Country Craziness

Geez!  I just don’t even know where to start.  I suppose if I had been keeping up with this whole blogging thing the whole time that I wouldn’t have this problem!  But, this is me we’re talking about.    So….

I guess the biggest thing is that we are preparing to move.  Not far, actually the next driveway over.  Life is funny the way things work out.  Our landlords finally decided to move back home and we were doing a mad search for another farm so that we wouldn’t lose our animals and this lifestyle that we have grown quite attached to.  Our wonderful neighbors offered us their house that just happens to sit on 200 acres with all kinds of outbuildings and barns with water and electricity for our animals.

Barn and chicken coop on farm

Yes, angels are real.  I won’t get all mushy with details and such but they are truly awesome people that we are blessed to be able to call our friends.  The farm hasn’t had animals on it for around 10 years so there is some serious work to do – all new fencing for the pastures, leaky roofs, stalls, nesting boxes, animal-proofing, yada, yada, yada.  Not to mention the packing, downsizing (the house is half of what we have now so bye-bye shoe collection), and cleaning.  Yikes, the cleaning!  I always thought my house was fairly clean until I started packing things away and uncovered dust bunnies and cobwebs.

To top that off, Nik is away on a farm down in Texas.  A sort of working vacation if you will.  He’s gone for 2 months learning all about animal care and plants from the former personal botanist of Lady Bird Johnson.  Lucky boy, I know.  He’s having all kinds of exciting adventures and making great contacts that he can use in the future.  If you thought he could talk your ear off about seeds and farming before, ya better watch out!  It was really stressful sending him off on a plane by himself halfway across the country.  I keep forgetting that he’s almost 18 and no longer a child.  This summer away is a good step towards him becoming an adult though.

In the midst of getting ready to move we had our first baby goats born!  Thor was born on June 2nd and Athena gave birth to twins 2 days ago.  They are Atlas and Ares.  All males.  Way too much testosterone if you ask me.  But they’re too cute for words.  And thank God for Google.  Why don’t any of the goat books tell you that baby goat poop is going to be a thick yellow pudding for the first week?  I had no clue what-so-ever.

Tennessee Meat goat buckling

Tennessee Meat goat buckling twins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully and regretfully (oxymorons?) we didn’t plant a garden this year.  We weren’t sure when we would be moving and didn’t spend time planting something that we wouldn’t be able to use and enjoy.  So we have a huge wild area that has all kinds of volunteers.

Overgrown garden with volunteers and herbs

And a bunch of beautiful poppies (thank you Nik!).

Poppies in the garden

If you search you’ll be able to find radishes and kale, dill,  lots (seriously LOTS) of chamomile, and a few squash plants.  I even think I’ll be able to see the sunflowers come up before we leave.

Ellie May loves the all-you-can-eat salad buffet that used to be the garden.  Oops.  I don’t think I’ve introduced you yet.  Ellie is our mini potbelly pig.  The one that was guaranteed not to go over 30 pounds.  Dirty breeders.  Or shame on me for not buying one elsewhere.  Anyway, she’s ours and she now weighs a mini 60 pounds.  The vet told me to restrict her food and she wouldn’t grow as large.  I no longer go to that vet.  Ellie also loves to clean up after our guinea keets.  She goes around the brooder and “cleans up” all the food bits that they kick out.

Potbelly pig with guinea keets

We bought a bunch of guineas to help with the ticks around the property.  We used to have 6 but ended up getting rid of them because they attacked our chickens.  Now with a larger property and no more red chickens, hopefully the problems will be over.  We also heard they do better in larger groups.  We have 15.  Keeping our fingers crossed!

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Pickle Canning Day

Nik has been in charge of the garden this year.  The whole kit and caboodle.  All the tilling, planting, weeding, and harvesting.  I think I helped him weed once.  His main focus was on beans and peas and saving seeds.  So I didn’t expect much if anything to have for canning and putting up.

One morning Nik brought me in a small basket of cucumbers.  Too many to eat, too few to can.  I figured we could make quick refrigerator pickles.  Two, maybe three jars tops.  I took my time cleaning up the kitchen and piddling around for a while.  I suggested that he go out and make sure there were no more cucumbers because I only wanted to do this once.  So out he went with a basket.  Next thing I know he’s coming to the door with a full basket and tells me to empty it because he’s going to need it again.  And again, and again.  His grin got bigger and bigger with each basket he brought up.  I swear he was basking in my misery!  I didn’t plan on spending the day doing a full blown canning session!  His giddiness was disturbing.

We ended up with a giant pile of cucumbers for pickling.

Pile of pickles

So much for 2 or 3 jars and quick refrigerator pickles.  But I wasn’t about to waste them.  I gathered my handy dandy Ball Blue Book Preserving Guide and my trusty Bread and Butter Pickle recipe and got busy.

