Saturday, September 17, 2011

How long till Thanksgiving?

Almost full-grown Narragansett Turkey
Hmmm... I wonder who ate all my tomatoes...

Garden fence is in the works for next year! Once the turkeys started flying over their dilapidated run fence (long story, also in the plans for next year), I had to start leaving the door open so they could get back into the coop. Evidently, they really enjoy green, just about to turn, tomatoes.

Everyone who comes for a visit asks, "Are those the little baby ducks!?!?". Yes, the tiny little balls of fuzz from June are about the size of a cat/small dog now. I can see why Muscovy are raised for meat! They grew the best this year out of all our poultry, and are huge. This is Huey the biggest, showing off his silent squeak. Fear not, these guys are our breeding group so they are not destined for the dinner table, in the spring when we have tons of new little ducks... well, I'd better start collecting recipes!

I'm about 90% sure we've got Huey & Louie the boys, then 3 lady ducks who still need names (including Dewey, but I really can't keep calling her that). Muscovy are difficult to sex, but males are much larger and all these guys are supposed to have been born around the same time (Early May(ish) 2011). 

I don't think these South American ducks (the wild stock domestics come from) are going to have any trouble staying warm this winter!

Friday, September 16, 2011

KSCC: Keep it Organized.

 Pretty sure it's not just knitters with sticky-fingered kids that have this problem, but most of us. It's just worse when you've got little kids who want to touch all the soft fibre (who can blame them?)

Some weeks I really spend more time undoing
knots then knitting
The wound ball
Learning how to wind a proper ball is definitely one of the knitting basics you should know but don't always get taught. There are YouTube videos (great way to learn new knitting techniques) but it's very simple. Leave a little tail, then wind around two of your fingers until you get enough to start winding around in the other direction. As long as you make sure you leave the tail clear for pulling later, you'll have a perfect little ball for your kids to unravel around your main floor in no time!

There are commercial ball-winders you can purchase, but I've always found them more expensive then I want to pay for doing something I actually enjoy and don't have to do often.

Once they are in little balls I keep my wool in zip-lock baggies in a big tub. Not the most environmentally friendly method, but it keeps me from spending hours untangling.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Asparagus gone to seed
Looks a lot like asparagus you
would eat until it fans out

Finally found some time to get some gardening done! Just in time for the end of the season... oh well, better late then never!

The first thing I got to doing was planning out where we're going to put some steps from the back of the shop into the garden. Part of that is moving some plants first. The raspberries I have to wait until they stop fruiting (because we want to eat them!). Even though waiting another month would probably be the best for these asparagus, I have the time now & they are pretty strong healthy plants, I'm sure they will survive.

I cropped then down so they are
all ready for winter

The trick with transplanting the asparagus was digging up this massive root-ball! It took half an hour and then a strong back (hubby) for the largest one. 
Mommy! Look at all the worms!!

Asparagus takes 3 years to grow from seed into something you can eat. So if you're starting from scratch you probably want to go buy some 1 or 2 year old crowns from the nursery. Otherwise that is a long time to wait.

We didn't have a chance to eat any of the asparagus this year, they'd already grown too big by the time we moved in; but we should have a really good crop next year. I let all the big guys drop their seeds already, and cleared the area underneath so the seeds have somewhere to grow. Now I'll thin whatever grows in the next few years. Allowing the asparagus to get to this fern-like state is also pumping nutrients down into the crown, so the plant will have lots of energy to produce stocks in the spring.

I've re-planted my crowns at ground level instead of in a trench because we are going to build a raised bed along this edge of the garden for the asparagus. (I haven't really decided yet if we're going to do the rest of the garden in raised beds.) They need some old manure thrown on them, and we've got lots kicking around! So in a few weeks I'll have the box built, and we'll bring the old manure over.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cow & Flies

I. Hate. Flies.

Part of having cows, is that they seem to manufacture flies! I've never seen as many flies in a horse stable (although there usually are a few) as you find around the cows. No matter how many cows you have on what acreage, the flies just love them.

So part of living around cows is that unless you can get in through the walls, you bring flies in with you (even worse when you've got kids and pets).

One thing I discovered this year are these window fly traps. They work disgustingly well, far better then the hanging fly strips.

We don't have a single fly in our barn because the animals are out as much as possible and we've got the chickens in there to eat any maggots that do grow. We do still have quite a few out in the field, if I could I would keep 100 chickens out there with the animals to keep eating all the maggots. They do an amazing job.

Last summer/early fall is my most aggravating time for flies, they are slow and stupid and annoying and hard to catch; so I've armed the kids with fly swatters and hopefully they'll actually get a few in between whacking each other.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

HK 101: Leather or Synthetic Tack?

