at the neck and give some of them as Christmas gifts. Lastly, I roasted all of the red and yellow peppers and froze them.
The garden is slowly waning and over the weekend we will be preparing for the fall. It has been a fairly good year despite the extreme hot temperatures and I am pleased with what we have preserved. Many good things are waiting to be enjoyed during the cold winter months!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chores Accomplished

Yesterday I canned the green beans first thing and then got the morning feeding rounds done.I then headed to the feed store to pick up sheep feed and dewormer.
We had no idea how much hay would be in the field we were baling and we got a very late start because the chain broke on the baler and had to be repaired. Thank goodness we had and extra one. I decided to head to the garden and get the okra picked while waiting (another 5 gallon bucket!). My son called while I was in the garden, sounding a bit distressed. There were already 168 bales and they were only half way through the field. We presold 100 bales that were to be picked up by a neighbor but the rest was ours to put somewhere. I had no clue where that somewhere might be though! The final count was 325. We filled the hay wagon with about 160 bales and went back for another trailer. It was dark when we pulled out of the field for the last time. My oldest son made a few calls and we were able to find a buyer for the balance of the hay. Thank goodness there was no rain in site and the buyer would get it in the morning. I finished up my milking chores and collapsed in a heap around 10. It is a good day when are chores are accomplished!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pickling Peppers

Yesterday's garden pick yielded another large basket of peppers, so I spent the afternoon pickling most of them and making some pepper jelly. I had an assortment of jalapenos, hot and mild banana peppers and instead of trying to separate all of them I just sliced and tossed them all together. I also made some pepper jelly using cranberry juice as the base. It is really delicious (and pretty!) especially when served with our fromage goat cheese and crackers. The first batch was not spicy enough so I tried again. The second one was a little better but I am going to try one more time for a really spicy batch!
Today's list of chores include canning the green beans I picked yesterday, picking up hay and pickling the ever producing okra~again! Better get busy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mowing Hay... Again!

It has been an unbelievable summer. The heat and humidity have been brutal but it has also brought thunderstorms and LOTS of rain. Blessings in disguise, I guess, and that means we can mow hay for the third time this year! We actually will have a surplus and will be able to sell some to help cover fuel costs, baling twine, ect.
While the boys were doing the hay thing, I wandered to the garden to see what I needed to catch up on. Egads! The okra, now at least 7 feet tall, was loaded. I pulled on my long sleeve shirt and gloves and went to work. Two hours later I emerged with a five gallon bucket full and had thrown at least two full buckets on the ground. Being that I am a bit vertically challenged, I had to reach way up and pull the plants down to me, to pick. I never knew working the garden could be dangerous but after being boinked in the head repeatedly from huge okra pods, I wondered if I may have a concussion! There were some late green beans to pick and a glut of peppers. I saved those for tomorrow.
We had two cashmere does kid this week amongst all the chaos. I checked on those girls and kids. They want nothing at all to do with me. I have yet to get my hands on this little one to even see what sex it is. The other doe has hidden hers well in the woods and even though I walked and searched was unable to locate it. I know it is out there because she is being nursed! I noticed that they are all in need of hoof trimming so that will go on tomorrows list as well and hopefully I can get my hands on the kids at that time.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stepping Forward

I awoke this morning with wet cheeks. I am sure I was crying in my sleep. I don't have many days when I truely don't want to get up, but today was one of those. However, I was expected at work and had bread to bake. Routine can be a good thing.
The evening chores were done somberly. My husband kept me company while I milked the goats. The heart of our homestead is missing and we both are very sad, but this too shall pass and we will move on and begin a search for another milk cow in the near future. We are also beginning to make plans for a beef herd as well and that gives me something to focus on in the mean time. Many thanks to all who helped us this past week and all of the support from a lot of very dear people!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Life and Death On the Homestead~ Loving And Loosing The Family Cow

