Friday, June 23, 2017

End of week - quail, camping, berries, garlic scapes

I am exhausted and ready for bed but wanted to get some of this into my notes so I don't forget later on.  Because I will, otherwise.  I have both the memory and attention span of a rock.

  • Red Ranger hen had babies.  One of her eggs in the incubator hatched and I put the chick under her tonight.  I hope that she doesn't notice anything in the morning in spite of the fact that it's yellow and the other ones are black.  Here's hoping she mothers it and doesn't kill it.
  • I butchered two of the younger Red Ranger roosters this week. I'm sure Jamie Oliver thought he was doing a good thing when he showed the world how to make chicken nuggets at home but I'm pretty sure we're just going to end up gaining weight.  If you raise the chicken and make the nugget, does that make it health food?
  • The quail hatched yesterday - 35 peeps so far from 40 eggs.  We had friends over for dinner while they were hatching in the kitchen, so that was fun. They are so tiny they I was using beer caps for little waterers until they got interested in the quail waterer.

One day I will post a photo where my hand doesn't look fat.  Good Lord.

  • Moved the geese and ducks into the back coop area.  Didn't think I had that many waterfowl until they were all together in the same place. Umm.... yeah... that's a lot of birds. Wow.  I think I just solved the raccoon problem by increasing the noise level 10 fold.

  • Berries are in.  Currants are being picked and wild black raspberries (the tiny ones) are ripening all over the place.  We've been having both in salads and in pancakes.  There are still tons of wild strawberries but we are no longer eating them because the neighborhood cats have taken to peeing all over my berry patch.  Seriously.  It's depressing and awful.

Pre-goose relocation.
  • I have a ton of garlic scapes and don't know what to do with them.  People have suggested a garlic scape pesto.  They seem like they would be wonderful cooked somehow, steamed maybe. They are beautiful and remind me of asparagus both visually and texture-wise.  I bit into one and, yep, garlic.  I would love some ideas on what to do with these.
Fun personal stuff:
  • WE WENT CAMPING.  Took the camper to a State Park by our house for a test night.  Everything went perfectly and now we think we're ready for a bigger trip.   
  • Tips for taking a not yet two year old camping include:  Took the pac-n-play to contain him while we set up camp.  I bought a bag of little toys at the dollar store for him to play with when we got there (tiny dinosaurs, magnifying glass, bug net, etc.) - this was brilliant, cost under $10 and entertained him all day. Brought along a copy of Goodnight Gorilla.  I also made a hand-washing station with a water jug so we could wash hands right at the table, that was priceless.

Camper was very comfortable and more spacious than we thought it would be, even during the brief rainstorm.  We had the oldest camper at the park by a loooong shot.  Also the coolest looking one.

Next time I need to remember that the front bed is a twin but the back one is NOT - I need to find sheets to fit - maybe a double?

It's been a very busy and satisfying week.  Hope the next one is just as good. Yay summer!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Our Red Ranger hen has babies!

Congratulations to our Red Ranger hennie, who successfully hatched her first babies today!  When all of the other Red Rangers went to the butcher last year I kept her back just as an experiment.  I wanted to add her genes to the group to increase the size of the chickens we hatched.  She turned out to be a good layer of large, light brown speckled eggs.  Being a meat bird I never thought she'd go broody.

This is what's been greeting me for awhile when I lift the outside cover to gather eggs. Not a happy face.  When an egg broke under her I reached in to clean it up and received a peck so sincere it left a huge bruise. 

She's done an absolutely excellent job sitting. Today when I went to check on her I found this:


By this evening she had four healthy chicks under her.  A fifth had hatched but died.  I couldn't leave them in there main coop because the nesting boxes are several inches off of the ground so tonight the family was moved to the ramshackle A-frame overflow coop. If you ever have to move a new family by yourself, I did it by scooping up the hen (pecking and screaming her head off) and tucking her under my arm. Wear gloves and a jacket that pads your arms.  You will need it.  Then I gathered up the babies into a box making sure she could see them all the while cooing: "See?  Here's your babies. They're right here, you're fine, everybody's fine, blah, blah." It actually seemed to help.  She calmed down when she realized they were ok. 

