What Eating Out Does To Us

It makes us really sick, well kinda sick. You know, when you feel real yucky and just want to sit on the couch and say, “Uugghh. I don’t feel good.” Over the past five or six years we have noticed a growing trend in our stomachs, or maybe a growing trend in the prepared food supply. There are very few places we will eat out anymore. Not that many establishments don’t serve good tasting food, it’s just that there is something about the food that doesn’t set well with our digestive systems. Something to ponder.

We noticed it first with fast food burger places, which we really like, we always have. Over time, it got to where we just couldn’t stop there anymore without feeling bad for the rest of the day. That narrowed down the places we eat quite a bit. We have never been the kind that go to expensive restaurants just to say we did, and we seldom ate out anyway. We would rather eat at home or just grab something to tide us over until we get home. Every so often we would get something to eat just because we didn’t feel like cooking, but not often. Some of this routine came from living in remote, bush Alaska where there were no places to eat at all. You fed yourself or didn’t eat. Even if there were days we didn’t feel like cooking, too bad. Fix it yourself or don’t eat. That’s when we discovered Banquet fried chicken. We could still have it flown in from the store 25 miles away. It was already frozen so it didn’t matter that it was 30 degrees below zero outside. Otherwise we would just cook extra whatever – pizza, lasagna, green bean casserole – and freeze the extras in meal size portions.

What we have discovered, or our theory on it anyway, is that the additives like MSG on top of the GMO quality of most prepared foods, just don’t set well with us anymore. We think one of the reasons for this is that we have very consciously tried to eliminate these items from our own food preparations. I guess we have been successful to the point that when we do consume some of these products, it upsets our 

systems. That is a good thing and a bag thing. Good that we have been able to eliminate so many things from our diets, bad that when we do need to eat somewhere else, it makes us sick. All the more reason to eat at home.

From left to right: Winter squash pie with frozen Cushaw from last summer; fresh ground wheat bread; wild cherries picked yesterday, kefir in the making; eggs for the dog; mozzarella thawing out; and a lunch of fresh picked squash, onions, carrots and potatoes. Now that the garden is producing pretty well, we tend to have meals like this. For breakfast we had scrambled eggs, a glass of goat milk with peaches and pears we canned last summer. 

We’ve gotten to the point where we seldom go to a grocery store, and that’s really nice. We have plenty to eat here in season, and plenty canned on the shelf for out of season. I guess it just surprises me at the difference homegrown food can make in your overall health and well-being. We long dreamed of being able to produce our own food, and are now finally able to reap the benefits of that dream. One of the unexpected side effects of dreams come true, is finding out that the food we used to eat all of the time, now makes us sick. Interesting. Very interesting.

Until next time – Fern

Comments From Two Respected Individuals

Hello, Frank here.

Folks, I read an article last night on World Net Daily, written by Patrice Lewis. Most of you probably already read Patrice over at Rural Revolution, and as you know, she writes a weekly article for WND.

 I found this particular issue to be very thought provoking. It starts off by talking about a recent comment from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. I encourage you to read the article by Patrice Lewis. Also read the comments by Governor Jindal that he made during the annual conference hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition. 

Patrice Lewis is a respected writer. Governor Bobby Jindal is an elected head of state. We need to listen to what they’re saying because, in my humble opinion, we’re going to cross the threshold of no return, if we haven’t already. No return means you can’t go back. We’ve talked at length before. Our government is taking away our rights. But remember, rights do not come from government. Rights come from God.

There are many folks around that firmly and truly believe that we have crossed the threshold of no return. So, what does that mean to you and I? Grocery stores are still full. Electricity and TV still work. Have you noticed higher prices lately? Even higher prices for

electricity. I am one of those that believes that we have crossed that threshold a few years back. Now, I am not blaming our current administration for all of our problems. But if you haven’t noticed, every week or so there is a new scandal that comes out of our nation’s capital city. Some believe that these scandals are merely a distraction from what is coming over the horizon. Don’t be distracted. Keep your head clear. And pay attention. Get your finances in order. Get your house in order. Tie up those loose ends. Get right with your Creator. And prepare for the unthinkable.

