Monday, June 29, 2015

A Plea for Pickles

Hoping some of my blogging buddies can help me with a pickle we're in.

Paul and I made a batch of refrigerator dills last week and I followed some sort of online recipe.  We tasted them after 48 hours of sitting in the fridge and said "Wow!".  Not as in "Wow, that's great!", but "Wow, that's potent!".  Too much vinegar.  I think it was a 1:1 ratio of vinegar to water and not much sugar, maybe 3 tablespoons (for a gallon) along with the dill and pickling spice. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to eat them all.  As a matter of fact, I've got a bowl of sliced pickles that I'm crunching on now (and puckering up my mouth after each bite).

So, can any of you share your dill pickle recipe with us?  Either refrigerator or canned, although we'd prefer canned as I'm hoping that we'll have soooooo many cucumbers that we'll have an entire shelf dedicated to pickles in the pantry.

And heck, if you've got a super-duper bread & butter pickle recipe, we'd appreciate that as well.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ott'a Here

No, I'm not leaving for some wonderful vacation on a island with white sands and fruity drinks bedecked with paper umbrellas.  Heck, I can't leave the homestead for more than 24 hours.  Besides, I don't do fruity drinks; I'm a whiskey kind'a gal.  And given the recent string of 97+ degree weather, I'd be more apt to splurge on an Alaskan cruise than a tropical island.

So even though I haven't been "out", we did have a couple of our livestock get out.  Fortunately for me, it wasn't on accident.

Maypop, the last Boer doeling, left for the FFA barn this past week.  She was not very happy about it either.  Her mother, however, didn't seem to mind that much and as a bonus, I've been able to get her on the stanchion and get some of that milk her kid is no longer drinking.  Now MY kid and I are able to enjoy some fresh milk.

And since the temps have been in the "It's so hot I'm rendering" digits, I had to let the little chickens out of the kidding pen in fear that they would cook into a stew.

They weren't quiet sure what to do when I opened the door, but as soon as the goats saw the open kidding pen, it quickly escalated into a crazed-caprine-stampede, every goat trying to be the first in the pen in hopes that there was bowl full of grain in there (which of course, there wasn't, but that doesn't stop them)  The chickens flew out of there like they were thrown from a catapult.  I  had been hesitant to open the door for fear of them getting pecked to death from the older birds but since we're down to only two roosters (one of them being Twinkle Toes, a gimpy one) it helps a lot; no gang of roosters to chase down all that new chicken booty.

Once they set foot out of the pen, they kind'a huddled together still inside the main barn aisle but soon hopped down to terra firma.  Smaller goats came to check them out, and the chickens hurried under then barn in fear of the small, bouncy ones.
Is it safe to come out??
OMG!  It's one of those bouncy things!!
Run away! Run away!!
All day the chickens popped in and out from under the barn, going a little farther every time and by the end of the day they had found the chicken water bucket and the grain bucket.  Come dusk, they managed to huddle together near their old confines so I simply scooped them up in one fell swoop and put them back in the pen for the night.

I probably won't put them in the main coop for a while in fear that the older hens might pick on them in the close quarters.  Then I'll have to break them of the habit of roosting in the kidding pen and try to get them to voluntarily go into the main coop.

It's a never ending chicken drama here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I don't do Subtle

We live at the end of a dead end, country road.  And there used to be an annoyingly regular influx of lookey-loos, turn-arounds and Sunday drivers that would take the road to the end (i.e. our front yard), then do a U-turn, or at least try to do one.  There isn't really room to bust a U-ie, so most times it was a sixteen-point turn, making me wonder if any of these people ever took Driver's Ed in high school.

We have a driveway alarm so know I when someone is coming down the drive so I try to get out in the road to glare at them meet them before they get to the house.  Sometimes the turn-arounds would be apologetic, wave & say they got lost or ask for directions, but by and large, the drivers would spin around and sling gravel going back up the road. I even had a guy toss his cigarette butt out the window on his way out (I gave him a piece of my mind and had I been closer, would have chucked a rock at his back window).

Since we have a small child and livestock running around the yard, this was not only annoying, but dangerous.  

Paul put a farm gate up near the beginning of our property and I was thrilled.  It cut back on those unwanted / uninvited drivers.  But sometimes I get a little lazy forget to close the gate.  And I kid you not, the moment that gate is open we start getting the religious door-knockers and turn-arounds again.  Where's the Girl Scouts selling Thin Mints?  THEY never seem to come down here when the stupid gate is open.

