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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Big Red Lives?

Wow! Big Red recovered from the heat and is alive and well. Last night when we found him he was mostly gone but Chance stuck him in the water bucket to try and cool him down.Chance also gave Big Red some water to drink from his hand which the Roo slurped up and passed back out.Chance had laid Big Red in a shady spot to see what would happen.This morning I went out to let the girls free for the day and he was gone.I thought Chance had disposed of him but I did look around just in case. Nope no Rooster.Called Chance at work and no he had not done anything with the bird.So I looked once more and there he was sitting in the shade with his girls.What!? He had not been there earlier.Its a mystery to me the whole story of what happened but he's still here.This is the second time he has cheated death,Big Red had gone to the butchering class in case we needed another bird but he came home again.One lucky bird.
Stay cool folks,it's so hot here my wash on the line dried in 20 minutes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Big Red the Rooster

We lost one of our Les Poulets today to the heat we are having.We have been checking the water for the chickens often through out the day and after finding Big Red gone we added another water bucket.Chance even hosed down their yard and the outside of the coop in hopes it would help keep the rest of the girls cooler.
Here in Oregon we don't normally get triple digit heat so it makes us all a bit wimpy .We have 2 or more days of this heat and I am ready for it to be GONE. It's kind of funny to read other blogs on the other side of the world where they are piling on more blankets and I am here thinking why do we have blankets on the bed right now.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Where to begin

Today Chance and I were asked how we knew or chose to start our Urban Farming and Homestead,the question came out of the blue and I gave a half answer but now I have had some time to think about it.I know it is a question many come up with "Where to start?"The answer has to come from within your self but I can say, look around and pick one area and start there.The rest will come with time as you master one thing or realize you are ready to start in another area.The thing I have noticed about this life is, it becomes an ecosystem,each area is inter connected and dependent on the other areas to work as a whole.And like an ecosystem it just kind of happens. One day you will look around yourself and feel like you have arrived.We have not arrived yet but like I have said before for Chance and I it's a journey not a destination.
There have been many baby steps getting where we are today and I suppose it all started with growing a garden,something we have always done every where we have lived.I grew up with big vegetable gardens and an assortment of fruit so a garden was just a natural part of life to me.
Figuring out what we wanted to grow took some thought, the seed catalogs were full of more types of seed than we would ever need.We started out growing what we knew we would eat then added some new things to try from time to time.We also decided not to grow some things because of space,when you live in the city using your growing spaces wisely is important.
I grew up with Chickens and love them dearly so when I found out that people were raising chickens in the city once more I was more than ready to jump on the bandwagon.In hind sight I don't know why I was surprised at this new trend,growing up we had chickens and we lived in the city.
This past spring we have taken the biggest steps forward in our Homesteading,bringing more garden to the front,adding meat chickens,cooking and baking more than ever,searching out more ways to be more independent,teaching others,trying to lead in our own way just doing it/living it.
Stepping forward this spring was also motivated by concerns about our country's failing food systems and an economy that is worse than our leaders will admit,we had to take measures to take care of ourselves.
We had no clue this spring that there were entire groups of people moving in our same direction and there were buzz words to boot,sustainability,urban farming,urban homesteading wow who knew,not I.I always thought the folks doing what we are aiming for lived in the country,or belong to some group focused on hell fire end of the world type stuff.Or were the aging hippies my parents were becoming,left overs from a commune not city people from many walks of life that we have found.We were not looking for a title,to be hip or holy we just want to take the best care of ourselves as we can.
The current news from Hrafinstaad is minimal,it is just too blipping hot this week to do much of any thing.
Tomorrow Chance and I are getting up early and we will be picking blackberries.Because of the heat I plan on freezing the berries for a week or so until the weather is a bit more friendly towards making jam.Being able to freeze your bounty is a great trick to use when time or heat are an issue.
We have also decided to raise 2 White Muscovy Ducks for Christmas dinner.Our ducks will arrive in mid August and since neither of us have ever raised them before there's reading and learning to do before they arrive. Get ready to laugh at us over this one,ducks are very different from chickens so it should be interesting.
Chance has been so busy with work we are still trying to find time to work out a class calender.It will come soon.We still have a few spots left in our August 1st Chicken Butchering Class so if you have not signed up and are wanting to drop us an email.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Found:the lost photos.

You know its a great trip when you come home with photos of a clothesline drying your swim gear and one of teenagers napping in the afternoon.

All loaded to go

Thora is ready too!

Below:Boys are set.

Above:Swimming,Relaxing, Breakfast,Water,Fun,Naps,The view from our tent and the small falls across from our camp.

Home again

We ran away to live in a tent,in the woods with a river flowing by just the four of us and it was good.
One of the greatest joys to living in Oregon you is you can drive in any direction for an hour or an hour and a half and be someplace totally different than home,no matter where in the state you live.To the west,we have the ocean and its beaches,a rain forest that runs the coastline.Not a tropical one,but one filled with ancient fir trees,ferns and mossy greenness.Cool and damp. We have an abundant valley that runs up the middle of the state with green rolling hills.East of the valley we have snow capped mountains and blue green rivers flowing to the sea.Over the mountains first comes the high desert, dry,cold,hot and trees of a different kind than my home in the valley.Farther east is the desert with wild sage more snow capped mountains and a open beauty to it.Make a wish and you just might find it here.
We camped for 4 days and it that time span I learned a bit.My boys still like to play even if they are growing into men.Our dog is slowing down,after just one day she was ready to lay by the fire the whole day and watch us from a far. I also learned we need to spend more time away from home out in the wilds,watching the trees sway with the breeze,the water flowing ever westward and listening to the silence.
It was good to play and romp.We swam in a river that was blue green and so clear you could see all the way to the deepest parts.We rode our bikes for a couple of hours on the road that followed the river,spying a pair of Ravens, picked wild Black Cap berries.(They look like a large Raspberry but they are black) and let our heads empty as we wheeled along.The fishing was fishing but the scenery made up for it.We threw rocks into the river, to see how far we could throw and to hear the rocks go plunk in the water.Played cards by candlelight,roasted marshmallows and slept soundly.
Now we have come home again,back to our daily life and the work that needs doing. Sorry there are no photos of our trip,the camera seems to have eaten them and besides that we were busy playing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pickled Mixed Veg Salad

