One little thing

Standard

Holy smokes people! I am here for the second time today! Whoa kind of cool.

Guess what?

The little bantam laid us an egg today.

Bantam egg

Can you guess which one it is?

It’s the little one on the right.The crazy part,the bigger eggs are both from our full-sized Gold Laced Wyandotte.I am thinking two Bantam eggs make one big hen egg.

And do you know what else you see?

You see the egg holder Chance made me to cheer me out of a bad mood one day. I had first seen these egg holders while watching the mini series called “Upstairs Downstairs” .I am a geek I notice the little details.The one on the show must have held a dozen or more eggs and was a double-decker. Chance made this one as a trail run.It’s made from a lovely piece of Black Walnut our friend milled and Chance oiled it with vegetable oil.At some point he says he will gladly make us a double-decker.

I later saw some not as nicely crafted egg holders at a local feed store.Someone else also saw the usefulness in them.We rarely have any egg cartons around and the eggs had been housed in a bowl.This made it hard to keep track of the newest and the oldest eggs.Now I just try to go left to right,front to back. Since two hens are molting and not laying right now we can make do with only 8 holes for now.

It also means once less paper/limited reusable thing in the house.I know I can compost or recycle the paper cartons but if I don’t have them to begin with I am not adding to the need for them.  Crazy I know,but I turn down extra packaging all the time.

Rois

P.S I would just like to add-Turkeys are kind of dumb.Cute and charming but dumb. We let the chicken yard folks out around 9 in the morning,the hens went joyfully running out of the coop.The turkeys,it took them until 7 in the evening to find their way out of the coop.That’s about an hour before the hens are putting themselves to roost for the night.It’s happened twice in the past few days and they still can’t figure it out.That story about how turkeys will stand in the rain and drown is true,they really are that dumb. Good thing they will be butchered just before the weather gets to bad.

My come back kid

Standard

Some of my long time readers already know the saga of our Issac and his health problems but I will tell the rest of you the story about Issac.

Four years ago Issac was diagnosed with Crohns Disease.I have it too,it was me who passed that on to him and it is a thorn in my mother’s heart. A year after his diagnosis Issac had major surgery that left him with an ostomy bag to give his gut a rest.After 8 weeks the ostomy was taken down and his bowel was repaired.A year after that he had his gallbladder out,a common thing in people with Crohn’s.The year before his diagnosis Issac had crushed his leg,it took three surgeries and some metal to save it.

All of this within two years,it’s been rough but being Issac he has carried on like a brave trooper. He listened when his surgeon said to him ” You don’t have to let this stop you,keep living your life.”

The past 3 years have been a long hard road for Issac.Up until recently he had been on a low dose of chemotherapy to suppress his autoimmune system.The drug left Issac wiped out all the time and the fatigue triggered migrains.Now that he is off of his medication he is feeling great.His only migraine over the summer was triggered by burning his candle from both ends.

So this is all good news in the end with only one stumbling block.Issac is 14 credits behind in school,a year and a half worth of schooling.This is his Senior year in High School.He had been that sick.

Issac has a goal…to finish on time and to walk with his class.And guess what?…the school thinks he can do it with lots of hard work.

I belive he can do it.He’s feeling good and positive about life.Issac has always had this eagle-eyed vision and focus,he sees his mark and he will get it.I can see that focus in his eyes these days.He’s been through lots of rough days but he knows if he could make it through all of that he can do anything.

There are so many moments of tears and worry I could write about but I am not going to.I am going to write about my pride in Issac.

When we first were told Issac has Crohn’s I wanted to melt into a sobbing puddle on the floor.But Issac looked at me and said “It’s ok Mama,you’ve learned to live with it and so can I” How can you fall apart when facing such a brave moment? That is my moment of pride and focus,together we live with it and we will carry on.

So I am hoping all of you readers will think good thoughts for our Issac while he works hard to complete 2 1/2 years of schooling within one school year.He’s been down a crazy road with no map but he’s finding his own path.He’s a fine young man in every sense.Issac’s name means “laughter”, he always brings that to the table with him.

Through all of this Issac had his bike.The one thing that became like a life raft for him,it kept him afloat and sane. For the last time I am sharing his bike video because it sums him up so well,brave, determined,true and my come back kid.

You can do it Little Man,I know you can,the twinkle in your eyes tells me so.Love Mama.

