Saturday, January 30, 2010

dark days week 11- choppin' broccoli

- funny how veggies adapt -
sometimes choosing to mature when they and only they feel the time is right

there are times you as a gardener have to throw the 75 days, 85 days, 90 days info from the seed packets out the window and simply allow nature to take it's course. we're in that place. the weather has been wet, real wet, dry, windy, warm, cool and real cold all in the span of a few weeks. crazy to be sure. i've been wondering on cabbage - will they head up before the heat hits - wondering on cauliflower - will they survive the temperature drops - wondering on the peas - will the wee sprouts freeze out tonight and then there's the wondering on the planting schedule - that's a whole other entry.

all the hippychick garden broccoli has decided to prove ready for harvest this very week despite my strict efforts in its initial planting of more than a few weeks apart thank you very much. it's really coming in. for broccoli fans, enjoying the option of fresh broccoli each an every day is pretty darn nice.

i've been eating broccoli with eggs fresh from the girls out back. steamed broccoli with a crumble of local feta. broccoli naked on a bed of garden greens. all proving most excellent eats.

today's afternoon eats included:
  • broiled home grown chicken tenders marinated in a mix of soy sauce, home harvested honey, olive oil, home grown lemon juice, black sesame seed and chili pepper.
  • steamed garden grown broccoli - naked no salt no butta no nothin'
  • hand made hand cut egg noodles with home grown home made pesto
it took everything i had just to take the time to shoot the photo it smelled so good.
there's even a wee bet left for an evening snack.

what's next for the broccoli stash?
no one knows...

Friday, January 29, 2010

little man darla on the mend

it's been a busy past few days for little man darla. he's been through a lot.

some of you know that little man d lives with seizures and fits associated with kitty epilepsy. we've been working daily to find balance for the wee fellow. this includes figuring the proper amount of medication for his little self (less is more is what we have learned) and searching for just the right time of day for presenting meds so as not to interrupt his daily eat, play, chase big brother mr. t, and sleep schedule.

on top of all this was yesterday's snip snipping of his manly bits. earlier this week, just as i was feeling that we had the medication process moving toward a successful balance, the poor fellow started feeling all manly. he made every effort at working the crowd of kitty toys as best he could not quite knowing which way was up, poor thing.

so off he traveled to the creature hospital yesterday for the fixin'. the procedure went fine but the meds knocked the poor fellow out for a long long long time. he was pretty darn loopy when mama picked him up for the travel back home. it took near to the entire night to wake, even then he looked exhausted. i tucked him in to his favorite patch of the comfy bed and he was soon back off to dreamy land.

big brother mr. t and i would check on him regularly. big brother t even blessed him with a few kisses - nothing i've ever seen t do before - sweet fellow. he loves his little brobro. little man darla eventually made his way out to where we are. i set him up with grandmama's home crocheted blanket and he snuggled right in. mr. t is in his usual - back of the big chair - spot. so it looks like we might all be moving toward a mend.

i will not present darla with his daily medication until later this evening to give him more time to come off the snip snip stuffs.

in other news -
we're readying ourselves for another few, two three below freezing nights. i set out the rowcover over the east garden veggie beds and the south entry veggie beds. i set the heat lamps up for the chickeny creatures and checked in the wabbitwabbits.

i think the gardens will do just fine as they were recently blessed with a good bit of fresh microbe teaming compost and a fine fall of rain last night. so the growing goods should prove turgid and sprite before the chill falls.

while out and about, i harvested a good two quart bags full of fresh broccoli that we'll probably steam up as part of tonight's dinner. we've been munching a good bit of kale as of late so the change is welcome. the plan is broccoli stir fry with fresh picked asian greens and chinese cabbage. all from the garden folks - i love the winter garden.

greens are good, that's for sure for sure.

at the moment, i am waiting on the girls to lay just two more eggs so that i might deliver an even ten dozen market. yes, i could deliver nine dozen but it's just two eggs and it's early yet in the day, the girls are not even close to finishing their setting for the day.

i do have one beautiful speckled sussex that's gone broody. she been sitting on an empty nest now for three or four days. she has no objection to my giving her a few good scratches and cuddles and i have seen her jump out for a drink and bite to eat. i'm letting her be. she'll not lay as long as she's brooding but there are plenty of eggs to go around. eventually she'll decide she'd like to spend more time out of doors. for now she's a cozy bumpkin in the nest.

well it looks like little man d has headed back to the comfy bedroom spot he enjoys so much. we all know what we like best. for little man d, it's the cushy down comforter.

time to get movin'.
cheers folks - here's to wishing all those who ill a quick mend

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

new kid may find himself a place on the farm

dreamy boys in mid morning nap
termite curled upon the sofa

uncle darla cozying up on the bed
keeping eye on the chickens out of doors

yet another kitty hanging about the place
this one found himself a special lookout tower
he seems to be sticking around
thinking upon names...

twirling beauty

fresh compost feeding the winter/spring goods

Monday, January 25, 2010

Charlie Simpson is fundraising for UNICEF UK - JustGiving

Charlie Simpson is fundraising for UNICEF UK - JustGiving
Target: £500.00
Raised so far: £113,794.07

The Earthquake in Haiti has moved us all and Charlie, who is now 7, has decided that he needs to raise some money to help those affected by the disaster. In order to do this he has decided to do a Sponsored Bicycle ride around our local park - South Park in Fulham. He is aiming to complete 7 laps (about 5 miles) of South Park this weekend and is hoping that you will sponsor him so that he can raise money for UNICEF to help with their HAITI disaster appeal.

