Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My how they GROW!

Last week I had to catch up hoof trims and shots and what not and I weighed both of the "little girls" - who are NOT so little anymore! Remember Darlene?  Who was 3 months old and 50lbs when I brought her home?  Well now she is 5 1/2 months old (at the time) and weighed this much:

Yup - that says 87lbs! And I'd believe it, she is one side little load of goat! She does so well getting on the stand already for her hoof trims, and behaves too!

Then there is Dixie Chicken - my "little bit of shit" as I call her because she is always into something! Remember her?  She wasn't even 8lbs when she was born, on May 6th, and she was so itty bitty sweetie petitie!
And now here she is, just read THAT weigh tape!

Oh yes, every bit of 63 lbs already! Also very good at hopping on the stand and behaving while I mess with her....she's trouble at times, but still very sweet and mild mannered over all (she's just a slightly spoiled baby). I can't believe she was just barely 3 months old when I got that weight and pic of her!  She's gonna be a BIG girl, I know it!

So...that's the most recent goaty update....I hadn't realized I had forgotten about it till just now!

The Angry Oak Tree....or is it sad?

There's a little video tour of the latest with the oak tree.  I still can't decide if the dang thing hates me, or if it is just sad.  All I know is I have watered, bragged on, loved on and petted that dang tree and it is NOT behaving well!

Guess I better head on out and start doing something to get that mess cleaned up...didn't make it that far yesterday as I was knocking out 6 batches of soap AND I found more pallets for the new "piggy palace" I am planning for...off to work then eh?

One down....

Yes, that is a dead armadillo out in the yard.  The time had come, I had enough! Don't get me wrong, he honestly left me alone for the most part...BUT...he was leaving the landscape full of those little "toe catcher" holes....

Now, if I trip and fall, I get over it and get up. But if something else - like say a horse or a goat- were to catch a hoof in a hole and break a leg, I would feel bad forever. There was no relocating this guy, he just had to go!

Mr Farmhand actually had gotten up the other night and wandered out to the fridge in the shed for a glass of milk...and there he was! Mr Sandman, our armadillo....and in his socks and underwear (the proper hunting attire out here) my husband took him out! It was like a mob hit, old school, deadly, mission accomplished.

Now if only we could get the possum that keeps tearing up the trash! I've had about enough of that too!

Monday, August 5, 2013

How I love a good sunset...

Pardon the dirty, cracked, chipped window on the Jeep in the way...but isn't that just the prettiest cloud all lit up by the setting sun?  I thought so too :)  There is nothing nicer than a gorgeous sunset!

Even when it's hot, and humid....even where there are a million and one stinging, biting bugs....the sunsets in the summer are just about my most favorite thing!

I got this one about 2 weeks ago, coming home one evening.  Post card perfect, I swear!

While I cheerfully endure the next month or 2 - those bugs and the humidity are killing me! - I will look forward to these peaceful, beautiful, summer sunsets out on the country.  I love this time of year, even if I am melting slowly.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Milk Test, Round TWO!

Yup - it's that time again haha! ROUND TWO of milk testing...don't worry, I won't blog needlessly and aimlessly about every test date in detail...But, I had realized I hadn't really finalized everything with the last test.

There is my "fancy pants scale" with it's sticker on there to show it has been checked for calibration....

So, pretty basically, your get all your paper work together. This would be 2 VERY simple sheets, and 2 simple yet tedious sheets to fill out.  One just states which does are coming into milk and which have been dried off.  One is like your invoice - which you fill out since you know how many does and thus how many samples you are sending in. Don't forget your money order or check with it LOL.

The DMS213 or your "herd form" is  one of the tedious ones - at least the first time ever, and then after that whenever you add does....it's where your address, times you milked, and your supervisors signature go AND any does you transfer in from other herds or just plain new does in milk from your own herd that have never been on test have to be entered in.  THERE is the tedious bit - lots of little spaces to be filled in with numbers :P

After that you have your DMS201 or "supervisors barn sheet" - another form that CAN be a bit tedious. Once again, when adding does to the milking string, lots of little spaces wanting registration numbers and what not to be filled in :P  BUT, once you are on a roll with the same does as last month, not bad.  DO NOT forget to put the milk weights in!  This is the one where your weights go - kinda crucial right? Also, any changes in reproductive type stuff - like if a doe is in heat, or if she has been bred, these things go on that form too!

Don't forget to make and save copies....you just never know when a box might get crushed and have milk spill all over stuff, or even lost in the mail.  At least even if your samples are lost you will have you info on weights and what not saved so that part can count on your test day data!

After that you wait about 2 - 3 weeks and you will get an email back from Eva at Langston (if that is who you use) with all of this preprinted for next time and a receipt of sorts AND Your test results!!! That was a super cool day, and really nice to see how my does were doing in the butterfat and protein department too!

So, here we are at round two, time for another monthly test....Last night there was a milking and a weigh out....this morning there was a milking, weights taken AND samples!  That's the other part - the MILK SAMPLES!  VERY easy! Your supervisor just uses your little DHIA approved dipper to fill the vial about half full in the a.m. and again half full in the p.m. - per Eva at Langston you want half and half from each milking to fully and accurately represent what that doe is making in a 24 hour period right?  Don't forget to label the vials with a BLACK permanent marker....and bring them in the house.  They do NOT need to be refrigerated (that little tiny tablet preserves them just fine), but leaving them outside can be risky on several levels - if something gets into your vials and destroys your samples you don't want to start over :(

Here mine are waiting for the p.m. milking:
After the evening milking I will box this up with the $$$ (all of $10.46 - easily pulled out of the farm funds lol) and in the morning off it will go to Oklahoma and Langston University :)  Next time we test it will be a "verification test" - no big deal but it will involve one more person. 

