Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sad News!

Sad news, our sweet Whitey died yesterday. He was the sweetest rabbit. He would crawl half out of his cage to get to you so you could pet him. We have had him a few years and our daughter a few years before that. His exact age, we have no idea.

He had been walking funny for the past week. His back end did not pick up as high as usual when he hopped. He ate and drank well but seemed to lay stretched out more than usual. I had a feeling all was not well but not sure what was wrong. He did not seem in pain and rubbing his back end caused no discomfort. I hoped it would work itself out.

Trouble always comes in multiples and we had trouble with one of our dairy goats too. She hobbled but not the injured kind of hobble. It was more like founder but she was not foundered. We were without alfalfa hay for a month and it messed up all the goats digestion systems. Their milk production went way down. I gave Belle probiotic to get her stomach going well and then a few days later gave her free choice baking soda. Not perfect but she is much, much better. She should be fine in another couple weeks.

Fine with Whitey did not happen. I'm hoping the mating with Whitey done a few weeks ago to the two young does went well or at least the neighbor's rabbit will kindle this week. She also was bred to him. The neighbor promised me a buck if all goes well. I needed a new buck anyway but did not have the heart to put Whitey in the freezer as meat. I could not justify keeping him as a pet since money is so tight. I guess all worked out for the best. YET, my heart says otherwise.  I'm missing my sweet boy.

Monday, October 17, 2016

How to Hatch Out More Females

I was looking up why I might have had so many hens hatch this year in comparison to roosters. If I could figure that out I would repeat the process next year. This is what I found.
A study done in Australia (Australian Journal of Agricultural Research) has shown that eggs stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit rather than the recommended 60 degrees will hatch out more females. The ratio of female to male eggs does not change. What changes is the colder temperatures kills off more of the male embryos than female. 
I gathered eggs a bit all day and tucked them under the hens so how much they chilled I don't know. The only thing I can figure is that the hens were all young and therefore inexperienced. My ratio of eggs under the hen and those that hatched was not nearly as good as my friends who has old, old hens. That might have caused some of the eggs to not be turned as well or not rotated in placement under her as often as they should have and caused chilling of the eggs. Whatever the reason, I hope we get as good a hen crop next year. I hear the coyotes a howling nor far behind the barn tonight as I tucked in the stock. Yes, we will need replacements if  this predatory problem continues. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Toxic Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are toxic!! I'm not kidding. If eaten raw or not fully cooked you could end up in the hospital. Crazy isn't it? Just four or five raw beans are toxic enough to send you into extreme nausea, followed by vomiting. I suppose since kidney beans are not usually eaten by themselves, one would think they had the usual food poisoning and that the beans were not the culprit.

Kidney bean's toxic agent is Phaseolus vulgaris. Did anyone else's mind just burst into song when they read that? "Secret agent man!" Can't you just see me with my electric guitar all cool, sixties looking jamming out? Me neither, but there has to be a show on television with that jingle. One from way back in the sixties or so because we have not had television in many, many years. 

Way off track there. My mind does that all the time. That is why our family always says, "Squirrel!" when we are changing the subject in mid conversation and then squirrel again when we are jumping back. So "Squirrel!", the vulgaris part of that toxin does sound extra scary. "Squirrel!", I suppose if one was devious and cruel, one could cook something wonderful up and put just a few poorly cooked kidney beans in it. Then served in individual bowls, (no sharezies). It has to be aimed at just one person or it wouldn't fit with the Secret Agent Man. (What show was that off of?) The onset of the symptoms is usually between 1 to 3 hours after consumption. Recovery is rapid. Usually, 3 to 4 hours after symptoms begin. That could put someone out of the picture just long enough to..... to.... what?

"Squirrel!", The unit of toxin measures is the Hemagglutinating unit (hau). That was a mouthful. Raw kidney beans contain from 20,000 to 70,000 hau, while fully cooked beans contain from 200 to 400 hau. White kidney beans, (You know the ones like Canneli?) about one-third the amount of the toxin compared to red kidney beans. Broad beans contain 5 to 10% of the amount that kidney beans have. In fact all the other bean varieties I looked at had a low hau count. Why kidney beans are such bad guys I don't know. I definitely wont be grinding them up when raw to add in breads to boost nutrition levels.

Okay, I lied. Isn't that what secret agent women do? Most of the time we don't even say squirrel. It is too much fun to see the puzzled look on a loved ones face when they can't keep up with the changes. It does not happen often because we are pretty good at the game. Actually it isn't a game since that is just how our brains work. We just don't rein the A.D.D. strains in when around family.

