Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What's been going on this last week, a lot.

Wow. There have been so many times this past week where I think "I want to remember (whatever)" but don't come here to write it down so it gets forgotten.  Lucky there are pictures.

First, the weather.  Wow, we went straight into Spring here this week.  It's been absolutely amazing. Probably the 50's every day; flowers are coming up and crocus are blooming in the front yard.  Rhubarb is growing along with the garlic planted last fall.

Crocus in the front yard.

The first warm day we found honey bees gathering some kind of nutrition from the pan of chicken scratch.

 We have been making the most of being outside.  Long walks, digging in the dirt and lots of playing.

Tiny shell fossils found while playing with the gravel in the driveway.

I bought a set of melamine dishes and mixing bowls.  These have been absolutely perfect for us.  The little man is now setting the table for meals with no help from me at all which pretty much justified the purchase right there.  

We've also been spending just about every day using the mixing bowl set to make something or another.  

Mostly we've been making banana bread which involves measuring, transferring, stirring and mashing.  Plus our new skill, cracking eggs.  We've made our regular daily bread and I've made another batch of egg noodles while he was napping.

What's new in the poultry world... Some things got done this week. The hennies had been going over the 5 ft. fence so they all got their wing feathers trimmed. I fixed a hole in the fence.  One of the Cornish roosters took a swing at me.

This guy.  So long buddy. I don't tolerate that kind of thing here at all.  He got butchered the next day at which point I realized that being pregnant, I just don't have the stomach for it.  Not the killing part but the cleaning.  So I put an ad on Craigslist that night for the two remaining extra roosters running around the yard:  "Free Delicious Roosters" I wrote, "come and get them".  Within 12 hours I had 2 families contact me.  "You know it's an animal rights group setting you up for a sting operation, right?" said my husband.  But no, when I met them in the TSC parking lot it was a young couple with a shiny new car ( probably didn't smell like "new car"after the drive home) and a tiny pet carrier who said that they had chickens and the kids thought it "would be cool to have roosters."  Great, whatever, have at 'em. A win for everyone.

The geese are laying regularly and wanting to nest.  They've contributed about a dozen huge eggs to the kitchen at this point, all being turned into egg noodles.  I've decided to stop gathering their eggs and the duck eggs, and just see what happens.  Just because *I* don't want to raise any birds this year doesn't mean they can't, right?  Isn't that like a loophole? The hope is that a big pile of eggs in a nest will make the birds think of brooding. One of the ducks has nested before so I have high hopes for her.  The geese, well, we'll see.

Speaking of geese, well, it's spring.  I've read that owning geese is like owning a hive of bees and I can see that point.  Sweet, worth their weight in gold but something that needs to be treated with respect.  I don't take crap with roosters but am more lenient with waterfowl especially in the spring.  The gander tried to kill Nigel this week, leading me to section off half of the poultry run with a short 2.5 foot high fence.  

Nigel.  My sweet, clueless pet rooster.

Aside from trying to kill Nigel he has also been taking a swing at me on a daily basis.  The problem is that one of the lady geese occasionally will go over the fence to hang out with the chickens and then I need to put her back at the end of the day.  So I'm herding the lady goose and waving my arms and the whole process just sent him into orbit.  Most male waterfowl are bluffers in my experience.  Not this guy.  He holds a grudge.  Much to my horror, he can also use his fat floppy feet to climb up and over that fence when "offended".  The first time he climbed over the fence with his huge wingspan stretched I had a slow-motion "oh holy shit I'm gonna die" moment.  Then he ran up and grabbed onto my jacket and started shaking it.  The thing is, it's kind of like dogs.  You have to be the leader out there without question.  Several lift-and-tosses with my boot only slowed him down and eventually I ended up pinning him to the ground and laying on top of him until he calmed down.  Visibly pregnant I'm doing this.  What the hell the neighbors think, I don't know.  So he's going to be a good protective dad that's the bright side.  And I've read and hope this behavior will wear off after breeding season.

Back when we were buddies before all hell broke loose.

The garden: I've bought a few packets of seeds and a little goji berry bush that will hopefully be planted tomorrow.  All of the strawberries seem to have made it through the winter along with the herbs.  Yay!

