CSA Veggie Adventure - Last Bag of the Summer

This is the last subscription delivery of the Summer season. It's a bittersweet acknowlegement that this season will soon be gone, although I'm sure that many living here in the sweltering heat are probably thinking "good riddance!"

In this week's final bag:
  • Tomatoes,
  • baby squash,
  • purple okra,
  • squash blossoms,
  • baby bell peppers,
  • eggplant,
  • potted basil plant (not shown),
  • and flowers.
Added bonus: the CSA is letting us keep two of their "cool" bags as a gift (the bags are lined with foam and a reflective material, and zip at the top).

The two ladies at the CSA booth say they're tired of tomatoes, but also that they'll miss the tomatoes once the cool season produce is in full swing. In foresight that I'd probably get a goodly bag of 'maters today, I picked up mozzarella at the grocer this morning, and will make a caprese salad for dinner tonight.

While at the grocer, took a look at the "raw foods" deli and saw how they used a spiral veggie cutter to make mounds of squash "pasta". Think I'll keep my eyes open for one of those gadgets. Wish I'd thought of something like that sooner - the compost pile might not have eaten so well this season!


Independence Days Challenge - July 28, 2009

Independence Days Challenge is an ongoing experiment in learning to live in a less wasteful, more self-sufficient manner. Here's last week's progress:

Plant something: Nope. And didn't get around to ordering seeds yet, either. Need to get my backside in gear.

Harvest something: Nada, just eggs.

Preserve something: made first ever batch of kombucha. It was a vinegary, undrinkable mess. According to this article, one needs to taste test every few days. I let mine ferment for too long, thus the vinegar taste. Next batch on its way!

Reduce waste: Spouse is experimenting with Gorilla Tape to patch cracks/tears in the kiddie pools we use for the geese. So far, the test patch has held for three days now. We go through about a half-dozen kiddie pools within the course of a year. We do plan to re-use unfixable pools for raised beds, but it would be nice not to have to constantly shell out for new ones. Purchased a used propane turkey fryer stand from Craigslist. This will allow me to can outdoors, keeping the house much cooler during the Summer. EDIT: Forgot - still receiving leftover greens from local restaurant for our geese.

Preparation & Storage: bought extra canning jars, and a batch of beef bones for stock. Will experiment with roasting the bones on the grill when we smoke/barbecue outdoors next. The purchased propane fryer (see Reduce Waste) will allow me to can outdoors, as well as being used as a scalding station for newly butchered roosters (a quick dunk in hot water helps with feather removal).

Build Community Food Systems: the girls are now laying enough (and in one place) that I can start selling eggs to the co-op once more. I could get more money selling to a group of bodybuilders in "the big town", but am thinking that I'd rather keep the eggs locally accessible. EDIT: forgot! I bought a few items at the Farmer's Market when I picked up the weekly CSA subscription.

Eat the Food: Didn't eat much of the CSA produce this last week, which is a shame. Chickens and the compost pile, however, had a feast!

Interested in joining the Independence Days Challenge? You can start anytime! Check it out.

[Pic: Specklebutt's chick.]


Spouse Writes: Roos on the Run

Until recently we thought that the two White Leghorn roosters that (currently) have their freedom around the yard only knew how to do three things: eat, leave their, err, "processed remains" on the porch, and chase the women birds to show what manly chickens they are. Did I mention it often takes two manly Leghorn roos to corner one of our hens? These two free-ranging roos are on the short list for the short walk to the freezer. However, they have added a fourth skill: they can now recognize a fishing net at 10 paces and run for the hills. No, we don't have a koi pond. This is Texas and one northerner's koi is a Texan's over-dressed carp.

We have started to use a fishing net to capture roos on the run (hmmn - that sounds like a good name for a wing joint that delivers). Once they have been nabbed by the net the roos start howling like, well, extremely offended roosters - as if you slapped their Mama and called them "poor". Even though they're not involved, the roos sequestered in the bachelor's quarters also take offense, and they like the loose roos less than we do (there aren't any hens in the bachelor's quarters, you know). Once they see the net out they start hurling insults. I think one of 'em called D.A. an Oklahoma fan. I know, it's a local thing.


