Thursday, October 28, 2010

Great Corn Meal - I hope

I've got to hurry for the milk is heating to separate, I've a pot of milk heating to make buttermilk. Now that I've had cream and buttermilk fresh, I don't know how I lived without it. I've decided I need to build up my supply of buttermilk, two quarts at least. There are just too many ways to use that yummy buttermilk.
The other reason I'd better get moving is Kirk brought home some coal last night. Yes, the nights are freezing leaving a good inch and a quarter of ice on the water buckets. So that means I'd better get some coal and wood hauled in next to the fire while the littlest one is taking her morning nap. You know how it is. Put the pedal to the metal while the kids sleep so you can get something done undisturbed.
But first, let me tell you about one of my new projects in the works. I saved the small and not full ears of sweet corn and dried them in the basement. It wasn't a lot, but enough to give me a good idea whether to continue with this project next year. My original plan is to start saving my own seed from some of the best ears of corn I grow. Then save the scrawny or not full ears to dry for corn meal. No, I'm not raising the grinding kind of corn. My garden just isn't big enough to separate two kinds of corn and not have them cross pollinate. What sparks my interest was when I read where some are using their sweet corn like it was a grinding corn. We don't use very much corn bread. Mainly when we have ham and beans so I don't need much and the thoughts of using the same corn for three purposes intrigues me. Corn for freezing, corn for corn meal, and the cobs for the fire to heat the house. If your stove isn't set up for cobs, don't burn many for it will ruin it. I don't have but a few and our stove is for coal and wood but mainly coal. That means it is more heavy duty.
I was shocked how the large cookie sheet was heaping with kernels from just a few ears of corn. It should be plenty to last me the year. Now I need to find out how much a cup of dried corn ground equals in flour and if we like the flavor. As soon as I get some navy beans canned I'll make some soup and grind up some corn. It is sure to be different than the traditional type but who knows maybe we will like it even better. The cobs went into the fire to heat our house yesterday as the wind howled and spit snow at us just making the day miserable, reminding us winter is just around the corner. The cobs made little difference but waste not want not is my motto and why fill the landfill when it could kick off a little badly needed heat.

As I worked, my mind couldn't help dreaming of a nice warm barn with enough room to pile dried corn we bought from a farmer. I know just the one I'd call. The same one that grows our hay. And as my mind wandered, I imagined myself sitting on the barn floor shelling corn in preparation for feeding it to the to the chickens, and the dairy goats the next day. But then why stop there I said to myself, why not grow extra pumpkins etc. to feed because of course if we had a nice big barn, we'd also have acreage to grow more crops. Wouldn't we save a bundle in feed costs. Alas, no nice warm dry big barn so I can only dream and hope this is one dream that will eventually come true. Meanwhile, I experiment on what I can do to become more self-sufficient in the situation I'm in.
And of course though I had to buy pumpkins this year instead of growing them because I just never got them planted in the garden, I did make the seeds from the jack-o-latterns into salted seeds. The kids haven't acquired a taste for them yet but Kirk and I are enjoying ourselves.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Preparations

We've been building up to Halloween. The excitement is intense. The two younger children and I attended story time each Wednesday where the action is packed with songs, finger plays, and YES, stories.
If you think libraries are a place where librarians run around saying SH... you haven't been to ours. Sometimes the roof nearly lifts off in the noise as a room full of children yell, "BOO!!" ,

as they participate with Sharon as she read them a ghostly story.
But today was a special day as the little ones dressed up and gathered
together to celebrate Halloween. Me thinks the costumes turned out cute. It is amazing how little it takes to make kids happy. I have learned that it isn't in the having but in the journey that makes holidays fun. The kids sat on the bed oowing and awing as I put together their costumes. Our daughters had spent a weekend together in Colorado and shopped, completing the list of supplies I needed to make two cats and a mouse. Best of all the little girls got to decide what they wanted to be and help design the costumes parlty by deciding where the spots went and picking out cat collars that we will eventually will use on baby goats. This is so much more fun than just picking out a costume off the rack and having to be what ever the manufactures decided was the in thing to be. Besides, the fake fleece lined jackets will be un-spotted and turn back into jackets, the head bands will loose their felt ears and just be headbands once more. And the pants will continue to warm cute little tooshes this winter. A bit like Cinderella's costume at the stroke of midnight. How much more economical and wise.
Of course this journey towards Halloween included carving pumpkins that the girls first drew on to give Kirk and I an idea how they needed to be carved.

