Gardening in the Blind

It’s twins!
March 26, 2011, 7:32 pm
Filed under: animals, chickens

My new chicks 2 weeks old

I thought I would give a baby announcement of sorts.  We have a new addition to the family – 2 Black Cooper Maran chicks that are 2 weeks old.  They are beautiful little creatures.  I think I am going to wait until they feather out more before I give them names in hopes of finding something distinguishing about each of them.  Both the Mom and Dad were on the premise along with an amazing coop.  I was so jealous just looking at it!

So a little about my Black Copper Marans.  They are very common in France, but due to an import ban in the US, they are one of the rarest breeds.  My little girls are of French lines as they have lightly feathered legs.  The eggs are a very dark chocolate-brown.  What is interesting is that this color is achieved by a coating that is applied in the last part of the laying process.  That makes it only on the surface, letting you rub it off with a little work.  The eggs should be around the same size as my Barred Rocks, laying a little less – an average of 3-4 eggs a week.  I will keep you updated as these little girls grow up big!


My new toy
March 20, 2011, 7:17 pm
Filed under: Cooking/Canning/Drying, local eating, Uncategorized

Dried Citrus for work!!

So this isn’t about what I planted, it will come this week.  This is about my new toy for continuation of food preservation.  I have been saving up for this for a long time.  I think it will help me a lot when it comes time to harvest.  It is a food dehydrator.  Not just any dehydrator, it is the excalibur 9 tray dehydrator.  In my yahoo groups I belong to, this is the top of the line for dehydrators and even better it is made in America.  I decided I would save now for the best so I can have it for many years to come. 

What was the first thing I used it for you ask….Well I just so happened to have some organic japanese yams that I needed to use up.  So I made chips.  Then the next day I made dried organic citrus fruits for my hot waters at work.  I feel like I hit the jackpot!  More to come I am sure over my additional method of preserving my food from the garden!

Chickens and more
March 18, 2011, 11:23 am
Filed under: chickens, Uncategorized

It has been one of those weeks.  You know the type that makes you want to purchase a lotto ticket on the off-chance that you could quit and just be a farmer?  The type of week that makes you start looking at land for sale and daydreaming about it, yah, that was the week I had this week.  But it is getting better as it is Friday and I don’t work on Friday’s and not only that, it is beautiful outside!

I went out front and raked a bit of the lawn showing.  It felt good!  I can guantee that I will be doing more of it this weekend.  Not to mention planting more downstairs.  Look for another post this weekend showing you my little shallots and thyme growing up and telling you about what I am planting this weekend.  But enough about that, let’s talk chicken!

Fighting for rights to the dust bath

My girls are producing a lot of eggs these days.  I have about 4 days a week of 5 eggs.  That is an egg from each chicken, it amazes me.  I was worried that I didn’t know what to do with all the eggs, then I started bringing them to work with me.  I’m making a bit of money, explaining a lot about eggs and chickens and meeting new people who I work with.  It is really cool! 

 I am preparing in the next few weeks to empty the coop and lime it.  Adding mineral oil to the nest boxes and perch.  This keeps down mites.  I am also going to drag my dear husband outside to finish the coop.  That way, the perch will be longer, the nest boxes more proportional with the chickens and all should be happy!  The picture I posted is of both Allie and Henrietta fighting for a dust bath.  I think I am going to get more sand and rake it in for the run to allow for more dust bathing!  My make shift livestock pan filled with dirt I have had for them this winter is just a little too small for all of them to get dusty in!

Starting Planting Season
March 14, 2011, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Garden Planning, Indoor Gardening, Seedlings

The snow is melting, the daylight is getting longer and my hands are aching to touch soil in lieu of snow.  It is right about time to start planting. 

My white shelves

This winter I found something terrible had happened.  During the summer our humidifier stopped working.   It was a couple of months before we realized it.  By that time I had mold on my shelves.  It took three weekends and I am almost finished de-molding my shelves and painting them with Kilz2.  It brings a smile to my face to see all the shelves white.  I know it is clear I have not used them like this.  Soon, they will be the color of soil and have green plants growing up from them. 

Next I organized all the planting items, got seed starter and realized I really needed to disinfect all items before planting in them.  So as my tallow is cooking down, lard is starting to work, my dishwasher is finally washing what I need to start my seeds.  It is only making me a week behind though.  Simple to catch up.

Newly planted seeds

After the round in the dishwasher, I took my “bucket” and filled it with the starter.  I then carried it back upstairs and added water.  Oh how my hands had been craving the opportunity to be covered with soil.  It made me smile ear to ear!  Mixing it until moist, I then filled each pot that I had washed packing it tightly.  Placing the seed on top it was placed on a tray on the heating pad.  Celery, Rosemary and Thyme to start, leaving room for the weeks to follow. 

Oh how I have missed the soil and seedlings and plants and sunlight and green stuff…Here is to another year!

Making use of the cow
March 12, 2011, 3:47 pm
Filed under: animals, Cooking/Canning/Drying, local eating

Porch o' beef

The side of beef arrived leaving our front porch full of packaged beef parts.  Excited and happy to be supporting local farms, Deron and I filled the freezers downstairs.  As a note, it takes more than the 8.8 cubic feet of freezer for the cow.  It has taken about 14 cubic feet +/-. 

We enthusiastically unpacked the bags sorting through the cuts while discussing what to make.  We ended on Hamburgers to start with.  It was a great choice.  But meantime I realized I needed to do research as I now have organ meat, bones and suet that I had no idea what to do with.

We started with some of the bones.  We made 7 quarts of Martha Stewart’s beef stock and thanks to my pressure canner I was able to preserve by canning and placing in the newly gathered shelves downstairs that have the canned goods that are left and labels saying where they belong.  We have about two more times and we will have finished the bones.  One down shortly….Many more items to work on.  So, after visiting the Auburn Historical Society Museum, I set out to over come my fear of fat. 

Making Beef Tallow

I dug out one of the suet bags and cut it into smaller pieces.  I placed it in a pot over very low heat and I am slowly making beef tallow.  I am excited as I think I am going to use some in making us soap.  It will make a creamy white soap.  I just need to find some lye.  I found how to make it, but it is very caustic which makes me think it might not be a good thing with all my curious animals.  There is no such thing as a “safe” place animals won’t get to inside or outside of my house.  The picture shows the suet cooking down after about one hour.  I will leave it cooking for the rest of the day (about 4-6 hours more).

While I was dealing with fat, I decided to use a little of the pork back fat from my friend’s pig.  My hands were sore and the knives dull, so I did just a little.  I cut it up and placed it in a smaller pot and put it in the oven with the lowest setting.  We will have to see how long it takes as it is a much smaller amount.  But when it is done, Deron will have the pleasure of eating cracklings.  That is the pork skin left after the fat is rendered. 

Now I just need to place an order for meat birds this year.  I’m not raising them, but I am going to purchase from a local farm.  I do think I am going to get two more chicks soon though!