Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Still Alive

June 1, 2015

Wow, I’m totally embarrassed that it has been 6 months since I talked to you guys. Working nights is totally messing with my ability to get much else done besides basic chores! I haven’t touched the spinning wheel in months despite a couple of big projects that really need to get done. The only knitting is happening at work between calls, and very little of it.

The good news is that I still am working, and I am grateful for that. Office politics is a killer for me, as it is something that I totally don’t “get”. I don’t understand why any workplace would not only allow behaviors that are counter-productive but seem to encourage them. My mantra has become “Not my circus, not my monkeys”, and I have to tell myself that several times a shift. I enjoy the actual work, so that’s what keeps me going.

On the farm-front things are going well. I had quit milking when Mom had her knee replacement, there being only so many hours in a day, but Clara was still nursing, so after a 6-month hiatus I forcibly weaned her yearling sons. They were not impressed by my efforts, especially O’Dell. He nursed her through the fence when I moved her next door to the boys pen, and when I set her up further away he would break out and find her! He is now living on a tether in the boys pen, which is not ideal but will have to do for now. The first few weeks were slow going, averaging about 12-18 ounces a day (2 milkings a day). But even little bits add up, and by the end of April when I added up the totals she had given me almost 6 1/4 gallons. I just ran May’s numbers this morning, and the grand total was 12.43 gallons! She is now averaging 54-57 ounces a day, and I am very pleased with her progress.

All this milk means I have gone back to cheese making. I figured out the Clara was the source of the failures I had been having, so I have had to make some changes. For some reason her milk does not take well to being heated (I suspect a sub-clinical infection, since her boys were so rough on her udder. When I am ready to dry her off I will give her a course of antibiotics). So mozzarella and ricotta are out of the question, and I have moved on to an Iberico-type. It only has to be heated to 97 degrees. I got my mojo back making a Manchego with some sheep milk I bought from a friend. Still haven’t broken in to any of them, so the cheese cave (aka veggie drawer in the big fridge) is filling up. I chopped up some of the salt-preserved Meyer lemon I made last year and stirred it into one batch. Sure is pretty, don’t you think? Meyer lemon Iberico

At the beginning of May I also got a half-dozen turkey peeps. Four broad-breasted Bronze, and 2 Chocolates (a heritage breed that will be capable of reproducing if it turns out I have a pair). A month old now, it is amazing how much bigger the Bronzes are already. They are a precocious lot, intent on escaping the safety of the barn where I have been brooding them. Almost from the very beginning, I occasionally come out to one or more out with the sheep, who thankfully have been very gentle with them. I have been unable to convince them that the big, wide world isn’t a safe place for little turkeys, so I need to figure out where I am going to put them to grow out. I will mean building something for them, since all the pens are occupied at the moment. turkey peeps

All the duck hens are sitting on nests now, so if they all hatch out I will soon be up to my armpits in ducklings. One of the Muscovy girls was not happy with being in the pen and has made herself a nest in between the pole barn and the chicken coop, between some old windows. It is fairly safe, so I will wait for her ducklings to hatch before I move her back to the pen. She went broody about 2 weeks before the other Muscovies, so the move should be interesting. The crazy ducks all went broody at roughly the same time, so fingers crossed that I get ducklings from them. Breeding them to the Muscovy drake is an experiment. Being different species, any babies will be sterile mules (generally called Moulards); they should grow fast and are all destined for freezer-training. The hens seem dedicated to their nests, and I haven’t seem them rejecting any eggs (which they will often do with infertile eggs). I’m pretty sure that the hen that hatched out a brood last year had a few Moulards in the mix, since there were ducklings that didn’t hatch out that weren’t quite mature when their litter mates hatched (Moulards take a longer incubation period). I am cautiously optimistic at this point, but only time will tell. If it doesn’t work, I will have a lot of rotten eggs to add to the compost bin.

I have started a lot of seeds under lights in the kitchen, and a few things have been moved outside to the garden. The spinach that volunteered has been going gang-busters but is bolting now. I have been pulling stalks to feed to the beasties, but will let some go to seed again since that is so easy. We have had a cool, wet spring, so grass and weeds are growing and threatening to take over the place. I have taken to using the scythe a few minutes every time I go out to milk and feed. In under 5 minutes I can cut enough to give everyone a healthy addition to their diet, and I am slowly clearing the pasture. Lots of mustard, plus grass and dandelions. They prefer it fresh-cut, and since that is easier on my back I am happy to oblige. It isn’t the cutting that gets to me, since the scythe is very ergonomic, but the gathering and delivering of the goodies is work.

That’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll get back here before the New Year. It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say; it’s just having the energy when the words are flowing. Take care!

Welcome 2015!

January 1, 2015

Hello again! It has been far too long since I have reached out to the world. Adjusting to my mostly nocturnal lifestyle has been rough, and I have, for the most part, been a pretty good hermit.

I won’t bore you with the minutia of the last few months. A few highlights, though, are probably in order:

  • Work goes well. It is nice to have a reasonably steady income again.
  • The ducklings were successfully raised by their respective mothers and have been freezer-trained, along with 22 Cornish cross chicks. It is nice to have home-grown meat in the freezer and pantry again. I have spent quite a bit of time getting comfortable with my pressure canner, so there is an assortment of tasty meals ready when I’m hungry & don’t feel like cooking at the moment.
  • I was able to travel up to Friend’s Thanksgiving with Daughter’s friends this year. I feel very blessed to be included in the festivities.
  • Kid the Younger successfully applied to join German to his master’s degree program. The process included an interview in German. His grades for the 1st part of the year were a B and 2 A’s. I am one proud mama!
  • Kid the Elder and his wife are looking at moving to a warmer climate in the next couple of months. We all hope it will be a positive move for them.
  • Mom came through her knee replacement like a trooper. She worked really hard at her PT and has come out stronger and with better range of motion than before. It was hard at first, since I was working full-time, running the farm and taking care of her. I ran on very little sleep for a couple of weeks, but we all survived.
  • I made a decision not to breed the sheep or goats this fall. Originally my plan was to see how long I could keep milking the goats, but taking care of Mom after her surgery kind of interfered with that plan.

