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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category
Thursday, February 27th, 2014
Hey, we talk about preparedness day and night it seems, but how prepared ARE we? Water is always one of the biggest deals. Luckily, we feel we have it about covered. After all, even with frozen water lines, we still have more than 500 gallons of potable water in our basement storage tanks (which we are using VERY little of) and more than four feet of snow to melt outside.
We’re melting snow to flush the toilet and wash up with. This morning I washed my hair with some of it, heated on the wood stove to conserve propane, and Will’s coffee was brewed with some water I brought from the Idington spring yesterday, on the way home from town. The animals’ water is mostly melted snow. I’m only going to wash clothes once a week in our water-conserving wringer washer and that water will be mostly melted snow. By the time the snow’s pretty much gone, we’ll be able to get water from our spring as it won’t be wading through four feet of drifted snow to get at.
We feel fortunate to have plenty of firewood, food, and critter food on hand. If we get another couple of big snowstorms we may have to run the snowmobile out to the road. Knowing this is a possibility, we’re really stocking up on critter grub, especially. We have our bounteous pantry for ourselves, of course. A lot of folks we know have already gone through their entire winters’ worth of firewood and have had to buy more. But the firewood they bought is pretty green and really doesn’t burn well or economically. Green wood takes a lot of heat to drive off the steam in it from the sap and that burning eats up a lot of wood. And with propane getting scarcer and selling at $5 a gallon, I don’t know what folks will do. Luckily, we stock 2 years’ worth of firewood in the shed. But we’ve started dipping into our second year’s firewood already. We feel fortunate that it’s split and very dry, AND under cover…not out in the snowbank somewhere!
We’re plotting out what we’re going to grow to harvest for seed to sell in our mini-seed business next year. It’s fun but challenging as some crops such as corn and squash require extreme distancing to avoid cross pollination between varieties. We’ve got it about figured out and should be offering about 20 or more different tomato seeds plus many seeds from our old-faithful garden crops. (We still have plenty of seed for sale; just click on the green box pdf link above.)
Meanwhile, keep warm and tell us about where you live. Hearing about folks tilling their garden and running around in T-shirts gives us hope for spring! — Jackie
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014
Cooking on a wood burner
I always thought I’d be able to cook on my wood burner, but I decided to give it a try and the top of the stove only gets about 130 to 150 degrees. I have the damper full open yet this is as hot as it gets. I read that food isn’t safe at this temperature for more than two hours, so even if the food eventually cooked, it would be full of bacteria. Is there anything you can suggest to help me? I’d be so grateful!
Does your wood burner have a cabinet around it? Some do, for instance the Ashley cabinet model that was very popular in the ’70s and ’80s. These never do get as hot as a wood stove that is simply an enclosed “box” of cast iron or sheet steel. The top of any wood burner is hottest when the damper is nearly closed, not open, as the majority of heat goes right up the stovepipe when the damper is open. Also, the type of wood has to do with how hot the stove top gets. Dry, seasoned hardwood or pine will burn hottest with green or unseasoned wood burning sometimes barely at all. I’ve cooked on several wood stoves from my ever-present kitchen ranges to the living room wood burner. But all of ours have been cabinet-free.
Temperatures from 140 to 150 degrees are the recommended internal temperatures for medium rare steaks and other slow cooked foods done in slow cookers such as crock pots. So I don’t think bacteria would be a big issue. But, personally, I would like to see you simmering your foods at about 180 to 205 degrees F, just to be safest.
If you do have a cabinet-type wood burner, many have a lift off top so you can more easily use it to cook on. Or there is a hinged door on top for this purpose. When the pot of food is on the iron stovetop, there should not be a problem getting the food plenty hot. I do it all the time. — Jackie
Butchering older roosters
We have numerous chickens, along with now, 4 roosters. One came from a friend, the others came from a batch of 9 chickens we bought — there were FOUR in there! Anyway, the newest 3 are Buff-Orpingtons — and big and beautiful. But, they’re starting to realize they’re bigger, and are beginning to fight with the original rooster. I don’t want them to kill each other, but I also don’t want to just give them away. They’re over a year old, so are they too old to butcher? Will they be too tough? They are fed very little feed each day, and for the most part, are free-range. What would you do with them?
