Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Incubator is Going Off Like A.....

We have a hatch, folks! Wow what a day! The incubator is going off like a Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper!

Yesterday we had some chicks bursting out of their shells like kung fu fighters. We had three new arrivals by last nite. And one little guy who was having technical difficulties escaping his pod.. I mean egg.

This morning I went down to check on our late comer and he hadnt made much progress getting out of his shell at all. And to make matters worse, the membrane that surrounds him was drying out....so he was kind of stuck.

The big question is - do you help or not? The old wisdom says that if chicks aren't strong enough to hatch, they probably won't make it anyway. In the natural this is probably true - but in the incubator? Our position is that we help. We figure they are gonna die anyway - so how could we make it worse? And we think everyone deserves a chance.

So this morning I used some cotton swaps dipped in water to moisten the membrane - and chipped off some of the shell to make sure this little guy could breathe. He was kicking pretty darn good so I didn't pip him all the way out. Its a tricky thing, you have to be careful you don't hurt a pipper.  The membrane has blood vessels so you have to be careful not to tear them - you sure don't want to cause him to bleed out.  And you have to make sure he's fully absorbed his yolk into his belly and removing the shell and membrane might harm this process also. So there's no sense in rushing. So just make sure he can breathe. Its hard work to pip out of your shell - so its OK if it takes a while and if he takes lots of naps.

I laid him on a wet paper towel in the brooder once I was sure he was all systems "Go" - then one of his little buddies came over and snuggled with him. This is one reason to keep just hatched chicks in the incubator. His fellow pippers will be stimulated by all the movement and peeping. So he'll encourage his friends to come on out and play.

The chicks that hatched yesterday will be moved over to the brooder with Little Baldy and his gang later today. There's no real rush and you want to make sure they are really dry and have their feet under them before taking them out of the incubator. Remember that the last thing they do is absorb their yolk which will provide the nourishment they need for a couple days. This is how hatcheries are able to ship chicks thru the mail, isn't that interesting?

We'll keep this late arrival in the incubator with at least one buddy until tomorrow. While there is no guarantee he'll make it - we think he's got a fighting chance.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hot dogs!

Thanks for all the well wishes, friends... I've just about recovered but this has been a long boring week for me. Hopefully I'll be back to full speed in a day or so. But life goes on and chores need to be done so there's no rest for the barfy. Onward.

From this morning.....

Remember when Kai was so little that she was only as big as Titan's head

Back then they could share a water bucket - now they both head for the big waterer.  And she's huge - she's nearly as big as he is...and she's not even close to being filled out but she stands just as tall.

We've really been working on her discipline lately. This "destructo" phase will probably go on for another six or 9 months....but she's been doing well.

Folks ask me how we can have dogs around our poultry - the answer is "hard work and discipline." She had a hard lesson in controlling her puppy self this week. But she's come a long way and is learning not to test her boundaries. As much. Oy!

Today she had to sit on the deck while all the good dogs played fetch. But when I went and got her she behaved and walked right past the duck that she'd love to have "just one little taste" of.... And then we all had a fun time.

She's a smiley girl and we love her.

Happy Friday everyone! Keep cool!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The New Guys

At this writing I have two little snuggle buddies in my br... I mean... my "Personal Mobile Incubator." Meet the new guys!

These two are set up in a brooder in the basement when they aren't snuggling in my shirt. One of my friends asked what happens when they poop - well, then I just go and get a new shirt. Having them snuggled in like this lets them hear my heartbeat, which is comforting to them - and its the right temperature for the little ones. Silly? Sure. But everyone needs a little love.

One of the best new chick tools we purchased lately is in the lower right of the pix - its one of those digital read thermometers. Its an easy way to make sure that the brooder is at the right temperature.

You can also see Little Baldy - the chipmunk one - had a pretty rough start. Sometimes I'm not sure what to share with all of you - the barnyard can be a mean place. So the short version is that I had two broodies who camped out near each other. I really thought they'd be ok but nope. Unfortunately they started throwing each other's babies out of the nests.

So we scooped up Little Baldy before it was too late, took up all the eggs and put them in the incubator, and hoped for the best.  He was wounded pretty badly - but these little ones have a super speedy metabolism - so he's healing pretty fast. A little Neosporin and a lot of love goes a long way.

