Monday, October 31, 2011

Everybody likes Persimmons!

I've been slowly building up my little stash of persimmons in the fridge.  I've now put two containers of persimmon pulp in the freezer:

 
To date, I have five pounds of pulp in the freezer.  Not anything to crow about, but since they are the only wild fruit I've been able to harvest this summer / fall, I'm pretty happy.

For the first batch of persimmons, I used my handy-dandy food mill:

I love my food mill!  But it just didn't work very well for the persimmons; there was still a lot of pulp left even after cranking & cranking, so I scooped the remaining pulp / seeds out of the mill and put them into a basic kitchen seive.  And continued to smoosh out the pulp with my hands.  Definately worse than cleaning out a pumpkin (and I hate cleaning out pumpkins.....squishy icky sticky mess), but there was still persimmon-goodness left and the heak if I wasn't gonn'a get it!

Cleaning the food mill was also a huge production.  The seeds would get stuck underneath the spinny thing and the goo covering the seeds made it almost impossible to wash, spray or bang them out.  I think there may still be a seed or two in the mill.  Hopefully they will dry and fall out the next time I use it.

The persimmon tree I've been gathering from is on the fence line by Ms. Melman's pasture.  Whenever I go up there (at least once a day) I pick fruit from the ground and then give the tree a good shake to get more to drop.  And as soon as I do, the mule and mini come racing over to the tree.  Since the tree is actually in the fence, they have half of the tree and I have half of the tree.  So they are more than happy to see me come around because half of the persimmons fall on their side. 

I just recently found another lone tree on our property but the fruits weren't very good.  Most of them had dried up on the branches and when they did fall, they just didn't seem good enough to bother with.  I was happy to leave them on the ground though, as this guy seemed to be enjoying them:

There are also four small presimmon trees in the goat yard, but it's almost impossible to harvest the fallen fruit when there are four goats fighting for the best position under the tree in order to get to get to them before I can.

I'm hoping to get at least another five pounds of pulp before all the fruit is gone.  And maybe by then I'll have decided exactly what I'm going to do with it. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vehicle + Utility Pole = Loose Equines

Well, this weekend started out pretty crappy. 

Paul was on his way home yesterday evening and decided to stop by Ms. Melman and Nugget.  While he was there, he heard a screech and a big crash.  A woman had lost control of her SUV and plowed into the fence, taking out 45' of T-posts, field fencing and a small tree before the vehicle finally stopped by wrapping it's front end around a utility pole.

Paul jumped in the car, drove up to the accident and pryed open the passenger side door and helped her out.  She wasn't badly injured, but did get banged up by the airbag.   She was lucky.

As were Ms. Melman and Nugget, as their favorite spot lately has been directly in front of the persimmon tree; which just missed being taken out by the vehicle by no more than ten feet.  They were in the lower pasture at that moment and missed the whole thing.
After the sherrif, wrecker, husband of the lady and utility company finally left, Paul was left with figuring how to mend the fence and keep the equines contained before daylight vanished.

The pasture is separated in three sections; upper (where the wreck occured), lower (where there is an arena) and a smaller holding pen right up against the barn.  Paul fenced off the upper from lower pasture and put Ms. Melman and Nugget in the lower pasture, gave them some grain to keep them occupied for a while and came back home.

Around 9 o'clock, one of our neighbors up the road drove to the house to say that he saw Nugget out of the pasture.  So he and Paul rounded him up and Paul went back to work trying to find out where the little bugger made his escape.  As in his usual fashion, Nugget managed to find a low spot in the field fence and nosed under it and pushed his way out of the lower pasture into the upper pasture and out to "freedom".  Although I wonder what the heak he was thinking as there isn't much to do in the dark and the closest bar and grill is over ten miles away.

I called Grandma for some "emergency" babysitting services and went to help Paul mend the fence and reinforce the holding pen by the barn with cattle panels.  More grain, some fresh hay and promises that they would be out of the small enclosure in the morning and we left for the night.
Fence, what fence?  Notice the utility pole on the ground.

We were back out there this morning and finished up mending up the broken fenceline with more cattle panels.  Ms. Melman and Nugget were released from captivity and everyone lived happily ever after.  The end.

So, what is the moral of this story?  Well, there are several.

Even though you may have secure fencing one minute, it only takes a second for it to become un-secure.  Do you have extra fencing materials on site to mend a breach in your fence?  We were fortunate to have extra cattle panels for just this reason.

If you have to take a vehicle to round up your animals, do you have a halter & lead rope (and some grain for enticing escapee) to catch them?
Do you have a separate holding pen for your animals in case of an emergency or other situation that would require them to be secure?  And, is that pen secure?

Do your neighbors have your phone number to alert you to any problems with your livestock or their fencing?

And as Paul mentioned after the fact, if you are in the position to assist in a accident, make sure you know of any potential hazards before trying to assist the vicitm.  After he helped the lady out of the vehicle, he realized that the phone line that was downed and laying on the vehicle was laying over an electric line just above.  He didn't notice this until after they were out of the SUV.  It could have just as easily been a live electric line.  Can you say "Zap"?  

So everyone is safe and secure.  Well, at least last time I checked.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's 11 pm. Do you know where your Mule is?

Nothing like mending fences and chasing mini's around the neighborhood in the middle of the night.

To be continued......

I've Comitted Myself

No, not to the crazy house, but to accomplishing a certain task before Thanksgiving.

Mama Pea made a comment several days ago about making our own aprons and Susan is gathering all the minions together to do a Sew Off! 

I've had a pattern stashed in my fabric box for over a year now as well as some fabric that was meant for the eventually-I'll-get-around-to-doing-it apron.  I no longer have an excuse for not putting scissors to pattern and thread to fabric. 
Which one, which one?  It may take me a week just to decide.
If you'd like to take part of the Sew-Off! just click (<back there) and leave a comment on Susan's blog, e-i-e-i-omg! commiting yourself.  And when time's up, we'll all take pictures of our brand spanking new, made by us, going to make us all look beautiful serving up Thanksgiving dinner aprons and we can pat each other on the back and ooooo and ahhhhh at all the homemade aprons. 

