Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Have you ever wondered what's inside a couch?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Churning Butter

Yes, I said Butter. I bought a half gallon of whipping cream from the local dairy - real, local milk from right here in Clark County. I let it come to room temp, added a pinch of salt, and let the Kitchen Aid go to it. It only took about three minutes to go from whipping cream, to whipped cream, to break over in to butter.

Even with the spatter shield on, this is a messy job!

But look - Butter!

After it was separated, I had to rinse the butter repeatedly under cold water while kneading it to get out all the buttermilk. This quickly turned into a giant mess where I was getting butter everywhere! I'll think before I stick my hands into it next time! But it worked and I formed three logs to freeze, and refrigerated a pint of it. Had it on waffles this morning and it was great - not as salty as regular salted butter, and had more of a sweet cream taste.

An excess of eskimos

This weekend Saki and Sitka came to visit while their Mom & Dad took a little trip!

There's a reason people call them 'peski eski's! That's a lot of devious, destructive power to have in one house!

They don't have cats at home. But our cats still liked them just fine. 

They had great fun chasing each other around the pasture

Barclay is biggest and Saki is smallest, while Navi and Sitka look so much alike I had to take a good look to tell who I was talking to!

Out in the swale Barclay showed them how to dig up field mouse holes
 Even Sitka got into that!

Then we rinsed off the mud by playing with the hose. 


Navi & Sitka

I was surprised that Barclay got tired of the company first, and would go sit by himself with his back to them when he'd had enough. I had to go looking for him a couple times. Navi and Saki & Sitka all played and had great fun together, romping and wrestling. They were like a little pack of three! Jack just disappeared for the most part. Way too much activity for him!

Friday, October 22, 2010


I went to Goodwill the other day and I scored this pasta machine (without it's handle) for only $5! Woo-hoo! I've been wanting one for a long time but they are very expensive. I just need to find a handle to crank it with and I'm set.

I also found a waffle iron for $10. I've been looking for one for a while, because Dave loves frozen waffles for breakfast, and I thought I could make better waffles at home.

Although it is a low end Proctor Silex Waffle Iron, it really works great! It has no settings, just a light on the lid that lights up when it's ready to cook, and goes off when the waffle is done. I was highly skeptical it would work, and in fact on Good Eats when he talked about which waffle iron to buy he specifically held one of these up (with the name removed, of course) and said not to buy it. It works great! It actually makes them just a bit underdone, I might like them better just a bit more crispy, but they are perfect to freeze, because they get crisped up in the toaster when you reheat them.

I made regular buttermilk waffles, and then I made chocolate chip waffles (both Good Eats recipes). The chocolate ones are particularly nice after a long day - pop a couple in the toaster and it's like getting a warm, fresh, chocolate cookie :)



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No more pig!

Mary the pig moved out last night. A nice family from Oregon City came and took her off my hands. I think I've learned my lesson about pigs - unless I have a purpose built pen and an electric fence, I would not try pigs again. Nice pig, but man could she get under a fence effortlessly!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Escapee Pig!

Mary did fine the first two days, but at 8:30 this morning as we were rolling out of bed, the dogs alerted us to a problem - Mary out wandering in the pasture. Turns out she had got her nose under the fence and pushed it up. Pig owners may laugh at me now, they all are going 'of course she did!' We tightened the fence and put her back in it. Five minutes later she was out again. I put her in the garden, the most secure place we have. It is the former llama paddock, and has successfully contained goats and sheep and lambs. She was out in ten minutes after stopping for a nap. And once out she walked around the pasture trying to find the place to make a hole in that fence. I kept calling her back. I decided I would fence her into the shelter area with wood rails, but I was having trouble finding rails the right size, and I broke a screw bit, and I saw her working on the fence out by the road so I had to go get her. It was one thing after another, and Dave was already at work. As I tried to fix a place to contain her she was off testing and poking at every weak spot on my fenceline, and I had to keep distracting her. I was really starting to panic a bit - there was no place I could put her, even temporarily, while I made a safe place for her. Not like a dog you can shut in the house or in a crate for a few minutes.

Hmm, a crate? I took an apple and lured her up to the calf igloo, and when she went in I grabbed a metal gate and held it in front of the entrance. Finally, she was caught, but there was no way to fasten the gate, so I had to hold it. But what good was that doing me, except giving me a little time to think? I stood there holding the gate, while she grunted and whined about her situation, for a good ten minutes, while I thought about my next move. I had planned to enclose the entire shelter, but I didn't have enough wood. But I could do just a small portion of the shelter. She wouldn't have a gate, but we could climb in and out, and hopefully it would hold her. I let her out of the igloo and ran inside to call Dave at work to come help me.

