Thursday, April 27, 2017

More Buttons

 Remember grandma's button box or rather metal tin. That is what my grandmas had, didn't yours? My favorite one was my dad's moms, a round blue decorated (if my memory serves me right) metal tin stuffed half full of treasures. My Grandmothers lived through the Great Depression and 'waste not want not' was heavily employed so clothing, buttons, and zippers were given a second life. 

 I'm feeling that The Great Depression is just around the corner for us as I just completed our yearly budget. Yes, it is four months into the new year but we had to purchase a used Yedi and so I checked and sure enough stretched tight became dong! But wait you say, 'What is a Yedi?' You don't have a Yedi? Well maybe you do but just call it a Yukon. There are lots of them but only one Yedi which is much warmer and more personable don't you think?

That may not make sense but why does naming cut up weiners in corn bread, 'Dogs in a Bog' cause excitement at the dining room table with the grandkids? Or why does naming the bear hanging on our entry wall Cocoa, somehow give him a cuddly protective feeling instead of scaring the grandkids at night when they wonder off to the bathroom in the dark? Sometimes perception goes a long ways.

 So now you know what has me clipping buttons off of used clothing once again and thinking about what supplies I have that I could turn into something that would bring in a little income. This stained shirt that refused to come clean donated its buttons yesterday. Yes indeed, my button collection is not reserved to one tin but three organizer bins and yes, the grandkids like to go through it too. And should I admit it......hmmmmm I'll confess, I have one more storage bin in reserve. You know the say, "Build it and they will come" 
I feel no shame for I have used many used buttons and intend to use many more used buttons in the next year. How many use or used did I use in one sentence or is it two sentences? Oh dear, can you tell I had little sleep last night? Late night and a 4:30 am  morning to load goats going to their new home creates a silly me. 

 My latest treasure are these unusual buttons I found on a wool skirt I was taking apart to felt the fabric. I'm referring to the bottom two metal buttons of which there were several more. The skirt had a gross grain ribbon threaded through them and then sewn from the top of the short skirt to the bottom. The buttons fastened the skirt shut. Now this has me thinking that it might be fun making some buttons like this of my own creation. See I will need that extra button tray.

Did I tell you I like to make buttons. You might say I have a bit of a button fetish. Those little scraps of gorgeous woods and Mastodon ivory left over from my husband's knife making just keep calling to me,'Make something from me.' The question is "Will I have time to answer?"

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My You Have Changed Ellie

 Ellie is loads of help or thinks she is. Kirk was putting up some more fence panels yesterday to block the beef from the pasture so that it could grow without  munching mouths tearing it up. When the grass is short, animals have a tendency to crop the vegetation too short. The plant's crowns die leaving us with dirt. Add hooves on wet ground and what was a little tilling in summer turns to over tilling in spring. Their hooves simply tear up the ground leaving a dead muddy field.  Bye, bye pasture.

Hubby got the job done just in time as this is what today looks like. Not quite this much snow was in the forecast but snow was inevitable. Old Man Winter has to get his last big {Hoorah! for the end of April. Each year there is a BIG snowstorm the last week or two. Well, almost. I can think of a few naps he took over the years but very few. 

This end of April storm brought over eighteen inches of snow with howling winds that closed even the county roads. Ten to seventeen more inches of the white stuff is due in the next few days. Old Man Winter obviously wants winter back.

But enough already. I'm want spring. Again, a picture from yesterday.Weather is cruel and has left me depressed today but thankful we pushed this past weekend to get things done. Old Man Winter is about as reliable as Old Faithful so we know by now to 'getter done' as we say up north. Oh you don't know Old Faithful? I'm referring to the famous sight in Yellowstone Park or Jellystone as we call it from the Yogi Bear cartoon. It is just north of us a little ways.

Last summer we had the stock graze the pasture pretty short in order to clear out the old grass and weeds. It helped kill quite a few sagebrush too. A huge added bonus. This way it opens up the area to more light and clears off the old dead grass. The pasture is really looking pretty now. A little more sagebrush could die but we don't want all the sagebrush gone as on our steep slope, it helps to hold the soil and stops the snow creating a small drift behind each one. Mixing goats and cattle is a proven winner as they forage for differing plants balancing out your pastures.

