Thursday, April 28, 2016

Feed Sacks Recycled



When I was a child we sang a song with a line in it that says,  “Kindness begins with me”. I believe that a cleaner, better world begins with each of us. Government too often has ulterior motives in all that they do like in green energy. In the areas of being frugal and recycling I think we need to look to the past for ideas. We would be wise to look to the past for inspiration, “Less is more “Waste not, want not.”,” Use it up, wear it out, or do without.” are all sayings originating with our ancestors. Some of my inspiration comes from old homesteads. On them I see the most creative uses of items, such as an old rusty car made into a chicken coop. Now I am not advocating making a junk heap out of your yard but I think each of us could creatively recycle things in an artistically way.  The old rusty car chicken coop I saw was really cute. We have taken a much more serious look at the metal pile and others junk heap piles too. I spied just a pile the other day that a gentleman had stacked while cleaning up the mess from the previous owner of the property. I made arrangements to get together and go through the pile.
 







 
As our income ceases to stretch like it once did, we have tried to become far more frugal and think like our great grandparents. One of the things we have be trying to recycle is the plastic sacks that our livestock grain comes in. I have found the plastic more durable than the blue tarps you buy at the store. I had an entire winter’s stack of sacks to work with this month. I made tarps for our vegetable garden to cover crops this fall when winter threatens. A sewing machine, some thread, and patience with an eye that isn’t too worried about perfection creates some really useful items. Yes, the slick plastic slides like crazy under the feet of your sewing machine and a few not so nice words might slip out of your mouth when making the large tarps but it truly is worth it. I don’t sweat the crooked seams. I’m not going to fair to be judged on my sewing skills. Functionality is all that counts.
 
 Two winters ago with some of the plastic bags I made a covering for our rabbit hutch. The cages had to stay out in the weather and they were not really the best suited for it not having built in houses for the rabbits to get out of the weather.  I cut a few hard shell plastic containers to make do as houses and when it got really blowy and snowy, I slipped the feed sack cover over the top. It I used all the same kind of feed sacks just so it looked a little less wild colored. I inset some clear plastic for the front to let in light and the rabbits loved it. Now those cages and a few more are in the insulated chicken coop and the cover torn a little in the corners was sent to the dump. There was a twinge of remorse but six more months of use sure beats buy and throw away.
 
Others sacks became bags a few years ago. Oh how we love those totes. They hold some of my recycling such as tin cans, glass, and old magazines. A couple more I use to tote all kinds of things around in including empty glass canning jars to the barn’s loft. I have five and could use a few more. Our kids think they want some of their own. I would be glad to make some as gifts but they have started making boring covers on the livestock feed bags. I had really wanted some pretty sunflower seed bags with bright sunflowers on the front like they use to make but I have not seen any lately. Everyone is
cutting costs including feed companies. I will just have to keep my eyes out for some this summer and if the kids want bags they had better start looking too.   
 
I made slip covers for my knitting machine beds to keep them clean with a few sacks. I also intend on making some covers for some of our equipment to keep the dust off of them. The barn is really dusty.
 
 Right now I am in the process of making kite slip covers for each of our kites. Our grandkids dearly love to fly kites and the strings and tails are always getting intertwined with another kite not only in the air but especially when we store them. Since I don’t need as much plastic for the project, I am using the sacks our cat food comes in and a feed sack left over from the tarps for the garden.
Some feed sacks I stuff alfalfa hay in and set by the rabbit hutches. Alfalfa hay is a daily feed for them. I have a Rhode Island Red hen that just loves to lay her eggs in them. Be careful though as once she got stuck in it. When I found her she was soaking wet having sweated in the warm temperatures. Luckily she wasn’t dead.
 Not all feed sacks are made of plastic. A small amount of my feed comes in paper sacks. They are white on the outside and another brown  paper layer underneath. We tear them into pieces to use as fire starters. It would work great as paper for grocery lists, or wrapping paper for a gift especially if a bright red ribbon was added. One just needs to let their imagination run as I’m sure there are far more uses for those paper bags than what we had used them for.  
My next frontier in recycling is the plastic encasing the sawdust bedding I use in the goat shed and chicken coop. I’m wondering if I carefully cut them open instead of just tearing if they are the right size to use as slip covers over my cow panel tomato cages. If not, could I not sew a couple together and make them fit?
I think recycling is really about gratitude and respect. Grateful for what you have and respect for the people in the family who work hard to afford items that we enjoy. 
 

