Sunday, September 27, 2009

Funny Vegetables

Check out this monster tomato!! It was the highlight of my morning. I've been canning for 12 hours now! Luckily, I'm done with the hard part. Now I can sit back and relax and just switch out the canner every so often. Yahoo!

These are my pitiful little onions...I'm still not sure exactly why they flowered instead of growing. They are so cute that I almost don't mind except that they're already gone! Don't they look almost like little purple light bulbs?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Bottomless Bucket of Tomatoes (sigh)

It may never end! Okay, maybe it will, but I'm afraid it won't be this weekend. A batch of spaghetti sauce with meat calls for 30# of tomatoes. I already used approximately 30# from our garden and got 12 pints out of it instead of the 9 that the book says. I have enough left from our garden to do 1 more batch. The neighbors, Brian's aunt and uncle, offered him what was left in their garden. He brought home one basket full that turns out to be just shy of one batch worth - and there is probably one or two more batches left down there. So add that all up and I have a minimum of 3 batches left to do, assuming I get to them before they rot.

The hard part is not the actually canning it is prepping the tomatoes. There are so many different ways to do this but here's what I've been doing:

Put a few tomatoes in boiling water for 30 second to a minute.

Scoop them out and in to a pot of cold water with ice in it.

Pick them out one at time and peel off the skins with my fingers. They slip off quite easily.

I take a knife and cut of the top or scoop out the top and the bit of green inside (it depends, some of the smaller ones don't have much to scoop out).

Then I tear them in half (like an orange) and use my finger to scrape out the seeds. If it is a very small tomato I just squeeze it in my fist to squish out the seeds and liquid.

All the good parts go in a big pot. I feed the rest to the chickens!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall Festival: My Favorite Fall Recipe

Share your favorite fall recipe at LifeasMOM. All participants will be entered for a chance to win The Autumn Book by Susan Branch.

This is somewhat of a repost but I can't help it, the following truly is my favorite fall recipe. It is great because you eat it at all three meals and dessert.

This recipe came on the back of my electric bill and gives credit to Bernice Hass:

Apple Bread

1/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 c chopped apples
1 c sugar
2 Tbsp sour milk (or buttermilk, I use a little milk and vinegar)
2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Topping: 2 Tbsp butter, 4 Tbsp sugar, 1-2 tsp cinnamon

Cream shortening & sugar. Add eggs & beat. Stir in sour milk, vanilla, flour, baking soda, & salt. Add chopped apples and nuts. Put in greased bread pan. Add topping and bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes. MMmmm!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Festival: Gone to the Dogs

Now it’s your turn! I’d love to hear all about how you and your family amuse yourselves as the seasons change. Do you have special activities that you do with your kids? Are there certain movies that you watch during the fall? Do you have fall crafts, games, books or field trips that you enjoy? Share your favorite autumn vacation spots at Daily Dwelling.

Today's theme is all about fun. For me, the fun part of fall is feathering my nest by doing the things I shared yesterday. I also enjoy decorating my porch. I set out pumpkins and tie cornstalks to the porch posts. Dressing up is fun too, although I don't always do that now that I'm a little older. Last year I went up to the bar dressed as a hippie. It was great because I love to people watch and I could do a lot of it with those big glasses on!

For us, for now, our dogs are like our kids. So, one of the best parts about fall is watching them play and have fun. Good luck trying to rake with them around!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall Festival: Feathering your Nest

How will you be feathering your nest for Fall? What do you to get ready? Decorations? Winterizing? Stocking Up? Preserving Fall Produce? Harvesting Said Fall Produce? Cleaning? Organizing? Overhauling your Calendar? Whatever you do to ready your Home and Hearth for the new season, we want to know about it at Hoosier Homemade where Liz is offering up a fun giveaway of sewn fabric pumpkins to fall-ify your home.

