Tag Archives: Harvest

Culling old chickens

So, I know you’re anxious to know about the slab, but that’s for another post. Sorry, you’ll have to wait another day or two.

For now, I want to share with you a task that we had to take care of that had nothing to do with the house build.

You may remember that back in April, we acquired a flock of about 20 old hens from some friends of ours. We were told they were roughly 5 years old. We did not expect many eggs out of them, but for several months during the summer we got about 10-12 eggs out of them every day so we were happy. Then the end of summer came and between the diminished daylight and the molting and the fact that they were old and that they kept eating their eggs, we didn’t get very many eggs out of them. For the last month or two, we’ve only gotten an egg or so a week. Very frustrating. So, we decided it was time for them to go.

Warning: this is a Homesteading blog about homesteaderly things and one of the things we do on this homestead is produce our own meat. The following pictures may not be suitable for all viewers. While I will not be posting “how-to” pics, or ones that are too bloody, some people may not like seeing dead chickens. I respect your decision to click away if you’d rather not see anything objectionable.

For those of you who are ok with that sort of thing, read on.

As I said above, this is not a how-to type post. There are plenty of those out there, and I especially found the one by The Prairie Homestead and the video by Joel Salatin she linked to at the end of her post to be useful.

This is more of a “this is how we spent our day” post. Actually, how we spent a day and a half, even into this evening as the canner is busily boiling away as I type this.

.

Hubs was the main chicken dispatcher.

He was also the main feather plucker.

My brother and sis-in-law joined is to help with the task.

Sis-in-law ended up doing most of the cleaning.

Flower Girl was rather eager to help with the whole process.

She thought that the tiny egg yolks we found inside some of the hens were really cool.

One of the hens was obviously still producing some eggs as we found different size yolks.

Nearly 12 year old Princess Girl was not nearly as interested in getting her hands dirty as her little sister, but she did process one chicken completely from catching it in the run to putting the cut-up meat into the jars.

I’m so proud of her. And when she wasn’t helping with the actual processing, she was a great gopher, as we all had dirty hands, she’d be the one to run and get stuff for us.

She also took a lot of these pictures since my hands were perpetually covered in ick or water.

This chicken wing looks like an octopus tentacle!

Since these chickens we’re so old, we knew that their meat would be pretty darn tough.

By canning the meat, it is pressure cooked as it is canned. This high pressure cooking/canning for over an hour makes the meat nice and tender.

And yes, I’m canning after dark.

These are great for use in soups or as chicken salad, etc. And I’m so excited that we were able to put these chickens to good use since they had become useless in the egg production category. It feels great to be able to produce some of our own food again. I’ve missed that since we moved back to Nevada and spent so much of our time building the homestead living systems.

We’ll, that’s it for the day. I’ll update in a day or two about our slab, I promise.

Advertisements

Blackberry Syrup with Honey

image

So…we’re moving in just a couple of weeks. And we had a freezer full of food to eat up since we will be living in camping trailers and won’t have freezer space available to us (have you seen how small those freezers are?).

We had several bags of wild blackberries in the freezer from two summers ago. First of all, they just needed to be used. Because, you know, two summers ago!

Second of all, as I said, we don’t want to transport frozen food to Nevada. So we either needed to eat them or transform them into something that is doesn’t need to be refrigerated/frozen.

We had so many that we could eat cobbler several times a week from now till we leave. And as much as we all love cobbler, we’re just not that into desserts around here. We see them as a treat rather than a staple.

So a canned good of some sort was the order of the day.

image

I coulda made jam. But as much as we had would have probably made about 5 pints of jam. Way too much for us to go through. That would have lasted us years! We just don’t eat that much jam.

So I chose to make syrup. By straining out the pulp and seeds I knew I’d get a smaller volume of juice. Not only that, but one jar of syrup will be gone in just a couple of days. We don’t make pancakes all that often, but when we do, we open a jar of our delicious homemade fruit syurp, use it for the pancakes, and the remainder gets used in oatmeal till it’s gone a day or two later.

I started out with 10 cups of frozen blackberries. I put them in a pot with about 1 cup of water and heated them till boiling, then cooked them for about 5 minutes. I then took a potato masher and mushed them up to get out as much juice as possible.

After that, I scooped them into some jelly bags to drain. You could use a piece of muslin or linen fabric, or several layers of cheescloth if you don’t have jelly bags.

I hung the jelly bags from a cabinet doorknob and let them drip into a bowl.

image

They drained like that for about an hour or so. I probably could have let them drain for several more hours and gotten more juice out of them, but I was in a hurry.

I ended up with 4 cups of juice. I added this and one 1 cup of honey to a pot on the stove and started heating it. I chose this amount of honey because that’s what tasted good to us. Feel free to adjust the amount to your liking. You can also use any other kind of sweetener you’d prefer.

Once it was boiling, I sprinkled in about two tablespoons of no-sugar-needed pectin. I figured this would thicken it up into more of a syrup consistency without waiting for it to boil down on the stove. If you’d prefer not to use pectin, you can just let it simmer for a while on the stove, but be prepared to lose a bunch of volume. If you do use pectin, be careful not too add to much or you’ll end up with jelly!

