Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Garden Walk

Lucky for you, I walk fast.  (in effort to blur the images of the weeds ;)  Master Gardener, I am not.  I can't rock a garden thru a hurricane like Ms. Erin!

Side Note:  I tried three times to upload this video last night.  Once directly thru Blogger to no avail.  Then I thought I'd get smart and try youtube.  Pft!  When you live in the styx apparently it takes darn near 4.5 hours during high traffic times and only 1.5 during non-peak.  Both failed.  So I actually took my laptop to my MILs and uploaded on her cable internet.  Errrrr....  She said I only want her for her speed.  :o)

Remember the pumpkin/PA Crookneck the chickens got to in the corn patch?
Found it!  I keep looking, no sign of pumpkin...getting a little too late most likely.  Lazy bees!

The sweet corn never made a full comeback. 
Very small ears too.  A little while back, I accidentally picked some of the corn I planted for drying/corn meal.  I chatted with MamaPea about this, took her advice and cooked some up regardless.  It wasn't that great.  The chickens loved it.  Then I went and picked a few more of the "real" sweet corn ears for dinner another night.  Mystery solved...duh...they cross pollinated.  So I will leave it all go to dry.  If I can keep the coons out that is. 

We also picked a bunch of beans for drying a few weeks ago. 
Not many, but there are lots more out there.  I actually enjoyed shelling these by hand.  Something about the mundane, I suppose.  The dried sweet corn on right was just a tag along.  The next jar is a "riddle me this":  do you call yours lima beans or butterbeans?  Then we have yellow-eyed which I know I will want more of next year.  And last, black beans.  I suspect I will have far more than we will eat in a year (hopefully two!).

All the bell pepper varieties are diseased and dropping leaves, but they do have peppers!  So I will take what I can get and just forget the jalapenos!
The onions all got pulled yesterday = 35 lbs.  Not nearly enough to get us thru to next year.  Many were very small.  Next year they need to go in the north part of the garden where the ground is softer.  The south end has only been worked for a second year.  Jane, here is my scientific scale method.  Start lookin'!
Lastly, you know you are "that type" when you look down after your walk and see this:
And it no longer freaks you out!  Chickens!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekend Reunions

Who else is going to sleep a little sounder tonight now that our East Coast friends are starting to check in? 

We sure will!  Isn't it funny how this little thing we do here has connected us in more ways than we thought possible?  Well I wouldn't want it any other way!  Now we can all keep our fingers crossed that the aftermath is minimal.  I am sure many of you will be posting those pictures soon enough.  We are still holding out hope that all the blight got blown from your gardens and nothing more!!!

I also want to thank you from the fullest part of my heart for visiting our cousin Diane's new blog and welcoming her so wonderfully!  My gosh...you guys left such encouraging words here and at her site!  It just goes to show there are ALOT of good people in the world still!  You guys done good...real good!  I am proud to be in such great company!  Thank you!!

This weekend we were finally able to catch up with My Jenny Girl!  It has been EIGHT months since she's been here and alot has changed.
She got to hold Mr. Wickets and meet all the chickens for the first time!

Notice anything unusual about that birds name?  Have I told y'all that story yet?  Mr. Wickets is one of our layers...which the most astute of you realize that he is really a she.  Yet her name is MR. Wickets.

Methinks LLL needs a lesson on the birds and the bees or anatomy of something'er other.  Yup, LLL named this beauty!  And it STUCK.  Mr. Wickets is the chicken that all the kiddies and those fearful of anything feathered get to hold.  He she is the kindest and gentlest bird in the flock.  Also the largest and a great layer!  This he/she will never see the block, if ya know what I mean! 

Everyone loves Mr. Wickets!

Jenny Girl also got to drive the tractor.  I didn't get a picture dagnabbit!  Probably because I knew not to go near her while operating machinery....hehehee! 

I promise that next will be garden updates!  Been a long time since I complained about that.  :0}


Friday, August 26, 2011

Dancing in Uncertainty

No, it's not me dancing in uncertainty.  Although any time I dance, it's uncertain at best!

