Monday, May 31, 2010

Trout Lake 2010 - pt 2

 On the third day we woke up to a beautiful morning

We jumped in the van and went for a drive through the pine forests to a nearby town called Glenwood. We stopped at the Conboy Wildlife Refuge.

Yup, more pine trees.

Wide open marshlands for the birds. Though we didn't really see any.

Our walk around the park pooped the puppy

But he perked back up in time for lunch..

After not seeing any birds at the refuge, we saw plenty of them while we were parked eating lunch.

And wildlife. Well, almost...

And a pretty view of the countryside

We got back to camp just in time to watch the races - dogs vs people!

A weekend in the Airstream is always a great weekend!

Trout Lake 2010

Every year our camping friends get together for an early summer campout at Trout Lake, WA. We pack up our wee little Airstream trailer and join in when we can. This year it was on the 'must do' list!

This isn't half the trailers - just the ones on our end of the campground.

For me, the primary thing I love about this campground is the spectacular view of Mt Adams just a few miles away.

Of course the opportunity to hang around and catch up with old friends and make new ones is pretty cool too.

Barclay managed to find his way into the center of the circle most of the time and did his best to schmooze lovin' and treats off the other campers.

 Dave and sleepy Barclay at afternoon nap time for doggies

Dave and Barclay

Dave insisted on getting a picture of me and Barclay!

Closeup of Mt Adams

So pretty and rugged!

We had an expert 'smores' cook serving everyone around the fire

And then a jam session broke out

And I just sat staring into the warm fire and enjoying the music

Until it was time to go to bed!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I've been wanting to make jerky for a long time, ever since I first saw the Good Eats episode a couple years ago. Well now I have a dehydrator and some knowledge of how to do it safely, so on the way home last night I picked up 2lbs of Flank steak and decided to give it a go.

I froze the steak, sliced it thin across the grain, and marinated it using the Good Eats recipe. Then just before bed I poured the marinade into a pot and brought it to a boil, and put a few jerky strips into it at a time, returned it to a boil and pulled them out and let them drain. That's supposed to kill any e.coli on the outside of the meat. Then it goes onto the dehydrator racks. Since the book said 10-12 hours, we let it go overnight.

In the morning I woke up at 5am  and thought I'd check it, and it wasn't quite done, but it had only been 6 hours. I went back to bed and woke up at 9, and by then it had been cooking for 10 hours - the minimum expected time by the book - but it was overdone.

It still tastes fine, just the texture is a little more dried out than I would have liked. And the rumor that you can make jerky cheaper at home? Tillamook Jerky costs $5 for 3.5oz. My jerky cost $11 for the meat, not counting the cost of marinade or electricity to process it, that 2lbs of flank turned into 9oz of jerky! If you divide it out, it's pretty much a wash. The main benefits are knowing what's in it, and flavoring it the way you want to.

It was fun to do for the experience, but for the price I think I'll stick with dehydrating fruits and veg.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Food Preservation Class

Yesterday I spent all afternoon making these six cans of preserves. It's two quarts of Apple Pie Filling and 4 half-pints of Pickled Radish Relish. The radishes are fresh out of my garden -Yum! The Radish Relish tasted pretty good right out of the pan, so I imagine it's going to be even better after it sits and the flavors meld.

I am taking a class through the county extension on food preservation. It's their Master Food Preserver class, and it's 9 weeks long, one full day a week. We started with food safety, why things spoil, what makes food unsafe, and then moved on to freezing, drying, canning high-acid foods (like the apple pie filling) and pickling (like the relish). Next week I think we do jellies, and after that low-acid foods using a pressure canner.

It's a hands on class, so every week we actually get to do this stuff with volunteers right there to help us through the steps. I remember things so much better hands on. At this point I feel like I confidently understand why you do what you do to make sure your preserves are safe to eat when you're ready to use them. I felt like I wanted to make some preserves at home so if I had any questions I could ask the teacher at class this week before we moved on to something new, but it actually went quite well. By the book, so to speak.

