Friday, October 31, 2014

Apple Juice Jello



Fridays are Jeffrey's day this school year.  He loves Jello, and picked that for our afternoon snack.  I normally just mix up a couple of boxes each week, but today found myself wondering if there was a better way. 

Google helped right away, and I found this recipe.  I had unflavored gelatin (just the regular Knox brand, not the fancy grass fed brand recommend in the recipe), and apple juice.  You just need those ingredients, warm and cold water, and fruit. 

 Remember those apples we picked last Saturday?  We've been using the juicer and have homemade apple juice from the tree outside. 

I decided to give it a try.  Wasn't any harder than mixing up the boxed variety.  I made a triple batch, to be sure we had enough. 

For the fruit portion, I picked frozen blueberries. 

In order to make it a little more fun, I poured the mixture into individual jars.  Then I simply put the lids on, and stuck them in the fridge until after quiet time. 

The verdict? 

I think our apples were a little too on the tart side.  I normally add sugar to the juice, but didn't in this batch for some reason.  The blueberries helped a lot though. 

I'll definitely be making it again.  Cutting out as many boxes as possible is one of the things we are striving for. Next time I'll be sure to use juice that is a little sweeter though. 



Don't worry--it all got eaten even on the tart side.  Jeffrey approved. 

Have you ever made Jello?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What My Bunnies Have Taught Me...So Far

We've had the bunnies here on the farm for a few weeks now.  I've definitely learned some things during this time, and thought I'd pass my knowledge onto you.

1.  Bunnies are sweet!

They are so cuddly, and we are working hard at getting these ones used to being handled.  The babies (once they arrive) will hopefully be easier since we'll be working with them from a much earlier age.

We go out several times a day to check on the bunnies and the kids get thrilled when they are able to pet them easily. 

2.  It can be hard to tell a girl bunny from a boy bunny.

I nearly had a panic attack one day thinking one of my girl bunnies was a boy.  You see the parts aren't too easy to distinguish.  Here's a guide that finally helped me to get it figured out (at least I think....) I'll feel better once I see which ones have babies! At least I'll know they are girls then!

3.  I don't like the hutches we have.


In theory, these work great.  They have an enclosed area and a wire portion.  The enclosure offers warmth.  Except...they all poop and pee in the enclosed area, which means my plan for having worms under them isn't panning out, yet.

And, with the poop building up on the wooden floors, you can imagine the extra work that cleanup takes.  I'm going with the deep litter method right now, which cuts down on some of that extra, but it's still--not falling down through the wire and getting converted to compost by hungry worms.  Instead I get to deal with it....Yuck!  

These are also really hard to actually get a hold of the bunnies in.  You see, the doors are on the short side, not the long side.  My arms aren't long enough to reach in all the way in the wire portion.  No wonder it's taking so long for the bunnies to get used to us handling them--they have lots and lots of space to run out of reach. 

I was planning on saving up and replacing the hutches with wire cages over time, and just dealing with the hutches until then.  And then an unexpected blessing happened. 

While dropping some movies off at my dad's the other day, I happened to be talking to the lady he lives with and told her we were heading to town to buy a wire cage to separate my final bunny (since we have four pens and five bunnies).  She asked about the rabbits a bit, and then said that she and her parents and grandparents used to raise meat rabbits.  And she still had all the metal cages up in the rafters of her barn.

And better still?  She offered to give them to me, excited that they'd be being used instead of just continuing to collect dust. 

How exciting, and such a great reminder that the Lord works in unexpected ways!  I'll be able to hang those up and then put my worm bins underneath, just like I was originally planning before the deal on the hutches/bunnies became available.  So that's great!  And I'll hang onto the hutches for using as birthing pens in the winter, since the warmth will be important then.

Now back to what I've learned...

4. Transitioning rabbits to more natural food sources takes time.

Hay is good food for cattle...and rabbits!

Three of my bunnies are very excited about the hay and grass we give them daily.  The other two aren't so sure yet.  But we'll keep offering it.