Luckily Little Baldy was only by himself for 2 days - then along came the new guy. We're still hoping some of the other eggs are going to hatch. The last thing I wanted this summer was another group of chicks in the basement - but that's how things go sometimes.

That's the word here. Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Up Close

I guess its Up Close Monday!

Dancing Stamens 


Cone flower

Beez on sunflowers

Apparently I'm the biggest casualty of the heat - I've been a bit under this oppressive weather.  Hope everyone is keeping cool!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Extreme Hot Weather Livestock Care

If you're lucky you're one of the two people in this country NOT affected by the evil "Heat Dome" thats covering most of the states. If you had temperatures over 100* yesterday then you're in good company.

Thursday our heat index was 108*! The "heat index" is what the temperature feels like if you combine the actual temperature and the humidity. Its like a steam bath out there. And if you think its bad for you - well, your barnyard is getting the worst of it. This extreme heat can be deadly, especially for poultry. So what can you do?  The best advice is to give your critters the tools they need and then just let them deal with it.

Extreme hot weather care is pretty much the opposite of extreme cold weather care that we talked about here.

Here is how we handle the heat:

1. Get everyone up and out - EARLY - and get them in a breeze.
2. Water, water, water.
3. Provide "cool spots."
4. Keep the doors open as long as you can.

Our birds mostly free range and they have a lot of chickening around to do. Normally I try and wait until 8am to let the loudest of our birds (the guineas and the geese) out of their buildings. But sorry, neighbors, the dogs and I are out there at first light getting everyone up and outside. This lets your flocks take advantage of the coolest part of the day to forage around. They are pretty lively until the sun gets stronger - then they tend to just hide out in the shade in the heat.

Luckily we have a lot of pine trees which provide a lot of shade. And either by design or just plain luck, there are a lot of leafy trees around our hen house - so our building is as shaded as it can be. Conversely in the winter this works also - without the leaves the hen house gets a lot of sun. See? Passive solar totally works!

If your hen house or run isn't shaded - make some. Set up tables, tarps or whatever you can find so your birds can get some relief. If the heat really starts cranking then consider hosing off the hen house roof. This will cool it a bit. And make sure you have as much ventilation as possible thru your building. We run a fan constantly - even if most of the birds are outside. You can even make a swamp cooler by putting a cold bucket of water in front of the fan (but make sure the fan is secure - for heavens sakes don't cause an electrical problem and burn down your hen house on the hottest day!).

Your birds will pant in the heat - its OK as long as they don't have other signs of heat stress.

I also hose down a portion of the grass in the hen yard. The hens will initially run from you if you have a hose... but they'll come back around. I also spray down the tree branches in the hen yard so they continue to drip for a while.

I make the goats get up and get out of the goat house. They have a bit of a breeze outside and it feels cooler to me. I also take them around to their water buckets. But you know how that goes, sometimes you can lead a goat to water but.. you know, mostly they just stand there and look at you like you are out of your mind.

Generally goats dont like to be wet even if its hot, so I don't advocate hosing them down unless they appear to be in distress. Mostly you want to keep them as calm as possible during the heat. No running or chasing - so be extra sure that your gates are closed and your latches are locked - a hot day is not the time for a stray dog (or your dog!) to be chasing the livestock. Some folks run big fans in their goat barns. But ours isn't really set up for that which is another reason why I take the goats outside.

On the hottest days I fill and refill everyone's water buckets about 4 times, in addition to normal chores. Since the hens like to chase things that move I like to run the buckets over with water. This creates a little stream and the hens come running to see what's going on. Of course if I just put some water in a bucket in the yard they'd probably just ignore it - so playing this "running water" game kinda works.

It took about 12 seconds to muddy the fresh water in their pool - they love it!

The geese and the ducks all have access to either a kiddie pool or a big tub with water. And water buckets set up around their yards. And I run the water on their grass as well. The runner ducks had the best day of their whole ducky lives playing in the pool. Between all the water, the pool, and the shade they were cool as cucumbers and twice as happy.

I try to set up "cool spots" around each of the yards. Sometimes its running the sprinkler, or just wetting down the grass, or making a "swamp cooler." You can even put out jugs of frozen water either in front of a fan or just around the yard - your birds will come and sit by them to cool off. Frozen veggies or fruit are good treats on a hot day.

