Friday, December 30, 2016

Snow, Snow Snow!!

The forecast is for snow starting this afternoon with accumulations of 2 to 6 inches and if the weather is anything like it has been, then we will get the 6 not the 2 inches. As you can see we need more of the white stuff ha, ha. And since Old Man Winter does not think we have enough, another storm is to hit on Sunday and Monday. They promise just flurries but we shall see. This year the weatherman keeps upping his predictions right before each storm and being on the edge of the Siberian Vortex thingy, I suppose we shall see much more of the white stuff before spring. I'm just grateful we are on the edge not the middle. 

It wouldn't be so bad if we could simply sit by the fire and read stories but......

first we have to unbury the livestock. The goat stalls are on the left and the chickens on the right. The board across the coop is to keep the wind from destroying the door, also keeps the predators out. If you look closely you will see raccoon claw marks by the handle which has a clasp.This was Christmas's storm with howling winds. 

The work is not done though for after we unbury the livestock we have to get the hay to the them through the wide and drifting snow "OH!". Sorry I felt a song coming on. Our four year old grand daughter loves, " Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go" since we go over the creek and through a grove of trees before climbing to this grandmother's house.

Tromping through the snow drifts with hay is after we unbury the hay bale. Hay does not unwind off a round bale if it is packed tight in wind driven snow. We spent hours just shoveling. Then we unburied the gates to get through them. Luckily the goat gate does not get buried very often and the beef one we dig through when a storm is to hit with low temperatures for we put the calves move the calves from the pasture to the barn. The temperatures are suppose to dip low again on this coming Sunday and last for a good week at least so they will get moved once more. Sam gets lonely but he can hunker deeper in his small shed and is tough enough to weather the storms.

Luckily on Christmas our oldest daughter was snowed in with us. All the roads were closed due to blizzarding conditions. So on Monday while plows cleared the highways and county roads, she was here to help out. Wisely she had brought her snow boots and with my wool German army pants she got by. I have Swedish ones too. The German ones have a plastic like stuff in the knees and butt which is great for wollering in the snow but the Swedish ones have longer legs and I like that. Yesterday I found the smaller sized Carhart insulated bibs so they will be here for her. They are the workhorse brand out here and what I usually reach for first. 

 As for boots, I told her if she wanted to hole up here, she had to get more country footwear. She is now looking for a pair of Boggs or Mucks as it seems we are always cleaning stalls or shoveling out when she comes. True to form, we cleaned stalls after we had shoveled out. The snow crept in. Seems we have some more tightening up to do on the goat stalls and goat milking barn too. Nothing like a blizzard with high winds to show your shelter's weak areas.

When the livestock chores were done then we unburried the porches and sidewalk. While we shoveled, Kirk manned the tractor and cleared the snow in front of the barn and garage then moved on to clearing the 1/2 mile of road to the county road. It could be a very winter. Funny, my back is not hurting but my hind end sure feels it after this long week of shoveling. The wind keeps howling and driving the snow around into new drifts or making existing ones higher.  
 The grandkids lucked out. They snuggled by the fire early Christmas morning just before taking off with their mom to her house, just before the storm hit.

I see a red sky this morning and you know the saying, "Red sky take warning." After livestock chores, I've got wood to haul and stack in the garage. I'm then going to run to town for a grocery run. Our oldest granddaughter has a birthday on New Years. She turns 12. For her birthday dinner she wants hamburgers and we have no beef in the freezer. Another task needing done, process the beef for the freezer. We have no Yak hamburger left either which she would have loved too. Yak is the kid's favorite meat.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Snuggle in, drink that eggnog, and huddle by the fire because the weather is going to be frightful! We have a forecast for 5 - 8 inches of snow, 25 - 35 mph winds with up to 50 mph gusts. And with a high temperature of the day forecasted to be a whopping 12 Fahrenheit at its height, it will be well below zero wind chill.

Last night we tucked the calves in the barn, the goats into their stalls, and the chickens and the rabbits in the insulated coop. A few chores will be done early this morning before the full force of the storm hits and then we will stay by the fire. I've got pajamas to finish and knitting to do so I'll stay busy. I think I will even make some candy and watch a movie - after all it is Christmas.

What we won't do is go to church. I love church and the service will be a special one but we live 24 miles away. Our exit off the Interstate is lit up with web cameras because it can become so frightful. It might be a rather sleepy exit traffic wise but it is not a nice one in the winter.  We finished reading the Christmas story last night to the kids and now Santa Claus is on their minds.

The kid's momma will pick them up when her grave shift is over early this morning. That is after a large breakfast I have planned. It will be just the three of us today then, our oldest daughter and us. We have never had a laid back, lazy Christmas before. I'm rather looking forward to it. Not that I'd like it every year but this one it would be especially nice as my body and brain need a long winter's nap. I could use a little peace on earth.

The kids set their alarm clock for six and it will soon go off. I'd better get the hot chocolate going. Never heard the likes for our kids had us up at 2 or 3 in the morning each year. I could get use to this though. I'm always up by 4 or 5 at the latest and a little quiet before the storm is rather nice.

Have a wonderful Christmas!!!  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Train Wreck

I'm ready to put my decorations away. My daughter says to hang on until after Christmas but I just want to de-clutter. There isn't such a word except in my vocabulary but if you have not guessed, it means slow the fast train down. Grandma wants off. My life is over flowing on the best of days and with the holidays, I slipped over the cliff into exhaustion. Exhaustion is not good. It put me down for a week with low vitals and I did not have a week to give where I was too weak to even knit or sew.

Kirk and I have begun working on organizing this fall. We are feeling our world spinning out of control and we desperately need control. Each box we go through and toss items from gives us a cleansing feeling. Each organizational project we accomplish eases our work load. Everything we get done for the livestock whether it is a shed, gate, or cage makes our life easier. "A place for everything and everything in its place." my grandfather used to say but then he did not have so many things but we shall try.  You need tools, tools, tools.It is the curse of being self-sufficient.

