Dehydrating Calendula and Infusing Oils

I have had enough calendula flowers to start dehydrating the petals and to start infusing oils for eventual salve making. The process is fairly simple and it took me 6 trays worth of calendula petals to fill one pint jar. So far I’ve got two pint jars infusing in a sunny window. I used sunflower oil for one of them and olive oil for the other. After the six week infusing time is over I will then make some healing salves.

I am impatiently waiting for my comfrey to get big enough that I can dehydrate and start infusing oil with it as well. Both calendula and comfrey are supposed to be quite healing for skin ailments. Because of the cold I have right now, underneath my nose and around my nostrils are just red and cracked skin and nothing is working. And while I hope this does not last for the six weeks it takes the oil to infuse and for me to make my salve, I am hoping that in the future this stuff will help it to heal up when it happens.

It has been in the low 80’s all week and we are heading towards higher temperatures in the 90’s this weekend. We had to put more fans in the rabbit shed as the rabbits were suffering. I have put a case of water bottles in the freezer for them and will go purchase some more ceramic tiles. We don’t have enough for every cage and some of the ones we had have cracked and can’t go in. Tiles are cheap, though, if you get the plain ones (88 cents each) and they help to keep the rabbits cool.

I am a little worried about the pregnant does. They are due this weekend and of course Sunday is going to be in the 90’s. I hope they have them on Friday or Saturday before the temps spike that high. We won’t be breeding again this summer until August. Maybe not until September if August looks to be as bad as July. July is too hot for rabbits to be pregnant all month. I am having to check their water bottles a few times each day as they are drinking a lot more water in this heat.

Definitely on my list when we go looking to buy a farm is a nice shady area for the rabbits, nothing that ever gets full sun for any part of the day. Being under the trees would make a world of difference right now. So would an air conditioner, but that’s not going to happen. I am thinking about making a homemade swamp cooler though. They don’t look too difficult and I think my son and I can do it. My husband is working a week of overtime so I won’t see him until Monday, so no help there. But my son is very good at such things so hopefully we can figure it out.

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Eating from the Pantry Week Four and the Garden

I have completed the challenge and you can see the results in the video above. I did pretty well with it, though not perfectly and saved $750 by not doing any real grocery shopping or going out to eat at all during this time period. I just need to save another $150 to pay for the set of four new tires the van needs

George is hurt, but he is starting to improve. We lost a chicken. We think it was to a hawk and that George fought off the hawk and that is how he got hurt.

The garden is doing fantastic.

We have kits due on the 3rd or 4th. They got their nest boxes last night and all three rabbits promplty got to work nest building. Persephone and Luna even started pulling fur.

The foster kits and Phoebe’s one kit are doing really great being raised by Phoebe. They are starting to catch up to the size they should have been if all had gone well from the start. They are 4 weeks old now and the sweetest, friendliest little loves.

We weaned the previous 3 litters this week. I need to let the lady who is going to buy Serena know that her kits have been weaned. It will be hard to see Serena go, but I know she is going to a good rabbit person who knows what she is doing, so that makes it easier.

It has been so hot here the last week or so that I feel like I am living in California and not NW WA. We have 7 fans going in the rabbit shed and between that and the pavilion they seem to be staying fairly comfortable. We check on them and their water bottles several times per day. So far no one seems to be having any issues, thank goodness.

Man, it’s Hot

It’s not the heat that gets me so much as the humidity. I always know it is going to be a humid day when I wake up with curly hair. Well, my hair is wavy most of the time, but when I brush it, it tends to go flat. Then when it gets humid the flatness goes away and it pops over to downright curly. We haven’t had to put fans in the rabbit shed yet, but it is coming. The pavilion keeps it cool enough for now, but once we pop over 80 degrees instead of 75, there will be no putting it off.

The garden is loving the heat. There is something to harvest every day. The strawberries are turning color so I think I will be able to start harvesting them in a day or two. The front bed is planted, the potatoes are thriving, and the beans and squash will be going into the 3 Sisters Garden tomorrow.