Today we lost Jasmine. She was a huge part of our family. For the last 6 years she has nurtured us with gallons of fresh milk, cheese and butter. Supplying us with beef with the calves she raised. We are deeply saddened.
I awoke early yesterday to find an escaped horse. I went to put him up and in the process found Jasmine had escaped as well and was lying on the concrete floor on the side of the barn. The floor was wet and she had obviously slipped. It was frightning to see her laying there with her back legs splayed out to the sides. I hysterically called my husband and other family members to come help. A call to the vet went out as well. With the help of heavy equipment she was moved to the grass. When the vet arrived, he went to work on her with steroids and pain medication. A catheter was put in so after he left I could administer fluids and meds via IV. He worked on her for 3 1/2 hours. After leaving, we gave her fluids and used a hip lift chained on the backhoe to get her on her feet and moving every two hours. She had damaged the nerves in her left hind leg, but we were hopeful that some time and medicine would pull her through. It was not to be. Around 9 p.m. last night she was so exhausted that when we tried to lift her, her front legs would not support her. With tear filled eyes, I looked at my husband. He shook his head and I knew we were not going to win this battle. I sat with her well into the darkness leaning on her neck and taking in her cow smell. I talked to her, rubbed her and loved her. At midnight I gave her some more pain meds to get her through till morning. This morning I found her once again splayed out on the ground and made the fateful call to the vet's office. I fed her breakfast, gave her water and waited. When the vet arrived, I held her big sweet head in my lap and sobbed. She licked my arms and legs with her big rough tongue. Jasmine was not just a cow. I had milked her daily for 15 months this last lactation (and many, many before that) and the bond we had was inexplicable.
At 9:45 this morning Jasmine walked across the rainbow bridge to be with all of the other faithful animals that have left our homestead. She was buried on the hill above the pond where I can see her final resting place from my kitchen window. Goodbye, my love.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What DO You Do With A Peck Of Peppers??

We are pepper people. Every year about this time, just when I think the garden is waning, peppers seem to explode. We love all kinds of peppers. Sweet ones, hot ones and all those in between! The sweet banana peppers are a standard side dish during the summer. Split in half, stuffed with cheese and broiled for a few minutes and Wow! Any kind of cheese works. Sometimes we use pepper cheese for a kick, or Swiss, or Cheddar, the list goes on.
We stuff the hot banana peppers as well, but also pickle them for a milder alternative to the jalapenos. Jalapenos are used in salsas, Mexican dishes or pickled. We especially love the pickled ones chopped up and mixed with the fromage cheese for a spicy spread on crackers. The bell peppers are eaten fresh, roasted or dehydrated. We usually roast the red and yellow , freeze them, and use them later in a lovely spicy pepper sauce that is served over pasta or rice with chicken and veggies or fish. The extra green bell peppers are usually dehydrated. And lastly the Tabasco and small hot peppers are packed into vinegar to use as a condiment over greens during the cold winter months. When packed in pretty jars they make lovely gifts as well. A few of these are dehydrated too, to toss into soups and stews for added interest and to grind for our own cayenne pepper.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Kinda Cool..

This is a scene that was filmed at our farm for the movie "Insecurity" that was shot here earlier this summer. It is in the running for their poster for the movie. This was one of three scenes shot here. The movie is set to be released sometime 2011. Written and produced by a local doctor, and filmed entirely in our area, they have high hopes it will make it to the big screen. If not it will definitely be out on DVD. For more info and updates check out Dr. Troyer's blog, the link is under interesting sites.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Millet Mess

The millet field had begun to top out. The goats and sheep were not eating it fast enough. It has been a wonderful forage crop this summer, growing well and staying lush and thick. Knowing that it was not supposed to be let go to seed we decided we would mow it for hay. We plan to plant winter rye grass in that pasture this fall anyway. Our plans were to mow it fairly high so the animals could continue to graze it until we planted the new crop.We watched the weather for several days and although there was a slight chance of rain, 20%, we went ahead and mowed yesterday. Last night the weather took a drastic change. They were now calling for strong storms to roll in today and tomorrow. The boys teddored it twice today trying to get it dry enough to bale. I got off work around 4 to help load once we started baling. The sky started to darken right as we got started. The winds picked up and then the thunder started. Now I will work until the cows come home in the rain, but I scamper at the first sight of lightening. Once it started I was ready to quit but they wanted to load a few more. So, I finished driving the tractor as the boys threw the hay but we were cut short by the storm. I pulled into the barn just as the bottom fell out of the sky. I cut open a few bales to see what we had and it was too damp. I fluffed those up and will fed them in the next day or two. Unfortunately the rest will have to become erosion control as they will mold very soon and I don't want them in the barn because of the possibility of heat building in them.
We chalked it up to experience. It was not a huge loss since there were only 35 bales in the field. It will definitely be an annual summer crop for us, it provided lots of extra grazing and at the end would have made a decent hay crop for such a small field. My dairy goats loved it as forage as well as hay, so it was a win, win crop.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In Praise Of Malabar Spinach