I have a cook book that is one of three that I would grab if the house was on fire,a book so dog eared it should be able to bark by now."Please to the Table,the Russian Cook Book" by Anya von Bremzen adn John Welchman is filled with delicious food,notes about Russian life and a recipe for any occasion. I must have 12 pages marked with tabs because I use them so often and pages stained from many days worth of cooking. Soups, meats,vegetables,dumplings, noodles,breads and desserts oh my! There is even a chapter From the Pantry listing sides to go with your meals. If you are looking for an interesting book with a new venue of food check this one out.Sadly the price has gone up since I bought mine many moons ago but it is worth every penny.I have yet to find a bad recipe in this gem.
Today I am going to share with you a recipe I make often and like when there's so many fresh veggies around.It's a Pickled Mixed Vegetable Salad that can easily be adjusted for your tastes in vegetables and spice. I always keep the cabbage in the recipe since it is the base of it.I have used beets before and unpeeled cucumber.I have also used semi-ripe tomatoes and other colors of bell peppers.Depending on who I am feeding I have also monkeyed around with the chili pepper amount or I have left it out.I find that the salad is best the second day,this time allows the vinegar to pickle the veggies and gives the garlic time to open as well. I hope you will try it and enjoy it.

Pickled Mixed Vegetable Salad from "Please to the Table"

1 medium sized green cabbage shredded
2Tablespoons Kosher or other coarse salt
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup White Vinegar
12 black pepper corns I have just used plenty of pepper from my shaker.
1Tablespoon Sugar
1 Large Carrot peeled and cut to julienne
3 Medium sized Red Bell Peppers,cored seeded and julienne
2 Onions sliced thinly
2 Green Tomatoes seeded and diced
2 small dried hot chili peppers chopped. Or you could use a bit of crushed chilies.
3 whole cloves of Garlic sliced
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil.

