Friday, January 31, 2014

Something I Just Have to Get Off My Chest

I ordered my seeds for this summer. Can you believe that some of the items are already sold out. It is only January. Yes, it was January 30, the last day but for us here that is a ways off from gardening time. I will start some seeds in March, in the house, but the garden won't be planted until the end of May. I'm ordering from northern seed companies so why the rush? I know some of you are working on your gardens right now, those down south, but you shouldn't be the ones ordering from these companies. The seeds are acclimatized and suited for the north. Southern seeds are adapted for a whole different environment. For instance the growing of indeterminate tomatoes versus determinate. Up north we need cold hardy and fast producing vegetables for our chilly short season. I saw a joke the other day on Facebook about "Wyoming Spring - the best day of the year." That isn't too far off unless you are referring to fall and then sometimes that is even shorter. Yes we joke frequently about having two seasons, winter and summer, winter being the longest.

 The shortage of seed catalog items leaves me wondering. Is there a resurgence of people starting to garden? Not that I'm just starting to notice or that I've not heard that there is but I'm talking still. It hasn't gone out of fashion since it involves that nasty word work?  Is it becoming big time? I've had to order earlier and earlier each year to assure I get the seeds I want. Makes you question supply and demand. When the need is really serious, I don't care if you do know how to grow a garden, will you be able to?

The same is true of chickens. If I need chicks, I order by the beginning of February for the beginning of May arrival and still I don't always get what I want. I know with chickens they had a resurgence in people wanting to raise them because I talked to the owners of a couple companies. At the same time I'm seeing these same companies struggling because of the volatile weather and strain economically by the government on businesses. How long can they hold out. How long do they want to?

So is this push to produce your own gaining momentum? I hope so. I spoke to a gentleman a few days ago and he stated that he wanted to can this year like he did with his grandmother as a child. He is trying to convince his wife as she isn't feeling as unsettled about the future as he is. People think the store has always taken care of them and it always will. They might want to look beyond their borders and back in history. An imbalance is occurring in the US and across the world. I can't help but think of Russia years ago and maybe the Soviet Union even now. The people grew just enough for their own needs or they were taxed heavily. Our government has made a number of similar moves, some successful and some not. They are still trying to outlaw Farmer's Markets. It isn't about safety. It is about control.

I meet more and more people who speak of such things and of their uneasy feelings. I had to laugh when my blog view numbers spiked big time after Obama's State of the Union address. Coincidental - I don't know. I do know that history repeats itself. Just as in nature she rebalances herself, so to will our world. It is painful and ugly when it does.
*****************************************************I'm stopping you here if you don't want to hear the grizzly truth. Skip to a fun blog coming up tomorrow. **********************

Some, including members of my extended family, look at the changes happening today and say we are evolving and things are progressive. I would agree. I don't agree that it is in a positive direction. I say we are progressing toward destruction. Emotions rule. Principles are rapidly being lost. Where are the men who put their lives and fortunes on the line for a better world. A world which they in their lifetime would not enjoy the fruits of.  These were our founding fathers. These men were born of trial. Just as they say the "Greatest Generation" was those who went through WWII well, they rose out of the Great Depression. The rise and fall of generations can be charted throughout history and there is a distinct pattern in it. The more self-sufficient or self controlled we are as a person and a nation, the more a society prospers economically and morally. The more dependent it is upon others and the less self disciplined it is, then destruction always follows. The founding fathers of the United States studied history and governments extensively before putting the constitution to pen. They took into accountability the nature of man. We would be wise to follow in their footsteps. And on that note, let's take Obama's pen away from him. He keeps claiming he has a pen and will use it to write executive orders and that he can put into vacant offices whom he pleases. Checks and balances were put in place for a reason. Government moves slowly for a reason. Yes, good things don't happen quickly but then neither do disastrous ones.

Each day as I cook, clean and go about my daily tasks, I ponder, "Can I make this? Did I make this? Can I do without this?" My ancestors are looking smarter by the day. I often ponder the lessons of the Ten Virgins in the scriptures. Five had to leave before the Bridegroom came because the oil in their lamps ran out. I've looked upon this parable spiritually and temporally with my oldest daughter. She did some research historically and biblically and found that when things get tough - really tough, the same pattern emerges. People band together, often it is extended family but not always. It is for protection but each individual family unit is responsible for clothing and feeding their own members. Within these harsh rules of survival the weaker units perish. There just isn't enough energy, time, and supplies to go around. The concept that a village needs a butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker etc. to survive is a socialistic theory that is thrown out the window when the going gets really rough. The village is for prosperous times. Always in every survival instance it is the mentally strongest that make it. Those who are creative, self-disciplined and yes, have useful skills. Though keep in mind that skills alone won't do it.

As often as I've heard of people wanting to become more self-reliant, I also hear of many who have this idea twisted. They think they can simply do no more than put away food and supplies for a year and hide out. This to them is self-reliant. Somehow miraculously the world will completely collapse and be restored once more within a year's time. Though they did nothing to participate in the restoration of balance, someone else will have done the job for them. This someone will gladly offer them supplies upon their arrival. Did they miss the childhood story of The Little Red Hen? Unless I have it all wrong and the Internet too, I believe these are the Doomsday Preppers and they think they are pretty smart. As I see it, these people are just as helpless as when they started the year before they went into hiding and what is smart about that? They have fooled themselves into thinking they can do little ( don't think putting away a years supply isn't hard but in comparison to becoming self-reliant, it is nothing.)and expect to eat, drink, and be merry for surely someone will bail them out in the end. In reality the end might of just been pushed back a year. 

