Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thankful Thursday #3

1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Every week I hope to share something I am thankful for.

This week I am thankful for everyone who came before me and left their knowledge for me to discover.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Weather Break

Remember when I talked about the winter chore schedule? This week is one of those I mentioned where the temps are back up to almost springlike.

Yesterday I cleaned out the deep litter in the chicken coop and now we will start that all over again. Deep litter is great when the temps are near or below freezing; and some winters I can leave it for the whole season. But this week is warm and wet- perfect conditions for the chickens to go in and out tracking mud. Once the straw gets soaked and dirty, it's harder to keep it stirred up. It will start to smell bad. The mud will also cling to the hen's feet and get all over the eggs when they lay if they don't have fresh, dry straw to walk through on the way to the nest box. One advantage to a mid-winter clean-out is there will be less to scoop out in the spring.

I also got a load of wasted hay out of the goat pen. Last year was one of the worst for hay wasting here. I hauled out load after load of it. That's some back-breaking work. We're revisiting our hay feeder plan this month and hope to have an improvement in the design soon. Until then I am trying to stay on top of the scooping before it gets out of hand. It's almost impossible to get it out when it's frozen so the weather break is a win for this.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dehydrating Fruit

I have a refrigerator drawer full of fruit leftover from the holidays. Some of it came in fruit baskets, some is leftover from the canning I squeezed in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then there was the annual FFA fruit sale.... Anyway, I've got apples, pears, and oranges coming out my ears. I'm already well stocked in applesauce and pear applesauce. I can't eat citrus fruit or drink orange juice. What to do with all this fruit? My yearly January solution is to dehydrate it.

I can remember my grandma slicing apples by the bushels full and laying them out on big screens that she'd balanced on her clothesline. My grandpa worked in an orchard and he'd bring home lots of seconds. She wouldn't let them go to waste. Dried apples were a regular treat at her house. We've kept a dehydrator in our kitchen almost since we were newlyweds so I don't have to use the clothesline. It's very convenient to slice up the food, arrange it on the trays, and go on with our daily busy-ness. I set the dehydrator right next to the coffeemaker so I will remember to rotate the trays and keep an eye on it.

 Dried fruit is great to have on hand for backpacking or road trip snacks. We also like to crumble it into our morning oatmeal as it cooks. We think the flavor is so much better than any we've bought at the store. We don't have to worry if any sugar or preservative has been added. My favorite is the orange slices. Since citrus fruits aggravate the tendency for a canker sore to develop, I just don't eat them. But once in a while, I float a dried orange slice in a cup of hot tea. I get to enjoy the aroma and a little bit of the flavor without too much of the acid. DH just eats them like candy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Winter Weather Returns

We have a freezing rain advisory for the entire weekend. Freezing rain is a challenge because it coats all the walkways and gate latches. So after I slip and slide my way to the gate, I have to figure out a way to unfreeze it.

We switched all the goats over to hanging fence feeders last year. They still have troughs in their sheds for when the weather is real bad. But it takes them less than 10 minutes to clean up their feed so, if it isn't raining at feeding time, I just put it on the fence. Their water buckets are also right on the fence line so I can dump the buckets over. I don't have to go into the pen at all if the weather is clear. I can observe how every goat does on its feed and not fight the frozen latch. But if a goat needs attention, then I usually have to dump some warmer water onto the latch to open it.

The chicken run is closed up with a bungee type loop. It has a plastic knob on it that catches in between the bars of the gate. If it freezes, a quick snap of the elastic will usually break up the ice enough to lift it. I've been know to snap it too hard a time or two and now the elastic is really stretched out- oops.

The coop has re-purposed old house doors that I go in and out of. They've never frozen shut- yet. But I have to keep an eye on the little automatic door they use. Frozen straw can build up in the doorway and cause it to not close completely. In the event the ice buildup on the power lines causes an outage that door won't function at all. I'll probably just disable it until the freezing rain threat is over- doubt they'll want to venture out in it anyway.

