Friday, March 29, 2013

Plants, Tacos, and Names

Can you believe it? My computer is finally back. Still has a little glitch I have to see if I can fix myself but at least I have my own once more. Hopefully I will have an easier time blogging. Maybe not this week for we've had grand kids every day. Not the entire day but most of it and all but one day we've had the youngest. You know how much you can get done with a eleven month old -- not much.

I've managed with difficultly to finally get some seeds started in pots for the garden. We are putting them under grow lights on a rack in the window this year. Before they were in a dark basement under lights. I'm hoping to save on electricity and improve thickness in plant growth. Maybe I can even get a decent crop of onion starts and lettuce. Two things I've yet to do successfully.

And I finally tried out my cousins tortilla shell, hot press. Not successfully though. The outcome looked more like a starched crocheted lace doily. The press squealed and popped as I pressed down the lever spreading out the dough leaving holes and a stiff brittle shell. That's okay because after three doilies, and trying to press lighter each time, I hand rolled a few to great success. Something that hasn't happened in all the years I've tried making them. Not that that is a ton of times but I bet I've tried over ten times over the course of twenty years and nodda, zilch success. You see I'm picky. I like my taco shells thin, thin and flexible. To do so without having to buy a press at over fifty bucks is even more exciting. My cupboards are groaning as it is with equipment.

Now my cousin swears by this machine so I wouldn't dismiss it all together. You see different methods for different folks. That is why reading about something or listening to advice is nice but doing it is essential for success. So follow along with me as I develop a series of recipes. It might just be the ticket to success for you too. That is unless you are already make your own.

I've got to tell you though. Ever since I made these shells I can't get them off my mind. My husband loved them and now I want to start making some with flavors. Remember the beets, zucchini, spinach, tomatoes, pumpkin, and carrots I dried, turned to powder, and use in noodles. I'm thinking spices and powdered vegetables are on the menu to try next with taco shells too. In the store you can get some with tomato and basil, another with spinach, and a third I think has avocado and a hot pepper. I can't remember for sure but I know I like the flavored ones best.

Not so sure I want to try beets or pumpkin and I'm sitting on the fence about carrots but they might not be so bad put in the taco dough if the taco shells were used for sandwich wraps. I'm thinking less bread and more taco shells might be a good calorie reducer. I know it will increase the nutrition level.

How much the powder will change the recipe I'm not sure as it will dry the dough out as the powdered vegetable reconstitutes. I'll have to add a bit more water to compensate, I'm sure.  

My cousin was right about the heat part though. Heat is the key only hot water instead of a hot press. I searched quite a few recipes on the Internet but finally found one I'd saved from good ole Cooks magazine. They've got to the science of the matter. I learned that hot water keeps the gluten in the flour from developing. The very thing I wanted to know. The recipe also calls for 6 tablespoons of shortening and a teaspoon of oil which also coats the flour and keeps the gluten from developing, so it must be a biggy. Don't develop your flour's gluten.

I was in a huge hurry needing lunch for the kids and a jump start on supper for Kirk so I admit I didn't read the instructions through. Just a quick glance. You know how well I follow directions anyway so with three little kids begging for their lunch I threw caution to the wind and just used oil. I hate using shortening unless I really have to. I consider it just above toxic waste.

The dough rolled out like a dream on my granite counter tops. I didn't have to even use flour to keep the shell from sticking. It was awesome. I'm thinking lard or ghee would be a good option next time because I'm wondering if using that will make a difference. I know many Hispanics use lard in their shells. It makes a mighty flaky pie crust so hm.... will it change thing? Got an answer anybody?

Sorry about the lack of photos but my days have been full to over flowing but the next batch I promise photos and a more detailed recipe.

Last but not least, the list of names for our new little yak. She let me come within ten feet of her today. Of course it was on the safe side of Gracie but hey, it is till progress.  

Stella, Esther, Essie, which all mean star. Then there is Sweat Pea which won't do because our close neighbor has a goat named that and we wouldn't want to confuse them. Other suggestions are Sunny, Annabelle, and Faith. I kind of like Faith. Others suggested Elly, which is cute, and Schatzi, Belle, Bella (but we named a goat  Belle last year) and Tashee and Nyima which I'm not totally sure how to pronounce. Kirk's brother suggested Wyoming White Star but she won't be registered so she doesn't need something quite so fancy. And my talented goat naming friend said we should call her Willow. I like that too. Kirk suggested Faye so there we have it. Sixteen names and Kirk and I have been so busy discussing other things we haven't had a moment to decide.

Some of which of course has been about the kids. Our four year old went to the high school play of Little Mermaid Monday night with her sisters and mom and said, " How they going to pull that one off Mom?" Because you  if you will recall, Arielle is naked when she comes up out of the water and becomes human. You know they can't have her naked. Not that our four year old shows much modesty on her own, running around in her underwear between dress up changes but she does get the lecture at least once daily, "Put some clothes on!". That of course ends up being a t-shirt of Grandpa's because she must be allergic to clothes. Or is it they take too long to put on and she's just going to take them off again to put on another set of dress up clothes.  

Somewhere in between watching kids and dyeing Easter eggs this weekend, we just have to come up with a name so I can quit calling our yearling yak, "Oh you cute little thing." She is going to think that is her name. Like the wild cat I accidentally named Sue when HE finally tamed down enough to begin coming to HIS name I discovered it wasn't a she after all but it had taken so.... long to tame him I didn't dare change it.

