Ray and Esmeralda

The Simple Things

 

 

It was beautiful outside today. Most of the day was sunny and warm, with some clouds passing through to keep things interesting.

I never know what may happen here, and today was no exception. I started my morning by finding a little mole in the mudroom. He was very cute, so I put him in a cleaned sour cream tub, with some chicken feed, while I decided what to do. Just one mole can dig up a whole pasture. When we see one of the dogs or cats has “eliminated” one it tends to be a good thing. But I couldn’t just kill it. It was REALLY cute!Mole tub

So, I set him free in one of the flower beds we haven’t planted this year. When Charlie got home he said it would have been smarter to take him farther out into the woods to release him, and he’s right, but I didn’t. I thought his mama might be nearby, and I didn’t want him to be afraid, alone in the woods.

Mole

Then, it was time to head to town. I was out of 7-Up, and it was a gorgeous day for a drive.  Between the rain and the sun, everything has been growing like crazy. This means getting caught behind brush cutters on a pretty regular basis. Since I didn’t grow up around these, I always get a kick out of them. There’s a huge mower-type thing off the side of the tractor that cuts down all the green along the side of the road. This is why Washington folks consider double yellow lines a mere suggestion. I have about 4 miles of curvy 2-lane road heading into town. Brush cutters and tractors go about 10 miles an hour. Once you see an opportunity to pass safely, you take it.

Brush cutterWhen I got home Carly, Joe and the kids came up for a little bit. Carly comes to clean the house for me once a week because I don’t like doing it, and she likes the extra money. Besides, somebody has to play with the kids while the housecleaning is happening. Win-win-win.

I decided we needed to move the bird feeders to the other end of the yard. It seems like we’re going to be spending a lot of time under the tree by the trampoline, so I wanted the feeders where we can see them. Both kids were going to help, but Reta Jean decided she could carry all the empty feeders by herself. She did allow Raymond and I to help fill them up. Now, we just have to wait for the birds to find them.

Once we were done with the feeders, Raymond played on the trampoline, Reta Jean played in the dirt, and I got ice cream cones for everybody.

Reta Jean has been keeping her eyes on the raspberries, just waiting for them to be ripe. She couldn’t resist trying one today. They aren’t ripe yet.

Beats and berries

We’ve been seeing rats around the animal yard, and during afternoon chores I found their nest. Now, I’m not a shrieky, sissy-girl, but when you reach for a flake of hay and a dozen rats rush to their escape by running over your hand and around your feet, it’s pretty hard to not let just a little scream slip out. The bad news is they scared the crap out of me, the good news is now I know where they’re living.

I may do what I can to save most little critters that cross my path, but rats don’t fall on my “to save” list. A standard trap really wouldn’t work because rats are smart. As soon as one rat got caught, the others would know to stay away. The cats and dogs, not to mention the chickens and the turkey might try to eat a dead rat, so poison isn’t an option. Farm folk say try a bucket, so I’m going to try a bucket. I set it up against a full bale of hay, next to their nest. My hope is they’ll run across the bale, heading for their nest and, gaaaaaaaaaaa, fall into the bucket. I put a little chicken scratch in the bucket. Once one rat falls in, I want it to tell its friends there’s food in there, not that it’s a trap. I don’t know what I’ll do if I catch any. I may just leave that executive decision to Charlie.

Rat trap

 

 

 

There was nothing super-special or extra-exciting about today. No art projects or big meals. It was just a day. We were lucky enough to wake up and enjoy a beautiful, peaceful day in the country. Life is good.

0407150740a-1 (500x413)

Poultry Rotation

Last year, we had chicks in a brooder, then moved them to an enclosed run, then into the big yard. Boom, boom, boom, it was done. After the chickens were in the yard, we got ducks, and started over. This year, we’ve made it a little more complicated. The 3-4 month plan, which started in February, includes laying chickens, laying ducks, meat chickens, and turkeys. In order to get what we want from each of the birds, when we want it, it took a little planning, and quite of bit of rotation. The egg birds are well into their rotation, and we’ll be starting with meat birds this week or next.

