Consecration Acres

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

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Various ends in sight

Some ends are sad, and some are not.  For instance, we’ve been dealing with a cold at our house for the last two weeks–glacially slow progression, not too horrible all-in-all, but a lot of crankiness, runny noses and coughing.  Joseph, of course, caught it and has kept me up a lot. Sometimes he would be up coughing and needing me and sometimes he would lie there sleeping, sounding a bit like he was breathing through jello while I listened and anticipated him waking up and prayed over and over that it would not settle into his chest.  Happily, I think we are finally beginning to see the end of it.  The last couple of nights have been a bit better and I am finally getting to bed before I start hallucinating.  Woohoo!  I am grateful for prayers answered and that he has a sturdy little immune system.  Two viruses down so far…

I know that the end of summer is often a cause for mourning in colder climes, but for a New England girl living in a place that only sees a couple of months of sub-80s temperatures, it is marvelous. I get to monitor the indoor climate all the long, hot summer—watching the forecast temperatures, comparing indoor and outdoor temperatures, opening windows when it cools, closing them when it starts to warm, determining when the evaporative cooler should be run and when to turn on the whole house fan. It’s better this year since I’m not getting up at 4am to close things up (the cooler gives me some leeway), but I still eagerly anticipate the season’s end and our open-window seasons sandwiched around woodstove season. We actually got some measurable rainfall this week. Average for September here is about ½” and we are nearly to 1”! It caused issues with flooding and landslides up at the wildfire, but that was the day they finally surpassed 50% containment, so it seems that it helped some as well.

We are hoping that the rain will also help all our seeds to grow. The beets, lettuce and chard have all sprouted and we planted our pasture test plots today. Here is a picture of Isaiah sowing the alfalfa plot:The Sower, Jean-François Millet,  1850

ok, but he did make a nice little pocket for the seeds out of the bottom of his shirt and it was hard not to envision this painting as he worked. Seven years of art history will do that, I guess. The plots are 8’x8’ and close enough to the house not to be neglected. We worked really hard not to overprepare the plots. I kept saying, “imagine we are doing this over a whole acre” and we left some rocks and didn’t hand-pull much of anything. The soil there is really shallow, the weeds are established and it gets full sun in the afternoon, so it should give us a good idea of what, if anything, will grow and withstand all our worst conditions. We will pray and watch and hopefully learn a lot.

The washing machine that we thought we had fixed was actually still broken. Elijah put in an extra load on Tuesday and as the girls and I headed out to go buy those last peaches of the season, we squished and splashed into the laundry room and then slopped back out again. Bah. We ended up ordering a part for the washer. The website proclaimed that parts shipped to CA would arrive the day after they were ordered. By the time we figured out what we needed it was after 5:00, but I figured that should still get it here by Thursday, just one day after laundry day. By Thursday afternoon I was starting to wonder where it was and clicked through to the tracking info and discovered that it would not arrive until this upcoming TUESDAY. When I told Isaiah the horrible, awful news, he lit up like a Christmas tree. “Can we try out the emergency washer?!” Sure. And so he and Bethel spent four happy hours the next day washing laundry in buckets with this thingy. When I went outside to check on them, they had Joseph’s laundry on the patio and were stomping the water out of it. When I told them that they couldn’t do that, they protested that they had hosed it off first. I made them wash it again and wring it by smashing it inside a clean bucket with holes drilled into it. I’m afraid they still used their feet to tamp it (despite my instructions), but I imagine they were almost clean by that point. Remind me not to use any of those burp diapers in or close to Joseph’s mouth this week… This just illustrates several points of difference between mothers and their children: I wrote an indignant note to the parts supply company and they delightedly hand- and foot-washed the laundry.

I think we have now solved the mystery of the weird cheese. On Monday I went to go finally make ricotta from the mozzarella whey (it was very well-ripened), added vinegar, turned on the heat, surpassed 200F (of course, for it is the avec le bebe variety of ricotta), wiped up the boiled-over mess and began to ladle it into a colander lined with muslin. I had two gallons of whey and only a one gallon colander, but there is never very much ricotta so I wasn’t concerned. Until I realized that they whey was not draining. I figured the ricotta must be clogging the muslin so I got out a spoon and started scraping, but even then I only got a few drops. After spending way too much time at this for very small gains, I got out a second colander and muslin. I found the same issue with that muslin. Apparently, the boiling I was doing to try and deodorize and sterilize my muslins had cooked the milk proteins into the fabric and effectively waterproofed it! No wonder my cheeses were weird—I might as well have tried to drain them in plastic wrap. Fortunately, I have yards of unused muslin. Elijah commented, “Well, at least now you know how to waterproof a tent.” Yep, make cheese with it and then boil it.

