Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Small Miracles

Picture taken two days ago
Yesterday my daughter found one of our ducks laying near the gate to their pen not moving. I had just come in from working out in the yard and was in the kitchen making dinner when I looked up to see her picking up a limp almost lifeless duck and walking towards the house. I rushed out to see what had happened. Our duck had classic signs of poisoning. Paralysis of the wings and legs, unable to hold its head up, unable to swallow, and shallow breathing. We immediately took her into the chicken coup to the table and I had my daughter go mix up a Tablespoon of Epsom salts in 2 cups of water and grab the eye dropper. For the next two hours my daughter, her friend, and I took turns sitting with little miss duck and forcing the water in even though it appeared she couldn't swallow it. Most of it just went out the side of her mouth and down the front. We watched helplessly as she twisted her head back onto her back and had convulsion. Apparently some of the water was getting in because she started pooping everything out. Not a pleasant thing but necessary. That was the purpose of the Epsom salts. But it didn't seem to be helping and if I had been able to put her to sleep quietly I would have. I couldn't figure out what she could have got into. None of the others were sick. I was afraid she had wandered over to the neighbors fence where the neighbor is carefully growing a row of alder trees (considered a weed here) complete with chemical fertilizer and slug killer. I don't use anything in my yard that an animal, wild or tame, can't eat. Since we live near a wetlands and on an island, I also don't want to be the cause of chemical run off that pollutes the water. In all fairness I can't point a finger at the neighbor. There are other things in the environment that can make a duck sick and I have no proof the duck was anywhere near those trees. However there is now a makeshift fence up to keep my ladies from wandering over behind the neighbors fence.

At 9:00 I decided to put her in a basket and bring her into the house. I sat her on the coffee table where I could watch her. I was sure she couldn't live another half hour. Her breathing was down to about 4 times a minute and was raspy and sounded like she was drowning. By this time she was laying flat and couldn't move at all. It was just a matter of waiting for the end now. When bedtime came and she was still barely living I put the basket in the small bathroom off of the laundry room and went to bed knowing I would be burying her in the morning. The cat got me up at 2am to let her out so of course I went to see if the duck was gone yet. I turned on the light to look and saw her just laying in her bed flat. Looking very dead. But when I reached in to touch her to see if she was breathing she jumped, feebly flapped her wings and stood up swaying like a drunk! I couldn't believe it. Maybe it was just a startle reflex the last bit of energy before the end. I took the basket back into the kitchen to see if I could get her to drink out of a little bowl but no luck. Still couldn't swallow. She did poop the biggest stinkiest poop ever though so after adjusting her bedding so she didn't have to lay in it (undignified for a dying anything) I returned her to the bathroom and went to bed.

This morning my daughter got up at 6:30 for school and came down stairs to find miss duck standing in the living room with one of the cats staring daggers at her. She just waddled slowly over to her and my daughter was yelling at me that the duck was walking. She was also quietly quacking by the time I got my rob on and out the bedroom door. First thing I asked as I quickly scooped her back into the basket was "is there any poop on the floor?" Apparently all that nasty stuff was gone cuz there wasn't a mess anywhere thank god. We tried fresh water again and she drank like gangbusters. Then it looked like she was looking for food so I went out to the coup and got some poultry food, moistened it with a little water and she ate that dipping each bite into the water dish. I can't believe she is up and about. I will take her outside later to see how she does with the others but right now she is resting in her basket with a towel over it to keep her in. She is our miracle duck for sure. My daughter calls her her birthday duck.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial weekend! Yay!

Memorial weekend. The Man has three days off in a row and we are taking one of those days to go for a ride on the Harley. I spent most of Saturday outside in the garden mostly building up the potato towers. (see march 8th blog, Fifteen days and counting) I did most of them with the straw and then had an idea. Why couldn't you line the towers with brown paper bags from the grocery store? They still hold in the soil and they go in faster and leave more room for growing in the towers and they compost. After having to buy a bale of straw at $9 it is also a lot cheaper. So I did two with bags as an experiment. I guess the down side of that is the bags wont add as much compost at the end of the season. Decomposing straw really adds a lot to soil but at $9 a bale I think I would rather spend my money on compost.

