Monday, April 30, 2012

Howdy there

I can't believe how much I had ignored my blog last week.  And I don't even know exactly what I've been doing outside of the blogosphere.  Not like I've been watching Jerry Springer and eating bon-bons, but really, I have no idea what has been taking up so much of my time.

I mean, besides watering the new strawberry, grape and blueberry plants.  And screaming at the chickens to get out of the gardens.  And untangling goat feet from tie-out cords.  And screaming at the goat kids to get off the tractor (did you know I was a screamer??).  But really, not much on the "Want to Do" list has been accomplished.  

Well, other than this:

And in three weeks, Peeping!  Well, hopefully.
And this:
What a HAM!!
Forty-seven eggs in the incubator and a hillbilly-homemade summer play dress for Rhiannon.  And that's enough, I suppose.  My sister and her husband are here for the week, so I suspect that my blog will be neglected yet again.  Unless I can get some really embarrassing pictures of her, then I'll be sure to post them :)

See ya all soon!

Don't forget, if you want a chance to bid on "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" by Carla Emery, click 
HERE!  And a great big "Thank You" to those that have bid or donated! :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Auction for a Blog Buddy

Bad things happen to good people all the time.  It's just part of life.  It sucks, but it's life.  But there are ways we can help and here's my little attempt at combating the "bad" with some "good".

I would like to host a blogging auction to raise a bit o' the green stuff for SciFi Chick over at Bacon and Eggs.  She and her truck found themselves in quite a mess last week and although she thankfully came out of it mostly unscathed, the truck did not, and her and her husband are now without transportation.  Which isn't too bad if you live in the city or the 'burbs, but they live out in the boonies.  Kind'a makes it difficult for her to get her daily morning cup of Starbucks double-frappe-cacao-supremo and she's getting REALLY cranky now.  (If you don't know me by now, or SciFi....I'm joking).  Anyways...... 

If you haven't found your way over to her blog, might I suggest you do so?  She's a fellow homesteading, freedom-loving, not afraid of getting down & dirty chick and needs a little helping out and cheering up.  Since she doesn't seem one to be doing any asking for herself, I'm going to do it so she doesn't have to.  And even if you aren't in the position of helping out financially, give her blog look-see and say "Hello"! 

Oh yeah, the "good" part.  I have up for auction one gently-used copy of:

Carla Emery's "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" (9th Edition).

So not only are you helping out a fellow homesteading chick, but you'll be getting an 858 page book chock-full of "Practical advice, invaluable information, and collected wisdom for folks and farmers in the country, city, and anywhere in between."

Rules for the Auction:

Open to US residents only

Bidding starts at $10 (a great deal for this book, BTW).  
Bids must be made on the comment form on this post.  
Bidding ends in one week (Friday, May 4th at Noon CST).  
Highest bid will be the winner and must then send the winning amount to SciFi Chick via her "Donate" button on her blog (it's small and somewhere on the right side of the screen, but it's there!).  
I will then send the winner the book.
Winner will receive book, and say, "Yippee!"

Good luck, and happy bidding! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wild Kingdom

Rhiannon was playing with her toy animals the other day.  She has quite the assortment of barnyard animals, reptiles and dinosaurs.

Usually her little animals are buddies, sharing in adventures that traverse the mountains (living room couch), hiding in the labyrinth of caves (underneath the kitchen table) or swimming in the ocean (bathtub).  But lately there's been quite a few altercations between the animals.  Namely between the dinosaurs and the horses.  As in the horse will be laying prostrate and the dinosaur will be hovering above it.  Then the dinosaur bends down to the horse and Rhiannon makes munching noises.

Munch, munch, munch.....burp!  Excuse me!
Ok, so I'm guilty of letting her watch a few too many Planet Discovery, Wild America and Blue Planet DVD's.  But maybe it's time to put Sponge Bob in the player for a while?

So now I've been thinking about the meat-eating thing and how I'm going to approach the whole life-death-eating cycle here on the farm.  Rhiannon loves chicken.  And Rhiannon loves chickens.  She knows the word chicken can mean either her feathery friends outside or the delicious meal on the supper plate.  But when will she realize that they are one in the same?  And when will she realize that the animal had to die to fill her tummy?  
And when that realization is finally made, will she shun that food?

Then there's the whole can o' worms regarding the meaning of "death".  She's seen a dead rooster and knows that it no longer moves or clucks, but just sits there (with it's head missing).  She even said the word "dead" when she saw another deceased animal shortly afterwards.  

I know that most "civilized" parent's don't have this discussion with their children.  They are so conditioned to seeing their dinner come from a drive-through window or the ingredients neatly laid out on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic that the idea that their supper once lived and breathed never occurred to them. Exactly when does an inner-city or urban child find out that the burger in their HappyMeal was once a cow?  Acutally, I don't even remember at what age I realized meat meant the death of an animal.  Did I figure it out on my own?  Was I taught it in grade school?  Did my parents tell me?  Or since I was suburban-raised, did I even care about the fate of a chicken, cow or pig?

I'm not going to hide from Rhiannon where our meals come from; I want my daughter to truly appreciate her food.  But I'm not sure when, or how, I'm going to teach her about those not-so-nice facts of life and death.  Do we make her watch when we're butchering an animal?  Technically I think she was at the last chicken processing, but was more interested in the jug of bubbles a friend brought her.  Is she too young to see these things?  Or if we keep involving her by letting her hang around will she just figure "Oh, that's just how it's done" and be over it?  Or will she scream and cry the next time Mommy makes chicken and dumplings and become a vegetarian?  Ah, the challenges of parenthood!

Maybe I could get David
Attenborough to come here and do a voice-over during our next chicken butchering session.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Goodbye Pan, Hello Strawberries!!

Paul's friend came to pick up Pan yesterday afternoon.  I would have taken a goodbye picture of him, but I wasn't here for the parting.  I'd say that I miss him, but I'd be lying, and this morning was actually a tiny bit more enjoyable as it required less time / work from me as I didn't have to hay or water him.  

So although we are now without a buck, we've been promised access to him come breeding season.  Deal of the century if you asked me!

