Harvest Creations: Gardening to Do for August

This is what the front of my home looks like, Aug. 6, 2014.

This is what the front of my home looks like, Aug. 6, 2014.

I have been so busy that I nearly missed that a new month was upon us. I’ve been harvesting something nearly every day. I’ve weeded the garden two times over now (and the north-facing south flower bed along the outer property reaches is screaming for my attention in that department now). Such a flow will continue, harvest, weed, water, pest control, harvest, weed, and water again. However, I also get to start planting some of the fall veggies, like another row of broccoli (we eat whatever I harvest almost immediately, and I’d like to be able to freeze some for the off-season), and some winter lettuces, and more carrots, and parsnips, and whatever else I can think of before it’s too late.

The original raised bed that started this crazy Grow Food Not Lawns effort. Now ready for successive planting.

The original raised bed that started this crazy Grow Food Not Lawns effort. Now ready for successive planting.

How did I do on July’s list? I amazingly got it all done, save the two rose bushes. It’s just not rose bush season. But I have cuttings from a friend’s rose bush and I hope they actually begin to bloom. If it takes until next spring to get the others in, so be it.

So far I’ve canned peppers, salsa verde, rainbow salsa, blackberry jam, strawberry jam, and vegetable broth. I need more jars to get me through August.

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Lessons learned:  I need to make a planting plan for next year that reflects our resources here and where to plant what. The northeast corner of the big Grow Food, Not Lawns bed is overcrowded. Although, if you look at the photo from June, it seemed there was lots of space. Nope. Also, I need to keep plants that need lots of water on one side and those that need less on the other, so I can target water. I also learned that I likely won’t plant leeks again, at least without making more of an effort to plant them. They were an impulse plant, and I got marginal results. The strawberries are doing great this year and we’ll give them an even larger plot next year. Also, we are very much sold on Uncle Ian’s pest control. We had elk come to the property the other night and they seemed to be deterred. We put more Uncle Ian’s down to make sure they don’t come back and will do so for the next five nights. I would like to find out either how to make this myself or buy it in bulk, especially given since my land has no fences (much to my chagrin, but my spouse likes the “open” feel to no fences).

Sir Elk came to visit. He didn't nibble. I keep putting Uncle Ian's repellent down (dried blood and red pepper) to keep them away and/or just keep walking.

Sir Elk came to visit. He didn’t nibble. I keep putting Uncle Ian’s repellent down (dried blood and red pepper) to keep them away and/or just keep walking.

August’s List:

Keep up rose cuttings for spring

Move flowers from north-facing south bed to south facing driveway bed

Weed

Harvest

Water

Pest Control

Get more canning jars

Plant fall veggies (Parsnips, broccoli, winter lettuce, successive carrots, maybe cabbage)

Mulch as necessary

augrhubarb

Been a bumper-crop year for rhubarb.

augcukes

The cucumbers are finally taking off.

Well there’s much to do gardening wise. Tell me what you’ve learned from your own efforts? Have you started a small plot? What are you interested in knowing about growing your own food? Comment below and we’ll talk some dirt. ;)

augwildgreenbed

My Wild Green Bed is still holding on.

Peppers going gangbusters.

Peppers going gangbusters.

 

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Backyard Chicken Keeping: 5 months old

relaxinginpoultryville

We have benches now for the humans to relax and just be with our hens and ducks. It’s a great meditation spot.

On July 26 The Girls will be 5 months old. Currently five out of the seven (RIP Angel) are laying eggs daily. Since on an average day our egg consumption is about a half-dozen, this works out well. I barter for other eggs with other keepers and that keeps us in eggs so far. Once all are laying, I may not need to barter as much anymore.

Recently I toured a few other backyard-chicken keepers coops and set-ups and am validated that we have a pretty good situation for our hens. One night last week, I forgot to close the door to the roosting dormer and yet they were safe. Of course, I won’t make that mistake again.

