Thursday, July 31, 2008

Garden Bunnies

Bryon found these sweet little bunnies in our raised beds. They had to have been born there, because they could never have jumped into those two foot high beds by themselves yet. The garden isn't any worse for them but they did get relocated to lower ground. We had six rabbits in our front lawn the other morning when I left for work. God only knows what was going on in the back yard (or at night for that matter). I think there must be a bunnie love in going on.


I made homemade brownies today from my Mom's Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook (1961). I haven't made homemade brownies since I left home. I've always just bought the mixes and added the eggs and oil. Well, truely, it's no big deal but I had forgotten how easy it was. I'm not buying another mix! Granted, those mixes are cheap, but I like making them and they tasted great. I'm taking them to the last night of bible school tonight and the All Church Picnic. That is if there are any left :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I'm so excited! I just went out to change the chicken's water in the coop and just as I lifted out the waterer I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. EGGS!!!! Two beautiful little brown eggs. The first ones. I don't know which girls were the layers, but I enthusiastically thanked them all. Very, very cool. They are 17 weeks today. The books say they'll lay between 18 and 20 weeks. Obviously mine are highly advanced :)

I hope this is the beginning of many, many eggs. Of course, the did NOT use the nesting box, just on the floor of the coop despite my decoy eggs I've had in the boxes for months. I cleaned out all three nesting boxes and put in fresh bedding and strategically placed the eggs dead center and in eye shot so they'd get the hint. We'll see if the do. At least I know where to look tomorrow!

Farm out.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Well after seeking the advice of two farmers, the internet and two books, Bryon castrated our pigs yesterday afternoon. I knew it was probably more than the three of us could manage alone. Those little pigs are fast and STRONG. I didn't think I could hold them down successfully alone, so he called Chris and the boys over to help. Things went pretty well and he got them both successfully castrated.

Bryon had helped our friend Buddy castrate some calves years ago, but he was the holder/helper then. This was his first time as the doer of the deed. He did great. I supervised and video taped it. Grace got a little worried about all the squealing so Tammy took her up to visit the rabbits. Tammy said she asked about 25 questions between the pig pen and the rabbit hutch. She's good now.

Pigs seem to be doing well so far. We bought some Wonder Blue stuff to spray on the wounds to help them heal and keep the flies off them.

It was a big weekend.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Old MacDonald Had A Farm

Pigs, pigs, glorious pigs! We got up at 5:30 am this morning to head to the Small Animal Swap Meet in Fordland. Folks get out there before the crack of dawn wearing headlamps to set up for the sale. This was my third time out there. It's the last Sat. of every month, April through October. Bryon had gone out with me once before but this is the first time I got to bring anything home! It was exciting!

We were primarily scoping out pigs, but also bunnies for Grace. Well there were world a plenty of bunnies of all kinds, sizes and shapes but only a few pigs. We got there about 7 am and the first pigs we saw were $25 each. Lynsey had only paid $12 each for hers so we decided to wait and see what else there was. The next truck had pigs for $50 each. Bryon thought they meant for the whole lot (about 6) but no it was $50 each. Those folks were proud of their pigs! Next an Amish guy came with a whole trailer full of pigs and I followed him to his parking spot and he wanted $30 each for his small ones. I tried to bargin with him but he stuck to the $30 each so I walked away and we kept searching. Then another Amish guy had two little pigs for $15 each but one had a rupture and the other was pretty poor looking. They were really dirty (I know, pigs are dirty) but they just didn't look very healthy and they had sores on their ears from being chewed on. Finally we went back to the first truck and they only had two left. He sold them to us for $20 each. They were a little bigger so we figured they had at least a bag of feed each in them already ($12 each for a 50 lb bag of feed). We took them and loaded them up in the dog crate in the back of the truck.

Grace had spotted the bunnies she wanted so we got them and loaded them into the cat carrier. Bryon had his heart set on a couple of mallard ducks for the pond so he bought a little carrier ($15) and two $2 mallards. He thinks he got a boy and a girl duck. We'll see if they even make it through the night. We have a lot of owls, coyotes and raccoons. I don't even know where they are right now.

We don't know if the bunnies are boys or girls. We may be back at the swap meet in a few weeks selling bunnies ourselves!

One of the pigs almost got away as Bryon was trying to get them from the crate into the pen. Then the pigs immediately found the weakest point of our ramshackle pig pen and almost escaped again! So far they've been in there about 3 hours. Hopefully it will hold them or we might be hunting wild pig this fall. Now we know how that happens!

