Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dark & Dreary Days Giveaway

Several of my blogging buddies have seemed to go through a non-blogging-funky-feeling-dreary kind of phase.  Not that I blame them.  These cold (hey, it's cold enough here for me....besides, it's all relative) and gray days do tend to make one a little depressed.

So in a feeble attempt to slap some silliness into my little blogging universe, I'd like to host a giveaway.  And not just any giveaway, but one that includes something educational and something yummy.

The "Educational" part of the Giveaway.
I have up for cyber-grabs two volumes of Mother Earth News on CD; The Second 10 Years 1980-1990 and The Third 10 Years 1990 - 2000.  I thought I had the first CD, but alas, it's been lost to the depths of my basement (and if I ever find it, I'll mail it to you, I promise!).  The date of manufacture says 2005, so I'm leaving it up to you to decide if it will work on your computer (I've copied the system requirements blurb just below).

For those of you who still have all the original M.E.N. magazines stuffed into cardboard boxes somewhere in your basement or garage, this is the perfect excuse to recycle those puppies!  Now you can have the digital version from 1980-2000 and not have to worry about moving the two-tons of boxes every time you move or clean out the basement.

Oh yeah.  And a huge honk'n bar of chocolate comes with it:
Cat in picture to show relative size of the huge honk'n chocolate bar.
Cat not included.  
So enter for the CD's and the chocolate.  Or just the chocolate and give the CD's to somebody else.  Or eat the chocolate bar while perusing through two decades of Mother Earth News on your computer.  Whatever floats your boat.

So, what does one have to do to enter this giveaway?  Well, in order to get our minds into warmer and greener happy-thoughts, tell me how many seed catalogs you've received already and which are your favorite seed companies.  Or, if you're not of the gardening persuasion, tell me how much you love cats (and if you don't love cats, just lie to me).  Post your entry in the comment section.

Ok, now for the Fine Print Stuff (FPS).  Being almost totally computer-illiterate, I have no idea what it means, but here's what the back of the CD's have this to say about System Requirements:

This CD is designed to run on PC and MAC platforms.  You will need one of the following setups to run the CD:

With an IBM-compatible computer; Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition or newer, with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5 or newer, or Netscape 7 or newer.  You will need Java Virtual Machine version 1.3 (free download from or newer browser plug-in with Java enabled on your browser and computer.

With an Apple computer: Mac OS X with Netscape X7.1 (available free from and Java (available free from

For Mac OS 9.2.2, this CD must be run in Netscape 7.0.2 with Apple MRJ 2.2.5 (Both available free from

A CD-ROM drive (auto-start should be enabled)

FPS for Hershey's Symphony, otherwise known as the "chocolate bar":

The winner of the Krazo Acres giveaway dated December 30th of 2012, shall indemnify and hold harmless Carolyn Renee, owner of Krazo Acres, her husband, daughter and any livestock (except the pecker-headed rooster) from and against all claims of weight gain, additional cellulite, acne or acts of violence from others laying claim to said chocolate bar.  I understand that this chocolate bar contains 950 calories (or two hours worth of speed walking on the treadmill) and take full responsibility for consumption of those calories, regardless of promises to exercise more or skip one or more meals in order to justify the extra intake of calories resulting from stuffing chocolate bar into my maw.

And, finally, FPS for the Giveaway itself:

Contest open to US and Canadian residents only.  Prize will be shipped via USPS whenever I get my bum to the post office.  If the postal employee at the counter or your local mail carrier figures out it's a chocolate bar and eats it, I will not be held responsible.  Same goes for family members or pets/livestock.

Entries must be made on the comment form of this post.  One entry per person.

Contest ends at 11:59 pm (or around there) on Sunday, January 6, 2013, and winner's name will be randomly drawn from a vessel containing the cyber-identities of entrants (all your names thrown into a bowl from my kitchen cupboard and picked out by my daughter) on or about "Morning Time" on Monday the 7th, or whenever daughter wakes up and feels like participating. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Drinking the Weeds - Plantain & Mullein

I've done several posts in the past about Eating The Weeds, so I figured my next series should be "Drinking" them.

Rhiannon had been sick over Thanksgiving week but still hasn't totally gotten over the the stuffy nose or occasional coughing at night.  Nothing horrible, but annoying for her and maddening for me (try getting a three year old to blow her nose).

I did some reading up on natural expectorants and found that I had two of the plants growing right outside my door; plantain and mullein.  It's really not the best time for gathering wild plants.  Even though we still do have greenery, most of the good bits have been nibbled away by the deer, wild birds or our chickens.  Even though I thought we had plenty of plantain, when I went out yesterday to gather some for tea I had a doozy of a time getting enough for just a pot of tea.  Mullein, on the other hand, we have plenty of.  Apparently nobody likes to eat mullein and the cold weather doesn't seem to bother them much.

Mullein on top, plantain below.
I brushed / washed off my small harvest and set a pot of water to boil.  Steeped the herbs in the pot, then strained the tea through a milk filter into a teapot.  Make sure you filter tea made with mullein as the tiny hairs can be an irritant to your throat.  

Paul, Rhiannon and I had the tea sweetened with honey. (And a cookie.  You can't have tea-time without a biscuit or cookie!)  As we've never had this tea before, of course I was a bit skeptical as to how well it would work, but within about fifteen minutes or less, my sinuses loosened up.  Then I asked Paul if he was feeling anything and he said that when he laid down for a moment, his nose was starting to run a bit.  So at least I know it wasn't just my imagination.

Rhiannon had two more half-cups of tea that afternoon / evening.  And last night she was definitely less stuffy and didn't wake up from coughing at all!  Part of me still wants to just say that she just eventually got over her stuffiness, but I can't help but thinking the tea had something to do with it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Barnkitty, version 2.0

There's been a black stray cat frequenting our homestead for about six months now.  And of course, as soon as I noticed him hanging around I started feeding him.  I just couldn't help it; the poor bugger was eating the chicken scratch that was left over in the bowls after the chickens were put up for the night.  How hungry would a cat have to be before it eats chicken scratch?!

I started putting out dry cat food by the chicken food at night and calling "Meow-meow-meow-kitty" like any good crazy-cat-lady would and eventually he would come trotting up for his supper.  My plan was to get him nearer and nearer the barn so he would take up residence there.  I've been having a horrible time keeping the mice population under control and thought a real barn cat would prove to be most beneficial.

One night about a month ago, I went out to close up the goats/chickens and feed Outdoor Kitty and he came hobbling up, meowing piteously.  Sometime during the last 24 hours he apparently hurt his front right leg and was now having to walk on three legs.  Man, I wanted to sob.  As I still couldn't get more than five feet from him, all I could do was look for any flesh wounds or obvious signs of broken bones, but didn't see anything, not even a patch of missing fur.  The next three nights I put out a live trap and a can of stinky cat food in the trap.  I figured eventually he wouldn't be able to resist the smelly/fishy can or get hungry enough and venture into the trap.  He never went for it, so I finally gave in and just put food out for him.  I was hoping to get him to the vet not only have his leg looked after but get him neutered and rabies shots administered.  But that never happened.  His leg / foot finally seemed to heal and he's getting around on all fours now with just a slight limp when he puts weight on the front paw.