And the girls put on one of Grandpa's old work t-shirts in preparation of scooping out the seeds and pulp. For some reason they love donning Grandpa's shirts.
If this Grandma were so inclined and had way more energy, we could party at least once a day from now until Halloween but we are going to choose to enjoy some down time too. That is if you can call making pumpkin shaped sugar cookies down time. Yup, that's what is in store for tomorrow after school. Awe, yes, the holidays are upon us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Critter Update

I'm in the middle of several projects and so I'll wait to update you on my progress. Until then let me tell you what's happening with the critters in our world. This doe mule deer attacked our house cat Reginald for just walking across OUR yard. Yup, she came head down feet stopping after him when he came out of the garage and attempted to saunter slowly across the yard. No, no fawns were in tow. She was all by herself. Luckily the kids were at the breakfast table and witnessed with me the whole scene.
The cat escaped back into the garage.
We've kittens galore of three different ages at the corrals. This is one of the littlest ones.
Along with one of its siblings.

And I've grown rather fond of this Siamese looking one. We have tabbys, greys, calicoes, and black and white ones but these two are a novelty. I've called this kitten Danny. The name can easily be changed to Danielle if it is indeed a she, not a he. I hope it survives as few kittens each year do. Often none make it through the winter despite my feeding milk and cat food. I've yet to see the father of these two kittens. It is obviously a Siamese as we have none of that breed in our queens.
And the cats that mass around the entrance to the milking shed are what keeps our youngest grand daughter occupied while I'm milking. One day it was particularly entertaining as we watched the grey kitten and the white kitten take turns sticking their heads out from under the shed's door. A slightly older black and white kitten waited outside trying to thump them on the head making it a game between the three of them.
And a challenge for me to photograph.
In the chicken coop, I'm still kneeling in manure every few days trying to catch a decent picture of the elusive Austrolorp that's comb is not developing. I'm giving her until the middle of November to get her act together. The last few days I've been getting five eggs a day between the older hens and the pullets. Whoo... hoo... how I love fresh eggs!
The hen that was just starting to get her feathers back has most of them in now. My how they grow rapidly. She still looks like a rag muffin though.
Not nearly as bad as this frightful looking hen. And is she cranky about her looks. If she doesn't like the way another hen looks at her, my oh my, does she give them a peace of her mind and sometimes a peck to boot. One such hen nearly lost its head the other day. I told it one more move like that (it was picking on the young hens) and it was headed for the pot. Yes, it quit. It isn't always necessary to understand the language of another to understand one is in BIG trouble.
And yes, I still have the triplets of Chicory's. The whether was suppose to go bye bye a long time ago but alas he is still here so he just might be headed for our freezer in a couple months if no-one claims him.

And though I'd love to show you some nice pictures of the does, they just won't hold still and if I come anywhere near them, here they come on the run. I've been trying for weeks to get a decent photograph, alas, nothing. We've still got tattooing to do and get rid of a couple scurs growing. Too much to do and little ones underfoot make it impossible to get them all done.

Right now I'm trying to get my hubby to help me move the two beehives. After going through the hive boxes to remove the bees and flipping the bottom stand to shrink the entrance on the hives, I came home thoroughly stung. These are the same hives the kids and I sat within a couple feet of the entrances and watched. I've never been so late in the year to get this task done. The weather is turning colder and since I robbed honey boxes to shrink the size and weight of the hives, I commit ed a crave sin. Many solders (worker bees) in defense of their home lost their lives. Working as a team they ganged up where ever my joints bent and the fabric of my suit pressed against my skin. My elbows joint took a brutal beating with over thirty stings on one arm alone.

Not being lingual in bee humming, I couldn't tell them I'd give the honey back so I just suffered through until I was done.

Kirk went out after dark and to help me close up the hive's entrances for transport but after being stung right away and watching the bees begin to gather at the bottom entrance for flight cursing in a very angry hum, he said he was going home until the weather was below zero and too cold for them to come out and fight.

