super moon and eclipse

 

Today my daughter and I cleaned the chicken pen out–not as bad as I thought it would be.  So nice to have it done.

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A winter’s accumulation of bedding and chicken poop–but it was pretty dry–the chickens have been outside for most of the last five or six months.  Everything came out, right down to the soil–then I spread of good layer of stall dry down and will just let it air out for a couple days.  It’s so funny–my daughter had this side of the barn as a bunny barn many years ago and burrows are still collapsing.  Those rabbits moved a whole pile of earth.

Once that was done, I also cleaned out the larger of the two chicken coops, re-bedded it and refreshed the laying boxes.  hen inside for a hot shower and a rest on the couch.

Tonight was the super moon and lunar eclipse.  At seven I filled a bowl with pasta and took my water bottle and a peanut butter cup from the freezer and parked the truck on the top of the hill.  I sat and watched the moon while I ate my supper–what a show!!

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This last picture is not mine.  My sister sent it to me–someone in Regina with a much better camera than my iphone took it.  But this is exactly what it looked like.  Incredible.  Perfect time also–usually the eclipse happenes at three am and I can only manage to open one bleary eye then go back to bed, darn, too cloudy to get up

Well, it was a darn good day.  Back to the bus tomorrow…

Hurray, hurray it’s auction day!!!

This is the day I wait for all of late summer–the day I get the eliminate all the lawn ornaments from the feeding schedule. The Odd and Exotic Sale was on in Lloyd and I had roosters and goats that needed to go.  

  This was one big goat, an Alpine buck. Seemed very gentle though but big. The little goats went for crazy money, for pets. I was shopping when mine went, I guess I’ll find out what they went for in a couple weeks when I get the check.   
 My daughter had some rabbits that didn’t fit in with her breeding program anymore. Unfortunately it’s a buyers market today as everyone is off-loading the free-loaders from the farm. I had to pay $3.50 per head to enter them in the sale, plus 15% commission so I was really hoping just to break even on the roosters. One went for $15, one for $7 and the last two went for $2 each. My god, I was paying someone to take them. I could have butchered them and stewed them for several days, but I really didn’t want to. They were quite beautiful roosters but as a male animal (sorry boys) only fit for the stew pot any time of year. I should have just set them in the parking lot and said free. But my daughter and I have picked up stock in the fall for peanuts too, and have been very happy to have them. Hopefully they went to a home that appreciates them. Then I off loaded three goats–one of the sextuplets who was bred by accident, her baby and the baby that came from the goat I sold my neighbour. Three trouble makers–pig torturers, chicken food eaters, fence crawlers, and general miscreants. Good riddance. I hope someone eats them. (Goat meat, chevon, is actually delicious!!). The sale was huge and really good stock went for next to nothing. Good for the people who have room to house all the extra mouths they picked up. We just happened to be there for the high sale of the day, a spotted pony stud that went for $2900.   

  

 Wow!!  Unbelievable. A spot of shopping, a fabulous breakfast, good bye goats…it was a good day. These were the clouds on the way home.  

   And the moon over the valley tonight as we did chores.   
   

Work work work

There have been a few jobs at the farm that haven’t been getting done as fast as I would like. A chance remark by one of my bus driving co-workers raised my hopes. Her husband did odd jobs on the side. I knew him from the local hardware store and when he said he would roof one of my sheds I did a little dance of joy. Actually more of a hobble but I was happy. I ordered the roofing–because of the low slope this shed had always been roofed with rolled roofing. It’s a specialty product and has to be ordered. It may not even be available in coming years. Every time I order some they tell me it’s not being made any more. These seven rolls may have been kicking around for a while. The pebbles were falling out of the tar at an alarming rate but it was sure better than what was left on the roof   I picked up tar and nails, roof drip edge, some new fascia boards and organized my son to come out and help. I also found a roll of tar paper in one of the other sheds and we were good to go. It was a beautiful day, warm enough to soften the tar in the roofing and no wind to blow anyone off the roof. A few hours stripping the old roofing off, some surface prep, cutting the new roofing to size, laying the tar paper and new shingles–the boys were done in a day. A long day, especially towards the end but it’s all done and I’m so happy. That’s one job that’s not hanging over my head anymore.     

