Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Impending Hatching

Out of the thirty-eight eggs I put in the incubator nearly three weeks ago, only twenty-six were fertile.  Not only was it a bummer, but an even bigger bummer as most of the infertile ones were from my chickens (I got a dozen from one of Paul's coworkers).   And of those that were duds, half were from either my Ameraucana (Easter Egger) or Australorp who lays moster-sized eggs.  I guess they have been pretty successful at avoiding the rooster.

There are also four banty eggs (from the other farm) in there.  Banties are really cute, but they don't seem to last long around here.  Christine's Silkies are an exception, but I wonder how long they will last once I kick them out of the barn again.

The last set of banties I raised, three hens and one rooster, went to our neighbors last year. The hens ended up kicking the bucket earlier this summer (they think from the heat) but the rooster is still around.  Stud Muffin (what they named him) is the only rooster with their Rhode Island Reds and he is quite the pecker-head.  He is actually the reason I gave the banties away.  He was such a prick.  Any time I went into their pen, he'd attack me.  And it wasn't like I didn't give him a good what-for when he did, but he just kept on charging me. 

Our neighbors claim that he still attacks them, even charging their car and waiting until they exit the vehicle to attack them.  They also admit to kicking him like a football across the lawn.  But he still doesn't get it.  I also believe she said that there was an incident involving Stud Muffin and a tennis racket. 

We recently chicken-sitted for the neighbors and I had almost forgotton about Stud Muffin.  That is until I heard the rushing pitter-patter of chicken feet on concrete directly behind me, turned around and saw him about to do that flappy-wimg-spur-thing. 


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I have Tomato!

Notice that I did not say, "Tomatoes". 

While it seems that everyone in the entire universe is swimming in tomatoes (Tiny Gardener, Ohiofarmgirl) this is what I have:

Pretty sure it's a Rutgers.  And it's the only fruit on the five plants Paul put into the new garden on the side of the house.  No other teeny-tiny green tomatoes, no other flowers. 

He also planted five more in the "berry" garden and they have yet to produce a single tomato.   These, however, did have plenty of flowers on them.  I was wondering if it was because of a lack of pollinators, but the squash planted just a few rows away from them are going gangbusters so obviously something was visiting flowers.

The other tomato plants that survived the summer heat are red and yellow pear tomatoes.  I like to have the smaller tomato plants around the garden because it's nice to be able to pop one in my mouth when I'm weeding or watering, but I want something I can make a sandwich out of dangnabit!

The pear tomatoes have also been attacked by no less than a dozen hornworms.  Which my chickens refuse to eat (ungrateful bastards).  I've been pruning the worm-eaten branches off the plants in hopes to encourage growth elseware and it seems to be working.  While mowing the lawn yesterday, I saw a huge moth on the side of the raised bed, drying out its wings.  I'm assunming it was a Hawk moth as it is the adult form of the hornworn.  I meant to come back to take a picture, but forgot.  And good thing for it that I did forget because I had not quite made my mind up if I was going to squash it or not. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fall Planting

I’ve never done a fall garden.  Not sure why though.  I guess I’m so excited about getting the seedlings out in the spring, then wanting to harvest the fruits in the summer that I totally forget about planting again.  That, or I’m so sick of watering, weeding, squishing squash bugs, squashing hornworms and chasing chickens out of the tomato plants that I forget I really should be starting it all over again in just a few months. 
But this year’s garden sucked.  Royally.  I did plant about two dozen bush beans the first week of July, but a damn rabbit has been methodically eating each one down to the ground.  There are only four, maybe five plants left and I haven’t harvested a single bean yet!
About two weeks ago I planted several small rows of spinach and green onions, sugar snap peas and cabbage in the raised beds. 
Peas!  Yes, they are too close together. 
I have a problem thinning things out.

The peas & cabbages have sprouted and now all I have to do is keep the chickens from picking at the seedlings and the dogs from digging into the soft dirt.  Because you know, there is no other piece of greenery for the chickens to eat or any other patch of dirt to dig in.  For gawds sakes, there’s thirty stinking acres to pick at and dig in……go find another spot!!
                    This is where I planted the spinach. 
                      See anything?  Me neither.

I also planted three dozen hills of bush beans in the “berry” garden and some more cabbage plants.  You know, to give the rabbit some variety for supper. 

Anybody know how to catch a rabbit?  It doesn’t live inside the fenced garden area, so I’m assuming that it’s slipping through the gate where there is a gap.  I've gone out there in the middle of the night, flashlight & shotgun in hand, but never seem to catch the bugger in the act.  I would put out the live trap, but I have no idea what to bait it with?  A carrot?  Is that too cliché?  We also have several snares and Conibear traps, but I’m always afraid that I’ll catch something I didn’t want to.  At least with the live trap I can decide the trespasser’s fate.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Praying for Persimmons

My wild grapes bit the dust because of the insane heat this summer, and the few wild plum trees we have also took a beating so I figured I was out of luck in the wild fruit department this year.  But then I stumbled upon these:

Godzilla managed to spare this little patch of persimmon trees (imagine me screaming at the top of my lungs, arms flailing around, trying to tell Paul not to bulldoze a particular area....while he's ON the dozer).  There are about seven or eight small trees in the goat pen and they haven't eaten the bark off them.  They've managed to eat the bark off the cedars, but thankfully leave the persimmons alone.

