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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An early fall

I am convinced we are having an early fall. Or at least seems earlier than usual. Or maybe its just me that has missed summer. I have seen a few trees changing into their beautiful fall colors and some leaves falling too. The garden is done with exception of bell and jalapeno peppers. The field corn is brown but still a ways away from time to pick it. Time to get busy planting fall plants. We plan to get a few grapevines transplanted this weekend as well as get the raspberries and thornless black berries moved to their permanent locations. I have more young roosters that need to be butchered off and out of the feed bucket. I can tell you that 33 chickens of varied sizes can eat a lot of feed. Need to get that chore done before it gets too cool. Our weather is supposed to be high in the 60's this weekend. Perfect weather to work outside. Now if it don't rain maybe we can get that butchering done. My little Cornish chicks are growing like bad weeds. They don't get butchered till late October tho. But they sure are growing fast. I am just glad it is not terribly hot for them. I can keep them warm, its just hard to keep them cool.

This past week I have been making chipotle peppers. It really don't take long to smoke/dry ripe jalapenos. Maybe 4 hours. The biggest thing for me is to remember to keep adding wood chips to the smoker. I do tend to get distracted and forget. After they are dried they are brittle and I run them in the food processor to make chipotle powder. It has a nice smokey pepper smell so the taste will for sure be incredible. Maybe I can get in the garden and pick some more of the ripe peppers tomorrow to smoke. I think I have enough green ones in the freezer for poppers now. Probably far more than I will use as I am the only one who will eat them. Unless Rob is home and he and Amoy will eat jalapenos.

I am hoping tomorrow I can get up with my friend Marcia and see if she wants to go get apples at the you-pick orchard about an hour from us. I am totally out of apples in the freezer and only have about 2 jars of homemade apple pie filling canned right now. I need to check on my big pear tree and see if the pears are ready to pick also. I may can some of those as well. I like to mix canned pears and peaches for a snack or even a late breakfast when I get up late.

I did finally get a start on weeding my herb bed, again. That seems to be a never ending process. It could be done on a weekly basis if I had that much energy to expend. Still in the harvesting mode tho. Have lots more to get cut and dried. Then the whole thing can be mowed down. I have far too many types of mint that is about to take over in there. And I knew better than planting it there. What the hell!! But it serves the bees well when it is in bloom in summer tho. So its not a total loss. I really want to dig some horseradish roots too. I love the flavor of that stuff. And boy will it clean out your sinuses when you cut it up. Still got more grape juice to make into jelly too. Probably should have already had that done but I have been taking a break this week. My poor body needs it. If anyone has Fibro they can relate to the fact your body does not handle stress well at all. And the past month and a half have been very stressful with losing my mom, one of my favorite uncles and this past week and long time family friend past on. But I will survive even tho this fibro flare will set a new normal for me, again. Each time you have a flare up you never fully recover to being as good as you were before the flare so it sets a "new normal" for you. A fibro sufferer has to do their best to not let themselves get sent into a major flare up. But it does happen. But tomorrow will be better.

Not much else happening here on the farm, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back in the saddle again

I am finally home and back at it again. I did get a few days to rest after being away for a couple weeks. Then it was back to the homestead stuff. We had planned to get our older laying flock butchered off over the labor day weekend. Of course it rained and put an end to any thoughts of that. So this morning Rodger got the water kettle fired up and heated the scalding water and we did the deed. Butchered 13 of my older laying hens off. I did the usual of making stock with the bony pieces and canned the legs, thighs and breast halves. I got 19 quarts of canned chicken and 9 quarts of stock canned. That should last us a while for soup, stews, casseroles and of course chicken and dumplings.  I have 2 young pullets and the rooster left. The pullets are laying now so we can have at least 2 eggs per day to maybe hold us over till the younger ones come into production. I actually have 2 younger bunches of chickens and intend to keep the pullets out of both bunches. I should end up with about a dozen laying hens. Which means I will have about 20 standard breed roosters to butcher later as well. I did get my order of Cornish cross babies on Thursday as well. They are all doing great. I moved the rooster and his 2 girls in with the flock of younger birds and gave the Cornish the big chicken house so they will have lots of room to grow.  And grow they do. They will be ready to butcher about October 25th. At the young tasty age of 6 weeks.

