Sunday, September 15, 2013

Putting stuff by

Well. Lots has been going on, more than usual, and I was lucky to remember my password since I seem to have misplaced my cheat sheetwhile  swapping rooms with the Willow.

Tonia, if you're still reading this, I haven't been able to post comments on your blog, but I love your posts!  Your last one on the cayenne tincture with apple cider vinegar was very interesting!

I just started playing with tinctures this year.

I had a huge patch of Motherwort that I got sick of last year and tried to eradicate.  Then I realized I could be making tinctures out of it which is good for hysterical complaints, stress, and toning feminine parts such as easing cramping.

I used 100 proof vodka-stuffed several jars full of Motherwort and topped off with the vodka.  I shook it whenever I rememebered but it has since been pushed back in the pantry and is ready to strain and bottle!

A friend picked up 2 dozen brown tincture bottles with droppers so I just have to get a plastic funnel and a stainless strainer to put it away.

I also put up Yarrow tincture which I have used already. The Willow came complaining of a spider bite on the top of her foot, and I dipped some Q tips in the tincture and applied to the bite. She howled and said it stung, but it took care of the itching and swelling.

Or, she didnt' dare complain again. ;)

I infused some mullein flowers in olive oil for earachesl

I harvested herbs like mad this year, and have put a lot away in zip lock bags instead of leaving it hanging from the rafters all winter,. I hope to transfer them to glass jars now they have cured.,  Coltsfoot, mullein, lemon balm, oregano, margoram, heal all, spearmint, catnip, yarrow....

The Firebird had the unwelcome task of pulling yarrow from the farm field, and I had him bring several giant bags full home, most of which I never attended to and ended up composting. But I have a large amount still hanging from the rafters; which I plan on making Yarrow Beer and saving the rest for tea.

I just unbottled all my blackberry juice, since it was too heavy on honey, and tossed in some champagne yeast, hoping to get some blackberry wine.

I simmered the few elderberries I had on the property to make a "rob" and look forward to sipping on that in a cup of hot water in the throes of winter.

I put up several jars of zucchini pickles and relish from the monster zucchini I keep forgetting to pick.

I decided not to waste our tomatoes this year, and tried to can 5 pints this afternoon.  One didn't seal, and one jar broke. Grrr. 69 cents a can at the store, they really don't want people fending for themselves because after all that work and the cost of the gas and the jars and the seedlings...that was about 10 dollars a pint.

A dozen pepper plants have so far yielded two ripe chili peppers which went into the zucchini relish.

I have a ton of greens, turnip, collards, mustard, and I am going to try and make kimchi. Fermented greens.  I am just waiting for the weather to cool down a little more.  I won't be canning that, since the heat destroys the good bacteria.  I don't want to dig a hole and bury it, as is traditional, since I don't think I will feel like digging it up again.  So I still have to figure out what to do with it if I make it.

Carrots failed, spinach failed, beets failed,cukes failed, morning glories failed.  The purple beans did well, but I stopped harvesting them because I want to save the seed for next year.  The two packets of green bean seed yielded two bean plants, one of which produced four beans the other two beans.  I am going to save the seed for next year.  They are in another part of the property from the purple so I hope to have two varieties for next year.

I had lots of extra 8 ounce jelly jars, so I bought 6 pounds of butter and canned that. I found a recipe online.  6 pounds made 15 8 ounce jars.  You sterilize your jars and lids as usual, bring the butter up to a boil and simmer 5 minutes, jar it, and when they ping shake every few minutes until cool, then stick in the fridge and shake every 5 minutes until hard and it will keep on the shelf a long time. Just make sure to wait until they ping, which miss impatient here did not do.

I pushed the lids down, thought that was good, and shook to have them squirt hot melted butter all over me.  They ended up good anyhow, all sealed ok, but a couple are not as full as when I started. 

Mugli the kitten was quite happy to lick the pan and clean up the overflow.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


My earliest memories of Blackberries date back to the winter I was 11 years old.

We didn't get a lot of snow where I grew up, so sledding opportunities were rare and relished.

One early dusting of snow some kids at my elementary school took advantage of some scrap cardboard and a small hill on the school grounds to make a muddy mess of themselves.

The school grounds bordered on some private woodland which in turn bordered on a very large parkland.

Just outside the chain link fence bordering the baseball diamond the ground slopped rather sharply into the borders of the woods and the base of a tiny stream.

That particular winter, I redevouzed with some classmates from the neighborhood with our metal runner sleds.

The location wasn't ideal- some pricker bushes at the bottom had be be avoided or risk a slash across the face.

We watched enviously as a pair of older sledders recovered an old v-shaped car hood from the woods, and flew down the hill several times before abandoning the hood at the bottom of the hill.

More than 5 adolescent girls could resist, good thing, since it took all of us slipping and sliding and tugging to get the thing to the top of the hill.

We all piled in, myself dead center up front in the V, on girl in the back wisely bailed off before we were halfway down...

Because, it order to avoid the pricker bushes, we ended up heading for the stream, and we shot out over the top of it to land in a blowdown across it....a very sudden stop which scar I still bear today across the bridge of my nose which hit the edge of the hood on impact.