I know there are a few other small patches of persimmons on our place because I saw them last year, so I think I may take a wander in the back 30 and see if I can find them again.  I didn't gather enough last year to make more than a loaf or two of persimmon bread, but this year I'm going to try really hard to get enough to make some persimmon butter to make up for the lack of grape jelly in the pantry.  Now if they just make it until November!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Picture Day (or I don't know what to blog about Day)

Just some pictures from this week......
The Barred Rock egg (bottom), Silkie egg (top left) and Tiny Mystery Egg (top right):
The Mystery Egg did have a yolk, but it was broken & not formed properly.

BBQ goat sandwiches:
Pan is still alive, BTW.  That sandwich was from Nettie's doelings.

And our first turnip:
You want me to eat this thing Mommy??

Frog Buddy:
(aka, Common Gray Tree Frog)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goat Wrestling

It was Smack-Down time here at Krazo Acres last night.
Pan, our Nigerian Dwarf buck, has started acting bucky the past few weeks.  He and Chop Suey (Nigerian Dwarf wether) were sharing the back yard goat pen, but Pan had started getting really obnoxious and taking it out on poor Suey.  So about two weeks ago, I saved Chop Suey from any more head-butting or testosterone-induced pissyness and put him back with the girls.  I didn't even have to put him on a lead, he just ran from the back yard to the main goat pen as if to say "It's about time you let me out’s there!"
Anyhow, I've been putting Pan on a long lead in order for him to be able to graze some of the greener areas around his pen.  And is seems like every day he gets more & more bold;  dropping his head as if to head butt me and even doing a little mock charge.  I don't take lightly to being challenged, be it from a pecker-headed rooster or a miniature goat buck with an attitude.  Those types of roosters end up in the soup pot and Pan almost ended up in the pressure cooker last night.
I went to give him his grain for the evening and put him back in the pen.  After he finished eating I bent down to take the lead off him and the SOB butted me and knocked me over.  Then he immediately went after me again!  The first butting would have warranted a sharp slap in the rear end with the leash, but now I was p.i.s.s.e.d. 
Before I could regain my standing (or calm myself down) I leapt on top of him and wrestled him to the ground.  It wasn't as easy as I had thought.  There was much swearing, tearing up of grass and kicking, but I managed to get on top of him and pinned him down.  And I sat there, breathing heavily, and kept him there for a good thirty seconds until he stopped struggling.  I gave him a good "talking to" and then let him up.  Pushed him into the goat pen and closed it up.  I've read somewhere that you're not supposed to challenge a goat by whacking him on the head because that's what they "want" to do, and honestly, you're not going to win a head-butting game with a thick-skulled (or horned!) goat.  Knocking the offending goat off his feet was supposedly a more effective show of dominance.
Well, I guess he wasn't quite convinced of my Alpha status because before I could turn around to leave, he dropped his head again and butted the fence next to where I was standing.  If it weren't for the fact that I'd have to undo the gate (which is actually a bunch of carabineer clips locking the cattle panels together) I would have gone back in there and given it to him again.  I have a very short (and bad) temper.  If I had my sidearm on me, we would be eating BBQ goat sandwiches for supper tonight.  Well, maybe not.  But the idea did come up during that last show of penis-ness.
When I got back in the house, Paul and Rhiannon were fixing supper and Paul immediately commented how badly I smelled.  In my hot-headedness to wrestle Pan to the ground, I forgot that he was starting to pee on himself and that I would reek like the dead if I even touched him (I usually "pet" him with a stick when he's in rut).  Goat-pee-smelling clothes went directly into the washer and I went for hot shower.
While I was in the shower scrubbing off stinky-buck-smell from my pores, I was thinking about my recent contemplation about getting a Boer buck instead of trying (in vain so far) to find one for stud in order to breed Ishtar.  How on earth would I deal with a 250 pound Boer buck in rut if I can't keep a Nigerian in line?  Guess I'd better keep trying to find one to "borrow" during breeding season.
Paul's Take
What the heak is she thinking??  I'm not going to wrestle a pissy, smelly, cranky goat that weighs more than I do!  Because, you know, I would be the one doing all the buck-chores like trimming hooves, giving shots & the like.  Remind me to slap her upside the head next time she mentions it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Farm Mysteries

Christine’s two remaining Silkies (one black rooster and one silver/blue hen) don’t roost in the coop with the big gals.  Instead, they hang out with the goats in the loafing area of the shed at night.  I used to keep them locked up in the kidding pen, but several months ago they were released into the big world of “outside”.  Actually, it was Paul’s idea.  Went something like this:  “Why do you still have those stupid chickens in the pen?” And he unceremoniously opened the door, went in and booted the Silkies out.  Although since then, one rooster went MIA, one almost-grown chick was found dead (possibly smooshed by a goat while sleeping) and one hen was used by Harley as a chew toy.  So I’m not so sure how good of an idea it was to give them their freedom.  But they did need to get out of the pen.  I hate cleaning up chicken poop litter if I don’t have to.
Anyhow.  Since allowing them their freedom, the remaining Silkie hen hasn’t laid a single egg for me….that I could find.  I know she had been laying as there would be an occasional petite egg in the kidding stall when they were locked up in there.   I figured I would eventually stumble upon a large clutch of Silkie eggs during my barn chores one day, but after months of not finding any, I’m assuming that something is eating them, wherever they may be. 
So one evening last week, I scooped her up from her goat-perch and locked her in the kidding pen for the night.  And in the morning she was in the corner, sitting on an egg.  So now I’m not sure what to do.  I don’t want to keep her in the pen again.  Besides having some sort of high-tech GPS / Surveillance system attached to her leg or imbedded into her skin, how the heak do I find out where she’s laying?  As far as I know, she doesn’t leave the confines of the goat pen, so I was assuming her nest would be under the barn, but I’ve never seen her sitting nor any accumulation of eggs.  Maybe the older chickens are eating her eggs.  Got me.
Then last night, I found the teeniest egg in the "big gals" nesting box.  It was even smaller than the Silkie egg.  I haven't cracked into it yet, but either a quail has taken up residence in with our chickens or it's a white-only or yolk-only egg.  We'll find out in a few hours when Rhainnon has her breakfast & I'll let you know.
Barred Rock Egg, Silkie Egg, Mystery Egg