We had a big shock when we moved here. Our old property was clay, clay, and well heavier clay. What a huge muddy mess that made when moisture came. Here our ground is rather rocky and sandy so an amazing amount of moisture seeps right down into the ground. We see very little mud. Could be why the area has lots of natural springs. We even have a geyser of our own. It goes glub, glub, glub. A little bubble that pops up under the crooked old tree. It makes laugh, I love it!
 But there was something else I wanted to show you. Look at the bovine on the left. That's Ellie, our Brown Swiss/ Normandy cross heifer and then look down below at the photo of her as a young calf. Talk about a color change. Yup, she's black as coal now. Not what I expected. I'm really liking the way she is turning out conformation wise and sweet, oh my! she loves nothing more than someone to pay attention to her. I can rub her all over and pick up her feet. She will even pick a foot up for you if you rub between her legs, cocking it out to the side so you can reach in better. Personality wise, she will make one dandy milk cow.
But what is up with this stark color change. I've never seen a bovine change so drastically have you?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Homemade Mustard

One of my goals this year is to learn to make the condiments I use most. That means mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and mayonnaise. Then I want to go a step further and grow as much of the ingredients as possible. Of course not all in one year's time. It will be an ongoing project for years to come. I have grown brown and white mustard seed one summer three years ago but the harvest wasn't great. My first mistake was putting the seed in the not so fertile old garden. I plan on doing that again this summer. Not the putting it in the old garden but in growing a new crop. Then if all goes well I need to work on a screen that separates the seeds and the chaff. The brown mustard seeds are much smaller than the white and that might create the need for two screens. Then of course I need to come up with a good mustard mixture or two or three if lucky. 

Right now I have just one Ball Park Mustard mixture that I'm not real happy with. It has too much of a bite to it and my tongue gets hung up on the heat and can't find the flavor. It is a problem I have with many peppers and sauces made with them. And yes, mustard has the same hot stuff that peppers have in them so while hubby and our oldest daughter's tongues are finding a wonderful melody in many sauces, mine just screams FIRE!!! It must be a taste bud thing. 
That is my problem with this mustard recipe. I mixed in a little sugar and a little more salt after three weeks of it sitting on the counter but it still is hot. I'm going to do a little more research and tweak the batch once more. Then I think I'll mix another batch up. Was it cold water or was it hot that I'm suppose to use to cool down the heat. I've forgotten but it make a difference I'm told. Plus aging on the counter top versus in the refrigerator changes the heat too. After that is tamed then maybe I can taste the other ingredients and find that melody the family talks about but eludes me. When I get that far I can play with brown mustard and white mustard combinations. There is black mustard too but I'll probably never get that far.

I started with a mustard powder with this recipe. But to be self-sufficient, I need to move on to grinding it myself.  Hmmmmm.... how can I do that with the equipment I have on hand? Would we like a crushed method better? That would be easier to achieve? So many questions and as yet, no answers.

I do know I want to use mustard more in cooking. Not just on hamburgers but in cream sauces or in soups or ..... I don't know yet. My only familiarity with mustard is Ball Park, honey mustard, or Dijon needs expanding. Yes, I'm really mustard naive.
But a girl has to start somewhere so Ball Park it is. The mustard of my youth. 
So far the Ball Park Mustard recipe doesn't resemble Ball Park I've ever tasted but that could be my fault. I don't know what I'm doing. 

One thing I know for certain is making mustard was eezy peezy when you buy the powder and I will work from there.

Meanwhile I'll keep hoping the vinegar in the pantry does its thing and I can use it in up coming mustard mixtures. But for now my goal is simply to create a batch of mustard that turns out better than my first.

 An added bonus is that mustard is in the Brassicas family and inhibits the growth of existing cancer cells and prevents them from forming. Surprising how many anti cancer things I'm finding that were a common table fair of our ancestors.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Electricity Went Out on Our Chicks and Ducks!!