The past several weeks I've been getting his food dish closer & closer to the barn.  This would have been worlds easier if Nettie didn't hate Outdoor Kitty.  She stomps her front feet and charges him if he comes into the goat pen.  He still goes in there, but has to give Nettie a wide berth.  Once he's underneath the barn he's fine and spends quite a lot of time under there.  For a week now I've been feeding him while Nettie is busy munching on fresh hay or is locked in the milk stand eating grain so was able to put his food in the barn and he'll come up and eat.  Oh.  And I've been putting fresh-from-the-goat milk in his dish, so now he meows whenever I go near the milk parlor, hoping he'll get a dish of warm milk.

I've been moving his dish from the front barn doors, to the front of the kidding pen door, to inside the kidding pen with the door half open.  Then three days ago, I put his food dish farther in the pen and closed the door behind him.  He wasn't happy, but at least he wasn't batshitcrazy like the last feral barnkitty I attempted to lock in the barn.  He tried to climb out, but I had days before secured all escape routes with chicken wire or boards.  I also put a litter box in there and a box with some old towels in the corner for him to sleep in.  He's been in there since then and I've been spending some time in the pen with him, just trying to reassure him that I'm really a nice person (even though I've basically locked him up in a 6' x 10' box).  He cowers into his box when I come in to feed him and meows that pathetic mooowwrrrrr for a bit, but then just sits and glares at me with those pumpkin-orange eyes.  I'm hoping he'll eventually come around and let me pet him.

My ultimate goal is to get him comfortable and friendly enough that I'll be able to open a small door for him to come and go as he pleases.  I'll keep his bed, litter box and food in the barn hoping he'll find those accommodations more pleasant than sleeping outside, especially given the cold winter temperatures.  And all I ask is that he snags a mouse or two while he's in the barn.

Who would have thought that getting a barn cat would be so difficult.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rebirth of the Sun....and Rebirth of a Cookie!

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice.  For you non-pagans or those of you not quite in tune with the astrological significance, it basically means that the earth is at the point in it's orbit around the sun that the amount of sunlight will be steadily increasing every day!

I know it's hard to celebrate the return of the light when we're just getting into the coldest part of the year, but I'll take whatever extra daylight hours I can get.  And yesterday I was supposed to celebrate the Solstice and supposed TEOTWAWKI by baking cookies.
I just LOVE grumpycat!!
And I got busy.  So didn't make them until this morning.  Sue me.

So instead of just showing you my cookies, I will now start a long and drawn out story about those cookies:

Long, long ago (1985 perhaps??) in a galaxy far, far away (Cook County, IL) there was a musical called Jesus Christ Superstar.  A few of the grades in our smallish school took a field trip to see said musical.  For whatever reason, the school did not use a bus to cart all the kids to the theater, but used parents as both chaperons and means of transporting the kids.  My Dad was one of those lucky chaperons so he crammed as many kids that would fit into his early 80's yellow yacht of a Cadillac and off we went.

I vaguely remember the musical.  What I do remember is this:

Right next door.....right STINKING NEXT DOOR to the theater was the Maurice Lenell outlet.  Not only that, but the outlet just so happened to have an actual bakery in it!!

So Dad, being my Dad and rather lackadaisical spur-of-the-moment at times, decided that instead of going right back to school we should take a little walk across the parking lot and he'd treat us to some cookies.  Although now that I think about it, he probably just wanted to buy some cheap broken cookies for himself and had no choice to but to drag his juvenile charges with him.

Anyways....somehow during our time perusing the boxes and crates and pallets of discount cookies, one of the employees took pity on my Dad and offered to give us all a little tour of the place.  We got to see the pinwheel cookies on the conveyor belts & everything!!  What fun!  Sorry Jesus Superstar, but your musical was trumped by the mass production of a cookie.

Dad finally got us back to school, probably an hour after everyone ELSE had.  And I'm pretty sure I recall Dad being ragged out by one of the Sisters or the Principal.  I'm also pretty sure Dad just shrugged them off.  And people wonder where I get my anti-establishment, anti-authority streak.

What the heck does all this have to do with cookies, let alone Resurrected Cookies?  Well, the Maurice Lenell store closed it's doors in 2008.  And I almost cried when I found out.  Technically, you can still buy the cookies, although they are made by another company that just bought the name and recipes.  I haven't had any of the "new" cookies.  So now, dear cookie lovers, I present to you my favorite......The Pinwheel:
Cookies for breakfast!
Although they tasted good, they didn't have the exact flavor I remember.  But I suppose we'll just have to buckle down and suffer through these :)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cookies of Doom!!

As many of you may already know, tomorrow is supposed to be the End of The World (dun, dun, dun, DUNNNNNN!!!!)

Well, that's what some people claim the Mayan calender says.  Others think that it's just a time of spiritual transformation for humans or some sort of change in the Earth (mass extinctions, plague of locusts, Democrats believing in personal responsibility).

Me?  I just think it's the Winter Solstice.  But who am I to pass up an opportunity to bake some cookies?  Cookies?  Apocalypse?  Hugh?  How does all this add up (as if any of my posts actually make much sense).

Lamb over at Frippery Farm had a grand idea.  Basically, that we should all give TEOTWAWKI a big middle finger salute and bake come cookies!!  Click HERE to see her post.

So tomorrow, instead of cowering in my bunker and sitting on pallets of MRE's, I'll be celebrating The End (or the beginning??  think about that for a while) by making some cookies.

Come & join us, won't you?

It's time to update your wardrobe....

....when your teapot is better dressed than you are:

I received this teapot cozy from a dear friend.  Aren't those the most beautiful colors?  And although I at first wondered about the actual functionality of the cozy, I was convinced that it was both form and function as when I went to grasp the handle, it was hot!  Normally the handle is just lukewarm, so the cozy obviously is doing it's job.

Feeling a bit grubby and lazy in my sweatpants and probably-should-be-made-into-rags sweatshirt, I decided to put on a pair of jeans without poop or mud on a nice pair of jeans and a newer fuzzy sweater.

Since I live on a farm, I tend to neglect my appearance and wardrobe.  The only two humans that see me on a daily basis are Rhiannon and Paul.  Rhiannon thinks just putting her pants on in the morning is more than adequate and unless I'm wearing a SpongeBob or dinosaur shirt she could care less what I wore.  And Paul is away from the house ten hours of the day so what's the point of getting spiffied up?  Even though I may not be leaving the homestead, I should really make sure I'm not dressing like one of those Wal-Mart crazies.  On more than one occasion I've been surprised by either the delivery man or a "turn-around" while outside tending to the my pajamas or sweatpants/shirt and lacking a certain upper body support system.

So I think that one of my New Year's Resolutions will be to be more presentable.  It's not like I have to go out and buy clothes, I just have to take a few minutes and dig through my closet.  Hopefully I'll be able to fit in those old pants.

If you're having trouble fitting into your "skinny pants", consider coming over to Twinkies and Treadmills.  There are already several of us over there providing encouragement and entertainment, so if you'd like to join us, just let me know!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Animal Meet n' Greet

I'm always tickled when I see pictures of all your animals (especially the kitties!!) so I'm at a loss as to why I don't post more pictures of my critters.  So for your viewing pleasure, I'd like to introduce you to our "house" animals....

Here is Evil Kitty, pretending to be evil:

The more sophisticated Susan:

Old lady kitty Crackers:

Moonshine the Wonder Mutt:

And our newest addition, the Laziest Puppy Ever, Charlie:

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!  I'll try to get the livestock in a photogenic mood tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2012

More Fast Food

Rhiannon loves hamburgers.  L.O.V.E.S. them.  Ask her what she wants to have for breakfast/lunch/dinner/supper and she'll say "hamgerber" or chicken.

