Friday, December 30, 2011

A tribute to Rosie

I got this poem from Lynn Patrick, one of the founding members of our dairy herd association, and a milker during the first year of our existence.  I asked her if I could pass it on, and she agreed.  Here it is.


Ode to Rosie

Hail Rosie! 
Righteous bovine.
First of our Herd.
Independently - minded.
She would go where she would go,
And I would chase her through the pasture,
While Baby Doll, ever obedient, followed Rosie's every step.
Now, Rosie is following Baby Doll
Into the great hereafter.
I pray for green grass, pure water, gentle rains.
The great herdsman is there - and there is no sorrow;
And all calves survive.
So may our herds increase.
For we must have cream in our coffee in heaven!
And it couldn't be heaven without our sweet cows,
Our dogs, our cats, all our animal friends.
I will then honor her and all the others with my tears.
Until we meet again.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rosie's final journey

The average "factory farm" cow lives about 36 months.  They are bred too young, given hormones to bring them back in heat and get them bred quickly after they freshen, are milked three times a day, and then are thrown away.  Enjoy that McDonald's hamburger.

Rosie is our oldest cow - she is now 12.  She was our first cow, too.  Two of her offspring are part of our herd now.  Romeo, a bull calf, has already proven himself and the two heifers he was penned up with will freshen in March and April.  Lucky, the first calf that Rosie had once she was down here, has freshened twice, will have her third calf in March.  I am so glad that we will have these reminders of Rosie.

Rosie is getting frail, and she didn't settle (that means to get pregnant) this year.  I should have sent her to the butcher six months ago, but I kept thinking, "She will get better soon."  Talk about denial.  If she is getting a bit crippled and losing weight, why do I think that being six months older will "fix" it?

I called the hauler and the butcher.  Rosie will be gone on Monday.  My heart is heavy.  I console myself by remembering that she has had a very good life here, living in the open, well fed, shown love by every milker who handled her.  She was a favorite of every one of us. 

Lucy is the cow who just freshened on December 4.  She is not a friendly cow, never has been, has always been a bit of a loner.  But she doesn't like being in the barn alone to be milked.  So I've been bringing in Rosie to stand in front of her and Quattro to stand behind.  Then she behaves perfectly, is very easy to milk. 

This morning I looked up while milking and saw her resting her head on Rosie's neck.  Very unusual behavior.  Then the reverse happened, and Rosie was resting her head on Lucy's neck.  They both know.  Don't ask me how they know, or how I know they know, but they know - and I KNOW they know.

But I must dwell on the good things. Here is my favorite picture of Rosie, taken right after we brought her down here to my farm four years ago.  We didn't name her because of the mark on her head, I didn't even see it until a new shareholder said, "Oh, you named her Rosie because of the upside down rose on her forehead!"  Can you see it?  I can, now that Justin mentioned it.

Rosie 
Our bull Sam and Rosie have always been close, just like to hang out together, even when they are not making babies.  This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of them, off from the rest of the herd, grazing on the edge of the woods, just the two of them.  Sam will miss Rosie.  We will all miss Rosie.

Rosie & Sam on a date

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Yule

Tonight we celebrate Winter Solstice, or Yule, at my house.  Nothing fancy, just opening my door to visitors at 7:00 p.m.  I made lentil soup for my vegetarian friends, collards with smoked ham for my omnivore friends, and a big pan of pulled pork.  Of course, there is also homemade bread - two loaves, French baguettes.

French Baguettes


Tonight is all about sitting around eating and talking, no bonfire, no ritual, just enjoying the fact that the Wheel has ticked to another Sabbat and we are all still here to enjoy it.

Blessed Be.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Frustrated chickens

I am pretty frustrated, too.  Those darned chickens keep hiding eggs, and this time I can't find them.  So I penned them up, closed up their little door in the big gate.  Some of them have flown the coop (literally), but most are in for the day.  They have a nice big area in which to run, but those Campines long to find new hiding places for eggs.  Look at them standing at the gate.  Do they really think I am going to let them out?

The crew staring out at me.
Goldie & Ricky munching away










Look at all those eggs from captured chickens!










Nine eggs yesterday, and nineteen today.  I only hope I find the latest hiding place soon.  Rotten eggs smell, well, ROTTEN!

Just thought I would add that I decided to dress the tree.  It's full of homemade ornaments, and a few of my store bought ones.  Isn't it pretty?  Got those two holiday cards out to my aunties today.  The rest can wait a day or two.  Well, out to milk, then I can come in and enjoy the evening.  I'm going to start wrapping gifts tonight.  The holiday spirit is upon me!!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree . . .

Every year, I have cut a tree from my farm and brought it to the house - some years, two trees.  A white pine for the family room with all of the ornaments my kids and grandkids have made for me over the years -- and a second one in my living room, my Yule tree, all in gold, gold lights, gold tinsel and gold ornaments, to celebrate the return of the Sun.  Next Friday, the day will be longer than the day before.  It is a welcome change, after this daily shrinking of the daylight hours since last June.  But I digress.

