Back to It

I took 2 days off from canning as I had exhausted myself pretty much with what I have done the past couple of weeks. My son went back to school yesterday, but I think he left his cold with me. I have been fighting it all week and hopefully I won’t go down hard, but I can feel it on the edges. Still, I’ve got to get the next batch of canning done today. I’ve got 3 buckets of ripe tomatoes and 2 more buckets that will probably be ripe tomorrow or the next day and many more still coming. I still have about 18 pounds of potatoes left to can, too. Those can wait if they need to, though. We’ll see how I feel after chopping all those tomatoes.

After I do get to the potatoes, I want to order another 40 pounds to can. Ultimately another 80 pounds. I think that will get us through the year. We ran out of potatoes in June this year and I’d like to go an additional 2 months this time. When I do the potatoes, if there is room in the canner I will also throw in a jar of carrots, since we thinned the Nantes this week.

I am keeping a sharp eye on both the acorn squash, pictured above, and the watermelon, which are both close to being ripe. The weather has really turned on us this week though and is in the 60’s. I hope there is enough heat for the watermelon to finish ripening. I’ve got several big ones that are so close, but the temps aren’t going to go up any time soon. These are supposed to be a short season watermelon, too, Blacktail Mountain.

The cantaloupe isn’t going to make it. I knew it was a risk, since I planted it so late. I will try again next year and plant it much earlier in the season. I think the zucchini is done. I was hoping it would go a little longer, but it really didn’t survive the storm a couple of weeks ago, despite putting out two more fruit. Most of the root mat was pulled up from the wind. We were supposed to have an Indian summer, but I don’t think that is actually going to happen. Especially since the nights have been in the low 50’s and seem to be heading towards the high 40’s.

So this is what my weekly canning looked like:

And my weekly harvest:

I am pretty happy with both. It has been a fantastic garden year.

The State of the Garden Part One

So as you can see from the video, the French Biointensive Organic Raised Bed Garden is doing very well. September weather is taking a bit of a toll on the foiliage, but the production continues to be quite high. I am getting several buckets full of tomatoes this week and last, and as long as the weather stays decent I don’t expect that to stop.

I’ve been treating my doe rabbit Serenity for Coccidia.

She has really turned around quite remarkably. And this morning I noticed she had finally eaten some oats and a few pellets. She’s still mostly just eating hay, chard, and raspberry leaves, but this was the first time she’d touched her feeder in a week. So I think she’s turned the corner and is going to make it. Thank goodness. It really would have been devastating to put her down.

Today I will be making more spaghetti sauce and hopefully also my first batch of calendula salve. I’ve got 3 jars of infused oil ready to be strained and then a 4th jar which will be ready on the 15th, so it really is time to get moving on this. I also hope to get my elderberry syrup started. That one is easy, it is just a matter of pouring vodka over dried elderberries and letting it sit for 6 months.

I’d also like to get another batch of flu bombs made up. I am trying to fight off the cold my son has right now. His turned into a sinus infection and I don’t want to go down right now. I’m still only at half strength because of the concussion and breaking my nose. It’s only been 5 weeks. I don’t want a really bad cold that will involve blowing my poor nose a lot as it still doesn’t feel good, plus sneezing makes the break really hurt.

I got my order of 40 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, so those will need to be canned this weekend, probably tomorrow. And then I want to get another 40 pounds. That will give me a total of 100 pounds canned. I might do more after that, we’ll have to see.

So that is what is on the agenda. My pantry shelves are starting to fill up, which is great. I love seeing it all and having the satisfaction of knowing that there is a lot of good food ready for the fall and winter when I am less inclined to want to go grocery shopping because of foul weather. And that if I had to, I could feed my family for a few months without ever leaving the property, so long as we had water after the 3 50 gallon rain barrels rain out.

What We Got from Our 25 Butchered Chickens

These birds were smaller than traditional meat birds. We will be letting the rest grow longer since none of them are crowing yet. But for the size that they were, I think we did pretty well. And I am very happy with how much broth we got. I did not end up doing the chicken feet, so all of that broth is just from the breast bones.

I am pretty tired. Besides canning bone broth yesterday, I cooked down and canned spaghetti sauce, and canned carrots and green beans as well. The canner was pretty much going all day, but it feels really nice to have gotten so much done. Of course by the end of the day my hands were barely working from all the chopping. I iced them and they are doing better today.

The next batch of tomatoes I do will only be quartered and put in the blender. That will cut down on some of the cutting. Though I really think it was chopping the carrots and beans which have little give in them that did the damage. Well…actually gutting and cutting up all the chickens last week did most of the damage, but the chopping on top of it made it worse. I am icing them off and on today and using MSM cream, so hopefully they will continue to improve. I’ve never had my hands get so messed up before. But I am able to type without it hurting so I know the inflammation is going down.

My doe Serenity is doing better. She ate the big piece of chard (because it has a lot of moisture in it) and the raspberry leaves (for diarrhea) that I gave her last night, plus half her hay and she drank about 2 inches of water in her water bottle. It’s been about 1 inch in a 24 hour period, so that’s an improvement. Normally she drinks at least half a bottle in 24 hours. She’s still not eating pellets or oats. We will clean her up again this evening and probably give her a little bit more of blu-kote spray on her undercarriage if her skin is still tender. Blu-kote aids healing, has a pain reliever in it, and helps keep diarrhea from sticking to sore areas.

