Wednesday, July 17, 2013

chicken tillers @ work

rain falls in texas

it was dirty and wet work but someone has got to do it and so we did.

thanks to the great collaborative help of farmboy (a.k.a. lippy mawby) the garage girls have a fresh and clean coop, both coops have new big 50lb size feeders filled to the brim, a fresh supply of oyster shell and the outside feral chickens have access to a newly supplied healthy stash of scratch.

the veggies gardens are now cooking with old coop bedding and collected bags of clipped grass - prepping for fall/winter crops. the big big big (1000 gallon) rain collection tank's spigot is now better accessible and hooked up to a good long hose so as to direct it's collected gold to the fruity trees even though there ain't no fruit this season. the wee tank (375 gallon) is doing just fine. both tanks are full to the brim.

THANK YOU GODS OF THE RAINY DRIPS! all of our plants much prefer rainwater over city water - no chemicals, no chlorine and no nonsense. cheers!

Monday, May 20, 2013

compost is cookin' & heaty hotty texas temps are kickin' in

hey ya'll welcome back!  it's been a while since i've checked in and caught folks up with the goings on about the place.  a whole lot has changed, improved, shifted and plans are being made daily for the next thing and the next, next thing.

me, i'm just happy to have hit the summer break.  no teaching for me this round.  it means less cash flowing but it also means more quality time to spend at the homestead a.k.a. the wee keep and that's just fine with me.  in fact i think the gods had a great good deal to do with it and i thank them.

so let's get to it - what's happened? happening? going to happen?

well the first big happened is the NEW FREAKING FENCE!  the fence, the fence, the fence is finally fixed.  yeah, the fence i ranted about for five long years and now a brand spanking new fence and she sure looks perty.  here's a peek as her goodness.   natural wood, simple pickets, she's lovely, she's simple and she's not falling down every time the wind blows. 

this is an install photo - you can see that the posts had not yet been trimmed to height but she looks nice, ah yes.  the fellows who installed her did a great job.  a big shout out to longevity fence of bastrop texas. they were on time, on budget, friendly and communicative.  all the qualities i look for from folk working on the place.

out side of the new fence, we've been moving compost piles about the place.  you can see our most recent compost pile in the tippy top photo.  the plantings to the left of the pile are new plantings planted over the super fertile former compost pile location; a desert willow, a red hydrangea bred for hotter climates, tic seed coreopsis and broom flower;  a collection that should do well in heat and semi-arid weather.  let's hope anyway.  the really are nice along the fence line and will prove a good variable season flowering cluster.

on another note, just today, our friendly farming puppy miss kaylee spent a bit of time at the beautification parlor getting her summer hairs done.  we give her a good ole' shaving down each year as the weather heats up and boy oh boy is the weather heating up.  granted, no complaints since we've enjoyed a great gift of a coolish longer lasting spring, the best in at least 5 years as of late.  just the same when the heat hits her long wired haired self gets too hot quite quickly leaving little time for playing and romping about as she so loves to do.  so the snip, snip is a good thing. she's happier and less nappy when she's got the shorty short hairs going on and happy is what we strive for round here.

we are still raising chickens, a whole good lot of them; 5o+ eggy layers.  in addition to a healthy number of the historic bastrop feral chickens have taken permanent residence here on the keep.  for those of you who have poked around the blog in the past, you'll recall the first coming of tarzan, our initial feral fellow.  well the numbers have grown and families have been hatched.  i'd say we have at least 5 roosters hanging about, probably 5 or 6 hens and 8-10 wee babies that have hatched this spring season. 

in addition to that we recently rescued an east austin chicken who was setting on a clutch of eggs in a friend's yard.  they did not know what to do with her or have any idea where she might have come from so they called us. smart thinking!

they were worried dogs and/or raccoons might have a go at her as many do.

we too have raccoons about our place as you can see here evidenced in the footy paw prints.  not as many as we have had in the past, knock wood.  still one is enough to do damage to the chickey population if given the opportunity. 

that said, a number of our feral mama's have grown smart and learned to set and hatch their babes in our garage.  they hide away for setting, keep the peepers safe in the garage when super young then and as the peepers grow, they usher them into the garage each night before we lock up ensuring increasing survival rates.  who says chickens are stupid.  not me!
back to the rescue girlymama; soft as we are, we went and collected the east austin chicken-mama with her six eggs. she stayed safe in her own rabbit hutch through the hatch of her egg babies. she's a beautiful black sumantra hen and a natural mama to all of her five babes.  all of the peepers are doing great.  they are sooooooo tiny but lively and active, just as one would hope.

today i moved our rescued sumatra mama and her peepers into the out back coop, a.k.a. the metal shed and run.  they've got plenty of room in there and it's safe and secure.  it will be a great place for her to raise the babes until they are big enough to join the flock.  i'll post pictures of the sumatra babies soon.  i'd first like to give them a few days to better acquaint themselves with the new housing plan.

growing in the garden now, let's see if I can remember the whole lot of yet to sprout/newly sprouted babies.

maters varied, peppers sweet and mild, eggy plants, amaranth, taters varied, chards, kale, calendula, sweet tater, beans pole and bush, Amish melon, cucumber, garlic, leek, onion, basil, oregano, lemon grass, Mexican tarragon, sorrel, kohlrabi, thyme, blackberries, squashes winter and crookneck summer, corn blue and sweet, okra green and red, mint, parsley, artichoke, Malabar spinach, sunflowers, sunchokes and borage.

pretty good, I'd say. now for patience and waiting. all good things...

more to come - i'm just getting started. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Love your mother - making your own kombucha tea

Welcom to Hippychick's kombucha starter page.  
The following will get you started on your journey to making your own healthy kombucha and save big bucks.

