Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

Friday, December 19, 2014

Meet and Greet

Photo #1  Goldie.  An attractive and (more importantly) well behaved rooster selected from our flock of broilers last year.  Large and in charge, he is a real presence in the hen house.  I look forward to seeing what kind of offspring result from pairing him with our broiler hens. The rangers are a 4 cross hybrid so odds are the results will be unpredictable... but that's the fun part right?

Photo #2 Rocky.  The one and only Barred Rock Rooster himself.  From a order of 25 hens Rocky here was the only male overlooked.  Rocky and Goldie get along well and usually divvy up the roostering duties evenly even though there is a striking size difference between them.  Rocky doesn't seem to mind being overlooked, and he is always watching for danger from around the corner and under cover.

Photo #3 Just one of the "lucky ladies" the boys spend all that effort crowing about.  Her, the 15 other Barred Rock hens just like her will make up the majority of this year's laying flock. The other girls are varied a bit.  A few broiler hens from this year, a few more from the year before and only a handful of Rhode Island Red hens pushing their 3rd year rounds out the bunch.

We're looking forward to a productive hen house I think.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


A side benefit to all that applesauce and all those apples comes in the form of home made apple cider, apple mead, apple wine, hard cider and the like. "Apple ferments" for lack of a better term. I love me some homebrewed apple ferments.

Between a general lack of (empty) brewing equipment and the rush to put up all that apple sauce right away my apple related brewing was more of an afterthought than a project. Even so, I had 7 gallons worth of beverage ready to re-rack and get into a secondary fermenter this week.

While this is certainly not enough to eliminate my hard cider purchasing over a whole year it will put a nice comfortable dent in it I think.  Planning starts now to be geared up and ready to go for much more fermenting by next fall's harvest.  I am ABSOLUTELY sure I want an annual cider tradition around here (and I'm equally sure the folks getting gifts from us would enjoy that greatly also).

Getting started is easy.  Anyone familiar with my friend Carlo Rossi probably already spotted him in my photograph.  Recycling glass gallon jugs is awesome, but food grade plastic buckets or even larger glass vessels are great too.  If all you have is a glass gallon, an air lock, a recipe, and some brewer's yeast you are ready to begin.  Some folks get really into following a recipe and prefer certain products or techniques to follow each time.  I myself find taking a relaxed approach to it with more than a little playful experimentation still yields great results and often cool surprises.

Like so much else that is worth the wait the problem lies within the waiting. I should be able to keep my hands off it until Christmas.  I hope.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Five and One Half Months

From July 1st to December 15th is 167 days, or 5 months 14 days, or exactly how long it took those Barred Rock layers to produce their first wee little eggs.

We've been in a real dry patch for eggs lately between the seasonal decrease (caused by day length), the older girls molting, and the overall colder temperatures.  We've never used supplemental lighting in our coop before this year but after weeks without an egg the setup and experiment is worth it I think.  With an egg or three per day from the older girls since the light went on I'm glad we did set one up.

Today we should be turning the corner on the shortage though.  This pair of little "beginner" eggs should be the tip of the iceberg.  16 girls gearing up will mean a small pile of this little eggs now, and a dozen at least per day in the spring.

Ah...spring.  On second thought, don't talk to me about spring right now I still have snow between my toes I think.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Apples. Apples all the way down.

Windfall apples. Literally. 15 bushels.
You may have detected a theme, here at the homestead.  We spend the majority of our time working with, working on, and talking about things that we like.  Never forget that it is OK to surround yourself with work that you like, things that you like, food that you like, you know the IMPORTANT things, the things that make you feel good the things that make you feel the most YOU.

Like apples.  There are whole sections of the country where folks are no more than a short drive away from an apple orchard. Facebook is covered right now with people happily indulging in their fall tradition of an afternoon spent apple picking. They will spend a few hours there, pick a few apples, take a few home, pay top dollar for top quality and leave happy. I am not so easily satisfied. (continued)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How To: Oven Pickles

Ugly oven, shiny pickles.
More about pickles? Yes, more pickles.  Batch style pickles are good for the end of the season as your supply begins to wind down.  If you have made your batch of real pickles you should have enough pickles to satisfy for now, these ones will last longer. This is also a good approach to use for longer term storage as these pickles will leave the oven canned and ready to hit the pantry.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How To: Canning That Extra Chicken

First, You will need one of these. (Click for Amazon)
Previously, we discussed turning a chicken from one meal into several and it was pointed out (accurately) that while I mentioned the canning process I did not discuss it.  An omission to be rectified immediately.