Come on, you KNOW you wanna do it!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Speaking of Eggplant....

Take a look at this fine specimen:


Don't ask me what was going on with this guy (and please don't ask me why I refer to it as a "guy" instead of a "gal"), but I picked him, along with another four or five somewhat-ripe eggplants before we got our first freeze last Thursday night. 

Stranger things have happend here at Krazo Acres.  But this has got to be the strangest looking vegetable we've had.  So far.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where do breadcrumbs come from?

Not the crumbs left over on your breakfast plate, but the pre-packaged breadcrumbs that you can buy at the store. 

Are there bread factories that make fresh bread, leave the loaves out to dry, then make breadcrumbs out of those loaves?  Or is there a market for stale bread and a purchasing agent for the Better Breadcrumb Company goes around to the day-old bakery outlets and buys mass amounts of outdated hotdog & hamburger buns to be ground up into breadcrumbs?

These deep thoughts came to me while I was making my own breadcrumbs from some stale hotdog buns and dried out homemade bread.  You see, we still have quite a few eggplants left in the house and may even get about a half-dozen or more from the garden before a hard freeze finally does them in.  And since my first other-than-fried eggplant recipe went to the chickens, I figured I may as well stock up on the breadcrumbs so I can make more eggplant that Paul will actually eat:

Now THIS is how you're supposed to make Eggplant!
I will say that I have bought my own share of grocery-store breadcrumbs, but I think I'm going to start making them at home and keep a few gallon zippy bags filled in the freezer.  There aren't that many recipes I use that call for breadcrumbs, but it is a bummer to find out you need them and then don't have them around.  I once made some sort of recipe that called for breadcrumbs, realized that I didn't have any, then went to toasting sliced white bread & grating the toast.  I've also put Rice Krispies in the blender to make a breadcrumb-like topping.  Desparate measures, you know.  It did turn out good though.  I think.

I'd also like to make my own homemade stuffing / dressing for Thanksgiving this year, so I suppose I should also start messing around with recipes and finding out how many fresh loaves of bread I have to leave on the countertop to dry out to make the bread cubes.  Or I can just go buy them at the store.  But what fun would that be?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Up Yours, FDA

Not sure how many people are taking part of this, but Donna over at Midlife Farmwife had mentioned doing a 24-hour Raw Milk Fast in order to recognize Michael Schmidt's hunger strike protesting Canada's position on Raw Milk sales and Cow Shares.
So, being that I pretty much drink raw milk on a daily basis, as well as serve it to my 2 1/2 year old daughter, I figured that we could take part in the “protest”.  I’m going to be doing the actual milk fasting part, but of course I’m not going to make Rhiannon fast.  She’ll be encouraged to drink all the milk she wants today, which shouldn’t be too difficult as she also enjoys a nice, cold cup of milk with her meals.
And since I didn’t figure Paul would be up to a milk fast, I made him a quiche for breakfast (which uses lots o’milk) and for dinner I’m going to make something that requires milk.  Even if it’s just cookies.  Gott’a have lots of milk with cookies, right?  Although that would just be torturing myself.  Maybe I'll save the cookies for after the Raw Milk Fast.
I’ll leave you with some pictures celebrating our Raw Milk Day:
Nettie, the Matriarch of our little herd.

Rhiannon using the "Weed Wacker" around the garden.

Pure, healthy, wonderful RAW MILK goodness!
Attention FDA & DCFS: My daughter is drinking RAW MILK!
Happy & healthy RAW MILK drinker!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chick Check, Week Seven

Yeah, I'm a few days late on this week's Chick Check.  We've had several cool nights last week, Thursday night dipping into the lower 30's, but it was almost 80 yesterday & supposed to be again today.  The Cornish haven't seemed to be any worse for the wear and are just as crazed and insane every morning when they seem me coming to fill up their feed pans.

I haven't been able to actually weigh any of them (try putting a live chicken on a kitchen scale), but I'm pretty sure they are still pretty small for being seven weeks old.  I've only been feeding them two or three times a day, usually waiting until there is absolutely no scrap of feed in the pans.  But maybe I should be feeding them more often as they seem to act starving every time I toss food in their pen, even though there might be some left in the pan.  I've also been giving them whey, but I may start giving them milk too.

We might have to keep them for more than eight weeks in order to get a suitable sized bird.  Especially since there are only nine roosters out of twenty-five.  Pretty crummy hen to rooster ratio.  You really don't want roosters if you're raising egg laying breeds unless you're going to be raising your own chicks, and even then you really don't need more than one rooster for every 10-13 hens.  But if you're raising meat birds, roosters are what you want.  They grow faster and larger therefore you're able to butcher them earlier.
Eight weeks is the ideal time to butcher the Cornish crosses, but with our low rooster numbers and the fact that they just don't seem to be filling out as quickly as the last few batches we had, I think they will be with us until the middle of November.
My Barnyard Mutts are doing well.  No missing or dead chicks and they are much easier to care for.  They are still in the kidding pen and I've been able to hold off for two weeks before I had to clean their pen.  They don't poop half as much as the Cornish and actually scratch around in the bedding so the wet stuff has a chance to dry out.  There are nineteen Barnyard Mutts, and I think only six of them are roosters.  There is also a little banty chicken in the bunch and I think it's a hen.  I though I'd have to separate her from the rest of them because she is so much smaller than everyone else, but she's holding her own.  She's spunky enough to even barge right between two larger chickens to get to the feed trays without getting pecked much.

The Barnyard Mutts will probably stay in the barn for a few more months.  Then I'll take a slat out of the door so they can go in & out on their own, and eventually block access to that area and hope they figure out that they have to go into the other side of the barn to roost at night. 
Well, that's the theory anyhow.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Got (Raw) Milk?