In a bowl toss the cabbage with the salt and let stand one hour.
Meanwhile in a non reactive sauce pan combine,water,vinegar,pepper corns and sugar.Bring to a boil and then let cool.
The salt in the bowl of cabbage will have pulled some of the cabbages liquids out.Drain and squeeze the liquid out.Now add the Carrot,bell peppers,onions and tomatoes.Add the chilies and garlic.Toss well.
Add the oil to the marinade and toss with the veggies.Let stand for one hour.
From here the book says to place the salad in a sterilized 2 quart jar, seal with a lid and put it in the fridge.I don't always do this step,if I know we are eating it that day or the next I put the salad in a covered bowl and cover with whatever I have handy.I think the sterilized jar is for when you might be keeping the salad longer but the book dose not say how long it will keep.One of my canning projects is to figure out how to can this salad like a Chow Chow.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Thanks for the idea Glenn. I am going to start out by saying canning is easier than people think.
First of all you don't have to have a canning kettle; all you need is a big kettle that is big enough to set your jars in up right and deep enough to cover the tops of the jars.My Mom never had one,to replace the rack the the jars sit in with a canning kettle, she placed a folded towel in the bottom of her pot.This prevented the jars from rattling around.
When it comes to jars you want undamaged ones,no nicks in them especially around the rims.To save yourself some money keep an eye out for used canning jars around where you live,yard/tag sales,charity/thrift shops ect, I find them on a regular bases for less then a dollar most of the time. This is not always a huge savings but I can buy a few at a time and I am recycling both of which I like.
Always buy new lids,once you have used a lid you have also used its seal up.The rings are important when you first seal your jars,the enable you to make sure the seal is set but once you are sure of the jar's seal you can remove them.The rings are reusable.A money saving tip is you don't have to have a ring for every single jar you own, you need as many as that days worth of canning since you can remove them to store your jars.I always keep a handful in a kitchen drawer for when I open a jar or I am giving one away.
I used to get overwhelmed by figuring out how much to can.How will I know I have enough?Will I run out? To answer these questions I thought about how much of each type of thing I was canning.I need more of some than others and you will want some variety. I like to can a few jars of different types of Jams.I can make 8 quart jars of 2 kinds of berry jam and 8 quarts of Apple Butter and this is plenty for us. I also use this type of thinking when canning fruits.I have learned that sometimes you will run out of something so we end up going without or making due with something else.We are now out of pickles (sigh) and won't have more until late fall.I could buy some but they are just not the same.Just ask yourself "How much of this do I use in a week?" and figure it out from there.
I do not can veggies,my family rather eat fresh seasonal veggies even if it means we eat the same thing day in and day out.I am canning tomatoes this year for the first time.Some how I had it in my head I needed a pressure canner but I don't.
Speaking of a pressure canner, you only need one for low acid foods.These are mostly meats and soups.I have one but have yet to use it,they kind of scare me,I have heard all of these explosion stories with broken glass flying all over and I am just not that brave.
I think when Glenn left his request for more about canning he might have wanted recipes.I have posted about both the Ball Blue Canning Book(I own it) and the newer Ball Canning book( which is updated with new ideas and foods) both are great resources and if you want to have a book right there on your shelf buy either one.Or you can go to the Ball website and print the recipes you want for free.(I have their link posted in my links.) The Ball company has done a great job of making their books and website VERY clear and easy to follow.
There are only a couple of things that I can that I do not use my Blue Book for Apple Sauce and my Grandmother's Pickles both of these I will be doing in a few weeks and will post about.I don't use any recipe for the Apple Sauce because all I use are apples and a bit of sugar to taste,then cook it down, pour into jars and water bath for 10 minutes,done.
Here is my list of "To Be Canned"
Blackberry Jam
Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
Apple Sauce
Apple butter
Mixed Veg Pickle
Marmalade Not until December when Oranges are in season and cheaper.
That's my list and most of the produce I need for it has not come in yet.I am in limbo waiting for August and then I am sure I will be posting lots of post about canning.
Chance has his own list of things to can and preserve.He is the condiment man, BBQ sauces,Salsa's,mustard's, ketchup (If you have never had homemade ketchup try it.It is nothing like that bland thin stuff in the bottles at the store.Part sauce, part jam it will impress.I will be sure to post this) and I can't remember what else.
I will do my best to give folks a heads up when I am preparing to can the next thing so if you want to follow along you can.Ha,no pun!I am not to sure how helpful this posting is.Until I am actually doing the canning it's hard to post about it with out the photos to back me up.
Dear Readers, I have no thoughts on what to write about and it will be a couple of weeks before we start the next project.Is there anything anyone would like to hear about? Food,Gardening,Chickens,Blacksmithing,Canning, anything you are wondering about here at Hrafinstaad? I don't mind sharing with all of you and I am sure there are parts to our days,things we do without much thought or things I have given a glimpse of that maybe someone is thinking "Wait, I want to hear more about...."
I did receive an email saying they were waiting to hear more about our Cob/Earth Oven project.That I think is our next quest.Both Chance and I have been reading up on how to build one and making a supplies list.Most of what we will be needing we are planning to salvage from spots around town.I have looked through so many pictures of what others have done that I was seeing Cob ovens swimming before my eyes.My artist eyes were envisioning something bigger and grander than we have planned.I am impressed by the beauty in some of the ovens out there.
I liked this one for its simplicity and the wood storage below.There's also some works of art on Kiko Denzer's website and he also has a great blog.
We are definitely still in the planning stages on this one but I'll keep you all up to date as we get farther along.
The garden is doing better now that we are no longer using the bales.The tomatoes are growing and setting their fruit.The cucumbers are full of blooms along with the squashes.I planted some late beets and I think in a couple of more weeks we may have some tender small sized ones to eat.I re-planted out swiss chard and put our chicken tractor over it since it is now planted in the cats afternoon nap spot.
I don't think I mentioned that we have let the Poulet's go a bit longer until we butcher them.I put my head totgether with Pete the Chicken guy from Urban Farm and we both thought letting them go longer was best.The information Pete had regarding these birds had said to butcher at 11 weeks but they were small,not much bigger than a game hen.I think by the first of August they will be ready.
That's about it.Send us your questions or request for either of us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I had a very busy day yesterday,just the usual stuff,house work,baking and a bit of gardening.I picked our first Zucchini before it turned in to a monster or as Chance said "a baseball bat".
Once I had the house work done I went out to the room at the back of the garage I call my studio to haul out the junk that has been left there because no one knew what to do with it. Really there's been no room in there to be creative but I have been so focused on the yard the past few months I did not mind so much.My plan for one half of the studio is to turn it into a pantry.Chance and I finally found an upright freezer,it was even free and in great shape,so some room was needed for it.I moved around my art supplies and cleaned out a lot of plain junk,some boxes to go to charity and some boxes that should be in the attic.And what do you know there's a floor and room for a pantry.I have one large book case and a smaller one to house the canning.I found some extra storage bins that I am going to use on the one book case to store onions and potatoes.I now feel better prepared for the coming weeks of canning and crop storage needs.
While working yesterday I was once again thinking about the work women do and the how I really do have it easy.For example I was waiting for the bread dough to rise and I had a pot of chicken soup bubbling on the stove as I went about my day.I did not have to build up a fire in the stove and keep it going,I just turned the knob and could adjust it as needed.I did a couple loads of laundry too, again, I just pour in the soap powder,which I do purchase,and turned a knob.I even had the ease if I wanted it, to not hang out the wash I could just turn a knob.I did not have to make the soap,haul the water from a well or heat it on the stove,the only washboard here is the one Sol plays as a musical instrument.
My Great Grandmother's family lived far from a town on the North Dakota Prairies and only went to town once a year.On that trip the family had to make sure they had everything they would need for the coming year.I can walk right out my door and be to a store in about 10 minutes and buy only what I can carry home with me,coming back again another day is no big deal.If I run out of something and I have the money for more I go to the store.I wonder what happened out on the prairie if you ran out,I suppose certain items would have been a burden adding more work to a hard working family.
Then there is my Grandfather,the second oldest child and the son of a traveling preacher.The year my Grandfather was 13 his parents left the 6 children on the farm for 6 months.Money was tight and to provide for his family my Great Grandfather went preaching with his wife in tow.My Grandfather and his sister Ruby ran the farm and house hold,they were 15 and 13 but they knew what to do.None of them had shoes and my Grandfather told stories about plowing the fields barefooted.No one fell in the fire,got bit by a snake or died Grandpa and Aunt Ruby did just fine.
So looking back at the lives of my fore fathers and mothers I really can't complain about a hard days work.I am tired some days by the time I fall into bed and I have known the weariness that comes from working in the fields but I can't complain. Ladies of the past had other female relatives to help them in their daily work.I have son's who are good workers and do as they are asked and even love to cook.I have a modern man as a partner who has changed the babies,done the laundry and is a fancier cook than I.I also have these little helpers all over the house,knobs,switches,hoses and buttons all of which are here at my bidding to help me with my day,I can't complain.
Finally, I must say we had the finest pot of Chicken Noodle soup for dinner last night.Thick,rich and golden, a taste that can only come from a home grown chicken.We have not had any of our own chicken in about 5 years.My Dad always raised our birds on his farm for us.My Dad and his wife divorced and he left the farm. We were not ready to raise our own until this spring and I am so glad we did.It had been just long enough the boys had forgotten the taste of a good chicken.After Issac's raving review of the soup I fear the boys will never eat a store bought chicken again.(The same thing happened once we had our own eggs,they turn their noses up at store eggs.) This is not a bad thing but now I suppose Chance and I had better address this before we run out of meat.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What is the difference? Broiler,Roaster,Capon and Stewing Hen

At our class on Sunday I was asked about the difference between a Broiler,Roaster,Capon and a Stewing Hen. Some how I got side tracked in the middle of this question and did not get back to it but I'd still like to answer the question.