After Rodger, Jason, Tasha (our friends daughter) and I finished with the chicken butchering Jason and Tasha went to move a lawn mower to her house and back to Jason's house to mow and weed eat his yard. Rodger went to the garden and dug our taters. Oh my, what a pitiful crop. For all the weeding and work it sure was not worth the effort. So what few we do have I will likely can those. I just hope to hell our sweet potatoes do better. I guess all things considered it was not bad. We had ate from the row of taters for a good while and we only planted 1 row in the garden. Not really many plants to begin with but dang I wanted more than a couple bushel of taters. We certainly hope to have several bushels of sweet taters tho. IF the deer will stop eating the vines off them. I think they have pretty much decimated the purple hull peas and now have a taste for sweet potato plants. But those will be dug soon as well. Rodger also brought a 5 gallon bucket of red bell peppers in for me to freeze as well. We use a lot of sweet bell peppers during the year. And my goodness, are those things expensive to buy in the store. I guess if I had to buy em, we just be doing without em. Next on the garden list is to get the jalapeno peppers picked and frozen. I think I will attempt to make smoked jalapeno peppers. Smoked ripe red jalapenos are called chipotle peppers. A rather easy process as I have read. A matter of picking the ripe red jalapenos, washing them well, They can be split in half if you rather not have the intense heat of the seeds. Then put in the smoker with some good wood chips such as hickory or any desired fruit wood and smoked till dry. My intention is to smoke for several hours then finish off in the dehydrator so they are completely dry. Then they can be stored for later use. Thas my plan thus far. Will post more on how they turn out, or not. Seems to me they should dry well in the smoker as they are thin walled peppers to begin with. We shall see.

I think tomorrow might be a jelly making day here. While I was out of town Rodger had picked and froze a good bit of hog plums for jelly. So maybe I can make the juice and jelly tomorrow. Those are one of those things its either feast or famine, some years you have none and you are best served to make a good supply of jelly in the years when the plums are plentiful. I am also gonna try to find the time to get to the garden again and pick the last of the tomatoes, ripe or green. I do want some green ones in the freezer for fried green tomatoes. Those sure can pick up your spirits in the middle of winter when you have fried green tomatoes and think of summer and the garden fresh tomatoes. I still have lots of herbs to dry also and most of a 50 lb bag of onions that need dehydrated. Lots of things to do to keep me busy till the snow flys I think.

As of right now, not much else happening on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Friday, August 29, 2014

Canning marathon

It has been a busy past few weeks here on the homestead. With the lose of my mom, then 11 days later my uncle passed away unexpectedly. The garden has really done well this year. Although with all the chaos we did lose a good bit of our sweet corn. When dealing with a lose its really hard to pick and put up garden stuff too. I think we probably lost about 1/3 total as it got too hard before we could get to it. The green beans also went a little too long. Lots of them as of last picking had turned yellow, ripe and had to be shelled out to can with the rest. This tells the plant "mission accomplished" as in it has produced seed and is done living so they stop flowering and start to turn yellow and lose leaves. End of the bean patch for the most part. Same thing is happening with our tomatoes. Not being able to pick them as they ripen creates big loses with them rotting on the vine. But not much can be done about all that. Am very thankful for what we do have and have canned. We are still picking tomatoes but its sad to see all those rotted ones in the patch. Last week we canned 21 quarts of green beans, 22 quarts of bean soup, and 21 quarts of veggie soup with venison in it. So we make progress. Rodger and I went to the garden last evening and picked tomatoes and bell peppers. I am guessing about a bushel of tomatoes and close to that many big bell peppers. All still need to be worked up. Not sure what the hell I did to my back but when I rolled, and I do mean "rolled" out of bed this morning I could not stand up straight. Bending over is just out of the question. I went out to let the chickens out for the day and did as Rodger told me and took my cell phone with me. All was good till on the way back in the house I dropped the phone in the grass. Not able to bend over to pick it up, I had to kick it over near the out building so I could have something to hold onto and bend down and pick up my phone. So back in the house I took muscle relaxers, Advil and anti-inflammatory meds and went back to my bed. I was a tad bit better this afternoon when I got up but a totally wasted unproductive day in my book. So I still have tomatoes, bell peppers and hog plums to get taken care of tomorrow. They cant wait any longer. Of course Rodger will be here to help tomorrow so I think we can get it done.

