Thursday, September 14, 2017
At 6:45 AM, it was on it's way to us, but even bouncing off the coast, it was still a category 1 hurricane. Mel and I both moved away from Orlando and southeast Georgia to these mountains expecting never to have to deal with hurricanes ever again. This storm was too big. It was picking up warm water from the Gulf and the Atlantic.
Having lived for decades threatened each year by these storms, all our preparations were made. I'd been canning like a mad woman all summer long. Food would not be an issue. Loss of power for an extended period of time would be difficult but not an insurmountable issue. We cook with gas and we had a store of charcoal. The major snag would be the freezer stuff, but I could can all the meat products in a pinch so we really wouldn't lose anything. It would just take time to do. The ice would load the coolers in the meantime for milk and cheeses. The eggs weren't washed so they were still covered in their bloom so they would keep for a week or more at 60 degrees without spoiling.
By nightfall, we hunkered down and were watching Netflixs when we heard a loud cracking sound soon followed by the a loud boom and vibration of a large tree falling. Yes, we felt it 1/4 mile away. The lights went out. We were ready with lanterns. We watched the trees bend and sway as the wind tried to whipped them into submission. The chickens on the porch were blown off the porch rails. The hens uttered shocked cries as the wind knocked them onto the porch. Soon they gave up trying to roost on the rails favoring the shelter of the wood pile. By the morning, they were tired, wind blown and alive none the worse given the night's events.
It took the better part of the day just cleaning up the mess he made! He was so-o-o naughty that when I went to Walmart for extra paper towels, I saw this dog coat and HAD to buy it for him. He still can't figure out how to really walk around in it yet. He'll appreciate it this winter. Flynn definitely had a flashback moment to his feral beginnings. I chock it up to him being bored out of his gourd from being inside for a day and a half because of the rain.
Anyhow, back to my tale of the storm.
We ventured outside to survey the damage. The rain had stopped around 7 AM. Branches were strewn all over the place. Mel grabbed the larger branches and limbs to clear the driveway. I grabbed the smaller one starting a pile for the debris. We made our way up the drive to the main road. We found the cause of our power outage. A large popular tree had fallen during the storm. A power line was visible underneath. Going half a mile down the main road in the other direction, an old oak tree blocked any forward progress downing even more power lines. The impact of these huge trees with the road actually broke the trees into large sections. We headed back home to work on more clean up work and await our electric company to restore power. Power was restored to our section within 19 hours. We are lucky. Over 75% of the county lost power and still 40% is still dark. After three days, we are still picking up the smaller sticks. Volunteers are still clearing trees late into the night. We've got a good start on the kindling pile for winter. This area just isn't used to tropical storms like this blowing through.
Nothing is impossible.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Yeah, I know we're late in butchering. It should have happened three or four months ago. We were busy with other projects like the new coops and runs. We weren't going to use fryers for the freezer, but stew them in a stock pot. There wasn't any rush for the slaughter. We have plenty of young chickens in our freezer already, thanks to a Zaycon order earlier in the year. Next year, the plan is to harvest all our own chickens.
Of the sixteen birds we had (12 new and 4 old flock). We've lost a few over the past month due to free ranging attrition and we are down to ten. Of the ten, six are roosters. In this harvest, I'm working smarter by killing off the rooster two at a time. They are no longer tender young birds so the delay won't hurt them. It's not only the energy it take to catch, slaughter, and butcher the chickens but the processing time. The roosters has to be cooked, deboned, and then canned. The bone broth needs to be chilled, schmaltz removed (chicken fat), and then made into soups, or canned as straight broth. This takes time and space. We only have one small refrigerator. I can't justify the cost and energy use for heavy use of a second one for a few months out of a year. Before my stroke, it was nothing to butcher ten birds a day, but now, two is my limit. I plan on killing two this week and two next week. Even working within the 30 minute killing to chilling time frame for each bird. The rest tales me hours.