On hot days we are in no hurry to get anyone inside and bedded down for the night. As the sun sets they all tend to take advantage of the cool and are more active. We wait until the last possible second to get the last straggler in and locked up for the nite. The risk with this is the same with the early morning release... many predators hunt at dawn and dusk (which is why we usually get everyone in an hour before sunset). But desperate times call for desperate measures. And we tend to wander outside with the dogs anyway so we keep a close eye out. Even on hot nites we close up all our doors. We run the fans, hose down the houses, and close the doors just as its really getting dark.

Then there are the pigz. We intentionally run our pigz in the deepest part of The Impenetrable Forest.  Truth be told, they probably have it the best out of all our barnyard people. They have deep shade, a huge wallow, and yours truly going down there 2 or 3 times a day to hose them off. Yep. I'm a personal hog sprinkler. Actually they love it. I call them round (pig pig pig!) and they come running, happy as can be...then stand there soakin' up the lovin' as I hose them off.

Some old timers caution about hosing off your hogs - but as long as you don't shock them with too-cold-water you should be fine. And I know you followed my advice about putting them as far away as possible from the house.  So you should have a good, long hose to run a lot of water out of before it gets too cold.

Remember that pigz don't cool themselves like we do - so be sure they have access to either a kiddie pool (honestly I cant see how this could work but some folks do it)  or a wallow which is really  just a big mud pit. They will create their own, given the chance. But all you really need to do is run the hose in one spot for a while and they will find it.

What if one of your barnyard buddies gets over heated? Resist the temptation to bring them inside into the air conditioning.  But get them to the coolest spot you have - say a garage, in the darkest shade, or in wet grass. Give plenty of water. If things look grim, hose them down - or wipe them down with wet towels. Some people say to give gatorade, pedialyte, or flavored drinks to encourage them to drink. See if you can get a fan going on them or into a breeze. Sometimes despite best efforts you can have a loss. These things happen and sometimes there isn't anything you can do. Take special notice of older hens, younger chicks, or anyone else that's vulnerable.

And don't forget yourself! Keep hydrated, don't forget to eat regularly, wear a hat, and for heaven's sakes come in if you show any of the heat-related illness signs. I like to take water outside with me so I don't have to tromp all the way back to the house - and its easier than going between the hot hot hot outside to the cool air conditioned house (we keep our ac at 76* but it felts like a meat locker on the hottest days).

Last - look up. Don't forget to keep a weather eye on the sky! "Pop up" storms are common with this kind of heat. One minute its sunny skies - the next you're running from lightening strikes with a chicken under each arm. Afternoons are typically when these storms form up - the other day one came on so quickly I barely got everyone run inside before the torrential rain and 40mph wind gusts started.

So now is everyone ready for another hot day in the heat dome? Whatcha think - anyone else have hot weather tips?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Dontcha just love sunflowers?

The BOSS (black oil sunflower seed) sunflowers that I planted with clover in the front of the property are doing great! These will be cut and dried for chicken snacks this winter. I wish I could have a whole field of them....I'm working on it!

**** Stay tuned for hot weather poultry tips - yesterday we didn't get inside until after 9pm. Until I can get my act together, here's another short version for you.

Keep those water buckets full and those fans going - we are expected to have a heat index of between 105* - 110*!!!

Stay cool!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Oh glory!

Oh Happy Day! Oh Glory! Thank Heaven!

First tomatoes are in - at last! These are "Mountain Gold" one of my absolute fav's... now I need an egg and a frying pan quick! I've been waiting months for a fried egg and tomato sandwich. 

Looks like the "heat dome" has swallowed us up - gonna be another hot one today. Yesterday Mr. H asked how to keep poultry cool in such evil heat. I'll work on a more detailed post but in short - give them the tools they need, then leave them alone. Animals are pretty resilient. In fact some of my hens were all sprawled out soaking up all the sun they could yesterday. Crazy birds.

Make sure your birds have shade, water, and get them out EARLY. Our birds free range so they need ample time in the morning to get out there and chicken around. So we get everyone out there and moving early.

I make the rounds every hour or so in extreme heat (like now) and make sure the buckets are topped off with cool water. Sometimes I spray down a section of the grass to make a cool spot. And you just know I'm out there hosing off the pigs and making sure their wallow is full of water.

That's the short version so more tomorrow. And don't forget to keep yourself hydrated and come inside when even the dogs abandon you.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Stay cool!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Surprise! or "Its so hot the eggs hatch themselves! "

Here's a shocker for you.... this morning I went out (early) and found this little gal running around in circles. In the middle of the hen house. Alone.