No, your roosters aren’t too old to butcher; I’ve butchered roosters that were quite a bit older than that. However, if you just cook them, they’ll probably be a bit tough. So, instead, why not can the meat? You can make broth and then can both the broth and broth with meat. Out of each rooster, you’ll get many jars of tasty, tender meat. That’s a pretty much win-win solution. — Jackie
Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Learning to can and soil preparation
I have been reading your blog for some time now, and just getting the nerve to do canning. I put up some peach jam with water bath canning last season, and purchased a pressure canner in anticipation of pressure canning this season. Being a visual learner, have you ever considered doing some DVDs on pressure canning? I know I would feel more comfortable with this method. I do have all your books.
Secondly, I live in the woods of Maine, and the surface soil is sparse and full of pine needles, any suggestions on how to beef up the soil inexpensively? I do have a small series of raised beds. I live on the edge of a pond, so watershed safety is necessary as well.
South Berwick, Maine
Yes, we have thought of doing DVDs, as Dave Duffy my boss at the magazine suggested. We actually have shot some video at our last seminar and will let you know when it gets put together.
As for your garden soil, rotted manure will fix it right up. You probably have acidic soil (you might want to do a simple pH test) and adding lime would probably help, too. Our soil here on our homestead used to be a layer of pine needles, an inch of topsoil, and 18 inches of rocky, sandy gravel. Now we have about a foot of nice, black, sandy loam. But it did take a few years of both adding rotted manure and picking rocks! — Jackie
We have a new homestead and we are currently raising our first 2 pigs (Duroc-Hampshire crosses) that we hope to process in a few months at the 220-240 lb range. We will put some of the meat in the freezer and give some to friends, but what do you recommend for other longer term storage options — curing, canning, smoking, etc.? What and how many materials do we need? How long will it take? What special instructions should I tell the butcher? Are there any lower carb recipes — can we replace brown sugar with splenda for canned pulled pork?
Los Gatos, California
Wow, your first two pigs on your new homestead — how exciting! For a first-time home meat experience, I’d probably have your butcher smoke the bacon and ham; you’ve got enough on your plate to worry about the smoking. Let that go until the next time you butcher. Meanwhile, read up on the process and gather your basic supplies (brining and smoking supplies are available at most farm and ranch stores and even big box stores as this is getting very popular). Maybe you could butcher one hog first then do the second later when you’ve felt more comfortable with the smoking process.
Smoking meat is very easy, requiring brining first then hanging in an enclosed container that will hold smoke. You won’t be “cooking” the meat, just using a cool smoke made up of sweet wood chips such as apple, hickory, or mesquite. My first smoker was an old dryer body. Other “smokers” have included a clean barrel and even a hollow log. You can also buy either a propane or electric smoker which is much easier and less work. You smoke for the length of time required for the thickness of the meat. Sides of bacon only require several hours where full hams, about three times that, or more, depending on how smoky you like your meat. With the hams, you will be injecting brine in, next to the bones, before smoking to ensure complete curing. This is done with a special brining syringe.
Even with smoked meat, I’d recommend freezing or canning as most modern smoking does not cure the meat enough to store at room temperature as did the old ways. Why not smoke your meat that way then? Smoked meat done as they did in the past was dry and very smoky flavored, much more than we modern folks like.
I can up a lot of our pork, including ham, bacon, pork chops, ribs, and sausage patties. I’d have your butcher grind all scraps and include any not-so-good roasts so you can make sausage. You can either make breakfast sausage patties or use this ground pork to mix with beef or venison to make summer sausage or Italian sausage. This can either just be mixed and seasoned (again, there are seasoning packets available locally, I’m sure, in many sporting sections of even big box stores) for patties or if you have a sausage stuffer available, in casings to make links.
I know it all sounds daunting but once you try, you’ll be SO glad you took the trouble. It really is so easy and tasty! Yes, you can replace brown sugar with Splenda but the results are not as good, in my opinion. — Jackie
Monday, January 27th, 2014
Sure it’s cold, but the sun’s out and it looks beautiful today. We had 40 mph winds with snow yesterday and there’s lots of drifts. I noticed how pretty they were when I drove out of the driveway this morning to go to the post office to ship two big bags of seeds. The graceful sculpturing the wind had done to the snow was simply amazing. It was like an artist had spent the night on our driveway. I hate to think of how it looks now, after Will plowed it.
I’m getting used to washing my hands in the new bathroom sink. How wonderful it looks! Now Will is going to begin work on the other larger antique dresser we bought on Do-Bit, which pretty much matches the one he just finished. That one is going on the other wall, making a corner of vanities. This vanity/dresser with large mirror will be used to store towels, washcloths, and other things.
