Friday, October 31, 2008
I don't have anything earth shattering to share, but I thought I'd throw a few updates out.
First of all, Sasafras is doing much better. She is back to eating her full amount and her milk production seems to be back to normal levels (which means she's well hydrated again). We are still milking her, but we are throwing out the milk. Right now, the milk is sort of yellow due to one of her medications. Tomorrow she gets her last penicillin injection, so we figure we'll wait at least a week after that before we start drinking it again. Lastly, I think I'm going to give her the de-wormer injection tomorrow as well, so that gives us until next Saturday before we should start drinking the milk again. Not having new milk coming in is actually a good thing as it's allowing us to catch up on the back log in the fridge! I also discovered that getting goat medication on your hands is something to avoid at all costs. I spilled a little on myself last night and my hands STILL stink. I've washed the hell out of them in the past 12 hours, too! Ick!
The weekend to do list:
pick up CSA share of beef & pork
make apple blackberry crisp
reprocess grape jam
can apples and apple pie filling
clean out goat shed
enlarge chicken door
start work on chicken run
make soap and/or cheese
Happy Halloween, everyone!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Apples being washed
Apple cider flowing from the press - note the apple guts everywhere!
My H working the press.
Before I get into this, let me start by saying that I really appreciate all the support from everyone. Sass is doing better. She greeted me at the gate this morning, ate some grains/ration (for the first time) and generally appears to be on the mend. She did NOT want to get on the milking stand, but after last night, who can blame her?
Let me back up a bit. When my H brought Sass home from the vet, he brought with him a big bag of medicine. He said that he learned how to give her injections and that we'd have to do it quite a bit over the next few days. I was hesitant since I didn't get a lesson on how to do it, so I was content with letting him be the goat doctor. Well... what I hadn't realized was that he had to travel for work on Wednesday (today) and wouldn't be home until late. I had to learn how to do this, STAT.
So last night, after we made a run to the grocery store, I started sifting through all the meds. Between the invoice from the vet and the labels on the bottles, I was able to make out everything. I did a little research and figured out what each item did. I was also able to set up a mental schedule for us...which meant that we had to give shots immediately. So we collect all the supplies (good thing for big pockets on my 'farm' coat!), grab the lantern, and head out to see Sass. She has an idea that something is going on and does her best to avoid us. H manages to get her on the milking stand and gives her a little grain (which she proceeds to ignore). Then we start with the SC (subcutaneous: under the skin) fluids. This is a bag of saline that we administer to her by injecting it slowly under the skin on her shoulder. First we do 2 ml on one side and then 2 ml on the other side. It was slow going: H holding in the needle and trying to hold Sass steady while I kept the bag elevated and made sure it flowed. Once that was done, we gave her one more shot in the shoulder/neck area under the skin and then we gave her 5 cc's of Probios (to help equalize her rumen) in her mouth. She had less issues with the needles in her skin than she did with the syringe in her mouth...even though it supposedly tastes good! I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to do this alone, but I'll figure it out.
Then we let her down and made sure she had fresh water. She didn't seem to worse for the wear after this, but I was tired. Unfortunately, I spent most of the night tossing and turning and imagining that we did that all wrong and that she was either in horrendous pain all night, or that she'd die on us! It was awful (for me). Luckily, it was all my stupid vivid imagination!
Tonight after work, I'll have to give her two shots and some more Probios. I think we can skip the SC fluids since she seems to be drinking water just fine now.
In our little medical bag of goodies, we also got dewormer injections for both goats. We are going to hold off on that until we are sure Sassy is back up to speed. I don't think she needs even more things for her body to worry about right now. We will treat them both at the same time, and then start them both on an herbal de-worming program that is safe to use on pregnant goats but that the worms will not develop a resistance to (like they can with orthodox ones). We did make sure that this injection we got from the vet is safe for pregnant goats, too.