I am looking forward to the end of the meat birds. While they have been able to be outside and in the sun and the dirt, the electric fence never got set up and their situation is significantly more confined than I would prefer. Their date with destiny means an end to my guilt over not having provided them more room to roam… I just couldn’t get out there to do it myself and couldn’t squeeze the project out of the kids either. I am also a little worried about the sorting process and will be glad when that’s over. The old Rhode Island Reds need to be culled from the laying flock for stew and the three remaining Delaware hens need to be spared on butchering day. The boys insist that they know which are which…I wish I were as confident. Also, they look huge, but I need to figure out how to weigh them to verify their hugeness before butchering. Someone online suggested putting them in a bag—that they would not struggle or hurt themselves inside a bag. Really? I guess it’s worth a try.

The new freezer arrived this week. My husband opted for a bigger one than I had planned, but as it’s half again as big for only a third again the price, I suppose it makes financial sense. It will be nice to have the additional space.

The sauerkraut I started today had enough brine to cover by the time I was done packing the jar! I know this may not sound exciting, but I have had a run of dry cabbages lately that I’ve really had to keep an eye on brine-wise. I’ve also decreased the amount of salt a little. Today was 4 lbs shredded cabbage to 2 Tablespoons of salt. And I didn’t inoculate it with anything—no probiotics, whey or old sauerkraut juice. We greatly preferred the long-ferment, un-inoculated batch last time, so we’ll stick with that and only inoculate in sauerkraut emergencies.

With Joseph not sleeping well lately, he ends up really out of sorts by late afternoon and kept falling asleep just long enough to take the edge off, but not long enough to make him happy. One day when he did this I was sitting on the couch with Grace and one of the older kids brought him out to me. I took him and he was facing Grace and, suddenly, he pushed away from me and started crying hard. I was afraid that she had done something to hurt him and questioned her and then looked down at her face. She was on the verge of tears, trying to tell Joseph that he shouldn’t cry when she smiled at him. She was completely heartbroken and sobbed and sobbed while I tried to comfort her, talking about how tired and sad Joseph was because of his cold. Fortunately, her crying kind of shocked Joseph out of it and he watched her curiously, then finally leaned forward, grabbed her hair and smiled broadly. Grace immediately stopped, smiled through her tears and said “He loves me! We are friends!” How fragile and vulnerable are hearts that love…

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Fixing broken things

We understand that the Lord’s house is a house of order, that the Earth, sun, stars and all of creation are held in their proper order by His hand.  I have concluded that the reason our lives and health require us to spend so much time cleaning, ordering and fixing is that, in so doing, we emulate and develop this essential characteristic of godliness–the knee-jerk response to improve, clean, beautify and well-order everything that we encounter.  When I go through these weeks where everything seems to be broken, falling apart or being held together only by brute force I like to think that my circumstances are accomplishing that immense work of making me more like Him.

I will be glad when the current run of plumbing and water-related issues reaches its end.  In the last two weeks we have dealt with a badly plugged and overflowed toilet, a broken kitchen faucet, a washing machine leaking issue (that I hope we solved today) and (still) extremely slow laundry room sink and master shower drains.  Isaiah has proved his worth again and again in helping with these repairs.  His young knees and mechanical mind come very much in handy and I am grateful for them.

Our chickens went suddenly and completely on strike again–6-8 eggs per day to ZERO this whole week.  Apparently, they went without food one day and broke their waterer (they all stood on it until it detatched) the next.  Elijah was concerned that this had forced a molt, but I’m not seeing feather loss, the mystery birds are quite young to be doing such stuff and I read that when they force molts in industry they withhold feed for two weeks!  I feel lousy about their not being fed and having to wait for their water, but it was not two weeks.  I am suspecting it is the new nest box pads.  I had Isaiah go out and stuff some dead grass and straw in there this evening.  This stinks because I designed the next boxes to tilt so that the eggs would roll out for easy collection and the nesting materials prevent their rolling.  On the other hand, there is nothing rolling out for easy collection right now either.  Silly birds–there’s just no arguing with them over such things.

