Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Waiting Game

Sass this afternoon - soaking up some warm sunshine. It's hard to tell in this photo - but her udder is HUGE. I can't imagine how uncomfortable she must be right now.

We are anxiously waiting the arrival of Sass' kids. Her official due date is Tuesday, but we are pretty sure that she is going to deliver shortly. On Sunday morning, we discovered that her udder had ballooned out to FULL mode. She was already showing some filling going on, but this morning, it was very noticeable. She's also bleeting a lot - she's normally a very quiet goat.

The baby monitor on the kitchen windowsill. This thing ROCKS...I'm so glad we got it.

We purchased a baby monitor to install in the goat shed so that we could hear if she goes into labor in the middle of the night. This also allows my husband to monitor her from his home office, so that he can still focus on his work during the day. We had to splurge for the expensive monitor to get one that would broadcast far enough so that we could hear it in the house (up to 2000 feet!). There are a few locations in the house where it doesn't work real well, but for the most part, it's been great. I love listening to the goats chewing their cud as we fall asleep at night! The worst part is that it also picks up the chickens (and the rooster) and broadcasts it in the house where it seems impossibly loud. That is annoying.

The kid pen with our Quonset hut in the corner. This will allow them a 'safe' place to play where Buddy won't be able to get too rough with them (something we are concerned with...).

The kidding area was finished last weekend, but since Sass wasn't too interested in it, we also spent some quality time off cleaning out the goat shed too. I cleared out all the winter bedding and swept it clean last Thursday. Then I layed down some fresh clean straw that we change out every couple of days. This way, if she decides to deliver in there, it'll be reasonably clean. We got our 'kidding kit' pulled together including some homemade 'goat wipes' and I will be ordering the disbudding iron via overnight delivery on Monday morning. We debated about how to handle the kid's horns...but after much research and soul-searching, decided that quick, permanent disbudding was the most humane option. I'm not looking forward to it, but we do what we have to in order to be respondible goat owners. I'll write more on this later.

So, while the signs that Sass is displaying all point to a very near delivery date, we know that 'farm law' says otherwise. 'Farm Law' is related to 'Murphy's Law' and it basically says that she'll give birth when the weather is awful in a very inconveninet place (like the middle of a muddy field). Ugh.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Like the goat's milk before it, we are getting overwhelmed with eggs. We are now up to 8-9 eggs a day from our 10 chickens...and with just two of us, that's a lot of eggs! We have been selling them to some of the people I work with and we do occasionally give a dozen to our neighbors, but it's still a lot of eggs.

So far, I've been trying out recipes that are egg intensive with the intention of finding good ones and then freezing them. So far, I've made the following:

Spinach and cheese strata - this was delicous and reheated (and froze) really, really well. Egg total: 9

Ham and green onion quiche - not bad but a little bland even though I used some of our local grass fed ham. The crust made it supremely unhealthy - and for that amount of fat, it should be outstanding. Egg count: 4

Dehydrated eggs! (on the right) I used our dehydrator and dehydrated whole, scrambled eggs. I haven't yet verified how well they rehydrate, but this jar holds 21 eggs and will keep, unrefridgerated, for 3 to 4 months. Egg count: 21

I also make a healthy, high protien waffle that uses a lot of eggs. They just look like regular old waffles, so I didn't take a photo. I make a huge batch and then freeze them. They make excellent breakfasts either reheated with syrup or fruit, or toasted and used as bread with apple butter or jam. They are also great with icecream sandwiched between two of them, but that's not good for us! ;-) Egg count: 6 per recipe (12 for a double).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Photo sharing

The pansies that I planted last fall are blooming just beautifully this spring!

More dafodils in front of our house...

Flowering bushes on the side of our house are about to bloom.

Spring time is definitely here! The main photo in my header was taken in our front yard. We've got different types of dafodils popping up all over the place! We also have tulip leaves peeping through - so I anticipate quite a few of those a little later this spring. This is a good thing since I'm a big fan of tulips (it was our main wedding flower). The cherry tree, red plum tree and our pear trees are about to bloom as well. I'll be sure to take photos as things blossom!