It's a good thing to be taking a season off.  Things will grown and harvested but nothing above and beyond,  I'm going to use this time to really re-think some of my long-term goals for the property and change some things here.  Reflection has already pointed out that some of the things I'm doing really could be done better and some things don't need done at all.  There are thoughts of some new and exciting things too.  I hope to hash that all out here over the next several months and start working towards those goals.     

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A baby on the way

I've alluded to big changes on the way in a couple of my posts and it's time to come clean and quit dancing around the subject.  We're having another baby!  I'm actually pretty far long by this point and we're going to have another boy this summer.  Wow... two little boys.  I will be outnumbered. My personal contingency plan is to move into the camper.

Things are going to have to change a bit around here.  The garden will be smaller and more manageable. Nothing is getting expanded or added to this year.

I find myself re-reading Erica's wonderful post at NW Edible Life  and being torn between "can you please just agree to slow down for goodness sake" and "your grandmother helped run a farm with 7 small children, quit being a baby." Probably slowing down will win out since my biggest dream right now is just napping. Also, my grandpa built my grandma a fenced "baby pen" out in the yard to contain the little ones and I don't have one of those.  Nowadays someone would probably call child services about that anyway.

Well, there you have it. Growing another little one.  Not a bad way to spend the spring.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Home made egg noodles - goose and duck

What a fun project.  My father surprised me with a really fantastic gift for Christmas; the pasta attachment set for the Kitchen Aid mixer.  I love making pasta by hand but to be honest, mine always has the texture of, um, leather.  The pasta never gets rolled as thinly as it should.  I've longed for one of these sets for quite awhile but they're alarmingly out of my budget (especially when you can but noodles for 99 cents a box for goodness sake).  So I was thrilled to get this.  Now that the geese and ducks are laying, I can finally use it.  Goose and duck eggs have a much higher fat content than chicken eggs and that's a good things, right?  Plus waiting for them just made it seem more special.  Look at the color from those yolks! 

Cutting the spaghetti.

First, I should start at the beginning because there are some things to remember for next time.  The roller set came with a recipe that called for 7/8 a cup of egg.  Who the hell thought of that number?  So I guessed.  

One goose egg plus one duck egg looked about right.

You're "supposed to" use 00 flour for pasta making.  I think because it has a lower gluten content?  Well, we live in the middle of nowhere and I wasn't going to order it on-line.  Does anyone order food from Amazon?  It's irrational but the idea of doing so creeps me out a bit.  King Arthur would have to do.  It was a splurge considering our flour usually comes from Aldi's.  I sifted it before measuring.

The dough this made was so, so dry I didn't think there was anyway in creation that it was going to be edible.  But I let it rest and then sent it through the rollers.

Yep, those are cloth diapers.  Never used.  You're welcome, all who dine at my house.  The cloths were floured and the pasta sheets were floured as they were stacked.  I think there were 8 total.

Note to self: go ahead and cut these sheets into the *size you want your finished noodle to be*.  Duh.  When the spaghetti was being cut I found myself trying to wrap the loooooong, tiny noodles around my arm as they came out of the machine.


I dusted them with flour several times while they dried and fluffed the little nests.  Besides what you see here there were quite a few noodles on the floor.  I think the recipe stated that it made 1 1/2 lbs.  The ones that we didn't use that night are stored in the refrigerator.

I took them over to my dad's and made a simple shrimp pasta for dinner.  The noodles cooked in about 3 or 4 minutes.  Everyone loved them, they had the best chewy texture and made the store-bought seem plastic-y and rubbery in comparison.

It's fun to mess around with home made pasta but it can take a long time when you're making it by hand (all afternoon for me).  I think this cut it down to about 45 minutes from cracking the eggs to clean-up.  This gift was really a game-changer for our household.  Like baking your own bread, fresh noodles are really a step up (nutrition and flavor-wise) for the family table.  

I'm not going to be making noodles daily but I can see it being done once a week. This seems like a tremendously handy way to "put up" eggs when we have a glut of them as well.  The ducks lay an egg every single day in season and the geese each lay an egg every other day so they add up quickly.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Planting potatoes

It's about 50 degrees so we grabbed our shovels and planted potatoes today. This little bucket had been sitting in the basement and all of the potatoes had sprouted.  Besides the redskins on top all of the potatoes were really tiny. They include some Yukon Golds and a bunch of fingerlings. We planted a patch to the left of the garlic and another one to the right of the parsley. 