A note from Charlie:

My name is Charlie Simpson, I want to do a Sponsored Bike Ride for Haiti because there was a big earthquake and loads of people have lost their lives. I want to make some money to buy food, water and tents for everyone in Haiti.

I am going to cycle around South Park as many times as possible…. (at least 10 laps, I hope!). Please can you sponsor me and all your money will go to UNICEF who are collecting for Haiti. THANK YOU VERY, VERY MUCH! Charlie.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

mid-winter walkabout

the mid-winter walk about
the temperatures are back up
the rain is falling
the ground is soft
the hose lies dormant
leading this-a-way or is it that-a-way who knows which?

grasses lean heavy
color scant green some vibrant red
i am not straw at all they call

the trail of beetlings lead south or north
or sourth
depending upon your gaze
flanked by wood to the east
flanked by arugula to the west
leaves roll gently aside gently aside

gentle cabbage offering open wings
tender frosty cooly cleanly drops
gather then gently slip
down upon earth

broccoli flowers tempting flying bees
yellow beauties
the bees? or the broccolis?
both if you please
after bees collect the seeds
harvest and share
harvest and share

the ground is brown
the leaves are green
the fence is white

the greens are ruby
the greens are copper
the greens are ruffled
the greens gleam
cut once,twice, thrice they grow back nice

kale bowing gently
arching lunges
ballerinas stretching
reach toward infinite grace

freshy composted universe
carrots radish bob up from bed
freshy water freshy drinkin'
stump for setting,watchin' and burrowin' beneath

where compost happens
micro heaven
mini-chickeny tractor now a place for resting felines
local cat, home cat, visiting cat
safe from rain
kingdom all their own
a set or a visit
all are welcome
for all time

and so mid-winter walkabout rests

Saturday, January 16, 2010

dark days week nine - simple graces

as the days go by i find i am drawn to the simple, the honest, the true and often that which some folk may consider small or unimportant. in other words, quiet bits of life, often overlooked when moving at the speed of sound.

life is complicated, love is complicated, family is complicated
yes at times
need it be always
oh no, a deep resounding no

practice simple
be steady, try, work through failure, recognize fear, push forward

follow through on your word
finish what you start
look folk in the eye
see yourself for who you are
pay heed to the voice inside
speak only after thought
place yourself in another's shoes

find grace in that which is quiet

simple eats
fresh grown mixed greens
spinach, chard, beet green, arugula, red mustard, amish deer tongue, borage
fresh farm eggs still warm from the boil
peel, rough chop
olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, salt
rough chopped yard pecans

sit at the table
view the graceful goods
eat slow
share conversation
sit quiet if you like
be thankful

sometimes the smallest...
sometimes the simplest...
sometimes the slowest...

fill best our deepest most basic needs

Thursday, January 14, 2010

the after bits

the broth she stewd and stewed
til chickeny bit and bone fell away
golden goodness thickened jewel
5 quart 1 pint she made she did
3lb chickeny bit too
the bones they were not weighed oh no oh no
not much here a goes to waste not much

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

farmin' harvest - all in a day's work

big day, full day, good day and done.

  • uncle darla to the vet for tests and home again - check!
  • design meetings - check!
  • unwrap all citrus trees, uncover gardens for the blessed rainfall - check!
  • meaties butchered - check!
  • chicken cut into parts, packaged and stored - breasts, thighs, tenders, legs, wings - check!
  • freezer emptied, rotated and reorganized - check!
  • chicken bones and backs in the stew pot making broth - check!
  • everything cleaned up indoors and out - check!
  • fresh butter made from today's delivered creme - check!
  • eggs delivered to market - check!
  • hippychickenfarmer a bit bushed - check!
  • package ginger kombucha for market - tonight
yet left to do - maybe for the weekend - we'll see how time plays out
  • meatie coop cleaned out - nope
  • meatie brooder cleaned out - nope
  • build the killer steaming chickeny compost pile - nope
a full farm and harvest day today - an intense day and still not over. i needed to get all this and more completed today in order to move on to other time sensitive tasks and to ready for the university semester ahead. i am pleased with that which was accomplished.

the broth pot (backs and necks) is slowly stewing away. i plan to slowly stew the pot overnight in order to gain an extra strong broth. once ready, the broth will need to be stored. there is not an inch of space left in the chest freezer so the plan is to stew the broth all the way down to a jelly which will carry a most amazing flavor and make for easy storage.

butchering meaties - when it's time, it's time

amazing how the shift of one task in one's calendar and/or the late arrival of anther expected task can quickly lay all tasks one atop of the other, each requiring immediate attention and that on top of those tasks already in play. that's how this week is playing out for hippychick. it's a mad balance and from i can tell, it's damned if i do, damned if i don't so i've decided to knock one task off the list at a time and when it's done, it's done.

first on the task list - finish butchering the meaties. they are looking superplump. in fact, if you have been reading along, you know that they were ready last week just as the cold spell hit thus gaining an extended stay in their meatie coop. they have got good strong legs and could probably grow further if absolutely necessary but boy oh boy i don't know how i'd fit them all in the freezer. so today is the day to finish up with the last twelve birds.

i took advantage of the fine temperatures on monday to butcher the first fourteen. it was my first solo butchering endeavor. up to now i've had the good company of my most excellent neighbor. i was not sure how it would go, how much time it would take or if my modified solo set up would work. i had no specific number of birds in mind. if it worked, i would butcher as many as i had time for. my time limit was mid/late afternoon to sundown.