Don't misconstrue me into a Ba Humbug. I've noticed that those of you from town or city situations are extremely big on entertainment. It would be hard to begin to comprehend out lifestyle especially in the addition of fill in parenthood at 57.  Even though many of you don't comprehend what it takes just imagine  for a moment if you were in charge of maintaining your own road  which includes clearing snow and smoothing the washboards; if you had to treat and deal with your own sewage; your own water resource and treatment system; if you had to produce your own food and do your own house repairs, then how much stress would you feel during the holidays? Holidays blown out of proportion by society but that is my opinion. I believe commercialization has made the holidays very difficult for all along with more people with free time on their hands.

I love Christmas music, decorations, and I adore my Savior but this holiday after holiday thing ruins my good cheer by the time Christmas roles around. Some money would ease the situation but what I'd really like is to reinvent the holidays. I'm not really sure how. If you've got ideas, I'd love them.

As for Halloween, I've made a decision  about the grand daughters. I'm not making costumes if you are eleven and older. I've made most of the four grand daughter's costumes since they were tiny. I've tried the not making them but that brought about disaster each time so I've got to find a way to slow down. That is my first step. I've assigned the eleven and older girls to make their own costumes since there is no school party. Next year I will have two, not four to make. In fairness the present eleven year old did her own costume this year which gave me the idea.

If I could really reinvent the holidays, I'd skip Halloween all together but I know there are those who adore the thing. As for Thanksgiving, since we won't have Halloween then lets put it in October when the garden harvest is fresh. That would give me two months until Christmas. It was difficult when we lived in town but  I sent Christmas cards before Christmas. I made up plates of goodies for friends and neighbors and yes, struggled to get presents done but still more did get done. Yes, it would all be different if we did not have the four girls but I would not trade that for easier holidays so I'd better figure something out.

This year I skipped Thanksgiving and Kirk and I had leftovers. The task was big but it is much larger now. There just was no way to get the sheds, corrals, and cages all cleaned because all the grandkids would want to tromp in and out to visit the animals. I knew Iwould not get the house cleaned and the food all made so I simply took the holiday off. Next year I will have to push much, much, more on to others and see what happens. If it does not work then we will have do something else.

For Christmas the girls have decided to spend part of the day with their mom instead of all of us staying here. I can't blame them as they are there so seldom. I will do a large breakfast for when their mom arrives after graveyards and after church they will stay with her for a few hours before she goes on graveyard shift and they return. I really need to rethink birthdays too. Something has to break besides me.

Can we move Christmas off to January for what I really want is to get back to organizing and finding a place for everything and put everything in its place. The things we did over the last year have made a huge help in time savings and work load. There is so much more of fixing and organizing to do and I'd like to get doing it. Workaholic I know but I do the same for a holiday it is just I can't work any harder. As we become more self-sufficient I'm sure the busy work will lesson as things become more efficient but that won't mean we are any less busy. I don't want to wish the holidays away but there has to be a semblance of peace on earth or this grandma is getting off the run away train.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Tomatoes Had Aphids!

We have been watching the parade of deer today. Back and forth they trek across the back of the house. They keep checking but the double high woven wire fence just does not come down. Poor things, no more lush alfalfa hay. The good thing about having so many deer in the yard is sheds. No, not the kind made of wood or metal but the antlers growing on the deer's heads that fall off in the winter time. We have a couple four point antlers they've left as presents. In Wyoming you count the tines on one side not both sides like you do back East. We often call antlers horns but technically they are not. Horns remain and grow for the life of the animal and antlers are shed once a year.

We keep a close eye out for antlers and keep them picked up. Many a rancher has had an expensive tractor tire punchered by one.

My sister called today. She has aphids on her Tiny Tom tomato plants. Me too or rather I did. (I sent small starts with my other sister this fall to give her.)I would guess it is a condescendence that hers and mine both have them as it has been months since her's left my house. She said she was using an insecticide but with such few plants I found it quite easy to just take the pots to the kitchen sink, tip it on its side and use the power spray nozzle to hose the tops and bottoms of each leave sending the aphids down the kitchen drain.  

Two of my tomato plants got pretty bad. I've pictured one. I finally just threw the two plants in the pot deciding that I had six more starts in small pots and four full size ones in larger pots. It just did not seem like it was worth the effort to fight this one back to health with all the drama going on around us. I would have to hose the plant of daily. The others seem to been fine with just a couple thorough hosings.

 The aphid problem was my fault. I had neglected the tomatoes and they were not getting fertilized or watered as they should. Stress often brings on disease or the bad guys. Stress seems to be a part of life.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Huddled outside the kitchen window are 10 head of deer.

As I write this, the double Polar Vortex is in full force. The temperature outside says 21 below zero Fahrenheit. That is 29.4 Celcius for those of you in other parts of the world. I hope our dear Sam is alright. I can't see as it is dark outside so I can only stew about the problem. Not that I'm anxious to go out there myself. It is one thing for a herd of cattle to stand out in this cold but quite another for a lone steer. Heat radiates off the backs of the herd as they huddle together and all benefit from this shared warmth. In the winter, wildlife herds build to the hundreds.

While we shifted the smaller animals around, I debated about bringing Sam in to the small area between the goat stalls and the chicken coop but alas the drifts are deep and long. He could make it but not likely would he do it. Then I also thought about how when he was smaller and stayed in this area he use to poop right in front of the goat stall doors freezing them shut. I had to chisel his frozen manure out of the way. Maybe he is better off out in the pasture shed.
Pronghorn antelope in the fall.
I remember one raw winter in our previous home where the temperature did not rise above 18 below for a solid week. The Pronghorn antelope were bunch in large herds around town absorbing the heat emitting off the houses. One morning we awoke and discovered a Pronghorn standing up all by himself. He had frozen to death. It was two days before he fell over. Sam is hardly a skinny antelope at 1300 pounds but he is my baby and so I worry like I do for all our animals.

Yesterday the wind chills hovered at -36 with the temperature  around 6 above at its highest. The wind howling and snow a blowing drifting the white stuff. Last evening it dipped below 0 and the wind chill rose to the 20's. That was somehow colder. Some of you are reading this and laughing and saying "What panty waists." or something to the effect. In my defense, I have experienced Jackson Hole, down by the river in the winter. The cold hovers in the trees in the valley and the humidity pierces you to the bone. The truth is my adrenal glands can't take that kind of cold. I just spent this past week in bed because of low vitals and major out of balance electrolytes that caused me to loose 10 pounds in 3 days. I don't need that kind of stress. While I admire those of you with more anti-freeze in your blood, I'll stay in my relatively toasty spot.