It is time to get my order in for Cornish cross chickens so we have some meat in the freezer to last till the spring batch. But before I have a place to put them I will need to get my older laying hens in the jars. We plan to butcher at least 12 of them this weekend while the men folk are off work for the Labor day weekend. And labor we will. I still have 31 young birds to get raised up and butchered off as well. Something tells me I will be in the winter butchering chickens, again.

I must say thank you to all my kind sweet readers who sent prayers and their condolence on moms passing. So nice to know that total strangers, or friends I have not met in person is a better term are so thoughtful. From all of us here, A heart felt thank you.

Not much else happening here on the farm, so till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Garden in full production, Moms passing

Our garden is in full production right now. Although I did lose the last of my sweet corn. It was just not important last week. We had other sad things to endure. My mom passed away suddenly August 8th. She had been doing really well after her stroke in April and up till about 2 hours before she passed. I find comfort in the fact that she did not suffer at all. My suspicion is she had another stroke or threw a clot. We buried her beside daddy on Tuesday. The week prior we were planning on Amoy and Liam visiting for a week and were scheduled to pick them up on Saturday at the airport. Rob was not gonna be able to come home with them due to trying to save his vacation time for when our lil Zachary gets here. But as it happened mom passed on Friday night and when we let them know Rob got a flight out of Phoenix for Sunday morning an got home Sunday evening. I was sure happy to get to spend some time with the kids and especially that sweet lil Liam. He just melts our heart.

He just had a hard time getting thru the flowers to get to his momma. He would eventually make a good lil country boy. There is truly nothing greater than grand kids. He did get to walk barefoot in the grass, step in his share of chicken poop, play in a creek, and pick and eat maters right off the vine.

Liam and daddy picking and eating Blueberry tomatoes that I planted in the herb bed. My good friend Deb sent me the seed for the tomatoes. That is the odd thing I grew this year. They are blue to purple in color and get red if they are in the sun. Liam liked em.  Love that precious lil boy. And his momma and daddy too of course.

Our tomatoes in the garden have done great this year. Rob and Rodger picked about 2 1/2 bushels on Sunday and I finally got them worked up on Tuesday. It will be hot for several days then rain for several days and this is hell on tomatoes. It will make them split and crack. Then they rot before they get totally ripe. But we are still having a lot  I made about 15 pints of salsa, and about 8 quarts of mater juice. When I wash and prep the tomatoes to run thru the Squeezo strainer to make juice I squeeze the seed pockets out of them. When they are run thru the strainer the juice comes out almost as thick as tomato sauce. Next project is to make spaghetti sauce to can. Probably this weekend. We had planned on picking green beans and tomatoes this evening but it poured rain till nearly dark. So maybe Rodger can do that tomorrow evening for me. Jason should be able to help him.

 I have to be out of town for visitation Thursday evening and the funeral on Friday for my Uncle Charlie. He was mom's sister Carla(deceased) widower. He had surgery on Monday to remove a tumor in his lung and passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday morning. My cousins are just devastated as to be expected. Two of those cousins were here last week as pall bearers for my mom's funeral. Love them dearly and loved uncle Charlie to pieces. It has sure been a rough couple weeks here on the homestead. Life can change in the blink of an eye. So tell your loved ones you love them today, tomorrow may never come.