I gathered supplies for dill pickle spears first.

Pickling Supplies

I didn’t have any pickling spice so I mixed up some of my own.  You can get the recipe here.

Homemade Pickling Spice

I had quite a bit left over so I put it in a jelly-sized canning jar for later use.  Or maybe I’ll use it on the woodstove this winter, it’s woodsy and aromatic.  Sure hope it tastes as good as it smells.  I’ll have to let you know on that one.  I’d sure be really disappointed to find out I spent all this time on dill pickles to have them turn out grubby.  Not going to think about it.  I love pickles, they couldn’t be that bad!

Once the pickling spice was made I sliced the washed cucumbers up into spears.  I used all the larger-sized cukes for this.

Dill Pickle Spears

I combined 4 cups of sugar, 4 Tbsp salt, and 12 cups of vinegar in a large pot.  I tied my spices in cheesecloth and added it to the mixture.  I brought it to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Place the spears in a quart-sized canning jar, fill with hot vinegar mixture, add a fresh (or dried) dill head, and leave 1/4” headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe around the rim, add lids, and Walaa!!!  You are now ready to process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Dill Pickle Spears in canning jar

I made 14 quarts of dill pickle spears.  With that done, I was ready to move onto the Bread & Butter slicesHalf way there.

I cut my smaller cucumbers into thick slices.  Then I added some thinly sliced onions,1/3 cup of pickling salt, and a few sliced garlic cloves to a large glass bowl.  Mix it all together and let it chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Bread & Butter Pickle Slices

Drain well.  In a large Dutch oven, combine 4 cups of sugar, 4 cups of apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp of mustard seed, 1 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 1/2 tsp celery seed.  Add your onions and cucumber slices and bring to a boil.  Pack into quart-size canning jars, leaving 1/2” headspace, remove air bubbles, wipe your rim, add lids, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

WHEW!!!!!

By dinnertime I had 30 quarts of homemade pickles.

Finished Jars of Homemade Pickles

Not too bad for one days work.  I figure we have enough pickles to last us a good year, maybe more.  If things get really bad, we always have something to eat.  What’s for breakfast?  Pickles with a rice cake.  What’s for lunch?  Duck and pickles.  Dinner?  Duck and pickles with beans.  Snack?  Leftovers.  Yep, we’re good to go.  Oh – to mix it up I still have some beets from last year!  Woohoo!!!

I almost forgot – thank you Nik for our bounty of pickles!  Couldn’t (and wouldn’t with the price of cucumbers) have made them without you!

Flat Tires and Farm Conferences

Okay.  I know, I know.  It’s been a while and I haven’t been writing like I said I would.  I’ve got a bunch of great excuses (at least to me they’re great) but that’s all they are…  excuses.

If something is truly important to you, you don’t put it last on your list and let everything that comes up get in your way.  It’s called priorities.  And obviously mine are a little skewed.  I’ve always been this way though (yet another excuse).  The house would have to be cleaned, laundry done, bills in order, yada, yada, yada before I’d consider “me” time.  Not today.  Go play little dust bunnies, I have better things to do!

We’ve had a few vehicle fiascos lately.  Luckily at least one truck was running while the other was down.  I think we had a truck down for at least  a week or two.  Stupid sensors go out and your truck quits running.  You have to pay for a computer to tell you what’s wrong.  Gone are the days when you could fix the truck yourself.  Not that I personally ever worked on a truck, but you get my point.  Todd could fix all our old vehicles, but these newer models you need a college education to repair them.  Or that handy dandy computer.  Front ends start shaking and tie-rods and struts need replaced.  Exhausts are due to be replaced.  Does it ever end?  I love the fact that at least one of our trucks is paid off, but it’s starting to get a little old and needing some TLC.  Then one night you are shopping and go out to see your truck leaning heavily to one side.

Flat rear tireFlat front tire     

You have not one, but two flat tires!!!  Not to mention a trunk load full of groceries.  But on the bright side, it was during that polar vortex so the temps were in the negatives.  No chance of thawed ice cream!  So almost a month after we replaced all the tires, we had to replace two of them again.  Argh.

On a brighter note, we attended the OEFFA conference in Granville this year.  Lots of different classes to choose from, lots of networking opportunities, and all kinds of farm stuff. 

OEFFA entry

I was the lucky one who got to attend all the “business” side of stuff workshops.  Agricultural easements, diversification and success of your farm business, marketing your farm, and federal farming programs.  I learned a few things that may help us out.  Nik hung out with me on the second day and attended the federal farming program with me.  It was hosted by Kathleen Merrigan who served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 to 2013.  She was named as one of Time magazines “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010.  While we were in the class, there was a heckler!  At a farming convention, really?  But it made for a little bit of excitement and we both got a laugh out of it.

