Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tomato Experiment Update

Remember me?
Yeah, not looking so good. Though there were roots, the tomatoes and long branch took too much energy to maintain. It died, no great surprise.
Experiment number two was also a bust. The rooted spikes with a little leaf on it died also. That was a surprise. A wise goat appraiser once told me that I needed to do things myself to gain a true understanding. He is right. If the experiment is not costly, experiencing it for yourself does indeed bring a level of understanding one can not gain through words alone.
With a little research under my belt I tried propagating tomatoes or cloning which is another word for it. I took a short stem off one of the tomato plants and placed it in very wet soil. Putting it in soil instead of just straight water is suppose to work better. Also I gently scraped the bottom sides of the stem as instructed. They said it wasn't imperative but helpful. The top leaves look a bit pale but you can see some new dark green ones appearing. Roots begin to sprout at a week old I've learned. The sprouting of roots is due to the fact that the chemical auxim is present in tomatoes and in some other plants. Cut flowers die because the stems do not have this chemical.

This cloning method is something that allows you to keep your tomatoes, peppers, and some other garden plants going on forever from just one parent plant. 

I am disappointed that my tomato seeds have not sprouted yet. I think I might need to put a heating pad under them. Our house can be pretty cool. In this first stage of experimenting I have indeed learned that in the winter; propagating or cloning, which ever word you like, is the way to go.  My tomato plants look pretty rough right now since I do not have them under grow lights. That is one of the experiments is to see if they can make it on the naturally available light. Winter solstice is past so things should be looking up for them. My herbs last year looked pretty rough during December and January but really kicked into gear after that.

Stay tuned I have another indoor plant experiment in the works and several more I'm going to start next week.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hot Water Works LIke a Dream on Trees

The kiddos showing off the blankets their great-grandmother made them.

Not done with making Christmas presents and sending cards but at least we are back to getting some sleep. You will often find us crawling in bed with the kids at 8 or 8:30. This fall has left us in bad need of sleep. Kind of like Christmas Eve when we were awoke at 1:20 with a child wetting the bed. The same child that called us every day she was not here to inform us of how many days until Christmas.

Our oldest daughter who was sleeping with this grandchild then could not go back to sleep. I stayed up with her for a while after shooing all the other grandkids back to bed along with their mother. Then too tired to keep my eyes open, I went back to bed. At 4:30 a.m. my husband had to get up to go to work and it awoke one of the grandkids whom I then went off to sleep with, musical beds is a favorite past time around here. Then when most of the kids had awoken at 6:00, we began the 11/2 hours of opening gifts. We like to do it slowly. But no breakfast before presents because that is torture for kids and I am against such torture.

So now I am putting away Christmas decorations only because I have to get ready for school starting up next week and three birthdays parties. I rather regret de-decorating, as the kids call it. I am really enjoying the tree. It is so.... soft and green. I tried one of those tricks on Facebook and low and behold it WORKS! I buy my fresh trees the very beginning of December so I can get it right away in water instead of letting it continue to dry out. A fresh tree because they are a renewable resource and clean the air. Fresh because I can't stand the thought of putting a plastic tree in the landfill to take 50,000 years to decompose. I've imagined myself trying to explaining that to my Heavenly Father when we have the conversation about how I took care of HIS earth. Plus fresh helps support a farmer each year. I know, my brain goes where few men have often gone.
Love the backdrop for the tree!
 This year I figured I would try the Facebook trick because it just made sense beyond the lack of instructions.The tip was to boil water and then cool it for five minutes but the details were not in it. My Autism raised its ugly head as I wondered if they meant on a gas stove or an electric stove which an electric stove burner holds heat long after a gas does. They did not say take the pan off the burner so did they mean that? How hot your house is would make a difference also. Ours is rather cool. I know, I should have been a research specialist. In the land of confusion for lack of information, a land I know well, I just forged my own path because I could not bring myself to burn my poor tree. You can probably see now why we Autistic people shut down, overload of emotions and confusion because we process wa....y too much information. Keep it simple is not part of our network.
Changing my decorations to match the backdrop. Tree needs a twig star for next year.
So I changed the rules and went with hot tap water. The concept is that hot water opens the pores in the bottom of the tree. That is after you cut the bottom off of before putting in the water so you get past the sealed pores from dehydration. They did not mention that part in the instructions either. Cold water solidifies the sap and stops the tree from drawing up the water. That makes sense.

Nearly four weeks later and you can grip a branch on my tree and run your hand down the needles and rarely does one fall off. It is AWESOME!!! The tree sucked up water the whole time instead of the usual sucks up water for a couple weeks and then quits. I am definitely doing this with all my plants. Maybe not quite as hot a water but I am going to use warm water with my indoor garden I am starting. Surely roots like to be bathes in warm water instead of cold also.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Season!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Saving Seed and Tomatoes in the House

I canned pumpkins this past week and now can put a mental check on that project. I'm drying a few seeds to try sprouting next year. As a back up plan I will make sure I also sprout some from someone who knows what they are doing, a seed company. Mine are from the largest pumpkins. The ones that developed before the Buttercup squash came on. Sugar Pie pumpkins and Buttercup squash get all kissy kissy I've heard though I have yet to see it. The books say they are from the same family and will cross.