It would appear that we are in for a very bumpy road. When? Who knows. But everyday it is getting closer. Please read the two articles mentioned above. The one by Patrice Lewis and the comments by Louisiana Governor Jindal. It’s time to seriously pay attention people. 

We’ll talk more later. Frank

Pickling Spices & the Nutrition of Yellow Squash

We like yellow, crook neck squash and grow it every summer. This year, even though I have pulled up four plants due to squash vine borers, we have an over abundance of squash. That’s a good thing, until people close their doors and turn off their lights when they see you coming with yet another bag of squash to give away.

We have canned 31 pints of squash in water, along with 28 pints of squash relish. That will be more than enough for us until next summer. You can find our canning techniques for squash here and the recipe for the squash relish here. There are three differences in making squash relish this year. One, is that I used some of the peppers I dehydrated last summer, instead of fresh. I rehydrated them, then ran them through the grater with the squash and onions. Two, we put the relish in a water bath canner for 15 minutes, like we do other pickled items, which we did not do last year.

The other small difference is that I mixed up my own pickling spices. Not a very significant thing, but I got a big kick out of it. Simple, huh? Last year I found a recipe online, then ordered the individual spices in bulk from Monterey Bay Spice Company. Now, I can mix my own according to our tastes. Some of these items I will be able to grow and use my own, but things like cinnamon, cloves and allspice, I will not. Here is the recipe.

Pickling Spices
4 cinnamon sticks, well crumbled
1 – 1″ piece dried gingerroot, well crumbled, or 1 tbsp. dried root pieces
2 tbsp. mustard seed

2 tsp. whole allspice berries
2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns
2 tsp. whole cloves
2 tsp. dill seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
8 bay leaves, crumbled medium
1 small dried hot pepper, chopped or crumbled fine, seeds and all
Isn’t it pretty? I think so.

The nutritional content of squash surprised me. I figured it would be higher in starches, carbohydrates and calories. Of course, the way it is prepared, such as fried, will impact the caloric content, but overall, squash is a very nutritious vegetable. Here is the rundown. In one cup of raw yellow summer or zucchini squash you will find:

  • Vitamins A, C, K
  • Folate
  • Choline
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
  • 2 g protein
  • 4 g carbohydrates with include 2 g from sugars
  • 20 calories

Most areas of the country can grow squash in some form or fashion. Unless you are overrun with squash bugs and vine borers, it can be quite prolific, as well, yielding many pounds of produce from one single plant. There are also many different kinds of winter squashes, that keep well without canning. We will be growing some Cushaw squash for our winter keepers and I will report on their nutritional value as well.

I am learning a lot from researching the nutritional values of the things we grow in the garden. It will help us to evaluate what we grow and determine what nutrients are missing and how we can include them. Let’s face it, if brussell sprouts will provide something that is missing from your food intake, but they make you gag, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Finding and growing food that will help sustain us in a healthy manner, is a great learning process. Remember, life is a journey. It is the journey we learn from, or not, the choice is ours.

Until next time – Fern

Milking Challenges, Horn Scurs & More Lore

Remember when I told you Copper has been a dream to train? And that I expected some challenges along the way? It’s true. Every doe I have trained to milk has come up with some behavior somewhere along the way that had to be corrected. Cooper has been no exception.

After I had been milking Copper for a while, she got use to having her leg moved back and out to make room for the milk bucket. There have been several times she kicked at flies and caught her hoof on the edge of the pail, but only once did she end up with her foot in milk. That’s a pretty good record for me and a new milker. The flies are really bad right now, but the does have figured out how to kick the flies and miss the bucket, usually. 

The problem Copper developed is a rather intense dislike of having the teat dip applied after I finished milking. The best way I have found to correct this problem is to hold the goat’s leg way up in the air. I doubt if this position is very comfortable, but it is not painful. It is very awkward, and doesn’t allow the goat to kick at all. The only thing they can do is kind of hop up and down on the remaining leg. It makes it very easy to apply the teat dip and totally eliminates any competition for cooperation. The first few times I did this it kind of scared Copper a little and probably confused her. It didn’t take her long to realize that she had no choice, but to cooperate. Now it is not a problem.

