Thursday, May 28, 2009

What Do You Want To Know?

I have quite a few future posts forming in my head, half of which I'll probably forget before they are ever typed out. However, I feel like I'm posting about a lot of the same topics lately, especially now that spring is here and I have so many updates about the garden and the animals.

Is there a post I promised to write that I've forgotten? Is there a question you'd like to ask? Something I do or write about that you want to know more about? Are you sick of hearing about any certain topic? Please don't hesitate. I'd really love to hear your thoughts. I know there are at least a few lurkers out there as well. Now's your time!

I'm going to call it a night because I just misspelled hear here and there their. Have a good one!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cattle Panel Chicken Shelter: Part 1

This have been a bit crazy around here lately and I plan to update y'all soon. In the meantime I want to share how we're building another great (hopefully) chicken shelter.

I used treated 2"x4" lumber for the base. The two side boards are 10' long and the three in the middle are 12' long. Place the 10' boards on the outside on the 12' boards as shown.

You'll need 3 sheets of 4'x8' treated plywood to make the floor. There are plenty of good designs out there for shelters without floors. I have too much money and time invested in our broilers to risk losing them to predators or flooding, thus I want a floor.
With the 2"x4"s set up the way I have them the plywood will not fit perfectly. I did this on purpose to provide as much floor space as possible. Position the plywood in from the edges the width of the 2"x4". There may still be a small gap but the sides angle in enough that I don't think it will cause any problems. Or, if you'd prefer, you can frame it to fit exactly.

Here you can see the cattle panels on and the three braces. Put the panels on first. You'll need 2 standard cattle panels 16' long and you'll need to overlap them a few inches. You may want the front panel to stick out a few inches in front of the floor to provide an overhang. Hammer in fence staples to hold it on the 2"x4". Have someone help you pull up the other side or use a rope to hold the curve, then secure the other side. Repeat with the second panel. It helps to wire the two panels together in a couple places before securing both ends.
We added the braces later after measuring exactly how tall the panel was in the place we wanted. The two braces in front will provide a door way so make the gap as wide as you need. We screwed the two braces in from the side so they sit on top of the floor. The back single brace is attached to the back of the 2"x4" for extra support.

Next, attach chicken wire around the sides and the back. I used some that I had, about 2' tall I think. You can see the fence staples holding the cattle panel in place, along with the regular staples holding the chicken wire to the lumber.

Here you can see how I held up the top of the wire. Simply use more wire to pull it taught against the panel. I'll have to get a better picture showing the wire from far away. As I said, I'm only putting a short piece around the 3 sides. The tarp covering should contain the birds from there.

Stay tuned for the next steps, especially if you can't quite picture the final result. This project is more of an experiment than the eggmobile but I'll share how it works for us and any changes we make. I did get a lot more accomplished on it today so expect an update soon.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I Wish I Was A Cow...Or A Cat!

Can you see them?

What about now?

This is how our two calves spend their days. They aren't real interested in eating their corn or picking at the hay. They don't even go wild for the lush green grass like I expected. They mostly lounge around the pasture and sleep in the sun. It is a beautiful sight, and I'm jealous.

We don't have any set plans for the weekend yet. We may head up to the beach tomorrow and get Brian's Mom's camper settled in to her lot for the summer. I can hardly wait to get back to the farmer's market in Port Austin. It is the best one around by far, especially on holiday weekends. Then we have a lot of work to do around home, as usual.

What are your plans for this weekend? Is the weather supposed to be nice? I'd love to hear about it.

P.S. This just in...he's trying to help me type with his back feet I guess.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Planting the Big Fields

Brian planted 40 acres of corn at the end of last week. Sunday we planted 25 or 30 acres of soybeans. Brian helps our neighbor farm in exchange for use of some his equipment.

