Friday, August 30, 2013

Bow chicka bow-wow

Warning: Crude and more-than-likely-to-offend-somebody material to follow.  Which probably wouldn't surprise my regular readers, but I want to warn any newbies.  Ok?  Ok.  Now either read on or skip to the next blog on your reading list.
While Rhiannon & I were at the Farmers Market this morning, Paul called me on my cell phone and said that he thought Pickles and Lily were in heat.  I said that it was entirely possible as I think the dairy gals usually go into their first real heat cycle in September so the fact that the Boer ladies might be in heat seemed feasible.

I had thought that Boers were all-year breeders, but I hadn't noticed Lily or Pickles in heat since late winter.  My original plans were to have them both bred in early June for an early November kidding, but I couldn't pin down any specific time that they were cycling.  And the fact that Herman was more interested in head-butting them than sniffing their backsides wasn't a good sign either.

So I asked Paul to play Pimp Daddy and took advantage of his offer to supervise the goat breedings.

I'm normally the person playing match-maker between our buck and does, but since he was the one to mention it, I figured why not.  Honestly, I didn't really want them bred this early because I'm not crazy about having them kid at the end of January / beginning of February, but oh well.

Paul said that Herman eventually got one good "hit" with both of them, but when I got home I figured I'd haul them back in there for another go'round.  Lily was pretty much willing for a few minutes, but we practically had to sweet talk Herman into it.  He sniffed around, even did a little snort and two or three good tongue flapps, but that was it for foreplay.  I though we were going to have to bring out the PlayGoat magazines because it seemed as he was almost reluctant to mount her.  Not sure if he's holding out for a sexier goat or what.  Herman got her one time while I was in the pen with them, but then nothing more.  Not another tongue flap, snort or stomp.  Not even the "I think I'll piss in my face" routine.

So I kept Lily there and brought Pickles in too, hoping that a threesome would get him hot and ready for action.  No such luck.  He sniffed around a bit and that was it.

I know it's ungodly hot outside, but this has got to be the most un-horny goat I've ever come across.  Well, I guess it's really only the second buck goat we've had so I only have Pan to compare him to.  Pan was a total freaking prick, but he was a non-stop goat-luvn machine.  He'd try to breed a tractor tire if I put one in his pen, rutting season or not.  And you could always tell when the does were in heat because not only would he be snorting, flapping, pissing on himself, stomping and making a general ruckus, but the does would be wearing a trench in the area next to his pen from pacing back & forth.

So is Herman like a reluctant heterosexual?  Maybe he's one of those metro-sexual kind of goats and my gals are into rough and tough biker goats?
Ha'a'a'a'a'y Ba'a'a'aby!
Or maybe it's the reproductive organ.  (Here comes the gross part, but in my defense, I did warn you at the beginning).  Today was the first time I've seen Herman's penis.  Now don't go calling me a pecker-peeker or nothing, but as a farm gal that helps with the procreation of her livestock, I see my share of penises.  And, well, male livestock do tend to let things hang out once in a while.  I can't tell you how many times I've caught a glance of Pan's dinky-do during his time here.  And let me tell you, a goat penis is the most disgusting, gawd-awful looking piece of flesh I've ever laid eyes on.  I recall telling someone that a goat's penis looks like a garter snake that was run over by a lawnmower.

But when I caught a glance of Herman's winky, it wasn't nearly as bad looking as Pan's.  Or maybe my mind is just now numb to the sight of livestock reproductive organs swaying in the breeze.  But maybe a nice looking package is a turn-off to does?  I don't know.  But the fortune in Herman's Fortune Cookie of Life may be written on a tiny slip of butcher paper.

I wrote down today's date in my farm calendar and if Lily & Pickles don't come into heat again in another three weeks, I guess we'll be having our first Boer goat kids at Krazo Acres at the end of (chilly!) January.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two kinds of Heat

It's 97 degrees on the back porch.  And the thermometer is underneath the roof in the shade and they sky is partially overcast.  Summer is back in full force in the Ozarks.  It looks as if we're going to be in the mid to high 90's until Monday.

I've been having to go back to watering my few remaining squash plants every other day or they get soooooo droopy and lifeless looking.  And today, I'm going to do it.  I'm going to rip out the half-dozen, still alive but barely hanging on summer squash plants.  My fall planting yielded me this:

Twelve mounds of zucchini & yellow squash and that was the extent of my summer squash harvest.  The butternut and acorn squash are fairing only slightly better.  We've been getting a handful of cucumbers which are almost immediately eaten and one or two tomatoes every few days.  Just enough to keep our maws busy, but not enough to can.  I keep telling myself that I'm going to put in more green beans and maybe after my second shower today I'll attempt it.  I'm down at the garden watering the winter squash so I may as well water a row of beans.  And hope they don't get tough & stringy like last year's green beans did.