I am not so high and mighty of a healthy-food-freak that I haven't done my share of feasting at the local burger joint.  But seven-dollar burgers at the sit-down restaurant in town or even the crappy dollar menu burgers at the fast food joint just aren't going to happen all that often.

I had a weak moment at the grocery store last week and bought a package of pre-formed, frozen hamburger patties.  Normally I like to make our own using local burger, but I'm always forgetting to take it out of the freezer to defrost and this time there was NO time for defrosting.  I had a hungry kidd'o at home and she wanted burgers!

So I cooked up all twelve burgers, fed the hamburger-craving toddler and then individually wrapped the remaining cooked patties and stuck them in the freezer.  The last time I baked homemade buns I had extra so put them in the freezer.

Now when Rhiannon wants a hamburger it takes me less than five minutes to pull out the frozen burgers & rolls, pop them in the microwave, assemble as directed by toddler, then place it in front of her gaping maw:

So far I've been successful with the burgers, pancakes and kid-sized pizzas.  I'm always looking for freezer-fast-food ideas for Rhiannon.  Anyone have any good ones they'd like to share?

Friday, December 14, 2012

On the 14th Day of Christmas....

My True Love gave to me...
Fourteen Bales of Hay!!

I don't know if I've been too generous with the hay lately or if the bales were lighter or smaller, but what I though was going to be just enough to get us through to Spring's first cutting was beginning to look not quite adequate.

Round bales of a bermuda mix are going for $60 a bale here.  So when Paul mentioned that a guy at work found a place that was selling good looking rounds for $30, I asked him to make the trip.  He had to take the day off work and the drive & loading took him the entire day as it was a 370 mile round trip.  Add approximately $100 in fuel costs and the bales ended up costing less than $38 each.

We're now set for hay until next summer, maybe even fall!

Unless I get a cow.

Paul got a puppy, I don't see why I shouldn't get a cow.

Update:  Speaking of cows, you've GOT to watch this video clip over at The Stockpot!!!  Just make sure you don't have to go to the bathroom or are drinking coffee / tea.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Three R's

No, not the academic R's, but the ecological R's.

Reduce.  Reuse.  Recycle.

We all know it.  A lot of us practice it.  But I have a confession to make.  Although I do try to reduce what items we buy, and reuse those items.....I am a complete failure at recycling.  (Admittedly, I'm still afraid that Susan will un-friend me after reading this.)

With the exception of aluminum cans, we don't recycle tin, glass or plastic.  Not because I don't want to, but because there aren't a lot of recycling options available to us here.  A new company popped up about a year ago that would come get your recyclables for you, but you had to pay for it in addition to our weekly garbage pick-up.  So that wasn't going to happen.

There is a scrap yard just out of town and they will take steel cans along with the aluminum, but the place is so messy that Paul refuses to take any of our vehicles in there as to avoid coming home with a flat tire.  There is also a county-run recycling center, but they weren't taking steel cans nor glass.  Basically all they took was plastic bottles and paper products.

But recently, there have been two significant changes in our waste disposal routine: The recycling center now takes tin and glass and our regular garbage company has gone out of business.  When I called around to the other waste disposal companies to continue our trash service, the price had doubled from what we were paying.  This was the perfect opportunity to start our "mandatory" recycling program here at home!

I've designated four garbage cans for recyclables; plastic, glass, steel and aluminum.  Paper/cardboard will be kept here (hopefully in neat bundles) until we do some burning brush or leaf burning.  We already have two kitchen scrap bins; one for composting, one for the chickens.  So now, the only thing that should be going into the trash bag is miscellaneous plastic wrapping and packaging.  In the last two weeks, we have generated two garbage bags (13 gallon, I think) of non-recyclable trash.  Now we have to decide what we're going to do with that.  We live in the country so burn barrels are a common sight around here and I suppose we could burn the garbage, although I'm not really fond of all that black smoke & air pollutants.  But I do often wonder which is worse for the ecology; burning the trash or burying the trash?  I'm still undecided on that.  But for now we'll just put those bags in a larger, secure trash bin and take it out to the local dump and pay per haul.

Oh wait.  Do I hear some scratch-scratch-scratching in the background?  Yeah.  I have cats.  And I have not yet trained them to use the toilet (although I really am enthralled with the idea of teaching them that trick).  So now I've got a 5-gallon plastic bucket with a snapping lid that I'm putting the litter into.  Paul is going to use the tractor to dig me a hole down in the back forty and I'll just dump the litter there and cover it up.

Whew!  I'm glad that's off my chest!  We're now on our way to a more sustainable, earth-friendly, pocket-book friendly means of disposing of our trash.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pea Killer and Ice Chipper

After seeing that something ate half my pea plants, chomped down on the beet tops and pulled most of the teeny-tiny carrots out of the soil, I decided to say flip-it and didn't bother covering up the raised beds.  It got down to the twenties on Sunday night and sixteen degrees last night, so there were no survivors. Not that there was much in there, but I was hoping to get something edible out of that bed.

I'm wondering if I should bother trying to grow something in the hoop houses again.  The weather has been pretty wonky lately.  There were several close-to-80 degree days last week which made me want to start tilling up soil and tossing in seeds, but then the forecast plummeted down to well-below-freezing and I knew that the thin sheet of plastic covering my raised beds wouldn't be able to protect the new seedlings.

I also had to scoop ice crystals out of the water buckets yesterday morning for the first time.  And this morning I had to actually chop a 1" thick layer of ice out and haul hot water to the goats & chickens.  I hate The Days of Ice Chipping.  I'm contemplating putting a heated water bucket outside.....but that means I'd have to find it first.  I broke down and bought one last winter and of course, the temperature never really got down low enough for ice to accumulate in the water buckets more than a half-dozen times.  And for whatever reason, the goats were insistent on continually dumping the stupid bucket over.  That and the fact that they like to play with the cord doesn't bode well for the heated bucket this year.   Ungrateful buggers.

Since the wood stove is going to be cranked all day today (only supposed to get to 44 today), I may as well start thinking about supper.  Maybe some soup or stew or chili.  Hmmmm......decisions, decisions.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Three weeks ago

Paul:  So, you ready for another puppy?
Me:  No.

Two & a half weeks ago 

Paul:  How'd you like to have another puppy?
Me:  No.

Two weeks ago

Paul:  There's a guy with English Mastiff puppies at work.
Me:  No.

One week ago

Paul:  You know, Aaron at work got a puppy from this guy from the last litter.
Me:  Don't care.

Several days ago

Paul:  Do you want to see the puppies?  We can go right after work.
Me:  Ugh.  Ok.

A couple of days ago

Paul:  The guy sold the last puppy so we won't be going over there.
Me:  Good.

Friday afternoon

Paul:  The person that was supposed to buy the puppy wrote a bad check, so he's available again.
Me:  Heavy sighing.

Friday night:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Dog with Two Mommies

Wallace still visits us every so often and he's been looking pretty fine.  His coat is much smoother and fuller and he has put on a few needed pounds.  (You can read about Wallace here and here.)

He had come to visit Thursday night.  It was such a nice night out I left Moonshine outside with him and they cozied up to each other on the front porch.  He was still here on Friday morning and he followed me around while I did barn chores.  Although I haven't seen him actually attack a chicken, if one of them just so happens to run in front of him, he'll give chase and I have to yell at him.  He also freaks the goats out, although I really don't fear for their lives as I think Nettie would give him a good what-for.