**if you do not feel you are able to experience the true to life homesteading experience**
** stop reading now **

the set up included the following
  • big pot w/top for water set on top of the gas bbq to heat up - slow process - the neighbor's outdoor gas burner is much more efficient
  • two saw horses with a 3' x 2'6" ply table top
  • bags for thrown out parts - old feed bags or garbage bags work
  • axe and chopping block with two nails set to support chicken's neck - my chopping block is an large oak log/stump, nails should be 4" in length
  • 3 or 5 gallon bucket
  • water source - a good long water hose with a sprayer is very helpful
  • galvanized bins - 2 wash water bins - 1 parts bin
  • big bag of dried leaves - i mix the parts with leaves - for quicker composting
  • knives - sharp sharp sharp
  • cooler with ice - my cooler holds eight chickens max with ice
  • raggy hand towels
  • rubber boots and butchering clothes
no photos follow as it's hard to do and still do the job right in a timely manner at the same time. there are a number of good sites out there that have visuals for reference.

the process - i work in groups of two -
  • heat your water to a temperature just short of boiling
  • set up your table - set your knives out
  • fill two bins with water
  • set one bin on ground next to table - this is where parts will be discarded
  • place ice in the cooler
  • save an empty ice bag for gizzards, livers and hearts
  • save another empty ice bag for chicken feet if you keep them for broth
  • set one water bin next to the cooler - this is the final rinse bin
  • set one water bin next to the hot water - this is your hand rinsing bin
  • set the 3 or 5 gallon bucket next to the block - this is your bleed out bucket
  • pull up your homesteader pants, set the axe on the block and gather your first chicken
  • hold your chicken by the feet - they are upside down
  • gather the tip of each wing in the hand holding the feet - this steadies the chicken
  • the chicken should calm
  • place the chicken's neck between the two nails
  • take aim with your axe and with one swing, remove the head
  • place the chicken upside down into the bleed out bucket
  • gather your second chicken and repeat the following
  • hold your chicken by the feet - they are upside down
  • gather the tip of each wing in the hand holding the feet - this steadies the chicken
  • the chicken should calm
  • place the chicken's neck between the two nails
  • take aim with your axe and with one swing, remove the head
  • place the chicken upside down into the bleed out bucket
  • gather your first chicken out the bleed out bucket by the feet
  • dip the chicken into the scalding water and swish around for 15 -30 -45 seconds - some chickens scald faster than others. i test the time required by pulling on the largest of the wing feathers. if they pull out easy, then the chicken is ready to feather.
  • lift your chicken out of the scald pot and return the top to the pot to retain heat
  • walk your chicken over your work table and remove all feathers from the chicken. i do this by hand as i do not own a fancypants plucker. if you've got a fancypants plucker, then by all means use it.
  • once all feathers (or most feathers) are removed, give your chicken a quick rinse then return your chicken to the table.
  • you are now working as fast as safely possible
  • remove chicken legs and feet below the knee (the scaled area, not the meat area), set aside if keeping.
  • remove the chickens innards and the crop, keeping the liver, heart and gizzard (make sure you clean out the gizzard). this is where you will want to reference sites that have photos so that you do this correctly. better yet go watch or help anther folk butchering to learn hands on. my opinion - hands on training is the best training especially when it comes to butchering.
  • all unkempt parts are dropped into the parts bin
  • trim and clean the skin around the neck, some folks remove the neck and keep it. some folks leave the neck on the chicken - either way is fine
  • place your chicken in the wash bin - give it a good rinse
  • give the chicken parts a good rinse - place them in the parts bag
  • give the chicken feets a good rinse - place them in the feets bag
  • immediately place the chicken in the cooler, cover with ice and close up cooler
repeat, repeat, repeat
  • change water as necessary - i change the scalding water and the rinsing water every six chickens - you might change more or less depending on how dirty the water gets.
  • it is hugely important to keep your cleaned chickens on ice
  • give your work area a good spray every now and again - i spray down my work area every two chickens.
  • clean up your butchering work area completely before moving on to the next stage
  • rinse off your boots, clean up your hands
now for wrapping and packaging your chickens up
  • bring your cooler inside or to the place where you will wrap for storage
  • working one chicken at a time, pull the chicken out of the ice
  • give it another really good rinse, cleaning up the chicken as you rinse
  • wrap in freezer paper or heavy foil before placing chicken in a heavy freezer bag or place in a large freezer bag.
  • remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag
  • you may now either age the chicken for a day or two in the refrigerator or place the chicken directly in the freezer - this will depend upon the room you have available
  • repeat repeat repeat
  • clean up your parts, package and freeze, parts do not require ageing
  • clean up yourself, your materials, your workspace
  • i make sure to place the most recent butchered chickens at the bottom of the freezer. good rotation for all frozen and stored goods is important.
this is simply one way of butchering chickens, other folks process differently.
my way is in no way the only or best way.

Monday, January 11, 2010

shake your grove thing at funky coop tour 2o1o

it's that time of year
show off your chicken coop with pride!
to take a trip around town to see the funkiest local coops!

Austin is having its 2nd Annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour
April 3, 2010 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

The tour welcomes coops of all shapes and sizes - interesting, pretty, functional, recycled, funky, cute, it doesn't matter. The submission deadline is 1/23/2010, so enter your coop soon!