USDA conference 

Nik was in charge of attending the workshops focused on food production.  He said that he pretty much knew all that the instructors had covered so he figured he’d take my classes with me because that was stuff he didn’t know!  This kid knows his seeds and plants.  Ask him a question, I dare you.  That’s why we’re leaving him in charge of the garden.  It’s in good hands.  But we still have to help with weeding and harvesting.  Although we have to be careful because he’s got it all planned out so that he can save seeds to exchange with other seed savers, preserve some heirlooms, and to create his own seed lines.  Guess that could be a whole story on its own!

Todd and Lexie attended the “fun” classes about heritage poultry and a sustainable flock.  Okay, maybe it was serious business, but anytime you’re dealing with animals, it’s fun!

Todd and Lexie at OEFFA

And of course one of the best things about conventions is the exhibit hall!  All kinds of information, farming books (yes, I’m a non-fiction/documentary geek), t-shirts, tools, food samples, livestock products, and seeds.  You know where Nik was.  Hanging out at the seed booth.  Those ladies were ecstatic to see him coming.  I think he almost bought them out!

OEFFA Exhibition Building

Lexie got to meet Jim Adkins, who started the Sustainable Poultry Network and knows Dave Holderread of Holderread Waterfowl Conservation and Preservation Center in Oregon.  Dave is her hero and she wants to raise poultry like he does when she is out on her own.  But since meeting Jim, she says she’d be good going around and talking to people about preserving the heritage breeds of poultry and being a poultry judge too.  She’s going to be a busy girl! 

Both of my kids are pursuing their dreams.  Makes a momma proud!!!  I guess we are really lucky because all of our dreams seem to tie together.  Which is wonderful for our little family farm!♥♥♥

It’s gonna be a great year….!

Okay, now that I’ve finally come out of hibernation… !  Not really.  Wish I could say that was true, but I’ve actually been very busy.  The good kind of busy.  The kind of busy that lets you know that you’re alive and good things will come of it.  I recently re-entered the work force after a dozen years of being stay-at-home mom.  Part-time, but it still gets me out of the house and feeling like I’m a real person again.  Yay!  So I’ve been working on finding my footing, trying to balance all the things I did before with working a “real” job.  I’m sooo not going there today!

Is it too late to talk about New Years Resolutions and such?  Nope.  This is my blog and I can talk about whatever I want to.  It’s all about me.  Me, Me, Me!!!  If you don’t like it, don’t read it!

Ha! Ha! HA! (my version of an evil laugh)  Where are my minions?!

Ahem!  Now, that I’ve had my little fit…

This year is going to be a great year.  Really!  We are in for a lot of changes.  Good changes.  When we first moved here we weren’t really sure what we were doing and not sure of the path that we were on.  We had a good idea of where we wanted to be.  A year and a half later, we get it.  Really get it.  We moved here taking things as they came along and not planning too far ahead.  We’d had a few setbacks and were a little gun-shy.   We leased this farm for 2 years (which seemed like ages back then!) and were hoping to buy it and make it our home.  We were meant to take a different route.  By September we will have to move again.  I really, really hate moving!  But that’s okay.  Because we are going to find our forever farm.  None of us can imagine life without animals, a large garden, or any of the things a farm has.  Farming is what we were meant to do.  Now that we know this, we know what to do.  Kind of… the path to getting there might be a little tricky, but that’s okay.  Life is an adventure and if you’re bored, you’re not really living.  So, our time has become consumed with researching how to make a living off of a farm.  Todd would love to be able to be a stay-at-home farmer.  Someday.  Both of the kids want to have farms when they grow up (which isn’t far off).  And I want to have my goats, ducks, geese, chickens, and fresh garden goodies.  They say the best job is to get paid doing what you love.  So this year we make it happen!

So that’s kind of the direction that this blog will lean to.  The path to becoming farmers.  But that will still include things like lots of recipes (I hear farmers are really great cooks!), crafty projects like making soap, knitting, quilting (still working on my first quilt Grammy!), health tidbits (one of the reasons we want to grow our own food is to avoid GMO’s and all the bad things they fill up our food with these days – your body only functions as good as the fuel that you put into it), special diet recipes (gluten free, sugar free, corn free, soy free), animal care, and the list goes on.  I love learning and I can’t narrow this blog down to just one topic.  And I certainly don’t have the time to write more than one blog!  So this is just about life as an up and coming farmer.  The good and the bad.  Hopefully more good than bad!

From time to time I’ll pass on the blogging to one of the others (Todd, Nik, or Lexie) and let them tell you things from their perspective.  That should be interesting!!!  I’m really really really going to try to post on a more consistent basis – maybe once or twice a week.  Crud.  Just by posting that it makes me have to do it.  Don’t want to be that person who says one thing and does another.  Must be responsible and reliable!  Set a good example!