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

War on Coal


Five hours transplanting seedlings into larger pots, u…g! My garden is going to be ridiculously large this year.  We need the crops badly with our financial cut backs and increase in mouths to feed. Many of our family could use the boost too. Three of our family members work in a coal mine, an area that the present administration is attacking. Insane really since a large chunk of revenue goes to the national government. The one that is hurting for money. But what is more insane is that green energy is not green unless you are talking about the millions of dollars used to subsidies the process. Even with the large financial help, green energy is struggling. I see a large solar company in southern California is declaring bankruptcy.  Germany’s goal is to phase out green energy by 2019. Tasmania tried all green energy and now has diesel generated power plants. They have found out what anyone who has thought it through knows already.

 In Wyoming a large variety of energy is produced but no solar that I am aware of except on the personal level.  We do have quite a few wind turbines so we have observed what a joke they are. Wind power consumes more energy in the building stage and upkeep than it ever produces. Part of the minerals needed for electric cars and wind turbines comes from mining in China that creates major pollution. Destroy the environment there is okay because it is not here? I think not. In my personal label green it must include the following; the productions of the materials needed to build the item must not contribute greatly to pollution, the operation of the item must cause little damage to the environment, and the disposing of the item must not hurt the environment. In that area nuclear fails big time.  Finally it has to be economically sound. Wind power fails on all four accounts.

 “A study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency estimated that 10,000 birds – almost all that are protected by the migratory bird act – are being killed every year at the wind farm in Altamont Pass, Calif “ That is only one wind farm. If an oil spill killed as many birds, people would be protesting and screaming about it, hypocrite to say the least.

Maybe a few people were truly interested in energy that was more in harmony of the environment but the truth is that green energy is all about money.  With so many undisputed facts I have wondered who was profiting. There are those that create disasters in order to initiate laws that give more power over the people and there are those that profit financially. Looks to me like both are at work here. The people will scream pretty loud when the lights go out and our daughter said California is predicted to have 14 days of just such a thing this summer.

It is a common tactic used to divert the people’s attention away from the true motive. We know Obama is in the middle of this fake green energy push. The money behind it has come in part from George Sorros who started a green energy advocacy center in California.  The same man who pushed green energy so hard is spending millions buying up cheap coal stocks. Warren Buffet and Tom Steyer are in the same category.  You can’t tell me that these men all at once woke up and found out that green energy is not green or that it is not economically feasible. No, these men purposely drove Arch Coal and Peabody Coal along with other companies into bankruptcy so they could take control and profit. 
Did not read the article but the news headline said something about green energy was in default of 2.2billion just this year or maybe it was last year. Obama proposes lowering salaries of our military personal instead. Many of the families are already on food stamps that is really going to help besides slapping them in the face for their service and sacrifices.  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