Well, now that we have Charlie the GSD (Giant Sloppy Dog) even if I forget to shut the gate, most people are either hesitant to exit their vehicle or just high-tail it out of here.  Charlie isn't aggressive and if anything, I think he may have at least a mild case of narcolepsy, but just his physical presence is enough to make people not want to stick around to see if he's going to be happy to see you or want to put your head in his mouth.  One of his toys is a basketball.  Which he carries around in his mouth.  Just saying.
Charlie making sure that the grass isn't going anywhere.
Is he smiling because he's happy to see you....or happy that he'll
be making a snack out of your still-warm liver?  You decide.
So, you'd think that the one-two punch of the farm gate and the GSD would be a subtle enough hint that you are not, in fact, welcome here.

But no.  Some people. just. don't. get. it.

So I had my wonderful Sees-ter make me a couple of these puppies:

And they are going on the posts on the farm gate.

Dont' think I'm a total scrooge.  My friends know who they are, and that they are welcome any time (especially if they're bringing whiskey or when we're splitting wood).  But sometimes people are oblivious to subtleties and you just have to be painfully, unmistakably, indisputably blunt.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Fourteen hours, forty-three minutes and twenty-one seconds.

That's the most amount of daylight we will have for the entire year of 2015.  Not only is the Summer Solstice today, it's also Father's Day.

So Happy Father's Day to all those men who have brightened our lives with your love, humor and wisdom.  May you continue to shine in our lives, no matter how far away or how long missed!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Some Sage Advice

One of my most favorite side dishes is also one of the easiest to prepare.

No, it's not me opening a bar of chocolate, but making oven roasted potatoes.

I chop up white, red and sweet potatoes, drizzle olive oil over them and sprinkle them liberally with herbs, salt and pepper.  And that's it.  Then they go in the oven (with the chicken we had last night).

My favorite herb combo for roasted potatoes included sage, rosemary, oregano, parsley, salt & pepper and I'll sometimes put a shake or two of garlic powder on it.  Last year I was able to harvest and dry a bunch of herbs from my continually expanding herb garden and have been using those in the kitchen.  I've recently discovered how much I enjoy sage so my stash from last year is dwindling.

But no worries.  My sage plant overwintered last year and bloomed beautifully last month.  The flowers were filled with bees and I even got a good picture of a hummingbird moth visiting for a snack.  I should probably look into propagating some it as I believe the time is just about right to take some cuttings.

It's also high time I went out there to harvest some more sage as well as the chocolate mint for drying.  Not satisfied with just taking over the herb garden, the mint seems to have plans on taking over the entire front yard and I may have to issue an herbal restraining order on it soon (i.e. whack it back with the weed whacker).

Monday, June 15, 2015

Pour Me a Strong One

No, not a Waterford glass filled with a fine Irish whiskey (as if I owned either), but a tall glass of herbal tea.

Rhiannon has been stuffy again the last few days so I sent her outside to pick some "Medicine Tea".  That's what we call Mullein and Plantain.  I steep a strong tea from those two plants when she's stuffy and it helps her immensely.

But since we were out pickin' plant anyhow, I figured that we could mix things up a bit and instead of the old Mullein / Plantain standby, we'd add some other fresh herbs.  I found a bunch of Maypop (Passionflower) and Lemon Balm and tossed that in our bag of goodies.  All of these plants are supposed to be helpful for respiratory ailments or breaking up congestion.  We took our heap o' herbs into the house, washed everything off, shoved it in a 1/2 gallon Mason jar and poured boiling water over it to steep.
If you use Mullein, don't forget to strain it
through a milk or coffee filter before you drink it!
There are sooooo many useful herbs just in the yard that it boggles my mind why more people (myself included) don't use them on a more regular basis.  Last year I dried a bunch of Maypop, Sage and Chocolate Mint (I was quite disappointed to find out that there was, in fact, NO chocolate in there) and with the exception of the mint, I didn't dry nearly enough for winter's use.

So this year I'm going to try and remember to harvest and dry more of these herbs for winter storage.  Hot herbal tea in the cooler months, and crisp, refreshing, fresh herbal iced tea in the summer.