We now have them being fed pellets only once a day--a measured amount based on what my research says they need for their size.  Previously, they were allowed free access to pellets all the time, and put on too much weight.

Now, I try to have either alfalfa or grass hay for them all day long to munch on, along with fresh water.  They get a handful of grass once a day.  Then in the evening, they get their pellets.  Occasionally, we'll give them a treat like a piece of carrot or apple slice.  I've heard they really like chewing on apple branches, but haven't yet cut any off the tree to try.  That's next on my list. 

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I'm sure as we go through the first batch of kits, raising them and processing them, I'll learn even more.  That's the great part of living on a farm--you have daily opportunities to continue learning!



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Pics for the Week

Another Saturday, and more memories made. I enjoy sharing them with you  each week.

Sunday

No pic--I seem to miss Sunday more than any other day, must be because we are so busy. Will have to work on that!

Monday

The kids played costume party for Ellie's game. They sure are cute and creative!


Tuesday

Ellie and Jeff and Barney (our buck Chinchilla). The kids are great helpers with the rabbits.

Wednesday

In the spirit of dressing up for games, Jayne created this Teenage Mitant Ninja Turtle costume from our dress up clothes.  The nunchucks were a great Dollar Tree find for both her and Jeff. They battle each other! 

Thursday

Grandma helped the kids make caramel apples. They sure enjoyed eating them.

Friday

We are learning about forces in nature, and did an experiment to witness the strength of water pressure. No one thought the water would stay in the inverted glass, but they learned they were mistaken. I love hands on learning opportunities. 


Saturday

We were blessed with a deer from a family friend, and are very thankful for it! My step-dad and I butchered it on Monday, and today I made a roast in the crockpot. The recipe I found was super simple and called for bacon. It was a keeper! I'll have to share the recipe soon.


We also harvested apples today from our main apple tree. There were sure a lot! Here are some of them...


Simon thought it was great fun to roll them out of the bags. He'll be out of the kitchen the next few days as we slowly turn this bounty into applesauce (my goal is 26 quarts--a six month supply at a quart a week...I have 10 quarts already, so 16 more to go), dried apples, apple rolls and apple juice. We might get sick of them before we run out, but I don't want them to go to waste.

What are your favorite apple recipes? Did you have a good week?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prepping For Disasters

My step-dad texted me an interesting question this morning, and it's had my mind reeling all day.  He simply wrote (after a conversation with my brother-in-law), "What would it take to feed 20 people for 5 years?"

Here was my initial response, "A lot of food, and/or the ability to obtain/produce more."

And then my mind took off on what that would look like.  Here.  On the farm.  With my family and our resources.  I think I may have sent several text messages back before I realized that he probably needed to get to work and I really should finish cleaning up the barn.

But just because our text conversation ended doesn't mean my thinking did.  And this post might be kind of rambly--because my brain just thinks like that!

Are my thoughts complete?  Nope--not even close.  I'm sure I'm missing some vital components.  These are just the first ones swirling around in this head.

Food:


It's recommended that you store food for your family (obviously).  The problem in this scenario?  Do you have any idea how much space canned/dry goods for 20 people would take up?  Yes we have a large house, but no, I don't want it filled to the brim with cans and cans of food (especially because we really DON'T eat canned foods any more. )

No, storing just random cans isn't going to cut it.  We need a better plan.

We need to stock up on the things we won't be able to produce easily.  Things like flour, sugar, olive oil, salt and rice.  The things that you read about families in the old days stocking up on before winter.  Staples.

Yes, we could grow wheat and harvest our own grain, but that would take some prep work that wouldn't happen right away.  Flour (or wheat berries if we have a reliable wheat grinder) need to be stored for the meantime.

Fruits and veggies also need to be stored with more of a short term goal in mind.  The ground around here produces abundantly, and new fruits and veggies could be grown within a year of any disaster that would strike.  Thus, we don't need five years worth of those.