Grace is dying to play with the bunnies but I told her they need to rest and get used to their new home then we could play with them a little tonight after it cools down. It's been sooooo hot! Heat index of 100. It's not fit outside for man nor beast. I don't know how I managed not to get sick again, but so far so good.

It sure feels like a farm today :)

Butchering Chickens

Yesterday I took a vacation day to help Lynsey butcher her chickens for the farmer's market. She had 45 chickens. The most she's butchered by herself is about 20. She showed me how to do the first one and then I killed the next 35 by myself. I caught about half of them, stuffed them down into the killing cone bags, tied their feet with black electrical tape, hung them over a trash can, cut their throats so they could bleed out, hosed them off, dunked them into the scald pot and then dropped them into Lynsey's homemade whizbang plucker. That think is the bomb! It plucked them clean in about 20 seconds. I hardly had to pull of any of the feathers. Lynsey eviscerated them, cleaned them up and tossed them in the cooler. She had all 45 spoken for at the market but we only got 36 killed. We started at 7 am and had to take about a 40 minute break to pickup her son at daycare. We finished bagging them and icing them in the cooler at 3:15. The farmer's market started at 3:30. It was a fast and furious day.

I was surprised that I really wasn't bothered by the whole thing at all. I actually enjoyed it. For one thing, they weren't my chickens so that helped I think and we did it all outside so it really wasn't smelly. It was, however, really, really hot. I went to the farmers market afterwards and helped her for a few minutes because she was just swarmed with buyers and lookey lews. I picked up Grace and by the time I got home I was sick from the heat. I went to bed at 5 pm and didn't get up again until 5 am this morning. It was a big but satisfying day. Now I'm going to make a pen and try to get about 25 cornish cross chicks to raise. You only need to raise them about 7 or 8 weeks until they are butcher size and we can butcher them and put them in the freezer for ourselves and our family. Then in the spring I might do it again. It's going to be a pain with out the plucker but we'll get it done. Her chickens taste so good! We are both feeding our chickens unmedicated feed and trying to keep them as organic as possible. None of mine have had any medications or anything yet so that's pretty satisfying.

My layers are finishing their last bag of starter/grower feed and will be beginning their layer rations probably in a couple of weeks. I hope in another month or so they'll start laying. I can't wait!

Carrot Lovers

Monday, July 21, 2008

Under Pressure

I bought a pressure canner yesterday. Once again, too many choices. I get mad when there is only one choice, but can't make a decision when there are too many. It's a real Catch 22. I looked online and saw that Wal-Mart had one for $59 that was stainless steel. We just bought all stainless steel cookware hoping to avoid the potential health implications of cooking with aluminum. So I go to our Wal-Mart and low and behold two choices: a big aluminum one or a little aluminum one. Of course the third and fourth option was to wait until Monday and look all around town in Springfield or order online and for it to be delivered to Marshfield. Well I may have mentioned a few times, I'm not very patient. I bought the aluminum one. On the one hand I never had any idea you could cook a roast in one in under an hour before I started reading about pressure cookers. Then again how many roasts am I really going to ever cook in it? Most if not all of the food I'll ever cook in it will be in jars so I just bought the aluminum one. The big one.

I canned my first food (carrots) last night in the pressure canner. It was a little scary. I kept waiting for it to explode and spray burning water all over me, scaring me and my family for life. It didn't. Whew! Too many urban legend stories I guess. Of course, I do know that COULD happen but I've never heard of anyone it actually happened to. I know they are out there though. Every urban legend starts with some grain of truth however perverted it becomes.

I've learned some valuable lessons this year in the garden. Lessons I knew but was too lazy or unsure of to implement. For example...if you let a pre-schooler plant the seeds, the carrots are going to be tiny. Overcrowding of the seeds gave us a diverse array of sizes. We had a few great carrots, but lots and lots of little tiny ones that defied peeling and became compost. I had to recruit Bryon from a perfectly wonderful Sunday afternoon nap to come to my carrot peeling/scraping relief. Grace washed the dirt off some of the carrots until her attention disintegrated and she wandered off to watch more Max and Ruby.

