Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hay Feeder

Since we did hay this summer with the neighbours, we will be using a lot more square bales. We used to buy big round bales, and we probably will still get a few this year, that we'd just push out into the pasture around the barn. The critters love to eat the centre out of the bales, then spread the rest around and lay on it. We used a lot more hay than necessary, because they wouldn't eat it afterward. So the boys and I set out to build a hay feeder. Something to hold the hay, let everybody eat, but not lie in it, poop on it, and waste it.

We picked a spot just far enough away from the barn to make sure all the animals could walk around safely and laid out the logs- leftovers from a couple of other construction projects.

#2 has become quite the expert at notching logs. If/when we run out of oil, I am going to miss my chainsaw most.

Once the logs were in, we laid them on top of each other and nailed them together with spikes. Then we notched and added a second row.

It's hard to see in the pic, but the ends have a three log high opening, to allow the goats to stick their heads in to grab feed. It had to be a good sized hole, because Nanner and Oscar both have impressive horns. Hopefully it's not so big that Mama (dehorned when we bought her) can climb inside. Then there are another two rows all the way around. I should have taken another pic when we tested it, with the critters munching away. It looks like it is going to work out well. My only fear is that they might fight- the horses tend to chase everyone else off so they can have a hay pile to themselves. I think it's big enough that they'll stay on their own side, but time will tell.  We may need to build a second one.  It is big enough that we could drop a round bale inside it, if we ever get one of those forks for the tractor.

For now, since we haven't had any snow that has stuck yet, we're still dropping square bales out around the pasture. Spreading fertilizer where needed (poop), without adding to the muddy, sloshy mess around the barn area.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Turkeys Versus Chickens

Graphic images will follow.

I love my turkeys.  They have been thoroughly entertaining all summer long. 
#3 & #4 moving the turkeys from the brooder to the turkey pen.
It was frustrating (and expensive) sharing them with the wild life.

The rest have grown up big and strong and healthy.  They've worked through the fall, clearing and fertilizing the garden.  It's a little sad that there are only 6 left now.  But they taste divine!

The butchering continues, with the hens averaging 16-17 pounds, and the toms all at just over 19 pounds.

Dad came over and showed me a couple of new tricks.  How to remove the neck- just slice around the meat and then twist until the bone snaps, and how to shrink the legs.  To make the bird more compact, with the bird on it's back, lift the legs toward the chest, until they're stuck out straight, and then push down.  You can hear something pop.  Then push the legs back down against the body.  They stay there.  It takes a lot less room in the freezer and in the roasting pot!

I solved the storage problem with clear recycling bags.  They're a little bigger than necessary, and the plastic is thin, so I'm doubling them.  Be careful though- some of them come 'scented'.  Ewww.  

I butchered the first rooster the other day.  They are not ready yet.  Only 4.3 pounds.  Isn't he tiny, by comparison?  So I have about a dozen little roosters who may be granted a reprieve until spring.  I'm hoping they'll gain enough in the next few weeks to make it worthwhile to butcher them this year, but it's unlikely they'll double their weight before it's time to lock them up for winter.  The coop isn't really big enough for all of them to get along peacefully.  I may have to proceed to keep them from killing each other.

We lost another turkey to the wild life last week.  I think, under the circumstances, that we're going to butcher all of them this year, rather than keeping three to breed.  It would be a total piss off if they made it through the winter, just to have the wild life snatch them in the spring before they hatch any eggs.  Which takes us a step back in the sustainability efforts.  I bought turkeys who could breed naturally, so I could stop buying turkeys.  I'm going to have to net the top of the turkey pen before I try it though.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bake Sale

I live under a rock.  I've been reading Another Year Without Groceries (thanks PP), and she talks about missing Sushi when they went restaurant free for a year.  I've been reading and hearing about these wonderful Thai, Indian, and other 'cultural' restaurants and such.  We don't eat any of that stuff either.  I, personally, am delighted to have just figured out biscuits.

