Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I am not dead..

It has been both crazy and boring around here.
I will return in the very near future.
You so you haven't missed anything. Nothing new, nothing old and nothing really 'farmy' going on.
We are beginning homeschool officially in a few weeks and the preparation for that has taken up large chunks of time, as have the holidays. Knit, knit, knit, knit....
So, please be patient and don't give up on me. I shall return.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Turkeys Are Done!

Isn't that just beautiful!?
This is Aaron Cookson from Red Dirt Ranch.
He is a dear friend who butchers
like an artist.
Many, many thanks to him for coming out
and making the day a breeze and
giving us a fantastic product.

See.. I couldn't have done this by hand
for love or money. Especially not with the great results the plucker gets.
A bird is done in mere seconds. Wow.

Getting cleaned up and ready for a wrap.

Ta Da!!!
Look at how nicely he did the legs.
You learn something new every day..if you are lucky.
All but 7 of the birds are done and those can wait until
The yard will seeem a bit lonely to me without my sweet boys.
I was very glad I could opt out of the deed itself.
It was a bit sad and usually I have no problem.
I really loved the turkeys.
I am very, very proud to be able to share them with others.
They will look wonderful as a centerpiece of a blessings laden table.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November Down Home.. they are..
the very last pics of the turkeys.

Monday the 16th is butcher day.

Not all are slated for freezer camp
and I will have some left for Christmas
but the majority will be gracing tables
on the 26th.
I am proud of them and count our first year
of heritage breed turkeys as a success.
There will be more turkeys..many more
as I have loved having them in the yard.
And I am a wee bit sad at the thought of
slaughter. They really are like large dogs
in their affection and loyalty.
Gosh! Aren't they beautiful.
I just love them,
but you all know that already.
And here are some bold new additions..
They are meat birds, broilers, that were allowed to mature.
I got them from a fellow farmer and will use them to breed
large, scrumptious meat birds of my very own.
I know they look like chickens, but believe when I tell you they are
something entirely different.
They are HUGE and heavy..oh my!
Once they are back up to prime form and good health
and start to lay I will toss in a few choice roosters
and see what we will get. I have great hopes.

Some of my younger birds are starting to lay.
Check out that huge egg on top.
That was her first effort.
Oh, the squalling from the laying box with that one!~
Poor girl. But no blood on the egg etc..
so it did no permanent damage.
What a way to begin...
Kepp an eye out for an entry about turkey butchering.
I am not doing, but a traveling butcher is coming
for the task. Good friend and great guy.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Pic Of Dead Birds....

Now that the voting is over on, I can announce that I was the one that took this pic!! Woot!!

I don't know if it will make the calendar as many folks don't want dead things hanging on their wall, but I love it and will hang it somewhere.

They were tasty too!

Some Things Are Yellow...

The butt of a bee
sleeping in a squash blossom is yellow.
Freshly laid eggs are yellow.

Freshly made butter is sorta yellow.

Eggs and cornbread are yellow.
It tasted much better than it looks.

Weeds are yellow.
Some things are blue..
like hyssop.

And the sky behind a ....turkey!
(that is the now required turkey pic..)
Stuff has been going on around here..
just nothing really photo worthy.
The Great Chicken Sell Off is going ok.
I need to do one more advertising blitz to
unload the last group.
And, closely connected to the Sell Off,
the barn scramble is still going on.
Who to put where and with whom...
I have too many birds.
No wait.. I have too many breeding groups, that's what the problem is.
Black Copper Marans
Cuckoo Marans
Black Langshans
Blue Laced Red Wyandottes
a seller's pen, a rooster pen..
(ok.. I have three rooster pens..
The breeding roosters, the growing roosters
and the darn near edible roosters..)
and the laying hen pen.
See the trouble?
I think I am selling off the
White Rocks and White Jersey Giants, but they are not in the seller's pen.
I have to see if I am selling the 'point of lay' Ameracaunas.
And if you are confused and overwhelmed,
then you can see why I am too.
Bottom line - I need to sell more hens.
And eat more roos.
The ducks have moved out to the smokehouse
and are no longer free ranging all day and sleeping
the night away in the potting shed.
I had, had, had to move them out
so I could put the chicks we are hatching out there.
They cannot live in the laundry room forever.
One group of young birds have moved up to
the barn and I have one more
group that needs to move up too.
Add this to the above mentioned
tangle in the barn.
The chickens now hate to see me coming
because more times than not I have the
catching net in my hand.
But soon the potting shed will house only chicks,
which is the point of the potting shed.
And I can't take all of the complainig
about the chicken shuffle.
Much of it falls on the shoulders of Sweet Husband
I am utterly, completely and cripplingly night blind.
Oh, and the turkeys..
sweet, noble turkeys.
They do seem to have an aversion to
going into their pen in the late afternoon.
It is not that they don't want to go in, persay,
it is that they are stymied by the process.
I am sure that by the time they figure it out
it will be time for Thanksgiving.
Next year they will move to the barn
pen and out of the potting shed while
they are still young and have the brain
capacity to learn something new.
I love them though.
The new woodstove had a test fire
last night and this morning out in the yard.
Yippee!! New paint and it looks great.
I have to start gathering a barn stall of kindling
and Sweet Husband needs to start chopping firewood.
It is getting a wee bit chilly at night now.
Seems a bit early to me. As does the early
turning and falling of the leaves.
The poplars are looking ragged.
I do not think it will be a pretty autumn.
A busy time
helped along by the nice cool weather
Oh.. I have an adendum..
I read a great book recently..
'Farm City - The Education of an Urban Farmer' by Novella Carpenter.
She rocks on a vacant lot in Oakland California..
turkeys, ducks, bees and two Duroc hogs..
great read!
Look to my favorite links to find her site...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Have A Mental Problem!!

