Thursday, April 29, 2010

Busy Times

We are embarking on the busiest and most frantic time of year for us. A week ago my garden was still covered by a foot of snow. With temperatures in the fifties and sixties all week, I was able to turn a bed yesterday without hitting ice. I can see the brown garden in it's entirety which that in itself gets my brain churning. I fell asleep last night debating where to the beets and carrots. As always I have intentions to plant about twice as much as I currently have room for, however, I have a large pile of topsoil and a row of various stages of partly composted goat and chicken bedding. So after we make use of all the beds which just need turned, we'll be building new beds, moving soil, ammending the soil and planting.

The last two days I've made it up to the garden with the kids to work for a bit. Noah remembers last summer well and is so excited to be up there playing in the dirt and working with his garden tools in his small plot. Avery is just excited to be outside walking around wherever she pleases.

Our farm apprentice started this week. She has come up every day this week mid-morning and worked until mid afternoon. We have been doing the morning routine of feeding, graining and watering. Then we've been milking together. Now is a good time to learn to milk as we are not trying to milk the does out completely. We are just getting the does back into the routine of eating their grain on the milkstand while we milk out their lopsided side. It takes a while for the hand muscles to gain enough strength to milk out an entire udder, and then two more after. So this is gradual muscle building practice for next week when we start separating the kids from their dams. We've been eating lunch after morning chores are finished. Then heading out to work on side projects like cleaning out the duck stall, clearing mulch off beds and turning the garden beds.

I am behind on starting squash and cucumbers, so I need to switch gears today and take advantage of Avery's nap to focus on some seed starting. I think we will also start some cold greens in flats in the greenhouse, and maybe even do a small amount of direct seeding in the garden, maybe beets and radishes or carrots and then cover them with plastic row covering.

Our ducks arrived yesterday. So we had friends stopping by throughout the day to pick out their ducks. We are left with twelve Saxonies, five Welsh Harlequins and five runner ducks. Out of the batch of sixty we lost one small black runner duck. The order had included one extra runner so that worked out ok. Today we will be finishing setting up summer housing for the growing chicks, so that we can move the ducklings into their current brooder area.

I began attempting to make chevre this week for the first time since fall. After three botched attempts I have come to the conclusion that my three year old rennet has finally reduced in potency. So I stayed up last night placing an order for more rennet and cultures from The Dairy Connection, my favorite source for direct set cultures.

It is feeling like summer around here even though it is still brown everywhere. The hallway is filled with dirt covered clothes and boots. I've been too worn out for much posting or picture downloading. I've got sore muscles, mosquito bites, and skin that has that lingering sense of sun, and for me, that equates to summer.

In my few minutes of down time I have been savoring a new cook book as if it were a novel. The book is Forgotten Skills of Cooking, The Time Honored Ways Are The Best - over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen. Some of the sections I am fairly familiar with like growing and preparing vegetables, raising and butchering poultry and making dairy products. The sections I have been most fascinated by using all the parts of the animal, especially the pig. I've been reading about making your own Prosciutto, Salami, Bacon, cured hams and sausages. I had recently checked out the book Charcuterie, so I had been reading similar information and techniques there as well. This topic is my most recent fascination and obsession. A girlfriend of mine is raising three pigs this year, one of which is for us. We are planning on having someone come out and kill and help us butcher the pigs on site at the end of the summer. We are hoping to use as much of the animals as possible, and are in the planning stages of possibly buying a larger smoker and meat grinder so that we can smoke and cure our own bacon, ham and grind and stuff our own sausages. I've been meaning to get out and see the pigs while they are still young and cute, but they are growing fast and have already past the small weaner pig stage.

I'll be coming back to this cook book in future posts as it is a wealth of significant information. Darina shares her memories of times before electricity came to their village and how food was stored and prepared. I love the bits of memories and side information that introduce each section and the individual recipes. This cookbook could not have come at a better time, when we have yet to see the wild greens come up, and have plenty of time to decide what vegetables to sow. I've been re-inspired to make butter again, and I'm already beginning to plan how we'll be making the most of our pig. So much to do and plan for this time of year, its hard to know where to begin....oh thats right, breakfast for my hungry kids, followed by feeding all the animals.We'll go from there, depending on the day and the weather.


Naturalearthfarm said...

Yes, this is an amazingly busy time of the year. This is the first growing season on our new homestead and the work is unlimited of course.
With a pond, we have been considering adding ducks to our 35 chickens... do they need water in the winter?
Warm wishes, tonya

Ozarkhomesteader said...

I found your blog through Woody's Rocky Ridge blogroll, and I'm so delighted to get a chance to read it! I got Darina Allen's book about a month ago and blogged about it then:

I can't imagine trying to grow things in Fairbanks, Alaska, but I look forward to hearing more about your place and animals!

Emily said...

Tonya, this past year was our first raising ducks. I have heard that they do not need water other than for drinking (same as chickens), however, they do need to be able to submerge their faces, eyes and such for cleansing. They may need water even more so than chickens, because they wash their food down with water, so they take a bite and drink it down. As far as a pool for spashing, they can do without, but on most days we tried to take up an extra gallon or so to put in a small tub so they could enjoy themselves. For a while we said we'd never get ducks until we had a pond or stream, but that didn't seem likely to happen anytime soon, and we are so glad we did, they are certainly hardier than the chickens, we especially love watching them wander the property.

Ozarkhomesteader, looking forward to reading your blog. I just devoured her cookbook page by page and will have to start over from the beginning and catch the bits I missed. Growing things in Fairbanks has it's advantages, hardly any bugs or diseases for one...hopefully I have time for writing about it this summer. Fortunately I'm too worn out to think about all that I have to do, as just thinking about it all would wear me out:)