This year, I have been so busy that I had decided I wasn't even going to cut a tree.  Last year, my granddaughter Kate was staying with me while she did her family practice rounds in a nearby town, so it was just magical to go out on a moonlit night, the two of us tramping through the deep snow, saw in my hand, and flashlight in Kate's.  Knowing that there was no way to top that had more than a little to do with my lethargy about cutting a tree this year.

Androo and Clay were here working on some fences and they asked what else I wanted them to do before they quit for the day.  I impulsively pointed to a small cedar and asked them to cut it for me.  They did.  When they brought it to the picnic table in the yard, they pointed out that it was really two trees growing together, neither of which had a trunk that would fit in the stand - far too skinny.  We put shims in the holder and turned the screws in as far as they would go.  Then we hauled it to my living room.

That evening (thank goodness before I had decorated it), it fell over.  I put it up.  It fell over again.  I put it up again.  It fell over again!  I picked it up and threw it over the balcony rail.  There!  Done with that!!  No tree this year.

The next night, I was in Meijer's, and they had artificial trees half price.  I saw one I thought was quite nice.  Why should I kill a tree every year when I could get one that would serve me for years?  Having never found an artificial one that I truly liked, I thought, "Now is the time.  This is a worthy tree.  I shall buy Tree P."  There were no tree boxes marked with the letter "P" under the bench.  I went to customer service - were there any in the storeroom?  No, everything was out.  Were there any at the other Meijer's store on Grape Road?  Long wait, finally an answer, "No, we are all out of P."  I guess I am not the only one who thought it was beautiful.

I went back to get the next best thing, had it in my basket, and I balked.  I do not want the "next best thing."  If I couldn't have what I wanted, then I would go for cheap.  There was a rather pathetic little white pine, had a few real pine cones on it, and it was dressed with some mini lights.  Only $40.  I took it.

I got it home, and when it was not surrounded by all of those honking big trees, it held its own in my living room quite nicely.  It took me five minutes to set it up, another two minutes to figure out how to get both strings of light going, and I am happy.  I may go downstairs and haul up the box with the kids' ornaments - or I may not.  But I have a tree.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.  I shall.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday rush

Christmas is almost here.  I am not ready.

Not only do I have personal things to attend to, but my business is booming, and I am running low on many of the items at my market, especially bath bombs.  I have a special order for my new Honey Harvest lotion, also the new giant size of lotion is going over better than I thought it would and I have to pump out (pun intended) a few of those before Saturday market.

My assistant has quit, going back to school full time, and while I have eased my hours by getting a little housekeeping help, the soap room is all mine.  I am enjoying it, but it is taking up time I need to be spending on things like wrapping presents and getting out my Yule cards.  I have not written to my two aunts in months.  One is 90, the other 94, and I am so thankful to still have them.  I have received cards and notes from both, and just simply MUST get to my letter to them before the sun sets today!

The mountain of stuff to do was looking formidable.  My friend Sarah stopped by my booth at Purple Porch on Wednesday night and asked if I needed any help. Is the sky blue?  Does a pig oink?  Is the pope Catholic?  Hah! Do I need help!!! She came home with me after market yesterday, and we wrapped one batch of bath bombs, made two more and then I said I was out of gas, we would do the last batch tomorrow.  Well, she said, "I think I can do it alone."  And she did.  We will wrap all three tonight, after they have had 24 hours to dry.

This morning, three batches of lotion, one of soap (how could I let Patchouli Trip get so low?), and some organic yarrow cream will get me back on track.  The lip gloss and yarrow sticks can wait until next week.

I told Sarah my objective was to get done with everything by noon (and it might actually happen with her help).  I'll be taking the housekeeper home at noon.  Hopefully we will be free to do as we wish after lunch.  Sarah wants to spend some time hiking.  I want to take a nap!

Ah, memories of warmer days!  Here is a photo of Sarah and me working in the herb garden last summer.



Hope your holiday season is not too overwhelming, that you find the time to enjoy life.

More later about my Yule tree.  Funny story.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa . . .



I was walking through the pasture on a windy day when I saw Mona Lisa in my garden!  Yup, there she was.  I ran to the house for my camera and took this shot.

All the while, I was singing "Mona Lisa," the Nat King Cole version, and hoped that the wind wouldn't die down before I could capture this pic.

We are putting tarps over the new garden area to kill the grass, since I will be expanding the garden next spring.  A friend of mine has a shop near a company that puts up billboard signs, and they had an abundance of tarps.  The price was right - FREE - and I took as many as I could.  We put down the biodynamic preps, some sea salt with humate, and then nailed down the tarps with tent stakes.  The wind caught one and laid it over my tall and bushy asparagus plants.  This tarp happens to be for some innocuous message ad about smiling.  Well, this event certainly made me smile.

Lacey, so beautiful!

This afternoon, I caught Lacey running in circles, like a merry-go-round horse gone wild.  It is pure joy to watch, and you just know there is pure joy in her heart. 

She is so smart!  I guess I keep saying that.  But she is already grazing, was nibbling on hay within 24 hours of her birth, and has finally managed to start nursing from her mom.  Sure makes my life easier!  I didn't milk at all today.  Last night Lucy's udder was quite loose, except for one quarter, and I checked that one this afternoon.  Not at all tight.  Lacey has found them all!

