Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waste Not~Want Not


This is one of my favorite sayings. 

Around here, nothing goes to waste. Not food, not materials, not supplies, nothing.
  • 80% of our new chicken coop was built with reclaimed lumber. (You can read about it HERE.)
  • Our compost enclosure, our goats' field shelters, and the bunny yard are all constructed from wood salvaged in whole or in part from wood pallets.
  • An old parrot cage has been repurposed for use as our chick brooder (works GREAT!)
  • Manure from the horse, goats, or chickens gets added to the compost pile or directly to fields which will lay fallow to decompose and enrich the soil before the next planting.
  • Tin cans are rinsed and scrapped for money. Glass jars are recycled.
The list goes on and on, but you get the point.
Today's project was born out of my having finally finished shaping all the bars of fresh goat's milk soap I made HERE. I still have to cut pretty paper sleeves to wrap the bars in for storage, but I think that will be a project for this afternoon. I ended up with several bars of soap, some sample sized pieces and a whole bunch of soap shavings. "Was there something I could do with these?" I wondered and then, set myself to searching for ideas.
I found a post on Lisa's blog Fresh Eggs Daily for DIY Homemade Antibacterial Hand Soap HERE. I did not have all the ingredients, but I thought I would try it anyway substituting what I did have on hand. I liked the look of the hand soap dispenser created from a blue Ball mason jar. 

My Recipe:

4 1/4 cups water
4 oz goat's milk soap shavings
1 tspn liquid glycerin
1 tspn almond oil
1 tspn safflower oil

My Method:

 1. I poured the 4 cups of water into a stainless steel pot, stirred in the soap shavings, and brought the mixture to a gentle boil until all the soap is melted.

2. I removed the pan from the heat and added the glycerin, almond oil and safflower oil. Stir thoroughly.

3. Pour into pint sized mason jars.

4. Let the soap cool overnight. The end result is supposed to be a gel hand soap. Because I didn't follow the recipe exactly, I am not certain what I will end up with, but I was in the mood to experiment a little. As for the antibacterial aspect, mine is not- at least, it is not any more antibacterial than any other hand soap made with borax and lye. It smells heavenly, though and it only took about 20 minutes to make the hand soap from start to finish.

I do not have the pump to add to the top of the jars, but I am going to look around to see what I can come up with. I think that rather than buy one of these, I will simply wait until the soft soap I am currently using at the kitchen sink is empty and either refill that container or cannibalize the pump for parts. I like the idea of using the soap directly from the mason jar because I like the country chic feel of the jar. I also think the color of the hand soap in it is a quite pretty butter-cream yellow. And, I will definitely be using it to refill the bathroom handsoap dispenser when that is empty.

How do you reuse or repurpose things at your home?
Sonja ♥
Also, shared with Wildcrafting Wednesday Hop

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ready or Not... More Chicks

I found the Americauna chick (larger one to the front right) this morning before I left for work. When I got home, he/she had a brother/sister. I think the new chick is a Rhode Island Red.
Taking pictures of chickens is a lot of trial and error- mostly error. They do not sit still for long, always busy with something and easily distracted from the task at hand. I took about 30 shots on my digital camera to get 3-4 that were usable. I loved this picture. It looks like they are talking with each other.

2 more chicks hatched- 4 more possibilities waiting in the nest. :) With these successfully hatching, that brings the ratio for this clutch to 14 hatched /20 eggs or 70% success rate. I like those odds. I will like them even more if the other 4 eggs cooperate and hatch chicks this week.

Now, it is time to get off my duff to start the morning chores. I wonder if I will have any surprises waiting for me. . .

Have a great day!
Sonja ♥

P.S. No new chicks hatched, but the ones from the coop came inside to their new home.

Vastly underwhelmed with their digs, they began searching the paper at once for better living quarters.

"It's upside down!"

"This one looks nice. What do you think? Shall we go to see it?"

"Hmmm... Fireplace... good, good. Will our couch fit here?"

"I love the bay window and all the light in this Kitchen... and parquet floors!"
Sonja ♥

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekend Update

It was a busy weekend here on the farm, which should come as no surprise. It is a farm and farms are always busy with something needing tending to most days. Perhaps, I should have written that this weekend was accomplished here at Lally Broch. On Friday night, after work, I put up 6 jars of dilly beans (That post and the recipe for making them can be read HERE.)

Saturday morning started out rough, with the loss of Edith. We didn't get home to dig into the regularly scheduled chores until after 10am. I was happy that Daddy Dale had come in our absence and was prepared to help Sean with some work on the barn, since I was in no mood for it. But, work around here waits for nothing and being busy is sometimes the best band-aid on a sad heart. By the time the afternoon rolled around, we were all working on some project. In addition to adding more sheathing to the roof (which will actually be the floor of the second story of the barn next year), Sean sheathed the outside of the milk room with OSB and framed the doorway. I mowed the small field in front of our house- full of garden spiders!- with my new lawn mower. I kept trying to avoid them, but they were everywhere. I don't want them dead, but words in the English language do not contain the feeling of horror, fear, and ickiness, this task was for me. After I finished mowing, I made Sean check me over (just-in-case *shudder*). I told him how many I had counted while trying to avoid them (8), he revealed that he counted no less than 30 of them while he was walking the perimeter to remove the fiberglass poles and wire fencing and thought to himself  "there is no way Sonja is going to be able to stand mowing for longer than a few minutes" and mentally added mowing to his growing "to do" list. I was and still am proud of myself for soldiering through the ordeal.

