Welcome to the journey,the tale and the saga of our

Monday, June 29, 2009

To much of a not so good thing.

After a slight delay, Chance and I knocked down the hay bales last night.Oh my goodness or not so goodness. The bales were full of great big fat and happy slugs.UGH! We spread out the hay around the garden area it amounted to about an 8 inch layer of wet slug infested mess.Last night Chance was thinking we could leave the hay in place and just move it aside from where we were thinking of having beds but after doing some reading this morning I think not.
Mulch can be a good thing and can be helpful but we have way too much of a once good thing.I read in several books and on the web that to heavy of mulch can harbor slugs and rodents.Also hay/straw mulch takes away the nitrogen from the top layer of the soil.It is also helpful to live in an environment where the weather changes more drastically from cold to hot; it kills off pests.We don't have that kind of weather here it tends to be fairly mild in Oregon.Cool and damp and then warm and damp.
We already have the slugs and between the Chicken coop and the wood pile we have to be careful about rats.I am not interested in creating a habitat for unwanted guests.Birds,Bees and Butterflies are welcome but not Rats or Slugs.
In the ten years I have been planting a garden here we have never had any problems with slugs.I always figured the bottom fruits and veggies were fair game and never lost much to the slugs.But when we uncovered whole nests of them I was a bit grossed out,coming from a girl who butchers chickens without blinking and is pretty clam about bugs and slime,it has to be bad.Maybe I should order a Keg of beer and leave it open in the garden for the slugs.Ha ha if there's going to be a keg in my garden I would have to have a party with people as guests.
As I write this Chance is still at work so I have no idea yet what we will do with our problem.Well, we will find a solution that's for sure.
I think the hay needs to mostly go.We can put some on the compost pile and give some to the neighbors for their compost piles.After that we will have to get creative.Maybe post an ad on Craigslist: Free heavy, wet, slug infested and slightly rotten hay.You dig and you haul.It would not be the weirdest thing I have seen for free on there. If we had Ducks they would eat the slugs.
Do you know why most birds do not eat slugs? The slime on the slugs is their defense,when a bird picks up a slug to eat it, the slime coats the birds mouth.This coating causes numbness in the mouth.It's not toxic, it is just startling to the bird, who then drops the slug.To prove this point I licked a slug while teaching at a camp in high school.It dose not take much for the numbness to set in and then your mouth feels like its full of snot.Kids don't try this one at home.Like I said it's not toxic but I am not to sure about the sanitation of the deed.
If anyone out there has some bright idea about how to use up all of this hay PLEASE leave us a note here. Chance and I are creative thinkers but this could prove to be a major creative block for us.Wait as I wrote that I thought of something........I think we need some hay for the Cobb Oven I wonder .....? Ok back on track now. Tips,Clues,Suggestions are gladly accepted.
The other day when I wrote I had hoped knocking down the bales would be a simple enough task and that this posting would be about making Jerky.We did indeed make the Jerky for the boys to take to camp.It is so good that I had to send Issac with a warning."Do Not Eat it ALL in One Day!" He has Crohn's too and a call from the camp telling me Issac is on his way to the ER with gut pain would be BAD BAD BAD. Once we get this hay problem out of the way I will come back to a Jerky posting.
Well, the best laid plans can go astray right?I was going to take this week off and relax but oh well.I was not even sure what I'd do with myself since I don't do,doing nothing well.After my breakfast it looks like I'll start with figuring out where to put all of that muck.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Oops Here's the photo of the two lettuces I mentioned. There's a big difference.

A cross roads,which way to go?