The first step was getting pullets, which are female chicks that will be egg-layers. We start with egg-layers because they don’t start laying until about 6 months old. If we wait too long, we’ll be into the shorter winter days, and they’ll only just get started laying when it’s time to stop again. They’re first available in February, when temperatures still drop below freezing. Their first stop is the brooder – a metal tub with bedding and a heat lamp.

0206151154a

When they’re big enough, the chicks get moved outside to the enclosed run. We keep the run close to the big yard so they get used to seeing the other animals. They stay in the run until they’re big enough to hold their own with the big girls.

039

Once the chicks are moved out of the brooder, the ducklings move in.

068

The chicks are 8 weeks old now, and big enough to be moved in with the big girls. The ducklings are 3 weeks old, and big enough to move into the run. Ducks grow faster than chickens, and the overnight temperatures also aren’t dropping as low.

When you move chicks, they need to go into lockdown. By closing them into their coop for 3 or 4 days, they learn that this is home and, if all goes well, they will automatically return to the coop each night. Friday, I made sure the coop was ready for them with lots of food and fresh water. I can add food and water while they’re in there, but the longer I can leave them alone the better. Saturday, Charlie and I caught them, and moved them to their new home. I checked on them each day to make sure they were doing OK, and waited until Tuesday to let them out.

I popped open the door and waited. I thought it would take them awhile to decide to come out, but they weren’t shy at all. Within just a few minutes the first chick was venturing out.

0407150732 (479x500)  0407150732a (411x500)

The big girls came over immediately to see what was going on, and soon they were all scratching together. I was afraid there may be some pecking order issues, but nobody had any problems.

0407150733 (482x500)   0407150739-1 (500x449)

Soon, Spike had to be part of the welcoming committee. He always has to be in the middle of everything! Tajo took advantage of Spike’s curiosity and got an extra helping of grain.

   0407150741-1 (500x490)  0407150748-1 (464x500)

The chicks made themselves at home in their new yard.

0407151156 (500x466)

While everyone was enjoying the beautiful day, I got to work cleaning out the coop. The common advice is to not do a real good cleaning during the winter. The bedding, food and poop which drop on the floor help to insulate the coop and keep it warmer. That’s a WHOLE LOT of crap to clean up off the floor, but with help from the girls I got it done pretty quickly.

0407151153 (281x500)  0407151216 (281x500)

The ducks are now moved to the run, complete with their own private swimming pool.

0408150811

I also decided Criss Cross needs some roommates in her condo, so two little bantam chicks have joined the ranks. Raymond and Reta Jean picked them out and named them. The dark one is Cheekle, and the light one is Fif.

0408151652

Turkeys take 6 months to mature, so they’ll be next into the brooder. That way, they’ll be ready to go in time for the holidays. When the ducks move into the big yard, the turkeys will move into the run, and it will be time to get meat chickens. Meat chickens only take 4 months to mature, so they’ll be ready to process around September.

Simple, right? It’s a good thing Charlie can keep the timing straight.

To-Do List 2015

I’ve never been good about New Year’s Resolution. I don’t know why. But then, who is good at them? They’re intimidating. It’s like a commitment to do something every day for 365 days straight. That’s just hard.

With every project we’ve finished here in 2014, we’ve come up with something else we want to do. It’s been very exciting to take on farm life, one little piece at a time, and have success! During the hectic holiday months, Charlie and I have been developing ideas for what we want to get done in 2015. Our goal has never been to be totally self-sufficient, but we both get such a kick out of providing for ourselves, we’ll be expanding those efforts this year. So, instead of resolutions this year, we have quite a to-do list.

1) Secure the back pasture. There are 2-5 acres at the back of the property, that the landlord doesn’t use. We will be working with him to figure out how much of this land we can use. It’s an unusual shape, and the creek runs through part of it. The perimeter is enclosed with cattle wire fencing, but we will need to cross-fence, clear out anything that may be a risk to the animals we want to move in, and get water to the area.