My Mom and Stepfather cleaned out their strawberry bed to make room for other berries (raspberries or gooseberries I think) and look what I ended up getting:

Two buckets of strawberry plants!!  

Some of them already had berries on them so I'm not sure if the plants will continue growing berries after all the stress of being uprooted and transplanted.  But even if they don't produce again until next season I'm still thrilled!  I had bought some cheap'o strawberry crowns from Walmart a few weeks ago (why, why, WHY??) so I planted them near the back of the bed hoping that some of them will come up.  They looked pretty pathetic, but I put in a handful of homegrown compost in with them hoping that would help.

So our berry garden is actually starting to look like a berry garden.  The past two years were dreadfully hot here so I lost ALL of my raspberry and blackberry bushes (ten total) and about half (another six or so) of the blueberry bushes.  We've replaced the dead blueberry bushes with new ones this spring and the bed that used to contain the raspberries now have grapes planted there.  There is still one area that can be made into one large or two small beds.  I'm not sure what other berry type of plant I want yet, so that area may just be used for the tomatoes and peppers this summer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Homemade Candied Orange Peels

Or my, "Why am I so darned stubborn that I have to try to make everything from scratch?" post.

Not being content with simply walking into a store to buy something, I've been known to occasionally go into a stubborn / cheap / creative fit regarding a number of various food or household products.  I think it started years ago when I first realized that one could make actually make bread.  Like, at home. With little more than some yeast, flour, salt and water.  It was just the beginning.

Then there was soap.  And lotions and salves.  Not to mention the ever increasing number of previously-purchased-in-the-frozen-food-isle side dishes and meals that I could now make.  Every year I was increasing my portfolio of homemade, homegrown or handcrafted items.  And it felt good!  When I made soap, I felt like a chemical engineer.  When I made creamed spinach, I felt like a gourmet chef!  When I harvest wild edibles or homegrown fruit, I feel like a botanist!  Handmade greeting cards, and I'm an artist!  Yearly vaccinations for the goats and I'm a veterinarian!  You get the idea.

The act of doing, making or creating something that "normal" people would only trust a paid professional to do or only buy if it came packaged in plastic at a store is a very empowering feeling.

But creativity can be exhausting.  And an exhausted homesteader is not a very productive homesteader.  So in order to keep myself from wasting away to nothing (insert really, really big eye-roll here), I needed some sustenance.  But bread and butter or fried eggs and pork sausage wasn't going to hack it.  I wanted something sweet and exotic.  And I had the makings of it on my counter top, awaiting deposit into the chicken bucket.  But instead of becoming poultry feed, I was going to use it:

Orange peels, pith removed and sliced into strips.
I washed the orange peels, sliced the white pith from it and cut them into thin strips.  Put them into a pot with water & brought it to a boil.  Drained the hot water, put more water in and brought that to a boil.  After the second boiling, I emptied the hot water again and put the peels in another bowl.  One cup of water and three cups of sugar went into the pot and when that started to boil I put the peels back in.  Lowered the temperature on the stove so the sugar syrup and peels just simmered and stirred them for about an hour.  When the peels start to look translucent, they are done.  I lifted each peel out of the hot syrup using tongs and placed them on a drying rack for over 24 hours until they were dried.

Candied orange peels, almost dried!
The next day, I dumped a bag of chocolate chips into my little double boiler and melted them to coat my orange peels.  

The other two candies were "bonus" treats.  There was still chocolate left in the pot so I took some of the leftover shredded coconut from my Peeps Cake and threw it in to make coconut haystacks.  The other peanut-brittle looking thing was made from the sugar syrup; now delightfully orange-flavored after having simmered the peels in it.  I brought the orange syrup up to soft-crack stage, added a teaspoon or so of baking soda and poured it onto a greased baking sheet.  Kind of turned out like a brittle or deflated sponge candy.

Luckily I had the good idea to put most of it in a container in the freezer or I would have eaten the entire lot of it.  Although frozen candies are just as good.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pine tar and poultry plumage

One of my few (but ever increasing) Political Rants will follow, and it's a doozy.  If you do not wish to read my ranting and occasional foul language, please come by tomorrow when I will talk about making homemade chocolate covered orange peels (amazing variety of topics, hugh?)

If you're still here even after the little warning, thank you.  Really.  Although I occasionally get depressed about the sloth and indifference of the majority of the US citizenry, I am happy to know that there are still people out there that give a damn about freedom and about the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.  

So.  What's my rant about today?  As many of you may know, no thanks to CNN or Fox or MSNBC, there is another fight for food freedom going on right now in Michigan.  I won't get into the nitty-gritty details not only because I'll have a stroke while typing it, but because there is so much first hand information out there from the little guys caught in the middle of it.  But in a nutshell, the asinine State of Michigan and the DNR has now made felons out of anyone harboring "feral" pigs.  (Go to
Bakers Green Acres for a good, if not maddening, read.)

I'm not talking about farmers letting a bunch of wild boars out into their neighbor's farmland, or secretly breeding pigs with the ability to spread a biological weapon amongst the human population (That would be our own government doing that.  Just kidding.  But it wouldn't surprise me at all.), but family farmers growing pigs that are not the status quo.  Pigs that are able to live and thrive and grow outdoors in a pasture and not in an overcrowded cesspool like in the gigantic factory hog farms.  Pigs that look like, well, pigs.  Curly tails, stripes on piglets, know, what a pig
should look like.  Pigs that, heavens forbid, may be in greater demand than those cranked out by the mega-pig factories.  More and more people are wanting their meat to be raised in a humane manner, want their families to sit down to a natural pork chop, want to support their local farmers.  But big business doesn't like that.  And neither does the State.  Big business wants to stamp out any and all competition.  And the State is right there to help out by making (cover your ears) fucking ignorant and completely unconstitutional laws in order to force everyone into compliance.

Every single day, our rulers are adding things to their list of what you can or cannot eat.  Yes, they are.  I'm sick of being called a fanatic, or a tin-foil-hat wearing wacko, or a conspiracy nutjob.  If you cannot see the writing on the wall, you are the delusional one, not me.  