My H and I are both feeling pretty guilty about this whole thing. I knew about bloat and I knew that too many apples could cause it in horses and that it can be life-threatening. I also knew that it is important to keep a goat's rumen in balance. BUT, I thought that goats were supposed to be able to do this on their own. I didn't know they could over-eat something like apples! We obviously still have a lot to learn when it comes to raising livestock. Hopefully Sass, Buddy and all the chickens will survive the learning curve!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Meanwhile, I lug the apple press onto the back deck and set about washing the 300 lbs of apples we had picked over the weekend. Then I find out that the mill part of the press isn't working. I call the store and they are of no help. They offer to fix it when I bring it back and not charge me, but the next day that it's available is after I'm already in China (and our apples would never make it that long). I'm PISSED. I call my mom to bitch and I can barely hear her because Buddy (the other goat) is crying at the top of his lungs. He's been doing this constantly since we took Sass away. He hates to be alone! Anyway, while I'm bitching to my mom that all our apple-picking work this weekend was going to go to waste, my H calls from the vet. Sass doesn't have bloat, she's got a rumen imbalance (I forget the technical name) and is severely dehydrated - 70% chance she'll live. They are giving her all kinds of treatments (well, making Rick do a lot of it so he'll learn) and she's being a trooper.
He gets home with her around 6 pm. We put Sass back in with Buddy and look over the huge BAG of medication we have to administer over the next few days. $178 later - she *might* survive. And hell, we only paid $100 for her! Not that it matters - she is our responsiblity now, and we will do what we can to both ease her suffering and to save her. Oh, and the vet said that it's highly likely that she is pregnant, too.
So now my H takes a look at the cider mill, tightens one screw, and it's good to go! (can you read the frustration in my words at the time I've now wasted?) We start processing apples (I'll explain in a separate post) and about 2 hours later, take a break for dinner. We have a quick dinner of leftovers and then get back to work. By 9:30, we've done all the apples and we are both frozen solid. The mill spits apple guts EVERYWHERE, and I'm covered with it. My H is frozen from washing the batches of apples in ice cold hose water. We are both soaking wet, too (him with water, me with apple juice). We washed everything off, and put the cider inside. Now I'm standing in the laundry room, covered with apple, so I strip off my clothes and throw them in the washer so as not to trapse apples through the house.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Yesterday was a day of good things happening.
First of all, our lye arrived. I ordered 4 lbs of NaOH (lye) to use to make goat's milk soap from a farm/distributor in Arizona. It arrived yesterday, so I'm excited to add soap making to our list of accomplishments sometime in the near future. My H also ordered some from a CA place, and that should arrive later this week as well.
Secondly, yesterday was the day that Sassafras should have been showing signs of estrus. Not only did her milk production not dip like it usually does during this time, but she wasn't acting in her usual way. I think we may have a pregnant goat on our hands! I'm going to keep track and watch her for one more cycle, just to be sure...but we may be expecting baby goats next March. Awwww!
Thirdly, I have secured an apple cider mill/press for us!! I called a local home brewery/winemaking supply place and they have a press that they rent out. They only have one, so it's usually very, very booked up this time of year. I got lucky and managed to get it for next Monday. It's only $20 for the day, and we should be able to press all our left over apples in no time! All we have to do now is 1) pick them all this weekend and 2) locate containers to put it all in...
Lastly, I prepped a meal for tonight that is one step closer to being a 100 ft meal. It's actually about a 50 mile meal. I am making a baked pork with apple raisin stuffing dish. The pork grew up (fed on organic grass) about 10 miles from us. The apples and raisins are from our yard. The bread was from a stuffing mix from Bob's Red Mill which is local to the Portland area. The only thing that isn't local is the beef broth - and I used only a half cup of it...so it's not too bad. I'll be serving it with zucchini from our garden. Hopefully, it'll taste as good as it sounds when I read the recipe!!
Monday, October 20, 2008
Every weekend we take at least one day (if not both) to herd the chickens into the fenced goat area so that they can free range. They love to peck around in the goat shed (presumably eating bugs?) and they seem to love running to perhaps stretch their legs.
The goats don't pay them much mind, though we have caught Buddy occasionally runing into a group of them just to see them scatter. If goats could laugh, I'm sure he's doing so!