2) Build shelters. Once the pasture is ready, we’ll be moving in a variety of animals. We also want to expand our little alpaca herd, and give them more space. That means a variety of shelters. We built our big shelter this past year, so we’re confident we can take on several smaller shelters.

3) Rabbits. Charlie has been researching rabbit breeding, and is looking forward to getting started with that. That means setting up a few different hutches, figuring out a breeding schedule, and becoming proficient at “processing” them. That’s all on Charlie. I’m still not sure I can care for animals, and then eat them. So, Charlie will have to take care of them, THEN I’ll eat them.

4) Bees. There is a small open area in the woods, on the way to our water source, that will be perfect for bees. It’s far enough away from the busy parts of the farm that we won’t disturb them, but close enough that they will be able to easily access our garden. The’ll also be surrounded by blackberry bushes, so that should make for some yummy honey. We’ll be setting up hives soon. so they’ll be move-in ready come springtime.

5) Hard cheese. I’ve done mozzarella and ricotta, and now it’s time to take my cheese commitment to the next level. Hard cheese has to age for months, so I’ll be working on patience, too. My first attempt will be the shortest aging time I can find. I really don’t want to wait 6 months to figure out I did something wrong. I hope I can find something to start with that only needs to age a few weeks. Once I get that down, I’ll go for something bigger. I should have this process down by the end of the year.

6) Lye soap. I want to make “real” soap, all by myself. The lye process makes me nervous, but I’m going to take it on this year. I think I’ll get, like, welders’ protective gear, to make sure I don’t hurt myself. Then, I’ll be able to make any kind of soap I want.

7) Alpaca afghan. I have already skirted and washed, and started to card, several pounds of gorgeous brown alpaca fiber. I’ll be carding, spinning, and crocheting my dream blanket: 100% alpaca.

8) Knitting. I say “crocheting” my dream blanket, but I may actually be knitting it. I’ve never knitted, and I don’t know if my left hand has the coordination to do it, but I’m going to try. If I can learn, great, if I can’t, I’m not going to sweat it. Carly and Tori both have the basics of knitting down, so they can help me if I get stuck. There’s a class in town later this month, and I’m signing up for it. We’ll see how it goes.

9) Turkeys. We’ve toyed with the idea of raising turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but didn’t get started early enough. You have to start with turklets (?) in July or so to be ready by fall. We’ll be on it this year.

10) Garden. We learned so much with our garden last year, we can’t wait to get started this year. There are some things we won’t be doing again, like Brussels sprouts. The plants grew great, but nothing ever sprouted. We’ll also be trying some new things, like beets. They’re supposed to be good for many of the farm animals. We’ll be more varieties of cucumbers, for pickling, and maybe not so many squash. The seed catalogs have started arriving, so Charlie and I will start poring over them, and making lists of what we’ll be getting in the spring.

10a) A greenhouse is on our “maybe” list for this year. It will depend on the pasture situation, and what kind of time we have before planting begins. If that doesn’t happen this year, it will move to the to-do list for 2016.

That’s it! This is the list that I’ll be posting on the refrigerator. I’m sure some of these will happen easily, and others will go comically wrong. Whatever happens, we’ll learn a lot and have tons of fun.

Happy New Year!

1225141351c

1114140705b

Frozen Farming

1113140733

The other night, Richard Sherman was on the news talking about the weather. He grew up a California kid, but he’s getting used to playing football in “below freezing” temperatures. My first thought was, “Silly football player! It’s not below freezing. It’s 16 degrees outside.” Fortunately, my second thought kicked in with, “Silly desert kid! 16 IS below freezing!” My whole first winter here, that never occurred to me. “Below freezing” sounds a whole lot colder than “really cold.”

1113140735

 

1113140726a

When it started cooling off, and the garden quit producing, I was actually relieved. After the daily rush of picking, processing, canning and freezing, I was looking forward to a slow down. I feel like Captain Obvious here, but, DANG! A frozen farm yard brings on a whole different set of chores.