Chance and I have been scratching our heads over our Hay Bale garden beds. First we had some things bolt really early in the season,then some of the tomatoes were not doing well and despite our diligent efforts nothing was eager to grow. Over the past couple of weeks we have given one more push to get the bales to do better and there's no change.And after comparing our front garden beds with the bales we have come to a cross roads, one way leaves the bales to do what they will do and the other is to knock down the bales and start mostly over.
We have opted for the second path,knock it all down and start again and this is how we came to that. We planted Flashy Backed Trout Lettuce from the same packet in both the hay bales and the front beds, as you can see from the photo there is a huge difference even though the larger heads from the front were planted a good 6 weeks after the little ones from the bales. Besides the lettuce doing better in the beds everything else planted in the beds are verdant and right on track in their growth.We have used the same methods of care in both places and even tried giving the bales closer attention since they were new to us. The soil from both places is even the same load of soil we bought this spring.So where did we go wrong?
I am not so sure it is a matter of going wrong or over looking some important point.Chance and I have both come to the same conclusion that is based on what we know about building soil , erosion and compost here in Oregon.Making compost in wet Oregon takes work; the rain tends to wash away the surface of the compost,cause it to be to wet and cold and the rain washes away the nutrients we are trying to create. To make good compost one has to be on top of things,sometimes this means covering and uncovering your compost pile daily being sure to turn it often and being patient helps too.The rain also causes a type of erosion called Real Erosion.This type of erosion is small and slowly washes away the soil on the surface.This is a concern when your soil is shallow like on top of the hay bales.
With these two points in mind this is what we think.Our idea is the shallow soil is not holding on to the nutrients because of the watering washing it down into the bales bottoms.When we started our bales we used new bales that we sped up the composting with Blood Meal.From what we read it should work.Although some sources state to use bales that are a year old so they have already started to break down on their own.(but without a forklift I don't know how on Earth one would ever get those bales moved) So we are thinking the combination of erosion concerns and maybe old bales are better ours did not prosper.
Today we take down the bales.We have an elderly neighbor who lives kitty corner behind us named Dick.Dick makes compost that is black gold.I know if that man put it in bags and sold it he would quickly become the king of compost.Dick has offered us the rest of his pile,which is several wheelbarrow loads.We will be sure to work out a trade with him most likely some wood cutting since he only heats with wood.We will save the tomatoes with the hopes they survive and then knock things down, layer straw and compost and see if we can still make our garden work.
Sometimes when things don't go well it can be disappointing.We are a bit disappointed but not defeated. I think the best part of this learning moment is we were able to have the comparison of the Hay Bale Beds and the in the ground Front Beds.It was like running some sort of field science test and when you think about it was one.We tried something new,applied knowledge,made our observations and like in science even though things did not go the way we hoped we still learned from it.
I also should admit I enjoy the front beds more.I like grubbing around in the dirt and the smell of good healthy soil is a good scent to me.With the bales I missed that.But my bias did not keep me from taking care of the bales,it just was not the same.
So there we are folks, on to the next thing to come along. Before we start in the garden I have yet another round of raspberries to pick,after this round I almost have enough to make jam.If anyone is looking for a new type of lettuce to try I suggest the Flashy Backed Trout, a leaf lettuce with brownish red spots we are enjoying it and plan to plant more.
My next post I will write all of you about making Jerky. We are making some for each of our boys to take with them to camp,it should give them plenty of trading power with the other boys.
Have a good weekend,enjoy your weather and those you hold dear.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I started out today feeling sorry for myself.I live with this disease Crohn's a hereditary digestive autoimmune disorder,I was born with,it won't kill me and on a scale of 1-10 mine is a 1. I have been running, running and just not stopping.That's a bad habit of mine,maybe if I keep going the Crohn's will go away.I am out to prove to myself my disease WILL NOT stop me, can't you see I am to busy for it,there's better things to do.I am not in denial about having this disease but I just don't talk about it so dear readers this may be the only time I mention my own Crohn's.But finally my body has sent me a warning to slow down a bit and remember to stop.Nothing awful esp.when you read up on what Crohn's can be,I am just tired.At Chance's nagging I slowed down today and only did what I wanted.
So to slow down and to stop myself from sinking into this depressing self talk I spent my day outside in the yard.I know kind of crazy,I am suppose to be slowing down,most would think I'd put my feet up and do nothing.I did slow down and set my own pace and stopped when I wanted to.
I find spending time in solitude to be very soothing.By nature I am a solitary person and relish time spent alone.Not easy as a busy parent,the boys were out for the day so I took the day for myself.
I did a bit of weeding and trimming of various things.Checked on the Apples which are looking good.It looks like our little Apple needs some more support lines.I picked 3 more pints of Raspberries with the hens cackling to me and wanting out to join me.
I uncovered our outdoor alter from the mint that was growing into a shrub.I had by then let the hens out to roam the yard.Chickens are great company,with their fuzzy rumps up digging for bugs and happy clucks when something was extra good. I did sit and read for a good while,with my feet up and the sun shinning on me,good old vitaminD.
The weather was fresh and warm today.We had a nice wind blowing and I felt as if my woes were going with the wind.I am still tired but I feel better in the head.I will be sure to slow down,take my vitamins,follow my diet,remember naps are ok and maybe see my doctor soon.
On to a totally different topic- Chance made some excellent smoked Salmon today.He had cured it with salt and brown sugar and left it in the fridge for couple of days to soak up the cure and dry out. The time spent in the fridge is when the fish becomes preserved,it allows the salt to soak in and do its job.The afternoon in the smoker was all about yummy Hickory Chips adding to the flavor.
The Comfrey Tea I was working on the last posting was I think a success. I had a couple of Tomato plants looking a bit pale and limp,I thought we might lose them.The day after I poured the tea on them the plants had perked up.I fed the Chickens the boiled Comfrey greens,they gobbled them up.I was happy to see this evening the hens left the Comfrey plants alone. After reading in a couple of places about the benefits to using Comfrey in your compost,garden or as part of your chicken feed I now wish I had lots more.We currently have 3 medium sized clumps of it.Comfrey is suppose to be an invasive plant but I have had those same 3 plants for 4 years now.It seems like anything that is suppose to take over your garden stays put for me or like Hollyhocks won't grow at all,go figure.
I did not mention in my last post that I had gone to a chicken class.These great folks held this class at their home in Portland.They are using permaculture methods at their house.The class was about ways to not buy feed for your flock of chickens.Mostly it means asking at local food businesses for scraps.But I did learn about some of the weeds that chickens really enjoy.This is where I learned about feeding your birds Comfrey.They also mentioned Clevers or as I know it Piggie Back Plant.Today while weeding I found a clump and took it staight a way to the girls and they did gobble it up.The class has made me a bit more aware of the stuff I am pulling up to compost.Today I ended up with 2 piles of weeding, one for the compost and one for the hens.
I am looking forward to see what other classes they will be holding.I enjoyed meeting them,they were very open with their knowledge and like Chance and I are just wanting to share what they know.
Besides making good food Chance has been very busy here with a blacksmithing order.Right now he is working on an order for some Dutch Oven Cooking gear,pot hooks, trivets and a rack.As soon as the order is filled he will be making some yard and garden things to sell from home.Our plan is to have a table of things for sale open when we are home featuring produce,eggs and black smithing.