Thank you for letting me vent, preach, or whatever you want to call it!  I am stoked, excited, anxious, and all kinds of other adjectives for this year and what it will bring to our family.  And if you want, I’d like to invite you to come along.  Farmers are big on community.  That’s another reason to farm, meeting all kinds of great people with similar interests and cares.  I’ll try to keep the rants to a minimum but I’m making no promises.  I am what I am and that’s all I can be.  Was it Popeye that said that?

Mom&Lexie

Here’s to a fantabulous 2014 and a having a sense of humor!  A little humor is necessary to get through the struggles of life.  That’s a word of wisdom from someone who used to take life waaay too seriously! 

Annual Pumpkin Canning Fiasco

We finished canning our pumpkin harvest just in time for “everything has to be pumpkin flavored” season.  Actually, we eat pumpkin all year long.  Why should I only enjoy it during the fall and winter months?  I make sure to have plenty stocked up so that we can nosh on pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bars… you get the idea!.. all year long!

Last year we bought all of our pie pumpkins from a local market.  This year we grew all but 10 of the pie pumpkins.  We canned 42 pumpkins and only spent $15.00.  Woohoo!  We’ll be eating extra pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin lattes.. I can go on but I’ll spare you this time!  By growing our own, we know that we’re using heirloom seeds and growing these babies without any pesticides, insecticides, or any other “cides” that aren’t good for us.

Washed Sugar Pie Pumpkins

The first thing you do is wash your pumpkins really well.  You don’t want any dirt or grubbies getting into your hot liquid or pumpkin.

Clean out seeds from pie pumpkin

Cut your pumpkins in half with a sharp knife (cleaver, axe, whatever works – just be careful!) and clean out the seeds.  Save the seeds in a bowl to roast for later.

Cut Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesChop the pumpkin into manageable pieces. 

Boil Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesBoil the cut pieces in water for about 20 minutes until pumpkin is tender but not mushy.  It will be easier to peel the pumpkin rind.

Pumpkin LiquidRemove the pumpkin pieces and allow to cool a bit.  Save the water that you boiled your pumpkin in, you will use this as your “juice” for the canning.  I figure that it’s better than plain water, any of your vitamins and minerals that get cooked out from the pumpkin will be in this water.

Cooked Pumpkin PiecesWhen pieces are cool to the touch, remove the rind, and cut into cubes.  There’s all kinds of warnings about how you should never can pureed pumpkin, it should always be canned in cubes.  You can read what the National Center for Home Food Preservation has to say about it here.  They are funded by the USDA.  I feel much safer now.  (Can you feel the sarcasm?)  Wonder how anybody survived years ago?  I follow their advice for the most part.  Sometimes my pumpkin is a little “mushy” and the cubes fall apart and I really like to stuff that pumpkin in those jars.  Sort of like puree but I’ve never had a problem with any of my pumpkin.  Except for that one time that…. Just kidding!  The pumpkin turns out all good even if it is a little pureed.  Libby’s purees their pumpkin and expects everybody to eat it.  Maybe they don’t like the competition.  Just saying.

Pumpkin in Canning Jars

Fill hot, clean jars with your pumpkin cubes.

Hot liquid in Pumpkin JarsTake your hot pumpkin liquid and fill the jar almost to the top.

Air Bubbles in pumpkin canning jars

Slide a knife or plastic spatula along the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles that may be hiding out in there.  Bubbles not good.

Headspace for pumpkin canningCheck to make sure that you leave 1 inch of headspace in your jars.  You need to leave this room due to expansion of the pumpkin while it is being pressure cooked.  Trust me, I’ve made this mistake before.  All your pumpkin juice from inside the jar makes its way out into the pressure cooker and you’ll get a little bit of dry pumpkin.  Leave the headspace.

Clean Jar rim before pressure cooking Wipe off the rim of the jar to remove any sticky liquid or pumpkin chunks that could interfere with getting a good seal on the lid.

Tighten lid on canning jarTighten the lid onto the canning jar (careful – it will be hot!)

Jars in Pressure CookerPlace a maximum of 7 quarts into your pressure cooker.  You have to use a pressure cooker, not a hot water bath canner.  The pumpkin doesn’t have enough acid in it to kill any little critters that might be in there.  Follow your directions for your pressure cooker.  Make sure that you check the vents to make sure they are clear (tee hee!  Chicken humor – check your vent!  I know, my joke was wearing thin on Lexie too.  She had to hear it every time I started a new batch.  Can’t take me anywhere.)

Process quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure and pints for 55 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  You can fit 10 pints into the canner.  This is the long part.  Waiting for the canner to achieve correct pressure and then waiting and hoping nothing goes wrong.  I’ve heard pressure cookers can be quite dangerous.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Since you have to stay close to your pressure cooker to keep an eye on it, might as well roast all those pumpkin seeds!  I just mix a little sunflower oil and sea salt and pop them into the oven at 250 degrees for about half an hour.  I think we got 2 gallon size bags of pumpkin seeds this year.  Pretty sure they won’t last too long.