The last few months have presented some challenges as well.

  • The pump that brings water into the house decided to die. I had been unhappy with the results of having it rebuilt by one of the big pump companies in town a few years ago since it had continued to leak despite several call-backs. So I chose one of the other companies available, and that seems to have done the trick (fingers crossed!). I was prepared to have to replace the pump, but they encouraged me to rebuild it instead.
  • Had a couple of plumbing leaks that needed professional attention. I had hoped that it was just one under the house, but there was another within the wall between the laundry and bathroom. Since I had to tear the laundry room apart to gain access for the plumber, I am totally redoing the room as I put it slowly back together. I have scrubbed it down and am working on painting the walls & cabinet a soft yellow. I am also getting rid of the food that no longer fits my life style, so when I refill the cupboards they will only contain good foods.
  • We had a major wind storm a couple of weeks back, and I came home to find the roof of the front porch had partially collapsed. I had to take about 2/3’s of it off to be able to get in the front door, breaking a kitchen window in the process. I also managed to tweak my back and left shoulder, but they are settling back down. The broken window has been boarded up and will be replaced when the weather is a bit better.
  • My car will be needing an emergency trip to the mechanic next week. I went out to let it warm up before heading to work Monday night and it wouldn’t start. Luckily, Mom was able to come get me and has lent me her car for the next few days. I was hoping it was just an old battery giving out on me, but it appears to be more than that. I know that it has needed a major tune-up for some time but other things keep coming up (see above). Hoping it isn’t too bad.

I’m probably forgetting a few things, but we’ll talk again soon I hope. Here’s hoping that 2015 brings only good things to all of us. Much peace and happiness to all of you!

Missing In Action No More

July 11, 2014

Getting used to working again has been rougher than I imagined, especially because I am now working the graveyard shift. The hours are midnight to 8 a.m., which actually work really well when you are also trying to run a small farm. The biggest challenge is sleeping while trying to have something resembling a life. As with many things in my life, this is a work in progress. But there is much to share and catch up on, so let’s go!

When they offered me the job back in late April, I had let them  know that there were a couple of long weekends in June that I would need off. One, of course, was Black Sheep Gathering (more on that later). The other was planned by Kid the Younger as my birthday present. He sent me down to Southern California to visit with Sweetie’s sister and her little family. I have talked about getting there for ages, but it never quite made it to the top of the To-Do list. No more excuses! I drove over to his place in Eugene on the last Thursday of May and he drove me up to the airport in Portland and off I went. Sistah collected me at LAX way past her bed time and I finally got to see their sweet little house, complete with guest house. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the bounty of hand-knit stuffed animals my Wonder Niece had decorated my bed with! All were created by her; she goes to a Waldorf school and at the tender age of 9 is already a wonderful little knitter and a budding spinner. My traveling projects were a pair of socks and my Golding spindle with the yarn I am making for a wedding shawl. When WN asked if she could try my spindle I said sure, figuring I’d take off what she spun since it needed to match what I was doing. A quick lesson in how to handle combed locks and she was off and spinning like a champ. I really can’t tell where my single leaves off and hers starts, so it will all be incorporated into the shawl.  India spinning for Liz shawl

Huntington garden

My spectacular Sistah

my refuge

The patio where I spent a great deal of time relaxing

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

view from lunch

The view from our lunch table

I had a wonderfully relaxing time. Sistah and I visited the Huntington Gardens on Friday, walking about 3 1/2 miles. I was threatened by a bunch of teenage geese when I wanted to use the bench they were sitting by, but I won the battle of wills. We did a whirlwind tour of the artwork too. Saturday we visited a local yarn shop so WN could pick out some yarn that I could make her a pair of socks from. Sunday some other cousins were in town, so we had a mini family reunion and I finished off the day swimming in their pool. Monday I was headed back home, via a quick trip up to the Griffith Observatory (closed for the day) and then lunch at the beach. All in all, a perfect vacation! I must have come home looking refreshed, because for about 2 weeks afterwards all the store clerks I dealt with called me “Miss” instead of the usual “Ma’am”.  The trip home was a bit stressful; my plane was an hour late leaving LA and then hit head winds, so I was a bit late to work that night, but it couldn’t dampen my spirits. Southern California has a special place in my heart. I was born in San Diego and finished high school in La Habra. It was nice to be back for a visit. The back yard was perfect; orange trees all along one side, the pool glistening, a Meyer lemon tree against the side of the guest house. We could not have ordered better weather. Even the smog I remember from when I lived there is (mostly) a thing of the past.

While I was off relaxing surrounded by love, Kid the Younger, his Fiancée, and their roommate came and worked on my house! I came home to a much cleaner kitchen and dining room. I have found a few things missing, but their efforts were greatly appreciated.

Before I left, one of the brown ducks had indeed escaped again from the pen, and when I found where she was hiding I discovered an established nest. The weather had warmed up enough for her to be successful if she persisted, so I gave her a chance. The nest was in the middle of an old roll of chicken wire, so I hoped that she would escape being noticed by any possible predators long enough to hatch out her brood. After 30 days, she presented me with 6 healthy ducklings first duckling Here they are a month later, growing fast. I set up a nursery area in the corner of the duck pen using my skirting racks.  growing up 7214 I have since released them into the general duck population, since I needed the panels for a nursery area for the Muscovy in with the chickens. Yesterday she hatched out 8 of her own. muscovy babies

Black Sheep Gathering was wonderful as always, with a few bothers. The Romeldale show went well, as did the Spinner’s Lead. There were, however some rather disturbing reports from both the wool show and a class. I have not been able yet to track down which teacher it was, but apparently the people taking the class were told that the CVM breed came about when the wagon trains came across the country and allowed their sheep to breed with the Big Horn Sheep. Yikes! And the wool judge (Judith MacKenzie) wanted to perpetuate the myth that CVMs and Romeldales are 2 separate breeds and  any fleeces labeled with both names should be disqualified from the purebred class. It’s bad enough that many judges want to say that fine wools are tender because they will break if handled too roughly, but it is very harmful when a supposed expert doesn’t even have the facts straight. Next year we are hoping to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the breed, with special demonstrations and classes, and I’d love it if all the entries in the Spinner’s Lead were made from Romeldale yarn (there will be a special prize for the best one that is).

