Friday, December 15, 2017

Crap-tastic goose shelter

We had a lot of snow this week and I was feeling bad that the geese didn't have a designated shelter. There's tons of brush for them to snug up in and the old A-frame coop but I worried that they were cold. Yep, sitting out there with lots of fat and tiny down jackets I would lie awake at night and worry about the geese. Everything I've read said they won't use a shelter and the woman I bought straw off of this week said hers won't even go in the barn but I still worried. Possessing no carpentry skills I took some old feed sacks and the staple gun outside this week and completed a magnificent display of craftsmanship henceforth known as the crap-tastic goose shelter. 

It's just feedsacks closing in part of the underside of the coop.


They investigated mid-project.

Added another panel to the back after shooing everyone out.

The verdict? After the initial excitement wore off... Yeah... I haven't seen anyone but chickens in there. Oh well. At least they have it if they want it.

I do love these birds. I think I have two geese and a gander. The geese are still sweet to me and the gander ignores me. So far.  Secretly hoping for some goslings come spring!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Snow day

We had our first real snow last night and are expecting more tomorrow. It was a beautiful day and not as cold as it looked. 
I joke these are my "sexy clothes". Not pictured: blaze orange hunting stocking cap. 

The little feral group that live in a pine tree. I could not convince these idiots to get out of the weather.

Clearing a path for Santa.

Mama and little man family portrait.  I'm lucky he's a little outdoorsman.

Snow angels.

Geese and ducks on the move. They love the snow too and leaving the gate open in this weather is awesome because the waterfowl range but the chickens aren't out kicking mulch everywhere. They hate snow. I brushed off the ramp this morning while they all looked out the door suspiciously.  "Nigel! Tell your ladies to get their asses out here and have breakfast. It's just snow!" I may have said to the rooster. No go.

It was a good day and I'm grateful we were able to enjoy it. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Seed Inventory 2018, changes

My big three: Baker Creek, Pinetree & Seed Savers Exchange.  

Seed catalogs started arriving in the mail the week before Thanksgiving.  It's time to get a grip on what I already have here before I go crazy ordering a bunch of stuff that won't get planted.

Lying in bed pondering our options, dreaming big dreams.

Things are going to have to be scaled way back next summer because of some yet undisclosed major life changes happening here so I'm not sure it's a great idea to be buying anything extra at this point anyway.  There's going to be zero time to give to the garden from about mid-June to August (pretty much my whole season) and I'm not sure how to manage the space just yet so it doesn't go completely to hell.

Maybe a big part of the garden could be direct sown with cutting flowers or a wildflower mix, which would look nice. OR I could get a couple of hives over here and put in a bunch of buckwheat for buckwheat honey, that would be fun too.  And less work. The bees could go back to living in the chicken yard.  I wonder if the geese would bother them too much, the chickens and ducks have always just ignored hives. We'll see.

Here's what is in my seed drawer, along with some notes.  Anything highlighted is something that needs to be bought. 

Cooking greens: Orach, Tatsoi, Spinach, Fordhook Swiss Chard.  We loved having cooking greens last season and cooked them all kinds of ways, plus froze some.  Big win.
"Salad" type greens:  Lettuce mix, Mesclun mix, Forellenschluss, Yugoslavian Red Butterhead.  Fresh greens in stores here are terrible.  It's a great pleasure to have them growing in the garden.

Purple basil, Genovese basil, chamomile, Anise Hyssop, Cilantro, Calendula
(Established in the garden: mint, sage, rosemary, thyme. Parsley will come back this year too)

Soft fruits
Alpine strawberry: Alexandria, Regina.  I have a beautiful bed of probably 30 plants already so I'm not sure I'll finish these packets.
Ground cherry. I would like to plant these this season.

Root crops
Radish, purple top turnip, parsnip, carrot mix.  Not sure what of these will actually get planted.
Potato: last year was awful and my yield was less that I planted. I'm tired of feeding mice. Order fingerling potato & figure out some method of growing them above ground.

Mix of green/yellow/purple bush beans for fresh eating.  Maybe buy some more of these for a fall crop.
Black eyed peas have been in the drawer awhile.  Probably time to admit they're not getting planted.
Lima: Dixie speckled Butterpea
Fava: Sweet Loraine, Extra precoce a grano violetto.  What a joy fava beans were to discover.
Dry beans: Hutterite soup

Sugar snap, Oregon sugar pod.

Beefsteak, Pineapple, Plum lemon, Striped Roman, Brandy wine, Black krim, Indigo apple, Hillbilly potato leaf.  YES to lots of tomatoes.  If there isn't time to can them they can be tossed in the freezer whole.

Peppers  NONE buy transplants: Thai, Jalapeno, Bell type, King of the North.  These are worth the space and time.  ONE organic bell pepper costs $3.99 here in the dead of winter.  Like tomatoes, they can just be tossed in the freezer whole.

