Winter Continues

Winter Continues

Friday, April 18, 2014

Oh the joys of moving. The weather is not cooperating, and Murphy is hard at work. He is currently working on the internet, which is down, and I am looking for a possible new provider. So I can't promise when the next post will go up, but I will be back as soon as possible.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


We have renters. Two adorable couples expecting little ones in a little over a month I'd guess. I had wanted to fix the two houses up a bit before they came but I didn't have an arrival date and well, with the move and everything it didn't get done.

Actually I wasn't sure anyone was coming at all. We had wanted to move the one house out of our prime view and shift it over to the south side of the house but it was too late. The first couple checked out the accommodations Saturday and with a quick glance they moved right in and began fixing the inside up to their satisfaction. The second couple arrived today and they too set to moving in right away. I wonder if they come back year after year? I've heard of such summer renters. We won't know because they don't speak English and we don't speak Mountain Bluebird.

It has been so much fun watching them. The female is always the first to enter the house and after a few moments sitting on the post the male goes to the door and sticks his head in. I can just hear the lecture, " Now wipe your feet and don't mess up the sticks I just set there. They are exactly where I want them." Then he enters and in the mornings they come in and out a bit but by mid morning they settle in for the day and we don't see much of them again. I've read this is part of their mating ritual.

I've set out a snack. I wonder if they like sunflower seeds and wheat? It is all I have as a house warming gift. As I said before, I just wasn't ready for company. We don't even have our bird feeder and pole here yet. There are some Juncos that come to a certain tree in the backyard. No idea what kind it is but it seems to be their favorite. I set the feed in a pan at the bottom of it on our back deck which is near the bird houses. Not sure if the deer or the birds will eat it first.

On another note, Kirk and I have finished cutting up the yaks. Oh what a chore. We decided since our meat equipment wasn't set up we would just do them like we would an elk or deer. That way we just needed the grinder with the cuber attachment. My was it a chore. Oh I said that once but it was because though we probably got as much meat as we would have on a beef it was a whole lot more work. There was four shoulders to cut meat away from the bone, two sets of ribs cages to take meat off between the bones, and four hind quarters. Not to mention the loins. We had loin sandwiches as we cut to see what kind of meat we would be eating for a long while. They were so tender and good. Then for supper we had brisket. I laid it flat and sprinkled on dried onion tops, (remember the ones that never reached maturity and I dried?) a generous shake of dried garlic, and then a nice amount of bacon ends. Then I rolled it up in a jelly roll style and sprinkled bouillon and cut onions on top throwing in the rest of the bacon, plus added some water. When it was done I made gravy from the pan drippings. With a baked potato and a green salad we had quite a meal without much energy exerted on the project. Yes, indeed those girls taste good.

A friend of Kirks has a wife that tends bar and she over heard some ranchers say they expected hamburger to be eight dollars a pound next year. Wonder if the US will start importing more beef to offset the shortage? I've also heard of groups who are trying to make it so meat is very expensive in order to force people to start eating less of it. I resent that. All meat is not made alike. Besides who has the right to dictate another's diet when the individual is paying for it. If they are an idiot then they should suffer the consequences. The other thing we Americans aren't suppose to have to suffer from. It is always someone else's fault. Someone else should bale us out because we exist. Well I'm hear to tell you that I raise as much of what we eat as possible because I want those consequences of my actions.  I'm healthier than I've been in in years and growing healthier all the time. Yes, I do have relatives who have chosen to destroy their health and the government is baling them out. I'm not even going to go there because it makes me really cranky.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Meaty Discussion

 I've heard of countries where you can't afford to buy meat very often. If it is not the fault of conspiring men who manipulate the market I say hurray! The market will right itself in time or people who want to feed themselves will begin working on that project. No, they won't likely be raising beef on a corner lot of town but there are so many other ways each of us can help.  Many of you have seen the pictures of this circulating on facebook in I believe it is Switzerland where the people put their entire yard into gardens and work with their neighbors to each raise something different to exchange? In many communities in the US there are community garden where you can have a small plot of land to grow food. That could be expanded and accommodate the apartment dwellers in part. If you look at the ratio of 2 percent of our population feeds the other 98 percent you see a huge misunderstanding developing. A huge problem is something goes wrong with the 2 percent.