It's pretty funny, actually.  Americans talk about them all the time.  Like they're some kind of a staple, served with every meal.  There's a country song we hear all the time, "chicken and Biscuits".  I've read recipes for fruit turnovers and such that started with "mix up your Busquick".  I'm generally not looking for recipes that start with "use a cake mix", "one package of ...", "mix 2 cans of this with three cans of that..."  So I just skipped over them.  I wasn't that interested in finding out what Bisquick was.  I had never had a 'biscuit'.

Not that they haven't creeped over the border.  Tim Horton's sells them.  They just never looked that appetizing to me.  I never tried one.

So one day, I'm searching the net for a recipe for pull apart cinnamon buns, and these biscuit recipes kept coming up in my search.  A lot of them were the 'start with biscuick' type.  I kept closing page after page, and getting annoyed.  Until, I found this make a big batch of dough recipe, and keep it for up to 6 weeks.  I can get on board with that.

So I go reload some of the cinnamon recipes, find a couple that should work.  Then I'm thinking, do I really want to eat that many cinnamon buns?  Even over a 6 week period?  I started searching for other stuff to do with biscuit mix.  Unbelievable!  This stuff can be used for fruit turnovers, sloppy joes, garlic buns,  pigs in a blanket, meat pies...  there are tons of recipes that start with it.  That's pretty cool.

I mixed up a big batch to try it out with the pull apart cinnamon buns.  Something is wrong.  It's just lumpy flour.  You don't seriously eat that, do you?  I went back to check the recipe.  I must have missed something.  Nope.  Everything's there.  And then I notice the line, "Use as you would a baking mix."  Ok.  How would you use a baking mix?

I search some more, find a couple of other 'mix' recipes.  Oh.  Add milk.  That appears to be the key.  It appears to work pretty well with 2.5 cups of the mix to 1 cup of milk.

Cinnamon buns were great.  No pics.  I've made garlic buns with it since then, too.

#2 is doing a bake sale at school today with his geography class, to help pay for a trip to Science North in November.  Yesterday I tried the fruit turnovers.  I'm probably doing it wrong, but this stuff is fun to play with, quick and easy.

Hopefully, they'll be a hit at school.

So that's me, connoisseur of foreign foods.  ROTFLMAO.

If not, there's also pie...

Pie crust recipe, from an old cookbook of my mother's... Red Rose, maybe?
5.5 Cups flour
1 pound of lard
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 egg
Cut the lard into the flour.  Mix everything else in a measuring cup.  Add enough water to bring it up to 1 cup.  Mix with flour.  Makes a couple dozen or so pie crusts, depending on how thick you roll them out.

I roll mine out on waxed paper.  Pick up the paper, turn it over onto a pie shell, and peel the paper off.

I made these for the bake sale.  Two more for us, and one for my parents.

Pumpkin Pie
2 Cups sugar
about 2 Tbsp molasses ( I don't measure it cause it sticks to everything)
1.5 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp cloves
.5 tsp all spice
.5 tsp nutmeg
.5 tsp ginger
.5 tsp salt
2 eggs
1.5 Cups pumpkin puree
drizzle of milk (my pumpkin tends to be a bit runny.  add more milk if you're using thick pumpkin)

Mix it all up in a bowl.  Pour into unbaked pie shells.  Bake @ 450°F 15 minutes.  Reduce to 350°F 40 minutes.

Hopefully he makes enough money to cover the cost of the trip.

Meatless Mondays versus Raising Meat

I was up at some ridiculous hour the other  morning, and decided to go look up some videos on youtube (because we have crappy satellite internet with a 200MB/day cap, except from 2am to 7am.  If you want to do anything fun online- games, videos, music, etc- you have to get up in the middle of the night around here).  Anyway, I came across this documentary, Meat the Truth.  I don't know how to imbed videos, but hopefully the link will get you started.  If not, just search youtube.

Again, not a lot of new to me info, but still thought provoking, and worth watching.  As a general rule, when folks start talking about vegetarian or vegan diets, I just do the smile and nod.  Whatever.

