Monday, January 26, 2009

Ok.. I have 5 minutes...

This is Old Blue Sue.
She has been here since Thursday.
Which is why you haven't seen me.
She is sleeping in her crate at the moment,
so I can spend a brief moment with you before
running off to do all of the other things that haven't
been done since Thursday.
She is a very malnourished pound pup, but is eating well
and putting some meat on her bones.
I am feeding chicken and rice
with eggs, nettles and oatmeal until she gets plump.
Then I will add in kibble slowly and see how she does.
She does not have a happy tummy
which is why we are up every few hours throughout the night.
We are mightly impressed with her so far.
She is one smart dog and we have high hopes for her.
They' say that Australian Shepherds are great dogs
and so far, I believe it.

Sue is to be the replacement for old Gilda who
is really slowing down. She has some years yet,
but is only moderately effective as a farmdog now.
She sleeps a little too deeply.
Of course, for Sue to be a farmdog
she will need to get off the couch sometimes.
yes. I am breaking the 'no dogs on the furniture' rule...
but just a bit. But look at that face..awwww

I also have chicks hatching and my house is loud
with peeping and chirping and screaming.
11 chicks so far with a few more pecking out.
They are eating time as well.
I will let you see them when they are all out and about.
Very pretty so far...

The seeds aren't started and the house is a wreck.
There is laundry piling up and the kitchen floor!! Oh my!
And I haven't touched the new garden space in a week.
I have company coming next weekend and I have 6 days
to turn this sty into Better Homes and Gardens.
And I have no idea what is for dinner tonight.
So, off I go to make a dent in something somewhere.

Oh, and DaintyPig was just yanking our chain!
I think she held her breath all that day
in order to look very round so that we
would build her a stout and warm house.
Yep. Fooled by a small pig.
Stupid pig.
Smart pig.
Stupid people.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I am still here..

I apologize for not being around.
It has been crazy here.
We have a new farm dog puppy... A teeny tiny Blue Merle Australian Shepherd.
And as you know, nothing eats time like a new pup.
I am violently sleep deprived.
I also have chicks hatching.
I will try to post with pics this afternoon
and give you all a full accounting.
Again, my deepest apologies.
I know for me, it is a huge letdown
to want to check into a blog that you like
and find that there is nothing new.
At least I have great excuses.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ugly Edibles..

There are plenty of things that are ugly and unappetizing to gaze upon,
but are wonderful to eat. Here are two that are going around my house today.

These lumpy, rooty mutants are celeriac roots. I dug them up before
the bitter cold and they have been sitting and waiting on my counter since then.
Celeriac is wonderfully easy to grow, but takes a long season.
I started the seeds last spring in a flat and it seemed to take forever for them
to get big enough to prick out.
I planted them out and never touched them or looked at them again until fall.
I did make one error, though. I planted them in soil that was too rich in nitrogen for them.
Like all roots crops they prefer a lean soil or you get rampant leafy growth
and lots of little roots shooting off everywhere. As a result, my celeriac is a little small and very hairy. I washed them up a bit and gave them a haircut and stored them in the fridge.
If I were storing them long term, I would have just cut most of the leafy tops back and stored cool and moist dirt and all.
These will not last long around here. I will carve up several tonight to add to a roast root veggie dish.

And I as a bit bored today and wanted to use some black bananas I
had been keeping in the freezer. They are not an exotic type of fruit,
just uneaten and going downhill fast.
So I went poking in the larder and came up with the remnants of a bag of prunes. They were the cherry essence ones, and, Voila! A banana-prune bread.
I know it looks very much like a Bundt cake, but all of my bread pans are being used out in the barn for various reasons.
It looks ugly, but it sure is good, made with lots of ginger and cinnamon
to round out the flavors.

Off I go to tackle a smoked ham that I pulled from the oven. Now that I think about it.. it is pretty ugly too.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hot Pink!

I thought I would give a little spark to the cold, cold weather that most of us are experiencing. This is blooming in my laundry room under the lights. It keeps company with a jalapeno, 4 tomatoes and a pepper or two. Isn't it just too pretty in the middle of January? I look at it quite often.