Just as all those people who say I can grow a garden if I need to. Good luck! In Wyoming you don't just throw seeds in the ground and voila, a crop. Even if you could, that is good for the first year but somehow these same people think they can save seed with no effort from that years crop and grow another. No clue about cross pollination or cross breeding or even that some crops like cabbage and many onions take a three year cycle requiring knowledge and skill to keep cabbages and onions coming. If their supplies are stolen? No knowledge or skills are left to bail them out. As for the farmer that will bale them out, good luck. He is specialized to the point of little use. He too is dependent on the store for his supplies and crop. At this point everyone will be fighting for available supplies and they will go sky high in price. Think the gold rush in California and other places. Good luck with the - I can do it if I need to theory - because I can guarantee if you aren't doing it now, you won't have the supplies or honed skills to do so in the future. I've raised dairy goats for 28 years and I'm still trying to figure things out. You know how much I study. Knowledge coupled with experience creates wisdom and it comes a drop at a time.

Even in the turkey business it is a co-op of people who produce them. One has the breeding stock, another hatches the eggs, and another raises the chicks to completion, while someone else produces the feed, then the final stage is the processing plant. Five different operations are involved. No self-sufficiency there. Each co-op member is specialized and knows only a piece of the complete pie. This is the way of our world. One of these members joining a group for survival is only minimally helpful. Anyone who has been a part of a large operation and a very small self-sufficient one knows there is more differences than similarities.

 I can't tell you how many people have light mindedly told me IF they needed to grow a garden they could. I wish they would please inform me how to because I know I'm going to starve and I've had a garden for 35 years. I have so much to learn to keep it going from year to year. I will guarantee that if you aren't doing whatever survival skill now that you will need, you won't have the supplies or knowledge to do it when the time comes. I've heard, "I can make quilts if I need them." but of course their cupboard is bare of supplies. From where shall they come, the store of course. My analytic brain asks, "If the store has quilting supplies then why doesn't it have a supply of blankets?" We have a completely dependent society who can not understand the concept of someone else not being perfectly capable or desiring to insuring their needs, wants, and survival. They have to, or they would have to stop eating, drinking, and making merry. I'm just betting they won't plan on the dying part and become liars and thieves.

If you are indeed working on self-sufficiency you are set up to handle just the number of people doing it presently in your situation. You can't afford to do more, time, money, or energy wise. All those wishing to be saved at the last hour will find themselves without supplies to travel, if and I mean a huge if it were safe to travel. They will plan on arriving at the doorsteps of the more prepared. Only we aren't prepared for them. It will take a miracle to survive. Yes, in the Bible story Elijah went to Zarephath and asked the widow to feed him. The widow and her son had only enough oil and flour to make a cake from it and then they were going to starve to death. She obeyed, made him the cake. A miracle happened where the oil and the flour containers always had enough thereafter because of her obedience. What people forget is many around her starved to death. Her obedience saved her. In the days ahead obedience is key.

We have prayed repeatedly for wisdom to know what is The Father's will in preparing for us as a couple. Those doing as much as they can, can not make a goat produce milk before her time or create more crops than they have seed for. We have enough seed for Kirk and I but not enough for the nine more members of our immediate family. I'm just talking kids, and grandkids, not even our parents. We can't keep the seeds viable long enough to wait for the future to arrive. We can't afford to do much more than work on our own survival. It is a time, money, and energy thing. The horrible decisions that will have to be made, I fear most. It angers me that because of light mindedness on others part, we will even have to make them. I'm hoping there will be given forewarning enough to be better prepared. Will there be hand outs, sure, people will have compassion but they must survive too and it will have limits. Remember the Grim's story of the cricket?

People will band together and invite those into the group who have skills they badly need. Over the years we've been offered places as people imagine the formation of their band. Will you be? Why this dismal tale. Please, I beg you, prepare yourself. In doing so you will save yourself from the toxic chemicals in nearly everything we buy, from diseases, and health calamities plaguing our day because of a light minded society who thinks freshness and uniformity in crops comes first. If self-sufficient there will be a more comfortable margin between you and those who's only concern is the profit margin. All I ask is if you wish to bury your head in the sand, please don't come knocking at my door in the future when you pull it out.

I feel better.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When Grain Is Important For Goats

Why oh why do I grain my does and the borrowed buck during breeding season? Less can me more. Let me explain. Bucks lose a great deal of weight typically when it is breeding season. All those heightened emotions, calories burned, and adrenaline being the culprits. The does can loose weight also as they are emotional and the buck chases them about the pen.

For the first time this year I simply put a buck in with the does. He is a well experienced guy and not as huge as my last buck, Touch. What a sweet heart he is. I wouldn't mind owning this guy. I'm not worried that he might hurt one of the does by accident. And with all that has been going on, I just haven't been spending as much time at the corrals and I've not noticed when my girls have come into heat. They have been more subtle than usual or I more blind and distracted which is probably the real reason I haven't notice. Without a buck next to them to flash their tails at it is far more subtle. Not so with my Saanens but these Nubians are another breed. No flashy tails have been notice let alone the unmistakeable wide eyed screaming that my Saanen girls performed each year. 

Nope no hand breeding this year, which I'm sure I'll curse come kidding time. Hand breeding gives me a time zone within the day and a few hours time of which they are most likely to kid. That saves fifty trips to the pen to check. A biggy when your pens are miles away from the house like they are now. Not quite as imperative with the girls soon to be housed just beyond the house.  I can check day and night with just a short walk. I do love a moonlight stroll. This year as I'm so slow in getting a buck in with the girls it will be a nice warm midnight stroll. I'm kind of looking forward to it. I like walking in the dark. When I was a kid my best friend and I had full moon rides each month of the summer. Just a halter horse ridden bareback, a bright full moon, and a country road was all we needed.