Summer Squash  NONE just buy a pack of transplants for zucchini.  We do love zucchini.

Winter Squash
Spaghetti, Jumbo pink banana, Jarrahdale, Thelma sanders, Long island cheese, Acorn, Sugar pie, butternut, Austrian butter.  They store well and there's no hurry to get them picked. 

Conneticut field, Birdhouse, mystery mix from Farm Aid

Other Veg
Broccoli Raab  there's not much in the packet but I think it will do
Carentan leek
Bruswick cabbage
Brussell sprouts
Eggplant Thai lavendar frog egg - probably won't plant these.

Sunflower: Mammoth grey striped, mix
Zinnia - chartruse
Nasturtium mix
Cannas & Dahlias in the basement in storage

Whew, that's it.  Time to get the catalogs back out, take another look and make some choices.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Beekeeping birthday

It's Saint Ambrose Day!  Patron saint of Beekeepers and bees!

It is also, coincidentally,  the birthday of yours truly.  Sliding one year closer to 40 but we still have a couple of years to go.  It's been a great day.

Here are some beekeeping pictures to share.

Dad and I working hives, 2007?

Straining and bottling the first honey harvest.

First honey harvest. 2008?

Hives in the chicken yard.

Uncapping frames.


It's fun to answer swam calls in the summer. Every one is different. 

A swarm in the air.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Game Camera Snaps

Here are some fun pictures taken with our game camera over the last two weeks.  It's hunting season here, and although we own 5 acres I can't hunt on it because all of our neighbors live so close (plus Johnny Law lives right down the street). The property is heavy with trees and brush and the deer seem to use it as a refuge during this time.  For someone with a hunting license, it's pretty frustrating to yell "HEY! Yeah, YOU!" like a crazy lady at a group of fat does twenty feet away I can do nothing about.  They're so used to me they just stand there and blink, then go back to what they were doing.  Anyway, here's a bit of who's been hanging around.   Please ignore the date and time stamps on the photos; both of those functions seem to be broken.  Can't complain too much because it's been out in all types of weather for about three years now and still takes photos.

This guy needs to get himself on our grill.

Another little buck.


Hello, raccoon. 

Our three-legged doe and her little ones.

I think this is one of them in the day time.

We get lots of pictures of devil bunnies at night. They're everywhere.

 I love our game camera.  You can see more pictures taken with it here (fox), here (hawks & coyote), and here (poultry, loose dog & deer).  It's a really awesome way of keeping track of what's out there when I'm not. Cannot recommend  them enough.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The goings on

It's been a bit of a non-eventful week. Which is good because I've been a little out of sorts and sleeping at every oppertunity. Nothing terrible, just exhausted all the time.

We had one really nice day where the temperature was in the 50's. We went to the park.

Photo taken moments before he tripped and split his chin open. Poor thing, it was awful.

I cooked something fun. We get a nice "what to make this week" type e-mail from the New York Times on the weekends. It had an interesting looking recipe for roasted tofu and butternut squash with a spicy sweet glaze. My husband and I loved it.

The sheet I roasted it on nearly caught on fire from the honey glaze. It ended up in the trash bin. 

We need to start thinking about Christmas. I should make a list today and get shopping; gifts have been bought for my sister's two littles but that's it.  Hopefully I will finish the play kitchen I had in mind to make for the little guy.

Ebay has been really good to me this month. The little man and I have been at the post office about every other day. Downsizing feels great and may just pay for Christmas. 

My shipping partner hard at work.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Turtle soup for Thanksgiving

What a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend we had.  Three days of gathering with family and friends, counting our blessings and yes, feasting. 

Thursday was a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at our house.  My dad came over as well as my in-laws.  For once everything was done on schedule with no stress because cooking started three days earlier.  Lots of great food and conversation. 

Friday we had friends over to celebrate a birthday and stayed up way too late.  The little man was up eating chocolate cake at 10:00 p.m.  He had just had gone to dinner with his cousins and had ice cream over at Papa's house, so I'm pretty sure he couldn't believe his luck.

Saturday was Thanksgiving at my dad's house with my sister at her family.  There were children and dogs everywhere and it was wonderful.  Instead of a traditional meal my dad set up the fryer out in the driveway.  Into the fryer went a homegrown chicken and home caught perch and catfish.  I made turtle soup from a snapping turtle my dad and I caught.  

I froze all the turtle in batches, under ice, so it's still holding up fine in the freezer.  The last batch of turtle soup I made was kind of heavy on the bacon and no one liked it.  This one was basically a cream based clam chowder.  It was a big hit so I want to remember what I did:

Turtle soup:

Put a turtle appendage in a pot on the stove.  Barely cover it with water.  Add celery, sage, bay and thyme.  Simmer gently until it's falling off the bone; about 2 hours.  SAVE THE LIQUID because you just made your turtle stock.