Mooberry Farm and Hard Work Homestead just solved their own Farm Mysteries.  Do you have any unsolved Homesteading Conundrums?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cola Cravings

It’s been just over three weeks since NSA started and how are we doing?  Well, Paul is doing fine because he really doesn’t go shopping (or go anywhere), and since Rhiannon has yet to grasp the idea of money, let alone shopping, I’d say she’s doing pretty well.
I, however, am close to cheating again (remember the gotta-have-it-cheap doghouse and lunch out with the gals?).  You see, when I went grocery shopping a few days before the NSA started, I failed to toss an item in my buggy.  Soda.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m addicted to soda.  And not just soda, but diet soda.  Yes, the cancer-causing, badder-than-bad for you, OMG how can you drink that stuff, diet soda. 
I normally don’t buy more than a couple of 2 liter-bottles every month for me to keep in the house.  Because if I did stock up on soda, I would drink a bottle every other day.  If I get a craving and I’m on the road I’ll stop at the gas station and get myself the biggest super-duper-sized cup they have and fill it up with Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Pepsi.  Even though it’s cheaper to just get the 2 liter bottles, I figure I’ll pay the extra money to get my quick fix and not have the big bottle in the house.  Although, some of those huge cups from the gas station are probably a liter in themselves.
Anyhow, back to ME.  I was planning on buying a few bottles of soda during that last grocery outing but I just forgot to.
Which I suppose is actually a good thing.  I know a lot of my cravings stem from the caffeine in the soda so several months ago I started making iced teas and keeping a gallon on hand in the fridge.  That does seem to help curtail my soda-cravings.
But oh, to have a big ol’ cup of Diet Dr. Pepper after coming inside from the sweltering heat…..what I would give…..
Maybe my Mom will sneak me in a fix on her way to visit Rhiannon one day soon. 
Are you listening Mom?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Do my hindquarters look big to you?

Nettie’s bout with Mastitis seems to have cleared up (thank goodness!) after a few treatments of “Today” and some antibiotics.  I did another CMT test this morning and it came back negative.  But she’s still holding on to milk in her udder.  I wonder if she’s one of those goats that can keep milking without being bred.  Not that I’m going to find out.  After her kidding this spring, she was looking pretty skinny. 

After treating her for mastitis, I started drying her up (except to milk her out for her med treatments).  I only milked her for four months, but I figure I would rather have her put energy into flesh instead of milk in my bucket.
Nettie’s been getting grain twice a day just like the other two milking does, but I’m not milking her.  I’ve also been top dressing her grain with BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) and rice bran, although she really doesn’t care for the rice bran and I have to mix it in real well.   She’s also getting alfalfa pellets during the middle of the day.
She’s starting to look better, but not putting on as much weight as I thought she would given the fact that I’ve been letting her eat just about as much as she wants.  Not sure if it’s because of the extreme temps we’ve been having this summer or what. 
Do female goats worry about their weight?  Do they look in the mirror and think things like, “Oh, would you just LOOK at that muffin top I’ve got!” or “I really need to go on the elliptical trainer more often.”   “When Pan is breeding me, is he thinking about that spotted, long eared Nubian?”
Don’t they realize that the does in the magazines are airbrushed???  I’ve tried explaining to Nettie that no goat worth her weight in milk and with five kiddings under her belt (udder??) should look like a yearling doeling with that tight little udder, perky teats and skipping around like a ditzy caprine.   I wouldn’t trade you for a half-dozen doelings my devoted Nettie!  Now go stuff your head in the feed bucket and eat some more.
I still haven’t decided if I’m going to breed her this fall.  I guess it all depends on how much more weight she puts on before then.  I also wondered if it would be detrimental to her milk production if I skipped a year of milking.  Any goat people out there have any ideas?


Wow, now THIS is how wealth distribution should be done!  Voluntarily!

The following generous bloggers are "spreading the wealth" through giveaways on their blogs.   

Erica at Northwest Edible Life is giving away a book called "Wild Fermentation".

Tiny Gardener is giving away a year subscription to Hobby Farms magazine. (Hurry up, it ends today!)

Mama Tea is giving away a Purty homemade scarf and ear muff thingies on her blog, A Farmish Kind of Life.

Now go check 'em out!

Monday, August 22, 2011


I almost forgot!  There are only two days left to enter a contest.....

There is a giveaway for a subscription to a cool magazine, Hobby Farms.

