Saturday, March 31, 2012

Evil green bugs

The bugs are out in full force already.  No doubt the mild winter has been a major factor in their early emergence and numbers.

I saw the first dragonfly a few days ago, a lightning bug on my seedlings this afternoon and I saw this Luna moth on the front door this evening:

A green bug, but not an EGB.

And the little evil green bugs (EGB's) are here already.  I don't know what they are, but they are teeny-tiny flying, jumping, biting buggers than can manage to get through the screens so I can't even keep the windows open with this beautiful weather.  The only good thing about them is that they seem to have a very limited life span as come morning their tiny carcasses litter the areas directly beneath any light source.  The katydids (the other EGB's) haven't come out yet, thank goodness.  They are just as annoying as the little EGB's but instead of being tiny they are noisy.  They make their calls.  All.  Night.  Long.  

I can only imagine how bad it's going to be come summer.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

The spinach I didn't plant

Here's a picture of the spinach in my raised bed:
Ain't it purty?

But wait.......what's this other stuff:

It's Lamb's Quarters!

I noticed the sprouts when I originally planted the spinach seeds so left the area alone.  And as you can see, the lamb's quarters are doing very nicely, and I didn't even have to plant them!  I also didn't water them as much as the section with my spinach, just to see how well they would do with minimal care. 

I'm not sure why there were so many lamb's quarter seeds in that particular area of the raised bed.  Maybe the compost top dressing I put on last year was full of the seeds, or maybe when I dug up everything in the fall, I brought a bunch of them up from the depths of the bed to where they would be able to germinate.  Regardless of how they got there, I'm pretty happy to have them.

Lamb's Quarters can be eaten all year as they don't become bitter with age like dandelion or other wild greens.  The younger they are though, the more tender.  I've been "browsing" myself whenever I water the bed or take the plastic off the hoops.  I'll pick a leaf of spinach then a leaf or two of the lamb's quarters.  Yummy.  The younger ones are best used in raw salads and as they get older and a bit tougher, you can sautee, steam them or use them in baked dishes.  The older ones will get some dusty white stuff on the bottom of the leaves, but it's edible so don't worry.

I'm tempted to let a few of them go to seed and then save seeds for next spring just in case I'm not blessed with another surprise patch of them.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hard Boiled Egg Hell, Part 1

....or why you'll never be offered a deviled egg at our house.

We're averaging at least a dozen eggs a day and yesterday I got sixteen.  I love my chickens!

And one would think, that in a household that has the potential to accumulate close to a hundred eggs in a week, that we would be making egg dishes every single day.  Well, we are.  Except for a few.  Namely those that require the hard, medium or soft boiling of the eggs.  You know, like Deviled Eggs, or Egg in a Cup, or my very favorite:

Egg Salad Sandwiches!

This is only the second time in about a year that I've made egg salad.  Because no matter what I do, I cannot get my eggs to peel without them looking like they were chewed on by a rat:

Not only that, but it took me no less than fifteen minutes to peel those few eggs.  Before I've finished attempting to peel the second egg, I have muttered at least six dozen cuss words and my blood pressure has gone up 50%.  At about egg number six, I am shaking and sweating and lucky to get two millimeters of egg white still surrounding the egg yolk.  

I've tried everything.  Using "older" eggs; anywhere from four days old up to two weeks old.  I've tried boiling eggs right from the refrigerator and eggs that were left on the counter so they'd be at room temperature.  Putting salt in the water.  Putting vinegar in the water.  Putting the eggs in the water and then start them boiling.  Boiling the water first, then putting the eggs in.  Boiling the eggs for fifteen minutes.  Bringing the water to a boil (with the eggs in the pan), the immediately taking them off the heat, covering the pot and letting them sit in the hot water for fifteen minutes.  Cooling them off in ice water or even peeling them under running water.  I've even consulted the Necronomicon for egg-boiling incantations.  Occasionally (say, like maybe three times since we've had chickens, you know, in the last six years) I'll get a good batch that will peel easier, but it's still maddening.

So I'm asking my dear readers for some help.  Specifically those that have laying hens and have successfully boiled AND peeled their eggs.

I miss having egg salad sandwiches.  I miss deviled eggs.  I miss my Egg in a Cup in the morning, still steaming and the little pat of butter slowly melting over it before I chop it up with my spoon.

Can anyone help me?  Please!?!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Counting Chickens

Boring chicken statistics to follow, but as I also use this blog as a farming'ish journal, you get to suffer through it.

When I opened the chicken door this morning, twenty-four chickens hopped out.  Four are roosters, so that leaves me with twenty hens, some from last summer's hatch, some from the year before.

Out of the nineteen live hatches this spring, seven were roosters.  One was beheaded by a raccoon or opossum, three were given away and three currently reside with us.  