"You lookin' at ME?"

Um... say,  Baby where'd you come from? She eventually turned and ran right back under Jane, my crazy Salmon Favorelle... who wasn't due to hatch for another week or so.

This made my pal WZ comment, "As hot as it's been, I don't think the eggs would even need a hen to sit on them!!! Just leave it out and POP! There's a chick!" 

So I dunno - maybe that's what happened! Hee hee hee

Actually I think Jane sat on an egg that had been brooded under Miss Duck for a couple days. Or tomorrow I'll go out and there will be a buncha babies under her and I'll give up on trying to keep track of anything.

You can just barely see the tuffs.

I just couldn't keep my hands off this baby - she's just a peach. And when she got a little more dried off you can tell she's going to have the little tuffs around her face.

Because of the crippling heat and humidity today (oh look..heat index = 102*) we put The Dozen outside in the former duck yard. We also put Charlie and her chicks - sadly one of the 4 didn't make it - out in the same yard. The 3 itty bitty babies and Charlie have been popping around in the shade enjoying the breeze. The Dozen are stunned that The Whole Wide World is so big.

I had to come in a 1pm - just before we crested 100*. But I've been making the rounds every hour or so to fill the waterers and hose everyone off.

Hope everyone is staying cool!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Runners on the move

Today we set up super-reinforced fencing (OK it was recycled chain link from somebody's pool) for our runner ducks.

They ....well.. ran right out into their new yard and proceeded to run up and down the length of the fence looking for a way out.

After talking about it for a while they decided that they should just relax and enjoy their new digs. So they did. Actually they were pretty funny all day.

And they were happy to get out and into the cool grass. We hit 102* today! Can you believe it?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How hot was it!?! And hatching notes.

Today it was so hot that........ one of our turkey hens, Runner, actually jumped into our big livestock water trough! She walked around like a stork for a couple of minutes - what a hoot! And nope, I didn't have my camera but what a sight she was...that's our girl.

Lots of comings and goings this weekend so I thought I'd get a few farm notes down...

* We are down to three meat chickens - the rest of the creepy meats are chilling in the fridge. I'll part them up tomorrow and get them moved to the freezer.
* This frees up the big coop in the hen house and just in time. The Dozen chicks in the basement need to be moved right outside....right away. Today I shoveled out the coop and we'll start moving them over tonite. The only problem is - its going to be so hot this week. We'll move them when its coolest and keep a close eye on them.
* Talk about a surprise! I went downstairs to unplug the incubator so we could get rid of the unhatched eggs....and there was a chick! I almost started screaming because I was so surprised. So I laughed instead and took him directly out to Charlie - who welcomed him warmly. Then promptly left her nest. 
* Then we promptly took Charlie and the chicks out to their coop in the hen house. I'll keep them cooped up for a couple days just because the babies are so small - and to give Charlie a chance to get her strength back up after brooding. She'll start eating and drinking normally now. The cutest was when she and one of the chicks were getting some sips of goat milk from a little container. Its good nutrition for both of them - and they love it.
* We were able to move our angry turkey hen and her lone poult to a safe coop. But when we came home today we found the little poult stuck in the chicken wire! We got him free but the momma (who needs a name now) was very unhappy with us.
* Our other turkey hen who made a nest up in the tall grass got up from her nest yesterday. We went to check on her and found a bad egg - and she had moved away from the nest. We took up the bad egg and hoped she'd go sit back down...but today she was up again. So I took her up and gated her in a shady spot so she could cool down and relax.

One of our blog-pals had a nest with a bad egg and asked what to do about the dirty eggs. I thought I'd share what we do just in case someone else has a bad nest. To be sure there are a million reasons why an egg might break under a hen (or turkey!) - we've found that these heat-of-the-summer hatches don't do well. If the egg gets ruined by bacteria, or heat, its likely to either break or explode under your momma. The yucky stuff in the bad eggs can get all over the good eggs - and may ruin them.

Remember that eggs are porous - so that bad bacteria gets inside the eggs and causes them to go bad also. Its very disappointing. We were lucky that any of the eggs from our incubator hatched when we had an egg explode. So sometimes you get lucky.

The best thing to do if you have a ruined nest is to get it cleaned up as soon as you can. You also don't want your momma to get some kind of skin problem from all the gunk. You don't want to scare her off her nest, but you want to get things cleaned up and hope for the best. Its easiest to do this with a helper.