The toxic levels in other kinds of dried beans is very low. Since I can't get a decent crop of kidney beans anyway I'm going to substitute Jacob's Cattle instead.

"Squirrel" , I did an experiment with the beans I grew this year. My hypothesis was that kidney shaped beans would have a more firm texture when cooked and the rounder ones like Tongue of Fire and Kennearly would be softer. Wrong!! Jacob's Cattle if firm like kidney beans but Ireland Creek which is kidney shaped also is not firm but a nice quality for baked beans. Tongue of Fire is round and I thought might be quite soft but it held it's shape nicely in soup and was medium textured. Kennearly of course was buttery and had a quite soft texture, great for ham and bean soup and refried beans. Looks like I have my bean line up for next year's garden.

I will try Cranberry beans as a gentleman at Territory Seeds suggested I try it.

So there you have it, cook your kidney beans thoroughly unless you are an Agent Man.

To those of you who have commented and I have not commented back please be patient. I just found again where those they don't show up on the blog are hiding. That is I did find them but now I have to find them again. I answered a few. Now I have to go out and get to fencing again while the ground is soft.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cherry / Choke Cherry Jelly

In late September, two of the kids and I picked chokecherries at the neighbors. Bears had been coming down off the mountain to help themselves to the succulent treats and two had been sighted having a fight up the road  from there. The kids were pretty nervous but I figured in the middle of the day we were going to be okay and besides the loud rattle of the diesel truck as we pulled up should send them running to the hills.

We had never been all the way to the neighbor's house before and therefore did not know what the chokecherry trees looked like. Unfortunately, they were not bushes but gangly trees. We needed a ladder to really get to the bulk of the berries but it was back at the house and so we picked from the lower branches.We figured we'd come back later better prepared but life interfered and it never happened.

Finally giving up on ever getting back to picking, I juiced what we had and then froze the juice in jars. A little hint I learned from my mother. If one wants and you have freezer room, you can freeze the berries and then juice them later. She froze all her berries and when the cold weather set in she would make jelly and jams. My parents have always had chokecherry trees in their yards. Chokecherries has been a staple for us. Whether the berries came from their trees or from wild ones that grow in the general area where we live now, which is near where Kirk's parents were.

I waited only a few weeks later to thaw the juice. I was craving buttermilk pancakes with something besides maple syrup.  The  grandkids and I are not crazy about chokecherry jelly and I like chokecherry syrup only marginally better but I have been feeling a bit nostalgic.

I thought I'd do the frozen cherry juice also since I was at it. I had about a half a gallon of each kind. Here comes the inspiration or is it a brain fart as I laughingly call it because I'm never sure how these things will turn out. I put the two together for one big batch and WOW! The cherry juice masked the chokecherries slight tongue drying after taste and left only a hint of it. There was this sweet / slightly tart flavor that had our seven-year-old's eyes popping wide open in delight when she dipped her spoon in for a taste. The complexity of flavors combing the two quite different cherries put it on the repeat and repeat list. That is if I can get my cherry tree  or bushes and the chokecherry trees to both put on a good harvest in the same year. I know I can do that if I grow my own chokecherry trees so that is on my to do list for sure.

Part of the success I'm sure was the type of pectin I use. The pink box by Sure Jell that is labeled low sugar and allows the flavor of the fruit or berries come to the forefront. Beware if you are not a jelly maker that even with this low sugar pectin, there is loads of sugar involved. For berry syrup I simply make jelly and then scoop some out of the jar and put it into a sauce pan to heat. I add a small amount of water to reach the consistency I like and voila, syrup. That way if I make jelly I can use it as jelly or syrup.

Now to get the kids to use the cherry/choke  cherry jelly as syrup. I tried one morning and it was met with, "Where's the maple syrup?" They are hung up on this fake maple syrup I make that is just 2 cups of sugar, and one cup of water boiled until clear and the sugar dissolved. Then I add Mapleine flavoring. It tastes almost exactly like the real maple syrup. For me, even better since I can up the maple taste with a little heavy handed measuring. There is no substitute for Mapleine. It is hands down the best and you will find it has a devoted following. This is the syrup my momma made when I was a kid.

I'm sure when the kids get use to berry syrup, they will love it too. It happened with the King Harry potatoes. They were French fry fans but not potato fans. King Harry potatoes changed their minds along with some good cooking. Those potatoes are our oldest daughter's favorite and my mother-in-law too. They don't want any other potato. When we were harvesting them the kids just kept saying, "We are going to weed our garden better next year!" Yes, it was pretty bad and yes, the kids love, love, love the produce. They had better love it enough to really do some serious weeding because Kirk and I have plans to make the garden bigger than ever before with more fruit trees too.

