Category Archives: General Homesteading

Scrap stock

This GIANT pot of stock is simmering away on our stove. Yes, that is our (guesstimate: 3 gallon) water-bath canning pot – it was the only one large enough to hold all of the bones and veggie scraps I had accumulated.

In this pot are: chicken carcasses (our own chickens), chicken feet (our own chickens), random chicken bones from random dinners (not our own chickens), beef bones, pork bones, scraps/skins/ends from all the veggies we’ve eaten over the past month or so (onion trimmings, onion skins, garlic trimmings and skins, leek greens, carrot ends, kale stems, basil stems, onion greens from the onions in the garden that the chickens tried to kill, and whatever other veggie scraps I deemed it necessary to save at the time – all saved in a ziploc bag in the freezer, until such time – like now! –  as I was ready to make use of it), and saved (frozen) cooking water from previous steamed veggies (kale, onions, etc).

Oh yeah… it’s gonna be good!

And on the other burner, for tonight’s dinner: quinoa simmering in previously-preserved chicken stock (from our own chickens), to be served on a bed of fresh salad greens from the farmer’s market and topped with the leftover pesto from yesterday’s dinner (basil from the farmer’s market, onion greens from the garden, garlic from winter storage, local hazelnuts from winter storage, homemade goat milk feta, and olive oil.)

Sigh… life is good…

ETA: I forgot – the stock also contains several eggshells (from our chickens), a good dose of apple cider vinegar (it helps draw the minerals out of the bones and eggshells), and a couple of corn cobs for added flavor. It’s still simmering away, after about 20 hours! Soon I’ll strain it out into jars to cool. As it cools, the fat will rise to the top – if there’s a good amount of fat, I’ll scoop it off into another container to use as a cooking fat (otherwise I’ll just leave it as is). Then into the freezer the jars will go, just waiting to be pulled back out for some future meal!

Lamb stew

…it’s what’s (was) for dinner!

Deck Family Farm grass-fed lamb, Horton Road Organics carrots (from winter storage), frozen sweet corn from last summer’s garden, garlic from a local farmer (also from winter storage), store-bought onion, fresh rosemary, oregano, spearmint, yarrow and bay leaf (all from our garden and/or yard), water, red wine, lamb fat (saved from a previous cooking of lamb), olive oil, dash of shoyu (soy sauce), kelp, salt and pepper… cooked in our cast iron dutch oven, and simmered on our woodstove for several hours… yum! We both had seconds…

From the past few weeks…

Galahad (more commonly known as “You Little Weasel” or simply “Pesky”) meeting the rest of the herd for the first time, with mama Lulu keeping watch

Galahad introducing himself to cousin Isis (again, with mama Lulu keeping a close eye on things)

Sorry for the blurry image, but I love this shot… and goats love Peter!

Broodies, broodies everywhere… (The record so far was seven hens broody – i.e., wanting to hatch eggs, and therefore not laying – at the same time. I did give in and give eggs to two of them, one in each coop… 1-1/2 weeks until we have chicks!)

Nettle harvest, from a very small patch by the river – enough for a nice helping of steamed nettles for each of us with dinner! (The nettles were so tasty, I can’t even remember what the main course was…) I’m hoping to get one or two more meals from this patch before they get too large and tough.

Our first spring salad! Lettuce from the farmer’s market, volunteer arugula, spearmint and chives from our garden, wild dandelion leaves, oxeye daisy leaves (so sweet!) and purple deadnettle tops, and wood sorrel from the woodsy area by the river… eating this salad, my body sang!

Our beautiful eggs, from our beautiful hens… these are a staple in our diet almost year-round

Cooking on the wood stove

It’s finally getting warm enough that we’re only using the wood stove for a quick fire in the mornings now, just to take the chill off. But during the winter, with the fire always going, we were able to cook the majority of our meals on our wood stove.

Sigh. I’ll miss it.

Oh, I’m not complaining about the warmer weather – I’m ready for it – but cooking on the electric stove just isn’t the same…

Goulash, made with Deck Family Farm ground beef and our own canned tomatoes from last summer’s garden (the eggshells on the top level are drying for future use as chicken supplements and garden nutrients).