Yesterday we ushered the chickens into the goat area. We basically just open the coop and follow them as they head for the gate. In the begining, it wasn't so simple. It involved a lot of chasing of chickens while in my head I had thoughts of some common phrase about the wisdom of hearding cats. Chickens aren't much better! Eventually, they got the hang of it so that now, one person can pretty much get them to go where they need to go. While they are in there, we take the opportunity to move the coop and to fill both the water and food containers. We've noticed how lush and green the grass is growing in areas where the coop was housed. We've put together a plan to use the chicken coop to fertilize our row garden area this fall. Once we get the whole area essentially covered with chicken poop, we will throw some leaf mulch over it and cover it with cardboard or plastic for the winter. In the spring, we'll lift off the cover and plant in our nitrogen rich soil!
Yesterday, I was able to snap a few photos - they are getting close to being full grown though I expect that they'll fill out some still. I think we have happy and healthy chickens.
Rhode Island Red and a White Leghorn - the leghorn could be Bonny, but Bonny happens to look just like her sister and again, we can't tell them apart!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
While I had to put off a few things on my list, I'm pleased with what we accomplished this weekend.
We completed quite a bit of painting. We now have the front, both sides and half the back painted. There is still quite a bit of trim that still needs to be done on one of the sides and on the back, but I'm feeling like we are making good progress. We have not done the back part that surrounds the deck, but we feel like we need to do that with paint brushes. I think we may get sun next weekend, so we may still get this task done this year! We have decided to put off painting the deck. It's butt ugly dark teal, but it's painted...so winter rain won't damage it. It can wait until next summer.
We purchased a chest freezer!! I'm so excited. We decided to put it in the basement instead of in the laundry room, so it's not as convenient as it could be, but that's ok. I think I'd rather have the extra room in the laundry room anyway. We went with a 7.2 cu ft freezer - we were originally going to get the smaller one, but if we end up raising our own chickens for meat next year, we'll need the extra space. We just got it downstairs this evening. so tomorrow morning (once it's cold), I'll get to move some milk and meat down there. Yay!
We trimmed the goats hooves. That was an adventure! First we had to level the goat's shed, so while I watched the level, my H jacked it up. When we got it level, he propped it up. Then we decided that since we were both right there, we'd try the hoof thing. We started with Buddy since we thought he'd be the most difficult one. He wasn't loving it, but it wasn't too bad. He did cry out a few times when he was getting frustrated (it took us awhile), but there was no pain for any of us. Buddy did pee on my H though! I did Buddy's hooves first, and it was hard because he's so small. I should have started with Sass. Anyway, once I figured out what was what, it wasn't too bad. My H had to take over for me at one point because I was having trouble clipping and Buddy was getting restless. He actually did better with me holding him and H working on his hooves. Then we did Sass and that was harder. She is much stronger and she doesn't like her feet messed with! Her feet weren't as over grown though...so it was quicker overall. I'm so proud of us! Both goats are now happily groomed. ;-)
On Saturday we went to an apple tasting at the Portland Nursery. I'll write more about the apples later, but the event was neat. We met some friends there and had a nice time. My H tried apple cider fo the first time in his life (I was stunned!) and he really liked it. We asked about renting a press and the guy wasn't much help. I'll keep looking though! Afterward, we went to a local brew pub and had the worlds most garlicky hummus and some hard pear cider. It was interesting, but not something we'd want to drink a lot of... It was fun to hang out though...it's not something we do enough on the weekends and it helped us feel a little more "normal".
Lastly, we got up close and personal with a mass quantity of grapes. Many of the grapes we had picked last week were spoiling, so we had to use them up pronto. We destemmed the entire lot, separated 16 cups for a recipe that I'm going to make (Cinnamon Grape Preserves), and then juiced the remainder. I tried using a juicer that we'd gotten as a wedding gift (and never used!), but it pulverized the grapes. I ended up going with the food mill instead. We would have had about two gallons of juice if I'd used all the water we boiled the grapes in, but I dumped most of it before realizing that I should be including it. Oops. I did keep the last of it....and I figured that if the resulting juice is too concentrated, I can always add water. Right now, the juice is resting the the fridge. I'll pour off the clear part (leaving behind the sediment) tomorrow night and can it then. I'll also do the preserves then as well. We also filled a dehydrator full of apple rings, tomato slices and grapes (raisins). I did not get to make more apple pie filling, but I will do that this coming weekend (or maybe this week). Our neighbor gave us a big bag of apples from her tree (Jonagolds, we think)...and they will make delicious pie apples.