One of you picks her up (she'll be mad) the other carefully removes the eggs, gets rid of the gross stuff and bad straw. Then quickly put in good straw and the cleanest of the eggs, and put the momma back. Then you can evaluate the dirty eggs. If they look mud covered... chances are they aren't good anyway. And while you are holding your hen, turn her over and inspect her skin for lesions or infestations. You might need to clean her up also and a good dusting of DE is a good practice also.

If the eggs are just too dirty you might want to just get rid of them. Sometimes you can feel a heavier one - which could be a developing egg and try and clean it up. To me bad eggs feel lighter in weight and these should not be returned to the nest.  What do you do with bad eggs? Bury them DEEP (we use an auger) so that varmints - or our dog - doesn't dig them up. Or double or triple bag them and hope your garbage guy forgives you one day.

If you think some of the eggs are worth saving - if they are mostly clean, you can try and wipe them off. But the porous nature of eggs is weird - you dont want to wash them - it might make the bad bacteria permeate the eggshell and kill the egg. So you might just want to wipe them down with a dry-ish/damp paper towel. The big thing is to handle the eggs gently. If they are shaken or turned over quickly you might kill the developing egg.

Our feeling is you might as well try salvaging a clutch. While you might not have a full hatch, your momma will complete her broody cycle - which we think is important. If you just take her up from a bad nest she might be nuts for a couple days to a week. We think this sudden stop to a brood is hard on the hens. She might try and go back and sit down - on nothing. Or act funny (or just plain crazy) or go into a sudden molt.

If your hen quits a nest for whatever reason be sure to give her some extra TLC. Make sure she gets a good dust bath, a lot of water, and some high protein food. She might also be weak from her partial brood so we usually separate our nest-quitters from the rest of the flock so they can get their strength built back up. They won't be in any shape to work their way back into the pecking order - or run from a rooster - until they have a couple days rest.

So that's the whole hatch story around here. Hope everyone had a great weekend - are you ready for the heat this week?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Look who showed up today!

What a joy! Look who showed up today!

Welcome to the world little cutie!

This little baby turkey - called a poult - marched himself right out of the brooder. I was shocked to my shoes. The momma is one of our younger hens - she's the one who I had to take up because her eggs were bad. The day she was up and around both of the other turkey hens ran in and laid eggs. Then the "just got up" hen went in and sat back down on the eggs!

I couldn't convince her to get off the nest so we just let her be. It was a gamble for sure - and very, very hard on her.
She's serious - don't touch her baby!

And now - she's not letting anyone get near her baby. Tonite we'll get her safely into a locking brooder so the other turkey hens, and our tom, don't try and kill the baby. We'll probably need full body armor and leather gloves. She's hissing like a cobra!

In other news.... in a clear declaration of war SOMEONE took some bites out of my most ripe tomato. I've been waiting all year for a vine ripened delight....and this is what I found this morning:

Evidence of garden terrorists.

I'm sending the dogs out on extra patrols tonite. I need a fresh tomato and how.

Happy Friday everyone!  Does anyone have a ripe tomato yet? Is it delicious?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Meet the new guy, pig clearning, and whats for dinner.

We think that Charlie had at least 3 good hatchlings yesterday - there could be more tomorrow. Chai Chai reminded me of a few things to share with the class... just in case you didn't know.

Meet the new guy - isn't this a fine chick?

Checking the nest for bad eggs is a good idea. Some hens never get up from a nest so you might have to gently lift her up  - or wait for her to take a break and then take a peek. Eggs go bad for a lot of reasons but when they break they can send bacteria flying everywhere and it can get into your good eggs and cause them to fail. We couldnt believe any of our incubator eggs hatched - we had one actually explode (gross!). So we were thrilled that any of them made it.

Candling each egg is also a good idea. You use a light or flashlight in a dark room to peer into the egg (the shells are actually kind of translucent). You can see if an egg is starting to develop - or if its not viable. This freaks me out so we don't do it. But there are some great resources online to learn how.

And yep - the pigs are doing an amazing job of clearing their new area - but its nothing like how they razed their OLD area!

Pigz = better than roundup

Isn't it amazing? They only left the stumps but some of them are pretty well chewed on. We made one pass with the tiller and then put in some corn and clover.