Earlier I had started peas in the house in toilet paper and paper towel tubes cut into 2 inch sections and placed in a cake pan or flat plastic container. I added soil and one pea per tube and kept them watered with the intention of planting them in the garden with the tubes. One container had a paper liner in the bottom. Not a good idea. The pea plants like to attach themselves to the paper on the bottom and it is hard to pull them off. The other container had no paper liner on the bottom and the roots just slid right off and I was able to plant them with a minimum of disturbance. I also grew them under a grow light and noticed that after awhile the paper tubes gave off a moldy odor. (They went out on the porch after that). But at least I have a row of peas that will hopefully produce something. The rest I planted in the garden in the normal way even though it was late.

My original 6 chicks that were raised by my Buff Orpington are now teen agers. They are still trying to find their place in the flock. The four Americana's will lay pretty green/blue eggs and make a lovely dozen  for my customers. The other two are Dominique's a breed on the endangered list. The one with the scissor beak will probably not be much of a layer but is such a pet now that she thinks she can fly up on my shoulder any time she wants. She is all personality.

The two silky mom's are busy raising their brood together. They definitely know which chicks are who's but seem to have reached an agreement to not fight with each other and that makes my job easier since I only have one chicken tractor to put them both in during the day to keep them safe from the other birds.

With all these pictures this post wouldn't be complete without a picture of the geese.

This next week promises to be very busy with a 16th birthday coming up. Because the man and the oldest girl have unusual work and school schedules I am having to do different birthday things on different days. One day will be a family dinner at home with the requested home made mac and cheese and a chocolate cheese cake for the birthday cake. Then the hard stuff will be done on two other days. I will let you know how that turns out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What the H$&#? My newest Rant.

A couple months ago I went shopping at my local Costco. Like most of us I like buying the best quality stuff at the least amount of money in large sizes and since I preserve food that includes vinegar. Now maybe most of you think "vinegar, not a big deal" and maybe it isn't but I use vinegar in a lot of different food not just pickles. The other day I hauled out the jug of Heinz apple cider vinegar to make coleslaw while The Man was sitting there watching me. He pointed out that just under the words "Apple Cider" and just above the word "Vinegar" the label said (in small lettering) flavored distilled. I couldn't believe it. Why would a trusted brand make an apple cider vinegar that was artificially flavored? The ingredients say it is "distilled vinegar from grain, natural flavor with caramel color,diluted with water" to get the 5% acidity. I immediately called my Bro to rage about this new deception by big food industry and to check what his smaller bottle of vinegar contained.

His said from apples. So did the vinegar at his local store. So why this? When we both looked it up the only conclusion we came up with was they are trying to make a cheaper product for mass market stores. The label didn't actually say what grain it is made of but the web site claims their products are made of corn or apples. I assume it is corn. Probably GMO corn since you virtually can't find anything but GMO corn on the market and corn is probably cheaper than apples. The web site claims that apple cider vinegar and wine vinegar are the only vinegars that are gluten free since they are made from apples and grapes respectively and only vinegar such as malt vinegar is not gluten free because they are made of grain so that wasn't a reason. I consider this a dirty trick since I try to avoid corn as much as possible. In this day and age thats like trying to avoid breathing. Go figure. So I guess what I actually bought was colored white vinegar. Hmmmm. So what is the lesson here?

1. Don't trust any company and throughly read each label! Great. That should make a two hour shopping trip turn into four.

2. Make sure what you are buying at your big box stores is what you think it is and if not COMPLAIN! Chances are they don't know it either.

