Friday, July 14, 2017

Support your local feed mill!

So I love our feed mill.  They're like fifth generation, family owned and operated, and their feed is the best I can find anywhere.  I always haul feed in my van with the back seats out, because I would rather stab myself with a fork than back up a trailer.  This leads to some "that's a funny looking truck, wink!" commentary but it certainly isn't the strangest thing they've loaded feed into.

So today they were loading me up with feed, and I notice that one of my front tires is obviously short on air.  Yipes.  I have an emergency pump, but that thing takes about three years to work.  No worries, says toothless feed store guy (I don't know any of their names work with me here).  You can use our air pump.

The other one looks a bit low too, says current manager.  Best top it up first.  So we do that.  Then we try to do the other side.


Like kaboom and gravel flew everywhere it didn't just blow out it blew up.  And we all just stare at it for a second.

"Do you have a spare, darlin'?"

I realize that calling people darling or sweetie or whatever is kind of a southern thing, but I really hate it.  Makes me want to punch the dang guy in the mouth.  But the speed with which a swarm of feed mill dudes descended upon my car, pulled all the feed out, got the spare out from under the car, found a better jack, jacked up my car, and switched that tire out makes me very glad that I never have.  I surely could have done that myself, but it would have taken me at least an hour longer, and I would have been metaphorically dead afterwards.  As it was I still had enough energy to get the feed back out of the van and put up so we can take it to its appointment at the tire place tomorrow.

So support your local feed mill, darlings.  And if you're local to me, go to Big Spring Mill in Elliston.  They will save your bacon when your car explodes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

And in the fall, we have shenanigans.

So yes I realize it is not technically fall yet.  But the bucks are starting to do buck things (aka standing around testing the equipment and peeing on themselves), and that means the does will be coming into heat soon, which means fall to me, even if it's still so hot I can barely move.

I do not want January kids again.  Which means that the bucks need to go into lock down.  And the growing doe kids have been using the buck hut as a house.  You can probably guess where I'm going with this.

So I shut the does into the loafing shed, shut the bucks OUT of the barn yard (so they were stuck in the pasture), and brought the doe kids down into the barn yard.  This was the easy part, as they are still in that "follow mom she will protect and feed us" stage.  They almost tripped me like ten times but they didn't run away.  Baby girls safe, check.

The bucks on the other hand will wander around eating things if I don't keep a firm handle on them, so I was going to take them one at a time.  This was a great plan until Roosevelt starting freaking the hell out because he was "alone"... which Sobek the LGD puppy though was a really fun game.  For Sobek.  Roosevelt started running around screaming like he was being murdered.  Chocula is a pretty calm boy so I had my eleven year old daughter hold his collar while I put the puppy on a tie out.

This was Chocula's cue to slip his collar.  We are fairly fortunate that there was honeysuckle right there and he didn't go far.  Got the collar back on him and push/pull/dragged him up to the front.  Got the collar back and repeated the procedure for Roosevelt, who was much better behaved given that we were moving toward his buddy and not away.

But wait it's not over yet!  For ease of access to all the gates I had taken down the temporary fencing (it needed moved anyway).  It is now one o'clock in the afternoon, and hotter/more humid than hell.  But the fence has to go up.  I managed three lines before I felt like I was going to pass out - good enough to hold grown does.  So I plugged it in and let them out.  The babies are now screaming because they want out, too, but I need to cool off and get a drink.  One more line and, fortunately, it turns out that freeing them (at least into a little strip of pasture) was enough to get P. Bubbs to shut her hay hole.

So fingers crossed that a) nobody escapes, b) the dogs continue to behave, and c) I figure out how to integrate the baby does with the big does.  That would return the shenanigans to a reasonable level.  As long as I ignore the ducks...

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

It's the little things, I guess.

So in addition to insane roosters, we have been dealing with "something is wrong with the milk machine" for the last couple of days.  It was just not sucking as much as it was supposed to, which really sucked.  I took off all the hoses and submerged them in water to check for leaks.  I drained and cleaned the overflow tank (there wasn't actually anything in there but air).  I knocked on the pulsator.  Don't laugh that is literally a step on the trouble shooting flow chart for my milk machine.  Nothing.  Slow death.  Hour long milking sessions.  Frustrated goats.  Dammit Pansy what have you done.