Fast forward six months, same location, midsummer, just myself and the family dog, I stumbled across a mass of juicy purple berries.

Having been warned by my mother to have anything ID'd by her before tasting (although learning that nightshade and daffodil were poisonous didn't stop me from tasting them-and it was easy to see why they were poisonous because they tasted sooo nasty!)

"Blackberries," said my mother.

"Are there many more there?"

"Oh yes, lots," I replied.

She put up almost 40 jars of jelly out of what we picked that year.

I was a very fussy eater, but I knew I loved blackberry jelly.

A couple of years ago I learned of a good place to get blackberries.

Folks don't go wild harvesting blackberries too often.  That year I was 11, I was living in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area, and no one else gave a hoot about those blackberries we found. (you'll see why in a minute)

A friend clued me on this patch.  A rock quarry. 

The quarry has been very quiet this summer, and once I saw a patch of berries ripening on my road I couldn't resist going on a berry hunt.

Willow and I went about high noon for an hour and a half. and picked two gallon jugs nearly full.

I processed one batch of of jelly that night.

The next afternoon I went alone.  I saw a pretty good patch and all I had to do was step in on a rock, which was a bit slanted.

Well, I slid off the rock down into I don't know what-I am in a quarry so there are some nice scoops of earth missing..

and I was saved by the blackberries! three or four good sized canes grabbed my arms and legs and just sort of hung me up there...

I disentangled myself and continued picking...realized the poison ivy liked the blackberry patches on that side.

Circled back up to the high ground and down the other  picking one side and saving the other side for the return trip.

This is what I looked like when I got home:

and this is what I ended up with...

6 jars of jammy; 1 liter plus of syrup; 6 bottles plus 2 quarts of juice extracted from the seeds and pulp...

and nearly flayed alive, looking like I was attacked by a trio of bobcats.

But., worth it, here's some of the benefits of blackberries:

"Blackberries Nutrition Facts"

When the plant antioxidant story became public a few years ago, one of the first fruits to rise to the top of the ORAC charts was the blackberry (Rubus ursinus).

A member of the rose family (Rosacea) and Rubus species of brambleberries (also called "caneberries"), the blackberry has become one of Oregon's most important fruit exports. Blackberries have an exotic nature to them perpetuated by the culinary fame of the famous Marionberry, a species of blackberry first bred from two cultivars of the Evergreen blackberry in Oregon's Willamette River Valley, Marion County. Marionberries have exceptional shape, aroma and taste that make them a worldwide favorite of gourmet chefs and specialty food manufacturers, paving the way for common use of brambleberries in today's kitchens.

Drooping with drupelets of goodness

As with other Rubus species, blackberries have a unique structure that actually contributes to their nutritional value — it is an "aggregate fruit" composed of many individual drupelets, each like a small berry with one seed, surrounding a firm core called the receptacle. These individual drupelets contribute extra skin, seeds and pectin with dietary fiber value to the nutritional content of blackberries, making it among the highest fiber content plants known.

Where do blackberries grow and what characteristics do the berries have?

Blackberries grow wild and are cultivated in temperate zones from the mid-south US to near-Arctic latitudes of northern Canada and are cultivated mainly in northern US states, particularly Oregon and Washington State, and southern British Columbia. Blackberries are commercially grown on every temperate continent, including Africa and Asia.

Marionberries are the most widely cultivated blackberry specie in the world, especially favored as a popular fruit crop in many countries of Europe. Russia, Germany and Poland are major producers of blackberries. The state of Oregon harvests some 33 million pounds of blackberries each year, whereas the worldwide production is close to 1 billion pounds.

A tasty and long defensive history

The genus Rubus contains over 740 species as perennial, deciduous, woody shrubs with long vines ("brambles" up to 20 ft long) covered by firm thorns that made blackberry brambles useful as a defensive barrier along English land borders during the 16th century.

Rubus also includes roses and diverse other major fruits, including strawberries, apples, pears and peaches. While it may be difficult to see common characteristics among such diverse fruits and the blackberry, there is one important botanical similarity: the flower. All these Rubus plants typically have 5-7 white/pink petals around a central cluster of yellow stamens.

What is a "bramble" and is this the same as a "cane"?

A bramble is any plant belonging to the genus Rubus, of which the most commonly known — and enjoyed — are the red or black raspberry and blackberry, each having numerous hybrids. There are also some cross-cultivars between the red raspberry and blackberry, such as the boysenberry and loganberry.

Saying "bramble" is just a simple way to say "raspberries, blackberries, and related berry plants with thorny vines". Mainly in Oregon, these fruits are also called "caneberries" because they grow on woody bramble stems called canes.

What is it about blackberries that consumers most like?
Known as the "cabernet" of berries for their earthy, wine-like taste, blackberries are an easy and healthy addition to anyone's diet. This fruit has multiple macronutrients — high dietary fiber (up to 20% by weight), carbohydrates, heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats (especially in its numerous chewable seeds), low overall fat content (<1 a="" and="" antioxidants="" are="" blackberries="" br="" calcium.="" combined="" good="" high="" levels="" micronutrient="" minerals.="" of="" particularly="" potassium="" protein="" source="" vitamin="" vitamins="" with="">
Rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C

Possibly the most promising benefit from consuming blackberries is their substantial quantity of phenolic acids which are antioxidant compounds known as potent anti-carcinogenic agents, as well as having numerous other potential health benefits.

