Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Hole

Paul dug a hole with the tractor a few days ago.  And when I spy the excavated dirt next to it, I get teary eyed.

That hole was dug with one purpose in mind.  Not to plant a tree.  Not for another garden.

We’re still not quite sure how long that hole will just be a hole.  It may rain and fill up with water.  It may get filled in again from six unruly goat kids jumping on the pile of dirt next to it.  But there is one thing that is certain.  Regardless if the hole stays a hole, or if we have to dig it out again, in the very near future it will contain the earthly remains of my first goat.

Nettie is not doing well.   Over a year and a half ago she sustained a life threatening injury to her udder and never really recuperated from it.  The average life span of a diary goat is said to be 10 – 12 years and she’ll be eleven years old this winter.  I’m sure the trauma from that incident took its toll and the heat of late is not kind to old, injured goats.

Really, I’ve been preparing myself for this for a while now.  No matter how much special feed we give her or how many vitamins or “extras” she gets, Nettie hasn’t been able to put on any weight.  Her coat isn’t shiny anymore (yes, I’ve wormed her & done fecals), she doesn’t move like she did even just a year ago.  She lays down most of the time, either under the barn or under a shade tree. 

So I’m planning her last days / moments with us.  Barring making her ill, she’ll be getting whatever kind of yummy weeds she likes.  She’ll be getting vanilla wafers.  Extra cool water during the heat of the day.  Lots scratches on the head and pats on the shoulders.  She has given us fine kids and years worth of healthy milk and when I can best tell it is time for us to end her suffering, she will be surrounded by those that loved her.

Yes.  I kind'a love my goat.  I know I bitch on & on about what a PITA they are (and believe me, they are), but sometimes livestock become more than just meat or milk or eggs or fiber.  Nettie was a great milker, an awesome mother (and Auntie) and has a wonderful, patient personality.  I wish I could say that for any other of my herd, but it just ain't so.  Apparently a goat like her doesn't come around often; either that or I have a horrible breeding program.

I'm off to do a post-afternoon, pre-feeding barn chore check.  And I'm going to gather a bunch of dock and plantain for Nettie because I know it's two of her favorite weeds.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Glutton for punishment? Yep.

Stubborn?  Double-yep.

I know I said that I wasn't going to bother saving any of the half eaten, half rotted peaches.  I know that if I started trying to salvage any good parts, I would spend the entire time swearing about the bug/squirrels/blue jays (yes, blue jays are now hated by me) and asking myself exactly why it is that I was wasting my time doing so.

But damnitalltohell, I wanted some peach jam!!!

So Paul and I spent gawdknows how long in the kitchen blanching, peeling skins, cutting out bad parts and trying to salvage the tiniest bit of perfect peach flesh.  Then I put them in the freezer.  Then I did the same another day.  And again this afternoon.  And will probably do it once more before all of the peaches are gone; either salvaged and frozen by me, stuffed into some hole in a dead tree by the squirrels, turned to mush by the bugs, or pecked at by the blue jays.

So far we've managed to get twenty or so cups worth of edible peach flesh....and probably four hundred and sixty-three pounds of peels, pits, and bug, squirrel & blue jay eaten bits that went to the only mildly interested chickens.  Freaking ingrates.

Once every last peach if frozen, and I hopefully haven't forgotten about them, I'll  make a weekend of defrosting them, cooking 'em into jam and canning them for the pantry shelves.

I was also hoping to get some tomatoes on the pantry shelves as well, but for all the darned tomato plants Paul put in the ground, we're just not getting very many.  First it was too soggy, now it's too hot for pollination.  The majority of the plants are Roma and a handful of slicing tomatoes in there for fresh eating, but we've only had a half dozen or so fresh ones to eat and not more than eight quarts of tomato puree (in the freezer, along with the peaches, waiting to be canned).

There are wax beans ready to be picked, but there really aren't enough for me to consider canning them.  We'll eat those fresh and if I get a bean-canning-bug up my butt, I'll go to the farmer's market and see if I can get a good deal on a bushel of green beans.

There are still cucumbers crammed in every available spot in the fridge, awaiting, well, something.  I refuse to can another jar of pickles.  Last count there were twenty-five pints of various pickled cucumbers; dill, sweet & sour, sweet & spicy, bread & butter...and that's not even counting the six or more quart jars in the fridge that I made refrigerator pickles out of.  I mean, seriously.  How many freaking pickles can anybody eat?  I'm putting in only two cucumber plants next year as I doubt we'll be through these by next summer anyhow.