Fall is one of the busiest seasons around our farm, tied only with Spring. This year I'm welcoming Fall with open arms and have been enjoying the tasks that come with the season. Here are a few things we do to prepare for the colder months:

  • At the top of the list, canning is in full swing. I'm putting up corn, tomatoes, and apples all within the next few weeks.

  • As the garden offers up the last of the vegetables it is time to clear away the dead plants and prepare for spring. I've been weeding one last time, then I'll spread some compost and mulch the whole thing with straw. The garlic goes in and dormant plants (strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb) can be transplanted.

  • Last week I dug out the flannel sheets and installed the electric blanket on our bed. Nothing says fall better than that!

  • We're reducing our outdoor chores as much as possible. The turkeys have moved to the freezer, the ewes are off being bred, several steers are ready to go to market, and we culled all the young roosters in order to save on feed. We'll be busy preparing winter quarters for the animals that have been on pasture all summer.

  • Brian and our neighbors are preparing to harvest the fields. They took a part off the combine tonight to have it repaired. Our neighbors hauled in the first of their sugar beets last week and soybeans will probably come off in about 2 weeks.

  • On our to-do list all of the outdoor projects have gone to the top of the list. I stripping and refinishing a cabinet now while I can still open the windows for fresh air and the landscaping needs to be finished.

I'd love to hear what you're up to now that fall is knocking at the door.

Fall Blogging Festival

Where did the summer go? Autumn begins next week. Well, Fall is one of the best times of year, anyway. So, let's make the most of it!

Why not celebrate, plan ahead, exchange great ideas, traditions, and recipes? Join us for a great week of autumn-themed festivities. Five blogs, five days, five great ways to welcome the change of seasons.

It sounds like anyone with a blog is welcome to join in the fun. If you miss Monday there is still plenty of time to participate! Just post a bit about the festival and link to each hosting blog. I'm enjoying the thought of fall this year and am glad to share in the fun!

Monday - Feathering Your Nest
How will you be feathering your nest for Fall? What do you to get ready? Decorations? Winterizing? Stocking Up? Preserving Fall Produce? Harvesting Said Fall Produce? Cleaning? Organizing? Overhauling your Calendar? Whatever you do to ready your Home and Hearth for the new season, we want to know about it at Hoosier Homemade where Liz is offering up a fun giveaway of sewn fabric pumpkins to fall-ify your home.

Tuesday - Falling For Fun
How do you and your family amuse yourselves as the seasons change? Special activities with the kids, movies you watch, crafts, games, field trips, great vacation spots, books to read? Tell us some great ways to kick up our heels at Daily Dwelling.

Wednesday - Fall Traditions
What does your family do every year? A fall vacation? Apple picking? Watching the leaves turn? A visit to the Pumpkin Patch? Special foods? Special events that you always observe? Share your family's fall traditions at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free where participants will have a chance to win a set of 3 Wilton Baking Racks.

Thursday - A Special Fall-Themed Ultimate Recipe Swap
Share your favorite fall recipe at LifeasMOM. All participants will be entered for a chance to win The Autumn Book by Susan Branch.

Friday - Finer Things of Fall
What are the good things you enjoy about Fall? Tells at Amy's Finer Things. Participants will be entered to win a set of fall-themed scrapbook stickers and journaling boxes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Ewes Have A Date...

Today we took our flock of 7 ewes and ewe lambs to meet their new boyfriends. We split them up over 3 different rams based on who would best compliment each one's physical features. The stocky, big ewes went in with stylish, finer boned rams and vice versa. It made for a long day since the handsome bachelors live almost 2 hours away.
We made a lot of stops on the way back too. We ordered a new back door for the house so that when the builder comes back to install the new front door he can do them both at once. That will be soooo nice. It is hard to juggle paying off our debt with cash flowing the farm and fixing up the house all at the same time. I'm glad we can still fit in some improvements here and there.
We had a gift card for Cracker Barrel so we had dinner there - we even got my Mom and sister to come with us so that was nice. I'm tired, off to bed. Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