The new-to-us Wintec Western Saddle
(yes the stirrups are upside down in the pic)
I always, always use leather halters on my horses. It's very important if they are out in the field, or in their stall, or in cross-ties and they get hung-up that they are able to escape so they don't break their necks/backs/legs etc.

When it comes to tack, I'm more on the synthetic side. All my bridles are leather but for around-the-farm purposes I much prefer synthetic saddles. They are much easier to care for, and are much less stingy about humidity or temperature.

I bought my Thoroughgood Griffen A/P saddle for around $500 on consignment, and it is a wonderful saddle for schooling! Very comfortable, and has the neat ability to move the stoppers around under the flap so you can "change" it from an A/P to a dressage, etc.

To get the full western set-up will probably be a little less, but we're going to use an english bridle since this is just around the yard sort of riding (or I could just take the nose-band off and pretend it's a head-stall). I'm going to get some Tapaderos, which are stirrup covers which prevent your foot from slipping through; that way our relatives can ride in sneakers when they come up for trail-rides!

Nothing beats a well worn beautiful leather jumping saddle for serious competition, but if you're just riding around at home, taking lessons or showing in schooling shows, why spend the money or deal with the upkeep?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cook: Farm Food

Everyone on the farm (except Meg) is in their skinny-jeans from all the work! Which is normal for my hyper-active babies anyway. We really love stick-to-your-ribs full butter kinda foods. I'm a firm beliver in cooking with full-fat gives you a better flavour and fills you up much faster then last satisfying foods.
Roast Chicken
This is a one-pot chicken I've been making for years, trust me on the butter. It's absolutely delicious, you get the best caramalized chicken butter vegetables! I pick up the chicken when they go on sale for $5 each at the store, and keep them in the freezer. Hopefully we'll be using our own birds very soon!

What you need:
Whole Chicken
Veggies from the Fridge
Chicken Herbs (Thyme, Salt, Pepper, etc.)

I like to use potatoes, carrots, onions & garlic. You can get more creative though! Take whatever is in the fridge, peel and cut into 2"+ pieces. You can cook your chicken from fresh or frozen. I like to mix my herbs into a softened butter. 1/2 a cup or 1 stick is more then enough for a chicken. Smother the chicken with your butter. If I've got extra time I'll peel the chicken skin back from the breast meat and stuff underneath as well.

I use an oven roaster with the lid on, and turn the chicken breast meat down. Once you're nearing done you flip the bird over and remove the cover to brown the skin on the top. In the oven at 425F between 1 hour and 2 hours depending on the size of your bird. (If you start your chicken 3 hours before dinner it will take 1 hour, if you start your bird 1 hours before dinner it will take 2 hours...). Sit back and watch your kids eat their vegetables. Save the chicken bones for stock!

Pot Roast
Another favourite around here, and it's not just a Sunday night dinner. This meal really does taste better with our grass raised young beef, but it's also a great way to use up an older cow/cheaper cuts from the grocery store and really stretch your dinner.

What you need:
Roast, any size
Veggies from the fridge
Beef stock/water/coffee/red wine
Beef Herbs (S/P, Rosemary, Garlic, etc.)

Peel whatever veggies you want and toss in the pot, normally I do onions, carrots & garlic. You want to brown your veggies this time, give them a quick simmer and throw them in the slow cooker OR save them on a plate and cook your roast in one pot. You also want to brown all sides of your roast; you can do this from frozen if you've forgotten to de-frost it. You should remember to season it first, but I frequently forget and just throw the herbs in the slow cooker behind the beef. Throw veggies & beef in your slow cooker, or you can do this on a pot on the stove. Add 1 cup or so of water or beef stock (home-made is best) or 1/2 cup of coffee (which is suprisingly good, and you can't taste the coffee!) and you can throw a little red wine in there too. Leave for 4 hours or so.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The sceptic paddock

Out on the side of our house lays the septic bed. It's kinda tucked out of the way, with some cedar fencing to keep the livestock off it; it would be really bad news for the bed if the cows got over here. But we do have a few little creatures, with small, light hooves who do a bang-up job keeping it trimmed.

Plus it's close to the house, so my little bottle babies can maaaa or baaaa for "mom" any time they want. It's nice to be able to watch them out the kitchen window. 

It's raining out here
can I come in?
After driving me crazy for days I found out the front fence had heaved right up and there was a 2' gap for the goats to get out near the road. They're doing a great job clearing out the brush out front, and eventually I'd like to get some e-net so they can clear out all the weeds out there. It's not safe to have them just wandering around road-side though.

For now we've got a temporary fence up that actually keeps them in! We've had no more escapes, and I think we've plugged all the holes in the entire fence. The goats/Billy love having their own little paddock. We'll be re-doing this fence when we re-fence the front of the property, but that is years away.