That means I have to figure out a rotating plan to grow certain kinds of pumpkins and squash in rotating years so I can save seed or force abstinence upon a few. You know where you tie up the blossoms just before they make their maiden flight, I mean open up. Then plan an arrange marriage and pollinate them with the chosen groom whom is also tied up until the wedding. Then tie them both up again so they can't change their minds. I have been going to be a wedding planner for several summers now but it just has not gotten done. That is why I want to try the rotation plan. Maybe I just am not cut out to be a wedding planner. Desire keeps getting booted out the door when other people's problems push their way in. And I must admit, I have trepid thoughts though why killing off a few blossoms with my bumbling ways would be such a crime is beyond me.   

Saving seed is one of my top priorities this year so life had better get out of the way. I am right now attempting to sprout seeds I saved from my miniature tomato plants I grew last spring in the sun room. The tomatoes that grew to over 20 inches tall instead of staying the miniature 12 inches the catalogue promised me they would be. The one that the top was accidentally broke off did indeed make around 12 inches tall so that is the plan for these new ones, whack off the tops if they even hint of aspiring to greater heights because there is just too much plant for the number of tomatoes formed. Whacked looked so cute and had more tomatoes per plant formation than the others so I quickly quit feeling sorry for it.  

Most of the house tomato plants have been thrown out into the field but I have the three Goldilocks candidates remaining: too tall,  down to a stub, and the one plant which has one of its limbs just hanging on by a few plant strands. Yes the spring tomato plants were sorely neglected over the summer.

I had quit watering Stemmy, yes I gave him a name, (Or is it a her since there are babies but then there has to be a he too doesn't there?). Oh well, IT was going to be thrown out and then IT grew leaves on the stems. My brain whirled and Stemmy got a second chance at life yesterday. If IT does not blow it and creates a new productive plant from the stubby beginnings, then that will be a new discovery for me. To start tomato plants anew after cutting them down to just stubs makes sense that this would be a much faster way to grow a new plant. From seed takes forever to just grow a good root base. Stemmy has the root base established and should therefore take off more quickly. Will he or is it she grow into fruition?  Time will tell.

The plant with one of its branches that was just hanging on by a few plant strands just kept hanging in there, literally.  Weeks went by and still it hung on with no sign of wilting leaves except when I forgot to water it. Probably stayed alive I figure because I've learned that plants go into kind of a hibernation this time of year. Okay the winter gardening books did not use the word hibernation but plant's growth is almost stopped waiting for winter solstice to pass when they are suppose to take off once more. I noticed this with herbs growing in the window last year. Not enough hours of light. I severed the hanging limb and put it into a quart jar of water. Will it grow roots and take off. That is the question. Meanwhile the mother plant just got a trim.  

Tomato number three is too tall and when I replanted it putting in two paint sticks tied together for a stake I did an exaggerated S curve with it to keep it in line, pun intended. It now fits more upright on the shelf it must reside on rather than hanging over the edge.

The other phase of this experiment is to see how the plants do without a grow light. I want to see how economical I can go. They have not had a light since last spring.

My next experiment series began yesterday also. I have just planted a few seeds from the tomatoes of a previous harvest of these miniature tomatoes. The tomatoes that were wrinkled and old. You see I learned my lesson.

Late summer when I figured I had better collect seeds or call seed saving a wash for the year I had no or few old guys before the garden was saying goodbye--- hello cold. Then I discovered you want the really old wrinkled crowd to save seed from. U....t, Oh! Vegetables in their prime do not have good seeds as a rule. They are too small. See we old guys are the hope of the future. That meant only a few candidates made it to the learn how to process the seed stage. I did do some tomato and potato seed and learned more about fermentation to save seed. I am of course saving pumpkin seeds and one kind of pepper that put on the earliest so it had not crossed just like the pumpkin deal.

Not much but a start but a start never the less. "In all labor there is profit.", the saying goes and I learned that cucumbers have to be large, old, yellow, nearly dead guys from which viable seeds come from. I knew that great eating cucumbers have small seeds but it never really registered just how large, old, and nearly rotted they had to be before the seeds get large. Mine I tried to save from was on the path but had not arrived. I learned more about dried beans and  kept seed from the beans we eat green. One batch I dried on low in the dehydrator and one I let dry naturally. We shall see if the ones dried in the dehydrator will sprout. It was because of a matter of space that the experiment stemmed from. I learned that there can definitely be too many chickens in the garden. Maybe not my best gardening year but not a waste of time. My knowledge has increased and with learning do's and don'ts comes success.

I have several times grown, or shall we say attempted to grow lettuce in the house. This past spring I grew a miniature type of Tom Thumb and it was a great success. I was able to cut several times before the quality waned. I have another planting started yesterday. This time I put in a few other kinds also. Part of doing it right is getting the right kind of seeds for the situation. It just happens that this particular seed is good for winter gardening, something I will talk about more later. Now I am in the pondering and research stage.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sad News!

       As you can guess I have been hitting the internet trying to figure out how to take care of baby bunnies. What I have learned is a bit too late. We lost our sweet Charlene last night. She was the last of the ten kits born. We hoped she had a chance since she had made it three weeks but alas, she did not eat so well yesterday and I began to worry. Stomach problems and milk ingested into the lungs plagues you when you fostered baby bunnies.

