Monday, February 24, 2014

Sprouting Seeds For the Chickens


You probably thought you had heard the last of it  --sprouting seeds for the chickens.  (In case you missed the first experiment you can read it here. http://easylivingthehardway.blogspot.com/2014/01/sprouting-grains-for-chickens.html)

Hardly, I have quite a few things I want to try on the subject. When I used chicken scratch to sprout, I learned that because of the corn in the mixture it had a tendency to want to mold. I had to rinse the grain three times a day but filled the bucket and drain more times than I am now with wheat to keep the mold smell away. The chicken scratch grain stays fairly moist so it didn't seem like it needed the rinsing as much for moisture level as mold retardant.   

You can see experiments coming can't you? Yup, since I figured the scratch grains were a bit slow to sprout and the corn was causing molding I should try grains singularly.

First bucket of wheat started at the same time as the second bucket of wheat. More wheat is in this bucket. Not by a great deal.
I brought in wheat and began the same process. With this grain it is imperative to rinse three times a day as the seeds absorb the moisture quickly and dry out more so than the chicken scratch. They also sprout quicker by a couple days. I like the wheat better but there is less nutrient variety of course because it is simply one grain. The chickens aren't as fond of just wheat either. They know a good thing when they see it but I can't keep the counter full of grain buckets waiting on the chicken scratch mixture. I would like to do a combination of grains sprouting to keep a steady supply. In the new place I will stack the buckets by the back door to the garage and in the garage when it is warm enough but for now it is just experiment time.

Second bucket of wheat started at the same time as the first bucket but with less wheat to begin with.
The other thing I had a suspicion of was that it seemed like the less that was in the bucket the faster it sprouted but I was keeping the amounts fairly consistent so I couldn't be sure. The first wheat sprouted in two buckets were of approximately the same amount. This came out with the knowledge that they sprout faster than the scratch grain combination.

With the second two batches of wheat sprouts  I put less wheat in one bucket than the other and sure enough the wheat swelled up to almost the same as the other bucket with more wheat in it initially. The bucket with less in it sprouted quicker also. Once again less was more. So more is not better. A wider container might be helpful if I want to sprout more grain per bucket. I will be looking for new buckets.

I have some dried beans from my parents which I have no idea how old they are and how they were kept. I am going to attempt to sprout them for the chickens also. Why should chickens be fed grains only? I also want to try growing wheat grass probably next winter in the sun room of the new house.

Last but not least. I see some lovely colored water coming off of the grain when I rinse it. I'd bet it would be good for the house plants and the like. Too bad I don't have any right now but in just a few weeks I will be starting some for the garden. Will have to save the water to use it on them.

Yes this is not the last you will hear on this subject.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Been There, Done That Walk

A gal over at Throwback at Trapper Creek wrote a blog a while back about There Ain't No Stinking Learning Curve She isn't kidding. No matter how long we do this homesteading adventure there is no point in which things become far more easier and your knowledge level almost complete. Years ago I asked an older gentleman, now passed on, about raising sheep. He told me that he had been doing it since he was a kid and every year something new happened that he had never dealt with before that humbled him.

Not everyone says this, just those that truly want to improve. There are ranchers and farmers who have been doing things the same way for ever. They don't last long in this changing and difficult world that doesn't value the farmer. They shrug their shoulders when something new comes along but it will spell their disaster in time. These are the farmers and ranchers who have gotten caught up in the world and hence, they are raising GMO foods. Someone else knows what they are doing so lets jump on the bandwagon mentality.  I just learned today my favorite chips whom I thought were more healthy, though not exactly healthy, are GMO made, Tostitos and Sun Chips. No wonder I've been feeling the urge to learn to make home-made chips. I promise you as you begin the journey to self-sufficiency you will be guided what to do next.

We as a society once connected our food with the farmer - no longer. People now think the store does it, so far are they removed from their roots. One young lady told me that chickens grow up to be turkeys. Cool!! How long does that take because I've known some hens that made it past ten or more years old and they still haven't become a turkey in the literal sense. A gentleman asked me what you fed the chickens to get the different colored egg shells? People have no idea about the food they are eating. No wonder they are so swayed by the latest eating trends like almond milk is good for you and rich in protein. Yup, your body just can't use it. Really it is a duh, because when was the last time you saw a farmer milking an almond? This is just like our body can't absorb the iron in the pipe swing set we built. But I suppose someone would be dumb enough to think it was good for them. And last but not least of course the store supplies our food right? The food we want and have come to enjoy will always be there, right? Ever watched the movie Atlas Shrugged? Something to think about in the latest trend for the public good being the most important thing. Other countries have tried this and fallen into ruin. Anyone been to Sochi lately? Look back in history. They touted the, for the public good button also.

As for the FDA looking out for us -- that is a joke. Even Mexico has outlawed GMO foods. Over 40 countries have to label GMO products, not us. The FDA's bottom line is the all mighty dollar. Did you know the FDA allows so many bugs in every frozen package and can of food you consume. If you doubt it, read the following.
http://www.rodalenews.com/bugs-food?cm_mmc=MSN-_-How%20Crossing%20Your%20Legs%20Hurts%20Your%20Heart-_-Slideshow-_-The%20Grossest%20Bugs%20You%20Don't%20Know%20Youre%20Eating

To a degree I understand the bug thing but I'm not buying it any more than I have to.

Thomas Jefferson has long been a hero of mine for his willingness to make a stand and for his wisdom. You are seeing these rants a bit more because I think I too need to start making a stand as do all Americans who aren't happy with the way our country is going. With Autism I'm limited as to my avenues so I will use this blog on occasion to spread the word. There are too many Americans in the dark and too many ranting about how someone else needs to fix things. Other than protesting they sure aren't about to do a thing. Not that I'm against demanding change. Just that change shouldn't solely be the other guys responsibility.

Thomas Jefferson was a keen observer. He studied the nature of man and its relation to government. He studied agriculture, was an inventor and an innovator. He was an extremely intelligent and a wise man. Someone I highly regard and one whom I look to for his wisdom. He said the following to James Madison.
1787 Dec. 20. (to James Madison) "I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural." [5]

LESS THAN ONE PERCENT CLAIM FARMING AS THEIR OCCUPATION IN THE UNITED STATES.