We had one of those howling wind, heavy wet snow, spring storms that took the power out for hours. It was just getting started when we went off to church. When we got home the garage door opener refused to work, our first clue the power was out.The first thing we checked was the baby chicks and ducks. They require 95 degree temperatures and light the first week of their lives. 90 the next and 85 the next. We found them huddled in a tight group yelling at the top of their lungs. We gripped the old metal horse trough they were in and headed into the house by the dying fire.
Not exactly a heat lamp but the closest thing to it. We stoked it up and the house was soon warm again. As for us, we were in luck. The chicken breasts and potatoes I'd put in crock pots before church were done cooking. A real blessing when there are four hungry kids with empty bellies. Hours later the power came on just long enough for our oldest granddaughter to get a shower and then it went off again. The kids did not mind as they were having a blast with the ducks and how often do you have baby ducks in the HOUSE.
 It was a great time for the kids and the ducks to bond and now we know each ducks individual personality.This is Eva and she is loud and busy. Is it a girl, who knows, we will find out when she or he quacks. A male does a hoarse whisper and a female quacks loud and distinctly. With the wonders of technology we were able to hear the difference on the Internet. When the power came back on that is. She will be a Blue Swedish duck. 
This is the four year old's, no five year old's duck. Our granddaughter just had a birthday this week. Sasha is not fond of her owner but then small children are not usually great with animals. Even our oldest who is twelve was having a hard time with her. The only one Sasha really likes and will hold still for is me. Sasha will be a black Swedish duck.
This is Rascal. The sweetest one of the bunch. This is a crested Swedish Duck. Rascal has complete confidence in his owner or her owner.

 The two of them hit it off big but then of course this child has a natural way with animals. She was the one who got by with Chicory, a goat we had years ago. Chicory pinned the grandchild in the blue shirt up against the fence. Did not hurt her just was establishing social hierarchy. It is what herd animals do and the granddaughers were all small back then, about the goats size. Chicory tried it with this granddaughter who was really small and she popped her in the face with out every looking at her and walked on by. Perfect! "None of that and you aren't worth my time or attention." is what this child's slap and body language basically said. She never had a problem with Chicory again. 

We had a yak that disliked kids and this stood her ground just outside the fence when the yak lowered its head and made light charging motions. The yak was puzzled at not getting a reaction. The yak then quit.This is the child very like me in personality. My dad always said he could not believe the things I could get away with doing with animals that no one else could do. With animals the trick is to simply just speak their language. I use to be able to do a impressive moma pig talk. I once called a tiny piglet that had gotten loose in a field back into my arms.

This is our oldest grandaughter's duck though the little child asked to hold her. She calls her Mystery since we at first wondered if it might be a white Swedish duck but it is looking more gray as time goes on. 

Blue Swedish ducks are the only recognized color in many countries as they are the original color developed in Sweden. The light gray or rather blue made them harder to see and predators killed fewer of them. They are very hardy and their meat is suppose to be very flavorful. Some call it sweet. We have no plans on eating these cuties but if they populate --- I can't say the same for their offspring. Large numbers will attract fox and coyotes to the yard. We already frequently see tracks of a single coyote and a fox that checks out the place in the middle of the night or early morning. 

For now we will just enjoy the adventures of having ducks, a brace of them.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Lessons Learned the Hard Way.

 "In all labor there is profit.", the saying goes. I learned a big one this spring. Last year I used the empty rabbit cages to put hens in when they became broody. Cardboard in the bottom and pine shavings and the hens were thrilled, happily remaining on her eggs until all eggs that were going to hatch, did. It worked great!
But then entered difficulties that accompany a daughter who has been diagnosed with cancer. Things at home did not get done and that included thinning the rabbit population. Hence, the great set up last year with using the rabbit cages was not available. No big deal right? I can just put the first two setters together in the small chicken coop. It is cozy, warm, and plenty of room for two to choose a nesting site. The food and water was nearby and I would be dealing with only one set up and not two in separate rabbit cages. The first few days worked great. Then the bossy hen on the left stole all the eggs from the hen on the right leaving her screaming at the top of her lungs in indignation. Not knowing which eggs were which, I had to leave them with bossy pants and turn the to be first time mama outside. The question then became whether the brown hen would sit on the eggs long enough to hatch them all since they were different ages.