So I guess it is no wonder my body wants to slow down we are always doing and going.Next week the boys go to camp while they are gone I will have a bit of a vacation.If you come to find me I'll be out in the back garden living under our pear tree happily resting and on vacation.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Today at Hrafinstaad we celebrated Father's Day.Chance requested a batch of my Sticky Buns,a nice cinnamon roll with a caramel goo over them. As a surprise the boys and I bought Chance a book he has been drooling over. We bought him a copy of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, it is all about making and curing your own meats,sausages,bacons and more.When Chance was working as a chef he learned the basics of curing but has wanted to learn to do more.This afternoon he started the curing of a piece of salmon we got from our Alaskan neighbors.Once the salmon is done curing he will smoke it.Looks like I'll be making some bageals soon.This book will give us another way to provide ourselves with good quality foods. I looked through the book and even though I have only made Beef Jerky in the oven I think I would be able to do some of the basics on my own.
After breakfast we took a trip to a local asian super market called Fubon.Fubon is the size of a large Safeway store and is a great adventure in cooking.The main reason to go today was to price some cuts of meats that Chance wants to use with his new book.We found,uncured picnic ham,side pork for bacon,ducks and many more good looking meats. We like shopping at the asian markets.The prices tend to be lower on some standard things like noodles, rices,fruit and veggies.Depending on the market the meat can be a good buy too,you may not always reconize the cut but sometimes you can figure out how you could use it or learn to use.You can also find packages of common spices for a good price. By looking at the packaging it can be easy to figure out what flavor many items are,a chicken for chicken,a pig for pork ect. We also just ask a passing shopper if they can tell us about what we are looking at,so far people have been very helpful and we have tried some new things through their suggestions.When we like something we remember the packaging,a common trick when one can not read.
This morning we also picked the first round of raspberries from the garden.We picked 2 pints this morning and will have about the same tomorrow.We were also able to beat the Robins to 1 pint of cherries,these were just for snacking.The raspberries have gone into the freezer until I have enough for at least a few jars of jam to add to the stock pile.
The garden is coming along. We are still waiting for a bulk of it to be ready to harvest,we have had lots of salads,peas,strawberries and we are now sick of radishes.(note to self- not so many radishes next year) The pumpkins I planted on the Coop roof are up about 4 inches.They did that surprise thing gardens do,not there in the morning come back later and there they are poof and big. The Les Poulets chicks will be ready for butchering in less than a month.
This afternoon I started a new project of sorts.I read that you can make a tea out of comfery leaves and then pour the water/tea on your garden beds as a fertilizer.I have started the "tea" brewing in a five gallon bucket.When it is done I am going to feed the mashed up comfery to the chickens,it is suppose to be like a tonic to them.We will see,chickens are supossed to like comfery but ours have so far left the plants alone.Hopefully I don't give them a taste for it and lose my plants.
The coming week may be a quiet one here on the blog,I will be focused on getting everything ready for the boys' week at camp.I am sure there will be last minute shopping for some odd thing.I am also sending them with plenty of homemade cookies to share with the other boys in the troop.And probly some seasonings,one year they caught a Chipmunk and ate it after begging at the camp kitchen door for some salt and pepper.I know kind of gross,eating chipmunk but I like to encourage the boys in their more tame adventures,so sending a bit of salt and pepper may lead to some other wild camp story to bring home.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Chance and I often talk about the higher prices for organics.Are they worth it? In some ways yes they are,better health and better for the planet.But what is a family living on a single income with growing boys to do?
This past winter we did some comparison shopping.We tried for one month to buy only organic foods and we learned some interesting things about our selves.
First of all we found it difficult to buy enough to keep hungry teens fed and stay within our food budget. The "There's nothing to eat" that kept coming just was not worth the price to us.Our boys are not picky eaters and are happy as long as there is plenty.
We tried eating less meats,no big deal there we are not big meat eaters any way.It is not uncommon for us to buy a nice block of cheese as our protein for dinner or a veggie based protein.Cutting back on something we did not eat much of in the first place still did not save us enough to make things work.
I don't buy processed foods organic or not,so I could not even try and cut those out.
During this time to try and make sure we were shopping smart we only bought what we thought we would use so there was no waste.This is a good habit no matter what kind of food you are buying.Still it was not working and it kind of pissed me off. I was not pissed about our economics but about the higher prices of organics.This led me to looking for the an answer and this is what I found.
It costs more to raise organic foods. It starts with the price of organic grains to feed the live stock.Some articles stated that the price of organic grains has been driven up because of Bio-Fuels,that's a whole different topic and for now is not really on my radar.
As some of you know we are raising 7 chickens to be butchered by ourselves very soon.We wanted the taste of a home grown chicken for our dinner plates.We want to know where that chicken came from.To know we had a relationship with that food. I have been tracking the cost of raising these birds,it's not especially cheap. The cost per bird will come out higher than a standard store bought chicken and lower than an organic one.With the cost of feed and the purchasing of the chicks they will end up costing us around $9 per bird.Is it worth it? Yes it is. We have learned something about the cost of raising food in a responsible way,it is not always cheap.But we have had the satisfaction of doing it ourselves.
It also costs more to amend soil organically.Ok I get that one,I the little guy pays a bit more to find organic fertilizers when I need them.It takes us a year to make a good batch of compost and it takes a bit of work too.
The next three have points I understand too.
There is more loss to growing organic produce, without sprays to kill the bugs, it happens.Even here at Hrafinstaad I lost some of my lettuces to slugs, because I won't spray.
Many organic farmers handpick their produce instead of using machinery.Boy do I get this one,having worked in the fields as a teen I know what kind of labor that takes,even with low pay for the workers.
Number three I think could be worked out if someone could think outside of their box.The organic farmers are mostly small farms,they can not produce a large enough quantity to bring the prices down.Factor in the over head costs and it is no wonder why farmers are never wealthy.
Overall I understand the whys but it dose not make it any better. Not wanting to give up on organic foods started us on our journey here. We wanted to come up with our own solution,if no one else was going to think outside of the box we were.Grow our own on our own terms.
We have spent $350 dollars on the production of food.This amount dose not include the feed for the hens or meat chicks.If I average it out over the 20 weeks we hope to eat fresh from the garden that is $17.50 a week (not including water).This is less than we would spend either at a store or the farmers markets for veggies.We get on average 12 dozen eggs per month ,they average out to $1.66 per dozen a good savings for free range eggs.We are saving money,money that can be funneled into those pricey organics we can't grow ourselves.
That savings is not the prize any more,it started out as the prized wanted but we have found new prizes that were not sought.
Chance and I both feel accomplished even in these tough economic times.We have taken control of things and made them work for our family.
We have learned so many new things and met some great new friends in the process. Knowledge and community are a wealth of their own.
We have been reminded to be thoughtful in all we do.You can't progress with your eyes closed.
And Farmers are under paid,over worked and not valued by most. With this in mind my quest to find out why organics are so high is over,I get it.In the back of my head I knew it,you can't come from a family of past farmers not to know it.I guess living it on a small scale is what it took to ram it home.