One of those misunderstandings I've overheard in line of Bountiful Basket where people complain the crops are too little, too big, too something or other. Bountiful Baskets is a great place for farmers to sell the crops that don't quite fit the cookie cutter look that customers demand in grocery stores. The farmer would love it if his crops turned out practically perfect in every way, every year. Too many variables go into farming and it just isn't realistic. Our bread basket in California is suffering from weather and I see the prices reflected in the grocery store. Most don't even know what they grow there.

The drought and severe weather in the US has dropped the beef numbers 1/4.  Kirk's brother said he knows of a ranch that had to cut their cattle herd to half. Now they only have 1200 cows. It will take some time to get those numbers back up since a cow doesn't give birth until they are two and then if they have a heifer calf  it might be the next year before a calf goes to market from that cow. The heifer will be two more years before they have a calf and it might be a bull calf for the feed lot or a heifer to be kept if the quality is right. Our beef numbers aren't going to come back quickly even if the weather makes it possible to increase numbers. A choice might be made to allow a vast number of imports. That has happened before but does that serve the rancher and farmer best. I question that because when they need a cash influx the most to get back on their feet the price stays low and they have to build more slowly. The government might supplement the costs but do they really have that right to interfere with the market? If they do then they have the right to interfere in all aspects for what ever reason.

Others say that we should force prices to be high and force the population to eat more meat. I say stay out of my kitchen. Stay out of my market. History has shown the government does more harm than good in the long run when they interfere. If a person wants to destroy their health upping the price of meat isn't going to stop them. You can't force healthy choices. You can't dictate to others without becoming a dictator.

 As for the piglet problem, I haven't seen how that disease is doing but it isn't something new, it just is cycling once again. If it doesn't profit a farmer or rancher to do something he isn't likely to do it. That is the bottom line and when there are so few doing it then the entire population is drastically effected. We have made our food supply very precarious by our shear laziness on the majority of the population. People have land but don't do anything with it. I'm speaking of course of the majority of our general population, not as individuals. The dominoes are stacked people and they are beginning to tumble. Prices in the grocery store are on the rise and shortages will happen. People who watch societies and the cycle know what is coming.

Bees are another example as they wouldn't be at such a risk if more people kept bees. It is the huge commercial operations that have created many of the problems and tipped the balance of nature and that can be said of all industries. WE as a people chose this. WE are simply put - LAZY. That might mean that you choose to not grow anything for yourself though you could put in a few pots on the deck if nothing else was available to you. You could grow in a sunny window under a grow light but people won't. They have a yard and choose grass only.

 I want to snap when I hear people complain about the price and quality of products as if someone waves a wand and presto. We want better products for a cheaper price. Be real. I bought a fruit box of lemons this past week and we have been drinking lemonade like crazy for the natural vitamin C. We also take vitamin C supplements. We are stressing our bodies big time right now and we can't expect them to keep going on nothing. The box of lemons is hardly grocery store quality. Some are little some have thick skins, some thin but the price reflected less than perfect and so when they arrived I got exactly what I expected imperfections yum, yum.

We expect to walk - oh wait a minute, no one walks - to the store and have our every need fulfilled. Their is no appreciation, no understanding, no gratitude. We expect to eat junk food and feel good. With no understanding and no gratitude this world is falling apart.

 At general conference this past weekend President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke about gratitude. He said "We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?
How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life. Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.16"\

Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.Here is the entire speech. 

If a thankful heart is the parent of all virtues then I'd say we have a very ungrateful society. I've tried especially hard this past year to say thank you to my Heavenly Father. Anytime during the day I see something to be grateful for I out loud say thank you Lord. I don't want to forget, which I would if I waited until I said my prayers. I think this is what is in part meant when the scriptures say we should keep a prayer in our heart. It really helps to keep me moving forward and recognizing the blessings showered upon us each day for at times we feel majorly challenged. I have only shared with you only a part of the trials but I agree with Dieter F. Uchtdorf, I don't believe our Heavenly Father expects us to be any less grateful during our trials than during the times of ease.