Five of our seven hens are now laying.  Huzzah!

Five of our seven hens are now laying. Huzzah!

We still have a dust bath in the corner below the roosting dormer, but they have created their own dust baths. The created dust bath only gets used on rainy days. That’s fine because it saves me on construction-grade sand purchases.

We’ve also switched to organic, soy-free, corn-free layer feed. They are gobbling it up. They may still get some soy and corn from our farm, but those harvests are far down the summer road yet.

As hinted above, the chickens continue to be a great complement to our urban farming efforts. Daily I weed one five-gallon bucket of weeds for the chickens and one for the ducks. In addition, things like Brussels sprout leaves that must be trimmed to push the sprout growth are given to my poultry and they love it. Also, kitchen scraps when we’re creating our harvest creations. The chickens love harvest day, take a look below at the video link…

I recently harvested a huge haul of peas and they got all the pods. They loved it.

Willow, the first of my hens to lay, (Red Sex Link) has become a bit broody. She will squat over and on even eggs that aren’t hers. Because she’s one of the Girls that bonded with me, I can shoo her off and she’s only mildly disgruntled. I may use this to our advantage if folks with different breeds have fertilized eggs that need hatching. But, I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. We’ll see.

I’m fairly certain that there are no roosters in the bunch. The one I suspected the most was killed in our recent predator attack, so all is well.

Try as we did, we had to trim the flight feathers of our chickens. They seemed completely nonplussed by the whole haircut process.

Try as we did, we had to trim the flight feathers of our chickens. They seemed completely nonplussed by the whole haircut process.

After the predator attack, several of The Girls kept flying out of the day-time pen/run. I was lucky to catch them all and not lose them or worse, but I knew it was time to clip their wings. I tried and tried to not do that; but, hopefully as they mature more and their feathers grow back, they lose interest in flying the coop. Hubby helped me with it and it went pretty fast and no more escapees.

Next up in poultryville, beyond getting our ducks, Joe & Vera, completely healed up, is an outside water system for the roosting dormer. My Girls are definite Washington birds and don’t mind the rain, but they do spend more time in the covered run part of the Coop D

Vera in one of her three watering spots. We upcycled this sink from a historic site in Seattle.

Vera in one of her three watering spots. We upcycled this sink from a historic site in Seattle.

eVille when it is raining. We still also need to get a third duck. Our predator attack hammered home the need for better odds of making sure Joe & Vera never are put in a situation of being alone. Buying an adult duck has proven to be difficult, however. We persist, regardless.

Well it’s time to gather eggs. My Girls normally don’t lay until mid-morning (I have no idea if this is usual or what….) and it’s almost lunch. Don’t want Willow thinking she has a brood to nest on.

See ya around the coop!

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Harvest Creations: Stuffed Poblanos

Poblano peppers from our land. July 2014.

Poblano peppers from our land. July 2014.

Last year our tomatillos and jalapenos did great. We turned much of that into salsa verde and green enchilada sauce. The latter required that I procure Poblano peppers. They can be expensive for as many as I need for my “That-S#*&-Takes-All-Day enchilada sauce. Therefore last year we had decided that this growing season we would include Poblanos in our Grow Food Not Lawns efforts.

Goat cheese and duck egg are the secret ingredients here.

Goat cheese and duck egg are the secret ingredients here.

 

The Poblanos have been doing well. I’ve frozen a batch already to be used with the T.S.T.A.D. sauce when the tomatillos ripen. The most recent harvest I decided I wanted to try to do something fun with them – diversify its holding in our food preserves, if you will.

 

Use a rock glass to help hold your pepper up while you stuff.

Use a rock glass to help hold your pepper up while you stuff.

I love Chile Relleno. I order it just about every time I go out for Mexican food. It’s not something I make myself ever, because it is a very complicated recipe that takes a long time to make. But I wanted something similar to Chile Relleno. That’s where this recipe was born. Straight up made from our own imagination, tested, and heartily enjoyed.

