Consecration Acres

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


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Checking in

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year.

I had a gut feeling that this move would be a hard one, and it has been.  I keep thinking of that “peace that passeth all understanding”, peace in the midst of not-peaceful things.  This move has been sure-ness in the midst of things making us unsure.  Many steps along the way have been longer and more difficult than we expected.

Our house sold fairly quickly.  We decided to be flexible on the price as our realtor was recommending some pretty major upgrades in order to get it to sell and we felt better about a bird in the hand than the two in the bush.  It was nice to finally stop hemorrhaging money on that end.  We made multiple offers on multiple properties here, but kept being unable to settle on a price.  We also kept finding houses that either I liked, or my husband liked but that we couldn’t agree on.  We were almost ready to commit to the extensive timeline of building our own, when a house that we had looked at before dropped in price and we decided to take a second look.  We figured out what the necessary updates would cost and made the owners an offer.  After a bit of back and forth we settled on a price.  Our closing date was about 2 1/2 weeks before the rental period on our house was up, so we decided to spend that time getting as many of the updates done as we could before we had to move and live in drywall dust.  The kids enjoyed running around the yard, climbing the trees and digging in the good-sized pasture.  The olders and I framed a wall, fished wire, installed outlets and removed a sliding door.  While we were removing the door, we discovered rotten wood underneath and around the bottom (doesn’t one always).  I scraped out everything that was soggy and removed the deck board immediately in front of the door as it was too far gone to save.  I then framed the opening to prepare it for a window.  A friend came over to help us with the installation–he held the window in place from the inside while I screwed it into the frame.  As I had not yet replaced the deck board and the top of the window was out of my reach, I had to be really careful about how I placed the feet of my stepstool in order to keep all four on a solid surface.  Apparently, I bumped it with my leg that last time.  I climbed up, lifted my drill to begin working and then fell sideways and backwards, landing on the deck steps on the right side of my tailbone.  My head also hit the deck quite hard and I quickly felt rather nauseated, but whether I was dealing with nausea as a concussion symptom or as a result of pain, I couldn’t yet tell.  But I also felt a deep sense of calm and that the Lord was aware of me–this was my first clue that this was going to be a big deal. After a couple of minutes, I felt like I could hobble into the house.  I went into the bathroom to assess my injuries.  No broken skin, really painful tailbone, really tender head and I was having a hard time not passing out.  It took me several tries to get out of the bathroom and onto my bedroom floor.  For the next couple of hours I took a lot of herbs and homeopathics to reduce bruising and to keep me conscious.  Eventually the pain and shockiness wore off enough to tell that I was really uncomfortable on the floor and I got one of the boys to set up a mattress and find me some blankets and after I checked my pupil response (fine) I fell asleep.

I’ll stop with the boring and painful details.  My tailbone was broken.  Initial hopes that I’d be up after a couple of days did not materialize.  My mom came into town shortly afterwards, but the work was just too much for her and the kids so we ended up calling in an army of women from our church to finish packing up and cleaning the rental.  It was pretty awful just having to lie there while everyone was working so hard, but that was really all I could do.  It was a bit of a relief when they finally moved me and my bed over to the other house so that at least I didn’t have to watch.  Everyone was so willing and kind and we made the deadline.

Since then it has been a process of gradually adjusting our plans to the reality of our situation.  We hired out some of the work to make the house liveable, we chucked out plans to get a big garden in and animals and the garage converted this summer.  We had boarded our goats with our neighbor goat lady back in CA in hopes of bringing them out, but with no barn or near prospects of building one, it became apparent that we would need to sell our goats.  Unfortunately, Ella and Penny are ADGA registered dairy goats and I could not find the paperwork to transfer ownership.  We finally found these last week, SO now that we have no goats, we are finally ADGA members so that I can register Margot, Flower, Blossom and Margot’s new, beautiful, pure white doeling (born on Memorial Day if I remember right) so that we can sell them all to pay the feed bills for the last several months!  It’s rather a depressing business, honestly…and wildly complex. The procedure follows:

In order to register and transfer dairy goats, one has to be a member with a membership name and have a member number.  This is $35 and good for 15 months if one purchases in September, but only good for 4 months if one purchases in August.  Go figure.  One also needs to request a tattoo to permanently mark one’s goats with a unique series of four letters and numbers to designate the herd of birth.  Think branding, except it’s in the ear with ink rather than on the rump with a hot iron.  It’s actually not even visible unless you take the goat into a fairly dark room and shine a flashlight through their ear, and this is about as much fun as it sounds like it would be.  Both of these can be applied for online.  One also needs a PIN, which is assigned at random by ADGA and a signature authorization form so that they have records of the signatures that can be accepted for goat transfers.  Both of these must be sent by snail mail, but have no fee associated.  Next, in order to give your goats registerable names, you must have a herd name.  This must be unique and costs $15 to register.  Unfortunately, they do not publish “taken” herd names online, but, I hear, some day they may send them to me in the mail for my perusal.  As this did not fit my timeline, I poked around and found an online forum where someone had the same question.  Turns out, you can’t look up registered herd names, but you can look up registered goat names, AND as the herd name is the first part of each goat’s name, you can kind of figure out what’s available.  Nothing came up when I typed in “consecration acres”, so I went ahead and applied for that.  Here’s the website if anyone should need it: http://adgagenetics.org/ .  I am just hoping I will not need it again, as I am still waiting for approval.  All right, now once I have a herd name, then I can finally fill out registration forms for our goats.  These require Sire and Dam names, Dam’s breed date, the goat’s birth date, physical description and name.  The name consists of herd name + whatever else, limited to 30 characters.  There is also a fairly nominal goat registration fee.  Once I receive their registration papers I can then pay another nominal fee to transfer ownership and then I am finally goat-less.  Sigh.  I am considering it just the next class in Goat School.  (And excuse my mid-stream switch from “one” to “I”–I am not going to go back and make it uniform.)

So that’s it for homesteading–lots of heel-cooling going on.  Elijah planted a few things and we have eaten them.  I am glad to see things growing out there, even if it’s small for now.  I read a blog recently where someone had mulched her garden with hay and nothing would grow.  Apparently, the field the hay came from had been treated with a persistent broadleaf herbicide that killed all of her garden plants off.  As our pasture/future garden and orchard had been used for horses before I wondered if we’d find any major issues, but so far so good.

That’s it for now.  Perhaps next time I’ll write about what I’ve been doing to while away the hours of broken tailbone-dom.

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Change

Some are gradual and some are sudden. Fall arrived quickly—90+ temperatures one week and our first frost the next. We tarped the peppers and eggplants and row-covered one row of tomatoes and they weathered our first frost quite well. The uncovered tomatoes suffered some frost damage, but kept on growing. We had pulled out some of the uncovered tomato plants and hung them upside down in the bonus room when we saw that frost was approaching. They have continued to ripen, but, unfortunately the grape tomatoes fall off and roll down the stairs as soon as they turn red. There have been some casualties when people go up the stairs without looking down first… This week we will see lows in the 20s and there is no significant rise in sight, so we hung a bunch more tomato plants up in the bonus room and harvested all the remaining peppers (a five-gallon bucketful!), eggplants and frost-tender herbs. It is a mess up there now, but one that makes me happy.

We also started digging up the sweet potatoes. The frosts had started to kill the vines and I read that if they were left in place then they could spread rot to the sweet potatoes, so I went and yanked them all out. When I did so, I saw a lot of evidence of voles in the bed and so I started digging. I got about 1/3 of the way through the section of the bed that we have been digging from already and I have a heaping 5–gallon bucket. I expect that I will dig up another 2-3 bucketsful before I am done.

The carrots are early harvest size (we are perhaps a little impatient) and the radishes have been fun to look at and eat. We planted a watermelon variety with a pale green outer skin and pink or purply-red inside. They are mild enough to eat plain. We are also nibbling at the lettuces. The Ben Shemen variety is my favorite so far—mild and buttery. We also have one good-sized Pak Choi that survived from the first planting surrounded by a lot of babies from the second, a bunch of spinach, chard and beets on their way, peas in need of taller supports and green shoots from the garlic and onions filling their allocated bed.

