Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Remember Me?

Hard to believe that these are the cute little ducks hatched less than two months ago. Fully feathered but no drake feathers to let me know which may be boys. I suspect the one at the top of this picture is a boy. He is the biggest.  These not so little ducks are so friendly that I have to be extremely careful to not step on them. They are constantly under foot looking for a hand out. They follow me every where and love to walk down to the pond with me but rarely go by themselves. Guess they are still just babies even though they look grown up. They pretty much just hang out with the chickens. I can't tell which one is the one that almost didn't make it. They are all very healthy duckys. Good job silky moma!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Recipes and Pictures...As promised

So today was just one of those days when nothing gets done on your list because you are too busy doing other stuff that isn't on the list. I found a good deal on local asparagus yesterday and bought a few pounds. I love pickled asparagus in the middle of winter. I use it on salads, or in relish trays, and (ahem!) Bloody Mary's. You know the kind that are loaded with horseradish and Tabasco? A definite staple in the dead of winter. So today I pickled and canned the stuff using a recipe I got for pickled beans from Andree'. She made the best dilly beans ever, loaded with garlic, dill, and red pepper. I just use the same recipe for the asparagus but with dried dill and dill seed. Worked great last year. I also discovered that I had enough rhubarb ready in the garden so I made a rhubarb pie. This link will take you to the post with that recipe. 
If you are interested in the pickle recipe just send me a request. I am glad to share. In the mean time here is the promised recipe for the bread that I will be using to teach a class in a series of sustainability classes next week.
Light Oat Bread
1¼ cup warm water
1½ tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. Brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter melted and cooled
1 tsp. salt (preferably not iodized)
½ cup rolled oats
3 cups all-purpose flour pre-measured in separate container.

Place water in a pre-warmed mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on water and let set about 2 minutes. Add sugar and let sit an additional 2 minutes. Add cooled, melted butter, salt, and oats. Let sit another minute. Give a quick stir or start your mixer if using one using a dough hook. Begin adding your pre-measured flour one cup at a time. Mix until all flour is incorporated.
By Hand: Turn out onto a floured board and kneaded until smooth and elastic adding more flour 1 tablespoon at a time if needed. When dough is at right consistency, let rest while you wash, dry, and grease the bowl. Place ball of dough upside down in bowl and turn to coat all sides with grease.
By mixer: Add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until dough pulls cleanly away from bottom and sides of bowl. Prepare a pottery type bowl by warming with hot water. Dump out water, dry, and grease bowl. Place ball of dough upside down in bowl and turn to coat all sides with grease.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap or clean dry dish towel and place in warm spot to rise until double in size. (Approx. 2 hours)
Grease a standard loaf pan. Gently press dough with fingers. Remove from bowl and reshape into loaf or rolls. Cover and let rise once more. (About 1 hour) Dough should roundly fill pan but not deflate when lightly pressed with finger.  
At this point you can sprinkle a few oats on top or brush with an egg wash (for a shiny finish) and sprinkle with a few oats.
Egg wash: Lightly beat one egg with a spoonful of water. Lightly brush the top of the bread dough with the wash using a pastry brush.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.  About 30-35 minutes.
Tip: This recipe can be doubled for two loaves!
Tip: Shape rolls, let rise about a hour and bake 20 min. 

Happy baking!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Ultimate Prepping Tool

The man surprised me with this. He has surprised me with little gifts before. Flowers, candy, the usual stuff. I was never that excited about flowers that were going to die and candy that would make me fat but I always appreciated them. I think he has finally figured out that I get excited about weird stuff like this. YA! buy me a new bird or a pressure cooker, or a great book or take me for a ride on the Harley. THAT I can relate to. Now I know his idea of the ultimate prepping tool is a motor home but that is a lot more money than a cooker and now that the kids are older we don't use that as often. So we sold ours. We will probably buy another smaller one for our selves since we like to go and we will be able to use it on what ever property we end up with after selling this one. But that will be after the girls leave for college.