Be very gentle when you stuff the peppers.

Be very gentle when you stuff the peppers.

 

I made these for out-of-town guests and they were gobbled up. The little tortilla cheese-stopper was a nice mini-quesadilla on the top. It certainly helped to keep the cheese deep inside the poblano, too. The goat cheese with the spice and sharpness of the other cheese blended nicely with the pepper and was definitely reminiscent of Chilie Relleno without the complications of that recipe.

If you have an extra large tortilla, you may need to cut the wedges in half horizontally.

If you have an extra large tortilla, you may need to cut the wedges in half horizontally.

 

We’ll definitely be making these again.

Stop up the cheese with the tortilla wedge before you put the pepper cap back on.

Stop up the cheese with the tortilla wedge before you put the pepper cap back on.

 

The recipe below will serve six people (two peppers per person); I ended up only doing six and freezing the remaining stuffing for another harvest of Poblano peppers.

The tortilla acts as an anchor for the cap as well as keeping the cheese in.

The tortilla acts as an anchor for the cap as well as keeping the cheese in.

 

Ingredients: 

12 Poblanos, with the caps sliced off and reserved, de-seeded

8 oz. of creamy goat cheese

8 oz. of grated Mexican mixed cheese

1 duck egg (you can use an extra large chicken egg if you don’t have duck egg)

1 Tbspn of ground cumin

1 Tbspn of dried cilantro

1 Tortilla cut up into small triangles

Be sure to let rest in the foil for five minutes before unwrapping.

Be sure to let rest in the foil for five minutes before unwrapping.

 

Tools:

Grill & Tongs

Aluminum Foil

Rock Glass

Small spoon

Toothpicks

Dig in!

Dig in!

Directions:

Once your peppers are prepped (washed, dried, caps sliced and reserved, and de-seeded), mix remaining ingredients except the tortilla in a medium bowl until well-mixed. Take one of the peppers and stand it up in a glass. Gently stuff filling into the peppers.

Each of my peppers took about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of the filling. I was very gentle and pressed down the filling into the deepest recesses of the pepper’s depths. (We thought that perhaps you could use a frosting bag for this, but I was in too much of a hurry to eat to drag that out, but you might want to try it.)

Then I took one small triangle of tortilla to use as a “cap” for the stuffing. Gently work the tips of the triangle into the pepper between the pepper wall and cheese. Then replace poblano cap and toothpick together. Wrap in foil and grill on ready grill for about 20 to 25 minutes turning every seven minutes or so. (You could cook in oven at 400 degrees F for same amount of time if you don’t have grill.) Let sit for five minutes (set the table, open a cerveza…). Unwrap foil, eat, and enjoy!

The cheese just oozes out and blends with the pepper very yummily. Enjoy!

The cheese just oozes out and blends with the pepper very yummily. Enjoy!

 

 

Posted in Cooking, Harvest Creations, Micro Farming, Urban Farming | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m Sold On Sugaring

I love how my brows look. We're nearing the two-week mark and they still look fabulous!

I love how my brows look. We’re nearing the two-week mark and they still look fabulous!

I’m no beauty queen. I spent too many years in combat boots, in fact. Now I live in slippers, sandals, sneakers, and muck boots. But, I still like to look nice.

Because my life has been so varied, and I traveled lots, I always was a do-it-yourself beauty routine person. My hair is simple, so haircuts could even be done at the barber. When I colored my hair, I did it on my own. I did my own pedicures, manicures, and plucked my own brows.

When I turned 45, my eyesight started to diminish. I now walk in the world of the farsighted. That made things like plucking my brows nearly impossible to do on my own. I had to start having someone else pluck my brows. I tried waxing. It hurt, burned, and made me break out. Plus it didn’t last long. I tried threading, it was nice just once. The other times, it hurt very badly, gave me ingrown hairs, and was located at an inconvenient place. I tried going au natural on my brows…YUCK!

