Wednesday, September 29, 2010


These guys personify beauty and joy, 
wrapped up in a lovely furry package 
that will run around your house and destroy all your stuff :)

Garden Update - Almost October

I did come cleaning up in the garden today. The recent rains and cold snap have finished off the poor tomato plants. They really didn't have a chance. What tried to ripen ended up just rotting on the vine. So today I started pulling them out and putting the vines in the compost pile.

So sad, all those tomatoes that could have been spaghetti sauce, or salsa...

With the tomatoes gone, the giant fennel plant looks lonely. I still haven't decided what to do with it. I planted it on a whim. I've never used fennel before.

There are carrots growing in the raised bed. It's the only place where the soil is soft enough for them to stretch down without getting all stunty.

The wax beans are done, and I collected some beans to plant next year from them. But the Blue Lake pole beans are crazy, and were tipping the trellis over!

I picked this huge bucket full of green beans! I'm going to pickle some, and freeze the rest.

UPDATE: Last night I pickled & canned 8 pints of green beans - four HOT, four regular, blanched and froze 4 packages of beans for later, and had fresh beans sauted in garlic & bacon for dinner. Yum!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The chick's first night in the big coop

Night before last I moved the chicks to the big coop, sneaking them in at night and putting them on the roosts with the big hens. The next morning when I checked on them the big hens were all out in the yard, and the babies were still in the coop. By afternoon they had gotten brave enough to go out in the yard too, and I saw them running around enjoying the grass and their new freedom. It's so nice to see them out of the tractor finally!

So last night I went out to check on them around 11pm, and there were no babies in the coop, just the big hens. I got a flashlight and went out in teh yard and found them all hunkered down next to the fence. So I picked them up two at a time and gently put them in through the chicken door to the coop. I had left a light on in the coop, and they slowly made their way in and found a spot on the roost.

When I had all seven in there, I went back around to the other side of the coop and watched until everyone was on a roost. Some of them went all the way to the top roost and squeezed in with the big chickens, and got a few pecks on the head for their trouble. But pretty soon everyone was settled in together, big and little all on the same roosts. So I turned off the light and went to bed.

This morning first thing I saw was the chicks back out in the yard, running around, flapping, and chasing each other. What fun! I love to see happy chickens!

Chick season is over

Chick season is officially over. My baby chicks who were incubator hatched just a couple months ago have graduated from the brooder, to the tractor, and finally to the big coop with the rest of the hens.

The batch of chicks before that (of which there are only two left - three of the six were roosters, and one hen I gave away in place of a hen I sold this spring that turned out to be a rooster) are almost all grown up.

They should start laying any time now. Aren't they lovely? I'm going to pair the blue/buff girls together with their blue/buff brother and see what next year's chicks look like. I'd better get busy on that incubator!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saving Seeds

I think summer is officially over. I turned on the tv this morning, and the weather report described the next three days as 'a good soaking'. Oh well. I went out to the garden and found a few ripe but rotten tomatoes off of each of my heirloom tomato plants and brought them inside. The tomatoes have been rotting before they can ripen, so there haven't really been any for eating. Time to think about next year.

They are neat looking tomatoes, would be even better if I'd got to eat some! These are Snow White (yellow cherry), Black Cherry, Striped Roman, Brandywine (the big red one), and Azoychka (medium yellow).

So I crack them open and dig around with a spoon looking for the goopy part with seeds in it. I put all the seeds I can into the cup.

The goo needs to soak in water for about a week to let the seeds go. Then I can dry them off and save them for next year.

Hopefully next year will be a better year for tomatoes!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Milk Jam

Today I made Milk Jam, or Dulce de Lech. It's very easy. You take a quart of milk, some sugar, some vanilla, and a bit of baking soda, and then, over the next few hours, reduce it to a thick, caramel-like sauce.

I have not had any success the few times I've tried to make caramel, but this has worked every time. Only trick is the recipe says you'll get one cup, and I got exactly two cups. I can't imagine boiling it down any thicker than I did. 

It's very thick! If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I never would have guessed that came from milk and sugar. Now to find some desserts to use it on :)


New Boomerang CollarTags

Today I got new ID tags for our crazy pack of dogs. Well, actually Jack didn't get one, I just got tags for the other two. Last week Navi got hung up on the heater vent, and the next day I was leaving for work and found her on the bed in a funny position, wagging her tail, and when I looked closer I realized her tag was caught on the blanket! So I looked up Boomerang Tags, which is where I've been getting my tags for years. They make excellent tags, ship them out fast, and they last forever. All our dogs have had their tags, and I even had tags made for the llama's harnesses.

They have a new kind of tag called CollarTags. They slip onto the actual collar, instead of dangling. They are guaranteed not to come off, and it looks like it would be impossible to catch them on anything.

I received them today. They fit perfectly, and of course look very well made and are easily readable. I think the only downside is that if the dogs got lost and someone glanced at them, they would think they don't have any ID, because there are no obviously dangling tags. Because the eskies are fluffy, the tag isn't immediately obvious on the collar like it would be on a short haired dog. However, I haven't lost a dog yet, and these two are shaping up to be the best trained dogs I've ever had, so they are less likely to get lost all the time! On the plus side, without the jingling of tags, the dogs are running in 'stealth mode'. No, wait a minute, maybe that's NOT such a good thing!! ;)


Friday, September 10, 2010

Exploring the Incubator

I spent a bit of time poking around the incubator today

Here is the business end. You can see the long arm that goes from off center of the drum down to the electric motor.