P.S Wow I was looking back over this and I should mention this point,I did not even factor in to all of my averaging our labor.I don't have a clue how many hours we have put into the garden and chickens or its worth.Its been a labor of love for us and endless pleasure. There's a phrase I read on another blog that stands out,"Do what you love and the money will come." Chance and I do all of this for the pleasure of it,Farmers do it for love and money,geeze was I being thick headed in being pissed about the price of organics.I still wish more people could afford them and maybe someone will step outside of the box and come up with a solution.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Note about the Liquid Soap

I have a couple of different liquid soap dispensers that have different sized tubes that come from the pump head.I have found that the bottle with a larger sized tube works the best. The smaller tube did not seem to be able to bring up enough of the soap without a million pumps.

Liquid Soap and a Soil Test.


I finished the Liquid Soap this morning.Last night I had used only part of the the tea for the liquid and it made a jar full of goo that was like lard so I added the rest of my reheated tea, mixed it again and we now have almost a gallon of liquid soap.
First what I did was grated up one bar (about 4 oz ) of natural soap.The soap grated was neat looking,little tiny curly ques in a bowl.The bar of soap I had was an Oatmeal bar.
Next I made a tea out of a large handful of mint leaves.You only have to get the water to the temp where it is steaming. You can also use plain water for no scent or the scent of the bar.
Add the water/tea to the bowl that has the grated soap,let it sit for 15 minutes.Now using a hand mixer blend the soap mixture.Careful it will foam up . The liquid in the bowl will feel like soapy dish water and seem very thin,don't worry it firms up to a snot like texture.Sorry I could not think of a better word for the texture and it was something everyone would get.
Now let it sit.I had left the first try over night but this morning I left for about 4 hours and it was ready.As the soap cools it goes through several changes.The first change I noticed was there were milky swirls and slowly the swirls became more of a mass.
Once the soap was ready I poured it into a recycled milk jug and a Mason jar.I plan on storing away the milk jug and keeping the jar under the sink.
My friend at Acorn Cottage had tried a different recipe for liquid soap with some goofy results,we kept singing the theme song from the movie The Blob because it was a big slimy, rubbery blob that takes a bit of manhandling to use. This flop is what inspired me to try a different recipe.I liked this one it had only two ingredients and actually worked.

Chance started a Soil Test (the last 2 photos) today to check our clay content to build the Cobb Oven.He took the soil from the soon to be building site in the back yard.He filled a Mason jar about 1/4 of the way with the soil, added about 3 tablespoons of Salt ( the salt helps it to settle faster) then filled the rest of the jar with water,now shake it up to mix. He let the jar sit for about 10 minutes.During that time you could see the different layers of soil components appearing.
The bottom of the jar is sand and gravel ,then silt followed by clay,a layer of water and the top is organic matter.
We are needing 75-85% sand and 15-25% clay for the Cobb. The Soil Test is looking good,we may have to add a bit more clay which we will figure out after the test has set over night.Chance is also going to do a Ball Soil test.You make a ball out of your soil and drop it from waste high and depending on what it does when it hits the ground you can determine your soil make up.I will post again when he dose this test.
I know there are other uses for the first soil test we did.It can give you a good idea of your soil make up for gardening and what you may need to add.I like knowledge that carries over into many areas,it makes thing easy.
So it is looking like while the garden is growing we will be starting the Cobb Oven soon.Chances goal is to have the oven ready to use by August.Looks like the community bake days I was dreaming of will come sooner than I thought.I can't wait for the pizza's,breads and goodies to come.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Strawberry Jam