The nice gal who is giving it away, for HER Birthday, is Tiny Gardener.  How nice of her to give someone else a present on her day!

Go check out her blog, enter her contest and say hello to Punkin the kitty!

NSA, Week Three

Week Three Expenditures:
Ice cream cone for well-behaved girl: $0.53
Thrift store toy for well-behaved girl: $1.00
Oil and filter for Car & Tractor: $42.10
Lunch out w/the Girls: $9.70
Goat Food: $18.30*
Two Round Bales: $90*
Fuel for Motorcycle: $14.93*

Week Three Total: $53.33
Or $176.56 if you include exempted items.
*Not included in NSA
So once again, this weeks portion of no spend month came out to a spendy $86.56.  And that’s not counting the two round bales of hay we found (yippee!!) to tide us over until the big load comes in. 
The only thing I kind’a feel guilty about is the lunch.   Not necessarily because I went out to lunch, because the lady we met was back in town for a short while and I wasn’t going to skip seeing her because of my self-imposed austerity measures.  But I could have just had a drink and called it at that, but the burgers smelled sooooooo yummy and I probably would have bitten off the hand of my girlfriend next to me eating one had I not ordered one of my own.
The ice cream and thrift store toy were definitely not necessary, but darn it, Rhiannon was just so good for Mommy and I couldn’t resist.  How’s that for my rampant and unchecked consumerism? 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No Grape Jelly :(

Paul, Rhiannon and I took a little walk around the property this morning, enjoying the relatively "cool" 90 degree weather.  There's a path where the wild grapes grow and I was anxious to see how they survived the insane heat this summer.   They didn't:

I still have a few other spots to check where I've seen other grapes grow, but somehow I think they must have all met the same fate.

Last September I managed to pick and process enough grape juice to make around sixteen pints of jelly.  There are still six pints left in the pantry, but now I have to ration them so they last until NEXT year! 

Kind'a makes me think how completely bare our pantry shelves would be (and how much thinner we'd be) if we had to grow our own food.  It's not like we're even close to providing the bare minimum of fruits and vegetables for daily use, let alone having to have enough left over to can until the following spring / summer harvests.  Throw in a bummer of a spring / summer crop and then you'd have to grow enough produce to have two years worth of canned goods.

It's not like our pantry shelves are bare though.  We have the means to purchase our canned goods, but I'd like to start replacing the store bought stuff with homegrown goodies. 

Got to go back outside and continue working on the fall garden!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I never really liked having leftovers that had white rice in them.  The rice just never tastes right reheated.  There is, however, one way that leftover rice tastes great:

Rice Pudding!  Easy rice pudding, that is.  And here's the recipe:

One can Evaporated Milk
2 1/2 Cups Cooked Rice
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. each Cinnamon and Vanilla

Toss all in a pot, stir until everything is combined.  Heat on stove until boiling, then reduce to a simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn on the bottom.

You can eat it hot or cold and add raisins if you like.  I prefer mine cold and sans dried grapes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dude, Where's my Hay?

We’ve been waiting for almost two months now for the hay to be cut.  All the rain we had this spring  didn’t help at all.  It was too late to help the first cutting, and actually stunted some growth.  And it was too early to help the second cutting.   
At the end of June, we took a drive a little bit south of us to check out the hay field where our (hopefully) yearly supply would be coming from.  I will no longer buy hay sight-unseen or what people call “mixed grass” around here.  The mixed grass stuff ends up being all weedy stems or straw, and even at a bargain price of $25, it still comes out to over $50 a bale when you figure that Ms. Melman & Nugget waste half of it.  The goats waste even more, although who’d blame them?  Been burned enough times to know that it is not worth buying crappy hay.  I’ve seen fields in nothing but Queen Ann’s Lace cut and baled.  What the heak kind of animal eats that stuff? 

Another thing I find amusing is that if there is crummy hay, they will call it “goat hay”.  These people have obviously never raised goats.  Because if there is anything I’ve learned in keeping goats, is that they are the pickiest animals on the planet.  That, and the fact that no matter how good the hay is, they will waste it.  But at least with the good hay, they don’t seem to waste as much of it.
Anyways, back to my anxiously awaited hay delivery.
When we made the drive all those weeks ago, at that point  it seemed as it would only be a few more weeks until it would be cut and delivered to our place.  But then the scorching heat of Summer moved in and the fields did not grow enough to be baled.  I called the hay guy again (poor soul) and very nicely asked when he anticipated a cutting.  Another two weeks.  If they are lucky. 
We managed to get two decent round bales over a month ago to tide us over until “our” hay was ready, but that month has come and gone and the mule barn is empty of hay.  Starting tonight, we’ll be forking hay from the goat’s bale into the back of the truck and driving it up to Ms. Melman and Nugget on a daily basis until we can get another bale for them.  That gets old really fast.  And as much as I’d hate to do it, we may just have to get some of that “goat hay” advertised in the paper until the good stuff comes in.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


It seems as if “100” is the new norm.  102 yesterday and looks like the rest of the week will be about the same.  I was thrilled last week when we were “only” in the 90’s.
As late as I already was, I still planted some seeds for a fall garden last week.  Peas, cabbage, green onions and spinach.  I put these in the newly vacated section in my raised bed.  I pulled the half-dead or eaten tomato plants and put the cabbages and onions in their place.  The peas went in the same spot they were this spring.  I’ve never done a fall garden.  I tried to use veggies with a harvest date no more than 65 days and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to harvest something, especially since I put them in the raised beds and they still have the hoops on them.  If the weather turns cool too soon, I’ll put the plastic over the hoops.  I’m also going to try and grow some lettuce under the hoops this fall. 
Butternut harvest so far!