It is colder than a well digger's tail out there, but not too bad inside..finally! Sweet Husband went on a winterizing spree yesterday and put up plastic on the worst of the old, rattle-y windows. It is like having a new house!!! The wind no longer whistles and howls through the house.. well, not as badly.

And I put up a window quilt over the double window in the living room. It works great! This morning and until around 10:00 or so there was ice on the INSIDE of that window. I could see it from the front porch, but no cold air could be felt when I slid my hand under the curtain. Can you imagine the amount of cold that would have been pouring through without the quilt?! As a result of the efforts, the house is not too bad, as long as we keep the woodstove fed.

And I have been working on the external winterization for the past few days. It was a frenzy to get everything set before the cold got here. I finished putting up plastic on the south side of the barn and did some more cloth on the north side. Sweet Husband came through yesterday and finished up the parts I couldn't reach. He built a 'house' for DaintyPig and I covered that as well, burying the ends of the plastic under a good layer of soil. I also laid in a good amount of hay. I put plastic up on the windows of the bunny room too. A deep layer of old hay and straw went down over the garden.. the strawberries, onions, cabbages and herbs. I hope it all makes it through.

And that brings us up to today. Not much shaking. Except that the bottom heating element in my stove blew out. We are searching around for a replacement part. It is an ancient behemoth of a stove, but I have gotten spoiled with all of the space it affords. I can place a full cutting board on the top between the eyes and it has a ton of storage. A two shelved 'warming' drawer that houses my smaller baking goods and a huge drawer underneath too. Plus, it is cheaper to replace the part than to buy a new stove, you know? Eventually it will get replaced and will spend the last years of it's life out in the summer kitchen (it is NOT a garage.. it IS a summer kitchen) so I can do my baking and canning without heating up the house. Oh, and because the stove was taken apart, I had a big bowl of black bean chile for breakfast. It was so good and filling.. heavy on the red peppers too.

I hope that each of you is as warm as you can be and I will not complain about the cold for I know that many of you live where this the norm. Though, for the life of me, I do not know why.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jinx !!!

I cannot believe I am saying this in public.
I am going to jinx it and mess it all up.
Or, I will be wrong and look like a fool, BUT......

I think DaintyPig is going to give us piglets soon.
The guy said she might be bred when we got her,
but we have seen no signs of her being bred at all.

Until today.

I did the afternoon feed and noticed she looked very round.
Very round, indeed.

Panic insued!!! I mean full blown panic!
She is afield!
She is a 'touch-me-not'
and cannot be caught or coaxed!
And the coldest nights of the year are bearing down on us.
Highs near 20 with hard winds and lows in the single digits with a windchill!
Nothing ever gives birth during a warm spell... ever!

Tomorrow, in the wee morning hours, Sweet Husband is going to
build a farrowing house for her in the field. He would have waited until Thursday, his next day off, but the winds will be howling and it will be miserable out and, the best argument from me..
Poor Sweet Husband!

So.. Piglet Watch 09 is in session!
Either that or I am a moron.
A panicky, foolish woman.
Though I did drag Sweet Husband over and we stared at her belly for half and hour.
He agrees that she suddenly looks very round. Very round indeed.

This time it is 'Butter' butter..

Let me start off by saying, "I am, by no means, an expert!"
And that being said.. I made butter yesterday
And here is how I did it.

I started with a gallon of fresh, raw milk.
If you look closely you can see the cream line
at the top of the milk.
I used basters to slurp up the cream while
leaving the milk below undisturbed.

What I am left with is thick, rich cream.
Very good in coffee, by the way.

I chose to use the larger jar to churn in
and the more room and air in the jar, the quicker it goes.
Put the lids on tight and shake.
And shake. And shake. And shake.
I find that if you shake 'lid to tail' it goes faster.
I have gotten to where I can do many things while shaking
a churn jar in one hand. I can feed the woodstove..
I can do laundry..
It's amazing really.

The cream will start in the shaking jar by sloshing loosely.
After a little while it turns to a whipped cream like consistency
and is very light and quiet while you shake.
And then, without warning, it will return to the sloshing
and you will feel that the cream is a liquid again.
The jar even gets heavier.
This is what you want. The new liquid that is in the jar is
butter milk and within it... Butter!

