Monday, December 30, 2013

Clucking Round the Homestead

Lily is due to kid in just over four weeks and the "new" RIR chicks are now almost four months old.  Which means that I have to kick the biddies out of the kidding pen so it can be used as, well, a kidding pen.  I'm going to try to clean out the pen tomorrow and open up the slats in the door so the chicks can venture out into the Great Wide Open.  I'll then turn on the light in the big side of the coop and hope that they eventually make their way into that side of the coop come dusk.  If not, I'll just close up the kidding pen and they will either "Go into the Light" in the big coop or I'll end up having to hand-deliver them to the other side.  Which I think I end up doing for at least a month after evicting new chicks from the brooding area.  Fun times await.

I think there we still have a total of fourteen older chickens, four of which are roosters.  The hens are two years old now so they're starting to slow down in the egg department.  I've never culled older hens; I've never had to.  Being a free-range chicken around here pretty much means you're darned lucky to make it past two moltings, and if you do manage a third or even fourth year (which has never happened), well then you've earned your keep and are welcome to stay here and eat chicken scratch and kitchen scraps regardless of your egg output.  Too bad the older (and obviously smarter) chickens are never the ones that go broody so I can keep those SmartChicken genes at the homestead.  And this is why I bought the aforementioned RIR chicks this past summer.

I did have a little "oh crap" moment over the weekend when I walked outside to see two very bloodied roosters.  I immediately swore at myself and my laziness because I didn't lock up the chicken door the following evening so on my walk to the barn I was preparing myself to find a chicken coop full of carnage.  But I didn't.   Upon closer inspection it turns out that the two bloody roosters are the same ones that have been having at it.  It's actually kind'a fun to watch them get all fluffy-feathered and fighting, but I'd never seen them actually draw blood until now.  Guess it's time to put one of them in the pot.  Either that or set up a little Gladiator Arena in the yard and charge admission.

We had some really nice weather last week, but it seems as if Winter was intent on reminding us who is really in charge and I'm back to chopping ice out of the stock tank and loading up the wood stove.  Which I suppose is pretty good timing as I'm going to need the stove going in order to make that rooster soup.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Carnivore Kind'a Christmas

The days preceding Christmas were filled with meat, meat & more meat.

Three more squirrels were put into the freezer (yes, I have greatly improved my shot).  I was going to cook them up right away, but we had other meat that needed to be taken care of.

A beef brisket (from like Winter of 2011) was taken out of the deep freezer to defrost, then cut in half.  One half was smoked and pulled apart to be slathered in homemade BBQ sauce in the near future, and the other half is currently sitting in a tub full of brine in anticipation of becoming a slab of pastrami.

A Christmas goose was cooked and eaten.

And by far the best meat-event was the making of summer sausage:

A few weeks ago we attempted to make a small batch of venison summer sausage, but it didn't turn out well.  The meat wasn't ground fine enough and there weren't enough spices.  The fact that we cooked it in the oven at too high a temperature didn't help and we didn't get any smokey flavor either, thus making our sausages "blah". Luckily it wasn't a large batch as it will probably end up being snacks for the Big Sloppy Dog.  Our recent batch, however, was darned yummy.

We used ten pounds of ground venison, one pound of fatty pork, LEM Summer Sausage seasoning & cure, and then added some liquid smoke, extra garlic salt, four jalapeno peppers and 8 ounces of monterey jack cheese.  There was a little bit of sausage left after we ran out of the casings so Paul just rolled it up in a small tin-foil log.  He loaded up the smoker with hickory and plum and smoked the sausages for three hours at 150 degrees.

After the sausages were taken out of the smoker they were put into a cooler filled with ice in order to stop the cooking process as well as to firm things up.  I put the small tin-foil sausage into the freezer to speed things up because we were very anxious to do a taste test.
Venison summer sausage with a glop of goat cheese.
The little sausage was deeee-licious!  And we had to sample the larger sausages later on, because, well, to make sure everything was ok.  Wouldn't want to have inferior sausages just laying around the house you know.

The cost of the LEM seasoning package ($10) and sausage casings ($8), although not very expensive, make me want to mix our own seasoning / curing mix and see if there is an alternative to the store-bought collagen casings.  The tin foil wrapping kept the sausage in a nice shape, but I think it prevented most of the smokey flavoring from penetrating into the meat.  Maybe I'll do a side-by-side test next time.

Which may not be too far off the way we're chowing down on them.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Rhiannon's Revenge

Well, at least she liked it.  Apparently Pew-Pew was able to give me one last "up yours" because he didn't turn out nearly as good as I had hoped.

I  crammed his abdominal cavity with homemade stuffing, slathered his skin with S&P and some butter and plopped his butt in the behemoth roaster my Dad got me for Christmas a few years ago.

325 degrees for several hours, basted him once in a while, then ended up finishing him in a hot oven to crispy up the rest of the skin.

The legs were pretty good, but the breast meat was kind'a chewy.  And the "sauce" (i.e. cornstarch thickened gravy'ish product) I made with what goose fat there was and red wine base wasn't really that good.  In hindsight, we probably should have just smoked him like we did the ducks.  But oh well, we had our Christmas Goose.  And Pew-Pew's sacrifice has made it possible for other geese to live on as I don't think we'll be growing out any additional geese for the supper table.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas :)

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Christine!

Love ya!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bye-Bye Pew-Pew

Pew-Pew's demise had been in the plans for several months now.  His aggressive behavior towards us and the other livestock was really pissing me off.  And the fact that Rhiannon would actually cry when she was anywhere near him pretty much sealed the deal.

Up until about a month ago, he had the run of the place.  Then I finally put him in the goat pen because Rhiannon refused to go out in the front yard to play.  Two weeks ago, I put him in a separate pen in order to fatten him up.  He got unlimited cracked corn and high protein chicken crumbles, but he didn't eat nearly as much as I would have thought.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe he was too busy hissing at me every time I went by the pen or maybe he stayed up late every night trying to plan his revenge.

Warning:  Mom, stop reading right here.  Really.  Click HERE to look at some cute kitty pictures.  And if you do continue reading, I don't want to hear one peep out of you about it.