Phenolics in blackberries include anthocyanins, ellagic acid, rutin, gallic acid, hydrocaffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and cinnamic acid, plus excellent contents of the antioxidant vitamins A and C.

Nutritious blackberries are a great addition to recipes or as a healthy fresh snack by the handful. Blackberries don't have to be fresh to be nutritious, as quick-frozen and canned berries retain most of the fresh fruit qualities.

Flash freezing, which is used to make IQF (immediately quick frozen) blackberries, helps trap nutrients and plant chemicals soon after harvest and provides for a healthier fruit. Increasingly seen in whole foods stores across the US and Canada, blackberries (especially Marionberries) can be purchased frozen in one pound bags year round.

What is the antioxidant strength of blackberries and what chemicals account for it?

Due to their rich contents of the phenolics mentioned above, blackberries have an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of about 5350 per 100 grams, making them near the top of ORAC fruits. Cranberries and wild blueberries have around 9350 ORAC units, black raspberries about 12,000 and apples average 3100.

History of uses and folklore

Because blackberries have grown in Europe for thousands of years and were in use by native Americans when the US and Canadian West was opened, historical practices and folklore have survived on both sides of the Atlantic.

European blackberry juice was used to treat infections of the mouth and eyes until the 16th century. In the Pacific Northwest, the powdered bark of blackberry brambles was used for toothache relief. A tea made from blackberry leaves is said to aid digestion or arrest vomiting according to First Nations tribes in Washington State and British Columbia. Blackberry root concoctions have been used to remedy dysentery.

Blackberries contain relatively high quantities of ellagic acid, tannins and cyanidin glycosides. These are antioxidant phenolics that have a wide range of potential health benefits under current research.

What does medical research say about the health properties of blackberries?

The following anti-disease properties have been isolated in experimental models during studies specifically on blackberries. With their close relatives — red or black raspberry and boysenberry — medical research among all the Rubus species likely applies to one another. Accordingly, see this section in other essays on the red raspberry and black raspberry.

Although there are no clinical studies to date proving these effects below in humans, medical research shows likely benefit of regularly consuming blackberries against:

pleurisy and lung inflammation

anti-thrombosis (inhibition of blood clotting)

several types of cancer

endotoxin shock

cardiovascular diseases


age-related cognitive decline.
About The Author:
Dr. Paul Gross is a scientist and expert on cardiovascular and brain physiology. A published researcher, Gross recently completed a book on the Chinese wolfberry and has begun another on antioxidant berries. Gross is founder of Berry Health Inc, a developer of nutritional, berry-based supplements. For more information, visit

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I could post

I haven't been logged in to blogger in forever.  I thought I should post since I am here. :P

What should I post about?  The beautiful flatbread my daughter mixed and kneaded and rolled out-the falafel I made and served with the flatbread? The lettuce the Firebird picked out of the garden? The delicious spicy pepper relish that made up for the blandness of my falafel?

That I accidentally killed one of my six guinea hens/cocks moving them to a bigger pen, and have no idea what happened except maybe it had a heart attack?

The great fishing expedition the Willow had a couple nights ago or all the others she got skunked on?

Wondering why the three goats I put on the lawn in a light drizzle lost all their guard hair with in a week?

The parade of deformed vegetables I have come across in the food chain this summer?

Why the weathermen forecast heavy rain and thunderstorms for the day and evening and I have yet to see a raindrop or hear a grumble?

Why the clouds look so high and strange, information is scant on Ison and Fukushima, 100 meteors an hour from the Perseids worked out to be two in a half hour (for me)...

Actually, that was pretty cool, laying a thick fleece on the lawn last night, the grass (meadow) being so high I had to pat the top to find my coffee cup in the dark, but the stars were brilliant, the milky way trailing...the amount of stars visible with my "nocs was breathtaking...

The mosquitoes weren't even biting.

I saw more satellites than meteors.  I saw one satellite that was letting off little flashes and I wondered if it might have been the space station emptying the garbage chute.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Mr.Boss and Willow's schoolfriend, Happy Full Moon too.

Well, as usual I have had a busy week, helping out in a small commercial kitchen making delectable Maine made products.

I spent one day having some cars repairs; the aging Subbie having been making protesting noises out the front end, a CV shaft needed replacing and I was praying it wasn't also the Ujoint going.

Thank goodness it was just the rattling heat shield, which my mechanic removed by cutting my electric fence wiring job I kept improvising.

The CV joint was another adventure-the passenger side is apparently impossible to get to and they threw in their share of improvising, causing me several moments of panic before I decided to retreat into the pile of yesterday's news I had picked up for the brooding guinea keets.


Today I had agreed to work at the goat farm for girls enjoying the holiday weekend.  Piece of cake, right?

Well, B&B guests left both Mr. and Mrs Boss busy, so I was left with Mr. Boss' share of the chores, which include feeding the wethers.

Wethers are neutered bucks, and it is my opinion they never stop growing.  Those boys are huge.  Several of them could easily be ridden to the capital and back, although by the time they reach that size they are rather elderly, they don't lack in spirit when the grain hits the trough.