We have also spent the week low on milk.  After making strange cheeses with the four accumulated gallons last week, I woke up last Sunday to find that my family had gone blender-drink crazy and we had no milk left at all.  Then the boys had milk-straining issues that resulted in some losses, so not until yesterday did we finally have more than just a quart or two in the fridge.  When the milk sits such a short time, the cream never has a chance to rise, so I don’t know that I’ve gotten more than a teaspoon all week.  I’ve also had no surplus milk for yogurt, let alone cheese. I’m hoping for more skimming and culturing this week. I’m also hoping for positive signs of goats in heat! Three weeks ago it was just a maybe and three weeks from today is our planned breed date.  This is the only time of year I wish we had our own buck.

With no spare milk my only food preserving projects this week were canning and drying a couple more small batches of peaches and nectarines and sticking the last of the Empress plums in the crock pot for butter.  The Empresses are a prune plum that sell really cheaply up at our farm stand–I assume because they look so different from today’s standard glossy, round things in the grocery stores.  They have substantial bloom on the skin, are more meaty than juicy and they often have broken pits when they are ripe.  They also make a gloriously beautiful, sweet-tart fruit butter.  Unfortunately, I’ve had a sick baby since I started them, resulting in full arms day and night and the canning keeps getting put off.  The red has faded to brown and the flavors have darkened.  Hopefully, some allspice and cinnamon will nudge the dark in the right direction and they’ll still be edible.

I’m not about to add a blog tag for vermin (though I might be able to justify it), but as this is the farm journal I will record:  the flies are decreasing and we’ve gotten hit with another wave of sugar ants as of this week.  Regarding the latter, the plan is to thoroughly diatomaceous earth under and around the house this next winter (while the ants and spiders are not so active) to see if we can prevent these influxes. They seem to happen when the weather changes—we got our first group right as they were predicting our first 100F+ heat wave—this week we have a little rain (yay!) and temps all the way down in the 80s. Maybe some day I’ll be smart and organized enough to see the signs and head them off, spray their usual paths, up the cleanliness, etc. There are times that I think that a pet lizard that was allowed to roams the halls (and walls) would not be such a terrible thing…  This is our second year using fly predators.  They are mighty pricey, but they definitely help. Last May the flies were so thick that I was just about ready to sell the goats, this year we noticed the flies but weren’t being driven to distraction. I hear that it is possible in time to “naturalize” the predators so one doesn’t need to buy them anymore.  That would be nice. In the meantime, we look forward to our monthly shipments of predator-infected fly egg cases. As the song goes, fly predators are a girl’s best friend.

We have a massive wildfire burning about an hour away from us and this one looks like arson. The smoke is usually blowing in the opposite direction, but occasionally we’ll get a good whiff and it’s been irritating Isaiah’s lungs a bit. It’s stunning to look at the maps, read the reports, to try to envision the scale of the destruction and to know how many thousands of firefighters are risking their lives and health to try to put this out, and then to think that this may have been the result of someone’s choice. Our farm stand is up in that neck of the woods and they have posted that their “Last Chance” peaches are ripe. They truly are our last shot at peaches for the year, so I have to decide whether I want to take the time and brave the smoke to go up and get some…

We got our lettuce, spinach and chard in this week. We are trying to work our way through seeds that I bought in 2011 with the intention to replace them all this winter. The corn seeds from this batch came up ok. The germination rate was a little lower, but the bigger problem was that they went in late (we were awaiting a baby) and suffered trying to develop and ripen in the scorching heat. We don’t have the heat now, but the soil is so, so dry—keeping things moist enough to germinate will be a good trick. Grace helped me plant my part of the seeds. She dropped a lot of seeds by the wayside and liked to throw rather than place the seeds where I had my little divots, so our plots will be interesting. She’s such a sweetheart. Her new thing is that she will pipe up, “Did you see the pretty sun, Momma? Did you know Heavenly Father made the sun?” She asks me the same questions about clouds, the moon, trees, flowers, etc. It sometimes feels a tad insane still having littles and babies, but I’m so grateful for them.

