Friday, September 24, 2010

Goings On

1) A big event is on the horizon!  Sunday, October 10th there will be an alternative energy expo as the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach.  But its not limited to alternative energy only but anything that will help us on the path toward a more sustainable existence.  And another cool aspect is that the businesses represented are all LOCAL!  If you have or know of a business you'd like to see there, let me know and I can connect you with the organizers.  Anything from bat boxes to builders to landscapers.  Very low vendor fee.  Great opportunities for everyone! 

See you at the Marine Discovery Center, 162 N. Causeway, New Smyrna Beach from 11am to 3pm.

2) Bringing back home, last Sunday, late afternoon, we were all outside.  The family was playing on the swingset, sheep were grazing nearby, turkeys running in the pasture... and the dog went on red alert.  A casual attempt to try to figure out what she was jumpy about sent us into a panic.  I (with my less than perfect vision) thought it was a BIG black wild pig running up our neighbors driveway.  We went running with the kids to the house, Husbandman grabbed the sheep, I herded up the turkeys and wondered if I should grab Dobie, our small, not quite yearling goat.  I called everyone on the street with kids, guts or amo.  Husbandman went out to check over the area with a, um, .22.  He didn't see anything then but the more we got talking about what we saw, its shape, the way it moved and its sheer size, we determined it was more likely a bear, its brown face tricking my near-sighted eyes into looking like tusks.

I started researching and the more I learned the more it must have been a bear.  To sum it up, black bears don't attack people, even little people, unless provoked.  They will eat chickens, turkeys and even small goats and sheep and come back night after night.  The dog may be enough of a deterent that it could pass by and not even come on the property.  But just to be safe, we've decided to hold off another year on starting honey bees just to make sure this cub kicked from the nest isn't making its home near us.  The smell of honey is strong and luring.  We could easily protect the hives  but not everything else that a hungry bear would find delectable!

3) So instead of honey we're thinking of rabbits.  What started out as a conversation of getting the little farm girl her own animal/s to care for, show at the county fair, pet and play with, ended up being a full-fledged rabbit operation.  The more we read, the more we wondered why we're raising chickens.  Now I'm not ready to give up on poultry all together.  We'll always raise egg-layers, but it would be nice if we could, between the turkeys and the rabbits, replace the meat bird operation.  Turkeys and rabbits are all things we plan to breed here where chickens... just not going to do a rooster again.  More thinking and planning to do.  We won't be doing anything until well after Husbandman's exam next month.  And the new barn needs to be finished first.  And we're thinking of creating a "bachelor pad" or breeding pen mostly because Copper has been jumping on Helen since the moment that baby came out.  A farmer's work is never done.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Wee One

Welcome to Wednesday, the most celebrated day of W-week!
Yesterday evening, as I was doing the last check on all the animals, I felt Helens tailbone tendons as I've done twice a day since Friday.  They were so soft they couldn't be felt... meaning birth was just around the corner!

I couldn't sleep.  I wondered if I should wait up.  I checked on her again really late (ok, maybe it was 10 but that's well past our normal bed time!).  She seemed annoyed by me. I didn't try to touch her, I just wanted to watch her to see if she was contracting.  Nothing.  I sadly went to bed.  At midnight I woke up and checked again.  Again, I seemed to be a nuisance.  3am: same thing. 

I gave up on sleep at that point.  I moved to a different room and began reading through our books about goat birth.  Husbandman teased me saying, "Like what?  You haven't done this before?"  Truly, this would make our 10th kid born here, but every goat is different and this being Helen's first on my watch, I was nervous. 

The baby woke up at 5.  I fed him and checked again.  Again, I was disappointed.  I crawled in bed and slept for an hour.  I went outside after a normal morning, making phone calls actually, at 7:30.  Helen didn't come up with the crew wanting breakfast.