I am nuts!
I seriously need HELP!
Won't someone help me....?

I can't freaking STOP
picking muscadines !
This morning by 9am
I had about 40 lbs. of those
beautiful little purple balls in my big bucket.
Ya'll.. this is the third time!
I went thinking that the scuppernongs were ripe,
but nooooooo.....
there was a whole nother harvest of muscadines ready.
I should have walked away.
It is heavy enough that I don't
dare to put in on my old countertops.
It sits in the kitchen floor..staring at me...
And the figs too...
Those apples are slated for an apple pie.
I don't know what they are, but I made a pie
last week that was the best apple pie I have ever eaten.
Sweet, tart..perfect.
But, today I will try to do the right thing.
I will try to wash them and bag them up and
give those muscadines away.. or at least some of them.
I said, 'try...'
And I will make more fig preserves.
The last bit I picked I set out to dry.
Every morning I carried them out ot the sun
and every evening I brought them loving back inside.
When they were almost dry, and I could put them all in one
pan, I started keeping on my dashboard in my car.
Sweet Husband borrowed my car and brought the figs,
the precious figs that I had sliced paper thin..
not an easy thing to do..they are squishy..
and put them in the oven.
Did he tell me this? Did he? NO.
I set the oven to preheat and went out to
pick basil in the garden. I sniffed.
I pondered that sweet, wonderful smell
that was filling the yard.. like burnt sugar..
Damn. It took hours to get all of the smoke out of the house.
It is getting ready to be rainy and damp here
so I have to 'preserve' them instead.
No dried figs for me this year.

And I need help with the egg and incubator thing too...
yep.. I am incubating MORE eggs.
But these are spoken for... or so I believe.
I don't have to feed these 80! eggs.
But Sweet Husband is setting aside more eggs everyday....

Isn't this a pretty picture?
I love it.
Everything is sparkling in the morning sun...

Of course, this isn't shabby either.
I think I am going to slap some on a oatmeal roll
leftover from dinner last night...
Of course, the butter is still on the stove
buttering down.
It needs to hurry because I have 40 lbs
of muscadines to put in that pot!
Good Grief.

And I have crushing news...

Mr. White is gone.

He was my first ever rabbit.

I know you aren't supposed to love your food,

but I loved Mr. White.

Such spunk.

Such personality.

Such an independent thinker.

He escaped the colony last year and I caught him up

and put him back in another mini-colony

with his favorite doe thinking he would stay there with her.

He broke her out. He is..was.. a fence climber.

He and Mrs. White have lived free in my yard

and barn and in the neighbor's yard way

across the field since then.

I loved seeing him in the barn.

He would bring the wife for a snack

of chicken feed from time to time.

He would run and scatter the hens

away from the food.. it was an awesome sight.

Little white bunny chasing big old hens.

Then he would come over and stand on

my foot for scritches.

We were planning on a whole new area just for him

where he would be safe and could raise

new litters of kits for us once again.

I cannot tell you how heartbroken I am

Old Blue Sue killed him. Damn dog.

He must have gone cruising around dawn

yesterday in the front of the barn. He knew better.

She didn't bite or tear him, just played with him until

he quit playing back. Sweet Husband found her

chewing on his ear. Damn dog.

It is quite the shame. He was incredibly heavy.

It was uncomfortable trying to hold him one handed.

He would have made great kits.