1113140726b

Looking outside, from my cozy bed, it’s beautiful. The yard is covered in frost, and the ice makes everything sparkly. Now, I just have to talk myself into going out there.

1113140732

Last year, we only had 6 chickens, in a small run, to care for. This year, we’re up to 2 alpacas, 2 ducks, and 16 chickens. Plus the dogs and cats. I still love my morning chores, they’re just a little different now.

I’m a little concerned about the animals in the freezing temperatures, but not too much. They all have shelters they can go into at night. The chickens and ducks will huddle together for body warmth, and the alpacas have their fleece. While their fleece may be cold and wet on the outside, up close to their bodies, it’s still dry and warm.

1114140705b

The first thing to do is putting on a pot of water to boil. All the water containers are frozen. Yesterday, I stomped my boot through the ice, only to have it all freeze over again within the hour. Today, I’ll be schlepping hot water out throughout the day.

1113140728

Trips outside take a little more prep time now. No more shorts and flip flops for me! Layer, layer, layer. Sweat pants, boots, long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, quilted flannel, scarf and gloves. I don’t mind. It gives the water time to boil.

It’s no less beautiful when I’m outside. I think. My glasses keep fogging up. Stomping on the frozen ground is almost as much fun as stomping in puddles. Everything crunches underfoot, and gives the same satisfaction as popping bubble wrap.

1113140731b

Once I distribute the hot water and feed everyone, it’s on to poop duty. The frost makes the piles a lot easier to see, and frozen paca poop cleans up like marbles. Some of it’s frozen to the ground, so I hammer on it with the side of the rake. Bad idea. I’ve just created poop shrapnel. I won’t do that again.

1113140724

Chickens and their poop are not nearly as cooperative. Yesterday, the poop had frozen onto the perches and I had to use my scraper more like a chisel. I think some of the poop will still be there come spring.  Today, the chickens aren’t even coming out of the shelter. Normally, they come running out as soon as I open the door. This morning, I finished my other yard chores, and they were still inside. I guess I’ll have to come back later for poop duty.

1114140709

It’s going to be a loooong winter. If I can keep from doing anything really wrong, we should all make it. Let the winter games begin!

1107141445a

Meat-Eating Hypocrite

I know I’m a hypocrite. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I eat meat. I live on a cattle ranch, I raise chickens and ducks, and Tori wants a pig. The hypocrisy comes from the fact that I don’t want to be responsible for killing animals. Tori will not hesitate to point out that since I eat meat, I’m still responsible for them dying, even if I’m not the one doing the killing. I get that. And it bothers me.

I’ve gone through livestock catalogs and websites, trying to desensitize myself to the various “processing equipment.” That’s what they call it. Not “killing tools.”  I started by focusing on poultry equipment. I was getting used to seeing the equipment, and putting myself into heavy denial about what each piece was used for. Then I was traumatized.

poultry processing

Jon, our attack rooster, had to go. He would come after me every time I entered the yard. He was doing his job, protecting the hens, but I was not happy about being the target for his spurs. I couldn’t get any chores done, without holding a stick in one hand to fend him off. There was no way I could let the babies in the yard with him. I put in the kill order, and asked Charlie to “take care of business” while I was in town. Charlie got busy with other chores, I got home early, and I found him cleaning up the kitchen, with the plucked bird sitting up in the sink. The bird was already supposed to be in the freezer, and I was supposed to get to pretend he had simply run away.  I completely lost it. I’ve seen plenty of raw chicken in the sink, but that’s not the same as seeing a dead, plucked chicken in the sink. OK, it IS the same thing, but it’s not. I was devastated. I was a sobby mess, completely overcome with guilt. How am I ever going to be a REAL farmer, if I can’t handle being responsible for the death of even one – really mean – rooster?

cock a doodle doo

The next week as I was cooking chicken, I realized I probably needed to get over it. For the record, I’ve tried being vegetarian. Within a few weeks I got really sick and came to the conclusion that I needed meat to be healthy. I know vegetarians will argue with that, but I really need more protein than I can get from a vegetarian diet. And I like meat.