I’m sure that many of you have seen or even posted about the story of Michael Schmidt going on a hunger strike to protest Canada’s position on Raw Milk Sales, so I won’t go into it here.  Feel free to click on the link though if you’d like more information (and if you’d like your blood pressure to rise about twenty points). 
Donna O’Shaughnessy over at Midlife Farmwife is also doing a little Civil Disobedience of her own.  In Illinois, there are convoluted (and pretty much insane) laws regulating the sale of raw milk.  Basically, you can sell raw milk from your farm, but you cannot advertise that it is for sale.  How convenient for the big commercial dairies, hugh??
Well, Donna is giving the State of Illinois a big cyber middle finger and actually, get this, advertising that she has raw milk for sale!  Oh, the horror of it all!  Can you imagine the implications of such a huge undertaking?
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to poke fun and undermine Donna’s actions, even though it actually should be nothing big at all, but the State of Illinois makes the simple act of advertising a lawful product a crime.  It’s obvious that the only reason a small farmer cannot advertise their healthy alternative to the processed stuff sold in grocery stores is not for health reasons, but to keep the big commercial dairies happy.   Now aren’t you glad that the State has severely limited your choices in food just to play kissy-kissy with the Dairy Lobby?  I feel so much safer.  (BIG eye roll here)
Anyways.  Even though it is legal for me to sell my raw goat milk here in Arkansas, albeit only up to 100 gallons a month (once again showing that the law is not in place for a health reason, but for the competition it places on the corporate dairies) I still firmly believe that everyone has a right to consume raw milk, or anything else they want to as a matter of fact.  And if we don’t stand up for those being oppressed, then we are letting the noose tighten around ALL of our necks.  Remember that old saying about the frog in the pot???
Although I wish I could be as big of a criminal mastermind that Donna is and sell One hundred and ONE gallons of milk from our farm – well - we just don’t get that much milk.  But I can do a few things.  Like call the morons at the state and tell them to stuff it, I mean, tell them in a polite way that they are NOT representing the will of the people.  Or show my support by blogging about it today.  Or tell a few of my friends about the plight of regular, ordinary folk who are being harassed at the point of a gun (with your tax money BTW) into shutting down their family farms.
So starting at 12:00 am this Tuesday, I will be participating in a 24-hour Raw Milk Fast in protest as well as on November 1st to show my support for the Moms that will be protesting at the FDA headquarters in Maryland (boy, do I wish we lived closer…..Rhiannon & I would be there with Nettie, downing fresh, healthy raw milk in front of all to see!)
Not that I really expect that it will do much except make some of my friends / family wonder what the heak I’m doing, but at least it will make them think….and that’s what we need today.  People thinking.  People wondering if the government has gone too far.  And hopefully doing something, anything, about it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wood Stove Blues

Starting this past Wednesday, the weather has been cooling off; the temperature inside the house had gone down to 61 degrees and I could only put so many sweaters on Rhiannon.  I wasn't chucking logs into the woodstove though, but repeatedly pushing the up arrow button on the thermostat.

Yep, the heat pump.  Not the woodstove.  Because this is where our woodstove was:

And this is where it is now:
We've finally made some time to start working on the tile floor under and surrounding the woodstove.  When we first bought the stove, we were unsure as to what kind of flooring was going to be upstairs, so we just put some Hardyboard down, four cinderblocks for the legs of the stove and called it "kinda-done".  Honestly, all I cared about at that time was getting the stove up and burning.  But, like any somewhat domestic housewife, the hillbilly-look of it was getting to me.  As was the fact that I've stubbed my toe on the darn cinderblocks at least sixty-three times in the last three years. 
So since the weather was cooling off and requiring the use of some sort of alternative heat, we finally decided that it was time to finish the work.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute, hugh?
Of course, nothing is ever easy around here (nor at your place I reckon) so it wasn't just a matter of ripping out the old tile and Hardyboard.  Paul had to take the front door and screen door off in order to raise the threshold so the new tile would fit under the door.  I'll never understand why door-hanging is so difficult, but it took Paul over four hours to finish it.  Not that I'm questioning his carpentry skills, but it just takes sooooo long to hang doors.  Why is that???  Anyways........there was a Sawzall, power drill, air nailer, hammer, pry bar and other miscellaneous tools-of-destruction involved.   Pieces of insulation, long strips of dried caulking, cracked shims, broken screws, sawdust and Great Stuff were seen both inside the house and all over the porch.  What.  A.  Mess. 
And all so I could put tile down.  Of course, I was under the impression that I'd just unscrew the Hardyboard (which I did) and then take a pry bar to the old tile and it would lift up, I would toss it out and be done.  Paul is always reminding me how much work is involved in any one of the numerous projects I come up with, but I can never seem to comprehend how much work is actually involved in remodeling until I see him sweating and hear him cussing (and not under his breath) while weilding a sledge hammer.  At that point I am usually making myself as inconspicuous as possible and will occasionally slink over to him during a non-swearing fit and offer him a beer or some other peace-offering.
The doors are hung again (thank goodness or it would have been REALLY cold in here) and the floor is ready for backerboard and tile.  Hopefully I will be doing a post with a "Done" picture in the next few days and I can say goodbye to the heat pump and its monetary addition to our electric bill.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My first zucchini!

Well, it's not really my first zucchini.  But it is my first zucchini in the FALL!


I planted my first fall garden this year.  Don't ask me why I've never done a fall garden before.  I guess that there's so much to do in the summer with the garden started in early spring, then the summer weeding, watering & picking, that late summer comes and goes and one really doesn't want to think about more garden work.

But since the summer was so brutal this year, our garden was pretty much a complete flop.  Once the temperature started "cooling" off, I figured that I should try to get some sort of food from the garden and planted yellow and green beans, lettuce, spinach, green onions, cucumbers, cabbage, sweet peas and even zucchini.  The spinach and lettuce didn't make it because it was still pretty hot, but we replanted some more a few weeks ago and they have started poking through the ground.

It's kind of weird having a zucchini on the countertop in late October.  The four plants are doing fairly well with lots of flowers and some more tiny little zukes on them, but last night I had cover the plants up because we were under a freeze warning.  I'll have to go out there when it gets light to see how they did overnight; hopefully they made it and will give us some more "summer" squash.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Green Tomato Chutney

I'd like to thank all of you that made suggestions on what I should do with my green tomatoes.  And you know what I did?  Something not suggested, of course.  Not that I wouldn't make the suggested recipes, but I stumbled upon something that I just had to make myself try.  Chutney.