Kirk and I have grown closer as we have had to yoke together to over come problems. We laugh lots. It is a stress reliever. Like yesterday when I told him I had a dream the night before about Tom Selleck and that I met him at a social and he came home with me to meet the grand kids. Kirk didn't happen to be there for some reason. He laughed and said he wasn't so surprised that I met Tom and he came home as that I was at a social. Oh how I love that dear man of mine.

We will be very grateful for our efforts the past couple years to put meat in the freezer especially if indeed the eight dollar a pound hamburger comes to pass. We will see that indeed the Lord was watching over us and though we at the time have not seen why at this extremely busy time he has chosen to put us in a position to put more meat in the freezer, I can't complain. He knows the future, he knows the reason though I do not.

Hamburger grinding had to wait until this morning because it wasn't cold enough and gummed up the grinder last night. Kirk was here to help for a time before going to bed - blessing. This morning the fat still gummed it up so I guess I'm rendering fat to make soap. More blessings I (this reminds me of Fiddler On The Roof) at this busy time. I think though I'll throw the fat into the freezer for a blessing for another day. Right now I have sewing and taxes to work on. No, I don't have taxes done. I started back in January and things kept interrupting the progression. Now I'm at the wire. I also am wa....y behind on sewing. We need to finish moving. Deadlines for that are fastly approaching.  Oh how will we ever have the energy and time to get it all done? Especially since bad weather is forecasted for when Kirk is off next and we could make a load. Kirk and I just keep saying, "With the Lord, all things are possible." He has proved to us in days that are past and so we will put our faith in him for the future.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mindy and Mortimer


Mindy and Mortimer sitting on the grass, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage! Where oh where does my mind go? For some reason that childhood chant popped into my brain when I saw Mindy and her boyfriend on the grass this morning. Mortimer is a new addition as we've only previously had Mindy but the Robins are here, bluebirds were here yesterday and the geese are flying north. The birds are promising it is spring, the calendar says it is spring, the weather says otherwise. But obviously the animals are starting without the weather and obviously Mindy sent signals that brought Mortimer to our little corner of the world.

I'm sure they are thoroughly twitter pated. Oh come on, haven't you seen Bambi, the Disney movie? If not twitter pated then it is lust pure and simple but anyway no matter the cause you know the results, lots of baby rabbits. PROBLEM!!! Mindy lives under the garden shed. You know what happened to little Peter's dad when he went into Mr. McGreggor's garden in Beautrix Potter's books? Mrs. Rexroat's garden will likely be the same. I don't care what the last owner's wife said. I can't believe that Mindy did not eat anything out of their garden unless they didn't grow anything she likes. Mine being twice the size of theirs I'm sure she will like the selection. Too bad because I have grown kind of fond of her hopping around our yard morning and night. She is our only rabbit. Come summer we may have a conflict of interest with her and her offspring.

Some of you smarties are probably wondering how in the world did I know Mindy was a she. I didn't. The rabbit looked kind of feminine like and so the fluffy fur ball became Mindy. How do I still know it is a girl? Mortimer I'm sure is making the rounds like any good ole Casanova. We had a black Tom back at the old place that did the same thing. Only saw him when the Queens came into heat. What's a Queen? It is a female cat of breeding age.

For your information a female rabbit is called a doe or sometimes a jill. A boy is a buck and a baby rabbit a kit. How the scientist come up with that is beyond me because a doe and a buck is what a goat is called and rabbits are nothing like a goat. Does anyone know what the formula is or does a scientist name them kind of like I named Mindy, by a whim?

 Update: Mortimer has left. It was a one night stand as I feared. Poor Mindy is once again alone - for the time being that is because I think a baby carriage will soon be arriving.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Manure, it is not created equal.

My cousin and I had a discussion about manure and gardening. Shall we say a difference of opinion occurred. He said basically that I was doing it wrong but who can argue with results? In the soil we were struggling with at the old house the plants grew far better than any other garden in the area according to my observations, the neighbors, and the UPS man who runs all over the countryside?

