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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Catching up,Looking back and Breakfast it's whats for dinner

Picture A Day June 20, 2009 - Red Indian Paint...Image by mlhradio via Flickr
 A busy day today spent catching up on some things around here,looking back but starting some new things and breakfast is for dinner.
   I had fallen a bit behind on things around the house the past couple of weeks and the mood to spiff things up hit so,I ran with it.The windows are washed inside and out,the laundry is almost done (not that it ever disappears.That would be the day after I die;an event never seen by my own eyes missed by one day.) And a bunch of other mundane crap I won't bore us with.
  I did take a break from house stuff this morning and read back through my postings here.I am not all the way through yet and will finish in the next couple of days.Looking back I realize we have come a long away in just one year.Yeah,sure we did not do some of the things we had hoped,the Hay Bale Garden beds did not work out ,we still can't seem to pick a tree for the front yard.(I am rooting for the Gravenstien to be planted as a full tree instead of an Espalier.I want Apples!) and the Earth/Cobb Oven has moved WAY down our To Do List.
 That's ok, we planted,grew not only a garden but as a tighter knit family,canned,raised and butchered our own Chickens and learned all sorts of new things.We have met quite a few of our goals as well. We have lowered our waste and created a total system of reducing and reusing everything.Freed up lots of cash by down sizing one vehicle,growing and stock piling more food and being even more mindful of our spending habits.Issac and I are enjoying (other than Issac's Gallbladder.) excellent health that we merit to our change in eating habits.(That is a posting I am considering.This blog is not about our having Crohn's Disease but it is part of our motivation.)  And to add to it we have met some like minded people to share our lives with.
 It has all been good but we are still on our journey.
   I posted earlier today that I have started a Fan Page on Facebook and the response has been a bit overwhelming especially since there are some new faces that I don't even know.Thanks to all of you who have already taken the time to become our fan.I love writing this blog and I love the life we live.Sharing it has made it motivating and exciting all at once.
  My time at Urban Farm has ended,my hours fizzled out and it is now time to return home full time to focus on Hrafinstaad.I had a great time working there and learned some new things so not all was lost. Being back home full time will give me the time that is needed right now for the gardening that is coming sooner than later.I will also have time for a bigger writing project I have in the works.More about that when the time is right.(Margaret, I am doing it!)
  This  morning I was not motivated to leave the house to go to the store for any thing, period! So after counting the eggs I chose Breakfast for Dinner night.We actually like having breakfast for dinner,it is a nice change and when things are tight it stretches the budget. Back at Christmas the boys bought me the "Grand Central Baking Book" and I have been wanting to make the Bread Pudding Muffins but needed a full pound of dry bread for it.Today I used up some left over dinner rolls I made at the beginning of the week and made the muffins. So we will have those with eggs,apple sauce and what ever else I find in the fridge for dinner.
  I am going to add this in here, I am sitting on the fence about Grand Central's book.So far I have made mostly the cookies and every single time I follow their times I end up burning the first batch of cookies.Not nice,Chance still eats them but not nice any way.The recipes are good but maybe are not for a newbie baker.Even today I took out the muffins 10 minutes early.So I don't know if it is the book or my oven until I figure that out I hang here on the fence.And until I work this out I am not sharing the recipe. (I have not shared something in awhile...Note to self- Share a recipe here soon.)
    I am happy and eager to see what this coming year will bring.Come along with us on our journey.

P.S The photo above is of an Indian Paintbrush,the very first flower I learned to identify at the age of 4.I have been thinking about the woods and wild places and how much I love them.
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Fan Page

Ferry_FanImage by Pro-Zak via Flickr
A quick note: Hrafinstaad now has a Fan Page on Facebook, here is the link which I hope works since I seem to have problems with adding links here.If the link dose not work the Fan Page is listed as Hrafinstaad Homestead.
 I hope to see you there.I started the fan page as a way to encourage people to join in and start some conversations.
 I'll have more to post later today.Until then Ta Ta For Now.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

And it RAINED....