Canning for long term storage is all about heat treatment and safety.  Safety while you work around the hot equipment and the hot stove, safety in ensuring you are using the right recipe for the right foods, safety, safety, safety.

It is possible to make yourself sick with improperly canned foods and it is possible to burn yourself while working with high temperatures and the stove top. Proper understanding, instruction, and due diligence are your responsibility. Protecting you and your family from accidents should be your number one priority. (continued)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PPPP Report Week 13

You'd look mad too if I photographed your morning bath.
Last week marked the forecast end of the Promised Pastured Poultry Progress Reports, but there is always more to the story.  On Monday I alluded to the fact that there was a broiler in the pot and that we graduated several birds over the weekend but didn't go into much detail. From the beginning I've been looking forward to this year's chicken and dinner Sunday night was everything I had been looking forward to.

Mrs. Farmer gets full credit for the preparation and cooking, and that was the best chicken I've had in a long time. A sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done is part of that, but good food, good air, and sunshine for the chickens accounts for much more.  (continued)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stretching A Chicken Dinner

Yes, I have chicken overwintering in quart jars.
It might be comfortable, I've never tried it.
Ah, it's fall now, you can tell because Mrs. Farmer refuses to let me leave the windows open at night and has both started checking the weather forecast for frost advisory and begun wearing her fuzzy slippers in the morning. Others may count from the equinox or when the leaves begin to change their color but I know better (and a wise man never argues with his wife).

This weekend our time was spent graduating chickens (old and new) and getting them set up in their winter homes (the freezer or pantry). We're not even close to finished with that yet, but chicken processing and storage have been on my mind daily of late.(continued)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

PPPP Report Week 12

That's all folks!  Here's week 12 of your Promised Pastured Poultry Progress Report! The boys are getting feisty now.  There are scuffles in the pen, and as you can see here they are setting their sights outside of the pen too.

So I have spent more time than I'd like herding broilers, but as prices to pay go this one isn't too bad it's only a little time and usually a few laughs for me.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thirty Degree Nights

Soon to be dried tomatoes
Our pretty little summer is truly over now, we had temps in the 30's overnight this weekend. It's not winter just yet, but my instincts are telling me we'll probably have early snow this year and a frost advisory before September is half over isn't arguing with that guess.

The impending winter provides an undertone of urgency that the hot August afternoons lacked. That shiver getting out of bed, having to squint out the window to see if that shine outside is dew or frost, the ever increasing backlog of fall bounty clamoring to be processed or preserved, all those chores and projects that needed to be done before snowfall... I have a love/hate relationship with fall. (continued)

Friday, September 12, 2014

PPPP Report Week 11

Somewhat delayed, only slightly postponed, here's your Promised Pastured Poultry Progress Report. The trials and travails from Wednesday's Unexpected Arrivals have resulted in a lot of changes and more than a little work but only a few noteworthy for our PPPPR since last week.

Only a week left for the boys!  Which means we will have several weekends of processing coming up.  We'll start actually this weekend, cleaning out the freezer, making room, and retiring some of our older laying hens. (continued)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Unexpected Arrivals

I shall tease you with an unrelated picture
of happy pork attacking windfall crab apples. 
There are a lot of things going on here at the farm.  A lot of "balls in the air" to use a popular phrase. Though I may not be a professional juggler I usually have a pretty good idea of when a ball is coming down though, so I can at least get out of the way if a catch is not possible.

Definitely dropped one today, which lead to a day of scrambling, setting up new accommodations with makeshift materials, and catching up on work I have been meaning to do for months and that (I thought) I would still have plenty of time to get to before they were necessary.(continued)

Monday, September 8, 2014

'Tis the Season to be Canning

I love it when the produce really starts coming in.  Not the dribs and drabs of the early crop, not the trickles of that one or two of variety that might be new to the garden but when that main flush finally hits.  Yes, that is a great time each year.  Both our tomatoes and those at the CSA have finally starred ripening in earnest.  This is not a huge surprise as the CSA is local and we have nearly identical climates but it does mean that when the produce starts to rain, it pours.

We will be doing a lot of canning but that's hardly the only option for storing the surplus of the season. (continued)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Watch For Mullein

Fuzzy Leaves.

