Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Let me spin you a yarn...

So one of our neighbors built Peanut a top whorl drop spindle. For those of you who aren't in the know, a drop spindle is a small hand tool used to spin yarn. So of cours, since he made it for my daughter, I had to play with it, so last night, I walked over and begged some roving from the neighbor. (I'll explain the whole process in another post, settle down, Sparky!) Here is a picture from my first attempt with the drop spindle.

Eh, not bad, but definitely not great. I wouldn't want to try to knit, or crochet, with it at this point, but give me a chance and I think I will be able to do this halfway decent. Then if I can teach everyone else in the family, we might be able to spin enough for all our winter projects.

So of course, looking at spinning and making yarn... in my typical head-first attitude, what do you think was my next thought? Hmmm, we are looking to put up a barn (as soon as it is delivered and I have the ground prepped). Now, I had been leaning more towards goats, but a couple sheep should give us enough for our winter projects, right? I dunno, buy why not give it a whirl?

Here's one other picture of my first attempt:

Enjoy and I will talk to you again soon!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Yarns and Barns...

Its another week and I realize that I have been neglecting to write anything up here for a while. Life has been keeping me occupied. We ordered a Backyard Barn kit from a local lumber yard, but they have yet to call to make a delivery appointment.

I have started working to dig out the new barn's location, but it is slow going. I am not sure if I ever mentioned it, but there used to be a small barn where we are going to put the new one. This is the perfect location because it is sheltered from some of our wind, is on a good flat spot, can be dug out for drainage, and has a water pipe and electrical lines run to it. However, one of the yahoo sons decided to go ahead and just burn down the barn. He didn't dismantle anything, or even empty it out before he set fire to it. This includes leaving a stack of shingles inside, parts for a tractor cutting deck, pieces of an umbrella, parts of a fox skeleton, and a huge amount of nails. Also, since he didn't pull any of the wires back down through the conduit before he started his blaze, the wires melted inside of their conduit. I get that dug out and pull some new wire through and then I will have electrical and water run straight to the barn! w00t!

So I am hoping that I will be able to get a few inches dug out this week, along with two lengths of french pipe for drainage. Then I can get a load of sand and a load of gravel for the base. Of course, all of this work just sets me up for the actual building of the barn... Anyone want to stop over for a barn raising in a few weekends? We will provide food and drink!

On the yarn note, a woman's whose kid is in sunday school at church is willing to teach me how to turn a heel. I started working on learning double-ended needles this winter, but the books describing turning a heel are a bit confusing to me.

On top of that, it seems that Peanut has decided that I should get some Fiddle lessons. Of course, I would need to find a fiddle on the cheap. There was one on Craigslist... $150 with 3 bows, rosin, 3 learn to play books, a music stand, shoulder rest, volume damper, and an electronic tuner. But y'know, that is $150 more than I currently have available. Of course, that would have to go on top of my working on my skills on the Bass and trying to teach myself guitar. Who came up with some of these chord fingerings?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's Always Something...

Raise your hand if you know what Free Time is.

/me looks around looking for any raised hands.

Yeah, me either. I have always said that I will run out of time before I run out of things to do. There are so many things that I want to do, but part of the problem is that certain things can only be done in order and in the proper season. Seeds must be started, birds must be fed/watered/bedding changed/etc., ground to be prepared. etc. And that is only some of the homesteading work, there is also the daily job that I need to get to, kids to raise and guide, a house to keep clean and tidied, etc. Now, that is not to say that all of these projects and jobs rest only on me, they are things that the whole family helps with. Then there are the jobs that rest solely on me. The oil change, brake jobs, auto body work, then there is the tiller that needs an engine replacement, the Gravely that needs its transmission set screw replaced/hood welded/painted, the Deere that needs to be started up, oiled, tires filled, and prepared for the grass cutting season, etc.

But there are the days that I just want to sit and zone out and relax. Read some books, drink some coffee or iced tea. Every once in a while we all need to take some time to just relax and stop the rushing and the stress.

Someday soon I hope to take my relaxing day. But until I do, I hope all of you take your own day off.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Perils of New Life

Well, the rest of our little birdies are here now. So in the basement we currently have 2 goslings, 2 turklings, 2 ducklings, 10 chicklings (yeah, I made up that word, what of it? (-: ), and 6 two week old chicks. Well, for now.