Meat (canned variety if we're assuming no power) is also needed, especially for the summer months.  We can easily butcher a pig or a cow or something in the late fall/winter and store it without it going bad, but with our current knowledge, I don't know how to make it last through summer.  This is an area I should learn more about (I hope to have the knowledge and equipment necessary to can chicken before next July's butcher date...).

Dairy (for providing vital nutrients) would be another area easily taken care of in our current situation.  We have three cows bred currently, and two are currently milking (though they'll be drying up soon).  If the situation were different, we'd just stagger the next breeding to ensure that we always had at least one cow in milk instead of drying them all up at once.  The milk could be chilled in the creek, and then used to create butter (with supplies we already have), and perhaps some cheeses to add variety to the diet.

Water: 

Once again, just thinking about the recommended number of 55-gallon drums we'd need to keep on hand for 20 people is mind boggling!  

Thankfully, we have access to a creek.  All livestock water would be hauled from there (can you imagine the muscle power we'll build?) 

That means we need a reliable way to filter and boil water.  And since that's probably not something we'd like to do every day, getting a couple of 55-gallon drums to keep refilling is probably a good idea.

Our goal to learn to create our own charcoal to filter seems to be perfect here.  We have LOTS of trees around, and charcoal can keep.  Then it'd be a matter of boiling, which would likely be done on the top of one of the wood stoves.  Good thing we have some large pots that can go up there!

Gardening:


As I mentioned earlier, fruits and veggies don't need to be stored for years around here.  But seeds?  That's another story.  We should probably make it a point to 1.  plant more plants that don't require replanting (fruit and nut trees, berries, etc.) 2. stock up on good quality seeds that will last and 3. learn to save seeds from year-year. 

Thankfully my mom is an expert at starting seeds in her greenhouse.  So someone in the family knows how to do that--a key--we don't ALL need to know EVERYTHING! Community is important in survival situations, so you can break up the work and knowledge loads.  

We have land for growing, and livestock to produce manure for composting and building the soil and thus the yield.  Yeah! 

Foraging:

Stinging nettles are nutritious! (And apparently a good spot to hide eggs under...)

When talking about this with Jayme this morning, this was an important aspect for her. There are a ton of edible plants that grow on our property.  There are also plants (like mullein and arnica) that are great for medicinal purposes.  We need to make sure we learn how to use all of these useful things.  That leads me to my next point...

Survival Books

Yes, I've learned a TON of information on the Internet.  But...in a disaster situation, that won't likely be available, especially way out here.  So Bryan and I have been making it a priority to build a library of actual books.  Here's a sample of what we currently own; please excuse the missing covers on some, Owen ate them...



I'm buying a butchering book soon, and have many others, including an edible plants guide and a basic medical book on my to-buy soon list. My parents and I have also discussed that we don't need double copies, so we've been careful to obtain different selections that when combined give us a pretty solid skill-set in the written word.  

Livestock

We currently have six cows.  The two steers could be butchered any time (though the yield would be low) to help save on hay.  The bull I'd like to keep at least to breed once more this next summer, and of the three milk cows, I'd probably hang onto only two of them. 

Here's the start of my longer term planning.  

We won't be able to rely on electric fence to keep the cows in, so I'd have to only keep cows who could be tethered.  Two of the milking cows (Maggie and Annie--who is still a heifer but due in March/April) are excellent on the tether.  My older milk cow, Epie, is not.  She almost strangles herself everytime she's on one.  So we don't tether her.  

If tethering became a necessity (we could even let the cows mow the lawn since there wouldn't be extra gas for the lawn mower...), I would need to get rid of Epie.  

The bull...I've been too scared to try him on tether before, just because we got him as a two-year old.  A little big for my liking to try and move around on a rope.So...I need to keep a bull calf from Epie and plan on that cow remaining a bull.  I need to get him tether trained from a young age.  Then, by getting rid of Epie, he'd be able to breed the other cows for a long period of time, and would work on the tether.  See my thinking?  

I also need to ensure that my rabbits are used to eating greens and hay (we're working on that now) since pellets might not be obtainable.  