Then I discovered sugaring. It didn’t hurt. I haven’t broken out. It didn’t burn. I haven’t suffered any ingrown hairs. And here we are nearly 10 days later, and my brows still look lovely.

In short, I’m sold. I’ll never wax or thread again. I also don’t have to worry about letting my brows go all shaggy, either. Sugaring is my go-to brow maintenance treatment from this point on. I’m sold.

I seriously will look at giving up my razor soon here, too. Legs, Underarms, meet the wonderful, sweet world of sugaring!

If you haven’t tried sugaring, I urge you all to find a body sugaring professional in your area today.

Hair removal has never been so sweet.

How about you? Have you tried sugaring? What did you think?

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Backyard Chicken Keeping: Predator Attack!

gettingbackinswing

Duck Dynasty — the outer pool yard and inner dormer yard.

Who said farm life is boring?

Warning: Some of what I describe may be disturbing for animal-loving readers. It’s also, at times, just straight-up gross for those not exposed to day-to-day farm life. You’re aware now. Keep reading, please. 

This post was supposed to be about how wonderful keeping ducks is. Although it is; we’ve learned early in our first six months that there is some aspects of keeping poultry that is unexpected and not very enjoyable. Lesson learned:  you may lose a hen, and you may have to play water fowl doctor. Here’s the story…

We’ve been having a heatwave out here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s been brutal. High humidity and temps into the 90s. We’ve had to get creative to keep the house cool — not many homes have air conditioning around here. We don’t need it; but, this is the third summer in a row where the seemingly new normal is HOT. So, we may have to invest in central air sooner than later. Had we had it — perhaps none of this might have happened. Then, again, it still may have.

Welcome to Poultryville. The extended chicken run, Coupe De Ville, and Duck Dynasty.

Welcome to Poultryville. The extended chicken run, Coupe De Ville, and Duck Dynasty.

So, my duck pen, as you can see by the photo above, has a secure enclosure and then a more open enclosure. The open enclosure we call their “pool yard.” The more secure one the “dormer yard.” On the morning in question (July 9), I had vented our garage to our home. This means I cracked open the garage door, and kept the pedestrian door from our home to the garage open to circulate air. We block access so our Husky dog, Yuki, doesn’t get out. We vent the garage because it’s attached to the house and holds a lot of heat and we have appliances out in the garage (chest freezer, refrigerator, washer and dryer), as well as a server rack that works the hosts the web sites I manage and our home network.

Somehow Yuki got out. My 16-year-old daughter and I searched for her in her usual haunts. We call her “Miss Adventure” because she goes off on these little walkabout adventures, but always has either come home or someone brings her home. The problem was that my daughter had a doctor’s appointment that morning 22 miles away. This is one of those doctor’s appointments set up three months in advance — so cancelling wasn’t an option. Therefore, we had to stop looking. I locked up the ducks from their pool yard to their dormer yard, to keep them safe in case my dog returned when I wasn’t home. I instructed my 13-year-old son, who was just waking up, to listen for the dog or the door, in case Yuki came home or someone brought her home. That everything was locked up (I meant the ducks and the house; but….) and I’d get home as quickly as possible. Then we’d try again and all go look for the dog.

QimYukiDenaliHarper

QimYuki Denali Harper aka Yuki aka Miss Adventure

While I was at the doctor’s office awaiting my daughter’s appointment to finish, my special-needs 18-year-old son, Bean, called. He has an apartment trailer on our property (see story on that here); he had come up to the main house because his 13-year-old brother was upset. There was a dead chicken in the yard. I had him snap a cell phone photo, because I’m not the only person in our ‘hood with hens. But, it was a Buff Orpington; so, it looked like it could be mine. At that moment I thought, “Well, Buffs are common breeds, it still could be a neighbor’s pullet.” I asked the boys to get a shovel and put the bird in a paper grocery bag until I got home. I didn’t want my loose dog having a free chicken dinner. You don’t want your dogs to get a taste for fresh, raw chicken when you’re a backyard chicken keeper.