Besides I have to grain. I just can't send home a buck who is skinner than when he came. I have this philosophy of when you borrow, you send it back at least in the same condition, if not better. People don't mind lending when you do that as long as it isn't often. The advantage of feeding grain just before and during breeding season is you up their nutrition just when the eggs attach to the uterus. That means more eggs are likely to attach because of the rich nutritional environment. It's a fact.  More viable sperm, more eggs, more babies and that is one of the mysteries solved as to why my goats typically have twins and triplets every year. By three years of age it is mostly triplets. Yes, genetics are involved but the same girls that gave me triplets each year have gone to other owners and produced singles there after.

In sheep they call this feeding of grain shortly before and during breeding - flushing. Of course a doe and buck need to genetically have the disposition for twins and triplets in their bloodlines but that is pretty common. If the doe has twins or triplets she will produce more milk. More babies to sell and more milk is a win, win situations most times. Fewer feet to trim, less feed, less housing needs for more milk and kids. More for less -- always a bargain.

Now after breeding season the story changes.  I cut down on the grain or out completely and give some beet pulp, sunflower seeds, and occasional beef pellets which has a little grain it but is high in protein. High protein is what is needed in the cold winter months to achieve peak body condition. This is maybe twice a week depending on the weather and the goats conditioning. Next week it is to be bitter cold so supplements and lots and lots of hay will be given.

Too much grain, too early in the pregnancy produces too much fat which complicates birthing. It also messes with the digestive system and lowers milk production later on. Timing, timing, timing is the key. Grain comes in once more a couple to a week, to a week and a half before kidding. Just small amounts depending on the individual goat and how she looks, belly excluded. Your paying attention to the fat levels cross the backbone, hips, and ribs.  A doe looses a great deal of weight in the first week after kidding. Of course after kidding you increase the supplements once more.

I hear goats have a phytic acid problem too. Oh the things I will change at the new place. This problem of digestion is partly why I feed beet pulp. It aids in digestion as well as being a nutrition supplement.

Another time we will discuss the types of grain you should use and when.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sprouting Grains For the Chickens

Thanks Kno3 I checked out your profile while I had a few moments and saw this blog in your list.   I had to take a peak. I'm glad I did even though it gave me a guilt trip. Apparently chickens have difficulty  in digesting the nutrients in grains also. It's a duh thought really. I know I've read about this but somehow it just didn't hit home with such impact until now. I can be slow at times. I think I was putting off the responsibility part and denying somehow that phytic acid for chickens was also a big deal. Maybe it was that things have slowed down a bit and my mind had an opportunity to cope with the problem. But for whatever reason it struck me hard the other day. Chickens are to have a 70 / 30 diet. Meaning 70% grain and 30% bugs and vegetable matter and in that view the 70% then becomes a really big deal because it is the bulk of their diet.

And as that thought roamed through my head, it was this line in Holistic Hen's post that sent daggers through my consciousness.  "Furthermore, phytic acid, once consumed inhibits the uptake of various trace nutrients such as copper, magnesium, calcium, iron and in particular zinc, which is why a totally dry grain diet can cause deficiency problems."

Calcium is blocked from absorption because phytic acid blocks Vitamin D-3 absorption. Calcium is a huge deal with chickens. Egg shells are calcium. And if the hen doesn't get enough, she will rob her bones to get it. Yes there is such a thing as an osteoporosis hen.

With today's hens producing far more eggs than yesteryears, they last a shorter period of time because they can not consume enough nutrients and that includes calcium. Makes you wonder if this is not due more to poor nutrition than just higher production. In my experience it does not matter if a hen is caged or in a home flock, most are fed a poor diet. Just one maybe a little less so than the other. We live in a pretend world where superficial is norm. You have an egg and people assume it is good for them. Remember the carrot post, well eggs are no different.  

My guilt trip was complete. Yes, I was going to have to do something about this malnutrition in my hens and not wait until after I move. My hens are confined due to legal restrictions. They will be confined in the new place too but with far more area to roam. I will set things up where they can roam the garden part of the year and with a much larger garden I can grow crops with them in mind. But that is in the future and my chickens are in the here and now so though they may eat better than most chickens I need to step up my game. I eat essentially what they eat because it comes out in the eggs. Which means my eggs could be FAR more nutritious with a little more effort.
So out came a ice cream bucket. Just love these things. They are so handy for so many tasks. Wish I had more of them but I'd have to eat the ice cream-- not happening. That much fake ice cream just grates against my nerves. I'll have to find someone that eats this stuff because I can see I will need more buckets. I got off track there, sorry. Determined, I set to work. I filled a bucket half full of mixed grain and poured in water to cover it by a couple inches, letting it sit over night.

The next day I drained it. Then rinsed and drained three times a day for the next two days. Took only a few minutes of my time a day.

I figured it was a good idea to start small as my first experiment. Already I can definitely see this game is going to have to be stepped up big time. Morning of the third day of rinsing and the grain is just barely sprouted. This will likely take at least four days.
Morning of the fourth day and I think they are ready to be fed.

Questions, questions, questions, is all I have right now and those who know me know my brain is whirling with ideas. If I do this twice a week starting my second batch the night before I feed my first batch to the chickens then they will get the supplement twice a week. The problem being with increasing beyond this is I just don't want a cazillion buckets taking up my very limited counter space in the kitchen and there is no where else for them to go. Some is better than none and this is after all my first time.

Later I hope, if the garage isn't too cold in the new place, I will up the bucket size and amount of soaking grains. In the summer I may not need to do this at all -- or will I? 

If the chickens are fed soaked grains then will their appetites decrease because they are more satisfied? That thought was inspired because of my own discovery last week when I bought hamburger buns for over four dollars for eight. (How do people afford buying bread?) After eating one, I wasn't satisfied. It was a honey and butter sandwich. I had to have another and that didn't satisfy me either. I wanted one more. This was a shocker for me since it has been some time since I've bought any store bread. 