Wheat fields, Willamette Valley, OregonImage by Robert Crum via Flickr
 We went away for the weekend, we traveled 4 hours south to Ashland to visit good friends we had not seen in awhile. On the return trip we stopped in Cottage Grove to buy onion starts at Territorial Seed.We were out of luck with the onions,the lady at the counter said both the Big Daddies and the Walla Walla Sweets were sold out for the year.Bummer,those are two good onions,now to find some others.Our last stop was in Eugene to have birthday dinner with friends.
 Visiting with friends was a welcomed break and a pleasure but the trip home was a drive through thick heavy rain that followed us all the way home. Normally the drive through the Willamette Valley this time of year is a spring time treat.The valley floor is bright green rolling land with soft hills in the distance calling to come explore.All along the way we saw spring lambs huddled close to their Mama's in the rain. I love the valley and wish we still lived there,it always feels like home.
  Once home we unpacked the car.We arrived looking a bit like the Beverly Hill Billies with 2 bikes and a patio lounge chair I had bought for $2 at a yard sale tied to the roof of the car.The boys take their bikes were ever we go and ALWAYS have stops planned for bike riding ; this trips stop was the skate park in Talent a tiny blip on the map and only 3 miles from our friends house in Ashland. Our goal is to stop at every skate park in Oregon an adventuresome goal leading us off the beaten path at times.
  When we go out of town just for a weekend we leave the hens with full feed and water bins locked tight in the coop and run.So far in the years we have had chickens this has been just fine.We collect the eggs on our return and all is well.This trip not so much. After unpacking I went out to the coop in the pouring rain to check on the chickens.It was full on dark by then and it took me a minute to realize some how the chickens had gotten out of their coop,all of them, not just the 2 that escape all of the time.Where were they? Camped out on the highest point of the coop roof huddled together,wet, soggy and not looking too happy. I tried to reach them,Chance tried to reach them no luck.Chance decided they would just have to stay and weather the storm out the best they could.Poor chickens.... It was a long night with little sleep for me.The wind was banging all sorts of things around.I kept thinking I heard footsteps in the attic,it was really the rose trellis out our window banging but it was creepy.Then I'd be awake listening to the wind knowing my chickens were out in that mess. I had visions of the chickens flying away like the witch on her bike in the Wizard of Oz, once landed the girls looking at each other with a look that reads " I don't think we are in Oregon anymore,Zeph." (Zeph is our rooster.)
 This morning the rain has let up and we have our spring lake at one end of the back yard.I have 7 VERY wet flat looking chickens,pissed but safe. Weathering the storm out earned them a big scoop of cracked corn to help them bring up their temperatures and maybe dry out. 

Our friend in Eugene asked us what we had been planting and I realized we have a nice sized list and thought maybe I should share it here with all of you.
  15- Strawberries
  1- Italian Prune tree
  2- Kiwi  one male one female
  1- Black Current
  1- Joseph's Coat climbing Rose
  3- Kinds of Lettuces
  2- kinds of Swiss Chard
  1- bed of Beets
  1- bed of Carrots
  12- red Onion starts
  3- Ruhbarb
  4- Raspberries
  1- Gravenstein Apple

Seed Starts-
  2-kinds Tomatoes
  Jimmy Nardello Peppers
  Red Bell Peppers

I was worried we were a bit behind in our planting until I rattled off our list.There's more to do but for now we are waiting for the weather and soil to warm up before it will be time for the next round of plantings. I still have potatoes chitting on the window sill. The rain is here for the week so I may have full blown potato plants to plant at this rate.Oh well these things happen.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

A letter to Micheal Pollan,

 Dear Mr Micheal Pollan,
   I thought of you today as I sat in my car munching a snack with more ingredients than it should have. A snack that millions of American parents pack in their children's lunch boxes on a daily bases.A snack that is marketed as a healthy naturally flavored bar made with wholesome oats and nuts. I bought the snack as a treat, a mid- afternoon-slump-pick-me -up, I knew it was no good for me but it did give me some food for thought.
  Why did I think of you today? As I crunched and munched my way through the bar, I was thinking of your writings about food, ingredients, food sources and what to leave behind. I read the ingredients list and thought to myself , "What Would Micheal Pollan Think?" Yuck most likely.
    The very first thing on the list was Almonds, not bad, a healthy kind of fat.Did I find many? No. Next came high maltose corn syrup.Would my great grandparents know this as a food?No.The list went on and on with a total of 23 things of which every other was either some sort of sugar or some man made item that I really don't want to know what it truly is or how to pronounce it correctly.There were oats half way down but the yogurt made from powder probably nullified the oats by far.
  Where did I find this snack? At the check out counter right next to the magazines I no longer buy,that should have been a warning right there. Here I had been a mindful shopper sticking to the outer walls of the store where all of the fresh and good for you things are kept. Then, BAM- I am lead to my temptation at the check out.
    Maybe if I had been able to go to a Farmer's Market to buy what I needed I could have found a pick-me-up snack with a short list of ingredients all of which I could pronounce,know (for the most part) where the items came from and met the maker of my treat.But no, I went to the local super market that leaves me thinking I need some sort of reward for having gone there.  
    I do feel I have some redemption in this deed.I only bought and ate one of these chewy things.(Chewy,another tag that maybe there are too many things in something.) It was a treat after all not a food.
    I suppose I should have left the outer walls of the store and turned down just one aisle,The Candy Aisle. The aisle with the frazzled mothers bribing their whining kids with sugar. Down that hectic aisle I might have found a simple chocolate bar with only 11 ingredients and only 3 of which I am clueless about.
     Thank you for your unknowing reminder today and the thoughts it gave me.And by the way,my son's quote you when we shop together.I ask them "What do you want? This or That? "  "Mom! Would our great to the 4th power parents know those things as food?" Which is charming until I the tired Mother returns from work late and want to just make something so instant it is already done before I can blink looks into the cupboard and sighs.Oh yeah, I shop the outer walls at the store,looks like I am cooking after all.
  With best regards and warm wishes.
    Your Fan

Hens are smarter than you think.

 I know it has only been a few days since I placed the plastic eggs in the coop but so far nothing is going on.I think the hens know those eggs don't belong,they have scattered them all over the coop and went back to laying their own eggs in the corner like always.
 Once upon a time feed stores sold glass eggs just for this purpose I may have to look around and see what I can find.Maybe since Easter is coming and the thrift stores have the holiday stuff out I could just find some egg ornaments made from something sturdier than the plastic.
   Or I could place a  help wanted ad in the local paper. Wanted for hire one broodie hen ready to set some eggs,willing to work for feed and a cozy coop to sleep in.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Encouraging my hens to go broodie...