And, I will NEVER do that again... just so you know.

In the early evening, our daughter, Caitlin and our son-in-law, Justin came for a visit. I was still mowing when they arrived, so they made themselves busy and useful. Justin started raking up the field grass I had drying in neat rows the back yard for Jasmine to munch on. The goats like the new fresh cut grasses and brush I was mowing down. Justin grabbed them several baskets of this and fed the does a treat of it in their stall. The chickens, geese, and ducks in the main pen got a pile of green clippings, too. They were in hen-heaven playing and scratching in it and eating choice bits. So, we spent a little time watching "chicken TV" and catching up with each other. Caitlin had been missing Jasmine and wasted no time in brushing her and taking her for a short walk down the road.

On Sunday, we released the young pullets (Rudy's siblings) from their pen beside the barn and introduced the 3 Cochins into the tractor with the others living in the back yard and the 4 mixed breed pullets into the main yard. There was some discontent at the new additions, but when I checked on everyone this morning, they had all settled in quite nicely. With the barn as finished as this round of purchasing material allowed, Sean moved to working on the tiling for the wood stove for our kitchen. This brings us full circle to the post yesterday about canning salsa HERE.

Whew! A busy weekend for sure. I am looking forward to harvesting more veggies for another batch of Salsa this weekend. The 6 eggs still being sat upon should be hatching out this week (we hope). And, we have tentative plans for raking some blueberries at Staples farm in Stockton on Wednesday. Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping in for a visit today. I hope you have a great day.
Sonja ♥

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Favorite Salsa Recipe

Our garden was planted heavy on the fruits and veggies that our family will eat the most of and those that we can preserve through the winter, like tomatoes and peppers, both hot and sweet. I have been waiting (read that drooling over) to have enough ripe produce to make my first batch of SALSA. The wait ended tonight while Sean finished tiling the kitchen corner, Daddy Dale worked on taming the field where the pond is going to someday live and then washed my car for me (thank you. Thank you! THANK YOU!!) Momma Twombly and I created SALSA. Sweet, Hot, Spicy, Delicious Salsa.

This is the recipe:

  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 6 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, serrano, or red rocket hot pepper, chopped*
  • 3 banana peppers, chopped*
  • 3 colored sweet bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 10 pint canning jars with lids and rings

    * Add hot peppers to taste. We use this recipe for mild. After we fill 6 mason jars with the mild salsa, we add 2-3 additional hot peppers (use jalapeno, serrano or other hot pepper variety you like.) seeds and all to the pot, stir, and fill the remaining mason jars.

    This recipe is simple. Everything goes into a large stock pot and simmers for 1-3 hours on the stove top. The longer you cook the salsa, the softer the ingredients and the more your salsa will thicken as it reduces. I generally only cook mine for just an hour. I like my salsa both chunky and firm in texture.

    I think I will make Chicken Quesadillas tomorrow for dinner as a delightful and delicious reason to crack into a bottle.

    If you decide make this recipe, let me know how it comes out for you.
    A word of caution. Salsa includes tomatoes, a highly acidic ingredient, and onions and peppers that are low-acid foods. Recipes may call for adding vinegar, lemon or lime juices or other ingredients that also will impact the acidity of the overall recipe. It is imperative to correctly measure and/or weigh the tomatoes and peppers when preparing Salsa. This is because failing to balance the acid level when mixing ingredients in the salsa can create an environment in which food-borne bacteria – including Botulism can grow. You can safely substitute tomatillos for tomatoes or kinds of peppers for one another, but be very careful to keep the acidic ratios balanced.
    It has been a very long weekend, but a lot of projects got accomplished. I took lots of pictures and am looking forward to writing a long post about it... tomorrow.

    Also Linked to Dining With Debbie. Check out the GREAT recipes you'll find at Debbie's site.