We have a running joke around here, that we are raising carnivores, except for #2, who we like to call 'the rabbit'.  When #1 and #2 were little they'd each eat half their supper, then sit and whine.  You could literally switch plates between them, and they'd both be happy.  The Carnivore and The Rabbit.  Times have changed, and I no longer have to pull teeth to get #1 to eat vegetation, or #2 to eat meat, but their preferences are definitely still obvious.

So I'm watching the movie, and I get it.  I get the whole 'vote with your fork' concept.  I understand the issues with 'factory farms'.  But that's not my life.  Not even close.

And then, "You can't call yourself an environmentalist if you eat meat".

I am insulted.  I am annoyed.  I am really pissed off.

It's like those carbon foot print calculators that you can find online.  No consideration for heating your home with deadfall versus live trees versus oil.  No consideration for not even owning an air conditioner.  No consideration for growing your own food.

I have a big family, I have a big car, I have a huge carbon footprint.  End of story.  No consideration for the attitudes I instill in my children.  No consideration for at least 95% of their needs (clothes, toys, furniture) coming second hand.  No consideration for my car sitting in the driveway constantly for all but 1 or 2 days a month.

So, yeah, throw this at me too.  Why not.  I eat meat.  I am not an environmentalist.

I raise meat.  Not in any way remotely similar to factory farming.  I live in an inhospitable environment for growing my own food, and yet I garden.  Most of my summer is spent in the garden, for very little return.  Raising meat is much more natural in my environment than growing tomatoes.  My animals will eat the grass, the weeds, and the bugs.  I will not.  And not one of my critters drinks any where near as much water as 'they' say is required.  I have no manure overflow issues.  We call that stuff fertilizer.  The cows even walk around and spread it for us.

By 'their' theories I should give up on the chickens and the turkeys, whom I currently have to buy grain for, and eat strictly home raised, grass fed beef.  But I digress...

I do buy a bit of meat from the grocery store.  I don't ask where it came from.  I don't want to know.  Because in the back of my head, I already know.  But it's very little, compared to the whole of our diets, that it's probably doing more harm to me than to the planet.

So what if I stopped.  What if I just stopped buying grocery store meat cold turkey.  What if we ate only what we raise and hunt.   I could be a better environmentalist.

But I'm still insulted.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

He Has A Job!

First interview.  How soon can you start?  He came home for his steel toed boots, safety vest and hard hat, and went to work.

Yesterday and today he ran the excavator and rock crusher at one of the mines.   Tomorrow he's working in a different mine loading dump trucks. 

The company does a variety of stuff, from road work, to septic systems, to logging.  He's on a two week trial, to prove that he can drive and adapt to new equipment, and has a good work ethic.  If all goes well, he'll be on 'full time' and  gets a raise that should make it comparable to trucking.

However...  No health plan.  At all.  Ever.  The company does not pay overtime.  They work from contract to contract, so when there's lots of work, he could be working 14 hour days, 7 days a week.  They pay up to 110 hours every two weeks, and then 'bank' the rest of his hours until it's slow.  Then he could be off for days or weeks, or maybe even months, but he'd get paid his 'banked' hours.  Confused?  Me too.  I'm not sure if that's even legal.

However...  If all goes well, the company will file with the government on his behalf, and he will be licensed to operate all of that fancy equipment in the future.  Which could lead to a better job down the road.  He'll be home almost every night.  Occasionally he might have to take equipment a couple of hours away, and the company finds it cheaper to pay for the workers to stay in motels, rather than drive the equipment back and forth every day.  But mostly, he'll be home EVERY night.

However...  I am not used to putting up with him that much, lol!  I love him, I do, but...

I have been a 'single parent' for the past 13 years.  Sometimes he'd be home and tell the kids to do something, or stop doing something, or put something somewhere...  and they just look at me...  cause you know, he's doing it wrong.  He doesn't know the rules.

I'm used to having the bed to myself.  Sure, he'd be home for a few days here and there, and I'd put up with being cramped and kinked, and not being able to get comfy to watch tv, but then he'd be gone again.  The dogs would walk into my room (yeah, my room- it hasn't been 'our' room in years...) look at him on the bed, and go sleep with the kids.  When he's not home, it's me and the pups.

