Friday, May 29, 2015

happy things

Ranger turned 17. Seventeen! Soon I'll be sitting down to plan out next school year, his last school year! Oh, sigh. Those kids. One day they're drooling little babies, and the next day they're taller than you and have a man's voice. 

Him and his dad:



I made a good attempt at making him cake pop snitches. Ranger had requested a snitch cake since that is what Harry Potter was given on his 17th birthday. ;) A few of them turned out, the wings fell off the rest of them! But, they still tasted super duper yummy.



Ranger and I:





Our silly diaper clad munchkins. Busy is 25 months, Roo is 5 months.



I love my fat baby.





Grendel. I see folks frequently ending up at my blog after Googling "Leonbergers" (his breed). I apologize for never talking about him. LOL He's a great dog. A fantastic family dog. At 4 years old, he still acts like a big, old excited puppy. Very often, when people visit our farm, they announce, "That is the hugest dog I've ever seen in my life!"  He loves everybody. And isn't he handsome.




A bird flew into our house the other day! Monkey found this little swallow scrambling around in a kitchen windowsill trying to get out. It was so neat to see one up close! I'd always thought they were black as I see them zipping around our homestead (hopefully gobbling up mosquitoes). But this little guy was a deep, shiny blue. So pretty! He flew off quickly, seemingly unharmed. 





Roo enjoying Grandma love:



Put on your big sister's rain boots, sit in the dirt and play with bailing twine? Sure, why not!




While some of the littles were in the bath tub today, I stuck some new pretty things into my dreads.




More of my silly children: 



Pretty little miss Farmgirl today:



Monkey is our resident garter snake catcher. He has no fear of them, just snatches them right up!






Those are some of the things making me smile these past few weeks. Today I feel entirely full of smiles and gratitude to God for sending my incredible husband onto my path exactly 11 years ago today. If someone had told me on that night that that super attractive guy I just met was going to buy me a farm in Idaho, have 6 children with me, and we were all going to become Catholic, I would haven't believed one word of it. Not a single one! Funny how life is, don't you think. :)


Thursday, May 28, 2015

goosey goosey gander

I was nervous last spring, when I'd let my husband talk me into adding geese to our farm. I'd heard stories of them being real mean to kids, nipping at them with their big, mean bills. I remember being bitten by a goose while feeding them at the park as a kid. I only agreed to them if the moment one of them attacked our children they all went into a stew pot. Well, I've not had to get out the stew pot yet!

We've got 10 adult Embden geese running around out there now. We ate a couple over winter and they were sooooo delicious. Duck has always been my favorite meat. It just might be my 2nd favorite now. Waterfowl are just so tasty! 

Our geese free range night and day. Somehow, and I don't really understand it, they have managed to never lose a member of the flock to the coyotes. Coyotes eat everything else! We've had no choice but to keep our previously free-ranging ducks fenced in because the coyotes regularly wiped them out. It can't just be the size of the geese that intimidates coyotes- they love to eat up our great big turkeys. 

This spring we began putting their eggs into our incubators. I was so excited to see that very first gosling peeping out! Once we take them out of the incubator we put them in a box on our kitchen counter for a few-many days. There we keep them warm and keep a close eye on them. All those little birds are so fragile the first several days! Even our mama hen out there, who began with 5 babies, had only 2 left after the first week. 

Some goslings and ducklings fresh from their eggs, enjoying the cozy heat under a light in a box in the kitchen. That goose in front is so brand new he's still wet. 




Eventually they all get moved out to one of our outbuildings such as this one. Those 4 blurry creatures in front are goslings, the ducks are all under the light. Husband and I have always been amused at how all the animals keep to their own kind. Even if we have chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese hatch out of the incubator on the very same day, they soon separate into their own groups. How do they know they're of different sorts? 





Geese are amazing grazers! They have access to poultry feed but they prefer free ranging for tasty grasses. They graze and graze around the land all day. Wherever they can't reach, like in the area the ducks are fenced off in, the grass is so much taller! Look at this- we have this old rabbit cage tossed over the head of our well pump to keep it protected from being fiddled around with. Since the geese can't get to that grass, it's a mile tall compared to all the grass around it! Who needs a lawn mower?!






This is as close to bothering a child as they've gotten. Yesterday I caught them hissing at our 2 year old as he passed by with his toy. They do hiss like mad at everybody and everything that ever passes them by, especially if there's a goose sitting on a nest nearby. I like to hiss back and continue on my merry way. ;)



Here is one goose who's been sitting on a nest for some time now. 




