Friday, August 29, 2014

It's 'bout time

So, I'm late as usual.  Although technically, I didn't say when I'd draw the name for the "Better Off" book.  And, Rhiannon is busy checking on her new chicks (post about that later) so I did one of those internet random number thingies to pick the lucky winner.  I saw that there were seven comments so I just used those numbers and here we go:

Custom Random Number Generator

This program will generate a random number between two numbers of your choice. Just enter a lower limit and an upper limit and click ENTER.
Enter a lower limit: 
Enter an upper limit: 
Random Number:  
So, who's lucky number 5?

Heck, I have no idea.  Let me go check now.

Leigh is the winner!  Congrats :)

Shoot me an email with your mailing address and I'll get it out to you in the next few days.  And a big "Thank You" to the rest of my blogging buddies.....for participating in these giveaways (cheesy as they may be), for listening to my sometimes insane rambling, and for rambling on yourselves!  My Blogging Buddies ROCK and I appreciate each and every one of you.

Unless you're spamming me.  Then I don't so much appreciate as loathe you.  But luckily I haven't had to deal much with that.

Have a great holiday weekend.  Or just have a great "regular" weekend.  Because somehow I don't think the gardens and livestock give a chicken-butt that it's Labor Day.  Oh well.  Have a happy anyhow!

*** Hmmmm.  I just looked on the "final" post that's on my blog and the numbers I put in there are missing.  I guess you'll all have to just trust me that it was "5".  Maybe it got lost with those internal IRS emails.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sadness on the blogosphere

I was flipping though my blog roll and saw a post from Rural Revolution titled "Bacon and Eggs".  I was excited that she was featuring SciFiChick on her blog so immediately clicked on the link.

Lo and behold, SciFiChick was featured, but for something I never would have guessed.

She passed away last Thursday.  I'm still a little foggy right now, typing this.

SciFiChick wasn't what I could call a "Close and Personal" friend, but she was someone I wish I could have called such.  We never met, we never shared a cup of tea together, never canned a single jar of jalapeno peppers side by side.  But as many of you know, even these long distance blogging relationships can make friendships as real as those you make in person.

I will miss her blog posts.  I admired her straight-forward and in-your-face opinions about her political leanings.  I will strive to be a better canner because of her.  And I hope that she is already tilling up soil and planting veggies in the Great Eternal Garden.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Copy Cat Giveaway

Susan over at e-i-e-i-omg! just had a book giveaway on her blog and I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon, partly because I couldn't think of anything to blog about other than the 100+ degree day we're going to have today and partly because I promised myself I'd do some cleaning out of the bookshelves.

I just finished this book that and thought someone else might enjoy it as well:

It's about a man and his new bride's adventure into non-electric living.  They gave up almost every modern technological doo-dad and lived with a group of Amish / Mennonite / "Minimite" for eighteen months.  I think their little escapade took place in the mid 90's when there was a little less of the beeping, bleeping and dinging that goes along with the internet, instant messaging, FB, blogs and smartphones today.  Amazing how far we've "advanced" in just a short period of time.  And how pathetic it is that so many feel totally lost or, goodness forbid, "deprived" if they don't have the latest smartassphone or can't instantly connect with another human...but not face to face.

I will admit, I romantically long for ditching all (ok, most) technological "necessities".  To live more in harmony with the rising and setting of the sun as opposed to using the Powering On and Shutting Down of my laptop as my clock for the day.  I imagine my home would be cleaner, my garden less weedy and my rear end less supple if I didn't sit at the desk as long as I do now.

But until that day comes when I can tear myself away from the artificial glow of the laptop screen, I will continue to try to amuse you (and myself) via my blog.  So here goes....who wants to win this gently used copy of "Better Off"?  It's an enjoyable, quick read and there's absolutely no electricity involved!  You could even read it by Aladdin lamplight if you so desired :)

Just leave a comment that you'd like to enter in the drawing and I'll have my offspring choose a name from the hat (or feed bucket, or whatever other empty container I can find).  Contest closes on Friday morning & I will announce the winner sometime that same morning after barn chores.  Open to US residents only.

Good luck!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Crunch, crunch, crunch....

No, that's not me munching on a granola bar (although if there were any in the house, I probably would be munching on one now).

That's the sound of me walking in the front yard.  The heat and lack of moisture has finally taken it's toll on the vegetation.  And of course, my Fall Garden seedlings are taking a beating.  They are literally fighting for their lives.  I have to water them twice a day or I'm afraid they'll keel over.  The temps have been in the upper 90's for a week, it's supposed to get to 99 today and 100 on Sunday, and no sign of the 80's until Thursday (and the upper 80's at that).  I don't recall the last time we had any rain.