I'm used to having my car to myself.  Not a big deal, I don't go out much anyway.  So when he said he was taking the car this morning, no big deal.  Except I need to go to the feed store.  And it's raining.  So now I have to take the truck and tarp the feed up.  I'll have to learn to plan better in the future.

I'm not used to cooking every day.  When the Bigs are at cadets, the Littles and I eat zoodles or hot dogs or hamburger helper.  That's not going to fly when he comes home for supper.  I also love leftovers.  Because I hate cooking, and I'm lazy.  I can stretch a pot of stew, a nice chicken or a roast into 3-5 days.  He hates leftovers.  He hates eating the same thing two days in a row.

I'm used to having my tea every morning in front of my computer with my online friends.  I make a pot of tea in the coffee pot and drink it all day long.  He seems to think the coffee pot should be for coffee.  Ewww.  And then he thinks I should sit there with him until he leaves for work.  Which is ok when he's only home for a day or two, but when he's home for three or four days, I have run out of things to talk about.  EVERY day?  What are we going to talk about EVERY day??


No more getting ready for the tax man.  No more sorting through 50 billion individual receipts, categorizing, adding them up.  No more accountant.  No more GST rebates.  No more tax bill at the end of the year.  How cool would that be?

I could plan stuff.  People could come to visit, and he'd actually make an appearance at some point.  We could go to dances and community events.  We could accept invitations.  People could say, 'hey, do you want to come over on Saturday?', and I could say, 'yes, my husband will be in the country!'

He could do school stuff.  He could meet teachers, and pick kids up after cadets.  He could be there for sports events, and music festivals.  He could be a part of their lives.

He could be home when the car breaks down, the cows escape, and the basement floods!  Not that any of that kind of stuff happens often, but it ALWAYS happens when he's not around.

Yup, he has a job!  We could get used to this!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rose Hips

If you've had a frost or two, it's time to get out and start gathering rose hips!  There's some great info here about rose hips, and their uses.

Last year I picked about 4 or 5 cups of rose hips and made rose hip syrop.   Sweet and tangy!  Great on pancakes!  It's high in vitamin C, full of antioxidants, and has it's own natural anti-inflamatory properties.  And free!  Gotta love free.

Be careful before you raid the neighbour's, or the city garden's rose bushes though.  Who knows what kind of chemicals they may be sprayed with?  Better ask first.

I get my rose hips right here in my own backyard.  Wild roses bloom all summer long in the bush, so I try to make a mental note of where there are big bunches of them.  Then I head out in the fall and pick off the rose hips.

So far this year I've only got a half a jar picked.  But soon I will have enough for another batch of syrop.

 Rose Hip Syrop

4 cups rose hips
2 cups water
1 cup sugar

Wash rose hips. Remove stems. Boil with water for 20 minutes in a covered saucepan. Strain juice into pot. Add sugar. Stir well. Boil five minutes.

More rose hip recipes here!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Career Change

So how long will it last?  Well, it appears that we are about to find out.  I posted about my Fall Food Storage just the other day.  And then Husband lost his job.

Truck is too old, breaks down too often, unreliable.  That's their reasoning.  He's had to have 2 loads repowered due to breakdowns in the past 4 years.  They've been pushing him to run illegal from the beginning.  Getting our truck paid off reduced a lot of pressure last year.  No more payments, more profit, more time off, and the freedom to say take this load and shove it.

So they were pushing him to buy a new truck.  Because his is soooo  old.  It's an '03, and it hasn't even had any major repairs yet- no engine rebuild, no transmission.  It spends less time in the shop now than it did when it was new, getting the bugs worked out.  They wanted him to buy a new truck so he'd be back in debt, and mre 'agreeable' to those 'iffy' loads. 

We refused.

They fired him.

Isn't that a fine 'how do you do?'

Things are going to be a little tight around here for awhile.  I'm sure he'll be working again before long, but there may be rate changes, along with the waiting period for that first paycheck.  And bye bye health insurance.

