Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Busy, busy, busy!

I forget just how busy this time of year is.  Nothing ever goes without a hitch.  This year, it was The Invasion of the Seed Snatchers!  Mice took out about 85% of our first two plantings - about 1,500 tomato and pepper seeds.  I had decided not to buy any new seeds this year, instead running down inventory.  So when this happened, there were very few seeds left in the seed bins for replanting.

Seeds separated by Flower, Fruit, Leaf and Root

Thankfully I still had Brandywine tomato seeds.  Two of 30 came up the first time, mice taking care of the rest.  But we planted more, and the reseeded cells are popping with tiny plants.  However, there are still many, many empty cells.  You can see in the picture that we separate the seeds so that it is easier to follow biodynamic organic planting principles.  Thursday is a Fruit day, and we will be busily filling in more empty spots in the seedling trays containing peppers and tomatoes.  We will also be planting our Tom Thumb Pea Bowls.

Empty cells!

Second planting of Brandywine tomatoes - looking good
Unfortunately, I had to order many more seeds.  One of my suppliers has a wonderful selection, but they are slow to ship.  I finally got their seeds last night and found out they were out of Green Zebra, Green Grape, Hugh's and Hillbilly.  The big losses on this list are Hugh's and Green Zebra.  It is really getting pretty late to order more seeds.  I guess we will just do without this year.  My customers will let me know what they think of that!  :(

This afternoon and all day tomorrow are Leaf days, so we will be trimming and transplanting the last of the lettuces from the greenhouse.  That will give us a bit of a jump on the garden season.  We'll also direct seed lettuce into the garden with our seeding machine.

Red leaf lettuce ready to transplant to garden.

 If you live near Walkerton / South Bend, Indiana and are interested in joining our Market Basket CSA or want greenhouse plants for your own garden, give me a holler.  I'll send you information.  Contact me at susan@ceres-co.com and I'll get the information to you right away.

I do believe spring has actually arrived!  At last!!!

Addendum:  Okay, I did it.  I ordered more seeds.  So we are covered for Hugh's, Green Zebra, Hillbilly and Green Grape.  Fortunately I found a supplier who had all four of them.  And while I was at it, I had a request on Saturday for Black Cherry tomatoes, so I ordered those.  And I finally found Ancho chile peppers, which have been out just about everywhere, so they are on their way as well.  I have a seed addiction!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sometimes things work out okay!

Tonight I lost my cell phone.  I had made a call to Kim when I got home from Purple Porch tonight, and I remembered telling him that my battery was about dead, couldn't talk long.

When I went to bed, I was going to plug the phone in to recharge the battery but couldn't find it.  When I called the number from my home phone, I didn't hear it ringing, so I assumed that the battery had gone completely dead.  I searched everywhere for nearly an hour.  I retraced my steps, or so I thought, but still it eluded me.

I just couldn't go to bed with the phone lost.  Every time I tried, I would lie in bed for two minutes, then pop out of bed and search some more.  Finally I went to my computer for a little help.

My phone is a Galaxy Nexus, and I was pretty sure I set it up with a locator app when I got it, but I had not saved any information on how to access it.  So I Googled how to find a lost cell phone with dead battery.  One person mentioned going to SamsungDive.com.  I did and I followed the directions. 

I had to check in with my Google account password for an Android phone, which is what I have.  Up popped a map.  There was my pond, and my drive, and a big circle encompassing my house and barns, not really much help.  I clicked on the circle and now there was an arrow to the left of the end of the lane, not the right, which is where the house is.  So it WASN'T in the house!  What building is across the drive from the house?  The greenhouse!  I headed outside after setting the app to ring the phone continuously for five minutes. As soon as I walked out the back door, I could hear it ringing.  Yup, in the greenhouse.  And of course, then I remembered going out to check the plants while I was talking to Kim about tomorrow's work schedule.

The map was specific enough that I believe I would have found it even without the ringing. That is one clever app!  Consider activating it on your phone if you haven't already done so, while you still know where it is!  LOL

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A medical miracle - I think . . .