Lastly, I did not get to the greenhouse. I'm ok with it, though. Next weekend, perhaps. :-)
Friday, October 17, 2008
How many people do you know who get to Friday and start to feel the stress setting in? Seriously, what does that mean? That I try and do too much on the weekends? That I set my standards too high? That I perhaps should stop trying to work a full time job and a farm? UGH.
So yes, it's Friday and I'm already stressing about everything I need to get done this weekend. The list is too long for two days, but here it is anyway:
Paint the house - we should have decent weather, so we need to get more painting done. This means hand painting the trim and then covering it and the windows and renting a sprayer to spray the walls.
Trim hooves - both goats are in need of a hoof trim. This should be about a quarterly task and we've had Sass for about 3 months now. We have instructions and the tools...but neither of us have done this before. It should be an interesting experience.
Build 'green house' - The weather has warmed a little, so we've been able to put this off, but I have the materials necessary to build a green house of sorts over one of our garden boxes. The plan is to build it and then plant lettuce, spinach and other colder weather items in it. This is definitely an experiment, but it's one we have to start very, very soon!
Process grapes and apples - we are still up to our ears in grapes and apples. I got a neat grape preserve recipe that I'm going to try - and we are going to juice as many as we can. I also need to keep working on putting up apples. My goal is to fill two dehydrators full of red delicious and to do at least one (if not two) canner loads of apple pie apples.
There are lots of other little things (like buying dog food), but these are the BIG ones. Let's hope that we can knock a few things off this list!!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Last night we attended a class at our local REI where TrackersNW sent a representative to teach a class about edible plants native to the PNW. It was interesting. The guy who gave the presentation defintely showed a passion for the material, but he wasn't the worlds' best public speaker. It was cool though. The presentation he shared with us not only pointed out some poisionous plants, but a TON of edible ones. I was most surprised by what we have growing in our own yard!
I already knew about this one. I'd looked it up when we first moved in because the plant was so different from all the other weeds in our garden. It reminded me of my mom's jade plants (poisionous house plants she had when we were kids), so I wanted to know if it was safe to feed the goats. Come to find out...it's not only safe for goats, it's actually chock full of nutrition for humans! This is purslane (the wild variety) and it's growing all over our garden:
Wild purslane - high in vitamins and quite tasty (similiar to watercress, apparently).
I did taste it - and it's nice. Mild but flavorful. I can see how it would be a great addition to salads.
Then last night, we found out that all of these 'weeds' growing in our yard are also edible:
White oak acorns - the acorns make a nice hearty flour if processed correctly (remove all the bitter tannins).
We have this one other plant that grows super fast and is very watery. The goats eat it often enough to keep it in check (it's mostly in the area that we fenced in for them) and it doesn't appear to spread at all. We still have not identified it. I'll take some photos of it this weekend and post them...perhaps one of my readers who are more educated than I am about this area can ID it for us. If it's edible - I'd be thrilled since it's so prolific!
In addition to the 'weeds' listed above, we also have tons of wild grapes and wild blackberries along the perimeter of our property. Food abounds in the PNW when you know what to look for...
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The last two mornings have been a tad unconventional in our household.
Two days ago, we awoke at 5 am to Maggie barking like mad. It was definitely the "hey, something is here" bark and as she was just outside the bedroom, it was LOUD. Being the light sleeper that I am, I bolted upright and out of bed in a matter of seconds. She was barking in the office (a tiny little room containing only a desk, a chair and various pieces of computer equipment) of all places. I saw my husbands pannier on the floor in prep for his morning commute, so I thought that was what she was barking at (she doesn't like strange bags and things). I crawled back into bed while my H got up. Now Charlie was joining in on the barking....odd.
So I'm in bed, listening to this ruckus. Then I hear a nasty sounding hiss and Charlie crying (he's a whiner, he wasn't hurt or anything). I asked "what was that?!" and my H responded with "it's a cat...but not ours!!". Huh? Yep, a beautiful solid dark grey cat with green eyes was curled up on the desk chair. But our cat is grey striped with yellow eyes! It must have come in through the dog door. Balsy cat...to come into the one house in the area with 2 big dogs?!