By then the army will starve and so I'll slip out there after the kids are in bed either tonight or tomorrow night with some honey water to feed them and see if I can't sweet talk them into a better mood. Then by Friday maybe we can move them without so big a commotion. I'll have to tape them up good though and then ask my husband to join me for the move. No way is he willing to suffer massive stings.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Home Cultured Butttermilk and Sour Cream

My first time in making cultured buttermilk and sour cream and they turned out. I'm thrilled. If you are like me, well, you are probably not like me but you might just be a bit hesitant like myself in wondering if your latest experiment will turn out or not. I think it's natural to question doing something without an experienced someone to guide you. That person, I've seldom found. Most people today are caught up in quick and easy and were seeing in the news where that has gotten us, an unsafe food supply. I myself am dependent on that supply but I'm moving away from it as fast as my time and learning curve allows. This adventure is one of those moves. And with the thrill still fresh, I'm going to share with you the process I underwent to create cultured buttermilk and cultured sour cream.

It's been said I'm a talented teacher. Few have offered to pay me for my great wisdom and talent so I have my doubts. People keep saying it though and some have even gone so far as to call me a walking encyclopedia. That's rather stretching the truth but I do credit my minimal talent at helping others to learn new things to my gift of making mistakes. You heard me, my gift of making mistakes. You see, I credit my ability to teach proficiency to the fact that I can tell you all the things not to do and what will happen if you do them. Some mistakes I've made so often I've figured out a way to fix it or use the mistake in a creative way. Yup, brilliance has nothing to do with my teaching ability and this time of making buttermilk and sour cream were no different.

So I'll tell it to you straight how I created buttermilk and sour cream. Did I follow the directions to the letter. Well... let's say almost. I got a little lost in the push to get as many things done as possible before the kids came back to stay. We have them five and a half days which includes six nights a week. You now understand my rush on those brief times I have to get things done without lots of little helping hands and interruptions. But maybe, I'd just better tell the story as I am in the middle of making a mouse and two cat costumes for Halloween. They need to be done by tomorrow night so I'd best get to telling you my story.
You who have been following this blog know. I think Chicory is udderly wonderful. Now don't groan at the pun, I'm serious. If you want to make cultured buttermilk and sour cream completely from scratch it has to start in the milking barn or shed as in my case. From my two year old I collected milk from three milkings.
Then since it had set in the refrigerator, I heated the milk and the I ran it through the milk separated. The cream that came through the first time is what the sour cream is made from. The instructions call for half and half or light cream. The rest of the cream I ran through again and saved it to add to home-made tomato soup that we had for lunch along with toasted cheese and ham sandwiches. The light cream that came out the milk side I then added some of the milk from the first separation equalling a quart and set it aside for buttermilk. You could just use whole milk and that is what I plan to do next time but this is what worked for me this time around.
And if you are saying but wait a minute, you didn't make butter. No, cultured buttermilk is not made from the liquid left over from making butter. Never have figured out why they call it buttermilk and I did briefly look into that. Then because I have three small children to raise, I put the quarts in the refrigerator until the next day as baths and bedtime routine took up the rest of my evening.
The next day since our daughter had the kids for the day, I pulled out the quarts and began to heat the cream and milk. While I mixed up some banana bread, and started on some coconut bread. Meanwhile, I was heating water to scald the quart jars to kill the bacteria that was sure to be lurking there. As the boiled water set in the quart jar, I discovered I'd turned on the wrong burner and though the milk was heating nicely the cream wasn't.
Problem fixed, I put the quick breads in the oven to bake and started on the chocolate chip cookies and as I looked up I discovered that the butter I was melting in the microwave was still there and not in the banana bread. So out came the banana bread that was now very warm and back into the mixing bowl it went with the butter. Problem was that the chocolate chips inside the batter were quite warm now and instead of remaining in the chip form they were now spreading through-out the batter along with the butter. Yup, I now had banana chocolate bread. Did it taste wonderful? Don't know yet as I put it into the freezer to save for this wild week of children's Halloween parties. But I must ask you to keep the secret, if you won't tell I won't and my family can just believe it was planned not one more of my oopses. I've gained quite a reputation that gets me razzed enough as it is. Who knows, we may just love it and I'll never tell.
But the oopses didn't stop there as while I'm caught up doing dishes and placing cookie dough on cookie sheets, the cream over heated since I'd turned it up a bit to try and caught up with the milk that was heating. Okay, it wasn't just that, I'd forgotten that the sour cream was to be heated to 86 and the milk to 195 F. What with all the projects going at once and my husband coming up the stairs every little while to show me how his latest knife order was coming I just got muddled. I'll have to show you after I've time to shoot photos of the knife. It is a woozier!
So with both the cream and the milk at 195 I turned off the burners on the stove and poured out the hot water in the quart jars and poured in the milk and cream. Just so you know 195 F is a hair before boiling point here at a little above 5000 feet elevation.
Letting them both sit on the counter a little while to cool, I finished the dishes and baked the cookies, then put them in cold water to cool more rapidly. Meanwhile, I cursed the coconut bread that was in the little loaf pans because it refused to come out in one piece. My husband then gave me a hard time because I didn't save those pieces for him to munch on and instead stuck them in the freezer to get them out of the way. So little counter space and so many projects going at once. Besides, I only keep my successes out on display. They don't take up as much room. LOL