My Tomato Plant Experiment Just Became Bigger


 
I went to see our oldest daughter. Unbeknownst, I seem to have included her into one of my experiments. One of my tomatoes grown from seed needed a home. Our oldest grows a few vegetables in pots wherever she happens to be renting. This time she has a lovely enclosed back porch that has two big windows flooding the place with warm sunlight. Her lemon tree is there and I figured it needed a companion.
That tomato plant has grown like crazy. I swear the thing has doubled in size in one week and not just up but out. She thinks she can actually tell a difference each day. It is gorgeous. I was feeling rather guilty as none of mine look that good or big. Then reality set in. There is no way I have room for pots that large let alone eleven of them for just the tomatoes. A closer inspection of the lush plant revealed that it had only three blossom clusters in the earliest stage of development. Is all the energy going toward the plant and not fruit? When I gave it to her it was one of the smaller tomato plants. Question - will the larger, healthier plant of our daughter's produce more fruit in its lifetime compared to my own smaller plants? Even if it does, I do not have room for such a large pot let alone eleven such pots. I have a few round pots and I think I will try and use a few on the porch but round does not fit in as small a space as square or oblong. With trying to grow plants in the house to eat and a number of plants started for the outdoor garden space is a big problem. It is why I do not recycle pots such as cottage cheese containers and vegetable cans.

 

With her inspiration I took three tomato plants started from seed in a big pot and set it in front of the side window by the front door.  I put them wa....y down in the pot to bury more of the stem so as to grow more roots and give the plant more support. The tomato plants from seed get tall and bend over especially when loaded with fruit. To only allow it to grow more roots but give them more support. The plants are suppose to get only 12 inches tall but mine from seed are more like 20 inches or they were last year. Right now we are at 15 inches.


The plant on the left is smaller I  allowed the blossoms to develop earlier than the plant on the right. At this stage the plant on the left has more tomatoes. Will the one on the left end up producing more tomatoes or the larger plant on the right? I definitely won't have a problem with the plant on the left breaking because it is too tall. Right now it has over 40 blossoms or tomatoes on it. Some on the window side are turning red. Not bad when you think I started this plant the beginning of January. Definitely faster than tomato plants grown and set outdoors. The cloned tomatoes having a few more blossom clusters per plant than the tomatoes started from seed.

 
So really I have three experiments going now. Cloned versus started from seed, allowing blossoms to form earlier or later, and small pots versus large. I may end up deciding that a combination is best . That way the develop of tomatoes will be extended over a longer period of time.
 
Part of this experiment is how many tomato plants it will take to keep us supplied with tomatoes. Not sure it can be accomplished as how can one get enough of summertime fresh flavored tomatoes? 

 This is this years experiment but next year it might be too cold a winter to grow the tomatoes in the window and they will have to go under grow lights. Then I will switch to cold hardy lettuces in the pots in the windows. I started removing more BIG rocks from the front flower bed. It was truly a ROCK garden. Not much room for much else to grow. In will go a long box to transform into a cold frame. It was a box a heavy piece of equipment came in. I'm always looking around to recycle. One of those recycle projects is bent T-posts that will be changed and used in the garden. Another one is using feed sacks to make tarps for the garden. Things are truly a hopping.

 

 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Good Thing We Live in the Country



Last week we had a delightful surprise.  You would have thought we had won a new car so excited were we. We're strange, I know but when I heard peeping coming from under the stairs in the barn, I dashed to the house and drag my husband out to see. It was bed time and I was tucking in the animals for the night while my work weary man was just crawling into bed.  In his coat, snow boots, and underwear he headed out to the barn to see. " It was dark after all and as our 7 year old grand daughter says when she is excusing her lack of clothes, "We live in a field.". A shirt and underwear being her favorite attire.

This wasn't the only time this week I had him out in his underwear either. Just a few night later, I had had a dream about coyotes coming into the yard and I woke worried about our hen with her helpless chicks. She was locked safely in the barn but emotions have no logic. I rolled on to my back and looked out at the picturesque view of the foothills of the Big Horn mountains. There was a hazy form trotting up out of the field. It went directly to the deck next to my bedroom's sliding glass doors. Guilt flooded my mind as the insane thought flashed through my mind. 'Had I summoned coyotes  with my dream?' I watched the blurry form moving along the deck sniffing, in search of a meal. I ran into my husband's room and bending near his slumbering form, whisper urgently into his ear, so as to not wake the sleeping grand children in the bedroom next door, "A coyote is in our yard!" He leaped to a sitting position, threw back the covers, and ran, snatching up a rifle on his way out the door.