Lacey's new owner will be picking her up next Sunday.  I will miss her.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lucy, Lacey and winter wonderland

Winter is definitely here!  We've gotten about five inches of snow so far, and it is still coming down.  Even the Campine chickens are staying in the Moop.  They are the hearty breed that are usually out scratching in the snow, but not today.  I set up the heat lamp for them, and the water heater has been under their big metal waterer for a couple of weeks now.

I also set up a heat lamp for Lucy and Lacey, but typical of our hearty Heritage mixed breed cows, they are out in the snow.  It doesn't seem to affect them at all.  I think the cold is contributing to Lacey's voracious appetite!  We still do not have enough milk to distribute any to the patient shareholders.  Lacey won't be leaving for another week, and that is probably a good thing.  A December birth is not the best, so having mom's milk for an extra week should give her a boost.  She is so smart, and so sweet!  As soon as I go into the pen, she runs up to me and lets me scratch her head.  I will miss her when she is gone.

This morning Androo and I put some tarps over the big round hay bales we got from a new supplier.  The jury is still out on whether we will get our final load of hay from him.  We have another option, and those hay bales are a little easier to handle, but this last hay we got is nicer, I think.  We will make our decision once we have gotten through the first one-ton bale.  Here is a picture of the newly draped bales, sitting in the pasture waiting to be fed to the cows and bulls.

Well, I just went to take a picture of the bales, and look what I found - the cows have escaped their paddock and are helping themselves.  I have no idea how I am going to cope with this.  What I would like to do is just go to bed with a book and not have to worry about it.  Sigh . . .

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's a new calf - first pictures

I usually don't name the little ones that are going to leave the farm, but the name Lacey just popped in my mind, so Lacey she is until Dan and his dad give her the name they choose for her.

I was a little worried that Lacey might be in a weakened state if she still hadn't eaten, but she was fine when I went out about 7:00 a.m.  By then she was about 15 hours old.  In fact, she was so feisty that I was sure she had eaten, in spite of Lucy's huge and low hanging udder.

I had taken out six pounds of warmed colostrum, which we froze when Quattro had her calf last spring.  Lucy wouldn't let me near her with the bucket of warm colostrum.  I had to separate them.

I took Lucy into the barn to milk her.  Whether or not she had fed her calf, that udder needed some relief!  Once she was secured in the barn, I went back outside to deal with the calf.  It took a little doing to get her trained to take the nipple, but finally she got the hang of it.  After a few false starts, she latched onto that nipple and drank the bucket dry!  So I went back to the barn for the other three pounds of warm colostrum and took at back out to her.  I didn't even have to straddle her to get her to drink it.  She found the nipple and took it all down.  She did slow down a bit for the last cup or two, but she was obviously hungry.  I don't think Lucy is going to be able to feed her.  So for the next week, until her new owner picks her up, I will get to hand feed Lacey.  She is already following me around.  So sweet!

Here are pictures.  I wish I had gotten a few while I was getting her from Paddock 2 to the nursing pen, but I had too much on my mind at the time.

Learning her way around.

Yup, it's a girl.  Peeing from the right spot.

So nosy!  She was already trying to strip bark from small trees.

That udder is just too close to the ground!

Can you see Dad in the background?

Lucy and Lacey - Lacey's first day.

It's a new calf!

One of our cows aborted her calf midway through her gestation.  I wasn't aware of it.  One of the milkers told me that Lucy was in heat, and I pooh-poohed it, saying that it had to be a false heat, since she was settled (that means pregnant).

In June, no calf, nor July, nor August, nor September.  In October, I called the vet to check her, and he thought she was due in January, maybe as late as February.  So it wasn't a false heat the milker saw.  I was very disappointed, but at least she was definitely pregnant.

About two weeks ago, I saw her udder begin to fill, and I knew she was not going to make it to January.  I called it for the second week of December, and definitely there would be a calf here by Christmas.

Yesterday afternoon, I looked out the window and saw a little one, still wet and wobbly, following Lucy around.  Of course, she was easy to spot because Sam has made his mark yet again!  We will have a whole herd of cows that look like full blooded Guernseys before long - a lovely caramel tan with big blotches of stark white.  She is beautiful, just beautiful.  The calf is already sold, to one of our shareholders.  She will leave us in a week. 

In the meantime, I am going to have to milk Lucy out, because her udder is so huge!  And I’m not sure the calf can even suckle - might have to milk her, then turn around and fill a nipple pail and feed the calf that way.   I am leaving mother and child together even if I hand feed.  Right now I am heating some frozen colostrum that we saved last spring, just in case the calf was not able to nurse.  Just waiting for daylight to go out there with it.  Calves can go about 24 hours before they have to eat, so we still have some time.

Yesterday, I moved the cows to Paddocks 2 & 3 because the weather was warm and the grass was okay in there - I wanted to give them just a little treat before the winter weather hits this week.  It entered my mind that I should put Lucy in the nursing pen, but I thought she would enjoy that good grass - and surely the calf wouldn't come today!  I was wrong, hey?

