Sunday, October 23, 2011

The things we do....

Ostensibly, I thought it would be fun to write a blog about what we do around here. But what I have found is when we are actually doing something interesting (like getting a new home ready for the ducklings or canning massive amounts of applesauce from interesting apples foraged here and there) I don't really have time to write about it. And my mind seems to be busy enough at the moment that I don't remember the little bits of funny and interest to write about these adventures days later. So that means, I either write boring things (like this) or don't write (which is what I have been doing most of the time lately). I am not sure how to solve this dilemma. So in the end, I guess what you see is what you get and I am sorry because if I was putting just a little bit more effort into this I could be doing a whole lot better job.

This week Becca and I canned 36 quarts of applesauce mostly made from piles of little teeny, scabby and sometimes bruised apples. That meant to get that much applesauce we did a LOT of peeling and cutting and washing to get a few little apples in the pot. Becca had a lot going on so I probably did the lion's share of the peeling and burning (and subsequent scrubbing) of pots. She, however was great company and even rather entertaining as posted in her blog-- The Friendly Moth .

Anyway, now Becca is off at the local Seattle Barter faire with a couple of boxes of my canning seeing what she can trade for. She's going to do a way better job of trading the goods than I would. And hopefully have a better time. I gave her all kinds of stuff that we aren't eating right now because of Aidan being on the GAPS tomato relish, pumpkin quince chutney, plum chutney, plum sauce, jams, corn relish etc etc and I am hoping she will come home with something completely novel in trade. I like the idea of Barter Faire where you bring what you have too much of and trade it for what somebody else has too much of and both of you end up feeling like you got the good end of the deal. BUT, I don't really like crowds (except my family) and I definitely don't like haggling so I never go. I was excited to give Becca stuff to hawk and not have to do it myself. Another good trade. Becca doesn't know because I wasn't clear when she left but I was thinking that for her efforts she ought to get half of what she traded for.

Aidan is upstairs supposedly doing homework, but I think that isn't happening yet because he just came down and said he wanted to earn $5 by doing dog poop patrol and when I tried to give him his money he said, "Oh, no. Keep it. I spent more than I earned..." Which means he was probably buying music online and not doing his homework. hmm.

Steve is off on some kind of marathon hike, which we are hoping he brought Charlie with him because Charlie seems to be missing...The only problem with that hope is that if he brought Charlie with him, Charlie is probably not too happy because it was a heck of a long hike Steve had planned and Charlie only likes going on medium long hikes now. 8-10 miles is good for him, but it looks like from the note Steve left on the chalkboard that Steve was thinking 18-20 miles sounded fun. Another hmm.

So see, now I have told you all there is to tell and it was boring. But at least I told you. Hope you all are well.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foraging in the early fall...

I love this time of year. The air smells so clean and fresh and it is warm but also cool and never hot.

I love that I can snack my way around the yard while filling a bowl with goodies for dinner. Like the other night: roasted green and wax beans, cucumber salad, chicken (from the infamous chickies ruining the mud room escapade) and for dessert, melon (not from the garden) with plump blackberries cascading over the top. Everything was perfect. No fancy seasonings..just fresh taste.

It always amazes me just how good food can taste when it is truly fresh. Why did people ever want to stop gardening. Did they leave their taste buds home when they started shopping at the store. I can never quite understand that.

I have gotten so spoiled by homegrown foods that it is hard to buy even good produce at the store, and just forget meat. I used to think it was just tomatoes and corn that tasted better when grown at home. (That was when I mostly grew tomatoes and corn.) But then I added carrots and potatoes to the list. And then beans, and peas, and kale, and broccoli. Now I even think cabbage and beets must be grown at home because there is simply no comparing them.

I believe I am becoming a food snob. I really don't mean to be. Honest I don't. It is just that I can't help noticing the difference.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Strike, crash, boom

Remember when our house got struck by lightning a couple of years ago right around Thanksgiving. Well, when the lightning was jetting around from our house through all the electricity lines around the farm, it ended up jumping to one of our very tall fir trees and swirling up (or was it down?) the tree in a beautiful spiral.

It left behind a long spiral burn mark on the tree starting thick at the bottom (this is why I think it went up) and peetering out fairly near the top. The force of the strike also split off the top of this very majestic fir and sent it flying into the pasture below where it pierced the grass like a skewer. All in all, very dramatic.