My poor mulberry trees (which are in pots, waiting for cooler weather to plant them) are almost dead.  I forgot to water them one day and although their leaves still looked nice and green, when I went to water them again, half of them were dried up!  Apparently it was so hot they didn't even have time to brown up and fall off, they just got blasted by our furnace-like heat and crisped up green!  I moved them to a sheltered location and watered the crap out of them, hoping they will pull through until Fall.

Everything else in the garden is crispy.  My strawberries are fried to nothing and I'm hoping that the ones that have been migrating out of the bed will survive in the weeds until I can transplant them back into the beds in the Fall.  Tomatoes and peppers are doing just fine though, even with minimal watering.

The animals, although not crispy, are pretty much unhappy  (although I wouldn't mind some crispy goat ribs out of Pickles the screaming jerk).  I mean, who wouldn't be?  Their water buckets get almost too hot to drink, the grass in their paddock is getting brown, the dust where there is only "dirt" is dusty and dry and hot and there's a family of horse flies the size of a cantaloupe that have been pestering them (and me) relentlessly.  I was able to smack one as it landed on Nettie yesterday and I heard it scream.  It was that big.

Well, it's starting to get light outside.  Finally.  I used to be able to go out and milk without a flashlight at this time in the morning but the sun if taking it's time getting out now a days.  Fall is officially just a month away, can you believe it?  Hopefully it will usher in some cooler, and wetter, weather.

In the mean time, if you want to find me outside, just listen for the crunching of vegetation and follow that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Goat Milk Yogurt....again. Again.

I can never.  NEVER. make a really thick goat milk yogurt.

I've tried every (yes, EVERY) recipe.  Heating the milk to X.  Heating the milk to Y.  Letting the milk cool first before heating it up.  Heating up the milk straight from the goat (AFTER I've milked it out, btw).  Using a homemade yogurt incubator.  Using a store bought yogurt incubator.  Making a nest out of wool blankets and perching on top of it like a giant mother ostrich.

Every type of starter under the sun. Yogourmet. Dannon plain yogurt.  Hiland plain yogurt.  Greek-style yogurt.  Store brand plain yogurt.  Vanilla flavored yogurt.  Organic fancy-pants yogurt.  Yogurt from cows that were given only yogurt to eat when they were young and then got weekly spa treatments in the form of yogurt facials while drinking yogurt smoothies.

But have I given up the goat (Ha!  Paul wishes I would give up a goat or five) even after all of these miserable failures?  Of course not.  I am, if nothing, tenaciously stubborn.  To a fault most times.

A few years ago I had the best, thickest yogurt I've ever made.  And I have yet to replicate what happened to make it so.  But the one thing I did was simple; let it sit outside in the sun.  And I, being Slothwoman, adore simple things.  This is what I did to make the aforementioned yogurt:

1.  Milk goat.
2.  Place about a cup of yogurt into a half-gallon mason jar.
3.  Strain still warm goat milk into the mason jar.
4.  Shake it up.
5.  Put it on the deck in the sun on a hot day.

6.  Take jar inside before it gets dark and stick it in the fridge.

I left the milk out there until the sun was about to go down.  And just for kicks, I opened the lid and stuck my handy-dandy digital thermometer into the jar at about 7 pm.  109.7 degrees.  Perfect incubating temps!  Of course, I'm sure it varied during the day (it was in the mid to upper 90's when I normally do this), but it seems to work well.  Once I bring in the jar inside, I stick it in the refrigerator until the next morning.

Of course, it's still nothing as thick as I'd like it.  It's still what I'd call a "runny" yogurt.  But seeing as I prefer my yogurt really thick, I guess I'm just being picky.  So I just strain it through some good cheesecloth for half the next day and out of a half-gallon of runny yogurt I get a nice and thick quart of goat yogurt.

If I ever find a local source for cow milk I'm going to do a side-by-side experiment to see if the cow's milk really sets thicker.  Maybe I should put that on my To Do list for next week.  I'll get back to you when I finally get around to it.  At least it will give me another blog post :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wasp Weekend

Paul was out on the tractor this weekend trying to subdue the Evil Forest when his tree-pushing and ground leveling efforts were cut short by the residents of a yellow jacket nest.  Apparently they didn't appreciate having their subterranean home plowed over and took it out on the unfortunate equipment operator.  I don't know how he managed to escape the wrath of an entire yellow jacket nest, but he got the tractor and himself out of range with only one sting on the leg.  It it were me on the tractor, I would have jumped off and left the still-running piece of machinery right where it was until it ran out of fuel, the hornets went away, or it got dark.  Probably all three.