trafficjam

It was another hour before we got home. We ran into a really bad traffic jam caused by summer road construction (there was no way around it). When I surveyed the carnage, my yard looked like someone had taken a hose and sprayed feathers from one end of my yard to the other. Bean, expectantly, had fled the scene. My youngest son hadn’t gotten the message to put the chicken in a paper bag. So, I got to inspect an untouched crime scene. The deceased Buff was Angel — my most aggressive chicken, which is not saying much because compared to other broods, mine all seem pretty mellow. She had a small chunk torn out of her tail and out of her neck. The wounds were obviously severe enough to kill her.

This chunk of feathers was found mid-point between Poultryville and the other side of the house where the chicken carcass lay in ruin.

This chunk of feathers was found mid-point between Poultryville and the other side of the house where the chicken carcass lay in ruin.

Next I went to check the rest of the chickens and if the coop or run was damaged. Nothing. It was then that I noticed that the ducks were huddled in the corner under the pallet platform. It was then I realized that the ducks had been left out of their yard. I questioned my youngest son. He thought I had forgotten them in my rush to find the dog and get my daughter to the doctor. “I was trying to be helpful, mom,” he said. Teenagers being helpful can be rare. I couldn’t be mad at him. He felt awful enough as it was.

As I entered the dormer yard, I saw blood. Once I was able to coax the drake and duck out, it was more than obvious that they had been attacked, too — not just scared. Joe, our Drake, had his feathers ripped out at his tail. Other than that, he seemed okay. Vera, our duck, was really bad. She had 8 different wounds — one on her belly that was a straight up puncture wound. It was still bleeding.

One of Vera's very deep puncture wounds.

One of Vera’s very deep puncture wounds. The thick down makes finding wounds and treating them a bit difficult.

 

With my daughter’s help, I immediately went to work on stopping the bleeding on Vera (it turned out that two of her wounds were still bleeding), cleaning the wounds, and putting antiseptic/antibiotic spray on them. I put them in their little hut and put a towel over the door and let them rest. Later that afternoon, after talking to another backyard chicken keeper, I called hubby and he brought home first-aid glue. On the deep punctures that Vera had, we cleansed again and put on the antibiotic salve and then put on first-aid glue. It worked beautifully. By evening she seemed a bit better.

Vera sat pretty still while we stopped the bleeding and tended her injuries.

Vera sat pretty still while we stopped the bleeding and tended her injuries.

Following putting the ducks back in their nesting house, my dog came home. I checked her for bites, peck marks, fur in her nails. Nothing. She was clean as could be. I put her in her room in the house and went back to double check there were no holes or predator entry in the pens and dormers of Poultryville. Nothing. I started to wonder if my predator was the bald eagle I had seen fly over our property very early that morning as I watered the vegetables. That would explain the smallish holes in the chicken. The small width between puncture marks on my duck. But wouldn’t an eagle carry off the bird? No answers. Just more questions.

I went to go back to figure out what to do with the chicken (compost? yard waste? bury it?), when I saw the two little yapper dogs from down the street come trucking through by our front drive. Here comes the lady down the street. “There you are! There you are!” I stood with my arms crossed, as if to say, “Thou shalt not pass little yapper dogs.” The neighbor lady looked at me, “Grandma left them out the wrong door; we’ve been looking for them for hours.” She gathered her dogs and left. I didn’t see the dogs attack, so it was just sheer speculation. In my head I understood it could have been my dog. But I still was scowling when she walked off, I know. Sorry, neighbor.