5 Roosters = Soup

Last night we took our 2 remaining turkeys and 5 roosters to the processor. The roosters were all Barred Hollands from the batch of heritage breed chickens I ordered in the spring. I had high hopes for the heritage breeds but the Barred Holland is not a winner in my book. The roos are very aggressive, much like the Barred Rock rooster that we gave away to our neighbor last year because he was beating up all the other birds. I watched them for quite awhile during feeding and the Holland roosters would grab feathers out of the other birds for no reason at all. The Buckeye hens were taking a real beating because they are so docile. I'm very happy with the Buckeyes and the Buff Chanteclers so far, more on that some other time.

I googled how to cut up a chicken and studied several of the results. Last time I attempted to cut up some hens it didn't go well. This time I removed both legs and both wings, then I cut the birds through the ribcage on each side. I discarded the back and neck and kept all of the other pieces to make canned chicken soup with. The five young roosters yielded 5 quart Ziploc bags of pieces. I removed all of the skin except that on the wings so it will be easy to pick the meat off later.

BTW, the computer is fixed (at least for now) so we're now back to regular programming. I've been a little unplugged from technology this week and strangely enough, I'm enjoying it. I've been trying some new organizational techniques to help me stay on track around here. So far, so good. Staying on top of things is so much easier than constantly trying to catch up but it still takes a lot of time.
Have you ever canned soup? Cut up chickens? If not, what are you canning or preserving right now?

Monday, September 14, 2009

If I'm Not Here...

If I'm missing it will be because our computer got a virus last night. Hopefully it will be fixed tonight and back to me tomorrow but if I'm gone for awhile, that's why. So long for now!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Onion Confusion

I planted onions in the spring...

So apparently I've been having a blond moment for the last several weeks now. I've been excited to collect seed from whatever garden plants I can. My onions sent up nice big flowers that now have thousands of seeds in them. I thought great, yippee, I get to save some onion seed. Ummm, no. Well, yes, I get some onion seeds. But no freakin' onions!! I pulled them up today and the aren't much bigger than the sets I planted.
Duh, I guess I should have thought about that. Apparently onions are not supposed to flower in their first year and if they do the bulbs will be very small. The bulbs also won't store well since they have been pierced where the flower stalk pushed up. The only explanation I can find for this is extreme temperature fluctuations during the growing seasons. Yep, we've got that going on here in Michigan.
So what do you think? Has this happened to you? Am I missing something? Is this more likely to happen when you grow from onion sets? I'm so bummed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Well, We're Back

Very long, but covers the last 2 days...

So we did have a good vacation, it was just shorter than we wanted. We visited Shipshewana on Tuesday. It was nice but the flea market was mostly junk. I heard it is a lot better earlier in the season. The little shops were neat to visit. I thought it would take 2 days but we were ready to leave well before lunch time. We stopped by McGrew Tractor Parts. Brian walked around and looked at tractors and equipment for quite awhile. I was happy as a clam knitting in the truck. I even found the Dave Ramsey Show on the radio.

We drove over to Michigan City and somehow drove right past all the hotels, well within a block of them, without realizing it. We ended up downtown and then we drove along the coast for a long time. We were having fun but it was like something out of a movie. There was nothing for miles. Then we found a sign for the town of "Dune Acres". It was more like Green Acres. There was a nice little town clerk in a sheriff type uniform and you couldn't even get to the actual town because the roads were private. Yet it was in the woods/dunes so not very fancy.

Anyway that guy gave us a map and we found our way back to the hotels in Michigan City. We went out for a nice dinner and stopped at a little ice cream shop for dessert. Today is my birthday so that was a nice way to celebrate. Brian wanted to get me something but I talked him out of it since there are 3 different knitting classes I plan on taking this fall and those are expensive. That'll be a nice present. :)

So then things took a turn for the worst. We got a call about 8 AM this morning from our neighbor. He said one of our ram lambs wouldn't eat and was just laying around. We talked about it and considered our options and finally decided we should go home. We got back around 2:45. The ram was flat on his side and breathing heavily. Unfortunately it was the ram we planned to put in with our ewes for breeding this weekend. After calling our normal vet (out of town) and a backup (out of the office) we hauled the ram to a third vet.