CSA Veggie Adventure July 22, 2009

Quite the haul this week! I don't know how the heck I'm gonna eat all this...
  • Basil - big ol' bunch!
  • Chard
  • Squash
  • Eggplant
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes aplenty
  • Duck Eggs
  • Salsa
  • Chilis
The baby watermelon was purchased separately - the CSA guy at the farmer's market said there weren't enough melons for all subscription members, so they were selling what they had.

[Oops, need to get those jars of broth put away.]


Ohmygawd! Ohmygawd!

"You are officially a grandmother now", Snow teased. Here's what was found while egg collecting last night:


SQUEEEEE!!!! Baby chicken!!!

It's Specklebutts first (and currently only) chick. I'm trying not to let myself get too wound up and excited, as there's oh-so-many-things that can happen to a chick during its first few weeks, but I think I can be forgiven for indulging once more:



The Joys of Free-Range Chickens

Every once in awhile the chickens will get a wild hair (feather?) up their butt and decide that The Coop Is No Longer Desirable. Sometimes it's the presence of a broody hen, yelling at any other hens daring to approach her precious clutch. Other times they've figured out that their Eggs Are Disappearing, and that's not good. Whatever the reason, once they decide The Coop Is No Longer Desirable, they'll hie off to some hidden, cozy location on the property to start laying eggs anew.

This is the third time in two years I've had to do an egg hunt. None of those times have fallen on Easter, just so you know.

The current egg diaspora is due to Blondie #2, aka Specklebutt, who has been broody for several weeks. She has an egg that is close to hatching, and is being a royal scold to the other hens. "Screw this!", you can almost see the girls harrumph, "I'm going elsewhere!" This time "elsewhere" was behind two outdoor trashcans that are up against a cutaway on the backyard hill. Nice bed of oak leaves, too. They'd actually two different "wild" clutches going. The first one was found relatively quickly, and some eggs were appearing once more in the coop, but not at the same volume as before. This second one took over two weeks to find.

Once a clutch-in-the-wild is found, the hens (usually) go back to laying in the coop again. Crossing my fingers that they all finally do so. Crafty chickens!


Independence Days Check In - July 20, 2009

Slow week last week, but a few things got done:

Plant something: Planted my butt next to the fan, perhaps, but otherwise nope. Too hot yet. Slowly gearing up to start seedlings. Trying to decide between a newspaper pot-maker or a soil blocker for seed starters.

Harvest something: Eggs from our girls, as usual. Two tomatoes from the garden. The tomatoes are suffering terribly in this heat.

Preserve something: Aha! Progress! Cooked up & pressure-canned chicken broth - my first time with a pressure canner. Also started a batch of kombucha. Will see if the grocery store has beef soup bones next time I'm there - wish to can beef broth next.

Reduce waste: Washed & set aside bottles for upcoming kombucha batch. Screw-top wine bottles for the win!

Preparation & Storage: Prep via reading - currently checking out "The Solar Food Dryer" by Eben Fodor (Mother Earth News). Stocked up on poultry & dog food. Going to try out alfalfa pellets for the geese, as there's so little tender greens available on the property due to the heat & drought.

Build Community Food Systems: not specifically food systems, but all our farms and gardens are in need of rain. There's a half-serious "rain dance" (by Mr. Bunny) scheduled in the Town Square today. Might stop by.

Eat the Food: garden tomatoes and CSA produce.

Source: Sharon Astyk's Independence Days Challenge

[Pic: Pullets hanging out in the trees - the three Sicilian Buttercups, one Leghorn, and one Jersey Giant who is looking a wee bit like a vulture in this photo.]


