Sunday, December 31, 2017

How was 2017? Goals for 2018

It was a great year.  No one got sick or died.

Seriously, I look through all of my pictures from the last twelve months and can't help but think how blessed we've been.  There have been so many good times with friends and family this year. It's been an amazing time.

I was looking back through my list of goals for 2017.  Mostly, they did not happen.  To the point where it's actually comical.  In the spirit of moving ahead, let's see what did and did not happen and where I would like to go in 2018.  There are going to be some drastic changes happening around here and my primary goal is just to cut myself some damn slack and go along for the ride.

Personal goals. This was the big section where I was supposed to take time for myself:

  • Fishing & canoeing: I did go fishing a couple of times, including including that time when the trout won on opening day of the season.  No canoeing but I think we'll be able to do more of both of these next fall.

  • Biking: YES! We did get one of those little pull behind carts.  It was tons of fun.

2017: The year I cooked a damn groundhog.  It was made into tacos and I was a recipe tester for Hank Shaw's new book Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail. Dream come true.
  • Keep trying new things in the kitchen & keep baking: I think I did great with this, groundhog tastes somewhere between lamb and beef.  Carry on for 2018.
  • Read a book each month: HA.  HAHAHAHAHAA..... nope. Not even close.
  • Possibly 2017 might be the year I take the time to get a haircut: YEP
  • Possibly 2017 might be the year I shoot a deer while hunting: NOPE.  We saw a group of deer but they were too far off.  The deer won in 2017.  They will not in 2018, however. Mark my words.  Deer: I will be looking for you.

Homesteading goals.  This homesteading thing is my hobby and I have a toddler helper.  How did the little guy and I do?
  • Freezer meats: The goal was 25 chickens for 2017. Here's where I tallied up this year's body count. Total birds produced: 28 chickens, 46 quail, 1 goose, 1 duck.  Pretty happy about those numbers. I don't know what I'm going to get done in 2018 but we'll see.  
  • Eggs:  We had tons to eat and share.  I hatched a big batch of peeps and sold them for feed money too.  Pickled quail eggs are amazing.
  • Quail:  Got back into this in a big way with Coturnix quail.  Hatched a ton of eggs, butchered a lot of birds, sold a handful too.  Love quail.  I kept a small covey for breeding and want to start this project back up as soon as they are laying in the spring.
  • Mushroom logs really need re-seeded: NOPE.  I am shelving this project for the foreseeable future.
  • Growing herbs indoors: learned that I really hate houseplants.  This is getting shelved too.

  • The garden: hit it out of the ballpark.  We had piles of fresh produce and lots of beautiful flowers.  I put in a bed of alpine strawberries which are just heaven and produce fruit all summer.  

  • Discovered the joys of fava beans and broccoli raab.

    The garden teepee was just fantastic.  There are plans for a much larger one in 2018.

    Other goals.  
    • Thinning out our stuff:  I did really well with this; a yard sale, trips to the thrift store and really worked Ebay in November and December.  Would like to work harder at this in the new year.  It brought in a little extra money and thinned down the stuff we didn't need: both wins!
    • Kicking ass at the local fair this year.  Oh yes. Entered a baking contest for the first time.  You can see what I entered and won here.
    Dreams.  Things that I didn't expect to happen but would really be thrilled about if they did.
    • I really wanted geese on our property. It happened! I bought a trio of Super Africans for myself an an Embden for the freezer!

    Here are my Africans along with my Pekin drake.  I love these birds so much.  Livestock love not house goose love.  Not that much.

    • It would be really nice to find a foraging class or survival skills class to take instead of just reading about these things.  A (very) long-term goal of mine is to do a months-long pilgrimage hike like the Appalachian Trail when the little man is older. I want to start laying a path to prepare myself.  This is still a goal although the closest I got was finding a couple places near me and subscribing to their newsletters, and picking up another Appalachian Trail book.
    • I wanted to be in a place to think of selling at the farmer's market in 2018.  Not even close.  My goal again for this year is to concentrate my efforts on feeding my family well.  Which is a good goal to have.
    • It would be nice to have a copy of my blog bound as a book. Something to look into this year.

    Comments? Suggestions? Here we go; cheers to a new year

    Friday, December 29, 2017

    The great clean up

    This is the first day we've had in about a week with no Holiday plans.  It's been wonderful spending so much time with friends and family but the house is an absolute wreck. Every possible surface is covered in toys, pine needles, bits of wrapping paper or food crumbs.  It's making my skin crawl, honestly.  Time to get the broom out and sweep everything out the front door.

    The little man was blessed with piles of new toys with each toy containing approximately 3,561 pieces.  Train sets, Legos, puzzles.  Mostly it is all laying on the living room floor.  Santa brought him a tot sized ride-on digger with a scoop arm and he's been moving the little piles around, which is cute and occupies him for hours.  But we need to figure out how to organize it all.

    The refrigerator needs cleaned out.  Need to find something to do with the 5 lbs of cheese leftover from the holidays along with a huge bowl of citrus fruit.  A lot of the leftovers got fed to the chickens this morning including some breakfast casseroles from Christmas day. 

    I want to remember that I made this baked French Toast casserole.  Served with maple syrup everyone loved it.  Basically a glorified bread pudding with a cinnamon crumb topping. I'm not sure it's necessary to use sourdough bread like the recipe recommends. Any store bought loaf with a good texture would probably do. The chickens only got crumbs of this one.  

    Time to freshen up the house and ourselves and get ready for a new year.

    Sunday, December 24, 2017

    The foods we pass along

    Today I've been thinking about memories.  How we choose the ones we want to keep and why we discard most events without a second thought. How the passage of time tends to change our recollection of events into what we wish they were as opposed to historical record. 

    I've been thinking about how food fits into to this.  How we remember people we've lost by preparing certain dishes.  How we might avoid making things that were their favorites.  I just finished glazing the rum cake my mother would make each Christmas but to make anything with lemon curd, her favorite, would break my heart. 

    My grandma lives in a very nice nursing home and we went to visit today. I brought her a little container of the chocolate peanut butter krispies she used to make every holiday.  My grandma has dementia. She was confused about where she was living and the room she was in but was pleasant and seemed to enjoy the visit. She didn't know who I was, or my son or husband. 

    The krispies are sitting on her side table in a transparent container so she can see the contents.  I hope the lid will be easy to open for someone with terrible arthritis.  I fully accept that she immediately forgot they were there and so probably won't eat any of them.

    They're made of just three ingredients: a bag of chocolate chips, 1/2 C peanut butter and about half a box of rice krispies.  They're simple and delicious and these treats somehow became symbols to me of the love that I felt in that house. 

    So I make them and the rum cake every year. It would seem like a way to remember my loved ones when the truth is there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of them.

    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.