We bred Luna Blue, Firefly, and Persephone on the night of the full moon. I don’t know whether it is an old wive’s tale or not, but with Serenity missing last time, Ruby only having 5, and Phoebe only having 1, I am willing to try it to increase litter sizes.

The gutter garden isn’t doing well. With this much heat it is drying out and I don’t have the time to keep it constantly wet. The garlic is doing okay, though.

And sadly, we lost 2 of Ruby’s kits and had to foster the rest of her litter to Phoebe. Ruby had issues with her milk coming in, I think. She’s okay with us having taken her kits away. At least, she doesn’t seem to be upset about it. And Phoebe took right to them, no problems at all.

I haven’t been feeling great this week. I don’t know if it is just bad allergies or a cold. It can be really hard to tell at this time of year. I don’t feel full on sick, just kind of run down and tired with a runny nose and the urge to sleep 20 hours a day. Maybe it is a little of both as both kids were sick this week. I made up some more flu bombs this morning and started taking those. They work pretty fast and if it’s not allergies, I want to nip this in the bud as we have a lot to do next week, starting with butchering 8 rabbits, cleaning out the rabbit shed, scrubbing every single cage, getting ready for weaning, hauling the used animal bedding off the property (the neighbors are good with the animals as long as the waste doesn’t pile up and start to smell). The rabbit manure has to be screened out of it to go into the garden. The turkey pen and the duck yard need to be shoveled out as well and hauled off. Fortunately we have some people making new garden areas for next year that will take it so we don’t have to pay dump fees.

I need to sit down and plan out next week’s meals for the eat from the pantry challenge. I’ve been videoing each dinner and when I get through the week I will edit it together and post it so you can see what I’ve been doing. We’ve done really well so far and my leftovers management is good. We’ve been eating some of the leftovers for lunches and carrying over some things, like mashed potatoes. The leftover stuffing I made this week will go into meatballs I am going to make tomorrow, since I am nearly out of panko breadcrumbs and then I will freeze them for later next week for both spaghetti and meatball sandwiches. I’d also like to make up a couple of small lasagnas for the freezer as well since I will already be making the sauce for spaghetti.

I need to make hamburger buns and hot dog buns (for meatball sandwiches) this weekend, a batch of peanut butter cookies, and some blueberry cornbread muffins. I’ll probably make the cookies and muffins today and the buns tomorrow, since I am using the bread machine this afternoon for making pizza dough for dinner.

I also need to try and get the kitchen organized once and for all. One cabinet needs to be cleaned out entirely and a bunch of the stuff that has been sitting out on the counter needs to be put away. I’ve been neglecting the inside of the house a bit while working outside so much in the garden, so I’m having to play catch up. That’s life on a farm, I suppose.

Look At What the Dogwood is Doing

I am so excited at the onset of this early spring weather. Not only is the huge old dogwood across the street in full bloom, I even saw a couple of daffodils blooming in a neighbor’s yard. Tulips and forsythia cannot be far behind! I have never been a winter person and I am ever so grateful that we got very little in the way of winter weather these last few months. And while I feel bad for the east and the mid-west and any other part of the world that is being covered in snow right now, I cannot help but rejoice in the lovely high 50’s we’ve been getting this week.

I do have to wonder how many early gardens are going to get planted this year, only to get killed by a late frost. It is so tempting to try planting already and of course I know better than to do so before April 20th. Well, maybe peas, but that would be it. I’ve planted early before, many, many years ago, and there was always one late frost that would kill all the tender shoots, so it is not worth the time and expense to do so without a greenhouse. But the moment that last frost date is past I will be out there, presuming it is not pouring down rain, getting my tender little seedlings and seeds into the ground.

My garlic that I planted in the late fall is doing amazing. It is already up about 6 inches now. If I had known it would do this well in the gutter planter, I would have planted twice as much. I need to take what is left of my garlic braid and peel it, slice it, dehydrate it, and then powder it. Some of it is starting to go. I think it did pretty well keeping from August to now, I wasn’t sure how long it would keep, but if I don’t want to lose anymore to spoilage, I’ve got to get moving on preserving it.