Corn chowder, made with our own fresh goat milk and goat cheese, and our own frozen corn from last summer’s garden. The carrots are from Horton Road Organics, a local farm.

And breakfast, fresh from our own hens!

Barnabas and Clarisse

Barnabas and Clarisse, Aberdeen’s kids from this spring, are the first of our goats that we’ve ever sold. It was hard, but we don’t have the space, money or time to keep all of the goats that have been and will be born here. In order to produce milk, the mamas need to have babies. (And also for their own health ? unbred does can have a tendency to put on weight.)

So far, all of Aberdeen’s offspring have inherited her sweet and gentle personality. We sure do miss those two, but oh boy did they (and we) luck out ? they went to a fantastic home, where I suspect they’re receiving even more scritches and nose-kisses than they did here.

If you want to see them in their new surroundings, click the link below (posted with the permission of their wonderful new caretaker).

Tumalo Bed & Biscuit ? Dog Boarding in Bend, Oregon

(And if you’re ever in the Bend, Oregon, area and have a need to board your dog, something tells me that Tumalo Bed & Biscuit would be the place to do so!)

Snapshots from a typical Fall day on the farm

Cheesemaking is kicking into high gear?we’re freezing a lot of chevre to enjoy later when the milking slows down, and here’s the beginning of a farmhouse cheddar:

I screwed up the last batch of beer and foolishly didn’t brew for a while.  Our homemade beer (when it works, which it usually does) is much tastier than what we buy at the store, and ends up costing about half as much. 

Here’s five gallons of soon-to-be-porter bubbling away:

Last year, we got a freeze in early September that took out all the tomato plants, and Teri made a lot of green tomato ketchup.  This year, none of the main (Brandywine) tomato crop had turned red by that point, and my dreams of pasta sauce seemed to by dying?but the past month has been mostly sunny and warm, and we’re bringing in five-gallon buckets every few days. 

Though we aren’t entirely dependent on our homegrown food, it’s probably saving us a couple of thousand dollars a year now, so I have a little more appreciation for how much people doing this in the past were subject to the whims of the weather?and for what a joy it is when one’s hard work is rewarded with abundance:

In a break from my usual “functionality IS the aesthetic” carpentry ethic, I’ve made a tea table to go alongside my desk (I hate having beverages and food on the same surface as my computer).  The top was from a rough-cut slab of some unknown hardwood that I got a bunch of for free because of “imperfections”, and the base is something that was left behind when the electric co-op trimmed around the power lines. 

It’s beautiful wood?but I didn’t know that when I got it, so most of it is incorporated into the chicken coop.  Now that I’ve seen it sanded and sealed, I think I’ll be pulling the rest of it off the coop to make things from (don’t worry chickens, I have plain old fir boards to replace it).  Anyway, here’s the table, which I’m quite pleased with:

Closeup of the wood:

Worky work work!  In addition to all this, there are of course the daily chores such as caring for livestock, cooking, keeping the fire going, earning a living, etc?but some other farm residents have more sensible priorities; I leave you with “Snail Love”:


Crazy goat house tricks

I lucked into a bunch of used building materials recently, thanks to a friend who is letting me salvage from a condemned house.  Perfect timing, because our goat herd needs to move to the other side of the property soon.  This requires the construction of a new goat house, since it will take days and days to sawzall and haul the old one.

There was a half-built shed in the yard of the doomed house that fit the bill:

It was about 8 x 10 feet, a little small for a goat house, so I dragged it home and reconfigured it to be 9 x 18 (still missing a piece here):

Then we reconsidered the location and decided the thing needs to move about 50′ to the East to line up with the new pasture areas.  How does one skinny middle-aged man move this unwieldy load?  Take it apart and carry the pieces over like a normal person?  Nah, that would be boring; time for a little good ol’ fashioned hillbilly ingenuity!  Ain’t nothin’ you can’t do with a rusty ol’ pickup!