The heat has brought out the horse fly and bald faced hornet swarms.  Poor Charlie will run out from underneath the porch like a banshee, trying to run away from the flying pests and the goats do crazy-mad-tap-dancing-jigs when tied up to the fence during feeding time.  And of course, I'm still battling the bald faced hornets every time I milk.

And speaking of milk, I've started milking Nettie only once a day.  She has such a hard time keeping weight on during milking season and she looks really skinny.  I give her all the grain she wants to eat and even started supplementing her hay with alfalfa pellets, but she just won't plump up.  I plan on milking her once a day for the next month and then dry her up early.  We'll miss the milk, but she's getting up there in age and I need her to be healthy for her pregnancy and subsequent kidding.

I went out to check on the critters just before daybreak this morning and Nettie was yelling.  Not yelling like something was wrong, just one of those "Will you PLEASE shut up already" yells.  So when I milked her this morning I gave her backside a good once-over and her behind was pink. I'm tempted to take Nettie into Herman's pen and "tease" him to see if he's up to the task because he has yet to show any interest in Pickles or Lily and he needs to preform his one & only manly goat duty or he'll be preforming Icecapades in the deep freezer.

I wouldn't let Herman actually breed Nettie because I'm wanting at least one more dairy doeling out of her before she enjoys her retirement and I've got my eye on a Nubian buck for Nettie's date night.  My attempts at getting someone with a Saanen buck to breed her have been totally unsuccessful so we're going to borrow a buck from a friend.  And cross my fingers for a doeling out of Nettie.  For .......Snubian babies!  You know.  Saanen + Nubian = Snubian!  Get it?  Hugh?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekend Fridge & Freezer Cleaning

Well, not really cleaning per se (sorry Mom), but cleaning out some of the stuff that has accumulated in the freezer, fridge and counter tops.

We've been making our way through the pork in the freezer (and we're down to just sausage now...I want to cry!) and each supper brings something new from its frozen depths.  Don't get me wrong, I love having a huge chest freezer, but that does mean that there is stuff (what is in that package anyhow??) that gets buried, no matter how organized we try to be.

One of those packages turned out to be a young deer that Harley decided to chew on.  I had originally thought that it was goat, but since we didn't have any wethers to butcher last year or this year, I figured it was the deer.  Guess that's what I get for not properly labeling freezer items.  Regardless what it was, it was coming out of the freezer and I was going to eat it.

I put the deer/goat/whatever in the sink to defrost for the day and then popped it in the oven at 300 degrees for four hours.  It was a late night because of the defrosting, cooking time and the subsequent picking apart of the meat, but well worth it.  I was snacking on some tender, delicious, lip-smacking venison at 1:15 in the morning.  We'll have the venison for supper for a few days (BBQ sandwiches, dumplings & gravy or maybe a "shepherds" pie) and I put some back in the freezer for last minute heat & eat meals.

Then on Sunday I had to deal with two overripe bananas, three not-as-crispy-as-they-should-be apples and two zippy bags filled with frozen carrot pulp left over from a juicing kick.  I made some impromptu whole wheat banana apple muffins and carrot sunflower seed muffins.  Stuck most of them in the freezer for quick "Mommy, I'm hungry" snacks and to put in Paul's lunches during the week.  Which kind of defeated the purpose of cleaning out the freezer now that I think about it.
One of three batches of "Whatever I got to get rid of" muffins.
I still have going-to-rot-if-I-don't-get-to-them pears to make into more pear jam, some jalapeno peppers to pickle, two gallons of milk to make into cheese and then I'll be caught up for the next few days.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

And we have Peeping! Again.

Went into the goat pen just a few minutes ago to see how Nettie is doing.  She didn't want to come out from under the barn this morning (not that I blame her as it's 94 degrees) so I gave her a "You'll come out when you're hungry!!" scolding.  Then when she did manage to grace me with her presence, she wasn't talking like normal.  Kind of a muffled "baaa".

But she's eating hay & moving around, but not as feisty as usual.  Have to keep an eye on her the rest of the day.