That meant I had to get the calf away from Lucy, into the wagon and then take her up the lane to the nursing pen.  Lucy is a very protective mother.  Well, they all are, but she is more than most.  I was surprised that I got the calf away from her without too much trouble - so glad my wagon tilts so I didn't have to lift her far.  Lucy was bellowing but she didn't come at me, thank goodness.   About halfway there, the calf jumped out of the wagon.  I wrestled her back in, got up to the nursing pen and then got her out of the wagon.  Taking a few steps at a time, I got her into the nursing pen.  Of course, Lucy followed her right in.   She didn't butt me once.  I am surprised.  It has been an issue in the past.  But maybe it was because it was just me handling her.  She doesn't like strangers, so when I brought in help, it might have disturbed her more.  Or maybe she is just getting less aggressive as she gets older.

All of the cows and the two bulls were very interested.  They are such sociable animals.  They ran along the path while I drove the calf up to the pen, a few of them bellowing in concert with Lucy.  They stood by the fence looking over at the nursing pen instead of eating their hay.

I was just telling someone that this is my slow time of the year.  The vet predicted Lucy would freshen January or February.  So I was even hoping she would wait until February so I could enjoy my slow time to the fullest, but getting fresh raw milk again is worth giving it up. 

Well, I am heading out to the barn to feed the calf and milk Lucy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Campine pullet is laying!

I have been anxiously awaiting the first pullet egg from the chicks I bought last May.  They were born on May 23, arrived here when two days old.  There were 30 of them to start, but as usual, a few of them bit the dust as young'uns.  But I think there are still around 26 of them.  So once they all start laying, given their average laying rate, that should mean up to two dozen extra eggs a day - double what I get now!  Since I have a waiting list for my eggs, it will be nice to have the extra ones.

It is very hard to get certified organic eggs from REALLY free-range chickens - they are outside and in the pastures from dawn to dusk - that are never fed soy.  So that is the claim to fame for these eggs.

Here is a pic of the first of the Campine pullet eggs.  It's pretty nice sized, but not as big as Goldie's first egg was.

First Campine pullet egg on left

Sunday, October 9, 2011

So much happening . . .

As I wander around here, moving from task to task, I think of a hundred things to write about.  But I am so busy that it just doesn't happen!

I did take a couple of pics during the last week.  After I ate the fifth and final apple from my two apple trees, which finally bore, my very first, never sprayed and all five totally without worms, I realized that I didn't get a picture of the trees with the apples hanging there, or even of one pristine apple!  So here's my apple photo.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


My life seems to revolve around food.  Well, I guess that would be normal for a farmer, hey?  Do you remember the pics of the little chicks that hatched out last spring?  The fluffy yellow one is named Goldie, and out of four, she is the only pullet, the only one that will lay eggs.  She is beautiful.  The only parentage she could have would be a Campine mother and Buff Orpington father.  I wouldn't mind more like her.  She is very calm, still likes to sit on my lap, and she is quite beautiful.  She started laying about a week ago, nice sized light brown eggs. 
Goldie high-stepping it!

Her pullet egg is on the left.










Here are a couple of eggs.  The smaller one is hers, but you can see that it is nearly as big as the other.


Well, I'm off to bed.  I'll be canning the last of the tomatoes tomorrow, and I can only say that I am happy for the hard frost that took out all of the plants except three or four behind the house.  I am frankly tired of tomatoes.  Remind me of that in February.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grandma Wolff

I wrote this for a church service given by our Women's Spirituality Group, when we were asked to honor our ancestors, to introduce member of our congregation to someone important to us.  I thought you might enjoy meeting my Grandma Wolff through these words.



I want to introduce you to my Grandma Wolff.  She was born Helen Kathryn Ploch around 1883 and married my grandfather, Charlie Wolff, in 1907.   Grandma had four pregnancies, the first, a boy, was stillborn, then came my mother, then she miscarried (another boy), and completed the family with my Aunt Ruthie.

Grandpa was in love with my grandma throughout their whole marriage, or so I was told.  She was beautiful and had long black hair.  During the '20s she decided to have it bobbed cut short to the neck in back, what was called a shingle and when Grandpa saw her, he cried out, My God, my God, woman, what have you done?  And then he sat down and cried real tears.

Grandpa died on my sixth birthday, and Grandma was not in a financial position to live alone.  So she spent half her time with us and half with my Aunt Ruthie's family.  We argued over who got Grandma for Christmas.  We loved having her with us.  If there was friction with her daughters, we never saw it.  I remember the three of them canning and making soap and stuffing sausage in the summer kitchen.  I loved the sound of their laughter and the occasional argument as they worked together.

Being close to Grandma was a treat.   I loved how she smelled, and the sound of her voice so soft and gentle.  She liked to dress up and had several sets of matching earrings and broaches, just costume jewelry, but always in good taste.  I have some of her jewelry, as well as a tiny tray for trinkets that sat on her dresser.  It has a picture in the bottom of it of Starved Rock, which is where she and Grandpa went on their honeymoon.  I didn't care about getting anything else, because none of the other things reminded me of her the way the small tray and the earrings and broaches did.

I remember the feel of her hands stroking my forehead as I lay with my head in her lap.  I would take hold of her hand, feeling the paper thin skin, and Id push on the veins on the back of her hand and watch them pop back up, quite fascinated by it.  Now I look down at my hands and see the same thing on my own.