My cousin said he has been gardening for five years and I for close to 40 and I'm sure we both could learn from each other. He gardens in a different environment than I did in the other house though I have gardened in this area I now live when we were first married. Yet my specific gardening spot I have not gardened in and it will have unique needs. I also gardened as a teenager on the other side of the mountain from where we presently live besides doing some work in the farmer's fields.

 Basically methods my cousin uses could be vary helpful or would not necessarily work for me in our past garden. I've seen methods that work for one person and not for another in the exact same garden. We don't argue when a customer says a big knife is best for skinning and another says a little one is. They are both getting the same results but one knife doesn't work for one and a little for the other. We are all different and can make different things work for us. There are some standard rules such as too much salt is not good. But one gardener has a method of leaching those salts out and it works for him where the other gardener doesn't get enough salt leached out and the same manure does not work for him.

 There are some things my cousin said like the only manure you should use on a garden is horse that I can't find any statistics on to substantiate. He said it is because it is lower in salt but the science studies state clearly otherwise. Diet of the animal is the key to salt content according to research. Yes, cattle do have higher salt levels but only in commercial settings where a higher salt content is in their diet. I'm guessing it was someone's experience and opinion that he is basing his information on because horse manure varies tremendously just like any other manure so you have to know the diet of the animals to which you are getting the manure from. If the grass or hay they were fed is high in salt then the manure is high. If they were grained or how much they were grained and it was high in salt then you have a high salt content. Or if simply the animal was supplemented heavily with salt then you have a problem but salt itself is not bad. Soil needs salt to properly function just not too much salt. 

My cousin was emphatic about using only composted horse manure with no bedding and really poo pood using wood shaving from pine or straw but the research says otherwise. In fact that bedding is key to boosting the nutrient factor in manure. How much pine is used is the key for we are trying to create a balance using materials available in our area. We had absolutely no wood in our past area that was not pine. In this area we have more options. Keep in mind it is the urine that has 50 to 60 percent of the nitrogen and potassium. Yes, the straw and wood shavings does tie up the nitrogen for a time and that is why it is a PART of what you put into the garden. In and by itself it will not create a balance but just a piece of the whole. Let's call it a food storage program. You try to put into play nutrients for this year and those that the good guys in the soil are processing for next year.

Yes, your manure should be aged at least 6 to 10 weeks and applied in the fall not spring. I used manure a bit older for spring applications than that I would use in the fall. I would put manure/straw or wood shavings from the goat shed in the paths versus the beds if it was fresher. My paths are not permanent and become next years garden bed. The experts say that goat manure can be raked from the pen routinely and put right on the garden without composting. Those dingle berries are not the same as cow or horse poop. Dingle berries also do not have a tendency to draw flies or host maggots. Goats process their food far better than a cow or a horse so that changes the manure.

The older the manure the less fertilizer it has in it. If manure was composted under high temps then it has little fertilizer quality. The bags of manure from the store are heated at high temps to kill weed seeds and it also removes the fertilizer quality of it. It also concentrates the salts too and high salt levels are a no, no in a garden. They said to be especially aware that Colorado bagged manure is very high in salt content.

If you need an amender then you are using manure as a amender and if you need a fertilizer then you are using it as a fertilizer. People for centuries have use manure as a fertilizer. It was shipped to farmers on boats because it was the only fertilizer to be had besides blood and bone and a few other things that comes in smaller quantities. It is where the word shit came from. S.H.I.T. which stands for ship high in transit that was stamped on the shipping manifesto. Manure burns very well and smells so it was in the upper decks of a ship.

I believe a garden should be looked at as a evolving process where you are working to improve things years into the future. A few years back I attended a holistic ranching lecture. It was amazing the difference in the pastures but the process of transforming a ranch to holistic took years and years. I saw the change in the Buffalo ranch that was near our old home. They had species of plants that were once native that they had not introduced but years later after beginning the process had suddenly appeared because the environment was right.