The price for this class, aside from the lab fee, is to put in 40 hours of volunteer time after class is over. This will be things like manning the county food safety line and answering people's questions about if something is spoiled or how to preserve foods, or going out in public and teaching classes or assisting at them, or doing pressure gauge testing clinics. So I guess that's what I'll be doing this summer!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Broody hen #2

I had my black hen go broody, so I saved up a dozen eggs to stick under her, and moved her to the chicken tractor with the eggs in a crate. This worked fine last year, and she sat and raised her chicks in the tractor, but this year, she didn't like being out in the tractor, and decided not to be broody anymore!

So with a dozen eggs I didn't want to waste, I started looking for an incubator. I had several people offer me one, but then I thought to ask Martha if she happened to have a broody hen, and she did! She said she was stealing eggs out from under her every day (broody hens are kind of annoying if you don't want them to raise chicks for you). So I went over to try and catch her, and she got away. The next day Martha caught her and put her in a crate, then I came over and we put her in a smaller crate, then I took her home. Martha said she's moved broody hens before, but never across the county! So we didn't know if this would work. I put her in the brooder box with the crate full of eggs, food and water, and left her there to relax.

The first night she spent sleeping outside the crate, and I was thinking this wasn't going to work. This morning I went in to check on her and she was sitting on the eggs! Yay! There's no better incubator than a mama hen! I hope she settles down in there and keeps sitting. I'll keep it quiet and try not to disturb her. 21 days to more chicks (I hope)!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Dehydrator

I am taking a class about food preservation, and a couple weeks ago we learned about dehydrators. I got to bring the class dehydrator home to finish our lab assignment, and I loved it! I have never cared much for the dehydrated fruits you get from the store, but these were fresh and crisp but not so hard you'll break a tooth. The pineapple came out like natural candy! So I wanted one bad!

This week I easily sold all my pullets (baby chickens), and actually made a profit (miracle of miracles) so I felt like I could splurge and a get a dehydrator, tah dah!

It's really simple, just a fan and a heating element, so it blows warm air over the food trays and dries stuff out. It can be used for fruits, veg, jerky, herbs, or even drying flowers for crafts.

I did some apples and bananas, then tried peppers and pineapple. The pineapple is ridiculously good. The peppers come out crunchy and sweet - I'm going to try sprinkling them on a pasta dish.

I suppose it could be used to make dog treats!

I'm enjoying learning how to use it! It's really going to be nice to have this summer and fall when I have too much produce from the garden, or too much fruit from the orchard. Last year I had to let a lot of pears and stuff go to the chickens because I didn't know what to do with it all. And the herbs that went to waste at the end of the year when the plants started dying down? Into the dehydrator! I think this is going to be a very useful addition to my kitchen/garden.

Too Early! Again!

I should have listened to my friends who said don't plant until the end of May! Or my husband, who said it was still too early! But my other friends who had already planted and didn't know what I was waiting for were just too much peer pressure for me (I buckle easily), and that week of 70+ degree weather was too much, and I planted them. Well, for the last few days it has been windy, the kind that knocks over trees, driving rain, even hail, and brrrrrrr- COLD! It's 46 out there right now! My heritage tomatoes are bucking up pretty well so far, but the tomatoes I started from seed were looking kind of sad. So I took action:

I put tomato cages around them, and put plastic bags over them. I'm hoping this will catch enough heat to help them recover a bit. Personal greenhouses. I think I will do the heritage tomatoes tonight after I go pick up some more tomato cages. The bags, luckily, are from our styro-peanuts we use for packing materials, so I have lots of those bags around. So it's a cheap solution to hopefully keep my tomatoes going.