**register now!**

A coop tour information session will be held on 1/16/2010 at Callahan's General Store on 2:45 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

To enter your coop, go to the participant info page

you can follow the goings on at facebook or at twitter

check it out!
**note all funky coop showing participants must attend the information session at callahan's so mark your calendar now

show off your chickens baby yeaH!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

chicken health help needed - dominique feeling off

i have a 5 1/2 month old dominique girly girl who has been feeling a bit off the past week. i first noticed her energy level slowing down but i thought maybe our quick onslaught of unusually cold weather might be cause. then i noticed her facial color looking a bit yellow/orangish and her tendency to squat in the next with feathers ruffed all day.

her coop mates have been great, no extra pecking or abuse. in fact one of the girls seems to have been keeping watch over her. she is now inside the house today to see if a good dose of extra heat might do her good.

symptoms include:

yellow/orange colored face and comb
losing weight

green droppings

allows me to pick her up quite easily though many of my chickens do - it is odd for her though
i do not believe she is laying
no sign of mites or lice
no sign of worms in her dropping
how are these legs looking? click on the image to see it larger.

i thought maybe a vitamin deficiency and/or a calcuim deficiency, possibly eggbound so i have been treating her with b suppliment, calcium and olive oil in yogurt and have given her several doses of ky in the vent area. she has not passed an egg on my notice. she is hanging on but I worry as her color is not improving.
i have been hand feeding her yogurt with olive oil
she is also eating from a plate of scrambled eggs on her own as i type
her energy level is up and down - still i worry for her off color and for the green in her poo.

i'm praying she is not an internal layer but i wonder...

update - miss dominique has passed
i was with her when she went into arrest
she did not recover
bless her

miss dominique was an internal layer
egg traveled in the wrong direction
poor girl

Saturday, January 9, 2010

dark days, week 8 - a pleasing brunch, a healthy crunch

it's a crystal clear morning here in bastroptown texas with the temperature hovering in at 33˚f. the sun is shining through providing a more than welcome jolt of joy to the morning. the wee hour chickeny wabbit wabbit chores are done. the eggs are clean and packed up for market. the kitties are dreaming through their mid-morning nap and my stomach is a rumbling.

"feed me shelly" it says.

time to crack open the homemade granola i've been saving. saving for what i don't know, just saving for the day i will enjoy it most. this morning proved to be one of those days. i like a good crunch when i eat and granola for sure provides a good crunch. this batch is special. it is the very first batch sweetened with honey from my own beehives. tre'yumme' let me tell you.

this is the last bit left from the huge huge batch i made to share with neighbors for the hollydays. the reports have been raving with several folks returning with empty jars in hand willing to pay for a refill. it looks like homemade granola may turn out to be the traditional hippychick holiday treat. i'm happy with that.

then there are the very un-local organic winesap apples i recently spoiled myself with from the local coop. i love apples and due to the low chill hours in our location, variety is limited and my own homegrown apples were eaten down long long ago. if ever i move north, i will for sure plant both winesap and crispin apple trees.

to finish off is the homemade yogurt using local raw whole milk from schulenburg texas. scroll down the page to see the makin' yogurt entry if you are interested in making your own. store bought milk works too, i prefer superfresh myself.

brunch was so good i may just make this my dinner meal too.
why not?

if not, there is the chicken pot pie i made using the left over chicken from the dark days, week 7 meal. i had plenty of chicken to cook up two full pot pies. one is set in the freezer for future munching while the other is set in fridge for weekly pickings.

ingredients include the following
  • organic herb roasted chicken - grown here at home
  • chicken broth - homegrown, homemade from chickeny feets
  • organic grown carrots - pulled fresh from the garden
  • sweet onion - purchased from bastrop farmer's market
  • peas - out of the freezer from last spring's harvest
  • lard - from the bastrop farmer's market
  • butter - homemade from local creme
  • herbs from the garden
  • salt, pepper, flour - not local
they cooked up nice and go great with a salad from home grown garden greens.

* * * * * * *
well it's 4:30pm and i decided to go with a bowl of the bean soup i put together earlier this week.
you can find the details of this hearty meal
here! click me click me

next up on the prep for weekly take to university meals - fresh pasta
this then allows for a steady rotation of
  • yogurt w/granola
  • chicken pot pie
  • chicken soup
  • bean and oxtail soup
  • quiche
  • pasta
  • greens from the garden
  • eggs however i cook them up
  • kombucha
  • fresh tea
  • iced coffee (of course)
  • water water water gotta drink more water
  • pesto treats on crackers
plan ahead and you can eat well, eat local, control what goes in the body and maybe save a few bucks along the way.