Rois

A wagon full of homesteading and a shop review.

Standard

 This morning Chance and I were running a few early morning errands that led us to a couple of good spots,that ended up filling the back of my little station wagon.

Our first stop at the feed store where two of our friends work.One of these friends is our chicken guy who brings assorted barn yard birds with him to work.He sells them off the back of his truck in the parking lot.This morning he had a darling of a bantam hen.The orginial owners re-homed her because she goes broody a lot. This fact did not keep me from falling in love with her.I think she was handled because she actually likes to sit on your lap. So she’s here now.I have her penned in our old broody house until we can make the yard bantam safe and until she gets the idea that this is now her home. She looks like this one. She’s pretty small and weighs only a few pounds.Bantams are the mini’s in the world of chicken breeds.She will lay a little egg for us but probably after she settles in.I grew up with Bantams and I remember how cute their eggs are.

Our other friend who works at the feed story is the one we got the turkeys from.She sent us home with two bags of feed.We also discussed moving the turkeys into their own home so we can fatten them up a bit.Turkeys need a higher protein feed to plump up which costs more.So by moving the turkeys they will be the only ones eating the feed.The feeds that were sent home with us will be mixed together,one is a chicken feed made locally and the other is a chick starter. (The chick starter has a high protein content of around 23% which will be good for the turkeys.)

This same friend reminded us about a shop that opened early summer late spring called Portland Homestead Supply Co which sells things a homesteader might find useful.I am going to say my vote is out on this shop until I stop by again. There were some interesting looking things there,some of them could be useful but in my world they were a bit “fluffy” .The shop is kind of boutique-ish if you get my drift.When I see Homestead Supply I think of a more homie,feed store type place. Or how about Jim’s Jars? There’s an adventure onto its self,quirky and housed in a garage.

I really don’t like to own things that only do one job or supposedly do a job that isn’t really a job.For example there was this metal thing that Chance picked up. “What is that?! ” I asked.The tag said it was for canning lids.You load the lids into these little slats and you then using the handle you lower the whole thing into boiling water to sterilize you lids.Really? I mean Really?  Come on people you can do this work with just a pair of tongs.The same tongs you use for 5 million other cooking jobs.This gadget reminded me of all of those Ronco ads you used to see on T.V.

I am also kind of  under the impression that homesteading is about self-sufficiency and not about having “stuff”. My Grandparents didn’t have gadgets to do their work they had multi-functioning tools.

But they did have liquid rennet,score! I have been looking all over town for liquid rennet with no luck.The closest place to buy is out in Carlton which is about an hour from here,in a direction I don’t go but once in a blue moon.Not worth the gas to go.Sellwood tho, I go there every so often and it’s not that far out of my way.

Chance did see a grain mill he would like us to have at some point.That was a news flash to me but we will talk it over and shop around.

Don’t let my non-consummer point of view  keep you from stopping in the shop. If you enjoy boutique shopping go for it.

Our last stop was just to pick up Chance’s tools from a long running side job he’s working on so he could come home and work on a different side job.He’s building 6 garden boxes for our friend’s (the turkey co-owner) client.

Here’s the boxes-GArden box

 The 6 foot one.

   Here you can see how Chance filled the screw holes with doweling.To hide the screws and so it looks nice.

It has been so hot here,unusual for this time of year. The yard is turning brown in the heat.Our back garden looks like this green oasis,lush and cool.Tomorrow things are supposed to start cooling down.Now if it would only rain.

Rois

The sum of things.

Standard

 Hey! I made back here finally,after a big sale at my work that left me wiped out and too tired to do much other than flopping on the couch once home.But despite the sale there are things to share.

 Two weeks ago our friends finally brought us their two turkeys.We had talked with them a long while ago about fostering them here,the geese at our friends house were beating the poor turkeys up until they had no tail feathers.

The first few days with the turkeys were an adventure for the birds and ourselves.The hens,well,they were puzzled and kept looking at the turkeys with a look that said “What in the heck are those bigger things?” The turkeys had to learn where they belonged which involved only one 6 AM wake up call.One morning they had popped themselves over the fence to the wrong side,they took a walk and then realized oops we don’t belong here.Help,help was their cry.Luckily  Chance and I heard them and jumped out of bed to bring them back.Chance clipped the turkeys wings and since then the turkeys have remained safe and sound in the coop run.

The turkeys now trust that the hens are not going to beat the crud out of them and that the coop is the place to be.I must say I am in love with their voices,they are kind of chatter boxes at times and always alert the rest of the birds that someone is coming.

The long-term plan for the turkeys is the tom will be ours to eat and the hen will be for our friends.We will split the cost of the extra feed.We ended up with the Tom because we are a larger family than our two friends household.

Chance and I taught our Chicken Butchering class a bit ago too.The class was small with only 3 students but it was nice any way.The smallness really gave us time to visit and talk as we went along.Our students did great even though one student had emailed and said she may cry.She didn’t cry.She was steady,calm and asked questions as she needed to. 

Chance and I are working on holding classes again in the spring.We hope to time things so that when chicks are available we will have our flyers up so as folks purchase their chicks our classes may be in their minds.We will then time the classes for when the chicks might be of butchering age. 

Not a lot of canning has happened here,sadly.With the sale at work ,extra days at work and being to wiped to do much it just has not been possible.

Chance did make some pretty awesome lacto-fermented pickles that we are happy with.Chance had made my Grandmothers canned pickles last summer on his own.We don’t know went wrong since he followed the recipe to a T but that batch of pickles only tasted of vinegar.(After this disappointment Chance wanted to try his “own” recipe.) We consulted with my Mom about the pickles flopping and she said she had  that happen before and it’s always been a canning  mystery to her.I think it was the ghost of my Grandmother being a pest.Canning was women’s work in her day,don’t mess with it.

We are finally eating daily out of our garden.We planted and replanted late this year but I was hedging my bets on the weather trend of being a full month behind staying true.It has and it all work out in the end.

I planted 6 heads of cabbage thinking it would be plenty and that was all the room I had this year.Next year I need to find room for more than 6.We’ve eaten 3 already because it is so good and sweet.I hope we can save 1 or 2 for some Sour Kraut.

Chance picked our first head of cauliflower yesterday.We like to eat it raw but since we will also have 6 heads of it,Chance wants to make a mixed pickle with some of it.

We’ve had no time to work on our plan to have a sane routine of having our own meat chickens or to make a final choice about Runner Ducks,tho’ I do think the ducks will most likely happen come spring. We’ve already figured out trying turkeys and if things stay smooth with them we will think of doing them again.

Here it is harvesting time and we are already looking to next spring.We hope to dig up more of our yard in the spring so we can grow even more of our own food.The way the economy has been going ( as in no where upward) and the fact that paying off 8 surgeries is going to take us another year or more we feel this is a smart move.We also worry about the security of the food in this country.It seems like trusting it to be safe is getting harder and harder daily.

We are not fanatics when it comes to food.Local always trumps organic.And some foods make no sense to worry about being organic.Um hello? Whats the point in eating  processed foods that are organic. And an organic cucumber from Mexico has to large of a carbon foot print that outweighs it being organic.But none the less we do worry about the food system here and want to know whats going into our bodies.

But because of our own personal economy we do sometimes have to make choices when it comes to food.Some times honestly as much as we would love to buy all local & organic the money is not always there.Really it is not there,end of story.

*I deleted a rant from here  about the many times I have been lectured by others about not eating an all organic diet and how much it pisses me off. It was a long bitter rant that maybe didn’t belong here.So don’t go there with me,you don’t walk in my shoes. 

Chance and I are trying really hard to make our own quiet statement that is part political and part philosophic.I am having a hard time summing these thoughts up into a neat and tidy package.It involves every part of how and why we live the way we do.How we live is like saying “No,I don’t like the way things are in the world so we are not going to play your game.” We know we are just one household in a small corner of the world but we hope that each person we reach out to will become a ripple.A ripple that will someday change the tides of how the world is functioning.

Rois

Sidetracked by Jam

Standard

I know I said I would follow up on my last blog posting but this evening I was sidetracked by this Blueberry Lemon Zest Jam. We ended up with 6 half pints using berries from our neighbors yard.Sol and I agree this is our new favorite jam.

I will be back soon with my follow up.

 

Rois

P.S I must say I am totally in love with smal batch canning.It is so easy to use whats growing here and fast to boot.

Chicken Butchering Class this evening!

Standard

This evening Chance and I will be teaching our Chicken Butchering class.This time around the class is very small but this works out just fine since it gives us lots of room for helping and chatting as we go.