Hopefully the fall garden will provide us with some fresh veggies.  This year’s summer garden was pretty much a flop.  Although I was pretty happy with the summer squash until the SBI (Squash Bug Invasion) last week, and my Butternut have been doing great…..that is if I can keep the SBI from hopping from the zukes to the Butternuts.
Two cups of sweet peas.  Twenty small onions.  Less than a dozen Rutgers and Roma tomatoes.  Two or three cups worth of pear tomatoes.  Six (maybe) micro-sized green peppers.  Several dozen cucumbers, many too bitter to eat.  Zero blueberries.  Zero raspberries.  And out of eighteen fruit trees, not a single fruit (although we were going to pick off the immature fruit anyhow to promote root growth, they are only three or four years old).
I still have to harvest the turnips though and may get a couple dozen of those.  Whip-tee-do.  Oh, and our potato-in-a-tire experiment has yet to be unveiled, but as we only planted a half dozen seed taters, I don’t see it yielding more than a dinner’s worth.  There are also six bush bean plants left (from a dozen) that I planted the first week of July.  Something is eating them to the stems before I can even get a stinking bean from it.  Oh, and four eggplants, only one of which has flowers on it.
So, was it worth all the time, labor and water for this “bounty”?  Absolutely not.  If I knew how poorly the garden would produce, I wouldn’t even have bothered raking out the beds this spring.  But then again, if anybody knew the production yields of their crops and garden……
I’d like to say something upbeat like, “At least it was a learning experience”, but I don’t think I could say that without rolling my eyeballs or swearing afterward.  I probably harvested more wild food than I did in my garden.
But there’s always next year, right?  And before we know it, we’ll all be complaining about how cold it is, how we hate chopping ice out of the livestock water buckets and how much firewood we still have to split.  Then we’ll start getting the seed catalogs in the mail.
And we’ll all do it again next year!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

End Game

I've had it.  Done.  Finished.  No more.
I absolutely can not make Mozzarella. 
I've tried.  Half a dozen times.  And only once did it even somewhat resemble the little shiny white ball of cheese.  Kind of.  A little bit.  Well, not really.
Since it's been over a year since my last mozzarella failure, I figured I'd try again.  I've been making farmers cheese (or whatever you call it) for our extra milk, but it would be nice if I could make mozzarella as we like to have pizza once a week.  You can only put so much farmer’s cheese on a pizza.  Pizza needs that stringy goodness of a mozzarella to make it, well, a pizza.
I've followed two, maybe three different ways of making mozzarella, "The easiest of cheeses to make".  Today I did the "30-minute mozzarella". 
Everything was squeaky clean.  Everything was ready and waiting to start the cheese making process.  The milk was fresh (from yesterday).  I followed the directions to the T.
And all I ended up with is a gritty bowl of cheese mush and over a gallon of whey.  How do I get gritty mush instead of that stretchy, stringy ball of cheese so cherished by all?
I've tried liquid rennet.  Rennet in tablet form.  Citric acid from two different sources.   The epic failure usually starts right at the beginning.  My curd will.  Not.  Set.  It NEVER looks like that creamy white custard hunk-o-curd in the pictures.  The best I can get is smallish curds that seem to just arbitrarily stick together until I try to cut the curd.  Then they all scatter everywhere.
I try to continue with the directions, heating up to temperature, draining the curds, heating and draining the whey, heating again, kneading and I'd say stretching, but it never gets to that stretching stage.  Is there some sort of “insiders” cheese making step I’m omitting?  Does goat milk not set as well?  Is the moon not in the correct phase? Do I have to do some sort of naked Pagan dance or something?  For gawds sakes, somebody tell me!!!!
I really, really thought we'd be making hard cheeses by now.  But if I can't even get the "easiest" cheese done right, how in the heak am I going to attempt a cheddar?
Done with the whine.  I'm going to take my frustrations out on some squash bugs now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gonna squash YOU, Bug!

WARNING: Graphic Picture to Follow

The squash garden has been our best producer this year.  We've been swimming in zucchini and yellow squash...up until now.

The squash bugs are taking over!  Well, not really taking over.  Yet.

They have managed to just about kill one of the zucchini plants and have moved on to the adjacent zucchini.  I guess I don't feel too badly about it as the plant already gave us plenty of zukes, but it has just become a breeding ground for those zuke-juice-sucking bastards.  And a few days ago we found some on my Butternut squash plants.  This is WAR now.

For the past few weeks Paul has been sprinkling DE on the plants, hand squishing the bugs & scraping off the eggs, but no matter how many hundreds of them are disposed of, they come back even stronger.

I was out there yesterday and again this morning "gathering up" the masses I could in a large container (chicken food anyone???) and squishing others between my fingers.  Ick, I know, but it's the easiest way to do it if there is only one or two on a plant.  I'll also been snapping off leaves if it looks like it's beyond recovery and toss the leaf, bugs and all, into the container.  They are crafty little buggers (pun intended) becuase once you disturb the leaf, they all go running for cover.