I've long said that when people left the farms and ranches they left common sense behind. Common sense is created through experiences. The city incubates people and cares for them not allowing them the opportunity to learn the basics which are often painful lessons. It is knowledge and the been there done that, that allows us to bridge this store of knowledge to wisdom and helps us shift it to new experiences so that we can move forward effectively.

Our oldest daughter once observed a run away railroad car derail and hit a power pole in a small city. People came out of their houses from all around with their little kids to see the site. The police were struggling to get them to go back home to safety. To them it was  like an amusement park completely unaware of the huge danger. When one grew cranky with Toni, she told them the only reason she was still around was that she was the eye witness and figured she had to give a statement . Could they please do so, so she could go home to safety?

Electricity travels through the ground in often unpredictable paths. We've had lightening strike in our yard and just behind us a number of times. Once it struck the street just in front of our house and destroyed the street light in our yard. It traveled up the yard beside our house on the one side damaging only the clock on the microwave oven in the kitchen and nailed the neighbors appliances on the opposite side of our yard as the strike. Yes, electricity does not travel in a straight path underground. This same daughter knows what happens when you hold someone's hand and they touch the horse's electric fence.

In this small community in which we presently live, we've had a tornado strike some years back. Some were furious they weren't warned soon enough. It is not like we don't have small tornadoes on a regular basis in the surrounding country side in the summer. One might stop to think about learning a thing or two about them but no, the government officials are responsible to save them. Our kids tried to out run the path of a tornado in a Geo Metro as they put the pedal to the medal on the highway. They barely made it as cop cars closed in behind them blocking the road as the tornado came ever closer in its perpendicular path.

So where were our oldest daughter and I when the tornado struck the town? In the basement of course, we had been watching the weather and saw the warm and cold front collide. We saw the clouds get ugly and look like a tornado would form. We saw them turn turquoise and knew we were in BIG trouble. When I lived on the ranch there was no alarm system like there is no alarm system in most of the country. If you aren't looking to pass the buck to the next guy, you learn that knowledge and wisdom are the keys to survival. Not someone 40 miles away with there hand on a key board who might sound the alarm sirens in time to warn us to take cover and does not care about your safety personally.

I don't believe the store will provide me with nutrition. I don't believe hardly a politician cares a hooten toot about the people they are suppose to serve. I've seen too much locally, especially in the last year, and nationally. I don't believe a policeman is there to keep me safe. We know policeman from all over the US and they say the same thing. They are there to pick up the pieces when it is all over. I don't believe in hand outs. They always come with a controlling clause. If not that then always at a cost. The dignity of self-reliance that gives you confidence to move forward on your own. I believe in hand ups where the reward is earned.

Our daughter when she lived in the city noticed striking difference in the way people walked. It was meek and vulnerable. Unlike the I can tackle the next thing because I've tackled everything that has come my way before and I'll figure I can tackle what comes my way in the future. It will be tough but I CAN DO. It was the rancher's walk she grew up with. Not arrogance because that comes from falseness and stupidity. That is how we spied the 'Want To Be's,. Just a walk that shouted confidence that is earned. You can see it in the young and the middle aged, and the old.


Thomas Jefferson said -1785 Aug. 23. (to John Jay) "Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it's liberty and interests by the most lasting bands."

Unfortunately today even the farmers and ranchers more often than not, do not process their own meat and buy someone else's from the store. I've talked to the local grocery store owners. It slays me. How is this logical. If they won't even eat your own product, why should I? Yes, America has changed to a dependent lot and it will be our down fall.

I salute you. All those of you who are becoming as independent as possible in your unique circumstances. We will know who you are. Your walk will tell us that you've been there, done that, and are ready to meet the next challenge.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Carolinian Bees

The bee boxes will be one of the first things we move. Right now I take one tablespoon of honey each evening as recommended by naturalist. It is on the helpful remedy listed that I researched. One of the other things is apples. At this moment as I write I'm eating a bowl of fresh applesauce for breakfast. Research has found that if a pregnant woman eats at least four apples a week, her child's chances of getting asthma drops by 50%. That is huge and so... worth it.
 
My lungs were damaged when I was three years old and my asthma did not appear until I was an adult. It is allergy induced and almost always it is air pollution that does it. The air in this county is getting rather polluted though not that you could see. Each winter I seem to get worse and better come spring and summer when the air is less dense. This winter by far being the worst yet. Within hours of being in a city where the air is polluted, and despite medication, I will have pneumonia. The doctors believe our moving eliminate my winter problem.
 
In the early days of our history people often traveled to the west for their lungs. West I will travel also just not so far west since I'm already there. And sorry Oregon and Washington I know you are further west yet but my asthma doesn't like your heavily populated state, been to see you 6 -8 times. Keep in mind when I say that you are heavily populated, that we live in the least populated state.
 
We are going to be so far in the sticks  soon that I had to set up satellite Internet because there was no other service available. Yes, we will have electricity since we won't be that far in the sticks.
 

The bees will arrive in April to supply my honey needs and they will not be the usual Italians we've raised in the past nor even the Buckfast bees we've had. These are going to be Carolinians. The bee in the onion plant picture is an Italian. Note the lovely yellow body and gray stripes. The Carolinians are gray with black stripes, fuzzy, and slimmer. Maybe more colored like this gray bubble bee, just skinny. I don't know. I've never seen a Carolinian bee. 

The bee supplier said 3/4 of his hives he places in Wyoming are now this kind of bee because they are more suited to the north. They are winter hardy. The queen can increase her egg production dramatically in the spring and drop off dramatically also when the food supply dwindles. This makes them more suited to areas like ours with short growing seasons. This also means that they will not eat up as much of their honey supply because the numbers in the hive are greater than the supplies being brought in. A big bonus come winter.  

They don't do well in the heat and we don't have much of that. But this does mean they will need shade from the summer sun to do well. They don't produce a lot of honey comb. That would mean smaller honey cells. It might also mean a smaller cells for the eggs. That equates to a smaller bee being hatched unless they make those particular cells larger. You usually want a larger bee because they can carry larger amounts of pollen and nectar. I never saw where they said this bee is smaller. We shall have to see.

 The honey production is said to be lower. But if you factor in that they don't eat as much honey because the queen can control the population better it might not mean that there is a significant amount less of honey for us.    
 