This is your last chance to pipe in and influence us or make another name suggestion. Who knows your name might get used after all. I've got lots of goat kids due in May and Gracie's calf will need a name also when it arrives. I

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I've Had It

I've had it. Seriously, I have. I can't find a bloomen thing. For instance, I bought these little jars to put lotion in along with some almond oil. Where is it? It won't be long and I'll need to make more. Yes, my house is a disaster and it has to change. We've had people moving in and out and in and out for years. Our stuff being shifted each time and in between things never get put to rights because we are trying to play catch up, never really able to.

I still haven't found everything that was in the bedroom where my folks stayed for two months last year. And to make it worse, we just keep adding more things. So for the next two years our theme is going to be "A place for everything and everything in its place." Meaning I'm going to find a place for everything and organize things in such a manner that they will stay there.

I love organization. It frees up time for I'm not running around trying to find things and money for we are not buying another one because we can't find the first one we bought. Yes, we have done that a few times. Our up stairs isn't too bad as it has been organized a number of different times, each time it gets even better. We do need to get back to the remodeling. Especially our bathroom. As for an office that we desperately need. It isn't happening because of lack of space. Our house is fairly small.

But the downstairs and garage well, they are in a horrible disarray and they can be made better.
Yes, I've dutifully bought storage container after storage container for the basement over the past years. I've stacked them up neatly each year but they just come tumbling down into a heap after a few forages into them to use the contents. I'm not straightening them up once more. No, I'm putting the containers on storage shelves. What took me so long to come to this conclusion, I don't know.  I can be pretty dense and well, I just didn't want to spend all this money on shelves. I've bought four. My poor husband gasped when I told him the bill last night. Especially when I said I was buying two more, just not this month. 

It's okay, he'll come around once he sees how well the basement STAYS neat. How can I be so confident. I put in an organization system in my closet and it has stayed neat. I did so in the bathroom and it stayed neat. Yes, I'm going to tweak them a bit this year to make them even better. I'm determined. I want organization so I can start painting and fixing up the house again. Organization equates to freed up time.

It is amazing how much more I can get in the same amount of space as I used before. Yes, I'm taking my wool supplies out of this room to put with my fabric and yarn in another room but I've hauled stuff from upstairs and other rooms in the basement to put on the shelves in here. I can't wait to jump into the other rooms in our basement since this room is shaping up so well. 

I am going to relent on the shelving with my fabric and the homeschooling books. They would bow the shelves and I don't get into them too often so if everything else on shelves, they shouldn't be too big a deal.
Yes, our basement is just one storage room after another. It just has to be that way for we don't have but a small single garage which has to hold some of the larger knife making machines for Kirk's business. The garage also holds a few tools, a chest freezer, and a motor for Kirk's 1957 truck he hopes to restore someday.  It is a tight fit though we can fit the car in. 

Then there is Kirk's shop in the basement where he grinds and does most of his work. He does have a shop. It is just a small shed  where he forges. If you couple my self-sufficient pursuits, Kirk's knife making, and the fact that we don't have our own land outside of town for livestock and you see we need to store almost everything in the basement. That includes saddles, halters, bottles etc. for livestock who reside on community property designated for such.
 It doesn't stop there though because we also need a room for our garden's bounty and foods I buy on sale. Then there is the emergency supplies like water. You can't live without water and we definitely don't have enough for emergency purposes when you add in the livestock but some is better than none. Did you know that some states are now asking that there citizens prepare to live independently for two weeks or more. Gone is the 72-hour kits they once recommended for that was the average response time of the government in an emergency situation. The last few wide spread disasters have shown that there is no way the government can meet the needs of so many people in such a short period of time. (I wondered when they'd figure that out.) That is why we have started to create a more independent situation though we don't live in an ideal situation. You just do the best you can and that means a basement that is a not finished and used for storage.

All of these pursuits are crowding us out and someday we will have to move. We just haven't because Kirk's job is here and the land surrounding us is not sufficient for our goals. We could go another route all together. Throw up our hands in defeat saying well we just can't grow a garden, the soil is lousy. We can't raise livestock because we don't have land beyond a house in town. Or we could roll up our sleeve and do the best we can with what we've got and work toward better. 

This time that means getting organized before the garden has to be planted and the livestock babies hit the ground. Not a great deal is being gotten rid of despite going through every container with a cast away eye. I've sorted through these same containers many times before. So it isn't getting rid of so much as organizing that which we have so we know what we need yet to purchase and where it is so we can use it.   
My goal before the middle of May is the entire basement. I'm one room down and yes, this one is next. After that it will be a breeze to finish. That is if every week isn't like this week where I have the grand kids almost every day. Not Thursday -- maybe. Today has been interesting as we had the three older kids sleeping over night and the eleven month old dropped off at 6:20 this morning.
Then came noon. I got a phone call from the school. I scooped the four year old up from a nap and with the eleven month old on my hip headed to pick up the six year old because she is being sent home from school since the nurse suspects - pink eye. I noticed her eye was a light pink this morning but with four kids to feed and two to get ready for the school, I was just forging ahead. The six year old had traveled six hours to a dental appointment yesterday and then attended a school play until late last night before falling to sleep in her bed. I wasn't sure she just wasn't tired and had rubbed her eye.
The room I once thought would be our office is now their bedroom for the frequent over nighters. LOL Oh well, their mom has them now I've got to get ready for Cub Scouts. And I thought being a grandma would be so..... much easier than this. Oh well, I'm loved.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Now What Kind of Wool Is This?

