Archive for November, 2009

A Very Special Day

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

We’ve been waiting for this day with great anticipation.

pups

Today is our birthday and we are one year old!

We started the day with a birthday kiss.

pups

And Mom’s been in the kitchen baking our birthday cake.

pups

Hey! Did you add our favorite icing to it???

birthday pups

Ah…. yes you did!

pups

I love birthday cakes!

pups

And I love being served birthday cake in bed!

pups

Wait. This is worth standing up for.

pups

Where the heck did all my cake go?

pups

I think Diesel needs a little help with his birthday cake.

pups

Hooooowwwwwwlll. Happy Birthday to uuuuuuusssssss.

pups

Pumpkin Seed Chicken Dewormer

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

If you’ve spent any time at all on the Backyard Chickens forums, or any other number of chicken forums, you’ve undoubtedly heard that pumpkin seeds are a natural dewormer. I’ve done a lot of reading on this subject, and although I’ve never found anything that proves this conclusively, I will tell you that I’ve learned pumpkin seeds have been used for hundreds of years a natural dewormer for all types of pets and livestock. From dogs to horses, and even for humans. And with interest in natural products rising, there are even research grants available concerning the use of pumpkin seeds as a dewormer.

Pumpkin seeds contain an amino acid known as cucurbitin. Cucurbitin is inside the seed, and it paralyzes tapeworms and roundworms, and aids in eliminating them from the body. Some believe it takes very large quantities of pumpkin seeds to work effectively, and some do not believe it works at all,

Whether you believe in using pumpkin seeds as a dewormer for your chickens or not, one thing is for certain – they won’t hurt your chickens, and your chickens will probably love eating them! If you want to use the seeds as a dewormer, remember that the cucurbitin is inside the seed, and chickens can’t chew. You’ll want to make sure you chop the seeds a bit in a food processor, or blender, to expose the pulp of the seeds.

My chickens love a little pumpkin seed smoothie in the fall. I cut pumpkins in half, remove the seeds and put them in a food processor, along with a little buttermilk, milk, or plain yogurt, and whirl it all around until the seeds are a little chopped. Then I use the pumpkin halves as bowls, and pour a little of the smoothy in each of them.

Chickens and Pumpkins

Lordy, they do love a little pumpkin smoothie in the morning.

Chickens and Pumpkins

And when all that delicious smoothie is finished? They eat the bowl!

Chickens and Pumpkins

Remember those eggs I got from a neighbor and let my hens hatch out the end of August? Well, they are about 2 1/2 months old now and I still have no clue what breed they are. I’m certain they are mixed, but I’m just not sure what they are a mix of! And three of the six are HUGE. They also have well defined combs and waddles. I worry they are cockerels. With my original flock, I can typically sex them within 3 – 4 weeks. And some of the pullets, like the White Faced Black Spanish, do have large combs and waddles relatively early. But these three have me a little concerned. Take a look at the two large white ones in these pictures, and keep in mind they are only about 2 1/2 months old:

Chickens and Pumpkins

Chickens and Pumpkins

What do you think?

I’m certain this one’s mother is the only Barred Rock my neighbor has, and I have no idea about the father:

Chickens and Pumpkins

Cockerel or Pullet? I think they are some pretty chickens and I am just praying they are pullets. They’re friendly little things. So are the other three. The other three are smaller and I am 99.99% certain they are pullets. But these three……..

OK, the chickens have enjoyed their morning smoothie and I’ve got to get busy around here. No rest for the weary on this homestead.

Acknowledging Limitations

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

When we decided to get back to basic living and move to our homestead, it came with an agreement that we would work toward becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant. We knew this was a big order, and we were willing to take baby steps and be happy for the progress we made, even if it was slower than we wished.

We knew and had practiced some of the skills required before we got here. We had been growing gardens and canning for over 20 years. And, although I had become a little lazy at it, I had been cooking from scratch for at least that long. Bernie knew how to work on vehicles, do home repairs, and work with wood.

Within short order, Bernie learned to saw lumber, build shelters, keep firewood stocked, and fix things he never even considered working on in the past. I learned to make butter, yogurt, cheese, soap, lip balm, perfumes, etc. We got a flock of chickens and I learned how to raise them and doctor them. I’ve always enjoyed being somewhat crafty, and I began to make the vast majority of gifts by hand.

In short, we try to identify those things that we enjoy or that make our lives more comfortable – and then we learn how to do or make those things on our own. We may not always chose to do them that way, but at least we know how to do them, should we ever be in a situation where that knowledge is needed. A good example of what I’m talking about is making butter. We don’t eat a lot of butter, and I don’t always churn it myself. But I have a churner, and I know how to make butter.

I’ve told you all of that to tell you this: Everyone has his/her limitations. Just because you may want to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be good at it. No one knows this better than me.

I have several limitations, but I am going to acknowledge one of them right here and now. I. Can. Not. Sew. I really can’t. I hate it. But it’s the truth.

On September 2nd of this year, Bernie’s youngest daughter, Kimberly, blessed us with a grandson. Baby Jacob is a precious little thing, and in the joy of his arrival, I decided I would sew him a blanket, and a diaper bag for Kimberly. Somehow, in all the excitement, I forgot one minor detail. I can not sew.

I bought the patterns, material, thread, and everything needed for the blanket and diaper bag. I looked at the patterns and thought “How hard can this be? This blanket looks so simple. I’ll start with it.” And within the first two minutes I had messed it up. I tore out all the stitching and started again. Two minutes later, I messed it up. I tore out all the stitching and start over. Two minutes later….. well, you get the idea.