D-day was today.  Paul set up the scalding pot and I went inside to clean up the kitchen counter and gather the necessary butchering utensils.  When I went back out to check on Paul, Pew-Pew was already limp & lifeless, hanging upside down from some bailing twine strung between two cedars.  I was a bit surprised to see he had already done the deed and before I could even speak, Paul says, "Well, that didn't go well."  Apparently one cannot "wring" the neck of a goose like one would a chicken.  I believe the end came when the goose's skull met with a short length of fence pipe.  Not something Paul seemed particularly proud of and not something we would replicate if we had any other geese to butcher.  I asked him why he didn't just hang him upside down and slit his throat like the chickens, but he said that there would be just too much flapping around without a killing cone.  And I had to agree.  If you've ever butchered a chicken without using a cone, they can flap around like crazy.  Not only is it messy, but they tend to flap so hard they dislocate their wings and it doesn't make for a nice looking carcass.  I can't imagine the trauma and mess that could have occurred had the goose been left to flap himself to death while hanging upside down and spewing blood from his carotid artery.

Anyways.  We scalded him in the pot of hot water and started plucking.  Not nearly as easy as plucking a chicken.  Even with some soap in the water, it didn't penetrate all the way to the skin and we had to re-dip him several times to get the breast and wing feathers off.  And the down.  OMG, all the down feathers!  It felt like I was plucking a cotton ball.  

Paul brought him inside and I started cutting exactly like I would a chicken.  And the first thing I noticed was that there wasn't as much fat on him as I expected.  I pulled out the fat in the abdominal cavity and put it away for later.....all 4 ounces of it. :(

The I went on to eviscerating.  I thought it would be easier than a chicken as you can really get your hand up in the chest cavity, but the connective membranes were tougher so I couldn't pull everything out all at once.  I also had to be careful because I wanted to save the liver for pate and I was really looking forward to seeing how big it was.  Which it wasn't.  It was a paltry 2 ounces.  If I hadn't personally just ripped the insides out of that goose, I would have sworn it was the liver of a larg'ish chicken.

After being relieved of his feet, neck and insides (including a pair of testicles, thus confirming he was a he) I put the carcass on the scale.  Six pounds, four ounces.  I think we've had chickens dress out bigger than that.  He was six months old; plenty old to butcher.  Did he not get enough to eat?  Did he not eat more because he was an "only" goose?  Did he purposely avoid getting big and fat as to make himself look less desirable for supper?  I don't know.  But I do know what we'll be having for Christmas supper.  I just hope we don't have any surprise guests because there won't be a lot to go around.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gourmet Dinner with a dash of Hillbilly

Thursday night I finally took the sea scallops that Mom gave me (like four months ago) out of the freezer.  Friday night I planned on making broiled scallops and spaghetti with an Alfredo sauce and garlic breadsticks.

When I was making the Alfredo'ish sauce I used garlic, butter, Parmesan cheese, goat cheese, and goat cream I had skimmed from milk earlier in the year and put into the freezer.  After I poured the cream in the saucepan, I had suddenly realized that I wasn't exactly sure if that was cream........or colostrum!  Given the bright white color of the cream-in-question, I'm pretty sure it wasn't the colostrum.  But heck, even if it was, the sauce turned out beautifully!  And I'd be willing to bet that there's some hoity-toity French restaurant charging an insane amount of money for a plate of something-or-other smothered in "premiere lait du chevre" sauce anyhow.

But I'm pretty sure that same restaurant isn't pairing that dish with breadsticks made from split hot dog buns.  Yup.  I totally forgot to make the bread.  And since there wasn't quite enough carbohydrates in that meal, I grabbed a few frozen hot dog buns, split 'em open, slathered them with butter, sprinkled garlic salt and Parmesan cheese on top & popped them in the broiler.  Instant Hillbilly breadsticks!

Take that, Monsieur Fantaisie Pantalon!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Put'n & Take'n

That's what our family calls it when we clean up clutter.

And as my Mom so eloquently pointed out to me earlier this week, I've got "piles of crap everywhere".  So in order to tackle some of the clutter, I organized my animal med cabinet.  Which wasn't even within sight so technically nothing really got un-piled, just re-organized.  Is that passive-aggressive, or what?

I don't know why I haven't done this sooner.  Well, I know why.  I'm lazy and procrastinate.  But anyhow....

I went and bought myself a tool box a few days ago and went about cleaning out the cabinet.  Threw a bunch of old stuff out, found some stuff I had forgot I had even bought and managed to make myself an empty space in the kitchen cabinet.

The box is a little big, but I figure that I'm sure to end up filling it up eventually.  You know.  When I have to start buying "pig" and "cow" meds and equipment.  Even though I had originally envisioned "Everything" inside that box, it just didn't happen.  Some of the meds are kept in the fridge so I ended up putting them into small, lidded plastic box from the dollar store:

Because although I knew that the broad-spectrum antibiotic was kept next to the pickled relish and the CD/T vaccine was hidden behind the horseradish sauce, I doubt Paul would be able to find them if the need arose for it  in my absence.  Now everything is together.  And separate from the condiments.

I had bought the bigger toolbox based upon the size of one of the largest tools we have; the disbudding iron, but then decided that it was best where it was at; inside the disbudding box. Then, there's still all the birthing equipment and supplies in the Kidding Kit inside the old cooler in the barn.  Which is best where it was at; inside the barn.

So, even though I wasn't able to consolidate all of my animal doo-dads and thingies and what-nots, I do feel a bit less disorganized now.  And if Mom's lucky, I may just get rid of the grocery sack filled with old magazines before the New Year.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Well that went quickly

The day before the Almost'a Ice Storm, I hauled a pallet full of firewood up nearer the house.  I also had a pretty sizable pile right on the porch. But as time wore on, as the snow & ice relented and the temperatures refused to budge beyond 32 degrees, the pallet was getting lighter and lighter.

