Monday, March 4, 2013

Turkey Lurkey

We have been on the lookout for a Red Bourbon Tom for our single lady bird. We thought she was a he, because of the way she would puff up and strut when the dogs came near, but then she started laying eggs, and that gave it away.

So now she needs a mate! Our first chicken swap of the season failed to bring us one, but we met a man who has some and we just have to keep coming back to the swaps to find out when they're ready.

For awhile Ladybird (unofficial name, most of the time it's Turkey Lurkey) was getting out of the fence. It's not that hard to escape when you have wings, she would hop the fence, and then pace for hours trying to figure out how to get back inside. She never learned that just because your head and neck will fit through, your body won't. Turkeys aren't known for their intelligence. B spent many afternoons catching her and tossing her over. She finally quit that bad habit. Then one day she was missing, my fear was that she got out and something happened to her. A short investigation and she was found. She was sitting on a clutch of eggs. Well without a mate, her eggs would never hatch, so we snuck some chicken eggs in her nest and took hers out. None of the other hens were nesting, so we let her have at it.

I thought the idea of a surrogate mom was pretty sweet. She was doing better than the broody hen we had last year. Turkey Lurkey would actually get up and eat and drink a couple of times a day. We had a hen that would just sit, and sit, and sit. We had to physically remove her from the nest to get her to eat. Not the turkey, she took care of herself and the eggs. I laughed as I imagined little yellow chicks following momma turkey around this spring. B said she doesn't know any better, she's the only turkey now, she might think she herself is a chicken (you know, if turkeys could think).

Her nesting went on for about 4-5 days, when B spotted her out eating breakfast one morning. He ran down to the coop to check on the nest, and found that she had just cracked them. Awwww, I know. She had yolk on her tail feathers and an icky gross nest. Well he cleaned the nest quickly and put more hay in it and made it nice and fluffy for her. She's still at it, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that she can successfully hatch some chicks for us. We are ready for a bigger flock. And now our lone turkey has a very important job. Wish her luck!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No Facebook!!!

So, 24 hours without Facebook and I made it. I feel like I'm missing my friends. I'm sure I'm missing some good recipes, humorous eCards, dumb jokes, gardening tips, political rants and digs, inspirational quotes, cool pictures, parenting advice, green living ideas, lessons in frugality, babywearing swap, a ton of advertisements and a bunch of time.

Yes, I left Facebook to make better use of my time. I have a precious one year old, a stack of books (hers and mine), and a homestead that I want to focus my attention on. Oh and this blog too!

So what have we been working on around here? Well our greenhouse is complete. Pictures coming soon. We're going to our first Mardi Gras ball next week. I'm very excited about that. We haven't had a dress up date in so long. We have 2 new raised planters that are almost complete. I ordered seeds today. The chickens have a new coop and place on the property.

So that's all for today! I'm posting this from my phone, so forgive me if it isn't pretty!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Sad Turkey Tale

I almost boycotted eating turkey this year.

I haven't posted in awhile and I am sorry for coming back with a sad story, but I feel compelled to write about it.  It's just something that happened in our life that a lot of people will never have to go through, yet a lot of others have "been there, done that."

You don't have to read, I won't be offended.  If you do read, please don't give me any grief.

Let's begin at the beginning.  Back in the summer I went to a chicken swap.  I took 3 of our young roosters with hopes of coming home with some other egg laying birds.  A lot of people don't want a rooster at all so I was skeptical about getting a good swap. But I wanted to try anyway.  You see, a lot of places sell sexed chicks and that's what we started out with, little girl chicks.  Our first rooster, Big Ed,  I had to seek out.   I thought maybe others had the same predicament. I think I've talked about this in a previous post.  Yes, here and here.
my sign to take along with my 3 roos
I took the roos to the swap and no one wanted them, until the very last minute.  I was on my way to the car and asked a gentleman if he wanted some roosters for some turkeys.  I was half joking. To my surprise he said yes.  So...we swapped 3 roosters for 3 turkeys.  They are Bourbon Reds, a heritage breed.  Mr turkey man says there are less than 10,000 of them in the country. Very cool. Well it goes down hill from here.  I can understand why there aren't a lot.  I'll get to that.
(*hint* I'm discussing a low turkey population and the title includes sad)
turkeys, meet chickens
full grown Red Bourbon turkey
I get home with my turkey poults, sex tbd, and I put them in a small cage next to our chicken run.  Suddenly they were out of the cage!  There was one place in the cage big enough for them to get out.  Two of the three escaped.  I grab one, stuffed it back in the cage, look for the other one and lo and behold, it is in the chicken run.  Well now I see two problems, first of all I need catch this little bird, secondly, this means that if they can escape in to the run, they can escape out of the run.  Sigh, this means more planning and fence fortifying or something, but nothing to worry about for a day or two at least.  When introducing new birds to a flock it's best to keep them separated for a little while at first.

here's the little guy on the loose
The gate to get in the chicken run is one the other side of the house, I have my baby on my back so I can't squeeze between the fences to get to it, hard to explain.  So I have to run around the house to get in, grab the turkey, run back around to the other side (I probably don't have to run back) and put it back in the cage with it's feathered siblings.  I'm in the chicken run and going for the turkey and then it hops through the fence BACK out to the other side where we began.  So...I do have to run to the other side.  This goes on for a bit, I'm sure it would have been quite comical had there been any witnesses.

Finally I get all three birds in the cage and set up with food and water.  Shew, I'm tired, so is baby.  I go inside for nap time and take a looong nap with with baby. I wake up once and it's thundering and raining hard.  I smile and close my eyes, and think this is the best for napping.  An hour or so later I pop up and think OH CRAP THE TURKEYS!  I don't know what you've heard, but I've heard that turkeys are so dumb that they look up when it rains and drown themselves.  Crap.  It's raining hard, baby is still sleeping, crap.  I get up and get an umbrella and run out there again.  Umbrella is pointless.  I grab the cage and run, quite clumsily back to the porch.  These poor birds are soaked and shivering with their eyes closed.

By this time hubby is home and he brings in a small cat carrier and we get a heating pad hooked up and start drying them and holding them.  They fit in my hand.

I wasn't sure if they were going to make it.  The next day one passes away in my hand.  There are more details, hubby tried for a long time anything he could think of to help it out, nothing worked.  So we're down to two.  I felt terrible.  We both felt terrible.

Oh yeah, one thing the turkey swapper man said to me starts to come back, he said "these birds are 8 weeks old, just about the age where they stop dying for no reason."  I tried to use that line to make myself feel better, like this one died on it's own accord and not like it had anything to do with being stuck outside with no shelter in a rain storm.
getting bigger!
We keep the turkeys locked in the coop until they are big enough to not squeeze through the fence.  The chickens can get in and out so they can all get used to each other.  Finally after a few weeks we release the turkeys into the run.  They are put in their place by some big mommas, they get picked on a bit, but not for long and nothing bad.  It is just the flock establishing pecking order.  There is one younger hen (sister to the roosters that left us) that buddied up with the turkeys.  The turkeys are the first ones up in the morning and this young hen joins them.  The early birds.  Oh yeah, the turkeys have decided that they will roost on top of the coop, not in it.  Whatever.

Things are going great for some time.  We like our pair of big birds, they are now very much larger than the chickens and no longer get picked on.  Although they may get bumped out of the way when we feed the chickens treats such as kitchen scraps or mealworms.
(my mealworms are finally multiplying, red wigglers....not so much....I'll get back to the worm progress soon)
Occasionally the turkeys will be on the outside of the fence by the time we get out in the morning to feed, but they are super easy to herd back in.  This proves to be very bad for their personal security.
the 3 early birds
Oy, this is getting hard to write about now.  So I'm just going to get right to it.  Some friends and their dog were visiting us and one morning the turkeys were out and the dog got a hold of one.  I just happened to look out the window and I saw it shaking the bird like a rag doll, feathers flying.  I rescue the bird and hubby joins me and we put it in the coop.  The poor bird is extremely frightened and in shock.  We had to leave shortly after this happened so our friends started researching and pulling out all the stops to help this injured bird.  When we get back home, there appears to be no change.  I examine the bird the best that I can from top to bottom, and the visible injuries are all to the lower body, the tail, all of the tail feathers are gone and there are some puncture wounds on it's lower back and the bird won't stand up, it doesn't use it's legs at all.  It's very much alert and can move its wings.  I'm looking up stuff online too.  If it had broken legs then they could possibly be splinted, by an authority trained in such a task, but I don't think it's legs are broken.  They're either dislocated or paralyzed.  So we decide to wait until the morning to make sure it's not still in some kind of shock, before we do anything drastic.

Morning comes, check on turkey, no good.  It's still very much alert, it has ate and drank, but it has zero use of it's legs so....we decide to end its life.  What else really could we do?  Hubby makes me do it.  That's ok, I've wrang a sick chickens' neck or two.  I've done this deed before. It doesn't make it easy though.  B killed the birds that we processed and ate, but it was a completely different atmosphere.  I kept saying "that's farm life."  Sometimes this happens.  Sometimes you have to eliminate sick or injured animals.  These aren't pets, they're our food.  I had to have a talk with the bird first, ya know.  Tell it I'm sorry and that it didn't do anything wrong, that I wanted it to have a high quality of life and it didn't anymore, and it could have been in pain for all that we know.  I talk to it awhile, and that really only makes it worse.  Then I flash back to my childhood, jumping off bridges and rocks into the river.  The longer you think about it, the harder it gets.  You have to just do it.  Stop thinking and just do it.  Turn off your brain, stop all thoughts, and jump.  Just jump.

The deed was done, and I just disposed of the bird.  It wasn't really big enough to process, and we weren't really prepared to do that yet anyway.  But now I think I'm going to ask for processing equipment for Christmas.  Really just a sharp knife, a killing cone, and a lung scraper is all we need.  In hindsight, it was only a week away from Thanksgiving, maybe we should have put forth the effort to process it.  But like I said, this wasn't a planned event.

Down to one.  One turkey.  I call my dad and talk to him about it.  He has had turkeys before, he's been there.  He tells me that turkeys are hard.  I look up turkey forums, other folks say turkeys are hard.  They're dumb, they get lost, they "try to kill themselves."  So turkeys are hard to raise.  But we will try again.  We will get some new poults in the spring and try again.

Sorry if this post is depressing, I know I laid my forehead on the table several times while typing this, but that's farm life.  Not only were we depressed, but the rest of the flock mourned for about 3 days.  It actually took me a day or two to be able to go in the back and hang out with the birds.

All is back to business as usual around here.  B is building a new coop and we are going to move the chickens to a new place in the yard.  Fencing is going up and preparations are under way for goats as well.  Moving forward.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Our Cloth Diaper Life

As I have mentioned before, we cloth diaper around here.  We are hardcore recyclers and composters, so when we decided to have a baby, naturally I knew we would cloth diaper.  I'm a stay-at-home mom so there's no reason I can't wash diapers.  I certainly can't imagine throwing away all those diapers.  Plus, what's really inside those disposables?

I know some of you mommas know all about cloth diapers.  Some of you mommas that are my momma's age, know them a little bit differently.  You are probably familiar with the white cotton rectangle that you pin on, then cover with rubber pants.  They've come a long way since then.

Now there are so many options it's overwhelming to know where to begin.
Flats, fitted, prefolds, all-in-one, all-in-2, pockets, covers, PUL, wool shorties, longies, snappies, stripping, AAAAh, what does it all mean?  I'm going to have a couple of diaper posts explaining our cloth diaper life.  
I spent a lot of time during my pregnancy trying to figure it all out.  And believe me, all the information is out there, so much so that it was overwhelming.  There's even a book on cloth diapering, and countless blogs...and here I go adding more to that sphere.  I actually made a handful of diapers for Baby O in the beginning. But not having a baby or any cloth diapers to see first, I didn't really know what I was doing.  She also ended up being a pretty good sized baby at 8 pounds.  The newborn dipes I made lasted about 2 weeks before she outgrew them.  The others...well I had to do some modifications, but I still use them occasionally.  Eventually, I just bit the bullet and ended up buying some.
homemade newborn diapers
So I bought a couple variety packs to try to figure out what I liked best.  Then stocked up on my preferred dipe. One of the decisions to make is snaps or velcro.  Both have pros and cons.  Velcro is loud at night and sticks to everything in the washer/dryer but, it's quick and easy. Some call it "dad friendly."  I didn't like velcro, I like the snaps.  It's a pretty customizable fit too and looks cleaner, no fuzz ball hitchhikers. DIAPERS I picked one-size, pocket diapers.  One size means they fit from infancy through toddlerhood.  You could use the same diaper from birth to potty training.  That's pretty cool.  They have an adjustable rise so you can shorten or lengthen the front of the diaper with snaps. Pocket means that the inner of the diaper is like a pocket, you stuff an absorbant cloth inside of the diaper cover.  Alternately you could just lay a liner inside of the diaper cover and reuse the cover a couple of times unless it gets soiled, if ya know what I mean.  The liners are usually rectangle and made from cotton, bamboo, hemp, or microfiber, or some sort of blend.  Each material has it's pros and cons.  I personally like bamboo or hemp best. They are very, very absorbant and come from sustainable resources.  Bamboo stays softer longer over time.
diaper shelf on changing table
WIPES What about wipes?  I have cloth wipes too.  I just cut a bunch of scrap flannel into rectangles, and hemmed around the edges.  I make a cloth wipe solution and pour that over the wipes.  My mom got us a wipe warmer when she was born, so that's where they stay.  The warmer hasn't been plugged in in months, maybe that'll be a winter treat for her bum.  I'll plug it back in when it gets cold outside. STORAGE I have what's called a "wet bag" to put dirty diapers in until wash day.  It's just a big zippered bag that hangs from the changing table that has a waterproof liner.  When it's time to wash the diapers I just open the bag and dump the contents into the washer.  I also have a small wet bag for her diaper bag, it'll hold about 3 dirty diapers on the go. WASH If it's got a lot of gunky poo in it I have a sprayer attached to the toilet and just spray it out into the toilet, flush, and put the diaper in the wet bag.  No hands on, no scrubbing in the toilet.  Since she was exclusively breast fed in the beginning that step was not necessary.  Breast-fed (bf) poo is like the consistency of yogurt (sorry y'all but we're talking about diapers so of course I'm going to discuss a bit of poop), it can go in the washing machine and it'll get diluted and wash right out.  Also, if you didn't know- bf poo doesn't stink.  A lot of people say it smells like buttered popcorn or cornbread.  Isn't that weird?  It does.  It's not bad.  Thank God, because I was worried about that.  I mean, I never changed a diaper in my life until I had her. I usually wash diapers every other day, any longer that that and it starts to get smelly.  I dump the diapers in the washer.  I usually wash the wet bag every other week or so.  I made a wet bag in the beginning and wore it out, so I bought a replacement bag off of Etsy.  I try not to wash it unless it smells super funky.  I don't want to wear it out too. Dump diapers in washer one normal cycle on cold water with no detergent, extra rinse. Second wash cycle on hot water with half a scoop of detergent, extra rinse. Stay away from fabric softeners because they actually cause the diaper to repel water instead of absorb. If there are any poo stains, the sun will bleach them out.  I love hanging diapers out to dry on the clothes line. The covers are so light and quick drying, I can usually hang them up in the laundry room to dry and they are dry in an hour or two.  The stuffings though, take awhile, I'll hang them out to sun bleach and then throw them in the dryer to soften them back up.  I also have dryer balls that helps with that.  That's another post.  That's it.  I've been looking at our water bill and there's no noticeable difference between this year and last year before we had a baby.
It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't.  It's just one extra load of laundry every other day.  If I don't get to folding them, I just use them right out of the laundry basket.  No running out to buy diapers or wipes, ever! They paid for themselves a few months ago, somewhere around 6-7 months.  One could buy cheaper diapers, even used diapers (I did buy a few used) and they will pay for themselves quicker.    There's so many cute diapers out there, you could really get carried away with shopping for cloth diapers.  If they are in decent shape, you can resell, or swap them. Plus you can hang on to them for future babies and then there's no diaper expense at all for that child.  If I had known about all the cloth diaper swaps that are out there before I bought ours, I would have gone that route.  It's a great way to find a bargain.
Traveling with cloth can be tricky, but we manage.  In the very beginning we bought disposables to use while out.  But they smell funny and gave her toosh a little rash.  Now we just plan ahead and make it work.   I think that's basically it.  I'm going to do a few more posts in the future about the specifics.  Thanks for reading, if you made it all the way through.

  Click here to visit Mama's Emporium for cloth diapers and other baby accessories.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shave Yo Face

On our journey to be chemical free, one of my biggest priorities is skin care.  So many cosmetics, toiletries, soaps, lotions, fragrances, and creams contain toxins, and you know whatever you slather on your skin, is going directly IN to your body.

I have started changing things up in the bathroom, and of course I can't neglect my dear hubby's skin care.  I've always used Aveeno shave gel for sensitive skin on myself.  I get razor burn easily, in case you care to know.  But this is what I've always bought and B will use whatever I put in the shower, so this is what he uses too.  While I have quit using it and just started using soap when shaving, I still buy the same brand.  I'm a creature of habit.

A scan of ingredients on the back of the can raises an eyebrow, there's those parabens and laboratory created other "things." Now, I'm going to be honest here, I failed organic chemistry in college (more than once, gag).  It was hard, very, very hard.  So while I can pronounce these ingredients, I just don't know that they mean, more importantly, I don't want them in my loved one's pores.

You might have heard of Environmental Working Group.  This is their homepage statement:
At EWG, our team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers pores over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and our own laboratory tests to expose threats to your health and the environment, and to find solutions. Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know. 

They also have a cosmetics database.  EWG's Skin Deep and they list  Aveeno Positively Smooth Shower Gel as a 6, on a hazard scale of 1-10. That kind of surprises me.

Earlier in the season we received calendula flowers in our CSA basket and I was real excited about using them for....well I didn't know.  But I do know that calendula lotions and creams are good for your skin and are usually a bit on the expensive side.  The bath cream I use on baby O is made with calendula, and it's very gentle.  I finally figured out that I wanted to use them to make some shaving soap for B.  This was his birthday present.  Good?  Here's some calendula info.
local, organically grown calendula flower tops

oh and it's pronounced like this.
Science Lesson:
Calendula contains flavonoids, which are plant based anti-oxidants.
Anti-oxidants protect against free radical damage.
Free radicals are cells, damaged at the molecular level, which then attack and damage other cells which damage/attack other cells and so on, and so on which could lead to serious issues such as cancer and diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease. See WebMD for more details on this.

Calendula is often used in skin care products because of it's soothing and healing properties when used topically.  It is also known for anti-infammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties which makes it good for rashes, insect bites, burns and dermatitus. More info on that hereand here.  It helps heal by delivering oxygen, and increasing blood flow and that in turn aids in tissue regeneration and healing.

Pretty awesome flower, eh?  It's a kind of marigold.  It's a great companion plant in the garden and it attracts beneficial insects.
dehydrating the flowers
I cut the petals off and ran them through a coffee grinder
dried, fresh, organic, local calendula <3

I don't know how to make shaving cream, BUT one of my very awesome friends turned her soap making hobby into a business.  Isn't that awesome? Dreams come true, all the time. I believe it, and see it.  She uses all natural and organic ingredients in her soaps.  When I say natural, I'm not pulling the wool over your eyes like corporate marketing folks.  I mean like lye, dried herbs from her garden, organic oils, and essential oils.  Period.  No sodium lauryl sulfates or methylparabens, or artificial fragrances or colors.  She's even down for making custom soaps. Yay!

Please check her out on the website, green village soap co.  and like her facebook page, show some love and support.  Ask her when her online shop is opening. (wink, wink Liz)

I handed over the dried and ground petals of these beautiful yellow and orange flowers and 2 weeks later I had a whole batch of shaving soap.  (I saved the seeds to plant next year.)  I think it was about 10 big sized bars.  I don't remember what oils she said she used, maybe some castor oil, but it makes a real rich lather.  I had to play with it and take pictures before writing this.
Shave Soap
I bought a cheapo lathering brush at Sally's, I'm on the look out for a quality brush now.  B says this one smells funny, it's totally from China.  But we've done it!  One more small change in our daily life in which we are now using a healthy product instead of a toxic one.

wet and lather

cheapo brush

calendula shave soap

Hubby's review:
The first time he used it, he said he felt like he didn't use enough and had a couple of rough spots. The second time he used it in the shower and used more, lathered it up a lot and the experience was great.  He says his skin feels good and is looking forward to future experiences.  Like most new things, there's a learning curve I'm sure.  Now should I get him a straight razor? You know, so we can ditch the disposable razors.  I'll get a picture of his freshly shaven or sudsy chin soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Green Washing

No, I'm not going to talk about the marketing ploy of corporations jumping on the "natural" bandwagon trying to make their services or product appear to be environmentally conscious or healthy when, they actually are not (they just want your money).

I'm talkin' bout warshin turnip greens!

Yea buddy, beans, greens, and cornbread for dinner tonight.

So this is something I learned from Martha Stewart.  She rocks.

Say you have your greens, lettuce, spinach, kale, or whatever leafy vegetable you're working with and they're fresh from the garden, or the farmers' market, ok from the grocery store.  They need to be washed.  Now normally I would take vegetables, throw them in a colander and run water over them.  But you know, leaves are crinkly and have hidey spots, they aren't nice and smooth like a tomato.

You fill your sink, or big bowl with water (I've been using a super, awesome flexible bucket that my CSA shares come in) and then you dump your greens (lettuce, spinach, whatever) in the water.  I usually just put enough water to have them floating an inch or two.  Kind of swish and swirl them around and then transfer to a colander and look at all that debris in the water!  All of the dirt and grit comes off the leaves and sinks in the water.

I usually do this 2-3 times.  More than that is just obsessive.

Okie dokie, now your greens are grit free.

This is the debris from the SECOND swishing
 Now chop, toss, cook, juice or what have you, and enjoy!

fresh turnip greens

mmmm, beans, cornbread and greens
Do you have any veggie cleaning tips or tricks?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Must Rack Must

Wine Making Part II
The first part of this misson is here.
This is the second major step.

Our pear tree below, I'm sure the family that planted it would be proud that we are using and enjoying it. There's a much bigger tree behind it, don't let it fool you, it's a bit scrawny.
This is the lone sand pear tree
 One thing I love about natural fruits and veggies, they don't all look the same.  Some have a lot of character. =)
"C" for? how did this happen?
 My first day of working in a dental office, I learned that clean and sterile are two different things.  Something can be clean and not sterile, sterile and not clean.  What we need is both, in dentistry, and winemaking, thank you to my orthodontist.

sterilize all of the equipment
Ok, equipment is clean and sterilized.  Now simply siphon from the primary fermenter (the plastic bucket) into the secondary fermenter (the glass carboy).
primary fermenter

into secondary fermenter

Doesn't look much like wine does it?
There are still pieces of pear floating around here and there.

An auto-siphon, very very handy

Fitted an airlock and bung to the glass carboy.  The airlock allows carbon dioxide produced during fermentation to be released while keeping oxygen from reaching the must.  During primary fermentation oxygen is a good thing because it helps the yeast grow and feed off of the sugar.  But during secondary fermentation (or ever after, really) oxidation is avoided because it affects the wine quality.  It loses the fruity flavor, can cause browning (think of an apple that has been cut and left out), and bacterial growth among other issues. Some info found here and here.  But sometimes, a little bit of oxygen is a good thing, this is why cork is used as a stopper during the aging process.  It allows a very small amount very slowly into the bottle. Yay, new knowledge.

And having read all of the information on oxidation, I recall that I did read before I started this whole process that the smaller the surface area of the must, the better.  And as you can tell, this is about as big an area as it can be in this container.  Ideally it would be full to the neck of the container.  I also read that you can fill the bottle up with similar wine to fill the container.  Uh....

Ok, so bubble away!  This for some reason reminds me of the witches' chant in Macbeth (I'll have to look that up). Bubble bubble, toil and trouble, is that how it goes?

left over mush
Next move in 3 weeks, rerack after residue has settled.  Bloop.  Bloop.

You know that this bubbler attracted a curious cat.  And I swear if she messes up this wine, I'm gonna......nothing, I'm sure.  I remember my dad saying something about a cat and his mulberry wine years ago.

For more reading pleasure:
Some of those ingredients are hard to find, unless you're a witch of course, then you probably have your sources.