2.27.2009

The Glower of Doom

Broody chicken? No problem. Broody goose? Now we're talking! I'm having to use a big rubber water bowl as a shield against this little girls snapping jaws in order to safely get the other goose eggs out of the kennel.

If she can't scare you off with her Glower Of Doom, she will gnaw your arm to the bone if you get within reach. I know, I have the bruises to prove it. Thankfully, I still have all my fingers.

[Pic: Dr. Girlfriend, aka "Aflac" because of her deep squawk. Click the picture to feel the full force of her stare.]

2.25.2009

Oh Goody Goody, Look Who's Broody

Nutmeg the Cubalaya chicken-dog has a bad case of the broodies. So bad that she rarely gets out of the coop. To ensure she's getting some feed and water, I've been taking her out of the coop in the morning when I put out the fresh corn and mixed greens treat that all the chickens get (yeah, they're spoiled).

It takes her a second or two shake off the broody mindset after I set her on the ground. Once she's cleared her mind, however, she'll quickly scarf down some greens and peck some fresh corn, then run-run-run into the chicken pen to scarf down some water and feed, then scoots right back into the laying box. She's got a cracked porcelain egg that she's keeping nice and toasty, day and night, and I daresay it loses only a couple of degrees of heat before she's right back on it.

I'm hoping she'll shake the broodiness soon. I miss my little buddy.

[Hmm. Maybe I need to get out more.]

2.24.2009

My First Canning Project

It sounded exotic: Blood Orange and Grapefruit Marmalade. It also had fresh and candied ginger in the recipe. Something a little out of the ordinary, but also looked relatively easy. I bought the ingredients, then hemmed and hawed for a couple of days. Scary, this whole canning business thingy. Botulism, jams that don't set, and what if it didn't taste good? Oh my!

I finally got over myself, and gave it a shot. It's gonna take two weeks to jell properly, but initial taste tests are looking good. Here's the photo goodness, click for larger photos:


The gingers: candied and fresh. That little white grater at the bottom of the page? Worth its weight in GOLD. Spouse had been using a microplaner to grate ginger before, but I grated two tablespoon's worth in less than 30 seconds. Alton Brown finger-waggle against single-task tools be d@mned, this one's a keeper.


The ruby red grapefruit and blood oranges, ready to be pulsed. The thing I liked about this recipe is that you cut the fruit up into chunks, and then use the whole kit-and-kaboodle. No slicing away of pith or any other delicate maneuverings.


The citrus, pulsed. Looks kinda like hamburger meat. Mmm, hamburger marmalade...


The stovetop setup. Just right for the job. The water bath pot is the perfect size, covering two burners at once. The grey cooking pot to the right is our trusty Le Crueset, in which we bake bread, make soup, roast chickens, and now make marmalades. Good heavy pot, and the marmalade did not stick or burn. The back burner held the pan with the simmering canning jars, ready to be filled.


After being filled, then 15 minutes in the water bath, the end result. Gorgeous color. As I type, I'm hearing the canning lids being vacuumed-sealed into place by the cooling marmalade. The finger tip taste out of the pot wasn't as intense as I was hoping, but it had a nice balance of sweet and tart. I'm hoping the flavors deepen during the jelling process. I'll get back to you on that once the marmalades have set, in two weeks [Wait, TWO WEEKS? D@yumm!]

2.23.2009

Clever Girls!

The geese were lounging on the other side of the house, out of sight, so I took the opportunity to do some pen cleaning in peace. If the geese see me anywhere near their laying sites, they get extremely annoyed. Believe me, ears will be deafened by their protests for a good mile around.

Raked out all the hay in the goose shelter areas, dumped it into the compost bins (good stuff for the gardens!) and then started cleaning the goose laying coops. Mind you, Spouse & I check every day for eggs. We'd been getting an average of six eggs a week, which is about one from every goose. Cleaning out the laying coops, I got a surprise: nine eggs that were deliberately hidden from sight. It looks like what they're doing is making a nest, laying an egg, then pushing the egg underneath the deep sides of the nest. Thankfully the coops are covered and cool in this early Spring weather, so the eggs were still good (yep, I tested a sample).