I came back out and she was out testing the pasture fence again. I gathered up my wood, checked out my plan, and started to assemble it, when I saw her nosing around the fence by the road! I ran and got an apple and used it to lure her back to the calf igloo again and gated her in. I stood there holding the gate while she grunted and tried to figure a way out for a good half hour waiting for Dave to show up. Finally he did. He got the rails up and screwed into place. I let her out, and she flopped over for a rest, exhausted as I was, apparently! So we'll see how this goes. She has significantly less space, but is less likely to get hit by a car anytime soon. Meanwhile I'll see if I can find her a new home with more adequate pig facilities.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The dogs meet Mary

Last night the dogs only saw Mary trotting around the field, and they completely lost their little minds! Barclay has no excuse, because he has been around sheep, goats and llamas since he was a baby. Navi has every excuse, because livestock is a new concept for her. Jack was the one that really went nuts, and he should know better by now too. His running around baying did nothing to help the other dogs realize the new critter was not a threat. So this morning I took them out one by one with a clicker and super yummy treats to introduce them to the pig.

The last time the dogs were in the pasture there was no pigpen there, so it shouldn't have surprised me that as I brought Barclay out through the pasture gate, he turned and saw the pig ten feet away (behind the pigpen fence, but he didn't notice that) and he reacted by RUNNING as fast and far away as he could go! He went about 50 yards out into the pasture before he even slowed down to look behind him and see if the monster was following. So much for hanging around to protect me!

Once he noticed the fence (and that I was still in the area), he got up the guts to come back and face his fears. So he came back and barked at the MONSTER. I 'clicked for calm' - whenever he'd stop for a breath, or look at me, I'd click and give him a bit of lunchmeat.

After a bit he started to relax, and there was less barking and more sniffing. Mary did not seem to be bothered at all. By the time we'd been out there a few minutes, he got up the guts to meet her nose to nose at the fence. I watched closely to make sure the interaction was good, and he got lots of praise and treats for being nice.

I took him in and waited a bit, then brought Navi out. I did the same thing, but this time Mary wasn't up by the fence, she had gone back to bed and was sitting in her hay pile, still as a stone. Navi was sniffing around the outside of the pigpen, then Mary turned her head a bit (she was about 15 feet away) and Navi spotted her - and LOST HER FREAKING MIND! But with a few minutes of clicking and treating, she started to settle down. She'll need more work with Mary up moving around though. I was actually glad Mary was setting still for this lesson.

For Jack's turn, Mary had gone back to sleep buried in the hay, so he didn't even see her. He just ran around sniffing the fenceline. I clicked him a lot for quiet or looking at me. He had a great time, and didn't even see a pig. Again, more work for later, but a good start.

Working with the dogs individually was the way to go, there's no way to settle down three dogs who are all going insane at once, they just build on each other. They all did very well one-on-one. Mary, for her part, was perfectly calm. Even after all that barking, I came out and she came right up to the fence for a scratch. :)


Mary the Pig arrives

Yesterday we spent a second day trying to get an area set up for the pigs. I finally gave up my pasture shelter (I love sitting in my chair under the shelter on rainy days and watching the dogs play in the pasture) and we put a fence around it to make a little paddock area. A friend gave me the extra roll of wire fencing to fence her in with, and another friend gave me the plastic calf igloo for a little house for her. I stole the t-posts out of the garden. We shoveled a bunch of straw into the igloo, and made a nice little pigpen. She even has a tree to sit under.

When we got to the lady's house to pick Mary and Gilbert up (with a friend's borrowed horse trailer - don't I have the best friends in the world?) Mary loaded right up with a bucket of grain, but Gilbert would have nothing to do with it. We tried to keep Mary occupied in the trailer with grain while we rounded Gilbert up, but he just kept getting more and more frantic. Eventually Mary escaped the trailer, and I used a trick I read on the net - put a bucket over her head, and as she tries to back out of it, steer her rear where you want it to go. That got her back in the trailer and we closed the ramp, but then how could we get Gilbert in?

So we tried wrangling Gilbert for a bit longer, but finally he disappeared into the brush and nobody could find him, even when the lady sent her herding dog in to look for him, so we had to leave him there. She said she had someone who had wanted just one of the pigs, so she might call the guy back, or she might just keep the little guy. Either way, we had Mary loaded up and ready to go. She stood up and peeked over the back door of the trailer as we finished loading up.

So we headed for the long drive home (she was on a farm in Camas, which is a neighboring town), and she did fine, but at a stoplight I felt the van moving from her walking around in the trailer, then in the rear view I could see her standing up and peeking over the door at the cars behind us! I was a bit nervous she might jump out - I don't know if she could jump that high. The trailer was the same one we used to move our llamas in, but they were always tied. Eventually she got down and rode fine the rest of the way home.

At home we backed the trailer up to the pasture and opened the gate and she stood there looking at her new home, then carefully came down the ramp and trotted out into the grass. She just kept going straight until she got to the fence at the far end, then she followed the fenceline around. We took the trailer back and when we got home it was almost dark. She was hanging out by the gate. I let the dogs out, and they saw her in the pasture and went absolutely bonkers! Jack was baying, and had all his hair up. The other two were barking like mad and racing up and down the fenceline. Poor Mary heard the commotion and ran for the hills! She ran all the way down to the far corner of the pasture by the road!

