Latest Entries »

Moving On

I’ve started a new blog.  I’ve named it “Dandelion Dairy, the Continuing Story”.  Seems like I really could just continue the story here where it started, doesn’t it?  Not this thrifty person.  There’s a space limitation (all those pictures!) to wordpress free blogs, and I’ve about reached it, so rather than filling it up to the last bit, and having to quit in the middle of a post, I’m moving on now.

And I think this is an appropriate point to move, because STAR HAD TRIPLETS!  The goat herd has more than doubled.  That post is up on the new blog, so GO SEE.

Facebook folks have been requesting pictures.  I’ve explained that goats are hard to catch holding still.  One friend suggested maybe they hold still whey they’re asleep.  Well, yes, but then you can’t tell what is which:

DCIM100MEDIA

My Best Crop

So even when I was mostly living in another state, I was successful in not only planting every year, but later Harvesting, Onions.

I planted them during Spring Break, harvested them mid-summer.  Jimmie always ate a fair number as green onions.

I’m writing about them now, because I planted 2 beds of onions in the last week.

Here’s how I do onions and why:

Sad to say, I buy your basic yellow onion sets from my local produce market.  I hope there will come a year when I grow my own from organic seed.  Goals are meant to be a good thing.  I don’t just scoop, though.  I stand there picking out the size onion sets I want.  I don’t take any of the tiny ones, but rather the large side of medium.  I don’t get as many for my money, but they all have enough oomph! stored up to grow well and become big onions.  According to an Organic Gardening magazine article, half inch sets are best for not bolting (going to seed).

I plant beds of onions.  Even before I had raised beds, I planted beds — when I was just planting at ground level, I probably did 6 onions wide by as long as I ended up with.  This picture doesn’t show the full width of this raised bed, but it’s snowing out there now, so I’m not trying again.  I took a ruler with me, and I seem to plant them 4 or a bit more inches apart in both directions.  I don’t use a ruler when I plant, just space them as seems about right to me.

DCIM100MEDIA

I’ve seem recommendations for much closer spacing, but I don’t have that much faith in my soil’s fertility, so I try to give each plant’s roots plenty of soil to search for nutrients.  Once I have placed all the onions in a bed, I smooth the soil out so I can see the tip of the set at most.  And I water well.

Then I do something to keep critters out, since I don’t even want them walking among them.

DCIM100MEDIA

Bed #1, pictured above, is covered loosely with all kinds of extraneous chicken wire, fencing & hardware cloth that had accumulated.  It will all be re-homed in time.

Using/Harvesting Onions

It won’t be long before I have green onions, but this year I won’t use any of these as green onions, because I have Egyptian onions for that.

I posted last year about using the onions I grow from sets, but rather than have you read that post which is about more than using onions, I’m quoting myself below:

A) I never thought of green onions as onions, but now once I have green onions, I don’t buy dried onions.  Then B) I don’t wait for the bulbed onions to dry before using them.  So for a couple of months, maybe 3, I trip lightly down the hill whenever I need an onion (not sure there’s anything I make that can’t include an onion) & harvest what I will cook right then.  No buying, no storing, organic onions.

Got that?  I’m growing onions that can be stored, but do not wait until they are fully mature to begin using them.  It was something of a revelation for me when I realized I could use them before they were fully mature.

Harvesting:  For years many of my onions got maggots in them and did not last.  I responded to that in 2 ways.  First, I didn’t even try to store them.  I went ahead and cut them all up and sauteed them in olive oil and froze them and had a fabulous convenience food.  But it was not fun to do.

More recently I’ve realized that if I don’t wait until the plants die back as much as the books say, but if I pull them while the leaves are still pretty vigorous (although obviously just beginning to decline), the maggots haven’t started yet, and most of my onions can be dried and stored.  The other advantage of harvesting onions before the leaves deteriorate is that you can make use of the leaves.  I don’t want to know about it if they don’t count as a green vegetable.  Now I chop and saute in olive oil then freeze onion greens rather than onion bulbs and I get a lot more vegetable from each plant.

Appearances Can Be Informative

Pop Quiz!

Which skillet is the heavier?  And what is the dead giveaway that it is?

