Monty didn’t make it. If you follow me on Instagram, or we’re friends on FB, you already knew that. Sadly, chicks that need help to hatch have a low chance of survival. But, I always try. I always want to give life a chance. Sometimes, oft times, I lose to Death. Sometimes tho…sometimes, I win. Like with 13 the Turkey (who is one of my best layers and broodies). And Lefty the chicken, who brought me her clutch of 5 chicks last Fall. So I always try…
Anyways… I said I’d keep y’all updated, and there, now y’all know. Yesterday I just took the day to putter in the garden and sit with the grief of it. I know he was just a 2 day old duck, who likely was gonna end up in Freezer Camp, but still… We have a connection to our food animals here. When you raise them, and love them, and give them the best life they can have, there is a connection that makes you hurt when you lose one prematurely. And it’s not because of the loss of food, it’s the loss of the life that leads up to that… There was no chance to swim and splash. No chance to chase bugs. Or play with other ducks. Or waddle about to and fro like ducks like to do. That’s what I was…am…mourning. The life that leads up to the moment, that one bad moment, where the food animals fulfill their destiny. I might be a bit soft for Farm Life.
And, I know I can avoid that grief by not helping chicks out of shells, but, as I said… I always want to give Life a chance. Always. That’s just me.
Last night we sat on the deck, with music and wobbly pops and bbq. And in one quiet moment, The Kid says “I hear chirping…and it’s not Bart!” We looked at the cat house where the broody hens were… I reached in under those hens and found a wee surprise:
And so now we’re back at 2. Life. She’ll always find Her way. ❤
We have some chickens who insist, and I mean *insist*, that they need to be broody. Big problem is, we don’t currently have a working rooster. We lost all our boys over the winter, and none of the oprpingtons or jersey giant boys are ready for working with full sized hens. Them boys is just too young. But, one should never let a broody hen go to waste if they can help it. Last year we had a broody hatch out a dozen ducklings. So we gave these bitches, who had taken over the cat house from the cats on the deck, duck eggs.
Now, every couple of days I go in and look for chicken eggs and take those away. Because…egg bombs are gross. I had found a duck egg with a huge peck/crack in it, so I took it away…only to crack it and find a baby (still breathing) in it. I can’t convey how awful I felt because there was no way at all to save that baby. So I did the kindest thing. And had a good cry afterwards. 😥
Since that egg, I candled the others under the brody chickens, and found 2 that I was pretty sure were rotting, but I left them just in case I was wrong. Figured if they went past 45 days under the hens (muscovy take 35 days and sometimes longer to hatch) then I’d toss ’em into the fire. Welp, good thing I didn’t. This little numpkin was found wandering on the deck:
After finding this one, I checked the eggs underneath the hens… Another on had pipped. Typically after pipping, the chick will “unzip” the egg shell, making it into 2 halves, then kick it’s way out. Sometimes, that doesn’t happen. But, we always give the babies the chance to do it on their own. They’re always stronger if they can get themselves out.
So we waited for the day. But the 2nd baby didn’t get past the pipping stage. So I intervened.
I’ve helped many chickens, a few turkeys, but never a duckling. I don’t know if the blood was normal. But, if I didn’t get baby out, they were going to die either way. I figured if they made it through the night, they earned a name.
So, meet Monty…
My brain says Monty ain’t gonna make it…but my heart says it won’t be a for a lack of trying.
I had winter sown some borage seeds. I waited a long time to finally see the wee teeny seedling come up. And then I forgot about it in the container for a while. Finally, I got around to putting it into the garden…not in any particular spot, just in a “oh, there’s a space, let’s plant something there!” spot. I had no real expectation of it doing much of anything…
Until this morning when this greeted me:
So, now I’ll let this plant self seed for next year. One of the things about winter sowing is that the plants that *do* come up and produce are best to save seeds from (or let self seed) because they’re acclimatized to your micro climate. Since my micro climate can be incredibly harsh (even though we’re zone3 over all, my micro climate can oft times be zone2) anything that acclimatizes here (that we can use) will be encouraged.