Hissing at me to tell me to get lost:





She's not been on her nest as long as these guys have been though. Directly under our back porch, 2 geese have been sitting and sitting and sitting. We didn't mark the date we first noticed, but I hope some goslings appear under there soon! 




I kept assuming it was a female with her gander-husband. But that other goose on the woodpile has never had a male sitting with her... So now I wonder if these are 2 females sharing a nest? They are so, so loud! Every time someone walks out the back door, they let you know you're not welcome there. 






This is an experiment. In all my years of blog keeping I've never tried uploading a video. Let's see how it works..... It should be 11 seconds of those 2 geese yelling at me as I approached their nest:

video



The huge egg is goose, the upper right one is turkey, a duck egg below that, and the one below the goose egg is a chicken's. Goose eggs taste just like duck eggs to me, which is, they taste kinda like a chicken egg but not really. :p How's that for a description? I love them. Yum.





Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

The stairs went crack,
He nearly broke his back.
And all the little ducks went,
'Quack, quack, quack'


~~ Old, English nursery rhyme.  I call all our geese by name: they are all named "goosey goosey gander whither shall I wander" in my book. ;)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Independence Days Challenge

Here is another  installment of our Independence Days Challenge. The Challenge was originally written about in Carla Emery's wonderful book, The Country Living Encyclopedia. Writer Sharon Astyk expounded on the idea and encouraged us all to do what we can to be more self sufficient and to enjoy good, real food. Click here to read Sharon's description of the 7 categories presented in the challenge.

Would you like to join us? You can begin anytime, and don't worry if you haven't accomplished every category. There will certainly be weeks when I only complete a few! Post weekly, or whenever you find the time, and add a link back to here. 

Here are the 7 categories for you to copy and paste to your blog (or to the comments section below this post):

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something:
3. Preserve something:
4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):
5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):
6. Build community food systems:
7. Eat the food:



Here is what we did this week:


1. Plant something:

Husband brought home several young apple trees he'd found on clearance for $14! They're 6-7 feet tall. What a bargain! Our baby orchard is sure growing. One day, we'll have more fruit than we can shake a stick at. And I'm not sure why I'd want to shake a stick at my fruit anyway. 



He also planted these Goji berries in the garden:




2. Harvest something:

The first salad greens of the season!! Yum. Here Artist trims and washes them (with my help):







Spinach is next on the list for harvesting.


Elsie is now giving 2 whole gallons per day! And the eggs come like crazy. It must be spring!


3. Preserve something:  Nothing this week...

4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):  The plastic container from the store bought salad that I reused for our salad greens? ;) That's about all I can think of for this week...

5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?): Well, we did have 10 young turkeys out there. Ones that we incubated, cared for under brooder lights then released into our farm yard to free range during the day and go to bed in a barn stall at night. And guess what, the other morning there were only three. Seven of them disappeared at some point since the day before!  Soo disheartening. Since we found no feathers and no chickens were missing, we think that possibly they simply wandered off together and couldn't figure out with their pea sized turkey brains that they ought to come home. And then got eaten. 

I found one huge patch of feathers over by the sheep days before, where a chicken apparently had been eaten. We're never positive whether it's coyotes or neighboring dogs that pick off our poultry. At least we haven't had trouble with the owls lately! They fly in from above so no fencing helps, and just eat the necks off our birds! What a waste.

The very last of our adult turkeys got carted off by coyotes (we believe, since there was an enormous patch of turkey feathers right on the path the coyotes use) a couple months ago. So, we've been hoping to get the eggs they left behind to grow up into our next turkey flock. Well, now that there's only 3 of them left, it's good that a friend of ours gave us her turkey pair! They're fun because the female (the darker colored one on the right) is quite tame. She lets us pet her and everything. 



6. Build community food systems: We're selling eggs  this afternoon. And, I get to start selling at the local farmers market next week!

7. Eat the food: Lots and lots of eggs, milk, and salad greens. I've been utilizing Pinterest for egg recipes. I made yogurt in the new slow cooker and it turned out great! I made a whole gallon and the kids gobbled it up in one day. This week I opened up canned jars of broth, potatoes, jams and dilly beans.