Also...don't forget to send in your "Herd Code" to ADGA....Your herd code will come in that email with you first set of test results, pre printed on the form for next time and ADGA will need that to track your records to apply it to THEIR records LOL.  You can mail back the little slip they send you OR you can even email it to them!  SUPER easy to do! I emailed mine the second I got it from one place off to the next :)

So....big excitement and highlight of my day, milk test :)  Who knew tests could be so exciting I said!

Piggy Weigh In Part II

Okay, so it's been almost 6 weeks since our last weigh in day....this week I will have to get out there and FINALLY revamp the "piggy palace" as she is fast outgrowing the "baby box"...UGH! DREADING that part!  But, the time has come....

So....the numbers from last time can be seen here: Piggy Weigh In Day     She was pushing the 40lb mark at that point.

Today I got 33 inches long, 29 inches around, and this picture of her digging into a watermelon....

Sacrificing half an icey cold melon was the ONLY way to get her to stand still.....she buried her face in that and went to town while I measured :) (Well, she wiggled around a little, but still, it's better than fussing with her while she tries to taste my measuring tape!)

So, the math on those numbers brings us to a total of 69 pounds! Not bad - not great, but not bad.....it's hot, and NOTHING ever grows as fast in the heat as it does in the more temperate months....but still...she's about half way to where we want her. Since it's just James and I here, we are aiming for about 150lbs before she heads off to the processor. Or October 1st, whichever gets here first...I don't want to be fighting deer season and a million hunters to get her in there.

Not much longer till she heads to Camp Kenmore...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tackling the Jungle, Part II

This is what I started with Sunday....there's shed behind all that. no really, there is! Took me an hour and half, whacking through the overgrowth slowly, revealing t-posts, a roll of fencing, and some old feeders and shovels I haven't seen since spring, but I found it!

Well...I found PART of the shed anyways! Not all of it...oh no, that's gonna take a bit longer to get to! But, hey, I'll take what I can get :P It's too hot to get as much as I want done...wait...scratch that. There's too many WILD CRITTERS to get everything done! Stinging, biting, jumping, moving, rustling in the leaves, scaring the beejeebies outta me critters!

I stuck with it, hot or not, through the first buzz by a wasp....the frog who poked his head up and gave me a scare because my first thought when all I saw was his eyes was SNAKE....yeah, okay, I can hang in there...but when the little green lizard abandoned ship (his home on a tall weed) by jumping on my arm THAT WAS IT! I was done for a while! I cleaned up what I had, and called an end to the days work!

A girl can only handle so many surprises I tell you....I was never a fan of toys like Jack in the Boxes. Things should not just jump up outta no where and spook you like that! BLEH! UGH! Makes me shake off imaginary bugs as I think about it! Just YUCK!  I'm not gonna be too happy with the cold weather, but you know, once winter gets here at least most of the random wildlife will go away for a while...and I am already looking forward to that!

Goose Palace...or is it Goose Jail?

I'll let the geese be the judge - I intended for it to be a palace of sorts, but I am sure they think they are in jail. Until today, I had been locking them up in a tractor at night (for safety's sake) and letting them roam about during the day.  Which is all fine and dandy except for a few minor issues...

The geese have to be put up when company comes over - they don't attack people, but they DO make stupid choices. Like walking in front of tires - ON MOVING VEHICLES! And my all time favorite is how they flap up into truck beds and poop - A LOT! Yeah, no, can't be having that happen to my company.

Then, last night, they decided they wanted to lead a merry round of chase through the property instead of be put up.  Yeah, once again, NO I said! That's it, enough with the niceness, they had to go on lock down!

So up I got bright and early and off to Home Depot I headed - I had almost everything I needed EXCEPT a little bit of cheapy plastic fencing....

Part of a tank of gas in the lawn mower (had to clear the way since I am over due for a date with Murray), 15 t-posts later, 2 50 foot rolls of cheap plastic fencing, 98 out of 100 zip ties, an old table and slightly holey tarp, one of my old step in posts for electric fencing, and 2 bungee cords scrounged up from the depths of the shed and VOILA! Goose Lockdown Facility is complete!

Of course, in the midst of my morning of outdoorsy fun, up wanders and stranger....apparently, my moat only stops vehicular traffic, but bold morons on foot will wander past it...bless his heart, he was lost looking for the neighbors house....and he found me. In all my glory, sweaty, nasty, smelling rank and ripe, fighting with a t-post....bet that's the last time he braves a driveway like mine on foot to ask for directions! Come on people, there is a REASON for the moat! All I need is an alligator or 2.....

Anyways, geese all got a wing clipped this afternoon - and tossed out into their new jail, with their pool freshly filled and everything. So far, they haven't figured out their little lean to shelter thing, but they HAVE figured out where the gate is....and they have spent most of the day standing there and waiting for me to open it...yeah, NO I said! There they are and there they shall stay! The goats were glad to see them on lock down I think - I bet they were tired of being harassed by them, and I KNOW the horses were glad to have their bossy goose antics locked up...

Let's hope they stay put - I love my geese, but they have to do geese things in goose territory and leave the other critters and visitors alone!

Visitors at the Door....