Which reminds me, did anyone see that ridiculous article by Hobby Farms in the last issue? Someone wrote into the "experts" and asked what kind of animals they should get to clear an area on their property. And the "expert" told them just to napalm the whole area with chemicals because animals don't do a good job! Can you believe it? Now I know that Hobby Farms is put out by a livestock feed manufacturer - but really, that is just silly. And disingenuous. And shabby journalism. Talk about promoting your own products!

Take a look at our pig pen again - roundup could not have done a better job. And this area is areated and fertilized. "Use chemicals" my left foot - if you need clearing getcha some pigs, goats, or sheep and do triple duty instead of poisoning your ground. Sheesh! (end of rant)

Guess what was for dinner last nite?

Chicken-y goodness fried up in a pan

This is from one of the smaller Meat Balls we dressed earlier this week. Skinned and cleaned it was just about six pounds of chicken-y goodness. I sauteed the breasts in olive oil, salt, and pepper then finished in the oven (400*) and voila. Supper at its best.

Happy Thursday everyone! Whatcha making for dinner tonite?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pigz and hatching!

Wow what a morning so far! Our weather finally broke and its pleasant out there - the humidity is blowing off and it looks like its going to be a sparkling clear, blue sky day.

'Mornin' Pig! How's that bacon coming along?

The pigz are happy!
Them's some nice long pigz - the bacon is coming along just fine.

Check out how big they are. Remember when we first got them and they were so small? See the feeder and compare how big they are already! That's only been about a month ago that we moved them to their new spot.

And they are doing a great job of clearing their new area. The Impenetrable Forest has met its match.

In other news... we have a hatch going on! Charlie's eggs are finally hatching. I went down to the incubator and found 3 or 4 little pips trying to bust out of their pods... I mean, eggs. The bad news was that I took one of the pippers out to put under her momma...and I smelled a bad egg. When I gently lifted Charlie up I saw disaster. There was a couple of bad eggs and even worse - maggots.

So we sprung to action. We took the eggs out from under her and in a swift motion I picked her up and The Big Man scooped up all the bad gunk and hay. We quickly reformulated a new straw nest for her and sat her back down. We put some of her eggs back and also gave her the pippers. She immediately started talking to them. Hopefully she'll just assume those are her babies that have been under her the whole time. We'll sneak the rest of the incubator hatchlings under her later this afternoon if she accepts them.

We put the non-ruined eggs (as far as we could tell) into the incubator. This way they can have a chance and if they are bad (ruined from the bad eggs in the nest) they won't do much damage. There is always a chance that your hen could get infested with maggots if her nest goes bad. While I was holding her I turned her over and checked her skin - so far so good. Best practices would be to sprinkle some DE on her to kill off any mites or such - but since she's on eggs that are currently hatching we'll just let her be. In a few days I'll take some wood ashes in near her so she can get a dust bath in them.

Hopefully there will be pix of little cuties tomorrow. Anybody else hatching? Do you have the windows open and the air conditioning off? We do - such a relief!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Look what's blooming and Farm Notes

At this writing (late Monday nite) we are having a tremendous thunderstorm - the second line today. Its been wild.

 Late afternoon backlighting a bloom.

Earlier today we had a heat index of about 100* - then the temperature dropped almost 30* after the first wave of storms...and now the lightening is fantastical. Wow what a day!

We had some incredible progress today - despite the heat, electric flickering off, and the storms. This morning I got some weeding and planting done, we "dressed" some of our Meat Balls (the meat chickens - they were huge!), and then tilled up the old pig area and got it planted. The pigz did a great job rootin' -n- poopin' in their old yard and the soil was fantastic. We started some corn (yes its too late but its feed corn for the pigz so its ok), some clover, and some pasture mix. Next year that planting spot is going to be fabulous!

Check out the crazy moth on the back of this bloom! 

I kind of realized that this summer with its late gardening start is kind of a washout. We've got some tomatoes going like gangbusters and we even have some peppers - but I think I need to focus on a fall garden to salvage what could be a disappointing garden season. I'll have some greens coming on soon and I still can't believe that my lettuce is doing so well - provided I can keep the geese out of it. And oh golly there will be beans galore. I'm hoping for a harvest and canning in the next couple days.

That's the quick update. Hope that everyone has a terrific Tuesday and thanks to everyone who helped me ID the teasel from yesterday!