Anyways.  While I was in the barn the second (or third) time today, I heard peeping!  Yeah, yeah, I know.  How many hens am I going to let go broody, sit on a clutch for three weeks, then end up either eating her offspring or taking them to unsafe hiding spots at night to be eaten by a predator.

But I was still thrilled to hear peeping!  Just one little peeper as of now, but there are still three or four more eggs under the hen.

Broody #2 was a very good chicken mommy.  There were fourteen or sixteen to begin with.  And then one day last week I saw her off the nest and a bunch of the eggs were gone.  I was about to lop off her head for leaving the clutch & eating eggs, but then got busy with other farmish stuff.  But thanks to my uncanny ability to procrastinate, she was spared.  And then I found out where the eggs really went and why she was off the nest.

After relieving the hen house of at least one slithering, egg-eating reptile, I was still prepping myself for a totally failed hatch as the hen had abandoned her nest long enough for them to get cool.  But I let her sit on the remaining eggs anyhow.

And I'm glad I did.

So, was it worth it to give up a month's worth of eggs from her (and another month before she starts laying again) for one measly little chick that is probably a rooster and will end up in the stew pot anyhow?

You bet'cha!

Paul's Take
It most definitely was not worth it.
I don't want oatmeal for breakfast, I want eggs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pear Jam using Instant Clearjel

Processed a few of the pears from those that Paul had picked up off the ground.  They were sitting on the picnic table for three (or was it four??) days and half of them were already starting to rot.  The goats and chickens were appreciative of my procrastination.

What I did get peeled & cut up really wasn't enough to do a canner full of seven quart jars, so I figured I'd experiment a bit and make some pear jam.

Pear jam always sounded weird to me.  Or pear sauce (because you know, apple sauce doesn't sound weird....go figure).  But I also had another item I wanted to experiment with; Instant Clearjel.

Instant Clearjel is a modified starch thickener. I bought some a while back when I was trying to thicken up my runny goat milk yogurt and then just recently realized that I could use it to make jams & jellies.

I got two and a half pounds of pear chunks.  I measured out 3 3/4 cups of sugar and mixed in 4 tablespoons of the Instant Clearjel and a heaping teaspoonful of cinnamon.  Put the pears in my jelly-making pot (i.e. old, thick bottomed pot) then poured the sugar / Instant Clearjel mixture on top & turned on the heat. When the pears started to heat up, I took the potato masher to it and smooshed it up a bit & stirred the sugar around.  It didn't take long for it to jam up.  You don't have to boil jam when you use Instant Clearjel so as soon as everything is mixed up evenly, you can turn off the heat.

I put the hot jam into jars clean/sterilized jars and processed them in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.  I just now heard the first "ping" of my jars!  Oooo!  There goes the other one!!


I'm not exactly sure how the processed jam turned out if the extra heat degraded the jelling of the Instant Clearjel or not.  When I open one up I'll let you all know.  The leftovers that didn't fit into the jars was slathered on a piece of toast and immediately consumed by Rhiannon and I and the rest was crammed into Hillbilly Tupperware (i.e., used yogurt cup with lid) for later, or not-so-later use.

So why would one want to use Instant Clearjel instead of Pectin?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  For one, the Instant Clearjel is a bit more expensive per pound ($4.49 per lb. vs. $3.99 per lb. for pectin) and I used about as much of the Instant Clearjel as I would have used pectin so there's no cost savings there.

And according to the website where I buy some of my bulk foods (, Instant Clearjel has a shelf life of six months whereas pectin has a year long shelf life.  So not so good on the storage aspect either.

The Instant Clearjel also cannot just be "dumped" into a recipe; it has to be mixed in with other dry ingredients so it doesn't clump up as soon as it hits the liquid portion of your recipe.

But you can use Instant Clearjel for other things like gravies and cold items whereas a cornstarch or tapioca needs to be heated to thicken up.  Can't so much do that with your box of pectin, so Instant Clearjel gets a gold star for being a multi-purpose product.

And if you're a really impatient kind'a person, the jam or jelly cooking time is decreased as you don't have to get it to a boiling point before it starts to jel up.  And if you're not going to can your jams/jellies, you can just spread that gooey goodness right on your toast and shove the rest in the fridge.  Or in your maw.

Monday, August 19, 2013

More Free Food

Well, not really "free" as there was bartering and a little bit of labor involved, but it didn't cost a single dime.
I canned six quarts of apples in a light syrup this morning and still have another six or seven quarts to go.  These were freebie apples that Paul went to pick last week.  And he said that there are more trees just filled with apples.  About half of them are just too small and green to process, so I've been looking up apple cider, and hard apple cider recipes online.

