The rooster project 

This year and the last couple of years I’ve had my silkies hatch out select eggs for replacement chickens. Not all hens will go broody but the little silkies are masters at it.  Some of the Orpingtons will go broody and the Red Rock cross but as I continue to “grow my own” that particular trait will come back. We hatched the most this year as my laying hens are all getting long in the tooth and I like eggs. I also like chickens. I love watching them–their personalities make me smile. I love the color variations in the feathers and the style of their combs and their bright chicken eyes that don’t miss a thing. I hatched a few more chicks this year to have some for the freezer. I planned to keep all the girls and the boys would be butchered–such is the lot of male animals on the farm. But oh my goodness, the beautiful roosters.

 The girls are all plain janes and the boys got the colours and the funky hair-dos, and the exotic combs and feathered feet.

 They are all different and beautiful and I spent a good part of the afternoon Saturday watching the boys. My daughter and I had separated them out and put them in the barn where I could fatten them up. Such a colourful group.

  They are not really meat birds and are slow to mature. This suits me just fine as I don’t like to butcher when the wasps are out. They are drawn to the blood and I get stung more often than I like.  But this fall the Roos won’t be ready till later in November. It’s a hot job anyway, and if it’s really cold I’ll work in the barn. But for now I’ll just enjoy looking at my pretty boys.

Bacon causes cancer?!?

This was the headline on the news this morning. It’s in the same category as asbestos and tobacco. In fact all processed meats fall into this category. I’m not a big fan of processed meats–the nitrites, the preservatives, give the meat a funny taste which I don’t like. But I do love bacon. What I don’t like is cooking it.  

 It bites me every time and that limits the number of times I cook/eat it. Maybe once a month. More often when we go camping.  My daughter loves it too. So I left her a note on the white board this morning. And when I got home I saw she had left me a reply.  

 Hilarious!!

Anyway I got up and out on my run only to find out at my first pickup that there was no school today. It was so nice just to turn around and go home. It was a misty foggy morning and the view across the valley was very pretty.  

 I made up a batch of bread dough fully intending to make a couple of trays of beet-niks. That is, small fingers of bread dough with a beet leaf wrapped around it baked until golden then a creamy dill sauce is poured over the top and the tray put back in the oven till everything is all hot and bubbly. I could eat a whole tray full at a time. But by the time I got all my running around done today I was feeling sort of lazy and just made a couple loaves of bread.  

  

  

  

  

 I have beets in the garden and had planned to use the last of the beet leafs up but they will keep. Not much longer but maybe I’ll get to them this weekend. It’s supposed to rain and snow tonight but clear again. What a lovely fall. 

The pig project redux

I had noticed that Pig was needing a mani-pedi before winter.  It rained this weekend and the freshly scraped yard was a perfect sponge for soaking those rock hard nails. We’d had such a hard time last year trimming Pig’s nails. She fought and struggled and screamed and shrieked. What a production. It was hard on her and hard on us. This year I resolved to do things a little differently. I had Aidan do some research at the vets for some sort of a tranquilizer. But without knowing Pig’s weight,and the limited types of drugs available,  prescribing something safe AND effective was difficult. The suggestion was to give Pig a beer and see if that calmed her any. (I know it calms me ūüėú). So I made a stop at the liquor board store and asked for an over proof beer. I was going to pick up two just in case but this one came in a convenient one litre size.  

 I found my snips and to cover all bases, pulled out the tin snips too. My memory was that even with a couple days soaking, Pig’s nails were too much for the cross cut trimmers. (Maybe she needed to soak in Dawn?!? Palmolive?!? I’ve forgotten that commercial) After work, we went out and poured Pig her beer. We had tried yesterday with just an ordinary beer and Pig slurped it right down. I poured it high to make the bubbles dissipate faster.  

  

 She drank and drank then stopped. Aidan sprinkled some dog kibble (beer nuts?)on top and Pig drank and munched. Then I threw a handful of chop in and she finished it off. I could see she was a bit wibbly as she toddled off to the barn. Aidan and I were killing ourselves laughing.  Once inside we let the beer work its magic. Then a deep breath, pail over Pig’s head, and down to work. As I suspected the cross cut snips didn’t have enough oomph–but the tin snips did the trick.  

 Snip snip snip…turn…snip snip snip. Done– just like that. Pig didn’t scream like last year, she just sort of moaned. Loudly. But no hysteria. And she didn’t turn into a mean drunk as I feared.  

  

  

  

 A couple of graham crackers as a treat and she wobbled into bed to sleep it off. Now her toes are all purdy and Piggy will have sweet beery dreams. 