She had just gotten to be really fun. The last couple days Charlene would bang on her metal door to the cat carrier she slept in to be let out to play.  She was so.... tiny but she could really scoot across the room. She had just started to groom herself. I was thinking yea, I won't have to bathe her so often but I'm sure that would not help with the stinky toots. Oh she was a tooter. Yesterday she started this cute thing with her tongue wiping all around her mouth to make sure she had eaten the very last drop of goat milk. 

Last night we had gathered the kids around us and were teaching them about the symbols of Christmas, red is for the blood Jesus spilt, green for eternal life, and how the Christmas tree's needles point heavenward just as our thought should always be raised. As I read a Christmas story and we talked, we paused now and then to giggle at Charlene's antics as she scampered and raise up on her back legs to check us out, occasionally falling over because she is only three weeks old and that is a pretty tough stunt. It was a special night.

This morning our six year old grand daughter rushed into the living room near the fire to check out Charlene's cage and found her dead. Oh how the tears flowed.

Doubts creep in and for a few moments I'm questioning if it is all worth it. Pet owners deal with death so seldom. We in the livestock world know death well. This year it came when we had baby chicks, it came when our sweet Jujubee broke her hip and had to be put down, it came many times with the rabbit babies and each time it tugs at my heart. I must say you get better at being able to say goodbye but easy----- NEVER. Today as I write the tears are welling. I'm telling myself if only I knew better. Then I think of the doctors especially of olden times as they sat by time after time with so few tools at their disposal and watched patients die. I am so... thankful for the Internet and those that have gone before me to pave the way.  

My skills are being sharpened with each little one I foster no matter what member of the animal kingdom they may hail from. I feel sorry for the ones like Charlene that I bumble along with and I want to tell her I'm so sorry. I really tried! It should make me feel better that pinkies have a zero percent survival rate. It doesn't. I'm determined that little ones can survive if I just keep intelligently trying.

A broken rabbit, a sibling, that passed right before Charlene died of fluid in the lungs. I held the tiny head so I would not snap the neck and used centrifugal force to expel the liquid, then blew into her mouth with a puff of air to make sure the lungs were inflated, and did chest compressions. After quite a bit of effort she began to breathe on her own, her heart having started up again, her lungs clear enough to breathe. She lived two more days and infection must of over come her.  

I have now successfully resuscitated a bunny, a foal, lambs, kid goats, and piglets. I don't feel so smart. Some lived on to adults but others it was just a short visit before they left and most of the time I feel like I'm stumbling in the dark. There is a feeling you get whether or not you will be successful when you resuscitate and you know when to quit or keep trying. Some I'm sure is experience but I believe that the Holy Ghost prompts those who are willing to be guided.  If the Lord knows when a sparrow falls, he indeed is mindful of sweet Charlene and all those we wrap in our arms and try to save.

I have on order two sizes of squirrel nipples. Yes, they make nipples to save squirrels with. It is to help keep the little ones from so easily ingesting liquid into the lungs. Bunnies are the toughest animal I have ever syringe fed and definitely anything I've bottle fed. I quickly discovered that little pinky rabbit's mouths are too small for a kitten nipple so I used a diabetic's syringe and then a small eye dropper. The eye dropper worked best.

 I learned from my studies that probiotic is critical. Keeping the gut in balance is a tuff thing to do on baby rabbits. The Squirrels And More site has four probiotics in a combination that is to help. I will order it next spring as it has expiration dates and will just sit until them. They also recommend it for the mothers. I will also save colostrum from Belle, our girl is to kid sometime soon. I wish I would have kept the date the buck got out last summer on the calendar. I guess baby bunnies need colostrum for the first ten days and you can substitute goat colostrum. Other animals I've raised it is only critical to get a decent doze into them within the first few hours or so. Baby bunnies need it for ten days. I think I will freeze it is an ice cube tray so I can thaw a little at a time.

The best substitute for rabbit milk is fresh goat milk. No surprising there as goat milk is the best for just about everything. Many add cream to the goat milk but our girls are producing more cream than milk right now in their cycle so we are okay in that department. I'm hoping we don't have to raise any baby bunnies next spring but the two does we will use have never kindled before so that isn't likely going to be the case. Meanwhile I'll keep forming a plan and bucking up the courage to do it all over again.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A New Type of Critter In Our Self-Sufficiency Plan