When my cream and milk was near room temperature, I added the sour cream culture to the cream, and the buttermilk culture to the milk shaking the jar well. I questioned whether the sour cream would work but decided that it wasn't a disaster if it didn't as I had another culture.

With the boiling water in the jar and the heating the cream and milk, it was safe to bet that the culture that would be multiplying was the one I wanted, not some rogue one that might cause food poisoning or something I wouldn't want to keep culturing. These cultures I intend on breeding and continuing like you would sour dough.

I've read in a few blogs where people are just setting cream out overnight. I'm not comfortable with that method as I don't know what bacteria I'm multiplying. The caution probably comes from all the cheese making books I read and the few kinds of cheeses I do dabble in creating when time permits.

I didn't make the mistake of confusing what jar was what as I made sure and labeled them. I still don't know which sour dough starter in the refrigerator was stared from grapes and which one from potatoes. I've decided it isn't important enough to try and find where the people I got the starters from moved to.

The culture packets instructions say to0 leave the cultures in a warm room 12 to 15 hours.
Don't know that our kitchen is all that warm at night at 66F but by the next morning the cultures had thickened nicely. With a day in the refrigerator they set up even firmer.Even the sour cream did nicely. I did question if the sour cream would be very thick since goat yogurt is rather liquidy compared to cow yogurt.

I'm pleased to announce it is a lovely thick texture. The buttermilk is not as thick as the sour cream which is as I expected but not liquidy like I remember the kind from the store. Correct my memory if I'm wrong and it is thick.
The next day, I decided to take the sour cream and buttermilk in pancakes. The ones I typically use a touch of almond flavoring to spice up. This time, I didn't use the almond and found that it wasn't necessary, in fact the goat cream and goat buttermilk enriched the pancakes rounding out the flavor wonderfully. Next time, I'm going to add fresh ground wheat flour. All those years where I just substituted goat milk for buttermilk, I can see what I was missing. Buttermilk does indeed enrich a recipe. I just never wanted to buy it from the store. Now I don't have to.
Best of all, I know just what I'm getting, rich, healthy home grown goat milk.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's a Whirling Now.

Cindy, your comments on my last chicken blog got my brain a whirling and that means I hit the Internet for some answers and what I found surprised me. It changed my whole muddled plans and made things clear what road I should take. Curious?