In the barnyard, we butchered our first batch of chickens and need to get to the rest ASAP. And we will be boarding Penny and Margo in a stall next to our neighbor’s buck beginning early the week after this so that they can be bred. The roof is finally on the stall. We have gotten rain since then and, oh my, how wonderful and dry it is under there!

And so things plug along here. Oddly, we will not be here to see the completion of some of these cycles as my husband has accepted a job in Utah and we will be moving early next year. I have frequent moments of panic. We have worked so hard here and have been greatly enjoying both the fruits of our labors and the unearned blessings of a generous God in this place. I will submit to His will, whatever it may be, but I so hope that we will have land and the ability to do this again. I have so loved it.

And so, expect infrequent posting for a while—until we are settled again.


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Someone’s been eating my garden

We still don’t know who, or rather, what. All my little whos do their own degree of damage—Joseph likes to pick peppers, take a single bite and then throw them and has also decided that cherry tomatoes are fun to pop, the other littles will pick things too green and waste them—but I have yet to have a child bite the tops off of just-sprouted beets, chard, peas and lettuces. Whatever it is, it’s a nasty piece of work. As we still have warm weather I decided to try yet again and I’m gradually replanting everything under floating row covers. So far, I am loving them, and so are all my plants. Instead of going out and lamenting every morning, I go out and sing the praises of whoever invented this wonderful stuff.

We are enjoying our small, but tasty harvest of fall raspberries. I know that raspberries tend to take over and become a bit of a headache eventually, but right now that sounds like a nice problem. They are so, so good.

The tomatoes, also, cannot come on fast enough. The kids usually beat me out there every morning, so by the time I get there, what is left is really green. I do have a secret, though…there’s a tomato on one end called a Purple Cherokee that only blushes pink on the bottom and always stays green on top. Oh, so delicious. And because they don’t look ripe, they are still there when the kids have picked everything else clean. Shhhh…

And I don’t think I’m liking Romas that much. The flavor is poor and if I can get something more dual purpose to work, I think I’d rather.

I made a third batch of makdous. It turned out better than the 2nd (no fruit flies!), but I still had some mold and some were a little alcoholly smelling again. I had found my recipe a year ago and saved it for when I had baby eggplants, but I decided to search makdous recipes again and see if there were any variations that might provide a clue to the issues I was having. Yes! My recipe dry-ferments (I don’t know if that’s the technical term, but there is a lot of salt but no water involved) for a total of five days which was 2-5 times as long as any of the other recipes directed! So, I am going to try a three-day ferment, two without stuffing and one more with and them into the jars. I am hopeful that this will do the trick and that my chickens will stop getting so much makdous.

I taught an home herbal medicine class this week and I have serious housekeeping back up. Among many other things my kitchen is full of past canning projects that need to be cleaned up, labelled, boxed and put away. Cucumbers were on sale and I want to try some fermented pickles (the family that was staying with us brought some and they were fantastic) and I’m out of sauerkraut! And then next week we need to do applesauce. My life is all food, all the time. Sometimes I have to laugh at the enormous amount of time it all takes, but I am grateful for my houseful of hungry people and the ability I have to provide the food they need.

The roof is going up on the goat shelter! I am so excited, so looking forward to dry hay in their feeder and less mud. I am funny. I am up to my eyeballs with everything that needs to be done, but I see our friend up there putting that roof together and think, “that’s not hard… I could do that… I should be doing that…” And then my more reasonable self takes me by the shoulders and looks at me with pursed lips and furrowed brows and clears her throat, ahem.

And it is goat-breeding month. I need to get in touch with our neighbor and see if we can just board Margo over there until she’s bred, but we’re doing heat-watch with Penny as we are still milking her. Wish us luck! We have not been wildly successful in the past.


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Sawdust, fermenting woes and an endless summer

Last item first. I think I reached my lifetime capacity for high temperatures while I/we lived in the Phoenix valley. I do try not to complain, but the foggy-brained, energy-drained state that heat puts me into leaves much to be desired. Thank goodness for our evaporatively cooled nights and mornings that allow me to pretend that it is fall.