The sun is up and so are the kids. I guess I'll have to quit writing, watching the deer huddled around the house (The numbers keep rising.) fix breakfast, and feed stock. Brrrrr.....!! it won't be an easy morning outside.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

To Ghee Once Again

It has been a few years since I made ghee. Time is so constrained with so much to do. I am trying to figure out ways to save on our grocery bill and I do have lots of cream. I have made ghee each week from freshly made butter but now I can see the next batch will come from the freezer. I was wise and froze quite a bit. The goats are quickly drying up as the low temperatures drain their bodies. Calories are being spent on keeping warm, not producing milk especially since they are pregnant.

The plan is to have enough separated milk to keep buttermilk, and yogurt going. I usually use whole milk but not during this time of year. I will use separated milk and hopefully have enough to drink also since we don't drink much milk. I  put away some canned milk for cooking earlier this fall and hopefully that will help ease the need for frozen milk. The cream I froze will become sour cream of which I have not started culturing. It will probably have to wait until Christmas gifts are done. I also will make ghee and cook with cream. It will be interesting to see if I have frozen enough. What would have been better is if I had already made my ghee and canned it as I wish to eliminate one of the three chest freezers we have. I also want to play with making cultured butter. The butter I make now is not as flavorful as I like so I buy less expensive butter to cook with and Amish cultured butter to eat.

Someday I hope to be making all my own butter and ice cream but energy, time and enough cream is a problem.  Problem is winter is when I have the time to do the most things with our milk and it is at its lowest supply. I could make lots of butter and pack it away in the freezer. I could make lots of ghee and can it for the rest of the year in the winter IF there was more milk. 

 It is impossible to do everything all year long. Winter I could also try my hand at cheese and freeze some. Maybe dear little Ellie can fill that winter void. I hope to calve her in September of 2018 allowing her to raise her calf for five months. She would produce more milk than the calf needs so the extra would supply us with milk during the winter along with the plethora of things that it can be made into. I know how to make Feta and mozzarella, and want to start making Monterey Jack. The last being a cow's milk cheese. I would continue to milk the goats fall and into December and hopefully this would help create that freezer surplus along with milk from Ellie.

One of winters tasks this year will be trying to figure out when different tasks can be done and how to push others into a season when the tasks can more easily be done  because things are just a hair bit slower.We need a cellar I can see to help with the vegetable side of this.

Ghee lately has been substituted for most of the olive oil we once used. That is definitely saving us some money. Ghee is now what we fry with since it has a higher smoke point. It is what I use in bread making too. It is not the best in pie crusts and cookies - rather greasy. It would be good if it was except I would never be able to keep up making the stuff because unfortunately we love our sweets. We want to use ghee because it is even more nutritious than olive oil. We don't use it because it is cheap. It is only less expensive for us because the base (whole as in cream and all milk) is something we already have.
The children who dislike the smell of it cooking don't dislike the taste. Some of the children think it smells like buttered popcorn, others think it stinks.

What I learned is that ghee comes at a price. These two half pint jars that I figure is equal to a wide mouth pint jar is what is left after cream is separated from over two gallons of milk. I get about three quarts of heavy cream from 2 gallons of milk this time of year. This cream is then made into butter. The butter is then cooked down removing the dairy part. The dairy forms a clump on the top of the oil and sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.What remains is this pint of ghee. I saw one person feeds the butter cast off to her dog. I think I will start feeding it to our barn cats. An area I am working on saving money too is buying less cat food.

If you wonder why ghee is so expensive at the store. Over two gallons of milk down to just one pint is the reason. The health benefits make it worth the effort but I don't recommend that you go to the store and buy organic butter to make ghee from except as an experiment to learn how. I have been going through about a pint and a half a week - pricey indeed. But this is all a part of self-sufficiency. What I have not done yet is use this oil for light. Yes, that is possible. Ghee is indeed nutritious and versatile.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Gift Of Time

Brrr..... It is cold. One degree Fahrenheit right now as I write.  We had such a long, warm fall that the natural antifreeze is low. I guess Old Man Winter is here. They say the extra early and bitter cold winter in Siberia is going to effect us. Luckily we are on the edge of the front systems they say will come our way. Then again they seldom get the forecast correct so who knows. I really should not complain. Others have it worse than we do. We just aren't ready yet. More so than last year but still a long ways off from ready. The list is long of yet to do's, a few years out of to do's. We hear Old Man Winter can get brutal up here with neighbors caravanning behind a tractor plowing through large drifts to reach the highway. Then a time is set for everyone to meet to follow the tractor once more as it plows a way back home again. I hope Old Man Winter's worst waits for us until we are ready. Money and time have not been our friend.

If you wonder where I went the last couple weeks then just know I am running as fast as I can and falling further behind. Fix something, something else needs fixed. That is on top of the things to do lists which does not mention broken. Unfortunately, it is our 4-wheel drive pickup right now which needs a new U-joint and the 4-wheel drive fixed. This is just as we finished one snow piling storm this week and four storms are in the ten day forecast. The neighbor had to play taxi for the kids to get them the few miles to and from the bus stop today as hubby in his stressed out state after we rearranged part of the garage to get it in to and take a gander at the damage, took the truck keys to work. He travels an hour both ways to work so they are completely out of reach. Kirk put chains on the back tires for this past storm. One of the four tire chains needs fixed.

Our four-year-old last night said, "Grandma get up and do something." Apparently my sitting for a spell is rather disturbing to her. Since I have not been sitting, I have not been blogging either.  Christmas is around the corner and I have not gotten anything done yet. No money to buy much and no time to do. Oh well, I am getting in some do for you projects. I taught my first of a series of lessons on how to make bread to our daughter-In-law. I plan on very soon teaching my step-mother-in-law how to make crepes. She voiced an interest.

I may not have finished decorating for Christmas, (I skipped Thanksgiving having left-overs instead because we were so.... exhausted). Even if not much gets done in the form of decorating or gifts before the big day; I plan on making sure the gift of time is given. Maybe not a lot but something special to say I LOVE YOU!  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Winter Storm is Stress on Stock

This is early morning about 5:oo am. The storm was just getting going good.