The Carolinian bees are native to Slovenia, Romania, Yugoslovia, Hungary, southern Australia and now the Rexroat's home.
 
This bee is second in popularity in the U.S. to the Italian bees. The Carolinians do not have trouble with the Varroa mites A biggy in bee keeping since these mites live on bees and weaken them until they die, the bees I mean not the mites. The bees are gentle and that means the grandkids and I can continue sitting in front of the hives to watch.
 
Best of all the bees are home bodies just like me. I think we will get along just fine.
 
If you are interested in bee keeping and decide to order bees. Be sure and research the different kinds of bees to find out the ones just right for your area. The best person to ask is bee keepers in the area. It can mean the difference between success and failure your first year.  
 
 


Monday, February 17, 2014

So Your Bread Didn't Quite Turn Out.

 
So your bread didn't quite turn out. Now what? Not all is lost unless you've burned the whole thing to a crisp. If the inside is still okay then cut the crust off and proceed. If the texture is a wash then proceed. If the middle is doughy then cook it longer if you catch it in time. If by cooking it longer the crust becomes too thick and hard then you need a different pan. Contact me because have I got the best place to order bread pans. They are awesome!!! Narrow and tall and thick, built to last generations and cook bread up like a dream with a nice golden light crust.
Last week I had our one year old with foot and mouth disease and our five year old at the beginning of the week had the flu but they were here all week. Needless to say things did not get done. That will make this week a doozy for on the next week we close on the new house.
 
Lets say I lost track of time while dealing with munchkins and I caught a cold from exhaustion and that is the reason I forgot about the bread in the oven. It is the truth but then again I do own a kitchen timer. I just don't know how long bread takes to cook. Till done is what I always say. The crust was brown and REAL crunchy. I started up a new batch and set to work salvaging the two loaves I'd ruined. Not completely though because with a waste not want not attitude there is almost always something that can be done with the oops. If nothing else I could of cut it up and given it to the chickens.
 
This particular two loaves were artisan bread, unfortunately one was suppose to go to the neighbors but that will have to be another time. When I had a few moments to myself, I sawed the bread into slices. No I'm not exaggerating. My hand hurt from trying to slice through the crust. I then cut off the crustiest of the crust placing it in the chickens bucket. The rest I cubed and set aside. As I was cutting the cubes, I heated my large cast iron skillet on the stove melting butter. I used a quarter cup at a time. To this I added a pinch or two of  garlic salt, oregano, basil, and parsley. Then I tossed the bread crumbs in to coat and placed them in the food dehydrator. Only because it was already running with apple slices nearly done. Otherwise they would have gone into the oven. Actually they would have gone there anyway if the weather had been really cold because it helps heat the house but we are getting a break for which I'm very grateful
.
 I'm praying for the ground to thaw so we can pound posts at the new place and put up corrals. The sooner this is done the sooner the stock and I can move there. Four months living over half the months apart and the scramble to make meals and do laundry each time my husband is home for a couple days is wearing big time on me and him. Kirk is my balancing force with my Autism. My asthma, which has barely ever been a problem, is really giving me fits this year. Two doctors think the move will probably end my troubles in that department. I am extremely allergic to polluted air. In a city I will have pneumonia within twenty-four hours of arrival because of it. Here it is the mines that are causing my problem.    
 
But wait a minute, I've gotten off track there. When using the oven you set it on a low temperature like 250 F and turn the bread cubes occasionally as they toast and dry. I figured my cubes were toasted enough already just with over baking but the oven probably wouldn't have hurt them.
Your home made bread crumbs will be better than any you can buy at the store. You can use whatever spices you want customizing them. Take a peek in the grocery isle at the commercial ones to get ideas on what spices are commonly used to get a good idea where to start. Croutons are really yummy thrown in the blender and crushed. You can use these crumbs to bread your chicken for an extra tasty dish. I often use bread I'm not happy with or just the ends of loaves and dry the slices on the counter top since our air is very dry in Wyoming. These slices I put in the blender and place them in a jug in the cupboard. With these crumbs I mix in some flour and spices when making chicken fried steak, or parmesan elk meat or a myriad of other dishes.

Last but not least you can simply dry bread crumbs and save them for stuffing. The croutons are yummy for this also. I've not made stuffing in forever since I let all my plants die. They need a grow lamp in the middle of the winter in this house because of the angle of the roof which does not allow adequate sunshine in. I do love stuffing with a mixture of fresh and dried sage. One of the first things I will do in the new house will be to start herbs and plants for the garden this summer. I love fresh herbs for cooking. We close next week and can begin. I wonder if I will be able to see the northern lights from the huge window in my bedroom that looks out on the mountain. Or are the northern lights only seen while camping on the mountain. I wonder. We don't get them down here on the plains.

Don't throw bread that doesn't make the mark or is you don't like the crusts. Recycle it into something wonderful.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bees, Location, Location

Now where oh where shall I put the hives? Not so much a big deal when we were putting them in a field on the open prairie, you just picked a sight near water. In the winter you looked for a place that the winter winds didn't hit them straight on and that was about the best you could do but this will be different.

In our new home we want the hives on our own property and hope that works out. With I think seven fruit trees and a garden we will double in size, I'm hoping they will have plenty to pollinate and keep them busy. A bee needs to be located no more than 2 miles from its food source. There is a pasture just west and north of us besides our own and I'm not sure what they hold for flowering vegetation. Obviously I have not seen them in the summer. I'm hoping for a little alfalfa. There are fields further to the south of us but the further a bees flies the shorter its life span. Also the more they have to eat to fuel their bodies for the flight the less there is to put in the hive for us and them for winter stores. When the honey flow is on a worker bee literally works itself to death. That is why bees last all winter and yet only six weeks at the peak of flow in summer.