The fourth rooster is from the previous hatch, although he's more of a "pet" now.  He was the one that Harley attacked and he just hasn't been right since.  One foot was broken and although he gets along pretty well, he still pretty gimpy.  Before the attack he was head rooster, now he's the outcast.  He'll hang around Pan's enclosure (the stinky buck goat) and just stays out of the way of the other roosters.  Even when given ample opportunity to mount a receptive hen, he doesn't even try.  I've also noticed that he no longer does that rooster-clucking to call the hens to a particularly good morsel of food; I've even seen him peck a hen to get her away from a snack he was after.  And I haven't heard him crow a single time since the incident.

Although he's looking much better and gaining weight (thanks to much pampering and hand-fed snackies), I don't think he'll ever regain his status let alone rejoin the flock.  I suppose even a rooster can sink into a depression.


This spring we've lost at least two hens.  One of the pullets that refused to go in at night was eaten by a prowling coyote one evening, the other was a hen from the 2010 hatch.  I had to put her down as her health was slowly but surely deteriorating.  I suspect she was egg bound as she had the exact same symptoms as the one that died last year.

I'm a bit surprised that we haven't lost more chickens as they are always going out into the woods and scratching up the forest floor in search of bigger and better bugs.  Although I am relieved that they have their sights set on something other than my raised beds and flower garden (which hasn't seen a tulip in two years now because of those peckerheads).   The coyotes are already coming back and I'm just waiting for the bobcats to take up residence again.  The hawks are in their spring mating frenzy so there have been at least five of them circling and crying the past couple of weeks.  Once they've got young to feed, I'm afraid that the KFC (Krazo Freerange Chicken) buffet will be open again.

But until then, I'll be enjoying the plethora of eggs were getting every day.  We'll collect between twelve and sixteen eggs a day; not too shabby with twenty laying hens.  We're eating eggs, eggs, eggs for breakfast, lunch and sometimes even dinner.  I've even started putting an egg in the loaves of bread I make.  The fact that there are over ninety eggs a week that I have to do something with makes it pretty hard to put all of them through our intestinal tracts, so I've been selling the remaining eggs.  

I may start
thinking about incubating eggs again.  The neighbor lost most of their hens so I know they'd appreciate a gift of some chicks and I'm sure I could sell some to local folk.  Oh yeah, and keep a few for myself, of course.  It wouldn't be a good year without peeping chicks in the barn!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Drum roll please.....

The winner of the Warm & Fuzzy Feeling Animal Book Duo is:
Small Farm Girl!

Congratulations!  Now shoot me an e-mail at carolynrenee at centurytel dot net and I'll send those books to ya!

The random name generator was supervised by none other than Evil Kitty.  Susan (the cat) must have had pressing matters to take care of elsewhere as she was not in attendance.

Thank you all for commenting with the names of your cats and stories.  I suppose I should now reveal the names of cats that have graced our household:

Meow.  Slurp.  Cheese.  Rasputin.  Cloud.  Crackers.  Susan.  Stupid Cat.  Evil Kitty.

There were also two other kittens that I found as strays and took in until I found another home for them (as Paul surely would divorce me).

Crackers, Susan and Evil Kitty are my current feline companions:

Crackers (grandma-kitty)
Susan (they really DO sell everything at Amazon!)
Excuse me, but have you seen
an Evil Kitty around here?
So there you have it, the Felines of Krazo Acres!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Heap O' Weeds?

There is a pile of dirt / rocks near one of the woodpiles.  Very unassuming.  Not really in the way.  Just kind'a sitting there (because I haven't gotten around to leveling it out with the tractor).
But just take a closer look.  It's not just a heap o'dirt sprouting a bunch of weeds, but a smorgasbord!  

Wild Carrot (Queen Ann's Lace)
Wild Onion
Wild Grape
Wild Blackberry
Lambs Quarters

This pile of delectables isn't going to provide more than a mere snack or a small side dish, but I thought it was neat that there were so many wild edibles in just that small pile of dirt.  Add that to the plantain (although I've never tried it yet) dandelions and clover just a few steps away in our "lawn".

PS- If you want a chance to win two feel-good animal books, click HERE!  Contest ends Sunday night.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Go Susan, Go Susan!

No, not my cat Susan:
Serve me caviar now, slave.  An none of that cheap crap either.
But the other Susan.  She's over at e-i-e-i-omg! and is having a giveaway to celebrate 100 Followers of her blog!

Congratulations, Susan!! 

If you've never been to her blog, I HIGHLY suggest you do so; not only is she a kick in the pants (or in the unmentionables), but her Monday Musings will put your brain into overdrive wondering exactly HOW she comes up with some of the stuff she writes.  Some from childhood memories, some from being stuck behind really S. L. O. W. moving vehicles, others just seem to pop in her head.  Either that or there's an alien race beaming random words or images into her cranium and that's how she gets her inspiration.  A Martian Muse?  Who  knows.