Broilers are typically raised from a meat breed of chicken,this breed varies across the globe and is butchered around 4-8 weeks.They weigh less than 6 pounds.The term Broiler is mainly used in America and Australia. These are a good bird for frying,baking or even BBQ.I consider these an all purpose bird.
Roasters are larger in size weighing between 6-8 pounds and are butchered at 14 weeks.These larger birds are excellent for roasting or baking in the oven.
Capon's are a castrated (this process is also called caponization) roosters/cocks.These birds are castrated some time between 6-20 weeks either with hormones or a surgery to remove the testicles.It is rare to find one of these chickens and is illegal in some parts of the world.The reasoning for the castration is to produce a more tender and fatty bird.Capons are also know for being moist and full of flavor.
Stewing Hen are laying hens who are no longer laying.As the name states they should be stewed or turned into soup due to their age.If not stewed your meat will be tough and stringy.
Giblets are another part of a meat chicken.The giblets are the liver,gizzard and the heart of a bird.In store bought chickens you may find them inside of the bird wrapped or not. Many people who came to our class asked about what to do with the giblets and are they good.They are some tasty bits and we enjoy them and call them "the cooks treat" at our house.To cook them is simple.If you are baking or roasting your bird just season like the chicken and place the giblets in the pan with the chicken.Knowing when they are done can take a bit of practice.If you are cooking a smaller Broiler/Fryer the giblets will most likely be done when the bird is.With a larger Roaster you will want to check the giblets about half way through the baking time.The liver is what I check,you are looking for a fork tenderness and an almost dry look to the liver,if the liver is done so are the heart and gizzard.When frying chicken the giblets can be coated and dropped in to the oil with the chicken and will be done when the rest of the bird is.Chance likes to spike the giblets on a skewer to cook on the Bar B Que.Because the heat of a BBQ is different than oven check for done-ness like for the giblets with a Roaster.
Along with the Giblets people asked about the neck and feet.Both of these are excellent for making soups or stews.The neck is mostly bone but what meat is there is dark and very flavorful.The feet will add a richness and golden color to your stock.Issac loves to have BBQ'ed Chicken Feet when we go for Dim Sum.( Dim Sum means Dot Heart or something small to eat.It is like brunch and comes from China.At Dim Sum's you are served lots of little things to eat,dumplings, buns ect.)

I would also like to go over the different terms for the age groups of chickens.When looking to start a flock or add to it you will see these names.By being an educated shopper you won't get the wool pulled over your eyes and end up with a flock of loud roosters or non laying hens.
Cocks/Roosters are an easy one, the adult males.
Cockerels are the males under a year old.
Hens are the adult females and are already laying on a regular bases.
Pullets are the females under a year old who may or may not be laying yet.Or if they are laying may not be regularly,they have not gotten the hang of eggs just yet.
Chooks (rhymes with Books) is a general term for Chickens used mainly in Australia,New Zeland and sometimes Britain.

Those are all of the chicken parts I know of.Although I know all over the world different parts are and are not eaten.Learning to use as much of an animal is economical and can lead to some good food.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Killing Cone or Holding Funnel

Finally, here it is, the "How to make a Killing Cone also known as a Holding Funnel" posting.I sat down with Chance this evening and worked this out.The top photo shows the finished cone.We showed it first so you'd know what we are talking about.

The supplies you will need are shown in the one photo.
A drill
Pop rivets and rivet setter shown at top of photo
A hammer, ball peen hammer is best
Tin snips - shown in center
Paper to make pattern.
Sharpie type Pen. Not shown.
The next photo to the right of the supplies shows the final item on the supply list.Chance used a section of air conditioning duct for his metal.A 5 foot tall section at our local Depot was around $15 and gave us 3 cones total.

The photo with the paper is the first step.You will want to make a paper pattern for the cone.Follow the dimensions in the photo.
Next lay out the pattern on your metal and trace around it.Using your Tin Snips cut out pattern.Be careful! The edges of the metal will be razor sharp.

The photos below the ones showing the paper pattern show the outline of the pattern drawn onto the metal and then the soon to be cone.
The following photo shows the next step.You will now want to roll the long sides to the trapezoid/cone edges over and hammer lightly until it lays flat .Kind of like when you are doing a hem on a pair of pants.(not a rolled hem)
The first photo with the drill in use is showing the rolling of the cone.When you roll your cone you will want to roll so that the bottom opening/diameter is 3 inches across and the top should measure 9 inches across.Next you will want to drill a hole right where the metal overlaps at the bottom/narrow end. At this point set a rivet in the hole you just drilled.By fixing this hole you will now be able to make adjustments to the wide ends diameter easier,by rolling it and moving it around until you get the 9 inches you are looking for.
The photo with the pop rivet setter is showing you to set the next rivet at the top/wide end of the cone.After that add 3-4 more holes with rivets in between the top and bottom rivets.
Once your cone is riveted you will have what looks very much like a paper cone from the flower shop.Using the very first photo as a guide trim the top edge to look like it.
The top and bottom edges now need to be finished so they will not be sharp so you don't cut yourself or the bird.To roll the edges over take your ball peen hammer and lightly hammer around the edge,striking the edge from the inside out.This will start the edge curling.To get the curl to lay flat keep striking gently along the edge in the same manner.Once the curl becomes a right angle, tap from the curls edge, aiming from the outside causing the curl to lay flat against the cone.Repeat on the the other end.
The very last step is to drill 2 holes(check first photo) in the top end so you can hang your cone.
LA! you are now ready to butcher your own birds.
When we first started looking at using the cone we were not really interested in using one beyond teaching the classes.But now that we have used it and seen how it frees up your hands we kind of like.Another nice feature to using the cone is the bird is swaddled,this keeps them a bit more clam.
A trick we learned was to tie the chickens feet together.This step enabled us to easily slide them into the cone.Also this prevents them from getting their feet under themselves and scooting out and they will try,Chickens are not dumb.
So there it is Readers.Please let us know if you come up with questions or if we totally lose you some how.Good luck with this project and let us know how you did with it.
Chance also wants to add here that he is selling the cones for $25 and if need be we will ship for the cost of shipping and local pick up is possible,you can email us directly (hrafinstaad@aol.com) to order one.Or if you want to get a group of 3-10 people together Chance is willing to teach a class on how to make a cone.The class fee for this class would be $20 per person which includes all materials.
Chance and Rois

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wow! A great class!