The pasture seed has arrived. We had hoped to get those spread yesterday but the washer issue took precedence. We also took an hour out of the late afternoon and headed over to a small-town fiddle festival not too far from us. I’m trying to intentionally plan more of that type of stuff into our lives. The house and property could consume our every waking hour, but sometimes we need to go do something else. It will all still be here when we get back.

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Rocking-chair homesteading

Joseph is five months old next week and he weighs approximately one ton.  Ok, perhaps not, but after a week like this, he might as well.  I’ve never had a baby NOT settle into some sort of a pattern of sleeping and waking by this point, but he hasn’t.  He goes to bed some time between 7:00 and 11:00, wakes up anywhere between one and four times per night–sometimes with intention of remaining awake for the foreseeable future, and gets up anywhere between 6:00 and 11:00.  I am not quite so adaptable and fatigue and heavy fog have definitely set in.  I had to run to the store yesterday afternoon and after my two stops with him in the baby wrap, I was seriously envying his afternoon nap.  Babies don’t sleep very well.  I think that “sleeping like a baby” comes from adults’ dreams of how well they could sleep if they had no responsibilities and could sleep whenever they wanted to.  Oh, the sleeps I could sleep…

I am trying to be active and involved, but when Joseph’s awake I usually still have to sit.  And so I read, figure out problems, plan.  The following are the results of these activities for the week.

I think the butter mystery may be solved.  I got the home-dairying book that I was waiting for and the author says that while butter will re-solidify after being melted, the emulsion has now been broken and it will never act the same as never-melted butter.  Unfortunately, she does not go into any more details, but incomplete washing plus broken emulsion seems like it could result in too-soft, somewhat greasy butter.  So, if I can just remember to chill my wash water I am hoping I’ll have consistently good results.  This last batch was so very lovely.

I figured out that to keep us in a year’s worth of fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat we would need a grand total of 50 cubic feet of freezer space!  Wow.  Even with us only eating meat a couple of times a week, most of that space is for meat.  I was surprised to find that we could easily justify raising a hog and a splitting a steer.  There are just a lot of us right now.  What that means immediately is that we need to purchase about a 9 cubic foot freezer to accommodate our broilers and stew birds as well as have room for a couple of turkeys when they go on sale in November.  At some point, when we start doing hogs and steers, we’ll need another, larger freezer for meat and the 9 cu ft will then store vegetables, but for now, with a just-getting-started garden and orchard and our first go at meat birds, this will work fine.

I have been researching alternative drought-resistant forages.  This page on the mineral content of some common weeds was helpful. The trick now is finding seeds for plants that are considered weeds.  From this page I discovered that there has been a specimen of plantago lanceolata (the narrow-leaved plantain mentioned) collected just down the street from us, which of course conjured visions of skulking around roadsides at dusk, digging plantains.  Ah, the wonders of the internet…

I also finally ordered hay seed, along with some chicory, sunflowers and some daikon radish for my no-till experiment.

During the non-rocking chair hours of my week I made some weird cheese.  I haven’t stretched the mozzarella yet, but I think my reheat temperature was too high (I used a different set of instructions–I usually use these) and that I added the salt too late as the cheese never went smooth during the hanging period.  The flavor seems fine, so I hope it will still work out.  The chevre was just bizarre.  It ended up rubbery, spongey (small eyes throughout like an overachieving swiss) and still full of whey even after two days of draining.  I am calling it Pour les Poulets…  If I had to guess, I would say that, one, my buttermilk is a little old (I need to freeze this new batch!) and, two, my attempts to keep the flies and pantry moths off of my cheese are keeping it far too moist to age properly.  My husband laughs at the huge numbers of refrigerating devices we own (two standard refrigerators, a mini fridge to keep the milk cool during milking and soon-to-be three chest freezers…what’s wrong with that?) but I think I just need to go ahead and get a little mini wine fridge so I can age my cheeses properly.  I only lost a couple days and 3/4 gallon of milk this time, but cheese losses are simply not acceptable in my home, so I have been informed.