So for the moment, no shopping.  Emergency items only.

Need to get the rest of the turkeys and the chickens in the freezer.  That'll reduce the feed bill.  A bull hanging in the garage will reduce our feed bill, too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Food Storage

 We have a large cold room in the basement, built in a corner on two outside walls, insulated from the rest of the house.  We have two large chest freezers, both outside, in unheated areas, where I can unplug them through the winter.  I borrowed a third chest freezer from my dad this year- turkeys take a lot of freezer space.  That one is in the house.  We're an hour from the city, everything is triple the price in town, we're prone to getting snowed in, and I am a hermit.

Stockpiling food is a way of life.  It's preserving the bounty of the harvest from the garden, from the woods, from the hunting season.  It's raising and butchering our own meat.  It's investing in food at low prices to save money when the prices are higher.  It's trying to live sustainably in an inhospitable growing area.  It's the convenience of having everything I need on hand, being able to cook what I want, and not having to run to the store.  It's the security in knowing if I get snowed in for a week, or a month, that it doesn't really matter.

From the garden, I freeze most veggies.  I do not have a pressure canner, so freezing and pickling is the way to go.  When I run out of home grown I buy about a months worth of frozen veggies at a time.

I have one large cupboard in the kitchen for dry goods.  I buy 3 large bags of great northern beans, and usually two large bags of some other varieties at a time, when their space is low.  I buy about 8 bags of assorted pasta when it's on sale.  I buy enough yeast at the bulk food store to fill two quart mason jars.  Usually a mason jar each of chocolate chips and raisins.  I keep three boxes of baking soda, three boxes of corn starch, 6 bags of sugar on hand.

I keep a magnetic pad on the fridge and add anything that's getting low (there's only one left in the basement) to the list, so I can start looking for sales before I actually run out of anything.

The freezers replenish quickly with a good hunting/fishing season, when we butcher our own chickens, turkeys, rabbits, or a pig, find a little fresh roadkill, and someday I'm hoping to butcher my own cow. 

Since my visits to the city are much fewer and farther between these days- the Bigs have switched from Sea Cadets to Air Cadets in the same town as their highschool- it's even more important to make sure we are well stocked here at home.
I started taking inventory in the cold room on October 13th.  There are a few things here that I might have gotten a little overboard with on sales, like 15 bottles of bbq sauce, 12 bottles of salad dressing, and 45 jars and cans of pasta sauce.  Some things are a little low- only 3 cans of mushrooms, 2 jars of mayo, and 6 cream of mushroom soup.  Everything else is looking pretty good, right around the stock that I like to keep.  I try to keep track of how much we use between sales, and buy enough to get through until the next sale.

Most of these things are not sustainable.  If TSHTF, I can make my own mayo, pasta sauce, cream of celery soup, tomato soup and catsup.  I have found and tried recipes for all of those.  I buy them mostly for convenience, but also because I can buy them cheaper than I can make them, and we mostly prefer the store bought versions.

I would miss mushrooms and cream of mushroom soups most.  But then, I might finally find someone wandering the woods who could teach me to identify the local mushrooms safely.  I know there's a delicious assortment out there, but it's a little too dangerous to experiment on my own.  Peanut butter would be out of the question- there's no way it's going to grow here.
The overflow of pasta sauce has found it's way over to my fruit canning shelf.  It's fairly well loaded, in spite of me being a total slacker this year.  Keeping up with the beans in the garden, and knowing I still had lots in the basement, I did very little blueberry picking this year, and we ate most of it fresh.  It wasn't a great year for raspberries, smaller, dryer berries this year, and the jam shelves were still mostly full.