I read the canning instructions SEVERAL times and finally dove in. One thing about canning instructions that come with the product is that there is no troubleshooting section. That was worrisome in itself. Apparently if you don't do it right...too bad. It took FOREVER for my little jiggler (I bought one without the gaugey thing)to start jiggling and was searching the book for advice on how long it might take. No such advice. I just waited. You don't start timing the "cook time" until the dang thing starts jiggling. Well cook time was 25 minutes and it took 30 to start jiggling. Boy was I happy when it finally started to jiggle! Of course then the jiggling induced more stress because I didn't know if it was jiggling to fast, too slow, was it going to explode. I turned it down a bit just in case. Finally the timer went off and Bryon moved it off the burner and we waited for it to depode.

It did and Bryon (brave soul that he is) took off the lid. Five perfectly wonderful looking pints of carrots! Not sealed yet. I set them on a towel, went to bed to read and waited for the popping to start. Finally I heard the first jar seal. Pop. A few minutes later...pop, pop. Yippee. Only two to go...pop. Then nothing. When I was finally ready to turn off the light I went into the kitchen to see what the problem might be and before I even got over the counter, POP! All five sealed!

Relief. Disaster averted. Now if they are only edible :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Corn Walking

I'm reading a really interesting book right called The Omnivore's Dillema by Michael Pollan . The book is about, among other things: corn. It's really a natural history of food and farming in general but the main character is corn and how it has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our lives from the food we eat, the food we feed our food, the things we use, the fuel we spend, the clothes we wear and the products that go onto our bodies and skin. It's really eye opening. It's almost a conspiracy when you get right down to it. You might be surprised. I was. Take a moment to go check out your cupboard and see how many of the items in there list one or more of the following ingredients. It will be a miracle if ALL of them don't list at least one and probably SEVERAL of the them. Look especially for high fructose corn syrup. It's a biggie.

Corn Derivatives :

This list provides a number of corn bi-products. The following may be ingredients which you would want to avoid if you have corn allergies or are seeking to avoid genetically modified foods. The list is only partial and grows as we learn more information.

Zein: from corn protein, used as a vitamin coating.

Xanthan Gum: from corn sugar, used as a food thickener.

MSG/Glutamic acid/hydrolyzed vegetable protein or starch: used as flavour enhancers.

Inositol/inosinate:an ingredient in vitamin B supplements.

Oleic acid and Bi-products: from vegetable oils, used variously especially in cosmetics.

Stearic acid and Bi-products: from cottonseed, corn or other vegetable oils, used variously.

Lactic Acid: from fermented corn and potato starch

Lecithin:emulsifier and supplement from corn or soy.

Linoleic Acid: from vegetable oils, such as cottonseed and soybean.

Lysine:Amino acid often derived from corn.

Ascorbic Acid:Vitamin C supplement most often derived from corn.

Phospholipids:derived from lecithin (see above).

Pectin:could be derived from corn sugars, such as dextrose or fructose.

Phytic Acid: used to chelate heavy metals for supplements


Dextrose, fructose, dextri-maltose, maltodextrin, cyclodextrin, diacetyl, amylose, amylopectin, invert sugar, isomalt, levulose, monosaccharide, lactate condensation, polyamino sugar condensate, confectioner's sugar.


Baking Powder, white vinegar, aspartame, methanol, citric acid, table salt (dextrose), caramel, excipients and bill binders, malt, mono and diglycerides, sorbitol, vanilla extract, milo starch.

Did you find a few? I don't know how this story ends yet, I'm halfway through, but I don't think it's going to have a happily ever after. Makes me glad we have all this space to start experimenting with our gardens, farming and livestock.

Life is good in the country. Now if I can just learn to like green vegetables.

I do like corn. Figures.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Good Pig is Hard to Find

Our pig hunt has been stymied. I've made a dozen calls to vets, feed stores and sundry other leads for a pair of pigs without success this week. I stopped by my Amish friends in Dunnegan last week and located some but I just felt like they were too expensive. $25 each. My friend bought hers for half that. $12 more bucks each is a bag of feed each so we decided not to go up there (it would have cost us $25 more in gas!). Then we were going to go to the sale barn today but I just lost my motivation this morning for some reason. Turns out it was for the best because I called Lebanon, Buffalo and Bolivar's sale barns this afternoon to see what sold and for how much. Lebanon had one 400 lb sow that sold for $28, five mixed pigs about 75 lbs each for $18 each and four more mixed pigs for $15 each. Buffalo had one hog that sold but the lady didn't know for how much and when I called Bolivar's sale barn (the one I had originally planned to go to) I found out from their answering machine they were closed for the month of July! Boy I would have been mad to have gotten there and found that out. It would have been my own damn fault too for not calling ahead. Who knew?

