Consecration Acres

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

Rocking-chair homesteading

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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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