Yesterday morning, I uncovered the pilfered pile and found only this:
I swear that pile was like 5' tall !! 
And that was gone before sunset so I wheeled my barrow down the hill to the "big" pile of firewood and wheeled it, full, back to the house where it now sits next to the porch.  Our daytime temperatures have been in the upper 50's since yesterday and we're supposed to get up to 65 on Friday so I suspect that the wheelbarrow will last until at least tomorrow.  At which point I'll be barrowing my butt back down to get more firewood.

It was interesting to see exactly how much wood we went through those cold eleven days.  The wood was stacked about 4' high on the pallet so I guess I could measure the pallet and figure out how much of a cord we used.  But even if I knew how much we went through in eleven days, those were really, really cold days for us here so it's not like I can simply extrapolate the days of winter / known wood used and figure out what we'd need for an entire year.  The wood pile is pretty impressive (not Mama Pea Wood Pile impressive, mind you) so I'm sure we have enough for the year, and there are still tons (literally) of logs that need sawed up and rounds that need split.  

I guess my exercise routine is going to be wheel barrowing and splitting.  Beats feeling like a hamster on the treadmill I suppose.

Paul's Take
If ONLY she's get her butt on the wood splitter.  I'm the one dozing trees, limbing them, sawing them, splitting them and stacking the wood.  I buy that expensive contraption so she doesn't have to split logs by hand and she still refuses to spend more than a half hour on that thing.  And you can even sit down and do it!

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

He IS going to be the Guest of Honor at our Christmas Supper so I figured I should decorate his pen.  You know.  To get him in the Holiday spirit.

Is that just sadistic, or what?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

That GOOD White Stuff

I'm currently down to milking just one doe, once a day.  About a month & a half ago I went from milking morning & night to just in the evenings.  I told my three milk customers to be prepared for a milk cut-off.  Then around Thanksgiving, Annette started drying herself up so I just went with the flow (or lack thereof), cut her grain rations and quit milking her.

MamaGoat is our only source of fresh milk now.  She's still giving just a tad over a quart, once a day.  Just enough for cereal & the occasional baked item that calls for milk.  MamaGoat is due to kid on March 21st, so I'll stop milking her right after Christmas in order to give her a three month break.  I'd give her the full three months if I stopped on the 21st, but I just couldn't fathom the idea of Christmas cookies without fresh milk.

When I suspected the milk flow was ebbing, I started freezing some of the milk in empty water bottles: 

They are the perfect size for thawing just enough to get Rhiannon (and me) through the looooooong milk-less hump before Spring kidding.

Every year I dread the thought of the milk spigot being turned off.  And maybe one day I'll actually spread out the kidding dates to give us a year-round supply of milk.  Nettie is due on February 24th or March 2nd, so we'll be back in the milk business soon afterwards.  But until then, we'll just enjoy what fresh goat-goodness we have now and ration the frozen supply.  And I can "enjoy" two months of not having to freeze my buns off in the milk parlor.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

That White Stuff

Today was Day Eight of the 2013 Almost'a Ice Storm.  Paul has been working 12 hour shifts so has been taking the dually to work, so he could get to work.  That leaves Rhiannon and I with the red shoebox.  Which is still frozen solid to the icy driveway.  Grandma, however, couldn't go eight days without seeing her only granddaughter so she braved the main roads (which, although greatly improved, were still nothing one would want to go out in if one didn't have to) and parked up the hill from the house, trudged through the ice-crusted snow with the Sloppy Dog at her side, and helped Rhiannon and I put up Christmas decorations.

It has been a pretty easy storm as far as ice storms go.  I had plenty of time to prepare and even if I desperately needed something, Paul could have picked it up on his way home from work the second day when stores were opened again.  There's plenty of food in the house, still enough grain for the animals, and thankfully we didn't lose power.

Rhiannon has been enjoying all the snow and she even went sledding for the first time in her life:
Yes, that's my daughter sliding down the hill on a scoop shovel.
And on to the big hill!
Hold on, little girl!
Hillbilly, we most certainly are.  But YOU try finding a place that sells sleds around here.  Water toys a-plenty, but slim pickings when it comes to winter sports.  Golf can still be played here in the winter; and occasionally while wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

Yesterday was the first day I bothered to wear anything other than sweatpants and a sweatshirt.  It's not like anybody was going to come down here and the goats don't so much care if I'm wearing fifteen year old Hanes sweatpants with holes in unmentionable areas as long as I keep the hay and grain coming.   Today I felt a little more human and actually donned a pair of nice jean and a Christmas'ie sweater and put on some makeup!  I'm sure Mom was relieved.

The snow and ice has melted significantly, but with our daytime temps only in the lower 30's, it's slow going.  And before it can even disappear from the landscape, we're forecast for some more freezing rain tomorrow night.  Which means another weekend will go by with Paul having to work 12 hour shifts.

The critters are all doing fine despite this white hell they're having to live though.  I even went up with Paul in the dually yesterday to see Ms. Melman and Nugget.  Chickens have finally moved out from underneath the barn but are still sticking to the paths made by my shoveling or those made by the passing of numerous goat feet.  I'm still having to chop ice out of the water buckets every morning, but today I refused to bring out more than one bucket of warm water since the stock tanks weren't freezing up during the daylight hours.  Horrible, I know. Call PETA on me.  I'd like to see them careening their butts down the icy hill and crash into a stand of cedars; I need a good laugh.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Goat Swap O'Rama

Several weeks ago I put out an ad for Olivia, the doeling that I sold last year, but got back a little over a month ago.  She's a sweetie, but I really didn't want any milking Nigerians.  Technically she's 3/4 Nigerian & 1/4 Saanen, but I'm not really into the smaller milk goats.

Anyways.  I had several inquiries about her, but the serious ones apparently weren't serious enough for them to drive to our place nor even meet half-way to procure her.  I only wanted $150 for her so there was no way I was going to spend $40 in diesel fuel to sell her.  Then a lady about 2 1/2 hours hours from here inquired about her.  She wanted a smaller milking doe and liked the idea that she had some of the Saanen milking lines in her.  And she was willing to meet half-way.  Which I still wasn't thrilled about, until we started discussing the details.