I was going to can chicken soup this weekend but the directions are so confusing that I think I will look for a cook book that is a little more helpful than the manual that came with it. Braeburn apples are on deep discount at the store this week and my kids will only eat home made chunky apple sauce so I will probably start with that. Maybe even make some pie filling. What I really wanted it for was to can salmon. I have salmon in the freezer that we haven't eaten and I would like to get it out of there. It is an All American pressure cooker/canner (made and manufactured in the US) so anyone with any tips, please leave me a comment.

Speaking of new birds here is an update on the geese. The second batch of eggs were also not fertile. As I suspected both the duck boy and the goose boys are done for the year. Although the duck will occasionally perform. So both my girl geese are still trying to sit on the nest. I have done everything I can think of to discourage them but as soon as I open their gate at night they go right back and they spend the day walking around the fence line trying to figure out how to get back in to the non-existent eggs. Being the chump I am I felt sorry for them so the other day after the man had gone to work I crept down to the feed store knowing they were getting a new shipment of ducks that morning. I thought I would get some Black Cayugas because I really loved the one I had years ago. The hatchery had only sent one in their order and she was tiny. My intent was to put them under the geese but she was so small I was afraid she would get hurt or worse. So I got two Rouen because they were bigger and two more Khaki Campbell (because they are exceptional egg layers) and took them home. I tried putting them under the girls. The ladies were willing but those little ducks kept popping out from under and would have none of it. I tried until the little bugs got cold and finally decided I was going to have to raise them.

Rouen are stripped 
click to enlarge
So meet Lola and the crew. She is absolutely ADORABLE! The rest are just cute. For those who don't know what a Rouen is it is a mallard derivative and looks a lot like a mallard. I don't know what I am going to do with them yet but will probably sell them or just find them good homes since they will be pets.
I will be teaching a class at the end of the month for an organization that is putting together classes on old fashion life skills for people that want to be more self sufficient so I am teaching "Basic bread and cheese making." Because I have been asked for another recipe from a reader I will include the recipe in my next blog.  Here is the picture.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter.....Eggs and Nesting Goose Update.

I finally got access to the goose nest and was able to candle those eggs. No babies inside. So I took the eggs into the house. This didn't set well with the geese. The girls went out yelling at the boys and they all walked around for awhile being very noisy talking about it. The girls eventually went back in looking for their eggs. Although I had pulled all the nesting material out of  the dog crate they were using (there were two) one of them went back inside, sat down and started pulling all the stuff back in. After sitting on the empty nest for a day  I decided I better go empty the nesting material out of the dog crate they were using and remove it. That didn't stop them. It just upset them. This morning and for the last two days they have been sitting in the nesting material together out in the open where the chickens can see them. They are determined.......and I feel bad for them. Although I haven't seen the ducks doing the tango lately I went ahead and placed two fresh duck eggs in front of the geese which they promptly tucked under their downy breast. Guess I will candle them in a couple days.

In the mean time in the house I scrubbed the goose eggs using soap and a plastic kitchen scrubby. They were so stained that they wouldn't come clean so I used a little vinegar with the scrubby and that took it off. My plan was to blow out the eggs, rinse them and then dye them with natural dyes made from stuff in the kitchen. I was afraid they would be stinky so I took precautions to empty the eggs into a zip lock back for disposal. To my surprise they weren't. So here is how I did it.
Cleaned and scrubbed eggs

Using a straw colored with ink I marked
a circle on both ends of the egg.

Using a dremmel I gently
drilled a hole in both ends the
same size as the straw. 

I used a bamboo skewer to break up
the yolk inside then using the straw
I blew out the insides into the bag.

Once the eggs were empty, rinsed and dried I started to color them. My favorite was the boiled onion skins which made a lovely orange. I also used curry and mustard mixed with water for yellow (I didn't have any turmeric but mustard has that in it) sweet cherry juice for a purple/blue, and beet juice for a pink. All mixed with water and a little white vinegar.