Mel, God love her, is tenderhearted. She can't kill our animals. Canning and cooking has never been her thing. That's okay, because it is mine. So it's left for me to handle. We both grew up in privileged, upper middle class, lower high class income households, but what we did during that time that's where the similarities differ.
My family was heavy into family activities. While we had the money for servants and any food we wanted; we camped, hunted, fished, and cooked for ourselves too. My parents wanted us to have a well round childhoods. We foraged in the woods. We preserved items we got from u-pick farms and a host of other things. My dad had two rules. You kill it; you clean it, and you eat what you kill. You don't kill for sport. Of course, it was a fun/sporting activity too. When you harvest fruits and vegetables you are also killing them so the rules still applied. Not that we NEEDED to do all of this to survive like some people, but it taught us life long survival skills. It also taught us to respect life no matter what form it took. It is also where I developed my death is the absence of learning and no education is lost principles.
I'll knock a rooster in the head, so it'll lay still for me to chop off its head. I'll let it thrash around in a 5-gallon bucket. Then, I'll carry it to the tub of hot water. A minute or two dunking and it's off to the plucking table. This new way of harvesting chickens for me and is a far cry from the cone method I used to use. But that method takes two hands. I have a towel on my work table so the chicken does not slide around. I'll give it whole area a quick rinse with the garden hose before I start gutting the bird. Since I'm only doing two birds a bowls will suffice for keep and discard piles. I'll rough chop the chicken into quarters so they'll fit in my stock pot easier and drop them into the ice bath. Then it's on to the next one.
I wanted to guy one of those turkey frying set ups before I harvested these birds, but all the local stores have been out of stock. My bad luck so it's carrying hot pots of water (not me but Mel). I figure they'll be back in stock for Thanksgiving. That's okay, I'll have it for the next cycle of chickens next year. Not to mention large quantities of soups/chili/stew and tomatoes for canning.
That's it for this week.
Y'all have a blessed day.
|New back door, stairs, and ramp|
I should mention that we started on the back ramp because it would give me easier access to the food storage building and the animals. Well let me say that this one ramp cost me more than I allotted for both ramps because of an addition I made to the ramp in back. So I'm stopping with the one. A deck that would allow a wheelchair or my wagon to turn around on. I will say that the finished product was nicer, stronger, and more utilitarian than I could have imagined.
|porch L store room R|
We held off moving my home canned goods into the storage room until the project was completed. Last night, Mel and I moved 16 cases of goods into the store room. Yes, I've been busy. The garden had a lackluster performance year because of a late cold (freezing temps in May!) followed by a blistering short lived heat wave. But I more than made up for it with local contacts. Not that anybody had a stellar year, but homesteading is a community. I traded off herb for vegetables. I even bought a few cases of produce off local vendors. Next year, I'm hoping not to have to buy anything.
|Rabbits and chicken at the bottom|
Among the weeds are watermelons, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, and black eyed peas. But then again, these same weeds like grasses, clover, wild plantain, wild violets, etc offer free food for our rabbits. Nothing goes to waste here. We are stock piling straw, grass clippings, cardboard, and compost for a major revamp of the garden area late fall. We are going to till it and bury the area in about 24" of this extra material. I'm also going to line the area next to the barn drive through with old, molded straw bales and trying for a living fence in the spring.
|Broody/Gimpster's new home|
seconds, but she has adapted. I wish all humans living post stroke like I am the same resiliency and adaptability.
Her new digs even has a nest box just for her. She still gives us an egg a day. This was her saving grace. Otherwise, I would have been culled her months ago. She's so tamed now that even one-handed me can pick her up with barely a ruffled feather. Her head and neck still bears the scars of her narrow escape from the figure with the scythe. Her comb on top of her head is a short, mangled mess instead of her once beautiful comb, but she's a keeper. Like a puppy she comes and greets me whenever I enter the rabbitry.Then, she'll hop up to me and clucks askance for treats. For the past couple of weeks, it has been deer apples that were so bad I couldn't make applesauce, apple pie filling, or apple butter with them. Out of the 65 lbs of deer apples I got for $13, there was about a 3-gallon bucket of bad apples. The chickens go nuts for these.