Luckily, H recalled a conversation he had just had with the neighbor on Sunday about their missing cat. She had described to him the exact cat that was now sitting in our office (and purring). The cat had been missing for months! Had that conversation not taken place, we surely would have chased that cat out with a broom (or let the dogs do it). Turns out, he's a very friendly and sweet cat. I put him out before leaving for work and when we got home, he was sleeping under the farm truck. He came out when we called him and H immediately took him next door. The neighbor was so thrilled to have her sweet cat back that she hugged my H! I guess her other cat who was recently badly injured and forced to stay in their house had chased it away. The poor thing was probably afraid to go home and figured our house was the next best thing!
So this morning, I awoke with a nasty migraine at about 5 am, 30 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I noticed the time, and decided that I'd better take some Excedrin now so that I'd be feeling better by the time I had to get up. I stumble into the kitchen, take the pills, and then stumble back to bed. 30 minutes later, my head still hurts and my stomach was doing flip flops. I stayed in bed an extra 10 minutes and still didn't feel better so I got up anyway. I almost threw up in the closet and then again in the bathroom. I was seriously wondering what was wrong with me!
So I get to the kitchen and set about getting the milking stuff ready. I glance down and see the Excedrin bottle sitting on the counter. Funny...it's white. Excedrin is in a green bottle...Oh God! What did I take?? Luckily, it was only multi-vitamins. Well, that explains the upset stomach. Two max strength multi vitamins with iron on an empty stomach when I haven't taken any vitamins in about 6 months...no wonder I wanted to barf! I immediately ate a piece of bread and went about my morning routine. I also took two Excedrin since I still had the headache! The car ride in, I was fighting really hard to keep from tossing my cookies. 5 hours later, I still wasn't back to normal!
I just finished eating my lunch and I'm finally starting to feel normal again. Of course, now the headache is back. Lovely.
I wonder what is in store for 5 am tomorrow morning?! ;-)
Monday, October 13, 2008
...and after (in progress).
All weekend long, I was reminded of a silly song from a musical that I was in as a child. It was based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. There was a song that Tom and Huck sung together while painting the fence. All I can remember was one line "Painting the fence, painting the fence...blah, blah, blah, blah...." Ugh. Nothing like having just one line of a long ago forgotten song as an ear worm!
Anyway, this weekend, we finally began painting our house. We started with the trim paint on Saturday and managed to do most of the front (where most of the trim resides!). We had to paint the entire front entryway (since it was replaced and formerly yellow anyway), the garage side door, both garage doors and trim, and the new decorative band across the front gable. We also painted the trim along the roof line and around all the windows.
Then on sunday, we began on the wall color. It is a blue grey color called Pelican Bay and I was afraid that it would be too dreary. Luckily, I was kind of remembering it incorrectly. Once it was on the house in a few places, it was more blue than grey and it looks really nice. Our house is taking on a slight "Nantucket-y" feeling to me. It reminds me a little of the cute colonial houses in the coastal New England towns of my youth. We managed to finish about 3/4ths of the front of the house. We haven't even touched on anything else yet and it's not for lack of work. We were painting ALL weekend! I'm thinking that we should finish the front using brushes, but then I'm going to suggest that we rent a sprayer to do the sides and part of the back where there is very little trim, small windows, and lots of open wall space. Then the other part of the back - near the porch - we can do with brushes again. Otherwise, we'll never get this done!
Luckily, the weather forecast for next weekend gives us at least one day of sun and temps in the 60's. It's a start!
Sunday, October 12, 2008
On Friday, a girlfriend of mine came over and we did some canning together. Even putting up the 'same old stuff' is more fun when you have company!
We started the day by picking apples. We hit up the first tree of tiny apples. Then we noticed that the other two small trees at the back of the property had two different types of apples on them. After a quick taste - we determined that these would be good 'pie' apples as well. We picked everything that was usable (mostly with scab) and they filled about half a bucket. Then we headed over to the two massive red delicious trees and picked a few of these as well.