I quit buying Crest toothpaste at Costco in the large 4 pack because there was so much water in it that it would run out of the tube if the cap was off. I thought I was imagining it but it happened with more than one purchase of toothpaste. So maybe there is a pattern developing here. I've always wondered how Costco could sell something so much cheaper and always chocked it up to selling mass quantities.

I'm all for being self sufficient and making a lot of our own food. However I think of cider vinegar as a simple ingredient that is to be used to make other things not something that is made up of other things. Why can't I trust a company to produce a simple ingredient without trying to make it a concoction of several other things. I have a feeling when the effects of peak oil become more noticeable  we may all be making a lot more of our own "stuff". Don't know what peak oil is. You will before long and it will be up close and uncomfortable. If you want a quick, not too in depth explanation go here and watch this video from Mother Earth News. (The link is near the end of the article.) High Gas Prices got you down? (Peak Oil) The video will be quicker than another rant from me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Books, Obnoxious Animals and Noxious Weeds! (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)

 Ever had a weed you hated? This is one of mine. Thistles come in two forms here and you have to be able to identify the one you are fighting with. A Canadian thistle grows in worn out soil and spreads by underground runner roots. Just for good measure it also will bloom and form thousands of seeds from purple flowers that blow away in the wind to sprout somewhere else on your property. I truly hate this plant. I have battled it for years. I just found an article on getting rid of this obnoxious weed and it makes perfect sense. Pulling the damn thing sure doesn't work. The one thing I know is you have to cut it down before it even looks like it is going to bloom because even though it is cut the flowers will still bloom and make thousands of seeds after cutting and laying on the ground. So if you have this thing check out this link.
http://www.truehealth.org/acanthis.html The picture above is of what we call a bull thistle or spear thistle. It is fairly easy in comparison to eradicate. But you have to get all of the long tap root which can be nearly impossible. Years ago I went with a friend to a garlic farm in Oregon. One of the things we did while we were there was thistle hunting. I have since used this technique to get rid of these "prickers" (my youngest calls them that when she accidentally steps on them with bare feet.) You will need salt, a cutting or weeding tool, and gloves of course. But beware! The stickers still go through the gloves so handle with care. Simply slice off the thistle at ground level then put a pinch of salt on the exposed root. Works like a charm for me. And I have had some in my front yard that are about 2 feet in diameter.  You will have to keep weeding other plants out as they come up from seeds but eventually you will see a difference and you don't have to rely on poisons which don't work on thistles anyway and can make your animals sick if ingested.
I love curling up with a new book. Reading in the winter time is the one thing I really look forward to and sometimes I have to be prodded out of my comfort zone by friends to read something I don't normally read but I have seldom been disappointed with their suggestions. My brother is a writer and until recently I had not been asked to read anything he had written. Perhaps he didn't want to deal with my criticisms. Ya I can be that way. However I was asked to read (and proof) a copy of one of his stories and guess what? I liked it! So much so that I read another and liked it too. I suggested that instead of dealing with agents that only want to handle a proven writer (read easy money) that maybe he should try putting one up on Kindle. After all, those agents are going to be unemployed soon due to downloadable e-books and not so high and mighty. (Ya, ya I like having a real book in my hands too but I also didn't want a cell phone and now look at me.) So he did. It took some time to figure out how to do it and the learning curve was steep but low and behold he is selling books! He writes mysteries mostly and is very good at painting word pictures. To view his stuff and reviews follow this link. Don't have a Kindle reader? Did you know you can download to your computer and read anything you can get as an e-book? Here is a link to his stuff. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_8?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=schankel&sprefix=schankel Oh and by the way. I just set up the hammock in the backyard and now when I have an hour or so I can lay in the hammock and read and still be around my animals and in the fresh air. So take an hour or two for yourself. You deserve it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Busy days

I seem to have gotten very busy since my last post. Trying to get the garden in, raising geese and ducks, raising new chicks, dealing with broody hens, a graduating senior, two birthdays, and the work here is coming fast and furious. I'm working on the garden between rain and wind storms and temperatures that are 10 degrees below normal. The potatoes are up and need to be mounded. I am still tilling and re-tilling and pulling out the stupid grass that keeps re-sprouting.  I have some lettuce in and some peas. I am also bushwhacking nettles, and what I believe are cow slips, (a big leafy wet plant) in my spare time. I simply refuse to let them take over the area we cleared last summer.