One of our two week olds most likely will not make it. I walked down into the basement a day or two ago and I found it with one of its legs stuck out to the side. It wouldn't get up and walk or hobble anywhere. Then later in the day it was on its side with both legs sticking out , but it was in a different place than it was earlier. Maybe it could hobble some and just had a sprain. One of the Muscovies survived a broken foot and now you can't even tell it was ever broken.

It almost looks like the birds body grew faster than its legs, but it could also be a broken leg or two. Is it a growing issue? Did someone pick the bird up and put it down wrong? Did I do it? I just don't know. I hate to cull it if it will be able to get better, but then again I hate to let it suffer. To make it even worse, this is the chick that Peanut chose from Tractor Supply. Even though she has the 10 Cayuga ducklings, it still sucks that this is the one that she picked out. Especially since this was the first time she got to pick out a chick.

It may be the coward's way out, but I hope that nature takes the decision from me. Rock meet Hard Place.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Busy busy busy...

"Spring is here, spring is here. Life is skittles and life is beer." - Tom Lehrer

Springtime brings all of the thoughts of the new garden, the upcoming summer projects, the summer chores, and of course, the new baby birds at the house. A week ago last Friday, the family had to stop at Tractor Supply Co. because we were not going to be able to stop at the actual feed shop the next day. Do you know what TSC has in the store come springtime? That's right, baby chicks. So of course, we had to pick up 6 of those little boogers. This doesn't count the order that had been placed with McMurray Hatchery the week before.

Since Peanut is participating in 4-H, she had decided that she wanted to do the duck project, so we had to order her the ducks she wanted to raise. We ordered her 10 Cayuga ducks. That's right 10 of those little buggers was cheaper than just buying 5 or 6 because of shipping costs. She will raise them for a bit and then pick out a few for her project. The rest will either go into the general population or be sold on craiglist/at auction.

Then for the family we got the Homsteaders Delight. This package is 16 birds total: 10 brown egg laying hens, 2 ducks, 2 turkeys, and 2 geese. We get no say in the breeds of any of these birds. Surprise! Unfortunately, we also get no say in the genders of the turkeys, ducks, or geese. Boy do I hope that we don't get Muscovy or Cayuga ducks. We already have the Muscovy and the Cayuga are the second part of that order.

These new birdies would overfill the current coop. I think I mentioned that a local company has what they call the "Backyard Barn". Well, that will hopefully be going up soon (Ok, within the next three weeks or so), and that will house all of these birds plus the birds in the current coop. I just have to get the Health Department out first so that they can verify that we are putting this up farther than 20 feet from the septic tank, there goes another 60 bucks. Woo...

This is all on top of the seedlings in the basement, and trying to wait till the ground gets dry enough to work, and getting a spot ready so the onions can go in ASAP, and and and... well, you get the idea. Hopefully I will be able to get some pictures up of the new birds when they arrive this week, plus a picture or two of the chickies already in the basement.

Well, I think that's enough for right now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oh and btw...

So, yeah... have kinda forgotten to let you know the biggest thing going on right now. We are in the process of adding two new members to the family. If you read the wife's blog over at DivaHick, you will know that we are adopting two girls into our family. Now my wife refers to the older girl as Delphinium and the younger as Sparrow. Yeah... the names kinda fit, but not for me. :-) In my head they are Peanut and Monkey, respectively.

Peanut is 13 years old. You know what that means? It means that we didn't get to know her before that "ARGH, Teenagers!" phase. But she does enjoy cooking, baking, crochet-ing, sewing, and general craftiness. She is participating in 4-H this year with a cooking project and a duck project. Of course, she didn't want to do the Muscovy ducks in the back yard, noooo, she wanted Cayuga ducks. All good though. She wants a goat as well so she can make goats milk fudge, but she doesn't want to drink the milk or do anything else with it though. heh, we will see how that goes.

Monkey is 6. She's a crazy little nut-nut that loves cooking and is learning to quilt. She is going to get a bird or two of her own. She wants a goat as well. Well, a goat, a sheep, a pig, a horse, a cow, and a donkey. Because she wants to ride them. Ha. Told you she is a little nut!