Took livestock to the sales ring Wednesday just shortly before the big storm hit. The Holstein calf and three goats. We needed more shed room as this storm front was to be a doozy and it was. High winds, cold temperatures, and lots of snow. It made doing chores a real chore as I slugged through knee deep or higher snow drifts, BIG long ones. Animals don't eat or drink much during a storm so I had filled hay feeders extra full the two days before in order to put some extra weight on the animals. With fewer stock, it makes doing chores a bit easier as there is less food to haul.

The two younger calves lost a fair amount of weight during the storm. It takes lots of energy to stay warm. The first few storms are particularly hard on young stock as it stresses them physically and emotionally too. Imagine standing outside or in a three sided shed for the first time with the wind howling and snow pelting. It is particularly risky with calves as young as ours, or even younger to go from warm temperatures like we've had all fall to cold temperatures like 11 Fahrenheit with below zero wind chills.  It leaves them susceptible to pneumonia. Luckily they had huge Sam to calm their nerves and put off heat.

He must be about 1300 pounds now. He needs to go in the freezer as the weight is getting pretty hard on his damaged knees. It will be hard since he is the sweetest thing ever. Usually steers his age are so obnoxious I'm glad to see them go but this one is a real BIG teddy bear. He nuzzled our four year old grand daughter the other day with his huge head and she started to cry. It frightened her. Sam put his head down low and tried his best to check her out and figured out what happened. You could tell he was quite upset. My back was turned at the time of the nudge but I can imagine it was not super gentle even though he meant it as such I'm sure as he loves the kids and me. He has the most massive head I've ever seen on a steer. I've seen lots of steers. Everyone comments on how big it is and how big his eyes are. Surround those gentle beams with long curly reddish brown locks of hair and you have something you just want to cuddle. He loves it so go ahead. I was going to show a picture but he is really uncooperative this morning. Food is all he has on his mind.

I see the goats came through the storm easily. They have rubber matted stall floors which really helps keep the animals warm as tit keeps the cold from seeping up as they bed down at night. Goat are such pansies, shivering at the slightest cold. They barely ate anything during the storm as they huddled under the overhanging shelter just outside their stalls in the day and slept in the stalls at night. One of these first days I'll insulate the stalls to make them extra warm. Dairy goats you don't want stressed physically or mentally as it equates to less milk production. 

The chickens were hilarious. I slogged through the huge drifts to the coop and dug the door out to get it open. The hens rushed by me flying out as normal, only they landed in deep snow sinking down deep. Floundering, flopping and trying to get airborne once more, they screamed in protest. I just stood there and laughed, "Look before you leap girls!" Of course for many of  the young hens this was their first snow storm. The last one hardly counted as it was only a skiff. Now we have another one due Monday night and one later in the week too. They say El Nina has arrived and Siberia is having a harsh, early winter. The wind currents from Siberia brings cold air down our way and east. The northeast getting the brunt of it. Could be an interesting winter.

On a good note, I learned how to put chains on and off the tires of the pickup truck by myself. I also learned that the 4-wheel drive in our truck can freeze up during a storm. Not necessarily pleasant lessons as the wind is sandblasting me but I try to look on the bright side. I had neighbors that got me unstuck with their 4-wheel drive tractor and we survived just fine without Kirk home. Would have been easier with him but we did alright. Remaining here means it will be necessary for me to learn to be lots more self-sufficiency.

I'm getting there. Started making ghee again this week. Have not done that since we moved. I was looking for one more way to save money and since olive oil is rather expensive, I thought it was time to start making ghee again.  Really good for us too. The grandkids like it. A few don't like the smell of it cooking, one does, but they all like the taste of it in food so it is a winner. Now to coordinate all the homemade things going at the same time. I need to get wheat sprouting again too as the weather has turned frosty. The hens could use the nutritional boost and I could use a drop in our feed prices as it fills them up  on less feed than non sprouted grains.

Check it out. I have two blogs up today.

WW2 Thumb Daggers

What's hubby been up to, knives of course. As the weathers turns colder, Kirk has slipped away now and then to work on knives. He needs the reprieve and the extra income would be welcome. One of these thumb daggers is an order and the other something to sell at the SHOT show which is for store retailers. When Kirk learned the history of these small little knives some years back he was fascinated. He has friends that are ex-special forces and navy seals.
These small knives have an appeal to them. Thumb daggers date back to WW2. They were a "last ditch" weapon. Last ditch because if you can use a larger knife or gun then this is not what you reach for. Some military personnel hid them in a slit in the inside of their leather boots, especially those who went behind enemy line. It would be nice to have if you were captured by the enemy.

The size up from this is the lapel dagger. Kirk just makes the thumb dagger size. A few of these find there way into the hands of those in the special forces today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Latest House Tomato Plant Experiment

Babies see them? They are on the left and there are lots of them. The main plant on the right is from last winter. Note it is blossoming for its third time.
1. The first winter I grew Tiny Tom heirloom tomatoes under grow lights and all but a couple ended up dying from neglect in the summer. That was the first summer the grandkids came to stay. 
2. The second winter I cloned the plants and started some from seed to see the difference in growth.

3. The third winter is around the corner. Right around the corner as we are suppose to get down to 16 degrees F. mid this week. My new experiment for this fall and winter has been cutting the existing plants down and letting the scraggly things grow from a stub. The plants looked pretty sad due to neglect in August and September which is really a hectic time with trying to get kids in school, canning season, and getting everything ready for winter which never fully happens. The plants are presently under the grow lights since the sunlight hours is decreasing and the plants would simply begin to die if I did not. I tried leaving them in the window some plants in the window area last fall. Our sun hits our house from a lower in the sky from a southern direction in the winter months. Then it moves overhead in the summer months and the same winter plants that produced  in the southern window sills had to be moved to the back deck to get adequate sunlight.