Monday, July 11, 2011

What the heck is it?? **Update: Looks like it teasel

 Update: Looks like the verdict is... teasel. Thanks everyone!!!
Anyone have any idea??? I'm guessing its something that normally grows in livestock fields... but I don't have a clue.

Its HUGE - like 8 feet tall at least. Some kind of thistle?

Its tried to come up in the same place twice now - this year I just let it grow. For a while I thought it was that Mullein that Ginny was so happy to find (and that Cecil heroically harvested).

But then it got these spiky kinda things on them. Who can ID this monster for me - and can I do anything wit it???

In other news, I've probably driven about 400 miles since last Thursday's duck rendezvous. I have to tell you - people are crazy. Mostly I drive down to our little town at about 35mph and its only about 6 miles one way. The rest of the time I'm a passenger but we still never really go anywhere. So when I got on the freeway I was shocked that everyone was driving so fast! And people are crazy!

I used to drive a lot and never really minded. And yeah, I drove a little fast too. When we are were on our epic drive out here from the Left Coast I rolled over 99,000 miles on my beloved (now gone) Explorer. Right as the odometer clicked over I was going about 90 mph, uphill,  tossing mahalo's out the window to the long haul boys as I blew past them somewhere in Idaho. Now, I poke along in the big work truck waving to the Amish guy that will probably beat me into town in his buggy being pulled by Ol' Gluefactory.

Anyway. I'm pretty sure most folks are nuts - or maybe its just us. I'm thinking about the contrasting meals I shared with two very different kinda people. The first with a fellow Farm Pirate - the both of us eating like inmates shoveling in plates of fried chicken and coleslaw like we hadn't eaten in a week. The talk was about our farm butchering schedules and our outrage at all the new laws to "help" us. The next was with regular people.  They showed me their fancy phones while eating around the served food because several of them had dietary restrictions due to health problems. And why were we wasting our time growing our own food? Wasn't it expensive? Wasn't it just cheaper and easier to buy it in the store so we would have more free time?

I drove back to the farm as fast as I could.

That's my story today. Stay cool - its a hotsy totsy out there already! We have a heat advisory, do you? 100* here we come!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Meet my new employees......

They are runner ducks and they look like bowling pins! Score!

Aren't they hilarious? They are my new company men - they'll follow me around during day and be all "yes ma'am" and "aint that right" and "that's a brilliant idea!"...this bunch will be my "yes men" for sure. Right now they are terrified, but tomorrow we'll issue them employee badges, make them sign non-disclosures, and get the a cubicle... I mean.. coop.

Kai thinks they look delicious and Titan even lost him composure laughing at their little squeaky toy noises. OD and his crew were also very interested in them.

We had to take our momma goose, Cindy, off her failed nest earlier this week. With no little ones to take care of the geese are a little confused right now. They have such a strong instinct to raise babies that they don't know what to do with themselves. So the peeping noises made the geese all gather around. It would be great if they geese really did take them on - then I wouldn't have to worry about these little ones at all. But we'll see.

Happy Thursday everyone!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blueberry Rampage

Wow have I been on a blueberry rampage! Sunday was a day of days for the best berry - the blueberry.

The best berry ever - blueberries!

We drove a fair piece to get to a UPick place and we were not disappointed. The bushes were LOADED! I ran down the rows of bushes snatching and grabbing up handfuls of those beautiful blue orbs, yelling my rallying cry "More buckets! Bring me more buckets!" I was unstoppable. Finally, exhausted, we hauled our catch up to the weigh station.

Strawberries are fine, but blueberries... that's the ticket.

The owner's eyes bugged out of his head when he saw we had almost thirty pounds of blue heaven. The folks behind us barely had five pounds. Amateurs.  And yeah, I smirked a little at them. As we were walking away I heard one of them say, "What are they gonna do with all those berries?"

HA! What aren't I gonna do with all these berries! The possibilities are endless! I'm in heaven!

It took a couple days but all the lovely blue gems are either frozen whole (on a cookie sheet in a single layer, then put into freezer bags), mashed and jammed using my favorite Pomona's Universal Pectin - low sugar of course, baked in a crisp then portioned and put in smaller containers, or made into pie filling for later use.

How can you resist? Go and pick some! Quick!

I was so ga-ga over the berries I almost forgot to just leave some whole and fresh. For.. you know... perfect scones. Or maybe there will be blueberry pancakes... ah yes, I believe there will be blueberry pancakes.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We had ribs. You?