To heck with proper spacing, planting depth, blah blah. We just dug holes, chucked them in and stomped the wet dirt back in place. This kid is long overdue for a pair of proper muck boots.

The potatoes may rot before spring or they may grow. Either way, they weren't going to last in the house and we had a great, muddy time of it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

So much to talk about

So much to talk about but not a lot to say lately.  It's funny that the most important things aren't the ones I'm racing here to share.
 Let's start with the easy stuff. The geese have started to lay eggs this week along with one of the ducks. 

Today's haul: 2 goose eggs, a duck egg and 4 chicken eggs.  The quail haven't started to lay, probably because they know I'm planning to locally barter some of their fertile eggs for Welsh Harlequin eggs.

The geese are mostly "Who cares?" when I gather these.  Goose eggs are huge.  My father gifted me an amazing pasta attachment set for my Kitchen Aid mixer for Christmas and I'm thinking that the goose eggs are going to be made into noodles.  Possibly a couple of salt cured egg yolks which I didn't even know was a thing but apparently is popular in Spain.  The yolks are preserved to the texture of hard cheese and then grated over dishes like pastas and salads.

It's been really mild this week. We've been outside a lot.  My little man has had "egg gathering" added to his chore list.  He's thrilled.  Bee is always with us, following us around like a dog when we're outside.  He's been sleeping through the night for the first time lately and last night I think I figured out why - Bee is sleeping in bed with him.  I remember our cats used to share my bed with me when I was little and how soothing it was to wake up to soft purring.  It's something that can still put me right to sleep in the middle of the night. 

He's also been asking, on a daily basis to go to "Track Track's house!" Which I quickly figured out means he's demanding to be taken to Tractor Supply.  The big box farm store.  Be still my heart.  

What else.... I sewed this pillowcase for his toddler bed this week.  It took about 20 minutes.  There's also a really simple strip quilt being worked on with construction equipment and tractors.  I hope to finish it this week.

Cooking.  When I have birds butchered I do freeze a couple whole but part most of them up. The wings all get saved in a big bag.  These were excellent; the wings coated in flour, garlic salt and paprika for the baking and brushed with two different sauces.  Hot (half siracha, half honey, pat of butter) and garlic parmesan (grated garlic and butter, sprinkled with shredded cheese). The wings were cooked in the oven while I made the sauces and the whole things finished under the broiler.

Well, that's it for now.  Time to get back to life.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Goose on a nest!

So the other day when I wrote that Spring was happening inside the house - it's been happening outside too.  It doesn't seem particularly lady-like to announce that "the geese have been gettin' it on" but there you have it.

 Yesterday I went out to feed and water everyone as usual.  My appearance in the yard always causes certain birds (ducks, geese) to work themselves into an embarrassingly loud honking, quacking frenzy.  But yesterday the geese seemed slightly quieter than usual.... like a noise level 7 as opposed to the usual 9.  I looked at the pen from across the yard and only saw two geese.  Huh, that's odd, I thought.  But occasionally a goose will walk up the ramp to the chicken house, somehow stuff their fatty-pants butt through the tiny door and get stuck.  Must be it, I thought.

Well, no.  This is what I found:

A goose on a nest.  A! GOOSE! ON! A! NEST! I have been waiting for this moment since the New Year.

Here she is, all snuggled up inside the crap-tastic goose shelter.  

Wow, it has been a banner week around here.  Besides some exciting personal news going on, my dishwasher got fixed and now this.  I really can't ask for anything else for awhile.  

I didn't see any egg under her but was afraid that if I poked around under her too much she'd try to kill me.  I've gotten enough bruises from broody chickens and ducks that it didn't seem particularly smart to stick my hand under a huge goose.  She was moving something around underneath her and it seemed promising.  

Later in the day she was off the nest and getting a drink so I rushed outside.  A quick poke around confirmed that she hadn't actually laid an egg.  What she was sitting on so diligently and fussing with was... wait for it... a heel of bread. *smacks forehead with palm of hand*  I had thrown a heel of home baked bread to the birds the day before and this is what she was trying to mother.