The benefit of the continuing heat is for both the end of the summer garden (heaven knows we need more eggplants, right?) and the fall/winter garden, which was put in late—as has been our MO this year. Our average 1st frost for this area is supposedly November 14th, but we haven’t had a frost that early since moving here and at least one year we harvested tomatoes in December. As we haven’t had much of a tomato harvest yet, due to too-high temps and irrigation problems, I suppose I can (sigh) suffer with a bit more summer for the possibility of getting a measurable crop. Tomatoes aside, I put in the lettuce, chard, peas and spinach on October 3rd and we’re just seeing our first sprouts. The carrots are looking good, the leeks are up (teeny things) and the first radishes should be ready this week. There are a few beets here and there, but nothing like the number I planted. I am wondering if my soil temp was too high. I really need to figure out the whole shade cloth thing. So many of our gardening issues could be improved.

Apparently, pouring near-boiling water over jalapenos prior to lacto-fermenting them in not a good idea. That jar went to the chickens. The other is in the fridge, awaiting salsa-making. I strung a couple dozen jalapenos onto some cotton kitchen twine and hung them in a west-facing window. Hopefully, they will dry nicely without spoiling, if not, oh well. We are not big jalapeno users, really. I wonder if we should just plant half a jalapeno plant next year.

My second batch of makdous was a disaster. I started them on Monday, stuffed them on Wednesday and was to have put them in jars on Friday. When I opened them, a cloud of fruit flies flew out and they (the makdous) were almost completely covered in gray mold. They also smelled really alcoholic. I think my biggest mistake was cutting some of the longer ones in half before poaching them. They are supposed to be 4” or shorter, but some of the Japanese eggplants were 6”-8”. Cutting them made them draw more water—I noticed when I was salting them that they were really soggy. My second mistake was not putting enough weight on the plate pressing them to squeeze out all that extra water. I think I had close to 10 lbs last time and only about half that this time. My third mistake was not making sure that the cloth covered all the holes in the colander. Fruit flies are small, love fermented stuff and breed rapidly. Those are my theories. Right about now I am rather wishing I could call up my little Lebanese grandmother and get her advice…

Small canning projects continue. I did a batch of pear chutney and some more canned chicken. Doing the store-bought chicken makes me really look forward to having our chicken again. They are getting so close.

We also continue to eat large amounts of food. We ate the first of the garden corn we dried in the form of cornbread. It was very nice. Grains, in general, are labor-intensive to turn into eatables, but the corn was not too bad. Each ear made ¾ cup corn meal and the kernels came off easily when I “wrung” the ear in my hands. The corn seemed a bit softer than the dent I have stored, and only needed to go through the grinder once. We also ate our first pumpkin pies from what we grew. They’ve been sitting out on our porch since July and then cooked for too long. One or the other thing meant that they were not very sweet, still, nice to have pies from our pumpkins, milk and eggs.

Bud sold! Yay! One less mouth to feed over the winter. The debate over which doeling to keep continues. Apparently, this is how one ends up with 7,000 goats.

I am building a canopy bed as this year’s answer to how to keep warm in an unheated bedroom. I have done a bit of woodworking now—a couple coops and other animal shelters, lots of food storage shelves and a couple platform beds—but nothing that was supposed to look like real furniture. I have to say, the finishing work is doing me in. The wood at the big box stores is far from shout-worthy and my little random orbital sander, even with 40 grit, is no match. As I am hoping to do more real-looking furniture in the future, I am thinking that it is time for a belt sander. Mmmmm, excuses to buy power tools…

Bethel and I are in the middle of the fall clothing evaluation/unpacking/purchases. We are done with the three girls and just have the three boys left. I am pleased by how little we actually need. After Joseph was born, we were in pretty rotten shape clothes-wise and it seemed like everyone needed new everything. No longer so! I am grateful for small victories over chaos.