Well, these Austrolorps are not staying in my flock past when this year's hens turn two.
And of course I've already eliminated the Buff Orpingtons I had.
Now, I've decided to only keep my two Barred Rock hens through the winter because of the larger eggs they will lay compared to the pullets.What's left? Wyadottes as they fit the requirements best of the type of chicken I need and they've always been one of my favorite breeds. So now I don't have to worry about having more than one breed of rooster and I should not have to deal with ornery old mean ones either. Though I'm sure there are mean Wyadottes, we've never had a mean one. In fact, we've had several pet roosters but I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule.
I like Wyadottes calm demeanor, their pea comb suites our cold weather where fifty below wind chill isn't uncommon in the winter. The other chickens have a tendency to have a little frost bite on the tips of their combs which lowers egg production while that heals. And these girls I've found are just as early a maturers as the Austrolorps and I've never had one that molted so hard as the Austrolorps loosing most of their feathers. Our Wyadottes just loose part of their wing feathers and saddle. They still continue to lay a little even though they are molting unlike the Austrolorps.
The Internet said they lay on average 200 eggs a year or about four a week and the Austrolorps average 4 -5 with 200 - 250 a year. So the Austrolorps beat in egg production and are cold hardy except they have large combs and if you factor in they frost bite a little on the tips, decreasing egg production while they heal, I think we're ahead on the Wyadottes. Coupling that with wanting to keep a rooster that is well behaved especially since I now have three grand daughters living with us.
When I researched the Barred Rocks I found they gain in size faster than the strictly egg laying chickens but not substantially. Still, they don't hold a candle to the Cornish Crosses that we've raised quite a few of. With the substantial cost of getting the Barred Rocks up to size in comparison to the Cornish, I'm sold that the Cornish are the only way to go in our situation.
I also learned that the Barred Rocks are only fair layers though they do lay through the winter. Their performance is thereby average alround. I've probably not noticed it much since I've only had two hens.
So my plans - next spring order in Wyodottes, keeping the yearlings I have now for another year. Look into buying a leg bander for the chickens so I can tell how old the hens are as I plan to keep two year olds and pullets together.
I was toying with keeping the hens three years as it takes five months to get the pullets raised to the laying point but then the older hens do molt. And every piece of literature I could find said after two years the production drops substantially and in the third year as it progresses their egg laying decreases rapidly. With the distance we have to travel for feed and the cost of it since we do not live in farming country, my cost budget needs to be
re-evaluated. We are spending money now to save money later as I see tougher days ahead, much tougher.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Something New!

Crew -zing down the frozen fast food isle at the grocery store searching for ideas of things to make for the kiddos, I spied Bertolli meals. I've had them before at our daughters and they weren't too bad. I like a little more flavor but companies have to appeal to the masses. That means middle class tastes who like things a bit bland. That describes most of my extended family and so Romono cheese, Feta, or anything else with a zip is out. The grand kids are even worse as they like processed foods and really bland stuff. This means if I wish to please my husband and the kids, I must fix two different meals. I did that the other night when i made stroganoff from scratch for my husband and used a jar of Ragu for the spaghetti sauce for the kids - Yuk!!

I was feeling desperate after a few days of the kids not eating anything but what they were forced to during our evening meals. Not that they are skinny mind you. They've gained weight at grandma but it is really tough when supper comes around. Lunch isn't too bad and breakfast is their favorite but supper is where I really bomb. Most of the time my husband is the one slighted and so I'm working slowly on meals for the freezer that I can throw in for him that he'll like, while I'm making something more appealing to the kids. After all he has put in a very long day and leaves at 20 to six in the morning and doesn't get home until eight at night. Then after cuddling with the kids, he usually puts in a little while in his knife shop before bed.

That's when this idea popped into my head as I was cooking up a package of Bert0lli to see if the kids liked the stir-fry mixture. They didn't. The concept of a stir-fry with vegetables, noodles, and a sauce in chunks inspired my imagination into motion. First I hit the Internet. Remember, I'm an information junky. I know that some dairy items don't freeze well and so I wanted some advice.

This is what I found.
  • Butter - freezes well but unsalted looses flavor so it is best to store it a shorter period of time than salted.
  • Cheese - hard or semi-hard can be frozen but becomes a bit more dry and crumbly.
  • Cottage cheese - cream style has a tendency to separate when thawed but ricotta cheese
  • freezes well for a month.
  • Cream cheese can be frozen. ( I want to try making some home-made but first I'm going to make some cultured sour cream.)
  • Cream can be frozen if it is heavy cream and contains 40% or more butter fat. Well my goat cream qualifies as I run the milk through to separate the cream and then run the cream through to get a heavy cream. There was one caution as it said it doesn't whip as high after it has been frozen and thawed. What fascinated me is that whipped cream can be sweetened and frozen into individual portions. Got to try that one. Wouldn't that be handy with frozen pumpkin pie? Yeah, that would be impressive to pull out and serve surprise guests. Or just to have during the busy holiday season when family comes.
  • Milk freezes well of course and I've frozen my share of goat's milk.
  • Sour cream, yogurt and buttermilk- All these cultured creations lose their smooth texture when frozen and become grainy, sometimes separating out. You can still use them for cooking despite this change in appearance. Flavored yogurts are suppose to be more stable because of the fruit and sugar added. So with more than enough information to proceed and a motivation to try frozen whipped cream, I began my experiment. The next time I separated milk to get the heavy cream, I went a step further and made a wonderful rich Alfredo sauce. I'd love to give you a set recipe but I don't have one as it is seldom done the exact same way twice and that day was no exception. I made a double batch and hence I heated a half a cup of butter in a sauce pan to which I added two quarts of cream, some garlic granules because it was the handiest thing next to the stove, and when that was hot, I began putting in the cheese. Normally I would add three cups of Parmesan for a double batch like this or enough cheese to make it taste good but that day along with Parmesan, I threw in a blend I'd bought on sale at the store. It was Monterrey Jack with sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Then I added a fourth a teaspoon of nutmeg and about a teaspoon of parsley and yum...!! Bland wasn't even in the ballpark.