Lately, I've had some oddball stuff pop up at the front door....I guess since I cleaned the windows the other day (the illusion of clean is always priceless to me) the locals feel the need to stop on by...

Apparently, we have "door frogs" and not tree frogs out here...this little fella likes to hang out at night...

And someone REALLY needs to explain the concept of "camo" to this moth....I don't think the neon orange is helping him hide at all, but I suppose taking up residence in the house is helping him...

I wonder what will pop up out there next - a girl can only take so many of these surprise visits you know...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tamale Fest 2013

At least once every few years I end up spending a week making tamales - oh yes, a WEEK! It's not a fast process....not particularly challenging either, but very tedious and time consuming.

This year, I had a pal with a freezer full of beefiness and I myself had some pork, and why not combine it and split things? So....

Sunday, I picked up 16lbs of mostly beef, I pulled out 17lbs worth of pork (and that was just sheer luck that the trimmings off of the last hog sent to the butcher were that much, nice equal amounts).

Monday, I set everything in a bath of baking soda and water in the fridge - first it helps to thaw the meat before you cook it (especially when my pork was a huge frozen brick of pork) and secondly it helps knock off the freezer burn....Monday night I pulled it out, rinsed it off, and made a bath of vinegar and water to aid in tenderizing things....

Tuesday, I boiled it all afternoon with spices and seasonings and what not.  Okay, that sounds more official than it is lol :) Every stock pot full of meat holds about 10lbs of meat, into each pot goes a handful of salt, a handful of oregano, 4 - 5 ancho chiles, 2 chopped onions, an entire head of chopped garlic, and a generous pinch of cumin. Once it was falling apart when I poked it with my spoon, into the fridge to rest a bit.....and cool off!

Wednesday morning, everything is drug back out and allowed to warm a tad (so I don't freeze my fingers off) then you gotta scrub up and dive it! All the meat needs to be picked apart and shredded into medium sized chunks...and I am VERY picky on my meat! I HATE WITH A PASSION to bite into the following things: gelatinous, cartilaginous, hard, boney, odd, unidentifiable, chew bits! Picky, I know. But come on now, who wants to get a bite of something they can't identify??? DON'T FORGET TO SAVE YOUR BROTH/STOCK!!!!

Oh yes....all that juicy brothy goodness from the stock pots...SAVE IT!!!! You are going to put some back into the meat, and SOME is going into the masa! Why buy beef or chicken stock for making your masa when you will have a pot (or 3) full of it??? Strain the chunks out (onions, garlic, pepper seeds, etc) and bottle that liquid gold up for later!

Once done, the 3 pots are now down to one BIG GIANT pot of meat shreds....add about 2 handfuls of chili powder, a touch more salt and cumin to taste if need be, and for a pot this big, about 4 cans of red enchilada sauce, and some of the stock off of the meat...personally, I have found mixing the mild half and half with the super spicy enchilada sauce is PERFECT!
Then, once it is all mixed up, put it into smaller pots - you are going to simmer it down a short while, and it's REALLY hard to get that canning pot to heat it up enough! It took me over an hour and a half to shred everything up and then I still had to do that part....let it simmer nice and slow for a while for the chili flavors to combine into the meat, then back in the fridge....because you will need a rest and the meat needs one too! It has to soak up all of the juices....

Now, it's Thursday and I am waiting on my masa flour and assistance to arrive....today I will be throwing together masa, wrapping up tamales, and getting them steamed....the steaming takes ages as well, but is crucial to cooking the masa so it's not squishy ucky...

So yes....there is a very good reason most people don't make tamales once a week LOL....I suppose you could do a much smaller batch, but then if you are going to drag out the big pots, and pans, and all....and get messy and dirty too (I always smell like a giant taco for 2 or 3 days at least)...then why not do a whole bunch at once? They freeze beautifully and taste even better!

My wayward son has returned...

Well, 2 beings have returned today :)

Mr Farmer is home from being gone for what feels like FOREVER for work! AND....look who popped up this afternoon outta no where!
Yes, hiding under the dirty old rabbit table/stand is the freaking potbelly pig! He walked off about a week or 2 ago (not that I was complaining) and VOILA! Like magic he popped back up outta nowhere today while I was out there working on stuff!

He must have smelled the "BBQ' - I'm not actually grilling, but I threw a TON of nasty stuff on the burn pile when I lit it last night....I'm sure to the pigs nose all he smelled was food cooking and not the funky fridge stuff that needed to be thrown out and set on fire....

I swear, if we get ONE morning that is around 70 degrees at like 6 am...he might just be sausage before it's all said and done this summer...otherwise his day waits until winter...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Culling again....

It's getting close to fall, close to when most other people will be breeding their goats for the first time this year, and not just myself, but many other breeders will be culling the herd. When it gets close to "breeding season" you start noticing all the flaws in your goats more so, mostly because you are looking to see what buck will compliment what doe and so on.

Well, I have decided I have one runty one that has to go - she's well built structurally, just tiny and a hard keeper to boot. I don't want anymore hard keepers that's number one. The fact that she just refuses to grow is number 2. I don't know what it is, maybe she is anorexic, but dammit, she just WILL NOT eat! She never wanted to finish a bottle as a baby, she never shows much interest in ANY food - just hangs out with the others, playing and goofing off while they chow down!

So, TC has been benched if you will....
She isn't gone yet - oh no - I have someone ALLEGEDLY placing a deposit on her and wanting to come in 2 weeks to get her....we will see. I never really believe it until I see it with stuff like that. But she is on her way out at least.