Then I took apart the hose that connects the pump to the pulsator.  Did you know that the screw together doodad in the middle of that hose isn't just for converting from small size tube to larger size tube, it has a filter in it?  A filter that is basically two tiny pieces of cheap Scotch Brite scrubby pads on top of each other?

Yeah a week of freaking out because I thought my milk machine was dying, and it needed like a $.001 part.  It works now!  Unfortunately now the suction is too high and I have to remember what the previous setting was.  I have it written down in this user manual somewhere.  And hey, in the morning I won't have frustrated goats... but I might have surprised goats.  Not sure if that is an immediate improvement, but I'll take it.

About six miles of tubes... all leak free.  Today.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Chickens are possibly insane.

So today was the day we had scheduled for breaking up the breeding pens and letting all the poultry (except for the grow outs, which live in the tractor) range together.  This will dramatically simplify management and chick sales blow chunks this year anyway (thanks, Rural King!), so it was time.  The birds have never been out of sight of each other - they could see and interact with all the birds through the fences.  So I thought that this would be fairly trauma free.

I forgot about roosters.

First Hendrix had to fight Norris.  Then he had to fight Jones.  Then Jones and Norris had to fight.  Doesn't matter that Jones and Norris had been in the same pen this entire time, during which Norris had been the Boss Rooster from day 1.  No, they had to resort everything.

Did you know that comb and wattle injuries bleed?  A lot?  Like, more blood than you think a chicken could reasonably loose without passing out or something?  So if any of you are around here in the next week or so, please remember that there are no secret cock fighting rings at 4Farthings.  Just a bunch of asshole roosters who occasionally loose their ever loving minds and become psychotic comb biting jerks.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put Blu Coat on everything.

Our first hive get

So, funny story about our first two hives.  We bought them as nucs (nucleus hives) from one of the other members of the local beekeeping association.  He was really cool about it, and built the nucs right in our own boxes - so we would not even have to move the frames to install them, just bring them home and open up the doors!

Due to scheduling, Mark went to get the hives early in the morning.  Since the best time to let out new bees is evening, we placed the closed up hives in the shade and waited.  They were full of angry bees that wanted OUT OUT OUT!  But we were patient.  So patient.  Finally the time came to put them on their new stands and take off the travel screens to free the bees.  We put the hives on the stands and went to put feeders on top of the hives.  Which of course leaked all over the place because we were noobs.  So we decided to just take the screens off, release the bees, and place feeders later.  We took off the first screen.

And then we realized that we had not lit the smoker.

Several very awkward minutes of being chased by newly freed bees later, both hives were open and the bees (still very angry) were able to do some orienting flights and clean up some of the spilled syrup.  And that's how we learned to never again approach a hive without a lit and smoking smoker.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Apple Sauce

Aside from the usual fall shenanigans (NO Chocula, she's not to get bred until NEXT month and NOT BY YOU), I got a screaming deal on seconds apples by the bushel.  My husband talked me down so I only bought two bushels of apples (about 100 lbs), which was probably smart.  I do nothing half way, which is the nice way of saying I'm really good at over committing.

I also discovered that this year narrow mouth quart jars are two dollars less than wide mouth jars.  Two whole dollars!  My family is going to have to cope with narrow mouth jars.

But all that is to say that I've been making lots of apple sauce.  The nice thing about apples is they have enough acid and enough sugar on their own to be pretty canning safe, so you don't have to worry too much about following a recipe.  As such, my apple sauce recipe is actually more of a method.  If you wanted to try this with other similar fruits (like pears), it would probably work, and you should tell me how it turned out.

How to Can Apple Sauce

First, acquire a large number of apples.  They cook down so don't mess around with this part.  The best kinds are fairly firm (Red Delicious sucks) and moderately tart, in my opinion.  This year we're using Rome apples.