Water and food nearby are essential followed by protection. With this in mind I at first thought of putting the bees in the garden to the east of the garden shed but gave that idea up when I remembered the huge snow drift across the raspberries. It wouldn't do for the bee hives to be buried and have to be dug out. I can't put them in against the barn on the left because it won't get the morning sun and that is where the goats will go when not in pasture. A pen structure has to be first built of course.
I'm thinking to the right of the barn here about 2/3rds back would work the best. That will protect the bees from the western winds which bring the weather in over the mountains to the left and back side of the barn. No drift of snow that I noticed the last time we were there. The eastern side here will get the first rays of the sun and the barn is facing south which will also help to warm the hives. The sun is a bees alarm clock and the sooner the bees are lit up and warmed up, the sooner they will sun themselves at the entrance and take flight. A longer work day means more honey. With the barn on the west side of the hives this will shade them from the hot afternoon sun. The best part of all about this arrangement is if it doesn't work, we don't have to dismantle the hive and load it up to move it. We just close the entrances and put it on a dolly and scoot it to another location around the yard. I'd rather not have to though so I've given this careful thought.
 
The hitch in this plan is where to put the trailers. I had thought also on this side of the barn and that might work still if they are up front far enough so that they don't shade the hives from the morning sun or the southern light.
 
As for water, we usually place our hives near a livestock water tank. When they have been behind the house here in the winter I've put out a black rubber bowl with a piece of bark leaning inside. That will still be the case in the winter as the rubber warms up nicely and you can break the ice out fairly easily when it freezes. Of course none of this is a worry if the bees aren't active. Having the hives behind the house has taught me that they are active close by the hive doing housecleaning chores a surprising number of days in the winter. The rest of the days they are huddled in the middle in close proximity to provide warmth.
 
In the summer I'm going to try using chicken waterers. The lip is just right to perch on for a drink and it fills itself. The one gallon size would work nicely for two hives. Did you know that bees should be fed a saline solution. Neither did I until I was doing some research on locations. The problem is it did not tell how much salt to add to your water. I'm thinking about a tablespoon per gallon might do.  I do know that I want to encourage the bees to drink from their own waterers and not the livestocks. You don't want bees stinging to discourage your animals from drinking on a hot summer's day.
 
Even though I figured I knew where to put the bees knowledge wise there is always more to learn so I checked out the experts on the subject. And I did learn something just not about location. And now I'm wondering why I didn't think of the fact that bees need salt too, everything else does it seems.
 
I think I'll put out two waterers, one with salt an done without and see which one empties the quickest. Bees use a lot of water in the summer. One reason is it cools the hive. When it is hot the bees bring in drops of water to place on the cells and the bees inside will fan the water with their wings to cool the hive. The less they have to do this the more they can be working on taking care of the brood and bringing in pollen and nectar so water near the hive is essential.
 
We've always had Italians in the past but this year we ordered something new to us upon the commercial bee keepers advice. I'll tell you what I've learned about them in a later post.
 
 
 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Arriving In April

No, this isn't a honey bee but smile, I'm saving all the pictures of bees I have on this computer for the next blog. I haven't time to look in my CD's of pictures this has been one of THOSE days. I swear I had the house vacuumed, mopped, the bathroom clean, and dishes done before bed. Then I woke up and cuddled the kids reading stories and having a lazy morning until I went to the freezer to retrieve frozen apple cinnamon waffles for the kid's breakfast. The freezer wasn't freezing anymore. Things went into high gear. I had to get the kids ready and move as much produce as possible to the other freezers. Drive 80 miles to pick up a new one. Yes, the munchkins in tow and of course they had to be fed lunch, because they didn't eat much for breakfast in the rush. I needed more diapers and the like so we hit one store more and came home. Dropped by the corrals to do chores and got the four-wheel drive truck stuck. All four tires in four wheel gear and all four tires spinning on the snow that had begun to melt and was in a state of more ice than slush.  Called a sweet gentleman to rescue me and he helped me unload the freezer in the garage. Then those sweet innocent half pints turned into grouches and I've sat and typed while holding one and then the other.  Despite a challenging day I need to tell you the exciting news.
 
The man who made me give up bee keeping has insisted that I order bees for our new home - immediately. Is he fickle? Well no because when he insisted I quit bee keeping I had to agree with him that we were feeding the bees instead of them us. Yes, over ten years had past and the prairie was dried up to nubbins not a green thing in sight. Yes the drought was far worse than the dust bowel of Kansas we read about in the history books but still, I love my bees and hated giving them up. Surely sometime the drought would end. It has but now we don't have any bees.

My plan was to ask Kirk if I might order them next year but he has been asking me if I've called yet for the last several days. What is the urgency I don't know but I don't argue. I figured maybe the Lord was speaking to him and I just wasn't listening at the time. Anyway you look at it, I get bees so I'm happy. 

Not sure I can keep up with everything that will require my attention this year but I love bee keeping. With them in the yard all year it should make it far easier than traveling to the Buffalo Ranch each time I want to take a peak inside or just listen to their hum. Did you know you can tell the health of the hive by its hum? Since the decision was made we now had to figure where to order from. Maybe you have a good memory for names and numbers but I don't so and since we had had the same bees for some years I wasn't even sure the company was still in business. So with the foot and mouth disease child on my lap, I began searching the Internet. So many to choose from. None of them from our home state though.

In the end I decided to drag out my book where I keep the information of companies I have ordered from before and rang the number I'd used last time. When the gentleman answered, (it is not a typical bee company that is on the Internet so he just says, "Hello.")
 I said "Is this by chance ............. and do you still do bees? I ordered from you some years back....." He laughed and said yes, but he just packages the bees now but doesn't deliver them anymore and gave me the name and number of the gentleman who does it for him.

These bee keepers winter in northern California and summer here in Wyoming. On the trip here they drop off bee packages to commercial bee keepers in the area. We happened to get their phone number from one such bee keeper years back. This is a far less expensive way of ordering bees as we are paying a commercial price and skip the huge shipping costs of life flighting two queens and eight pounds of bees. Okay, maybe not quite life flighting but they are often shipped next day mail and that isn't cheap.

I will miss the occasional comical events of picking them up at the post office. Those fuzzy cute little chicks that arrive might hang around for a short while before you get a phone call but I'll guarantee the minute the workers punch in and see two four pound packages equating to thousands upon thousands of bees they don't wait around especially if this is something new to them. Think of how many people you know are scared of bees. If by chance a few outside, not inside and riding piggy back you might hear, "Hurry! Quick! Some have escaped." They don't know they aren't going anywhere even if you know and it does not good to try and convince them. You want a good relationship with your mail person.