Malabar is a climbing spinach that tastes slightly earthy. Though technically not a true spinach you use it any way you would regular spinach. It comes in a red and white variety, meaning the stems are either red or white. It loves the heat. Use the small leaves in salads and the larger ones can be sauteed or put in soups and stews. I planted it last year for the first time and found it to be a fabulous substitute for the early spring, fall and winter spinach. We eat a huge amount of spinach and really missed it during the summer months, so this has been a wonderful find. It will seed down readily, so once you plant it, you will never need to buy seed again and you will have enough plants to share with all of your friends and neighbors!
My Malabar is in my herb bed on a fairly heavy trellis. I usually plant 6-7 plants around the trellis and just let it go. I am still pulling up seedlings from last years seeds. We either eat the leaves or I toss the vine to the critters. We have eaten the Malabar twice this week. Once sauteed in a pasta dish with onions and last night we made chicken and spinach quesadillas. Yummy!

Put Malabar on your list of must do's for spring next year. You will be glad you did!

Monday, August 2, 2010

May I Have A Do-Over Please?

Call me crazy, but I normally love Mondays. It is usually the only day I don't hit the floor at a dead run. No work schedule, no baking, no set in stone to do list. I linger over an extra cup of coffee and kind of ooze into the week. Sigh.
This morning was cloudy and cool as I headed to the kitchen to make coffee. My son is out of town and my husband had headed off to work. Peace and quiet. While the coffee was brewing I opened the fridge for a snack. The temp read 68 *. Oh joy. Cleaning out the fridge had been on my to do list for a while but not today. Coffee, book and screen porch were forgotten as I began to pull everything out. We have a farm fridge in the garage where we keep extra milk ,eggs, produce, ect. Moving the few salvageable things there proved to be a challenge as it was full of, well, milk. Older milk was pulled out and fed to the chickens and I was able to squeeze in the house groceries. The pile of dishes and containers were fast reaching the ceiling. Good grief, how did all this stuff fit in there in the first place! I scrubbed and cleaned all the shelves. By now it was around 9:30 and I called a local repair service. Bless him, he appeared about an hour or so later. I was still working on the original mess when he said we would have to unload the freezer to see what was going on. Coolers were hauled in and filled. At this point it looked like a bomb had gone off in my kitchen. Another hour or so passed, he defrosted some coils announced that I needed a part he didn't have but it should limp a long for a few days until the part came in.
It was getting close to noon and I realized that I never got my snack nor had I milked the goats! They were going to be huffy about that. Off to the barn to milk. That had to be fed to the chickens as well, there was simply no room to store it. Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the fridge was starting to cool enough to put vegetables and items that wouldn't spoil back in. I got the freezer reloaded too.
I had just finished when a friend arrived to pick up out last Nigerien dwarf doe kid. We visited a bit and off the little goat went in a box with her new family.
All in all I guess it wasn't sooo bad. The chickens ate well, the dogs ate well and I have a beautifully clean refrigerator. That should last about a week. LOL!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Garden Is Still Going

Even with the heat the garden is still producing quite well. I picked and canned another half bushel or so of tomatoes today. We are absolutely covered up in peppers and I hope to pickle a few pints in the next couple of days. Our second corn crop is tasselling and the late green beans are blooming. The crowder peas and tiger eye beans jumped out of the ground with the rain we have gotten the last few days. Our okra is so tall we may have to get a ladder to pick it soon! The popcorn is ready as well.
I did have a lot of "not gettin' round to it's " in my garden this year. I wanted to plant butter peas and late tomatoes. I had grand plans to get in some more squash (maybe I will yet) and I would have liked to have planted some late potatoes. It is what it is and there is still a lot of growing season yet for what is planted.
Even so, I think I am almost ready for Fall. I know we still have the dog days of summer yet to go but it certainly feels like we have been there already!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Weaning Of The Lambs

I normally don't wean our lambs, choosing to let the ewes do it themselves. This year has been tough on the sheep with the heat and parasite loads. I decided the lambs would be better off on their own with supplemental feeds, hay and minerals. I can also keep a closer eye on them for any problems that may erupt. The ewes too, I think, would benefit in not having to produce milk. They are in excellent shape for the season to have been so tough, though.

To wean the lambs was going to take some major rearranging of pastures. With the help of my two sons we cleaned and scraped the barn. Troughs were scrubbed and relocated to new areas. Once everything was in place it was time to divide and deworm. As usual all were very uncooperative. To my surprise most of the sheep were in pretty good shape parasite wise. I do have four whose eyes look very pale and they are causing me great concern. Still eating and grazing gives me hope that these sheep will pull through. I dewormed them and plan to dose with some blood building drenches tomorrow.

