Consecration Acres

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

Leave a comment

June’s conclusion

I can hardly believe the month is almost over, but I am glad that we are headed for later mornings, if not yet cooler temperatures (the second week of August is our usual turn-around for temps, bleagh). Joseph doesn’t care overmuch about darkness (he will still occasionally awaken around 3am, ready to start the day), but it does seem to make early mornings a bit more of a given for everyone else. The combination, this past week, of relentlessly early mornings, an incredible heat wave and an out-of-town husband left me mostly non-functioning by Friday, but I managed to hack away at a few things during my functional moments prior to that time.

We ended the week with almost as much zucchini as we began it with, but we did not end with twice as much, and that is a great victory. I used 4 cups in zucchini bread, shredded and froze 20 more cups, cooked a bunch up into Ratatouille (along with eggplant and beans from our garden!) and then Isaiah made veggie melts (homemade sourdough bread spread with mayo, topped with a slice of fresh tomato, sautéed onion, shredded zucchini and sliced mushrooms and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and homemade mozzarella cheese). As I said, the box is full again, but there is nothing rotting or going to the chickens, so I am happy. All our zucchini foods have been delicious. Jordan was pretty repulsed by the idea of zucchini bread initially, but changed her tune upon smelling it baking and then tasting it. She had promised me that I could eat all of her pieces. She did not keep her word.

About half of the milk in the fridge had gone bad and I ended up tossing it, but the other half made fantastic mozzarella—perhaps the best batch I have made, in terms of texture. As always, there was plenty of gasping, jumping up and running to the kitchen when I remembered that I was making cheese in addition to everything else going on, but it’s nice to be familiar enough with the process to know where I can let it slide (waiting for it to curdle and the stretching) and where I have to be really on top of it (not letting the temperature get too high). Bethel helped me stretch it this time. I’ll probably start teaching her the rest of the process on the next batch.

The garden marches on. We pulled the pea plants out. It was a little dismaying to see how many were missed in harvesting. I collected a bit over a pound of “free” seed from my favorite variety—which turns out to be Green Arrow and not Thomas Laxton as I had originally thought—and the goats happily slurped up the others, vines and all. Nothing is ever truly wasted, I suppose.

We also pulled most of the parsnips and the big beets. The sugar beets still await that mythological gap in my schedule when I can squeeze in trying something new.

It looks like we have enough cucumbers for a batch of pickles. We have had some that have been so sweet that we ate them without salt, and a couple so bitter that no amount of salt could make them edible. I think I will just need to taste a slice of each as I go to make sure we end up with good pickles. I may try my mom’s German pickles this time as we still have both dills and sweets from the random Winter cucumber sales this year.

We also harvested our first couple of not-quite-ripe melons (we may lack a little patience around here) and 2 nearly ripe PUMPKINS. Pumpkins? In June? What does one do with pumpkins in June?

And it appears that we have an issue with those irrigation hoses that I was liking. I still don’t know whether it is a defect in the design or young user error (I am afraid that my pleas to adjust the water pressure to “just enough” fell on deaf ears), but we have now lost two and are throwing in the towel and converting to a system like this one. I am trying not to fret over the money wasted and just count it as part of the cost of taking Gardening 101. The funny thing about Gardening 101 is that you think that you are signed up for certain courses, say, Vegetable Varieties that Grow Well in Your Yard, but then the class is going along and you discover that you are actually in Irrigation Systems: Trial and Error or Plant Markers that Don’t Wash off in the Rain or Intro to Cabbage Loopers. The course descriptions need some work…

After a year of thinking about it, I am finally trying to make my own bone meal. The instructions say to fully clean the meat and connective tissues off the bones. After fiddling with it for fifteen minutes I decided the best way to clean the bones off was to boil them, i.e. make stock, but I left out the vinegar that I usually use to pull calcium into the broth as that seemed a little counter-productive. Any guesses as to how many Tablespoons of meal I’ll end up with from two chickens? Our soil is so calcium-poor that we should perhaps be raising something larger and denser-boned for this purpose.