I go back to my catalogs, and my desensitization practice.  In my head, I understand that many meat and poultry farms raise their animals in deplorable conditions. Even “cage-free” really only means the birds aren’t in an actual cage. It doesn’t mean they aren’t crammed, wing-to-wing, in an overcrowded barn, de-beaked so they won’t peck at each other. I know if we raised our own meat, they would live a happy life, with lots of room to roam, fresh air, sunshine, and good food. Until we killed them. It’s that last sentence I have a hard time with.

chicken crowding

RJ and hens

I FINALLY decide that if we had enough chickens, and Charlie did all the processing while I was away (allowing me to pretend the chicken fairy simply delivered them to our freezer), I could probably handle it. That’s when I came across “lung pluckers” in the poultry catalog. Lung pluckers?!?!?! Those can’t possibly be what they sound like. Can they? Yep, they’re exactly what they sound like.  Ugh. I’m right back to square one – a meat-eating hypocrite.

I’m still struggling with this whole killer/meat-eater thing. I get that if I eat meat, that meat was once alive. I get that even if I don’t personally kill the animal, I’m still responsible for its death. I even get that pretending the chicken fairy delivers ready-to-cook birds to the grocery store is, maybe, a bit delusional. I figure that, come next spring, we will probably be raising meat birds, and I will get used to it. Maybe. I’m working on it.

Meanwhile, today at Cabela’s, Charlie stopped to look at meat grinders and sausage makers. Ugh. Pleeeeze! Let me get used to the idea of chickens, first.

Bring On The Calm

1106140722

 

I recently returned from a week at my dad’s. I always enjoy visiting him and my hometown. I got to spend time with Dad and my son PJ, drive by the old house, see old friends, and spend some time in the sun. But California moves at a much different speed than Washington.

Everything on the farm makes me smile and relax. I’ve been home almost a week and I just got my “calm” back this morning. It’s been stormy – rain and wind – since I got home, and today we had sun. Just wandering around the property made me peaceful again.

The storm blew away most of the remaining leaves. Now, we can see neighbors’ homes that have been hidden since spring.

1107141442a

 

Spike and Tajo get to dry out and relax in the sunshine.

11071414451107141446

The chickens are happily clucking and pecking.

1107141445b

And the creek is high and burbling away.

1107141459

No matter how many pictures I take, or how much I try to describe this life to people, I can never do it justice. We are so lucky to get to wake up to this every single day. We never know when deer are going to wander through the yard, or when coyotes are going to hang out and party at the pond. The finches are gone now, but a new flock of woodpeckers has moved into the yard. I never knew woodpeckers traveled in flocks, and maybe they don’t, but since I keep seeing the same 6 hanging out together, I’m calling them a flock.

As the sun travels throughout the day, it makes different trees and clouds light up and glow. Everybody gets to be a star. Any time of the day, I can go out and see something completely different, even though, technically, everything is the same.

1106140722a

1107141442

Not only are there no words, there aren’t even pictures that can do this life justice. It’s where I belong. It’s home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toddler Tuesday – 10/21/14

I get teased sometimes for getting excited “like a kid” about things. Whenever I spend time with Raymond and Reta Jean, I’m reminded that none of us see things quite like kids do. The best we can do is try, and hope to come close. This is what we did this week.

I got to babysit a few days while Carly covered Tori’s shift at work. Yep, that’s McDonald’s for dinner one night, and pancakes another. Gabba tries to follow rules, but it didn’t happen this week. Besides, breakfast for dinner is cool. We also ran up and down the hall, played super-hero, ate marshmallows, and watched Letters! (That’s what the kids call Wheel of Fortune.)

1014141527a  1015141546

Reta Jean can’t wait to get the the pacas and hens. She’s my farm buddy and likes to help with chores. I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture, but she was trying to eat grass like Tajo. We convinced her to just feed him some hay. Finding eggs is always exciting, and she’s even learning to set them GENTLY in the basket instead of just dropping them in.1017141335-1  1017141341

1017141340a  1017141337a

While Reta Jean was helping with the animals, Raymond was off with Auntie Tori, picking flowers.