Other goings on include:
Volunteer tomatoes coming up all over the place. There’s easily 6 of them, maybe more in the weeds….shhhhh, we won’t talk about the fact that I’m behind on weeding… These are from composted tomatoes from Loop. Who knows what kinda tomatoes we’ll get from these plants, but if they’re tasty, I’ll save seeds from them and give them another shot next year. There’s also a whole lot of ground cherries coming up…I was warned that growing them once typically means having them forever…that’s fine with me! Ground cherries are delicious! So having a whole bunch of volunteers come up is awesome. I hope to have enough to make a batch of wine with them. I think they’d make a very tasty wine.
And the mullein (and a few other of the medicinals) are growing beautifully. They’ve been getting a weekly application of the stinging nettle tea, so they’re just about ready for a small harvest…enough that thins them out nicely and gives me enough for winter tinctures.
Plus, the stinging nettles, that some lovely horse 🙄🤦♀️ decided to munch the beautiful tops off of, are ready for another harvest, and to made into a tincture. As well as more dried for winter teas. And the bonus is, the stems will be chopped and fermented into fertilizer.
No, no, no, not *that* weed… Nah, ’round here we’re not exactly 4:20 friendly…not that we care if someone else uses, but I have violent reactions to it in all forms. The scent of the smoke causes me to vomit and I really dislike vomiting. 😂😂😂
Nope, when I say “weed tea” I mean pulling your weeds out, chopping them up, covering with water, and fermenting them. Whyever would someone do that? Because, m’dears, that is fertilizer for you plants! Free fertilizer. From plants you want to get rid of… See? This really is a good thing.
Here’s a basic run down of how to do it: Turn Your Weeds into Nutrient-Rich Fertilizer Go ahead and click the linky to read…I’m too tired and lazy to write it all out… But where she says use a tight fitting lid, I don’t bother. I have a few extra recycling buns lying about, so I just use one of those:
I will say, it stinks. Bad. But it works. I’ve done compost tea many, many times, and had excellent results. In fact, back in the city, with regular applications of compost tea during fruit set, I noticed an increase of almost 1/2 a bushel on our dwarf apple tree. That’s pretty damn awesome. And this year, I’ve been using the nettle fertilizer on the medicinal plants (mullein, hyssops, calendula, etc…) and had fantastic growth from them. This weekend, I’ll be hitting the tomatoes with it…
The only downside (aside from smell) is that I have to apply it with a watering can. That’s a bit of a pain, but it is what it is. I don’t really mind wandering through the garden with a watering can. It’s kinda relaxing. And really, it only need doing every couple of weeks, so it’s not like it’s a huge time sucking chore.
And the real bonus? Used as a spray on the foliage, it help deter and destroy aphids. Oh damn!! If only I had known, and had some made, back in the spring when the aphid infestation hit my pepper seedlings and the result of my treatments killed them (my peppers, not the damned aphids) all off…🙄🤦♀️ So I’m going to make sure I have a jar of the stinky juice to keep over winter, with having indoor plants that’ll need feed boosts and (hopefully not) treatments for aphids. Plus it uses weeds. We all have weeds that need to be pulled. Why not use them to our benefit? Seems like a no brainer to me…
Way back in the fall, I joined a seed swap on Instagram. It was a fun way to share seeds from our areas and seeds from plants we love. The host, Ash from Grower’s Blend, gifted participants with seeds from her own shop. She sent me both Gun Metal Grey tomatoes and Inkspot microdwarf tomatoes. I am a huge tomato nerd and was over joyed with these seed packets.
So a few weeks ago, after a discussion with Hubby about growing food indoors, I decided to start some of the Inkspots. They’re little, can be kept as a houseplant easily, and they make food. Gotta like that. So into some potting soil went 5 seeds. All 5 sprouted. And look how damn cute these wee tomatoes are!
For scale, I started them in those individual yogurt serving cups. (please remember, I don’t buy those yogurt cups, we get them in our Loop food waste for farm animals pickups) Doesn’t help? Okay, here’s one with my coffee cup for scale…
It’s a big cup, about 5 inches tall, holds several traditional cups of coffee at a time. Because coffee is life, ya know?