The hillbilly maternity ward.  This coop was given to us for free 10 years ago and is falling apart but has been a godsend more times that I can count.  I candeled all of the remaining eggs in the nest and only three were near hatching. They're in the incubator and if they hatch I'll tuck the peeps underneath her while she sleeps. Waking up with extra babies would be a helluva surprise for anyone.  Good thing chickens can't count.

The chickens are in the downstairs. What's that thing upstairs? 


Why, hello!

  She's a cross between a Runner Duck mom and a Pekin dad, the little duckling who was raised by a chicken and once left out in the cold.  She has a beautiful nest and carefully pulls the feathers over the eggs to cover them when she goes out to eat.  

We seem to have a ton of broody birds around here every summer.  Most all of the females here have set a nest of one kind or another.   I swear it's the result of our birds being almost semi-feral.  I mean, they're fed and watered and housed but for the most part they are just left to do their own thing.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day: balloons, food and taxidermy

Happy belated Father's Day to all dads out there. If you're in the mood for a social justice Father's Day thought please click here. If not, feel free to continue on. But it's worth your time, promise.

This weekend my dad, sister and I took all three of the littles to the Thurston Classic hot air balloon race in Meadville PA.  It ended up being too windy for the balloons to launch but the littles were able to run around and watch a couple of the balloons inflate before we had to leave. 

This one was shaped like a crab.  Cutest picture ever.

We had reservations at a local bar for dinner. The Safari Bar in Meadville is a place we've been going to as a family for many years.  There are a couple hundred pieces of taxidermy from all over the world, all collected by the owner. As someone who can't successfully shoot a deer during deer season it commands some respect.  I'm assuming all of these animals were delicious.

The bear collection greets you at the door. Polar bears are DAMN BIG, people.

Yep, that's an elephant.  There's also a lion and zebra in that room.

My favorite room.  It's mostly members of the Cervidae family.  The elk were magnificent.

I think all of the little people had a good time and the older people did too.  Excellent gin and tonics, by the way.

This morning I cooked a fun breakfast for my husband,  It stormed all day so our plans of biking were a wash. Literally.

Bacon, tiny potatoes, asparagus and quail eggs.  Looked awesome but I think we were both hungry about a half hour later.

Oh, we also had a predator attack last night.  One of the chicklets from the Great Peep Hatch was missing from the chicken tractor this morning - all that was left was a pile of feathers.  There was also another bird with a small wound to the back of his head.  I put blu kote on it as a preventative but he's going to be fine.  I moved them into the old duck coop for safety today.  I am assuming we have yet another raccoon but should set up the game camera again to see what we're dealing with.  Damn raccoons are like the plague here. Of course the bird that was killed was: 1) a hen  and 2) a beautiful butterscotch color.  Like the color of an old-fashioned candy. We were going to keep her.

This week is going to see some poultry shuffling - the ducks and geese are being moved to the back pasture. I'm going to try to re-seed the garden pasture with pumpkins to try to salvage it.  Maybe a mixture of carving pumpkins - anything the kids don't decorate the geese and chickens will eat over the winter.  Garden plants are on clearance here already (not even a month after out last-frost date!) so if I can pick up cabbage for cheap I'll plant those for feed too.

There is a chicken mama expecting babies mid-week and quail eggs in the incubator due to hatch maybe Friday.  More is being planted in the garden, and being harvested.  I'll also talk about the berries that are starting to come in - currants and wild black raspberries!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bee swarms, fishing & freezing greens

Otherwise known as "getting groceries the hard way". 

It's been hot as blazes here but a really fun week nonetheless.  My dad called me the other day and asked if I could give him a hand with a swarm call.  We've been doing bees for... wow... 10 years now and these are always fun because you never know what you're going to find or how the evening is going to go.  This swarm was up in the crook of a branch about 15 feet off the ground and catching them was going to require a ladder and possibly cutting a branch.  I was eager to go because truth be told I've gotten a bit gun-shy around bees since I was attacked by a really aggressive hive a couple of summers ago (the only aggressive bees we've ever had the misfortune of housing).  So I wanted to go but was wary.  I swell up very badly when stung, to the point where my skin sometimes peels. The conversation that took place when we got to the swarm did not help and went something like this:

Dad: So what I need you to do is stand here and catch this branch when I cut it so it falls straight down.
Me:  You mean that branch with all of the bees on it? You want to drop it on my head?
Dad: No, I want you to catch it as it falls.
Me. (look, sigh.... shrug) alright.

