I got a ship notice this morning!
My husband started to get nervous a few weeks ago and it looked like maybe we would end up cancelling the order and waiting until next year, but we figured that the worst that could happen wasn’t really all that horrible and so, for better or worse, we have 60 chicks en route. Elijah and Isaiah have been working to get the brooder set up. We are using a big 150 gallon stock tank, setting it up on the porch well and securely covered to protect out tasty little birds from raccoons, and monitoring their temperature using a remote sensor on a weather station to try to keep our heating lamp costs as low as possible. Isaiah has built this feeder and a waterer using two five-gallon buckets, a length of pvc pipe and these. It’s always interesting reaching this point when all the reading and sketching and planning is about to shift from the theoretical to the actual. Do we succeed or fail?
A couple of other things.
Those bucklings…er, wether-lings are eating us out of house and home. I realize that the other goats are eating as well, but I don’t resent it when they do. It’s looking like about 2 bales/week! At these prices! I wish we had the whole pasture system worked out already, or that we’d made some of our own hay this winter, or figured out alternate summer forage but it just all takes time, brainpower and work and there’s only so much to go around. I just got a notice about a livestock swap this Saturday. Do you think anyone would trade 8 mystery chickens (four of them died in the miserable heat wave last week 😦 ) and a couple of hay-guzzlers for….hmmmm….something we might want….an already fattened beef or hog? Boy, I’d trade them all for a bale of hay right now!
I started a batch of sauerkraut today! Sauerkraut was the last thing I attempted before I got pregnant last year, so it feels monumental and full-circle-ish to be doing it again. This is a quick recipe that is inoculated with OTC probiotics and only takes 3-5 days rather than a couple of weeks like the other one I tried. I am supposed to watch for it to “rise” and then “fall”. After it falls then it is done and needs to be refrigerated to prevent it rotting like the batch I made and then got nervous about eating last year. Vegetable fermentation is fascinating and I love the end-products, but the first time I try a new food-making process I am always pretty certain it is going to kill me. I remember feeling the same way about canning back when I started that, about the first eggs from our chickens, the first milk from our goats, the first yogurt, buttermilk, cheese….it’s grocery store syndrome I am sure. I imagine I will get over this as well …and probably not die.
I have descended to making vats of custard again. I’ve also kept up with yogurt-making, we have frozen a few gallons and I’m skimming cream a little at a time to play at some buttermaking soon, but we are not going to be able to provide all our dairy needs for the year at this rate. Oh well. Next Spring I won’t have a newborn and a postpartum body and can try for it then.
The orchard needs to be sprayed and fed. From what I can tell, we have a nitrogen deficiency and spider mites. Oh, and the blueberries’ soil is too alkaline even though I used an acidic blend to fill the pots and mulched them with pine bark! I assume it’s our water. I have three really heavy books on growing fruit that I wish I could just read off my laptop screen while I am taking care of Joseph instead of trying to juggle baby and book together. I need to understand this all better!
In trying to maintain my sanity, I’ve not done much “real” canning but have limited myself to fruit butters thus far. The fruit gets washed, trimmed and pitted, pureed in the blender and then cooked down to a spreadable consistency (usually to half its original volume) in the slow cooker. It’s easy enough that Bethel has started a couple of batches for me. Notes on this year’s fruit butters:
- Grocery store strawberries are not worth it. I cooked three gallons down to less than a quart before I could spread it! They appear to be mostly water. Oh, how I miss Oregon strawberries…
- I love apricots dried and fresh, but not canned (the stringiness becomes much more apparent) or “buttered” (the flavor is far too strong–even pureed with some leftover watery strawberries it was too much). I need to learn to use pectin and come up with a preserves recipe that I can eat.
- I am making some peach/nectarine/mango butter right now. If the initial taste and smell tests are anything to go on, it promises to be a winner.
The next time I write we will be drowning in chicks!