The red & green Bell peppers aren't doing too hot either.  We got four or five stuffing-sized ones, but the rest are pretty sad looking.  The banana peppers, however, are going gangbusters.  Too bad I don't care much for them, they just don't seem to have much flavor to them.  Wonder what I can do with them?

Still no squash.  Wait, I stand corrected.  We harvested ONE yellow straight neck squash before the lone surviving plant died.  But it's not like we canned squash anyhow.  Squash and green beans are on the list for the Fall garden and hopefully they'll do better than the Spring garden.

Paul just started harvesting the jalapeno peppers today and  I'm going to try making Cowboy Candy out of them when we get enough. Basically it's a candied jalapeno pepper recipe.  I might even venture to try one if they aren't too spicy.  The recipe showed a little slice of candied pepper on a cracker with cream cheese and I have to admit that it did look tasty.

And now I'm hungry.  And I've got a craving for a PB & J sandwich.  Which I will have to eat with either grape, blackberry or apple cider jelly.  Because I still don't have any peach jam.

Ugh.  And now I realized that I don't have any bread.

Guess I know what I'm going to be making.

What have YOU been canning this weekend???

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

One less horned goat

I've paid for my mistakes in bringing horned goats into our herd.  Nettie almost died from a horn related injury to her udder a year & a half ago.  I've also been dealt blows with those horns, and although probably unintentional, they still hurt like hell and left nasty bruises.  And even though I've told Rhiannon that she is not allowed to go near the horned goats, they don't listen, especially when they suspect you may have something yummy to eat.

I've sold two of the horned goats that I acquired in the last year or so, but still had Lily & Herman the Boers, and MamaGoat, the Mini-Saanen that just so happens to now be my heaviest milker.  She also happened to be the meanest little shit because she had horns...and knew how to use them, even on the bigger goats.

I was at my wit's end earlier in the kidding season.  I saw MamaGoat toss other kids across the yard with those damned horns.  I saw her ambush other goats and gouge them in the side, seemingly "just because".  And her horns weren't the ones that rolled back behind her head.  Oh no.  They were straight and pointy (although they had been previously "tipped") and you'd better mind your eyeballs or there was the distinct possibility that she'd end up popping one of them out if you bent over to her and she spooked.

But darn it.  She was my best milker.  And apparently I'm heartless and selfish and cruel.  Because I didn't butcher her or sell her to a horned herd owner; she's still on the homestead.  What I did was, according to some, a horrible, horrible thing.  I banded her horns.

I've always said that I wanted this blog to be truthful, no matter how embarrassing or ignorant or stupid my actions (the ones that I tell you about, that is) may be.  Because I honestly believe that everything is a learning opportunity.  Some of those lessons are best learned personally, other best learned by other people's mistakes (say for example, swimming in shark infested waters wearing a meat necklace).   So that is why I will open my blog to the shaming or finger pointing or angry comments that may ensue after this is posted.  And although I am always open and willing to hear other's opinions or experiences, I will not tolerate the unoriginal comments like "You're a meanie" or "You're a murderer" kinda stuff.  Because you know what?  It's my blog.  It's my life.  And if you don't like what I'm doing you can simply unsubscribe and go look at funny cat pictures.

Heck, let's all look at funny cat pictures, no matter what you think of my blog.  Because cats are awesome.

Anyways.  Back to the banding.

I've read other blogs and livestock threads where people have used bands in order to remove the horns off their goats.  I've mulled it over.  I've agonized over it.  I've gone back & forth and finally just said, "Screw it" and I had Paul help me band MamaGoat's horns.

Basically, it went like this;

During feeding time when everyone is clipped to the fence at their respective feeding stations, I held MamaGoat's head firmly while Paul used a file to make a groove in MamaGoat's horns as close to her skull as was possible.  It only took a few well-placed and firm passes and a nice, bloodless groove was made into the horn.  Paul then used the elastrator to slip on a castrating band and fit it into the groove.  Same thing with the other side.

About four weeks later, Paul came into the house and told me that MamaGoat's horn was hanging.  We both went back out there and snipped some sort of connective tissue off to release the horn.  There was blood, and it looked pretty bad, but only because she's white and a small stream had dripped down her face.  She was more freaked out by the hanging horn than anything. We put some blood stop powder on it and life went on.  She kept to herself for the next day or so, but she was eating grain and hay as normal.

A week and a half later, I went out in the morning to milk her and she didn't come running as usual.  I hand a hankering that she lost her other horn and I was correct.  She was under the barn, some fresh blood on her skull, and now totally hornless.  She felt well enough that I was able to tempt her from underneath the barn with some fresh greenery, she hopped up on the milk stanchion, I milked her, and life went on.