The planter he's using in these pictures is a "no-till drill". It actually cuts a path and sticks the seeds in the ground without the field being plowed up every year. Last year we had corn in this field, this year we drilled the soybeans right in. The conservation district in our county even owns a drill that can be rented out. No-till farming is easier on the environment. The fields are not as susceptible to erosion. Plus, the practice saves quite a bit of fuel and time, thus reducing our expenses.

Planting can be a one man job most of the time. The picture above shows the bins that hold the seed. Ideally we would have just enough seed to plant the field without too much extra to clean out at the ends. As we near the end of planting I stay on the planter and watch the seed level. One person, or even two, can stay pretty busy shuffling seed from one bin to another.

I didn't have to work too hard. We had quite a bit of seed left. There wasn't much planting to do this year since our other fields are already growing wheat and hay. It'll be nice to see these fields turning green again as well.

Pistachio Fluff Minus the Cool Whip

I love the taste a pistachio fluff. Cool Whip, not so much. It isn't the taste that I mind so much as the ingredients. The first four are: water, corn syrup, vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, followed by a bunch of gum and unpronounceable things. My version calls for real cream instead. If you wanted to take things a step further you could make your own marshmallows as well. Homemade marshmallows still contain corn syrup but not as much. Plus, you can then select a brand of syrup that you prefer. I've included a couple of links at the bottom for those interested in the marshmallows.

Anyway, back to the fluff. I use the following ingredients:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
10oz. crushed pineapple (do not drain the juice)
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 1oz. package instant pistachio pudding

First, whip the cream with a mixer until it forms stiff peaks or doesn't fall from a spoon turned upside down. I stopped mixing when mine was a little lumpy rather than smooth and that's fine.

In a separate bowl, combine the pudding mix and crushed pineapple. Be sure to include the pineapple juice. Next, stir in the marshmallows. Now is the time to add in any other extras you may prefer. I've seen versions with maraschino cherries or mandarin oranges. If it sounds good it probably will be.

Fold the whipped cream in to the pudding mixture. Do not mix more than necessary, you just want to make a uniform green color throughout.

You're done! Keep chilled in the fridge and enjoy. This is a great, light dessert to serve after a barbecue.

The most thorough tutorial I have found on making marshmallows is at The Hungry Mouse.
If you prefer a recipe with less corn syrup you may like Crunchy Chicken's version although it calls for covering them in caramel so I'm not sure if they would be the proper consistency for making fluff.

Any alternatives for your favorite dessert?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Oh my goodness...

I can't help it, I have to share my favorite new song with you. Jason Aldean has managed to make a song about tractors the sexiest, steamiest thing I've heard in a while. It is amazing and I can't stop listening to it!

What's your favorite new song?

The Lambs are Confused...

Apparently the lambs misunderstood how their feeder works. It is supposed to be a walk-thru feeder for people to walk-thru and dispense feed, not a walk-in feeder for little lambs to play in. They must have missed the memo about that.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Garage Sale Finds

Last weekend there was a neighborhood garage sale nearby. It was raining that Saturday but I went out anyway. It had been so long since I've been to a good sale!

I had a few good finds. Several name brand tops for $0.50 - $3 a piece. Aero, Arizona Jean Company, American Eagle, etc. A few cute long sleeved henley style shirts. A turtleneck sweater. One nice hooded sweater and one mini sweater (the kind that just hugs your shoulders). Also, I picked up 2 pair of jeans for a few dollars each. After trying them on at home I can tell they don't fit well enough to be good going out jeans. However, they'll be ready for scooping poop and gardening, if nothing else.

Another great find was a riding helmet. I really needed one since I've been riding on my own more this year and can't always borrow one from a friend. It is not a good idea to buy a used helmet in case it has been damaged. I feel okay about it in this situation because I'm pretty sure the girl just lost interest in riding. It was only $5. I'll have to try it for a whole ride to see if it's comfortable. If not, for $5, I can donate it to 4-H.

What kind of deals have you been getting?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eggs and Cell Phone... Bad Mix

They say you don't know what you got til it's gone. I'm feeling that today, big time.

