Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sights and sounds, lost and found

I don't think we had more than an inch of rain all summer but in this past week I bet we've had 5 or 6.  I'm not complaining.  Things are looking greener already.

Tuesday morning I went out to feed the ducks and saw this.  Look closely.
Later that day a friend and I hiked to a waterfall behind our cabin.  It's not a huge waterfall but a series of small ones and you can climb and follow them up and up.  On the way there we saw this cute little guy.
The waterfalls were running nicely since we had had a day or two of rain.  We didn't climb very high.  Mostly we parked ourselves on a rock and babbled, accompanied by the babbling brook.

Last night was our heaviest rain and today you can hear the creek that runs around our house from just about anywhere you stand in the yard.  Until this week Elk Creek was so low we could walk across without getting wet feet.

This morning I went out in the pouring rain to feed everyone and milk because it didn't look like it was going to let up any time soon.  One of my guineas was looking distressed, calling out for his friends while his feathers drooped from the downpour.  I didn't see the other 2 anywhere but went about my business.  James has moved his office upstairs where he looks out over our front yard, field and James River Rd.   He saw a car drive by our house once, then turned around and stopped in front of our gate and left a guinea there.  I'm guessing he was in the road and they didn't want him to get hit.  I carried him back to the fence but he wasn't in very good shape.  His right leg is injured and he's missing all his tail feathers.  He's now in a shed all by himself and hasn't tried to get out.  I don't think he's feeling very good.  Something must have attacked him and his buddy and he somehow escaped.  I don't know if he'll make it or not.  This video is kind of blurry because I didn't want to upset him and get close.  Whenever I zoom in for a video it comes out blurry.  I don't know what I'm doing wrong.  You can hear his distress call and maybe see his lame foot.

Goats hate rain.  They've holed themselves up in their barn for 2 days and then today when it cleared up they became very vocal and want all my attention.  I think they're bored.

The only animals on our farm that like the rain are these guys, the quietest of all our animals.
Three of these ducks were supposed to be magpies, a black and white duck.  It's pretty clear they're all mixed with mallard since they have bright green heads.  All 4 ducks are males so we won't be having any little Myducks next spring.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Again about the bread

I think most people who bake bread are always in search of the perfect recipe that turns out like bakery bread.  I have The Bread Baker's Apprentice, a cookbook by Peter Reinhart, and on the front is a picture of a woman holding a beautiful, gigantic loaf of bread.  I've always wanted to bake one like that.

 A friend sent me a link to an article from the New York Times about a no-knead bread that a 4 year old can make that is as good or better than bread you buy from a bakery.  I had to try it.  I didn't use any of our own wheat.  I followed the recipe exactly - well, almost exactly.  It's baked in a preheated heavy pan with a lid.  The moisture stays inside the pan to create the crispy crust.  For those of you who would like to try it, here's the recipe.

Recipe: No-Knead Bread

Published: November 8, 2006
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

My results?  I think amazing.  When I took it out of the oven it continued to crackle for another 5 or 10 minutes.  The crust is thin and crisp and the inside is full of holes and so soft.  I used King Arthur's bread flour.  Today I'm making another loaf with 50% bread flour and 50% of our own whole wheat.  I never go this high on the percentage of whole wheat so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Guess what's for dinner.  Thanks Jerry.

Goodbye Friendly

I've only named 4 of my chickens.  The first one I named was Friendly.  You can guess how she got her name.  She used to hang close to us and talk.  It seemed like she wanted us to hold or pet her but she usually pulled away when I reached for her.  If I did catch her she would sit in my lap and let me pet her for as long as I wanted. 

Yesterday I knew something was wrong with her.  She was very lethargic.  I held her for at least 30 minutes, knowing she was very sick.  She seemed to like the affection but maybe she was just too tired to put up a fight.  Her comb turned a dull purple color and she held her back end in the air while she was lying down.  I didn't know what to do for her.  I feel like I didn't do enough research on the internet until it was too late.

This morning I held her one last time and gave her some yogurt which she only ate because I put her beak in it.  An hour later I found her dead.  I couldn't stand that I didn't know what killed her so I did an autopsy on her.  It sounds like a gruesome thing to do to a pet but I think it's important for me to know what to do if there's a next time and what to look for.  I feel pretty sure it was one of two things, an impacted crop or an egg had broken inside her.  Her crop was still very full of grass and wheat berries.  It seems like it should have digested in a day if she hadn't been eating in a while.  Also, it smelled really bad.  Her lower insides were covered in a yolk colored substance but there was no egg shell to be seen.  I'd never seen yellow like this in another chicken or turkey so that's why I wonder if an egg hadn't broken inside.  She had been opening and closing her vent a lot too so that's another reason I suspected she was eggbound.   One thing I think I need to do is offer oyster shell again and change their food back to the layer food I'd been giving them before.  I had switched food when I got the turkeys and fed a generic poultry food to all the fowl.