Here is Abby our Black Sexlink wondering what on Earth I am up to now.

 This morning when I went to the store I picked up a package of plastic Easter eggs with the hopes that one of the hens will go broodie. I am hoping the colors of the eggs won't matter,I did try to keep the colors as true as possible.Now we wait and see what happens.

Here they are, the "eggs" sitting in the hen's favorite laying corner.
Cross your fingers for me!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Potatoes and Fabulous Finds

When my Dad came to visit a few weeks ago he brought me a box full of seed potatoes.Once they were good and sprouted I placed them on our kitchen window sill to chit. I am waiting for the potatoes to turn a bit green and for Chance and I to figure out where we want to plant them.

In the past we have not been successful potato farmers.We have tried every way of growing them with no luck but, we have not given up on potatoes because like every thing else you grow for your self homegrown potatoes are the best,smooth, creamy and not at all starchy like the store ones.

Recently I was talking to my Mom as she was cooking her dinner,she was making a pot of mashed potatoes and as she poured the cooking water off she told me this.My Mom always feels a bit wasteful when she just dumps the potato water down the drain.Growing up my Mom was raised by her Grandparents and her Grandmother always saved the potato cooking water for cooking other things. Saving the water was an economical way of adding some nutrition to their diet.When you boil any food a lot of the nutrition ends up in its cooking water,that's why soup is so tasty.

One of the things my Great Grandma used the potato water for was baking bread. Although there are actual Potato Bread recipes which call for some Mashed Potatoes to be added to the dough, Great Grandma was just adding the water and the vitamins to boost the nutritional value of the bread. To do this you simply replace either all of the liquid in the recipe or even just part of it. My Mom told me that if I used the water in a bread recipe it would not change the texture of the dough like the mashed potatoes do in Potato Breads. Mom also pointed out that if you salt your potatoes while they are cooking you may want to adjust the amount of salt you use in any recipe.

The other way Great Grandma used the potato water was when she made soups.I have had a couple of Vegetarian friends tell me they do this as well.One friend even said she saves the potato skins when she peels them to make a soup stock base with.

I have yet to try either one of these but is now on my radar for the next time I boil some potatoes.

Life here at Hrafinstaad is really rolling along. Last Friday Chance went and picked up a Gravenstein apple tree for our yard.Gravenstein's are my most favorite apple there is. These apples are not keepers which makes for a very small window of time when a person can find them on the market and I am thinking that is why many farmers don't grow them.The Gravenstein's are the best all around apple,sweet,yet tart,crisp and juicy.Perfection to my pallet.
While I was at work Chance and Sol did a big final clean up of the back yard .Sol also planted some root crops for me,beets and carrots.
Sol's green thumb is blindingly green,that boy can grow State Fair Blue Ribbon winning anything.Give that kid some seeds to plant and watch out.One year Sol and I planted some Sunflowers together from the same seed packet,the ones Sol planted were the size of Montana with heads 3 feet across and 10 feet high, mine were just average. I will laugh my head off if the roots he planted grow so huge too.I can see the headlines now, "Boy grows 100 pound carrots and feeds the nation with them."

Yesterday was a day away from the house,we took the boys and their friend to downtown Portland to the Saturday Market. (Yes, I know I said Saturday and yesterday was Sunday but it works that way.) Saturday Market is one of our local crafts markets located on the water front under one of our bridges here. The only thing we bought at the market was lunch.

After Saturday Market we we walked up the street to a guitar shop where we parted ways with the two older boys, life with teens is full of partings. Sol is learning to play Delta Blues Slide guitar a very American style of music and a dieing art. Once inside the the guitar shop Sol fell in love with a Steel Guitar and had himself a mini jam session.

As for me I fell in love with these vintage Valentines at an antique shop we stopped in.I have a small collection of vintage Valentines.I love them especially the ones with things written on them.The airplane one is from Daddy and has a sweet little note written on the back.

Our final stop before the grocery store was our Goodwill Bins.Chance and I want to hang the larger sized Christmas lights in the trees in our backyard,the only place to find them this time of year would be the thrift stores.We did find one string of the lights but Chance also found a whole basket of clothes pins.My final tale of the posting is about these type of pins. I told my Mom about our find and she relayed this to me.
My Mom grew up during WW 2 and metal anything was scarce including the clip style of clothes pins, the metal for the springs was needed to fight the war. Since everyone hung their wash to dry everyone had clothes pins. The only ones you could find were like the ones I bought,my Great Grandma hated them; I guess they don't work as well. I am stubborn and will try them out anyway,you never know maybe I can get them to work.If not I am sure one of my crafty friends could use them to make some creation with.

Rain is in the forecast for this week so I am not too sure how much planting will get done.It is early in the growing season so there is still plenty of time. Everyday I see more and more signs that Spring is really here and I am glad.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh my darling girls.....