I parked inside the structure, jacked up the legs, and placed cross pieces across the tailgate, bed, and roof of the truck, bolting them to the uprights.  Here are two clips of the actual journey.  (I run to and from the camera because it has very limited memory, but unfortunately it still ran out and missed recording the too-exciting bit where I “gently” lowered it to the ground.)


..and here it is at end of day, roof all framed and one panel fitted into place:

Rambling late Summer garden notes (with cute goats)

Hi. You’re probably here for pictures of cute goats.

Well, cute goats we’ve got:

Nikabrik 20100816

?but the news these days is mostly happening in the garden.

(There will be more cute goats later, promise)

Spring dragged on cool and rainy until well into June this year. Some plants loved it, and some plants not so much (“Tomatoes looks great for early July! Too bad it’s mid-August.”)

Cabbage has been one of the happy ones:

Cabbage August 2010

Peas did great too ? grew up over the top of the trellises, produced nicely, and helped keep us too busy to take photos of ’em. With the difficulty of picking each pod at the perfect moment and then processing them all, one by one each plant matures a hidden pod or two and starts dying down.

In the past few years, we didn’t shell and save so many peas, instead eating most of them fresh when they were half grown. Sweet and delicious, pod and all. The plants kept producing until we got tired of picking peas, and I suspect that we had a much better labor-to-nutrients ratio that way.

We’ve dabbled in small corn plots a couple of times, in heavy clay soil with fish juice fertilizer, with unimpressive results. This year we’re trying two plots that have copious amounts of composted goat stuff worked in a foot and a half deep. This one is popcorn (name escapes me, probably heirloom):

Popcorn August 2010

This one is a hybrid production variety of sweet corn. Not what I’d usually grow, but someone offered me a tray of 100 five-inch-long starts and I’m sure looking forward to seeing how fast it can get from the stalk to the grill to the butter.

Hybrid Sweet Corn 20100816

Both of those corn plots, assuming Summer doesn’t completely fizzle out early, should provide a few nice baskets of food, but we’re still getting a feel for growing grains so we’ve been doing small plots.

One of the grains that sounds less labor-intensive to harvest and process is amaranth, which bears its ‘fruit’ in big clusters, so we’ve planted a little experimental stand of Hopi Red Dye amaranth with tobacco bookends. It looks pretty happy:

Red Dye Amaranth August 2010

Our buckwheat patch is somewhat smaller ? one plant at the moment. I like it as a cover crop, so I’ve grown quite a bit of it, but I’ve never allowed it to grow over a foot or so before scything and composting it. This one volunteered at the end of a row?it’s a bit over five feet tall now:

Buckwheat Wholeplant August 2010

AND it’s making little buckwheats!

Buckwheat August 2010

These Calypso dry beans should produce medium-sized “yin yang” patterned beans:

Calypso Dry Bean August 2010

Their flowers and tiny beans-to-be:

Calypso Dry Bean Flowers August 2010

Another new one for us is sweet potatoes. This is two plants that have grown slowly but steadily for several months now without covering much area?I’ll be so happy if these work at all!

Sweet Potatoes August 2010

Some plants we’re feeling pretty competent with now, so we plant something approaching the amount we expect we can use. In the case of zucchini this means two bushes, but we’ve got four of them out there.

There’s a whole world under the zuke/delicata canopy:

Zucchini Delicate Forest August 2010

Tomatoes do fine here, though it’s sad in the Fall because they’re quite willing to keep producing right up until the first frost strikes them down. Here’s a beautiful Brandywine, the meaty heirloom variety we like for its hardiness, flavor, and texture:

Brandywine Tomato August 2010

We usually try to stick to heirloom varieties that we can propagate ourselves in subsequent years, but the hybrid cherry tomatoes are kind of irresistible, and produce an amazing amount of sweet little globes in a few square feet:

Sweet Million Cherry Tomato August 2010

Black oil sunflower seeds are a big staple food for our chickens and goats, and they produce multiple flower heads?I think I counted 9 or 10 on this stalk:

11 Headed Sunflower

Black Oil Sunflower August 2010

Fairy tale (miniature) eggplant, more of a late-summer treat than practical food source, but WHAT a treat they are on the grill with olive oil on top and applewood smoking them from below!