Too bad we don't have a pig to feed all this "wasted" goodness to.  The chickens are more than happy to help get rid of it though.  But we're almost out of pork in the freezer so I've been having pig dreams lately.

I also traded our goat milk for some some produce (you know, because my garden pretty much sucks) this weekend.  And in one of my bags-o-goodies were a bunch of dark red/purple cherry tomatoes.  I didn't think much of it when I opened the bag, but when I finally got around to popping one in my mouth, I was pleasantly surprised.  And proceeded to pop about a dozen more in my maw.

They are wonderfully sweet!  And according to the person who brought them to me, are very, very prolific.  He said he's had to toss about half of them this year because he doesn't know what to do with them and nobody to really give them to.  He said his four plants got 12-15' tall and put on several hundred tomatoes per plant through the season and actually had to rip out some of the volunteer plants this spring to make room for the others!

Of course, I totally forgot about saving seeds so I just now started (he said they are a heirloom).  Now I have peach pits and black cherry tomato seeds to put on my Blogging Buddy Seed Swap!

Oh, and those of you who are still awaiting your package of peach seeds.....I'm sorry.  I'll try to get them out in the mail this week.

Don't forget to save your seeds!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dude, where's my garden?

We didn't have a lick of sky-moisture yesterday (don't want to say the "R" word in fear of jinxing myself), none so far today and doesn't look like any is in the forecast for the next five days either!

My Fall garden has taken a beating though.  Tomatoes are few and far between, most of them either split or rotten.  The row of green beans I planted almost a month ago rotted in the mud without a single sprout.  The top row of zucchini started blooming out and even started teeny-tiny zuke babies, but then all turned brown and just rotted away.  At least one rotten watermelon.  The second row of zukes and yellow squash are fairing a bit better, but not much.  My acorn squash are doing so-so and my butternut are doing better, but I've already found two rotted baby butternuts.  Sensing a common theme here?
That squishy, gray mass was going to be a watermelon.
So what's a farmgal to do with a failed Fall garden?  Plant another one, of course!

I'm not sure if I'll plant right away or if I should wait another day or two in order for the soil (ha, soil, more like rocks) to dry out a bit.  I'll put more green beans where the never-sprouted ones were, rip out the waterlogged squash & re-plant those hills and maybe even get around to putting in some beets and garlic in the front raised beds.  That is, after I put up some sort of fence or screen as Charlie and the chickens use it as their bed or dusting area.

I also started weeding out my berry garden.  Talk about The Lost World:
There are sweet banana peppers in that greenery, really.
I'm lazy.  I hate weeding almost as much as I hate watering.  My excuse is that it was so freaking hot & dry that the weeds wouldn't budge from the ground and then we went right from drought to almost three weeks of damned near every day rainfall.  Which you would think would make it easier to pull weeds.  Which it was.  For the first week.  But then the ground was so waterlogged that trying to pull up the vegetation was almost impossible as the mud & muck and weed roots were just not going to let loose without taking half the garden with it.  Not to mention that the mosquitoes were in-freaking-sane.  Imagine a sweating, swearing, overweight pissy-woman with mud covered gloves swatting blood sucking insects and getting muck slung everywhere.  Eyes, nose, mouth, hair.  I probably looked like something that crawled out of a drainage ditch.

I'm starting to reclaim my berry garden, slowly but surely.  And the newly-weeded areas are going to be covered with several layers of paper feed sacks or cardboard.  Maybe I'll plant something in there, maybe not.  I was hoping some cabbage, but I think I'll have to take care of the long-eared varmint I just saw last night inside the garden fence before I attempt to put anything in there.  Oh, and did you know that rabbit eyes shine red in the dark?  Makes it much easier to determine if it's something I want to shoot at.  Cat & dog eyes shine yellow/green/blue.  Oh, and whip-or-will's eyes shine red also.  Just a little nocturnal trivia for ya.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Starving Goats in Nepal...

....would love to have that hay!

I'm sure I don't have to tell any current or past keepers-of-goats what picky little divas they are. And every time I fork out hay to the unappreciative, ungrateful caprines I curse under my breath (or even rather loudly if Rhiannon isn't within earshot).