Eggs from our chickensImage by Perfectly Natural via Flickr

Today I sold 2 dozen eggs for $3 a dozen! The hens are now earning their keep double time! I am 1/3 of the way to a bag of feed.
The neighborhood next to ours has a great Yahoo group designed for trading,selling and swapping.Although we live outside of their lines someone over there knew we would be interested and we were invited to join up.So today I posted a for sale or trade for our eggs, in under 2 hours I had my eggs sold. I also posted that we would have eggs on a semi regular bases with the hopes that the hens could earn enough to buy their feed.
I feel pretty accomplished as an Urban Farmer today!
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Another reply-Humane butchering

Mmmm chicken! 001Image by TenderBranson via Flickr

Well 6512 and growing, has posted another chicken question and I will do my best again to reply. The question is about humanly butchering a chicken. So here we go....

Chance and I had always used a stump with two nails and an axe for butchering our chickens.This is the way we did it at my Dad's house so we were following tradition yet again. I also learned how to butcher a chicken by simply holding on to the bird by the wings and slitting its neck with a very sharp knife,not my favorite way but in a pinch it works. This way takes two people,one to hold and one to cut.

Last year when Chance and I were asked to teach our butchering class it was requested we use a Killing Cone/Funnel because it is thought to be more humane.We had never heard of this cone and had to do some web surfing to figure it all out. This is what we found.

First, the cones are steep in price to buy one which would have cut into the small amount of money we would be making by teaching our class. Chance is a handy guy and started really looking at how the cones were made and came up with his own pattern to make one. Here is the blog entry we did on building your own. Instead of paying 60 or so dollars you should be able to build one for around $20 total by using Chance's how to. That blog posting is our number one search that brings people here to Hrafinstaad.

We also discovered we like using the cone because it simplifies everything and makes things go quicker.

To use the cone you tie your chickens feet together,turn your bird upside down and slide it into the cone. Turning a chicken upside down kind of calms the bird down and the snugness of the cone also helps it. You still have to stand close by to where you have hung your cone,the bird will try and wiggle out.
So there you are with the bird in the cone with its head sticking out the end.The next step is to take a hold of the chickens neck and gently pull it our straight and cut. PLEASE the most humane thing is to make sure your knife is VERY SHARP.( Chance keeps our knives razor sharp so much so that they will slice a sheet of paper with ease.) The sharp knife will insure you only have to do one slice.
Now the next part is to bleed out your bird. Once you have cut your chickens neck it will flop around a bit inside the cone,the eyes may blink at you and sometimes you will hear growling or gurgling.All of these are simply the life going out of the bird, all of it is the body's natural process and only lasts a moment or two. You can take the bird out of the cone and hold it by its feet while it is going through this if you are worried about to much flopping around. Once your bird has gone limp you will hang it by its feet someplace to let it finish bleeding out.

Finally you are ready to pluck and gut your bird, a blog entry I have yet to figure out how to write.The plucking is easy but the gutting is all done by feel and I have just not found the words to describe it well. Google and Youtube are your best bets on those.

Once you get online and start looking at the millions of ways to butcher a chicken out there it is a bit crazy.For every culture on the Earth there is a different way of doing it. Chance and I are now Cone users,it is easy and dose seem to be a more humane way of doing it.We are still taking a life to further our own but the doing of it is swift.

Another point about humanely butchering is to do the deed where your other hens can not see it happening. There is an old farmers tale that the other hens you are keeping won't lay if they see their flock mates going to the soup pot.I am not to sure this is true but I don't test it either for two reasons.One is how un-nerving for the chickens being kept, and two I want my hens to lay so why test it.

I am going to bring up our boys and butchering at this point because it may be a question someone may have. We always give the boys the choice to help/watch when we butcher. Chance and I choose to do this but do not feel we should force it upon the boys. So far Issac the eldest has manged to be gone when we have butchered,not too sure why but he's been gone never the less. As for Sol the younger one,he is our sensitive soul but a curious fellow.So far Sol has been home on butchering days but will not watch the killing of the birds. Sol is interested once we have plucked the birds and are gutting them.Like Sol many people end up being interested in this part because it is fascinating how all living creatures insides are arranged pretty much the same and the organs are too.We no longer Homeschool Sol but with both boys we have always tried to use moments like this to talk to the boys about the world around them. Since both Chance and I have the attitude that butchering is a part of the life cycle and are calm and mellow about it we have seen that both of the boys have this same mind set.Butchering has also given us as a family the opportunity to really talk about where our food comes from and the choices we can make as a family regarding the sources our food comes from.
6512 and growing, I hope this helped you out with your concerns.Thanks for starting a conversation and feel free to keep posting your questions, I like it!

Everyone else, I am working on a posting about Potatoes and will hopefully get to it later today.
My Mother is on to me,she knows I have her Chicken planter and she is plotting her revenge so it is game on! I had better make sure our doors are locked.What else?....The sun is radiant this morning, I have the day off of work and will be baking later on.I also wish I had a good camera to take some better photos of our newest garden beds.I look at them and I am so pleased but getting them to look right in photos is proving to be trickier than I thought.
Enjoy your day.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Shhhh, Don't tell my Mother