Sunday I collected one egg from the eggmobile and put it in my coat pocket. Monday I put my cell phone in my coat pocket on my way to do chores. I must have hit something and kerrr-plat, eggs all over my pocket. I didn't know it had happened until I reached in to grab my phone. It came out covered in egg yolk. Yumm.

I took it in the house and wiped it down with a washcloth. It still worked, luckily.

After I fell asleep waiting for Brian to come home from farming he was nice enough to set the alarm on my phone for me. The alarm went off at 6:30 AM this morning. Fine, except when I reached over to hit snooze, none of the buttons would work. Even the power button would not stop the horrendous screeching. It took me a good 5 minutes to get the battery out. Apparently egg is a lot like glue when it dries, who knew?

Once I took it all apart and wiped it down again the phone was working fine. Then I forgot my purse and my phone when I left for work. That made for a fun day since I had no money, no drivers' license, and no key for work. I finally found my phone at home only to realize that it now doesn't work at all. Not one bit. Actually, the buttons seem to work but the screen is blank.

Now stopping at the cell phone store has been added to my long list of errands for tomorrow. Lesson learned: Do NOT put EGGS in your POCKETS!!

Is the spring season craziness catching up with you too? Or is it just me? I'm exhausted, and wondering what's next.

#09 is Trouble!

Things are all under control now, but we had a not so fun experience with this calf last weekend. It was time get them out of their little pen inside and out on the green pasture. We worked on the fence for 2 days to get things fixed up for them. We had calves in that fence last year and they did fine with it. All we did was add a hot wire around the top and tighten up the rolled fencing. Three sides of the pasture are rolled cattle fence and one side is the horse fence (4 strands of high tensile hot wire).

We put the calves in the trailer and let them out in to the pasture. They ran around a bit and all was fine. We parked the trailer. Calf #09 promptly climbed between the strands of hot wire and went to visit the horses. I tried to corner him in the horse pasture so he went between the strands again and took a nice run around the yard. At this point we realized that neither of us had plugged the fence charger back in after our last minute repairs. Great.

Anyhow, we got darn lucky the first time. We were able to corner the calf in the yard - right next to the trailer! Here is where Brian impressed me... neither of us had a rope to catch him with so Brian got as close as he could and then tackled the calf. The calf is small but not that small. Brian just gave it a big bear hug around the neck and held on for dear life. I opened the trailer door and Brian drug him in! I was amazing, and we were pretty lucky that it worked.

So we plugged the fence in and let the calf out again. Bad idea. Again, straight through the fence and in with the horses. At this point we were both pretty ticked off as you can imagine. We had a lot of plans in mind for the day and calf roping was not a part of them. That time the calf stayed in with the horses. Brian grabbed a lasso and we started trying to corner him. We would almost get him cornered and then he would run off. We have a great cow horse, Rocky, so I saddled him up. The only problem was I couldn't ride him in the pasture because the other horses kept chasing us and I didn't want to get kicked (Rocky is not very dominant in the herd).

So picture me, Brian, and Rocky herding this cow around the pasture on foot. For an hour or more. Rocky was a big help really, I think he was much more intimidating them the two of us alone. When we finally got the calf cornered I pushed Rocky around so he was standing sideways, blocking about a 6' spot. Then Brian could rope the calf while I covered the other gaps.

Once the calf was caught, I'll be damned if we were going to let him go again. We compromised by putting a halter on him and securing him to a fence post on about 30' of rope, inside the pasture. That way he could still approach the fence and figure out that it was hot. About midweek I untied him from the post but left the rope on in case we had to catch him again. Last night I took it off completely. It seems to have worked (knock on wood) because he's still in today.

