Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Pitter-Patter of Little (webbed) Feet

After what seemed like eons, Blueberry the Muscovy finally hatched out her clutch of eggs. We ended up with 5 adorable, feisty little babies. She and her sister, Drusilla, seem to be co-parenting the brood. It takes a village, peeps.

It's hard for me to believe that almost a year ago to the day, Dru & Blue were the day-old fuzzballs. They grow up so fast!

For your squeeing viewing pleasure -

Proud Mama Blue and her bitty babies, out for a stroll

Mama Blue and Auntie Dru watching over the littles

Blueberry and two of her day-old hatchlings
And last but not least, Mama and Auntie taking the kiddos on a grand tour of the Hollow. Absolute sweetness.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Growing Container Potatoes

Our Porch Taters, Day 45

Somehow or other, I got the bright idea to try growing two mostly-the-same-but-slightly-different batches of spuds this year. Picture #1 are the "Porch Taters". They differ from our "Garden Spudz" (pic #2) by location as well as the fertilizer that was used at planting time. We have an unofficial growing contest going between the two plots.

The Garden Spudz, day 45

The differences between the two groups are -

The Porch Taters
* Fertilized with fresh bunny poo at planting time.
* Planted in "Smart Pots" recycled grow bags
* Sitting directly on a concrete porch (receives more radiant heat?)
* Gets Southern sun in the morning thru early afternoon

The Garden Spudz
* Fertilized with well-rotted homemade compost (Goat/chicken/duck manure and bedding, plus some kitchen scraps) at planting time
* Planted in "Root Pouch" recycled grow bags
* Sitting on a wooden pallet against the Northernmost wall of our garden
* Gets high noon thru late evening sun.

Both groups were started on 4/4/15 with organic certified, disease-free, well-chitted seed potatoes from the same batch (Irish Eyes Garden Seeds), in Gardner & Bloome's Organic Raised Bed Soil mixed with a handful of Dr. Earth's Kelp Meal.

Based on the above-ground growth alone, the Purple Majesty potatoes seem to be the happiest and healthiest. I've been surprised and disappointed by the slow growth of the Yukon Gold, considering that they are the earliest maturing variety that I planted. They are supposed to have a 65 day (more or less) growing season, 45 of which have already passed. Yikes. I hope they can ketchup catch up! ;)

More updates to follow...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When Presented with a Landslide of Eggs... my hens and ducks are wont to do, hot on the heels of 3-4 months of relative egglessness, you seek out egg-intensive recipes. These are some of the goodies that my girls and I are making this week -

* Coconut Macaroons (Note that these are the good old fashioned macaroons from your childhood, not the uber-trendy, rainbow colored macarons.) A single batch uses 4 egg whites (save those yolks!), which isn't even a day's worth of eggs. None the less, these are delish and easy enough for a 12 year old kidlet to take the lead in making them.

Ina Garten's Lemon Bars These call for 6 extra large eggs. I'll use 4 of our biggest whole eggs and the 4 yolks left over from making the macaroons. Who doesn't love Ina's cooking? Never trust a skinny chef! ;)

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Mousse This recipe is the closest one to the recipe I use from Mah-tha's Cookbook, where it is listed as Chocolate Mousse 2. It's my go-to egg intensive dessert, because it's so super easy (only 4 ingredients!), uses a ton of eggs, and tastes amazing. I always make a double batch of this because it is simply heaven in a bowl.

Homemade Egg Noodles Be they in the form of plain old fettuccine, stinging nettle linguine, or traditional Ukrainian pita-ha (pirogis), homemade egg noodles are one of the ultimate comfort foods. While they don't use more than 2 or 3 eggs per batch, the recipe, when doubled or tripled, will keep you in tender, hearty pasta for a while. The noodles can be dried or frozen for later use, making a giant batch or two well worth the trouble.

* Breakfast for Dinner - Either a huge pan of scrambled eggs with a side of Aunt Alice's homegrown bacon, a towering stack of cinnamon-raisin french toast, or a deep dish veggie and cheese-filled frittata will use the better part of a dozen eggs, if not more, for feeding a stick-to-your-ribs meal to a family of four.

Our "Chuck" eggs - a joint effort between our chickens and ducks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Putting the Laydies to Work

Need a bit of soil weeded and turned over? Sic your hens on it!

Eight hungry hennies in the tractor, day 1

I have a long-disused bed that I needed to start clearing out to prepare for an April/May/June planting of flowers. This bed is far removed from (and less protected than) our veggie garden, and as such, has been sort of ignored since we moved in almost 5 years(!) ago.