I ran over a yellow jacket nest several years ago while walking behind a DR power mower and got stunk dozens of times.  I left the mower right where it was and ran for the hills.  About a half hour later we went back to try and retrieve the mower and the tenacious buggers were still attacking the thing.

We retreated to the safety of the back deck and tried to find out where the nest was, hoping to see a bunch of buzzingbastards, but didn't see any.  But what I did find odd was that I heard the familiar buzzing of Bald Faced Hornets (BFH)......and they were buzzing around the deck now.  Yes.  I can tell the difference between a yellow jacket, honey bee and BFH buzz.  Don't ask me how.  Anyways, I asked Paul if he was sure it was a yellow jacket nest in the ground and not a BFH nest (in the trees) he disturbed.  He was certain.  I was able to whack one of the buzzing offenders on the back porch and positively identified it as a BFH.  Where were these guys coming from now?!  I took a little walk around the house and found a BFH nest right under the joists for the back deck.  Great.  Not only yellow jackets, but now BFH.  Right under where I hang my laundry.  Luckily, that same evening we had company (i.e. somebody else to hold the flashlight) and Paul and Aaron took up the manly job of destroying the nest after dark.
The aftermath.
We've got Creepy Meats (Cornish meat birds) coming in two weeks.  And I needed to clean out the kidding pen / brooding pens for their arrival.  I've been putting off cleaning out the smaller pen because of this though:

A paper wasp nest had been built in the smaller pen and I hadn't gotten around to taking it out.  Partially because I'm lazy, but partially because I've never been really bothered by the paper wasps and unless they're like right in front of my face, I leave them pretty much alone.  They are also very non-aggressive and the fact that I've seen them actively pollinating my garden helped with their survival as well.  They are so tame that I even feed Nettie in that smaller kidding pen every single morning.  They kind'a just shuffle around a bit when we go in there, keep a multi-faceted eye on us, and we both go on with our day.  I watched that nest go from a single celled nest being cared for by the lonely female to what it had become today.  I almost kind'a grew fond of them.  Well, not really.  But for what it's worth, I did feel badly when I had Paul destroy them yesterday.

Yes.  I put a hit on them.  Brutally murdered them.  But it had to be done.  I figure that the cleaning out the stall and the subsequent addition of 30 or so baby chicks and the constant in-and-out happenings of taking care of said chicks on a daily basis would eventually lead to me getting my first sting from a paper wasp.  Yeah, I know, I could have carefully taken down the nest at night, and relocated the residents somewhere else.  But that didn't happen.  Call PETA on me.  Do they care about insects or is it just animals?  Oh well.  For now we are relatively wasp-free and I'm happy.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Eating the Weeds, Passion Flower

Passiflora incarnata.  Passion Flower.  Maypop.  Several different names for one of the most beautiful wild flowers here in the Ozarks:

These beautiful flowering vines are the bane of just about anyone with a fence row and electric fence.  I've ripped out countless plants on the fence for the mule and they seem to come back no sooner than you've tossed the vines on the compost heap (or to the goats).

I know I should have been looking up uses for this vegetation because it seems as soon as I start ripping out entire jungles of this-or-that, I find out that they actually have some useful property.  

Oh, I know, they have cute little egg-shaped fruits that "POP" when you stomp on them (hence the name Maypop) and that their ripe fruits are yummy (although a pain to eat), which would seem more than enough reason to keep them around, but when they are shorting out the electric fence in the pasture it's time for them to go.

I've been keeping a few here and there around the gardens when they aren't in the way, mostly because I do occasionally enjoy snacking on them and the flowers are beautiful to look at.  But now I'm really going to make sure they have a spot here because I've just now tried making a tea out of the leaves and stems......and I absolutely love it.

Just recently I read that passion flower leaves and stems are used as tea for treating anxiety.  Which, without yammering on too much to bore you, is what I have been dealing with for quite some time now.  I made a tea from passion flower leaves and lemon balm, stuffed them in a quart jar, poured boiling water over it and put the lid on.  After about ten or fifteen minutes of letting it steep, I poured the liquid into a glass with ice, put in a few drops of liquid stevia and gave it a stir.

I drank two 32-ounce glasses of it yesterday.  And as soon as I'm off the computer and home from the feed store (damned ingrate goats are almost out of grain), I'm going to make myself another big ol' glass of Passion Flower & Lemon Balm iced tea.