August 19, 2017

Persistence Pays Off

Last month I told you about our four broody hens who were trying to occupy three nest boxes. Once the chicks hatched, one mama hen claimed two and left the other three to work out who would get to mother the remaining six. Two of those hens took over the job and repeatedly chased off poor Mama #4. Wellsir, she didn't give up and her persistence finally paid off.

Mama #4 and her lone baby chick

She had nine eggs total, and we had two half-hatched chicks that didn't make it before this one did.

This gal has been nest sitting for two and a half months and she finally has herself a baby chick! I don't know if that's a record for the longest setting hen, but there has to be a life lesson in there somewhere.

Persistence Pays Off © August 2017 by 

August 16, 2017

Fresh Fig Pie


With our abundant harvest of figs I wanted to try my hand, once again, at a fresh fig pie. Last year's experiments weren't all that impressive, but this one's a keeper.

Fresh Fig Pie

Have ready, pie dough for a 9-inch pie. Preheat oven to 375 °F (190° C)
  • 5 cups fresh figs, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Mix, fill, top with pats of butter, bake, cool, and eat!

Options:

UPDATE: Aug. 18th - I made another fresh fig pie, this time with a handful of raisins added to the filling and a crumb topping.


It was even better! Highly recommended.

Fresh Fig Pie © Aug 2017 by Leigh 

August 13, 2017

August Days

August days are harvest days for me, filled with picking, preserving, and this year, also writing. Sandwiched between morning and evening chores, my days are full and fulfilling.

Blueberries

On the first of the month I got my last picking of blueberries. It wasn't a gangbusters year for blueberries, but we've eaten our fill fresh, in pies, and in pancakes every Sunday morning. I froze two-gallons worth, and had my granddaughters over for a blueberry picking party and blueberry lunch. I sent a gallon home with my daughter-in-law, so I'm satisfied with the season!

Blueberry harvest lasts for about a month, whereas I only get a week for figs.

Figs

I think this has been my most abundant year for figs yet! Flavor-wise they are kind of bland, so we don't eat many fresh, but I did nail my recipe for fresh fig pie (which I'll share next time). Most of our figs are canned to eat with breakfast or lunch, dehydrated for baking, and frozen for winter jam making.

Elderberries

It's time to pick elderberries too. I know there are quite a few green ones in there, but I have stiff competition with the birds for these. They don't mind eating them green, so I have to get at least some before they're all gone! But I've got three gallons of berries so far, which is the most I've ever gotten. I freeze them for jelly  making in the winter.

Tomatoes and cucumbers

We're enjoying our tomatoes: green ones to fry and red ones for eating fresh and for making pizza sauce to can. If I can't get to them right away, I freeze them and work on the sauce later. We've been eating cucumbers once or twice a day too, plus I've restocked the pickle and cucumber relish shelf in the pantry.

Okra and yellow summer squash

I only have a couple of squash plants, so both harvest and eating are manageable for just the two of us. The small ones we eat fresh in salads, medium ones are sauteed as a side dish, and when I get a few big ones I'll make stuffed squash.

Of okra I planted three rows, and it has done really well this year (after two years of not). I'm not keen on stewed okra, but we like it oven fried or sauteed. I slice and freeze quite a bit to accompany winter meals, and also I've been able to can okra pickles!

Okra pickles with garlic

My green beans slowed down in July when it was so hot and dry. August has brought both cooler temperatures plus welcome rain (over 4 inches so far!), so bean production has picked up again.


We love them steamed with butter and salt, plus I can them. I know folks usually prefer their green beans frozen, but I don't have any room left in my freezer. Plus I love to grab a jar to make my Green Bean Caesar as a last minute side dish.

The only dry beans I planted this year was cow peas.


I planted them at the top of the corn field. They didn't get a lot of water last month so quite a few of the plants are dead now. But the harvest is enough for us and as a treat for the critters as well.

We don't usually harvest meat this time of year, because processing in warm weather attracts too many flies. But it was time to do something about all the ducks, especially since Mama Duck had gone off to brood another batch.


Of our 12 Muscovy ducklings we ended up with nine adult ducks: five females and four males. Big Duck (our drake) had rounded up all the lady ducks for himself and was constantly chasing the males. The chickens were constantly pecking and chasing them too. (Poultry can be pretty ruthless toward one another.) They were destined for the freezer anyway, so when the forecast was for an overnight low of about 60°F (15°C - a real treat for us this time of year) we decided to do the deed. Muscovy tastes more like beef than duck or chicken, by the way.