The other behavior she has developed is yelling at the top of her lungs whenever she sees us. Unfortunately, she has learned this behavior from Ivory. Now both of them are going through some adjustment periods of being taught not to yell. Regular, quiet goat talk is one thing, but bellowing is just not in our acceptable range of noise levels. We will see how we fare with this behavior. Ivory is already sold and will be leaving here the end of September. If Copper doesn’t calm back down then, like her mom One Stripe, she will also be finding a new home.

Bill, our new buck, is doing well. He is still low man on the totem pole with the older wethers, but he’s doing fine. The only problem he is having is his horn scurs. The folks we bought him from had taken him to the vet several times to have his horns worked on, but he still has some scurs growing out. One of this horn buds is growing scurs out of both sides of the base. We are hoping these are the kinds of scurs that he will eventually knock off, kind of like Copper. She will grow a small rounded horn bud looking thing about one to two inches long. Then one day, she will have a small bloody spot where she has knocked it off again. I am hoping Bill will do the same thing. We will see.

In preparation for Frank’s surgery, we tried letting the weaning kids back out into the herd after they had been separated for three weeks. Copper didn’t let her babies nurse, but Ivory did. So, back to the drawing board on that one. The first year we kept does and kids and had to wean them in separate pastures, we kept them separated for six weeks and that worked fine. Last year we kept them separated for four weeks and that worked, too. Three weeks just didn’t work. So, now we will keep them separated for about another three weeks and see how that goes. We were trying to get down to animals in two pastures, his and hers, instead of three, his, hers and kids.

The other goat thing we were wanting to accomplish is breeding Bill and One Stripe, but neither appears to be interested yet. At one point we thought One Stripe was going into heat, but nothing ever came of that. Since we are using three of our four pastures, and we only want One Stripe to breed, and not Copper or Ivory, we will put Bill and One Stripe in the fourth pasture during the day and return them to their usual pasture in the evening. This will only happen if all is well with Frank and we have the time to mess with them. So, our breeding schedule may be a little later than we originally planned, but that’s okay, too. That’s why they’re called plans, they are subject to change or the whim of the planner.

This is a laid back time of year with the goats, and that is nice. I am still milking twice a day. We keep the morning milk for us, and the evening milk goes to Pearl and the chickens. We will keep more of it when we start making cheese. For now, this is a nice easy routine. There is always more to be learned, tried, discarded, tried again and figured out. Sometime it’s at a convenient time, and sometimes it isn’t. That’s part of this thing called life. Isn’t it great?

Until next time – Fern

Fire Ants & Coffee Grounds

I have been doing an experiment for a while now. We have an over abundance of fire ants. In the past few years they have gotten worse and worse, although this year, there don’t seem to be quite as many. We used to have many ticks and chiggers, they were the big problem, but now there are few. Most people think the fire ants have eaten them to the point that there are few left.

The ants are a problem to man and beast alike. They will chew on anything that disturbs them and have made huge ant hills out in some of the pastures that are about two feet wide and a foot or more tall. We have come to realize that if someone were injured and unable to get off of the ground in the vacinity of these ants, it would be a very bad problem, maybe even lethal.

Goggle images

Another problem we have discovered is that the ants will ‘nurse’ and care for aphids. There were parts of the garden last summer that had bad infestations of aphids, while the rest was fine. It didn’t seem to fit the usual pattern of an aphid infestation. What I discovered is that ants use aphids as a food source. They don’t eat the aphids, they eat the ‘nectar’ or residue the aphids produce as they feed on the plants. The ants will over winter a colony of aphids down in their tunnels, caring for their eggs and keeping them alive until spring. Then the ants will find suitable plant life to sustain the aphid population and will transport them to the chosen location. As the aphid population thrives, the ants are fed. Rather ingenious, isn’t it? But at the same time, it increases the ant population in my garden. A couple of years ago, it got to the point that each time I went to pick the garden, I came in with a number of ant bites. It was unavoidable.