Clever girls!

[pic: the stash ]

2.21.2009

It Was Indeed One of THOSE Days

In the previous post, I briefly mentioned that the dogs got out. Chase, chase, nab; catch breath. I Twittered something to the effect of "Please don't let this be one of THOSE days!" Then not even 30 minutes later, Spouse noticed one of the geese staggering around. Uh-oh.

Thankfully the avian vet was heading into the office, and after describing Duchess's symptoms, he advised us to bring her in straight away. Turns out she was egg-bound, and had a huge soft-shelled egg stuck in her system. He drew it out & gave her a bunch of shots to aid in recovery*.

This in turn made us late for our plan to meet Joy and her family for lunch. I kept Joy updated on the vet happenings via text messages, and Joy took everyone to some of the local vineyards to buy us time. They then froze their butts off while waiting and holding our place in line at the BBQ joint. After lunch they beat an understandably hasty retreat, although we're not sure if it was to get away from possible bad-luck contamination, or to get away from the body odor. Spouse nor I hadn't a chance to shower or brush our teeth yet that day. Oof.

Later I got to figure out that I liked the smell of fresh goose poo MUCH better than rotting kitchen garbage. First, I forgot to take out of the car the towels Duchess had soiled during her ride to the vet. Nice warm car sitting in driveway + poo towels = an unmistakable Eau du Nature. Then in preparation to go into town, I put a bag of kitchen trash on the roof of the car between the rack mount bars, and planned on dropping the bag into the bin at the end of our driveway. Except I, uh, forgot to drop off the bag. Seven miles and 60 MPH down the road later, the bag finally bounces off the roof and rips apart on the road. D'oh! I hop out of the car, grab an old box laying on the side of the road, and gather as much trash as I can while dodging the occasional truck. Put the box into the car... and it reeked to high heaven. I drove another seven miles to the nearest gas station, dropped the box into the trash, and cleaned up as best I could in the bathroom sink.

With a deep breath and great trepidation, I considered the remainder of errands that needed to be done that day. If I continued, would I be a hazard to myself or others? Against the odds and all good sense, I decided to push on. The errands were successfully taken care of and I miraculously made it home in one piece.

I am now going to put this day to bed with a big bowl of chocolate-chip ice cream. That is, if we have any left.

[Pic: Blondie taking a dust bath. She was one of the few having a good day today.]

[*Duchess was looking more like her usual bright-eyed self as of this evening. The soft egg may have been a fluke, or it might be a genetic thing. The other geese are laying eggs with strong shells, and their feed is a laying ration with calcium. Hoping all will be well for her.]

Guard Geese

Morning came a little too early today. I was sleeping on the couch to get away from Spouse's CPAP mask noise, which was making all sorts of whistles and wheezes (time for a new mask). The geese started squawking... and squawking... and SQUAWKING. At first it sounded like a post-wooing self-congratulation session, but as the squawking carried on for longer than usual, I got up to investigate. No sooner had my feet hit the floor there was a knock on the door by an out-of-breath Staci, our neighbor from a land parcel over. Although still in their overnight pen, the geese were generously announcing Staci's presence. "We found your dogs playing in the road. We tried to catch them, but they got away." [Staci, her mother Carol, and Staci's brother in-law were all on their way to work, but stopped to try to catch the dogs, and then kindly waited until Spouse & I was up and out. Thank you!]

After a half hour of searching, we finally found the dogs, leashed them, and brought them home. After finishing cussing and catching our breath - and me getting a first cup of coffee - we discussed how loud the geese can get, and agreed with other's assessments on what good guards geese can be. "You can't bribe a goose", Spouse mused, "and they dislike all humans on general principle. Even if you try to distract them with food, they'll continue to squawk, and get even louder."

Honestly, when they're riled up, they sound like angry chimpanzees ready to fling poo at any moment. Wouldn't that give you second thoughts about trespassing?