I am now typing with yellowish-green stained fingertips and occasionally scratching at my hands, wrists and arms because those little pricklies on the squash vines make me itch.  I'll give the bugs a little time to regroup and then go back into the squash garden to continue my assult.

BTW - The bug picture was the "graphic" picture.  I know, it's just a bunch of bugs, but I'd much rather look at butchering photos than a hoard of bugs.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Householder Haikus - My weekend in poetry

Erica over at Northwest Edible Life did a neat blog today and I'm going to copy it because, well it's neat!  And I didn't have anything else to blog about......

So here's my weekend in Haiku:
My sister feels ill
Gallbladder you’re coming out!
Hope you feel better

Tail feathers a-fly
Damn dog eating my chickens
Anyone want him? (only half joking)
Eggs in the ‘bator
Hope I don’t cook ‘em this time
Want to hear “Peep-peeps”
Driving me insane
Cleaning up the wasted hay
Stupid picky goats
Kitty in the sun
Lizard scurries right by her
Little kitty bum

Chicken, lay in HERE!
Not over there or in that
Hunt is on for eggs
Open up the barn
Ms. Melman and Nugget stare
Waiting for their hay
Wilted leaves and stems
Squash bugs eat’n up the Zukes
Gon’na squash YOU, bug
Bouncing on the bed
Rhiannon please go to sleep!
Is this kid on speed???

Feel free to join in the Haiku Hoedown!  Link send us a link to yours (and link back to us) so we can all enjoy them.

Happy Haiku'ing? (Is that even a word???)

NSA, Week Two

Although I didn’t “buy” anything last week (pat on back), we did have a pretty big expense; a motorcycle tire.  Paul’s been riding the motorcycle to work a lot this year so it really wasn’t a big surprise that he needed a back tire.  Just a bummer that it had to happen this month, you know, when I’m trying to show everyone how we’re not going to spend any money.
Add that to the forty-three bucks to fill up the gas tank, twenty-nine for a monthly prescription and I broke $200 without even blinking. 
The weekly expenditure should have been a little higher because of the stuff we dropped off at the food pantry, but technically we didn’t spend anything.   Instead of grocery shopping, we went into our pantry and “shopped” from there!  A few cases of vegetables, canned fruit, pancake syrup, peanut butter and jelly and we had a nice package to donate.  I really wanted to donate some rice, pasta and sugar, but since we buy all that stuff in bulk and pre-package it, I wasn’t sure if the donation center would take those things. 
Week Two Expenditures
Motorcycle tire: $155.82 (ouch!)
Fuel for car: $43.00*
Prescription: $29.99*
Two stamps: $0.88

Total: $229.69
Or $302.68 if you include exepmted items.
*Not included in NSA

Friday, August 12, 2011

Incubating Time (again)

After literally slow-cooking fourteen of fifteen successfully hatched chicks, I’ll have to admit I’m a little leery of starting up the incubator again.
But if I wanted to time the hatching with the expected delivery date of the Cornish Cross chicks, I had to start saving eggs for hatching.  The gals sometimes only put out four or five eggs a day with this heat.  It also doesn’t help when there is a black snake eating the eggs.  Just five minutes ago I went to the barn to see if there were any more eggs and I caught one just starting to eat an egg.  Normally, I’ve been taking them up the road a couple of miles and release them, but honestly, I’m sick of losing eggs to snakes.  So off with his head.  I still feel a little guilty, but I’ll get over it.  Wiped the snake slobber off the egg and into the incubator it went.
One of Paul’s coworkers provided us with a baker’s dozen hatching eggs yesterday, so I’ve got thirty-eight eggs in there now.
We have room in the coop for thirty birds.  More if you figure in the fact that not all the buggers actually roost on the poles but on / in the nest boxes.  We’re down to twelve hens (I think) and one rooster now.  So I’ll be glad to get the chicken numbers back up again.  We haven’t had too much trouble with predators this year and I’m hoping our luck continues throughout the winter.
One of Christine’s Silky hens croaked a few days ago, not sure from what.  It was just sprawled out the floor of the barn.  Got smooshed by a goat?  Delayed heat-related stress?  So depressed with the current economic situation that it committed suicide?  It was the mother hen.  Luckily the chick is now big enough to make it on his/her own.  Not sure if it’s a him/her yet.  I’m wondering if it’s a female as the Silky rooster hasn’t run it out of the yard yet, but then again, there hasn’t seemed to be any hanky-panky going on between the two of them either.  Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, I’ll be hovering over my incubator and sending good-hatching vibes to the little chickens-to-be.  Hopefully we won’t have another heat wave next month.  And if we do, I’m bringing the chicks inside, no matter how much Paul complains.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chicken for EVERYONE!

Yesterday I started cleaning out the freezer, not only because of NSA but because of the soon-to-be arrival of our Cornish Cross chicks which will go into the freezer 8 weeks later.
Since we still have a few whole chickens and chicken pieces in the freezer, I decided to fire up the ol' pressure cooker and process some of last year's butchering efforts.

I cooked up several packages of chicken wings and a few leg / thigh combos.  I picked the meat off the bones and put it aside for further processing.  Then I put the bones and "leftovers" back into the pressure cooker, added a bit more water, a few bay leaves, celery tops and a chopped onion & put it back on the stove.  Not sure how long I leave it on the stove, but I want the bones to come out where I can easily break them. 