I am going to start this posting with a response to Sharon who left the comment on my last post.
She asked "How did it go?" It went great today! We could not have dreamed of a better group of people to have as our first round of students. Everyone of the attendees were so focused,excited and filled with great questions.No one fell over or got weak in the knees.Every single one just got in and did it.It was even lightly raining,only in Oregon would no one care about the wet.
Chance did a great job of guiding people through the cutting of the neck, opening the abdomen and removing the organs. He even had a great teachable moment when someone pulled out some unformed eggs another pulled out some testicles.(These eggs look just like the yolk in an egg.The testicles are oval and whitish.)
As for myself,I tried to keep the flow going showing folks how to pluck their birds and answering questions.I had lots of questions about what to do with different parts to the bird. I tried to encourage people to take home the feet for soup stock.The feet when made into broth makes the beautiful golden broth one sees in books.I also talked about the cost of raising your own meat chickens.I figured it was right around $8 per bird,that's feed and buying the chick.For a free range organic bird that is a really good deal.
I did get over my quandary over Amelia and she is now cooling in the fridge.
We started an email list for some up coming events and classes we will be holding.I think everyone in the class signed up.So far we have planned the 2nd Butchering class and are working on dates for,Pickles,Bread & Soup, Apple Butter,Knife,Hoe and Shovel Sharpening and the one that was a big interest at the class today a knife making class.(Chance makes some beautiful knives that will hold their edge all the way through skinning a deer.How's that for a selling point?) If any of our readers would like to be added to our class/event list please contact us at the email I will list below.Oh and we are planning an Open House to get some of the great people we know together and meet some new friends.
If any of today's students are reading thanks again for coming and making the class a great experience for us.
Here's our email hrafinstaad@aol.com
Rois and Chance

The hour is drawing near

Today is the day we hold our first Chicken Butchering Class. We are ready and waiting to load up the truck.The Chickens we are taking are sitting in their cage very unhappy especially Miss Amelia.
I am going to admit that I had to have a talk with both Amelia and myself about what was going to happen.Amelia is one of our older hens.She has become a very cranky old bird who picks fights with the whole flock.I can't have that and I definitely don't want my oldest Hen Cleo picked upon. Miss Amelia has earned her spot as our demo chicken.Laying or not she's going.
Part of that was a hard choice to make.I have been able to talk myself into not having much feeling towards the Meat Chickens but Amelia is different.She's been around for awhile and I am attached to my layers.I know them and their quirks,for better or worse, and I know who's eggs are who's.My girls give me endless pleasure.
It looks like I may be eating a bit of crow today.I have told our students to emotionally prepare themselves for the class.A life will be taken.Now as I wipe the crow from my face I am struggling with the end of Amelia's life. I will work it out, she will be at the class, I just might get a bit teary at her going.
Thank you Amelia for your eggs and life given to further my own.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The second Chicken Class date has been moved.

I suppose when you hang a flier on the wall so you don't forget a very important date and then you go and forget about and no longer see said flier it could be a bad sign.
Hanging on the kitchen wall is a bright yellow invitation to come to the Urban Farm Store's Tour De Coop Party July, 25th.The very same day we were going to hold our class.There is no way I am missing the Tour or a party so we have changed the date to ***********
Saturday August 1st and all the rest of the information is the same as my posting about this class.
Tour De Coops is a fun afternoon of touring neighborhood chicken coops.Once you pay the $10 fee for their booklet you go on a self guided tour following the map in the booklet. There's prizes and information shared along the way.Not to mention the fun time of seeing other peoples set ups and gardens.


New friends and Networking

I had an great day yesterday even if I was sitting around holding a yard sale.The great part of the day was I met some new neighbors and one of the ladies signed up for our chicken Butchering class,what a small world. I must say I am surprised that 7 out of 10 people signed up for our class are women.I don't know why I am surprised but I am.
The first lady I met started the ball rolling on getting to know some new faces.She stopped for our sale partly because who can pass by a sale and partly because as she said "I love your front yard and I just HAD to see your back.I pass by on my way to work and love your place."This lady works at Issac's High School which is so close to us we can hear the Marching Band practicing and all of the ball games. GO SUNSET! GO APOLLO"S! Sorry I have bit of pride in those kids.
Next this first lady says I have to call my neighbor and get her over here! I guess this second lady is wanting chickens , already gardens and is into what we are doing here.Now my neighbor right across the street had told me of a lady who fit this second lady's description and also said we had to meet. So I was wondering could it be the same woman?
A bit later the second lady and her kids arrive,the minute she passed under our grape arbor I just knew it must be her. And it was.We started talking chickens right away and this is what she said to me."Have you ever heard of The Urban Farm Store? I am taking a Chicken Butchering Class there on Sunday." WOW small world! I piped up and said "Well,that's us.I am Rois and this is Chance" Now folks are always puzzled by my name and it's spelling.I spell it Rois which when written has an accent mark that looks like a half moon above the "o" it's Gaelic and means "Like running horses" But when you pronounce my name in English it's just plain old Rose.So the lady and I cleared that up and got on with being excited about meeting each other.We both thought it was crazy that she just lives in the neighborhood next to mine.She was the lady whom my across the street neighbor mentioned which got us laughing and talking even more.

So see people the suburbs are not completely filled with the stereo typed Suburbanites.There are people here who do care about the environment,sustainable living,gardening,chickens and being self sufficient.You just have to take the time to get to know people and leave all of your hang ups about who looks like the kind of person who is living this life.This family even bikes every where and the husband would like to get rid of their car all together but to look at them they look like every other family in my neighborhood.Open your minds and eyes because you just might miss out if you don't.
Towards the end of my sale I had a lady stop and we talked about Hay Bale Gardening.She had the same problems we did including the slugs and like us she knocked them down and started over.She mentioned that she thought it's because here in Oregon we don't get the super hot summers like back east where many of the photos showing Hay Bale Gardens we had both seen were growing.How could the bales compost when it's so cool here?
Her thoughts tied right into my own,whew I am not alone. I mentioned to her that the wet bales don't provide enough oxygen for the plants to grow too.We both thought all of this combined made sense and when you thought it through was some basic biology. Again you never know who you are going to meet.
We had lots of people stop by just to see our back yard but most were here to shop too.One of my favorites was a young Latino family who walked in and gasped "Ranchera!" Chance and I understand a bit of Spanish and caught familiar words here and there,Pollo (chicken) and the words for Squash and Tomatoes.Through their eldest son we talked with the parents who were pleased we would take the time to show them around and answer their questions.They had no idea that here in America people lived a similar life to some people in Latin America.
Finally as we were sitting around Chance worked on more Culling/KIlling Cones and did some photos along the way.This weekend Chance and I are like ships in the night passing each other as we go about our work. It will be Monday before I can sit down with him and blog about the Cones. Glenn,keep checking back, we will get to it!
Speaking of Glenn, I'd like to send him a great big shout out and our thanks for his support.Glenn writes Clark County Food & Farm over the river in Vancouver Washington (state) a blog chocked full of useful links, articles and knowledge.Glenn has posted both of our Butchering classes on his website and our friends at White Hart Forge's class too.Both White Hart and Hrafinstaad are greatful to you.Keep up the good works you are doing over yonder.
My next blogging will feature the Cones and a bit about how our class went.Chance and I are working a couple more ideas for some classes and an open house.Hopefully by the next posting I can announce some new events.
Take care all,live your life with your eyes open and your feet on the Earth.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Books and Websites