What have we here? Babies of course but some of you might still be wondering what kind. Well, my latest adventure in self-sufficiency, is rabbits of course. What can we most efficiently raise on our new small acreage has been on my mind. I inherited a buck and doe from the grandkids last fall. Mom thought the rabbits would teach the kids responsibly but since mom took no real interest in the rabbits the kids did not. Funny how those same kids who refused to do rabbit chores for mom have no problem doing them for me. There is a lesson there. The rabbits are not the teacher, they are the tool with which the lesson can be taught but if the teacher, a.k.a. mom, is playing hooky, the lesson will not be learned and the kids will not feel it is worth their time either.
I kept the rabbits for about 6 months and learned a thing or two about feeding them. What they can and can't eat and what is good for them but only in moderation. Then I decided that I kind of liked the rabbits though they weren't as friendly as I'd like. In other words they weren't following me everywhere like all the other animals do and could not be ordered here and there by pointing my arms.
I have a rule, " All animals have to have a function, no free loading pets. We have too many to feed and funds are low. All our animals are pet friendly anyway so we get the companionship others get with their pets only in larger numbers.
By summer I figured I had better get rid of them or start breeding them and produce meat for the table. My daughter had bred the rabbits twice but was scarce on information. I had little time to study but plunged right in. Mistake number 1, you do not put a buck in the does pen even though he is 10 times friendlier and easier to handle than the doe. It worked out okay but does are territorial and bucks not so much. I hear some does have beaten up a buck pretty badly over the issue. The facts are bucks are far too interested in one thing to be worried about territory. Yes, you women reading this know what I'm talking about. "Men have one thing on their minds!" I heard it from my mother and you probably heard it from yours. In the animal kingdom it is oh so true. 
Second mistake, I took some poor advice on the gestation and did not check the nest until a week too late. One kit remained and it died.
Next breeding I had a little more knowledge and skipped using the cage where she had her babies in a walled off area. It was just too hard to check the babies and settled on a wire cage with a plastic tub for a nest. Oreo, our sole doe, had 8 and 4 died. 50% survival rate wasn't making me smile. Oreo was in excellent condition after weaning the 4 so thinking maybe I might of done something wrong or it was just the luck of the draw, I rebred her in a few weeks. You know, practice, practice until you get it right.
 Weather being warm later than usual this fall I took my chances. We were fixing up a new chicken coop with insulation and electricity and I planned on putting the double cage in there anyway. Our original plan is for open wire cages off the ground up 3 cages high on each side of the door leaving the ground underneath for the chickens. There is plenty of room left for a roost and nests with this plan. I have read that this can work out nicely.
We can also let the rabbits out once in a while in the coop to run around as long as the door is shut. That is we can let Whitey, the buck, out since he is tame but unfortunately not the doe, Oreo. This plan we hope will allow us to kindle earlier and later in the fall. I will also set up cages meant for outdoors in an area of the garden. All those babies have to go somewhere. We will build an outdoor tractor enclosure next summer to allow the rabbits outdoor grazing time.
I know a gentleman where we use to live that has a barn of rabbits with heat and electricity and that is their main source of meat. He feeds mainly rabbit food from the store. He uses an air conditioner in summer and heat in the winter so many of my questions he probably won't be able to answer. I want to skip the use of heat and electricity for the most part and cut down on the amount of store rabbit food I buy. Air conditioning and heat allows you to kindle more months of the year but increases costs. I want to figure out a way to do this when TSHTF time comes.
We live where winter lasts a time and so how many months can I kindle without too big of a risk? I would love to know. If any of you raise rabbits for me I would really, really like to talk with you especially if you live up north and are doing it like I have in mind. I have so...... many questions.

I have heard of people taking in their kittens at night when the temperatures are lowest and putting them back with mom in the daytime for her to feed. She only nurses them once or twice a day at most. This has to be with a tame rabbit though. This problem I am resolving with keeping 2 of the 4 kits which are all does. I handle them almost daily to make sure they are friendly and more manageable. With Oreo, our doe you make sure when handling you have a long sleeve shirt on and gloves.

Taking the babies indoors is an options but I want to keep the kittens with the doe as long as possible. This is where my brain is going right now. The addition of chickens at night will increase the temperature level. The cover I built for the 1 double cage set up when we had it outside upped the temperature considerably inside the cages but was a bit of a pain to put on in the wind. It was made out of old plastic feed sacks and a sheet of clear plastic for light in the front. The new one would have to open in the front and not slide on from the top like the last one and there lies the major part of the thought process on how to make it work.

I need something like this also for my grow light set up in the house too so one of these days I will get to experimenting.
Oreo's last litter a week and a half ago had 10 babies. I guess the old advice of putting your females on the gain just before breeding applies to rabbits also. It ups the number of offspring. Ten is probably too many kits for 1 doe to feed but Oreo refused to drink after she kindled. I tried a different water bottle - still she refused. I tried sugar water but to no avail. She would not drink more than a tiny bit. After a few days she had lost four kits and it was obvious she had also lost her milk as the remaining kits were thin. It was desperate time. I tried feeding the kits goat's milk twice a day while leaving them with Oreo but they were still going downhill.
I brought them in and put them in a plastic container with a plant starter pad underneath. It ups the ambient temperature by 10 to 20 degrees giving a little heat but not a lot like a heating pad. Even at 4 times a day feedings, they still were not putting on the weight they should and I lost the 2 weakest. I added an egg yolk and the kits began to gain weight. I feed 3 times a day but there is always 1 or 2 that don't eat much. I catch them on the next feeding where they eat a great deal more. They are growing nicely and today their eyes are starting to open. It is a couple days later than normal so I guess they are a bit behind. Maybe they were even born prematurely. Having 10 could do that.
One of the 4, the 1 pictured, has 3 legs that are goofy now. It is like baby chicks when they are piled on top of each other and 1 gets its leg bent wrong and there after it springs out crooked from its body. Normally they die. This little kit just keeps growing and is doing fine health wise but I fear he will be lost too.
Needless to say Oreo will soon be in the freezer as her performance is dismal for a meat rabbit. I have been studying conformation also and she pinches in the hips and V's outward from the shoulders to the hips, 2 no, no's. Whitey looks pretty good over all. See that nice rounded appearance? He is also quite even in width between his shoulders and hips. He is pictured here and is super sweet.