Three years ago come July, I gifted myself with a new mower - a Bad Boy with 60" blade, zero degree turns.   I love it.  It is ideal for mowing pastures, and I have mowed plenty of them.

Fast forward to Labor Day Weekend, same year.  I was working in my flower bed in front of the atrium - 40' long bed with lots of perennials in it, and I was thinning them, weeding, getting the flower bed ready for the winter.  There are a lot of errant stinging nettle plants in there, and suddenly I felt intense stinging on my left ankle as well as my left wrist and hand.  I had on gloves, but they were light gardening gloves, and the stingers went right through.  Then I looked down and saw that the two aforementioned body parts were covered with bees!

I had inadvertently disturbed a nest of ground bees.  I moved fast, shook them off, got into the garage and ditched the gloves as well as my socks.  I found a couple more clinging to my socks and gloves.

It hurt!  I had over 20 stings.  I have never shown any allergic reaction to bee stings, but I was a bit nervous, being home alone and getting so many of them all at once.  I felt a bit nauseated, but I think it was just from the pain.  A little research on the internet led me to take a couple of Benedryl and drive to a local hospital.  The reason I know it was Labor Day weekend was that the waiting room was full of people with heat exhaustion and stomach aches and whatever else shows up on a 90º day at the largest 4-day festival in Indiana - The Blueberry Festival.  The woman at the desk told me that it would be quite a while before they could see me, about 20 people ahead of me, and anyway if I truly was allergic to bee stings I would be dead by then.  So I went home.

Fast forward to my next mowing day.  It was hot and dry, and when I came in the house, I was covered with chaff from mowing.  I started itching about an hour later, spending the evening playing cards with my friends and scratching my forehead. 

It got worse and worse.  Of course, I put some of my homemade yarrow cream on my face, but it didn't help, even seemed to get worse.  I finally went to a dermatologist.  She said it appeared to be an allergy.  She prescribed cortisone cream, and it cleared up.

I wish that was the end of the story, but it kept popping up.  My hands got very bad!  I went back to dermatologist, and again she prescribed a slightly different cortisone cream and told me to wear gloves at all times.  Hah!  That's a joke!  She told me I had to quit beating up my hands, but I'm saving that for retirement.

The rashes would come and go.  Over time, they got worse when I used my Lemon Skin Renew face cream, so I quit using it.  Hello, wrinkles.  :(   Then I started reacting to my Triple Rose Indulgence.  I would use my creams only two or three times a week, and then use the cortisone cream on alternate nights to get rid of the rash.  My lips were very dry and flaking, too.

I removed the Borax from my formulas.  My emulsifier of choice, the most natural, is a combination of beeswax and Borax.  The formula emulsified pretty well without the Borax, but it didn't make any difference - I still broke out.

I started making deodorant, and everyone who tried it loved it.  So did I - until I saw a ring of red around my underarms.  So I went back to the horrid store-bought deodorant, and started to suspicion that it might be the beeswax, since that seemed to be the only ingredient that was common to everything that was making me break out.

Saturday at the market, I was staring at my terrible dry hands and grabbed a lotion bar off the shelf -- something I rarely use.  They are very heavy on beeswax, but I didn't even think about it.  I applied it several times throughout the day.  That night when I went to bed, my hands started to itch.  It was terrible - welts, even the beginning of cracks forming between my fingers.  My face itched, my back itched, places that had never seen a drop of any of my lotions itched!  This stuff seemed to be in my system, not just a topical reaction.

Duh, I know I should have figured it out sooner, but the light bulb finally went off.  I threw away every last thing with beeswax in it.  A friend was visiting the next day and saw the pile of stuff to be put in the trash, and she was happy to take it all.  My research tells me that only 4% to 6% of people have an allergy to beeswax, so she is probably safe.  Did the stings on Labor Day set off my allergic reaction?  The rashes started after the stings.  Might I now be allergic to bee stings?  Probably time for an EpiPen.

The results were fast - the next morning my face didn't itch and now on Day Four the red is receding at last.  My hands have quit itching, although there are still dry patches.  I know from experience that it will take quite some time to get past all of this.  My face is better, but cheeks are still a little red and I don't leave the house without foundation.