Also...I have 3 milkers that are good milkers, pretty decent BUT:  One has bad feet, the other has small teats, and the last one is just a rotten turd. IF they are not bred and come back open when I send off for bloodwork and pregnancy tests in another week or 2, then THEY are out too! I REALLY wanted to retain kids from them, as I know structurally and personality wise I get improvements in their kids with my bucks...BUT...the plan is all 3 MUST go eventually. If they come back open and not bred, then that means I must wait another 5 - 6 months before they kid...right now we are about 3 1/2 months out from kidding.  I can do 3 1/2 months...I dunno if I can do twice that much time. SO....we will see with them.

Needless to say, the "market" will have some decent goats on it soon - not super top of the line awesome, but not totally bad or sickly either...just kind of a pain in my butt and not right for me....

Cicada Killers? Killer Hornets?

Oh yes, I THINK that is what we have here! Now ...I'm no entomologist, but here's the deal....

Two summers ago, when we moved in, we killed ONE giant hornet looking thing in the house with wasp spray. ONE, that's it and I never saw any more ever again. The end right? WRONG!

Last summer, I never saw any of these things - I really was thinking that one big, HUGE dead bug (who was still in my window at that point) was a freak one time occurrence, I should have taken a picture of it there. Because it was not a one time thing and now I can't get a picture of a live one!

This summer, a few weeks ago, I noticed I had one circling the house every day at about noon. It would buzz on by, then disappear. I was a tad bit freaked out - this thing was HUGE! Like a killer bee the size of a hummingbird huge! BUT...I was willing to let it go since it seemed to circle and leave - I was on their flight path I figured, but in no danger right? WRONG!

Look at these things:  This article describes them and has some pictures....nasty things!  The other article I found adds a few more details that I think to be true - we have one that has started slamming into the windows of the house...I'm pretty sure he knows it's a window now and is trying to get to me and kill me not cicadas!

I had 1 attack me, dive bombing me, a few weeks ago, I saw one attack a goat last weekend...these things mean BUSINESS! The good news is, they live in the ground...I'm hoping the recent rain ha drowned a few of them at least, I'm tired of sharing my home with killer bugs!

My date with Murray...

Actually, it kinda sounds like a man, but it's just the mower :)

I like mowing - I really do. Except lately I have been getting attacked while I am on the damn thing! Apparently, the bugs here do NOT like the fact that I mow! I mean, look at the "lawn" - ankle deep in grasshoppers, wasps, and GIANT hornet things!
A little over 2 weeks ago now, I was dive bombed by a GIANT stinging thing! I almost ran into the damn house with the mower, while my husband watched no less! Honestly, I don't think he was paying any attention...but still. I was swinging at it with a towel, no hands on the wheel, not even thinking to break, and almost ran into the house!

So....2 weeks go by and it looks like this again:
Not good, not good at all! ANYTHING could be hiding out there! So back out I go, for my date with Murray...only this time I KNOW to watch for the giant hornet stinging things (which I have potentially identified and are another post yet to come).

I head on out, and when I near the same spot as the last attack I see them, TWO of them, waiting on me! I swerve around them, avoid them, and safely manage to finish the job! I actually waited until it was almost dark last Saturday to finish!

And the freaking GRASHOPPERS! THOSE damn things! I SWEAR, they all run towards the stuff I haven't mowed yet, slowly growing in numbers as I circle round closer, closer, and ever closer still to the middle then BAM! THEY HIT YOU! Actually, they hit ME! They ALL come flying out, jumping at me ambush style when I get to that last few patches that need to be mowed! I HATE the jumping bugs almost as much as I loathe the stinging bugs! Seriously, I could do without them....

Then, there's the small, innocent, STUPID frogs! I have no idea how many frogs I have killed, but it's not my fault I swear it! They just jump out in front of me as I mow! Frogs and field mice....I've killed a few these last couple months and I wasn't even trying - it was accidental frog slaughter I promise!

The sad part is, both times I have mowed lately and wanted to get "after pics" it has rained :( So, before I could even enjoy my manicured lawn for a few days it has already sprouted back up! Looks like this time, I may need to get out there again in one week and not my usual 2 weeks :(

Really, I think that is my most favorite part - how it looks when it's all done. Nice, even (mostly, I miss stuff), bright green and pretty....sure, riding the actual lawn mower is entertaining as well....it beats the heck outta pushing one that's for sure! I do use the little push mower to get up around the house and all. No weed eater for me - that's one piece of junk I can NOT conquer! So, the closest I am gonna get to weed eating is pushing the little lawn mower around stuff. It's not my fault I can't figure out how to work that stupid thing, but I just am incapable of running a weed eater.

Anyways, that's my dates with Murray - my lawn mower - he makes every other weekend entertaining thats for sure!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Conquering the Jungle - Part 1

I know, no one has to tell me, I let stuff get away from me at times. Take for example the Jungle right outside of the front door:
This little patch of my own personal hell started out with good intentions - and was actually useful for the purposes it was intended for, for a short while.  The very first year here it held a SMALL and barely successful "winter garden". I got ONE SMALL "crop" of turnip greens out of it. Then, being the bad gardener I am, I gave up on that. But there was already a bit of (weak) fencing in place. At that point it became a holding area for poultry soon bound on a voyage to Camp Kenmore. Turkeys, chickens, ducks - anything meant to live a short (but full life) was housed there until it was large enough to roam a bit, then allowed to sleep there and be out in the day time. Often times, I have a few friends who send me extra birds after their kids are done showing them. They would be brought home, placed in lock down right there, and then the next day taken off to camp....freezer camp....but still..