Same with the chickens--they have to be able to free-range effectively since grain would be harder to produce.  Mine are great at this--hardly go through any grain in the spring, summer and fall, and I could keep them alive (though not top producing) on kitchen scraps through the winter.

 

Pigs could definitely work as well--they could have dropped fruit, hay and other scraps and leftover dairy products.  

So my focus is on self-sustaining livestock.  We can produce about five ton of hay based on current production land, and could expand that in a year or two if necessary. We would extend our grass season by going to only tethering since we could use more land than we have currently fenced.  It could work. 

Medical

A good first aid kit and lots of bandaid/ace wraps/etc. should be stocked up on, as with basic medicine (over the counter type).  Unfortunately due to insurance regulations, I can't stockpile Owen's seizure meds.  Thus one of my first actions would be to wean off of his drugs (since withdrawal can be a problem we'd do it gradually based on how many we had left) and implement a minor version of the keto diet again.  We hated the diet, but it kept his seizures at bay.  I think by going more of an Atkins style, we'd get the benefits without the drawbacks.  At least I hope we would! 

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I know there's a lot more, but this post has rambled on long enough.  I know that life would be much harder than it is now if we were to rely on these techniques, but I think they'd keep the family alive. 

What are your thoughts for long-term prepping?  What will your plans be as your stockpiles begin to run out?  What did I miss?  I'd love some feedback on this! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Loving the Wood Stove

I love having a wood stove!  It cuts the chill out of the morning air so nicely.  You can stand in front of the stove, or curl up on the ground nearby with a good book, and just feel so cozy.  I'm telling you--you can't get that feeling standing or sitting by an electric vent.


Yes, having a wood stove is a lot of work.  Especially for my husband who gets the job of cutting and splitting (at least until we have sons who are MUCH older...) And packing wood into the house requires we all pitch in on a daily basis.  The stove ashes also need cleaned out regularly, which means burning does take extra work.

But when the living room feels warm and snug, it is definitely worthwhile!  Especially when we're experiencing an extended power outage, and we are not without heat. 

And Praise the Lord--Owen hasn't opened the stove while in use once this season.  I'm hopeful that that is one bad habit from last year that he's finally moving past.  The smoke that would fill the house was definitely not fun, and we were always worried that he'd get out of his room at night and open the doors while we were all sleeping (which lead to his lockable from the outside Dutch door...)

Simon has also stayed away from the stove now that it's producing heat.  We made it a point to not block off the stove, because there are so many people we visit who also have a stove.  The kids have to learn to leave it alone.   Owen requires more supervision than the others, but he is showing a little maturity this year, which is wonderful!

Our wood stove is definitely a blessing, and we are thankful for the warmth that it'll provide all winter long. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pictures of the Week

Whew, another week has come and gone.  We made some memories, did some art, and worked hard on befriending our bunnies (they are slowly getting used to us...).

Here are some small moments that were captured throughout the past seven days (well, honestly it's only five of those seven, but that's alright!  Life happens...)

Sunday, October 12

I still wasn't feeling great this day, and didn't take any pictures.

Monday, October 13

Columbus Day--here is Jayme painting her boat.

 Tuesday, October 14

Shopping day in Spokane.  The kids have been earning little bits of money doing some extra work and putting in extra effort, and Ellie enjoyed spending hers at the Dollar Store.  She bought princess dress up things and a microphone.  My singing princess!

Wednesday, October 15

My dear husband's birthday.  He works so hard for his family, and we appreciate all that he does.  Jayme enjoyed baking and decorating this cake.  Check out what the candles spell... (and thanks to Jayme for taking this pic!)


 Thursday, October 16

I ended up taking little Sydney into the doctor to see if she had a sinus infection, since her nose had been drippy for so long.  I was also a little worried that maybe she had shoved something up there instead, because of the smell that was there. 

Thankfully, he gave her a clean bill of health--said it was just a cold and she was just hanging onto it longer than the rest of us had.  Even better--by today (Saturday) she is over her cold! And there is nothing up her nose (at least that we know of...)