Oh wait, I'm rambling now.  Anyhow, she's giving away two really neat books.  I'm not going to tell you what they area because I want you  to 
go over there and look for yourself, HA!

But since I am, in fact, going to put my name in the hat for the chance to win those books, I feel that I must also offer two books as I am trying to reduce the number of books in my own library.

Besides, I've already read them (just this past weekend) and they are such feel good books that I'd like to share them with someone else:

Of course, my favorite of the two is "Cat Stories", by James Herriot.  If you've never read any of his books, this one will get you hooked.  The other is "Animal Miracles" and is a collection of stories of just what the title implies.  Another feel-good book and great for having on the nightstand for a few minutes of quick reading before you hit the hay.

Rules for the giveaway:

If you haven't already checked out Susan's blog, go over there and do so and become a follower!  Don't worry, I won't check, I trust you.  But even if you go over there and don't follow her blog, that's ok too.  Oh, and for those of you that already follow her, you've already completed Step 1 of the Giveaway Requirements.  

Tell me the names of your cats, past and present.  And if you don't have any cats (shame on you!) tell me what you would name a cat if you did have one.

Open to US mailing addresses only.  My official name-picker will draw the winning name from the comments on this post sometime on Sunday night and I'll post the winner on Monday.

Good luck!

P.S. -  Susan, I hope you don't think I stole your thunder by posting another giveaway!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My little bone collector

I'm a collector.  Or as my Mom would say, a "Pack rat".  And although I'd have to agree with her on some occasions, like with the Hillbilly Tupperware (hey, I USED those yogurt cups!!), I don't think collecting really counts as hoarding or pack-ratting. 

I collect stuff with cats on it.  Old books.  Boxes.  Baskets.  Dragons and other mythical creatures.  And bones.  Lot of useless stuff, but what fun would it be if I were to collect something normal?  You know, like animal salt & pepper shakers or those little spoons with the name of a state or tourist attraction stamped on them?  (Sorry Grandma V, I know you got Rhiannon two of them.....but I can't stand them!  Hopefully she'll find them more interesting than I do.)

We've been taking walks through the woods lately because of the nice weather (up until yesterday, that is) and since the ticks and chiggers aren't out in full force yet.  Once summer hits, we'll be confined to the mowed or recently dozed paths in order to attempt avoiding the blood-sucking and itchy little buggers.  Maybe all the rain washed them all down to the river; wouldn't that be nice.

Rhiannon's current fascination is dinosaurs.  Every and anything she sees is transformed into somethin
g dinosauresque.  Cadbury chocolate mini-egg?  Nope, it's a dinosaur egg.  Want to read a book?  Only if it contains a dinosaur.  Do you want to watch your Leap Frog DVD?  Nope, she wants to watch Discovery "Walking with Dinosaurs".  How about taking a bath with your dolphin and turtle squirty toys?  Only if they can play along with the stegosaurus and triceratops.  

(Collections.  Walks in the woods.  Parasites.  Now dinosaurs.  Yeah, I'm getting around to it, don't get your panties in a bunch)

So what does a little girl do when she finds the long-decayed remains of a deer on the forest floor?  She excitedly yells that she has in fact, found.............

Ma'ma, I'm not sure if this is from the Triassic or Jurassic Period.
Maybe we should have a carbon dating analysis done just to be sure.
Dinosaur Bones!!

And she has found bones on two different occasions in just the past week:

Rhiannon's first collection of bones!
Do you think she's inherited the bone collecting bug from her Mom'ma?  I sure hope so!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Winter that Wasn't

As if I had to tell any of you what a wonky winter we had this year.  

The daffodil flowers have already died back, the red bud trees and wild plum & cherry have been in bloom for over two weeks and the dogwoods just started flowering yesterday.  I made our first dandelion fritters a few weeks ago, the snow peas are over 2" tall and I harvested my first radish over the weekend.

And all this before Spring had officially sprung!

I wonder if we are going to pay for this wonderful, albeit strangely warm winter by being pummeled by nasty spring weather.  We managed to just miss the big storm yesterday, although I admit I was hoping for at least some rain as it would have meant that I wouldn't have to water the fruit trees.

But back to Spring.......

Rhiannon and I are going to celebrate the Vernal Equinox today in style:

We picked a basket full of dandelions this morning and we're going to have dandelion fritters with afternoon tea.  Num, num, nummy!
Wishing all of you a wonderful and fruitful Spring!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Extreme Chicken Smoothies

Ok, I'll admit it.  I do not compost my kitchen scraps.

What kind of eco-friendly, homesteading type of person doesn't compost their kitchen scraps????