So along with all of the adventures that are coming our way with the garden and the animals and the homestead, we have these two new adventures on our plates as well. Who ever wanted a peaceful life? Apparently not us!

Stay tuned for the adventures yet to come!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Storey Books...

Storey is a company that publishes books that relate to the "country" or "homestead" life that so many people are looking to get back to. Their books are treasure troves of accumulated experience and knowledge on topics ranging from the household to raising livestock. Their mission statement is as follows:

To serve our customers by publishing practical
information that encourages personal independance
in harmony with the environment.

They published Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich (yes, that is Jenna from ColdAntlerFarm). They publish their series Storey's Guide to... that tell how to raise all the different types of livestock, and they are constantly on the lookout for new authors and ideas. I highly recommend checking out their line-up at

But that isn't what I want to talk about right now. Right now, I want to discuss their Country Wisdom Bulletins. These are little gems that sell for about four bucks apiece, new, and that cover the gamut of topics that Storey publishes. The nifty thing about them is that they are so focused they transfer a lot of information about something specific in just a few minute read. They are not exhaustive, but they are excellant introductions to different topics. If you want more in-depth information about a specific topic, guess what? Storey has a book about that.

Of course, Storey has been publishing these since 1973, so every once in a while you run across some information that is a little... dated. The bit that has started this post topic is in the bulletin Axes & Chainsaws: Use and Maintenance. This one in particular was Copywritten in 1977. The line that cracks me up is that it says steel-toed boots are not available in most stores, but that they can be special ordered. Now-a-days, every store seems to be carrying steel-toed boots. Heck, I am having trouble finding a cheap pair of black boots without a steel-toe! I used to be able to pick them up at any #-mart store for $20-$30. Now, they are all steel-toed. Don't get me wrong, all of the information regarding axes and chainsaws is still relavant and useful. This booklet was still well worth the money, but that little bit there just makes me chuckle.

What about you? Ever read any of these? How about another publisher that is similar?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In the mud and the blood and the beer...

I know, I know. Everyone makes a post about mud this time of year. So why shouldn't I go ahead and make one, too? Consider this my obligatory mud post of the year.

Its that time of the year where the dirt and the grass, the yards and the gardens are swampy muddy. The melting of all the snow and the coming rains... I dunno about you, but my ground just drowns. It can't handle the sheer amount of liquid that it is being asked handle.

We all know the season. Our boots get covered in the brown muck. Our animals, if we have any, come in brown and wet. Those gardens and lawns that will be green and vibrant, the bare trees that will soon spring forth their new and vibrant life. They are still brown and bare and muddy and lifeless.

There is hope on the horizon, though. There are seedlings started on a shelf in the basement. There are more seeds ready to germinate on another shelf. Pea plants and herbs on the counter in the kitchen. Flower seeds to start for each of the rooms. Soon we will be able to eat our own garden grown veggies. Soon there will be green and vibrant life around each corner and out every window.

Let us always remember, there are better, and dryer, days on the way!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick's Day

Happy Saint Patrick's day all! Today is the day to celebrate the life and times of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

That's right folks and neighbors, SAINT Patrick's day started as a Holy day in the Christian religion. It was made an official feast day in Ireland long ago and the Irish brought this tradition to the rest of the world. It was not a holiday to drink. It was religious.. the pubs were closed! Can you believe it? Well, it's true.

As for the "traditional" meal of corned beef and cabbage? Ha! The Irish don't eat that for St. Patrick's day. Beef was precious and dearly expensive. It had to be imported from out of the country. So the traditional meal was mostly lamb, sometimes ham, and 'tatties (potatoes). There were some other root veggies involved, as well.

So where did the corned beef and cabbage come from, you might ask? Well, that's a good question. It came from the Jewish community. When Irish immigrants moved into America, they were typically not very wealthy (aka dirt poor) and worked long and grueling hours. When it came time for them to celebrate a holy day, they would go to the butchers in the Jewish ghetto and buy the cheapest piece of meat, corned beef brisket. Then they would buy the cheapest vegetables they could find (cabbage). After years of communities doing this, you now have a traditional Irish-American Saint Patrick's day meal. So it really is a traditional meal. Just don't try to tell me it is traditional all the way from Ireland.