Anyways, long story to say I don't have a picture.  Unexpected doctor appointments always through our routine off a bit...though you think we'd be used to them by now with Owen...

Friday, October 17

Instead of the normal pizza at Grandma's house on Friday, we chowed down on hamburgers, french fries and onion rings.  What a delicious treat!  Here's a pic of the onion rings slowly turning golden.


 Saturday, October 18

We were able to go help celebrate the graduation for a young adult in a family from our church.
While there, we took the opportunity to play outside, and the kids really enjoyed these benches.  They made the perfect logs to walk on, and as Jeffrey demonstrates in this picture--to jump off of!


Well, Owen just fell back asleep for the night, so I'm going to turn in (again!)  I hope you have a delightful end to your week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Easy Elephant Toothpaste

For school this year, we are mainly utilizing the free Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool website.  It incorporates many videos and hands on projects, and Owen is really thriving with those inclusions.  We're working slowly but surely through Chemistry and Physics for science.

Today's experiment brought giggles all around, and it was so simple I wanted to share.



First, gather up your supplies. 

*1 20 oz empty plastic bottle (Thanks Bryan for drinking the Coke so we could do this!)
*1/2 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide
*1/4 cup dish soap (we used Kirkland brand, but don't think it matters!)
*1 T yeast
*1/2 c warm water
*Food coloring (optional) --we did this experiment twice, once without and once with.  With was WAY neater looking!
*A large cooking pot or baking pan to catch the overflow

Next, you need to prepare for the experiment.

Combine the yeast and the warm water in a small cup and mix well. 

Let this sit for about five minutes to get bubbly (activated).

Meanwhile, carefully pour your peroxide and dish soap into the plastic bottle.  Add food coloring if desired.

Swish the bottle around (be careful not to get over excited here and splash it out the top!) to mix the ingredients.

Place the bottle in your overflow container.

Once the yeast is bubbly, carefully pour the yeast into the bottle.

Sit back and watch the elephant toothpaste grow!

The website linked to above has a wonderful scientific explanation so you can explain what is going on. 

Have you completed any neat experiments this year?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Our Columbus Day Project

Happy Columbus Day! 

As part of history today, the kids and I took a few minutes to learn a bit about the voyage that was supposed to result in a shorter route to India for trade.  I kept it short and simple since we mainly have little attention spans.

After the talk, we set to work painting egg carton cups for boats. (I got the idea from here after a quick Google search for an easy craft.)  Each child painted three.  One for the Nina, one for the Pinta and one for the Santa Maria. 


While Sydney, Jeff, Ellie and Jayme painted their egg carton cups, Owen finger painted directly on the table.  I knew he'd just eat the egg carton cups, and didn't want to deal with the mess of shredded paper on top of paint! He made himself VERY pretty...

To keep craft time manageable, I made sure to do it while Simon was down for his morning nap.  I didn't want to see the mess he'd create. 

Once the cups were dry, we stuck a wad of play-dough in the bottom of each.  We were supposed to use toothpicks to create masts for the sails, but we didn't have any.  Thankfully we had a bunch of wooden chopsticks.  Those worked quite well.  The kids decorated their sails and put everything together. 

Jayme decided that the sides of the egg carton pieces she had looked like sails, so she painted those instead of adding the playdough and chop-stick pieces.  They turned out nicely. 



Once everyone else had their pieces together, we moved them to the kitchen counters to continue drying while we cleaned up.  Here are Jeff's boats.

It was a simple way to get some extra art into the day.  The kids all love craft time!

Do you have any memorable craft projects you did?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Pictures

Welcome to fall ladies and gentlemen, here's a cold for you.  That's the lovely change of season report from here on the farm. Owen catches germs very easily (thanks in part to the Pica and shoving things in his mouth everywhere we go--even tissues if he finds them--EW!), and once it's in the house, it's hard to keep colds contained.  Three of the kids, and now myself, are feeling this one.  I miss summer, fewer seizures and good health!  But, the Lord will give us strength to make it through the sick season. 

