Monthly Archives: August 2012

Fermentation

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I LOVE pickled things.  Pickled anything is always my first order at new restaurants.  I’ve been making vinegar pickles (dill, and green beans) for several years.  This year, though, I had so many pickling cucumbers that I finally got up the courage to do something I’ve been wanting to try for years: fermented pickles.

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35 pounds of pickling cucumbers, and 1 cat

Knowing that I had a compost pile to dump any failures into may have also helped improve my confidence level a little bit.

I followed Sandor Katz’s recipe, which you can find here.

After one week, which went quickly by while we were in the hospital, we came home to find the crock with quite a cover of mold on the top.  When I skimmed off the mold, and lifted the plate I used to keep all the cucumbers in the bring, we discovered this lovely sight:  a crock full of sour dill pickles!

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The garlic isn’t ready to eat by any stretch, but the cucumbers are delicious after just one week.  They taste just like great NY deli sour dills — and the only ingredients are cucumbers, salt, dill, garlic, and black pepper!

I’m calling this experiment a huge success:  can’t wait to try to repeat it with green beans soon… but only after I make another back of cucumber pickles… because I’m going to eat this batch before the summer is over!

Broody Hens

We have been hoping all year that one of our hens might get broody, so that we could try raising a small clutch of chicks ourselves (but without all the crazy feather-dust-in-the-bathroom that comes with hand-raising them).  Typically, though, modern chickens do not get broody very often, because that has been bred out of them in an attempt to increase their egg productivity.

 

But!  A week ago we got lucky, and one of our new chicks, who had only laid a few eggs so far (but they have been huge, double and triple yolkers, the poor girl), started sitting on the nest and looking broody .  Then a day or two later, one of our Orpingtons starting sitting on the next constantly.  Suddenly it was like an epidemic of fainting among high school girls – everybody wanted to go broody!  Well, we don’t want THREE broody hens (we only have 3 nestboxes, for one thing), so we have to try to break two of the girls from their spell.

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The solution to breaking broody hens is apparently a very uncomfortable spell in a wire cage.  So, here we have Cheery and one of the four elephants, doing their unpleasant stint in a cage donated by my mother.  They’re actually handling it pretty well – just a few more days to go and hopefully their chest feathers will grow back and they’ll go back to laying eggs soon!

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And as for our little clutch of eggs?  Well, apparently over time a few other hens were able to sneak their eggs into the nest, too, so instead of the 3 eggs we started with, our would-be mommy is sitting on 8 eggs!!  It’s a mystery as to whether they are viable, though, since we don’t know for certain that she’s been consistant enough to have kept them warm at the crucial moments.  But chickens hatch at 21 days, so, we have two weeks left before we might get to see some chicks!  In the meantime, this orpington has her game face on.

Garden 2012: Week Fifteen

We unexpectedly spent last weekend in the hospital, but thankfully we have amazing family and neighbors, who pitched in to make sure the garden and menagerie survived our unplanned absence.  We are so grateful for the support system… we know so much of our accomplishments this year have been thanks to everyone else who has been there rooting for us, whether from afar or literally here with gloves and a shovel!

 

A few shots of the Garden in it’s 15th week:

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Looking west

The corn IS as high as an elephant’s eye!  The stalks all have ears on them… now to just be patient while they fill out enough to pick.

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Banana Squash

The banana squash is really not appropriately named.  They should really call it “Small Child Squash”.  We have one that is 3′ long!  This plant really took over this year; hope we like eating it all winter long!

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Brussels sprouts are starting to show themselves!

 

In other garden news, we’ve been harvesting pickling cucumbers by the tens of pounds.  With Glenna’s help, I’ve put up almost 20 quarts of dill pickles, and just finished my first batch of half-sour fermented dill pickles.  The peas are finally tired and almost done – time to start feeding them to the goats.  Tomatoes are just starting… we’re getting a few cherries a day, but nothing big yet.  We should have warm weather the next few weeks though, so hopefully all those green tomatoes will mature before the rain starts!