Mr. Boss, being a tough man, even though into his 70's, chooses to feed the wethers en masse, putting down two window box style feeders on the fence. Inside the wether pen, meaning one has to go into the pen to dump the grain.

This has never really been an issue for me, the boys are pushy as is the wont of goats in sight of anything yummy, but despite being eligble for AARP myself, I have managed fine in the past.

Mr Boss over the years has had his share of tumbles, and Mrs. Boss put me in my place when I once defended a repair I made to a hole when I explained I was worried for Mr. Boss.

"He can take care of himself," she had replied.

This past winter Mr. Boss had a huge gash in his forehead which the Firebird had noticed-when I was in the barn he kept it well covered with several caps until he bent down to pick up the dog dish, the hat slipped over his eyes, and he pushed it back over the gash and I saw it.

He looked at me and I said nothing, (for a change, I am known all around for my big mouth as my reader can readily understand)

Shortly after that, I had asked him, because the chore was falling to me, how he fed the wethers, and he described how much grain, where to hang the feeders, and then said, and "then you just try and stay on your feet!"

So I presumed the gash was a result of the boys and the ice and so on, in my own head.

At any rate, now you have the background information, today I had to feed the wethers.

I suppose I made them wait a bit longer than they are accustomed-I had asked Mrs. Boss if I should feed them right away or clean first, and she had said to clean first.

Well, being dandelion season, also known as "pis en lit" or pee the bed, the barn was soaked, and I spent some time before I got around to feeding the boys.

I went through my usual routine, and when I dumped the grain into the feeders there was a crush of 6 big- well over 200 pound-boys with horns... with me in the middle.

One of the places a feeder is hung is a two foot high bit of hog panel. One or more of them gave me a big shove from behind, and I went head first over the hog panel and saved my head by catching my palms on the cement on the other side.

Then I was in the inglorious position of feet on one side, hands down on the other, feeder under my stomach, and ass up in the air, with 6 hungry horned wethers trying to get the grain.

I couldn't go back with them behind, so I decided to pull my legs over the panels.

The first leg immediately became entwined in horns.

It felt like two separate goats' horns, and they were fighting over the grain under my stomach and here I was on my palms over the fence, ass up in the air, leg stuck between horns.

I thought of the guests having breakfast in the gazebo, "oh, breakfast AND a SHOW!"

Finally my leg was released and I finished crawling over the fence, picked up the grain can, and hobbled out of the pen without looking back, trying to laugh and not limp and muster as much little dignity I had left.

Mr. Boss seemed quite cheery when he poked his head out later...a nice little birthday present, Karma for calling your 70+ year old Boss unsteady on his feet.  Took awhile, but I think we are even now.

I told Mrs. boss what had occurred later, and she said, "no one said anything!" but then added, "It was quite the mob scene!"

I noticed the guests taking photos and video with some high-end equipment as they were leaving later, so I may "end up" on You-Tube in the future.  Literally.


Once all the farm chores were finally finished, I had to hurry home to take the Willow to a birthday party, which had come with the instructions, "bring bathing suit and boots."

The Willow is not a strong swimmer despite my efforts, nor had she had much riding experience other than one trip on the farm mare when the grandchildren visited,

"hold the reins like a hamburger," I told her-as I  had been instructed.

So I was a bit apprehensive.  I have found that a lot of parents were not subjected to the same safety standards to which I was growing up.

We have had rain all week, and rain today, so I called before the party for directions and to find out if bathing suit and boots were still necessary.

I introduced myself over the phone and asked to whom I was speaking and managed to find out it was indeed the girl's mother, whose name I was never  able to obtain.

I got directions, was left feeling a bit out of sorts, but attributed it to the fact there had also been a slumber party the night before and assumed the mother was short on sleep.

I thought I was lost, but we did arrive and I went in and introduced myself to the group of adults, never receiving a name in return, but being assured that was the party location and the girls were in another part of the house, I left promising to return at the time directed on the invitation.

At the appointed time I arrived and picked up the Willow, and she was no sooner in the car than she had her own tale of woe, involving another party-goer.

Several of the girls had gone to the barn to see the horses, and the Willow, being an experienced farm girl,had put on her boots.

Another girl, who had spent the night, had soaked her boots the night before, and today went to the barn in flip-flops.

The girls went into the stall.  The nervous mare stepped on the foot of the girl in flip-flops and tore the toenail right off her toe.

The birthday girl's mother did not, nor any of the adults, go to the barn with the girls, and one of the other girls carried the injured girl back to the house.

The other girls tried to call the injured girl's mother on the phone, and after several attempts, finally reached her and she said she would be there AFTER she went to the store.

The injured girl was still there when I left with the Willow.

Then I learned that Willow had, at some point, been on the back of BOTH the mare AND the stallion-with no saddle or halter, while they were in the barn.  No hard hat.

I was thankful I had told her that if she did get on a horse, to take a handful of mane and hang on, that it wouldn't hurt the horse, and if she fell off her butt or feet would land first, and no matter what, not to save herself with her hands (as I had done earlier in the wether pen).  I had a friend break an arm falling off my mare because she put her arm out.