Then I poured the moderately cooled sauce into ice cube trays and when I ran out of those I use some small plastic containers meant to put condiments in for lunch boxes. To keep it all together and flat, I put them on a cookie sheet and popped them into the freezer. When frozen, I ran a little hot water along the bottom of the ice cube trays and other containers and the sauce popped right out. These chunks I put into a plastic bag and into the freezer they went.

One of the meals I tried to get the kids to eat without success had store penne noodles and so I cooked up the whole batch and froze the leftovers. The kids won't eat my home-made semolina noodles. Of course they didn't like these store ones either. If I made breakfast for every meal they'd be happy. Alas, how does one please everyone. The answer, she often doesn't.

The Bertolli meals you dumped everything in a pan, baked it, microwaved it, or reheated it on a stove. So I figured I could add my own vegetables or a stir-fry mix from the store if I found a really good sale. (Next year our youngest grand daughter will be older and I'm hoping the garden will gain far more attention equating to a much better harvest than this year and I'll mix my own stir-fry combinations to freeze together.) Then with frozen home-made noodles, cooked chicken breasts sliced, and some Alfredo cubes all packaged together I would have my own healthy wonderful fast food meals. For now, I'll just have to throw things together but it will still speed up the whole process.

If I wanted to, I could use my canned chicken breasts instead of cooking up some on the grill. Oh how I love things made ahead. Next week, it will be especially appreciated as Tuesday through Friday are booked solid with activities for the kids between Daisy's starting, a birthday party, and Halloween activities this grandmother will be run ragged. I've started to prepare meals and freeze them this week for the rush. Meanwhile the kid's Halloween costumes have yet to be made. So much to do, so little time to do it all in.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

They've Started!!

Woohoo!!! I'm getting pullet eggs. The dark brown one is the first that I received the middle of last week. And the last couple days I've been getting two a day. Even more exciting.
I've bought eggs twice from the store and oh how I hate doing that. Ever since ( I think it was Salmonella scare), they said they were spraying the egg shells and they may continue to do that with all eggs from then on. For that reason the store egg shells are not going into my garden. Don't know if they are spraying but since egg shells are porous, that means chemicals are seeping inside. Combine that and the chemicals in the feed and anti-biotic needed to keep mass numbers of chickens in confinement healthy, if you can call them healthy and I cringe each carton I buy.
So these pullet eggs are especially welcome since the old girls are still busy with their moult. Oh the one I showed you the other day that looked like something from a freak show is very quickly gaining her feathers back but the egg supply from these old girls is minimal at best and somedays none at all. That makes every new hen that starts laying endeared to me. That means this hen!! I kind of favored her anyway with her plump, matronly looks. Her comb is turning a lovely rosy red. Not as red as last years hens, the Wyadotte or the two Barred Rocks, but red enough she must be laying. This young hen is either a Wyadotte or Barred Rock /Austrolorp cross.
The Austrolorps are touted in the catalogue to begin between five to six months and mine have but this is a cross and she could have taken longer. I'm glad to see she and the other hen like her are both taking after the Austrolorps in speed of laying eggs.
{This batch of chicks began to hatch on May 14th and the first eggs was almost to the day on schedule of five months.} Now I do have this pretty little hen that is the right size but her comb is underdeveloped and she doesn't show any signs of laying anytime soon. In fact, she looks to be months away. She may be chicken noodle soup as I need to begin being picky about my hens. Why have an Austrolorp that I bred because they lay early when this girl won't. Also since my experience is that they moult and completely quit, then she won't be as productive of a hen so why keep her to have chicks from? That would just perpetuate the problem and multiply it. I'll give her just a little while before she looses her head over the deal as I don't have the time to butcher her right now anyway. This is the Buff Orpington/Austrolorp hen I've kept watch on. She's not laying either. Notice the light comb on top with all the white flecks. Her waddles are becoming bright red and her comb should soon follow after so I'll keep an eye on her as she should hopefully change soon and begin to lay.
I really like the Barred Rocks despite their ugly featherless head. The two Barred Rock hens are still laying evern though they are missing lots of feathers. This breeds over all performance has pleased me for they lay well in cold and hot weather, and a little during their moult.

