Friday, May 31, 2013

Planting the Garden, part two

Hi, it's Celia again!

Yesterday I started to tell you about the garden. Today I want to finish the story.

After I got the shovel out from under the bush, Mom showed me all the work she had done. We do not have a very big garden, just two raised beds. Mostly because we kids hate vegetables. We eat a couple of things, but not too much. Most of it is just gross. So about a year or so ago Mom stopped making us eat vegetables. She said she was tired of fighting with us, and we could eat fruit instead. So our orchard is bigger than our veggie garden.

The second reason our veggie garden is small is because it's very hard to keep animals out of it. And I'm not talking rabbits and groundhogs (although last year we did have to shoot a groundhog that kept eating the peas) I'm talking about chickens and goats. So once the garden is planted, Mom puts a fence around it. It's an ugly fence, but it works. She takes these step on posts (which Mom says a woman must have invented because they are so easy to use) and pushes them in the ground.

Then she takes chicken wire and loops it onto the posts. It only takes a few minutes to get the whole fence up.

She said after she planted the peppers and the tomatoes and the basil seeds, she went into the basement to get the fence. When she came out she saw this:

Babybel, our little doeling, had walked over to the garden and eaten the top off of one of the tomato plants. Good things goats don't like tomato plants, or that whole thing would have been gone.

And here's what our little garden looks like with the fence:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Planting the Garden, Part 1

Hi, it's Celia again!

Mom finally got around to planting the garden. She planted lettuce and rapini in April, but nothing else since then. So one morning I looked out the window and saw Mom outside working.

When I went out the first thing she said to me was, "Have you seen the shovel?"

"Hmm, the shovel?" I looked in the wheelbarrow and saw the baby-sized snow shovel.

"Yes, the shovel," Mom repeated.

"Oh yeah, me and Morgan were using it. It's under the bush." Morgan is my really good friend, and we were trying to make our clubhouse under the bush bigger by digging out some of the dirt.

"Morgan and I. And you mean it's been under the bush since Sunday getting rained on? It's probably rusted! And do you see this tiny snow shovel I had to use to put the compost in the garden? It's so small I practically crippled my back using it."

It is true that the snow shovel is small. It's even too small for me. But I didn't really think Mom was crippled because she had to use it. But I didn't say anything.

"Go get the shovel," Mom said.

So I went to the bush which has about a million flowers on it. And on those million flowers were about a billion bugs that looked like bees. I hate bugs. And I DOUBLE hate bugs that stink, bite, or sting. So I walked back to Mom.

"Umm, Mom, do bees like the flowers on the bush?"

"Well, it depends on the type of bee," she said. Mom is full of useless interesting information about bugs.

"Well, can you come look? I don't want to crawl under the bush and get the shovel if I'm gonna get stung."

"I'll come look, but you are crawling under that bush and getting that shovel, or you will not get lunch until you do." Mom wasn't too happy.

While I was considering which was worse, getting stung or starving to death, she added, "And you will NOT go to the stable, either."

Will that clinched it. I was going to have to crawl under that bush and get the shovel. Mom went with me and held up the branches while I went in and got the shovel. The whole time she was telling me about all the different kinds of bugs that were on the flowers.

And I didn't get stung.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

No More Fleas

Hi, it's Celia again.

Mites. Ticks. Worms. Fleas. Our animals get them all. And if you don't kill them, they can kill your animals. So today we treated the cats for fleas. We do it once a month with Advantage. Lots of people do this, and if you do, I think I have a tip for you that will save you money.

Here's our cat Peanut:

You can buy one dose of flea medicine for about $7.00 on line. This is for cat size or large dog size--they both cost about the same. So Mom buys the large dog size and pours it into a vial and then uses a syringe to get the correct size dose for our cats.

This way she gets about 5 cat-sized doses from the large dog size dose. This cuts her cost to one fifth of what it would be over the cat size dose. I hope that makes sense!

Mom says you can buy the vial and syringe on Ebay and maybe Amazon. And she says make sure you get Advantage, not Advantix.

Old Tom, my Grandpa's cat who stays with us

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Food for the goats the hard way

Hi Celia again.