I still have many of his offspring to carry on the good traits.

However, if I can catch up Mrs. White

she will have to be sent to freezer camp.

I don't think she would ever accept another buck

and I don't want to sacrifice one to find out.

RIP Mr. White.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Old and New

Big doings down on the farm
this week..
Lookee what I got!!
A Foley mill!
Now, this might not rock everyone's boat,
but it's rocking mine.

Look how shiny!!
Stainless steel! Oooooooh!
With a thingy that goes round and round
and everything!
This little gadget makes my
preserving chores into a fun
and easy event.
Ok.. maybe not all that great,
but look what I used to use
to remove those pesky pits
and peels...

Now you understand my joy.
The old way was a pain..literally.
My wrist and fingers would ache after
I gripped the collander and held it over the bowl
while mashing down against it with all my might.
My new Foley has clips that fit right over the edge of
my bowl or pot for easy processing.
And it is ever so much more efficient
than the spoon and collander.
I am feeding much less of the good stuff
to the birds.
I am picking scuppernongs
tomorrow morning and will be
cranking away on that handle
by afternoon.
I also picked up some
canning tools...real ones!
I no longer have to reach into the boiling
water with my hands to grab out
boiling hot jars full of stuff.
I have a jar gripper!!
And a new wide mouth funnel for
neater, cleaner jars.
I am so pleased!
You know, it is the little things
that make life worth living.
And for me to go out and get these
things is a big deal. I could have made do.
And I have made do for years without them,
but I am so much happier with them.

And this is our old woodstove..
A Boxwood by Vogelzang.
Now, when I was a kid the Boxwood
was a perfectly good stove, but then they started
making them in China.
This thing leaks air something fierce
and the first year all of the caulking
fell out and you can see fire in all
of the seams.
And if you look at the front
you can see a slide tray.

The slide tray is for allowing more
airflow into the stove. And you will notice
a coiled handle up by the stovepipe.
This is for the flue adjustment..also
for airflow.
Now, the one thing you just don't want in
a woodstove is airflow.
I cannot tell you how much wood we have stuffed into
this beast. And it will ot hold a fire overnight.
Nothing sucks worse than waking up in a Vogelzang
house, let me tell you. Cold, cold, cold!!!
Luckily, Sweet Husband is up long before me
and has had the fire going and the house toasty
before I crawl out from under my feathers.

And the new...

Oh yeah!
A Baby Bear.
Holds a fire all night long!!
So, the house will be warm and toasty before
anyone gets up! Woo HOOOOO!
You will notice there is no slide
in the front and no coiled flue handle on the top.
These are the signs of snuggly winters and warm mornings
and fewer loads of wood to carry into the house.
I get so sick of hauling wood by the time February
gets here. We heat almost completely with wood and
I am quite sure that this winter we will be able
to heat every room but one with fire.
Now, the Fisher needs to be sanded and
given a fresh coat of heat resistant paint
but I am not complaining....
$100 off craigslist!

Are you sick of turkey pics yet?

It is just that they are all over me everytime they see the camera..
And these are my Jerusalem artichokes.
It is getting to be the end of the season.
They are starting to fall over.
If they are upright, they are taller than me.
I will harvest after the first frost when they get a bit sweet.

And on a sad note..
my smallest lamb died.
I do not know why.
He never really grew, just stayed small
and delicately formed. He also had testicular troubles.
They didn't descend until just a week or so before he died.
We are guessing that there was something
not quite right with him from the get go.
The other lamb is lonely,
but growing and I look forward to lamb stew
this winter..cooked on my ... new woodstove!!
And we are enjoying the sheep so much
that we are thinking of
getting three ewe lambs in the spring
and just making our own from now on.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recent happenings..

My turkeys are getting big and beautiful!
I just love the turkeys. They are much better all around
than stupid chickens! As you can see, my love affair
with my 150+ chickens is waning.
I am having a big chicken sell off soon.
And a several big slaughter days too.
Viva the turkeys!!
And last night was their first night in
the big new turkey pen in the barn.
They are not happy.
But, they have to stay inside for a few days
to acclimate to the new digs if I don't
want to spend every evening having a
turkey round-up. And turkey round-ups
involve long sticks and ladders if I don't get out there
soon enough. Turkeys can fly, you know.

And here is Mr White! My free range buck.
His 'wife' is around somewhere too. But they will soon be caught and
penned. I know they are breeding, I see them do it.
But without a safe home I am not getting any of the kits
for myself and that is wasteful.
The barn sure will be lonely without them underfoot
and chasing the chickens off their feed. I love Mr. White.