I found her in the back, feet already out, laboring silently.  She didn't like me getting close so I watched from a distance.  It was clear she didn't need me so I ran to get the kids.  By the time I made it back to the pasture he was out and she was dutifully cleaning him.  I never would have heard her in the middle of the night.  Contrast that with Fudge, a prior goat who really wasn't so lovey dovey normally but during labor would practically climb into my lap screaming.
He was just starting to nurse when I had things set up to take him away and milk her.  Oddly she really didn't protest when I scooped him up.  I had a little bit of a chase getting her to come with me to the milking stand.  She immediately gave over a half gallon of colostrom.  The little farmer girl helped to bottle feed him.  He ate ok.  I'm somewhat concerned about him as he's panting a lot.  Its a little warm but not that bad.  He's always in the shade and is eating frequently.  Nervous mothering on my part I guess.

As for names, we had named him Willy... for W-week, of course.  But then the neighbor boy came over with a great name- Niblet.  And given that his fate could possibly end up being dinner, that may be better.  We'll try to sell him... blue-eyed mini nubian, son of a fabulous milker... he should be good.  But times being what they are, he may be more valuable as a yearling whether.  Hard to think about that when the cute factor is so high, but perspective is important too.
And this is slightly confirming that our buck only throws bucks.  Not like it matters, we're not keeping any of the babies anyway, but does sure are easier to sell.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gardening Glutton at Work

Big day in the garden today.  It has been a long time since I've worked outside so long as to feel totally tuckered out, but I did it today.  We started the day with normal chores, moving the remaining chicks outside and determining their breed... quite the task when they're still sorta like little puff balls.  When they were all separated into pens and safe from both the rain and the dog, I eagerly started my garden fun.
Husbandman tilled up a patch of a bed that had gotten grossly covered in weeds.  After the worst was done, I shooed him back inside to continue studying for his licensing exam and continued the tilling of 3 more beds.  Then I hauled multiple wheelbarrow loads of compost from the trailer to the tilled beds and hoed it in.  I transplanted my few remaining pumpkin plants, a whole slew of tomato plants and some celery seedlings.

Then I planted seeds.  Technically I'm late for fall, but I'm only doing more seeds of things that I can harvest through winter.  We're trying a lot of new things this season and giving up on the brassicas (broccoli and cabbage family) for now.  We'll try again after our soil is built up better.  Last year we were swimming in Bok Choy and we'd heard oriental greens and cabbages do well here so I planted some more Ching Chang Bok Choy like last year and added Wong Bok Greens, Michihli Cabbage, Large Leaf Tong Ho Greens, and Mizuna Greens (similar to mustard greens).  But is that enough for greens??? NO!  I planted some other things that we've tried and that should do well here but we haven't had tremendous success with yet.  Gailan Chinese Kale, Rainbow Chard, and Flamingo Pink Chard.  I also put in more Georgia Southern Collards.  I've tried all summer to get more started and the heat has killed every transplant so I'm hoping these will do well.  I can never have too many collard green plants! 
And I'm being a tad hopeful but I'm tired of buying lettuce.  Its still a bit warm for lettuce seeds to germinate but maybe with the cooler nights they'll still do ok.  All these are varieties I've grown before with good success.  Sweet Valentine Romaine, Slo-Bolt Looseleaf, Jericho, and Apollo arugula. 

I also did some root veggies which we've never done great with but we'll try again anyway.  White Egg Turnips, Early Scarlet Globe Radishes, and Cosmic Purple Carrots.

And finally I direct seeded some peas into a bed.  Again, I'm a bit early, but its a bed right next to the sweet potatoes so the only thing I can grow there now is something that will go up a trellis and not be swamped by potato vine.  I put in some Little Marvel and Wando.

Earlier in the week I had transplanted a good about of Dinosaur Kale, Curled Southern Mustard Greens, Green Zebra Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, Chocolate Bell Peppers, Emerald Giant Peppers, Edisto Cucumbers,  Seminole Pumpkins, and Candy Roaster Squash.

Then I did just a few things for the pretty patch: Evening Scented Primrose, Nasturtiums, and Petunias. I'm still learning ornamentals and their seasons so everything is an experiment.  I know petunias are a cool season flower but I know nothing about their temperature needs for seed germination. 

The Rosita Eggplant is going strong.  I'm eating Thai Tender Amaranth weeds that are springing up in my now pumpkin bed.  Burmese Okra is just starting to produce (a second planting done about a month ago).  My drip irrigation wasn't watering my first planting of it and I just discovered that.  I'm done with drip irrigation.  Its all hose for me now.

Still waiting for a goat birth.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One Big Happy Family

Everyone's together in the pasture now.  Well, except the chickens.  And they get along very well I might add.  No squabbles other than the you're-smaller-than-me-so-get-your-head-out-of-my-feed-bucket-head-butts between the goats.
Despite the tall grass and my disinclination to mow, Valentino and Esperanza are in the pasture with Button right now.  A couple nights ago we noticed Button doing some interesting acrobatics and being a bit more feisty with the goats than usual.  Tis the season so Valentino got to bunk with her.  And Esperanza HATES being alone.  So unless a little farm girl wanted to spend all day and night petting her, Esperanza was going to have to go where he went.  We're leaving them all in there together for 3 days doing what we can to make sure the "job" is done well.  :->  Please excuse Valentino's appearance.  Hardly acceptable to be courting a lady, but he doesn't like me combing out his wool.  Its all shed, just clumped in there until I brush it out.  I did most of him before I had mercy on his restless soul.

Helen is due to have her kids (presuming there are twins) on the 19th.  She's looking rather robust these days.  Her bag is filling out.  I check her tail tendons everyday for any signs of birth.  Thankfully there have been none as birthing more than a couple days early is really hard on the little ones.  Meanwhile, we are hobbling along with no milk for now.  It will be so nice when she kids as she at one time gave a full gallon a day.

Copper, though a wee little lad in comparison, remains the king of the pasture.  He's fine with his new feathered subjects though.

And here's the turkey's night time abode.  I wrapped it in barb wire to keep the goats from rubbing against it and trashing it.  However, I also have to keep it closed as they love to go inside.  I refuse to barb wire the inside so closed it stays.  I put the turkeys' feed bucket on top of it.  They can fly up and eat but the goats don't bother to try to get into it.  I don't know what I'll do when the birds are too big to fly up there, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

A couple of Blue Slate turkeys.  5 of these remained after the massacre incident and they are really pretty.  One Royal Palm (black and white ones pictured with Copper) is a tom as it has started to strut its stuff.  Three of these guys remain.  I'm hoping we have a tom and 2 hens, perfect for breeding come spring.

 And here's the newly refurbished trailer.  One of our welding friends and Husbandman worked all day one Saturday to get it looking this good.  Its been a year since we've felt like the trailer was up to the challenge of hauling compost so we were in dire need of some.  We lined the expanded metal with a section of a billboard tarp and I shoveled in a load yesterday.  Today I applied almost all of it as I had some cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, mustard greens and kale that all were needing more growing room.  I'll probably get another load next week too. They have plenty and we need it all!
And that's all the updates from this end... Maybe the next post will be announcing a birth! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jelly... well, Almost

Its 4:30am and I'm blogging.  Signs of an addict?  Maybe.

Yesterday was a fun day.  After being crazy busy all week, Friday afternoon was a nice time to be able to just cross a few things off the to-do list.  We were beginning to have raisins forming on our muscadine vines so the cute little farm girl and I decided to pick them clean and make some grape jelly.  Last week we processed about 3 gallons of grapes into syrup.  We had almost 3 gallons left on the vine for this week.  And some beauty berries were looking luscious and ripe.  So we had an all out jelly fest.  Unfortunately, none of the jelly set, but I now know why and can add the pointers as I go. 

The pots on the left are grapes.  The big pot on the right is the canner.  The jug I'm holding is filled with beauty berries.  I washed the grapes, put them in the pots (they all wouldn't fit in 1), added some water and let them cook down while we picked the beauty berries.  Once the grapes were cooked, they mashed very easily with a potato masher.  From there the instructions all say to separate the juice from the pulp through cheese cloth.  I tried that... it doesn't work.  The cheese cloth gets awfully plugged up and it makes a horrible mess.  Instead, I poured it 3-4 cups at a time into a colander over a pot.  I stirred the juice in the colander to keep it from plugging then dumped the pulp into a bucket for the goats.  I got very few seeds in the juice and was able to strain those out very easily. 
The goats enjoyed their sweet treat.
With the grape juice separated, I followed the recipe in the sure-jell package for concord grapes except that I didn't add the water.  I figured I had already done so to get them to cook down enough to squish them.  The problem here is that the recipes I've read since all say to not do more that 6 cups of juice at a time.  I think I was doing 16-17 cups.  Then the next problem was that it took forever to get it to boil.  I had someone coming over for a "farm tour" and so neglected the proper cook time.  I didn't think it would matter.  It did.  In fact, if you cook it long enough you can actually make jelly without pectin.  I had been wondering just how they made jellies back before the time of Sure-Jell... well, that's how.  This seems like a great recipe and the one I will be using next year.  Also in this picture are the beauty berries cooking down.  This recipe is one we had in the Florida's Wild Edibles handbook.  You cook the berries down (which removes all the color from them and puts it in the juice!), 3 cups of the resulting infusion, 5 cups sugar, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 pack of pectin.  Again, I was tripling this recipe.  I ended up 3 cups short on the sugar and figured it would be close enough.  Wrong again.  Live and learn.  The chickens really enjoyed the cooked beauty berries though!
So now that I have 18 pints of syrup, I'll probably be making pancakes this morning.  Especially since I already made muscadine syrup with the last batch of grapes.  I'm learning.  God bless my grandmother who took all these secrets to her grave.  I gleaned from her what I could as I was growing up, but frankly she wasn't much for teaching anyway.  I've inherited all her canning equipment, antique meat grinder, even her treadle sewing machine, but learning to use these handy gizmos is all up to me and the internet.  And I usually don't consult the internet until a problem arises.  The good news is, if I really want to, I can open up all these jars and try it again.  That's online too.  We'll see.  Husbandman is going to be gone all day with our newly constructed trailer helping some dear friends move.  I've got a mess of weeds to pull and a turkey pen to make pasture-ready.  I may have time this evening to play with it all... just 3 pints at a time. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Well, I appreciate blogger trying to fix the picture posting issue, but this new thing is no better.  Forgive the confusion, but I'm giving up.

This is my latest experiment- worm bins.  I had researched them a while ago... or I should say my husband researched them and it just seemed so complicated.  Then I heard from someone else that it doesn't need to be so perfect.  And so we dug in.  I started with 2 smallish rubbermaid totes.  I used a drill to poke holes on every side but the bottom.  I filled one bin up with scraps.  That was some grass clippings and kitchen waste mostly, I think.  Then I bought a tub of worms.  Funny story there... I was out on the bike when we stopped at the store for the worms.  We went into the library with the worms safely in my bag (I didn't want them to get too hot if I left them in the trailer trunk).  I was careful that they didn't open so you'll have to keep reading to know where the funny part is.  We left the library with our books and no worm incident.  We got home and I set the worms on top of the car as I unloaded the kids from the trailer.  Yes, I forgot about them as I figured I would, but it was ok to set them there as they were adequately shaded.  Later that evening we loaded up to go somewhere.  My husband loaded the wee one on that side of the car and never noticed the worms.  I didn't think of it until after returning home.  I went walking down the street looking all over for my worms and never saw any trace of them.  I hope they busted out of the tub and didn't get cooked!  Anyway, we did manage to replace those worms and I had my bin ready for them so they went straight in.  This past weekend we got a second set of worms for bin #2.  I filled it with spent bean plants, a huge pile of beet and banana peels, cantaloupe rinds and a few egg shells.  I dumped the worms in after I checked to see that the first bin was working properly.  I didn't see any worms in bin #1, but I didn't dig either.  I figured since there was no mold and even a few sprouts, that the worms were thriving.  These bins reside in our garage where they won't get opened by marauding night varmints or cook if the shade shifts.  When the compost is ready, I hear you just dig out the compost carefully and set any worms into a new set of scraps.  Should be fun!
Just scraps
The worms from the local hardware store (and bait shop).
The worms on the scraps... look closely!

My first worm bin on the left after about 3 weeks, I think.
My 2 bins.