Spouse Writes: She Tricked Me

D.A. tricks me into screwing up. She doesn’t do it in a sneaky way or anything like that. She just gives me enough rope and points me to the nearest tree and waits for the hilarity to ensue. Case in point: she had eight bales of hay in the new trailer parked on one side of the house, and proposed that we used the wheel barrow to move the bales to the other side of the house. She obviously weighed the options and decided that towing the trailer to the other side of the house while dodging livestock, the barbecue, and the house may have been fraught with more danger than using the wheel barrow.

I, however, did not weight the risks as accurately. Not even close. I decided to show off (which means “Hold my beer and watch this!” in my family’s language) my trailering skills by towing the trailer to the closest spot possible to unload. Getting the trailer there was like getting into trouble. It seemed almost too easy until it was time to get out.

While backing up the trailer in D.A.’s car I mis-judged, mis-calculated and every other miss in the book except for missing the clothesline. I managed to snap the 4-inch by 4-inch wood clothesline post off at the base. Yes, D.A. – the trailer and your car were fine. Thanks for worrying about my safety. [Hey – why is she snapping those pictures? I am pretty sure our insurance won’t cover a clothesline.] It was while I watched her giggle as she snapped photos that I realized I just gave her something to write about.

D.A. wasn't too hard on me. All she said was it was good that I did it and not her. I still not sure what she meant by that. It took two hours, 20 pounds of cement, and four blisters to pound an 18-inch hole into the rock/clay to put the new post in. See what I mean? I don’t know how D.A. tricked me. Not only did I screw up right in front of her, I even wrote the post telling how I did it.


CSA Veggie Adventure - July 15, 2009

The haul was a bit smaller than usual, but not surprising due to the extended heat and drought. When you buy a CSA subscription, you not only get bounty, but you also agree to share the farmer's risks of growing. So, this week's haul:
  • Flowers (always appreciated!)
  • A jar of "fresh sauce" - blended mix of raw tomatoes, basil, etc.
  • Whole tomatoes
  • Baby & regular squash
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Chiles
  • Basil
Wanted to dig into that fresh sauce right away, but there were still leftovers to eat in the refrigerator, dangit. Tonight, however, is a different story. Thinking of lightly steaming some eggplant & squash, then mixing together with brown-rice pasta and pouring some of that fresh sauce over the top.

Spoke with the CSA producers at the Farmers Market where I pick up my subscription. They're going ahead with a Fall/Winter subscription. $25 a week, and they plan on growing things like kale, chard, lettuces, tomatoes (as long as the frost holds out), broccoli, cauliflower, and more. Purchase of this subscription will depend on Spouse's and my employment situation, but will do so if we can.


Yeah, but is it Goose proof?

Picture: a pair of dirty jeans. Nothing spectacular, unless you realize that they were once clean jeans, hanging oh-so-innocently on the line to dry. Then came The Geese.

You see, if there's anything - and I mean just about anything - that is within reach of their nibbley pink beaks, it will be tasted, tugged, and gnawed. Line-drying laundry that hangs low enough to the ground is no exception. They'll watch the clothes swaying in the breeze, like a serpent to a snake charmer's brass horn, then streeeeeetch their necks to grab a hem. Next it's tug-tug-pull YOINK! A brief squawk of consternation as the clothing drops to the ground, then the item will be set upon: trampled, chewed, and probably poo'd upon. Then they'll get bored and leave it for awhile.

Outdoor furniture and the porch curtains are no exception to the chewing, either. Any natural or man-made fibers left unattended will be gnawed to threads in a few scant months. They've even pulled the rubber guards off the outside wheel wells on one of the cars. The only materials that can resist the destructive powers of the geese thus far are metal, concrete, and stiff water hoses. So around here, we don't ask ourselves whether or not something is dog proof. The question is, "is it goose proof?"

[pics: gnawed laundry, and the guilty parties.]


