Archive for January, 2010

Homesteads Grow…….

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

If you regularly follow this blog, you know I’ve posted several time about Angie’s blog. Angie is nothing but awesome. She raises chickens, turkeys, goats, and heaven only knows what else. And she’s FULL of knowledge about how to raise them. I’ve learned so much from her. She’s also taught me to make grocery bags out of 50 pound bird seed bags, how to make homemade yogurt, how to….. well how to do many, many things. She’s also a moderator on backyardchickens and I have nothing but respect for her. She also happens to live a couple of hours from me.

Being the Angie Fan that I am, I also follow her on Facebook. And today she posted that two of her goats had kidded six babies. Three of them passed away 🙁 But three of them are alive and, thanks to Angie’s most excellent care, are doing quite well.

I need to explain “excellent” care here. Angie brought these three babies into her home and sat with them next to the fire. She put pampers on them (YES – pampers) and they are living in her home. She and her family hold these babies and wrap them in blankets that they rotate in and out of the dryer to make sure they are warm. They fedd these baby goats with bottles filled with the goat mama’s milk. Angie’s teenage daughters sleep in the room with these precious babies and set their cell phone alarms to go off every two hours so they can awaken and feed these babies. There are many, many days of goats living in the house for Angie and her family. And do you know what? Angie doesn’t care. She’s such a good goat mommy. These babies will be sleeping in laps and wearing pampers for quite a few more days. Or weeks. Maybe just 4 more weeks……

Angie knows how badly I’ve wanted goats…. really, really, really wanted goats……. We talked last fall and she had some ready for me to take. But Bernie and I were not ready. We didn’t have shelter for the goats. And we didn’t have a fenced in area for them. Angie said “No worries”. She knew there would be future goat babies, and I knew Bernie would build me a goat shelter in the spring.

But then these babies came. Early in the year. When we still had no shelter. And Angie taunted me with them. She posted pictures for heaven’s sake! *gasp* And I knew…. I just knew….. and after a day of “discussing” it with Bernie, he agreed. He’ll need one month to build a proper shelter, but after one month, I can bring these precious goat babies home! Yay! But shhhhhhh, don’t tell Bernie…… I’m hoping it won’t be a full month……shhhhhh……

So, without further ado, meet Mirrie:

nubian,saanen,Nubien/Saanen

And Chance and Hope:

Nubien/Saanen

The white baby is Chance, and the fawn colored baby is Hope.

There is a really precious story behind each of their names. And I will share it later.

But right now, please be happy for me. I am excited beyond words. And I am so very, very happy that three little goats from Angie’s farm will be coming to live with us on the homestead.

This homestead is growing. And I am smiling. Really, really, really smiling.

Who Says We’re Missing Something Out Here?

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I have no complaints living 20 minutes from the closest incorporated town, but I will admit I sometimes miss the occasional take-out Chinese suppers. One Chinese dish I particularly crave from time to time is Hot and Sour Soup.

Not too long ago I ran across a crock pot recipe on A Year of Slow Cooking blog for a Hot and Sour Soup that I thought looked especially tasty. I didn’t feel the need to let it cook for a few hours in the crock pot, so I modified it a bit and cooked it for about an hour on the stove top.

Not only is this a great soup, it’s low calorie and healthy. And that’s great, but sometimes it’s nice to splurge a little – like on Won Ton strips. There is just nothing like those little Won Ton strips some Chinese restaurants include with Hot and Sour soup. Bernie found some in our grocery store and bought them but they were ridiculously expensive for that tiny little bag. So the next time I decided to make Hot and Sour soup, we just picked up some Won Ton wrappers and I made my own. And they tasted pretty good!