And while we admired the beauty of the burn mark, and the power of the lightning, we feared it would kill the tree. All last year we watched as the tree slowly lost it's vitality. Late last winter it finally died.

Ever since then, Steve's been itching to get out there and cut it down, But last winter and spring the pasture was too wet. When it dried out this summer Becca was in the middle of her daycamp sessions.  And with Becca's campers around he didn't dare fall it in case it got hung up or something on the way down. Trees can be unpredicatable in how they fall and he didn't want to create an unsafe situation that he might not be able to get back to for a few days. Thank you Steve.

So today, his first day out of the office since Becca finished her camps, he jumped at the chance to cut that tree down.  He bought some extra equipment because the tree was so big, he didn't want to take any chances.  He spent sometime on youtube watching professionals fall especially large trees. And then this morning he spent a couple of hours diddling around inside, which I later figured out was his way of gearing up because it was a big, dangerous job and he wanted to do it right.

Then he made us promise to keep the puppies inside the house, shoe-ed Becca and I out of the pasture where we were picking blackberries and then asked Aidan to come out and help. I made Steve promise to watch out for Aidan.

About 15 minutes after he started sawing, the chainsaw stopped and I heard this very loud CRACK. And then a louder boom. I saw the tree go by out of the corner of my eye and I knew it was down. We went outside (leaving the puppies in still) to investigate and there was the tree. Lying all the way across the pasture exactly where Steve said he was going to drop it,

Good job Steve,

It took the whole rest of the day (with many helpers) to clean up and stack the slash and limbs which will make good firewood this winter. That's a lot of tree to take that long to clean up.

Now he is in search of a portable mill because he would really rather make some wood than firewood out of this beautiful tree. Let's hope he finds one.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's knotweed season

We are coming to the end of bee season. All the knotweed is in bloom along the road and down by the river. It is the last sure crop of bee friendly flowers we will have until spring.

I was looking in the hives today to see how they are coming along. One is doing so well. Boxes are full of honey and brimming with bees. But another hive, started the same day with bees that are supposed to be prolific producers of honey is barely going. Few bees are in the box.

Unless something weird happens the thriving hive should have no trouble making it through the winter. The other one is another story. If I want it to make it I am going to have to feed it all winter. But this brings up the question is it smart to nurse along a weak hive just to keep it alive or should I only let the strong ones live. It's a hard question.

I think for the health of the bees, probably it is better to let the strong ones survive and let the weak ones go. But it is so sad to know you could help them along and just let them fade away. I am still thinking about what I will do.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Jack and the raspberries....

Who knew that dogs would eat raspberries. I certainly didn't.

Yesterday I went outside to pick raspberries. Jack and Squinchy came with me. Squinch got bored quickly and went off in search of more exciting endeavors, but Jack settled in right at my feet. Every time I would move, he would move right along with me. There were so many raspberries to pick I wasn't moving very often so he had time for a few little naps at my feet.

From time to time the cows would wander over and look through the fence and grab a mouthful of the raspberry plants. They love everything to do with raspberries...the leaves, the stalks and the berries. They have done some serious damage to the plants right next to the fence, but they also help fertilize these heavy feeders by pooping right next to the fence. So I figure it is a fair trade.
I often leave berries for the cows on the crossbar of the fence and they come up and lick them up. Brigid will eat them out of my hand. Mattie is a little more cautious. She wants hers from the cross bar and it takes her quite a few sniffs before she will eat the berry.

Anyway, we have been toying with the idea of giving the dogs raw food. Because of this, I have been feeding them little bits of this and that to see if they like it. Including fruit. Jack laps currents right up. Charlie is more demur in his appetite for fruit but still, he eats them. Squinch carefully ate everything else in the bowl and left his for Jack to clean up. Given this I guess it shouldn't have been a such surprise to see how much Jack like the raspberries.

At first I would hand him one or two berries and he would happily gobble them up. I didn't want to give him TOO many of our raspberries so after awhile I stopped handing them to him. This apparently did not work for him. Next thing I knew he was sitting at my feet eating the low growing raspberries right off the bush. He'd stick his tongue out and delicately pull a berry right off the bush. And of course, because a tongue doesn't work near as well as fingers do, he only got the ripest ones. Lucky boy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I am wondering how hard it is to keep ducks alive. They love slugs. Maybe I should love them.

Just thinking this over. hmm

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How to fold a real diaper.....