One very nice thing that I have discovered is that, since the kids are still nursing, I can forego milking for several days without any real drop in production. Even being gone for almost a week didn’t make a real effect. It is nice to be able to take a break now and then. And with a trip to the State Fair coming up towards the end of August, weaning will be put off for a while yet.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but it will come to me later. I’m hoping to check in again soon. Until then, stay well!




April 25, 2014

Yes, finally, after many applications and way too few interviews I have a job again! I am currently in training to be a monitor for a security company. One of my friends works there and recommended me to them. Eventually I will be transitioning to the midnight to 8 am shift, which will work much better for this night owl. Getting up at 6 to be to work by 8 am is very hard for me. I feel chronically exhausted even though I am actually getting more sleep than normal. Funny how our internal clocks run differently. It hasn’t helped that I am also coming down with something (all those wonderful new germs I’m being exposed to). I am very glad that the weekend is here, and hope to sleep my sickness away before Monday morning.

The biggest change when I move to the graveyard shift will be that I will change the time I feed the beasties from the late afternoon to the morning when I get home, after I milk. I will lock the babies away from their mom’s before I go to work (now I do it before I go to bed). It will be nice to have some income again, even if right now I feel like my head may implode from all the new information.

The animals are all doing well. I think I have finally blocked the crossbred ducks from escaping. Not only had I been worrying about their safety, but almost a week went by with the 2 brown females successfully hiding their eggs from me. The blue female apparently hadn’t been watching when they were getting out, because she was always in the pen. After I locked the pen down I found a nest under my lilac bush with 6 eggs in it. The next morning, one of the browns was very vocal while I was milking, and as soon as I went in the pen to collect eggs she dashed out the open gate. I let her go while I collected the 2 eggs from her pen and checked the chickens (who consider 7 am too early to be getting down to business). But when I looked under the lilac, the nest there was empty. It took me a while to figure out where she had disappeared to (across the alley way, under an aspen tree). As soon as I spotted her, she ran back to the pen, leaving behind a nest with 7 eggs! Mystery of the missing eggs solved! The weather has been cool enough that I was not worried about using the eggs (but it has been too cold at night for the eggs to be viable).

Unfortunately, I have not been nearly as successful at containing the goat kids. They are all still little enough to squeeze easily through the fence, and short of applying a layer of finer mesh fencing all the way around the pen my only hope is for them to grow quickly. They are enjoying the access to fresh grass that is denied their mothers (though I do let the does graze for a while after milking while I do other chores). They are cute little buggers, to be sure, and I am a source of great amusement when I sit on the ground in their pen. And they are learning to head to the barn when I go out after dark to put them to bed. They have half the barn to use now instead of just the crate, with some fresh hay that they don’t have to share with the big girls (who are all convinced that this is totally unfair).

I have been playing with all the milk, making more cajeta, yogurt and pudding. I am also putting the finishing touches on not one but two cheese presses, so hopefully I will feel better by Sunday so that I can make a couple of wheels of cheddar. They will not be huge, but that will actually work better for what I want. Definitely an improvement on my improvised set up the first time around. I’m down to the last little nub of that effort, and it has aged wonderfully so I am looking forward to making more. I know that the cheese will be a bit different since I will be using my own milk rather than cow’s milk, but I am hopefully that I can be successful with my efforts.

I’m going to leave you with this poster I found somewhere online (I’d provide the link but my brain is too full of new info to remember where I found this). It seems to me lately that the disconnect from the realities of what we use is becoming more prominent in our society. It’s not just about people not understanding where their food comes from, though that is huge (I think we’ve all seen the letter to the editor about how hunters should stop hunting and get their meat at the grocery store, where no animals were hurt). Personally, I’m glad that so much of a slaughtered animal gets used. Better than throwing things away!no such thing as a vegan

Not Funny!

April 1, 2014

Mother Nature obviously has a weird sense of humor, because this is what I woke up to this morning. I am not impressed! April Fools snow storm

At least I’m not milking in the same set up as last year, which looked like this. I used to have Myrtle tied in the corner there, with the fence to her side so she couldn’t get too far away.  last years milking area April Fools 2014 My new set up may not be perfect, but at least there is cover over my head, and I am shielded from the worst of the wind and weather. I’m using my fitting stand. I need to make a better head gate, but it works. The grain pan hangs on the wall to the left (in front of the goat), and there is a bench at the side for me to sit on. I milk into a pint measuring cup and take a mason jar to carry milk back in with. That way I can keep pretty exact records on how much each doe gives me. new milking area April Fools 2014 I know the pictures aren’t great, but there hasn’t been a lot of ambient light today, as it has been snowing all day. I am so done with winter!

We are settling into a routine. I lock the kids up before I go to bed, at about midnite. For now we are using an old dog crate that used to belong to one of my Akitas. The kids will outgrow it soon and I will have to make other arrangements, but this allows them all to see their mommies at night without interfering with my ability to milk said mommies in the morning. At about 8:30 am, I go out and bring all 3 does out of the pen on leads.  Two get tethered on to t-posts while I milk the third. The order is Myrtle, then Cloe and finally Clara. Once everyone has been milked, they get to graze while I do the rest of my morning chores (though the snow this morning meant access to hay, not fresh grass). The rest of the chores consist of locking Bridget in the barn for some supplemental feed (she is looking her age right now and needs the extra), and collecting eggs. Once those are done it’s time to take the does back to feed their children. I wish I could adequately capture this on film. The general consensus seems to be that any mom will do, and Cloe and Clara are ok with that. The other morning, poor Clara had all 7 kids clustered under her before they split off for the correct udders. I am putting Myrtle’s milk into a bottle which I offer to her kids first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The triplets are bottomless pits, but hopefully that will taper off a little now that they are eating some hay. Even when their bellies are full they want to keep sucking on the bottle, but I make sure they all get a turn. Since I’m only supplementing, I don’t want to carry more than one bottle out, and I want them to nurse mostly on their mom so they are only getting the 16-20 ounces I’m getting from her in the morning. They sure are cute little buggers though. Obi Wan and Odin are both naturally polled (like their mother, it turns out), but all the others are getting pointy bits. I don’t mind horns, and since none of them will be joining the herd on a permanent basis I won’t bother debudding them.