Of course these are the same bees the grand kids and I will watch their comings and goings from just a few feet in front of their hives. Then again maybe they do have a reason to panic. There was those two packages of bees we got from another outfit in California. The queen began to lay and it wasn't long and when you opened up the top lid of the hive, they came out in a black swarm and attacked. Must of been crossed with Killer Bees. They did come from the south. 

Had to walk around in the field for an hour afterwards until most of the bees had gotten bored and went back to the hive or died from stinging me. Then it was a race to the pickup. My designated driver that summer was our teenage daughter who was learning to drive and relished any opportunity to get behind the wheel. She waited for my signal, then took off with me in hot pursuit. I'd jump on the tail gate and she'd speed off along the two track dirt road through 600 acres of alfalfa until the wind whipped the few persistent bees into giving up the battle and left for their hive.

We fixed the problem by buying two new queens from another outfit. The queens come already bred and all the eggs she will ever lay are already fertilized. Yup, one wild day of hanky panky with several handsome drones and she's pregnant for life. Talk about lasting consequences to your actions. As for the Killer Queens, we assassinated them. Not an easy task to find one slightly longer and larger bee, the queen, in a hive with up to a 100,000 bees in peak honey flow time. That is why you choose to search in the middle of the day when many of the workers are off foraging. where there is tens of thousands of bees during the honey flow. Still not an easy task and the reason why many companies for a fee offer marked queens. They have a paint spot on their backs.  

After being without a queen for three days, the hive will usually except a new one. Wait any longer and one of the workers will begin to lay eggs. They aren't fertilized so no baby bees and the hive will die. This worker will never mate. She doesn't have royal jelly coursing through her body. As for the old guard from Hell, they will have died in about six weeks during the vigor of honey flow season when they literally die of over work. Left behind is the sweet dispositional offspring from the new queen. She is usually good for three years or so.  

Then there was that time in late fall when I finally got around to pulling the hives apart to remove extra honey and prepare them for the trip home from the field to our backyard for the winter. Really it was my fault. They went into full protective mode. If I stole all their honey that late in the year they had no way of replacing it and they would die of starvation.

I speak several languages, a pretty fair imitation of a momma pig, horse body language and the like, but I've never mastered the bee dance. You know wiggle your butt just so to tell the exact direction to fly to the best flower nectar patch and the other dance where you convince the bee council that your selection for a new home to swarm to is best? Or rather any other dance for that matter and alas, though I tried to wiggle, "I come in peace." it my butt giggled instead. Because of the language barrier nearly fifty died that day leaving their sabers sticking out all over my arms. Yes, I should have arrived earlier. Yes, I should have known better and worn more than just my shirt and coveralls. Yes, hind sight is a very good teacher but for once couldn't she have been on time.

In case you were wondering, no, I didn't end up in the hospital. I just took a little more adrenal meds and a dose of allergy medications and watched my arms turn red, then redder, and redder yet as the swelling work its way up my arm. It took about four days to reach its full height before beginning the long process of shrinking. It was quite fascinating as my body has a tendency to react rather slowly. Put my doctor in a full grown panic when I phoned to ask how much medication I should take with my Addison's Disease but I wasn't so worried. 

I'll never forget the time our son sported a Cleon eyebrow from his first trip to the bees. One bee sting and the thing swelled up huge for almost a week. Quite funny really but we never let him help with the bees again. Mosquito bites use to swelled up really big on him too. An insect thing I always figured. Grandpa always said you could build up resistance to bee stings where you no longer reacted. I suppose that is if you aren't allergic in the first place.

Why one bee sting will cause you to swell up big and then another one barely leaves a red spot I'm not sure but I'm just glad to the bees will be arriving in April and maybe some day I'll figure that out too.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A New Breakfast Delight!

 

Still trying to figure out meals that work well for hubby to take to work. They need to go well from freezer to lunch box to microwave. They can't be a repeated more than three times maximum because my husband isn't fond of leftovers. They need to be not so complicated that it takes all day to make. They need to be different than last weeks menu. No casseroles unless it is lasagna or simply enchiladas placed side by side with a sauce poured over the top of them and baked.

I'm finding that if I don't make some foods wa....y ahead I can not keep up. Like this time I made several desserts and some of one and the whole of the other went into the freezer. Even then I really, really struggle to make enough food and I'm loosing my passion for cooking. How ever do chef's do it? I'm panicked, how will I be able to cook and move at the same time? The end of the month is coming quickly and we are trying to negotiate the new house's closing a few days early as Kirk has a foreman exam work wants him to take on closing day. He is qualified in our state but the mine he is presently working at is just over the Montana border and there he is not. He's not fond of being a foreman but at the mine he worked at before, he filled in during vacations and the like.

I need to get some sheds up for sale on the Internet. I need, I need, I need, but here I sit with two of the cutest munchkins you ever saw. One has foot and mouth disease and the other the flu. You know grand kids come first and when their mama had to leave yesterday for school at the police academy, I posted sick bay on my door and snuggled them in. Not sure how long it will be or if the other two older girls won't be coming down to join them as they too have been exposed. Plus, who knows they might just trade around the two diseases and we could be having wa...y too much fun, sarcastically of course.

I do know I made a great ventilator last night as I slept with the five year old with the flu. Off, on, off, on went the covers as I tried to regulate her temperature yet keep her sleeping. I learned long ago that unless a fever is raging, 103 - 104 F, depending on the child, that it is best to leave it alone. A fever is the bodies way of fighting disease and if you interfere you are asking for the disease to drag on longer than necessary. Just don't get carried away as a few years ago I let mine rage in the 104 F range for a couple days and nights and yes I got over the same flu my husband had in a third of the time but I also had the lower half of my face covered in fever blisters when my fever finally did brake. They were slow to go away. 104 F is a whole lot higher for an adult than it is for a child.

As I'm cooking I'm also keeping my eye out for other meals to add to the menu like this one. With a slight bit of tweaking Kirk said this would be a big winner. It is hash browns fried and then placed in the bottom of a greased muffin tin. Next I fired up some hot spiced sausage but chopped ham would be good too. Then I chopped some bell pepper and onions, and whipped the meat and vegetables in with eggs. With a little black pepper and salt I then added grated cheese to the mixture and pour the whole thing on top the hash browns. Bake until done at 350 F. Then at the very end I added a sprinkle of cheese on top and broiled until melted. Hubby said the whole thing was delish but needed just a bit more spice.