There are eighteen names so far to choose from  for our new yak but hubby is spending long hours this weekend judging a college in combination with a high school welding competition so discussion haven't happened. Thank you so much for your imput I'll give you the name list next week but for now I'm working on cleaning the basement. It will take weeks since I'm feeling kind of rough still. No, not the flu this time. I recently completed having removed all the silver fillings from my mouth and my body is starting to naturally detox. My... do my kidneys hurt and I'm tired, tired.

When it became apparent that my body had once again filled with metals and toxins my doctor determined that a repeat of another year long detox was useless if my body wasn't able to do its part. Mercury in silver fillings if released can block your body's natural ability to flush toxins, this includes heavy metals. Personally, I have found that my fibromyalgia problems is directly linked to my toxin levels. No toxins, no fibromyalgia. So you know who has once more became my companion, yes, fibromyalgia.

Since silver fillings have some mercury in them in order for the metal to adhere to your teeth, there is a risk of poisoning if the mercury is released. I grind my teeth severely. Hence, my night time mouth piece looks like something the dog got ahold of. There was no question that I am at high risk for release of mercury. In fact I use to feel tiny metal pieces on occasion in my mouth. My dentist is not usually to hept on the whole mercury being a problem in fillings kind of thing. But this was me ---not his average patient. My visits are always filled with laughter as we jokingly deal with the unusual that keeps creeping up so he didn't hesitate when I asked to have the metal removed.

He decided to use cubic zirconia as a replacement for the silver. You know the stuff they make fake diamonds from. Must be working because my mouth feels lighter and I'm not grinding my teeth as badly. And the clincher that this must be working is that my kidneys hurt just like they did when we did the other detox program.  No, it was not the over the counter kind of detox but a closely, ever few day call to the doctor, monitored kind of detox done medically. I had some dangerous levels of metals in my system. Toxins coming out is just as dangerous as toxins going in so it had to be done ever so slowly with long breaks for recovery.

This time we will do another method that is even more gentle. Especially now that my body seems to be able to help.
But hey, I was suppose to be talking about wool. It is a three pay day month and I'm spending some of the extra cash on shelving. My basement is a disaster and my goal is to go through everything. One of those things is wool. I have Rubbermaids and plastic garbage bags of the stuff. I've already gotten rid of most of what I don't want some time ago. I don't seem to be getting the rest spun up.  In part because it isn't washed and ready to spin. So I'm washing the smaller bags of wool for now with a plan to continue the project again in the fall. I know it won't all get done with spring having sprung. There are three large bags of state fair winning Cormo and Targee wool. I'm not parting with it but it would take up less space and be much lighter if it were all cleaned. 

I'm starting with this mystery wool. It had the staple length of a possible Rambouillet but not the fine crimp. When I washed it, I figured I'd know by how it cleaned up and reacted to washing. Yes, I've washed a lot of wool over the years.
The short length had me wondering if it was a lamb. I'd had a brown one from a Columbia lamb years ago. I'd had other brown fleeces though so I wasn't completely sure so I suds up some hot water in a tub.

Then I pulled off a section of the fleece and gently submerged it. The hot water relaxes the wool and releases the trapped dirt. Wool fibers are similar to a pine cone. The heat spreads and opens up the layers.

 Since a sheep never takes a bath, you can imagine the amount of dirt a years growth of wool contains. It is filthy. 

I let the wool soak for a few minutes or yesterday it was in between taking care of the eleven month old and the four year old.  Then I scooped up the wool in my hands and gently squeezed out the water, dump the water, refill the basin with hot water from the tap and let it sit all over again.  You do not want to combine heat and agitation for that spells felt. But hot water alone won't do it so if carefully handled the wool will remain in locks. The finer the wool, or the more individual strands per square inch, the easier wool felts and the more gentle you have to handle it. This wasn't a fine fleece so I wasn't worried.

When most of the dirt has washed out, you can then begin to see the yellowy lanolin.
Five baths later, the wool is fairly clean.  The structure open and seconds begin floating to the sides of the clump of  wool. Seconds are created when the shearer takes a swipe with his shears and then swipes the same place over once more. They are small pieces of wool. A no no if  you have a shearer who does this very often for this wool is discarded. Each small section of wool from the fleece has to go through this same five bath process and so it is quite time  consuming.  

For a comparison for you. The light colored wool lock is the unclean and the dark, the clean. 

See how open and sponge like this wool is. My suspicions have been confirmed. This is a Columbia fleece. A bit finer because it is a lamb's fleece but the problem comes in that I'm not fond of spinning this wool breed. Luckily, there isn't much and the color is nice so I'll put aside my prejudice and spin it up as soon as it dries. As soon as it dries for this breed produces lots of lanolin and the washed fleece if let sit will get gummy. I hadn't used hot enough water nor enough Dawn grease removing soap to eliminate enough of the lanolin. Lanolin is great for water resistance but too much and the yarn is stiff and sticky feeling.  Many other wools don't require the heat level nor the amount of soap that Columbia does. I now know what wool I'm dealing with so I will take appropriate action.