Now before Tom falls over from the mere thought of losing all that potential worm-food, let me say that it does not go in the garbage.  It just doesn't go into making compost for the gardens.  And although I'd just love to have more items to add to the compost heap as that pile is one of only two main ways we obtain dirt around here (click here to see the other way), those kitchen trimmings never make it to the pile.

We have chickens.  And chickens need to eat.  And chicken feed prices are continuing their upward climb.  Although the chickens get to free range the entire day and gobble up all sorts of free greens, bugs and the occasional mouse, they still need additional feed.  They get store bought grains / scratch, but I try to supplement those pricey bags of feed with food from our kitchen waste.

I'm sure that just like we have, any of you that own chickens have the obligatory "Chicken Bucket" on your counter top or under the sink.  But when I first started my chicken bucket, I left out the citrus and banana peels, melon rinds and other items too chunky for the chooks
 to pick at or eat.  I even left out the eggshells because I was afraid that they would take to the ever-dreaded habit of eating their eggs.  

Then I re-discovered one of the awesome capabilities of my blender;  blending stuff!  Duh!

All those tough banana or citrus peels?  Cut it into a few pieces then toss into the blender.  Melon rinds?  Pop 'em in!  Hard cores from the cabbages?  A couple chops with the knife and in with the rest of the stuff.  I've even made smoothies (for the chickens!) using acorns and pressure cooked leftovers from making chicken soup, bones and all!

I start out with liquids first, like whey, old milk or even just water.  Then all those chunks go in and the chickens end up with a nutritious Extreme Chicken Smoothie for lunch!  One recent chicken blender concoction consisted of syrup from canned peaches and pears, orange peels, banana peels, yogurt (found in a cup under the table.....wonder how old that was??), some old chocolate syrup and a bunch of goat cheese that got lost in the back of the fridge.  The blender made quick work of those normally tough peels and I have to admit that the smell was quite delightful.  

Today's Chicken Smoothie Du Jour:
Eggshells, butternut squash, banana peels and orange peels.

The compost heap will have to be content with just the wasted animal bedding, leaves and occasional grass clippings because if it's food, it's going to end up becoming a smoothie for the chickens.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Just a nice Saturday

Paul watched Rhiannon Saturday afternoon so Mom & I could have a lunch out with the gals.  

The day before I had transplanted tomatoes and I started on the green peppers the morning of our lunch get together.  Since it seems that I'm going to be awash in tomatoes and peppers this spring, I figured I could transplant a few and bring each of our lunch buddies a tomato and pepper plant:

I pulled out my stash of Hillbilly Tupperware and made the yogurt cups into convenient tiny planters! I poked a few holes in the bottom of the cups and used the lids (not shown) as trays underneath to catch any seeping water.  They will still have to stay indoors, but I think the cups will be big enough that the plant will have enough room until it's time to plant them outside.

Our lunch outing was wonderful.  The weather was warm enough that we were able to have our lunch alfresco!  Good food (notice I didn't say "healthy" as I had fried chicken livers), good company and of course, lots of laughs!  Oh, and my Stepfather even stopped by as we were leaving and picked up the tab for Mom and I along with an order of chicken livers for himself!  

So since I figured I "saved" six or seven bucks on lunch (thanks Wally!), I made my way to the little local library just a block away that just so happened to be having their semi-annual book sale:

Where I spent five of my "saved" seven dollars.  Technically, the books only came to three dollars, but I'm a sucker for libraries and gave them five.  And even at five dollars, I still felt I got a great deal.  I got a few school books, some fun books for Rhiannon and two little animal story books for me
and you......can you say "Giveaway"?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Trees and Transplants

Paul's working with Godzilla again this weekend.  Before he started up the earth-moving behemoth we went through the areas he thought he'd be working on and I started marking trees that I would prefer he not destroy.  Even though the weather has hastened the budding of a lot of the trees, there are still many that do not have flowers or leaves on them yet, which normally would make it difficult to determine exactly which trees I wanted spared.

But I've been doing my homework (woods-work?) the past few years and I can now pretty much identify trees in their dormant state without leaves or flowers.  Well, at least the ones I know I want to keep.  Namely the dogwoods, sassafras, persimmons and red buds.  The red buds were a snap to identify as they are in bloom:

Besides the one in our back yard (pictured above), I only found two spindly looking red bud trees in the woods, one of which although I marked, ended up being pushed over by another downed tree....go figure.  There were, however, an abundance of dogwoods and I went through a lot of pink marking tape with those.  I also found two stands of sassafras trees that will be spared and a handful of persimmon and wild plums.