So, call me an old stick in the mud, but I was taught, by professionals:

1.  ALWAYS wear a heeled shoe or boot in the saddle.

2. NEVER get on a horse without a hard hat or helmet.

3. NEVER get on horseback in a barn.

4. NEVER get near a horse with open toed shoes or barefoot.

5. If you have to walk behind a horse, speak and stay as close to their behind as possible, because if they try and kick you they can only bump you with their hocks.  You don't want to be three feet or more away because that is the impact zone.

6. Don't feed a treat to young ones from your hand, they will become nippers.  Put it in a bucket and let them eat from that.  If you do hand treat, keep your hands FLAT and fingers out of the way.  Fingers look like carrots!

These are safety rules for a REASON. Right now there is a young girl that will have a permanently disfigured toe because those rules were not followed.  And it is only luck that is the only girl to limp away with an injury.


Happy Full Moon

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


What else can I say?  Two artists and an brainy athlete, although the artists will argue they are also athletes. they are beautiful and I am blessed,.  Gracias.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Cold late spring or no, things have finally burst.  We had a long ten day to two week dry spell. I planted a few things around the full moon in April-lettuce,beets, peas, broccoli, radish, turnip green, spinach...then a big dry spell.  Two years ago I was crying because my garden was a swamp this time of year.

The peas were old and one came up out of the whole packet.  I think they were more than three years old.  I used to know a place I could get a grab bag of the previous year's seed for a few bucks. a big bundle of seed, and every year would buy more and never plant the half of it.

One year I forgot my growing stash of seed on the lawn and it got rained on.  I found a couple I peeled apart to plant this year-cukes and tomatoes, so we'll see how they manage.

Other than the peas, the radish came up like gangbusters, neatly spaced so no need for thinning, although a stretch of nothing in the row at one point. Of course, I don't really like radish, but they are fun to pull up.

 Next on the success list was the turnip greens. I don't really like turnip either, but I do like a variety of greens, so maybe this will be nice, since the spinach was a total no show. The lettuce is just starting in the new bed, not great. I think the beets might be coming up. The broccoli was a no show.

Friday on the New moon I planted like a fiend. Snow peas I saved from my own peas last year.  Purple podded saved stock as well.  I found two really old packets of sweet corn, and recalling the pea failure I thought soaking the seed overnight might be helpful, so I did that and carefully planted each seed as it went in the ground.

More lettuce.  Carrots. Green beans a fairly newer old packet (last year bought this year).  Cosmos Marigolds cabbage . Four varieties of tomatoes and peppers in flats.

I planted old collard seeds two years ago and have had it ever since.  The first year a plant actually overwintered.  Then it threw seedlings.  I found about a dozen seedlings growing and sort of divided them up in a chunk of the bed and they are doing well.  I found a couple clumps of garlic that I kept forgetting to dig, and divided that and put it in a row next to the chives, where it is struggling.  I don't think garlic likes chives, because the chives are really kicking butt right now in that rich location.

We had a couple days of light rain since then, and I keep saying, "see those oldtimers knew what they were saying when they said to plant on the New Moon- the weather just cooperates better, nice gentle rain for two days, woo-yea."

you ought to see what the trees and dandelions thought of that, hanging in stasis between growth waiting for the sign, and the New Moon brought that nice soaking rain.  The grass, the weeds, the bleeding heart has gone from ground level to three feet high and covered in blossoms in two weeks.

Siberian Iris are well over a foot, the day liliies are thick and rank, the bee balm looks good-even one of my two rhodedendrons deigned to blossom this year.

The chicks!  I had eight surviving out of 22 eggs.  The goose eggs were a failure.  The length of time I held the eggs before incubation seemed to have no effect on the hatch rate.  The eggs that didn't hatch were those on the side closest to the ventilation holes.  So either they were too cold or too dry or both.  I turned the eggs in place for the most part during incubation, so I am not sure if relocating the holes, or moving the eggs around would get higher hatch rate.

I did have other issues, I had to help most of the chicks from the shell.  I don't think that was me being hasty, because I had several die pipped without me helping.  I lost a couple I tried to help, but I pretty much assisted 7 out of the eight, and a couple were bleeders that I applied yarrow to.

I lost the one with the eggs sack, although that shrunk up and he was flounding around the unhatched eggs when I left that morning-I decided to follow advice and leave him there since he was weak- he was dead when I came home.. and later I found a  chick pipped face down dead, and I am not sure if the other chick's floundering rolled that one over or not.

So, in the future, I would take them right out of the incubator.,

The young barred rock had offspring hatch in the incubator, because I recognized one of her eggs afterwards. 

The Firebird and I both found ticks on us-I really hate ticks. So I seriously started looking at ordering some guinea hens. But most places have a minimum of 15-30 and I didn't want that many.

Lo and behold I stopped off to buy some grain and they had chicks for sale-including pearl guinea keets! So I bought a half a dozen.They are wicked cute, in the chicks brooder location. I moved my babies to the outside brooders and have been worried like an old mother hen, because our nights have been chilly.


I have turned into a dandelion fanatic. A few weeks ago I dug a bunch of plants before they flowered and have a dandelion beer fermenting. More of a hedgerow mead, I suppose.