I know this wool well on many levels. My dad raised this breed of sheep. They are a multi-purpose animal with a medium grade fleece and a meatier carcass than for instance a Rambouillet who has a lovely fine fleece but of short length and a bit scrawny in size.  Yet, not nearly as meaty though as a Suffolk for instance. To me, they don't do either wool nor meat well and so not a breed I have interest in.

When the day comes that we have to be more self-sufficient, sheep will be once more added to our animal menagerie and I have been contemplating what kind we will have.

But for now I have to deal with my stash. I have some mohair to clean. I have a small Rambouillet fleece in the basement along with Cormo, and Targee and none of them require as hot a water nor as much soap as Columbia wool. They each have there own distinct white color too from a creamy yellow like Columbia to a silvery white of Targee.  Combine the crimp and length and how it feels and reacts and you can get a pretty good guess of the breed of wool you have in a bag.

Those of you who don't spin. Take a moment to think of what it must of been like for the pioneers.
1. Take care of the sheep.
2. Shear the sheep.
3. Wash the fleece.
4. Dry the fleece.
5. Card and comb the wool.
6. Spin the carded wool into yarn.
7. Dye the wool if desired.
8. Knit or weave the yarn.
9. Block the garment.
FINALLY -- wear the garment.

How much more appreciative would you be of a sweater after all this work and how differently would you treat it ? Self-sufficiency naturally creates a reverence for things.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Help Needed

What a precious face. No-name here is worming her way into my heart. She's watching all that I do but not necessarily scared. It is more like she is curious about me. Before, she lived a foraging life. Now this strange lady brings water and this ever so yummy hay. 
I promised pictures so you could help me come up with a name. Here they are. Herdog has started and your welcome to keep suggesting. The rest of you get a going. My mind must be full of dust, since I'm spending spare moments cleaning the basement, because it is blank. Help me please.
I want your opinion on another matter. See what you think about Gracie here. She wasn't too pretty when she was young. Jasmine was the beauty. (She died from EHD) But Gracie is turning out pretty nice. We shall see what she looks like after she calves but that isn't what I wanted to ask you.

 Look at her tummy. She is huge! And to think that several yak breeders told me you can't tell when a yak cow is pregnant. They don't get big tummies. Excuse me, but uhh... if I couldn't tell that Gracie here was pregnant I'd have to say I was blind. I think even a city slicker might guess that Gracie is in the motherly way. So am I wrong here to believe that the breeder's dates are wa... y off?

He thought she would be due in July. JULY!!!, how could she go that long. I could be wrong but if she keeps growing at this rate, she's going to explode. 

I'm thinking she bred shortly after arriving September 9th. I'm hoping anyway because she is one wide, wide, girl and itches. Oh my, she itches, always a scratching at her tummy with her horns. Can't blame her for if my stomach was trying to stretch this far, it would be itchy too. In fact my tummy tried to do that with every kid. By six months people were commenting in the grocery line about how I must be due any day now. The bishop at church announced over the pulpit one time when I was six months along that I would be due any day. Yup, every pregnancy I looked like Two Ton Tessy from six months on. I stuck straight out there.

But somehow I don't think that is the case with Gracie. I might have been big but this girl is beyond big. You think she might be due the end of May or the beginning of June? Yaks have an average gestation of 8 1/2 months and longer if having a bull calf.

You think she might be doing the very unusual and having twins? I've only heard of one yak rancher so far that has had twins and he lost momma and the twins. He does not watch his yaks like a hawk like I do and has no experience in pulling calves. Yaks normally do not need aid in giving birth so there really isn't any reason to keep a super close eye on them.
I've got to tell you I'm getting a bit nervous. Twins would be exciting but it would also mean a higher risk of complications. I've pulled beef calves before but they were already restrained at the time. It was never my cow and there was always someone around to help get the cow in the chute or restrain her.

Maybe I'm a chicken. Okay, I am a chicken but I don't want to have to be trying to get Gracie in the chute all by myself. Oh I hope Kirk is home when she goes into labor. She could get cranky. She has horns. She may not fit in the chute even though it is built for pulling calves in.

Oh me or my, what do you think is in store for me? I hope, oh I hope she just has them all on her own.  My favorite thing. Go to the corrals and there are babies, up and nursing off momma. I've pulled my fair share. I'm always thrilled not to have to do it again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Got to Love Days Like These

Not getting a great deal done as my tummy has not kicked the flu bug yet but I wish you could have been with me the last few days (except of course I'd have been exposing you to the bug) because you would have loved to have been here with us.

On Friday while my tummy rumbled and I made frequent trips to the throne, that is what we laughingly call the bathroom, Kirk and I took care of the two littlest grand daughters. Then after school, with the older two grand daughters in tow, we went out back to fly kites with a bald eagle. He soared above watching while the girls tried to keep the kites in the air as the winds changes directions frequently. Think - when was the last time you flew a kite with a bald eagle? Yes, our soil may be garbage but the wild life experiences are rich.

 Then there was Waltzing Matilda on Saturday. She is so funny! Once again in estrus, she was desperate for a male. She's not too picky.
Not that Touch of Classic here isn't handsome but he's hardly the makings of a boar pig. But she didn't care. He was the opposite sex and that was good enough for her. In her haste to gain his audience, she popped off most of the wires to the posts on the fence line between her and his pen. She didn't make it in, though the cow panels were bowed far into his pen, for I'd previously wired the panels together. From the site, I'd made a guess she must of tried to throw herself at him, for he was limping a bit but not cut up. The fence probably hit him as she slammed into it. That she had not done more owes to her good nature for I've watched in amazement as a pig lift up the back of our small four horse trailer with it's head in an attempt to escape.  I've learned to never under estimate a determined hog.