Now, back to coffee grounds. I ran across this article about ways to erradicate ants. Most of the information deals with ‘regular’ ants, not fire ants. Fire ants are extremely aggressive when protecting their homes. If you disturb a mound, they will swarm out by the hundreds, or thousands, and repeatedly sting the intruder. Each sting hurts and leaves a small red whelp. By the next day there is a raised area with pus in it that itches. 

Even though the article has several recommendations we could try, some of them are dangerous to pets or animals. The borax solution would probably work well, but would endanger our cats, so it is not an option. What caught my attention was the coffee grounds. Since we drink coffee, we have a ready supply of grounds. The article says, “Ants are extremely susceptible to caffeine. Leave coffee grounds (used works) where the ants are and they will carry it home and eat it. This method takes a few weeks to see.”

One of the first places I put the coffee grounds. The ants appear to be gone.

For the past few weeks, I have been putting our coffee grounds around a number of anthills. Some of them seems to be gone, others seem to have just moved their hills over a ways. But I am hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, this will help kill out a few colonies and make it a little safer, especially in the garden. And if it does work, maybe I won’t have as much competition from the aphids for my vegetables.
 

A new small ant hill on the left with coffee grounds, old inactive hill on the right.


This is one of those solutions that doesn’t require a lot of work or preparation. Just a container for keeping coffee grounds and a few minutes of time. Hope it works. We’ll keep you updated.

Until next time – Fern

The More or Less of Chickens

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everybody. I have some positive chicken news and some negative chicken news. But first, the general chicken news. Last time I posted I was having a cannibalism problem, the chickens, not me. My plan was to butcher all of the young male birds. Well, things don’t always work out the way you plan. I am currently having some health issues, and some days I get things done and some days I don’t. 

I didn’t get the young roosters butchered and put in the freezer. I was never able to get the cannibalism problem under control. Let me give you an update. When the cannibalism problem started, I separated the males from the females. This was part of my isolation strategy to narrow down the problem, and that part worked. There was no pecking among the females, besides normal, “Hi, how are you?” pecking. But as I said earlier, the butchering never occurred. The cannibalism among the males continued, so one day we got rid of all of the males. Pick any scenario that works for you, and use that to suffice, the birds are gone.

Barred Rock roosters and Australorp hens


So, now I have 15 young Australorp hens. I traded three hens for two Barred Rock roosters that are the same age, and everybody is happy. But, going back a few days, I didn’t know if everybody was going to be happy, and I ordered 25 mixed heavy, day old, brown egg layers. A little quiz here. “But you didn’t tell us whether you ordered male or female.” But, I did tell you that they are brown egg layers. The reason I pose this quiz is because I asked Fern that same question. And she gave me the same answer. “Brown EGG layers.” Okay, our lesson in humble pie for the day.

Well, the 25 little girls arrived. After 10 days, all survived but one. We did the usual, beak dipping in water, and had chick starter on hand. But this time they’re not going to stay inside the brooder near as long. The outside temperature during the day is around 90 degrees, as is the humidity.

Different topic. I love where I live. The winters are mild, but a certain part of summer is hot and humid. If you are not sweating, it’s because you are seriously dehydrated. I haven’t lived in other parts of the deep south, and I can only imagine what it’s like in other parts where it’s hot and has the advantages of the moisture from the Gulf Stream. But, this time of year, I seriously think about shoveling snow again.

Okay, back to reality. Here in a couple of days the little girls will be going out to the chicken house, to their own little caged apartment. 

I’ll be turning the former baby birds, which I’ll now call teenagers, in with the adult birds. This is a slow process. I will open up the teenagers cage door, and just leave it open. I will continue to provide food and water in their part of the pen, that is now open. There will be some serious pecking order issues, but everybody will survive. This is just normal, social pecking order. The teenage hens will be terrorized for a few days. But now we have the young roosters and the old rooster issue. The old hens will also terrorize the young roosters, too. But the relationship between the old hens and the young roosters is mostly just a matter of ‘get out of my way.’ 