The vet gave him a poor prognosis. We opted for blood work which showed that our ram's kidneys were failing. At that point he was suffering and so we had the vet euthanize him. It was very weird for me to be on the other side of that. Usually I'm the one reassuring the owners while they say goodbye, not the one petting the animal and feeling so bad!

At first the vet thought he was afflicted with clostridium toxicity. We vaccinated him against the disease but I don't think we ever boostered the vaccine so he may not have been protected. However, after doing bloodwork the vet said it was much more likely that the ram ingested a toxic substance from a plant or his feed. Clostridium would have affected the liver and not just the kidneys.

We're at a loss as to what kind of toxic he may have ingested. He is fed hay that we personally cut, baled, and stacked. All of the animals get hay from the same field and are fed the same corn. All of the sheep get the same pelleted supplement and his came from a fresh, dry bag with no mold. Both of our ram lambs have been in a box stall so they were not even out on pasture where they could have chewed on a poisonous weed.

Also, one of our 3 turkeys died while we gone. No obvious reason. I've always heard turkeys were hard to keep alive but these ones were pretty much full grown and have been fine.

To top it all off, when we arrived home after disposing of the ram his new marking harness and halter had arrived and were waiting on the back step. I guess I'll put it away for another year. We'll be taking our flock to another farm for breeding this year.

I'm sorry to be such a downer. Tonight I told Brian I think I'm ready for a vacation - ha ha! On the bright side, our neighbors did take good care of everything while we were gone. Someone even mowed our lawn! That was a great welcome home gift. :)

I took a walk around the farm to remind myself how good we have it. That's were the pics came from.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Vacation: Days 2 and 3

After the tractor pull on Friday night we followed my cousin and her husband in to Indiana. We had enjoyed the pull with them and had made plans to visit some friends together for the weekend. Our friends in Indiana moved there a couple years ago to join their family business, McCoy Dairy Farm. Brian and my cousin's husband had fun talking to the guys, touring the farm, and helping out where they could. Since my cousin is due to deliver her first baby in October and our friend recently had her 4th child us girls had plenty to talk about too. It was really refreshing to see a dedicated Mom in action who manages to balance work on the farm with parenting. She's my new role model! :)

I was really interested in the farm too. That barn in the picture is new - can you believe how wide it is!? Here's the very best part...those of you who have read about my desire for a milk cow will understand. They. have. a. miniature. jersey. cow. Her name is Elaine and I'm in love. First I got to pet her - and then I got to milk her!!! I wish I had taken pictures but I didn't want manure and iodine all over my camera. I spent awhile (maybe an hour?) in the milking parlor helping out. I've always been interested in milking cows so it was fun to try it. It seems like the type of job a person could get very efficient at with practice which is what I like. I told Brian I know where we're going to move if we ever have to rely on my income over his. I'd love to work for a vet down there!

That is all hay behind Brian. The picture doesn't do it justice - it was like a wall of hay in all directions.

I think Brian could have stayed all week and I was really enjoying visiting and, I admit, holding the baby. As the weekend progressed Brian and I found more and more things we had in common with our friends there so it was great to talk with them. However, the whole goal of taking a vacation was to spend time together just the two of us with no farming to get in the way. We headed out late Monday afternoon...

More to come soon!