But it still concerns me that he's more than happy to chase the chicken.  I've also befriended an outdoor cat and I'm a bit concerned for him as I'm sure Wallace would be more than happy to chase him down.  And having the goats get freaked out every time he comes by isn't very good either.

So I finally got the number of the rabies tag he had on and the Vet's office that did the shots.  I called the office and explained that I needed to get a hold of the owner of Wallace.  I explained that although he was a very, very nice dog, he was starting to take a liking to our livestock.  I also threw in that a responsible pet owner shouldn't let their animal roam free at will, which seems to be the case as he visits us quite often.  They wouldn't give me the owner's name (which I suppose I don't blame them) but confirmed they knew the animal and would get a hold of the owner asap.

About a half hour later I got a call from the owner.  She said that she lived about two miles down the road and would come get him as soon as she could get out of town (where she was when she got the call from the vet's office).  I told her no hurry, that he'd probably still be here, lounging on the porch.
When she got here, Wallace was happy to see her and jumped right into her SUV.  She was very apologetic, said that they adopted Gunner (their name for him) in July, but that he still got out of the fence and would roam.  We swapped phone numbers and I got directions to her home so I could take Wallace/Gunner home if she wasn't able to get here before I needed him gone.  

I knew the house she was talking about.  Just so happens it's the home of one of the Veterinarians with a practice in town.  (No wonder the receptionist didn't want to give out the name of the owner; I just complained about irresponsible dog owners and it turns out it was their boss's dog!!)  Wallace was brought to their office in July by the Sheriff's department because he had wandered into the local Wal-Mart.  Not the parking lot, but IN the Wal-Mart.  So the vet's wife finally adopted him, had him fixed and cleaned up and brought to their house.

I'm glad to finally know Wallace's, I mean, Gunner's story.  And I'm sure we'll be seeing him again.  But the next time he comes for a visit, he'll be greeted not only by Moonshine, but by this little guy:

To be continued.......

(How's that for a cliffhanger?)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I don't get it

Ok, I've heard that people have been selling Twinkies on ebay for insane amounts of money, but I've not actually checked up on it.  Because, well, I've got better things to do online that check the current "spot" price for silver, er, I mean, Twinkies.

Then just a few minutes ago, I saw a listing for Zingers on one of the local yard sale pages online. With an expiration date of 12/8/12.  For fifteen bucks.  For one box.  Now I'm curious to see what Twinkies are going for.  Is the scientific community buying them to be kept in a cryo-freezer in order to keep the Twinkie & Zinger DNA intact for all of humanity?  Are people just trying to get their last fix of crappy Hostess products?  Or is it like the Beanie Baby rage of years gone by?

And to think I could have stocked up on sub-par, commercially & mass-produced baked goods, then sold them to some dippy person on ebay for fifteen bucks a box (plus shipping, of course).  I could have made a million dollars had I been more savvy to these Globally Important trends!

Am I missing something here?

No.  Really.  What the hell am I missing?

Maybe I'm just too out of it.  Or maybe I just don't care what's going on out in "The World".  Just last night I asked Paul exactly what this "Fiscal Cliff" was.  He told me to forget about it.  That it was just more political BS and that the country was still going to hell in a hand basket whether or not I knew about this cliff thing or not.

But you know what I DO care about?  Our family.  Our homestead.  Our finances.  And right now, the main thing I'm concerned about keeping up to date on is the flipping critter(s) that have almost totally destroyed the carrots, beets & peas in my raised beds last night.  Once I find out what creature did it, I'm going to bludgeon it to death with a frozen Twinkie, hike it down to the hill and toss it's lifeless carcass off our little Cliff.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time of Diminishing Returns

Aaahhhhhh, the fond memories of our first batch of chickens.  And our first eggs.

Then our second and third batches (thanks to the bobcats, coyotes and hawks) of store-bought chicks.  Then our own foray into backyard chicken egg incubating.  Lots of eggs and lots of rooster soup.

But at one point (about a week ago, actually) something occurred to me.  I've been shoveling out the chicken feed at an alarming rate.  And the chicken-scrap bucket on the kitchen counter, which used to provide a nice portion of the chicken-food rations, was no longer sufficient to keep the chickens happy.  Because as soon as I dumped the scrap bucket into their bowl, I felt like that woman trapped in the phone booth in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds"............or kind'a like this:

There are no fewer than thirty-seven chickens at Krazo Acres.  Twenty laying-age hens, four roosters and thirteen (or so) younger homegrown chicks of not-yet-determined sex.  And I'm only getting four or five eggs a day.

I know that the egg laying slows down during the winter months and I also have a handful of hens molting now, not to mention the younger birds.  But there's just something not right with having that many chickens and getting less than a half-dozen eggs a day.

But in a few months when the younger hens start laying and the older hens up their production I'll probably be complaining about having too many eggs.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Watering dirt and dead things

Even though it's no longer suicidal squirrel weather, we're technically still in a drought.  So once a week I've been lugging the garden hose out to the fruit trees.

I'm sure that I've mentioned before that my most un-favorite gardening chore is watering.  I prefer weeding to watering.  So you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm at having to water a bunch of "dead"  (i.e. leafless) fruit trees.

Since I had the mile and a half of hose out anyhow, I figured I may as well water the dirt.  Yes, there are dormant tulip, lily and iris bulbs underneath that dirt, but the more primitive part of my brain still can't get over why I'm wasting time watering dirt.  I then walked over to the garden to water a bunch of chicken and goat crap; the compost heap.

I did end my hose-dragging trip across the county by watering the carrots/peas/beets in the raised hoop house bed though.
By the looks of the weeds, you'd think that weeding, not watering,
was my least favorite gardening chore.
At least I got to water something green and alive.  I keep meaning to rip out the freeze-killed tomato plants in the other raised bed and plant something, but I haven't got around to that yet; it looks pathetic.  The plastic cover on the other bed has kept the vegetable plants from freezing, but they've only had to deal with a handful of days in the low 30's or upper 20's at night and they are still looking well.  The past few days have been in the upper 60's and today and tomorrow we're supposed to be flirting with 75 degrees so I'm taking the plastic off and letting them get some fresh air.

Question for my gardening friends:  I know that the root crops and lettuce don't need a pollinator to yield, but what about my peas?  I didn't even think of it until I started covering them up at night.  They are doing pretty well, but there are no flowers on them.  And even if there were flowers on them, there isn't much of anything buzzing around now to pollinate them.  Will they even bother growing flowers?  And if they do, will I have to hand-pollinate them to get peas?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tick tock

Once again, I can wander into the front yard without being overwhelmed by the noxious smell of goat piss.  It's only been two days since Pan left the homestead (again) and I am already enjoying the one less bastardofagoat goat chore I have to do.

It's not like it took that much time.  Walk over to this pen, dump some fresh hay in the corner, a small scoop of grain and top off the water bucket every few days.  But my daily barn chore burden has been lightened, if even ever so slightly.  And then I think to myself, Myself, if not having to care for this one animal feels so good, how wonderful would it feel if there were NO animals to take care of?

What would I do with all that extra time during the day?  Well, besides blog (which I really should do a lot less of anyhow).  I mean, think of all the possibilities.  I'd say that routine barn chores take up about ninety minutes a day.  That's over ten hours a week, forty-two hours a month or twenty-two days a year that I've spent doing animal chores.  There are a million things that need to be done to the house.  There are a thousand books that I still want to read and hundreds more I want to read to Rhiannon.  There are new garden beds to plan & dig, hoop houses & high tunnels to construct.