I’ve been busy with our little seed business. Since I nearly ran out of Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds, I cut another three big squash and squished out the seeds to dry. I’m going to can up the squash so we can have “pumpkin” pie during the summer. Of course some of the squash will still be left so I can always use fresh squash (it’s stored more than two years for us!) but it’s nice to have extra canned squash. The goats and chickens appreciate the “guts” and any squash I can spare for them.
Our new kitchen is great for packaging seeds as I can sit next to the end of the island and package them easily. Will’s helping by packaging the tomato seeds, which are quite small. Then I only have to grab bags out of individual bowls to fill orders. We’re getting into a groove here.
I’m sure that all of you across the country are looking forward to getting in the dirt again. I know I sure am! — Jackie
Saturday, January 25th, 2014
Rejected kid goat
I have 2 Fainting Goats who kidded on the same day (Jan. 8). They both were first time mothers and both had twins. The first to kid accepted both, the second to kid accepted her first and completely rejected her second. She had been a twin rejected by her mother and bottle fed by the people we bought her from. (Don’t know if that matters, but maybe it does). It was very cold that day, his mother did break the sac and start licking him clean, then just stopped. He was cold and wet, so we got him dry and warm and milked some colostrum from the other goat and fed it to the rejected kid. Since then (1½ weeks) we have bottle fed him, raw goat milk, raw cow milk and organic whole milk, with some black strap molasses occasionally. Not having a milk cow or dairy goat, I’ve been blessed with friends who do, to provide us with some milk, when not available, I’ve fed him the store bought organic whole milk. He is growing, strong and drinking well. I have taken him into the goat pen to try and get him used to or accepted by his mother, siblings, or the other adult goat. They act very weird around them and his mother glares at him and me, turns her back and has even snorted and stomped and acted like she may charge him. Is it because I’ve cared for him when she didn’t, or is something wrong with him and she instinctively knows it?
I don’t know what to do, I can’t keep him in the house much longer since I love my husband and don’t want a divorce! Haha, just kidding, not that bad, but, my husband does keep telling me, not much longer.
This just happens sometimes. Seldom will a mother take back her kid once it’s been away from her for awhile. He smells different and she doesn’t recognize him as being hers. To her, he’s just a stranger that you’ve dumped into her territory. I’d suggest penning him next to her in a smaller pen where she can see him but not hurt him and continue feeding him on the bottle. At about two weeks, he’ll start eating grain and if you choose a high protein goat feed, you should be able to gently wean him at about 7 weeks of age providing he’s eating grain and hay as well as drinking water. I would try to stick with one type of milk though as switching him from raw goat milk to store milk and back might cause some digestive upsets leading to scours (diarrhea). — Jackie
Adding gypsum to the garden
Since drywall/sheetrock is made of gypsum, can it be crushed and added to soil for our garden? We have some waste from the house we are building that I would use instead of taking to the dump. My concern is that it may have been treated with chemicals. Our Georgia red clay needs all the help it can get but not at the expense of the garden’s health.
As far as I know, sheetrock is not treated with chemicals. When we did our addition, we took all of the small pieces of waste sheetrock out to the garden and broke it up, scattering it over our acidic soil. Then I tilled it in a couple of times. By planting time, you couldn’t see a bit of it and I truly think it helped improve our soil. Be sure that your soil is on the acid side, not alkaline as adding the sheetrock will tend to increase the alkalinity. In our case that was good. — Jackie
Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
Since it was cold and windy yesterday, Will spent the day working on our new countertop, sink, and kitchen cabinets. By evening, the faucets were on and the water running. No leaks! Of course our “building inspector,” Mittens, was involved with every step. She walked around the cabinets, popping in and out from under the sink, peering down off of the countertop, and sitting by Will as he assembled the various pieces on the kitchen floor.
I spent the day packaging seeds to mail out on Tuesday. I took a batch in to the post office in Cook on Saturday but then found out that they were no longer open on Saturdays! Now I have two big bags full of orders to go out.
Because Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds were in nearly everyone’s order, I cut open two more squash today to harvest more seeds. It takes about a week for them to dry completely as they are fat seeds. So I’ve got two plates full sitting in the greenhouse drying nicely. The chickens got the squash “guts” and I’m baking the squash. Some will be for dinner and some to make a couple of “pumpkin” pies. I’ve found that I just toss the ingredients in my blender and whiz it awhile. The squash blends down velvety smooth and you’ve never had a better pie!
We’re running low on the Bill Bean tomato seeds so have pulled them from the seed listing to avoid disappointing people. However, I DO have quite a few Cherokee Purple tomato seeds if anyone is interested. These are a very large red with dark mahogany overlay. The tomatoes are the most flavorful of all we raise and sauce made from them is a beautiful rich dark red.