Anyways, the tomatoes… Almost ready for their next pots. I’ve a handful of 3/4 gallon pots that will be their permanent homes and we’ll see how they do. If nothing else, the happiness factor of having houseplants (with cats who don’t really care about them) is worth something.
Been a busy time. Okay, we’re always busy here. 😂😂😂
Hubby took a few days off work (yay for having holiday days again!) so we could get somewhere closer to caught up…so much work has been done. All the turkey babies are living in the same space now, with daily outside time. They’re growing like crazy and well on track for October processing. The Narragansett babies are predominantly auburns this year…Oscar has made his mark for sure! Dingus is still living in the garage, because I don’t have freezer space for him yet. We’ve been working hard at eating down the freezers so that, come fall, we have space for the animals we’ve grown this year, but it’s been slow. I have to get the cure(s) for bacon because I’ve got several packages of pork bellies just waiting to go into the smoker…the joys of country living is you *can* grow things to smoke, but, sometimes when you run out of the necessities to smoke the meats, it’s a bit of a pain.
I’ve weeded the garden a million times and still have more to do. The great thing is I haven’t had to water by hand…at least, not the main garden. Anything in pots gets a bit of water a day. My micro dwarf tomatoes are up in the house and growing beautifully. I restarted the poblanos to keep as a house plant over winter. Those are doing pretty well too… And I did cuttings off the grape vine. So far it looks like 2 are rooting.
We’ve had several massive bonfires. Just trying to catch up on all the brush bits (we had 4 trees that had to come down last year) and wood that needs to be taken care of. Plus, I can trhow on armloads of pasture sage so that it smokes for The Merry Mares. Helps them deal with the crazy amount of mosquitoes this year. Oh, the joys of regular rains! 😂😂😂
In between weeding and mulching the garden, there’s the growing of the garden spaces. Boxes from the food waste recovery program broken down, laid out and covered in bedding from brooders and coops. The big compost pile of horse manure needs to grow ~ I haven’t had the time yet to deep clean the horse shelter from winter, tho it’s composted well in there, and the extra bedding and shit made it so that it didn’t flood for them this past spring. But before winter hits again (I know, right? It’s July and I’m already thinking winter again. FML) it needs to be deep cleaned and bedded. And the giant horse shit pile is our base for the shooting berm…because ya gotta have a place to shoot. 😉
All of this is why there’s been light posting. We’re just plugging away until harvest time hits. Thankfully, there’s nothing exciting happening…well, unless you consider a batch of turkeys destroying heads of lettuce in seconds exciting. 😂 Because *that* happens a lot here…same with ducks and watermelon. I’ve got to video that to share with y’all because ducks and watermelon is hilarious.
It’s strawberry season ’round here. That means there’s ample u-pick places to go and get your fill of berries. This year we’ve had enough rain that the berries are huge, juicy and amazingly tasty. Or, maybe we’re all just happy af to have berries after last year’s drought. Either way… We made our way out to get some berries. Which for me means eating a basket on the drive home and then freezing the rest for wine. Well, and a batch of jam for Hubby, because he likes jam.
I use a simple wine recipe I found way back when I first wanted to make fruit (or country) wines. Danger Dave’s Dragon Blood wine. It’s an easy peasy, should be ready to drink in a month, wine.