I am so excited! Sol and I went to our local bookstore,Powell's to just look around. For those of you who do not live here I have to tell you about Powell's book store,it is the largest book store I think in the nation.The main store takes up an entire city block,houses a coffee shop (you can even walk around with your drink) offers new and used books, a rare book room,magazines and an art gallery and it is like 4 stories high! People come from near and far to visit Powell's City of Books.They do ship and have excellent customer service.If you come to Portland take a whole afternoon and set your self a budget.
While cursing around the Cook Book section of our neighborhood Powell's I found a gem.Ball Canning Company has put out a new and larger Canning Book that boosts 400 updated recipes.The price $22.95 was fair considering how much information is in it and would last you a life time. There were 2 recipes that really caught my eye right away,Pear Mincemeat and a Vietnamese Sweet Chilli Sauce ( which I buy and we use all the time).So I put it under my arm with the intention of buying myself a treat.But then I found a copy of Jenna at Cold Antler Farm's book "Made from Scratch" which I had been wanting to look at and what happened next is the cause for my excitement....
In the back of Jenna's book is a nice section of websites she uses.In that list I found the website for Ball Canning (also listed in my links) .It has been my experience that most companies who sell a product,publish a book and have a website also list the same information in their book on their website.I put the Ball book back,there were plenty of copies so if I needed to come back I would not be out of luck.When I came home I checked the Ball website and my guess was right! On their website were ALL of the recipes I had seen in their new book that I could print out at home as needed! I saved myself a bit of cash for some thing else.
On the Ball site they also sell their other products too,canning jars, lids,canning kettles ect. They also have the Blue Book I have been using forever for under $6.And I am lusting over their 1/2 Gallon jars to hold my pickels this year.
I suppose I should give my review of Jenna's book.It's a nice little book with information on how to get started as a Homesteader.It's very much a book for the beginner and if that is where you are at I would invest in her book.We have been at this awhile now so most of it we already have in place.I follow Jenna's blog and enjoy her writing style,friendly,full of cheer and yet she tells you her low points too.Like the nasty Fox who is killing her Chickens. BAD FOX!
This evening as I was writing the outline for our Chicken Butchering Class Chance started a project and DANG IT I missed out on what he was doing!
We needed a Killing or Culling Cone to teach our class.This is not how we do this task here at Hrafinstaad but it was requested that we use one. We looked online,$45 plus shipping ack! None of the local Feed Stores had them either so being who he is Chance made one to use during the class.I tell you being married to such a clever fellow always fills me with wonder. He is also making a few more of them to have for sale at our class for only $25. Chance has promised me he will give me warning when he is going to finish the cones so I can photo it and then write a blog about it.So check back if you'd like to learn to make one.
Well I still have my pocket money and a useful book is sounding like what I want.I never pay for novels,I am a book addict and blow through a book in 2 days easy so I go to the libary and swap books with friends.But a book full of good information is something I'll buy.If I am really lucky the next time I am at Powell's they will have a used copy of something I want.
I have a few days to dream of books,the next 3 days are busy,getting ready to have a one day yard sale,finish writing the class outline and then teach our class. Whew busy times are ahead.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A bit more from White Hart Forge

White Hart Forge Presents:

A Class in Basic Farm Tool Repair and Manufacture

Imagine what it was like 100 years ago when a tool you needed broke and there was no hardware store nearby…. Not to mention if money was tight....You just couldn’t “Go pick up another one.”

What did you do?

You repaired or built your own tools using the basic skills of blacksmithing.

White Hart Forge is offering a class in these skills and techniques.

This is a class designed to teach the basic concepts of blacksmithing while learning the production, maintenance and repair of simple farm and gardening tools.

Students will learn by doing as this is a hands -on class in the art of blacksmithing.

Tools may include hand trowel, garden hoe, shovel or spade, pitch fork.

We also show you how to maintain tools, sharpen edges, and replace worn or broken handles.

In the process you will also learn how to set up a shop of your own; acquiring tools and equipment as well as steels - new and recycled.

Each class costs $75.00 and covers one tool.

Class size is limited so please call ahead and reserve your spot.

You can reach us at the shop at 503-353-6695 or on the web at whitehartforge@yahoo.com

Blacksmithing @White Hart Forge

I wanted to pass along some information about a tool making and repairing class that our most awesome friends at White Hart Forge are teaching on an ongoing bases.Knowing how to make and care for your tools is a huge benefit.Keeping your tools in repair means they will last you a longer time.And if you have made that tool you will be even more motivated to care for it.This class could be just one more way for folks to become self sufficient and build your "Can Do" attitude.
Dan and Heidi are a husband and wife team of Professional Black Smiths (I know pretty cool a lady smith) who live across town from us.These two have offered Black Smithing classes at the Smithy before but this is a brand new class that I have not been able to find on their website as of yet.Lucky for me I seem to be in the loop when it comes to their latest plans.
Here is what Dan has to say:
This is a blacksmith class to teach how to make and repair simple farm tools. Perfect for the hobby farmer or land owner. Times are hard. Make those old tools like new again or build your own. We teach how to set up your shop; how to select and find smithing tools as well as how to make them; how to hammer and plenty of hands on experience.

These are just some of the other classes we offer:
Basic blacksmithing techniques and the production and repair of simple farm tools
Basic Blacksmithing
Intermediate Blacksmithing and traditional joinery; scrolls and ornament; forge building
Coal fired forging and forge welding
An Introduction to bladesmithing
Advanced spear and ax head making.
Advanced bladesmithing with a nod to pattern welding
This is ongoing throughout the summer

The Tool Class is $75 and you must be over 18 to attend.Please email Dan and Heidi through their website. whitehartforge.com for more information.