She was more than willing to pay my asking price, but then threw out the idea that she had a year & a half old Boer doeling that was more than likely pregnant and sent me a picture of her taken earlier in the Spring.  And for that I was willing to make the two hour round trip drive for.  The fact that I was able to use my Mother In Law's car to haul Olivia and the new goat back & forth in was even better.  (Don't worry Grandma V., not a single turd or sprinkle of pee soiled your beloved Cruiser.)

So we agreed on a meeting place and time, I packed up the kiddo and goat and we were on our way for the Goat Swap.
Olivia is packed and on her way!
The trip there was uneventful (and un-pee-ful, thank goodness) and quiet.  I had half expected to be cramming chewing gum, used napkins or whatever other sound-blocking material I could find in the car to shove in our ear canals if Olivia started yelling.  She didn't utter a peep.  And swapping out goats wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, although I did get a few strange glances as I walked Olivia around the grassy area between the McDonald's drive-through and the Walmart parking lot for a potty break.  What?  You don't take your goat with you when you go shopping?  Sheesh.

Penny (the new goat) was a little larger than Olivia, but still had enough room to turn around (and around, and around, and around....the entire trip home) and lie down.  She wasn't nearly as well potty trained as Olivia and I had to stop three times when I noticed her squatting to pee.  But I had crammed a bunch of old towels, wee-wee pads and paper towels in the back so it was just a matter of wadding up the wet ones, putting them in a garbage bag, and tying it up until we got home.  Penny was also a bit more vocal than Olivia, but nothing horrible or ear-splitting.  I can't even imagine how horrible it would be to have had Pickles in the car with us for a two-hour drive. 

We got home safe & sound, unloaded Penny into her temporary pen and cleaned out the car.  No one would have ever guessed that I had just transported livestock 120 miles in the Cruiser.  I did, however, sprinkle a bit of carpet deodorizer and vacuumed up just in case there was any goaty smell.  Now there's just the overpowering smell of  fake flowers in there.

I finally move Penny in with the rest of the goats after four days and of course there's some head butting, pushing and shoving, but I think the 8" of snow in the yard has decreased their desire for bullying the new goat on the block.  

Penny is such a love bug and follows Rhiannon and I everywhere.  But as much as I love her demeanor and really, really long floppy ears (Too long?  Hmmmmm?) and uncharacteristic spots here & there (Double-Hmmmm??), I'm thinking that she's not all she was "supposed" to be.  But more on that later.  She's a sweetie and I'm keeping her.

So, just in the past two months I've swapped two goats; NewNew's little doeling for a two-year, as-needed rental of Merv the Perv for stud service and Olivia for the newest addition to our Boer herd. And I'm going to put an ad out for NewNew sometime this week.

Wonder what I'll end up with next?

Paul's Take
How about ending up with some CASH?  When she said she was going to get rid of some of the goats, I figured that she meant for money, not more goats.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Talk'n 'bout the weather

We ended up with around 8" of snow on top of a solid 1" of ice pellets.  My hillbilly hay shelter hadn't collapsed and I was rather surprised it didn't after brushing off the snow & cracking the thick sheets of ice off it.  The hoop hay tunnels, however, did not fair as well:

I brushed off what snow I could reach and whacked the tarp to get as much ice off as possible.  But even after getting a lot of the snow & ice off, it still didn't spring back to it's original shape.  I never really considered the hay tunnels having to withstand a snow load.  But at least the materials are still usable.

Our area in general was hit pretty hard, although still not as bad as it could have been if freezing rain had replaced the ice pellets.  The weight from the sleet/ice/snow have destroyed a lot of the local docks; the entire structures sinking and the roofs collapsing.

A few businesses found their storage sheds had collapsed.  Luckily they were closed and there were no employees hurt.  And of course there's the jack-knifed semi-trailers on the road and vehicles that had slipped into the ditches.  But I don't think there have been any serious injuries.  We're still not out of the woods as there is a chance of more snow/sleet/freezing rain tonight and tomorrow and honestly, I'm still waiting for the power to go off.

I spent half the day inside feeding the wood stove, and the other half trudging through the snow to haul warm water to the goats / chickens.  But even through all the snow and cold, I had my constant barn chore companion:

Outside Kitty is such a good little boy.  He follows me when I pitch out hay, around the barn to feed everyone, inside the milk parlor (hoping for a cup of warm goat milk) and then to bring in more firewood.  I haven't managed to make a proper kitty house for him yet, but he does have a box with a blanket and heating pad in it and it seems to be doing an ok job keeping him toasty in this unseasonably cold snap.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Since I ain't got nothing else to do

Figured I could crank out a blog post to make up for my skimpy November blog numbers.

We got sleet / rain / ice pellets yesterday morning starting around 9 am.  It finally let up.  When it turned to snow.  There is now at least 7" of snow on top of the car.  Which is probably stuck to the ground for at least a week as the highest temperature in the near future is a balmy 32 degrees.....on Thursday.  And by the looks of the radar, I don't see the snow letting up for at least another three hours.
At least someone is enjoying all the snow!
I suppose I should be counting my blessings though.  The weather didn't provide the exact mix of temperature and moisture to cause much ice to accumulate on the trees, so we've been spared (so far) a power outage.  Hauling warm water to the goats / chicken is a pain in the bee-hind, but the water situation would have been much, much worse if the electricity went out at the mule barn as their water is warmed with a stock tank heater.  And since Paul is on Snow Call he's had to drive into work, and past the mule barn, twice a day so he's been taking care of feeding & watering Ms. Melman and Nugget.  Another thing to be thankful for is the Dodge dually.  The county hasn't made it's way down our road with the plow or grader yet, and I don't suspect it will for a few more days.  If it weren't for the dually, we would be stuck at home.  Which I don't so much mind, but Paul's work wouldn't be very happy.

The wood stove is eating up the logs, and we're still in the 20's outside.  It's supposed to get down to Zero tonight so I'm going to be through the logs on the front porch before long and have to dig into the pallet of logs I brought up on Wednesday.

I've been shoveling the snow.  Not for us, mind you.  But for the goats and chickens.  Because you know, snow is evil.  Goats hate ANY type of moisture coming from the sky.  And the chickens refuse to walk through the snow to even get to their water & food hut.  So what does a farmgal do?  She shovels a path for the chickens, of course!