I fixed fence and you know who was in my hip pocket the whole time. We had a long conversation as Matilda was quite chatty. It was of course girl talk. 

"Got the hots for him do you girl?.......... I hate to tell you, he's not liable to be interested.......... No, it's not your age. Your just not his type. ...... I'm sorry............ I know you've got way more udder than the girls next door but honey, he's not after a girl with twenty-four teats. The harsh facts are, his idea of the perfect women doesn't include a girl that says oink. ........I know, I know, it's hard, love is blind. ( I'm giving her a hug here.) but the urge will be over soon and he will transform once more into that stinky neighbor next door. Just hang in there, this too shall pass."  

Then Sunday.
Sometimes you don't get to choose so much when things get done so Sunday despite the pending weather forecasting high winds and snow, we made a dash for the mountains two hours away.  Howling gusts buffeted us but the clouds were still in the distance when we began. By the time we reached the mountain it was snowing so we hurried to load our prize and head back home.

Yup, Gracie has a new girlfriend. We brought home this little sweetheart. She is a yearling yak from a gentle giant of a bull named 7. We've met before and I nicknamed him Gentle Ben so sweet was he. Her mama I was introduced to for the first time or maybe I just don't remember her. She was rather cranky Sunday having had to wait for us while the herd remained loose in the steep mountainous pasture.

Now look at that face. You can't help but love her, she is so.... cute and needs a name. Want to help? I'll post more pictures as we try and decide.

As we approached the corrals I began to worry a bit. We had taken this little one from her mama and I wasn't so sure what kind of greeting she would get at our pen from her new companions. My fear was they would try and establish a pecking order and she would try to light out for home in the snowstorm thinking this wasn't such a nice place.

Only one way to find out. We backed into the pen slightly, opened the back gate on the trailer, and waited. The little one just stayed laying down until Gracie came. Anything new has Gracie's attention right away. I swear you can't place a comb down in her pen that she doesn't have to thoroughly investigate. Yaks are extremely curious like Pronghorn antelope.

Which reminds me, there were these two bucks fighting like maniacs. I've never seen two Pronghorn bucks go at it like these two did. Mouths hanging open gasping for air, blood streaming off their faces. I was afraid they were going to kill each other.

It was disturbing but I'm no dummy so I wasn't about to run out and jump in the middle of these two crazed eyed creatures. I did lay on my horn and lay on my horn for it took a while before they broke apart. Startling them I had hoped would end the battle but they just ran off, the chasing buck hitting the lead buck in the rump with his horns at every other leap. Up over the hill they went and I never learned the end of the story. I just hoped they ran and ran becoming too exhausted to fight any more. What could have been so bad that it heated tempers to the escalated level of a fight to the death I'll never know. Wish I had thought to have brought my camera. They were so close I could have gotten some good shots

Sorry, side tracked there.

Gracie peeked inside the trailer and her eyes grew excited. The little one jumped up and stared. I fussed around with the waterers, giving them a little time to introduce themselves. Cory meanwhile was straining his neck to see but stayed at a safe distance. When I figured enough time had passed, I moved Gracie a short distance from the tailgate and sure enough the heifer jumped out after her.

What a relief when Gracie hurried over and started licking the little one. Cory, true to form, dashed over and then remembered. He had a performance to put on. He ran back to his previous location, whirled around into position, lower his head, shook his horns, and threw dirt in the air one front hoof at a time in the mimicking posture of a Spanish bull facing a Matador. Only he didn't look that tough. Machoness aside, he rushed back to place his chin on her rump, in a gesture that means I just love you so..... much. He's not particularly picky either. No, he's not related to Matilda.


When we left last night they had the little heifer pressed between them. And if she moved they moved to circle her keeping her safe within their herd -- of now three.

Yes, one can't help but smile when days are like these.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tending to Last Years Onions

It is that time of year again where the onions I've stored are needing attended to. Some have started to sprout, a few are rotten, a few more are still good, and some are just about to go to the bad side.

 There is nothing I can do about the few rotten ones but I can put the onions that are just beginning to soften in the dehydrator before they are lost and make dried onions. They are great on beef roast and in chicken noodle soup. They add an intensity that fresh onions don't.

I tried a new kind of onion in my garden last year and I have to say they kept longer than any other I've ever grown. Good thing I kept the receipt from last years order because I would not have remembered which kind they were, Big Daddy. I of course ordered some more.

They are transplants as they seem to do best for me. Upon arrival, they are the baby onion with a shoot of green on top in case some of you are wondering.  Not all seed catalogues offer them.  The little onion ball that you normally see at the grocery store and in most catalogues just isn't my friend. Some do develop into full sized onions but some go straight to seed and skip making a full sized onion.
But right now I have to deal with last years and though I try to not be wasteful, for I equate that to being ungrateful, I'm not going to use the onion skins to dye wool with. I just don't particularly like the shade of yellow that onion skins create. Call me picky but I like a more intense yellow color. Yes, as you can guess I have dyed with onions, once. But just as I say that I'm off to the Internet and see that others do get some pretty colors. Knowledge is everything and apparently I didn't know what I was doing, Imagine that.