    Saturday, August 25, 2012

    Despite the Best Efforts of Mice or Men


    Born 2011, Died August 25, 2012

    It is with a sad heart that I have to report that Edith died this morning at Dr. Layhe's office.
    She seemed to be doing better last night. We got her to eat some romaine and some more pineapple juice. She spent the night on a heating pad to help keep her comfortable. Sean and I went to bed at 2 am, hopeful that she was on the road to recovery. I awoke at 6:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. I did not want to disturb Sean so early, so I went upstairs to check on Edith and enjoy the stolen moments of solitude while they were mine to have.
    Edith did not look good, but she did not look a lot worse, either. I gave her a gentle tummy massage, rubbed her ears and left her to rest while I checked my email. She startled me around an hour later when she jumped violently down from the top floor to the 2nd floor of her pen. While I watched, she jumped again into the bottom level and lay on her side in the litter pan. She didn't look good and I feared that despite all our efforts and care, she might die, anyway. I rushed downstairs to wake Sean. He agreed that Edith needed to visit our vet again immediately. With her so dehydrated, we felt at the best course of action was to have some sub q fluids infused. Edith was a young bunny. She had only come into our care within the last year and had been adopted only months before by her previous owner. The situation was certainly serious, but as I posted yesterday, bunnies do sometimes get these impactions and usually they can be helped. Our hope was that the infusions of fluids would rouse her and get her stabilized to the point where we could start her on a course of Reglan to help get her digestive tract moving. (This is the standard in treatment when the problem is located in the upper GI track, but it would do no good to try to dose her, limp and clearly sick. Think: inducing BM while completely exhausted and you get my point. No fun and certainly dangerous for a 5 lb bunny to suffer through.)
    We did not wait for Dr. Layhe's office to open. Sean and I were there by 8am. It was too late, though. Just after bunny was examined and before an IV could be started, she was gone.
    Even though we did not have her long, she will be missed by us all. I am dreading having to tell the girls what happened when they return from their Dad's house this evening. No matter how inevitable the eventual passing of a pet is, it still hurts when they leave us. We love them. Provide for them. Talk to them and they hold our hearts in ways words fail to express. Why do we (people who love animals and keep pets) put ourselves through this almost certain loss time and time again? The only reason I can think of is the unconditional love, joy, and devotion they give us while they are alive to do so.
    I am glad that we met Edith. She was a good bunny. ♥

    Friday, August 24, 2012

    A Trip to the Vet

    At the beginning of this week, we noticed that Edith had been eating very little of her food.  We were concerned that perhaps her ever-growing teeth were causing problems. Sean trimmed them for her, but that did not seem to help. Her food bowl remained suspiciously full. Over the next few days, her water intake diminished to next to nothing. A check in her pen showed very few waste pellets in the litter tray. She began acting strangely, leaning on the corners of her pen and being very listless. We became very alarmed when she started to grind her teeth loudly, which is a sign that a bunny is in real pain. Sean checked her belly and thought he felt a mass there. A visit to the vets was needed- immediately.

    We called Dr. Layhe and rearranged our schedule so Sean could drop Edith off for examination and doctoring before going to work himself today. I had scheduled 3 interviews for potential new crew members and an orientation class for today, so I could not rearrange my morning. I am very grateful that Sean was capable of taking charge of this dilemma for us. He called me later to relieve my worried mind with Edith's update. She has an impacted cecal. We thought the blockage might have been in her bowels, but it was higher up in her digestive tract. Dr. Layhe administered an enema to relieve the blockage and using a syringe fed her some pineapple juice for both it's benefits towards hydration and it's diuretic properties and some kale. The course of action is to offer fibrous greens and pineapple for food, a warm heating pad for her to rest on, gentle tummy rubs, and exercise to help get things moving. Edith has not responded to the intervention as of yet. Though this is very serious condition and can be fatal, it is also a very common problem with bunnies. We are hopeful for a full recovery. Since, Sean went in late to work, I complimented his effort at juggling all things, by getting out of work in time to help retrieve our bunny and take over "nurse" duty for the evening. I love this team that I am part of- it just works. ♥

    When I checked the main coop today, all 6 eggs were in the nest box, but no additional chick hatchings. Broody Wyandotte was off the nest picking at food in the yard. I will have to keep an eye out for this. If she has decided to be done with her sitting duties, then back to the incubator the eggs shall go. ♥

    I checked the bag of tomatoes and though they are beginning to show signs of wanting to ripen, none of them have obliged us with doing so- yet. I really hope they will cooperate before Sunday, so we can get some salsa canned over the weekend. ♥

    In anticipation of our work day tomorrow, I had some plywood sheathing, OSB, and 2x4's delivered. The roof of the stable section of the barn will be completed and the walls to the milk room will also get sheathed tomorrow morning. When those projects are done, it is our intention to finish setting the tile for the walls behind where the wood stove will live. If we can set the tile tomorrow, we might be able to get the grout applied this weekend, too. I am really excited about that prospect, despite the temperature still reading a steady 80 degrees each day. Winter will be here for it's yearly visit in just a few months, after all. Tomorrow's post will have picture updates of the barn and kitchen.

    Remember the most romantic gift I posted about HERE ? Well, I finally got the time to take some pictures of my beauty. I am in LOVE with my new toy. ♥  This was the absolute best anniversary gift I could have been given. Every day when I drive into the yard, I stare hard at our yard, just willing the grass to hurry and grow- so I can mow it again! Color this country wife, happy!

    Thanks for visiting!

    The Twombly Family ♥

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Pickles, Soap, and Chicks

    Problem: Our garden is producing enough veggies to eat for meals, but not enough to can in vast quantities all in one day.

    Solution: We preserve just a few mason jars at a time.

    Exhibit A:
    I pulled 5 cucumbers from the garden yesterday. Not nearly enough for traditional canning methods. I created my own recipe last year and our family LOVES it. Besides tasting delicious, it is sooo easy to make and there is very little cooking involved and no canning necessary, either.

