Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sing with me..

'It's the most wonderful time of the year..
When the catalogs come
and the dreaming's begun
Oh- It brings me such cheer!
It's the most wonderful time of the year!'



I have been running to check the mailbox everyday for two weeks
waiting breathlessly for the good catalogs to come
and Finally!
Baker's Creek has come to live with me again.
Ooooh. And they outdid themselves this year.
what a beautiful catalog!

Let the list making begin!
And the garden plotting!
And the hoping..

Soon to be followed by the seed starting and the careful tending
as the new life pokes it's little wee greeness from the soil
on my laundry room shelves.


And I also hope that each and every one of you
had a wonderful Christmas this year.
It was a good one here
with gorgeous blue sky and warm temperatures..
and I wasted the whole day inside doing holiday stuff. Drat.
But now it is back to being cold and rainy.. AGAIN!!!
It has been dreary here since the 'flood'.
The sun came out once, but it never got above freezing that day
so it doesn't count.

Back to holiday cheer..
I received a wonderful gift from Sweet Husband.
a WMA player thingie. (think Ipod like contraption)
Our library system is hooked up with an online
library of audiobooks I can download for free
with my library card!
Just think... any audiobook ever right at my fingertips!
And it holds music too.
The barn was never so nice as it was yesterday doing chores
while Otis Redding and Millie Jackson belted it out in my ear!
I couldn't even hear the chickens!
Now that, my friends, is a great gift!

A belated Merry Christmas to all!!!


This topic is being covered more in depth in the 'comments' section.. feel free to join in! Input is welcome and opinions noted:)

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Butter Time..

Yep indeedy.
Butter Time!
Not 'butter' butter, but apple butter!
Truth be told, it is my second run for the year so far,
but nowhere near my last!
I do truly love apple butter.
I usually try to do it on the woodstove
since it is hot and chugging already, but it is just too warm to have a fire today.
So, the stovetop it is.

I know these are some ugly apples,but they are unsprayed and pure and delicious.

Ugly is only skin deep.

And this little jewel is not an ancient torture device,

but the hero of the day.

I can knock out a 15 quart Dutch Oven of apples in a flash!!

I have done it all by hand in the past and it is agony.

Never again..hahaha ha.


The apples look much, much better now, don't they?

And, oh! I wish ya'll could smell my house.

Sweet and tart. Man, it smells great in here.



I do not make 'black butter', which is apple butter cooked for so long

that it turns black. For me I like to be able to taste the actual apples in the final product.

Don't get me wrong. Black butter is good, just intense and not very apple-y.

I stop when my butter is a deep, rich amber and not too smooth.

My recipe is as follows:

Apples.

Some folks add a few cups of sugar, some cinnamon and nutmeg and other spices.

Not me. I find that apples are plenty sweet enough just the way Mother Nature made them.I may get crazy sometimes and add a splash of lemon juice if I find that it is getting too sweet and I may add just a whisper of cinnamon... maybe. I am talking less than half a teaspoon for a whole run and a whole run is several quarts of finished product.

I think that most of this run will end up as gifts this year.

Except for my mother.. she's getting cherry butter. Oh yeah. I said it.... cherry butter!!

You just don't know how good life is until you have smeared a fresh hot biscuit with cherry butter.

Of course, apple butter is no slouch on a biscuit either.

Or on hot cornbread.

How bad do you want some apple butter right now?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Death.




As integral a part of farm life
as birth is, so is death. The dark spectre.
So, death is expected, but never welcomed.
Last Friday evening we lost 7 birds to
a Boston Terrier that got into the barn.
I will save my wailing and gnashing of teeth as it pertains to free roaming dogs
for another day.
But much is involved from the farmer's perspective when
such attacks occur.
There is the grieving. Not for romance and sappy love, but for the loss of vital life..
life with meaning and purpose.
There is the stress on the other birds in the barn.
An attack that viscious takes a toll on my layers.
There is the cleaning.
I will save the delicate readers the details,
but just know it is not a pleasant task.
There is anger, rage, frustration and more rage. The economical price
is substantial and the profit loss is there too.
These particualr birds were my 'meat bird' experiments.
I have been carefully selecting and breeding for the traits
I look for in a good homegrown meat bird:
Fast growing, good breast and leg development
and sheer size.
I will never know how I did and must start over from scratch..err.. eggs.
That dog took the food from our table.


And last night Streak was struck by a car and killed.
It was not unexpected and we had told him for a good long while now
that he was going to die and we were prepared for it as well.
He just could not leave the field across the road be.
Could not, could not, could not.
It is not the 'grass is greener' syndrome,
but the 'mice are bigger'.