Friday, January 8, 2010

frozen hands - butchering out of doors - uh uh

so despite today's freezing temps, i was going to make a go at butchering up a few of the meaties. they are at weight (between 5lb and 7lb), have eaten through all the feed i had calculated they would need to reach weight and have run through the last of the pine chip bedding i had on hand. and besides all of that, today is the day on the calendar that i planned oh so well to get to butchering. so much for planning - read on

i and my determined crazy self, went outside , started setting up when i remembered that all the hoses and outdoor faucets were frozen tight. no problem. i'll fill up some containers in the house and see if things still seem feasible. i had my water transport system down which, by the way, i had figured out this morning when watering the various coops. well... filling waterers and filling large basins with water turned out to be very different tasks. once the hands got soaked a few times and the arms got wet and i was spending more and more time out in the cold, i came to the realization that today was definitely not a good day for out of doors butchering. not if i wanted to keep my hands and fingers in good working order that is. so, seeing that i do not yet have an indoor butchering space, it was more than clear that today would not prove to be a good out of doors butchering day. lucky meatie fluffballs...

so off to the feed store for more feed and more bedding. i figured i would have to pick up at least another four days worth since it looks like the cold weather will be hanging on for at least that long. that may not sound like much, four days, but let me tell you the meaties are chow hounds. they go through the feed like no tomorrow. well, i guess that is their way, the possibility of no tomorrow, so in fact, they are going through the feed as they should, mangia mangia - they would make an italian grandmama proud. and when meatie chickens eat a lot, they pooooooooooop a lot. my neighbor sweetened up that fact for me in this way - the more they poop, the better the fertilizer for your compost/garden. yup yup that is for sure. they are definitely experts in the making of high octane fertilizer.

what's a farm girl to do but wait for warmer days? the funk of it all is that the university is back in session and i was hoping/had prepped and planned to have these white fluff balls in the freezer before things got hot and heavy. now it is clear that all is going to go down at the same time. tis' the way of farm life, plan and plan and still things shift.

should i have expected anything less?

this sure ain't the norm round here

oohhh baby - it actually feels like winter in central texas today - chill chill chilly - wind-a-blowing and dropping temps even further. looks like we hit a wind chill factor of 19˚f overnight. we don't see single digits 'round here all that often but we are expecting the same for the next few days. i find it refreshing. it's quite exhilarating to bundle up, step outside and feel that cold surge through. it reminds you that you're alive that's for sure - good day for a long walk-about in my book.

the chickens fared well. i have the roosting area in their entirely open air coop pretty well insulated from wind and draft. they have heavy canvas duct and/or packing blankets on all sides and above the roosting area where heat escapes first. they've got ventilation on the vertical walls above the roost and below at floor level on the east and south side. there are two heat lamps hung above the roosting area which help the space to remain dry. it seems to do the job as the creatures are out and about this morning doing their chickeny-chicken-chicken thing.

i did have a case of frozen egg explosion. somebody either layed early early or late eve. i cleaned it up out of the nest, broke it up a bit and set it out for treasure hunting. i am sure the remains of the exploded egg loot will soon disappear by way of the clever wiles of hungry searching chickeny pirates.

i treated the two laying flocks to a special warm mash this morning. i am currently out of rolled oats for the usual cool day oatmeal treat so i mixed some of the ladies' organic feed with enough boiling water to make a lumpy mash. i added a few shakes of cayenne pepper which helps to warm up their insides, stirred it up and set it out. they were all over it. i cleared the waterers of ice, collected the unfrozen eggs and gave out a few loving scratches before letting them back to the daily routine of scratching and patrolling the place.

the gardens are flopped over frozen. the ground is loose underneath but the lettuces, greens and cole crops are frosted and wilted over. i would guess most will come back once the temps warm again - we'll see. we got the cold sans an insulating cover of snow. i broke out a few holes in the wild creature deep watering bins. now there's cool drink ready for all folk. the hoses are frozen frozen frozen so it's lugging water out from the house for me. no big deal, the coop is nearly 20 feet away, hardly a trip for complaining about.

opera kitty got over his "i am an outdoor cat, thank you very much" pride just after dinner last night and i for one am glad he did so. the blowing wind got me worried for his health. i set him up on the back enclosed porch with his favorite blankets and his own little space heater. he settled right in. he lived up to his vocal namesake near around 3am singing his i want to head back out song. i got up as i always do, this time with a bit of a smirk on my face. i opened the door for him. ooooooooh no! that boy turned right around, hopped back on to his blanket and i have not heard a peep out of him since. he did head out with me for the morning chores but was right back in once the chores were done. he ain't no dummy that's for sure.

i fixed myself a coffee then got to building a fire in the fireplace. it's a good day for it i figure, relaxing to watch too. the kitties will surely plop themselves down in front to enjoy comfy heat as termite already has. i will enjoy the heat too as houses here in texas are not insulated in the same way those up north are and i cannot afford to run the thermostat at high temps. around here, you know where the drafts are, let me tell you.

i am finding ways to improve the situation as each year goes by. i've got good curtains in every window and on each of the french doors which helps a great deal. they each are made from natural fabrics either linen or cotton, some heavier weight than others. the light that passes through is quite lovely. i have foam inserts around each of the wall outlets and light switch plates, the attic space is well insulated and i was able to replace the insulation under the house last year, we'll see what more i can accomplish this year. i don't know if foam insulation would be an option for this home. i may consider it if cost effective as it would help to keep the cool in and the heat out during summer as well.