Core the apples and cut out any weird bits.  I leave the skins on, partially because I am lazy, and partially because the internet told me that that's where all the nutrition is.  But the seeds need to come out, as do the blossom ends, stems, and any icky bits.  You can use an apple cutter/corer if you want.

Put all the apples in a big ol' pot with a couple of inches of water in the bottom.  You can add some cinnamon sticks at this point if you're into that sort of thing.  Put the whole mess on low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until everything is mushy.

Run the apples (skins and all!) and apple liquid through your food processor or powerful blender in batches until it's all the consistency you expect from apple sauce.  Or if you're a bum who doesn't like skins in their applesauce you can use a food mill.  Put it back in the big pot and have a taste.  Is it sweet enough?  Not enough cinnamon?  Season to taste with sugar, molasses (yum!), cinnamon, or what have you.  I usually add cinnamon and a small amount of black strap molasses.  Keep it simmering!  If your sauce is too watery you can also let it cook down some more.

Ladle your finished applesauce into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath canner for twenty minutes.  Remove canner from heat and allow jars to stand in hot water for ten minutes more.

Tah-dah!  Apple sauce!  And you didn't even have to measure anything.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


The pigs are gone!  Or rather, the pigs are in the freezer!  This is quite a relief as, with the cooler weather and shorter days, the pasture isn't growing as well as it was.  And that means it was becoming increasingly impossible to prevent the pigs from turning the pasture into one gigantic mud hole.  One of the great things about buying meat by the whole animal (or raising your own) is that you get all the extra weird parts of the animal, many of which are really quite good.  Case in point: lard.

Our butcher isn't accustomed to people asking for all the fat off their pig back, but they did remember to bag it up for me (even if I did have to make a second trip, as they left it in the freezer the first go around).  This is the amount we got back from two year old American Guinea Hogs.

This is the back fat (fat from off of the pig's topline) and leaf lard (fat from around the pig's kidneys) mixed together, because I forgot to ask them to separate it out.  If you remember, it's nice to have the leaf lard separate, as it is rather different.  It's softer and less likely to have a pork smell/taste, and therefor nicer for things like pastries.

You can see it's in pretty big chunks - which is fine.  You are going to have to either cut it into small pieces (like about one inch cubes), or run it through a meat grinder.  I use the coarse disk on mine, and it's very helpful because then I only have to cut it small enough to fit in the meat grinder.

All that mess goes in the crock pot with a quarter cup of water.  The water keeps the fat from burning until some fat liquefies, and will cook off.

Set the crock pot low, and come by and stir every now and again.  As the fat comes to the surface, you can ladle it off and strain it through a large handkerchief.  The trick is to filter off all of the fat before the solid bits (cracklings) turn brown.  If you wait until it's all brown, you will get more lard, but the fat will be brownish and smell like bacon.  But if you get it all out while the solids are still soft and whitish, the fat will be white and odorless.

Out of all that fat, we got two gallons and a quart of lovely white lard.  Fabulous for making biscuits and all sorts of pastry, as well as for frying.  Of course... isn't lard bad for you?

KIND OF!  Of course too much fat isn't good for you.  But the difference between this fat and the lard you buy at the store is twofold.  First, the store lard is hydrogenated.  That stuff is BAD for you.  Of course it does have better shelf life, so keep the home rendered stuff in the refrigerator.  The second difference is what the pigs were eating.  Store pigs are raised in confinement (unless you purposefully buy pastured pork) and don't get to eat things like grass or do things like lie in the sun.  My pigs did that ALL THE TIME.  So lard from pastured pigs is actually a pretty good source of fat soluble vitamins, including Vitamin D.  There's also a bunch of science about how pastured pigs have different kinds of fatty acids than confinement pigs and that makes it better, but every time I turn around it seems they've decided a new kind of fat is THE healthy fat so I don't pay too much attention to that.  Too complicated.  The point is that you shouldn't be afraid of a little lard as long as it comes from pasture raised pigs, and isn't hydrogenated.  Also: it's delicious!