My kids don't have any real memories of my grandmother, although both were born before she died in 1967.   To them, she is a flat person in a frame on a wall, and the memories of her are all second hand.

My mother was the last of her generation, and now that she is gone, my cousins and siblings and I are all that stand between our children and death.  I know that my life is dwindling down, and I'm okay with that.  I've had a good life, and Grandma Wolff was a big part of that. 

Although I'm not looking forward to death, I can accept it.  But there is one thing that bothers me.  When I am gone, who will remember my Grandma Wolff?

August 24, 2008

Monday, September 19, 2011

My new salsa recipe

The garden is overflowing with tomatoes and hot peppers.  So that means it's time to be making and canning salsa.  I have three different recipes that I have made in the past.  Yesterday I decided to combine the best of all three and crank up the hot peppers, since I like may salsa pretty hot.


Here's the finished product.





Here's how to make it.

SUSAN'S BEST SALSA

This makes eight quarts, seven to preserve for later and one for right away.  You will also have about a quart and a half of spicy tomato juice.

I started with 24 lbs. of heirloom tomatoes, many different colors and types.  I measured as I worked so that I could keep my proportions if the recipe turned out well.  All who have tasted it have given it high marks.  So anyway, my 24 lbs. of tomatoes yielded 36 cups of peeled and diced tomatoes, after draining.

Set up your work space – wash ten quart jars with hot soapy water and set aside.  Get out your cold pack canner and fill about a third full with water.  Place your lids and rings in a pan large enough to hold all of them with at least an inch of water over the top of them.

Wash and dry your funnel, jar lifter and lid magnet.  You can buy these items in a kit if you don't already have them. They come in a kit with all three pieces, and some have a fourth piece for making sure you have all of the air bubbles out of the jar before sealing.  Ball Utensil Set For Preserving And Canning - 4 Piece is available at Kmart.  Meijer's has a lot of canning supplies and they probably have them there as well.

Put a large pan of water on stove and bring to a boil.  Place a large bowl of ice water on the counter near the pan of boiling water, along with a slotted spoon.  You will need a very sharp paring knife and a medium bowl for the peels, cores and any bad spots you cut out of the tomatoes.  Also, I keep a small bucket nearby to dump the bowls of peels into.  Set a two-cup glass measuring cup in your work area.

Set a large strainer over a stock pot to strain the tomato pieces, especially if you are using tomatoes other than paste tomatoes, since they are a little too juicy.  I like my salsa to be pretty chunky, so I drained mine.   I'll tell you what to do with that juice at the end of this recipe.

Lastly, put an extra large stockpot on the stove for cooking your salsa before bottling it.  It should be about a three gallon pot, must be at least 2-1/2 gallons to hold everything.  If you don't have one that big, then use two.  But put everything into a large pan (a clean plastic dishpan will work) so that the ingredients are well distributed before putting into the two separate pots.

Okay, so let's begin.  Wash and drain your tomatoes as you go - I put about a fourth of them at a time into a sink of water, then take a few at a time out of the water to drain.

Your water is boiling on the stove.  Get the timer out, since you don't want mushy tomatoes, and you only need them in the boiling water for one minute to loosen the skins.  It's worth the bother, since it is hard to estimate one minute when you are working on so many things at once!  Put about six to eight tomatoes into the boiling water and set your timer for one minute.  When it beeps, put the tomatoes directly into the ice water, put another set of tomatoes into the boiling water, them start peeling the ones from the ice water.  I chop them very roughly once peeled and put directly into the two-cup measure.  When the measuring cup is full, I put the tomatoes into the strainer to drain a bit.  I also write down on a paper that I have now done two cups.

Unless you can work a lot faster than I can, you will have to turn down the boiling water every now and then to catch up, and to put more tomatoes into the wash water in the sink, to empty the bowl with peels into the bucket, and all that stuff.

Once the tomatoes have drained a bit, they go into your cooking pot.  I measure again, since that is the final measure.  You will always lose a little due to the draining.  So keep track of the number of cups you scoop out of the drainer and put into the pot.  For my recipe, and to get the same proportions, you will need 36 cups of drained tomato chunks going into the pot.

Once the tomatoes are in the pot, you need to add the following:
  • ¼ C. sea salt
  • 2 T. chili powder (a good brand – if you are using discount chili powder, then you probably need to double this amount)
  • 2 T. toasted and ground cumin.  I think it is worth the extra bother to toast the seeds in an iron skillet until turning color, and then grind yourself.  Much more flavor than store bought cumin powder.
  • 6 C. onions, chopped
  • 10 large cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1½ C. jalapenos and/or serranos (Serranos are a little hotter.)  I remove some of the seeds and ribs, but not all, since I like my salsa pretty hot.
  • 2 to 3 T. Thai hot chilies (these really crank up the heat!!)
  • 3 golden cayenne peppers (pretty hot, too!)  These are added mostly because they add some bright color.  If you can't find them, just do a few extra Thai hots.
  • 2 C. chopped cilantro, lightly packed.  I cut off the stems from the bottom of the bunch, but do not worry about the rest of the stems.  They add flavor, just make sure they are chopped up pretty good.
 Okay, the hard part is done.  Bring the whole thing up to a boil.  While doing that, get your pan of lids and rings boiling, and put some hot water into your prepared jars, so that you are not putting boiling hot liquid into a very cold jar. 

