Monday, September 10, 2007

farm update

dogs
People ask me if I have any pets and I answer something like “Oh yeah, I have chickens and a hive of bees and some rabbits” and I completely brush over the dogs. Not because they’re forgettable but because Jazz and Annie aren’t pets. They are Roommates. They aren’t some creepy stand-ins for children, sub human buddies, or something I dress up for kicks, they’re just “Jazz and Annie”. I come home from work, dump my bag by the coat rack and start telling them about how crappy or dreamy things are at the moment. So I feel weird calling anyone I talk to regulary a "pet" This morning before work and after our walk Annie and I sat on the couch and watched an episode of Gilmore Girls with really really strong coffee; jadeite in my right hand and scratching her head with the other. Warm under a wool blanket. It was nice.

chickens
Okay. If reincarnation exists I want to come back as a rural vegetarian’s chicken. They live in such ways you and I could never dream. They spend their days laying in the sunshine or chasing grasshoppers around the lawn. They have a nonstop buffet provided for them. They are on no particular schedule, and have no real threats. And if the ladies want to sleep in while William patrols, they do. I’ve gone outside and met William in the driveway, said morning, and walked around to the coop only to find all the other girls still nestled together on the roost asleep. Probably dreaming about what all women dream about (Oprah and unicorn rides). Yes, these are happy birds.

bees
The bees are in push time. Thanks to my shoddy landscaping there is a wild array of non-mowed wildflowers and weeds producing pollen and nectar. I'm really hoping they keep up the good work, because they are the underdogs of the farm. They practically were goners when they lost their queen, then they were nearly overtaken by yellow jackets, and after that the drought made water supply at the creek almost non-existent. But they are still keeping on, and they might just make it through the winter yet. We’ll keep rooting for the home team, and this winter I’ll keep shoveling them out. I am a very exciting young person.

rabbits
I’ve learned that rabbits are a love/hate relationship. Generally, I like them. They are quiet, pretty and eat very little. Like everything else that lives here they require minimal attention. But they stink. I clean out their cages every three days and they stink. I come back from the rabbit hutches and the dogs go retarded convinced somewhere on my person is a delicious meal. Anyway, the Angoras and the Lop (named Fumiko after a friends’ grandmother) are hearty guys. I’ve now sheered the angoras three times and sold most of it online at Etsy. There’s a big market for pure angora (Angora goats don’t offer angora, they offer mohair) I’m a very very very small part of that market but it’s still nice to know that they pay for their own food and supplies and I get to hang out with a rabbit in my lap on occasion. Which at campfires is nice.

wildlife
So we’ve got a coyote named August, which you know about if you’ve been reading dogcoffin. He's doing well and patrolling daily in the back fields. But there’s also a Doe and her fawn that have taken up residence near the house. I named them Gwen and Oscar. Sometimes I’ll be doing dishes and catch a glance of Oscar running by the kitchen window and then Gwen will step over the chickens slowly and saunter by behind him. I like those two, they liven up the place. No moose have moved in from the bogs yet but I hope to see some cow/calf pairs by October. There’s a big coven of ravens that live in the aspens and a mated set of bald eagles too. And then there was this weird Saturday morning when I looked outside the front window and saw a turkey hen and her chicks (turks?) waddling along the driveway.

gardens
I have to go out and cover everything now because night temps drop into the 30s. So last night I was outside coving the gardens with 4mil plastic in an attempt to keep my lettuce and broccoli kicking into November if I can. So far, so good. Eggplants are coming in late, so are the peppers but I have high hopes. Tomatoes, they will slaughter the kitchen soon.

That's pretty much it. This is the home stretch till the first snow. Then everything shuts down and all i do is cook, bake, bitch about fall being over and play music. Which I enjoy doing, every one.

Friday, September 7, 2007

garden is still truckin' on

Friends and readers, let me tell you something that I am unequivocally certain of. No human family needs more than three zucchini plants. They. Just. Keep. Coming. I started getting zucchini the size of my forearm in late July, and now after frosts and rain and dead leaves the vegetables keep growing. I have made zucchini bread. Zucchini cookies. I have stir fried and grilled it. I have added it to soup and chopped it into salads. I have done nearly every goddamn thing a girl can do with zucchini (don’t be dirty) and it still keeps coming. When I show up at parties or to watch a move at a friends’, I bring zucchini. I’d be beside myself if I had this much luck with broccoli, but a person can only take so much zucchini. I’d stab my left hand for an eggplant.