I had no idea what chutney is.  I've occasionally spied it on the tables at the local farmer's market, but steered away from it because, well, because it's called "Chutney".  What kind of name is that anyways??

I did some online searching for "green tomato recipes" and came upon several chutney recipes.  So curiosity finally got the best of me and I read a few of them.  Some had ingredients like jalapeno peppers, others had apples or apricots.  Not being one that likes spicy stuff (to Paul's utter dismay), I wanted something sweeter.  And as usual, I didn't follow just one recipe.  I have a habit of taking several recipes and tailoring them to my liking.  So here is my Green Tomato and Apple Chutney:


2 1/2 lbs. green tomatoes, chopped
8 oz onions, chopped
8 oz. raisins
1 lb. apples, peeled, cored & chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup molassas
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Dump all ingredients into a large pot & simmer on medium heat for about two hours, or until thickened.

Wasn't that simple?!  And as a bonus, the house smells wonderful - just like Fall!  Several of the recipes mentioned that the taste gets better if you allow the chutney to sit for a few weeks.  I, of course, couldn't wait.  It.  Was. Great! 
What have I been missing?!?!  It would be great on little crackers, or on top of porkchops or a pork roast.  And honestly, I can even see a somewhat-spicy chutney recipe in the future.

The above recipe made three pint jars and three jelly jars (not sure how much is in a jelly jar, hmmmmm).  Wonder if any of them will make it as gifts this year.

If you were going to eat this right away or keep it in the fridge, you wouldn't have to water-bath can the chutney, but since I was hoping to give a few away as Christmas gifts, I figured I should be safe and do so (ten minutes).  Nothing like accidentally giving your friends botulism for the holiday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cabbage Culling

I have a problem.  Well, I have several problems, but let's just deal with one of the more simple ones right now, shall we?

When I direct sow seeds into the ground, I put too many in.  And when the sprouts start pushing through the soil, I can't manage to yank them out.  They are alive!  And I don't have the best record at growing things, so I just can't make myself thin them out.  Yes, I know that you have to do it.  I know it's better for the rest of the plants.  That if you don't thin, the plants will be too crowded and will do poorly.  I.  Just. Can't. Do it.

But actually, I did do it!  Not right away though.  And I didn't exactly "cull" anything.  I planted cabbage seed in the middle of August and they have been growing quite nicely now that our heatwave has ended.  But I didn't thin them when they first popped up.  I waited until they were several inches tall, then I watered them real well and waited until the next day to carefully pull some of the "culls" from the bed.  It helped that the soil was very loose from lots of organic matter (homemade compost) so the plants came out easily and most of the smaller roots were still intact.

I transferred the cabbage plants to a non-crowded area in the same bed and kept them watered daily for a week.  And they survived!  So since my first little yank-and-replant experiment seemed to work, I did it with the remaining cabbage plants.  They've been in their new "home" in the following picture for just two days.  They still look a little wilted, but I'm hoping they'll come around with some more TLC.

Not sure if this would work with other veggies, but I'm definately going to try it again when I get the chance. 

Which unfortunately won't be until next spring.  Hope I remember.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winner!!

Another highly scientific random name generator:

You can kind of see "Susan" on the scrap of paper, I mean, official document.
This process was witnessed and verified by none other than:

And was it just luck or divine feline intervention that my cat, also named Susan, was watching?
Makes one wonder, doesn't it?

And I was there to photographically document it all for posterity.
So if Susan at e-i-e-i-omg! would be so kind as to email me her address at carolynrenee at centurytel dot net, I will box up your teapot, teas and cat and ship it out in the next few days (or whenever I get my butt out of the house).
And thanks to everyone for playing! 

Isn't it weird how it's just as much fun giving away stuff as it is winning? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Eating the Trees - Persimmons

The leaves are starting to fall and the persimmon trees are showing off their bright orange fruits.


Persimmon trees are easiest to identify in the fall when the leaves have fallen off but the fruits are still clinging to the branches.  The fruits don't generally start falling and ripening until there's a frost, but there have been enough falling to make it worth bringing a bag with when I go by a tree.

We only have very small persimmon trees around our property.  The largest persimmon tree I've ever laid eyes upon was growing next to a restaurant just up past the Missouri border.  The trunk was bigger than I could wrap my arms around.  It may not be huge for where you are, but it's the biggest one I've seen. 

There are three or four small persimmon trees in the goat area and four other medium-sized trees around the woods that surround the house.  The neighbors also let us pick from their tree.  Well, you really don't "pick" persimmons from the trees themselves but pick them up from the ground where they fall.  They are quickly eaten by the wildlife though, so I'll take the trunk in my hands and give it a good shake until more come down.  I was brave and ate one that was on the ground as it looked ripe for eating; thankfully it was ripe.  You do not want to eat an unripe persimmon.  Ask me how I know.


We got about five pounds of fruit, not enough to make anyting with just yet, so I'll put them in the fridge until we can get more.  Some of them weren't quite ripe anyhow. 

If we can gather enough I'd like to make preserves.  I made a real nice persimmon bread a few years ago and will again.  It would be nice if I can manage to shell out enough of the hickory nuts to toss in with the batter.  I haven't bought a nut cracker yet.....it's on my list though.

Almost forgot!  Today's the last day to enter MyBlog Birthday Giveaway!  Rhiannon will draw a name tomorrow.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Found it! Cinnamon Rolls

Found the recipe for the Cinnamon Rolls I made last weekend:

Copy Cat Cinnabon Recipe

I did make some slight modifications, however (imagine that).  I used half whole wheat and half white flour and I only inverted the pan of rolls for a minute or two (so the sugar / butter on the bottom soaks through the rest of the rolls).

Other than that, everything was done as instructed.  Although I will say it took much, much longer than the listed prep & cook time.  Guess I'm just slow.

My recipe made a pan of twelve and a smaller pan of six.  Personally, I think I would have liked to have had fewer rolls in the pan to allow for more expansion (fluffier rolls), but they still turned out great.