Once the salsa is boiling, take out a spoonful and let cool a bit to taste.  Some people like to add some cider vinegar to it, but I didn't think it needed it.  This is your last chance to fiddle with the recipe – add a little salt, maybe you want to kick it up a notch with some more hot peppers.

Now put your canner onto the stove to begin heating and start bottling your salsa.  Use the funnel so that you keep the neck of the jar as clean as possible.  Fill to about a quarter to half inch from the top.  Set your funnel into the next jar, then wipe the rim of the jar you just filled with a clean paper towel, use your magnet to lift out a lid and a rim, put on the filled jar and tighten down pretty hard.  Then use your jar lifter to set the filled jar into the canner.  Proceed with the next six jars, then make sure that all of the jars are completely covered with water.  As soon as the canner water boils, put on the lid, turn your heat down a bit and process for 35 minutes.

Now you have that extra quart of salsa and the tomato juice to think about.  Put the tomato juice into the pot with the remaining salsa and bring all back up to a boil.  Put the funnel into a clean jar and put a small sieve into the funnel.  Now ladle out the hot mixture into the funnel and fill the jar with tomato juice that is now nice and spicy.  As you collect the remaining salsa in the sieve, put that into one of the two remaining jars.  You should end up with about a quart and a half of juice and a full quart of salsa.  I add a little of the hot tomato juice to the jar of salsa to make sure it has enough juice, and then cap it.  It will probably seal without canning it, but this is the one you want to put in your fridge to eat right away.

I am on a low carb diet.  Two options for dippers – the easiest is good old pork rinds.  The other is to get low carb wraps, cut them into eighths, spray with some olive oil and sprinkle some salt on them.  Then toast in oven until crunchy.  They are a bit of a bother, but pretty darned good for very few carbs!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why is a Monsanto lobbyist serving as the FDA's Food Safety Czar?

To my readers ~

I do not usually get into politics, but this is the politics of food.  I am hoping you will read and act.

While factory farm operators are getting away with serious food safety violations, raw milk dairy farmers and distributors across the country have been subjected to armed raids and hauled away in handcuffs.

Not surprisingly, the person responsible for prioritizing armed raids on small dairies over holding agribusiness accountable is a former Monsanto attorney and chief super lobbyist. Monsanto's Michael Taylor is the second highest-ranking official at the FDA, and as Food Safety Czar is responsible for implementing the day-to-day policies that govern the food safety laws for the U.S.

Ask President Obama to fire FDA Food Safety Czar and former Monsanto lobbyist Michael Taylor. Click here to sign the petition.

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/fire_michael_taylor/?r_by=26849-3476437-SeOTkdx&rc=paste1

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why I'm tired . . .

It's Labor Day today.  It wasn't a holiday for me.  I didn't even think about it, realized I had scheduled Kayla to come in today and thought I should call her to see whether she really wanted to be here.  About that time, she pulled in, and we got to work.  I had already started a pot of soup and was working on a new batch of sourdough rye bread.  My very dense and sour rye bread has finally taken off - I'm getting a lot of orders for it, in fact I made a dozen loaves last week and they are all gone but one. Most of the people who buy it at my booth at the market have European accents.  It's not for the Wonder Bread crowd.

Beef soup

Sourdough rye- first rise



I sent Kayla down to the garden to pick tomatoes so that I could get on with my canning.  The jars were running through the dishwasher while I was doing bread and soup.  I also had an order for 12 bunches of basil, any type, so Kayla got those ready.

Many kinds of basil - sweet, Thai, cinnamon, purple, lemon . . .

While the pressure cooker was doing its thing, I went down to the garden and dug potatoes.  One of my customers at the market just loves a French potato called La Ratte.  It is a small fingerling, and the French insist it is the tastiest potato in the world.

La Ratte fingerling potatoes
The weather is magnificent today!  Finally the heat wave has broken.  High today was around 65ยบ, and it is quite windy.  What better day to hang out the sheets?  So I threw them in the machine while I was waiting on the pressure cooker to complete the first load.

Sheets drying on the line
Kayla asked about these wrinkled little peppers in the garden, because I had given her some of them.  What should she do with them?  I told her I was going to start some fermenting this afternoon, so she could help me, and write down the recipe to do her own.

Pepperoncini fermenting in Suze Goldberg jar
Between canning and bread making, I picked up eggs and then went down to the garden for a few more pepperoncini so that I had enough to fill a half gallon jar. I picked while the last batch of jars was cooling in the pressure cooker.  By the time I got back from the garden, they were ready to remove.  I love to listen to the jar lids ping when they seal.

Tomatoes and beans ready for winter meals
Then I checked my orders for market baskets and Kayla went down to the garden to get some kale, chard and collards which we will need for tomorrow's deliveries
.
Kale, collards and chard sitting in ice water
It's 6:30 now.  Time to stop.  I haven't eaten since breakfast, and I'm hungry.  So I spent Labor Day laboring, but it was all enjoyable, and I am going to crawl into a bed with fresh sheets that smell like the great outdoors, to dream of eating tomato soup on a cold winter's day, or snacking on sharp and vinegar-y pepperoncini.  It really doesn't get any better than this.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A tale of six roosters . . .

