Saturday, July 31, 2010

On grass

There is something so thrilling putting the chickens onto the grass. At first they are timid and school around like fish. Then a brave chicken will tentatively investigate and perhaps chase a bug. Within a few hours they are all very comfortable running around stretching their wings.

Their brooder was so small. It makes my soul feel good watching them be chickens. Although they are confined, they are not suited to roam the fields free.

I didn't get my chicken tractor finished in time for them to go into it. Outside temperatures have been like a blow-furnace. I worked as much as I could. Alas, I couldn't get it done. We decided to divide the remaining birds among the four coops that I had prepared.

Here is one of Mikes tractors that I borrowed for this round of birds.

It is heavier than the ones that I make but have the benefit of bicycle cantilevered wheels. They employ a mechanical advantage and compensate for the added weight remarkably well. I like the "A" house shape.

The birds seem to really like it.

Astrid is happy to do her job and guard these little guys.

Jack and Ianto are almost as big as Astrid already. They will be substantially larger dogs in the end.

The pigs get a shower a few times per day.

They got all the off-fall from Mike and our corn processing. It will be mashed into rich beautiful soil within a few months. We love pigs.

We never did catch up on some of our garden after the visit to Michigan. Weeds just seemed to take over. We just fenced the sheep in that area. They should get things back into a more manageable state in short order.

This wagon really gets a workout around here. I used it to haul full feed barrels 350# each to distant areas of the farm. Here it is on trash duty.

The kids can load it heaping full with wood and bring it to the porch. Tristan pulling while Kassi and Toly pushing. One of the better farm investments I have made.

Speaking of investments, we we most graciously gifted a new dehydrator. The Dehydrator of dreams is now full of onions I am anxiously waiting to see how long they will take. I loaded four times as many onions in the thing. Very exciting, thank you thank you Annette. I can't wait to try dehydrated tomatoes, yum.

Rome had his second birthday.

He is such a smart boy. Being recently two he has been testing his boundaries. Oh that boy...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our chickens are almost ready to get on the grass.

We believe two weeks is the soonest broiler chickens should leave their brooder.

I am working on a new chicken tractor. It will incorporate all of my latest improvements. The new door style, new feeders, and an electric hot-wire around the top. This tractor will also incorporate a D.C. fan that will plug into my solar panel.

Very high-tech. This little cross pipe will support the milk crate that holds a five gallon bucket for their water.

I also am going to borrow two of my Father-in-laws chicken tractors. He has a different style tractor we are excited to try them.

I have to go to the feed mill tomorrow. These are the barrels that we use to store and transport the feed.

It saves on the bagging charge.

We have always fed our meat chickens custom mixed grain. Tabitha found this link that makes us feel good about five year old choice.

Arsenic found in children traced back to commercial chicken feed.

gratuitous kitten photo.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

children of the corn

We had a windfall. Tabitha's father planted ten rows of sweet corn. It is in ideal conditions, an old fallow garden spot that he planted beans in last year then a cover crop of turnips through the winter. A healthy dose of chicken and cow manure tilled and planted. He coddled the corn early then left it to it's own devices.

Today was a day of bounty. Late morning I picked four of the ten rows of corn, only the top ear. Tactile memories from my child hood covered me. The sound of a breeze rustling in a corn field is specific. Tearing corn from the stalk, I have done this in a previous life.

Before I left the "show-canner" needed to be set to heat water for corn blanching. Our new grill has almost the exact footprint as the amish canner. All that heat could happen out-of-doors.

Once home the shucking of the corn began. Toly was the first to help in earnest. Then everyone got into the act.

My neck knife was the exact tool for the job of cutting the wormy ends.

Tristan takes his work very seriously.

He has inherited the meticulous gene from my mother.

Everyone helped even Rome.

Working together, saving food for winter what could be better?

These kids know where their food comes from.

I taught Tristan a nice method for getting all the silky hairs.

Sweaty and hot, Tabitha requested that I take off my hat for a photo.

I own a very sharp knife. The best thing is, it stays really sharp. Anyone that cares about "the little things" should have a knife like this.

Admittedly I'm biased my friend Patrick forges knives and made this one for me. After cutting the tips from corn cobs all day I will be able to shave with this knife tonight. It might seem machismo but having a really sharp knife around your neck but it is incredibly practical.

Tabitha has a neck knife also. She claims that it has changed her life.

We started by collecting jars from the root cellar and pump house. I went and picked the corn while Tabitha cleaned the jars and got the canning stuff ready. I arrived home with about four bushels of corn.

As you can see shucking the corn was a family affair.

We assembly line worked the corn until it was ready for blanching. The USDA canning guide said three minutes in boiling water.

I plopped them into cool water to stop the heat.

Then the corn queued up in the cooler with milk cartons of ice.

in the end the cooler might have been able to hold three or four more cobs.

Having all that heat outside really made sense but it sure was hot out there over that boiling pot.

Tabitha had all the jars ready for corn and came out to the production line.

We brought all the corn inside and started processing. I used an electric knife and a bundt pan to hold the cobs. It seemed to to do an excellent job.

I didn't try any other method. I can't say if it is better than specific corn knifes or not.

We chose the hot-pack method. The corn must be brought to a boil then put into the jars.

I was cutting corn so fast that my hands were a blur.

Here is my skinny wife packing the jars.

She stopped eating wheat and dairy. This has had a huge affect on her metabolism. Now when I say "I'm watching my girlish figure" it is Tabitha that I'm talking about.

Here they go--fingers crossed.

I finally got smart and got a stool to sit on. A knot started in the center of my back while standing.

Just ignore that huge pile of papers Tabitha is cleaning it today, really she is...

The corn was beautiful and very tasty.

Here is a picture of some of the final product.

There was a grand total of 19 quarts and 36 pints.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Job

Yesterday I accepted a new job. Tabitha wrote about it here

This is the company The Alternative Energy Company. Check them out and let me know what you all think?

I am excited.

Me and the kids are off to the creek to celebrate.

your faithful servant,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dehydrating Onions

Dehydrated onions are one of our most useful garden stores. They are wonderful just as a snack--like hearty candy. Mostly we use them by the hand full in soups, chili and sauces. Tabitha also grinds them up and adds them to taco meat. This is about half of our harvest left in this wagon.

By the way, I would like to fully endorse that sprayer.

They have made the entire spraying process better. Subtle little innovations just make things easier.

I cut the tops and peel them in the sink under running water. I leave the root end because our mandolin likes it better this way. I prepare enough to fill the entire dehydrator.

This part of the process is entirely tearless, the running water really helps.

Our old cutting board split in two and we had get a new one. This one is so great, I don't know how we lived without it. That little routed trough around the edge has saved me many messes.

I set the mandolin (thank you Nicole) to the thickest slice possible. We have experimented with all thicknesses and we prefer this because it is yields the most product for the least amount of work.

Kassi is in the background sewing.

I load the racks thickly and over lapping a little especially loose rings. Slabs are best tightly packed.

Having tried every wives-tale to keep the tears at bay, I use the fan method. By the end of the process the entire house is filled with teary gas.

It is a parts-per-million kinda solution. Kassi is very affected by the teary blight.

We store the completely dry onions in half gallon mason jars. Last year we started with one gallon and could have used much more. Onion slices of this thickness take about thirty six hours with vigilant tray rotation. We have a cheap dehydrator with only a heating element. Someday we dream of a better model.

This one has a fan and element, larger capacity equals faster dehydration times with larger loads.

Gratuitous garden harvest photo.
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