 

Turkey Dinner

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We don’t actually eat a lot of meat here on the farm, since Talina is vegetarian, but I managed to put this plate together for myself tonight.  Everything on that plate was grown here on the farm, including the turkey.

On Sunday, after Sunday Brunch, we had our first slaughter on the farm.  One of the turkey hens had somehow wounded herself, and over a few days she went from limping around to just sitting in the pasture sadly meeping, while her fellow turkeys just ignored her.  She wasn’t able to eat or drink, so we knew it was time to let her go.

Since we are feeding the turkeys a diet of Scratch and Peck Turkey Grower with an addition of fish meal, one of our concerns has been that they might be taking on a bit of a fishy flavor.  Having to butcher this turkey early was a good chance to check to find out whether this was actually the case.

I somehow failed to take any photos of the actual butchering process… but allow me to say that if we do this much more often, a feather plucking device would be a reasonable investment.  SO MANY FEATHERS.  And she was obviously much smaller than a traditional turkey would be at slaughter time.  However, when we got her open, it was clear that she was ill beyond just the limp: her liver was green (it should be pink)!

Having just lost Colin a week ago, it is an interesting experience to have a death on the farm that was planned and intentional.  The two, so close together, are a good reminder that life and death are always right there competing with, and benefiting from, each other.

First Tomato

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Brought in the first real tomato today! It’s an heirloom, from one of the plants we bought on the sad-plant stack at a local nursery. The rest of our tomatos will be far behind this one, so we will have to enjoy it for the next week or so!

Gathering Wool

You may remember that we brought home two sheep last week. They were, as you recall, quite woolly, having not been shorn in two years!

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We tried all week to find someone to come help us shear them, but, no less than three people flaked on us and failed to show. They not only looked miserable, the local heat warnings were going from HOT to REALLY VERY HOT!, and we were worried about their health. Finally, in desperation I remembered driving past a local farm that raises sheep. I emailed our neighbors at Distracted Acres, and begged them for help – even just expertise to come make sure we didn’t kill the sheep if we tried to shear them. Troy agreed to come up and shear them for us the next day… we have the BEST neighbors ever.

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The whole event took 20 minutes start to finish. I wish I’d gotten some video, but it was way too dark in the barn, unfortunately. Here’s Talina’s feet next to the pile of wool sheared off of Eureka — she’s just 2 years old, so this was her first time being sheared!

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Here’s the final result: a massive bag of wool, all piled up and ready to be used for garden mulch next year, and, some naked sheep – out in the heat of the afternoon and not panting:

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In A Pickle

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This is what 22 pounds of pickling cucumbers looks like. I’m traveling for work this week, so Mom went up and pickled them to handle, thank god. TWENTY TWO POUNDS! So many pickles.

Sheeps!

Well, we’ve really done it now.

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Earlier this week, we went to look at these two over-wooled lovely ladies.  They belonged to a friend of John’s, who hadn’t been able to care for them fully in the last year.  We have been tossing around the idea of adding sheep to our menagerie, but didn’t think we were ready quite yet… but it was tough to say no to these guys, who clearly needed a little help.  Also, SHEEP!

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The rest of this week has been filled with scrambling to figure out how to get to very hairy sheep moved up to our place.  Thank heaven, at the very last minute, we found someone willing to lend her horse trailer to the campaign.  We managed to get them loaded and brought up relatively easily.  The ladies aren’t totally happy about being around people, but if you’ve got some grain in your hand they might deign to stick around long enough to let you grab them.

So here we are:  sheep owners.

Houdini


Frank discovered how to escape from the new pasture.. it didn’t take him very long to figure it out, either!  We discovered his new ability when we came home to find him hanging out by the garden (not in it, thank goodness) – but luckily, he was kind enough to show me exactly how he was doing it, which made it easy to plug the hole and stop the escapism.