Once it boiled good for a minute or so, I ladled it into prepared jars and processed it for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. For detailed instructions on water bath canning, check out this site.

You can see from the following picture that the syrup is thick enough to coat the inside of the jar. Yummy!

image

I ended up with 5 cups of syrup in 4 jars (two 12oz jars and two 8oz jars).

Can’t wait to have some pancakes!

And yes, we left enough blackberries out to make a couple cobblers. 🙂

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #11 – DIY paracord belt and signs of spring!

I finished my belt!

image

And O.M.Gosh, my fingertips hurt from gripping the p-cord over and over and over as I weaved the thing!

image

Weaving, weaving, weaving

Overall, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. As you can see from the first picture, I ended up using two different colors because we didn’t have enough of just one. But I think the two tone effect is cool. Besides, people hardly ever see my belt since I never tuck in my shirts.

So, out goes the very worn bracelet.

image

Well, maybe I’ll keep it for those days when I’m not wearing a belt. 🙂

Oh, and here’s a picture that shows the instructions of how to make a belt or bracelet using the weave I used.

Today I went for my walk, but it took twice as long to go the same distance. I kept getting distracted by all the signs of spring just around the corner.

image

image

image

And I walked through the neighborhood park which has the wild onions growing and picked some for our dinner.

image

They are still small, but very flavorful.

Our house designer emailed us the house plans today. We are so very close to being able to submit the plans for our building permit. So Hubby and I spent a substantial amount of time going over everything, making changes were needed, and fueling our dreams.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Garden update

While we were in Nevada, Dad decided that the big garden was done for the season. This is good news for the chickens.

image

They are happily roaming the backyard again.

image

Scaredy thinks the garden is her personal dust bath.

image

Our small garden is going pretty well. The kale is finally taking off. I’m thinking I might still plant some spinach in the spot that the lettuce was in this spring. But I don’t know.

image

The carrots have done well. We have really enjoyed eating those straight out of the garden this year (after a washing, of course!). I don’t think my squash is going to do anything. But you never know. We still have a month or so left of growing season (I know, right?!) Yes, it’s fall season, but on average, we won’t get our first frost for another month or so.

My container garden did not do so well this year. At least not nearly as well as I would have liked.

image

The tomato plants were tall and scraggly and only produced a few tomatoes each.

image

Nearly all the bean plants and flowers have struggled or flat out died.

image

Really, the only thing I can say did half way decent was the jalapeno plant.

image

And even then, the only reason I think it did well is because I don’t use jalapenos very often, so it has produced more than enough.

image

Oh, and the garlic actually survived. I was shocked to see it growing back after not being watered all summer.

So, nothing did very well in the containers. I’ve been trying to figure out why and I think I have it nailed down.

Neglect.

Yep, that’s right. When a person travels at least one week out of nearly every month, things at home tend to get neglected. Especially since for me, all the days in between are filled with catching up or preparing for next time. Somehow, making sure the plants had the right nutrients, enough water, the proper sunlight as the season change, etc wasn’t high on my list.

Though I was glad to see that the crushed egg shells I put on the tomato plants stopped any more blossom end rot. And I did give them all a compost tea at some point. But it just wasn’t enough, I don’t think. That and maybe I didn’t have big enough containers. Or maybe they got too much sun. Or not enough.

And now here it is, the beginning of October and I really haven’t gotten much out of my plants.

But. They still have fruit on them, and I’m reluctant to give up on them when I know they can survive a while longer.

However, where they were on the deck was getting too shady with the waning season. So I moved them down to a corner of the otherwise barren big garden.

image

They still look forlorn and scraggly, but I’m hoping that at least this was they’ll get the sunlight they need to survive for a while longer. Hopefully long enough to get me a few more tomatoes.

Well that’s it for now. How did your garden do this year?

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Preserving the harvest

There is a house in our neighborhood which is vacant and for sale. In the back yard stands two apple trees and five (yes 5!) plum trees.

image

Last year I got permission from the owner/tenant to pick their apples since it was obvious by the number of apples on the ground that they were not going to be doing anything with them.

This year I called the realtor and he gave us permission to take all the fruit we want.

Yay!

So I’ve been supplying us with plums to snack on for a couple weeks now. And I’ve had a basket of apples sitting in the corner waiting for me to do something with them.

Then two days ago a friend gave me some cucumbers and zucchini that she had left over after making all the pickles and relish she wanted.

image

So today, I sat down with my recipe books and a pad of paper and made some lists.

Apples : make into cider
Cucumbers: pickle them
Zucchini: shred and freeze
Plums: unknown (I don’t care for plum jam/jelly. What else is there to do with plums?)

As you can see, I had some research to do. I finally decided to make plum butter amd a plum bbq sauce. But first we gotta go pick the plums!

Fist on the agenda for the day was to make the pickles since they are best when the cukes are fresh and they were already 4 das old.

image

I’m not going to give a tutorial on how to make pickles. There are already a million of them out there, and I followed the instructions from the Ball Blue Book (one of my go-to canning guides). The only thing I changed is that I left out the sugar. I mean, really. Dill pickles do not need sugar!