Now, as always, I adjust the recipe… The original calls for a mere 6lbs of fruit. 😂😂😂 Yeah so, I typically use 20lbs of fruit, sometimes more. Like when I do a green tomato wine, minimum is 25lbs of green tomatoes. I also often leave out the lemon juice, depending what fruits I’m using. Actually, truth be told, lemon juice is kept on hand for canning tomatoes, so unless I’m making *lemon* wine (google “skeeter pee”…you won’t regret it 😉 ), I pretty much leave it out. Same with the tannin…if I think of it, I add it, but most times, I don’t even think of it…
‘Kay so, my strawberry wine looks like this:
20lbs fruit…washed, sliced and frozen 3tsp pectic enzyme (helps the wine clear…but I often forget this too) 3 tsp. yeast nutrient (stir) 1 tsp. yeast energizer (stir) With the nutrient and energizer…I only use nutrient, because I rarely have energizer on hand…if you have both, great, but not necessary…and I add this the next day with the packaged yeast. Yeast package…I typically use EC-1118 yeast, but a while back I got a fantastic deal on a bunch of Super B wine yeast…all I could grab in a handful for $5…yay for having freakishly large hands for a woman!! 😂😂😂 This is another thing you’re going to want to get from a brew shop…yeah, you can use bread yeast, but honestly, it’s worth the money to buy the right yeast for the job. Bread yeast gives a hot, yeasty finish…it’s not pleasant, IMO. YMMV.
(Can you tell this is a very loosey goosey kinda recipe? there’s *lots* of wiggle room!)
Then sugar…normally I find around 5-6 kgs does the job…just plain old white sugar…I’m aiming for a starting gravity (s.g) of 1.070-1.080… And good, clean water. I tend to make 8 gallon batches…this recipe is about right for that…
So, of course this goes on the assumption you have some basic wine making equipment. ~ A big pail…my main primary (big pail) holds 10 gallons (it’s kinda small, I gotta find a bigger one *and* a place to put it!) ~ A mesh fruit bag…this is a cheap af luxury. You can do without it, but it makes your wine making life a bazillion times easier. Go ahead and spend the $5. It’s worth it! ~ A hydrometer. You can get one cheap (under $10) at any brew shop. This simple tool tells you your s.g and your f.g.(final gravity). With those numbers you know a. when your wine is done fermenting, and 2. how much alcohol is in your wine…if you’re going to go on and distill any of your wine (where it’s legal or you just don’t care 😉 ), you’ll want to get a proof and trailles hydrometer as well…you use that with your distilled spirits to find your proof (proof is double your alcohol percentage…ie. 110 proof vodka is 55% alcohol). You need to know this in order to dilute or for using your distillate for tinctures….but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. 😉 ~ A racking cane…this helps you siphon your fermented juices off the gross crap (called lees) at the bottom of your pail. ~ A carboy with a bung and airlock. Glass is best for a carboy. You can bulk age (typically) 6 gallons at one time. You use the bung and airlock to keep oxygen from ruining the shit out of your wine…and wild random yeasties from turning your 6 gallons of wine into 6 gallons of vinegar. Trust me. That fucking sucks when it happens. ~ Sanitizer. This is a must if you want your wines to turn out. Not bleach. Just spend the money on proper sanitizer from the brew shop, ‘kay? I use the pink stuff, but tons of folks swear by StarSan…and one day I may switch to it because you don’t have to rinse afterwards, so *that* would be bonus…but I buy the pink stuff by the 2kg bag and it lasts a long time. And lastly, on the list of should have (though I view them as must haves) is: ~ Bottles and a corker. Duh, right? But seriously, the first kit I made, I didn’t have enough bottles when it came to bottling time. I used mason jars for what didn’t fit in the ones I had…drank that first though, because mason jars, unless processed like in canning, don’t keep air out. Now, the corker *can* be optional, if you’re using screw tops…and TBH, when I *know* a wine isn’t gonna last me longer than a few months, I use 1 liter plastic bottles with screw tops. Longer aging wines (like dandelion or my beet root…yes, you read that right…I make a beet root wine…) get corked glass bottles.
So there…if you have a basic kit of supplies (like *so basic* every brew shop has a “buy it as a kit” version where everything except maybe the brew bag and the proof and trailles hydrometer are in it), you can do just about any wine/shine (you’ll need a still for shine, but again, that’s a whole ‘nother post 😉 )…with stuff from the grocery store/local farms/your own garden or backyard. Though, you can buy wine kits too…and those can be awesome too. I too will buy a kit now and then…but I also love the fuck out of harvesting fruits (and some veggies) to create a wine.