In the past month since my last post, I did manage to get all my carrots processed. Some sliced and frozen, chunked and frozen, others shredded and dried. So they are all done. Now if it will just stop raining long enough to get the potatoes dug before they start to sprout with all this rain. I will most likely can most of them this year. We can keep them in the cellar but they do tend to sprout and thus ya lose a lot to sprouting. So if they are in a jar they are good till you decide to use them. So far I have only had time to make one canning of veggie soup and can it. Need to do lots more. Its also time to get the venison we have left out of the freezer and used up before the hunting season starting in October. We don't have much left but its still good and will use it in veggie soup and chili. What ever roast are left I will just can for barbecue or venison and gravy. Nothing goes to waste around here. When I took Rob, Amoy and Liam to the airport Monday I made a run to Sam's club and picked up another 50 lbs of onions to dry and use in soup as I can it. I got more pinto beans too for canning bean soup. We eat lots of soups in winter especially. Just glad Josh was in town that day to go with me to Sam's and help load the car. He is such a good friend to Jason and all of us. It was nice to get to spend some time with him even though it was during moms funeral. Dana and Dalton were taking care of his parents while he was here with us. Just wonderful folks, all of them, that we love like family.

I had planned several weeks ago to get my herbs cut and dried and still don't have it done. They have grown like crazy with all the rain. Maybe next week. God willing it will happen. If not, oh well. We will make do with what we have on hand. We have been more than blessed with our garden this year so I wont complain.

Not much else happening here on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The garden is nice

I have to admit it is more like Rodger's garden this year. He has done all the hoe work and plowing and keeping weeds out this year. It sure does look good so far. Our potatoes are dead so its time to dig those. I told him this evening when we were in the garden I think it best if we just dig maybe a 5 gallon bucket at a time so I can can up the smaller ones so we don't lose them from shriveling over the storage. We picked enough cucumbers to make 8 pints of dill pickles while we were in the garden. And I found 4 small ripe tomatoes.


The green beans are trellised on fence panels. They are full of bloom and beans. Next week will be picking beans.


The sweet corn has tasseled and has ears formed. It should be ready in a week or so. Yummy!!!


I think we planted enough sweet taters to supply a few counties. They look really nice and healthy if the deer will stop eating the leaves. They haven't done a lot of damage but ya know they been in there.


My tomatoes did not get staked and I guess you can say we do them the lazy way. Just them fall over and run all over the ground. They have lots and lots of green tomatoes on the vines. I did find 4 small ripe ones this evening.


We have about 30 ft of cucumber plants trellised on fence wire. This is where we picked enough to make pickles this evening.


If ya look close enough in the vines you can see the green beans hanging in there. At least the bean picking can take place in the shade this year. Either of us can walk under the trellis so at least on hot sunny days it might make life a lil more bearable.

More onions to get sliced and dried tomorrow, and herbs to pick and dry. Another busy day for me.
Not much else happening here on the farm. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another lesson learned

I have always thought that everyday you should try to learn at least one new thing, no matter how trivial it seems. Then there are days when we learn big things. I learned something new this past week since my last post. I had my incubator running to try and hatch off more baby chicks with the intention of replacing my laying flock with their off spring. I use one of the square Styrofoam still-air incubators with the automatic egg turner. It is tricky to keep the temp adjusted in those things when the air is not moving to keep it even all around. With this in mind, I decided to set the temp for eggs that would be directly under the heating element. So I put the turner in, placed my thermometer on the egg turner under the element and turned it on. With a few trys I got the temp right at 99.5 degrees for chickens. Then I proceeded to load the incubator by putting eggs just in the holders around the perimeter under the heating element. With water in the lil tray area in the bottom I counted the days till hatch time. This time around I got a 50% hatch rate. The best I have ever had I think. After a couple weeks I did candle the eggs and several were not fertile and some the shell was dark and dense and I could not tell if they were living or not so I left them all in the incubator. Now if I can just get better control of the humidity I think even that rate will increase. In the past I had been placing the thermometer in the center of the machine and set the temp for that area. Looking back I think the eggs near the element was getting too hot and killing the chicks early in the game. So if you are using one of the still air incubators to hatch chicks, only place eggs under the element once you have the temp set for that area of the incubator and you should have a better hatch rate. Or maybe you already knew that. But dummy me did not think about it.

