Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Canning Jam

Last year when I made Jam, I hade to make Freezer Jam, because I didn't know how to can things. But now I have taken the Master Food Preserver classes through the extension service, and I am practically an expert (in book-learning), with all the USDA approved food safety information at my fingertips! I need practice though, so I bought a flat of Strawberries and spent the day making Jam!

This is also a chance to use my new toy!


This is a MasterBuilt Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer. I spotted it on craigslist and snapped it up after doing a little research and confirming my suspicions that it looks like a perfectly serviceable electric water bath canner. It has an element inside, and a metal basket sits on top of that. It has an adjustable thermostat, and a glass lid so I can keep tabs on what's going on in there. It cost $75, and was like new, even in the original box and well taken care of. Electric water bath canners cost about $300, and I knew I could never justify buying one of those - this is right in my price range!

So I cleaned and mashed up my berries, and did my first batch with a regular pectin, full sugar recipe. Seems like I had to boil it forever to get it to thicken up. I finally tested some in the fridge and decided it passed the test, but it still might be pretty thin.

Into the pot. It holds 11 half-pint jars. Lid on, I cranked up the heat, and after a few minutes it worked it's way up to a rolling boil. Ten minutes of processing later...

First batch was cooling on the counter. Well, actually it cooled in the pot for five minutes first, then it was ready to cool on the counter.

For the second batch, I did a low-sugar recipe, and instead of pectin I used a modified food starch called Clear Jel. That thickened up very nicely. Processed it for ten minutes, and then it was ready to cool on the counter.

Yum, we'll be eating Jam until next strawberry season! And this year it won't be taking up our freezer space - last year half my freezer was filled with freezer jam!

Hmm, there's still some strawberries left.

Well, I haven't tried drying strawberries, and now seems like as good a time as any. So two trays of strawberries go into the dehydrator. There's still enough left for a big bowl in the fridge. 

Man, I love berry season!

_

Navi's been fixed!

Poor Navi is on crate-rest today. Yesterday she went to the vet for her surgery to get 'fixed'. Now I'm supposed to take this hyper-active little peski and somehow keep her from 'running, jumping or climbing' for 14 DAYS!!! That's like FOREVER to a puppy! The vet must be nuts! Well, we're trying. Keeping her on leash, trying to keep her from running and jumping, letting her and Barclay play a little without letting it turn into roughhousing. It's going to be a long two weeks!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chicks - again

The last chicks for this year. I gave 18 eggs to a fellow chicken fancier, and she put them in her incubator. 12 hatched, and she thought one more was going to hatch tonight. That's actually really good results for an incubator. So today I went and picked up the 12 new babies, fresh out of the eggs...

It's very hot today, they don't even need the light, but they will need it later when it cools off. Right now they are all just laid out flat, occasionally getting up and moving around a bit.

When she offered to take my eggs I moved the hens I didn't want eggs from out of the flock, so I was careful to only collect buff hen eggs, and of course the father is Big Blue. Our of these 12, 6 are grey and 6 are black - how interesting!

My previous batch of chicks from my own flock have just moved in with the big chickens.

I know they are technically just 'mutts', or 'Barnyard Mix' as I prefer to call them, but I think they are lovely and interesting.

Particularly the buff/grey ones.

And the black girls look pretty nice too. One has red spots on each shoulder.

So I'm excited to see what these Barnyard Mix chicks turn out to look like. 


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Navi and the sprinkler

Today was hot, and I thought I'd pull out the sprinkler for the dogs to play in. Barclay thought that was a curious thing, and he sat just outside the wet zone. Navi, on the other hand...







Happy wet dog!

Then she moved on to some tugging with her brothers





Barclay and jack got some wrestling in after Navi wore out.


Happy dogs!

_

Introducing - Betsy!

The other day I saw someone on the PDX chicken list offering up for adoption a buff cochin hen named Betsy. She said Betsy was broody, and a bit of a bully to the other pullets. I piped right up and said I wanted her! I love buff cochins, like my dearly departed Penny, and I doubt she'll be any trouble even if she decides to try and be a bully, the rooster seems to keep all the girls in line around here.

What a pretty girl!

I decided to introduce her slowly, I let the rest of the flock out into the back field, and let her into the backyard. That way they could see each other through the gate, and I let her decide how she wanted to proceed. When it seemed like she wanted to meet them, I opened the gate.

Beautiful, my friendly old buff orpington came right over to check her out. They had a long staring contest, it lasted about 4 minutes. They stood still like a freeze frame and stared at each other. I've never seen hens do that before. Then they started scratching around side by side like everything was cool.

Then Big Blue came over to check her out. Having a new hen around put him in a very flappy mood!


He kept coming up to her and doing a little sideways dance, scratching and scooting around. Then he'd flap and crow some more.

In a short time everyone was scratching around together like one big happy flock :)

_

Friday, July 23, 2010

Crazy morning!