    I heat 3 3/4 cups each of vinegar and water and dissolve 3/8 cups of canning salt into it and remove it from the heat. I like crunchy pickles, so I don't want the cucumbers to cook in the brine. Meanwhile, I slice my cucumbers into 1/4 inch slices. I add these, 2 heads of dill, 2 cloves of garlic (sliced in chunks), and 1/4 tsp Cayenne (to taste, really) to a mason jar. I pour the luke-warm vinegar mixture to cover the contents, leaving about 1/2 inch head room in the jar and cover with a lid. Most of the time, I find that these lids seal without any further processing. Even when they don't, the pickles are preserved in vinegar and salt, I feel that mine are safe to eat. (If you prefer to process them in a canner, you should.) The pickles are ready to eat in 2 days, but get better the longer they sit. What I love the most about these is that they start out tasting like garlic dill pickles and finish with a little spicy kick. The pickles stay nicely crisp. It is so simple, I can easily preserve just a few jars at a time as our cucumbers are ready to be picked. ♥
    Sometime in the next few days, we will tackle our first batch of canning ♪ Salsa ♪ of the season. I am excited about this prospect. It feels like I have been waiting all summer for this... because. I. have. Spicy, delicious, home made salsa. Oooooh yeah. Sean and I spent a little time last night to pick the tomatoes and peppers we are going to use. We decided to pick some of the tomatoes even though they were still green on the vine because it seems lately that if we wait for them to fully ripen, the various bugs spoil them or they split open. I placed our pickings into a brown paper bag and stored them in a cool, dry, dark place to ripen over the next few days. When the tomatoes ripen, the salsa making will commence!
    The soap came out really well. I love that it leaves my hands feeling soft for a long time after I have used it. I am definitely going to purchase two more soap molds because I think I prefer the clean, shiny, finished look of the ones that were molded in them. I like the homey look of the bars I cut and shaved into the traditional shape and size of soap, but I am not sure there is a market for these. The four bars in the top left corner are what the raw cut soaps look like. The lower two on the left are bars that I carved and smoothed out with a knife. I wrapped one in handmade paper and sealed it with a sticker. "E" to mark those with the eucalyptus scent. The four bars on the right were made with the soap mold. These are cucumber melon scented and look much more "finished". I would love your feedback on these.
    1- Do you prefer the unfinished or finished bars?

    2- Are the simple paper wrapping attractive?

    3- How much would you expect to pay for a bar of hand made, goat's milk soap like the ones pictured?
    I would love to get your opinion on the finished product. The soap needs to cure for 4 weeks so that when it is used, it doesn't melt away. The soap I will sell, will be aged for the full time recommended. But, I have 10 sample sized cubes of the eucalyptus soap, which I would love to send out for some of you to try out. If you are interested in receiving one, please request one via a comment on this post. I will honor the first 10 sample requests received. The samples will be provided free of charge and mailed to you, but I do respectfully ask that after you try the sample, you will share your honest opinion on the product. I will create a post on the blog specifically for you to leave your comments and improvement suggestions. ♥
    Broody Wyandotte is proving to be as good a mother as Broody Barred Rock hen and better than the incubator! We now have 12 fluffy, peeping chicks living in the brooder inside the living room. I think I wrote you about checking the eggs inside the incubator already; how they are alive and developing, but seem to be younger than the ones from the nests outside. After 2 more chicks were hatched today, Sean and I candled the remaining 3 eggs in the outside nest. They are also alive and look suspiciously similar to those in the incubator. That being the case, Sean and I returned all 6 developing eggs to under Broody Wyandotte with the hopes that she will hatch the remaining chicks safely and naturally. The hens have a 12/20 hatch rate or 60% hatch rate as things stand now. If the other 6 hatch, that would increase the hatch rate to 90%- really Excellent, by any standards. ♥

    How Cute Are THESE ????
    I'm glad you stopped by for a visit.
    Sonja ♥

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Making Goat's Milk Soap

    "Anyone's life truly lived consists of work, sunshine, exercise, soap, plenty of fresh air, and a happy contented spirit"- Lillie Langtry

    I can make soap from my goat's milk... and it is GOOD; creamy to the touch and it leaves my hands feeling soft like I rubbed lotion on them. I FOLLOWED THIS RECIPE almost verbatim with the items in the picture. --->

    Sean drove to work with the Borax I bought this morning, so the mixture sat a little longer than the recipe called for while I waited for him to bring it back to me. And, my hand mixer broke the last thread it was hanging on by, and so I threw it out and finished mixing the soap to "trace" by hand. Mixing by hand wasn't too bad, though. Contrary to what the recipe read, it only took about 10-15 minutes total to attain the "trace" stage.

     I started by melting 1 1/2 pounds of lard on the stove top until it reached 85-90 degrees. Then set it aside. I removed the chunk of frozen goat's milk (I froze a 3 cup portion overnight.) from its zip lock bag and placed it in a stainless steel bowl and added just over 3/4 cup of lye. The lye causes a chemical reaction when added to the milk and heats up quickly, freezing the milk helps to avoid the mixture from getting too hot and scorching. I stirred slowly and carefully spooned the lye liquid over the mass of frozen milk until it completely dissolved and turned a lovely creamy yellow color. It looked very pretty to me.