*To "Corn" a piece of beef brisket, it needs to be packed with large kernel chunks of salt and seasoning to tenderize it.

Have any questions?


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm allowed to change my mind...

So after doing a bit more reading and thinking about the problem we had last year with a rat eating the duck eggs. I think I may now be leaning now towards having a full wood floor for the new barn/coop. This way I can brace it on concrete and stone pads so that it is raised up from the wetness. This will also allow a hose out of the floor if it gets necessary. If I wind up with a rotted floor, well, thats what they make saws and jacks and replacement boards for!

What do you think of that?

Monday, March 15, 2010

What type of animals...

So I talked about getting some new animals for the homestead, but we have a bit of a conundrum here. See, I like the idea of heritage breed animals... the more endangered, the better. I am not one of those greenie weenies that puts animals as more important than humans, or that thinks that anything and everything is excused if done in the name of "the environment". However, I do think that the forced breeding of modern livestock in order to ensure that every animal produces a consistant end product, is wrong.

What good is a chicken that reaches full weight in 7 weeks, but in that time, it is now not able to walk because it grew so fast and its breasts are disproportionately large? It is not good for foraging for bugs and greens. It is not good for pest control. It was developed solely for the meat industry and its existence ignores all of the tangents and side-effects of the traditional role of the chicken. Pigs, cows, turkeys, etc. So many breeds have been bred for specific purposes that they have lost their original capabilities and intents.

Heritage breed chickens tend to be dual-purpose birds. Bred for both meat and egg production. They do not produce eggs as well as commercial egg layers, and they do not grow as fast as commercial meat birds. But they can forage in the yard and control the pest population from eating your garden, and they can subsist on less grain/feed than other breeds.

Heritage hogs are able to forage and subsist majorily on pasture as well. They are able to roam the pasture and fields without becoming sunburnt. They do not nip and bite each others tails or ears the way pigs do when kept in a pen and not allowed to roam.

Each breen has their heritage breeds that are basically on or near the endangered list. These heritage breeds are important for us to remember where the modern small homesteads animals came from. Those of us looking for only one or two animals could go for one of the modern breeds.

Of course, I seem to make this sound as if heritage breeds are perfect. Part of the problem is that farmers and breeders are able to charge a lot more for these animals. Where you are most likely able to get a cross-breed goat or sheep for $50-$100 (if not less if you have an auction near you), you are most likely not going to be able to get a heritage breed for less than $200 at the minimum.

Another major problem with heritage breed animals... Availability. If you are looking at a breed that endangered, they are not going to be available around every corner. You may have to travel hours or even days if you are set on getting a specific breed that no one around you has. Whereas cross-breeds and commercial breeds are often available at a moments notice. Not only are the farmers not necessarily close to you, but with a small breeding population, there are less litters/kids/etc. each year. Where a goat or sheep may throw twins twice a year if you really push them, that is still only four kids a year. A swine may give a litter of 4-6-8, but still, that is not a lot to try to repopulate farms around the country.

Heck, when you are starting out, does it really matter what breed you get until you are sure you want to raise that type of animal. If you are getting birds, do you want to be responsible for letting them out in the morning and putting them back in at night, making sure that they have enough food and water. If you are looking at dairy goats, do you have the motivation to be up and out to make sure that they have food and water and shelter. Once or twice a day do you want to go out to milk them. Make sure they freshen and get bred properly.

These are questions that each individual and each farm and homestead must make for themselves. But if you are in the market for some new animals, why don't you take a look at some heritage breeds?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This year's garden...

So every year, those of us "crazies" that don't like paying the store for foods and things that we can grow for ourselves plan what we will be planting and how we will arrange them in the garden and whatnot. You always hear about the joy that we get reading through seed catalogues and picking our varieties for the next season.