This Barred Rock is rather boring but her sister is a hoot. When I open the coop's door, she comes a running and sidles up next to me jabbering away non stop. Haven't a clue what she's saying but that doesn't matter to her. She's going to tell it to me anyway. The way she clucks and croos to me, I can just imagine she's telling me all the coops gossip. She's still talking away when I leave too. I hate to interrupt her but I'd proably be there all day if I didn't. I've tried to stroke her a number of times but she'll have none of that. Since most of the hens are rather boring, this character is a welcome change.

With only one Wyadotte (the other one died the other day - she must of done some internal damage somehow from the way she acted before she died) and two Barred Rock hens all a year old, I'm wanting to buy a few more of each as I really like them. I've plenty of Austrolorps so I won't be needing any more of those. Of course I've always loved Wyadottes. We had a pet rooster named Chanticleer who rode on the backs of the sheep when it snowed. He ran loose with them and stayed in the shed at night warmed by their woolly coats. In the morning when I fed, he'd ride on top out to the hay feeder, hop off eat, and bum a ride back when he was done. I'd feed him chicken scratch by the milking shed but he was real reluctant to go there when the ground was covered with snow. He was such a sweet and amicable old character.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Spiritual Thought

Our oldest daughter.

"It is possible to live so that others can trust us--can trust our words, our motives, and our actions. Our examples are vital to those who sit at our feet as well as those who watch from a distance. Our own constant self-improvement will become as a polar star to those within our individual spheres of influence. They will remember longer what they saw in us than what they heard from us. Our attitude, our point of view, can make a tremendous difference."Gordon B. Hinckley

This is why years ago I quit the practice of teasing. Too often it held a grain of truth that bit sharply along with a cruel lie. At first, I thought this would decrease the laughter surrounding us. Instead, I found it swelled as all could join in the fun as our fingers ceased to point at one in the group. We also are careful not to say one thing to try and get our children to do another for in this we teach manipulation and dishonesty.

Now if I'm going to make fun of someone, it is most likely to be myself and I'll be the one laughing the hardest. Am I perfect in this virtue of honesty, hardly, but I am trying to improve, especially in being honest with myself.

This does not mean that we don't laugh at things that others might think are cruel or irreverent. We have a quirky sense of humor. When our ninety year old grandma died, some of the grandsons were having a race behind the hearse. Something my grandma would have laughed at and shook her head. Us girls met in Grandma's house after the funeral. We all thought we had been Grandma's favorite grandchild and we went through her belongings dividing them up. Some of the neighbors whispered, "Well, she's not even cold in the ground yet and look at the greedy family going through her stuff."

It is one of the highlights of my memories as we caressed her treasured and everyday things. We spend hours sharing memories, many things were learned that day about our sweet Grandma we didn't know. If more than one person wanted a belonging to remember her by, their names were put in a hat and a name drawn. We even played dress up like we had when we were children in her home. Oh how we laughed and cried and celebrated her life. She had lived a rich long one full of family and love.

Another example, when our oldest had Belles Palsy on the right side of her face. We got the greatest kick out of it. One side of her face would smile and the other not. One side the eyebrow would raise and the other not. At first, it was very difficult for our oldest. She was a teenager at the time. We began to affectionately call her our little Bellsy and loved it when she'd show us the quirks of the disease. She didn't mind because she knew we loved her with all our hearts no matter what she looked like and laughter is contagious which eased her pain. To us she was as beautiful as ever just with a little pizazz thrown in.

In time, she learned to laugh at herself and most of all she learned that if she pretended that nothing was out of the ordinary, very few people would have the guts to ask her what's wrong, even those who had known her for years. A funny look may cross their face but it would quickly disappear and they'd pretend all was normal. The great lesson was learned by us all that if our daughter excepted herself, others excepted her also.

She was blessed in that the symptoms lessened and then vanished over the course of the next year. The most noticeable ones within a few months. Meanwhile, our little Bellsy brought much joy and learning to us all during that year. Laughter ruled over a difficult situation.