Hey, how about some hot tea over here?!
The new hillbilly goat hay shelter thingy is working, although I should probably move the snow off of it before it collapses.  The hoop houses for the stored hay rounds are straining under the weight of the snow & ice.  I had to duck to get under them to pitch hay when I normally can stand straight up.

Well, I'm off to check on the critters.  Again, again.  Then I think I'll come in, have some hot tea & watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Rhiannon.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ice Storm a' Coming

The news guys have been warning us for the past three days that we were in for a Sleet / Ice / Snow storm.  Figures.  The past few days have been in the mid to upper 60's.  What better way to usher in an ice storm than with weather requiring one to wear a t-shirt and shorts while doing barn chores....and then two days later have you bundled up in your Carharts hacking ice from the animal water tanks with an ax?

I guess we're due for a nasty ice storm, although I wouldn't have expected it this early in the season.  The last one was in 2009.  It was our first ice storm since moving here.  Mostly just a big inconvenience for us, but truly a nightmare for a lot of other people.  A home just a few miles from us burned to the ground because the fire trucks couldn't make the drive up / down / around the hills in the subdivision with the thick layer of ice on the road.  People farther out in the country were without power for over three weeks.  We went thirteen days without power, although we did have a generator to keep the large freezers from spoiling all the beef & pork we just filled it with (of course) and a wood stove for heating the house.

Knowing what could happen if we did get hit with the storm, I've been outside the last two days getting things in order.  A lot of the chores should have probably been done already, but what can I say?  I work best under pressure (i.e. I'm a lazyass).  Got the wood piles covered with tarps.  Moved wood to the porch and filled up a pallet with even more wood and moved it closer to the house.

Extra bedding in the chicken coop & goat huts.  Closed up the barn windows.  Made sure tarps were over the hay hoop houses.  Topped off all the water tanks / buckets / pails.  I even made a hillbilly makeshift cover for the "feeding" hay (as opposed to the stored hay).  Because you know, if the hay gets wet, or iced or even the slightest bit moist, the goats won't eat it.

This is something I've been meaning to do forever, but the thought of having those picky bugger goats turning their nose up at hay with snow or ice on it (or even close proximity to it) had me scrambling to do something - anything - to cover it up.  So I scrounged up half a cattle panel, a t-post, some bailing twine and used plastic sheeting and came up with this:
Hillybilly-esque?  Darn right!  Effective?  I hope so.
In reality, an extended power outage isn't that traumatic for us because we're kind of prepared for it.  The generator will keep the freezers going.  We have access to city (i.e. running) water just up the road.  Plenty of flashlights & oil lamps.  Wood burning stove for heat & cooking.  The biggest problem is taking care of the livestock.  Water will have to be hauled several times a day to the goats / chickens, but that isn't very far from the house.  Ms. Melman and Nugget, however, are pastured a mile up the road.  And if the ice is bad, even the truck won't be able to make it up the big hill to the barn.  So even though there is city water at the barn, there's the possibility that I'll have to hike up there to make sure they have adequate water, and, if the electricity is out the tank water heater won't work so ice forming in the buckets will be a problem.  But I guess we'll take that task on when we come to it.

In the meantime, I think I'm going to vacuum the rugs again and make sure there's no dirty laundry or dishes.  And maybe make another couple loaves of bread.  And if we manage to somehow avoid all this snow / ice, at least the house will be clean!

Are you in the path of this storm?  Are you ready for it?  I hope so.  If not, get yer butt in gear!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Goat Dates Finished

Even though I've been lax on my blogging lately (not quite sure why), I haven't been as lax with my goat plannings and (mis)management.

Merv the Perv went home right before Thanksgiving.  I had him breed three of the smaller does (MamaGoat, Olivia and NewNew) and when none of them seemed to go back into heat I called his owners up and told Merv, "Smell ya later!".  Met the owners half-way, transferred him from my truck to his truck and waved bye-bye until next year.  I have no doubt that as long as I can secure a decent rent-a-buck every year that I will not be looking for a permanent dairy goat stud for our farm.  Merv was here for just barely over a month.  Only thirty-five days to water, feed, care for - and smell - a buck goat as opposed to doing so for 356 days a year.

My two larger does, Nettie & Annette, went on their date at another farm not far from us earlier this fall.  Although it was a little more difficult (for Paul, that is) having to haul them back & forth three times, it's still easier than having to care for a buck on-site.  The only problems we had was that I apparently didn't gauge Nettie's heat cycle well enough and we had to take her back twice, and that since the girls didn't really "know" the buck, they weren't as receptive to him as they would have been to a more familiar buck.

Now that I've yammered on about how nice it is to not have a buck, I have to admit that there is still one at our farm.  Herman, the Boer, is still here.  Not that I really expected to get rid of him already.  If things go as planned, we do want to have a sizeable meat goat herd in the near future so having a buck on hand would make more sense.  Although at some point we're going to have to change bucks if we're going to keep his offspring as breeding (and not eating) stock as to avoid too much inbreeding.  So I've got some time to work on that.

In the interim, I have goat babies to plan for.  This year's breeding schedule is pretty much messed up.  Nettie was bred two separate times, both Boer gals were bred two separate times.  My first potential kidding date is only eight weeks away, my last kidding date is just under four months away and I just this morning picked up a "probably-pregnant-not-sure-when-she'll-pop" goat to our herd:
Penny, our newest Boer doe.
Yes, Paul knows.
More on her later.  I have to get outside and start with the Storm Preps this afternoon.  Ice is forecast for Thursday and there's a lot to do (that should have been done already).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Anybody seen my Muse?

I looked over at my Blog Archive on the side of the screen and there is a paltry eight entries for the entire month of November.

Wow.  Pretty pathetic.  Especially since I had considered doing my first NaNoWriMo (for like only two seconds, but still it did cross my mine).  I only managed to crank out eight piddly blog posts for November, what in the world was I thinking that I would start up again on my uhm, "novel"?