Fairytale Eggplant August 2010

This Summer’s “Perennial plant that the chickens have failed to destroy despite their tireless efforts to dig it up” award goes to the horseradish:

Horseradish 20100816


Calendula growing among the cherry tomatoes:

Calendula August 2010

and finally, as promised, here’s Drama Queen, who is full of little baby goats (due in about three weeks)

Drama Queen Pregnant August 2010

Bats in the belfrey

I’m just back from a week away visiting family in Michigan. Peter, of course, had to stay here to care for our 26 chickens, 9 goats, 1 dog, 1 cat, and innumerable plants. And, oh yeah, do a little paid work too.

I had a great time during my whirlwind trip (from a suburb of Detroit to the Upper Peninsula to the northwestern Lower Peninsula and back to Detroit), but today I got to snuggle chickens (well, only the couple who will let me snuggle them), kiss goat noses, bury my face in cat belly fur, and be kissed by a dog whose little stump of a tail was wagging so hard that his entire body wiggled.

I arrived home last night at around 11 pm (that’s 2 am in the time zone that my body had finally adjusted to), ate the delicious dinner that Peter had prepared, and tumbled into bed at midnight. A short while later we were both awakened to the sounds of the cat chasing something and the dog barking madly.

Just as I was contemplating looking to see whether the cat was after a mouse or only a moth (we ? and the cat ? sleep on a mattress on the floor of our loft; any prey larger than a moth would need to be dealt with), I felt something scurry across my (naked) chest.

It was far lighter than than the cat would have been.

I sat straight up in bed and said, “I think a rat just ran across my chest!”

Peter grabbed a flashlight and shined it toward the sounds of pouncing. It took a minute to figure out what we were seeing: on the floor at the foot of our mattress was an upside down bat.

Anu was pouncing on it and it was making weird little noises. Somehow it was able to right itself and fly away to hang near the ceiling on the other side of the room.

Peter then had to climb the ladder, maneuver the bat into a box, and take it outside to let it go. I got to sit in bed and hold the cat, and watch the whole thing through my haze.

The little guy was pretty cute, and made all sorts of ferocious bat noises at us. I wish one of us would have thought to take a picture, but at that point I think we both only wanted to get back to sleep.

That was definitely a first ? we’ve never had one in the house before. We’re guessing he came in through the attic. I’m sure he was just as stunned at finding himself trapped inside of a house as we were at his presence. Anu gets props for being such a good huntress, though we’d really like to keep the bats around and would prefer that she stick to the occasional mouse or rat.

It sure is good to be home.

(No, that’s not sarcasm ? I love all of the random encounters we get to experience out here!)

Another random, tersely captioned flood of pretty pictures

Wild strawberries have been fruiting for some time now, and here comes the first big domesticated one: Strawberry20100601


We're growing red Brandywine tomatoes again this year since we've had such good luck with them in the past. They are indeterminate* plants, which means that they have a vine-like growth habit and appreciate a good trellis or stake. Tired of messing with stakes and strings, I'm trying to weave these through a cattle panel for support: Tomato20100601


These Pontiac Red potatoes are about five weeks old, and we've just put up a chicken-wire fence to help contain the mound we'll be building up over them:



Turnips, turnips, so delicious and easy to grow in our climate: Turnips20100601


The cold frame is still booming and hasn't been covered in a month or more. The tall plant is an overwintered celery. The kale, turnips, and beets were started around January.



Tiny, tiny little apples are forming by the millions: Babyapple20100601


Tobacco took forever to sprout, then was very slow for a few weeks, but now it's exploding, and I think I'm going to have to give a bunch of starts away or just toss some in unworked soil and see what happens Tobaccostarts20100601


Cabbages are loving the long, gentle transition from winter to summer: Cabbages20100601


No idea what this one is…it's in a patch that I occasionally hurl some cheap, outdated flower seeds into and otherwise leave alone: Mysteryflower20100601


* Another important feature of indeterminate tomato plants is that they bear fruit over a long period of time rather than all at once. Many people who do canning prefer determinate plants, which bear most of their fruit in one flush, but we find it easier to can frequent smaller batches.