1017141344cThere are all kinds of crawly critters this time of year. Sometimes it takes toddlers to remind us how cool it is just to watch them and touch them.

1017141346  1017141356

Raking up leaves is fun when there are happy faces just waiting to jump into the piles. Carly must have raked them up 5 times. They’re still a mess around the yard, but we were having too much fun to actually haul them away.

1017141352d-1  1017141357a

1017141352c  1017141355d

Reta Jean loves following Brother.

1017141348b

There’s one game left this season, and Raymond is finally getting the hang of soccer. He still likes to stop and watch the birds, or pick the grass, but he stays in the game. Reta Jean is too young to join the team, but she’ll totally be ready next year.

1018140939

1018140950c

And no week would be complete without breakfast at Steve’s. Raymond has figured out how to roll his tongue. I think I’m the only person on the planet who can’t do that. Maybe Reta Jean won’t be able to, either.

1019140936a  1019140936

Raymond was practicing writing words on the menu. He can’t just write cat or dog. Nope. Our Raymond writes Xray Fish. Two years until kindergarten. His teachers are going to have their hands full.

1019140914

Have a great week!

Alpaca Escape – And Return

0903141010b

Everybody is home safe and sound. I wouldn’t rest until I could say that.

We got Spike and Tajo just last spring. They make me smile every day and I work hard to make sure they’re well-cared for. When I go into the yard, I latch the gate behind me. Any time I leave their yard, I double latch the gate to ensure they don’t get out, and no outside critters get in. I would be devastated if anything happened to them.0923141222a

Today, I had a bowl of watermelon and squash scraps to take out for afternoon treats. While I was in the yard, I popped into the hen house to check for eggs. I looked around the hen house door just in time to watch Tajo lean forward to pick up a piece of squash, and accidentally bump the gate open. (I still don’t know how this happened) Arghhh!! Total. Panic.0903141018

Tajo is between me and the gate. Spike is between me and Tajo. At this point, I don’t even care where the chickens are.

If I run, I spook both pacas, and they could both bolt out the gate. If I don’t move fast, they both wander out while I figure out what to do. Arghhh!!!

I get myself between Spike and Tajo. Spike’s actually busy eating squash and doesn’t care. Spike never passes up food. Good Spike! Tajo wanders out the gate.spike at snack time

Assess! Assess! I’m home by myself. Carly left 2 minutes ago with the babies. My phone is in the house. Way over there. Charlie is supposed to be off early today, but I have no idea how early. What to do?

I calmly follow Tajo out the gate, hoping he’ll just change his mind and wander back in when I call him. Nope.

There is cattle wire around MOST of the property, so chances are good he won’t get too far, but with a couple of VERY lucky he could potentially make it to the street 1/3 of a mile away. Me just following him around isn’t going to work. I can’t leave the gate open for Tajo to go in because that means Spike can go out. I don’t dare go all the way to the house for my phone to call Charlie or Carly because I don’t want to let Tajo out of my sight.

I run back into the yard, grab a dish, fill it with grain, grab Tajo’s lead and head back out. Have I mentioned I’ve never actually gotten a halter on an alpaca? I’ve seen it done. I’ve helped corner them. I can lead them once they’re hooked up. I can even release them. Here goes nothing!

I do my best impression of a wall, so Tajo can’t get past me.  Because this works with one person in an open area – never! He just turned around and went the other way. Hey, I had to try. I shake my pan of grain to get his attention, but he’s more interested in the pears on the ground. This could work. I’ll sneak up on him while he’s eating. Nope. Every time I zig, Tajo zags. I figure I can always try to keep this up until Charlie gets home to help. Whenever that’s going to be.

Oh, wait! I remember a very important lesson. If I turn my back, Tajo may not see me as a threat. Instead of me sneaking up on him, maybe I can get him to sneak up on me. If I can get him interested in the grain, maybe he’ll just follow me. It works! Eventually.