    While the lye mixture was doing it's thing, I took a minute to stir the glycerine and oatmeal together. It was at this point that I discovered I was missing borax, but remedied that with a phone call. I added the oatmeal/glycerine mixture to the melted lard, stirred it well and left it alone while the lye continued to melt. Once the milk/lye mixture was cooled to 85 degrees, I added the borax to the lard mixture, gave it a good stir, and dumped that into the milk/lye bowl and began to mix on low with my hand blender. Almost immediately, the mixer sparked and stopped working, but I soldiered on- mixing by hand. I called it good when I could see a trace of where my mixing strokes had been in the bowl and the mixture was the consistency of gravy.

    I only bought one soap mold at AC Moore this week because I did not know what the yield would be to this recipe. I needed more than one. Undaunted, I substituted a thick plastic pan that normally serves as a cover to my cupcake tray. I sprayed it with Crisco cooking spray to help the setting soap to avoid sticking. The tray was too big, so I folded a piece of tin foil to create a shield and held that in place with a couple upside down bowls. It wasn't real pretty, but it did the trick. Since I was setting two separate containers of soap, I decided to scent one set of the bars with cucumber/melon essence and the other container with eucalyptus/mint essence. They smell wonderful. The soap bars need to set up overnight before I can turn them out of the molds. I will carefully attempt to cut the soap in the make-shift container into six additional bars with a sharp knife.

    It takes 4-6 weeks for the soap to fully cure and be ready to use. I can't wait to be able to use the soaps I made ♥.  How cool is that???

    Thanks for stopping by for a visit.
    Sonja ♥

    Mazel Tov!

    Instead of 8 little fluffy chicks, we now have 9 of them. In the nature versus nurture debate, I think nature wins.

    Broody Wyandotte was not interested in my checking on her nest this morning and puffed up to scare me away. But, Sean had already told me that their was another chick in the box and I wanted to see it for myself.

    I am glad I perservered and intruded for a moment to capture this picture. It immediately reminded me of the passage in the Bible recorded at Luke 13:34- "Jerusalem, Jerusalem... how often I wanted to gather your children together in the manner that a hen gathers her brood of chicks under her wings..." Look at how Broody Wyandotte moved to protect her chick from my disturbance.
    We were up and at it early this morning, so Sean could take my car to work, since his needs to go to the car doctor today. I wanted to get to the store before Sean left for the morning to pick up the borax and lye needed for soap making. Sean wanted me to be happy, so he obliged me in this matter. Before we headed out, Sean checked the nest box and discovered another newly hatched chick. This one, less than 12 hours old- was still very tired and covered in little specks of eggy membrane. He brought the chick inside both to present me with his treasure and because it was only mid 40 degrees outside here this morning. I love this picture. It never stops amazing me how such strong, working hands can be so gentle when they hold mine or how safe and protected I feel in Sean's very capable hands.

    We thought the warm brooder would be more toasty for the new chick. And, it was, but the chick was soooo newly hatched and tired that all it wanted was to curl up and sleep somewhere. Hard to do with 8 curious siblings determined to say "welcome" via pecking and walking on you. So, the stay inside was short lived; we returned the new chick to underneath Momma's warm and sheltering embrace.

    Can you spot the new chick?
    When I checked the chick later in the morning, it had fluffed up and was doing grand. I'll retrieve it before it gets too active to avoid the chance of a mishap.

    Current Tally for this Hatch:
    We have 9/20 eggs hatched. That is almost a 50% success and we have 8 more still cookin' away inside their eggs.

    Now, to post this update and get on with my first attempt at the making of some soap! I have all the ingredients ready. Be sure to check back to see how that goes!

    Thanks for visiting this morning. Have a great day, friends. ♥


    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    One at a Time?

    Count the number of chicks:

    Sean went outside before me today for the morning chores, but he quickly came back inside with a delightful present for me. A NEW Chick! Day two of waking to the happy surprise of another chick born from nest #2. I give up; just when I start to think I might have some clue about what I am doing- I get thrown a curve ball. A happy, fluffy, peeping curve ball, but still...

    Broody Wyandotte and Broody Barred Rock are taking turns sitting on this nest and apparently, this is working out for them. I do not understand why the chicks are hatching one at a time, but they are. On the bright side- at least, they are hatching. Maybe we are just going to get one each day until the eggs are all hatched? Maybe the hens in question are practicing Judaism and they are like Hanukkah Chicks- one gift each day for a week!?!?! Has this happened in any of your hatchings? I would be very curious to know.

    Critter Update: we are still on the search to buy a registered Oberhausli doe and a registered Lamancha buck. Our girls are all in season and should be for a few months still. We still want to breed Leah, Rachel and Pepper this year in anticipation for lots of milk come Spring. The piggies are as ornamental as ever and grunt at me regularly. Jasmine is looking well- though Meg is definitely going to need to see to her stall today. I discovered Brighid hiding in the wood shed amongst the wood while I was out mowing the lawn this morning. The cats are not pleased with Daddy Dale locking their door while he painted the area, but once it dries and I let them in, I suspect they won't hold a grudge for long.

    The house has been getting some maintenance and work done on it. Daddy Dale was here today and painted the trim he replaced for us earlier this week, which looks wonderful and is much appreciated. And, Sean started tiling the cement board where the new wood stove is going to live in preparation for a homey Maine winter this year. I am almost looking forward to the frigid temperatures, just to try it out. And, I love how wonderful the house smells by keeping a iron pot of yummy smelling oils simmering on the wood stove. Our next step is to set the tile on the walls and then, all the tiles will be set with grout. I love the hue of the tiles and how it compliments the color of the kitchen walls. We will have to replace some floor trim, too, but that is an easy fix.

