Monday, September 1, 2014

Icelandic Goats

How do you feel about goats? I like them, although at this point in our lives I would never own them. In a recent email, Rikki's Carroll's Mooseletter, I learned about the plight of the Icelandic Goats. Did you know that this rare breed of goats has only about 800 goats left worldwide? Did you know that 360 of them reside on an Icelandic farm run by a woman named Johanna. She runs Háafell.

In 13 days, the government plans to auction off her farm and slaughter the goats. She and her family have been working to make the farm profitable for years but have come up against hurdle after hurdle of red tape (no raw goat milk allowed) that has stymied their source of revenue. They have been fighting to allow many of the different products that Icelandic goats can provide (milk, meat, cashmere) however time has officially run out.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker

I was perusing Mother Earth News one morning and read a review for Instant Pot. Have you heard of it? It is an electric pressure cooker. It is the only one on the market that does not use a Tephlon coated insert and instead has a stainless steel insert. Reading the review, I became intrigued. I own a pressure cooker, a stove top large one that I use for canning beans and stock. It is a pain in the butt to be honest. I have to closely monitor the pressure gauge so the idea of making beans or actually cooking in it has never interested me. Learning more about an electric pressure cooker, where like my crockpot I could set and walk away, I was intrigued. I began checking out the new model. Don't tell my husband but I decided to buy it as soon as I saw that it was a yogurt maker. This was prior to reading the reviews singing its praises. I ordered it from Amazon for $134 and tried not to wince at what I was spending on something I wasn't sure I would even use. (Did you read about my $94 chick? My recent spending was cramping my budget.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Tale of the Black Copper Maran

Golden Maran aka Brown Mama
When we first got chickens we got a mixed bunch. Then we tried some amazing eggs from Pete & Gerry - Maran eggs. The following year we decided to add a few to our flock and bought some of the Rare Maran breed from MyPetChicken. Of the four that we bought only one survived. Her eggs were amazing, as were the Welsummer chicken eggs. Still wanting to reproduce the eggs from Pete & Gerry we did some more research. From everything I can find, supposedly it does not matter the breed, only what you feed them. I think this may be true in theory, however I can tell you that the eggs from my Golden Maran are always creamier and a darker orange (not to mention tastier) than the Red Comets and most of the other eggs. Does that mean her diet is different? Maybe. Perhaps Marans seek out something that my other chickens don't. My Golden Maran is not the most dominant chicken in the flock so she isn't getting the best of the feed. I honestly don't know the answer. I do know that because she is a fantastic mama, she doesn't lay lots of eggs either, another good trait (the mama trait, not the lack of eggs one) we would like.  So we decided to add some Black Copper Marans to the flock. And it began.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blackberry Fruit Leather

Every year we pick blackberries. Some years we eat them all and some years we make jam. This year we put two gallons worth or berries through our tomato squeezer and decided to make jam and fruit leather (plus eat as much as possible while out there! I swear to you that one berry that looked a little passed ripe tasted just like a Starburst. It had been a while since I have eaten one of those but it brought back memories.).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bay Tree

One of the many things that I use in the kitchen is bay leaves. They are great in stock, soups, even macaroni and cheese (at least my recipe calls to add a bay leaf to the milk while you warm it). The one thing I never remember to pick up at the grocery store? Bay leaves.

Bay leaves are simple to harvest and use so I finally decided to bite the bullet and order one. An Internet search for organic bay trees provided many results but The Tasteful Garden's trees looked and sounded the best. Plus they would ship immediately. Price wise, they seemed to be in line with other retailers, although there were a few that were cheaper. I know the saying about judging a book but I found their site pleasing, straightforward and so I ordered the same day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Meet The Piglets

For those of you who read our recent goal update, you already know that we got two piglets.

We traveled about two hours to a small farm. Yes you read that correctly, two hours. Locally I was unable to find piglets that were less than $150 each, pasture raised AND fed an organic/non-GMO diet. I brought a large Rubbermaid tub that the farmer said should fit both piglets. We had the bin set up for chicks so the top had hardware cloth attached for ventilation.