The recipe promised fermentation in three days and drinking in a week. I was sold. I have brewed a number of batches of beer in my ancient history, and have seen plenty of three day fermentations and drinking in two weeks (much better if you can wait, but who can wait when it's that darn good?)

So Like an idiot, I went to all that trouble and then used old brewer's yeast a friend have given me. I pitched it hot, re ptiched it, realized it was probably dead, and sprinkled some fleishman's on top for good measure. LMAO.

I had two airlocks, so I put it up in two gallon water jugs, melting an airlock sized hole in the plastic top with a hot...knife steel.  I actually had to peruse my steel collection, because airlocks have a pretty wide diameter to match to metal.

One of the jugs has had the most faithful fermentation I have ever seen.  It took a couple days to get going, and then blurp, blurp blurp-for the last three weeks.  I really need to rack it.

The other jug I totally screwed with, I was worried about the old brewer's yeast and right after I pitched it I decided to pour it off the sediment in case it gave an off flavor, so I did.  But then it was quite a bit short of a gallon.  I had a bit extra I put in a jelly jar and a beer bottle with muslim and a rubber band on top, so after a couple days when just number two was still quiet, I added the jelly jar hoping the yeast in that would kick-start number two.

About a week after that and it was still quiet, I opened it up and poured a cup of sugar in.  HAHAHAQ Mount dandelion vesuvius! Well that got a response!

Then I made another lid for the airlock, because I was wondering if the seal was bad and it wasn't really an airlock.  So now I am getting the occasional blurp along with jug number one, and  they are starting to clear, so I will probably rack them in a day or two and then see.

Well yesterday I thought I should do something about the undisturbed beer bottled covered with muslin. So I carefully poured it off into a jelly jar. Cloudy. I tasted a teaspoon.  WOW. I thought it had a lot of potential.

I punched a hole in the lid of the jelly jar with a 20D nail and fitted a small diameter hose into it, which I stuck the other end in another jar of water. It's a form of blow off hose, but can be rigged as an airlock in a pinch.  I was scared to bottle the bottle until I knew if it had completely fermented.  I have heard stories of exploding bottles. That's quiet and the sediment is settling.

Well, I had to give dandelion wine another try! Beer is made from the early root because of the sugar starch content, and flowers from the wine...

I decided I was going to pick 5 gallons of blossom. HAHAHA! I asked Bosses if they would mind if I picked some blossoms from their field and they both laughed and said to help myself. SO I had at it.

I picked for an hour. I picked as fast as I could for an hour.  The herd of goats in the field thought I was nuts. The Great Pyranees thought I was nuts.  I was starting to wonder if I was nuts. As I picked, I recalled all my saplings in turn coming to me with the traditional dandelion bouquet as toddlers, "Look mummy I picked yo some fowwers!"

I remembered picking my first dandelions. I remembered the only other time I attempted dandelion wine and picked those flowers, and it seemed a lot faster, dang!

I Picked 7 quarts of blossoms in an hour. Well, that is what they meausured four hours later and you know how fast they wilt. Heck, they were already starting to ferment.

My cute young co-worker turned 21 today. I was telling her that I was going to pick some blossoms later and she told me a bud of hers had given her a book on how to make alcohol out of everykind of plant imaginable-which I thought was totally cool and wish I could remember the title.

But after I finished crawling around the pasture on my hands and knees for an hour, I had to confess that dandelion wine must be a young person's drink, no matter what they say about grandma's recipe, lol.

and, I am sad to report, I did not see ONE bee in the hundreds of blossoms I crawled through today. I saw one tiny deformed looking bumblebee, a couple of ants, and several winged flies. No honey bees. Not one. An organic farm in the middle of nowhere, and no honeybees.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chicks (in notepad, tired of losing posts typing live)

I have been up to a lot of different

things.  This time of year, especially,

there are a million things that need my


Because I don't already have enough on my

plate, I decided to make a homemade

incubator.  I had saved a big extra sturdy

styrofoam shipping container we received

over the winter holidays packed full of

specialty meats, and we had the usual

spring surplus of eggs, so I decided to try

and build a homemade incubator, following

directions easily found on the net.

I demolished an old ceramic lamp for the

lamp parts. That wasn't too easy, because

the thing was a lot thicker than it looked.

 Then I bought a couple of 25 watt bulbs

for about $2.50 and the cheapest hot water

heater thermostat I could find at Home

Depot for about 9.50. 

I put an old cookie tray on the bottom, a

wire rack over that, and then I covered

that with a couple of old terry washcloths.

I drilled the hole and wired the lamp

parts.  I had a hard time figuring which

was the in and out on the thermostat, but

took an educated guess and plugged it in

and it worked so I guessed right.

Since it was an inexpensive thermostat, the

temperature regulator was pretty touchy and

I spent Easter afternoon trying to regulate

it. That involved waiting patiently for the

light to shut off and then quickly checking

the temperature to get the high end.  If it

was too high, I would would try and lower

the thermostat when the thermometer reached

around 101 to shut it off. 