I do not know what he expected to find over there that we did not have here,
but the lure was too strong.
Total bummer.
He was a good cat and a good mouser.
From a scrawny, bony stray to a fat and saucy cat.
Happy Journey, Streak.
On a a totally different subject..
I am over the rain!
It is still wet, foggy, misty and yucky out.
It has been almost a week since we have seen the sun.
Everything is waterlogged and damp.
Blech.
The barn is a sight indeed.
But there is no point in trying to lay down new straw
in the pens or anything else until the sun
dries us out some.
Hopefully soon.
The birds are as unhappy about it all as I am.
Their pens are damp and soggy, their feathers are damp and soggy
and no one can lay and bask in the sun
and dustbathe.
Come on, Sun!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Life..

Aah. The farm.
You just gotta love it.
New life!
And the chance to capture
the sweetest pics in the world.

I almost made a fatal error,
but I was lucky enough to realize my mistake in time to correct it.
The potting shed where we brood chicks and where the Silkies live
flooded a bit during all of the heavy rain.
Sunday I lifted out the broody hen and her eggs,
shoveled out all of the yuck and replaced it with new, dry shavings.
I carefully placed the mom and eggs back into her corner of choice
and all was well. The broody took the shake up well and continued to happily growl on her nest.
I heard peeping yesterday while I was doing chores and went to check again in the evening.
What I found was close to a disaster.
One of the eggs.. the first egg, had tried to hatch
but the membrane was too dry and had hardened into to unbreakable leather.
Egads!!! I had put the broody and eggs back into super dry shavings!
Eggs need humidity, and a lot of it, to hatch properly.
I quickly handed that egg off to Sweet Husband
to take to the kitchen sink and I grabbed a washcloth to dampen
and place under the remaining eggs in hopes that it would be enough
moisture to hatch the remaining eggs.
It was.
The egg that Sweet Husband hatched in the kitchen
is the fluffy cuteness you see in my palm
and I helped the other two a wee bit this morning.
Whew. That was a close one.
So, lesson to all:
If you put new bedding under a broody hen in the final stages of hatching...
add a moist cloth to raise the humidity.
Here is the rest of the hatching process:

And that was all that broody would stand for!
Can you tell which one is my favorite?
A Silver Silkie!
Oh joy!!!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Getting old sucks..

even if you are a dog.

This is my sweet Gilda.
And she is getting old
and she just can't do it like she used to.
Can you relate?

She spent the day pinning a squirrel in the
freestanding pecan tree between the house and the barn.

She knows that if she gets the squirrel in a freestanding tree
she has a chance at catching it and has caught many a squirrel in her time.
The joy, the hope and the excitement bounded from her in excited yips all afternoon.

Now she is prostrate on the front porch and immobile cause she threw her back out.
Poor old girl.
Her head is all cocked up and to the right
and it is stuck that way.
It will take about 4 days of herbal muscle relaxers and aspirin
before she is back to normal.
Poor old dog.

But she had fun
and that counts for something.

She is my right hand and I love her.
For a city pound dog she sure makes a fine farm dog.
Never has lifted a tooth to a bird or rabbit,
cares for each chick as if it were her own.
She watches over us at night
her bark a clear bell if danger is near.

I have had her for about 8 years.
She scratched on my door on the evening of March 21st, 2000.
She looked up at me and looked into the house and walked
right past me and lay down in front of the couch.
She was still wearing her collar from the Pound.
After the appropriate paperwork, she was mine.
We have hiked a million miles and spent endless days lounging in the sun.
She spent 2 weeks sleeping under Simon's crib when he was born.

Now she sleeps a little too deep sometimes
and it takes her some time to get up.
But once she is up that tail is in constant motion.
Poor old girl.
I love her.

Oh crap.
Now I just want to cry
and go out and give her
about a pound of bacon
or something.
sniff

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just a few more pics..
















FLOODING...

Check it out!
We're flooding!
I know I sound happy-ish
but that is because it is nowhere near the house
It is all in the deep gulley that separates
the woods and the yard.
And to think
we were going to fill that deep gulley in!
Thank goodness for laziness and procrastination.
Notice that the water is dangerously close
to the building in the photo.
That is the old smokehouse building
and is not in use for anything,
Please also note Sweet Husband in the corner.
This may not look like a big deal,
but the gulley is at least waist deep on me.

And this is water just pouring out of the woods.

This scene is repeated every few yards along the length of the gulley.

Sweet Husband has been into the barn.