Next time I'm going to spice up the hash browns and I'm still thinking on the egg mixture. Maybe it is just the hash browns that need it. I also want to broil the hash browns in the bottom of the muffin tins briefly to give a little more crisp before adding the raw egg mixture and baking. The original recipe called for store hash browns but no way in this house hold. They just don't taste very potatoey. I have also found that if you boil your potatoes and then shred them, they aren't as potatoey as if you shred the potatoes fresh, rinsed them to remove part of the starch, dry them, and then fry. The texture is changed also between the two.

The other thing I've found is that my husband is not so fond of the sweet breakfast foods as the hearty ones. Not a bad thing. Next I'm going to work on a recipe that I found for soaking cracked oats in the crock pot to remove the phytic acid, then cooking them in the crop pot ready when you wake up for breakfast. For this I plan on drying some apples that are starting to go a little soft. Wouldn't apple bits and a little cinnamon be good? What is your favorite breakfast food? Please don't say pop tarts. They unfortunately are a frequent thing in our grand kids mornings and snack time. Though I do have a home made recipe for them I'll try one of these days, it is for the kids, not Kirk.

For now since I've got the youngest to down for a nap (her request), I think I'll go snuggle the five year old and read a book to her. These moments won't last forever and I plan on taking full advantage of them.

P.S. You think she is trying to tell me something? She always drags around these two dolls. The same two that are just alike. We do have twin genes in the family. Hmmm.......

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Recycling Your Vegetable Water

Our oldest commented how she used her vegetable water for her plants. That got me thinking. I've seen things over the years about using the water your vegetables cook in but never for plants so I thought this quite clever of her. For some reason it took until now to get serious about applying recycling vegetable water. Maybe it was the added push for when I went to Walmart and they didn't have any plant food. Not that I've ever bought plant food there but I was looking for some house plant food. The organic stuff I used last year is really smelly and this year I plan on having two racks going plus likely some pots on the floor. That is a lot of odiferous possibility.  So I thought I'd look to see if by chance they had something labeled organic. They were selling plants but no fertilizer. Does that seem like an oxymoron to you? Or a stupednoid as Kirk would say.  

I'll look elsewhere but not being a shopper, I'll probably just hit the Internet for some. I did order some kelp and sulfur pea pellets for the garden and may use some of the kelp for the house plants. Wonder if it smells bad? I'm determined to use more than manure on the garden this year. I want more produce in less space even though the garden will be larger than ever before. It use to be that the grocery store, the hardware store and about everywhere but the fabric store had plant fertilizer. Don't people have house plants anymore? I heard on the radio that people are becoming very lax about house keeping. Maybe keeping plants is too much work also.

Not only have I noticed this but have you noticed that many basics aren't going on a good sale or on sale at all this past year? I've been looking for Valasic pickles to go on good sale in our local grocery store. I've been waiting since last fall. They always go on sale for a really good price during the holidays. That is when I buy nearly a years supply. Nope, no sell and usually there are several.

Cucumbers is something I've not been able to coax into a decent crop and where we are headed I know they do well. Kirk and I had a garden in that area when we were first married and his folks still do. That is where we get our fresh garden cukes. But it isn't enough to satisfy his love for them and he has made it clear he wants lots and lots of cucumbers in our new garden home. I'm sure I will begin making pickles once more. I'll have to try out some new recipes. Have any of you a recipe you think is excellent?

Frozen juice is another one. Occasionally I will see something but it is getting pretty rare. There are other things too but what I'm curious to know is have any of you noticed the same thing? Of course the heavily processed foods always go on sale or is that just what it seems like as I don't buy the stuff?

Anyway, we were talking about vegetable water. My daughter puts her water that the vegetables cooked in on her plants. That way those nutrients don't go to waste. I would caution you not to use the water if your vegetables came in a can. It is usually loaded with salt. I don't know about frozen vegetables. Do they have additives too? What I'm referring to is fresh vegetables. If you can call vegetables from the store fresh. But this summer think of your garden and when you cook, save that water. Imagine all that luscious water you blanch your vegetables in to freeze just going to waste. I'm sure your plants inside and out could make good use of that nutrient rich water.
Another good use for it is in bread. I have begun being very conscious about using the potato water in particular this last couple weeks as a substitute for the water used in bread making. Not that I boil potatoes a great deal but I plan on growing quite a few this summer and a habit takes time to form so it becomes automatic. I'm slow to learn so I'm beginning now. Yesterday I cooked up some asparagus that came in our Bountiful Basket delivery. On to the plants the water went. I only have a couple pots of Aloe Vera right now.

I'm not a house plant kind of gal though I use to be. Now I want house plants that I can cook with. I let all my herbs die as they are hard to keep going in this house in December and January if they aren't under grow lights. I figured one less thing to move and my do we have a lot of trips to make anyway.
Another great use for that vegetable water is to save it for soups. It adds flavor and nutrition. So next time don't dump out that nutrient rich vegetable water, recycle it.

P.S. I bet the chickens would love it too.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wyoming, Not What You Were Thinking


It is a bit hard to imagine the area in which I live and not any easier to explain. People keep thinking that here is like there where they live. It's probably not. For one thing towns are far and few between making it not unusually to travel over an hour to the next gas station and sometimes it is two hours.

 Occasionally when Kirk is in Atlanta, Georgia a friend from Japan is also there. They spend some time together and during one of their visits I happened to be present. Kirk and I were trying to describe to this friend where we lived. In an 'I understand tone' our Japanese friend replied, " I live in a little city too - 200,000 people." No, not quite. We live in a town that has 1,200 people. It almost came to counting the dogs to get that number. It was clear he couldn't fathom that so few people living in one place. When we said we would like to take him to the hills outside of our town, where he could look out off a bluff and see for miles, no house in sight. His eyes got bigger and bigger and in an exclaimed tone he asked, "Do you have electricity, telephones, Internet?"