Christ, just wait till all those tomatoes come in… The tomatoes pictured above are just the first of over 300 ripening others outside the front door on my 4 giant plants. Bruce and Diana are going to see me show up with two giant shopping bags and we're canning marinara all day soon. In case you were concerned.

And those little gourds. How about them, huh? Are they strictly decorative or can i make pumpkin recipe stuff from these, Heather? I ask you because of your intense history with compost pile gourds.

WINNERS!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

noodling

Making pasta is pretty simple. All you need is eggs and flour. And it takes less time to make and cook from scratch then it does to cook dry store bought noodles. All you need to do is this. Put a pot of water on the stove and put the heat on high to get it boiling. While that’s heating up, break an egg or two in a bowl and whip it into a yellow goop. Add flour a half cup at a time and mix it until you have a non-sticky dough (maybe a cup and a half tops?). Roll it out flat as you reasonably can with a rolling pin over a floured surface (so it doesn’t stick) and then also sprinkle flour on the top of it. Then roll your flattened dough up into a long rod (think of how cinnamon buns look in the mall before they slice them) then slice thin circles and unwind them into long pasta strands. Lay them out on a floured countertop or hang them from a coathanger while you work. Last, All you need to do then is put them in boiling water for 3 minutes and then (and this is the secret) mix the fresh noodles with a ¼ cup of butter, ½ tablespoon onion powder, and a ¼ garlic powder) serve with fresh basil and plain marinara. Get crazy and sprinkle cheese on top.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

night mares


One more tired thing,the gray moon on the rise
When your want from the day makes you to curse in your sleep at night
One more gift to bring. we may well find you laid
(like your steed in his reins)
Tangled too tight and too long to fight

Friday, August 31, 2007

four day weekend


I'll be away from the internet for a few days. Starting tomorrow I'll be on a small vacation. I'm planning on watching lots of deadwood and gilmore girls, writing, baking, and playing music that annoys the dogs. Maybe I'll smash Lookout Mountain but I'm not making any promises. You kids be good.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Saven

Some day, when I have a dozen Suffolks in the pasture I'll have a border collie. And that border collie will be a working dog that shares my home with the no-good rebellious sled dogs. I have already decided his name - Saven. Which is the 6,000 year old Scottish word for Halloween. He'll have yellow eyes, an all black coat, and putz around the farm with me. I can't have a third dog now. I can't have a third dog so much that I turned down a malamute/wolf hybrid puppy a few weeks ago because I know what I can handle. Yes, Jenna Woginrich turned down the chance to have a pet wolf. But I know what I can deal with - and a third big dog can't fit in a subaru, and I can't walk three dogs and stay in control. Jazz and Annie are everything two housedogs can be, and recently came back from their annual check up with rave reviews (minus Annie needed to drop 6 pounds and Jazz needing some dental work). But as far as overall health, they're gangbusters. More dogs means everything gets a little thinner, less attention and personal care. Adding a third dog to the family would make things too hard on me and the Siberians. Who wouldn't understand why Saven got to run outside off leash? And Saven wouldn't understand why Siberians are allowed to jump into a packed car with the sled tied to the top and be outside all day in the winter while he stayed in...

Oh, dogs. If you only knew the half of it this week.

But yes, Saven will be the border collie I hope to share my life with when my life is at a constance. Border collies seem to need more routine and solid ground then Jazz and Annie do. Or maybe I just have decided that a herding dog deserves a herd and I can't offer it to him yet. (I realize that boder collies as pets do not need sheep to be happy, I just want mine to have sheep) But I can offer trails and snow to the dogs in my life now. Maybe I can marry a hobby shepherd and wreck all his plans with dogsledding races and trips to Ireland. If you know this guy, tell him I make great pie.