So those are my August days so far, how are yours? Are you picking and preserving like me, or in the planning stages? Do let me know!

August Days © Aug. 2017 by Leigh

August 10, 2017

What Dan Found on Top of the Barn

The other day Dan was working on floor joists for the new barn's hay loft. He has floor boards laying across one section of them, and when he climbed the ladder he found this lying on the boards.


A teeny tiny brand new baby squirrel! Alive! That section of the barn-in-progress has a huge magnolia tree overhanging it. Birds and squirrels shelter in it, so likely that's where it fell from. The magnolia leaves are so thick that he couldn't see where a squirrel nest might possibly be hidden, but between crows flying around and cats and ducks frequenting the top of the barn, he didn't feel it was safe to leave it there. So he brought it inside while he did some research to find out what to do.

A squirrel website told him there was a possibility that the mother may return for it. They advised making a nest of grasses and leaving it where it was found. Dan did that and kept a distant eye on it for the rest of the afternoon, but no mother squirrel returned to claim it.

When the afternoon temperature began to drop for the evening, he brought it in. I found an eyedropper and gently heated some goat milk. At this age they need to be fed about every two hours, so Dan had nursery duty all night.

Early the next morning Dan called our vet, who gave him the number of an exotic animal clinic. He gave them a call, and they told him to bring it on in. The clinic works with animal and wildlife rescue and would make sure it was properly taken care of. All projects for the day were abandoned as we took a spontaneous trip to deliver the baby squirrel. Then we did some shopping and pricing at Tractor Supply, and I got taken to lunch!

It was actually pretty amazing that Dan happened to go up on top of the barn at that time to find it. We didn't realize that August was still squirrel baby season, but obviously it is. So alls well that ends well, especially for that baby squirrel.

August 7, 2017

A Decorative Touch for the Barn

I have a little more progress on the barn to report. Remember this photo from my last barn post?

2 posts in the middle of the barn to support the hay loft.

Dan wanted to add kneebraces to those posts but was concerned about us bumping our heads on them. So he decided to make small curved knee braces.



They took some extra time but I like them!

He also finished the floor joists for the hay loft.


The loft will only cover 2/3 of the goat area, which we think will be plenty of room for hay. Pretty soon he'll be able to get started on the roof!

Next time I'll show you what Dan found on top of the barn the other day. It was definitely a surprise!

August 4, 2017

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Even better, a peanut butter ice cream brownie Sundae!

I think the only downside of having goats is that they produce less cream than  cows. Not that I'd want all that milk to deal with, but I sure would love more cream. I'd love to have enough butter for both cooking and table use, not to mention make more whipped cream and ice cream. Some people think goats don't produce any cream, which isn't true. Click here to read my post on getting cream from goat milk and making butter.

What I do have a lot of is whey. Anytime I make cheese, I use the whey to make a simple ricotta cheese. (How-to for that here.) And because we adore ice cream (especially in summer), I borrowed an idea from the Italians to use my ricotta in place of cream for ice cream (called gelato - recipe here). This small amount is perfect for my Cuisinart.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

  • 2 cups whole milk (could use skimmed)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Heat the milk, peanut butter, and sugar in a sauce pan, stirring until the sugar melts. Beat the egg yolks in a blender (or by hand) and s-l-o-w-l-y add the warm milk mixture (slow enough to not cook the eggs). Add the salt and vanilla and allow the mixture to chill. (While you're waiting, use the egg whites to make the brownies. 😊 ) Churn and enjoy!
πŸ‘ πŸ‘ πŸ‘ πŸ‘ πŸ‘

I find that the ricotta adds the same richness that cream does to ice cream and with very little fat (ice milk just isn't satisfying). My ricotta is made from the whey of my skimmed milk mozzarella, and if skimmed milk was substituted for the whole milk in the recipe, you could have delicious low-fat ice cream. Substitute fruit for the peanut butter for even less!