Wouldn't it be great if the chokecherry trees and the cherry tree both put on heavy again next year? YUM! YUM!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Livestock Update

Still canning and will be for another month or two. The pace has slowed but the march goes on. Meanwhile, we had our first frost last night. That ends anything but broccoli growing in the garden. I've let some of it go to seed in hopes it will indeed give me something I can use next year. If so I will try and start some in the house wa....y early with the thought to produce my own seed each year.
I don't remember frost ever waiting so long. No complaints here as I was able to get far more out of the garden than normal with the extended season. A special blessing since last year the first frost was August 24th leaving me with a skimpy harvest.. 
When I'm not canning, I'm feeding livestock or kids. They keep me hopping. House work, what's that? Not this time of year anyway.
Sam here is getting really big and the biggest of babies. At times when he sees me he bellers at the top of his lungs even though his feed and water containers are full. He is wanting a good rub down. Flies are really pesky and bite hard this time of year. Some of you may wonder who Sam is. He is the big red steer in the background and in the front is two month old Bull Winkle.
What a sweet natured calf but he is getting a bit of a pain when bottle feeding. You always know when it is time to wean off the bottle because the calf starts ripping off the nipple on the bottle and tugging on it before settling down to sucking the milk. You also notice that if you leave the calf on the bottle too much at this stage then they don't gain weight as well. Cows in the field with calves on them wander and kick the calf off from sucking more and more frequently doing the same job I'm doing of slowly weaning only at a slower pace.
 Besides feeding Bull Winkle is a real chore with Sam here still thinking after a year and a half, that he would like some of that milk in the bottle. Good thing he is nice since he weighs over 1100 pounds. Ellie and Hesston would like some milk also. It becomes a real challenge to keep the nipple in Bull Winkles mouth while three others want it also. 
 Ellie use to be the worst at fighting her way in to get the bottle but she has decided that lovings is better than milk. So while I'm pushing the other two away, I'm trying to get in some loving strokes on her. Not only am I rubbing the sides of her face and back but I'm rubbing her belly and udder area. It is in preparation for when she will be milking. I do the same with the young goats and train them to the milking stand. It makes milking them for the first time a breeze. I'm also picking up her feet so I can trim her hooves when necessary. Milk cows get lots of grain and grain equates to quicker growing hooves. It might be two years away until she will be having a calf but it is always easier to train a calf when they are little instead of waiting until the weigh over a thousand pounds and can knock the slats out of you. Ellie is getting that Brown Swiss dish in her face. She is a cutie!
As for Hesston, the black and white Holstein calf, his stomach problems have finally worked themselves out and he appears to be normal. I like him so.... much better as a steer. He has calmed down and is quite sweet. If you have ever worked with a Holstein bull you know they are meaner than sin.
As for Elli, she is surprising me. She once was brown but is turning black, all but the white on the tip of her tail and the white spot under her belly. She might end up with some brown highlights in her flanks but I would have never guessed coal black.  
You might recall the hen I featured quite a while ago. She was setting on eggs. She hatched out four chicks. Three others inside the eggs shells had begun to form but stopped. That seems to be the norm this year with up to six hatching and two or three starting to form in the eggs. When I talked to a friend of mine a month ago she said her old, old hens were hatching on average 12 chicks and some hatched out two batches this last summer. Just like with everything, experience normally leads to better results. These new mothers probably did not do too bad for their first time and will be even better next year. I plan on keeping the best setters and mothers each year. That setting and mothering ability is genetic. I banded the setters with a red ring on their left leg and the other yearling hens with a band on the right leg. All the new hens born this summer are getting so big it is becoming confusing to who is one year old and who is just a teenager.
Unfortunately, O, the white chicken that we had hoped was a hen is a rooster. He and the young rooster our 7 year old grand daughter calls Crazy, will need to be made into bone broth and canned chicken. No idea where the name Crazy came from. I do know that I don't need three roosters. I just want the one year old Easter Egger. Right now I want to keep the hen numbers a bit high going into winter since we have lost eight chickens to fox. Sad to say, two were setters.
We have not lost any ever since I asked the UPS man to keep a look out. After all he is on the road all day in our area. I had seen fox around but they were a few miles away and I wanted to know what direction our problem fox were coming from when they headed toward our house. A few days later the UPS man came by to drop off a package and told me he saw two fox headed up to my house in the middle of the day and they were coming from the direction of the draw to the east of us. I started dragging out chores to last all day. That way I was in the yard at random times. Fox adapt well to circumstances and these had learned that the hens were locked up at night and early morning.
 Found out from another neighbor that a gal a few places over from me had lost almost all of her poultry. That includes ducks, geese, and chickens. The neighbor I talked to was setting live traps for my sweet poultry neighbor who is just too soft hearted to do it herself. The number of fox are slowly being lowered. I'm sure the remaining ones will move on to other pastures further away. Predators are a problem when you live near the mountain and in a lightly populated area.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Score Card for Beans