We also finally got out and planted beets and a few turnips yesterday in and between the aging summer garden plants. One of the varieties we planted (Lutz, I believe) is supposed to be a particularly good keeper. I would like to conduct some root cellaring experiments with it to determine the best way to store it—layered with sand in a bucket or just kept in the (hopefully) cold ground until eaten. I am, again, grateful that seeds are cheap and that I have the luxury to experiment.

I got a good look at the orchard while we were out there. Wow, do we have some pruning to do this winter. I sure am grateful to see some growth even with all the hot and dry.

The “chicks” are HUGE. It’s so bizarre to see what look like fully-grown poultry running around going “peep, peep, peep”. Their size bodes well for their potential as a dual-purpose breed. Hooray!

Our laundry room/mudroom sink is perpetually plugged. Grass, milk and clay make an excellent clogging medium, apparently.   It sounds a little like a recipe for an ancient brick or cement, doesn’t it? My dad suggested setting up an outside sink. The boys and I are concocting plans…

Finally, we have unwanted animals. Thursday night, when I discovered that our kitchen faucet had bitten the dust, I also discovered mouse droppings. We’ve had differences of opinion of cat-feeding and I am afraid that they have become less attached to us as their home base. Time to squelch dissent and get our vermin control re-committed. Secondly, we have a very lovely bantam rooster who came around looking for a harem. Unfortunately we already have a rooster and do not want the almost-assured problems of having two. We are trying to figure out what to do with him. Perhaps get him a tricycle? And, thirdly, a DOG. Someone saw him on the side of the road, picked him up and brought him here. My husband talked to our neighbor who has a friend who does golden retriever rescue. The dog goes with her or to the pound ASAP.

Looking forward to some cooler temperatures…in the low 90s this week. Wheeee, it’s hot.

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The race to beat October

I think it’s the monumental nature of what we’ve undertaken for October that leads me to feel as I do about September.  It is somewhat akin to the nesting urgency at the end of a pregnancy–must get everything done NOW before baby comes!/before the chickens are ripe! And I’m pretty sure that ripe is the technical term.

The laying flock is doing better!  The loose astroturf was torn out of the next box and temporarily replaced with straw while we were waiting for the permanent nest pads to arrive.  Elijah did that the same day that Isaiah set up their watering system and within a couple of days we were getting 3-4 eggs daily.  Apparently we  got seven today.  I’ll have to start figuring out what to do with eggs again…  We never got to setting up the third roost or the permanent feeder.  They are still  on the list but lower priority now that the chickens are happy again.  The new nest pads have since arrived and we were shocked by how very like a …bed of nails they are and have only replaced one nest box in case they don’t like it.  I know chickens don’t weigh very much and they only have to stand on it (because chickens lay eggs standing up–did you know that?) but it still seems like it would be mightily uncomfortable.  Perhaps they will discourage broodiness because they are so painful to sit on.

The summer garden is continuing to produce.  The girls continue to bring in tomatoes and peppers and we’re finally getting our first squash.  As I’m not getting out to the garden much, I can’t keep an eye on things to the same extent that I did when I checked on our raised beds during the twice daily goat milkings (wow, am I ever glad I am not doing that now–once-daily is so much saner), but from the looks of what is coming in, I still think we would benefit from some shade cloth and some thicker mulch.  This is a hot, hot place.

The corn was a bit of a bust, but that was expected.  I read recently about a different variety of corn–a dwarf hybrid that is supposed to do well in places with short seasons.  We do not have a short growing season here, but I’m thinking that maybe we could get the corn finished by the time the really hot weather hits and I’m also wondering if its shorter stature might make it less of a heavy feeder.  Seeds are great for dreaming and experimentation because they are cheap.  I have this gut feeling that once we figure out all our quirks, this land is going to be really productive, we just need to get through our slow beginning.