In the just waking light, I hurried back to my room to feel for my prescription glasses on the dresser top and slip on shoes in order to join my husband outside. I met him in the garage, his white underwear blazing in the dim light. A smirk crossed his face. "Its a fox dear and he was just scouting around under the decks looking for one of the cotton tail rabbits that roams around the yard.

Embarrassed at not being able to tell a fox from a coyote in dim light, without my glasses on, I stuttered in defense, "Maybe he wasn't a coyote but I still don't like him brazenly sauntering up right next to the house to look for his next meal." My husband had to agree.

He assured me that he had not seen the fox near the coops and all was well. Sleep chased firmly from his mind, he went back in his room to dress.

Yesterday, he texted me from a welding competition he is judging asking about baby bunnies. "Nope, none yet."
Don't babies smell good?" he replied.
"I think human babies smell the best." I typed back. We are the strangest couple.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Demise of Rainbow Dash


When Rainbow Dash was a handsome young lad.
 
Feeling much better but whoa, what a tough month. I spent my fair share of days flat down in bed, a position that is very rare for me. If I don't feel well I at least sew or do bookwork or something. Nope, I was even taking naps. Papa takes naps at a drop of a hat but I avoid them because it often means I end up staring at the ceiling when it is bedtime. The bronchial flu that just kept boomeranging back again was made worse by a delayed shipment of my hormone medications. The most important in this instance was my DHEA's, which boost the immune system. The hormones are finally built back up in my body and I am running to try and catch up.
 
I have not been a complete slacker as I have done some painting in the house and helped hubby build a unique and awesome barn wood arch for between the living room and kitchen. We also made a custom curtain rod for the long expanse of windows in the living room. When I catch up on my present projects and cleaning, I'll show them to you.
 
Last night I spent two hours planting seeds in pots for our outdoor garden. They are in the sun room under grow lights and I'll soon share the latest on the tomato experiment. Right now I'm waiting up once more on another batch of chicken and broth I'm canning to later make into chicken noodle soup. 
 
Our rooster, Rainbow Dash was suppose to be included in the canning but he was just as miserable dead as alive. Our youngest grand daughter, unbeknownst to me, was chasing him when she went outside. Hence, when our back was turned he began chasing us. Him and I went the rounds. I have never been able to persuade a rooster once he starts attacking to never do it again. I wasn't afraid of a little ole rooster and he felt my boot when he flogged me with his wings. I also tried my best to grab ahold of his neck when he attacked but he would just stay outside my arm's length. He was more like an irritating flea and didn't really bother me but every time our youngest grand child called or showed up the first thing out of her mouth was, "Did you kill Rainbow Dash, Grandma." 
I would have to reply, "No."
"Well Grandma, step on his head. Step on his head.", she would advice me, like it took nothing more than that to take care of the problem. True, it didn't take much more than a step and pull for the  neighbor's 12 - old laying hens we killed the end of last summer. The kids thought it was the most hilarious thing and squealed with laughter. You have to witness it to understand but it can be comical. You know the saying, " Run around like a chicken with its head cut off." Well, they don't really run but flopped about drunkenly every which way. Often a funny squawk emits from air being force out of their lungs as they land on one side and then the other. Their brain is dead but their nerves take a little while to catch up. Not that every chicken does this. Most just lay down dead, which is why I prefer this method of killing chickens, besides it is very quick.  
 
When we brought the chickens indoors a show and tell anatomy lesson began as the kids explored while I dissected. How does a chicken digest its food? They have a craw not a stomach. Every egg a chicken will lay is already inside her just as it is with a woman. They got to see the tiny egg yolks and a soft shell egg nearly fully developed. Our tender hearted 9 year old, with a sparkle in her eye but a yuck look on her face, commented, " Its kind of gruesome but fascinating too."
 