The chickens are enjoying slightly warmer weather as well. They particularly like when it's not raining and they can tear around the fields (here they are taking a water break).
One of our chickens (nicknamed Atilla since she's a terror) seems to like to follow Rick around when he's outside. It's pretty funny, actually.

Here he is giving her a little hug. No wonder she likes him!

Buddy has got a super thick, soft coat this spring. We expect that he'll start shedding it soon...but if he doesn't, we may have to try our hand at shearing!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moth Traps

All the 'fixin's' to make codling moth traps...

Prior to moving here and having our own fruit trees, I had no idea what a codling moth was...I'd never heard of one. Well, you've heard of wormy apples, right? Apparently, most of those worms are codling moth larve. There are a number of ways of killing, trapping and preventing codling moths AND their larve. I found two that we will employ both of which are homemade and biodegradable/natural.

You start with a gallon container from milk or OJ. We happen to have quite a few of these since we stopped milking Sass in December. I'd been saving them for something, but until this spring, I wasn't sure what! Anyway, you basically mix water, molasses and vinegar and then add a splash of ammonia (lemon scent is optional!). This all goes into the bottom of the jug. Prior to filling it, you cut a 2 inch hole just below the 'shoulder' of the container. Once it's filled, you hang it from the trees - up to three per tree depending on the size of the tree. When I made these, it was crazy windy, so I held off on hanging them. Here they are all sitting on a shelf in our dinning room.

The completed traps just waiting to be hung from the trees.

I also plan to use the method of wrapping the base of the tree with corrugated cardboard to encourage any ground larve to nest there, instead of in the apples. That'll be something we'll put out later in the season.

Remember my pledge to RE-cycle? Well, on my second ride, I picked up a powerade bottle. My plan is to use it to make another codling moth trap (slightly modified for half a recipe of liquid). I've also repurposed the tray I picked up on my first ride and the CD I picked up on our ride this past Saturday. The CD will be hung from the sprinkler head in the garden as a deterent to birds.

Powerade bottle soon to be used as another codling moth trap.

Plastic bin lid that has been repurposed as a tray for seed starting - this is now in our greenhouse.

CD hung on sisal twine ready to go out to the garden to scare birds away from my seeds.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goat babies are on the way!

This is what Sassafras looked like last summer.

This is what she looks like today. The poor girl can't hop up onto the milking stand without help right now!

We are definitely seeing signs of our impending goat babies. Sass is huge, of course, but we are also beginning to see some small changes to her body that are alerting us to the arrival of her kids. She's had twins the last few times she's been bred (prior to coming to live with us), so we expect at least two. By the size of her, I'd guess more like 5, but we've read that the size of the goat really doesn't mean much in terms of number of babies. If she had one girl and one boy, we'd be thrilled as we already have a home for a boy (and we'd like to keep one girl).

This weekend was about getting ready for the birth. We started with the purchase of the remaining necessary items to build our version of a 'kidding stall'. Basically, we fenced off a small portion of the goat area using cattle panels and t-posts. We found a gate at our local feed store that was on sale because it was dented and installed that as well. We relocated the pole that we'd originally sunk to hold the goat's water bucket (last summer) and used that to hold the gate. And then we added a hook to the inside of the Quonset hut to hold the water bucket. All we have left to do is figure out a way to offer hay (inside the hut so it stays dry). We normally use a hanging net and we have a spare that we were going to use, but the hut isn't tall enough for the net. I don't think we'll need to have that much hay in there, anyway and will probably just settle for another large bucket.

The plan is to start keeping Sass in the kidding area at night starting on Tuesday. That is 7 days before her official due date, and that way, if she does give birth at night the babies are protected from a potentially rambunctious Buddy and they are born in a clean and fairly sanitary area (as opposed to the field where the chickens free range).