Oh the joys of farm life!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Almost Local Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza

This is a quick and relatively easy dinner option for us. I personally don't like pizza so I make a separate pan of breadsticks for myself. I like the following recipe which can be found at

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 package active dry yeast/instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot tap water (120 - 125°F)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey or granulated sugar

I mix the ingredients together in a bowl and then dump it out on to a floured countertop. I add parsley, oregano, and a little garlic salt to the dough to taste. Knead for a couple minutes adding extra flour as needed. Then roll out with a rolling pin into a circle big enough for your pizza pan. You can make 2 thin crust pizzas or 1 regular crust with this recipe. Carefully transfer the dough to a greased pizza pan.

Last time I bought cheese sticks Kraft brand was on sale so I bought that kind. We think they are gross: plastic like with no flavor. I thought I'd use them up by making this pizza with a stuffed crust. Just push some extra dough up over the lip of the pan. Place strips of the cheese around the edge and push them in to the dough slightly. Then roll the lip down and over the cheese while pushing the whole edge back against the lip of the pan.

Time to add the toppings. I used home canned tomato sauce and shredded 4 more cheese sticks to put on top of the sauce. I add venison pepper sticks from Brian's deer, sliced thinly with a knife, in place of store bought pepperoni. On goes 1 small can of mushrooms.

As a special touch I melt some butter, mix in a little garlic salt and herbs, and spread that over the crust. It makes it a little more moist which is part of what Brian missed from take out pizza. He approved this recipe and doesn't dislike it like he has some of the others I've tried.

Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or try a little longer if it isn't crisp.

For our pizza the ingredients are as follows:
Veggie oil, sugar, flour, tomato sauce, pepper stick - all very local
Sea salt - purchased at Lansing Market
Yeast, mushrooms, cheese - purchased at local grocery

Theoretically one could grow their own mushrooms and purchase local cheese for a totally local experience! What is your favorite almost local dish? Or easy dinner idea?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mom

My Mom is the best. She is why I am the way I am, or at least a big part of why.

She is why I knit.

She is why I can sew (a little bit).

She is why I make homemade laundry soap.

She let me raise chickens for FFA in her basement even though I never built a coop like I was going to...that was a really smelly summer (you'd think I would learn, now I have turkeys in my own basement!).

She taught me how to grow a garden.

She is why I put up trim in my house and paint without waiting for Brian to do it all.

She is why I recycle.

She does not laugh at my hair brained ideas and she doesn't think I'm a hippie for doing the things I do (or at least she doesn't voice those thoughts ;) )

She pets my cat and comes to visit us even though she can't stand dog drool or cat hair.

She even let my puppy sleep on the couch with me at her house.

I can always call her even if it is late or we've been fighting, and she will listen and forgive me even when I don't apologize.

She is why I keep trying to make bread. I think she should come over and help, it used to rise perfectly when I baked it with her.

She is why I love going to the farmers' markets.

She is why I mute all the commercials even though it drives Brian crazy.

She is why I always keep our toilet lid closed (although you left it up last time you were here, what the heck Mom!?).

She is why I am so independent.

My Mom is the best... I hope you're all lucky enough to have someone in your life like her! :)

Sunday Stroll: Garden Update

I have been taking a stroll around my yard every morning and evening lately. There is a lot of activity to keep up with! All of these pictures are from the garden today. I thought I would combine the garden update and Sunday Stroll this week to keep things simple. Plus, I have a lot of other things to post about this coming week.

Potatoes are finally up! Yay!!

I have picked and picked, eaten and shared, and yet till - the asparagus is going to seed.

The first row of peas is really growing. The second row is up and about 1-2" tall.

My little bitty lettuce. This was one of the first things I planted. It is growing very slowly but I'm just glad it lived.

The onions have doing great all along.

The garlic is huge!

I saved the best for last. Check out the blossoms on our new pear tree! This is the one that I just planted a few weeks ago. The pear tree that I planted last year has a lot more leaves but no blossoms yet. I can see this little blossoming tree from my window.

See who else is strolling on Sunday over at Quiet Country House.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Building An Eggmobile: Part 2

This is a follow up post to Building An Eggmobile: Part 1.

I apologize for not taking pictures of each step this time. We were both wore out and just wanted the thing done!