Yeah, I didn't catch it.  We missed. But it worked out ok anyway.  

The bees are the dark lump in the center of the branch.

Here they are close up.  It wasn't a large swarm.  After a bit more branch cutting, running away (me) and waiting they were able to be shaken into the nuc box to take home.  The bees were incredibly gentle and patient with us the whole time.

I don't know if you can see in the picture but the worker bees along the edge there have their butts in the air and are fanning their wings - a sign that the queen bee is in the box.  They are now set up in a hive box the apiary.

Last night we went fishing at my favorite river spot. The water was low with the heat and warm as bathwater.  It was a really lovely evening.  

This time we had really good luck.  Three catfish on, a couple of small crappie and a rock bass.

That's what I'm talking about.  Two really nice catfish fillets that my husband is going to put on the grill tonight.

Lastly, because it's so dang hot, pulled all of the remaining spinach, orach, and tatsoi from the garden along with some of the broccoli raab.  It would have most likely bolted this week with the heat and I wanted to try freezing it.

Washed and chopped, it was blanched in simmering water for 60 seconds.  It will be exciting to have greens during the winter when the local store produce is so bad.

Well, there you have it.  Fish, honey (hopefully) and greens. All local, fresh things to be grateful for.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Morning on the Britains Farm

It's going to be a very hot week here - mid to high 90s with rain from here on out.  We badly need the rain but I could do without the heat.  It was already unreasonable after breakfast so I made sure everyone had ample food, water and shade then came back inside.  Possibly at that point I played with toys.

Shepherds discussed the upcoming sheep dog trials.

The ducks and geese were fed along with the lone chicken.

The bees are doing well.

Some of the cows were milked.  The lady in white is actually a laundress, but don't tell her.

Others grazed.  The old cow bell was from my grandparent's farm.

The pigs had breakfast.  Bonus rural street cred to anyone who can tell me what the object behind them is. Hint: it's pig related.  Second hint: I very much doubt anyone uses these anymore.

Mrs. Patmore walked the dogs.

I love these old farm toys. They are made of lead and very tiny.  Most of them are Britains or JohillCo.  Some of them are unmarked.  They've mostly come from Ebay and second-hand shops and are well-worn and played with.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Bicycle ride at the lake, salad days & incubation notes


We didn't go camping yesterday due to a hitch with the hitch so we took our first bicycle ride as a family, at a nearby lake that has a wonderful paved bike path.  It will be nice to have an active hobby for all of us to enjoy outside.  Riding will take some getting used to.  My only time on a bike within the last 10 years was on a beach vacation - a horsefly the size of a pony landed on my arm and I freaked out and wrecked the bike flailing at it.  So it's been a bit nerve-wracking to learn to be riding again. 

We got a tow behind cart for the little guy.  We thought he'd be super excited about riding but he was pretty indifferent to the whole activity and mostly concerned with his little bag of goldfish crackers and sharing his new word for bicycle: "try-cool".

He did enjoy pushing it around the parking lot. 

A beautiful evening at the lake.

Perfect for wading.

We had really nice salads for lunch today.  From the yard: lettuce, eggs, asparagus, wild strawberries.  Also hard salami and parmesan. 

Notes for my records:
  • I put 40 Quail eggs into incubator on 6/5 so I need to put them in lockdown 6/20 with a possible hatch date of 6/23. One of the quail laid an all blue egg yesterday??
  • The broody red ranger hen has been sitting faithfully on 12 eggs since 5/31.  Still need to move her to a private coop.  Possible hatch date of 6/21. One egg broke under her early on, cleaned up as soon as I caught it.  