Out came the wheat grinder and I ground corn and white wheat to put in the freezer for the next few weeks of needs. This unsatisfied feeling doesn't happen when I use Montana White flour to make bread so what is the bread factory doing wrong? They probably don't think it is wrong for after all the unsatisfied feeling creates a greater demand. I'm not sure I want to find out what horrors they are doing. It doesn't seem like anything in the grocery store is safe these days. 

 I can't imagine how much store bread it must take to feed a family with this unsatisfying mixture. Will I find the same to be true of my hens? Will they need far less grain if it is sprouted? That could be a real savings. Higher nutrition on less money. I like that idea. Now to see if this theory holds up under experimentation.

If that is true and I could find some ranchers growing grain that they would sell a small amount of to me ----my dream then would come true. More for less once more. But alas, I've yet to see evidence of grain fields. No stubble in sight. I'm definitely going to ask around at the local feed stores in my new area for names of any ranchers who produce grain or corn for that matter. I've always dreamed of coming home with a truck bed load full of dried corn cobs.

I need to cut my budget way down to afford buying this place in a short amount of time. We need to get out of debt once more to reach self-sufficiency or shall I say a greater sense of self-sufficiency. I don't plan on making my own toilet paper or doing without.  

One thing I have learned this past couple years is that the chickens sure love oat straw in their coops. Much better than sawdust as they scratch through it and I'm amazed how much they digest. Alas, the oat straw came from Montana a couple years ago. Yes, there is some grown up north of where we live and surely I can find some in our new area. It is my hope. 

The change in bedding has kept my hens more occupied and gives them a more natural environment where they forage for their food.

I can't wait to move. Oh the possibilities that will open up to us. The sun room being one of them where I can grow a couple flats of wheat grass besides flats of food for us. Sprouts and wheat grass with high levels of Vitamin C, oh my, my ten hens are going to think they've come to the Tashma Hall. Wheat grass in our smoothies would be good for us too. I'll have to try that.

Oh please, can't we move next week? Our banker keeps asking us if we don't want to move sooner. We do. The present owners don't.

Thanks once again Kno3 for your inspirations and for following my blog.

I'll keep everyone updated on my new experiment. Meanwhile I've got to let you know that the raviolis turned out great. No insides whirling around in the water. SCORE!!!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Wild Blend of Rice Makes All the Difference.

A new discovery. I always thought that enchiladas were just a bit mushy in texture and needed a little crunch. When I added home-made corn tortillas from my Painted Mountain corn it helped with texture and also flavor but not crunch. I had been having trouble with my corn tortillas being dry and breaking but this time I cooked them for a shorter period and they came out just right. I'm going to try whole wheat next and I bet the same can be said for them. 
This round of enchiladas had the goal of adding some more texture as I pondered how up popped into my head the idea to add this rice I had in the freezer. In the freezer because it helps keep brown rice longer. 
 It was an awesome choice. Yet I hesitated for fear it would be too crunchy so I add more plain brown rice but I won't next time.
 The meat I used was sausage Jimmy Dean's that I had purchased on a good sale. The other half of the package I used in the Bolognese sauce for the ravioli. 
Usually I use chicken with enchiladas but remembering WAY back when I bought refried beans in a can my favorite kind had sausage in it. Now I cook beans in my small crock pot and make my own refried beans or use some home-canned dried beans I have on hand, heat them up in a skillet and mash them. I haven't bottle any dried beans for the past year so the on hand presently doesn't exist. I've scaled down in a lot of areas in preparation for this move.

I never use Pinto beans, which is traditional, since I don't like them but I still have some in the basement I need to use up so I'll have to get creative one of these days. Maybe now with my advances in culinary knowledge I'll like them as refried beans since I think I can spice them up enough. 

I've used red, black, and navy beans for refried beans and I'm willing to experiment with others. This time I had some beans we bought from the Mennonites years ago. The name I can no longer remember. They are a white beans with a black spot. A bit bland and not the best choice since they don't want to mash very well but they worked. 

Rather than adding just heat to get a little flavor in my enchiladas I'd rather add other things to jazz them up. Traditional enchiladas have white flour tortillas, pinto beans, white rice, chicken, and some sauce. You just put together bland, bland and bland. BORING!!! So call me none authentic if you like because not even my tortilla shells are the traditional corn style but I'm betting if you aren't a traditionalist you'll like my enchiladas a whole lot better.

This time my bean sausage mix ended up a bit dry but I'll be using another kind of bean next time. With these it just took a little more sauce.
The enchilada sauce I used was store bought as I'm out of home-canned and I had some I got on a good sale. Yes, I could of made my own but the crock pot I would have done it in was occupied at the time with Bolognese sauce simmering. I try not to make a habit of using store canned goods but a few on hand is nice. I like my home-made enchilada sauce with lime juice in it and cilantro better than store, no surprise there, but that is just me. Once again I like a blend of complex flavors --- for this dish anyway.

The cheese of course was cheddar. I always spice my rice and beans a little different each time depending on what kinds I'm using. Bland white rice needs more help and bland beans too. 

Usually the rice has added fresh cilantro but this time I had to use dried. I'm not presently growing any fresh herbs. Sometimes I also add lime juice. This especially helps the white rice as it is so..... bland.  To my beans I add salt and pepper, always and garlic and a little of  my dried home-made hot pepper mix. When I cooked my sausage I added onion which also helps with flavor.

My enchiladas may not be made the same every time but what I can tell you is my enchiladas are never boring. No one around here needs to add hot sauce for flavor -- it's already there.

And yes, there are black olives on top. I'm rather fond of black olives with my enchiladas.

What is your favorite version of enchiladas?