Shortly thereafter the chickens flattened the nest and ate the bread.  But at least she's practicing and in that there is hope. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Signs of spring indoors

Little signs of spring are starting to creep into the house.  A very sweet friend gave me some daffodil bulbs awhile back.  They were sprouting and ready to be forced in the house but our one free (sunny-ish) window was being taken up by the winter amaryllis so I waited to plant them.  They've been cooling in the crisper drawer and today I put some gravel in this little pot and added the bulbs and a little water, like you would force a hyacinth.  I hope they're OK without soil. A funny story about this little bowl.  There was an elderly woman having a yard sale at the antique shop she used to run (it hasn't been open for, I don't know, maybe 15 years) and she was downsizing her things.  On the surface that probably sounds depressing however I've been to many "yard sales" run by elderly women "downsizing" their things and more often then not it seems like a chance to just show off their stuff, which may or may not actually be for sale, and tell you all about how rare and awesome all their things are.  Possibly it might be an attempt to humor their kids, I don't know.  I remember one porch sale in particular where the woman "running" the sale was in her late 80's, tanning in a lawn chair and drinking something that strongly resembled a cocktail.  I think I bought a potholder there because everything else was a "valuable antique" she "couldn't possibly sell".  This antiques store sale was sort of like that but I did buy the bowl, only after hearing about how rare and valuable it was because it was signed by the artist (which it may be, if you squint REAL hard).  After that sales pitch I think she charged me $5 for it.  I love it.

I've been trying to work through the pile of squash in the kitchen, if nothing else to cook them down and get them in the freezer.  Guess what I found when I cut this one open today?

Sprouts.  The seeds were growing inside the squash.  Occasionally this will happen and it I think it's really funny when it does.  Like they just can't wait for spring.  Well, sorry seeds, the chickens are going to get you tomorrow.

What else?  Potatoes are chitting all over the place.  That's an actual term, seriously.  All of the potatoes in storage are sprouting.

We are getting enough eggs to justify getting out these little ceramic trays I got at TJ Maxx a couple of years ago.  They're so pretty, oh I love them.  Both the trays and the eggs.

With all of this joy going on inside the house of course we are projected to get a winter storm tomorrow morning.  But I feel like we've turned a corner.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Eggs, free nesting boxes

Egg season is apparently upon us, and thank goodness.  I want to remember that we started getting eggs about a week and half ago.  One of the Easter Eggers (second egg from the left) was laying every other day.  For as long as I've kept chickens, Easter Eggers are always the first ones to start their engines in the cold of winter.  It's so nice to go out there and find those cheerful green eggs.  Today I went out to gather her egg before it froze and - surprise! - three of the other hennies had decided to get to work as well.  The egg on the far left is another Easter Egger and the two brown ones are the "meat" birds that were kept last fall when the other ones were butchered.  That speckled one on the far right is really lovely and something we haven't seen before.  I'll probably blow the egg out and save the shell for display.

This is one of the "meat" type hennies.  They're called Rainbow Rangers.  Look at those feathers!

Getting breakfast the old-fashioned way.

Which brings me to nest boxes.  One of the feral yard chickens laid an egg recently too but she laid it on the floor of the duck coop and I didn't find it until today.  By that point it had frozen solid and the shell had cracked.  I used to have a nest box in the duck coop but had forgotten about it this year.  So, enter Aldi's.  Not only do they sell tons of organic groceries for cheap, they also have these amazing nest boxes free for the taking.

Some people might see cardboard here but these these boxes are golden.  See how they have the little lipped scoop in the front? And the sides are high?  Add a big handful of straw to each one and hennies love to lay eggs (and raise babies) in them.  They feel secure in them.  And guess what?  If an egg breaks, you can just throw it out and get another box.  

So grateful to be getting what appears to be a steady supply of eggs at last.  The ducks, geese and quail aren't laying yet but in their defense it's super cold and I don't blame them.  Birds lay eggs to make babies, not feed us, and I can't argue that logic when a "warm" day is 20 degrees outside.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Happy Groundhog Day

Best holiday of all time.  Apparently Phil the groundhog has declared that we're in for 6 more weeks of winter.

Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today.

It's cold everyday.