This morning my Mother came to help me make Strawberry Jam.It was fun to work with my Mom in the kitchen doing something different together.I learned a couple of tips along the way that were helpful and not in my Ball Blue Canning Book.
Before we began I made sure I had out everything we would need.The first photo shows my Canning Kettle with its jar rack and the jar puller.Also my biggest pot for cooking the jam in.
Chance and I had already sliced off the tops of the berries before Mom arrived.The first step was to crush the berries with a potato masher a bit,we left some chunks of berries.
Mom pointed out as went along that careful measuring is important when canning.You can see her measuring out the 7 Cups of sugar we needed for each batch.we did not try to do double batches but instead we did singles.This made for a bit more work but we knew there would not be any mistakes that way. I did the stirring, I had a nice Strawberry facial this morning.
Once the cooked berries were ready to pull off of the heat Mom taught me a trick,carefully skim off the foam that sits on top of the jam in the pot.When I asked her why she did not know why,the closest answer she had was because that is the way her Grandmother did it.We put the foam into a bowl to set aside.Mom said to put some on bread for the house full of boys to eat.(I have had a house full since Friday,school is out and so far camping in our back yard is the first adventure of the summer for the gang.) The minute my Mom said that to me I remembered this treat from when I was a kid.
I think the reason to skim the foam is the foam may leave a crust on the top of the jars of jam.This is only my thought and I am just guessing from a past experience with some bad canning given as a gift.It's all about looks I suppose.
The other thing I learned from my Mom today was she never water bathed her jars to process them.I am still alive so it worked but we did decide that since I have the big canning kettle we might as well be super safe and use it.Whew,I was a bit worried she would be upset if I vetoed her saying skip this important step.
And as you can see from the final photo it came out looking so very good.The taste is perfect and will be very welcome on our morning toast and PB&J sandwiches.
I am not going to go into great detail here,we followed the recipe in the Ball Blue Canning Book which seems to be a standard for many people.Its a good book if you are starting out on your own it is straight forward and has easy to follow directions that make it possible for anyone to can.
The one point of encouragement I want to pass along is this. I used to have this vision of canning as long scalding hot days spent slaving away over mountains of produce and what not.In the that vision I saw hundreds and hundreds of jars,stored all over the house. That is not really true for every one. I realized that just like when planting your garden you should only plant the things you like and in a quantity you can use the same is true of canning.It did not take all day to make the jam just a couple of hours in the cooler morning hours,that's not to bad is it?
Figure out what you use and estimate how much. This year I am canning 3 kinds of jam.We only go through 2 jars a month.If I can the small amount of 12 jars per kind that gives us a total of 36 jars of jam for the year and do the math that will give me 12 extra jars for the oh ooops or for giving away. As time goes by we will make adjustments I am sure.Last summer we canned a 25# bag of cucumbers for pickles,we loved them so much that this year we will do a 50# bag. We are still learning as we go, it's about taking a journey not getting to the destination so much.
Invite someone over or pull your partner of choice into the kitchen to try some canning.Togetherness makes everything so much better.
I am in workaholic mode right now.I tend to go through these spells where I am working on something sun up to sun down (not that I am not always busy anyway).So after my Mom went home I started a batch of liquid hand soap.I found a recipe that called for a gallon of water and a bar of natural soap grated up.The recipe also said you could make a fragrant herbal tea in place of plain water. I picked some fresh mint from the garden,lord knows it will come back to make a "tea". I think it is working out,I have to let it sit over night and then maybe make some adjustments. I will post again about it and let everyone know how it turned out.If I can truly make a gallon of soap for so cheap I will be happy.Hand washing is manditory at our house and with a busy project driven family we use a lot of liquid soap.
Well I am now over my Strawberry Fever,my jam is ready and frog free so on to the next thing.But what next? Don't know yet I'll be sure to let you all know as soon as I do.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Strawberries and Fjord Horses

Today I felt like I had come home.Chance and I went to pick Strawberries at a farm 15 minutes from our house.We turned down a shady country road lined with Filbert Orchards,so very Oregon country side.As we came closer to the edge of the farms fields we almost crashed the car into a pole.Right there along the road just behind a fence was a small herd of Fjord Horses. At that very moment I was at a perfect spot that heralded the feelings of home to me.The scent of berry fields, green woods and a horse barn made that very moment perfect.
I adore Fjord Horses,if I ever had more money than I needed I would have my own herd.My name means "like running horses" and horses are my kin in my soul. I do ride a bit,my Dad has a mottle crew of horses but they do not fill my soul the way the Fjords do.I have met a few and they are the sweetest of the all of the horses.My Dad had hoped to buy one for me to have at his house but like I said one would need plenty of money to even add one to their family.Someday maybe but until then every time I see them it will continue to thrill me.
We picked a 5 gallon bucketful of berries in about 20 minutes the field was full of those sugary rubies.The farm was run by the family and even the kids were there working,the way a farm should run.By far Jaquith Farm has the best deal I have found,$1 per pound.Although they were not organic they were local and we met the family so we felt good about buying them.We mentioned my blog to the lady of the farm and asked if she minded me posting their contact information and she was thrilled.So if you live near by us and are looking for some berries I would go visit them.The drive there is beautiful even before you turn on to their road.
Here is their phone number which she wrote on our bucket so it would not get lost (503)628-1640
On the way home we stopped at an Estate sale and found 2 dozen canning jars for $4.We are trying to build up our inventory of jars, we have lots to can this year.
I would say our 17th Anniversary is turning out to be a lovely day for us both.We have put the berries in the fridge until tomorrow and plan on finding some other small pleasant thing to do for the rest of the day. Maybe a bike ride to the local park or a walk in some near by woods.

Lucky number 13

The number 13 is a lucky number for me,I was born on the 13th and today June 13th is our wedding anniversary-number 17 wow!
So in the spirit of my favorite number I say welcome to my newest and number 13 follower Lynda.Thanks for joining up to follow my ramblings and rants.
I am looking into picking strawberries today.I know how romantic, a day spent in the fields but any time I can be with my man is good.
I am having a good day and I hope you all will too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