Canned Pumpkin Quarts Now you have pumpkin to use for all those yummy treats all year long.  When you open a jar, drain out the water and mush the pumpkin up with a spoon.  Pumpkin puree!  We did pretty good this year.  There are 50 quarts and 27 pints in the pantry.  And it only cost us $15.00!  Hmm.  That would be about 19 cents a jar.  Plus I had a bowl of pumpkin that I just didn’t feel like canning anymore so we ate pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, … yeah, yeah, you get the idea!

Pheasant with Homemade Crockpot Applesauce

I love this time of the year.  All the preparations for winter, a myriad of colors, a crispness in the air… and canning.

Fresh garden beets for canning

Beets from our garden

We harvested the remaining beets, tomatillos, and carrots from the garden.  The carrots were juiced for us and the leftovers were fed to Buster Bunny.  Tomatillos were made into salsa verde, which we all agreed wasn’t as good as our friend Dave made it.  I’ll work on it for next year, and maybe steal his recipe.

The beets were washed, boiled, peeled, and cubed in preparation for canning.  They would have to wait until canning day.

We took a day and went to visit my parents.  While we were in the area, we stopped at our favorite apple orchard and loaded up on apples.  We bought 4 overfilled brown paper bags of #2 apples.  These are apples that have fallen off the tree or that have a bruise or other minor flaw.  Perfect for homemade applesauce.  We bought a mixture of Gala, Macintosh, and Jonathon.  And a big bag of Honey Crisp just for munching on.

Peeled apples for applesauce

Large bin full of peeled apples

Super Easy Sugar-Free Crockpot Applesauce

  • peeled, cored, and chopped apples (enough to almost fill your crockpot)
  • lots of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • water
Homemade crockpot applesauce

Crockpots full of homemade applesauce

Put everything in your crockpot, add a little water, and let cook on low for about 6 hours.  Or turn it to high for 4 hours.  You can add more water depending on how thick you like your applesauce.  You can also add a few more apples halfway through so that you get some apple chunks (if you like it chunky) in your applesauce.

Applesauce should be canned using the boiling water method.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace in your jars and process quarts or pints for 20 minutes.

I spent the next day canning beets in the pressure cooker and applesauce in the boiling water canner.  We made 8 batches of applesauce over a 3 day period.  My kitchen smelled like apple pie.  It was also quite messy!

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

I now have 35 quarts of beets and 27 quarts of applesauce.  That doesn’t include the beets and applesauce that we’ve already eaten.  It’s looking to be a good year for canning!  I love the feeling I get from having a well-stocked pantry.

We had a surprise in the poultry pasture.  Nik was collecting eggs and came running back to the house.  I was sure something had happened to one of our ducks.  Instead, we saw this guy standing there…

Pheasant

Pheasant

Not what I expected with the ducks, geese, and chickens!  Nik and I herded him into a corner and he flew out.  I think he probably stopped by for a snack and wasn’t sure which way to go to get out.  Luckily for him, it wasn’t pheasant season!

To top off our day, we were treated with a beautiful sunset.  It makes me think of that old sailor saying:

Red at night, sailor’s delight

Red in morn, sailor’s take warn.

Colorful Sunset

Colorful Sunset

Beeten by Ducks

It seems that every post lately has been about baby ducks.  Well…. here’s another one.  We found Molly sitting in the barn with a clutch of 19 little ones.  I’m not even keeping count anymore.Muscovy duck with babies

There’s one more (ugh.) momma sitting on her eggs and that is it.  No more Muscovy babies.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  We’ve been snagging any eggs we find before they can decide to sit again.  We’ve got babies coming out of our ears.  Some are dinky and some are almost fully feathered.  Enough baby excitement for one year!  I’ve learned that Muscovy ducks are prolific layers and hatchers.  They make excellent mothers.  They are comical to watch, quiet, and come in all kinds of beautiful colors and patterns. Muscovy ducks And they’re friendly.  Molly and Jade (with all of her offspring) come up to us every morning and chirp once for a handful of corn.  We will be sticking with Muscovy ducks for a while.  They forage well and don’t like playing in mud puddles.  Pekins on the other hand, love water and mud.  The messier the better for them.  Not great at foraging.  Not broody.  Quite mouthy at times.  Only come in white (or brown if they’ve found dirt and water).  They are cute and have expressive eyes.  And if they know you have dog food they are your best friend!  Unfortunately the Pekins aren’t going to be sticking around for long.  For us it is more cost effective to raise Muscovy ducks than it is to have Pekin ducks.  Sorry guys!  One thing about Pekins though, they love storms!  These guys hang through the yuckiest weather.  Except for heat.  It gets warm and they start panting.  Muscovy ducks tolerate heat well and are pretty tolerant of the cold too.  Enough said.