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Grape Plan

Sorry, no grape pictures could be found in my files. Did I delete them or can I just not find them? I hate that. A place for everything and everything in its place was my grandfather's saying and I hope mine in the new home with far more room.

It is my burning desire to create order. I handle stress so.... much better if I have a core base of organization. Presently there is NONE. Things are everywhere because there just isn't enough room in any one place. One of the things I want to take with me to our new home is my grape plants. And in that move I want to put them in the best order so they can flourish. I'm not sure how well they will transplant but I'm going to try. They are concord. The production has been so, so. I've gotten grape jelly and some juice for drinking but you could hardly call my crops a huge success. Not like at my in laws where we picked a five gallon bucket last year to take home and that wasn't even all the grapes that were ripe at the time. They have three varieties though most of the plants are concord. They have graciously offered starts to all their varieties for our new home. One of the big hurtles to success being growing varieties that do well in your area and since they do live not too far off that problem is solved.

The in laws can't remember what kinds of grapes they have but I liked the flavors and one grape variety had a taste that sent my mind spinning into possibilities. I think a blend of the varieties would make a much better flavored juice than the straight concord grape that I'm use to. I can't remember though if one of the varieties was seedless. I hope so, for one kind I think it would make a great raisin. Not the flavors of Thompson, which is the common raisin we see in the store, but still interesting. Raisins can be made from most any grape variety or so I'm told. Since I use lots of raisins in baking and would use more if I had my own, it should be incorporated into our self-sufficiency plan. Have you noticed that whole wheat bread sometimes has raisin juice in it? I'm thinking that sounds pretty smart and might be a good idea to incorporate into home baking as well.

Unless I'm way off, I believe raisins are simply dried grapes and how simple is that?Raisins can be seedless or not. I prefer no seeds. None the less grape seeds are very nutritious so there presence is a matter of tastes. I like my peanut butter smooth, not crunchy so maybe that is why I don't like crunchy raisins. Texture is a big part of food likes., just ask a small child or a master chef if you doubt this.

When studying grapes on the Internet I found there are three main varieties: slip skin which is those like concord whose skin slips off easily; table or in other words the kind you eat; and wine grapes. Most all the information on the Internet was for wine grapes. The kind I'm not growing unless they make great raisins.

None the less I learned a few things applicable to all grapes like your row of grape plants  should run north to south in the southern most end of the garden to receive the most light and heat. Mine presently run east to west, oops! I can change that now and they like a slightly acidic soil. One site said  a Ph of 6.0-6.5  with another site saying 5.0 -6.0, still pretty close margins. So Ph is a biggy and another one is the soil, mineral content, and environment. Okay, that was three more biggies. The soil they dislike most is clay. We presently have clay, clay, and clay. No wonder my grapes are so not happy! Grapes don't like their feet to stay wet and we all know clay holds lots of moisture to the point of rot. Sand is their favorite. Sand is the opposite of clay. Sand is favored probably because it warms up nicely and drains well but it does have a tendency to drain away nutrients too so that has to be watched. Can't wait to dig into the soil up there at the new place and see what treasures it holds. Has to be better than what we've got. The present owners say the top soil is thin but at least they have some. You can only describe our top soil as being the soil on top, not top soil in the traditional sense of being the most nutrient rich level. Our sage brunch is stumpy little six inches plants if that gives you any idea of how bad the soil is where our town is located.

Grapes are soil hogs it sounds like. They like lots of iron, minerals, and organic matter such as manure. The fertilizer recommended is 16-16-16 if that tells you just how much of everything they want. They also require lots of loose soil so those expansive roots can move around, 30 to 40 inches wide at least. If you think about it usually a trees roots are as wide as the width of its foliage and I'd guess grapes are similar. I'll have to get chummy with the ranching neighbors and offer to haul away some manure. If they are close I can use my own tractor, a real plus for them and me. The present owners of the place said they composted but never mentioned manure and I saw no evidence of it. I'll change that. Manure is a good friend of mine.

My other concern for this new start is if the grapes would cross pollinate? Just how far apart will I have to put my different varieties to prevent crossing I couldn't exactly find the answer to  but I did learn that grape flowers can be female, male, or hermaphroditic which in a way did answer my question.  If I have hermaphroditic plants they aren't likely to cross with the neighbors.

If the plant has male and female flowers then they might need to be as much as 20 feet apart since they are wind and insect pollinated. That brought a frown but then I read that most varieties grown today are hermaphroditic, YEAH! That means perfect in that they have male and female parts in the same flower. There are five anthers or male parts arranged around the ovary. Some varieties have more or less anthers. Pollen is shed as the anther ripens and pollination occurs when pollen lands on the female parts of a flower. Each pollen grain grows a long tube towards the eggs within the ovary, and sperm cells move down this tube. Now if you didn't get your birds and bees talk from your mother then there you have it.

And there you have my preliminary plans for growing grapes.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. Yes indeed keep those vines trimmed back from running all over and exerting their energy away from the fruit. Also trim the leaves back away from the fruit so the sunlight will shine directly on them. Now I'm done.

Sorry, this needed an addition and I'm not done. Color is not a measuring rod for ripeness in grapes. You are suppose to taste them to tell if they are ripe. When picked the sugar will not increase like in peaches so what you have is what you get so don't pick until the level is sugar is at its height.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Angel Food Cake, It's What's for Breakfast

I figure this is a breakfast food, after all their are fifteen egg whites involved. Thirteen in the cake and two in the marshmallow like frosting. And since my doctor says you should have protein in the morning because your adrenals are working hardest then and they LOVE protein, then this is a perfect breakfast food with the plethora of eggs involved. My son loves that word plethora. And when you compare this to Fruit Loops, Sugar Pops and the like, it has to be more nutritious and safer too. I use King Auther cake flour without all the nasty chemicals, white and powdered sugar, salt, cream of tarter, and eggs. That's it. I've skipped adding all the words I can't even pronounce. You know the ones on the cereal boxes that tongue tie you. Besides getting my protein and skipping a plethora of chemicals, I figure I'm getting my vegetables too.  My chickens eat lots and lots of vegetables and fruits and so my angel food cake must be a healthy breakfast food.