You can see the last of the fence still standing here:
I never intended for it to be "long term" as far as the fence goes - it was just cheap plastic stuff put up with the intent to keep rabbits (and that freaking armadillo!) out when I had my tiny garden there.  Being as it was just zip tied on u-posts, it sagged over time, then the rains came....and being less than vigilant, with an ever present meaning to clean it up but lacking the get up and go I needed, it grew over into the mess in the first picture.  And the farmer was sad :(

I knew last year it was going to be a pain to clean it up. I DOUBLE knew this year I had to get it out of there and looking good if only because I was going nuts looking at it! THEN I saw a little snake crawl into it and I had enough! I seriously was well over having a wild life sanctuary right by the front door! There's enough woods around this place - they need to stay in the damn woods I said! So I woke up yesterday not sure what I wanted to get done, until I walked outside and saw my own little piece of hell waiting on me....

The porch swing, relocated since that is where the hay now goes, was not relocated to a spot to swing in, but hurriedly tossed aside one day. Many a string from a bale of hay found it's way down there. Before I located a trash can for the hay strings, let's just say many a string found it's way ANYWHERE it wanted to go - BUT where it belonged (in the trash!). There was even the tarp, which once protected poultry from sun and rain, buried under all that green weedy bits! No seriously, look VERY closely in both pics above, and tell me: DO YOU see a TARP??? No, really? Well look...it was there:
Note all the dirt and weeds still stuck to it....I'm still shaking my head about it, I had almost forgotten that was there too!

So, yesterday afternoon, I tackled it SLOWLY - it's hot you know! I pulled all of the old fencing, dug out a MILLION hay strings, found a few toys left over by the previous owners (I SWEAR that wasn't my Spiderman  action figure in there!), raked out the hay which had fallen off of the porch, and mowed it down!

It took all afternoon, and a short little bit of effort this morning even, but, drum roll please...

IT IS DONE!!!!!!!!!!! I had 2 giant spiders come flying up at me - they got squished, a mouse tried to escape my pile of raked up hay - by flying out at me! But Snowball II got it and saved it for me:
And some small snake, no positive ID but I am fairly certain it was nothing major, got brave enough to slither out to see what was happening. I did threaten to introduce him to the sharp end of a shovel, and he headed back under the house!

So, with that all done, off I go to finish mowing. Trying to keep the place looking good this summer - I let it get away too many times last year and I am fairly determined not to allow it this year... It just looks so much nicer when it is all manicured and pretty!

Don't worry...I have a few more jungle spots to tackle up around the house before I feel like I am done....a few more spots where I am sure mother nature will send her minions to try my nerves. UGH! I can't stand bugs tot ouch me, I don't appreciate freaked out mice and snakes headed my way at faster than light speed, and I really don't like not being able to see in the jungle while I am watching for all that stuff!

So...off I go to complete my mowing. Stay tuned as always...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Easiest Apple Jelly EVER!

From those three things pictured (and a little spice) you can get the EASIEST cinnamon apple jelly ever, I SWEAR IT! (Spice is optional of course :) ) No fruit to mess around with peeling and coring and dicing and washing and squishing, etc....Just need a little juice and sugar and pectin :)

Okay - a note on the ingredients here. The juice is KEY! It can be frozen, it can be in a bottle ready to drink BUT - IT NEEDS TO BE 100% APPLE JUICE NO SUGAR ADDED JUST THE JUICE! I dunno if other juices work, I can't tell you - I just know in this recipe what does work. I have heard, but never tried, grape juice, pomegranate juice, and a host of other juices will work...maybe I will experiment sometime...but for now, let's stick with apple juice.

Go ahead and get your jars and lids prepped and all (wash, heat up the water bath, etc...) This goes together FAST so before you even drag out the sugar and juice, get those jars prepped! You will need about 5 pint jars OR twice as many half pints.

Gather together: 1 can (12 oz usually) of frozen 100% apple juice
                          1 box (1.75 oz) of pectin
                          1 4lb bag of sugar
                          cinnamon (1/4 tsp) and nutmeg (1/8 tsp) OPTIONAL

A note here as well - the pectin I use is always just plain jane original pectin - I don't use the no sugar/low sugar stuff and I can't give any help with them. Sorry, I'm not that good, I LOVE my sugar LOL :)

Take your apple juice and add water like the can says - I usually buy store brand/generic and mind almost always ends up making 48 oz of juice. If going with the bottled ready to drink juice, shoot for 48 oz...

Once your juice is juice again, add your pectin and mix it up, add spices if you are going that route ( I love them, makes it taste like pie in a jar haha!), then bring to a rolling boil.  At that point, add your sugar, mix it up, and bring back up to a rolling boil and hold there for a minute (I usually let mine boil for closer to 5 minutes, but that's just me - I forget how long it's been as I am stirring).....here's where it gets a tad bit tricky...Don't forget! You CAN, if you want to, add about 1/2 tablespoon of butter if you want to cut down on foam...I usually do and I add it when I add the sugar....

Some people can use various methods of testing (plate in the freezer, cold spoon, etc) to test to see if it is "setting" - while all of these things are peachy great and work....you gotta keep something in mind here...I am more confident in my jams when I test the temperature they have reached.  See, the sugar makes them kind of like candy. Sure, when making candy at home you have all sorts of nifty tests you can do (usually involving cold water). BUT you can also take a temp a things and be fairly sure you will get the right end product. Jelly and jam are the same way.