Pekin ducks in garden

We finally caught a break from all of the rain that we’ve been getting around here.  It rained for days on end.  Then came the heat.  I don’t do heat.  Nope.  I wither.  I started my search for the perfect place to live again.  No temps over 80.  No temps under 35.  Not too much rain, clouds, or wind.  I like to enjoy all 4 seasons a little each year.  Anybody know of a place like that?  Anyway… with all of the rain it got a little mushy around the pond.  Big tractor, mushy grass, muddy banks and you get…

Wheelhorse tractor in pond

Yep.  The tractor took a dunk.  Luckily no one was hurt.  I know, you’re probably thinking that this was my doing.  Usually you’d be correct in that assumption.  But HAH!  Not this time!!!  This was my honey’s boo-boo.  (Okay, right now I’m giggling to myself because I just made what’s known around here as a “Mommy joke”.  Honey Boo Boo.  Get it?  Not that I’ve ever watched the show.  Mommy jokes are my weird sense of humor which sometimes I’m the only that gets it at all.)  Poor guy had just spent days servicing the motor, changing the oil, washing and waxing the tractor, and changing the air filter.  Then this happens.  Mind you, this wasn’t such a big deal because Todd did it.  Nope.  It happened, done and over.  HHhhhmmmm… wonder what would have been said if it was actually me that did this?  Just saying.  Like that time I hit the fence and broke the fence panel down?  Okay, I feel vindicated now!

Our garden has loved the rain.  I can’t believe how big all the weeds have grown!  I mean, plants have grown.  This is one battle that we may not win.  There’s always next year.  We got a large harvest of beets last week.  So I started canning.  Not a bright idea in 100+ heat and humidity with no air conditioning.  But that’s me.  Have beets, must preserve and persevere!

fresh garden beets

We gathered all the beets.

garden beets prepped for canning

Cut the tops off (used some for juicing – YUM!) and scrubbed all the dirt off.

garden beets prepped for canning

Boiled the beets for 10 to 15 minutes until the skin came easily off.  Saved the beet water to use for hot packing the jars.  Quartered the beets, put them into quart jars, added the hot water leaving 1” of headspace in the jar, cleaned off the rim, put on lids and…

pressure cooker

Processed the jars in a pressure cooker for 35 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

canned garden beets

We now have 21 quarts of beets saved up for winter.  There’s still a whole row of beets left in the garden for eating fresh.  But that’s for another day.  Right now, I’m beet.  (tee hee!  Mommy humor!)

This Really Stinks.

Our last Momma Muscovy final hatched her eggs a couple of days ago during the storms.  She is now officially known as “Super Mom” because she hatched 23 ducklings.  I think our official count is now standing at 13 adult Pekins, 3 baby Pekins, a Khaki Campbell drake, 4 adult Toulouse geese, 2 goslings, an African goose, a Toulouse-Canadian(?) goose mix, 7 adult Muscovy ducks, 40 Muscovy ducklings, 22 laying hens, 1 rooster, and Lexie’s 8 Pekin ducklings for 4-H.  That’s around 103 feathered friends in our pasture.  Let’s not forget the 20 broiler chicks that will be arriving in 2 days.  Some of the chicks will be sold, some will be bred, and some will be dinner this winter.  This is for the birds. I won’t even talk about the zoo inside!

We spent all day Saturday weeding the garden.  I’m not even posting a picture.  I’m mortified.  We just got it all planted three weeks ago and soo many weeds.  Nik reminds me that they are edible weeds so technically we’re still growing food.  Whatever.  I want my cucumbers and lettuce and snap peas.  Needless to say, we were all sore and tired by the end of the day.  Sad thing is, we didn’t even get it finished.  OOooh, the shame!

We’ve got a couple of houseguests this week.  Jaxson and Jaylee, my parent’s slightly spoiled dogs (with slightly being used very loosely).  dogs Poor little puppies won’t eat unless you hand feed them.  And they totally hog the bed.   Poor Todd is moving to the guest room to try and get some sleep tonight!  Only 6 more days.  Love you dearly guys but these pups are a handful!!!    And do you want to know how to get your parents to call and chat with you on a daily basis – take their dogs!!! *wink*  We’re dog watching while they’re on a family vacation with my aunt at a beach house in Florida.  Wait a minute.  Family vacation.  Aren’t we family??!  Well.  I see where I rank.  It’s totally beside the point that I would have had to graciously decline the invitation due to all the commotion around here.  Never even crossed their minds to ask us.  This really stinks.  Just kidding guys!  Take it all lightly, we love both you and your dogs!  I’m feeling all that love from the deep south!  But really, does Jaylee have to sleep on my desk while I do my work?  Tsk, tsk.

puppy

Father’s Day here was rainy, cloudy, and cool.  Not at all like that sunshine and 90 degree temps in Florida.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself!  We had a “lazy day” and I roasted a chicken with rice stuffing for dinner.  I tried out a new recipe from Simply Living Healthy for some carrot cake bars.  I loved this recipe because it’s one of the few baked goods I can actually enjoy these days.  No corn, soy, canola, eggs, white flour, gluten, sugar… yep, I know, sad, isn’t it?  We all thought it tasted good and I’ll definitely be making it again.