Then a black hen decided to lay and with the Tulsa trip looming, I put her inside as well and crossed my fingers. While gone, our daughter complained that some of the eggs had begun to smell. I told her to hang in there, I'd be back shortly. Shortly turned in to six days and the whole time I was praying that the brown hen would not interrupt the black hen. I came home to a stinking coop and planned on doing something the next day when the brown hen hatched two chicks and was running all around in a tizzy worrying over them. She had forgotten the eggs she was suppose to be setting on. They were now cold and dead. Maybe it was my mood after a long week at Tulsa but I snatched up her chicks and shooed her out into the yard. The chicks I put under a heat lamp. I was in no mood to baby her when she had only 2.

The 2 chicks would not be alone for long since Australorps were due into the feed store any day. My Australorps did not come but ducks did. Now we had 2 ducks and 2 chicks, with Australorps joining them the next week and a couple days later four ducks. That was when I discovered two chicks running around with the black hen. She had abandoned her other eggs too. This set up definitely does not work. We now have quite the batch of mismatch ages of ducks and chicks. Its okay, they get along fine and a big lesson was learned - use the rabbit cages for broody hens. That is where the profit comes in - maybe not financially but I now know what does not work for us.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I think I'm Addicted to Ducks.

I think I'm addicted. I brought three more ducklings home. They are so.... cute. Even my husband concurs. The little yellow duck you can see amongst all the black chicks in the picture kept falling asleep, his head lolling to the side and then he'd fall over. It was hilarious.
The little black Swedish duckling with the crested head kept jumping up trying to see over the top of the store box he was carried home in. That crest on top makes me smile and we are working on a name that means trouble.

My oldest daughter was laughing so hard at the friendly trio that I was bringing home that she has decided that she wants ducks instead of chickens when she buys her own home. I say have both. From what I've observed they get along fabulously. My mother-in-law spent over an hour laughing at them. I just had to drop by and show her before heading home. I also took them to see our youngest grand daughter who is five months old. She smiled BIG! 

There is at least three kinds of different Swedish ducks in the four. I figured all the better diversity of genetics for breeding. And truthfully, for once I let my emotions make the pick. Now cross your fingers we have one boy and the rest girls, not the other way around. No, they do not come sexed.
The Pekin and this chick are best buds, about the same age, if not the same size. They preen each other and sleep together joined by the Swedish duck and the other chick about the same age. When the Pekin and Swede goes off to take a bath, the chick screams for his return.
But you are probably wondering, what do I have planned for the ducks? Miss Practical here always has a plan though it maybe not be well thought out. This one is pretty sketchy. I started researching on caring for duck. It has been a very long time since we had ducks and my memory faint on the subject. Besides our set up is different and they won't be raised for meat but for a permacultural environment. This our problem and our plan. The chickens about destroyed the garden last year. We learned that six isn't too bad but twenty chickens in a garden is shear bedlum. Once they have had a taste for it, they are not taking turns and sneak through the gate the moment you open it and the ones who can fly do, over the seven foot fence. 

They believe in a level playing field. I'm trying to achieve an Elliot Coleman style garden with dirt heaped, permanent growing beds and well worn paths. Done right they will over time not need rotatilling, just lightly turned over with a fork, not a kitchen fork. The paths will become well worn and weed free. That is where the Swedish ducks come in. They don't level the ground, they don't fly so they remain fenced. They love bugs, worms, and especially GRASS!!! They, unlike chickens, can be herded from the, to be expanded and to be re-fenced orchard, the new garden in the making, and the expanded old garden.

What we have learned in the few years we have lived here is, we do not have the time and energy to do all the things we need to accomplish. Creating a permaculture will give us the more for less while working with nature.The biggest job will be figuring out how to do that. Presently we build and then redo in a better fashion when mistakes are made apparent. It will take some years to accomplish since the same tasks have to be done over and over until it works well. For instance, the garden needs re-fenced as we've learned the deer now stay out, unless we leave the gate open, but the rabbits eat their way in. No to plastic deer fencing, yes to woven wire. We need a watering system so I can quit spending so much time moving the hose. To establish what we have in mind we need permanent beds which we learned are in need of a little adjustment because of how the winds blows the sprinkling water. So it goes with all our projects.