After we got the fencing installed, we gave Sass her 'birthing haircut'. Basically, using electric clippers that we bought for this occasion, I shaved her udder, her tail, part of her belly, the backs of her legs, and around her privates. In some areas, I left 1/4 inch hair and in others, I went more bare. Basically, the idea is to 1) help her be easier to clean up after the event, 2) make it easier for us to see the signs signalling a pending birth and 3) make it easier for the kids to find her teets. Apparently, it's not unheard of for kids to starve because they are sucking on long hair and not an actual teet. We also took the opportunity to shave the little beard that Sass was growing. This not only makes her look a little more 'lady-like' but it keeps her cleaner. That beard gets stuck in blackberry brambles and it can get caked with mud/water/baking soda/goat mineral, etc. In the interest of preserving our goat's dignity, I did not take photos of her 'hair cut' for posting on the internet. That, and I was so covered with goat hair that I was afraid it would get caught in the camera! ;-)

I also checked the list of the items we need for our kidding kit. We have everything, and we just need to collect it all into one place so that we can grab it and go. I'll be doing that tomorrow night after work. I think I'll put it all in an extra rubbermaid bin for safekeeping. I think we are ready!

Good news! When we were at the local feed store buying the gate, we asked about a butcher that will do chickens for us. There is a local one, so we are planning out our strategy for raising a few meat birds this summer. Additionally, we asked about offing our extra rooster, and the woman who owns the store said that she knew of someone who was looking for a full grown one! She has 4 hens who are about the same age as our rooster (8 months), so with any luck, our lower ranking rooster will soon have his own harem and I won't have to be the one to 'solve' the rooster problem. Phew!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

5-minute bread photos

Here I just dumped the flour into the container that I store the dough in - on top of the water, salt and yeast that was already lightly mixed.

This is what the dough looks like after hand-mixing with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes.

After chilling, I pull a 1lb size hunk off the main dough, quickly form it into a ball and leave it to rest for 40 minutes on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. This is after the 'rest' and after I sliced the top before baking.

Beautiful baked bread is ready in about 30 minutes.

I can never get over how crispy the outside is while the inside stays moist and delicious!

Making bread using the '5-minute' method is so simple and so delicious! And the variations are are some photos of the focaccia I made. I basically did the same thing as above but I flattened the dough a little after shaping. Then I spread out some lightly sauteed onions, rosemary, coarse salt, cracked pepper and olive oil on top. Bake (without a stone) and Voila! Focacia!

Before baking...

...and after. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

RE-Cycle Challenge

Examples of my attempt to make use of all things - why recycle when I can repurpose (and then recycle later)?

Yesterday I brought my bike into work with me (in the car). My plan was to leave my car at work and bike home (and then to bike back the next morning). I had an extra day of clothing in the car, an extra lunch in the fridge, and plenty of clothing options for the ride home so that I could adapt to whatever Mother Nature decided to throw at me.

She decided to be kind. It was dry with temps in the high 40’s – very little wind, and daylight until 7:30 pm. Perfect! I ended up really enjoying the ride home. The construction on part of my route is finally complete, so there is now a nice bike lane and plenty of room for both me and the cars. Once I turned off the main roads, it got even better. The birds were chirping, the bullfrogs were singing and it really felt like spring. I even heard what I hope was a horse giving birth (at least, that's the story I'm going to believe)! The only detraction was the alarming amount of trash along the sides of the road. I know that there is always the occasional broken bungee cord, discarded paper cup or dropped glove…but this spring, the amount of trash seems unusually high. So…to do my own little part, I’m pledging to do a RE-Cycle. Every time I ride, I will pick up a piece of trash and either reuse it, repurpose it, recycle it or as a last resort, relocate it (to a trash can). I will try and opt for things that won’t break down (like plastic, metal or glass) and I will avoid food or paper that will probably decompose as fast where it lies than it would in my compost bin.