And here's what I got from my little pressure cooking foray:

Bunch o' chicken to be made into chicken salad, smothered in homemade BBQ sauce, or served along side a heap of mashed potatoes and gravy.  And a quart of chicken stock to boot!

After I strained the chicken stock into the jar, the rest of the pressure cooker contents go into the blender.  Yes, bones and all into the blender.  The bones have been made soft by the pressure cooking so I just add a bit of the chicken stock & it gets buzzed into a protein & calcium rich slurry.  This goes into the chicken scrap bucket and fed back to the chickens.  Sounds gross to some people, but I know the chickens weren't sick or given medications or chemicals before we butchered them so I don't see a problem feeding it to our laying flock.

We try to let very little go to waste here and by utilizing this "garbage", we can provide additional feed at no additional cost to us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Food or Phone?

One of the few news outlets I read on a regular basis is the online version of our local newspaper.  
Today I read something that almost made me cry.  I would have cried had I not almost immediately went from sadness to utter anger at those incompetent jackasses in office.  We have children starving in our backyards, yet our government can’t find a way to help them.  Instead they find it necessary to add more asinine entitlement programs like the Free "Emergency" Cell Phone. 
Isn’t it amazing how a having a cell phone becomes a “necessity”, but we have starving families in this country.  Why in the hell are we (meaning the elected jackasses) even considering spending tax money on things like that?  It’s time we get our electoral house in order and make food more important of an issue than “communications rights”.
Some of you may already know how I feel about the current welfare system.  It’s broke, filled with theft, incompetence and just plain ignorance.  But regardless, FOOD should come first.
And isn’t it “amazing” how non-government programs find ways to provide food and services for the needy?  Our local food pantry, community organizations and various churches are able to help those in need.  Without stealing money from your paycheck.  Without threat of force.
I’m not one who normally asks others to rally for a cause, or to Save the Whales or to Yadda-Yadda.  But I would like you to at least think about donating a can or two of food to your local shelter.  Or toss an extra dollar into the special collections plate at your place of worship.  
There are people hurting - really hurting - in this economy, and guess what?  The Feds are not going to come to the rescue (and if they claim to, please please tell me you don’t believe their lies).  And unfortunately, it's only going to get worse.
Tomorrow when Rhiannon and I go to the Library to meet with the homeschooling group, instead of going to play time afterwards, we’re going to the store.  To hell with No Spend August.  It may not be a lot, but we’re going to buy a bag or two of groceries for the local food pantry and drop it off.

Another item I won't be buying

I can add one more thing to the ever-growing list of items I won’t be purchasing at the grocery store.  And that is salsa in a jar.

We had some company over last week and one of them had recently made a trip up to Chicago.  And he brought back Tom Tom Tamales!!!  (Thanks Les!)
If you've been to Chicago and never had one, well, you’re missed out.  Now don’t get me wrong - homemade tamales in their corn husk wrappers are to die for.  But if you’re from Chicago, you’ll probably eatne more than your share of the Tom Tom’s.   Really good.  Or it could be that they were cheap, readily available at the corner hot dog stand and were delicious when one was pretty much inebriated because you really didn’t need a utensil to eat it (although they are still good without alcohol coursing through your bloodstream).
So, back to the salsa thing.
In order to be able to eat the above mentioned tamales, some of the gang insisted (more like demanded) that salsa be smothering said tamale.  Well, it was like 9 pm and we didn’t have any salsa on hand, nor was I going to run to the local gas station / mini-mart to buy an 8 oz. jar of off-brand salsa for $3.99.
But I did have several cans of diced tomatoes in the pantry.  So I gathered salsa-sounding ingredients (green peppers, onions & various spices) and got out my handy-dandy little food chopper (which I purchased for making baby-food when Rhiannon was younger) and went to it.
Basically, I put half a can of diced tomatoes in the blender along with some garlic salt, cilantro, green pepper, onion, black pepper and a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes.  Pushed the blender button just two or three times to chop / mix everything.  Dumped the blender contents into a larger bowl, added the remainder of the diced tomatoes (not blender-ized) and a little squirt of lime juice and mixed it again with a spoon.
And I magically had Salsa!
Obviously, it would have been ten times better if I had made it with fresh tomatoes & herbs, but as my tomato garden is pretty much dead and for whatever reason I failed to plant a single herb this spring (what the heak was I thinking???), canned tomatoes and dried herbs did well enough.
So what other convenience items are there in my pantry that I can do without? 
Key word being “convenience”.  Yes, I know that there are just some times when you don’t even have the ten minutes to make salsa.  Or just don’t want to.  That’s fine.  But when you do have time, there is no reason to spend $3.99 on a jar or canned salsa when you can use a can of tomatoes from your pantry (you DO have a well-stocked pantry, don’t you??) and spices from your cupboard.

Monday, August 8, 2011

NSA, Week One

Can you believe that I blew No-Spend August the very first day?  Yep, on August 1st.