DCIM100MEDIA

NO mending on the back of my sewing chair:

DCIM100MEDIA

and yet another burp and barf pad:

DCIM100MEDIA

Signs of Spring

I just went out and took this picture:

DCIM100MEDIA

The first daffodil, and I saw it yesterday (ignore the weeds and stuff I haven’t cut back).

Lots more will pop soon (I’ve been accumulating pictures for this post):

DCIM100MEDIA

I didn’t get them while they were open, so you’ll have to take my word for it that they were spectacular:

DCIM100MEDIA

I assume they will open again if the sun ever shines long enough.

Moon is just Raggety-looking as her cashmere dislodges in Clumps:

DCIM100MEDIA

Star is on the verge of giving birth.  She’s so full of babies that her breathing is labored when she lies down, because what you don’t see from this angle is that she’s as big top to bottom as she is side to side:

DCIM100MEDIA

But 4 minutes later, in the garden, it began snowing, so I beat a hasty retreat to the chickens’ porch where I had this view:

DCIM100MEDIA

And 15 minutes later it looked like this out my dining room window:

DCIM100MEDIA

But I believe.  It will be Spring for real pretty soon.

Chickens and Eggs and Diet

I have to have chickens, because chickens were not meant to be vegetarians.  But when I buy store eggs, I buy the vegetarian chicken ones.

Why and why?

1)  Chickens are as omnivorous as any human who ever had a dilemma.  When you buy chicken feed, it tends to be grain, but that’s for reasons of thrift.  “Chicken feed” means inexpensive, because, I realized a few years ago when a man demonstrated grinding corn into grits at my school, the leftover coarse stuff after you get the grits from the corn is “chicken feed”.  This man put corn through his mill once.  He had a series of different finenesses of screens — what dropped through the finest was corn meal, next was the grits (which seemed to be what he prized most — this was in rural South Carolina), and the remains was chicken feed.  He explained that corn has 3 parts.  The middle is the softest and breaks into the finest stuff, corn meal, the next layer is tougher, breaks into bigger tougher pieces, grits, and the outside is toughest and resists being broken, so is quite large pieces., chicken feed.  Unlike when I grind grain by hand and I force all the grain parts to be as fine as I can get them.  I could do his system and sort the component parts, because when I grind at a coarser setting, some of the output is still very fine flour, but then I’m after whole grains, so I grind the fiber into fine stuff, too.  That was an aside I hadn’t planned on.

I finally got a picture of Mr. Rooster on the fence.  He stands there and crows.

I finally got a picture of Mr. Rooster on the fence. He stands there and crows.

Anyway, chickens eat other animals.  BUGS!  Chickens eat bugs.  I had one of those sticky fly catching things in the barn last year, but caught very few flies on it, because I didn’t really have flies.  Even though it’s a Barn, with Manure, Fly Heaven; because the chickens love their work, and spend their days looking for Good Food, such as fly larvae in the goat manure.  Chickens snatch flies out of the air.  A friend told me he loved his chickens, because he had no mosquitos, because his chickens eliminated them.  When I dig in the garden, my tamest chicken, Brownie, helps.  The song “I Feel the Earth Move” runs through my head when I garden now, because Brownie is inevitably atop the dirt on my shovel since she’s so eager to snatch all living things out of the dirt.  She loves me, because I expose Food and she hardly even has to scratch when I’m around.  Not that she can keep from scratching the dirt anyway, because chickens are hard-wired to turn the earth, but they don’t dig deeply and that’s why I am wonderful, bringing Food up from deeper in the soil.

Chickens are not naturally vegetarians.

2)  Because Big Farm is greedy and maximizes profit and Consumers in General are cheap and buy the least expensive, irrespective of why that product can be sold so inexpensively.  So commercially chickens are fed the least expensive food growers have available; for example, the waste after animals are slaughtered for human food.  Any animal — chicken, cow — chickens will eat; as my husband says, anything that doesn’t eat them first.  But cannibalism doesn’t strike me as a good idea, and I’m under the impression that feeding feedlot animals to chickens is a good way to spread some terrible diseases, not to mention the whole antibiotic thing and breeding superbug bacteria.  Now that I try to write authoritatively, I have to admit that I can only remember for sure a mad cow disease scandal, but really, that’s enough to worry me.  So because I don’t trust commercial growers to feed a good non-vegetarian diet to egg-laying chickens, when I buy eggs, I buy the vegetarian ones.  Not that I’ve bought but about 5 dozen eggs in the last 11 or 12 years.  I think that’s how long it’s been since I got my first reliable source of homegrown eggs.