While Paul went dozing, Rhiannon and I transplanted almost half of the tomato seedlings and set them out on the railing to get some fresh air and sunshine: 

I still haven't decided if I'm going to start the squash and melons inside or just direct sow them.  Last year I did both, and in just a few weeks, you could barely tell the difference so I'm wondering if I'll even bother with the effort of keeping them inside.

Tomorrow I'll transplant the green peppers and basil and I'll be finished transplanting.  But that's not really a good thing as I only started three types of tomatoes, the basil and the green peppers.  Well, I also started some eggplant seeds from a package dated 2008, but none of them came up so I'll try again with a new pack and start a flat of cabbages while I'm at it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mutant Poodle Raccoon Hybrids

Everybody loves chicken, and not just the humans.  Raccoon, opossum, bobcat, hawk, coyote and even the occasional stray dog all have their eyes on our flock.

About two weeks ago I had to hang up the shotgun by the front door (don't worry, it's always well out of Rhiannon's reach and locked) because the hawks have been hanging around.   Not sure if it's because it's mating season, but I've seen four of them at the same time all flying around the homestead and crying like crazy.  Like all stinking day.  But even the noise from buckshot isn't deterring them from their constant fly-bys.  I'm attributing the loss of at least one hen to them.

We have a light on for the chickens that I turn on just before dusk to encourage them to go into the coop.  This is also how we trained our new chickens to go in for the night; go into the light!  I'm not always out there right after dark, not only because one chicken refuses to go into the coop until it's pitch black outside, but sometimes I'm busy and don't get around to closing the chicken door until well after dark.  Last night was one of those nights.  Cleaning up from a late supper kept me inside until almost nine o'clock.   I finally got outside to close the chicken door and when I spun around to go back inside, I was startled by an opossum walking right at me!  (I'm not sure who startled whom as I only had a t-shirt and unmentionables on.....yeah, like
you've never gone outside at night in your skivvies.)  It's not like he couldn't see me, I had my handy-dandy headlamp on and was shining it right on him.  The little bugger sidestepped me and continued towards the chicken door!  

Of course, I didn't have a sidearm on my person as my Lady Fruit of the Looms don't have a built-in holster, so I did what any other homesteader protecting her flock would do.  I reached down, picked up a fairly heavy rock, and 
bashed his little marsupial brain out.  Barbaric?  Sure was.  And I do feel badly for it.  I would have much rather his end come by the way of a .22, but a farm gal does what a farm gal has to do, right?  Right.  I still feel pretty crappy about it.

So what's up with the title of this blog, and what does it have to do with hawks and opossums eating - or attempting to eat - our backyard chickens?  Well, dear reader, let me tell you!

I must have gone to bed harboring guilty feelings because I had the weirdest dream last night.  I was in the hallway of my high school (so I guess this could be considered a nightmare then) and everyone was running out of the gymnasium.  I asked the hall monitor (remember those???) what was up and she said that there was a rabid raccoon loose and nobody knew what to do.  I said that I could handle any old stinky raccoon and went to find my quarry.  It was a huge poodle-raccoon like thing and it was pissed!  It kept coming at me, and like any good nightmare, I wasn't able to get away.  It kept biting at my moccasins and I was afraid I was going to get rabies.  Why I was wearing moccasins, I haven't the slightest.  Now that I think about it, they may have been the only thing I was wearing.  I remember trying to climb bookcases to get away, but it kept coming at me.  I finally ended up crushing it's head with a huge bottle of perfume that I found on top of that bookcase.

Whew.  I feel much better knowing that I have that off my chest.  Well, not really.

Anybody want to take a jab at what the "meaning" of that dream meant??  
Besides the fact that I'm just nuts.
This raccoon is drop-dead gorgeous compared to mine.

Wonder if Stephen King would want the screenplay for this one?  I'm telling you, that freaky looking clown's got nothing on my poodle-raccoon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Necessity is the Mother of Invention, right?

Last night Rhiannon asked for some chocolate milk.  I went into the fridge to procure the jar of milk and then into the cupboard to obtain Ovaltine. 

The container of Ovaltine was empty!  How do you reason with a toddler when Mommy just twenty seconds ago promised you a glass of chocolate milk, but now she can no longer give you any?  Those big eyes just tear a hole through you. 

So I was on a quest.  After quickly tearing apart the cupboard looking for any "hidden" stash of Ovaltine and not finding anything but hot cocoa mix (does NOT work in cold me), I ran to the computer to look up a homemade recipe for chocolate milk powder.  

Although there didn't seem to be any suitable powdered recipes, I did find a chocolate syrup recipe that would work great in cold milk.

1 Cup Cocoa Powder

1 1/4 Cup Sugar
1 1/4 Cup Water

Dump everything into a pot and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom.  Let cool and pour into container; I used two pint jars.  Store in fridge.

So in less than twenty minutes, we had our glasses filled with chocolate milk.  And all was right in Rhiannon's universe.