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday was such a gorgeous day. It didn’t start out that way. It started all cloudy and dull–even a little cool. Aidan and I had to haul the alphalfa cubes from the front yard to the grainary. Hay is very expensive this year–my neighbour sold me bales at a very reasonable price but even so, I only got twelve big round bales. Last year I had eighteen but I had more mouths to feed. We thought we would supplement the hay with alphalfa cubes.  No waste, no dust, and lots of protein. Aidan filled the pails and I used the garden tractor to haul the pails to the back.  

 It actually worked pretty slick. Then my son came out to finish the roofing job started a few weeks ago. The sun came out and it turned into a perfect roofing day. While Bren roofed, I tractored. I scraped out the donkey shed (no more donkeys but the name has stuck), in front of the feeders and piled the manure pile high. Every farmer used to have a manure pile in the old days. Barns and pens were cleaned out and the waste piled high and left to rot. The manure generated a lot of heat which killed pathogens in the waste, and sterilized weed seeds. After some time, sometimes years, the resulting black gold would then be spread on the fields for fertilizer. The straw and manure was well rotted and made very good fertilizer. The pile I have in the back was created when I started with sheep, over 25 years ago. It is well rotted now, and I keep adding to it. I’ve only taken small amounts for my garden, and have supplied others with enough to fill flower pots etc.  but my stock has dwindled now to only a few head so production has slowed. These days manure is not aged but spread every year directly on fields. It’s a bad practise because the pathogens haven’t been killed, nor have the weed seeds, resulting in the increased use of pesticides. Intensive farming practises, high capacity barns and liquid manure pits seem to have rendered the manure pile obsolete.  

  

 It was a good day. I pushed up the sides of the pile, aerating it and mixing old and new manure together. It will rot down and on cool mornings it steams. I love to see the steam because it means the pile is working-it is a living thing. The heat is so intense it will melt snow, adding moisture which increases the rotting action. In the Middle Ages, back in Europe, the homeless would sleep buried in the edges of the village dung heap.  It was warm, and no one really smelled very good anyway. 

Today was a totally different day. Cold, windy, and rainy. I was so thankful I’d  got that work done yesterday. I had a turkey in the freezer that needed eating. I didn’t want to cook the whole bird so I carved the breasts off and made thin cutlets.  

  

  

 Dipped in flour, egg wash and finally panko  bread crumbs, I fried them in butter and lard.  

  

  

 Turkey snitzle. Mashed potato, turnip and carrot with maple sugar, creamed corn, cranberry sauce and a spice cake with browned butter icing for dessert.   

  

 My son came over for supper and took leftovers home. There’s lots left for us too. I won’t have to cook for a few days.    

Happy Thanksgiving. 

The pig project 

How loud can a pig squeal?!?  Average pig squeals will reach 100 to 115 decibels. That’s loud. The Concord jet was banned from flying over New York because it’s engines were 112 decibels. Chainsaws are around 100 and modern jets are around 140. My pig will easily top that.  

 Winter is coming and I was struggling with creating a pig house that was goat proof. The first winter PigPig had a nice corner of the sheep barn, with a sheep panel for walls and a well insulated top. I hung a heat lamp inside and the cats, who are opportunists, found it and snuggled down comfortably on top of Pig right under the light.  

 Pig was happy with her furry purry blanket, and it was a good year. Last year the chickens took over Pig’s side of the barn, so Pig had to share with the goats. Goats don’t play nice and Pig is a sensitive soul. I finally had to build some walls for pig and a door that was goat proof. I didn’t have much luck. Finally I taped some of my garden stakes to the goats horns to create a larger profile so they wouldn’t tap dance on Pig’s head. It worked for a while but the goats were determined. They soon learned where the “edges” were and manoeuvred themselves into PigPig’s house. 

This year I purchased a sheet of 3/4 inch OSB, had it cut in half, cut a doorway out and hung it in the barn. I filled it full of straw and my daughter tossed in a handful of dog kibble as bait. Now, how to get the pig in? PigPig was traumatized by the goats and the barn also held bad memories of her last pedicure. She is not really a large pig but she has no handles, no place to hold onto. And as a prey animal she screams bloody murder when held or manhandled. We tried to gently lure her in a few days ago.  She would come up to the door but no further. We tried food but even that wasn’t enticement enough. So when she got close we tried to push her in. It was like trying to push my school bus with the park brakes on. She was a supersonic screaming machine. Finally we grabbed a bucket, a trick I’d learned either from James Herriot or my neighbour, I can’t remember who, but it worked. Put the bucket over the pigs head and hang on. The pig will back away, screaming like a banshee, but if you can hang on and keep the bucket over the head, you can steer the pig backwards. Works like a charm. But pigs are smart and PigPig knew exactly where she was, and she was not going to back into the barn. Three tries later, our ears ringing, Pig was in, the door closed, dog kibble and cookies sprinkled in her new house, and we went to bed hoping her royal greediness would settle down in her new home.  Nope. My daughter checked the next morning and Pig was sulking by the barn door.  

