Monday, February 26, 2007

Critter bag... not doggy!

This is what the restaurants should really call them.
Here J is enticing the cow with a leftover fry from our dinner out. The dogs as well as the chickens love leftover fries, but the cow?

Oh yea! Down the hatch. Stella loved the crispy fried treats!

And of course here's baby-Berry sitting up for one, his mom hovering for her share in the background.

Needless to say, the fries didn't even make it inside to the dogs, but they certainly aren't suffering. We'd come home from the feedstore earlier in the day with their allotment of cow hooves as well as some lovely smoked bones to knaw on. Everyone got a treat Sunday-dinner!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Holding pattern

We're ready for spring, which means gardening, but the weather isn't.

So this weekend we're going to buy the ingredients for "complete organic fertilizer". Here's the basic recipe:

Making the organic fertilizer
To concoct the fertilizer mix, measure out all
materials by volume: that is, by the scoop, bucketful, jarful, etc. Proportions
that vary by 10 percent either way will be close enough, but do not attempt to
make this formula by weight. An old 5-gallon plastic bucket will allow you to
stir up about 14 quarts.
Mix uniformly, in parts by volume:
4 parts seed
1/4 part ordinary agricultural lime, best finely ground
1/4 part
gypsum (or double the agricultural lime)
1/2 part dolomitic lime
for best results:
1 part bone meal, rock phosphate or high-phosphate guano
1/2 to 1 part kelp meal (or 1 part basalt dust)

The founder of Territorial Seeds, Steve Solomon, invented it, and we're trying some of the gardening methods from his book Gardening When it Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times. He calls for a hybrid between raised beds and old-fashioned rows, that should use less water if you have the space to spread out a bit. We'll spread the fertilizer, plus some aged compost (we finally "grew" some!) to hopefully turn lawn into food-happy soil.

The hens have been doing wonders scratching up the turned sod, and we're getting between 5 and 8 eggs a day from 8 hens. We'll have to rein them in once we have the garden tilled, but the pasture is starting to green up and we'll be letting them free-range out there soon.

There is a Small Farm Expo at the Enumclaw fairgrounds March 24th. Not sure if we can make it, but it sounds like a fun place to learn. They will have steers from a Dexter farm there, and tree sales from a nursery we love, Burnt Ridge.

Hopefully we'll have exciting pictures to share this know, more critters, some dirt, homebrew...the usual!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Happy hens make tasty eggs!

Taking a break from turning sod - humans and critters. The hens follow right along and scarf up bugs and worms as each sod chunk is flipped. Sometimes you have to stop and wait while they jump right in and work. It's kind of meditative and productive at the same time. The hens are friendly and mellow and seem to enjoy working with us to make the new garden space. It will be a bit sad when the project is over and the hens go back to chicken-only work.
We're lunching on eggs laid about an hour ago, after a long morning of garden work. It's really cool to know we feed the chickies, they feed us, and we all work together to help grow more food for us all.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chicken Tillers, Mice Killers

We had a cultured cheese class this weekend. We made two soft cheeses one being the feta in olive oil and fresh herbs pictured, and a paneer -- which reminded me of ricotta. We also made cultured butter that tastes divine! Actually made some of that last night out of local raw fresh cream and used it on homemade french toast with real maple syrup. The small plastic bag is a bit of the "piima" or a two generation old Scandanavian culture that we got to bring home for our future endeavors. It can be kept like this for months in the freezer.

Um... this is a little gross, so be warned. We unleashed our tiller in the form of 8 hens onto our vegetable garden area. A "chicken-tractor" if you will. to scratch up turned sod and eat bugs. The cats had also been in and out of the area. At some point one killed a mouse, but grew tired of it... leaving the mousey corpse behind. I noticed it when turning sod and though nothing of it. However, one of the Speckled Sussex hens spotted the mouse and snatched it up in her beak like it was candy. She ran all about at the same time she tried to scarf it down before the hens chasing her could wrest it away. Here she is off alone in a corner after everyone gave up the chase, and you can just make out the mouse tail hanging from her beak. The hen swallowed the rest shortly after the picture. While I've heard some breeds of chickens will kill and even eat rodents after their food, this is the first time I ever witnessed it happening. At least the mouse eating part!

Can you make out ALL the animals hanging out in the picture of just turned sod??

This is our weekend BBQ fire, within which we roasted local Hemplers no-nitrate all natural hotdogs as night claimed the sky.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Brewing and doings at Seven Trees

Here's the latest addition to Alchmey Corner - a milk stout! This recipe includes lactose, a milk sugar, which doesn't ferment out, but lends sweetness and body. The brew was originally concocted as a health drink for nursing mothers and invalids, or so the story goes. It's a great winter brew and we look forward to tasting it in about 6 weeks.

Adding a little culture to the corner is our Maneki Neko collection, along with a vase we got at a local artist's fair, a glass cat made with Mt. St. Helens ash, and a pomegranate from a friend's tree.

Mmmmm! Pastitsio! A Greek dish with pasta, cinnamon & nutmeg spiced meat sauce, topped with a bechamel sauce and baked.

We finally got the hens cootie-dusted for the third and final time. For some reason, they always fly at my face when we go to round them up. This time was no exception, with the added touch that I actually got hit in the forehead by one, who left a nice poopy scratch! So far I haven't died of tetanus, so the prognosis is happy. I was pondering the humor value of going into my doc and explaining the hen-assisted concussion and gangrene....oh well, there'll be plenty more opportunities for critter-injuries this summer.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Making Compost and Oh how they have grown!

Lovely compost being nurtured and turned. We'll add a third bay to the piles soon as Stella the cow is producing manure for the garden at a stellar rate. I am hard pressed to keep up!

Stewart now...

And then! So little. He now weighs over 82 pounds! Always a toy in mouth, do note!

Fergus all grown-up.

And as a wee baby, over 2 years ago now!

Spoiled boy Crichton these days.

And imp-kitten heart breaker in 2001.