in other news,
my little dominique girl has been a little under the weather. i suspect she may be egg bound. i don't feel much up in her eggy areas but i have been treating her for the possibility just the same.
  • calcium, wheat germ oil and liquid b complex by mouth once a day - the calcium helps her to move the egg out, the wheat germ oil provides a good dose of vitamin e, d and a and the liquid b complex gives here a good jolt of energy and helps to keep her from dehydration.
  • rear end lube - yup it's true, you have to help the girl out. she might be a bit dry from the struggle or from the effects of feeling off and the lube will help the egg to move it's way out. i use either mineral oil or ky jelly. never ever ever mineral spirits - only mineral oil. do your girl a favor - make sure it's at least body temperature - keep the goods in a warm spot. there is no point making the situation any more uncomfortable than necessary.
  • i make sure she stays warm, i watch her feeding and drinking habits - which seem to be quite good and watch for worsening effects. if indeed the condition worsens i will consider taking her to the vet for assistance.
  • note - i add apple cider vinegar to the ladies water to increase the number of beneficial microbial flora in the gut which assists the ladies in better absorption of vitamins and minerals. i water with 2 gallon waterers and use approximately 3 tablespoons of acv per full waterer.
* * * * * * * *
  • in regard to the calcium - i find the liquid filled gel caps - not the tablets and not the gel covered tablets.
  • cut the cap open with a scissors to use the inside of the gel caps. squeeze it out onto a small plate. discard the cap cover, only use the inner liquid. it is an oily chalky goo. do not mix with water, it will not break down as it is indeed oil based. you can mix it with wheat germ oil like myself or with olive oil which i also do when i am out of wheat germ oil and either add it to her food or feed it to her via syringe which is what i did this morning. i prefer the syringe as i am better able to monitor her intake.
  • in regard to liquid b complex, chickens seem to love the stuff so that's an easy feed via syringe.
- note -
i am not a vet so take the time to do your own research before treating your own chickeny creatures for any off or ill looking symptoms. there are many folk out there willing to help.

you might wish to check the following avian related forums
backyard chickens
dragonflies and dandelions

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

rotating beans, oxtail dreams and fabric ripping schemes

still not feeling up to par today which means a bit of indoor time for hippychick. i think a pack mule, haul stuffs about the yard and garden, would do me in after a quick fifteen. i might get a bit stir crazy but there is no lack of somethings to do about the place.

already this morning i have cleaned out and organized all drawers in the kitchen. i kissed the junk drawers goodbye. now tools are with tools, batteries in place, ohhhhh there are the flashlights, laundry bits properly stored in laundry area, mail items together, give this stuff away set aside in a box and so on...

i then hit the pantry and proceeded to rotate through the dry goods. everything is in pretty fine shape. there really was not that much to do. it is now habit to steadily use pantry goods in a timely fashion. i'm better now at only purchasing and/or growing those items that i will actually use.

i decided, to finish up the dried beans stored from the last year. so i gathered up a collection of christmas limas, favas, chick peas, black eyed peas and a black french type bean, mixed them up and then plopped them all into my crock pot. i chopped up a good six cloves of garlic, threw in a handful of herbs from the garden and dug my wee little bit of local grassfed oxtail from the freezer (maybe a 1/2 lb) and plopped that in too. i added one glug (yup that's my measure) of olive oil, stirred and covered it up. it's now happily cooking for however long it takes for everything to soften up and cook through. i must say, the smell of it is already encouraging. i may or may not add home grown canned maters once it's all cooked up - it depends upon how rich the flavor is on it's own.

i then got to ripping up old bits of clothing into longish strips. very therapeutic i must say but the end result is not merely an effort toward sanity or a display of the lack there of but the prepping of goods for my first homemade rag rug. yup, i'm giving this long term project a go. i thought about it when i was sorting through clothes prior to the holiday. there are the keeper clothes, the give away clothes and the not in good enough shape to give away clothes - a.k.a. rag clothes or in this case future rag rug clothes.

so i cut them up (in this case - old flannel and cotton pjs) at the seams deconstructing the clothing into it's original parts. i then cut and ripped pieces about an inch wide - some less wide, some more - it's not an exact science. i now have a small pile of fabric strips that need sewing end to end together and then wrapping into balls not unlike the way in which one might wrap a ball of yarn.

i still have mounds of old t-shirts and such to cut and rip up so this should keep me busy through the day.
if not, i can always sort and clean more. if you can get yourself on the sorting and cleaning roll, then go with it i say.

some folk believe in truly chilling out when feeling off. i'm not one to sit about and do nothing if i can help it, it's just not my way. i have tried the truly chilling thing and i must admit, when i visit my folks, i do pretty much that but when at home it does not work so... a ripping of fabric i go go go.

Monday, January 4, 2010

laundry soap, yogurt and cold weather prep

hang the bottle uspidedown
nah, i guess that is the end of that
the late summer laundry soap batch has finally gone dry.
not bad, the 5 gallon batch went a good long way.
time for the next.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

here's the recipe i follow folks - the process is easy as pie and economical for sure.
the recipe is from an old issue of countryside magazine.

you can find most of the goods at the local grocery. if you are not able to find fels-naptha, give another laundry bar soap a try. note that the fels-naptha bars are generally 5 1/2 ounce each.

i made another 5 gallon batch today which is quite a lot. you do not have to make such a large batch yourself. i like to get the job done and i have collected the containers necessary to store a full 5 gallons so i make a full 5 gallons. this batch filled 3/100 ounce bottles, 7/50 ounce bottles and one quart jar full to the top.

give it a try
it's cheap and it's easy and it get's your clothes clean

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

i made a batch of yogurt today too.
again it's easy, tastes great and more economical than store bought.

i follow the recipe posted by david b. fankhauser p.h.d. it's easy, it's clear and if followed properly, proves fail safe. you can half or double the batch depending upon how often you eat yogurt. you can use store bought milk or fresh milk. make sure you use plain yogurt when first starting your culture. note - you can then save a cup or two of your homemade batch to culture the next batch and so it will go and go and go.