The first time, I get a little too far ahead of him, and he loses interest. The second time, I go REALLY slowly. This feels something like a Survivor Challenge. Around the first corner is easy. Now, it’s around the second corner to the gate. Baby steps. Baby steps. Tajo stops when he sees the closed gate. I stop, too. Being tall, and having long arms, is about to come in handy. Don’t look at Tajo. S-T-R-E-T-C-H one arm back with the grain dish. S-T-R-E-T-C-H the other arm to the gate latch. Spike is close to the gate, but not too close. He’s eating. I got this! As soon as Tajo sees the open gate, he trots right though, happy to be in familiar territory again.tajo

Charlie got home about 30 minutes after I got Tajo settled. He’s outside now, fixing the latch on the gate. (Before anybody yells at me, the pictures were NOT taken today.)

Things to Learn

I enjoy every day on our farm, whether it’s chores, crafts, or fun in the kitchen. I’ve read and read and read to learn to do the things I enjoy today. There have been many useful websites that have helped me on my little adventure. When I read what I write about some of these companies and sites, I feel like I sound like a sales person for them. I’m not. If you buy products through my aStore at Amazon I get a very small commission, but other than that I have no financial interest in any of these businesses or products. They are things that have helped me along the way, so I’m sharing them with you to help you get started on your own homesteading adventure. Have fun!

Items I’ve used and written about in my posts, I’ve listed in my Amazon store, so you can find them easily. Please check it out!

http://astore.amazon.com/redmwood-20HUTCH-BOOKSHELVES-KITCHEN

The Ball Canning website has instructions, recipes, product information, and lots of useful tips for successful canning. I refer to them often.

http://www.freshpreserving.com/0915141600

New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has everything you need to start being a cheese maker. I’ve used Ricki’s Mozzarella kit, and her Basic Cheesemaking Kit is next on my wishlist.

http://www.cheesemaking.com/1002141422b

You don’t need to be a full-on homesteader to enjoy different aspects of the lifestyle. The Homesteading Today Forum is full of helpful people, who can offer all kinds of information and support.

http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/American Gothic

Mother Earth News magazine is also available online. SO much information about gardening! They even have a garden planner that we used this year.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Homestead Plan

Grit magazine  has lots of fun articles, covering everything you need to know about rural living – and includes blogs and videos!

http://www.grit.com/RJ and pacas

If you want additional information about anything I’ve posted here, let me know!

0930141311

Lasagna 101: Intro to The Lasagna Project

Last summer, Charlie and I hit all the local farmers markets on a regular basis. By the end of summer, I was quite pleased with myself when I made a 100% Farmers Market Lasagna.

This year, I’m stepping it up! I’ve been waiting all summer to have everything ripen in our garden to make 100% Redmon Woods Lasagna. The tomatoes took their sweet time getting ripe, but they’ve finally gotten themselves ready.0930141311

Here’s what’s happening! Italian tomato sauce will come from our tomatoes and onions. Next, I’ll make mozzarella and ricotta cheese. I’ve made this before, and it worked, so, fingers crossed. Finally, I’ll make the pasta, using eggs from our own chickens.0930141537c

In the interest of full disclosure, some things will have to come from off-property. Flour, sugar, herbs and spices, and garlic will have to be bought. Charlie tried to grow garlic, but it just wasn’t cooperating this year. I will be using farmers market garlic, so it’s almost as good as coming from our own backyard. I’ll also have to buy milk for the cheese. I’ve used both raw milk and store-bought pasteurized milk for cheese, and pasteurized actually works better than raw. Goats are on the wish list, so maybe the milk will be home-grown next year. I was going to make vegetarian lasagna since we have no meat animals, but the family likes meat. Fortunately, we can get sausage from the farmers market.0930141537

That’s the plan! The rest of this week, I’ll be taking you through it step-by-step. This is my “culminating project” to wrap up my summer gardening and canning. We’ll have the family up for dinner this weekend to see if I pass.

I’ve added all my lasagna-making supplies to my Amazon a-store. Take a look!

http://astore.amazon.com/redmwood-20