The last round bale I opened was like totally perfect.  A nice, green bermuda with just a little bit of blackberry leaves rolled in.  The first time I opened it and forked some over to the goats, they went crazy over it.  Like it was the best thing they ever tasted.  Like crackhay, methgreenery, marijuana, uh, grass!

That lasted for like 3 days.  Then they started getting picky.  There was more and more hay being left in the feed troughs each time I went to give them more.  Then last week (after a daily rain shower) I finally had to muck out all the not-good-enough-for-us hay and pile it up so I could use the tractor bucket to move it.  Yes, there was that much waste.  (I'm swearing in my head now just looking at the picture again.)
A month or so of wasted, semi-composted hay.
I tried leaving the "eh, we want different hay" there until they finished it off.  I tried mixing the "new better" hay with the leftovers.  The fact that we've been getting rain every stinking day didn't help.  Because you know, wet hay is just inedible.  Can't eat wet hay.  Or hay that a chicken walked through.  Or hay that has been in the feed trough for more than fifteen minutes.  Or hay that a gnat landed on.  Or hay that.....well, you get the picture.
Goats: Oh, now THIS hay is soooo much better!
Me, screaming at the top of my lungs: It's the SAME stinking hay!!!
One of the reasons I want Ms. Melman and Nugget down here in the same paddocks as the goats is to hopefully reduce some of the waste.  There is hay in & around the feeding troughs that I just know the mule and mini-horse would love to chomp down on.  I'm thinking I'm going to put a large garbage can next to the goat feeder and store the "icky" hay and bring it up to the mule barn for now.  And make sure to put only a little bit out at a time and feed hay several times instead of just once a day.

Will it stop all the hay wastage?  Most likely not.  But I gott'a do something before I blow (another) gasket.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Egg Salad is back on the menu

Oh, the woes of chicken-keeping.  All those stupid birds and no eggs.  There are days that I only get two or three eggs and honestly, it's pissing Paul off that he can't have any eggs with his pork sausage in the morning.

It doesn't help that I have broody hens with a tendency to commit infanticide.

Then I noticed that when I once had twenty six chickens (twenty hens and six roosters), I now only have a total of nineteen chickens (fourteen hens and five roosters).  Less hens, less eggs.

I was hoping to increase our flock numbers by letting Broody #2 sit on a clutch of 16 eggs.  The broody hen that I made that special, secure, fluffy private nest for has decided she no longer wants to sit on them.  Yesterday I found her in the nest box, but off the clutch of eggs.  And five of them were missing.  I was thinking it was time to lop her head off, but I'm glad I delayed my initial "stupid chicken I'm gonn'a stew your pathetic butt" reaction.

Because there may have been a valid reason for her leaving the nest, and it may not have been her that was eating the eggs in her clutch.

I found this bugger up in the rafters of the hen house.  S/he was curled up pretty tight so instead of trying to yank it's hefty looking mass of muscle out of the rafters I had Paul get out a pistol loaded with aptly-named snake shot (remind me to buy some more).

Didn't look that big up in the rafters until I started to pull it's mortally wounded, yet still very much alive body out of there.  One more shot to the head and it was lights-out for this egg eating reptile.
Rhiannon and one egg, Mommy and one Black Snake.
I kind'a figured that there was a snake eating the eggs, I just didn't go out there to check often enough I suppose.  And I guess I should have been putting out wooden eggs when I first suspected a snake was snacking on the eggs.  Hopefully we'll be able to have egg sandwiches this week!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Peach Convert

Four years ago when picking out our "I want an orchard in my front yard" fruit trees, I reluctantly added peaches to the list.  Paul likes peaches.  I kind'a sort'a like peaches, but I prefer nectarines.  I like the insides of the peach, but not so much the skin.  The skin just makes me want to gag.  It's like biting into a small sphere of fuzzy human flesh.

Last year we got a handful of small peaches and they were good....but kind'a weird.  They didn't have the red skins like normal peaches and the insides were almost white.  I thought that they were just underripe, but they were juicy and sweet.  This year we had a pretty darn good peach harvest. Not that it says much, but it was good enough for our second year.  And they still have the pale skins and white insides.  Come to find out there are "white fleshed peaches".  I don't recall if I purposely bought the white flesh variety or if it was just a mix up.
Most of the peaches from our trees (those that haven't been eaten by me
or the squirrels, that is) and a bunch of freebie apples from Mom & Friend.
For the past week I've been eating peaches (and tomatoes) like they're going out of style.  And I LOVE my peaches.  Why do I love peaches now?  Because not only are they firm and sugary, not drippy smooshy like others have to get before they are sweet, but I can actually peel the skins off them when they are ripe!