Have you drank your lawn lately?  If not, why not?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Just washing the goat.

"What are you doing this afternoon?", asks an acquaintance on the phone.

"Oh, nothing much, just washing the goat."

Because, well, that's what we were doing.  

Nettie's skin / coat was in desperate need of a good washing and since it was such a warm afternoon, I figured that she would also appreciate a little bit of cooling off so I let Rhiannon have at it.  She was quite patient, although it probably helped that I kept shoving fresh dock leaves in her maw.

Normally Nettie's coat is short and sleek by now, having lost all of her longer winter coat, but it wasn't very healthy looking.  I've been brushing her and top-dressing her feed with BOSS (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds) hoping it would give her aging skin and coat a little boost, but it's not helping like it used to.   She's had the driest skin this year and although I didn't want to wash away any natural oils from her skin, she really, really needed some sudsing up.   I've only washed Nettie and maybe two other goats in my entire goat-keeping foray, and usually right after having them in with the stinky-arse buck goats.  

So Nettie got a little bit of unwanted pampering with the garden hose, baby shampoo, brushes and fluffy towels.  I took her out on the leash to graze a bit on the outskirts of the woods while she dried off and put her back in with the other goats.  Who avoided her like the plague.  Not sure if they just thought she smelled funny or if they were afraid that they would be next.

I've also been tossing around the idea of shaving down the Boer goats.  Although their coats are nowhere as thick as they were this winter, they are still much, much thicker than my dairy gals.  The weather is already hot enough that the entire herd is panting during the day so I may just give it a shot.  My only real worry is that I'll get half-way into the shearing and end up not being able to finish it because of unruly goats wanting absolutely nothing to do with noisy, electric hair clippers and end up looking like one of those angry, shaved cats.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Apparently SOMEbody thinks we have pasture

The seemingly never-ending job of making pasture out of the woods (growing out of rocks and boulders, nonetheless) must actually be coming along, if only bit by bit.  I say this not only because we (meaning Paul) has been taking down more trees, but because just a few days ago I heard something strange.  Not strange as in "What is that?", but strange as in "What is that sound doing HERE?"

I not only heard, but visually confirmed four Purple Martins.

These birds are not strangers to our area, but they are strangers to our homestead as these swallows live near OPEN fields where they have adequate area to dive bomb, pursue and preform aerial acrobatics in order to catch their insect meals.

I'm hoping that they are nesting, or trying to find a nesting site, in one of the many woodpecker pecked holes in the numerous snags around the property.  But in order to encourage these flying insect connoisseurs, I may have to go out and find some of those birdhouse gourds and make a few nests to encourage them to stay.

And since I'm on the subject of birds, I also noticed that the two Eastern Phoebes are back in their nests again.  Both sets managed to successfully hatch / brood / fledge their babies just two weeks ago. The one on the porch doesn't contain any eggs yet, but the male and female have been tidying up the nest and adding more goat fuzz and moss to it.  I don't know the status of the nest in the goat barn, but she must be laying eggs or sitting on them as it would be too early for hatching.

I'll try to keep an eye on the eggs in the nest though as I saw a cowbird hanging out in the goat barn this afternoon during the goat feeding frenzy.  I found a cowbird egg in the nest on the porch a few years ago (and disposed of it) and would do the same if I found one in either of the nests this year.  No free-loading allowed here!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Well that blo(at)s

Paul called me at work this afternoon.  He said that when he and Rhainnon went to feed the goats, that Rhiannon said Dandelion was sick.  She had found her laying down and not wanting to move or get up.  I told him to take her temperature and it was normal.  We both assumed it was bloat.

I've never had to deal with bloat in such a young goat, but know that it isn't a good thing.  We've dealt with older goats with bloat and managed to get through it without much ado, but I knew this was much more serious.

I got off work and went to the vet, hoping for some sort of magic pill, but knowing that there wasn't much that could be done.  When I called Paul to tell him the vet had given me a grim prognosis, Dandelion had already died.  Only two hours after finding her on her side.  I was out there earlier in the morning, but didn't notice anything strange.  Of course, now I wish I had spent more time out there and checked on everyone more closely before leaving for work.  But sadly, it seems that there wasn't anything to do about it.