Even if you are not interested in taking this class check out their website for photos of the amazing talent Dan and Heidi have.Here in the Portland area you can see pieces of their work all over you may see some photos of places you know.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fruit Cobbler

Today is my Mother's birthday. We are having her for dinner and dessert all of which are her choice.Her menu - Spring Rolls, Steamed Rice, Stir fried Long Beans (well she just said a veggie,that was Chance's idea) and for her treat Strawberry & Rhubarb Cobbler.
My Mom is not a pie person but loves both Strawberries and Rhubarb either together or apart.So her solution to this love is Cobbler.
This time of year there's lots of lovely fresh fruits to use when making Cobbler.And come winter if fresh fruit is not around one can use drained canned fruit.There are a couple kinds of Cobblers.One type makes a slightly sweetened Biscuit top. I am speaking American English here,Biscuit, as in Biscuits and Gravy.The type I make has a cake top.I like them both because they are different from each other.
I am passing on my recipe for Cobbler.I make Cobblers year round with whatever fruit I can come across.I have used White Spelt flour before to lower the gluten.In the fall when there are plenty of apples and pears I make the cobbler and add to the fruit some raisins or other dried fruit.

Cobbler: First preheat your oven to 350 F but if using a glass pan turn it down to 325 F.(This always true when baking in glass pans.)
You will want about 3-4 cups of fruit of your choice. I never measure the fruit.I get out my 9x13 inch baking pan and slice right into it.You will want the fruit to come up about 3/4 of the way to the top of your pan.When your pan is full of fruit you will pour around a cup of sugar and cinnamon to taste over the fruit.Stir to coat the fruit,you want the fruit well coated add more or less sugar if need be.Now dot the top of the fruit with bits of butter.The butter,sugar and juices from the fruit make what my Mom calls the liquor or just the gooey goodness. When using berries only you will want to also mix in 4 Tablespoons of flour to thicken the juices a bit.
Now for the topping:
2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Sugar
3teaspoons Baking Powder
dash of Salt About a 1/4 teaspoon
2 Eggs
1/4 Cup Oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla I have used Almond before with good results.
1 Cup Milk or Water
Mix the dry things together and give them a stir.I like to make sure I have no lumps of things like the baking powder or baking soda. Now add the eggs, oil and vanilla.

Now I have said this before but will say it again,you can use milk or water when baking,there is no taste difference just a nutrition difference.Some days milk is low or costly so never feel like you need to not bake because of this.

Measure out one cup of milk or water.You may not need all of it; I start by using 3/4's of the cup. Mix your batter,what you are looking for is a slightly thick pancake type batter that pours easily.Once there are no lumps you are ready to pour the batter over the fruit.Going back and forth slowly pour your batter over the top of the fruit.The batter will fill in the cracks and mostly cover the fruit.Do not worry about some fruit showing through the batter,while baking the topping will puff up and cover it up. Put it in the oven and bake.Depending on which kind of fruit you are using the time will be varied. Somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour.It is done when the top is golden and when you stick a knife tip or tooth pick into the batter it comes out clean. Serve the Cobbler with Ice Cream or Whipped Cream for an extra nice treat.

Yesterday while out running errands I noticed some Blackberries growing wild along the road, not uncommon here.And it reminded me to go check on my local blackberry spot soon.I pick our blackberries at a local park.Since these black jewels grow wild all over here it's easy to find some to pick for the low low cost of FREE.I am encouraging everyone to go scope out their own spot to pick.Take a walk through your neighborhood and see what you can find. Empty lots, School Yards and Parks are all spots I check.Try and find some growing away from traffic.Although the gas companies no longer put lead in car fuel it still seems a bit yucky to me and questionable.My Ball Blue Canning book reads 9 cups of crushed berries for 3 pints of jam.Pick some free berries and then all you will need is 6 cups of sugar and your jars.Voila Blackberry Jam for the winter. I LOVE Blackberry pie so I will be picking enough for jam and a couple of pies. Yum!
If anyone is interested in the making of Spring Rolls A la Rois send me a comment and I will gladly share that with you too.
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Monday, July 6, 2009

A good point of view

Lonely Beach BallImage by JasonTromm via Flickr

I have been thinking about what my blog means to me and what it is I am trying to communicate to the wide world. I reread my first posting with the hopes it would remind me of what I started out to do. I have shared with all of you our gardening,projects and some food ideas.Some where in there there have been our goofy moments and stories shared. But it has left me wondering what next? Have I run out of things to say? Am I standing on a soap box preaching to a sleeping crowd?
My hopes are to share with everyone the sense of being able.Able to grow your own food on some scale.Able to cook and preserve.Able to think of solutions to your needs and wants. No matter where it is you live as long as you call it home and no matter what your income may be.
Chance and I want to be able to live this sustainable life and incorporate as many green,organic and energy efficient things as we can.Sometimes people look at this life style as being too expensive and it can be.And the sticker shock can stop you in your tracks.We live on this skinny one income budget and raising two boys to boot but we are doing it. All it takes is a bit of thinking outside of the box and the desire to just do it.(not to quote any shoe company but that's how we do things,we just do it.) We want our readers to come along on our journey and to give everyone the inspiration to do for themselves as much as they can. We are here to lead by example.
We know not everyone has the life skills we do.Our resume as a couple is unique, chef,line cook,baker,stone mason,welder,teacher.The list dose not include the many hobbies that make up who we are.We are here to share that crazy ball of skills with those who are seeking.Others freely taught us their skills and now with our own twists we are paying it forward.
Just like at Christ's table, everyone is welcome; no one is turned away. I have this big pet peeve when it comes to anyone being left out you see. Every person on this planet has something to offer and is valuable.I have no time for those who exclude others due to some agenda or narrow mindedness. Rich man.Poor man, Geek,Hippie,Yuppie, what ever title you chose leave it at the door and come play with us.We'll throw you our ball of skills and you can toss back yours and along the way we will all grow and learn from each other.
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July & our 2nd Butchering Class date

I hope everyone has a bang up time today! We always celebrate the 4th here at home.Our whole block has a Potluck BBQ.In the morning a group of us walk to the next neighborhood for a parade that they put on.It's so old fashioned,kids on bikes,Scout Troops and cool old cars.We end up running into people from all over the neighborhood and spend some time chatting and catching up on the news. Then it is home again for an afternoon of games and relaxing in the shade followed by a great dinner.At dark we line the street curb with chairs and every one takes turns setting off their fireworks.It's a great time,good food,games and community building.
I also have exciting news, we are teaching a second Chicken Butchering Class on July 25th here at our house. We had lots of people interested in the first one.So many in fact we had to start a wait list.If any of you missed out on the first one I have listed some of the basic information below.