ready for release  mad dash for breakfast

So, how is production you might ask. Well, I started milking Myrtle on March 16, Clara on the 21st, and Cloe on the 22nd. Since then, I have gotten over 3 1/2 gallons of milk, milking just in the morning. We’re all learning together. Myrtle’s milk is getting put in the bottle for her kids, as I said earlier, and I’m playing with the rest. I tried my hand at Cajeta the other day (goat milk caramel sauce. Think Dulce de Leche made from goat milk). I need to work on my technique, but it has great potential to be highly addictive stirred in to my coffee. And while the chickens are not reacting well to having ducks sharing their quarters and have quit laying, the ducks are all starting to lay. Since the 16th, I’ve collected 44 eggs, not bad considering I only have 4 hens. Mom has declared that these are the most delicious eggs I’ve ever given her, and I may have to agree. The yolks are so dense and yummy! I want to make fresh pasta soon, as I hear that duck eggs are the best for that.

Last Saturday was our annual Fiber Market Day at the Prineville fairgrounds. I shared a booth, which kept expenses down, and spent the night before at Laura’s house to save gas. This is the first time we could set up the night before, which was a great improvement. In the past we have had to start setting up at 7 am and be ready when the doors open at 9! The weather cooperated, and we had a steady flow of customers most of the day. I did a demo on spinning with a  drop spindle and hope to have made a few new addicts. I brought a basket full of cd spindles for the adventurous to try with, and even let someone try out my Golding so that she could see the difference a good spindle makes.

It was a good thing that I made a little money, because I had to replace a tire this afternoon. That was not what I had planned for that money, but at least I had it available. Fingers crossed for more regular income soon! Doing without is getting old.


New Kids on the Block in the New Year

January 4, 2014

I am not sorry to put 2013 in my rear-view mirror. I know that I am up to the challenges that life throws my way, but I am tired of doing it. If I were not such an eternal optimist, I would have curled up in a ball. Not saying I didn’t do that a bit, but for the most part I kept on dealing with reality.

So what made 2013 so hard, you might ask. Lack of work was huge (and continues to be, at the moment). It isn’t that I don’t have plenty to keep me busy. I have never understood folks that can’t find things to do to keep themselves amused. And with the animals and property to care for, there is never a shortage of chores that need doing. But with no paying job, that means no money coming in to take care of those things that require something other than physical labor. I am continuing to look, but am getting very tired of hearing that I am over-qualified. I have never understood why an employer would not want to hire the most qualified person they can get for the money they are offering.

But my biggest challenge was the one that went on for way too long – no running water. My home runs on a cistern. Just before Thanksgiving, it ran dry. When it refilled a few days later, I could not get the pump to hold a prime and run. Yikes! This coincided with a deep freeze that gave us some of the coldest temperatures the area had experienced in a very long time (down to -30!). I spent several weeks bringing home jugs of water from my Mom’s house, and accessing cistern water for the animals via bucket brigade. That is a workout that I am not eager to repeat, but at least I was up to the work. Just call me Pioneer Woman. Just after the Solstice, a friend’s boyfriend came over and got the pump figured out. Yay! I filled the animals waterers, and went off to celebrate with a soak at the Turkish tub.

But of course, that was too easy. When I got home from my soak, we discovered that there was a major leak under the house. So the pump got turned off again, and I went into major denial. I am not afraid of plumbing repairs, mind you, but I had a severe case of the “I don’t wanna’s”. Luckily, my friend offered up her boyfriend again, and a few days later he came back. There was a major break in the metal pipe that ran from the hot water heater to the kitchen sink. He ended up cutting out the old pipe and replacing it. Yes, I could have done it, but it was so nice to be taken care of! The only down side was how much water emptied out of the cistern during the 6 or so hours that the leak went undetected, but time will remedy that.

I know that in much of the world having no running water is the norm. In the grand scheme of things, being without was merely an inconvenience. I am lucky that my Mom lives close enough that I could go over to her house to fill up all my jugs and take a hot shower. Being in an old mobile, I long ago developed the habit of entering winter with at least 15 gallons of jugged water in the house to guard against those times when the pipes freeze for a day or 2. At least I had a roof over my head, and enough wood to battle the cold. My ordeal made me even more thankful for what I do have, and on a quest to figure out what I can do to help those that don’t. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of being homeless with children in the winter around here.

The New Year has started well. A local farm, Rainshadow Organics, was also hit hard by the deep freeze, which hit their stored potatoes. Rather than seeing it as a complete loss, they invited the public to join them on January 1st to go through the potatoes, sorting out the rotten ones and taking home as many free potatoes as you could carry. These were several beautiful heirloom varieties, and I made the drive out and joined the crowd. Folks were also invited to help sort out spuds that would be donated to local food banks. This is my loot, after I had given away several pounds to friends and family. I don’t know that any will survive to be planted in the spring, but I will be ordering some different varieties to grow.

potatoes from Rainshadow Organics

After I got more potatoes than I could really carry, I went off to gather up 9 gallons (yes, gallons) of raw cow’s milk that had not been picked up from the dairy. No sense in letting it go to waste, so I am playing at cheese again. I have already made mozzarella and ricotta, trying a little different method for each, and now I am ready to try my hand at cheddar and jack. It is nice to have such a quantity to work with, but a bit daunting too. I am being good about keeping notes on what works, which I think will be even more important with the hard cheeses since they have to age for so long before you can taste them.