The Hot and Sour Soup recipe on the A Year of Low Cooking blog is a good one. I really like my Hot and Sour soup to be hot and sour! So I added a lot more red pepper flakes and vinegar. I also added some chili/garlic paste because I love chili/garlic paste. I omitted the water, and used more homemade chicken broth. I may have tweaked one or two other things. Below is my version is your taste buds are similar to mine:

Ingredients:
1 package of firm tofu – cubed
6 cups chicken broth
1 package of sliced mushrooms
1 can bamboo shoots – drained
1 can sliced water chestnuts -drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar – and then 3 tablespoons more when soup is finished
2 tablespoons chili/garlic sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like your soup hot at all)

The Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large soup pot.

Hot and Sour Soup

Bring it to a boil, reduce heat, cover pot with lid, and let simmer for about 1 hour, or until mushrooms are very tender. When it is finished cooking, I stir in 3 more tablespoons of vinegar for a little more sour taste. Taste yours and see if you think it needs more vinegar.

While your soup is cooking, now is a good time to make those Won Ton strips. You’re going to need a package of Won Ton Wrappers.

Fried Won Ton strips

Cover the bottom of a pan with about 1 inch of oil, place it on a stove burner, and turn the heat up to medium high. While that is heating, pull out a stack of Won Ton wrappers and slice them – I don’t know how wide I made the strips, but the stack looked like this when I finished:

Fried Won Ton strips

I only made enough for a couple of bowls and used about 12 wrappers for that. If you are making enough for several bowls of soup, you’ll need to use more wrappers.

While the oil is heating, go ahead and separate all the strips from each other. I just put them in a pile when I separated them and didn’t worry with laying each strip out nicely or anything.

Now that the oil is hot, take a handful of the Won Ton strips and put them in the oil. It only takes a few seconds for them to brown and bubble up a bit. Then you’ll want to flip them over for a few seconds to brown the other side. Then remove them and put them on a paper towel to drain. Mine got a bit more done than I would have liked from just the few extra seconds I took to get a picture.

Fried Won Ton strips

I suppose you can salt these as you remove them from the oil, but I didn’t use any additional salt on them.

Once your soup is finished, just sprinkle a few Won Ton strips on top and voila! A truly delicious Hot and Sour Soup with crunchy Won Ton strips!

Hot and Sour Soup

Yep. You can live in the middle of no where and not miss a thing. Seriously. As long as there is a grocery store you can visit once a week or so……

Happy Little Gift

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Have I mentioned lately how incredibly muddy it is here these days? Well, it’s muddy. So muddy that it makes the thought of working outside pretty much unbearable. So today Bernie did a few chores inside the house and then told me he’d be working outside in his barn shed.

And a couple of hours later he came inside and presented me with this.

cedar box

Is that not the cutest little box you’ve ever seen??? I haven’t decided what I’ll store it in yet. A box this precious needs to be home to something pretty special, don’t you think?

cedar box

I asked Elvis what he thought I should store in this amazing little box.

Elvis

And he said “Kitty treats”. Hmmmmmmm. What do you think?

Mud, Mud, Mud

Monday, January 18th, 2010

For the first time in a long time, our weather has been above freezing for a few days. As much as we’ve enjoyed the warm up, the melting snow and additional rain has left this entire area a huge mud bowl. Our yard is no different. In some ways, it may be worse. Certainly the chicken run is a completely muddy mess.

I was visiting Sparrow Haven Blog yesterday and reading her description of things she now wishes she had done differently when building her chicken coop. I’m sure anyone that has built a coop can look back and list things they wish they had done differently. If I knew then what I know now? Well, the Chicken Coop DeVille would barely resemble itself! But one of the things that Sparrow Haven mentioned that is near and dear to my heart as of late, is that she wishes she had built some sort of platform leading into the coop so that she wouldn’t get so muddy when it’s wet. Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. I can SO relate to THAT!

Even though my chickens free range, they have a fenced in and covered chicken run outside their coop. And they make certain not one single blade of grass grows in there. It is completely void of vegetation. And I quite frankly could not care less…… except when it rains or snows. I have to walk through the run to feed and water the chickens, and to get inside the coop. And when it’s wet outside, I sink to my ankles in mud and muck. And it makes me pretty unhappy.

