Thursday, September 18, 2014

Practical or Preposterous?

Well, I've discovered another Netflix binge addiction to watch while knitting in the evenings.

Doomsday Preppers.

I'm not sure what I think of it yet.  My initial reaction: it's like a slow motion trainwreck.  You just can't tear your eyeballs away.  My second reaction: Huh, you know, some of these folks have good ideas.

My third reaction: Is there something wrong with me, that I'm finding advice hidden in this hyped up model of the end of the world?

I'm not sure if I'm going to watch this show long term.  But for now, it's entertaining in small doses.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Basil Preservation

After discovering several bags of ancient pesto in the freezer, I decided that this year, I'd do something different with my basil. So I opted for this:
Chopped up finely, popped into my vintage Westinghouse ice cube trays, filled up with good quality olive oil, and placed into the freezer until solid.
A quick twist of the release arm, and I'm left with cubes of basil-in-olive oil.  Perfect for tossing into soup, stir fry, pasta, tomato name it, and I'll put it in there.  Whether I want one cube or four, I've got a stash in the freezer just waiting to be used.
They keep great in a freezer bag.  Just be sure to label and date--or you might discover them years later (eek).  This method works great for other herbs, too.  I've done it with sage, and parsley.  Just figure, whatever herbs you cook with that you also would be cooking with olive oil, it will work.  The olive oil melts very quickly at room temperature, so if you wanted liquid oil to cook with, simply place a couple cubes into a bowl or spare teacup, and let them sit for a couple of minutes.  Tah-dah, fresh herbs plus your oil!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Leeky Success!

My summer of leek experimentation was a success!  I grew eight leeks to varying sizes (half were at least three inches in diameter) and without infestation by any allium predators.  I decided to harvest them this past weekend, simply because they weren't likely to get any bigger before the heavier frosts hit.

As I didn't really have time or inclination to make soup over the weekend, I decided to prep them for storage.  I simply sliced them into rounds, popped them into a big bowl with clean water, and spent a few moments popping rings out and swishing.  I let them settle for about 20 minutes, and was rewarded with a pile of silt at the bottom of the bowl.  Then it was simply a matter of spreading the leeks out on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet and leaving them to freeze overnight.  The next day I separated them into roughly one cup portions into freezer bags, gave them a label, and put them back into the deep freeze.  Now I have them waiting for when I want to make a delicious potato-and-leek soup, or maybe even Cock-a-Leekie soup.  Delicious!  I plan to grow more leeks next summer, hopefully to even greater success.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Roo Bling?

In yesterday's post, I mentioned my plans to acquire some Swedish Flower Hens, and to keep a rooster so I could have a small breeding flock.  And I also mentioned I have a crabby neighbor who fusses and fumes about rooster noises.  How am I going to have my roo and keep the peace between warring nations?

With this:
Yes folks, there's a patented velcro collar out there to keep your rooster quiet.

I wish this had been around before.  I've had a couple very nice roosters that I would've kept if they'd been muzzled...

Anyway, I have plans to order one from the folks over at No Crow Rooster Collars when I settle on which rooster I will keep (and measure his neck circumference).  I'm kind of excited about all these chicken plans I've got on the simmer!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Flock Plans

Isn't this a gorgeous chicken?  This, friends, is a Blommenhon, or as we say here in the States, a Swedish Flower Hen.  Beautiful, simply beautiful.

They are also incredibly hard to find.

There are very few breeders of this rare chicken here in the US.  Those that DO breed them understandably want top dollar for their birds (one breeder advertises unsexed day-old chicks for $19 each..NINETEEN DOLLARS!).  There is also some serious issues with people advertising Swedish Flower Hen fertile eggs for sale who are selling eggs from poorly managed flocks, who aren't breeding true.  It all makes for a bit of a challenge in tracking down these lovely birds.  I've been lusting after them for years now...

Imagine my delight when I learned that there was a woman in northern Wisconsin who had a nice breeding flock.  Next, imagine my despair when I discovered that she had sold said flock to an unknown buyer due to a divorce.  I've spent the last year trying to find those elusive Hens. 

And I found them.  Huzzah!  I found a breeder a little southeast of me (about two hours away) who has a small certified Swedish Flower Hen flock, who will be selling fertile hatching eggs for $2 per egg.  Yes, it's steep, but so much better both distance-wise and dollar-wise than the $19 option.  I've been in contact with the flock owner, and have a handshake agreement to pick up two dozen fertile eggs in February or March.  And then, I'll hatch out my beauties and start my own little flock of Blommenhons.