But I know exactly what would end up happening with that time.  I'd just fill it with some other "chore" and still be in the same situation I am in now.  The bathroom would still need the closet put in, the floors would still be unfinished, the outdoor kitchen still in the planning stage.  I'd still have Moby Dick sitting in my nightstand with the bookmark on page 24 (where it's been for the past two years).  That afghan that I was supposed to finish for my sister's best friend son (who is now 3 1/2 years old and has a baby sister) would still be rolled up in the closet, half finished.  And all the garlic that I bought and planned on putting in the ground a month ago will have been pilfered to be used in scrambled eggs or an alfredo sauce.

Exactly where am I going with this post?  I don't know.  I guess that I'm always complaining that there is not enough time in the day/week/month/year to do things, but there is plenty of time.  If it is that important, then I will make that time for myself and that project.  Notice I say this as I'm blogging away.  But technically, I really wouldn't be doing much more than sleeping as it's three thirty in the morning anyhow and it's not like I could start hammering away at the floor or dig up sod to make room for a garden bed.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
It's time to whip my slothness (and rear end) into shape.  My idle hands may not exactly be working for Satan, but they sure could be used to do something more constructive with the time I choose to give them.

"Time is a created thing.  To say 'I don't have time' is like saying, 'I don't want to." - Lao Tzu

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Milk anxiety

Both Annette and Nettie have been bred this Fall; we should have kids on February 28th and March 19th.  I wasn't able to procure a Saanen stud for Nettie so I had Pan breed her again.  Which I guess is ok as it's the last set of kids I'll get from him because just ten minutes ago I sold him for two bags of grain.  Seirously, I traded his bastardstinkyass for two fifty pound bags of cracked corn.  And I'm thrilled.

Anyways......I normally give the pregnant does a three month break from milking so it's about time I started drying Annette up and Nettie will follow a few weeks later.  And in anticipation of losing my supply of goat milk, I made a batch of granola.  I start thinking about how much I'm going to miss the fresh milk and then have sudden cravings for anything with milk in it.  Normally, cold weather would make me want to have a hot bowl of oatmeal or grits for breakfast, but I want to get in all the milk-filled breakfasts I can before the girls are dried up.

Speaking of goat pregnancies, when I first got Lily (the Boer doeling) I was afraid that she was pregnant.  Being as she wasn't even six months old, I chose to terminate her potential pregnancy using lutalyse.  If she was early along in her pregnancy, her body would reabsorb the fetus.  If she was farther along, she would go into labor and deliver a premature kid.  And if she wasn't pregnant in the first place, she would just go into heat.  I watched her closely for an entire week and didn't notice any blood, signs of labor, aborted kids or even signs of heat.  So maybe I was lucky and she wasn't even pregnant to begin with.  But I'm glad I gave her the lute anyhow otherwise I'd be going crazy wondering if she was going to kid at such a young age and have problems.  Technically, she could still be pregnant as lute isn't 100% effective, but she doesn't look like she's any bigger in the belly than when I first got her.  Still crossing my fingers though and still trying to catch her in heat so I can start tracking it.

Pickles has gone through several heat cycles already, her first one was when she was only three months old and one just a few days ago.  I don't plan on having her or Lily bred until spring, but I've never had year-round breeders so I want to keep good records for reference.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Help is on the way

If you didn't hear my pathetic cries for help last week, feel free to read them here so I may continue my pitiful electronic tale of woe via the infinite time/space/blog warp.

But I do have some good news.  I've started a little blog for those of us who need a place to whine, complain, cry, scream or just admit to someone out there that we've just finished an entire XL sized Hershey Symphony chocolate bar and the metal button on our jeans have made a permanent impression on our midsection.

This is going to be an "Invite Only" blog though.  Not that I'd purposely keep someone out that needs a helping hand.   But it's my blog and I can do whatever I want.  So there.

And it's just not for us Muffintops.  If you've been there / done that and can lend us some encouragement or exercising / dieting tips, feel fee to come along for the ride.  Unless you're really skinny and can eat an entire box of Girl Scout Cookies and not gain any weight all while saying "I'm soooo fat".  Then I'll let you join, but we'll just make faces at you when you're not looking.

If you are really nuts still think this is a good idea, please email me at carolynrenee at centurytel dot net.  You will then be subjected to a background check and employment verification as well as having to submit your high school SAT scores and provide a note from your mom that you do indeed floss.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Unintentional Autopsy

There's been a black hen in our flock that has been pretty mopey for the last six months or more.  I know she wasn't laying for like ever and she was heavy in the abdomen so I figured I had yet another egg-bound hen.  But she'd have her good weeks and her bad days so I didn't put her down, although I probably should have.

The past week she'd been having trouble jumping up into the chicken coop at night so she's been roosting underneath the barn.  I'd pick her up and stuff her in a nesting box for the night because she couldn't keep herself upright on the perches.  Then a few nights ago I couldn't find her so figured she just either hunkered down someplace new or just keeled over.

I found her the next morning in the ditch next to the chicken coop.  Dead.  With her head and leg missing and her abdomen opened up.  Not sure if something killed her or some critter just took advantage of the carcass.  But regardless, I had an opportunity to verify my diagnosis of her being egg-bound and I didn't even have to open her up myself.

I didn't take a picture of it because 1) it was pretty gross 2) my camera batteries were dead and 3) there are plenty of pictures on the internet and you can click here for a picture if you really want to see what the softball-sized mass looks like when pulled out of the hen (just make sure you've already finished eating breakfast).

There have been three (four?) egg-bound hens here now in about two years time and after seeing what her insides looked like, I think I'd be quicker to put one down the next time I suspect a problem.  I know that there are ways you can try to release the egg if you catch the problem right away, and I have done my own exploratory stint with one of them which proved to be more difficult than I had hoped and neither I nor the hen could look each other in the eye afterwards.  But I've also read that some hens are pre-disposed to being egg-bound and that it is a continuing problem.  I don't particularly want to be giving chicken-enemas, soaking chicken behinds in warm water or end up donning rubber gloves again with a bottle of KY Jelly nearby.  And if it's hereditary, I don't need to be hatching any of that hen's eggs anyhow.

The next step would be to look up the possible causes of hens becoming egg-bound and see if there is something I can do to lessen the chances of this happening again.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blanket for the Berries

There have been several of my blogging buddies that have posted about having to put their strawberry plants to bed for the winter.  This was our first year raising them so I'm a bit behind not only in the learning curve, but the tucking-in of our berries.  Which I only did because everyone else was doing it.

I quickly looked up wintering strawberries on the internet and one place said not to mulch until there were several hard freezes and after the plants went dormant.  Well, my plants were still nice & green, but we've had temps in the lower 30's for a solid week so I figured I may as well do it now before it got pushed all the way down on the get-to-it list.

So, what to mulch with?  Pine needles?  I wish.  We don't have a single pine tree on our property nor any nearby which I might rake up fallen needles from.  Straw?  Sorry, but I'm not paying six bucks a bale for straw.  Wasted hay?  No way!  I used wasted hay in the berry garden one year and I was pulling grass weeds throughout the entire growing season.  Didn't quite think that one through.  

So I look around and used what I have a ton of right now:

Leaves!  Tons and tons of leaves.  I didn't even have to walk more than fifteen feet from the garden to rake up enough to cover the beds.  I probably should have sucked them up with the leaf blower/chipper as to create a finer leaf-mulch but it was getting dark and I was running out of time.