    I planned on making some soap today and may before the day is out, but I still have to pick up borax and lye at the store to be able to do that, so that project might be on hold until tomorrow.

    Thanks for dropping by!
    Sonja ♥

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Goat Milk Soap?

    One of the things I wanted to try my hand at making was goat's milk soap. I have not been getting milk this week because Ellie is in the main pasture with her voracious offspring. This is in the hopes that they will help to stimulate some milk production, which had been on a real decline. This arrangement is due to come to an end this weekend, but for now, I am out of goat's milk to use for cheese or anything else. And, in case I am out of goat's milk until Leah, Rachel, and Pepper are bred and kidded this Spring, I wanted to use what goat's milk I had on hand to, at least, try to make soap.

    After searching the Internet and reading multiple recipes, I decided to try out this one; it looked like it was the easiest. I really want to find a recipe that does not call for using lye, but unless I want to buy a goat's milk base, it looks like I must use lye. If any of you have a good recipe for making soap without the use of lye, I would be very interested in it.

    3 cups goat's milk
    1.5 lbs lard, tallow, or vegetable shortening
    6.5 oz lye
    1 cup baby oatmeal
    2 tsp borax
    2 ounces glycerine

    In preparation for making soap tomorrow, I purchased 3 essential oil fragrances; honey/almond, cucumber/melon, and eucalyptus mint (I am picturing this one for use in pedicures.) And, I froze 2 batches of 3 cups of goat's milk in some freezer safe plastic bags. The lye causes a chemical reaction that raises the temperature of the milk quickly and it can scorch. Freezing it, is said to help alleviate that issue. We'll see.

    Thanks for visiting!
    Sonja ♥

    Another Blessing!

    I was up a goodly part of the night, feeling wretched and wondering what on earth I could have eaten to cause such stomach distress. In response, I am working from home today. I have to work on creating the "Thank You" notes for the tournament recently held, check for new applicants to schedule for interviews, and get started on planning Riverfest parade and fair activities. Plenty to be done- even moving slowly, which I am. Sean left for work hours ago. I assured him that Kristen and I would manage the morning chores without him, especially if it meant that he would be home closer to 3 pm than 4 pm today. (Meaghan left at 9 am to spend the morning with Grandma Becky intent on preaching the word- I hope she meets some nice people today). Before Kristen could break her fast this morning, -I am not eating ANYTHING solid for a while- we attempted to feed and water the critters.

    Kristen was drafted into feeding the piggies and the chickens in the backyard. That left me to feed the chickens, ducks, and geese in the main coop, the pullet chicks beside the barn, the chickens in the front tractor, and the horse and goats. When I realized that I pulled the short straw on that deal, I added feeding the dogs and cats to Kristen, too. Fair is fair, after all. Besides, I had made her homemade blueberry muffins for breakfast yesterday and she was going to have the pleasure of eating them again this morning. Me? Not so much.

    Sean reminded me to check for more chicks in the main coop as he headed out the door. I thought that he was being a bit too optimistic, since I was fairly certain that the eggs in the 2nd nest were at least a week or more behind the first nest. Imagine my chagrin when I opened the nest box to find this:

    Another chick!

    Sean was right.

    It did not make sense to me why we would have another chick hatch out of the 2nd nest, but then remembered that Meaghan had so very helpfully collected all the eggs from the nests about 2 weeks ago and brought them inside. Sean simply divided the eggs into two nest of 10 eggs and returned them to the broody hens. Obviously, at least one of the eggs was in the wrong nest! Which also goes a long way to explaining why I have 3 eggs in the incubator at a much less developed stage than it's nest mates chirping away in the brooder. Now what? I removed the new, healthy chick from the nest and brought him/her inside, too. Now, we wait and keep watching for more chicks, of course! I suspect that we will have another mass hatching some time this week. I checked the rest of the eggs in nest number 2 and none of the other eggs have pips in them. I do not think any more hatchings are imminent, but what do I know?

    Current Total Chick Hatching Count- 34
    33 were healthy and lived.
    6 were sold.
    27 were added to our flock.

    We still hope that most of these are hens. ♥

    See you soon!
    Sonja ♥


    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    Nature Versus Nurture

    What a happy, happy morning. ♪ Happy Dance ♪ worthy!

    I was in the midst of finishing making some of my Greek Bruschetta for a gathering this afternoon when Sean came back into the house from caring for the morning chores. He asked me to come outside with him for a minute. I followed him outside.

    We walked to the main coop area and Sean lifted the nest box cover to reveal broody Barred Rock Hen and 6 new fluffy day old chicks; 3 striped chicks, 2 black chicks, and one black chick with a white spot on its head. (According to the breeds we had mixing at the time these were set, the black one with the spot could either be a Barred Rock of either sex or a cockerel Sex-Link chick.)