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Wild weeks

There’s no other way to put it—these last two weeks have been unlike any other. Combining our household with that of the family evacuated by the fire was hugely challenging. I think if it had just been adults, it would not have been a big deal, but I vastly underestimated the kid issues. Our house is big, but very open and a challenge, under normal circumstances, for those of my family who need quiet and privacy to recharge! A couple times I just packed up my kids and took them off for the day, regardless of chores. The house got messier, but I think it was probably good for our family and theirs. On the flip side, we enjoyed far-too-late-night conversations with the couple and are really happy that we were in a position to help out. Their new baby boy was born this Thursday night, after about three days of on-again off-again labor. Issues with the birth and the baby caused them to decide to take mom and baby to the hospital about two hours after he was born. When it became evident that it would be a longer stay than the couple of hours they had hoped for, they decided to move the kids to a relative’s apartment near the hospital and that they would then move directly home again after all the medical issues were resolved. And so most of their stuff was moved out on Friday night—the rest will go when they move back home. Anyhow, after spending two weeks with them all, even in the midst of enjoying a little more space, privacy and quiet, I find myself wondering and worrying about them a lot and feeling like something is missing. Throughout this experience, a scripture kept running through my head, “think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all…” When I teach this to my kids I emphasize the connection between familiar and family and that we are to treat everyone as if they were family. Perhaps these feelings are evidence of having approached that end.

And now to the mundane records and details of these weeks.

Joseph got along with their boys for about three days and then decided that he’d had enough, so we always had to have someone watching him closely, often holding him, and sometimes in an entirely different room from the others—which is extremely challenging with an open floor plan (an awful design for a house that is nearly always occupied by a large family, in my most humble opinion). The baby gate was often used to keep kids away from each other instead of out of rooms where they shouldn’t be. Anyways, with a Fall garden not yet planted and a little boy who could no longer play nicely, I decided to try to plant with him. It went okayish. I think he mangled my rows of Chioggia beets—I will either have gaps or crazy spacing in one section, and he fell and whacked his head on a planter box at one point—a lovely shade of green today, but for the most part he enjoyed being outside, digging in the dirt and eating tomatoes straight off the plants and I managed to get carrots, beets, radishes and the rest of the leeks (leek seed is only good for one year, so I figured it would be better to get tiny baby leeks than no leeks at all) planted. I still need to label and mulch the rest of the beets, but that’s one bed down, two more to go!

I harvested 28 more lbs of eggplant just two weeks after I harvested that other 25! I made two large, eggplant-heavy meals (Moussaka and Ratatouille) for this giant household and then sliced and dehydrated the rest. Between everything I have frozen, pickled, makdoused and now dehydrated, when the world all comes crashing down, we will surely be eating eggplant. And I think we need to revisit the number of eggplant plants we put in next year.

The jalapeno peppers are also coming on thick and fast. Elijah’s promises to keep up all swimming in salsa haven’t yet materialized, so I started two pints of peppers fermenting this week. I was going to try a whey ferment, but after talking to the mom of the family staying with us about her whey fermenting experience I decided just to brine them. For my future records, I used one scant Tablespoon of salt per pint of sliced peppers (perhaps eight peppers to a jar?). I messed up on the second jar and initially filled it with instant hot water instead of filtered water. I dumped it out and re-filled and salted the jar, but if one is softer and perhaps saltier than the other, that may be the reason behind it. I believe I started them on Wednesday, the 23rd, so they’ll need to be checked this Wednesday….not sure how I’m going to do that… As we have approximately a million more coming ripe, I think drying is next.

I am also drying the rest of our not-very sweet corn. After about the third time of being disappointed by the corn, I could no longer get anyone to go out and pick and husk it anymore, so a bunch of it has been drying on the stalk. I pulled the last of it off, gave a couple damaged ears to the chickens and pulled back the husks of the others to finish drying. Right now I wish I had exposed beams in my kitchen ceiling from which I could hang all my dried and drying foods.

Finally, I think we missed the potato harvest time (newbies). It appears that the potatoes are re-sprouting. Yay. We’ll try to catch it this next time around.