So reading Sparrow Haven yesterday led me to really consider what I could do to avoid walking in mud and muck. After participating in Freezer Camp day, I do not dare ask Bernie to do one more thing concerning chickens for a while. So it had to be something I could do by myself. And it had to be fairly easy, because my construction skills are rather limited. And then it dawned on me!

Several years ago, we picked up a bunch of brick pavers from someone giving them away on Freecycle. We picked up hundreds of them and stacked them behind the sea container. Maybe I could make a sidewalk out of those pavers!

I mentioned my sidewalk idea to Bernie, and he thought it sounded like a good plan. So this morning, I laid the brick pavers, and now I have a sidewalk in the chicken run. YAY!

chicken run sidewalk

I’d never done anything like this before, but I got the hang of it fairly quickly. Look at my fancy work of curving the sidewalk to the gate.

chicken run sidewalk

I even put sand between the joints of the pavers, like I knew what I was doing.

chicken run sidewalk

This was just for the chicken coop, so I didn’t frame it in and do it the absolutely proper way, but I am quite pleased with how it turned out. The chickens? Well, they still are not quite sure what to make of it. They stood around fussing about it for a while, and finally Bobby Lee took the plunge and walked on the sidewalk to get inside the run.

chicken run sidewalk

The others eventually followed.

chicken run sidewalk

I am just so tickled to have a sidewalk that will keep me out of the mud in the chicken run! And even though I shoveled, laid pavers, and swept in sand, Bernie was a big help to me. The pavers were all frozen together where we had stacked them! So he used a rubber mallet and broke them apart – and then he spent a lot of time helping me move what I needed up to the run, and then breaking off the ice that remained on them.

Thank you, sweet Bernie. I know you are totally chickened out right about now. I appreciate your help, and lack of complaining, more than you know 😉

And even though Duke was trying to act all cool and uninterested, you can tell he’s pretty impressed with the great job I did.

Silver Gray Dorking Rooster

Quiet, Calm, Duke, and Pickled Eggs

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

We finally had a couple of days where the temperature rose above freezing, and we did not hesitate to take advantage of one of them and send nine cockerels to Freezer Camp. We are now officially extra-rooster-free for the first time since last spring. And it feels great. For everyone left on the homestead, anyway!

My poor hens have spent the past few weeks running and hiding from those extra cockerels. The girls would gobble their food as quickly as possible in the morning, if they ate at all, and then run/fly out into the woods to get into the trees. Sometimes they hung out on top of buildings.

chickens

It wasn’t the cockerels fault. They were victims of nature – specifically an over abundance of teenage testosterone. But they wreaked havoc around here. From the second they woke up until the second they went to sleep, the yard was filled with the sound of hens screaming and screeching as they attempted to escape from these cockerels, and the sound of the cockerels screeching as they fought over the hens. These cockerels were never tame and, although I never laid a hand on any of them, they would scream and run anytime I walked close by them. They also crowed non-stop. I do love to hear a rooster crow – but listening to 12 crow all day and night really pushes my enjoyment level.

And even though we were aware of the chaos surrounding these nine cockerels, we really had no idea how awful it was until they were gone! The resulting calm in the yard and the flock was immediately palatable. The quietness was a blessed relief, and by late afternoon, there were no hens in trees. For the first time in weeks, the hens were out wandering in the yard with Bobby Lee and Pico. I honestly think I saw those girls smiling……

Poor old Duke is hanging in there. He spends most of his day off to himself, with one or two hens. If I live to be 100, I will never understand why he gave up being Alpha Roo, and then withdrew from the flock for the most part. It really is heartbreaking. But even though Duke has lost his place in the pecking order of the flock, he will always have a special place in my heart.