Carrot Cake Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 eggs (I used flax meal)
  • 2 Tbsp butter (I used coconut oil), melted
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cups chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and 8×8 baking pan for bars or a 9×13 pan for cake and line with parchment paper.

In large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, and maple syrup.

carrot cake bars batter

Stir wet ingredients into the dry.

carrot cake bars batter

Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 22 to 25 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.  You can top with frosting and sprinkle on more nuts, but they were yummy as is.  I forgot to take a picture of the end result.  In too much of a hurry to eat a slice!  One of these days I’ll figure out how to make these recipes printable for you.  That would be nice, huh?!

Oh, to  put the cherry on top of our stinky weekend, I’d like for you to meet Daisy.  Our little stinker!  She just finished eating some yogurt so she has a little white nose.

baby skunk

At least Todd got to kick back and catch a little nap on Father’s Day.

napping  baby skunk

Awww.  So cute!  I think I’m liking these stinky days!

A Baby Boom in the Laundry Room

Whew!!  The baby boom seems to be over… for now.  Our first Muscovy hatched 4 babies (all were Muscovy, one will be white), Jade (another Muscovy) hatched 13 little ones.  Muscovy duck and ducklings The same day, Jill hatched her eggs.  We saw 2 goslings.  Jill left the nest with only one of them.  The remaining little baby couldn’t use its legs.  We brought it into the house with a heat lamp and Lexie spent the evening trying to get the baby stronger and eating.  Around midnight Lexie woke me up and told me the gosling wasn’t raising its head anymore.  We had to make the decision to let it die.  It was a hard night for Lexie, she had grown attached to that little baby.  But she pulled up her “big girl britches” and did what had to be done.   

Two days later, another Muscovy mom hatched a Pekin baby on her own and then Nik and I helped hatch another 2 Pekin babies for her.  She had the Pekin eggs (which hatch in 28 days) and Muscovy eggs (which hatch in 35 days) in her nest in the Pekin duck box.  We didn’t see a problem with the set-up until the eggs started hatching.  We have 14 ducks that spend their nights in the Pekin box.  Momma started hatching her eggs in there and we started to get worried that the babies would get trampled.  Not to mention that Momma wouldn’t let any of the Pekins in to lay eggs so getting them all in there at night would be a problem.  So early in the evening we moved Momma and her 3 babies into a stall in the barn.  We took as much of her original nest as we could along with her remaining eggs.  No such luck.  She refused to sit on her nest.  At that point we were just relieved that she looked after her new babies.  We lost quite a few babies, but definitely learned from our mistake.  This same day we finally cleaned out Jill’s nest.  We found another egg that hadn’t hatched yet.  We hatched that baby and put it in with Momma Muscovy’s newly hatched little ones.  So now we have 2 goslings!  It’s just that one thinks it’s a duck.  Should be interesting to see how that works out!

Other than that, Lexie got her 8 Pekin ducklings for 4-H, we have yet another Muscovy that will be hatching soon, Nik gets his 20 broiler chicks next week, the garden needs some serious weeding, but on a good note we finally got all the mulching of the flower beds done!

I took about 20 minutes and squeezed in some time to make a batch of laundry detergent.  I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for about a year now. LOVE it.  No more stinky armpit smelling shirts.  I hated it when you put on a shirt and it smelled like flowers, then when you started working and heating up, it ranked like last nights garlic dinner.  It was a smell that went away temporarily but always came back with lousy timing.  No more yellow stains under the pits either.  Our clothes are clean.  Not just perfumed and enhanced with optical brighteners.  Really clean.  I started with a very basic simple recipe that I found online and enhanced it after doing some research.  I read a great article from one of my favorite blogs, Little House in the Suburbs that goes into the science behind the makings of laundry detergent.  And tadaa!  Cheap, very effective laundry detergent!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 cups Arm & Hammer washing soda
  • 2 bars finely grated bar soap
  • 1/4 cup Rid-X Septic System treatment
  • 1/2 cup OxyClean
  • 1 1/2 tsp tea tree essential oil

Homemade laundry detergent supplies

 

I know, who puts septic system treatment into their laundry?  Well, I do.  It’s made with 100% B.Subtilis protein enzyme cleaner that removes protein stains from your laundry.  Safe for your water systems and safe on your clothes.  What’s really cool is that while you are washing your laundry, you’re also treating your septic system!  Bonus use!  Like I said, I’ve been using this over a year with no problems. 