Yesterday I went to Laura’s. I took her potatoes and cheese and picked up the newest flock members (the “New Kids” referred to in the title) – ducks. A mutual friend was disbanding his farm, and she had collected 13 ducks from him. They are mostly Runner crosses, which makes them a little odd looking, but the females should be laying soon. After doing a bit of research online, I got one of her Muscovy males (the white duck below) to try my hand at breeding moulard ducks for the freezer. We thought we had sorted out 4 females for me to bring home, but in talking with their original owner last night it turns out that the big, beautiful black is also a male. I don’t want the girls to have the option of breeding with him, so I will be separating him out of the group in the next day or so. They are all a little skittish right now, what with 2 major moves in as many days, so I will give them a little time to settle down. I am very excited about having duck eggs to work with, especially for pasta making. Yum!new ducks

I have also made a decision about recreating the shawl that was stolen last summer. I’ve been working on some commission spinning this fall, and talked the woman into letting me do a yarn with silk noil added in. It turned out very pretty so I made up some for me too. I am doing one ply of the black alpaca/black American top/dyed silk noil and one of the American top, both spun very thin. This is a very dense yarn, so I’m not getting the yardage that I’d hoped for, but I think it will be spectacular knit up. This was the last yarn I made in 2013, about 350 yards. Since I will need about 2000 yards, I have quite a bit of spinning left to do! I’d like to get it done in time for Fair, so I have my work cut out for me. I’m hoping I have enough of the black alpaca left (fingers crossed). black alpaca silk lace

I don’t make resolutions for the New Year, but I do set goals. So my goals for 2014 are:

  • Continue my weight loss/get healthier campaign. I am very happy that I have managed to maintain my weight through the holidays. Didn’t lose any more, but I didn’t put any back on either, so I count that as a win.
  • Blog more often. I compose wonderful posts in my head as I’m doing other things, but then I get in front of the computer and do other things. I admire folks that blog every day or so, but that isn’t me. Once a month is too little though, so I will just say “more often”.
  • Make more art. I have tons of art supplies that sit unused, and I need to stop that. It doesn’t have to be great art (and I’m pretty sure I can promise that it won’t be), but I need to get over the idea that it needs to be. I started this morning. Don’t count on seeing any of it shared here, unless I get really brave.
  • Sew more. Again, I have tons of supplies that sit unused. Even if I just make a pile of quilts to donate to the homeless shelter, it would be good to clear out some of the stash.

What are your goals for the coming year?




The Great Chicken Adventure

October 31, 2013

Last Saturday, Laura and I had a date at the butcher’s for the chickens. Because she was concerned about the possibility of nasty fog in the valley we left here at o’dark thirty. Our appointment was for 10 am, which with a little padding meant we needed to leave my place by 5:30. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I am not a morning person! I got to bed at about midnight, and set the alarm for 4:30, since Laura had mentioned that her’s was going off at 3:30 (she lives about an hour away).

I had just enough time to get dressed and brew a pot of coffee before I heard her coming. She was also bringing a Muscovy drake that had proved rather mean to his ladies, and two pea-hens, and they were in a crate in the back of the Suburban. Turns out, that was taking up way too much room, so we removed them from the crate, and loaded the chickens. Both the pea-hens were tied into feed bags, with just their heads sticking out (the butcher had requested that we make sure they couldn’t escape), and we tied the drakes feet.  Unfortunately, we found another dead chicken when we went in the pen (number 7). Loading the remaining birds went very quickly, and we hit the road right on schedule.

About half way over the mountains, there was a slight ruckus going on in the back, and when I turned to see what the deal was I found that one of the pea-hens had escaped her bag. Oops! We pulled over and tied her feet together better, and found that the drake had killed another one of the chickens. He got stuffed into the bag vacated by the pea-hen and tied up so that his head was no longer loose.

The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful, especially when compared to our trip last year to get the turkeys processed. The anticipated heavy fog never materialized, and we actually arrived at our destination an hour ahead of schedule. Lucky for us, the person who was scheduled for that time slot hadn’t shown up on time, so  we were able to get started right away. The pea-hen tried to make a run for it, but she and the other two odd birds got taken in first, along with another chicken that had died since our earlier stop. They were able to bleed him out completely, so he wasn’t a loss, unlike the one that perished in the stampede to avoid all the folks reaching in to grab birds (the kid that grabbed him just tossed him on the ground and didn’t try to bleed him out).

We were totally done by 10:30. Well ahead of our anticipated time, we took a side trip to a local monastery, where Laura got a present for her dad, and we both picked some chestnuts. We also went in to the Craft Warehouse in Salem and treated ourselves to some goodies. All in all, it was a lovely day.

So the final count was 31 chickens that survived to the end (out of 40). After looking at their final weights (5 to 9 pounds at 8 1/2 weeks), I will process them at 7 weeks next time around. I hadn’t lost any until the last 10 days! We split the losses, so Laura got 11 and I got 20.

So what did I do with 20 chickens? The final tally is in:

  • 8 were bagged whole. 7 of them are in the freezer at Mom’s, and we celebrated a successful trip by roasting a small one Saturday night.
  • Also in the freezer are several bags of chicken parts (boneless, skinless breasts, skinless thighs, and wings)
  • 14 quarts of boneless chicken chunks were canned
  • 7 quarts and 8 pints of plain chicken broth were canned. There is another 3 quarts in the fridge for use this week, and I made a fantastic roasted garlic/chicken soup which I ate on Sunday, and took a quart each of the broth and soup to Mom.
  • 7 quarts and 12 pints of chicken soup. It’s pretty basic, but will be easy to spice up as the mood strikes me.
  • 5 half pints of schmaltz. I gave 1 to Mom, 1 is in my fridge, and the other 3 are in the freezer.
  • The last chicken was roasted here at home last night and shared with Kid the Elder & his wife. We only managed to eat half of it, but I’m looking forward to some great sandwiches this week.

It took me a few days to get everything processed, and my back was not happy with all the kitchen work. But I know that it will be worth it every time I go to the cupboard and pull another can of something tasty out to eat. I took a little time to clean out the linen closet in the spare bathroom, and was able to dedicate 2 full shelves to all the goodies I’ve canned this fall, and set up an inventory sheet so I can keep track of it all.

Very little went to waste. The broth and soup were made from the bones, the meat still on the bones went into the soups, and the fat and skin went into the schmaltz. Little pieces that were too small to go into the jars of chunks went into my freezer in 2 bags, for stir-fry later on.