In response to my last blog entry, Homemade Marshmallows are one of the best things I have learned to make instead of buying.The ones from the store are dry and bland in comparison to the ones Sol and I made.This little fellows are smooth and creamy and melt in your mouth.Well worth the effort.The first pan we turned out took some work but , we figured out a trick with the Boning knife that made getting the goo off of the paper easier. I do suggest using a stand mixer to make these unless you want to stand around for 12 minutes holding a hand mixer.Really try these out. Oh, I did not use the food coloring for ours but they are still yummy.
I got a nice reply from Karyn about my slug problem.She suggested using crushed up egg shells,which I have plenty of.She has not tried it herself but I am willing to try it.Chance also read that maybe our garden is to tidy and there's no place for the slugs to have their own habitat. This source sad to lay down some boards to give the slugs a place to live and be found easily so we can get rid of them.I think we will go ahead and try both ideas, couldn't hurt.
Chance and I had a busy afternoon puttering around the yard and garden.Besides some weeding and trimming we got a couple of other projects done.
The first project was to make a new watering bucket for the hens,they needed a bigger one.Chance used a tray for a pot and a cheap bucket to do this. The only tool you need is a drill for the holes you make.First remove the handle of the bucket if there is one, next drill four holes along the rim of the bucket (see photo) spacing the holes so there is one per side. Fill the bucket (we have a 5 gallon one) with water,put the pot tray on like it was a lid now flip it over. A cheap water bucket. We tried a modification with our old bucket that did not work.Chance was hoping to cut a hole in the now top of the water bucket so he could just stick the hose in a fill.This dose not work,you need the vacuum that is created when you flip the bucket over. We spent $7 verse the $30 we have seen plastic pre-fab ones for.
The other project is a combination of different ideas.We put a bag of garden soil on top of our chicken coop,cut a hole and planted Giant Pumpkins in it. I have seen where people have planted whole gardens in bags of soil so why not put the bag on the coop roof.Also a couple of years ago we planted our pumpkins near the coop.This pumpkin grew and grew and grew,up over the covered chicken run,up the fence and over.It was neat and created some summer shade for the birds.So I married these two things but one in reverse.I am hoping the pumpkin will come cascading down from the roof and across the chicken run.Like a little ivy covered cottage but more fun come Halloween.

Well it is Friday Boys Night so I must go make some chow for these hounds.

Coop Top Pumpkins in a bag.

How to make your own Watering Bucket

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Da*#n !

We read some where that gardening in Hay Bales is Slug proof,this is one big myth if you live in damp Oregon.I have never had any problems with slugs so this really PISSES me off.
But there is a happy, sugary,gooey and blissful part to the day,Sol and I made Marshmallows this evening.We are waiting for them to finish setting up.If they are as good as the goo we spooned from the bowl we will never ever eat store bought ones again. More later...

Homemade Marshmallows waiting to be cut


I thought maybe since I am encouraging everyone to become more independent and learn some new skills I should share some.
One skill I think is really important to learn is cooking and some basic baking.Both of these can save you money,put your home grown food to good use and tends to bring a family together.There are many books out there to the point where a novice might be dazed by it all. Don't panic,take some time to read through some books,look on line and find a starting point you are comfortable with.Both Chance and I come from a long line of excellent cooks,Chance was a chef for many years and I was both a baker and a line chef but we both started out with some very simple things. Like us you can start out simple and go as far as you like.Mastering some easy dishes will encourage you to keep going.Never feel like you have to make these crazy many ingredient,hours long,odd ball foods.Learning to make what you and those you are feeding like is the important part.
I make a big pot of soup once a week.Learning to make soup uses up bits and handfuls of meat,veggies,grains and whatever else you may have.Since I find it impossible to make a small pot we end up with lots to eat with little cost.I don't have any set recipes for the soups I make.I just look at what I have and think of soups we like and make the soup based on that.I know that is not helpful to a beginner but I am trying to encourage you to just wing it. With soup you can easily do that,it can be fairly forgiving. Maybe read through some recipes for some ideas to wing it from or use the recipe until you get the hang of it and then do your own.
I have a copy of a Westinghouse cookbook that my Mom used growing up.When I first moved out I had copied down some of the recipes she used all of the time,then she loaned me hers for a bit.I finally found my own copy at an Estate Sale for $1.
My Mom and now myself don't use most of the book, mostly the Breads and Quick Breads section.The rest I use to compare ingredients,times and temps. Mom told me to never use the Cake section unless I needed a brick to use as a door stopper.I have followed her lead on this one,gladly.
One of the recipes I use often is the Baking Powder Biscuits.I like to make something nice to go with dinner when we have soup,it makes me feel like I am making more of a meal for the family.I have made them with whole wheat,spelt and white wheat flour and they always come out light and get gobbled up.The book calls for shortening but I use butter since I don't cook with shortening.You can do this replacement with most recipes with no differences. I thought sharing my biscuit recipe would maybe get some of you started on trying some easy starter baking.

Baking Powder Biscuits from the Betty Furness Westinghouse Cook Book (1954 edition)

Preheat oven to 450F

2 Cups Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
4 Tablespoons Soft Butter or Shortening
3/4 Cups Milk (if you want to make Drop Biscuits use 1 full Cup of Milk)

Sift dry ingredients together.I don't have a sifter so I just use a fork to mix it up a bit.Place Butter or Shortening in to bowl,using your fingers work your choice of fat into flour mixture until it looks like cornmeal.Go fast doing this,over working Biscuit dough makes them tough.Add milk stirring only long enough to combine the ingredients.
For Cut Biscuits : Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.Quickly knead this just for a couple of turns.Now roll out to 1/2 inch thick.No rolling pin? No problem,you can use a smooth sided glass or simply pat the dough out.Now cut them out,again you can use a glass to do this or even a canning jar ring.If after cutting you have a pile of scraps pat/roll them back out and make some more biscuits.Place on cookie sheet or even a 9X13 baking pan.Bake for 10-14 minutes depending on your oven.You are looking for a golden brown bottom and maybe a pale golden top. It should make around 12 biscuits.
For Drop Biscuits: This is the way I do it,I admit I like things to go quickly on week nights. Instead of rolling the dough out place spoon fulls onto a GREASED baking pan.I only stress the grease because you don't have to for the rolled ones.Same baking temp and times.
**** You can add a couple of Tablespoons of sugar to the dough and make ShortCakes or a quick type of Cinnamon Rolls,just roll out the dough brush with some melted butter sprinkle on about 1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar with 2 teaspoons of Cinnamon mixed in.Roll up,slice into 1/2 inch slices,place on greased pan.Bake at 425F for about 15 minutes or untill golden.
I add to the table a plate of sliced cheese,some jam,butter ,pickles and maybe fresh fruit.All of this with hot soup and fresh biscuits make a light meal that we enjoy.And my boys don't know it is one of my budget meals.
The garden is growing still and quietly.Today I noticed the raspberries are ripening.All of the men here will be gone to Scout Camp soon,I'll freeze the raspberries until then and make jam while they are gone.I'll need plenty to do while they are gone it will be just us girls home,the dog,the hens and me.With the token male Toby Cat.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Learning new skills