Here's where we're at:
Blueberry sauce- 2008 X 6 pints, '09 X 4 quarts, '10 X 21 half pints  (24.5 pints)
Raspberry sauce-  '08 X 6 pints, '09 X 4 quarts, '10 X 6 pints + 22 half pints (31 pints)
Dandelion syrop- '10 X 4 pints
Beet juice- '10 X 4 quarts
Rose hip syrop- '10X 2 pints
Strawberry jam- 11 pints
Mint jelly- '09 X 2 pints
Plum Jam- '08 X 5 pints
Raspberry jelly- 2 pints
Blueberry Jam- 10 pints
Watermelon jam- '10 X 8 pints
Choke cherry jelly- '09 X 3 pints, '10 X 3 pints
Elderberry jam- '09 X 1 pint
Lemon marmalade- 4 pints
Blueberry lemon marmalade- 1 pint
Peach jelly '09 X 3 half pints

The other canning shelf is also home to 4 cans of coffee, and 15 cans of tomato juice.  I don't drink coffee, and wouldn't miss it.  I can make a passable dandelion root coffee, and rose hip/mint tea.

Pickled beets- assorted older jars X 41!!! + 21 quarts  (We had some freeze when we moved, plus two years that they didn't turn out well with store bought beets.  I've been feeding them to the chickens in the winter, but I had no idea there were still that many down there!)
Dill pickles- '10 X 10 quarts (Also not very good.  Some jars are ok, but a lot of the cukes were too soft and didn't turn out well.)
Green salsa- '10 X 16 pints
Pickled carrots- '10 X 8 pints
Pickled tomatoes- '10 X 5 quarts (no one was brave enough to try them)
Pickled radish- '10 X 1 quart
Watermelon rinds- '10 X 8 quarts
Pears- '10 X2 quarts
Blueberries- '09 X 2 quarts
Enough pop to seriously make someone ill.  We could live without pop.  We only drink about 1 glass/day, plus the Bigs take a can in their lunch.  It's the cheapness factor that keeps me buying it.  Most juices are just as bad as pop, and those that aren't aren't local, aren't sustainable, and cost a fortune.
6 big, beautiful pumpkins, are residing on the potato skid.  On sale for $2 each.  Potatoes need to be replenished.  We are fortunate to have a potato farmer not far away.  I usually buy 2 or 3 50 pound bags at a time.  Emergency water.
More pop.  3 bins of rice, 80 kg.  2 bins of flour, 70 kg.  I assume that if TSHTF, certain commodities, like flour and rice will return to older methods of harvest and shipping, and we won't suffer too long without it.  I have grown wheat, and plan to put more effort into growing grains again next year.

2 bins, a box, and a bucket of carrots.  All layered with sand.  I bought 10 X 10 pound bags of carrots when they were on sale for $2, plus the carrots from the garden.  I should have bought more onions than just 1 X 10 pound bag, because it's already half gone.  I expected to have quite a few garden onions.  Turkeys will dig up and eat your onions if you let them free range in your garden.  Oops.
Half a bucket of turnip, mom shared some of hers, also layered with sand.

Only a quarter of a box of lard left, and the restaurant supply store I used to buy it from went out of business.  I can make lard when we butcher, but at this point, I've only done it with pork fat.  If TSHTF, and I needed to, I could do it with all sorts of animal fat.  Bear,  in particular, looks promising.

We're already on our last box of apples.  I bought 4 X 8 pound bags, plus 2 X 10 pound bags that my brother and sil brought up from down south.  I'm hoping I'll get lucky and get another harvest sale.  We take the apples out of the bags and layer newspaper between them in boxes.  They keep for several months, if I can keep the kids from eating them all.  Once they start getting soft, it's time for apple sauce.  Working on apple trees.  Apple trees are essential from a sustainability stand point- pectin required for jams.

We could probably survive 6 months or longer with little hardship, and little need to leave the house, if need be.  We could make it a year or two without starving, although we might end up making pine needle tea to ward off scurvy.  My goal is to keep expanding the garden until I can produce enough of everything I can grow to last a full year.  I'm also hoping to grow enough winter feed- root crops and millet- for the critters.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


About two months ago, after we had a couple of hens hatch a couple of eggs, and the other nesting hens give up and move on to new nests, I went and cleared out all of the old eggs.  I told the boys to start bringing in all of the eggs and not let the girls set anymore.  They need to start putting on some weight to get ready for winter.