Don't tell my Mother I have kidnapped her Chicken planter. My Mom's side of the family has played a game of Kidnap for years.The rules are set. Rule #1 place the item in your own home someplace the owner may see it.Rule #2 zip your lip and wait.
When ever the family comes over I have to carefully inspect my house after everyone leaves and believe me we all do the same thing when ever we all get together. Usually some small item will be missing,then you have to figure out who has it and how to get it back.No one will ever confess that would ruin the game.Once I had a plate my cousin bought on her honeymoon for 4 years,I hung it on our living room wall,my cousin came over often it took her 4 years to figure it out.The look on her face was priceless.
I LOVE my Mom's planter,it lives outside of her apartment door in the hallway sadly over looked and longing for a better place to be,so I kidnapped it. My birthday is coming and I am hoping to convince Mom that for my birthday she should just give me the planter.Cross your fingers for me.
I don't blog about my love of vintage anything or my passion for vintage dishes especially the old restaurant wear.Oh and there is vintage embroidered dish towels those rock too. And I dream of owning just one more Ester Hunt bust but that will have to wait until I win the big lotto ticket and since I never remember to buy one I may be out of luck on that. But the chicken planter is kind of everything I love all rolled into one item.Chickens,vintage and its funky shabbiness,I just love it.
Now where am I going to put that planter????? Someplace it will take awhile for my Mom to notice 'cause I am not giving this one up easily.

Culling your flock.A reply to a comment

I received a comment asking me for more about culling our flock of hens. From the comment I am gathering they are wanting to know more about the emotional side of it.
The need to cull your flock of chickens is something that will come up eventually as chicken owners. Those of you new to chicken keeping need to understand that before you bring home your chicks.It is easy to fall in love with those darling little peeps and the dream of having your own birds happily living their lives out in your backyard.
The need to cull our flock is just presenting it's self to us this spring.Although we have had chickens for 7 years now Mother Nature has graced us with the hens dieing on their own for whatever reason chickens die. We have had a couple taken by raccoons which makes me mad as all heck. And now it looks like my hens are all laying again so culling may not happen after all.
We had thought 2 of our older hens, who are 3 years old now, were not laying so what were we going to do? Abby our Black Sex Link is a sweet little thing and will follow me around like a dog,I am kind of attached to her if you can't tell.Then there is Joan the Barred Rock who seems to hear voices in her head and is an odd ball,I am not so attached to her. But both girls have been good layers and have given us no troubles. But we have only so much room here at our suburban homestead and we have the hens for their eggs and the farm sensibilities my parents raised me with overrode any of my feelings for the hens. If they were not laying they would have to be culled.
Now I am not a heartless person we do have one hen left from our first flock who is excused from culling,Miss Cleo. Miss Cleo is 7 years old and has not graced the nest box with an egg in a long time but that darling is one awesome hen.When we have had new chicks she has taken them over and showed them the ropes of the chicken yard,acting as a mother and protector from the other hens. That trait is valuable in a hen,it gives her a purpose beyond the laying of eggs. I just wish she would go broodie and set some other hens eggs,she would make an awesome Mama.
The down side of not culling your non-laying hens is you are left with a flock of pet chickens.Most of the chicken books out there will tell you that hens only live to be maybe 4-5,not true at all. My Dad had a hen much like our Cleo whom was excused from culling because she was such a great Mother to the chicks.My Dad's hen lived to 15,no kidding,15 and she lived through being moved 50 miles away, a cougar on the prowl and the coyotes that lived near by.15 years is a long time, so think it over do you want livestock or pets?
I don't know what to say about how to get your mind set for culling your birds. Culling hens is something I grew up with and is kind of "normal" to me,a part of keeping chickens. I think it is important to start out with some clear ideas of what you are getting yourself into.I tell new chicken owners all the time at work,Chickens are just like any other animal you bring into your life,they need care and are a long term commitment. What are you going to do when your hens are old and need to go? Like I have said in some of my postings about butchering can you do it? Have you thought it ALL the way through?
I have read that in some cities the local animal shelters are filling up with unwanted hens,most likely the ones that are no longer laying or people did not think it through and gave in to their whim. I have a feeling that pretty soon here it will become a problem just like the trend of Pot Bellied Pigs a few years ago. This comes around once more to my burning request to people think it ALL the way through first.
There are other reasons to cull your flock of course.A bird with a bad temper has got to go a peaceable kingdom makes for happy hens who lay. An egg eater needs to go,sometimes a Rooster or one who has become lame. The reasoning needs to be done with a bit of logic applied to your own situation. Try and set aside your emotions and think of the greater good for the flock and your family.
I don't know if I have given the reader who requested this posting any help, maybe my practical side is too strong. Pracicality and old school farm smarts are what I try to bring to my blog,if you are going to live this kind of life you need a dose of both to make it work. This is not a hobby for us it is a life style,hobbies you can set aside and forget but your life is your life. Life is not always peaches and cream so roll with the punches and think things through.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010


We are home again and we are so glad to be here.Issac had a rough week at home not feeling well and waiting to go to surgery. But Issac is resting,well and is now the proud owner of 5 gallstones in a jar.