My initial plan was to keep only one breed of white egg layers - Campines, an endangered species - and only have Campine roosters.  The plan was that if I had a broody hen, whatever breed, I would slip white eggs under her, and they would all have Campine fathers and Campine mothers - couldn't be any other combination.  Any chicks that hatched would be full blooded Campines.

A woman had to get rid of some chickens in town due to complaining neighbors.  She told me they were all pullets.  However, three of the six Buff Orpingtons began crowing and breeding my hens - definitely not pullets.  I sold one, found one dead in the Moop one morning, and still have a third.  He is so beautiful!  His name is Stewart, Stew for short because my plan was to put him in the stew pot.  He has messed up my breeding plans!  If he breeds a Campine, then a white egg could have a Campine mother and Stewart, a Buff Orpington, as the father.  I would have no way of knowing what breed the chicks were until they hatched.

Stewart with a few of the girls
Buster front left, Stewart in center
Stewart is still in the chicken yard.  I cannot bear to butcher him.  My vet told me that I might consider taking him to the local auction, that he got rid of a rooster for $2.00 to someone who wanted to use him for breeding.  I might do that.  Stewart is a fine bird!  He is just the wrong bloodline for my breeding plan.  He is also way too big for my tiny Campines, and his spurs have left many of their backs nude of feathers.

Buster is a fine bird!
My only picture of Roscoe
Chicks are sexed the day they are born, so when you order pullets, you are supposed to get pullets, and not random pullets and roosters.  You only need one rooster for every 15 hens, but odds say you will get 50:50 if you leave things to chance.  If you buy them unsexed, it is called a "straight run," and the cost per chick is pretty cheap.  If they are sexed, you pay more to get all pullets - the ones that lay the eggs and provide some income.  However, Campines are rather hard to sex.  The first year, I got two roosters by mistake, but the hawks got one.  Only Buster was left.  Last year I got one rooster by mistake, and I named him Roscoe.  Sometimes roosters fight, but Buster and Roscoe got along just fine and spent most of their time within a few feet of each other.  Sadly Rosco has disappeared, gone about a week now, so I'm pretty sure he became fodder for some wild animal.  Kayla said she heard wolves near the house yesterday morning.  And I have plenty of hawks -- Campines are rather small birds, and a hawk could carry an adult rooster off quite easily.  Sigh . . .

I bought two Campine roosters this year, and they survived babyhood, are crowing lustily and even thinking about getting into the breeding game.  So there are three Campine roosters now, with Roscoe gone.  And of course there is Stewart.  And Tiny.  One of the four accidental chicks that hatched out last spring appears to be full-blooded Campine.  I was hoping it was a pullet, but he is crowing.  So that makes four Campine roosters.  And Stewart.  And Pretty Boy, another of the accidental chicks.  Unfortunately, he is most definitely a rooster, and a huge one at that!  He has just started to crow.  It's funny, the Campine roosters crow at a lot earlier age.  But I had Pretty Boy figured for a boy long before he crowed.  He is huge, and he is the most aloof of the four chicks.  He won't let me pet him when he is running around the yard, only sits on my lap when the mood strikes him.  Last night he spent about two minutes there, then he was off.  He is a beautiful bird, definitely part Buckeye based on how his tale feathers are colored, and most certainly Buff Orpington (Stewart) from his dad.


Here are the four "accidental" chickens.  Tiny is to the right.
I am going to keep Tiny - after all, we have bonded and he looks like a full-blooded Campine.  Pretty Boy and Stewart have to go, and I think I will take them to the sale barn.  Then my only conundrum will be Goldie.  I may have to isolate her to see what color eggs she lays.  If she lays brown or tan eggs, I can keep her.  If she lays white eggs, I will offer her a home with a good friend who has a flock of chickens.  I know she will be taken care of and will be allowed to live several years on that farm.  If I knew her exact parentage, I would try breeding to get more like her.  Maybe I could develop a new breed.  She is certainly beautiful!

Goldie - she is a beauty!



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Harvesting

After all of the frustration and HARD WORK of getting the garden in, finally we are harvesting a lot of food!  Our CSA members are very happy.  They get at least $12 worth of fresh organic produce each week for $10 (they sign up for 13 weeks of deliveries), and lately they have been getting closer to $15 worth!  We have so much, and I would rather give them all a bit more than take it in to the market and take my chances on it selling.

The potatoes, oh the potatoes.  How I wish I could eat them, but they are so high in carbs that I treat myself to a small potato maybe once or twice a week.  Someone told me that blue potatoes have fewer carbs and more nutrition.  I guess that is why I am just about out of them already.  Everything Kayla and I dig is gone by the end of the week - if it is a blue potato, that is.  Next year, there will be two full rows of blue potatoes.