We’re looking forward to spring so much, especially with the intense cold weather we’ve had this winter. We’re looking at another week of highs that are below zero. Depressing! But I bought some on-sale paper white narcissus and amaryllis at WalMart after Christmas for $2.50 a pot and they are already starting to bloom. Today I have Ziva paper whites in bloom and boy do they smell like spring! A few flowers make a huge difference in one’s outlook. — Jackie
Sunday, January 19th, 2014
Slowly, over the last year, we’ve been buying one base kitchen cabinet at a time as we could afford it. Then a piece of counter top. And another. Finally, we got them all! And today, while I was working on the computer upstairs, Will tore out the old metal sink base and $3 dishwasher and is getting ready to install the cabinets on the last wall. Wow, it took a long time to buy everything for that short run of cabinets because there were two cabinets, a sink, faucet, and countertop to buy before anything could be put together. And with our no-loan attitude, it took months to get it all. Now our patience is rewarded. Yipeee, I can hardly wait until it’s finished!
After Will got over the worst of his stomach flu, he finished up the body of the bathroom vanity. We have the faucets. (I’ve had them for seven years, just waiting for that vanity.) So there’s another installation project on the to-do-soon list.
Meanwhile, I packed the first of our seed orders for our little homestead seed business and am working on an article for the magazine.
And I FINALLY got the snow off the goat barn path with the snow blower. It was packed hard from walking on and boy was it tough to remove! I had to chop the snowplow berm up with the shovel before it could be blown away. But, hey, it’s gone now and it’s so much easier to haul feed and water to the goats rather than climb over that three foot frozen hump of snow four times a day. It doesn’t take much to make a homesteader happy, does it? A warm fire, good health, plenty of food for us and the critters, shelter, and easier chores. And spring right down the road!
The wolves are breeding and that usually doesn’t happen until a month from now. Hopefully they know that we’ll be having an early spring? (How do I know? They “mark” the snow banks all down our driveway when they’re romantic. No wolf pee all winter, then every few feet there’s a signpost, well tracked with wolf tracks and scratches. We can wish, can’t we? — Jackie
Friday, January 10th, 2014
Greens for chickens
I have been wondering/worrying about getting more greens for my chicken for the winter. In the past, you mentioned putting alfalfa in hot water to soften. So, I was thinking of buying a bale and trying that. Then I had alfalfa pellets misdelivered to my car at the farm store and was wondering if my chickens could eat those. Then you mentioned,”even alfalfa meal soaked in boiling water” as a way to get greens all winter long. My farm store doesn’t stock meal, only pellets. Do you think I could soak the pellets for my chickens? I am also intrigued by the growing of fodder in the latest issue. What I don’t know is how much for a flock of 30 chickens, in pellets or fodder, per day or in a week? Can you give me a ballpark?
Yes, you can use alfalfa pellets in place of meal. My grandfather used to use the fines off of the barn floor to soak. (Fines are the pieces of alfalfa leaves left over when you open a bale.) Growing fodder is fine as long as you make your own rack, as shown, and have a warm place to grow it. It does take a certain amount of floor space that many of us in colder climates don’t have — heated floor space at that. If you give your chickens 3# of soaked alfalfa leaves, meal, or pellets per day or about ¼ of a tray of fodder, they should do great. Some chickens eat more, some less so you’ll have to judge for yourself. — Jackie
Pitted pressure canner
I have an old pressure canner that was very dirty and had liquid left in it for who knows how long. I washed it up. The mirror polish is gone on the lid and the canner itself has some gray spots and maybe pitting. Is it safe to use?
Your canner should be fine provided that the pitting is not deep. My old huge canner sure looks terrible inside due to discoloration and pitting from decades of use but is certainly usable and I’m sure yours is too. — Jackie
Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds
Since reading your rave review on the Hopi Grey squash I have been searching for seed. None of the seed catalogs, including Baker Creek have the seeds available. Do you have any other ideas where I might be able to get a few, or do you have some you might be willing to share? I would be really appreciative if you would. Also, having been raised partially in the south and by southern parents and grand parents, I have some very interesting home remedies for everything from bugbites to intestinal worms, that I would share with you.
Keep watching the blog. Very soon, our mini seed business will be announced and we’re going to have a great supply of Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds as well as some others that are our favorites on the homestead. And the prices will be very fair.
I’m always interested in home remedies and I’m sure others are too. Why don’t you write in about them and share with us? — Jackie