i've now got a good 7 quarts in the fridge. the number 8 quart went down quick. i like it and so do the kitties.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

also on today's agenda is prepping for unusually cold weather conditions
  • scratch for the chickens
  • oats and grains for rabbits
  • replace water for all creatures
  • further insulate the outdoor coop
  • insulate the outdoor rabbit hutches
  • provide rabbits with extra hay for burrowing
  • check all heat lamps
  • cover all gardens with rowcover and/or heavy plastic
  • wrap all citrus trees and stuff wrap with dry leaves
  • insulate water faucets and cover water hoses
better get back out there i've got the tree wrapping to finish up

Sunday, January 3, 2010

hippychick ponders sustainable seeds

it is seed time and for many folk and this means paging through numerous seed catalogs. for many of us this is a time for dreaming. seed catalogs for gardening folk are easily the equal of the sears toy catalog for wee kiddos.

this year, i am on a mission...

i am going to make every effort to grow only from open pollinated planted seed this year. i will make every effort to avoid purchased starts. i will start every last plant myself. i will consider trading and/or bartering starts with like minded farm and garden folk. sound simple, it is not so simple.

lots can go wrong - plant too soon or too late and a whole crop could be lost to weather, hungry feeding bad bugs, disease or to conditions a plant may not be prepared to overcome in it's first generational go.

planting is tough, planting for some is a science. for me planting is built upon a leap of faith. i work from instinct a lot. i research and read a great deal but i do not treat extension suggestions or garden books as wrote bibles never to vear from - the climate here is central texas is too varied to do so.

a lot of what i've learned in the past 4+ years has been from my few successes
and surprising opps-es did not know that would work there, at this time of year, but more from my many many gardening failures.

i did not keep detailed records last year as well as i should have and the ole' memory ain't as sharp as she used to be. in order to save seed, i need to know exactly what the seed is. so for a number of goods, i need to start clean with open pollinated seed - no hybrids - nothing unknown - only open pollinated clean grown traceable seed.

there is good news - i do have record and saved seed from a good number of the goods currently growing and/or grown this past season. these seeds will stay in the mix.

i wonder if i will endure this goal set forth for myself - no purchased starts - none - it is a daunting goal. i wonder if placing here in print will keep me honest. i think not. i think the honesty is going to play out in my daily action and my determination toward a truly sustainable gardening existence. saving seeds is important to me. i imagine i will just have to make an endured effort to remind myself of the importance of saving one's own seed when "start" temptation strikes.

so when looking through seed catalogs, i ponder heritage
, i ponder bee friendliness, i ponder regional survival rates, i ponder heat, drought, disease and other local challenges the seed/plant may face, i ponder the growth and fruiting rates, i ponder space, soil, fertility and water, i ponder long-day, short-day needs and i ponder the types of food i hope to enjoy and to preserve in the years to come.

in the pondering of the above, i ponder seed companies, their goals, their beliefs and their practices. i am looking for informed folks with a great deal of integrity who run an honest and fair business. i ponder all this before falling in love with a particular bean or tomato or the perfect radish. i ponder sustainability.

* * * * * * * *

i bought my seeds today from the sustainable seed company. these folks are the real deal. if you are looking for open pollinated seeds, this is one place to check out. their goals are thoughtful and forward thinking. it is my pleasure to tip my business their way.

here's a bit about the dreams, goals and morals of the sustainable seed folk

We Feel Strongly About

Controlling our food source: You will find not only vegetable seed but many life-sustaining grain seeds. Why? We need to start choosing how and what we eat, not be dictated to by
corporate seed companies and their boardroom executives. We will continue to grow more of our own food and support others who do—and those foods can be grains, fruits, vegetables, and everything we need to live healthy lives. We will assist communities where people share goods, open-pollinated heirloom seeds, and services.

NO Printed Seed Catalog: We are only offering an on-line catalog. Catalog retailers send out 20 billion catalogs a year, and almost none of the paper contains any recycled content. Instead, over 8 million tons of trees a year go into catalogs alone—which means 8 million tons of trees are going from forests to the landfill, with a short appearance as junk mail in between. What does that mean?

1 ton of virgin printing paper for catalogs uses 24 trees. Now take the number above of 8 million tons used a year and you get 192,000,000 trees that are killed every year so you can thumb through a catalog!! That is roughly 640,000 acres of trees and forest ecosystems destroyed for JUST catalogs. How in good conscious could you or anyone participate in this behavior?

To put that into perspective, that is almost the entire state of Rhode Island being cut down every year for catalogs. These are not just trees, but entire ecosystems of living beings that are destroyed for catalogs. Our mission to green the planet, not de-green it. Not to destroy life, but to help create it. We will not be a part of this irresponsible behavior. Yes, we might lose some customers to this policy, but someone has to take the first step in making a change. We are NOT driven by the dollar but by our consciousness and the knowledge that human beings can do better in the world. Our company vows to leave the smallest footprint possible on this planet as possible. In fact we hope to green more than we take. We are after all a seed company!

Supporting pollinators: Pollinators all around the world have been disappearing at alarming numbers due in no small part to pesticides and ill effects of GMOs, another reason we use no chemicals in any part of our business. We maintain beehives in our fields because we care about what is happening to bees. We are beekeepers—we even run a free bee rescue service. How many other seed companies do you know with their own bees? Bees pollinate at least a third of our seed crop. Without them we would be doing a great deal of hand pollination to create heirloom seeds. We owe a great debt to the humble bee and other natural pollinators. We are constantly asking ourselves how we can be the best vegetable seed company and this is just one way we are doing that.