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Broad beans in bloom

Hazel squatted on his haunches and stared at the orderly forest of small, glaucous trees with their columns of black-and-white bloom. He had never seen anything like this. Wheat and barley he knew, and once he had been in a field of turnips. But this was entirely different from any of those and seemed, somehow, attractive, wholesome, propitious. True, rabbits could not eat these plants: he could smell that. But they could lie safely among them for as long as they liked, and they could move through them easily and unseen.  - Watership Down

Having never grown or even seen these plants before, I have been feeling very much like Hazel and Pipkin and Bigwig as I kneel in the garden this week. Tomatoes and sunflowers I knew, but this is something entirely different. How nice to have that experience without leaving my yard.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Rainy weekend, eating our greens

It's rained quite a bit here over the last couple of days. My father brought his tractor over with the tiller attachment and took care of my garden, and I was able to get everything in before the rains started so they were actually a blessing.

Standing to the porch, watching it pour.

We've been eating very well from the spring side of the garden, mostly enjoying cooked greens with shallots, garlic and yes, a tiny bit of bacon.  Here's what we've been cooking:

Tatsoi.  This didn't germinate well and there are just a handful of plants.

Swiss chard.  Love this stuff.

Orach.  First time growing it and will probably plant it again next year because it is an easy keeper and the colors are amazing.

Broccoli Raab.  Another new plant this year and we love it.  Absolutely grow again.

Spinach, always a hit.

This is pretty much the dish I've been making in various forms.  Greens, shallot, garlic and paprika cooked with a bit of bacon.  Mixed with rice and either shrimp or chicken.

After the rain finally stopped we were able to get out for a Sunday drive to check out a couple of State Park campsites near us.   We're really blessed to live an area with so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.  It will be interesting to see how our first camping trip with the little guy goes.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Artifact hunting, rum cake & learning to drive

Yesterday was my dad's birthday and we spent most of the day together. One of the things we've always enjoyed doing together as a family is artifact hunting.  It's done simply by walking the rows of plowed fields after they've been washed by rain and being observant as to what's around your feet.  It's meditative, nice to be outdoors and a nice time to catch up with one another.  You can spend hours covering an entire field and find nothing at all or you can have a lucky day.  One of our favorite fields to hunt yielded three pieces on his birthday including this absolute beauty.  It's very humbling to pick something handmade up from the ground and know that you are the first human to touch it since the last person dropped it, literally thousands of years ago.

We had a great dinner together and I baked the rum cake my mother always used to make.  It's this recipe by Bacardi. My mom got it from a pamphlet published in the 80's when my dad worked at a liquor store and it's a family favorite.  Sprinkles optional.

One of us nearly had a breakdown when told that we had to wait for Papa before we could eat the cake.

After dinner we hitched up the camper and had driving lessons in the big parking lot of an abandoned grocery store.  My husband and I are learning to tow and park the camper.  The towing (forward) is the easy part.  The backing up is ok.  The backing up AND parking is a disaster for me.  I just cannot wrap my head around which way to turn the steering wheel and how that makes the back of the camper move.  But we'll get there.  Thankfully I've noticed that a lot of the parks we want to visit have pull through sites designed for MUCH bigger campers than ours so hopefully we wont have to be TOO accurate.  We'd like to start camping as early as next week.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Container gardening

The tiller is still broken so I haven't been able to get into the second side of the garden yet. It doesn't matter anyway because it has absolutely poured here for the last week and the ground is too soggy to till like this.

So I've been planting some containers in the meantime.

These are some of the alpine strawberries grown from seed.  I still have another two dozen to plant.

Rosemary, thyme, oregano, strawberries and basil (not germinated yet). This is right by the door so I can pop out if I need something while cooking.

Some sedum in an iron pot.  This is from a couple of years ago but it's looking great. It's perched on a stump which is covered with wild strawberries - already tiny berries coming!

Here's the front porch.  I planted a bunch of little dahlias here and I hope that by the time the pansies die down the dahlias have filled out. 

Closer look.

Here's a little fern planted in the porch basket.

So, now all that is left to plant is about.... wow... three more flats of plants!