With great restraint I said of course "We do", even though in my Wyomingite head I was saying, 'Yes, we do but those pesky Indians keep knocking down the power poles and raiding the grocery store.' There are a couple Indian reservations in Wyoming but they haven't been on the war path since I was a child. Okay, they haven't been on the war path in my entire life time or my parents or grandparents lifetimes but try and convince a tourist that when I was growing up. Telling bold faced lies with a straight face to tourist is compensation for the ridiculous tales we are suppose to swallow. " What are those strange animals with two horns the ranchers are raising." After a bit of confusion it was figured out that the woman tourist was describing pronghorn antelope but try and tell her that. No, it can't be pronghorn antelope she replied because they were behind fences. If it were only that easy to keep them out but they go under the fences and over them and pretty much any where they please.


Harder still is to convince tourist in Yellowstone Park that the animals should be given a wide berth. I remember walking out of Old Faithful Inn one time and cautioning a tourist to walk way around a huge, older bull bison standing next to the sidewalk. They tried to tell me that it had to be tame because it was right next to the building. Right, and bison bulls don't get more unpredictable and cranky the older they get. I didn't say a peep though another time when a guy placed his small child next to a black bear for pictures. The man obviously didn't have a lick of sense and I figured my energy was better off spent praying than arguing.

So don't blame us if we come up with things like Jackalope. Why not? People don't seem to believe the truth. That has made the Jackalope quite popular. It's home by chance is Douglas, Wyoming, just an hour and a half from us. You know what a Jackalope is, those rabbits with the horns on their heads. They are in lots of taxidermy shops but especially in Douglas. 

Another thing you need to know about a Wyomingite. We relate distance in time, not miles.  It is more relevant. For instance where my husband's hunts elk is only seven miles from the main road but that seven miles takes an hour to drive. See our point?

In the city you use lots of street names and highways to get around. It does me no good because I can't remember names. Then you go making it worse and completely confuse me by putting up those tall buildings and how am I suppose to tell if I'm headed north, south, east, or west? I always said when my sister lived ........ Oh my, I forgot where she use to live. I do remember you turned right at the Purple Turtle, a dark purple building that was a fast food place, and then left at the run down barn. Good thing those two landmarks never changed in all the years she lived in that area of Utah or I'd have been lost. Yup, if you are a true born and raise Wyomingite you will give directions by landmarks and good ole north, south, east, and west. I must admit that I've lived at the crossroads of several highways for over thirty years and I still can't remember there names half the time, just what direction they head and where they take you. Isn't that the important stuff?

Another Wyoming tradition is to name pastures after the name of the person you bought it from, for instance my dad would say ride a horse out to the Chrisnic place and check on the bull. Later he started naming horses that way. He had Scott because he got him from Scott and he even had a horse named Bird. It was the previous owners last name. That one really threw me. One day he hollered out the kitchen door, "Bird, get back here." I thought he'd lost his mind until I saw a horse drift back in our direction and realized Dad had bought a new roping horse. Now I'm wondering? He had a horse named Yogie, where did that name come from?

Yes, our state is fairly unique. We are the 9th largest state in the United States but we have the least amount of population. Even Alaska beats us. They have 735,132 people residing mainly along the coast. Wyoming has 582,658 people spread out across the entire state.  That is 582,658 people in 97,818 square miles. Or in other words .168 people per square mile. How do you have a .168 person? Anyway, I suppose that would be a bit much for a little city dweller from Japan to comprehend. So when I say I live in the boondocks, the north forty, the sticks, the toolies.  I mean in relation to most people, I live in the middle of nowhere.


A thriving metropolis for us is our capitol, Cheyenne, Wyoming with a big whopping population of 60,000 people and Casper, Wyoming comes in second at 56,000. No where near a little city as our Japanese friend describes but far too large a place for me to live. If a place of 1200 people is beyond comprehension then how are we to explain our soon to be new address? We live at the end of a lane in the country but the town on our mailing address has a population of 0. You read that right - 0. It's a ghost town - maybe. Don't actually know if any ghosts live there but I do know it never was more than a post office where you could buy a few groceries.

So how do I explain to the Holistic Hen and the rest of you that indeed there aren't organic farms here? If there is even one, it is hours and hours from where we live and I'm not aware of it. Carpenter, where there is suppose to be organic chickens for sale, is a five hour drive there and of course five hour drive back home. It is no surprise that 91 percent of the state is rural. 86 percent of the state's agricultural receipts are from livestock and 78 percent of that is cows and calves. Yup, a two to one ratio of cows to people -- just the way I like it.

 If you are doing the math you see that if  86 percent of the agricultural receipts are for livestock then that leaves only 14 for crops.  Most of that 14 percent is hay. There are a few pockets of areas in the state that grow something besides hay. The Big Horn Basin where I grew up is one of them. They get only 5 -8 inches of rain a year making them nearly classified as desert but there is irrigation that wets the richer soil. We are talking richer but not as in Iowa rich soil. In a few areas there are farms which produce 3.9 %,  barley 2.0 %, sugar beets 2.8 %, dried beans 1.3%  of cash receipts for the state. With farms and ranches averaging 2,745 acres. My dad when he managed a couple ranches for a banker took care of 1000 head of cattle, 1000 head of sheep, some dry land oat fields, hay fields, and that was on 68,000 acres. Now that same land has gone dry and there is no farming at all just grass. The weather is changing once more so who knows about the future.

There is also a little corn and a few oats in the state but not much for people food except a little wheat like in the Carpenter area but then again there is a whole lot of the state that can't raise anything but grass. If you want something fresher and better than the store produce, you have to grow it yourself. Over all the state's average rainfall is 10 to 12 inches labeling it semi-desert which complicates that task. Some of the mountains may be blessed with as much as 15 inches a year but you can't grow crops at that elevation. We have a lot more than just agriculture as our state is rich with mineral so you will see quite a few oil wells, methane fields, and surface coal mines.



We are the second highest state in the U.S. Our mean is 6,700 feet. 2000 ft. above most states. Probably why Wyoming doesn't label high elevation gardening until 6000 ft. where as other states labeled it at 4000 ft. We have from 140 to only 60 days growing season depending on what part of the state you live. One of the main reasons for our moving is an increase in growing days, richer soil, more moisture, and better weather as in less wind. We will still be at around 5000 ft. but the south sloping hill the new place is on will be a big help.