I believe that gardening is a process where you create an environment where the micro-organisms flourish and you are assisting the earth to form a rich habitat. It is why I can't wait to add green manure and chickens to the equation since now I will have more gardening room. It was proven in holistic ranching that ground that is not grazed will become desolate in comparison within ten years. The disturbing of the soil and manure deposits are critical to its health.

As for the e-coli question he poised, yes it is a risk factor but there studies have also been done. It comes down to the diet of the animals in which you are obtaining the manure from. If the animals were sick, the manure will be sick. Also if the animals were fed a corn diet then their digestive systems will be acidic. Acidic digestive environments are rich grounds for disease. That is why commercial operations are at higher risks for e-coli. They feed too much corn which is not something cattle or horses or any other animal should have high levels of.

So what is the best manure? Manure from animals in which were fed a natural diet. Manure from healthy animals. Manure that has the bedding mixed in with it.

One more factor. Manure that has been rained on excessively or wetted down too much will have the nutrients washed away. It is why sand is a problem as a garden soil. A certain amount of leaching is good though since it washes away excessive salts. Balance is the key.

Chicken manure is great except if too fresh it is especially high in ammonia and that burns plants. Laying hen manure can also raise the pH of soil due to the calcium supplements but it is great on tomato plants that need lots of calcium. Too much bad. Too little bad. Used on the wrong plants bad. Used on the right plants good. A simple answer of chicken manure is bad doesn't do it of cow manure is high in salt doesn't do it. The answers are far more complex.

The following site was great for charts and information.
"The nitrogen in manure is not all available to growing plants the first year as much of it may be tied up in organic forms.  Organic nitrogen becomes available to plants when soil microorganisms decompose organic compounds, such as proteins, and then convert the released N to NH4.  This process, known as mineralization, occurs over a period of years.  [TManure contains small amounts of plant nutrients and micronutrients.  The nutrient composition of farm manure varies widely depending on bedding material, moisture content, exposure, and aging, even for the same species of animal.  Where manure is routinely added, garden soils will likely have adequate phosphorus and potassium.  Manure is a great source of micronutrients like zinc.  The table below gives approximate amounts of nitrogen, phosphate, and 2]"
Research shows that cattle fed a corn diet have a greater risk of shedding E-coli because corn is not a natural food for cattle changing the environment in the rumen to less acidic. e-coli is sensitive to acidic environments. We know that our bodies too become diseased when they switch from a acidic to a alkaline.

Feedlot manure is often high in salts if a salt additive is used in the livestock diet.
 Salts can be concentrated during composting as moisture is lost and volume is reduced.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sad Day!

Sad day on the country lane. The two yaks are now hanging in the barn and not standing in the pen outside it. They committed a capitol crime as far as our time and budget would allow. They jumped two barbwire fences and were two pastures away at the very far end of the second. The pastures are two hundred acres apiece. We could barely make out two brown blobs with a larger blog of animals off to the left. We assumed the larger blob was horses. The sun was not far above the mountains in the west and it would not belong before dark. It was then 6:30 and I had gone out to do chores. We had in mind of building two small pastures and we could now see the girls would not put up with any kind of mini operation with bigger and better things next door. The girls had tasted freedom and once a yak learns to jump fence, they like a cow, will jump fence for ever more.

We saw no other option and took it as a sign from the Lord that we were to get out of the yak business. If you think about it, a yak has lots of hair so an electric fence isn't going to work. A yak is built like a tank to move snow and if they want to go through a fence, they will plow their way. In reality a fence is really just a suggestion. Much like the tall fences at the buffalo ranch next to where we use to live were. We were not going to fool ourselves into believing that we could afford to buy fencing that would keep the girls in nor had the time to build that kind of fence that would be in the end a suggestion.

When we told our daughters they were upset. With their big brown sweet eyes and  throaty grunts that greet us when we come to feed, it wasn't easy to say goodbye to the yaks. But that is the difference between pet owners and livestock owners. A goat appraisal judge told us we had to be hard hearted or we weren't going to get anywhere in our breeding program. This is no different. The yaks are a luxury, not a need like the dairy goats or the chickens. We didn't have the luxury of trying to keep them for a period of time in order to sell them when we couldn't keep them in and we wouldn't be around part of the time. With beef prices high and going to remain high for sometime, it makes sense to put meat in the freezer while we have it.