She is no longer the meanie she once was.  And as of yet, I have not seen any distressing signs from the banding.  Not saying that something might happen in the future.  Not saying that this wasn't a traumatic event for her.  Not even saying that this is what everyone should do if you don't want horns on your goat herd.

But it's what I did and it seems to have worked.  I don't have to worry about Rhiannon getting her eye gouged out, I don't have to worry about MamaGoat getting her horns stuck in the cattle panel fence and I don't have to worry about baby goats being gored to death by a little goat with a big (horned) attitude.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I give up. Finished. No more.

I will no longer waste a minute more of my time on the peach trees.

This is the third year we've had any significant fruit on the peach trees.  And this is the third year that I've spent hours of time trying to salvage a pittance of edible fruit from those trees.  I don't think we've had more than a half-dozen peaches that didn't have a worm in them or been chewed on by the local tree rats.

The squirrels and the Plum Curculio have won.  Since I could now care less about the finality of the Peach War (as it is hopelessly lost), I shall focus on the final battle.  Yes, I know, a lesson in futility.  But it gives me some satisfaction that I am able to plink the damned tree rodents much easier now that their movements are dramatically slowed by the weight of the peach in their mouth.  Unfortunately they are flea-ridden so I won't be making any Squirrel Enchiladas, but at least Charlie's dog food will be supplemented with some extra fresh protein.

The only way to possibly win next years Peach War would to spray the crap out of the trees and start a planned parenthood clinic for squirrels.  To get rid of the plum curculio problem, we'd have to spray like seventy-five times over the duration of the growing season with chemicals that I cannot pronounce nor really want to have our family ingesting.  To get rid of the squirrels I'd have to start shooting them every day starting in February....and still not be rid of them completely.  I can only eat so much squirrel pot pie, and Paul doesn't even really like squirrel anyhow.

What to do.  What to do?  I've contemplated just digging them up and pretending that we didn't waste six years of time & care on them.  I thought about just pretending that these peaches are livestock feed instead of delicious, juicy fruits for our family and cry when I think about how good my peach jam could have tasted.  But no matter what we do, we will not be replacing them with more peaches unless we can find one that is more resilient to the darned bugs.  

We've come to the same conclusion about the apple trees.  Since it's all but an impossibility to remove all the cedar trees from a mile radius of our homestead, getting rid of the cedar apple rust that plagues them every single year is also impossible.  So we are going to cull the Golden and Fuji trees and keep the Arkansas Blacks since they haven't had a single spot of cedar apple rust on them.  The Golden & Fuji trees have lost almost all of their leaves to the rust and have yet to give us a single apple.  The Arkansas Black trees produced fruit last year and a few the year before.

The pear tress are holding their own and don't seem to need much care other than pruning, although we did lose two of them last year & the year before to fire blight (the fun never ends, does it???).  And Paul just planted four Mulberry trees so we'll have some fruit on the homestead in the years to come (assuming, of course, that there isn't a freaky explosion of silk moths in the area). 

I'm going to have to be more diligent on selecting fruit trees from now on.  When we first started our little orchard, I went bonkers and ordered just about any fruit that sounded yummy not bothering to find out how disease / pest resistant they were.  And now I'm paying the price for it.

Too bad we don't have any hogs to give all these crappy peaches to.  I wouldn't mind trying a peach-infused pork chop or slab of bacon.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Cucurbitaceae Conumdrum

While most people are posting pictures of their massive bounty of zucchini, I, alas, have not a single one.

Paul had planted a shitton (yes, that's a technical term) of summer squash seeds over a month ago and maybe one of them germinated.  And even that one is struggling to hold it's own.  I think it had two flowers; both male, of course.

So we reseeded with a few more and they aren't doing very well either.  I suppose I can say the excessive rainfall has put a damper on their growth, or it could be that even my mere presence is making things want to die.

The older plants in the tires were doing well until just a few days ago.  This morning I went out and saw the evidence of the evil Squash Vine Borer.  I did some surgery on two of the main vines and removed the bastards and I'm hoping that the vine will recover.  We'll see.