The hope is the ducks will help weed the garden, especially the pesky grass that keeps creeping in and they will remove unwanted bugs, and poop. Lots of poop. Poop like geese, not like chickens. Messier, yes, but not hot so it is not damaging if fresh. It might be rather gross not to kneel in but I have ideas about that too. If you raise ducks let me know. I could sure use some tips. I'm not so confident as things have not working out so swell with the bunnies. My bad. My ignorance but I'm learning and I'm not giving up. I just hope things go more smoothly with the ducks.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A New Livestock Project

 Yes, the four year old talked grandpa into ducks. 
 After all she had been faithful in helping feed the kid goats so when we checked at the feed store for Australorp chicks and spied ducks well....
 How could he say no? Her mama, our daughter, had ducks too when she was young. She loved her ducks and so I guess it is no surprise her daughter does too. In fact we have a picture of her on a float we made for a parade with her duck in her arms. We raised some Rouens, (they look like Mallards) and we raised Pekin ducks but I don't want those. I did rather covet having one of the beautiful brown Kahkii Campbell ducklings I saw when our grand daughter chose a Pekin and a Swedish. Practicality weighed against emotions and home we came with just the two. 
The ducklings were soon named --- Goostoff, the yellow one; and Daisy, the black one but I think Daisy is about to have a name change. The four year is wavering on it. Her favorite duck is Daisy. She begs to hold her though Daisy squirms and squawks. I think I heard that while I was gone, Goostoff pecked her. That would do it. He is more aggressive.
 As for me, I like them both but I'm leaning toward the Swedish breed. Sweden is cold and snowy and so are we. Besides, I am a Swede on my grandmother's side. Her parents and most of her siblings having been born in Sweden. And who should I see looking at me in the mirror, yes, my Swedish grandmother. So I'm thinking if the Swedish breed were created in Sweden, they just might get along fine here since they are known for their exceptional hardiness and cold resistance. They weigh from 6 1/2 to 8 pounds and have wonderfully flavored meat. Heaven forbid should we ever have to eat Daisy but should she have offspring.... 

I read that they are broody. I so hope Daisy is a she and she has little ones. Then again what if the Pekin is a girl and the Swede is a boy? Pekins are not broody and Swedish ducks are. I think we need more ducks. In fact I just called and am heading in to pick up three. Check back, I've a surprise waiting and I'll tell you what I have planned for them. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Back From Cancer Center of America

 Were you looking for me? I did not mean to be silent for a week  but our trip lasted far longer than we planned. Things were not going well for our daughter who has two cases of breast cancer. Doctors locally had no clear course of action and the information train was pretty silent so off we went to The Cancer Center of America in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There they specialize in breast cancer though they treat many other kinds also. We figured if anyone knew what to do, they would. We left Saturday morning to catch a flight. The one that ended with the airplane in pieces on the runway. No it did not crash but the mechanic soon had it disassembled. That was after he took forty minutes getting to the airport to go to work since it is Saturday and this is podunkville. (We are the least populated state in the union). Over an hour later, it was clear the fix was not going to be fast and we waited for another plane. That meant our flight connection in Denver was missed. Which meant we spent the night in Denver, courtesy of United since all flights to Tulsa were booked.  

We arrived at the center just after lunch, having missed all our morning appointments that started at 8 am. It became a week of reschedule, reschedule since there were those test that left questions in the doctor's minds and led to other tests. Our mornings began with the first appointment at 8 am lasting a half an hour or an hour at most and another right after that one until it was 4 pm. We had a half an hour for lunch. Norm for the center but stress filled for us but the information level was WOW!! What we thought was going to be a few days stretched into six with our daughter's case being one placed before a team of doctors who meet on Wednesday and Thursday at noon. She has a type of cancer which is suppose to hit someone in their 70's or 80's and maybe 60's but not mid thirties. 

What we learned from the Geneticist was that our daughter's cancer was not in the BRCA 1 type but another gene all together so a different genetic testing needed done. We could not tie the specific cancer to our family though one great and one grandmother on the other side had breast cancer. What kind we have to find out. Whether the cancers were related at all is a question since the grandmothers were older and your immune system breaks down when you get older. That is why our daughter felt out of place at the center where she was surrounded by the aged. 

Did one side or the other carry the gene is the question. The test was run. We learned with this cancer it involves only one gene so it is not a combination of Kirk and I. That much we know. We also learned that prostate cancer is linked to breast cancer. My father had that but was it related since he was aged at the time?