 The plants after producing a total of 80 to 100 tomatoes per plant (40 to 50 at a time) died back with neglect. I picked the best plants and reduced the number. They are once more under grow lights as the sunlight decreases. I hear we won't have such a warm winter this year so I'm guessing grow lights is where they will remain  instead of the window sill.
It was not until recently that I started paying serious attention to the poorly neglected plants. I badly need to get some lettuce, spinach, etc. along with herbs growing. We miss the fresh produce and economically could really use them so I'm slowly working on getting things in production once more. Several of the tomato plants had come around and after showing a great deal of new growth were looking pretty sad once more but in a different way. Aphids took over. The cause I know was improper watering and the soil was depleted leaving the plants weakened. I hosed the plants down thoroughly with the water spraying off the kitchen sink, cut away much of the diseased area, pulled a good portion of the soil out from around the roots without completely disturbing the plants since they are blossoming, and rubbed my fingers firmly against the top and under side of the leaves to squish the bugs several days in a row. A week later, the remaining leaves looked pretty healthy.
 In their neglected stage, I had let some of the tomatoes rot on the plant and the seeds fell to the soil and new plants sprung up. As I worked over the parent plants, I transplanted some of the volunteers to smaller pots. Sometimes wonderful things happen all on their own. What a blessing! These new plants I will put in large pots around the south and west side in the windows or in front of them when the sunlight hours increase.

I love the fact that the tomatoes nurtured their own young. I've got more things to do than energy and time to do it. Our goal is to create a permaculture where nature does part of the work. Plants will produce their young or at least seed. Livestock will produce and rear their own offspring. We are finding it impossible to do all things ourselves in a self-sufficient scenario and is that really self-sufficient anyway?

A new experiment idea has sprung up from these neglected tomatoes. The plan is to clone a few of these tomatoes which I know is much faster than starting from seed. A past experiment showed that these cloned tomatoes are smaller than the ones started from seed. Handy when they are needed in the window sills.

 So far the plant size of the tomato plants cut back to nubbins and a few leaves is smaller yet but is it because of the depleted soil? I do know that nubbins, and cloned size works best under my grow lights. The started from seed plants reach at least 4 to 6 inches taller than the cloned and nubbin plants. My sun room plant stand has four horizontal shelves stacked high. It is the same type of shelves I use in the food room to put my canning jars on. Though adjustable, the height between shelves is limited.

My theory has proven correct that the plants started from the nubbins will produce more quickly than the cloned ones. Stands to reason since they have their root system established. Will they produce as many tomatoes as those cloned still remains to be seen. I did notice that even when taken care of the tomato plants after producing their tomato crop naturally die back.

Cloning tomatoes this year will have to wait as I lack room under the grow lights. The transplanted tomatoes, I plan on putting in front of the south windows later in the winter when the sunlight hours increase and they are too tall for the grow light area. 

My next hurtle is figuring out a way to keep this indoor garden going. I must coordinate when we need this garden most, when I an available to do the heavier work load times, and the cycle of the plants. That will be by far the hardest part of this self-sufficient project.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Makes Beef Tough?

I have had to buy -- or should I say have chosen to buy some meat from the store lately. Roasts in particular as we are out and I refuse to buy lunch meat loaded with chemicals and a fake flavor. The scary thing is I bought some chuck steak to cook roast like for lunch meat and the stuff increased in size instead of shrunk -- scary! What are they putting in our meat these days? Since the fox cheated us out of some chicken, we have purchased a little of that also. We don't eat much store chicken anymore and interestingly our cholesterol levels are lower than they have been in many, many years. Makes me wonder what they put in them? Motivation to do our own crops up everywhere. Much easier when you are feeding 2 but with the grandkids here most of the week it is 6, making it a much more difficult task.

As I walk the isles on sale day, I notice the only roast in my budget are the tougher cuts. Good thing I like them and know how to cook them to a tender point. The cooking of tougher cuts of beef, pork, and lamb and wild game is the same. We have eaten lots of wild game, yak, and bison which all are cooked in the same manner.
I knew very little about meat and the various cuts until we began cutting our own. Before that I found the meat section of the store confusing. What cuts do you purchase to do what with? In this confusion you might have had a very chewy meat experience because the cut was cooked wrong. Yes, there is some meat that no matter what you do it will be tough but with this meat there can be a flavorful broth made. You just don't want to pay 6 dollars a pound and have something not chewable when you are done. My mom was a pro at cooking a roast to the tough leather stage. She cooked it at too high a temperature, without enough moisture and for too short a period of time. Of course it was a tougher cut of meat to start with. is a great site to see just where different cuts of meat come from. What we learned when we started cutting up our own beef was that you could get different cuts from the same section of beef. Customizing is a great lure of do it yourselfers. For instance, pork chops is the cut from which Canadian Bacon also comes from. Either you cut a little of the section for chops and make Canadian Bacon from the rest or you choose between the two. 

If you look at a beef, the top center of the beef and top of the hip is where the choice cuts come from, the loin, rib, sirloin etc., most of your steak cuts. Prices reflect this. The bottom section is where the animal gains its locomotion, hence, locomotion muscles. This is the hip and shoulder where the legs propel the animal forward. The top of the shoulder is where my favorite tougher cut comes from, Chuck. Chuck has the most awesome flavor. It is my absolute favorite beef meat and I will take it over T-bone steak any day.

There are other factors besides locomotive versus support muscles (the muscles that aren't locomotive muscles) that determine the tenderness of beef. They are Marbling, Stress, Feed, Aging, Slicing Across the Grain, Marinating, and Proper Cooking.
Marbling may be something you avoid because of fears of cholesterol. It is marbling though that gives meat a perceived tenderness because fat acts as a lubrication when chewing and aids in the separation of fibers. Fat lubricates between meat fibers making the fibers easier to pull apart giving those molars an easier time. Fat also stimulates the production of saliva which further stimulates taste. Fat also helps protect against over cooking. Don't avoid fat, just be smart about it and don't over eat.

Stress tightens the muscles and produces tough meat. Most animals travel a long distance to the butcher and if they are not left long enough in pens in order to relax some, then you taste the results. Our livestock die where they lived so they have no travel stress or stress from being corralled in a strange environment. They are placidly eating grain and then dead. It is that quick.