We arrived to a drizzle and mud. We quickly realized that the piglets were not going to fit into the tub; the piglets were a little bit bigger than we (and the farmer) realized. We brought our tub back to the car with one piglet inside. After looking around, the farmer found an old dog crate that the sow had broken and tied the top and bottom together with twine. When I explained that I wouldn't be able to return it. She quickly said "not a problem, that thing is a POS anyway." While grateful to have something to transport our new piglets in, my stomach did a little flip.We tried to find a way to fit both the tub and the crate in. Not only was that not possible but it became clear that our tub was not going to hold the piglet in, when the piglet, sensing his herd getting farther away, leapt through the top. My fearless husband wrestled it back into the tub while we waited for the crate with piglet number two. After watching my husband, my former city boy husband manage to get the squirming and squealing piglet back in, my stomach bottomed out and all I could think was "Oh sh*t. I don't know if I can do this."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hooray for Duck Tape

Last year my squash crop was destroyed by squash beetles. It was highly disappointing as I worked at hand removing the bugs as the eggs (you can see them on the far right side of the picture). After fighting a losing battle for a month or so, I gave up. I pulled all the plants up, they were already dying and threw them away far from my garden compost pile.

I then came across this post by Mavis of One Hundred Dollars a Month regarding how to deal with the beetles. While I didn't find the article itself helpful. The comment section provided a fantastic solution: Duck Tape!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Reel Deal

I have always wanted a reel mower. My husband has always said no. Then one day, he took a day trip with his brother to New Jersey and I happened upon a tag sale (next door to my parent's house) selling a reel mower. Yep, I bought it. One of the best $5 investments ever!

As soon as I got it home, I buzzed off the kids section of the lawn, maybe about .10 acres. Not a whole lot but enough to see how it works. Yep, I still love it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Ample Harvest

How is your garden growing? Ours is looking good, especially with all the rain we have been getting. Every season I have the best intentions, I plan to can and save every last bit. Then life rolls on and we become overrun with tomatoes and cabbage and basil. I don't ever plant zucchini because so many people I know have a lot of extra. So what do you do with your extra?

Even should you have the best intentions, should you find yourself with extra do  you know what you would do with it? In the past, I would try to give it away. This year, I plan to give it to my local food bank. Through One Hundred Dollars a Month I read about Ample Harvest, a site that shows gardeners their local food banks. I called my local food bank and they do accept extra produce. So now, when I don't feel like eating or canning, I can help others in need. I am excited about having a little extra already. Next year we are going to implement a small space for feeding the needy and plant a little extra of everything to pass on.

 This article was shared on The Chicken Chick, The Prairie Homestead,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 Homesteading Update Three

June is here and we have been super busy. I am so excited about all the amazing progress.

Expand my weedless garden beds.
We did this Memorial Day Weekend and used four of the new beds to plant tomatoes and the fifth to add a second bed of cabbage. Sauerkraut here we come!

Grow corn for our chickens this winter.

Learn to forage and use forage items.

Get honey bees.

As previously stated, we purchased Mason bees. As soon as it was warm enough, we placed the cocoons into the house. I have not yet seen any activity so I have no idea whether they survived or not. I will continue to check on them.

Consider cold frames to extend our season.

Get at least two turkeys for holiday dinners.

A dozen Narragansett are currently in the incubator with a hatching date of June 23rd. The poults we were going to get ended up being a bust. It seems that everyone in my area is having trouble with turkey eggs hatching. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Get piglets.The piglets arrived! Well, we had to drive two hours to get pasture raised pigs with no hormones, no antibiotics, GMO-free feed and a Tamworth cross but don't they look yummy?

Add the following: rhubarb, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
All three blueberry plants have survived, despite dropping all their leaves and turning brown. The Sweetheart Blueberry even had two white flowers on it today. The raspberries are growing nicely. The strawberries have blossomed and have little green strawberries. The only unfortunate part is that the plants have grown so well that they are above the chicken wire and the chickens have been spending a lot of time picking at them. Time to pull up the wire and use some stakes and netting to keep them out.

As for Rhubarb, I am excited to announce that the plant from last spring has apparently survived! When my wonderful sister-in-laws came down and weeded the currant and aronia bushes, we found that last years rhubarb and horseradish were growing.

Plant another row of maple trees.

Plant pines along the thruway border.

Thirty Norway Spruce pines have been planed between us and the thruway. In a few years it will be an amazing border.

As always, we are doing more than our goals. We decided to add a small flock of meat birds this summer. We have eight Red Rangers and some Cornish crosses. I have read and heard a lot of mixed reviews about the ranger type bird. I really wanted a meat bird that could free range so we decided to try out a few of each.

Last weekend my supportive husband built a coop for them out of materials we had on hand: an old drop crib, some left over siding, left over hardware cloth and some metal roofing.

 How are your goals coming along?