These 2 are the best of the 4 born to the second batch this summer. One in particular I like the confirmation on and is the friendliest by chance too. The dark rabbits gained weight faster than the broken (spotted) ones, and are thicker all over.  
These 2 are going to teach me about meat rabbit flavor. They look like their mom in confirmation.
I am tempted to keep the all white kit I am eye dropper feeding. I believe it is a she and I kind of like her. She is built the thickest and is more rectangular than the other kits. She is the friendliest too. 
So rabbit people pour on the advice. I am sourly in need of it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bone Broth

What in the world is this strange woman up to now? I can hear you  so don't bother to whisper. My feelings are not hurt. I'm strange and loving every minute of it. This is sanctioned adventure for me since adrenaline rushes are not allowed. My supply is too short so no bungee jumping or roller coaster rides.
This is obviously not water. It is bone broth. My Naturopathic doctor turned me on to the idea. Since my body uses cortisol, a.k.a. adrenaline at a rate previously unknown to man which forces me to swallow it 2 to 3 times a day to keep going, a large stress is put on my calcium stores. Besides my beloved goat milk which I drink daily to avoid osteoporosis, a major problem in the family, another good source is this yummy bone broth that is chock full of calcium.
To think I was letting some yum dilly-i-shush goodies go to waste by throwing away the bones.  Yes, I saved the broth and froze it when I cooked meat in a crockpot or oven but this is concentrated and hence takes up less room in the freezer and is far better for me or shall I say us? Those bones hold a wealth of calcium and minerals too. One of the sources of bone broth for us is all the turkeys, chickens, ham, beef roast I cook up for sandwiches. I now pack lunches for four most days of the week. That is a lot of home-made bread and meat for sandwiches. I won't buy lunchmeat unless I happen to be desperate, every 5 to 10 years or so. I can't get past all the yuck, bad for you's, in the stuff. Besides it tastes just like it is, junk meat compressed with lots of chemicals. With my yak and wild meat roasts that don't have bone in them, I still save the broth by freezing it and adding it to my beef roast bone broth while cooking it down.  
 The bone and small pieces of meat that cling to the bone are left in the crockpot, covered with water, and cooked on high while I am around to watch it and on low when I am not. The bone is completely clean within 12 to 18 hours. The meat has slipped off and will loose much of its flavor if left in very long after it has fallen off. I often slip part of the meat out and some of the broth to make soup. Cooking for a long time not only leaches out the calcium and minerals from the bone but leaves a rich savory flavor. 
 My naturopathic doctor turned me on the method. Not the how but a push to include it in my do-it-yourself plan. It made sense since I use quite a bit of bouillon. Between bouillon often not even being made from meat and the MSG in many brands, one has to be quite picky in what they choose.
Making your own makes sense in a waste not want not approach. I have been playing with storage methods. Above is my first attempt at using ice cube trays to divide the concentrated broth. I figure this will work well with things I want a little more flavor but not a lot of liquid, hence a small amount. 
I have also canned some. This is chicken or is it turkey. I think turkey and the one on the right is chicken. The darker the color the more water has been cooked off and concentrated it is. On the far left is either turkey or chicken canned to make sandwiches. When I canned meat last winter was when I made the most bone broth. Time for canning meat is coming up again. I wait until winter when running the pressure canner helps heat the house.

Next I want to try cooking bone broth slowly at the end on lower heat to the point where it is so... concentrated that I can dehydrate it. Not read about that but it still makes me wonder if I can't do it. The manufactured do so there has to be a home-made version.

Do any of you make bone broth?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tomato Drink

Do you have a bunch of little tomatoes? I did and I wasn't sure what to do with so many. I ended up drying some to turn into powder and mix in when I make taco shells and noodles. The rest I made into a tomato juice drink something like V-8 juice. I searched for a few recipe and did not exactly like the looks of any of them. It is my juice after all so I made up a recipe. I know this is frowned upon by the canning experts but I wasn't water bathing.

New guidelines are out about canning tomatoes, no water bathing. I  can hear the " But I've been doing it for years. My grandmother and great grandmother did it before me" True and I and my grandmothers before me also water bathed. I wondered if something had changed. Vitamin levels are lower in foods produced in the store with some vitamins missing all together. With the push for uniformity and longer fresh dates in the forefront of genetic breeding programs, good for you gets pushed out. With the alterations has come a lower acid level in tomatoes produced today. You might get around the vitamin levels a little by producing it yourself because your soil is superior but remember this is genetic alterations so it is there to stay.  How much lower the acid levels are I don't know but tomatoes have always been on the border line for safety in canning with a water bath method.

If you are using heirloom tomatoes grown in your own soil then you might be fine.  The whole point of heirloom is not to genetically modify. One other method to change acid levels is to include lots of manure in the soil. I do because of the flavor and higher acidic taste. It is surprising  just how much you can change the flavor with changing your soil. Some flowers you can change the hue or even color with changing the soil.