After about 4 hours we finally had the last of the sheep, goats and dogs relocated to their new homes for the next few weeks. All of the critters are extremely unhappy and voicing their opinion on the move. I may have to wear earplugs for the next few days!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Catching Up on Paperwork

The heat has been almost unbearable the last few days with the heat index hitting 110* over the weekend. I have been filling water buckets 3 times a day and keeping my fingers crossed that the animals will make it through. The sheep are staying deep in the woods as are the cashmere goats. The dairy goats are content to lay in the barn. The bunny gets a frozen water bottle each morning to lay against. It is so hot that even the cow was panting yesterday!
After doing my feeding, milking and watering chores this morning I headed to the garden to see if anything needed to be picked. Only the okra was ready. After picking, I felt like the okra looked. Limp and sad. It was 1:30, so I decided to make use of the down time of no canning to catch up on all the registrations for the dairy goats and Icelandic sheep. This is a chore I detest. I would rather have a poke in the eye than fill out all of the mounds of paperwork. The Icelandics are the worst~ colors, patterns, horns? polled? year codes. Yikes! Two hours later I emerged from my studio with almost all of it caught up. Checks were written, envelopes stuffed and in the mailbox they went. Thank goodness that is done for now. I have a few left to go but will have to wait until I get some info back before finishing.
I also managed to get my fall seeds and garlic ordered before heading down for more water checks and the evening milking. Hard to believe it is the end of July and in no time it will be time to think about the fall garden.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Our Cashmere Goats Are In Hobby Farms!

Several months ago a lovely lady named Julie came out and photographed our cashmere goats for an upcoming article in Hobby Farms Magazine. Our goats are pictured in the current July/August issue. Stoney Meadow Noodles is on the table of contents page as well as a full page picture on page 31. Stoney Meadow Apache is featured on page 36, he is the black buck with a white spot. Two farms were profiled, ours was not one, but we are incredibly excited about the pictures and want to offer our thanks to Julie for her beautiful work!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Naughty Goats

After delivering bread this morning, I was coming down the driveway running my to-do list through my head, must can tomatoes, pickles need to be done, garden picked... and then spotted several loose goats in the barn area. I drove straight down to the barn with a feeling of dread just in time to see my yearling filly emerge from the milking parlor/ feed room and 11 goats wandering around. Great. Grand. I knew this was going to be ugly. Ugly was an understatement. Apparently they had been out for quite a while and it looked like a giant poo-pee bomb had gone off. They had turned over feed bins, ripped open almost every sealed bag of feed, destroyed hay and straw bales and they themselves looked like they too might explode at any minute. After finally getting everyone back in the pasture which required a lot of dragging and threatening,( being that no one was interested in grain!) I surveyed the damage. Bad. Just plain bad. I decided that it was unlikely a barn fairy would appear to clean up this mess and it was not going anywhere. My tomatoes on the other hand, were going to rot if I did not get them canned.
I headed to the house and got the tomatoes peeled and chopped. Once on simmering I headed down to the barn. The animals were all fine but will certainly be on a hay diet for the next couple of days. The next 2 hours were spent cleaning up the catastrophe. That done, I finished feeding the sheep and checking on everyone again. I got all of the goats milked, just a little late, but I reminded the girls it was their own fault. One doe needed deworming and her feet trimmed, so I went ahead and took care of that. Finally I made it back to the house and got my roasted garlic marinara sauce canned (yum!) . I did make it to the garden and get more tomatoes picked along with out first really large harvest of okra. Peppers, eggplant and squash finished filling a bushel basket. Pickles did not get made today. Oh well, move that to tomorrow's list!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kombucha Tea

This week I was gifted with a Scoby to start my own Kombucha tea. (you can barely see it in the jar) Kombucha is a mushroom and is known for its many healthful properties. It is slightly tart and after fermenting has a fizzy and refreshing taste.
The Scoby or Kombucha culture, is put in a mixture of sugar, water and organic black tea where it is allowed to ferment for 7 -10 days. You then strain it and put it in capped jars to ferment another 3 days or so on the counter where it gets that fizzy property. The mushroom will produce an additional Scoby each time that can be given away or stored for another batch. You then start the process all over. You should drink 1/2 cup to one pint daily for its medicinal properties.
I was preparing the tea when my mom stopped by. I asked her if she would like to try some that had been prepared earlier. She got a horrified look on her face and proceeded to tell my father that I am now drinking "mushroom juice"!! LOL!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Canning and Freezing