There's still not much to report here at Hrafinstaad.The last few days have been filled with family life which has had it's ups and downs.
I am working on the outline for our upcoming Chicken Butchering class.It is coming along after much head scratching. I know how to do it without much thought and now that I have to put it down in black and white I feel as if I have left out some gravely important part. Luckily it dose not have to be a "How to..." book. Could you imagine Chicken Butchering for the Complete Idiot sitting on a book shelf ? Or how about How to Kill a Chicken in 10 easy Steps. Kindly when this information is listed in a back to basics or farm skills book it is tidily listed as a chapter in the table of contents.
This last week I have been asking myself this question "How did my Grandparents do this?" My Grandparents and Parents lives have become a base (at least for myself) for what we trying to accomplish here.With this in mind I have started to ask my Mother questions about things like packaging.There has not always been plastic cartons,wrappers and the like.What was done before and can I go back to that method? I have also started to try and remember the 5 million farm life stories my Dad has told me over the years.Little did I know that seeded in those stories was a lot of knowledge I would want.I guess most of what I know and just comes to me as second nature has come from listening to my elders.
Many of the skills my ancestors used were Green,thrifty and plain smart.There was not the dependance on commercially made anything.You made it your self, fixed till it couldn't be any more and used your skills and smarts in any way possible.If you could not do something you traded skills or extra goods with some one who could.
I and my family here in our house are fortunate.Both Chance and I have benefitted from teachings from my Parents. My Parents were born just after the Depression and grew up on farms both factors in what they know and share.This got me thinking about generations,the generation after my parents were different,more town like and only knew the boom times of the 1950's .Suddenly there were "conviences" store bought things and foods.Why should a family raise their own or can for the winter; they can buy a bright shiny can right off the store shelf any old time.Now knowledge was being lost or forgetten.
We live in an Urban area where farm skills and back to basics are not part of the norm.But it is the life we are chosing to live.I know that if some of these skills and practices were already becoming lost nearly 60 years ago then they could be lost arts by now.Both Chance and I are here on our Suburban Homestead working to bring some of it back.We are finding them to be handy in these hard economic times.The world thinkers have asked everyone to rethink how they live their lives and spend their hard earned cash.Look into reading up on the old skills you may find them to be simple and easy to incorporate into your daily life.Save yourself some money,be green and have a sense of pride becuase you did it yourself.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Green Cleaning

I went internet surfing last night and found some green cleaners. First I found this and then this and this one has a good information as to why we should be using green cleaners.Some laundry detergents were found here. And for those of you who are using those Cleaning Wipes here is an idea to break the habit with.I don't use the wipes but it was an interesting idea.
I found one that gave me some food for thought but I am most likely going to try making some laundry detergent any way.I found one blog that mentioned homemade laundry detergents and HE washers.This person uses her homemade detergent in hers without any problems,this is good since we have a HE washer and dryer.
I got so excited about one idea that I tried it late last night.I tried using Olive Oil as a furniture polish.The site said to add some lemon juice to the olive oil for scent,I was not to into the scent part and skipped it. Our dinning room table was bought at a yard sale and needs refinishing,$10 for a vintage Teak table was to good of a buy to worry about the project of refinishing it.The top is very dry looking and when I use the commercially made oil it looks dry again in under 5 minutes. I rubbed the top down with the olive oil, I used maybe 1/8 of a cup and the results are Tres Fabu! As of this morning the table top is still glossy and inviting.So I am using that idea from now on.We always have olive oil in the house and although it is a bit spendy maybe I won't have to oil the table as often and make up the cost.And it is green the most important part.Years ago Chance and I had some wood bowls that we oiled often with Vegtable oil so from the get go I was pretty sure this work.
I looked at lots of green cleaning ideas and most of them used the same items,Vinegar,Baking Soda,Borax,Lemons,Soap and essential oils for scent.A few of them used Ammonia watered down with other items added in.I always have some of the ingredents on hand so putting some of them together to try won't be to hard.I think the only thing I don't have is Borax and bar soap. I read on some of the sites that the start up of making your own cleaners is where their cost lies, but once you start using the cleaners the cost averages out.
For us its mostly about being green in a way that works for us.I look at some of the commercially made green cleaners but never buy them.The cost for them is goofy.(This is a huge topic of disscusion right now for Chance and I ,"Why are organics and green products so much more than anything else?"More on that another day)We are also working on reducing the use of plastic packaging; the plastic bottles the green cleaners come in are wasteful. Yes, most of these bottles are recycelable here but on the other hand there is still some polution to recycling.
Theres plenty of information out there and folks are using it.We will give it a try and judge for ourselves.If these ideas don't live up to my standards then we will keep looking until we find an idea that is Green and works they way we want.
Now I must go do some said cleaning along with baking 2 Birthday cakes,some cooking and garden work.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rain,Wind,& Stormy Weather but no trip to Oz.

Fourth of July Rose and unknown
Climbing Rose

Mock Orange

Back yard/garden.
Chicken Coop in the back.And the Raspberries are along the fence.Tree in right corner is an Asian Pear

The pile of straw holds our Potatoes. Hay Bale Garden beds from the front.