Our government is making felons out of people selling raw milk, raising heritage breeds of animals, or otherwise taking responsibility over their own lives.  Things that humans have been doing for a millennium.  Yet those same departments that would love to take your daughter from you for child-endangerment (you know, letting her drink raw milk), will happily let GMO's flow through our food system without even giving us the right to know.  They make selling totally natural products like a Stevia plant as a "sweetner" unlawful (which has been in use for hundreds of years), but will grant a patent to a huge corporation to make and sell a synthetic version of it with little or no testing.

Don't get me started on the "But the USDA, DNR, FDA, etc., are responsible for reducing the amount of bacteria/pathogens in our foods, keeping our water clean, conserving resources (for whom??)" crap.  Yes, there are many things that these departments have done to honestly help reduce disease, improve food safety, etc.  There is no doubt that good things have come from these departments.  But they have gone unchecked, been held unaccountable and have overstepped their boundaries by unimaginable distances.  

These government agencies are out of control and they have gone far beyond what they were originally created to do.  They destroy
family dairy operations that have not a single incident of food-born illness in 30 years of operation.  They raid direct farm-to-consumer buying clubs.  They criminalize the sale and purchase of raw milk sales.  Is it because there are people becoming sick from the products or because consumers were being sold something other than what they though they were buying?  No.  

Just like any government agency, it keeps growing and growing, feeding on the endless supply of taxpayer money.  And in order to keep the agencies fat, happy and ever expanding, they have to rationalize (i.e., make up, skew facts or out & out lie) reasons for the billions of dollars a year they suck from our wallets.  They claim that they are saving us from horrible, horrible things.  And the majority of the people still believe that it is all for our own good.  That it is justifiable.  That it is just how things are in today's society and we should all just deal with it.  It's the price we pay for living in a civilized first-world country.


The price we pay for these "services" and "safety" is bloated, inefficient and downright criminal.  But as time has gone by we have been brainwashed into thinking that it's OK.  That there are just some freedoms that we will have to give up in order to live in this civilized society.  That humans are infallible so we should just assume that those institutions constructed by them are inherently flawed.  While there is truth in the fact that our governing bodies are imperfect, there is absolutely no reason that we should accept or encourage those imperfections.  Wrong is wrong.  Evil is evil.  Regardless of who institutes it or if they got away with it before.

Let's play a word game.  If I say the word "Politician", what's the first word(s) that comes to your mind?

Honest?  Civil Servant?  Law-abiding?

I'd be willing to bet it was somewhere along the lines of "Crook" or "Liar".  And the fact that we take this negative connotation in comic stride is a perfect example of how bad it has become.  We
expect to hear scandalous things about our elected or appointed officials.  Nobody utters a loud and horrified gasp when we see the local mayor, judge or senator on the television being accused of breaking the law; we just shrug our shoulders and say "It's just politics" and wait for Dancing with the Stars to come on.

I see I have regressed (or
progressed, depending on how you look at it) in my original ranting.  But it is really all connected.  

It is time for us to hold our ground.  It is well past time, actually.  If you watched the latest video from Baker's Green Acres (see link above), he says something to the extent that the guys lower on the DNR totem pole are "just doing their jobs".  Ok.  So maybe the poor sap who just works there to mow the grass at the forest preserve should't be held accountable (although I could argue this point also).  But anybody who would employ state-sanctioned force at the point of a gun on those raw milk sellers, heritage breed pig farmers, etc. should be held liable and accountable for their actions as well as should their superiors.  It's so much easier to say "It's my job" or "But my boss told me to do it" than to take responsibility for oneself. 

So don't pull that "just doing their job" crap on me either.  Those guys at Auschwitz where just doing their jobs.  Is the jack-booted thug with an itchy trigger finger pointing a gun at a dairy farmer going to shoot him if he dares sell that gallon of milk to a willing and knowledgeable consumer?  Just because it's his job?   Just because he has a shiny badge with ABC Dept. stamped on it?  Just because some politician said it was "OK" for him to do it? 

It's time to tar and feather.  It's going to be difficult.  There are going to be friends, acquaintances, maybe even family that you will have to come to terms with.  But we must tell them that their line of work is unethical, immoral, even evil.  That we will no longer tolerate injustice just because it's their "job".  These people need to be ostracized by their community until people realize that those jobs are not honest employment, that those jobs are nothing more than state-sanctioned evil.  We must make those jobs some of the most insidious, most disgusting, most hated occupations known to man.  When somebody tells you that she's a citation officer for the XYZ Agency, we must look at her in distain and ask why she can't get an honest job.  If a friend is applying for a job with the XYZ Agnecy, we must tell him that we no longer value his friendship.  When a guy at a bar is bragging about how he gets to carry a gun because he's going to raid a family farm for selling chickens processed on-site, we need to tell him what a POS he is.   It's not going to be easy to do, but it has to be done.

PS - I wish I didn't have to write this, but here goes:  I am not in any way, shape or form suggesting nor implying that you should use violence against any government employee (or anyone) at any time.  Violence is not the answer (although I wish the State would take the same stance).  And please 
don't take your anger out at your local mail carrier, city park lawn maintenance crew or the guy collecting money on the toll road.  There are government services that are worthy and justified (and you all thought I was an anarchist).   I'm not directing my anger towards them, but towards the tyrannical gun-wielding and Constitution-trampling thugs and agencies that think they are above the law just because some self-serving egomaniac in a political position told him it was ok.

The First Amendment is still (mostly) upheld in the USA.  Use it to voice your outrage.  

Grazing the Goats

The enclosure where we keep the goats is not large enough to supply them with adequate grazing so we have to feed them hay every day.  During the green months, I usually pick a lush area of grass and weeds and stake them out on a long braided rope with clippy-doo-dads on each end.  
One clip gets attached to the goat's collar, the other to the tree or t-post (or wheel of the truck, boat trailer or heavy tractor implement).
Although this may seem like the answer for those of you who desperately want goats, but have yet to install goat-proof fencing for your dreamed-about caprine buddies, let me tell you that it is NOT.