I'm not worried about my homegrown because of how acidic they taste and they are heirloom. I do buy outside tomatoes to can though and those I will be changing to pressure cooker methods for. Hopefully someday I will be doing only homegrown tomatoes exclusively. Also keep in mind that the yellow tomato varieties are naturally lower in acid. We use to have to use a great deal of those varieties because of our son's reflux problems.

As for the tomato drink I made, it doesn't have a recipe and it was pressure canned at 12 pounds pressure for 35 minutes because I added vegetables. My first step was to wash my small tomatoes and put them into a large pot with a quarter inch of water to keep them from burning on the bottom. Then I chopped up small bell peppers and a few green pimento peppers I had in the garden. I added finely chopped celery and carrots too. Carrots were not in any of the recipes I saw on the Internet but I wanted it in mine. When the carrots, celery, and peppers were cooked, I put the whole mixture through my Victoria strainer. The skins and most of the seeds were removed. I used the applesauce screen since that is the only one I have. I then put the mixture back on the stove to heat and added a little bit of sugar, a small amount of Worchester sauce, some garlic, salt, and parsley until I like the flavor. Yes, the two different batches tasted mildly different but I liked them both. Next time I am thinking of adding a bit of onion.

How much the flavor was effected by canning process I have yet to learn. I am in the middle of making Halloween costumes and finishing up a order for 202 project bags for a company in Colorado. I just can't seem to get much else done with fall chores and four grandkids here most of the time. Besides my refrigerator is a crowded mess. Do any of you make your own tomato drink? What do you do with a bumper crop of small tomatoes?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Potatoes and Other Things

This has nothing to do with today's subject but let me introduce you to our newest member of the menagerie, his name is Duke. With Kirk setting traps, our older cat spending long hours hunting, they just could not keep up with the influx of mice so Duke entered the scene. He is already catching mice at his tiny size. One day I watched him kill a mouse in the morning and another in the evening. Don't know how many he scores a day but it is impressive for so small a kitten. My advice would be if you want a cat to cuddle, go to the shelter; if you want a mouser, find a barn cat's kittens. They have the instincts to hunt or their parents would not have survived. Our cats of course have a back up of cat food to keep them healthy but I would not choose a shelter kitten for a barn cat job. They have the wrong resume. Duke is beyond spoiled as the grandkids seldom let his feet touch the ground. Good thing the three oldest are in school most of the day and there is just our three-year-old grand daughter left at home or the kitten would not get any work done.

Gardens are coming to a close here up north and ours for the most part came to a halt back on August 22 when we had a killing frost. Yes, even a bit early for here. I thought with all that I had learned the past 33 years gardening in our old home, same altitude, same growing zone, that the learning curve would mainly just be the change in soil. Boy was I ever wrong. Things that I could grow before like Brussel Sprouts just don't stand a chance up here. I even tried two different varieties. My first thought was they are a cool weather crop and hence should do pretty well up here? I've tried for two summers and they don't even come close to developing. Corn is another huge struggle and I have not gotten a crop in two years. I've not given up on it. I do love my corn and I have a few ideas to try. What I have learned from observation of the last couple summers is that we have far cooler nights and that halts growing until the temp raises in the morning. That means not only short season but cool season crops, really cool weather crops have to be found.

My sister has a kind of bean I am unfamiliar with that did well for her and she lives at a even higher altitude but I think their nights are warmer. She promised to send me some and said if I like them she will send more for seed. Like the taste I'm thinking is less important than if they will grow in a survival situation.  My dried bean experiments that has been going on for 6 years is taking a very different turn but I'll talk more about that later.

Short season, really cool weather crops will take priority and cold frames, tires, and row covers are going to have to be a big part of our plan. The greenhouse frame will have to go up next summer and since the tomatoes and peppers did well up against the house on the south side, we will work on a frame that can cover that area also. Anything that tempers the cool weather and holds warmth is going to be a biggy.
Since it is the time many will be digging their potatoes I thought I would update you on my experiments. I would not have my tators so early in September with the unusually warm weather we have had after the killing frost but when I dug up a few hills for eating, I discovered some rotten were rotten. I was shocked! My potatoes don't even rot when I hit them with a shovel while digging. They just scab over and remain firm. I'm blaming the ghostly pale, BIG fat worm lurking amongst my crop. Anyone know who it might be? He looked like a pretty shady character and I didn't like the look of him. The bites out of the potatoes were pretty good sized and I wasn't about to take a chance loosing the whole crop, so I dug.