August 1, 2017

The Mystery of the Bread That Didn't Rise


I was rather puzzled the other day by a loaf of bread that didn't rise. I knew my yeast was good and had used my standard recipe: 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup white flour, 1 egg (preferably duck), 3 tablespoons soft butter, 1 cup whey, 1.5 teaspoon salt, 1.5 teaspoon yeast, and one teaspoon of sugar. I knew it had enough rising time and the proper baking temperature, because I made it in my bread machine. Not wanting to waste it, I sliced it anyway and popped it into the toaster.

YUCK! It was way too salty! What in the world?! Then it dawned on me. I hadn't used whey, I had used my mozzarella cheese brine!

My brine jar in kept in the fridge, as is they whey, but it's labeled, "Brine."


Or it's supposed to be! I wash the jar every time I use the brine so I must have washed the label off and couldn't tell it from the whey.

I've made some silly mistakes in my time, but this one must top them all! I ended up feeding it to the chickens, who weren't impressed. I think if we had pigs at the moment they wouldn't have cared. But more pigs are for another day, because we have some fencing to fix first.

July 29, 2017

Did They Think We Wouldn't Notice?

Quick! Without looking, how many ounces in a can of tuna fish? (Answer at the end of the post.)

And how about these?




And still the same price! LOL. Of course the "gourmet" is going to cost more per ounce, although I don't notice that much difference in flavor.

Here's the answer to the tuna can question.


That's kinda hard to see, so here's a close-up.


And here's a "vintage" can.


I realize this isn't "new" news, but I often wonder how far they're willing to shrink things before folks simply stop buying. Or maybe they think we don't notice. Or maybe they think we're all rolling in dough and willing to pay whatever they want.

I do have bottom line prices for things I buy (or maybe it's top line) and if the price is above that, I don't get it. I've noticed in the grocery stores that the lowest priced choice of similar products is often where the shelf is empty. I've also noticed that stores carry less variety than they used to. And the last time I was in Walmart (not my favorite place to shop) I realized that they'd shortened the aisles of shelves; I assume because they have less on them. Yet the News always reports that our economy is doing well. If that's really true, then I can't help but wonder, "well" for whom?

They give a lot of reasons for rising prices, we've all heard them, but the real problem in the white elephant in the room, the thing no one will acknowledge and for which legislation would be impossible, i.e. the insatiable appetite for greater and greater profits. When top executives require top salaries, there are investors to pay dividends to, and "success" is measured by so-called economic growth, then prices, fees, and taxes can only go up while wages, jobs, product sizes, and quality go down. What is unfathomable, is that those playing this game seem to think that it can go on forever, that an economy can have eternal growth, eternal life.

The other day I was researching the Obamacare penalty, to find out what we'd have to pay this year. It will be the same as last year, but it will be "adjusted for inflation." You know that adjustment won't be in favor of the little people, those of us who can no longer afford health care and yet must still struggle to pay this penalty. (We didn't give up air conditioning to save the earth!)

Guaranteeing profits for the health insurance business was a huge mistake; it only fed the white elephant. Yet politicians are too busy playing a childish game of King-of-the-Hill to notice what's really going on. Or to care. Both parties are guilty, but it keeps the American people distracted and divided, so that most folks likely don't even realize there is a white elephant, and politicians can continue playing their game and collecting tax dollars to play it. Marx got it wrong, religion isn't the opiate of the masses, politics is.

I usually try to be encouraging in my blog posts, but the truth is that I have no hope for this country. We insist upon a glutinous, wasteful lifestyle, and while many recognize this, we think the answer is simply opining about it on talk shows or pointing the finger. Yet how many are willing to do whatever it takes to extract themselves from it?

For those who've been paying attention, this is not new news either. So I'll just leave it at that and move on to my more typical homestead posting next time. Just maybe, by being encouraging I can motivate readers to make lifestyle changes that will serve as lifeboats on a sinking ship.

July 26, 2017

A Little Progress on the Goat Barn (Formerly Dan's Workshop)

"What? A new barn for us?"

Well, not a barn yet but eventually. Current progress is the addition of a few posts.

In the back - posts to frame out a wide sliding barn door.

In the front - a stable door will go between the two new posts on the left.

 In the middle - posts to support the hay loft.

It's slow going because the joints have to be cut. So that's it for the moment.

"Barn, shmarn. We'll believe it when we see it."

© July 2017  by Leigh  at http://www.5acresandadream.com/

July 23, 2017

Summer Days in the Garden

When the daytime highs reach the mid-nineties, (mid-thirties C), something in me switches to pick-and-preserve mode. It just seems like that's what I ought to be doing, and it is!

We're enjoying fresh steamed beans & I'm canning
canning as many as I can. These are Tendergreens.

Summer squash is doing well. I only have about 3 or 4
plants because we all know how prolific it can be!

I've tried a number of varieties over the years, but the standard
yellows seem to do best. Love these sauteed with onion & basil.

I planted cushaw for winter squash where I planted clover as a
living mulch. Cushaw has always done well for me, although
the clover is beginning to wilt from the hot dry weather.

I have two varieties of tomatoes, Homestead and
a  Roma type. The Romas are struggling with
anthracnose, unfortunately, which seems to be
a recurring problem for me with paste types.

I have one row of sweet potatoes that seem happy. For the past couple
years, however, I've grown my own slips and never gotten very many.
I'm not sure why, but would honestly love about 4 - 6 times as many.

Okra is a favorite and doing well. We eat it
oven fried and it freezes without blanching.

Lots of cucumbers too! We're eating plenty fresh
and I'm restocking my shelves with lots of pickles.

My several rows of popcorn are doing well. 

Field corn. Half of the patch has done well, the other
half has no ears! I suspect nitrogen deficiency. I
plan to cut those plants back and dry for stover.

Amaranth has only done so-so. This is a
feed crop for me so the more the better.

No shows for me this year have been Swiss chard, which I planted twice! No joy with watermelons either. I had half a dozen indoor starts that didn't make it, and neither did the seeds I planted directly in the ground to replace them.

In the fruits and nuts department, we had no peaches or almonds this year, even though there were plenty of blossoms! No strawberries either, because I lost all my plants in last summer's horrific heat and drought. The apple harvest will be okay, although less abundant than last year.

This Gala is still a little green but has good flavor.

Pear trees have produced only a few, so I'm not expecting much of a harvest there. A first this year will be my Japanese persimmon!

First time for fruiting this year, four of them!

I planted it in my first hedgerow two years ago and confess I haven't given it a lot of nurturing. It's had to struggle on it's own but it's survived and beginning to produce! We have a wild persimmon too, but it's so tall that the only way to get fruit is the ones that fall to the ground. Critters both tame and wild keep the area pretty well cleaned up, however, so there's never any left for us. Even so, those fruits are small compared to the Japanese variety!

Another first will be crabapples.

I'm thinking pectin and jelly!

This is the first year I've gotten more than only 5 or 6 of them!

Blueberries and figs are my old faithfuls.

Even though it's been cooler this summer and with more
rain, the blueberries haven't produced as well as last year.

Figs are usually ready for harvest in August.

So there's my mid-summer garden report. How about you?

Summer Days in the Garden © July 2017 

July 20, 2017

Something For My Wish List

My bow -

Genesis Gen-X. (This model
is now called the X-Dawn).

I love my Gen-X, but ooh-la-la, here's the one I would absolutely love to have -

Oneida Eagle Kestrel

The Kestrel is my dream bow and likely to remain that way. Unless, that is, I ever have a spare $1400 that I don't know what to do with. ☺

July 17, 2017

Dehydrating Cheese

The other day I cleaned out the fridge in my pantry. This is the smallish second one I use for extra milk, garden pickings, eggs, seeds, and flour. Tucked away at the back of the very bottom were a couple round of goat cheese I'd made in September 2015! They were pretty hard and pretty sharp, so I decided to try my hand at dried powdered cheese.

The first step was to cut it into small pieces and grate it in my blender.

I spread it out on parchment paper and placed in my dehydrator on low.

It took about ten hours to dry. Because of the oils (butterfat) it was a little
clumpy. Some people dry theirs on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. 

 To remove the clumps I ran it through the blender again.

Even though I'll store it in the fridge, I
still vacuum sealed it for better keeping.

To serve, I just add a lid from an old Parmesan
cheese container and reseal when we're done.

Dan likes Parmesan cheese, so this is something I've wanted to try. I think it's tastier than the dried Parmesan from the grocery store. But then, mine doesn't contain sawdust cellulose powder or anit-clumping agents. Mine is all real cheese. 😊

Dehydrating Cheese © July 2017 by Leigh