There are a few other unique qualities about Wyoming, we have strange things such as reflector poles. Metal poles placed at equal distances along a paved highway with a round reflecting disc on top that when your car's headlights hit it, it reflects light, telling you where the side of the road is. No it is not a low IQ that prompts the need for such things but high winds. Some parts of the state it is common to have winds in excess of 60 mph. It flips over semi-trucks and makes the where a bouts of the road mighty confusing in a snowstorm. We call these white-outs. One more thing about our highways, you won't see a two-wheel drive truck, unless it is a tourist. Most have three-quarter ton trucks with four-wheel drive unless it is a dually, a pickup truck with four wheels in the back and two in the front meant to haul heavy loads. Nope can't get around here with a two wheel drive truck most of the year and besides, you'll just get laughed at.

We have other strange terms such as draws, borrow pits, and even hole such as in Jackson Hole, Wyoming but keep the Wyoming part quiet. We Wyomingites don't claim Jackson. We can't afford to live there anyway. It is full of stars from Hollywood and you know the most conservative state in the U.S. and Hollywood don't see eye to eye on politics. So if you hear us tell someone from Jackson, " Snow fences are bleachers for watching antelope races." and we have our poker face on, be sure to keep your face straight. I'll explain later.

We may not have commercial organic gardens but that's okay, we are pretty independent cusses and will just do it ourselves. I like our state. In fact I love it!! Where else can you go to the state capitol building and wonder the halls freely because it is YOUR house? And where else can you just happen to bump into Governor Meade in the hallway and he stops you because he's spied you carrying Flat Stanley. Yes he knows Flat Stanley well and invited us to take a picture with the four of us for our oldest grand daughter's third grade class. Our government is just that approachable.

We might not have commercial organic garden farms but we do have a whole lot more and in just a few short weeks I'm about to show you as my camera clicks and clicks upon the picturesque scenes surrounding our new home.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Microwave Popcorn

I have an addiction - popcorn. It is of course my parents fault. Isn't everything? Okay, maybe up until about eight years old or so you might buy that but at 54, probably not. But no one can contest the fact that they started my addiction. They did. When I was a child we either had popcorn or ice cream in the evenings when watching television. Maybe a few nights a month now I'll have ice cream but popcorn - at least three times a week. I simply love the stuff. It can be caramel, just not microwave caramel, buttered, or even smothered in marshmallow cream. It is just good stuff.

One year I bought little packets of all different kinds of popcorn, white corn, yellow corn, black corn, and even a red corn. They were all delicious as far as I was concerned and yes, there was a slight variation in flavor. My favorite part I think was the addition of real butter and real salt to the mix. My husband wasn't all that impressed and so I abandoned the idea of buying gourmet, if you will, popcorn. I am going to try and grow popcorn this summer. I'm just trying to gear myself up for the hand pollinating of some of the ears on my sweet corn and popcorn and bagging them to keep cross pollination from occurring. I need to start making bags now to be ready. Oh how I love an excuse to go to the sewing store. The need to buy muslin is a great one don't you think?

But I've grown more and more concerned about the most common popcorn - microwaved. I have done some research to try and quell my fears. First of all, the microwave is not the dangerous part. It is the additions, the packaging, the fake butter. 


I'm not addicted to the fake butter kind anyway but my husband kind of likes that. Extra fake buttery is his choice. I have a particular weakness for Kettle Corn. The divine sweet / salty flavor will lull me into eating the whole bag. Please don't judge me too harshly for I do try and eat the more healthy stuff. I've switched long ago to Orville Redenbacher brands. Not because I knew better but that voice that whispers in my head said to. He's never wrong because it doesn't come from my end but a celestial one. Now after researching I find he was right once more. Orville Redenbacher years back switched from using trans fats to non trans fats. Now the FDA has banned it in all microwave popcorns and other companies are scrambling to comply. It took Orville four years to come up with a formula, the other companies don't have that long. It is beyond me why it too so long but in that I'm a bit hesitant. In my kitchen I just switch oils, voila done, so what did they do? I know Orville might be better but he's still not good. Just look at his label. The TBHO stuff and the artificial flavors and he even has sucralose. I can do better than that. You know the line, "Anything he can do, I can do better." from what song I don't know but it is my theme. Surely I can do better making my own microwave popcorn.

I'd skip the diacetyl, a cancer forming agent in the fake butter. I can do real, for some reason companies don't.

The third problem with microwave popcorn is the bag itself. "A report from the FDA indicates that a chemical coating used in microwave popcorn bags breaks down when heated into a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). The Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFOA as a “likely carcinogen.” Another study has found an acid that can be extracted from the chemical causes cancer in animals and is “likely to cause cancer in humans.”

Don't know how Orville is doing on that front but though he might do better, I know I can do better yet besides it will move me one step further away from dependency. And others have quoted that they've saved a bundle doing it themselves. Maybe I'm not the only addict out there. I like that idea. You know, misery loves company. Wait, I'm not miserable. Well, the more the merrier, we can have a popcorn party.

Doing it yourself appears to be simple. I haven't tried it yet. Experimentation here we come. Some sites say 1/2 cup of popcorn and others say 1/4 cup works best. I'll let you know what I find out. But in all the recipes I looked at, I do like the idea of mixing a teaspoon of oil with the popcorn kernels to coat them and sprinkling on a 1/2 teaspoon or less of salt before placing it all in the bag. Use non recycled bags because of the hazard of the glue in the recycled ones, fold over the top of the bag a couple times and put it in the microwave on high for three minutes if you don't have a popcorn setting on your oven. Wait for the corn to quit popping and eat. What could be more simple than this. Let's try it. If you've got any advice, share. We'd all like to know, especially me. There has got to be one of you who have tried this.

As for my favorite kind, well there are recipes for Kettle Corn popcorn brown paper bag style too. But what about the chemicals in the brown paper bags. Hmm.....I saw an article about that somewhere where there were chemicals released in them also. Good idea, bad idea using paper bags, not so sure but I thought I'd try the method where you use a glass container also. If it works just as well, and I don't know why not, I like that idea better. The instructions said to put plastic over the top of the container. I'm not so sure about that. Hmmmm...... what else could I use?  I'll have to think on that a while, meanwhile I think I'll have a another bag of Orville's Kettle Corn. I still have a few bags left.