This morning was exceptionally active, and much earlier than I'd have liked! Sorry, no pictures, for obvious reasons. It started off at 5am when I was woke up by the visiting roosters. The roosters are ones that were hatched out of eggs from my flock by a neighbor in town, and of course the roosters had to get out of town when they started crowing! Unfortunately I haven't been able to find homes for them, and you can't have that many roosters in one place without fighting, so they are scheduled to end up in the stewpot pretty soon, as soon as I can get the guy out to butcher them. They've had a good life so far at least, but their ultimate destiny is to be meat. This has been a terrible year for roosters, everyone is overrun with them. This lady got 4 roosters out of 6 eggs, our splash chicks appear to be 7 roos out of 10 chicks. It would be nice if it would have skewed towards hens instead!

So at 5am I got dressed and went out and caught the four of them from the pen I had left them in last night, put them in a dog crate, and put the crate in the chicken shed. Once they were in the dark shed they went back to sleep. Unfortunately when I walked over to the shed I spotted something else out of place - my four little splash chicks had escaped the chicken tractor and were running around the back field.

I spent the next 45 minutes trying to gently coax them back into the tractor, but ultimately ended up getting the net and catching two of them that way. The other two ran off and disappeared into the blackberry thicket. That was disappointing, because I am supposed to take them over Sunday to give to a friend who has their other 6 siblings, and I would like to take her all four. So I let the dogs out to play for a bit then went in and went back to bed.

A couple hours later I got up again and went outside and found the two stray chicks hanging out by the tractor, so I got the net and managed to get one of them, but the other one disappeared into the bushes again. Since I figured she'd be hiding for a couple hours after all that drama, I let the dogs out to play and got back to my morning chores.

A bit later I was in the kitchen preparing a crock pot full of carnitas, all chicken drama forgotten, when I heard squawking and fussing outside. I ran out to find Barclay had the chick pinned, and Navi was bounding around trying to help him. I'm sure he would have eaten the chick, he just hadn't decided where to start! I ran over, telling the dogs how good they were for catching the chicken, and scooped her up and rushed her inside. Dave pushed the dogs out of the bathroom and we set her on the counter and had a look at her. Surprisingly, she seemed none the worse for wear, with just a little blood from a couple broken feathers. I put her back in the tractor and she seemed happy to see the other chicks, and when I checked on them an hour later they were all running around like they hadn't had the adventure of their lives this morning!

After all that, I was happy to grab Barclay and go to work where it is peace and quiet!

_

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I ran away this weekend!

I am a hyper-responsible person. I am responsible for all sorts of things - my dogs, my chickens, my property, my garden, feeding my husband, running the store. Dave says I'm a control freak, but I just like to make sure I don't drop the ball. I try hard to get everything right! It can be stressful sometimes. This weekend my wonderful, wonderful, WONDERFUL husband let me run away from home, leaving all my responsibilities in his hands :) I grabbed my big, black van, threw my camping gear in the back, and headed East.

I stopped at Bonneville Dam. I have been reading a wonderful book called Voyage of a Summer Sun about a man's adventure canoeing the Columbia River from it's source in Canada to the Pacific, and there is much said about the history of the dams and the indian's relationship with the river and how the dams changed it. Makes you think about those dams differently, though I still appreciate all the cheap electric power.

BIG electric transmission towers. I hopped back on the highway and continued down to White Salmon, and hung a left, heading for...

Trout Lake, my favorite place in the world :)


And what did I find at Trout Lake?

Yeah! Airstreams!

My Airstreaming friends! They were in town for the Trout Lake Arts festival, and Humphrey, Hartman, and Cameron were performing folk music there. That's all you need to say to have your friends come join you, dragging trailers, pitching tents, or even sleeping in the back of a van.

Saturday morning, with the light just right, we could clearly see the route up the mountain. When people climb Mt Adams they hike up, and slide back down, and the long line in the snow is the glissade path. 

 The path goes over the top of that ridge, down the other side, and up the next ridge to the summit. Through the binocs I could see tiny little specks of climbers moving along the path. It looked like there were a LOT of them! You can see them in the picture if you know where to look.

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast around the campfire. Then we all went to the Arts Festival to watch Jant, Michelle, and Mary play.
And they were fantastic as always! You can buy their CDs online - totally worth it!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing around the fire, playing a little music, eating a great pork chop dinner (I made gravy), and then BSing around the campfire. Quite a bit of discussion concerned the porta-pottys which the tenters were having to use (lacking an Airstream with lovely bathroom facilities). Because of another large group nearby also using the pottys, things were starting to pile up, so Gary saved the day by taking a big stik and 'stirring the pot'. Nasty, but it helped a lot, and the pottys managed to last out the weekend.


The next morning we watched buzzards soaring overhead. Not related to the pottys.

After breakfast I sat around with Jim and Michelle and we played some music. I've been playing guitar many years, but have never played with other people, so they helped me along. It was great fun!

After breakfast and music it was time to pull up stakes and head back to the real world. I had hardly thought about my responsibilities all weekend, but they were starting to creep back up on me.  Time to head home.


I stopped on the way out of town for this lovely shot of Mt Hood. The drive home was very windy through the gorge, and I stopped in Skamania to take pictures of the windsurfers and parasailers playing on the river.



Catching air!


I wish I could make a living taking pictures!