But even though our squash harvest is going to be squat this year, the cucumber harvest has been excellent.  Apparently the cucumber plants don't mind the recent deluge and whatever bug that normally would eat cucumbers hasn't found them yet so they are growing like crazy.  We have to go out and pick them every day or we'll end up with cucumbers the size of a Volkswagen.  It's amazing how quickly they grow:
Cucumber on 7/10/15 at 8:05 am
Same cucumber on 7/10/15 at 8:19 am
So to say that we've got cucumbers coming out of our ears wouldn't be that much of a stretch.  I've got sweet & sour cucumbers in the fridge and had a bowl for breakfast:

Cucumbers that Paul canned & transformed into Dill and Bread & Butter pickles:

Cucumbers in the sink:

And even in my purse:

Because you all carry produce in your purse all the time, right?  You never know when you're going to get a hankering for a crisp, refreshing, homegrown cucumber!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Adult Homemade Baked Goods

Well, because I haven't posted in a while.

And since it's past all the kiddo's bed times.

And because it seemed to amuse just about everyone on the Facebook, I figured I'd share it with my blogging buddies.

Aaaaaaaaannnnnd.......I have penis bread.

If that doesn't get a rise out of you, I don't know what will.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Inde-Thanks-Pendence-Giving Day!!

The family is in for their annual Summer vacation.  Christine (sister), Joe (B.I.L.), Memphis (nutjob Boxer dog) and Dad (well, dad) come to visit us and take advantage of the nearby lake fun.

With all the rain we've been getting, we were darned lucky to actually get out on the water this time.  The lake levels are really high and most of the boat launches are closed because of it.  Dad & Christine rented a pontoon boat for the afternoon and we boated, ate chicken and salad and watermelon and cookies and swam and laughed.  Fun was had by all (except for Memphis, who did NOT get to go on the boat, nor get to eat any chicken).

Because of work schedules and other time constraints, it appears that we won't be celebrating Thanksgiving with the family this year.  So since we were all together now, I though that maybe we could have Thanksgiving now.

Dad splurged on a frozen turkey, Mom made buttery/creamy/delectable mashed potatoes, I made the obligatory green bean casserole, dressing and turkey gravy, Christine brought a frozen berry pie and Joe brought the adult beverage.  It was one of the most hassle-free, albeit a bit non-traditional, holiday dinners I've ever prepared.  The fact that we had berry instead of pumpkin pie felt a bit strange, but not as strange as having a ripe watermelon sitting on the counter for "Second Dessert".

...or another turkey leg for "dessert".
So today we're giving thanks for many things; Family, Freedom and Fun!

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

I gained ten pounds

Although there is the distinct possibility that I did in fact gain ten pounds in the last few days (family is visiting, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it), that's not exactly what I'm talking about.

We (meaning Paul) are finally able to see the light at the end of the pork-fat tunnel.  The chest freezer has had packages (and packages, and packages, and....) of frozen pork fat in there since the last time we were gifted it from Aaron.  Paul sliced up several bags (and his thumb) and went to rendering it
Thumbs Up for Soapmaking!
And yes, that is duct tape.  Sometimes a Band-Aid just doesn't cut it.
Get it. Cut it?!  Ugh. Nevermind.
Since we already have quite the stockpile of lard for our culinary use (and I can't convince my Mom to take any), I thought it would be a good idea to show Paul the ropes of soap making.  That and the fact that I no longer have any room in the refrigerator or freezer for more lard.

Making your own soap is really not that difficult.  There are just a few simple ingredients, the most basic recipe containing nothing more than fat, lye and water.  There are just a few simple rules; don't be a moron and remove the children & animals out of the soap making area.  If you'd like a somewhat more detailed tutorial on my unprofessional & happy-go-lucky process of making soap, click HERE.

I showed Paul how I make my blender soap and what to look for in that magical moment of "trace" that all makers of soap strive for.  I showed him my "Soap Diary" with all of it's trials, errors and successes.   And although I was wont to scent every single batch with the wonderful aromas of Patchouli or Sandalwood, Paul refused to let me make more than one as he didn't want the entire house to smell like "a dirty old hippy".  So he also got to go through my box of fragrance oils and pick out his favorites.

We made four, 2 1/2 pound batches and they are currently sitting in the dishwasher until they can be unmolded and cut up into bars.  
Figured since I don't use the dishwasher anyhow it would make
a great place for my soap to cure.  And yes Dad, those are the
restaurant quality breadpans you gave me.  Which I will still
use for making bread after the soap is out of them.
We took free pork fat, mixed it with some caustic solution and BAM! - our house gained ten pounds of wonderful, aromatic, handcrafted soap!

And as soon as they are ready to ship, I promise that I'll have a give-away here so you can lather yourself up with a homemade concoction of pig fat and sodium hydroxide.   Not THAT sounds like something worth waiting for, right?