So why is there an "I think . . ." behind the title of this blog?  Because there is another part of this story.  I am thankful for very good health for my age.  Aside from the skin rashes, though, I have had another complaint which I have just attributed to age.  My joints ache.  After I have been sitting a while, the first ten steps I take are painful.  I am the only one in my family who doesn't suffer from arthritis, so I just figured it finally caught up with me.  Sigh . . .

I can't use my homemade Pain Relief Cream anymore because, of course, it has beeswax in it.  Back to the ibuprofen.  Last night, I didn't need any pain relief to make it through the night.  When I got up this morning, I was (at least relatively) pain free. I am wondering / hoping / guessing that the allergy may have been affecting my joints as well.  If eliminating beeswax from my life takes care of the joint pain, well, THAT is the miracle.

As for my creams, I have ordered a natural non-petroleum and certified organic wax to use in place of beeswax, one for one.  I want my Lemon Skin Renew!!!  If you want to see more about what products I sell, you can go here.   Ceres & Co. on-line store

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Kim and I just finished planting our first seeds of the season - about 760 seeds give or take a few.  Hot peppers and sweet peppers.  We plant by the biodynamic calendar (see more here), peppers are "fruit," next fruit day will be the 23rd, when we will get first planting of tomato seeds done.  It is always fun to work out there, but it is brutally cold! 

I wonder how many records we have broken this year.  It isn't just the cold, it is the INCESSANT cold that is getting to me.  Our first calf is living in the barn.  We never keep the calves in when they are born.  It is healthier for them to be outside.  But not this year.  We are expecting two more calves this week, a beef calf and a dairy calf.  Where will be put them all?  Their little lean-to in the calf pen is just not enough for them.

Looking at the 10 day forecast, there are only three days when the temperature does not dip below zero in the nighttime.  This is just not right!

We have to crank the greenhouse temp up now that the seeds are in.  They are in seedling trays on a heat mat, but the 35º temperature that we maintain for the winter greens out there is just not good enough any longer.  Thermostat has been moved up to 55º, and furnace is running pretty often to maintain that.  Ca-ching, ca-ching. $$$$$$$$$$$$$

Well, spring officially begins on Thursday.  Perhaps things will get better in a week or two.  Or not.  Sigh . . .

Monday, March 10, 2014

I may not be crowing tomorrow, but . . .

My trusty Canon MP640 is a real workhorse.  For a little and fairly inexpensive printer, it does a lot a things.  It is a little slow, but it prints on two sides - without having to remove the finished prints and flipping them.  Imagine my consternation when I got my Epson and found out that "prints on two sides" meant that instructions for how to flip the paper popped up when you were done with the first side!

My mighty Canon can be filled with 25 lb. paper, the printing for 30 of my two sided flyers for the Walkerton Dairy Herd Association  (see more here) or my skin care products (more about that here) programmed, and then I really don't care how slow it is, because I can shower, or make a batch of soap, or load the dishwasher while it is doing its thing - it prints two sides without any further input from the operator.  It even senses when you have new ink cartridges and it lets the ink dry a little longer before it does the second side.  Good machine!

Today my color was off -- I use a lot of brown in my printed material, and it was lavender/pink instead of brown -- and even though it hadn't said to clean the print heads, I did it anyway; but the yellow just didn't work.   Then I got a printer error message.  I have already changed the print head once.  They are expensive!  I went out to the internet to see if I could find a good cleaning kit so I could save $75.  One site said to remove the print head and reinstall and sometimes that would clear it.  I did.  Oops!  Now it wouldn't print at all!!  Perfectly blank paper, even after it made all the sounds of printing.  I reinstalled it three times, figured I had damaged something and would have to buy a new one.