Not buying it? Well how about if I put a dab of Nutella on top, a sprinkling of raspberries, and a dollop of whip topping. Then you are getting your nuts and chocolate (chocolate is good for you isn't it?), berries, dairy, and protein. Sounds good to me. In fact this is my favorite version of angel food cake but I'll happily tear chunks off as you would free form bread and skip the toppings all together. I'm not picky, I like our oldest grand daughter consider this my favorite cake but only if it is home-made and made with high quality fresh eggs. I've had home grown eggs that taste just like the store's or shall I say are tasteless like the stores. I suspect they are fed grains only. I feed mine a nice variety of fruits and vegetables, sunflower seeds and of course a variety of grains too. Not hard when I have a bucket in the kitchen for the tops or ends of  broccoli, celery and other vegetables or fruits I'm serving.

 So what is your vote? Who will stand with me? Is angel food cake a breakfast food?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Home-made Raviolis

I made raviolis, whoo, hoo!!Not that this is the first time but the first time with my second hand ravioli attachment. Those of you that know me know it takes a while before I get around to things but eventually I do. This find of my daughters sat on the shelf for several months before I tried it out. The push being I was packing up things from the kitchen I thought I could do without for a couple months and this was one of those items.

I was thrilled this other name brand attachment fit my machine and even more thrilled at how well they turned out. The second time that is. I've used a ravioli plate before.  With it I have a tendency to use too much filling and the raviolis break open. I cook them too long and the raviolis break open. It takes too long for the raviolis to cook because I think they are too thick. Partly because I got this hair brain idea that they needed to be thicker to keep from breaking open. How does that saying go, "If you don't succeed try, try again." But my favorite is from the Bible, "In all labor there is profit." So I'm going to think positive and say like Edison that I have not yet failed, I've only been taking steps to success. I'm hoping success is mine at last. Not that I won't have to tweak things a bit but just a decent ravioli without all the filling going into the water it boils in would be a great success as far as I'm concerned.
Of course I did this today first. I do learn the hard way. I put my first round of some home-made Pesto I had in the freezer into the machine and this is the result. The Pesto has been in there a while and I had forgotten the pine nuts where whole. The machine wasn't impressed. The chickens were though. They love my flubs.
So I dumped the pesto and some cottage cheese in the blender and pulsed.
So much better.
But before I started all this I had to yes, you know it, I had to hit the Internet and watch a u-tube. I'm glad I did because I learned what this little do hicky was in the box without instructions. It is to cut your long strip of noodles so they fit perfectly into the attachment making everything square up. I think I just might use this to cut out lasagna noodles too to a uniform size. The other thing I learned was instead of using two strips was to use one long one and fold it in half. Then you tuck the fold edge into the machine which catches it more easily. I know this because I tried it both ways. The other advantage is your noodles end evenly. The only other big trick was to figure out how much filling to put into the machine. I found it didn't take much.
I also learned pretty quickly that I didn't need this white attachment but don't tell anyone I said that or I'll deny it. It is a safety guard and you know I never disregard safety. Yeah right, like these fat fingers can possibly get stuck in the machine anyway especially when it is hand crank.
I made two tightly packed large cookies sheets of raviolis and stuck them in the freezer while the Bolognese sauce simmered in the crockpot. If you are going to bother to make them, you might as well make enough for at least several meals. I plan on later using some in tortellini soup and who knows what all else but I've got this hankering for noodle dishes lately. Those frozen cubes of Alfredo sauce I spied in the freezer are calling to me. I love noodle dishes and I have not made very many in the last few months. Hopefully these zucchini ravioli noodles cook up just right. It is the last of the zucchini powder and August is a long ways away when I can make more from the garden produce. I've got to say that spinach, zucchini, and beet powders were a pretty smart idea. I'm definitely doing that again. I've used them in noodles and tortilla shells but not much in bread. I need to start using the pumpkin powder for that. See I really am slow but there are just too many experiments waiting to happen and so little time and energy.
Well it is off to bed. I've got a full day ahead of me tomorrow. I've got to make tortilla shells to go with the spiced refried beans and spiced rice I made today. enchiladas here I come.  
By the way, what is the difference between a tortellini and a ravioli shell? Any Italians reading this?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thinking Herbal and Concerned About the Absence of Thymol in Commercial Carrots

 I haven't told you just how excited I am about the new place -- today that is. My mind is whirling about the possibilities. I noticed when we were there last week that there was a couple newly planted rose bushes in the backyard which got me to thinking of herbal teas. What could I add to raspberry leaves, and rose hips to create my own infusions that I could grow on the place? Any suggestions for Wyoming? In one of my seed catalogs I just received it recommended a few medical herbs in particular to put in your medicinal herb garden which included mullein and marshmallow root. I've never grown them but I did use a great deal of those two herbs when the kids were little along with a little licorice root as a catalyst. Not sure you can grow licorice root here but I should look into it as it is one thing also occasionally used for my Addison's Disease.

As I age my asthma is growing worse and I'm on meds a couple months in the winter. I wonder if mullein and marshmallow root would eventually eliminate my need for a allergy pill and inhaler meds? They are great for the lungs and what I used on the kids if it sounded like a cold was going to their chest.