He says it is not pretty. I am sure that there is standing water everywhere.

I am not going to the barn today. I would just cry.


We have had inches and inches of rain

and it is still pouring down.

And it is supposed to continue to pour down most of the night.

We shall see what becomes of all of this.

We haven't seen rain like this around here since 2004

they say.

And certainly not since we bought the place June before last.We just had no idea!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And for all of those interested..

The teeny Blue Crested Polish
has a name now.
Which is rare around here.
Usually the birds are called something descriptive + the word 'chicken'.
ie.. Broody Chicken or Ppoofftie Chicken or Dinner.
Truly. I have a group of 5 fellas that are bound for the pot
and they are referred to as "The Dinners".

But the little guy has earned a real name

Jumbo.


gigglesnort

Waiting...

Today I waited.
In a waiting room.
A room just for waiting.

It was nicely appointed with big comfy chairs
by big glass windows
where I could stare out at the rain.

And stare I did.
And I drank cup after cup
of a hot chocolate-like drink
that came from a little pouch I put into a machine.
I don't know what it was, but it tasted great.

Usually I can be content
and quite pleased if I am given
several hours of solitude
with nothing to do but read
by a big window in a comfy chair on a rainy day
with hot chocolate to keep me company.

But today I was restless.
It was very disappointing, really.
So, I explored
and took pictures to entertain you,
gentle reader.

Here I am..
exploring.
Which is a nice way to say roaming the halls.


Here is a thingy from their tree.

The one I sat in front of

for most of the day.


See?
I said it was raining
and rain it did.
It poured and poured
and will pour all night and all day again.
So...
there I was....

kneeling outside the large glass doors
that marked the entrance to the room of waiting
aiming my hunk o' junk camera at the puddle,
lake, river that lay before me.
When I got that creeping sensation that I was being watched.
I slowly turned to catch the source
of my creeping sensation
and found a boy.
A boy that was looking at me as if I had lost my mind.

Granted, from the outside of my squat looking in
it must have seemed very strange indeed
to see a woman squatting at nose level to a rain puddle.
And I am sure that from behind he had no idea I held a camera.
The realization that I was indeed holding a camera
did nothing to quell the strangeness of the scene.
In fact, I believe from the troubled and concerned look on his face
it may have made the situation worse.

Where did the look of curiousity on an innocent child's face go?
When was it replaced by shrewd knowledge
and superiority?
At what age do youngsters become jaded these days?

Anyhoo..
I turned, stood and smiled at the young man
whose expression softened a bit.
A saw just a hint, a whiff
of curiousity in those eyes.
I explained myself
telling mostly the truth.. sort of.
I told the child that I had to take pictures
several days a week.
He blinked.
And I felt a need to defend myself.
"it is harder than you might think"
"you know, to find something to take pictures of so often."
That won me a slight smile and
some; if not understanding,
then acceptance.

Nothing soothes the savage beast
more than knowing that the other
person has weaknesses and troubles too.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

As I said...

It is an ugly little chicken.
But gosh he's cute.
And little! Oh my.

He is a Blue Crested Polish.
Bantam.

I got him from a friend over the
Thanksgiving weekend and he spent
all of time until today in with some of my rabbits.
Very confused and vaguely concerned rabbits.
He is in now with my other Polish birds
and I hope they will make sweet love
and give me more little ugly chickens.
And if you think he is ugly now.. you should see
Polish chicks. Wow!
See, I usually go for the very large breeds,
you know, the ones that you can hardly lift,
and I do not go for 'cute' birds.
'But', you say, 'I saw Silkie pics.'
Well, yes, you did.
But they are strictly utilitarian as broody hens. (This is what I tell myself)
That and they make my husband smile.
And because they make my husband smile and he takes a special interest in them
they do not have to live in the barn with the rest of the chickens.
Oh no!
The Silkies get to live in the potting shed/well house
in glassed-in splendor and comfort.
But the Polish are only yard candy.
There is no use for them at all other than
amusement.
They make me smile!
And my husband thinks they are the ugliest things he has ever seen.
Go figure.. differing taste and all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

From the kitchen..

Dinner was so good tonight that
I thought I would share it.
I wish you could smell this..

Foccacia:
2 tps yeast
a pinch of sugar
3/4 cps of warm water

add these together and let the yeast bloom a bit while
you get the other stuff together

2 cps bread flour (all-purpose will do)
4 TBS oil
a palm full of dried onion flakes
a hefty pinch of italian herbs (oregano, thyme,basil etc..)
a pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl
and stir to mix and then begin to mix
with fingers, adding more flour as needed
to keep from becoming a dough beast.
Knead until smooth.

Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel
and let rise until doubled in size.

preheat oven to 400.

Dump back onto your kneading board
with a little flour underneath
and roughly shape into a round.

Place it on a pizza pan
and give it a light rub of oil
and top at will.
I used a 4 cheese mix of asiago, parmesan, romano and cheddar.
Bake until fluffy and melted and the house smells so good you can't take it another minute.

To accompany the bread I made
a cream of onion and potato soup.
Sooo good.

In a deep pan or soup pot:

Butter (to sautee)
1 onion chopped fine
2 celery stalks chopped fine
1 celeriac root chopped fine (I happen to have them in the garden..not vital to the recipe)
Sautee until the onions are translucent
Add chicken stock

I used 5 potatoes (I nuked them until soft and scooped them out of their skins)

Add potatoes to the pot.
Add more stock
I used a quart of stock in this tonight
the potatoes absorb it.

Pinch of thyme
pinch of savory
pinch of salt
pinch of good black pepper
another pinch or two of black pepper

Just walk away
and let it simmer, stirring occasionally

1 small carton of heavy whipping cream (the smallest in the store)
and lower the heat
Serve as soon as the cream has warmed.

If I could have had you all around the table I would have.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A thought..

"Winter is the season in which people
try to keep the house as warm
as it was in the summer,
when they complained about the heat." author unknown


Ok.
Yes.
This is probably a true assessment.
And guilty as charged.
Fine.


But, damn!
I am cold.

I don't know what it is about today,
but I have been freezing.
I sit here now shivering
and my wee digits are icy.
My legs are cold to the touch.
(I am guessing on that one because I am not about to touch my legs with my wee digits of ice.)

I have no reason to be cold.
Upper 40's with bright sunlight here
and I know that a mere hour up the
mountain they are once again
under snow cover.

Perhaps it is the crisp dryness to the air.
Perhaps it is the nippy little breeze that dances
the leaves all about.
Or maybe it is my warm and generous heart that makes
the rest of my being feel so cold by comparison.
aaww! how sweet.

It could be the old house with
no insulation.
At all.
The leaky old single pane
windows that don't fit in their frames.
Maybe I should blame the ancient
woodstove with gaps
and leaks of it's own.
Did I mention no insulation?

Hark!
What is that I hear?
Why it is my darling husband with
a load of wood.
Oh joy.
Perhaps an actual fire
in the old fire box would warm
and comfort my bones.

But so would getting off my heinie
and accomplishing something with my day.
Early evening.
The dinner begs to be prepared
and laid upon our groaning board.
The roast is happy in it's crock,
but lonely for vegetable companions;
tucked into a roasting dish with herbs
for light chatter.
Drat.
I forgot to look for parsnips
while I was out.
Carrots and potatoes
and onions and garlic
and celery.
Maybe a green bean or two for color.
Thyme and savory,
I spilled all of the rosemary down the stove eye
on Thanksgiving. Smelled good though.

And so I am off.
Please wish me warmth
and a pleasant evening.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Inter-species cohabitation...

Now, I don't know how common it is at other folks' places,
but there is a lot of inter-species cohabitation
going on here at The Hennery.





This here is the infamous PigPig.
You will get the details of his infamy
on some rainy day when I want to do something other than work,
but suffice it to say that he shares his double stall with
a dozen hens.

It is an opened topped stall and the hens can depart anytime
they choose by just hopping over and flying down,
but the silly birds prefer to stay in the stall with
their crazed porcine leader... PigPig.
I have ceased to wonder why.



Here you see the "Barn Bun".
He is my largest white buck from my meat rabbit collection.
He learned to dismantle the fencing of his pen
about a month or so ago and has been living "free range"
around the place since then.
He comes a running to the barn when he hears the feed cans opening
and then bullies all of the birds off their feed.


He is a friendly guy that still comes around
for scritches and loving.

I attempted to lure him back to captivity
by putting his favorite doe
out in the pen.
Worked like a charm!

Until he broke her out and taught her
the joys of living wild and free and beating up on chickens.
I now have two free range rabbits that must be captured and contained
before I have many, many, many rabbits running amuck.
They don't call 'em rabbits for nothing.

And yesterday I mixed a few more together.
I got a...an..umm... errr.....
well, bless him
he's just an ugly little chicken.
And I put him in the rabbit room with my three remaining captive rabbits.
Aaahh, karma.
He chases those buns off their feed.

Never a dull moment around here.

and I really like the ugly little chicken,
but don't tell anyone.
shhhh