I have had the butter to form in one solid clump and I have had
it to form in a myriad of little balls.
I prefer the clump.
This particular batch, of course, came in the little balls.
I used a strainer to separate the buttermilk from the butter,
carefully saving the buttermilk for cooking. I am thinking cornbread for dinner.
The butter milk you will get from this bears no resemblance to the
thick, vile stuff you buy in the store. I don't know what that is?
This buttermilk is as thin as regular milk and sweet.

I have no photos of this coming part because my hands were covered in butter.
I pressed the butter gently against the strainer to squeeze the buttermilk
from it. Then I placed it into a bowl and began to rinse it.
Fresh water and squeeze. Fresh water and squeeze until the water runs clear.
Then, with the back of a spoon, press the butter until no more water runs from it.
(ok.. I used my hands)

And there it is... butter!
Really sweet, rich butter.
Great butter.
And the jar of buttermilk.

I store my butter in a small Tupperware type
of container. Somewhere I have my Great Grandmother's
butter mold and I will dig it out soon and show you.

I love making butter!
I love not having to give my money to
the grocer for butter.
I love knowing what is in my butter!
So, if you have a source for good milk,
then give it a try!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Boys Allowed!!!

It has been an interesting week around The Hennery.
Especially if you are a Silkie. I have three broody Silkie hens,
three growing Silkie chicks
and three dressed out Silkie roos.
And two Silkie roos that have been kicked out of their snug home.

This is the old potting shed. I know it is not pretty, but boy!, is it handy.
The Silkies, being that they are Sweet Husband's favorites
are not forced to live in the big barn like normal chickens.
They get the comfort of the potting shed with it's brick walls and
big windows and access to the yard by the house.

Even if I am brooding chicks in there the Silkies get to stay
as they are all great parents.. even Papa Ppfootie.

But Papa Ppfootie is a bit of a control freak who bosses his ladies
mercilessly and when they are all brooding he just has fits.
They don't obey!
They don't eat when he says!
They are unresponsive to his romantic overtures!
And he harrasses them terribly.
So, Papa is out!
And so very unhappy. He keeps pacing the front and crowing and clawing at the door.
Poor Papa. No boys allowed.

Meanwhile, inside the potting shed...

This is my mother and daughter pair hard at work

And this is my favorite girl. So pretty with her top knot of fluff.

And these guys are growing up quick.
There is nothin uglier than a Silkie chick!
There is another chick in there too, but it was being shy and hiding under
Black Broody.

And this is what became of three members
of 'The Jackson 5'.
I had Black Broody and 4 Black Silkie roos.
(What would you call them?)

I butchered 3 of the Jacksons yesterday and had every
intention of butchering all of the roos, but I am a softie at heart.
I grabbed up one of the roos to carry outside
and instead of fighting and squawking,
the horrible bird was as calm and still as could be and laid his head
under my neck for a snuggle. *%!#@&$!!

So, I now have a black roo and a white roo.
I suppose it works well as I do have the black hen.

As you can see, the dressed Silkies look a bit odd.
They have black meat and in many cultures
their meat is valued as a delicacy and used as a health tonic.
I have yet to eat a Silkie.
Mine are sold before they are even butchered.
Maybe one day I will get a chance to try it out.

And this is what is going on inside this week.
I had 5 chicks hatch at the beginning of the week.
Time will tell what they are, but at least one is
a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte and one is
my Old Fashioned White Layers
(a homegrown breed of white birds)
As for the others.. time will tell.
And other than that it has been a week of garden planning,
seed catalog perusing and burn out!
I even dream about the damn garden and all of those seeds.
And it is fast approaching time to start seeds around here.
I need to just make the decisions and spend the money
and get the ball rolling.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Anyone wanna guess the weather here?? Hmmm? Do you???
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!!
That's right, folks. It is raining!
Please refer to the earlier post about the flood..
that is what it looks like now.. again.
The gulley is raging and there is water pouring through the woods in wide sloughs.
The sky is a dark as twilight and leaking... heavily.
The weather guys said we were in store for between 3 and 5 inches for today.
I wish it would save some of this rain for August.
We are in such a terrible drought here.
The past two summers the grass turned brown and I had bare patches in the yard
of just dusty dirt. It stayed like that for months. If it had rained I would have had deep mud everywhere, but grass is tough stuff and regrew when the temperatures lowered in the fall.
So.. I thought I would take you back in time.. or into the future...