And I canned a second batch of pears. It was one of my worst canning sessions in a while. Two jars broke and one failed to seal. I either offended the capricious gods of canning, or else missed something because I was really tired that morning, I don’t know. If it is the former, I hope that they are happy with the toll they exacted and will allow me to can applesauce in peace come October.

And the last of the news is that Bud’s castration was only half successful (woohoo) and so we are desperately trying to sell him while he can either still be wethered (I’m definitely not up to doing such a big goat) or eaten before he starts getting smelly. Of course, if someone wants a buck, he is a purebred Nubian, he seems very much interested in buck-ish duties (we have had to separate him from the ladies) and he is a great price. We are hoping someone will be able to benefit in some way from our mistake so we will not have to feel quite so embarrassed by it.


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Solar cooker, suckers and a rebounding garden

While summer is far from over, I am feeling hope of cooler temperatures. Our overnight lows are consistently chilly and keeping the evaporative cooler on overnight leads to in-house lows of about 56F. The kids complain occasionally, but it means we top out at 73 or 4 with the added bonus of starting off the morning in sweaters—clothing of the gods. Perhaps just the Norse gods… I need to start paying attention to our combined high and low. A neighbor of ours says that ideal grass-growing weather is when the combined temps equal 100F. My pasture-seeding experiment last year was a complete flop, I believe in part because I seeded when the books said to and it was still far too hot to sprout before everything was cooked or eaten. Speaking of weather (and I sure do!) the larger weather patterns are suggesting an El Nino year. Apparently, last time this brought torrential rains and flooding to our neck of the woods. Boy, could we use a little of that.

The garden has noted the cooler temps and those plants that have just been hanging on are waking up and becoming productive. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and tomatillos are going crazy. If we can keep the birds and voles off of them, we will have a glut. This week we also harvested our first little handful of potatoes. One of the plants had died, so I poked around underneath and pulled up spuds! Bethel worked them into yesterday’s potato salad. We are also quickly eating our way through all our butternut squash. They are on the smaller side (due to irrigation system breakdown, perhaps) and very, very sweet so we’ll go through three in a sitting. We need to start using up the pumpkins. August is hardly the time I feel inclined to start eating pumpkins, but I feel much less inclined to watch them go bad, so it’s time to start working through them.

The corn has been disappointingly starchy and not very sweet. I’ll continue to try to pick it earlier, but at some point I’m going to throw in the towel, dry it and grind it into cornmeal. Fortunately, the goats love the stalks and husks and the chickens will eat the cooked corn very merrily after we’ve all maxxed out on starchiness. With animals around, there isn’t ever much in the way of true waste.

I’ve been cooking most of our side vegetables in a diy solar cooker. A woman from church taught a group of us to make this solar cooker and it’s worked really well for potatoes, yams, beets, carrot and parsnips. I tried baking bread in it this week, but I got it out a little late and it didn’t finish before the sun went down so I had to switch it to the oven. The texture was lighter and coarser than usual—different, but everyone liked it and it was gone within 24 hours. I will try again.

Isaiah is still working on our latest garden irrigation system. He is barely keeping pace with the breakage of the older one. While perhaps well-suited to a careful adult watering a long border of flowers, the hoses have not withstood melons, pumpkins or the not-so-careful approach to turning on the soakers most often employed around here.

In the exciting world of preserving…I made a batch of German pickles from my mom’s recipe and two more batches of marinara sauce. The German pickles need a few weeks to fully become themselves, but we fished the last few out of the bottom of the pan (hot-pack pickles! Who knew there was such a thing?) and divided them up between us. They were universally liked. I prefer them to the sweet pickles I’ve been making, as the flavor is more balanced between sweet and sour. I ended up switching spices around a little as I was out of dill weed and yellow mustard seed, so we’ll see next month how they are with the added flavors of black mustard and dill seed.

I still need to get out and prune suckers. The ones on the apricot tree are as tall as the tree itself, and that’s just since March! It’s just too bad I don’t want to grow myro29c-fruit, whatever that is. It appears it would do quite well.