My beans didn't do at all well.  We are expanding the garden, and they are in the new area.  The poor production there certainly shows how much we have improved the old garden area.  Things do not grow very well in the new parts.  We didn't plant much of the new area this year because we knew it wouldn't be that good, but we really needed the room.  In an effort to get the new area up to speed, we are doing some special prep work.  Most of it is still grass, with just a few areas planted - beans, squash and melons being about all that went in there.  We just mowed the grass low, and I am going to sprinkle it with SeaAgra sea salt, then sprinkle the area with about 50% of our composted manure, then cover the whole area with tarps.  Hopefully, when we pull up those tarps next spring, the grass will be composted and the salt will have worked its way down into the soil, along with that biodynamic compost.  Next year, I have high hopes for the new part of the garden.

We can no longer use anything for mulch that is not certified organic.  That is a new rule as of April 1, 2011.  I think it is a good rule.  However, my garden is getting so big that I will not be able to mulch using the leftover hay from the hay mow and grass clippings from lawn mowing.  Buying organic straw is cost prohibitive.  So we are going to have to do a "normal" garden next year, tilling between the rows where we used to mulch.  We will use our precious organic grass clippings to mulch around the potatoes and tomatoes.  The rest of it, get out the hoes.  Sigh . . .

Well, I'm just finishing up a new batch of Cheddar cheese, and it's time to wander out to the garden to see what looks good for supper.  Now that is what I call a SUPER market!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Where is Roscoe?

I have (had?) two full grown Campine roosters.  They were usually together, never got into fights.  I realized yesterday that I haven't seen Roscoe around.  He looks very much like Buster, but he didn't go through the cold winter that Buster did.  Buster's comb got frostbite, and instead of spikes, the comb is rounded on the ends.  Roscoe's is crisp, with sharp points, and more of them.  So I could always tell them apart.

I couldn't find Roscoe in the Moop last night, but it was pretty dark in there and I didn't have my flashlight.  When I open the door, they all come rushing out so it is hard to find an individual chicken.  But I didn't see him this morning.

I haven't seen any remains.  If someone had hit him with their car, I would have seen the body on the drive.  But it is not looking good for Roscoe.  Two days outside the Moop means that he has become fodder for some wild animal.

It turns out that Tiny, one of the four little ones that bonded with me, is a rooster.  I was hoping Tiny was a hen, but now, with Roscoe gone, I guess it is a good thing.  That will make four Campine roosters for breeding.

I thought I had lost Tiny, too.  I didn't see him for several days.  Then one night, when I was sitting on the back step of the Moop, this little Campine hopped on my head and began crowing!  Tiny!!!  I didn't recognize him because he had finally developed some tail feathers - and quite a singing voice!

I am hoping against hope that Roscoe will miraculously show up, that I just missed seeing him for a couple of days but he was there all along.  I will keep you posted.

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This year's chicks are growing up!

Night before last, my friend Tina joined me in our annual "move the chicks" night - at which time we take the chicks from the place they have called home for the past two months to the Moop in the chicken run with the big hens and roosters.

We are getting better at it.  The first year was pretty hysterical - I raised the chicks in the greenhouse (it was a cooler year), and we backed the Moop up to the greenhouse.  I crawled into the large box where the chicks had been living for a few months (has to be after dark, when the chickens become docile) and handed them one by one to Tina.  She moved them to the truck, where we had put up screening and sheets to block them from running back out.  It was not a pretty sight, but we got the job done!




We then drove the Moop out to a pasture where we thought the chickens would be happy.  Unfortunately, the hawks were even happier.  Many chicks became dinner, and we had to move the Moop behind the house and put up some fencing around it.

So the last two years we didn't move the Moop to the chicks, because now it sits inside a chicken run.  Besides, the battery is dead.  So it is easier to just bring the chicks to the Moop.  Tina and I have it down pat now.  Two totes into the pen inside the hay mow, where the chicks have lived since they arrived here in May, each loaded with five sleepy chicks.  Then off to the Moop, where I go inside with one tote, Tina shutting the door behind me.  I remove the lid from the tote and carefully lift the chicks out one by one and set them on the roost.  Then Tina lifts the lid, I back out and pick up the other tote.  Then back to the barn for more chicks.  We moved 28 of them that way, and all went well.

Until last night, that is!  Campines are great flyers.  Some of them had been roosting in the rafters in the barn.  So they were not going to let a six foot fence keep them in, and they were outside, running around in the woods, flying up into trees and in general enjoying their new home.  I was worried that they would try to go back to the hay mow, but they didn't.  They hung around the Moop and the chicken run all day, only venturing as far as the woods just west of the run.

But then it was time for bed!  All of the others were inside the Moop, clucking about their day and settling down for the night.  NONE of the chicks were inside.  A few were hanging around the door, and I managed to convince them to go inside.  I went into the woods and chased another half dozen or so inside the run and eventually into the Moop.  I could hear them rustling in the woods, finally spotted them on a couple of branches overhanging the fence.  I grabbed them one by one and took them to the Moop.  I called it a day and just hoped that most if not all of them were inside.

This morning, 10 Campine chicks were running around inside the run having breakfast when I went out to open the door to the Moop.  Missed 10 of them!!  Oh, dear!

I can only hope they catch on, because the predators will catch on, too, that there are meaty chicks sitting in the trees at night.  Fingers crossed . . .