It is a mighty warm day in early September.
Finally cool enough that I can hang out outside most of the day without having to hide in the AC until 5 in the afternoon. I have done some weeding and some picking and I have set out a few of my fall crops.
I have just come in from the garden with a bucket
brimming with tomatoes, peppers and beans for dinner.
In my basket I have a huge bundle of Lucullus Chard too.
My face is freckled and my hair is a mess under my widebrimmed hat
You know, the one with the chicken poo on the inside rim.

I have dirt under my nails and my back is sore.
I picked 8 hornworms this morning and the blister beetles have
yet to make their appearance.
The chickens are laying great and we are selling a ton of eggs
and the broodies are out in the yard with all of their hatches in tow.
I think I will set the bounty on the counter, grab a cold beer and sit in the shade and enjoy for awhile.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Forward...Hoe !!!

Happy New Year to all!!!
I hope your holidays were warm and filled with joy.
Ours were good too. Thanks for asking.

I must mention how well Sweet Husband
did with his gift to me this year!
I got a WMA player (think Ipod)
It seems our library system has bought into
a digital library group and now I can download any book
I want to listen to while I work away in the garden or barn with just my library card number!
I read a lot of books, or listen.
It is just wonderful.. of course it plays tunes as well.
It is so nice to be able to be in the barn without having to
hear 80+ birds squawking at me. You just don't know.
Good job, sweet Husband!

And speaking of working in the garden,

it is that time of year again.

Oh joy!

I have been digging out and clearing out the new garden spot.

I know that digging up wild asters and yanking out miles of

intertangled honeysuckle may not seem like fun to most,

but it winds my clock!

In a few short months I hope this will be a neat and orderly

grouping of heaped beds, some with early crops already growing

and some with cover crops waiting to be turned under.

With nice woodchip paths intertwining and inviting me to walk among the beds.

I am leaving the one wild cherry tree at the back end. It has a nice shape and it will do well as a perch for wildbirds to hunt for tomato hornworms from. I will put a water feature under it as well to water my toads and beneficial bugs as well as the birds. You just can't have enough birds and good bugs and toads in a garden. ever.

This new plot sits in the foundation of an old chicken barn, one of the really big ones. The one that is still standing and that we use is 10,000 sq ft. 250 ft long and 40 ft wide. 5 times bigger than our house.

At one time this place had 23,000 birds. wow.

There is one barn still up and two foundations. We have plans to eventually clear and use both foundations...blueberries, blackberries, grain plots for feed, sunflowers, mangels and massive herb and wildflower beds to draw and feed beneficial insects.

You wouldn't have believed what this plot looked like this summer..a head high tangle of scrub trees, vines, weeds.. you couldn't even begin to walk through it. There were morning glories of every hue, goldenrods, the beautiful wild asters and other wildflower/weeds that I do not know the name of. It was a jungle and I know that I will have the devil's own time trying to keep new weeds from coming up all next summer.

We plan to till it up one good time and release the birds into it to clear up some of the weed seeds and then cover crop it and lay down feed bags and cloth and whatever else we can find the tamp out the new growth. I am under no delusion that it will be easy.

It is also a fairly clay-ey soil which is good in that clay soil is nutrient rich, but bad in that it is soggy and holds water. I am hoping by heaping the beds and adding garden/kitchen compost and composted manure and bedding that I can make it into a fairly quick draining garden.

I still have a way to go, but I have help. This is DaintyPig. She has been doing her best to get the beginning of the clearing underway. And as soon as we move PigPig down from the barn he can help. I think we are going to sell Dainty and PigPig in the spring and use that money to buy the
Tamworths that I have been wanting for so long. I met some nice folks that would be interested in these two and I think they would have a nice home with them. Especially considering the fact that we were going to eat them or their offspring.

Such a sweet girl. She followed behind me all the past two days rooting where I had been digging and just wagging away everytime I spoke sweetly to her.