But reliable sources come and go, and it’s a nuisance to find the next one, so now I am my reliable source and my chickens are not vegetarians and get no medications, but eat bugs and provide us with chicken t.v. and are a significant cog in this machine that I’m trying to put together to grow my own food and be a bit self-sufficient.

Still about chickens, but not about diet or eggs

Chickens make depressions in dry dirt to dust bathe for parasite control.  It’s funny to see one of them shake immediately following a dust bath.  Think Peanuts Pigpen.  That’s one reason the new chicken house was constructed so the chickens can go under it.  I expect them to dust bathe there.

DCIM100MEDIA

Chickens Again, Already

So in the simple pleasures department …

I finally noticed what enormous feet chickens have.  And I’ve been secretly, guiltily, half-heartedly hoping for more snow, because it was during an earlier snow that I noticed, because their footprints in the snow are huge.  But of course, I didn’t fetch my camera and take their pictures right then.  And by the time I regretted not doing that, the snow and footprints were vanished.

There was just enough snow on the ground first thing yesterday to get these pictures.  Mister Rooster’s footprint next to my winter boot:

DCIM100MEDIA

And this is Owl’s:

DCIM100MEDIA

Chicken House Update

Jimmie is anxious for it to be finished down to the last detail, so now the chicken door can be operated remotely.  Which is good, because the other day the chickens had knocked out the board propping it open, so when I went down at dusk, 3 of them were huddled together next to it.  Chickens are so funny.  Once they decide it’s time to roost, they are so passive.  I just sort of rolled them through it, and they didn’t struggle.  Then I went in through the people door and shone the flashlight so they could see to leap onto the roost.

Chicken door with cords:

DCIM100MEDIA

That go up and through pulleys:

DCIM100MEDIA

and comes out on the outside where a loop is hooked onto a screw.  The top screw is for closed:

DCIM100MEDIA

and the bottom for open.  And we used screws because Jimmie couldn’t find a cleat to buy in Spencer, WV on Saturday.  This is actually quicker and, of course, cheaper:

DCIM100MEDIA

He also redid the poop door.  I don’t want to have to prop it open like the windows.  I want it to slide out of the way, so now it does:

DCIM100MEDIA

Completed

As I feared, I’m behind now that the weather has been nicer and I’ve been doing outside Stuff.  But I’ve finished a few little things.  A dryer ball (plus made more middles):

DCIM100MEDIA

A card (and I love this couching yarn, so I plan to do a whole series using it, so the next cards will be no-brainers):

DCIM100MEDIA

And I modified the next pair of sweat pants.  This time, my piece of elastic wasn’t long enough, so I did a drawstring in front.  That means I pulled out the sewing machine manual and learned to do buttonholes.  I used flannel shirt seams for the strings.  Plus, I eliminated some of the waist bulk (a major cause of the elastic not working so well) by adding 4 darts.  The triangle scraps are dart trimmings:

DCIM100MEDIA

I’ve also been knitting on the sky throw and have made a good start on the next rag rug.

So these count as February 19, 20 and 21.

So Moon is my nimble goat (picture was taken one year ago today):

DCIM100MEDIA

And, yes, I cured her of standing in her (and worse, Star’s!) food.

Chicken Pictures

I started this post almost a year ago.  I’m never going to polish it up, so here it is as is.

Chickens don’t get in your face to keep you from getting a good picture of them, but they sure don’t stand still, either.

Blondie. She came with that name & it has led to most of the other chicken names. I think she’s the oldest of the motley crew of chickens. I also am pretty sure that she is not laying eggs.

Meet Wild One. So named because her appearance doesn’t lend itself to an obvious name, and when we picked up the chickens, her owner was positively triumphant about having captured her, telling us that he had caught the wild one after all. When we went to select chickens, I must have been pretty emphatic or pitiful about wishing I could have the beautiful one. When I get a better picture that really shows off her coloring, it will be promptly posted. I think she’s the youngest of my flock. Her legs are still yellow and she lays small eggs, which could be because she just began laying or because she lays small eggs. Small being in comparison to the jumbo eggs laid by others.