Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."

February Whirlwind and Big Plans

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I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted.  This month has been so, so busy.  I have Church responsibilities for helping the members of our womens’ organization to learn to live more providently and had planned a breadmaking class (I felt good about the decision heading into it but felt better and better as I asked around and discovered how FEW knew how to make bread!  My family can save ten dollars a week off our grocery bill by making our own, and then there’s the whole food storage issue.  If you have wheat stored, (please have wheat stored) how will you use it if you don’t make bread?), but I started to think about how many Church members we have with wheat/gluten issues and decided to out out feelers on doing a gluten-free bread class.  I had a dozen yeses and had tracked down a teacher within about 48 hours, so we’re doing that one next week.  Pretty good turnout for the regular ol’ bread class last week, too.  I wish we could get EVERYONE, but we’ll do this again.  Maybe next year when the baby is getting biggish (and I’ve gotten another starter going well…*sob*… mine was murdered while I was 1st trimestering) I’ll do a sourdough class.  We also ought to do tortillas, bagels, crackers….always plenty to do.

Anyhow, in between planning events, seeing the midwives every other week and a whole family’s worth of dentist appointments (no cavities! hurrah!) I’ve been working on putting together a garden/orchard/animals calendar.  Starting with the last one first (why not?) we are seriously rethinking our meat bird breed.  The Freedom Rangers are supposed to be great, but there is only one hatchery all the way across the country and so they end up being awfully expensive–about three dollars per bird at the scale we are planning.  As much as I want to get away from grocery store meat, we’d only have to out $3.50 worth of feed into their beaks and they would cost more than a whole bird from the store and suddenly my cheap side gets up in arms….  I’ve seen a couple estimates that it takes closer to 16 weeks to reach the 4-5 lb mark for them, so we would likely be well in excess of $3.50.  I’m also not totally clear on reproductive issues.  Will they breed true?  Will the mommas get broody and follow through on caring for chicks if we want to uncouple from buying birds every year?  I’d done a little bit of looking at other breeds and had written down Delawares as another possibility, but my initial research had been financially shocking.  I guess that not many people raise them and they are therefore considered a rare breed in the US, and they have a price point to match, of course…UNTIL I found this hatchery in Texas.  They sell Delaware males only very inexpensively (which is great because the males bulk up faster) and their shipping is about 1/5-1/3 of what I was seeing other places.  Further research revealed that Delawares were the meat bird of choice back before people started raising Cornish crosses, that they are good and consistent layers, make good mothers and gentle roosters and, as a bonus, if you cross a Delaware hen with a Rhode Island Red rooster you get Red Sex-Links which are supposed to be champion-grade layers.  They are also supposed to reach a good weight within about 9-10 weeks.  Looking at a slaughter date of the second week of October or so, we’d probably bring them in end of July-ish…the forage will be minimal, but so will be their supplemental heat needs…we may actually need to put thought into cooling…   Anyhow, Delawares are “pencilled-in” for this year.  We’ll probably get a couple of hens and see how we like them as layers and then maybe experiment with breeding our own….

A Delaware Hen

A Delaware Hen

I am slightly kicking myself for not handling our abundance or milk last year in a more reasonable way.  With exorbitant butter prices, store cheese that I can’t eat and un-thrilling milk substitutes during these dry months, I am realizing that I really need a plan.  I only slightly kick myself because it was all so new and crazy busy that I really didn’t even have time to think, I just made batch after batch after (delicious) batch of custard so that it would all get eaten before it spoiled.  So I’ve got to figure out our dairy needs for the year and plan on how to meet them.  It will be nice this fall just to be able to breed them when it will best fit our needs, rather than having to figure out kidding in relation to the birth of a human baby.  No offense, baby…

The gardening situation here is still really confusing to me.  My initial research put us in zone 8a, but now I have some 9s coming up as well.  Our stunning lack of success in growing anything during the summer months is making me wonder if we need to just skip the heat and grow in the fall, winter and spring.  I keep having expert-sorts tell me that we should be fine, but my eyes tell me that no matter how much water we give them, my plants hibernate all summer long and won’t grow again until things cool down.  I saw a couple of youtube videos by a guy in Dallas.  He talked about using shade cloth to extend his growing season…I kind of think that’s where we’re at…

The orchard research has been fun.  I’m reading a book by a long-time orchardist who has figured out ways to boost the health and productivity of his orchard mainly using primarily materials and means he can produce himself.  I have to say that after living in Georgia for a little bit and coming face-to-face with the rampant fungal and insect issues one deals with there, I am a bit less opposed to using various control methods.  That said, I really like the idea of being able to care for the orchard without having to purchase chemical and mineral sprays.  It’s like herbs vs. other methods of dealing with human illness–the other ways may work as well, but I sure like being able to cook up what I need in my own garden and kitchen!

And I’m thinking that next year is going to be our berry-planting year.  The orchard should be bubbling away, we’ll have our first meat bird experience under our belts.  Time to start having some actual fruit roll in.

BTW, we were very grateful for receive a little over 7″ of rain the second week of February.  That got us started, but we are still in serious drought conditions.  We need another 15″ or so just to meet our needs for this year and that doesn’t even touch our backlog for the past five years.  We are still praying and appreciate the prayers of others.

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