I got the dogs back in and waited a bit, until it was just about dark, and went out to check on her with an apple. I found her in the pasture by the chicken run, and she grunted when she saw me and walked towards me. I offered her an apple piece and she took it. Then another. Then she walked calmly with me towards the pen. I sat down on the steps (a leftover toy for our goats to climb on) and she walked up to the pig pen, looked inside, and went in to check it out. I fed her and gave her the rest of the apple and closed her in, and she seemed perfectly happy. Good pig.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dirty Dog!

What is that I spy out in the swale?

Why, it's a rare North American Mud Dog!

So Happy! Now, how do I get her clean enough to let back inside?

Start with a rinse:

Luckily Mud Dogs enjoy this sort of thing!

Then a spin cycle in the trough:

Followed by drying off in the tall grass

And Tah-Dah - Mud Dog has magically transformed back to Navi - House Dog!

People are always asking how I keep them from getting dirty? I don't! :)


Monday, October 11, 2010

Mary & Gilbert

Well, my newest crazy scheme involves pigs - potbelly pigs to be exact. I saw an ad on CL for a couple free pigs, and I figured, I've been thinking about it for a while, and there's no time like the present, especially where FREE is concerned!

This is Mary, who is about 150#

This is Gilbert, who is probably under 100#

We visited them this afternoon at their current home. 

They seemed quite friendly, and didn't mind us in their pen, even while they were eating. 
They were actually kind of cute getting all excited about their dinner!

 My plan is to build a 'pig tractor' which is a portable pen which you pull around the pasture, moving it daily to put them on fresh grass, or leave it in place a few days if you want them to turn over and fertilize the ground.
I want them to turn over our new garden area and help clean up other areas around the property that could use some help. They will also be happy to munch up any extra fresh veg scraps.

As soon as I get a place set up for them here I will go borrow a friend's trailer and bring them home.

That time of year

When the praying mantises show up. 

I think they are so cool! It's the only bug that can turn it's head and look at you!

The dogs were out playing in the yard, digging holes and having fun.

I love to see them like this because they have so much fun running and barking and digging. That's the sort of life every dog should have!

Mr Smudgy-face

Little Miss Dirty-Paws

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Irish Stew and No-knead Dinner Rolls

I hit two home runs for dinner tonight! Irish Stew and No-Knead Dinner Rolls :) The Irish Stew was a very simple crockpot recipe in my old Betty Crocker cookbook. I bought two pounds of local lamb stew meat last week, and I browned it (I used a little bacon fat to get it going, but after that it rendered quite a bit of fat out of the lamb). I browned it in the skillet, because my only dutch oven is a campfire oven, so it has legs, which makes it difficult to use on the stovetop. As I finished browing each batch I moved them to the dutch oven. While the next batch browned I chopped onions, carrots and potatoes and layered those on top of the meat. Repeat for three batches. Sprinkle some of my freshly dried thyme on top, deglaze the browning skillet with canned beef broth and pour all those lovely browned bits into the dutch oven, lid on, and parked it in a 300 degree oven for two hours. Then we turned it down to warm and left it for another three hours. At the very end I made a quick roux on the stovetop and stirred it in to thicken it up. Dave said it was a winner. The meat was just falling apart, and the veg was still in big chunks, but quite soft. Delicious!

The No-Knead Dinner Rolls was a recipe a friend recommended. It took about an hour and a half of rising time, but it was worth it. Delicious, fluffy rolls, a perfect companion to sop up the Irish Stew from the bottom of the bowl.


My house - another view

This view from a different maps site shows a better angle for viewing the back yard/pasture area.

The blue lines are the property lines. The red outline on the left is the 'front field', and the bare square of dirt in that field is where I had a friend plow it with their tractor to try and have a garden, which didn't work out because the ground was soft and rocky, the plants didn't grow well, the weeds invaded, and I ended up abandoning that plan. However, I still think this area might make a nice winter pasture for a few small animals, like some goats or sheep. This picture was taken several years ago, and the trees in the front field are much bigger now.

The red outline on the right is what we call the backyard, or the back field. It's a nice little pasture, and the goats were quite happy there for the winter a couple years ago, though it was hard to get food to them without having to tramp downhill through the slippery mud. The shed on the top right of that area is the hay shed, which is the backside of the chicken coop, and it was a nice shelter for the goats that one winter.

When I look at it like this it sure looks like a lot of space!


Thursday, October 07, 2010

My House!

Google has updated the satellite view of our house. For a long time it was frozen in time with the shop half-finished.

Now it is complete, and the little pasture shelter we built a couple years ago is visible. So is a chicken tractor in the side yard, and my yellow wheelbarrow just outside the back fence. My yellow mustang project car is in the driveway, though surprisingly enough the two 'regular' cars are not. The doors are open on the chicken house at the top of the picture. It must have been a hot day! Mid-summer, I'd guess, from the yellow grass in the yard and pasture.

As you can see, our property is mostly pasture. If only I could figure out how to make it earn it's keep. I love my little wanna-be farm!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Kitty door

The door to the back bedroom has a kitty door cut into the bottom of it, and sometimes while we're back there working Barclay likes to lay there with his head through the kitty door watching us.

Sometime Navi likes to get in on the act!

Good thing Barclay is so patient!