I always have cocoa and sugar on hand.  So not only am I saving money (that jar of Ovaltine costs close to $5) but it's one less product I have to buy and one less container I have to recycle or find a use for.

Technically there was nothing necessary about this, nor did I personally invent anything, but the saying still holds true.  And now I'm thinking about how good that chocolate syrup will taste on ice cream!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Of Honeybees and Cheap Japanese Horror Flicks

This winter has been very, very mild.  I'd even venture so far as to say it was hot.  Granted it's the end of winter, but it's going to be near 90 degrees today!

Although I have to admit that I've been thoroughly enjoying the warm winter, I'm more than a bit concerned for the fruit trees.  The nectarine trees started blooming almost two weeks ago and the peaches started last week.  Last year's area fruit crop was pretty much a flop, I think for the same reason. There just didn't seem to be enough pollinators up and about yet.  We had a gazillion blooms, but no fruit.  

While I was admiring the beautiful blooms of the peaches yesterday I was also looking for bees.  I only saw two bees; they weren't honeybees, but some other kind I have yet to identify.  We normally have a red wasp that I've seen visiting the fruit and vegetable flowers, but they haven't emerged yet.

I suppose I shouldn't really fret too much as our trees are still very young and we were going to cut the young fruits off anyhow in order to let the tree put it's energy into a good root and branch system.  But it is troublesome knowing that just a few short years ago we had honeybees covering the red bud trees and carpeting the patches of clover in the yard.  We stumbled upon a bee tree four years ago, but the following year, they were all gone.  Hopefully they just moved on to bigger and better foraging areas.  

Paul, Rhiannon and I were wandering around the property yesterday just before dusk and made our way back to the house and the front yard where the fruit trees are.  And there were hundreds of moths fluttering around the trees!  I though that maybe they were just there because we were there and wanted to annoy us (as many bugs seem to enjoy doing this very thing), but they were visiting the flower blooms!  And not just, "Oh, a moth just so happened to land upon a flower" kind'a thing, but going from flower to flower!  

I'm going to try and catch one or two tonight and see if I can identify them just for the heck of it.  Knowing my luck, they are some sort of moth that feeds on nectar and then lay their eggs on a variety of my vegetable plants where the emerging caterpillars will chow down on my potential harvest.

I think I'm also going to start seriously looking into what we need to do in order to get a honeybee colony started, even if it's just for the pollinating services.  And honey would definitely be an added bonus.  Especially given the alternative:

Mothra trying to invade my hoop houses

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pasture progress

We were all very productive this weekend.  Well, at least on Saturday.

Paul spent the entire day with the dozer down one of the many hills.  I could hear the engine from the dozer, the occasional tree crashing down or a loud "CLANK" if it hit a particularly large rock, but I couldn't see him.  I admit that I'm always a bit leery when he's on Godzilla (the dozer) as I'm prone to fabricating horribly scary scenarios that involve skull-crushing trees, boulders rolling over or a multitude of other equally frightening (although unlikely) mishaps.

Rhiannon and I were busy planting beets, parsnips and turnips in the raised beds and keeping an eye on Annette (she wasn't going to kid until later that evening) but I finally gave in and we went to check on Paul.  I wish I had taken before and after pictures, because what he accomplished that afternoon was pretty much amazing.

For the past year plus, he's been clearing the trees from around the house and increasing the goat area to make it large enough to support pasture for the goats, Ms. Melman and Nugget.  You wouldn't think it, but there is an actual art to bulldozing.  Naive as I am, I figured you just pushed everything over and that was it.  But not only do you have to DO something with all that pushed-over stuff (duh!), but you have to make paths and open areas and work areas so you can maneuver the behemoth piece of equipment around.  So although it seems like it would be easy-peasy to relieve the ground of trees and rocks in order to make it suitable for planting pasture, it's quite time consuming.

Anyways, when Rhiannon and I got to where we could see down the hill, I was almost dumbfounded.  The Evil Forest was being tamed!  Well, at least some of it.  Where once there were downed trees (from the Ice Storm of 2009) and scrub trees, brambles, rocks and an untamed tangle of vegetation, there was now the beginning of some beautiful looking open areas and the little wet weather creek that I so loved was now just an easy stroll down the hill.

This is the Evil Forest.  It surrounded the house on three sides
with only about 25' (or less) of open grass between the house
and the rest of the woods.  Not conducive for livestock or a kid.
(This is the current view from the back porch.)
The house is just to the left of the first large tree.  Everything
to the right of it looked like the picture above this one before
Paul cleared the area last year.  And as a bonus, we're now getting
to see the hills in the background.  Before we only saw trees.
Rhiannon and I are standing on the top of the hill and looking
down to where Paul had been dozing the entire day.  If you
enlarge the photo, you can see the dozer way down there.