2.20.2009

Lacto-Fermentation, Take Two

My first attempt at making sauerkraut? A dismal failure. Probably wouldn't have ended up with a big, moldy mess of non-brining nastiness if I had actually read the recipe all the way through. Spouse figured out what I did wrong...

"Hey, I looked on-line, did you know you needed to...?"
"Shh!"
"But really, all you had to do was..."
"SSSHHH!"

Hmph.

Now that I'm mostly caught up on sleep, the urge to be creative has come crawling back to life. I'm giving home-made sauerkraut another shot. Purchased three lovely, fresh heads of organic cabbage, chopped them up, mixed with coarse kosher salt, and pressed into the 5-gallon crock that Joy so generously picked up for me on one of her travels.

On the left is the filled crock with the fancy flat wooden press. On the right, what looks like a babushka of some sort is actually a full vinegar bottle weighting down the wooden press, which helps the salt further draw juice out of the cabbage.

But can I leave well enough alone? Aww, heck no! The Texas Ruby Red grapefruit season is in full swing, and I picked up those five beauties below for a dollar - a dollar! Went on-line, and found a recipe for marmalade that uses ruby red grapefruit, blood oranges, and candied ginger.

[Ahem. Excuse me while I wipe the drool away.]

I think I'm gonna try making it on Sunday. Or maybe just think real hard about trying it. Not sure which would be the wisest course of action. Regardless, I WILL read the recipe all the way through this time, that I promise you.

2.16.2009

Martial Arts and The Cranky Gander

It's egg-laying and mating season for the geese, and boy are they pissy. No more warning hisses, they charge straight at your pantlegs, chomping at whatever they can grab. And don't you dare run away, no sir! They take that as an admission of your weakness, and will double their charges the next time you come around. Well!

Sometimes standing still and staring them down is enough to stop them before they land a good bite. If not, additional tactics are required.

Aikido: deflection. Reach down and push the gander away at the chest to either the left or the right, and continue to do so until he tires. Pros: you get to give them a pet. Cons: it pisses them off even more, and you may have to employ a secondary deflection move if they get a beak-hold of your arm (ouch!). Best to have both hands free in case you get a double charge from both ganders, aka "randori".

Krav Maga: direct confrontation. Step forward, and spread your arms out like wings to make you seem like a bigger goose. If attitude and intimidation doesn't work, bend over and envelope the gander in a full restraining hug. Pros: you get to hug a goose. Cons: you'll go deaf from all the squawking, and possibly receive a wing beating upside the head.

You must carefully yet quickly decide on what tactic to use, as the ganders give no second chances. I never thought I'd have to use my old martial arts skills on geese.

2.14.2009

It's Valentine's Day, and All is Well

Spouse and I used to celebrate Valentine's/President's Day weekend with a ski trip. Neither of us are in good enough physical shape to do so this year, and with the responsibility of taking care of our furred and feathered charges, don't have the time to do so anyway. How are we celebrating?

We're watching the antics of the geese, chickens and dogs. We're talking about what we'd like to grow in the vegetable and herb beds. We're eating good home-cooked meals together, and will maybe watch a movie later on. Its all very low key, and I'm liking it that way. Here's to you and yours - warmth, love and joy as we head into Spring.

[pic: Bandit with two of the geese. Will get more pics as I continue healing up.]

2.11.2009

Storm Report

The howling wind took us by surprise last night. A rip-snorting storm front had come upon us, bringing high winds, pounding rain, and pea-sized hail. The wind was so fierce it was blowing the roof's rain run-off sideways. Spouse put on his rain gear, ran outside and turned off the electric poultry netting. The light showed the geese all standing at attention, facing into the wind and letting the rain run down their backs. Bandit was soaked to the skin, and scoured up some good sense in that doggie skull to hang out and guard from the covered porch. Maggie was nowhere to be found, and calls to her went unheard. I fretted about the chickens roosting high in the cedar trees, and hoped there'd be no injuries.

Almost as quickly as it came upon us, the storm was finished. The radar on the local weather web page showed a front that looked like a long, red gash sweeping its way across our area, almost 200 miles long. As usual, satellite television got knocked out, but we were able to keep track of storm progress via local chatter on Twitter and various weather web sites.