I always check that mine have reached a temperature of 220 - 225 degrees...usually they go to the 225* mark...because, like I said, I forget how long I have been there most times. You want this to get that hot so the jelly and pectin and all "act right" later when they cool down. Trust me, you will see :)

Now, let it rest just a bit off of the heat - go ahead and pull your sterile, clean jars out of the water (if you are like me and boil them in the canner) or dishwasher or oven (wherever you stash them) and have your jar tongs, funnel, lid lifter and ladle ready.  Take a moment to skim off the foam IF you want to....let's be honest, the foam isn't the prettiest thing to look at on the top of the jelly in the jar, but leaving it there won't hurt anything either! Since this is just for us, and not a gift, the foam stays where the foam is :P But if you want, skim it off and ladle everything into your clean jars, I usually leave about 1/4 inch head space, wipe the rims, slap those lids and rings on and process at a full rolling boil for 15 minutes (I think some people do half pints for 10 minutes, but I usually do both size jars when doing jams and jellies and I time UP to the biggest jar).

Take it out and wait for the blessed "PINGS"!!!!
See...before I put the lids on, there really wasn't any ugly old foam that much anyways :P

A note - this jelly sets up BEST once it is opened and refridgerated! It will look a bit loose in the jars after a day - don't worry! Once it gets nice and cool a day or 2 later it looks even thicker and once you go to use it and pop it in the fridge it is about the consistency of jell-o. Nice and thick :) See....

That glob is the last of it from the pot I cooked it in....yes, I licked the spoon when I was done LOL...But it stuck very well just at room temp even to my finger for the photo shoot!

So...easy peasy! AND CHEAP! I paid $2 for sugar, $1.18 for the juice, $1.99 for the pectin and I'm not splitting hairs on the spices....that's $5.17 for 5 pints of jelly....or $1.03 per jar! Home made, ingredients I can pronounce, so corn products (like high fructose corn syrup....hmmmm...just saying) and freaking DELICIOUS! Unless were are talking questionable tasting 99cent store jelly....you can NOT beat the savings there! YUMMY too!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Piggy Weigh in Day!!!!

Okay...not the best picture of her, I know...but let's just say the pig is coming along GREAT! She is SUPER active, a good healthy little eater, LOVES her quart of fresh goat milk at each meal (is a total pain in the butt until she gets it too!) and she is getting THICK! For real, she is one solid girl! I went out there this morning, armed with my measuring tape, to do her first weigh in....

I had wanted to weigh her once a month, and didn't get an actual weight on her when she arrived either (wasp stung me that day...I think I mentioned it...In a post titled "Meet Breakfast"

She couldn't have been more than 20 lbs and was in all honesty probably closer to about 10 or 15 pounds when she arrived.  She was maybe 4 - 6 weeks old...I'm betting closer to 4 weeks and TINY! I forget how little BIG pigs actually start out LOL. She was perfect though, and still is, she's just much bigger! They start so small, they grow SO fast, and they taste like bacon :)

So...anyways...out I headed with my soft measuring tape (like quilters and sewers use).

I know - you're like "WHAT???" How do inches convert to POUNDS???? But, they do....not perfectly, not 100% accurately, but VERY close! It is described pretty well, complete with a few pictures here at The Pig Site

You first measure from the base of the tail to right between the base of the ears - down the spine basically.  I got 26 inches (or there abouts...she was nose deep in her milk pan, so I was trying to work quick before she got done and was squirmy). She sure is Loooonnnngggg and has a nice loin on her!

THEN you must measure their "heart girth" - basically you measure just behind their front legs, around where their heart is inside of them...often times easier said then done...thankfully she was still sucking on her milk....I got 24 inches...which may be off a tad...but close enough, I just want a guess of how much she has gained right?

Okay...so NOW here comes the math part...grab your calculator (or cell phone or whatever does your math for you unless you are super bright and can do it in your head)....

________________________      ===    WEIGHT OF PIG


So, for me it was 24 x 24 x 26 = 14976 / 400 =37.44

 ALMOST FOURTY ONE POUNDS!!! I KNEW IT! I knew she was at least that much :)  It's been extra hot here lately = so she isn't eating as much or growing quite as fast as she could be, but overall I think she is doing good.

There's the porky update for the month .....And that is how you weigh a pig :)

Jalapenos and Onions...Mmmmm YUMMY!

So, seriously, like the NEXT DAY after I wrote about wanting to can something, I stopped at the feed store and was GIFTED a giant bag of jalapenos! 2 1/2 pounds of them! He just had an abundance from his garden, so the owner (Mr. Stubbs) let me have a big bag for myself :) I also ended up with 4 1/5 pounds of yellow squash I traded another lady for (she wanted milk, was low on cash, and it worked for me...but the squash is another post lol)

I came home and got them washed and sliced....

DON'T FORGET YOUR GLOVES FOR THIS STEP! No really - you will thank me for reminding you!

While you are working on the slicing and dicing...it's a good idea to get your jars ready. Some people run them through the dishwasher...I'm not running the dishwasher for a half a rack of jars...so I wash mine well, then plop them into the canning pot to boil while I work. LIDS TOO! Don't forget your lids and rings :) Of course, I set those simmering in a smaller pot - that way they are easier to fish out when I am ready for them.

(The water isn't really ucky - that's my poor lighting and photography at play).