Goats are escape artists.  They will lean on, push, shove, nose under, climb over and generally make your fencing look as if a tornado ripped through your area and just dropped a mess of wire around your homestead.  We sold a doeling to a couple who claimed that she would scale their 4' high chain link fence to go visiting with the neighbor's goats.  The best "fencing" in not only a physically tough barrier, but one that contains the BEST greenery, as we all know that the grass (and briers) are always greener on the other side.  This is, of course, almost impossible, but it does help if your goats do not harbor pasture-lust for things outside of their enclosure.  If they are happy munching on what's inside their pen, they'll be less likely to want to go outside the fence.  But this post is not about goat fencing; I'll do one in the near future though.

Even though the clippy-doo-dad method of staking out goats sounds perfect, it also has it's drawbacks.  First of all, you must be within eye or at least ear-shot of them.  Because even though you may have picked a relatively snag-free area of grazing for them, they will find the smallest twig to snag the rope on.  And in three minutes flat, they will have wound themselves around said twig no less than three-hundred and fifty-two times until they are laying on the ground because there is no more slack in the rope.  I had staked Pan outside several weeks ago and he tangled the rope into a knotted mess around a long dead sapling that was, I kid you not, sticking up only three inches from the ground.

It pays to make sure the grazing area is clear of such obstructions even those as unassuming as large rocks as those will also be used to create a sort of knotted-up goat-macrame project that you will not be able to un-knot.  Even when the grazing area is cleared of any obstructions, it is only a matter of time (say, four minutes after you've left the goats and just started a conversation with your insurance agent on the phone) before they get themselves tangled up in the rope.

So why do I still clip the goats out on a lead?  Because it's the best I can do right now to get them fresh, green grass.  And as long as I can easily see and hear them, it's just a matter of going back outside and untangling them.  Now that I think about it, it's usually Pan and Annette that get the rope all messed up; Nettie and Chop Suey must be more rope-savvy.  But at least I won't have to worry about Pan much longer.

Monday, April 16, 2012

First Pasture Walk

Paul and I went to our first Pasture Walk this weekend.  The North Arkansas Meat Goat Association hosted a morning of speakers, lunch and a pasture walk.

The first speaker was from the University of Arkansas and presented information on the "300 Days of Grazing Program"", which was very interesting.  There was also a couple from one of the test farms that participated in the 300 Program and it was nice to hear from "real" people and not just look at slides and statistics from the University.  Basically, the grazing program focused on planting seasonal grasses like rye grass and bermuda along with legumes and Brassicas (i.e. turnips and kale), stockpiling those crops in-the-field for later grazing, effective storage of hay and pasture rotation.  

Although it was interesting, some of the practices were just not going to be conducive to our little farm; namely the planting of the turnips. There is just too much labor involved (and additional equipment that we don't have) in the yearly planting of crops to make it worthwhile for us, not to mention the expense.  What "pasture" we do have currently supports white clover, hops clover, plantain, fescue, bermuda, wild geranium, henbit and other grasses I have yet to identify.  Now it's just a matter of continuing the clearing of land and encouraging the growth of those forages that can provide our goats, mule and mini-horse the nutrition they need.  To many, it may seem odd that we're going to try to encourage plants other than fescue or bermuda grass; aren't all those other things, well, just weeds?  But we're not only trying to provide a variety of plants for our animals, but trying to establish a pasture that will yield green material for as long in the seasons as possible.  Will we be able to get a 300-day grazing period out of it?  Maybe not without implementing some of the more "drastic" measures suggested by the UofA (planting crops of brassicas), but we'll still try to implement some of the suggestions. 

The second speaker was a "Grassland Specialist" from the USDA and she gave a presentation on different types of electric fencing (I was hoping that she'd speak about 
grasses, but oh well).  We used to have the goats in an area protected with electric fencing, but it was destroyed in the Ice Storm of 2009 and we never put it back up.  We'd like to implement electric fencing again here, but mostly for separating interior pastures.  We plan on having the perimeter fence some type of heavy-duty small-square field fence with a standoff electric wire to keep the animals from leaning or standing on the fence.  The speaker also showed several uses of electric netting used for creating temporary grazing paddocks, although I still doubt the ability of the fiberglass step-in post to actually penetrate the "soil" (i.e. rocks) in our area let alone stay upright and keep the netting in position.   Paul says he wants to give it a try.  It would be a great way to get the goats more grazing area as our neighbors have repeatedly mentioned that they wouldn't mind it if we grazed the goats & equines in their pasture.  Free feed for us and free fertilizer and lawn-mowing for them!

The last speaker (I forgot where he was from or what company/department he was representing) talked about using goats for brush control as an actual business.  Although we intend on using our goats for clearing up the brush in the Evil Forest that surrounds the homestead, I just couldn't see a goat-powered brush clearing enterprise taking off around anywhere around here.  Interesting concept though, and I have heard of goats being used in more urban areas for controlling weeds & brush on steep slopes surrounding highways, mall properties (Look Mommy, goats!  Lets go see them and then go shopping!) or utility rights of way.

Lunch consisted of an array of dishes made with goat meat and I got to sample most of them, my favorite being the boring ol' seasoned & slow roasted goat.  The others were good, but you really couldn't tell it was goat meat you were eating.  Although this may be a boon to those trying disguise the fact that they are serving their guests goat meat, I am actually particularly fond of the taste of goat meat and don't try to hide it in my cooking.

The Pasture Walk was scheduled after lunch and was being held at Critter Ridge, a local meat goat farm.  This was the main reason for us coming to this event.  The livestock we saw consisted of two Narraganset tom turkeys (one which was very enamored with Paul), a llama, guard dog(s), three Boer bucks, half a dozen first freshener Boer does and their offspring and fourteen older Boer does with their offspring.  They also had two or three bottle babies since they don't keep more than two kids on a doe.  I thought that was odd, but later realized something else "odd" and probably the reason for limiting the dam-raised kids to only two; the does only had two teats!  Not sure why they raise / breed for only two teats on their Boers (they usually have four as opposed to two on dairy breeds) and I didn't get a chance to ask them why.