Headaches we don't need and processing the meat will be a headache but trying to keep the girls in while running back and forth to the other property while moving would make it nearly impossible to keep a close watch on them. We are reaching our limit expense wise especially with the multiple trips back and forth to move. The decision was made. We needed to cut livestock numbers and expenditures. This untimely event just pushed us to make hard decisions. 

When we had determined that the yaks were going to settle in with the rancher's horses for the night, we decided to wait until morning to do the dirty deed. It really wasn't light enough to shoot responsibly. So this morning bright and early we went out once more with the rancher and took care of our problem.

While we were getting the girls in the barn to age, we decided to do another dirty deed. Or rather for me to do it as soon as I could get the job done. We are going to put the rooster in chicken noodle soup along with two hens that haven't laid more than a few eggs since reaching maturity last fall. Now that the rooster is in the backyard, we can hear that he crows wa...y too much for having neighbors. He is really sweet tempered BUT we don't need complaints nor make a bad impression when we've only just moved in.

I don't mean to be a complainer. I can see the Lord's hand in our move as he has helped us in countless ways. That doesn't mean it hasn't come with trials though. The car being run into which we are still waiting on the check. The freezer going out and now the yaks. Please, I'm tired. I have taxes yet to do. I have now 100 bags to get made. Someone wants to look at our house in a week and a half and it is a complete disaster. We aren't moved out. The sheds aren't gone off the property yet.

Oh how I'd like to put a sign on the door and say, "Gone fishing!" but I don't have time. So I'll just keep saying to myself, "The Lord doesn't give us more than we can handle. The Lord doesn't give us more than we can handle."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Checklist Before Storm

Yesterday we were building a snowman. The weather was beautiful and warm.
After watching the movie Frozen we made a snowman. Not quite like Olaf but he was our inspiration along with what we could find around the yard.
Tonight is a very different story. The nice weather is gone.

We have a big storm moving in and it is beginning to snow. We have always prepared for storms for the just in case. Most times it isn't needed but there are those times we are extremely grateful. Our new location means we have to be extra prepared since the chances of loosing power and being snowed in are far greater. When the population is greatest is where the most energy is expended to restore power and provide services. We definitely do not qualify and I'm thankful. This move is in part about stepping up our self-sufficiency levels. 

In your area it might be a sea or ocean storm, it might be freezing rain, or maybe it is even a sandstorm. I'd be curious to hear what you do to prepare for such weather hazards. Let me know what you think of my list and fill free to add suggestions. I'd love to hear them and also what you do differently to prepare for what bad weather comes your way.

We have experienced power outages already, twice in fact. We have only been here a month. We do  know to prepare for that possibility. We aren't sure about the roads either since it was warm and now it is snowing. I'm guessing they will turn to ice and with 5 to 8 inches expected tonight with a bit more coming in tomorrow and the next day, Kirk is staying with our son which is much closer to work. That leaves our five year old and I getting ready to weather the storm together. We have made a game of it and built a checklist that we shout, "Check" when we have completed an item. 

This is ours checklist:
1. Water containers filled with enough for us and the stock for two days since electricity runs our well. Good thing we don't have very many animals. We need to work on more water storage for the future since the power once went out for three days I'm told.
2. Animals tucked in away from the storm.
3. Wood is chopped and hauled in the garage.
4. Batteries and flashlights ready. Lots of candles and holders. We need to get our propane lanterns from the other house.
5. One bottle of propane is here and a stove for it. We need to get our other bottles brought with the propane grill.
6. Bread baked.
7. Laundry done.
8. Dishes washed.
9. Bath for the munchkin and shower for me taken.
10. Truck tucked into the barn and plugged in.
11. We need to get the gas cans filled. In the future we will have the welder and it has a generator as part of it so that and the tractor will need gas. We need to practice keeping the vehicles filled each time we go to town.

Can you think of something I've missed? Tata for now, I'm off to play a game of Crazy Eights and eat popcorn with the munchkin. What do you do when the it is snowing outside?