At the encouragement of my sister, the same one with the beans, I tried Pontiacs since I LOVE red potatoes but they failed. I put Dakota's back in and they gave me a puny crop. They did better last year but not a terribly impressive show. The King George potatoes came through as they have through disease, drought, hail, and every other adversity. They even produced potatoes on plants that did not blossom last year. I never knew that was even possible. I get some pretty big ones too with quite a few per hill. More than anything else I've grown.
                                               Photo is of a King George Potato
I was thinking when I stabbed a few Dakotas, "Now these are going to turn to mush and I will have to put them in the mulch pile. There are too many of them to have for supper." Hmmm......" What shall I do to not waste them?" Here is where the brain fart enters in. "What if I took all the damaged potatoes and made potato flour from them?"  You know this brain never rests.  I hurried, washed them, boil the potato pieces, cut them up into smaller pieces, dried them in the dehydrator, put them through the blender to chop them up even littler, and I will put them through the wheat grinder when I get it out to grind wheat. The guilt of wasting food is gone and I am feeling pretty smart. Something I savor whenever possible. Especially since I have been doing some carpentry work lately and that always leaves me feeling and looking pretty dumb.

I have decided to halt my potato diversity plan for now and move on to my next experiment in the form of figuring out how to work with true potato seeds. Something the plants don't produce every year. Some of you don't even know what that is probably. I sure wondered what the clusters of green balls that produce where the blossoms were? That is them, true potato seeds. Potatoes that I had saved, put in the ground, saved some from that crop, and put in again produced the potato seeds. Not sure if that was what it takes or if the weather was just right but I plan to find out by keeping records. I've been wanting true potato seeds to begin my next experiments because of the  "What ifs?", which send surges of panic through me. "What if we were in a survival situation and my potato cropped failed? What would we put in the ground the next year to get a crop?" It isn't like you can keep tiny potatoes in storage for years. There were thousands who starved to death in Ireland from a potato famine. It could happen again as history repeats itself.

Don't know how long true potato seeds last but surely longer than small potatoes. I can see I have more research to do but now I can begin to learn for I have some seeds to grow into plants and begin the next phase of experimentation.

It is my understanding from research that it is the true potato seeds which harbor the genetic crosses that become new strains of potatoes. I'm not at the moment interested in producing a new kind of potato as I only have one kind that is doing well but I am hoping that the seeds remain viable for a few years giving me a back up safety system. First I have to plant them and see how long it takes to produce plants large enough to put in the garden. Well actually first I had to try to remove the seeds from the green firm balls. I'm hoping unlike peppers and cucumbers that there isn't a specific age development at which you have to do this. I just picked a few off of plants that were dying and a few more off the ground where they had fallen.

I followed directions that recommended you put the balls in the blender with water and chop them up. This left me with a mess, too much pulp per tiny seeds. Wondering how to separate this mess I put them in canning jars and waited to see which seeds floated, they are the bad ones, and which seeds fell to the bottom. The seeds just didn't want to fall because they were held up by all the pulp. I shook the jars now and then and tried skimming off pulp from the top. There were just too many seeds that ended up coming with each scoop and I felt wasteful. There has got to be a better way. If you know of it please share. I dried the seeds and pulp that I wasn't able to separate both ended up on parchment paper together and I figured the pulp will just rot away when I plant the seeds. That is plant them next spring under grow lights. Answers just don't come quickly when it involves gardening. It takes years to sometimes to find the answers and gain the skills needed.  It is one area I would gladly pay to be an apprentice to speed up the process. There are just so few that have the knowledge in my area
 Have any of you tried working with true potato seeds?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Menagerie

With so little time I've hired a lawn crew, Gertrude and Agnus. The sweet girls not only mow and fertilize the lawn for free, they volunteered to clean up the garden stubble. And that was even before our 3 year old bestowed the illustrious titles of Blue Wave and Purple Sparkles. Everyone should have a Blue Wave and Purple Sparkles especially since they leave the strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, and cabbage alone unlike the critters that begin with a G and are milked twice a day.

My only complaint about the lambs is this morning they left me desperately scramblinhg for wool as I tried my best to stop their headlong rush to greet the (dress clad) Jehovah Witness ladies, mistaking
their vehicle for the arrival of the grand daughters. Yes, our two lambs when not forming a greeting committee or mowing the lawn can be seen trailing along with the kids, one with a purple leash and dog collar and the other a blue set. Probably where the Blue Wave and Purple Sparkle inspiration came from. Who is who I don't know but I have been informed that the nice selection of sheep collars I have is not nearly as handy as the dog ones. Why the sheep need collars at all is beyond me since the lambs follow the grandkids everywhere. Maybe it has something to do with we don't have a dog.

But then who needs a dog when you have baby bunnies to play with. Yes, we have four, all girls of course. You might have recalled we inherited a boy and a girl meat rabbit from the grand kids. Once there were two and now there are six.

Assigned to bug control and lawn fertilization is a strikingly handsome Asian Blue, copper brown and iridescent peacock like feathered rooster named Rainbow Dash.  ("Cause it's such a good name!", says our 6 year old) and of course the name has to be used every year for something. First it was kid wether goats and now it is a rooster. Hopefully he lives a long life and I won't have to try and find another excuse not to name something that we register by that name. Rainbow Dash is not alone for he competes with Sir Gallop for the ladies, lots of ladies. Sir Gallop is named for way he runs crossed the yard. Rainbow Dash may be dashingly handsome but Sir Gallop is the true gentleman as he checks the yard to see if all the ladies are in the coop before retiring.