Now I can indulge in my newly formed peach addiction and it makes for preserving the harvest a snap!  Well, not really a snap as anyone who cans stuff knows.  But it does eliminate having to dunk the peaches in boiling water to get the skins to come off.

So, what kind of peaches are these babies?  I wish I could tell you.  Somewhere, someplace, on a sheet of notebook paper lost in the black hole that is my desk or file drawers or stuffed into a box stored in the basement is the list of varieties of fruit trees we planted.  They have white, juicy, yet firm flesh when ripe, freestone and "skinnable".  Otherwise I have no freaking idea.

How dare I share with you the wonders of my peach trees and not know the name!  You won't be able to run out to your local nursery or flip through the pages of your favorite gardening catalog so you won't be able to enjoy these delectable fruits.  Unless you come on down to my place and seeing as Paul has set up caltrops, rabid guard weasels and a moat full of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads, you're pretty much out of luck.

Or are you?

As I recently found out by reading one of Ohio Farm Gal's posts about her Volunteer Compost Peach Trees, you can grow peaches from the pits!  Yeah, I know, duh.  But I knew that many fruits (especially apples) you buy are hybrids and grown on a different root stock so the seeds of the fruits won't necessarily produce the same fruit you are chomping down on.  But peaches seem to be one of the exceptions, so theoretically the pits from my yummy-licious peaches would produce more of the same peaches!

Now, who wants to try their hand at growing some yummy peach trees from pits?!  (Don't all raise your hands at once, I know, totally exciting, hugh?)

If you'd like me to send you three (or so) pieces of kitchen/compost/trash  of my peach pits, be the first three people to comment on here saying so and you'll be on your way to harvesting your own sweet, white fleshed, peel'able skin peaches.

In like five years or so.  If you're lucky.  If they sprout.  If they're a good match for your climate and soil.  If you do that stratification thing.  If the squirrels or chipmunks or raccoons or blue jays don't eat them all first.  And I'm not in any way, shape or form guaranteeing that you'll actually harvest a single peach.  But it's worth a try, right?

Sure it is.

And if you don't get picked this round, don't worry.  Since realizing that I could keep the pits for seed, I've been saving each and ever one of them for our up & coming Blog Buddy Seed Swap.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blogging Buddy Seed Swap

Tiny Gardener just blogged about her first eggplant, and I have to admit that I am a wee bit jealous.  I didn't plant any this year, and come to think of it, I don't think I had any last year either.

I guess the Eggplant Dinner Disaster of 2011 is still too fresh in my mind.

But I really do like eggplant.  Of course, battered & fried with a side of marinara sauce is my favorite way to chow down on them with Eggplant Parmesan coming in at a close second.

I kind'a begged Tiny Gardener to save me some seeds from her eggplant harvest since they are a Baker Creek heirloom variety.  And it immediately got me to thinking that maybe we could do a little Seed Swap.  And when I say "little", I mean that I have virtually nothing to swap.  Which kind'a makes me feel a little guilty for wanting to set up a swap with no seeds to swap.

Except I still do have open packages of heirloom seeds as well as pits from my awesome peach tree (which I will do a post on next), and then that got me to thinking that I have other wild plants around the property that I can harvest seeds from.  So I guess I DO have stuff to swap!

Since there are weird people who live "up North" and are still a ways away from actually harvesting ripe produce, this will give the rest of us time to get thinking and saving.

So next time you take a bite out of your super sweet 'n juicy tomato or crunch on a crispy green pepper right from the garden, do me a favor and spit some of those seeds out onto a paper towel and save 'em!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Persimmon Bread or Cake


What's that thing in the bottom of the freezer?

When searching for something to defrost for this week's meals, Paul brought out a round container full of something.  I opened the lid to discover persimmon pulp.  Remember when I made all that pulp?  Me neither.  Because it was from October of 2011.

There didn't seem to be any freezer burn or otherwise strange stuff going on from being in the freezer for almost two years so I set it out to defrost.  Then went about trying to figure out what I was going to do with it.  I had originally wanted to make some sort of persimmon jam or preserves, but I could not for the life of me find a recipe that included the canning times or if it could even be canned, although I couldn't see why it couldn't just be processed like a jam or jelly.