We started with applesauce and made 7 quarts using a mixture of apples. I washed and prepped the apples, my friend cored/sliced them. After we'd put them through the food mill, we discovered that the sauce tasted very bland. We added spices and sugar and doctored it up enough. Then we canned it.
While this was going on, we also were making apple butter in the crock pot which smelled just amazing (as usual!).
The next project was apple pie filling. While I was hunting down a good recipe, I discovered a little bit of helpful info about red delicious apples. They are eating apples only. They apparently have no taste when cooked - guess that's why our apple sauce was so bland - too many red delicious in the mix! Live and learn! Though, I would like to mention that while they may not be good for cooking, they dry just beautifully! We dried half a dehydrator of them and they are very tasty. So for from now on, our red delicious apples will be eaten or dried. In fact, I spoke to our neighbor about taking a clipping off her tree of yummy apples. I'm going to graft it onto one of our trees, so I think I'll do it on the red delicious trees since we have way, way more than we will ever eat!
Anyway, I found what sounded like a good apple pie filling recipe and we set to work. The water, sugar and spices went into a pot to boil. The cornstarch and lemon juice and a little more water waited on the counter. Then we peeled, cored and sliced what we thought were enough apples. All the while, the jars were in the dishwasher keeping warm. When the apples were ready, we dumped the cornstarch water into the pot and mixed it. It thickened almost immediately. Then we set about filling jars. We filled 5 quart jars with apples and topped them with the sauce. We had just enough sauce left over to fill an additional pint jar, so we sliced another couple of apples for that and set them all into the canner to process. Twenty minutes later, we had what you see in the photo above!
Then we canned the apple butter before shutting down the stove for the evening. What a day!
On Saturday, I threw the apple pie apples from the pint jar into a pan. While it was heating, I made pancakes. When the pancakes were ready, so were the apples, so I piled them on. HEAVEN!! Seriously, it was so incredibly good!! In fact, it was so good that on Saturday evening after a day of painting (different post!), I spent a couple of hours making another 7 quarts of the filling! I altered the recipe a bit to make it slightly spicier and to make enough to fill 7 quarts with each recipe. And, you can bet that I'll be doing a few more batches in the coming week. I think this is my favorite canning item so far!
5 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
14 cups water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
~8 pounds apples
1. In a large pot, mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and 12 cups of water. In another bowl, mix cornstarch, lemon juice and 2 cups of water. Bring first pot to a boil and when apples are ready, add cornstarch. Cook until thick and bubbly. Keep simmering until all jars are filled.
2. Sterilize canning jars, lids and rings and keep jars warm.
3. Peel, core, and slice apples. Pack the sliced apples into hot canning jars, leaving a 1 inch headspace.
4. Fill jars with hot syrup, and gently remove air bubbles with a knife. Leave a 1/2 inch headspace.
5. Put lids on and process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.
Makes 7 quarts.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
After lining up the tomatoes, I opened the packages I got in the mail. I actually had 3 waiting for me! One was a new deraileur for my bike, one was a couple of books from Amazon and the last one was the garlic I had ordered over the summer. The place I order from doesn't ship until it's the right time to plant for your zone. I opened the box, inspected the garlic and read the instructions. "Plant after the first light frost". What perfect timing! We will be planting garlic this weekend. I'm really excited about this - I love garlic and I've never planted it before.
Lastly, instead of parking my fat butt infront of the boobtube last night, I figured it was time to do something with the sugar plums our neighbor had dropped off. The dehydrator booklet says that foods with tough skins (like plums and grapes) should be blanched (boiled) for 1-2 minutes to crack the skin prior to putting them in the dehydrator. I tried that the last time and while it worked great for the grapes/raisins, the plums made a mess and turned out all mushy and gross. That could have been because they were too ripe, but I really didn't want to break out the boiling water if I didn't have to. I figured I'd try one other method. So I picked out all the plums that weren't too ripe (there were some that were over-done) and washed them.