This year is the first for raising the Easter Egg breed and Asian Blues. So far I am super impressed with the Easter Egg breed. It is not an official breed yet but they get really big, really quick making them a great meat bird. Not to confuse that with gets really big really quick as in the Cornish but Cornish are not foraging birds, don't lay well at all, and have to be babied. My Easter Egg chickens are free range and they have laid sooner than my Rhode Island Reds and Wyodottes, plus are friendly. (Butter is a great example, she hops up on the stand when I am milking and insists on being petted and petted and petted.) Though a pullet, they still lay large adult size eggs. Now if we could just find the eggs. I found a nest with 28  eggs tonight behind a pile of plywood hemmed in on one side with a heap of antlers. I am tired of playing hide and seek especially when it requires contortion acts like last night and then I am left to display my horrible throwing abilities as I pitch the eggs off into the field beyond not knowing how old they are.

We got a partial weekend to ourselves. Kirk rushed to insolate a shed, putting down a rubber mat floor, and we put together nest boxes.Next to build for the coop or cccc...poop as the 3 year old calls it, is the roosts, hook up electricity, add a window, and a small door for just the chickens. And that is only what the chickens need before winter. So much to do and so little time.

Since 6 goats, 20 some chickens ( No, I don't have an exact count. They are everywhere.) 6 bunnies, 1 bum calf named Sam, (the sweetest calf we have ever had), 1 cat along with a brand new kitten named Duke Wellington and four grand daughters have come to reside with us, our place and time is full.

I'll try to blog a couple times a month and let you know a few of the things I've learned. Not with the detailed information as in the past as there is just not the time. But since my brain never ceases and it would be nice to format my thoughts I'll give it a try once more.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Catching Up

I'm missed, well Lisa missed me and asked if I had reached my goals and what I was up to. My goals went out the window for the most part as family troubles crowded in consuming our time more than ever before. Poor Kirk only gets the chance to wistfully looks at his knife making equipment as he passes by on another rescue mission, though we could badly use the additional income. The ride has been interesting though. We have found out first hand what hoarding for 28 years will do. It equals a near loss of life, a stay in the ICU, permanent and significant damage to your health, and a large clean up bill to sanitize your home after close relatives have mucked it out. Not this relative though since the dirt in the 17 year old carpet in the home we moved into sent me to the hospital for a stay. Imagine what an entire house piled six foot deep with debris would have done? No, I dealt with a host of other family emergencies and continue to do so.

Though I hear there is a show about hoarders, believe me it is not entertaining. It is just more evidence of what a self-centered world we have become. As I reflect upon all the problems around us, I find the root to nearly all the them is self-centeredness. People fill their days with wants and dreams crowding out reality to the point they can no longer face it and turn to destructive behaviors. The Greatest Generation became great because they were the result of years of sacrificing wants for needs, facing a harsh reality that life isn't fair and being grateful for basics like food on the table, clothes on your backs, a roof over your heads, and a 7 day a week job with Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter off that provided those NECESITIES is happiness and what Kirk's grandpa had. I am not advocating for a 7 day work week, we would have no time to rescue our relatives but I am saying that gratitude is what makes one happy, not wants, for of them there is a never ending list. The Greatest Generation were the result of the hardy CAN DO generation that survived the Great Depression. Now we have the I Deserve Because I Exist generation. Spoilt, caught up in wishful dreams crowding out reality. My father use to counsel me, "We don't deserve a job that we LOVE, jobs are for EARNING a living. Hobbies are meant for pleasure. If you have a job that you love like I have loved ranching, feel extremely grateful." Dad wasn't always a manager of a ranch, for years he just made a living.

To add a another tid bit to your reality check. Kirk works in the coal industry. The one that supplies nearly 40% of our electricity. Obama is trying to force coal out of business and has many believing it can be replaced with green energy. I want to know what the kick back is for him because the reality is far from the hog wash he's pushing to the public.

The wind industry that after 40 years and $120 billion of taxpayers funded subsidies contributes 4.1% of US electricity and solar 0.4% of which only half is distributed. Last year the administration gave $11.3 billion of the taxpayers money to wind and solar energy. Meanwhile coal supplied nearly 40% of our electricity and over $1 billion in fees TO the federal government. Talk about reality faces fantasy. Further pushing reality aside is the fact that a two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons."

 "a windmill could spin until it falls apart and NEVER generate as much energy as was invested in building it." .... Thomas Homer -Dixon. Carbon Shift

The so called green energy DOES have a great impact on the environment. I know, I don't want to live next to one of those monstrosities.A nostalgic windmill that pumps water like the ones on the ranch, yes. The huge monsters, no. Gone would be the vast amount of wildlife that grace our property.

If you want to know what we have been up to, well in short hand it would be shoving fantasy in the hind end and inserting reality. I don't care what you want, this is what is. Face it! Make it better! Be grateful for what you have. There is nothing wrong with bettering your lot in life but don't expect it to be handed to you on a silver platter.

Thank you for listening to a frustrate woman's rants. Tomorrow's post will be about the menagerie that the Lord sent to help heal the trouble hearts of our four adorable grand daughters who have moved in to fill our days and crowd us out of bed at night.

Then now and then I will try and update you on the things I have learned through my experiments but don't expect the detailed posts of the past. I'm on too many rescue missions to find the time and postings will be sporadic. The long and short of it is my wants have to be put on hold because needs must first be fulfilled.