I am thinking about putting Serenity into retirement. We’ll see if and how well she recovers from this. I don’t need her to be a productive doe with 8 other does in the rabbitry. I was hoping to get another year or two of kits out of her, but she really has to come out of this well in order for me to do so.

Well, it looks like there is a break in the weather so I better get outside and harvest what needs harvesting in the garden.

Meat Supply

The chicken video does show a chicken bleeding out (but not being killed) if that sort of thing bothers you.

Yesterday we butchered 25 of our meat chickens. It was a long process. I worked from noon to two, took a break to pick up my son from school, and then worked from 2:30 to 5:30. I personally gutted 19 of the 25 chickens. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I didn’t have to do any of the killing myself and got out of pulling most of the pinfeathers, which I hate, since I was doing the “worst” job.

This year was the first year I learned to gut chickens. I have helped with other things during butchering time, usually cutting the whole birds into pieces, but this is a new homesteading skill for me.

While it is not the most pleasant thing in the world, it was not nearly as gross as I thought it would be. It was really like getting an anatomy lesson in chickens and I got pretty fast at it. I could gut them in 5 minutes. The time-consuming part was really getting the pinfeathers out that the plucker missed.

Today we will be cutting up the whole birds and packaging them into meal-sized portions. They didn’t get as big as we wanted, mostly because the hatchery sent us a lot of hens instead of all roosters. 23 of the 25 birds we processed were hens. There were eggs starting to develop in them, which is how we could tell. We ordered 60 roosters, so this does not bode well for our total outcome and explains why growth was less than expected.

At least we got the 2 roosters who were crowing. We are going to let the others grow out longer and just cull any that start crowing. If there actually are anymore roosters.

We also picked up our beef supply last week on Thursday. We got 1/4 of a grass fed beef. The video below does show a beef carcass hanging if that bothers you.

I haven’t been very good about posting since I broke my nose and got a mild concussion, but things are starting to get better. I have been doing a video on the youtube channel almost every day, though. Something about the white computer page when typing just makes the headaches bad, but that is starting to improve now. I am plenty functional and mostly the headaches just come on when I do too much or at night time now. Or when I sneeze. Sneezing has definitely not been fun since I broke my nose, but even that is starting to not be so traumatic. Hopefully after the full six weeks of healing has passed the sneezing won’t hurt at all.

A Lot Going On

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. I’ve had a lot going on. We butchered 8 rabbits earlier in the week and then last night I cut them up. I made a video for my kids to watch since they want to learn how to do this and I figured they could watch it over and over again before trying for themselves.

We had 2 rabbits kindle and another one miss, the first weekend of July. We are skipping a month of breeding due to the heat and won’t breed again until the night of the full moon. I’ve had two misses this spring and summer and it was a different buck each time, but it was always the buck housed on the second tier and not on a lower tier of cages. Now that I have individual fans on the bucks, especially the second tier one, I am hoping it won’t happen again. Of course we have been in the low 70’s this week instead of the 80’s and 90’s, so I think any temporary sterility that is going on will hopefully pass.

This time around Firefly had 7, but the runt died and Persephone had 5. Luna Blue missed.

I’ve been drying herbs like crazy, both on the wall and in the dehydrator.

My Nesco dehydrator broke after one week of use. I won’t ever be using their machines again. It just stopped working. It’s not like I was running it non-stop either. Apparently this happens quite often with their dehydrators. If it hadn’t been a gift I would have read all the reviews first and certainly wouldn’t have bought one myself. I ended up ordering my Excalibur finally and I am thrilled with it. It is much better of a machine and dries more evenly to boot. I’ve done a lot, but I have a lot more to do. I want to supply the needs for the year as much as possible and get all the medicinal herbs and flowers ready for making medicine as well.

I have been studying a lot on how to do the herbal medicines, reading and watching youtube videos. I also bought a very good book (so far) on herbal medicine for beginners. And I’ve been keeping a notebook with the different herbs and what they do and will be adding recipes to it as I make them.

I can’t remember if I talked about our turkey tom George and the hawk, but he is doing much better now, and the hawk has not been back since their fight. He is almost walking without a limp now and has been able to get up on the roost again at night for the past two nights. He is afraid to get down, though. Probably worried about jarring the sore leg when he lands. We just lift him down in the morning. He’s a big boy, at least 20 pounds, but he’s very cooperative so that helps. And the chicken we thought the hawk had got showed up at head count last night after being missing for a couple of weeks. I don’t know if she was just too scared to come home and was off sitting on a nest being broody somewhere. But I was thrilled she came back, especially when we were sure the hawk had killed her and carried her off. Small miracles, I guess.

The garden has been going crazy. I’ve picked 5 zucchini this week with more coming, peas, radishes, chard, lettuce, sorrel, basil, thyme, marjoram, calendula, sage, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I’ve got green tomatoes, several immature crookneck squash coming, some small peppers, and lots of green beans coming on. There are baby watermelons beginning and I will have two cucumbers ready in a few days.

Here is the most recent garden update.

I really love this growing method. It is the best one I’ve ever used and by far the most successful.

Well, I hope that catches things up. I will try to post a little more often.

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.