Feed plays a part in that corn fed beef is usually more tender because it increases fat levels and the animal gains weight quicker so it is butchered at a younger age. Younger animals are more tender. Our animals are closer to 2 years of age instead of 18 months. Pasture fed along with hay and a small amount of wheat is what ours eat. The increase in age gives us more natural flavor and because of the relaxed environment, taste testers have all chorused saying the meat is tender. My cousin and her husband came and had steaks with us but complained about how large they were thinking they could never eat it all. To their surprise they devoured it. They buy a half a corn fed beef every year but had not tasted anything quite as good as our beef. Feed choices equates to different flavors and different people like different flavors. In lamb this is especially true as it feed makes a large difference in flavor.

Our favorite beef is Coriante but they are not fun to keep in as they are wonderers by trait and they are much slower growing. This means lots more feed to meat ratio and time, lots more time to get to butcher size. Unless you have mild year round weather so little hay is need plus lots of pasture, it just isn't real cost effective. We bought a good sized Corianted to begin with and may do that again one day because I'm craving it. We eat mostly Angus since it is readily available. That is what will go into the freezer this year and a Angus /Semental calf that will grow and do the same.

Aging, marinating, proper cooking, and slicing across the grain, all help to tenderize meat. There are two kinds of aging, wet and dry. We do only dry and our meat does not hang as long as traditional corn fed beef. Diet plays a role here as does time in order to be able to process the beef. We have to coincide our hanging time with days off in order to get the job done - not necessarily when it is best for the meat. Yet we have been blessed with very tender beef. Dry aging does not work well on pork, lamb, and veal as they do not have the marbling to protect the meat from rotting. Corn fed beef can be aged longer because of the increased fat levels. I have to say our pasture, hay fed are not any less fat but they are babied. Most of you don't process your own meat so I won't go into aging. Marinating and cooking I will talk about in another post.

That leaves slicing across grain. That makes a huge difference as it cuts up the connective tissues in the meat. Fibers in the meat run in a direction. You cut in the opposite direction that the fibers run in order to break up the connective tissue. We cube a lot of our meat, almost all of our wild meat. We have a cuber that has knives that cut through the meat tenderizing it. Unlike the butcher or store meat that runs the meat through once. We run ours through from top to bottom and flip it so it runs through side to side so it gets really tenderized. Great if you have sever TMJ like I do. I have no trouble with mine but the dentist cringes when he works on my teeth.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bleaching Pine Cones Taught Me a Preparedness Lesson

Pinecones are closed but will open when dry.
My ideas about food storage and being prepared have dramatically changed this past year because of new research. No, I still think there is a need for it, more than ever in fact. Election day will determine the path of the USA for four years. We learned just how much things can change when a president bypasses congress and writes his own laws. If you are happy with the changes Obama made then this approach might appeal to you. BUT this dictator style of leadership sets a precedence for the next president who might have very different ideas. We don't know what Trump will do. We know what he says but few presidents live up to their words. The word politician now has come to mean someone who knows what to say to appeal to a set group of people.

I'm concerned with a government that has the House of Representatives, Senate, and President all Republican. I would be concerned if they all were Democrat too. It is the differences that cause a checks and balances in government. It is what slows things down. Slow allows for more careful thought. It allows for an adjustment of way of thinking. It saves time, money, and insured greater success in the end. In other words fewer redo's because of mistakes. Our green house plans are under going a third revision as we are watching the sun's path, discovering our time allowances and needs at different times of the year. It is a measure twice cut once kind of thing.    
A pinecone opening up to reveal the yellowish white underneath.  
One thing I have found that time is not friendly to is bleach projects. This week I tried bleaching pinecones white for Christmas. I thought it might look pretty with a combination of white and brown cones. I had three jugs of bleach that I had saved with the intent of purifying water if an emergency came up. When the pinecones did not want to change color, I knew something was up with the bleach so I hit the Internet.

Bleach whether opened or not looses its potency over time, a short period of time. Temperature being the primary factor in how long the chemicals are active.

According to Clorox, the amount of sodium hypochlorite added depends on the season it is manufactured. Summer being the time when the most is added as heat weakens it. They try to keep the bleach at 6 percent. If the bleach is stored at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit the potency will last about six months after the manufacturing date. It takes about 4 - 8 weeks before the chlorine bleach makes it to the store so you have only 4 to 5 months that it is at full strength. You don't need bleach at full strength for most cleaning projects around the house so it can hang around a while longer but not several years like mine.

I rarely use bleach as I don't use it in cleaning or laundry unless I absolutely have to as it kills the helpful bacteria that breaks down the sewage in our septic system. I do not need a backed up septic tank thank you so I also do not use a garbage disposal unit in my sink. That is a huge no, no so I disconnected our when I moved in.  Every six months I treat the lines or tank with an additive of healthy bacteria flushed down the toilet. It is time once again to treat our tank with the pro-bacteria formula so I thought using the bleach now to try the pinecone projects would be good timing.
I luckily did not do very many pinecones.
My problem was the experiment did not work as planned. I hit the Internet to see what I was doing wrong and discovered my several years old bleach was pretty dead. I poured out the water/bleach combination I had the pinecones soaking in and used straight bleach.

If you want to bleach pinecones I suggest a trip to the store for some fresher stuff. The instructions said to put 3 part water to 1 part bleach combination then soak the pinecones for 24 hours. Beware the cones will close up when saturated and later open up when dried so don't be alarmed. I've also learned that they are much darker on the outside than the inside. This makes it hard to tell wht the results will be.

Moral of the lesson is don't store bleach long term for water purification.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Buffalo Berries Discovered

Not having the 75 dollars to pay for school pictures, I promised the kids that I would do a photo shoot of them at a later date. Later came a couple Sundays ago. The kids are thrilled with the results and may never go back to school pictures again. That's okay with me since school pictures rarely catch the personality of the child.
The natural girly head tilt of our four year old is so.... her. She is always running on her tip toes with her hands close to her sides in that impractical feminine way. Heels and frills describes our girly girl.

The, I will conquer the world  tilt of our seven-year-old's chin tells you who she is.
The photogenic smile of our nine year old stamps in time her diverse development.
The oldest, just two months from turning twelve, has definite tastes, is confident in who she is, and it show.  