Hippychick’s Basic Kombucha Recipe

You will need a glass quart size container or larger to start (a glass container is preferred). Several elastic bands and a flour cloth or like material large enough to generously cover the top of your brewing container.  Choose a container with a wide mouth opening as oxygen exchange is beneficial to the brewing process.   *Container, Cloth and elastic bands are not included.

·       You are now ready to start your very first batch of home brewed kombucha tea - Make tea using

o    Loose tea

o    1/4 cup of sugar

o    1 pint of chlorine free water - If using tap water, boil water for 15 minutes to purify or leave your water in an uncovered pot overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate off.

Place tea bags and sugar in water - If using the boiling method – add the tea and sugar after the 15 minute boiling off of chlorine.

o    Stir the mixture until sugar is dissolved. If using the boiling method, let tea steep for 15 minutes before removing tea bags.  If using the evaporation method, allow tea to steep for at least 6 hours at room temperature.

o    Cool tea and sugar mixture to room temperature.

o    Using your quart and/or larger sized brewing container, add the kombucha starter and s.c.o.b.y. colony (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to the cooled / room temperature sweetened tea.

o    Cover the container with a flower towel or coffee filter or breathable cloth and secure it with a rubber band, elastic, or string to keep out insects and air borne contaminants.  Fruit flies will be attracted to your brewing tea so make sure that the material you use to cover the container will block entry of flies small in size.

o    Place the kombucha container where it will remain relatively undisturbed and away from bright lights.  Some folks use a second towel to wrap the brewing container so as to keep out bright light.

o    Allow the kombucha to ferment for about 7 to 10 days depending on the growing temperature and how acidic (sour) you like your kombucha. The Kombucha culture needs a warm and quiet place. The temperature of the tea should not fall below 68°F /20˚C. Optimum temperature for fermentation is approximately about 74°F - 85°F / 23˚C – 29˚C. Light is not necessary. The culture also works in darkness. The culture may be damaged by exposure to bright sunlight. Half shade is better.

A note about tea

Kombucha requires tea for its fermentation. That's real tea (Camellia Sinensis) not herbal tea. Use black, oolong, green or white tea and look for organic tea as contaminants in some commercial teas can affect the culture.  Kombucha can be also be sensitive to strong aromatic oils. A

A note about sugar

White cane sugar is cheap and works very well. Organic white sugar would be even better. Sugar is used by the yeasts during fermentation, and is broken down and transformed into acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and carbon dioxide. Sugar is also involved in the propagation of the Kombucha culture. It uses the sugar to build the scoby. (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)  At the end of the fermentation period, if done correctly, the sugar will have been virtually all converted and there should be little or no sugar left in the kombucha. Using raw brown sugars can give the brew a bad taste and result in poor culture formation.

A note about containers

It is considered best to use clear glass containers for this whole process. Metal is considered toxic to kombucha so never let metal touch the kombucha colony or kombucha tea. Never use aluminum containers for anything having to do with making kombucha and avoid it every way you can, especially in food preparation. Try brewing your kombucha in a gallon jar.  The kombucha culture needs oxygen for the fermentation. A glass gallon jar gives a large surface area and is an excellent brewing container. You can use smaller jars to brew the kombucha, it will simply take longer to brew because there's a smaller surface area exposed to oxygen. A sterilized clean pickle or sweet jar will do very well.

*Notes about checking the brew

The fermentation will take 5-14 days depending on the temperature. If you check your brew after 2 or 3 days you’ll notice a scum forming on the surface. It’s not scum at all; it’s the first thin membrane of your new kombucha scoby/mother. Start tasting the brew after 4 or 5 days. Gently move the scoby aside and dip a spoon in to the liquid. When the kombucha is ready it should be neither too sweet nor too sour. This is rather a personal taste and will depend on how much sugar you want left in the brew. Some like it sweet but others prefer it sour. It’s up to you, so test it every day until it is the way you like it.

·       Remove the original kombucha colony (scoby) and the new baby colony (scoby) that formed on the surface of the tea.  Save at least 1 cup of the starter in order to feed your next batch of tea.

·       Strain your finished kombucha tea, bottle it if you like and store it in the refrigerator.

A note about bottling your kombucha

Try bottling your kombucha in glass jars.  The strained kombucha when stored in a covered container will begin a natural carbonation process . Bottle the kombucha, cover and set out on the counter away from light for several days (3-4).  Note – if you prefer to use plastic containers be aware that the container may bulge from the build up of carbonated gas.  If you discover this in process, it is best to remove the cap to allow for a small bit of gas to release otherwise you might run the risk of the bottle exploding.  Refrigerate your kombucha after the 3-4 day set on the counter.  Enjoy your kombucha at your leisure.  The fermentation process will continue while in the refrigerated state but at a significantly slower rate than the process at room temperature.  Kombucha will lose a bit of its carbonation once opened in the same way as a bottle of soda does.

Later on…

For larger batches, the basic ratios are 1 large teabag per quart of water, ¼ cup of sugar per quart of liquid, 1 cup of kombucha starter and your mother.  Always cool liquids to room temperature before adding to the mother.  Heat will damage and possibly kill your mother. Start by making a quart, then a ½ gallon and so on.

Feel free to contact me, hippychick, via email at

Thanks so very much and enjoy your refreshing delicious home brewed kombucha tea.

Hippychick a.k.a. Michelle

Here are a few great videos to refer to from  CulturesForHealth

Note you will not need vinegar as suggested in the videos as you have real kombucha as your starter tea.