We were getting lots of eggs, so I never really thought anything was amiss to that plan.

But then there's the ornery old grey hen, who pecks your hand if you try to take her eggs.  She had other plans.

Last night #4 came in from chores and announced, "One of the chickens has babies!"

I went out to see.  It turns out these two hens were sharing the nest, and they had managed to hatch one egg each.  Two new little chicks.  We moved the lot of them, and all of the eggs, into the brooder in the work shop.  This is really not egg hatching season.  If they survive, these chicks will have a long rough road ahead of them.  But for the moment, they're doing well.

Monday, October 17, 2011


For the past week,
this is where I've been.
Sitting in the woods,
Staring at trees. Between trees. Under trees.
Waiting. Watching.

No moose yet.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Apple Trees - Part 3

Back in February I bagged up assorted apple seeds with moist paper towels and sent them to the cold room to sprout.  In May or June I brought them upstairs to see how they had turned out.

It wasn't great, but there were 5 or 6 that should have grown into lovely little trees.  No where near my original plan.

I was busy with the garden, spring chores, critters...  I totally neglected them.  When it finally occurred to me to check them again, they were all dried out and dead.

However, I struck gold one day at Canadian Tire.  They had 4 apple trees in stock.  Four Zone 2 apple trees.  Apparently someone there was a gardener, and got annoyed with that automatic shipping policy.  She told off TPTB last year, and ordered her own stock this year.  Stuff that will actually grow here.  What a concept!

I bought them all.  They were already loaded with tiny apples.  We added them to the forest garden area (which I also totally neglected).  Husband and the bigs used the post hole digger to drill nice deep wide holes to plant them in, and loosen the soil to let the roots spread.

Then we overwatered them.  Because all that loose soil held the water.   And every time it rained, the water ran there.  Dad figured it out before we killed them.  We stopped watering, but most of the fruit was already cracked and rotting.

Then it got hot and dry for awhile.  But the forecast said it was going to rain.  So we still didn't water them.  And we almost killed them.  the leaves were falling off mid-summer.

And despite all of that, they're still alive.

No apples this year though.  They're all shrivelled up.

My three year old trees (started from seed) are doing well.
Only 4 more years to wait and see if they'll produce fruit.

Of the other apple trees, the ones we bought that weren't zone 2,  only the root stock on one survived last winter.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Garden Update VII

My assistants are always happy to see me in the garden these days.  I think I am the most interesting thing they have to look at all day.  They follow me around and peck at my pants and fingers.  One tom seems particularly fascinated with my pinkie ring.  He keeps grabbing my finger and then I kick him.  Not hard, like a football, just enough to send him backward a couple of feet.  He's back before long.
What attacked the greenhouse?  At first I thought the turkeys had gotten in.
And then I spotted the little culprits.  See them all over the leaves?  Worms.

I dusted the brussel sprouts with diatomaceous earth.  There were some just ready to pick.  I pulled the remaining broccoli plants, which hadn't formed any heads yet anyway.  Started pulling the cauliflower, and found three more heads that had been hiding, but one was very small, so I'm not counting it in my harvest tally.

 Tomatoes are still ripening and rotting.  One plant seems to have much less of the blight on it than the rest.  I'm going to try saving some seed from it. 

This little tomato plant popped up in my garlic pot.  How odd that it sprang to life as everything else is dying off.
The green pepper plants have had all they could handle of the colder temps.  I picked my three little green peppers today.  Bigger than last year's, but still I wonder, what in the heck was I thinking?  Giving up valuable real estate in the greenhouse for this little return?  And yet I know when spring comes around, I won't be able to resist the lure of some kind of pepper.  Maybe a jalapeno.  They grew well for me down south.  See?  I just can't help myself.  I found the cucumber hiding under part of a tomato plant.  Woohoo!  Lovely surprise.
Another surprise was finding this celery plant still alive under the same tomato plant.  The others all died shortly after transplant, and this one isn't any bigger than it was then, but who knows?