The last week has been a canning and freezing marathon. It started with the corn. We pulled right at 20 dozen ears. I cut most of it off the cob and froze it by itself. I also tried dehydrating a couple of dozen ears. The rest I saved to use in more vegetable soup. This time I canned the vegetable soup in pints for quick lunches, I got 17! I also had enough tomatoes to do 2 large batches of spaghetti sauce which yielded 16 quarts. I dehydrated some green beans just for fun and canned 15 pints of beef stew. Lastly I canned 6 more pints of marinara sauce. The pantry shelves are slowly starting to fill...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Homestead Blessings

Today was yet another long day at work. When I arrived home my teenage son (almost adult son) was polishing his wheels on his truck and yet again washing his already clean windows. (would it be that his room were that clean!) I asked if he would like to "tag team" feeding so that supper would make it to the table a bit earlier tonight. His reply was the usual "Yeah, I'll be there in a minute". Not holding out much hope I headed to the barn. Low and behold he appeared ;o)) We finished up feeding in record time and gathered some veggies from the garden for supper. After we ate, I cleaned the kitchen and went to milk the cow. He appeared as I was tying her up and just sat and chatted while I was milking. My heart just swelled with love, spending a stolen moment of camaraderie with this special young man who is, most times, too busy to be around these days. (He is working many jobs and holding a 3.9 GPA at school.) I felt so incredibly blessed to have a few stolen moments with him. Truly blessed..

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canning Vegetable Soup

Early this morning while baking, I started chopping the vegetables for the soup base that I planned on canning. I figured since I still had my MIL's canner I would just double the batch. Not a well thought out plan. I chopped all the way through the Early Show, Rachel Ray AND Dr. Oz! Once all the chopping was finished I put everything in a pot. Or should I say I tried putting in a pot and another pot and another pot, finally finding a 16 quart stock pot that held it all. Once the soup simmered for about 15 minutes I was able to get both canners going simultaneously which worked out really well since the soup had to process for 1 hour and 25 minutes. I was able to get the kitchen cleaned up while watching the canners. It was a morning well spent, by mid-afternoon I had 13 quarts of vegetable soup to show for my efforts!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Preparing For The Dawn..

Today was a 11 hour work day. I rose early to bake and set off to tame the circus of localvores. It is tomato and corn season here. Along with squash and beans, the place I work is bordering on chaos. I would have it no other way! I feel blessed to be able to work in a place where I can help people purchase healthy foods and educate them on local sustainability.
Once home though, my other life kicked in. I fed critters and milked. I also made sure all my ingredients were ready for a vegetable soup making bonanza tomorrow. I was able to barter for organic carrots and local butter beans. Since I am in between green bean pickings, a family member traded some green beans for beef. I pulled corn from our garden. The only purchased ingredient is celery.
Dawn will come early! I will need to bake and get the soup base going to can. I hope to be able to have enough tomatoes to do a roasted garlic marinara sauce as well.
During the canning time I will share recipes tomorrow! Blessings..

Monday, June 28, 2010

Plum Crazy!

The last few days we have picked several bushels of plums. Of course we can't use all of them, so we have shared the bounty with family and friends. In addition to eating until we can hold no more, they have been turned into jams, jellies and syrups.
I have also been playing with my dehydrator again. Today I dehydrated yellow squash. It turned out really pretty. The true test will be the taste. I plan to try some later this week before I fill the pantry full! I have also made deer jerky this week as well as fill containers with herbs like parsley and summer savory. Sage and thyme are next on the list. I ordered the plastic inserts to go in the trays so that I can do fruit roll ups and vegetable powders. Maybe they will arrive before all the plums are gone?!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Potatoes and Garlic and Corn, Oh My!