The owners, Ken and Candy Ziemer, gave us a tour of the pastures and showed us what types of vegetation grew on their land and what they encouraged in their pastures.  And guess what?  There were clovers (sub-terrarium, arrow leaf, white and hops), plantain, fescue, bermuda and wild geranium in abundance.  Exactly what we have in on our property!  So now I felt a little better knowing that somebody else was growing their goats on the same greenery we were planning on using.  

And now for your viewing pleasure, some pictures from our Pasture Walk at Critter Ridge:

Group of 2+ year Boer does & their kids.
Ken (in red) calling the slacker-goats to a different pasture.

This Tom turkey followed Paul around the ENTIRE time.

1-year Boer doe and her first set of kids.

Paul & I left before the main group and on our walk back to the car,
we caught a glimpse of the Tom following just behind us.
I think he was trying to get the license plate number off our car
so he could continue stalking Paul.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Creamed Lambs Quarter

I love creamed spinach.  Unfortunately the extent of my culinary experience with it had been in a Green Giant box in the frozen foods section, although it's probably been close to ten years since I've had it so who knows if it's still as "good" as I remember it.  I don't know why I hadn't made it myself.  Maybe because I was too cheap to buy the cream and spinach for it.  Maybe I was afraid I would end up eating the entire dish by myself.  

But now I had a small but steady amount of cream on hand as well as both spinach and lambs quarters growing like crazy in the raised beds.  What better time to make myself a batch of my beloved and long forgotten side dish!

I picked a bunch of lambs quarter and rinsed it off & chopped it up.  Then proceeded to scour the internet for Creamed Spinach recipes (there wasn't much of anything on recipes containing lambs quarters).  As usual, I didn't actually use a specific recipe but gleaned bits and pieces from a bunch of them, trying to determine what I thought would work best.  

I don't remember exactly what the measurements were, but basically I sauteed some onions and garlic, then melted some butter and poured in a cup or so of cream.  Added my chopped lambs quarters and a few sprinkles of salt and heated on low until the greens were wilted.
And I ended up eating the entire dish (minus a small serving for Paul) in two days.  It was just as good warmed up the next day.

It's so nice to have an old friend for dinner!  Now the real test will be serving it to my Dad.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

So long, Pan

I just got back inside from letting the goats out to graze.  I put each of them on a 20'ish foot long lead and hook them to either a tree or a t-post around the property where I can see them from either the front of back porch.

Since their pen has basically been grazed to little nubs, the only grass they get is hay while they are penned up in there, so I like to put them out on fresh grass for several hours every day.  Saves on hay that I would otherwise have to buy and it keeps some of the weeds at bay.  

Anyways, I had clipped Nettie, Annette and Chop Suey to their respective grazing areas and then went to get Pan.  He gets really anxious when he sees me coming with the lead rope and today was no different; except that the bastard rammed the gate when I stooped down to unclip the bottom hook and knocked me down.  So does the jerk go running to the does or greener pastures?  No.  He just stays far enough out of my reach so I can't get the lead on him and starts rearing up as if to butt me.  We play this game for a few minutes and then I finally just kneel down and wait for him.  And the &%@!* comes charging at me.  I figured he would try this so I was ready.  Jumped on the bugger and wrestled him to the ground, which although he is a Nigerian Dwarf goat, was no easy task.  After many scrapes, loud cussing, having the wind knocked out of me (I'm still panting as I type this) and finally getting him in a headlock and on the ground, I got the leash clipped to his collar and gave him a good crack or two with the end of it.  (Go ahead, call PETA on me, maybe they'll take him away from me.  I wish.)

I still put him out to pasture even though I told him that he didn't deserve it.  Sweet, green, lucious grass is only for good goats, and he is definitely not a good goat.  I'm finished wrestling with him.

We inherited Pan and Ishtar from a friend of ours that was moving and no longer wanted to keep goats.  Ishtar was Nettie's first kid, and Pan was a buck that my friends got suckered into taking for free.  After two years of putting up with Ishtar's Iron Fist Herd Queen antics, I finally had enough and sold her to another goat farm.  After Ishtar was gone, the goat yard was much more peaceful.

Now Pan's time has come.  I only have Nettie and Annette for my milking does and I think that they will be our only milkers for a while.  We just don't need all the milk, nor the expense of keeping additional goats.  Since we will only be breeding two does for the near future, it no longer makes sense to keep a buck goat, let alone a buck goat that I was
this close to putting a bullet between it's eyes just a half-hour ago.  I don't care that he's a purebred Nigerian Dwarf.  I don't care that he throws beautiful kids.  I just want him gone.  And I'll just deal with having to find a buck for Nettie and Annette come breeding time in the fall.

A friend of Paul just got a LaMancha goat and her two kids and said he may be interested in Pan for Mini-Mancha kids.  I'm going to tell him what a stinker he is and let him decide if he still wants him.  If he doesn't want him, I'm going to put an ad in the freebie paper for a Buck Goat.  Cheap.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Animals everywhere

In just one day, I had interactions with the following animals:

Twenty five chickens and one Easter chick.

Seven goats.
One mule.
One mini-horse.
Three cats.
One dog.
Three mice.
One psycho-squirrel.
One ringneck snake.
One common gray tree frog.

And this list just includes those animals I had some physical contact with (granted the physical contact with the mice was with the bottom of my boot, but still).  It doesn't include the dozens of wild birds, like the huge Pileated woodpecker that scared the beejezus out of me, the Phoebes that I watch building their nests while on the computer, or the rabbit that I know Moonshine has cornered under the shed.  Nor does it include the animals or animal products that we consumed in just this one day; milk (goats), eggs (chickens), hamburger (cattle) and lard (hog).

I'm really not sure where this post is supposed to be going (as if a blog had to go anywhere), but for some reason it just struck me this evening what a large role animals play in our daily lives.  

Oh, and I wanted to share this picture of my Easter Chick that I though bit the bullet, but actually made it!