It all happened so fast and I hope that never happens to one of my goats.   Last night the young woman who called me for assistance after the birth of her goats came by to get more advice on what she thought was a dying young goat.  Actually, 2 sick goats.  I sent her home with a few supplies and instructions and I'm waiting to hear today how they're doing today.   I didn't go with her back to her house and I'm kind of glad not to have become emotionally involved with another sick animal.  I told her I'd come by today if they hadn't improved.  I hope they're better.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cleaning wheat berries is much more fun when done with a friend

I think I blogged about cleaning our wheat  more than a year ago but I think it's worth revisiting.  Last fall James planted winter wheat and we harvested it this June.
It wasn't 'till two days ago I had the motivation to clean it.  Part of the motivation was having someone to help me.

I know I've mentioned Susan in other entries and maybe you follow her blog, 6 Sheep and a Llama (which you can access through a link from my blog).  She and I help and encourage each other, much to our husband's chagrin at times when it comes to acquiring new animals, but then, they're getting used to that by now. 

Ok, so, where was I?  Oh yeah, wheat.  Last week I helped Susan cut some downed cedar logs to use for an arbor she's going to build.  In return she came to help me clean our wheat.  I kept looking at the tarp-covered mound of wheat and grass thinking, oh, I need to get to that, but dreading it.  So it was a real treat to have Susan help me dance on it.

We separated the berries from the chaff and then put what was left on the tarp into a copper pot with water where we would wash it and the berries would sink to the bottom and the chaff would stay on top.  We rinsed the wheat again and again and then put the clean berries in the sun to dry.

So far I've cleaned about 20 lbs of berries and I think I'm at least half way done.  Forty pounds of wheat berries ought to last a good while, I think.  I love seeing the berries all packed up ready to store in our cabinets.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Today one of the ducks named itself

My sister, Debbie, and I were sitting in the lawn near the ducks and Debbie kept commenting on how red the inside of one of the duck's mouth was.  Later she saw something hanging out of the mouth, a hook with a swivel on it.  That explained why he kept shaking his head.  Ducks like shiny things and I've found a few things they've brought back to their pen, a parrot toy, a yellow plastic lighter, stuff like that.  I guess it found the hook and swivel attractive too.

We got the ducks in their fence and cornered it till we caught the pitiful guy with the pierced tongue.
It took a good while but eventually I was able to cut the hook with some wire cutters to get most of it out.  The barb is still inside the tongue.  It didn't come out the other side so there was no way to pull it through.  He seemed much more comfortable and was eating and drinking this afternoon so I'm hoping he feels a lot better. 

His new name?  Captain Hook, or Hook, for short.  We've also considered the name Pearce (or Pierce).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Some simple things that made me happy

Sometimes it's the simplest things that make me happy.  Probably MOST of the time it's the simple things. 

Yesterday was the first time I put a halter on Chy all by myself.  It may seem like a small thing to many of you but to me it was pretty huge.  Every day I was letting her sniff it and tell me she didn't want any part of it.  I'd go along with that but then realized I wasn't getting any farther with her.  It was time to show her I was serious.  I closed her in her barn and did something like I saw the farrier do, I put a rope around her neck and let her take me for several laps around the barn.  Finally she stopped and stood very still and let me put it on her.  I was so proud of her and me.
Today James and I got 60 bales of hay from the farmer who cuts our field.  We didn't get any hay from our field this fall because it's been so dry but, thankfully, he had plenty in his barn.  This should easily get us through the winter.  I feel rich.
I baked some sourdough bread this afternoon so that's what we had for dinner, bread with peanut butter or apple butter and a cantaloupe a friend brought us today.  I loved eating a simple dinner like this, plus it was easy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

For all you dog lovers

I've watched this 3 times and thought I'd share it with you.  This dog is amazing. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Breeding season - it isn't pretty

Remember when I posted Shamus' handsome face a while back?  You know, this cute, little, innocent guy.
This is what he looks like now.
Here's Witty before the girls were in heat.
Ok, well maybe his beard was just a little urine stained then too but nothing like it is today.
This is what Witty does almost all day.  The other boys better watch out if they go near Witty's girls.  He'll clobber them.  This is the G-rated video.  Believe me, his behavior isn't always meant for all viewers.