Bobby Lee’s tail feathers came back beautifully after his molt. They seem to still be growing, and he’s got a couple that now drag the ground behind him.

chickens,Phoenix rooster

Pico is a sweet rooster, and I think he’s a pretty boy.

chickens,Phoenix mix rooster

And even though the older girls aren’t laying very well right now, the pullets are providing us with enough eggs that I used 4 1/2 dozen to put up 5 quarts of pickled eggs the other day.

pickled eggs

Pickled eggs are great. A calm flock is even better. All living things on the homestead are very happy right now.

Just a Little of This and a Little of That

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Winter hit us early, suddenly, and relentlessly this season. It’s been so cold for so long, I can not even remember how many weeks in a row it is that we’ve had the wood stove cranking out heat. We’ve had snow on the ground since early December. Other than taking the dogs for their daily romp in the woods and caring for chickens, I have spent absolutely no time outside. As a result, I’m having a hard time coming up with things to blog about. So, today, I think I’ll just bring you up to date on a few things here on the homestead.

Remember a couple of months ago when I was trying to sex a few mutt chickens I had? Well, the verdict is in.

This Barred Rock mix?

Barred Rock Mix

And these two big white chickens?

Mutts

Cockerels. No doubt about it. Dad gum cockerels. From the last couple of hatches late last year, I ended up with EIGHT cockerels that need to be sent to freezer camp. Ugh.

But I have to tell you, some of these mutt cockerels are absolutely gorgeous. Three of them are Phoenix/Golden Penciled Hamburg mixes. And they got the prettiest rose combs from the Hamburg side:

Hamburg/Black Spanish Mix

Hamburg/Black Spanish Mix

This girl here is a Silver Gray Dorking/Golden Penciled Hamburg mix – I must say, it makes for a “different” look:

Silver Gray Dorking/Hamburg Mix

She got the Hamburg rose comb, and the five toes of a Silver Gray Dorking.

This picture simply cracks me up. I was actually trying to get a picture of the little cockerel to the right, but look at that girl to the left:

Hamburg/Black Spanish Mix

Oh, and behind both of them? That reddish chicken? Another cockerel.

We’ll be sending most of the eight cockerels to freezer camp in the next few days. Two of them are still pretty scrawny, and I’d like to let them get a bit bigger. How big I let them get depends on how angry they make me harassing my hens in the coming weeks.

If you’re one of my Facebook friends, you know that we got some bad news concerning Diesel recently. He has had problems with his back legs for some time now, and we’ve learned that he has hip dysplasia. I guess we really knew that before we took him to the vet, but he’s so young and we were really hoping it was something that could be easily corrected. He is on high doses of glucosamine and chondroitin, and it does seem to help him quite a bit. He doesn’t really act in pain, just stiff and a little uncomfortable from time to time. Asprin seems to help that. He and Dolly still run and play every single day. Such sweet pups – we just could not ask for better companions. I just pray they are both with us for a long, long time.

Bernie’s been avoiding cabin fever by refinishing gun stocks. The house has smelled like boiled linseed oil for a while now, but goodness, it sure does make a gun stock shiny! This picture just doesn’t show the wonderful job he did on this gun.

gun stock

OK, I’m going to leave you with a recipe to help warm you on one of these cold, winter evenings:

Potato Ham Soup

Ingredients:
4 cups peeled and diced potatoes
2 – 3 stalks diced celery
half of a diced onion
1 cup cooked, diced ham
4 cups chicken stock
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk

Directions:
Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham, chicken stock, salt and pepper in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat until the potatoes are done – about 15 minutes or so.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour and milk until there are no lumps.

Once potato mixture is done, add the butter, and the milk and flour mixture. Stir until the soup is thickened.

I suppose you can leave out the butter if you want to watch the fat and calories, but I truly don’t recommend it……

This is a very hardy meal. I serve it with a side salad, or some homemade french bread.

Bon Apetite – and stay warm!