I'll do anything to get food for my goats!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Busy, Busy, Mom

Hi, it’s Celia again!

Last week Mom was very, very busy. That’s probably why she forgot to order the animals' grain.  Mom is a caterer, and someone was flying to Lancaster for a tasting for a wedding. A tasting is when a caterer cooks samples for a client so they can make sure they like your food. 

This client had some requests for the menu that she doesn't typically make. So every day she was testing recipes by making the same thing, over and over and over. The food might have 1 teaspoon more salt, or 4 cloves of garlic instead of 6. And every night we ate the same thing over and over and over. That’s the down side of being a caterer’s kid. When Mom is getting ready for an event, or has food left after an event, we eat it. Over and over and over.

Here she is stuffing manicotti with cheese and spinach. She said the pastry bag is definitely the way to go.

And this is vinegar simmering so it reduces down to half as much. She’s gonna pour that over stuffed figs.

And guess what is in these bowls? Steaming broccoli that gets stuffed into chicken breasts.

So what does all this have to do with farming? Well, we’re not the only ones that eat when Mom has a catering job. This is a bowl full of scraps for the goats. They get the broccoli stems, onion skins, garlic that was chopped too small, and anything else that Mom considers waste.

Last summer we took a tour of Herr’s Chip Factory and found out that all the chips that spill on the floor get swept up and given to Mr. Herr’s pigs. So I guess it’s a farm thing. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Micro Farm in Pictures (4)

Hi Celia again!

Here's my week in pictures.

Have a good day.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Trip to the Feed Store

Hi, it’s Celia again!

We feed our goats and our chickens grain. We don’t have to, but we do. The hens lay better, and the goats give more milk if they get grain. They don’t need much, but they sure do look forward to it every morning.

We were running low, so we went to Powl’s Feed Store to pick up some more. They’ll deliver on Wednesdays if we order 500 pounds or more, but Mom didn’t think to get it. She’s been busy. Plus she’s forgetful since she's almost100.

Powl’s is a fun place to go because it is so DIFFERENT. It’s this old building that looks like it is out of the wild west. There is about 4” of moss growing on the porch roof.

They sell all kinds of feed which they grind up right there. They also sell veterinary medicine (which I hope I never need), muck boots (which I want), troughs, and other barnyard necessities.

But the oddest thing about Powl’s is they use feed sacks for curtains. When we asked if we could take a picture of them one of the men showed us a reusable grocery bag made of a feed sack, too, but I didn’t get a picture of that. I should have because I really want to make one. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Pullet Eggs (also known as Pleggs)

Hi, it's Celia again!

Pleggs. I made that word up.

Pullets are girl chickens under one year old. When they first start laying eggs (somewhere around the age of 16 weeks) the eggs are very, very small. They are called pullet eggs, but I call them pleggs. Once we had a plegg the size of a dime. Here's a picture I took of a plegg next to a regular hen egg.

There's not too much you can do with pleggs. Sometimes they don't even have a yolk. Mom gives hers to Farm Hand Dad, and he eats about 20 of them for breakfast. But it only takes about a week or so for the pullet to start laying large eggs instead of pleggs, so we don't have to put up with them for too long.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Free Lunch for the Goats

Hi, it's Celia again!

We have some really great neighbors. One of them, Roger, is very nice to us. He is deaf, though, so it can be very hard to communicate with him. He reads lips so he understands us, but we have a hard time understanding him. 

Coming home from the library we drove past Roger as he was cutting down a bush. Mom stopped the minivan and asked if we could have a load of branches to feed our goats. He said yes (or we think he did) so we shoved as many of the branches into the minivan as we could and drove to the top of Stone Hill. It was really hot, but we dragged all of the branches to the goat yard. The goats were as happy as pigs in muck. 

Later that evening Farm Hand Dad said he would take James and me to Red Box to get a movie. When we went to leave we saw a HUGE pile of branches at the bottom of the hill. Apparently Roger thought we wanted the whole bush. So we kept shoving branches in the minivan and driving up and down the hill. We must have had 78 loads! 

That's me holding branches out the window. That didn't work so well because they kept getting stuck under the wheel.

