Saturday, August 27, 2016

Just For Fun

I'm sitting in my kitchen having the rare second cup of coffee and listening to loud claps of thunder before I head out to feed the critters. Don't worry- no animals are starving. With the threat of bad weather in the forecast, yesterday I put out a little extra for the chickens and the rabbits and goats have hay to munch on. Speaking of hay.... since we're a small homestead we use square bales and fill the feeders as needed. That means I tote flakes of hay from storage to pens or cages every other day or so. It's not a hard chore but it can be pretty messy as pieces of loose hay drift/float/STICK to all clothing and body parts on the journey. It's especially tenacious on days when I'm sweaty or wet from rain! So while I am sitting here hoping the lights don't go out, I thought up a silly song about the hay battle I'm going to have later. If you want to sing along, it works best to the tune of "Farmer in the Dell."

The Loose Hay Battle
Loose hay in my hair, loose hay in my hair
It's always there, I shan't despair 
Loose hay in my hair

Loose hay pokes my eye, loose hay pokes my eye
Where can I be, I cannot see
Loose hay pokes my eye

Loose hay up my nose, loose hay up my nose
I have to sneeze, cough, and wheeze
Loose hay up my nose

Loose hay in my mouth, loose hay in my mouth
Won't make me sick but still tastes ick
Loose hay in my mouth.

Loose hay in my bra, loose hay in my bra
Poke or itch, I dare not twitch
Loose hay in my bra

Loose hay down my back, loose hay down my back
Help me out, it's headed south
Loose hay down my back

Loose hay in my boot, loose hay in my boot
Remove with care, I'll have to sweep there
Loose hay in my boot

Friday, August 26, 2016

Eyes on the Weather

It seems like the weather dictates every aspect of homesteading, sunup to sundown and even overnight. Before we get dressed in the morning we check the weather to figure out what to wear. Meals are planned around the type of cooking required- oven meals in the winter, stove-top, slow cooker, or toaster oven in the summer. Likewise, animal care- shelter and feed- revolves around the weather. Fans run for all the poultry (rabbits and chickens) in the summer. Heated waterers come out in the winter. Goats sleep outside when it's warm but need extra bedding when it's cold. Besides temperature, precipitation and humidity have to be factored in. Will it be dry enough to mow?  Muck? Haul hay? Will the feed mold? Are the roofs sealed? Will we need to shovel snow paths? Worry about frostbite?

My weather forecast for the next three days looks like this:

In that time I've got to dehydrate sage and peppers, mow the yard, and clean the goat pens (and rabbit cages and chicken coop.) It looks like I'll be dodging thunderstorms and hoping the ground doesn't get too muddy! I went ahead and hung the sage and peppers to dry this morning and will stick them in the dehydrator to finish up in a couple days. It's funny how the dry air needed for dehydrating comes around here long after the bounty has been stored. 

Normally in these conditions my chickens would be out free ranging in all the shady spots but we've lost two this week and I strongly suspect the tall corn around us has been the perfect hideout for a fox. So the birds are being kept locked up in the run. They aren't appreciating the smaller space but if they knew the alternative I'm sure they wouldn't complain so much. 

Notice the threat for a thunderstorm? We call them pop-up storms here because they usually pop up with little warning. You can be outside in the sun going about your business and very quickly be covered by dark clouds and hear thunder approaching. On our little acre I'm glad to be within mad dash distance to the back door although I have stood in the chicken coop a few times waiting for the rain to slow down so I don't get drenched.

One thing that weather chart doesn't show is the "real feel" of the temperature. As I type this, the current actual temperature is 86* but the heat index is 105*. That's nineteen muggy degrees difference! If a person didn't check the "real feel" temperature before he wandered outside, he could find himself in a heap of heat sick trouble.

That's a few examples of how the weather affects us. What's the weather like where you are?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Smoked Paprika

Have you been following the FDA reports on the "Pathogen and Filth in Spices?"* 

Since I first heard of the study last year, I've been trying to build up and improve my own spice stocks. I've been growing my own sage, basil, rosemary, and cayenne peppers. Something new for this year: I grew my own paprika peppers. 

Last week I got DH to smoke some of the paprika peppers! After they were smoked, I put them in the dehydrator.

This morning they were nice and crispy so into the grinder they went.

Now I have a homemade smoky, sweet, mild paprika.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sick and Tired. Again.

I religiously took my daily dose of Fire Cider all winter and into the spring. And I didn't get sick one time. When I ran out, I didn't make anymore. I just put that on my list of stuff to do next fall- before cold season arrives. Because I NEVER get sick in the summer, right? Well.... This year has been a killer with the high humidity and dampness. Now I'm down with another respiratory attack. I don't know if it's a virus or bacterial. All I know is my ears hurt, my throat hurts, my head hurts, my chest hurts, and I'm hacking up stuff in psychedelic technicolor. Again. This must be my 3rd or 4th summer cold. Enough already! So that to-do item of making my cider is going to be moved up to the as-soon-as-possible list. 