Here in the northeast we've had a pretty mild summer and I've heard that other parts of the U.S. have as well.  My tomatoes and peppers may not be acting like their usual bright prolific selves but other plants are picking up the slack.

One example that doesn't seem to give a rip about our summer weather is Verbascum thapsus, the common mullein.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PPPP Report Week 10

Earlier sunsets plus cloud cover makes for bad photos.
It's that time again.  Welcome back for your regularly schedule Wednesday Promised Pastured Poultry Progress Report. Not watching the clock and a bit of a rain delay lead to chores (and photography) later in the afternoon than usual. The flash can only do so much to compensate for that, so I apologize that these pictures will not be as clear and bright as you're used to now.

We're into crunch time now.  Only 14 days left before the broiler boys are "ready".  Since we'll probably graduate them in stages (50 is a lot to do in one day with only 2 sets of hands) some will be running around a bit longer and end up a bit bigger but I doubt it will be a lengthy reprieve.  (continued)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

Busy busy bumblebee
Happy Labor Day.  Unlike some other holidays it seems like I'm always actually laboring on Labor Day.  This year has turned out to be no exception.

Time is always working against the homestead.  Really it's an obstacle we all face I think, part of the human condition itself.  With high temps in the 80's this week summer hasn't given up on us yet but really in my mind it is already Fall.  Many of the things I wanted done before winter are still not finished and at this point more than one may not make it into the "done" column before the snow flies either.

As long as I'm making some progress though it counts as a win, a good day.  Any day you aren't making progress is a day you are losing ground.  (continued)

Friday, August 29, 2014

What's in a Name? (The Hoop Coop, a light how-to)

I am unreasonably particular about names. I say unreasonable because of how much time I waste thinking about it, for one, and also because if the name for something doesn't fit properly the situation will be a major distraction until I've resolved the problem.  As you may imagine calling the new coop structure the "Broiler Boat" then filling it with hens and turkeys instead has been driving me crazy.

Now, I think of it as a Hoop Coop, which is no unique idea according to google so it may not be as exciting, but I feel quite a bit better about it.

Today, I'm going to run through some parts, measurements and steps for you in case you want to try out this structure yourself. (continued)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

PPPP Report Week 9

Six little ladies, taking their leave. With enough room for
first class, they scramble atop each other like it's coach.
Welcome back.  Once again it is Wednesday and it's time for the Promised Pastured Poultry Progress Report and I'm happy to let you know we've had our first scheduled reduction in tenants. Six of our little Barred Rock layers left in style Saturday.  They will be reclining in the lap of luxury as they bask, warm, happy, and well fed  as the backyard flock for our in laws.  Not new to chickens (they were there with us as we learned the ropes too, years ago) these will be the first birds at their place in over a year.

Turns out a year off, give or take was just about right. (continued)

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Bit About the Bacon

The latest paddock, slightly used.
As the pigs featured briefly in Friday's post, it is no surprise that questions about them cropped up over the weekend.  I have been fascinated by the boys since we first brought them home and it has been a learning experience throughout.

As we have discussed before the pigs are a welcome, if recent, addition to our farm  and my affection towards them has only increased as they continue to demonstrate just how awesome they are.  Not as awesome as bacon or sausage though, which bodes well for their eventual graduation. (continued)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Little Signs of Progress

Happy pigs.  Eating = Happy.
When you have a lot going on at once it can be easy to lose sight of where you are making progress.  Days where your best intentions become an extended example of "putting out fires" being behind schedule and scrambling just to keep up with needs to be done never mind the items on the agenda that you were hoping to address.

A day like that is stressful for me, as it would be for anyone, and while I may not call it a "good day" it is still often better than the alternative.  Dealing with those problems and having that rough day becomes a down payment on a (hopefully) smooth-sailing day tomorrow, or next week, or next month.  At the very least it is educational. Probably. I hope. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PPPP Report Week 8

The boys in the box.
It's Wednesday!  Time again for your Promised Pastured Poultry Progress Report. Only another month before the broilers are "done" and, let me tell you, the boys are BIG now.  Full sized chickens in their own right, if not quite as large as the broiler ideal yet.  All they need now is a little more time (and a lot more feed) and they'll be the plump broiler/roasters of my dreams.