We had a big storm here in the Portland area yesterday.The weather report said to brace for 60 MPH winds, inches of rain and maybe a tornado.( We do get some small twisters here especially farther down the Willamette Valley.Rarely do they do much damage.) It blew and rained but the storm fizzled out by the time it hit us.
Stormy weather equals a party mood here on our block.All the neighbors came out to see what was going on.One neighbor said it felt like being in a kid in the South,storm weather was brewing.It is not uncommon for folks around here to sit on the porches to watch the show Mother Nature is putting on.Only two things happened,a tree branch fell in a yard and a board went flying and dented my car.
We had some thunder and lighting but not a big show like in other parts of the country.We had a "picnic" dinner in front of our big front window so we would not miss a thing.
Today it is cool and damp.Just the way my Oregon body likes it.Having lived here my whole life rain is a vital part to my being.I get tired of winter and its gloom but after a couple of weeks of warm dry weather my body craves wet.
Just the other day I had looked up the local weather on the Farmers Almanac's report for June.The Almanac was calling for rain the 1st -3rd of June. I guess things just got delayed and came all at once.I am hoping the cooler weather it predicts for the rest of the month is true.It got hot here to quick and I was worring about the garden.
The garden is doing just fine.Growing and starting to take off like it should be. The green beans I planted are up and it will be time to string them soon. I planted Blue Lake Pole Beans,if I remember right they were developed right here in Oregon and tend to be hardy abundant producers. We have been munching on handfuls of Strawberries and pulling lots of Radishes.
I noticed last night when I did the final egg check that we had 6 eggs for the day . I was puzzled by it. Had we missed some the day before? I stopped tracking the eggs after a month,the average was not changing from 4 a day.Sol even noticed the "new"eggs.They are smaller and a different color then what we have been getting.We think the Wynadotts have started laying a month earlier than we thought.New laying hen's eggs tend to be smaller until they get the hang of things. And since I can look at our eggs and tell you who laid which egg this must be what is going on.So I have started my egg counting again.
While we are waiting around for the garden to burst with food,I am going to try my hand at making some homemade cleaning solutions and soaps.I have been reading up on it on a blog called Down to Earth. Along with cruising around online.Chance also reminded me that we have not done the Mozzarella project yet. We are preparing for a big family party here this weekend so once that is out of the way we can work on some of these other projects.
I hope you enjoyed the photos I unloaded today.I am still learning how to tag photos and get it all working right.
Until next time,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hrafinstaad's new sign

Chance made this for the end of our walkway. We stopped at SCRAP where I bought some 6x4 magnets to collage over that will have the items we have for sale and their price.If you live or are coming to the Portland area and are a crafty or artsy type you have to go to SCRAP.A great nonprofit that sells recycled stuff.Stuff really is the best word for it,you never know what you will find there.You can walk out of there with a large bagful of scrap for around $5!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lets do the chicken dance,

I spent an hour this evening watching the chickens peck around the back yard.I went out,closed all the gates and emptied my brain.While I sat upon the feed bin I had hoped to come up with some wonderful blog entry filled with useful information and a bit of wit.What I came up with is this pearl,the chicken dance that small children learn to do hits the mark dead on.I was watching Abby as she looked for worms in one of her favorite spots.Yup,that dance is perfect just replace the clapping with happy clucks.
I enjoy just sitting and watching the yard.When I slow down I see there is a lot going on.There are several types of birds living amongst us,Junco's,Robin,Red Finches,Crows,Humming Bird and a tiny House Wren.The Junco's name is Little Boy Bird and he likes to talk to us.The Robins are fairly tame and take no notice of us.The Crow's well they have a soft spot in our hearts but won't come near.Then there are 4 kinds of Bee's and a large black dragon fly with niffty looking double wings.
Speaking of Bee's, awhile ago Sol signed up as a homeschool project to count bee's for the University of San Fransisco's Great Sunflower Project.The University was going to send us seeds for Lemon Queen Sunflowers and we thought maybe we had missed out on the project but today the seeds came.In the morning we will plant them.We will be looking for Bumble,Honey and Carpenter Bee's. Seeing no bee's is more important than seeing them.It is a sign there is trouble in the bee community near our home.We have already seen all 3 kinds in our yard so getting them to come won't be an issue.And the fact that they are here is good news in the world of bee counting.
We had some high temps here over the weekend, 95 F was the highest I saw posted.The lettuces here at Hrafinstaad did not survive.We were not alone in this, co-workers of Chance's had the same thing happen.Misery loves company so now I feel a bit better not to be alone and salad-less.
We harvested our first Snow Peas to be eaten in a Stir Fry this week.We love Stir Fried Veggies and it is a great way to use up odd bits of just about any thing.
The high point of the weekend....my Mock Orange bloomed.This is one of my MOST favorite flowers.The tree is much like a Lilac in size and shaping,theclusters of blooms look like orange blossoms,smaller white almost rose like and very fragrant.I nursed mine form a single twig in a bucket into a sensible sized tree.I waited to plant it so it would not some how get run over.
I still don't think this is a very interesting blog.We are waiting for the veggies to grow and local berries to come in.There isn't even much weeding to do; between the hay bale garden and heavy mulch,that is taken care of. So we are watering,feeding the hens,gathering the eggs and learning about the true origins of the Chicken Dance.I have rounded up the canning things,baked bread and cookies,made Thai Salad Rolls (good and low Gluten!) lost count on the loads of laundry,hosted Friday Night Boys Night and did some sewing. I sat in the shade with my feet up with Ice Tea in hand loving this life of mine.
If anyone out there has a topic/question about something we have posted about or did not go far enough into let me know.Like I said right now we are waiting for the next busy time and have the time to be more helpful.