Early this morning, while I was still baking, my husband headed out to start digging potatoes. He dug the "weird" ones as he calls them. Purple, through and through, a pink skin and flesh, a pink blushed Yukon and a baking potato were harvested today. The fingerlings and Kennebec are not quite ready. From the 15 pounds of seed potatoes planted, these varieties produced almost 3 bushels! After delivering bread I headed down to help. I dug the garlic that was planted last fall. From the 1 1/2 pounds planted, I harvested 10 pounds of beautiful garlic heads. I also planted shallots last fall, but these were not quite ready either. I was also able to pick quite a few tomatoes and squash.
And then there was the corn! I love fresh corn. My husband asked if it was ready and I told him the ear I ate standing in the garden was fabulous! The bulk of it will be ready about Wednesday, but we will surely be eating corn every night for as long as we can. This year for the first time we planted popcorn. It is beginning to tassel. We also have a late crop of corn in that is about 6 inches tall. In past years we have not had a lot of luck but continue to try!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eating From The Homestead

Early this morning as I wandered down to fill water buckets on yet another 90 something degree day, I paused at the garden to see what might be for supper. I picked a few eggplant, some squash and tomatoes. I noticed the potatoes and garlic are ready to be dug. (We harvested onions last week.)
I filled buckets with cool water and gathered eggs. I checked to see how the critters were fairing in this brutal heat. Surprisingly they are holding their own.
Back at the house I started to put away the eggs only to be greeted by several gallons of milk that needed a purpose in life. I skimmed the cream and made butter and used the rest to make mozzarella. A supper plan was starting to form...
Maple Lane Homestead Eggplant Casserole was born!
I thawed some ground lamb and ground beef from the freezer. I browned it along with some onions and garlic from the garden. I then added some lamb seasoning and Italian seasoning and let simmer a bit. ( love those Penzeys spices!) Next I added a pint of marinara sauce that I had canned last year and continued to let simmer a bit more. I then peeled and sliced the eggplant long ways in thick slices and dipped in the freshly beaten eggs. I browned them in a bit of butter until tender. I layered the eggplant, meat sauce and cheese 2 times to make a thick casserole and topped with fresh basil from the herb bed. Yum!
Since it was early in the day I covered it in the fridge to be cooked later and went about my chores. I fed the whey to the chickens along with the eggplant peelings. The last few days have found me handpicking Japanese beetles from the grape vines and tossing them in the milk (or whey) for the chickens to eat, and today I did the same. They love to eat the beetles and since they are determined to eat all of the blueberries and tomatoes, they are confined to the front pasture or the "penitentiary" until further notice!!
I hope you try and like our creation!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Full Freezers

The freezers are once again full of meat. The final chicken count for us was 48 (we shared 10 with a special person) and the cow we butchered along with the 2 lambs arrived yesterday. We had hoped to raise a hog this year but right now have no room to put one. It is still on my "wanna do" list tho! My son will hunt, and hopefully get a deer or two, in the fall. Most of one deer is usually made into breakfast sausage. Other than fish and the small amount of locally produced pork sausage & bacon we purchase, we do not buy meat. This amount will probably last two years, maybe more. All of the meat is vacuum sealed instead of being wrapped and keeps a long time. We will share with family. We constantly rotate and make sure to date.
That being said , it surely leaves no room to freeze any vegetables so most everything will have to be canned or dehydrated this year. The garden is starting to produce and the green beans are beginning to line the shelves..

Monday, June 7, 2010

Butchering day #2 / Final Analysis

This past Saturday we finished butchering the last of the meat birds. These were the Freedom Rangers that were not quite big enough the first go round. Most of the bird's (dressed weight) were around 3 pounds with a few hitting 4. We decided to do most of these whole, which is not the norm around here, but being that we had freezer space and these birds were not huge, it seemed like a good thing to do. Yesterday we again smoked one to see if there was any difference between these and the broilers. None, Nada. No difference in flavor or texture at all.
So here is my take on the experiment.

The broilers cost 1.10 each and the freedom rangers 2.04. A pretty significant difference except for the fact that I lost no rangers and 7 broilers. (even after all the stress of their first night!!)
Of the broilers lost, 2 died the first night, one at about 4 weeks and the rest just disappeared, we think lost to hawks due to their high visibility. The rangers were barely detectable in the high grasses in the orchard and they were penned together.
The broilers did grow out a full 2 weeks quicker. At first I thought that was a good thing, but the final two weeks the rangers only ate about 75 pounds of feed where the broilers, towards the end, were consuming almost 50 pounds a day! The rangers were just as content to go and look for things to eat as sit in front of a trough waiting for it to be refilled, which is what the broilers do.
As far as body shape goes, the broilers do have a more uniform round body, plumper legs and heavier breasts, where as the rangers have longer legs and are a bit more narrow through the breast. I had hoped that the rangers would have a "grainier" texture, like that of a wild turkey, but they did not.
Our final take: we most likely will raise the freedom rangers next year. Two weeks ago I would have said broiler, but after seeing how these birds grew on so much less feed, even though they cost more in the beginning and take a bit longer to grow out, in the long run I feel they are hardier and cheaper to raise.
A word of warning though~ lock the little buggers up the night before because once they realize what is up on butchering day, the chase is on!! It took three times the amount of time to catch them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Famous Sheep?