Vacation: Rough Start

We worked and worked and stayed up late on Thursday so we could get out of here Friday morning. We planned to leave by "10 or 11" and pulled out of the driveway at 11:05. Typical! We left separately, me with the horse trailer and a ewe we were going to drop off at the breeder's and Brian with the pickup we were dropping off to be worked on while we were gone. I went to the bank, he made a few stops, and we met up at his uncle's (he is our mechanic).
I parked on the road and got out to check the ewe. I opened the side door on the trailer and was surprised that the ewe didn't startle and jump up. It took me a few seconds to realize why. She must have put her front feet up on the manger (4ft tall) and got her left front foot stuck in a big gap where the manger had rusted out. To make it worse, she tried to get down and ended up in an almost sitting position, essentially hanging from her foot with it way above her head and her toe pointing at the ground, thus make a hard angle at the last joint. I jumped in a straddled her, trying to pick her up so she could free her self. I started yelling for Brian to help and when he got in he was able to pull her foot out.
She would not stand and was shaking, obviously traumatized. I petted her for a few minutes and tried to calm her down. We were only 2 miles away from our next stop so we continued on. At Brian's stepsister's house we stopped. I was supposed to trim her pony's feet. Turns out the pony didn't want to be caught so we didn't get it done. We opened up the trailer and got the ewe to stand but she would barely put weight on her injured leg. She was in no condition to go see the ram so we headed back home. We parked the trailer in the shade, left out some bute (pain medicine) for our neighbors to give her, and put food and water in with her. I hated to leave her but we were running way behind and like Brian said, there really wasn't much I could do at that point. I will say that a newer trailer just moved up on our list.

Our next stop was Wind Racer Farm in Charlotte, Michigan. The farm's co-owner, Violet Hickey, had contacted me recently to say that she had some Blue Slate and Bourbon Red turkeys ready to go to a new home. The turkeys look great and we really enjoyed visiting the farm and talking with Violet and her family. If you're looking for local food in her area I would look her up for sure. We still have not decided if the turkeys are right for us. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to branch out in to heritage turkeys with the hope of breeding our own. On the downside we would have to feed and house them all year. I'd love your thoughts on this!

Oh and pictured here is one of Violet's Buckeye hens with chicks that she hatched herself!

On to Ohio! We rolled in to the Fulton County Fair just in time for the truck and tractor pull. Our friend Rob Foster runs Simply Red so we had fun cheering him on. Of course Brian likes it a little more than me but I finished up one sleeve on my latest baby sweater while I was watching! :)

Next stop: a dairy farm! :) Stay tuned for less talk, more pictures, and a lot more fun!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NO Knitting Allowed :(

Warning: Lots of whining ahead...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who always feel even more stressed than normal just before a vacation. We still have a list a mile long of things that NEED to be done before we go even though we've been cracking away at it all week. Okay I say we loosely, mostly Brian has been busting his butt. I did help stack a bunch of hay last night, in my defense. ;)

So I made myself this rule...absolutely no knitting and no Ravelry surfing until the house is as clean as I want it to be before vacation. That means pretty much no knitting tonight! Which would be a whole lot easier if I hadn't just picked up my special order yarn for a an upcoming wedding present to be knitted. Oh, and finding a deal today on the yarn I need to make 3 more Christmas presents didn't help either.

(Can't you hear the yarn, "Knit me!! Knnnnnittt me!")
(And yes, that is blogger in the background. I can be lame if I want :P)

I'm not only a little overwhelmed with the to-dos and don'ts but also feeling physically queasy. I've had fast food for 3 of my last 4 meals (!) and I just spent $30 at the grocery store buying all the "convenience foods" that I never buy so that we won't have to eat out for lunch on our trip. Easy Mac, granola bars (I wasn't going to kid myself and say I'd make them between now and Friday morning), Little Debbie snacks (they were 4 for $5 after all), chips, MICROWAVE popcorn (I can feel my arteries clogging), Nutri-grain bars (those are healthy right!?), oh, and applesauce. In cups with foil lids. Are you feeling like this is the blog post from hell yet?

Oh, crap, hubby is home. I'd better quit whining and feeling sorry for myself and get something done so I can spend 5 minutes with him before we both crash! TTFN, and don't worry, I'll have much more positive things to say in a couple more days! :D