Carrots are coming up slowly.  The turkeys ate most of the tops, so I have to dig them.

Potatoes are sad.  This little handful from four feet of hills.
Swiss chard sprang up for yet another meal.  I wonder how long it will keep growing for?  And I regret not planting some romaine in the greenhouse mid-summer.  It could be doing well right about now.  How do you harvest swiss chard seeds?  Does it bolt like lettuce?  Hmmm.  The onions from seed are well, but tiny.  I'm going to transplant them into the greenhouse and see whether they make it to green onion size before it gets too cold.  If they don't, I wonder if they'll come up in the spring.
The corn is looking pretty for Hallowe'en.
With just a bit more time it might have been good.  Next year I'll try direct sowing some in the greenhouse a little earlier.

Only 7 months to plan the lay out for next year's greenhouses.  Two 12' square spaces.  What have I learned?  What do I want?  I think next year will be the year of the cuke!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Butchering Road Kill

Graphic images will follow.

After gutting, hanging, and skinning your meat, there's a few things you need to do a bit differently with road kill, or should be aware of, that you wouldn't do with something you killed to butcher yourself.

First of all, you need to assess the damages.  I did that here.  Then determine what is salvageable for human consumption.  You don't want anything with fecal matter on it, and you have to decide for yourself if it's worth cutting around a lot of road grime.

When you plan to butcher, you check the weather forecast.  You want a nice week of cool nights and mild days.  You don't want your meat to rot or freeze.  When you pick up road kill, you deal with whatever weather nature gave you.  Our nights are good right now, between 10°C and -3°C.  But our days have been a little warm, into the mid 20's. 

I butchered the first shoulder on the first day, because it fell off when I was skinning.  I butchered the second shoulder today (blade roast). 

You can see where I made the clean cut from the back of the bear, and where the shoulder was torn and damaged and covered with grime. 

Resist the urge to wash the meat.  Washing is not good for the quality, and will SPREAD contaminants to the rest of the meat.  Carefully cut thin slices to remove the contaminated areas.  Wash your knives and your work area repeatedly.  Keep cutting until you're sure that all of the meat is clean and fresh.   I use my fillet knife for this.

Next remove excess fat.  You can keep the fat, render it for lard or grease.  I didn't.  It went to the doggie stew pot.

You may notice some dark purple, black or brown spots after you finish trimming.  Don't panic! This doesn't mean that your meat has gone bad.  The animal had a traumatic death.  Think about how you'd look if you got run over by a truck.  Those are bruises.  Consider it tenderized and get on with it.

 Next, you'll want to remove the leg bones.  You can use the meat as part of the roast, a seperate roast, or stew.  This was a small bear, so I included the upper shank.  I cut the meat to the bone just above the 'elbow' joint.  Then cut along the edge of the muscle to the top of the 'arm pit'.  Cut the tendens and cartilage at the top of the bone and it will fall loose.  Then remove the rest of the meat around the leg bone by turning it over and cutting as close to the bone as you can.

There will be blood.  His heart was not pumping when his throat was cut.  The longer you hang your meat, the less blood you will see, but you will still see more blood than on a normal, planned, farm animal butchering job.

Roll the upper shank into the roast.  You can tie it with cotton string if you like.  Package and freeze.

The lower shank is cut from the bone the same way.  It can be used as a small roast, but since it is usually tough (a well used muscle), it's most often used for stew, sausage, or ground.  I chose stew.  Cut up into bite sized bits, packaged and froze.

The bones can be trimmed further, depending on your skill level and the quality of your knives.  The trimmings go into ground.  You can cook them down and make your own stock.  I use them for doggie stew.

If you think you'd like to try butchering some road kill yourself, and are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, but find the idea of picking up that carcass and tossing it in your car a little daunting, I recommend this cut.

The shoulder blade is attached only by muscle.  If your pocket knife is sharp enough to cut through the skin, simply lift the shoulder, cut underneath and all the way around.  Then you have a reasonable size piece of meat for lifting and transporting.

If your pocket knife isn't sharp enough- you might want to think about that.