Remind me to take more pictures because I'd like to be able to see the progress as it goes.  

We left Paul to his dozing for a few more hours until I had to have his help with Rhiannon (Annette was going into hard labor) and he was pretty much wore out by then anyhow.  He would have been on Godzilla again on Sunday, but it rained the entire day.  Good for the plants, not good for dozing.  We're expecting dry weather and 80 degrees the rest of the week, so hopefully it will be dry enough that Paul can continue this weekend. 

I love the forest.  I love the feeling of being surrounded by trees.  But I guess I never considered the fact that all those animals that I would want required open areas.  Dumb, I know.  We (ok, Paul) had to clear for our berry garden.  Had to clear for the goat yard.  Had to clear for the tool shed.  Had to clear around the house for fire safety.  Paul and I are often at odds when land clearing comes up as I tend to want to keep every stinking tree even though I know we need to clear.  (Oh!  Save that one, it's a dogwood, or a redbud or a nice looking hickory.  Can't we keep any cedars??  What about that snag?  That's great nesting habitat for woodpeckers!)  We'll still have plenty of forest on our acreage, so I know I have to just get over it and let him do his thing. 

At least we're getting a lot of fire wood out of it, right?  And eventually a more suitable environment for the livestock and Rhiannon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kiddings Over!

Although I had three does bred last fall, I only had to go through two kiddings this spring because I sold Ishtar before she was due.  So last night we had our second, and final kidding of the year.  

Annette was due on Monday, but Saturday morning she was "talking" more than usual and by the afternoon she was yelling pretty much constantly.  By six in the evening it was apparent that she was having some serious contractions so I put her into the kidding pen (which I just cleaned out the day about procrastinating!!)  and by seven-thirty, we had kids!!

Since it was the weekend, Paul was home and took Rhiannon while I stayed with Annette as her goat-midwife.  

Here is Annette in hard labor.  Earlier in the day she had contractions,
but they were mild enough that she would eat the grain I offered,
even right through them, pausing only slightly when it came on.
Up-close shot of the mucus plug.  Sometimes a doe will lose
this plug several hours before going into hard labor.

The first bubble(Chorion sac).  This may or may not break before
the second bubble (Amniotic sac), shows with the kid inside
Here you can clearly see both the reddish Chorion sac
and the yellowish Amniotic sac.
Her labor was pretty fast and before I knew it there were feet showing in the bubble, but no nose showing!  I went in to adjust the head forward and after being better positioned it came out with just a little tug on the front feet.  After it was out, I grabbed it by the hind feet, wiped the fluids from the nose & mouth & put it down so Annette and I could start drying the kid off.  

Annette having contractions while drying her first kid off.
Annette was right next to me helping dry her off when just a few minutes later she laid down and was pushing again.  This time there was only one foot showing, but at least the head was pointed forward.  I'm not sure if she would have been able to deliver like that, so after several hard pushes and having the kid get sucked back in, I went in again during a contraction, found the other foot (it was bent like it was laying down) and pulled it forward.  One last little tug at the next contraction and we had our second doeling!

After both doelings were dried off, I made sure they found their way to Annette's udder and were getting that first all-important drink of colostrum.  I went in the house to clean up and get a bite to eat so left Annette and her new babies alone for some quality time.  Less than two hours after the last doeling was delivered, I went in the barn to check on everyone and found Annette licking the afterbirth.  Some people let the does eat it, but honestly, I think it's icky so I took it away and put it in the garbage bag with the rest of the birthing goo.

Sorry I didn't take more pictures, but it was just me in the barn.  If you want to see a more detailed goat birth, click here for Nettie's 2011 kidding.

More cute goat kid pictures will soon follow!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday Oven Lovin

It tastes like SPRING!  

Yes, I know that the Vernal Equinox is still ten days away bu
t darn it, there were dandelions in the front yard!

One of my favorite springtime harvesting activities is the gathering of those delightful, nutritious, golden bursts of sunshine; the dandelion!  Bane of the mainstream suburbanite lawn, but the beautiful bounty of the homesteader.

I let Rhiannon venture outside on Friday afternoon so we went dandelion picking:

The pickings were very slim, so we just made a few fritters to go with afternoon tea:

Once, I made individual flower fritters.  They were pretty and fancy looking on a plate.  But it took more time that I'd normally allow for such a frivolous side dish so now I just dump a bunch of flowers in the fritter batter & spoon them out into the hot oil.  Kind'a like a Dandelion Funnel Cake, but not as sweet.

Easy-Peasy Fritter Batter: 1 egg, 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk, pinch salt, 2 Tbsp. sugar.