This is the schmaltz, just starting to render. Schmaltz

Roast chickenTasty roast chicken and potatoes. Pan juices were added to the stock pot after dinner.

So, was it worth it? Only someone who was never had homegrown meat would really ask that. It’s like the difference between a homegrown tomato and a store-bought one. The 2 birds that I’ve roasted so far have both been incredibly tender and juicy, more flavorful than anything I could buy at the store. Mom and I discussed the differences while we ate dinner. I think we finally settled on the idea that it just had more substance than a commercially raised bird. Grocery store chicken tends to be very bland and, well, the word flaccid comes to mind. I am looking forward to some fantastic meals! The cost per bird would have been better if all 40 had made it to the end, but I’ll say yes, it was definitely worth it. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Ongoing Changes

October 24, 2013

Life is change. I know that, but that doesn’t mean that I always appreciate it. Over the years I’ve had too many changes imposed on me, with no say in the matter and while I can work with necessary change, change simply for the sake of change irks me. At my old job, they would often shift our desks around simply because they could, and I always objected.

Things around here are changing too. Some of it is good and necessary. Some of it is annoying. I will spare you pictures of the crap-tastic pallet and recycled wood fence I built by the pole barn. One of the neighbors (I’m assuming the idiot next door) had complained to the County, even though nothing had changed in over 12 years. I have a feeling that he thought that after Sweetie passed I would sell off and move, and when that didn’t happen he decided to stir the pot. I got a letter from the County about 18 months ago, with a “solid waste” complaint. When I called to ask about it, I was told that the dead cars in the yard had to be removed, and my pile of trash bags. I don’t have regular trash service; I just make a dump run as needed and it was about time for another. So, dump run accomplished and dead cars removed (3 sedans and 2 pickups), I went about my normal life. Until early this summer, when the Sheriff showed up with a summons. He informed me that I would have to pass inspection, which would have been good information to have from the get-go. Again, I asked for specifics on what needed to be done to make them happy. This time I was told that there was too much “stuff” on my front porch, and that would need to be cleaned off. What an adventure that was! After going almost 30 years without being stung by anything, I was stung by paper wasps 5 times. Each reaction was worse than the one before, so now I’m a little paranoid about being stung again. I called for my inspection.  The County guy ignored everything I had already done, and decided that my pole barn needed to be completely cleaned out, or a sight-obscuring fence needed to be built. Argh! How hard would it have been to tell me that in the beginning. It was now the heat of summer, and I was unwilling to risk any more wasp stings. Luckily, I was able to convince him that I needed an extension until we got enough cool weather to quiet the wasps down, and I was able to get enough of a fence built to appease him.

Once that was out of the way, I started looking at my front porch. A hole had developed in the decking at the top of the stairs, and I obtained enough decking to replace all of the floor. Unfortunately, it has developed into a much more complicated job. After looking at it carefully, I’m not sure how the porch is still standing. Turns out, there is no real structure under it, only piles of wood that are holding the deck up in places. The posts that hold up the front end of the roof over the porch aren’t even attached to the porch, just resting on it! So that means that I will need to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it from the ground up. Times like this are when I miss my dad; he would have been a big help in doing the job right. Oh well, at least he trained me well.

The freezer will be getting new residents in a couple of days. In early September one of the feed stores I deal with got in a bunch of chicks. I got 40 Cornish cross chicks to raise and share with Laura. I brooded them in half of the barn, then moved them all outside to a spare pen. Up until last week I’d done a great job, without a single loss. In a week, I have lost 5 of them. It is frustrating to put all the work and food into them and lose them so close to the end, but the remaining ones are looking mighty tasty. They take their trip to the butcher on Saturday, so hopefully they’ll all last that long. I know other producers can have losses up to 30%, so mine aren’t too bad in the grand scheme, but it’s hard losing them this late in the game.line up at the buffet

I’ve been working at the carder too. I’m slogging my way slowly through the commission alpaca fleeces, washing fleeces while the weather is being cooperative. As a break from all the natural color, I carded up some rainbow batts from some leftover Romney cross fleece.  I did each of the colors separately, adding in some sparkle.Individual colors

Then I split them up and thinned things down for another trip through the carder. Ready for final carding

I’m really happy with how these turned out. They are very cheerful in person. Three of them are being bartered for a Christmas present, but the other 6 will be sold if I can resist spinning them up myself. The pictures don’t do them justice.Finished batts Twisted close up

I’ve been knitting on socks. I had started these yellow ones quite some time ago, with the intention of doing some infinity cables on the legs. They had been on the needles too long, and I was having problems wrapping my addled brain around the cables, so I just finished them off plain so I could free up the needles. Then I jumped in to knitting a pair off fairly quickly, as barter for my massage therapist. Didn’t get them done in time for her last visit, but she’ll be back soon and I’ll have this pair done. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the yarn she left for me so I can get another pair started too. We haven’t worked out an exchange rate yet, but I need to get to work on Christmas knitting too.  finished plain Becky sock

I have also found my hand cards. Sweetie had packed a tote that was on the front porch. In his normal fashion, there was not much rhyme or reason to the things in the tote. I found beads, a steak knife, a flashlight, my cards and an assortment of fleece bits. Most of the fleece was toast, but I played with the cards and some of the fleece that I indigo dyed back in late April. I made up batches that were pure undyed, pure dyed and 3:1 ratios (both directions). I’m thinking a new hat and matching gloves or mittens might be in order, but I haven’t settled on a pattern yet. I’m toying with the idea of doing some color work, but will see what I finally settle on. I do like to colors, and the progression. hand carded variation