Monday, August 27, 2007

mountain music for the masses

There are two things necessary for my mental stability - hiking and making music. I need to get outside and walk a few miles every now and again. And I need to be able to pick up an instrument and play it until my fingers hurt. It’s not so important how hard the hike was or how complicated the music gets. What’s important is the self-reliance of creating your own adventure and soundtrack when the mood strikes. If you’re into hiking too, and possibly interested in homemade music (but are convinced you can’t ever learn the guitar, banjo or fiddle) have I got an old friend I’d like to introduce you too…

The Strumstick. It’s basically the love child of the mountain dulcimer and banjo. And it’s made so that every chord you play is part of a chromatic scale. It weighs next to nothing, sounds like something right out of deliverance, and costs less then taking you and a friend out for a steak dinner. I recently got reacquainted with it and have been having a hoot taking it with me on the road or the trail. It’s perfect for back porches, campfires, and the beach and can hold it’s own in a bluegrass jam. You can pick one up from the original creator here, or find a multitude of knock-offs that sound just as good and even look a bit more interesting.

Keep pickin
-j

watch the flock


(sorry about the wind...)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

william


Meet William. He’s a one-year-old Welsummer rooster, and the newest addition to the farm. While chickens aren’t the most complicated livestock to raise, it does take a little management. Introducing a hard charger like him meant reducing the amount of males in the flock. Two of my silkie roosters found new homes on other small farms. So even though I am adding a new animal, I am now down to fewer birds then when the fair started.

So, William… William was the first place rooster at the fair. His owner, a sweet woman named Judy had a sign on his cage saying he was up for adoption. That he was a little to rough. We talked and decided to trade males. My silkie roosters are good guys and extra calm and gentle. We swapped last night and ended up with guys that better complemented our natures. I figured I could handle and appreciate William just fine. After all, my idea of a great time is being pulled over by wolves with robes. Oley!

After the fair was through, I packed him into the backseat of the Subaru with the help of Judy. When we arrived back at the farm shortly after, I had to decided what to do with him. Generally with hens, I wait till dark to put them in the coop with the others. They are too focused on roosting and going to sleep to care about another chicken cooing next to them. Kinda like if you’re staying at a youth hostel and you’re too exhausted to care at 3 Am if some random kid from Amsterdam rolled out a sleeping bag next to you. Anyway, come morning the new girl learns the routine the others created, and walks out into the world with them. I decided this is what I’d do with Will. While the other girls were scratching about the yard I placed him in the empty coop at dusk. He hated this. He carried on and flapped around like a crazy person. He didn’t understand why he was inside and locked in a coop when it was still light out and all those ladies were walking around free. But I was worried he’d be too confused about the farm to settle in. What if he panicked and headed for the coyote fields? Or worse, ran for the highway?

I decided to just let things happen how they would. Roosters aren’t new to the world and he probably had a plan of action set since I turned into my driveway. I opened the coop door. William flew out like a swan and landed like a Czech gymnast. I was in a bit of awe. Within moments Mary Todd Lincoln was dashing for him. Like her long lost lover showed up out of nowhere. So how about that for a welcome wagon? Within three minutes of landing on green grass William was having sex, dancing and singing. Something few of us get to do within the first moments of moving into a new house. Needless to say, William was a happy guy. The girls were man-starved and followed him around like groupies. William ate, drank, got laid and when the sun came down trotted right up into the chicken hutch and went to bed. Hell of a day.

Friday, August 24, 2007

fiddle sacks also in dry goods

Tired of those clunky, pretentious, over bearing music cases? Sure they’re great for long-term storage… but when you just need to take your fiddle with you to a festival or campfire, bring it in down-home mountain style. Made to fit your fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, or other small instruments. Freehand embroidery of your name or phrase, patches of your own or of our collection. Handmade of sturdy fabrics (denims, ducts, cords and such) tied up with a string. Has a sling for carting all over creation.

Click here to order!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Soap is back!


I sold out of my last batch, but soaps back in the store again! Homemade blend of goatsmilk and beeswax, no artificial anything. I add a little home-grown mint tea to it for exfoliation and to give it a little kick. High beeswaxs content, which is a smell I adore. Only a few dollars a bar, long lasting, and has an insect on it. Which, you you just don't get enough of with soaps.

Also available are handknit hands, photo and design prints, tea, wool, and more to come later in the week.