Well, at some point, all those fantasies and dreams need to get started. Now, I will share a little secret with all of you. I have always had a lot of trouble getting anything to start from seed, but this year, here I go again. At this point, I have planted:

8 broccoli
8 kale
8 roma tomatoes
8 gr/rd sweet peppers
4 green zebra tomatoes
Sweet Basil
Sweet Marjoram

These have all been planted since last Friday. So far the Broccoli and the Kale have already started to germinate. One of the tomato seeds is starting as well, but only one, so far. There are more that need to be planted, especially some more cool weather seeds that I can hopefully get in the ground before the last frost... but for now, I am happy with the way things are starting this year.

The garden will also consist of cucumbers, corn, brussel sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, pumpkins, zuchini, beets, and various and sundry squashes. And I am sure the other in the family will put in some requests that I am not aware of yet. *grin*

How about it, any strange or unusual suggestions for what should go into the garden?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I still use mine...

So I was puttering about in the kitchen today making breadcrumbs and the thought occured to me that I was doing something that to me is just an obvious money and food saver. But I wonder if anyone else still does this? With the cost of food being so cheap at your local megamart, do people still keep the heels and scraps of bread to be used for something else just so they can save the couple bucks they would spend buying breadcrumbs.

Either way, here is what I do, let me know if you do something similar or if this is a new concept or you think I am nuts for doing this!

1) Save your scrap bread, bread ends, mis-cut pieces, stale or not, toss them in a paper bag. The staler you let them get, the better, but make sure it stays dry... wet bread will mold, dry bread will stale up nicely.

2) Once the bag is full (or you are cooking something that needs breadcrumbs), dig out the bag and your trusty meat grinder with the finest die that you have.

3) Clamp the grinder to your table or counter and start grinding up all the bread you have (or as much as you need).

4) I always do up all that I have and put the rest into a clean dry mason jar that goes right into the fridge or the freezer, depending on how fast I will be using it. I find that one brown paper lunch bag will fill up 3/4 to a full quart mason jar.

Spices, herbs, etc. can all be added to the bread crumbs when you go to use them. This means you don't need to buy bread crumbs and Italian bread crumbs and etc... It is pretty easy to make all the different flavors from whatever type of bread you have lying around!

5) Finally, time to clean it up. The grinder doesn't get very dirty, but I take it apart, run some hot water through and rub all the nooks and crannies with a stiff bristled brush, and then push a towel through. After that, I let it air dry on a drying mat.

* Just a trick that I learned a while ago. If you do use your grinder for meat (what a crazy idea), when you are done, run a few pieces of stale bread through. The bread and the crumbs will pull the meat out and bind up any oils and fats. It makes it easier to scrub and seems to help get all the pieces of meat out when you scrub it clean.

Write at ya soon!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Hey lookie... a new post!

Howdy all... been quite a while since I set my fingers to the keys for the place, but I've got a bug in my backside and I need to share. Aren't you glad? I knew you would...

Anyways, the wife and I have been dealing with some questions about food and appropriateness, especially as it relates to kids. Well, this got me thinking... Dangerous, I know. I believe that the modern American diet is one of the primary causes of the rampant obesiety in this country. There are other factors as well, but I do believe that diet is a major factor. With fast food, pre-packaged food, and sugar/high-fructose corn syrup in beverages dumping massive amounts of calories into the body, the human body isn't sure what to do with it if it isn't burnt off very quickly. It is a survival technique our bodies know from the days of feast or famine living. Also, with the calories being so readily available to the body (i.e. sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, simple carbs, etc.) our bodies are adapting to this. The "sugar high" and "sugar crash" cycle is leading to greater incidences of diabeties and insulin-resistance.

Another portion of this is the availability of all foods year round. Remember when you couldn't get fresh tomatoes in February? Or if you could, they were greenhouse grown and Expensive as all get out? Everyone wants cheap food and they want whatever they have a taste for. People have forgotten that there are cycles to nature and that it is pretty darned unnatural to be able to have fresh tomatoes when the outside world is blanketed by a heavy layer of snow and ice.

Anyways, we try to eat healthfully, but it is not that easy anymore. It seems that most everything has bleached white flour, refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or some thing that some person has done to it somewhere to make it less than natural. So even the recipes we grew up on are no longer as healthful as they once were.

So I know what remember eating when I was growing up. I am interested in knowing what recipes everyone else remembers from growing up. I am looking to see if I can find recipes that can still be as healthful today as they were when we were growing up.

Lemme know what you think...