This spring one of our goal here is to fill the empty side of our front yard with garden beds.In the photo you can see how empty it is. You can also see the stump from the plumb tree we took down last spring.When we first started to plan this side of the yard I was a bit overwhelmed, all of that blank space what to do! Once Chance calmed me down we decided to start by continuing the very front bed that we have on the other side of the yard. Our goal was to plant more espaliered fruit trees and other low growing edibles and flowers to make a living green fence line.Once we had that done we were hoping that the rest of the space would make better sense. You can see photos of the side of the front yard we already started here and here to get an idea of what we are aiming for. I call it our twist on English gardening,part flowers, part edibles combined to give us food, a pretty yard and some privacy now that our big tree is gone.
As you can see from this next photo( not a very good photo.) we got the front bed started.We planted the first things nearest the walkway last year. We have to Florabunda Roses which we saved from being thrown out at a local nursery.The roses are very happy since we planted them, a reminder that it never hurts to ask about plants that are about to become trash,you can sometimes save them and they have a great price of free.
After the roses we have a very small Tea Tree ( I need to ask at work the variety because I forget to write it down.) it is the kind of tea you drink not for oils. We then planted several blueberries of unknown varieties, I rescued those too. I moved some herb plants and Strawberries to grow under the Blueberries.
Next we bought and planted an Italian Prune tree that we are training into an espalier. Italian Prunes are my favorite of the plumbs they are great fresh eating,cooking and canning. We ended the row with a male and female Arctic Beauty Kiwi's.Kiwi's grow great here and the boys are hoping it will produce fruit before they leave for college in 3 years.
We are still hunting down the tree we want to finish the bed with and are starting to get a feel for how the rest of the future beds will look. We are increasing the amount of food and the number of varieties we will be growing this year which means some serious mapping of the garden beds will need to happen.I am also working on a rotation schedule of the beds as well.I don't want to over work the beds by always plating the same things in the same beds.
The day Chance and I were working on the new front bed we had many people stop in their cars and chat with us.Everyone loved what we are doing.This kind of makes me chuckle and shake my head.Most, not all, but most people in the suburbs think what Chance and I are trying to accomplish with our homestead is a bit radical and could not possibly be beautiful and yet they stop to ask us questions,make positive comments and leave smiling. I guess in this era we are a bit "radical"by growing our own food and trying to build awareness and community through sharing our passions with anyone who asks "What are you doing?"
We also worked out a trade with another neighbor who lives a couple doors up from us.We gave our neighbor some of the Strawberries I had thinned out and she said she could get us some Marion Berry plants from a friend of hers.I have been calling all over town looking for this older berry that was developed right here in Oregon and is rarely found outside of Oregon.The Marion's a yummy berry good for fresh eating and baking. Here is a link to more information about them.

Chance just handed me a still warm square of Blueberry/Sour Cream Coffee Cake with a grin on his face! Chance has been trying to learn how to bake,he can cook up a storm but to quote him "can't bake my way out of a paper bag." My first bite of his cake proves you can teach an old dog new tricks,it is good! So good bye for now,I want to eat this cake while it is still warm.Then we can plan our day.

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Monday, March 8, 2010


We are waiting in a kind of limbo today just like Big Red whom we ended up putting in the freezer until another less crazy week. Limbo arrived in the middle of the night in the form of Issac's belly ache, well more like gall stone aches. Our fingers are crossed Issac holds out until Fridays surgery date.
If I am not back soon with the photos I have been taking of newly planted fruit trees and other homesteading news you will know where we are,sitting, waiting, drinking endless cups of coffee and lurking around the halls of the hospital.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Putting the Horse before the cart,opps

Incubator in Middle Ages. From the engraving o...Image via Wikipedia

I was so excited after my earlier posting and was really wanting to talk to my Dad so he could fill in the gaps for me but it was 7:30 Am on Sunday which meant two things.Either my Dad was still sleeping or he was getting ready to go to church.To tide myself over I pulled out our chicken book and hoped it had something about this whole chick business. What did I find? We put the eggs before the broodie hen much like the horse before the cart.Dang!
We have to put out some plastic or wood eggs in the nest box to see if we can encourage a hen to go broody once we do we can leave eggs under her.We also will have to move Mama to be to a different coop while she sets.That's no problem since we now own a large chicken tractor currently not in use.
I also read that our Wynadotts are great ones for going broody! Those girls have now redeemed themselves in my eyes, every one of my dislikes for them is gone out the window.
Still excited,still hopeful just a change in the plan. I had better get going Chance is at the hardware store buying stakes for our new Raspberries and I don't think he'd like to find me sitting here blogging instead of getting my self in gear. Hey,it is Sunday at 9 in the morning and I still have coffee in my cup I'll get moving soon...
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Exciting news! Fertile eggs!

Chicken eggs, Loma area, Liberia, 1968Image by gbaku via Flickr

We have fertile eggs!!! I am so excited by this I feel like an awaiting mother!