The old rooster is a different issue, though. Sometimes, but not often, you can introduce new roosters to an old rooster. But you don’t want blood in your chicken house. As a general rule, but not always, an old rooster will not tolerate a young rooster, it’s just simply a male thing. So the old rooster is going to have to go. I have found that roosters raised together are generally tolerant of one another, even though one is the obvious dominant rooster. But these birds weren’t raised together and the old rooster just will not tolerate a young rooster in his chicken house. Again, use your imagination as to where the rooster goes. He’s too old to fry, he’s too old to bake, so he’s just going to go.

So, now, in the chicken house, I’ll have 25 ten day old baby chicks in their own pen, a mixture of 15 fifteen week old teenage hens, 2 fifteen week old teenage roosters and 19 fifteen month old adult hens. In about five or six weeks, the teenage hens will start laying. They will lay brown eggs. The current adult hens lay green eggs. When the teenage hens’ egg production reaches an acceptable number, then the green egg hens will need to move on to a new home. It’s a whole lot easier to get rid of laying hens than it is an old rooster. You can either take them to a chicken sale, sell them very cheaply to someone wanting to start up a chicken flock, or you can give them away. They will still lay good for another year or two.


So, this is where we are. Some people would say that my chicken plans are not stable, and they’re right. I tried the Easter Egg chickens, and I was just not happy with the bird. Now I’m going to try a new bird. You might be asking, “What about the baby birds?” When they are about 12 weeks old, just about the time the adult birds will be leaving, I will introduce them to the rest of the flock. When the time comes, I will decide which 20 or so hens I will keep. I will find a good home for the remaining birds. Then maybe life will settle down in the chicken house.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the last couple of years. When the brown egg layers start producing, I will let you know how things are going. But, in the meantime, I’m going to have my lower back opened up, and we’ll see how that goes. Take care, and may God be with you.

We’ll talk more later. Frank

Growing Beets

We want to start off this post with a prayer request. Our nephew was injured in an industrial accident. He has serious injuries to his face and mouth. We would appreciate your prayers on his behalf.
 

This is about half of our harvest. The rest is still in the ground.



  
The beet harvest this year is being canned using the same techniques as last year which you can find here. The big difference this year is the harvest. Our crop has done much better this year. The small patch of beets is six by eight feet and planted fairly close together. In fact, some of them are too close together which is preventing much growth for those beets. There is also plenty of competition from the grass since we have had so much rain. That, and the fact that I haven’t been weeding very much lately.

 We decided to cut off the greens and rinse off most of the dirt and mud outside on the porch. This routine worked very well. There wasn’t near as much mud left in the sink after the final scrubbing before they went in the pot to cook.

The greens we kept to give to the chickens and goats a handful at a time. When I first started feeding these greens to the animals they would take a few bites and leave the rest. Now that it has become more routine, they tend to clean them up quickly. It takes time to change routines, especially feed rations for animals. I am happy to see how well they are consuming some different types of feed that are very good for them.

We tried a different type of beet this year, Lutz Green Leaf. The crop is much bigger which is great. One big difference in the beets this year is the color, they are much paler than last year. When we took them out of the canner, my first comment was, “These are really pale, they look like watermelon.” Since this is only the second year we have grown beets, we don’t have a lot of experience for very meaningful comparisons. It is another interesting learning curve. These beets taste very good, even to a former non-beet eater like me.

2013 on the left, 2014 on the right


For this harvest we canned 12 pints. Last year our entire harvest yielded only 5 pints, so we have already more than doubled our food supply and there are more left in the ground. It is very humbling and rewarding to put away food that you have grown from start to finish. It also brings a great deal of satisfaction and a sense of security knowing we have the knowledge and skill to bring food to the table for months to come.


I have seen pictures like these for years. Other people’s pictures. Now, when I look at these and realize that we grew these, even among the weeds, I am humbled. What a blessed life.

Until next time – Fern