The Dream

We want to enrich people’s lives through community, and we want to build communities. Literally! There are many organic farmers in California who can no longer afford to feed their families or to buy land. We face the no-land problem ourselves, and so do many of our friends. During every gathering someone always says, "If we only had land…"

We want to give people a way to feed themselves and a source of income. Growing heirloom open-pollinated seed can do both.

We want to put land back in the hands of organic farmers. This is the reason we buy from individual seed growers. If we use the money we get from you to buy heirloom seeds from small American organic farmers, the money goes back to where it belongs. We do not buy "cheap" foreign seed like other seed companies.

We want to buy land to farm organically and put it into a nonprofit that would give several families a place to live and work. This is key to sustainable living. Their fuel consumption would drop substantially, and that savings would spread as other cottage industries are born on the land that would serve the great community around. For instance, one of our heirloom seed growers runs a CSA that feeds a large, extended community. She also sells her surplus to local restaurants, thus keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum. I'm sure we’ve all heard the figure now that most of our food travels an average of 1,500 miles!

We want to help the process of creating local heirloom seed banks in each community. If people are going to have the ability to feed themselves, they need genetically viable heirloom seed banks to draw from. We pledge to donate all year-end seed packages to seed banks, and as soon as we are able to “pay the bills” we intend to start doing far more. Watch our monthly newsletter to see how we are impacting communities with your support. If you are in Northern California, come volunteer to help start one of our many programs! Get involved—this is YOUR community.

We want to help educate people about heirloom seeds. We’ll support local organic programs that are already in place, and we would like to help produce weekend classes, booklets, and DVDs that make this information available to a wider audience. We want to create demonstration gardens that not only teach but feed.

There is so much to do. This business is merely a mechanism to help people start feeding themselves. It is an answer to such questions as “What do we do? How do we effect change in our community?” I’m not sure where this little seed company will lead us, but I hope it is to a more enriched life, one filled with the joy in children’s eyes as they harvest their first pumpkin, and the laughter echoing through the community kitchen as the first harvest is prepared to serve at the senior citizens center. The truth is that I will be able to give back some of the love and support I was so freely given. If this world needs anything right now, it is for all of us to step up and give back. This next decade will be a hard one for the world. A seed is hope. It contains the possibility of a new life and great abundance. Hope and possibility lie not only in seeds but in the soul of every person. With your help, we will begin to build the communities we need for a richer future.

Love, Farmer John

KU Product Item price Quantity Total
SKU16268 Christmas Pole Bean Seed
size: 1 oz
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16273 Dwarf Horticulture Taylor Bean Seeds
size: 1 oz
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16342 Broad Windsor Fava Bean Seed
Size: 2 OZ Package
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16170 Red Mammoth Fodder Beet Seeds
size: 4 grams
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16144 Fordhook Giant Chard Seeds
size: 1 gram sampler
$0.99 1 $0.99
SKU16341 Sunflower, Hungarian Black Seeded $2.99 1 $2.99
SKU16344 Braco Mustard
Size: 2 OZ Package
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16375 Grain Sorghum
size: 2 oz
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16373 White Proso Millet
size: 2 oz
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16376 Black Sesame
size: 4 grams
$3.99 1 $3.99
SKU16626 Rox Orange Syrup Cane $3.99 1 $3.99
SKU16309 Dundale Pea
Size: 2 OZ Package
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16211 Red Burgundy Okra Seed
Size: 2 grams
$3.49 1 $3.49
SKU16209 Clemson Spineless 80 Okra Seed
Size: 1 gram
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16100 Oregon Sugar Pod II
size: 1 oz
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16648 Isis Candy Cherry Dry Farm $3.99 1 $3.99
SKU16652 Stupice Dry Farmed $3.99 1 $3.99
SKU16661 Black Krim DF $3.99 1 $3.99
SKU16263 Black Diamond Watermelon Seeds
Size: 2 gram sampler
$0.99 1 $0.99
SKU16223 Connecticut Field Pumpkin Seeds
size: 3 gram sampler
$0.99 1 $0.99
SKU16258 Large Red Cherry Tomato $1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16371 Fennel Finocchio Romanesco
size: 1 gram
$2.99 1 $2.99
SKU16323 Columbianum Wildform Tomato Seeds $2.99 1 $2.99
SKU16561 Crane Melon Seed $2.99 1 $2.99
SKU16216 Cayenne Long Red Thin Pepper
size: .25 gram sampler
$0.99 1 $0.99
SKU16725 Gold Ball Turnip Seeds
Size: 7 Gram Sampler
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16196 Basil,Genovese
Size: 1 gram
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16157 Giant Italian Parsley
size: 2 grams
$2.50 1 $2.50
SKU16402 Armenian Cucumber The Duke $3.99 1 $3.99
SKU16746 Ashley Cucumber Seed $2.99 1 $2.99
SKU16269 Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean Seed
size: 1 oz
$1.99 1 $1.99
SKU16360 Monstorpolgi Celeriac
size: .10 gram 70-100 seeds
$0.99 1 $0.99
SKU16188 Tendersweet Carrot Seed
size: .5 gram sampler
$0.99 1 $0.99
SKU16186 Little Fingers Carrot Seed
size: 1 gram
$1.99 1 $1.99