And what is summer without the obligatory tomato pictures?
And the things that taste great with them...
chard and basil!

I do dearly love basil! And it grows so well here.
When I make pizza it goes right on the dough
snugged down in tomato sauce and baked in..
So delicious to have homemade basil pizza!
Oh, now I want one. I wonder if I could
convince the family to go for pizza again tonight?
And other than the basic day to day
running of the farm and the setting by
of food for the winter, not much has been happening..
We did have a house full of people last week
and that was nice. I love cooking for huge groups
of hungry folks.
The next few weeks will see some changes though..
butchering and selling will empty the barn out some
and lower our feed bill in preparation for winter too.
Hard to think about winter now, but it needs to get done.
Soon it will be wood chopping time...
It is coming...

Figs and Muscadines!

Aaaaah! Free Food!!
These came from the 'secret garden'
I found this spring. I have the owner's permission
to use the gardens as I will. Oh Joy!
Green Ischia figs and muscadines!

It took some internet digging to find the variety of fig.
The bright red insides are the give away.
They are gross raw though, but
all figs are. I am a cooked/dried fig kind of girl, I guess.
Note to self.. next time chop them finer.

Sure are pretty though.

And cooking down the muscadines!
Oh, if you could have smelled my house!
These are a different muscadine than I am used to.
They are darker and sweeter without the 'tang'
of wine I am accustomed to working with.
More like a Concord grape really.
And I haven't even tapped the haul yet.
It was just too hot to pick that day.
It will be much cooler
this coming week and much nicer to pick in.
Plus, the cooler nights will act to sweeten them even further.

And some of the finished product to line my shelves with.
I had some on cornbread this morning..
wonderful! Fig on one half of the wedge and muscadine on the other.
Decadence and plenty!

Sure will be good when the cold winds blow this winter!
I love putting food by, I really do.
Is there anything more satisfying than seeing the
shelves in the pantry bending with plenty?
I just don't think so...

WARNING! graphic bunny butchering!

For those of tender hearts I apologize.
But rabbit tastes good!
So, here goes..

I dispatch the buns by the
'broomstick' method.
just as I do the chickens.
But I must say I don't like it.
It has a tendency to cause
a mass of blood to pool at the junction
of the neck and shoulders.
I am going to try slitting the throat
immediately upon the upwards yank
to see if I bleed them instantly
I can stop that.
Personally, I don't care, but I do sell many
processed rabbits and I like a cleaner

So, here is a bunny in a dead state.
It's neck has been broken.
I will let the head dangle off the edge
of the table and remove the head or
slit the throat to bleed it.

I make a slit in the skin
on the belly and on the back
for skinning.
I slide my hands under the skin
and pull in opposing directions..

Until I get this..

I will remove the head and feet and tail

and pull the rest of the skin off.

Leaving me with this...
I will then make a vertical slit
up the body and hold it by the
shoulders over the bucket.
The innards fall right out.
I take two finders and reach up into
the upper chest for the lungs and heart.
I can do a rabbit from hopping to soaking
in about 2 minutes. It is wonderful!
Much easier and cleaner than
stupid chickens with all their stupid feathers!
(forgive my tone.. I am facing a day of butchering and plucking tomorrow)

And the wonderful finished product!
Don't they look delicious!
I am very proud of my rabbits.
I get great size and superb meat
from them. Each of these weighs in between
4 and 5 pounds- dressed weight.
That is a big! rabbit.

I attribute some of the weight to my

raising process. I do not cage my buns.

I colony raise. My buns have an indoor

room and an outdoor pen.

They run and hop and dig and groom each other

in a more or less natural habitat.

They get to use their muscles

which makes for good meat quality

and flavor.

My does and buck run together

and the does kindle in a vast underground

warren system of their own making.

I don't even know I have new babies

until I see them pop out into the

pen for the first time!

And I don't know how many I have in total

for about another week. They scoot in and out

of their bolt hole very quickly if they hear me approach.

But they eventually get used to me

and are all over my feet all the time.

I weeded the garden today and they are feasting
on piles of wood sorrel and peppermint and mulberry twigs.
I try to feed from the yard as much as I can
They are very efficient at turning weeds and grasses into protein!

The three hefty boys in the foreground are the next up for
freezer camp. Maybe next week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

From a few days in the mountains...

I harvested some onions..
A crazy big squash plant..

Jewelweed and Steve's gate..

My favorite weed.. Joe Pye Weed.

Even in July this water will turn your feet
beet red and burning,
then blue.
It will take your breath if you are foolish enough to immerse yourself..