Anyhow, I have several post-worthy ideas and farm'ish happenings around here that I could have published, but never got more than a few sentences into it and the inspiration just left me.  We only had family here for four days for the Thanksgiving holiday, so it's not like I can blame them for my lack of blogging.  Most of my favorite blogs were even neglected (sorry gals/guys, still luv ya!).  I think I even went four or five days without checking my email.  Remember when you liked to get an email message?  Now I almost dread opening my email account and it's not like I have tons of spam or anything.

I actually thought (again, for only like two seconds) that maybe it was time to get rid of the internet at the house.  I'm sure Paul would be thrilled.  I could still get online at the library & do at least one post a week, but then Rhiannon wouldn't be able to get on her Starfall website (which she does use several times a week) and I know that the second I pulled the internet-plug, I'd get hives or start shaking because I would suddenly need to look up something online.

But I think I just needed a little break from the computer.  Or not.
Nope.  No inspiration in here.
Somebody give Thalia my email address, will ya?  I need some creative stimulus.  With a smidgen of smartassness thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Zombie Mixer

After only four loaves of bread and three batches of cookies, my KitchenAid broke down again.

It hasn't really been the same since Paul took it apart & replaced the worm gear.  Didn't sound the same and didn't have the same "oomph" it used to have.  I was able to make 1/2 whole wheat 1/2 white bread with the mixer only complaining a little, but when I tried a 3/4 whole wheat bread, it vocalized it's protest quite loudly and eventually just bit the dust.

Paul took it apart again and the worm gear that was just replaced was already worn.  Luckily I bought two of them when I placed the order so we had the part on hand for immediate re-assembly, but it makes me wonder why the gear lasted fifteen years, but the replacement lasted only hours.  Is something else causing the gear to wear or is it just crappy replacement parts (I did use "authentic" KitchenAid parts)?

After my personal mechanic put the mixer back together, I went back to using it.  But this time I made sure I made my cookie doughs first, then went on to 1/2 whole wheat breads.  And the mixer is starting to protest already.  After only four bread doughs.  I do not want to be without a mixer for our annual Cookie Baking Bonanza next month, so I figured I'd just have to - oh the horror - knead dough by hand.   So now I have a mixer that isn't quite "alive", but not yet dead.

I did, however, pick up a used all-in-one bread makers for $10 and if I venture out to town again I'm going to hit the resale shops to see if there are anymore I can pick up.  I'm not sure if they will be able to handle a 100% whole wheat bread.  But even if it can take some of the load off my mixer, I'll use them for my bread baking until I decide what the fate of my existing KitchenAid and do a little more research (i.e. procrastinate) on a new mixer that can actually handle a loaf of my whole wheat bread.

Or, I can just make bread like people have been doing for the past, say, million years.  I'll probably have less fresh bread around the house....but then I'll probably end up with less "dough" around my midsection.  Which is probably definitely a good thing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

An Early Christmas (Goose).....


"Why I hate Geese"

Sorry Mom, but his butt is all but cooked.  Or smoked.  Haven't decided which one yet.  And unless I get distracted / lazy / preoccupied, his time on this earth is now measured in mere days.

I honestly believe we tried pretty darned hard to keep Pew-Pew a "nice" goose.  Rhiannon or I hand fed him grain, petted him, gave him a kiddie pool to swim in and tried to treat him like a pet as opposed to just livestock.  Then a few months ago he started running after Rhiannon.  He would chase the car when Paul came home from work and even run up behind him trying to bite him.  Of course, we gave Pew-Pew a swift kick in the gooseass if he bit us or went after Rhiannon, but other than that, he was far from abused.

It's not like I haven't given Pew-Pew a dozen or more chances to prove that he isn't, in fact, a total butthole.  And honestly, now I feel a bit guilty that I haven't wrung his neck sooner.  Rhiannon will not even go out in the yard unless Pew-Pew is locked up with the goats.  And if he is outside the pen and Rhiannon & he happen to cross paths, she starts running and crying.  She won't step off the porch to get in the car unless Paul, Grandma or I are there to make sure the pathway is goose-free.  My mother thinks I'm horrible for wanting to lop his head off (even though just yesterday he attacked her), but I really do feel guilty for keeping an animal around that totally terrifies my child.

I worked with a woman that told me she wouldn't go into the goat / chicken pen because she's afraid of chickens.  I didn't understand how anyone could be afraid of a stupid, practically flightless, overweight bird that she probably eats on a regular basis.  She said she was traumatized as a child by having to collect eggs on her grandparent's farm and the chickens would peck her or flap after her. And now because of me, sometime in the future, Rhiannon will be confiding in her best friend that she is terrified of geese.  Because years ago her mother kept an evil bastard goose that would run after her and bite her and whack her with his wings.

Rhiannon & Pew-Pew in happier days.
When he wasn't a total prick.
Sometimes I decide to leave the goose in the goat / chicken pen so Rhiannon can actually play out in the yard.  About two weeks ago I've noticed that he's even chasing the goats while he's in the pen.  I was secretly hoping that one of them would stomp his feathered butt into the ground or bust his skull with a well-placed horn (thus making my decision to have impromptu goose for supper that very evening an easy one), but he actually holds his ground.  And after watching him at it for a while just this evening, I think he's trying to breed them.  He'll walk up to them when they've got their heads in a feed bucket or in the manger, kind'a peck at their hindquarters and then try to "walk" up their back.  And when the goats finally get sick of it and swing their heads around to say "That's freaking enough!", he gets mad and bites at their faces and chases them around.

I feed Pew-Pew each and every morning & evening.  I'm not sure if he has been civil with me because of that, or because the time he did show aggressive behavior I punted his butt across the yard.  But apparently cracked corn only goes so far to keep a goose's behavior in check because last week I got a nasty bite on the forearm and this evening when taking the empty grain bucket from him, he bit me in the ass as I walked away.  Oh, and did I mention that he is even louder and more vocally annoying that even Pickles?  I never thought I'd find another animal that would out "yell" Pickles.  He just won't shut up.  I don't even think I've heard Pickles in the last month.  Which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing except her bleating is just drowned out by the stupid honking.