Of course I'll need peppermint and chamomile in my herb garden, which I've grown before and then what else do you recommend -- yarrow? The plan is to take these huge wood boxes that large equipment came in at the mine and from one form a raised herbal garden. The largest of which I want to make into a very small greenhouse apparatus to extend the season on a few plants. Financially a large greenhouse is down the road a ways so I'm trying to figure out how to put together small budget size ones.  

We also want to put in a bed of carrots in sand that will keep through the winter. We had a cold frame sunk in the ground with a window top and protected against the weather at this house many years ago and we had carrots all winter. As an experiment I let some of the carrots remain in the sand and produce seed the next season and the next and the next. But eventually the carrot seed produced pale and woody carrots. Why? I've always had in mind since that experiment to  figure out how to grow carrot seed and not have that happen. Anyone know why it does this? 

I also want lots of grapes. Grapes to eat, grapes for juice, and grapes for raisins. I love raisins in cookies and cake in particular but a handful is nice too. My in-laws have kindly agreed to give me slips of their grapes which flourish in our new area. 

Not only is this new place what I've been working for for years but with the new swine virus killing off vasts amount of piglets, the drought lowering our cattle herds by a quarter, and who knows what is in and not in our present food we buy I feel an extra push to raise all I can. The security of our food just isn't there anymore.  I just learned about those nice little bite size carrots sold in the stores. They are kind of handy but I'm not buying them anymore.
 Dr. Aruna Weerasooriya, researcher and professor of agricultural sciences at Prairie View A&M University, says a perhaps larger, less known health concern is how the manipulation of certain vegetables degrades their nutritional value.
“When you look at wild carrots, they have high levels of Thymol, a phyto-chemical that is essential for the body to control bacteria and ward off viral infections,” he said. “Now, when you look at some of these new carrot breeds, this type of phytochemical just isn’t there.”
Weerasooriya believes that carrot companies are trading in nutritional value for increased convenience to the customer – and profit for themselves. “Research should focus on how to retain some of these nutrients, but instead companies are probably more concerned about a longer shelf life.”

This was a big push to return to storing carrots through the winter. With tomatoes, lettuce, and cukes in the house and carrots in the garden protected, we should have pretty good salad fixings all year. Now to figure out how to make it happen.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Grrr... Factor With Acrylic

 I still have a few gifts to finish for Christmas. I've learned a few things along the way. I made the hats for the kids out of acrylic, ( all except the one year old which I used super wash wool). Typically I only use acrylic for waste yarn, but the Kid's mother doesn't hand wash. Since at their house the carpet is often littered with clothes and the kids calmly walk all over them I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the extra bucks on super wash wool.  

I found some acrylic I thought was pretty nice. It was soft, had a light shine, and lovely drape. Unfortunately as I pulled it out further and further from the center I found some bad parts. Easy to fix with wool but a real weakness factor in acrylic.

Though I wasn't happy, the kids had a ball on the knitting machine with the acrylic making their scarves and I crocheted lacey ends when they were done. The results were fast, just the pace children have patience for. The problem has come in that the scarves curled big time. I'm thinking the tension was a bit tight. Been four or more years since the machine has been out and I'm a bit rusty with it. I'm not so sure the yarn wouldn't have curled anyway. Seems I remember from my early years that acrylic curls. Acrylic is all the yarn my grandmothers used.

But I couldn't remember what to do about a curles. Hmm..... innocently I wetted the blue scarf down and pinned it to the ironing board and let it dry as if I was working with wool. I took the pins out. It curled up again as if nothing had been done to it. With three anticipating grand daughters I have to do something. So off to the Internet I went.  
Apparently you can steam them into shape. The steaming melts the fibers lightly. Ironing the fibers runs the risk of damaging them too much though that sounds far more easy. The problem was that I haven't used the steam part of my iron ---ever. I use a spray bottle. I soon found out the chamber was full of dirt and it spit up brown goo all over my just washed ironing board cover. Grrr...... I guess I should have taken it to the sink first. I have a bit of ADD and I should have reined it in but I just wanted this project over.

It takes forever to steam a scarf in this manner. I've decided that the extra cost of super wash wool is so worth it. But a bit too late now and though I've stood what seemed like an eternity, I'm not really happy with the results. I had one scarf done and started on another when I got side tracked packing to travel to a funeral and getting my husband off to the SHOT show in Las Vegas pushing it off to this coming week.  

Meanwhile I've been using some super wash wool to hand knit hats in color work when ever I get a chance or take time to wind down from all the stress of this past few months. I'll have to show you what I've got done so far. I've decided I'm really, really enjoying color work. Some how when I make my own combinations I'm most happy. But I'm not happy with this yarn either. My daughter pointed out some better selections when she was home and so I think I'll order some. I really need to form traditions for Christmas and birthdays. For instance books for their birthday and hats for Christmas or something like that. Do any of you have traditional gifts you give? I'd love some ideas. It is just too much stress trying to keep up and I do love working ahead so I'm looking for something I can buy and or make months before the event.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Decision has Been Made

I have a few things to finish for Christmas and I also have to do Christmas letters but instead I'm going to do Ground Hog letters. I've waited in part because I wanted to say "We are moving." We have indeed made the final decision. We ARE moving.  

We were there on Tuesday, the new place that is, and had a hard time leaving. It was so quiet and the mountain view was phenomenal. The area is teaming with wildlife, Sharp-tail grouse were in the yard, two pheasant roosters on the road, and white-tail deer bedded down everywhere. We have lots of wildlife at our present home but of a different variety and the change will be fun.

We have big plans for this place. We hope to move up several notches in the self-sufficiency area. There is a sun room off the kitchen with windows south, north, and west. Besides putting in a raised eating platform so we can munch and watch the elk on the foothills, we are going to put up shelving to grow herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. I'm going to try doing some sprouted grain fodder for chickens too. If we can grow some of our salad fixings that means fewer trips to town. Town in each direction is over twenty miles away. Yes, we will be in the middle of nowhere. Won't that be grand?   