So I chickened out and decided to make it into a bread.  There were a handful of recipes out there on the internet, but all seemed to have too much "stuff" in with it.  I wanted an unadulterated persimmon bread.  I wanted to capture that spicy-sweet goodness in a bread without doctoring it up with spices or nuts.  Not that spices or nuts are bad.  I just wanted to taste a really persimmon-y persimmon bread.

As usual, I improvised on the recipe.  Looked at a few of the quick bread recipes I had in my box and off I went.

So without further ado, here is my Persimmon'y Persimmon Bread:

2 1/4 Cups Flour (I used half white & half whole wheat)
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Persimmon Pulp

Mix first three ingredients together in one bowl.  Mix last four ingredients together in larger bowl until well blended.  Gradually add the flour to the bowl & mix well.  Pour into greased jelly roll pan and bake it in a 350 degree oven for 40 or so minutes**, until done.  (**This time is a guesstimate as I originally baked the breads in a bread pan and it was a bit too dense and moist.  Of course we ate it, but I think baking it in a thinner pan would be best.)

When I licked the spatula (you DO lick the bowl clean, don't you??) I was immediately taken to a crisp Autumn day!  I just love the taste of persimmons; it reminds me of fall more than pumpkin pie or turkey dinners.

I hoped that the finished bread would hold the persimmon flavor as much as the batter, but it didn't.  Not that the bread was bad, it was really good.  I was just hoping for that "Wow!" persimmon flavor again.  This also turned out to be a very dense bread & still quite moist in the middle; not raw, but might be a turn off to some.  The bread also darkened a lot; the pulp was a bright orange and I was hoping that the color would have stayed in the finished product, but it didn't.  I made a second loaf & stuck it in the freezer.

Now that I finished up the 2011 crop of persimmons I now have two months to figure out how to make preserves for this year's persimmon crop.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Running of the Squirrels

I knew I should have been plinking them off when I started seeing them getting closer & closer to the house and gardens.  But I didn't and now we seem to have an overabundance of squirrels.

First they started chewing the immature acorns off the oak trees.  I know this because one of the acorn-heavy trees is right next to the house so I occasionally hear a steady rain of acorns on the roof of the house.  Ok.  Fine.  Eat the tiny acorns.  Have a blast.

But then the acorns weren't enough for the gluttons.  They started going after my peach trees!  We didn't get a single nectarine or apple this year (got blooms but not a single stinking apple, not sure why) so the peach and pear trees are our only source of homegrown tree fruit.

And would they take the peaches that were blown off by the winds and rains?  Oh no.  They have to chew on the peaches on the tree.  Take a bite here, chew on one over there, then finally decide on a fruit that is somehow more appealing for taking off it's branch and storing in whatever squirrel hidey-hole he has hidden in my woods.

The squirrel plinking gun came out (a .22) and I sat for like three seconds before one came back to the peach tree.  And I missed.  He was running across the lawn towards the trees and I got excited and took a shot.  Shouldn't have.  I know.  But I didn't want that bugger getting any more of my darned peaches.  I didn't have to wait more than a few more minutes before he came back again.  This time he took his time selecting a peach from the tree (and probably ruining a couple in his decision-making) and brought it down.  It was a big 'un.  So he had to slow down and stop to adjust his grip on the fruit.  At which point I thoroughly ventilated his midsection with a 39-grain piece of lead.

I normally don't like to shoot squirrels when it's hot because they are usually full of ticks and fleas and I don't like to get the heebie-jeebies when skinning a squirrel (strange.....bugs give me the shudders but peeling the flesh off a rodent and pulling it's insides out of it's chest doesn't freak me out).

Since Moonshine technically retrieved the squirrel, I let her have it.  She teased Charlie with it for at least an hour before it finally ended up in her digestive tract.

There are plenty more tree rats to eradicate from the immediate area before we harvest all of the peaches.  I suppose I should dig out my cookbook and have some peach and squirrel recipes handy.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Chicken Relocation Project

Broody #2 has gone three days without eating the eggs.  I managed to put 16 underneath her.  She was still in the top section of the nest boxes inside the coop and if you've ever been a keeper of chickens you will know that you can have seventy-three nest boxes and only ten chickens, but eight of the ten will try to smoosh it's feathered backside into just one of those boxes.  When I went out earlier this morning for my chicken-check she was still in the top row of boxes, but not in the same box.  The other broody was in her box....the one that I have yet to dispatch and turn into a delicious Mexican themed supper.  Apparently Broody #2 is a big pushover.  She got scooted off her clutch of eggs and then took up residency in the box right next to the clutch, still puffing and squawking like she actually has something to protect.  All that scooting and shoving and pushing on top of all those eggs won't end well.  I threw gently removed Enchilada Chicken out of the coop.