So there's my reasoning for planning a dinner based upon the carcass of a once-unbelievably-cute, flappy-footed pet.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I've given up hunting

Had to do a reality check this past week.  I was hoping to get just one more squirrel to fill up the frying pan so I brought out the .22 when I saw one out back by the feeder.  Took my time, took aim, and missed.  Not once, not twice, but three times.  Squirrels ain't the brightest rodents around, and will often just jump a little bit when a shot goes off nearby, so my shots were actually on the same individual.

Talk about embarrassing.  And pathetic.  There was no way I was going to continue hunting if I could not be relatively sure of my shots.  Wounding a squirrel to run off into the woods to slowly die is bad enough, there was no way I was going to chance an off shot with a deer.

It was obviously time to do some practice shooting.

Paul set up some targets and I plinked away.  Did some adjusting on the sights.  Did some more plinking.  Adjust sights.  Plink.  And then when I was somewhat satisfied at my grouping, I stopped for the day.

Day two & plinked some more with the .22.

Day three, more plinking.

I'm disappointed in myself.  There is no reason that I couldn't be practicing once a week.  And until I get a better, more consistent grouping on my targets, the squirrels and deer will be getting a reprieve (much to the relief of my mother).

So.  When was the last time YOU practiced with your firearm(s)?  Are you confident enough to take that squirrel at 60 yards?  Are you sure that the shot you're about to take on that big buck is going to drop him right away, or will you have to track him down for hours, or worse, lose him to die a slow and painful death?

I don't want that to happen to me, so I'm off to practice some more.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Competing for Supper

Last week I noticed a a Red tail hawk hanging around the house.  Like, close enough that I could easily throw a rock and hit it.  And I've been having the "shoot or don't shoot" debate in my head.  Back in my Suburban Days, I would have never, ever even thought about blasting a hawk.  But back then, I didn't have tasty livestock that were vulnerable to the razor sharp beak and talons of the raptor family.

We've had a couple of sharp shinned hawks hanging out here over the summer, but they weren't nearly as close to the house and chickens and I honestly wonder if they are big enough to take a hen.  Regardless, I've been known to take the shotgun outside and blast a warning shot to scare them off.

The Red tail, however, was much, much bigger and much more tolerant of my yelling and arm waving.  And I know why he was staying around here.  The squirrels have been going bonkers lately, stuffing their little rodent maws with acorns and shoving them into some hidden cache in the woods.  There were a crapload of squirrels.  Like, one could almost step on them while walking through the woods.

So I suppose I can't blame Mr. Red tail for his preference of perching areas as the potential for a squirrel supper was probably pretty good.  And the fact that he hasn't plucked the little rooster chick from the goat yard is good news.

Since we didn't want the Red tail to have all the fun (and meat), Paul and Rhiannon took a little hike behind the house yesterday evening and got a nice, plump squirrel.

Not enough to make supper out of, but I'm hoping if the winds ever die down today I'll be able to get another two and we'll be eating high on the hog, er, I mean, squirrel.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Deep Down Freeze

I just LOVE my big chest freezer.  Nineteen cubic feet of space to keep homegrown, wild and store bought goodies preserved at a nippy zero degrees Fahrenheit.

There are, of course, disadvantages of having that much food in there.  The most recent disadvantage that comes to mind is having to pull something out of the very bottom of the freezer:

I can jussssst reach the bottom if I stand on one foot and lean over into the chest.  My latest freezer grab was a package of pork sausage.  Way at the bottom.  Because we're almost out.  (Quiet sobbing)

Other obvious disadvantages are reliance on an uninterrupted power supply and the fact that we tend to occasionally lose items in there to freezer burn.  Charlie and the chickens don't so much mind that as they have some mighty fine dining when a freezer burnt meal comes their way, but it's food that we could have eaten and money down the drain.  And when the power does go out, we can only manage to go three days (depending on the ambient room temperature) without having to pull out the generator and power the freezer up.  During the ice storm in 2009, we were without power for thirteen days.  The generator wasn't used to run the well, provide hot water or keep us in electric lighting, but to keep our chest freezers operating.  Of course, just weeks earlier we put a half steer and a hog in there.

Even though the freezer is still pretty much full now, it is not entirely filled with food items.  When we take food items out, we replace it with a soda bottle filled with water.  A full freezer operates more efficiently.  And if the power were to go out, all those frozen soda bottles will keep the freezer colder for longer.

Deer season has already started here.  Hopefully we'll fill our deer tags and have another hog sent to the butcher in the very near future so venison and bacon will soon replace those frozen bottles.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Last Minute Suppers

I normally like to have supper at the kitchen table.  Meat, veggies, bread on real plates and cloth napkins.  I try to have it ready when Paul gets home from work so we can all sit together as a family and relax a bit.  But sometimes (ok, more than just sometimes) circumstances warrant that the supper not only be a quick & easily prepared meal, but one served on tv trays in front of the television.

Rhiannon has been sick for a while and although she's getting better, today was an "off" day.  And I was trying to catch up on housework so it was getting pretty late in the afternoon before I had even though of what I was going to make for supper.  So I went with one of my "OMG, what am I gonn'a make" favorites.  Sloppy Joe Pie.

I grabbed a sleeve of ground beef from the depths of the freezer (and almost got lost in there), chucked it in a pot on the stove and turned the heat on.  While the beef was cooking, I folded a load of laundry, went to the pantry and (luckily) found a can of Sloppy Joe mix, opened it up and plopped it in the pot of cooked ground beef and kept it on low.

Whipped up a batch of biscuits, threw another load of clothes in the washer.  Rescued a dinosaur from the clutches of the "bad" dinosaur gang and helped Rhiannon put them in jail (i.e. pillows propped up against the couch).

After incarcerating the velociraptors, I went back in the kitchen to finish up our evening meal.  Which basically meant pouring the sloppy joe mixture into a baking dish, slapping some American cheese on top, then dropping spoonfulls of the biscuit mix on top of that.  Popped that sucker into a 400 degree oven, went outside to feed the goats & shut up the chickens, came back inside and served everyone a steaming hot bowl of Sloppy Joe Pie while we watched The Empire Strikes Back.
Dinner and a Movie with Annabelle Rhiannon

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Burning through Daylight Savings

I hate Daylight Savings.  I mean, really.  Not only because it's darker "earlier", but because every stinking year I tell myself that although I will set the clocks back an hour I will still get up at the "normal" time, thus giving myself an extra hour of time to do something-or-other.  This is just as bad as my New Year's Resolution to get up earlier and exercise and not eat so many cookies, etc., etc., etc.

