Monday, August 31, 2009

More praise for

I've mentioned freecycle before but I'm going to mention it again because I think it's such a great idea. I'm sure it will come up again. Today I posted fresh basil along with other herbs we have an abundance of. Within minutes I had 2 responses with people interested. I called one of them and they said they'd be here within a few hours. They lived in Lexington, just 20 or 25 minutes away.

Today I was cutting grass and the belt to the mower broke. Darn, I was hoping to finish cutting before my parents arrived tomorrow. I called our Southern States store to order two more belts but didn't feel like driving there to get them today. James suggested I ask the people coming to get the basil if they would mind picking up our belts. At first I thought that might be a little weird but then, why not? I called the guy and he was happy to get them for me. I had asked the store to bill me for them so the guy picking them up didn't have to worry about that. He arrived with his little girl, Sarah, maybe 4 years old. We cut lots of basil, some cilantro, rosemary, a few carrots, a pumpkin and a watermelon. Sara was adorable. She visited with my goats and got an egg from the chicken's nest. Very nice people. They had just come from the Asian Pear orchard and shared a few pears with us.

After they left I called the other person who was interested. She came over 30 minutes later and took all the basil we had plus some cilantro. She told me she also raises Nigerian Dwarf goats and has babies 3 weeks old. She sounded relatively new to all of it too. Of course that got us to talking about our animals and we promised to save each other's phone numbers and emails. She also has chickens and said they ate all her basil plants.

I think I like meeting the people through freecycle as much as I like the idea of people sharing their stuff and it not going to waste. I wish more people would sign up. Ours isn't a very big group yet so we don't get many postings in a week.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Adam is back at school

Adam begins classes at Radford U. tomorrow, his second year. He and I were laughing about how different this year feels than last year. The night before he was to leave home we were all excited but nervous. He had all his things packed early and stacked by the front door. This year all the nervousness is gone and it doesn't seem like a big deal at all. I don't think he packed much. I saw his printer sitting in his room this afternoon. I wonder why he didn't take it. He probably forgot and it's hard to find anything in his messy room anyway. He would have forgotten his bedding if I didn't remind him. We didn't even drive him. Three of his friends took him and spent the night in his dorm room with him and his roommate. It must have been a crowded room. He said he was excited to go. I hope it's a good year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dehorning (disbudding) baby goats..........

is no fun. Poor Telly, Chaps, James and me. I don't know who it hurt more. Physically it hurt the goats, emotionally it hurt me and James. Actually it wasn't quite as bad as I had anticipated. I've worried about this for a few days and had myself really dreading it. The whole idea of putting a red hot iron on a little baby's head and burning the hair and skin was more than I thought I could handle. Surprisingly, they didn't scream and squirm near as much as you would think they would. Yeah, they did scream, even when we were shaving around the little horn buds before burning. James did the holding while I did the burning. I could tell it was bothering James because he said, "don't you think that's long enough? How long has it been?" We all survived and I hope what we did did the trick. I hope nothing grows back because I'd hate to have remove anything else. If you look closely at Chaps you can see where I burned him in between the horns and above the eye. That's who I did first. I should be fired from this job. He looks like a mess and stinks pretty bad but he's ok. The babies are sleeping now. I think that wore them out. In another 6 weeks or so we'll be castrating. Don't worry, I probably won't post pictures of that.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More goat videos

Here are more videos of the babies. They bounce for a little while and then they sleep.

I've tried to milk Polly 3 times. The first time she let me just a little. I froze what little colostrum I got in case I need it in the future. The next two times I tried she wanted none of it. I'm going to have to find a way to keep her still eventually. Right now the babies are nursing just fine but it looks like she'd be relieved to have some more pressure taken off. Hopefully by next week we can get a little milk of our own.

Only six more weeks and Strawberry will be having her babies if she got pregnant the day Witty arrived at our house.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The kids have finally arrived!