With no time to can, in the freezer went the hens until now. Fried chicken isn't happening with an older laying hen as the meat is tough. Pressure canning or cooking long and slow works but I always can them for long winter nights when the last thing I want to do is stay outside killing a chicken for supper. I 've done it in my youth but now that I'm boss I prefer to do the task in summer.
 
Step on his head wasn't happening as Rainbow Dash had a really big neck. It took an ax and he was just as miserable in death as in life. After spraying me in red from my face down, which does not happen, I found that his skin was fastened like glue to his muscles. It generally takes me 7 minutes to process a chicken to where they are ready for the freezer but I was tugging on this, not yet a year old bird, for dear life trying to persuade his skin to separate from the muscle for well, well, over 7 minutes. My muscles aching just after skinning one bird, I still had a pile of pin feathers attached to the meat. The chickens I usually raise do not have pin feathers firmly stuck in the meat. This new kind of breed, Asian Blues, was not winning a popularity contest with me. Yes, I could of used a torch and burned the little feathers but when I tried to cut into his meat, the razor sharp knife skidded off and penetrated my hide instead slicing my finger deeply. I try to be frugal and all but enough is enough and that sorry beggar went into the garbage instead of being included with the hens I'm processing now.
 
That night was parent teacher conference for the older three kids. After having told her Aunt, in great detail and I might add relish, all about the demise of Rainbow Dash, I just knew our 3 year old was going to tell the teachers too.  She was so.... excited. I could just imagine their eyes growing large in horror of this terrible grandmother who subjects her innocent grand children to the horrors of farm life. To my amazement and huge relief, she did not utter a peep. 
 
 







Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Chciken Glasses

 I saw these glasses about a year ago pop up on the internet. Don't remember what I was researching at the time but I could not believe they actually made glasses for chickens. I would suppose there is such things as near and far sighted chickens but to actually test a chicken and put glasses on them seemed ludicrous to say the least. There just had to be something more to it so I researched.

Those of you with chickens know they can be cannibalistic. I have had a few die not from their injury but from the rest of the flock pecking at them until there is a large hole that causes the chicken to go into shock and die. Therefore, I sometimes remove the injured chicken from the coop until they heal and other times depending on the wound, I have used hot sauce to great success. I just pour a heavy dose of a homemade concoction of hot peppers on the bloody spot and sit back and watch. Yes, the stuff is uncomfortable for the chicken but not half as uncomfortable as having a flock go after them pecking at a very sore spot. 

The hen who peck at the blood colored wound  shake and shake their head, then rubs their beak in the dirt trying to remove the offensive liquid. They do not peck again unless they are really stupid. I usually keep applying the hot tasting liquid until the wound has sufficiently healed and I see that the other hens are leaving them alone.

If there is one hen in particular that has a habit of picking on the other hens then she gets the tip of her beak clipped with my goat, hoof clippers. Or she ends up in the stew pot depending on how ornery she is.

The glass's lens changed the color of the blood therefore removing the urge. The hens could still see their food and so all was well.
You can no longer buy the glasses with lenses. I wish I had pair of those. They are just too cool! I guess they were once quite common and used especially when raising large flocks. Crowd chickens and give them free choice of food  so they have little to occupy them and the chickens will grow bored and find someone to pick on. Some breeds of chickens are more susceptible to this habit than others. Of course it is the more nervous breeds as the laid back ones just don't care enough to put forth the effort.
 
You can  still buy blinders which forces the chickens to look down in order to see. Of course that is where the food is so they get along fine. But then where is the entertainment in that? We love watching the chickens darting after a flying bug. It can be hilarious. Or watching one chase a Robin. Ours don't go after any of the other birds but that red is so.... alluring.
 