Once more a blog on beans. Remember, I'm addicted. Don't worry, my obsession with beans, brought on by my autism, I'm sure will soon be interrupted by the weather and my A.D.D. I can already feel it waning and I admit, I'm trying to hold on tight. I'm not finished.
I need to:
1. Type up the results for each of the eleven kinds of beans I've experimented with. Plus write notes on changes I think will improve growth and production.
2. Form a scoring card. You might think this is silly but it keeps emotions out of the equation and clarifies things. It has done so with the goats where I am much more emotionally attached. I give a certain number of points for different items on a list. Things of greater importance to me like udder design and milk production have a greater number of points allowed. The same would be for the beans. 
 How can I can get emotional about beans you might wonder but if the Scarlet Runner beans had done well you can bet my four year old granddaughter would have insisted we grow them each year because of their gorgeous deep rich purple color.
When I ran my fingers through the Tongue of Fire beans to turn them for drying, I swear their plump Christmasy feel had me hearing sleigh bells. They may not look Christmasy to you but I swear that is what they said to me. They are a bit slower to dry on the plant and when I picked part of the pods when yellow and shelled the seeds to dry, brown spots appeared. They will go in the garden next year but in a smaller quantity. Our summer was extra long and hot and still no frost, very unusual for us. We shall see what next year brings and how they react.
The Kennearly, Jacob's Cattle, and Ireland Creek beans did not turn brown when the pods were picked yellow which is a big plus. I also tried picking the whole bean plants with yellow pods to see if that made a difference. I could not see one. They did take up lots more space though.
As for the Jacob's Cattle beans, they are simply alluring with their kidney pod shape splotched with deep burgundy and white. Each bean unique in color pattern. I found them a great substitute for kidney beans in chili as they stayed firm when cooked. Kidney beans do not like our weather. The Jacob's Cattle production was half of Kennearly and Tongue of Fire but I need them for chili so I will try a few things to see if I can't up the production level.  
Kennearly beans out produced all but the Tongue of Fire beans which came in a close second. Kennearly was the earliest to reach the dried bean stage, and are great in ham and beans with their buttery flavor and soup thickening quality. A suitable substitute for Navy. Kidney and navy were two things I've been trying to find a replacement for as I love those two beans.
 Ireland Creek, did very well but I only tried one packet so they can not be fairly judged to the other beans which had an equal amount of space. I really liked the long pods and upright growth BUT lime green. I'm sorry but that is a non food color. Right at home on the Star Ship Enterprise but on my kitchen table. I'm going to have to work on that idea. Hmmmm..... how about lots of barbeque sauce. I love barbeque beans with hamburgers, that might do to hide the color. How firm will they stay when cooked? They have the kidney pod shape like Jacob's Cattle and Kidney beans, hmmmm. ...They might change color when cooked and be alright. The purple ones turned a brown color. We shall see. 
3. Formulate a new growing plan. This year I had the dried beans next to plants that needed watered at the end of the growing season. Not at all a handy way to do things. Also I want to put in two rows instead of three per section as they matured quicker when planted thinner. What to put in the middle is the question, keeping in mind space and watering constrictions.  
I also have one more bean to try or maybe two. I will only put in one packet a piece as I've learned my lesson. Experiments should be kept small.
Now this blog was suppose to be about how to tell old beans from new. It took on a life of its own. I will say that if you view the picture of the kidney beans at the top of the blog you will see they are a brighter red and shiny and last years beans.
These are dull and darker and two years old. Dull and darker means older in beans. It also means fewer vitamins so I'd better use them up quick. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dried Bean Trials