You've probably guessed that I have another experiment in the works. This weekend I'm planting in a pot this nice large yellow Big Daddy onion with the green sprouts. There were others to choose from but this was the only one of large size that the bulb was still firm with a large sprout. I'm guessing that is good. I don't really know.

This little purple onion on the right will also go into a pot. It wasn't the largest purple onion I grew last year but it is the largest one left. It was a grab at a grocery store thing so I don't have the foggiest idea what kind it is. I do know it was an excellent storing onion so I'll just give it a try. The little bulbs did just as I told you they would for me last summer and some grew to full size, some didn't really do a thing, and some attempted to go to seed but they didn't quite do that well either.

If all works then growing them in the house will allow me to control their environment and hopefully learn to pollinate them myself. Controlling the type of offspring, ones true to the parent plant. That is the problem with growing them outside. They will cross pollinate.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Ideas on Raising Baby Chicks

I never thought I'd say this but one computer is not enough. Kirk has gotten into the habit of doing a little on his computer and then doing a little a short while later and then repeating this pattern throughout the day. He must have ADHD too. Anyway between him and our three grand daughters (who spent most of last week with us),who wanted to watch Netflixs, my computer time just didn't happen.

It wasn't entirely their fault as I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out Cub Scouts and preparing and doing a bazzare. So glad it was no more than five hours for I sat and knitted part of the time and no one knew what I was doing. The notion pouches had notions in them such as embroidery floss, crochet hook, knitting needles etc. They didn't know what they were.

No wonder the advertisement years ago for Charmin bathroom tissue had two women who were suppose to be quilting the tissue but were actually knitting. What has society come to? I think our grandmothers would roll over in their graves if they knew how much knowledge had been lost in just a couple generations. But hey, if you were selling packaged food mix items such as bread or muffins, you were a hit at the show. Yeah, definitely not my crowd.

But though I have been distracted, I have been thinking. You can't stop this brain. It rolls on like a run away train. I read a blog by
 Hoegger Supply company. It's one of the catalogues I order goat supplies from, which reminds me I need to do that. And though I've raised baby chicks for years and years why I didn't think of giving them yogurt? Oh yeah, the post recommended yogurt for your new chicks. It's not like I haven't put it in every bottle of formula I've given to a bum calf, lamb, kid goat, piglet, and even a few foals that I've fed formula to. So why haven't I given it to chicks? Maybe because I don't associate milk with poultry. Except I do give left over goat's milk to the chickens now and then to up their calcium levels. The post's reasoning made perfect sense. This is what it said.

"Encourage nutrient usage and discourage coccidiosis with probiotics.

Baby chickens have been enclosed in an egg and their bodies do not come with bacteria that usually lives in a normal chicken’s body. Once chicks have hatched, suddenly they are exposed to bacteria everywhere – good and bad; in this new frontier, the bacteria that gets established first and strongest is the one that will take over."

Of course my brain went on a little further and thought, why not add fresh goat's milk instead of yogurt? That is except the chicks will arrive before the kid goats. Hm....BUT I do have some frozen goat milk. What would happen with that? My Internet search says that some of the good guys are killed when you freeze fresh milk and yogurt but many still remain so I'm tempted to give some of my frozen goat milk, if there is any left by then, instead of store yogurt. Who knows, I might try both.

The second duh moment was when the post talked about adding vitamin B to the chick's food. This I know stirs the appetite and is a stress vitamin. When our kids were in 4-H years ago, we always gave Vitamin B to our lambs before and during fair to combat the stress and keep them from getting sick. They always came through like a charm -- except for one. Nothing short of a traquilizer would have worked on him. Don't know if he was dying of embarrassment from the shearing job or what but our daughter took him out into the show ring and not even a quarter way around the first lap and he passed out in a swoon. In a panic, we revived him to find out there was really nothing wrong with him as outside the ring once more he was our happy go lucky guy thrilled over all the attention.

Took him back in and low and behold if he didn't pass out again. By this time the ring master was so stressed out she disqualified the lamb and wouldn't let our daughter try for a third round though it was perfectly clear the lamb was just fine. So unless you have a complete spazz case like him, I highly recommend Vitamin B in shot or powdered vitamin form. I'm definitely going to add some powdered vitamins to our chicks feed this year as I have a bucket of it.

Most of what the article said I already knew but the reason for having more than three chicks, other than you had to order twenty-five for warmth in shipping, I hadn't really thought about since it wasn't an option. Even when I hatch my own I always have more than three. Silly me, I always kind of felt sorry for the sleeping chicks that were always getting trompled on and woke up. I guess it's a good thing.

"Chicks do best when kept in groups of larger than three. As tempting as it is to keep 2-3 babies together, there are reasons that more babies mean fewer problems. Baby chicks actually energize each other and encourage each other to eat and drink. Natural curiosity is triggered when the babies see other babies eating and drinking. Sleepy or disinterested chicks wake up and become more
energetic if their peers are bumbling into them."

So even if you have been raising chicks for years, like myself, I'd recommend taking a gander at the blog. Just click on the Hoegger Supply word in grey and it should take you there.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Seeds Are On Their Way

Sorry, the laptop computer is down despite paying for a good virus protector. What's up? It is not like I go into the usual sites on the Internet, right? You've seen the things I research, now who wants to leave something on a site about Teff grain, seriously? Not that my computer's problem stems from there but what its problem is, is beyond me. Maybe it is sympathy pains as my daughter's also crashed recently. To that I say - quit it.