I read a list of questions geared to help record the year’s garden successes and failures and plan for the following year.  One was to list the things you are buying a lot of and figure out how to grow it yourself.  We buy a lot of melons, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, eggplants and sweet potatoes.  We also buy a lot of tomatoes in cans.  Even with fresh tomatoes from the garden available, the convenience of canned usually outweighs small gains in flavor when it comes to cooked foods.  I think I need to add “learn to make and can tomato products” to my list for next year.  How many jars would it take to keep us in tomato products for a year?  Mind boggling to imagine…

Speaking of food storage related math problems…we are supposed to be deciding on a new chest freezer to accommodate an influx of fresh chicken meat and I think I’ve come up with my ideal freezer set-up: a fruit freezer, a vegetable freezer, a meat freezer and a dairy freezer.  With this set-up the freezers could just be organized according to specific sub-types, i.e. cherries in the northwest corner, blueberries north, cranberries northeast, etc.   The small fridge freezers could then be reserved for short-term leftovers, frozen stocks and milk cooling.  The math problem is to figure out how much space a year’s worth of each of these things would require and figure out the largest capacity we would require during the year.  For instance, I don’t need to accommodate a full year’s supply of both cherries and cranberries as their seasons are six months apart.  Yes, there is such a thing as a year’s supply of cranberries.  In my house we can go through 2 pounds of cranberry sauce in a meal and my kids like it with chicken and pork as well as turkey.  We are serious cranberry eaters here.

I made chevre this week, sort of.  For some reason I decided to press it slightly, rather than just draining it.  It is good, just a little drier and firmer than is traditional.  The kids ate nearly the whole batch at lunch.

This week we canned more plum butter and dried a dehydrator-full of peaches.  Bethel also canned another small batch of sweet pickles.  They turned out flavorful, but a bit soft.  I am wondering if this is just due to the variety (lemon cucumbers) our friends have been sharing with us or just pickler-error somewhere along the way.  If we had grape leaves we could toss one in, but that will have to wait for next year–fingers crossed.  Elijah started some cucumbers in a cardboard box from a packet he found on the garage floor, has now transplanted them to the garden and they are blossoming now.  We will see if the heat holds out long enough to harvest very many.  The days are still quite warm but the nights are already significantly cooler.  We’ll see how temperature-picky they are.

This week’s batch of butter is better still than its predecessors.  Eventually I am really going to have this down.  I made it on a cool morning with well-chilled cream, bowl and beater.  I forgot to chill the washing water again, which I think is preventing me from washing as thoroughly as I ought, as the butter starts to melt and get greasy and I start to feel a sense of urgency about getting it into the fridge.  My yield was a little lower and it took a bit longer, but the flavor was much better with the fresher cream, the melt point seems a bit higher and the mouth feel is great.  Getting there!

I am still sitting on this hay seed order.  I must bite the bullet and get it in soon.  There is simply only so far I can get with reading and we must try growing some of this stuff.  I found a pretty comprehensive list of pasture plantings online and thought maybe it could help me concoct the perfect blend for our pastures, but I just couldn’t quite get there.  I got: tolerates heat but requires regular water, tolerates drought but requires acidic soil, tolerates alkaline soils but goes dormant in summer heat, etc, etc.  There is no easy answer.  I’ll just have to make my best educated guesses and start experimenting.  I will make mistakes and it will be ok…I will make mistakes and it will be ok…

Elijah has been reading this book and is working on developing his own bread recipe.  The results thus far have been quite delicious.  I must say, I am a confident enough baker to tweak and repair, but I don’t know that I am ready to step out into open space that way!  It is always so fun to see what untrammelled kids will do and come up with.  It’s such a delight to be able to provide them with the time, space and materials to get on with it all.

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Small-batch canning

I continue to can in this, my non-canning year.  But rather than big marathon days I’ll spend an hour or maybe two prepping food and throwing it into jars.  We received a few cucumbers from a friend this week and Bethel made a very small (3 pints) batch of sweet and spicy pickles.  The friend was afraid that the cucumbers had gone too long and that they would be bitter.  If they were, we could not tell–the brine was intense and quite good.  The first jar was gone as soon as it was opened.  I often try to figure out how much of “x food product” it would take to keep my family in it for a year.  I usually end up dizzy and buying more canning jars.

In addition, this week I canned some more pluot/cardamom preserves and one box of nectarines.  I had hoped to have closer to two boxes, but the kids had been eating them down all week and then I missed peak ripe and they were heading into tipsy and fuzzy by the time I got to them.  I has able to salvage a few more pieces and tried to make nectarine preserves from them.  I learned that there is a reason peaches and nectarines are diced for these types of products.  They are extremely fibrous.  I couldn’t imagine spreading the stuff on anything so I pureed it all (thank goodness for immersion blenders) and called it butter.  I like fruit chunks in my preserves so I must remember this for next time.  I also think I need to learn to use pectin in jams and jellies.  I have steered clear of it as I can’t eat sugar in any quantity, but I know that there are low-sugar varieties available and there are certain textures I’m just not achieving without it.