I heard a chicken doing the mother-hen-clucking noise when I was outside in the garden.  So I went over to the shed where the broody hen was and she was off the nest, walking around, all fluffed up and scratching at the ground.  And right behind her was a little chick!  Not sure if it's a different chick, or the one that I though was missing.  We'll just say that it was the MIA chick so I feel better, ok?  Ok.  

I scooped up the chick before the hen could peck my eyes out and put it in a bucket so I could hastily clean out a small pen.  Put the still-peeping-like-crazy chick into the pen and went back to grab the still-very-pissed mother hen.  Returned her to her chick in the pen, provided food and water and all is well.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Animal Experiments

For those of you who may be new to reading my blog, let me first tell you that this is NOT a gross-out or an oh-my-gawd-you-test-cheap-makeup-products-and-baby-shampoos-on-little-fuzzy-bunnies kind of post.  So you may continue reading with a clear conscience.  

For my "older" and more frequent know better :)  So without further ado, here's the overly drawn out story of animal experimentation here at Krazo Acres:

Remember the Peeps Cake?  You know, the one that could put a five-hundred pound gorilla into a diabetic coma?  Well it's all gone.  Every last bite of it.  But not because I sat in front of it with a fork.  We were invited to an Easter Supper yesterday so I brought the Peeps Cake along, not only because I didn't make anything else to share, but because I know that having that cake sitting here with a confessed ultra-sugar-addict (namely, me) would certainly lead to a disaster.  Or at least another cavity and ten extra pounds to my already supple backside.

Most of the cake was consumed by those gathering at the Easter Supper with the exception of three lonely pieces, which I took home just in case Paul wanted some.  Ok, so I lied.  Paul wanted nothing to do with the Peeps Cake and would actually make a "Bleccch" noise every time he passed it in the kitchen.  It was for Rhiannon and I. was for me.  I didn't get a piece at the party as I had already stuffed myself with various other snackies, ham, bean salad, deviled eggs (NOT made by me), more ham, and other homemade desserts.

Anyways.  The three slices came home with me.  I forgot to bring the plate inside last night so the lonely little peeps stayed overnight in the vehicle.  Paul brought it in the house this morning when he found it sitting in the passenger seat of the car.  Guess he couldn't handle sitting so close to them on his drive into work.  The Peeps Cake then sat on the kitchen counter from about 6:15 am to sometime just after 7:30 am, when I decided that it wouldn't be too much of a diet-killer to have a half-slice of cake for breakfast (so says the lady who's 30 lbs. overweight).

I shuffled over to the kitchen to cut myself a slice of breakfast when I noticed that there were tiny black specs on the cake....and they were moving!!  Ants!  I almost had a hot flash when I saw them.  It's not like I'm afraid of bugs, but the thought of ants crawling on my kitchen counter top is just eerie.  Now don't get me wrong; we have plenty of bugs in the house (much to the horror of my mother) so it's not an uncommon thing to see a bug or two in any given week. 

We have spiders, evil green bugs, moths and the occasional wasp or two that make their way in through an open screen door.  We live in a log home in the country in the middle of the woods.  We have bugs.  End of story.  But the weird thing about it (well, one weird thing) is that we've never had ants in the house.  And it's not like there's a lack of crumbs around here or the occasional week-old peanut butter sandwich stuffed under the couch cushions (hey, I have a toddler).  There's plenty of ant-fodder around here.  I guess the super-concentrated mass of sugar on the kitchen counter was just too much for the ants to ignore.

I picked up the cake plate and put it in the sink.  In hindsight, I'm not sure why I did that, it's not like the ants couldn't manage to escape a stainless steel sink.  I then started doing what any other person would do; squishing the tiny buggers with my thumb.  Luckily there weren't a ton of them, definitely under the hundred mark, but it still took a while to seek them all out and render their little exoskeletons into nothing more than a black spec on my counter.  

When I was finished sqashing, I sat on the chair and watched.  And waited.  I was trying to find the tell-tale trail of where the ants came from.  All the commotion piqued Evil Kitty's interest so she came up on the counter to check it out.  After several more minutes of only the occasional ant-straggler (Sorry I'm late.  Hey, where did everybo....squish!), I gave up.  But Evil Kitty didn't want to leave the scene of the Great Ant Massacre at Peeps Knob.  She seemed to be searching for more ants, nose down to the counter top and moving back and forth like a little kitty-bloodhound.  I finally tired of her antics and shooed her off so I could wipe up all the insect bodies.  But before I could grab the sponge and spray bottle, Evil Kitty jumped back on the counter.  And I shooed her off.  And she jumped back up.  Like half a dozen times.

Seeing that the shooing wasn't working, I picked her up in my arms and was about to scold her (as if that would make a lick of difference) when she started pushing her face into my hand and fingers.  She was licking and rubbing on my fingers like I had catnip on them or something.  I put her back down and she even did the "psycho kitty catnip roll around thing".    I wiped up the counter, washed my hands and went to pet Evil Kitty again.  She was still interested in my hands, although not as much.  The counter top also didn't prove as irresistible as it did before.  Weird.

A few minutes later I saw several more ants.  Squished them.  And Evil Kitty jumped back on the counter and was sniffing where the ants were.  Then came up to rub her face on my fingers again.  Lightbulb.

Ant guts are like catnip!  How weird is that?  I smelled my hands and they did have a faint odor to them, sort of like a chemical.  I single-handedly found the answer to the Catnip Crisis of 2012!  No more need to grown catnip in your garden; just squish a bunch of ants!  Think I could sell this idea to a pet store?  Me neither.

So even though I'm mildly excited about the discovery of an insect-based alternative to Nepeta cataria, I'm still more concerned about where the said insects came from.  I may never find out; I just hope that was the last of them.

Oh, the Peeps Cake didn't go to waste.  And the chickens didn't mind the ant "sprinkles" either.

Easter Surprise

We spent Easter day at the house, doing "Easter-ie" things.  Like hiding candy-filled plastic eggs in the front yard (the adults) and subsequently finding same and plopping them into a basket or immediately opening them and cramming the contents into our mouths (Rhiannon, not me!).