The Geneticist said cancer linked genes are showing up at younger and younger ages. The great grandmother who had this type of cancer at 80 has a daughter who had it at 60, who had a daughter who had it at 40, who had a daughter who had it in her 20's. Why? The cause, they are guessing is diet and the environment triggering it at a younger age. Our world is full of pollutants. Our lives are filled with stress that attacks our immune system. Diet and stress are the two things our daughter's doctor said he is sure caused hers. She likes convenience foods.

The scary truth is that we all have cancer cells in us. Our bodies when functioning well kick them out. One of the reasons for drinking lots of good clean water. Keep the flushing system going and send those babies down the drain. If your immune system goes down due to declining health and stress, they populate and cluster, you are then diagnosed with cancer. Hard to imagine but a 9 year old in Utah was just recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Wonder if it was in the family? What must her diet and her mother's who gave birth to her must of been like? If baby's placentas are now being found to have high levels of BPA, then it is no wonder babies are born with cancer or develop it as children. If 1 in 3 women will get cancer and 1 in 2 men, what does that say about our diets? Since formaldehyde is in perfume and perfume is in everything then how can we not get cancer is my question.

The hopeful part is that even if you have a cancer gene, it will not activate unless your immune system is compromised. That is where you have the control. You can invite cancer or not. After seeing the pain and suffering around us during our visit, I am more motivated than ever to not invite it, that is after I recover from the trip. Wow, it took its toll on me but on with the story.  

Having just completed her first round of chemo on Friday, we rushed to the airport with only minutes to spare. The stress continued as once again I set off the alarm on the scanner  just like I did in Denver on the trip to Tulsa and had to be frisked. Nope, not the metal plate in my back but a mysterious object yet to be identified. Our daughter had a special device on her return trip that delivers a drug to boost her white blood cell levels after chemo and she had to be frisked also. Delay, delay, and with stress mounting, we made a run for the plane. 

Stress and chemo, not good and our daughter began to feel pretty rough. In Denver we asked to be seated first though our tickets said we were in the third boarding group. Not hard to accomplish when our daughter looked white as a ghost, had a barf bag held to her face, and clutched a bag that clearly read Cancer Center. The sight drew lots of sympathetic glances our way. The plane was late. Then after boarding, it was delayed due to a malfunction of the navigation system. Not exactly a comforting thought. Well over an hour later, they said they got it fixed but my brain couldn't help but think, "Wonder if it is truly fixed or will it go out again during flight?" I did some quick calculating. If it is now seven, when we were suppose to be landing, then we are going to get land in the dark.The navigation system had better work.

 Soon my iron clad stomach was sympathizing with my daughter's. It had just started to relax when we came closer to the airport and the plane began heaving up and down, up and down, then sideways repeatedly with white things hurdling outside our window. Not just a snowstorm but a blizzard that caused the pilot to overshoot the runway and send us zooming upward at a steep ascend. He couldn't see. He circled and checked out another runway facing another direction. I swear he went part way down and then up again, then circled before he descended once more, and we finally felt the wheels touch down. 

Whew, relief or was it? Now we only had a two hour drive in the dark, in a blizzard, to get home. Oh joy! Not!! It looked really bad when we discovered four inches on top the vehicle with more coming down fast. We checked out the weather report via our other daughter who was watching the kids and livestock. We just needed to drive far enough and we would be out of it. But where would that be? Luckily there was a convoy of cars headed our way. A group of school kids had been on a trip to Costa Rica and were headed home to just twenty miles from ours. We followed tail lights. 

Despite how difficult the trip was, the cool thing is our daughter has lots and lots of people watching over her. More specialists that I could even imagine could be involved in such a journey. While we soaked in the tons of information, I made a few vows on our trip. They all have to do with trying to avoid cancer while increasing our health. The health that took a real hammering while we were gone. Not so good food, tons of stress, and lack of sleep has my adrenals keeping me up at night. I keep waking up with way too low body temps. My system is exhausted. When I recover a little, my vows will begin.

P.S. I admit I showed the scheduler a picture of the view out our living room window on Thursday. I said could you PLEASE hurry and get us home. I need my peaceful view. She heartily agreed.