Along with the rest of the house, I am trying to reclaim the pantry.  Among the many mysteries of this world, one of the greatest is, “Why Are Things Put in the Wrong Place When it Takes the Same Amount of Time and Energy to Put Them in the Right Place?”  I am not complaining and am grateful for the many hands that have pitched in over the last year so that I could grow a baby, but I do have lots of time to ponder this question as I set it all straight again.  Haven’t come up with anything yet…  We are scarily low on canned vegetables and fruit and there is work enough to do till the sun goes down.

I also made my second batch of butter this week with the last of last year’s cream and, yes, it tastes rather freezer-ish, but is still good.  It went much more smoothly this time.  I kept a close eye on temperature, washed it using the mixer until the water was good and clear (although I think I need to refrigerate my washing water next time as it was REALLY soft by the time I was trying to work the water out), and think I got the salt right (1/2 teaspoon for the butter resulting from 2 pints of thick cream), but my slapdash attempts to color it using annatto resulted in still-white butter and my melt point is still almost unusably low.  Elijah made pie crust with it this week and it was very difficult to work with.  I have the ceramic butter keeper pictured below.  You’re supposed to put a little bit of water in the section on the left to create a seal when you invert the butter-containing section and place it inside.  With this butter, what a mess…  Do I need to churn (is churn still the correct term if I am using a mixer?) for longer?  Am I still not being thorough enough with my washing and working?  Is this just a quirk of goat’s milk butter?

"Water seals out air keeping butter soft, sweet and spreadable for up to 30 days."  or rather "Globs of soft warm butter swim lazily in a puddle of water, but at least everyone knows where to find the butter."  :-)

“Water seals out air keeping butter soft, sweet and spreadable for up to 30 days.” or rather “Globs of soft warm butter swim lazily in a puddle of water, but at least everyone knows where to find the butter.” 🙂

The aforementioned pie crust was the topper for our Steak and Kidney Pie.  The crust, after being hard to work with, promptly melted into the pie but, even so, we enjoyed the dish.  The kidney tasted very similar to liver, but had a texture more like, for want of a better comparison, hot dogs.  We’ll do it again next time we end up with kidneys.  And I’ve got to hand it to Elijah–he is pretty fearless in the kitchen.

We went back to miniscule egg production again this week, so we are taking more aggressive steps to get this figured out.  Their hodgepodge watering system was replaced by one like the meat flock’s (5 gallon bucket, pvc pipe and poultry nipples, similar to this) and I’ve ordered some new nest box pads.  We’ve had astroturf in there, but the hens peck it apart and managed to completely detach it after this last replacement.  I can imagine that makes it a little slippery and un-cozy.  When I built the henhouse, I left space for a third roost.  It’s probably time to set that up as well.  And, finally, we need to get some diatomaceous earth out there to help out with mite issues and get them started on the herbal wormer I used last year on the goats.

Near-disaster with the three remaining Delaware hens.  The zip-tie leg bands that were to be checked every Friday were not and we ended up with some superficial wounds and swelling.  They all healed up ok, but if we need to band again for some reason, I think I’ll go ahead and get the spiral ones that have a little more give.  We also need a brighter color–white on a pale leg leaves much visibility to be desired.

I just read how to make bone meal here.  We probably oughtta…especially rather than throwing away bones and then buying bone meal.

We have missed all of the vegetable starting and are now into vegetable direct-seeding time.  Beets, lettuce, chard and turnips need to go in this week and next.  Can we make it happen?

We are watching for that second heat cycle in the goats….nothing yet to report…

Our manure pile needs management. We have a source of cheap pallets and they’d just need  to be wired together to make a couple of reasonable bins that we could shift the stuff between when it gets smelly…just need to dig up the manpower.

I am daily grateful to be learning this all in a time of plenty.  I read that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a winter much like last year’s and I am so glad that water can be purchased in a pinch, that my empty pantry can be easily filled, that the results of oversights and mismanagement and accident do not include immediate impacts on the health and nourishment of my family.  It is a luxury to live a life so forgiving of my mistakes.