We took a package of two rolls out of the freezer this morning & warmed them up in the microwave.  Still tasted great even after being frozen.  Going to make this recipe again when we run out.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chick Check, Week Six (and goat luv'n)

The Cornish are getting close to butchering size, although it does seem that their growing spurt has slowed down a bit.  It's hard to tell now that they are in the larger enclosure.

Pics of chicks at two days and three weeks.

And now, at six weeks:

They have gone though a fifty-pound bag of crumbles in exactly seven days.  I've also been supplementing their crumbles with any whey I have left over from my weekly cheese-making, usually about a gallon.  It's not much, but better than a sharp stick in the eye. 

On the goat front, this past Wednesday we came home from a morning homeschooling outing to a very vocal, very anxious little goat.  Annette was trotting around the goat pen, tail-a-flagging and yelling to let us know that under no circumstance was she going to let us leave without a visit to our buck, Pan.  Who, if you haven't already heard me say it like a hundred times already, stinks to unimanginable degrees.  The Army could use him as chemical warfare.

It was a pretty uneventful event though.  I went inside to take off my "goin' out" clothes to don an old pair of jeans, ratty long-sleeve shirt, work gloves and muck boots.  Put Annette on a lead to take her to the red light district and we were in there for maybe five minutes.  She got what she wanted and when she was satisfied, made it perfectly clear she wanted to go back to her pen and out we went.  Pan was busy pissing on himself so I got her out without having to wrestle Pan to keep him in his pen.  I didn't have a single thread of clothing or even a glove touch Pan so I was spared the buck-stench.  If only all breedings could be this easy.

Nettie was bred last month, Annette this past week, now all I have to do is find a meat-type goat buck for Ishtar and I'll be finished with breeding for the year.  If I can't find one for stud, I may (I can hear Paul yelling already) see if there are any Boers at the sale barn, use him and then take him back and hopefully get him sold again.  Although that may change once Paul has a chance to read this blog post.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Goodbye 'maters

I did it.  I finally pulled up the tomato plants in the raised beds.  Even though there were teeny-tiny undeveloped tomatoes on them and more flowers!  I have such a hard time ripping out plants that are still producing, but let's face it, the fruits left on the plants wouldn't grow much more, the bigger ones wouldn't ripen and the flowers have almost no chance of being pollinated.

So not only do I have almost ten pounds of green pear tomatoes, but I have two raised beds that are 1/2 empty.  And I haven't decided what, if anything I'm going to plant.  It's much too late for most cool-weather crops, but I think I'll put in some more lettuce and spinach in these beds and put plastic covers over the rows since the framework is still up.  I could put garlic in there, but I really don't want to dedicate these beds to that. 

I'm hoping that we'll (meaning Paul) will put in another two raised beds right behind these so I can make it into my yearly Kitchen Garden.  Two, maybe three cherry tomato plants, one or two hot pepper plants and the rest with herbs.  I'm much more likely to use the fresh herbs if I can just make a few steps out the front door to cut some basil instead of going to the other side of the yard to the fenced-in garden. 

Lazy.  You bet'cha.  But honest.  I get points for that, right?

Oh, and does anyone know what to do with a bunch of green pear tomatoes?  Recipes like relish or something?  I'm at a loss.  Although I did read on a recent blog post (forgot where, of course) that you can put the green tomatoes in a paper bag & they will ripen.  So until I find a good green tomato relish recipe, I'll just stick 'em in a paper bag.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

***Warning*** Political Rant

I don’t care what your opinions on vaccinations are.  You know why?  Because it’s your (or your child’s body) and you should have the final say.  Period.  But that’s not what I’m ticked about.  California just passed a law which states that your children will be making the decision about which vaccinations they receive.  A twelve-year old girl will be allowed to make this “choice”.  Twelve.  Years.  Old.
This is from the state that just recently passed a law stating that a 17 year old isn’t mature enough to responsibly weigh the risks of using a tanning bed (it is now illegal for anyone under 18 to use a tanning bed w/out parental consent), but in almost the same breath say that a twelve year old is mature enough to decide (with much “input” from teachers & school nurses, I’m sure) if s/he wants a chemical cocktail injected into their still-growing bodies. 
Oh, it gets even better.  You, yes you, the parent will not be able to access the outcome of that decision because it would be violating the child’s (yes your child) right to privacy.  The state, however, has every right to dig into those juicy records.  The one that gave birth to, or cares for the child, not so much. 
Although I don’t have a dog in this fight as we don’t live in California (I don’t care how frekking wonderful the weather is there), it still disturbs me as it is just another blatant violation of parental, and Constitutional, rights.  And it just keeps happening, and will continue to happen until one of two things occur;  enough people finally get up off their asses and say “Enough!” or the people give up all responsibility for the “Easy” way and become nothing more than government chattel.
I don’t know which I’m more upset about.  The fact that our pretentious and arrogant elected officials actually feel they have a right to impose such tyrannical laws upon citizens, or the fact that the citizens are too lazy to do anything about it.  I mean, do people really want this type of intrusion and intervention in their personal lives? 
Really? 
I often think that nobody in their right mind would want to be ruled over by a million often insane laws, regulations, codes and restrictions.  But then I see the same morons being elected, again & again.  The same type of ignorant and self-serving bills pass through legislation and become law.   And the only way that can happen is if there ARE people out there like that, voting them in.  But why?  I’m confused and distraught. 
I can only hope that there are enough people out there that do believe in personal responsibility and will one day be able to fight back the ever-encroaching attack on our lives, on our families and our futures.

No Cash Required, Part 1

I love bartering for stuff.  Not only is it fun, but a good way to stick it to the taxman! 

Although we don't do as much bartering as I wish we could, we did manage to do a little bit of it this year.
  • We've bartered milk for fish, goat feed and a bale of hay.
  • We gave whey and got fresh salad greens. 
  • We swapped home-canned pears for home-canned figs.
  • We got seeds and gave butternut squash & eggplant. 
  • We exchanged eggs for cucumbers. 
  • We traded zucchini for tomatoes.
Bartering doesn't even have to be obvious.  It's not like we say to everyone we see, "I got some nice fresh goat milk here, what you got?"  Just getting together with friends and neighbors can start the bartering process......it's called Sharing!