Shared with: Homestead Blog Hop














Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Independence Days Challenge #3


Here is the 3rd installment of our Independence Days Challenge. The Challenge was originally written about in Carla Emery's wonderful book, The Country Living Encyclopedia. Writer Sharon Astyk expounded on the idea and encouraged us all to do what we can to be more self sufficient and to enjoy good, real food. Click here to read Sharon's description of the 7 categories presented in the challenge.

Would you like to join us? You can begin anytime, and don't worry if you haven't accomplished every category. There will certainly be weeks when I only complete a few! Post weekly, or whenever you find the time, and add a link back to here. 

Here are the 7 categories for you to copy and paste to your blog (or to the comments section below this post):

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something:
3. Preserve something:
4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):
5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):
6. Build community food systems:
7. Eat the food:



Here is what we did this week:


1. Plant something: Again, it was my husband who did all the planting. But I went to the store to buy him the plant starts! ;) 

Monkey helping his dad plant grape vines today:



Tomato starts, garlic and more tomatoes...



Newly transplanted bell peppers:




2. Harvest something: Just milk and eggs for this week. Here is a picture of eggs I'd just put over the flame for breakfast. The 2 huge ones are goose eggs. The tiny one is from a brand new young layer (chicken). The lower right is a regular chicken egg. 



3. Preserve something: Six more quarts of ground beef. 


4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):  A lot of pots are being reused in the garden. All our kitchen compost goes to the chickens. Some of the farmer boys helped weed and cut grass in the garden this week and fed all the trimmings to the sheep.

5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?): Our incubators are packed this time of year. The birds out there have been quite busy in the breeding department. If you look closely at the tops of these 2 eggs you can see where the wee goslings are beginning to peck their way out. Did you know birds can start peeping and chirping for 2-3 days before they even begin to crack their eggs?! 




Newly hatched gosling:



There are at least a few birds out there setting on nests. When we see a hen or goose or turkey that appears interested in sitting on eggs we leave her be. More often than not she gives up after just a few days, but now and then they do show up one day with fluff ball babies behind them. Only once did we have a turkey actually sit on eggs long enough to hatch out a bunch of babies. As soon as they hatched, she promptly went back to the chicken coop and left them all in the grass to freeze to death. Sigh. She was even a heritage breed, a Bourbon Red. None of our Pekin ducks have seemed interested in their eggs... They don't even put up fights when the ravens come daily and steal their eggs from right under their noses!

This week I undertook The Great Canned Food Inventory of 2015, which much help from Ranger. Our modest home has little storage space, no pantry, and certainly no root cellar or anything super cool like that. So the canned things just get stuck wherever there's a space. Sometimes that's in a child's closet, sometimes a kitchen cupboard, sometimes somewhere in the laundry room... And eventually I have 8 jars of peach jam in a closet, 4 in a cupboard, and 17 in the laundry room. As I can feel this canning season looming on the horizon, I knew I needed to get a handle on what we already have. But first I had to find it all!

Here was the very beginning of the adventure- Ranger and Artist helping empty the first cupboard. 



Here is an example of what can happen when one has neglected her canned foods in every nook and cranny. A pint of pickled garlic scapes had lost its seal and spilled all over some other jars in the back of a cupboard. This one rusted right through! 



Although looking at pictures of old fashioned pantries or root cellars such as this one make me swoon...

Image result for old fashioned canned food pantry



.....we make do with what we've been given. :)  A corner in the bathroom:




The cupboard designed to house a microwave in the kitchen:




All in all, our canned foods totaled 431 quarts, plus 55 quarts of lard (a lifetime's worth I imagine!). It includes meat from 10 different types of animals, and way more fruit and fruit sauces then I realized! I know what we'll be snacking on for awhile. Must make room for this year's fruit! 

It felt incredibly productive to get all my canned goods inventoried and then sorted out. We now have "zones"- one area of the house is the canned meats zone, one is the jam and syrups zone, one is the lard zone. There's also the green bean cupboard, the liver and ground beef closet, the "everything pickled" zone, and more. And I actually know what foods we have stored up. Imagine that!

6. Build community food systems: We sold a few dozen chicken and duck eggs to a neighbor. 

7. Eat the food: Tonight was tacos with our beef. Lunch was homemade cheese and crackers with canned pears. Breakfast was our eggs and leftover steak from last night's dinner. We are blessed and I am grateful!

Shared with: Homestead Barn Hop 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

the first mama hen of the season has appeared!