Then I cut them in half, removed the pits, and placed them skin side down on the dehydrator trays. I did 6 or 7 trays worth and let them dry overnight. This is how they look so far:
They have a few more hours until they reach 'done' status, but it looks like they are working out just right! Now - do I even like prunes? I have no idea!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Our little homestead is coming together. Our original goal was to only acquire animals that were a benefit to us in more ways than just as companionship. We've tried to stick to it for the livestock (Sasafras provides milk, Buddy provides fiber - or he will eventually, chickens provide eggs and possibly meat, roosters provide more chickens - someday), but we didn't expect it to be a requirement for the pets (Maggie, Charlie and Kitty). So far, even the pets are pulling their own weight! Besides being really good at making sure that we have no leftover goats milk or nothing spilled on the kitchen floor, they are turning out to each have additional job responsibilities.
Kitty is helping rid us of pests. Not only is he a bug hunter in the house, he's a small rodent hunter on the outside. So far, he's brought us both a dead bat (not good) and a dead mole (very good!). He's also pretty good at keeping the neighbor cats out of our yard which I think is good for the safety of our chickens.
We discovered a few nights ago that Charlie has an unexpected purpose. Charlie is part hound (bassett, according to our previous vet). We are sure of this because he howls. He can carry a note (out of tune) like an opera singer! Most of the time, it's a fairly quiet howl and often multi-faceted in that it sounds like he's talking. The other evening when the windows were open, we hear the coyotes again. Before we'd even gotten out of bed, Charlie started to howl. This was a huge, loud, building howl that feels like it would pretty much wake the dead. It not only silenced the coyotes (temporarily) but it scared them off. Same thing happened again last night - his mighty howl chases away coyotes! And, as loud as it is, I'd much rather listen to that than to the creepy coyote sounds outside.
Maggie's purpose revealed itself yesterday evening. She's actually better than the cat at hunting bugs as she'll often snag a fly or a moth out of mid-air. Well, last night, she was hunting bigger prey. Last week, while we were in the living room, I saw a mouse dart out from under the front closet, out into the hall, and then back under the same closet. We opened the closet, but pretyt much immediately lost track of it. Maggie definitely picked up it's scent and for days was highly distracted by that closet. Last night, while we were watching TV, I saw the mouse across the living room udner a chair. We both jumped up and while my H watched it, I searched for something to trap it with. The mouse darted under the couch, and we surrounded it (us and the dogs). When H said he wanted to see what Maggie would do, I was skeptical. He lifted the couch off the mouse while Maggie was right there. She pounced on it and caught it! She carried it to the other side of the room where we ordered that she drop it. She did, H grabbed it by the tail and threw it out the front door. Maggie is a mouser! We had no idea! What was really funny was that for the rest of the night, she was frantically searching for additional mice. Very amusing!
So see...on the farm, everyone has a purpose and a job to do! :-)
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Of course, once I got home I had to pull it out right away and give it a shot! I had a few apples in the fridge, so I stuck one on it and went to town. This thing is great! It's such a simple tool - no parts that could break that I couldn't fix myself - and it's almost entirely made of quality cast iron - so it'll last. Best $25 I've spent so far! I ran through a few apples and then decided to try a pear. Yeah - no go. Pears don't have a core that is strong enough to hold the weight of the fruit on the peeler - so it sags off and makes a real mushy mess. It might work with a different variety or a less ripe pear. For now, I'll just stick to apples. It also is supposed to work for potatoes - so that'll come in handy when we have enough of those to harvest that we can preserve some...
Anyway, so I decided since it was so quick and simple that I'd do a dehydrator full of apples. First I spun all the apples on the peeler/corer/slicer.
Then I used a knife to slice the spiral so that I'd have individual rings.
Then I spread them on the dehydrator trays, filling almost all 10. I saved one tray for 'experiments'. On that tray I put sliced bananas (dipped in lemon juice laced water to prevent too much browning), sliced roma tomatoes from the garden and a couple of halved grape tomatoes to see how they'd do.
The apples were yummy (my favorite dried fruit, I think), the bananas were good, but not crunchy like I like them, and the roma tomatoes were delicious, too. The grape tomatoes - not so much. I figured that since they are sort of sweet when juicy that the'd be extra sweet when dried. Nope. They were actually too tart to even eat! Go figure. I'm glad I didn't waste many of my sweet plump grape tomatoes on that failed endeavor!