There were so many branches that Farm Hand Dad helped.

James even gave us a hand! If you remember from the post "Meet the Family" James does NOT like nature. He likes man made. So to see him actually touch nature, well, I had to get a picture of that. 

And the goats loved them!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New chickens, part 3

Hi, it's Celia again!

I'm going to finish telling you about the new chickens today. If you haven't read parts one and two, go here and here .

The best way to add new chickens to your flock is to sneak them into the hen house at night while the older chickens are sleeping. Then the older ones wake up with the new ones and they get along better. There is still a pecking order that needs to be established, but the new ones don't get pecked so much if they wake up together in the morning. I don't know why, but that's what Mom the chicken psychologist says.

So on the first night we carried the chickens to the hen house. Since they were in a holding pen it was pretty easy. But the second night they were in the main chicken yard. We had to look through the entire chicken yard to find the pullets--all 20 of them. Most were hiding in the picker bush, but some were in the trees, just out of reach. So we got a stick and pushed them out of the tree. We carried each pullet to the hen house and shoved it in the little chicken door.

Mom explained we should use their door and not the people door so they don't get confused. Like I said, she's the Dr. Phil of chickens, so I did what she told me. It was hard. We were tired, and we only had one little flashlight. The last chicken kept running around the chicken yard, refusing to be caught. Mom said forget it and let the pullet sleep in the picker bush. But she did turn on the electric fence to keep predators from getting in the yard. We're hoping that every night more and more of the pullets will go in the hen house on their own, so we won't have to carry them in. It usually takes a week or so for that to happen. Mom said she read that if you turn a light on in the hen house the chickens are more likely to go in, so she might try putting a flashlight in at dusk. If it works, I'll let you know. Anything to get out of digging through a picker bush for runaway pullets! Then the blog would be A Runaway Pullet.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Chickens (Part 2)

Hi, it's Celia again!

Today I'm going to continue telling you about our new chickens. If you didn't read yesterday's blog, go here. It will make more sense if you read that first.

We got to the King's farm with the minivan loaded with a dog crate and plastic tubs. We also took a sheet to cover the tubs so the chickens wouldn't hop out while we were driving. That would have been crazy! Mom already hates to drive and she would have hated it even more if she had to deal with chickens flapping around.

(Last summer Mom took her meat chickens to the butcher. While she was there a lady pulled up with some chickens for slaughter. The lady had put the chickens in plastic tubs but instead of covering the tubs with a sheet she put the lids on. Tight. When she got to the butcher most of the chickens were dead. She was so upset! The lady wanted the butcher to cut them up anyway, but the butcher said no. But back to my story.)

Here are the chickens at the Kings. They raise them from day old chicks.

When we got home we clipped their wings. You clip one wing on each chicken so they don't fly the coop. If they fly the coop you might be hunting for nests. Clipping doesn't hurt them, and it's not hard to do. Mom learned from watching youtube.

Here we are putting bands on their legs. Mom can't tell her chickens apart, so every year the new chickens get a different color leg band. Last year's were red, this year's are white. That way she can tell how old a chicken is. She only keeps the chickens for about 3 years then they go to the soup pot.

Here they are in the holding pen mom made by moving part of the chicken yard fence. You can see the new hens in the front, and our old hens in the back, wondering what in the world is going on. See the trees in the background? Those are in the middle of the chicken yard, and what the hens climb to get high enough to fly the coop. The new hens will stay in the pen for the day, and then Mom puts them in the henhouse at night. But I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Chickens

We lost a lot of hens this spring to a very hungry Cooper's Hawk that we nicknamed "Diablo". That's Spanish for devil. And she was. She ate one hen a day for nine days. Not the whole hen, just the (cover your eyes if your squeamish) brain and guts. Mom tried everything to dissuade her, but Cooper's Hawks are woodland hawks and are very good at flying in tight spaces. We didn't want to shoot her (kinda because it's illegal, and kinda because we don't know how to use Farm Hand Dad's shotgun) so after talking to the Naturalist at the park, we did this:

We strung yarn across the top of the chicken yard, so close together that a hawk couldn't get through. After about a week of Diablo sitting in a tree and just watching the hens, she moved on.