I discovered a wonderful thing as we looked for photo backgrounds on Clear Creek, yu...m, Buffalo Berries! Unpicked buffalo berries and they were just starting to dry out. Since this is the main walking path next to the town park, I have to guess that no one picks them. It could be the thorns which do make gathering the sweet berries a bit of a pain. My guess though is that few people know what these berries are or how yummy they taste. We have become a grocery store dependent society. Few make jelly and jam and fewer yet do so from wild berries, unsure of whether the berries are poisonous or not. That makes these Buffalo Berries an unclaimed treasures. I'm keeping this in mind since this year I've no time to pick.

 Kirk took a handful of berries and shared with the kids. They were not sure what to think. Unsure since, they had refused to take more than a small berry or two. We could not convince them to taste a good size mouthful. Somehow the explosion of flavor is much sweeter. One or two berries seem a bit tart. Since it is late in the year and after a few light frosts, the berries would be sweeter. The getting could not be better. Frost does the same thing with apples. The trick is light frost not the usual killing frost which is often our first one. This fall is exceptionally warm. 

The trees are familiar to me since I picked Buffalo Berries when I was a kid with my step-dad. They made one of his favorite jellies. The trees in his area were scarce since it is farming country but on the back roads you could still find a few.
With Buffalo Berries there is a boy tree and a girl tree. The boy tree fertilizes the blossoms of the girls tree and she in turn produces the berries.

One of the reasons I wanted to move back to this part of Wyoming is because of the drastic increase in edible wild vegetation. I noticed when the long blonde haired survival guy who had a television program came to do a show in Wyoming he traveled hurriedly over the grassy plains to the mountains. If the expert could not find much, I certainly can not. I did not in the 33 years we lived there. Wild game is plentiful and that is probably why we became such meat eaters. I'd like to change that.

Since we've moved back to my husband's roots, I'm discovering where the edible plants are once more. I'm discovering edible things I never knew about before. Kirk's dad, before he died, said he was almost positive that the trees that grow in abundance by us are Hawthorne. Of course not on our property. Neither are the wild plums or the chokecherries. We may have to do something about that. But at least wild edibles are nearby.

Now after my first real taste of buffalo berries, my mind is a buzz with ideas beyond jelly because of my recent chokecherry research. A buffalo berry pie would really be yummy. I had never thought about fruit leather. Why not? I've made lots of the stuff when my kids were young, just not with buffalo berries. Definitely on my to try list.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chickens and Halloween

It has been quiet around here. Here as in the blog site. That is a sure sign our lives are anything but quiet. I'll give you a quick run down over the next few days going from the present, then back in time. First of all, I hope you had a wonderful Halloween. We did. Kirk and I went to the school parties to help out frazzled mom who attended one party and we the other. One child was a skunk, another a unicorn, and the oldest grade-schooler, an artist's interpretation of a deer, the artist being me.

All three costumes had tutu's. Tutus go with everything you know, or so Pinterest tells me. Thirty some hours of costume building on my part equated to three very happy children so I'd call it a success. The best part came when we sent the kid's and their mom off to meet up with her sister, our oldest daughter, to go trick or treating. We then went home and relaxed by the fire. Aw....., peace and quiet! Our first Halloween in the easy chair and no trick or treaters since we live too far out. I love seeing the joy on our grand daughter's faces but I am not a Halloween fan.

When it got dark, we headed out to gather eggs, plus lock the hens and goats up. I discovered that Rachel was setting. She has set before and I'm getting wise to the look. Besides I saw her in the same basic position earlier in the day. It's my fault really. I've been leaving the light on in the chicken coop at night. It is not that the girls are scared of the dark but egg production has almost ceased. We get two or three eggs a day at most and that is not enough for six hungry mouths. Our light hours have dipped below 14 as we are nearing winter solstice in December. 

Typically, I do not add artificial light in the winter and just put up with decreased egg production. Not this decreased. Last year we got by fine because the 22 hens laid so, so throughout the winter. The chicks came in the mail right before Easter in 2015 and started laying early fall and continue for a couple years before I put them can them and new chickens take their place. That is our normal routine. BUT, this year is different for several reason. We have only eight hens left from last year since the fox came hunting. 

This year we had natural hatches and the first was early April and it was four roosters. Roosters don't lay eggs. We would have normally not had chicks at all but would have waited until next spring and set up the incubator. Due to the addition of a new breed, Easter Eggers, and a new environment more conducive to setting for the Austrolorps, we had natural hatches. So glad we did since the fox reduced our numbers so drastically. But, it is a new experience for us and there are glitches to work out.

 The next two natural hatches began in May, a month later than April and continued through the summer months. That means the earliest batch of hens is due to start production now. Now when hours of light are waning too low. The next batch will mature in December. The darkest month. That is where the problem comes in. It works like this, light passes through the pupil in the eye to the pituitary gland which triggers egg laying by releasing a hormone to the ovaries. It takes 14 hours, or greater, of light hours to do this trick. 

 Of the older hens who survived the fox, the 3 Easter Eggers just completed a molt, having it delayed by hatching out chicks. Now with the light low they don't want to start up again. The non setting Rhode Island hen and the Wyandotte, the two Asian Blue hens who also don't set, and the earliest hen to hatch out chicks (an Austrolorp), are the only ones laying eggs. Now the Austrolorp, Rachel, wants to set again. That would bring us down to four hens laying eggs at a reduced rate so Rachel -- sweetheart-- I know it is my fault because I've given you too much light, but honey-- NO!! I'm not going to let you set.

A week and a half ago we bought a timer. The timer is suppose to plug into the socket in the ceiling light. Another light will then be plugged into the timer. This will increase the light hours to over 14 and yet not require that the main light be left on all night. This will save electricity. This should discourage Rachel. We bought the timer when we bought more fencing materials. Hence, the fence was put up because we desperately needed more pasture to feed the calves and the Halloween costumes needed done so the light was not set up.

Thanks to Rachel, this project has moved up the ladder in importance. Yet, what I really hope is:
1. That next year we will not have a fox problem.
2.That next year, since our hens were born at varying times, that they will molt at different times. I'm told they are suppose to. 
3. That the three hens left -of the five hens setters we started with-- will be better than ever at hatching and raising chicks and new hens will join the ranks. Of course that the hatches will be earlier in the spring also. 

