With the first 12×24-foot section of our new storage shed fairly finished and stacked a quarter full of firewood already, we’ve moved on to the next and highest section. The center section will be 26 feet high, having two lower bays, each 12×24-feet, with a hayloft over that. The lower bays will provide indoor storage for our bulldozer, tractor, or whatever we need inside. But to get the hayloft, the center poles (used utility poles) have to be 26-feet long, going 4 feet in the ground. A daunting height!
Two days ago, David wasn’t working, so he, Will and I hauled the three longest poles down to the site with the ATV, chained them a little lower than half way down, to the bucket of our little Ford 8N tractor and carefully, a little at a time, set them down into the holes we had waiting for them. (And if you don’t think you’re a little nervous with a 30-foot, 500-pound pole towering over your head…)
But, one by one, they went into place and were securely braced all ways, without accident or incident. Now all we have to do is frame the roof. Way up there…
We did take a day off last Sunday and go down to my oldest son, Bill and his wife, Kelly’s house for a family get together. My adopted daughter (from India) and her family came out for a visit from their home in Rhode Island so the rest of the family who lived in the area came. I hadn’t seen my stepdaughter, Tricia and her family for quite awhile either, so it was real enjoyable to visit for even that short time. Mom, being 93, doesn’t like to go anywhere, so she wanted to leave for home much before any of the rest of us did, but it was still a great day.
Now it’s back to work, as usual. But with nice memories.
Do you have a “fail proof” system of disbudding or do you have to redo it on some of your stock? I’ve yet to get it really correct. I do have some that don’t come in, but that is the majority at the moment. Now we are faced with keeping them down if we don’t catch them soon enough.
No one gets 100% clean heads on the first disbudding. But you should get a very high percentage. First of all, try to disbud at 3-4 days; it’s amazing at how fast those horn buds grow. The larger they are, the harder they are to kill. Be sure your disbudding iron is VERY hot. Mine is electric and takes about 5 minutes to heat up thoroughly. Clip the hair around the horn bud; hair is insulating. When you apply the disbudding iron to your goat kids, be firm and press it down, moving it slowly in a circular motion so that none of the skin/horn bud area is left unburned. Leave it on long enough that a white or copper ring is burned all the way around the horn bud. Then with the iron, flip the cap off the horn bud. Replace the hot iron for a shorter time, searing the top of the horn bud. Repeat with the other side.
I put snow or a cold cloth on the kids’ heads immediately after disbudding, more for their comfort than for a good disbudding job.
Check each side of each kid in one week for emerging scurs; they’ll appear as small pea-sized black bumps. If you find one, clip it off and re-burn the area where it was growing. Usually that takes care of any incomplete disbudding.
With practice, you’ll get much better results. — Jackie
I know I am showing my green horns but how did you de-bud the goats? Could you explain the process and the tools used?
Read the first question of this blog; it’s all about disbudding kid goats. I use an electric disbudding iron. You can buy one from Hoeggers Goat Supply. It’s not a fun job, but it is very necessary, so I suck it up and repeat “I’m saving your life…I’m saving your life…” all the while I’m disbudding the kids. Having a helper to hold the kid or using a snug disbudding box to restrain it is invaluable. Especially when you’re new to the job and a bit tentative. If possible get an experienced goat breeder to come show you how it’s done the first time. It really helps make it clearer and gives you confidence. — Jackie
Pasteurizing and conditioning dehydrated food
I have a question on drying fruits and vegetables. Do you condition and pasteurize after drying? What type and size of container do you use for conditioning? If you pasteurize, what method do you use and do you use the same container you conditioned the produce in?
I see that you use old gift tin cans for storage. Do you line the tin cans with plastic? Do you break the dried produce into smaller size lots after processing or do you bulk store all in one container? I read that small lot packages should be used to minimize how many times the seal is broken each time some of the dried produce is used.
I am getting ready to dry some fresh picked strawberries. Last year I dried apricots and apples and stored them in quart canning jars with plastic screw on lids. Some ended up with insect hatches. The extension office told me that probably happened because I did not pasteurize the produce after drying and conditioning.
Liberty Lake, Washington
I do not pasteurize my dehydrated foods. I simply dry them at about 125 degrees, which will also kill any insect eggs present. This is done, either on my electric dehydrator, used over a period of two days, because of us being off grid, or in my stove oven with the door open (wood range) or closed on a very low setting (gas range). Some of my dehydrated foods are stored in quart jars, such as many fruits that I don’t dry in a large amount. Others, such as squash and apples, are stored in my tins (which have very tight lids and are insect proof). I have never had trouble with insects, mold, or other problems. I just open a container and take out what I need and reclose it.