The afternoon was filled with outdoor activities like shoveling compost, moving rocks, weeding the garden and the normal barnyard routines.  Sounds like a perfect Easter celebration, hugh?  Well, there was some excitement that afternoon.  While passing the barn where the broody hen decided to take up residence, I hear it.  Peeping!!

I ran towards the house and shoo'ed the cats inside (so they wouldn't be tempted to have any "Peeps" for an Easter snack) and grabbed my camera:

Momma hen butt, dud egg (been there, neglected, since I first found the hen)
and peeping, fluffy, cute as can be (and hopefully still alive) newly hatched chick!
The hen actually got up and exited the underside of the barn to get a drink from a nearby pan of water, but hurriedly made her way back to the chick and proceeded to fluff back up and re-establish herself on the rest of the eggs (I'm assuming there were more eggs although I couldn't see any).  The little chick was wandering around under the barn and back to the hen, but the hen would peck at it when it got too close.  Which, of course, got me worried so I sat there on my hands and knees, face resting on the gravel and oak nut covered ground (this was definitely not a comfortable position and I think I still have divot marks on my knees) waiting to see if the hen would allow the chick back under her fluffy mass of feathers.

I finally tired of waiting (and could no longer feel my hands or knees) so I left them.  When I went back a while later, there was no sign of the chick nor any peeping so I'm hoping that it made it underneath the hen again (and didn't get pecked to death by it's mother.....I always suspect the worst).  

I'm not sure if I'm just going to let Nature "take it's course" and leave the hen and chick(s) to their own devices or what.  But probably not.  When I'm certain the hen is done hatching, I'm going to try to gather up her and her chicks and put them in one of the smaller pens in the goat /chicken barn where they will be safe and contained.

Hopefully come daylight (
why am I up at ten minutes to three in the morning writing a blog post???) I'll go outside to the sound of more peeping chicks.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yup, I did it.....

I saw something like this on the internet and just HAD to make my own......
If you don't hear from me in several days, you'll know I overdosed on sugar.  Oh man, I'm really going to regret this one :)

Happy Easter! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Rooster Mojo

Since being injured, Porch Rooster (PR for short) has been pretty much pampered.  Yes, I know, he's only a stupid chicken, and we usually don't "pamper" the poultry around here because they are, after all, just livestock.  But he was always a nice rooster, and those of you that have raised roosters already know, a nice rooster is hard to find.

He had his own little recovery room for a while and has since been hand fed the choicest of chicken scraps and given fresh goat milk to drink.  PR's tail feathers have come back in and the rest of his feathers are looking nice and shiny.  He's also gained weight (all that goat cheese and leftover meatloaf obviously helped) and his comb, which was all saggy, flopped over and a dull red, is now perky and bright red.

Porch Rooster (PR) coming up to the house for his breakfast.
And a few days ago, I heard him crow!  It wasn't a full-out, "I'm king of the chickens - don't mess with me or I'll cap your ass" crow, but it was definitely a crow.  I haven't heard him crow since the attack.  Then the next day he crowed again, this time with a few ladies present.  And today he has a small following of the older hens gathered around him hoping that he'll do the rooster-clucking-thing that basically means, "Hey ladies, I got a tasty bug over here, want some?".   I haven't seen any chicken lovin' going on yet, but I'm happy he's getting back to his old self.

I don't think he's ready to compete with the younger roosters yet, and not sure if he ever will be.  But at least PR's got his own little hen harem now.....and found his Mojo. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fast Food "Duh" moment

I'm a horrible mother.  There have been more than a handful of times when I've purchased items from the frozen food section at the supermarket specifically for Rhiannon.  Namely, the cheap-o frozen pizzas and corn dogs.

And the stupid thing about it is, I make homemade pizza here about once a week.  But it does take time, even when I'm using pre-homemade sauce and frozen mozzarella and goat cheese.  So when Rhiannon suddenly decides she wants lunch, like right NOW, I pull out a corn dog or pizza from the freezer.  It's just too easy to pop a frozen pizza in the oven, plop it in front of her and call it "Lunch".

So what did I finally do last night while making our almost-weekly pizza for pizza & movie night?  I actually made a mini-pizza and froze it!  

My batch of dough is usually made into one large pizza crust and a pan of bread sticks.  But this time I made the usual large pizza and then a smaller pizza.  I partially cooked the small pizza crust then put the sauce & cheeses on it (Rhiannon is a cheese-only kind'a kid) then wrapped it in aluminum foil and stuck it in the freezer.

The next time Rhiannon is hankering for lunch and I'm too busy to prepare a real meal, I'm going to go into the freezer and take out my
homemade frozen pizza.  And I won't feel quite so guilty.

Now I'll just have to get my bum in gear and freeze some of my homemade corn dogs.  Maybe I'll even put the little stick in them like the store-bought ones to make it more "authentic".

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hard Boiled Egg Hell, Part 2

Ok, so I still haven't tried any of the many suggestions I received from my wonderful blog pals.  Eventually I'm going to go through them one by one and see which one(s) work for me.  

But it could just be as Mama Pea suggested;  I have some sort of curse that will not allow me to successfully nor easily peel a homegrown hard boiled egg.  Hopefully that curse does not pass onto Rhiannon as I'd hate to know that I would be the underlying cause of her suffering when she ever decided to make deviled eggs.

After recently having my first egg salad sandwich in over a year, I could not get the craving out of my system.  But there was no more egg salad left.  Which meant that I would have to attempt peeling eggs again.  Which meant that I would likely burst a blood vessel.  I just wasn't in the mood to try experimenting with the suggestions just yet.

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to this modern miracle of engineering:

Now before you all get on my case about giving up on the old fashioned way of boiling and relieving eggs of their shells, let me tell you that this product was just a week ago given to me by my neighbor.  One of her friends knew she also had trouble peeling homegrown eggs so gifted her with this.  And she in turn, re-gifted it to me.  When I reluctantly accepted it I told her that I couldn't promise that she wouldn't see it at the Salvation Army thrift store in the next couple of weeks and she just smiled a knowing smile.