So you may be nonchalantly bartering and not even know it.  Now imagine how many more opportunities you could have if you actively looked for bartering opportunities!  You don't have to have a farm, produce and dairy products to swap in order to barter for stuff.  I have a lady that comes for my goat milk once a week and she just mentioned that she had a lot of dental work to be done.  Her husband is a carpenter and when they were both in the dentist office, he noticed they were doing some remodeling.  After talking with the dentist, they are going to work out a trade; the dentist will do x amount of dental work for x hours of carpentry work.

Get out there and network with your existing friends!  They may not have what you're looking for, but I'm assuming your friends have friends (unless they are hermits like Paul dreams of being) and all it takes is a casual conversation for that "something" that you need to be paired with that "something" you have.

Although I don't utilize it as often as I probably should, there is always Cragislist, your local online paper and FreeCycle to check out and use as a way to advertise what items you have available for barter.

Sooooo......I've got this gawd-awful-stinky buck goat.  Anybody want to trade me something....ANYthing for him????

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nut Picker Upper Thingy

Just in case you were all up the entire night wondering what kind of contraption the Nut Picker Upper Thingy was, I found it!

http://www.nutwizard.com/prod01.htm

It's official name is the Nut Wizard.

Just though you'd like to know.  Now I've got to work on finding a place to buy the Hickory Nut cracker.

You may all sleep soundly now.

Eating the Trees - Hickory

Rhiannon, Grandma and I went to the local park last week.  While Grandma chased Rhiannon around the jungle gym, I went Hickory nut harvesting!

Basket of Hickory nuts along with what I hope are White Oak acorns.
Our area is full of Black Walnut Oak and Hickory trees.  During the first part of fall, when the Walnut trees start losing their leaves and we've had several consecutive nights of cool weather, a yearly natural migration can be observed.  The seniors come out from the bingo halls and knitting circles in droves, armed with large sacks and walnut-picker-upper-roller-things (I don't know what they are called, sorry) and descend upon the local forest preserves like locusts out of The Old Testament. 

While I applaud anyone for utilizing this free source of wild food (although most of them just sell the walnuts to a traveling walnut-broker-of-sorts), I also feel sorry for them as they walk right over and pass up what I feel is a much more tasty wild nut.

The Hickory nuts fall at the same time and are just as abundant as the Black Walnuts, the husks are easy to come off, they don't stain your hands black for a week, and they are a much sweeter nut in my opinion.  The only problem with them is that they are notoriously difficult to crack.  But then again, so are Black Walnuts. 

I'm at a loss as to why I seem to be the only one bothering with them.   

More nuts for me I guess!

PS- If anyone can suggest a brand of Black Walnut Cracker (or any other piece of equipment other than a vice and ten pound hammer to crack tough/hard nuts) please let me know!  I need one like right now!

PPS - Don't forget to enter my Blog Birthday Giveaway!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm One Year Old Today!

To celebrate my One-Year Anniversary of blogging, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite cool-weather drinks.

I’ve had my first pot of hot tea for the season over a month ago.  I love being able to enjoy a cup (or three or six) of tea first thing in the morning.  And when the winter turns bitter cold, there’s nothing I like better than a hot cuppa after trudging through snow and chipping ice out of water buckets.
Actually, there are a bunch of things I like better, or as much as tea, but they wouldn't do well in shipping.  Cats, for example.  Cute, fuzzy, wonderful little creatures they are.  But imagine the crazed, hissing & spitting ball of fury that would launch it’s razor-sharp claws at your face upon opening the parcel at your home.  Not going to be a pretty sight.  And a lawsuit wouldn't be out of the question I suppose.  So I opted for something more seasonal and less lethal.
Now where was I?
Oh yeah, the giveaway.  Up for grabs is one festive-looking teapot and a variety of teas to make six pots of delicious tea:
One new teapot and two each of the following Bigelow teas: Spiced Chai, Orange & Spice, Vanilla Caramel, Peppermint, Chinese Oolong and English Teatime.
You get two chances to win; one entry for a plain ol’ comment saying you’d like to enter and one entry if you link to this page on your blog & let me know.  To be fair to those who don’t have a blog, just make a separate comment saying something nice about cats.  Open to US addresses only.  I’ll pick a winner in a week (or whenever I get to it….it’s my blog, so I can do whatever I want).
Oh, and look at what else I did to celebrate my One-Year:

Made a cake!  Thanks for the inspiration Mooberry Farm!  That lady makes a cake for every conceivable event.
Good luck!  Sorry I couldn’t share the cake with you.  Well, I suppose I could ship a slice with the teapot, but couldn't guarantee how well it would hold up.  Especially with the cat.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Evil x 2

Don't know why I didn't post THIS picture of the Cinnamon Roll:



Go ahead, lick  the screen.  Just don't drool too much and short out your laptop.

Oh, make sure to check in tomorrow 'cause there's going to be more yummies........and maybe even something for YOU!

Convenience Foods - Freezer

Homemade convenience foods, that is.

Although I cannot say that a box of Mac & Cheese or Ramen Noodles have never graced my pantry shelves, we do try to stay away from those types of foods.  But there's a reason those types of foods are so popular.  Because they are convenient, duh!

Cooking from scratch is one of the best things you can do for your family.  But it is also a very time consuming activity; planning out your meal, grocery shopping, finding recipes that everyone will like, making the menu, cleaning up from making the stuff on the menu, frying / baking / broiling / smoking / or otherwise cooking the meal, serving the meal, cleaning up from serving the meal and then more cleaning up.  And Paul thought it was a chore to just "Get Hay".  Ha!  Try making something as "simple" as a chicken dinner with all the fixings and then tell me what's easier.