    
     
    
 

Playing catch-up

These last couple weeks have been a blur.  I have been trying to switch bus companies and had been hoping a run would come available prior to the start of the school year.  Unfortunately someone quit about two weeks ago on the run I had been hoping for.  It has been a panic trying to accommodate both companies, not leaving mine short a driver and wanting to be available to take the run I had been wanting.  It has all come together and yesterday was my last day driving the group of kids I’d spent the last two years with.   It was surprisingly difficult to say good-by–even to the more challenging of the kids, and the family who I thought would be most glad to see me go were the ones who gave me a Timmies coffee mug and each gave me a big hug good-by.  I had them all sign their names on the mug with my Sharpie and I will proudly use the mug till it wears out.IMG_7810 IMG_7811

I’ve also lined someone up to do the roofing on the horse barn and on the green shed, so I’ve been running around ordering supplies, picking them up, and still trying to empty the garden.  I picked the last of the peppers, picked all the tomatillos, pulled most of the pumpkins and have been digging out the corn stalks.

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To have a tomallillo produce you need two plants at least, so I picked up three just to make sure.  I have probably six/seven gallons of tomatillos–far far too many for me.  I will make some green salsa, which I actually prefer to the tomato salsa, but I haven’t really found a good recipe yet.  I will make a few small batches of different recipes to see which one I like the best.

I’ve been covering the cukes because I’m just not ready to do anything with them and they keep better on the vine.  Frost has been forecast but so far so good, it hasn’t frozen yet.  I have a request for million dollar pickles, somebodies “favorite”.  I’ve tried the dilly carrots, now that they’ve had a chance to mellow and they are excellent.  So I have to make more of those.  I have been given a couple of pails of tomatoes and will make more salsa and some tomato chutney.

Last night I sliced up the peppers to make Cowboy Candy.

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This recipe calls for Jalapeno peppers but as I only had Gypsy peppers, I used those.  I searched on line for information on Gypsy peppers and have discovered there are no matches for the peppers I have.  From their appearance and heat I think they are actually Hungarian wax peppers, equal to or greater than the Jalapeno on the Scoville scale.  Not quite as meaty, but the recipe sounded very good.  Sliced hot peppers in a sugar/vinegar syrup laced with garlic, mustard and dill seeds and a spoonful of turmeric.

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Good on a burger, on a sandwich or with cheese and crackers.  I made four and a half pints–the remainder of the pickles went into plain pickled peppers–I will use these instead of pickled jalapenos on nachos, in cornbread, or in quesadillas.  I only got two and a half pints of these but enough to try.  If they work, I will plant more peppers next year.  This has been a banner year for peppers, I’ve never had such a bountiful harvest of store sized, store quality peppers–except of course they are better than store quality, they are fresh off the vine and into the pot in an hour.

Now to the salsa pot…

A day at the river

Today was one of those days you dream about in January when it’s -25C with a windchill. Hot, calm, geese and cranes flying overhead–that blue blue sky–leaves turning every shade of yellow and the smell of fall in the air. Too nice not to take advantage of. I tried to do some work in the morning. I finished the last corner of my barn. Aidan harnessed Zeta and we hooked up the calf sleigh. There were about five soggy loads of bedding and I forked them out but it was just too hot to continue. We retired to the house and decided to spend the afternoon down at the river.    

 I called my son and off we went. The river was warm and shallow, the sand smooth. What a glorious afternoon.    

  

 We caught crayfish and dug clams.     My sons dog chased sticks and dug holes.   

  

  We had planned to start a fire and roast some hotdogs but I was called to the rink to work a hockey game.  We settled for ice cream instead. But hopefully we’ll go again before it gets cold.    

   

A summons

I have known my neighbour my whole life.  He wasn’t always my neighbour, but my father’s friend and trusted foreman.  I actually worked under him for years and he was tough…but fair and well respected.  We worked thru many coffee breaks and lunch hours and union be-damned, we didn’t complain.  We knew that when we needed time for a sick child or parent this man was there for us and he had our backs when the good citizens, the side walk foremen who are tax payers, would complain about this or that.  We were the front line workers and had no choice about what we did, but we got the flak because we were visible.  I remember when the engineer who replaced my dad told him to pour a concrete curb on top of some sod, he pulled his hat askew and said in his hillbilly voice, ” I don’t care how many years you went to school, you can’t pour concrete on grass…”  In the end, he did it his way, the right way.