    I cannot express how much joy this discovery brought me. Of course, we have been waiting to see what would happen with the eggs hatching naturally in the main coop by our broody hens, but we were not getting our hopes up to any of them hatching successfully. She hatched 6 out of 10 eggs. And, when we candled the other eggs, 2 of the 5 others were developing and appeared to be alive- I would guess that they are at approximately day 11 of development. We placed them into the incubator inside. It is unlikely that broody Barred Rock would continue to sit until these hatch and even if she would, it is probably not the best for her to do so. Broody hens usually remain on their nests for most of their day, eating and drinking very little while they are sitting on eggs. Another 10 or more days of that would be an unnecessary hardship to her physically.

    We gathered up the chicks from their nest and placed them inside our brooder area inside our living room. We made this decision to avoid the chicks from falling out and landing on the floor 3 feet below. Not only could the fall injure them, but it would be impossible for the chicks to get back into their nest. Also, chickens are carnivores. It would be terrible if one of the adults injured the chicks somehow. I felt bad for Momma hen, effectively losing all her chicks, but when we checked her this afternoon, she had taken the place of Broody Wyandotte sitting on her nest of 10 eggs. Broody Wyandotte spent the day in the main yard enjoying a dirt bath in the sun and the company of the other hens.

    With these babies hatching, that brings our total new chicks hatched this year to total 33. Of these, 32 lived. 6 were sold and the other 26 were added to our flock. We are hopeful that many of these will be hens and not roosters. Our intention was to add more hens to increase the amount of eggs we have available to sell to Customers next season. I think we are well on our way. ♥

    As I write, the chicks have settled in for the night. I love how soft and sweet they are. Thanks for stopping in for a visit!

    Sonja ♥

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    What the WHAT????

    The more you do something, the better you get at it. Right??? Practice makes perfect and all that. So, riddle me this...

    Our incubator still set up and calibrating on the desk in the living room.

    THAT is a pip. In an egg. That I could have sworn was not living when I candled them and decried the loss of my hatch.

    On Tuesday, I was so disappointed that I had lost the entire batch of eggs Ryan and I set. I thought it might have been caused by a malfunctioning temperature gauge and Sean brought me home another one. As you can see, the gauge is reading differently, so that IS probably what happened. I had not disposed of all the eggs, though. Sean buries them for me and had not had the time to do so. They weren't hurting anything waiting in the incubator until he could. I also check a final, final time before any of them are discarded- just in case I missed something.

    On Wednesday, I was picking the eggs up and the one on the front left moved- I thought. I candled it and *Surprise* it was alive and moving! I hadn't posted that update because I didn't want to update you all with that happiness only to have it not survive the hatching. I was waiting and planned to surprise you with the good tidings. I have been watching the incubator for 2 days since... just hoping and waiting.

    Last night, when I went to bed (at 2 am because I was at the ER with my eldest daughter- who is fine.) there was no change to the eggs' appearances. This morning, (at 7am) there was a pip in an entirely different egg (that I had seen no life signs in.) I was excited to see this, until I realized that the chick inside, pipped and died all in a few hours. What the WHAT??? There was nothing to be done. Even if I had known it was alive, I would not have intervened until there was no progress for more than 12 hours. This is just the worst hatching. The little egg that I think may be still alive has not pipped through the shell, but definitely looked to have breached the air sac inside. I had to work today until 2pm, so if upon returning home, it has not made any external pips, I may try to see if I can assist it.

    I had planned on sparing you all the ups and downs of this roller coaster ride of a hatch, but this is just too bizarre! I have no idea what I am going to find when I get home in a couple of hours. Any of you wanting to pray for wisdom for this farm girl and the safe hatching of any little guys that might be- are more than welcome to do so. I sure have been.

    Sonja ♥

    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    My Reason for NOT Getting Near the Trash Cans-

    He (or She) wins. I will not be going anywhere near the trash cans until it decides to vacate it's position.

    For those of you wondering-

    -No, I will not/cannot just kill it.

    -No, Sean will not/cannot kill it for me.

    -A world of No to moving it by some device- we will not be getting anywhere near that close to it.

    While much appreciated, the response to whatever your suggestion, is "No. Just, No."

    There is nothing else to be done. We have no recourse, but to move out... immediately.

    I just had to post this tonight. It is ironic (and I swear coincidental) that both Tammy and I posted about eggs today. Then, I noticed her post HERE with a picture very similar to this one about a garden spider near her compost pile. I took this picture a few days ago, but couldn't control the heebie-jeebies long enough to post about it. I just thought it was really funny that our posting ideas have been running along similar veins of late.

    I guess farms of a feather blog together?
    Sonja ♥

    Win Some or Learn Some...

    Lately, I feel like I am learning a lot and winning rather little. I think this run of farming failure partly stems from attempting to juggle too many things and subsequently, ending out becoming not very good at any of them. And, partly it stems from... well, life. Time and unforeseen occurrence befalling us in our turn.