The biggest change I’m undergoing right now, I suppose, is self-imposed. Back in late April, I changed my mindset about food. I have had issues with my weight most of my adult life. My weight had held steady for the last 20+ years, within 5 pounds. Didn’t seem to matter what I ate or how I exercised. I’ve always had a fairly good diet. I don’t eat candy, I love fruits and vegetables, I’m just an easy keeper. When I paid attention to how many calories I was taking in, I was holding steady at about 1200 calories a day (most indications are that I should have been losing at least 10 pounds a month at that input).  Until the last few years I wasn’t seeing any real negative issues. My cholesterol levels were fine, and my blood pressure was ok, and so I didn’t worry about my weight too much. Then, a couple of years ago, my bp sky rocketed. In early April, it went as high as 170/100. That is not a number I’m comfortable with. While a simple diuretic was able to control it, I now have no insurance and wanted a chemical free way of keeping it down.  In April, I moved to a mostly raw food diet. I tried doing a juice fast for 3 days, but my body quickly informed me that I needed protein. So I listened to my body. I juice once or twice a day, I can eat whatever I want (just not all of it). Before I dried Myrtle off (for breeding), I was using raw milk and making raw milk cheese. I’ve cut way back on the amount of carbs (bread, pasta, etc), but if I want them I can have a reasonable serving. So far, I’ve lost about 25 pounds, and more importantly, my blood pressure is back to normal! Even if my weight hadn’t changed at all, it would be worth the effort (little as it is) just to have my blood pressure back where it should be. I don’t feel like I’m dieting, which is huge (as any of you that struggle with your weight will understand). I still eat out occasionally, I’m cooking well. I’m not sure how I managed to reset my mind & my relationship with food, but this is one change I am thankful for. I’m not losing pounds quickly, which is fine since I couldn’t afford to replace my entire wardrobe all at once. But my clothes are fitting a bit better, and I’m getting a few compliments when I’m out in public, which never hurts the ego. Still a long way to go to get back down to what most would consider a “normal” weight, but I’m good with that. I may never get back to “normal”. I am more concentrated on feeling better, on making my body last as long as possible. I would like to enter my 60’s healthier than I am now, with less pain. I’ve got this!



It’s Official – My Kids Are The Best

January 5, 2013

Having survived the holidays, I did want to share that the kids outdid themselves with Christmas presents this year. Kid the Elder and his wife replaced my dying stove (one burner had a broken knob, and one had an intermittent short). Plus, it was at least 20 years old. The new one is used, but for the first time in over 20 years, I have a stove capable of self-cleaning (though I am not likely to use it, since it gets SO hot and I am in an old mobile home). It is wonderful to be able to cook on all burners again. It got installed the day after Christmas, being that I foiled the plan to install it while I slept Christmas Eve. I was sleeping in one of the comfy chairs in the living room, since I have been fighting a lung infection that prevented me from sleeping laying down for almost a week. The old one went to the dump as soon as this one was installed. No sense in putting it off while we had help.

new stove

Kid the Younger wasn’t able to come home for Christmas, but made it over a few days later for his birthday. Having a birthday so close to Christmas sucks, but I was well-trained by my dad, whose birthday was the 27th. The rules were simple – a joint present was not acceptable, and the birthday present could not be wrapped in Christmas paper. When Kid was younger we would forgo a birthday party in December for one later. Sometimes in January, but usually at the end of the school year, when we could invite the whole class over to run amok outside once filled with cake and ice cream. He way out did himself in the present department too – a ginormous gift card to Home Depot. He does know the way to his mama’s heart. I’m having as much fun figuring out what to do as I will actually spending it.

We did our traditional Christmas Eve dinner – tacos (been doing it since I was about 9) at my mom’s, but Christmas day was pretty laid back. Kid the Elder made coffee cake (another long-standing tradition, ever since he was old enough to run the stove with supervision).  He changes it up every year, playing with recipes.

I finally decided that it was time for new Christmas stockings. When I was pregnant with my eldest I started making stockings for my potential children. I was running on memory for how big mine was and had way over-estimated. So for many years, Santa has had to break the bank filling them. Now, Daughter is gone, as is Sweetie, and Kid the Younger has changed his name. I placed an order to KnitPicks in early November, dug out the knitting books, and started knitting in secret. I got them all finished (except for weaving in some ends on mine) on Christmas Eve, and they got hung just before I went to bed. They still need fulled, and I will post a better picture once that happens, but here they are in all their glory:

Christmas Stockings As you can see, there are 5 of them. Kid the Elder is blue, DIL is purple, Kid the Younger is red, his fiancée is green, and I am yellow. The kids all have their mates color alternated with white on the toes, and the toe of mine has all 4 of the others. Since I’d ordered yarn without having a plan, I cut it very close on the yellow. I have only a tiny little ball left of it, approximately 2 yards. I am very happy with how they turned out, and it won’t be hard to do more if I am ever blessed with grand-babies.

I also knit socks for both Kid the Younger and his fiancée, but I don’t have pictures of them yet. They are supposed to send me a picture as soon as they find a second.

The ewes are starting to bag up (develop udders), so lambs are on their way! It’s always exciting to see what I get in the way of new babies. I borrowed a ram from my friend Correy, so I have high hopes for structural improvements. It will be interesting to see if I get some fun color patterns. I’m a total sucker for spotted lambs, though it is unlikely that he carries spotting. Some of the ewes do, so there is a possibility. I still can’t tell if the goat girls are pregnant, though I did dream that one of them was.

My other big adventure was helping Laura do in her two big white turkeys. She had been putting it off for a while, and finally conceded that she needed the prompting of my being there to get them done. We started with the hen, who was almost small enough to carry. Laura did most of the work on her, with me mostly supervising and bracing the carcass to facilitate certain maneuvers. Before we broke for lunch and to warm up a bit, we walked the tom up to the where we were working (no way we were lifting  him up) and hung him up to bleed out. A hot cup of tea, a slice of homemade frittata, and a little sit down time were a nice break, before we went back out to finish the dirty work. We both worked on skinning him out, and pretty soon he joined his mate in the cold water bath in her front yard. They spent the night there before being boned out today. She will be making a lot of turkey sausage, and I may be smoking some of it. I’m pushing for one that includes dried apricot.

Hope you all had a nice holiday season, and are off to a good start in the New Year.

Still Thankful and Thanksgiving

November 25, 2012

It has been a very busy week. My daughter had started the tradition of “Friends Thanksgiving” with her friends back in middle school, and introduced it to her college friends. They still continue to do it; this year was #6. Since she is gone, I am invited (only parent who is). It was set for November 17th this year, and I made plans to go. The night before I’m leaving, my check engine light came on. Boo! This is about 800 miles round trip, and I don’t want to do it in a rig that might die at any moment. Luckily, my niece works for a car rental company, and she was able to get me a great deal on a rental car (which my mom ended up treating me to!). So Friday afternoon, I headed over the mountains to Eugene, because Kid the Younger and his fiancée were coming with.