Well that's it for this week.
Y'all have a blessed day!
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Not me! I'm looking at these apples and thinking apple pie filling, applesauce, and apple butter. Yummies for my tummy! Our newly planted apple trees here at the Cockeyed Homestead are still a few years from producing. The one ancient apple tree on the property was raided by squirrels again this year. So, I'm still having to search elsewhere for apples.
|Bed Bath & Beyond model|
Usually for pie filling, I like nice sized wedges of apple in my pie so I didn't use the slicer. This time was the exception. If the slices got broken, it was okay. Since it's just Mel and I on the homestead, pint jars were fine for apple pie filling. Huge, deep dish pies have been replaced by hand pies or smaller, individual serving type pies. Smaller pies need less or smaller pieces of apples. For applesauce and apple butter the size of the slices didn't matter.
When I picked up my deer apples, I wasn't surprised by the lot. It was just as I suspected. I got busy sorting them. Nothing goes to waste on this homestead. The really bad apples (overripe, too bruised, really wormy, etc) were placed in a bucket to be fed to the chicken and rabbits as treats. For the chickens, it's mainly to get them from underfoot. I ended up with a 3-gallon bucket of these. For every ten tasty, but ugly apples I threw in a couple of under ripened apples as I peeled and cored them to keep my tart to sweet ratio.
After all of them were peeled, sliced and cored, I rinsed the slices with cold water. I ended up with two 5-gallon buckets of the "waste." The reason the word waste is in quotes is because nothing is wasted until it truly is waste. I'll show you what I mean.
One 5-gallon bucket of peels and cores went into the kitchen. This was set aside to make fruit pectin for jams and jellies. The last 5-gallon bucket was set aside for homemade apple cider vinegar.
DON'T THROW THAT SCOBI AWAY!
Use it for your next batch of apple cider vinegar or make kombucha with it.
Now, I'll have to admit there's not much else you can do with the cores and peels after all of this.Wait, have you got pigs? Yummies for their tummies. Shucks, we don't have pigs on our homestead. But it all can do triple duty by adding it to our compost pile.
Let me add all this up. My cost for the apples was $13. Sugar and assorted spices about $6. My results were three cases of pint jars of pie filling, one case of apple butter, two cases of applesauce. *BONUS* Four gallons of apple cider vinegar, and a case of fruit pectin for free. And, don't forget all those "spent" apple peels and core in the compost pile for feeding my next year's garden.
How's that for adding bang to my bucks?
Y'all have a blessed day.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
Mel had built a special enclosure for him in the rabbitry barn. It was filled with straw and I had bought special feeder and watering trays for him that attached to the shelving wire enclosure. He loved his new digs!
We watched him happily roll around his enclosure. Safe and comfortable. He would venture around it and return to us to check if we were watching, and then take off again. His wry neck didn't seem to bother him. As always, he loved performing his antics to an audience. He was very socialized to us.
What killed him, we don't know. We do know he wasn't attacked. Mel went to feed the rabbits and she found him. Mel's last original angora is no more.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Now. it's on to the chicken enclosure.We have lost four hens so far. It greatly reduces our egg production. The decision to not free range our chickens any more was because of the loss. We will also be butchering four roosters this week. Having this many extra roosters means our hens are taking a
The handyman came about the ramp and deck to the storage unit. I still haven't heard when he can start this job. The plumber came and we got his estimate, but no work has started yet. We still haven't had any luck in locating an electrician. I've only called four so far.
I've also put up some pints of cherry pie filling. I blame my need for cherry pie at Thanksgiving on my grandparents. My grandfather planted 14 cherry trees on their property. One for each child born. Two things we could count on every year in Nebraska...cherries and corn. Make that three. Rhubarb. My grandmother loved the stuff and to this day, I can't stand it.