Our dehydrator is just a cheapy, one of those round ones where the air only blows up from the bottom so by the time it gets to the top trays it doesn’t blow with as much force and things on the lower trays dry faster than things on the upper trays. I’m planning to buy an Excalibur (the 9 tray one) which blows from the back across each tray and dries more evenly. I have $50 of Christmas money and $50 of birthday money from my in-laws and I haven’t actually got a present yet from my husband, so it will be the other half of the money I need for the Excalibur. I am thinking about getting the one with the timer which is more expensive, but has an automatic shut off feature. I think the convenience of that is worth it. I have wanted one for a long time, but didn’t really dry enough stuff to consider it worthwhile, but now that I am growing most of my own herbs and planning on making jerky, it is worth getting a better one.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day for me. I have to go back into the dentist in the morning and have my mouth guard adjusted. I am grinding the heck out of my teeth at night and it is causing some pain so we think the mouth guard may not be sitting properly anymore. Then in the afternoon we have to go down to the title company and sign on the house sale. We have to do it early since the husband won’t be in the state when the actual closing occurs. It looks like all is on track, but they did ask for an additional week (it was supposed to close on the 26th) as their bank did not get all their proper paperwork on time. So things will proceed, just slower than expected. And sometime during the day I need to make a trip to Costco to cash my AMEX rewards check. I hate making a special trip there just for that, but it might be another month before I head that way so a special trip it is.

Not much else farmy going on right now.

This Just Makes Me Want to Garden More

I am excited to see that some of my garlic is 3 inches high already! We are having such a mild winter here. I think maybe from October through to now we’ve had a total of 3 weeks where it was below freezing and they weren’t all in a row either. It seems like every time the east or the mid-west gets socked with snow we get warmer weather here in the PNW. There is a lot of rain and a lot of mud, but so far no snow. I am grateful for that as I really dislike snow and what it means for doing farm chores or trying to drive. I mean, it is pretty and all, but the novelty always wears off in 24 hours. I don’t like to be cold.

I’ve been doing some more aquaponics research and I’ve finally found a system that is reasonably affordable and has free shipping. I’ve been reading up on it all day between chores and housework and watched their system build on youtube today. It’s called MyAquafarm.com. It looks easy to set up and definitely not too difficult for a beginner. So many of the systems I have looked at are ridiculous when it comes to price. It’s not only cheaper than all of the other systems I have looked at, it has more growing space. So I think that is what we will go with when we finally start our aquaponics project. Unless I find something cheaper.

There are a few places in my state where I can order trout fingerlings, and I think that is probably what we would go with here. If we went with tilapia we’d have to heat the water in spring, fall, and winter. If we go with trout, we might have to cool the water in the summer, but we wouldn’t have to worry too much otherwise. I still have to do some more reading on the actual fish angle of things. There is so much more available on the plant end of things.

I was excited to see that the flowering cherry trees at the high school are blooming. They are such a pretty pink. I will try to remember to take my camera and see if I can get a photo this week. The dogwoods won’t be far behind and then we’ll be seeing the bright yellow blossoms of forsythia and spring really will be on the way. The daffodils and tulips are starting to push up. Just a couple inches of green above the soil, but it holds such promise for things to come. The itty bitty crocus are also pushing up.

I’ve been doing weekly fur checks on all of the rabbits because of Leo and his mite situation and today when I checked Felix I noticed he had them, too. But he won’t eat the paste like Leo did, so I went ahead and ordered the liquid topical from Amazon. I’ll use it on Felix when it comes. None of the other rabbits are showing signs of it. Felix wasn’t a week ago. I had to order a 250 mL bottle. it was the smallest size they have. Rabbits only need a few drops. Oh, well, I can use it on the turkeys, chickens, and ducks, too, if they ever get mites.

I need to clip nails again. I noticed that Kalia, in particular, really needs it done. I did do all of the rabbits I bred the day I bred them so they will be fine for a while. I didn’t want to have to do their nails while they were pregnant or in the first couple of weeks after kindling. I also did Serenity. I won’t do what I did before and do a couple rabbits a night until I run out of rabbits. We have a four day weekend coming up so I will try to get them all done during that time when my son will be free to help.