Tall side: We went with a chicken wire front here for ventilation with intentions of a roll down tarp to cover the front if needed. The door is split with a small door at the bottom. This was easier than making separate little doors for the chickens.

One end: You can see the black soot from the fire. We salvaged all the siding from the shed that burned.

The front end with the hitch. We'll use the four wheeler to move it around and prop it up so it will sit level.

The rear aspect: This is our favorite part!! No more squatting down to reach for eggs while Mr. Rooster plans his attack on your hind end.

The egg door opens downward so you don't have to hold it up while gathering eggs. I put a little straw in the boxes for now but would like to switch to washable mats.

Umm...a little privacy please!?

Here's what is left to do:
Secure a board across the top of the nest box. The hens have already knocked out 2 of the top dividers.
Hang curtains in front of the boxes.
Install roosts. Along with the curtains this should deter roosting on the nest boxes
Paint the outside.
Build a ramp for the chickens.

The most important part to do yet is install a new fence charger and set up the poultry netting. I'll share more about that when we get to it.

The total cost in $$$ for us was about $45. $40 for the trailer and $5 for screws. We salvaged all the boards, plywood, and siding material from the burned shed. The chicken wire and nails have been around for awhile. The caulk was free after rebate at Menard's a long time ago. I did use some staples to secure the chicken wire to the front. Even if you purchased all new materials I think you could build this thing for around $500, based on prices in our area. I didn't do that math, that is just a rough estimate.

Total time involved was probably around 10 hours. Things would have gone a lot faster with new lumber. There was a lot of cutting and measuring to make our boards fit were we wanted. Plus, we were tearing things off the old shed and pulling a lot of nails out of the boards as we went. If anyone would like more details or measurements just ask.

Any questions or comments? I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions or help with ideas for your own eggmobile.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Chickens Have Moved In!

The hens seem to love their new nest boxes!! As soon as I put straw in them they were all about it. There were 3 1/2 hens in one box at one point. Overall, we're both thrilled with how it turned out, at least so far.

I'm not going to post many details tonight because I'm exhausted! Brian and I haven't been in the house before 10 o'clock since Tuesday night, thus the lack of posts since then. We worked on the eggmobile Wednesday and Thursday nights. Tonight he worked ground while I mulched the garden and cleaned out the old coop. I'll let it air out tonight and move the new chicks out there in the morning.

Have a good one! :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My "Fast Food" Dinner

Brian picked himself up some fast food for dinner. I was working late. When I talked to him he told me he already ate so maybe I should get myself something in town too. I drove that way home but nothing sounded good and I didn't stop anywhere.

I got home and tried to make some butter in the food processor with the raw milk. It didn't really work but I probably wasn't patient enough. The milk did get really foamy like when you start to whip real cream. I didn't want to pour it back in the jug so instead... I added one envelope of chocolate Carnation Instant Breakfast to it. I had the stuff in the cupboard and have pretty much quit drinking it so this was a good way to use it up. Oh my goodness - it was great! Like a cross between a milkshake and chocolate mousse. I drank that and ate a half dozen raw pieces of asparagus that I picked on my nightly walk through the garden. Maybe someday I'll have fresh home grown berries to have with whipped milk.

Mine was maybe not the most complete meal, but I did get a lot of vitamins out of it. I'm pretty full now. This was all way better, and more satisfying, than any meal from McDonald's or Wendy's!

What's your favorite healthy, local snack? Any good substitutes for fast food?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Stroll

This pear tree came through the winter just fine!

Four new Heritage Raspberry canes. You can't see it in the picture but they are getting little leaves.

I think this is a flowering cherry tree. It is in the island between the driveways and gets these gorgeous blossoms every year. I have never found one speck of fruit there.

The wheat is growing tall!

It won't be long before we'll see blossoms!

Here's a view of the back pastures from where I was working on the fence yesterday. Off to the right is the wheat field.