Wondering how the glasses stay on. They fasten in the vents on the chicken's beak. Wouldn't it be a hoot to see a flock of chickens running around with glasses on. I sometimes think I was just born too late.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

New Lessons Learned About Yogurt and Buttermilk

A little reminder, using a dry erase marker on your glass jars helps you remember the date the milk was taken. This way I know which milk to use first and which to give to the chickens. The oldest of course. Feeding milk to the chickens saves financially as I do not have to buy as much oyster shell to increase their calcium levels. Egg shells are mainly calcium and we like hard egg shells. If I have an abundance of old milk then the garden gets fertilized with it.

I also label my buttermilk cultures and yogurt with the date cultured since they are in glass jars. When you do something like this week after week the brain gets muddled or mine does as to the exact day you did it last. Of course if you had a nice calm life you could do it on the same day of the week. What would that be like? 

Yogurt and buttermilk I've done quite well keeping going. Not perfect but pretty good. In doing so I have learned heaps. My yogurt quality has increased. One gal asked me when I first blogged about it if our goat yogurt turned out slimy like hers. She had quit making it. Ours was indeed a bit slimy but I've learned the solution to that problem and it wasn't through research. It was experimentation and time. I have learned that you need to warm your milk very slowly. I put my electric stove, I wish I had gas, on 2 and the milk takes nearly an hour to come up to the 180 F it has to reach. The length of time it takes depends on how much milk you are heating at one time. Then I either cool the milk quickly or slowly according to whatever is happening around here at the moment and when it reaches the proper temp, I add the culture.

I usually make yogurt and buttermilk at the same time, something new from the first blog post on the subject.  One pot holds all the milk. I pour a quart worth of the heated milk into a sterilized quart jar to cool as the buttermilk needs to be 85. The rest of the milk I let cool in the pan to 115 before adding the yogurt culture, mixing it in, and putting it in the yogurt maker jars.

The buttermilk jar when cooled to temp., I wrap with an old heating pad that does not have an automatic turn off switch. Mine is set on medium. I can do two quarts if I plan on making lots of recipes that week with buttermilk. My family LOVES homemade buttermilk pancakes and biscuits.

The texture of the goat yogurt done this way is smooth and creamy. Time spent culturing varies with the particular milk I'm using. This varies as to the period of time we are in the goat's lactation as the cream level changes. And what the goat's diet is also makes a difference. Right now they are getting orchard grass hay but later it will be a orchard grass alfalfa mix for later in their pregnancy.

 Sometimes it takes longer to reach the desired thickness and sometimes shorter. Keep in mind that store yogurt has gelatin or powdered milk to thicken it but I can do it pretty well with fiddling with incubation times. Greek yogurt is thicker because of the additives or some strain the liquids off of the yogurt to desired thickness.  Right now the cream level is really high at about 1/3, which seems to equate to a thicker yogurt. I sometimes make yogurt with milk that has run through the separator and then the cream runs through again once more which gives a heavy cream.  The lighter cream run off is then mixed back into the milk. 

Did you know that 2 percent milk sold in the USA is only one and a half percent less fat than whole milk? Yes, it was a great sell campaign that made it popular - not the facts. Buy whole milk and add water if you want 2 percent. You are just buying more water with 2 percent anyway. Better yet get a milk goat. 

I can use yogurt instead of buttermilk in many of my recipes and often do. Depends on how many fruit smoothies or buttermilk pancakes were made whether I have more buttermilk or yogurt in the refrigerator.

The other thing I have not done is to freeze buttermilk and yogurt. The learning just never ends. This is handy when the goats are dry as you just freeze milk and then culture once a month to keep things in reserve. Or better yet if you have the freezer room you just keep thawing milk and culturing.

The other thing I want to try is on this site where you use a powdered milk to mix with a culture and it keeps for a year in the freezer. This is often used to ensure a pure culture. http://www.leeners.com/yogurt/how-to/yogurt-culture.shtml
Things to learn just never ends. The problem comes in on how to keep everything going not just trying it once.