Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bees in the Broccoli

On nice sunny days, the bees come out of their cluster to forage and take care of some housekeeping.  I've been sick and that caused me to not harvest my broccoli in a timely manner.  On my first day out of the house in several days, I'm happy to see the bees taking advantage of my delay.

Happy foraging,


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Babies!

Our ladies are getting up there in age, and we knew we would have to address the decrease in eggs as time progressed.  Since our older ladies are our first chickens, we probably don't have the heart to harvest them for meat.  They will more than likely die from natural causes.  I do want to raise some meat birds eventually but that's down the road a bit.  My first meat endeavor will be the rabbits. 

We had already discussed raising some chicks in the spring since it has been a few years since we've done it, but the opportunity presented itself to get some chicks this week.  I just joined a local hobby farm group, and someone from that group was ordering chicks, so I decided to go ahead and get three.  I've never raised chicks in the winter, but I thought it would give us a head start on egg laying in the spring.  So, I'm giving it a go.  We got three new babies today, a silver-laced Wyandotte, a black Australorp, and a light Brahma.  We have been in love with the Wyandottes since we saw them at the state fair two years ago and vowed the next time we raised chicks we would get one.  Now we have one, and I'm so excited.  She is scratching around on the paper towels like she's digging to China. (The photo below was taken before I put down the paper towels.)  We also love the idea of having a solid black chicken so the Australorp fits the bill.  Plus they are supposed to be good layers.  I went back and forth about the Brahma because they aren't supposed to be great layers and are more for exhibition of the feathered feet.  And, we already have a part Brahma chicken, Vanilli.  She doesn't have the feathered feet, but she contributes something the other hens don't, a green egg.  Nate really was intrigued by the feathered feet, so I got one to make him happy.  The Brahma would not have been an ideal choice for me, but if Nate's happy, I'm happy.  So, there you go.  She's really cute though because she already has little feathers/down? on her feet!

I'm hoping since they will be introduced at a young age to the flock that Nappy will establish himself early on and not have the issue he has with the older hens.  Maybe his size will continue to play a factor, but maybe not.  I would love to see chicks hatched from my own hens one day.

They are all so adorable and the little cheeps just kill me!

Happy homesteading,



Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Cat and Her Stove

Our big purchase this year was our wood burning stove.  It has been installed for about a month now, and we've used it exclusively for our heat.  As a matter of fact, our thermostat is turned off.  Not having burned wood before, I didn't really know what to expect, and I had many questions floating around in my mind. 

Would we have enough wood for this year?  Maybe, but probably not for this year unless we buy some.  If we had known we were going to take this step, we could have planned better last year.  We have some wood from the trees we cut down earlier this year, and most of it was split at the time and stacked.  We've been burning this wood, but the stack is dwindling.  Now that we have a designated wood area, I have been working on splitting wood and stacking it, but that wood is earmarked for next year so it has plenty of time to dry.  We have been fortunate in that the weather has been very mild lately and we haven't had to use the insert daily.  This has helped make our wood last longer. 

Would the stove really heat the whole house?  I think we have a disadvantage because the insert faces away from the majority of the house.  If our fireplace were on an outside wall facing into the house, I think the air would circulate better.  So, no it doesn't heat the whole house in the sense central heating does.  I didn't expect it to, but what I've found is I like the wood stove heat better than the central heat.  Our stove does have a blower, so that helps circulate the air, and when I turn on the ceiling fan, that helps even more.  Of course, the room where the stove is installed is the warmest and the house gets a little cooler the further you move from the stove.  I actually like it this way.  One of the reasons we got the stove was because I felt like I froze all last winter with our central heat.  Admittedly, we kept the thermostat lower than most, but I never felt like I was warm.  The whole house felt the same, and there was nowhere "warm" to go.  Now, our thermostat reads about the same as last year, but I never feel cold because I can always go to a room that's warmer than another.  I can feel the subtle difference from room to room, and it's nice.  I guess I'm kind of like the little chicks under the brooder lamp.  If you're cold, go to the heat source.  If you're hot, move away from it. 

Who is going to split wood?  I couldn't expect Nate to do it all, and I actually thought it would be fun.  The only problem is I can't hit the broad side of a barn with an axe.  My hand eye coordination is really bad.  I took a tennis class in college, and it was ugly!  So, I started shopping for a wood splitter, a manual one not electric.  I could only find a few manual ones that were in our price range, but one stood out more than the rest, The Smart Splitter.  I watched the demonstration videos and read every review I could find.  Nate didn't really want to spend the money, but when I asked him if he was willing to split all of the wood, he changed his mind.  We were both skeptical about whether it would perform as advertised, but after using it for almost a month, I have to say, it is fabulous.  Now I'm the one splitting all of the wood, and I've found it's a great stress reliever after a tough day at work. 

Would the cats like it?  I already knew the answer to that one so it really didn't need asking.  They love it, especially Lucy.  She thinks it is her stove, so much that when you try to move her to add wood, she gets angry and yells at you and promptly moves right back to where she was camped in front.  It's a struggle but can you blame her?  She's almost 18 and what better way to spend her senior years than in front of a warm stove.  Poor Onyx has to find a spot near but not in front of it.   

Would we like it?  Yes, we do.  Now, when the electricity goes out, which it often does around our house, we'll have a heat source other than blankets.

Happy homesteading,



Monday, December 12, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Green Tomato Experiment

It's that time of year again when gardeners start to ponder what to do with all those green tomatoes.  Last year I posted about my experiments here.  The relish was a hit, and I made it again this year, and I have actually used the Green Tomato Cake recipe for some of my green peaches with great success.  Because I want to build a repertoire of recipes, I decided to try some new stuff.  With the plethora of green cherry and plum tomatoes, I made Dilled Green Tomatoes from my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving book.  They have only been aging for a few weeks, so it's probably a bit premature for a taste test, although I'm salivating thinking about them right now.  I'll have to give you an update when I do taste them.  My other preserving experiment came to me via this post:

Leigh decided to can her green tomatoes for frying at a later time.  Now, raise your hand if you love yourself some fried green tomatoes.  My hand is totalling waving in the air!  I didn't can mine, although I would in the future depending on how she says her turn out.  I decided to slice and freeze mine.  I sliced them on my mandolin about a 1/4 inch thick and froze them in a single layer on parchment paper.  I also diced up the shoulder like so

and froze the pieces in a single layer as well.  Once frozen, everything was put in freezer containers.  The diced tomatoes will be used in the Green Tomato Cake recipe at some point. 

You may wonder if my experiment worked, and I, too, wondered.  So, last night, with the last fresh green tomato I had and some frozen slices, I did a controlled experiment.  I did not defrost the frozen tomatoes, but breaded them straight from the freezer and put them immediately in the pan.  I breaded the fresh tomatoes with the same breading.  The frozen ones looked and tasted exactly like the fresh ones.

Yippee skippee.  Now, I can have fried green tomatoes all winter long. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Follow Me!

Howdy!  I just added a Follow By Email option on the blog.  So, sign up and get emails when I post something new, such as this post, which doesn't really contribute anything of significance to the blog's content.  I just want you to follow me by email is all. 

Happy homesteading,