So if you hear me laughing, it might be because I've rather laugh than cry and each day I'm trying to be more honest than the day before so that our children and grandchildren can know that what I say I mean. And, what I do I'm trying to set an example though it may be imperfect like me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Calendula Flowers

I've talked about the flowers I'm putting into my new garden, which includes those for just show and those that I like but also have medicinal qualities. One of the flowers I'm including is Calendula. I've grown them in the front yard for years and they reseed themselves and are carefree =endearing them to me.

Also is their pretty bright blossoms and that they bloom for months and months until a HARD frost. The flowers are edible and can be tossed into salads boosting your immune system. I've never done that. And the blossoms can be dried and used medicinally. They have benefit inside and outside the body and the list is very long for their uses so I'll just touch on a few things. They have anti-inflammatory qualities and antibacterial as well. Which leads to uses for everything from pink eye to stomach ailments and wound care. Calendula flowers even have cosmetic applications as it is said to decrease the appearance of wrinkles and hydrate the skin. I'm not as beauty conscious as I should be and wrinkles are only just starting to ring my top lip - so my interest in them has been their soothing quality to the skin. This soothing nature makes them a great additive in soap making and skin cremes.

Calendula is reported to be great on acne as it attacks the bacteria and reduces swelling. I'm long past that stage of worry but they also say to try it on bug bites. I just may on my next bee sting. And, if you are looking for an anti-bacterial soap, wouldn't a home-made version that soothes the skin also be a far better choice than one from the store full of harsh chemicals?

My plan is to make my very first batch of goat milk soap (can you believe in probably fifteen years of making soap, I've never used goat milk?). Goat milk is also renowned for soothing the skin and I'll include the calendula flowers, an addition I've used in other soaps. Therefore, I'm plucking away at the blossoms yet, saving some to go to seed and spread into my new flower garden. BUT - oops!!, I now find out I should have not been plucking the bright orange blossoms and should have saved those to go to seed for the back yard's flower garden as one article said they have stronger medicinal properties. Don't know if it is true or not but the deep colors in blueberries and even dark red apples means means more good stuff.

As a note, don't confuse this flower with marigolds even they are often called such. The marigolds in your garden are probably either African marigold or French marigold, a totally different species.

My research did say that if you have a ragweed allergy beware as you might also react to this plant.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


If there was ever a self-portrait, this would have to be it. Yup, my Addison's disease is kicking my butt lately. That doesn't mean I can just stay in bed as all you moms know. Children, small ones in particular wait for no-one to feel better. So I've decided to try and slow down a bit, actually, quite a bit and see if I can get to feeling better. I can't just keep taking more medication to compensate.
So the plan is to cut my post down to three, four a week and you'll probably see post with combined topics because of it. This is a highlight of what's new we've done the last few days. Monday, the kids didn't have any school and so we pulled out the window paints I'd been saving for cooler weather. They decorated their bedroom window.
And one stray little soul wondered off into drawing on the bunk beds. Yes, she's reached the age of two - mentally, not physically. Mine is her favorite word and she has opinions, lots of very vocal ones. When she shakes her head it is very deliberate and precise. I can see myself in this little one. Since using pens and crayons have become facinating tools, next to electrical outlets that is, then I've grown to really appreciate these wide window markers by crayola. They wash off so easily, even off clothes and furniture.
If you are wondering, it is a artistic rendition of a butterfly.
Artisan - age four. Then Tuesday, when Mother Hubbard's cupboards were rather bare of things to quickly pop into a lunch box and bread was non existent, I decided that the Zoo should visit our grand daughter's lunch box.
I cut the cheese block lengthwise.
Using these small cookie cutters, though the big ones are easier to use as I did try a pig cutter, I cut out zoo animals from the cheese. Larger cutters would work great with sandwiches especially is the bread was cut also.
Then Idid the same thing with ham slices. Added a few Ritz crackers and the combination took the place of a sandwich. It was for our grand daughter to assemble herself.
The scrap ham and cheese was tossed into scrambled eggs for breakfast.
So as I have only a few more minutes to get the smaller two children up from their naps in order to go pick up the oldest, I'd better say goodbye for today and see if a smiling face waking them up gets me a dirty look that says "Go away leave me alone." or if I get a "Let's go Grandma."