It was a nice evening. Kid and I went to see the new James Bond movie. We got lost on the way to the theater, but had a nice conversation along the way. This is the first year that he will not be able to be home for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I will miss him. It’s nice to know that he will miss me too!

Saturday dawned rainy. I totaled a car when I was pregnant with Kid the Elder, and have been uncomfortable driving in the rain ever since. Oh well, can’t be helped. Off we went. It ended up raining all day (and the next, and the next…) The party was wonderful. It has evolved, as traditions should. The  first baby was brought, and several dogs were also in attendance. We always go around the room and say what we are thankful for. Most of them are very heart-felt, but some were just flat-out funny (one young man was thankful for indoor plumbing). These young people are the most gracious, beautiful souls, and I truly feel blessed that they continue to stay in touch with me and include me in their lives. They credit my daughter with teaching them that friendships are worth the work to maintain.

On Sunday, we left Tacoma and went to visit a couple of my sheep friends. One has recently had a cancer diagnosis, and when I let her know I was going to be in the area she expressed an interest in me coming by. It was a wonderful visit, then we were on the road again, back to Eugene, still driving in the rain. I spent the night with the kids again, rather than drive back over the mountains in a strange car in the dark.

Luckily, all that rain had not translated into snow on the mountains. It was a wet drive home Monday, but uneventful. I connected with Laura, and we made arrangements for her to come over that afternoon to pick up my turkeys for the drive to the butchers on Tuesday. I got them penned up in a small area outside their pen when I got home. When Laura came, we got my coolers into the truck, then I handed hens over the fence and she put them in the truck. There was no way I was lifting the two toms that high, so we let them out of the pen and walked them over, then we each lifted one.

The weather for Tuesday was supposed to be wet, snow level at 5,500 feet. Laura got to my place at about 7:30, and off we went. As we’re headed down my road, she informs me that her windshield wipers have an issue, so they don’t work when it’s wet. Oops! We have an appointment to keep, so staying home really isn’t an option. It turned out that the weatherman misjudged the snow level by about 2,000 feet. It is snowing big, fat, wet flakes before we hit the pass. We stopped just the other side to use the ice scraper to clean off the windshield, and Laura opened her window several times to clean off the corner so the built up snow could slide off while we were driving until we got down far enough that it turned back into rain. Several people passed us laughing and pointing when they saw the turkeys, which were visible when they stood up in the back of the truck.

We got to the butcher’s a bit early, causing a bit of a panic on their part, since they were running a bit behind (first appointment of the day was a half hour late, putting everyone behind). We sat in the office, knitting and chatting with our friend who was nice enough to bring us ice for the coolers. We talked about everything under the sun, much to the amusement of the other customers.  When they were ready for us, Laura went out and handed birds out one at a time. They managed to process our 20 birds in just under 2 hours! My seven ended up being much bigger than anticipated. Smallest one was almost 17 1/2 pounds, and the 2 toms were almost 33 and 41 pounds! Yikes, that’s a lot of turkey!

I had made arrangements to meet my future in-law in Salem to get her bird, so we made a quick stop for that before heading back over the mountains again. The addition of headlights to the mix made the drive back to our side of the world even more challenging. Laura said she was very proud of me for not squeaking once during the trip.

I shopped on Wednesday for the big day, and brined the smaller tom. Thanksgiving was at my mom’s. My friend Brenda came with her folks, and Laura joined us with a fantastic cranberry salsa. I had to make a couple of changes to the menu, since Laura is allergic to mushrooms, and Brenda’s mom is allergic to dairy proteins. Nothing major that ruined the meal. I made my usual stuffing without the mushrooms, and I made a rice stuffing for the first time by combining two recipes I found online (recipes are just suggestions, right?), and did a 7-grain roll that usually calls for butter (substituted shortening). Nobody went away hungry, and I still had half a turkey to deal with. I do love home raised turkey. Even as big as he was, he was still tender and very moist. And he cooked way faster than I anticipated. I have since boned him out, and the carcass is simmering away on the stove in a gigantic stock pot.  It is too big to fit on my biggest burner. There is no room in my freezer or mom’s (which has 3 turkeys in it), so I will be canning stock when it is done brewing.

I am squeezing in some knitting these days, but most of it is surprise stuff, so no pics until after they have reached their recipients. Good stuff, I promise.

I am being good about continuing my “30 Days of Thankfulness” posts on Facebook, so here are the latest installments.

  • Day 11 – I am thankful for the men and women of our military, whose sacrifices have helped make this country what it is.
  • Day 12 – I am thankful that my dad took the time to teach me to be handy. It is a good thing to be able to fix things.
  • Day 13 – I am thankful for my sistahs.
  • Day 14 – I am thankful for my creative skills, even when they distract me from getting things done.
  • Day 15 – I am thankful that I was able to live abroad as a child. It taught me so much about getting along with people I thought I had nothing in common with, and showed me that we are all connected.
  • Day 16 – I am thankful that my adult children actually like spending time with me. They are pretty amazing people!
  • Day 17 – I am thankful that my daughter’s friends continue to share their lives with me. They are some of the most beautiful people in the world, and I am blessed by having them in my life.
  • Day 18 – I am thankful that I live in a country that is inching towards allowing all of its citizens to marry the person they love.
  • Day 19 – I am thankful for modern conveniences (electricity, medicine, & transportation, to name just a few).
  • Day 20 – I am thankful that I have the ability to raise at least some of my own food
  • Day 21 – I am thankful for my mom.
  • Day 22 – I am thankful for the wonderful people sharing Thanksgiving with me today.
  • Day 23 – I am thankful that Facebook has given me the opportunity to reconnect with family. Some of my relatives are pretty awesome folks!
  • Day 24 – I am thankful for the joy that music brings to my life. Love listening to my kids sing.