I follow the process for the Dragon’s Blood fairly closely. At least for the first bit while it’s in the primary pail (I cover my primary with saran wrap and a towel, I don’t worry about a lid), but once it’s in the carboy, I’m a negligent winemaker. I’ve got a couple “bulk aging” right now (read:too lazy to bottle) that have been there for a year or more…in fact the chokecherry is coming up on 2 years in the carboy. I just keep topping up the water in the airlock to keep air from getting in and ruining it. When I get around to bottling, it oughta be effing amazing. 😉
So, that’s how I do it. Any questions, feel free to ask. I will do my best to answer. 🙂
It’s that busy time of year where just about everything has to be done all at the same time… Garden needs weeding and mulching. Hay needs cutting, raking, baling. Animals need yards, moving, shifting, getting outdoors. And the regular day-to-day stuff still has to happen too…laundry, dishes, cleaning the house… Give it a couple of months and we’ll be adding canning, and butchering to the list of things that need doing. I, uh, mighta started this Farming thing a bit late in life…I’m tired. But it’s a good tired, so not much complaining is happening. 😉
So how’s things going?
Duck and goose babies now have regular outdoor time. That makes keeping their coop cleaner much easier. All the food and water is out in their yard, and most of the pooping happens out there too. 😂😂😂 They’re growing like mad, eating weeds from the garden, produce from Loop, and fermented grains. The ducks are starting to quack like normal ducks, which confuses the hell out of the muscovies. Genetically, muscovies are similar to geese, so they don’t speak the same “duck” as mallard derived ducks. Instead of quacking (noisily, I might add!!) muscovies trill (girls) and hiss (boys). They are much, much, much quieter than pekins!
Garden is all planted. Except for the few stragglers I keep seeming to bring home from the local greenhouse. Yesterday another 14 tomato plants arrived. 😂😂😂 1 is specifically for in the house, and at least 1 other will come in too…but most will be fit into spare small spots in the garden. As has been explained to me, there is no such thing as “no more room to plant”, much like there is no such thing as “no more room for books”. It is true.
Hubby and The Kid got the fencing up around my Ruth Stout garden yesterday. While I pulled thistles out of the haying area. I don’t mind feeding the mares weeds…in fact, many weeds are good for them (some aren’t of course, but those are removed), like thistles are (they’re excellent for liver health), but too many in a bale of hay won’t get eaten…and a certain Palomino Princess has been known to eat dried thistles and get stickers stuck inside her mouth/lips. That’s not a good time to deal with, especially since her 1 fault is having humans doing anything near/in her mouth. I no longer give her worming pastes…not after having been lifted 3 feet in the air by her halter as she reared to get away from the tube of funky goo. It’s just not a good time and it ain’t worth fighting with her. When she gets her teeth floated, she’s drugged before the vet sticks his hand in… Trust me, it’s the best for everyone. No one wins when fighting 1500lbs. Anyways… I pulled a massive load of thistles out and fed them to all the birds. Ducks and geese just plain love any food we give them, so they got the bulk of them.
The Kid fashioned a yard for the first brooder of turkey babies and they got a chance to get outside for the first time ever yesterday.
It was a bit scary at first, but then they came out and discovered their pile of thistles. Then the singing and cooing started. And then the dust bathing… They were doing great until Daphne ran by and well, apparently, dogs are terrifying to little turkeys who’ve never seen such a thing before! 😂😂😂
There’s also the foraging harvests to do… Stinging nettles, pineapple weed, lamb’s quarters, yarrow (which I discovered we’ve had for a while, but didn’t realize, so I’ve planted it for next year…this year I can harvest the wild…), thistles for teas (because liver health 😉 ), some prairie sage, and soon, chokecherries and hawthorn berries, and saskatoons… Some will be dried for teas, much will be made into tinctures, some will become salves/balms.
Then, I planted some poblano seeds for indoor peppers. Some Inkspot micro dwarf tomatoes for indoor tomatoes. And I took a small tendril off the grape vine so I can try propagating it. And so on, and so forth…