What a great night. I thought Polly was in the early stages of labor yesterday morning so all day I was watching her. She looked so uncomfortable. Usually she wants me to scratch and dote on her but not yesterday. She just wanted to be alone. At 10 PM she finally started contractions with hardly a noise from her. That went on for little while. I think Adam and his friend James got home around midnight, just in time to watch the births. All of us were fascinated by the whole process. It went about as smoothly as we could have hoped for. The first one, Chaps, came out head first instead of front feet first but that went ok. The second one, Telly, came flying out. The whole time Polly remained pretty quiet. I thought there'd be screaming involved. She did her job cleaning them up after we got the major goop off them and then they figured out how to nurse little by little. They stood up pretty soon after birth but are still a little wobbly today. We saw Chaps take a few little jumps in the air trying out his legs. I love to see them jump. You'll see them too when I get those videos. Everyone is doing well this morning. Too bad they're both little boys. I guess we'll have to find homes for them and it will be hard to say goodbye when that time comes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Melons for breakfast, lunch and dinner

This is a picture of my breakfast. James picked watermelons and cantaloupes this morning. He needed a wheelbarrow to carry them back to the house. He picked 23 watermelons and 7 cantaloupes and that doesn't count the many he had to throw into the chicken fence because they were rotten or partly eaten by something else. Also, we already had some watermelons in the refrigerator from a few days ago. I Googled "how to store watermelons". I learned they're best stored around 55 to 60 degrees. Apparently the carotenoids increase 10 to 40% when stored closer to room temperature than in the refrigerator. Pretty cool. Of course I had to Google carotenoids too to see what exactly they're good for. Here's a link if you're interested

Storing cantaloupes is a different story. They should only be stored at room temperature for 2 or 3 days but once they reach their full ripeness they should be refrigerated. How are we going to eat all these melons before they go bad? I guess we need to have a party or give them away. Too bad so many have to be ready to pick at once. I hope the ones left in the garden will take their time ripening.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dressed up wine

I started making my new batches of wine in the last 2 weeks, 16 gallons worth. All my wine is made from blackberries from our property and wineberries from up in the Jefferson National Forest. It took about 35 lbs of the wineberries and 16 lbs of the blackberries for this year's batches. I had to add a little bit of grape juice to the blackberry wine because I didn't have enough berries to make 5 gallons. After fermenting for 5 days it gets siphoned into a glass carboy to sit for a few months before I siphon it again to remove the sediment. I'll repeat that every few months till the sediment is gone. It will be several months before I bottle it.

I've given several of last year's bottles away. Sometimes I gave it too early, before it aged enough and I wonder what those people had to say about my winemaking abilities. Most recently I've given it to friends who were very complimentary of it. I don't know, maybe they were just being kind. A few even said they'd pay money for it. Hmmm, I wonder. As you see in the pictures I dress my wine up, ok, maybe not up, but I dress it. It's supposed to be kept in the dark so I put jackets on it instead. The blackberry wine is in James' letterman jacket from high school.

Today I decided to try something different, a drink we sampled in Italy last October. It's called Limoncello. It only has 4 ingredients, pure grain alcohol, lemon zest, sugar and water. It only has to age a month or less. It will be fun to serve it with our woodfired pizza, Italian style.

As I type this I'm munching on some bread I made this afternoon, a new recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, mashed potato, rosemary and garlic bread. It's unbelievably delicious. I will definitely make this one again. This one could fatten me up in a hurry, it's so good. I put LOTS of garlic in it. When I capitalize "lots" you get the picture right? No one is going to want to get near me tomorrow. Now Polly just needs to have her babies so I can make cheese from her milk. Bread, wine and cheese, mmmmmm mmm. That's the good life, for sure.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hiking Sharp Top Mountain

Today James and I drove to Peaks of Otter and hiked Sharp Top Mountain. I had been there before with my women's hiking group but James hadn't. It was a beautiful day, temps in the 70's. Perfect hiking weather. It was a pretty steep climb but not terrible. We packed a picnic lunch and ate that at the summit.

On the way back down my cell phone told me I had 3 messages but I couldn't check them because we couldn't get service up there. I figured it was Adam. James suggested maybe he was calling about Polly. Well, he never should have said that because that's all I could think of the rest of the way down. I didn't think she could possibly be in labor because everything looked normal when we left this morning and I didn't think Adam would check on her. No matter, I still worried a little. It turned out to be nothing important and we came home to find Polly grazing and looking like her normal plump self.