The garden looks like a mess of weeds, but it's planned that way. Among the vegetable plants grow violets, herbs, plantain, lettuce, garlic, grasses the rabbits love, clover, potatoes, and a host of wild greens. All this green will be tilled in late fall. Yet another layer of cardboard, straw, rabbit and chicken manure, and a layer of compost will be added to the whole area to await spring planting. The worms will do their thing over winter leaving us a rich environment for growing. Each year the garden soil grows better and better.
I'm noticeably absent from the YouTube front. I'm doing a cooking video every two weeks rather than every week like I did last year. I'm too busy behind the scenes canning and freezing. I'm also cultivating relationships with other organic farmers in the area. What we don't grow they do and vice versa. We just don't have enough land to produce all of what we need. We are forming communities within communities and bartering to boot. I'm visiting farmers' markets, online forums, and such. I've even joined a homesteading blogging network. The exchange of information is so important. If I can build this blog to the status of my other one, I'll be in hog heaven.
That's it for this week...
Y'all have a blessed day!
Sunday, August 13, 2017
This following question another patient made they made after hearing me tell my physical therapist what I have been doing on the homestead since I last saw him a week ago.
This was followed by the usual comment I hear, "You do more before noon than most people do all day!"
Yes, that's true. I operate a mini farm and homestead. To others homesteaders, I'm barely doing anything. That's true also. I'll call a homesteading friend and they will have done twice the amount of work done that day. I guess it all depends on your point of view. It really doesn't seem that much to me, but when you recite my list of morning chores most "ordinary" folks are exhausted just thinking about it.
From 7AM to 10 AM, you'll find me with the chickens, rabbits, or harvesting the garden. I'll gather wild plantain, poplar and oak leaves, assorted grasses, clover, and other weeds for the rabbits. While technically their diets is complete with fodder and timothy hay, I figure the rabbits would like different things to munch on too. I sort of rotate how much of each they get per day and change it up. Each will get individual attention...mostly snuggles and nose to nose Eskimo kisses. Dustin is usually ready for his morning physical therapy session. I usually feed him first so he's ready by the time I finish everyone else. I'll gather the eggs before I head inside. I'll also set up Mel's morning cup of tea.
The chickens get the bucket full of caterpillars, beetles, and assorted bugs I find in the garden as well as their ration of fermented grains (wheat. barley, sunflower, and oats) and a commercial organic chicken food. The chickens will also spend the bulk of their day free ranging in our wooded back acreage. I'm also setting up next rotation the fodder and fermented grains. Broody or Gimpster (as Mel calls her) gets up in the dog crate to be fed and have her alone time away from the roosters who aggravate her unmercifully. The cage door isn't latched and she lets herself out when she is ready to rejoin the flock.
All in all, our animals are pampered if not spoiled rotten.
From 10AM to 3PM, I'm baking whatever I started earlier and washing the day's harvest. Then, I'm processing the harvest. Canning tomatoes, okra, and eggplant (for right now). Black-eyed peas, herbs, or other harvest is set on trays in the oven for the pilot light to dehydrate them.
From 3PM to 5PM, I'm usually doing my off the homestead doctor or therapist visits, feed stores run (including for us), etc. Or, I'm grooming rabbits. Or, I'm helping Mel with this or that project around the homestead. I'm also prepping dinner unless I'm running late and pick something quick before coming home.
6PM to 10PM, I'm cleaning up the day's mess in the kitchen. Not that I'm not doing this during the day too. We are watching our favorite Netflix shows or watching YouTube. But I'm also knitting. Right now, I'm working on a 12" wide scarf for Mel. After that project is done, it'll be socks, baby booties foe crisis pregnancy, and dishcloths.
From 10PM to midnight, I'm usually at my computer. Playing mind building or just for fun games, writing blogs, answering and reading the 50 odd emails that have come in during the day. I'll finally lay down for the night amidst the sounds of crickets, frogs, cat purrs, and an occasional coyote call.
So what do you think? I'm I too busy or just busy enough?
Y'all have a blessed day!