Even though we're sniffling and sneezing with sore throats, I took pictures almost every day.  Here they are.

Sunday, October 5

Poor Simon.  Learning to walk is rough.  He tripped over something and found the corner of the wall with his forehead.  I think he kind of looks like a Klingon with the ridge...



Monday, October 6

Here's a walking picture.  Simon is now pretty confident, even outside!  I was worried that his head bump yesterday would slow him down a bit, but he's still going strong.



Tuesday, October 7

Bryan surprised Jeffrey with a motorcycle out of K'Nex Monday night, and Jeffrey loved playing with it when he woke up.  (Simon wanted a turn too!)



 Wednesday, October 8


No pictures!

Thursday, October 9

We took a quick trip to Chewelah to take some books back to the library before they were overdue, and stopped by the park.  Jeffrey and Jayme raced to the top of the jungle gym.

Friday, October 10

Ellie really enjoys helping take care of the new rabbits!  They all have names now.  Belle, Cloud and Mama Bunny are the does and Barney and Raf are the bucks.  We still need to move their hutches into final positions, but they are off the truck and trailer, and so much easier to take care of. What a fun addition to the farm! 




Saturday, October 11

Check out this sunset!  What a beautiful sight. A completely different palette of colors from last Saturday. 




Keep well, and hopefully by next week we'll all be doing better!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Bunnies Are Here!

Well, one of our farm goals was accomplished sooner rather than later. We picked up five rabbits tonight, and brought them home.  There are four pedigreed American Chincillas (three does and a buck) and a Rex/Dwarf cross buck.

I need to clean the hutches that came with them out tomorrow, and I'll throw the lovely rabbit manure onto the garden to be worked in. 

Then we can get the hutches off the truck and trailer more easily (poop weighs a lot!) I'm looking forward to getting them all the way settled in their new environment.

The lady we bought them from put one of the does on with a buck with us (the chincillas) and recommended leaving both that doe and another in with him tonight. (The does have been together so they aren't a fighting risk.)

In 31 days we should have baby bunnies! Then 10 weeks after that we will butcher for the first time. 

Since it was dark when we got home, I couldn't get good pictures. Instead, I'll leave you with one from Craigslist where I first found our new critters.



 Any words of advice for a rabbit newbie?


Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Day Late and a...Never Mind!

Ok, let's just pretend it's still Saturday, shall we?  That would mean we'd have one more day of weekend to enjoy.  I wish! 

Even though I'm late, I still wanted to share some pictures with everyone.  Here you go--seven small moments from our week.

Sunday, September 28

The cats are faster than my camera finger!  There were three of them snuggled up in my tomato plant container on the porch when I went out to milk, but only one stuck around for a mug shot.

Monday, September 29

Freedom!  Our chicken coop is located right next to the pig pen.  And I lost a few chickens to the pigs earlier in the season.  My new little hens--I didn't want to lose, and I knew they'd wander in the pig pen.  So they were contained for longer than I would have liked, but were let free as soon as the butcher left.  They like their new free ranging status, though I haven't yet gotten them to sleep up on a perch in the coop--they prefer to huddle on the floor. 

Tuesday, September 30

A gentle reminder that winter is on the way.  Look close and you can see it--the hail that very much resembled a very early snow fall.

Wednesday, October 1

My little mountain goat has apparently connected the remote control with power and prestige or something.   He just can't quite figure out how to make it work!

Thursday, October 2

We've recently added an individual project time to our school day.  Jeff decided to make a shelf for his room for his first project.  He had to use things from around the farm, and this is what he came up with.  He sanded and painted by himself, using spray paint left over from Ellie's birthday tire see-saw.  I think he would have preferred different colors, but he was excited just to be building something.

Note to self...taking pictures when the sun is high is not a good idea unless you're going for shadows everywhere...
Friday, October 3

In an effort to reduce waste on the homestead, I recently moved the cows to where I can feed them utilizing the old mangers instead of just dumping hay in their pen for them to soil.  They are still getting used to it, but I think they'll have it figured out before the winter locks them in permanently.