This afternoon I put more fence staples in the boy's fence and added some zip ties to the girl's.  I don't want any unplanned pregnancies.  The whole time I was in with the guys Witty or Shamus was rubbing his stink all over me.  I feel bad that I don't want to touch them but if I could post the smell on this blog you'd understand.  The breeding will begin in October so our first babies will be born in March.  Maybe after all the girls are bred I'll give Witty and Shamus a bath.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cow's milk cheddar vs. goat's milk cheddar

Our friend, Lucas, came over Monday with 3 gallons of his raw cow's milk so we could make cheese.  This was his first time to make a hard cheese.  We chose Farmhouse Cheddar.  It only has to age a minimum of one month.   Cow's milk is very different from goat's because the cream separates so much faster.  Each jar he brought had an inch or more of cream on top.  I tasted a spoonful of the cream and it was very tasty.

The recipe gives you separate instructions for if you're using cow's or goat's milk.  The cow's must be stirred longer.  I could actually see the fat globules separated on top the milk.  They were yellow-ish.  Goat's milk is brought to a lower temperature than cow's.  It took us a good part of the day to make, maybe 5 hours (?).  That was including heating up the whey to make ricotta afterward.  That was a bust.  I think he only got maybe a tablespoon of cheese from one gallon of whey.

Yesterday I made the same cheese using my goat's milk, only I used 2 1/2 gallons since that's all I had to spare.  I'm pretty sure I got more cheese from my 2 1/2 gallons than he got from his almost 3 gallons.  I definitely got more ricotta, about a cup or cup and a half. 
The hard cheese shrinks some as it dries so it's hard to compare the 2 cheeses since they were made a day apart but here's a picture of the 2 of them side by side.  The cow's milk cheese is yellow.
You'd never know they were the same cheese to look at them.  His cow is grass fed, only getting grain for a treat now and then.  My goats eat grain on the milk stand and graze during the day, though we don't have much grass left to graze on since it's so dry.

I can't wait till we can cut them both and compare them.  I'm betting on a better taste from the goat cheese since everyone knows goats are better than cows, right?  Sorry Lucas.  I'm hoping it's better so when my girls have 18 babies this spring (give or take) I can sell Lucas a few.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Still can't let it go

I can't stop thinking about what it was that got the turkey 2 nights ago.  I feel like I need to figure it out or I won't be able to solve the problem or stop worrying about it.  Maybe someone reading this can help me figure it out.  I've already talked to several people and they had many different opinions about what it could have been - owl, raccoon, coyote or bobcat.

Here are some details about the crime scene:

1.  There were feathers all over the place, kind of like a trail as if the predator was walking or running around with it.  Could Chy have been chasing it?

2.  Whatever killed it left the body in the pasture.  Only the head and breast were eaten, not the entrails.  A coyote usually carries off its prey to somewhere safe.

3.  The night of the kill there was a cat sitting in the shrubs just outside the goat and turkey barns.  I was about 8 feet from it and shined my headlamp on it and I felt certain that night that it was a domestic cat, though I only saw its head.  I wish I had had a brighter flashlight.  James saw a dead bobcat in the road recently but it was several miles from our house.

4.  The turkey probably weighed somewhere in the 15 to 18 lb range.  It would take a pretty strong animal to drag the turkey around.  Any animal could catch a turkey at night because they just sit there.  There were feathers all over the place.  I read that owls pull feathers out before they eat.

5.  Our fences are 4 to 4 1/2 feet high with no electric above or below them so many animals could have scaled or gone under the fence.

6.  We've smelled skunk a lot this week but I don't know if a skunk could kill a turkey and do this much damage.

Last night I locked the girl goats up in their barn just to be safe.  We processed the remaining turkeys yesterday so we didn't have that attraction.  The guineas remain free to perch wherever they want.  The chickens and ducks get locked up but the chicken's coop could easily be broken into.  I want to move them to their sturdier coop but I'll have to take their other coop away because they'll keep returning to it.  Last night Chy was lying down in the boy goat's fence with Shiloh and all the boys nearby.  I've never seen her do that.  She usually stands out in the pasture.

Here's a link to a site that tells about different predators of turkeys and their behaviors.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My decision was made for me

Something else got the turkey before I did.  I sat down at my desk this morning and looked out the window.  I saw a pile of white feathers in the pasture.  I yelled to James and we went to check it out.  Whatever killed it ate the head and some of its breast and left the rest.  I couldn't tell if it was the turkey I was holding yesterday because the breast feathers were missing so I couldn't see the black feathers that helped me identify it.  None of the 3 surviving white turkeys have those feathers this morning so I know it was the one.   It's just too weird and upsetting.