After my old dehydrator died and took all those pineapples down with it, I was excited to see pineapple on sale again this week. Eight pineapples barely filled half of my new dehydrator. They turned out fine, except that the bottom tray was a little softer than the rest. It looks like I might need to do a little tray rotating, but at least this dehydrator does not have a track record of catching fire! Overall, I am pleased with it. I am planning to use the trays from my old one to build a solar dehydrator. We may as well get some benefit from the miserable afternoon temps on our SW-facing black deck.

I am knocking on wood that we are, again mouse-less. Apparently, our barn cats fell down on the job and allowed rodents to access the house at some point and we were seeing droppings and occasional flashes of movement in the kitchen and pantry. I set two traps and we caught one that first night. The other was empty that morning, but when I went to go put it away later on I found it occupied as well. Visions of a large family of mice residing and reproducing in my house filled my mind, so I dutifully peanut-buttered two more traps that night. One of them sprung when Isaiah bounced a basketball in the house, but the other is still set and empty. I pray that it remains so and that my cats are a little more diligent in the future.

And, in yet more vermin news…Isaiah was bitten on the top of the foot by something while he slept and, over the course of the next day, the bite became extremely swollen and uncomfortable. Our usual remedies didn’t touch it and by the following morning he had some edema all across his forefoot (he said it felt sloshy when he shook his foot) and this weird, lacy pattern was developing around the bite. My niece had been bitten by a poisonous spider a few years ago on a trip and they were advised to poultice it with damp tobacco and she recovered quickly with no scarring. We decided to try it out that second night and by the next morning, it was noticeably better. He has continued to heal well, even without reapplying the tobacco. Amazing how something that can be so destructive to bodies when abused can be such a powerful healer when used correctly.

“And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.”

Leave a comment

Fessing up

Sometimes I do a fantastic job with things around here

and sometimes they get pushed aside while I deal with kids stuff or health stuff or Church stuff or political goings on that require attention and involvement, or we have three birthdays, Kid to Work Day (known around here as take-away-the-helpful-olders-and-leave-behind-the-despondent-youngers Day) and Fathers Day all inside a week. Due to some or all of the above “pushed aside” is where I’ve been for the last couple of weeks. It’s getting ugly.

Getting critical:

Milk has not been dealt with. I might have four gallons in the fridge.

I am getting bean build-up. Must cook or blanch and freeze ASAP.

Zucchini. Is zucchini ever not a crisis? I suppose it wouldn’t be if you had nothing else to eat.

Baby beets…still in the fridge. Big beets still need to be harvested…I hope they’re still edible. Sugar beets need to be sugared in my spare time. (sigh)

Cucumbers need a new row of trellis in the garden.

One of our new green “ribbon” soaker hoses has a tear in it, despite not being moved and being used with appropriate water pressure. It is under warranty, so I get to go through that process and see how the manufacturer handles it all. Another to-do.

Fall cabbage, celery and leeks were already supposed to be started.

Chickens are still escaping from the run and we still need to sell/get rid of the ones in the run so we can shift the Delawares and Golden Comets into the run and the rapidly feathering meat flock into the grazing pen and electronet.

We need to decide on a goat course of action. We have too many and need to sell some, but we’d need to register them in order to get the best price for them…yet another to-do. Also, goats are silly. I have now put up shade cloth for them twice, but no matter how high I hang it, they tear it down. Goats are silly. Or maybe they are working on their tans.

I am still ignoring my glycerites that I started way too long ago. I need to add more glycerine to the echinacea ones and get them infusing again or just strain and bottle them—whatever! Just finish this project! I am really, really good at getting these things going and then leaving them alone, but I seem to have a hard time concluding them. For instance, refrigerated sourdough starter or the fruit scrap vinegar that I’ve started now twice and forgotten about. Fortunately for me, glycerine is a good preservative…

Missed it:

The rest of the apricots. Ugh. The batch I put in the dehydrator are great and I may go up and buy some more, but I allowed way too many to die waiting for attention.

