July 30, 2018

Photo Wrap-Up for July

Lots of color in the front yard.
July color: echinacea and crepe myrtles.

July has been such a busy month that it seems I should be saying it's a relief it's nearly over. But August will be just as busy, as building, gardening, harvesting, preserving, and researching continue their fast and furious pace. The amazing thing about July was all the rainfall and cooler temperatures. "Cooler" is a relative term, of course, but the highs only got to about 90°F (32°C), many days cooler. That's ten degrees cooler than what we usually expect this time of year.

To close out the month, here are a few shots from my July photo folder.

Tomatoes are just starting to ripen and okra is going gang-busters.
Freshly picked okra and tomatoes

Small patch of Truckers Favorite corn in the garden.
Corn in the garden.

Cucumbers on cattle panel trellis.
Cucumbers in the garden.

Homegrown salad of cucumber, hard-boiled egg, and goat feta cheese.
Cucumbers in salad (with hard-boiled eggs and feta cheese)

July is blueberry time with pie to prove it.
Blueberries in pie. (That first fresh blueberry pie is always the best!)

One of my Kinder bucks
Hudson hoping for a treat of leafy blueberry branches.

My pears have done really well this year.
Harvested pears

First load of canned pears.
Canned pears

My first ever pear pie! Yummy!
Pied pears

Mother and daughter Kinder goats.
Iris and Jessie in the old goat barn. (Moving day approaches).

Muscovy Mama on the tree we need to cut up for firewood.

Figs are ripe early this year.
Fresh figs

First figs went into the freezer for jam making this winter.
Frozen figs

First time to try figs in pancakes. I'll do it again!
Figs in gingerbread pancakes

Love my Sun Oven.
Solar cooked comfort food at the end of a busy day.

Our best mouser.
Meowy at the end of a busy day.

Photo Wrap-Up for July © July 2018 by

July 27, 2018

Six Months Later: How Dan's Hand is Doing

It's been six months since Dan nearly cut his fingers off with the table saw. How is his hand?

That's the first picture I've ever taken of it. And even though it's not pretty, it looks a whole lot better than it did before.

He doesn't have much pain anymore, but the fingers are still pretty sensitive. The worst part is the stiffness. Most of the time those two fingers just won't bend. Now if he gets busy with a project and doesn't think about it, he can get some bending of the knuckles, but they tend to lock up again quickly which limits his dexterity and especially the ability to grasp. He massages it with healing oils and that helps some.

He's not one to let it get him down, however, and he's been able to compensate for most tasks and tools, except the chain saw. He needs to be able to grasp it properly to use it, which he can't do yet. He hates using the table saw (and probably always will!) but forces himself because, as he says, we've just got too much to do around here.

The trucking company he used to drive for said he could come back to work with doctor's permission. But because of his limitations, especially with grasping and holding, he doesn't think he could actually perform the tasks required for the job. So after a few lifestyle adjustments we're making do on Social Security retirement. We can pay our bills, buy necessities, and still have enough to slowly work on projects. Happily, my author's advance from Prepper's Livestock Handbook enabled us to buy most of what we need to finish the barn. Hopefully it will sell well and help us with tools and equipment we need to save up for.

So that's the Dan report. He sometimes feels like his hand is as good as it's going to get, but I say it's still healing and there's still hope. At least he's back to leading a relatively normal lifestyle.

July 24, 2018

Goat Barn and Garden: Killing Two Birds With One Stone

In my "Goat Barns: Delays and Discoveries" blog post, I showed you how Dan dealt with a massive amount of rain runoff that was finding it's way into the soon-to-be-completed goat barn. Subsequent rainfall proved its effectiveness, but Dan wasn't satisfied with this:

Drainage pipe in front of the goat barn to resolve rainwater runoff problems.

This is the drain pipe in back of the barn. It's protected by an overhang which will serve as the goats' loafing area. However, Dan wasn't sure the pipe was buried deep enough, considering that goats and us will be constantly walking over it. Probably wouldn't be a problem, but neither were we looking for a future "why didn't I ...?" moment.

So he dug it up and buried it deeper. Satisfied with that, he wanted to build up the ground on top of the pipe and gently slope it away from the barn. But with what? Folks used to give away fill dirt for free, but apparently not anymore. We really didn't want to buy dirt, so we brainstormed: Gravel? Sand? Concrete? We really didn't want to buy those either.

"How about clay?" I suggested, because our subsoil is southern red clay.
"But from where?" he asked.We'd have to dig at least 6 inches to get it.
"I've got just the place," I said, because I've been wanted to build more hugelkultur swales in the garden.