But next year, I'm waiting until June, no matter what!!!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Day Off

Wednesdays are our Sunday. The store is closed Tuesday/Wednesday, so it's time to catch up on all the stuff we fell behind on during the week. So today we started by working on the fence:

Last week we spent a good chunk of a day pulling all the fence boards off, putting up wire fencing, and replacing the fence boards. We did this to the whole front stretch of fence between the yard and the pasture in an effort to keep Barclay from going out there to eat sheep poo and chase the sheep. Within five minutes of letting him out, he had found a spot wide enough to crawl through and was back out eating poo! So today we fixed every possible spot he could squeeze through (I hope), mostly along the fence where the shelter/garden is.  There wasn't enough wire in the roll to do that section, so we just have to put up more wood rails until he can't slip through.

Then we worked out in the garden spreading bark chips on the paths. It has been a long process trying to get the garden finished. Although the cardboard and mulch is a no-dig method, it is certainly NOT a no-shovel method. I think my arms are permanently 'rubber' from all the shoveling I've been doing! Dave was a lot of help. He just whipped off his shirt and got to shoveling bark chips - why, I could watch that all day! :) And look at the result, the garden looks beautiful, instead of walking around on cardboard covered paths!

Yesterday I planted five heritage tomato plants in the garden. That's a total of 9 tomatoes planted, and lots of spinach, lettuce, beets, chard, and three types of squash. Also some herbs. Then today we got hit with a wind storm! Rain started just as we were getting wore out spreading bark chips, and then strong winds. I hope the plants are all ok out there!

Yesterday I used the proceeds from selling my chicks to buy a food dehydrator (yay!), so today I dried some apples and bananas. Later I'm going to dry some red bell peppers, but I'll do it right before bed so they can dry overnight. We did peppers in food preservation class, and they come out so sweet you can snack on them like candy!

Then I did some laundry, went to the grocery store, bought a couple chickens from the 'cheap meat' (marked down for quick sale) section, came home and cut them up and put the pieces in the freezer, put the yucky pieces in the stockpot, took Barclay for a walk at BG Lake, came home and cooled off the stock and put 10 pints of chicken stock in the freezer (I need a bigger freezer), cleaned up the kitchen, did the dishes, and got the meat marinating for tonight's dinner, and took the dogs outside to play just as the sun was going down.

If I do my job right, Barclay will be like this for the rest of the evening!

Now time to take a rest and watch some Dr Who. That will make it a perfect day off :)

Chicks and Mama hen

Mama hen and chickies are doing great. She takes them out and shows them how to scratch around for bugs, then when they get cold they snuggle under her with just a head sticking out here and there. They look so cozy!

It's funny how hens lay their eggs and never give them a second thought until something clicks with them to go broody. Then they will set those eggs until they hatch, and raise their chicks with great devotion, fluffing up to scare off predators, until the chicks are big enough to look after themselves. Then they kind of forget about them and go back to doing their own thing again. It's the chicken circle of life :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Funny sheep story

After the 4H meeting broke up, I was out checking the sheep water, and I noticed one of the sheep running around like mad. Then I saw she had snagged herself on a blackberry vine, which had come loose and was stuck to her butt, and she thought it was chasing her! So she charged around the field, getting all the other sheep's attention, until the vine fell off. It lay in the middle of the field and the flock cautiously approached it, wanting to see what this scary monster was. I went back to filling the water bucket, chuckling about how silly sheep were, then I looked up to see the flock racing past, along with another sheep who had the vine stuck on her butt!!! I just about fell over laughing! Silly sheep!

4H llama shearing party

Today we had the 4H llama club meeting at my house, and everyone brought their llamas. After a potluck and socializing, my neighbor Kelley came over and sheared the llamas. It was a good day, llamas got cleaned up for upcoming summer shows, and there were kids running all over our farm playing with dogs, harassing chickens (one ended up in the neighbor's yard, apparently deciding that was a safer place to be until the kids were gone), and generally having a good time. Lots of fun!

 My old buddy Scoops was there. A polite gentleman, as always.

Kohl brought my old llama Patrone. He's grown since I gave him away! Both of them, actually :)

Here Jamie takes a quiet moment to comfort her llama after the tension of shearing.

Funny face!

I gave the camera to the kids to take pictures of whatever they wanted, and I got back a picture of Kohl snuggling a chicken!