Friday when I went to make Sol eggs for breakfast I noticed this little hopeful thing,this moment of excitement, a little white blob on the yokes of the eggs that looked just like a frogs egg.YES!!!! Our beautiful Ameraucana Roster Zeph was doing his job. The dream of having our own little chicks peeping around the coop,snuggled under their Mama's wing,oh the wonderful-ness of it.
Later that morning one of the hens was doing her "I laid an egg" crow. I don't get it when the hens randomly decide to do this crazy clucking announcing the laying of an egg.Why is it that some days it is something to cackle about? It's not like the hens don't lay all the time.Back to things, once the hen was done with her happy dance, Chance and I went out to check for eggs and see what the fuss was all about.One of the girls was still sitting.This happens,we are ready to collect the eggs but the hens are not done doing their job.This was when I brought up the fertile egg business to Chance.I had not said one word to Sol since I wanted him to eat his breakfast without any complaints.Chance had been at work at breakfast time so it was good news to his ears too.
I am going to side track right here. I know someone out there is wondering about eating fertile eggs and how I can eat something that has the beginnings of a life. This is how it works.First and foremost you must have a rooster to have fertile eggs that grow into chicks.A hen can lay her eggs without there being a rooster,just like a lady can go about her monthly business without a man being around.That's basic biology right? Now once you have eggs that are fertile you can eat them,I would not have fed them to Sol if you could not. The trick is not to let one of your hens set them,meaning you have to collect the eggs diligently so some hen dose not go broody and refuses to get up off the clutch of eggs. But what about the fertility of the egg and what is Broody?
The now fertile eggs will not grow a chick if the hen is not setting on the egg.The eggs need to be warm for things to start growing a chick.That is why once you know you have fertile eggs you need to collect them (if you don't want chicks.) and put them in the fridge.Putting the eggs in the fridge stops the chick from growing.It will take a hen a few days to lay her whole clutch of eggs so the eggs are able to be in kind of a holding pattern for a few days until Mama is ready to set.
Going Broody for a hen is like when a pregnant lady gets those nesting feelings, the hens instincts kick in and all she wants to do is set on her eggs.Hens don't have to have a rooster around to go broody,some never do go broody and sometimes when you want them to go broody they won't.If you have broody hen without a rooster around you just keep taking her off the nest and taking the eggs until she gets the clue that chicks are not happening. They get REALLY cranky with you so watch out for snapping beaks.

So Chance found the hen was still sitting and he was filled in on the fertile eggs, what next? We talked it over.We would love to have our own chicks that was certain. I had already asked my Dad how to encourage the hens to set so I had a plan set up already for this very day.
I had to go to work but Chance would be home so we could put my plan to action! Opportunity was clucking at our door and like always we got busy. The plan was for Chance to come back later in the day to check on the hen and the eggs. If she was still setting Chance would carefully steal her eggs one by one,mark them with a pen with an "X" and put them back under the hen.If no one was sitting Chance would still mark the eggs and leave them in the nest box. The "X" on the eggs was to let us know which ones not to take.We plan on letting 6-8 of them to collect in the nest and take the others for eating. Then we just have to wait and see what happens.Hopefully one of the girls will get the idea and set,I have no clue how long we should give the hens but I am going to call my Dad for the next set of steps.I know it takes 21 days for eggs to hatch but from which day you start your counting is a missing bit of information this morning.Logically I think it would be 21 days from the day the hen starts to set full time.

***** Egg count update,We now have 6 eggs marked and waiting.*****

I am kind of geeking out here over this whole thing.Wow ,we get to try something new and so hopeful.And here I am writing about the fertility in the Spring time none the less and it has reminded me how inner connected all lives truly are.Our basic biology is so much the same wither you are an animal or a human being. Mothers go through these cycles and have these instincts that are rudiment-ally the same,grow the new life, protect,feed and teach that life.It reminds me we are all Gods creatures one and all.

Today is a beautiful sunny Sunday.I am not too sure what the day will hold.I hear the sunshine calling to me to come out and work in the yard but I also hear the indoor work calling my name.This coming Friday our Issac will have surgery number 6 in 2 years! He will be having his Gallbladder removed,a common problem when you have Crohn's. We are not too worried about the surgery but I do worry about the post-op,Issac's last surgery was a rough post-op and once that happens it can become a trend.The one thing I don't worry about is Issac's spirits through this whole thing.That child of mine is the most positive minded soul , it wow's me.His thought is if I go into surgery saying I'll be fine and things will be good than they will.End of story.
So I suppose I will balance out my day between in and out doors. Indoor work so we will be prepared for the hospital trip and outdoor work to feed my soul and to collect my strength.
One last thing,yesterday I was honored with a visit at work by one of my followers.A heavenly surprise during a busy day! Thanks for stopping and saying hello! Dear Follower,talk about fertility,chicks and you!

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Culling the flock and Coq au Vin

Big Red CockImage by Lenny Montana via Flickr

The day has come,Big Red our Rooster is finally coming to meet his end.It's time to cull our flock of chickens, too many mouths to feed and the desire for more eggs has over come my superstition about eating Big Red,so the deed must be done.A part of keeping chickens is knowing when to sort out the non-laying hens and the pig of a rooster.

Not only are we motivated by the our own need but our friends
Rooster has turned into one mean dude, you know it is time for a Roo to go when you have to take a BIG stick with you out to the coop everyday,to protect yourself from a snapping beak and sharp spurs. So Mr Dave and Ms Rachel asked for our help in taking care of their rooster by teaching them how to butcher.

I know not all of you want to hear me talk about butchering chickens but it is the real side of Homesteading no matter where you live. Maybe I'll take pity and not get into the butchering part tomorrow once we have done the task but maybe I should go ahead and be real about the whole thing and post it anyway.