When : Sat July 25th @ 10 AM - until we are done.
Where: Hrafinstaad Homestead in Beaverton Oregon
Cost: $15 per person
**We have a max of 10 people for this class**
What: Learn to cull,pluck and gut your own chickens. ****Bring your own bird.****
RSVP : hrafinstaad@aol.com
Our last class filled up fast be sure to sign up soon.If we continue to have such a great response we will continue to hold more classes in the future.

One last thing.A few years ago my brother was loading up his fireworks to go out.He put them in a large plastic garbage bag for ease.What happened next was not how he wanted to spend his 4th of July,the static in the plastic caused the fireworks to blow up.He ended up spending his night in the ER with massive burns on his hands and arm.So PLEASE take my warning.FIREWORKS AND PLASTIC BAGS DO NOT MIX! Even though the sales tents send their fireworks home with you in plastic.
Have a great day and night.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Here it is dear readers our adventures in making Beef Jerky. We have made our own Beef Jerky off and on for many years now.It's an easy process with simple ingredients and good eats.
The first thing you need is a cheap cut of beef with little fat to it.If there is a cap of fat or ribbons of fat that's ok, you can cut it off.You just want to avoid too much marbled fat.
Cut your meat into thin slices.As you can see in the second photo I cut the meat into 2 pieces to make the slices a size I liked.The thinner the slices the dryer and crunchier the jerky will be.So you can adjust the thickness to suit your tastes.I suppose I cut mine into a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
Place your sliced meat into a bowl.A thing to note here is the bowl may look like a lot of Jerky to be but once dried the pile will be a lot smaller.
Next you get to be creative. Now you want to season your meat.There are lots of options here.Some people like just salt and pepper for a plain tasting jerky. We like to marinate the meat for up to 24 hours for a really tasty treat.We usually make a Teriyaki type marinande,I throw some Soy Sauce,Brown Sugar,Garlic Powder,Black Pepper and some times a bit of some thing spicy hot for a bit of kick into a smaller bowl and whisk it all together.You can opt to buy a pre-made sauce to use,there's plenty of choices out there.Season your meat and if marinating let it sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
This last time we made Jerky Chance added a curing salt to the Jerky,this is optional.Not everyone will have it and as long as you are using up the Jerky quickly there's no worries about not having it.Chance used what is called Pink Salt for this step.Pink Salt can be found where ever Meat Curing supplies are sold and is super cheap.The job of the Pink Slat is to get the salt to soak in and really do it's work of preserving the meat.If you don't have it the salt you use in the jerky to season and the drying process will still do the trick of preserving.
Once your meat is ready to cure you have a couple of options on how to dry it.For a long time we did not have a Smoker of any kind if this is your case don't worry you can still make Jerky.In the past we used either a Food Dehydrator or the Oven.
To use a Food Dehydrator lay the meat out on the racks so it is not over lapping and in a single layer.Load and stack the racks until full. Now turn on your Dehydrator.
If you are using your oven I recommend starting this part a bed time. Pre heat your oven to its lowest setting,right around 200 degrees.Using the racks of the oven lay out your meat in a single layer and put them back into the oven. When you are ready to close the oven door keep it open a crack, a wooden spoon works best for this.
And how about using a Smoker, well I must say that is not my department here at Hrafinstaad,it's Chance's thing.I would imagine if you have one you know how to load it up and get it turned on.Chance used Hickory Chips for our Jerky but use what you like.It did not take long for the Jerky to dry in our Smoker (An electric one that has a pot of water in the bottom) just 3-4 hours.And I am sorry for not knowing as much about making it in the Smoker.I am just going on if you have one you know how to use it.
Those of you using the Dehydrator or the Oven may be saying "Wait a minute Rois what about the smokey flavor you get from the Smoker will we get that too?" Ah,No. And I do not recommend using Liquid Smoke to get that flavor,it's the most fake flavoring I have ever tasted.Don't worry though,although your Jerky won't be smokey it will still be good.
For all 3 methods the next steps are the same.You will want to come back in a few hours and check your Jerky.You are looking for a supple yet dry meat.If you have had Jerky before use what you know about the look and feel of Jerky to know when it's done.This can take up to 24 hours depending on the thickness of your slices and how you are drying you Jerky. Also you can make the Jerky the way you like it here,dry and crunchy or moist and chewy it's up to you,its a matter of timing is all.Some how I missed a photo of our finished Jerky but most people know what it looks like so oh well.
Once your Jerky is done drying lay it out to cool and watch out for Jerky Thieves,once it is ready quick fingers will appear looking to snatch a bit.Store your Jerky in an air tight container of your choice.We store ours in the fridge to prolong its life a bit,not that it ever stays around long.
As I wrote we store our Jerky in the fridge but this dose not mean you can't take with you without refrigeration. We have taking bags full with us on hiking trips with no problems or worries about spoilage.And I did send some to camp with the boys this week with no calls reporting food poisoning.Just be sensible about the life of your Jerky,when in doubt throw it out.I do belive the Jerky would store well in the fridge for up to a month if you can get it to last that long.
With the boys gone life is quiet and half of the work,I do kind of miss them though.Last night the boys called from camp.At first I thought Oh no,whats wrong but they were calling to ask if their packages had come in the mail(They are always ordering something in the mail) and to tell us they were having a great time.Issac the eldest even with the voices of the other boys in the back said,"I love you Mama" Sigh.
Chance and I were able to spread out much of the straw from the bales and gave some of it away.The Tomatoes I moved from the Bales have perked up and look much happier.I have the first blossom on my Yellow Crook Necked Squash and have been training the Cucumbers up their trellis.Today I will plant a new round of Swiss Chard to make up for the Chard I lost with the Hay Bales.Even with the Hay Bales not working,I still feel hopeful of the expansion of Hrafinstaad.There's still lots of room for growth and growing here.And since no one is in a rush there's time to work it all out.A never ending project- our life.