With weeds and reed canary grass getting that long and strong of a foothold, I knew that weeding this bed wasn't going to be easy. So I recruited some hard working gals to help get me started. As you can see in the photo below, they've made a decent job of it on their first pass.

The tractor, day 3, and it's path of destruction improvement.

All this, and eggs too!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sneaky Peepers!

You know that feeling you get when, as a parent, your kids' behavior catches your attention because they're acting too casual?

Our Brahma-Cauna (Buff Brahma/Ameracauna) hen, Pegleg Peggy, (owing to her once spraddle-legged gait) was straight-up busted today, trying to zip back into the chicken yard through a hole in the fence.

The guilty party is the girl in back, fleeing from justice.

That was enough to pique my curiosity, warranting a stroll along the fence line. And whattaya know?

I knew it!

Can you see it?


Bill and I had installed some new "upcycled" recycling bin nest boxes in the coop on Saturday, and we got two eggs that same evening, raising my suspicion that our hennies had already started up laying again after their long Winter's nap, but laying the eggs somewhere different and weird instead of, you know, somewhere that we could actually find them. IwasrightIwasrightIwasright!

Our repurposed recycling bin nest boxes.

We ended up with a dozen eggs from the stash spot. I've collected them and brought them in for further investigation into their possible edibility. If they check out ok, it'll be breakfast for dinner tomorrow night. If not, next stop - compost bin.

Either way, it sure is nice to know that our laydies are back up and running and that Spring is definitely, finally on its way back.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This Week in Harvesting & Homesteading

Billy grew a watermelon! Actually, he grew a few, which is no small feat in Western Washington. The one pictured here is a 4-pound Sugar Baby. We also planted some Yellow Dolls, but have yet to harvest one. Our thrown-together hoop house seems to be the thing that has made the difference. Summers normally just aren't long enough or hot enough around here for watermelon, and we'd all but given up on ever being able to grow them, when... booyah, the hoop house delivered.


Or maybe this was just a good year for cucurbits in general? Our cukes have never really produced a meaningful harvest, but this year.... whoa nelly! I've gone off the deep end a little with my pickling this year, most but not all of which has been cucumber pickles. So far I have 2+ gallons done and cooling their heels in the fridge, and just started 1 1/2 more gallons of sour dills fermenting today. The house of Jackson shall have a tangy miasma about it this Winter! ;)

Garlicky sour pickles in progress Day 1

I also processed another 50ish pounds of apples into juice/cider/critter food this week. My cranky shoulder is in a bad way right now from all the chopping, grating and schlepping around of produce, but, you know, I wouldn't have it any other way. Farm Wife 4 Life, yo!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Harvest Time 2014, Part 1

We were very late to pick our apples this year, and so haven't got nearly as much to show for our efforts as we have in years past, but we can chalk up at least one small victory - homemade hard cider.

Nothing warms a homebrew nerd's heart quite like the steady bloop-blooping of the airlock on a carboy of fresh-juiced cider. Some of this is destined to become apple cider vinegar, but at least a few pints will be enjoyed in it's hard form.

I also just harvested some of my breadseed poppies for use in baked goods and as an added exfoliant to our homemade goats milk soaps. This year I grew Elka White Seeded Poppies from Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home, Oregon. Provided that I'd managed my garden better and not left it to it's own devices this Spring & Summer, I have no doubt that I'd have had a much bigger harvest. Even still, homegrown poppy seeds in any amount is pretty rad in my book.

I still have a lot of a lot of other things to harvest and sock away by one means or another. I've been a lactofermenting fiend this Summer! I already have sour pickles, dilly beans, sauerkraut and fermented ginger carrots done and in the fridge, but the cukes keep rolling in and the 'maters and tomatillos... I've yet to deal with those at all so far.

Harvest Time parts 2, 3, 705, etc., will follow in due course. We're raising half a dozen Muscovy ducks for the freezer this year, with a tentative harvest date of October 1st. Apparently slaughtering ducks is a whole different ballgame from harvesting chickens and turkeys, so I have a lot of research and prep to do before ducky d-day. We also may be harvesting one of this past Spring's wethers for the freezer. It depends, in part on whether or not they sell when the doelings move on.

There is certainly no shortage of things to do in the coming weeks and months, and having been otherwise occupied during the Spring and Summer, I look forward to doing (most of) them.

It's good to be back! :)