Here's some details on the Swedish Flower Hen:
* They are a landrace breed that originated in Sweden, from chickens of unknown origin brought into the country by settlers and conquerors.
* Males can weigh up to 8 pounds, with females weighing in around 6-7 pounds.
* Their name literally means "bloom hens" in Swedish, as their coloring and the scattering of white 'petals' suggests wildflowers in the fields.
* They are very cold hardy, good foragers, and have nice temperaments.  They make for very healthy small flocks of birds.
* Hens are prolific layers of large eggs, often laying well into cold, dark months of winter.
* They may be crested (with poofs of feathers on their crowns) or uncrested, and come in all colors of red, gray, black and brown.  They are classically covered with scatter spangles of white feathers--like little flower petals sprinkled on them!

I have plans to keep a rooster with my flock, so I'm investigating something called No Crow! collar.  If it works, I will be so happy...and so will my grumpy old lady neighbor who hates the sound a rooster makes.  I love it, but she is such a crab about it that I don't mind attempting to use a silencer.

What shall I do with my current ladies?  Well, the older girls will head to the Freezer for Soup Making, and the younger birds I will likely sell to new homes.  People love Buff Orpingtons, and the young pullets will only be about a year old next spring.  They'll make for lovely hens burbling around someone's backyard or farm, laying the occasional egg or hatching out broods of chicks.

I can hardly wait for next spring's hatching season.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Wheel Turns

Fiesta of Birches, by Leonid Afremov
I love this time of year.  Summer is slowly sliding into fall, every day new changes show themselves: the hint of red on a once-green leaf, ripe orange berries of mountain ash winking into life, and the constant sound of distant geese, moving south to warmer climes.  Two days ago, I was treated to the sight of a dozen large sandhill cranes milling about in a field, taking a break from their long flight to their winter's rest.  Yesterday, I drove past a small pond that was serving as temporary food & lodging for six white trumpeter swans as the evening settled in.

I've been working on stripping the garden of the last of the tender crops.  We're in an early cold spell here, with evening temperatures dropping rapidly into the lower 30's overnight.  My tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, and chard have all been collected.  I figure the root vegetables can handle a top frost, and I can harvest the potatoes when I have more time this weekend.  My kitchen table is covered in green tomatoes working toward ripeness.  If I get nothing else done this weekend, I'm hoping to make some more Bruchetta in a Jar or salsa (I can't really decide which I need more).  The green beans and borlotti beans have been left to dry down for seed, and the pea seed is about ready to harvest and thresh.  I should have a good supply for next year's garden, as well as to share.  I measured one of the vines, and it was nearly 12 feet long!  I love this variety, it is perfect for a small garden where vertical space is more available than horizontal. (It's called Champion of England, and I originally got it from Seed Savers Exchange.  I've grown my own seed crop for the past four years now, and it is a great producer!)

This time of year, I don't mind too much that I am driving hundreds of miles a day for work.  I get to see all the changes in the world, which last for only a moment before they are gone, lost to winter.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Change in the Weather

Well, we barely had summer heat and now, it's switched to fall.  Last night, my house got so chilly that I decided to light the first fire of the season--it was very welcome, very warm, and very appreciated by the dogs and Miss Vida the house cat.  It gave me, along with a cup of hot tea, the incentive to glance back at the summer to-do list and see what I managed to accomplish over the Summer That Wasn't Quite.

Summer 2014 To-Do List
1. Finish digging out all the garden beds.
2. Redo the front garden, and rescue any viable plants from the weeds.
3.  Trim and tie up all the rambling roses.
4. Finish planting the Perennial Veg Corner in the back garden. This is mostly done...
5.  Plant the blackberries and train them on wires.
6. Start training the new apple tree to wires so it will be espalier. Actually, I moved the apple & planted a pear, instead--it was very short dwarfing root stock, and will be happier, I think.
7.  Clean out the Bunny Barn.
8.  Clear out the Car Hut and purge--so much stuff in there! The whole thing is GONE!  Whee!
9. Figure out goat housing. Never did get goats...well, maybe next year?
10. Create and plant backyard herb bed.
11. Get in at least three cords of wood before October.  Well, I've got a face cord and a half...I better get stacking!
12. Create space for a summer kitchen on the porch.
13. Revamp and reclaim the herb bed. I decided to move a couple things and let the mint take over.  It already had, so this was easy to accomplish.
14. Figure out what strawberries need replanting.
15. Don't forget to spray apples in late June! I did this, and still, my Macintosh is dying...I think it's time to replant it.

Well, mostly everything done except for Bunny Barn cleaning and getting firewood.  I call that a summer well spent!