This "getting up earlier" never seems to last for long anyhow (maybe slightly longer than my no-cookies resolution) and then four months later after being accustomed to waking up at the appointed hour, I lose an hour of sleep in order to go back to the previous time schedule.

The goats don't care if it's 6 o'clock or 7 o'clock.  They want to be fed.  Like now.  The chickens are obviously indifferent to the numbers on my watch as the darned roosters will start crowing hours before sunrise and then they march their little feet into the coop about ten minutes before dark regardless of how many times the little wooden cuckoo pokes it's head out of my wooden wall clock. And the cat will wake me up to be fed exactly one hour before the alarm rings, the first stinking morning after the time change (how the hell do they know???).

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all run our lives based upon nature's clock instead of the one on our cellphones?  Back in the olden days, I suspect that is how it happened.  And back in the really, really olden days, I'm betting that once the sun went down, you'd better be hunkered down in your cave or teepee or sod house before the wolves and other nocturnal predators came looking for a late night homo sapien snackie.

But now we've got time clocks to punch, schedules to keep and electricity to light up the darkness when we would normally be hitting the pillow.  All in an attempt to make a day somehow contain twenty-five hours.

Where was I going with this anyways?  You know.....I have no idea.

Maybe I'm just up too late.  But it's "really" only 11 pm instead of midnight, so that's ok.
I'll get around to changing the clock....

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Near Death Experience of an Old (kitchen) Friend

Today, during the bread dough mixing portion of my baking marathon, I noticed a louder than usual noise coming from my beloved KitchenAid mixer (Heavy Duty, 325-watt version).  I turned off the mixer and readjusted the ball of dough in the bowl.  Turned it on again.  Noise was worse.  Then before I could stop it, IT stopped.  Of course, in the middle of my dough-mixing.  Had to finish two loaves by hand (oh, the humanity!!  I know, I know, I'm lazy).

After putting the loaves into the oven, I started my diagnostic evaluation of what was wrong with my mixer.  By putting my flour, honey, salt, yeast and measuring cups away......and calling for Paul.

Oh, my poor KitchenAid
While he was taking apart the mixer, I went online to see if there were any documents or diagrams that I could pull up and found quite a few sites that said the problem was probably with the worm drive gear (whatever the hell that is).  And as Paul pulled some more stuff off the mixer, it did indeed appear that the wormdrivegearthingy was the culprit in my KitchenAid catastrophe.  
Red arrow showing where the worn part is, just in case you were wondering.
It's a nylon (i.e. hard plastic) gear that was worn down to practically nothing on one side, thus causing the mixer to not so much mix anything thicker than pudding.  Apparently the worn gear was no longer able to put up with my heavy whole wheat oatmeal honey bread.

As Paul cleaned the grease off the parts, he found a part number conveniently stamped on the gear.  He continued with his mechanic-ing and I pulled up a few sites that had KitchenAid parts, found the most economically friendly one, and now for the low-low price of only $9.96 I will again have a fully functioning well as having a spare gear on hand!

Although I was glad that my wonderful, intelligent, sexy, mechanically inclined husband was able to figure out the problem and order the replacement parts, I do have to admit that I was secretly hoping the mixer was toast so I could buy a bigger, better one.  Oh well.  At least we didn't have to fork out $400.

Maybe Santa will shove a KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer (available with free shipping via Amazon, just in case somebody was wondering...hint-hint) down the chimney in a few years. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Winner!!

Ok, so I'm late as usual.  I was supposed to pick a name this morning.  But life got in the way.

Anyhow, I wanted to say "Thanks" for all the Kitty Haikus, it was great reading them all.  Paul even came up with one, and although he (and Christine) were not entered into the contest, I'd like to share his cat haiku with you:

Cat licking it’s butt
Damn cat get off the counter
Go poop in your box

As you can tell, Paul does not appreciate the cats as much as I do.  

Anways.  What you all came back here today for; the winner of the chocolate kitties!
OMG, I just noticed Evil Kitty in the
background!  Freaky, hugh?!
It's blurry, but the winner is.......

Congrats!  Send me an email with your mailing address to CarolynRenee at centurytel dot net and I'll get the box o' kitty chocolates to you! :)

And, since I couldn't help practically peeing myself after reading Leslie's haiku entry, I'd like to send her a little something in the mail as a Consolation-Cat-Prize.  Send me your mailing address to the email above and I'll dig up something kitty-like to send ya.

Hope everyone had a great Halloween!  See you in November (OMG, I can't believe it's November tomorrow)!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

National Cat Day! ! !

Did you know that today is National Cat Day?!?

And as I'm sure any of you who have read this blog for any amount of time knows darned well that I'm thiiiisssssss close to being one of those crazy cat ladies.  If it weren't for Paul and my reluctance to be served divorce papers, I'd have a thousand cats!   Well, maybe not that many.  But probably more than I should have.

So in celebration of National Cat Day (which I can proudly celebrate because as far as I know, this is not a Federal or even State holiday so no taxpayer funds were stolen from the citizens to promote it) I would like to have a little quick giveaway!

But it's going to cost you something in order to enter.
Some of the Cat-tacular chocolates you - yes YOU ! - could win
from Louisa & Millie's Chocolates!
If you'd like to have some cute little kitty chocolates sent to you by my most favorite chocolate shop in the entire universe, Louisa & Millie's Chocolates, you must post a Haiku about cats in a comment here.


And, just to remind those of you who may have forgotten your third grade Haiku assignment, a Haiku is a short Japanese poem with the following parameters:

Three lines of verse, the first having five syllables, the second having seven syllables, and the last having five again.  For example:

Crazy cat lady
Cat hair all over your pants
You get no respect

I will have one of my personal feline companions pick a winner on Halloween morning and announce it sometime that day.  US residents only.  No immediate family (sorry Christine, go get your own darn chocolate).

Good luck!