So my first strawberry bed is finally tucked in for the winter.  

And now I've got mulch on the brain.  Since I've got to do something with all these stinking leaves around the house, I think I will I'll have Paul pull the leaf blower/chipper out of the shed so I can put a nice layer of mulched leaves in the gardens.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hillbilly Pat-hay

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  And if you're brave/crazy/brainwashed enough to brave the Black Friday insanity.......well, you're on your own!  :)

We finally finished butchering the Creepy Meats last week and I had twelve chicken livers sitting in the fridge.  Normally I bread and fry those suckers right up for a post-butchering lunch, but this time I wanted to try something different.

I believe it was Ohio Farm Girl who did a post on chicken liver pate` and since I love nothing more than a gout-inducing and artery-clogging snack, I figured I'd try my hand at it.  I looked up several recipes and here's my mish-mosh version of several of them:

1/2 lb. chicken livers
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
4 Tbsp. butter @ room temperature
Salt & Pepper to taste

Put all (except butter) into a small pot and simmer, covered, for about seven minutes.  Remove from heat, keep cover on & let sit another five minutes.  Drain liquid, remove bay leaf & put all into blender or food processor.  Chop it up until sort'a fine, then add the butter, 1 Tbsp. at a time while the blender is on.  Add a crank or two of pepper and a pinch more of salt.   Keep blending until it's nice and smooth.

Scoop all that liver/butter goodness out of the blender/food processor and transfer it into a pate` terrine or ramekin.  Neither of which I have.  So I used an old glass leftover container.  I almost used some hillbilly tupperware (i.e.old sour cream tub), but I figured I'd try to be a little bit fancy.

Anyhow, once you have the pate` in your chosen vessel, stick it in the fridge for at least four hours so it thoroughly chills.  The serve it over little fancy crackers.  Or in my case, plain ol' saltines.

The above recipe only has 4 tablespoons of butter in it.  I've seen recipes that call for as much as a stick & a half of butter for a half-pound of livers.  But since I'm trying to watch my weight (HA! And you wonder why I asked for help.), I thought I'd try with the least amount of butter.

The pate` was very good, but quite strong on the taste buds.  If I made it for company, I think I'd up the butter content to a half-stick (8 Tbsp.) and use only one clove of garlic in order to make it a bit milder on the palate.  I'm not sure how it measures up to "real" pate` as I haven't had any for probably close to ten years.

It was very easy recipe and I'll be making this again.  Maybe as a side dish with fried chicken livers.  But I'll have to wait until all the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten.  Which may be several weeks given the way the fridge is packed to not being able to close the door.  My little pate` dish wouldn't even fit in there now.

Paul's Take
Tastes like liver sausage.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Need some help, please

Ok, I'll admit that the holidays are no time to start a diet.  But I'm desperate.  Things like this have been happening to me lately:

I can't tie my shoes with my jeans on without stopping to gasp for air.
My "fat" jeans are now my "Did somebody put these things in the dryer for an hour or what???" jeans.
The drawers full of fuzzy, fluffy winter sweaters are starting to look like spandex on me.
I wish I had a muffin top.  I've got something akin to a meatloaf top now.
My tightwad self refused to buy clothes in a larger size.  So if I don't trim up some of this excess largeness, I will be wearing Paul's clothes or draping bed linens across my body like a toga.

I'm too cheap to join Weight Watchers.  And I doubt they even have a group out here anyhow.  Even if they did, I don't know if I'd be able to get into town often enough.

I don't want to do Atkins or South Beach or anything that entails me not eating "normal" food.  Although I have to admit that Atkins sounds very tempting as I could probably eat nothing but bacon and peanut butter the entire time.

I know what I have to do.  I have to eat less and exercise more.  It's a no-brainer.  But I honestly think I need somebody here with me 24/7 carrying a baseball bat so they can whack me upside the head every time I eat a cookie or slather on half a stick of butter on my toast.
But since Paul probably wouldn't approve of someone walking around our home with a blunt weapon just to make sure I comply with my self-imposed food reduction scheme, I'm going to have to think of something else.

I need some help from someone else who may want to drop a few pounds or get in better shape over the holidays (and beyond).  I can't wait until after the New Year.  I need to start now.  I need someone who I can be accountable to for my weight, my exercising and my baked-goods addiction.  Sorry Christine, you don't count.  I know I could email you a food journal and all that jazz, but honestly, you're just as pathetic as I am when it comes to sweets so we'll just end up eating fun sized snickers together and complaining about it.

So, would anyone like to help / join me?  Pretty please?  With chocolate on top?  (Yes, I'm that pathetic).  I promise I won't blog about our trials and tribulations!!  Just you, me (and maybe you & you & you) and the Feds who read my emails thinking I'm a terrorist.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My First

I think MamaPea and MamaTea may have jinxed me by talking about the apparent blogging apathy that has seemed to spread around the online community lately.  I had to practically force myself to start writing again even though I had at least two rants brewing and several mentionable things have happened around the homestead.

Although in my defense, I have been busy.  We had the entire family (well, my side anyhow) down here for an early Thanksgiving.  Paul's family is coming down in a few days.  Rhiannon has been sick.  Butchered Creepy Meats.  Wrestled with Pan (yes, he's still alive.....for now).  And I shot my first deer.

Yes dear readers, I'm thirty-eight years old and this was my first deer.  I can't recall how many animals I've slaughtered, skinned, plucked, eviscerated, butchered and cooked, but I've never actually shot a deer.  It didn't even occur to me until about a year or so ago.  It just seems like I've always been involved in the deer processing so I didn't give it a second thought.  And honestly, I don't get all crazy excited about hunting anyhow.  The "thrill" of the hunt isn't really all that thrilling to me.  It usually just means having to bundle up to the 'nth degree, sitting on your butt until it's numb or having ticks crawl all over you.  I vividly recall my ex-boyfriend and his brother going duck & goose hunting.  All the calls, specialty (i.e. expensive) clothing, boots, hats, gloves, "dirt" smelling soap, blinds and what seemed like a million decoys.  I think he even had one of those huge goose decoys that you could lay down in.
I don't care how serious a hunter you are, if I saw you in one of those things
I wouldn't be able to keep myself from breaking out in hysterical laughter.
I couldn't get over how much stuff one needed to go hunting.  And just to bring back a swampy-smelling duck or a goose that was tougher than leather.

Anyways, back to me and my deer.  When Paul bought his hunting/fishing license this year, I went ahead and got one too.  Between all the different seasons (archery, muzzle loader, modern gun) we have eight deer tags between us.  Paul got a buck on the first day of muzzle loader season and I figured it was now my turn to put some wild game (other than squirrel) on the table.  Just before dusk, I shot a doe.  And I won't make up some exciting story of how my first deer hunting experience was.  As a matter of fact, here's pretty much how it went......

Paul: Hey honey, you want to shoot a deer?

Me:  Hugh?  (I think I was at the computer and not really listening to him)

Paul: The deer are going through.  (Just before dark they go through our back yard to where the larger oaks/acorns are in the woods)

Me: Uh, sure.