We put down 3 full leaves of straw in the turkey pen today. The turkeys have been refusing to come out of the coop because the pen was so muddy. With the straw down they are happy to come out. They are very fastidious birds. I need to remember to add diatomaceous earth to their potting soil dust bath container. I have not seen mites on any of the birds, but I’m a little paranoid now that it has shown up on a second rabbit.

The duck yard is a mess, which the ducks just love, of course.

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I keep almost losing my boots to the mud. I went down about 4 inches today. I may have to give up on the insulated ankle boots and switch to the knee high muck boots. This is the spot where it went deepest.

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That is the only saving grace about frozen ground. You don’t lose your boots to it.

Just Ducky

There is not much going on here, but I did do a video update on the ducks. The weather is beautiful and is supposed to be for the next couple of days. Which I guess is at odds with what is going on everywhere else in the country that is not the west coast. It is really nice after last week’s cold snap. I am still planning out the garden for spring. I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt again. This warm spell is making me very impatient.

Cast Iron Mastery!

I am now the master of my cast iron. Today I cooked an omelet in my small skillet and it came out perfectly, no sticking at all. It was the last thing I had to master and now I feel like I can make absolutely anything in cast iron. Well, except for acid foods, but that’s the pan, not me.

2 egg Omelet

2 fresh chicken or duck eggs
Butter
1 tbsp of diced yellow bell pepper
1 tbsp of diced green bell pepper
1 tbsp of diced red bell pepper
1 diced green onion, both white and green parts
1/2 oz of cheddar cheese
1 oz diced low-sodium ham
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt some butter in a cast iron pan heated to medium and mix your eggs, adding a couple grinds of salt and pepper.

Add vegetables and low-sodium ham to the pan and saute for 2 minutes.

Add more butter to the pan and turn heat down to halfway between medium and medium low. When butter has melted pour in your eggs. Let eggs cook for one minute and then make a few holes in your omelet, letting the uncooked portion drain through to the pan. Place a lid over your pan, checking every 30 seconds until egg looks cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add cheese. Fold omelet in half and remove from pan.

I’ve lost 5 pounds since starting my new diet on December 31st. I’m very happy with that. I already feel better and can see the changes. My flu is really starting to retreat as well. I finally feel like I am really on the mend. Some tiredness and a runny nose is pretty much what is left.

I’ve been only getting 1 duck egg for the past week or so, but today and yesterday there were 2, so I think the girls are starting to swing back into production as the days lengthen. I am having to use more chicken eggs, of which there are a lot, so that I have enough duck eggs for my one duck egg customer.

It’s warmed up enough again that the turkeys are willing to come outside. They were staying in their coop up on the perches during the really cold weather. They didn’t seem to want to put their feet on the ground, even with straw down for them. The chickens would cluster around the dryer vent or the bathroom fan vents. The ducks didn’t care at all. They don’t seem to notice the cold. Now that it is 40 and rainy again everyone is happy to be outside. I am also happy that George and Gina are hanging out more together now. There has been a lot of one turkey in the coop while the other turkey is in the pen when it wasn’t cold. I don’t want my breeding pair to ignore each other, but then again, I don’t want Gina to get hurt by overbreeding either. Though I haven’t seen any breeding behavior between them yet. They are still young and I’m not sure when George will hit breeding age. Some toms don’t until their second year and they won’t be one until April 9th.

I need to have DH make a nesting box for Gina the next time he comes home. She should start laying in February or March as the days lengthen. These will be her first eggs. Does anyone who reads this blog raise turkeys? What have you done for nesting boxes for them?

On the rabbit front, Luna Blue really wants to be bred. She is crazy for it. Firefly will be bred at the same time. She is also ready, though not as crazy about it. She lifts her tail a lot, but not like Luna who seems to perpetually have her tail up when she’s not running in crazy circles around her cage. I am trying to hold off until January 29th, which will give me a delivery date of February 28 or March 1st, which are both on a weekend. We should be past the danger of the super cold months by then. I may give in though. With the heater set on low in there I can control the temps better. We’ll see.