    Brighid is an older bunny. She now wheezes when she is inside over the freezing winter months and develops a terrible sounding barking cough. She is a sweet, tolerant lagomorph, but bunnies don't live forever. Usually 6-8 years is the norm and we are fast approaching year 7. With this in mind, I have not been overly vigilant in moving her house as she repeatedly tunnels her way out to freedom. She never wanders far. The cats do not bother her and do hunt other pests that might. I am mindful that other predators are a potential threat to her, but anything that really wanted to eat her, could attack her inside the bunny house, too. There is danger to freedom. But, there is Freedom to freedom, too. (That is not redundant, it is the only way to describe it.) At this point, I am considering her quality of life for what probably will be one of her last summers- exploring all day, snoozing where she'd like to- versus longevity of a life in captivity. Usually, Brighid can be found in the mornings hiding in the shade under Sean's vehicle or wandering near the barn in the hay stacks or under the porch or the woodpile... Before my morning chores are complete, she pops out of some hiding place to investigate what we are doing. She didn't this morning which has been weighing on my mind all day.

    Also, it seems that we shall not have any new chicks hatching from the incubator this go around. I candled them this afternoon hoping my hopes, but though they all showed signs of beginning their development, none of them harbored any signs of life. How frustrating and disappointing!

    I think this failure may have been caused by a malfunctioning thermostat. After Rudy's hatching group having a poor hatch rate, I was extra vigilant regarding the temperature. The thermometer has steadily read that it has maintained 100 degrees. The automatic turner worked perfectly. There were no power outages. The eggs were mostly all fertilized. I cannot think of any other reason for our losing this entire batch- except that the temperature was wrong. Sean is picking up another thermometer at the store on his way home from work today. I will place it into the incubator and compare the readings. If that is the case, it will be a simple matter to calibrate the incubator before attempting any future hatching.

    It feels good to have some kind of plan of fixing this, but I still feel sad over this loss. Thinking I would feel a little better to spend some time with the other chicks, I went outside to visit them.

    In the main coop, almost everyone was quietly napping in the shade- out of the mid-day sun. The geese had their bills tucked over their shoulders under their wings, eye closed, sleeping until they noted my approach. Then, the male became animated and approached honking loudly. He started biting at my skirt hem to check whether it was suitably edible. Deciding it wasn't he wandered off to rouse the ducks and announce a visitor. Where has the time gone? It was only the beginning of summer that they were teeny babies following me around the yard and playing with me in the grass. Now, they still allow themselves to be pet, but barely tolerate hugging or holding anymore. I love my geese, but today, they did not do the job of making me feel happier. Instead, I felt a little sad at how much they've grown.

    My attention wandered to the ducklings, which also foiled me by growing into ducks. Still cute, they are no longer tiny fuzz balls, either. Remember when had to help these to hatch? (READ HERE and HERE. ) They were such tiny fuzzies. And, in just a little while, the sounding pat-pat-patter of little duckling feet announced them following us around while we worked. They slept curled in our arms (or shirts). No more. Charming, friendly, wonderful as they remain, it didn't help my blues today, either.

    The 2 month old pullets/cockerels were napping in the shade. I was pleased to see both Sebastian and White Snake standing guard over their new charges. The young chicks have been accepted into the flock. They still keep mostly together, but are doing very well. I had to smile at them all "pig piled" in the shade. Definitely cute.

    I spent a little time watching the month old chicks in their new temporary pen. They had reached the point on Sunday where they smelled too badly and too constantly to be allowed to remain in my living room any longer. But, with all the tractors currently engaged in their correct occupants, what to do? Our solution was to move the unused bunny fencing to between the walls of the barn and the walls of the main coop. Located just a few feet across the driveway within view of our porch, front sitting room, and in a heavy trafficked area, they should be safe from any predators. Then, it was an easy matter to add the chick shelter we built earlier for the other hatchlings. A bit of protective netting over the top to deflect unwanted raptor attention and we were in business. They loved the expanded room to roam and wasted no time in pecking at their first offering of fresh grasses.

    I haven't described them in detail previously. We have two partridge patterned Cochins (which I suspect are crosses between Aloysius and one of the Americauna hens) and one lovely copper Cochin. We have a striking white chick with smart black striped feathers and cream colored feet. Two others have white and black banded feathers. And, lastly, we have one partridge colored Americauna chick. These are so different from each other that they will also suffer our naming them. I especially like the golden colored cochin and the pale white chicks. Now, to find suitable names for them. I disallow names that have to do with physical characteristics. I do not mind naming them for people of whom they remind me or of whom I am fond. Any suggestions???
    Watching the newest healthy babies did help me to get out of my funk. What helped even more was Brighid coming out of hiding this afternoon and being promptly returned to a newly fenced bunny yard. (Kristen, Meaghan, and I repaired the fencing this morning in anticipation). No doubt, my mood reflects cumulative exhaustion from 1- working full-time this past month in helping with the charity golf tournament, 2- toiling at necessary farming chores and improvements, 3- mental fatigue from planning life changing decisions, 4- the wicked wrenching knot living in my right shoulder/neck area, and 5- the whole aforementioned LIFE. I am certain my mood will improve and my aches and pains will decrease, but just now, I could really use an adjustment!

    Tammy from reminded me in the value of finding joy in the simple pleasures of life this morning with a post she made on her blog. With that in mind, I add this final photograph.

     I am going to forget about what is not working as well as I want it to and focus on this thought, "THIS was harvested from our farm today.":

    ...and, THIS is only the beginning.

    I hope this post finds you all well and happy. I appreciate your checking in. ♥

    Good night,