After a week of Rhiannon playing with the box and contents, I finally had a strong enough craving for egg salad that I gathered what parts I could find (notice there are only five complete Eggies in the pot instead of six) and set upon making myself some hard boiled eggs.

Eggies!  And if you call now, you'll receive a FREE egg separator!

I cracked an egg into each Eggie, put the top on & screwed the ring on.  Plopped them into the pot of water, brought it to a boil then let it sit with a cover on top for fifteen minutes.  I pulled each Eggie out of the water and let them sit on the counter until they were cool enough to touch.  And here's what I got:

Some pretty strange lookin'g eggs, hugh?  I don't see how one could make deviled eggs from them, although I suppose if an egg yolk were to end up centered, you could scoop it out and then use the flat side of the egg as the bottom and wouldn't have to worry about them rolling all over the serving plate.  But then you wouldn't have an excuse to dig out that deviled egg platter you got for a wedding gift years ago (but never actually registered for).  I guess if you cracked two eggs into the Eggie it would fill completely up and make an egg shaped egg (now wouldn't that be a novel idea?).

They didn't come out of their plastic shells without me whacking them on the counter half a dozen times and squeezing them until I thought they'd never return to their original shape.  Should I have sprayed the Eggies with cooking spray before I cooked them? 

Maybe I'll go on youtube and find the commercial and see how they do it.  But if it's anything like the infomercials from years ago, it will probably show a ditsy lady peeling eggs like she was on cocaine, RedBull and meth all at once, hands flailing like she was being attacked by hornets,  eyes rolling back into her head and egg shell flying everywhere, finally giving up with a loud "huff" and positioning her hands on her hips with a sigh.  Then enter Eggies, stage left.  

Wait a second.  That IS what I look like when I'm trying to peel eggs.  Shit.

After all was said and done, they did make perfectly acceptable egg salad.  I'm not sure I'll continue using them as I'm not crazy on the idea of heating up my food in plastic vessels, let alone plastic vessels manufactured in China.  

But who knows; if I don't manage to find another way to peel eggs I may just continue subjecting myself to funky chemicals leaching into my food just as long as I get my egg salad fix. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chicken Surprise

No, I'm not talking about a chicken casserole dish.  Although I wouldn't mind one right now as I have yet to plan anything for supper.

For the past week, maybe more, I've been hearing two different hens do their "I just laid an egg" squawking right around the tool shed.  You know, where they're
not supposed to be laying eggs.  I never got there in time to see exactly where they came from, they'd just be leaving the general area.  I looked around the shed, under the shed, in the pile of stuff leaned up next to the shed, but wasn't able to find the suspected hidden pile of eggs.  

Then this weekend, Paul, Rhiannon & I were sitting watching the goats graze near the shed when I spied an egg peeking out from just under the front of the shed.  I went down on my hands and knees and found three other eggs.  And after brushing a pile of leaves aside, I saw this:

At first I though it was just one of the squawkie hens, but she didn't move at all during the day.  And when nightfall came, she didn't go in the coop with the other chickens.  I checked on her in the morning and she was still there and when I checked again before dusk, she was still sitting there.

So I guess my wish for a broody hen has come to fruition!  But I was kind of
 hoping that it would happen in the safe confines of the coop and not in the "wilds" outside where there are numerous nighttime critters more than happy to have a midnight snack of chicken.

I'm not sure how long she's been under there, although I suspect at least since my last official chicken-count from last week.  I'm not sure how many eggs she has under her as I cannot reach that far and I don't want to spook here and break up the nest.  So I guess the wait is on.  

I know that broody hens will forgo food and water for most, if not all of their time on the nest, but I felt badly for her not knowing how long she's been under there or how long she will continue to set under there.  So I managed to toss a juicy pear just within reach of her beak.  And she just looked at it.  Well, actually she fluffed up and did the "don't touch my eggs or I'll kill ya' bitch" thing.  And
then she looked at it.  Not sure if she ate it because I left her alone again.

Crossing my fingers that she survives the remaining nights on her nest and that we'll have peeping chicks here soon.

Because you know, we need to make more hard boiled eggs!

Monday, April 2, 2012

One year egg count

After noticing that some other bloggers religiously keep records on how much produce, meat, eggs and milk they produce on their farms, I though it would be a neat idea if I could manage to do the same.  

I started last April with the eggs, and just this spring kidding started measuring the milk output.  I've also been entering farm related receipts into the calendar even though I'm afraid that I will just prove that they are costing us money.  But knowledge is power, right?  Ugh.

Typical hens.....eight nest boxes, but five chickens in four boxes.
So anyway, today I did my tallying of the eggs for the year (why didn't I do this on a spreadsheet instead of just on a calendar???) and was pretty surprised at the total count and the flucuations during the seasons.  

Here are my monthly totals:

April: 244

May: 240
June: 157
July: 179
August: 152
September: 150
October: 89
November: 27
December: 23
January: 29
February: 238
March: 389

Year Total: 1,921

Up until the second week of February of 2012, there were only between twelve and fifteen hens (I didn't always keep track) of laying age.  The new pullets started laying on February 7th, and that accounts for the sudden increase from January's piddly total of 29 to a whopping 238.  So starting in February the number of laying hens almost doubled for a total of 20 (or so).   Yes, I'm a bad chicken counter.  All I know is that we currently have 25 chickens including roosters, but it's one more than I
thought we had (I'll explain that in the next post).

We didn't use supplemental lighting through the winter months because I figured the gals could use a break, although I didn't realize until I started keeping count how much the egg numbers would decline.  The holidays were pretty much egg-free and I think I may have even bought store eggs for baking holiday cookies....oh, the horror!

The first part of February Paul installed the solar panel and lights in the chicken coop / goat shed so they did have some additional lighting at night before I got outside to shut the chicken door & turn the lights off.

We're eating eggs like it's going out of style and I still have plenty in the fridge to sell.  As long as we don't lose too many hens to predators this year, it looks like next year's totals could be almost double.  

I can't imagine what other egg dishes I'll have to come up with.