The tail end of Week 7 saw us through to a total of 500 lbs. (10 bags) of feed and as of 8/19 we are on bag 14.  100 lbs a week may seem like a lot, but we're also talking about over 100 lbs. of poultry "on the hoof" now that they are so big. (continued)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Garden Photo Gallery

As teased on Friday, there are many many photographs of the garden last week. Without further ado, here they are, presented for your enjoyment.  As with previous photo posts I warn you after the break there are many pictures, ready to peg your internet connection and will be data heavy. If you are concerned about such things you may want to wait until you are in range of of wifi. (continued)

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Importance of the Gardens

Kale and Chard.
I love trees and perennials. Anything that's happy dumping massive amounts of food on my
head every year (and there are so many plants happy to do this) is bound to be a winner in my book.

With that said though, the majority of what can be produced in a hurry are annual crops.  I look forward to telling many stories about all the future surplus tree crops that will be raining all over the farm someday, but for now those are "someday" stories.  The crops gracing the table right now, the production we rely on today, are annuals. And most folks plant their annuals in the garden. (continued)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

PPPP Report Week 7

Happy Wednesday, welcome back to the Promised Pastured Peeper(Poultry) Progress Report. I can't really refer to them as peepers moving forward because while they still make noises that may sound like peeps they are really much to big to think of as babies anymore.

After some discussion after Week 6 about how much feed we've used Mrs. Farmer and I did a professional audit (which means counting empty bags off the floor of the shed) and determined that we had finished 7 bags of feed by Week 6 and are now into bag #10 as of Tuesday 8/12.  The "little" guys are eating a lot more now than before but soon we'll be tripling their pasture exposure which will certainly help. (continued)

Monday, August 11, 2014

How to Make Simple Sour Pickles

Cucumbers taste pretty good but really I don't think of them as all that special. PICKLES though, pickles are like magic.  Magic that takes something as bland as a cucumber and fills it with that incredible pickleness. Beyond that, if store bought pickles are magic, homemade pickles are downright miraculous.

Of course, cucumbers don't just volunteer to hop in the pickle jar so they require a little coaxing and a little know-how. As a long time standby of most gardens I find a lot of people end up with too many cucumbers and not enough desire to eat them.

Pickles help this in a couple different ways. (continued)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lazy Sunday Reader's Recap

Monday - Comfrey Tractor

Wednesday - PPPP Report Week 6

Thursday - Propagation Challenge

Friday - Farm Photo Friday

Which of this week’s updates was your favorite? Let us know in comments.
Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Farm Photo Friday

Miss Bumblebee and my echinacea 
A sampling of selected scenes as I made my way about the garden this morning.
We'll be hosting some visitors (and no doubt giving a tour) today so taking some time to ensure everything is looking good was well worth it.  Mobile users and those who pay for data be forewarned: lots of photos after the jump you may want to check back later on wifi.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Propagation Challenge!

A slightly dramatized, if not inaccurate representation
of my "pot problem".
Earlier this week a friend posed an interesting question.  "Do you have any empty pots, containers, or planters?" he asked. Of course the answer is yes.  One hardly accumulates so many plants for the yard and garden as we have without amassing surplus containers and we are no exception to this, the piles of surplus containers hither and yon are both large and deep here at the farm.

I should have known there would be a catch, of course, a twist... (continued)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

PPPP Report Week 6

Apologies for the black shadow there.
Apparently my phone case wanted to photobomb.
Happy halfway Wednesday. Welcome to the Promised Pastured Peeper Progress Report, week 6. It's halfway for the broilers, but it's not "downhill from here" as the saying goes.

Through Week 5 we had been continuing to use the brooder lamp on damp or chilly (or frequently, both) nights but I finally stopped that Thursday.  Mrs. Farmer would happily leave such in place indefinitely but approaching 6 weeks old and well passed the time they were fully feathered these guys should have been living without it already even with our summer nights being unseasonably cool.  (continued)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Comfrey Tractor

Comfrey; probably Symphytum x uplandicum
When folks have a garden and they hear you are starting one I find that most want to give you advice, a few will have an interesting trick or two, and some even want to give you plants to get yourself started on the right foot.  This is especially true of rare or obscure plants, with bonus points if the obscure plant in question can be put to good use.  