I did finally finish the blanket. And I gave it to the pups. Even they do not like it. I did an absolutely horrible job on that simple, little blanket. So I went on-line and I ordered one. I also ordered a diaper bag. I worked around that little problem.

I know if things got so bad that we could not afford to buy clothing, I could sew something we could wear. It may have one sleeve longer than the other, one leg shorter than the other, buttons that don’t match up with button holes, or zippers that don’t zip – but we would have clothing and there would likely be a lot more on our minds at that point than worrying about how we look in our ridiculous clothing.

I guess the point of this whole post is not everyone can do everything – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t try. And that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful at following your dreams.

Follow your dreams. Acknowledge your limitations. And learn to work around them.

And, for heaven’s sake, don’t sign up to sew a baby blanket if you can’t sew.

It’s That Time of Year

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Bernie and I have been busy in the yard, preparing for the colder weather that is quickly moving in. We cleaned up the garden and added some mulch from the straw, pine shavings, and chicken poop pile that’s been cooking all year. We covered the outdoor plants in leaves and pine straw. I brought in tender plants that have lived in the greenhouse all summer. And, for the few plants still in the greenhouse? Well, I’ve been saving milk jugs all year. So I painted them all black.

greenhouse

I took them up to the rain barrel filled each with water. And then I put all the greenhouse plants on the floor, and placed the jugs among them. The hope is that the water in the jugs will heat up during the day, as the sun shines, and provide a little extra warmth for the plants through the cold nights.

greenhouse

Well, not all the greenhouse plants. I left a couple of tomato and pepper plants on a shelf, just to see how well they will hold up in cold weather in the greenhouse.

greenhouse

The tomatoes plants have kept us in tomatoes for a while, but they are starting to peter out now. The large pepper plant is loaded in small, tight blooms. I’m interested to see if we get any more peppers off of it. I have a very small pepper plant I started a month or so ago. I have no idea how well it’s going to do as time goes on.

And as the cold weather moves in, so does the reality that Christmas is just around the corner. You may remember that I covered several eggs in polymer clay for Christmas ornaments earlier this year. Well, Angie, over at Home Grown, posted about some ornaments she made from eggs – and they are absolutely gorgeous. I knew I had to make some of these.

Here are some of the first few I made:

Christmas Eggs

This first batch was made with some fun stickers I thought would be cute.

Christmas Eggs

I have over two dozen more that are waiting for the caps and strings to be applied. These are mostly modeled after Angie’s beautiful eggs.

Christmas Eggs

This is such a fun project, and I think these ornaments are my favorite. They are easy to make I’m sure they will be a beautiful addition to any tree. You’ve still got time to make your own! Hop on over to Angie’s blog and learn how!

Fall is also the time of year that many people dig their horseradish to make horseradish sauce. When we lived in town, we had horseradish that started as two, small roots. Over the years it flourished, and we liked to dig it up in the spring to make horseradish sauce. When we moved to the homestead, I dug up a couple of roots to get started with out here. That was two years ago, and the horseradish is going strong.

I like to give new horseradish plantings at least a couple of years to get well established before digging them up, so we didn’t dig any of ours this year. But we have a neighbor who had some growing next to his house and, even though he didn’t know what it was, he really disliked it. Horseradish has huge leaves and, if not contained, will grow out of control. When I told him how lucky he was to have horseradish he said “You want it? Dig up as much as you like. I’m getting rid of it.”

So, yesterday, Bernie and I dug up our neighbor’s horseradish. It was well established, and the roots ran so deep there was no way we could get all of it. He’ll be dealing with horseradish again next year….. but, in the meantime, we had a bucket of horseradish that we planned to turn into horseradish sauce.

horseradish

If you decide to make horseradish sauce, I highly recommend you plan to do it outside. When we lived in town we made horseradish sauce in front of an open window with a fan sucking the air out. And it was very painful. Nothing can make eyes and noses water and sting better than horseradish! This year, we decided to move the entire operation outside.

I washed the roots under the outside spigot.

Photobucket

They’re looking better already.

horseradish

Then we took them to the picnic bench we moved in the garage and began the tedious chore of peeling them. Knives and potato peelers work really well.

horseradish

Once they’re all peeled, wash them one more time.

horseradish

And then it’s time to grate them. We use food processors for this step, but you can hand grate them if you have the time and patience.

horseradish

When we finished, we had two large bowls full of grated horseradish.

horseradish

But we’re not quite finished. See how chunky it looks? We ran all of it back through the food processor on chop mode. And when we were finished with that, we had a nice, horseradish sauce consistency.

horseradish

Then I just filled jars with horseradish, dumped in a little salt, added a pinch of sugar, and topped each jar with white vinegar.

horseradish

And now we have two quarts, two pints, and one half pint of fresh, homemade horseradish sauce.

Oh, and see that tiny, empty jar? That’s a jar from some horseradish sauce Bernie bought at the grocery store a while ago. It was good, no doubt about that. But it wasn’t as good as homemade horseradish sauce, and it was very expensive! And have you ever read the list of ingredients on some of that store bought horseradish sauce? Making your own horseradish sauce is a little time consuming, but it’s extremely inexpensive and it’s easy. I think it’s worth every minute it takes.

It’s that time of year, and we’re staying busy with “Fall Chores” on the homestead. I always dread the cold weather, but I like doing “Fall Chores”. It feels good to have things cleaned and tucked in and ready to get a few months of rest. And it feels good to work on the things that only get done this time of year.

What kind of “Fall Chores” are you doing?