Last night, I picked up a plastic lid from some storage bin of some sort. It caught my eye because of the color, but I stopped because it was 1) so out of place, and 2) easily reachable by me. It has a nice lip on it, so my plan is to use it as a tray to hold seedling starting pots. I’ll do that this weekend and take a photo to share. In fact, my plan is to take photos of all the trash I repurpose…in case my ideas give someone else an idea.

This morning, on the ride back in (which was also enjoyable, if a bit slow), I picked up an empty Powerade bottle. I actually saw quite a bit of potentially useful trash, but most of it was on the other side of the ditch and today that ditch was full of fast-moving water. Perhaps once we dry out a bit, I’ll be able to safely pick up some of that other stuff. For now, this Powerade bottle will become either a codling moth trap (which I will explain in another post) or I’ll cut off the top (and recycle it) and use the bottom for seedling transplants in the greenhouse. At this point, I’ve used just about every single plastic container that I had saved already. Our greenhouse is fast filling up with future fresh food!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My trip to China

I mentioned a few posts back that when I don't have time to write in my blog that I ought to at least share photos. That is what I am doing today. These are some of the photos I have from my quick trip to China last October. I went for work, we were there for just 4 days and we had a VERY long travel day to get there due to cancelled flights. My only free time was when it was dark, so my photo ops were either from car/train/boat/plane windows (yes, I rode all of those in one day!) or at night. Either way, here's a small look into the window on Shenzhen, Dongguan and Zhongshan, China...and a couple of Hong Kong where I didn't stay but just passed through.

This is my first view of China. That is Shenzhen across the river and we are standing on an elevated walkway in Hong Kong right near the border crossing.

This is a sidewalk in Shenzhen right outside the building that houses customs (at the border crossing). The weather was gorgeous and the air was MUCH cleaner than I expected.

Delivery guy on a bike taking a smoke break.

Billboards line the streets of Shenzhen.

This building (like many in China) was totally covered in scaffolding. There was lots of construction going on. All this scaffolding is made of bamboo!

We drove from Shenzhen to Dongguan. This is part of Dongguan right outside where our hotel was located.

This was the view from my hotel room window (we luckily had time to clean up before meeting our customers - we'd been traveling for more than 24 hours at this point!)

This was the pool in our hotel. I didn't get to use it, but it was beautiful!

This was dinner one night in Dongguan. In this restaurant, you pick out your food while it's still swimming in a tank and then they prepare it for you...

We had MANY dishes, but only a few of the photos are post-worthy. This was octopus.

And lobster. Delicious!

That night, we walked around Dongguan a little near the hotel with one of our customers as a guide. This is a huge mall right across the street from where we stayed. There is actually a Wal-Mart on the other side of this mall (we visited it...just to see). If everything in a US Wal-mart is made in China, was everything in a Chinese Wal-mart made in the US? What do YOU think? ;-)

After a few days in Dongguan, we traveled by car to Zhongshan for a night. One of our customers took us out on the town that night and we visited a part of town called Old Zhongshan. It was very cool - old buildings renovated to be current shops and bars. It reminded me a bit of Ybor City in Tampa.

Me riding/posing in a bronzed rikshaw.

Zhongshan at night.

The next day, we took a car, then a ferry, then a train and then two planes to get back to the US. This was taken from the ferry on the way into Hong Kong. Those are apartments. Can you say 'population density'?

This was taken from the train that took us from the ferry to the airport. It's hard to see, but it's like a bit of OLD Hong Kong tucked admist speeding trains and skyscrapers.

Finally, a shot of Hong Kong (also taken from the train) showing how lush the country is when you step away from the city.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Today had a bit of a blueberry theme to it.

First off, I joined again yesterday. It's a site where you can log your food intake and exercise and any number of other things. I had let my account lapse last fall because I wasn't using as much as I should have been. Since it's time I got serious about losing weight, I need to start logging my intake. This site is the best I've found - it suits me and what I want to be able to do. So tday was my first full day of logging. I did well with my calories eaten and burned, but I need to work on the other details (sodium, cholesterol, etc). And the graphic on the main page (and on my 'favorites' link) is a blueberry!