Click here to order!

stove top cider

We're getting just a few weeks from the equinox, so start celebrating early. If you're lucky enough to have a cider mill in your neighborhood (My folks live 20 minutes from a farm with an apple press) make the trip to pick up some all-natural, unprocessed, fresh pressed cider (Take that Louie Pasteur!) If you don’t want to do the legwork, or don’t care, go to the grocery store and get some.

If you're feeling really industrious, and have some extra gusto and cash. Buy one of these homepresses, and spend an afternoon with friends and family at a U-pick orchard. For a ridiculously cheap amount you can collect all the bruised and clumsy apples they won't sell and make enough cider to last a nomal person through late fall and me about 2 weeks. This is much easier to do if you live near Washington State, or in the Northeast. But you'll figure something out no matter where you reside if you're clever. Or have a phonebook.

Stove Top Cider
At home get out a medium sized pot and fill it with about 5 cups of cold cider. Put the range on a medium low heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. As the cider warms up, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and a sprinkle of clove (not much, just enough to make it woodsy). Keep stirring so that the cider doesn’t rise or curdle. When it’s at a comfortable hot-chocolate temperature serve in a hearty mugs with an optional cinnamon stick. Do not use a microwave. It never heats evenly and is also horribly tacky for such a sacred task. Now go outside on the porch with a blanket, pet your dogs (or cat, or rabbit, or lover, or borrow someone else’s) and enjoy. Invite over a friend. Serve a slice of applecake (not pie).

This is the as good as it gets all year. Satiate.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

losers

Sorry folks, my chickens didn't win anything. I can't say I wasn't a little sad. But I cheered myself up buying some baby alpaca wool I'm knitting with these fancy circle needles. Anyway,as for the silkies morale, it's much higher than mine was. Fair life seems to suit them well. They looked fine this morning when I went in to check thier food and water. I'll be posting a sign letting people know what birds of mine are available for sale and such. Maybe I'll find a home for a few of the roosters. Shucks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

rain and snow

After weeks, strike that, MONTHS of dry dusty god-awful sunshine - Idaho is finally starting to feel like the Pacific Northwest again. I love precipiation. I missed it. I'm happy to announce the past few days have been chilly, windy and rainy. Clouds come down from the sky and rush through the mountains, It looks like racing ghosts compared to the static hang of the smokies. Got to love cloud athletics. I took the dogs out two nights ago and the wind whipped my hair everywhere and the rain fell sideways and it was still warm enough to just need a fluffy sweater. Crisper. Tighter. Damn that's good weather. The need for soup and blankets makes this girl giddy. I celebrated by drinking hot cider and watching Cold Mountain with the dogs. There are more perfect evenings, but not many.

As far as mountain music updates go I've learned the lonesome song "rain and snow" on the fiddle. It matches the weather perfectly and has an almost Irish flavor to it. It's one of those songs you can play a hundred different ways. I get a real kick out of it. I'll try and record it for you, or some fiddle music soon. I also just got my psaltry in the mail from Wood-n-Strings in Tennessee. I need to either fix the broken strings and bridge (thanks UPS) - or get a replacement. Kind of a let down after wanting to add it to my repertoire for so long. If anyone knows how to fix a psaltry, be a friend.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I went to the fair to see how my birds did, and no updates yet. The doors were closed in the poultry section (I assume they were judging) and they were handing out rabbit ribbons in the front. Maybe after work I’ll be able to check and see. Since I was already at the fairgrounds, I thought I’d watch some of the livestock showing. I walked over to the children’s sheep qualifiers. These kids looked like little ranchers with gorgeous ewes in their arms. I had never been so envious of a fourth grader before. It’ll be years before I have sheep and a rumpled border collie. Years. And that’s if I’m lucky enough to be able to find and purchase a bit of land someday. Well anyway, I hope to post again soon with info on how Emily and Moon Rooster did at the fair. Y’all take care.