The rest of the nectarines. If I could only make cobblers with a wave of my magic wand.

Too many eggs. Fully free-range chickens are insanity. Not having any idea when an egg was laid is a recipe for an occasional smelly egg-opening, which is a recipe for people becoming afraid to open eggs, which is a recipe for having more eggs rot, and now you see the cycle that we are in.

It appears that the goldenseal has died. This is a huge bummer. I will try again in the Fall.

Thus ends my confession, and now I can move forward.

Political goings-on are a part of my recent slide from productivity. They are literally keeping me up at night. The Constitution was such a good idea, forgetting it such a bad one. If everyone knew where governmental powers came from and what its natural limits are, so many debates would be unnecessary. The Proper Role of Government is a great and succinct place to start. When I first read it, I wanted to send a copy to all my legislators. It took some of the wind out of my sending-reading-material sails when my congressman confessed that he didn’t necessarily read all the legislation that he voted on, but just “voted according to [his] conscience”. I am still trying to figure out how exactly ignorance and conscience can work together…

Leave a comment

Heat approaches

I have started bedding things down for a long, fiercely hot summer. Tuesday is supposed to reach 102. I am always so nervous when the first triple-digit day hits, and this year, with our unseasonably cool May, I am even more so. It is a refiner’s fire indeed—culling the weakest plants, trees and animals too…always heart-stopping.

I got the last of the sweet potatoes planted, and reserved just a couple of cuttings to fill in gaps if we lose some. I stuck the three potatoes in as well as they had several sprouts each that were too small to root. I need to mark them so I can see if there is a difference between those and the cuttings at harvest time. That bed and the pepper/eggplant bed each got a thick layer of straw mulch on them. The sweet potatoes already look better.

After deciding that we must have slugs eating our cabbages and sprinkling coffee grounds around the plants to deter them, it turns out that we actually have little green cabbage worms. Research required.

We harvested two varieties of beets. They kept wilting, stopped recovering well from their wilts and a couple sent up seed stalks. Overall, the harvest was disappointing. It appears that the soaker hose has a dry spot (how?!) and it was right there, hence the wilting and stress… We have since used the previously unused end of the hose in a nearby bed to fill in the gap for future plantings. We expect a nice little row of weeds to crop up in the path beneath it. Oh well. Next year we will be more sane in our soaker hose layout.

Speaking of, I have tried now three different types of soaker hoses: the rubbery water weeper ones, the sewn fabric ones and now the green “sprinkler if you flip it up, soaker if you turn it down” ones. I like these last ones the most—having a visible hole in the hose every few inches is straightforward and the 5-year warranty inspires confidence. We shall see how they do over time.

In other watering news, Isaiah got the orchard on drip irrigation this week! He made some mistakes along the way, he learned a lot and a friend of ours was so impressed with his work that she’s going to hire him to fix a broken section of her system. Both boys are relieved that orchard-watering went from a 45-minute job to a 5-minute job. I look forward to a similar reduction in the total garden-watering time. Seven watering zones at 15-minutes each is a lot of hooking and unhooking and back-and-forth trips to the garden.

I finally replaced the broken outdoor blinds on the front porch house. I bought three new ones last year, but never managed to get up on a ladder to do the hanging. The two I bought later have magnetic breakaway cords to comply with safety requirements. The instructions warned that care must be taken while raising the blinds to avoid deploying the new feature. Mine broke away twice while I was very gently lowering them. I can’t imagine them standing up to a raising of any sort, or even a stiff wind in a partly raised position, for that matter. Sigh. They used to be a reasonably good product. As I am planning to build my own from shade cloth, I suppose it doesn’t matter much.