Now that your jars are ready, and your jalapenos are ready, you will need a brine to pickle them! This part is easy peasy. Takes a few minutes, and just basic cooking skills.  Okay, here goes:

Pickled Jalapeno Brine
one whole onion, quartered and sliced
(leave them kind of on the big side...for fishing out of the jar and eating later :) )
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, diced chunky 
1 tbsp oil (any kind, it's just enough to saute the onions and garlic)
7 cups 5% vinegar (can be white, or ACV or a blend)
1 cup water
4 tsp pickling salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp ground cumin

Saute your onions and garlic (use just enough oil so they don't stick to the pan - but not too much! You don't want a bunch of oil in this!) - now, this part is up to you, but I like mine to be about medium cooked. Not really carmelized, but not hard...I like the flavor it adds to the brine and jalapenos, but you can even skip all the seasonings if you want.  
Add the rest of the ingredients - ALL of them - and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for one minute, just enough to get the flavors to start infusing together.

Okay - so now your brine is ready.  Let it cool just a bit, get your handy dandy jar funnel ready, pull your jars from their warm toast water bath (or oven, or dishwasher - however you keep them warm once sterile).  You are gonna start by packing them fairly full of jalapenos - not so tight you are squishing stuff in there, but tight enough....the peppers are gonna shrink up and wilt a bit when you add the hot brine!

Using your funnel, and a clean ladle, fill the jars about 2/3 full of brine - Now, I personally LIKE the bigger chunks of onions, so I make sure each jar gets a healthy dose of them :)  With this many jalapenos I start with about 5 pint jars....there will be peppers left over in your bowl! Now, when I get to the last jar, I go back to the first one, take a spoon, and kind of mash things down in there...adding more jalapenos to the top just about.  Repeat on down the line, then add more brine to each jar....repeat again....

With this batch I had 6 jars pretty well full of peppers and brine! You want about 1/4 inch of head space, wipe your rims clean, and place lids and rings on there just "finger tight". Then it's time to place in a boiling water bath for about 10 minutes, remove, let cool and wait for the "precious pings"!

***NOTE*** When making any brine, jelly, salsa, or high acid food be SURE to use a "non reactive" pot! Stainless steel, glass - NOT aluminum! Other wise the acid contents of the food will eat the metal off of the pot, deposit it in your food, and leave you with a ucky nasty flavor! Just saying....that's what I was always taught....

There they are...ready for their "water bath" :) Don't forget to take them out and allow them to rest undisturbed for about 24 hours, then check the lids to make sure everything sealed! Label those puppies...I mean peppers :) and get them put up!

Now we wait...as long as we can...but just a couple weeks really.  This allows them to "stew in their juices" as it were...once they have had time to set a bit, these will be AWESOME in fresh chevre, on omelets, on everything! I think we might make it one or 2 days more before we dive into a jar....I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In the Mood...For Canned Food.....

No, NOT spaghettio's! I'm thinking I want to start catching the veggies and fruits as they come on sale this summer and can some of them - jams, jellies, salsas, pickles...THAT kind of canned food!

I know, what about the garden??? Well...to date, the "garden" is 2 questionable may be a pumpkin, may be a squash plants....one is HUGE with lots of flowers, the other trails behind it in size and grandeur....neither do a real garden make. I warned you, gardening is just not my thing...maybe next season ok?

In the meantime, I am left with whatever comes on sale in the produce aisle....it's not so much about saving a ton of money...but about having healthier and better tasting options in my own pantry. With any luck, I will save some money too....not a ton, but enough to make it worth the effort...

So the question of the day is...what kind of jams and jellies and pickles do I want to make????

I'll think on it...and get back to you....

Pimp Juice - an update!

So, for those who are following along, earlier in the month we talked about breeding the goats, CIDRs and PG600 (aka "Pimp Juice").  Pimp Juice is the little miracle here I had mentioned - I had also mentioned that I would update on the frozen pimp juice.....

See, as you may recall, once you reconstitute PG600 you have to use it right away - that day - you aren't supposed to leave it out room temp OR lingering in the fridge for weeks and months....however....

You may also recall that there was rumor of being able to freeze it and thaw THEN use it....well.... IT WORKS!!!!!! Happy dance, happy dance IT WORKS!!!!!!!!!!

Oh yes, see my partner in crime this time - the one who found out that CIDRs alone do NOT work - well, I went to visit her yesterday and saw with my own eyes a doe who had been given the frozen and then thawed Pimp Juice - oh yes, she was in heat! Screaming for some lovin', tail flaggin', glad to see the buck HEAT! Estrus, breeding, ready to go in heat - all with frozen Pimp Juice!

So...update as promised, fozen pimp juice (PG 600 to be exact) DOES work! This is good to know, once again, as you may recall, the bottle is enough for almost 15 goats! But you don't always want to breed 15 goats at once, yet you can't just save it in the fridge....so what to do?? FREEZE THE PIMP JUICE!  Portion it out by dose, freeze it, and thaw when ready and BAM! She'll only want the buck with her pimp juice....so good to know :)

Guess next time I get a bottle I will be keeping it frozen in portions until I am ready to use them...makes perfect sense to me :) I'm a controlling mother I know...but we need a little order around here for things to work right...and frozen or fresh, "Pimp Juice" makes that happen!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Dirty Dozen...

That's them - I had a few in there I needed to wash off still, but there's our first dozen eggs from "starting over" - pretty neat ain't it? All of them are brown - I get one very light egg and another darker one each day.