I got up, grabbed the rifle off the gun rack, opened the back door, sighted one in and shot it.  No camouflage clothing, no dirt-smelling soaps.  I think I had a Chicago Bears sweatshirt and sweatpants on.  I apologize to those that think hunting should be more of a challenge.  But I just want good, healthy meat in my pantry and freezer.  I'm not one to wait for that monster buck.  I could care less if it had twenty points.  Actually, I think I'd be more apt to let a 20-pointer live just because.  Trophies don't really do it for me.  I personally think it would be more of a challenge to get some really good photographs of wildlife than it would be to put a bullet through their internal organs.  If it makes you feel any better, both Paul and I did go out and do some "real" hunting a few weeks ago.  And saw nothing.  Actually, we saw squirrels and blue jays and it was nice to be out in the woods early enough to see and hear the wilderness waking up.  But we didn't see any deer.  And we were back in the house within two hours.  Because my butt was numb.

Anyhow.  After I shot the doe, she naturally bolted into the woods, but didn't make it far.  Paul asked me if I wanted to go after her or if I wanted him to.  Heck.  Since he offered who was I to say no?

I told Paul to take Moonshine out with him just in case he needed help tracking the doe and then I asked Joe (my BIL) to go out after both of them since he was here anyhow.  I made a good shot and she didn't run far.  The boys claim that while they were dragging the deer up out of the woods they looked back and moonshine was on top of the deer, riding it like a surfboard!  I would have paid good money to have seen that!  But seeing as she's a fifty pound sack of flabby beagle, they put an end to her free ride it in order to lighten the load.

They strung up the carcass in the garage and I got to work on butchering and they got to work on a buzz.
First Blood, part One.
(This one's for you, Donna)
It was in the thirties that night so after cutting out the tenderloins and back straps, I let the rest of it hang.  We all (except for Christine, of course) had tenderloin medallions sauteed in butter with garlic and onions that night.

The next morning I finished cutting everything up, put the ribs and shoulders in the oven to slow cook, ground up meat for us, ground up meat for the critters, then canned the ground and stew meat.  I got five quarts of stew meat and one quart of ground processed.  I've never canned ground meat so I'm anxious to find out how it tastes.  My goal was to can almost everything from this deer.  The shoulders were picked apart and I'm now in the process of looking up a recipe to see if I'm able to can the pulled meat together with a BBQ sauce for a really quick meal.  The back straps are still in the fridge and if we don't finish them in the next few days I'll chunk them up and can them as well.

So that's my first deer hunting story.  Not very exciting, hugh?  Well, except for Moonshine hanging ten off the carcass of a deer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chilly Dogs

This morning I have a dog walking job.  But in order to drive over to my canine charges, I had to bring out the big guns:

Yes, that's an ice scraper.  And yes, I'm still in my PJ's and sitting as close to the wood stove as my laptop will allow.

Paul was kind enough to grab me a scraper on his way out the door for work this morning.  Otherwise I'd be pulling out the ol' credit card and using that to scrape off the car windows.  Don't tell me you've never done that.

When we first moved here, I had visions of never needing an ice scraper or snow shovel or one of those long, telescoping snow brushes that we required to get the snow off the big trucks.  My Mom actually threw her snow shovel out when she moved down here.

She had to go buy a new one.

Anyways, it seems as if Fall is already in it's final days and Winter is just creeping up on us.  Sunday night I had to cover my remaining tomato plants and the peas, carrots & beets because it was supposed to get in the lower 30's at night.  Which it apparently did as when I went into the yard Monday morning, the plastic had blown off the tomato bed and they were hit with a freeze.   Not really bad enough to kill them all, but enough to make me realize that it's probably time to give up on them.  So I picked the remaining five or so pounds of green tomatoes and brought them in to ripen up.    And I may as well leave the covers on the other raised bed as the next four nights are supposed to be just below freezing and daytime highs only in the upper 50's.  I can't say that I miss this Summer's intense weather, but I'm not really looking forward to winter.  I absolutely hate chipping ice out of the animal water buckets.  Not only that, but the little diva goats won't drink really cold water so I bring out fresh, warm water to them if it's cold outside.  Not that I blame them; I'm sitting here sipping hot Vanilla Chai tea and warming my backside by way of a wood stove.

So I guess it's really time to finish pulling the spent plants / weeds out of the garden.  Even though it seems so barren and dead in winter, the beds do look promising when they are all cleaned and tidied up.  Because I can already envision my plant starts out there.  I can't even believe I'm already talking about seedlings.  Somebody slap some sense into me.  I wonder if Tiny Gardener is having the seed-shakes yet.

Although the summer garden is but a memory, I will still be doing some gardening this winter.  I have yet to plant my garlic (yeah, yeah, I know I'm late) and I'm really going to try to keep the small hoop houses on the raised beds in the front yard planted with lettuce or some other edible greenery that can tolerate our (hopefully) mild winter.

Well, off to walk to pooches.  I have a feeling I'm going to have to carry Cheddar in my jacket.  Lucky for me, she only weighs maybe five pounds.  Oh.  The dog's name is Cheddar.  I don't normally carry cheese products in my coat.  


Friday, November 9, 2012

Why'd the Turkey get screwed?

No, it's not a parody of the "Chicken crossing the road" joke, but an actual question.  It seems that for the past several years the general marketing trend has been to go straight from Halloween to Christmas.  The only real reason I can think of for the stores to give turkey day the big one-fingered salute is that they don't make nearly as much money on Thanksgiving as they do on Christmas.

I like Thanksgiving just as much as Christmas and it saddens me that most everyone is in such a rush to brush off the tryptophan-filled family gathering in order to plow headfirst into the holy grail of the holiday seasons.

I mean, do we really need to be bombarded with not-so-subtle reminders of the gifts we "have" to buy for our family and friends two months ahead of time?  Not that I'm an advocate of rushing around on December 24th trying to pick that special something for that special someone.  Ever been to a mall a few days before Christmas?  A frekking driving, parking, pushing and shoving nightmare.  And nobody seems particularly happy about having to do all that last minute shopping.  It's more like, "Oh crap, I need to get my co-worker - the one whom I don't care for much anyhow - something for the office Christmas party".  

Not only are we buying gifts for people we don't much care for but how many people just end up tossing the first hot cocoa n' mug set or cheap spa gift basket we see into the buggy in order to fulfill the $20 limit on the Secret Santa or family grab bag.  What happened to real gift giving?  Things that may not necessarily cost a lot of money, but come from your imagination and from your heart.  Not that I'm totally knocking gifts that cost a substantial amount of cash, because technically you labored to make that cash, but did you put some time and thought into that gift?

So what got me on this rant?  Besides the Christmas decorations in the stores?  Well, I got a Cabela's Christmas catalog a few days ago.  If you're a regular reader of my blog, you're probably aware of the fact that I'm a cheap skate in regards to damn near everything a lot of things.  And in order to survive on one income, we have to be.  But even if I had, say, an extra $100K a year disposable income, I still don't think I could justify buying something like this for a holiday dinner or a gift:
Twelve 8-ounce fillets for $349.99.
(That's a quantity discount price, btw)
Fifty-eight bucks a pound for a beef fillet?  And I bet it isn't even one of those Japanese beeves that get the massage special before they get a bullet in the cranium.  So, where did that hunk o' beef come from?  How long ago was it butchered?  Was it pumped with hormones & antibiotics, fed ground up parts of other downed bovines?  If you really want to give someone a special hunk of meat, how about supporting your local organically and humanely raised beef, chicken, pork chops or ham?  If you're in the Illinois area, check out South Pork Ranch (here's their blog, and website, although email Donna for up-to-date prices).
$62.99 for a 5-lb. fruitcake.  You'd have to be a frekking
fruitcake if you even considered buying this.
Does anyone actually eat fruitcake nowadays?  It's bad enough if you're the recipient of a five dollar fruitcake that you'll just end up using as a door stop or giving to the chickens, but a sixty dollar fruitcake?   Although if you're a fan of fruitcake, instead of spending sixty-plus bucks on a fruitcake processed "somewhere" why don't you use that money to buy the ingredients (and a bottle or two of wine) and invite a few friends or family members over and have a fruitcake making party?  I bet that the memories from that event will last longer than the overpriced store bought hunk of dried and candied fruit bits.