But I have danced a particular dance many times.  Which is why I want to share with you a new blogger that is dear to me for a number of reasons:
This is Diane ~ Pig Pen and Jen's cousin.  Pretty little thing, ain't she?  She will probably kill me for stealing her picture!  That is, if she were anyone else she probably would!

But not Diane.  She is one of the softest, kindest souls a person could ever meet.  Which is why I would be beyond honored if you, my dear friends and followers, would take a moment and hop over to her brand new blog called...

There you will find the story of Diane and Bill's life, love, struggles with infertility and what they are praying for now.

Most of you know that Pig Pen and I too have struggled with infertility for many years.  It is definitely an uncertain situation and one that deserves a hefty hug.  So let's rally our support! 

And please remember, there is power in prayer!  Please keep them in yours if you would.
Matthew 18:19
Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
If you would, hop on over...maybe say hello, wish her well, tell a joke, make her day, encourage her to plant a garden, dance, get some chickens, feed the hog, get the call, pick peaches...  I think you get it! 
Dancing in Uncertainty
Thank you, you know I love you all!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mending Ami

Ami is up to some old tricks:
video


You might be able to tell that she holds her left leg.  No weight, which is to be expected.  She has become an even more finicky eater.  But that's OK.  She has mastered the three-legged hop/run very well.  No jumping allowed, ever.  Clearly, her barker isn't broke.  She's always at the ready when the vacuum attacks.

It's probably due in part to this:
Ice Cream and Cheerios.

But more likely, it's from lots of these from Grama:
Maybe even all the cyber hugs she received:
Thank you Chicken Mama and Mama Pea for the glorious photo cards!  There's only one problem...I wont want to give them away!!

No dog left behind:
I have to hold her floppy ears back.

Never put your hand in front of this dog...she might lick you too!
Thank you all for inquiring about my little Ami, she feels very loved!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Are What You Eat

Last week at the State Fair, I saw an impressive display of honey.  So many colors!  It was amazing!  Naturally, I did not take a picture.  But I found this one on the internet to give you an idea of the variations:
Since several people have commented either here or directly to me, that our honey is very light in coloring, I thought I would share a little information with you.

The honey produced by the honeybee in any given area is a direct reflection of the nectar / pollen supply available to the honeybee. 
Maybe you've heard of honey referred to as Clover Honey, Orange Blossom Honey, or possibly Buckwheat Honey, just to name a few.

These are not honeys that have been flavored to taste that way; it's what the bees are "eating" that gives honey it's particular flavor.  They are what they eat!

Years ago, our neighbor kept honeybees and his honey was light too!  He shared with us the reason:  Our honeybees have an abundant supply of the Basswood Tree. 
Also known as "The Bee Tree"!
Therefore, our honey is considered Basswood Honey. 

In researching Basswood Honey, I was surprised and pleased to learn alot of new things!  For instance, according to http://www.health-benifits-of-honey.com/:   "This is a monofloral honey highly prized for its distinct flavors. Beekeepers that are lucky enough to have this special nectar source growing nearby are said to be in honey heaven when the pretty blossoms are in seasonYou will need to be quick to grab yourself a jar of this type of honey because the blossom on the basswood tree is only in bloom for about 10 days which makes it quite rare."

As to the coloring of Basswood honey...
"This is a beautifully pale honey, almost white at times with just a hint of a green glow, this maybe yet another reason it is known as Lime honey. This special honey is slow to crystallize which would be nothing to worry about if it does. Stand the jar in a pan or basin of hot water and it will revert back to a liquid form in no time at all."

And the flavor of Basswood Honey...
"When you open a jar of this honey the first thing you will notice is the same aroma that attracted the bees to this source of nectar. A gorgeous fragrance; slightly fruity and yet herbal at the same time. Pop a spoon into the jar, dive in, taste and savor this fruit flavour which has a delicious aftertaste. Some liken the taste to crisp apples with a hint of mint thrown in. The taste and flavor will vary slightly with each jar depending on whether this honey was made by honey bees in spring or summer."

Another website I found called it a "Premier Honey" and said the intensity of the flavor is stronger than the color would indicate.  And I agree, it's looks are deceiving!

Deceiving...hows that for a segue?  (Had to look that spelling up myself!  Seg-way)  Onto a sinister matter that our blog-friend Judy mentioned here in comments yesterday.  Thank you, Judy!!

China is in the news again.  Honey tainted with lead from improper storage, antibiotics not approved for use or consumption in the US, and straight up adulterated-watered-down-fake mix of a look alike.  Here is a GREAT ARTICLE, I encourage you to read it!

This "Tainted Honey" is said to be nearly impossible to keep out of the US.  Other countries have banned it, we've imposed stiff tariffs, but it is being taken across other borders, repackaged and shipped here.  And the major honey packagers here...knew about it.

It is sitting on the grocery store shelves, and it's being used in processed foods.  You may never know you are eating it!  The US banned lead in paint back in 1978.  We have enough antibiotics in our poultry, beef, dairy etc. and now our honey.  And we wonder how to treat super-bugs?

What can you do?  Buy it from someone you know!  Seriously, do not support these criminals!  If you demand a better product...you will get it eventually.  But you will have to think smaller.  Small farms, small operations...that's where to look.  You may have to wait.  You may even pay a bit more.  I always look at honey prices when I am out and about.  Last check ~ ours is .14 cents more than what is sitting on the store shelves.

Now, would someone please figure out how to make my favorite cereal?  Honey Nut Cheerios. 

Oh, there is one more thing you could do...


Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Big Dog" Dills

For years I have tried and flopped every dill pickle recipe I have come across.  Really, the pickles are floppy or they simply don't taste good.  Who wants a watered down cucumber or a mix from a bag anyway?   And besides, a floppy pickle just never tastes as good as a nice crisp one!

A few weeks ago, while visiting my Aunt Bena, she mentioned making more refrigerator pickles.  I am not opposed to refrigerator pickles at all, don't get me wrong.  I just never seem to have enough room for them.  I would prefer to put them on a shelf.  And most refrigerator pickles I have tried are always Bread and Butter pickles.  Love those too, but how many can you really eat?  And again, I have a canned recipe for them that I love, so on the shelf they go!  I told my Aunt as much and she said, "Oooooh, no.  These are Dill."

Well slap me and call me a glutton for punishment if my ears didn't perk up!  She even had some for me to sample.

Oh.My.Gawd.  If these weren't the best dill pickles ever!  Lip-smackin'.  Halfway home I was still savoring the flavor...

Aunt Bena's "Big Dog" Dill Pickles

2 or 3 whole heads of Dill
4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and cut in halves
1 Grape Leaf
1 Medium Onion, thickly sliced
2 t. Alum (you can leave this out)
Cucumbers, cut into spears (roughly 4 pounds +/-)

Layer the ingredients into the bottom of a 1 Gallon glass jar.  Then pack the Cucumbers in.

Bring to a boil the following:

1/2 Qt. White Vinegar
1 1/2 Qt. Water
1/3 C (or less) Pickling Salt

Pour brine over the contents in your jar.
Cover the jar with a piece of tin foil then seal the lid down tight.
Turn the jar upside down and place in the refrigerator for 2 days.  (I used an old cake pan just in case there was seepage, which there was not)
After 2 days, set the jar upright.
As with any pickled recipe, it's always best to let them set for a few weeks before sampling.  You can remove the tin foil then.

Now, wouldn't those go perfectly with one of these?
Especially if you whipped up a batch with your own home-canned tomato juice...
I was suddenly able to find room in that fridge.  Must find more jars...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Monkey Business

Just the other day as I was scraping corn from the cob and fixing to dehydrate it, Pig Pen informed me that he had an entire case of bananas.  Really?  A case?  He wasn't kidding.
So the corn got put on the back burner and the bananas were sliced and dehydrated instead.  19 trays went on the dehydrator and another 48 bananas went into the freezer for later use in breads etc.  Peel and all...frozen in time.

From the 19 trays, we got 1 gallon of bananas put up. 

Several were mashed and frozen too.  And then there were 6.  Hmm.  What to do with those?

Banana Liqueur
from Cooksrecipes.com

1 1/2 C. Sugar
3/4 C. Water
1 t. Vanilla Extract
2 Ripe Bananas, mashed
3 C. Vodka

Make a simple syrup by bringing sugar and water to a boil on medium heat.  Stir constantly.  When clear, remove from heat and add vanilla.  Let it stand till warm.

Place mashed bananas in a 1 Qt. jar.  Add syrup and vodka.

Cover and let stand in a cool dark place for 3 to 4 days.  Shake daily to avoid clumping of fruit.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain out solids and discard.  The mixture will still be cloudy.  Cover and let stand until it clears.

Rack into clean container.  Cover and age for 1 month.  Rack again as necessary before serving.
I made a gallon.  It should be good to go by the end of September and then I will let you know how it turns out.  At least I don't have to wait 6 months for this one. 

Let the monkey business commence!

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Little Girl Friend

Yesterday I got an email from Chicken Mama and oddly the talk about her "this" and my "that" were relatively close to heart.  She was working on something bittersweet and I was trying to catalog sad news.

I wasn't going to post this, but she told me I should and that it wouldn't be perceived all downer like.  So here goes...

Wednesday night, the FedEx man came to the door.  Like any other knock on the door, my little dogs go nuts.  I generally have to squeeze myself thru a space a mouse could use and step out.  That done, I hear all the usual ruckus going on behind the door.  You know, one dog trying to eat the other.

Step back inside and suddenly, Ami - my less than 3lbs and nearly 14 year old Yorkie, is limping.  She's been known to do this three-legged hop thing for many years.  So I wasn't too concerned at first.  But then I noticed that she wasn't snapping out of it like usual.  Her foot wouldn't go to the ground and it was actually crossing behind the other hind leg.

After watching her closely, I realized this was not her usual antics at all.  She got a little mopey and wouldn't let me investigate.  Ok, maybe she would sleep it off?

Thursday morning after a fitful night of sleep worrying that every move she or I made would aggravate her leg, we got up and still...the leg was the same.

I was able to get her to the Vet in the afternoon.  Naturally, Ami tried to bite the Vet.  Ok...that's normal and a good sign in my book.  That means there is feeling in the leg and she is trying to get this mean lady to knock it off!  Besides, she doesn't have lowers in the front, just uppers.  So it only counts as half a bite.  Right?

So the Vet took x-rays.  I was prepared to hear she had a sprain or ya know, something simple.  It's never good when the Vet says, "This isn't good."
 
Little Ami dislocated her hip.  The first thing I thought of was how every time you hear of a human breaking a hip, it almost always leads to the end.  And folks, if you've never seen a pint size x-ray with a bone some place it shouldn't be, and ya never had kids and your pets are your kids or ya have kids and your kids are your pets and your pets are still your kids, then ya know how heart breaking it is.

The options are:

 1)  Put her under and have them relocate (I suppose that's what its called) her hip and then sling the leg for several weeks.  There is no promise that it wont happen again.  To the tune of about $500.

2)  Medicate her with anti-inflammatory and pain killers and pray that she adjusts on three legs and can live out her remaining time peacefully.

3)  Put her down.   

As you probably can imagine, I am not ready for what's behind door number 3.  And neither is Ami.  She has been one tough little codger for some time now.  Last year, when she went thru her neurotic pacing and I thought I was going to lose her, it came down to the equivalent of Doggie Alzheimers.  Did you know there's a pill for that?  She's tough, she pulled thru!  And why wouldn't she?  She simply has to prove to me what I always knew when she was little and constantly up to no good ~ I used to tell her she would live to be 15 just to piss me off!  Yes, I regularly talk to my doggies.

Any time I have an animal issue, I always call my SIL Laura who has been a Vet Tech for over 20 years.  How she managed to decipher what I was telling her over the phone thru all the tears and blabble is beyond me.  She is obviously used to the heartache pet owners display when faced with difficult decisions.  And trust me, I have cried my eyes out all dang day/night.

I asked Laura what she would do if it were her dog.  We decided to try Option 2 and medicate her along with a healthy dose of Ice Cream on a regular basis.  According to Jane, this helps all dogs.
And I figure she deserves it.  She's been a really good friend.  Ami (pronounced Amy) is short for Amiga.  Which in Spanish is "girlfriend".   I will do whatever for my little girlfriend.  And I promise, I'll know "when".

In the meantime, I hope she pulls her stubborn little butt thru. 
Maybe with the Ice Cream and a little help from Pig Pen.  I'll take one of these in a Pint Size version, please.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Change Is Good

Not long ago, I asked my SIL Jen to give things around here a face lift.  Boy howdy, she delivered!

I have to laugh because just the other day she said she could show me how to do this and that and this and blah, blah, blah.  (hehehehee!)  It was a total glaze over moment.  See, I used to be a real whiz-bang with computer stuff.  Really, I was. 

These days, I just don't mind resorting to bribery.  I mean really, why not support your local -um- economy(?) and let those who excel at one thing or another get something in return?  And I know she really wanted this (which reads him) in return:
Need a closer look, you say?
Well hot damn!  Mmmm-mm! 

Eric Northman from True Blood.  Alexander Skarsgard in real life, but we just call him, "Yes, you can bite me there, Eric."  And might I note that he is from Svweeeden and younger!  Chicken Mama...are you listening???

Yes, it was a good trade.  She got Season 3 of True Blood and I got this awesome new blog!

Thank you Jen!  I know it was a pain in the patoot, but ya did good!  And I would be remiss if I did not also give thanks to her husband for coming up with my new catch phrase of "The Apple Pie Gal...Returns to the Farm".  He actually said to Jen one day something along the lines of, "Hey, didn't Di grow up on a farm or her family or something?"

Isn't Jen just a lucky LUCKY gal for that wonderful husband she can call out to as "Eric" and he's none the wiser?  Lucky, indeed.

My gosh, I think I've crossed a line here that I have never stepped over!  I should apologize to both Eric the Husband and Pig Pen.  :o)  Should.

I should go feed the chickens.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grand Champion!

Folks, it's been a very rough couple'o weeks here.  I do believe my computer/internet issues are fixed.  There goes another jinx!  It's really hard to catch up with you all when you fall so far behind!  Maybe that is why I have been in such a "Funk".  I haven't had my daily fixes of blogland laughter. 

But funk it is.  Yesterday I realized that canning 2 Qts. of Green Beans is every bit as exhausting as canning 20 in a day.  Why?  Because you still have to go thru all the motions, make all the mess, consume nearly the same amount of time...for next to nothing.  It's very depressing.  Dare I say...joyless?  This applies to all the other things I have been canning up so far this year as well.  Which is about a 10th of last years harvest.  No joke.  It's really getting to me.

There are a few good things going on that should make me happy, such as cracking open our first eggs!  I thought I would tap lightly on them as I was pretty sure the shells might be weaker than what I was used to.  Boy was I wrong!  They were solid as a rock!  Can you see the difference? 
I didn't even get it cracked thru all the way.  I am sure there is a technical word for that membrane thingee, but frankly, I'm just not feelin' it right now.   :o}

They really are like a round little orb of sunshine.  Not at all yellow like the ones in the store.  Definitely orange.  And they do cook up differently.  No bouncing of rubber or watered down goo.  Nope, nice and firm yet with light body.  Total oxymoron, I know.
We are up to about 6 eggs per day.  All of which are small (about 2 to equal 1).  Not complaining!  It's a treat every day to see how many are in the boxes.

With 31 layers out there, it could get busy around here!  Maybe.  ???  Well I don't propose that my chickens are Grand Champions but look who is!
This is my second cousin, Kyle.  He's the cute two-legged one of course!  Isn't that a great looking hog?!

And the dynamic duo won the Kankakee County Fair Overall Grand Champion!  And it gets better...the IL State Fair Grand Champion in his class!

Very impressive!  We went to the State Fair this week and I can tell you there are alot of hogs all nudging in on this, so it is not an honor that is easy to earn!  I sure didn't count all the hogs, but there had to of been well over 100 on one day alone!  Or at least close.  And I wasn't even there on the day Kyle and the barrows showed.  I was there for the gilts.

Ask me how I know these things.  I don't really.  My Aunt Bena and Uncle Wally told me.  I could learn alot from Kyle too apparently.  Darn Punk Kids  - I'll show you!

Here's my hog:

Top that Kyle!  Ok, ok...yours tastes better.

Well in any case ~ Congratulations, Kyle! 

This is a huge accomplishment and your entire family is proud of you! 

Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Racket

The racket around here can only be one of two things:

1)  Me.  Throwing my computer thru the window.  It works, it doesn't work...and the cycle continues.

or

2)  The Hen House!
Monday we found the tiny dark one on the far right in a cooling spot. 
Shortly here after, one turned up in the coop! 
Since then, we've had 5 eggs! 
Of course they probably only add up to one regular egg...but they are eggs!!

I actually wasn't expecting any for a few more weeks, so this is a nice little surprise!  We check several times a day in the hen house and around the yard.  We went ahead and put the ceramic eggs in their nesting boxes too.

Speaking of which...Pig Pen sent LLL in this afternoon to check for eggs.  Oooh how I wish I had been here to see this!  LLL came out rather excited (or so I am told) "Hey, there's an egg in EACH box!!!"

Apparently I am not the only one up to no good!  :oD

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Spelling Bee WINNERS!

First of all, thank you all for the wonderful gut laughs and insight with The Spelling Bee.  You all just crack me up and this was super fun! 

So I had to use the old fashioned method of names in a bowl.  Check the picture, make sure you see your name, and if not...cry foul and I will make it right!
17 Comedians and Philosophers entered!
 Not including Jan and Jen = family.

And here are the lucky winners:


Congratulations!!!!

Please email me with your mailing info when you get a second.  I am super excited to share with you and I hope you really enjoy your honey! 

Who knows...maybe someone will be wooed over to the dark side of Beekeeping!

Muahahahahaa!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Snickers

We had wicked storms move through last night.  Why can't we get rain without all the storm damage?

They are out to get me.  I don't know who they are, but I think I hear them sneaking around at night snickering. 

I think I need to subscribe to Erin's approach and just "live".  I really want to sew something!

The year is taking me down for the count.

Sorta like my corn for the third time:

We shall see if it bounces back this time or not.

Shhh...I think I hear them!  Snicker, Snicker

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Spelling Bee

My Maternal Grandmother never graduated from High School.  She married my Grampa when she was 16 and raised 8 kids on the farm.  That wasn't all that uncommon back in the day.  Don't get me wrong, she was most certainly not uneducated or a dunce.  She had more "cents" than most 16 year olds of today combined.
When she was a young girl, she won The Spelling Bee at her school.  It was a very proud accomplishment for her.  My Aunt Bena still has her achievement certificate, I believe.  Until recently, I had completely forgotten this tale.

So in honor of my Grama and her wonderful spelling abilities, we are having a Spelling Bee...right here!  Right now! 

And here's your word:

Sharing.  S-H-A-R-I-N-G.  Sharing.

Sharing is defined as:  To allow someone to use or enjoy something that one possesses.

Well by golly-gosh, what could I possibly possess that I could share with you?  Something you might enjoy?

Honey, anyone?

All you have to do is leave a comment and brighten my day with your wit or wisdom.  That's it!

Pst!  Family members need not apply...you'll get yours! 

The drawing will close this Thursday at 9 p.m. and I will post the winners - yes - winners (plural) on Friday.

Three lucky people will receive one, 12 oz Honey Bear each!

How's that for sharing?  Coming from a big family, sharing is a lesson Grama would have taught very early on!