One of the new chicks developed a scissor beak as it grew and I know a "real" farmer would have given it a good whack and been done with it. However this little girl is as sweet as can be and I am a sucker for a Charlie Brown anything. Because I am concerned that she isn't able to get enough to eat I have been making her a wet mash from chick starter and water three times a day. That seems to be working and now when I come out of the house she comes running across the yard to look up at me and ask "where's the food?" She follows me, hopping up on the table and then on me while I am making her mash. She is fearless. Everyone that sees this comical little bird thinks she is cute.

In the mean time I have 4 other birds that have decided to go broody. Two silkies (of course) a bantam light Brahma and a black astrolorpe. I think I have cured the bantam and I am working on the black one. However both Silkies want desperately to be moms. So I bought 4 more chicks. Two for each hen. The black Silkie is a natural mother and didn't mind being moved from her original nest to a dog carrier on the table and instantly tucked each Buff Orpington chick under her. The white Silkie was a little more difficult. She wasn't about to give up the original nest and had a fit so I moved her to a carrier after dark and let her settle in over night before adding the chicks. She is now a good mother of two silver laced Wyandots. The chicks are giving her a hard time since they want to explore their nest and she wants them under her wing. I don't think I will ever brood chicks under a lamp again. Giving that job to the hens is great.

Now the man thinks I'm nuts and I have too many animals. Isn't he the one that was saying I needed more layers to keep up with the demand for my eggs? Since I still don't have housing for my geese I guess I better not push my luck.

The geese and ducks are now 9 weeks old and fully feathered so they are staying outside at night in a predator resistant enclosure. That makes my job a little easier because I don't have to clean up the coup after them every morning. The fenced pasture is up and usable for now and handy to have during the day when they need to be out but I am anxious to get it finished with a real gate and nest houses built. I love my geese and one in particular seems to like me. My youngest named him Sebastian. He likes to be on my lap and gives be goose hugs around my neck. Ok. So I am nuts.

Our oldest graduates from high school so we have announcements to get out, pictures to pick up, parties to plan and registration for college. She is in running start this year which means she did her high school senior year and college freshman year at the same time so she will be going into college as a sophomore next fall studying marine biology. Right now she is in crunch mode to get everything done.

Our youngest has her sweet 16 coming up first week of June. That is a special birthday so I am trying to decide what to do about it. We have a tradition of giving our girls a real ring on their 16th so I have to go shopping. I hate to shop.

The man also has a birthday. He wants heated riding gear for the bike. That means a trip to Olympia about two hours south of here (after the ferry) to visit the company that makes it. We will be taking the car for that. I am not riding that far on his Harley in what will surely be rain.

How about a recipe? This dessert starts out as one batter and separates during baking into fluffy cake hiding a creamy layer of lemon pudding. Try it!

Lemon Pudding Cake

1 Cup granulated sugar divided (3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1/2 Cup lemon juice
2 Tbls. butter, melted
2 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites (room temperature)
Confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Coat eight 4-6 ounce oven proof ramekins or custard cups with cooking spray. Place in a baking dish and heat a kettle of water for a water bath.

Whisk 3/4 cup sugar, flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk, lemon juice and zest, butter and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth.

In a clean glass bowl beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Fold the egg whites into the batter (it will be thinner than other cake batter and it's okay if a little lumpy). Evenly divide among the prepared ramekins.
Place the roasting pan of ramekins in the oven and carefully pour in enough boiling water to come almost halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the pudding cakes until golden brown and the cakes have pulled away slightly from the sides of the ramekins, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.