I've been chasing pig leads for a week and I'm too late or too early or just SOL on each one so far. We've decided not to go camping next weekend so we can go to the small animal swap meet at Fordland next Saturday. Lynsey got hers there for $12 each. I'm hoping for similar good luck. I'll bet we can find some bunnies for Grace there too! Oh these acres are getting greener!

Who knew a good pig would be so hard to find? Here's to you Flannery O'Connor.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wear and Tear

After about two years of tripping over our growing and buckling carpet in our downstairs bedrooms, we finally got fed up and "they" came and stretched it yesterday. Bryon took the day off and moved all the furniture out with the help of Aaron and Austin so they could do it correctly. Apparently "they", the carpet company, had never installed it correctly to begin with when we moved in we had to have it stretched once just a few months after we moved in. Gradually it just kept growning and buckling and we kept tripping and cursing until finally we got fed up and Bryon got us some results. What was orginally going to be a $300 restretching turned into a $95 restretching after Bryon's skillful negotiations. My efforts didn't get us anywhere: out of warranty, blah, blah, blah.

Bryon is definately a skilled negotiator. He should be, he has lots of debating opportunities around the house, ha!

We also had our most productive day of outside work without a babysitter for Grace that we have ever had last Saturday. We bought out materials Saturday morning after breakfast at Freda's in Marshfield and went home to start working on rebuilding the rabbit hutch and constructing a hog shelter. We have an old 12x12 dog kennel we are going to try to utilize for raising two pigs to slaughter in the late fall/early winter. We don't know anything about pigs except what we've gleaned from a book I bought but I'm up for the adventure. We are going to get a couple of bunnies for Grace to raise too. We may or may not eat them. Depends on if they are mean bunnies I guess.

We built a great pic shelter and now all we need are the pigs. I asked around my Amish neighborhood up at Dunnegan and the Borntragers have some just weined crossbreeds we can get but they are $25 and that seems high. Lindsy, my new chicken raising friend, just bought two for $12 each. Durocs. They are red and very cute. Everyone wants to know if I can kill them if I raise them from little piglets. Well, have you seen a big fat pig? They really aren't that cute. I don't forsee it being a problem. Besides, the only way I'm going to be able to continue this farmy stuff is if Bryon sees the fruits of the labor ie eggs, bacon and pork roasts! I don't think he's going to be too happy to keep building and feeding pets.

I don't know what kind of pigs we'll end up with but I'm excited to go look and maybe go to the Sale Barn this weekend. I haven't been to a sale barn since I was little and went with Dad. I hope they still sell hamburgers :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Free the Peaches!

I was out in the wild blue yonder last week visiting blood drive coordinators and delivering publicity materials in Lawrence County (one of my favorite areas) and was heading by to visit Liz out in Miller when I stumbled across roadside vendors selling peaches from Friestatt, MO. Of course I stopped. Animals and food in the road will almost always deter me from my original plan. I bought a big 10 lb box of peaches for $10.

I left a couple with Liz, borrowed a perserving food recipe book and bought a 10 lb bag of sugar on the way home. Needless to say I spent the evening canning peaches. I've canned tomatoes, one little half pint of beets for Grace by myself and last summer Mom helped me can blackberry jelly, but this was my first fruit canning experience.

I followed all the directions and things started out pretty smoothly until I couldn't get the dang pit out of the middle of the peach without squishing the flesh to oblivion. I struggled with several and created some stringy peachy mush until I finally gave up and started slicing the flesh of in chunks. I was worried maybe they just weren't ripe but they tasted GREAT! Only two peaches out of that entire box broke in half easily and gave me two perfect halves for my jars. All the rest were in unrecognizable chunks and pieces. I made the syrup for them, canned them up and waited for the lids to start popping. Several of them popped and sealed right away but a couple of them didn't until later in the night. Eventually I ended up with 9 pints of canned peaches. Despite the mangled method I used, they actually look very pretty.

Then next quandry was that the fruit all floated up to the top. I read the troubleshooting in my canning books and it turns out my syrup wasn't heavy enough. I used a medium syrup (like the dang book said) but guess I should have used a heavy syrup. The only difference is the sugar/water ratio.

Later in the week, Mom came up and I showed her my peaches and told her my difficulties. She asked, "Were they Freestone or Cling peaches?" Uhh, what's the difference? Turns out they are aptly named, Freestone's pit just pops right out and Clings have to be sliced because their pit stays put. Who knew? Guess me now :)