See who else took a stroll today over at Quiet Country House. Have a great Monday everyone! :)

Chick City and a Rough Night

Well, Becker Farms is now the proud home of 99 Colored Range chicks! They arrived Friday and I was able to get them home from the post office and settled before going to work. I took the above video that morning. Aren't they fun to watch! I'm thrilled with how vigorous they are. I didn't have to show them how to eat or drink, they just jumped right in. They do need a bigger space so I'm going to work on the eggmobile today. Right now the chicks are in our basement. Once the big chickens are out the old coop is going to be our brooding space. We did have one fatality yesterday, it was very weird and I still don't know why it happened. The chick had a bum leg and a sore on it's belly. Honestly, it looked like a little piece of intestine had come out and wrapped around the leg. It was horrible and I hope it doesn't happen again! On the plus side, the rest are doing great!

Apparently I was super worried about the chicks last night. The night went something like this:

9 PM - Hubby takes a shower, I start to fall asleep on the couch.

9:10 PM - Uh oh, what is that sound! Sounds like a chick in distress. Oh, that's just the puppy snoring on the old couch.

9:30 or 10 PM - Hubby wakes me up, I move to the bedroom and go back to sleep.

10:23 PM - Wake up, dreaming chicks were all gone. Fall back asleep. Toss & turn a lot.

12:43 AM - Wake up to another weird noise. What is that!? After listening I determine it is the puppy barking in her sleep, so she's having a rough night too. But where is she!? I get up and find the bedroom door open (unusual) and the puppy on her couch. Fine, she should be okay there. Then I tiptoe downstairs and watch the chicks. All still alive!

1:05 AM - Back to bed.

3 ish AM - Wake up dreaming of a new idea for a Criminal Minds episode. Eventually fall back asleep.

6:43 AM - Sam (our medium size lab) decides I've slept long enough and should wake up and let him outside. I do so after making a mental note that human children are a very bad idea and could be the end of any kind of sanity for me...

Enjoy your Sunday, check back later for my Sunday Stroll!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Real Milk?

Remember all the times I've mentioned that we mostly just buy dairy products from the store now? Well that might change. I looked in to a cow share program a while back. I gave it some thought and then put it out of my mind. Then out of the blue the program coordinator e-mailed me again just to make sure that she had indeed responded to my first e-mail (she did). That same week a new intern started at my workplace. We got to talking and it came up that she is part of the same cow share program. Her family loves the milk and doesn't plan on switching back.

I am still a little leery about the whole thing, to be honest. The milk comes straight out of the bulk tank on the farm. It is from Certified Organic cows. It is not pasteurized. I know there is a huge debate over whether or not pasteurizing is important. I think it is safe to say that if the cows are healthy there is no life-threatening risk involved. Still, there are recommendations that pregnant women not drink unpasteurized milk. God willing, that will apply to me one day (far away). So I have to think there is some risk, however slight. I'm the type to forgo recommendations about raw eggs to indulge in cookie dough. More than once I've had horse poop on my hands and eaten at a drive thru without washing them. Asparagus and peas taste best when you're still standing in the garden. But raw milk? I don't know.

Anyway, thanks to our intern, I'm drinking a glass of the stuff right now. I just wanted to try it. Really, it doesn't taste much different. The best way I can describe it is like this: it tastes a little more like warm milk, even when it's cold. Do you know what I mean? Like it has more flavor or something. I haven't seen any obvious separation in the carton, just some tiny specks sticking to the edges. I've been told that the butterfat content isn't very high but they're trying to improve that. I'm going to try making butter to see how it goes.

BTW, I'm thinking home pasteurization would be a perfect compromise, especially if we do get our own cow. I'm not sure that is very practical though. Plus, I think the home pasteurizers I saw were very expensive.

Does anyone have any experience with a cow share program? What are you thoughts on the whole thing? And please, don't jump my ass with any anti or pro raw milk campaigns. I'm not interested in the debate so much as how this type of thing has worked out for other people and their families. I have a strong desire for dairy products that are healthy and local.