Hope everyone had a great holiday! We are ribs - they were awesome.  Behold, meat as its intended to be:

Ribs and smokey beans...that's the way, baby!

We are huge fans of Steven Raichlen. That guy knows meat, for sure. We love his shows on PBS and have a couple of his books. The ribs we made were his whiskey-butter-something-and-something. By the time we snarfed these babies down, with smokey beans and cornbread, we were in a BBQ coma. But we are professionals so we finished off the day with blueberry cobbler. And ice cream.

Hope you had a great 4th! Anybody else make ribs? Makes you wanna go and get some pigz, don't it? (Do it! Its totally worth it! Even all the stinkin'!)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Farmageddon - The Movie

Thanks to Tracey who pointed me to a great new movie trailer, Farmageddon.Wow!

Remember when we talked about the Amish guy who was raided by the feds for selling raw milk across state lines? This movie sounds like its going to shine a light on theses issues. And show how small farms are in jeopardy.

Everyone wants to buy locally, right? Support local farms - its a great idea, right? Who wouldn't want that? Your government, it seems. I don't know if they really are pandering to big corporations or not - but I'm pretty sure they aren't trying to protect us.

Raids on farm families? Guns drawn on the Amish? Gosh. Its a crazy world.

Someone asked me just the other day if I sold my produce at the local farmer's market. Heck no - there is no way I'm going to sign up for that liability - or that kind of regulation. Sell eggs to friends? No way. Would I love to be a boutique cheese maker? Yes - but there is no way I could afford it.

Here's the thing, there are hungry people in our communities, but no one wants to take the risk to feed them. And, instead of making it easier to produce and sell locally grown food, its getting harder. Doesn't that seem weird to you?

Sure I understand the argument that food should be safe. But there are no guarantees or controls what happens once that food leaves the farm stand. I knew a gal who didn't practice sanitary kitchen procedures at all. Sure her counters were neat and wiped down - but I also saw her lick her fingers after she handled raw meat...more than once.  And which of us hasn't cringed when we saw someone use the same cutting board to make a salad that was just used to cut raw meat? How could a producer be responsible for that?  At some point aren't folks responsible for what they put in their mouth?

I don't know, something is crazy here. I'm kind of wondering if we are working ourselves toward outlawing all food and only being "allowed" some kind of space goo or protein pills provided by your government - who is here to help, right?

Come on Farm Pirates, lets keep an eye out for this film and spread the word. No farms, no food - I'm not eating protein pills, for sure.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Make Cake!

Does anyone have a potluck or picnic this holiday weekend? Don't know what to bring?  Put down that boxed cake mix and check this out - the world's easiest cake ever. Behold, cake:

This cake is a-maz-ing. Seriously - chocolaty, rich, and moist. And easy-peasy. Before I get to the secret ingredient I need to give a shout out to my pal B who shared this recipe. She said its an old family favorite and is their official birthday cake. This kind of easy recipe reminds me of what the older ladies in our church bring as part of a "carry in supper" - which is kinda like a potluck after the church service. This cake is delish.

And you'll never guess the secret ingredient! Ready? Its mayo. You heard me - this is a Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. Are you freaked out? Did you say "ick?" No way! Mayo is just eggs and oil and stuff - what you'd put in a cake anyway. But for heavens sakes use real mayo - and not Miracle Whip or low-fat, no-fat, whatever fakey stuff is next to the real mayo on the shelf. Or better yet - make your own!

Here are the super easy, super fast directions as told by B herself:

3 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 Tbsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups mayo
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 tsp vanilla

1. Mix dry
2. Mix sugar/mayo
3. Mix liquid
4. Combine

Bake at 350* for 40 minutes until done (makes 9x13). It's a VERY moist cake, a toothpick will come out clean.

And really its that easy. Use a big bowl and mix your dry ingredients...

...then use a smaller bowl to mix the sugar and mayo. Add water, then combine and pour into a pan (I greased mine). My oven is a little fast so I started checking about 35 minutes and that was perfect.

And there you have it. I swear you will never buy another box of chocolate mix once you try this cake. Its simple and foolproof.

I used a simple buttercream frosting but some folks don't even think it needs frosting. But hey - its cake and so why not?

And yes. I'm eating this for breakfast right now.

So what are you waiting for? Run right out and grab the mayo - cakey goodness is waiting!
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