Since both roosters are no longer young and tender in mind or body,although Big Red is a bit dim witted, some creative cooking will have to happen to make these fellows worth all the feed we have been feeding them.Chance has decided that he wants to try his hand at Coq au Vin (this link was suggested by another friend not sure if this is the one Chance will use.) a dish made famous by that cooking Deva Ms Julia Childs. Neither Chance nor I have ever had it. I am hoping it's not one of those dishes you hear so much about, raving reviews , takes days to make and you end up yucking someone's yum. Never the less we say "Game on" lets do it!

If I remember right Chance said the Coq au Vin calls for some bacon which we currently don't have on hand but Chance recently made that bacon like meat made from Pork Jowls with a name I can never remember because it sounds a bit like someone is gargling not speaking a word, so we will substitute the bacon with that.The recipe also calls for mushrooms and I am wondering about using the Chantrell mushrooms we have in the freezer,giving a list of 3 of the main flavors from our own stock pile of home grown foods.
**** I just clicked over to the recipe and once I took a good look at the ingredients I think we may be able to pull most of what we need from our pantry of things we have put away.Everything else on the list could easily be found locally..hmmm something to think about.

It will be the weekend before I can report back on the Coq au Vin.The culled rooster must chill for a couple of days giving the muscles time to relax and become a bit more tender.Then the Coq au Vin must marinate in its bath of wine but I'll be sure to come back with the review of it.

I must say I am enjoying working at Urban Farm Store.I am learning so much about chickens and gardening that it is exciting. I am also learning about the veterinary side of taking care of chickens. We have been fortunate and have not had any sick chickens ( knock wood.) here so it is not something I have had to learn. So far the only chicken care I have learned that makes me a bit weepy for some strange reason is Pasty Butt in Chicks.That is when a chicks backside gets plug with poo and you have to clean it away and sometimes cut it off.Those poor babies,they don't feel good in their tummy's and then they have to go through that.Never fear,there's drops we put in the water to cure them of their woe's. Taking care of chicks is no different than caring for a baby,it is full time work and not always charming.
Beyond everything I am learning there have been some funny moments that you had to be there to laugh about,some VERY interesting questions both serious and ones that left me wondering "Are you really asking that?" I think the last time I talked so much about butts, poo and feeding was when the boys were babies. I really should do a posting all about chicken butts,you can learn a ton about your chicken and it's health by looking at its butt.Is the hen laying,dose the chicken have mites or worms? Yup,this is a big topic at work and I just have to laugh about it.
I have finally made up my mind about which chicks I want to get this year.I have chosen
Black Australorps and Araucana's (which have multiple names all a variation of Araucana.) Both breeds are good layers and reliable birds in general.I have missed our old flock of Araucana's pretty colored eggs and their great personalities so I want some more.As for the Australorp's I am interested in them because they are a beautiful bird to see,great layers and are used for meat. We won't be raising these chicks for meat this summer but I want to try out an Australorp to see if we would want to raise some later for their meat. First though we must butcher not only Big Red but two of our non-laying hens to make room for the new chicks.

Our house is not ready for company this afternoon,I badly need a haircut ,I need to dig out our biggest kettle and bake a dessert so I really must close now.


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Monday, March 1, 2010

Those Mennonite Girls CAN Cook and other bits.

I may have mentioned the blog I follow called Mennonite Girls Can Cook before but, to prove how much I enjoy their blog I am raving about them one more time (for now.) Mondays have become my Bread Baking Day,I am off work and mostly just at home doing house stuff so it works pretty good.
A week or so ago MGCC posted a recipe using a bread dough 3-4 ways that caught my eye.It was not so much the dough it's self but one of the ways to use it called Platz. I reminded myself to try this out the next time I was baking bread.

When I make bread dough I make enough for two loaves at a time because that is all my mixer can handle.Some of the time I make one loaf's worth of the dough into something other than a loaf. A special treat I make with the dough my Great Grandma handed down,she called them Lard Cakes.Ok lard is not on most peoples lists of tasty bites but all they are is Fry Bread.You take blobs of dough,pat them out and fry them in oil, that's where I think the lard bit came in.Then we eat them with jam or rolled in sugar.

The MGCC's Platz is a bit different.You pat out dough into a baking pan,top with fruit or jam,sprinkle the top with crumb and bake it.I liked the fact that it was all things I have on hand all the time.Today when I tried this out I used Apple Butter and one apple diced up for the filling.From the dough for one loaf of bread I was able to make 2 Platz,one was in a Springform pan and the other in an 8 inch round cake pan.And as my smoke alarm told me the Springform pan was the better choice because the dough rises,the dough in the 8 inch pan goo-ed and I now have burnt sugar in the bottom of our oven,lucky me.

So far the recipes I have used from their blog have all worked just like they said and were good. Not only do they have a great list of standard Mennonite dishes they also have a Gluten Free heading as well,bonus! I also love the way they write,it reminds me of how my Mother and Grandmother would explain recipes to me and write them down.

Another Blog I follow and an author who's books we own is Michael Ruhlman. Today Michael posted a blog about Cultured Butter which has me intrigued.Unlike just plain everyday Butter this one has a bit of yogurt added to the cream giving a different flavor.The posting stated that this butter is common in Indian dishes.The next time I go to the market I want to pick up the cream and some plain yogurt to try this out.And like Mr Ruhlman says,homemade butter dose make a difference in taste.

The Platz is still cooling on the counter,if Chance is lucky there will be one for him to take to work for his crew's morning break.