I made the mistake of browsing the Trading Post (a free online classifieds for our area) and saw something I just couldn’t pass up and shelled out cash before the first day was even half over.
But, I had a good reason.  Really!  And if I didn’t buy it, I would have spent even more money (and time) building one, so really, I SAVED money.  Convinced?  Me neither.  But I did it anyhow.
So here’s what I got for fifteen bucks and a dozen eggs:

I’ve been meaning to build a little coop for broody hens, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  My thought was that if the broody hen had a place of her own she’d be happier and hatch out more chicks.  The past two times I’ve had hens go broody, they end up getting pestered by the other hens and had lots of broken eggs, because you know, that spot is the only spot in the entire universe where a hen can lay her eggs.
So now all I have to do is make some minor modifications, namely putting in a nesting box and making a door for the opening.  Then when (if) I have another hen go broody on me I’ll move her to the Brooding Birdie Bungalo (BBB).  I’ll place the BBB just outside of the chicken / goat pen so the goats can’t jump on the house and then put up a little chicken-wire run around it so she can raise her chicks outdoors instead of in the barn.
So, have I convinced you that this was a “necessary” expense?  Didn’t think so. 
Guess I’m going to have to stop reading the Trading Post until the month of August is over.
Week One Expenditures:
One really, really nice & cheap BBB: $15
Two 50# bags of goat food: $18.30*

Total: $15
Or $33.30 if you include exepmted items.

*Item exepmt from NSA
Paul's TakeTold you so.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Diminishing Returns

The heat has taken its toll on my gardens.  The raised beds in front of the house are basically fried.  I had peas (luckily harvested before the heat), onions, turnips, green peppers and tomatoes planted there.  Those plants that survived the downpours and drenching of earlier this spring were only taken into the Summer with the record-breaking heat and drought.
I’ve been trying to keep the plants alive by watering every day, sometimes twice a day, but I feel that the raised beds are just beyond saving.  Even if I keep watering them, I don’t see getting more than a few dozen cherry tomatoes and a handful of woefully-small green peppers.  Not worth the time and water.
I’ll continue watering the butternut, yellow squash and zucchini, but I think I’m also going to let the cucumbers go without and die.  The last two cucumbers we ate were the most bitter I’ve ever tasted.   Paul cut some up yesterday and salted it.  Gave me one and I almost gagged.  I thought that maybe he had used a cutting board or knife with vinegar or something on it.  But it was just the cucumbers.  Not sure if it’s the heat or what, but I’m going out there in a while, picking one and taking a bite out of it.  If it’s bitter, I’m just letting them dry up or give them to the chickens for snacks.
I still have to water the fruit trees every day along with my three lonely blueberry bushes.  I also have about a dozen green bean plants in the “berry garden” that I started from seed the first week of July along with four eggplant and six tomato plants.  They will continue to be blessed with the garden hose, but only if I see continuing growth.
I haven’t quite made up my mind yet if I’m going to bother planting a “fall” garden.  I’ve never planted a garden other than in the spring, but since everything has been pretty much crap I figured I have to make up for it somehow.
There will be room in the raised beds once I rip out the half-dead tomatoes & peppers and there’s still some room in the berry garden.  But it’s still frekking hot (108.9 yesterday) with little hope of any meaningful moisture from the sky.  Not sure if it will just be another lesson in futility.
Any suggestions on what types of veggies to plant now?  We're in Zone 6B, although if you judged by the recent temperatures, I'd say Zone Hades.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Advance Apologies (Political Rant)

With the recent surge of suddenly-fiscally-concerned citizens out there, there have been more people searching for wasteful government spending.  Which isn’t a bad thing.  Several other bloggers have also been pointing out some of the more absurd tax-payer funded entitlement goodies.  One of them is the “Emergency” cell phone. 
I saw an ad for this several months ago at my Mom’s house and later looked it up online.  If you are special enough (i.e. are on disability, food stamps, HUD housing, etc.) you qualify for a free cell phone.  Because, you know there might be an emergency where you would need a cell phone.  Ok, I’ll sort of agree with that.  But get this; the plan includes TWO HUNDRED & FIFTY minutes of talk time.  What kind of emergency would require you to receive 250 minutes of cell phone time?

José Fuentes, TracFone's director of government relations (and brainchild of this program)  was quoted as saying, “A telephone service, just in general, is not a privilege, it's a right….”, and the government is more than happy to perpetuate that absurd idea.
You ticked?  I am.  But get this little piece of garbage on another “Free Emergency Cell Phone” page:
Copied directly from the Reach Out Mobile “About Us” page:
“The Universal Service Fund program is not a tax paid by U.S. taxpayers. The Universal Service Fund program is funded from contributions by telecommunications carriers collected in part from the Universal Service Charge applicable to all forms of interstate telecommunication services.”
Hmmm, not a “tax”?  Well, what would you call it then?  Look on your phone bill (cell or land line) and under Taxes, Fees and Surcharges there is a charge for the Universal Service Fund Surcharge.    So let me get this straight.  I didn’t ask for this USF “service” to be added to my bill, but I’m still paying it.  I don’t have a choice to opt out of this so-called service.  So as long as we call it a “Fee” or Surcharge”, it’s not a tax, hugh?
I’m convinced that this little blurb on their webpage is there for the sole purpose of washing their hands of any taxpayer-wrongdoing.  And I’m sure the government was all for this “disclosure”. 
But wait.  The USF was created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and they are a government entity.  So a government body is mandating that you pay for this funding.
Last time I checked, that would be considered a tax.
So, not only is our government saying everyone has a right to a cell phone, but they are denying, no – let me rephrase that - LYING, about the source of funding for it.  Namely, you and I.
Ok, I’m done with this Political Rant & I apologize for the interruption of your regularly scheduled Krazo Acres blog.  But I wanted to give you some information if some leftist wackjob tells you that he KNOWS it’s not taxpayer funded.