No, I don’t line my tins with plastic. I really don’t like plastic; it often causes condensation because it’s too airtight and condensation is the enemy of dehydrated foods. The food in my tins stays dry and useable until it’s gone. I do always make sure that all my dehydrated food is dry, dry…a bit drier than necessary. — Jackie
Last year, we tried freezing our excess veggies (shaved the corn off the cob, and beans went straight in Ziploc bags and then in the freezer). But both veggies are pretty inedible eaten straight. The corn is mushy and mealy, and the beans are limp.
Is there a better way to freeze them? Does the container matter (we used Ziplocs for the most part)? Are there specific species of corn or beans that are better at freezing than others that you can recommend?
Considering canning this year as that seems at least to make them a good kind of mushy.
Most vegetables, especially corn and beans, should be blanched before they are frozen. This inactivates the natural enzymes in the food which will often make it taste nasty or get soft during freezer storage.
Personally, I like canned sweet corn, green beans, and many other foods better than frozen. And, once canned, there is no worry about storage, unlike the freezer where you do worry about freezer burn after a longer period of storage. — Jackie
Chicken feed recipe
Could you share the recipe for feeding chickens grain instead of commercial chicken feed? When we read the labels we could not believe the stuff they are putting into their feed. Also, could you include the amounts of grit, oyster shell, vitamins, etc? I mailed you a letter but we will be needing the info before the next issue arrives. Could not find exact ratios in the chicken booklet.
A very easy way to go is to simply buy scratch feed. This contains (depending on the locale) wheat, oats, cracked corn, and soybean meal. Feed them this, along with table scraps, grass, and clover, garden extras like squash, over-sized cukes, tomato seeds/skins, etc., and let them go free ranging, if possible, and they’ll happily lay lots of eggs for you without commercial egg mash. (I don’t even KNOW what some of the ingredients in it are!)
This also provides adequate vitamins and minerals. Give them a free-choice hopper full of oyster shell to help build strong bones and egg shells, access to gravel or dirt (or a hopper of chicken grit) and they’ll do very well for a whole lot cheaper than if you fed them egg mash!
Remember that chickens are easy to feed; they eat about anything and seem to balance their own diet. — Jackie
With all the places that you have lived, I was wondering how you decided on where to move? What do you use as a starting point, remoteness, your job, family, price of land? I currently live in Southern CA and would like to look for rural property. We have property in Kansas, but I like mountains and trees and don’t know where to start. What made you move from Montana to where you are now?
We love the mountains, and Montana, especially. BUT land, homestead-able land is very expensive per acre and there is not much in smaller, affordable acreages there; it’s either remote subdivisions of 20 acres or thereabouts or huge ranches. We lucked out on our first place there and got a mining claim with a small cabin on it very reasonably. But, then again, it was only 20 acres and it just wasn’t enough land to support our horses and gardens.
When we looked for land, our first priority was a remote area. Then it had to have water on it of some kind. Pasture, a possible large garden spot, trees, firewood access, away from any major city, relaxed building codes, and simply a place that spoke to us were all necessary. And, of course, we needed cheaper land; we aren’t exactly rich!
My advice would be to make a list of your “must haves,” then start looking around. You’ll find that you’ll have to trade a few “must haves” for reality, but try to stick close to what you really want and need. There’s a place out there waiting for you. Have fun finding it! — Jackie
Strawberries and potato bugs
First off I want to thank you for your recommendation for the Mantis tiller. It is a great thing to have once you are used to it!
Is there anything else to do with strawberries besides making jam and freezing them whole? Can you can them or aren’t they very good?
What is the purpose of potato bugs and their larva besides for you to spend hours picking them? Am I the only person who has them? Where do they come from? I think they appear out of thin air and the first one there calls the rest! But is there anything else to get rid of them besides picking and picking and picking? I don’t want to spray anything chemical on the plants either.
Wild Rose, Wisconsin
I dehydrate a lot of my strawberries to use in granola, on cereal, in desserts, and just for snacks. And yes, I do can them too. True, they aren’t as good as frozen ones, but they are sure good enough to bother with! I also make several mixed berry preserves and jams with them, as well as fresh use like strawberry cheesecake, shortcake, and just plain STRAWBERRIES!