This morning we took a walk around our property talking about the projects we want to accomplish this spring and summer. We will be expanding our square foot garden boxes (adding 4 more), we will be adding blueberry bushes both in the front yard and in the back, we'll need to add some berries to our bramble trellis area, we want to build a goat building (two real stalls and a milking area), we need to prune one more apple tree and take down a few branches off our neighbor's tree that are blocking our apple tree sun, we measured for fencing both for the goat area and for our herb garden near the house, and we talked about where we will be planting our sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes). After that, we made a nice long list of purchases to work towards over the next few weeks and then headed to the local nusery. We purchased 4 red raspberry plants to compliment our blackberries and our loganberries. We bought 8 blueberry bushes (3 for the front and 5 in the back) and we made sure to plan it so that our harvest spreads the entire summer. We bought some seed potatoes and a few lettuce and onion seeds because I think ours are too old (the germination rate sucks). Lastly, we priced fencing at a few places and we think we know what we want to do starting next weekend.

Tomorrow we have plans to go into Portland and see Wicked! I'm excited. I can't wait to see how it compares to the book (which I really enjoyed).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's not about the bike - except when it is...

My Terry Classic commuter bike - with the old wheels.

The same bike with my spiffy new Velocity Uriel wheels. These are the same type of wheel on my road bike and I really like them.

And this post IS about the bike! Actually, it's about me on the bike. As you may remember, I live about 20 miles from my place of employment (by bike route - it's a bit shorter by car). Last summer I was all gung-ho about biking to work as a means of transportation, save the environment, save cash, lose weight, yadda, yadda, yadda. In fact, I can't think of a single reason NOT to bike to work, save one. Time. It costs me 3 hours out of my day to bike to work in the morning and then again home at night. That's a lot of time when there are things to harvest and goats to milk, as was the case last fall. Then of course bad weather moved in. Then it got really dark. And then I got out of shape!

So here I am, months later, finally thinking that I need to bike to work again. I've got a couple more good reasons now, too. First of all, the days are getting longer again. Secondly, we aren't milking Sass at the moment or harvesting anything, so there is more time. Thirdly, my bike is all spiffed up with brand new wheels! Yes! My wonderful husband bought me new wheels for my birthday and I haven't yet had the chance to really try them out. My old wheels were touring wheels which meant that they were basically bullet-proof but also very heavy. Rolling weight like that is the first thing to slow you down on a bike (besides a poor 'engine'). While I resisted getting new ones for a long time saying that I just needed to get stronger, I admit that I finally broke down. Not only will these make getting back into shape easier, but they'll make me faster once I am in shape and that means a little less time commuting. Plus...they are HOT, are they not?

Anyway, I am writing about this now because I'm pretty certain that I'm going to ride into work tomorrow. I've been getting up early all week for various reasons, but I'm starting to get used to it. It's also the only reasonably dry day in the foreseeable future (including snow next week!). I'm not conditioned enough to bike the whole way right now, so I'm going to drive to a spot down the road (with my bike) and then bike from there. Total commute will be about 12-13 miles each way instead of 20. Once I get used to that, I'll start doing the whole distance. I'll report back how it goes!

One point of note about my bike photo: Yes, the front wheel on my commuter bike is smaller than the rear wheel. You are not imagining things. The rear wheel is a typical 700 cc size...the front is a much smaller 24" wheel. This combination is more common on a recumbent bike (which is where I ordered the wheelset) than on a diamond frame bike. It's designed that way to allow for a shorter top tube length without sacrificing handling or seat tube angle. I have very short arms and legs, so I need a small bike. My road bike has two wheels that are the same size, but they are both 650 cc smaller than a typical road wheel and again, they allow for a shorter top tube (the part of a bike most critical to fit). You can read more on bike fit for women on the Terry Bicycles web site ( or on Sheldon Brown's site (