Yesterday we met up with our chicken guy to pick up our demo hen and had a great chat with him about chickens and raising our own meat birds. I always enjoy getting someone elses input on some of our ideas.This time around our thoughts were not to far off,we just didn’t realize we have some options avalible to us.But before I say to much more I am going to stop so we can think it all out to the end.That way I’ll have a clear plan to share.

Chance and I have this ongoing talk with each other about what more we could be doing around here.How can we take things a step further,what are we over looking and what is missing that we may want to be doing? Over the last few days we’ve come up with a list of sorts and here it is.

  • Trying a sane way of raising our own meat birds.
  • Adding some Runner Ducks to our flock for their charm & eggs.
  • Turkey?
  • Seeking out new skills that would further us along our journey.What those are is still open and a major focus.

There is a whole posting about why we are looking closely at what we are doing which involve a couple of conversations with others,the state of our personal economy and our country’s but it will be a long post that this busy day does not have time for.

On that note I must be going.I have a list of things to do before this evenings class.The top item go grocery shopping because for once our Issac is right there is nothing in the house to eat.Well, nothing that would work out.Peanut butter and canned smoked fish sandwich anyone? I didn’t think so.I will be back here with a report on our butchering class and the list of thoughts.

Rois

 

And so the frenzy starts

Standard

                                                                                                            And so the harvesting frenzy begins after weeks of tending to things,watching and waiting .Yesterday morning it was time to start.

The photo shows a snap shot of what we had gathered by 10 in the morning. We picked 5 pounds of Apples,about 1/4 of our Hops,1 gallon Blueberries,8 Onion heads for their seeds (don’t tell Monsanto) 3 Tomatoes & 3 Eggs.

 At the beginning on the week we had been away on vacation.We camped,swam,took walks and looked for treasures.When we returned we came home feeling recharged and centered again.Chance’s work schedule had been crazy for many weeks which mildly snowballed into all phases of our lives.So the break was much-needed.

But now it is time to focus on the season,it is time to can until our pantry is full again. It is also time to carefully plan out the coming weeks.We need a two-part time line showing when things are ready to can and when we have open time to do all of the work that needs doing. With some tinkering I am sure we will pull it off.It may mean doing some late nights but I remember stories of my Grandmothers doing the same so we will just be following tradition.

This summer is proving to be a Fruit Year.We have noticed a pattern over the years of every other year we get plenty of fruit from our trees and bushes.Soon our Bartlett Pears will be ready to pick.This year we are trying a different way of ripening them.We will pick the Pears green,place them in our extra fridge for 3-4 days so they cool down.Then we will lay them out on a table in our spare room that stays cool so they can ripen,another 4-5 days.By cooling down the Pears we are kind of reversing how Pears naturally ripen.On the tree they ripen from the inside out.The coolness keeps that from happening.Once the Pears are laid out they will ripen from the outside in.This will mean the centers of the Pears will not turn to mush which is what would happen if ripened on the tree.

Chance and I have also been talking about how we can sanely have our meat Chickens here.In the past we have bought chicks, raised them to butchering weight and then butchered them all in one day. Having a dozen or so meat Chickens here is stressful on our whole environment here.The other hens get pissed and slow their laying, Having the extra birds uses up more of our time,energy and resources.So we are looking for a lower impact system. What we are thinking about is to buy 3-4 Hens who are of butchering weight or just about so.These birds will be on hand for us to butcher one at a time as needed. When we need to we will buy more birds to keep the cycle going.

This plan is closer to how farmers used to have Chickens for meat.There were usually a few older Hens who were no longer laying or were just around that farm families used for their tables.Our own layers will eventually make it into this new group of Chickens once they stop laying.

Yesterday I froze our Blueberries and realized I did not have any smaller freezer bags.I wanted the quart sized ones which are the best size for us for things like berries.What I did have were some canning jars. I had read a long while back that you can freeze in canning jars so I gave it a go.I put most of the Blueberries into jars and a few in one freezer bag. I like the idea of not using plastic and having containers that are reuseable but the jars take up a ton of room. I guess I will have to continue my search for a not- so -bulky- not -plastic freezer option.

Well I must be going, today I return to work after my 10 day vacation. I am thinking in the coming weeks there will be more to blog about.We are organising a Tomato Canning Party and have our Chicken Butchering Class this Friday,both of which will be blog worthy I am sure.