I surveyed the scene. How had the chicken gotten out? Why was the body mostly intact? I surmised that the yapper dogs had chased the ducks, and that spooked the chickens and it got enough adrenaline pumping through Angel’s body that she flew higher than normal and just happened to fly out of the chicken run. I suspect the yapper dogs more because had it been my dog, Yuki, I don’t think there would be any chicken carcass left to inspect. I also don’t think that the ducks would have survived bites from her.

The rest of the chicken brood seemed nonplussed by the events and I actually got three eggs that day. The ducks however, were skittish and moving slow. I could relax later that day when I finally saw both of them eat and drink. I called the local vet and talked out what happened and such. She talked me through what to look for on the ducks as far as broken bones. Both ducks were fine. Vera was limping a bit, but that’s because one of the deeper puncture wounds was in the muscle that helps her walk.

Throughout the next days we kept the ducks confined to their dormer yard. I made sure there was fresh straw down, and fresh water. They weren’t eating very much. But they were drinking. I worried if the strain of laying eggs might hurt our duck more. She didn’t lay.

Saturday morning we went to tend their wounds as we had been doing multiple times a day — and we found the Joe, our drake, had lost a good portion of his feathers on his hind quarters next to the initial “scratch” he had gotten on the attack day. Now this is where it gets gross. He also smelled bad. Poor Joe had been used to as an egg-laying spot for flies. Yes, friends, there were maggots on him. After the momentary gross-out by both my husband and I, we went to work to flush out the worms. We discovered he had a wound under where his wing points cross over and his down is thick that we had missed initially. That’s where the flies had attacked him.

Following the thorough flushing of his wounds, we then laid a thick, thick layer of triple-antibiotic cream, which works as a fly deterrent, as well. The routine at that point was to irrigate-flush Joe before each medicine session. Last night and this morning (two days after the first sight of maggots) there were no more worms and the wounds were well scabbed up — no seepage.

After the maggot discovery, I started checking online. Seems like many poultry keepers have encountered such situations — a bird gets injured, hurt, and you miss a wound and the flies hit next. It’s nice to know we weren’t alone in our experience. I already felt so upset. It’s a cycle-of-life thing. As someone who lives close to the land, I get it. I just wish it hadn’t hit our poor traumatized ducks.

We’ll have to continue the irrigation and flushing for another day or two, however. That will ensure that we got all of it. Joe’s got a big scab where the wound we missed was, and the original wound site looks like it’s ready to sprout feathers again. We tease often and call him One-Eyed Joe (remember, these two Pekins already survived a bobcat attack before we ‘rescued’ them). Well now he’s Butt-Naked One-Eyed Joe. He’s a good Drake, regardless and quite the survivor.

Vera, on the other hand, is starting to grow back feathers in two of her wound sites. She moves slow, favoring one leg, where that deep puncture wound is, but it’s less than it was a few days ago. Also, yesterday she laid an egg, which I took as a thank you for nursing her and Joe. Joe, meanwhile, has for two days in a row done his crazy happy dance when I fill the pool up. They are more subdued, but clearly on the mend. Thank goodness.

The one good thing over this whole situation is that the birds have bonded with me more — a good thing given I didn’t get them until they were a year old. I cried over Vera at the third medicine round — the evening of the initial attack. I felt so so bad, as she nuzzled into my arm as I nursed her wounds. This morning, she was more of her bossy self, and poked me with her bill (not a bite, but a poke) as if to say, “That’s for not making sure the boy knew to keep us penned up!” She ate a slug I caught for her this morning right from my hand, however. She loves her slugs and the extra protein will be good for her wound healing.

Joe and Vera:  On the mend and closer to each other and me for the experience.

Joe and Vera: On the mend and closer to each other and me for the experience.

Again, who said farm-life was boring?  For sure, we’ve learned a few lessons, and I think the ducks know, I’m definitely a friend now.

Comment below and tell me your stories of nursing animals back to health. How did you do it? How did it make you feel? Share, please!

Posted in Chickens, Ducks, Harvest Creations, Micro Farming, Urban Farming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment