Homestead Pantry

  (Orrtanna, Pennsylvania)
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All Cooped Up!

Today we worked on the brooder house/coop.  Again.  This has been an awfully long, ongoing project for the size of coop it is, but that happens when you're training your workforce as you construct, and when those happy hens keep interrupting you!  If they weren't traipsing in to inspect the progress of the construction they were yelling at us from afar, calling us to come hunt eggs!  I have been hearing one somewhere around the landing zone (for those giant sized rolls of hay or straw when winter's grip prevents us from getting them all the way to the barn.)  However, I have some hearing loss in one ear due to an ear infection in '06, and that makes it hard to locate the direction sometimes, particularly when they are far away.  Finally this evening, when the boys were taking off the topper, they found the nest!  There were at least three hens contributing to it and altogether there were 14 eggs!  One egg was a deep dark brick red color.  I'd say we're ready for Easter, since the oldest daughter found green ones in her part of the barnyard.

I'll try to remember to bring the camera with me the next time I visit to blog, so that I can post some of the progress.  We're ready for the siding, trim, and now to find some wheels or a wagon gear suitable for a 6x8 chick coop.  They moved in already today, and they were sure comfortable!  Even this evening as things were cooling down, I looked in and they were sitting all around, ducklings back in the shadowy corner, and only a handful of chicks directly under the brooder light itself.  

This go-round is small thanks to our brooder house blowing away the beginning of the month.  We are feeding this run regular starter for the first bag, but the second bag I made sure to get gamebird feed, which has no antibiotics since they can't handle it.  We're raising ducklings with them so we can't feed the kind that has antibiotics anyway.  However, after we finally gave up and the chicks arrived, we did find a source for organic feed but boy was it expensive! 

 The first garden bed is covered with greenhouse plastic, and we'll begin working on that greenhouse tomorrow, if the rain holds off long enough.  I have to remember to call and make an appointment for the beef as our freezer is running pretty low.

That's all I can stay up to write for now, so until next time, stay healthy, eat fresh!


Goundhog Dodges the BBQ!

We were very cross with Phil and all his relative groundhogs here at the homestead, and vowed to team up with our predator control partner, Gazelle, to wreak vengeance upon Puxatawny Phil and all his kin.  We just did not like the weather that hit us, that's all there was to it.  Luckily for the groundhogs, the bad weather, a couple of other issues, and the two college students' schedules kept us mostly too busy to take time from chores for vengeance-wreaking activities.  Now that spring seems to have sprung, we're all much more cheerful and need I say busy?  However, we do feel it was so beyond unnecessary for that nasty wind of last weekend that blew our brooder house end over end and over the perimeter fence!  Luckily we had not gotten the first chick order of the year in yet so there just wasn't the planned 200 cornish white rocks and 25 layer pullets that would have otherwise been in there and a month along. 

With that in mind, our first pastured poultry run was much smaller than planned so we will have to do another one in about a week to fill all the orders from homestead clients, family, friends and not to mention the egg orders that keep streaming in.  Our cartons of multicolored eggs are gaining a following that is going to require a few more hens to keep them all happy!

Without a brooder house, how do we manage, you might ask?  Well since it's Saturday now, the kids are all out there working to finish the brooder house that was started.  Meanwhile, the F250 seems to be filling in quite nicely.  There is actually plenty of room for a lot more chicks in there and when the brooder house is done we will add chicks but for now I want my wheels back!

The maple sap is running almost faster than two Terrible Teens can keep up, and the smaller wood burner is just not cutting it.  We need a larger wood stove and a larger more shallow pan for boiling maple sap! The yellow bellied sap sucker came along and made a few holes in the maple tree outside my bedroom window.  The hole he left behind allowed sap to run freely, which clued me into the timing for jugging the trees this year.  We've been boiling sap now for over a week.  The waffles are sure special with fresh boiled syrup!  We now cheer when we hear that the night temps are going to be freezing or lower, and the next day over freezing, because we know that the next day will bring a lovely huge surge of sap for our boiler!  Can you even have too much maple syrup?

 We also saw honeybees flying that first day that the temps shot over 50 degrees F so a trip to the orchards' beehives are in order to check on the welfare of the overwintering hives.  They have flown several days now, and with the yellow bellied sap suckers making holes in maples up where terrible teens fear to tap, likely the honeybees are enjoying the largess and will be just fine if they've made it this long. 

Thanks to terrible weather every day we had available to work outside this past fall and winter, our greenhouses are not yet up and running.  That's next on the agenda, along with perimeter fencing.  Anyone out there interested in joining in for a brooder raisin', fence raisin' or a greenhouse raisin' along the lines of an old fashioned barn raisin'?

Until next time, eat fresh, eat well!



Homestead Lesson #1 Peppers

I never planned on growing habanero peppers. They just
happened. My kids think they like hot peppers. They do,...
well two of them really like jalapenos, so this year when I
happened across some habanero plants somewhere, I included
two or three in my basket. I can't remember where they
were but the kids had three of them. The 'college man' and
'Little Miss Muffet' are the family hot pepper eaters. She
always has to outdo her biggest brother. Little Miss Muffet
has been tenderly caring for her little habanero plant all
summer. For it's own protection from marauding, shape-shifting
goats she kept it inside. In our garden window. Finally,
yesterday morning just after breakfast she picked her first
pepper. She was so proud.

She had a right to be very proud of that pepper. It was a
lovely thing to look at, I have to admit. Bright yellow-
orange little ball ...she was so excited to finally have
her first pepper off her very own plant,...her first hot
pepper plant.

She prepared to fry it in the skillet. In slicing and
removing the seeds, some of the pepper juice got into a
teensy, tiny, little scratch on her finger. That burned,
so she just naturally popped that burning finger into her
mouth. Then naturally, that burned. She was in agonies.
Her face was mottled, her lips cherry red.

I warned her to keep her fingers far away from her eyes. I
then gave her a spoon full of raw sugar. That didn't help.
So then I gave her a tablespoon full of yellow plum sauce
(we were having waffles for breakfast). That didn't help.
Finally I told her to quick take a sip off my jamocha shake,
(made with our own goat's milk and hazelnut coffee well
blended with ice) and even that didn't really help much.
Then I advised her to have a glass of milk. (goats' milk,
what else is there??) That and perhaps all of the above be-
gan to help a tiny bit, but not much. Poor kid. She has
sworn off habaneros. She has stated emphatically that she
is never growing those hot things again.

I sighed and took a sip of my jamocha.
And set my own lips afire.

Lesson #1 from the Homestead: Never grow habaneros. Just
write that at the top of your list of things not to grow on
your homestead. Do it right now. Trust me.

I lived through the experience but my lips burned most of
the day. Just now, more than 24 hours later, I absentmindedly
ran my tongue over my back gums, thinking I'd brush my teeth
after just having had lunch. Pulling my tongue back in it's
normal place, then again absentmindedly licking my lips,...
my whole mouth burns yet again. I had brushed my teeth at
least three times since taking that sip from that silly
habanero-contaminated straw!

Habaneros. The tiny little hot pepper that just keeps on
giving with a long-lasting, ever-burning flame. Little Miss
Muffet's pepper plants are loaded with ripe habaneros...
bright yellow ping pong balls of unending, never-dying fire.
She has sworn off habaneros. Me, too. She thinks they may
make a good compress to burn infection out of a small cut or
scratch. I don't want to know about it. I have created a
CSA page and I can tell you they are the first things going
into our 'CSA shopping baskets' if someone with a death-wish
subscribes to our brand-new CSA these little wonders will
surely fill the bill.

Habaneros, anyone? We have a very lovely plant potted up all
ready to go home with you!
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