Yes, I have my husband's I can use at times but no photos saved and not the mobility that I've come to love. I do feel more business like sitting all upright and formal in a kitchen chair at a desk. Maybe it will help with the grammer and spelling I so struggle with -- probably not. If posts are a bit more erratic in coming, please stick with me, I have to share a computer now. I'm finding it is a bit difficult. It has dawned on me that that is where our four year old naturally comes by it. She doesn't share so well either. LOL It is more of a focused attention and a get the job done mentality rather than a MINE attitude. Doesn't matter though because it is still a struggle.

Today we will talk seeds once more. FINALLY, I finished up with my seed orders. Dealing with multiple companies is over stimulating for me. Silly I know but I can't handle it. It's a Autism things, so it took me awhile to narrow it down to just two orders. The price is slightly higher on the one than some other companies but rather than order from four or more, which would be the other option, I chose Annie's because it had everything the Irish Eyes Seeds company did not or was out of that I desired. ( I've ordered from Irish Eyes for years) That is eight items more beyond my original order and a few things I caved in on like popcorn and celeric which I've always wanted to try.

It is so hard to settle on only a few new things to grow. I was tempted to try sugar beet because you need more than one sugar source in self-sufficiency situations. Our bees finally died, the drought has taken its toll and they grew weak so that message hit home. Hence, the post on syrups from Birch and different types of Maples. I've read a tidbit of how they make sugar beets into the white sugar like you get at the store but most of the real info was lacking. I've not persude it because we don't have a cellar, hence, we can't replant a few beets the second year to grow seeds. No self-sufficiency there until we someday relocate.

Space is the huge thing we have a problem with and energy (mine). I have eight kinds of beans alone that I'm wanting to grow. Self-sufficiency pursuits can be a pain. Royal Purple because it is the first to produce; a green bean ,which I'm trying a new variety this year; and Kinghorn Wax which just puts on heavier and heavier yields at harvest time (the opposite of my present green beans). Plus, our multipurpose Dragon's Tongue. So far in our experiments with it we have eaten it fresh and in salads. The families favorite. Then we have cooked and canned it in a fresh state where it tastes like a green bean but doesn't have as pleasing an appearance. But we haven't had any of the dried bean at seed stage in soups. Too many pots on the fire so to speak. It's coming though as I've some in the basement to do.  

 We use Navy, Kidney, a black bean, and ten bean mix pretty exclusively with a few butter beans thrown in for our dried bean varieties. All bought from suppliers. Not grown by us. I need to grow them ourselves to up our sufficiency. Though other varieties are calling to me, LOUDLY, I resisted for one reason or another. In part some because they weren't bush type. We have lots of wind and lack of space so short and compact is the ticket. I did buy three kinds beyond Navy and Kidney. I've bought Calypso and Jacob's Cattle Bean, plus. Black Turtle. Still, eight kinds of beans will mean almost the whole garden is beans. I have a pretty good idea we won't be able to grow our entire bean need in our small garden since our entire property is less than a half acre which has to include a house and everything else, but if I know how and what kinds of beans to grow, it is a huge leap and then when we have the land someday, we will have only a small step to a larger crop.

Until then, I'll have to think of a rotation plan for them which incorporates a ten foot separation to insure no cross-pollination, even though the chance is only slight that they will cross. Anybody grow these varieties and have advice? 

Still, though I said I wouldn't, I'm increasing the garden size by taking up more lawn and putting in a couple HUGE wood boxes that had equipment inside at one time. I think I'll also use our old small metal oval water trough with all the holes in the bottom. I think I can get another one in similar condition. They could look tidy and yet produce more food in a different way. How about sweet potatoes, or melons that I've had a hard time growing? What's your vote? What should I put inside?

Now with all these seeds on there way, I've got to decide how to store the extra seeds. I'm thinking more and more people will be growing gardens as our economy struggles deepen. I want to have supplies for the future as a rush descends upon the few heirloom companies. Have you noticed how much more difficult it is to get the chickens you want? I have to order months in advance of delivery.

You can put your seeds in the refrigerator or freezer for longer storage. I use to use my refrigerator but I have too many seeds now. The freezer will keep them longer BUT you have to keep in mind that moisture will absorb and ruin your saved seeds in time. Nope plastic doesn't work for long as moisture will eventually work through it and I don't have any large glass containers. I would need a fair amount. I definitely don't have the foil options that are a commercial option.

I'm thinking using my seal a meal to suck out the air and hence moisture. This is plastic and then I would use another plastic container to put these bags in. Maybe not a ten year option or better that you can get from large seeds using the foil or glass in a freezer but wouldn't it be a step up? What are your thoughts?