See the small gate on the edge of the picture?  It's important to close that tightly, and I now have it tied with bailing twine! Care to guess how we learned that lesson?

Saturday, October 4

Chicken butcher day, take 2. 

I managed to slice my thumb on a very sharp knife (they were dull last time around--sharp ones work MUCH better!)

We also butchered out one of the turkeys.  Yup, only one.  This is why...it was under 8 pounds.  WAY too skinny.  This is taken inside the butcher trailer, right after I dressed him all out.  It was just like doing a chicken, only the organs were WAY bigger. 

Hope you enjoyed your weekend, and have a good week. We're going to look at some meat rabbits on Tuesday, so I'll be sure to let you know if we add more critters to the place.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Whole Hog!

Warning...picture of a hanging pig to follow...nothing super bloody though, but if you are squeamish, please read a different post instead!

Monday, the butcher arrived at the farm. When he left, our pigs had been processed from this...


Into this...

I learned a lot watching the butcher, and enjoyed seeing the process. Someday I hope to be able to butcher most of our own animals. It'd sure save a chunk of change ($65 per pig for instance....)

A phone call from the butcher shop on Wednesday  allowed me to give our specifications for cut and wrap. I love being able to do that. 

And today? We went to pick up our fresh pork this morning. 
 
I also met the man who had purchased out extra hog from Craigslist and was paid. That money covered our cut, wrap and cure, and paid for the kill fee on the sold pig and our pig. Not too shabby! It was a blessing that it went so smoothly. I had never done that before, and was a bit worried about it all. 

Once the money part had been taken care of, three of my helpers loaded the fresh pork into boxes in the back of the Suburban.  

We had a makeshift assembly line going which tied in nicely with our coverage of Henry Ford in history yesterday! 


We are looking forward to sausage, ribs and roast this winter! Since we aren't butchering a cow this fall, pork and chicken will make up the bulk of our meat for the time being. 


The bags you see contain the pork fat. I'll be rendering that into lard in the crockpot in a few weeks. I'm hoping to try my hand at soap making with it! 

Now all that's left is to pick up the cured hams and bacon in a couple of weeks, yum!!

What's your favorite pork recipe? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Importance of Carbon on a Homestead

Ah animals.  They offer great entertainment, wonderful food products and many other benefits.  They also...poop.  A lot!  And while that poop can be a fabulous addition to the soil, it can quickly turn a farm into a stinky place if not properly taken care of. 

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not using our farm poop to its fullest potential yet.  I've been learning.  And I think the most important thing I've learned (due to many of Joel Salatin's books) is that carbon is essential. 

Poop has a lot of nitrogen in it.  That ammonia smell that can build up in the chicken coop? Yeah means there is an imbalance of nitrogen and carbon.  The solution?  Add some carbon!  On a frequent basis.

We keep bins of wood shavings by the meat birds.  Since we have to lock them up at night to avoid predator problems (mainly owls and hawks right now), each morning the coops are ready for a fresh dose of carbon.

 The wood shavings (which we got last year while cutting wood and running the limbs through a chipper) keep the smell down.  They keep the animals cleaner.  And they speed up the composting process! Win, win, win!!!

In the coop where our layers are, we use straw or hay that has been spilled from the cows.  Since we overwinter these birds, I think this works better than the shavings for providing a deep bedding routine.  It also allows me to use the same bedding in the nest boxes as on the floor, so I can dump the stuff from the boxes onto the floor and then just add fresh to the boxes. 

The cows also need carbon--once they are in the barn for the winter. Out on the pasture, they have the grass to lay on and that provides plenty of carbon without me needing to do any work.

 I almost always use straw for cows, but have read about using shavings with them as well, so might try that if the price of straw doesn't drop here soon. 

Rusty, our bull, enjoyed a nice carbon rich stall before being released to the pasture.
If you are experiencing some stink around your animals, your carbon balance is something you'll want to check out!

What is your favorite carbon rich bedding for your critters?