As far as obscure plants which can be put to good use go I have yet to meet a better candidate than comfrey.  With a few straggly leaves, an inch or two of root, and the promise that we would have no trouble getting that single cutting to take off I was admittedly skeptical.  I need not have worried.  In only a few weeks the single specimen had not only perked up, it was flowering profusely in its pleasant purple fashion.  Such flowers are only useful if you're rearing a non-hybrid variety of comfrey as hybrid seed (in comfrey's case) will not germinate.  But there are other ways to propogate the stuff.  It was time for phase 2 to begin.  (continued)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Garlic Season

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.” 
- Alice May Brock 
(of ‘Alice's Restaurant’ fame)

I love garlic.  If it is possible that such a thing can be carried to an extreme where it is no longer healthy, that is where garlic lives, for me.

It can improve almost any type of food, to paraphrase Angelo Pellegrini, with the possible exception of ice cream and pie... and I'm even thinking that's debatable, I bet I could find a way garlic would work for both.  Alas I have no time to devote to culinary experimentation, there are words to write!  But garlic ice cream, hmm, perhaps a suitably smooth puree whipped into a....  (continued)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

PPPP Report Week 5

Back on schedule, happy Wednesday.  Welcome to the Promised Pastured Peeper Progress Report, week 5.

Week 4 concluded uneventfully.  No losses, everyone happy and growing.  Still no crowing... but I expect that will begin soon.

Feed bag #4 was opened last Friday, and I suspect #5 will be before the week is out.  Water is becoming a bit of an issue, though not a bad one.  Filling a gallon sized waterer 3 times a day is no hardship when you're already outside doing chores but it would definitely be better if we had a larger one.  Additional innovation may be forthcoming.  (continued)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Casting Iron

Seen some better days.
The old adage "they don't make them like they used to" gets thrown around a lot.  In my opinion the blame for that can be laid as much on our collective attitude towards our things as the construction or workmanship.  That and maybe just how much more "stuff" we surround ourselves with.  I'll have to think about that angle some more.

Manufactured obsolescence may exist (I know of more than a few cellphone manufacturers likely guilty of that) but there are still some things out there that seem to last and last and last.

Cast iron cookware is a good example. (continued)

Friday, July 25, 2014

PPPP Report Week 4

Served up fresh, one (slightly Postponed) Promised Pastured Peeper Progress Report, week 4.

Week 3 wrapped up with 51:24:8 prolifically peeping poultry.  In week 4 only a single broiler died, bringing us to a total of 50:24:8.  Not a mark on him, and no real insight into what happened.

They also have been holding boxing matches in the middle of the night.  While amusing to watch and not particularly harmful to each other the noises caused by such scuffles (did I mention it was the middle of the night) are enough to cut into my sleep and have resulted in more than a few trips out to the brooding pen to check on them. (continued)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Surprise Graduation

Now that's fresh.

In a moment of snap decision, and with the cost of a bit of deferred rest (otherwise already well deserved)  Big Tom went to freezer camp last night.  In our haste we neglected to weigh him, but I have little doubt he met my 50+ lbs. expectation.

It strikes me that "Big Tom Went to Freezer Camp" sounds like the title of a children's book.  While processing poultry is a topic which would be considered by many to be a little macabre for today's children it might be all the more needed for that fact. Maybe I'll find time to write it.  There you go, I dibs'd that book idea here first, folks.

No strangers to home processing of poultry I still think this amounted to several firsts for Mrs. Farmer and I:  getting started after 9 p.m. it was quite dark for one,  deciding it was time to get the job done within an hour of actually doing so was another, processing and piecing out a turkey a full 9 months after his original slated "date with destiny" marks a third.

Not meaning to put it off for so long in the first place was a significant bit of the decision making once we started discussing it.

Given time I would probably come up with other novel bits from tonight's activities, but I am spent, and tired, and my goal to get this post written and scheduled to post on time rather than scrambling to put something together in the morning has only extended my eventual rest that much farther into the night.  I apologize for the short post, the lack of quality photos, and for the lack of the usual Wednesday P.P.P.P. report.  If time allows I will attempt to have it ready for your enjoyment tomorrow but if not tomorrow it will be forthcoming, and soon.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Callosamia Promethea

Uh... whazzhat?
"Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life."
- Marcus Aurelius

Observation is a funny thing. No, not "funny, ha ha" more like funny strange.  Most of the time people think they are being quite observant, and most of the time they are wrong.  Humans seem to have an incredible capacity for self deception which is really only underscored by the fact that we seem to think we are observing anything while rifling through a purse, driving down the road, or playing on a cellphone.  (continued)