Never knew that raising your own hens could be so freaking entertaining huh? Seriously, seeing eggs from my own yard again has been a true delight each day. I actually run over to feed the pig first - who is growing in a rapid fashion herself on her gallon of milk each day and pig feed - and then I go STRAIGHT to the hens to see what we have haha!

Meet the "Dirty Dozen" - first of many to come this year :)

Cotton Patch Geese - a New Chapter :)

OH YES! We are now the proud parents of a pair of RARE Cotton Patch Geese! You may read more about them here: Cotton Patch Geese  They are basically a breed native to the south, well adapted to our climate, and they LOVE to eat weeds! PERFECT! Also, a fairly docile breed that is good at parenting - PERFECT again! The best part in so many ways is that they are easily sexed just by looking! Sure, I have learned and conquered how to vent sex ducks and geese (it's pretty easy actually) - but if you are gonna be letting mama's hatch their own eggs it's SO much easier to be able to tell boys from girls by looking then it is to have to catch them up and sex them individually!  And did I mention how well behaved they are??? Perfect birds!

Tonight, for now, they have no names yet - still trying to decide - but here they are on lockdown close to the house:
Tomorrow or the next day they will be shuffled to the "goose hut" and allowed to acclimate to it.  Expect babies next spring - geese aren't like chickens, they don't lay an egg everyday all year long and especially not these geese!

Thanks to our friends at Nonesuch Farm - the Parker family has some really beautiful stock on beautiful property and just a very few left right now!

This is a heritage breed - not hatchery stock, heck I don't even know a hatchery that has them yet - and being rare we would like to source one more unrelated pair to bring in so babies can be mixed from hatches to make pairs for other farms. So far, they have settled down, and are pretty friendly. The whole ride home, when we would talk and laugh THEY would make noises and chatter back! Pretty cool birds right there!

I expected them to be freaked out and hissy - but nope, none of that. REALLY calm for geese! These little babies are actually a few months old now (geese grow FAST) but they are still really just that - BABIES! So sweet and the best part, though it is hard to see, the male (or GANDER to be correct) has BLUE EYES! Yup, like I said, in pictures, not easy to spot - but pinkish feet and bill with blue eyes - just so good looking!

True highlite of my day right here....the most perfect geese ever :) But why do I call this a new chapter? Well, because I made a promise to myself back on the first of January that the ONLY breeds of birds I would be bringing in from here on out would be heritage birds! I will admit, that has been hard to do! Ideal Hatchery is ALWAYS advertising specials and those little fluffy brand new babies sure are cute! But I have won the battle NOT to buy them so far and I will continue to fight :P Yup, sure, I have THREE none heritage hens FOR EGGS ONLY....I won't be breeding or hatching anything from them, they are production for the household and nothing more. But from now on I will only keep heritage stock bought from other breeders with fine stock - sure hatcheries like Metzer can have some pretty nice fowl themselves - but I want birds that are true to the standards, birds that need a little help getting the population built back up.

The other promise I made to myself was to stick to JUST ONE breed for every type of bird. I had to REALLY think about it and narrow it down to just one breed of goose - they say most small farms drown in craziness and flop because they have way too much going on. Sure I would like to have a million of them roaming the property - but I can't, I am only one person and that kind of time keeping on eye on everything would drive me nuts! So I narrowed it down and stuck with one breed I could work with to keep, improve (not that these 2 really need it  LOL) and have to offer each spring. I picked these for so many reasons - they basically feed themselves when allowed to free range, they SHOULD basically brood and hatch their own eggs, and all I need to do is keep an eye on them to stay healthy and safe from predators - total can do. Geese really are low maintenance fowl compared to other things like chickens....a good place to start when you are really trying to get something nice and unique going with your poultry!

Now, we wait for spring to get here! It's going to be a LONG hard wait LOL! But worth it...I can't wait to see her first hatch following her around the property! AND NAMES! These two need names....so many good ones...hmmm....what shall we call them.....

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Egg Production...we have arrived!

Oh yes...I'm gonna have to get pictures! I am proud of my girls! We are FINALLY up to TWO eggs a day! Now...that's kinda what I was planning on with 3 hens anyways, but I was excited. Every day for the last 5 days I have gotten 2 eggs - before that for a week I was getting one egg a day.

After months of a "dry spell" having to get eggs from other friends with hens, we are FINALLY able to make breakfast without leaving the farm! It's a NICE feeling to have eggs again!

If you have never had chickens...you just don't know what you are missing. No, seriously, they bring a certain joy to my day that no other bird can! They move about pecking and scratching, take off as a single unit to chase a bug, and the EGGS! Oh how we love our eggs here! It's so nice to have eggs again I said!

Just had to share...took less than a month and we are now at the "2 egg a day" mark...hmmm....wonder when I will get a 3 egg day????

Plus...look at this!

Notice the HUGE dent in the side of their hoop? Oh yes folks...the oak tree dropped a giant limb on them and tried to squish them last week! Like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz....the coop and hens were like the witch...the limb like the house....

It was bigger than it looks there - clearly, because it squashed in the side of their hoop! But you know what, even if the stuff I build is less than square and true, even if it is a little crooked and not perfect, that stuff is STURDY! It stood up to a limb that had to have weighed 200lbs of better! Just guessing, I would honestly say closer to 300 or 400 pounds worth of oak came crashing down and STILL my little hoop was standing and EVERY hen was fine! Oh yes...call me Bob the Builder...my stuff is strong even if it is ugly sometimes!

So, we have eggs again for real now AND the strongest little hoop coop ever! I tell you, I am blessed by living on a small farm every day when I get up!