Today our chickens set a record, laying 4 eggs. One day I'll get 10 eggs and wonder what I'm going to do with all of them. I'm looking forward to that day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Homemade potato chips

Today I made potato chips from our potatoes, 2 different varieties. They turned out pretty yummy but I wonder how they'll hold up, not that I think they'll last long enough for us to find out. I was going to make more but I wanted to see if they were a hit first. James and I really liked them but then we like everything and also they were still warm. It doesn't get much better than that. That's James' hand in the picture. I did it the unhealthy way, deep frying them in canola oil, not baking them. I wish we had some sweet potatoes to make chips out of. James suggested I try making chips out of tomatoes and squash since we have so many of them. Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Puck the rooster is not always so nice

I love to look and listen to our rooster Puck. He crows almost all day long and he's beautiful. I've heard lots of stories about mean roosters but was convinced I couldn't have a mean one. I'm nice, my rooster must be nice. Hmmmm. Well, a friend and her almost 4 year old son, Jack, came to visit and Puck kept jumping on Jack with his wings spread out. Jack was wearing a red fireman's jacket and a fireman's hat. We thought the rooster may have felt threatened by Jack because of all the red. The next day Jack wasn't wearing it and the rooster still jumped on him. I couldn't figure it out because he never does that to us. He didn't hurt Jack so I didn't worry too much and chalked it up to a random incident.

Yesterday a friend came by with his 5 (6?) year old daughter. I told him about Puck attacking Jack just so he'd keep his eye on his daughter. He picked her up and just then Puck started jumping on the dad. I don't know if he was going after the dad or the little girl. Maybe Puck doesn't like kids. I can't imagine he's smart enough to figure that out but I know very little about roosters. It will be interesting (I think) to see if he ever does it to me or James, the people who feed him. I'll be pretty mad if he does.

By the way, one of my hens laid a regular sized egg today. The first 10 were all pretty small. We've now gotten one dozen eggs.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Aging, August 10, 2009

I looked at the picture of me with my first egg and I groaned. Really? Is that what I look like? A friend and I were talking the other day about how we can tell ourselves that pictures are just a short snap of time that may be a true picture or not. If you have DVR or TIVO on your TV you'll know what we mean. If you hit pause to freeze the picture it is almost always an unflattering image of the actor or actress. Ok, sometimes we actually smile and pose for photos so there's no excuse but I'd rather tell myself I don't look as old or unattractive as my picture says I am. I just now took a picture of myself that I'll admit looks like what I see in the mirror, like it or not. I'm posting it here with the date so if I'm still keeping this blog in 5 years or 10 I can compare myself to a new photo I'll take then.

I do the whole Facebook thing and have gotten in touch with old friends from my youth, along with cousins that I haven't seen since I was a teenager. I see their pictures and realize they must be as shocked by mine as I am of theirs. How did my friends turn into these middle aged faces? It hasn't been that long, has it? I actually enjoy it, aging, to some extent. Not the sagging body, gray hairs, stray hairs and wrinkles, but the contentment, self assuredness (if that's a word), security and freedom that comes with being in my 40's. I may look in the mirror less but I still feel pretty darn good. It'll be fun to see if I'm still writing the same thing in 10 years. Hope so.

I published this post and looked at it thinking, I could have at least washed my face and put some makeup on but then that wouldn't be painting a true picture of me.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cleaning wheat

Yesterday I finally finished cleaning the wheat James had planted and picked 3 years ago. I had previously cleaned 3 five gallon buckets and we've been grinding it and using it for our bread. We had 2 other buckets left that I kept ignoring. I ran out of wheat yesterday while making pizza dough and banana nut bread so was forced to go out and do it. It has to be done outside or I'd make a complete mess of my kitchen.

First I put it in a sheet and do the twist on it to separate the wheat from the chaff. Then I dump all of it in a large tub of water and rub it together to separate anything I didn't during the dancing. The chaff floats to the top of the water and the wheat berries sink to the bottom. I skim the chaff off the top and then drain the berries and put them out to dry. That's it. When they're dry I put them in large parrot food containers. I probably got 8 to 10 lbs of berries out of it. I'm hoping this will last a year. I've been grinding it in my coffee grinder but should probably one day invest in a wheat grinder. They're expensive though. If anyone sees one at a yard sale let me know.

Friday, August 7, 2009

How many things can we do with tomatoes?