Then it wouldn't come back on until around

88F, which I thought was too low.  One

poultry book I have was quite specific

about maintaining regular temperatures

around 101, another said most bird eggs

hatch between 90 and 100 so I was hoping

that swing would be ok.  I was pretty sure

that temps too high would be bad, although

I had read of successful hatches when the

temp reached 104 for several hours during

incubation, I didn't want to keep it there.

For about 8 days I had been saving each

day's eggs, held point down in an eggs

carton. I placed the egg carton one side

higher than the other and switched high

eggs several times I day.  The eggs being

held are supposed to be between 50 and 60

F, but mine were a bit higher in the low

60's.  The other storage location I tried

was too cold.

When I thought I had the temp regulated as

good as it was going to get, I put the eggs

in.  Then the temps really pulled a nutty. 

Because of the mass of the cool eggs, it

affected the thermostat setting.  So I

spent some of the next day tinkering with

the thermostat AGAIN withe the eggs in

place.  Finally, I just had to figure it

was close enough.

I checked with two other thermometers, and

one said a couple degrees higher and the

other said a couple of degrees lower, so I

stayed with the original thermometer hoping

that was the most accurate.

I placed the eggs on their sides, after

first marking one side with and "X" and the

other with and "O".  Inside the "o" I wrote

a number.  As I had saved the eggs, I

filled the carton from one side to the

other, and the newest eggs started with the

lowest number, and I marked them up to 22,

the amount I felt was plenty for the

incubator, and also all I had collected by

the first day of incubation. 

I wanted to see in the end if how old the

egg was made a difference.

The eggs were an assortment of our barnyard

flock.  The two white leghorn roosters both

have barred rock ancestors. Their father,

or grandfather, I have lost track by now,

was descended from our original barred


Then we have a black australop hen from

outside stock, a white leghorn from the

same outside stock (hatchery purchased

secondhand as chicks), a barred

rock/leghorn cross related to the roosters,

and an old white leghorn that flew in from

who knows where and adopted our flock many

years ago.

I think that hen is long gone and the third

hen is hatchery or crossbred, but the

Willow insists it is the old hen.  I call

her the energizer chicken for her

outstanding laying reliability.

Our other brown egg layer in the main flock

is this year's barred rock offspring the

black australop brooded out last spring.  I

figured when the leghorn crossbreds threw

the barred rock, but the Willow like to

think it was out of the Australop.  Well,

that hen certainly knew that was HER chick

after she sat on it for 21 days!  The only

one in the clutch to hatch, and she was a

good mama.

So the fertility of any of the little

barred rocks might be questionable; one of

the two roosters was definitely her father,

and the other also related somehow.

That's why I am going on about who was who,

because I was trying to count my chickens

before they were hatched! LOL

I had ONE egg from the barred rock pair,

and I happily marked that number 1 as it

came Easter morning just in time for the


I wasn't sure about that one, because both

are old birds and definitely related


Three days into the incubating I had a

chance for a couple for pilgrim goose eggs

and I took it.  I KNOW you're not supposed

to hatch them together due to different

temp and humidity requirements, but since I

had a temperature swing going on anyhow,

and I would have to increase humidity at

hatch for the chickens and the goose eggs

have to be in there longer, I thought it

was worth a shot.

Here I just lost a big long part of the

post, and it's late so I will cut to the


I have 5 chicks in the brooder. The first

one to pip died in the shell.  I cracked

and chipped some of the shell off the

others and let them finish by themselves.

One had a bit of bleeding and I applied

some crushed fresh yarrow as a styptic with

much success.

Another chick that I tried to help hasn't

gone so well, I think a blood vessel was

damaged and while the yarrow stopped the

bleeding it has not made what appears to be

part of the eggs sack go away and the chick

it very weak and still in the incubator.

I had to take the others out of the

incubator right way because they were

falling on the other eggs and while they

say that it fine I didn't think so, so I

cupped them in my hand and dashed up to the


In retrospect I can see that the wet chick

flopping all over the eggs helps to keep

them moist, which has been a problem since

I keep opening the darn incubator.

Note to self: Install a glass top if

attempted again.

The next chick I didn't even realize was

pipping until it was half out of it's shell

and it was quite lively and vocal.  It was

in a corner of the incubator.

The other ones to hatch first were more

directly under the bulb or in the middle of

the eggs.

I have two others that are having trouble

hatching and I have picked some of the

shell and some of the membrane and I am

trying to keep the membrane that is exposed

moist with water drops, but I am afraid to

drown the chicks whose beaks are exposed.

I don't want to rush them out and have them

bleed or the yellow bulge.  But I don't

want to wait too long and have them die

like the first one, which looked fine

(although dead) when I took the shell off.

Out of 22 eggs, on the 21-22 day, I have 5

in the brooder.  Three white leghorn cross

and two that look like black australop. 

One white leghorn died pipping.  One black

australop (barred rock?) weak and egg sack.

Two white having trouble hatching.

So about 25% hatch rate, maybe 30 if I get

lucky.  Maybe half pipped.  I think

temperature variability and heredity both

had an impact.

The ones that have not pipped yet were

closest to the three air holes on one long


Once I have decided to end the incubation,

I will do a tally and see if how old the

eggs were had an impact, since I will look

at the numbers on the ones that didn't

hatch.  I haven't been keeping track of

ones that have hatched.