 Artist came in from playing outside and said, "Did you know there are chicks out there?" I jumped for my shoes and camera and darted out to see if he was right. And there they were- a mama hen with her 5 chicks. We didn't even know there was a hen out there sitting on eggs. She'd kept her nest perfectly hidden somewhere. That happens every year. I love that little chicken families just appear suddenly on our homestead! 




One of them was weak. You can see him down there on the lower right. He looks completely normal, but he's so slow in keeping up with his siblings. Hopefully he gains some more strength by tomorrow. If not, we'll bring him in to live in a cozy box in our kitchen with the incubator babies. 






Look what a good mama hen she is. When our dog wandered up to investigate, she puffed her whole body up to look big and scary and charged at him. It was actually pretty impressive!



Yay spring!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Independence Days Challenge #2

Good morning! Here is the 2nd installment of our Independence Days Challenge. The Challenge was originally written about in Carla Emery's wonderful book, The Country Living Encyclopedia. Writer Sharon Astyk expounded on the idea and encouraged us all to do what we can to be more self sufficient and to enjoy good, real food. Click here to read Sharon's description of the 7 categories presented in the challenge.

Would you like to join us? You can begin anytime, and don't worry if you haven't accomplished every category. There will certainly be weeks when I only complete a few! Post weekly, or whenever you find the time, and add a link back to here. 

Here are the 7 categories for you to copy and paste to your blog (or to the comments section below this post):

1. Plant something:
2. Harvest something:
3. Preserve something:
4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):
5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?):
6. Build community food systems:
7. Eat the food:




Here is what I did this week.

1. Plant something: I planted flowers. :) It was a bittersweet thing for me because it reminded me so much of my mom. She knew flowers, lemme tell ya. Their common names, scientific names, what to grow in every gardening zone. I hadn't planted flowers in many years, I've been too busy having babies! I felt our humble farm needed a little colorful sprucing up and so I hit the garden department at a store in town. And then I sighed over how badly I wished I could text my mom pictures of my work!

Here's where I lined up most of my project. 




Such a neat white spider!



It was a very sunny day! Here's Roo enjoying the scenery from my back. 













I even bought a few houseplants! When I met my husband 11 years ago I probably had around 50 houseplants. Being raised by my plant loving mother, I always felt a home should have lots of green, leafy plants in every room. I love houseplants. But then I started having lots of babies. And then they grew into toddlers. And then they spilled my plants, ripped my plants, and dug in my plants. After a time I decided that I was fed up with cleaning up potting soil and that perhaps I needed to decide between having children or having houseplants. Children won and for the past several years I've had exactly one houseplant above the kitchen sink. But today I have exactly 4. :) They are hanging instead of being on the floor or low shelf so we shall see if the toddlers ignore them. 


While I was busy prettying things up with flowers, my husband was planting lots of tomato starts and potatoes. Though Monday was a hot, shiny day, today is chilly, wet and overcast here in north Idaho.





2. Harvest something: It's not quite harvesting season here yet. But we did harvest 2.5 cups of chives from the garden. Plus there is always the cow milk and eggs the animals give everyday.



3. Preserve something: I washed and chopped up the chives and measured out a 1/2 cup for each ziploc bag. The bags went into the freezer for future soups! Today I am canning up 7 more quarts of ground beef. I came down with mastitis (ouchy, ouchy, ouchy) this week for the 2nd time since Roo's birth. That hindered my productiveness this week!

4. Waste not (what have you reused, recycled, or repurposed instead of throwing it away or buying new?):  Hmmmm. Nothing is coming to mind for this week. I have milk on the stove right now that I'm making cheese out of because our cow is producing way more milk than we have jars or fridge space for! Maybe that counts.

5. Want not (besides what you reported under "preserve something", what else have you done to prepare for the future or become more self sufficient? What new skills are you learning?): I've just begun the research into getting a manual hand pump installed on our well. At this point our water only comes to us through our pipes when we have electricity. This has long been a concern. It's so easy to take electricity and water for granted- right up until we have power outages!

My husband has decided to try fish emulsion for fertilizer on our berry bushes that are small.

I purchased a cookbook to help me learn how to use our new pressure cooker.


6. Build community food systems: We did sell 4 dozen chicken and duck eggs this week. 

7. Eat the food: Daily we eat the food we produce on our homestead. This week I made a shepard's pie out of  lamb that was particularly tasty. This morning we ate chicken and duck eggs for breakfast. I'm encouraging the kids to drink up as much cow milk as they can stand since we have so much!




Here's a cute little salamander my husband found in the garden!