Separating the babies from Ella at night has been great and we’re enjoying all the milk. I’ve got to use one of these cool mornings and make butter and clear out all my old cream jars in the freezer. Butter-making is a beast in hot weather, but I’m afraid I’ve put it off so long now that it will be a bit freezer-flavored. Summer strikes again. And registering our goatlets is on hold for a little while now as, if I joined ADGA tomorrow, my membership would be good only until 31 Dec 2015, but if I wait until 2 Sept, it will be good until 31 Dec 2016. So, I hold my horses/goats. We are having a hard time deciding which girl to sell and which to keep. Blossom has been healthy and vigorous and a little more even-tempered from the get-go, but Flower nearly died when she was first born and has the distinction of being our only black and white goat, so everyone’s a little sweet on her. Fortunately, we still have time to decide.


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A canning week

The week turned out to be moderately productive. I have this idea that if I can go full-speed for one day, I should be able to go full-speed all week long. This is not the case. I think I might have gotten more done if I’d taken it easier on Tuesday and hit Wednesday a little fresher. Oh well. Jars were filled.

First thing Monday we got up and tackled those 88 lbs of nectarines. I assigned each of the three olders eight full jars each (about 11-13 lbs) and Bethel and Jordan (who was not assigned anything but turned out to be a pretty swell canner) did a few more than that each. By lunch we had only a half box remaining uncut and the processing was all done by about 4:30. One jar lid popped off when I was removing it from the canner, and so I know that they turned out well. For my future reference: one gallon water, ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup SteviaPlus, 3/8 tsp citric acid for the canning liquid was great—sufficiently sweet with a slight acid tang. I had the thought as we were working that there are probably not too many children who can and that ours might stand a good chance of placing if they entered the county fair.  We’ll see if they are interested when fair season comes around again.

On Wednesday I made sweet pickles (these only have to brine for 3-4 hours) and then started a batch of marinara sauce with the tomatoes that were on sale last week. It is the middle of tomato season and they all ought to be at their peak, but the seeds are still bitter. I’m afraid I’m going to have to give in and remove them. Bummer. Even bigger bummer that we have two long rows of tomato plants outside and that between irrigation issues, heatwaves and voles, we have only gotten a small handful of tomatoes.

I have another batch of pickles to make this week and then some peaches, bananas and pineapples to dry and then I’ve got to get to some non-kitchen stuff around here, such as getting back out to the garden and doing some midsummer sucker pruning in the orchard. A drop in daytime temperatures would help in tackling these activities as well. We should have returned to the mid-90s by Thursday. Mmm, nice and cool…

In the barnyard: The meat flock has hit that weird phase when they start to look like full-grown birds, but they still peep like babies. And they continue to eat like horses. Whoever coined “eat like a bird” was not trying to raise 50 chickens to butcher weight. Also, it’s a bit past time to start tracking goats’ heat cycles. I sure love the milk, but the whole caprine ob/gyn /fertility specialist gets to be a little insane some times. I’m also trying to detangle the whole goat registration thing. Registering the does with ADGA will enable us to sell them for much higher prices than we would otherwise, but Ella’s ear tattoo (a permanent identifier like a brand on cattle) was a duplicate of another goat’s…thus, a mess in need of detangling.

Joseph eats at the table now and makes an unbelievable mess at every meal. At least once a day I strip everything off of him, sit him cross-legged in my bathroom sink, turn on the hot and cold water taps and clean him off. He sits with his back to me, so I have to clean him off mainly by touch, working my way through crusty and sticky and greasy till I finally hit soft baby skin. He is convinced that his hair is a napkin, so that takes a good deal of time as well and he has just discovered that he can get food into his ears and nose as well—also a good cleaning challenge. So, I scrub and I scrub until I find Joseph beneath all the mess and then I take him out and he yells and cries because he LOVES taking a bath in the sink. I wrestle him into clean clothes and he sobs on my shoulder and usually wants to nurse, because nursing makes everything better, even the end of bathtime. Being a mother to a toddler is such a funny thing. They are such cute and crazy little beings—smart, observant and capable enough to be either infuriating or hilarious, depending on how you look at it. What an utterly exhausting pleasure it all has been.