I would have been able to tell the

difference between the hens of the brown

eggs but I have chucked the eggshell

remains.  They are pretty nasty.

I kept thinking of balut.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Chasing the Green Man

We are "jonesing" for spring around here. A very snowy February has left lots of snow trying to melt, revealing squishy squelchy mud in the places the sun has won the melting battle.

The Willow and I took a walk yesterday.  I took the hearts off the mailbox post and put up the daffodils.  I considered putting up shamrocks, but I didn't have any green material, nor do I have much Irish in my blood.

We decided to take a walk along the stream. The sun was nice and warm, but the air was still cool in the 40's.  We were looking into the pool and marvelling at how clear the water was.  I still have a bit of gold fever, so my eyes were scanning the bottom for any shiny bits.

I saw a nice pendant sized quartz glittering about 8 feet from the edge.  I found a couple of long sticks, and tried to pick it up likeI was wielding  a giant pair a chopsticks.  As soon as the sticks would break the surface of the water, ripples would form breaking the clarity of the water, and I would pause trying to be still and let the water settle to find my target.

Three times I managed to get the little stone in between the sticks only to drop it as I tried to retrieve it.

We scanned the area for something to stand on. I considered taking off my boots and socks and rolling up my pantlegs  and wade in for it, but I knew that water was colder than I wanted to tread.

Willow found a driftwood stump that I placed in the water for a precarious foothold. I teetered, concentrating, straining to reach the bright stone. I watched the cuff of my sleeve break the water as my fingers scrabbled for the evasive rock.


I heard a big splash at the end of the pool, and I thought it was either a fish or The Willow hucking rocks, so I kept my balance and my focus and kept reaching...


My head jerked up, my balanced shifted, and I threw my feet in what I thought was the shallowest direction since I was about to pitch face first into the pool.

I splashed in and my momentum carried me another leap into what turned out to be the wrong direction.  I was up well over my knees, my boots and their thick felts immediately filled with spring melt water.

I quickly headed up the ridge, each boot weighing over eight pounds each with it's gallon of water, my feet and ankles burning and freezing.

I made it up to the rock wall and asked the Willow to run back to the house and get  my other boots. I pulled off the boots to a gush of water, and tried to shed my socks which had somehow shrunk and stuck to my feet.

By the time the Willow had come back with the other boots, I was finally barefoot, but my feet were too wet to put on the boots, so I walked along the top of the stone wall barefoot, skirting the patches of snow on the ground. When I ran out of wall, my feet were mostly dry so I put the dry boots on to cross the snow field on the lawn.

(yeah, I am not THAT tough)

Later that afternoon we set ten sugar maples taps, The Willow ceremoniously catching first drips on her tongue off each tap as it went in.  She doesn't care for the boiled down maple syrup, but she loooves the fresh sap.

Today I was reading about shamrocks and spring things like that, and I found out there is (used to be?) a spring tradition in the UK involving a parade and someone dressed as the Green Man. Which culminated in the Green Man being dunked in the stream to ensure plenty of rain for the growing crops.

The Green Man is said to rise with the sap in the spring .

Welcome Spring.

Dunked, barefoot, and tapped. :)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Soccer talk

The Firebird has been playing indoor soccer this winter.  We had a scheduling conflict with basketball, so as a consolation I agreed to indoor soccer at the encouragement of his varsity coach.

The indoor arena is pretty cool, artificial turf with a ground rubber underlayment. The rules are a little different. you are not allowed to hit the ceiling (the other team gets a kick) you are not allowed to hit one of the lights or you get taken out of the game for 5 minutes. You are not allowed to slide.

And come hell, highwater, or a three foot blizzard, the game will not be cancelled.

Last game we were under a winter storm warning, not a lot of snow, but 60mph wind gusts. I really didn't want to drive in the weather, but then a teammate texted looking for a ride, so of course I agreed to drive TWO of the players to the game.

I was glad I did. The other team was short 3 players for a team, so we lent them two of ours, and one stayed over from the previous game and helped them out. So no subs for either team. I was sitting on the sidelines in a row that was comprised of myself, our varsity coach, and a couple other coaches.  I could hear them comparing notes, but tried not to eavesdrop.

The Firebird really wanted a goal.  In a scrabble near the goal, he chested one in.  A short while later, he had a throw-in that nicked the foot of a player from the other team and went in. Then, he had two assists. 

We kept leading by one, then the other team would score and tie it up. We were ahead in the last few seconds.  His teammate that rode up with us threw the ball to the Firebird from the sidelines.  The Fierbird had his back to the goal.  The throw came in low to the Firebird's feet.  Suddenly he hooked the ball and kicked it up high over his head and behind him, landing flat on his back.

The coaches all burst out in exclamation and fell off their seats laughing.

"I have NEVER seen that move before!" exclaimed our varsity coach.

"Well, I have seen a bicycle kick, but never that low," he added.

"He's YOUR son!" he chuckled as I shrugged my shoulders and laughed in agreement.

He should see some of the moves the Firebird makes up in the yard when he thinks no one is looking.  Just ask my rosebush.  :P

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Midlife Crisis #2

When you've gone so long without shaving that you have the opportunity to realize that the only hair on your body not turning grey is under your arms.