By far, the very nicest thing my mother-in-law Carol ever did for me was make 4 dozen diapers for Becca and then later for Laura (aka Grace). Now, that may not sound nice but it was REALLY nice and I loved it.

Back then (in the early 80's) we lived in Utah, which by all accounts could have been called the land of babies because there are so many people having so many babies. Back then, especially in Utah, lots of people sewed; so sewing one's diapers was a pretty normal thing. It wasn't however something I had ever heard of having grown up in the land of eternal sunshine and waste (otherwise known as Los Angeles in the 70's). When I babysat, I seldom changed real diapers. The moms of my charges were quick to jump on the plastic diaper bandwagon. I had no idea about the joys of real diapers--real diapers, as in cloth diapers, as in the softest, most luscious flannel diapers you ever imagined.

When Carol showed up with her beautiful, white, soft, flannel creations, I was enamored. I loved the idea of putting my soon to be born baby (aka baby Becca) in such precious softness. By this time I was more familiar with regular cloth bird's eye gauze diapers, but they were scratchy and I didn't really like them. Ok, I admit to being very picky about fabric softness.

The homemade flannel diapers seemed like a cadillac version of diapers, by far. I later learned there was a mercedes version too (aka diaper service diapers, which are soft too--but not nearly as soft as flannel--but they magically wash themselves!) Unfortunately, just like a mercedes, they are expensive to have and keep up with. Carol's flannel diapers offered the additional bonus of being cheap to use.

The only problem with these old fashioned flannel diapers is the folding. If you don't know how to do it, you could be sunk, which leads me to why I am writing this very long winded explanation of diapers and diaper folding.

Jeremy and Bethany are having their first baby really soon. The baby (aka little peanut) is going to wear cloth diapers that are going to be washed at home.

I wanted to make them a present of some diapers (I wish I could have made as many as my mother-in-law but some are probably better than none--diaper flannel is now an exotic commodity, no longer available by the bolt!). The only problem is I am not there to show them how to fold them. My solution (well, actually Steve's solution) a lesson in pictures via the blog.
So here we go and sorry up front about losing the formatting...I couldn't figure out how to fix it.

Lay the diaper flat on the floor. No need to get too picky about the flat...this way is good enough.

Fold an edge (I always did the right side) over towards the other far you fold determines how big the diaper will be so the same diapers that fit a newborn can be expanded to fit a big ole' toddler who you wish wasn't wearing diapers anymore.

Fold the second side over to match the first. You have to make a third fold so the second side doesn't fall off the opposite edge. See close up below...

The sides should be relatively symetrical, but don't go getting all anal about it because it will be dirty in no time and you will be soon folding it again. Close enough works for horseshoes AND diapers.

Fold the tail up. Now here is the part you can be tricky about. If you are folding for a boy, figure out how to put more of the tail so it protects the front. If you are folding for a girl, get that extra tail folded more in the middle. That way you will catch more pee where you need it. I didn't figure that one out for awhile. My mother-in-law only had boys so I folded it the boy way for a long time. Don't expect that mattered, but it was nice to know when I figured it out later.

Last step, fold the top down and smooth it out a bit. When you are putting these on a teeny tiny baby, you can fold in the leg area to fit a bit snugger. The snugger the fit, the less the leakage of things you don't want to leak.

You put them on the baby by pinning the back right over the front right and pinning. Then do the back left over the front left. Pin snugly and cover in a plastic pants or other waterproof wraps. Sometimes the wraps have their own ways of folding diapers so you will have to figure that one out on your own. (Ok, that part was super obvious but just in case, I said it.)

Last hints....
  • use double diapers at night. This may seem way too bulky when the baby is a newborn, but it works and often lets you sleep a little more because the extra diaper absorbs more before needing to be changed. We used to not change our babies at night and it worked out just great. Quick nursing and back to sleep.
  • if it is tricky to get the pin through the fabric, run the point of the pin in your hair. The natural grease in your hair makes the pin slip right through.
  • don't be cheap about pins. Good pins are worth the price. It is worth replacing them when they get dull as you are much less likely to poke the baby if your pin is sharp and slips through the fabric.
  • put your hand behind where you are pinning, that way you poke your hand instead of the baby. You will learn not to do that really fast. If you do poke yourself, make sure to wash it so it doesn't get infected.
  • if you want to make your own diapers, google diaper flannel and buy the thickest, softest flannel you can find. It takes about 10 yards a dozen, so prepare for the invasion of fabric should you ever choose to make them. They are simple as pie to make--cut or tear a square sized block--it usually comes 27" wide. Hem the two non-selvaged edges and you are set.
  • Never, ever throw an old diaper away, these make THE best rags you will ever have in your life.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

How to weigh a chicken...