There are only three of us here, one being under the age of three.  But I still cook for a family of six (don't believe me? take a look at my thighs.).  I just can't make small meals.  But that's ok, becuase not only do we actually eat leftovers (can you believe some people just can't fathom the idea of leftovers?  How weird.)  but because I'll pack one container for Paul to take for lunch the next day and one container to freeze.
Stack o' frozen dinners ready to heat 'n eat!
I also try to bake items like bread and cookies in duplicate.  I can bake all the cookies at once, then freeze them, or just freeze the dough in little "logs" to use when we want hot-ott'a-the-oven cookies.  Sunday I made enough Cinnamon Rolls to feed the entire county.  Of course, we each had one right out of the oven, and I put four more out on a plate for the week (as if they'd last 'till Wednesday), but the rest went into the freezer:


Breads also freeze very well.  I just took one out of the freezer a few days ago and when I was munching on the last piece, I actually had to think about where it came from because I knew I didn't make any lately. 

"Fresh" frozen bread, ready to defrost & slice!
Next time you're making bread, or cookies, or just about anything that freezes well, try making a double batch.  And soon enough you'll have your freezer stocked with REAL convenience foods.

But if you have no willpower like I do, make sure you freeze those extra cookies right away or they'll be gone before they can become convenient for next time! 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chick Check, Week Five

Has it already been five weeks since I brought these little yellow puffs of fluff home with me?  Click here to see them at two days old.

This is what the Cornish crosses look like at five weeks:

And I don't call them endearing little names like fluffballs or puffychicks any more.  They are crazy insane eating machines that flap towards me at meal time, peck my shoes and hands when I pour food into their bowls and are crapping constantly.
I finally moved the Cornish to the chicken tractor (dog kennel) yesterday afternoon.  I'm like two weeks behind, but oh well.  It just made more work for me though as I had to clean out the shed more often because of the massive amounts of chicken poop accumulating on the straw bedding.


The Barnyard Mutts seemed much happier once the Cornish vacated the premises.  They've got the entire joint to themselves now.  I cleaned it out, put in new bedding (wasted hay), gave them fresh water & feed and everyone was chirping away happily.  No pecking at me, no flapping in my face.  When the Cornish were in there it was loud (they are big sqwakers) but now it's almost Zen-like with the sound of softly peeping chicks.  Rhiannon and I can now go back to chicken watching without fear of being attacked or pooped on.


Since my clothes were already covered in barn dust and there was a half-inch of chicken poop stuck to the bottom of my shoes, I figured I may as well clean out the other side of the coop where the big gals roost / lay.  It wasn't too bad and I probably could have got away with not cleaning it for another couple of weeks, but I'm glad it's done.  The amount of moulted feathers was amazing; I swear it looks like someone threw a chicken-bomb in there.

I'm thinking I'm going to give myself Sundays off from blogging; goodness knows that there's plenty else I should be doing instead of sitting in front of the computer.  Have to take advantage of this nice weather while it lasts. 

Have a nice weekend & see ya Monday morning!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Slowing Down

Fall is here, and although that doesn't necessarily mean the humans are slowing down (lots of wood to chop, split & stack still), the goats and chickens have definately slowed down in their milk & egg production.

Nettie has been dried up since the beginning of the Summer because of her bout with Mastitis, and Annette's production has significantly dropped in the past three weeks; she's been milking for six months now.   Ishtar is also slowing down, but is still putting out just under a gallon a day.  She's been milking for five months now and I usually dry them up around eight months.  I know they say you can milk them for up to ten months, but I really like to give them a full four months of their energy to go into their pregnancy. 

In my quest to take full advantage of the abundant goat milk we had this summer, I've been making cheese (fresh, Queso Blanco kind'a stuff) and freezing some of it for the winter.  It freezes pretty well, although it's best used as an ingredient in a meal like lasagna as there is some separating of the cheese & whey after defrosting.  Works fine in a baked dish, but isn't as good used for spreading on crackers or toast as the consistency is different.

From a gallon and a half of milk, I'll get just under two pounds of fresh cheese and I have about a dozen packages in the freezer already.  I've been toying with the idea of freezing a few half-gallon jugs of milk, but I don't think we'll have the freezer space with a 1/2 hog and hopefully a deer or two in the near future.

The chickens are also laying less.  I've noticed a huge drop in egg numbers this past month.  We have thirteen hens, but I've only been getting on average four eggs a day.  The length of daylight is waning and there is an abundance of feathers in the bottom of the chicken coop as most have started moulting.  It almost looks as if a chicken exploded.

There was a time last year when we wouldn't get a single egg for several days.  And since I am an egg-snob, I wasn't buying them at the supermarket so we'd just do without.  We have powdered eggs in our long-term pantry and I can use them in just about any baked product, but sometimes you just need to have a fried egg on toast, and those powdered eggs just don't hack it.  I'm not looking forward to an egg-less winter.  Not one bit.  But if we're lucky, our Barnyard Mutts will just be starting to lay the first part of March and hopefully make up for any still-moulting older hens.

Enola Gay over at Paratus Familia just did a blog post about keeping eggs in Water Glass and although I've been tempted to try it, I think I'm just too "chicken" to do it.  Although I suppose I should try it just for the experience. 

Otherwise we'll do what we've done in the past; if the chickens aren't laying eggs, we're not eating eggs & if the goats aren't milking, we're not drinking milk.  Hasn't killed us yet.....and it probably won't hurt my waist line either!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Oh look, yummy!" or "I hope I don't die"

While walking around the property with Rhiannon yesterday, I happened upon a curious, yet somewhat familiar looking plant growing in the ditch alongside our road:




Looks like ground cherries (or husk cherries), what a treat!  I didn't know they grew wild.  But the seeds easily could have made it from my compost heap just up the hill to this final resting and growing place.  I tried to grow ground cherries from seed last year, but nothing came up so I just tossed all the soil and seeds into the compost pile.

Technically, I've never seen a live ground cherry plant.  But I've seen pictures.  And how many plants have little dried paper lantern looking things covering round tomato-looking fruits?

So I popped several in my mouth.  None of them were really yellow yet, but they still tasted good.  Kind of like tomatillos actually, but in a smaller package.  The two are probably related, I should look that up. 

And having swallowed a handful of the fruits, I had one of those hot-flash moments.  Shit.  Are there poisonous look alikes?  I made my way back towards the house, all the while continually reminding myself the entire walk that I was sure that those were ground cherries. (Right?  Right.  I'm sure.  Well, not 100%, but close.  It tasted like it should have; it it were poisonous, it would have tasted bad.  Right?  Shit. Where's the Ipecac syrup?).