Meanwhile, I've got to treat the symptoms of this illness. I have been taking over the counter measures. But I live in one of those states where the only good decongestant can only be purchased by showing your driver's license, giving a signature, and having your amount of purchase tracked, all that after standing in long lines to find out the shelves are empty. 

So, I've hunted up my ginger, cayenne powder, garlic, sage, raw honey, and onions. All of those are supposed to have some property or other in treating sickness. Next I'll be digging up recipes on how to put those ingredients to use. Anyone have a tried and true remedy to share?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Simple Skills

We're more than halfway through 2016. This year has flown by! So far we've had the usual amount of ups and down: the mower broke, the garden fizzled, the critters multiplied, and the weather was unpredictable. Meanwhile, I've been working on some new simple skills. I've been taking a weekly guitar lesson, I took a spinning class, and I've been self teaching myself some plant identification.

The guitar lessons are for entertainment. I get a lot of joy from the music I'm learning to make. I've found that the practice time is more fun than watching a TV show and when I'm finished I have an inner calm. When I get a little better, I'll be able to entertain others, too!

The spinning class was great! I had one-on-one time with the teacher and she loaned me a spinning wheel to practice on. I've struggled with it on my own, mainly because I haven't dedicated enough time to it I suspect. Once the busy summer schedule calms down I hope to have more time for it. Or maybe I should have waited until the guitar lessons were finished. Anyway, I haven't given up on it. I will conquer this in time!

The plant identification skills are more for everyday homesteading. I have learned more about which yard "weeds" are safe to feed my rabbits. Doing this research has also introduced me to some safe and unsafe plants for human foraging. It's been very interesting and I've been able to save some money by cutting back on commercial rabbit pellets.

Later in the year we will probably have a small honey harvest. We didn't get our bees until late in the spring so we don't expect a lot of honey. But along with the honey will come beeswax. This is going to provide me with the chance to learn something else. Beeswax is an interesting substance and I'm going to have fun learning how to turn it into something useful!

So what have you learned so far this year? I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back to the Daily Grind

 What a break we had! We co-hosted my mom's 70th birthday party, and had family in and out. So much fun! We made banana bread with a niece and played board games til late in the night. We chased lightning bugs and visited the local celebrity's (Red Skelton) museum. It was so quiet yesterday after everyone headed for home, so DH and I took off for a few hours to find some geocaches and unwind.

 This morning he headed back to work and I adjusted to doing the chores by myself. We've had tons several inches of rain lately so some of the more intense jobs- mucking and weeding- have been put on hold. I'll have to get it done (rain or shine) within the next few days but I'm hoping the sun will come back before then. Meanwhile, I'm donning rain gear or changing into dry clothes after a short time outside today. Maybe I should start looking for boat building materials!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Staycation on the Homestead

We've got family coming to visit from out of state next week so DH scheduled some vacation time to be here. His work has been really slow (it's a feast or famine kind of job) so the company sent him home early and said to come back after vacation. We could have taken off for a few days but that wouldn't have been practical. Paying a critter sitter on top of travel expenses when there is no income coming in is not wise. We keep a little change socked back for the slow work times but didn't budget for vacation this year. Instead we're getting a little extra work done around the homestead and enjoying simpler, free fun during the down time. And we've found joy in the little things!

For the first time in the 15 years we've lived here, our peaches survived til picking time! DH presented one to me in the way a young man delivers flowers earlier. We didn't plant the trees so I don't know what variety they are but they sure are delicious! I put several in the dehydrator to use in the winter for oatmeal and hopefully will have enough to make a batch of DH's favorite peach butter.

Last night we watched an old movie, "Arsenic and Old Lace" with Cary Grant. We laughed and laughed and enjoyed the good clean humor in black and white. It was refreshing!

Today DH is getting the yard work caught up. Our mower had broken down a few weeks ago and he had to replace the deck with an old one that we kept for spare parts. The grass and weeds had really took over and the song line "welcome to the jungle" ran through my mind every time I stepped outside. We routinely walk around the yard every evening- watching the chickens head in to roost, the goats find their resting spots, the kittens batting a red clover bud in the last of the sunlight. It's so relaxing. Sometimes DH will start a fire in the fire pit or we will have dinner outside, when there's a breeze to dissuade the mosquitoes. All that stuff is better when the grass isn't tall!

Meanwhile, I've put a pot of ham and beans on the back burner and will stir up some cornbread shortly. While I type this post, there's a cat snoozing at my feet and a dog stretched out beside me on the couch. Clouds are rolling in and a pop-up storm is likely, maybe even a cooling rain.

After all the work is done today, I might challenge DH to a hand of cards. I'll practice a new song on my guitar while he snoozes rests with his eyes closed in the recliner. We'll grab an iced tea and walk around the yard one more time. I'll tell him how nice it looks and what a great job he did. He'll grin and hold my hand.

This weekend is the Watermelon Festival in our hometown. Crowns will be awarded to "Miss Watermelon" in every age group from baby to young lady. There will be pet shows and rides and lots of free watermelon. Who can say "no" to free watermelon?  Maybe we'll take the back roads, find a geocache, get a root beer float, spray each other with the garden hose...who knows?