fair morning

The Bonner County Fair is situated right between my farm and work. Every morning for a week I’ll be stopping in the sunlit and dander filled barns before I head over to work. As an exhibitor, I have to stop in twice a day to check the water, food and health of my birds. The judging is going on this morning while I’m designing emails, but come lunch I’m excited to go over and see how we did. The black silkies I raised since they were two days old. I've hand fed them, watched them grow up, and built their coop from scratch. So regardless of what the judges think, I think they are beautiful little accomplishments that run around my farm like tiny dinosaurs. I’m glad to show them off to the public for a week at the fair. And who knows, if I’m lucky I might find a home for some of my spare roosters. Wish us luck. (That goose waldo hissed at me this morning. I don’t think he cares for this kind of thing.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

a homestead morning


I wake up at 5:30 to a rooster. Outside my bedroom window is a little ramshackle of a chicken coop I’ve taken to calling the “East Tennessee House”. It’s part barrel, part apple crate, and covered in old metal roof shingles. It’s a sad site, but it works. The five Japanese black silkie bantam chickens that call it home have yet to complain. I don’t know what it is about crowing proximity but when you wake up six feet from a loud bird, you tend to stay up. I am awake but crunch my body under the quilt and pretend Gertrude is the nice quiet hen I thought he was and not a moody cockerel.

The morning’s cold. Late August in Idaho means mornings in the high 30’s or low 40’s. Next to my bed is a hand knit cap, a fleece jacket, and some thick mukluk knit booties with leather soles. I armor up and step over the still sleeping dogs around the foot of the bed. Annie follows me into the kitchen, tail high. Jazz rolls over to his left. He can wait till 6Am to pee.

In the kitchen I go about the normal routine. I dump coffee beans into the grinder and crank away while looking out the window to see how much water is in the chicken font. When the percolator is loaded up I grab the sealed jar of heavy cream that’s been sitting out all night and throw it in my big side pocket. While I walk around doing chores it’ll bump and churn slowly into butter. With the coffee growling into perk, I slide into my wellies, grab the chicken feed bucket and step outside.

The grass is slightly crunchy, like it considered frosting over but thought better of it. Outside the four large hens I have are scampering around and when I call them “Chick chick chick CHICKKKKKEEENNNNN!” they come running. A running chicken might be the funniest thing you can observe before coffee. After I throw them a few scoops of feed I walk over to the hutch to collect eggs and check to see who’s nesting. Usually it’s one of the red gals, Mary Todd Lincoln or Mindy. This morning it’s empty but two giant brown eggs are in their stead, still warm.

Aside the Laying coop is the silkie pen. They are all out in the grass, hopping on a log and picking through their area for bugs. I drop into the netting fresh feed. The silkies used to have free range all day, but the wandering roosters were going into the neighbor’s property, which brought complaints. Now they are let out from about 4pm till dark to wander and scratch closer to home. (Chickens are rarely so adventurous after lunchtime)

I then start the business of the rabbitry. The butter is still bouncing around in the jar at my side while I replacing rabbit water bottles, cleaning out cages, and giving the three does new pellets and timothy hay. The contrast of these silent, calm animals and the frenzy that is laying hens is a good balance.

The gardens are watered, the paths are swept, outside the sunrise is pink and purple and the morning. It feels like early fall. I am happy.

Walking into the house large dogs greet me, they bury their noses into my chest and arms. The joint smells like coffee, and breakfast is going to be following shortly. Fresh eggs, homemade bread for toast with farm-canned spreads and fluffy butter. Breakfast fills me up for the whole day. It’s my favorite meal because I have so much time for it, and because its all from the farm. There is an intense sense of satisfaction in that. You just can’t know.

Actually. You can.

The point of this blog, and the book I'm writing, is to encourage people interested in a homestead-type lifestyle to start working toward it now. Regardless of your location, age, lease, or employment there are ways to start becoming the farmer you've always secretly wished to be. Keep checking back here for recipes, stories, tips, memoir and other such bits if it suits you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Announcing!


we'll be making music like this diddy!

Monday, August 13, 2007

buy some farm tea!


This weekend I took down the herbs that have been drying in my kitchen and prepared them into a fine mint tea. It’s a blend of basic garden mint, spearmint, and lemon balm. The lemon tea is straight lemon balm. They are all organic and local to North Idaho. All packaging is recycled from paper store bags, and each packet has enough loose tea for three really strong cups.

Order by mail or paypal, each packet with shipping is two shell cards.