When I moved out to the acreage, he was my go-to source of information on sick animals, how to feed and how to butcher, how to pull a stuck lamb out into the world without injury to mom or baby.  He always mocked me and called me “a drugstore”, that is a wanna-be farmer/cowboy.  It was mostly in good fun–and I learned so much from him.

He called me yesterday morning and “summoned” me to a cheese tasting.  I had sold him a young doe earlier in the spring–one animal he has never had much experience with was the goat.

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He had read about the benefits of goat milk and wanted to try it.  The doe was one of six babies born to my Saanen doe.  Because there were so many babies they were all on the small side, but she had the good Saanen genes.  She wound up being bred by accident and he thought he might try and make her into a goat.  He always liked to buy the animals that looked like they needed some help, feed them well, house them well, train them well–and you would never know six months later, that it was the same animal.  So he took that little goat and fed her up, kept her warm and dry and she produced a healthy kid for him.  He built a nice little milking parlour in his barn, goat sized and when the baby was able to nibble solid food, he began to milk Momma goat.  She produced snow white, mild tasting milk.  Then, a month ago he told my daughter to come and pick up the weaned baby–he wanted to milk with the idea of making cheese.

Several years ago I took a cheese making course given thru the extension division of the U of S.  A cheesemaker from Ontario came to teach and asked everyone our experience making cheese.  At that time I had made goat cheese, feta, and chevre, the soft creamy spreadable goat cheese.  I told her I didn’t use any culture and she said, well, that wasn’t really cheese then, it was a cheese-like product.  Hmmm…All I could think was that the French farm wife making chevre out of goats milk she’d milked that morning sure wasn’t running out to buy a culture–she would be using the natural yeasts and bacteria in her own kitchen, seeding the milk perhaps with a previous batch–and her chevre would taste slightly different from her neighbour in the next village because the wild yeasts etc were unique to each kitchen.  Anyway–I did really enjoy the class but wasn’t entirely convinced that laboratory cultures were the best way to go.

My neighbour had made three different cheeses, with three different methods.  He was not a novice cheesemaker, he’d had dairy cows and his son, with whom I also worked for years, told me he had to milk seven cows each morning before he caught the school bus into town, and milk those same seven cows before supper each night.

The three cheeses were a chevre, mixed with olives; a hard chedder type slicing cheese and a blue cheese.  All three were excellent–and the blue cheese, while young, was just an example of creative genius.  He’d seeded the curd with store bought blue cheese, and of course the mold was still living.  The cheese was sharp and creamy and crumbly, all at the same time.  A few weeks of aging in the basement would turn it into something sublime.  The slicing cheese, was firm and creamy, slicing easily but with a crumb–much like an old cheddar.  Again, some aging would turn it into something really wonderful, but it was excellent as it was.  The chevre was easily the best I’ve eaten, much much better than my own, and better than the Salt Spring Chevre I purchased this summer.  So much for the theory that without culture it wasn’t real cheese.  As Monty Python says,”I flip my nose at you!!”  cheesemaker from Ontario…

He send me home with a heel of the cheddar cheese and two pots of goats milk yogurt, which I promptly devoured with the chokecherry syrup I just made.

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I could just cry when I think that knowledge like my neighbours is not filtering down to the next generation.  No body cares…it’s always been my dream to be as self sufficient as possible, and I try and try.  I’m getting better but my neighbour is an inspiration to me.  He is eighty years old, and if we were forced thru world war or climate change to reinvent the world, I would want to be as close to him as possible.  He is a survivor.

Data speed back up

That was a very painful few weeks–what did we ever do before smart phones?  I was so annoyed at the slow data speed and the cracked screen that even though I’ve been beavering away in the kitchen, all I’ve been able to do is take pictures.  But I have processed 20/30 pints of corn, a couple dozen pints of salsa, tomato jam and beet and horseradish relish.  So I have been busy and tired at the end of the day.