James plants so many tomatoes every year so he spends lots of time picking and canning them. Last year he canned about 76 quarts. We make pizza about once a week so we figured we'd go through it pretty fast. We still have 20 quarts left and already he's canned 30 more from this year. There are still lots to pick so we're trying to figure out what else we can do with them besides eat them at every meal.

I don't know why I didn't think of it before but a friend of mine asked why I bought salsa and didn't make it. Good question. Why didn't I. Now I can say I have. I made about 6 quarts and James canned it. Another thing I was buying was tomato paste. So yesterday I made some of that, only 5 small containers though because it takes lots of tomatoes to make a small amount of paste. It cooked for 5 or 6 hours instead of the 3 that the recipe told me. I'll make more of that today. I think the next thing I'll try is barbecue sauce.

I'll have to Google for other ideas unless someone out there gives me some. Now, if we can come up with other ways to use squash besides, canning, pickling, freezing and giving away.

James told me he thinks we have 40 cantaloupes in the garden but they're not ripe yet. He said some of the watermelons are ready to eat though. I don't know how many of them there are but we planted a bunch. The chickens will be thrilled. They love watermelon rinds.

What I'm learning about chickens laying eggs

My good friend, Laura, also has chickens (she says they're her daughters and husbands but I think she likes them and doesn't want to admit it) and hers laid before mine. I was very jealous because hers were younger than mine. I decided she could still be my friend though. Since that one day when her hens laid 7 eggs, she has only gotten 1 or 2 a day. I would find that very frustrating. As I've said before, I Google just about everything so I had to jump on my computer to see why hers have decreased and what I can expect. This is what I learned today about how chickens lay eggs.

They need approx. 14 hours of light a day to lay and may cut back in the winter.
Each chicken has its own cycle and may lay 3 days in a row, take a day off and then lay 3 more days in a row. Or it could be 4 or 5 days.
Young chickens, like ours, may lay one egg and then wait 3 more days.
They can lay eggs at any time of day.
I think I read a hen is most productive at 1 year old.

So, how many times will I check their nests today?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My first egg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How can a person get so excited about an egg? Silly, I know, but I've waited 21 weeks and one day for this. The egg is kind of small, which is normal early on, but it's perfect. I looked in the new coop today to see if anyone was in there and I found an australorp sitting quietly in one of the nests. I quickly closed the door so I wouldn't disturb her "just in case". A few hours later I went out and there it was. I brought it in the house and asked James to take my picture with it, which I've posted below.

James reminded me today is our 22nd anniversary of when we met. So, happy anniversary to us. Our chicken gave us a gift. How sweet.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Well, I did it again, almost killed one of my pets. Not on purpose of course. Two days ago Witty and Jake got into the girls and chickens fence. I closed the door to the barn so Witty wouldn't go in there and stink it up. It never crossed my mind that he could squeeze through the approx. 6 inch by 12 inch doorway to the chicken coop. Somehow he finagled his way into the coop and ate the chicken food AGAIN! I didn't really know how much he ate because the chickens had already eaten some and I hadn't looked at the feeder lately. I was hoping it was almost empty. By Sunday morning I knew differently. When I went out to feed the goats Witty's stomach was distended, he had diarrhea and couldn't use his front feet properly. In short, he'd poisoned himself with chicken feed. Off to the internet to see what I should be doing. I put water and baking soda in a large syringe and force fed it to him every 2 hours along with some other things. I also gave him two different shots. Within a very short time his feet were back to normal but he was still very lethargic and I could tell he was in terrible pain. He became afraid of me, knowing every time I came near I was going to be giving him a shot or forcing stuff down his throat. Poor guy. James had to help a few times because I just couldn't do it myself. After calling Witty's previous dad who has much more goat experience and a calming voice, I gave him some GasX before bed. This morning I gave him another GasX and by this afternoon he looks like he's made a complete recovery. He still has the poops, I think, but he has so much more energy and an appetite.

I keep thinking how much harder goats are to raise than dogs but then another friend brought back some memories of when I had to dump peroxide down dogs throats to bring up foreign objects they swallowed. Also, I was remembering how one of the dogs from my childhood had a flipped stomach and didn't survive. If it wasn't for all the joy we get from our pets it wouldn't make any sense to put ourselves through all this, would it?