Independence Days Challenge - Mid-July Edition

As some of you know, I'm participating in the Independence Days Challenge. For new readers, the ID Challenge is about learning and doing things that will help make your household more self-sufficient, as well as help educate neighbors and friends. If there's hard times coming, like many of us believe, the more we can feed ourselves and help each other, the better!

There's a weekly check in on Mondays, at Sharon's blog. It's been a few weeks since I last updated on this project, and I'm a day late for this one as well. Regardless, here's a refresher on the weekly goals:
  1. Plant something
  2. Harvest something
  3. Preserve something
  4. Reduce waste
  5. Preparation and Storage
  6. Build Community Food Systems
  7. Eat the Food
Plant something: Sorta... purchased 20 yards of soil for raised beds and orchard tree installation. Gotta have decent soil in order to plant, eh? Coming up: ordering seeds for the Fall/Winter planting.

Harvest something: We finally get to start eating our hen eggs again. The de-worming process completed a few weeks ago, and all the chemicals should have run their course. Now to go and find the eggs... the girls are hiding them again. Free-ranging chickens, such fun!

Preserve something: Again, sorta... ordered a 30-quart pressure canner. Once it comes in, my first project will be to cook and can chicken broth. Then perhaps some home-made sauerkraut.

Reduce waste: Continuing to set aside cardboard, paper, glass & plastic for recycling. Saving glass juice containers and lids to use for upcoming kombucha brewing project (Joy, I hope to meet up with you either this week or next for a scoby!). Will be using damaged kiddie pools (geese and dogs are hard on them) for additional raised vegetable beds - cut holes in bottom for drainage and use for lettuces.

Preparation & Storage: Am making room in a closet for additional storage shelves. Buying soy milk by the case now. Also purchased a trailer for the car, so we have more room for animals & household goods if we have to leave the property due to encroaching wildfires or other such emergencies. Recently used the trailer to haul eight bales of bedding hay for the animals.

Build Community Food Systems: As soon as I can get the girls all to start laying in the coop again, will sell eggs once more to the local co-op. Am awaiting news from the local CSA with regards to their plans for a Fall/Winter farm-goods subscription.

Eat the Food: Eating our own eggs and the CSA produce.

[pic: yin yang eggs]


Dog on Tarpaulin

This is one of our two Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs, named "Bandit":

This is Bandit on top of a tarpaulin:

This is Bandit on top of a tarpaulin covering 20 cubic yards of compost & soil, because if I didn't cover the soil, both Bandit and Maggie would have the soil dug out and spread all over the property within a week:

I'm really, REALLY glad they don't have opposable thumbs.


Godzilla in Carrier

He was off standing by himself the other night, shaking his head now and again. Godzilla, being the lead gander, is rarely away from the gaggle so I knew something was up. Got him cornered, picked him up (which he does NOT love, natch), set him on the shelter roof, and saw that his right eye was inflamed and appeared to be pussing over. YIKES! Godzilla is the first of the geese Spouse and I raised by hand, and thinking there was something wrong with my feisty boy about tore my heart out.

Our vet was able to squeeze him in the very next day. Thank you Dr. Sheffield, and all the wonderful techs at the Wimberly Veterinary clinic! [By the way, the slide-show on their web site's main page includes a pic of an awkward looking teen-aged Billy-Bob, with some gosling fuzz still attached to his head.] Looks like Godzilla has an inflamed wound on his inner eyelid, a treatable issue thank goodness. Here's where the fun starts, however: I'm to squeeze antibiotic ointment into Godzilla's eye three or four times a day for the next seven to ten days. That means:
  • cornering him somewhere,
  • picking him up (and trying to avoid getting wing-beaten in the process),
  • getting him settled on a flat surface and relatively high up so I don't have to bend over,
  • keeping him held safely in place while juggling the antibiotic ointment, and
  • holding his head still for the treatment.
Yeah. Wish me luck with that.