This morning found the chickens hale and hearty, mostly dry and with no visible injuries. The geese were fine as usual, and Maggie was waiting along with Bandit for her morning treat. The dogs' fur was soft from the rainwater soaking.

The fowl & poultry feed was wet despite its weather covering, but there's not much you can do about sideways rain. The newly transplated berry canes were fine, and probably loved the additional soaking. Same with the trees and pomegranate bushes. We received about an inch of rain, total.

The grass seed and soil cover we laid down yesterday? Totally trashed. We had put down a mix of clovers, bermuda, and native grass seeds, and they all washed down hill. It's not a complete failure - the seeds will grow wherever they've settled, forming mini terraces and rain breaks - but it does mean that Spouse and I will need to re-do all that work. Between his shoulder recovery and my stitches, it will be slow going, but it needs to be done before the next rain event moves through at the beginning of next week.

So, today's tasks (slow and steady, as I'm still recovering): transplant the six lavender plants into the front flower bed, and re-seed/soil the front and side yards.

Despite the challenges, I love this place and the work we do here.

2.09.2009

Book: Enslaved by Ducks

It's taking a bit longer than originally planned, but I'm healing apace. Ever practical Auntie Jan sent me a book to take my mind off the enforced bed rest, and I've about split my stitches reading it. It's the first time in a long while I've read a book straight through.

"Enslaved by Ducks" by Bob Tarte talks about the dangers of having a spouse who loves animals and can't seem to hear the word "no". It doesn't help that the author seems to have the backbone (and physical stamina) of a wet noodle, but at least he makes a good faith effort to get along, and grows to love the charges who eventually rule his life. Their menagerie consists mainly of indoor and outdoor birds, poultry, waterfowl, and rabbits, although two cats are grudging allowed space as well. There is "the love that dare not speak its name", gender confusion, love-hate relationships, and enough sibling drama that would have given Shakespeare many years of writing material.

A fun book to while away hours, and one in which I'm sure many of us would see a reflection of ourselves in relationship to our animals. Now, off to a follow-up doc appointment...

2.03.2009

OMG! Goose Eggs!!!!

Went out this morning to take a photo of what had been looking suspiciously like a goose nest site, and found this:



Ohmigawd! Ohmigawd! Ohmigawd! SqueeeEEEEE!!!!

Miraculously, none of the geese were around, so I quickly stuffed the eggs under my shirt and rushed them into the house. Here's how the two goose eggs on left compare to our chicken's eggs, with the largest Ameraucana chicken egg (approximately Extra Large sized) being the greenish one in the middle:



And geek that I am, I had to measure the largest chicken egg against the largest goose egg:



Wow! I mean, I know this is nothing to folks who have raised geese all their life, but just wow!

EDIT: Just cooked up the smaller egg, over easy, with a little salt & pepper. It tastes absolutely divine. Not at all gamey like some folks have experienced.

Posting to be Erratic

Posts will be erratic for the next seven days or so, as I'll be recovering from surgery (no worries, it's all good). It'll be a great chance to catch up on some sleep as well. And then there's the grass seed that needs to be sown, vegetable seeds to be ordered, berry plants that need transplanting, and...

[wait, aren't I supposed to be resting and recovering at some point?]

2.01.2009

Garden Planning Class

Sharon Astyk ("she's my favorite doomer!") is starting up her on-line course on designing and working on a food garden this week. This course will cover everything from having your own country property to container gardening on an apartment balcony. My money is currently tied up in other things at the moment, but Sharon generously posts class content on her web site, and her co-teacher, Aaron, will be posting on his web site as well.

So, why join the class at all? The cool thing about joining the actual class is the chance to talk with others who are doing the same thing, and getting direct answers back from Sharon and Aaron, as well as a phone meeting with Sharon to discuss issues more in-depth. She still has a few spots available, so snag one if you can. Even more than Sharon's & Aaron's information, the participants always bring a wealth of additional information and experience to the conversation. Enjoy!

EDIT: corrected Aaron's name... sorry 'bout that! *sheepish grin*