Friday, March 1, 2013

No-knead Whole Grain Bread and Teff

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I'm not amused or flattered. My adrenals have crashed once more and I'm spending part of my days flat out in bed. My computer, the dirty little beggar, decided to do like-wise and crashed. Luckily I was able to upload these photos on to a post before it did so. Now I'm on hubbies but his does not have my folder after folder of photos and saved favorites on different subjects. Glug! I've done all I can to try and fix it so when I'm done canning chicken today then I'll head out for the eighty mile drive to drop off my computer and pray it gets fixed soon, real soon.
Meanwhile I'll take the opportunity to pick up some propane for the grill since yes, it died too while I was trying to cook the chicken before bottling and pressure canning.  Some days are just tougher than others. The oven works though and since the house was pretty cold this morning I used it to cook the chicken on cookie sheets and the side effect was a warmer house. Make do isn't all bad.
But you probably didn't want to hear all those woes but instead want to know what are all those dark spots in the bread I've concocted.
It is good for you stuff. I'm on my bread kick and ground up some spelt, pulled out some Teff, some dark flax seed, and sunflower seeds. Yes, the teff has been sitting in my food storage room for a year and true to form, I'm just getting around to experimenting with it so I can decide when I've done my research if I want to try and grow it, try to buy some in bulk, or feed what I have to the chickens.  Love the guilt free feeling of throwing things out to the chickens.
A couple days ago I took a no-knead recipe and fudged. Don't I always? That is why I love the science of baking because you know I'm not going to follow a recipe. I recently learned that to go from a white flour artisan-no knead recipe to using whole grains in the same recipe requires doubling the yeast. Yup, my favorite white flour artisan bread calls for 1/4 a teaspoon yeast and this one with a cup more flour calls for 1/2 teaspoon so that is pretty close. This recipe did call for half the flour to be white. Hmm... wonder what will happen when I go totally whole grain? Then again I may be off to try another recipe before I get back to this one again.
The rise action was big time so a little less speed of lift from yeast would work fine. and I conclude at least with half white flour and half whole grains that the doubled yeast is more than enough even with a cool house like ours.
Knowing that any time during the day I might end up having to lay down, I decided to mix up the flours, seeds, yeast, etc. and add the water right before bed. That way it was sure to get done - pretty sure at least but no sweat at this stage it could sit for a few days.
Not sure if I added the four cups of four the recipe asked for as I might of been mentally haywire with my Thyroid swollen and mad. I'm thinking it might of been only three cups of flour because the dough wasn't sticky it was REALLY sticky and lacked enough cohesiveness to be more than a sponge.
As you can see it was rising big time. Usually I do my bread and such in ceramic or glass containers but once in while when I know my counter tops will be really busy, I do things in plastic with tight lids. I knew this would be one of those days and this might just get bumped as I had a few things planned to do and I knew dishes might pile up before I got to them being up and down, up and down with feeling not too bad and really bad.
First I proably should confess that the recipe called for not only white flour but wheat, which I chose spelt, and honey or mollases which I added both and didn't measure the sweets. I did use flax seeds but I didn't use sesame seeds choosing Teff instead and I didn't use rye flour at all. So like I said it was a loose interpretation of the recipe. 
 The dough set overnight and was very active the next morning but I added a good cup or to make a raggy sticky dough but one that had some form That is why I question if I had all the four I should have at the beginning. It turned out anyway and that is all one can hope for even if they follow the recipe.
The bread is mild flavored despite all the seeds and ingredients. I like it. When I have done some more experimenting, I'll give you a recipe.  I might actually do some carefulll measuring - No, I won't. I shouldn't even hint that I will because you know I won't but I will tell all.  
The Teff, well, I couldn't find any distinct taste in the bread just a mild crunch. I boiled some Teff up as porridge and it was mild also, just tasted like grain. 
A little background, Teff comes from Ethiopia. It is now grown in many areas of the worlds even in Idaho. Hmm... potatoes and Teff, NO! brain don't go there. What I can assure you is that Teff doesn't have tannin in it as I did not pick up any bitter flavor. Teff is non gluten so that is a plus for some. It can be ground or eaten whole and it comes in colors from ivory to a dark brown and even a hint of purple in some. The lighter colors being milder but I suspect less nutrious. Darker colored things usually are.
Price ? I can't remember as it was a year ago that we bought this package from a grocery store marketed by Bob Mill. But though the Internet says a handful  of Teff will seed an acre and it takes a 100 pounds of wheat to seed an acre, I still haven't yet learned what the difference in yield is?  Which is a better use of the land? Hm.....? You would have to wager between nutrition, yield, and versitility if they both grew well in your area.
Since most of Teff consists of the germ, or outside, it makes Teff a highly nutritious grain.  It takes about 100 grains of this seed to equal one grain of wheat. That makes me lean heavily toward Teff as a more nutrious choice over wheat.  Teff can be used to make sourdough as wild yeast is present on the outside just like wheat. Bonus!!
Teff grows from sea level to 3000 meters but maximum yields are at 1800 to 2100 meters high. Our elevation is around 5000 ft and
1524 meters equals 5000 feet  so it is a definite possibility to grow here in that sense. It is also touted to be very hardy and grows in boggy to drought stricken areas from the high and mountainous Idaho to the low and wet Netherlands. But does it like clay? And what is the growing season length? Hm....?
"Maximum teff production occurs at altitudes of 1,800 to 2,100 m, growing season
rainfall of 450 to 550 mm, and a temperature range of 10 to 27 °C."
 So 10 C equals 50 F. and 27 C equals the 70's F.. And 450 mm minimum rainfall means at least 17 inches. We have on average 12 inches in a whole year. Not so drought resistant a grain as I thought but then we would be watering it so looking at temperatures would that mean growing it in the shade for the 80 some degree days and above?  
"Teff is day
length sensitive and flowers best with 12 hours of daylight."
But 12 hours for how long?  This would definitely be an out there experience with a questionable return but hey,  Kirk and I are already out there. After all, we have yaks. LOL
Any Teff enthusiasts out there to shed some light on this subject?