Several weeks ago I was approached by a young man that told me they were filming a movie based on a book written by a local doctor. The book is called Witness and written by Dr. Eric Troyer. I had heard of the book, but not read it and so I invited him to the farm. Apparently the main character is in the witness protection program and is hiding out on a sheep farm. The movie, called WitnessInsecurity is being filmed in and around our area. He told me if I agreed to do it they would make several visits and I would be invaded on shooting day. He was true to his word. The first visit came as we were putting up hay. The director, prop people and others showed up to look over the property. Nasty, sticky and sweaty I showed them around. Another evening as I arrived home from work they called needing to bring yet another group by. And so it was, we were chosen.
Today as I took care of the morning chores the trucks started to arrive. A very nice gentleman asked if I was ready for this, I said sure, but as the drive started filling up with trucks and vans and trailers and cars and campers and golf carts... and the road was lined down both sides, I questioned my sanity and thought I probably should have warned the neighbors. Oooops!!

They shot four scenes here. One was on the dock by our pond. At the end of this scene the main character sat down in a chair and was to cast a fishing line out into the pond. He kept getting the line tangled around his chair. My sister and I were watching from my kitchen window and each time would collapse in gales of laughter. Apparently he wasn't from around here...

The next scene was shot in our barn. They created a rain storm by pumping water from the pond and through a series of hoses and sprinklers overhead, it looked like rain! The bad guy snuck in the barn as the main character filled hay troughs. Finally the sheep got to make their appearance! "Johnny" herded them up the hill and fed our bottle baby. Lastly there was to be target practice with cans and bottles exploding. Of course the sheep were very interested in that and finally the prop directer yelled, "Kelly! can we loose the sheep!" Too funny and so Hollywood. It was a long day and the crew was more than kind, several were from L.A. as well as a lot of locals, but to be quite honest I was ready for them all to go home so I could finish my chores!

Here is the kicker... I am not a movie person, (Don't laugh!! I have been to a theater only twice in the last 25 years) and I probably should have been more impressed than I was. (I mean, no offense but if I am going to spend two hours doing something unconstructive it will be sleeping ;o))! After they left I sat down and studied the scrip I was handed earlier. I thought low budget meant no name actors. Seems Eddie Furlong was Johnny, Brian Krause was the bad guy, Ed Asner and Meatloaf are to be in town later this week. Hey I know who Ed Asner is!! Only because I am old... and Meatloaf!! I have that cassette around here somewhere. Here I go collapsing in gales of laughter again...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Late Memorial Day!

Yesterday, my husband woke me at 6 a.m. to weed the garden. I would have sworn it was a holiday. Oh yeah, that's right, I live on a farm. There are no holidays or vacations to speak of, but that is the life we have chosen. There are days I grumble, but usually those are the ones that begin without my fill of coffee.
I stumbled to the garden with coffee cup in hand and soon realized that water would have been way more appropriate. The air was thick with the promise of yet more rain and storms. We have been able to cultivate, but not weed the plants, and so the next few hours were spent pulling weeds and carting them off to be tossed over the bank. As I weeded one row, I looked up to see the next row of green beans was hanging full and needed to be be picked. Yikes! So soon, I thought!
At 10:30, we were down to the last row of corn when the thunder boomed and the skies darkened. I tried to finish up, but with a fraidy cat bird dog wrapped around my legs like a toddler, I gave up. ( and no he doesn't hunt ..) I headed to the barn to put up the horses, in case of hail, and the Heavens opened up. I spent the rest of the day trimming hooves on the cashmere goats and deworming. It rained until 5 :30. We had a 2 hour window, that allowed for the evening chores and milking to be finished and once again the rains set in. It rained all night long.
Today I picked green beans in between showers after I got home from work. Not even a quarter of the way through, I had an overflowing peck basket. My Mom would probably have a stroke for picking on wet vines, but at this point it is probably black spot or ROT!! Looks like canning is in the not so distant horizon..