After this morning's rain subsided (yes, more rain, and I'm not about to complain!) I started cleaning out the small kidding pen where the goose used to be locked up during the night.  I say used to, because I can no longer convince the not-so-little-anymore bugger to come anywhere near me when it starts getting dark because s/he knows that I'm going to pick him up and put him in the pen for the night.  So he has been on his own at night inside the goat area.  The goat area is fenced in with cattle panels, but that's not going to keep a raccoon or an opossum out of there.  So far the goose has survived and hopefully he's big enough now to make a possum think twice before trying to snack on him.

Wait.  What does the stupid goose have to do with my broody hen?

As usual, I have digressed.

So I cleaned out the kidding turned goose turned broody hen pen.  Which took a lot longer than it should have as I had to sweep/shovel/haul bedding out with only one hand.  Because the other hand was holding a plastic feed scoop that I was using to defend myself from the damned bald faced hornets.  I killed no fewer than seven while out there and that doesn't include the three I crushed into oblivion during the morning milking and six more during evening milking.  I have yet to be stung by one this year.  Last year I was "only" stung twice.  Paul knocked the start of a bald faced hornet nest off the eaves of the house about two months ago but there is obviously another nest around nearby.  I swear, it doesn't matter how many of those buggers I kill, they keep on coming.  Damn the queen and her incredibly productive procreating abilities.

Wait a second.  Where was I?  Cleaning the pen.  Broody hen.  Eggs.

After cleaning and putting new bedding in the pen, I put a box in the corner, took all the eggs and the broody hen and put her in there.  And she hate, hate, hated the new setup.  Kept trying to fly out of the pen.  Didn't even looked at the new, fluffy, clean, safe and secure nest box I carefully made for her.  Ungrateful bird.

When I came in from evening milking I noticed that she finally settled down and set up camp in the nest box.  Hopefully she'll be able to hatch out some new brood for us as I've noticed we've lost another two chickens since the last time I bothered to take a head count at night.  We'll know in twenty-seven or so days.

Paul's Take
Quit wasting your time on the broody hens.  If they can't easily rear young, we don't want them wasting time on failed hatches, we want them to lay eggs so I can have a sausage and egg breakfast.  Toss them off the nest and be done with it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bad Chicken Mommy

I've tried a dozen times letting broody hens take on a clutch of eggs.  And I can say that I've only had three or four live to chicken-adulthood.

I've had a hen set on eggs the entire time, and then freak out when the chicks hatched.  And as in freak out, I mean peck them to death.  Each and every one of them.

One hen sat on eggs for weeks, then end up crushing each and every one of the almost-developed eggs, leaving a sticky mess of unborn chick and yolk mess under her and in the nest.

Two sets went broody two years ago right in the middle of our drought / heat wave.  Every egg either broke, exploded or was otherwise a dud.

I've had hens secretly go into the woods and hatch out a half-dozen chicks, then lose them one by one each night to predators.

Then there are my all time favorite birdbrains; the hens that start a clutch of eggs, or even take over another hen's eggs, then decide to eat the eggs.  Like five or six in one night.  Oh, I'm a little bit hungry this morning, maybe I'll just eat my unborn children instead of walking ten feet to the chicken feeder.

That last scenario was the most recent of the Bad Chicken Mommy events.  The past week I've noticed that there were two kind'a broody looking hens in the coop.  You know.  Puff up like they're going to peck your eyeballs out, make a gawdawful chicken screeching sound when you get close to them, and then draw blood from your hand when trying to collect eggs from them.

So instead of bringing in my half-dozen eggs (pathetic amount, btw), I put them under what I thought was the broodiest of the broody hens.  And this morning I checked on them.  Broody #1 had eaten all but one of the eggs.  Broody #2 was still sitting and puffing up even though she was sitting on nothing.  Guess it goes to show you that I have absolutely no idea how to judge the potential mothering instincts of poultry.

Now that I've identified the hen with infanticide in her genetic makeup, I'm going to lop off her head.  Yes, I'm going to kill something because that something killed something.  Nice, hugh?  But egg-eating chickens are good for nothing other than the soup pot.....or a nice pan of chicken and goat cheese enchiladas.

I'll gather the rest of today's eggs and put them under Broody #2.  And she better have those same eggs underneath her tomorrow morning or......