Amazingly after 30 years of raising chickens, I still have no idea what I'm doing. Order chicks from a hatchery and raise them or even hatch them in my own incubator and raise them in a coop and chicken run set up and I'm pretty good. Only pretty good because when you have livestock new things never experienced before have a way of emerging from nowhere. Still that that scenario is pretty comfortable for me. It is when I shifted to free range and self-sufficiency hatching that the --I have no idea what I'm doing feelings emerged. That's okay because I figure if one does not feel that way on a regular basis, one is not stretching and growing by leaps and bounds. It is a humbling experience. And humble means teachable.

I think that is just where the Savior wants me to be. As I discover light and truth, I realize just how incredible this beautiful world is. Everything around me testifies of Him and the more I learn the more I know it was no happenstance that created such an intricately perfect world.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sad News!

Sad news, our sweet Whitey died yesterday. He was the sweetest rabbit. He would crawl half out of his cage to get to you so you could pet him. We have had him a few years and our daughter a few years before that. His exact age, we have no idea.

He had been walking funny for the past week. His back end did not pick up as high as usual when he hopped. He ate and drank well but seemed to lay stretched out more than usual. I had a feeling all was not well but not sure what was wrong. He did not seem in pain and rubbing his back end caused no discomfort. I hoped it would work itself out.

Trouble always comes in multiples and we had trouble with one of our dairy goats too. She hobbled but not the injured kind of hobble. It was more like founder but she was not foundered. We were without alfalfa hay for a month and it messed up all the goats digestion systems. Their milk production went way down. I gave Belle probiotic to get her stomach going well and then a few days later gave her free choice baking soda. Not perfect but she is much, much better. She should be fine in another couple weeks.

Fine with Whitey did not happen. I'm hoping the mating with Whitey done a few weeks ago to the two young does went well or at least the neighbor's rabbit will kindle this week. She also was bred to him. The neighbor promised me a buck if all goes well. I needed a new buck anyway but did not have the heart to put Whitey in the freezer as meat. I could not justify keeping him as a pet since money is so tight. I guess all worked out for the best. YET, my heart says otherwise.  I'm missing my sweet boy.

Monday, October 17, 2016

How to Hatch Out More Females

I was looking up why I might have had so many hens hatch this year in comparison to roosters. If I could figure that out I would repeat the process next year. This is what I found.
A study done in Australia (Australian Journal of Agricultural Research) has shown that eggs stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit rather than the recommended 60 degrees will hatch out more females. The ratio of female to male eggs does not change. What changes is the colder temperatures kills off more of the male embryos than female. 
I gathered eggs a bit all day and tucked them under the hens so how much they chilled I don't know. The only thing I can figure is that the hens were all young and therefore inexperienced. My ratio of eggs under the hen and those that hatched was not nearly as good as my friends who has old, old hens. That might have caused some of the eggs to not be turned as well or not rotated in placement under her as often as they should have and caused chilling of the eggs. Whatever the reason, I hope we get as good a hen crop next year. I hear the coyotes a howling nor far behind the barn tonight as I tucked in the stock. Yes, we will need replacements if  this predatory problem continues. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Toxic Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are toxic!! I'm not kidding. If eaten raw or not fully cooked you could end up in the hospital. Crazy isn't it? Just four or five raw beans are toxic enough to send you into extreme nausea, followed by vomiting. I suppose since kidney beans are not usually eaten by themselves, one would think they had the usual food poisoning and that the beans were not the culprit.

Kidney bean's toxic agent is Phaseolus vulgaris. Did anyone else's mind just burst into song when they read that? "Secret agent man!" Can't you just see me with my electric guitar all cool, sixties looking jamming out? Me neither, but there has to be a show on television with that jingle. One from way back in the sixties or so because we have not had television in many, many years. 

Way off track there. My mind does that all the time. That is why our family always says, "Squirrel!" when we are changing the subject in mid conversation and then squirrel again when we are jumping back. So "Squirrel!", the vulgaris part of that toxin does sound extra scary. "Squirrel!", I suppose if one was devious and cruel, one could cook something wonderful up and put just a few poorly cooked kidney beans in it. Then served in individual bowls, (no sharezies). It has to be aimed at just one person or it wouldn't fit with the Secret Agent Man. (What show was that off of?) The onset of the symptoms is usually between 1 to 3 hours after consumption. Recovery is rapid. Usually, 3 to 4 hours after symptoms begin. That could put someone out of the picture just long enough to..... to.... what?

"Squirrel!", The unit of toxin measures is the Hemagglutinating unit (hau). That was a mouthful. Raw kidney beans contain from 20,000 to 70,000 hau, while fully cooked beans contain from 200 to 400 hau. White kidney beans, (You know the ones like Canneli?) about one-third the amount of the toxin compared to red kidney beans. Broad beans contain 5 to 10% of the amount that kidney beans have. In fact all the other bean varieties I looked at had a low hau count. Why kidney beans are such bad guys I don't know. I definitely wont be grinding them up when raw to add in breads to boost nutrition levels.

Okay, I lied. Isn't that what secret agent women do? Most of the time we don't even say squirrel. It is too much fun to see the puzzled look on a loved ones face when they can't keep up with the changes. It does not happen often because we are pretty good at the game. Actually it isn't a game since that is just how our brains work. We just don't rein the A.D.D. strains in when around family.

The toxic levels in other kinds of dried beans is very low. Since I can't get a decent crop of kidney beans anyway I'm going to substitute Jacob's Cattle instead.

"Squirrel" , I did an experiment with the beans I grew this year. My hypothesis was that kidney shaped beans would have a more firm texture when cooked and the rounder ones like Tongue of Fire and Kennearly would be softer. Wrong!! Jacob's Cattle if firm like kidney beans but Ireland Creek which is kidney shaped also is not firm but a nice quality for baked beans. Tongue of Fire is round and I thought might be quite soft but it held it's shape nicely in soup and was medium textured. Kennearly of course was buttery and had a quite soft texture, great for ham and bean soup and refried beans. Looks like I have my bean line up for next year's garden.

I will try Cranberry beans as a gentleman at Territory Seeds suggested I try it.

So there you have it, cook your kidney beans thoroughly unless you are an Agent Man.

To those of you who have commented and I have not commented back please be patient. I just found again where those they don't show up on the blog are hiding. That is I did find them but now I have to find them again. I answered a few. Now I have to go out and get to fencing again while the ground is soft.