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Taste Test

Okay.. Here is the scoop thus far. The broiler weighed 4 lb. 4 oz., the ranger 2 lb. 14 oz. They were the same age. It will take 2 more weeks to finish out the rangers.
We invited my parents over to taste with us and the grand conclusion was that... da dummm..
It tastes like chicken. Sorry folks but there was not a huge difference in the flavor. I really thought the ranger would have more flavor being that it seemed to have a bit more fat, but not so. We will process the last 24 in two weeks. I don't think the rangers eat at the rate the broilers do, but will know for sure at that point. It may all still weigh out at the end.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Butchering Day

Last night we did most of the setting up. The gas burners were brought out for heating water, the plucker was pulled from the barn and the cutting station was readied. The chickens were only allowed water yesterday. It makes for easier and cleaner butchering. It looks like we will only be doing the Cornish rock crosses.Unfortunately, the freedom rangers are about two weeks out from a decent size. This means we will be doing this again soon , which was not my intention, but a lesson learned.
Daylight found us catching the birds and heating the water. At 6:55 the first bird was killed and the process began. Somehow I inherited the job of killing and plucking. It is a mystery as to why I got this job, but for years I have done it! Doug does the cutting and if we do whole birds, the gutting. I usually kill about five or six at a time. They are allowed to bleed out, then dipped into 165* 'ish water mixed with a bit of dish detergent. The water temp is very important. If too cold they won't pluck easily, too hot scalds the skin and breast meat. I keep two pots of water going and change to clean water every few birds. I then rinse with a hose and they are handed off to my husband. Once he has several to work on, I change gloves, rinse the pieces he sets aside and pack on ice in a large cooler. The cooler has a layer of ice about 8-10 inches deep on the bottom. Most birds are cut up by first cutting off the leg quarters and the boneless breast cuts, he clips the wings off and lastly reaches in and pulls out the livers. What is left is a carcass with nothing on it. These will be buried. Since we don't have freezer space for 60 something whole birds, this seems to work well. We do a few whole birds to smoke on the grill but most are cut up. As he catches up, we start the process over again. Today we actually had an extra hand that did the rinsing step and that was a huge help. We finished at 9:30. It took 2 1/2 hours to process 35 chickens. Once done, we pack ice on top of the birds and tilt the cooler so that it can drain. They will remain like this for 2 days. On Monday I will rinse once again, vacuum pack and freeze.
I did stalk out the largest freedom ranger and we processed him whole along with a whole Cornish rock. I will weigh them tomorrow and we will have a taste test. Stay tuned for the final analysis!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Great Escape

It has always been said, be careful what you wish for...

It has been so very dry the last few weeks and we have been praying for rain. Things are dry, parched and beginning to wither. Or should I say were...

Last night the rains came. It started around dark. Thunder, lighting and torrents of rain. The satellite went dead for hours. I was reading and at 11:00 or so it was still raining in sheets. I knew the daylight would not bring pretty pictures.
I awoke to find the pond had overrun it's banks and was up to the top of the dock. The pool had run over as well. Deep gullies snaked their way through the gravel drives. Water had run in the barn and chicken house. Ugh..
I went about my daily chores and errands. When I started the evening rounds I noticed sheep and goats were on the wrong side of the fence. It seems that a river of water had run down the hill and totally washed out several sections of fence. I had sheep, goats and a wayward milk cow scattered as far as the seven seas on county property behind the barn. The fence was covered in so much mud and debris that I knew I could never get it up and fixed without the help of a tractor so I went about gathering up critters with thoughts of locking them all in the barn for the night. Several hours later after tromping through the poison ivy and tripping over a crabby snapping turtle that was laying eggs (more than once, I might say!) all were safely locked in the barn. Or so I thought...
It seems that the latch on the back of the barn can be and was wiggled loose during the night and I once again had a bunch of escapees. I had to head off to work so I called my husband in hopes he could get home and get started before I got home from work. We finished the repairs this evening, but not before having togather up the multitudes once again. I am sure the county would not be very happy, but the honeysuckle and poison ivy are not near as rampant as before and the goats have gained an extra pound or two!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Hay Days..

Yesterday yielded another 297 bales. That puts us at 587 so far, with one field yet to go. Hopefully we will get a fall cutting and one cut from the millet before allowing the goats to forage it. However, that all depends on how much rain we get this summer. My dear sweet father in law and son got a head start for us and we were able to start loading around 3:00.The temperature could not have been better yesterday and I never even broke a sweat. Not so for Friday I am afraid as the temperatures are going to be around 90.
Wouldn't you know that I would be the one to pick up the only 2 bales that had snakes baled up in them! Yikes! Being the only female on the crew brought lots of laughs on that one!