My favorite though, by far, has to be the forty dollar fruit pies.  Nine inch, not-deep-dish fruit pies, at that.  But maybe I'm being unfair.  Maybe those pies and fruitcakes and frozen cuts of beef are simply the most delicious things to ever come across my pallet, down my throat, through my intestines and out of my........well, you get the idea.  And I guess it's all relative.  If I busted my behind working 60+ hours a week at a six-figure job, I suppose I wouldn't have time to make a pie or fruitcake or whatever and could justify an expense like that.

But since we're a single-income family and I'm a SAHM who is busy scraping animal crap off my boots, collecting eggs or lopping heads off roosters instead of working for a paycheck I'll just have to deal with not being able to give my friends gifts of such high caliber.  The gifts I do give this holiday season will be from the heart, be it homemade or purchased.

And I won't be putting up any Christmas decorations, listening to jingle-bell music nor doing any holiday shopping until after the leftover turkey sandwiches have been consumed.  Sorry Christine!

*I'm not trying to pick on Cabela's.  They are plenty of crazy-insane catalogs out there and honestly, we do occasionally buy things from Cabela's, albeit from their "Bargain Cave".  If you haven't seen their close-outs in the Bargain Cave, go check it out!  There are usually really, really good deals in there.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


For most gardeners, the busy canning season is all but a blurry memory.  And as our gardens haven't produced anything more than a snack, nibble or a few side dishes, I had plenty of time on my hands when everyone else was messing with bands and lids and trying to limit the number of times steam from the canner caused second-degree burns on their bodies.

But my willy-nilly free time is now up.  It's canning time.  It's shutting up and putting up time.  While I only managed to can a few quarts of deer meat, I was determined to get some of our Cornish meat birds in jars rather than in the freezer.  Sunday afternoon I spent several hours dispatching, skinning, eviscerating and cutting up six of the creepy meats.  Then yesterday, Paul and I butchered another five birds, although they retained their skin and will be put in the freezer (Paul is a die-hard roasted chicken fan, not that I blame him, who doesn't like crispy chicken skin?)

Six chickens turned out to be a nice number for canning as I had two full pressure canner batches.  Out of six skinned chickens, I got 2 quarts of chicken breasts, 2 quarts of chicken legs, 2 quarts of chicken thighs, 7 quarts of chicken stock, plenty of snackies for the cats / dog and a large lunch for me consisting of fried chicken livers and a cup of chicken broth.  I also sent Mom home with a leg quarter, half-dozen chicken wings and three breasts and there are another six wings marinating in the fridge for a tasty appetizer for us tomorrow night.

Normally every single piece of the chicken gets used, with the exception of the offal of course.  I just haven't come up with a good Chicken Head Soup recipe yet.  But this year I got lazy (well, sleepy actually) and didn't make the chicken soup/bone slurry and just tossed the leftover contents from the soup pot into the compost heap.  But compost is still good.

I am a bit disappointed in the size of the chickens though.  There was one that was just barely two and a half pounds (whole, dressed).  The first year we raised Cornish, we had several five-pounders.  Then there was one year that they were large, but very, very fatty.  So the next year I didn't feed them nearly as much and the amount of fat they were carrying was significantly reduced.  But this year, there wasn't a scrap of fat on any of them.  Usually there is some fat on their bottoms, but I was pressed to find more than a little blob, if any.  I don't know if I was "starving" them (in my defense, they always act like they are starving) or if I should have been giving them feed with additional protein or if it was just the hatchery chicks or what.  The first year I ordered from Murry McMurry hatchery.  The following years I ordered them from the farm store and they get them from a hatchery up in Missouri.  So now I have to decide where the next batch is going to come from and if I'm going to just shovel feed into their pens 24/7 or use a higher protein feed.  Or maybe even buy some from each hatchery and tag them and see if there is a difference in chick quality.  Which would be a pretty interesting project anyhow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NSO, Chicken Review & Snipped

There's actually not much to review in my latest No Spend Month.  October was officially a bomb.

Between vehicle and homestead equipment expenses, weak-willed trips past the take-out pizza joint,  kid clothing and Halloween candy, it ended up being a pretty spendy No Spend October.  I even gave up tallying the cash outlays after the second week.

So I failed, and pretty miserably at that.  But you know what?  There's always next month.  Or the next, next month.  January sounds like a good time to try again.  There's no way I can even pretend to not spend money during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.  Not that I'll be looking to bust the bank or anything, but let's be realistic.  Although I could possibly kill a wild turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, those French's Fried Onions required for the obligatory Green Bean Casserole just ain't gonn'a pop up in my garden.  And last time I checked, my non-existent mushroom log was still pretty much non-existent and we have to have homemade cream of mushroom soup with Christmas dinner.  A grocery-shopping I will go.

On the livestock front......most of the Creepy Meats are still with us.  But we were down by two before I even started butchering on Sunday.  The first one drowned a few weeks ago because of my stupidity and I went to feed the birds a last week and found another one of them dead.  Not picked at, not decapitated by a hungry opossum, just dead.  I have to get the remaining seventeen birds butchered ASAP.  They are over nine weeks old now, they won't be getting much bigger and I'm sick of spending ten bucks for each fifty pound bag of feed....that they go through in about five days.

I also found one of my homegrown chicks laying by the corner of the barn.  Dead.  And I guess it happened just before I went in the goat / chicken pen as it was still warm and very flexible.  No peck marks, no feathers missing.  Just dead.  That same evening while I was milking, Rhiannon came up to me with a chick in her hands.  As they are usually very spry and mobile, I was surprised that Rhiannon actually caught one.  But when she gave it to me, it was in no mood to flap or run away, it just looked really, really tired.  I put it in a small pen with food and water.  Then next day, it was dead.  Of course, the two deceased homegrown chicks were hens; I'm going to end up with a dozen stinking roosters.  I hope that there's not some chicken pandemic going on in our barnyard.  I don't even know how to treat them as I'm don't know why they are keeling over.  If anymore of them die, I may do an autopsy in an attempt to see what the problem is.

On a happier note, guess who showed up on Sunday afternoon?

Wallace came back for a visit!  Well, most of him anyhow.  What do I mean by "most" of him?  He had been relieved of his, uhm, manly package and was sporting a new collar with a rabies tag on it!  I'm so glad that he's fixed now.  I was going to bite the bullet and take him to the vet the next time he stayed for a visit, but he hadn't been around for a while.  His fur also seemed a little softer.  The neighbor about a half-mile up the road mentioned occasionally seeing him and feeding him, so I'll have to inquire if it was he that took him to the vet or if his "owner" finally realized that it's irresponsible to let your dog wander without an ID and ultra-irresponsible to let your intact dog wander the county.

Wallace only stayed for a few hours, following me for evening barn chores, running around with Rhiannon and chewing on one of the numerous bones in the yard.  I was happy to see him, and even happier to see less of a particular part of him.