Did you ever wonder how to much chicken is in a chicken?

I did because I was wondering how big our used-to-be-chickies needed to be in order to be big enough to butcher and give a decent amount of meat. So I asked a professional chicken grower I know and this is what he said: Put the chicken in a bucket and weigh the bucket.

Hmm. have you ever tried to put a chicken in a bucket?? Bet not.

Here's how it goes:

First off you need: a 5 gallon bucket, a scale to set the bucket on and a chicken.

Step one: Grab the chicken. Easier than you think, esp if you have as many chickens as we do because it doesn't really matter which one you get. Wear boots and old clothes. You will get dirtier than you think.

Step two: Put the chicken in the bucket. NOT so easy. After first trying to put the chicken straight in the bucket I realized I would have to subdue the chicken or it would flap too much and break a wing.
Here's how to subdue a chicken and get him in the bucket:
a) grab the chicken by its feet
b) hang it upside down by its feet
c) make sure Jack isn't nipping at it's face so it can relax
d) wait for the chicken to calm down
e) when the chicken goes limp walk to the bucket and quick flip the chicken in the bucket
f) ignore chicken noises, he will be OK but if you stick your face in there, you may not be.

Step three: Weigh the chicken-filled bucket.

Step four: Carry the bucket back to where all the chickens are and gently ease the disoriented chicken out of the bucket.

Step five: Stand guard while the chicken gets his wits back.

Step six: Weigh the empty bucket...subtract this amount from the chicken in the bucket weight.

Step seven: Subtract 30% off the weight of the chicken (without the bucket). and that is how much chicken meat you will get from of your chicken.

Step eight: Take a shower.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Puppy heaven

Jack, the new pup, is a dream puppy. Yes, he chews. Yes, he nips our toes. And yes he gets into plenty of mischief. But still, he is a dream dog.

He is so affectionate--kissing and hugging us with his little paws. He follows us around every chance he gets and sleeps right on my feet when he is tired. I am sure he is drawing comfort from having somebody he loves nearby, but he gives at least as much comfort as he takes..

He sleeps on Charlie too, whenever Charlie will let him. He loves Charlie with all his heart and does his best to show it. His little head cocks when he sees Charlie do something new. I think he is hoping to grow up just like Charlie. (And we are hoping that too.)

This morning Charlie coughed, something Jack had never heard him do. Jack sat right up and looked at Charlie. You could see the concern on his little face. What was wrong with his favorite doggy friend. Charlie put his head right down and went back to sleep; but not Jack, he sat at attention for a good five minutes making sure Charlie was OK. Once he decided he was fine, Jack put his head down on the carpet near Charlie and went to sleep. I think Charlie has a friend for life!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dud A.I. again.

So sad. No baby cows. We have been waiting and watching and hoping and having NO luck. We are finally giving up and calling this a bust. After two AI tries on Mattie and three on Brigid, we are thinking we need a bull to get the job done.

Both these mamas are proven (which means having had babies before) and both got pregnant by a bull. The problem is we don't feel qualified to take care of a bull.

Bulls are big and they sound bad. We wonder if our fences are strong enough and what would happen if it got loose. How do you catch a bull? Most likely, they aren't as bad as we imagine but even if they are half as much trouble as we are thinking they are more trouble than we are wanting.

So we that leaves us scheming on how to either rent a bull (now, there's a business!) and having it live here for a few weeks (kind of scary since it has the same problems as owning a bull only for a shorter period of time) OR taking our cows to a pasture where there is already a bull. The latter is our preferred option but where and how? Esp since we don't have a way to haul cows around. If we could find a pasture that would accept our cows we'd have to find a cowboy for hire to move the cows. And then once the cows were pregnant and we wanted to move the cows back home how would we persuade them to come away from the herd. They are going to like life out there with a bunch of their friends. Wouldn't that bull protect them when we were out there flapping our arms in the field trying to corral our girls? Oh my.

No matter how I think about this, it's complicated. If only somebody would rent us Ferdinand. Then we would be fine.