A few weeks ago Mom decided it was safe to replace the hens. Normally she buys day old chicks and puts them in a brooder until they're big enough to go outside, but this year she said she was too busy to take care of baby chicks and decided to buy 16 week old pullets. Pullets are girl chickens less than 1 year old. At 16 weeks they are ready to start laying eggs.

So we loaded the minivan with dog crates and plastic tubs and drove to the Amish farm where mom buys her pullets. When we got there Mrs. King said they were sold out. Mom wasn't too happy about that since they live about 30 minutes away. And they are strict Amish, so they don't have a phone so Mom couldn't call ahead. Mom works with a lot of Amish, and they aren't all that strict (one even has a website!) but I'll leave those stories for another post.

Anyway, Mom ordered pullets from Mrs. King to arrive sometime in mid-May, and last week we got this in the mail:

Mom was so excited, you would have thought it was Christmas. So on Friday we loaded the minivan with crates and tubs, and drove back to the Kings. But I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

This week on the micro farm in pictures (3)

Hi, it's Celia again!

Happy Sunday! I hope you enjoy these pictures of my week.

Irises are blooming.

Helping to mulch.

View on a misty morning.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Making Good Bread

Hi, it's Celia again!

My mom bakes really good bread. Mom makes it a lot, but she always makes it when we have guests because she says "it fills in the cracks". She's very concerned about her guests leaving her table with empty cracks. She's not concerned about us kids having empty cracks. If we're still hungry after dinner she says, "What?! You gotta hollow leg? Go make yourself a peanut butter sandwich."

Well, my grandpa was here and she was making the bread, and she wanted me to help. I told her I would if I could post it on the blog. Surprisingly she said yes. She usually doesn't share recipes. She's sharing this one because it's a famous recipe that Aunt Debbie told her about. But don't ask Mom to share a recipe she came up with. She won't do it. Must be a caterer thing.

You'll need flour, kosher salt, yeast, and warm water. That's it. Mom said you can use regular salt, but use less. And she uses instant yeast.

Use a large container with a lid, or a bowl with saran wrap. Pour 3 cups of warm water in the bowl, then 1 1/2 Tablespoons of yeast and 1 1/2 Tablespoons of salt. Mix it up. Dump in about 6 1/2 cups of flour. Sometimes Mom uses bread flour, sometimes she uses all purpose, and sometimes she'll swap out some of the white for whole wheat. She says she uses whatever she has on hand.
Mix the flour into the liquid with a big spoon. Mom said don't bother using your mixer. It'll take longer to clean the mixer than it does to mix it up by hand. Cover the container (or bowl).

Here's the container mom uses. She doesn't wash it between uses, and the bread gets more and more sour, in a yummy sorta way. She just scrapes all the bits on the side into the water.

After it's covered let it sit for 2 hours on the counter. Here's what it looks like after two hours.

After 2 hours you can take about half the dough and shape it into a boule (Mom pronounces it "bool" because she took French in college, but normal people would call it a  "ball") or put the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks.

If you are baking right away, preheat your oven to 450 and then let the bread "rest" for 20 minutes. Slash it with a knife so the crust will expand.

Then bake it for about 30 minutes. If you are refrigerating it, when you are ready to bake let it sit for 45 mins to an hour after shaping it into a boule/bool/ball before you slash and bake. Oh, she also told me to tell you that she uses a baking stone that she sprayed a little Pam on. The bread should be really, really dark when you take it out. Yummy!!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fence Envy

Hi, it's Celia again!

It's hard to be happy tethering my goats when what I really want is a fence around the whole property. We have 3 acres, and if the goats could roam free, we would all be happy. When mom and I drive through the countryside and we see a nice piece of property, we look at the fence. We don't even look at the house (it could be a cardboard box for all we know). Some ladies admire shoes or clothes, some admire homes and furniture. Mom and I admire fences. We definitely have fence envy. We've been taking pictures of some of the nicer fences around Conestoga.

These three fences are nice, but might not hold goats in unless we put up electric wire, too.

And this fence would do the job, and mom says it would be cheap(er). There's no such thing as a cheap fence when it comes to pasturing goats.