Rois

Standard

It’s early in the morning here,I was awoken by a loud clap of thunder rolling over our house, a flash of lightning, then came pouring rain followed by bird song.A morning symphony of sounds. It was way better than the jangling of the alarm clock but meant I am up a bit to early.

Our boys are away at Boy Scout Camp for a full week.Their excitement to be off and away way left me frazzled and exhausted.They were like big puppy dogs frisking around the house while they packed.Lots of good-humored pushing of each other,giggles and bright smiles. And like big puppies they have not figured out how Big they are or how crazy they can be.It was good to see them so happy to be going. Now the house is quiet without them and only a toothbrush was forgotten.Let’s hope one is purchased from the camp store,I know what they will spend their money on,rifle amo and candy. One year it was socks and that was bad ,worse than bad breath for a week.

Like every year when the boys are at camp Chance and I try to find a larger garden project to work on. Last night I finally gave in and we fenced in the back garden.The garden of frustration I wrote about here.

 If you’ve read the posting you will know we have been fighting Pig Weed and a naughty Rooster. The Rooster is re-homed,ahhh the quiet.The Pig Weed we are diligently pulling on a daily bases.So far the weed has come up mostly in the path around the garden which we are hoping is a good sign.I am not even going to think we have won the Pig Weed battle,shhh,I didn’t say a word about it.

So if the rooster who destroyed the garden is gone why fence it? Our cat.Toby has decided he has a thing for sleeping anywhere I plant lettuces.First he slept on a bed in the front garden then he choose one in the back garden.I am tired of replanting because of animals,I want food growing!The garden is finally looking good and we want it to continue.

Our neighbors gave us a roll of green wire fencing and the stakes to put it up with.We were just 6 inches short of fencing the garden with it but since we needed a gate of sorts we were fine.I was worried about the look of the fence but it’s green and pulled tight so it just kind of disappears.

The Hens are happy to see the fence up.It means they can once again roam the yard in the evenings.When we let them out last night they all came running out of  the coop and into the fence,boing! Something new for them to get used to.

The other project I am hoping we get to is a new self waterer for the chicken run. We have a smaller food grade barrel and some gutter pieces to make a rain barrel out of.We want to then attach a hose or PVC pipe to the rain barrel to use as a self waterer.We need to get the water nipples for the project but we can at least get things started.We need to get the rain barrel filled before it can work anyway.

On  my To Do list for after work today is to place some Comfrey leaves over our potato bed.We have this great book “Forgotten Skills of Cooking”  which is not just about cooking but also about growing your own food.In her Herbs chapter Allen writes about Comfrey. We grow Comfrey for our chickens,they love it and its jammed packed full of good things for them.It also good to add to your compost.Since you can cut the plant back with it coming back quickly it means you can always have it around during the growing months.But back to the book, comfrey is high in potasium and so are potatoes.By laying fresh comfrey leaves over the top of your potato bed you are giving the potatoes a much needed nutriant they need.And I would think it plays into the whole mulch or green manure thing as well being good for your soil.I am going to try it.Potatoes are not hard to grow but if the comfrey shows to make a difference I will keep it on my list of good things.

If you get the chance to check out “Forgotten Skills…” do it.There so many bits of information all through the book that have given us plenty of food for thought.The only down side to note is sometimes in the recipes there seems to be some important step missing.It’s just seems like it instinctively but I could be wrong.Oh, and you have to keep in mind that Darina Allen is Irish so some of her cooking terms may be new to you but easy to figure out. We own 3 or 4 of her books so we are big fans of her.I dream of someday going to her cooking school Ballymaloe which is set on a 100 acre farm where the grow a majority of their own food.

I am hoping moving my blog was not a mistake.Did my old blog followers find me over here? Only time will tell.

Time has flown and I must be going. Have a productive day.

Rois

Still tinkering

Standard

 Hello, I am stil working on learning al lof this WordPress stuff and the vote is out if I will move my whole blog over here to this site or not.

For those of you who know who we are,howdy.New Comers welcome to our corner of the homesteading world.This page ,for now, is mostly to have the other pages where we can list our classes and to better organize things we’d like to share.

So come back soon,I will make up my mind and have this ironed out.But before you leave check out our Happenings page here.We have posted a couple of new things there.

Rois