However I did want to mention one tidbit that might be handy. The instructions say to tie the spices in a bag. I’ve heard that you can use a tea bag (the kind you buy empty and put loose leaf tea in to steep). But I don’t have any of those lying around, besides, I don’t like to use disposable if I can help it. You can tie the spices up in a square of cheesecloth or fabric, but that just seems awkward. What I’ve done for years now is use panty hose.

image

Yep, I purchased a cheap pair specifically for this purpose so they had never been worn. I gave them a good washing. Snipped off the foot portion and tied a knot in the end. Then I just fill the tube with the spices and knot the other end.

image

Because the fabric is so stretchy, when it is time to clean, it is a simple task to unknot it, turn it inside out over the compost bucket, and then rinse and wash. And since it is nylon, it dries almost instantly, too.

So once I had the pickles all canned, it was time to deal with the apples. The Hubby and Princess Girl helped cut them up. Because they were so wormy we only got about half of each apple for the pot. The wormy parts went into a bucket to be fed to the chickens. No waste that way.

image

I put them on the stove to cook a bit and while they were heating, Princess Girl and I attacked the zucchini.

image

image

I shredded, she packed. We put approximately two cups into each bag since that’s what most of my recipies tend to call for.

We did not blanch the zucchini. I have seen directions that call for it, but in my experience, it has never made a difference in the end product.

I got called away to help Mom with some stuff and when I came back I found that the apples on the stove had cooked down to apple sauce!

image

I realized I had cooked them too long to make cider, so I changed my plans and decided to make apple butter instead. Unfortunately, all the peels were still in there. I know some people cook their apple butter with the peels on and they eventually break down into the sauce, but I believe that lends a bitter taste to the sauce and resulting butter. So, I strained out the peels.

image

(Gotta teach Princess Girl how to take clearer pictures!)

I spooned the peely sauce into a mesh strainer and by tapping the strainer “ears” on the rim of the bowl and stirring the sauce in the strainer, I got most of the sauce separated from the peels.

image

Another of Princess Girl's photos

Even though the apples were not real sweet, the sauce is some of the best I’ve made. I think that is because usually I use the Victorio strainer and it mashes the peels up and strains them out. And while the peels don’t end up in the final product, I think some of their flavor does.

image

Princess Girl told me I have to keep this picture and post it. 🙂

At any rate, I got all the peels strained out of the sauce (more food for the chickens!) And ended up with 10 cups of sauce which I put in the slow cooker with some cinnamon and clove. I will let it cook over night.

image

I have to buy some honey tomorrow to use as the sweetener since we don’t have enough at the moment.

image

Princess Girl helped me finish up the zucchini and get the bags ready for the freezer.

image

Twelve pints of pickles canned, 6 bags of zucchini in the freezer, and apple butter cooking in the slow cooker. I’d say it was a productive day.

And tomorrow we go pick apples and plums.

I love harvest season and knowing that I am providing healthy food for my family. And it’s especially great when I get that food for free!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Summer Doings

I know I’ve been horrible at posting for months.

So, what have we been up to this summer?

Take a look and see!

We went camping:

We traveled to Nevada to work, see family, and spend time on the Homestead (click or hover over pictures to see captions):

We worked on house plans:Exterior views

And found a building almost the exact size of the one we are going to build:20150610_155031It’s cool (and helpful) to see the dimensions in real life rather than on paper.

We harvested cherries from our very own cherry tree:

Dad and Flower Girl planted the garden.20150609_161319

Princess Girl and her BFF ran a lemonade stand and made quite a lot of money!20150613_170558

One of my sisters came to visit and we made raspberry jam after picking the raspberries from her extended family’s farm!20150701_103628

We had some weird stuff happen in the chicken coop:20150702_102452

We were messy like a typical 2 and a half year old (there’s STILL specks of paint in the bathroom from this!):20150702_153057

We had our first tomato (and a couple more since then). Mmmmmm….

20150703_134143

We played with sparklers to celebrate the 4th of July:

We traveled back to Nevada once again, then to Missouri for a family reunion (click or hover for captions).

We did other typical summer type stuff (click or hover for captions):

And we traveled back to Nevada once again so I can work –  (click or hover for captions).

So, you know. We’ve kept busy.

🙂

Fresh salad!

Fresh salad, straight from our garden/yard. Yum! I needed to thin out the lettuce from the small garden, I picked some of the over-wintered-but-not-doing-so-well spinach from the big garden, and I found some dandelion greens in the yard. I had a head of purchased iceburg in the fridge and add to all that some borage flowers which just started blooming and you have a gorgeous salad almost too pretty to eat. Almost, but not quite. 🙂

20150409_175350

I love that dandelions are considered a weed, yet they are edible and good for you. And the borage is a volunteer which comes back every year.

Edit: For the health of you and your family, be sure if you are harvesting any wild edibles that they come from a trusted source not treated with any harsh chemicals! We don’t use any herbicides or pesticides or even any fertilizer on our lawn, so I know the dandelions are safe to eat.