Five years has passed. I've tried eleven different kinds of dried beans trying to come up with ones that complete the cycle to the rattle in the pod stage. I'm finally having a little bit of success. Our soil is better than our former location but now we have cooler temperatures and a sun that goes down early because we are by the mountain. That means less daylight hours and more hours of cooler temperatures. A bean may say 90 days to the dried stage but it is  more than 90 days under our conditions.
One sure fire winner this year was the Kennearly bean. It matured and the pods turned yellow faster by far than the other seven types of beans I had growing. I learned that if I want dried beans I need to space my plants further apart. If I want green beans closer together works best. It was something that just naturally happened in different parts of the rows and the performance difference was quite profound. Where they came up thick, the pods stayed green. Spaced further apart, they turned yellow and matured faster.
My husband says I am possessed with beans. Yes, I have spend a great deal of hours on this project and I've learned that I love shelling beans. It is so relaxing for me. Just a repetitive motion that allows my mind to wonder unfettered. With the hectic schedule I find I am naturally drawn to them.  Kirk also told me that I would have a great deal to talk about with my diceased grandfather who developed a type of yellow wax bean. I can't wait to compare notes with what I've learned and what he learned. That same bean, Kinghorn Wax, will undergo trials in my new location next year. It did wonderful where we lived before. It just put on more and more beans as the summer went on. This bean that was a staple for Del Monte in my grandfather's time, now has to be ordered out of  Canada. This tells you how fast our seed diversification is dwindling.
 I have research and researched dried beans on the internet the past few weeks. Yet with all the hours spent looking things up, I'm still observing things amongst the seven different kinds of beans in my garden that I've not read anywhere.
It is frustrating but the university sites don't give enough detail. If it is not a very large commercial crop they don't study it. When they do study things it is only for a year or so and hence, a whole lot gets left out because the weather is not the same from year to year so those changes are not reflected in the study. Last year we had frost on the 23rd of August. This year it has yet to freeze. As for blogs people seem to grow them where they are easy to grow so nothing is said about really tough regions like ours. My frustration has been huge. I'm determined though because dried beans were a pioneer staple.
One thing I learned from my research is that beans have a load capacity. They stop adding beans when the limit is reached. That is why they tell you to keep your green beans picked. Picking allows room for other beans to grow on the plant. I'm going to pay attention to this of different kinds of beans.
This is Ireland Creek beans. Not only are the pods really long with on average six beans per pod but the load capacity is impressive. They have earned a spot in our garden next year. I only planted one seed packet full.
The other thing I noticed is that the Kenearly beans had most of their pods turning about the same time on a given plant. The Ireland Creek beans came in second in this area. Some other types of beans had everything from really green beans to dried and leathery looking at the same time. With our short, short season this is a huge plus to mature all at once and early.
This has to do with genetics I suspect. I quit raising Kentucky Wonder because the green beans came on in a small picking and then two large pickings and then were done. A great thing for the commercial field but not so good for a home gardener who wants the harvest spread out over a long period of time.
My Contender beans have a very long growing season and since I start harvesting the end of July I had weeks of picking before frost. When the beans slowed way down, became small, and curled badly I quit picking. I should have kept picking as the plants blossomed again and when I pulled them today to feed to stock they had lots of over mature beans and quite a few blossoms. I would have gotten quite a few more green beans to can in a later harvest time - live and learn.
The lovely Scarlet beans from my sister, you remember the pretty orangish red blossoms I showed you, barely gave me any beans. This is the sum total of beans that dried on the plants. There were tons of blossoms and hardly any bean pods. I ripped them out in disgust and canned 8 pints of shelled beans. That was one of my goals this year was to do shelly beans. I had never heard of canning at this stage until this year. I thought it might come in handy on one of those early frost years. It was a guess as you go experience since I could not find detailed information on how to do shelly beans until I read a garden forum where people chit chat back and forth. You know a university did not do a study on it as they aren't canning a field of half grown beans. 
 I was smart with these Ireland Creek beans. I used only one package unlike all the space and seed I used on the Scarlet Runners. What a waste. The Ireland Creek beans did alright. I just have to get used to the strange limy yellow coloring. Dried bean varieties that do alright here are rare indeed and they have a chance to acclimate and do better with selection.
They earned a right to a second year of trials. We shall see what the weather does to them next year.
I also learned in my studies that dried beans at the store can be up to six years old. Older beans take longer to cook and are less shiny but just how old the package does not disclose. Even if you store your dried beans in #10 tin cans, with oxygen removing packet thingies, they will not retain vitamins. Proteins and carbohydrates yes but after 2 to 3 years the nutrients are pretty much lost. Who knows if the store beans have any vitamins by the time they reach you. This is another push for self-sufficiency as a steady supply is worth far more than a vitamin deprived stock pile. The stock pile might keep you alive but barely.