 Ok. More kibble. And I opened the house up so PigPig could find the cookies then closed it behind her. If she finds her way out then then can find her way back in again.  Day two. Still sulking by the door. I had to jam another board in the bottom of the door to prevent Pig from pushing her way out with her snout. Then, day three, miracle of miracles, PigPig was inside happily munching kibble.  

  

 Success. I let her out for the day then locked her back up, sans goats for the night. So now it’s home sweet home, after ten minutes of screaming and two days of sulking. I taped up the goats horns and yesterday just left the barn open. Pig was happily ensconced in her house and the goats slept off to the side. Another job done. I’ll hang a heat lamp for Pig when it gets colder and no doubt the cats will join her again. I like when things come together.   

  

Million dollar pickles

Yesterday was a rainy day and my daughter and I headed into Saskatoon for the day. First stop was Vet-a-vision.  

 Not quite the display there was in previous years but interesting non-the-less. Lunch was at the fabulous Park Diner on 20th street.  

  

  

 Conveniently close to the Roxy where we saw Mr Holmes. A movie about growing old, regrets and redemption.  

  

  

 Off to the bookstore and a few more stops before driving home in the rain. And then just so I had something to show for the day I decided to prepare the veggies for million dollar pickles. This is one of the pickle recipes my mother used to make. Perfect recipe for those too big for anything else cukes. These are my last of the season pickles usually cause I don’t get to them soon enough. They are also perfect made with younger more tender cukes. Last night I peeled, seeded and sliced a big bowlful of oversize cukes.  

 Then I sliced up sweet red peppers that add color and an equal amount of green peppers.  

  

  

 Added sliced onions, salted well, covered with ice and left to sit over night. This morning I washed jars and made the pickle syrup while the pickles drained. Sugar, cider vinegar, turmeric, mustard and dill seed, the pickles simmered in the syrup for 20 minutes then I bottled them.  

  

 Only five and a half pints but my sisters’ favorite.  Hope she likes them. 

 

Supper

What to have for supper after harvesting potatoes?  They are at their crispy goodness right now and new potatoes make the best fries. 

  I chose a few lovelies from the top of the pail. You can see the beautiful color contrast of the flesh and the skin on the Purple Carribe and the golden goodness of the Yukon.  

  

  

 Scrubbed, sliced, fried in lard, layered with cheese, doused in gravey with lashings of ketchup…bliss.  

 Perfect to enjoy with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. What a nice evening!!

Spuds

I let the ponies down the hill the other day. There’s lots of grass and it’s not too lush to give them a belly ache. The colours are really incredible. ¬†Look at that fat pony!!

 And the sun on trees and the bus in the yard was brilliant.

¬†¬†¬†It promised to be an excellent day for digging spuds. Potatoes need to dry before storage so they don’t rot. Lots of sun and a breeze is best. I dug the red potatoes first. What a lot of work for a tiny crop. I’ve always liked this red potato, the Purple Carribe. Purple skin and flesh as white as snow, it bakes, boils and fries–dryish flesh that sucks up butter and cream when mashed, holds a prodigious amount of gravey, and makes crispy fries. I planted 35/40 hills and only harvested two five gallon pails.
¬†¬†¬†Purple Carribe are excellent keepers in the right conditions. A friend of mine gave me ten pounds last spring. They were as firm and perfect as if he had just dug them. My storage leaves a lot to be desired. In my pump house the temperature is either too hot or too cold, and definitely too dry. The potatoes that survive to spring are alien creatures all shrivelled and sprouted–good for planting not for eating.
¬†I had much better luck with my Yukon Gold. I love these potatoes. Smooth golden skin, creamy golden flesh, perfect for mashed because they look and taste like the cook has dropped a pound of butter into the pot ¬†(I fool my son every time)so all you need is gravey poured on top. Yummm…

 I harvested four ten gallon pails of big Yukon Gold and three quarters of a pail of tiny little gems to eat right away. Harvesting is hard work but eating my own potatoes thru the winter makes it all worth while.