We don't have much to do in preparation otherwise, just filling the usual backup water buckets in case the power goes out, I got most of the regular winter weather supplies stocked and ready to go last time there was a threat. DH came in late last night with a head cold so I'll probably get serenaded with some sweet snoring today. It looks like it will be a good weekend to make some soup and read a book, maybe crochet something, too.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thankful Thursday- #2

1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Every week I hope to share something I am thankful for.

This week I am thankful for the good news we have to share:
*** Our first grandbaby is on the way!***
due in July!
I know it's not homesteading related but this is going to impact our lives in such a wonderful way that there is no way I can keep it to myself. Regularly scheduled programming will resume tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Outdoor Chores, Winter Schedule

We got above the freezing mark yesterday! It was a balmy 50+ degrees but the wind was gusting between 30 and 50 mph all day. The howling was really starting to get on my nerves so I did something I rarely do in the daytime- I've turned on the tv. Sometimes the wind was still louder but it wasn't a constant barrage on my ears anymore. The only thing worse than listening to it inside was working in it outside! It was a hold-on-to-your-hats kind of chore day!

I knew it was going to be blustery when I first woke up. I could already hear it that early. So I tried to wait it out before I headed out to feed and water the critters. But wait! Don't I have to take care of all that at the first crack of daylight?? Not exactly.  I LIKE to get it all done first thing. I insist on getting it done as early as possible. That's just common sense- taking care of your animals before yourself. But everything is set up so the animals won't suffer if conditions don't allow that. That is one of the great things about living on a small property and not working off of it. Of course my critters need daily food and water. I make sure they get fresh supplies every day. But I can also provide enough to make sure they are well supplied until the best time of day to do so. The only time I have to rush - in the winter time-  is when I have appointments or errands in town.

 The hay eaters, goats and rabbits, are given enough hay to last 2-3 days at a time. Since I top it off daily, they are well supplied with hay. They get pellets as a supplement but it's not their main meal so there is no rush to fill their bellies with it. It's a treat they look forward to and I take it out when the weather is at the optimal point for the day. The barn cats hunt all day long and come running for their daily cat food as soon as they hear the back door open. The poultry feeder will hold a weeks worth of food at a time but I keep the level at two days worth.

 All the water buckets, bottles and poultry founts are heated and they all hold enough for 2 days. I fill them up every day and make sure none have failed, but I don't have to do it first thing in the morning. I know they have enough and it is still good quality.

There are some challenges during times of bad weather, also. Ever tried to scoop up frozen wasted hay? We use the deep litter method in the chicken coop and the goat sheds get a manure pack but the rabbit cages are a different ballgame. The potty corners still have to be cleaned and underneath cleaned out. Every time there is a break in the cold, there is also a rush to get that done. And we take advantage of that time to scrub out the water buckets and bottles. Unlike the summertime when we're just mindful of rain, the winter temps can play havoc with our calendar. If there isn't a break, since we are small scale, it still has to be done. But usually Indiana weather fluctuates enough to make it easy to find a good day once or twice a month for those chores.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Herb Gardens

I don't have an herb garden. And I'm not sure -yet- if I should have one. Right now I have 4 old, small tires, 3 that I regularly plant sage, mint, and cilantro in and 1 that gets whatever strikes my fancy. This year that one had garlic in it. I also have lemon balm growing in my landscaping. In the past I've grown basil but honestly didn't use it enough to justify taking up the space. That's it for my herb experience.

Last spring I bought chamomile and horehound seeds, hoping to increase my exposure to herb gardening . I started the horehound inside but it never took off enough to transplant. I never even opened the chamomile. It wasn't because I didn't want to, I just ran out of time. So maybe herb gardening isn't for me. But I really want it to be! I have grand visions of drying my own herbal teas, mixing up seasoning blends, and maybe even some home remedies. I just have to overcome my time and space limitations. And I need to do some research on the kinds of herbs that would benefit us, get the most use, and would do well in our growing conditions.

Here in the middle of a cold spell is the perfect time to do that. I'll start by asking y'all: What herbs do you use the most? Plant every year? Find easiest to grow?