So far I've dug three swales in the garden. One at the top of the garden, and two that became beds. Plantings in those two beds have really done well during our dry spells and require less watering. My goal is to convert the entire garden to permanent raised hugelkultur swale beds.

Our brown sandy loam topsoil doesn't hold water, but our red clay subsoil does. With our garden is on a gentle slope, rain runs right through the topsoil, hits the clay, and drains out down the hill. By digging swales into the clay and filling them with organic matter, I can capture and retain some of that rainwater.

Why hugelkultur swales work for me.
Read more at, "Double Digging for Rainwater Collection."

When I dig the swales I save the topsoil to mix with compost, but I don't need all that clay. When Dan needed filler for the drainage pipe I thought the clay would be a good option. I had just the spot picked out.

Double digging to create a hugelkultur swale.
Brown topsoil is about a shovel's spade deep, so I dug another
shovel depth into the clay to collect and hold rain runoff.

That's the earthworks part, the next step is the hugelkultur part. The bottom of the swale, the part dug in the clay, is filled with anything that will hold moisture and decompose slowly: logs, large branches, wood chips, corn cobs and stalks, and wood scraps from barn building.

We mill our own lumber so it isn't treated, and I feel comfortable adding it to the soil. The pile had been sitting there so long that the wood scraps on the bottom looked like this -

Mycorrhizal fungi on home-milled lumber scraps.
Mycorrhizal Fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi had already grown on the wood scraps and were making new soil. I hope it transplants well in my bed!

I used soil to fill in the cracks and crevices until the clay layer of the bed was filled.

Creating a hugelkultur bed to retain rain runoff.
The tufts of green alongside the bed are wiregrass aka Bermuda.

The top layer is topsoil mixed with compost and mulched with leaves.

Hugelkultur swale bed complete and mulched with leaves.
Those are sweet potatoes in the bed on the right, melons on the left.

The next step will be to build a border around the bed. Over time we'll build the soil up with more mulch and compost. 

And Dan's project? The clay was perfect for the task.

Rehoming the clay to reshape the slope under the goat barn overhang.
When it's damp, our red clay is easy to form and shape.

Packed red clay under the goat barn overhang.
Packed down it will dry hard and solve several problems.

The clay worked perfectly, and I have to say it's a good feeling to use our own resources. Best of all, we got two important jobs done.

July 21, 2018

Heavenly Chèvre Cheesecake

This cheesecake is to die for. An absolute keeper of a recipe.

Having plenty of milk means finding ways to incorporate more of it into our diet. One of those ways has been by experimenting with a soft goat cheese called chèvre. It's commonly used in spreads and sandwiches, so we've had plenty of those lately. But when I found Midel gluten-free crumb crusts in the discount grocery freezer section priced 6 for $1, I stocked up and started thinking about ways to use them. For the ginger snap crust, cheesecake came to mind. Cheesecakes are usually made with ricotta, cottage, or cream cheese, but why not substitute chèvre? I'm so glad I did.

Heavenly Chèvre Cheesecake
  • 3 cups chèvre (recipe for that here)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or whatever flavoring you wish)
  • prepared crumb crust

Beat eggs and sugar until light. Add salt and vanilla and mix well. Add chèvre and blend. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into crust and bake at 350°F (180°C) for one hour. Turn off oven, crack the door, and let the cheesecake cool inside the oven for another hour.

This will make one cheesecake if you're using a 12-inch cheesecake pan. My ready-made crumb crusts were for 9-inch pies, and I filled two of them with this recipe.

The cheesecake was such a success that the wheels kept turning. More on that soon. 

July 14, 2018

Solar Roasted Corn on the Cob

We've gotten a lot of rain so far this summer, which has meant a lot of cloudy days. On sunny days, though, I like to get out my solar oven and put it to work. One summer favorite is solar roasted corn on the cob.

Roasting ears of corn in a solar oven is absolutely the easiest way to enjoy corn on the cob! No husking, washing, or trying to pick off corn silk. Just put them on the rack and let the sun do the work.

As with all solar cooking, time varies according to oven temperature. Mine usually gets up to about 350°F (180°C), and I think I left the corn in there about an hour. Since solar is even, moist heat, there is no worry about burning.

When you're ready to eat, remove them from the oven and cut the bottom end off.

Grasp the leaves at the top and peel them off from the bottom up.

They come off easily including the silk.

And that's it! No hot steamy pot to heat up the kitchen, just tender delicious corn to eat and enjoy. Nothing could be easier.

July 10, 2018

Sometimes I Miss Having Pigs

Waldo and Polly. Photo taken June 2015.

I think of the various farm animals Dan and I have had, pigs have been a hands-down favorite. We had American Guinea Hogs, a small heritage breed native to the South. They were good foragers, friendly, excellent at turning all food scraps into manure, but hard on fences. So when our fences began to experience a lot of collateral damage from falling pine trees ...

A lot of them fall over roots and all. This one
made a handy get-away hole under the fence.

This one fell on top of the fence.

As did this one.

This one is leaning just inside the fence corner!
Another fence disaster just waiting to happen.

... we decided to sell our Waldo and Polly until we could deal with the problem and repair our fences. That seemed a better alternative to keeping them penned. Eventually, we will have pigs again.

I miss them most at times like now, when I have a surplus of milk.

I'm currently milking three does, one twice a day and the others once a day because I'm milk sharing with their kids. Total, they give me a little more than three-quarters of a gallon per day. That isn't much by cow standards, but for two people who don't drink milk, it's a lot. And it accumulates quickly! I use it to make cheese, kefir, and ice cream, but sometimes I have more than I can attend. Feeding it to the pigs was an excellent way to deal with a surplus.

The other thing the pigs were excellent for was consuming whey. Whey is a byproduct of cheese making and since there is more water in milk than milk solids and butterfat, cheesemakers end up with a lot of whey.  The chickens and cats aren't interested in that, but the pigs loved it!

Whey leftover from 3 half-gallons of milk

There are a number of things can be done with whey. I use it in place of water for all my cooking and baking. (As it sours it is excellent with baking soda as a leavening agent). It can be used to water plants. My favorite way to use whey is to make gjetost and primost.

Gjetost is Norwegian goat whey cheese and it is absolutely divine. You can read my "Gjetost (Norwegian Goat Whey Cheese)" post for details and the recipe. Primost is similar, the difference being that it isn't cooked down quite as long as gjetost and so is spreadable. I make both, which one depending on how far along it is by bedtime (in other words, I don't want to let it continue to simmer down overnight). Besides being delicious, both products use up all the whey.

Makes a wonderful sandwich spread on toast with jelly.

I also like to make the more traditional whey product.

Whey Ricotta

I use ricotta for a lot of things. Lasagna and cheesecake are traditional favorites, but I also use ricotta in my no-fat ricotta biscuits, gnocchi (Italian dumplings), and gelato (Italian ice cream without the cream). You can read how I make whey ricotta in my "A Simple Ricotta Cheese" post.

But! Ricotta still leaves whey, and that brings me back to missing having pigs. Looking forward to the day they can be part of our homestead again.

July 6, 2018

Goat Barn: Delays and Discoveries

I had hoped to have photos of the completed hay loft door and barn quilt by now, but we had so much rain during June and this first week of july that Dan didn't want to take down the tarp that's covering the hay loft door opening. That would risk rain blowing in our our hay and we don't want that! Delays are always disappointing, but in this case, the rain was a blessing because we discovered this...

Front door

We had drainage problems. Not only in front of the barn, but in the back too.

Rain runoff also drained in under one of the back walls.

The runoff was coming in under the back wall facing us below.

If we hadn't had so much rain we wouldn't have known. I would have moved the goats in and their straw bedding would have hidden it. Not good.

Part of the problem is the roof on that side.

It has been collecting and dumping a tremendous amount of water on the ground. Putting up gutters is on the to-do list, but we hadn't gotten that far when all the rain came. Even so, Dan wanted to direct runoff away from the barn. So he started in the back and began digging trenches.

Next, gravel and perforated pipe were laid in the trench with filter cloth covering the pipe.

Filter cloth is used to prevent the perforations in the pipe from getting clogged with dirt.

Sheets of filter cloth are also available, but our Lowes only had sleeves.

The pipe extends under the fence, in front of the double door, and out toward the fig trees.

The last thing he did was to level off a spot for a rainwater collection tank and fill that and the trenches with stone.

After we put up gutters they will drain into a future rainwater tank.

The very next day we got another inch of rain and so could see how well this arrangement worked. No more water finding it's way into the barn.

Next the front. Some of the runoff was coming from the barn roof, but most of it comes off the roof on the house. The downspouts empty onto the driveway, which slopes gently down toward the barn. All that roof runoff made huge puddles in front of the barn and drained into its front door. So Dan dug a trench in front too.

Beyond the barn the ditch angles away from it and down the hill.

Dan's handiwork was tested the next day, when we got another inch and a quarter of rain. No more water in the barn! That was a relief.

We're pretty sure the problem is solved now, but gutters will go up next.