I have to admit, I did not follow the above recipe, mostly because I didn't need a ton of batter, so as usual it was just "some of this and more of that" and I dumped the flowers in.  Feel free to add a bit more sugar than suggested (and maybe even a sprinkling of powdered sugar on top) if you want a sweet fritter recipe in order to encourage otherwise "frightened" persons to try eating what they normally consider a lawn weed.

So if Tiny Gardener can manage to stop rolling in her seed packets and potting soil for just a bit, you can post your recipe over there for her Saturday Oven Lovin.

Friday, March 9, 2012


I feel like such a holier-than-thou snob.  I was just about to write another post about my wonderful, super-duper, Dee-stinking-licious, local pork sausage when it hit me.

It seems that I've lamented on (and on, and on) about our recent pork procurement and what great stewards of the earth we are by using this local farmer or eating this local thing, getting eggs right from the bum of our own chickens, drinking the fluids secreted from the underside of a lactating goat or growing all those plants in our garden.  And then I remembered that not all of you are on a homestead or anywhere near a butcher or baker (or candlestick maker) that provides local foods.  Maybe you're in a high-rise apartment or a bungalow with a postage-stamp sized yard.  Maybe you don't want to garden, or farm, or shoot tree rodents from your back porch and put them in the stew pot.

I realize not everyone can, or wants to be a homesteader.  Maybe your calling or circumstances dictate that you provide housekeeping services, desktop publishing or even chocolate to the citizens of your town.  Maybe you pine for a farm of your own, but can't afford to do it (yet....don't ever give up!), or your partner doesn't share your homesteading urges and prefers to hang out at the local watering hole with his friends.  And that's fine with me because although I occasionally forget about it, this amazing diversification of people and skills is what makes it possible for me to live my homesteading dream.

The plate that is currently in front of me?  The one that is currently holding those homegrown, homemade and local eggs, bread and sausage (yes, it's all about the sausage)?  I sure didn't make it.  And although I'd like to try my hand at throwing pottery one day, I'm sure not going to rely upon my skills to fill up my cupboards with dishes and cups.  The jeans and shirt I'm wearing?  Although both made of cotton, I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to till a field to plant cotton in order to start the long process of making my own clothing.  Heck,  I even take our taxes in to the accountant in town so he can do them - and I went to college to study accounting!

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a blog that was basically about  a city-girl-turned-country-girl.  I loved it.  I checked for updates on a daily basis.  And eventually she inspired me to start my own blog.  Not only to journal our little adventures, but to provide that little inspiration to someone else that may need just that final little nudge.  To let others know that you can escape the daily-grind.  That you don't have to move to North Dakota in a cabin on fifty acres of land to homestead.  That it is possible to live comfortably on one income.  That you CAN do it!

That is, if you WANT to.  Because I am not so naive to think that others (like my sister or best friend) are going to head for the country and start shooting and eating squirrels or move where there is not a (good) Thai or Sushi restaurant within a five minute drive.  

Besides, somebody has got to make the chocolates, right??

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We now return....

to your regularly scheduled blog.

I'd like to say that I've been absent from the blogosphere because I've been so busy starting seeds, watering fruit trees, planting berry bushes and spending time with all the critters.  But unfortunately all those things were put on sudden hold for several days.

Over the weekend we ended up taking Rhiannon into the ER for what I suspected was the beginning of pneumonia.  Sure enough, it was, and it came on quickly.  Saturday morning we had her into the clinic because of a night-time cough; they said she had a mild ear infection, gave us antibiotics and we were sent on our way.  During the day Saturday, she progressively got worse and by 5 am Sunday morning we were in the car taking her into the ER because her breathing was so labored.

Everything turned out well as she is currently jumping around the room with her dinosaur toys (yeah, YOU try telling a three-year old that she's supposed to stay "calm and quite" for the next week) and I am finally getting back to as-close-to-normal as possible.  That is, until we get the hospital and doctor bills.  If I go "missing" again for about a week or so in the near future, you'll know why.

Although I'm not going to go into gory detail about the trials, tribulations and hair-pulling involved while dealing with health insurance companies, I did want to just remind those of you that chose to deal with the insurance devils that it's a good idea to check, double, triple and quadruple check your policies.  Make sure that you have all your current information handy and that you truly understand what is covered, as well as your deductible.  Although I may be a bit biased against them (after dealing with them during Rhiannon's NICU stay at birth), I swear that they will do anything possible to deceive, smooth-over, cajole or otherwise numb you to certain important details of your policy.  

So please, next time you get some free time from the homestead (ha!), take a half hour to dig out your policy and make sure you are comfortable with your coverage, what it is costing, and what it WILL cost you before they start paying out.

I'm done with my rant and motherly-nagging now.  But really.  Go pull your insurance policy.  Or I'm going to come haunt your blog comment form until you do!


Farmish stuff next, I promise!