Well it seems that they were, in fact, ground cherries.  One website said that the leaves and unripe fruits are poisonous, while other posts in vegetable forums said that the fruits are fine.  It is part of the Nightshade family, so I can understand the extra caution given to anything about them.  I also saw several forum posters griping that they couldn't start them from seed, but once you got them going, they volunteer like crazy. 

I'm going to keep an eye on this plant and harvest some more for eating as they ripen, but I think I'll keep several to dry up and use them for seeds next year. 

Wait....was there a lesson in all of this?  If so, I've forgotton.

Oh look, something growing alongside the road!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Table Side Review - Baked Eggplant

Last night, I made the Eggplant dish using the recipe from Hobby Farms (Sept/Oct 2011 issue, pg. 77) called Baked Eggplant with Creamy Roasted Garlic and Oregano Sauce.

I served it alongside spaghetti in a simple olive oil, garlic, parmesan and goat cheese topping.


First of all, let me disclose that I am not a professional chef, nor do I play one on television.  I also had to improvise on two things.  I did not have Greek Oregano, be it in fresh or dried form, so I used plain ol' dried oregano.  I also did not use the fresh mint it called for in the recipe as I really don't like mint in anything other than a cup of tea or in a red & white striped stick of candy during the holdiays.  

I am also not an Eggplant connoisseur, so the main vegetable in this dish may have been a bit under-ripe, a bit over-ripe, a bit something other than perfect, but to me, it seemed something that one would want in an Eggplant; firm with some give, not too many seeds, and well, eggplant-looking.

Oh, and I did not know that eggplant absorbs olive oil like a sponge.  When the directions say "brush chunks all over with remaining oil", do NOT save time by drizzling the oil over the bowl of eggplant as it gets sucked up like you wouldn't believe.  Luckily, I noticed this before getting more than a half dozen chunks saturated.

Now that I've finished with that, I'll go on with the cooking and subsequent dining experience.

I followed the recipe as closely as humanly possible with a 2 1/2 year old chasing the cat around the kitchen with the egg beater (the old fashioned kind, not an electric one).

Basically, it's eggplant cut into 1" cubes, baked in the oven for a 1/2 hour then tossed with a yogurt-based garlic and oregano sauce.

Everyone sat down to the dinner table, awaiting the new eggplant taste sensation.  I dug in immediately, but Paul was a bit more hesitant.  He knew I said we were having eggplant, but thought the chunks were chicken or "something else", so was a bit confused as to the true identity of the creamy covered lumps on the plate.  I was in mid-chew of my first forkfull of eggplant-garlic-sauce thing when I looked up at Paul.  He had the most serious, but subdued look on his face and calmly said, "I don't think I can eat this".  I think there may have even been a slight glimmer of horror in his eyes, afraid I was somehow going to make him eat it.

Now this is the man that has only refused to eat two other dishes I've ever made in over a decade of meal preperation.  One being a train-wreck of a lentil casserole dish (and we both love lentils) and some other concoction now long forgotten and relegated to the dark subconscious of our respective temporal lobes.

So I continue chewing on my eggplant, swallow, and ask exactly why he doesn't like it.  Not that I'm questioning his personal abhorrence for the dish, but because I am curious as to what improvements could be made (if any) to save the dish.  He said it tasted like something mushy and chewy at the same time, covered in that sauce they put on gyros.  And you know what?  He was right.  But I am obviously much more tolerant of mushy/chewy textures in food than he is as I finished my portion and relieved him of his.

I'm not sure if I finished mine (and half of his) because it was something I made and therefore must consume, because I was trying to convince myself that it was good, or because I just h.a.t.e. to waste food.   Don't get me wrong, I don't think it was the worst thing I've ever tasted, it's just something I won't be making again.  Like ever. 

While cleaning up dinner dishes, I was putting away what little was left over from the spaghetti (not much as it became the main part of Paul's meal) and actually hesitated putting the eggplant into a container.  But I did anyhow.  Because darnit, I made it and I'm gonna eat it.

Oh, did I also forget to mention that I didn't have yogurt?  I usually have at least a quart of it shoved somewhere in the back of the fridge.  But not this time.  So I actually had to have Paul pick up a container of Greek-style yogurt from the store on his way home.  Which cost over six bucks!  So not only did the dinner not make the recipe box, but it cost me a six dollar container of yogurt.

I'll let you know tomorrow morning if the chickens got it for breakfast.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Plural (and Purple) Garden Harvest

Unlike my Tomato and Potato harvest this year, my Eggplants are doing very well! 
 
I bought these plants as overgrown-for-their-pots seedlings at the nursery late in the season and got them for half-off and put them in the "berry" garden.  They survived any nibbling of the bunny bastard, unlike my green beans.  Not sure if rabbits don’t care for vegetables in the nightshade family or because it cannot fathom the idea of eating a plant with the alternate name of Aubergine.  Sounds too fancy.  Actually, when someone says “Aubergine”, I either immediately do a mental eye-roll because they are probably just trying to seem fancy-pants, or think it sounds like it should be the name of a high-end Swedish car company.
Wow.  How I manage to go from Eggplant to a foreign car company is beyond me.
Anyways, here is our first harvest (minus one because Paul breaded & fried it up already…YUM!):

That funky looking one was probably left on the vine too long.  It got lost in the foliage so we didn’t notice it until it got to that stage.  I'm really happy these actually went to fruiting this year.  I planted some from seed last year and they never grew more than six inches high (I think they were root-bound from being in the peat pots too long).  Eggplant is one of those vegetables that are a considered a treat around here because they are too darned expensive in the grocery stores for me to cook very often.
So, besides breading & frying them, or making them into Eggplant Parmesan, I was on a hunt for Eggplant recipes.  And guess what?  There was one in my new Hobby Farms magazine (pg. 77); Thanks again for the gift Tiny Gardener!
So I’m going to give “Baked Eggplant with Creamy Roasted-garlic and Oregano Sauce” a try some time this week.  Stay tuned for a pictoral and table-side review!