Our weather has been really nice today. The forecast was for storms and rain today but so far we have seen none. I got out early, well early for me, today and weeded most of my herb bed. Then in passing I noticed I had several big weeds in the strawberry bed and got it weeded too. I actually feel like I earned my keep today. Now to deal with the sore legs from squatting down weeding. I also got fertilizer on the strawberries and herbs and some of my ornamental things here in the yard. So far this summer everything is growing really well. Our garden is really nice, the best one we have had in several years even if we did plant later than we wanted to. Although I have had to spray several times for potato beetles. They have really done some damage to the plants but still we do have some nice taters under there. Rodger dug a hill last weekend to see if they had made anything and we were both pleasantly surprised to find some nice ones. Another couple weeks and we will be up to our arm pits in stuff to pick and can. I still need to catch a not so hot day and clean out the cellar and empty things that our long past their prime and search out jars that may be unsealed. We pulled our onions last evening and they didn't do anything. They just did not grow much beyond the size of the sets we planted. I was kinda upset with that. So I guess I will try to buy a 50 lb bag a lil later and dry most of them for onion flakes. I seem to use more of those than fresh onions anyway.

Now provided we don't get too much heavy rain or too hot I plan to try to clean out chicken houses tomorrow. I really need to get the 16 lil babies put in a building. For now they are in a tote in the dining room. I really don't mind cause for now they don't smell and they are so cute and fluffy. I like playing with them during the day.

Not much else happening here on the farm right now. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It's summer and it's hot!!

I think we went straight from winter to summer here. It has been really hot for us this year. Not to mention the rain raises the humidity and makes it worse. I reckon I am getting too old for this heat or something. Dang it drains me of life and energy. If I cant work much outside you would think I could get tons of things done inside. Not sure why but that is not the case. I guess I am gonna have to get up early and work a bit outside and then come in for the rest of the day when the heat sets in. Hope to get started tomorrow drying some herbs. My pantry supply is running pretty low right now. I am totally out of my homemade version of Ms Dash. I did finally get some celery on sale and dried a good bit of it to use in seasonings. So far all the garden looks really good and is growing in spite of all the rain. I know we need rain but seems like it rains enough to keep the ground too wet to work in. And it makes the grass and weeds grow faster too. Its a constantly battle with bugs, disease and weeds when you garden. But that is life on the homestead. I know several friends are having issues with disease in their gardens. I am inclined to think its caused from the wet weather we have been having. So far we have not had that problem, only bugs here.

Over the past weekend we got the 4 young roosters butchered off. Yep I butchered the ones that were my pets. I had one that was getting really mean and beating up on the other 3. One had been hiding in the weeds in self defense. Sadly he came out just in time for the butchering.  But they certainly made some nice stock. I got 10 pints of nice rich stock plus a good bit of meat canned from them. So it was a gain. I have babies due to hatch this coming weekend in the incubator. Just hoping for a good hatch. It will be time soon to place my order for more Cornish cross for the fall butchering. I am hoping to get them delivered around mid September so they can be butchered off by late October. Most likely I will order 50 for the fall butchering to supply our meat for the whole winter. I am hoping to only keep about 12 laying hens and 1 rooster for my laying flock. Provided I hatch off enough pullets to replenish my old ones. Talk about making awesome stock. The old hens will for sure make great stock for soup and dumplings. Also the meat from them canned makes wonderful casseroles. Maybe we will have a cheesy chicken spaghetti casserole tomorrow for supper. I can actually eat that dish with Velveeta in it.

Blackberries should be ripe this weekend. We checked them last weekend and they were starting to ripen then. Might pick some to can for cobblers. I think blackberry cobbler is Rodgers favorite. I personally like peach better but by golly blackberries are free and that in itself makes them good. We have lots of wild blackberries growing here on the farm around the edge of the fields. I remember as a child going with mom to pick blackberries and she would not stop till she had a couple 5 gallon buckets full. Then she canned those for later use. And ya know, back then I don't remember getting tick bites and not really many chiggers. But nowadays you get eaten alive with ticks and chiggers. Oh my, the thoughts of the itching almost makes me not want to go berry picking. Its just part of the country life so we take the good with the bad suppose.

Not much else happening here on the homestead. So till next time, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

Stella