[Pic: Godzilla in the carrier (reviewed earlier) on the way home. Of all the geese, he's been the only one to insist on standing and watching everything on the drive. The others sit until the car stops. He's my big goozul!]


CSA Veggie Adventure - July 8

Only four more weeks of veggies from our farm subscription. Montesino Ranch CSA is going to try out a Fall/Winter subscription for the first time this year. If it's not too pricey, will try it out while I also try my hand at growing our own Fall/Winter crops. In the meantime, this week's bounty consists of:

  • Flowers (yay!)
  • Chard
  • Beets
  • Squash
  • Baby Melon
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Chilies
  • Peppers

Now I'm hungry... thinking raw pepper and squash slices with some hummus dip. Mmmm, Summer veggies: a lazy cook's delight!


New Trailer

I was on my way to San Marcos on Tuesday to price out some trailers to tow behind the trusty Subaru. Saw this trailer with a "for sale" sign, parked at an antique store lot. Made a U-turn as soon as I could, and phoned the number on the sign. Talked with the owner, made a deal, and 30 minutes later had the trailer "in hand". Of course there was some drama in that I had to learn, on-the-fly, how to put together a ball hitch (at first I screwed it on upside down), but everything worked out and was able to safely haul the trailer home. Now waiting on a wiring harness from the local auto parts store - which should be in tomorrow - so the trailer brake lights will be powered and the trailer safe for the road.

Let me just holler Woohoooooo!!!! Less than half the cost of a new trailer, it will be perfect for hauling trees & shrubs, hay, mulch, lumber, and taking refuse to the dump. The Subaru did its best on all the above, but couldn't handle much volume. The trailer's prior owner was a local landscaper who made the wood structure on top. The structure is easily lifted off by the removal of a few connector pins. The trailer itself is a lightweight "folding" trailer, with lights and license already. Just need to get the license/tags updated at the county tax office.

The seller remarked that about a half-dozen folks had called about the trailer in the previous few weeks, expressing interest and promising to call back, but never did. Lucky for us, I hope! And the cost savings have made up for the extra expense of the soil I just purchased for the next orchard installation phase. Ahem.


Back in Gear

Oh-so-many things have been on the back burner these past few weeks: updates on the CSA veggie consumption, updates on the Independence Days project, and updates on the farm in-general. I've also been horribly remiss in keeping up with people's blogs and emails (sorry!). A lesson I'm still learning: life is not linear. It progresses in cycles, life to death, fast to slow, bright to dark, and back again. Mindfulness of these cycles will help you keep your sanity. Mom Nature is not a computer, and one cannot be on "full speed" indefinitely. So enjoy life when it slows. That way you'll have the energy to take advantage of the "full speed" times. With that unasked for advice in mind, I leave you with a pic taken at the 4th of July celebration in Minnesota, where I got to meet more of Spouse's extended family. Good people, good food, good times, and gorgeous land - looking forward to another visit in the future.

Now, back to the Farm!


Offishul Shoes o' teh Farm in Summer

Because I'm such a klutz, and because it's so hot, I finally broke down and purchased a pair of these Keens slip-on flops.

I'd previously a pair Keen sandals that had a strap around the back heel, but they stayed on too darn well - if a rock or other detritus got into the sandal bed, there was no getting it out without taking off the whole sandal. They were also flippin' HOT on my feet. These new ones, however, don't have those problems. The toe guards keep my tootsies from banging into rocks or tripping over roots. The soles are thick and can take walking around on our rocky terrain or the cement floor. The strap underliners are soft and comfortable. Easy to slip on & off, too. Most important of all: they're washable. I clean these bad boys off with a high-pressure stream of water from the hose almost every morning, and the flops handling the abuse like a champ.

I'll close by saying "no, I don't work for or otherwise get paid by Keen". I like these shoes. Hope they last a good long time.

Of Mice and Various Snakes and new Duck Feed Station

As mentioned in the previous post, our region is experiencing a near-Biblical plague of mice. "It's due to all the moisture we had...