This morning my youngest (16)  informed me that she was expecting an Easter basket. I thought my girls were past that. Hmmmmm....but apparently not. She got down the Easter decorations and pulled out these eggs made some years ago when I lived on Lummi Island. They are made with tissue paper and a mixture of Elmer's glue and water. Kind of like paper mache' only on real eggs that were blown out.

Easy and fun project for the kids

I will keep you posted on the geese and their quest for a family. In the mean time have a great Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Another Example of "It Takes A Village"

So call me crazy. Call me anthropomorphic. Maybe I am just reading too much into this but....

Bella, one of the female Sebastapol geese decided to set on eggs. Up to this point I have been collecting the eggs as they were laid because I read that if you got goslings the first year just count yourself as lucky since the boys are usually not up to the job. It just doesn't usually happen. It's not that they don't try. They're just not fertile yet which is probably true because I had two under a broody hen for 5 days and nothing was happening with them.  But Bella had two eggs and I had one that had not been refrigerated yet so I put that one in the nest too.

The two big ganders are standing guard just outside the gate when it's open and inside the run when they are locked up. Nothing too unusual about that other than the fact that they are working together to "kill" anything that comes near. The weird thing is that the other female, Mimi, seems to be helping Bella set on the eggs. She gets in the nest and sits then Bella gets off to go eat and walk around a bit. Sometimes for up to an hour. Then she goes back and Mimi gets off the nest and hangs with the boys or takes a bath in the pond.

This evening I went out to put the birds away for the night and feed them their usual rations. Normally they hog down the whole thing in 15 minutes. I tried to get Bella to come out and eat too but she would have non of that nonsense. About an hour later I happened to go out there and there was still food in the dishes. This alarmed me because to have food left usually means someone doesn't feel well. Then I looked in the nest. Mimi was on the nest again and Bella was eating while the boys watched. It was as if they saved it for her. Now, I know that geese have strong family ties and wild ones will cooperate when migrating by switching off flying the lead. A couple of geese will even leave a migrating flock to keep a sick or exhausted goose company until it either recovers or dies before migrating on and catching up with the pack. But this is really weird. Like I said call me crazy but this has been going on for two days so far. I don't think the eggs are viable and I would like to get in there to candle them but I will have to get past at least one of them (mom) to do that and although I have no doubt that I could but I would hate to disturb her and have her desert the nest if she had any good eggs. Guess I will just see if I get up the nerve. It would also help if it would quit raining so I didn't have to kneel in the mud!

(two days later)....
Yesterday Bella didn't leave the nest all day so when it was time to feed the geese I moved the feed dishes and water over to within about 5 feet of the nest to try and get her to come out and eat. The others ate but she stayed on the nest. She did stand up to check her eggs giving me the opportunity to see what was in there. She has 6 or 7 eggs that I can see!

I went back in to the house to continue making dinner and about 10 minutes later noticed that Bella was walking around the pen. So I went out to see where Mimi was and as I suspected she was on the nest. Ten minutes or so later Bella went back to the nest and Mimi was out with the boys again. I swear they are all doing the tag team parenting thing. This morning I noticed Mimi has made herself a sitting area just outside the nest box and is sitting with Bella. Gotta kinda wonder if she has eggs under there. I'll keep ya posted. Who knows maybe we will end up with baby Sebastapols!

Update on the baby ducks. They are growing so fast. Mother hen still fusses with them and bosses them around but they are at least as big as she is now. She finally gave up trying to get them to perch and she just perches next to the box where they spend the night. Because it is still pretty cold here I have been bringing the ducklings into the house for swimming lessons. (Alright, someone has to do it) They seem to take to it like a duck to water. Oh ya.....they are ducks. I gave my oldest the job of making sure they were good and dry before taking them back out to the coop.
Lucy was very interested in the bathing ducks