I wish I knew what Chy was doing while all this happened.   I have to think that her first job was to protect Shiloh.  I'm also wondering what the 2 of them will do when Shiloh is older.  Will they protect the herd?  I don't know.  I'm still trying to figure it out but I'm pretty sure it was the coyote but why wouldn't he take the whole bird?  I wish I had a camera out there to video what happened.

It's also very strange that we've had these turkeys for 5 months and had no problem with predators getting them until the night before we were to kill them ourselves.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Kill (at least one turkey) maybe

This morning I thought I knew what I was going to blog about because I built one of these.
After being bitten by one of the turkeys this week I got on the phone and called our friends, Dan and Amy, to see if they'd help us fill our freezer.  I was determined to be rid of all of them by the end of this weekend.  And then this happened.
And this
It's like he or she knew my intentions.  As a matter-of-fact I had put one or 2 turkeys in the killing cone this morning to see if it was going to work.  Maybe it was this little guy/gal.

I went out in the pasture this afternoon to lie in the grass and maybe take a nap amongst the goats and donkeys and this turkey came over and laid down right beside me.  He let me pet him all over and closed his eyes like he was in ecstasy.  Oh, don't do this to me.  How can I kill you if you turn all nice on me?  And then, I can't just keep one turkey.  I need to keep a boy and a girl so at least they may serve a purpose in the future.  I said I didn't want to do turkeys next year but if they hatched some little ones for me then of course I'd have to raise more.  I'd have to figure out if this one is a boy or a girl and then find the opposite sex to keep also.

And then I looked out my window and saw this.
Just this week the turkeys have decided to explore the rest of our yard.  As I type one is on our back patio.
We keep our back door open when it's nice out.  I bet if I wait 30 more minutes to post this I could have a picture of one of the turkeys walking up our back steps and into our house.

Should I or shouldn't I, that is the question.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I've lost it

in more ways than one.

Yesterday I was removing old glazing from a window and broke one of the panes.  No big deal, I still have one or 2 more I can put in.  I put them with the glazing points.  Now if only I knew where they were.  I've searched every place I can think of, twice even.  James has also spent some time looking for them.  He says I hid them real well.

Glass and glazing points are cheap but it still bothered me to have to buy more, which I did.  I thought maybe if I bought more they'd turn up.  They haven't yet.

Last night we slept with that pane missing and I wondered if we'd find a bird or bat or something in our house this morning but we didn't.   I want to replace 2 other panes that are really scratched.  I had to decide if I wanted scratched panes that were the old wobbly glass, which I love, or have new ones with no character but we could see out better.  I'm gong with the new.  I better get to work.

I hired someone today to do our 6 upstairs windows.  A neighbor of ours was in the hospital this weekend after falling off his roof.  I think I'll stick with the lower level.  I can't trust myself to remember I'm standing on a roof and not the ground.

Edit:  I posted this 15 minutes ago and since then have found the panes and points in a very logical place - right behind the apples in the downstairs kitchen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Many uses for our brick oven

Yesterday afternoon we had friends over for wood-fired pizza.  Almost every time we make pizza I bake bread in the oven afterward.  It seems a waste of good firewood and heat not to use it to its full potential.  I tried making a new bread, anadama bread, at a friend's suggestion.  It's a New England bread and it has a story to go along with the name, of a Rockport, Massachusetts man who was upset with his wife not only for leaving him, but also for leaving behind only a pot of cornmeal mush and some molasses.  The angry husband tossed the mush and molasses together with some yeast and flour and muttered, "Anna, damn 'er!"  It's really delicious though it didn't rise the way I had hoped.  I'm going to try it again because it's so good.  It's kind of chewy.  I like that.

This afternoon our oven has cooled down to 140 F, a good fruit drying temperature so I sliced some apples to dry.

You know how some days you just need a cinnamon bun?  Today was one of those days.  I didn't bake them in the brick oven but I did use the leftover pizza dough to make them and I put dried apples in half of them.  I also had some caramel glaze in our freezer from another recipe so I topped them with that.

I also made gouda cheese today but that won't be ready to eat for 3 months.  Some days I feel hungrier than others.  I feel a fat winter coming on.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I'm a slow learner

Every morning Luti is the first to be milked.  All the goats know it and no one fights for her place.  Things are a little chaotic trying to get everyone in their place and their food bowls filled but that's no excuse for me forgetting to lock the food stall after I'm done in there.  I mean, it's the same routine every morning.