Pick the meat off the bones while wondering it you're dealing with a neck or a leg or what.  Because you were to lazy to label it when it all went into the freezer and the anatomy is so odd that now you can't tell.  Chop meat into bite sized pieces and feed cartilage to the cats circling your feet.

Saute half a red onion, maybe 4 stalks celery and 3 potatoes (1/4 inch pieces) in olive oil/butter until soft.   Stir in about 2 Tbsps flour.  Add turtle stock and meat back to the pan and simmer until the potatoes are well done.  Add some chicken stock if it looks like it needs it.  Take the pan off the burner and when it's cooled quite a bit add about a 1/4 cup of half and half.  Season with salt and pepper.

Eat and enjoy with family.  Mentally plan next year's turtle hunt.

This seems like a good place to mention that I preserved the shell and it's on display in our dining room.  If you look on the internet for advice you'll find that there's no great way to do this.  What I did, after completely giving up on trying to clean the thing, was just to bury it in salt.  For six months.  It took forever but it worked. 

The opening day of deer season is tomorrow and for reasons beyond my control I will be staying home.  There was no sadder sound to my ears this afternoon than that of the neighbors sighting in their deer rifle.  *cries a little* 

Oh holidays, we need a day of rest to recover.  Even Bee is about to fall asleep in her coffee.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tally of poultry sold/butchered in 2017

The yard has been mostly cleared of extra birds by this point.  It's time for the post where, for my records and to justify my hobby, I tally up the body count / birds sold for 2017.

Some homegrown birds: half Ranger half Brahma. Cute and yum in one package.

Chickens put in the freezer and on the table:
6 Cornish Cross
mean rooster
3 Red Ranger roosters
8 Ranger hens
4 home grown roosters
6 mini roos
28 chickens total. My dad also raised an additional 10 for us at his place. Some I butchered here, some I had the local place do because I skin birds and they will kill and pluck them beautifully for $3.50. I still have 4 "extra" roos running around the yard but probably won't get them done for another month or two.

A Ranger hen and a Brahma roo.

This year has been a nice mix of Cornish Cross/Ranger types and home bred birds.  It's been a wonderful learning experience.  Honestly I don't think I'll buy Ranger types next year because the home hatched chicks (with baby daddy Nigel the Brahma) ended up getting just as large as quickly. In fact, I kept back one of his daughters and she's been bigger than him for months. Which is huge.   It feels great to be breeding an acceptable table bird here and save buying them in.  Side note: Remember when we brought home Nigel?  I love that guy.  And he gets the job done; Here we remember the Epic Peep Hatch.

Sorry buddy, you're gonna be delicious.
1 Embden, sex unknown
1 lousy at his job Pekin drake. 
The local place processed these both because I wanted them plucked, and Sturgen's will do it for $4.75 ( I tipped the woman mightily for doing the goose for me)   Remember that morning when my ducks got massacred?  Next year will be better.

Quail in the freezer/on the grill:
23 from the first batch
23 from second batch
46 quail total

The quail were such a nice surprise. We LOVE cooking them and raising them. The plan is to fire up the incubator as soon as they start laying in the spring. It's my understanding that no one else local has a breeding group so I'm hoping to have a market for day-old chicks.  You can learn about the costs of raising quail and how to butcher them here.

My numbers to over-winter:
Out in the yard I am down to:
7 hens and Nigel
3 geese (1 gander and 2 geese)
3 ducks (1 drake, 2 hens)
8 quail ( 1 roo, 7 hens)
Also the little group of free-livin' mostly feral chickens (1 bantam roo & 3 hens that I'll keep, along with 4 mini roos to butcher at some point) I don't really count these. Of course they're fed and watered but they also live in a tree for Pete's sake.

Which brings me to the birds sold:
12 chicks from the epic peep hatch = $30
3 laying age quail $20
Extras from my Metzer's order:
2 runner drakes $30
2 Swedish ducklings $15
1 pr quail wings $5 ( I had dried a pair in borax to try it, it worked wonderfully)

I want to give a special thank you to Sturgin Poultry in Sandy Lake.  They're a family owned place that operates seasonally.  Wonderful to deal with, super nice people and they do a fantastic job with birds.  Also a thank you to my dad for letting me use the mini van for some of the larger runs.  There's only so many birds you can stuff into the back of a Honda.

Next up:  it's time to update the seed inventory - the first catalog came last week!  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

More fabrics for sale

I'm going through my bins of vintage textiles and adding more listings.  Pressing fabric at night and getting photos during nap time.  This is a niche that has been good to me over the years.  If you sell on Ebay or Etsy, please drop your seller name in the comments and tell me what you're selling, I love to look at other people's stuff!  My next post will be back to our regularly scheduled programming.  There's been a lot going on.  Here are some lots up now:

Here are some groups that I've sold this week: