Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mad Dash Blog Post

Forgive me.  I don't have time for this but am doing it anyways as I'm WAY behind in my record-keeping.

 I finally completed my mushroom logs.  I got shiitaki soaked dowels from Fungi Perfecti online, drilled holes in a log completely covering the entire log, pounded the dowels in and sealed them with beeswax.  I melted the beeswax in an old coffee pot/dispenser that I found.  One of those you'd use at a party or office.  It heated the wax perfectly.  I used a paintbrush to dab over the plugs.  I had enough for 1 large log and the beginning of another.  I'll use the coffe pot/beeswax combo again to make dipped candles for Christmas presents.  Perfect size and shape.  May even use the dispenser feature to make some molded candles too.

And husbandman and a friend added the roof to our barn.  The closed off section contains our pump.  The area under the roof doubles our current "barn" space.  We intend for the sides to be removable so its nice and open for hot weather and cozy and snug in the winter.  So far we're dithering between using plywood or a billboard tarp that we'd merely roll up come spring.  We're going to try the billboard tarp first and see if it will work.
And none too soon.  This is our old "barn".  It served us well as a makeshift shelter until we knew what we really wanted.  The next phase of improvement is to add a common area to the pasture, which will include the barn and main gate, that the animals can access no matter which paddock their opened to.  Fencing is never finished.

In other news, we managed to slaughter all our turkeys.  We roasted one on Sunday (Thanksgiving was a bit different this year) and while it tasted good, I don't think I'm the best judge.  I'm very used to our own chickens so frankly I'd have been sadly disappointed if it didn't taste as it did.

We learned lots at the purple cow festival and the county fair... another post for another day.  Suffice to say we've decided to go ahead with honey bees and just be totally and completely dependent on our dog to keep any roaming bears at bay.  I'm also going to start a shaded herb garden.  And we'll begin design and construction on some small-child-friendly rabbit pens sometime next year.  Lots in store for us.  Lots to keep us busy.

Now on to the rest of life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wee Willy Wishing

 Another lesson at the school of hard knocks... rip out ALL lantana that grows ANYWHERE.  Last Sunday night, Willy started screaming.  I got up and tromped outside expecting to find his collar hooked on the chain link of the kennel he shared with the sheep at night.  He was standing free but looking very anxious.  I remembered how earlier that day his ears drooped with what I thought was sadness.  He didn't eat much that day so I figured he was finally with friends again and hungry (the sheep had spent the weekend in the pasture where Willy was too small to he held behind the pasture fencing).  I fed him some beet pulp which he readily gobbled... or so I thought.  Later inspection showed he was only drinking the water out of it.  I left him free to wonder that night so as to not keep him from eating his choice or snuggling with the goats, but he continued to scream.  He finally settled down towards dawn.  Just after dawn I see Angel, the dog, pulling a limp Willy by the leg and nosing him, probably wondering why he's not playing with her.  I ran out to find Willy still alive, but very weak and his body temperature way below normal.  I set him in a laundry basket with a heating pad and towels and tried to get him to take a bottle of milk.  He wanted nothing.  He let out a slight groan here and there.  I gave him a shot of Vitamin B.  I wondered what happened to make him so sick.

Hours later I remembered. The prior Tuesday and Wednesday I had him tethered in an area where I knew there was lantana... but since it wasn't in bloom I had completely forgotten about it.  It was lush with grape vines, his favorite browse, so I never gave the lantana a second thought.  Until it was too late.  I found the plant, a big one, with only a precious few leaves left on it to even let me confirm its identity.  Willy, little tiny Willy, had eaten a LOT of lantana.

I hate to say this but I just waited for him to die.  Oddly enough, Monday afternoon he all of a sudden perked up and gobbled down a bottle of milk and another bottle of water.  I was so excited, so hopeful that I didn't just kill the sweetest goat we'd ever owned.  That hope was premature.  He was tucked into bed that night in the porch right next to our bedroom so I could easily hear him if he needed a midnight snack.  Tuesday he was back to not eating or drinking.  I read that even after symptoms of lantana poisoning go away, the animal still generally dies within 6 weeks because the liver and kidneys shut down.  My husband brought home some activated charcoal which I crammed down his throat.  Then, fearing dehydration from not drinking all day, I used a funnel to force water (with a bit of sea salt for electrolytes) into him.  I tucked him into his bed, that laundry basket with the heating pad.  Wednesday morning he was gone.
And now we remember what a great goat he was.  He often let the farm baby use him as a walker.  And when the baby was in the stroller and Willy was tired from playing, he'd curl up right at the baby's feet... maybe hoping to find a tiny toe to suck on.  He loved to play with the farm boy, especially when he had his bike!  He would jump and play all around it.  Farm boy didn't like it too much because he was often knocked right off.  Willy loved the farm girl the best.  She fed him most days and never seemed to mind him sucking her finger.  They'd dance together all over the driveway.  Those were fun days.  But he's buried in the pasture now.  Just last week I was trying to get him to stay in the pasture.  Now he'll never come out.  This is the one part of homesteading that never gets any easier.

And for your information, in my recent research I've learned that lantana is poisonous to EVERYTHING, not just livestock.  So that plant is definitely getting ripped out.  The berries are by far the most toxic part and my children absolutely delight in picking and eating random things growing around the property.  We have a rule that if its outside the garden, they have to ask first, but this is one rule I'm not going to risk them breaking.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

No More Seminoles

 I will never grow Seminole pumpkins again.  Well, never say never, but not when this is so readily available after Halloween.
 To detail the last couple weeks, I posted on facebook that I was scouting for unwanted pumpkins.  A friend who is a receptionist at a local Methodist church responded that I could clean up whatever was left after they closed their pumpkin patch after Halloween.  A few days later I was called to get some that were about to go bad.  I came home with 10-12 pumpkins and immediately processed them into pumpkin butter (which I canned) and puree (which I froze) and a few were only fit for animals.  I questioned how many pumpkins would be usable to human consumption so when another patch closed 2 days sooner than my friend's patch, I went out and filled the car full.  There were all kinds of people there cashing in on free pumpkins and still, the 1 acre field seemed an endless sea of orange.  I had snagged another 20 pumpkins.  15 of which I brought inside and began to process.
 The Monday following Halloween, my friend said I could come and get whatever I wanted, as many trailer loads as I cared to take.  Whoa.  I showed up and was astounded at the number of left over pumpkins.  I could have loaded the car and trailer 4 or 5 times over.  I began to get a little worried because I told my friend I would take everything that was left, never having ANY clue it would be this many.  I also felt really bad because it was a fund raiser for the youth group and I was concerned that they were in the negative on this deal.  As we were loading up... and I say we because the kids were all helping.  The older 2 were pleased as punch to carry over the small "baby pumpkins" and the littlest was happy to climb the biggest ones and wave at passing cars.  So, as we were loading up, the pastor came out and explained that this is a mission project of the United Methodist churches (hence why all 3 pumpkin patches in the area were connected to Methodist churches).  They have a mission with the Navajo Indians raising pumpkins.  The churches then sell the pumpkins for them, returning 75% of the proceeds to the Indians and keeping 25% for the church.  There's no capital needed.  No one's "loosing" by so many pumpkins going unsold.  Its a great system.  And I walked away with LOTS of free pumpkins! 
As you can see, the animals are happy.  I smash open a few each day.  The bigger ones for the sheep and goats and the small ones for the chickens.  Not much gets left behind.  I'm also making lots of pumpkin butter, puree and soup.  In fact, yesterday we were at the Fall Jamboree at the Pioneer Art Settlement and learned about Timucuan Indians.  They would cook stews a such inside the pumpkin.  So we did that for dinner.  We used a big pumpkin and a couple little ones for the kids.

For future reference, the smaller pumpkins work better for such things.  The soup never heated in the big pumpkin, but did great in the small ones.  Its a fun variation on something... well... that could get quite old this winter!

Pumpkin Curry Soup: pumpkin puree, coconut milk, curry powder, salt.  All to taste.  Its a made up recipe and I'm not sure about amounts.

Pumpkin Bisque: pumpkin puree, chicken broth, onion, cumin, salt, cream.  Again, work it to taste.

Pumpkin Butter: Pumpkin puree (or raw pumpkin in chunks), sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Set it cooking in the crock pot until it cooks down and is somewhat thick.  I added some orange juice to acidify it more and further reduce the risk of botulism.  USDA (after hundreds of years of people canning it) has recently decided pumpkin butter should not be canned because its not acidic enough.  Hence the addition of orange juice in my own recipe.

With the frozen puree, have pumpkin soups, breads, muffins, pies etc all you want until next fall.  No pumpkin shortage here!

So what have I done with my lush and blossoming seminole pumpkin plants?  I pulled one and fed it to the sheep and will plant more lettuce and greens in its place.  Pumpkins take up way too much room, are too susceptible to disease and take too long to produce to grow our own when these are going to be available, likely every year.  I could never grow this many pumpkins.  Its nice to know I don't have to.