As soon as Luti is done being milked I let her out of the stall and one of the others squeezes in for their turn.  My attention is turned toward them.  It doesn't take long till I realize my mistake.  I hear lots of crashing around 2 stalls down.  Luti has let herself into the food stall and is rooting around for some hay or fallen grain.  She can open the latch in a second.  Today I let her out of the milking stall and followed her with the camera.  Note the carabiner dangling there that isn't where it belongs.

All the noise in the background is Pessa screaming at the others because it was her turn to be milked and the others were in the stall with her because I forgot to close that door when I was following Luti getting my video.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Take me to the river. Dip me in the water.

Remember that song by the Talking Heads?  The words of the song really have nothing to do with what I'm going to blog about but it had river in the title so I thought I'd use it as a heading. 

This afternoon James and I sat out on the front porch to have lunch and I said, "I love this place".  He said he did too.  We made plans to rendezvous down by the river later this afternoon.  Ok, that sounds really romantic, doesn't it?  That's why I wrote it.  We did go down to the river with some chairs, magazines and the dogs.  Since it's a holiday weekend there were lots of canoeists and kayakers passing by.  We only stayed through one browsing of The Architectural Digest and it got pretty cool so we headed back home.  I love looking at the pictures in Architectural Digest and sometimes I think, gee, I'd like to live there, but really, I can't imagine it making me any happier than here.

Yesterday 2 friends and I went down to the river to hang out.  The weather was beautiful and the conversation?   Well, we were 3 middle aged women drinking wine, eating avocado, almonds and carrot cake.  Who cares what we were talking about.  The afternoon was perfect.

I don't know why we don't spend more time watching the blue herons, turtles and beavers.   The leaves are starting to fall and float atop the water.  We should be down there more often.  I should make a Labor Day resolution to spend at least 3 days a week on the riverbank.

I hope none of you are laboring on this labor day weekend.   James did just a little bit.  He cut some downed branches with the help of 3 turkeys.  They would bite the chainsaw bar and chain if you gave them the chance. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I've jinxed myself

My friend, Gail, lost another duck to a black snake.  I think this was the 3rd one.  I told her we don't see many snakes around here.  She told me she has never had a coyote or hawk problem, just like I had said a few weeks ago.  Gail, watch what you say.

Today I went out to the turkey/donkey barn and Soosie was clucking like she does when she lays an egg.  I went in to get her egg but found, instead, a black snake underneath the nest boxes.  Soosie was not happy about it and refused to leave the barn until the snake was gone.  I hope it was there eating mice and not my eggs.  I'll be sure to look first when reaching my hands into the nests now.

There were no turkeys or guineas in the barn, just me and Soosie.  I wonder what they would have done if they saw it.  Here's a video of Soosie telling it to leave.  I just previewed this post and it cuts off the side of the video where the snake is leaving the barn.  She never pecked it.  She just clucked and paced back and forth.

Don't anyone else tell me what kind of predator they have on their property.  It will probably appear here next.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The things people say

Today an unfamiliar car drove up our driveway.  I feel like I write this a lot but it seems to happen at least once or twice a week.  Today's visitors were a husband and wife who live a few miles from here.  They stopped to see the donkeys.  She got to give Shiloh some good scratches and Chy allowed her to pet her neck and face.  She told how she had been watching them and that James once told her she should stop by sometime.  She's the lady who draws his blood when he has his cholesterol checked.  They seemed like nice people and we talked donkeys and horses a little bit.  She grew up with horses "when horses weren't fancy, they were for transportation".  They stayed maybe 15 or 20 minutes and all the while Luti, one of my big goats, was rubbing her head all over their legs like she does to everyone.  As they were leaving the woman said, "the goats don't do anything for me.  Their eyes creep me out".  She said she doesn't like cats either and goats were kind of like cats to her.  Well, that was kind of a weird thing to say. 

That reminds me of an at-the-time friend who walked into our house, looked at a victorian chair we had and said, "I hate victorian furniture".  He's also the guy who criticized the way we lived and didn't know why we chose to live in poverty.  When he saw the house we live in now he said he'd visit us again when we had it fixed it up.  Note to self:  don't ever finish fixing this place up.

I guess we all do it, say things that should be kept to ourselves.  I notice the older I get the more I speak my mind.  I'm going to do my best to temper this as I age. 

A friend of mine has a brain tumor.  She worries her personality will change if her cancer progresses and she won't know it.  She asked me if I'd tell her if it did.  I said, no, of course I wouldn't.  What would it change?  When you think about it, what's the point of saying most negative things out loud?  Very rarely is it helpful or useful.

It's good for me to type this.  Maybe it will remind me to watch my mouth and be more thoughtful.