Encouraged by his successes in the orchard Isaiah is now concocting his own plans to build the ultimate misting system for our front porch. I told the kids about living in the Phoenix valley and walking past restaurants that had outdoor seating and going suddenly from searing heat and sun to the foggy Scottish moors—this is really what I want on our deck. Perhaps if we had enough mist, it would turn our masonry house into a huge evaporative cooler…

We are attempting to un-free-range Rudy’s flock. I patched a hole in the fence and suspended a tarp over a section of broken netting. I am tired of droppings everywhere, hidden caches found full of eggs or uncertain date ( and the rotten egg surprises that follow) and I suspect that they are eating some of our very pricey fly predators. Lately, some of them have been laying in the cats’ “house”, much to the cats’ chagrin. The one thing I will miss is Jordan coming in every day to tell us that the cats laid another egg.

And we have a Golden Comet broody! Golden Comets are not supposed to go broody, of course. Also, she wants a nice, neat little nest just outside both of our enclosures and gets rather irked when we try to move her. Chickens.

We lost two chicks this week. One died of unknown causes—he was going down when I went out to check on them early in the week and never recovered—and the other appears to have pasted up. It is rotten that we missed it as it is fairly easily remedied. Overall, we have had much less pasting up than last year and we have protected them very well from predators thus far. Some day we’ll be fantastic at this. We are still working on keeping them well watered. They are always thirstier than I think they will be at this age and size.

I need to get out and get the goats more shade. Again, I am nervous about this upcoming week.

Leave a comment

Bouncing babies and a garden transition

The goat babies have finished up their first week of life on the Acres. They all seem to favor one side for nursing, so Isaiah has had to milk her out on the other side a couple of times, but aside from that it’s all been pretty uneventful. They are cute and bouncy and seem to be growing. This week we’ll disbud and destroy their photogenicity for a while and then have a gap until castration and ear tattooing and deciding what to do with a surplus of does.

We are starting to ease from planting into harvesting. This week I planted corn, a couple more tomatoes and sweet potatoes and I’ll plant a few more of the last two this upcoming week, but everything else is in and growing well with the increased temperatures this week. The peas fully gave up and fell over just in time for the harvest to begin (I makeshifted them some supports on my garden walk this afternoon) and it looks like the beets are ready, many of the carrots are ready, we harvested our first beet, zucchini and summer squash (we’ve got a little blossom end rot on one plant), some little pickling cucumbers that were past their prime (totally missed them due to their size) and I’ve been harvesting the outer spinach leaves for a while now. The weeds are also going great guns and that and the hot, dry winds provide great incentive for me to pile on some more mulch.

My sauerkraut and kimchi finished on the same day despite being started three days apart (go figure). Kimchi is spicy…I will have to try using it a bit more before I’ll have more to report than that. I also started some more sourdough in the fridge with a mnemonic trigger. We’ll see how, “feed it on Friday” works in my head. We’ve also got “wormer Wednesday” for the goats and “weekly-feed Wednesday” for the garden. C’mon brain, you can do it.

We survived and saw that last of 150-ish lbs of cherries. Most went into the freezer, some into cherry preserves, some into our bellies and some into the dehydrator. The ones in the dehydrator are not dissimilar from raisins and probably not worth the hassle of pitting for the end result. I may try soaking them in something tart first, should I feel compelled to try it again.

And we had two new shipments this week: 53 Delaware roos (hatcheries often “throw in” extras to cover any that don’t survive shipment, but all of ours did!) and the supplies for our irrigation system. I can confidently say that the boys were more excited about the yards of black tubing and connectors than they were about the cute and noisy little fluffballs. The chicks equal more work while the irrigation supplies are a light at the end of an interminable watering routine.

Whee. I feel like I’m writing only to bullet points today, but my brain is juggling a bit more than it can comfortably handle. Now that I’ve decided to mentally turn the dead of summer into the dead of winter, I’m actually looking forward to the weather-mandated break, whatever its temperature may be. I fully intend to quilt, sew and be thoroughly nest-ish. Homemade ice cream will just have to stand in for the cups of cocoa.