I found another site that showed you how to clean the head by putting it under warm running water.  Say what?  Would that really work?  Well, what did I have to lose?  I rinsed it until the water ran clear, dried the contacts thoroughly, reinstalled it, and voila! it printed again.  Yellow still wasn't good, so I ran a cleaning cycle, and all is well!!  Who'd of thunk it?  $75 for a print head, $8 plus shipping for a cleaning kit, and this cost me a couple of paper towels.  :)

Go to this site (video on how to clean a Canon print head) to see it done if you have a Canon with a sticky print head.

I can only hope it is still printing tomorrow morning.  Soon I'll be printing greenhouse labels, can't do without it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Baking day

Biggest day ever for baking.  I will be very thankful to get into my river house and have a stove with two ovens!  Here's what I did last week for Purple Porch.  Nineteen loaves, plus five bunny rolls!

Back to front: Honey Oatmeal Walnut braids, Einkorn baguettes, sourdough rye, bunny rolls, rising baguettes

Baguettes rising

Honey Oatmeal Walnut braid

These are from Einkorn, an ancient grain.

Baguettes ready for the oven

Sourdough Rye

Bunny rolls

Monday, February 10, 2014

Egg eating rooster

I had three young roosters that were hatched out here mid-summer.  I haven't had much luck with what hatches here, because they seem to be about seventy-five percent roosters, not good when you have chickens so that you can get eggs!

I have this problem with butchering my chickens, as in "I have never butchered one of them."  They get taken by the wild animals, a couple of them have gotten sick or died from old age, but that's it.  Kim has urged me to butcher the young roosters, although by now they are too old to use as fryers.  They have to be under three months to go in the frying pan, or so he said.

I let him take three young roosters.  One of them had been eating eggs, so he definitely had to go.  Kim was not allowed to touch Buster, Tiny or Ricky Ricardo.  They are all too, too old anyway.

Kim said the meat was very dark, and I should get chickens with white feathers, because the meat is lighter and more appealing to people.  Well, these are for me, so I didn't really care.  I put two of them in the freezer and took the other one to the house.

Contrary to what Kim said (I am pretty adventurous in the kitchen), I decided to give the whole breast a go in one of my favorite recipes.  It's based on a recipe from MOMMYTO2BOYS on www.Allrecipes.com with some slight modifications.  If you want to look it up, search on Chicken Breasts in Caper Cream Sauce.  Mine is adapted for one whole large bone-in breast, from an older bird.  The cooking method has to change a bit to keep the finished product tender.  So here goes.

Mix 1 tsp. each lemon pepper, salt, dried dill weed and garlic powder until well blended.  Dredge a large whole chicken breast, bone in, in the mixture and sauté in 2 tbsp. of butter.  Do not overcook.  Just cook until the last of the pink is gone.  In fact, if there is a tiny bit of pink left, that is all the better, as you are going to set the sautéed breast in a 200º oven while you finish the sauce.  It will continue to cook a bit.  In the same sauté pan, scrape up the browned bits and add a cup of heavy cream to the pan.  Over medium heat, reduce the cream by about half, stirring often.  I like to keep simmering until it forms a nice brown sauce.  Then add 2 tbsp. of capers, drained.  Remove the chicken breast from the oven and cut away from the bone.  You will have two nice pieces of breast meat.  Now slice each half across the grain into several thin slices and lay the slices back into the pan of sauce.  If you see any pink, make sure those get into the sauce first, and give them a minute or so to cook through completely.  The trick for getting juicy and tender meat, even from an older bird, is not to overcook.

Place the cooked breast slices on each of two plates and top with sauce.  I love cabbage sautéed in coconut oil for a side dish.  It is a great and tasty low carb meal.

So what did I do with the rest of the bird?  Well, those dark farm raised birds make a magnificent and tasty broth.  No need to add any canned stock.  I used the broth for vegetable soup, with a few pieces of drumstick meat floating in the broth.  Yum!  Then I took the remaining meat off the bone, chopped it fine, added finely chopped onion, dill pickle and yellow peppers, topped it all with a generous amount of real mayonnaise and served it on flax meal bread - also very low carb, and very tasty indeed!

I have enough of the chicken salad for at least two more meals.  That rooster served me well!  Let me know if you try the recipe, and how it turns out for you.  Bon appétit.