The corn this year is particularly scrummy.  Lots of heat, infrequent but heavy rain showers–the sugar content is very high.  Extra Early Super Sweet is the best name ever I have been growing this corn for years.  I always thought that sweet corn was one of those food items you ate  only for the taste, not the nutrition.  A guilty pleasure slathered in butter and salt– enjoyed infrequently, seasonally, as it ripened in the garden.  Then I stumbled across these few fun facts and they changed the way I thought about corn.

***Myth #1: Most sweet corn is genetically modified.
Truth: A lot of people mix up “sweet corn,” the vegetable you buy to eat, and “field corn”—the virtually inedible commodity crop used to make everything from livestock feed to ethanol to high-fructose corn syrup. While most field corn is genetically modified, most sweet corn is not. Last year only 3 to 4% of the sweet corn grown in the U.S. was GMO. Food-giant Monsanto hopes to change all that this summer, however. For the first time, farmers are planting Monsanto’s newly approved, genetically modified Performance sweet-corn seeds. (Another reason not to eat grocery store niblets).

Myth #2: Corn is fattening and sugary.
Truth: An ear of corn has about the same number of calories as an apple and less than one-fourth the sugar. In other words, it can be one of the healthier foods at the cookout! Just remember: while sweet corn is healthy, some of the toppings people like to put on it aren’t. So don’t assume an ear of corn slathered in butter and doused in salt is still a healthy option.

Myth #3: Cooking corn makes it less nutritious.
Truth: Antioxidant activity, which helps protect the body from cancer and heart disease, is actually increased when corn is cooked.

Myth #4: Corn has no healthy benefits.
Truth: Sweet corn is loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals that promote healthy vision. A midsize ear also offers a helpful 3-gram dose of dietary fiber.

Myth #5: The best way to choose corn is by the color of the kernels.
Truth: Although corn lovers often profess to have favorite varieties,  variety is far less important than freshness. Nor is color a key to quality. Yellow, white, bi-color—it doesn’t really matter. Preferences vary from region to region. Avoid corn with dry, pale husks and silks that are desiccated where they enter the cob. If pricked, kernels should squirt whitish juice. As for choosing the best-tasting corn, abide the “one-day rule.” Don’t buy a cob that’s more than 24 hours out of the field.***

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I used to only eat it fresh from the garden, make some corn relish and then give the rest away.  I never considered preserving it any other way.  But after reading these myth busters, this year I am preserving the harvest by making creamed corn and freezing the kernels.  Creamed corn can be used as a side dish, added to soups or stews, think chili, and made into corn bread or pudding.

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Cream the kernels, that is, cut the corn off the cob (halfway thru the kernel) and then run the knife down the cob to squeeze out the milk and tender insides. add butter and half and half just to keep it juicy and moist, and bake in the oven till hot and bubbling.

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The baking destroys the enzymes that spoil food, much in the same way blanching produce before freezing protects it.  Spoon into freezer bags, squeeze the air out and flatten the bags to make it easier to store and faster to freeze.

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The measurements are not an exact science–I cut corn till my hand cramped and formed a claw that wouldn’t relax (a large roaster full of kernels), a wob of butter (think of old cake recipes using butter the size of an egg–what size egg??  previous posts will show you they are not created equal) and a sploosh of cream (again, that old cake recipe calling for a teacupful of milk–Grandmas favorite cup?!?)  I couldn’t stop eating it as I packaged it up.  Sweet and tender and delicious.  Also nutritious as I’ve now learned.

The corn relish is a new recipe. I’ll add a link here for those interested–this was the best corn relish I’ve ever made.

http://www.thesaucysoutherner.com/sweet-and-hot-corn-relish/

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Everything came from the garden but the red pepper, I had to buy one because I like the color in the relish.  I also added green pepper from the garden and a big handful of those hot Gypsy peppers.

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I used my own garden onions–they are not sweet, but I had them.  I also had tenish cups of corn (maybe more) as I cut till I thought I had enough, then measured and wasn’t going to give the chickens the extra.  There is still corn in the garden so I will make another batch of relish, freeze some more and then start feeding the animals the stalks, as they love them too.