Does anyone raise tomatoes and cucumbers in their house? I start them but I've never grown them to the point of eating. We've never had a great window arrangement in this house.  We've found windows and grow lights to be most effective over just grow lights. Right now I'm looking for seeds for really small cucumber and tomato plants. What about Tiny Tom? They can't take up too much room.

As for the outside the owner says the soil is thin. I can fix that in the garden with compost piles and additions of manure. The lawn is natural grass which will need less water and shouldn't require as much fertilizer. The house sits part way up a hill on a south facing slope and that is a perfect location for a garden. Warm air rises so the temperatures will be warmer where we are compared to the bottom of the hill. I might over heat but the plants are going to love it.

The tempting creek bottom below is a place we would love to be if a plot of land was available but it is a poor choice for raising a garden and garden wins. It is colder down below  where creeks roam and it stays colder longer as the trees hold the cold. It is most likely to freeze there first and so the plum, apple, and cherry trees; strawberry plants and raspberry plants on the place that are producing I'm sure really appreciate the choice. The ranches below will hopefully provide lots of manure for the garden and trees. I plan on making friends. Most ranchers are happy to oblige as long as you are polite and willing to do the work yourself. I'll just hustle down with the tractor and trailer.

 The present garden will be my permanent bed's garden where I'll add an herb garden, grapes of several varieties, asparagus, currants, and we will see about blackberries. Another garden will be added for corn, beans, etc. The chicken coops will be alongside the gardens with runs to add width to the existing fence and discourage the deer. I plan on letting the chickens roam in the fall and spring to stir up the soil and pluck the unwanted slugs. All things I've read about but have never had an opportunity to in act.  

The plan is to go as self-sufficient as possible. Grow as much as we can in the summer for winter and then grow some salad fixins and herbs in the house come winter. Up until now I've only been preparing but this place will be the real deal. We will have to switch around the breeding time for the goats and stagger the times so someone is always producing. Freezing and canning a little to cover the brief dry period is okay but I don't foresee much freezer room.

 The chickens will have light for the winter with electricity available hence, increased egg production since light  stimulates the photo-receptive gland near the eye and tells their body to produce eggs. We won't use light unless we have to and right now our present chickens are doing just fine without it. If we get lots of cloudy skies in the winter it can mean not enough light to get the job done. You can use light also to trigger horses and other animals to cycle during the winter and hence change breeding and foaling times. Or simply shed their coat of winter hair. Neither of which I plan to do.  

With a few meat animals now and then and maybe rabbits, yes we are thinking of adding rabbits in the future to our menagerie. Three does and a buck can produce as much meat as a beef in one year. That is if the winters weren't so long and cold as ours but we might be able to enhance the available light and add heat naturally. I'm going to do some thinking on that subject. It is something we will look in too, later, a few years later I'm thinking. For now we will concentrate on increasing what we have. There is a nice loft in the barn and in will go the loom I've never used. Toni is planning on coming in the summer and we will set it up. Meanwhile I'll keep spinning the bountiful supply of material I already have.

There are only five few acres with the place so efficiency will be the key. Often less is more anyway. So it looks like come March we will have a new home. Then after we move we can finish this one and get it up on the spring market. Hopefully prices will be better and more people looking. I know things have been a bit sparse as for how to article. Please be patient they will be coming in an abundance when we the change takes place.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Handsome Has Arrived

Put a big smile on a big smelly boys face today. It took a little while though for he wasn't too thrilled when we presented him with the back end of a trailer. In fact when he discovered we weren't just out for a stroll but really wanted to leave the premises he locked up all four hooves like a mule sitting down on its fanny in protest. I remember a mule my brother tried to get to move in high school. Used a two wheel drive pickup tied to its halter. The pickup's wheels just sat there and spun. I was feeling mighty grateful at that moment that this wasn't a mule. With a mighty effort the two of us pushing we did finally manage to load him. Unload was another story. He smelled the does and heard their inviting calls to Kirk and I to come and feed them and he unloaded himself with me in tow. Yep, that pen full of girls was looking mighty fine in comparison to his male companions in his old pen.

Yet it wasn't the girls he checked out first but the hotel accommodations. He noticed the sheets were turned down and the bedding in the shed was a nice thick layer of straw. There wasn't a mint on the pillow but we were in the process of stuffing the feeder full of hay. He quickly judged the digs pretty nice and turned his attention to the bling, those hot babes milling around him. His lips soon parted into the biggest grin you ever saw when he discovered Daisy was all tail wags and mighty eager to meet him too. Little Abigail considered his visit an intrusion but Meagan was torn between joy and annoyance, a sure sign she was either coming into estrous or going out. I'm hoping coming in.

So yes, we are finally getting the girls bred. I prefer earlier in December or even November but we are just grateful to get it done. I want my milk!!!! The girls dried up in late December. Probably partly my fault as their milkings were at irregular times of the day and they haven't had open water as many hours of the day as usual. Life has been just a tad stressful which has put the does on the back burner. But it is getting done and as I listen to the new guy murmur sweet nothings to the does I get the sense of Fonzie on Happy Days with his mocho behavior but sweet soft underbelly. Yes, this is a pretty nice buck. Yet, pangs of longing for Touch flitter across my emotions, his funny Mohawk hair do, his bulging muscular physique and his sweet mannerisms. Once again I remind myself these critters aren't simply pets, and they can't all remain with us through out their entire lives. It doesn't mean its easy though.  I'll get some photos for you, he really is quite good looking but for now I'm off to bed. We meet tomorrow morning with the owners of the place we have under contract.