I use a little bit of salt since we have hard (very hard) water.  The salt helps to set and revive colors that the hard water leaves dingy.  It also helps to stop the “bleeding” of colors. 

grated bar soap for homemade laundry detergent

I used a 3-pack of Jergens Pure & Natural soap from the dollar store.  I try to look for the soap with the least harmful ingredients.  One of these days I’ll make my own to use!  Let the bars sit and “dry out” for a day or two.  It makes it much easier to grate.

The tea tree oil is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, antiseptic, and antimicrobial.  And it has a clean fresh scent.

Powdered homemade laundry detergent

Mix all the ingredients up and whirl it for a minute in a food processor until you get a fine powdery concoction.

I like to make a triple batch at a time.  That way I have enough to last me at least 6 months.  And that’s doing 6 or 7 loads of laundry a week!

I broke down the cost of making my own compared to a cheap store bought box.  Homemade detergent costs about 10 cents per ounce and the store bought costs 11 cents per ounce.  I only use 1 1/2 Tbsp per load.  So I can get much more out of my box than a store bought box.  Not to mention that I know exactly what chemicals and ingredients are in my detergent.  I’m bombarded with enough chemicals in my food, I don’t want to wear them too.

No fabric softener.  I fill my fabric softener compartment with white vinegar.  The real stuff, not the petroleum-based vinegar.  As long as your vinegar states that it is made from grain, you’re okay.  I used to buy the cheap stuff until I found out that it was made from petroleum.  I’ve got enough gas, thank you very much, don’t fill my food up with it too.  The vinegar rinses any residue off of your clothes and leaves them naturally soft with no static cling.  You won’t have that flowery smell though.  But you could add lavender essential oil to the vinegar.  Don’t worry about smelling like vinegar either.  The vinegar odor dissipates as it dries.  No smelling like vinegar-dipped garlic and onions here!!!

Sorry Nik!  Not trying to discriminate against garlic and onions!  Personally I love them both.  I just don’t want to smell like them!

Let me know if you’ve tried your own homemade laundry detergent or if you have any suggestions for improving mine.

Geese, Gardening, & Guacamole

There is nothing like springtime on a farm.  The grass is green, birds are chirping, critters are running around, and everyone is in a pleasant mood.  Everyone but Jack.  He is downright cranky.  Jack is our male Toulouse goose.  And Jill (his partner in crime) has been busy laying eggs and now has a clutch of 12.  Jack is a very good protector of Jill.  He doesn’t let anyone or anything near her.  He seems to really butt heads with Todd and Nik.  He starts hissing, flapping, and nipping.  He gives us girls a little break.  At least he has manners.  I just wish Jill was doing her job.  She has a nice nest going but hasn’t quite gotten the idea to stay on it yet. Toulous Geese grazing in garden She goes in periodically throughout the day to check on it, but prefers to spend her time in the garden eating the grass.  I think I’m going to mark each of the eggs with a crayon so we can see if she is turning them or if they are being left to rot.  Our Canadian Mama goose in the pond is glued to her nest.  I wonder if we can sneak a few of our eggs under her?  Any ideas on making a goose tend to her eggs?

The boys have been busy getting the garden ready.  They fenced in the area where the garden will be (a 100’ by 60’ area!) Building a fence around the garden and we are letting the ducks and chicken and geese go in there to start clearing out the grass and weeds while at the same time they are fertilizing it.  My husband is a genius – it was all his idea.  This way we don’t need any chemicals to get rid of the weeds and it’s less work for us.  The animals love it too – lots of extra greens and bugs.  We dumped a large pile of compost in there and pretty soon we will till it all up.  Nik has been doing research to figure out what plants we are growing this year.  I would be out there tossing seeds here and there but he is diligent.  Only three types of beans because otherwise they will cross and we won’t be able to save the seeds for future years.  You have to watch planting different squashes together.  Whew!  Who knew gardening was so complicated?!  Needless to say, we will be able to enjoy lots of veggies this summer, preserve what we can for the winter, and save the seeds for next year.

I wish we could grow avocados around here.  We have been going crazy on avocado dip lately.  So simple to make and soooo good for you!  My favorite way to eat it is with black bean chips.  Yummy!  Avocados are fairly inexpensive and a little bit goes a long way.easy avocado dipEasy Avocado Dip

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp shredded lime peel
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In food processor, combine all ingredients and process until desired consistency.  Serve as is or chill.  Store avocado pits in the dip to help prevent browning.

The avocado dip is also good as a mini-pizza snack.  I spread the dip on a rice cake and top with sliced olives.  Tadaa!  A quick, healthy, and easy snack that even kids will eat.