The vet also said that he had someone else call in the day before with seventy-five of his lambs dead from bloat.  Apparently there are different types of bloat, the one that was afflicting our animals right now is called frothy bloat and they get it from eating too much rich forage like legumes and clover.  Which we have in abundance around the paddock and the kids have been outside the fence chowing down.  And now I don't know how to keep the other kids from gorping out on it.  I really don't understand why it happened just now; the clover has been up for several weeks and the kids have all been picking on it off an on.

So now I have to worry about the other kids eating too much, having their stomachs bloat up to the point of preventing their diaphragm from being able to allow them to breath and thusly suffocating and dying.

Yep.  All rainbows and ice cream cones down on the farm.

My First T.G.I.F.

Today is Friday.  And for the past seven years, Fridays were just another day on the homestead  for me.  Barn chores still had to be done, livestock had to be fed or watered or milked or otherwise tended to.  Rhiannon needed to do her school work.  I needed to make breakfast, lunch and supper.  Laundry didn't care what day of the week it was.  Friday was just another day for Rhiannon and I.

The only thing really special about Friday was that Paul didn't have to go to work (he had Friday, Saturday & Sunday off).  We didn't go out and get schnockered on Friday nights, we didn't plan huge parties over the weekend and weren't really in the position to even take vacations over the weekend.  And if anything, starting Friday afternoon, these were the days that I stayed HOME from town as I knew everyone else was running around trying to get things done on their days off.

But since the end of April, Fridays once again have special meaning to me.  Why?

Because I got myself a job.  A "real" job.  One that requires me to be at a particular spot at a particular time for a particular amount of time.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday....and Friday.  So yes, I now look forward to Fridays, just like the rest of my working-world counterparts.

Oh, don't feel sorry for me.  I've been lucky to have been a stay-at-home Mom and full time homesteader for the past seven years and I wouldn't trade that time for anything.  I won't lie and tell you that I enjoy getting up at O'Dark Thirty or that I like being away from my family and the critters.  But circumstances have dictated that certain things happen in order for us to continue living the opulent and luxurious lifestyle we've grown accustomed to since starting our homesteading adventure.

As some of you may have already noticed, my presence in the Blogosphere has been minimal as of late.  But I still intend on blogging, reading your blogs and hopefully getting around to commenting / answering comments.  Even though I'm not here at the house all day or involving myself as much in the usual plethora of homesteading antics, there is still plenty to blog about.  Things have been in the works since the beginning of this year and it's going to be an exciting time for our family and will hopefully provide my faithful blog readers with something interesting and / or entertaining to read about.

Or maybe I can convince Paul to take over the blog.  Then he and Pioneer Preppy can tell it like it "really" is.

You never know.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Musical Teats

Another three goats have left our homestead.

Adrian (our Ag teacher friend) came to pick up three of the Boer kids for her FFA and 4-H students.  They will stay at the school barn until Fall where they will be pampered and fluffed and fattened up for the County Fair in September.  Two of the goats were Don & Joe, the bottle babies I bought this spring. The other goat was Daisy, Clover's doeling.

While the Don & Joe had already been weaned and have no mother to miss them (although I played mother to them, I absolutely do not miss them), Clover has been missing her baby.  I thought that my newly obtained silence (relative, remember....silence is all relative) on the homestead would be shattered by the bawling of Clover.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong.

Although Clover did bawl a bit here & there the first day, yesterday she was much quieter and today I didn't hear a peep out of her.  Apparently she's found some comfort.

While feeding the ingrates goats this afternoon, I noticed that she was being nursed.  I immediately thought to myself "OMG, Paul sent the wrong kids with Ardian!", but then I noticed that it wasn't Clover's kid nursing, but Lily's.  Lilly's kids are only five weeks old so they weren't ready to go to the school barn, and apparently one of them tried sneaking a snack from Clover and she gladly obliged.

So although I'd hoped to reduce the grain ration Clover has been getting since her kid is gone, I may continue her nursing rations as long as she lets the other two doelings nurse from her.  They will only benefit from more milk and as long as everyone is happy (and quiet), I'm happy.

Paul's Take
Of course the first thing she does is blame it on me.  How the heck am I supposed to know which kids are which?  They all look the same, it's not like I can say, "Oh, are you So and So" and they'll answer me.  She should have been here when Adrian came to get them or spray painted their names on them if she was so worried that I'd screw it up.