The motor turns a big gear which tilts the drum back and forth, 45 degrees I think.

This is the main fusebox. Power comes in and is split off, one side goes to a thermostat controlling a regular electrical outlet inside the drum, the other side goes to the motor? I'm still not sure about how the timer and the mercury switch work together.

Update: Wires go from the junction block, through the left fuse and up to the timer, and from the timer to the junction box at the top of the drum. The right fuse is between the junction block and the main on/off switch. 

Two old-style fuses. They say '250v' on their bases.

This box seems to be a timer of some sort.

The round knob with the black line pointing straight up goes to the 'wafer' which seems to be a thermostat. The guage is attached to either a thermometer or a hygrometer for measuring humidity inside the incubator.

Inside the drum you can see the 'wafer', and hygrometer at the top, and the electrical conduit leading to the outlet below. Notice the condition of the inside of the drum, which is made of redwood, is very good.

There are two items plugged into the outlet - a fan and a heater.

Writing on the heater indicates it's a 120v, 150w Chromalox Strip Heater.

This tube sticking into the drum from the front is a thermometer or hygrometer, I'm not sure what the plate with the round hole below it is for.

It's attached to this gauge on the front between the doors

The lower door has vents but they are sealed shut.

 Looking at the inside of the door, you can see how thick these doors are. The point is to keep the drum insulated so the conditions inside can be maintained precisely. I still need to poke around a bit more to figure out what everything is and what it does.

It's a lot of work to do what a hen does naturally!


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Big Blue Roo sent packing!

The new Blue Roo had a special gift of gab - basically he started crowing around 6am and kept it up almost non-stop for the next 6 hours or so - he literally only paused long enough to suck in a big breath between crows. I don't know when he wore out, but it was usually after I left for work at 11! It didn't bother Dave, but I was hearing crowing ringing in my ears for hours after he stopped! So I found a new home for him, took a bit of a loss over what I paid for him, but it was worth it to have him gone! This morning I enjoyed the peace and quiet of not hearing non-stop cock-a-doodle-doos. Ah, peace!


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Gardening, and pickled 3 bean salad

The garden has been pretty unusual this year. I am getting green beans out of it now, enough that Dave is already tired of them. I've frozen some. I was flipping through a recipe book and saw a recipe for canning pickled 3-bean salad, and that sounded like a good way to use up some beans.

Dave thought it tasted 'interesting', which is pretty good for him, since he hates beans.

I'm getting tomatoes off the '4H' tomato plant, they are kind of like big cherry tomatoes. Very nice. Martha said they were always the earliest tomatoes, and they are this year too, it's just that 'early' has come really late! Next year I will limit my tomatoes a bit more. I planted 8 plants this year, filling two rows, and that was overdoing it. We trimmed the plants back to try and encourage them to finish the tomatoes they've already set.

Likewise a whole row of green and yellow beans was overkill. I have to remember we only need enough for two people! Of course one zucchini is overkill, but you can't really plant less than one!

My 12 foot row of potatoes produced about a colander full of potatoes. I should have just bought some at the auction last week. They weren't even worth the trouble! Potatoes are going on my list of things it's better to let someone who knows what they're doing grow.

Today I planted a 4x4 area with lettuce and winter greens (chard, broccoli rabe, stuff like that). I'm going to clear one more area for my cold frame and plant that in October. There are still chard and spinach out there, and carrots are coming along now that the cucumber plants are gone. So the garden is slowly moving into it's winter phase. And that's ok because today was a gloomy, rainy day, reminding us that winter is not too far away.

The Incubator

I have been looking for an incubator. Most of the expense in the chicks I raised to sell this year was from buying the chicks, so if I could hatch the eggs from my own flock, I'd save a lot of money - though I'd have a lot more roosters to sell too. Today my friend Martha emailed me to say she saw a free incubator on CL.

Free Humidaire Incubator, drum type, good for parts, or you can use it as is. I am out of the chicken business and just want it gone.

I called him up, he said come and get it, it was even close to home. I had no idea what I was getting.

It barely fit in the van!

One one side is a motor and control boxes, and it looks like it slowly rotates the drum back and forth to move the eggs.

A couple fuses and a mercury switch

No idea what this is, but I recognize an angry nest of yellowjackets when I see them!

Inside is a fan, and above that the racks for the egg trays, which came with it, I just took them out to move it.

What a bizarre contraption! The power cord was cut, and it's been sitting in the weather a while, but it looks pretty good. I can't wait to play around with it and see if I can get it working again.

Friday, September 03, 2010


I came home this afternoon and found Navi wearing a little something extra around her neck...

That's one of the furnace vents! Apparently she had been sleeping on the vent, and her tag slipped between the louvers and got caught. When she stood up to greet me at the door, it came with her. When I opened the door, instead of jumping up and down, she sort of staggered up to me, and I reached down to check her and found this hanging below her neck! I'm surprised the breakaway collar didn't pop open, it probably would have if she'd moved around a bit more, but she had probably only gone a couple feet between getting up and meeting me at the door. I unhooked her collar with one hand (other hand was full of groceries), and she was free to dance around like usual!

The tag was really stuck in there too! There was no way she was getting out of that without help. It's amazing how much trouble your dogs can get into when you leave them alone.

None the worse for wear, and ready to go outside and play!