I don’t have a clue what potato bugs are good for, except bugging you! Like mosquitoes, deer flies, and ticks. Yuck! I pick and squash eggs until they are really bad, then I dust my potatoes with rotenone dust, as it’s as natural and non-toxic to people as possible. That seems to break their numbers seriously. Some years are bad; others much better. We always hope for a “better” year. So far the potato bugs haven’t found our garden, way out in the middle of the wild woods! Yet. — Jackie
Do you have a recipe for pear mincemeat? I have misplaced mine. It called for pears, oranges, lemons, raisins, and several spices. I have a lot of pears on my trees, and want to have my recipe ready for when they ripen.
7 pounds ripe pears
2 pounds raisins
7 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. ground allspice
1 cup vinegar
Core and quarter pears. Cut lemon and oranges into quarters, removing seeds. Put pears, lemon, oranges, and raisins through meat grinder with a coarse blade. Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Add chopped fruit. Bring to a boil slowly. Simmer for 40 minutes. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath. — Jackie
Had something get into my poultry coop last night. I had been leaving the chicken door open so the birds could come and go. Guess that was a mistake. This is the first time in eight years we’ve had this happen. Lost 6 chickens, 2 turkeys, and 1 duck, and one of my Buff Orpingtons is completely missing.
I had all these dead birds, and my husband had to leave for work. Our arrangement is that I take care of their daily needs, and he takes care of the butchering. Then I discovered two more birds inside the coop that weren’t dead but were mortally wounded. Luckily, I have farm-minded neighbors and within 20 minutes I had a husband-wife butchering team here to give me a hand cutting on heads, gutting and skinning. We were able to save meat from 5 of the chickens and the one duck.
I have two questions for you: I tried doing a search for what killed my birds, but I can’t figure it out. Only one bird had been eaten on, one of the chickens. The head and one wing were ripped off, the entrails were mostly eaten and part of the breast was eaten. The other birds suffered slashes to the breast with very little blood or feather loss. I suspect that the predator entered the coop, but most of the birds were dead out in the fenced yard. It happened during the night (we didn’t hear a thing). I know we have some big coons around here. Would a coon kill like that? Fox?
Second, what can I do to repay these wonderful neighbors of mine? Of course they refused any sort of payment for gas money. I don’t want to embarrass them with a gift, but it was a huge favor that they did for me! But they, like me, already grow a big garden, raise their own birds, etc., so I don’t really have anything they don’t produce themselves.
My money is on the coon. I had raccoons kill 33 nearly-grown turkeys and several chickens in the past. They even broke the window and dug under the door! I caught one in the act and he didn’t even run away. He went to raccoon heaven via 20 gauge. It’s safest to lock the poultry in at night to avoid temptation. If you have more trouble, either set leg traps or a live trap to catch the culprit before he puts you out of the bird business.
As for your great neighbors, bake ’em a pie, a pan of brownies, or give them some of your homemade jelly. And always BE that kind of neighbor to them and your other neighbors. It’s why we’ve always gotten along well no matter where we lived. — Jackie
Harvesting Hopi Pale Grey Squash
I have Hopi Pale Grey Squash from the seeds you sent! I want to know when to harvest. I have squash about 6″ in diameter now. They are beautiful, but I don’t know when to pick. And if you have the time, a simple recipe for the squash would be much appreciated.
I’m so glad you are having squash from this great squash! You can harvest your squash this fall when the squash are blueish gray and the skin is hard (resists your fingernail pressing in). The squash are usually about soccer-ball sized but oblong shaped.
I usually just cut them in half, scoop out and SAVE the fat seeds, drying them on a pie pan or cookie sheet left on the bookshelf, scrape out the strings, then smear butter inside and sprinkle liberally with brown sugar and bake at 350 degrees until tender. Or you can brown up some hamburger or sausage, add it to rice and mixed vegetables, stir in some cream of mushroom soup, and stuff the squash with it. That’s real good, too. — Jackie
Transplanting wild asparagus and black raspberries
I have found in our timber, beautiful stands of wild asparagus and big sweet black raspberries. Is there any way that I can transplant or save seeds to plant them in our garden near the house and not so far into the timber?
Lucky you! What I would do is to get some orange surveyor’s tape (plastic and cheap) and mark the plants you like. Then, in the spring, before they begin to grow, dig them up, being sure to get enough roots, and transplant them to a place that would be more convenient for you. Remember that asparagus has long, often kind of deep roots; a spading fork works great for digging them. Asparagus roots look like an octopus with many fatter roots hanging down from the crown. The asparagus shoots that we eat come from the crown. Plant the black raspberries fairly shallow, but as deep as they grew, and the asparagus a bit deeper. It’ll take a couple of years for them to get back to full production so just take care of them and they’ll reward you bountifully. — Jackie